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

"I don't exactly know where we are," Tristie admitted as his TARDIS settled on solid ground and stubbornly declared that it was at its destination. "It should be Earth, but rock formations like those could be anywhere. I can’t rule out some parallel planet. Even if we’re on Earth, the location is completely wrong. I need to ask uncle Davie to calibrate the temporal and spatial manifolds.”

"Its Utah," Trudi responded, much to his surprise. Usually he was the one with the instinct for locations. She put a multicoloured crocheted cardigan on over her minimalist hot pants and tee shirt and stepped outside to look at the magnificent scenery in real living colour and majesty instead of on the TARDIS video screen.

"How do you know its Utah?" Tristie asked, following behind after closing the TARDIS door and noting with some displeasure its disguise as a weathered outdoor privy.

"Those mountains," Trudi answered. "I've seen them loads of times - in all the old westerns my dad watched every weekend. We're in Monument valley in Utah."

"Sweetheart, most of those films were made in Hollywood studios with painted backdrops."

"Paintings of THOSE mountains," she insisted. "Come on. Let’s take a bit of a walk. I'm bored sitting around in the TARDIS. "

"I suppose we could spend a little time here,” he admitted. “After all, we HAVE a time machine. We don’t have to worry about getting home on time to pick Tristie junior up from Grandma Sukie’s house.”


Tristie smiled indulgently. Trudi's enthusiasm for everything he showed her in the TARDIS made the experience twice as wonderful for him too. He stepped back into the time machine though and filled a rucksack with things they would need even for a short walk in such a climate - self-cooling drinks, energy bars, more suitable shoes than the flip flops Trudi was wearing, a sunhat....

He also picked up a hand held mini-computer and his Sonic Screwdriver. Technology could still provide some answers even if the TARDIS was acting up a bit.

"Isn't it fantastic," Trudi said when he caught up with her again. "The rocks... that colour in all the layers... the strata...." She smiled eagerly having used the proper geological term. "It's all so amazingly red."

"It's iron oxide in the rocks," Tristie explained. "When it is exposed to the air it turns that colour."

"I don't CARE," Trudi told him. "I just think this is fantastic. The view the sounds even that hot fantastic smell of the air."

The sounds were probably vultures squabbling over who got to eat the unwary travellers when they died of exhaustion, Tristie thought, but he didn't dispute his wife's assessment of the experience.

"It IS Utah, by the way or possibly the border of Arizona. GPS confirms that much. Depending on the decade we might be within Navajo National Park boundaries too.”

"You still don't know WHEN we are?" Trudi asked him. "How come?"

"TARDIS still playing up a bit. But it's all right. We're obviously some time in the twenty or twenty first century because there's a tarmac road here. It's probably after the 1930s when FDR's New Deal scheme set up road building work for the unemployed in places like this that never had anything but a mule track before."

The end of his remarks were cut off by the roar of a jet engine. Both of them looked up into the sky, but only Tristie was able to make out the details of the sleek white plane that streaked across the valley catching a glint of sunlight.

It's a Cessna Citation Mark Three," he said. "Built between 1979 and 1991. It looked quite new, so it can't be much more than 1995."

"Ok," Trudi conceded. She left her own timeline in 1972 to travel with him so 1995 might as well be 5095 to her.

They walked on, cheerfully, drinking the self-cooling drinks and admiring landmarks which Tristie could identify by photographing them on his handheld computer and using topographical identification software to access historical information.

“Those three slender pinnacles there are called the Three Sisters, " he said. "Not after the Chekhov play, but because somebody thought they looked like a mother superior ticking off two junior nuns."

Trudi didn't understand the Chekhov reference but she tried not to show it.

At least she didn’t mention Star Trek.

"Do the bigger bits have names?" she asked. "What are they called?"

“The long ridge to the left there is Mitchell Mesa, named for Ernest Mitchell, an ex-soldier who tried to mine silver in the valley. He was killed by the Utes and Paiutes."

"The who?"

"Local tribes. The trouble with those films of your dads is they think all the natives were Cherokee or Cheyenne. There is a far richer culture than that."

"They still killed the white man just like in the films."

"Maybe they had good reason. He might have been bothering then... trespassing on their sacred ground or whatever. Those films of your dads also glossed over the way the natives were kicked off their lands and treated horribly."

"The white guy still got massacred," Trudi insisted. "And don't think I don’t know you're getting most of this from your computer."

Tristie grinned and went back to pointing out that the large rocky plateau closest to them was called Cly Butte after a native Medicine Man called Hosteen Cly, who was buried at the foot of the butte in 1934."

"I just hope that guy over there isn't his ghost," Trudi remarked. Tristie looked up from his computer to see a tall man in native costume standing by the road.

"Where did he come from? There was nobody here before."

"He's creepy," Trudi complained. "He's looking at us."

"We're looking at him. Come on. let's say hello."

Trudi reluctantly allowed herself to be led by the hand towards the native. He was very tall, at least six foot, and thin. His long, thin face was wrinkled and leathery and almost the same colour as the landscape. His clothes were hand tooled leather and skins. He wore five colourful feathers in a band on his head and a necklace of animal fangs.

He was every inch the typical native from one of those Saturday afternoon films whether he was Cheyenne, Apache, Navajo, or even a Ute, which Trudi was almost sure was a sort of car.

"Hello,” Tristie said to him, resisting the urge to say 'How '. "I am Tristie Campbell-Gregory. This is my wife, Trudi."

"Rainbow-Feather-Teacher," he replied. This was apparently his name and profession in one. "Time is broken."

"It is? " Tristie was surprised. "How do you know?"

The Native looked up and pointed to the sky. Tristie followed his gaze. At first he couldn't see what he ought to be looking at.

Then he did.


"Hard road comes, hard road goes. "

The native looked down at his feet. Tristie did, too.

"I see," he said. "I suppose I had better do something about it."

"You must take this," the Native said, thrusting something into his hand. Tristie looked down to see what it was and when he looked up again, the native was gone.

"That was weird, " Trudi said. "One moment he was there, the next he was gone."

"Yes," Tristie looked up as the silence of the valley was deafened by the roar of a jet plane passing overhead.

"Another one?" Trudi queried.

"The same one," Tristie answered. "The registration was the same."

"But it was going the same way. Did it circle around or something?"

"No. Time is broken. I should have guessed before now. I wasn't really paying attention. It explains why the TARDIS landed here. It must have registered the problem."

Trudi didn't say anything. She just gave him a look that said it all.

"Look at the sky over Clyde Butte," he said.

She looked. At first she didn't see it, either. When she did, she gasped in astonishment.

"It's like... the sky is changing every minute. First there is a cloud, then no cloud. Then there was a bird, then it disappeared."

"Now look down," Tristie said.

She did. Her bright blue plastic flip flops were covered in red dust from an unmade road compacted down by wheels passing over it.

She looked around at the sound of a car engine. A 1968 Cadillac DeVille convertible approached kicking up clouds of ruddy-coloured dust behind it. The driver and three passengers were dressed in bright colours and male and female alike wore bead necklaces and silk flowers in their hair. Trudi laughed and waved as the car drew to a halt. These were her kind of people.

"Hey, that's a groovy car," she said. "Where are you all going?"

"Phoenix," the young man in the driver's seat answered. "Janis Joplin is doing an anti-war concert. Want to come?"

Trudi was tempted. This was the flower power free love society she had dreamt of from afar when she stacked records in a shop in Birmingham.

But that was amother life, before she met Tristie and discovered so much more than free love in a universe of possibilities.

"I can't," she answered. "Time is broken and we have to fix it."

"You'd better have this, then, " said a woman in a bead covered mini dress that Trudi coveted dearly. She took the strange brass object without question. The passengers waved cheerfully and the car accelerated away.

"That was odd," she commented. "But not as odd as this. What is it?"

"It's an astrolabe," Tristie answered without hesitation. "A very old but amazingly accurate way of measuring time by the position of the stars."

"Why would a bunch of hippies give me one of those?" Trudi asked - a perfectly logical question.

"The same reason that an old Navajo gave me an original Harrison H5 marine Chronometer made in 1775 in answer to a royal decree to find a reliable way to measure longitude and latitude at sea."

"And that reason is?"

"Time is broken."


He was ready to explain when they were disturbed by the sound of hooves and the creak of wooden wheels bearing a heavy load. They both turned to see the kind of canvas covered wagon that innocent homesteaders drove through hostile Indian territory in those ubiquitous Saturday afternoon westerns.

Sitting up behind two strong horses were a middle aged man and two younger women. one of the women was holding a small baby bundled up tightly. The other watched her enviously. They were all dressed soberly and Trudi felt oddly aware of her bare legs and arms as they gazed at her.

"Hello," Tristie called out. "Have you far to go, this day?"

"We go as far as my kinsman's homestead near Farmington," the man replied. "We shall be safe there before nightfall, God willing."

"I won't detain you, then, sir," Tristie responded.

"You should take this," the man said, handing him an object of brass and curved glass that glinted in the sunlight. "Good day to you and your wife."

The man drove on. Trudi watched them until they were about fifty yards along what had become a tarmac road again.

They vanished into thin air.

"Who were they, and how did he know that I was your wife?"

"A Mormon settler with his two wives - probably from around 1870. They came to Utah to live their own way of life. He assumed you were my wife because why else would you be with me without any chaperone?"

"What did he give you?" Tristie held up the new artefact. "A big egg timer?"

"An hour glass. Medieval, I think. Very beautiful."

"Another means of measuring time."

"It’s not working." Tristie held the hour glass upright. There was sand in the bottom and sand in the top. There was sand trickling through the narrow neck - except it wasn’t trickling. The sand was frozen in mid pour.

“That's nuts, " Trudi commented. "An egg timer cant just stop."

"It can when time is broken," Tristie insisted. He looked at the chronometer. It was fully wound, but it wasn't working.

"There has been a localised time quake. Time is all mixed up. We got here in the late twentieth or early twenty-first century. The plane was proof of that. Then we met the native and goodness knows what era we were in. Then your hippy friends turned up and it couldn't be later than early in 1970 because....”

"Janis Joplin died in the summer of that year. I was still at school then. I knew it was odd, but I just couldn’t get my head around it.”

"And then we had the Mormon from the 1880s. Time is broken."

"Sir, you need this," said a young man wearing a very old coat over worn trousers and a shirt with raged cuffs.

"Thank you," Tristie answered taking the object passed to him. "Where are you going?"

“The labour camp down yonder. There's work building roads. I can get money to send back to my folks. There's pa sick with a bad leg and ma and a bunch of young ‘uns and the crops failed in the drought, and this is the one chance for us all.'

"Good luck," Tristie told him. The young man walked on and very soon disappeared just like all the others they had met along the way.

"So what did he give you?"

"A metronome." Tristie held up the wooden instrument with its inverted pendulum that swung back and forward marking time for musicians.

The pendulum was stuck.

Time was broken.

"This is really surreal," Trudi commented. "What are all these old clocks for?"

Tristie started to answer when another vehicle drove along the dusty road. It was an open topped jeep with four soldiers on it. The jeep and their uniforms placed them some time after the USA came into World War II. They told Tristie that they were heading back to Fort Huachuca after a forty eight hour liberty.

Before they went on, they gave Tristie what he easily identified as an ancient Egyptian water clock.

"Ok, we're ready to open a museum of clocks," Trudi conceded. “But how do all these things help us mend time?"

"It's a very old idea, " Tristie answered her. "Not exactly science and not quite magic. It has to do with the idea that objects that measure time, especially when they've been doing it for a long time, have a bit of time trapped in them. That’s why antique shops with old grandfather clocks in them are strange places. Antique clock shops absolutely buzz with trapped time, but usually they don’t have more than a few centuries worth in them. Some of these artefacts are getting on for a thousand years old."

Trudi looked at her husband curiously. Of course she knew that he was very clever, far beyond his youth. Usually his cleverness was expressed in knowing where they were when they landed the TARDIS or identifying plants and animals. This felt far more profound, deeper wisdom than Trudi could begin to imagine.

"You sound scary when you talk that way," she said.

"I know. Sorry. It’s a bit of a Time Lord thing. It’s like we come with a lot of this kind of stuff already in our heads just sitting there until its needed."

"I forgive you for being scary and weird. Mainly. because we're in a scary and weird situation and you are the only one who can fix it. You CAN fix it, can't you?"

"I think I can," he answered. "We need to get all these artefacts back to where they were when time broke. It must be somewhere around here, somewhere enclosed... a room or…."

"There are no buildings for miles."

"No, but... Mitchell Mesa... named after a silver miner. There are mines in those hills. Come on."

There were several miles of Mesa and Butte to choose from. Within them there had to be even more miles of tunnels dig by miners over time. If he were not a Time Lord with instincts even other Time Lords couldn't always explain, he would have stood little chance of finding the place. As they reached the base of Cly Butte, those instincts came into play. He could feel the old silver strata like a sharp sensation behind his eyes. He was also aware of trapped time somewhere inside the hill. This was where it had all happened.

The entrance to the tunnels had been locked with a rough wooden fence and an even rougher 'keep out' sign that was an incentive to anyone with a sense of adventure to do the opposite. Tristie easily broke through the boards and with his sonic screwdriver set to penlight mode he led the way.

"It’s cold in here after being in the sunshine," Trudi pointed out. She wasn't complaining. She was as much up for adventure as he was. She was simply stating the fact.

"The air is fresher than an old mine working ought to be," Tristie remarked. "They must have made air shafts. Very sensible. This way.”

They followed a downward passage under the Butte. The walls were red streaked with the gleam of silver ore. The roof was low. Tristie had to stoop, though Trudi, petite as she was, could walk upright.

The closer his Time Lord instinct brought him, the more the stalled time nagged at Tristie's telepathic nerves. It was starting to feel like a headache by the time they emerged into the cave that had to be the heart of it all.

"Oh, my...." Good hearted girl that she was, Trudi saw nothing else about the cavern but the pitiful body lying on the stony floor. She ran to help.

There was very little she could do. The pitifully old man looked like he was barely hanging on to life. His limbs were so brittle they might break under even her gentle touch. His eyes when they opened to try to look at her were rheumy and almost blind. His attempt to speak failed in a cracked whisper.

"We should get help," she said as Tristie knelt at her side and passed a hand slowly across the fragile body and confirmed that the man was mostly human with a small measure of extra-terrestrial DNA - perhaps three or four generations back. It was that DNA that was keeping him alive. It gave him just a little more stamina than a pure human.

"What happened to him?”

“He was at ground zero of the time quake. Assuming he was in his twenties to begin with, I think his body absorbed about a century in a few seconds."

"Uhhh," Trudi remarked.

"Quite so."

"Can we help him?"

"I’m not sure. It might be too much stress in his body. But we have to mend time and hope for the best."

Tristie looked around the cavern and carefully placed all of the time devices in carefully measured points all around.

"It wont work without one more device," he announced when it was done. I know which one. Trudi, I know this is all a bit creepy and weird, but I need you to stay here with him. I can run faster on my own."

She didn’t want to be left alone with a dying man in an old silver mine, but Tristie was asking her to do it and she didn’t want to let him down. She sat cross legged beside the old man, gently stroking his wizened hand as Tristie turned and ran from the cavern. The sound of his footsteps quickly dissipated and she was left in almost complete silence. There was no sound except her own soft breathing and slow heartbeat and the even slower and softer signs of life from the old man surrounded by clocks and none of them ticking.

It was nearly half an hour before she heard Tristie's running feet coming back towards her. He raced back into the cavern with the temporal clock from his TARDIS console.

"I brought the TARDIS in hover mode to the base of Cly Butte," he said. "It saved me another run. I couldnt get it closer, though. The damage to time inside here is too much."

"The TARDIS clock will complete the 'magic'?” Trudi asked.

"I think so. I think it will control the other time pieces and set things right."

He carefully adjusted the clock and set it in a rock niche equidistant from the other artefacts and then flipped a switch underneath it that set it going. Then he sat beside Trudi and held her close to him. His own body would shield hers from any fluctuations in time.

It was an eerie few minutes manifest not only in a shimmering light that coalesced around each of the time pieces and a whooshing noise that filled their ears.

Then there was a stillness again, broken only by a noise Trudi couldn’t place at first. Then she realised it was the metronome ticking as its pendulum swung. Beneath it was the quieter tick of the Harrison chronometer.

The sound of sand running through an hourglass was too quiet to be heard.

But time was working again.

A cry closer to her made her look down. Amidst the clothes that had hung on the shrunken old man a nearly naked child lay. He looked about three years old and frightened.

"Where did he come from?" she asked as Tristie wrapped the boy in the old man's sweater and cuddled him close.

"The old man - he rejuvenated... but a bit too far.”


"It’s all right," Tristie added to the frightened child. He put his hand on the damp forehead and felt the toddler mind within. It was unharmed, but there were mo memories there. Everything was wiped away.

He concentrated hard and gently put back the basic understanding of the immediate world that a three year old needed - how to eat, rudimentary toilet training, trust in the adults who cared for him. Then he stood, lifting the boy in his arms.

"He’s forgotten the pain and fear of all that had happened,” he said to Trudi. "That's for the best. Gather up the artefacts and bring them. They’re not safe in here collecting time up again."

Trudi did as he said and they made their way out of the cavern, through the tunnels and finally out into the fresh air. The peace of the valley was spoilt by the sound of a Cessna passing over, this time to reach its destination at a local airport.

The TARDIS was there. Trudi stepped inside and sat with the child on her lap while Tristie replaced the temporal clock.

"Now that time is mended everything is working perfectly," he announced. "just one quick stop before we head home. "

The TARDIS materialised beside the dust road made by wooden wheels baring heavy loads through the valley. Tristie waited until he saw the Mormon family in their covered wagon and hailed them. He spoke earnestly to the man. His wives urged him, and when they moved on again the three year old sat on the younger wife’s lap.

"Pioneer life is hard, but healthy, " he said. "And Mormons have an odd sort of religion for that matter. But he'll grow up healthy and learn to live their kind of life."

"Never knowing that he once had a totally different life," Trudi queried.

"Never knowing. His mind was wiped clean by the temporal shock."

“That's ok then. Let’s go home, now.”

"You don’t fancy a trip to Phoenix to see Janis Joplin?"

"No, not right now. I just want to go and get our own baby and go home."

"Good enough, " Tristie decided. "I’m going to keep that Harrison chronometer and you can have the big egg-timer for a souvenir if you like. But I think I'll give the other time pieces to uncle Davie and uncle Chris. I think they ought to be separated so that they don’t cause any new problems. We're Time Lords. Time is our plaything. But we have to take care not to break it."

"You're getting weird and scary again. But that’s all right. Grandma Sukie will sort you out when we get to her house."