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

For a very long time, David Campbell had wanted to bring his family to Scotland for the New Year. Finally, with help from a TARDIS, he had his ambition at last. It was, in fact, Scotland in the early twenty-first century, long before it suffered from the Dalek scorched earth campaign against humanity and the displacement of whole communities by the Dominator invaders. A time before the bitter memories that had stopped him going north for so many years.

And it was almost happening. There were still some of the family missing, but at least his father and his youngest son were with him in the bar of the ski centre at The Lecht, deep in the Cairngorm National Park. They were keeping warm by the big old fashioned stonebuilt fireplace while at the same time watching the action on the slopes through the modern floor to ceiling plate glass window.

David looked at Chris as he sipped at a glass of whiskey and smiled indulgently.

“You have to take much bigger mouthfuls to really appreciate the taste,” he said. “You’re not really a whiskey drinking man, are you, son?”

“Not so much,” Chris admitted. “Davie takes after you in that respect. He can even identify the river the water came from. At least he says he can. He might be having me on.”

“When I had twin boys, one of my dreams for the future was sitting down with them and sharing a bottle of good single malt, all three of us savouring the authentic taste of the peat infused barley….”

Chris laughed softly.

“When we were babies you dreamt of us imbibing strong alcohol?”

“I imagined you both having Scots accents, too,” David added. “Daft dreams, I suppose.”

“Not daft, at all,” Chris assured him. “Besides, Davie and I… and Sukie… we may not have an accent, but we’re all proud of our Human heritage. We’re all going to be wearing the Campbell plaid for the Hogmanay celebration. Sukie is going to be sensational in hers.”

“I’m sure she will,” David acknowledged. “Besides, I’m proud of you all. Don’t image for a moment I’m not. It’s just the things I’m proud of you doing are a million miles from what I expected. You almost creating your own religion. Your brother… fighting for justice and racing cars, Sukie… barely eighteen and a race car champion with trophies to her name. I’m more than proud.”

“I’m glad,” Chris told his father before putting down the whiskey glass and asking the bar tender for a cup of coffee - with a tot of whiskey in it, for the sake of family tradition.

“Where is your mother and your lovely wife?” Robert, his human grandfather, asked him.

“They’re on an off road Snowcat tour of the Cairngorms. Tilo is with them. It’s quite exciting for them. Carya has never really seen this much snow. She grew up in a desert, and the bit of snow we get in London doesn’t really cut it.”

“Aye, that’s true,” Robert commented. “London’s weather isn’t much to write home about any time of year. It’s good to be here in the Highlands. The capital of Norway is very nearly the same distance from us than London.”

“Not by TARDIS,” Chris remarked. He looked out at the skiers and snowboarders coming down the variously difficult slopes and the ski lifts returning them to the top again. Above them was a clear blue sky. The air was cold but still. It was a perfect day for winter sports and it showed in how busy the mountain was.

He had spent the morning on the expert pistes while Carya and Tilo were literally on the nursery slopes, enjoying mother and child time at a beginner’s ski tutorial. They had all lunched here at the Lodge before the women went off on the afternoon excursion. Chris had chosen to spend some quality time with his father and grandfather before the rest of the family arrived for their Hogmanay celebration in the Highlands of Scotland.

“There’s a storm coming,” Robert commented. For a long moment Chris didn’t really think about what his grandfather had said. There WAS a clear blue sky above the Lodge.

“What?” As his mind finally processed the comment he turned from looking at the view outside and looked at his grandfather. He was only in his late fifties, actually ten years younger than David because of the way he had been rescued from his own timeline.

But that was nothing to be surprised about in their family.

What did surprise him was the almost prophetic tone of his voice, as if he was seeing something beyond the view the Lodge offered to its patrons.

“There’s a storm coming,” Robert repeated, again in a voice that seemed laden with foreboding.

“No, there isn’t,” Chris insisted. “It’s a beautiful day. No sign of anything nasty.”

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” David Campbell told him. “This is the Highlands. The weather can turn in a heartbeat. The mountain rescue services around here are used to going out to people who set off in good weather and lose their way in a sudden fog.”

“Even so…” Chris stepped closer to the plate glass doors and looked out. He looked back at his grandfather. Of course, he was a Scotsman. He might have a natural affinity with the elements up here, even if he was, actually, lowlands Scots, born far from these extreme reaches of the country.

He opened the door and stepped out, walking towards the ski and snowboard rental shop in a separate wood and glass building. He turned and looked all around.

They weren’t exactly cut off from civilisation. The A939, joining Inverness to Aberdeen, ran past the entrance to the ski centre. A minibus and a milk lorry passed by as he watched.

There was no sign of bad weather from any direction.

He went back into the Lodge and drank the rest of his coffee. Just as his father was ordering another round of drinks – two single malts and a coffee, his mobile phone rang.

“It’s Sukie,” he said with a smile. He turned his attention to what his sister was saying.

“Ok, that’s all right. You stay there and keep warm. We’ll be down in an hour or two, when mum and Carya get back from their trip.”

He closed the call and looked at his father and grandfather with puzzled eyes.

“Sukie and Earl arrived at the hotel in his Time Car. But they can’t go any further because of a blizzard. They’re signing in at the hotel and staying put until we get back to them.”

David was the one, now, who turned his attention to the bright blue sky outside. He, too, went outside and looked around.

“What blizzard?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Chris answered. “The hotel at Loch Kinord is about eighteen miles east as the crow flies. We can’t see it from here because there is actually a mountain in the way, but the sky in that direction is clear. There is no blizzard over there.”

But Sukie had described extremely bad weather. She had actually been worrying about them getting back from The Lecht in the driving snow and fierce wind.

“Is it possible that Sukie arrived on a different day?” David asked. “Your brother is a mechanical genius. He built the time car young Earl drives. But it COULD have gone wrong, couldn’t it?”

“Yes, Chris admitted. “But I don’t think so.” He examined the call details on his phone. Although the makers of his device hadn’t included that sort of app, he could tell what historical time and date the caller was in.

“No, she’s here, today, in the same time zone as we are. I just… don’t get it.”

“Have you heard about the Lass of the Lecht?” David asked. “In 1860 she set off across country in good weather, and all of a sudden it changed. They found her frozen body a few days after. Like I said, the weather can turn in a heartbeat.”

“That’s Scotland for you,” Robert added with an indulgent smile reminding Chris that he had been born in London and therefore inferior to his forebears.

“But….” Chris was very puzzled. This wasn’t the weather just turning bad in almost mythical speed. It was as if Loch Kinord, a few miles away, had different weather.

“Wait a minute….” David stood up again from the fireside. He took two steps towards the door. By then everyone in the bar had realised something was wrong.

Literally in a heartbeat a storm had overtaken the broad-backed mountain. The summit was obscured by dark clouds that were rolling downhill almost as fast as the skiers and snowboarders on the pistes. People who had set off on the ski lift in sunshine were panicking as they saw the blizzard ahead.

“Get the coffee on,” Chris said to the bar tender who, like everyone else, stared in disbelief at the sudden change in the weather. He ran outside, aware of a blast of cold that hit him at once. The blizzard cloud was coming closer. People who had barely kept ahead of it abandoned skis and other encumbrances and ran towards the Lodge, knowing that its warm lights would soon be obscured when the storm caught up.

And yet….

Chris turned to look south along the line of the A939. The weather that way was still calm, clear and bright.

The demarcation between the blizzard that was racing towards The Lecht and the still fine weather was unnatural. It was as if two different skies had been stuck together but were unrelated to each other.

He heard his father call to him above the noise of the driving wind and the panicked shouts of people running for cover.

“Where’s the Snowcat?” he asked. “Susan… Carya… Tilo.”

Chris’s two hearts thudded. He hadn’t even thought about the danger they might be in. Of course, the all-terrain vehicle offered some protection to its passengers, and it was equipped with Satnav and two way radio.

But he and his father both felt the fear for their loved ones freezing their hearts as they looked for any sign of the vehicle homing over the snowfield. Visibility was deteriorating by the minute. The building housing the ski lift engines and the ski accessory shop were barely visible. The ski lift had stopped. He could only hope everyone had got off it and raced back down to safety. Chris turned to reassure himself that the Lodge was still there. Even its bright lights were obscured by snow that was thickening rapidly.

Then he heard an engine noise above the wind. Strong lights penetrated the gloom. Soon he could make out that it WAS the Snowcat. He and David ran to meet it as it came to a stop by the Lodge. They were there when the door was flung open and the passengers scrambled out. David grabbed his wife in his arms. Chris embraced his wife and son at once.

“Chris… look…” Carya cried out, pointing to the Snowcat. The engine was hot, the metal steaming.

But it was also icing over in front of his eyes. The last passengers cried out in alarm as they touched the snowcat and felt the cold even through their winter gloves.

Chris looked at it and then turned to run, his son gathered into his arms. His wife ran with him. His parents and the other passengers took his cue.

As they reached the door, where warmth and light awaited, Carya looked back and screamed.

“The driver… he hasn’t come with us.”

Chris turned and saw the driver by the Snowcat. He seemed to be examining something on the windscreen.

“Never mind that, come on, quick,” he called out, but even though the Snowcat was only a few feet away his voice was lost on the wind. He thrust Tilo into his mother’s arms and urged her to get inside. He turned back for the driver.

It was only a few yards, but he was already too late. As he reached the driver he saw him fall. As he touched the frozen ground his body fused with the ice, frost enveloped his whole body, freezing his very blood, striking at his heart and stopping it mid-beat.

Chris turned away, rushing back to the Lodge. He dashed through the door and shut it behind him. As he did so, ice crept up the outside of the glass, creating patterns that would have been beautiful if they weren’t so terrifying.

At least they obscured the sight of the dead driver lying beside the immobile Snowcat.

“Are there any others out there?” Somebody asked. He wasn’t sure who it was, possibly the bar tender.

“Nobody alive,” he answered, trying not to think of the ski lift and the possibility that people froze instantly as they were helplessly winched into the icy storm cloud. He could hear his mother and his wife both sobbing. A few others, male and female were crying, too. The rest were quiet because they were in complete shock.

“We’re in the middle of a superstorm,” he said. “Temperatures plummeted instantly. Anyone outside is dead.”

There were shrieks of horror as his words hit home. He was hardly surprised. It was a terrible thing to contemplate. His wife and son were safe, Tilo in Robert’s arms and Carya sitting by him. His mother and father were hugging each other tightly. But around them were people fretting over family members. He was impressed by the way the bar staff, who, being locals rather than tourists, must have been among those with reason to worry, did a sterling job distributing hot coffee. One of them broke out a first aid kit and dealt with some minor cuts and bruises from the rush to get downhill and into safety.

But everyone was aware that they were trapped in the Lodge until this sudden, unpredicted, and extreme weather relented.

And that was a worry. The Lodge was not a hotel in the expected sense. It was a ‘day hostel’ with rest facilities for the skiers coming off the slope in search of hot drinks, toilet facilities and quick snacks. There were no bedrooms and no restaurant, just a ‘café’ geared towards making hot or cold sandwiches and twenty different kinds of coffee.

It wasn’t really intended to accommodate overnight guests, let alone a sudden influx of refugees from the killer storm outside.

“What is your power source here?” Chris asked the Lodge manager, a middle aged man called Douglas who was trying to get a headcount of the people needing the limited facilities. “The heating and lighting….”

“Ironically,” he answered. “We have solar panels on the roof. Normally they provide most of our fuel needs even when we lose the sunlight. We have oil-fired generators as back up. But… I’ve never seen weather like this in all my life. What temperature does it have to get to freeze the oil in the pipes?”

“I’m not sure,” Chris answered. “My brother is the one who knows those things. I think we’ll be all right, just so long as nobody has to go outside to switch the oil generators on. Don’t let any of your staff do that, even if it is just a few steps from the door. They’ll die before they take those steps.”

The manager looked at Chris, a fresh-faced young man in his early twenties, and saw someone with knowledge and authority beyond his years. He took his suggestion on board.

“We’ve got three of those big fires going in different parts of the building and logs for them in the back. If all else fails, the basement is full of old tables and chairs from when we refitted the café lounge.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” Chris accepted a hot coffee from a waitress and answered his mobile again.

It was Sukie telling him a very odd story. He walked back to the fireplace and related it to his father and grandfather.

“A woman called Margaret Cruickshank turned up at the hotel, half frozen and disorientated. They’re looking after her, giving her food and drink and warming her up, but her clothes and accent are strange, and….”

“The Lass of the Lecht,” Robert said. “That was her name. What’s happening around here?”

“I’m not quite sure. I need to make another phone call.”

He called the one person in his family who wasn’t there, yet - his twin brother, Davie. Usually, he could contact him telepathically across both space and time, but that was something else about the strange weather. It seemed to be blocking him in mentally as much as physically.

“This is not a natural weather pattern,” Davie told him. “It looks like something more in our line of work.”

“What do you mean?” Chris asked.

“From the outside… it appears that an area of about thirty miles around the Cairngorms is caught in a time flux. A shattered one, at that. Essentially, you’re getting the weather from three different days. Down by Loch Kinord they’ve got a blizzard from the mid-nineteenth century. Where you are there’s a superstorm from the twenty-second century when the gulf stream failed and freezing weather hit the British Isles. Down the other way towards Ballater it’s raining so hard the river is breaking its banks and they’re in danger of mudslides from the hills around them.”

“How can that happen?”

“I don’t really know. I’m running a diagnostic. But the problem is I can’t get to you while its happening. My TARDIS just rebounds away from the flux. I think you’d have the same trouble getting out.”

“Even if I could, my TARDIS is at Kinord. We all came up to The Lecht in a car. We’re stuck here.”

“I’m working on it. It’s a problem with time, after all, and time is our family business. Tell dad and mum….”

Davie paused, wondering what he should tell them. He was the son of a Scotsman. They weren’t in the habit of talking about love. It was taken for granted between them. To say it now would be admitting that there was a risk they might not see each other again.

“I know what to tell them,” Chris assured him. “Do your best. I... I believe in you. We all do.”

Chris closed the call. He wished he didn’t have to. Even a phone connection with his brother was comforting. He felt a little lonely now it was over.

“How come you got through on your mobile?” somebody asked him. “I can’t get a connection. Neither can anyone else. And the landline’s down, too.”

“It’s a Nokia,” Chris answered. “Made in Finland. They know about wintry weather, there.”

It was a terrible explanation, but it seemed to satisfy the man who had asked.

“My mother is in Ballater,” the man added. “She’s going to be worried about me.”

“Here,” Chris told him, passing the phone over. “And give it to anyone else who needs it. Its ok. I’m good for it.”

Letting other people contact their loved ones on his ‘universal roaming’ account was the only thing he could do for now. Being a Time Lord with unique powers gave him no advantage over the humans around him.

“We’re going to be all right, aren’t we?” Carya asked. “We won’t freeze to death?”

“We won’t. I promise you. We’re all going to be fine. We just have to hold on for a while.”

He had only just said that when the lights all went out. There were cries of consternation and a long, anxious three minutes before they came back on again.

“That’s the oil-fired generators coming online. We’re still ok.” That fact ran around the room from one refugee from the cold to another, allaying their fears. Somebody actually said that oil was more reliable than solar power and they were better off.

Chris laughed to himself and hoped Davie never heard anyone say that.

But it was probably true in this situation. Just so long as the pipes didn’t freeze.

-45 degrees centigrade. That was the freezing temperature of fuel oil, though it would become waxy and slow at -9. A superstorm such as they had witnessed had to be close to that extreme low level, but the pipes must have some kind of cladding to protect them against the usual winter temperatures here in the Highlands.

They were holding out, for now.

There was another moment of panic when the lights went out again. But it had been deliberate this time. Douglas assured everyone that he was conserving fuel for the heating and coffee brewing. They could see by the firelight and ornamental candles.

It wasn’t so bad sitting in the glow of the open fire. Everyone tried not to look at the iced over glass window. They didn’t try to put on a tv or radio. Quite apart from conserving power, both were so distorted by the weather conditions it was impossible to see or hear anything.

“That makes no sense,” David said quietly to his immediate family. “By this time in the twenty-first century, TV and radio were digital. Weather shouldn’t affect them… at least not that badly.”

“A time flux would,” Chris explained. “The signals are being bent out of shape. But I don’t want to have to explain all that to these people. Let’s just hope they don’t start asking.”

“It’s only three o’clock in the afternoon,” Susan noted. “It’s so dark… as if it were hours later.”

“That’s the storm. But it will be dark anyway by about four,” David reminded her.

“How long do you think we’ll be stuck here?” Carya asked. “Will it be hours… or days?”

“I hope it will only be a few hours,” Chris assured her. “Davie is trying to fix it. Trust him. He’s very clever.”

“So are you,” Carya told him. It wasn’t in any way a reproach for letting his brother do all the work. She was reminding him that he and his twin were very much equals.

It wasn’t that he was just sitting there drinking coffee and doing nothing. He was trying to work out what to do.

He sat back in the chair and closed his eyes. He let the noise of anxious conversations drift past him, becoming a mere echo in his head. He reached out mentally beyond the Lodge and its warm fireside. He felt the ice cold of the world outside.

Except it wasn’t the world – not the whole world that he knew, anyway. His mind very quickly reached the edge of the fragment of space and time he was in. He could feel the edge jammed up against another edge, one less cold than the one he was in. He found the corner where the third fragment was, where rain was the overwhelming feature.

He saw how it had happened. A simple accident – well, simple to anyone who understood the fundamental principles of four-dimensional physics.

He understood, and he thought he understood how it might be fixed.

“Where’s my phone?” he asked, opening his eyes and sitting bolt upright. There was a moment of confusion before it was passed back to him. He quickly called his brother.

“I have an idea,” he said. “We need to repair the ‘cracks’.”

“I know. I’ve tried. But it doesn’t work. It’s like trying to pull a broken zip together. It keeps pulling apart again.”

“That’s what I thought, too. We need two TARDISes to zip it up properly – one inside, one outside.”

“But we don’t have two TARDISes. Yours is out of reach.”

“Maybe not. Wait for me.”

“What are you going to do?”

“If I told you, you’d worry,” Chris answered and cut the call. He put the phone in his pocket and walked slowly around the room, borrowing a snow jacket, scarf, gloves, a hat with earflaps from people who had benefitted from the loan of his mobile phone and could hardly complain.

“Chris….” Carya saw what he was doing and ran to him fearfully. “You’re going out there. But you said people would die.”

“Ordinary people… humans. But I’m not Human. I’m a Time Lord.”

“You’re human enough to freeze to death,” his father told him. “You can’t.”

“I have to. I can’t leave it up to Davie. We work best together. We always did. You know that.”

“You… both of you…” David tried to say. But the words stuck in his throat.

“We know, dad,” Chris assured him. He kissed Carya fondly then stepped away from her. Susan, worried though she was for her son, took her arm and spoke reassuringly to her. Chris reached for the glass of whiskey he had rejected in favour of coffee earlier. He swallowed it in three gulps that warmed his throat and carried on down to his stomach. It raised his body temperature several degrees.

He turned and wrenched open the door. David closed it behind him, keeping the heat in for everyone else. Chris felt the impossible cold at once. He forced his blood temperature to stay the temperature that the whiskey had raised it to as he ran towards the Snowcat. He saw the pitiful shape of the dead man lying there under a blanket of snow, but there was nothing he could do for him.

He got into the driver’s seat of the Snowcat and found the keys still in the ignition. That was good news. It saved him having to use telepathic power to switch on the engine.

Inside the Snowcat he was protected from the killer temperatures outside. Before he started, he closed his eyes and concentrated. He expelled the alcohol he had drunk to give him an edge over the weather in those few yards between the Lodge and the vehicle. One glass probably wouldn’t impair him all that much, especially with his Time Lord constitution, but drinking and driving was something he would never contemplate.

When he knew he was legally and morally capable of driving he fired up the engine and guided the vehicle through the sub-zero blizzard of ice and snow. With its tracks rather than wheels it was a cumbersome vehicle, but perfect for these conditions.

Visibility was the main problem. It was, by now, dark anyway. Sunset, if they had been able to see the sun, was an hour ago. The storm made it impossible to see more than a few yards ahead. The Satnav wasn’t working. The fractured time flux was interfering with it.

But he had piloted his TARDIS through light years of space by the power of thought. He could drive this vehicle a mere eighteen miles with his eyes shut.

And he literally did. He closed his eyes and mentally reached out to see his route along the snow-covered A939. He noticed that the snow gates that closed the road in extreme weather were still open. Nobody had been able to reach them when the unnatural change had come upon them. He was sadly aware that there were mounds of snow covering bodies of people who were caught by the suddenness. They might have included those whose job was to close the road.

He couldn’t help them. The fact grieved him, but he steeled himself to the practical necessity of reaching the hotel at Loch Kinord where he had left his TARDIS. That was the only thing that would save everyone else, including his wife and son, his mother, father and grandfather all trapped in a place where they would have to burn old furniture if the oil ran out.

He came off the road and went across country, something that he couldn’t have done in any of the ordinary cars parked near The Lecht, even those fitted with snow tyres. Again, he used his inner vision rather than his ordinary sight to cross a spur of land that cut three miles from the journey.

He was acutely aware of the demarcation between the fragment of time and space he had been in at The Lecht and the one Loch Kinord was in. Any human wouldn’t have known, and they would not have felt anything except that the blizzard here was only a few degrees below zero.

As he had expected, he could drive through the interface in the ordinary, human-built Snowcat. His TARDIS, being a thing of time and space, would have been repelled.

But now he was beyond the extreme conditions of the superstorm and though the weather was unpleasant it was manageable. He pressed down on the accelerator and let the Snowcat speed up a little.

At last he reached the hotel. Strange shapes outside worried him for a moment before he realised they were snow covered parasols over outdoor tables in the smoker’s garden. The light spilling from the reception was warmly reassuring. He dashed towards it, hardly feeling the cold this time.

“Chris!” As he entered the hotel reception he was greeted enthusiastically by his younger sister. He let her hug him for slightly longer than sibling affection would normally warrant. Earl stood by, clearly relieved to see him, but unlikely ever to hug him.

“Chris…” Sukie repeated. “That woman… Margaret Cruickshank. She left. We tried to persuade her to stay, but she kept on saying she had to get back, and she went off out there.”

“I’m sorry,” Chris told her. “There really is nothing we can do for her. She is already a fixed point in time. She is meant to die in a storm in 1860. When Davie and I fix this anomaly, she will be right back there and history will take its course. I am sorry.”

Sukie’s eyes glassed over with tears. Chris kissed her on the cheek.

“You’re a good soul, Sukie. That’s why you care. But sometimes all we can do is grieve for what can’t be helped. And other times… you and Earl can help me. Davie and I are going to attempt something with our TARDISes. Both of you can assist.”

“Please, yes,” she answered. “Sitting here drinking coffee is driving us both nuts. Yes, let’s DO something.”

His TARDIS was parked in his hotel room, disguised as an extra door that would have opened out into thin air on the second floor. Its gothic interior was familiar and reassuring to Chris, his sister and her boyfriend. The visual representation of the fractured time flux on the main screen wasn’t. They looked at it curiously.

“How DID it happen?” Sukie asked.

“The atmosphere just above this area was hit by the very edge of a time ribbon. They’re dangerous things that crash through time and space causing all sorts of trouble. They’re very rare within solar systems, but not impossible. Anyway, the point is that Davie and I know what to do. So, Earl, the helmic regulator. Sukie, you monitor the torque manifest.”

He was pleased to see both of them take up their positions without being told where those controls were.

Inside his TARDIS he also found the mental fog lifted. He could reach out to Davie without resorting to a mobile phone. The two of them didn’t even need words as they began their complicated TARDIS manoeuvre.

Complicated was too easy a word for what was going on between two TARDISes and the time-space fractures, but there was a very simple analogy. Davie and Chris were like two people inside and outside a tent, slowly closing the double zips around the canvas door simultaneously. The two TARDISes locked the closure as they worked, assuring that the zips wouldn’t come open again.

It was slow, careful work, but Chris knew that working with his brother they had more than doubled the chance of success. He knew they could do it.

And they did. First one part of the fracture, then the other, were sealed. On the screen the graphic showed normality starting to take hold, shown by the normal winter weather of the Cairngorms catching up on the fractured area.

“Let’s go and get mum and dad,” Chris said to his sister at last. “It’s still New Year’s Eve and we have a party, later.”

Two TARDISes landed outside the Lodge. Sukie was the first to run out of one. Davie’s twin sons, Sebastian and Mark, ran out of the other to look at the snow. He and Brenda stepped out after them.

Sukie had seen enough snow. She looked up at the inky black sky.

“Stars,” she said. “A clear sky with stars in it.”

“Still perishing cold,” Chris told her. “Let’s get indoors.”

The new arrivals at the Lodge were greeted enthusiastically. Nobody was quite sure how one young man had changed the weather, but they knew that he had.

The phones were working, now. Douglas, the manager had called for an ambulance to pick up the body of the Snowcat driver. His death would be put down to a tragic winter accident. So would the many others caught by the superstorm. But most people had reason to celebrate. They were alive and, once they had shovelled snow off their cars, they could go home.

Chris and Davie got their family back to the hotel by TARDIS in plenty of time to change for the Hogmanay party there. True to their word, both of them wore the full plaid in the Campbell colours just like their father and grandfather. So did Sukie, but in a feminine style unique to herself. Tilo, as well as Seb and Mark, third generation Scots on one side of their family tree, wore their first kilts proudly. Susan, Carya and Brenda, Scots only by marriage, all three born on other planets far from these traditions, nevertheless wore the tartan of their adopted clan proudly. Even Earl conceded to wearing a necktie in colours that linked him to a proud Human heritage.

Much eating and drinking went on, of course. It was New Year. As midnight approached, David Campbell made sure everyone who was legally old enough, had a glass of his favourite single malt.

“I’m proud of all my family,” he said. “But today I’m especially proud that my youngest boy, Chris, has learnt how to appreciate a glass of whiskey and I raise a toast to him.”

“Everything we went through and all dad thinks about is you learning to drink whiskey?” Sukie queried as she raised her glass of minted lemonade to the toast.

“It matters to him,” Chris answered as he took a long swallow. Truth be told he was never going to enjoy the pleasures of whiskey drinking, but on this occasion he was the son of a proud Scotsman and he felt it on his tongue and in his throat as well as in his soul. He finished his glass and took hold of his sister’s hand on one side and his wife’s on the other as the time to midnight counted down. He clung to them as the strains of Auld Lang Syne, sung with various degrees of musical competency, filled the hotel lounge.

He fully appreciated being a Campbell.