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

Despite being a Time Lord, and thus, among other things, aware of the passage of both his personal time and the current temporal flow, Davie Campbell was having trouble with time.

Was it two or nearly three hours since Sukie and Earl failed to arrive at the overnight camp? Or four?

Two, he told himself, because that was less worrying than the alternatives. But even two….

They weren’t the only missing drivers. About thirty of them were behind schedule. Even the back markers who had been slow since they left Paris were accounted for. But these thirty, none of whom had even been in radio contact….

They included Stuart, which was why Spenser was also stepping from one foot to the other in agitation as they stood on the promenade above Laayoune beach. Not far from them was the man Davie had recognised the first night on the ferry, who was accompanying a woman called Ray. She was riding the same type of motorbike as Stuart and their overall times were similar. Both of them should be here by now.

“I can’t reach Sukie telepathically,” he said. “Which means something is REALLY wrong.”

“I didn’t want you to tell me that,” Spenser answered. Like the Campbell brothers, he had one Time Lord and one Human mother, and therefore he could cry. He was trying hard not to do so. “If anything happened to Stuart….”

“If anything happens to Sukie my mum will….”

“I promised to look after….” the other man murmured. Around them the same thought was going through the minds of fathers, brothers, friends and others who came as support crew for the ambition of somebody they cared about. The worry was almost palpable.

“I organised the whole thing,” Davie murmured. “If any life is at risk… I did it.”

Spenser wanted to reassure him, but it was true enough. There would be inquiries, and he would have to explain why some unanticipated hazard had befallen these people.

Because it WAS unanticipated, of course. There were no weather problems. The tribal wars that had made the rally unsafe in the twenty-first century were long settled. There was nothing but the desert to conquer.

So what….

A sudden cry went up. A vehicle had turned onto the promenade, at first going well over any urban speed limit, but now slowing rapidly. A police car was tailing it, but it was Davie, who had recognised the Land Rover Defender, who reached it first, closely followed by Spenser.

But it was neither Sukie nor Earl in the driver’s seat. Spenser gasped in relief mixed with concern as Stuart wearily slid out of the vehicle carrying a slim, dark-haired woman who wasn’t Sukie.

“Ray!” cried the man who dashed to take his burden. The motorcycle rider was unconscious, her body floppy and unresponsive as he lifted her in his arms.

“She’s alive…..” Stuart assured him. “There are six more in the back. They need help, too.”

There were paramedics on hand to give that help. A tent became a field hospital. Stuart sipped as much cold water as he could without being sick and was given intravenous drips of glucose, adrenaline and some more complicated fluids as he gave the best explanation he could manage.

“There was a weird shimmer in the air…. I rode through it…. And suddenly the sun was in a different position… as if an hour had gone by in seconds. I kept to the route I’d mapped out, and about a minute later I found Ray, lying on the sand, knocked out, even though it just looked as if her bike had toppled over. I got her on mine in front of me and held onto her up the next rise….”

He took some more water and a bite of a nutrition bar before continuing.

“I found the others. Sukie and Earl were there. They looked rough, tired out, but they were standing. Around them were cars, bikes, trucks, engines silent, everyone out for the count, but nobody had crashed. They just fell unconscious and came to a halt around about the same distance from the ‘shimmer’. Sukie reckoned they only got that far because they were all driving classics with no electrical ignition systems and such like. Radios were out. Anything with microchips was fried… Sukie said her telepathy was gone, too. Like being deafened by white noise. She and Earl were making sure the others were under cover, in their vehicles, before nightfall, giving them water…. I put Ray in the Defender, and six more people in the back, and headed here as fast as I could. It was about forty kilometres....”

“But why you?” Davie asked. “Where is my sister and Earl?”

“They......” Stuart stammered, suddenly worried about how to explain it to Davie. “They.... gave up their seats in the lifeboat. Two more unconscious people are here, getting help. They stayed to look after the rest until help could get here.”

David nodded. If he wasn’t so worried about his baby sister he would be proud of her. She was the ‘healer’. Old Time Lord prophecies had said so. She stayed behind to heal.

“They’re both ok,” Stuart added. “So am I. It… whatever it was… affected pure humans, not us. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but….”

“I was just coming to that,” Davie assured him. “Let Spenser take care of you, now, before he explodes. I’ll sort this out.”

“On your own?”

“No, not quite,” he said. He turned to see Ray’s avuncular companion by her makeshift bed. “Doctor, is your TARDIS here?”

The version of his great-grandfather from some half a millennium back in his own timeline was surprised to be addressed that way, but didn’t waste any time asking questions.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “In case of any emergencies.”

“Same here,” Davie said. “Let’s go.”

They stepped out into the night air in time to see a 1970s Robin Reliant shimmer into existence before turning into a small tent. He smiled with relief as his twin stepped out.

“I could feel the tension all the way back in Agadir,” Chris said. “What’s happened exactly?”

“I’ll tell you on the way,” Davie answered. “But there’s three of us now. We can lick whatever it is.”

He nodded to The Doctor who was supervising the unloading of a blue police telephone box of 1960s antiquity from a van. Davie’s own TARDIS was disguised as a tyre store. They nodded at each other and went to their respective crafts.

“Stuart said it happened about forty kilometres out in the desert,” Davie said over three-way communications. “Scanners set to that distance. We should find them easily.”

They did. Most of the missing drivers were unconscious, so the sight of two ambulances and a police box materialising in the desert camp didn’t worry them. Sukie blinked back tears as she hugged both of her brothers at once. Earl stood by until the hugging was done, looking very relieved that he wasn’t being blamed for anything.

“I knew you’d come,” Sukie said. “We need to get all these people to safety, though.”

“I’m doing that,” Chris said. "You two get in my TARDIS and sit down. There’s fresh orange juice available. Just rest up, now. You’ve done your part.”

The two young and one older Time Lord brought the human victims of the desert mystery into the zero room of Chris’s TARDIS, long ago reconfigured to be next to the console room for his meditations. They would be safe there until they could get human medical assistance in Laayoune.

“I’ll take them all,” Chris said. “I saw some very odd emissions about ten kilometres that way. It must be what caused this.”

“The Doctor and I will sort that out,” Davie said. Chris nodded and went to his ship. A moment later he was gone. Davie missed him straight away. But Chris had been his extra secret level of protection for the rally and this was part of that job.

“You know me,” The Doctor said when Chris was gone. “You both did. I just have an odd sense of Déjà vu when I look at you.”

“Hold that thought. We’ll talk later. First, there’s something dangerous in the desert.”

Actually, it turned out not to be dangerous in the sense of a malicious and evil presence, but rather a dangerously stupid one.

The two TARDISes working in tandem easily identified an anomaly a little more than ten kilometres beyond the place where the exhausted drivers had come to a halt. It consisted of a kind of forcefield about a half mile long and ten centimetres thick – the shimmer Stuart had mentioned. It had all the hallmarks of a transmat beam with traces of ion particles and outmoded huon energy. But there were none of the residue markers associated with transmat activity.

“The origin is a craft in geo-stationary orbit just above the outer atmosphere,” The Doctor noted. Davie confirmed that much, but neither of them were quite sure what class of craft it was or what planetary system it came from.

Davie’s computer identified what he thought was the central control room of the craft. They agreed on a double surprise materialisation.

It might not have been a tactic anyone else would use, given that neither of them carried weapons in their TARDIS. It was definitely a family trait that made them step out into an unknown situation with no more than sonic screwdrivers in laser tool mode.

The startled humanoids they faced were all about seven feet tall but thin enough to be classed as anorexic by human standards. They were bald and their skin was the colour and texture of a cream-based soap. Their eyes were entirely light blue without any whites around their irises. It wasn’t obvious from body shape beneath bodysuits the same colour as their skin, whether there was any concept of gender in the human sense.

None of them reached for a weapon or called for security. The startled expression put Davie in mind of his twin sons when caught in the middle of something naughty.

“This is a hospital ship,” The Doctor said, noting the medical beds in long rows, all occupied by pale-complexioned patients. He stepped close to one and looked critically at the electronic monitors. “What’s wrong with them all? Is it a plague, or war casualties....”

“It is an acute disease that drains the body of energy,” explained one of the medics. “Adrenaline, serotonin....” The medic reeled off some half a dozen enzymes and hormones that human bodies produced naturally to stay awake and energised. A theory occurred to Davie and The Doctor at the same time.

“It’s a net,” The Doctor said. “Scooping up people... Humans... and taking their energy... for your patients.”

“Only a little, a tiny fraction, nothing humans would be hurt by losing. They might just feel tired earlier in the day than usual.”

“They WERE hurt,” Davie answered accusIngly. “They were so exhausted they couldnt carry on driving. They could have crashed. They could have died of exposure if we hadn’t reached them.”

The medics were visibly shaken. They again protested that their procedure was harmless.

Oh, sweet mother of chaos,” the Doctor said as Davie uttered a much ruder word he learned in the blue star galaxy and which he would never use in front of his mother. It could roughly be translated and bowdlerised as ‘blithering idiots’.

“if you’d cast your net in Piccadilly Circus or Times Square or... I don’t know, headline night at Glastonbury... Anywhere with a lot of people to take a little from each it would have done ‘no harm’. A good football match would generate enough adrenaline for you to bottle it up. But you set up in an empty desert where only a few dozen people, completely by chance, happened to be taking part in a race. And you nearly killed them.”

Again the alien medics looked aghast at their error.

“This.... Glast.... On .. bury....” One of them said.

“Forget it ,” Davie snapped. “Even there you’d be breaking about fifteen terms of the Shaddow Convention. Interfering with a sentient species without their consent would be the first. I can issue a warrant with the rest of the breaches as soon as I put some paper in my printer. You need to leave this planet right now.”

“Many of our people will die...”

Davie was about to reply that he didn’t care, but he did, of course. As a Time Lord, it was his duty to care.

He turned and looked at The Doctor who was clearly thinking furiously about the problem.

“We have the matter at our discretion. If they agree to certain restrictions... Glastonbury is a good idea. People there would just think they’d been overdoing it.”

“You would go for that idea?” Davie asked him. “You... of all people.....”

But if it could be done, it WAS a kind of compromise that would save these people he saw around him.

“WWTDD,” he said.

“I beg your pardon?” The Doctor answered.

“My first principle... Since I accepted my duty as a Time Lord.... What Would The Doctor Do.... This time I have my answer. It’ll need some organizing. And we should investigate... to make sure they’re telling the truth first.... But maybe we COULD do something for them. I never thought I would consider it. I’ve been defending humans from alien harm since I was a teenager....”

“Try a millennia,” The Doctor answered him. “But humans aren’t the only innocents in the universe.”

He turned to the anxious medics.

“Reel in your net. Move out beyond the moon’s orbit and WAIT. If you are on the level we will find a way. But no more fishing without a licence.”

The aliens didn’t know what that last bit meant, but they understood that The Doctor and Davie represented an authority over this planet that they dared not disobey.

“We WILL be watching you,” Davie added as they turned back to their TARDISes. “Now, let’s get back to our nearest and dearest.”

They parked their TARDISes on the beach and came into a much bigger tent that had been erected to give medical attention to all the victims of what was being called extreme heat exhaustion caused by a localised thermal disruption. It was nonsense, scientifically, but apparently believable nonsense. Nobody was panicking about aliens, anyway.

Sukie ran to hug her brother again. He allowed himself to be hugged until even he, with the ability to recycle his breathing, needed air. He turned to Earl.

“I’d hug you, too,” he said. “But there are too many rumours about my gender preferences, already. Well done, anyway. Both of you.”

“The race will have to be cancelled,” Sukie said with a sigh. “I didn’t want to win, as such, but I hoped to finish, at least.”

“We SHOULD cancel,” Davie admitted, though it had been the last thing on his mind until she mentioned it. “Get some supper and plenty of water, and a good night’s sleep, and leave the rest to me.”

If Davie’s first principle was WWTDD, hers was WWDD -What Would Davie Do. She trusted him to do the best for all of them.

Davie saw his sister and her fiancé to their tent, then found The Doctor walking by the cool low water mark.

“You DO look familiar,” The Doctor said to him. “You ARE a Time Lord... A VERY young one.... Which is odd. But....”

“I look a lot like my dad at this age,” Davie answered. “You might have forgotten his Face, if not his deeds. Anyway, Friends and family call me Davie. But my driving licence says David Campbell Junior. I think I’m too old for the ‘junior’ really. But....”

The Doctor smiled.

“Your father is a good man. Your mother.... She put down those roots good and proper?”

“She did. And... that promise you made to her... You’ll keep it eventually. But... I shouldn’t tell you much more than that.”

“You ought to be telling me you’re going to do a mind wipe on me,” The Doctor said. “We’re in contravention of some Laws of Time just now.”

“These days we think of them as guidelines,” Davie answered. “You’ve already let a lot of memories ‘sleep in your mind’. These ones will join them comfortably, I think.”

“Yes,” The Doctor agreed. “I would like to keep the memory of these days if only to think now and again about how amazing your sister is. Her courage today....”

Though he had little enough reason, he felt a swell of pride through kinship.

“We’re all proud of her. Always have been. It won’t be long now before it’s Earl’s job to be proud of her, of course. But she’s my kid sister for now.”

“Quite right,” The Doctor agreed.

A night’s rest saw most of the victims of the alien net able to get up and enjoy a good breakfast with everyone else. By then Davie had discussed the rally with the other organisers and was able to give them some good news.

“We’re calling a two day rest period,” he said to the assembled drivers and crew. “Those vehicles that had to be left in the desert are being recovered as I speak. They’ll all be checked thoroughly. And any repairs made. The day after tomorrow will be the first of two days with a shorter, simpler route straight down the coast, cutting out the planned dog legs into the desert. The last timings from the Agadir checkpoint will determine positions. The section after that is voided for everyone. There will be a triumphal arrival at Dakar beach. There will be an overall winner and all of the winners of vehicle classes, but as I’m sure you all feel, finishing the rally in any position is a personal win. So... Good luck to everyone.”

Sukie’s delight spoke for everyone. Davie acknowledged her effusive thanks before he and The Doctor found a quiet place and thrashed out a plan for the alien hospital ship. Yes, the Shadow Convention was going to have to accept some compromises, but they were both trusted by that organisation and their assurances were accepted. They considered that they had done a good day’s work.

Two days later, in the silver light of a thousand stars and a gibbous moon in a cloudless sky, a motorbike rider from Hungary was the first to ride through the surf and cross the final line on a long, straight Senegalian beach. Stuart and Ray, riding matching BMW bikes, finished close together in seventh and eighth places overall and we’re pleased about that.

Sukie and Earl were first in the four wheel drive class, which certainly pleased them both.

Davie was pleased to see every last competitor who set off from Laayoune cross the line and receive their personal times. He had been the driving force behind the Rally and he didn’t want any fatalities. They had, for a while, come close to that kind of disaster, but all was well, now.

The Doctor and Ray left the next day by TARDIS, planning to visit a friend in the fifty-first century. Other drivers made more mundane plans to get back to their home countries.

Sukie and Earl with Davie, Spenser and Stuart stayed in Dakar and actually got to properly enjoy that city the way they never could all the way down from Tangier.

At the best hotel in the city they had a huge family reunion. Chris and Carya came with their son and Brenda escorting her and Davie’s twins. The Doctor – the one Sukie had always known as grandad - came with Rose and their children, as well as Christopher and Jackie, and THEIR children. Vickie with her boyfriend Jimmy came by their TARDIS along with David and Susan with the recently born twins and David’s elderly father, Robert, who was a little bemused by it all.

Just before they sat down to dinner, Tristie and Trudie and their children arrived, the future generation of the premier Time Lord family living on Earth.

“I think,” Sukie announced as her extended family toasted her and Earl’s driving achievement. “This will be my last trophy for a bit. I need to spend some time organizing a really stupendous wedding. You’ll all get a rare chance to see me in a girly dress with frills and lace. Make the most of it. That won’t happen again for a while. Then I need to think about having some babies of my own. By then, Davie should have made sure Formula One racing is a thing on this planet again and I can compete as a top professional driver. I’m never going to be a professional wife and mother, but I’ll try it for a few years.”

Reaction all around the table ranged from tears from Susan to giggles from Vicki, to bursts of joy from just about everyone else.

“And we’re definitely going to Marrakesh for the honeymoon,” she added, her eyes daring Earl to stop her having the last word on that subject.