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

Christopher made a pot of tea and brought it to the bedroom. Jackie was sitting by the window looking out at the garden as she fed Garrick. The fountain was softly uplit at night, for no other reason than so she could look at it when she was awake at four o’clock in the morning.

“You don’t have to do that,” she told her husband. “You should get your sleep. You have a philosophy class to teach in the Sanctuary and a Cabinet meeting in the afternoon.”

“It’s a family tradition,” he said. “My grandfather did it for his wife when she was nursing my father. And my father did it when I was a baby. I did it for Mandy when she was up at night with Susan…”

He stopped talking. Jackie had finished feeding Garrick. Christopher took his son and winded him while she drank her tea.

“It’s ok to talk about her,” she told him. “I rattle on about Pete often enough.”

“We’re both lucky we had a second chance at love… and to have a child of our own.”

“He’s beautiful,” Jackie said. “He… feels different… when I feed him… different from Rose. I know it was a long time ago… but there’s something… is it because he’s half alien? I mean… I know, I shouldn’t say alien. You’re not really. Not any more. But… not Human.”

“He’s your baby,” Christopher assured him. “And mine. Our son. MY son. That has a good ring to it. We never minded that our first born was a girl. We loved Susan. But we meant to have a son as well…” He shook his head. “Dwelling on the bad times. I shouldn’t do that.”

“Tell me about the happy times, then,” Jackie said as she rested her head on the back of the chair. They ought to go back to bed, of course. But sitting there, the two of them, Christopher holding their baby in his arms in the dimmed down nightlight, it was so nice. A private time between them. “What were you like as a little boy? I bet you were a real tearaway!”

Christopher laughed.

“That’s not me at all. I was a quiet boy. I liked reading. If my mother wanted me, she’d usually go to the library first. I’d be in the corner with a book.”

He knew what Jackie was thinking. What a different life he led, growing up in a house with its own library.

“What sort of books,” she asked, not letting the social gulf bother her.

“When I was about seven or eight, my favourite was the bestiary of Gallifrey,” he answered. “I liked reading about the animals. At the weekend, when my father wasn’t busy with government business, we’d go on treks in the countryside and I’d be able to see them for real.”

“What sort of animals did you have on Gallifrey?”

“All kinds. Some just like here on Earth. Some different. We didn’t have horses or dogs. I don’t know why. We just didn’t. but we had other things. Let me…”

He reached out and took his wife’s hand. He held his baby in the crook of his other arm safely as he closed his eyes and connected with her.

Jackie gasped. If she REALLY concentrated she was still sitting in the easy chair by the bedroom window with Christopher holding her hand and hugging Garrick. But when she stopped concentrating and relaxed she was somewhere else completely.

“It’s all right,” Christopher told her. “It’s just something we can do. A way of visiting the past in our minds. I can show you my memories. Just open your mind and enjoy it.”

“Is this Gallifrey?” Jackie whispered as she looked with somebody else’s eyes out through the window of the vehicle she found herself travelling in. The sky was yellow-orange even though it was nowhere near sunset, and the grass that covered the meadowland and the rolling hills of the wide river valley were a shade of deep red. “Are we flying?”

“It is Gallifrey. We’re in a hovercar. That’s my father driving. We’re in the Red Valley. It’s one of the few places where the old red grass still exists. The alien green grass was so virulent that once planted it took over almost everywhere else generations before. But here we still have red grass.”

Jackie looked at the man in the driver’s seat. She didn’t recognise him. He looked about thirty years old in Earth terms, but that meant nothing. He was a good looking man with deep brown eyes a lot like Susan and her children had. Christopher had slate grey eyes, now. But that was because he had regenerated. She wondered what his eyes looked like when he was a boy.

“Where are you, then?” she asked. “If this is your memory?”

“You’re looking through my eyes,” Christopher answered.

“Oh!” She felt stupid not to realise that, but he didn’t mind. He never did.

“I’m eight years old. There’s something important my father and I have to do – Well, I have to do – but not until tomorrow night. First, we’re spending some time together.”

Jackie watched as the boy turned from looking at his father to glancing in the mirror on the sunshade. Futuristic cars had all the ordinary, familiar fittings. She saw what she wanted to see, though. A dark haired boy with the same eyes as his father. He had rather a pale complexion and a fringe over his brow. He looked a fragile child, one who spent his life in the corner of a library. The average primary school in the part of London she grew up in would eat him alive.

“That haircut!” Christopher laughed. “It was how most boys had their hair, though. The fringe over the forehead.”

“I think it looks sweet,” Jackie told him. “You were a sweet little boy.”

“Sweet wasn’t necessarily the best thing to be on Gallifrey, either,” he said. “At least I got to grow up a bit more before I had to go to school. I had private tutors when I was young. Or sometimes my father taught me. I used to play with the children of the estate – the children of our servants and workers. I was happy. I remember being happy most of the time.”

The car slowed and dropped gradually until it landed on the grass. The sun was almost directly overhead.

“Thirteen o’clock,” said Christopher’s father who, hadn’t yet become known as The Doctor. “Midday. Picnic time.” He got out of the car, bringing a hamper with him. Christopher brought a blanket. They made a picnic by the side of the fast flowing river, on the red grass. The boy laid himself down on his stomach and picked individual blades, comparing their shades. They varied from bright crimson to dark mulberry, but together they made a carpet of deep red that looked a uniform colour. His father called to him to sit up and he took the food offered. He looked around at the view, the river and the meadow, and the hills that rose up to the yellow-orange sky. He turned back and looked at his father and Jackie felt his emotions. He was proud of his father. He admired and loved him and wanted nothing more than to be like him. That was why this trip was important. At the end of it, if he was brave enough, strong enough, he would be a step closer to that ambition.

“Why? What’s going on?” Jackie asked. But Christopher didn’t reply. She saw him in their room, still cuddling their baby, then she gave her attention again to the eight year old version of him.

“Look, Christopher,” his father told him, “Lapin.”

Christopher looked around to see the red grass dotted with white balls of fur that nibbled at the vegetation. They looked, to Jackie, like rabbits, except without the long ears and buck teeth. Every so often one or more of them would stand up on hind legs and look around with sharp eyes and then they carried on feeding. Then she was distracted by what Christopher’s father was doing.

He sat up straight and held his hand out to the boy. He went to him and sat quietly on his lap. His father held out his sonic screwdriver and there was a very slight shimmer in the air around him.

“Perception filter,” he said to the boy. “We’re invisible to them now. If we wait a little they will come closer.”

Christopher kept still, content to lay his head against his father’s chest, a protective arm around him. He watched as the lapin ventured closer, tempted by the remains of a green salad they had partially eaten. The unusual vegetation must have smelled exciting to them. Three gathered around the food container and nibbled at the exotic leaves tentatively before tucking in. before long there wasn’t much left of the salad. Christopher watched in barely controlled excitement at being so close to the usually timid creatures. He reached out his hand and then snatched it back.

“Good boy,” his father told him. “Don’t try to touch. You’ll frighten them. Just watch. This is a much better use of a perception filter programme than watching the High Council debates from the public Gallery of the Panopticon!”

Their food attracted other visitors, too. Jackie gasped with the boy as his father slowed time around them. The three lapin continued to eat the salad at normal speed, but beyond a few feet, the others were slowed down as if they were contemplating their food intently. A brightly coloured insect, like a dragon fly but bigger than the boy’s hand, hovered over the core of a fruit Christopher had eaten. It’s iridescent wings beat in slow time and the boy and his father both watched intently.

“That’s one of the things you’ll be able to do when you’re a Time Lord, my son,” his father said. “I hope you’ll be the sort of Time Lord who will still want to do those things.”

“Don’t other Time Lords?”

“Not the ones I work with,” his father answered. “I don’t think some of them leave the protective dome of the Capitol more than once a year. They so rarely breathe the real air of our beautiful world. They don’t eat picnics and watch lionflys beat their wings in slow time.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. There’s something about our society. We seem to let our souls atrophy when we get older. We forget what really matters.”

“You haven’t, father.”

“I'm not that old yet. Only 215. When I’m five hundred I’ll probably be as unimaginative as the rest of them. I’ll try not to be. And you should, too. I know that you’re going to be a very great Time Lord. A learned and wise man. I see it in you. Your potential greatness. But don’t turn into someone who forgets to breathe real air.”

“He told you that when you were eight?” Jackie asked.

“He always was a very perceptive man. I remembered his words, anyway. I tried to live by them. But I think I might have forgotten to breathe the real air sometimes. I was so wrapped up on being a politician. But that was later. Then, I was eight and it was all before me.”

“Will you do that again?” he asked his father. “I want to see lionflies flying slowly again.”

“Later,” his father said. “There is more to see, yet. After dark, when we camp, we might see wolves. There’s a full moon tonight. The packs will be hunting. We’ll see them down by the ice cascade. Meanwhile, let’s tidy up our picnic. We’ll leave the rest of the salad leaves for the lapin. But pick up the rubbish. It can all go in the trash compacter under the dashboard.”

The boy helped his father tidy up and they returned to the car. As they did so a herd of deer like creatures with soulful eyes and coats of russet red that nearly matched the red grass galloped past them.

“Roans!” cried the boy enthusiastically. “Father, the perception filter is still on. They don’t know we’re here.”

“No, they don’t. So stay close by the car. You don’t want a hoof in your face. Your mother would be cross at me for letting you get hurt.”

“Mother is never cross with you. And you’re never cross with her,” Christopher answered.

“She’s cross with me at the moment,” his father answered with a soft sigh. “She didn’t want you to come on this trip. She hates what is at the end of it.”

“Mother doesn’t understand?”

“She understands perfectly. That’s the problem. But never mind. You can talk to her on the videophone when we stop again. And when we get back after the weekend, she’ll be perfectly happy with us both.”

When the beautiful roans had passed them by they got into the car and continued their journey. The Red Valley ran through the foothills before the mountains that were their eventual destination. The Mountains of Solace and Solitude they were called. Christopher thought that was a beautiful name for them and he dreamt of cool, quiet places in hidden valleys ahead of them.

One such was the Ice Valley, where they planned to spend the night. It wasn’t icy, or especially cold. Red grass grew in a meadow that saw plenty of warming light when the sun was high in the sky, although it was mostly in shadow by the time they got there this day. Christopher and his father walked by the ice cascade and marvelled at it. Even his father, who knew all there was to know about thermodynamics, couldn’t adequately explain why it was that in this one spot the ice age that happened many millions of years ago on Gallifrey still hung on. A river of ice tumbled from so high up the mountain that Christopher couldn’t see it at all, though his father’s mature Gallifreyan eyes were able to focus on it. It looked as if it had been frozen like that for millennia. Only at the very bottom did the ice melt very slowly and collect in a pool that was only a mere degree above freezing. Even then, chunks of the ice floated in it.

“What if it suddenly melted?” Christopher asked.

“That would take a natural disaster so huge all of Gallifrey would be in peril, not just this valley,” his father answered. Then he laughed softly as he felt the boy’s worried thoughts. “It won’t happen when we’re standing here. Shall we get the tent up now and then you can videophone your mother?”

Christopher helped his father to raise the tent. It was an old fashioned one that involved bits of pegs and ropes and was a real challenge. Afterwards they built a real campfire of wood and dry grass, although his father did admit that a sonic screwdriver was a better way of getting it lit than any of the more traditional methods.

“Camping is a very Human hobby, of course,” the father told his son as he cooked their meal over the fire. “But one with much to commend it, I think.”

Christopher’s reply was short. He was busy with a portable videophone in his lap, connecting to their home. Even in a mountain valley the satellite communications that ringed the planet picked up the signal strongly and soon he was joyfully greeting his mother.

“Hello, Christopher, my angel,” she replied to him joyfully. “Are you enjoying your trip with your father.”

“Yes,” he answered. “We’re going to look for Pazithi wolves when it gets dark.”

“Be careful they don’t look for you,” she answered. She smiled as she looked at her son, but it was obvious even to him that something bothered her, all the same. “You know, Christopher, that I love you. And even if… no matter what… tomorrow night… I will still love you just as much.”

“I love you, mama,” he answered. “Don’t be scared. Father says it will be all right.”

“Tell your mother that I love her,” said his father. “I always love her.”

“She knows that,” Christopher said.

“Tell her anyway.”

Christopher told his mother what his father had said. She smiled.

“I love you both. I just hate Time Lords. They’re so…” She laughed again. “Never mind. You’d better let me talk to your father for a little while.”

Christopher passed the videophone to his father and took over beating a bowl of eggs into omelettes that his father intended to fry over the open fire.

“Julia,” he said with a warm smile. “You really hate Time Lords?”

“Only arrogant ones. Just make sure our son doesn’t grow up into one of those.”

“He won’t. He’s too much like me.”

“You can be just as arrogant as the rest of them,” she told him. “And as stubborn. Please look after him. He’s… he’s precious to me. We’ll never have another child… Even if we did… No-one could replace him. Our baby.”

“Just be patient. It will be all over tomorrow night. And we’ll call you straight away. Then you’ll know you were worrying about nothing.”

“What is she worried about?” Jackie asked. “That’s your dad’s first wife, isn’t it? Julia. I’ve heard him talk about her so very often. She’s beautiful. No wonder he loved her so much. But it seems like they’re not very happy just then.”

“Mother wasn’t. And father was unhappy because she wasn’t. They both tried to keep their feelings from me. At the time, I think they did, more or less. Most of what they were saying to each other went over my head. I was thinking about the wolves and whether we would see any of them later.”

“Did you?”

“Oh, yes,” he answered in a whisper.

After their supper, his father had made two preparations for the wolves. First he activated the perception filter again, and also a low-level psychic forcefield that surrounded the camp.

“Why do we need both?” Christopher asked. “The wolves won’t know we’re here with the perception filter.”

“They will if they bump into us,” his father answered. “The psyche-field makes them think they’re going the wrong way and they’ll turn aside.”

He sat on the grass cross-legged and Christopher came close and sat in his lap, protective arms enclosing him. The grown up Christopher sighed softly as he remembered that feeling of safety when his father held him that way. He hoped his own son, sleeping in his arms, would always know the same feeling.

It was a warm night, even close to the ice cascade, and neither of them felt any discomfort as they sat and waited for the wolves to come along their usual way. They didn’t talk, not even telepathically. Being there together, sitting quietly, was contentment enough.

“There,” Christopher heard his father whisper, and he followed his finger towards a dark, narrow path at the top of the valley. Shapes moved, and he caught a flash of silver fur in the moonlight and heard a low growling.

“Six of them,” his father said. “I can feel their heartbeats. Concentrate, and you will, too. They’re Gallifreyan wolves. They belong to this world as we do. If we try hard we can be at one with them. We can see the world through their eyes.”

Christopher couldn’t quite do that, but his father said he would learn as he grew. He still had a lot to learn. And he would teach him as much of it as he could.

Then they spotted something else. A roan, strayed from its herd. Christopher stiffened fearfully. He knew what was bound to happen, and he looked away, pressing close to his father’s chest as the wolves pounced and the creature squealed briefly. He knew it was a part of nature. Roans had to die so that wolves could eat. But he didn’t have to look at it. He didn’t look around until the sounds of frenzied eating were over and the wolves moved to the edge of the cascade pool to drink the cold water after their meal. Then the pack found a place to lie down. It was very close to where the forcefield began. Christopher looked at them from as close as he ever hoped to get. They were magnificent animals, and he forgave them the necessary murder of the roan as he watched them settle down to digest their supper.

Father and son stayed where they were, safe inside the forcefield, watching the creatures that they shared their home planet with. Christopher wished he could stroke their magnificent, thick fur, but he knew he couldn’t.

“Your great grandfather, Chrístõ de Luan, the greatest astronomer on Gallifrey, once lost a leg to a Pazithi wolf,” his father told him. “So he told me when I was your age and he took me on a night journey to observe some interesting meteors and we almost ran into a hunting pack. Of course he had regenerated since and he had two legs again. But he taught me to hop very well. He said he got away from them on his one leg by hopping.”

Christopher laughed and said he didn’t believe that.

“Neither do I, but you don’t call your grandfather a liar. That’s very bad manners for a Gallifreyan son.”

He hugged his own son close as they continued to watch the sleeping wolves. Christopher got sleepy himself and he felt his father stand up, holding him in his arms. He brought him into the tent and tucked him into the big, double sleeping bag before slipping in beside him. He left the tent flap open and the forcefield still operating. They slept warm and content, side by side, father and son, while the wolves woke from their nap and moved on, leaving no trace of themselves for the morning except some gnawed bones and flattened grass.

In the morning, after breakfast, the father and son prepared for a day’s walking. They packed provisions into rucksacks and stowed everything else in the hover car. It would be there when they returned.

Then they set off up the deep valley, walking on what just qualified as paths in that they were not rocks and were almost smooth in some places. They talked cheerfully as they walked. Christopher took interest in all of the topography and wildlife that his father pointed out to him. He ate hungrily when they stopped for their lunch and tea.

As the late afternoon wore on and they neared the purpose of this weekend, the cheerfulness became more forced. Christopher’s responses to his father’s comments became far more monosyllabic. His thoughts were elsewhere.

Finally, his father stopped and turned to him. He hugged him tenderly.

“Christopher, you know that I love you. Don’t ever doubt that. I will always love you no matter what happens. And you will always be my son.”

“I know that, father,” Christopher boy said. Then he burst into tears. His father held him even closer. Christopher cried out of pent up fear and apprehension, and also out of shame because he had cried, letting his Human weaknesses become exposed.

“It’s not weakness, Christopher,” his father assured him. “It’s a part of you. So cry all you want now, my son, and then we’ll go on when it’s over.”

“But what if I can’t do it? I’m half Human. How can I be a Time Lord candidate? How can I do any of it?”

“The same way I did,” his father answered him. “My mother was Human, too. We are the same. In our blood, in our hearts and souls. We are so very alike. And we are both Gallifreyans. You will be a Time Lord, my boy. And tonight, in a little while, you will make the first step.”

Christopher said nothing. But he clung to his father for a long, silent time, and let the cathartic tears wash away the pent up emotions. When he was ready to go on he was still apprehensive, but he faced it a little more readily now that his father knew how he felt. He walked steadily on as they passed along a narrow path between high cliffs that led to the next valley.

They were no longer alone. There was a group of men waiting near a small marquee that had been erected there. The men were all old, venerable Time Lords dressed in the ceremonial gowns and robes and headpieces that made them look so very grand and a little frightening. As they approached, one of them turned to greet them.

“My Lord,” his father said, bowing his head reverently. “This is my son, Chrístõ Miraglo de Lœngbærrow. He is here to prove himself in the Rite of Candidates on this midsummer eve.”

“He is the last to arrive. But of course you have prepared him on the way?”

“I have, Lord,” his father answered. “Christopher… you know what to do now, my son?”

“Yes, father,” he said. He stepped forward from his father’s side. He had been coached. He was not to look for hugs or kisses, no show of emotion. He was to walk with head erect as a proud child of Gallifrey, except when addressed by one of the elders, when he should bow, of course.

He walked, without a backward glance, to the marquee. Not surprisingly, it was bigger on the inside than they outside. There was a large hall where at least two hundred boys and girls were gathered. They were separated into Candidate’s Chapters, Prydonian, Arcalian, Patrexean, Dromeian and Cerulean, according to the Academy that their fathers had expressed a preference for. Christopher was always expected to be a Prydonian. He couldn’t imagine any other choice.

They were taken first to a place where they showered, an act of purification before the Rite, and dressed in robes. They were black and silver, covering them from neck to toe, with just a hint of red in the decoration on the breast, denoting Prydonian scarlet. Then they were led through to a smaller place where they waited to be called, one by one.

That was the worst part. The waiting. It was when all the thoughts really piled up on him and on his fellow candidates. They thought about the rumours they had all heard. The chief one was that in every group of candidates there was always one that was rejected. And that didn’t just mean failing an examination. When the Untempered Schism rejected you, they said, your mind was turned to jelly. If you knew your own parents, you were lucky.

The other rumour was about what happened to those who failed. The story was that they were killed. That was why so many high ranking Time Lords were present. They supervised the euthanasia.

Christopher tried not to think about it. He knew, as the only half blood, he was the one most likely to be rejected. And what then? What would his father do? How would he break the news to his mother? Would she ever forgive his father for losing him?

Would it hurt? Or would his mind be so seared that he knew nothing about it?

He really wanted to see his father again. He wanted to be reassured by him. But he knew he couldn’t. His father had to wait with all the other parents until it was over.

“He’s the reject,” said one of the other boys, pointing to him. “The half blood. He shouldn’t even be here, that’s what my father said.”

“Shut up, Dúccesci,” said another boy. “Your father doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and neither do you.”

“You shut up, Hext,” answered the boy called Dúccesci, whose robe bore a hint of Arcalian blue. “Your family are no better. Your father’s brother ran off with an Earthling like HIS mother.”

Christopher said nothing. He didn’t want to get involved in a fight. He wondered who the other boy was who had stuck up for him. He didn’t know him. But then he only knew a few people his own age. The ones whose parents visited his mother, or who he met when he and his parents visited their homes.

“Which is the Son of Lœngbærrow?” asked a deep, sonorous voice that broke into the squabble. The boys all looked around and then bowed formally to the Time Lord who addressed them.

“I am, sir,” Christopher said, stepping forward on shaky feet and bowing again.

“Of course you are,” he said. “You have your father’s eyes. I am Lord Azmael. I am your mentor tonight. Come along, boy.”

“First?” he asked. “Oh…”

Did that mean they expected him to succeed? They would hardly risk disheartening the others by having the first rejected. He said nothing. Lord Azmael turned and left the room. He followed, out into the evening sunlight. As he began to walk towards the pass to the Valley of the Untempered Schism, he saw another Time Lord step inside to bring his Candidate forward. There was soon a trail of tall, magnificent men with frightened boys and girls walking beside them. Christopher risked one look back and caught a glimpse of his father among those who waited. Then he turned to face his destiny before Lord Azmael caught him in such prevarication.

“You are allowed to talk,” the Time Lord told him. “Are you feeling confident, boy?”

“I…” Christopher managed.

“It isn’t true, you know,” Lord Azmael added. “There isn’t always a reject. Most years all the candidates come out fine. The odd few that don’t, there was usually a problem to begin with. Something in their minds that wasn’t ready for the test.”

“Like being half Human?” he managed to ask.

“Not at all,” Lord Azmael answered him. “I mentored your father. He faced the Schism with exemplary courage. I don’t have the slightest doubt that you will do the same. As for those who doubt your blood… Conduct yourself with honour and let your example fly in the face of them all.”

Christopher took heart from those words, though every step closer he was more apprehensive. What would it really be like? Nobody, not even his father, had told him, except in the very vaguest terms. He wondered if people as old as his father could still remember. Perhaps it was so frightening it was wiped from the mind immediately.

“Nearly there,” said Lord Azmael. “Almost at the Valley of Eternal Night – otherwise known as the place where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Lord Azmael laughed. Christopher didn’t understand the joke. But he put one foot in front of the other and kept his head held high and tried not to cry out in surprise as they emerged into a wide, dark valley where it was already night. He looked back, and even the deep mountain pass they had come through still had the slanting rays of the setting sun warming it. But here, the sky was burnt brown with stars twinkling in it.

And it was cold. So cold that the ground was frosted over.

“Here is the gateway to Eternity,” said Azmael. Sunlight is swallowed by it. Even on midsummer night it is winter. Come, boy.”

Their way was lit by flaming torches on slender pillars and more Time Lords in their fantastic costumes lined the path. Ahead of him, Christopher saw the Schism itself. It was a great circle made of some kind of metal, perhaps a rare one that occurred nowhere else. It looked like a huge mirror. Except it didn’t reflect anything. As he approached he thought there were stars within it. But they were none of the stars in the sky above him.

“Ten more steps,” Azmael said. “You take those on your own. Good luck, boy.” He squeezed his shoulder comfortingly, then Christopher stepped forward. He counted the ten steps, keeping his eyes fixed on the centre of that strange starfield that inexorably drew his eye inwards on it. His hearts pounded. His soul felt as if it was trying to wrench itself from his body. He hadn’t blinked in all the time he had been looking at the Schism. He knew he couldn’t if he tried….

Christopher was startled to find himself back in the darkened bedroom with the light from the uplit fountain casting odd shadows on the ceiling.

“Jackie?” he said. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” she answered. “But… what…”

“I was so caught up in the memory I forgot you were with me. You shouldn’t have seen that, not even second hand through my recollection. It’s too dangerous.”

“It was… unbelievable. It was… the whole of time and space… and I felt myself as a tiny speck in it, insignificant. And then I felt as if I was the master of it all… even though I was tiny and insignificant. I thought I could reach out and hold the stars in my hand…”

“Yes,” he whispered. “That’s what I felt. I never told anyone… not even my father. But that was it, exactly.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Christopher looked around and saw his father standing by the bedroom door, a dressing gown wrapped around him that looked, in the half dark, like a Gallifreyan gown. “I felt your memory in my dreams. When you looked into the Schism it shocked me awake. Jackie, are you sure you’re all right? That was never meant for Human minds to encompass.”

“But eight year old kids from your world were exposed to it?” she replied scathingly. “Thank God my Garrick will never go through that.”

“I think he already has,” The Doctor said as he stepped closer. “Look at him.”

Christopher and Jackie both looked at the child, held in his father’s arms. He was fully awake and looking with wide eyes at them both. The Doctor took him from Christopher and examined him carefully.

“Yes, he shared the vision, too. He has seen eternity with you, Christopher. He’s all right. It’s a wonder it didn’t burn out his mind. But he’s fine. He’s another chip off the old block.”

“What happened afterwards?” Jackie asked. “Christopher obviously passed the test?”

“Oh, absolutely. He looked a bit dazed when he came back. And he didn’t talk much on the way home. Lord Azmael brought us back to our car by time ring. A slightly nauseating method of travel, but far better than walking. I drove straight home. We got there about three o’clock in the morning. His mother was still sitting up, worrying. When I carried him into the house, asleep, she nearly hit the roof. She thought there was something wrong with him. I tried to tell her he was just tired, but she insisted on me waking him up to be sure. Christopher looked at her and started telling her all about the wolves. She hugged him like hugs were going out of stock any minute until I managed to persuade both of them to go to bed. And that was it, really. I don’t think any of us ever talked about it again.”

“The other kids… did they all turn out ok?”

“They all got through the Rite of Candidates,” The Doctor said. “Whether they turned out ok is another matter. Dúccesci…” The Doctor paused. He and Christopher exchanged glances. It was the first time either of them had thought about that bitter rival who had planted the sub-atomic bomb that ripped both their lives to shreds.

“They’re all dead, now,” Christopher reminded him. “The ones we cared for sleep in our minds. Those that we hated… can hurt us no more. And the future of our race is…”

“Is in your hands, Jackie,” The Doctor said as he gave the child back into his mother’s arms. “And no better place for it.” He looked out of the window and noted a telltale pink glow. “The sun is coming up. Time was you and I would watch the sun come up together, Christopher. But you’ve got other responsibilities now. Try to get a bit of sleep before Garrick wants your attention again.”

“I will, father,” he said. And he smiled as he saw The Doctor’s face. “No, I won’t ever call you dad. It’s too late now.”