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

Major Jack Harkness of the 22nd Space Corps looked at himself in the mirror and pulled a kiss curl across his forehead. False modesty was never his style. He knew he looked fantastic. He put on the cap with the silver insignia of the 22nd that completed his dress uniform. The dark blue trousers went with a jacket over a silver shirt, the silver repeated in the crowns of his rank on the jacket.

Uniforms always suited him. He remembered the first one he ever wore, as a cadet of the Time Agency. Grey and blue were the Agency colours. Then there had been the year he had spent as the personal bodyguard of the Crown Princess of Traxic V – gold and black, very stunning.

He remembered the World War Two Air Force Volunteer captain’s uniform he had been wearing when he first met The Doctor. He’d been there to work a con, but he had actually felt something stir in him when he wore that uniform. He had envied the other men in the officer’s club as they talked about their past missions and looked forward to what might be ahead of them. Burning death, perhaps, but the idea that they were doing their duty was already making him feel a bit of a heel before he came across The Doctor and Rose and had the chance to really be a hero again.

“Thanks, Doc, for setting me on the straight path… career wise, anyway!” He allowed himself to rifle through old memories and sighed as he often did about the one unrequited love of his life. Then he smiled as he heard the true love of his life moving around in the bathroom of their shared officer’s quarters aboard the Scorpius.

Hellina stepped out of the bathroom and he tried to disguise his disappointment. Despite once being very good at lying, he failed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“You’re wearing dress uniform, same as me,” he said.

“Yes, so?”

“We’re going to a coronation. As guests. As a couple.…”


“Well, couldn’t you at least have worn the skirt uniform instead of the trousers? All the other women will be in glamorous gowns. You HAVE dresses. And you look fantastic in them….”

“I’m going as a representative of the 22nd Space Corps, the same as you.”

“But we’re a couple,” Jack insisted. “You’re my….”

“Your what?” Hellina’s eyes narrowed as she looked at him. “Girlfriend? Wife? Concubine?”

“Wife would be nice. We’ve been together ten years. The invitation has us down as Lieutenant-Colonel Hellina Arturo Harkness and Major Jack Harkness Arturo. We’ve used each other’s surname for years. So why can’t you… look like you are my wife?”

“Because I’m a Lieutenant-Colonel, not the little woman,” she answered. “I should have thought that was obvious.”

“You can still a Lieutenant-Colonel in a ballgown,” he told her. “A beautiful one. I hoped… there’s going to be so many people there that we know. Christopher and Jackie are going to be there, representing the Government of Gallifrey. They’re going to look fabulous. I just wanted… to be proud of you when we walk into the hall arm in arm…”

“So you’re not proud of me?”

“I didn’t mean that. I just….”

“I’m the senior officer,” she said. “YOU wear the ballgown if you think it’s important.”

“Don’t be silly.”

Hellina’s eyes narrowed even further and her nostrils flared. Jack knew he had pushed the argument too far even before she grabbed his arm and twisted it painfully behind his back and slammed him against the bathroom door.

“Don’t you ever call me ‘silly’,” she told him. “I am NOT a stupid, hysterical woman who needs to be placating. I am not a bimbo who thinks of nothing but clothes. I AM a Lieutenant-Colonel in command of a battleship. I could have you put in the brig while I escort Lieutenant Jensen to the Coronation. SHE has lots of ballgowns. But I am going to this Coronation as an officer. Have you got that?”

“Yes,” Jack answered. “Hellina… please let go of my arm now. I am sorry.”

She let go. He tried to pull her into his arms and kiss her, to prove he was genuinely sorry, but she stepped away and put on her own cap over her military regulation short hair.

“Come on, then,” was all she said to him. He sighed and followed her out of the room. Outside, in the corridors of the Scorpius, there was no question of him holding her arm or hand. She was adamant that he wasn’t to show affection in front of the ranks. But he hoped she might have forgiven him by the time they got to the shuttle bay.

Jack wasn’t the only one having trouble with the woman he loved. Davie Campbell sighed deeply as he piloted his TARDIS to Qu'áp móc A'blá for the coronation of Princess Thrydis. He looked at Brenda sitting primly on the sofa alongside a young woman called Eilis Patterson, one of Chris’s acolytes, who he had asked to be his partner at this very prestigious social event. Brenda was perfectly happy talking to the girl, but whenever she looked at Davie, her expression hardened.

“You know,” Chris said to him. “Granddad once told me about a species – the Emitons - with such a strong connection between their moods and their natural telepathy that they can kill with a look if they allow themselves to be stressed. They all wear special emotion inhibitors to prevent accidents.”

“Marriage guidance councillor would be a high risk profession there, then?” Davie remarked. “I’d be a smoking hole in the carpet! We’re not even married and she’s giving me the cold shoulder already. What am I letting myself in for? Is it too late to take a vow of celibacy along with you?”

“Yes,” Chris answered. “Besides, you don’t really mean that. You love her. She loves you. She’s upset with you, but just give her a bit of time.”

“She’s got an hour. Then she’s supposed to be smiling and sparkling on my arm at the Coronation.”

“She will be. She’s Tiboran. You know what they’re like about duty.”

“I don’t want her doing it out of duty,” Davie sighed again. “I want her to do it because she loves me, and wants to be with me. I love her, for Chaos sake! I don’t want this.”

“She thinks you’re spending too much time with Spenser.”

“Which is completely ridiculous. I could just as well say she spends too much time with Rose and Jackie. The new maid granddad engaged last week thought Garrick was OUR son, she spends so much time with him.”

“But you have been up in Northumberland five times in the past fortnight,” Chris reminded him.

“He’s my apprentice. There’s only so much I can teach him remotely.”

“Brenda thinks you’re doing more than teaching him to be a Time Lord.”

“I know what she thinks. Or at least I used to. She’s putting up so many psychic walls these days, I get a headache looking at her.”

“You’re… NOT… doing anything you shouldn’t with Spenser, are you?”

“Of course I’m not,” Davie protested. “How could you of all people think that?”

“You’ve got some walls up, too,” Chris told him. “I can feel it.” He stepped closer and touched his brother’s face gently. Davie felt him touch his mind, too. Yes, there were walls, but Davie let them fall. Chris read the thoughts he didn’t want Brenda to see. He really had made more trips to Northumberland than were strictly necessary. No, he had not done anything unbecoming of a Time Lord of Gallifrey. But he did enjoy being there alone with Spenser, walking on the clifftops, talking, sitting quietly in meditation together. Davie felt relaxed there in a way he didn’t at home. He enjoyed Spenser’s platonic but otherwise unconditional affection. Chris felt a pang of jealousy as he saw Davie’s memories. What he got from being with Spenser, was what he used to get from being with him. But he had been so busy with the Sanctuary, following his own dream, that he had neglected their shared dreams.

“That’s my fault,” Chris said, hugging his brother. “I’ll try to make it up to you.”

“You don’t have to,” Davie assured him. “Your love is unconditional, too.”

“So is Brenda’s love for you. But the terms of your betrothal aren’t. You’ve still got to wait so long for your Alliance. I think the two of you are in a rut. You need to find a way to get the spark back – the romance.”

“You’re MY marriage guidance councillor?”

“Yes.” Chris felt his brother’s laughter in his mind and the twinkle in his brown eyes as he smiled. “That’s better. Now you just need to make Brenda smile that way.”

“Easier said than done. She’s a woman, after all. And those you DON’T know anything about, my priestlike sibling.”


Davie looked at his fiancée. He was pretty sure she was watching him and Chris but pretending not to. He moved around to the communications database and looked at it for a long moment before typing something. Chris watched as letters appeared on the large viewscreen, superimposed over the representation of the vortex.

He turned to see if Brenda was looking. She was.

“Brenda, I love you,” the message read.

She smiled at the message, then turned to look at Davie and smiled at him. Chris did the telepathic equivalent of tiptoeing out of the room as the minds of the betrothed pair met in a loving embrace. He took a look at the navigation console and decided the hour till they reached their virtually unpronounceable destination was just about enough time for the making up that had to be done.

“I think a life of celibacy is a lot easier, though,” he whispered to himself.

The Royal palace of Qu'áp móc A'blá looked like it came from a particularly lavish production of Aladdin. It was built from pure white Quárbél stone, quarried in the Quárbél mountains that rose up, pristine white, on the distant edge of the A'blá plain. The spires and domes of the roof looked to visitors as if they were made of pure gold and lapis lazuli. The visitors were half right. It was pure gold, but lapis lazuli was too rare in the universe. Such vast amounts just didn’t exist. The rich blue cõpáld was just as magnificent, but came from the mines below the same mountain range.

The palace and its stables, outbuildings, summer houses and conservatories were surrounded by magnificent gardens, kept green and watered by a series of artesian wells that tapped into the water table far below the plain. Fountains and reflecting pools added to the cool, pleasant ambience.

Inside the palace, in the grand entrance hall where the guests were gathering, were more fountains to cool and moisten the otherwise dry air. There was more of the gold and cõpáld, as well as purple márrág stone, too. A moth called the crõssét, with a nine inch wing span and distinctly beautiful markings, spun the silk that went into the tapestries and drapes and the soft chairs and chaise longues on which some of the guests sat. Most were happy to stand and mingle socially, refreshed by golden goblets of a sweet tasting juice of something called a manisha fruit.

“It’s amazing,” Jackie de Lœngbærrow said as she looked around the great room. “It’s like… something out of a fairy tale. Nobody REALLY lives in a place like this, surely?”

“The Crown Princess Thrydis, about to become queen, does,” Christopher answered her. “Although most of this is for show, of course. The Planetary Queendom of Qu'áp móc A'blá isn’t as rich as you would think looking at this palace. Her Highness’s mother spent very frivolously during her reign. And the exports aren’t what they used to be. The cõpáld and márrág seams are almost depleted and quárbél stone isn’t really fashionable in this part of the galaxy. They import most of the gold. All show and not much substance. They’ll be hoping to make a few trade agreements in the course of the festivities, I expect.”

“I don’t even know how to pronounce the place,” Jackie complained. “Honestly, I don’t know how you do it. And knowing all that stuff.”

“My father and grandfather were both diplomats. The instinct for difficult pronunciations is hereditary. As is the ability to remember important details about the people I do business with.”

“I wish your dad and Rose were here. I feel better about these posh do’s when I'm with them. I don’t know anyone.” She looked around. As usual in these interplanetary events, she didn’t even know what species some of the people were. She knew those with big green heads with a single huge eye in them were from Alpha Centauri, and the huge man that looked like he was made of half-dried cement was from a planet called Fahot, and was actually very nice even though shaking hands with him was risky.

But she wasn’t sure she would ever get used to this sort of thing.

“Davie and Brenda are here,” Christopher reminded her. “And Chris is with a young lady. It’s Davie’s first diplomatic mission on behalf of my father. He’s quite proud of himself. Jack and Hellina are here, too.”

“Where?” Jackie asked. She turned and easily spotted the couple – they stood out in their military uniforms. Jack saw them and the two strode across to exchange greetings. Jackie thought Hellina looked a little upset. Or angry. Possibly both. She wondered why she hadn’t worn a dress for the Coronation.

“Isn’t The Doctor here?” Jack asked, and was disappointed to learn that Rose hadn’t wanted to travel so far by TARDIS. The babies were growing by the day and she got tired very quickly.

“We should visit her next time we’re in the quadrant,” Hellina said. “Poor thing. Pregnant again.”

“That isn’t what the Crown Princess would say about her,” Christopher answered. “She would say ‘may you have strong daughters and obedient sons.’ They honour motherhood.”

“They honour other things, too,” Hellina noted. “The Princess told me I have the soul of a warrior.”

“Give it back to him,” Jack quipped, but Hellina gave him a frosty look. He bit his lip. Jackie was the only one who noted the look in his eyes. Some people thought she was a bit thick. Slow on the uptake was a kinder way of putting it. But Jackie knew about people. She had seen how his eyes had softened when they talked about Rose and her unborn twins. She had seen how he seemed faintly embarrassed because he was with the only woman among the guests who wasn’t wearing a ballgown. He loved Hellina for many good reasons. But maybe he did feel there was something missing from his life.

Hellina pregnant? Hellina as a mother? Jackie failed to imagine either scenario. And lack of imagination was not something she could be accused of.

“It’s time to go into the chapel,” Christopher said, diplomatically putting an end to what might have been an awkward situation. They all turned and looked as the golden doors were opened and the all female Royal Protectorate Guard in their gold and blue uniforms that matched the palace itself, formed an honour guard.

That this was a matriarchal society was even more fully underpinned as they passed into the chapel where the Coronation was to take place and the women were escorted to their seats while the men were directed to the gallery above. They were permitted to watch the ceremony, but took no active part in it.

“Weird,” Jack commented as he sat next to Christopher and looked down on the women gathered below. He could see Hellina with Jackie and Brenda and Chris’s ‘plus one’. He wondered how his row with Hellina would look to the people of this planet where, even in ballgowns, the women wore the metaphorical trousers? He had a feeling he would find popular opinion on Hellina’s side.

“Gallifrey is patriarchal to the point of misogyny,” Christopher told him. “Even after being married to Jackie and having quite a lot of Women’s Lib’ thrown at me, this feels very strange for me, too.”

“It’s not natural,” Jack added. “Equal, sure. That’s how it was in the 51st century. But not the dominant gender. No way. That just doesn’t… It doesn’t feel right. It’s not natural.”

“You know, Jack,” Chris whispered to him. “Opinions like that are why Hellina isn’t talking to you right now. A matriarchal society is no worse than Gallifrey or Earth with the bias towards men. We have to think beyond our own cultural conditioning.”

“I just don’t want Jackie getting any ideas,” Christopher said.

“Hellina already has more than enough ideas,” Jack complained before a sudden fanfare announced the start of the Coronation ceremony, conducted by three lady archbishops in golden robes. The men watched quietly and accepted their lot for now.

When the ceremony was over and the queen was crowned, she walked back down the aisle accompanied by the archbishops. Two men in gold coloured robes followed. They were her two most favoured husbands, apparently. Again, Chris had reminded the other men that polygamy was considered perfectly all right when a king or emperor or sheikh or whatever had a collection of wives. Christopher and Jack both insisted that it was unnatural.

The Queen went to her throne room, and the guests reassembled in the outer hall to prepare to be formally presented to her. They formed a procession of couples and were shown in through another great set of doors to a huge chamber that shone with gold and cõpáld and was hung with rich tapestries and silks. The queen sat on a gold throne with her two favoured husbands sitting on cushions at her feet.

Slowly the line moved forward. Even before they got close to being presented by the chamberlain Chris and Davie conducted a telepathic conversation about something very disturbingly obvious.

“Only the women are announced by name,” Davie pointed out as they watched “the Lady Jacqueline de Lœngbærrow of Earth and husband” being presented.

“Jack’s not going to like it,” Chris replied. “He and Hellina are already at odds with each other over the whole gender superiority thing.”

“It’s not just that,” Davie reminded him. “Hellina has always outranked him in the Space Corps and I suppose he must get fed up of it sometimes. Anyway, how do they work this with non-humanoids? Look at the Alpha Centaurians. They’re all hermaphrodite. And even some of the humanoids, for that matter. THOSE two women going up together to be presented. They’re from Haollstrom. Gendermorphs. They were two men in the gallery with us for the Coronation. They must have got fed up of being sidelined and switched gender.”

“Sneaky!” Chris laughed.

“Wonder what would have happened if I’d brought Spenser as my plus one?” Davie joked. But he soon realised that was the worst thing to say. Brenda had been listening to their telepathic conversation. He hadn’t dared to block it from her. She didn’t see the funny side at all, and even Chris ticked him off for being insensitive.

“I wish we could chuck this whole thing and go home,” Davie thought as he got ready to be presented as the ‘partner’ of Lady Brenda Freeman of Tibora. It wasn’t that he felt himself superior to her because he was a man. That wasn’t why it was so insulting. It was because he had never, ever, taken her to any function of any kind as his nameless ‘plus one’. He would never have treated her so badly. He thought it unfair that he was so shabbily set aside here.

“It serves you right for what you said before,” Brenda told him as they moved on from the throne room to yet another grand hall where the banquet and ball to celebrate the Coronation was to take place. The place settings, they noticed, mentioned the women by name but had the men as ‘partner’ or ‘husband’ or even that utterly degrading and anonymous ‘plus one’.

“I suppose we should be grateful that we’re not segregated again,” Christopher noted as he and Jackie were seated at a table along with Jack and Hellina, the Haollstromnian couple who had wisely remained in female form for the meal, and the Prime Minister of Qu'áp móc A'blá and her quiet, unassuming husband who looked like somebody who didn’t often get to attend official functions.

“I am surprised,” said Prime Minister Manilla Thuptysa to Hellina. “You have men in the upper ranks of your military forces.” She looked scathingly at Jack, who tried to make eye contact with her. She glared at him so accusingly that he turned his attention to the seafood salad course. The purple shrimplike thing that formed the centrepiece of the salad was looking far more benignly at him.

“Really, though,” the Prime Minister continued. “We accept them in the rank and file. They prove useful enough as ground troops. But to trust the security of a planet to male officers is unthinkable. They just don’t have the aptitude for command.”

Jack waited for Hellina to defend his honour. She didn’t. She made an airy and joking remark about men having their uses. He bit his lip and said nothing. But he fumed inside. She was belittling him deliberately.

“How many husbands can a woman have here on Qu… a…. on this planet,” Jackie asked, changing the subject.

“It is entirely a matter of how many one can afford,” the Prime Minister replied. “Keeping a seraglio with more than four husbands installed is expensive. Queen Thrydis has fifteen husbands at the moment, though she is likely to increase that number very soon.”

Jackie wasn’t sure she knew what a seraglio was, but she made a guess, and it wasn’t something that sounded good. “I'm happy with Christopher,” she said. “I don’t need four husbands.” She smiled at him, and he smiled back. “This seafood salad is very nice,” she added and the Prime Minister talked about the chefs – all female – of the royal kitchen, a subject that upset the men at the table far less. They got through the meal anyway, and then the dancing got underway.

To nobody’s great surprise, the women led the men in most of the dances. To Jack and Davie’s bewilderment and distress their women left them after the first few sets and danced with other partners from among the put upon menfolk of Qu'áp móc A'blá. They sat together, bemoaning their lot, drinking wine and eating strange looking nuts and even stranger fruit from bowls placed on the table.

“Brenda doesn’t mean it,” Davie insisted. “She’s just making me pay for something stupid I said earlier. She’ll be all right.”

“I’m not sure Hellina will be,” Jack replied. “She’s really angry with me. I think I'm going to be sleeping on the couche-bed later.”

They had already ‘freshened up’ in the bedrooms in the guest wing. They were designed on the traditional Qu'áp móc A'blán style. There was a large luxurious bed for the lady, and a couche-bed, a small, narrow one, in a curtained off alcove where the favoured husband slept after he had done his duty for his lady.

“That means what I think it means, doesn’t it?” Davie asked.

“It does. But I don’t think Hellina’s going to want me to do any duty for her tonight.”

“I hope you two make up,” Davie told him. “You’ve got a special thing going. It would be a shame if you split.”

“I really love her,” Jack admitted. “Time was, I didn’t let myself say things like that. I didn’t want to be in love. I never wanted to stick with anyone. And I sure don’t do domestic. But Hellina… she’s everything I want from a woman, but she’s got the heart of a man. She’s… tough, brave. She’s… she’s my girl. I love her. And… and I’m not putting up with any more of this.” He stood up and strode across the floor to where Hellina was dancing with one of the Queen’s less favoured husbands – one who wore less gold in his clothing. He pushed the man away and took her in his arms. He kissed her on the mouth firmly.

But Hellina still wasn’t having any of it. She pulled out of his embrace and walked away from him. Jack watched her deliberately start to dance with one of the Haollstromnian women. When he tried to intervene a second time he found himself firmly escorted off the dance floor by two of the Royal Protectorate.

“Ok, ok,” he conceded. “I’m going to bed. The SMALL bed.”

Davie watched him leave before he turned to see Brenda standing near him.

“I don’t want to dance with anyone else,” she said. “It’s not the same. Please.…” She held out her hand. He grasped it joyfully. He held her close in his arms as they danced. She smiled at him and let her kiss him. The despair in his hearts evaporated as the ballroom became a place with only two people in it as far as they were concerned.

Jack was pretending to be asleep, with the curtain closed on the couche-bed alcove when Hellina came in. He looked once, because for a jealous moment he wondered if she was alone. Of course she was. He sighed and turned over, facing the wall and waited for the light to go out beyond the curtain. If she was any other kind of woman, she would be crying now, very softly, and he could go to her. They would both cry together, then make love and it would be all right. But she wasn’t like that. He wondered if there was any way they could break the impasse between them.

Chris and his companion had been assigned the same sort of room, even though they were not a couple. He closed the curtains and laid himself on the narrow bed and was already in a second level trance, oblivious to anything, when Eilis came out of the en-suite bathroom and settled in the luxurious, silk covered bed. She called goodnight to him but didn’t worry when he didn’t reply.

Davie lay on top of the couche-bed in a pair of black satin pyjamas. The curtains were open and he watched as Brenda came from the bathroom wearing a deep red silk nightdress. It was long, covering her demurely, but at the same time giving her a beautiful silhouette against the lamplight. He waited until she was in bed, under the covers, then came to her side. He sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand in his. He kissed her fingers lovingly, especially the finger where she wore a large diamond solitaire ring. It was a Gallifreyan diamond. It came from the collection that adorned Rose’s wedding dress. She was saving them all for when Vicki should get married. But one of them she gave to him to make up into an engagement ring for Brenda.

“I love you,” he whispered. “I loved you from that first morning when I watched you at your callisthenics in the garden – when we walked by the lake. I knew then I would love you for the rest of my life. I am sorry if I have taken you for granted. I am sorry if anything I have done has hurt you. But I am guilty of no more than neglect. I have done nothing that makes me unworthy to be your husband in the course of time.”

“You let Spenser hold hands with you last week,” she said, touching his cheek. He could feel her in his mind and he didn’t even try to put up walls. She saw his memory of walking on the cliffs in Northumbria with Spenser, of catching hold of each other’s hands as they walked. It had seemed quite normal then, and not something he should have been ashamed of.

“Our love used to be like that,” Brenda added as she saw how happy he had been on that simple walk in the fresh air. “We’ve let it become complicated. I only feel jealous of Spenser because… because I want it to be that way between us, too.”

“It will be,” Davie promised. “But don’t make me hurt Spenser. He’s content to be able to hold my hand from time to time. He hasn’t asked for more. Will you let him have that much of me if the rest is yours?”

She didn’t answer in words. She reached out her arms to him. He leaned into her embrace and kissed her lips. With his mind he gently reached into her thoughts and soothed away the last doubts. He filled her with the joy of love he wanted her to feel. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders as he lay over her, on top of the blankets, but his body pressing against hers through the layers all the same. He kissed her passionately, claiming her as his betrothed, the woman he had pledged to love and cherish all his life.

He let the kiss last as long as he could, but it had to end. He was not born on Gallifrey, but the blood of that people ran in his veins and their code of conduct bound him. She was born on Tibora, where even this kiss would be considered shocking. They had both pledged to wait until she was of age and they could be married. That was still four years away. Davie sat up again and kissed her hand before he withdrew to the alcove.

“Davie,” Brenda whispered.


“Leave the curtain open. I want to be able to see you… to know that you’re there.”

“Okay,” he answered. He slipped into the narrow bed and watched her as she fell asleep before he let himself do the same.

Christopher slept in the alcove, too. Not because of any convention or restraint on him, but because Jackie was sick. They put it down to the shellfish salad. It was delicious, but they were no kind of shellfish she had ever eaten before and her digestive system had rebelled. When her stomach was empty and she just felt dizzy and weak he had made her comfortable and kissed her cheek before retiring to the small couche-bed and leaving her with the big bed to stretch out on.

Brenda was the first to notice something was wrong. She opened her eyes happily in the early morning light and looked around, expecting to see Davie in the other bed. He wasn’t there. She felt disappointed. She had wanted to lie there and watch him sleep and daydream of the time to come when they would be husband and wife, sleeping together in a bed like this one.

Maybe he was in the bathroom? She sat up and waited. Even better, if he was awake, they could have a quiet, uninterrupted cuddle the way they did last night. Maybe they could dress and go out for a walk in the garden and rekindle those romantic feelings they had lost.

After a few minutes she tentatively ventured towards the bathroom door. If he was in there, then romantic feelings were going to turn into embarrassments. But she had to know.

A half a minute later, in her dressing gown and slippers she was knocking at the room next to theirs, where Chris and Eilis were. When the girl opened the door and Brenda asked if the two brothers had gone to do one of their meditations together she was puzzled. Even more so when she pulled back the curtain and found the alcove empty.

They were still wondering about it when Jackie came to the open door. She looked pale and her eyes heavy as if she had slept badly. And she was visibly upset. Brenda guessed why.


“He’s gone.”

Jackie’s tearful report of waking to find her husband missing was interrupted by an angry shout as Hellina stormed out of her room. Brenda ran to her.

“They’re all gone,” she said. “Something has happened. He hasn’t walked out on you. He’s… I think they’ve all been kidnapped.”

Hellina stared at Brenda for a few seconds before her words sank in. Then she turned and ran, calling for the Royal Protectorate Guards who were supposed to be on duty in the guest quarters. Meanwhile Brenda suggested to Jackie and Eilis that they should all get dressed. When they had done so, quickly, they went to the guest drawing room where they found Hellina quarrelling with the guards.

“They won’t do anything,” she said. “They say we have to stay here, and they won’t admit to anything happening in the night. They’re lying. There’s no way four men were taken from these rooms without the guards knowing.”

“I agree,” Brenda said. “They’re lying. I can see it in their minds. You should get dressed, too, Hellina. You can’t do anything for them like that.” She turned to the guards. “We shall want tea, arrange it.”

She surprised herself by the way she took on responsibility for Jackie, who was too ill to be any help, and Eilis, who didn’t know what was happening. She was even more surprised when Hellina did as she suggested. Hellina didn’t take orders from anyone. She was the one in control. Except now.

Tea was brought. It helped Jackie, at least. She began to look a bit brighter, though she was still desperately worried. Hellina, in her uniform, regained some of her authority, though she was grateful for Brenda’s support.

“You know what they’re thinking?” she asked as they all glared at the guards. “You’re telepathic like the twins are?”

“They’re not thinking anything,” Brenda answered. “They’re completely impassive. All I can feel is blank minds. They’ve been told to guard us and tell us nothing, to give away nothing, even with the expressions on their faces. But I know we’re being deceived and I don’t know why.”

Jack was the first to wake up. He felt as if his head was going to explode. He had never had headaches like this without drinking some very illegal strong liquor the night before and he hadn’t had more than three glasses of the local purple coloured wine at the banquet.

He was dressed oddly, too. In fact, he was practically undressed, in nothing but a pair of very thin, silk pants that ended at the knees. He had no worries about his body not measuring up, but he was a little annoyed at being undressed while he was unconscious. Besides, he had not actually invited anyone to interfere with him.

His legs felt heavy. He moved them and they clanked. He sat up and noticed that his ankles were manacled. A short chain connected both legs so that he could only take small steps and a longer chain attached in the middle gave him enough leeway to walk around the room but not leave it.

He gave his attention to the room as his eyes adjusted to the dim light. It had a márrág stone floor and lots of crõssét silk hangings. He was lying on a sleeping mat that bore no resemblance in any way to a mattress and felt little better than the cold, bare floor. The doorway was just an arch with a curtain over it and it looked like natural light beyond. But his chains made it a prison even so.

He was not alone. He reached out and shook Christopher, who was pale skinned in the almost nothing that they were wearing. Politicians didn’t get much time to sunbathe. He woke groggily and the two of them turned to Chris and Davie. The four of them were prisoners here. Wherever here was, exactly. He was surprised that the three Time Lords seemed so badly affected by whatever had rendered them insensible enough for them to be kidnapped from their beds. He thought they were resistant to most drugs. But all three of them still looked stoned as they looked around.

“It’s not a neural inhibitor,” Davie said, slowly. “Just some sort of herbal narcotic. We should have been able to fight it. They got us unawares in our sleep. Hang on.…”

He reached out to his brother and Christopher and all three closed their eyes in concentration. Their bodies seemed to take on a dusky texture for a few moments as they expelled the drug from their systems and when they opened their eyes again they looked normal.

“That’s better,” Chris commented. But how did they get us?”

Jack rubbed his neck. Christopher examined a small bruise under his fingers that could have been caused by a hastily inserted syringe.

“Not exactly original,” Jack commented. “So where are we exactly, anyway? And who put us into these weird pants. I hope she kept her hands to herself!”

“You are in Her Majesty’s Seraglio,” said a voice and they all looked around at the curtained door as a tall man with blonde hair cropped short carried a tray into the room. There was bread, fruit and nuts and some kind of cold, milky drink. “You should eat. You have need of strength later.”

“For what?” Christopher asked as he examined the food suspiciously and was satisfied that it was not drugged or poisoned. “What are we doing here?”

“It’s a seraglio,” Jack told him. “Three guesses.”

The Prime Minister came to the guest drawing room to address the four women.

“Your men have not been abducted. They have been selected,” she said.

“Selected for what?” Jackie demanded.

“For the Queen’s pleasure. They will be her new husbands, for her enjoyment and that of her chosen courtiers.”

“You have got to be joking!” Jackie replied. Hellina said something similar but interspersed with swear words that Jackie never even heard on the council estate she grew up on. Brenda and Eilis both blushed to hear them.

“You will be compensated,” the Prime Minister said. “Well compensated.”

“You think this is about money?” Brenda demanded. “You can’t put a price on people. Especially not my Davie. And if you think he will let himself be used by the queen for.…”

If they do not co-operate they will be punished. If they still refuse the queen’s favours they will be sent to the mines. Or if the queen is severely displeased, she may have them executed.”

“Christopher.…” Jackie protested. “You can’t have him. He’s… he’s the father of my baby. You can’t….”

“You will be compensated. If money does not suffice, a selection of males may be made available. But these are the Queen’s choice. There is no more to be said. If you do not wish to remain here, transport will be provided….”

The Prime Minister withdrew. The women looked at each other in shock.

“Davie won’t let himself be used. He would rather die than betray his honour as a Gallifreyan,” Brenda said. “I thought… I doubted him, but I was wrong. He is true. And she will kill him for it.”

“Chris has made a vow of celibacy,” Eilis pointed out. “He won’t co-operate either.”

“Neither would Christopher,” Jackie insisted.

“Jack might,” Hellina admitted. “He’s.…” She shrugged. “He’s Jack. You all know him. I think he would….”

“No, he wouldn’t,” Jackie assured her. “He loves you. And he won’t let you down.”

“We can’t let them down,” Brenda said. “Are we just going to sit here and put up with this?”

“Like hell we are,” Hellina replied. She stood and went to the door from the drawing room to the corridor outside. She knocked hard and demanded breakfast. When the door was opened she grabbed the guard and pulled her inside with a flick of her wrist. Another flick landed her out cold on the floor. The second guard had time to notice something was happening, but no time to do anything about it as Hellina reached again and quickly rendered her unconscious. Brenda and Eilis dragged them both to a heavy table and tied them to it. Hellina, meanwhile picked up the rifles dropped by both guards and held them up triumphantly.

“I’m going to get my man,” she said.

“Me, too,” Brenda declared.

“You’re not a fighter,” Hellina told her.

“Remind me to tell you later about the time when a gang of Space Pirates blinded The Doctor and Rose and I had to be his eyes while we defeated them all,” Brenda replied. “Yes, if it was my choice, I’d rather stay at home and have babies. That’s what I want more than anything. But I need Davie for that. And I’m going to rescue him. He taught me a bit of judo. Enough to handle myself…”

“I’m a brown belt at karate,” Eilis pointed out. “Or I was until The Doctor took away all our belts and gave us bits of string. Chris isn’t my boyfriend or husband. But he’s my teacher, and I’m not going to abandon him.”

“Well, you’re certainly not leaving me behind,” Jackie declared.

“No offence, Jackie,” Hellina answered her. “But what can you do in a fight?”

“I once punched The Doctor. It took him a full five seconds to recover, and he complained about his jaw aching all day.”

Hellina couldn’t help smiling.

“Just bear in mind these guards might punch back,” she told her. “Brenda… you’ve got the psychic thing. Can you sense any other guards outside?”

“Two at the west end of the corridor,” she answered. “We need to get past them to reach the stairs.”

“Don’t shoot them,” Eilis said. “Chris wouldn’t want a bloodbath for his sake. He believes in peace.”

“So do I,” Hellina said. “But sometimes, peace costs.” All the same, she checked the weapon and noted that as well as firing live rounds, it was equipped with a short range electronic stun beam. An excellent non-lethal weapon for a palace guard who might want to shoot first and still be able to ask questions later. Also useful for the bloodless coup everyone else was insisting on.

“The stun only works at close quarters, though, and even I’m not that fast,” she said. “Eilis, you might have to make good on that brown belt. We’ll get as close as we can before they realise we’re the ones they should be guarding. Then you take out one with your karate while I stun the other.”

That first obstacle was relatively easy. Eilis and Hellina looked as if they were just ordinary palace guests until they were within a few feet of the guards. Then the electric beam stunned one and the other was sent to sleep with a classic karate chop. Brenda and Jackie ran to join them as they descended the stairs to the ground floor and repeated the operation with the two guards who stood between them and the palace garden.

“Now where?” Jackie asked as they stepped outside. “Where is this ser… whatsit… harem.”

“Bloody good question,” Hellina admitted. “I don’t usually lead commando raids without a map.”

“Hold on,” Brenda said. She closed her eyes and reached out, feeling for her lover’s mind.

“Brenda!” Davie’s face lit with joy. The others looked at him hopefully. “Where are you? Are you close?” He listened to her and then turned to the others. “Does anyone remember how we were brought here? They need to know where the seraglio is.”

“They?” Jack questioned. “I know Hellina wouldn’t take this lying down. But….”

“They,” he repeated. “They’re coming for us. So… who knows….”

Nobody did. They had all been oblivious when they were brought here. Davie stood up and took small steps to the door. He pulled back the curtain and looked out on a square, mosaic paved garden with potted trees and a fountain in the middle. There were three other huts like the one they were in. The sleeping quarters of the Queen’s husbands, of course.

He looked up and saw part of the palace over the high wall of the seraglio. He recognised the second floor balcony of the queen’s bedroom in the east wing. There would be a perfect view down into the garden. She obviously liked to keep an eye on her husbands.

“Yes, I see that,” Brenda told him. “But it’s off limits. We’ll have to fight our way through.”

“Fight… Brenda.…” He felt the telepathic equivalent of a kiss and then she broke the connection. She needed her concentration elsewhere. He felt a little lonely but at least there was reason to hope. Reason to worry, too, of course. There were who knows how many armed guards between them, still.

“Seriously?” Christopher said. “Jackie is with them? My Jackie?”

“She punched granddad once,” Chris pointed out. “She reminds him of that from time to time.”

“I can believe it,” Christopher admitted. “But even so….”

“The women on this planet wear the pants,” Jack said. “I don’t see why ours can’t.”

“That’s a change of tune,” Davie teased him. “But if any of us want any credibility in our homes, we’d better try to help ourselves, too.

“How about getting these bloody manacles off?” Jack suggested.

“If I had my sonic screwdriver,” Davie began.

“Don’t need it,” Chris told him. “Jack, keep really still….”

Chris knelt beside him and focussed his mind on the long chain that bound him to the wall. He focussed even more precisely on one of the links and imagined the metal being forged, first red hot and then white hot. It was an effort, but Jack gave a shout of surprise as he saw the link changing colour and a smell of heat, the kind of smell he associated with old fashioned rifles when they had been fired many times and were becoming hot. Then Christopher grabbed the chain in two places and pulled. The super-heated link came apart.

“Phase one,” Chris said. “Now spread your legs as wide as the manacles let you. I need to cut through that chain, too.”

Jack was too stunned by what Chris was doing to make any kind of innuendo about what he had been asked to do with his legs. He watched as one of the links slowly became white hot, then he pulled his ankles further apart and the link stretched and gave.

“Well done,” he said as he stood, aware of the weight of the tight metal cuffs around his ankles, but otherwise unencumbered. Chris didn’t respond. Jack saw how dizzy he looked. He grabbed him before he fell down.

“Takes a lot of psychic energy to remind metal of when it was forged.” Davie said. “Give him some of those nuts. They’re protein. And something to drink.”

“Let me try,” Christopher said. “I’m not very good at it. I failed the first time I tried at school, and the second time I blacked out for three hours. But I do know the principle.”

He concentrated on Davie’s chains. Apart from Jack, he was the best fighter among them. His martial arts skills needed to be unencumbered by chains. His own skills were at a debating table and weren’t of any great use just now.

It took him longer. The metal got hot enough to scorch the dust on the floor beneath the chain, but he couldn’t get it white hot and pliable.

“You won’t black out this time,” Davie assured him. “The fear is holding you back, Christopher. But don’t worry. You’re older now, and not being pressurised by a teacher. You can do it.”

Christopher took heart from those words and gave it his best effort. At last he felt it make a difference. Jack pulled the chain apart.

“Not sure I’ve got enough in me to get your ankles free, though,” he admitted.

“Take a few minutes and go again,” Davie told him. “I’m sorry I can’t help. I think I might need my strength for something else in a bit.”

“I’m ready to try again,” Chris told him. “But I think I ought to get the long chain off Christopher first, then he can free me. At least we’ll all be mobile, even if we can’t run fast. Meanwhile, contact Brenda again. Ask her what’s happening out there.”

Davie did that. He was surprised by what he heard. “We just took out a six woman guard,” she announced. “You’d be proud of us all. Hellina stunned one and took out one with her elbow and the other with a high kick. Eilis and I got one each with our martial arts. Jackie just punched the last one in the jaw. The one I got started to reach for her gun and Jackie stepped on her fingers.”

“You’re all fantastic,” he told her. “Just don’t go thinking you’re the bosses now, though. And Chris wants to remind you all that martial arts are for defence purposes only.”

“Eilis said that, but Hellina said the best defence is a good offence. Anyway, we’ll be with you in a few minutes.”

“There are more guards on the gates,” he reminded her. “And the yard is overlooked by the palace. We won’t have much time.”

He broke off the communication again. He would have liked to have kept talking to her, but they both needed their concentration. Christopher, meanwhile, was free of the long chain and had almost freed Chris. They would all have some mobility when the women got through to them.

We’re here,” he heard Brenda say and there was a loud noise as the lock on the ornate seraglio gate was shot off.

“Hellina never lets locks get in her way,” Jack commented as they all got to their feet. “But that was loud. We may have lost the element of surprise.”

They had. Even as the four women came through the gate into the seraglio garden an alarm sounded in the palace. It wouldn’t be long before guards came running. Jack took in the situation quickly. The gate itself was the only entrance. A bottleneck for troops. But the balcony and the windows overlooking the compound could hide snipers with a vantage point.

There was another problem. One they had not reckoned on. The queen’s husbands poured out of their sleeping quarters and took up defensive positions, preventing the women from reaching them across the garden. They were men chosen for certain masculine properties, all tall and well muscled. And they were loyal to their joint wife. None of them had expected that. They thought the ‘husbands’ would be sympathetic to their escape, or at least indifferent. But it seemed they didn’t regard the seraglio as a prison or their duties as onerous.

Cultural conditioning, as Chris had called it, had much to answer for.

“You defile this place,” cried one of the men, wielding a long knife used to cut up the breakfast fruit. “Only the queen and her chosen may enter.”

“Oh, shut up,” Jackie said and punched him in the mouth. Brenda and Eilis stood with her as they fought the men. Hellina stunned one of them, but then turned and took up a defensive position at the gate. There were guards coming. Lots of guards. She turned the gun from stun to live ammunition. In deference to her friends, she aimed for legs or shoulders, disarming and debilitating the enemy rather than killing them, but her aim was true and she held them off. For how long, she didn’t know. She had picked up extra magazines for her gun from the guards she had taken out, but it could only be a matter of time.

“Hi, honey,” Jack said as he grabbed the rifle from one of the guards she had taken down at the gate and took up position beside her. He looked up at the Royal balcony and took careful aim. The sniper who was trying to get into position there was put out of action. He scanned the windows and took out three more targets, but he, too, knew that a position like this could only be held for so long.

Jack risked a glance back and saw Chris and Christopher both tackling the ‘husbands’ along with the women. It looked like a fight from an old comedy film, the men all dressed in those ridiculous costumes, but heads were being cracked and blood was flowing. He wondered if the queen was any good at administering first aid and TLC to her lovers!

“Davie said he had something in mind,” he said.

“I hope he meant airborne support,” Hellina answered. “We’re not getting out through this gate.”

He did, but not in the way Hellina expected.

“Help me,” he told Chris telepathically as he concentrated hard. “This isn’t as easy as it looks.”

“I know,” his brother answered. “But the imprimatur makes you fully symbiotic with your TARDIS. And it’s only in the parking compound. No more than a hundred yards away.”

“It could be a hundred miles…” Davie protested, his head pounding with the telepathic effort. “I think….”

Then he felt his head clear and he smiled. He knew he had done it. He felt the connection with the TARDIS. He felt its controls respond. He looked up at the sky above the compound and grinned.

The Chinese TARDIS had disguised itself as a shuttle craft with the fiery ying yang sumbol across its side when he parked it. Now, as it hovered over the seraglio, it looked like a delta winged fighter from the 22nd Space Corps, albeit with the ying yang symbol on the underbelly. It was fired upon, of course, but the bullets didn’t so much as dent it as it descended into the garden and disguised itself again as a wide plinth with a sculpture of Britannia with her shield and trident. How a semi-sentient machine got such a sense of humour, Davie never worked out, but he did know that TARDISes were female. She was here along with the other women to rescue him.

The effort had taken it out of him, though. He took two small steps towards the TARDIS before he stumbled. Chris was there to hold him up. Brenda found her own TARDIS key and ran to open the door as they all retreated towards it. Jackie and Christopher followed them inside. Eilis karate chopped one of the husbands as he tried to block her and dived inside. Jack and Hellina backed towards it, still firing on their encroaching enemy. At the TARDIS door Jack looked around at the ‘husbands’. Most of them were on the floor, groaning and nursing their wounds.

“Any of you feel like there’s a better life than this,” he said. “You have ten seconds to join us.”

None of them responded.

“Ok, you had your chance.” He closed the door and turned to see Davie flat out on the floor and Brenda tending to him.

“He just fainted,” Chris said as he crossed to the console. “Remote accessing a TARDIS telepathically isn’t easy. Granddad can’t do it!” Hellina grasped her rifle defensively as they heard a volley bounce off the door outside. On the viewscreen, the guards surrounded the TARDIS. “I'm going to get us out of here in a moment. I just want to slave your shuttle and bring it with us. I don’t see why we should leave it as a gift for the mad queen. Meanwhile, Davie has a toolbox in the cupboard over there. At least two of the tools are laser cutters. We can deal with these bloody manacles. And as soon as we’re in temporal orbit, I think we should retire to the wardrobe and get out of these stupid pants!”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Hellina said as she made safe her rifle and wrapped her arms around Jack’s bare shoulders. “He doesn’t look half bad. Better than I do in a ballgown!”

“She did say she’d get her man,” Jackie remarked.

“So did I,” Brenda added, smiling as Davie opened his eyes and looked up at her.

“I still think celibacy is a lot less trouble,” Chris said as he put the TARDIS into temporal orbit.