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

The Doctor smiled as he looked at Rose, relaxing so very completely in the Room of Quiet Thoughts. The softly bubbling fountains and a scent of a soft summer meadow, even though the room was windowless and carved into a cliffside, combined to strip away all anxieties and stress and even some physical aches and pains, too. It reminded him of the zero room he used to have in the TARDIS. A place of perfect peace, cut off from the outside world. The wonder here was that it was achieved with only the very minimum of technology.

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rose was feeling a lot of anxiety and stress and quite a few aches and pains, too. Her back hurt her constantly no matter which way she sat, stood or lay and at any time there was always one of the babies pressing against a nerve or her bladder or giving her heartburn. She didn’t complain. She always smiled when he asked her how she was and told him she was happy. She loved to feel them kicking and moving within her and laughed when he called them Boris and Titania. But in truth she was having a tough time. Gallifreyan twins were a huge strain on a Human constitution and the prospect of another eleven months of it was wearisome.

That’s why he had thought of coming to Anchoriss. It was an idyllic planet to begin with, a perfect balance of warm sun and soft rain that made it lush and verdant all year round, and on top of that the discharge of positive ions in the atmosphere that made it universally famous. It was said that a day on Anchoriss was as good as a month at most other health spas. They also said it was impossible to be depressed on Anchoriss, which was a claim that almost deserved to be challenged, but after less than an hour there The Doctor had to admit it was a well-merited reputation. It was doing him good, and it was definitely doing his wife good.

He watched her for a little longer as she lay there, clothed in nothing but a sheet of sheer silk wound loosely around her body. He thought she looked utterly beautiful. Her hair was loose around her face and the silhouette of her pregnant shape within the silk was delightful.

He wondered if she realised yet that she was so relaxed she was already levitating six inches above the friction free stress-releasing mat.

“She will be well cared for, sir,” said the Anchorissan Attendant, a humanoid with skin the colour of latte coffee and pale brown eyes that had no whites. “A day in the House of Wellness is as good as a month’s restorative treatment in other centres of whole-body care.”

“I can believe it,” The Doctor said. “Thank you.”

Attendant was one of the highest and most sought after careers on Anchoriss. Only the most skilled were allowed to work in the House of Wellness and other such establishments. The Doctor knew that he could safely leave Rose in their care for the day. When she was fully relaxed and mentally balanced in the Room of Quiet Thoughts, there were a series of effervescent bathing pools where water infused with healing and soothing minerals could be enjoyed, all over massages by the most highly trained Attendants of all, and the finest detoxifying protein enriched food to enjoy when she was hungry.

She was in good hands. He could go on with his own plans for the day without any guilt about leaving her alone.

She had, in any case, insisted that he should ‘get lost and stop fussing about her’. He was only doing what she told him to do, as a good husband should.

He stepped out of the House of Wellness and looked around to admire its beautifully carved façade. He was reminded of the temples of Abu Simbel in Egypt. The House of Wellness was, like that famous wonder of ancient Earth, carved into the side of a cliff by the Lake of Wellness. Eight huge pillars carved in the shape of slender women and lithe youths sheathed in silk supported a pediment upon which more silk-clothed women and young men were carved in thoroughly relaxed arrangements.

He turned away and walked along a lush, grassy bank beside a wide lake where his four students were waiting. Two of them, Marton Pallister, his newest apprentice, and a young Human called Tony Chandler who Chris had high hopes for, were performing Tai Chi on the grass; nothing sophisticated, just a few simple movements that, when performed correctly, did for the mind, body and soul just what the brochures advertising Anchoriss promised.

The other two were Dale Sutton and a young Gallifreyan girl with the English name of Darryl Harvey. They were sitting with their bare feet dangling in the lake water, talking quietly together. The Doctor noted that the young man’s hand was over the girl’s, a detail he mentally filed for later. When they saw him, in any case they stood up. The other two finished their Tai Chi and turned expectantly.

“Glad to see you’re enjoying the sunshine,” he said. “Come on, back to the TARDIS. We’re heading for the other side of the planet.”

They took the scenic route. The Doctor put the TARDIS into a very low orbit and his students watched on the big viewscreen as they passed over the lush Great Continent, watered by rivers that flowed down from the ice-topped central mountains, across a blue ocean dotted with tropical islands, before coming upon the Lesser Continent on the other side of the planet. The outer edges of the landmass weres as lush and green as the larger Continent, and it had beautiful mountains and rivers running down to the sea. But it was famous for one particular mountain.

The Mountain of Serenity.

From orbit not much could be seen of the mountain because it was covered with a cloud, but a schematic on the environmental console gave its height from sea level and other details. It was a perfect cone like Mount Fuji on Earth or, Mount Loeng on Gallifrey. Once, millions of years ago, it had been a volcano, but now it was something quite incredible.

“The source of the bounty of Anchoriss,” The Doctor said. “The reason why its atmosphere is so blissfully healthy and refreshing to the mind and body. That’s not volcanic activity. The mountain continuously expels a mist of fine, warm water droplets from a vast subterranean lake. The droplets are infused with all those fantastic minerals that bottled water manufacturers would die for. They rise up on the warm air currents and when they hit the colder layer of the atmosphere they condense into rain clouds and water the planet, at the same time expelling those positive ions into the air.”

Darryl was fascinated. The Doctor knew she would be. Her special scientific interest was in climatology and meteorology. That was why he chose her to visit this planet with such a unique climate. He had already half decided to arrange an extended field trip for her next year. She could learn so much from it.

Dale clearly didn’t understand it beyond the basic explanation The Doctor had given. But he was trying. The Doctor watched as Darryl turned the complicated technical schematic into a step by step tutorial and patiently explained it all to him.

“Those two don’t seem to have got Chris’s concept of celibacy,” Tony whispered to Marton, and the two laughed softly, but not unkindly. Because it was quite obvious to everyone, even if they hadn’t all been telepathic to some level, that Dale was only interested in the life cycle of water droplets because it was Darryl showing him, and Darryl was only interested in teaching it to Dale.

“I don’t think Chris fully took into account Human nature. Or Time Lord nature, either,” The Doctor told them. “I doubt they will be the first two people to be drawn to each other within his Sanctuary walls.”

It was a reason for Dale to stay, The Doctor noted. He was not really supposed to be there in the first place, but he had taken up the offer of a second chance and worked hard to belong. Darryl was a further incentive to that. He was glad. It wasn’t quite what Chris had in mind, but a budding romance between two people who were free to give themselves to each other was not so contrary to his precepts as he thought they were.

“Of course,” Darryl said after a while. “It is utterly and completely against the laws of physics. A mountain shouldn’t do that. It’s as if it ignores all the rules and does as it pleases.”

“That’s why I like it,” The Doctor replied gleefully. “That’s exactly what my teachers used to say of me. I ignore the rules and do as I please…. Mostly. Except when I have to set an example to you kids.”

Marton, at 18, was the youngest of the four, and Darryl, though she looked 20, was actually 65 in Gallifreyan years. Being called ‘kids’ ought to have been something they took offence to. But they were all so used to The Doctor by now, and even Dale, who didn’t believe he was 1,000 years old, knew he was older and more experienced than he looked. They didn’t mind being called ‘kids’ by him, and the fact that he was a person who wasn’t against breaking rules appealed to them more than they would admit.

“Well, come on, let’s go and have a closer look,” The Doctor said. He nodded to Tony who was standing by the navigation control. “Push that lever forward. Gently. Martin, you’re in charge of the milometer. Tell us if he goes too fast.”

“I’m… what?” Marton looked on the point of panic at being asked to actually take responsibility for a part of the TARDIS. Tony wasn’t, but only because he had no idea what the lever he was being told to push actually did. The Doctor stood back from the console and smiled as he felt the TARDIS respond. Nearly a thousand years ago it had been a training TARDIS, used by the tutors of the Prydonian Academy to teach young Time Lord candidates to pilot a time and space capsule. Later, it became his own craft and the imprimatur made him and it symbiotic. Only he or somebody close to him could operate anything but the most basic controls. Now, the TARDIS seemed to understand that it was a training ship again, with students at its helm. It responded to Tony’s Human hand on the lever.

All four of the students whooped with excitement as they saw their descent towards the mist covered vent of the mountain. There was only the slightest sensation of downward movement in their bodies, as the TARDIS dampened such effects when it was working properly. But watching the viewscreen had the psychological effect on them. They knew they were descending rapidly through the atmosphere. Tony looked at The Doctor as if asking if he was going too fast, but got no answer from him. Marton called out the actual speed, but he didn’t know if that was good or bad. As they hit the permanent bank of mist around the top of the vent, though, and they could see nothing on the viewscreen but swirling whiteness, his nerve went and he slowed them to a near stop. The Doctor came forward then and put his hand over his on the lever.

“After a century or so you learn to do these things by instinct,” he said. “We’re still a mile above the vent itself. We’ll take it slowly, though.

“It’s beautiful,” Marton said. “But a viewscreen isn’t really enough. Can we…” His hand hovered over the door release. The Doctor nodded his consent. He opened the doors wide. A churning wall of white was beyond.

Marton went to the door, stretching out his hand to feel the warm, soft moistness. Dale and Darryl left their simulation and went to feel the real thing. Tony looked at them enviously until The Doctor gently took his hand from the control and told him to go and join his friends. He took over their descent into the vent of the mountain itself. They knew they were there because they could see the glistening walls of the vent through the mist. At least at first. It thickened as they descended the first five thousand feet of the 12,887 foot high mountain before The Doctor put the TARDIS in hover mode and came to stand with them at the door.

“What do you think?” he asked them.

“It’s fantastic,” Tony answered. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I never imagined…”

For the two humans, Dale and Tony, this was, of course, their first new planet. That in itself was an experience. But this was something else altogether. They were agog with wonder. The Tiboran and the Gallifreyan were only a little less awestruck. The Doctor, himself, would have admitted to a little giddy excitement if anyone had asked, but they didn’t.

“I used to be such a sceptic,” Dale whispered. “I was an idiot.”

“Jump,” The Doctor told him.


“Jump out of the TARDIS. A leap of faith, Dale.”

“Faith in what?”

“In yourself, in me, telling you to jump, in the power of the mountain not to let you fall to your death.”

Dale WAS the sceptic. He was slowly accepting much that he had never believed in before. He looked at The Doctor and wondered if he believed in him enough to do as he said. For a fleeting moment he wondered if it was a trick. Did The Doctor want to kill him, the one who had joined the Sanctuary under false pretences?

Then he pushed away such a thought and put his trust in his own instincts.

He jumped.

Darryl screamed, then gasped as she saw Dale hanging in the mist, his arms outstretched and slowly moving, his legs paddling just as if he was treading water in a swimming pool.

“Oh…” she exclaimed. “Oh, the upward thermals are nearly as strong as the downward force of gravity. It would hold a body up. You knew that, didn’t you, Doctor?” She saw Dale smile and reach out his arm and she jumped towards him. They trod water together in the mist.

Tony looked longingly towards them as he stood with his toes on the threshold. He took a deep breath and jumped towards them.

Marton turned back to The Doctor.

“You DIDN’T know that would happen,” he said accusingly. “Not for sure. It was a guess. You made him trust you, but he could have fallen.”

“I was 98% certain. I know that the TARDIS is working overtime to balance gravity and thermals and hold its own position here. A Human body is much simpler than a TARDIS, and far more naturally buoyant. But it was a leap of faith for me, too.”

“He could have died…”

“No. If he had fallen, I would have been ready to catch him in the TARDIS’s own anti-gravity field.”


“Go on, they want you to join them out there.”

Marton turned and jumped. The Doctor looked under the console and found an old cricket ball. He went to the door and threw it to Marton, who caught it easily and tossed it to Tony instead. A simple game they had probably not played since they were ten year olds. But in the fun of the game they forgot all about the fact that they were playing ball while floating in a thermal uplift inside a volcanic vent.

“Doctor, come and join us,” Tony called out when they had tired of the ball and practiced turning somersaults in the air instead.

“Do you know what this wet stuff does to leather?” he replied, tugging at his jacket sleeves.

“It couldn’t do much more to THAT leather than already happened to it,” Dale replied good naturedly. “Doctor, you’re not going to chicken out, surely?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied. “When you’ve finished playing, I’ll see you at the bottom.” He grinned and pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. He half turned and aimed it at the console and the TARDIS began to descend into the thickening mist.

“What!” For a moment the four looked at each other in shock. “He abandoned us?”

“No,” Dale was the one who was most certain of that. “No, he didn’t. He gave us a challenge. We can follow him when we’re ready. We have work out how for ourselves.”

“How?” Marton asked. They were none of them worried as such. After the first shock they realised The Doctor would never actually abandon them. They knew they were safe where they were, anyway. This mountain that pleased itself, regardless of the laws of physics was keeping them perfectly balanced between the rising thermals and the pull of gravity. But they all felt they wanted to be in sight of both The Doctor and the TARDIS again.

“Maybe he’s only a few feet away, testing us?” Tony suggested. “The mist is so thick, you can’t tell.”

“I can,” Darryl answered. “The Doctor and the TARDIS come from the same place I do. We’re the same. And I can feel that they’re both a lot further away than that.”

“Doctor?” Marton closed his eyes and concentrated. He smiled as he made telepathic contact with The Doctor. He could see him clearly. “There’s a cave, right at the bottom of the vent. Near the pool. He’s sitting outside the TARDIS, waiting for us to figure it out. Oh, it’s a long way down. The mountain is still thousands of feet deep, and it goes on deeper underground.”

“He wants us to make another leap of faith,” Dale said. “It’s so far down. But he knows if we have the courage… if we do what we feel in our hearts…”

“You mean…” They looked at each other again. Then Tony pushed himself up and around in another somersault and turned it into a dive. As he disappeared into the mist the others gripped each other in shock.

“What if he’s wrong. From this height… terminal velocity…”

The Doctor won’t let him be hurt,” Marton said. “He’ll do something. Like he said he would have done for Dale.”

They hoped he was right. None of them were entirely sure. And what if The Doctor had misjudged the risk?

Then they all, even Dale, whose telepathy was so rudimentary he hardly knew he had it most of the time, felt Tony’s cry of exhilaration and triumph and they knew it was all right. Marton dived and disappeared from view.

“I can’t swim,” Darryl said. “At the bottom, they’re diving into the pool. But I can’t…”

“You’ve never been swimming?”

“I grew up as a slave of the Sontarans,” She said. “Before The Doctor rescued us. We never did things like that.”

Dale knew what a Sontaran was. She had told him about it all. He felt cruel for reminding her of things she had missed out on in her childhood.

“We’ll go together,” he said. “I’ll look after you.”

She hesitated for a moment, but no more than that. Trust, The Doctor had said. A leap of faith. She put her faith in Dale and leapt with him. They didn’t dive. He put his arm around her waist and jumped feet first. They descended through the mist fast, but not so fast as to be dangerous. If either of them had ever tried such a thing, they would have likened it to a parachute jump. Their speed was fast, exciting, but controlled as the thermal uplift exerted enough restraint on their bodies to prevent them from reaching that terminal velocity they had spoken of.

The final ten feet or so, there was no mist, just clear air and the pool of crystal clear water below them. They plunged in, noting that it was comfortably like a warm bath. The water closed over their heads as they slipped through it for several feet, and then their natural buoyancy brought them to the surface again. As they broke the water, Dale reached his arms around Darryl’s neck and kissed her quickly on the lips before he swam on his back, pulling her along gently. Hands reached to help them both out of the water and The Doctor threw warm, dry towels to them. They looked to see him sitting on the smooth cave floor with a picnic basket open beside him. He put food from it onto a cloth and opened a bottle of chilled white wine.

“How come we can see?” Marton asked. “Shouldn’t it be dark?”

The others realised they should have asked the question.

“Gravity globes,” The Doctor answered. “I set a couple of them up.” They looked where he pointed to see round glass globes with an iridescent light inside them just hanging motionless near the ceiling of the cave. Two more hovered underneath the ‘ceiling’ of mist over the pool. “The walls of the cave and the vent itself have some kind of quartzlike substance in them, iridescent. They reflect the light and make it even brighter.”

“It’s all absolutely fantastic,” Marton said as he ate bread and cheese and sipped wine. “The pool felt as if it was so very deep when we landed in it. How far down does it go?”

“Deeper than anyone could dive without scuba equipment, and no, I have none aboard the TARDIS,” The Doctor replied.

“I do wish…” Marton looked down into the clear water, trying to see the bottom. “I’d love to try.”

“First you fly like a bird, now you want to swim like a fish,” Tony said. “Have you no limits to your dreams, Marton?”

“No,” he answered. “And isn’t that true of us all? Isn’t it why we joined the Sanctuary? To discover ways to expand our limitations?”

“I joined because I thought I could get a news story,” Dale admitted. “If I wrote about this, my editor would think I’ve gone completely mad. But has anyone explored the pool? Do locals come here?”

“We’re slightly outside out remit,” The Doctor admitted. “Permission to visit the mountain usually means climbing up the side and looking down into the vent. Anything more would be beyond the technology of the indigenous population.”

“So we’re the first people to have dived into that pool?”

“You are.”

“Isn’t there a way we can be the first to go further?” Marton persisted.

“Vaulting ambition, which o'er leaps itself, and falls on the other,” The Doctor said. Tony laughed. “What? That’s not funny. It’s Macbeth. A tragedy.”

“I know,” he answered. “But Chris told me on the first day at the Sanctuary… that you were always warning him and his brother with that quote.”

“Little notice either took of it. One builds time machines. The other started his own religion.”

“Philosophy,” Marton corrected him.

“It could go either way.” The Doctor glanced then at Dale and Darryl and smiled. “So what’s your ambition?”

The two of them blushed and broke their handhold. He let them off the hook.

“It’s ok. Don’t be scared. Darryl, you know what is expected of you as an honourable Daughter of Gallifrey?”

“I do, sir.”

“And you, Dale, are you the sort of man who would make demands of an honourable Daughter of Gallifrey that she can’t submit to?”


“Well, then, no problem. The two of you signed up for a year of celibate and sober study of the New Way. If you spend sober and celibate moonlit nights holding hands by the reflecting pool or walking by the Thames making plans for after your year is up, I am sure that won’t cause any permanent harm to the karma of the Sanctuary. And I wish you well.”

They would still have problems, The Doctor thought. Darryl was a pretty, 65 year old Gallifreyan. Dale was a handsome 23 year old Human. When he was sixty five, she would still look twenty, and comments about him being a cradle snatcher would be the least of the problems. And when he was 80, 90, 100, when he died of old age, Darryl would still be a young Gallifreyan with a lifetime by their own standards ahead of her to miss him in.

They would have to come to terms with that in their own way. He genuinely did wish them well, though.

“Is this a betrothal then?” Marton asked as the two linked hands again.

“It looks like one to me,” The Doctor answered.

“Well, on Tibora, it is a tradition that the betrothed get to ask a favour and have it granted.”

“First, We’re not on Tibora,” The Doctor pointed out. “Second, traditions like that are what lead to people asking for other people’s heads on silver platters and all that sort of shenanigans.”

Even so, he smiled as he guessed what they were going to ask.

“The TARDIS could take us all down into the pool,” Darryl said. “Oh, Doctor, please…”

“Let’s finish out picnic first. Boldly going where no one has gone before isn’t something I do on an empty stomach.”

None of them got his cultural reference, but as they ate the food and contemplated the adventures ahead, The Doctor felt as excited as the youngsters were. He had been exploring the universe for a long time, longer than any of his own people ever had. It was rare for him to find something completely new. This was a journey into the unknown for him, too. He felt the adrenaline coursing through his veins and it took an effort on his own part to appear unhurried and calm.

“Come on, then,” he said at last. “Pick up your litter and bring it with you. No environmental vandalism around here, please.”

None of them had dropped any litter, but they cheerily packed up the remains of the picnic and brought it into the TARDIS. As soon as the door was shut they gathered around the console ready for the ultimate experience. They followed The Doctor’s instructions to the letter as he put the TARDIS into hover mode over the pool and then made it slowly descend into the water.

“Open the doors again,” The Doctor said as they passed one thousand feet. “The forcefield will hold back the water.” Tony reached for the control. The others watched, a little fearfully, wondering what would happen if The Doctor was wrong.

He wasn’t. Again they stood by the door and looked at the wall of crystal clear water that rose past them as they descended. They reached out tentatively at first, then confidently, feeling the water race past their hands.

“It’s colder now,” Darryl commented. She held her hand in the water for several second and then confirmed it was four degrees centigrade and falling.

“Well done.” The Doctor told her. “Useful skill that. Test again after another 500 feet. Let’s see if it’s getting steadily colder.”

“Do you think it could actually freeze?” Tony asked.

“It couldn’t,” Marton argued. “Surely the further deep we go, the closer to the planets core – it ought to be hotter.”

“Well, for one we’re nowhere near that deep,” The Doctor said. “And for another I’m not sure this planet has a molten core. It didn’t follow any other rules of nature.”

“But it has to, doesn’t it?” Dale asked. “I thought all planets were molten in the centre.”

“No,” The Doctor answered him. “Remind me, next field trip, to see if I can get a pass to visit Coreworld. That will blow your mind. And I’ve come across at least one planet with ice in the centre. I think this may be another. Infinite variety, infinite possibilities, a beautiful universe.”

“Doctor,” Marton called out suddenly. “Sir… Tony is…”

The Doctor looked and locked off the TARDIS in position before he came to the door. Tony was stood there, his hand held out into the water. But he seemed to be in a trance, staring out into the water as if something there was holding him spellbound.

“What’s wrong with him?” Dale asked.

“He has this trouble in meditation class,” Marton said. “He goes into deeper trances than any of us. Chris has to help him back.”

“We’ll have to do something about that,” The Doctor said. “But just now, I wonder…” He put his hands on Tony’s forehead. He was not in a very deep trance, but it was enough to grip him completely. What was inside his head while it was going on, though, was what interested The Doctor.

“Come on back, son,” The Doctor told him gently. “Back to the rest of us. Then we’ll see about what you’ve found here.”

Slowly, Tony found his way back. He opened his eyes and seemed surprised and embarrassed to find himself the centre of attention again. Then he remembered what had happened to him.

“Oh, Doctor. It was wonderful. I was…”

“Yes, I saw.” The Doctor looked at the others. “Can you feel it? Darryl, Marton, your telepathy should be strong enough. Dale, even you must feel there is something unusual, something magnificent here.”

“Oh!” Darryl was the first to focus on it but Marton wasn’t far behind. Even Dale was aware of something, though he could not tell what it was exactly. “Oh, it’s so big, so old… the sheer size of it. It’s almost too much to bear.”

“A consciousness,” Tony said. “Formless, but intelligent. It’s curious about us. It wants to know about us.”

“Get away from the door,” The Doctor called out suddenly. “Everyone, back. I think…”

They all moved back. They saw why. The wall of water was bulging in ominously, as if the forcefield was being compromised. Marton reached for the door control but The Doctor stopped him.

“No,” he said. “Don’t close the door. Turn OFF the forcefield.”

“What?” The four students all stared at him in astonishment. “But we’ll DROWN. The TARDIS will flood.”

Another leap of faith? The Doctor didn’t say anything, but there was something in the expression on his face that they all seemed to understand. Again he was calling on them to trust him. Marton reach for the switch that turned off the forcefield.

The water didn’t pour in. It remained as a wall of glistening, crystal clear water, lit in interesting patterns by the console room lights.

“What’s doing it?”

“It’s doing it itself,” The Doctor answered. “Can you feel it? The presence?”

Then Marton gave a soft gasp of amazement. The others looked to the door and they gasped, too. The water was coming in, but not in a way that posed any immediate threat to them. It extruded a sort of tube of water that snaked across the gangway towards them. The Doctor stood his ground. Marton, Dale and Darryl moved behind the console away from the strangely behaving thing that they told themselves was ‘only water’. Tony, though, stepped towards it. The water reformed and rose up like a pillar a little taller than him and then took on a shape, a silhouette and features of a woman.

“Mother!” Tony whispered. “No, it can’t be. She died. You saw her in my mind when we connected telepathically. You copied her…”

The water-woman spoke. Her see-through, watery lips moved and a voice came from them. It was like a waterfall given the power of speech.

“This form does not frighten you?” she asked.

“You didn’t frighten me anyway,” Tony answered. “But this is easier. I can see you. Yes. Please, stay like that. Please…” He turned to The Doctor. “What do I say?”

“Tell her, we apologise for the intrusion,” The Doctor said. “And we will leave as soon as we can, with her pardon.”

Tony repeated his words. The water lady that looked like his mother smiled.

“I am pleased…. pleased… is that the right word? I am unused to words. I am please that you came. I am aware of carbon lifeforms… but they are all so far away, on the surface. You are the first to come to me.”

“What is she?” Martin whispered.

“She is the water,” The Doctor said. “The pool, the great water table beneath the mantle of the land… perhaps more than that. We spoke of a frozen core – ice. I think she is the very heart and soul of the planet itself. The life giving water that makes Anchoriss the paradise it is. The water has a sentient mind, a lifeforce. Living water…”

The lady raised a watery arm and touched Tony on the shoulder but she looked past him to The Doctor.

“You are old for an organic being. But not so old as I am.”

“I believe that to be true,” The Doctor said. “Am I right? About what you are?”

“You are right. I have existed for millennia, dreaming my dreams.”

“Aren’t you lonely?” Darryl asked, plucking up the courage to speak.

“Lonely? I do not know that word.”

“Lucky you,” Marton said.

“All the water…” Tony spoke again. Every part of it… the rain, the rivers, the clouds, the water that people drink… it is all a part of you?”

“It is,” she replied. “The rain, the fraction of the water that they drink, is my gift to the organic beings of the planet. Freely given, with my love. I breathe upon them, and give them the gift of life.”

“Breathe…” Dale puzzled over the word, then he understood. “The mist, from the vent… that’s you breathing? You give them that gift… and they don’t even know. You’re… I don’t know what word to use…”

“God,” Marton said. “She is their god. A good, beneficial god who protects and cares for them. And… Oh, my… we are honoured to be in her presence.”

“That we are,” The Doctor agreed. “Yes, God is the best word. I’ve never met one before that is so undemanding. She doesn’t ask for sacrifices, for worship, They don’t even know she is there, but every drop of rain that falls is her blessing on them.” He stepped closer and he bowed deeply. He was a man who rarely deferred to anyone, except in the dojo where customs were observed. He was, as Marton reminded him often, a god himself to many people. They bowed to him. So as one god to another he bowed. His students took their cue from him. They knelt before the Living Water God of Anchoriss. She smiled and moved among them, blessing them all with a watery kiss that filled them with a joy that shone in their eyes.

“Thank you,” The Doctor said. “But what can we give you in return?”

“You have already given me a gift. I felt your minds, your stories… your lives. I felt your joys and sorrows… You…” She caressed Tony’s cheek with her watery hand. “You gave me the mother you loved so much. You…” She looked at Marton. “You gave me your hopes and dreams and ambitions. You two…” She smiled at Dale and Darryl as they clutched hands. “You gave me your budding love for each other that felt like a new spring bursting into the air above on the planet’s surface. And as for you… old one… with so many sorrows in your life… You gave me the dark and the light. You gave me the great and terrible pain that you suffered. But you gave me your joy, too. The one… what is the word… wife… the lady that you love… who holds your hearts in her hands. Your children, who you cherish, the children yet unborn who are your greatest joy…”

“That they are,” The Doctor said,

“I’ve never known love or loss, pain and pleasure. I have my dreams. I am content. But I have dreamt the same dreams for a hundred million years. You have all given me new dreams to dream. I thank you.”

“I am glad,” Tony told her. “But… won’t you be lonely when we leave?” He felt a moment of doubt. “You are going to let us leave? You won’t keep us prisoners?”

“Why should I do that? I would not cause you sorrow. I would not keep the old one from his children. I would wish… I should like to hear more stories. But I shall be content to remember yours.”

“I’ll come back,” The Doctor promised. “I will bring my wife and my children… the babies when they are born. I’ll bring other students to see you. They all have stories for you. I promise I will come back again.”

He stepped closer, standing beside Tony. The figure of a woman who looked like his mother shimmered and The Doctor gasped as it momentarily took on the appearance of HIS mother and kissed him on the cheek. When he looked again it was neither. It had the appearance of a very beautiful female face, but not one either of them knew personally.

“I shall look forward to your return,” she said and the features melted away into a pillar of water that retreated back out of the TARDIS. The door closed automatically and The Doctor was surprised when the TARDIS began to move of its own accord. He turned to see that the time rotor was still.

“She’s moving us,” Tony said. “She’s pulling us along.”

She was. The movement was peristaltic as waves of water pushed the TARDIS in a downward motion, deeper into the living water. The environmental console showed a schematic. They were descending to the very bottom of the vent into the water table, which actually formed a layer underneath the mantle, going all the way around the planet. The TARDIS was pushed along within that layer of water, very gently. They felt the movement. It was like being in a rowing boat. Nobody spoke. The gentle movement, and a feeling of complete and utter peace that seemed to pervade the TARDIS made conversation unnecessary, unwelcome even. They just wanted to enjoy the wonderful feeling for as long as it lasted.

It lasted for several hours. Several deeply satisfying hours. They all sat on the floor of the console room and enjoyed it, never feeling bored or tired, not even needing food or drink. They were travelling in the heart and soul of Anchoriss, and they needed nothing else.

Finally, they felt the gentle movement change. They seemed to be rising upwards, much faster. They braced themselves, but they weren’t scared. They still felt as if the gentle water goddess was looking after them. But this was where they parted company with her.

“We’re going to come up into the lake of Wellness,” Darryl said as she reached to look at the schematic that they had not even bothered with for several hours. “Where we started out.”

“We are?” The Doctor looked at his watch. “Good. Just in time to meet Rose and we can all watch the sunset over the lake and then go and have dinner.”

“Sunset will be mundane after what we just experienced,” Marton pointed out. “I will never forget this. Ever.”

On that they all agreed.