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

Christopher opened his eyes and groaned as he felt the hard floor beneath his hip. He was lying on his side because that way less of his body was in contact with the hard metal surface. He had learnt to sleep that way in the seven weeks he had been a prisoner of the Dominators. So had the others. He saw them stirring slowly as they woke from an uneasy rest to face another day of life as a captive.

He looked at Moira Greenwood, the President of Great Britain, a woman he knew as a graceful, handsome figure, always dressed impeccably, with her hair and make up exact. She hadn’t even been able to comb her hair for weeks. The tangled mess was held back from her face by an elastic band somebody had managed to find. Her clothes were dirty. They all were. They were allowed to wash once a day, but they had not been allowed any change of clothes. The men had not been allowed to shave.

He was probably the least affected. His Gallifreyan body with its cooler blood perspired less than humans. He didn’t feel quite so revolting. But it was a grim situation.

Somebody was complaining. It was the US Ambassador. He had been visiting Downing Street when the Dominators took all of the Cabinet prisoner. Christopher remembered him raging about his constitutional rights, diplomatic immunity and various other conventions that had ceased to exist the moment the invading ships reached the atmosphere, having obliterated the moon-based automatic defence system in seconds.

He shuddered as he remembered. The Ambassador and an assortment of secretaries and clerks had been pushed into the Cabinet room. He had still been protesting that he was important. The Dominator in charge of the murderous cyborgs demanded that they confirm he was significant. When Moira said he was, he was put with them. Then the secretaries and clerks were murdered in cold blood as an example to them. The screams as their bodies were instantly cooked in the cyborg death rays before being reduced to ashes were something he was never going to forget in his life.

The battle for Earth was over in hours. The token resistance of the air forces and space programmes of the world was easily crushed. Space ports, airfields, forts and naval bases were bombarded. Planes were blasted out of the sky.

Then Moira, along with the presidents and leaders of several other important nations was forced to broadcast a surrender message to the world, giving power over humanity to the Dominators. They had all been made to watch, so that they knew they were completely beaten, before being transferred to what they were told was a detention ship.

After that, they had only their captor’s word about what was happening on Earth. They were told that the population would not be harmed unless they disobeyed the orders given to them by their new masters. Curfews were enforced by platoons of cyborgs. A census was taken in which each citizen was judged on their ability to work. Nobody wanted to ask what happened to those who couldn’t work. But they heard the word ‘culling’ used more than once. They didn’t dare to speculate openly about that, but their own imaginations filled in the rest.

Christopher wasn’t the only one who wondered what had happened to his family. Would his wife, his baby son, be accounted among those surplus to requirements? Where was Rose and her children?

Where was his father? What happened after he gave them the warning that proved too little, too late. He had tried to reach him telepathically, but this ship seemed to have dampeners on telepathy, as if they expected to have prisoners who could communicate that way. Trying just made his head feel as if it would burst.

“Will you SHUT UP!” The Chancellor of the Exchequer rounded on the US Ambassador. “You’re no worse than the rest of us but you do twice as much complaining. Just give it a rest or I’ll throw you to those bloody cyborgs first chance I get.”

In fact, the one of them who was having the very worst time was the Treasurer, Matthew Reynolds. He was in his early fifties, but he had been confined to a wheelchair since a riding accident at the age of thirty. The cyborgs had taken the wheelchair from him, of course. Petty cruelties were programmed into their brains. It was all they could do to stop them killing Matthew. Moira convinced the Dominator in charge of their capture that he was an important member of their Cabinet, despite his disability.

Matthew was the only one not standing up by now as they stretched their limbs in whatever space they could find in their communal cage. Christopher went to him and helped him to sit. He thanked him and whispered another request. Christopher nodded and raised him up on his crippled feet. The others moved out of the way as he brought him to the alcove with a screen across it that passed for a bathroom facility. It was humiliating enough for the rest of them, especially the eight women in the Cabinet, but Matthew didn’t even have the slightest privacy. He thanked Christopher for his kindness, though.

“They’ll be feeding us, soon,” Christopher told him as he helped him back to a space by the wall where he could sit with his back supported. “I know how much you love their breakfast menu!”

Matthew managed an ironic laugh. Everyone except the US Ambassador, who was ‘sulking’ in the far corner, laughed with him. It was a rather puny joke, but the best any of them could manage at the moment. Even that much laughter helped raise the spirits, though. It helped them remember that they were captives only in their physical bodies. The Dominators could not dominate their minds or their hearts.

“Here come the waiters!” somebody called. A few of them bothered to look around as the door slid open in the wall beyond the steel barred and windowless cell. Four of the cyborgs entered, two of them wielding their death rays, two carrying four large pots. Two of the pots contained a grey, tasteless porridge that Christopher had identified as containing just about enough protein to prevent starvation. The other two pots contained stale, lukewarm water that was their drinking ration for the day. There were no individual bowls or cups or spoons. They were expected to eat and drink from the pots with their hands, like pigs at a trough. It was yet another small way in which they were being humiliated daily, reminding them that they were no longer leaders of a proud nation, but prisoners of the Dominators, who kept them alive only so that they could be humiliated more the next day.

One topic of conversation over the past days had been how much longer they could endure this. Another had been whether they SHOULD endure it. There had been some talk about suicide. Moira and the Minister for Defence, Kenneth Blake, had considered it. The two of them held important secrets in their own heads. And if the Dominators were to torture them, they neither of them were equipped mentally or physically to withstand that. Christopher persuaded them to drop the idea. He pointed out that the Dominators already had access to all of Earth’s defence systems, and the secrets Moira was privy to mostly ceased to matter when the concept of Great Britain as a nation was obliterated by the invader’s rule.

The greatest secret that any of them held, of course, was Christopher’s true identity as the Chancellor of the one Earth government the Dominators hadn’t been aware of – the Government of Gallifrey in exile. Again, he wondered where his father, the President of that Government, was.

The cyborgs said nothing as they opened the cage, death ray guns trained on the prisoners as they pushed the door open. They never did. Not during these duties. They talked when they were rounding up the prisoners - barked orders with murderous demonstrations of their fire power to enforce their will. But those in charge of prisoners had nothing to say.

Christopher was the closest to the barred door when the cyborgs opened it. He reached to take the food. Then, to his surprise, the cyborg dropped both pots. The porridge spilled out onto the floor. For a moment he thought it was a new phase in their demoralisation. Now they had to scoop their food up off the floor. But then he saw the cyborg’s eyes. The way they had known that the apparently humanoid militia WERE cyborg was the eyes. They weren’t eyes in the usual sense, just glowing red orbs. But now the glow faded. The eyes were dead. He looked at the others. They were the same. He reached out and prodded the metal chest of the nearest cyborg and it keeled over backwards like a falling tree, landing with a splat in the pool of congealing porridge.

“What…” Moira was the first to manage to speak. “Christopher… did you do that? What happened to them?”

“At a guess,” he said. “I would say an EMP fried their electronic brains.”

“Absolutely spot on,” said a familiar voice by his ear. Christopher gave a startled and emotional cry as he turned and saw his father by his side. He held a metal wristband in one hand and his sonic screwdriver in the other. The screwdriver seemed to have some sort of attachment to it. A portable EMP generator, Christopher guessed.

“And that must be a personal perception filter. Designed by my amazingly smart grandson, Davie, I’ll bet!”

“Got it in one,” The Doctor said with a grin. “It’s good to see you, son.”

“You, too, father,” Christopher answered him and though their situation was, by definition, urgent, they spared a few seconds to hug each other fondly.

“I’m just sorry I took so long,” he said. “They have a dozen of these prison ships in orbit, manned by the cyborgs, with their ‘VIP’ prisoners aboard. I didn’t know which one you were in. Fortunately I’ve had some help in the past few days.”

“What help?”

“Never mind that now. Come on. All of you. The transmat won’t work within the cell area. We need to get up to the next level.”

“We’re being rescued?” The Doctor thought a rather unkind thought about the member of the British Cabinet who asked that rather pointless question. Then he saw how rough they all looked and thought about what he knew of Dominator treatment of prisoners. Of course they weren’t as sharp thinking as they used to be. That they had kept sane all this time was a miracle.

“What if there are more of those murdering cyborgs out there?” protested the US Ambassador. “And who is this guy. How do we know he’s not with THEM? This could be a trap. I’m not putting my life in the hands of some hoodlum dressed like…”

“ENOUGH,” Christopher snapped at him. He crossed the cell and stood before the Ambassador. The Doctor grinned as he watched his son outstare his opponent, forcing his Time Lord will onto the man until he cowered back. “I’ve wanted to do that for weeks. Now, just shut up, and do what my father tells you to do, and we’ll all get out of here alive.”

Then he turned and went to Matthew Reynolds, who still sat against the wall, wondering if he would be left behind.

“As if we would do that,” Christopher told him. “How long is it since you played piggy back?”

“About forty years. But if you’re game for it….”

“I’m game for it.” Christopher hauled his friend and colleague up onto his back and held his useless legs around his waist as he clung to his neck. “We’re ready, father,” he said. “Lead the way.”

The Doctor led the way. Christopher with his heavy but not impossible burden kept pace with him. The other members of the Cabinet and the cowed US Ambassador followed.

“Aren’t there any more guards?” Moira asked as their footsteps sounded loudly on the metal floor of the corridor. “And how do we get out? This ship is in space, isn’t it? In orbit.”

“There are no more guards,” The Doctor answered. “I’ve zapped them all. This EMP is very localised, but it is effective. There are never more than a dozen on a prison ship. They don’t need more. And there are no Dominators, of course. They’re not interested in the custodial arts. They leave that to the cyborg clones.”

“You speak of these Dominators as if you know them?” The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked the question. “You’ve fought them before?”

“Once,” he said. “They had a different sort of robot technology then. A sort of chunky washing machine with a spiky football for a head and a murderous personality. These cyborg clones are a step up. I’ll bet they stole the technology. Probably forced the scientists of some planet they invaded to develop it. That’s what they do. They use the intellect of a system for their own advantage. They use the rest of the people as slaves – collecting minerals, metal ores, building new ships for their war fleet. Earth would be stripped of every useful element in its soil, the people worked to death. And then…”

“And then….”

“Doesn’t matter. Isn’t going to happen. We’re nearly there. Up these stairs. We’re not trusting the turbo lifts. Christopher, Matthew, are you all right there?”

“We’re fine,” he answered.

“You said you were on other prison ships?” Moira said. “Who else are they holding?”

“Military and political leaders from around the world. The USA, Canada, Australia, Germany. France, Ireland, Japan, China, Russia….”

“Did you rescue them?” Christopher asked.

“Yes,” he said. “They’re all in a safe place now. I'm just glad I found you all at last. I’ve been taking out prison ships one by one… I thought my luck would run out before I got to you.”

They reached the top of the stairwell. Christopher paused to catch his breath. Even for a Gallifreyan, carrying a grown man up a flight of stairs was far from easy. Then they continued on into a wide room that they all recognised as the transporter room where they had been brought to the ship in the first place. Then, cyborgs had operated the computerised system. Now, somebody familiar to Christopher and his father sat at the controls.

“Jack Harkness! Are you a sight for sore eyes!” Christopher exclaimed. “How did you get involved?”

“Your grandson called in the troops. Your father told him to do it.”

“What troops?” asked Kenneth Blake. “Earth’s military forces have been crushed.”

“Explanations later,” Jack said. “Everyone stand closer together. It makes the transmat much less traumatic if the beam is dissipated through more than one body.” As they did so, he turned and pressed a button. Then he raced towards them, wrapping his arms around Moira Greenwood as the beam enveloped them all.

A moment later everyone swayed dizzily and grasped each other for support and then gasped as they breathed fresh air and felt unaccustomed summer sunshine caress their faces. The fact that the sun shone down from a sky dominated by alien ships still in low atmospheric orbit spoilt it. They were free from their prison, but still a people under occupation. Even so, it was a moment of relief.

“Sorry about that, Ma’am,” Jack said as he detached himself from Moira. “It really is easier to share a transmat experience, and The Doctor is fed up of me hugging him.”

“That’s… ok… I suppose,” Moira answered. “But where are we?”

“Home,” Christopher answered as he recognised the garden of Mount Lœng House. “Or what’s left of it.” He looked up at the damaged wall and roof of the house. The nursery where his baby son slept, his little sister’s bedroom…

An icy horror gripped his stomach.

“Father…. where are… Are they… Jackie, Rose, the children…”

“They’re all safe. Davie got them away in time. And the damage to the house isn’t as bad as it looks. They built them solid in the 18th Century. Most of the house is intact, including four bathrooms with running water. Washing, change of clothes, food. And then we’ll talk about what’s been happening while you lot have been on your little camping trip in outer orbit.”

And that plan was fine by them all. They weren’t sure how Jack and The Doctor managed to produce a hot meal for all of them in the time it took to shower and change into borrowed clothes, but they did. For a while, eating their first good meal in weeks was the only thing that mattered to anyone. But afterwards they were ready to ask questions and listen to the answers.

“There is a resistance,” The Doctor told them all. “The Human race doesn’t take this sort of thing lying down. Never has. The people we’ve managed to rescue – there were secret places we brought them to. We’ve got a whole bunch in the catacombs at Dover - the US Senate and the French government. The Germans and Italians are in Cardiff, in the old Torchwood underground base. Yes, Moira, I know all about that. Torchwood are the backbone of the resistance. Humans ARE helping themselves. But it has been bad, it has to be said…”

“How bad?”

“The Dominators… they’re cruel. They’ve committed some sickening atrocities. They sent the cyborgs into hospitals. Anyone not capable of getting out of bed and running was murdered. Old people’s homes, hospices, disabled people’s day centres… anyone deemed useless to them was killed. No, not children. They see a value in children – as future workers. But…”

The Doctor shook his head sadly. He knew what the others were thinking. A lot of them were old enough to remember the Dalek invasion, even if they were only children then. They knew how close humanity had come to going under completely. They knew what the Daleks had done to the most vulnerable among them. And the thought of it happening all over again sickened them.

“It’s not going to be as bad as that,” The Doctor said. “The Daleks had a whole year to destroy your spirit. This time it will be easier to pick up the pieces of your lives.”

“Why?” the US Ambassador asked. “How? This resistance… what can it do?”

“Help is coming,” The Doctor told them all. “Jack and a few of his people got here ahead of the main force. It’ll be here in a few days. We just have to hang on.”

“That’s…” Around the table there were genuine smiles and sighs of relief as The Doctor’s words sank in. Then the US Ambassador stood up. He wasn’t smiling. The others watched in astonishment as he pulled a small communicator from his pocket.

“My Lords,” he said. “Did you hear enough?”

“What?” The Doctor began to stand up, but around them they saw the all too familiar shimmer of transmat beams, and a dozen cyborgs surrounded them. One of the Dominators was with them. The Doctor reached for his sonic screwdriver with the EMP attachment, but his hand was grasped in the iron fist of a cyborg.

“You betrayed us?” Christopher was the one who found a voice for the question addressed to the Ambassador. “To them!”

“They promised my family would be freed if I co-operated.”

“You fool!” The Chancellor of the Exchequer rounded on him. “How many people were told that by the Daleks? And it was a lie. Your family are probably dead already, you blundering, cowardly fool.”

“Enough,” commanded the Dominator. “You have disobeyed the will of your masters. Your lives are all forfeit. Cyborgs, take them outside and kill them.” The US Ambassador tried to walk away but he was restrained. “Kill ALL of them.”

“But you….” he protested. He looked at the Dominator. “You promised…”

“You really ARE a fool,” Christopher told him. “At least shut up now and die with dignity, along with the rest of us. Come on, my friend.” He reached to help Matthew Reynolds from his seat. “You, too, will die as a man, on your feet.”

Jack came to help him. Between the two of them they walked the crippled man at the head of the captives, back outside again to the meadow in front of the Sanctuary. The Doctor looked at the pure white walls of that beautiful building – Chris’s dream. Help was coming, and it might be in time to save most of humanity. Perhaps that dream would arise again in the future. But it was too late for them as they were herded together, surrounded by the cyborgs. He felt a hand clutch his. It was a woman’s hand. He recognised her as one of the Cabinet Ministers. Environment, maybe, though her name escaped him at that moment. What did strike him, was that she was blonde. Like Rose.

“Oh, my Rose,” he whispered as he clung to the hand of another woman. “Look after my babies.”.

He closed his eyes and steeled himself for the inevitable end. He hoped the pain was brief. He had known too many long, drawn out agonies in his time. If this was it, he wanted it to be over quickly.

It didn’t happen. He heard a gasp from the woman he was holding hands with and a scream of rage from the Dominator who had ordered their execution. He looked around. The cyborgs were dying. Their eyelights were fading just as they did when he used the localised EMP on them.

He moved quickly, grasping the Dominator and pushing him down onto the ground with a neatly executed judo throw followed by an armlock that made him squeal. He wasn’t gentle about it. He didn’t overstep anything in any convention he had ever been a party to about cruel and unusual punishments, but he remembered the innocents who had been murdered and saw no reason to be kind to his prisoner. Only when he was sure there would be no attempt to escape did he risk looking at what everyone else was pointing at.

There was a battle going on in the skies. The Dominator mothership that had settled over London was being attacked by dozens of small craft. The fighter bombers that had caused so much devastation were being challenged.

“Who is attacking them?” Moira Greenwood asked. “We don’t have any ships like that.”

“It’s the 22nd Space Corps,” The Doctor said. “Jack’s people.”

“Can’t be,” Jack answered him. “The main force should still be four days away from the outer planets of the solar system even at hyperdrive speed. Hellina and I only got here because Davie slaved our shuttle to his TARDIS and pulled us through the time vortex. And let me tell you, travelling in the vortex outside of a TARDIS - That’s not an experience I ever want to go through again.”

“Well, those look like your ships,” The Doctor told him as he hauled his prisoner up from the floor and tied his hands behind his back with a piece of rope somebody had found. The US Ambassador had his hands bound, too, and was being guarded by two of the British Cabinet. He looked thoroughly ashamed of himself and a little scared. And he had reason to be. When the reckoning was done at the end of any war or conflict, collaborators tended to have a bad time of it. He was aware that some very swift retribution was dealt to those who worked too close to the Daleks the last time Earth was invaded. The Ambassador could not expect much sympathy from any quarter.

“They ARE our ships!” Jack exclaimed. “I don’t know how but they’re ours. Oh, thank God! The Allies got through.”

“Allies?” Moira queried.

“Davie… He told me he had instructions from you, Doctor. He called in favours all over the galaxy. Adano-Ambrado… Agua Uno…. Spiridon… Atrios… Ay'Ydiwo. Apparently quite a few planets owe a debt to the President of New Gallifrey. They sent their battle ships, their fighters… their soldiers…”

“They came… to liberate Earth… because they owed The Doctor a favour?” Moira looked up into the sky as vaporised ships made golden meteor trails through the atmosphere and the mothership hung there, clearly damaged but not so that it would lose orbit and crash into the planet.

“They’re winning…” That fact filtered through the minds of those watching. “The Dominators are being beaten.”

“We made it,” Christopher whispered. He let Matthew sit down on the lawn. A lot of the others did the same. They didn’t know what else to do. They looked up into the skies and wondered how long it would be before it was all over.

The Doctor remained standing. He was looking at what he knew was only a part of the battle that was going on all around the planet. All of the motherships were being attacked. All of the fighter bombers were being challenged. The last of the prison ships would be liberated before they, too, were put out of action. He could see it happening, and he could feel it. Sudden death was coming to many before his eyes, and he regretted the necessity for it. Jack and Christopher came to his side. Jack felt the same as he did. He was a warrior. He had fought in battles like this one. Christopher’s thoughts were less certain. He had been born and raised in peace. He had been a politician on a world that hadn’t been to war since before he was born. He knew nothing of this sort of thing before now. He reached out to them both, his arms around their shoulders and held them as they watched the fight continue.

“Father…” Christopher was the one who first spotted something else in the sky. They all three stared at the two unusual objects that had appeared below the battle. One was a police telephone box. The other appeared to be a Chinese pagoda. The two TARDISes were coming into land. From the Chinese one, music was playing. The Doctor smiled as he recognised Davie’s own signature tune…

Here we are, born to be kings

We're the princes of the universe

Here we belong, fighting to survive

In a war with the darkest powers…

Darkest powers, indeed, but the power of light seemed to be prevailing. He stepped towards the two TARDISes as they landed side by side. Davie ran from the Chinese TARDIS. The Doctor hugged him joyfully.

“Good to see you, my boy,” he told Davie. “I have missed you.” Then he laughed out loud as the police box door opened.

“Doctor!” The Doctor cried out in delight as the one he called Ten stepped out and leaned against his TARDIS door, hands in the pockets of his permanently crumpled suit. “How did you get involved in this, then?”

“You sent Davie to get me,” he answered. “As if I wouldn’t have come anyway. I see you had a bit of a cyborg problem around here.”

“Did you….” The Doctor began.

“Global EMP, specially aimed at the CPU’s of the cyborgs. Davie’s idea, not mine. But we needed four TARDISes to make sure we encompassed the whole planet at once.” He looked up as two more objects that had no business flying hovered over their heads and came in to land. One was a gothic pillar, the other, a natural pine Welsh dresser. Spenser emerged from one and ran to hug Davie. Tristie came from the other, his eyes shining from the adrenalin rush of battle.

“My two apprentices,” Davie declared proudly. “Spenser handles Chris’s TARDIS as if he was born to it. He should have his own, one of these days.”

“I see everyone is having trouble with their chameleon circuits,” Ten commented. “But never mind. The manoeuvre was absolutely text book.”

“The Dominators are being overpowered all over the world,” Tristie informed them. “Now that the cyborgs are neutralised, people are fighting back. And the ones in the skies aren’t going to last much longer.”

“THAT’S how you got the liberation fleet here so quick!” The Doctor realised. “You used four TARDISes to force a big enough wave in the vortex to encompass all the ships. It was risky…”

“It was worth the risk,” Davie said. “We had to stop our world being destroyed.”

“But a lot of those who took the risk are paying the price,” The Doctor observed. “It’s not just Dominators being blown out of the sky. A lot of people are dying for our freedom.”

“That’s why it’s time to put an end to this,” Ten said. He nodded to those who held the captive Dominator. “Bring him into my TARDIS,” he said. “Madam Greenwood, as President of this sovereign territory… Doctor, you come, too.”

Moira hesitated. But this stranger who was also called Doctor, who the Doctor she knew seemed to have some old acquaintance with, seemed suddenly in charge. She stepped into the blue box and gaped at the interior. But neither Doctor was explaining anything. The one in the overcoat and suit operated the ‘TARDIS’ as he had called it and Moira saw on the viewscreen the lawn where her friends and colleagues were sitting receding from view. Moments later they were in space. The overcoated Doctor stepped towards a large square object covered in a cloth that sat beside an unused coatstand. He pulled the cloth away.

“Doctor,” Ten said. “Do you recognise this?” The Doctor gave a horrified gasp. He obviously did recognise it.

“Where the hell did you get that?” he asked.

“Where you left it… on the Gamestation something short of 200,000 years from now.”

“The Delta Wave Generator.”

“Yep. Do you want to explain to our prisoner and our guests exactly what it does?”

“It creates a wave of pure energy that fries the brains of any being in its way. With a TARDIS to augment it, I should think the wave would encompass this solar system.”

“An Armageddon weapon…” Moira gasped.

“Only when it’s unrefined,” Ten said. “Refined, it affects only a given species in the same way our EMP only affected the cyborgs and left the tellies and washing machines of planet Earth intact. And guess what race I refined it to wipe out?”

“No,” protested the Dominator prisoner. “No, that is mass murder, genocide – a war crime!”

“Dominator’s know the meaning of war crime?” Ten laughed coldly.

“No, he’s right,” The Doctor said. “You can’t use that weapon. I couldn’t. You couldn’t before… against the Daleks. Neither of us have it in us to take so many lives at the press of a button.”

“We built this machine, to protect Earth and its people. And that’s what I’m going to do unless he contacts his commanders and passes on the terms of surrender I’m about to dictate to him. Madam Greenwood, Doctor, you will accept the surrender on behalf of the people of Earth and then we can let the politicians decide what will be done in regard to reparations, war crimes trials for the leadership…”

“If I do not…” seethed the Dominator.

“Then I only need to press one button…” Ten answered.

They surrendered. All over the world, Dominators found they were no longer dominating anyone as the people they thought they had conquered turned on them. In some places, the retribution was swift. Where law and order had been disrupted lynch mobs were not unusual. Where the police or army were able to enforce any kind of authority, they fared only a little better as they waited to hear their fate.

Within a few hours, the President of Great Britain, the President of Gallifrey, as well as the President of France and vice-President of the USA between them met with the Dominator High Command and accepted their surrender.

“That machine!” The Doctor said as Ten brought him home again afterwards. “I want it destroyed. Now. I won’t have it used again.”

“Relax,” Ten answered him. “It doesn’t work. I was bluffing. Do you really think I’d have had that in the TARDIS if it could be used to destroy a species? Do you really think I had it in me to press that button? Are we REALLY so different that you’d think that of me?”

“You were bluffing?”

Ten grinned. The Doctor said a very rude word in Low Gallifreyan.

“Our mum wouldn’t like either of us saying words like that,” Ten replied.

“It’s over, anyway.” The Doctor sighed with relief. “Earth is safe again. It’s got some healing to do, but Humans do that. They’re good at getting over the worst….”

An urgent communication cut into his sentence. Ten read the text message and bit his lip sadly.

“We’re diverting to the Scorpius,” he said. “Jack needs us. Or you, anyway. He doesn’t really know me.” He looked at the message again. “It was sent by Christopher. He doesn’t know me, either. Later, when things are quiet…”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “Later. But right now… Jack…”

The TARDIS materialised on board the Scorpius, at the co-ordinate they had been given. Both Doctors looked at the viewscreen. Christopher was there, and had turned towards the sound of the materialisation. Jack was there, too, but he was in a private world of grief as he stood with his back pressed against the wall. They were in a corridor of the Scorpius’s hospital wing. It was busy as the Medical Corps dealt with the casualties of battle. But it was all happening outside of Jack’s frame of reference.

The Doctor turned and ran for the door, pulling it open manually. Ten followed slowly, locking the door behind him and watched as The Doctor wordlessly stepped up to Jack’s side and put his arm around his shoulder.

Jack looked at him and for a moment he didn’t seem to recognise him. His eyes were glassy with the effort not to break down. Then he realised who it was who was offering him a shoulder to cry on, and he took it. The Doctor held him as he cried, not caring that he could be seen by people he had command of, and that his tears were unmanly or weak.

“How bad is she?” The Doctor asked.

“They won’t tell me,” he answered. “She’s in there… they said I had to wait. She was piloting one of the fighters. She took down dozens of the enemy. But one of them… it was on fire, but it rammed her ship. She managed to get into the escape pod, but she was burnt… terribly burnt. They say…”

“She’s alive,” The Doctor said. “That’s something. Where there’s life…”

“They told me to be prepared for the worst… that the best they can do is give me a chance to… say goodbye.”

The Doctor said nothing to that. He just held Jack even closer as the hospital noises and sights faded into the background and he shared his friend’s grief.

Then a nurse came to them and told Jack he could go in now. She tried to say only he could be there, but he wouldn’t let go of The Doctor’s hand, such was his level of mental distress. He walked into the special care room as if his legs didn’t belong to him, supported by The Doctor.

She was very badly burned. All but one half of her face and the shoulder and arm on one side was damaged. Her hair was burnt away. Her right eye was sightless. On one part of her torso shreds of her uniform were still welded to the charred flesh. Every affected part of her body was covered with plastic shielding infused with an antiseptic that prevented the burns from becoming infected.

It was a wonder she was alive. She was awake only because a combination of pain blockers and brain stimulants allowed her to be without screaming in agony. Her good eye turned to look at her lover as he bent over the bed and kissed the flesh that remained on one cheek.

“We won, didn’t we?” she managed to ask. “We saved the planet?”

“Yes, we did,” he told her.

“Then it was worth it.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Jack answered. “I would rather lose the planet than lose you.” He knew that wasn’t true. But he wasn’t being logical right now. “Hellina, stay with me… don’t… don’t die, honey. I need you. I love you, Hellina Arturo.”

“Hellina Harkness,” she answered him.

“So NOW, you decide you want my name?” He laughed hollowly through his tears. “Why didn’t you say earlier? Why didn’t you let me marry you?”

“Because… you’d have wanted me to wear a wedding dress,” she answered.

“Goddammit,” Jack swore. “Hellina, get through this…. Get well… and I’ll wear the dress. Just… just come on back to me, sweetheart.”

“I don’t think I can,” she answered. “I’m sorry, Jack… But we both know… duty… the risk… we both signed up for it…”

“No,” he cried. “No, Hellina… no…”

“Is there nothing to be done?” The Doctor asked the medic who adjusted the level of painkiller automatically injected into her body. “25th century medicine… her burns can be healed… plastic surgery…”

“She’s too weak,” he answered. “If she could last another day, two days, gain enough strength, then there would be a chance. But she hasn’t got ten minutes in her…”

“She just needs time?” It was Ten who said that. The Doctor was surprised. He didn’t see him come into the room. But he was there. Christopher was beside him. “We can give her that. We’re Time Lords.”

“We don’t have any power over life and death,” The Doctor reminded him.

“We have power over life. She’s not dead yet.” Ten stepped towards the bed. He touched Jack on the shoulder. He flinched and turned to look into a stranger’s eyes that he thought he ought to know. “Let us try,” he whispered.

Jack stepped away from the bed as the three Time Lords moved closer. They stood either side and put their hands together, one on top of each other, over Hellina’s fading heart. They all three concentrated hard, and their hands glowed with an orange light. Jack watched as the light spread, enveloping Hellina. He heard her gasp out loud once, then become very quiet. But the life support monitors showed her heart beating much stronger than before. Her breathing was easier.

“What did you do?” Jack asked as the glow faded and the three straightened up. He looked at Hellina. Her face looked less strained and distressed. Her eye flickered as she fought to stay conscious, but there was a blissful expression on the undamaged part of her face, and he was sure, though the burns were still as deep and extensive, that they looked less raw, as if they were beginning to heal.

“We gave her some time,” Ten said. “The strength to keep fighting long enough for the healing to begin. “A chance… hope…”

Jack looked at Ten. He still didn’t quite understand who he was.

“Why would you do that for us? You don’t know…” Then he looked again into his eyes. He glanced at The Doctor he knew and loved as a friend. Then he reached and grasped Ten’s hand. “Doctor… thank you.”

Ten said nothing. He let Jack grip his hand tightly as he sat by his lover’s side. She had a lot of healing to do, even with the boost to her lifeforce they had been able to give her. Even with 25th century medical knowledge she would bear the scars all her life. It was going to be a long haul for them both. But he felt sure that Jack would stay by her through it all. He knew that the selfish, self-seeking Jack was long gone and he would be there for her.

“Doctor?” The door opened and an ensign slipped into the room, despite the protests of the medic. “I have an urgent message for The Doctor…”

“Which one?” Ten asked. He took the message torn from a printer in the communications room. He read it quickly and looked at his counterpart.

“It’s for you,” he said. “Susan sent it. From Tibora. Rose is in hospital.”

Even Jack, with all his troubles, looked around as this new development sank in.

“I’ll be ok here, now,” he said. “Thank you… for what you did… but you have to go to her. Call me… please… when you know…”

“We will,” Ten promised. “Come on, I’ll drive.” This time it was The Doctor whose legs looked as if they didn’t belong to him. His son reached to support him. “We won’t know until we get there. So don’t fret.”

But he only said that because he was hiding his own anxiety. Rose wasn’t his woman any more, but it didn’t stop him loving her, and he felt the urgency himself as they rushed back to his TARDIS and he set the course for Tibora.