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

The Doctor stood on the observation deck overlooking “Welcome Plaza” as it had been dubbed, the centre point of the city of Santuario. It was bathed in sunlight as this part of the dwarf planet enjoyed its very brief day. The planet turned on its axis once every eight Earth hours, with full daylight for as little as three hours and dusky twilight at sunrise and sunset. And it took four thousand, four hundred and forty-three such days for Ceres to orbit the sun.

“The short day is disorientating,” Davie said. “I’ve organised work rotas based on three Cerean days which add up to one standard Earth day. That seems to suit people better.”

“You’re planning to have people here long term?” The Doctor asked, impressed by how much Davie had already done. There was a team of fifty people here now, from among the Gallifreyan community on Earth, learning all there was to learn about the new city of the Time Lords.

“At the moment, they’re just staying for a week – an Earth week – on a rotation basis. But it would be fantastic to have a permanent colony here. Chris is excited about it, too.”

“He would be,” The Doctor answered. “What was it I always taught you boys?”

“To guard against o’er-reaching ambition,” Davie replied. “But it’s not just my ambition. It belongs to all of us of Gallifreyan heritage. We can do great things. At least as long as we can get used to the long year and the cooler temperature and having nine moons to look at.” He looked up now and saw four of the moons visible in the night sky. Even though it was a dwarf planet, the powerful forces exerted by the Time Lord control centre within it drew that many satellites to the planet from the debris of the Asteroid Belt. It made it a distinctly alien world, but one that he was justifiably proud of.

“Do you think we should keep the name, though?” he asked The Doctor. “Ceres… that’s what Humans called it when they discovered it in the nineteenth century. But we could choose a name for ourselves, from Gallifreyan tradition. You could rename it, granddad.”


“You are the President of Gallifrey, our leader, the most senior of the Time Lords. The honour should be yours.”

“You brought it here, Davie Campbell de Lœngbærrow. You set the mechanism in motion that rebuilt the fragment. If there is any such honour, it should be yours.”

Davie thought about it for a little while.

“I think we’ll leave it as it is. Ceres is a good enough name. The city will always be Santuario. Our new Time Lord capital city. A centre of government and learning for our people.”

“Our people?” The Doctor smiled. Davie had been born and raised on planet Earth. Until he was eight he didn’t even know he wasn’t Human. Yet he had proudly embraced his Gallifreyan heritage. He could think of Time Lords he had known who would have been surprised and proud to hear Davie speak of his race with such deep pride and love.

Little that they deserved it, he added to himself. With their obsession with the purity of the species they would look down on Davie, a fourth generation of mixed birth. But they would be so wrong. He loved Gallifrey and guarded its values more proudly than any pureblood.

“You’re a shining example of them, Davie,” The Doctor told him. “But remember that oe’r-reaching ambition, son. You’re standing on the edge of a marvellous destiny. But you could as easily be standing on the edge of a dark chasm that would swallow you if you make just one slip.”

Davie nodded. He knew that. The work he had been doing on Santuario brought that home to him with a vengeance. At least two or three times a day he would find himself overwhelmed by self doubt. He would remember that he was only just twenty-one years old and by Gallifreyan standards, still a boy. The Doctor was only a junior student at the Time Lord Academy at that age.

“For what its worth,” The Doctor added. “I think you’ve got enough sense not to let the power go to your head. You’ll be fine. And you have every right to be proud of what you’ve done here. This is your city, Davie, your domain. Enjoy that achievement.”

Davie didn’t have time to enjoy his domain. Aga, his new mobile artificial lifeform friend hovered into the observation deck and approached him. He looked at the monitor on his robot torso. He took in the information at once. It was a lot easier now he had built in a parser that allowed Aga to display text in English, not binary.

“We need to go down to the control centre,” he said to The Doctor. “There’s some kind of emergency – an unidentified craft approaching the Asteroid Belt.”

They turned to the anti-grav lift that brought them down to the network of underground passageways that linked the city together. Indeed, it was there that most of the important work went on. The grand skyscrapers and towers above ground were mostly for show, for grandeur. Below ground were the generators, fed by a fragment of the Eye of Harmony and with power enough to support a thriving city population for several millennia. There was a huge hydroponics centre where a highly nutritious protein food could be grown without sunlight, and a fully automated processing plant where the protein was turned into synthesised meat, bread, fruit, vegetables.

The control centre was the hub of it all. And Davie had already begun to train people to operate it alongside Aga’s robot brethren. Spenser, Davie’s travelling companion, and Marton, The Doctor’s young apprentice, were among those who were getting the hands on experience. They were both currently looking at the large viewscreen where the projected flight path of a large space ship of non-Earth origin was being plotted.

“It’s not exactly a flight path,” Marton pointed out. “It’s not exactly drifting, either. More like it’s in autopilot, with nobody realising it’s heading for the one part of the solar system where autopilot is dangerous.”

“Very dangerous,” The Doctor confirmed. “If something that size enters the asteroid belt without a skilled pilot at the helm there could be havoc. If it doesn’t suffer a catastrophic hull breach, it might knock debris out of orbit and send it into collision course.”

“I’m picking up Earth communications,” Spenser told him. “They’re aware of the craft. Should we tell them we’re on the case?”

“Absolutely,” The Doctor replied. He stepped up to the communications array and sent a coded message with his own classified identity mark to say that the unidentified craft was being intercepted and dealt with.

“We’ve tried hailing them,” Marton pointed out. “No response, although scans indicate lifeforms aboard.”

“Hailing?” The Doctor laughed softly. “Davie, have you been showing the students old DVDs of Star Trek? Never mind. Intercepting the ship before it runs into trouble is our first priority.”

“Your TARDIS or mine?” Davie asked. Both were parked in the control centre. The police box stood next to a default grey box with Davie’s fiery ying yang symbol on it.

“Yours,” The Doctor replied. “The working chameleon circuit might be useful if the lifeforms aboard are hostile. Not that I ever worried about it for the past half a millennia of phone box travel. But we might as well have the advantage of surprise your TARDIS affords.”

Spenser immediately called one of the young Gallifreyans to take over his post and stood beside Davie. If he was going into hostile territory, then he would have his lieutenant with him. Aga hovered nearby, too.

“I think he’s got a bit of a crush on me,” Davie said about the little robot.

“I used to have K9,” The Doctor admitted. “At least Aga can do stairs and uneven ground.” He turned and gave Marton instructions to keep in contact with Earth Control and prevent them from taking any hasty action against the extra-terrestrial craft. They were still jumpy since the Dominator invasion and he didn’t want any missiles launched at the craft. The young Time Lord candidate did as he asked quickly and efficiently. He was doing very well now. He was over his very deep personal problems and was working hard to make his Tiboran father proud of him and to live up to the expectations of The Doctor, who he still fondly thought of as a second father to him, one who shared the race heritage of his biological parent.

“I’m aiming for the corridor outside the freight hold,” Davie said as he scanned the ship and took note of where the lifesigns were concentrated. “There are no guards in that area. So we have time to get the lie of the place before we run into any trouble. Funny thing is, there don’t seem to be any organic lifesigns on the bridge. It really does seem to be on autopilot.” Davie turned and looked at The Doctor and Spenser.

“Last time any of us materialised on an unknown ship it was to fight the Dominators,” Spenser reminded him.

It was in all their minds, of course. The three of them had fought long and hard through the whole war, always in hostile territory. They had come out of it alive, and that was the one thing they could say of the experience to anyone else. Between them, they could acknowledge just what a hell it had been.

None of them relished stepping into another potential battle. But none of them would think of backing down.

“Keep your sonic screwdrivers handy,” The Doctor said. “Set to laser mode. I don’t like the sonic to be used as a weapon. The laser is meant to be a useful cutting tool, that’s all. But if we must… After all, the weapons used in oriental martial arts were derived from the agricultural tools of farming peasants. It’s not immoral to defend ourselves…”

They had all done it, of course. Each of the three of them had used that pacifist tool to kill Dominators or their Cyborg warriors.

“We need to be ready for just about anything. We can’t afford to be squeamish about it if there is something dangerous aboard this ship.”

They clutched their sonic screwdrivers as they stepped out of the TARDIS, noting the airlock disguise. Aga followed, whirring quietly along.

“Localised lifesigns scan, please, Aga,” Davie said to him, and was pleased by the schematic that came up on the little robot’s screen. Another of his modifications. The Doctor was impressed, too, and mentioned that K9 would be very jealous of Davie’s new friend.

“This is odd, though,” Davie added. “Bear in mind. Aga is a robot. He recognises other forms of life as well as well as organic. He seems to think that there is some kind of artificial lifeform behind these walls.” He stared at the wall of the corridor. It seemed solid enough. “The main location of organic life is about fifty metres that way. But I still find it odd that there are no lifesigns on the bridge.”

He turned and headed towards the first of a series of bulkhead doors. He opened it and jumped back in shock when a corpse fell in towards him. Spenser yelped. The Doctor said nothing, but he was there in a heartsbeat, examining the body.

“He’s been dead about a standard Earth day,” he said. “Rigor is fully set in.”

“He’s been lying here unattended all that time?” Spenser sounded worried. “Why didn’t anybody move him?”

“What worries me is the cause of death,” Davie said as he noted that strips of flesh had been sheared off by some kind of laser tool. “What did that?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor answered. “But I do know it was done post mortem. Something else killed him.” He could tell that much from a visual examination. A scan with the sonic screwdriver told him some more.

“His internal organs were ‘cooked’ by an energy beam.” He confirmed. “It looks a lot like the damage done by a Dalek ray gun. But that’s unlikely. Some other species must have developed similar energy beam technology.”

“We really need to be careful,” Davie said. “There’s a killer on this ship. Or there was… a day ago.”

Now, they were glad that their sonic screwdrivers were more than just tools. They held them in their hands as they approached the next bulkhead door.

“You know,” Davie pointed out. “They’ve all been sealed, locking off sections of the ship. Somebody wanted to stop someone – or something – from moving about freely.”

“They tried to confine the killer?”

“Or the killer isolated its victims so that it could pick them off?”

“Nobody get any ideas about the three of us splitting up to search the place,” The Doctor said. “We stick together and watch each other’s backs.”

“Aga still thinks there is something in the walls,” Davie pointed out. “Something non-organic, but registering as a lifeform.”

“The walls have conduits for power, water, communications. Maybe he’s sensing the microprocessors for those.”

“No,” Davie pointed out. “They seem to be keeping pace with us.”

“Ok, that’s creepy,” Spenser said. “It’s like walking home in the dark and hearing other footsteps.”

“I know,” Davie agreed. “I really don’t like this. But we have to find the organic lifeforms. Hopefully they can talk to us about what’s happening here.”

They stepped through one more bulkhead door and found themselves in a much wider space. This was the source of the organic lifeform traces. But they weren’t talking. None of them were. At least five hundred organic lifeforms were in cryogenic sleep in individual cryo-chambers.

“Five hundred and seven, in fact,” Davie confirmed as he checked Aga’s readout. “Male and female. All… wow… they’re a very pretty lot.”

He walked along the row of cryo-units and noted that all of the people were around his own age and all were physically perfect, tall, slender, dressed in all in one bodysuits that moulded around their bodies. They all had dark hair and tanned complexions. The men were handsome, the women beautiful. They weren’t, in any way, clones. Each had different features. But all within a certain value range. He wondered if they were the results of some kind of eugenics experiment to produce ‘perfect’ looking beings.

“Either they’re one extended family of attractive people, or there isn’t a lot of genetic diversity on their planet,” The Doctor said. “They actually look a bit boring after a while. I prefer people to be each unique and different.”

“Well, anyway, they can’t tell us much about anything,” Spenser pointed out. “Not even where they came from.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Davie said. “What matters is they seem to be the only living organic beings on the ship. And that means nobody is in charge of the bridge. We need to get there, fast. Closing these bulkheads as we go. I think the reason they were closed in the first place might still be valid.”

While Spenser sealed the bulkhead behind them, The Doctor checked a schematic on the corridor wall and double checked with Aga’s approximation of where the bridge was.

“The language on their information panel is from the Cessalian quadrant,” The Doctor said as they moved quickly through another series of bulkheads. “Are you familiar with it?”

“The language, no. The quadrant, only by reputation,” Davie answered. “Very cultural. Much like an idealised ancient Greece. Learning and arts are their raison d’être. Sort of place Chris would be at home,” he added with a grin. He was the only one who could make jokes about his brother. Anyone else would be asking for a fight with him.

“Their poems are never less than a thousand pages long,” The Doctor said.

“Don’t quite seem like the sort of people who’d be travelling in cryo-sleep across the galaxy.”

“They send their students on trips to other cultures to widen their experiences. But they are off course, I think. I’ve never heard of them coming anywhere near this system before.”

“Perhaps they heard about Santuario and wanted to pay us a visit?” Spenser suggested.

“Unlikely,” Davie answered. “But a nice idea.”

“Hang on,” The Doctor said. “Spenser, lend me a hand, would you. This bulkhead is stuck, somehow.”

Spenser helped The Doctor shoulder the door open. They were all shocked, though, when they saw what had been making it stick. They stepped over the body that had been wedged against it and swallowed hard when they saw the arm, detached at the shoulder, hanging from the door release mechanism. It had been severed with some sort of laser technology.

It was only the first body that they were to find as they stepped onto the ship’s Bridge. Everyone was dead, most of them still sitting at their command posts. All of them had flesh removed from their bodies post-mortem like the first body they had found.

The Doctor moved quickly to the captain’s chair and leaned past the body in order to take the automatic pilot off line and bring the ship to a stop in a safe orbit outside the Asteroid Belt. Davie and Spenser both automatically took places in the navigation and engineering sections and helped to complete the operation before they turned to look at the bodies more carefully. It was fortunate that all three of them were Gallifreyan and could recycle their breathing. It helped with the smell. At least twenty people had been dead for long enough for it to be noticeable.

“What did this?” Davie asked as they made an attempt to identify the victims from their names on their space fleet uniforms and check them against the ship’s manifest. “What killed them in this way?”

“Space Vampyres?” Spenser suggested. “I’ve read up on them. they hijack ships and kill everyone aboard.”

“No,” The Doctor answered with absolute certainty. “Not those. Not this time. The bodies are… different. They still have blood in them.”

“So what other possibilities are there? I mean… why was the flesh taken? Are they being used as food by something?”

Davie stopped talking as Spenser suddenly lunged forward and used his laser tool to shoot at something. The beam blasted a hole in the wall and something metallic fell to the ground.

“What in Creation is that?” The Doctor asked as Spenser reached down and picked up the object he had hit. It looked like a metallic crab with eight spindly legs about eight inches long and two nasty metallic claws with a carapace of metal. The legs were folded under it and it was clearly dead – or deactivated..

“Some sort of service droid?” Davie surmised. “It might explain Aga’s non-organic life forms, if this sort of thing is zipping about the place.”

“It might also explain why the bodies have had flesh stripped from them,” The Doctor pointed out. He took the crab from Spenser’s hand and examined it with his sonic screwdriver. He was surprised when the carapace popped open, and disgusted when something like blood and bile spilled over his hand. All three of them stared in horror at the quivering mass of fleshy material inside.

“Ugghhh!” Spenser summed it up for them all.

“Aga didn’t recognise any organic component,” Davie said. “It must be shielded by the metal."

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” The Doctor swore as he analysed the flesh. “This thing… the organic part… is Humanoid… Humanoid DNA, anyway.”


“The only creatures I know of that use mutated cells of other species to create… well… themselves… really… are Daleks.”

“That’s a Dalek?” Spenser queried. “But… aren’t they bigger?”

“Yes, they are. This isn’t a Dalek. But the technology… the ugly idea behind it… bears the hallmarks of Davros. The things he did to his own species in order to develop his Dalek mutants would make you sick. And this…”

“There are more of them,” Spenser warned.

“Lots more,” Davie confirmed. “Look at Aga. He’s going off the rails.”

The little robot’s information screen was filling with data. But it was hardly needed. They could hear the creatures now, a metallic scrabbling behind the walls. Davie turned to see three of them pop out of the hole Spenser had made as well as dozens pouring from the vents.

“Kill them,” he yelled as he raised his sonic screwdriver and took out the three from the hole in quick succession. “Destroy them.”

Neither The Doctor, nor Spenser needed to be told. They were already shooting down as many of the sinister creatures as they could as they poured out of every possible opening in the walls. The three of them stood back to back and defended themselves from the metallic crabs on all sides. Their arms ached from holding their sonic screwdrivers and the sound of the metallic legs scurrying across the floor filled their ears. The smell of hot metal and burning flesh was almost as strong as the stench of death in the room.

They were winning, just about. The creatures couldn’t get near to them. And it seemed as if they needed physical contact in order to kill. They saw several of the creatures swarming over one of the bodies, glowing with blue light as they discharged their deadly power.

“Thick little bleeders,” The Doctor commented. “Can’t tell live flesh from dead. Or don’t care.”

The remaining creatures retreated into the holes once it became clear they couldn’t reach the three armed humanoids that fought back so purposefully. Soon only dead or dying crabs were left, scattered around the Bridge.

“It’s not over,” The Doctor told his companions. “They’ve retreated. But there are more of them. they must have some sort of nest.”

“Aga,” Davie said. “Show me their lifesigns. You’ve been close up to them now. You should be able to pinpoint them.

Aga’s monitor scrolled rapidly for several seconds. Even Davie struggled to read the information he was displaying. Then a detailed schematic appeared. He noted the position of the cryogenic chamber where the humanoids were sleeping quietly, unaware of the danger they were in. Below that, in what must have been a spare chamber, the non-organic lifeforms were gathering. Those that had retreated from the Bridge were scurrying back there as fast as they could.

“They’re gathering,” Spenser said. “Like… bees… when they get ready to swarm.”

“Swam to where?”

“Wherever this ship was headed, where there are people to feed upon.”

“But why haven’t they fed on the ones in the cryogenic store?” Spenser asked. “I mean.. they’re just there, helpless, like ready made frozen dinners.” The Doctor and Davie both looked at him oddly. “Sorry, I know, that’s a horrible analogy. But… you know what I mean.”

“Perhaps their sensors couldn’t detect them within the cryo-chambers,” Davie suggested. “If that’s so, then they’re safe for now. We can get on with dealing with this nest.”

“What do we do when we’ve found it?” Spenser asked as he kept pace with Davie and The Doctor through the long corridors of the space ship once more. “There are only three of us and so many of them. How do we fight them?”

“I was wondering the same thing,” Davie admitted. “We can’t risk a localised EMP. They’re directly below the cryo-chamber. We can’t risk the lives of all those people.”

“They won’t just wake up?” Spenser asked.

“No,” The Doctor answered. “If the power is lost and the cryo-chambers stop working, they’ll drown in the fluids that are meant to protect them. I’ve seen it. Shada, the Time Lord planet. I didn’t shed many tears for the scum of the universe incarcerated there. But it was a vile way to die. I don’t want to do that to a bunch of strangers we know nothing about.”

“You know, this could be a prison ship for all we know,” Davie pointed out. “Just because they’re beautiful doesn’t mean they can’t be bad.”

“Even so, we’re not going to risk their lives,” The Doctor said. “For the same reason, we can’t wake them up and evacuate them and then blow up the ship. These creatures would detect them and move in for the kill. We’ll figure something out by the time we get there. We’re the clever people, after all. I’m a genius and Davie is a chip off the old block. And you have twice the smarts your father had. We should be able to work this out.”

“Low self esteem was never a problem for Time Lords, was it? Spenser commented. “My father never suffered from it. And you certainly don’t, Doctor.”

The Doctor grinned. So did Davie. Spenser looked from one to the other.

“You were the same when we fought the Dominators,” he added. “You never hesitated to try. Even though we could all have died.”

“Spent my whole life fighting things that sought to destroy and despoil and oppress across the universe. Dominators, Daleks, weird crab things alike. My wife wants me to retire. And I will one of these days, when Davie is good and ready to take on my responsibilities. Meanwhile, if this is my last fight against my last enemy, I’ll make it a good one.”

“The last enemy is death,” Davie pointed out. “And Time Lords make that one wait a long time. But the question still remains. What are we going to do about these crab creatures?”

“Like I said, we’ll have a plan by the time we get there.”

“We’re here,” Davie replied. “Behind that door.” He checked Aga’s monitor again. The numbers were frightening, especially when they knew that even one of the thousands of creatures could deal a death blow to them.

“We’re made of stronger stuff than the poor souls on this ship,” The Doctor pointed out. “It would take a dozen or so stings from them to kill us. But let’s try to avoid that if possible.”

“Sonic screwdriver’s ready,” Davie said as he reached for the door mechanism. “Hit them fast, as many as you can. We’ll fight until we drop.”

“Wait,” Spenser called out. “Davie, what’s that on Aga’s monitor. In the middle?”

They all looked. There was something there, a larger version of the lifeforms. They all thought of the same thing at once.

“Queen, hive mother…. We need to get that. If we’re lucky, it’s a gestalt creature and killing the core will finish off the rest.”

“Then we fight through to the queen,” Davie decided as he unlocked the bulkhead door and pushed it in.

Straight away the creatures swarmed out and the fight was on. All three of them aimed their lasers quickly and accurately, burning through the metal carapaces and killing the organic creatures within as they fought through the door and into the wide storage space that had become the lair of the sinister stowaways. They fought hard, keeping the creatures at bay, though reaching the Queen in the middle of them seemed a long way off, yet. The sound of the metal legs against the floor, walls and ceiling was ghastly. They all tried to block the sound out, as well as the increasingly distressing smell of burning metal and flesh as they continued to kill them. So far nobody had been ‘stung’ by them. But they were none of them sure how long they could keep this up for.

“Doctor,” Spenser called out above the noise. “I never dared to ask. But sonic screwdrivers… how long do the batteries last?”

“They don’t use batteries,” The Doctor replied. “A self-charging cell uses the air around the casing to create the sonic energy and a transducer changes that energy into whatever else we want – in this case unlimited laser power.”

“Then… we might be ok,” Spenser admitted. “As long as our arms don’t get tired.”

“Keep going,” The Doctor told him. Not that they had any choice. If they stopped they would die. The space they created around themselves as they edged towards the centre and the ‘Queen’ was only a few feet across. They couldn’t risk a moment’s pause.

“What if…” Spenser began as he continued to fight the creatures. “What if… I mean… maybe…” He stopped. The idea seemed stupid as soon as he tried to put it in words. “Never mind. Besides, we can’t get out of here now. We’re stuck.”

“You’ve got an idea?” Davie asked him.

“Yes, but we’d need a TARDIS. And we’ve got no chance of getting back to yours.”

“That’s my fault,” Davie admitted. “I’m not as smart as I think I am. We could have brought the TARDIS here, instead of running around through all those bulkhead doors and then fighting hand to hand like this. Now we’re trapped.”

“Davie, I didn’t mean it was your fault,” Spenser answered. “I’d never… never blame you.”

“You never blame me for anything, Spenser. Even when I am wrong. You’ve said so often that you’d die beside me. But I never meant for you to do that.”

“Could you…” The Doctor began, but Davie cut him off with a snapped reply.

“No, I can’t bring it here by mental power. If I stop concentrating on killing these things I’m dead, and so are you. We all have to keep going.”

The Doctor said nothing more. But while never letting his concentration slip for a moment, sending yet more of the crab creatures to oblivion, he reached for his mobile phone and dialled a number.

“Marton,” he said. “We need you, son. My TARDIS. Bring it here to me….. Yes, you can do it. Set it to find me. It will let you. I set it to do that, no matter who is at the controls. Hurry, Marton. We’re in a lot of trouble, here.”

“Can he do it?” Davie asked.

“I’ve been giving him advanced piloting lessons,” The Doctor answered. “But… before he does… we’re going to have to risk a few stings. We need to be closer to the ‘Queen’ when he finds my co-ordinates. I have an idea, too.”

The Doctor trained his sonic screwdriver on those crab creatures that still stood between them and the ‘Queen’. Spenser and Davie did the same. It meant that they were not defending their rearguard and the crab creatures moved in behind them as they fought their way through. Spenser screamed as one of the creatures leapt on his back and dealt a painful blow.

“When they sting, they’re rendered immobile temporarily,” Davie noted as the creature fell from his back. Then he screamed as one of them gripped his chest and he, too, felt its sting. “Doesn’t make it any more pleasant,” he gasped as he recovered from the blow and redoubled his effort to keep the creatures at bay. “Come on, Marton, we need you.”

“He did it!” Spenser called out as they heard a familiar noise, felt the rush of wind as the TARDIS interior solidified around them. Their work was not done, even so. Several dozen of the creatures had materialised aboard with them. The Doctor got in position to protect Marton, who was unarmed, while Davie and Spenser dealt with those that surrounded the Queen, as if protecting her from harm.

“Funny looking thing!” Marton commented as the dead creatures fell with a clatter and they studied the Queen close up.

“Nothing funny about it,” The Doctor replied. “It’s the mother of violent death.”

It was a huge crablike carapace with a strange patina on the metal as if it had been scratched and clawed by thousands upon thousands of the smaller creatures climbing over it. They noted that it had no legs, and no obvious weapons, though none of them were prepared to touch it with their bare hands. As they looked, an aperture opened in its side and a silvery ball slid out that immediately sprouted legs and claws – a new crab creature. Davie immediately aimed his laser at it.

The Doctor meanwhile, trained his own sonic screwdriver on the Queen’s carapace. Spenser and Marton jumped back visibly from it as it opened with a hiss of compressed air. The Doctor kicked at it with his foot and the top half fell back to reveal the organic creature inside – a shapeless blob of pink, blue and green flesh with tentacles that quivered and oozed a slimy residue.

“It still reminds me of Davros’s work,” The Doctor said as he used his sonic screwdriver for the more benign purpose of scanning the creature’s DNA. “It’s flesh… is a compound of all the beings it has killed. It’s almost Human… at a horrible, basic level. The smaller ones… they strip the bodies… they bring tissue… she absorbs it… and in return creates new small ones… continually increasing their numbers.”

“So… I killed one of her babies just now?” Davie noted. “Doesn’t sound too heroic when you think of it that way.”

“Then don’t think of it that way,” The Doctor told him. “They’re not ‘babies’ or anything so endearing. They’re killing machines made of the bodies of their victims. They’re…”

“What’s that noise?” Marton asked. “All around us…”

“It’s the creatures climbing around the TARDIS, trying to get in to their Queen,” Spenser replied. “That was part of my plan. The rest was to electrify the outside of the TARDIS and kill them all. But…”

“But what?” Marton asked.

Spenser looked at The Doctor and bit his lip hesitantly.

“Doctor,” he began. “Sir… we have all heard you speak on this subject, many times, with passion in your hearts. This is an abomination. But it is also a unique species. Do we have the right… can we destroy it? We all come from a race that knows all too bitterly the meaning of genocide. You know it more than any of us. Can we… Can I….”

“We don’t have any choice. We’re fighting for our lives, and the lives of the defenceless people in the cryo-chambers above. Spenser… do what you have to do. I’ll deal with the Queen.”

Spenser and Marton took control of the TARDIS between them. The sound of the creatures scurrying around the outside of the TARDIS increased as Spenser first sent out a magnetic pulse that drew in all of the crab creatures. They all shuddered at the sound, but were reassured that they were safe inside the TARDIS.

“One more minute,” Spenser said. “Get every last one surrounding the TARDIS, then we fry them.”

The Doctor noted that his use of the word ‘fry’ carried no sense of joy in the deed. Spenser was doing this because he had to, not because he enjoyed it. Those lectures he gave to the students in the Sanctuary, and to all of the Time Lord candidates he was tutoring, had gone home with them all. And that was good.

He turned to the Queen. It was a pathetic thing now, exposed as it was. But The Doctor felt no sympathy for it. He could sense its malignancy. It existed for one purpose only. To create more and more of the killer creatures until they overwhelmed a galaxy.

“What are you?” he asked out loud and telepathically. “What kind of creature are you? Why do you exist? Who created you?”

He felt the answer in his mind. It lashed out at him mentally. It was only for a few seconds, but that was enough.

It was created by Davros, the madman who created the Daleks, the bane of all life in the universe. It was a failed experiment in many ways, except that it was the pure evil that Davros prized. He sent it into space in a small capsule, knowing it would be intercepted by travellers in bigger ships and brought aboard. Once among living flesh its spawn would feed and increase and move on to the next victims. It had been doing that for centuries, outliving the Time War, Davros and his other creations, continuing his insane desire to consume everything in the universe that wasn’t of his design.

“It ends, now!” he cried out as he took a firm grip on his sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the horrible mutant creature within the carapace.

But he couldn’t do it. Not like that. He could fight them when they were fighting him. He had given Spenser the justification for his own actions. Even now, the creatures outside were dying as the TARDIS itself killed them. But to coldly execute something that could not fight back went against everything he ever stood for.

“Granddad!” He felt Davie’s hand over his own, firm and unshakeable. He forced his finger to press the button, and held the sonic screwdriver steady as the laser beam seared the mutant creature’s flesh and kept on doing so until it was a charred fragment of tissue.

“It’s on my conscience, not yours,” Davie whispered as he released his hold. The Doctor dropped the sonic screwdriver and stood to look at his great-grandson. His emotions as he struggled to find words went through several changes. He was angry at him, ashamed at his own hesitation, grateful that the terrible responsibility was taken from his own shoulders.

“Yes, it was helpless,” Davie said as he faced his great grandfather, man to man and justified his own actions to him. “Yes, it was an execution. And that is a grim and terrible thing to have to do. Something we, as the most powerful beings in the universe, must do only as a last resort. But this was the last resort. That creature could not be left to create more of its kind and continue to murder innocents across the cosmos. That’s why it had to be done.”

“I couldn’t,” The Doctor admitted.

“Then it’s a good job you’re retiring and I'm going to be taking care of the universe from hereon,” Davie answered with a steel in his voice and a glint in his eyes that The Doctor recognised as that indefinable thing called authority. Davie was ready for that mantle that was always going to be his one day.

“Don’t worry,” he continued. “I won’t be dealing death all across the cosmos. I’m not an Executioner. I’m… I’m a Doctor. You can trust me, granddad, to know how best to do that. To know when I must be the surgeon that cuts out corruption and when I must be the physician that heals.”

“Not A Doctor,” The Doctor told him. “THE Doctor. The universe is yours, Davie Campbell de Lœngbærrow. Take care of it. And don’t be discouraged when the job seems too overwhelming for one man.”

“Davie!” Spenser called to him. “We should go and see about those people in the cryo-chamber now. The creatures are dead. We can revive them now.”

“Yes, we can,” he said. “We’ll do that, right now.”

The young and beautiful Cessalians were puzzled at first to find themselves revived by strangers and brought to the hospitality room of Santuario. As they ate and drank, though, Davie explained to them all what had happened to their ship. The news shocked and dismayed them. They explained to him that they were the first wave of people going to establish a new colony in a nearby system to their own where they hoped to establish a perfect society.

“There’s ambition,” The Doctor commented. “I’ve travelled the universe for a millennia and never found a perfect society.”

“You’re at least 200 million light years off course,” Davie told the small group who had been elected as spokespeople. “I examined your ship’s logs. I saw the co-ordinates you were in when the crew were attacked. I think the unmanned ship must have drifted into a time storm. You’re not only far from home, but thrown back in time a couple of generations, too.”

“What will happen to us?” they asked, a not unreasonable question.

“We could take you home. We have time and space ships capable of that,” he told them. “Or… since your aim was colonisation….” He paused and glanced at The Doctor. He wasn’t exactly looking for sanction from him. He had that already. Just the faint smile on his lips, the glimmer in his eye that confirmed that he was making the right decision. “You have poets, painters and musicians in your number, of course. Being Cessalians, I would expect no less. But you also have engineers, agriculturalists, medics, scientists, everything a new society would need. And I have a city here, a beautiful city, huge hydroponic plants where food can be grown and processed. The robots that have been serving your food are ready to work with you. My great-grandfather, in his day, was a formidable diplomat. I think we could leave it to him to hammer out a Treaty by which Santuario would be governed by the Time Lords of Earth in partnership with the Cessalian settlers. His wife won’t mind him doing THAT much in retirement.”

He knew they would accept. They had all seen the city and admired it already. Being given it on a plate, to do with as they chose, was more than they could have hoped for.

“I’m barely twenty-one years old,” Davie said telepathically. “And I am governor of a colony.”

“Chip off the old block,” The Doctor replied.