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

“Dynosi X?” Spenser read the database entry for the planet they were heading for. “In the Outer Andromodan Spiral. Class Alpha planet. Technological/Industrial society, population one million. Intelligent, educated, but highly religious people following strict moral codes.” Spenser blinked and looked at the lists of do’s and don’ts about visiting the planet in question. “You’re kidding? We have to wear blue somewhere on our person or it is an affront to the gods of Dynosi?” He glanced at Brenda, calmly reading on the sofa as she often did during these trips. She was wearing a blue cotton dress with a white cardigan and a wide brimmed hat. She would be all right. Davie had a blue sweatshirt on under his familiar leather jacket. He, himself, was wearing a pale blue jacket suit with a navy blue shirt underneath. They would all pass. But it was a total coincidence. Any other day they could have been wearing different colours.

“At least they allow black,” Davie said. “I’d feel lost without my jacket.”

Spenser smiled. When he closed his eyes and thought of Davie, he was wearing his leather jacket and his usual boyish smile. He could hardly imagine him wearing anything else.

Davie remembered when he first started to dress that way. He and his brother were fourteen, and had first begun to be more individual in their personal appearance after being doppelgangers in identical clothes and haircuts most of their lives. Davie, even then, had sought to emulate his great-grandfather, and the look was part of it, though The Doctor would never had gone for the artificial blonde streaks in his hair. That was his own stamp of originality while Chris grew his hair long and put it in a pony tail. Chris still had the pony tail, now, but mostly he wore white robes with his Sanctuary symbol embroidered on them. Fashion had passed his brother by along with all other worldly things.

He wondered what either of them would have done on a planet where enforced wearing of blue was compulsory. But as a time and space traveller he was used to conforming, temporarily, to local customs. And that was the least difficult of the rules governing life on Dynosi.

“So why are we visiting this place?” Spenser asked as he read through a dozen or so more rules that included the correct way to address the elders of the community and how to properly court a young lady of Dynosi. Hand holding, he noted, was the only intimacy allowed between men and women in public, and then only the formerly betrothed or married.

Hand holding between men probably didn’t happen at all under a social system like that, he guessed. Pity. He liked holding hands with Davie. He wistfully thought about the last time he had come to visit him in Northumbria. He had spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve with him, before they both went back to London for a family party that had included him in their ranks. It had been clean and crisply cold on the cliff tops where they walked together, quietly reflecting on the year that had gone by, particularly the consensus they had reached about their personal relationship. And they had held hands. Davie had even let him kiss him once. He had been gentle and sweet and made him feel that he wasn’t wasting his time in their unrequited love affair.

But there was probably a law against that sort of thing on Dynosi X.

“Granddad suggested I drop in and see how things are,” Davie answered his question. “Only I didn’t bother up until now.”

“Why not?”

“Because granddad has been here before. He wrote the original database entry. Notice his Theta Sigma signature. And I always tried to avoid places he had been. I wanted to make my own mark, not be in his shadow.”

“And now?” Spenser noted the past tense in those sentences.

“Now, there is no shadow. I’m doing his work. I am The Doctor, now.”

“So… on this planet, when people ask who you are, you’re going to say you’re The Doctor?”

“That’s the plan. I’m… walking in his shoes, now. As he groomed me to do since I was a child. I was always going to take his place in every way. And he gave me his blessing. Now I just want to actually have somebody call me Doctor, and see how it feels.”

Spenser nodded. He understood, even though he had no such ambitions of his own. Then he grinned widely.

“I can call you Doctor, if you like.”

“So can I,” Brenda added, looking up from her book. “If that’s really what you want. I’ll call you Doctor, or anything else you like.”

The two of them laughed conspiratorially. He glanced at them both and joined in the humour.

“Don’t think it really works if either of you calls me it. You’re both too close to me.”

“Rose calls The Doctor, Doctor,” Brenda pointed out. She put away her book as the engine sound changed and the TARDIS moved into final materialisation mode. She came and stood beside Davie to view the planet as soon as they landed.

“It’s different with Rose. She was in love with him before she even knew his real name. He’ll always be her Doctor.”

“And you’ll always be mine,” Brenda replied, her arm sliding around his waist affectionately. Davie pressed the materialisation lock that confirmed their landing pattern and then stepped back from the console, his arms around both her and Spenser.

“Perfect landing,” he said proudly, a few moments later. “Come on. Let’s see if we can mingle with the crowds and pass for Dynosian citizens.”

They stepped out of the TARDIS and looked at the wide plaza where they had landed. It was a pleasant looking, clean, public space with statues and abstract sculptures, and several glittering fountains beautifying it. There were people sitting and walking about on a warm day with the middle of the three Dynosian suns at its zenith while one set in the south and the other rose to the east, creating a sky that was rose red in one direction, bright yellow-orange in the other, and cloudless blue above them.

“That’s funny,” Brenda commented. “Your TARDIS, Davie. It’s copied The Doctor’s TARDIS. It’s a blue police box.”

“So it is,” Davie noted with a puzzled frown. “I wonder if the chameleon circuit is playing up. What is it with police boxes, though? That’s hardly what I’d call blending in inconspicuously.”

“Well, it might be,” Spenser told him. “Look at that.”

They were close to one of the more spectacular fountains in the plaza. A cascade of water some ten yards long fell in front of a marble wall which had a bas relief design on it that made them draw closer to be sure they were really seeing what they thought they saw.

“Oh, it’s….” Brenda whispered as she stared at the near lifesize image of The Doctor’s police box TARDIS, with a man standing beside it looking pleased with himself.

A man Davie recognised at once.

“It’s… granddad,” he said. “In his eighth incarnation. I’ve seen pictures. He… only lived about thirty years. The Time War… but he packed a lot into his time.”

“Like being a cult image for these people?” Spenser asked.

“Seems like it.”

“Well, that’s not so strange,” Brenda pointed out. “My own people have always worshipped the Time Lords as their gods. My mother nearly had to be given oxygen when my father told her one of the Lords had asked to betroth me.”

“Time Lords generally, though,” Davie said. “But there are no statues or fountains depicting The Doctor on Tibora.”

“My father thinks there should be,” Brenda replied. “For all that he has done for us.”

“He wouldn’t like that,” Davie told her. “And I don’t imagine he would like this, either. I wonder what it’s all about. There was nothing in the database about it. If he knew, I think he’d have put a stop to it.”

They walked on from the fountain and found a glass fronted pavilion with an open stage at the front where a trio of musicians were playing softly and four young people in flowing blue robes were dancing. A small audience watched them appreciatively.

The pavilion itself was a sort of museum and information centre which he knew The Doctor would like even less than the fountain.

The centre was dedicated to what was called, according to one of the glossy booklets for sale, “The Mystery of The Doctor’. There were photographs and drawings of The TARDIS and The Doctor himself in that Eighth life when he made such a huge impact on the people of this planet.

“Wow!” Brenda exclaimed as she read one of the information panels. “It says here that he saved the last remaining people of Dynosi from a slow, lingering death when he repaired the rapidly dissipating ozone layer and prevented the rays of the three suns from laying waste to the land.”

“He did that? Impressive,” Spenser agreed. “Then again, Davie built a whole planet. That’s good, too.”

“I'm not in competition with The Doctor,” Davie told him gently. “Mind you, I wonder what he did to repair a whole ozone layer. I didn’t think that was possible. Not just like that, anyway.”

“All things are possible for our great Lord, The Doctor,” said a voice behind him. “Are you a sceptic? Those who doubt the power of The Doctor are heretics and should be cast out.”

“I didn’t doubt his power,” Davie replied. “I just wondered how he did it.”

“It was a miracle,” said the young man in a dark blue robe who glared at Davie with suspicious eyes. “To question a miracle is to doubt. To doubt is heresy.”

“Come again?” Spenser asked. “You mean, nobody is allowed to ask questions about The Doctor?”

“It is heresy to question, to seek scientific explanations. It is a miracle and it is for us to give thanks, not to doubt. Those who doubt are fools or sceptics. And to be a sceptic is to be a fool.”

The young man drew away from them as if he feared to be seen talking to a ‘sceptic’ or a fool, or still worse, a heretic. Davie shook his head and turned towards the way out of the centre. He had seen enough.

“Good grief!” Spenser whispered as they passed through the small shop to get out. Brenda gasped and drew his attention to the goods on display. Davie blinked.

“Oh, really. That is too much,” he said as he looked at the selection of TARDIS shaped models of various sizes from a thimble to two foot high, in materials ranging from plastic to precious metals. He picked up one that was only about eight inches tall. He pressed the hinged door and the light on top flashed and there was a sound not unlike the sound of a TARDIS materialising. Inside was a scroll of paper. He took it out and looked at it. There were some instructions in very small print.

“This… is for writing prayers on,” he said. “To send to The Doctor. You write your prayer on the scroll. You put it into the box and close the doors. And… and the prayer is deemed to have been sent. The instructions suggest three prayers of devotion per day.”

Brenda and Spenser said nothing. Davie set the model back down on the display shelf, before a girl in a blue smock asked if he wanted to make a purchase.

“No,” he answered looking her in the eye. “No, I don’t want to make a purchase. I don’t need to write prayers on a piece of paper to send to The Doctor. I am his blood kin. And I know he doesn’t ask anyone to send prayers, by plastic interactive TARDIS toy or any other means. He doesn’t believe in miracles. And neither do I.”

The girl stared at him, pale faced with shock. Then behind him he heard that strange young man again, calling him a heretic and a sceptic.

“Oh, shut up,” Davie responded and swept past him, out of the pavilion. Spenser and Brenda followed him. As they walked away, though, there was a piercing sound of a whistle. The young man in the robe had followed them out and was calling for the police to arrest the heretic and blasphemer.

“Davie!” Brenda screamed as blue uniformed men surrounded them.

“Just, keep calm,” he said. “Put your hands up and do what they say. You’ll be all right. We all will.”

“I hope so,” Spenser replied as the heretic police closed in and forced all three of them to kneel while their hands were cuffed behind their backs. Davie heard Brenda’s muffled cry as dark hoods were pulled over their heads. He wondered fearfully if there was a summary death penalty for heresy, administered on the spot. He was relieved when he heard some kind of engine drawing closer before they were dragged to their feet and pushed into the back of it.

They were travelling for at least half an hour, lying uncomfortably on the floor of the vehicle, before it stopped again. The door was opened and they were dragged out, still hooded and handcuffed. They were pulled along into a building and along a corridor before descending a flight of steps. The hoods were removed and their hands uncuffed at that point.

Davie looked around at his companions. Spenser was bearing up, but Brenda was crying. She was obviously scared. He tried to reach out to her, but his arm was pushed down by one of the blue-uniformed police.

Police was the word he had to use to describe them. That seemed to be their function. And as far as his law-abiding experience went, this looked like a police station. Every desk, he noted, had one of the TARDIS effigies of some kind on it, as if personal prayers were a necessary part of the day’s work.

They were standing in front of a wide desk at which a middle aged man in an officer’s uniform glared at them contemptuously. One of their captors passed a piece of paper to him. He read it and his scowl darkened.

“Filthy heretics,” he growled. “Face forward, all of you.” They did so. The officer looked first at Davie. “The ringleader, it says. What’s your name, doubter? Where are you from?”

“David de Lœngbærrow-Campbell,” he replied. “Of the Houses of Campbell and Lœngbærrow of Earth and Gallifrey.” Brenda and Spenser gave their names and addresses, too.

“Offworlders!” The officer looked surprised at that. “Nonetheless, the law is clear. Heretical ideas are not tolerated here. You will be tested. If you do not satisfy me that your heresy is recanted, you will be subject to the mandatory six month confinement in the re-education camp.”

“Fine,” Spenser said. “We’ll recant our heresy. How?”

“Stand over there,” the officer ordered. “In the truth detector.” Spenser made as if to step towards the cubicle that, he realised, was a pale grey replica of a police box, without any doors at the front. “No, not you. The woman first.”

Brenda was horrified, but she was pushed towards the cubicle. There she was told to put her hands on two panels either side. A light shone down from the ceiling and a computerised voice asked her a succession of questions which tested whether she was a true believer in The Doctor.

“Yes!” she cried out. “Yes, I believe in The Doctor. He saved my life. Yes, I acknowledge him as my god and saviour. Yes, I do. Yes, I love him. Truly.”

The beam of light turned through several shades of green as she spoke and Spenser and Davie realised it was a kind of lie detector. Green was obviously for the truth. Brenda was telling the truth. The Doctor had saved her life more than once. And being Tiboran, she did acknowledge him as her god. She could tell the truth they wanted to hear.

“Now you,” Spenser was told. He turned to Davie and he felt his telepathic thought.

“You are my Doctor,” he said.

With that thought in his mind, Spenser stepped into the cubicle. He looked at Davie as he answered the questions. The light stayed green as he professed his love and devotion to The Doctor.

He passed the test.

Davie was told to step forward. Spenser and Brenda both tried to reach out to him, but they were prevented from physically doing so. Telepathically, they both urged him to co-operate so that they could get out of this place quickly. But he shook his head.

“I can’t lie,” he told them. He looked the police officer straight in the eye and he held his head high as he spoke.

“No,” he said. “I don’t worship The Doctor. I don’t acknowledge him as my God and Saviour. I don’t pray to The Doctor. All of that would be completely pointless. Because…”

“Stop!” the officer yelled angrily, standing up so violently his chair crashed back behind him. “Enough of that shameless blasphemy. You have condemned yourself with your own words.”

“But the lights are still green,” Brenda protested. “Look… he’s telling the truth. You can see that. Let him go. For goodness sake, let him go.”

“I don’t pray to The Doctor because I was born of his blood,” Davie shouted out, though he knew he probably wouldn’t be listened to. “He taught me everything I know since childhood. He loves me as his own son and heir. I love him as a son loves his father. I would die for him. But I won’t worship him. You people have it completely wrong. He did you all a big favour. He saved your planet. But then you turned his good deed into some crazy cargo cult and lost the plot completely.”

There was a shocked silence around the station. Brenda and Spenser held their breath, hoping that those words might hit home. But then the officer banged on his desk and ordered two of his men to restrain Davie.

“He believes his lies to be the truth. That is why the light is green. But he speaks the most appalling blasphemies I have ever heard. Take him away. He will be subjected to extreme re-education.”

One of the guards put a gag in Davie’s mouth before the hood was pulled over his head and his hands tied again. He was dragged away. Brenda screamed. Spenser, his own hearts breaking, reached to comfort her, but he was pushed away and reminded that physical contact between genders was not permitted in public places.

“You may count yourselves lucky,” the officer said to them. “You proved yourselves free of heresy. Now begone from this place and do not consort with blasphemers again or you, too, will be sent for re-education. Be sure to give thanks to our True Lord for your liberty.”

“No,” Brenda cried. “No, I won’t go. Not without Davie.”

“Brenda,” Spenser said to her softly. “Come on. You can’t do anything to help him here. Come on….”

Davie was taken down another flight of stairs and a long corridor and put into a holding cell before the gag and hood and the handcuffs were removed. The only thing that surprised him was that the cell was already occupied. Twelve other people, male and female, were sitting on the floor dismally. They looked at him without any particular interest. They expected him to sit down with them, quietly, accepting his fate.

“You’re all for re-education camp?” he asked. “How long have you been waiting? How many days is it until they move us?”

“The van comes every day,” he was told by a woman in a bright red dress that was completely free of the colour blue. “It’s quite easy to be caught committing heresies. I got a light term. Only three months. I was reported for not giving thanks at the icon in the entrance to the office. And for non-conformity in my attire, of course. I WANTED to get caught. My… my son is already there. He’s seventeen, and they sent him there for a year – for forgetting to put his prayers in the school icon. At least we’ll be together.”

“You deliberately flouted the law,” said a man in a blue shirt and tie and a dark-blue suit. “I accidently stabbed my hand with a compass and swore… forgetting that there was an icon in the office. Swearing in the presence of god… The police came to me within the hour while I was at my desk. I have a wife at home. She’s expecting our first child. And… I’m locked up for re-education. What will she do?”

“I’m sorry,” Davie said.

“Why should you be sorry?” asked a man who was also flouting the colour law by wearing black and purple. “It’s not your doing. You’re not The Doctor.”

Around him several people murmured anxiously.

“What can they do to me? I'm in their cell already, waiting to be re-educated. While I still have my own mind, let me say this. The Doctor does not care about us. He his no god to us. He doesn’t love us. And… if he ever returned to this cursed planet, I’d be waiting with a gun to put a bullet in his head.”

Most of the prisoners were horrified. They were ones, like the man in the blue suit, who had committed accidental heresies and did, despite their punishment, or perhaps because of it, still believe in their god.

“See,” he said. “No thunderbolts. I’m still alive. I denied The Doctor and I’m still alive.”

“What’s your name?” Davie asked.

“Why do you want to know? Are you a plant, gathering evidence to make an even worse case against me?”

“No. I’m a severe blasphemer and heretic. I’ve never prayed to The Doctor in my entire life.”

The believers drew away from him as if his heresy was infectious. The unbelievers drew closer, impressed by his startling admittance.

“I’m Shaleen,” said the woman. “His name is Malachy. What is your name, brave young man?”

“I am David Campbell de Lœngbærrow. And… I’m sorry… I sort of misled you. I’ve never prayed to The Doctor for two reasons. Firstly, becauase I’m an off-worlder, and where I come from he isn’t a god. And secondly….” He glanced at the man who wanted to shoot The Doctor and decided he might as well risk it. “Secondly, I would look a bit silly saying prayers to my own great-grandfather.”

Those words had a profound effect on those around him. Shaleen and Malachy drew away. The believers, the accidental heretics, drew closer, uneasy and nervous at first, but then reaching towards him beseechingly.

“Please,” they said. “Please. If you are speaking the truth… please intercede. My children…for the sake of my wife, my aged mother, please ask His forgiveness.”

“You…” the man in the suit reacted most extremely. He lunged at Davie, kicking and punching him. “You liar, you blasphemere. You… dare to call yourself kin of our Lord…”

Davie defended himself as he had been taught to do. He repelled the man, leaving him dazed but unhurt. He didn’t want to cause him any more pain than was necessary. But anger had lent strength to an inferior opponent and he managed to get in a couple of powerful blows. One punch had connected with Davie’s cheek. A ring on the man’s hand had cut him.

Again, the reactions when they saw him bleeding were mixed.

“He is a liar,” somebody said. “He bleeds. The kin of a god would not bleed.”

“He bleeds… the blood of a god,” exclaimed a middle aged women in a blue dress who approached him reverently and placed her own handkerchief against his face. A few drops of his blood stained it before the small wound mended. The woman looked at the marks on the cloth and then clutched it to her bosom. Her face was a picture of religious ecstasy.

“He bleeds – then he mends before our eyes,” said another. “He is the kin of our god.”

“Then he is no friend of mine,” said Malachy. “The Doctor is my enemy. And so is his kin.”

“Would you please tell me why you hate The Doctor so much?” Davie asked.

“Because of this… the re-education, the rules, the heresy police. What kind of god is it that tortures his people like this?”

“That’s a very good question,” Davie told him. “Because I can tell you one thing. That’s NOT The Doctor. He didn’t do this to you. It’s not his will that you are being punished this way. If he saw what was happening here, he’d be appalled.”

“Then why doesn’t he come and see, then?” Shaleen asked. “Why does he let us suffer?”

“Because… because he isn’t a god. He isn’t omniscient. He doesn’t know you’re suffering. He’s a very clever man. And he does things that look a lot like miracles. Like saving your planet. But then he moves on and does something else. He expects you to look after yourself. He expects you to manage for yourself, not be dependent on him. Believe me, this isn’t what he wanted for you. Forced worship, punishment – and done in his name, for chaos sake! He would not want that.”

“Then….” Malachy said. “Then help us. The heresy police have taken all I hold dear. My son was taken like Shaleen’s was. He killed himself. My wife… went mad with grief. And all because of a man who… who you say forgot all about us.”

“You make that sound so terrible. But you forget… he isn’t responsible for you, for your planet. He restored your ozone layer so that you could live. That’s all. How you chose to live after that… it was your own choice. You made these rules. The heresy police are your own people. You’re hurting each other. But you can’t blame The Doctor for it. Blame yourselves for allowing it to happen. But don’t blame the kindest, bravest man in the universe. The man I have wanted to be like… the man I have wanted to be… for nearly all of my life.”

Believers and non-believers alike were stirred by his words, particularly the startling notion that it was, in fact, all their own fault.

“I believe you,” said the woman who still clutched the bloodstained handkerchief. “But.. but then… can you help us?”

Davie looked at her and considered that question. Since he was a prisoner himself, he really wasn’t sure how to answer it.

Brenda and Spenser walked through the streets of the city in a daze. Brenda had stopped crying, but her eyes were red-rimmed and she breathed deeply as if trying to hold back more tears. Spenser was doing his best not to break down. His hearts ached for Davie, but he was born in the 18th century and still had old-fashioned ideas about men being strong and supportive to women.

“What can we do?” Brenda asked as they found themselves back at the plaza where it all began. The last of the suns was setting and the preparations for the evening festival were in full swing. Musical instruments and a sound system were being set up on the stage. Television cameras and microphones were being tested. People were busy. They were happy and excited. It seemed to compound their misery.

“I don’t know,” Spenser answered her. “I can’t even reach him telepathically. I’ve been trying.”

“Me, too. Does that mean…”

“It means they’re holding him somewhere that blocks us out,” Spenser said. “The police station… most of it was underground. It probably dates back to the time when it was dangerous above ground – before The Doctor. Perhaps they used something like lead to shield the place. That would do it. Lead blocks telepathic waves.”

“Oh.” Brenda was relieved. “Oh, that’s all right, then. I was worried. I thought they had really hurt him.”

Spenser didn’t answer that. He had imagined the same thing. Davie being tortured for his blasphemies. His imagination was coloured by his father’s memories as well as his own, and his father had lived through all the worst centuries of religious persecution on planet Earth.

“Spenser!” Brenda was shocked as she read some of his more exotic thoughts. “No, they wouldn’t, would they?”

“I’m sorry,” he responded. “I’m being silly. Even if… even if Davie is being hurt… he’s strong. He’ll beat them. You know he will.”

“Yes… but…”

“Hello, you look sad,” said a friendly sounding voice. “You must not be sad on a day of celebration.”

“Is that a law around here?” Spenser snapped. “No being sad on celebration days? Will we be sent to re-education for not smiling brightly enough?”

The young woman in a blue t-shirt and pink slacks looked visibly shaken by Spenser’s reaction.

“No,” she answered him. “Of course not. But you do look as if you should send a prayer for solace. Nobody should be so sorrowful today of all days.”

“We’re offworlders,” Spenser told her. “Just what is special about today?” What are these preparations for?”

“It is fifty years this day, this very day, since our Lord, The Doctor, restored the skies and we were able to come out onto the surface of our world and look upon the sun and the moon and the stars again. Before that, we could not go out at all by day, and at night, the sky was brown, and the stars and moon blotted out. The first moonrise, they say, in a black sky with silver stars, was so beautiful to behold. And in the morning, the suns rose in a clear blue sky. Those who were there felt themselves blessed. And we, the first generation born under the new sky, shall celebrate with music and drama and with prayers of thanksgiving. It is going to be wonderful. And… some say that The Doctor may even appear to us once again. I have hardly dared to hope. But just imagine if he did! How absolutely marvellous, how blessed we shall be if he should come and walk among us once again. And… that’s why you can’t be sad. Because tonight, a miracle could happen in front of us all. And wouldn’t that be a fine, beautiful thing?”

“Actually, yes, that would be quite marvellous. If The Doctor came here, tonight, if he actually appeared in his box, and spoke to the whole planet through the telecast.... everyone would see it, wouldn’t they?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the enthusiastic woman. “Yes, indeed. Oh, I hope he does come. My father and mother remember the First Day. I should be so, so blessed. They say that he may have changed his aspect. He will have a new face. But we will know him by his deeds and his words.”

“And by his police box.”

“Yes, of course. Oh, see, you look happier now. I knew you would. His miracles work in small ways as well as great. Now, you must send a prayer of thanks.”

“I will,” Spenser said. “I will, right away. Excuse me. My… my friend and I have to send a great many prayers before the celebration.”

He steered Brenda away, past the fountain and towards the TARDIS. He noted that the door was covered in slips of paper, stuck on with pieces of tape or pins, or even wedged into the little door where the old fashioned phone was. They were prayers people had left at what they thought was another icon put in place for the celebration.

“Some people are so very into it,” he said. “They embrace the whole cult and they believe in The Doctor so enthusiastically. That woman was so very happy. And yet… the heresy police, re-education. Why?”

“I don’t know,” Brenda answered. “And I don’t care. I hate these people. They hurt Davie. They’ve taken him from us. I want… I want to find him and go away from here, and never come back.”

“Finding Davie is part of my plan,” Spenser assured her as he found his key and opened the door. “But I don’t think we’ll be going away. The Doctor wouldn’t just run away and leave this mess, and I know Davie wouldn’t, either. Both of them would try to help if they could. That… that’s what this lot have missed about The Doctor. And it’s what we know and understand about him.”

“I don’t… I still don’t care. I just want my Davie back, safe and unharmed.”

“He’s my Davie, too,” Spenser said. “And there’s nothing I’d like better. But you know I’m right. Just… just have faith, Brenda.”

“Faith?” she shook her head. “Faith in what? The Doctor? Like that lot out there?”

“Yes,” Spenser reached his arms around her shoulders, holding her close to him. She let him. He wasn’t Davie. But he was someone who loved Davie as much as she did, and that was a small comfort. “Brenda, remember what Davie said before we arrived here. About being The Doctor from now on. Remember what I said… when I went into that stupid truth machine. Davie is OUR Doctor. And we both have faith in him.”

“Yes, we do,” she acknowledged with what was almost a smile. “Oh, we do. But… but still, he’s not here and we…”

“We’re smarter than those people out there. They have faith. They have prayers. But they’ve forgotten to think for themselves. We have faith in our Doctor. And he has faith in us not to sit around doing nothing.”

With that he kissed her gently on the cheek and went to the console. He accessed the lifesigns monitor and set it to search for Davie’s quadruple helix DNA. The first scan came up negative. He expected as much. He was still at the police station underground. But sooner or later they would be taking him to the re-education camp. And when they did, he would know.

Meanwhile there was something else he wanted to check on. He turned to the computer database and reviewed the entry for this planet. When he had read before about the Dynosians being very religious, and saw the rules for clothing and social etiquette, he hadn’t bothered to read on about the god they had worshipped. When The Doctor was here last, when he repaired their ozone layer, they had worshipped the Helisorus, the personifications of the three suns.

“Of course,” he said to himself, rather than to Brenda, who was sitting on the command chair, next to him, staring listlessly at the lights on the console. “I never thought about it. Neither did Davie. Religion is like a habit with these people. But what made them switch to worshipping a new god? They used to pray to their sun gods. But the suns were hurting them. They lived in fear of them. The Doctor… he defeated them…. defeated their gods. He made them into no more than balls of light and warmth in the sky. And they worshipped him, instead.”

“What does that tell us?”

“It tells us that they need something to believe in. Sun gods, The Doctor… they have to have something. We can’t leave them with a vacuum. They’ll fall to pieces.” Brenda looked around at him. He knew what she was thinking. “I know, you don’t care. But Davie will. And that’s something he will want to think about. He’ll want to factor it into his plan when he’s back with us.”

“When? Don’t you mean if?”

“I mean when. I’ve got faith in him, remember.”

We have to get out of this place,” Davie said. “I can’t do anything here. I can’t even… communicate with my friends.”

“Just wait,” said Shaleen. “We’ll be moving soon enough. To the re-education camp.”

“Where is…” he began to ask where the re-education camp was and how long the journey might take. He stopped as the door opened. Guards stepped in and began attaching steel anklets to them, connecting them together in a long chain that could do no more than shuffle along together.

“Out,” they were ordered peremptorily. They moved forward slowly, out of the cell and along the corridor. The long flight of stairs was tricky with the chains on, but they made it out into a yard with a high fence around. A vehicle waited for them. It had no windows, only narrow ventilation slits near the roof. It was dark inside. But Davie didn’t care about that. As he climbed into the van, he grasped the side for support. He could feel the molecular structure of the metal. It was just ordinary steel. That was good. He had been aware all the time they were in the cell, of the lead layer above them, blocking out telepathic messages and preventing the TARDIS from detecting his location.

But now he was out in the open.

“There!” Spenser smiled triumphantly as the lifesigns monitor picked up Davie’s unique signal. “He’s moving. Not very fast. Some kind of land vehicle.”

“It’s a van,” Brenda said with a smile. “I can feel him. He’s all right. They haven’t hurt him.” Her smile widened as she felt his telepathic voice in her head over the distance.

“We’re coming for you,” Spenser told him. “We’ll teleport you out of there as soon as we’re in range.”

“No.” Davie replied. “No. Not just me. There are other people here. I promised to help them. And I’m not going to run out on them. I have another idea. Spenser, it’s up to you. Can you do it?”

“Yes, I can,” he answered. “You taught me to fly the TARDIS.”

“Then I’ll see you very soon,” Davie told him. “For stage one of the liberation of Dynosi X.”

Spenser smiled as he touched the console and spoke in a low, soft voice.

“I know I’m not the regular pilot, but Davie needs us all to play our part right now. Including his TARDIS. So let’s go and get him.” Then he reached for the drive control and he felt the power of the time and space machine under his hand. He put it in hover mode, and Brenda, looking up at the viewscreen, laughed at the astonished faces in the plaza as the police box took off vertically and flew above their heads. Some people tried to run after it, but they were soon left behind. Spenser flew them over the city itself and along a quiet road that led northwards towards a dismal desert that had not yet been reclaimed since the ecological disasters that pre-dated The Doctor’s miracle. The re-education camp was obviously in this inhospitable place, where casual visitors would be unlikely.

They easily gained on the prison van. Soon they were flying above it. Spenser gently eased the TARDIS down until it was just a few feet above. Then he moved forward. He was directly in front, skimming the surface of the road. He could see the astonished faces of the guards driving the van. When he slowed the speed of the TARDIS, they slowed, too. They didn’t even think of trying to overtake. When the TARDIS finally stopped, it stopped, too.

“Now, a transmat will be good,” Davie told them. Spenser fixed on his position within the van and transmatted him to the TARDIS. Brenda was the first to run and hug him, but only because Spenser was still busy at the console. His own embrace was no less affectionate.

“It’s good to see you both,” he said. “Stick behind me now when we go out.”

The two guards were surprised to see the man they thought was a prisoner in their van step out of the police box in front of them. They got out of their vehicle, weapons raised. Davie closed his eyes and concentrated his telekinetic skills. The weapons flew from their hands towards him. Spenser aimed his sonic screwdriver at them and rendered both into smoking, twisted metal.

“Do you know who I am?” Davie asked. “Do you know who it was who witnessed first hand your cruel ways? Your chains and your prison cells?”

They didn’t before. But there was something about his bearing as he took just two steps towards them that made them both kneel, pleading for mercy.

“Spenser, open the van, get everyone into the TARDIS,” he said. “Mercy? Why should I give you mercy? You have imprisoned innocent people and done so in my name. There can be no greater crime. You should be punished until your hearts cry out for death.”

They whimpered pitifully and hid their faces from him.

“If I really was a vengeful god, you would be,” he added. “As it is, all I blame you for is ignorance. Stand up. Go with your former prisoners into my TARDIS. If you want forgiveness, seek it from them.”

The prisoners were not inclined to forgive. Some of them wanted to cause bodily harm to their former guards. But Davie stopped that in a few words.

“There will be no vengeance today. There will be reconciliation. All of you sit down. We’re going to this re-education camp to bring a bit more reconciliation.”

“There are five hundred people in there, according to this scan,” Spenser told him. “Including guards. That’s a lot of reconciliation.”

“It’s a lot of tea,” Brenda said. She had taken it upon herself to give refreshments to their guests.

“Bring everyone to the in potentia room,” Davie told her. “I’m sure the TARDIS will provide something.

The in potentia room was capable of being whatever it needed to be. It took a lot of power, so they only used it when it was really needed. For five hundred people it was needed. Spenser and Brenda guided them all to what had become, for as long as it was needed, a hall of plenty with food and drink for all the worried, bewildered people who had been told to step into the police box that appeared in the middle of the camp during the evening roll call. Like the group Davie had already met, they were a mixture of rebels who refused to acknowledge The Doctor and believers who had simply fallen foul of rules that were impossible to live by. The believers were easy enough. The guards were too busy prostrating themselves and begging for mercy to be any trouble. The non-believers, the real hard line sceptics were grateful to be rescued, but they were in a quandary. They had denied the existence of The Doctor, and now here he was, before them, telling them he was going to set everything right.

“Are you really The Doctor?” he was asked as he walked among them and made sure they were physically well, despite the emotional scars of imprisonment. Some had marks of beatings. He used the tissue repair mode of his sonic screwdriver to soothe them. That in itself was convincing to all but a few hard liners.

“He came to us, in a new aspect. To test us,” said one of the former guards. “He found us wanting. And now we shall be punished.”

“No, you won’t,” Davie assured him. “Nobody is going to be punished. In fact, right now, we’re all going to a party.”

He smiled warmly at them all as he felt the TARDIS’s movements in the soles of his feet. He knew they had materialised just where he had asked Spenser to take them. He told them all to rise now and come with him. He led them through the corridors again to the console room. He glanced at the viewscreen. The appearance of the TARDIS on the stage in the plaza, in the middle of their festival celebrations, was causing a stir already. It was going to get even better in a minute when the doors opened.

“Go on, everyone,” he said. “Out there. Go down into the crowds and mingle. Tell them what’s happening. Tell them no more re-education. No more fear.”

The people filed out, two, three at a time. Finally, only a few remained. Shaleen and Malachy, and Bellasa, the woman with his blood on her handkerchief, waited. So did Spenser and Brenda.

“All right,” he said. “You lot can be my disciples. For one night only.” He stepped out of the TARDIS and walked up to the microphone that had been used by the master of ceremonies between musical and dramatic performances. Behind him, his ‘disciples’ stood. He glanced back and saw that Spenser had reached out to hold hands with Brenda and Malachy. They in turn, took hold of Shaleen and Bellasa. To some in the crowd it was a breach of the rules about physical intimacy. To others, it was something different. A sign of unity. As he waited for the right moment to speak, he noticed many of the audience joining hands. The former prisoners were doing their work of mingling, well.

“Yes,” he said when he thought he had their attention. “Yes, I am The Doctor. The heart of The Doctor beats in my breast. The soul of The Doctor is within this corporeal form. I am the one you have waited for these fifty years, and I am here, now, before you. You saw me arrive in my box, with a few of my followers with me. Does any doubt this? Does anyone deny me?”

There were murmurings in a few places among the crowds.

“If you don’t believe in me, don’t be afraid to say it. That is the first thing that shall be changed. Nobody has to believe in me if they don’t want to. Although, I have to say, belief in me is easy. I’m standing here. What’s not to believe?” He smiled widely as he spoke, and he thought he had probably convinced the women, anyway.

Nobody spoke up. It was probably too much to expect. They would learn, he hoped.

“I AM The Doctor,” he repeated. “That much you can be assured of. But what I am not, is a god. I don’t ask anyone to worship me. I ask for no graven images, no objects of veneration, no prayers. This is what has dismayed me so much on my return to this place. I did not ask you to raise me up on such a pedestal. I certainly did not ask that anyone should be punished for not worshipping me. That stops right now. No re-education. No punishment. No heresy police. There are no heresies. No blasphemies from here on. Do you understand me?”

They understood. He looked towards the cameras that were still beaming his words onto every television screen on the planet. He and Spenser had locked down the transmission before he began. Nobody could stop the broadcast. Individuals could switch off if they chose, but he suspected nobody would.

“I am The Doctor. But I will not be your god. I will not perform any miracles.”

“False god!” somebody cried out, and there was a crack of a rifle being fired. Davie raised his hand faster than the eye could see. He held up the bullet and looked at it. Then he looked into the crowd to where the potential assassin was disarmed and restrained by those nearest to him.

“Well, just the one miracle,” he said, tossing the bullet into the air and catching it easily. “I bet you believe in me, now?” he added, looking straight at the man. “Let him go. I am not here to punish anybody. He is forgiven. So are all the guards and police and informers who have done what they thought was right for all the wrong reasons.”

“Lord,” cried another voice. “If you will not accept our devotions, what shall we believe in, how shall we be ruled?”

“Believe in each other,” Davie answered. “Love one another. Be kind. If you do that, how can you do wrong? How can you blaspheme, or commit heresy? How can you steal or hurt each other if you believe in each other? That is all the rule you need. That is my one and only commandment to you. Now… this night, you are celebrating the anniversary of the day your world was saved, when I restored your sky. That is a good thing to celebrate. I’m going to do that with you. We’re all going to have a party and practice loving each other. Tomorrow, I shall meet with the elders of your society and we shall discuss something called democracy and expand upon that one rule so that I can be sure when I go away again, that everyone on this planet is safe and happy and untroubled. So, now, let’s party.”

For some, partying wasn’t easy. They took a while to realise they weren’t going to be penalised for doing so. But others quickly got into the spirit as Davie hoped. They carried the others along. Soon hand holding and even hugging was happening all over the plaza. People were merrily taking off their shoes and splashing about in the fountains, showering in the cascade that ran down in front of the Doctor and TARDIS sculpture and then drying themselves off in front of bonfires made from the leaflets and booklets exhorting the people to worship The Doctor. Book burning was something Davie would not usually countenance, but in that particular case he was glad to see the wrong-headed ideology go up in flames.

In the cold light of morning as groups of volunteers cleaned up the inevitable mess, he met with the elders in the pavilion. He had already taken down the most idiotic of the information panels. He left the one which dealt with the replacement of the ozone layer that saved the planet. That much was still true. Hopefully somebody could write some new pamphlets which gave scientific explanations of how it was done. That would be educational. He approved of that. Meanwhile, the work began of drawing up a body of law that was fair to all, that would punish anyone who committed a real crime, because that would still happen. People the universe over would still be foolish or greedy from time to time. But there would be no laws forcing people to worship any god. No laws governing what people said or thought, and certainly not what they felt.

As for rules about what colours they could wear….

It took several days before he was satisfied that Dynosi X was mending itself, that the fears and doubts were gone, and that they could safely leave. He organised another party in the plaza before he did, inviting as his special guests the people who had been prisoners with him. He was pleased to see that they had all been reunited with their families and were recovering from their ordeal.

While the celebration was still in full swing, he stood on the stage once more, facing the people. They waited to hear what he had to say.

“I am leaving now. There is a big universe out there and I can’t just hang around here. When I am gone, make sure you don’t slip into old habits. Don’t do things to please a god who isn’t omniscient, isn’t omnipotent and won’t answer any of your prayers. Don’t depend on me. Depend on each other. Love each other. I’ll come back and see you again some time. That is a promise. But when I do, it’s to party and have fun, not to sort out another mess. You got that?”

They seemed to have got it. He smiled and waved and then he turned and stepped into his TARDIS. Spenser and Brenda came with him. The door closed and the police box dematerialised.

“I hope it isn’t stuck like that,” Davie commented as he set the course to their next destination. “I like my TARDIS with a working chameleon switch. The police box... that’s granddad’s style, not mine. I’m a different sort of Doctor to him.”

“You’re quite a lot of the SAME sort of Doctor, too,” Spenser told him. “You know, if he had obeyed the old Time Lords and stayed out of the affairs of other planets, this whole thing would not have happened. It’s because he couldn’t resist interfering. And you’re the same. You couldn’t have walked away without helping them. You’re that much alike.”

“Good. That’s the sort of Doctor I intend to be.”

“What’s that for?” Brenda asked, pointing to the eight inch model of a police box that was sitting on the ledge in front of the time rotor. “You’re not planning on putting any prayers in it?”

“I was thinking of putting a pound of Xallopian Turkish Delight in it and giving it to mum for a present,” he answered. “She’ll love that. I told the Dynosians they can still sell them – as souvenirs. Next time we visit we might be able to buy them as cookie jars and paperweights. And that’s ok.”

“We’ll visit again?”

“I think we should. That was granddad’s mistake, not checking up on them. That’s another thing about being interfering busy bodies. We have to be responsible for our actions. That’s what the old Time Lords with their non-interference didn’t have to worry about. But I’m one of the New Lords of Time. And I will carry my burdens, my responsibilities.”

“Not alone,” Spenser assured him. Davie felt his arm around his shoulders. Brenda came to his side, too. Two people who were willing to share that burden, and he loved them both for it.