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

The Doctor opened his eyes and looked around, trying to remember where he was, why he was there and, at least for the first few seconds, who he was.

When he had established the last point, he went back and examined the first. He appeared to be lying on neatly cut grass of a yellow-purple colour. It was comfortable, and a yellow-purple sun was shining down from a yellow sky that was unusual enough to capture his attention on any other occasion.

But he was still worried by the ‘why’. What was he doing here? How did he get here?

“Thank goodness you’re awake,” said a voice he knew very well. He turned and looked at his wife. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?” she added.

“None, whatsoever. I can’t remember anything before…”

He sat up and thought about it. They had stopped off at a space station on the edge of the Baten Kaitos system in the Cetus constellation. He could remember that much. He remembered having dinner in the restaurant. Rose was with him. And so was…



“You’re awake! At last!” Christopher woke up and sat up straight away. He looked at his wife and then looked around at the grass and the sky. He remembered being on the Baten Kaitos space station with his father and Rose. And then…

“How did we get here? Where is here?”

“I don’t know,” Jackie answered. “Why are we dressed like this?”

Christopher wondered why he hadn’t thought of that, first. His mind must have been dulled by… whatever it was that brought them here. He looked again at Jackie in a long velvet gown of deep purple that must have included some judicious use of whalebone. For a woman in her – ahem – forties – Jackie had a good figure, but not that good.

He looked down at his own attire. It consisted of a sort of leather jerkin with lots of buckles and straps that didn’t appear to serve any special purpose and some sort of trousers made of chamois leather. There were leather boots on his feet, again with plenty of straps and buckles.

Rose looked fantastic in the medieval gown, The Doctor thought, purely as an aside. A blonde Guinevere. And he knew that the leather outfit he was wearing would probably look impressive.

But why were they wearing them?

“Doctor… what’s that?” Rose asked. She put her hand on his wrist. He adjusted the leather sleeve and looked at something that definitely wasn’t medieval. It was a clunky plastic bracelet with an LED panel. He looked at the data on it and was puzzled.

“HP - 100, STR – 100, STAM – 300, WP - none, ARM - leather.” The Doctor looked at Rose, hardly expecting her to know the answer. But to his surprise, she did.

“They’re… the initial settings for a role playing game,” she said. “I used to do them with Mickey, years ago, on his computer. HP… is hitpoints. STR is strength, STAM is stamina, WP is weapons. You don’t have any. ARM is armour – that would be this fetish outfit you’re wearing.”


Christopher had never played role playing game in his life. Neither had Jackie. But he was familiar with electronic equipment. He came from a technologically advanced planet, after all. He didn’t waste time puzzling about the strange abbreviations and numbers. He pressed the button beneath the LED panel and was moderately impressed by the hologram that appeared in front of him. It shimmered as holograms always did, then settled down.

“Fare day to ye, gallant adventurer. Ye have chosen of thine own free will to take the Great Challenge. Ye are ready to strive to reach the Castle of Lord Kaitos and face his champion in the final battle. Sir Knight, ye shall quest to recover that which is most precious to ye, using thine own wits and such tools as ye shall find on thy way. Thy lady shall provide ye with succour and comfort on thy journey. I wish ye the fairest luck.”

“Too many ‘ye’s’ and ‘thine’s’ to be real,” Jackie commented as the hologram faded.

“I thought so, too,” Christopher replied. “And yet…” He looked around. There was a deep, dark forest for which the word impenetrable might have been coined behind them. To the left and right, or possible east and west if the sun followed the same rules it did on planet Earth, there was nothing but empty plain. Ahead, or possibly north, there was a blue outline of mountains and before it what was obviously a citadel with spires and turrets rising up behind castellated walls.

“The Castle of Lord Kaitos, I presume,” Christopher said with a sigh. “We have to get to it.”

“Oh, dear,” Jackie groaned as she looked at the soft, satin shoes she was wearing. She wasn’t a huge fan of cross country hiking as it was, but she knew she was in trouble in this outfit.

The Doctor found the button, too. He watched the hologram and then sighed deeply.

“We have no choice, do we?” he said. “It’s like the bloody gamestation. We’re stuck in this… contrivance. Well, I’m not bloody playing.” He stood up and raised his fist in the air as he shouted at the top of his voice. “I’m sure you can hear! Whoever is responsible… you might as well know. I’m not playing. I didn’t sign up for this. I was kidnapped. And the only thing I’m going to do is get out of this stupid game, get back in my TARDIS and get out of here.”

“I don’t think we have any choice,” Rose told him. “Look around…”

The Doctor looked. The grassy plain stretched in three directions and in the far distance to what he reckoned to be the west, if the sun was approaching midday on a planet where it rose in the east, was a range of mountains. At the foot of the mountains was a citadel that obviously had to be the place where the Champion of Lord Kaitos was waiting.

“It’s the only landmark in the whole place,” Rose pointed out. “If we don’t go there, there’s no food or water anywhere. And what happens when it gets dark?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor replied. “But I’m not going to be played like this. Where are we, anyway? Is this a real planet or just some sort of hologram, holodeck, that sort of thing? I bet it is. I bet if I walk ten paces this way there’ll be a forcefield…”

He stood up and walked to the east – or west if the sun rose in the other direction. Not that it mattered. He didn’t believe it was a real sun, anyway. He fully expected to find a hologram wall any minute with the wide, unending plain turning out to be an optical illusion.

He had walked a good hundred yards of what seemed to be very real plain that proved his theory wrong when he heard Rose scream. He turned at once and ran back.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” he asked as he hugged his tearful wife comfortingly. “What scared you?”

“Doctor!” Rose gripped his leather clad arms tightly. “Doctor… I just… just… that hologram… the quest is to get back what is most precious to you…”

“I didn’t pay any attention to that bit,” The Doctor replied. “What’s precious to me? I don’t care about treasure and all that stuff.”

“Doctor!” Rose screamed his name. “Doctor… Peter was with us. They’ve taken Peter.”

The Doctor’s face blanched. He actually swayed a little. Rose gripped him even more tightly just to stop him from falling down.

“I’ll kill them!” he exclaimed as he broke away from her and started to run in the general direction of the citadel. “I’ll bloody well kill them.”

Rose sighed and ran after him.

“Garrick!” Jackie’s voice almost echoed in the silence of the plain. Christopher stopped and looked at her. For a moment he didn’t understand why she had said that name.

“Garrick?” he repeated with a questioning tone. “My… uncle… Garrick… the Chancellor of Gallifrey… But… he’s dead… You don’t even know him.”

“No, you prawn.” Jackie shook him physically. “Our heads have been messed with. Christopher… I mean our son, Garrick. We named him after your uncle… Garrick… our baby. He was with us… Remember… at dinner… on the space station… he knocked over a bowl full of red-bola fruit blancmange. It went everywhere…. Garrick… is missing. He’s…”

“He’s the precious thing we have to recover from the Castle!” Christopher seesawed between grief and anger. “They took my son… to use as a pawn in this GAME!”

“I’ll kill them!” Jackie said. “I’ll wring their miserable necks with my bare hands.”

Christopher fully believed she would. Though not if he got to them first.

Whoever THEY were.

Reluctantly, The Doctor had decided to head towards the citadel. He murmured angrily as he strode, using a lot of Low Gallifreyan swear words that Rose fully understood. They were very good swear words that perfectly illustrated his mood. They weren’t especially comforting words. He seemed almost oblivious to Rose as she did her best to keep up with his fast pace. He was oblivious to her grief, forgetting that she was upset, too.

“Stop, will you,” she shouted at last. “Doctor, you’ll kill yourself before you get there. And if you don’t… you’ll kill me.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “But… come on… we can’t wait. Christopher needs me…”

“Christopher?” Rose was puzzled. “Peter, you mean. Christopher is ok as far as we know. It’s Peter… Peter is the one they’ve taken from us.”

“I don’t know if that’s true,” The Doctor answered her. “The most precious… I was thinking… maybe Peter is still on the space station with your mum and Garrick. Maybe Christopher is a prisoner in the citadel. He’s my first born… my heir… there’s nothing more precious to me…”

“Not even five other children?” Rose answered indignantly. “Peter is… he’s my first born son. I thought you loved him….”

“Of course I love him,” The Doctor answered. “But… Oh, my head is so messed up. I can’t… Rose… what are the names of our children?”

“Vicki, Peter, Julia and Jack and Sarah Jane,” she told him. “You’d forgotten that?”

“They must have drugged us or something… the food or the drink… I can’t remember leaving the table in the restaurant. And I keep forgetting whole chunks of things that matter. I could see our children in my mind… but I couldn’t remember their names.”

“All right,” Rose told him. “I’ll do the remembering around here. You do the questing. They surely don’t expect us just to walk and walk? These things usually have obstacles… things to fight…”

“Things?” The Doctor queried.

“You know, orcs, trolls, things with two heads…”

The Doctor looked at her and grimaced.

“I have to take on an orc with my bare hands?”

Just then a man in armour appeared in front of him.

Christopher blinked as a man in armour appeared in front of them. He automatically stepped in front of Jackie, ready to defend her. The man in armour raised a heavy battleaxe.

“Halt,” the man in armour said with a strangely unemotional voice. “You will not pass. I shall stand against any who try to reach the citadel by this path.”

Christopher looked at the figure and then brought his left arm around in a sweeping martial arts move taught to him by his father many years ago. He had been told that, done properly, it could take a man’s head off. Christopher, aged something like sixty years old, a youth of his race, asked his father why he would want to take a man’s head off. His father had never really answered the question. He had taught him to defend himself and they had regularly practiced against each other and against hologram opponents purely for physical fitness. Christopher had gone into politics as soon as he graduated and never had any need to take anyone’s head off, though there had been times when his political opponents had sorely tempted him to do so.

He was astonished and a little repulsed when he saw the helmeted head fly from the body. Jackie gasped, too as the body fell like a toppled tree.

“It’s… not real,” he gulped as he bent and examined the body. “It’s a robot… android… something like that.”

“Oh!” Jackie breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought… I thought you’d actually killed a man…”

“If that’s what it takes to get our son back,” Christopher told her. “I may have to. But not this time.” Then he took the battle axe and fastened it on the leather belt of his jerkin. As he did so, the wristlet on his arm bleeped. He looked at it. It registered that his hitpoints were still 100 and he now had an axe in addition to the leather armour.

The Doctor had acquired an axe, too. He contemplated stripping the breastplate and helmet from the android body and decided against it. There was still a lot of plain to cover and he’d be better off without too much weight to carry.

“Do you think all your opponents will be androids?” Rose asked as he stepped around the ‘body’ and carried on walking towards the citadel. “I mean, this is just a game, isn’t it? It’s not… you know… you don’t have to fight other players… you don’t have to kill anyone to reach the end?”

The Doctor thought about that. He didn’t like it.

“I’ll do what I have to do. If my son’s life is at stake… then I’ll do anything to get him back.”

“Don’t say that,” Rose told him. “Not… here. Doctor, the whole point of games… is to amuse somebody. We’re certainly not having fun. So… maybe somebody is watching us. Don’t say things like ‘I’ll do anything’ where some warped mind might be thinking about how to test you.”

The Doctor smiled. It seemed a very long time since he was with her in that lift in the department store where the Autons were up to their mischief. She had impressed him then with the way she thought about things. She was still doing it.

He reached out his hand to her. That was something he had been doing ever since the moment they met. They had faced all kinds of dangers and terrors holding hands. It seemed like the best armour he could have against whatever was thrown at him.

“My feet are killing me,” Jackie complained. Christopher stopped walking and looked at her. “No… I’m sorry. Forget I said anything. We can’t stop. We’ve got to get to that place.” She looked towards the citadel. “Oh, it still looks so far away. We must have walked miles already.”

“Three miles,” Christopher replied. “That’s how far we’ve walked. It’s… not very far, I’m afraid. You’re going to have to keep going, Jackie. I can’t leave you behind and we can’t stop.”

“I’m thirsty, too,” she added. Then she bit her lip. She didn’t mean to complain. But this was so different to anything she was used to. She had probably walked three miles in a day when she lived on the Powell Estate and she didn’t always have money to spare for buses. But three miles walking to the shops in London was different to three miles walking across an empty plain on a strange planet, in stupid shoes and a dress that felt heavier on her with every step, and worried sick about her baby boy who must be missing her so much by now.

“He is alive, isn’t he?” Jackie asked. “Garrick. Christopher… please tell me he’s alive. I’ll believe it if you tell me.”

“I have to hope he is,” Christopher answered. “I can see no reason why they should kill him. This IS a game, that’s all.”

“What’s that?” Rose asked, pointing to a clump of trees that they had been heading towards for some few minutes. “Is that a chimney?”

“Small cottage in the trees,” The Doctor said. He sighed. “We’ll have to investigate. But if it turns out to belong to witches, trolls, dwarves or a big bad wolf I am going to be very annoyed.”

“Do you think anyone is in?” Jackie asked as they approached the copse with a fairytale cottage nestling beside it. It had a chimney of red brick rising up from a thatched roof that came down low over the two windows and a door.

“No smoke from the chimney,” Christopher noted. “Possibly not. Maybe we should leave it well alone.”

“Oh… five minutes sitting in a chair,” Jackie pleaded. “I really don’t think I could just walk past that possibility.”

“All right,” Christopher decided. He walked up to the door cautiously. He pushed at it and was unsurprised when it opened. This cottage was just a bit conveniently placed in what had looked like an empty landscape a little while ago. He waved to Jackie to keep back as he slipped inside the door. She was glad to do so when she heard a fierce, animal roar inside and then a yell from Christopher, followed by a sort of slicing noise.

“It’s all right,” he called. “It’s safe now. A bit gruesome looking, but safe.”

Jackie stepped into the cottage and glanced once at the wolfman with its skull split by the axe Christopher was pulling out and wiping. There was a lot of blood, but on closer inspection she could see robotic parts inside.

“Like the Terminator,” she said. “Robot with a skin around it?”

Christopher couldn’t comment. He hadn’t seen very many late twentieth century action films. He set about examining the cottage. He found a leather satchel and filled it with bread and cheese and a bottle of liquid which he sniffed cautiously before re-corking firmly.

“Is it all right to just take these things?” Jackie asked.

“I don’t care if it is or isn’t,” Christopher answered. “We need food and drink. We need other supplies, too. He opened a cupboard and found clothes. There was a shirt and some loose trousers. He gave them to Jackie along with a tie belt and a pair of sturdy boots that looked about her size. She looked at them dubiously. “You are beautiful in that dress, but you said your feet were hurting and don’t tell me the corset isn’t driving you mad. These things are more practical.” He found two long cloaks, too. They were too warm for walking over a plain in the full daylight, but if they were still questing in a few hours time, when the sun went down it would be another matter. For now he rolled them and tied them with cords to make a pack he could carry.

While Jackie was changing, he found some more possibly useful items. A coil of rope and a knife, specifically. He gave the knife to Jackie.

“Just in case,” he said. “You need to defend yourself. Don’t hesitate. This is the second robotic opponent we’ve found. I’m guessing they’re all like that. So there’s no moral issue about killing them. But I don’t know what they’re programmed to do. That thing could have done me in if I didn’t have the axe.”

“Good job you got that from the man in armour then,” Jackie said. “I suppose that’s how it works, is it? You have to fight one thing to get the tools to fight the next?”

“It’s a stupid game,” Christopher said. “Although it does remind me a little bit of the Death Zone.” Jackie looked blank. “Milliennia ago, on Gallifrey, in the time of Rassilon, Creator of the Time Lords, there was a place called the Death Zone, where warlike creatures from other planets were brought. Those seeking to prove themselves as warriors would fight them. Rassilon put a stop to it. Time Lords were meant to protect lower lifeforms, not exploit them.”

“Somebody around here doesn’t agree with him,” Jackie answered. “We’re being exploited.”

“Yes,” Christopher said. “And when I find out who and why, there is going to be a reckoning.”

“You sounded like your dad when you said that.”

“Good,” Christopher answered.

The Doctor stuck his axe into the head of a robotic wolfman, too. He searched the cottage and found supplies. Rose didn’t mind wearing the medieval dress a little longer, but she accepted a strong pair of shoes for walking.

“This wolfman just happened to wear boots in my size?” she asked. “Does that strike you as a bit convenient?”

“Very,” The Doctor answered as he handed her the knife in a small leather pouch that she clipped to the belt of her dress. “We’re being played. And I hate it. But we don’t have a lot of choice at the moment. Come on. Let’s move on, quickly. The more ground we cover in daylight, the better.”

Jackie walked much easier in the loose clothes and the strong shoes, but she was getting tired, all the same. Christopher was proud of the effort she had made so far, and especially her effort not to complain too much. But he knew they weren’t likely to make it to the Citadel before nightfall.

“Another half mile or so,” he said. “And we’ll rest. We have to.” He looked at his wristlet. The strength and stamina figures were dropping fast. He realised the figures were probably reflecting their joint physical condition. On his own, with his Time Lord physique, he would be able to move much faster and keep going for longer. Jackie was holding him back in a big way. She was merely a Human, and a woman at that, a woman of a certain age….

He stopped thinking along those lines. There was absolutely no way he was going to leave Jackie anywhere in this hostile environment. If they couldn’t complete the quest in one day, then he would find some kind of shelter and they could rest overnight.

That was the plan. And it probably would have been a good enough plan, if they hadn’t crossed paths with a party of orcs.

“Orcs?” Rose drew her knife as The Doctor raised his axe. They stood back to back and prepared to fight six of the squat, heavy-set creatures with grey-black leathery skin and dark eyes beneath hooded brows. “Where did they come from? One minute there was nothing there. The next, orcs coming at us from every side.”

“Transmat,” The Doctor answered. “I thought I saw a shimmer in the air before they appeared. This is staged. Somebody is following our every step. They knew when to unleash orcs on us.”

“Robot orcs?” Rose asked.

“Aim between their eyes. Stick your knife in hard. It should disrupt the artificial brain enough to render them harmless.”

That was all the advice he had time to give her. The creatures were closing in. He swung his axe and it cut part way through the neck of one of them. He had judged right. The flesh was weaker there. He wasted no time pulling the axe back and swinging again, cutting two of them down at once. He risked a glance behind him and saw Rose withdrawing her knife from the skull of a creature. She stabbed at a second one, but it was quicker than her. It slashed back with long claws that were as sharp as any edged steel. Rose ducked, saving herself, but The Doctor felt the claw slice through the leather jerkin and into his shoulder blade. When he swung the axe again it felt so much heavier and harder to manage and his blow glanced off the thick hide of the creature before him. He grasped it firmly and tried not to think about the pain as he swung again and split the creature’s head open. He turned as it fell, in time to see Rose stab the last orc through the forehead.

“Are you hurt?” he asked as she slid to the ground and sat, gasping for breath. “Rose… did they get you?”

“No,” she answered. She looked at him and saw the blood on his neck. “You’re hurt.”

As if he didn’t know that, his wristlet bleeped. His hit points were down to half and his stamina and strength reduced by a quarter. His armour was registering as damaged, too. He wasn’t sure what the criteria were for winning this game, but it didn’t look good for him right now.

“I’ll be all right in a minute,” he assured her. “The wound will mend. I just… just need to rest a minute or two.” He looked around at the bodies of orcs. They were robotic inside, of course. But they stank like something disgustingly organic. “Let’s move on a bit and then rest.”

They started to do that, but the sound of something else, another animal closing in made them freeze. They looked around and saw a pack of wolves, sinew and muscle rippling beneath their coats. The blood of orcs, possibly the blood of a Time Lord, too, had drawn them in.

“No, it didn’t,” The Doctor said. “They were nowhere near us before. They just appeared out of thin air. It’s the damn game again.”

“I don’t think I’ve got it in me to fight again,” Rose whimpered. “Doctor… I’m scared.”

“So am I,” he admitted. He raised the battleaxe, still covered in orc blood. His shoulder was still mending. He had the strength to take one, maybe two of them. But there had to be ten, twelve in the pack.

“Rose… I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I can…”

Christopher had managed to dispatch the four orcs that he and Jackie had stumbled upon. But at a price. He groaned as Jackie let him down on the ground. She put the bundle of cloaks under his head before she started to look at his wounds. The worst of them was a long orc claw slash down his side. She knew that Time Lords could repair themselves given time, and if the worst came to the worst, he could regenerate. But he didn’t look as if either of those things was happening. He looked as if he was dying. The stupid wristlet thing was bleeping madly. All of his so-called life signs were down in single figures. Jackie wrenched it off his wrist and threw it as far as she could throw it before turning back to him.

“Christopher, hold on, please,” she said. “You can’t die. I need you. Garrick needs you. What am I going to do here, without you? I can’t… please don’t die.”

The Doctor was still wondering if a robot wolf would actually eat them or simply tear them to pieces. It wasn’t how he wanted to die, anyway. He’d actually got used to the idea, these days, that he would die in bed, of old age. He didn’t want to go down like this. Not now, not with one of his children missing and the others at home, never knowing what happened to them. It was too cruel.

Then he heard a soft sound of something aerodynamic slicing through the air and one of the wolves fell back, an arrow piercing its side. More arrows followed in quick succession. They were coming from the sky. The Doctor looked up and blinked. He wasn’t sure he could believe his eyes. He touched Rose on the arm and she looked, too. He hugged her joyfully as the wolves quickly joined the orc bodies lying around them. He heard the swish of giant wings and a soft growl. One of his ancestors had once fought a dragon. That was why Dracœfire was a part of his long Gallifreyan name. But he was pretty sure that one didn’t have snow white scales and a silver harness.

And it wasn’t ridden by one of his relatives.

“Davie!” The Doctor smiled widely as his great grandson slid from the back of the graceful, if impossible, creature followed by his closest friend and ally. “Spenser! Don’t tell me you’re playing the role of the lady providing succour on his journey?”

“Of course, not,” Spenser answered. “I’m his faithful squire. We’re looking for Brenda. She was taken… she’s the most precious to him. I’m… second most precious.”

“You’re never second,” Davie said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “But the people who designed these games never really figured on a relationship like ours.”

“How did you get here?” Rose asked him. “Not that it isn’t great to see you. But you weren’t on the space station, were you? I didn’t see you.”

“We came to take part in the game,” Davie answered. “I heard about it, and it sounded… well, a bit cheesy, I suppose. But at the same time… kind of exciting. Only… I didn’t figure on being knocked out by some kind of neural inhibitor and dumped into the thing. And I didn’t sign up for having my girlfriend kidnapped as the incentive to complete the bloody thing. And… how did you two get here, anyway?”

“We don’t know,” The Doctor answered. “We didn’t sign up for anything at all. And Peter is… we’re pretty sure Peter has been taken. And Christopher and Jackie and Garrick might be somewhere in this thing, too.”

“Then lets get going,” Davie told him. “This game is boring me, now. I think we should get to the Citadel and put an end to it.”

“You mean… we join together?” Rose asked. “Are we allowed to do that?”

“Did you see a list of rules?” The Doctor replied. “I certainly didn’t. We’re ‘allowed’ to do what we please.” He glanced at Davie’s arm and noted that he wasn’t wearing any wristlet marking his hit point. The Doctor wrenched off the one he was wearing.

“Good idea,” Davie said. “You did realise that there was a homing device inside it. Somebody was plotting your every move. That’s how the orcs and the wolves all turned up on cue.”

“Why didn’t I think of that?” The Doctor groaned. “I am getting old. I really am.”

“Can the… dragon… carry all of us?” Rose asked.

“I think so,” Davie answered. “Anyway, you two look worn out. You need a lift. You’ll never make it, otherwise.”

“Jackie,” Christopher whispered as she cradled him in her arms. “Don’t… don’t cry. I can’t bear to see you cry.”

“I can’t bear to see you hurt,” Jackie answered. “This isn’t fair. We weren’t looking for any trouble. We just came out with your dad and Rose and our kids, to have a nice evening out. This wasn’t supposed to happen. You’re not meant to get hurt like this.”

Her hands were slick with his blood. Her face was streaked with it as she bent to kiss him. She couldn’t stop crying. She was sure he was going to die in her arms.

He managed to whisper her name one more time before he slipped into unconsciousness. Jackie cried loudly as she held him tightly. She was so lost in her sorrow that she didn’t hear the sound of hooves approaching. She looked up in surprise to see a young man dressed in a chainmail shirt and a leather cloak jump down from one of the horses, followed by a young man in a leather jerkin and a young woman in a dress like the one she had discarded back at the wolfman’s cottage. They waited with the horses while their leader approached.

“Let me see,” he said in a gentle voice. “I might be able to help.”

“He’s dying,” Jackie said. “The orcs… He fought… so bravely. But there were too many of them.”

“He killed them all, anyway,” the young man said. He looked at Jackie and his dark eyes narrowed. “We’ve met before… I’m sure.”

Jackie looked at him properly, and her memory stirred, too. It was a long time ago, before Rose and The Doctor were even engaged. She remembered a strange set of events that had culminated in her being sent among the crowds in a piazza in Rome to ask a favour of a man she called ‘Drop dead gorgeous’ who was a version of The Doctor when he was still a young man, hundreds of years back in his own personal timeline.

“Chrístõ…” she said. “That was your name then. Yes… we did meet once. Yes. I know who you are. You’re… The Doctor when he was... Oh, if you’re him… any version of him, you can help. Help my Christopher, please.”

“Christopher?” Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow looked puzzled as he examined the wounds on the man who would be his future son. “That’s a Human name. But… he’s Gallifreyan, isn’t he? This blood… Never mind. It doesn’t matter what his name is. The important thing is… he’s Gallifreyan. He can mend. He’s weak, though. His body isn’t mending quick enough.”

“Can’t you do something?”

“Yes, I can,” he promised. He put his hands either side of Christopher’s face. Jackie watched as he closed his eyes and concentrated. She knew he was doing something time lordly, something telepathic, helping Christopher to get better.

And it was working. His wounds were starting to mend, now. The bleeding stopped and the long, dreadful rip in his flesh began to close up. The cut on his neck, and his shoulder mended, too.

“He’ll be ok, now,” Chrístõ told her. “I…” He swayed slightly and had to steady himself.

“You gave him some of your own strength,” she said. “You did, didn’t you? That was so… so…”

“I would give him much more than that, if he needed it,” he answered. “He is my own flesh and blood, after all.” He glanced at the young woman waiting anxiously by the horses. “Christopher… a Human name for a Gallifreyan child born of a Human mother? But not for a good few years, yet. Best she doesn’t know about it, I think.”

Jackie nodded. She didn’t care what secrets she had to hide. Just so long as Christopher was all right. And he was. His clothes were bloodstained and ripped, but he was mending before her eyes. He opened his eyes and whispered her name.

“I felt you there,” he said. “All the time. Even when I thought I was dying… I knew you were there. I dreamt… I dreamt that my father was here, too.”

“I am,” Chrístõ whispered. “I’m here for you, my son.”

Christopher looked at him and gasped in surprise. He remembered how his father looked when he was a very young boy. He sat up and looked around at the young woman who would be his mother. Not yet. She was still too young, still a teenager. But in a very few years.

“Mama,” he whispered.

“Yes, but we agreed it was best not to tell her that,” Chrístõ told him. “Come on. I know you’ve been through the mill here. But we really should get moving. I have to get to that damned Citadel. They’ve got my brother. I said no when they came around the hotel asking people to sign up for the damned game. But the next thing I know… we’re all here. Everyone but Garrick.”

“Garrick?” Jackie smiled despite her worry. “That’s our son’s name. We called him Garrick… after his uncle. He’s… they’ve got him, too.”

“Then none of us have time to wait. You can ride, I suppose?”

“No,” Jackie answered. “Never.”

“I can’t, either,” Christopher answered. “But now might be a good time to learn.”

“We don’t have time for that. The horses won’t take two adult men apiece, though.” Chrístõ sighed. “You’ll… have to ride with Julia. Please don’t say anything to her.”

“I won’t,” Christopher answered. “But… oh…”

“You’ll be safe with me,” Chrístõ told Jackie, taking her by the arm and bringing her to the horses. He helped Christopher sit up behind his future mother. He put his arms loosely around her waist and tried not to look too astonished about it. His mother had been dead for very many years in his own timeline. To be that close to her again was almost worth all they had gone through already, and the anxieties still to be relieved.

Chrístõ helped Jackie up onto the other horse and sat behind her, his arms around her protectively as he held the reins. He nodded to the other young man and he took the lead as they turned the horses and headed towards that still distant citadel at a canter. Jackie tried not to feel nervous, or at least not to look as if she was. She knew that was impossible when she was sharing a horse with a man who was telepathic.

“So,” he said, just to make conversation. “You’re my daughter in law, in the distant future?”

Jackie laughed. “Yes. But… I’m also your mother in law. Your second wife is my daughter, Rose. You’ve met her, too.”

“Yes, I have. She’s… very suitable. But… no, I’d better not ask anything more. Except… I’m a grandfather? You and Christopher have a son.”

“He’s two and a half. And bright as anything. He’s…” She sighed. “He’s in that place, somewhere. And I miss him.”

“I know,” Chrístõ said. “I miss my little brother, too. My half brother. I was meant to be looking after him.”

“These people messed everyone up,” Jackie said. “Just for a game. It’s… stupid.”

“It’s supposed to be a huge game,” Chrístõ explained. “I’ve heard people talking about it all over the galaxy. But I never would have signed up for it. And if I did, I wouldn’t involve anyone else. When I get out of here, I’m going to make the organisers of this thing know the meaning of pain.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in unnecessary violence.”

“I don’t. But for somebody who kidnaps children just to play a stupid game, I’ll make an exception.”

“Good.” Jackie relaxed. She wasn’t going to fall off the horse. She was safe with a man she trusted as much as she trusted her own husband. And she knew her child would be safe, too, just as soon as they reached the citadel.

Rose and The Doctor clung to each other as they balanced on the back of the dragon. It wasn’t that either of them were scared, exactly. But they were riding on a dragon. It was something neither of them had experienced before. And that was a unique event. Because The Doctor had done most things before.

“Is it a robot dragon?” Rose asked. “Everything else here, was.”

“Yes, it is,” Davie said. “It swooped down on us. But Spenser hit it with a club. Then we reprogrammed it to obey our commands. We were heading for the Citadel to put an end to this nonsense once and for all when we saw you in trouble down below.”

“I am really getting old,” The Doctor sighed. “When my offspring have to come in at the last minute and save me.”

“Could have been the other way around,” Davie answered him. “This damn game is stacked against us all. You wouldn’t believe what we had to fight off before the dragon turned up. Things with tentacles and more teeth than any organic being has a right to have. That’s when Spenser’s hitherto unknown skill with heavy lumps of seasoned wood came to the fore.”

“Makes me feel almost sentimental for the orcs and the wolves,” The Doctor commented. “Have you given any thought to what we’re going to do when we reach the Citadel? I don’t think we’re going to launch an airborne assault.”

“Don’t see why not,” Davie responded. “You’ve got some rope there.”

Christopher clung tightly to his mother. She didn’t seem to mind, even when he actually leant his head on her shoulder.

“Where did you learn to ride? Not on Gallifrey, surely. We don’t have horses there.”

“Ventura IV,” she answered. “Chrístõ’s uncle is the vice-consul there. They’re nuts about horses there. I learnt on a long weekend visit. I’ve never ridden quite so MUCH as I have today, though. Or so fast. Chrístõ is desperate to get to that place, to get to his brother.”

“I can understand that,” Christopher said. “My son is there, too. They took him.”

“Your son?” She didn’t say anything more, but there was something in the way she almost breathed those words, and the soft sigh that followed it that made Christopher wonder if she knew who he was after all. Was it possible for a woman to know, even before she was married, that the man who was clinging so tightly to her right now would one day be the son she loved and cherished? Was DNA strong enough to send messages of its own?

“How are we going to get into this citadel when we get there?” asked the young man who accompanied his future mother and father. “We can’t just ride up to the gates, surely?”

“Don’t see why not?” Chrístõ replied. “After all, they’re expecting us.”

The idea seemed ludicrous. Abseiling down a rope from a flying dragon onto the battlements of a castle keep. But that was what they intended to do. There was a minor dispute about whether Rose should do it, but she put paid to that quickly.

“Remember the barrage balloon, London Blitz,” she said to her husband. “Same principle, but no Messerschmitts. And, yes, I know I’m wearing a stupid dress for doing it in. But any orc who tries to look where he’s not entitled will get it just as soon as I’m down. Besides, what else am I supposed to do? Look for a parking space for a dragon and catch you up in the shopping mall?”

“Ok, get ready,” The Doctor decided. You and Spenser first. He can bring his club. Then I’ll follow and Davie can sort out the dragon before he joins us.”

It worked better than it had a right to work. If any Orc had been watching at the time it certainly would have been startled by the way Rose’s dress billowed around her legs, but she descended the rope expertly. The barrage balloon wasn’t the first or the last rope she had climbed down in her colourful life. All the same she was glad to touch the stone-flagged surface and let go of the rope. She grasped her knife immediately and adopted a defensive stance that The Doctor always called the ‘Leela pounce’ for reasons he never properly explained. Spenser grasped his club defensively, too. They turned cautiously and looked at the short, squat humanoids in helmets and chainmail that guarded the battlements. None of them were taking any notice at all of them, though. Spenser raised his club as one seemed to approach, but it walked right on past him. As The Doctor joined them with his battle axe, he, too was puzzled.

“It’s the wristlets,” Davie explained as he landed neatly and then pulled the rope free from the dragon’s silver harness. He whistled sharply and the creature gave a soft growling response and then beat its wings and flew away. “I’ll miss her. It’s not every day I get to fly a dragon. Anyway, yes, the wristlets. They’re the reason things kept popping up to attack us. They’re all programmed to attack the wristlets, and anyone within range of them. Without them, I don’t think they even realise we’re here.”

“Good, then we don’t have to fight our way through the citadel. Where do you think they’re holding my son?”

“No idea. Traditionally it should be the tallest tower or the deepest dungeon, I suppose.”

“This is the tallest tower,” Rose pointed out. “So if we don’t find him here, we’ll have to head for the dungeon?”

“Ok, let’s get on with it.”

The party on horseback approached the huge citadel gate cautiously, expecting soldiers or guards of some sort to come pouring out of it at any moment. They were surprised to find the drawbridge down and the portcullis up and the humanoid guards oblivious to them.

“I expected a fight at this point,” Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow admitted as he dismounted from his horse and lifted Jackie down from it before taking the lead across the drawbridge. He glanced back and saw his ‘squire’, bringing up the rear cautiously, while Christopher walked between Jackie and Julia. He was holding both their hands and seemed oblivious of anything else. He could understand his feelings, perfectly well. But he had to break up the intimacy,

“This has all the makings of a trap,” he said “Be ready for an ambush. Christopher, you need to keep your weapon at hand. You two, as well. This is no time or place for women. I’d have rather kept both of you out of it if I could. But since this wasn’t my choice and I don’t know where else would be safe, just be ready, both of you.”

Christopher reluctantly let go of his wife’s hand, and even more reluctantly his future mother’s. He took hold of his axe while Jackie nervously held the knife he had given her and Julia wielded a short but very sharp butterfly sword.

But there didn’t seem to be any sign of a trap as they stepped into the castle yard. The guards, tall, slender human looking men and a squat, hairy version that probably qualified as dwarfs continued as if they weren’t there.

“The wristlets, of course,” he said aloud. “I get it.”

“So there’s nothing to stop us getting to my son?” Christopher asked. “Except working out where he is?” He looked around. It was a big castle with three smaller towers as well as the great Keep. It could take hours.

“I know how you feel,” Chrístõ told him. “Garrick is nervous enough around strangers. If I don’t reach him, this could set him back months.”

Christopher remembered his uncle as a very intelligent man who had already served a term as Chancellor of the High Council by the time he was three hundred and fifty. He was nervous about nothing, and nobody. It was strange to think of him as a frightened child who could be traumatised by this misadventure.

“How old is he, now?” Christopher asked.

“He’s four, going on five,” Chrístõ answered.

“So his telepathic skills are developed? My Garrick is still a little young. I can’t reach him mentally unless I’m in the same room with him. But…”

“We can try,” Chrístõ said. “I don’t think he’ll be able to tell us much about where he is, but at least we can get a general direction.”

The Doctor and Davie led the way down the winding stone stairs of the keep, followed by Rose, with Spenser as the rearguard. They checked every room and found Human looking androids at various activities, but none of them holding children or young women hostage. None of the androids challenged them or even acknowledged their existence.

They were near the ground floor when both of them stopped and looked at each other in surprise.

“It felt like…” Davie said. “A telepathic mind reaching out. But it was so familiar… I’ve known it nearly all my life… except…”

“I thought it was you,” The Doctor replied. “It felt like you… young, not quite sure you know EVERYTHING about everything, but confident of yourself…”

“It came from the courtyard, whoever it was,” Davie pointed out. “I think we should…”

“I can’t reach him,” Chrístõ sighed. “There’s somebody else near here… somebody else’s telepathic mind is interfering. I can’t get….”

“Rose!” Jackie’s yell interfered just as effectively with his ordinary hearing. He turned to see Jackie running across the courtyard to meet the crowd who ran out of the Keep.

“Rassilon be praised!” Christopher murmured with relief. He ran, too, and hugged his father emotionally before the two parties merged. The Doctor looked at the younger version of himself who bowed his head respectfully to him. He looked at Julia, the woman he remembered every day of his life as his first wife, mother of his eldest son. Christopher was looking at her, too. But The Doctor shook his head.

“I know how you feel. But we have other things to think about right now. Your son, and mine, are missing. And…” He looked at Julia. “Who did they take from you?”

“Chrístõ’s little brother,” she answered. “Garrick. He was trying to contact him telepathically. But something was stopping him.”

“It was us,” Davie said. “We were feeling his mind reaching out. We should try again. There are four of us now, all with the same DNA, the same bloodline. It should be possible to focus on the child.”

“That’s smart,” Chrístõ replied. “You’re… one of my descendents?”

“It’s probably better you don’t know,” Davie answered. “We don’t have a family tree, it’s more like a mangrove swamp. Let’s concentrate on finding your brother. And hope that my fiancée is with him. She’s nuts about babies. She’ll probably have organised a crèche by now.”

They stood together. The Doctor and his younger self faced each other. Davie, his great-grandson and Christopher, his first born son, formed a square between them. They touched hands and concentrated, their minds meeting before they reached out, searching for another mind that they shared DNA with.

“Yes,” The Doctor whispered. “Yes. I can see… through his eyes. He’s in a room… it’s circular. The walls are covered in tapestries. There’s only one small window, very high up. He can’t see out. But the sun is setting through it. That means….” He turned around. The sun was going down towards what he presumed was the west. There was one round tower facing west.

“Is our son with him?” Jackie asked. “Doctor… is he…”

“What about Peter?” Rose added.

“Come on.” The Doctor began to run towards the west tower. The others looked at each other then ran after him. At the door a group of the tall, thin soldiers stood. He pushed them aside. They fell like skittles as he continued to run up a narrow, winding staircase. The stairs continued up and up, winding around and around, with no doors at all until he reached what had to be the very top. He heard the sure-footed steps of the other men running behind him, the lighter steps of Rose and Julia behind them and the rather less sure-footed and out of breath sound of Jackie calling for them all to slow down. But The Doctor didn’t want to slow down. He wanted to get to the children.

“I can hear them,” he said as Christopher caught up with him. “I can hear Peter crying.”

“No,” Christopher said. “It’s my son. I know his cry.”

“It’s a child, crying, in a strange place,” Davie pointed out. “Even if it’s the scullery maid’s baby, we should help it.”

They ran together. Four men, three women trying to catch up with them as the stairs ended in a small landing and a firmly locked door.

“Damn,” murmured Chrístõ. “I need my sonic screwdriver.”

“Nuts to the sonic screwdriver,” The Doctor said and then took a pace back before a flying kick at the door. It’s hinges strained. He kicked it again firmly and it gave a little.

“Ok, that could work,” Davie said. “Let me give it a try.”

“No, I can handle this,” The Doctor answered. “You’re the new blood around here, but I’m not completely decrepit, yet.” He leapt at the door again and a final kick in the centre of the wood was accompanied by a splintering sound. He shouldered it and the door gave way with a thunderous crash. That was accompanied by the combined cries of several babies and a complaining voice.

“Keep the noise down, will you. We’d just got them all off to sleep.”

The Doctor strode over the damaged door into the tapestry hung room. He saw two women – one of them was Brenda, Davie’s most precious possession, according to the rules of the Quest of Kaitos. She was holding Peter in her arms. The Doctor stepped towards her but was beaten by Rose, who flew past him, grabbed her first born son and began hugging him as if hugs were going out of business. Davie did much the same with Brenda. Christopher and Jackie were neck and neck reaching the cot where their own child was lying. The Doctor stepped towards the other cot, where an older child, four going on five, with the same dark hair and brown eyes as his son and grandson, demanded attention both out loud and telepathically. He reached out to touch the child’s pale cheek but he was snatched away by his younger self who sobbed breathlessly and knelt on the floor hugging the child and promising never to let him out of his sight again.

The Doctor looked at them both and wished fervently he had been able to keep that promise. When Garrick was a little boy he had loved him dearly, and the love had been given back tenfold. Later, things became more complicated. A rift had grown between them and they never managed to close it.

“Excuse me.” The other woman who had been a prisoner in the room spoke with a loud, indignant tone. The Doctor realised that she had spoken twice already and he hadn’t responded to her. He looked at her now. She was in her mid thirties, red haired, wearing a long, medieval dress that made her look like a buxom Lady of Shallot. She was holding another baby, this one only a few months old. He had an idea it wasn’t her own child. She was holding it carefully, but not with quite the same motherly instinct that Rose or Jackie, or even Julia in her time, all had.

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s a bit of an emotional time for us all. I’m The Doctor, and I’m…”

“The Doctor?” She looked at him with a puzzled expression. “Oh… right… you’re… another one of him.”

“Er…” The Doctor was disconcerted. “Oh… you mean… you’re with The Doctor?”

“I’m Donna,” she said. “Donna Noble and… if you don’t know me, then you must be an earlier version. The one I should be with… he’s skinny, doesn’t know what an iron is for... wears glasses to look brainy…”

“I know him,” The Doctor assured him. “You mean he’s here, too…. Er… that’s not HIS child is it?”

“I don’t know who this one is. He needs changing. We’ve been here for hours. They brought food and drink and baby milk, but they’ve obviously never heard of nappies around here.”

The Doctor wasn’t sure what to reply to that. Then he heard the sound of more running feet on the stairs. He grasped his battle axe just in case, but he wasn’t entirely surprised when Donna’s version of The Doctor, the one called Ten when there were more than one of them in the room, ran through the door, followed by Trudi and Tristie, another generation to add to the impromptu and not entirely appropriate family reunion going on. The mystery of the extra baby was fully explained when Trudi grabbed him from Donna’s unprotesting arms and Tristie hugged them both. Ten put his arms around Donna and told her he was sorry he took so long.

Another man stepped into the room. He was in his mid-thirties and looked surprised to find so many people there.

“Hello,” The Doctor said to him. “I don’t think I know you. Who are you with?”

“Him,” the man replied, pointing to Ten. “I’m Ben… I’m… I’m with him.”

“Another faithful squire?” He glanced momentarily at Spenser, who was trying not to look upset that Davie was still hugging Brenda. He was just a little bit relieved when Ben went up to his Doctor and prized Donna from him before hugging her fondly.

“Hey!” The Doctor put his fingers to his mouth and whistled to attract everyone’s attention. “I’m sorry to break up the party, but we’re not home and dry yet. We’re still in a castle, remember. And I have no idea where any of our TARDISes are.”

“There must be five of them here, somewhere,” Davie said as he mentally worked out the original groups who had started this game.”

“Three of them are the same TARDIS at different times in our life,” Ten added as he glanced at his much younger. “That’s got to be playing hell with the dampening fields around this place.”

“What makes you think there are dampening fields?” Chrístõ asked.

“Because none of us can sense where our TARDISes are,” he answered. “We’re cut off from the real world. It’s got to be a dampener of some sort.”

“If we can break it, my TARDIS has a new remote function I’ve been trying out,” Davie said. “I can get us all out of here.”

“Good lad,” Ten said. “But first things, first.” He looked around the room, making a low sucking sound like a reverse sigh through his teeth. “Think, think, think. How can we break the dampeners? Donna, did you notice any computer panels or anything like that while you were here?”

“I was too busy looking after damp babies to worry about dampeners of anything else,” she answered. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been stuck here? We were told some stuff about being in a game… we’re supposed to be the precious treasures our gallant knights were questing for. I thought it sounded like something out of Harry Potter, but Brenda… that’s Brenda over there… she didn’t know what that meant and… No, I haven’t seen anything.”

“I think we should all get out of here,” Jackie suggested. “We can’t stay here.”

“We can’t go tramping back over the plain to nowhere,” Rose pointed out. “It’s getting dark and the children couldn’t make that journey even if it wasn’t. And even if we did, that plain doesn’t go anywhere. We still wouldn’t find the TARDISes and…”

She stopped speaking as Julia let out a frightened scream. Everyone turned as a man stepped in through the broken door. He was dressed something like the wicked sorcerer from Aladdin and he seemed inordinately pleased to see all the faces that stared at him. He didn’t even seem concerned when an assortment of weapons were turned on him.

“My friends,” he said. “This is wonderful. There have never been so many winners of the Quest of Kaitos. I knew I was right to invite men of your obvious talents to play.”

“Invite?” The word was chorused by each and every one of the men as they closed in as one upon the grand vizier type. All of them were declared men of peace, but right now that pacifism was being sorely tested as they faced the one who was, apparently, responsible for the ordeal they had all gone through.

“We were not invited,” The Doctor said to him. “We were kidnapped, drugged, or knocked out by some kind of neural inhibitor. Our children were stolen… and we were forced to ‘play’ a ‘game’ that could have killed one or more of us. And we still don’t even know WHY!”

“Why?” the grand vizier laughed softly. “Why? To amuse me, of course. I am so bored, living here, in my exile, in this universe of fleeting ephemerals. I needed amusement.”

“Amusement!” the word echoed around the room, repeated with indignation by almost every one of the adults.

“Christopher nearly died,” Jackie protested. “We were all worried sick about the children. And you call that amusement?”

“Ephemerals?” The Doctor and Ten both picked up on a different word to echo.

“Wait a minute,” Ten said. “I’ve heard that expression used before.”

“He’s one of those!” The Doctor groaned. “An Eternal… a being who exists outside of time for all of eternity.”

“What?” Chrístõ looked at his older selves. “That’s not possible. We’re the only race who can control time.”

“Eternals don’t control it,” The Doctor answered him. “They live outside of it. They live outside of what we think of as the universe, in the void of no time and no reality. And they get bored. It’s like every day of your life is a wet Saturday afternoon, and it goes on forever. So they play games, and they use what they call ‘Ephemerals’ – that is ordinary beings with a finite life – as their playing pieces. Yes, Christopher could have died. But it would have meant nothing to him except an interesting variation in the game. I wonder how many mere humans got used this way and were cut down by the orcs or the tentacle beasts or the guards at the gates of the citadel. What happened to their loved ones?”

The Eternal didn’t answer him. The Doctor looked at him in disgust and raised his battle axe.

“I should kill you,” he said. “You can’t die, of course. It would just be an amusing interlude. But I should kill you, anyway.”

“No,” Rose begged him. “No, Doctor. Don’t. He’s not worth it. Let’s just… just go. We can go, can’t we? We’ve completed the game. We ‘won’, he said. “We can get back to our TARDISes.”

“Your travel capsules are right here,” the Eternal said. “I will not prevent your departure.” He snapped his fingers and the tapestries fell from the walls around them revealing alcoves. Two alcoves contained police boxes. One contained a Chinese cabinet, one a Doric pillar and the other a default grey cabinets with the Greek letters Theta Sigma in interlocking script on it.

“They weren’t there before,” Donna protested. “We searched for a way out. There were nothing but blank walls there.”

“Not your fault, Donna,” Ten assured her. “He messed with us all. But it’s over now.”

“Not quite,” Jackie said. She put her son into Christopher’s arms and stepped forward much faster than anyone expected. The Eternal certainly didn’t expect a Human woman, one of the Ephemerals he had so little regard for, to floor him with a punch in the jaw. “Touch my son again and you’ll get what’s coming to you.”

The Doctor rubbed his jaw in remembrance of feeling the power of Jackie’s arm himself. Then he blinked as the Eternal, lying on the floor, groaning, suddenly faded away.

“What’s going on?” Christopher asked. “Is this some kind of trick?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor answered. “I think….”

As suddenly as the Eternal had disappeared, two men dressed in similar fashion appeared before them. They nodded in a barely courteous way before one of them spoke.

“We apologise for the distress caused by the Eternal known as Malik. His renegade behaviour has been noted and measures have been taken. He will not be allowed to interfere with the lives of Ephemerals again.”

The Doctor and Christopher both opened their mouths to speak. So did Ten. But the two disappeared.

“Well, that’s that,” Ten said. “Time we were on our way.” He took hold of Donna’s arm. Ben came to his side, dutifully. He glanced around at the rest of the company. “I wish we could all spend a bit longer together. But if we don’t all go our separate ways, soon, we’re going to cause a paradox that will shake that lot right out of eternity. So... I’ll see you all around.”

Ten turned away and headed to the first of the blue police boxes. He tried his key in the door and then stepped back, looking a little sheepish about picking the wrong one. He made up for that embarrassment by standing in front of his own TARDIS and snapping his fingers. The door opened and Donna and Ben stepped inside first. He turned once on the threshold and looked again at his other selves and their friends and family before he turned and closed the door. His TARDIS dematerialised noisily.

“We’re going, too,” Tristie said, putting his arm around his wife as she clung tightly to their child. “Davie, I guess me as a husband and father is a bit of a surprise to you.”

“It had to happen,” Davie answered him. “Trudi was always going to get her man. Good luck to you.” He reached out both of his hands and took hold of Brenda and Spenser together as he headed for his own TARDIS. Chrístõ looked on curiously and glanced at his own two companions.

“Just for the record,” he said. “Cal is a good friend, and nothing more.” He held his half brother in his arms as he nodded to his older self. “It’s been interesting… but… we’d better get out of here, too. The other one was right about the paradox. This is dangerous.”

“Just a minute,” Julia said to him. She embraced Christopher and kissed him on the cheek. “This hasn’t been the best day of my life, but it was almost worth it to see you, Christopher. My Time Lord son with a Human name.”

“Mama,” Christopher said in response. He looked about forty-five in Human years. She couldn’t have been much older than sixteen or seventeen, yet. It shouldn’t have been possible for them to meet like this. But he was glad they had. For him, too, that had been almost worth the trauma they had all gone through.

“But it’s dangerous,” The Doctor said to him. “Say goodbye now, Christopher. They really do have to go.”

Julia kissed his cheek again. Christopher kissed her in return, then he let her go. The Doctor walked with them to their TARDIS.

“You know, one thing puzzled me ever since we all met up in the courtyard. Why didn’t I remember this happening the first time around. Some of it must be that bloody eternal. He messed with our heads and made us forget everything at first. I didn’t even remember that my son and daughter in law and their son were with us. It took me a while even to remember my other son was missing. I definitely didn’t remember doing this once already. And there can only be one reason for that. You must have had your memory modified. And… I suppose I’ve got to do it.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ nodded. “Yes, you’re right.” He let his older, wiser incarnation touch his forehead and he felt his memories of what had happened since they arrived in the Baten Kaitos system dulled. If he concentrated, he knew it had all happened. He could probably recall the details if he tried hard. But he knew he wouldn’t concentrate. He wouldn’t try to recall anything. He would go on to his next destination and never think about this day.

“Julia,” The Doctor said as he left his younger self leaning against his TARDIS door, looking very slightly dazed from having his most recent memories modified. “You, too, sweetheart. It’s even more important for you to forget…”

“Oh, no,” she protested. “Don’t… I want to remember him… it was so wonderful being able to touch him… my own child…”

“No,” The Doctor insisted. “He’s not your son, yet. That’s all a long way in the future yet. And when he’s born, I want you to love him, enjoy him as your baby boy, without thinking about his future.”

He put his hand on her forehead and did the same. She sighed softly and swayed a little. The Doctor steadied her and put her hand into Chrístõ’s. The two of them stepped into the TARDIS, still a little dazed, but unhurt.

“Cal,” The Doctor said. “You remember for them both. Keep an eye on them for an hour or two. You’d better do the piloting for a bit.”

“Yes, sir,” Cal replied. “Goodbye.”

The Doctor stepped back as the default TARDIS dematerialised. Then he turned back to his own family, his wife and their son, his first born son and his wife and their own son.

“Come on,” he said to them. “Let’s go home.”