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

Davie turned away from the videophone and sighed softly. Brenda looked at him in surprise.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I just got Spenser’s ‘away’ message on the videophone.”

“Well… he’s away.”

“He’s spending the night at the Ship Inn with Stuart,” Davie explained.

Brenda looked at her fiancé and smiled ironically. So many times when she had wanted to talk to him, he was with Spenser, and she had suppressed the jealous feelings that rose up in her, knowing that it would do no good to make a fuss.

“That’s ok, isn’t it? After all, Spenser is… and Stuart… they sound like they make a good couple. Why not?”

“Why not, indeed?” Davie answered. “I’m pleased for them. It’s just…”

“He’s still your friend. You and him are still going to travel in the TARDIS together. And you’re still going to race your cars with him. You’ll always be friends. And that’s all you were meant to be, after all.”

Davie knew that. But seeing Spenser’s relationship with Stuart develop had been a wrench for him. He knew, because he had seen that vision so strongly when he was at the Marriage Portal, that in the far future he and Spenser would be together. But that was another life. In this life, right now, he was getting ready to marry Brenda, and Spenser was finally having a chance for his own personal happiness. And he had to get used to it.

“I’m glad to have you back with me,” he said turning to his fiancée. “I’ve missed you while you were away.”

“I’ve missed you,” Brenda told him as she let him kiss her fondly. “But I did have a nice time with my family. I’m glad we’ll be able to visit them when we’re married. I remember when I was at school on Earth, and I was cut off from home for nearly a year. I was so unhappy. But now I have my own Time Lord with his TARDIS and it only takes four hours to get back to Tibora.”

“As long as you don’t want to go back just yet,” Davie told her. “The weather is absolutely filthy on Earth, but I was thinking, since I haven’t seen you for weeks, and I have missed you a lot, I might take you to a nice country hotel. The sort where they have big open fires in the day lounge and we can drink liqueur coffee and I promise I won’t fall asleep while you’re telling me about the sort of kitchen cupboards you want in the apartment.”

“And I won’t fall asleep when you’re talking about your next experiment with renewable energy,” Brenda promised.

“There you go, then. We’re a perfect couple. We understand each other completely.”

He went to kiss her again, but was cut off by a loud and insistent signal from the communications console. He was there in a moment to check it. He groaned softly as he opened the channel to receive the incoming message.

“It’s an SOS,” he said. “We’ll have to postpone the weekend in the country.”

“Goes without saying,” Brenda answered. “What’s the emergency?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve just got a co-ordinate at the moment. Trying to find out more.”

Brenda came to his side, her hand on his shoulder as she watched Davie’s hands running across the keyboard, trying to boost the signal. On screen a grey, snow-distorted image was trying to come through. It looked like a man sitting in a pilot seat of a ship.

“This is the Captain of the Starship Dan Abnett. Engines are… Containment field decaying fast. I have ordered all passengers to emergency shuttles, but there is little time. We’re going to….”

The message faded out. Davie tried to get it back, but there was nothing.

“SS Dan Abnett…” Brenda repeated. “That’s….”

“It’s an Earth ship,” Davie said as he moved to the navigation console and began to key in the co-ordinate from the emergency message. “From the late 24th century. They had a sort of custom in naming ships. Hospital ships were named for famous medical women. Military ships were named after great battles of Earth history. Freighters were named for port cities. And passenger ships were named after science fiction writers.”

“So it’s a passenger ship, with civilians aboard?”

“Thousands of them. It will be one of the colony ships, taking people out from Earth to new lives on new planets. I only hope they got everyone aboard the shuttles… and that there was somewhere… a planet they could land on.”

“You think the signal was lost because the ship…”

Davie didn’t have to answer. His expression said it all. He swore a curse under his breath that he had learnt from Spenser. It was considered very rude in the 17th century but had lost its meaning by the twenty-third century.

“So we go looking for survivors?”

“Yes. No question about that. Intergalactic law. Have to answer a distress signal. Hold on tight. We’re going to drop out of the vortex any moment now.”

Brenda gripped one of the console handholds as the TARDIS descended from the vortex into normal space. Davie put his arm around her shoulders and held her tightly. Words like ‘drop out’ and ‘descended’ were appropriate. The sensation was like being in a lift in free fall, but without the bone-shattering crunch at the end of it. Davie checked the environmental console and uttered a swear word similar to the seventeenth century one except that its meaning was perfectly clear in any time period.

“We’re too late.”

They were in an asteroid belt. Chunks of rock from the size of a fist to a small moon moved in the elliptic orbit of a former planet long destroyed by some unknown cataclysm. And in amongst the rocks were smaller pieces of twisted metal that came from something man made – a ship that had exploded when its fission engines went critical.

“We’re FAR too late,” he added. “This debris… it’s been here for months. We came out of the vortex long after the ship exploded.”

“How come?” Brenda asked.

“I’m not sure.” Davie moved around to the communications panel intending to try a trace on the last communication. Before he could do so, the screen flickered to life again and the same distorted image repeated its message before being cut short again.

“Oh, I see. I know what’s happened. There’s an automatic SOS beacon carrying the last message from the pilot. He must have been trying to set it when the ship exploded. The beacon is solid state, like the old flight recorders from aeroplanes. Virtually indestructible… and it kept sending the same message long after it was too late. We picked up the repeated signal.”

“So we’re too late to help anyone?”

“On the ship, yes. But there might be survivors. Those who made it to the shuttles - there’s a planet beyond this asteroid belt. They might have made it there.”

“All right, let’s check out the planet,” Brenda replied without hesitation. Davie smiled at her. She liked travelling in the TARDIS when it went from Earth to Tibora and back again, or to somewhere interesting and romantic. She didn’t share his thirst for adventure. That was why she fully expected him to carry on exploring the galaxy with Spenser even after they were married.

But having been plunged into this adventure, knowing that there were lives that might be saved, she was ready and willing to lend her hand to whatever had to be done. She actually took up position at the environmental console and ran a lifesigns sweep of the planet.

“Oh dear,” she concluded. “If they did land here… then I don’t know what happened to them since. You said thousands. But I’m only picking up a few hundred in small groups around this part of the planet.” She pointed to a land mass something like the size of Australia. It was the largest such land mass. The rest of the planet was ocean dotted with groups of islands, some as large as Britain, others more like the Hawaiian islands of Earth. It was completely uninhabited, which seemed a pity to Brenda.

“Have you examined the oceans?” Davie reminded her. “Perhaps this is a planet where the indigenous population are water dwelling, like our Aquarian friends.”

“No, I tried that,” she answered. “The only lifesigns of any sort are there. And it doesn’t seem to be enough people unless a lot of them didn’t make it to the planet. And that’s…”

She was upset by the thought of so many people dying in the attempt to find sanctuary after escaping from the stricken ship. Davie reached out his hand to her. She came to his side.

“It’s good that you care,” he told her. “You should care. But if that’s what happened, there is nothing we can do. Our job is to find the survivors, however many there might be. I’ll set the landing co-ordinates and go get the portable medical kit. You go to the storeroom by the kitchen. Collect emergency vitamin c packs and energy bars. As many as you can fit into a couple of backpacks.” He glanced at the environmental readings for the area they were landing on. It was a sub-tropical climate. “Cool, loose clothing and a sunhat, sensible shoes,” he added.

He didn’t change. He left off his leather jacket and unfastened another button of his black cotton shirt and that was his only concession to climate. Brenda returned with the backpacks as well as water canteens for them both. She had dressed in a cotton blouse and culottes with a wide brimmed hat and sandals. She shouldered a backpack while he took the other and the medical box on a strap slung over his shoulder.

They stepped out onto what looked like paradise. Brenda gasped as she took in the wide golden-white beach and the blue sea that lapped it. Beyond the high tide mark was a dark line of palm trees that were obviously part of a deep copse, possibly even a forest that went inland.

“There’s a lovely smell from somewhere,” she said. “Like… warm sugar.”

“Yes,” Davie agreed. “But don’t get complacent. Remember this is the place where there aren’t as many survivors as there ought to be. Maybe there are carnivorous animals. Stick close to me. Let’s get onto the firmer sand where we can run if we have to.”

He consulted a hand held lifesigns monitor and the two of them walked beside the treeline towards the source of the Human lifesigns. All kinds of animal life registered on the monitor within the trees, but nothing that might be dangerous. They saw brightly coloured birds and something like a lemur swinging in the branches. A creature in the same evolutionary line as a tortoise, but with a leathery carapace like an old fashioned football, lumbered away from them. Brenda looked at the trees and noticed that they bore fruits of some kind.

“If those are edible, then we probably didn’t need to bring the vitamin packs,” she said. “They’ll be all right for that sort of thing.” She reached up to a lower branch and picked a fruit that looked like a cross between a plum and a peach. Davie took it from her and examined it carefully, then took a small bite and tested it. He gave it her back saying it was very sweet and nutritious and she was probably right about the vitamin packs. It also explained the smell of warm sugar. They saw fruits that had become overripe and burst open. The sun had ‘cooked’ the sugars so that they turned into a sort of natural toffee while still hanging on the tree. Most of those ‘cooked’ fruits were quickly covered by a humming insect that was probably the equivalent of a honey bee on this planet, but Davie plucked a couple of fresh ones. They ate the ‘toffee’ as they walked.

Where the bay curved around there was a natural break in the trees. The ground there had been worn into a path. The lifesigns monitor confirmed that it was the right way to go. Brenda walked beside Davie, aware that they now had trees on both sides, but still seeing nothing that might harm them.

The path widened out into a natural clearing surrounded by dense trees and within it were dozens of small dwellings built from the obvious natural resource – trees. The roofs were palm leaves woven together. The walls were matted bark fibres.

The dwellings were clearly only for sleeping in at night. The occupants of this village lived their daily lives in the open air. Brenda and Davie took advantage of the fact that they hadn’t been noticed yet to observe various activities including cooking over a fire, matted bark wall making, a primitive kind of weaving with rough yarn, a hedge school in session with children learning to count using the stones from the inside of the toffee fruits as educational aids, and a crèche with a dozen small babies being looked after. The villagers were all dressed in clothes made from the rough yarn being woven. The females had dresses that were basically two rectangles sewn together with head and arm holes and a long thin piece made into a tie belt. The males had shirts of the same design and rough knee length shorts. Both male and females adorned themselves with necklaces and bracelets made by threading small seashells onto a piece of yarn.

“Now that is odd,” Davie noted as he turned from looking at the crèche to observing the rest of the villagers. “Very odd, indeed.”

He didn’t have chance to think about it any further, because one of the weavers looked around and spotted them and shouted out. At once all activity stopped. Davie held Brenda’s hand and stepped forward slowly.

“Don’t be scared,” he said. “We’ve come to help you. Where are the adults?”

Every single one of the villagers at their various tasks was under the age of sixteen.

None of the older children moved, but two youngsters, perhaps aged four or five, left their play and approached. They reached out tentative hands towards them. Brenda was the first to reach back. They seemed thrilled to be touched by her. Davie was surprised when another small child slipped a hand into his. He reached and lifted the child into his arms. It was a boy, healthy looking, though a little grubby from playing on the sandy ground. He seemed fascinated by Davie’s face, his hands touching him as if to find out if he was real.

“They’re not scared of us,” Brenda noted as she bent to let three youngsters at once touch her face and shoulders and decide that she was flesh and blood. “They seem fascinated.”

“They were born here,” said one of the older girls who now approached and told the little ones to give them room. “They have never seen anyone as old as you.”

“Old?” Davie looked at Brenda. They both thought of themselves as young. Davie was often reminded, by himself and by others, that he was a mere child by Gallifreyan standards. Even by Human standards, twenty-two was hardly old age.

Did he really look so very much older to these youngsters?

And, besides, where WERE the adults. And if these little ones were born here…

There were some questions to be answered. A lot of questions. But it would be easier to get them if he took things slowly.

“I’m Davie,” he said to the girl. “This is Brenda.”

“I am Fionnghuala,” said the girl. “It is almost time for our meal. Will you join us?”

He said yes. If he was going to find out what was happening here, then sitting and eating, talking with the youngsters was the best way. He held Brenda’s arm as they were escorted to a place of honour on a fibre mat. The rest of the children, there seemed to be about sixty or more of them not including the small babies, gathered in two roughly concentric circles. A boy the same age and height as Fionnghuala led them in what passed for a blessing on the meal – they all joined hands and bowed their heads for several seconds. Then the food was distributed. It consisted of boiled meat and something with the consistency and taste of semolina. It was tasty and Davie thought there was probably more than enough protein and carbohydrates in the meat and pulses to sustain them. There were baskets of fruit to provide vitamins. And there was more than enough for everyone. Davie opened the packs they brought with them and handed around the energy bars and vitamin c packs as his contribution to the feast. They were appreciated as a change of taste and texture, but he could see by looking at them that none of the children lacked nutrition.

When the older children had eaten their fill they brought the babies and fed them with what Davie thought was a thin gruel of the same semolina-like substance.

“Can I help?” Brenda asked enthusiastically. Her face was a picture as she was handed one of the babies and the bowl and spoon. Davie smiled indulgently. Brenda’s chief ambition in life was to be a full time mother. This was her idea of heaven, cuddling a chubby, healthy baby while she fed it.

Davie was slightly surprised when another of the babies was placed in his arms. The older boys were all helping with the feeding as well as the girls. Obviously there were no gender defined roles in this community.

Besides, he was rather taken with the pair of green eyes that looked up at him as he spoon fed the baby. He couldn’t help feeling a certain kind of satisfaction about the task. And when the bowl was empty he put the tiny little body against his shoulder and winded him gently. Brenda watched him admiringly.

“How did you learn to do that?” she asked. “It doesn’t go with the martial arts and running around blowing up Sontarans and neutralising Dominator clone armies.”

“No, it doesn’t,” he answered. “There’s more to me than being a warrior.” Then he frowned. “Actually, I don’t know where I learnt to do this. But it feels right. Holding a baby. I think I’m going to like being a dad when it’s our time.”

“Maybe you’ll spend less time fighting alien hordes and stay home with me?” Brenda suggested.

“Not sure about that. But when I am home… it’ll be worth it.” He looked at his fiancée and caught the look in her eye. “No,” he told her. “We can’t take these babies home with us. They belong to somebody here.”

“WHO?” Brenda asked the question telepathically. It was a pertinent one. “Davie, I only see three girls here who could possibly be old enough to give birth. And there are a dozen babies here.”

“None of these girls are old enough to give birth by Earth standards,” Davie pointed out. “I suppose… stranded here, not knowing if they would ever leave… no adults around…”

Of course when he said that the girls weren’t old enough to give birth, he meant that on Earth, in his time, they weren’t legally old enough. But that was an artificial restraint imposed by law and custom. Of course they were physically old enough. But Brenda was right. There weren’t enough girls even so. And he remembered what Fionnghuala had said about the youngsters.

They were born here.

So who were THEIR parents?

“Who’s baby is this?” Davie asked. “Who is his mother?”

“Mother?” the elder boy, Fionn, looked at him curiously. “I remember… I had a mother… when we first came here. But… the babies are looked after by all of us. They don’t have mothers.”

“Of course they do,” Brenda answered. “Otherwise, where did they come from?”

“They… come from over there,” said Fionnghuala pointing vaguely towards the trees.

“What do you mean, they come from ‘over there’?” Davie remonstrated. “Babies don’t grow on trees.”

“They do here,” Fionn explained. “At least… we find them under the trees…. not all the time. Every so often.”

“But…” Brenda and Davie exchanged glances. Then very carefully Brenda unwrapped the baby she was holding from the handwoven blanket it was swaddled in. She examined the child carefully before wrapping him up again. Davie noted what she had done and did the same for the baby he was holding. And he understood at once why she had done it.

“All right…” he conceded. “Babies are found under trees around here. But… look… you ARE the survivors of the ship that blew up. You came from the SS Dan Abnett?”

Fionn and Fionnghuala looked at each other. The name of the ship formed on their lips. Around the assembled camp the name sussurrated.

“We… haven’t heard that name mentioned for a very long time,” Fionn said. “How do you know of it?”

“That doesn’t really matter,” Davie answered. “I know that the ship exploded. I know that most of the passengers escaped in shuttles. I know it wasn’t recent. I can tell by looking at you. There’s nothing left of your manufactured clothing. You’re all wearing homespun clothes, made from the natural resources. I’m not sure how you learnt to do that, or to build your houses or any of the things you’ve done. But you’ve been doing it for a while now, obviously.”

“We were ten,” Fionnghuala said. “It was our birthday before the ship was gone. I had a doll…” For a moment her eyes drifted from the present to a distant memory of a distant life.

“So, at least six years,” Davie surmised. “Earth years, anyway. The orbit of the sun here might be a little different, but not enough to matter. But then… what happened to the adults? The shuttles came down in different spots. That accounts for the scattered communities. But where are your parents? Why are there only children here?”

“The adults leave us,” Fionn said. “They go to the other place. They watch over us, still. We’re safe….”

“They are around us always,” Fionnghuala added. “Our parents and our older brother, Connor… and the others… Ger’s two brothers and his father… we feel their presence. But we never see them. We only know they’re in the other place…”

“They’re dead?”

“No,” Fionn insisted. “They’re in the other place.”

“I don’t understand,” Brenda said. Davie thought that was the understatement of the millennia. Nothing about this made sense. The babies defied all laws of biology, of physics, all logical thought. The absence of the adults, unless they were dead, made even less sense. Even if they were dead, how were they dead? How was it possible that nobody was alive on this planet over the age of sixteen?

Some possibilities occurred to him, of course. He could think of a half a dozen fictional dystopias where culling the population when they reached a given age was a way of maintaining some kind of social or political equilibrium. But there was no political system here. There was just a bunch of children.

“It will be our turn in a little while,” Fionn added. “We are the eldest. It will come to us. We will leave this place and go to the other place.”

“I will be sad to leave the little ones,” Fionnghuala said. “But it will be nice to be with the ones who went before.”

“I really don’t understand any of this,” Davie told them. “We came in answer to a six year old distress call. We thought there were people who needed to be rescued.”

The children looked at each other as if rescue was not a word in their vocabulary.

“Some of you came from Earth,” he reminded them. “Do you want to go back there? Or to the colony planet you were heading for?”

Fionnghuala shook her head. So did her brother.

“We would have to leave our families. They are here… in the other place. I don’t want to leave them. And… the little ones… they don’t belong on Earth. They belong here. They are part of this world… made from it.”

“But you live in…” Brenda looked around at the primitive huts, the camp fire, the rough clothes that they all wore.

“They live in Paradise,” Davie said. “They don’t need big houses, money, cars, jewellery, any of the things we value. They don’t have a use for technology. Look at them, they’re happy. They’re healthy. They have nothing to fear. They have each other for comfort and companionship. They have a tropical beach and a clean sea to swim in and play. They don’t need rescuing.”

“Paradise?” Fionn half smiled at the word. “We call it Bliss.”

“The planet? That’s what you call it?” Brenda asked. “Bliss…”

“Sounds about right,” Davie decided. “If I walk a few miles through the forest and find one of the other communities we spotted on our scanners, are they likely to tell me the same story you have?”

“We see the others sometimes,” Fionn said. “When we have games, or sometimes hunting for meat. They do not need… rescue… They are happy.”

“Ok, then. That’s all I need to know.” Davie stood and walked to the ‘crèche’ and laid the baby he had been looking after in a woven fibre cradle where it seemed perfectly content and unconcerned. Brenda did the same, though rather more reluctantly.

“We’re leaving?” she said to him.

“There’s no reason to stay. Our original purpose was a rescue mission – answering the distress call. There’s no distress here. Nobody to rescue. There’s something very peculiar about this planet, about these children, and especially these babies. But there’s nothing I can do about it. We’ll go now. I’ll put a report in the database. I’ll send a copy to the Earth authorities in the appropriate time, telling them to make this a restricted zone. I think it would be better if nobody else came near Bliss. Beyond that, there is nothing I can do.”

Brenda looked at the babies again and sighed.

“No,” Davie told her. “They belong here more than anyone else does. We’ll have our own babies in good time. In the natural way. Not…”

He, too, looked down at the crib where he had laid the green eyed baby he had held for a little while. He caressed the tiny cheek with one finger. There was something very unnatural about these children. But it wasn’t their fault. He hoped their world continued to be Bliss and that they would grow healthy and happy the way the older ones clearly were.

He took hold of Brenda’s hand and they walked away from the camp.

“Just keep on walking,” he said as Brenda looked back. “We really can’t do any good here. The sooner we get back to the TARDIS and carry on home to Earth, the better.”

“You’re right, of course,” she sighed. “And yet… I am worried about them. It just doesn’t seem right to just leave them. They’re all just children… Besides, you looked back, too. You’re just as worried.”

“Yes, I am,” he admitted. “But I still can’t do anything. And that’s the worst feeling of all. I... inherited the family business from The Doctor… Helping people, making their lives better, saving them from oppression… fighting for them… But there’s nothing to fight.”

They reached the long, beautiful beach and Davie slipped his arm around his fiancée’s shoulders. It ought to have been a pleasant walk, the two of them in the warmth of the sun and the slight breeze coming off the sea. Any other day, any other planet, he would have loved to be there with Brenda. For that matter, he probably owed her a few romantic walks on tropical beaches.

But not here. If he couldn’t do anything to help, then he wanted to leave as fast as he could. For all that it was beautiful, this planet called Bliss, he felt uneasy. The unanswered questions oppressed him and he wanted to get away from them.

The TARDIS was waiting above the high water mark, anyway, and he was glad to step inside. He knew his TARDIS. He felt the uneasiness drop away as he closed the door.

Then he looked at the environmental console and all the questions that had been chasing each other around his head got their second wind.

“Spenser…” he said absently. “Take the temporal manifold up half a notch. I think…”

He looked up and saw Brenda staring at him.

“Sorry,” he apologised straight away. “I’m used to Spenser as my co-pilot. And he has a very delicate hand at the temporal manifold. I need the very slightest of adjustments.”

“Like this, you mean?” Brenda touched the wheel set into the navigation panel that went by the title of ‘temporal manifold’. Her slim, feminine finger moved it a tiny fraction. Exactly the fraction he needed. The time rotor moved up and down just once and then stopped.

“What happened?” Brenda asked.

“We moved through what I can best describe as ‘half-time’,” Davie answered. “Into a different phase of existence… the space between one moment and the next…”

“That’s impossible, isn’t it?”

“I’m just starting to realise anything is possible in an infinite universe,” Davie answered. “Come on.” He held out his hand to her and stepped towards the door.

They stepped out together onto the same beach they had walked on before. But it looked different. The light was more intense. Brenda’s first thought, which Davie felt strongly even though she wasn’t consciously talking to him telepathically, was that it was like the world was inside a diamond and the sunlight was being refracted through it.

Her second thought was that it was beautiful.

And that was before they saw the people.

If Brenda had lived on Earth for longer, and had spent more time with humans rather than Time Lords, the word ‘angel’ might have entered her head much sooner than it did. It was the first word Davie thought of to describe the people who approached. They didn’t have wings or anything so dramatic, but they, like the topography, had a hyper-real appearance. They seemed to glow with a soft diffused light from within.

There were four of them. Two older men and a young man and woman. They smiled as Davie and Brenda stepped towards them hesitantly.

“Please do not be afraid,” said the young man. “I am Connor. I welcome you to Bliss.”

“Connor?” Brenda fixed on the name. “You’re their brother… Fionn and Fionnghuala. We spoke to them before. They told us…”

“That you had gone to the other place, along with all the adults.”

“And you have come to join us,” Connor replied.

“We’ve come to visit,” Davie insisted. “We’re going soon. But I wanted to get some answers. Those kids… what’s going on with them?”

“The children of Bliss… they cannot join us until they reach the age of Passing.”

“Oh, Chaos!” Davie swore. “Please, don’t give me any more riddles. Just explain what’s going on here. I know about the ship, the evacuation, emergency landings on this planet. Then what?”

“Then we found that this was an unusual planet,” said one of the older men who said his name was Eoghan. “It exists on two planes… The corporeal one and…” Eoghan reached out his hand towards Brenda. She gave a shriek and stepped back quickly. His hand had gone straight through her flesh.

“You’re ghosts!” she exclaimed. “You’re all dead… all the adults.”

“We Pass Over from the corporeal existence to this… It was frightening at first. The oldest among us went first. A few at a time, almost from the first day we arrived. We suspected native cannibals or some kind of wild beast. But we slowly came to understand… on Bliss, the merely physical life is only a phase of existence… when we reach the age of Passing, we shed the physical form and become as you see us now.”

“You’re immortal?” Davie asked.

“No, but we live far longer and greater lives than mere humans. Death comes only at the end of a long, blissful life.”

“What about the babies?” Brenda asked. “How do they… I mean… I saw… they don’t have navels. That means… they aren’t born in the usual way. The children said they are found under the trees…”

“We have powers that the mortal form cannot dream of. One of them is the ability to create life… our children… they join the others in the flesh life… until it is time for them to come home to us.”

“That’s a very unique way of reproducing,” Davie said.

“But… it means your society can continue to grow indefinitely?” Brenda added. “The children are born… they live out their childhood in these little communities, playing, working, growing, and then they Pass Over into this other form… and live long, blissful lives, without pain or sickness of the corporeal body?”

“That is so.”

“It… is…” She looked at Davie who nodded to her. “It seems a good sort of life, even if it is unusual.”

“Yes, it does,” Davie agreed. “Just one question… none of you are indigenous to this planet. You WERE Human, even if you’re not now. That means… if anyone else came to this planet… colonists or explorers, or anyone answering a long forgotten distress signal that’s still floating around in the asteroid belt… anyone over the age of Passing… would become like you… whether they wanted to or not?”

“That is so. You, yourselves, if you stay…”

“We’re not staying,” Davie immediately insisted. “We’re going right now. This has been really, really interesting. But we are going. Thank you for clearing up a few questions for us. And I have to say, it has been a very interesting experience. But it is time to go. Goodbye, and good luck, to you all.”

With that, he turned, taking Brenda’s hand and walked back to his TARDIS. He closed the door then set the TARDIS to dematerialise and rematerialise in temporal orbit over the planet. He studied it carefully for a long time, using several different environmental overlays before admitting that he was stumped.

“There is NOTHING that my TARDIS can trace that explains the phenomena,” he said. “There’s no radiation, nothing in the minerals that make up the planet’s core, nothing in the atmosphere.”

“Well… does there have to be?” Brenda asked. “Must there be a scientific explanation for everything in the universe?”

“Usually there is,” Davie admitted. “And as well as being a guardian of time and space and a warrior for peace and justice and a pretty above average racing driver, I’m a scientist… The search for those answers drives me. And it’s like a loose tooth, not knowing WHY Bliss is such a peculiar place. But there is another reason why it worries me. And that’s why I need to do a couple of things before we leave.”

“What things?” Brenda asked. For several minutes, Davie didn’t answer. He was working very intently at the console. His fingers flew so fast over three extended keyboards at once that she expected them to start smoking. The sound of the keys clicking so rapidly was almost a single gestalt sound. He moved around the whole hexagonal console frenetically, setting dials and switches. Then he reached and put his arms around her. He held her tightly and braced himself against the console. Brenda wondered why at first. Then she felt the TARDIS begin to move. The sensation was rather different than usual. It felt as if they were spinning. She looked at the viewscreen and realised they were in a very fast orbit around Bliss. And the speed was increasing.

“Probably best not to look at it,” Davie told her. “You’ll get travel sick. And hold tight. When it stops it will do so with a bit of a jolt.”

Despite his warning she did keep her eyes on the viewscreen. It didn’t make her travel sick, but she did find her eyes watering as the planet below became more and more blurred and indistinct.

Then the TARDIS stopped with a jolt. Davie held her tightly. She looked up at the viewscreen again and gasped.

“Where’s the planet?” she asked.

“It’s inside a temporal envelope. Remember the one that used to surround Earth – Rassilon’s Envelope. The Dominators found a way to destroy it, and Granddad said it was more trouble than it was worth and didn’t bother putting it back up afterwards. But I put one on Bliss.” He reached and touched a dial on the console and the beautiful planet came into view again. He turned it back and it disappeared. “I’m also sending out a cumulative patch that will lock onto the databanks of every space cruiser and space port and tracking station in the galaxy and wipe Bliss from their star charts. To anyone who doesn’t know it’s there, Bliss never existed. It’s an invisible planet. I’m sending out some stuff about ion disruption and radioactive particles in the asteroid belt, as well. And I’m going to switch off that SOS beacon. One way or another there should be no reason why any ship would come near this solar system ever again. The Children of Bliss can live their strange but wonderful lives in peace.”

“And nobody will go wandering onto the planet and accidentally get ‘Passed Over’,” Brenda added. “It was a bit less scary when we met them and they explained. But it still feels odd. I know now that they’re not dead, but…”

“Its just a different definition of ‘life’ than we’ve ever encountered before,” Davie assured her. “And after all, that’s the other reason I love to travel in the TARDIS. To have my definitions challenged and expanded. And it was nice, this time, to do that with you at my side.”

He smiled warmly at his fiancée as he said that. But Brenda was less certain about that.

“I hope you will come with me some of the time,” he added. “I want you to share some of these experiences. But if being my wife and the mother of my children is enough adventure for you, that’s all right, too.”

“It will be,” she said to him. “Especially being the mother of your children. That was the one thing I DID like about visiting Bliss. The babies. It felt so nice holding them. And you… You may be a warrior and a guardian of time and racing driver and a scientist. But I think you’re also going to be a great father. You looked so RIGHT holding that baby in your arms. As if you were already an expert at it. It will be wonderful to see you holding our own first born child that way.”

Davie smiled and kissed her on the lips. Then his smile widened.

“You do realise,” he told her. “I’m a twin. And the latest scientific research suggests that twins are likely to have twins themselves. We might have more than one first born.”

Brenda thought about that and her smile widened, too.

“That would be MY idea of Bliss,” she responded before claiming another kiss from the man who would be the father of the children she dreamt of.