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

The carriage stopped at the entrance to the Kennington Oval. Later in the year, of course, this would be the scene of cricketing triumphs, gentlemanly conduct and cream teas. Strax was not allowed there in summer months. Last year he had caused much disconcertion in the grandstand when he caught an out of bound ball and crushed it between his huge hands.

This was February. The grass was frozen beneath a layer of snow. Cricket aficionados were still warming their hearts with the glorious victory of England over Australia in the six day test at Melbourne just before Christmas, and the Oval's directors, while still upholding the ban on Strax, had allowed a Winter Fayre to be held in the grounds.

"I find that a little strange to begin with," Madam pointed out as she and Jenny joined the small group of warmly-dressed visitors to this temporary attraction. "When have the directors of any cricket ground ever allowed so much as a tea party to take place out of season for fear of harming their precious grass?”

Jenny shrugged. She had no interest in cricket at any time of year. The fayre looked enticing, though. There was a varied array of sideshows and amusements, including a steam carousel. The cold air was warmed by the smell of foodstuffs like hot chestnuts, hot potatoes and parched peas. The voices of barkers inviting people into tents where astounding and breath-taking things were going on contended with the music from the carousel and the excited voices of the fayre patrons.

"You may enjoy yourself," Madam said. "But I am investigating a sinister connection with this fayre.”

“Oh,” Jenny groaned. “Why is there always something funny going on everywhere we go? Even the theatre last week had a ‘ghost’ in it.”

“The Februan Ambassador, trapped in an interstitial portal between worlds, was very glad to be released,” Madam said. “We have earned the eternal gratitude of his government. Not so much the manager of the theatre. He was getting full houses every night with people hoping the ghost would make an appearance. Plus, he was making a tidy ‘on the side’ profit from tours of the haunted theatre.”

Jenny smiled as she remembered the manager’s disconcertion.

“So what’s wrong here, then?” she asked.

“I have been observing reports in newspapers for some time, and I firmly believe there is a correlation between the arrival and departure of this entertainment and larger than usual numbers of missing people.”

“Well, girls have been known to run off with the fair. They often imagine being the wife of a ‘carney’ is better than skivvying. Never fancied it myself. It just looks like skivvying without a proper roof over your head to me.”

A very sensible observation,” Madam observed. “Come, we shall look upon some of these ‘attractions’ and see what we might see.”

In all honesty, the attractions Jenny found most ‘attractive’ did not appeal to Madam. She did not enjoy sitting on a carousel horse bobbing up and down in time with the steam calliope. She didn't especially like the swing boats or the flying chairs. Jenny watched several more 'traditional' couples enjoying romantic moments on the rides and took a lot of effort to remind herself of the many compensations of her untraditional love life.

It was the sideshows and tented exhibitions that interested Madam, either because they might provide clues to the missing persons case or because they excited her curiosity. Both she and Jenny passed by the boxing tent thinking wryly of Strax, who was banned from taking the challenge of 'three rounds with the heavyweight champion'. The last such champion who fought him had still to leave the convalescence home.

"I wonder...." Madam mused as she looked at a magic show featuring a curious cabinet covered in Chinese symbols. The banner above the little stage announced that it was the vanishing cabinet of the great magician Li h'sen Chang who disappeared in mysterious circumstances a decade ago.

"No, that's nothing, at all," she concluded after watching the magician - dressed in Chinese style but from his accent hailing from no further than Maidstone. The cabinet was a run of the mill contraption with trapdoors and sliding panels, nothing more. It probably wasn't even the genuine prop belonging to the sinister Chang, just an echo of a past mystery to attract the prurient of mind.

She was of the same thought about an attraction called Araba Khan's Garden of Wonder. Mr Khan at least seemed to be a genuine Indian under his jewelled turban, but the arched doorway with a dark curtain across it only led into the tent behind despite the claim to be a 'portal to amazement’. It was bound to be a thorough disappointment, to say nothing of having no connection with the missing people. A less enticing exit at the side brought the visitors to the Garden of Wonder back outside into the snow covered cricket ground.

"I'd like a look," Jenny said. "It might be interesting."

"It is your sixpence," Madam told her. "Don't blame me if what you see is all just smoke and mirrors."

Jenny paid her sixpence and Araba Khan bowed to her with an ingratiating smile, waving her forward through his portal.

It took a very short while for her to admit that Madam was right. It WAS a waste of her sixpence. Mostly it was just a dark room with lanterns illuminating dioramas with vaguely eastern and Indian themes. Jenny shuffled along, following the directions from one display to the next, occasionally bumping into other people who had paid their sixpence. After a few minutes she headed towards the clearly marked exit.

Madam waited fifteen minutes for Jenny to emerge from the side exit. Another five minutes and she started to feel just a little bit concerned. There really WASN’T anything unusual about this tent. It WAS just a tent. There could not possibly be anything in it that could take up twenty minutes of anyone’s time, least of all Jenny, who recognised fakery better than most humans.

She was getting REALLY worried when her attention was drawn by somebody else who had emerged from the tent.

He attracted a lot of attention among the crowds. A negro boy who wasn't part of one of the sideshows was unusual for a start. Then there were his clothes - strange, soft fabrics in bright colours.

he clearly heard some of the remarks about his skin colour. Several people hurried off in disgust when he replied in caustic tones.

Then he saw Madam Vastra and approached her with the look of somebody surrounded by strangers who had just spotted a friend.

"You don't know me," he said. "But I've seen a picture. My friend.... Sarah Jane .."

"Why, yes," Madam replied. "Tdr brought her to Christmas dinner. But that must mean ..."

"I was at a retro fair thing... There was this tent... And....",He stopped and looked around. His appearance was still causing comment, which was all the more strange since he was taking to a woman with a green scaled face. "My name is Clyde Langer and I'm... lost."

"Come with me," Madam told him. She brought him around to the front of the tent to confront the amazing Abra Khan about his tent.

they were both startled by what they saw. Instead of a living man standing there calling people in, there was just a mannequin with a blank face dressed in loose robes and turban. The girl who had accomcxpanied him was gone. The portal was wide open and when Clyde edged close to it he saw nothing but a tent wall flapping in the slight breeze.

"There should have been loads of stuff in there," he said. "Its weird."

"It is clear something suspicious has occurred," Madam concurred. "Come along, young man. There is little to be done, here. You had better come back to Paternoster Row,"

Clyde went with her, still aware that people in this time found his appearance more alarming than that of a lizard woman. At the entrance to Kennington Oval, without being summoned, the carriage drew up to the kerb. Clyde registered that the driver was a Sontaran but hid his surprise. The Sontaran was less judgemental of his appearance than most of the humans at the fayre, so perhaps there was something to be learnt there.

"What year do you come from?",Madam asked as they moved through the city streets in the comfort and anonymity of the carriage.

"Twenty sixteen," Clyde answered. "April twentieth. We were all at the fair. Sj was following up in the possibility that some people had gone missing around the fayre. My girlfriend, Rani, she's a journalist, she was doing a piece about the whole retro revival...."

He stopped talking. Madam didn't look as if she was listening."

"Describe your situation in just one word," she said calmly. "One word that describes how you feel about your situation right now."

"One word? How can I... There's so much.... Where do I start... I mean...."

madam held up a slender - if green and scaly - finger.

One word.

"apart," Clyde said with a glassiness in his eyes - not crying, because he was a man and crying wasn't done, but an over welling of emotion as he looked out at an unfamili ar London where nobody he carved about lived - not his mum, his friends, Rani, Sarah Jane...."

Yes, madam thought. The boy speaks of the true grief of his situation. He is separated from the people he loves. I have known that grief. I know it now.Jenny is clearly trapped by the same knavery. I must help the boy. That is my duty, even if he were not a friend of a friend of Tdr. It is also possible that helping him may shed light on Jenny's disappearance, but I must not get my hopes up. My duty to the boy, first."

when they reached Paternoster Row Madam ordered Strax to close the curtains throughout the house and summoned the kitchen maid to bring tea to her well appointed drawing room.

"You are curious about me," Madam said to Clyde. "I suppose if you have heard of my race at all it is as enemies of humankind."

"Sort of. But Sontarans... Your driver or butler...."

"Necessity forges strange alliances. Strax and I both tolerate living among humans for our own reasons."

As she talked Madam wrote a note on fine paper and wrapped it around a long, slender candle. This, in turn , was placed into a box with an address label attached. Madam despatched Strax to post the curious package.

"Now," she said, lighting another candle and inviting Clyde to move closer. "We shall hold a conference."

Clyde sat at the round table at the place Madam indicated. A heady perfume from the candle overwhelmed him and he felt mesmerised by its light.

"Clyde!" You're OK!" He blinked and looked across the table to where Rani was sitting beside Sarah Jane and a slim woman in a black dress.

"Everyone is all right," Madam confirmed. "Some of us are in the wrong time. Your friends and my Jenny are not really at the table. They are in comas induced by the candle i sent to Miss Smith allowing us all to meet on a psychic plane."

"I've had the package for years with obstructions to open it today," Sarah Jane explained. The note told me to light the candle while sitting in a safe, comfortable place. Rani insisted on joining me and, of course, Jenny, who we found at the fayre."

"Miss Smith has been kind," Jenny confirmed. "But I really don't like the twenty first century.it is so noisy."

"No offense, but I want to get back to my noisy century. Apart from anything else, people here seem to think I'm a freak for my colour."

he glanced at madam.

"No offense, there, either. I just want to go home."

"Clearly we have the same problem," Madam said to Sarah Jane. "We must consider a solution together."

"I agree," Sarah Jane replied. "I was following a tip about people going missing that appeared to be connected to the retro fayre


"It's that Abra khan," Rani cut in. "It has to be."

It IS," Jenny addded. "It was his tent. It all happened in there."

"But when I looked, after Clyde disappeared, there was nobody there," Sarah Jane added. "It was just a tent with a few bits and pieces on display. The man was gone. There was a mannequin in his clothes, and nothing else. I picked up a faint trace of Meisson energy when I scanned with the sonic lipstick, but not even enough for a full analysis. Even Mr Smith is baffled."

"Mr Smith?" Madam was puzzled. "Your husband?"

"My computer," Sarah Jane attempted to explain. Madam was still puzzled.

"In the nineteenth century the people who operated the first electronic calculating machines were called 'computers' not the machines," Rani reminded Sarah Jane. "It described their occupation like butler of tailor or farmer."

That cleared up some confusion, but Sarah Jane still looked a little embarrassed explaining to a nineteenth century lizard lady that the Mr Smith in her life was a sentient computer. It just sounded odd whichever way she tried to explain.

"Mr Smith did come up with one thing," she added. "He scanned the papers from your time and from now. He found that Abra Khan will be appearing at another fayre in Holborn in two days time for you and in Finsbury Park for us."

"You think we might try to reverse the effect... Bring Jenny back to me and Clyde to you?"

"I think it is worth trying."

"I agree."

"Then there isn't much else to do, just now. Jenny will be quite safe until then staying with me, and I am sure Clyde can manage two days without computers and mobile phones."

Madam looked at Clyde as he glanced at Rani. It wasn't his computing machines or ‘manoeuvrable phones’ that he was going to miss.

"In case your Mr Smith discovers anything else, let us agree to light the candles again in two days time, at eight o'clock in the evening," Madam said. "Until then...."

Madam looked at Jenny and was uncommonly lost for words. Clyde and Rani were similarly quiet, though their faces spoke silent volumes. Sarah Jane stood up from her seat.

"Sky will be home from school, soon. I'll get her tea ready."

"I'll help," Rani added. "Clyde, I'll talk to you, soon. You'll be OK. I'll ... Well. You know...."

"Sure I know," Clyde answered her. "It'll be cool. At least they've invented trousers in this time. It’s not right back when the men wore 'hose'."

There were some more silent glances, then Clyde and Rani turned from the table, disappearing as soon as they were beyond the influence of the candle. Across the century that divided them, Madam and Jenny had a few minutes to themselves before blowing out the candles and returning to the reality of separation.

It was the start of two very strange days for Clyde Langer. It wasn’t just that he was stranded in the year 1894. The house on Paternoster Row hardly offered typical Victorian family life. Strax was forever trying to teach him methods of unarmed combat that would rend his enemy's limbs from their bodies. Madam was mostly aloof, sitting in her drawing room with pots of tea regularly brought and taken away. Clyde guessed that she was more upset about being parted from Jenny than she had admitted.

The kitchen maid, Noreen, was the only human in the house. He talked to her whenever their paths crossed, at least until he realised that their paths were crossing too often and that she was entertaining romantic hopes about him.

At least Noreen didn't seem to find his colour startling. When he went out of the house he was stared at, murmured about and avoided by passers-by.

Mostly he stayed in the house and tried to convince Noreen that he wasn't marriageable material.

“I suppose that’s why you wear a veil,” he commented to Madam once when he came back from a simple walk to the post box by St Pauls and was thoroughly tired of the staring and the comments that assumed he was either deaf or unable to understand English.

“No,” she answered. No, I don’t wear a veil to hide my face from the ignorant and ill-informed. I wear it to remind such people that they ARE ignorant and ill-informed.”

Clyde thought about that for several minutes and decided it was just about the most profound thing he had ever heard. But since a veil wasn’t really an option for him about town he couldn’t really emulate Madam.

“I understand people stare less in your time,” Madam said, on the same subject. “They are more tolerant of ‘differences’.”

“More used to them, I guess,” Clyde answered, knowing that there was a difference between tolerance and acceptance. “Nobody would bat an eye at two women being together like you and Jenny. At least….”

He stopped mid-sentence. Madam smiled thinly.

“For a brief moment, you forgot that I am a different species,” she said. “You saw only a woman with a wife. Thank you, for that. But I see by your hesitancy that even your world still can’t contend with MY colour of skin.”

“No,” Clyde admitted. “We still have a bit of a way to go. But at least you know Jenny will be ok in my time.”

“If I knew what ‘ok’ means, I might be reassured,” Madam responded. “Language evolves in most peculiar ways, it seems.”

The two days passed, anyway, and the time came to light the candle again. Clyde felt some trepidation. What if Sarah Jane and Rani didn’t light their candle. What if something had happened? What if Jenny wasn’t ‘ok’ in the twenty-first century? Would Madam be angry enough to hold him here in this cold Victorian world as a hostage against the return of her lover?

But when the warm light and the heady scent spread around the drawing room, Clyde saw the three women sitting there – in spirit, at least. Jenny looked different. Madam’s expression was somewhere between astonishment, amusement and despair. Jenny was wearing skinny jeans and a colourful T-shirt very much like Rani's choice of everyday wear. She had her hair in a similar style, too, tied up in a loose pony tail.

"Rani has been showing me around the city. I couldn’t wear my own clothes."

"There is more to talk about than Jenny's fashion choices," Sarah-Jane pointed out. "Though I must say, Clyde looks very smart in his suit."

Rani grinned as if she agreed. Clyde sat back away from the candlelight to hide his blushes.

"But getting to the point, Mr Smith was able to scan newspaper archives going back to the 1890s. Abra Khan is listed as part of numerous fairs right through to the twenty first century. Mr Smith also compiled lists of missing people that coincide with the fairs. I looked into the police reports of the most recent disappearances. On three occasions relatives of the missing insisted on a connection and the fair was thoroughly searched by the police. Needless to say they found nothing."

"The police are rarely any use in the matters we pursue," Madam remarked. "Except for cleaning up afterwards. But we are resolved. We will confront this Khan and force him to return our friends to their proper places before closing down his operation completely."

"We are," Sarah Jane replied.

"Then that concludes our business for now. Shall we convene again after this matter is resolved to discuss any points of mutual interest?"

"I think so," Sarah Jane agreed. "Rani would like to talk to Clyde privately. Shall we let them decide when to put out the candles this time?"

Madam assented. She withdrew from the table. So did Sarah Jane and Jenny. Rani and Clyde looked at each other awkwardly for a moment.

“You look…. Different in that suit,” Rani managed. “I mean, it’s not the first time you’ve worn a suit, but that one is so old-fashioned. You look… grown up.”

Clyde wasn’t sure what to make of that. He deflected the attention from his own appearance to Jenny’s new attire.

“I took her to Top Shop,” Rani admitted. “And she took herself to the lingerie shop next door. Some of the stuff she bought there….”

“She and Madam are married,” Clyde reminded her. Rani nodded and they both decided to leave that subject alone.

“Everyone seems to assume that you and Jenny will get back home, like a straight switch kind of thing, once we confront Abra Khan.”


“The thing is, about fifty people have gone missing over the century, and only TWO have ever turned up again. Sarah Jane found out from Jack Harkness at Torchwood. In the nineteen fifties they looked after these two people who had been trapped in nineteen-o-five and came out in a totally different world. They helped them start new lives with new identities. They couldn’t do anything else for them.”

Clyde considered that very seriously.

“You think it’s possible that we could get lost and end up in a different time?”

“Or end up no time at all. All those OTHER people… what happened to them?”

“We’ve got to try. I don’t belong here, and Jenny doesn’t belong where naughty underwear is available on the high street. We both have to TRY to get home.”

“I agree,” Rani said. “But in case anything happens….”

She reached out her hands over the table. Clyde did the same. They couldn’t really touch. They weren’t really in the same room. It was a strange psychic connection that neither of them properly understood. They didn’t say anything, but their actions and the expressions on their faces said it all.

Neither wanted to be the first to blow out their candle. They reached a compromise where they blew together. In the dim light of the drawing room Clyde sat and thought about all the terrifying possibilities ahead of him.

But by the time Strax came to call him to supper he still had no other conclusion than the one already reached.

He had to TRY.

He wore the eighteen-nineties suit to the fayre. He figured he would blend in better, and when he got back to his own time he could lose the tie and the waistcoat and look more or less normal.

WHEN he got back.

IF he got back.

No, he had to try to stay positive. It WAS going to work.

Lincoln's Inn Fields in Holborn was established as a park in the seventeenth century. It was the scene of an infamous execution in 16.., but for the most part it was a peaceful green place in the midst of the bustling city. It was still a fashionable place to be seen in the summer afternoons by the late Victorian era.

Most importantly, Strax had never been banned from it, so he could accompany Madam and Clyde to the Winter Fayre held on the fields.

"Don't even think about it," Madam told him firmly as they passed the boxing tent. "We have a mission, here. No time for those barbarian purauits."

"The human interest in hand to hand fighting is their only redeeming feature," Strax commented. "Though these Queensbury Rules would not do on Sontar. Hitting below the belt does is not against OUR rules."

"You mean you actually HAVE rules for fighting?" Clyde asked in surprise.

Strax ignored the slight upon Sontar honour and launched into a surprisingly complex set box rules for bare fist fighting under the auspices of the Sontar military academy. Clyde gave up listening after three minutes. After twenty Madam shushed him and pointed to the tent they had been looking for.

"Its the same guy," Clyde confirmed. "The same one who was at the retro fair in my time."

"The same scoundrel who trapped Jenny," Madam confirmed. "Strax... You know what to do."

"That weakling is hardly a worthy adversary," Strax grumbled but he mounted the stage and grasped Abra Khan by the shoulder before he could react.

"Get a new job," Madam said to the dancing girl as she and Clyde followed Strax and the compliant Abra Khan into the tent. The girl decided to take Madam's advice and ran for it.

"Now, explain yourself," Madam said. "Why are you kidnapping humans from time?"

"I took only those with no ties," Khan answered. "Young, fit, capable of working hard."

"Slaves!" Madame's face hardened and she drew closer to Khan, who cringed away as far as Strax would allow him.

"No, not slaves," Khan insisted. "As pioneers, beginning a new life on a new world."

"What world?" Clyde asked. "Not that it matters, because I'm not going there."

"THIS world, in the far future, when violent sun flares have scoured the surface and renewed it. Humans are needed to populate a new Eden. My mission is to find those Humans. I was careful to find those who would not be missed."

"I HAVE BEEN MISSED!" Clyde exclaimed angrily.

My Jenny is MISSED!" Madam added. "And you WILL bring her back."

"He is protected by an energy I have never seen," Khan responded. "Your friend must also have been protected. If they enter the portal again they WILL return to their proper time."

"That had better be the truth," Clyde warned."Because otherwise we have a friend who will hunt you down through time."

He meant Tdr, of course. Neither Sarah-Jane nor Madam Vastra made a habit of calling on him. Pride, self-reliance, feminine obstinacy and many other factors meant that they preferred to stand on their own merits. But it WAS a final resort. "Anyway, show me what to do. This portal..."

Khan reached for something on his arm beneath his loose sleeve. Behind the silk sheet covering the exit a glow started from a pinprick and quickly grew. Clyde looked at it hesitantly and then turned to look at his temporary friends.

"Strax, my man," he said. "You're my favourite Sontaran. Madam Vastra... I hope this works out for you and Jenny. I'm going to try it."

"Brave human," Strax conceded.

"Good luck, Clyde Langer," Madam told him. He turned and walked towards the silk curtain. He pushed it aside and stepped quickly into the glowing miasma beyond. Even Madam's eyes were soon blurred by the intensity of the light that swallowed him up.

Then she gasped softly, betraying the emotional chink in her metaphorical armour. She stepped forward to embrace the figure that stepped out of the glow just before it dissolved. Jenny dropped the colourful tote bag containing the fruits of her twenty first century shopping expedition as she responded to the embrace.

"Madam!" Strax called out urgently. "I have shamed my clone batch!"

Madam and Jenny turned to see a disconsolate Strax clutching an empty robe. Khan had escaped in their moment of distraction.

"Its all right."Madam told him with uncharacteristic charity in her tone. "I should have expected such treachery. Let us return home and light a candle. We must discover Clyde's fate."

When they gathered around the drawing room table it was immediately clear that Clyde was home, safe. Rani clung to his hand while sitting as close as possible without actually sitting on his knee. Madam glanced at Jenny who was seated just as closely to her, then reported the fantastic story Khan had related as well as the fact that he had escaped."

"That's all right," Sarah-Jane replied. "We caught him. I have a nifty handbag-sized device that I borrowed from Torchwood. It creates a sort of portable prison cell with anti-teleport shield. Once he was fully disabled in that way, the stolen Time Agent vortex manipulator he used to create his portal was confiscated. He is now being questioned by my other friends in UNIT. They are trying to find out if he was working alone with a hair-brained idea about repopulation or if he was an agent of an organisation with a broader plan."

"He was a nutter, I reckon," Clyde decided.

"The fact that he used stolen technology to carry out his plan supports that conclusion," Sarah-Jane added.

"In which case this future man is no longer a threat to any human," Madam replied. "That is satisfactory."

"What about this business about the Earth, though?" Jenny asked. "Scourged and renewed..."

"If such a time should come, then MY people should take the opportunity to wake from our hibernation and return to our rightful domination as a species," Madam said.

"Funny that," Sarah-Jane remarked. "When I was there with Tdr and Harry, there was no sign of your lot doing that. In fact, no offence to you, Strax, but it was the Sontaran who were trying to stop humans recolonising Earth in order to make it an outpost for their war again the Rutan."

Madam and Strax both looked at Sarah-Jane with new eyes, realising that she had knowledge of the future of both their races.

"These things remain in the distant future," Madam said. "For now, our two small companionships are safe from harm. Should our interests combine in this way once more I hope we will be able to work together as easily as we have done in these past days."

"I hope so, too," Sarah-Jane replied. "Feel free to send another candle. This one is nearly gone."

"I shall do so," Madam promised.

Later, after the candles had been blown out Madam was heard to concede that Sarah-Jane and her frurnfd despite being mere humans, were worthy comrades in arms to those who lived in Paternoster Row.

"Mere humans?" Jenny responded with an arched tone. " Wait till later. I'll show you what mere humans can do with something called 'rayon'."