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

Sarah Jane Smith looked at the big viewscreen on the console room wall critically. Harry Sullivan came to her side and nodded approvingly.

“Yes, that looks like Earth as we know it. Not Earth in the far future after it’s been par-boiled and simmered for hundreds of years. We must be pretty close to our own time.”

“2015,” The Doctor said.

“Not THAT close, then,” Sarah Jane noted. “Harry and I would be in our sixties by then.”

“I say, that’s a disturbing idea,” Harry added. “The two of us might be down there somewhere, with grey hair and wrinkles. Well, in my case, probably bald. It tends to run in the Sullivan family.”

“I’m not keen on the wrinkles,” Sarah Jane pointed out. “I’ll bet you STILL call me ‘old girl’.”

“Anyway, if this is within our lifetime, is it ok to be going down there? What if we meet our older selves?”

“That IS one of the hazards of time travelling with humans,” The Doctor admitted. “It’s called the Blinovitch Uncertainty Principle. Extremely dangerous. But the bit of Earth that interests me just now is the Mojave Desert in North America. I don’t think a naval surgeon is going to be visiting there, Harry. And I thought you were going to settle down in South Croydon when you’re finished travelling with me, Sarah!”

“That’s a bit of an assumption, Doctor,” Harry told him. “How do you know Sarah and I won’t want to visit a desert in California when we’re retired? I might fancy getting well away from the sea. Sounds a perfect place to do it.”

“Because you’ll both remember me telling you about the Blinovitch Uncertainty Principle now, and you won’t do anything so silly,” The Doctor replied with perfect logic.

“So... what is so bally interesting about the Mojave Desert in 2015, then?” Harry asked.

“A rather odd signal beaming out into space,” The Doctor replied. “Earth by the twenty-first century is a very noisy place. All sorts of signals are being sent out. Some deliberate, trying to make official First Contact with extra-terrestrial life, some accidental. You would not believe how far away Earth’s satellite television broadcasts can be picked up. Most extra-terrestrial life is scared to come near the planet after seeing what passes for entertainment here.”

“So... this signal...” Sarah Jane prompted The Doctor back onto the important subject.

“It’s very powerful. More powerful than anything humans should have at this stage in their technological development. It feels like trouble to me.”

“That’s the source?” Sarah Jane asked as the TARDIS closed in on a huge complex with a series of circular structures as well as something that didn’t look as if it belonged on Earth in her lifetime. A circle that had to be hundreds of metres across was made up of thousands of mirrors that caught the desert sunlight. The viewscreen turned dark to filter the bright light so that it was possible to see the tall tower and surrounding buildings in the middle of the array. “What is it?”

“It’s Solar Two,” The Doctor replied. “Late twentieth century experimental electricity power station.”

“Solar... using light from the sun to generate electricity?” Harry was impressed. “On that sort of scale! Human endeavour has come on since the 1970s. But what does that have to do with signals going into outer space?”

“Exactly what I want to know,” The Doctor replied. “Hang on, we’re landing. Could be...”

The next word The Doctor was going to say might have been ‘bumpy’. If so, then he seriously under-exaggerated the way the TARDIS bucked and pitched barely seconds after Harry and Sarah Jane reached for hand holds on the console. Harry mentally compared it to some of his worst days at sea and wondered if there was a space equivalent of a lifeboat. Sarah Jane just groaned and hoped it stopped before she was actually sea sick.

Space sick?


It stopped. They looked at the viewscreen and noted that they were inside the circle of mirrors. Close up they could see that each one was about the size of a car and the light truly was dazzling. The Doctor reached under the console and found a box containing three pairs of Polaroid sunglasses.

They helped a little bit. Fortunately the light was directed towards the top of the collecting tower in the centre of the circle. At its base was an oasis of shade. Even so, it was strange standing there with so much brightness around them and the hot dry heat of the desert itself.

It really didn’t seem like anywhere on Earth at all.

“The desert of Allixa XIX is like this,” The Doctor said. “Twin suns and three moons made of quartz. Nobody steps outside unless they’re under a UV filter canopy. Their method of executing criminals... exposing them to the full midday sun....”

He didn’t need to expand on that. Harry and Sarah Jane were starting to understand how microwaved food felt like already.

“We should look for a way in,” Harry suggested.

Then the klaxon sounded and men with guns and semi-military uniforms surrounded them. The Doctor carefully raised his hands and smiled what he thought was a disarming smile. Sarah Jane always secretly thought it would scare off a Great White Shark. She raised her arms, too. Before she met The Doctor she had never had to raise her hands in surrender to somebody with a weapon pointed at her. It was one of those experiences that made her wonder, sometimes, if the good times with The Doctor outweighed the bad.

Harry had never surrendered to an enemy before The Doctor came into his life, either. But he was learning fast.

“This is America,” he pointed out. “An ally, still, even in 2015? We’ll be all right, surely?”

“Don’t bet your life on it,” Sarah Jane replied before the leader of the soldiers, guards, militia, whatever they were, ordered them all to be silent and all three were patted down for weapons. The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver was confiscated. So was his yoyo, which they seemed to think might be some kind of explosive device, then they were escorted through a door in the base of the collecting tower. Immediately inside there was a lift –or elevator since they were in America - that went down a very long way before stopping. It opened onto a featureless white corridor with closed doors either side that had numbers but no name plates of any sort on them. They turned twice, first left, then right, then down a white, featureless stairwell and into another featureless white corridor. The doors here all had locks that opened with a card slot and pass code. A guard opened one and Sarah Jane was pushed inside. She turned to see the door lock again. She was on her own in a featureless white room with a long bench that could be a chair or a bed, and looked uncomfortable either way.

She sat on it and sighed. She had never been locked in cells before she met The Doctor, either. Now it happened with such monotonous regularity that she had devised a special mental exercise to deal with the boredom of waiting to find out who or what had captured them, and why.

Harry hadn’t spent quite as much time travelling with The Doctor. But he was in the Royal Navy. The boredom of the situation didn’t bother him as much as the peremptory way in which they were incarcerated. He tried to ask questions like ‘why are you doing this’ and ‘can I make a phone call’, but he was ignored.

He sighed and put his rolled up coat under his head for a pillow as he laid himself down on the bench and awaited further developments.

Sarah Jane was practising her mental exercises for an hour before the door was opened again. A female guard beckoned to her to follow her. Another guard with a gun in his holster walked behind. They went down another set of stairs and along another white, featureless corridor before stepping into a white-walled and clinically clean medical room.

“Please change into this,” said the female guard. The male one had stayed outside the room. Sarah Jane looked at the paper overall she was offered.

“No, why should I?” she replied.

“You need a medical examination to establish certain matters.”

“What matters?” Sarah Jane demanded. “Who are you people and what makes you think you have the right to make me do anything?

The guard pulled her gun from her holster and levelled it at her. That was her right. The right of might. Sarah Jane sighed and started to undress. The guard searched her discarded clothes and found her U.N.I.T. identity card. She examined it carefully before placing it in a metal tray along with Sarah Jane’s watch and earrings which she was told to remove for the MRi scan.

Harry was brought to the medical room, too. He also had an MRi scan and a blood test and nasal swab as well as a regular physical examination. Afterwards he was brought to an interview room. It was, unsurprisingly, white and featureless. It had a plain table with a chair either side and a window that looked into the next interrogation room. Sarah Jane was there already, being questioned by a man in semi-military uniform while a female guard stood near by.

The guard near Harry didn’t say anything but his body language made it clear that going to the window and banging on it to attract Sarah Jane’s attention was not an option.

Another man in semi-military uniform came into the room and sat down in front of Harry. He had a clipboard. He looked at it for several minutes before speaking.

“I am Lieutenant Michael Sangster,” the officer told Sarah Jane with what he obviously thought was a friendly and disarming smile. “I am here to assess your situation.”

Sarah Jane said nothing. She had decided that was the safest thing until she knew what was happening.

“Your name is Sarah Jane Smith?” Sangster asked. “Born May 12th, 1951 in Foxgrove, Hertfordshire, England. That is you, is it not?”

Sarah Jane said nothing.

“You’re looking remarkably youthful for sixty-four,” he continued. “You do understand this is the year 2015?”

Again, Sarah Jane said nothing.

“There’s no need to be frightened. We deal with this all the time. Alien abduction cases. It’s always a little confusing. But we’re here to help you, Miss Smith. Our rehabilitation programme will help you come to terms with the many changes to society in the time that you’ve been… away.”

“I’m… I… I’m not… I wasn’t… abducted,” Sarah Jane said. “I don’t need your help. I want to speak to Harry and I want to see The Doctor. Where is he?”

“You mean the alien disguised as a Human? It is in our detention suite, where it belongs.”

“What?” Sarah Jane was almost speechless for a moment. “The Doctor… isn’t an it. He’s a he. And he isn’t disguised as a Human. That’s what his species look like. And I demand to see him, right now.”

“That is impossible,” Sangster told her. “The objective of Project Earth Scour is to incarcerate dangerous extra terrestrials to ensure the safety of the Human race.”

“Project Earth Scour….” Sarah Jane stared at him in horror. “You mean… but… No. You can’t do that. The Doctor… he isn’t dangerous. He’s…”

“It is an alien. And it is under indefinite detention. Am I to understand that you are emotionally attached to this alien?”

“Emotionally…” Sarah was astounded. “He’s my friend. He’s everyone’s friend.” She glanced at the window and saw Harry standing up from his seat and hitting the table with his fists. The guard tried to restrain him, but he was angry enough to deal with him, too. Then more guards came in and he couldn’t fight them all.

“Harry!” Sarah cried. “What are you doing with him? Stop it. Stop this at once.”

“I’m sorry,” Sangster told her. “It seems that you and your friend have chosen to betray the Human race by siding with this alien. You will need to be put through the intensive re-education programme before your integration into normal society.”

“What… don’t be… I’m not… we’re not… The Doctor isn’t….”

“You’ll be taken back to your cell until arrangements can be made. It is in your own interests to behave calmly. Otherwise we will be forced to take more drastic measures.”

“I want to see The Doctor,” Sarah Jane said. “What have you done to him?”

But that was one question she couldn’t get an answer to. The guards brought her back to the cell. They weren’t rough with her, but she felt as if they despised her and were glad to lock her up again.

She sighed deeply as she sat hunched up on the bench. It didn’t look good for her and Harry and it didn’t look good for The Doctor, either.

She had been sitting there miserably for an hour or more before a noise disturbed her. She looked towards the door expecting somebody coming to give her that re-education she had been promised. The door stayed closed. She looked up and saw a familiar face looking down from a square gap in the featureless ceiling.

“Harry!” she cried. “How did you…”

“The amount of service ducts I’ve crawled through since we met The Doctor - it was the first thing I looked for. Come on, old girl. Let’s get you out of there.”

“Don’t call me old girl,” she protested. She stood up on the bench and reached out. Her fingertips barely touched Harry’s outstretched hands. She stood on tip toes and stretched. He grasped her tightly and pulled her up. It was clumsy and undignified, and the service duct was a dark, miserable, narrow place with electric wires running along the floor and walls. She hugged Harry gladly, though, before he replaced the ceiling panel. There were no lights in the duct, but here and there were grilles that looked down onto lit rooms. They crawled towards those pools of light and looked down to see computer server rooms, offices, rest rooms for the staff, and in one place, showers and a changing room.

“That will do,” Harry said, pulling up the grille. He dropped down and helped Sarah down, too. “We can’t crawl around there all day. But the corridors will be monitored.”

“Disguises,” Sarah Jane noted. There were clean uniforms hanging on a rack.

“Sarah,” Harry said while they were changing either side of a partition. “There’s something… something they told me that’s a bit disturbing. I… it’s going to upset you, too. But… keeping it to myself is burning me up.”

“What is it?” Sarah Jane asked him.

“These people… they expected us to be humans abducted by aliens… brought back to Earth outside of our proper time. They seem to have some experience of doing that. They were on about re-integration programmes to help me get used to the changes in Earth society.”

“I told them to stuff it,” Sarah Jane said.

“Me too. But… the thing is… we’re not like the usual people they get. We weren’t abducted. And… we’re not listed as missing, because… because at some time, The Doctor took us both back to our proper time and we carried on with our normal life.”

“I… always… sort of expected that would happen,” Sarah Jane conceded.

“Me, too. That’s why…when we were talking to The Doctor earlier… about being in our sixties in this time… Sarah, these people checked on us. And… you… right now… in 2015… you’re living in Ealing, with… with a twenty year old son.”


“I’m… I’m not living anywhere. I’m… Sarah, I’m dead by now. They wouldn’t tell me when or how. But I didn’t make it to my Navy pension.”

“Harry…. Oh… I’m sorry. That’s…”

“When I said to The Doctor about taking a holiday in the Mojave Desert… I meant… I imagined… you and me…as a couple. I’ve always imagined… when we leave The Doctor… we might… you know…”

“Harry…” Sarah Jane felt oddly short of breath and her mouth was dry. “Harry Sullivan, is this a proposal.”

“No. If I was going to… I’d find a better way of doing it, a nicer place… But… do you think… am I… being stupid?”

“No, you’re not being stupid. Like you said, this isn’t the time or the place. But… me... in Ealing... with a son… Do you think he’s…”

She didn’t finish her question. But Harry understood anyway. He stepped out from behind the partition. Sarah Jane did, too. They both sat on a bench. He put his arm around her gently. It wasn’t a hug between lovers, more one between friends with a lot on their plate. It was appreciated all the same.

“I think that’s why The Doctor is always warning us about the perils of time travel, about not knowing too much about our own future. And I shouldn't have told you. Now we’re both upset by what we know.”

“Harry... whatever else it means… it means that we must get away from this place, with The Doctor, and get back to our own time. I think we should concentrate on that, right now. Everything else is just detail. So… do you think we look the part? Do we look like the sort of people who work in this nutty place?”

“I think we’ll be able to walk around the corridors safely, at least,” Harry conceded. He put one of the peaked caps that went with the uniform on Sarah’s head. He put one on his own head. He thought the outfit wasn’t a patch on his smartly pressed Royal Navy uniform, but needs must.

In what definitely qualified as hostile territory, there was another need, even for a naval surgeon who had taken certain oaths about preserving life. A cupboard that probably ought to have been locked but wasn’t yielded what they needed – two service pistols with ammunition. They were not too far different to the guns he knew in his own time and he loaded the magazines expertly before handing one to Sarah Jane. She looked dubious. She had learnt clay pigeon shooting. But she had never used a gun on another Human being. And as unpleasant as they were, the guards in Solar Two were Human.

“We just need to look like we would use them,” Harry assured her. “That’ll be enough, I hope.”

They slipped out of the changing room into another of those featureless corridors. Harry turned left decisively. Sarah Jane fell in step with him, trying to look as if they knew where they were going. It must have worked, because a few minutes later when they were walking down a white, featureless stairwell and an alarm sounded, none of the guards running past them paid them any attention.

The floor below wasn’t white and featureless. The walls, floor and ceiling were dingy cement colour and there were cells either side with front walls made of a tough Perspex. Behind the walls were the most unusual collection of prisoners even Sarah Jane and Harry had seen in their travels. They were all clearly alien. Some were humanoids, including a collection of gangly grey figures with large heads and two with green-brown scaled skin and a horny protuberance between the eyes. Others were very different. There was a creature with a head and torso of grey-blue flesh and sixteen long tentacles. Its head had a mass of fronds that passed for hair and it had large eyes, a small mouth and no nose.

Sarah Jane looked at her and thought she looked very sad. She decided it was a ‘her’ because she held a baby version of herself in two of the tentacles. When Sarah Jane and Harry looked at her she shrank back, trying to hide the infant from them.

“It’s all right,” Sarah Jane said. “You don’t have to be frightened of us. We won’t hurt you.”

The alien made a sad trilling noise and blinked large eyes. Sarah Jane wasn’t sure if she understood or not. Harry urged her on, reminding her that they couldn’t draw attention to themselves.

Two cells further up, Sarah Jane almost forgot that warning again. She stared at the squat, ugly alien with features she and Harry both knew well enough.

“Sontaran!” they both exclaimed. The alien in the cell moved towards them, but he was restrained by thick, strong chains on his legs and arms.

“How do you puny creatures know my species?” he demanded. “The others do not. I refused to answer their questions, even under torture.”

“They tortured you?” Harry asked, appalled. “But that is against the law. At least it is in my time and my country. What is going on here?”

The Sontaran race were not noted for their sharp intelligence. They were bull-headed military types who thought no further than the fastest way to kill their enemy. But this one looked at Sarah Jane and Harry and realised they were not what they seemed to be.

“I am Commander Asak of the 28th Sontaran Battle Fleet,” he said. “Known as Asak the Avenger. And I shall avenge myself on those who brought my ship down in an inhospitable desert and captured me.”

“They brought your ship down?” Harry asked.

“The energy beam,” Asak replied. “It caught my craft when I was on the edge of this solar system and dragged me to this planet. I killed four of them. I did not let them take me easily. I am Asak of the Sontaran. I would die rather than be captured. But even that honour was denied me.”

“Asak,” Harry said. “I can’t free you right now. But if we get the chance… later… can we trust you… Would you be our ally?”

“The Sontaran do not have allies,” Asak said. “We trust no-one but ourselves.”

“Right now, I can see your point,” Harry told him. “But I think you need us as much as we need you. I am Lieutenant-Surgeon Harry Sullivan of the Royal Navy. As one military man to another would you consider a truce until you can get back to your ship, at least?”

Again, Sontarans were not known as deep thinkers. But Asak’s dull brown-grey face crinkled as he considered the suggestion.

“Yes,” he said at last. “It is a bargain. A temporary true between Sontaran and the Rebels of Planet Earthscour”

“That’s not…” Sarah Jane began, then decided that Harry had done enough talking. She watched him salute Commander Asak in crisp Royal Navy style and receive a three fingered Sontaran salute in response.

They moved on past more alien species. Some looked as fierce and militant as the Sontarans. Others were frightened, vulnerable beings. Harry didn’t try to make any more treaties with them. Their objective was to find The Doctor.

At the end of the corridor was a double door with round frosted glass panels. Harry pushed the doors open carefully and stepped into an operating theatre. The medics in surgical scrubs working around a table didn’t notice them come in. Harry quickly hid himself and Sarah Jane behind a curtained off section. They noticed a covered body on a gurney but didn’t dare look what kind of alien it was. Through a crack in the curtains they could see the medics performing an autopsy on a cadaver with humanoid shape but green scaly skin like a crocodile.

Harry had performed autopsies himself, even on aliens. In U.N.I.T. that sort of thing happened. But the way these medics were talking made his skin crawl.

This wasn’t an autopsy, he realised.

It was vivisection.

The alien was still alive. But he wasn’t wounded or ill. This operation was purely for research. The medics were observing the way his lungs, intended to work in air or water, worked.

“Pity we can’t repeat the procedure while it’s breathing underwater,” said the female medic. “Even so, the way the dual lungs process oxygen is utterly amazing.”

“The Navy are interested in it,” said the senior male medic. “They think it could be trained to carry out covert underwater operations… infiltrating enemy submarines, that sort of thing. Better than dolphins, after all. People don't like the military using them. Of course, it’ll need some brain work. We need to subdue its aggressive nature, make it more placid, obedient…”

Harry and Sarah Jane still hadn’t been noticed. At least not until they stepped out from behind the curtain and pushed their guns into the backs of the two male medics.

“You!” Harry said to the female. “Get that poor creature’s chest closed up and get it to post op.”

The woman took hold of a rather impressive laser tool and first closed the ribs, sealing them neatly. Then the gaping slit in the alien flesh was closed up leaving no more than a thin line to show where invasive surgery had been performed.

“Interesting tool,” Harry noted. “Human medical science has advanced that far in this time?”

“No,” the senior medic responded. “That was confiscated from an alien. It saves a lot of time and most of the specimens survive the procedures.”

“Most?” Harry’s usually gentle tone hardened. “Do you care, either way? Or do you only make the effort for the militarily useful ‘specimens?’”

There was no answer to that. Harry told Sarah Jane to keep her gun on the three medics while he examined the alien. It had a strong heartbeat and its breathing was regular. It started to come around slowly. Harry took off the militaristic cap and tried to look non-threatening to it.

“It’s all right,” he said in a reassuring tone. “I won’t let anyone else harm you.”

“You… speak my language?” the alien asked.

“No. I have travelled in an unusual space ship that gives its crew the power to understand languages. I’m here to help you. But you may need to help yourself, a bit. Do you feel well enough to fight your way out of this place?”

“I will scratch out their eyes with my bare hands if any try to stop me,” he answered. “I am Allic of the Sevess, and I shall avenge the death of my mate who was butchered in this room…”

Harry turned and glared at the medics.

“You had another of these aliens under your knife. What did you do to her?”

“Nothing,” the chief medic replied. “I mean... nothing permanent. She’s over there…”

The medic pointed to a small room with a coded lock on the door. Harry nodded to Sarah Jane. She made the three medics move towards the room and unlock it. Inside, another of the green-skinned aliens was lying on a gurney, awake and frightened. Sarah Jane made them push the gurney out and then get into the room themselves. She locked them in then unfastened the restraints. Allic and his mate embraced emotionally.

“Aggressive nature, my foot,” Harry said. “He was worried for his wife. Who wouldn’t be?”

The double doors flew open and two guards rushed in, firing over their heads and calling for them to put up their hands. Harry started to do so, then changed his mind. The curtains around the body on the other gurney were open. The Doctor crept up behind the two guards and cracked their heads together. They slithered to the ground, out cold. Harry used the straps that had bound Allic’s mate to tie them to the leg of the operating table while Sarah Jane gagged them with a couple of bandages.

“Doctor, are you all right?” Sarah Jane asked. He didn’t exactly look himself. He was dressed in a surgical gown that was open to the waist. There was a thin line from laser surgery down his chest. “They operated on you…”

“They didn’t find anything,” he explained. “I stopped my hearts and lungs and pretended to be dead.”

“You’re lucky you weren’t REALLY dead,” Harry told him. The Doctor laughed softly as if to imply that was unlikely and searched in a locker. He gave a triumphant cry as he located his clothes and a box containing his sonic screwdriver and the usual contents of his pockets. He went behind a screen to dress.

“What’s your plan, Harry?” he called out as he dressed.

“I didn’t really have one,” Harry replied. “Except… well, I made a deal with a Sontaran earlier. I think the others would fight, too, if they had to. The Levess definitely want to. They’re all rather angry at the way they’ve been treated.”

“A Sontaran? They have a Sontaran here? And you’ve made a Treaty with him?”

“Yes. Although… I must say… I’m not sure about leading a revolution if it’s going to get bloody. Do you think we can persuade them all to be merciful to their captors?”

“We can try.” The Doctor emerged from the screen looking himself again. He had his sonic screwdriver in his hand as he headed for the doors. Harry and Sarah Jane kept hold of the pistols. The two Levess grabbed the weapons discarded by the two guards.

There were more guards coming down the corridor. When they saw The Doctor with his sonic screwdriver raised and the two humans and two aliens with guns they fired above their heads again and ordered them to surrender.

The Doctor raised his sonic screwdriver and pressed the button. At once, every cell door unlocked and opened. The Sontaran charged out of his cell dragging his chains and knocked two guards down with his bare hands. The aliens with the bony protuberances fought, too. So did many others. The surprising one was the tentacle creature with the baby. She held her infant tightly while scaling the wall and running across the ceiling, reaching down with her tentacles to yank the guards up from the ground. She shook them until they dropped their guns and then knocked them out with an inky black gas that emitted from her body.

“What a lady,” Harry commented.

“That’s what happens when you mess with a Carellian Brood Mother,” The Doctor noted. He used the sonic screwdriver to check lifesigns and was satisfied to find there were no fatalities among the guards in the detention corridor. Even the Sontaran had merely beaten them senseless with his chains. The Carellian moved up and down the corridor pushing the defeated guards into the cells the aliens had vacated.

“There will be more guards, yet,” The Doctor called out to the unlikely army. “Please, don’t kill any of them if you can help it. I know they have done great harm to you all. I am sorry for that, and my aim is to make those responsible even more sorry. But no killing. These guards were only following orders.”

“A Sontaran would rather die than be made a prisoner!” Commander Asak noted. “You mean to humiliate these Earthscour scum by denying them the glory of death in battle?”

“Something like that,” The Doctor replied.

“Then it shall be so,” Asak said. “So long as the truce between us continues, these Earthscour scum will live to rue the day they crossed Commander Asak of the 28th Sontaran Battle Fleet. Any rebel who kills one of them will answer to me.”

That seemed to settle the matter. The rebels were fighting the Solar Two guards, but not to kill, merely to contain them. And they did. Guards were disarmed and left locked in their changing rooms and sleeping quarters as the aliens moved through the complex. The officers who thought they were in charge quickly discovered they were not.

On the floor directly below ground level they found a control room full of quietly humming computer servers and banks of glowing monitors. The Doctor looked at it all carefully for twenty seconds before pushing aside one of the technicians and typing rapidly at a keyboard while jamming his sonic screwdriver into a USB port. When he stood back things began to fizz and spark and then everything in the room powered down with a very terminal whine.

“Sophisticated energy beam,” The Doctor said, pocketing his sonic screwdriver. “Powered by Solar Two’s renewable electricity. But easy to put a spanner… or a sonic… in the works. No more captured aliens hfere.”

From there they moved up to the ground floor and found a huge hangar whose guards made very little resistance when faced by an angry Sontaran, two Draconian ambassadors and the Levess couple. The Carellian Brood Mother finished them off with her knock out gas before the rest of the aliens poured in to find their space ships. Sarah Jane and Harry recognised the golf ball shaped Sontaran ship among the assorted flying saucer shapes and some rather more aerodynamic designs.

“The truce ends here,” Commander Asak said. “I will return to my Fleet. In respect of those who assisted me I will not advise the fleet to attack this planet Earthscour… THIS time.”

Asak saluted Harry, who returned the gesture, then he entered his ship. A few minutes later it took off vertically, straight through the surprisingly fragile roof of the hangar. Most of the other aliens used the gaping hole to make their own escape.

The Levess shuttle, the Draconian Diplomatic vessel and the Carellian Brood Mother’s migration pod were all too badly damaged to fly.

“No problem.” The Doctor said, pointing to a familiar blue box that was surrounded by discarded laser machines. The Project Earth Scour scientists had failed miserably in their attempts to open it. “I can give you all a lift. But we’re going to make a quick stop off in Washington DC, first.”

The TARDIS materialised on top of the Great Seal in the centre of the carpet in the Oval Office, much to the surprise of the President of the United State of America, who was seated at the famous Resolute Desk in close conference with the Senior Security Advisor, a broad-shouldered man whose chest glinted with a row of service medals. Both looked around in astonishment as the door of the police box opened and The Doctor stepped out, wrapping his long scarf around his shoulder so that he wouldn’t trip on it.

“Madame President,” he said with a slight bow of his head. “I am The Doctor. But I am sure you already know that. The Prime Minister of Great Britain will have advised you about me.”

He was interrupted by the arrival of six armed security guards – that is to say there were six of them and they were armed, not, of course, that they had six arms. He didn’t put up his hands. He waved one hand imperiously towards them.

“I am The Doctor. It goes without saying that I am unarmed. So just put away your guns. There are matters of world security at stake.”

The President of the United States signalled to the security guards to stand down. They remained in place but with their guns holstered. She looked at The Doctor again.

“You have, I suppose, received a report already about disturbances at the Solar Two detention centre. The aliens have all escaped, using minimum force to subdue their captors. Most of them have now left Earth’s solar system. However, I wish to introduce you to a representative party who wish to hear your apology for their abduction and the cruel and unusual punishments they were subjected to while unlawfully detained on American soil.”

“I…” The President spoke quietly to her Security Advisor. “I… We… The United States of America has the right to protect itself from enemies foreign and domestic… and extra-terrestrial. The Solar Two facility is for the detention and processing of potentially dangerous aliens who come to Earth…”

“No,” The Doctor said. “Even that remit is bad enough. But your people have not been capturing aliens who land on Earth. They have been using an energy beam powerful enough to reach beyond the solar system to force aliens to land on Earth who had no idea that sentient life even existed here. They do now, incidentally. And the consequences for the future of this planet… The Sontarans didn’t know about Earth until now. Nor did the Ktesh or the Draconians. It is far too soon for any of those races to be aware of you. You’re not ready to be counted as diplomatic friends and you’re not strong enough to make enemies of them. But your actions mean that, sooner rather than later you will end up being one or the other.”


“There are no buts,” The Doctor said. “Nothing short of an unconditional apology according to the rules of the Draconian Imperial Court will prevent an interstellar war right now.”

The Doctor waved his hand. Sarah Jane and Harry stepped out of the TARDIS. Behind them came the two Draconians, the two Levess and the Carellian Brood Mother with her baby in her tentacles. Her appearance was by far the most disturbing to the President, the Chief Military advisor and the secret service men. Sarah Jane went up to the Carellian and gently took the baby from her tentacles. She stepped towards the President and put the grey-blue baby in her arms. It waved its tentacles and projectile vomited over the President’s silk blouse. Sarah Jane hastily took the baby back.

“She’s had rather a distressing time. Her tummy is upset,” Sarah Jane pointed out. “But as you can see, she is no threat to anything other than artificial silk. And your people had her and her mum locked up.”

Then The Doctor gave the President, who was still wiping alien baby sick from her blouse, exact instructions on how to kneel with her head bowed, in front of the Draconian Ambassador and the form of words that would placate them.

“Kneel?” she protested. “I AM the President of the United States of America.”

“You will be president of a very large cinder if you do not do exactly what I said,” The Doctor told her. “The Draconians are a civilised race, but a militant one, too. You have insulted them. Your only recourse is the humble and penitent formal apology.”

The President looked at her Chief Advisor who nodded imperceptibly. Then she knelt and made the formal apology.

“That will suffice,” the senior Ambassador said. “Draconia will not seek further punishment, this time. But the Human race of Planet Earth will be denied admittance to the Draconian Imperial Court for a period of three hundred standard years. It is to be hoped that it has become a more civilised society by that time.”

The Draconians turned and entered the TARDIS.

“The representatives of the Levess and the Queen of Carellian will be satisfied with a formal apology. Kneeling is not required.”

They got their apology.

“The Unified Intelligence Taskforce are even now moving in to close down Project Earth Scour,” The Doctor said when that was done. “As you know very well, they have jurisdiction over any extra-terrestrial contact with humanity. They will place the officers and staff at Solar Two under arrest and confiscate any alien technology being used there and clear away anything not connected with the production of solar-powered electricity. Any interference with the U.N.I.T. operation would lead to worldwide sanctions against your country, and I don’t think you want that to happen, do you?”

The President obviously didn’t.

“Very well, we’ll be off. I hope when I visit the White House again it will be in happier circumstances. I’ve enjoyed some pleasant times here with your predecessors. Jimmy Carter was a great character. Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt…”

The Doctor turned and stepped into the TARDIS. It dematerialised, leaving an indentation in the Oval Office carpet.

“Roosevelt, Eisenhower?” Sarah Jane questioned The Doctor. “Namedropper.”

The Doctor smiled widely and set a course for Draconia where he had never had a pleasant time but at least good manners were respected.