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

The Doctor and Peri left Glendalough while the monks were gathering for their vigil in the cathedral. They crossed the bridge and headed towards the place where they left the TARDIS.

They were within sight of the incongruous blue box when two monks approached them. They had their hoods down and one of them was a pretty redhead.

“Brendáin, Naoimh,” The Doctor said in friendly greeting. “Are you going somewhere while your brethren are at prayer?”

“Yes, Doctor,” Brendáin answered. “We’ve risked being found out for too long. It is time to face the future together. Neither of us will be welcome at our homes, now. Naoimh’s parents disowned her for wanting to be with me, and mine will be angry that I gave up the holy orders. We shall find our own way.”

“But where will you go?” Peri asked.

“We thought of Wales,” Brendan went on. “Naoimh has a cousin who is secretary to Prince Llewellyn. He might be able to find us positions at court.”

“That sounds like a plan,” The Doctor told them. “But wait a few minutes. I might be able to help you on your way. Peri, keep them company until I get back.”

He dashed off towards the TARDIS. Peri and Naoimh both raised their hoods in case anyone passed along the way before he returned.

When he did, he was carrying a bundle of cloth and a small leather bag.

“These are some clothes that will better suit both of you,” he said, handing the bundle to Naoimh. “Especially at Court where they expect a lady to look like a lady.” He gave the small bag to Brendáin. He opened it to reveal that it was full of gold dust. “That will help with your travels and set you up when you get to Wales,” he added.

“Doctor, thank you,” Brendáin said, quickly putting the precious bag inside his robes. “It is far more of a generosity and of a kindness than we had a right to expect.”

“May your God bless you,” The Doctor answered. “Good journey from me and from Peri.”

“Yes, indeed,” Peri added. “Good journey.”

“You… also, Doctor, Peri,” Brendáin answered, seeing, in a moment of almost psychic clarity, that their journey was to somewhere much further than Wales. The two young lovers watched as their benefactor and his companion stepped inside the TARDIS. A few moments later it disappeared noisily. They crossed themselves instinctively and decided never to tell anyone about blue boxes that vanished into thin air. That was even more startling than ghosts from the future.

“Will they be all right?” Peri asked as the TARDIS got underway. “Brendáin and Naoimh, I mean. I suppose there’s no way of finding out about them?”

“The lives of ordinary people were rarely recorded in this time,” The Doctor said in reply. “It would be impossible to trace them. But we gave them the best possible chance. The rest is history. Meanwhile, we’re going to the future.”

“How far into the future?” Peri asked.

“A long way, I think. The echo I told Lorcáin about has bounced back and forwards for many centuries. Stories about ghosts in the ruins of the monastery were common right up to the late nineteenth and twentieth century.”

“And then they stopped?” Peri asked.

“No, then the camera was invented and people captured ‘proof’ of the ghost.” Peri drew close to where The Doctor was standing at the computer database console. She looked at a series of images from the earliest age of tintypes and sepia prints through to sharp digital images that took micro-seconds to process. Some of the ‘ghosts’ were obviously just double exposures or shadows. Others were harder to dismiss.

Besides, she KNEW it was real.

“That one might even be you,” The Doctor said of a hooded figure in the background of a tourist photo. “As a time traveller it would make sense that your image would be captured and echoed forward while the man from the future was seen in the past.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” Peri said. “I don’t think I want to be a ghost, even the way you describe it as something scientific.”

“It could be any monk in any time in the history of the monastery from when it was founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century, right up to the time when it was partially destroyed by the English troops in 1398 and abandoned by the brethren,” The Doctor conceded. “But the man in the pressurised suit can only come from one decade in the history of your planet.”

“He looked like a spaceman,” Peri said. “But a futuristic one. Not the sort of suit NASA are using in my time, anyway.”

“Well judged,” The Doctor congratulated her. “Funnily enough, white has always been the popular colour for pressure suits. That’s why the ghost obviously struck you as a spaceman. For Lorcáin’s generation it was nothing short of a demon from the dungeon dimensions. But his people are sheltered and unworldly and they can’t imagine much beyond their own small world.”

“Just a little patronising there, Doctor,” Peri warned him. “What you mean is that anything from the future would scare them, up to and including my shorts and crop top ensemble, so no wonder it seemed terrifying to them. But what’s it all about? Why is somebody in the FAR future wandering around Glendalough in a spacesuit? Is it an alien that can’t breathe our air?”

“No, it’s a Human. It’s the air that’s wrong. In the year One Hundred and Fifty-Five Thousand Four Hundred and Seven an asteroid causes planetwide devastation – not just the ice age that killed the dinosaurs sort of devastation, but worse than that. The atmosphere burned. The planet had no air left.”

“You mean….” Peri began.

“The Human race was fine. Those not already living on colony planets evacuated to the moon and slept out the crisis in stasis chambers. They also evacuated enough birds, fish, animals, insects and samples of plants to restore the ecosystem. They had the technology to do that by then.”

“I wish you wouldn’t talk in the past tense about things in the future from my perspective.”

“Your perspective is too rigid, my dear Peri. Here we are. The Glen of the Two Lakes in the year 155409. You’ll need to dress for some extreme weather.”

It was entirely possible, Peri thought as she stepped out of the TARDIS wearing a futuristic pressure suit, that she was not only the ghostly monk seen in the era of photography, but the spaceman that terrified Lorcáin’s brethren. She looked pretty much like the figure they had all seen back then. She would have put the idea to The Doctor, but she was too busy being horrified at what she saw.

There were no lakes, for a start. They had dried up and the burnt soil filled them in. The mountains that flanked them had crumbled. The glen was the middle of a blackened desert.

There was no trace of the monastery. It must have fallen to dust even before the devastation.

“Oh, Doctor!” Peri couldn’t help the tears falling. Something inside the helmet drew the moisture away, but she cried all the same. “Oh, it’s horrible.”

“It will all be green again in a few centuries,” he promised. “The grass will grow. Trees, too. People will come back. The Human race is indomitable and Earth will always be their home.”

He was being kind, which was unusual even for him. Perhaps he understood what she was feeling. After all, he was a long way from his home world.

“The time tear began around here,” The Doctor said. “I thought as much. All the physical upheaval impacted upon the metaphysical.”

“How can you tell?” Peri asked. “You haven’t even got so much s a Geiger counter.”

“I’m a Time Lord. Being this close to a tear is like a loose tooth nagging at me. Come on. Back to the TARDIS.”

Any other time Peri would have complained about such a short visit to any place. It hardly seemed to be worth putting on the pressure suit. But in this case she was more than glad to get away. This dead Earth felt so very wrong to her.

It was wrong to The Doctor, too. When he stepped into the TARDIS and released the helmet his own deep sigh of relief was as prolonged as the hiss of air from the suit.

“Not so much a loose tooth as a migraine combined with a bad attack of lumbago in all of my joints,” he said. “Close proximity to a time tear really takes it out of me.”

“Can you fix it, though?” Peri asked him.

“Oh, yes, no problem. It’s easy enough from right here in the TARDIS. Tell you what, I’m thinking of an early twenty-first century stop off before we go back to see Lorcáin. Why don’t you go and change into something suitable for an American tourist in Ireland.”

Peri didn’t need to be asked twice. The futuristic pressure suit automatically kept her body cool and comfortable, and the lightweight fibre was far less cumbersome than she imagined, but the chance to wear ‘normal’ clothes for a little while was too good to miss.

When she returned to the console room, The Doctor looked exhausted but triumphant.

“You fixed it?”

“I did. We’re on our way to Glendalough in 2013 – an area of special historical significance. You’ll like it.”

“I will if you ALSO go and change into something that an American tourist would wear,” Peri told him. “It would be nice not to be embarrassed for once.”

He gave her a quizzical look and then went off to the wardrobe. He returned wearing the all blue ensemble he occasionally wore – it was still lively, with the kipper tie and multi-patterned waistcoat and striped pants. But at least it wasn’t the coat of many colours that Joseph would have thrown up over.

And it was exactly what some over-the-top American tourists would wear. She had seen worse in the departure lounge at Kennedy.

“Come on then, let’s go and see the sights.”

This was definitely Glendalough. Peri recognised the river, even though the bridge was new. She recognised what was left of the gateway. The sanctuary cross was still visible in the wall though the roof was gone and the space between the two archways open to the elements.

A lot of the monastery buildings were gone, including the cathedral and the refectory. But St. Kevin’s Church was still whole and so was the great round tower. The foundations of most of the other buildings had been excavated, and the graveyard with many old celtic crosses marking the last resting places of monks long dead and buried.

That included all of the people she had made friends with. Peri tried not to be sad about it. After all, they had lived good lives in their own time and place. But it did feel a bit strange.

“I hate that kind of thing,” she said as The Doctor took her towards a modern building – built with granite and mica slate to fit in with the ancient monument, but still distinctly modern. “Interpretive centres! Who needs them.”

All the same she came with The Doctor and looked around at the exhibition of artefacts and photographs that told the history of Glendalough.

“Oh!” Peri exclaimed in surprise and drew closer to one of the glass cases. “Oh, Doctor, that’s Lorcáin, surely? It’s a piece of stained glass. The portrait isn’t exactly lifelike, but that’s him, surely?”

She read the information carefully and exclaimed again.

“Lorcáin Ua Tuathail, Abbot of Glendalough, Archbishop of Dublin, canonised in 1225 by Pope Hortorius III and as St. Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of the Diocese of Dublin.”

“He’s a SAINT?” She was impressed. Of all the people she had met in her travels with The Doctor, she had never met an actual SAINT before.

“Couldn’t happen to a nicer man,” The Doctor said. “Don’t you think?”

“Oh, I think so. But people don’t usually get to be saints until after they’re dead. Can we go back to when he’s alive and the monastery isn’t a ruin and tell him that the ghosts are gone and it’s all sorted.”

“You want to get back into the habit already?” The Doctor teased. “Come on, then.”

He really WAS teasing. The wardrobe provided a gown suitable for a high born lady of the mid-twelfth century. Peri stepped out of the TARDIS in nut-brown velvet with a sculpted waist and a long flared skirt. long, tight-fitted sleeves widened at the elbow until they hung down nearly as long as the skirt. Her head was covered decorously in something much like a wimple, but she still felt amazingly feminine.

Lorcáin and his brethren were still in vigil, but The Doctor went to relieve them. In thanksgiving for the end of their crisis and the visit of the Lady Peri, a feast was declared. In very short order an ox and several sheep were slaughtered and roasted and all manner of pies and tarts and more than one keg of ale were brought to the refectory. There was fine wine for the Abbot’s table, where Lady Peri and The Doctor were guests of honour. There were prayers, of course, and readings from the scriptures while the feasting went on, but it was still a celebration. Peri enjoyed it thoroughly.

“I sat next to a future saint and feasted on roast ox and apple pie,” she said as she walked back to the TARDIS in the early morning. “That’s one heck of an experience. If I ever stop travelling with you, Doctor, this will be one of the special times I’ll absolutely cherish. Thank you, Doctor.”

The Doctor smiled. It wasn’t often that he was thanked for anything, especially not from Peri, who was so often disillusioned by the wonders of space and time.

Perhaps that was one of Lorcáin’s first miracles.