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

“Where’s The Doctor?” Adric asked. “He brought us aboard this boat, then went off.”

“It’s a ship, not a boat,” Nyssa corrected him.

“Same difference. Where’s The Doctor?”

“He’s making sure the TARDIS is safely stored in the hold,” replied Tegan. “You wouldn’t want it left on the docks here in Liverpool, would you?”

“Not if we’re going all the way to New York,” Nyssa commented. “It’s a ten day sea voyage. I’m really looking forward to it. We had nothing like this on Traaken.”

“There were no oceans on your planet?” Tegan asked, thankful that the cabin class lounge was relatively empty and no other passengers were sitting close enough to overhear their odd conversation.

“Oh, yes,” Nyssa assured her. “But we didn’t travel across them like this… on huge floating palaces. We had transmat systems that could send a person from one place to another instantly.”

“We had lakes on my world,” Adric said. “And small boats.”

“This is definitely a ship,” Tegan commented proudly. “The MV Britannic, the first diesel powered ocean liner in the Empire.”

“Empire?” Nyssa queried. The term for her meant the system wide rule of whole planets. The British Empire as it existed in the late nineteen-twenties was nothing in comparison – which would certainly have surprised the directors of the White Star Line who commissioned the Brittanic as a reminder that her namesake, Britannia, still ruled the waves and that the sun did not set upon her Empire.

“It’s still an Empire in this time, not a Commonwealth,” explained Tegan, child of the said Empire’s most distant colony. It really didn’t answer Nyssa’s query, but the steward was coming over with the snacks and drinks they had ordered and she quickly changed the subject.

Tegan and Nyssa took a cucumber sandwich each and ate delicately while trying not to notice Adric pigging out on a platter of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, chicken legs and canapes.

A horn sounded throughout the ship, letting all non-passengers know it was time to disembark.

By the time it sounded again to tell everyone that the gangway was being closed, Adric had just about finished eating for now.

“Let’s go and wave,” Tegan proposed.

“Who to?” Adric asked. “We don’t know anyone in Liverpool.”

“Let’s just wave. It’s what people do.”

Nyssa got up to go with her. Adric reached for the leftover cucumber sandwiches.

“He’s such a pig,” Tegan remarked. “Come on. Let’s get some fresh air.”


In fact, the air was not especially fresh. They still hadn’t set off from the port of Liverpool and there was a smell in the air that was difficult to identify – a mixture of coal, fish and rotting fruit with a dose of humanity in the pre-antiperspirant era. But it was exciting to find a place by the rail on the port-side deck and wave down at the crowds on the dock below.

It reminded Tegan of why she had always wanted to travel - the thrill of setting off somewhere. She got that thrill when she boarded a plane in her capacity as an air-stewardess. She got it whenever the TARDIS set off another journey into adventure.

But there was nothing quite like being aboard a ship as it slowly inched away from the wall and then moved forward into open water, steaming past the city of Liverpool, past Birkenhead on the other side, out past New Brighton where they left the River Mersey and entered the Irish Sea. The Britannic turned north at that point to pick up passengers in Belfast and then Glasgow before rounding Ireland and heading out into the Atlantic. By tomorrow afternoon they would have left the British Isles far behind.

That really was exciting, even compared to travelling across galaxies. Tegan wondered why it was and concluded that it was because she could see the land getting further and further away, see the clouds in the sky moving more slowly than she was, feel the diesel engines deep beneath her feet.

“I know exactly how you feel,” The Doctor said. Tegan looked around. Nyssa had long ago gone back into the lounge in search of a cup of tea. Most of the other passengers had done the same. She was almost alone at the rail. Only a chap much further downwind being a little sick spoiled a thoroughly perfect scene.

“You do?” Tegan asked. “I was thinking how much more fun this is than TARDIS travel.”

“Yes, I know. And it IS. That’s why I thought we could all use a holiday from our usual mode of transport. I can tell you do.”

“Adric is going to eat all the food aboard before we reach New York,” Tegan said. “After that we might need to eat him to stave of hunger. Nyssa isn’t quite sure what it’s all about at all. But me, yes. I love it. There’s a party tonight, after we pick up the Glasgow passengers. It’s fancy dress. I’ve still got my flapper dress from Cranleigh Hall, and Nyssa has that gorgeous purple butterfly outfit that matched Anne Talbot’s.”

“I shall avoid the clown costumes,” The Doctor said, remembering the trouble it had caused. “But you won’t have to worry about me. You and Nyssa will almost certainly find plenty of suitors aboard.”

“Suitors?” Tegan wondered for a moment if The Doctor was serious. It was ok to visit the late 1920s, but she didn’t want to stay. The Great Depression was about to sweep across the world, and then Fascism and Communism and a world war. These were the last carefree days of the decade. She would rather get back to her own part of the century before she left The Doctor’s company for good.

“I was joking,” he assured her. “But don’t hold back from having fun. That’s what you came with me to find and a lot of it hasn’t been. This is our carefree time, too.”

He hugged her gently and then left her at the railing, saying he fancied a game of draughts in the smoking room. Whether that was true or not Tegan wasn’t sure, but his departure was well timed. A good-looking man in flannels and a blazer came out onto the deck as The Doctor went inside. He glanced around and then walked casually, yet with the obvious intention of talking to her. Tegan got ready to be cool and distant towards the first chance of an on-board romance of the sort The Doctor had hinted she might enjoy.

“Hello,” the good-looking one said. “Do you play quoits?”

“I… don’t think I do,” she answered. “I’m not even sure what that is.”

“It’s a way of passing time aboard ship. It can get fearfully dull in the afternoons.”

“I’d… be willing to learn,” Tegan answered. “I’m Tegan Jovanka, by the way. From Brisbane originally, though travelling abroad for the time being.”

“Good heavens, where are my manners!” the good-looking one said with a laugh. “I ought to have done the honours, first. Jack Havelock, of the Derby Havelocks. Please call me Jack – if you’ll give me the honour of calling you Tegan. It’s a charming name – unusual. Most of the ladies I know are called Clarissa or Elizabeth, usually the Honourable Clarissa and Lady Elizabeth. Dull girls with dull names and dull expectations for their futures. I think I’d rather teach a Miss Tegan Jovanka of Brisbane to play quoits.”

She laughed. He was far more talkative than she was sure men of his class and this decade were meant to be, but her first instinct was to like him.

The ship very conveniently hit a swell just about then. She lost her footing momentarily. It was an excuse for him to offer his arm to escort her to the quoits deck.

Adric was still eating his way through a plate of cream cakes when Nyssa went to look for him. She watched for a minute or two and decided she would rather find somewhere else to sit. There were, after all, several different sitting areas aboard the boat. The smoking lounge where the men and the more mature women went wasn’t for her, certainly not on her own, but there were other options.

One of them was the reading room. All of the day’s newspapers were there, plus the weekly and monthly magazines. She sat and picked up one called Woman’s Weekly which had articles in it about embroidery and soft furnishings as well as recipes for dinner parties.

She put it down again. She was a well brought up young lady of Traaken, but that didn’t mean being a perfect housekeeper. Her speciality was electronics.

She found another magazine which was about building radios. It was quite primitive stuff using valves and wires, but it held her interest. A steward took her order for a pot of tea. It was served with a plate of sweet biscuits which she nibbled slowly without Adric gobbling them two at a time.

“Hullo,” a voice said in utter surprise. “A girl who reads electronics magazines. How thoroughly unusual.”

She looked up into a pair of bright blue eyes and a freckled face. The boy was a year older than her, perhaps. He had untidy hair and a smut of diesel smoke down one cheek.

“More girls SHOULD take an interest in such things,” Nyssa answered. “It seems as if most of them on this planet care about nothing unless it has lace on it.”

She realised too late that talking of ‘the planet’ was wrong, but the boy laughed as if she was making a joke. He asked if he could sit down with her. She saw no reason to say no.

“I’m Laurence Bright. My friends call me Larry,” he said.

“Nyssa,” she answered. “Smith. Nyssa Smith.” The Doctor had explained to her the importance of surnames on Earth and she used the simplest of them. “Would you like some tea? There is plenty in this pot. Have a biscuit, too.”

He grinned widely and took a biscuit as she poured his tea.

“I’m going to Boston with my parents,” he explained. “My father is an engineer. He’s designing a new electricity power station for the city.”

“He sounds a very clever man,” Nyssa told the boy. “My… my father was a scientist. He’s dead, now. I’m travelling with The Doctor. He’s… sort of… my guardian.”

“You get your interest in electronics from your father, then?”

“And The Doctor, too. He encourages me to learn.”

“Good for both of them. Girls really ought to know these things.”

He smiled again. Nyssa smiled back and mentioned an article she had just read in the magazine. He had read the same article. Their conversation became a friendly and animated one as they indulged their favourite subject.

Adric had found a soul-mate, too. She was wearing a dress with far too many frills on it for anyone’s taste and her ringleted hair was fastened in silk ribbons.

She ordered a plate of cream cakes from the steward and proceeded to eat them all one after the other.

Adric watched her admiringly. He had never seen anyone – especially not a girl – with an appetite equal to his before.

He moved over to her table, bringing his own supply of food with him.

“Hi, I’m Adric,” he said.

“Funny name,” she replied. “I’m Paula.”

“Funny name for a girl,” he countered. “Adric is a perfectly good name for an Alzarian.”

“What’s one of those when it’s at home?” Paula asked.

“It’s where I come from. Alzarius.”

“And where’s that? It sounds foreign.”

“It is,” Adric answered her. “It’s in E-Space.”

“You’re just being silly,” Paula told him. “There’s no such place.”

“Suit yourself,” Adric replied. “Don’t you ever get fat eating so much?”

“No. My father says I have hollow legs. My mother said it’s time I started acting more like a young lady now that I’m fourteen, but I don’t want to.”

“Do you like wearing that dress?” Adric asked her.

“No. I’m waiting for my parents to go to the smoking lounge, then I’m going to get changed. I’ve got some proper clothes hidden away in my cabin.”

By proper clothes, she meant a pair of trousers and a jumper with a flat cap that she put over all that hair. She looked like a boy from a distance, at least.

“Come on, let’s go and see the kitchens,” she said. “And see if we can get some more cakes.”

“We can get anything we like,” Adric pointed out. “We just have to ask the stewards to bring it.”

“Yes, but it’s more fun to take it without asking,” Paula suggested with a sly wink.

Adric remembered stealing riverfruits from under the noses of the Deciders and understood exactly what she meant. He hadn’t had that sort of fun for ages.

“Let’s go,” he said.

The Doctor was satisfied that all of his companions were happily occupied and that he had some time to himself. He settled himself in the smoking room, even though he, himself, didn’t smoke. He found himself liking the idea of being among adult men for a while.

He drank a rare alcoholic drink – something he didn’t often do when he was in charge of Nyssa and Adric – and watched a chess game that was going on.

Then his attention was drawn by the passenger who came into the smoking room. The fact that she was a woman was something of a novelty. This tended to be a male preserve.

But it was also because she was a very beautiful woman, her naturally well-defined features enhanced with carefully applied cosmetics. Glossy auburn hair was fastened high on her head, but it was easy to imagine it flowing loose around her shoulders. She was dressed in russet-red that complimented her hair and brought out the red glint in it. She was wearing gold and ruby earrings, necklace and a bracelet in matching style and several rings with large stones in them – though none of them were on her ring finger. For those who dared to look lower finely turned ankles in silk stockings fitted into russet-red shoes with gold ornaments to match her jewellery.

The Doctor wasn’t the only man who noticed her. He wasn’t the only one who kept on noticing her as she went to the bar and ordered a drink before turning and looking around. The Doctor was the only one who didn’t stop looking at her and who met her gaze. The rest all became far more concerned with their game or the contents of their pipe or their drinks.

He was the one who went towards her, to the envious glances of the married men who couldn’t make the approach in all honesty.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “I’m The Doctor.”

“Do you do house calls?” the delightful woman responded.

“I have been known,” The Doctor came back. “Are you in need of my services?”

It was flirting of a sort he hadn’t indulged for a very long time. For several regenerations now his friends invariably thought of him as a confirmed bachelor with no romantic attentions towards women. It was true for the most part. He tended to think in much bigger terms than purely individual relationships. He spent his time saving whole species from peril, entire planets from annihilation.

He never had time to make it personal. He didn’t resent that, but now, with an ocean voyage ahead of him with no responsibilities, no tyrants to defeat, no worlds to save, he had the opportunity now to make the time, make it personal.

“I might,” the lady replied. “I am Caroline Havilland, the Honourable Caroline Havilland, properly addressed - at least when I’m being proper, or honourable, for that matter.”

She laughed at her own joke. The Doctor laughed with her, knowing full well what she meant about being proper.

“Would you like to come for a walk around the deck, Caroline?” he asked.

“Yes, I think I should like that,” Caroline answered, swallowing her drink quickly. The Doctor took her by the arm and they headed for the door, followed by the envious glances of men who weren’t free to invite such an attractive and available lady to do anything.

Later, as the MV Britannic rounded the northern coast of Ireland with her full complement of passengers now loaded, Nyssa and Tegan dressed in their cabin for the costume party. Nyssa was a floaty, gauzy purple butterfly again as she had been at Lady Cranleigh’s ball. Tegan loved her flapper dress, reminiscent of the start of the decade that was now ending.

“Jack is meeting me on the fore-deck,” she said as she fixed her hair up with artificial flowers. “He’s coming as a cowboy, he said. He told me all about his family. He’s the youngest son of Lord Havelock. His older brother, James, inherits the title and most of the property. He asked his father for an advance on his own legacy to go to America and buy a cattle ranch in Colorado. There’s money to be made in that sort of thing, apparently. I’m not sure if he’s right. The Great Depression is about to hit America in the next year. I think he might struggle. But he’s brave to go all that way to start a new life for himself.”

“Yes,” Nyssa agreed. She had been thinking about Larry. He was going to have two more years at a very good boys’ school in Boston that offered an English style education. After that he planned to go to university and study engineering just like his father. He was nervous about starting a new school in a new country, but confident that he would be up to the challenge just as his father was confident about the project that had led to him bringing his family to America.

Nyssa approved thoroughly of Laurence’s ambitions. Following one’s parents was something that Traakens almost always did. Nyssa had been proud to explore the sciences like her father. She continued to pursue those studies under The Doctor’s tutelage in his memory.

“He sounds like a very nice boy,” Tegan said to her when she talked of him. “Very suitable for you. Jack knows I’m not from a titled family. He doesn’t mind. He likes me for myself, not for my ancestors. I told him that was a good thing, since my ancestors were Welsh.”

They laughed together and looked forward to going to a ball with young men who had asked for their company in that way. It was something of a rite of passage for them both.

“Adric has a girl to bring to the party, too,” Tegan said with a giggle. “But I think they plan to hog the buffet rather than doing any dancing.”

“I’m not sure there will be enough food,” Nyssa said, joining in the amusement about Adric with a girl who shared his passions.

And it was certainly true that the buffet was frequently frequented by a pirate and a highwaywoman with ringlets peaking from beneath her three-cornered hat. But Tegan and Nyssa were far more interested in the woman who commanded The Doctor’s attentions for the entire evening.

“She’s Caroline Havilland,” Jack explained to them. “That’s about all anyone knows about her. She seems to be from a family of substance. She has the money and the breeding, but nobody knows who her family are. There are Havillands listed in Burkes, but she isn’t among them.”

“Does it really matter?” Tegan asked.

“No, not really. Your friend, The Doctor seems very interested in her, though. I wonder….”

“So do I,” Tegan agreed. The Doctor, dressed dashingly if a little unimaginatively as an England Cricketer in full whites, was dancing with a very lovely Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile.

The Doctor was dancing with a woman, having drinks with a woman, talking and laughing with a woman, slipping out onto the deck with a woman….

It was all very unusual for him.

“I think it’s great,” Nyssa said. “I mean… why shouldn’t he?”

There were reasons, of course, but not ones they could discuss in front of Jack and Laurence. The Doctor was a Time Lord. He came from another planet. He had two hearts and thirteen lives. Tegan and Nyssa had both witnessed his last regeneration. Those were all very good reasons why The Doctor shouldn’t have a romance with a Human woman.

But somehow they didn’t seem as important as they should.

“Good luck to him,” Tegan murmured as she turned back to her date. “Perhaps it’s about time.”

“Yes,” Nyssa agreed. Laurence asked her if she would like some lemonade. She didn’t, really, but she liked the fact that he had asked and let him take her to the table where soft drinks were dispensed to those under the drinking age.

Out on deck, The Doctor glanced to the southern horizon, but though it was a clear night the Britannic’s latitude was too far north for him to see the constellation of Sagittarius, the region of space where Gallifrey’s star was to be found. He usually felt a tinge of loneliness when he couldn’t locate his home in the night sky, but tonight he was experiencing a whole lot of very different emotions, and it didn’t feel as if it mattered quite so much.

“Caroline,” he said. “You are….”

He completely forgot what he was going to say. Perhaps there was no need to say anything.

“The North Atlantic is really too cold for the Queen of Egypt,” he managed at the second try. “Do you want to go back into the ballroom?”

“I’d rather go somewhere quieter,” Caroline answered. “Somewhere we can be alone.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “Oh, yes.”

At the back of his mind he had a nagging idea that he wasn’t making these decisions entirely of his own volition, but he pushed those ideas down and let his emotions dictate his actions for once in his long, mostly single, life.

Down in the cargo hold of the MV Britannic, the TARDIS, with a sticker on it designating it ‘Not Wanted On Voyage’, hummed slightly. Even in low power mode it had detected something else in close proximity that wasn’t born on this planet. It scanned that object and determined that it was not dangerous before its circuits quietened once more.