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

The Doctor frowned when he saw the mauve coloured light bulb flashing on the communications console.

“A mauve alert signal from Earth,” he said dolefully. “Will I ever be done rescuing that planet from disaster?”

“No need to sound so miffed about it,” Rory told him. “What’s the problem, anyway? And what’s a mauve alert exactly?”

“By the fifty-first century it’s beyond a red alert, mortal peril, planet-wide devastation imminent,” The Doctor replied. “But this is from the mid-twenty-first century – twenty-forty-five.”

“So….” Amy prompted him.

“So it’s coming from somebody I know. Somebody I gave a mauve alert crystal to at some point – a signal to be used in the event of disaster or mortal peril… or… if I missed a dinner date.”

“A dinner date?”

“You don’t have to sound so disbelieving,” The Doctor replied. “In the twenty-forties there is a very nice lady cellist with the Glasgow Symphony Orchestra who used to find me very charming company.”

“Used to?” Amy queried. The Doctor sighed.

“It was four regenerations back. She wouldn’t recognise me now, and Power of Suggestion doesn’t mix with romance.”

Rory and Amy decided to draw a veil over The Doctor’s affairs of the heart.

“So… is it your lady cellist in trouble or somebody else?”

“Could be the royal family, or the Prime Minister. They both have crystals. Or it might be… at least three or four other people in this time. I’m not sure. It’s London, anyway.”


The time rotor glowed and the familiar materialisation noise heralded their arrival on Earth, in London, in the year twenty-forty-five.

They stepped out into a room full of printers and computer terminals all of which were switched off. There was light only from one Anglepoise lamp on one desk in the middle of the room. As their eyes got used to the gloom the new arrivals couldn’t help noticing that the other desks had been pushed to the sides of the room creating a clear space around the one desk.

There was a woman sitting at that desk. She had looked around at the sound of the TARDIS materialising. She stood now and took a few tentative steps closer before stopping.

“It… is… you, isn’t it? Doctor….”

“It’s me,” he answered. “And you must be the person I gave a mauve alert crystal to. But I’m having trouble remembering…..”

“You didn’t give the crystal to me,” the woman answered. She was in her forties, possibly fifties, but with a mature beauty coveted by many. She was dusky skinned, with obviously Indian heritage, but her accent was that of an educated Londoner. “You gave it to a very close friend a long time ago. She gave it to me… in case I ever needed it. When I say gave… I mean… she died… of old age. The crystal was something of hers she wanted me to have…. I hope that’s all right.”

“Of course it’s all right,” The Doctor assured her. He reached out and took her trembling hand in his. “Don’t be frightened. You did the right thing…. Rani.”

“You know me now?”

“Rani Chandra. Yes, of course. We met many years ago, when you were still at school. You were one of Sarah Jane’s young friends. Oh… she’s the one who gave you the crystal?”

“I’m sorry,” Rani said. “I suppose it’s a shock to you… finding out that way.”

“It’s a hazard of my life,” The Doctor admitted. “I never live one day after the other. My friends do. Most of those I knew in those days must be gone. But you’re here, still. And I am glad to see you.”

“Doctor,” Rory called out. “I think reminiscing about old friends might need to wait. I think I know why we’re here.”

He was looking out of one of the windows. The room had several very large ones, but the blinds were drawn across them all. Rory had pulled one back and looked out at what he had first assumed to be dusk. Now he saw that the strong sunlight of a mid-afternoon was simply obscured by thick vines growing across the windows.

“Please,” Rani begged. “Come away from there, before they see you.”

“Before… what sees me?” Rory did as she said, but he was puzzled.

“The plants,” she added. “If they know we’re here….”

“Plants?” Amy echoed. “I don’t understand.”

“Where exactly are we?” Rory asked. “I know this is London, but what part of London? What’s this building?”

“It’s King’s Place, in Islington, headquarters of the Guardian newspaper, the only non-tabloid to survive the crash of the Murdoch Empire twenty years ago,” Rani explained. “This is the admin office on the top floor. They’ve taken all the lower floors. Everyone else got away by a helicopter that picked them up from the roof three days ago. I hung on, waiting for you. They said I was mad, that it was suicide to stay. But I had to try.”

“You did the right thing,” Amy told her. “The Doctor won’t let anyone down.”

“I was… losing hope a little bit. I’ve been living off crisps and coke from the vending machines and trying to keep as quiet as possible. They can sense movement and sound. They’ve killed so many people that way.”

“The plants?” Rory was still having trouble believing that part of it all, even though he had seen out of the window.

“The plants,” Rani echoed. “Look.”

She opened a deep drawer in her desk and pulled out copies of the newspaper that had been printed over the past three months. That was how long it had taken for this crisis to reach epic proportions. “It all started with Professor Ingleby and his Alliva plants.”

Rory read the article that made something like half a page in the science section of the Sunday Guardian. That included a quite large photograph of the Professor, a pasty-faced man with watery eyes who looked more like a poster child for hay fever remedies than a botanist. He was showing off his new hybrid plant, the Alliva-Vivarum Heliotrope. It was a pretty looking pot plant that he said had been bred to react to light as a heliotropic plant should, turning towards the sun, but also to sound and movement.

Rani touched the photograph with a slender finger. Rory blinked as the still photograph on what looked like ordinary paper turned into a moving image. It was much like the pictures in the Daily Prophet in the Harry Potter films, but Rani explained that it was a new innovation that kept print news going in the face of multi-media rivals. A way had been found to embed video on ordinary paper the way it used to be embedded in web-pages like You-Tube.

The two minute long video showed Professor Ingleby’s plant turning – actually turning as he spoke – towards a torchlight, towards the music playing on a radio, towards his hand waving a few feet away. That was why it was called Alliva-Vivarum – because it looked as if it was alive.

“He developed the plant in Cambridge,” Rani added. “At the University botanical gardens. It was meant to be a serious scientific project, but it became the next big thing. Everyone wanted an Alliva plant. Garden centres couldn’t get enough stock. Ebay went ballistic with people selling the plants on at massively inflated prices. They cost €25.99 in the shops, but I saw bidding going past €1,000. And they were worldwide. People were ordering them all over the planet. Some countries – Australia and New Zealand, Canada in particular, banned their import in case they were bad for the indigenous plant life, but people were smuggling them in and anyway it was too late. The professor had given plants to the British Embassies in cities all over the world to prove that they would grow in any climate. By the time people realised the danger it was too late.”

“The danger being that the plants grew like mad?” Amy suggested, glancing at the window.

“Not just that, but they were deadly. They’re flesh eaters. Horrible things. The first mature plants were about ten feet tall. People transplanted them into big pots and gave them loads of compost, encouraged them to grow in foyers of buildings, anywhere with plenty of light and lots of noise and movement. They were talking points, the plants that followed your conversation. Then there started to be reports of people being killed by them. The first was a night watchmen at the British Museum. His body… what was left of it… was found tangled in the plant’s vines. He had been strangled, then his flesh stripped. When the plant was examined forensically it was found that it exuded a sort of acid, like stomach bile… that consumed organic tissue… meat… Human meat.”

Rani swallowed hard as she showed them a series of newspaper articles, first editorials on the inside, then headline news as the crisis deepened. Of course, the Health and Safety Executive had ordered the removal of Alliva plants from public places. Most of them were whipped out of sight as soon as the news of the first death broke. But a lot of people carried on cultivating them privately, and it soon became clear that they couldn’t be easily destroyed. They were resistant to any sort of weedkiller, even the really nasty sort that were stockpiled in secret Ministry of Defence bunkers and actually qualified as chemical weapons. Burning them in the open only released spores that took root wherever they found even the smallest bit of soil and began to grow exponentially. The only successful way to destroy them was incineration in enclosed furnaces. The crematoriums of the world were pressed into use in the fight to eradicate Alliva.

“The funny thing is,” Rani explained. “They didn’t grow so well in the countryside where there weren’t so many people. They ONLY eat Human flesh, apparently, not other animals. So there are remote places of Britain – the Scottish Highlands, Wales, Dartmoor, that are safe. Across the world, deserts and prairies are ok, the Australian outback. Or they were to begin with. As people evacuated the cities and swarmed to those places, they brought spores on their clothes, on the soles of their shoes. Before the internet went down we had reports of seedlings springing up in the evacuation zones. Of course, now we know, they’re uprooted and burnt before they get to full size. But it only takes one to be missed out – to mature and release spores….”

The Doctor hadn’t said anything at all as she explained the situation. It had been Rory and Amy who prompted her with questions. They didn’t notice him go into the TARDIS and emerge with a small metal box, a pair of thick gloves on his hand and a pair of secateurs. Despite Rani’s warnings, he opened the window wide enough to get his hands through. He took a cutting from the plant outside and dropped it into the box before shutting the window again.

“Now they know we’re here,” Rani complained. “Doctor, we’re trapped.”

“Well, of course we’re not,” he reminded her. “The TARDIS is right over there. Is there anything you need to bring with you?”

“Just…” She turned back to her desk and picked up a goldfish bowl. “Sona,” she added, referring to the plump orange-coloured fish swimming around a model pirate ship and assorted shipwreck debris.

“Hindi for gold?” The Doctor asked.

“One of a dozen words I know in that language,” Rani pointed out. “I was born in London.”

The little time it took to pick up the fish bowl was long enough for the ravaging plantlife to crack the double-glazed window and push its vines through. It was that prolific when it knew there was prey around. The Doctor made sure everyone else was in the TARDIS before he followed them and closed the door.

The Doctor paused with his hand over the drive control switch and watched the view outside on the ‘round window’ as his companions called it. Vines were crawling across the floor, seeking out any movement, any sound. But there was neither until he brought his hand down on the switch and the TARDIS dematerialised.

It re-materialised again in hover mode a few feet above the roof of King’s Place. The Doctor moved to the environmental console and pressed several buttons at once. The round videoscreen glowed red briefly.

“What did you do?” Amy asked.

“Thirty seconds of extreme heat on the outside of the TARDIS to burn off any spores that might have managed to cling to it before we dematerialised. I’ll do that regularly as we travel,” he added. “I want to keep the TARDIS in hover mode and observe what’s happening down below.”

“And where are we going?”

“Cambridge,” The Doctor replied. “Rani, you can put Sona down here on the console. I’ll put a gravity cushion around her. Even if we tip upside down she won’t lose a drop of water out of her bowl.”

“You can do that for a goldfish?” Rory pointed out. “But we get thrown around the TARDIS like a pair of dice every time we hit turbulence.”

“You’ve got opposable thumbs,” The Doctor told him. “You can grab on. Sona can’t.”

“We’re going to find the professor who started the trouble?” Amy asked, passing on from the question of goldfish transport safety.

“We certainly are,” The Doctor replied. “But first….” He was looking at the round viewscreen as they passed over London at much the same speed as a helicopter. The streets were choked with green and brown vines. Many buildings had been overwhelmed completely. Every sign of Human life was obliterated.

No, not quite. He reached for the manual control and brought the TARDIS to land on the flat top of a block of flats on the Hackney Road. He ran to the door and opened it. Two men, a woman and two young children looked at him standing on the threshold of a police box that had dropped out of the sky then ran towards that strange rescue craft. Inside, Amy told them not to worry about how things looked and offered them a choice of tea or coffee. The surprisingly ordinary idea of hot drinks in the midst of the extraordinary crisis in their lives eased any concerns the new passengers had.

Before they had left greater London they had picked up another two dozen stragglers who for one reason or another hadn’t got out of the city before the roads and rail lines were choked. They included another three children as well as two budgerigars in cages, a German Shepherd dog and three cats. The Doctor arranged for the birds to be safely protected by gravity cushions, but the cats and dog all settled down in a heap of contented fur in a shadowy corner. A trilling purr came from Humphrey who had enveloped them all in his benign presence.

“Rory, you take over the driving for a bit, would you,” The Doctor said once they were flying over open countryside. “I want to have a look at this sample of ‘Alliva’ plant.”

Rory was startled and a little awed by the idea of flying the TARDIS, but the hover mode was surprisingly simple. He really just had to keep his hand on a lever, applying a little more pressure to go down and a little less to go up. The TARDIS was navigating automatically, following its own version of Sat Nav directions from London to Cambridge.

Amy helped The Doctor at the environmental console where he prepared slides with tissue from the Alliva plant’s stem and leaves to examine with a microscope that looked utterly steampunk with Victorian brass pieces but had lenses that were capable of looking at the smallest molecules of plant matter. He also put a large cross section piece into a receptacle for the TARDIS to analyse at sub-atomic level.

What was really creepy was the way the remaining piece of stem and leaves still squirmed around in the box. It wasn’t dead, even though it had been cut from the main plant.

“That could grow into a whole new plant, couldn’t it?” Amy asked as it tried to leap out of the box. There was a warning growl from the pet corner and Humphrey trilled reassuringly as The Doctor fixed the lid back down firmly.

“Yes, it could, if I allowed it to. But I’m not going to. This plant is….”

He didn’t say what it was. He finished with the slides and the TARDIS bleeped to say its analysis was done, too. Data scrolled rapidly down a screen and The Doctor read it at an impossibly fast speed.

“All right,” he said, to himself rather than to anyone else. “I know what I’m dealing with, now.”

He relieved Rory from piloting duty, making two more emergency stops at Bishop’s Stortford and Saffron Walden where they rescued two dozen more humans and five more pets including a poodle and a guinea pig that happily joined Humphrey’s corner.

“What if these were the last humans left?” Rory considered. “These few that The Doctor managed to rescue.”

“Can’t be,” Amy assured him. “We’ve been further into the future than this and the population is as huge as it ever was.”

“Yeah, but isn’t that quantum or something – alternative futures, from divergent points in time. Something like that. He went on about it last week when I was helping him refit the DRS coils or whatever they were.”

“I don’t know,” Amy admitted. When The Doctor talked about that sort of thing it made a sort of sense, but Rory’s scrambled interpretation just boggled her mind. “I suppose… we just trust him to sort it out.”

“As we always do.”

“Not just us,” Amy pointed out. “The whole world… the whole universe… trusts him to sort it all out. They believe he’ll make things better.”

“Perhaps that’s why he’s called ‘Doctor’.” Rani suggested. “He makes us all better.”

Amy glanced at the viewscreen. Below the M11, instead of being a ribbon of black asphalt among the fields of the Essex countryside was a line of sinisterly deep green and brown. She could see lorries, buses, cars, all choked by the sinister vines. She shuddered as she imagined what had happened. The motorway must have been jammed with traffic, people trying to escape from London, but the vines were faster than the slow-crawling traffic and they were overcome.

A few miles short of Cambridge, in the open countryside that was, ironically, free of the killer plants, they touched down in a tent city where the Red Cross was trying to provide shelter for the people who had fled the infected urban areas. The extra mouths to feed that The Doctor brought were more than balanced by the boxes of emergency rations that a storeroom near the TARDIS kitchen yielded. He promised to bring more if it were needed. But he told the people who had taken charge of the food that it wouldn’t be necessary soon. They could all go home in a few days.

And they believed him. He was still a strange, angular man with elbows and chin sticking out and a ridiculous idea about what sort of clothes were ‘cool’ but when he assured people that it was all going to be all right they believed him and they were left with real hope that the crisis would be over.

Rory and Amy had seen him do that before. So had Rani in her brief encounters with him when she was younger, but it still astonished them all and made them feel privileged to be in his presence.

“All right, Cambridge, next stop,” The Doctor said briskly as he reached for the hover control once more. He looked around and noted that Rani was still aboard the TARDIS. “You could have stayed there, too. You’d be safe.”

“So could Rory and Amy,” she pointed out. “But some of us… those of us who know you… You’re bound to need us for something.”

“Glad to have you aboard,” he assured her. “So is Humphrey. I think he’s a little lonely now all his furry friends have disembarked.”

Humphrey trilled softly from his corner. Rani laughed.

“Perhaps you ought to get a dog.”

“I had one, once,” The Doctor replied. “K9….”

“I meant a real dog,” Rani told him. But he was distracted from the idea by the navigation drive. They had reached Cambridge. Or what used to be Cambridge, at least. The Alliva plants were grown here, first. They ran wild here before anywhere else. The graceful city of dreaming spires was throttled by the creeping, deadly vines. It was almost impossible to recognise anything of it from the air. The Doctor looked at it sadly and remembered visiting in calmer times. This was where one of his few Time Lord friends had lived – Professor Chronotis as he chose to call himself, though he had a more notorious name on Gallifrey. He had spent many a peaceful afternoon there, and many a less than peaceful but entertaining night, too. Then there was Liz Shaw, who had been his faithful and very able assistant in his first years as U.N.I.T.’s scientific advisor. She had come back here to Cambridge to continue her own work, had become a respected academic and retired at the end of a productive working life. She had died of old age ten years before this. He was glad of it. To see her city like this would have broken her heart.

Amy and Rory had never been to Cambridge before. Neither had Rani. They didn’t feel a personal connection to the place. But they knew that people must have died, those who couldn’t escape the killer plants. They felt everything any Human with compassion would feel when they look upon disaster on such a scale.

“There’s a lifesign,” The Doctor said, glancing at the environmental monitor.


“I’m not sure,” he said. “The TARDIS isn’t even sure. But it’s in the Botanical Garden’s large glasshouse, so that’s a good place to start.”

The TARDIS dematerialised and rematerialised inside the glasshouse. It looked dark on the viewscreen for a few moments, before the image was adjusted.

“What’s the matter with the light?” Rani asked.

“It looks like the sort they use in public toilets on railway stations,” Amy added. “That purplish light that is supposed to deter drug users.”

“Exactly so,” The Doctor commented. “The space outside is lit with ultra-violet light. Not the dangerous sort that sun screen is made for, but strong, all the same. I wonder why. Let’s go and find out.”

He had crossed the floor and was pulling open the door before any of his companions caught on. They followed quickly. Even Humphrey came to the door and looked at the odd light, but he decided it was too strange for him and retreated.

Everyone else looked around at a small artificial island in the middle of an artificial tropical pond under the high glass ceiling of the hothouse. The ultra violet light originated from a decorative uplight set into the floor.

Beside the source of the light sat a very strange figure. Even The Doctor, who had seen just about everything was intrigued.

It was partly Human. It might even be called mostly Human if he did a thorough examination of the DNA. Certainly there was still plenty of flesh to be seen. But the veins that throbbed beneath the skin were green-red as if chlorophyll and blood had been combined. The legs were not legs any more. The trunk of the body was rooted to the ground by thick plant tendrils. The head, arms and hands still looked Human apart from those unpleasant looking veins that spread out everywhere.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m The Doctor,” The Doctor replied. “The sort that does house calls, but I’m afraid there probably isn’t much I can do for you.” He pulled his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket with the deftness of a fast draw marksman and used it to scan the pitiful half man. “Professor Ingleby, of course. I’ve seen your picture. You looked a lot healthier then.”

“Hoist by my own petard,” he answered. “My plants… my beautiful plants… they turned on me. They didn’t kill me for food… they kept me alive… if you can call this life….”

“So I see.” The Doctor looked around. There was a lot of vegetation in the hothouse. Mostly of the tropical kind, the pond was full of huge lily pads that looked as if they could hold a man’s weight and around the edges were mangroves and palms of various sorts. There was even the pungent scent of an Amorphophallus titanum, somewhere, the smelliest plant on Earth.

There were no Alliva plants.

“What is he, some kind of nutter who wants plants to rule the planet?” Rory asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” The Doctor answered him. “I met one of those sort of nutters once. Harrison Chase… a very rich man who owned one of the greatest collections of exotic plants outside of botanical centres like this one. He really did believe that humans should be food for plants.”

“What happened to him?”

“He fell into his own composter and became food for his plants,” The Doctor replied. “He’d been extremely stupid with an alien pod… a plant that should never have seen the daylight here on Earth. But the Alliva plant isn’t alien. It didn’t fall to Earth ready to invade. It hasn’t got any kind of agenda other than to be fruitful and multiply. It really IS a brand new species that you created right here, isn’t it, professor?”

“Yes, it is,” he answered. His words were strained, as if it was painful to talk. The Doctor sympathised, but he needed to know more, yet.

“You mixed Human DNA with plant DNA. I’m guessing your OWN DNA, that’s why they didn’t kill you. They recognised you as a kindred spirit.” He paused. “I was waiting for somebody to say ‘that’s impossible’. It sounds impossible. But I think my three friends here have hung around with me long enough to know nothing is impossible. Well, almost nothing. Very few things. Sentient plant life is certainly a viable possibility. I’ve met some very charming and cultured trees. But their evolution was a natural thing. It happened when the time and place was right for it to happen. You tried to play God, Professor, and look what happened.”

“I never meant this,” he protested. “I never… never… I just wanted to… create… something.”

“I believe you. But you know I have to put an end to it.”

“Yes,” he conceded.

“Which is why I need to ask you, the Creator of this species, two questions.”

“How to destroy them?”

“That was question number one.”

“And… the other question?”

“I have to ask your permission to do this.”

“Permission?” Rory, Amy and Rani all echoed the word at once.

“Doctor, what do you mean?” Rani added. “You’ve seen what they’ve done. You have to destroy them.”

“I’ve seen that. I’ve also seen their molecules, their DNA. They are a unique and new species… distinct from the plantlife of this world, distinct from the animal life. They straddle the two kingdoms. And destroying them is genocide. I’ve seen too much of that to take it lightly. If I am to be the killer of a whole species, then I need permission from the one who created it.”

His Human friends didn’t understand. They had never held the power to destroy a whole civilisation in their hands as he had done. In the frozen moment when he had to decide whether the Time Lords should be destroyed along with their deadliest enemy he had been given the answer to the question. Rassilon, creator of his own race, had whispered to him. He had told him it was time. Without that reassurance he could never have done it.

Of course, he didn’t have the permission of Davros, creator of the Daleks, to take them down with the Time Lords. That had troubled him for a while, until he discovered that Davros and his creations were still menacing the universe.

“Do…ct…or…..” The Professor’s voice was failing. The veins pulsated underneath his skin like writhing snakes. “I… give… you… per.. miss… ion.”

Professor Ingelsby reached out a palsied hand towards the switch beside the uplight. The Doctor wondered at first what he was doing. Then he knew.

The ultra-violet on its own slowed down the Alliva plant DNA. The Professor had held onto his life, his own sentience, this long using it. But it was a battle he knew he had to lose eventually. He had been waiting….

For The Doctor? For somebody with knowledge, at least. Somebody who understood his last message.

“What’s happening?” Amy asked when the light began to change, the ultra-violet melding into a red and then a green hue before cycling back to ultra-violet again. The cycle continued, faster and faster, violet to red to green and back again. Soon it was going so fast it was like being inside an old fashioned cinema film that flickered rapidly and gave a sense of unreality to everything.

Then it was so fast there wasn’t even a flicker. The light was a strange muddy brown colour.

The effect on Professor Inglesby was dramatic. Or at least, the effect on his veins. They were bulging out horribly. He opened his mouth and screamed in agony. The Doctor aimed the sonic screwdriver at his head and rendered him unconscious. That was the best he could do for him. Then he turned and ushered his friends back into the TARDIS. He followed, closing the door behind him. They watched the Professor’s last moments on the viewscreen, and they were dreadful moments – especially when his veins exploded, spewing green and yellow bile that hissed like acid wherever it landed.

“Uggh,” Amy said, summing it up for everyone.

“Poor man,” Rani added. “What a way to go.”

Rory said nothing. As a nurse, he’d seen people die in agony while awake and others die peacefully while unconscious. The Professor was at peace even if his body was a battleground all on its own.

“But he didn’t tell you how to kill the Alliva plants,” Amy added. “The world is still dying by inches because of them.”

“He told me,” The Doctor answered. “With his last breath he did. It’s that sequence of ultra-violet, infra-red and gamma light that kills the Alliva plants. It killed that part of him that was almost plant already… proving that it works.”

“Yes… but… even if it does….”

The Doctor winked and smiled. He obviously had a plan.

And what a plan. He took the TARDIS into Earth’s lower troposphere, below the ozone layer that would usually filter the ultra violet and infra-red parts of the light spectrum. He then used the light on top of the police box to recreate that sequence of light that the professor had showed him. It radiated out from the TARDIS and reached the planet below, or one part of it at least. The TARDIS orbited the Earth, bathing each part of it in the light that would kill the Alliva plants but have no harmful effect on any other natural part of the flora and fauna.

“We know that because we were in the hothouse when The Professor set it off, of course,” Rani noted. “And none of the other plants were harmed, either.”

“There will be a mess to clear up,” The Doctor said. “But you’ll handle that. Humans are good at bouncing back from adversity.”

“I’ll have one heck of a story about all this,” Rani noted. “And I might actually get to publish it this time. Most of the old U.N.I.T. files are declassified under the 2040 Freedom of Information Amendment. Stories about The Doctor CAN be published now, and at last I’ve got one!”

“With my blessing,” The Doctor told her. “I think we’re done now. Shall I take you home?”

“Yes, please,” she answered.

The TARDIS materialised in an attic that The Doctor recognised at once. It hadn’t changed very much even after all the years.

“You live in Sarah Jane’s old house?” he said.

“Something else she wanted me to have,” Rani explained, putting her goldfish bowl down safely on a shelf that was already full of a lifetime’s clutter before going to put the kettle on. Outside the window, the garden and the street beyond was brown with the wilted remains of the Alliva plants. The other houses were quiet. Nobody was home. Some of her neighbours might still be alive, if they managed to evacuate in time. Life would start to get back to normal in a little while.

“Yes, it will,” The Doctor promised her. “Count on that. Like I said, Humans are good at bouncing back.”