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

Raff Tooling was tired and just a bit irritated. His shift had finished half an hour ago, but he hadn’t been relieved, yet. It was bad enough having the most boring job in the Human race without having to do overtime.

He flicked the communication switch twice more and heard nothing – not even static.

“Come on, Flyn, where are you?” he said into the microphone, though it was clear there was nobody on the other end of the communication. “Are you asleep, man? What’s going on?”

He switched to another line, intending to report Flyn’s tardiness to his supervisor.

No response.

“What’s going on?” he asked himself, not expecting an answer. “Where is everyone?”

There were thirty-five other people aboard the space station “Aimsire” named for the Gaelic word for ‘weather’ because one of its designers was Irish. For three hours every day, one of them had to sit in this tiny section, cut off from the others, monitoring the skies below. Quite why this crucial part of the station’s systems worked that way nobody was entirely sure. It seemed to have something to do with not leaving important decisions to a computer, the Human touch, as it were. But it just made everyone who took this shift feel like a battery plugged into the system and forgotten about.

Raff felt as if everyone had gone to a party and forgotten to invite him.

Or worse, they had abandoned the station and left him behind.

No, that couldn’t have happened, he reassured himself after a few moments of panic. The monitoring capsule was cut off by a foot thick piece of bulkhead, but even so he would have heard the alarm if there was an evacuation procedure. There was a practice drill every ten days and the alarm could be heard EVERYWHERE.

Nobody had left the station, at least not by the correct evacuation method.

So where were they, and why had nobody responded to his communications?

He started to be scared rather than irritated. He tried not to look at Earth through the exo-glass window above him. Usually it was a comforting sight, but when he couldn’t reach his thirty-four comrades aboard the ship the thought of the twenty billion souls back on the planet just made him feel even more isolated.

“Please, somebody,” he whispered. “Somebody answer.”

The communicator crackled and his hopes were raised, but the voice that he heard wasn’t any of his colleagues. It was even Human.

He closed all of the communication channels. If the aliens didn’t know where he was, perhaps he would live longer.

But now he knew why nobody else had answered him.

"This isn't right," The Doctor protested as he stepped out into a wild, stormy night and then stepped hurriedly back into the TARDIS again. He collided with Jean who had followed him to the door not expecting him to make such a rapid u-turn.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “Are we on the wrong planet?”

“No, it’s the right planet, but the wrong weather,” he answered. “This should be Margate in July.”

Jean glanced at the view screen, noting the rain and windswept promenade where a deckchair was tumbling over and over, opening and closing as it turned like a playing card being flipped. It slammed straight into the TARDIS door and came to a final halt.

“You know, British summers do have a certain reputation,” she pointed out. “It probably IS July.”

“Oh, it’s definitely July,” The Doctor confirmed as he dashed around the console and checked several different monitors on different sides of the hexagonal structure. Jean wondered, not for the first time, why he didn’t organise the console so that all the monitors were on one side.

She asked the question, just for something to say.

“Because the environmental control is a different section to the temporal database and the harmonic resonator is over there.”

He waved airily towards what Jean was sure was a random place on the console.

“I don’t believe there IS such a thing as a harmonic resonator,” she told him. “What’s going on exactly and why are you pressing buttons like a monkey trying to write the works of Shakespeare without his ninety-nine mates?”

“This is all completely wrong,” he insisted. “This is Earth in the sixty-seventh century. Bad weather had been eliminated.”

Jean looked at the viewscreen again and resisted the urge to duck as a massive wave breached the sea wall. The TARDIS was engulfed in black-green water and when it receded there was a lump of seaweed and a crab clinging to the camera lens. It was probably an ordinary crab of a couple of inches width, but on the viewscreen it looked like a monster with hairy legs that were just a bit too much like those of a spider.

“It doesn’t look like it’s been eliminated, unless somebody ordered a hurricane.”

“A force ten gale, anyway,” The Doctor corrected her. “It’s not right.”

“Will you stop saying that and explain WHY it isn’t right.”

“Like I said, they eliminated bad weather in this century. There is a huge space station in orbit over the planet that manipulates the elements that create weather – keeping cold fronts and warm fronts from colliding, holding back El Nino from reaching land, making sure that, like Camelot, it only rains after sundown and there is always a white Christmas.”

Aboard Space Station Aimsire, Raff Tooling hadn’t heard a Human voice for more than four long, terrible days. He hadn’t heard those dreadful aliens for that long, either, but only because he had switched off the internal communications. He knew his only chance of staying alive depended on them not knowing where he was. The unique design of this chamber, built on the outside skin of the station, with a double airlock connecting it to the main section, had kept him hidden until now.

There were emergency supplies in the compartment – hydrated packages that fitted in a small cupboard. They had kept him from starvation and thirst.

But now there was something else to worry about.

The air was getting thin. It was the one thing not cut off from the rest of the station, but the aliens must have turned off the life support system. They obviously didn’t NEED air to breathe, and they didn’t care that he did.

The stranded crab was going crabwise down the screen, giving Jean the creeps with the action of those hairy legs.

The Doctor flipped a switch and the screen changed from the outer view of the TARDIS to a news broadcast. The images from around the world were shocking. Brisbane – usually associated with bush fires and drought - was suffering the worst floods in the history of Australia. The vast wheatfields in the farming States of the USA had been scoured by tornadoes then lashed with rain until the fertile fields turned to quagmires. In India there had been mudslides that engulfed whole villages. The coast of Japan had been swept by a massive tsunami.

The Doctor switched back to the view of Margate at high tide in a force 10 gale. It was less dramatic, and perhaps less fatal, but obviously part of the same world-wide disaster.

The Doctor watched until the crab dropped away then he hit the dematerialisation switch.

“You were being kind to the crab!” Jean exclaimed. “It was… just a crab.”

“Sea crabs can’t survive in the vortex,” The Doctor replied. “You don’t want to see it explode, you really don’t.”

Jean was sure she didn’t want to see exploding crabs, but she was a little bit surprised that The Doctor cared about something so unimportant when the planet was in chaos.

There was that quote about the fall of a sparrow, of course, but Jean always thought that applied to another man, not The Doctor.

Sometimes she wasn’t entirely sure about that.

“So we’re going to the space station?” she asked.

“That was the plan,” The Doctor replied. “But I’m having trouble finding it.”

“Finding the space ship?” Jean gave The Doctor a quizzical look. “We’re in the TARDIS.”

“Thank you, Miss Stating-The-Obvious,” The Doctor responded. Jean gave him a full on Scottish redhead scowl of disapproval, the sort he had become used to when Amy was around. “I mean, if even the TARDIS can’t find the weather station then there are three possibilities, all of them nasty.”

He stopped talking at that point, and Jean knew she was going to have to ask what the three possibilities were. She tried not to sound as if it was completely inevitable by keeping her tone bland and neutral as if she was reading a shopping list.

“First, it could have been disintegrated into fragments so small that the TARDIS can’t even analyse them,” The Doctor continued. “Second, it could have been pulled out of orbit by something malevolent and considerably larger.”

He paused.

“Thirdly, it might be right where it should be but cloaked by technology beyond anything my TARDIS has come across before – which implies it isn’t from Earth because even in this century Earth cloaking technology is easy-peasy. And that in turn implies some malevolent alien purpose involving manipulation of the weather programme to cause chaos and panic on Earth.”

“You’re right, they all seem like nasty ideas. But why would anyone do that? Why would they want to cause that sort of damage to Earth?”

The Doctor shook his head and smiled that smile of his.

“The list of reasons for alien forces to mess with Earth would rival Father Christmas’s Naughty List,” he said. “Though it mostly boils down to wanting something that the planet has to offer.”

“Precious metals, water…..”

“Slave labour force,” The Doctor added grimly. The view of the stars on the viewscreen turned slowly towards Earth and Jean could see just how wide the devastation was. Both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were hidden beneath huge hurricanes, the storm clouds swirling around in the classic pattern that must be causing death and destruction to the islands of those oceans as well as the coastlines of the Americas, Europe and Asia.

“Britain is just on the edge, getting all the misery without actually being in the hurricane itself,” she noted. “But there must be terrible things happening elsewhere. At least those countries have warning systems. They know how to protect themselves.”

“They do in your era,” The Doctor reminded her. “But they’ve had centuries of good weather because of the station. They’ve forgotten… until now.”

Jean didn’t say anything. The only thing she could think of saying was something like “Oh, Doctor!” and in her head it sounded too much like the heroine of a 1950s sci-fi film getting over-emotional. She contented herself with a look of dismay.

“If the station wasn’t there, wouldn’t the weather just go back to normal?” Jean asked. “Doesn’t that rule out the first two possibilities?”

“People down there can’t remember what ‘normal’ is,” The Doctor answered. “I’m not sure the weather could, either. Natural patterns were artificially manipulated for so long they might have gone into overload. But… it was smart thinking… for a Human.”

“If we humans were smart we wouldn’t mess with nature in the first place,” Jean decided. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re right about that. I’ve always been against messing with nature.”

“I meant… about the station.”

“Working on that. There are a couple of clever ways to make something appear to be invisible. And yes, ‘appear to be invisible’ is a really bad phrase, but you know what I mean. The most complicated, and yet the most simple, the most NATURAL way to make something seem to be not there when it really is there is to shift it out of time phase – move it say, one second into the past or future.”

Jean thought about that until her brow furrowed and her eyes crossed.

“Surely… if something is one second in the future… surely we would catch up with it… when we reach the second it just left.”

“You would think so, wouldn’t you.” The Doctor smiled wryly. “It makes sense to me. Time is my life. But for people who live one day after another, it is impossible to get your head around it.”

“Do you think it’s what they did to the station?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to find out while we’ve been mulling over temporal theories,” The Doctor replied. “And I think I’m absolutely right. Hold onto something. This could be bumpy.

Jean had been travelling with The Doctor long enough to know that ‘bumpy’ was an understatement. She grabbed on tight to the railing and waited until the extreme buffeting and rolling stopped.


“Call me clever clogs,” The Doctor said with a wide grin. “No, actually, don’t. It’s a silly expression and I’ve NEVER worn clogs, not even in the Netherlands – or Bolton. But look at the screen, now.”

Jean looked. The screen revolved slowly and a space station came into view. At least she presumed it was a space station. It looked like a big silver dumb-bell hanging there, the top, centre bar and bottom all revolving at a steady speed. That, Jean thought, had something to do with artificial gravity.

“There is gravity,” The Doctor confirmed when she mentioned it. “But no atmosphere. All the air has been vented from the station – all except one section – and that has a disturbing build up of carbon monoxide in it.”

“Oh, Doctor!” This time Jean DID exclaim aloud in the manner of a 1950s leading lady. She had realised what that meant. “Somebody is in that section – running out of air.”

The Doctor didn’t confirm her guess. He was busy adjusting controls on the navigation panel in order to materialise carefully within a compartment of the space station only slightly bigger than the TARDIS exterior. He had to get it right or risk materialising on top of or – even worse – through the poor soul.

He got it right. The TARDIS materialised within the compartment and the dying man materialised on the console room floor. Jean looked at The Doctor for a fraction of a second. She knew he could do things like CPR. So could she. Which one of them should….

“Even in the future men usually prefer to get the kiss of life from a woman. Well, there was one time agent from the fifty-first century who didn’t mind either way….”

Jean let his nonsense wash over her as she knelt and performed the necessary life saving routine on the stricken man.

“According to the name tag on his suit, he’s Technician Second Class Raff Tooling of the Space Station Aimsire – named for the Gaelic word for weather,” Jean said once she had a regular pulse and respiration from her patient.

“We got to him just in time,” The Doctor remarked as he reached to lift him from the floor and lie him on the sofa by the railings. “Another hour or so like that and he’d have brain damage from hypoxia.”

Technician Second Class Tooling started to come round slowly. The first expression on his face when he opened his eyes proved that he was one of the majority who preferred to be kissed by a woman. The second was one of wonder as he sat up and looked around the console room.

Then he gave a cry of horror.

“The aliens… killed everyone,” he shrieked in a tone slightly higher than normal for a man. “They killed them. I was the only one left. The aliens couldn’t find me…. But the air….”

“It’s all right, Raff,” Jean told him. “You’re safe now. The TARDIS has plenty of oxygen and he reckons even Genghis Khan couldn’t break in through the door. One of these days I might make him prove that, but never mind about that just now. Did you see the aliens who attacked?”

The Doctor nodded his approval of the question slipped in at the end of her reassuring ramble. It was exactly how he would have done it.

“I heard them, rasping, alien voices. But I couldn’t see them. I was on iceberg duty.”

“Come again?”

“It’s an old-fashioned term – from centuries ago when an ocean going ship was hit by ice….”

“Yes, I think I know the one you mean,” Jean noted with a wry tone. “So your job is to watch out for… I don’t know, space debris and that sort of thing? And to do that you have to be in that little compartment, separate from the rest of the station?”


“Well, it seems a funny way of doing it, but it looks like it saved your life. The aliens couldn’t get to you.”

“But all the others… thirty-four men and women….”

“I’m sorry about that, but just be glad we got you out.” Jean glanced around at The Doctor. He was doing something with the console and apparently not listening, but she knew he was taking in every word that was said, as well as reading between the lines and guessing much more that was unsaid.

She knew he wouldn’t want her to mention that the TARDIS could travel in time. It would make Raff think that his friends could be rescued. But there were all sorts of complicated reasons why events couldn’t be altered that way. The Doctor talked about that all the time. She carefully avoided giving away the fact that the idea had crossed her mind as she questioned Raff further about his experience.

“I know what kind of aliens it is,” The Doctor said in a very commonplace tone as if he was merely giving the answer to a crossword clue. “They’re nasty and without compassion for any other species. They kill without compunction and I really don’t know how they got aboard your space station without you seeing their ship. There would have to be an inside man. It wasn’t you, was it, Technician Tooling?”

Jean was surprised by the accusing tone of The Doctor’s words. So was Raff. His face, that had recovered its natural colour after being nearly blue before Jean attended to him, now turned white with shock.

“Of course it wasn’t me,” he answered indignantly. “I heard some of them die.... It was terrible. I couldn’t…”

“Because it seems rather obvious that the last man alive on a space station full of the dead is the prime suspect,” The Doctor continued.

Raff denied any involvement indignantly. Jean reached out to calm him.

“Doctor, that’s enough. I don’t think it’s him. Besides, he was almost dead when we got to him. He was a victim, too.”

“I agree,” The Doctor replied with a wide smile. “Raff, how brave do you think you are? Do you want to go back onto the station and fight the aliens who killed your friends – and maybe save your planet at the same time.”

“I’m not sure about brave, but… I didn’t have a chance to fight. I was stuck down there on iceberg watch and I couldn’t do anything to help anyone. Yes, I’ll do what I can. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

“Doctor, is that a good idea?” Jean asked. “He’s been through hell already and you want him to go back there.”

“He should go back there,” The Doctor replied. “Apart from anything else, the old principle about falling off a horse and getting back on applies, don’t you think so, Raff?”

“Yes,” Raff answered. “Yes, I do. Besides, I want to fight. I would have if I could have, if I’d known how. If you know how….”

“I know how.” The Doctor held out his hands to reveal two clearly home-made gadgets that he had built while Jean was talking to Raff. Jean took hers warily and turned it over in her hands. It looked pretty much like a television remote control welded onto the inner part of a pair of curling tongs. The one Raff was holding seemed to be made of the rest of the curling tongs hooked up to another remote control.

“I’ll make do with the old sonic,” The Doctor said, throwing his favourite tool up in the air and catching it again. “Stand by for materialisation on the station.”

Raff was puzzled by the idea that they were materialising on the station rather than docking, and possibly by the fact that he was going to fight murderous aliens with a hand-made gadget the purpose of which he did not understand, but he was ready by the door when it was clear that they had arrived.

“Wow there, horsey,” The Doctor told him. “Have you forgotten that there’s no air out there?”

He ducked down under the console and emerged with three odd looking helmets. They were vaguely like space helmets except with no glass in the visor. Both Jean and Raff looked doubtful as they watched The Doctor put one on his own head.

“But there’s no glass” Jean protested. “They’re like toy helmets.”

“They’re the best fiftieth century technology,” The Doctor answered her. “They don’t need glass and seals locking your face in with the air. A small processor produces air by converting whatever elements it finds around it. There are still traces of hydrogen and nitrogen in the vented atmosphere.”

Neither Jean nor Raff looked entirely as if they believed it, but they put their helmets on and looked expectantly at The Doctor. He stepped to the door and opened it before walking out onto the space station. When he didn’t immediately suffocate they joined him. It was only afterwards, while The Doctor gave a quick explanation of why the TARDIS looked like it did to a disbelieving Raff, that Jean remembered The Doctor’s ability to hold his breath for a very long time!

“The aliens who invaded this station are called Rutans,” The Doctor explained as they moved from the empty mess hall where they had materialised into the long section of the station, broken up by bulkhead doors that opened one after the other when Raff pressed a large button. “In their natural habitat they are quite fascinating. That natural habitat is underwater caverns and caves with no sunlight. They float gracefully like electric jelly-fish, glowing beautifully and lighting up the water around them. Touching a Rutan in water is about as deadly as dropping an electric fire in a bathtub. Touching one in air would be, too, except you wouldn’t get a chance. They’d hit you with their electrically charged feelers before you had a chance.”

The Doctor said all this as he led the painfully under-manned counter offensive, checking the sonic screwdriver from time to time for readings. He stopped at a bulkhead door and opened it carefully. A body fell out. Jean gasped. Raff gave a slightly louder sound of distress and named the victim of sudden electrocution as Technician First Class Anness Waring. The Doctor closed her eyes and laid her stiff body in a dignified position before they moved on.

“The one thing to be said for death by Rutan is that it is quick,” The Doctor said. It was a small comfort to Raff as they found his friends and colleagues lying dead in their workplaces around the station.

They were searching for an hour before they met with the enemy who had killed those people. Jean and Raff both stared in horrified dismay at the three luminous green creatures hanging in the air with their deadly feelers floating weightlessly. They crackled with electricity in an ominous manner. Even if The Doctor had not explained about how the Rutan killed, even if they hadn’t seen the bodies with shocked expressions and tell tale burns on their flesh, they would have guessed as much from looking at them.

“Jean, Raff, press the red button on your control,” The Doctor ordered, raising his sonic screwdriver like a gun and pressing one of the small buttons on its handle. “Aim left and right. I’ll take the middle one.”

They aimed and were surprised when a stream of ‘visible’ electrical power began to flow from the left and right Rutans to the curling tong parts. The Doctor did the same with his sonic.

“Don’t touch the metal parts until the stream is complete,” The Doctor warned, perhaps something he ought to have mentioned before. Neither Jean nor Raff were foolish enough to do so, anyway. Jean wondered if The Doctor had heard of the concept of ‘earthing’ electrical conductors. Did they call it ‘earthing’ where he came from? Was it called gallifreying or something?

The three Rutans dimmed and then collapsed like empty plastic bags. Their feelers twitched a few times and then they were still.

“They’re dead?” Jean asked. She was a little surprised that The Doctor, who abhorred violence almost as much as he was attracted to adventure, had given them lethal weapons and that she herself had used the weapon to kill. She abhorred violence, too. Working as a tour guide on a former battlefield was enough to give her a disgust for war and death.

But she was in a war now, in an army of three, and she knew there was nothing for it but to kill these horrible creatures. Even though she knew there was something a little wrong about the idea she salved her conscience with the fact that they didn’t really look like people in the sense she understood the word. They WERE just creatures and they WOULD kill her if she didn’t kill them first.

It wasn’t a good principle, especially when she had met so many very interesting people who didn’t exactly LOOK like people by the Human definition, but it would have to do.

The Doctor looked as if he knew it was terribly wrong to kill, but that sometimes it still had to be done.

Raff looked as if killing one of the Rutan with the weapon in his own hands didn’t quite make up for all the suffering and grief he had gone through. Jean thought that was about right. If killing really did make him feel better, then he might need an awful lot of trauma counselling when it was all over to stop him becoming the sort of person she wouldn’t especially want to know.

The Doctor said they were probably a routine patrol, and that they were quite dead. Drawing off their internal electricity in that way killed them. There was little time to dwell on the matter, though. There were other patrols, sometimes in pairs, sometimes threes, sometimes in groups of four or five which were very dangerous when there were only three of them to fight them.

“Doctor, this thing is starting to feel hot,” Jean mentioned as she stepped around the empty bag of another dead Rutan. “Is that normal?”

“It’s the build up of electricity,” The Doctor answered. “There’s no way to safely discharge it automatically. I can do it with the sonic.”

“Not here,” Raff warned. “I can hear more of those green devils coming, and my device is hot, too.”

“In here,” The Doctor said, pushing open a door into a small, empty laboratory. Raff kept a careful watch at the door while he applied the sonic to Jean’s curling tongs. The tips of both glowed – the sonic an actinic orange and the tongs iron red - until the process was complete. Jean gingerly touched her tongs and found them reassuringly cool. The Doctor went to do the same for Raff. As he did so the Rutan guards passed the door. Behind them was something else.

“It’s Aders Grelle,” Raff whispered. “My supervisor. He’s alive.”

The Doctor opened the door a mere sliver and peeped out. He drew himself back and closed the sliver.

“I’m sorry, but Aders Grelle is dead,” he said. “He may have been dead for a very long time. When did he last go off the station?”

“About a week ago,” Raff answered. “Three days before all this began. He’d spent three weeks on the company leisure facility on Pluto. We all get to do that every six months. But what do you mean, he’s dead. He was there… walking down the corridor just now.”

“When did he last take a shift on Iceberg Watch?” The Doctor asked, passing over the question.

“He took the four hours before me,” Raff replied. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Grelle must have been killed by a Rutan scout when he was on Pluto. It reanimated his body and brought him back to work. When he was watching for debris, the Rutan ship arrived. Their ships are crystal structures, grown, not built. Human sensors wouldn’t recognise them as ships. They’re looking for metal and ion trails. Only somebody who could see with his own eyes would know they were there. Grelle was the inside man – or the creature controlling Grelle’s body.”

“I don’t believe it,” Raff said, but without conviction in the statement. It made sense. How else could the creatures have got on board. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“If you are, do it now. Get it over with. Then we need to get after them and finish them off.”

Raff wasn’t sick, but he looked even more unhappy than before now that he knew how the disaster had come upon the station – a disaster that now threatened the whole of planet Earth. It occupied his mind as they stalked along the corridors looking for the Rutan-controlled Human and the rest of the invasion force.

“The Rutan… must have seen in his mind… seen how to sabotage the weather regulators and destroy the planet.”

“Not destroy,” The Doctor commented. “Use it for their own purposes. They like it stormy.”

“That’s what it’s all about?” Jean asked. “Ruining the planet for humans so that they can have it for themselves?”

“An outpost for their endless war with the Sontarans,” The Doctor confirmed. “They might keep some surviving humans as a labour force, but that would hardly be an act of kindness.”

“It won’t happen,” Raff said determinedly. “We’re going to wipe out these sick squid and save Earth.”

“We will, won’t we?” Jean whispered to The Doctor. “Haven’t we been much further into the future than this? It can’t all end here.”

“Alternate futures,” he answered. “From this point in reality, it ends here, unless we do something to stop the Rutans. Luckily, that’s just what we ARE doing.”

They were following the Rutan-controlled Grelle from a safe distance, spotting the green glow of the escort creatures when they turned a corner and then went through a handprint controlled door that recognised the dead man’s palm from the employee database.

“I can open that door,” Raff pointed out. “Do you want me to do that?”

“Not yet,” The Doctor answered. “We don’t know how many there are in there, or what they intend to do.” He glanced around and smiled widely. There was an inspection hatch. He changed the setting on the sonic screwdriver and began to unscrew it.

“I’m not climbing in there,” Jean said. “It’s tiny.”

“You don’t have to. Just watch out in case any scouts come around. Both of you know what to do.”

They knew, but neither of them liked being on point while The Doctor wriggled his skinny frame into the hatch and disappeared. They held their home made Rutan killing devices nervously and hoped they wouldn’t have to use them.

By the time The Doctor wriggled back out, legs first, they had used their devices twice. The deflated bodies were lying on the floor.

“Come on,” he said, missing the evidence of their battles completely. “Back to the TARDIS, quickly.”

He was already running before they reacted and chased after him.

“Why are we going back to the TARDIS?” Jean managed to ask when she caught up.

“Because there are nearly a hundred Rutan in there, and even the sonic can’t drain them all before they fight back. Besides, I heard their plan from the one controlling Gelles’ body. We need to act fast.”

“What plan?” Raff asked between gasps of breath that proved that working on a weather controlling space station was pretty much a sedentary job. “They’ve already done as much damage as they can possibly do.”

“No, they haven’t,” The Doctor replied grimly as they turned a corner and saw the TARDIS ahead. “Not by a long shot.” He put his sonic back in his pocket and reached for his key instead. As he did so, four Rutans closed in front of the TARDIS. Their feelers reached out towards The Doctor. He ducked and tried to reach for his sonic again as Jean and Raff fired their devices. They got two of them, but the hand made devices took time to be effective and that still left two who could still deal a killer blow.

“Doctor, stay down!” Jean called out. She and Raff both swung their devices until the streams crossed just above The Doctor’s head. It was a mystery how they had both thought of the idea at the same moment, or how they knew it would work rather than frying everyone, but they did - and it did work. The four Rutans were caught up together in a draining aura. The Doctor finally got his sonic free and raised his arm until it touched the aura and began to draw it in.

It was terrifying for several minutes. It occurred to Jean that another group of Rutan scouts coming in their rear would be able to cut them down in seconds. They had no way to defend themselves.

Then the device got so hot that she had to drop it or burn her hands. Raff did the same. She looked at The Doctor. He threw his sonic in the air and caught it before he raised himself up from the ground. He looked at the melted remains of the two gadgets he had made and shook his head.

“Never mind, I haven’t needed to curl my hair for several regenerations. Come on, quick, inside.”

He opened the TARDIS door and led his two companions into the safety of the console room before he began feverishly pressing buttons on the console again.

“Doctor… the plan….” Raff insisted. “We don’t even have weapons, now.”

“They wouldn’t do anyway,” The Doctor answered. “Too many of them, and no time. They’re preparing to use the heat barriers to melt the polar ice caps.”

“Oh no, Doctor!” Raff exclaimed, sounding like a male version of that 1950s sci-fi heroine Jean had wanted to avoid emulating. “No, they can’t. I mean… they CAN, all too easily, with the technology aboard the station and the knowledge they stole from Gelle’s mind. But… we can’t let them.”

“We’re not going to,” Jean assured him. “The Doctor brought us back here because HE has a plan, too. You do, don’t you, Doctor?”

The Doctor didn’t say anything for several minutes. Jean looked at him expectantly. Raff looked at him anxiously. She had rather more reason to be certain that The Doctor was going to do something spectacular than Raff who had only found himself aboard the TARDIS a mere hour ago.

“I’ve got a plan,” he said, eventually. “I’m just a little bit worried about it. Fighting hand to hand – as it were – is one thing. But this… if it works… I’m wiping them all out without giving them a chance. That’s not something I do.”

Jean moved closer to The Doctor, realising that he was facing a moral dilemma.

“I understand,” she told him.

“I don’t,” Raff protested. “You’ve seen what they’ve done already. You know what they WANT to do. How can you NOT kill the lot of them?”

“Because I know what mass murder is like, and I don’t do it lightly,” The Doctor replied calmly. “I can’t JUST do this.”

“Then give them a chance,” Jean told him. “You must be able to patch in to their communications. Warn them. Give them an ultimatum… and if they resist… then you can go ahead with a clear conscience.”

The Doctor looked at her with blank eyes for a moment then he grinned. He moved to the communications console and pressed just two buttons to open a video link to the leader of the Rutan force.

“I’m The Doctor,” he said. “You’ve probably heard of me. I’ve met your sort many times, as well as your enemies, the Sontarans. It never ends well for you lot. So I’m giving you half an hour – that’s Earth time, of course. I don’t use Rutan time. Thirty minutes to start packing up and getting off this Human space station and leave their planet alone. If you don’t heed my only warning, then don’t blame me for what happens after that.”

He turned the communication off before the Rutan had time to reply. There was no room for negotiation.

“Ok, let’s get busy,” he said, diving under the console and pulling out lengths of thick, rubber-coated conduit. He attached something like a huge magnet to one end and the other he spliced into the TARDIS controls. He then tied a long length of rope around the console base and tied the other around his waist. He put his helmet back on, too. Neither of his companions dared ask why.

“Open the door, please, Jean,” he said as the thirty minutes drew to a close without any attempt by the Rutans to leave the station. He took the magnet end of the conduit and walked to the doorway. Jean wondered when he had moved the TARDIS back into orbit beside the Space Station Aimsire. She had been too pre-occupied with the Rutan threat to notice. “Stand well away from the edge, but keep an eye out. When I’m done, both of you pull me back into the TARDIS.”

With that he launched himself over the threshold, flinging himself towards the metallic surface of the station. He clamped the conduit to it, then gave a thumbs up signal to Jean and Raff. They both hauled on the rope until he climbed back into the safety of the TARDIS. He unfastened the rope and reached to press a button on the power control section. The central time rotor glowed green and blue and the revolving sections above it turned in opposite directions.

“What’s happening?” Jean dared to ask.

“I’m draining every bit of electrical energy from the space station,” The Doctor replied. “From the engines, from the storage batteries, from every pocket calculator or portable computer, from every electrically charged being aboard. I warned them. Now they face the consequences.”

“The station will shut down,” Raff pointed out.

“Yes,” The Doctor replied. “It will take about twenty-six weeks for the solar cells to recharge. That’s half a year. Two seasons of weather with nothing controlling it. It won’t be perfect, but it will be ‘normal’. You can carry on making it sunny in summer and snowy at Christmas again once the natural balance has been established.”

Raff looked at the schematic on the TARDIS screen that showed just how much power was being drained. It happened amazingly fast. Within fifteen minutes a few faint specks got even fainter until the station was completely drained.

“Did we do it?” he asked.

“We did,” The Doctor answered, running a lifesigns check that included the Rutan’s peculiar form of biology. There was nothing left alive on the dark, silent, airless station, now.

“I’ve got to bring it back into phase with real time,” The Doctor said as he pulled the conduit back in and closed the door. “Then we’ll get you back to Earth. Your company will have to make arrangements to pick up the bodies. When you tell them what happened it might be better if you left out the fact that Gelles was used by the Rutans like that. It will be kinder to his family.”

“Yes,” Raff answered. “Yes, I’ll try to do that. Doctor… thank you.”

“Thank you?” The Doctor smiled. “Not many people say thank you when I’m done. That was nice. I’ll put you on my Christmas list. Meanwhile, which bit of Earth do you want me to drop you off on?”

“Margate,” Raff answered, much to The Doctor and Jean’s mutual surprise. “I’ve got family there. I should let them know I’m alive.”

“No problem,” The Doctor said, reaching for the materialisation switch. “But be warned. The weather was pretty nasty the last time we were there.”