Hoorah for Progress! > The Whom It May Concern > A Splitting Headache

As they headed toward the tower, the Nth Doctor and Eloise relayed what they had inferred from the carvings and inscriptions in the caves, and before long, the four Time Lords were conversing urgently among themselves in Gallifreyan (which Second sometimes remembered to translate for the rest of them), all the while, quickening their stride until they led the group at a pace just shy of an outright run, while the reality wavefront continued advancing at a steady walking pace. The result was that they were gaining on the wavefront, and Eloise found herself blinking rapidly to fight off a sense of vertigo.

It hadn’t been like that, before, when they had entered into the reality bubble, from the forest / slums. When they crossed over into the baseline reality then, it was completely unexpected—as if someone had flipped a switch, or advanced a slide in a slide projector.

It had taken Eloise a moment to readjust her balance, after that, before the baseline reality settled itself in her brain as: “This is the way it has always been,” and she was grateful to be back in her old self, green skin, long nose, and all.

That moment of gratitude was quickly replaced with worry, however, when she thought of the natives—they who had lived underground for generations, their original world faded from living memory—how would they react? Their reaction had been… wary, but unpanicked, and before long, they were acting like tourists to a big city, pointing out sights and whispering to each other. This surprised Eloise for a moment, until she remembered that this was their own world, and while its previous reality may have faded from living memory, it had not gone from history.

This time, it was different. This time, she could see the border to the baseline reality, as though she were standing on the dark side of a one way mirror. This wasn’t like before, when she saw the baseline reality out of the corner of her eyes, and the fantasy straight ahead. She was seeing both at the same time, and the closer they got to the actual wave front, the stronger the contrast appeared, and it was making her dizzy.

“But what?” Tegan demanded of the world at large. “What is this thing?!”

“What about this?” Jonah, with Biggles firmly ensconced on her shoulder and cleaning his whiskers with the air of a rat who has seen the world and knows when to put first things first, brandished a piece of somewhat tooth-marked wax above her head at arm’s-length.

“And what about them?” The Dwarf’s other arm waved wildly in the direction of Sugar Rae and Jim Sledge, who were engrossed in boring1 activity of an adult nature on the third oiled step from the bottom of the flight, from which vantage-point the lissome Mary Sue character’s toes could just extend to the stone flags in endearingly pink fashion. “Biggles risked his life to get this seal, and all it got us was a stupid girl on a rope…”

It was at this moment that the steadily-advancing wavefront of reality reached the tower.

They were in the tower, now, climbing the stairs toward the group gathered around the sphinx, but they, oddly didn’t seem to hear, or sense, their approach. Almost like Scrooge and the Christmas ghosts, Eloise thought to herself.

She could hear Fifth speak, but his voice sounded far away, and echo-ey, as if she were hearing him through water.

And Fifth smiled, in that particularly irritating way the Doctors have.

“My question is…”

YES?!” all and sundry chorused.

“No! Wait!” Eloise called out. She ran forward, through the wavefront, and was momentarily a gnome, again. “There is something you should know!” she said. But it was too late. Fifth was already confronting the sphinx. And she stood below and watched the scene play out before her, as if she were in a dream.


And Hatsheput smiled a great smile of her own.


Had the laws of the surrounding reality allowed it, everyone else would have performed a massive facefault.


“Exactly what it says,” Hatsheput sniffed. “The Uttermost Whom.”

Sixth looked ready to explode at this egregious violation of the language.

Apart from being a terrible gag along the lines of the now sorely overused ‘Doctor Who?’ line, what in the name of all that is holy is an ‘Uttermost Whom’ supposed to be?”

Hatsheput raised her head, as if she could feel something approaching, then looked down at the group, almost regretfully.

“Let me show you.”

“They can feel feel the reality wave approaching,” she whispered to Florestan, who had stopped beside her, “—something they’ve been fighting against for generations—and yet they’re not afraid … they’re not even worried.”

“I imagine,” Florestan whispered back, “that their demeanor, like their form, is a function of the alternate reality they’ve been projecting all this time.”

“You mean—” but Eloise never got to finish that question. The wavefront washed over her from behind, and she was herself again. She braced herself for what was coming next as the front moved steadily up the stairs.

The relief from her fellow quadrillers, as they returned to their natural state, was short-lived as reality hit the sphinx.

‘She’ drew back from it as it reached her paws, as a cat pulls back from a splash of water, and even hissed a bit, as an ordinary tabby cat would. But It/They seemed utterly unable to run away—as though rooted to the spot.

When reality washed over the being at last, it was as if the form of the sphinx were a coat of wet paint being washed away in a downpour.

Beneath the stately form from human mythology was a writhing mass that reminded Eloise of a heap of garden slugs, or perhaps the tentacles of a sea anemone—each part independent, and yet connected to the whole. Some of the individual entities within the mass were already withered, dry, and clearly dead. Others shimmered with arcs and sparks of blue-green electricity that seemed to ripple like the surface of water. The whole thing gave off an odor of sickness and death.

That’s the ‘Uttermost Whom’?” Sixth sputtered. But he never got to finish his tirade.

“Get Down!” “Get Away!” “Run!” the Seventh, Nth, and Second Doctors chorused, and the urgency in their voices drove the others to do their best to comply.

The rippling electricity had built to a solid mass and now discharged toward the ceiling in a spark as large as any bolt of lightning, shaking the walls and making their ears ring. The foundation creaked ominously beneath them.

“That’s the—” Sixth tried to ask again, in the quiet that followed, but Nth cut him off.

“Whatever we think of its name for itself,” he said, “it—they—are like a wounded animal, and worse than that, it’s probably holding a centuries old grudge or two. I suggest we proceed with caution.”

Meanwhile, in the distant (yet somehow fundamentally connected with the current storyline) environs of the Great Library, the White Rabbit attempted an augury with the shattered remains of the Oracle.

“Those gods the Whom would destroy, it first drives mad,” he intoned in a thick voice, his pink eyes rolling madly in their sockets. “The veils have been lifted. The Deep Grammar is shifting. Subject and object will merge, repeatedly and with great enthusiasm. Cosmic participles will dangle. The rat will lead the pipers in a great dance. Dogs and cats will lie together, despite strenuous objections from their families. Chaos will ensue.”

“Just peachy,” said the Dormouse. “I don’t suppose you have any tips for fixing it?”

“Maybe we could just ask it to tea and all have a good cry together?” the Dodo suggested. No one paid him any mind.

“Who will have one last chance to patch things up before the bell tolls for Whom,” said the Rabbit, ignoring the babble. “I see a foul-mouthed child in an orange parka. I see a token sacrifice, a misplaced stick of celery, and a rousing musical number. Beyond that, my vision fails.”

After much talk and a quickly formulated plan, the Quadrille latecomers crowd inside the rather grubby men’s room at This Time Round.

While the Ninth Doctor finishes attaching a complicated contraption (seemingly consisting of a scavenged transistor radio, a broken microwave oven, and the guts of remote-controlled R2D2) to one of the battered stalls, Emma scrubs at a scribbled message on one of the walls with a tissue, muttering something about “the nerve of some people.”

Ninth finishes his labors and turns to Joe Wade.

“Now Mr. Wade, tell me once more what happened to you after falling through the trap door inside Sweetheart.”

“As I already told you, Doctor, I found myself in some weird garden. I wandered for a bit before finding what looked like a normal TARDIS door. I opened it, stepped through, and found myself here.”

“Linking the interior of a TARDIS to an outside location, especially one with such lax standards of hygiene, is both highly dangerous and not in character for either Sweetheart or Florestan,” Ninth said. “Some outside agency is at work. Still, it does give us a chance to help. Once such a link is established, it’s quite possible to reopen the door using the proper tools. For example …”

With a dramatic flourish, Ninth pushes a button on the contraption. There is a quiet hum and a rather anaemic flash. The latecomers (along with the entire contents of the restroom) vanish.

With a second quiet hum and anaemic flash, the This Time Round restroom rematerialized amidst the lushness of Sweetheart’s wild garden.

Ninth emerged from the stall, followed by Emma and Joe. All was quiet. There was neither sound of distant conversation nor footfall. All the guests, and even the host, it seemed, were gone. Where they had gone was another question, as was Why, and it left Ninth feeling highly uneasy.

“Sweetheart?” he called, to the still air. “I apologize for this intrusion, but… Are you here? Are you… conscious?”

There was no discernible response. Ninth frowned, his brow knitted in concern. “Sweetheart?” he called again.

Suddenly, a light breeze arose—coming from behind them, and blowing toward the door leading out of the garden.

“I think,” the Doctor said, a little wryly, “we are meant to go wherever the wind may take us.”

So they did. When they came to an end of a corridor, the wind shifted direction, and so did they. They continued on in this way, until Sweetheart, in the form of a breeze, led them back to the main console room.

“Look!” Emma said.

And sure enough, there was a light blinking beside one of the monitors, and they crowded around to read it:

Im so ry I c@nn t t_ke my m#iden frm,” the screen read, “butmy rsours+s artax@d to thyr fullst.

“Sweetheart,” Ninth asked, concern rising in his voice, “what happened?”

It startd wthe quad$ill,” Sweetheart continued, as her words scrolled across the screen, and she told them, in her broken way, of how the mysterious S.O.S. signal had interrupted the dance, and how she had traced its origin to the sixth dimension—one inside of atoms, and how she had rearranged her reality interface so they could answer the call.

“That explains why the TARDIS appears to have vanished from the cul-de-sac, and yet, still registered on my sensors as being there—it—we—still are there, but not appearing as a three dimensional form.”

If a cursor on a screen could nod, this one certainly seemed to. Sweetheart then explained how they found the world devoid of natives, how the veil of reality was somehow being tampered with, how the quadrillers then split up, and how some external entity had somehow blocked them from returning.

“Hm,” Ninth said. “And it seems Joe, here, stumbled over part of that trap.”

“But why link it back to the men’s restroom in This Time Round?” Emma asked.

“The specificity of the restroom was likely something of an accident,” Ninth said, “but This Time Round as a whole is something of a three-dimensional perceptional vortex—an alternate reality that nonetheless exists in the third dimension. By opening a door there, whatever this thing is has created a sort of dimensionally transcendental moebius strip—creating a pathway from the third dimension, through the sixth dimension, and back to the third… so that, no matter how many times we walk around the ‘strip’, we can never get to the flip side—because there is no flip side.”

“So what can we do?”

“We’ll just have to close that second doorway—cut the loop, in other words,” the Doctor said. “…Though it will require some tinkering with this main console, I’m afraid. May I, Sweetheart?”

Pls#,” came the reply on the screen.

Ninth nodded, and rolled up his sleeves.

Amber rubbed at her temples. “Ouch.

The Whom’s attention focused on her.

|See you…| Many voices speaking as one, or one voice speaking as many. |You…|

“Have we met?” Amber inquired.

|…You,| the Whom whispered in its terrible voice. |Avenging angel, power of vengeance…|

“Wrong Power,” Amber said.

|I know you,| the Whom rumbled. |You are narrative. Narrative is you. Reality and narrative, narrative and reality, you confuse, you break down the walls… you break them down!|

“What’s it saying?” Eloise whispered.

“It doesn’t seem to like me being the Power of Metafiction…” Amber said, out of the corner of her mouth.

|I opened the gates to their worlds,| the Whom said. |I pushed them through. Little pearls of reality, their own little pearls… they hurt, they hurt, I had to get rid of them…

|You come… too many… too many minds…


The tower shook.

“Oh no…” Eloise whispered. “EVERYONE DOWN!”

Everyone attempted to push themselves even further into their hiding places.

|You will kill us! We will be destroyed!|

Amber clutched her hands to her head.


“BOSS!!” Trella yelled.

“AMBER-SAN!!” Nuku-Nuku screamed.

“AMBER!!” Dominic shouted.


“GET OUT!!” Amber howled. “GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!!”

“STOP!!” Eloise shouted. “STOP!!”

The air trembled.

“AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!” Amber’s face clenched in. “GET OUT!!”

“STOP IT, PLEASE!!” Eloise couldn’t even hear herself—she could only hope she was being heard. “STOP IT!!”

|YOU WILL KILL US!| the Whom roared. |YOU WILL KILL US!


The air shattered, its cracks racing headlong towards Amber.

And hit.

Amber’s eyes turned pure white.

She stood frozen for one long, terrible moment, the world itself seeming to stop.

Then, almost in slow-motion, she crumpled to the floor.

The cracks in the air disappeared.

The Whom settled down to a baleful quiescence.

Nuku-Nuku and Trella hurried to Amber’s side.

“…What the Hell?!” Tegan demanded. “What was that about?”

“I have a bad feeling about this…” Fifth murmured.

Eloise found herself heartily agreeing.

She looked back at the Whom. What could they do? How could they reach it, if it kept doing things like this to them?

Then one more thought popped into her head.

What if it couldn’t? What did that mean for them—and for the Whom?

Interesting, a colonial species, with some unusual abilities.
Let me guess, you suffered a reverse and came here to literally pull yourself together, and when you arrived found that the telepathic static made that difficult, so you did something about it.
I will survive!
I can help you there, at least with the physical damage, though it will hurt.
[Varne had edged over to the nearest Doctor, Sixth, and spoke in a low voice.]
Doctor, Magnus can help it, and it is a required first stage. What he can not do is help it reintegrate its components, he is not telepathic. Assuming that the rhyme was right it is disassociating into multiple personalities.

“While we’re pondering our options, such as they are,” said Daibhid, in a curiously calm tone of voice that suggested the bits of his brain responsible for mindless panic had shut down due to overload, “can I ask a question?”

“I don’t really think this is a good time,” replied Eloise.

“It’s important,” Daibhid persisted.

“Oh, go ahead,” said Sixth. “Just as long as it isn’t ‘Who’?” He glared at Fifth.

“No, it’s ‘what’, as in ‘what the heck is going on?’ Sandra told us the Sphinx looked just the same in the base reality!” On his shoulder Schroedy made a strange chirping sound that he took as agreement2.

“It did!” protested Sandra.

“It’s probable,” offered Seventh, “that the creature itself would be unaffected by the ‘looking through the corner of your eye’ trick. After all, whatever it’s projecting would be its reality.”

“That makes sense,” Daibhid admitted. “One more question?”

“Yes?” prompted Seventh.

“It’s another ‘what’ one.” He pointed, past where Candy was beginning to look a bit ill as the reality of the recent past slowly dawned, to where Hyatt, Excel and Sister were looking, unsurprisingly, rather confused. “What are they doing here?”

“Maybe I can answer that,” said a voice from the doorway.

“NO!!” screamed the Ultimate Whom. “NOT YOU!!!”

“Yay!” exclaimed Excel. “It’s the man who looks like Nabeshin, but isn’t! He’ll sort this out.”

It was indeed, although since he didn’t look like Nabeshin any more it was anyone’s guess how she knew this. He looked the Quadrillers up and down and said, “Hmm. Looks like you did better than I expected.” Then, utterly ignoring the ranting Whom, he said “I expect you’ll all be wanting an explanation.”

“Well, yes,” said everyone simultaneously.

“Okay. It goes like this…”

“This is ridiculous,” Evan stated for what was neither the first nor the last time. “Animated wuxia hamsters cannot exist in the real world!” (Strangely enough this would not be the last time he said this either.)

“What about her?” asked the Boss-Ham, pointing at Zoe.

“I’ve got my own reality,” said Zoe. “I don’t think you’d fit there either.”

“We meet every so often,” explained Evan. “Sorta like a Muse thing, in a weird Mary-Sue kinda way.”

“I’m glad one of us said it.”

“Quite. Point is, this place should be good enough for you. Nice variety, you can get just about anywhere, fabulous treasures just lying around…”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” protested the lead hamster. “We’ve got mystic powers, Mars is a half-mile from downtown New York, for some reason there’s always Kirsty MacColl music playing…”

“I can make it Devo. Or possibly Cat Stevens.”

“That’s not the point. There’s no logic here! This whole thing is ridiculous!”

“And so are you. You fit right in.”

“Why would these hamsters be so keen on getting out when none of the other characters want to?” asked Zoe.

“Perhaps because they’re the stupidest idea I’ve had during this entire thing,” said Evan. “Makes sense that they’d cause trouble.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, I mean, the roleplaying stuff got kinda tired, and the guy with the mustache ended up disappearing into nowhere, and it’s not like this isn’t a totally irrelevant side quest to begin with, but overall, yes, this is the most insane thing I’ve ever writ—er, thought up. Why, what’s your idea?”

“Well, maybe they haven’t found their niche in this world. The boat man, the airship captain, the Mentoid ruler—they’ve all got their place. But the hamsters don’t fit.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to say!” said Boss. “Now take us to the normal world now or face the consequences!”

“Wait!” said a hamster with a headband and orange-and-white fur. “I think they’re getting an idea!”

“What? How can you tell, Hamtaro?”

“That’s part of my power. I’m very empathetic.”

“Is that in the game?” Evan wondered aloud.

“I don’t know, but it fits me.”

“So,” he said, crouching down to Hamtaro’s eye level, “you think there’s a way this can work out.”

“I think you’re thinking of a way this can work out.”

“So who’s on first?”

“That’s it!” Zoe exclaimed.

“We’re going to solve the problem with Abbot and Costello routines?”

“No! We’re going to find a place where they can fit in. Or rather, we’re going to think it up.”

“Brilliant!” Evan jumped up and gave Zoe a kiss on the cheek. “I knew having a smart girl accompany me in the story would pay off. Captain, is everything loaded?”

“Everything, sir,” said the Hill Martian. “Also, this guy somehow popped up on board.”

The canal boatsman’s head popped up out of the airship cabin. “I say! Where are we off to now, chaps?”

“I have no clue,” said Evan.

Zoe turned to the elder Mentoid. “I suppose we’re going,” she said. “Thanks for all your help.”

“Thank you for the palace, young one,” he replied. “Visit us again soon.”

“I hope we can.” Being in a cuddly mood, Zoe gave the alien a hug, then turned to follow the hamsters onto the airship.

“Farewell, all!” the Elder said as the ship departed. Then, to himself, “I thought they’d never leave.”

On the airship, the Martian captain looked out over the prow. “Where shall we go?” he asked Evan.

“Whatever direction I haven’t been yet. Try north.”

“Very well.”

The airship sped off, to the undefined frontiers of the realm.

1 From Jonah’s somewhat restricted point of view, naturally.

2 The cat-speakers, however, took it to mean: “I only joined this stupid mini-quest to meet a mythological feline. If I’d known it was a pile of slugs I’d be back in that university, asleep.”

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Story copyright © 2003 the original authors; this compilation copyright © 2003–2005 Igenlode Wordsmith and Paul Andinach; HTML modified by Imran Inayat.