The Whom It May Concern > A Splitting Headache > Doctored Whom

“That’s us,” not-not Nabeshin said, jerking a finger at the Whom. “I’m us. We are both us.”

“…Like the Doctor?” Eloise tentatively suggested.

Not-not Nabeshin tipped his head. “I don’t get the reference.”

“Eight incarnations, but they all retain the Doctor’s identity,” Eloise said. “They’re all the Doctor, but they’re all individual identities in their own right.”

“…That will do, I think,” not-not Nabeshin said. “We are many/one and one/many simultaneously—a multiplicity of identity and a singularity of identity.”

“Multiple personality,” Varne said smugly. “Told you.”

Not-not Nabeshin glared at the Whom. “And due to circumstances beyond our control, we currently find our mental manifestations—the two bodies you see now—somewhat… disassociated from each other.”

“…Then where’s your physical body?” Eloise wanted to know.

Not-not Nabeshin shrugged. “It’s a small cube hidden somewhere off in a power station.”

That’s you?” Eloise gawped.

“Our body,” not-not Nabeshin said. “What has happened… we are, in effect, split in identity. The two strongest aspects of our identity—our autonomous function and our will—managed to manifest two bodies of their own under the alterations we induced in this world. The other six aspects sided with one or the other.”

“One in eight or eight in one,” Eloise repeated.

Not-not Nabeshin nodded. “The trio here”—he nodded to Excel, Hyatt and Sister—have encountered two of my aspects—the person they keep calling Nabeshin and myself.” He nodded to the Whom. “That encapsulates another set of our identities—the Whom, our name-aspect, among them.”

“…And a sphinx?” Eloise hazarded.

“…If that was a face that would be known to you,” not-not Nabeshin said.

Why did you induce an alteration in this world?” Florestan said. “Why dispose of all the people?”

“We needed healing,” not-not Nabeshin said. “We are… we were… it is hard to explain. Too many minds, and we are disrupted, damaged. We are unable to heal.

“We… attempted to place the inhabitants in bubbles of reality—opening gates into the pockets of reality they generated. A place they would be safe while we healed—for we did not have the strength to go anywhere else.

“When we…” Not-not Nabeshin glared at the Whom. “When we first manifested… it sent… it sent… upheaval through the bubbles. Some became… aware of what had happened.”

“…The natives who managed to escape,” Florestan said.

“Some did?” not-not Nabeshin said. “I had wondered…”

He sighed. “But as time passed, we found even that was insufficient. We are… almost too alien for this reality, this dimension. It damages us simply being here… but we did not have the strength to leave.

“We manifested. We manifested as the damage took hold, split us further and further… a way of dealing with the pain, a hope it might ease… which it did, for a while.

“But then I-selves discovered that other-self was generating bubbles of reality… bubbles to encapsulate aspects of this reality, something to ward ourselves from the damage of this reality. Trying even to alter this reality to make it more survivable… with results that were obviously failing.

“And I/we realised just how serious things were, had become. We needed to reunite, or we would die.

“But our other self had concealed itself from us, though we did not know why. Who knows how better to hide from you than yourself?

“But we needed it, we needed to reunite. Survival or death.

“We needed a mind… a focused mind, a directed mind. Something we would trust, something we would know. Something that would find our various selves—body and mind. Uncertainty would be the end of us—we could not have uncertainty, we needed focus. Something that would find us and bring us together again. Because we could not do so ourselves—we are that weak, now, our unity, our focus lost. Neither one of our manifestations can muster the will to do so.

“And then you turned up.”

“If I have this straight…” Florestan said, “what you need is first to reunite yourselves, and then to leave this place.”

“Yes,” not-not Nabeshin said.

“I begin to understand why everything has been so confused from the beginning…” Florestan murmured. “A confused mind—minds—trying to deal with damage to themselves they couldn’t understand. I’m not surprised the end result was so confused.”

“What will happen if you die?” he asked not-not Nabeshin.

“I do not know,” not-not Nabeshin said. “I believe, however, that it would have a devastating effect on this reality—our death throes dissolving it into chaos.”

“…Which means it’d be a good idea to put them back together again, yeah?” Daibhid said.

“Yes,” Florestan said.

“So how do we do that?”

At this moment, there came a hideous hissing, bubbling cry. Everyone swung round, including non-not Nabeshin, although his face had contorted for an instant in a manner that suggested he was only too well aware of both its source and the reason.

The Whom was writhing in its own slime, tentacles lashing frenetically. Beside it, there was standing a round-cheeked child in a somewhat rumpled green dress. She was holding a stick.

“Ugh,” she remarked loudly, “it’s all falling to bits. Look—”

Excel, showing an almost (for her) incredible sense of intelligence and self-preservation, managed to seize Jonah in the instant before she poked it again. The fact that they both ended up flat on the floor was perhaps to be expected.

The fact that they ended up prone underneath the nearest part of the Whom was more or less par for the course.

Somebody get that irritating child out of here, before I forget this is supposed to be a joyful occasion and spread it thinly over the walls.
[Two large tentacles grabbed Excel and Jonah and pulled them back to an octopussy looking thing that had previously been Varne. It grew a mouth, as it released them.]
He does not make threats, just statements. I would remove Jonah if I were you.
[Magnus turned to the not-not Nabeshin.]
I can help with the physical damage, but I need to touch it.

The Ninth Doctor lay flat on his back, under the console, staring up into an odd tangle of wires and diodes. This TARDIS struck him as both quaintly ancient and mind-blowing advanced—Florestan must have done some fancy tinkering with the old ship on their last quest together… not to mention Sweetheart’s own conscious state, and her ability to create her own circuitry—figuring out how to interface with the sixth dimension, for example…

“You’re going to have to close your reality interface, I’m afraid,” he said. “I don’t want to start rearranging things while we’re still connected.”

Beloved winced internally. If she closed her interface, if only for a moment, she’d not only be abandoning Pilot, and her guests (something she knew, deep in her bosons, that she should never do), but it would allow this Time Lord to take control of her.

“None of them can reach you, now,” the Doctor said, gently, as if in answer to her unspoken But. “You know that.”

Beloved sighed—or she would have, if a TARDIS could sigh. This wasn’t any Time Lord, she reminded herself—this was her friend, the Doctor. Tentatively, gingerly, she withdrew her reality interface from the sixth dimension.

There was a slight hum and flicker as power flowed away from some areas and toward others. Then, with a little click, everything settled down again. It all looked as it should—except for one spot where power wasn’t flowing—almost as if blood circulation had been cut off. “I think I found the problem!” Ninth called out.

Some time later, after Joe and Emma had rummaged around for spare bits of wire and circuitry tubes (with a few “warmer / colder” clues from Sweetheart), Ninth succeeded in bridging the gap in the power flow.

“Try it now,” Ninth said. “Reconnect to the sixth dimension. Does it work?”

Three people sat at the table before Amber.

Three people, and one other.

Two were near-on identical—girls barely out of childhood, with white hair and white eyes, their slender figures draped in soft grey robes.

One was older, a woman full-grown, with dark brown hair that spilled down her back and blue-grey eyes the colour of a storm, in the formal fashion of Pythian Gallifrey.

The other had no figure, no face. In this manifestation, it wore the shape of a whirlpool of spiralling colours, never settling into fixed form.

Amber knew them all.

She was them. Had been them. The previous forms she’d worn.

The shape with no figure or face was a manifestation of her first, her true form, all mortal guise stripped away. Her original form, when she’d been the Firstborn, the Lifegiver. Gallifreya’s Star.

The girls… one would be the First of the Six, the Elegiast, Muse of the Past.


The other… she had a terrible feeling she knew who that other would be. She Who Is Become Mourning, Twice-Bereaved, Cold-Heart…

The Ice Queen.

The woman… oh, she remembered her well enough. The last of her avatars, in the sense the people of Earth had originally used for that word. A woman both divine and mortal, both herself and Electra.



“Well then,” Amber said finally. “What was it you wanted to tell me?”

One of the girls leaned forward. “We were hoping you could tell us that.”

Electra, Amber thought. Her voice lacked the coldness, the bitterness, the Ice Queen had possessed.

“Ah,” she said. “So I’m momentarily disassociating, am I?”

The other girl shrugged. “If you wish to see it like that.”

The Ice Queen. Most definitely.

“So I manifest you—the aspects I know, the aspects most familiar to me…” Amber murmured. “Why, though? I doubt the Whom wanted this result… no, it was trying to use my own mind against me, but I don’t think this was what it wanted. No, this is my way of dealing with it…”

She stopped. “So why aren’t I conscious?”

The whirlpool’s lights flickered in what might have been amusement. “Because realising you’re disassociating is not an instant cure. Your mind and body are still trying to deal with the shock from the attack.”

“You could wake up now,” Electra said. “If you wished it sufficiently enough. But you would still be disassociating. Still hear our voices in your head, fading as you reintegrate.”

Amber sighed. “Time. It’s all about time, isn’t it? Do I have time to reintegrate normally, let my mind put itself back together, or do I wake up and help my friends deal with the Whom—with several parts of my personality offering their own commentary—and then put myself back together? All assuming the Whom won’t try this again, of course…

“But I need to know what’s happening, how bad things are. And in these states of minds, mindspeaking is not likely to work.”

She took a deep breath. “I’m going to wake up.”

“Very well,” Electra said. “You know what to do.”

“Good luck,” Quina said softly.

The Ice Queen scowled.

Amber nodded.

Even disassociated from itself like this, her will was still considerable.

She focused herself, focusing on waking up.


—her eyes fluttered open.

“Boss!” Trella exclaimed.

“…Ouch,” Amber moaned.

You were warned… the Ice Queen said in the back of her head.

“Amber-san!” Nuku-Nuku bubbled. “You’re all right!”

“…Hardly…” Amber said.

Trella winced. “Are you feeling all right?”

“…I will do…” Amber managed a grin. “Gallifreyan constitution …plus divine constitution. Good mix.

“Is it safe… for you to fill me in?”

“Um, well…” Trella said.

“Um…” Nuku-Nuku said.

This is not good… Quina murmured.

“Tell me,” Amber said.

Eloise cast an uneasy glance at Magnus. “Right now,” she said, “Magnus is trying to convince the Whom he can heal him… I hope he can, but …” She sighed. “From what we learned back in the caves,” she went on, “—the why of all this—I knew that the stripping of the reality veil would hurt the being behind this. I had hoped … that we could get to it before the reality wavefront hit, so that we could warn it—or somehow soften the blow. Barring that—if we were all together—focused—the force of our combined minds would have been too much for it to strike against, but now …” she shook her head.

“It’s wounded,” Fifth said, quietly. “And wounded animals strike out—even against those who are trying to help, and now that it’s succeeded in wounding Amber, it has also succeeded in distracting all of us, making each of us even more vulnerable.”

You are even more vulnerable than the others, now the Ice Queen reminded her.

Amber scowled, but kept enough presence of mind to hold her tongue.

“You okay, Boss?” Trella asked again.

Amber nodded. “Okay enough,” she said.

Nth nodded at Fifth. “And now that we are distracted, we’re even more of a threat to it—all these minds coming at it, from all different directions. It seems to be a tragic habit: whatever it does to heal itself only deepens the wounds.”

“What do you suggest we do now?” Amber asked.

“Retreat,” Fifth and Nth said, in unison.

“Since our presence is wounding it further,” Nth explained, “there is no point staying here, and risking another attack.”

“What about Magnus?” Eloise asked.

“Leave him to it, I’d say,” replied Fifth. “Our huddling in the shadows certainly isn’t helping matters, and if he and Varne are alone with the Whom, then they stand a better chance of holding its/their attention.”

Amber nodded again, and winced, as the action reawakened her headache. “Trella, Nuku, go round up the others—quietly.”

Which the two did.

[Magnus advanced and laid both hands on the Whom. His hands started to glow, a glow which spread to the Whom, completely encompassing it. When the glow died the Whom was still repulsive—but a healthier looking repulsive. Most of the dead sections had been absorbed and the aura of death and decay was markedly reduced. Magnus stumbled out of the tower and put a hand against the wall to steady himself.]
I have never seen you sweat before.
It was harder than I expected, and I have only removed most of the symptoms. I could do nothing about the underlying cause.
But that means it will deteriorate again.
Yes, but in the meantime if it panics again it will have more power. I suggest someone comes up with a way to reintegrate it and then to get it out of here.

“We need a telepath,” Sixth opined. “Someone focused, determined…”

“…You would say things are that bad?” not-not Nabeshin said. “A focused mind should have been sufficient previously.”

“Better be safe than sorry,” Varne said. “A telepath—someone capable of consciously linking your minds together.


Amber shook her head. “I’m still recovering, Varne. Not me.”

Coward, the Ice Queen sneered.

She glanced over at Dominic. “Dominic?”

Menon… Quina whispered. My star, my heart… I see you again, my love, see you in him, and oh, it hurts…

“Not me,” Dominic said. “I doubt I have the focus it needs.”

Most of the Doctors stared at him.

What?” Nth said. “Dominic, this is not the time to underestimate yourself!”

“Personal issues,” Dominic said. “I can’t give it the necessary focus.”

“…What about me?” Trella suggested. “I know Ethereal Tongues—I could do it.”

“…Ethereal Tongues is short-lived, though,” Amber said. “I think it needs longer than that.”

“…Then who?” Eloise said. “Is anyone else here a telepath?”

Most shook their heads.

“Not me,” Daibhid said. “I only had it with Schroedy.”

“…There might be a way,” Florestan said, almost hesitantly.

Eloise startled. She’d rarely—if ever—heard that tone from him.

“Beloved’s telepathic circuits,” Florestan said. “If we could get back inside Beloved… she might be able to act as the telepath this—these? entities need. I have no reason to doubt her strength of will at the moment…”

“…Pilot?” Sister whispered. “Is that you?”

Florestan focused on her. “…Sister, I take it?”

“Yes,” Sister mouthed.

“Then yes,” Florestan said. “I am Pilot.”

“I’m sorry,” Sister whispered.

“…Why?” Florestan asked, his voice almost gentle.

“…I couldn’t help you,” Sister whispered. “I couldn’t save you. The whole of my existence was to save you, and I couldn’t…”

“I am safe,” Florestan said. “But were it not for Beloved’s courage, I would not be here to greet you. You—she—has been a brave and true ship, braver than I could ever have asked.

“Rest assured, we will see the two of you reunited.”

Sister bowed her head, a holographic tear running down her cheek. “Pilot.”

“…Is this safe?” Eloise said, worried. “I mean, letting both of them—it—well, whatever they are—in contact with Sweetheart?”

Florestan sighed. “We have no other telepaths available, Eloise. Both Amber and Dominic have ruled themselves out, and no other telepaths have offered themselves—while the Doctors and I may have some level of ability, it is very basic, and I suspect nowhere near the level the Whom needs.”

The gathered Doctors nodded.

“…I’m not sure,” Eloise said.

“Tell me,” Florestan said.

Eloise took a deep breath, suddenly and horribly aware all eyes were on her. “It’s Sweetheart. What if she disagrees? I mean, the Whom was the one who locked us out in the first place…” And I’m afraid what it’s going to do to her, she didn’t say.

“Then we need to ask,” Florestan said.

“…But what if she disagrees?” Eloise pressed.

“Then I fear we do not have long to find an alternative solution,” Florestan said gravely. “Assuming there is one.”

“We’re still locked out, though,” Molly said.

“I can open the door,” not-not Nabeshin said. “If I sense that I can trust you.”

Amber smiled, in spite of herself. “I think you can,” she said.

They were interrupted by a familiar: “Quzzzah-thunk, Quzzzah-thunk, Quzzzah-thunk!” as the large silvery cube Eloise had first met by her little bridge all those years ago materialized in front of them.

“Sweetheart!” she called out, jogging forward, before stopping short as two strangers stepped out, followed by Joe.

Florestan’s back stiffened, ever so slightly. “Doctor,” he said, with cautious politeness.

“Doctor?” repeated Eloise, in surprise.

“Of course,” said Ninth, “we didn’t really meet last year, did we? At least, not in this incarnation. Yes, I’m the Doctor, and this is my fianceé, Emma.”

“Hi,” said Emma.

“Fianceé?” repeated Eloise, in even more surprise. “But how…?”1

“He’s Not Quite Official,” Daibhid told Eloise in a stage whisper. She shot him a bewildered look.

Emma added helpfully, “There’s even less official ones on the way. We lost track of them in the loos.”

Further discussion, which doubtless would have confused things still further, was curtailed by not-not Nabeshin who chose that moment to say, “There. As a token of good faith, I have allowed you access to your vehicle.”

Ninth gave him a long, measured look.

“All right,” the Whom’s other half said eventually. “I haven’t, you managed to break through. But now you have it, are you going to help me?”

“Well,” interrupted Joe, before anyone else could say “of course”, “I’d quite like to know what’s going on first.” He pointed at the Whom. “For instance, what in the name of William Boot is that???”

“Well,” began Eloise…

Meanwhile, back at the University, they were getting terribly excited.

“You see?” exclaimed Eighth, tapping the cube. “Its main purpose is to store a consciousness of some sort.”

“Indeed, yes,” agreed First. “Presumably the consciousness of the creature that caused this, hmm?”

“The others really ought to get told about this,” Fourth commented, studying some of the university records.

“Shame we’ve run out of ways to contact them,” Q retorted. He’d been arguing with Bob about… something. Even the Doctors had found some of the jargon baffling. And the insults even more so.

“Ah,” said Third, “but have we?”

Eloise had just started explaining to the Ninth Doctor, Emma and Joe all that had happened, when the Alternate Doctors, their companions, the small boy in the parka and the two Iris Wildthymes (who were in that group, honest, but had been uncharacteristically quiet, possibly due to being faced with their old flame actually getting hitched) finally found their way through the interface and she had to start again.

While this was going on, Ace muttered, “Am I going totally mad, or can anyone else hear the Red Dwarf theme?”

“I’m getting it too,” admitted Imran. “A sort of electronic version.”

Daibhid stared at them, and then opened up the Rucksack. “It can’t be,” he muttered to himself, “It’s impossible.”

“What is it?” asked Imran.

“That sounds very much like… ah, here it is. Yep. It’s my mobile. Um, Daibhid Ceannaideach speaking, hello? … Oh, hi, Bob. Er, how did you…? … Ah, I see. Clever.”

He covered the mouthpiece and told the others, “Third came up with a way of using the cube to generate a signal. They just needed a receiver here, and Bob remembered my mobile.” He listened again. “Uh-huh, yeah. Yeah, we figured that out as well. We’ve actually got the creature here. Part of it wants to return, and Sweetheart… yes, she’s back… is going to use her telepathic circuits to help.” He turned to not-not Nabeshin, “Would it help at all if the cube, your body, was actually here, with you and the Whom?”

“Considerably,” not-not Nabeshin affirmed.

“Yeah, that’d be great, thanks. Bye.” He deactivated the phone. “They’re on their way.”

“Then I suggest we should enter Beloved, and begin the procedure,” replied Florestan.

The Quadrillers all began piling into the TARDIS. Only Eloise noticed that Sister was hesitating.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, “You’re going back to Sweetheart, like you wanted, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but… well… the more I think about it, the more I think, well, the Whom and not-not Nabeshin are incomplete, neither of them have a proper personality without the other, but…”

Eloise realised. “But you do,” she said gently.

“Yes. I’m not… I’m not sure I’m part of Beloved any more.” Her eyes were wide. “I’m… I’m me.”

Eloise considered this. “Is it possible for you to connect with the rest of Sweetheart without losing yourself?”

Sister looked miserable. “I don’t know!”

Eloise, Imran, Sandra and Allie exchanged Looks. The Look was especially pointed between the two sisters. At last, Sandra sighed. “We should talk,” she said to Sister.

Eloise, meanwhile, sensing that they did not need her eavesdropping on their conversation, followed the others into the TARDIS. She paused at the threshold, however, and rested her hand on one of the light roundels by the door. “Sweetheart?” she asked quietly, “is this all right with you? I mean, doing this telepathic bonding thing?”

The roundel thrummed quietly under her fingers, and when Eloise glanced down, she saw shadowy letters forming, scrolling across the circle as if it were a monitor.

“Forgive me for not taking solid form,” the words read, “I’m conserving my energy for what lies ahead.”

Eloise felt a lump in her throat. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine… tired but fine. And it’s fine—what you’re asking me to do. It’s what we do—Pilot and I, and you and I—it’s what we’ve always done: save worlds, heal the wounded. I’ve come to expect it. It’s you I’m worried about. You have regrets, this time. You’ve never regretted our adventures before.”

Eloise pulled her hand from the wall, startled, unsure how Sweetheart knew this.

The TARDIS sensed her question. “I’m not telepathically linked with you, anymore,” she said, “not since Pilot returned. But I still know you. I don’t need a telepathic link to see… Why regret?”

“I’m not sure I like the person I’m becoming,” Eloise said. “I let anger get the better of me. I hurt people—I hurt Florestan.”

There was a long pause. For a moment Eloise feared Sweetheart was angry with her too.

Then the words appeared again: “You know what I think.”

Eloise winced. She knew all too well—The Book—that book—in the library. The one Sweetheart had been confronting her with every day for months. “I know,” she said.

“As soon as this is over,” Sweetheart replied. “No more putting it off.”

“Okay,” Sandra said. “Psyche, you want to do this, or shall I?”

Sister looked between the sisters, confused.

“You start,” Allie said. “I think this is more your thing.”

“Okay,” Sandra said. “All right.

“I… okay. I started out the same way you did.

“I was… I was a part of Allie, a part of her soul—the unconscious, the Shadow, everything Allie couldn’t admit about herself.

“It was just Allie back then—just the one of us. We can’t divide ourselves up in the way you and Sweetheart can.

“But we got divided up.

“We were…” Sandra drew focus again. “We went up against… against a group of gods—the Eaters of Stories. Gods without creativity or inspiration, without any ideas of their own.

“They… they needed a Muse—even part of a Muse would do—someone to inspire them, give them inspiration.

“So they tore Allie—tore us—in two. Copied Allie’s body and mind, but split her soul in two.”

Sandra met Allie’s eyes again, returned Allie’s answering nod.

“Allie was the Psyche, the parts of her soul she could accept.

“I was the Shadow, the parts of her—our—soul she denied.

“I…” Sandra’s gaze was distant. “I… managed to escape the Eaters thanks to… he’d laugh at me for this… thanks to a brave man who went to bring me back.

“The trouble was that when we escaped, we found ourselves a couple of dimensions away from where we’d been, so we had to find our way back to our friends—and to Allie.

“The problem was…” Sandra met her sister’s eyes again. “I started developing an identity of my own, becoming someone different from the way I’d been. Different from Allie. I didn’t want to go back, to stop being me.”

“But without me,” Allie said quietly, “Sandra was incomplete—we both had a part of the soul, not the whole soul. We couldn’t be complete unless someone gave up their existence.

“When Sandra got the choice…” Allie’s eyes never left Sandra’s, “she decided that Alisandra—the complete person, the complete soul—should be the one to live once more.

“So she sacrificed her existence to reunite our—my—soul.

“But her hold on her identity—on who she was—was strong enough that she got sent back as a phantasm—effectively, pure psychic energy. The ghost of a personality.

“And so here we are.”

Sandra rolled her eyes. “Psyche…”

“Sorry, Shad,” Allie apologised, a twinkle in her eye. “But you know what I mean.”

“…I’m not sure that compares,” Sister said, still hesitant. “I’m a computer program—a set of computer programs. In standard computing systems, I’d become a part of Beloved once again.”

“But Beloved isn’t a standard computer,” Imran noted perceptively. “She’s not even a standard TARDIS.”

“I know,” Sister said. “That’s why I’m not sure. Beloved-diagnosis wasn’t downloaded into the bee, so I don’t know what would happen if we reconnected.”

Sandra frowned as a thought occurred to her. “Wait. You’re a hologram, right?”

Sister nodded.

“Using a light-bee to project yourself?” Sandra went on.

“Yes…” Sister said uncertainly.

“It’s just that it occurs to me… Hold on a minute.” Sandra floated inside Sweetheart, and over to Florestan.

“Quick question,” Sandra said. “Can Beloved manifest herself outside herself?”

“…By which you mean?” Florestan inquired.

“Could she download herself into a light bee and project a hologram?”

“Not download, no,” Florestan said, after a moment’s thought. “The bee would be more along the lines of a relay, enabling Beloved to project a hologram while keeping her actual mind within the Ship.”

“Has she done that since you’ve got back?”

“No,” Florestan said. “She hasn’t—though it might have proved useful when we ventured outside of her. She can only manifest the Maid TARDIS form inside herself, after all.”

“So… what happened to her spare?” Sandra asked.

“Am I that predictable?” Florestan chuckled wryly. “I took it off-line. I intended to upgrade it to full hard-light capability, to give Beloved the capacity for full physical interaction… but events overtook us.”

He started rubbing at his neck, almost unconsciously.

“It would have been a way to enable Ships to interact with our world—not simply exist in it, travel in it, but actually interact with it.

“Once I was freed, however…” Florestan sighed. “I learned Beloved had developed well beyond her original limitations—that she could manifest a body within herself, that she could include a body in her outward form.

“I learned of Compassion, that the Ships had finally developed human form in their own right.

“Given that, there didn’t seem much need to work on the light bee.”

Sandra whistled. “You weren’t thinking small, were you? Between this, the myth-engine, and Electra, you’d have turned Gallifreyan society upside down.”

Florestan nodded. “It would have triggered a revolution on Gallifrey… had it succeeded.

“But the odd thing is… it never seemed like that at the time. I set out to make reparations, to set right what we had done to the Muses—to return the spark of inspiration to our world, restore its balance.

“I was thinking like a Hero, not a scholar. I thought if I completed my quest, succeeded in my mission… then my fellows would accept me with open arms. Accept the change I was bringing.

“Now… now, I think, had I succeeded, Gallifrey would have changed in ways that perhaps even the Matrix could not have predicted. Would have become far different from anything I imagined.

“But that is a world away and gone, now.”

Once again, Sandra regretted that she couldn’t reach out and touch someone—even if just to let Florestan know that someone else was there.

Florestan shook himself, pulling out of the trance.

“I do apologise,” he said. “I have a tendency to go off on a tangent sometimes. Why were you asking?”

“Just needed to check on something,” Sandra said.

“Ah,” Florestan said. “I see. I hope I could help.”

“Thanks,” Sandra said.

She floated back outside to the trio.

“Okay,” Sandra said. “Why don’t you ask Sweetheart if you could stay separate?”

“…Could she do that?” Sister said.

“I don’t know,” Sandra said.

“…Would she let me?” Sister said. “I mean… I’m me, but is she incomplete without me?”

“You’d have to ask,” Sandra said. “Only she can answer that.”

Sister looked distressed. “But…”

“The question is, what do you want?” Allie said gently.

“…Maybe I’ve been away from Beloved too long,” Sister said. “It’s hard to explain unless you are Beloved, but… normally, Beloved’s sub-programs remain a part of her larger self—a part of the whole.”

“Not always,” Allie murmured.

“In my case,” Sister went on, “the connections to the main computer—to Beloved’s central mind—were severed. I was separated from my greater self. All I had—all I was—was my own set of programs.

“And over time, I found myself growing stranger, more distant, from what I was, even when dormant.”

“The myth-engine,” Allie whispered.

“When I was reawakened, I wanted—I thought I wanted—to reunite with my greater self.

“But now I’m actually here…” Sister hesitated. “I’m not sure it is what I want any more. I’m… I’m a me now, an independent identity. I am a me. And now I know that… I want to know what that means.”

“Join the club,” Imran murmured.

“I have a purpose,” Sister went on. “My purpose is to diagnose medical and psychological problems, recommend appropriate treatments, even perform minor surgeries.

“But… it’s not all I am any more. I have changed beyond that, and while I can analyse the changes, analyse what has been changed, I want to understand how I’ve been changed. I know how I’ve been changed… but I don’t understand it, what it means for me. I remember… I remember Beloved awakening to Self, I remember being a part of that self… but I don’t know what it is to be a self on my own, to have a self of my own.

“And I want to find out.”

“Then tell Sweetheart that,” Allie said softly. “Tell her that. Let her know.”

“Now?” Sister said.

“Um,” Allie said. “Guys?”

“Let’s deal with the Whom first,” Sandra said. “Then we can—well, you and Sweetheart can—deal with this properly.”

“…All right,” Sister said.

1 “Basingstoke!” Fifth muttered, near automatically. Candy stopped in mid-breath.

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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.