A Splitting Headache > Doctored Whom > Unfinished Business

Third, Eighth, Bob, Q, Amy and the others who had remained at the university arrived on the scene. “Is that what I think it is?” said Q, brightening.

“If you think it’s our friends’ TARDIS, then yes!” answered Third.

The others offered the cube to Florestan and not-not Nabeshin, but honestly, Amy hadn’t found the thing very interesting. She asked who the new girl was, and when she found out about Sister and her predicament, she was all smiles.

“This is so cool!” she said. “I know a little bit about that, and I can tell you, Sister, that you’re not alone. Our friend Jean-Luc had to do the same thing with an alien called Hugh, who was a separated piece of another entity, like you. When Jean-Luc realized that Hugh had his own feelings and friendships, and let him make his own decision. I share his belief that if you are alive, if you are sentient, then you deserve to lead your own life. I encourage you, and I’m very excited to see what happens to you.”

“Thank you,” said Sister.

“Oh, Amy,” said Q. “Normally I would disparage those speeches of Jean-Luc’s, but when you say it…”

Unwilling to wait any longer, he drew her over to him and kissed her, slowly and deeply. By the time they finished, half the group was staring at them.

“All right,” said Florestan. “When all this is over, you have got to tell me who this Jean-Luc person is.”

“Sure…no problem,” said Amy, embarrassed. “Well? Let’s get on with it, shall we?”

Eloise quietly took her hand away from the roundel through which Sweetheart had been speaking with her.

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

Eloise felt a lump in her throat. It was to start delving into her own past, to try and discover how she came to be orphaned and raised by Nasty Trolls—memories that were all but lost except for when an aroma or an angle of the light triggered feelings so deep there were no words to go with them.

On the one hand, Eloise wanted to find out who she was, maybe even connect with family, and find a long lost sister or brother. On the other hand… whatever the secrets waiting for her within the pages of The Chronicles of the Troll Clans of Radoffiwad, Eloise was sure they were unhappy ones.

She heard a footfall behind her and turned to see Sister and Sandra coming up behind her, and stepped out of the doorway. She couldn’t help eavesdropping, though, as the two came closer.

“What was that girl Amy talking about?” Sister asked in a baffled tone—“an alien called ‘D’You’ separated from an entity like Q? There’s more like him?”

Sandra chuckled. “Yes,” she said, “but that’s not what Amy meant.” Then the phantasm sobered. “I’m not as familiar with the ‘Star Trek’ fictiverse as she is, but from what I’ve gathered around Subreality is this: the alien she was talking about was born an independent being, and had that independence stripped away by force so he could be made a part of a larger entity.”

“Well,” said Sister, “that’s not like my situation at all.”


“When D’You—”


“When Hugh chose to lead his own life … he was being true to his own nature.”


“The Whom—the Whom is three individual lives—at least. And it is in pain—dying—because to be split like that is against its nature.” Sister looked to Sandra for another confirmation, but the phantasm was silent and still. “I—” she paused, and took a deep breath. “I am part of Beloved—I am Beloved. I always have been. Just as your Shadow self was—is part of Alisandra.”

“You’ve decided to reunite with her, then?” Sandra asked.

Sister nodded. “The way to heal the Whom is through a telepathic link. If the one establishing that link is fractured, than complete reintegration is impossible. I must reunite with Beloved.”

“But if there is no Phantasm for you…”

Sister seemed to grow calmer with each step closer to the TARDIS that she took, as if the panicked identity crisis from before was a side effect of being locked out.

“Then I cease to exist,” she said. “And if I no longer exist, I cannot regret my decision. If I don’t reunite, however, and our mission fails…”

Sandra nodded. “Then your life would be filled with regret.”

“It wouldn’t be much of a life.” Sister paused in the doorway, where Eloise had stood just moments before, her fingers hovering above a roundel about a foot higher on the wall. “I’ll continue to live on in a way, though,” she said. “All the things I’ve experienced outside of this TARDIS shell will be stored in Beloved’s—my memory. That’s something.”

And with that, she placed her fingers on the roundel. The light from the disc blazed, and for a moment, Sister seemed to flicker as if she were an image on an old tv set. Then she turned transparent, as if her body were of water, and she flowed into the wall.

And was gone.

And she was gone—Eloise could feel it—there was no phantasm. As Sweetheart had said, they no longer shared a telepathic bond, but they knew each other. She watched Sandra from around the corner, and could tell, from the barely perceptible sag in her shoulders that the phantasm felt the same thing.

Eloise searched within herself for some sense of grief over the fact that “Sister” was gone, but found none. For a moment she feared that this was more of her dark side rising to the surface, that, try as she did to run away all those years ago, she could not escape her Nasty Troll upbringing. That was a momentary fear, however, as she realized she did not feel any pleasure at the hologram’s passing, either. No, it was simply that “Sister” had been an aspect of Beloved all along, if even a subconscious one, and she felt no more grief than she would at the fading of a dream.

Then she heard the rising rhubarb coming from the direction of the main console room, and hurried in that direction to see what was going on.

Meanwhile, in a storyline increasingly having little to do with anything…

The Martian Airship had landed in a most unusual place. This was saying something, but Evan had to admit that he and Zoe had outdone whatever they’d expected to do.

“So this is where we’re supposed to live?” asked the Boss-Hamster, as he and his fellow Solar Ham-Hams surveyed the landscape—a large (by hamster standards), cartoony forest.

“Let me explain how it’s set up,” said Evan. “Now, the Clubhouse is at the center, that’s the pole of Earth—and it’s a Manse, a source of your power.”

“Source?” said Boss. “I guess that means it’d be bad for us if anything happened to it.”

Zoe nodded. “You’d better make sure you defend it, then.”

“Don’t worry,” said Evan. “The Dragon-Blooded cats and forest creatures won’t get active until you’ve moved in.”

“Hey, we’re ready for ’em anytime!” said Boss.

“Where’s Laura?” asked Hamtaro.

“The house is East,” replied Evan, gesturing that direction, “where the woods get thicker, and her school is just a bit to the West—close to the sea.” Defensively, and not to anyone in particular, he hastily added “I’ve only seen about three episodes of the show. This is just from memory. Honest.”

Zoe smiled and nodded.

“I’m sure we can fill this out ourselves,” said Boss.

“Oh, you’re developing on your own now?” asked Zoe.

“Feels like it. I think the world’s grown enough so that we can sustain ourselves.”

Zoe, being the clever sort, realized something, and turned to Evan. “So, I guess we did do some good—exploring this part of the realm has helped stabilize it.”

“Maybe,” said Evan. “Though I think the rest of the party still has work to do.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, it’s January and this thing still hasn’t finished.”

“Fair enough.”

The hamsters began filing out of the airship. “Okay, Solar Hams!” called Boss. “Let’s get to that Club-Manse and start fortifying it!” He led his crew off to the stately clubhouse, all of them making odd bouncing noises as they filed off.

“Well, that takes care of that,” said Evan, vowing silently not to think of anything that silly ever again, despite knowing it was a promise he could not keep. “What next?”

“We’ve got what we came for,” said Zoe.

“And we helped stabilize an alternate universe.”

“By creating wuxia hamsters.”

“Quite right.”

“Do you think the others are starting to wrap things up?”

“The day I know what they’re doing is the day I understand the secrets of the universe. But, to be on the safe side…”

“…We should get back to our reality.”

“Good thinking. I need a drink anyway. Captain! Set a course for… wherever it is we came from!”

“I know the way!” said the Hill Martian captain, to the surprise of just about everybody.

The airship lifted off once again, this time heading towards familiar territory…

“…And I say,” Sixth declared with rising stridency, “that every moment we spend bickering is another chance for something to go drastically and irreversibly wrong, wouldn’t you agree?” Reluctant agreement bubbled and hissed out of the crowd. “So, then,” he preened, “Cricket Lad, Teddy Boy, and Steptoe, you form up and—” Agreement, so to speak, bubbled and hissed out of the crowd in quite a different fashion, not dissimilar in its nature to that of a huge pan of metaphorical rhubarb at the very point of boiling over.

“Ahem,” not-not-Nabeshin said pointedly into the nearest pink and shell-like.

“I hate tentacles,” Mrs Candia Harcourt wailed, rather non-responsively. Since shortly after the unpleasing revelation of the Whom’s true form, she had been squatting lostly on the floor emitting random verbalisations of disgust, displeasure, and acute erotic trauma. A strange thing, perhaps, to tell of one who voluntarily frequents the Darkside and commits muserie for that unspeakable force of ych o fi known to the Squicky Crimes Squad of a hundred universes as the Grey Stewite—Man of Uranium!—but there you, whether you want it or not, would appear to have it.

“Aye, puss,” returned her towering reptilian escort [see what we mean?—Ed.], that arch-Terileptil warrior, playwright, and interior decorator Fastolf Fat-Man Swan-Drake Uncle-Dragon and so on at greater bynamely length than Aragorn at his most cataloguely pompous. “Hast said afore, six-and-twenty times since a’s proper occasion by mine arithmetics. —Now, sirrah, it is in the tarn-deep mind of this great scion of the all-adventuring Wonder-Race that ye (forasmuch as I make bold to interpret your cough in this wise, that no moment is to lose if we are to avert the unravelling of local reality quite, what with the sundering of your aspects or personae colonial other else singular, what more and further with the disruption consequent of the very—”

The companions were already beginning to take sides in perceptible numbers, though naturally not for the most part actually in agreement with their respectively relevant Doctorly incarnations. But all and sundry, yea even the Doctors and the self-styled reptilian reincarnation of young Mr Shaxpur, were interrupted at this point by a twisting of the very—

Oh, yes.

the very fabric of space and time itself!

“Out harrow alackaday alas!” boomed Fastolf happily, whipping out his implausibly large semi-portable beam-and-lead projector, and shooting the shit out of the abruptly Moebiusing V.F. in a romantic gesture of ultimate defiance of the uncaring Gods. “An end an end an end of all!!!”

Fifth detached himself from the mass intake of companionly breaths for that Primal Scream with which it is prophesied in the sinister Book of the Ultimate Abyss that the world will end, look you, now, the legal boys won’t let me call it a guarantee exactly, but it’s pretty much likely, isn’t it now? Go on, feel that width there!1

“Oh, no!” he cried, mugging in infinite horror at the fourth wall. “Nyssa, Tegan, Peri, er, oh yes, Adric and Turlough too! Run for your lives! This is the end of everything!

A sentiment which, indeed, was simultaneously being echoed by a unanimous chorus of the digestive systems of each and every being present at that terrible, that maximally unhappy and outrageously offended nexus! Many of the seasoned travellers there had long since adjusted to the inherent aggro of sea-travel. Space-sickness, with its added insult of weightlessness and resultant confusion of all autonomic systems anent the correct directions in which to void its various dissatisfactions, is an order of magnitude above the marine variety—yet here, too, acclimatisation was the order of the day amongst this doughty crew of adventurers and dancers down the lanes of the infinite stars! Inertialessness, and herein lies a sodding big clue as to the nature of the big wet fish which is immutably destined imminently to slap said doughty crew in the face, is so indescribably alien to the physical basis of our whole existence, that its effects on initial exposure have been not seldom likened to those of an Advocaat enema administered by Robert Kilroy-Silk via the medium of a high-pressure hose and in the act of reciting the British Labour Party Election Manifesto whilst clad exclusively in a rubber Freedom Maid outfit and a Day-Glo Rush Limbaugh mask, only somewhat more disturbing. But even to this, strain and snap as credulity may, the higher and more dauntless forms of 3-D life have been recorded and proven eventually to adapt.

But nothing—NOTHING!!—in the entire holistic wholeness of the macrocosmic Universe, has ever been alleged or recorded to withstand unmoved the unspeakable, the really obnoxious, the frug-this-for-a-game-of-soldiers annihilatingly nauseous effects of interdimensional acceleration!

The sphere, or more pretentiously the 4-circular cross-section of E-space that represents the interface of the hyperspatial tube which was abominably and omelette-generatingly coinciding with the Quadrillers’ physical presence at the moment in question, suffered a brief inflationary phase before stabilising. Two ghostly figures floated past, not through, that indescribable-oy-don’t-you-wish-that-was-enough-to-stop-us boundary, yclad2 in armour of chastest grey leather lavishly inlaid with strips of dureum, that ultimately dense and refractory metal that alone of all known substances exists in full solid and whack-me-round-the-head-with-it reality in space and interspatial thingummy alike!

Carrie, however, was wearing her electric-blue dress as usual.

You!” Fifth’s stunningly effective use of the three-letter pronoun as an honorary four-letter expletive prompted a thousand nose-pickers instantly to write missives of thunder to the BBC, but absent Beebly input into the current canine no-one gave a toss. Nyssa and Tegan drew the frothing Time Lord quietly aside and proceeded to stroke his raw nerves into relative complaisance.

No, verbally. Not in the way of a double-entendre. No, even Candy was too preoccupied to attempt one.

Three, then, drifted eerily past, not through, that inexpressibly alien interface known to technobabblers as the hyperspatial tube.

The first was Carrie the Electric Muse, in her trademark of-that-ilk-blue dress as aforesaid. Serene she was, and cornflower-eyed.

The second, perhaps inevitably, was Trader Grey the Man of Gold-Pressed Latinum, Carrie’s Author and interstellar agitator par excellence for voluntarily collectivist anarcho-capitalism in general and the non-payment of oppressive customs duties in particular. A DeLameter ray-gun rode upon his utility money-belt, and the legendary ‘look of eagles’ glared with mad nobility from his cut-lead orbs. The deceptively slim, dureum-wrought sword named Share balanced the DeLameter on the other hip. A lenticular wristwatch-like device scintillated upon his manly left wrist. A big dureum-inlaid boot, not belonging to the Trader, could be detected in the act of imparting lavish interdimensional momentum to his bum. Parabolic his trajectory was, and ignominious.

The third combined Trader Grey’s formidable aspect and equipment with that grace and beauty more evident in Carrie than in her Author. She was a thionite dream—a knockout—a seven-sector callout—a lithe, lissom redhead in (a) the first bloom of womanhood and (b) form-fitting grey leather, say no more, say no more, know what I mean?

A hearty, ineffably macho and boy-scoutly all-American telepathic voice boomed cheerfully and deafeningly through everybody’s cerebral whatnots as the three figures materialised into Hoedown-space:

“QX, Sis—you’re welcome to ’em! Dunno what use you can make of these Commie klutzes, but by Holy Klono’s dysprosium duodenum, go for it! Clear ether!”

“Clear ether, Kit!” What a tremendous, what a sheerly shamelessly shoggoth-shagging shitload of secret sororal sentiment was heterodyned on that seemingly light exchange! Well, don’t ask me, buggered if I’d know, eh? “I’ll take it from here. Over and out!” The hyperspatial terminus solidified into real, bona fide, none genuine without this kitemark spacetime. The three stooges materialised fully, and all other present reasons for projectile vomit or galloping narcolepsy or such vanished in corresponding degree.

Candy leapt to her feet like a randy goat, sorrows forgotten. “Oh, wow oh wow oh wow!” she fangirl-blurbled, jiggling in a manner fit to have the now-still-not-legendary Jordan [Who she?—Ed.]3 hieing hastily to sign up for hasbeenification programmes with names like I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!. Oh, wait a minute… “La, ma’am, may I invite you to a hot monkey sexorama experience with my Author? Would you like to ride me like a pony in a seven-gravity pulloff? Shall I—?”

“Get a life?” mumbled Imran, somewhat greenly, not being amongst the more experienced veterans present of acceleration in Really Stupid Directions™. He had been on the verge of formulating a very important theory, when Holy Klono’s dysprosium duodenum had suffered the aforementioned dyspeptic episode.

“I think you’ve got me mixed up with my twin sister,” said the redhead good-humouredly, with a serenity positively rivalling Carrie’s own. “And I think I can safely answer N-O for her too… I’m Camilla Kinnison, L3, Klovia—apprentice Guardian of Civilisation from the next universe over.” She sniffed affectedly. “And you have me to thank that your Intervenor Prime isn’t now breathing V2 in the Galactic Patrol’s lethal chambers as a zwilnik subversive—”

“I prefer the term ‘moonshining collective organiser’,” the Trader returned with stiff dignity. “This whole ludicrous policy of plutocratically selective but ultra-ruthless Prohibition, and its spurious assimilation to the War on Piracy—”

Carrie tapped him on the shoulder. “Preaching to the choir, Gray…”

“Intervenor Prime?!?” Tegan snickered loudly.

Camilla’s attention had already moved onto not-not-Nabeshin and the Ultimate Whom. “Oh!” she said, very softly, and worried briefly at her lower lip. “You two don’t exaggerate one bit, do you?”

Carrie shook her head apprehensively. “I don’t think we’d guessed the half of it.”

Camilla returned the gesture, and looked from one Doctor to another. “Do I take it that you’re this Universe’s Guardians…?” Something unspoken seemed to pass between them. Doctors and space siren alike paled briefly, then rallied. “QX—let’s table that. We have to redact this entity pretty qualified pronto, or goodnight sweet plenum. I’m the premier detector-scanner of my Universe, which I suppose makes this my pidgeon… I ought to warn you, though: I’ve never had a job of real, mission-critical psychic surgery in cold earnest.” Now her grey gaze flicked from not-not-Nabeshin to the Whom, and even more rapidly back again. “I’ll give it the old college try, then,” she said, jaw setting. “A moment, please!” And she seemed to go into a trance of the pretty-pulpishly-standard variety.

Fifth marched up to the Trader, with Tegan and Nyssa and Adric forming a sort of phalanx behind him, no doubt in order to protect some bugger from some other such should the need arise. We asked who and whom, but they remain coyly elusive about the whole dem’ subject.

“My telepathic faculty,” he said evenly, “is, as you know, the tiniest bit erratic. And it’s hardly my other selves’ strongest suit either. Are you sure the young lady is up to this? Because if she isn’t…”

Trader Grey smiled crookedly. “She’s one of the top five minds in her whole fiction, and furthermore the only one of them who doesn’t think like Dan Dare. She’s an L3—a Paramount Grand Master—the acme of her Universe’s psychic development—an immortal earthly goddess of ultimate telepathic prepotency—and if there’s any purely mentalistic problem that this sheaf of Universes can present, then—”

“—this is the one she can’t handle,” Camilla finished for him, coming back to earth with a start and a shake. “I’m sorry, fellows and friends, but this is like trying to ream an Eddorian of all its anti-social preconceptions, whilst designing an operating system that everyone likes and filling in a credible tax ret—” She paled and swayed, and might have fallen had it not been for Third’s superlative reflexes in the matter of catching pretty women who must needs fall helplessly into his gallant arms. “Thank you,” she said, resurging.

“Thank you,” said not-not-Nabeshin, bowing with exquisite though still faintly worried courtesy.

Camilla shrugged it off briskly. “I hardly deserve it. What I just did may just about stabilise things enough to make up for all your time I’ve wasted—that’s the best I’ll be able to do, for the next few decades at least. My continuum isn’t yours, and I’m smelling mutual metafictionality to a degree, and I’m not used to interfacing with time-travellers or AIs!” That last came out almost as a wail of frustration. “I ought to be able to support your Ship, at least—but, according to my visualisation of the Cosmic All, I’m about as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot. I suppose I could relay, or something…”

Eighth pushed through to her then, and their eyes met as she trailed off. “Oh!” she said wonderingly, then, a child’s secret smile on her quirky lips. “That’s what Time is like, here…” She nodded, decisively. “All right, then. Given that… I should be able to co-ordinate with the Ship and the Entity, and between us we ought to conduct enough power along the right channels for… healing.” She shrugged wryly. “Don’t expect me to take the lead in any part of it! This is not my Universe, and most of my intuitions are dangerously off here. Just use my eyes—and tell them they can drain me like a battery as they need me. I’ll live! I’ve done harder things, and… I’m apt to have to do harder once I go back.” She smiled kindly on Candy, and bowed most gracefully to not-not-Nabeshin, and her face glazed over with that utter abnegation and trust achieved only in this world by the utterly saintly, the utterly idiotic, or the utterly dangerously powerful upon whom one does not play no tricks when in bright green breeches and one’s right mind, sunshine!

“So,” finished Camilla Kinnison, with forced brightness. “How exactly were you planning to do it, before I interrupted? Best that I know…”

And lo, the rhubarb did rise up, verily as if it had yer actual nitroglycerin up its lumen. And so it was when Eloise found them.

From what Eloise could make out, they were arguing over how the telepathic reunification would happen—Whether Sweetheart should take her Maid TARDIS form and do a hands-on ritual of sorts, or if they should escort the sluggy bit of the Whom, the not-not Nabeshin, and the silver cube should be escorted into the TARDIS’s Zero Room.

Florestan quickly vetoed the latter option. “We may have earned the not-not Nabeshin’s trust,” he said, “and he may prove to be trustworthy in turn, but the entity which calls itself ‘Whom,’ for all its apparent love of riddles and trickery, is primarily a creature of pure instinct, and it has panicked before. The consequences were hard on Amber, and that was when it was still in a weakened state. I’d hate to see the consequences of a panic attack in Beloved’s Zero Room.”

“Then what should we do?” someone asked (Eloise couldn’t pin-point the voice in the crowd).

“Perhaps,” Eighth said slowly, as if he were puzzling it out as he went along, “…perhaps we’re going about this wrong way ’round. We’ve been assuming that we have to get the Whom to reintegrate psychically first, and then we build a transdimensional ‘zero world’ for it… Maybe what we need to do is build a zero world for it, first, in order to give it the space it needs to reintegrate its mind.”

Florestan nodded. “I think I see, yes. As long as it remains in this dimensional space it will continue to wound this world, and this world will continue to wound it—like a hydra’s head in reverse: for each wound that heals, two more open up. But if we create a space for it where it is free from dimensional influence, both its physical and psychic wounds will have a chance to heal.”

“But how?” Eloise asked, the words coming out of her mouth almost as quickly as hiccups.

Florestan and the Fifth Doctor answered almost in unison: “We can jettison parts of the TARDIS.”

And then Florestan continued solo: “Only instead of depositing the parts into the time vortex, we simply deposit them outside, and use them as the raw material for building the Zero World.”


“It’s fine, Eloise,” Florestan assured her. “It’s part of the way TARDISes have been designed.”

“But how do we construct the world from jettisoned parts?” Eloise asked.

“I’ve taken a quick look the configuration of Beloved’s holographic light bee,” he answered. “And since she was able to ‘project’ ‘Sister’ outside the TARDIS shell, I’m pretty sure I can use the same circuits to ‘telegraph’ the schematics for the Zero World/Room/Space to the place where we want the parts to be—using a method similar to the one Beloved uses already to materialize and dematerialize,” he said, cutting off the next ‘But how?’ from Eloise. “And then Beloved can use that same conduit to establish the telegraphic link.”

“You sound like you already know where you want the Zero World to be,” Magnus said.

“The tower!” Fourth interjected, snapping his fingers.

Florestan nodded. “The Whom is already comfortable there—has already chosen it as a ‘home’. It seems the simplest solution.” He turned to not-not Nabeshin, handing the silver cube back to him. “You’d better go back there,” he said, “so you can all be together.”

When the last of the needed parts were jettisoned, they all gathered around the TARDIS viewscreen as the parts assembled themselves around the crumbling form of the tower, until all that could be seen was a shining silver column, so smooth, seamless, and reflective, it was practically invisible.

“That’s a zero world?” Eloise whispered, not daring to believe.

“It is bigger on the inside,” Florestan said, unable to keep all traces of humor out of his voice. “More important, there is no exit or entrance, at least through this dimension. The Whom will no longer be able to harm, nor be harmed by, this world.”

“You mean it’s a cage?”

“Not exactly. The Whom is a pan-dimensional being. When it has healed, if it wishes, it can leave that world just as it entered this one—assuming of course, that it would ever want to leave.”

“You don’t think it will.”

“I don’t know. Finding a world of its own was the object of its quest. We helped it fulfil its quest. Whether it will now be content, I cannot say.”

And Eloise was reminded, with a pang, that Florestan never did see his own quest completed, and never would.

The Time Lord from the elder time shook his head, quickly, as if to dislodge that self-same thought from his mind. “Beloved,” he asked, quietly, “can you establish a telepathic link with the Whom inside?”

The only answer was a quiet thrumming unlike any Eloise had heard before; the lights dimmed. Everyone, it seemed, was holding their breath. After what seemed like hours (though it was probably only minutes), the humming stopped, and the lights came back up.

“What about the perceptual reality doors?” she asked, changing the subject. “How do we fix those?”

“I think,” Fourth said, his eyes fixed on another of the view screens, “that they are mending themselves, now that the Whom is no longer there to maintain them.”

There was much shuffling and rhubarb as everyone tried to get a good view of what was happening outside.

“Hey look!” someone said, “the natives are coming back!”

And sure enough, in groups of twos and threes, dazed people were gradually filling the streets again, looking as if they had just woken up from a dream.

“Poor things,” someone else said. “Imagine coming back into a world you’ve never known—at least, not properly. Maybe we should try to help them, somehow.”

But Eloise remembered the natives in the caves, how they had maintained their world’s history, and helped the quadrillers solve the mystery of the Whom. “I think they’ll be just fine,” she said, surprising herself.

“Hey!” Donald, the blue duck said. “There’s Paul!”

“Aye, an’ there’s Zoe… and Evan,” Jamie said.

“And Lyssie!” said Alryssa and Gordon, together.

“That’s it, then?” said Jim Sledge. “World saved, tentacled menace seen off, prisoners rescued, et cetera?”

“As you say,” said the Doctor.

Jim and Sugar Rae exchanged a glance that spoke volumes, nay, whole libraries—most of it entirely personal and, happily, quite irrelevant to the present story, saving the present author from needing to transcribe it and you from having to read about it.

“In that case, we’ll be moving on. Time and evil geniuses with frickin’ huge laser cannons wait for no man, you know.”

As the two super secret agents made their way to the exit, Gordon turned to Imran.

“You’re the good one with this stuff—if everyone’s coming out of their private realities, why are those two still here?”

“Maybe because the interior of a TARDIS is in a different dimension, so they’re being shielded somehow,” said Imran. “Let’s wait and see what happens when they get outside.”

On the threshold of the TARDIS, Sugar Rae Goodhart paused. “Jim?” she said. “I feel kind of—” Her eyes rolled up in her head, and she fainted. It was an elegant faint that spoke of much practice and the serene certainty that Jim Sledge would be there to catch her.

He wasn’t. He never would be, ever again.

Fortunately the third Doctor, whose skill in the area of fainting women has already been alluded to, dutifully stepped into the breach.

After a few seconds, the unconscious woman’s eyes fluttered open—and if only the Doctor was near enough to see that they were no longer an implausible violet hue, certain other alterations in her anatomy were obvious from quite a distance.

In short, although the woman that now muttered “Wha—? Where?” was recognisably the same as the one who had fainted a moment earlier, she was equally clearly no longer Sugar Rae Goodhart.

“Good afternoon,” said the Doctor gently, guiding her to a chair. “I’m the Doctor. And you are—?”

“Rachel. Rachel Stout. I—all that business with the tentacles and the ‘Utmost Whom’ and so on, that was real, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was.”

“But it’s over now?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And everybody’s back from wherever it was we were all sent?”


“If you don’t mind, then, I’d like to go and see that my family are all right.” She stood, and once more made her way to the exit.

On the threshold, again, she paused. The Doctor was by her side in a flash.

“I’m okay,” she said. “It’s just—it was all real?”

“That’s right,” said the Doctor.

“Even the bit where you and your friends were assembling the… the ‘zero world’, and the console started smoking and shooting out green sparks, and the guy in the stripey pants that make him look like he’s wearing pajamas said that it was a critical malfunction that should never have occurred in a hundred million years, and the guy next to the guy with two heads, the one who really is wearing pajamas, said ‘This is it, we’re all going to die’?”

“You mean the bit where you suddenly sprang forward and repaired the fault using techniques that would never have occurred to any of us, even though you’d never seen technology like this before?”

She nodded.

“Yes, that was real too.”

“You mean I… kind of… saved the day?” she said.

The Doctor nodded. “We can’t be sure what would have happened if that fault had been left unrepaired, but it would probably have been very nasty. At the least, the whole zero world assembly would have been ruined.”

“Wow,” Rachel grinned. “I mean, I know it wasn’t exactly really me, but still… wow.”

She turned, and stepped out into the first day of the rest of her life.

When she was well away from the TARDIS and safely out of earshot, someone in the midst of the party-goers said, “Yes, but would the TARDIS have failed in the first place, in such a spectacular and unlikely fashion, if there hadn’t been a Mary-Sue hanging around?”

The nearest Doctor frowned at the speaker. “Quite probably not,” he said. “And, as it happens, any one of me could have fixed that particular fault well before it seriously jeopardised the work we were doing. But would it have done her any good to know that?”

“I think it’s time for us to pick up our wayward guests,” Florestan said, “and be free of this place. “We are as much intruders on this dimension as the Whom was, and I do not want to outstay our welcome.”

And so that is what they did, and in a relatively short while, a familiar “Shwa-thunk, shwa-thunk, shwa-thunk!” brought the TARDIS, in its little grey house form, back to the cul-de-sac.

1 The most dread and august Gwyn ap Nud, son, heir and recent successor to Nodens the Lord of the Great Abyss, is really more at home in his former profession of the rag trade, and shows no sign of fully adapting to High Style any time soon.

2 Sorry.

3 Apparently a Personage who has achieved international sub-sub-celebrity by dint of possessing neither the name nor the unassisted proportions which between them constitute her total public claim to notoriety, so to speak. Duh!

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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.