ann wrote
>On the way, she passed the Doctors, standing in a cluster around
>Fifth and Amanda, and Sixth was speaking. Eloise deliberately
>didn't hear, in order to give them some privacy.

*Episode One: Mr Campion and Others*

Amanda was grinning tightly, and not with humour. "Excuse me," she
said politely, when Sixth paused to take a breath. "I hate to give
offence, and I rather have to believe in the time travel and
eldritch whatnots from the abyss and so forth; but this is
ridiculous! I don't care *how* close your little psychical commune
is, or who's whose successor in your practice or what-you-may-call-
it: one -- person -- is -- not -- another!" She squinted
meaningfully at the big Time Lord's costume. "I mean, *you're* not
even *trying* to look like a bounder, are you?"

(No doubt greatly to Ned's sorrow, Amanda was now decently if not
very tastefully covered up with her husband's cricketing jersey and

Sixth's brow wrinkled in puzzlement. "Your point being?"

"My point," said Amanda with considerable spirit, "is that you're
just going to have to elect someone else to fill the vacancy pro
tem, until your turn comes around! The case," and she linked
Albert's arm possessively as she said it, "is rather definitely
altered! Right, Albert?"

"I -- er -- "

"Don't be a stick," she advised succinctly. "Your vows to His
Maj., and any others you may remember taking here and there, were
made in your present senses and none other. What you may have been
up to before some villainous type at the Talbots' coshed your
memories out of you, will just have to wait on that. Besides, if
you can travel about in time, I don't see how any of this is a
problem. Can't you just wait until the war's over, and then pop up
wherever the record puts you from time to time, and get home for
tea or at least a late supper?"

Eighth coughed. "It isn't quite as accurate as that." The other
Doctors turned to glare at him. "Well, it isn't! The Plot
Attractors -- "

"A *particularly* late supper, then." Amanda cut him off
ruthlessly. "I shall imbibe coffee if necessary. Well? What about

"Amanda." He shook his head in pained frustration. "This sounds
-- it *feels* -- horribly familiar. And... well, not at all as a
blessed figure of speech, either. I..."

Her laughter was cold and fresh enough to have given Number One
some serious aquatransexual problems, had that Cigarette-Smoking
Bastard been anywhere in the vicinity. "Oh, do think a bit! If
I'd been a minute later with Ferdie Paul and his amazing gas oven,
you'd have risen again as *that*? Because if it's not that, it *is*
a figure of speech, you know..."

"But it *is* that!" Second broke in agitatedly. "Oh, my dear girl,
old chap: don't you see what's happening here?"

"It's Nyarlathotep's last throw," Sixth said. "The paradox behind
the paradox!"

Albert looked ghastly. "We'll put a hold on that bit for a
moment," he said bleakly. "I'm very sorry to say that that
these... gentlemen..." He regarded Sixth less than lovingly.
"... are right; or at least there's a loud bee in my bonnet that's
buzzing to that effect."

First nodded. "The Imprimatur of Rassilon, my boy. Indeed!"

"Who sounds to have flunked Latin rather seriously," Albert
cracked. "Personally, I think the plumage is a judgement on me for
the Bounder Jacket. My dear old Lieut., you'll just have to take
my word that this really would appear to have been my deep horrible
secret." He shuddered. "Even from myself, to date. I expect it
comes with the extra heart and the time-travel. I could have done
without it, if you want to know." There was an excess of flippancy
in his tone that suggested that he was either distressed nearly
beyond bearing, or else very carefully not digesting the revelation
for the duration. He blinked at her gravely. "How about you?"

The question she answered was not precisely the one he'd put into
words. "I can't be doing without you before you 'die', Albert.
Even *supposing* you transmogrify, about which you'll please to let
me keep a sceptical reservation. In the meantime it shan't make the
slightest difference to me, so I recommend we fall back on Plan A
and dodge these paradoxes as they come up. What about that?"

"Can't," he said, blinking like a rabbit. "There's a girl in
lilac." Amanda blanched. "And a girl in brown velvet, and a boy
in bilious pyjamas... Oh, dash it all, it's about *them*, isn't

Seventh nodded. "You took them to the Talbots' party. You left
afterwards with them, and they never knew anything else had
happened. After that, you were travelling with them and...
others... to the last." He compressed his thin lips. "Nothing to
dive in and out of!"

"So?" said Amanda practically. They all stared at her. "I mean,
this theory's all very well; but when all's said and done, we're
all here whether it makes sense or not, aren't we? It obviously
turns out all right, so we can save worrying about it and get on
with our lives. Have I left anything out?"

"Paradox," said Albert remotely. He stood still a long moment,
then shivered. "It's not quite the Gilbert and Sullivan bill, is
it? It's..." He trailed off, fumbling for a word. "Wicked.
Wicked and dangerous. I've got that right, haven't I?"

"Oh, yes." Eighth seemed to shrink a little into himself.
"Entirely too right. We're outside continuity at the moment -- but
if you take a paradox back into real time, it starts to unravel.
Time, I mean. Believe me, you don't want to be there when that

"It's more than that," Sixth menaced them. "Paradox has always been
a gateway into the sane world from Outside. From the Metaverse.
For the likes of the Crawling Chaos!"

Albert sighed. "Look here, old bird, we've got a paradox any way
you cut it. If this sort of thing is going to follow us back home
-- we'll need a nice isolated spot, and some of the left-over
zaqqum fruit; but it's going to have to be faced somewhere, and the
sooner we give the slower learners the message the better. That's
assuming they'll *try* after what happened to their great big
panjandrum with the horror on top, which between you and me I
don't think all that likely."

"No good," said Seventh acerbically. "There won't *be* any zaqqum
fruit, if your timeline gets established. There won't have ever

"No Zaqqum," Eighth elaborated. "No Celia."

"No Nyssa," whispered Fourth, sepulchrally. "No *our* Nyssa!"

"Only her apparently gratuitous doppelganger Ann Talbot," Sixth
completed, with unhappy satisfaction. "And two quaint colonial
cousins, no doubt. There's a resonance here I don't understand,
reaching back into our own past..."

"...which we're most unlikely to understand this side of the Star
Age, at the rate the Trader & Co. are working on *that* ficton."
The First Doctor glared up at the others sharply. "To more
pressing matters, h'mmm? Our Secret History is quite entirely
beside the point."

The old Time Lord drew himself up. "What *is* critical, and what I
certainly hope you were stumbling towards, is that your being hit
on the head and spending twenty years playing the Terran tomfool...
ah, is *not* the same for those children as your travelling along
with them to the places they need to go. And one deviation -- one
significant alteration to any of their timelines -- and Zaqqum will
never exist! Nyssa will never create her!"

Third paled as though a goose was walking over his grave, then
thrust out his jaw aggressively. "And since there will never have
*been* zaqqum fruit -- "

"Oh, my," said Second, getting it belatedly. "Then we won't have
just used it on Nyarlathotep -- "

" -- or have defeated him." Sixth's grin was a horrid, tight
rictus. "If we let our Campion timeline take, Nyarlathotep wins!
We already know that he set the Spamtrap *in* it -- which could
*only* have caught me when stressed, amnesiac, and practically down
to human levels." Amanda gave him the look this deserved.
"Somehow, I didn't create an acute paradox, or he'd have
possessed me via the so-called "Bounder Jacket", and taken over
local reality through my shell. But that wasn't his only card.

"He left us in a double bind. We beat the acute paradox -- but it
can all come undone, and he can win in the end through this chronic
one. Which brings us back to the question we should never have
forgotten. *Who hit me over the head in the first place???*"

"One of his agents, plainly," said Amanda uneasily. "But I don't
see how that makes any difference now; unless it means one of his
spies is still at large."

"Exactly," Sixth bulled on. "His agent -- call him "Chi", for
Chaos -- stopped me travelling on with Adric and the girls, and
shifted me onto your aberrant timeline. At least, that was the
plan, and it looks to have worked. If it *has* worked, everything
will come apart on us. Chaos will come again. Darkness and
despair and inappropriate use of tentacles will hold illimitable
dominion over OWWW!"

Fourth flashed tombstone teeth ingratiatingly. "Don't mention it.
Always glad to be of service."

"I see," said Albert with distaste. "I take it there's some little
loophole we haven't tried slipping through yet?"

"There's only one escape, I'm afraid." Sixth puffed himself up
portentously. "We'll just have to make it didn't happen that

"Just say no no no no *no* to paradox!" Eighth glared fiercely at
his former self -- and then slowly broke out into a most
unsettling, merry grin. "Oh, wait. Co-option?"

"Very good," added Third patronisingly. "That should eliminate the
paradox quite handily. Well? What are we waiting for?"

"My say-so, for one thing," Albert returned, in his most
dangerously insipid drone. "Which, however this 'co-option' lark
works, I very much doubt you'll get."

"WHAT?" Sixth and Fourth were but the loudest voices in the
chorus. Albert laid a hand lightly on Amanda's shoulder.

"Come on, old thing. I'm sure the Older Heads will be able to come
up with something more suitable, once we leave them to it. As long
as editing our scenes away is the best they can do, we want to be
getting along home..."

"Albert," said Amanda dubiously, not budging, "I don't know about
that. God knows about 'for better or worse', and how much I want
our lives to have happened; but we can't make a bridge for *that*
thing, you know. I mean, we'd both have packed it all in for a
real chance at old Adolf; and he's scarcely a tick besides that
Typhon, is her?" She turned a drawn, wheyish face to the Doctors.
"If there's even the chance of another way, now's the time to tell

"You little imbecile!" Albert yelped. He scowled down at her
savagely. "Remember the muck you'd got yourself into before we
met? The only question, my dear young squirt, is whether without
me you'd have escaped being sacrificed to Ashtoreth in time for the
brute Savernake to bump you off for the regalia! If I don't get
whacked on the head and turned into the specimen we both so admire,
*you're nine years dead*!"

"Well," said Amanda, with splendid steadiness, "it'll set a new
record in 'at least it was quick', won't it?" His fingers dug
viciously into her shoulders. "Which is a good deal more than one
can say for *that* -- or for being around when Typhon gets up to
tricks. If you wouldn't mind?"

He spun back to his other selves disgustedly. "You heard her. Use
Your Ninety-Percent Untapped Brain-Force!! Find another way.
Think of His Unpleasantness as your incentive." His grey eyes
gleamed with a killer's light, and there was a savage undertow to
his voice that Sixth at his looniest would have been hard-pressed
to rival. Perhaps only Amanda, of all present, knew him well
enough to recognise these as signs of imminent, unbearable

"Oh dear," said Fourth, into the embarrassing silence. "Some of us
have got hold of the wrong end of the yard of ale, and no mistake!
I didn't ask you to do that. -- Did I?" he appealed to Sixth
anxiously. "I wouldn't have been that chuckle-headed, would I?
Was I thinking what *I* was thinking?"

The colour was flooding back into Amanda's cheeks. From the set of
her narrow jaw, no little anger of her own was riding the tide.

"Yes," squelched Sixth. "This has all been completely beside the
point. Of *course* you still both exist, and meet each other, and
so forth. *Both* stories have to have happened in the same
timeline, if we're to escape the fatal paradox."

Albert shook his head. "I don't follow this at all. I have to fly
off with your Nyssa & Co., and never meet Amanda at all -- *and* I
have to live my own life, just as I really have? If that isn't a
paradox, my old convention, I've got a jolly nice property in Unter
den Linden that I can let you have at very reasonable rates..."

"Wait a minute," said Amanda apprehensively. "I've a nasty idea
that I'm getting an inkling. Just what, exactly, do we have to do
to make this scheme work out right?"

"Well," said Eighth, "I don't know about you, Lady Amanda. But
your husband -- " He paused in an agony of delicacy.

"Oh," breezed Sixth impatiently, "he just needs to be coshed from
behind. Very hard, of course."

"We can practically guarantee," said Third, in that slightly
guarded tone that always meant he was perpetrating something shifty
for the general good, "that you'll both find the results

Intro - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six

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