**TIME AND THE CAMPIONS**
*Episode Two: The Beckoning Lady*
>"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
Albert proved heartlessly impervious to the charm of this elegant
solution. "I am," he observed, "the one who received that thumping
in the first place, if I might trouble you to remember. It's
hardly fair to suffer the same punishment eternally; and it's
hardly as though I haven't had my ration of concussion
elsewhere in the meantime! It's not right, and furthermore it
makes no discernable sense as a solution!"
"It sounds," said Amanda fretfully, "remarkably like another
paradox to me, not to mention practically ungodly. I don't think
you're allowed to tie people's lives in circles like that. For one
thing, where did they come from; and more to the point, wouldn't
that mean they didn't go anywhere Afterwards?"
This caused a brief, embarrassed silence, which Albert of all
people was unable to resist breaking into. "You really need to
speak to your clerical relative about this, my good _enfant
terrible_. You simply can't go mauling eternal mysteries around
into a bunch of engineer's rules-of-thumb, you know; or you'll end
up like this, finding the only problem I *don't* have with this
whole ugly mess." His face hardened. "Nevertheless, I certainly
don't propose to jilt you in favour of your less mature self, to
mention but the least appealing feature of this stinker..."
"You're a *Christian*??" blurted Sixth, with the tact for which
that lad is so justly famous across ten thousand worlds and times.
"I don't think I've ever been accused of being over-pi, but -- look
here, you're not telling me that the rest of you just *aren't*?"
Albert Campion looked really rocked.
Amanda laid a calming hand on his arm. "He's true-blue Tory,
too," she added maliciously; and then, to him, "You've really got
to stop trying to make sense of them. I daresay all the important
things happened differently wherever they come from. Now, I'm a
paid-up citizen of the cosmos, and I'm sure it's various for the
very best of reasons; but the mechanics and logic *have* to work
out the same, and they'll guide us right every time. For example,
this trick they want to use to make you not-them, is *wrong*; and
I'm not just saying that because Dowager Girl here doesn't want to
lose you forever to her callow and regrettable junior!"
"It's not going to happen," he averred, but uneasily; and the
conversation froze again, until Eighth winced mightily, and then
with one bound set him/themselves free:
"Albert, Albert, Albert: this isn't working because you're *not
yourself*. I've *been* there, you know. I don't know whether it
was a thump on the head in my case; but I've lost my past too, and
it -- wasn't -- me -- until I got it fixed. You've got yourself
into a Time Lordly position, and you're trying to apply a human
mindset to it. Might I respectfully recommend my own solution to
that? Nothing is going to make any sense otherwise, you know..."
Albert scowled. "I have a personality already," he said, a hint of
panic in his tone, "and, deplorable and dubious as my dear family
have so correctly characterised it, you know, it *is* mine and no
other's, even if you could fibble it about. Transcendent
Personality Techniques not wanted here, and _ubermenschheit_ firmly
passed on. Have I made myself sufficiently clear?"
Amanda, too evidently increasingly disturbed, intervened at this
point. "One question, and it's rather important so please everyone
do pay attention," she said loudly, "but, sensible as all this may
be, is it going to take away from what the dear duffer is already?
Is this replacement, or augmentation?"
"Oh," cried Albert in a passion, "will you just for once in your
rotten little life stop treating people as if they came in neat
little bits you order from the parts stores? How does it
"Augmentation, young lady," First defined, with the complacent air
of a good teacher who's just discovered a questioning student.
"It's purely a question of recovering knowledge that's been
temporarily mislaid. And we have, h'mmm, a thoroughly reliable way
of so doing!"
"Go on," urged Eighth. "Back into the TARDIS, the blue police box.
It's not a trick: it's just -- well, it's our missing half; that's
how I found it. If it doesn't give you all your memories, at least
it'll remind you of everything behind them, if you follow me!"
"I'm not sure I -- "
"You're blurbling, Albert," said Amanda flatly. "Is that so-
wonderful hunch of yours telling you not to believe this part?
Because if it's right, as you've come all too close to persuading
me, you need to do this. Hobbling you was not on my Things To Do
list, and it's not about to be. Given the stakes, don't you see,
you almost *have* to bring your whole self to the game? Added to
which," she added, almost as an afterthought, "if there is still
more to you than meets the mind's eye, I'd rather like to run into
"But -- dash it -- !"
"If it's really you, we've got to. If it's possession or that sort
of devilry, I'll back your naysaying up all the way, and take the
eldritchness as an occupational risk. But if *you* don't think you're
all here -- if you think you're less, not different -- " Amanda did
her I-have-drunk-bad-lemonade impression. " -- I'm not having that.
Anything like that, Albert, we've got to scotch right away. It's ugly
when the debs do it for their reasons; and if you think I'm going to
let you stake the Cosm. on doing it for yours, you can't have recovered
from that thumping yet, and are asking for another. Well?"
He coughed dryly, and allowed his other selves to point him in the
direction of Fifth's TARDIS. "If you say so," he remarked
vacantly. Amanda promptly slipped her small hand into his, and led
"I am," she explained to the world at large, "coming with. I'm not
so fond of this idea that I'm going to court losing you to it.
Let's do our dentist's trick and get it over with!"
And, with a mutual air of walking in a dream, they entered the old
blue police box, ladies first. A short interval of gasping later,
the doors closed behind them.
"I wonder," said Fourth gloomily.
"What?" said Third testily.
"Oh my goodness!" blurbled Second stereotypically. "You don't
think they'd just thump his *other* self on the head, and suppose
he was cutting out the Crawling Chaos by accounting for it
"We explained about paradox," blustered Sixth. "I'm bright enough
to generalise a principle when I explain it perfectly clearly to
"You don't have his mindset," pointed out Seventh, broodingly since
the general descriptive tide seemed hardly to be resisted. "Even
as Fifth, he's..." Deciding he might as well go the whole hog, he
trailed off in a sinister manner.
Within the motionless TARDIS, a whole truckload of Recovered Memory
Angst went on. Presumably.
Eighth looked worried. "Perhaps I'd better just -- "
First clucked. "My boy, let's not be hasty. If they do take off
straight away, the last thing we want is *another* of us straining
the fabric of a damaged continuity with First Law of Time abuse,
"Well, someone ought to be there," Eighth complained, "if only to
keep his two instances from bumping into each other accidentally!
*That's* something we seem to have forgotten to stress -- and," he
added meaningfully, "we seem to have also forgotten that someone is
going to have to pilot the TARDIS to the Forties with Lady Amanda;
and that *has* to be one of us!"
"Precisely," said First with insufferable complacency, "and since
he knows that, is it likely that he *will* take off precipitately?"
"This is an *unusually unstable* variant of *Fifth*," Sixth pointed
out. "I'd better -- "
"Yes, hadn't I?" Eighth interrupted, and hastened towards the
Trader Grey and Carrie sprinted back across the car-park, with that
particular gait that suggests the fate of Universes if not yet more
important matters to be in balance.
"They're still here!" cried Carrie joyfully. "Quick!"
"We might -- puff -- just be able -- puff -- to make it!" the
Trader exclaimed; and it was now clear that the former Dialectical
Duo were making for the Fifth Doctor's plotpointly TARDIS like
Ferenghi for a dropped penny!
"What goes?" bawled Fourth, as all the Doctors started nervously,
excepting First and Seventh who were too busy looking knowing
"Can't lose it now!" cried the Trader, barrelling through the door
before it had quite closed after Eighth.
"It's all right," Carrie threw over her shoulder, following him.
"We seem to be in the nick of -- " The blue door shut behind her.
Outside,the seconds stretched by in agonising cliffhanginess. As
the seconds settled blithely down into even more disturbing
minutes, Sixth started forward determinedly.
The TARDIS did its wheezy Eeyore impression, committed blue disco
light, and buggered off in the now classical manner.
Ninth blinked. "I wonder what they wanted?"
"We'll soon know," said Seventh, regarding his watch darkly. "If
the Universe splits open like a rotten puffball in the next
hundred-and-seven minutes, and I am forced to play Time's Champion
in the Last Battle against Cthulhoid horrors from mouldering abysms
of pulp, then they -- "
"Eeyore, Eeyore! Wheezy Anna, down where the watermelons grow!
Strobe, flash, hummm, eerie silence!" went the big blue box that
does such things.
"Upstaged a little bit, are we?" cut in Ninth, sarkily.
" -- are going to get a quite severe talking to." Seventh
brandished his umbrella in a manner which evoked a few starkly
unspeakable and blasphemous mental horrors of its own.
The door creaked open.
The Eighth Doctor stepped out, but no-one asked him. Because he
was following close on the heels of Fifth.
"Oops," Fourth stage-whispered.
A short, painful silence reigned. Carrie and the Trader emerged,
but neither they nor Eighth seemd apt to break it.
Lady Amanda Campion was conspicuous by her absence. All of the
returnees bore expressions attesting to strong and distinctly mixed
emotions. Fifth, who most definitely ought not to have been back,
radiated a kind of bleak satisfaction. The others looked more like
recent victims of a three-hanky romantic movie.
And then Eighth raised his eyes to the sky and gave a great, free,
joyous laugh, so that the walls of the little cul-de-sac rang with
"I make it a hundred and six minutes to go before the end of
history, present, and all here present," said Seventh politely,
with a meaningful look at the delinquent Fifth, "assuming this
timeline is going to stand. Which, at least, should give us plenty
of time for a cuppa..."
"Or possibly a bottla," Fifth returned, with one of those quick,
pained, edged smiles, so characteristic of him and so unlike his
quondam persona of Albert Campion. "That's an excellent idea.
TTR, anyone? -- I do believe it's your round," he added innocently
to Trader Grey, and strode briskly back into the TARDIS whence
"By George," Eighth exclaimed, eyeing the Profitic Partnership
significantly. "I do believe he's right!"
The lightning reflexes of Fair Trade's dauntless champion had his
manly jaw already moving and his trusty tongue already primed
for some devastatingly accurate objection, when he and Carrie
shared an unreadable look that stopped the clash of titans in its
tracks. Guilt or embarrassment alike being inherently strangers
to the unswervingly righteous soul of the Man of Ethically
Sustainable Gold-Pressed Latinum, surely the electric gaze of
his sweet and newly-embodied Muse must have kindled the sacred
fire of mercy that was ever wont to flare up in that stern but
inwardly gentle breast!
"I do believe," the Trader returned, with a becomingly gruff and
impeccably-counterfeited show of reluctance, "that, after all, it
is!" Wherewith he, Carrie, and Eighth hastened into that Doctor's
TARDIS with positively methytropic alacrity.
With cries of, "Sounds good to me!" "Splendid idea, Trader!"
"Splendid idea of the Cricketer's!" and so forth, the whole
practice of Doctors swarmed for their respective TARDISes. With
the sole exception of Seventh, whose brow was darkening with
suspicious chronostatic calculation.
"Wait!" Seventh snapped, looking up. "I'm not finished! What have
you done to me --?!"
But of Doctors and TARDISes, the cul-de-sac was already suffering an
acute haemorrhage. In a trice, there was only one.
Who, perforce, hurried to his own TARDIS to catch up with them at
the Boozer Beyond Continuity.
And then there were none.