**TIME AND THE CAMPIONS**
*Episode Three: Sweet Danger*
>"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.
>The seconds stretched by in agonising cliffhanginess. As the
>seconds settled down happily into becoming 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.
Fifth looked drunk. Or, Eighth thought, just possibly he looked
more like a fellow who's recently sworn off the sauce, and is
seeing the world with fresh eyes and a waking mind for the first
time in too long. In the TARDIS console room, he stood with the
unmistakable stance that meant 'at home'. Amanda held herself up
like a front-parlour stranger at a funeral, her eyes bright and
solicitous upon him. As Eighth crashed in upon the painful scene,
she rounded upon him with evident relief.
"Couldn't wait, eh?" she said lightly. "Well, I'm sure you'll be
gratified to find yourself in the right. Two hearts is the least
of it. I suppose it would really have to be..."
Fifth looked pained. He wore his face differently to Albert
Campion's: more expansively, less vaguely, and yet somehow
appallingly less *lived-in*. Eighth, who remembered suffering
Campion syndrome after his own fashion, was glad to see this -- but
it stung his eyesockets. "Now, Amanda..."
Trader Grey and Carrie came barrelling through the door,
practically knocking over Eighth in the process. "Trouble?" Eighth
"Indeed," said the Trader, still shaking with relieved reaction.
"Lady Amanda, you remember when I lent you my Delethi penknife
during the scavenger hunt? It's got that special attachment on it
for helping old ladies across the road, and I nearly forgot -- "
"Oh, dear," said Amanda seriously. "I wonder if I mightn't have
left that in Ned." She began ferociously rummaging through her
"What is this about?" Fifth demanded of Eighth.
"It's just that we didn't tell you," Eighth flapped urgently.
"It's rare and dangerous enough for two of us to meet inside
continuity; but you MUST not meet your own self, or the balloon's
up for certain..."
"I *know* that."
Eighth was amazed at how waspish that particular tone sounded, all
these centuries later now that he was on the wrong end of it. "But
we didn't know how well this would work; and if while you were
still dazed, you'd decided to get things done quickly -- " It did
not seem the right moment to go into just what ideas the company
outside had been imputing to him.
"Just a moment," said Carrie, very carefully. "What *is* the
program here, exactly?"
The Tradesome Twosome were swiftly brought up to speed on the time-
loop plan, mostly by Eighth. A short, fraught silence ensued.
"I don't think much of that!" the Trader concluded.
"Yes, well, imagine how I feel about it!" the soon-to-be-surplus
Fifth Doctor invited bitterly. "But it becomes clearer with every
passing minute that there really isn't any other way." He stumped
across to the console. "And since we now have a TARDIS pilot other
than myself, and the pair of chronic meddlers who kicked this whole
sorry affair off, we might as well -- "
"Wait!" Eighth yelped.
Fifth slammed home the dematerialisation switch.
"I'd drop it," Amanda advised her husband's Byronic successor
unemotionally. "It never does any good."
The TARDIS materialised in a white gazebo. The sweet light of high
English spring glowed through the viewscreens. "Now," reasoned
Fifth chillily, "if you can only think of a way to smuggle
yourselves into the fancy dress party without being noticed, our
troubles are -- " He took a deep breath. "Over, I suppose."
"That," said Amanda, her face clenched and streaked with quick,
rogue tears, "won't be much of a trick, will it?" She gestured
hopelessly at the eccentrically garbed crew.
He reached down to her. His voice was kind, final, and incurably
"Brave heart, Amaaaaaaaaaaaargh!"
He fell forward, owing to the butt of the Trader's DeLameter
connecting suddenly and firmly with his head. Had not Amanda
immediately reacted to catch her toppling husband, it would have
gone ill with Trader Grey indeed at her hands. Instead, it was the
tigerish rush of the Eighth Doctor that slammed He Who Strikes up
against the roundelled wall with something very nearly approaching
"That," fumed Eighth, pinning his otherself's assailant by the
throat and glaring straight into his face, "was the most cowardly,
spiteful, despicable pieOuwwwww!" At this point he was interrupted
by a shrewd double blow from Carrie, who had stepped up behind him
and boxed his ears, with Paul Leonard's _The Turing Test_ in her
right hand and Uncle Tezza's _Endgame_ in her left. The howling
cognitive dissonance between the two combined with the shame of his
behaviour during that Campionoid period of his own, to render
Eighth harmlessly but most consummately unconscious.
Amanda, seeing the way the tide was turning, had gone straight
inside Fifth's jacket for the pistol which Campion always carried
on serious business. The pistol, what is more, which the Doctor
would not under any circumstances be caught dead packing.
Discovering this too late, she scuttled backwards and threatened
the turncoats with something resembling a super-high-tech plastic
Swiss Army knife, which had been lurking in the gunless jacket.
The short implement she had out was savagely edgy and pointy, and
if it was the one intended for helping old ladies across the road,
it is unlikely that the manner of assistance implied would have
been especially welcome.
"I see," she said levelly. "Somehow I completely ignored all the
evidence, and thought you were the proper article. I'd just like
to suggest that I've nothing to lose, and you'd be far better
leaving him alone and going off about your filthy business. That
looks rather out of my hands, now."
"I'm sorry about that," said the Trader, sounding only marginally
so. "I really did just come back for the knife. But this idea of
tying your husband off in a time loop cries out to Calliope for a
thumping -- not to mention an author ex machina..."
Carrie nodded. "He's hardly likely to be thinking straight, just
now. And Eighth is -- well, he's been in a position where he had
to do something nastier to save the Universe." Her nose wrinkled
critically. "I don't think it's refined his character
particularly. He deserves what I did to him, for being prepared to
go along with this!"
"Which is just as well," finished the Trader, "since we'd have
stood less than no chance unless we'd got the drop on them. Your
Doctor will just have to pass on martyrdom, this time round!"
"I see," said Amanda. She was alive with sudden hope, but neither
her eyes nor the knifepoint dropped. "Do you actually know what
you're doing, or are you being romantic about this? I'm agin that,
"Square dealing will find a way," Trader Grey pontificated, "and
indeed, it already has, albeit several of the petty details reside
only on the purely instinctual level of my teeming creative brain,
weaving in and out in the delicate and deadly sword-dance into
which temporal plotting ever draws -- "
" -- But not in mine," Carrie cut in hastily. "We have the
timeloop still possible as an absolute, last-chance fallback, if it
does turn out to be that or the Universe. What I'd rather do is
reconcile the timelines. If we knock out the Doctor from the party
and leave *him* to become your Albert, there's still a way out. If
getting hit in your caper, and then finding the TARDIS during the
Spamplot, resets his memories -- *that's* why he doesn't come back
to you afterwards!"
"I just can't believe any other explanation for that," the Trader
muttered. "Even he can't be *that* stupid!"
"It must all get lost when his old identity floods back," Carrie
agreed. "And so he pilots his way back to his last stop, and takes
up his life where the mainstream of it broke off, because that's
the only sensible thing for him to do. Nyssa and the others have
all their canonical experiences -- and his memories of you are
buried deep, until I accidentally -- "
"Door," said Amanda succinctly. "I'll look after himselves. Do
hurry, won't you?"
"We're gone," asserted the Trader, swooshing grandly towards the
door. Whereupon, very shortly, an Author ex machina he was indeed.
"It's simplicity itself," he chuckled to Carrie, as they made their
way through the alfresco fancy-dress caperings towards the stately
pile. "The very weft of local causality will be working in our
favour. What could possibly go wrong now?"
His Muse considered this question briefly. "Gross authorial
incompetence and insufficient understanding of the Whoniverse;
leading to romantic tragedy, paradoxical horror, and/or the return
of Nyarlathotep to existence and mastery of local continuity -- all
of which will be due to our arrant hubris!"
"Yes, but apart from that?"
"Oh, apart from that," Carrie agreed, "nothing could go wrong with
it at all!"