**TIME AND THE CAMPIONS**
*Episode Five: Death of a Ghost*
>"Let us," the Trader summed up, "get." And get they did, sans
>further interference, back to the worlds of soreheadedness that yet
>awaited in the later Fifth Doctor's TARDIS.
It is, of course, a truism that the Doctor -- in addition to being,
famously, neither cruel nor cowardly -- is notoriously disinclined
to solving problems by kicking seven barrels of anything out of the
culprits. In any case, Amanda was present. It was, therefore,
purely in a spirit of social responsibility and prudence that the
Trader's return to the TARDIS was immediately preceded by the
appearance of a white (or, at worst, only slightly used) Kleenex on
the point of his shortsword, with the announcement, "Oyez, hark and
hear, the day is saved, the paradox is melted away with the snows
of yesteryear, modesty forbids dwelling on the humble agency
Two surly growls greeted this puffery. Carrie added, "The
timeline's consistent," and ushered her heroically bashful partner-
in-crime gently into the console room. "We sort of confiscated
Nyarlathotep's plan from his agent, and no-one has to go into any
time loops now."
"Good," said Amanda briskly. "We needn't belabour the obvious
about your methods, then."
The Fifth Doctor rose up in highly, and quite possibly unprintably,
qualified assent. "I think," he said between his teeth, "that we'd
still better have the story -- so that someone actually qualified
can cross-check your conclusion? Given the stakes?"
The grilling that ensued involved a certain amount of personal vim
from the interrogators, especially understandable in light of the
increasingly evident fact that every turn of the entire plot
appeared to have depended upon someone, all too often Trader Grey
or Carrie, sneaking up behind the Doctor and hitting him over the
head -- a motif dangerously apt to wax charmless to its victim.
Nonetheless, the solution was eventually passed as valid, if with
rather underwhelming approval.
"I can't," Fifth warned in conclusion, "recommend any further
ventures in this sort of temporal... private enterprise. However
did you come to the conclusion that you understand my memory
mechanisms better than I do, anyway?"
The Trader shrugged. "Memory is something Carrie *is* rather
"More to the point," Carrie put in hastily, "*I* have to look at
your forgetting processes from outside; whereas all your
experience, you necessarily immediately..."
"...forget. Quite." Eighth gave vent to a piqued snort. "Well,
what's done is done..."
"...And I'm not sorry that now I met Amanda in my authentic
lifeline." Fifth's expression became grave. "I really must
apologise for deserting you, my dear. The memory phase-change must
have been truly catastrophic, or I couldn't possibly have even
contemplated it." A muscle twitched in his cheek. "But it seems
that catastrophe is saving me from a time loop and the Universe
from paradox, so I suppose we'll have to accept it. -- Which
brings us back to the fact that it's time I took you home." The
atmosphere in the TARDIS acquired a leaden dullness all round.
"Can you give me a time and place for the factory the SKoLD
snatched you from?"
With fairly minimal prompting and a profoundly tired air, Amanda
did just that. She seemed about to say something more. The Doctor
opened his mouth, and paused. Then his hands danced over the
navigational controls. Eighth, observing his newly-restored
otherself from over his shoulder, frowned in concentration; then
his brow cleared, and he nodded absently. Fifth pulled the big
lever, and the Time Rotor heaved and fluoresced luridly into
The TARDIS wheezed to a halt in a desolate lot behind an empty-
windowed, soot-streaked warehouse, whose right end and roof lay in
blasted disorder. The sky was heavily overcast, and a fine rainy
haze was visible through the viewscreen.
"Oh, dear," said Amanda. "Definitely *not* Alandel Industries, I'm
"These things happen now and then," Eighth understated tactfully.
"But those co-ordinates are certainly London-area, and the date is
-- oh, well, three months out is well within tolerance. You'll be
able to get home, won't you?"
"Oh, yes," said Amanda tensely. "My hookey episode is going to
provide Alan and the lads with hours of thought and amusement."
She headed for the doors with unexpected abruptness, and only
turned when she was standing on the very threshold. "The question
is, Orph.," and suddenly there was quite markedly no-one present
but for her and Fifth, "now that the paradox has gone away, and
you're the only one of you who's really here -- do you fancy coming
along? Only until death do us part, you know; you can get back to
all that other messing about the very next week, if you'd like!"
"Amanda." Fifth flushed, and winced painfully. "There isn't
anywhere in my timeline that I could -- "
"Piffle. You could sneak the time for Hoedowning and death-defying
derring-do; you could do the same for us. However." Amanda rode
briskly over his attempt to stutter out an explanation. "We'd
already established that you weren't exactly the Albert I knew, and
this rather cuts out needing to know the fiddling details." The
last ember of her smile died, and something in her complete
composure made her look fifteen going on fifty. "I liked the years
we had; but I suppose it really has come to that _'Begone!' she
stormed, 'across the raging tide!'._ I'll be letting you do that,
then. Bye, Albert!" She trotted off into the fine rain, with
short, hard steps.
"Amanda!" Fifth cried, and ran out after her. "Let's not -- !"
A heavy lorry rolled into the lot, drowning out the end of his
Amanda's shoulders hunched a little, as if to bear a blow. Her
back stiffened. She walked faster.
A flash of vicious, forking electric blue flickered across the Time
"Paradox!!!" Eighth cried despairingly, and ran out after them.
Trader Grey and Carrie exchanged a long, shocked look. "What did
we miss?" the Marxist-Grouchoist merchant demanded.
"It couldn't be -- "
"The *original* Spamtrap!" man and Muse chorused as one, and rushed
out to add their two penn'orth to the confusion.
Somewhere, a demon was about to gloat itself back into existence --
and more. The very air stank in the Duo's nostrils, a vile, telic,
electric psychic stench.
BOTTS FOR MEAT, said the lorry. Botulism or worse in meat, was
more like it. It was not the sort of thing that could have been
shipped to sensitive fronts without exceedingly nasty consequences
to history. Albert Campion had stopped that from happening: so
much all present knew from earlier confabs, with the possible
partial exception of Eighth. Being the Doctor, surely he would
intuit sufficient of the gist for present purposes. The trouble
was that the meat was not, in fact, the danger here.
The danger was tall, lean, blond, and just dismounting from the
driver's cab. As he hit the ground, he looked alertly about him,
and seemed by no means reassured by what he saw.
"Amanda!" Campion's voice, perceptibly flatter and higher than his
standard Doctorish tone, cracked across the wet yard. "Get out of
here! That's an imposter!"
"I'm -- " Fifth did a rabbits-in-the-headlights impression as ugly
cracks began to craze the air between them. A sourceless wind
began to blow *into* the stressed area. " -- *you!*" he howled in
conclusion. With a mighty wrench, like pulling an iron bar away
from an industrial-strength magnet, the Trader and the Eighth Doctor
managed to pull him out from the pattern.
"Out!" bellowed Eighth. "Exclusion principle! Back to the
"You *are* me; this damned time-tra--- *Carrie Pariticek!* By God,
if you don't dismiss your damned demon this instant, I'll -- " And
the inevitable pistol came out of the horrid Bounder Jacket.
"*Albert!*" Amanda screamed back, running towards him. "She's on
our side! Undercover, like you! *Nyarlathotep's our enemy!*"
A foul, purulent greeny-black *unspace* was already seeping through
the cracks in the world, to an accompaniment like nails on
blackboard, like the laughter of jackals. Eighth pulled Fifth back
into the TARDIS, and slammed the door behind them, as Trader Grey
thundered back to stand by Carrie, his DeLameter raised in brave
but surely futile defiance!
"Nygel *Attercop*?" Albert shot the opening rift in the world,
with no better results than one might expect.
"That's his jacket!" cried Carrie. "Throw it away, before he
"Please, Albert -- "
Albert Campion, having become convinced of the supernatural nature
of his adversary, wasted no time on rationalistic protests. He
holstered the pistol and threw the jacket back into the lorry's
cab. The rift began to flow towards it.
Trader Grey was incanting a rune of enormous poetic and hence
magical force, such as should surely give even a demigod pause.
Worthy it was of literary immortality, such as is granted only to a
few in all history. I would quote his rune in proof of this large
claim, but unfortunately this post is too small to contain it. In
any case he had sacrificed his limited wizardly ability at the
Thorn Gate, and wasn't in a world where that kind of stuff normally
worked anyway. The trouble with fighting Nyarlathotep & Co, of
course, being that they cheat shamelessly about that kind of thing.
Carrie wiggled her fingers a lot. Any data-umphs she might have
been able to generate just didn't make a discernable impression.
And, even with the duplicate and paradox-tangled Fifth Doctors
effectively sealed off in disjoint realities either side of the
TARDIS door, the crack was still flowing and opening.
"What now?" said Amanda harshly. "I don't suppose luring it into a
church would help?"
"Not a prayer of it..." The Trader was, fortunately, not
attempting to be funny, electing instead to concentrate on the
pressing and increasingly credit-strapped business of universal
survival. "He can't possess you now, Campion; but if he opens that
portal much wider, he's going to be able to upload himself onto our
reality physically. Oh, tax it, maybe prayer *is* all we've got
They were all warily retreating from the manifesting wickedness
that was drawing about the lorry. As what dread trucker would the
re-instated, no longer ever Zaqqum-trashed lord of demons,
materialise? Inquiring minds want to take a 10d10 SAN loss, and
that's just for openers. But ignorance seemed about to quit being
an option --
-- and Carrie snapped her fingers. "A botched gating," she gasped.
"Still bottlenecked on capacity. I couldn't close it in a million
moons, but if I *open* --
"Holy and dread Mnemosyne, thy humblest of servants invokes thy
blessing; and if ever I earned a favour in the City of Dreams, be
that called on now, for all who might lend me goodwill or
dataflow!" Carrie sketched some intricate sigils in the air. "If
ever I did open a PLOT hole rightly, *BE THIS THE ONE*!" And
Carrie opened a PLOT hole of her own, as so oft for more frivolous
Not into any of the continuities. Not into *outside* continuity.
Carrie's gating was far simpler, truer to her nature, and more
primal than any of these.
The shredded edges of reality gave up with scarcely a fight.
Carrie's conduit ripped straight into Nyarlathotep's still-growing
gate, and was absorbed by it in a trice.
"Prayer might be good now," Carrie suggested, backing away slowly.
"Or love, or flinty heroic defiance. They're certainly none of
them on Its side..."
Albert and Amanda held each other about the waist and looked
steadily into the indescribable abomination that now occupied the
entire space around the truck. The TARDIS flashed derisively at
it. The Trader posed with sword and DeLameter for the record, then
put them away and took Carrie's hand.
The gate pulsed densely, uneasily, as though feeling first pangs of
"What did you do, love?" he asked, softly.
"I opened a PLOT hole to the raw network of our own Internet,"
Carrie explained. "There should be enough bulk i-transmission
there to completely choke the connection he's trying to make. With
the paradoxes weakened, the Fifths separated, and the gate
optimised for a thwarted possession -- that ought to be enough to
make the upload bomb out."
"I don't understand a word of that, specifically," said Amanda
dreamily, "but I'm *positive* it's the kind of thing that has to
work -- "
*Flumph*, went the gate, and went into a violent and unpleasant
collapse whose exact details need not be described here. Suffice
it to say that when reality ceased shuddering, nothing remained of
gate, truck, or anachronistic Internet access but for a faint,
sickly smell of spiced pork, and a fading echo at the very
threshold of hearing. Could it have been, "HOT BARELY ILLEGAL
PYRAMID SCHEMES WANT U!!!"? Well -- some of us wouldn't be any too
Trader Grey's mouth went into goldfish mode for a moment, and for a
moment his complexion bore an almost Stewardly overcast. "Carrie?
Do you realise, this means *you* created -- ?"
"The connection was certainly... a bit more direct than I'd
imagined," his Muse groaned. "Let's never, ever admit this
"I'm with you there." The Trader blinked firmly, as if to clear
his mind, then turned resolutely to their companions. "Neighbour,"
he said, "I'm sorry to break in on you like this, but we need to
know. You *have* found the TARDIS and remembered yourself by now,
"Oh, yes," said the Campion-Doctor, in a voice far more Fifthish
than his first cry to Amanda. She shrugged resignedly and ducked
carefully out from under his arm. "I seem to have been living a
dream for quite some time. I have to get back to Adric and Nyssa
and Tegan now, of course. They're stranded in terrible danger, and
I *know* it beat me the first time around!" He hesitated. "After
that -- I don't know what to do. I can't very well bring them back
"You don't," said Amanda crisply. "You don't ever come back. You
make it abundantly clear, years later for you and minutes ago for
me, that we have absolutely no future together." She shivered
despite herself. "Meantime, you forget me until forcibly reminded,
and become a nice wholehearted Time Traveller who saves the
Universe repeatedly. We say our goodbyes then; but I'm sorry, I
can't, not *again* -- " She spun on her heel and fled. The Doctor
stared strickenly after her.
The small figure visibly choked, before breaking into a run.
The Trader laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Don't. Turn away,
man, and block it for now. You'll get it back when you need it."
Carrie's eyes were streaming unashamedly. "You key it," she told
him, "to _'Begone!' she stormed, 'across the raging tide!'_ -- "
The Doctor dealt the Trader a savage backhand smash that sent him
staggering three yards back, and broke into a demented run of his
own, gaining on his wife quickly. "*Amanda!*"
"No," groaned the winded Trader. "Carrie, we have to stop him,
before -- "
"*Dear God!*" the Doctor bawled. "*Why did I go?*"
The Trader's face turned bleak. He started forward, but Carrie
held him back. And she was smiling through her tears.
And so was Amanda, as she turned, and finished the line in perfect
chorus with the Doctor.
In outrageous Mockney --
"*I should have stiyed!*"
Albert and Lady Amanda Campion embraced in the misty rain; and
Carrie slipped her arm through the Trader's, and led him firmly
back towards the Hoedown TARDIS. "But..." the author-avatar
protested in weak bewilderment. "Carrie, the *timelines*..!"
She stopped, bent his head down, and whispered a few words in his
ear. And when he took her arm again, his expression was much like
hers, and his step was jaunty as they marched up to the TARDIS door
in the happy knowledge of a transaction well settled.
"I'll be expropriated!" Trader Grey swore admiringly. "So *that's*
how they managed it..."