Sunday, 30 May 2010

Shaggy Dog Story

Rex, the smartest dog in the world!

Rex was an intelligent dog. Rather more intelligent than most other dogs. No, let us not beat about the bush, Rex was by far the most intelligent dog in the world.

Okay, if you were to take, your average house dog as the yardstick that isn't saying much, but really he was quite incredibly intelligent. He was able to reason and even speak in English, althoug he quickly discovered that he was better off not advertising this fact. In the early days he'd left a trail of people who thought they were either drunk, going mad, or politicians.

For a long while he accepted that he was just different, but as he got older he began to wonder exactly why he was so smart. Eventually he decided to find out, and set out to discover exactly where he came from.
Now, his memories of "The early years" were rather blurred, but he could remember...something. He could remember being in what he now knew to be a laboratory. He recognised the images in his mind as being lab equipment, and he had hazy memories of a face...a benevolent face. A face he had come, over the years, to regard as the canine version of God. The face was wearing a green suit, which he now knew to be a surgical gown, and it had a logo on it, resembling a snake eating its tail.

He had come, he realised, to accept the fact that he was a lab animal, and therefore his intelligence was, he knew, artificially induced. However, he had a doggy urge to find out why, and also to get one question answered. Why was it that whenever he stubbed his toe he got a headache. He knew that was just wrong!

Purely by luck he happened upon an old newspaper blowing along merrily in the wind. He gave it a passing glance, and suddenly he was chasing it with all his energy. Finally he caught it, and brought it down with his front feet. Unfortunately he landed badly and jarred his right foot, and was immediately overcome by waves of dizziness. Damn this curse! Why did it happen. He had to find out!

When his vision cleared, Rex saw the photograph that had caught his eye. There! Right there! On the page in front of him was a picture of a building, and on it was the very snake symbol he remembered. Not only that but the face of God smiled benevolently up at him from the page.

*Silas Milliner, the prize-winning doctor and brain injury expert today retired from forty years as head of research at Boid laboratories. Dr Milliner was responsible for the development of micro-electronic implants that slowed and eventually reversed the effects of brain injury, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. *

The piece went on to say that the benevolent Dr was retiring to a house in Newtown, which was, miracle of miracles, a short journey up the road. Rex could imagine his journey, his quest for answers coming to an end!

The poor pooch approached the house and discovered that he was begining to get concerned. What if the Dr wanted to re-examine him? What if he wanted to reverse the process? Could Rex live as a normal dog? Should he really be searching for answers? He decided that yes, he was scared, but his need for the truth outweighed his fear. He approached the house, and rang the doorbell.

The door was opened, and Rex stared into the face of God...

It was an interesting introduction. The good Doctor was surprised to see Rex, and delighted. He assured the dog that he was safe, and bade him enter. Rex could see that the poor man was making an effort, and begged him tell what worried him so.

"It is like this, Rex. You were my first success. I'd been working on a neural network for years, and finally discovered that I could interface living tissue with a gell of microprocessors of my own design. There were many failures, but you, Rex, you were the first success. You were just a stray, living on your wits, but after I implanted the technology you became far more intelligent. However, you escaped from the pound, and we lost you. Now I have the problem that I want to see you as a test subject, but my conscience forbids me to do so. You are intelligent. Supremely so, and you can communicate. I never expected this level of success. It never happened in any of the other subjects. However, you are, by any standard, an intelligent being, and I no longer have the right to treat you with any less respect than I would treat my fellow man. In fact I feel I owe you for what you may have suffered since I used you. Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?"

Rex looked up into the eyes of his God, and saw compassion, love, and a desire to pay for what he saw as his ill treatment of one of his creations, and was moved to the core.

"Doctor, I have had a good life. You owe me nothing. However, there is one thing, one thing only, that has concerned me though the years. It sounds trivial, but believe me when I say it has been a curse!"

"Tell me what it is, friend Rex, and if I can explain, and indeed rectify it, then you have my word I will"

Rex sighed. "Silly as it may seem, it is my feet. If I stub my toe I get a headache. if I jump down from a heaight even a poodle can manage, I get dizzy. Running makes me physically sick every time my feet hit the ground. Why is this?"

The Doctor sighed. "I am so sorry Rex. You have to understand that the implants I designed were not really for an animal as small as you. They were built for the skull of a human, and were far to big to fit in what is a really small brain case. So I did the next best thing. I put them in a place I thought would keep them safe. I never realised they would pain you. I put the thinking implants into the pads of your feet!"

"You mean...." said Rex...

"That's right. I gave you paws for thought..."
The Locum


Suddenly there was so much pain. Her ship skittered as her eyes screwed up in a futile attempt to stop the hurt. Then as quickly as it had started , it stopped again.

“What the hell was that?” she asked.

Nobody answered. She was on her own in a small single person spaceship, hurtling through space at an appreciable percentage of light speed.

She checked her life-support systems. One of the problems with ships like this was that there was no room to move. At all. So all life-support was intimately tied in to her body. She checked the catheters, the canulae. All seemed in order. Flipping on the data recorder she checked back on the records. Apart from a massive surge of adrenaline and an increase in hearts beat there seemed to be no


Blinding pain! And a thought! In the pain was a voiceless thought, a plea, a cry for help.

Again it ended abruptly, but this time she was ready. She closed her eyes and examined every moment. There! A definite direction. Close, maybe a days travel. Of course, it’d take her a day just to slow sufficiently to manoeuvre, so more like two days. She set the co-ordinates, engaged the auto-pilot, and went back to studying the minute bits of data she had.


R’znik laughed, and turned the handle again. The blue box stood silent, yet screamed. He could feel the waves of pain emanating from the monolith, and he enjoyed it. He enjoyed causing pain in things that could not fight back. He revelled in it.

“Scream, damn you. Scream. You’ll call Him to you, and then I’ll have you both. And then you can stop screaming. I’ve got a buyer for you. And he wants Him dead. So I win. You hear me? I WIN!”

His partner, Dipt, grabbed his hand away from the controls. “Enough! You’ll break it! We need it working, alive, whatever it is these things are, or we won’t get paid!”

R’znik glared. There were few beings who would dare touch him. Fewer still that he would allow to live. Dipt was one of them. Dipt was one of two people who scared R’znik, although he would never admit it to anyone but himself. Dipt was a small, quiet shrew of a human. If you saw him on the streets you’d forget him immediately. Yet R’znik had watched as he killed his own family. His wife, his two children. He’d used them as camouflage for a scam. A scam that had taken seven years to pull off, and once he’d succeeded he terminated his family without a thought. Excess baggage. Camouflage. He was a stone cold killer. A psychopath. And worst of all, in R’znik’s opinion, he got no joy out of it.

“Okay, we’ll wait. There’s no chance at all he would have missed that. Even I could feel it. And don’t forget, when he arrives, I get to kill him. I’ve never done one of them before. I’m told you can feel the life force as it leaves them. I want to feel it. Look into his eyes and see his despair. I want to watch The Doctor die!”

A footfall behind them made them both start, and turn.

“We can hear you, Doctor. You’re not going to be able to creep up on us. And you can’t escape. Come on out, Doctor. It is die!” R’znik almost sang the words into the darkness.

To his shock and surprise, and immediate delight it wasn’t the Doctor who stepped out of the shadows. Instead he was confronted by a stunningly good looking girl, with long blonde hair.

R’znik looked her over, arrogantly. From her feet up he studied her. Her boots, very utilitarian, hard wearing, and thrust into them long, muscular yet feminine legs. Grey cotton military-style shorts followed, and into that was tucked a nondescript tee-shirt. A long elegant neck supported the head. And it was here that R’znik’s preconceptions floundered.

R’znik was human. Ish. He’d been a child soldier. Not because he was forced into it, but because even as a child he’d enjoyed, craved for slaughter, for pain, and for inflicting loss on others. He was a good soldier. Not only did he kill without compassion, he went out of his way to kill, even when it wasn’t strictly necessary. And he had a massive tolerance for pain. He seemed to enjoy it as much as he loved inflicting it.

Over the years he had lost limbs and other body parts, until he was at least seventy percent cyborg. Not for him the humanoid limb replacements. He’d deliberately chosen the utilitarian machine-like inplants. Everyone who looked on him looked away, scared, disgusted.

But not the blonde girl.

He looked at her smile, and then into her eyes. And had to look away. There was no fear! No fear at all. Some sympathy, maybe, but only that which you would find on the face of a vet about to euthanise an injured pet.

“Where’s the Doctor?” asked Dipt, quietly.

“The Doctor’s out, boys. I’m here instead. You can call me The Locum.”
Dr’s Who

A flickering of the lights, a strange sound, possibly heard, possibly imagined, and suddenly in the corridor was a door. A door that hadn’t been there just a moment ago. With a ‘click’ it sprang open, and a man came out backwards. A soft floppy hat topped a head of curly hair, a huge scarf and a coat that he shouldn’t really have been wearing indoors if he expected to feel the benefit when he went outside.

“Right, K9, I feel quietly confident that the last repair should have fixed the old girl. Let’s have a look, shall w...”

He turned as he spoke, and the huge grin on his face froze. He was standing in front of a big blue box, the door of which he had just come through. It stood out from the background, by being the only thing, apart from himself, that was not grey.

“That’s odd.” He suddenly grinned again. “Maybe it’s just the season’s colours!” he guessed.

A voice behind him made him start. “Oh dear oh dear. You really should not be here. Oh well, never mind. Here, have a jelly baby.”

He turned, and was confronted by a small man in a dark jacket and frilly shirt, with a moppish hairstyle that gave him the look of a slightly over-inflated Beatle. What was most noticeable about him, however, was the fact that he was totally monochromatic.

At this moment K9 looked out of the Tardis door. “Negative, Master. All is grey-scale”

The greyscale gentleman looked at them. He put away the jelly babies and produced from the same apparently empty pocket a descant recorder. Instead of playing it, however, he used it to poke The Doctor in the midriff.

“Oh, my giddy aunt. Look at you. Go on, look at you. You shouldn’t be here. Oh dear oh dear. “

The Doctor stepped back out of reach of the recorder, and screwed up his face in concentration.

“I know you. You’re me, aren’t you? We’ve met before, when something meddled with the timeline. I wonder what they want now. And why are you grey?”

“No no NO! This will not do. This just will not do. Can’t you see what’s happened? Can’t you understand the information that is in front of your eyes! Oh my giddy aunt. If this is what I become in the Real World there is no hope. No hope at all. I may as well go back to Gallifrey and make jelly babies!”

“Oh, I say, that’s really not fair. I’ve only just got here. Give a man a chance, won’t you?”

“A chance? A chance you say? I have only just got here too, yet I can see what has gone wrong. Okay, maybe that’s a bit unfair. I have some information you’re lacking, to be truthful.” He gave the recorder an experimental blow, but all that happened was that K9 retreated, muttering “Ouch, Master!”

“You’ve been playing with the Tardis, at a guess? Am I right? Am I right?”

The polychrome Doctor nodded in affirmation. “She’s been behaving oddly, setting off on her own, not going where I pilot her..”

“Not going where you pilot her? She never did, you idiot. You have no more idea how to control her than I do. Than any of us do. We just make it up, and hope for the best!”

“Well, yes, technically! But, I tried to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. That always works”

The monochromatic Doctor cupped his head in his hands. “Oh dear. You know that is nonsense, don’t you?”

“What do you mean nonsense? It always worked for him!”

He made it up! It was hogswash. He just meddled! Just happened to be good at it, if you must know. All smoke and mirrors, flannel. Hogswash! Now look what you’ve achieved. You’ve ended up here!”, and to emphasis his annoyance he smacked the polychrome Doctor across his knuckles with the recorder.

“OW! “ The Doctor sucked his stinging knuckles. Grumbling, grudgingly he asked “And where, exactly is here?”

“Finally a sensible question! There could be hope for you yet. Although looking at you I doubt it. You’ve crossed the boundary, haven’t you? Somehow you’ve ended up here. Look around you. You’re in the world of imagination. You’ve left your reality and entered that of someone, or something else. And that someone else has only seen monochrome.”

“Oh, that’s not a problem! I can fix that!” The colourful doctor broke out into a toothy grin again.
“I’ll have one of your jelly babies to celebrate!”

He looked down at the packed being proffered, and the grey sweets in the lighter grey bag. “No, actually I won’t, thank you”

“Master!” K9 called out.

“Not now, K9, I’m busy”

“But, Master!” K9 called again.

“K9, wait! I’m telling...erm...myself, I suppose. Or my Grandfather? ...about my clever plan to escape from here. You see, I have a phase-inverter in the Tardis that...”

“Negative, Master. You do not.” Interrupted K9.

“What do you mean?” asked The Doctor, turning back to the Tardis.

He was just in time to see a strange man with a bowler hat, jacket, bow tie, enormous shoes and a cane hurtle out of the door with a bright yellow ball in his monochromatic hands.

“Hey!” both Doctors yelled, but The Tramp was off down the corridor.

“I don’t suppose by any chance that was not the phase inverter?”

The colourful doctor sighted.

“I don’t suppose, by any chance, you have a spare?”


They sat in the Tardis, some time later, drinking tea. It transpired that although the comestibles from both realities looked different, they still tasted and acted as they should, and so monochrome biscuits were being dunked into golden Earl Grey tea poured from a monochrome teapot.

“I could just rebuild the inverter” supplied the colourful Doctor.

“How long would that take?”

“Oh, with K9’s help, and yours, probably about thirty six hours”

“I’m not sure you have that much time. Look at your scarf” The monochrome Doctor pointed with his recorder to the end of the scarf, which had been bright orange, and was now grey. “I’d say about 6 hours, in all, before you become an anachronistic greyscale memory that shouldn’t exist. Then, I fear you may just be flushed from this reality as if you were never here. And I have no idea where you would end up. If indeed you ended up anywhere at all.”

“K9!. Could you trace the phase inverter? “

“Affirmative, master! It has a slight leak of gamma radiation. I can follow that without difficulty, Master”

“Then why did you not tell us this before?” asked the monochrome Doctor, ignoring his colourful companion’s gestures not to ask.

“He told me to shut up, Master!” replied K9, in a tone that indicated that it was his lot to have to obey the orders of an idiot.

“Oh, fine. Now he thinks that I acted stupidly”

“Affirmative, Master” replied K9, in a tone that could have been mistaken for smug.


A short while later the three were heading down the corridor.

“Nobody really knows what the corridors are, or what is outside of them. We live, or exist at least, in them, and get on marvellously, for the most part. I should warn you, though, that you are likely to see some strange things”

Even as he said this they were overtaken by a monochrome Kangaroo, which paused, tutted loudly at them and continued. Close behind him was a rather toothy child in a striped top and jeans. “What was that, Skippy?” he yelled in an Australian accent as he ran past.

Almost immediately, from the opposite direction ran a rough Collie, which also stopped, and sniffed the monochrome Doctor’s pocket. He grinned and pulled out a jelly baby, which was grabbed and swallowed by the dog. The Doctor reached out to stroke the dog, but it barked and ran off. An elderly man and child ran after them. “What was that, Lassie? Jeff has fallen down the well?” called out the old man.

As they ran out of sight the young boy could be heard complaining “Gramps! I’m right here!”

“There you go, I told you so” said the greyscale Doctor. “Weirder and weirder...”

“They seem familiar” opined the polychromatic time traveller.

“Look at your scarf! We need to be going. Oh my sainted aunt, you’re fading faster than I thought! K9, can you trace the device?”

“Affirmative, Doctor. But the gamma radiation is fading. It is possible that it is unable to remain radiating in this reality. We must hurry, masters!” The edge of urgency in K9’s voice injected a frisson of panic into the two Doctors, and off they set again.


Twenty minutes later the two Doctors were arguing.

“I don’t care what you think, I say it was a Bottlenosed Dolphin!” said th greyscale incarnation.

“No, you’re wrong. It was a porpoise. Plainly, clearly it was a porpoise!”

A youth pulled up in a boat. “Don’t suppose any of you gentlemen have seen a Dolphin?”

“There was a porpoise here a while ago” said the polychrome Doctor.

“No, that’s not him. He’s a Bottlenose Dolphin” sighted the youth, and set off again, shouting “Flipper! FLIPPER!” as he went. The monochrome Doctor looked smug. “See! I told you!”

“How was he in a boat? There’s no water! And where did the porp...dolphin come from?”

“Don’t ask. I told you it was weird. It makes sense, if you let it. I find that pretending it is Saturday teatime helps. I don’t know why.”

Before the two could continue, K9 called. “Masters. The trace is fading. I can no longer be certain how far away the device is. We must hurry, Masters”

The two incarnations picked up the pace, and were soon running up the corridor after K9. All at once, as they rounded the corner they came face to face with The Clown.

“Hey!” yelled the colourful Doctor, and grabbed him by the lapel. “Where’s my device?”

The clown looked hurt, and the Doctor shook him. “Where. Is. My. Device! Look, I don’t have much time!” He gestured at himself. He was mostly grey, with just hints of colour in his scarf, his coat and his shirt. Everything else was monochrome. K9 was entirely grey.

“He can’t answer. He can’t speak” said his opposite number.

The clown gestured to a box containing numerous juggling balls. “Ahah! That’s the spirit” yelled the Doctors, and dived at the box.

“Oh, that’s not good.”

All the balls, every single one, were an identical monochrome grey.

“We’re running out of time! Which one is it? Which one is it?” yelled the monochrome Doctor.

“Master...” said K9

“Not now K9! I’m busy!”

“Master! The phase inverter is the one made of plastic. All the rest are cloth!”

The two Doctors stopped fumbling in the box. “We knew that!” they yelled simultaneously, and commenced a more controlled search.

“I’ve got it!” yelled the monochrome doctor, and held aloft the device. “Quickly” We’re running out of time!” There was no immediate response, so he looked round at his counterpart. The polychromatic Doctor was leaning against the wall.

“Sorry, felt quite dizzy. I think we need to hurry. How far is it to the Tardis?”

“About an hour by foot, Doctor” supplied K9.

The Doctor looked worried. “I’m not sure I can make it. Lets go!” He staggered off. The monochrome Doctor caught his hand, turned him round and pointed him in the other direction.
They struggled on for about fifteen minutes, but it became clear they were not going to make it. The Doctor was in distress, his fingers going numb, and K9 was moving slower and slower.

“Dammit, Doctor, you have to get through this. I don’t think you can even regenerate here. You won’t have the strength!” yelled the Doctor in residence, and his opposite number staggered against the wall.

Suddenly there was a clatter of hooves. They looked up and saw a man on a magnificent white horse. He was wearing a white Stetson and a black face mask. “Howdy! You look as if you’re in trouble. Can I help?”

The monochrome Doctor explained the problem, and without a moment’s thought the stranger said “Get him up on Silver, behind me. I’m sure we can be there momentarily.”

“What about K9?”

The stranger yelled, and immediately a Native American Indian rode up. “Yes, Kemo Sabe?”

“Tonto. We need to get these strangers to their box, in a hurry. Can you take that strange contraption?”

With a bit of struggling K9 was fastened to the side of the Indian’s horse, and with a yell they set off.

“Who was that masked man?” The Doctor mumbled.

He looked around as there was no reply. Finding himself unexpectedly alone he yelled “Hey! What about me?” Even as he spoke a handsome grey stallion trotted up and nudged him under the arm. “That’s champion!” exclaimed The Doctor, climbing onto his back.


The Tardis door was open, and there was frantic shouting from the interior.

“Look! You’re too weak! Tell me what to do! Do I look like an idiot? Don’t answer that.”

The Polychromic Doctor was now a dark grey. All the shades were merging into a uniform colourless shadow. He was sat on a high-backed bar stool, whilst his compatriot was under the console, on his back. A panel hung open, and in one hand he held the phase inverter.

“Quickly, what do I need to do?”

His opposite number struggled against the grey fog that was filling his head. “The...the inverter fits between the...dimensional stabiliser and...thing. Metasyntactic variable! The...vortex loop control!”

A series of thumps, a few curses and his companion yelled” It’s in! Now what?”

With effort the Doctor called out “Now, connect the red lead to the shunt on the Time Rotor!”

His companion let out a feral yell! “Doctor! They’re all grey. THEY’RE ALL GREY!”

But The Doctor could not hear. He fell from the stool to the floor with a thump...


...and woke up.

“Master? Are you all right, Master?”

“K9! What...where am I? What happened?”

“You were sat in front of the television, Master. You were watching old television programmes. And you fell asleep, Master. Are you functioning correctly?”

The doctor grinned. “Never better, K9. Never better! Here! Have a jelly baby!” He groped in his pocket and pulled out a bag. A grey bag, with monochrome sweets...
Dr Who and the Counterfeit Companion.

The sunset over the sea was of a pleasant purple hue, as small birds flitted hither and yon, snatching tardy insects out of the air. The two walkers made their leisurely way along the shore, drinking in the sound of the waves washing over the coal-black sand. The woman paused to brush back her hair, bent and plucked a pebble with a hole through it from underfoot.

"Do you miss it?" she asked her companion.

"Mmm?" he said, roused from his reverie.

“Do you miss it? The fear, the adrenaline? You do have adrenaline? I was never sure, with your screwy anatomy. Don’t you sometimes long for just one more adventure?”

He looked out to sea.

“Do you see that ship? Just out on the horizon? Malgrabian Whaling vessel. They pull a thousand tonnes of whale meat out of the ocean every year. In little over fifty years they’ll have emptied the sea of almost the entire species. Boy, are they in for a surprise when they discover they’re only the second most intelligent species on the planet!”

“You’re avoiding the question, Doctor! I recognise your ploy, I’ve been with you too long!
He stopped and looked at her. “I...don’t exactly remember. I know we did a lot together. Well, I think that I know that...look, I’ve been through a lot recently, my memory is not what it used to be. Can we drop the conversation?”

He frowned, and shook his head. Grey curls tumbled around a plum-coloured velvet collar. His eyes, briefly troubled, cleared and sparkled anew.

“Do you remember the Robot? I always felt I’d let it down, you know. It wasn’t evil in itself. I didn’t want to destroy it. I really...I’ve hurt so many people. So very many people.” His shoulders sagged.

“Oh, come on Doctor, you’ve said it yourself. There are times when only radical surgery will suffice. Sometimes you have to sacrifice good flesh to be sure you’ve gotten rid of the cancer!”
He looked at her. “Sorry, do I know you? You seem familiar. My memory, it isn’t as good as it was. As it should be. I think I recognise you. We were...”

She erased a circle on the pad she carried, and with a finger described a larger one, in a bright vermillion hue. Immediately The Doctor smiled.

“My dear! I am so sorry! When did you get here?”

“I’ve never been away, Doctor. Truly, I have never left your side. You were telling me about the whaling ship over there?”

“Of course. Malgrab was the first planet to elect a planet-wide government, fifty percent of whom were aquatic mammals. After they nearly wiped out the population the remaining whales waged a war against sea traffic. Brought about a sea-change. Haha!”

She grinned, and updated the pad further.

Glancing at his reflection in the water he opined “This is my favourite body, you know. I remember them all. Which is weird. It’s very unsettling waking up and wondering whose teeth you are going to have in your mouth. Whether your knees are going to be arthritic. Whether you will need a hairbrush or skin tonic. Even what gender you’re going to be. It is a worry, really. But this old thing” he bowed, graciously to her, “This old thing saw me through so much. And it was the only one that could really manage Venusian Aikido, for all that it looked vulnerable”

They walked further, in companionable silence. A shooting star burned its funereal signature across the heavens.

“You’re supposed to make a wish, you know”

She stopped. “I’m sorry?”

He pointed a lace-ringed hand at the area the meteorite had scarred. “Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight”

“And what would you wish for, Doctor?”

He kicked at a pebble. “I don’t rightly know, my dear. Things change. Ideas, ideals melt and flow as time goes by. Time, hah! It’s funny, but recently I imagine I can see time. Taste it. Feel it. What would I wish? I’d...Do you know how many people I have left? How many people have left me? If I could have a wish, would I wish, perhaps, to be gifted with the ability to forget them all? Each parting, every single parting was pure pain. Especially you, my dear. When I left you I...”

He stopped, looking confused. She quickly wrote on the pad with her index finger, and he started grinning.

“People say I used to take life too flippantly. I was too half-hearted. Silly, when you think of it, my dear. I have two hearts. Half-hearted? Surely that would be one heart? Which is enough for you to get by on, isn’t it?” He giggled, and once again she made a pass over the pad. His face dropped, just briefly, then he looked up at her.

“You know, I really think I know what you’re up to.”

She looked startled. “You do? You think you do? Why do you think I’m up to anything?”

“The Master was always a complicated person. I don’t suppose you’ve changed. Always plotting, always cheating!”

Once more she wrote. “Why do you think I’m the Master, Doctor?”

He blinked. “Did I say that? I’m so sorry, my dear. So, so sorry. My age, you know. Terrible thing, getting old. Running out of regenerations. Never entirely sure what the future will ring. Bring. Ring ring! Sting thing” He giggled.

Yet another comment on the pad, and yet again he straightened.

“That’s an interesting constellation” he said quietly, and pointed. “The Arc of the Celestial Bowman. Do you see the bright star over to the left? There used to be seven inhabited planets there. Now they’re all dead. Humans, you know. They have a remarkable propensity for survival, for incredible feats of expansion. And such talents! Music, painting, dance, song, 3vid, film, comedy and laughter. And slaughter. Funny, isn’t it, how laughter is only one letter away from slaughter?”

He started walking backwards, his feet kicking up spray as the waves lapped at his shoes. “Do you remember the Asgard? I’m...struggling to remember if you were there. I’m so sorry. Yes, Asgard. Self-proclaimed Warrior Gods of the Universe. Really they were just wayward children, undirected, unfocussed genius. But they nearly destroyed not only Earth but most of this reality. And me! I nearly died. It was Professor Portia Pope who came to the rescue. She deliberately ingested the Green Crystal and infected them all. At the cost of her life. She sacrificed herself so everything might continue. She was eighty, you know. Brilliant. Mind like a steel trap. I think she’d guessed about me. Her eyes shone. She was finally living, at eighty. And at eighty she committed genocide. Wiped out the entire race of Asgard. Magnificent, murderous mankind. “
He stumbled over a half-buried rock, and stopped. “So very many people have died. So many people have lost their lives, yet I go on. Dammit! Do you think I want to survive at the cost of other people? I don’t want to live forever while my friends hurl themselves off cliffs just to see that I do!”

She looked in his grey eyes. “Don’t worry. You won’t let that happen”

He looked startled. “Sorry? What do you mean?”

“Oh, nothing. Ignore me. It’s just the rambling thoughts of an old woman.” Once again a note on the pad.

“Tristan Ford. That’s a name to conjure with. I thought it was a place when I first heard it. Turned out to be an eight year old boy, with the mind of a dead Skaal Seeker. Now, usually Skaal are all ‘Seek! Destroy!’ and ask questions later, never mind the consequences. This one wanted to be a poet. That was an odd thing. The Skaal Justice wanted her terminated for being faulty, and I wanted the boy to live. And for once I did it and nobody got hurt. She’s still in his mind, sharing her ideas, and he’s a writer. Writes pretty damned good science fiction too. I have to keep popping over to check that it isn’t too realistic. Don’t want any scientists trying to build a Skaalian flashbomb, do we?”

“That’s where I first reversed the polarity of the neutron flow. You know, that makes no sense. Yet I did it, time and time again, and it worked. If you creep up slowly on reality it doesn’t notice a little sleight of hand. Or it pretends not to. Which is the same thing, really”

He grinned at the memory, and stopped again.

“You’re playing with my memories, aren’t you? You’re doing something. I can taste the changes. See the rewritten pathways. And yet...I don’t feel threatened. It’s odd, but I feel complete. I’m not real? I feel real, I can remember...things that I shouldn’t be able to, now I think about it. Right, young lady, I know you’re not a threat. Tell me what’s going on. Have I regenerated? Am I a construct? What’s happened to the real me? There’s something that I have to know. And please don’t do anything to that pad, it is linked to my neural pathways somehow, isn’t it. Be honest, my dear. I know you’re not threatening me. I can take it, honestly. It isn’t as if I forget, you know. I can remember all my regenerations. But this is only my third. So, either I’m remembering future events or I’m forgetting past ones. And I think you can tell me, my dear.”

She sighed. This was the response she was waiting for, and longing for, and dreaded. This was what she had steeled herself for, fought for, for decades. This was the defining moment. The time when her plans, her ideas would either bear fruit or crash into the sand like the waves at her feet. She was involved. Not impartial. She had hoped that after all this time it would be easy. She would be more remote. The Council had asked if she would prefer a substitute, but she’d decided that she was strong enough, that she was old enough. Maybe she was over-confident of her ability to be removed. But on the other hand, she couldn’t let anyone else do it. Not with him. Not with The Doctor.

“Doctor, you’ve lived a long life. And a productive one. You’ve fought magnificently for people, for races, for entire planets. You’ve stood up to oppressors, dictators, natural disasters, you’ve even fought time itself. You have been glorious. Really glorious. it is time to stop. Your time is over. You’ve lived it fabulously. And for a time I lived it with you. You should be proud of what you have done. And because of that we can’t just let you go. Let you fade into time, into space, into dust. That’s not the right end for a hero. So we’ve taken your...spirit, your essence. Everything about you that makes you the good, brave, heroic person that you are, and we’re going to preserve it. Preserve you. There’s a new breed of Tardis, you see. Anthropomorphic Tardis. Proto-humanoid, yet still functioning as a Tardis. It can think, reason, remember, feel. Such a device has great promise, but it needs to have a heart. A centre that cares, understands. We’ve selected you to be the heart and soul of the first.

“Yes.I thought it was something like that. I’d worked it out. I don’t want to go. Really I don’t. I was hoping for rest, at last. After so long don’t I deserve a rest?’s what I do, isn’t it? I go where I’m needed. It’s what I’ve always done, and I suppose now it’s what I will always do. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to tell me.”

She made to write on the pad, but he stopped her.

“One thing. One thing I really must know. How did I die? What happened? Did anyone else get hurt?”

She swallowed, and it was the hardest thing she had ever done, not to rush over and hug him to her. He looked frightened, alone suddenly. Like a schoolboy facing dragons.

“Oh Doctor. You were magnificent! Brilliant like only you could be. You sacrificed yourself, so that the entirety of time and space could survive. You could have lived on, lived forever, like a king. You could have been the ruler of the Universe, for ever. But instead you gave your life, your entire being, knowing that there would be no return, no regeneration. You sacrificed everything on a genius hunch, so that Time itself could exist, survive. Doctor, truly you were brilliant. Brilliant!”

He smiled, faintly. Looking more like a fifty year old dandy than an timeless, ageless being. “Well, that’s something at least!” He grinned. “Okay, ‘fess up. I do know you, don’t I? You’re someone I have met, someone who’s been close to me. Someone I care for?”

She looked startled. “Oh, no, Doctor. I’m just someone who was given the job of preparing you. We’ve been close, over the last decade, getting you ready, getting you to this point, but really you don’t know me at all. We’re partners. Yes, that would be a good analogy. Not close, but we have met.”

He looked suspiciously at her, and she couldn’t meet his eyes. He shrugged. If she couldn’t, wouldn’t tell him, he wouldn’t press the matter. It wasn’t as if it made a blind bit of difference any more. He was not the man he used to be. Wasn’t a man at all, come to that.

“Odd! I can feel something pulling me! Like some tractor beam?”

She sighed. “You’re ready, Doctor. Ready for implanting in the Tardis. Ready to begin again. I...I kind of envy you, you know? I am certainly going to miss you. You were fun to have around. For a while. Goodbye, Doctor”

She turned away from him.

The Doctor faded, and she was sure that already she could hear the Vwooorp Vwooorp noise as he went.

A hint of a tear sparked in her eye. “Be careful, Doctor. Please, be careful. I never told you. I never could. But I loved you then, and I love you now, you wild, magnificent man!”

With a sigh, Romana turned and headed back across the beach, to where her own Tardis waited patiently.

Thursday, 27 May 2010



RIP Paul Michael Smith, died last night, aged 54. As he has done every night for the last thirteen years, three weeks and two days.

The alarm clock sounded at 6am. Insistent, shrill. A demand for response. He reached out a hand and turned it off.

Then panic overtook him. Where was he? He didn’t remember the alarm clock. He didn’t remember where he was. He didn’t remember who he was.

“Your name is Paul Michael Smith. Please be calm. Relax, and listen. Your name is Paul Michael Smith. Please be calm. Relax and listen. Currently you do not remember anything. Please relax and listen. There is a notepad on the table. Please relax, open the note pad and read it. All will become clear. Your name is Paul Michael Smith. Please be calm. Relax, and listen. Your name is Paul Michael Smith. Please be calm. Relax and listen.”

It was a recorded voice, soothing, reassuring. He looked on the bedside table and there was, indeed, a battered notebook beside the bedside light. He turned the light on, grabbed the book and started reading.

“Your name is Paul Michael Smith. You were born on 15th June 1955. You had an accident which left you with a head injury, which means you forget things. This book has been written by you over the years. If you read it everything will become clear”

“It’s a bad’un!” Sgt John Cleese said to me as I approached the wreckage. “Bentley, left the road at some speed. Three feet either way it would have missed the tree and ended up in the field. Three people inside. The fire brigade are taking the roof off. Air Ambulance lads are working on the occupants. Good luck!”

I’d known John for some years. We’d met originally at an accident and I was taken by how he resembled his namesake in every way but one. He had no sense of humour at all. Working in the ambulance service for some years I’d developed what people tell me is a sick sense of humour. It isn’t sick so much as a survival mechanism. But every time I made a joke he’d look at me. ‘Was that a joke?’ At first I thought he was joking, but came to realise that he genuinely had no sense of humour. He could see why something was supposed to be funny, in a strictly analytical way, yet could not laugh or understand even the mechanism for laughter. I saw this as a handicap. He saw it as a saving grace. Because although he had no sense of humour he had a phenomenal memory. Which, combined with his love of science fiction, made him a great partner on Pub Quiz night. Between us we were unstoppable!

“Beside your bed is a box with tablets in it. You need to take the three tablets in the box. There should be a glass of water beside the box. Once you have taken them carry on reading. Do not worry, they are painkillers for the headache you will have, and a tablet to reduce your blood pressure. Both these things are symptoms of the car crash. Take the tablets then go and make yourself a cup of coffee from the tray on the bedside cabinet. You like coffee, and it will make you feel a lot better. Trust me on this. Also, don’t drink the tea. You hate tea.”

Paul Michael Smith walked over to the tray, neatly laid out with coffee sachets, plastic cartons of milk, sugar. Like in a hotel. How did he know that? He knew what a hotel was. He knew what to expect in one. He knew he liked coffee with milk and sugar. He knew there would not be quite enough milk in one of those containers, yet two would be too much. Yet he didn’t know who he was. He looked at the reflection in the mirror above the cabinet. Grey hair, short and neat, clean shaven face, drawn, not pleasant. His eyes looked haunted. Looked as if they had seen something dreadful. It was him. And yet it was a stranger. He rubbed his hand across his chin, and his reflection rubbed its hand across the face of the stranger. Sighing, he drank the coffee and padded barefoot across the carpet back to the notebook. Sitting in the bedside chair, mug of coffee gripped in one hand he read on.

I approached the wreck as my colleagues were stabilising the driver. One of the paramedics was in the back, working flat out, shaking his head. He knew it was hopeless, but he carried on. It was the way we worked. You didn’t give up. You couldn’t give up. No matter how you wanted to. I hauled the emergency kit over and looked. In the back was a child. I couldn’t tell any more, the damage was too great. In the front a woman, in the passenger seat. She was being ignored by the other para. A quick look told me why. A tree branch. Not worth considering. He was working on the driver. Stabilising neck and back ready for extraction. He waved me away, so I went back to the child. My colleague had an airway in, so I grabbed the bag and started breathing for the child. In, out. In, out. A saline line was inserted into a canula in the child’s arm. In, out. In, out. The fire brigade started to cut away the back of the seat. In, out. In, out. In, out.

“This book should help you through the day. At various stages you will have to interact with people. These people know you, and will try and help you. You will meet a cleaner, who will clean and tidy your room. Later someone will come to refresh the coffee and milk. At noon a meal will be delivered. At this point you will be asked to select a meal for tomorrow. Choose the same meal. You like it. It is nutritious and healthy, and to be honest, you are not going to get bored with it. In the afternoon a nurse will come in to see you and check you over, to make sure there is no degradation in your health. You will almost certainly want to go outside. Please do not do this. Part of your condition means that if you stop and focus on something, if something catches your eye you can, and will, forget where and who you are. You need to maintain focus, then you can survive. You cannot come to harm outside the room, but it is embarrassing for you, and for the staff. Trust me. I know.”

Most of the rear of the Bentley had been cut away when the emergency Doctor arrived. She’d been held up at another accident. Saturday Night was a bad night. Drinks and cars do not mix in a good way. My colleague and I had the child ready for extraction when she turned up, and we delayed so she could make an assessment of our work. In, out. In, out. In, out. Stethoscope, listen long and hard to the chest. Fundoscopic examination of the eyes. Physical examination. In, out. In, out. In, out. She shook her head. “Good job, boys. But I’m calling it. No responses at all. Sorry” In, out. In, out. We didn’t give up. We couldn’t. It was our job. It was a child. In, out. In, out. You don’t give up on a child. She took the bag from me. “Leave it. She was dead before the car stopped moving, I’d bet. Massive head trauma. You did all you could.” I walked away.

“You were in a car crash, in 1996. You had massive head injuries, and yet you survived, and you have done since. You were in hospital for over a year. Nobody really knew what to do with you. Every morning you would wake up and not know who you were. You worked with Dr Sarah Blake, writing this book. Over the period of three years this book has become your life. Every day you read it, adjust it, edit it. You edit your life, in this book. Take care of it. It is literally your life.
You were moved to this hostel in 1999. The people here look after you, but don’t interact any more than they need to. There is no point. You won’t remember them tomorrow. Your memory is reset every day. Except for some of your long term memory. Read this carefully. It is the most important thing I have to tell you

There was a court case, of course. Paul Michael Smith. Born 15th June 1955. Chairman and CEO of ION Ltd. A successful product design and development company. Not up to Fortune 500 standards, but he was making a good 7 figure sum per year. He had a good lifestyle. And a good wife, Eve, and a seven year old rebellious but generally well-behaved daughter Chloe. They’d gone for a meal, and he’d had a few too many beers. And on the way home he’d lost control of the Bentley, lost his wife and child, and literally lost his mind. The court case was dismissed. He couldn’t come to court, he didn’t know who he was or what had happened. To make him face trial would have been cruel, and ultimately pointless. I went to the inquest. I had to. It was my job. It was no fun.

“Sometimes you will remember things. I cannot, and will not tell you what. Trust me, please. I am going to give you a phone number, and a name. Richard Hughes. If you remember the name Chloe or Eve, and you need to know, ring that number. But don’t ring it unless you really have to. I beg you, please don’t ring that number unless you have to.”

It was an unusual case. The courts could not, in all faith, confine him to a mental hospital. He wasn’t ‘mental’. He just had no memory. In the end the judge ordered that a trust fund be set up, and he should be housed at a medical hostel for the rest of his life. I received a request. Dr Sarah Blake had worked with Paul Michael Smith on a book that told him who he was and what was happening. Part of the symptom was that occasionally a small fragment, a tiny piece of memory from before the accident would flash in his head. Usually it was the name Eve or Chloe. Would I be prepared, as he had no family, to answer his questions? Well, sure I would. How difficult could that be?

Chloe? Eve? Yes! The names were familiar. Why? Why did he remember those names. They evoked sounds of laughter. Smells. Smells of Christmas? Warm newly washed towels? Happy feelings, happy ...he could almost *taste* the memory. Why? What did the book mean? Don’t ring that number? Of course he was going to ring it! He needed to know! Maybe he had family. Maybe someone could get him out of here. Bring him home. Bring him clothes, damnit! Instead of these impersonal pyjamas! Where was that damned telephone? 07896.....

My phone rang. I looked at the number and my heart sank. It was Paul Michael Smith. He’d not called for nearly two months. Two months my curse had left me. I answered.
“Hello, Paul. You have remembered something?”

“Yes! Who is Chloe? Why does the name make me happy? Is she family? Can she help me?”

I sat down. “Paul, are you sure you want to know? Okay, please, are you sitting?”

I told him. Once again I told him of the accident. Of his wife, and of his child. Dr Blake and he had decided that there should be no secrets. He should know. But it meant that every time he rang I had to kill his hopes, his family, and listen to him as he suffered the loss for the first time. Again, and again. In, out. In, out. You didn't give up. For thirteen years, three weeks and two days.

Last night Paul Michael Smith had a stroke. He was dead before he hit the floor. Last night he died again, for the last time.