Paul Gadzikowski


The Eight Doctors

Chapter 3

The Doctor jumped to his feet, burgundy clothing flapping about him. "Someone created these time-fields," he said. "Someone who knows me intimately!"

The Doctor looked about. Against a wooden gate between the last time-field dome and the next was laid a popgun rifle, and tied to one beam of the fence was rather a large blue helium party balloon. Amongst the natural Eye of Orion foliage there was a tall tree nearby from whose top came a loud buzzing noise. The Doctor thrust his hands into his greatcoat pockets, went to the tree, and peered up its side while Romana and K-9 joined him.

"That buzzing noise means something," he mused. "And the only reason I can think of for making a buzzing noise is because you're a bee. And the only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey - at least here - is so I can eat it."

"I suppose," Romana mused in turn, "in the next circle we'll find K-9's tail being employed as a bell-pull?"

The Doctor went to the gate and took a firm hold of the string on the balloon - actually a thinnish piece of rope - while Romana untied it from the gate. When it was free it rose gently into the air, carrying the Doctor with it, until it was level with the beehive in the top of the tree, where it came to a relative rest about ten feet away.

"Have I ever seen a more blatant disregard for the laws of physics?" Romana said. She took her picnic sandwiches out of the pack she was carrying and watched the Doctor bobbing in the air, the ends of his scarf dangling some two or three feet below the soles of his boots, for as long as it took her to eat her meal. "How long does this go on?" she finally asked.

"I don't know!" the Doctor called back cheerily.

Romana mulled this over and started eating the Doctor's sandwiches.

"Romana! Ow," the Doctor cried suddenly. "I have come to a very important decision. These are the wrong sort of bees."

"Are they?"

"Quite the wrong sort. I've just had a very close look at one. They're apibus iori, they don't make honey."

"Don't they?"

"No. So I think I shall come down now."


"That's what the gun is for."

"What, this?" Romana picked up the popgun rifle. "This children's toy with no ammunition but a bottle cork tied to it with string so they shan't be separated?"

"Yes, exactly," said the Doctor. "Fire away."

Wasting no time on further incredulity Romana pointed the rifle in the air and fired.

"Ow," said the Doctor.

"You're not telling me you felt that?" said Romana, replacing the cork in the barrell.

"Aim about four feet higher," suggested the Doctor.

Romana fired again. There was a hissing noise and the balloon, shrinking, gently lowered the Doctor to the ground. His arms, however, remained stiff and held over his head.

"Do you think the next circle scenario," sugggested Romana as they moved toward the time-field, K-9 trundling behind them bump-bump-bump over the uneven ground, "will be a stagecoach robbery in the Wild West ... since you're already reaching for the sky?"

"Pooh," said the Doctor.


In the next circle they found themselves on a military base - an American one, from the flag. The only structure that wasn't a tent was a Quonset hut with red crosses on the roof; some sort of medical post. The next interface was on the other side of the base, just past a dirt road. The Doctor's wardrobe had reverted to the mismatched sort of suit-and-scarf he had favored before Romana had decided he'd take to burgundy. His arms were fine.

"What are we to do here?" Romana asked. She was decked out in the pink frock coat and long white scarf she'd sported at their encounter with the Movellans.

"In the absence of any information whatsoever, it might help to find out exactly when we are," said the Doctor. The forty-eight stars displayed by the flag did narrow it down, the Doctor supposed - for someone well-versed in the minutiae of U.S. history.

They went into the largest tent - a stenciled sign said "OFFICERS' MESS" with "OFFICERS'" crossed off - and sat down next to two men in their late thirties who were the only people besides the Time Lords not wearing olive-drab fatigues; officers, the Doctor guessed. "Hello," he said, "I'm the Doctor and this is Romana."

"Hawkeye Pierce," said one of the officers.

"B.J. Hunnicutt," said the other.

"How do you do?" said Romana as the Time Lords sat on the table bench next to Pierce and Hunnicutt.

"We're with the Ministry of Weights and Measures," the Doctor started, mindful of the tendency of Americans to mistake him for British.

"If you're here to measure the flavor of this food," said Pierce, "you're too late - the cook's already done with it."

"Oh. Ha ha. No, we're doing a feasibility survey," said the Doctor, "on a new calendar standard. Can you tell me what year it is?"

The officers looked at each other with that look the Doctor almost always generated at least once in the natives during the first few minutes after a landing. "1951," Pierce said.

Korea, the Doctor realized, 1950-1953. Fishing for clues as to what this circle's puzzle was, he asked, "How long have each of you been with this unit?"

"I've been here since the beginning," said Pierce. "Almost eight years."

The Doctor thought he'd misunderstood something until Hunnicutt added, "I've been here five years, since September '52."

"Really," said the Doctor. "How times does fly." He looked at Romana - from her expression it was evident that she was hearing the same things as the Doctor.

Hunnicutt nodded. "My fourteen-month-old was only six months when I left."

"Oh, very sad," said the Doctor, "may we speak to your C.O.?"

"Yeah, over there," Pierce pointed, "talking with the chief nurse."

The Doctor and Romana thanked them, and consulted in low tones during their trip across the tent. "What sort of temporal anomaly could account for people saying such absurd things without realizing?" Romana whispered.

"None I know of," the Doctor admitted. "We'll have to keep investigating."

The C.O., a Colonel Potter, like Hunnicutt claimed to have served in the hospital for five years since next year; the chief nurse, a Major Houlihan, like Pierce eight years since last year. "There's actually some consistent data to be collected here?" Romana asided to the Doctor.

Prompted by Hunnicutt's remarks, the Doctor steered the conversation to family at home. Shortly after his assignment here Potter's first grandchild, Sherry Pershing Potter, had been born to his dentist son. Later in the conversation, however, it developed that Potter's only child was a daughter whose only child was a son named Corey. But it was Houlihan who finally put the cap on it.

"What did you say?" said the Doctor.

"I said my father visited me here a few weeks ago," said the chief nurse.

"Didn't you say just now," asked Romana, "that you had to borrow money for your sister's wedding gift six years ago, because your mother's spent all your inheritance from your father?"

"Yes," said Houlihan.

"Perhaps things are different in America," said the Doctor, "but I thought the term 'inheritance' referred to assets acquired by the death of another."

"Well, yes," said Houlihan, getting a little cross.

"So this inheritance your mother has spent," the Doctor clarified, "was from someone who dropped by for tea last month?"

"Is there something wrong?" Potter asked.

"No, nothing," said the Doctor, suddenly rising from the table bench, "quite the opposite. Thank you so much for your time. Come along, Romana."

The Doctor was out of the mess tent and halfway across the compound toward the next interface before Romana caught up. "What have you deduced?" she panted.

"The only possible solution to this puzzle," said the Doctor, "is to realize that there is no possible solution."

He strode toward the time-field at his top walking speed and passed right through it.


The immediate vista of the next circle was the interior of the TARDIS. Romana had retrogenerated, and changed into the white dress she'd liked so much in her first personality, and the White Guardian's tracer was in its slot on the console.

"Well, this is pretty obvious," said the Doctor. He looked the console over; its readings showed the TARDIS had already materialized at tracer-given coordinates. "We're to retrieve a specious segment of the Key to Time."

"I wonder what wonderful and terrible object of power this one will be disguised as?" said Romana, taking the tracer and following the Doctor out the door.

The TARDIS had landed backstage at an Earth motion picture studio. Though there were all sorts of grips and gaffers and such running about, no one seemed to have noticed the time machine's materialization for the noise they were making themselves. The Doctor and Romana circumambulated to the front of the backdrop with their customary air of obviously-I-belong-here.

The set was of an office. Despite the bustle everywhere else the set was quite calm. A single horse-faced actor stood in front of a door on whose window was lettered SPADE AND ARCHER backwards. He held a black statuette, some fifteen to eighteen inches in height, of a bird of prey. The tracer was homing in on it.

"The black boid," the Doctor answered Romana. She only looked confused.


"Why are we back here?" said Leela.

She and the Doctor seemed to be back in the Tesh compound on her home planet. "Ah," said the Doctor. "This is another follow-up puzzle. There's something I ought to have verified before I left here." He strode off down the corridor with Leela following in unaccustomed agitation.

"Could we get it over with as soon as possible?" she asked. "Before we see anyone?"

"Why?" asked the Doctor, poking his head into each door as he passed, but not seeing what he was looking for yet. "Didn't you leave on good terms?"

"Too good," Leela muttered. "How would you have liked to be nominated to be leader on this planet?"

"You were?" The fifth room the Doctor surveyed looked promising, and he went in, examining the computers and machines there. "How did the Tesh leaders take to that notion?" He discovered the next time-field in a corner of the room, so he knew he was in the right room.

Leela snorted. "How do you think?"

"Don't scoff." The Doctor found what he was looking for. If this was an accurate copy of the real Tesh compound, then the Tesh and Sevateem had in fact been in possession of the bioreproductive technology the Doctor suspected they'd've had need for. "The Tesh may have been the only hope left for survivial for the Sevateem," he said, waving at his discovery.

"And why do you say that?" Leela demanded.

"Well ..." The Doctor adjusted his scarf and turned toward the circle's interior interface. "You're the only woman I saw on the planet the entire time I was there, and your people had just banished you ..."


The Doctor found himself walking alone in the curved hallway of a space ship or station. Probably a station; the curve of the corridor wasn't tight enough, if a concentric circle around the center of the construction, to be even the outermost ring of even the largest flying saucer the Doctor knew of. Come to that, it wasn't tight enough to be the outermost ring of the largest space station he knew of ...

The surfaces were all done over in shiny metallic black. "Really must speak to the decorator," muttered the Doctor.

As he proceeded he heard groups of half-dozens of people clanging in step double-time ahead or behind, but somehow they always avoided him.

In his hand he was carrying what looked like a flashlight but wasn't. It had a laser emitter, a containment field emitter, and the most powerful battery pack for a device this size that the Doctor had ever seen.

The noises dissipated. A sense of dread crept over him on little cat feet, screaming that something evil this way came. The Doctor could hear it breathing mechanically.

Now a figure became visible around the curve of the corridor as the Doctor approached it. It was a large humanoid, all - predictably, the Doctor thought - in black. The hissing he'd heard was a portable respirator mounted in the figure's chest, its flashing lights the only color the Doctor had seen here. The figure wore black space armor and helmet, a black cape, an angular, black respirator mask.

It was carrying one of the flashlight things, which it ignited. An angry red beam grew slowly to the length of about a meter and a half.

"I've been waiting, Doctor," said the figure with a deep-voiced voder.


"This again?" said Sarah Jane.

This circle was a recreation of Dr. Solon's lab on Karn. Between the time-fields, phantoms of the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Morbius were reenacting the last moments of that adventure, while the Doctor and Sarah Jane who was really Grace looked on.

"My brain functions perfectly!" Morbius roared.

"I doubt it, Morbius!" the phantom Doctor hissed. "All that time in the tank it's gone soft. Do you dare to put it to the test?"

"But what's the puzzle?" Sarah Jane wondered.

"This should be interesting," said the Doctor, as much to see whether the phantoms would notice (they didn't) as to talk with Sarah Jane. "I don't remember how this went."

"It only nearly burnt your brain out - what's a little thing like that to long-term memory?" said Sarah Jane. Erzatz-Grace's Sarah Jane memories for this circle obviously dated from after this event.

The mind-bending contest was beginning now, the two Time Lords with their foreheads pressed to the neural leads and phantom-Sarah Jane fluttering around in agitation. On the mechanism's visualizer screen the phantom Doctor's realtime image appeared - as Morbius pressed his initial attack - fading to the white-haired head the Doctor had referenced to Solon on their first meeting. Ordinarily the Doctor didn't retain much in the way of memories of his previous appearances after regenerating out of them, but what little paperwork the Brigadier had managed to foist on the Doctor in his fourth incarnation had been riddled with past files including photos of his third self. So despite the fuzziness of the image on the mind-bender screen he still recognized that third face even now. Perhaps his fourth incarnation's memories were fresher, too, with the time-fields' retrogenerations ...

"This was the only way I could think of to possibly contain Morbius before he left Karn," he admitted to Sarah Jane as the contest tipped the other way, and on the screen Morbius' makeshift braincase faded to his last real face. "I really didn't think I was going to survive; my four incarnations to his eleven."

"Four?" said Sarah Jane. "Didn't I see about a dozen faces before Morbius' brain blew under the pressure?"

"A dozen?" The Doctor looked at her. "That can't be right." But she nodded, quite certain.

The Doctor looked back at the mind-bender screen in time to catch his third face fade to a little man in a bowl haircut. By this time, in the actual event, the Doctor had been so under siege mentally that all sensory input had been shut down. Everything he witnessed now would be news to him.

The little fellow gave way to a genuinely old man - the Doctor remembered having held onto his first body as long as he could, for reasons that had seemed important at the time (he wasn't looking forward to re-experiencing them as he approached the center of the time-fields). Morbius was making gloating noises of varying degrees of articularity, and the phantom Doctor was in obvious mental agony. The Doctor had never before witnessed a mind-bending contest played to the extreme, but he knew his own cycle and he knew this had to be the end. Perhaps the circle puzzle was that he was supposed to rescue himself? But if it were interactive the phantoms would have reacted to their presence by now.

The fourth Doctor-face to appear on the screen faded out - into a fifth.

"That can't be!" said the Doctor.

"Why not?" Sarah Jane asked.

"Well, because it's impossible!" said the Doctor. "The old man was my first me; before that I wasn't any more to ..." Now the fifth face had been replaced by another. The Doctor felt shaken to the root of his identity - while another part of his mind began to realize that both these surprise faces were actually somehow familiar.

"Why is it impossible, when this is just what happened before?"

The Doctor didn't answer. With the third unexpected portait he began to consciously grasp that the new series of faces were known to him. They were fuzzy images, like the first four had been. The existing likenesses with which his memory was coordinating them were undoubtedly distorted too, by antiquity. But the association was the more undeniable the more he watched.

"Doctor, what's going on?" Sarah Jane asked.

The Doctor had thought he'd reason to question what he believed he knew of his existence when the parade of unexpected faces started. Now the entire universe seemed to be opening up like a trap door beneath him. His breathing quickened as the parade of faces continued, Sarah Jane working herself into a panic (mirroring phantom-Sarah Jane's) when he failed to respond to her.

Finally there was an electric snap and Morbius jerked away from the neural leads. The phantom Doctor collapsed into the phantom Sarah Jane's arms. With a wordless roar Morbius left him to her, leaving the lab. The parade of ominous anomalies faded from the mind-bender screen.

"Doctor, why won't you tell me what's the matter?" said real-Sarah Jane, bringing the Doctor out of his trauma far enough to start reacting to his environment again.

"Were those the faces you remember from the first time?" he asked her.

"Yes, I think so, why?"

The Doctor didn't answer for two panted breaths. "I've got to get out of here."

"Can we? What was the puzzle? Just to watch the mind-bending contest? What's the significance of that?"

"Just get out of here!" said the Doctor, pushing Sarah Jane toward the interior time-field. When she was through it her memory would devolve again, and that should be the end of her questions on this matter - questions the Doctor really didn't want to deal with, not now, not considering the implications of the answers.

The faces on the mind-bender screen had been Rassilon's, in backward order from his next-to-last.


The Doctor went from shock to shock. The next circle was another recreation of an actual event from his travels. Well, not exactly his travels.

He hated the Time Lords for having done this to him.

"It's the Dalek genesis chamber on Skaro, is it?" said Harry.

"What's the puzzle?" Sarah Jane asked.

The Doctor picked up the two wires, staring at the ends. "Perhaps I'm to wipe the Daleks from history this time."

"Perhaps?" Sarah Jane repeated.

"I've always regretted the way I hesitated at this moment," said the Doctor slowly. "I regretted it so much that in my next personality - my least stable to date, I'll note - I resolved to murder Davros in cold blood; just to ease my conscience about this. Yet though I know Davros' treacherous nature of old, I chose to believe him when he promised to change the Daleks for the good if I let him live. My resolution of conscience couldn't survive even the most improbable straw to grasp."

When he fell silent a moment Harry said tenatively, "Well, you did say that it was a particularly unstable personality, didn't you?"

"But why was I so easily deterred?" Then the Doctor continued as if his exchange with Harry hadn't taken place. "Many times have I committed or attempted murder or genocide in self-defense, on behalf of myself, of my companions, of strangers, of whole planets, of the universe. Yet I could not murder Davros in cold blood."

He dropped the wires on the floor.

"And I shall not - particularly not at the Time Lords' behest - commit genocide in cold blood."

He waked past the wires and led Sarah Jane and Harry into the next circle; leaving some three hundred years' burden behind him.


The Doctor would almost have let this retrogeneration go unnoticed if he hadn't caught his own reflection in the next dome field right away. The years hadn't mellowed his opinion of the nose on this face, but he rather liked the elegance of the blue crushed velvet smoking jacket and waistcoat. He started to perceive that his sartorial tastes were much more subjective from one personality to the next than he had ever realized before, but the train of thought was derailed by the recognition of his surroundings. "Why Sarah, it's the starship Enterprise!"

Specifically it was the recreation room. The positioning of the outer and inner time-fields suggested that travel about the ship would be possible but limited. They seemed to have interrupted Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock at putting their 3-D chess set away. "Doctor," said Kirk. "I didn't know you were aboard."

"I'm not really here, you know," smiled the Doctor. "I'm trapped in a series of illusions, and you're only part of one."

Kirk and Spock exchanged the look they always exchanged when deciding something the Doctor had said was too obscure to be worth pursuing.

"What's the puzzle here, Doctor?" Sarah Jane asked.

"I imagine I'm to win a game of 3-D chess from Mr. Spock," suggested the Doctor; "something I've yet to manage in real life."

"I am at your service, Doctor," said Spock with, for a Vulcan, outright smugness.

"Doctor," said Kirk, "you haven't introduced your friend."

The Doctor looked at what Sarah Jane was wearing and rifled his memories, and realized that this was a replay of her first visit to the Enterprise. "Yes, yes, why don't you and the captain find something to occupy yourselves? This may take some time."

"Will you stop worrying about me all the time?" said Sarah Jane. Spock unpacked the chess set again as Sarah Jane and Kirk left the rec room.

Opposing Spock in 3-D chess was never a greater exercise in futility. The Doctor tried the Sonak gambit, the Klorr Offensive, even the mad willy-nilly all-out attack which Kirk used to reported occasional success, and was beaten game after game in less than forty moves (in the case of the Pak!mlr8 Flying-V, only three).

The Doctor was unsure how much time had passed when Sarah Jane and Kirk returned. "How is it going?" Sarah Jane asked.

"Not well," the Doctor admitted distractedly. "I fear we won't cross the next interface easily."

"Do you suppose that this circle's puzzle is something else?"

Sarah Jane's tone finally penetrated his awareness and he looked at her sharply. She was speaking with a coy dreaminess. He saw she had a sort of relaxed half-smile, and her hair was slightly rumpled. Kirk was in quite the same condition.

Sarah Jane gave the Doctor time enough to take all this in, turned and walked to the interface, and went through it. The Doctor and Spock watched this, then looked back at Kirk, who attempted and utterly failed to replace with mock-innocence his tomcat-who-got-the-canary expression.

As he rose and wordlessly crossed to the interface, the Doctor rifled his memories again, of his visits to the Enterprise with Sarah Jane. Much behavior on the part of several people that he had found baffling at the time now seemed not so inexplicable after all.


The next circle was another featureless one. The interior interface was opaque to body and clothing. The Doctor and Jo leaned on it to no effect. They tried reciting nursery rhymes, multiplication tables, periodic tables (the Doctor knew several), poetry, Shakespeare, Lennon and McCartney, and tv programme signature tune lyrics. None of it worked.

"Blast," said the Doctor in frustration. They were still leaning on the dome of course, so that they should know when they had solved it - and now it gave just a little. "Jo, I think it gave just a little."

"When you said 'blast'?"


Jo looked at him askance. "It wants you to curse?"

"Apparently," said the Doctor, straightening up and testing the give of the dome, "but a bit stronger than that." He grinned at her. "It doesn't want Shakespeare from us, it wants George Carlin."

He stood at attention in front of the interface, declaimed, "Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits," and walked through it.

Jo was unable to pass through until she'd recited the litany herself, which took some persuading.


The next circle consisted of a plain, indirectly lit room with only two items in it.

"What can we possibly be expected to do here?" the Doctor said.

"Pray, perhaps?" said Jo.

The two items were a kneeler wide enough for two and, hanging on the wall it faced, a small, simple wooden cross.

With no further word or any self-consciousness Jo knelt on the kneeler, folded her hands on the armrest, and closed her eyes. The Doctor joined her more hesitantly, knowing somehow that mere appearances wouldn't suffice. He was going to have to do this, and he was going to have to do this sincerely. He settled in next to Jo, and began to speak silently in his mind to whoever might hear.

"First of all, you know I have trouble with authority figures. If you're out there I want to thank you for interfering little enough or subtly enough in my affairs that I can doubt you're out there.

"I commend to you the souls of Katarina, Sara and Adric. Also of Runcible, Lytton, the Scarman brothers, Tremas, Cassia, Bruce the ambulance driver, Eprin, Theodore Maxtible, Galloway, the Clantons, George Ratcliffe, Soldeed, Solon, Dastari ..." The list went on at some length, for no one was left out.

"Please keep my friends safe in your hands while they travel with me. The only thing worse than having to take them home is not being able to.

"Please lead the Master to his peace. You know I can see only one path to this. Let this cup pass from me if there is any other way.

"For myself I ask only that I may continue to do your work in my own manner.


When he opened his eyes Jo was watching him. "Getting into it, were you?" she asked.

"Catching up to do."

"Well, shall we go?"

"Let's stay a moment longer. This is the first real peace and quiet we've had since this business started, and I'm quite enjoying it."

Jo nodded, but had something on her mind. "Doctor, you said we're up against someone who knows you intimately, didn't you?"

"Yes, it must be."

"Mustn't it be a Time Lord? Who else could have so much information about you? Who else could set up these time-fields?"

"It's possible it's a Time Lord, Jo, but I don't think so," said the Doctor. "Tell me, have you read the Heinlein novels I lent you?"

"The ones he hasn't written yet?" Jo nodded in assent.

"So you're familiar with the concept of alternate timelines where fictional events occur."

"Yes - he postulates that time has multiple dimensions, just like space, right? And some of them have characters from fiction living in them? ... Doctor, are you saying ...?"

The Doctor nodded. "From the first, before I ever even appear onscreen, it's established that the TARDIS travels through five relative dimensions, not just four. The three physical dimensions, Time, and Space. To different places, different times, and different timelines or universes. 'Sideways in time', I sometimes like to call it. I could tell you at least three different versions of the fall of Atlantis and they'd all be true."

"You said 'onscreen'?"

"Yes, Jo. There are timelines where my adventures are a broadcast video serial. 'Television programme' in your vernacular."

"A telly show?"

"Yes, though there are comic books and paperback novels, and such tie-ins. Now Jo, if you'll remember, the people of Heinlein's Circle of Ouborous recognize three types of adversaries. First, there are non-timeline travelers, mere world conquerors.

"Second, there are rival history changers, those who compete with the Circle to maintain their own history, or to change history for their own ends. The Circle code-name one such rival group 'Time Lords', in fact. They may be right.

"Third is the most powerful class of adversary, against whom even history changers are helpless."

"And you think ...?" Jo said, getting that deer-in-the-headlights look.

"I'm afraid so," said the Doctor. "We're up against an Author!"


Gratuitous author's note: The scene revisiting "Genesis of the Daleks" was the last segment drafted for this story - appropriately, I think, for the "Do I have the right?" scene, in the first segment of DOCTOR WHO I ever saw, was the scene that hooked me.

Chapter 4

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