“Sergeant Benton? There’s someone at the gates to see you, sir.”
Benton’s brow furrowed curiously. “Did he give a name?”
Corporal Hayes gave a crooked grin. “No, sir, but it’s a bird. Quite easy on the eyes, too.”
Intrigued, Benton got someone to cover his post and headed out to the main gate. The girl waiting for him was dressed in the sort of blue he’d only ever seen on the cover of Vogue magazines, adorning rich, eccentric people. It was as if someone had taken the bluest sky and turned the saturation on it all the way up. She wore shorts that put miniskirts to shame and her ample cleavage was displayed with a low-cut v in her stretchy blouse. Her face was framed by chestnut hair that shone in the sunlight.
Benton had never seen her before in his life.
“Hello, Miss,” he said, politely. “I’m Sergeant Benton, can I help you?”
“Yes, actually. You see, one of my friends, uh, works here and I was supposed to follow him in, but he seems to have forgotten me. I think. I was told you could help.”
The girl, Benton noted, was American, and seemed, in many ways, to encompass all that was stereotypical of American girls—save, perhaps, her hair, which was not flaxen blonde. “Well, if you give me your friend’s name, perhaps I could locate him for you?”
The girl offered a charming but uncertain smile. “Well, that’s just it, you see. I don’t actually know his real name. Bit of a problem, isn’t it?” She laughed nervously.
Benton shifted his weight. “A bit, yes. Can you describe him?”
Sighing, the girl gestured to the gate between them. “Could I perhaps just come in and take a look around?”
“I’m sorry, Miss, but I can’t allow you to do that. UNIT HQ is a top secret facility.”
“Yeah, that’s what the other soldier guy said too. But this is really important. I don’t mind if I’ve got an escort, I really don’t.”
“I’m really very sorry, Miss, but I can’t do anything about that.”
She kept smiling. “Enough with the ‘Miss’ already! You can call me Peri.” She flashed her lovely white teeth at him again.
“Well, Miss Peri, unless we can figure out who this friend of yours is, I just can’t help you.”
Peri’s eyes scrunched up in exasperation. “I don’t suppose a three legged monster with tentacles for eyes has been this way, has it?”
Benton blinked. “No, Miss.”
“Darn it. I figured it’d already shifted.” She crossed her arms and stared anxiously behind her. “Really, this is a heck of a time to leave me stranded here by myself.”
Benton looked over Peri’s head, but saw nothing in the distance to which she was directing her anger. “Are you here on holiday?” he prompted.
“Ha!” she cried. “Hardly. My friend—a different friend, mind—said we were going to have a nice, quiet little visit to England, but he failed to mention it’d be 1960! I really ought to know better than to trust him on this stuff, by now.”
Benton blinked again. “It’s not 1960, Miss,” he said. “It’s 1970.”
“Well, near enough.” She ran a hand through her hair. “I really should be used to it by now. I really should. The Doctor’s the sort of guy who wouldn’t be able to find his own head if it wasn’t firmly attached to his neck, you know?”
Surprised, Benton said, “You know the Doctor?”
It was Peri’s turn to blink owlishly. “Know him, I live with him! He’s the one that got me into this whole mess in the first place! The nerve of him, running off and ditching me!”
Benton was all smiles now. “Well, that’s a different thing, Miss. The Doctor could get you clearance. Shall I see if I can ring him for you?”
Peering forward into the encampment, Peri’s eyes narrowed. “Can you do that? Just call him up?”
“Well, I can try,” Benton said. “Wait just a moment, all right?”
Peri nodded, then moved aside to stand in the shade of the gate booth.
Benton hurried back inside, checking the laboratory for the Doctor. He found it empty. Concerned about what to do, he stopped by the Brigadier’s office, knocked politely and let himself in when welcomed.
“Ah, Benton,” the Brigadier said, looking up from his pile of papers. “Just the man I wanted to see. I trust you’ve got that report on Saturday’s little incident written up for me?”
Benton’s eyes widened and he straightened his back, staring at the wall far over the Brigadier’s head. “Ah, no, sir. It’s not finished yet.”
“Then what the blazes are you interrupting me for? I’ve important issues that need attending!”
“Sorry, sir,” Benton said, still staring straight ahead. “It’s just, there’s this girl at the front gates, sir. Says she’s a friend of the Doctor’s.”
“Well tell him, man, not me! I’m hardly the Doctor’s secretary!”
“I tried to, sir, but he wasn’t in his lab, and neither was Miss Grant.”
The Brigadier took a deep breath and placed his hands flat on his desk. “Well, what would you like me to do about it?”
“Shall I let her in, sir? She’s requested an escort to look around, says something about a monster on the loose, with tentacles for eyes.”
Benton looked down at the Brigadier only after he was certain that the Brigadier had been glaring at him for several seconds. “She’s a friend of the Doctor’s, you say?” the Brigadier asked, getting to his feet. He tugged down his uniform shirt. “I suppose I’d better see what she’s on about.”
“Yes, sir,” Benton said. “Very good, sir.”
“Go see if you can’t round up the Doctor, won’t you? Try calling at Pembley’s. He’s supposed to be investigating some sort of artifact there.”
“Yes, sir,” Benton said.
“And tell Captain Yates to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity—just in case.”
“Yes, sir,” Benton repeated.
The Brigadier dismissed him and watched the Sergeant depart before picking his hat up off his desk and heading out to the front gates. The girl waiting for him in the shade of the gate booth looked rather familiar, although he couldn’t put a name to her face.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Miss—?”
“Brown,” Peri said, perkily. “Perpugilliam Brown, but you can call me Peri.”
“Miss Brown,” he finished. The name didn’t ring a bell, but he’d never been terribly good with names. The girl seemed older than he recalled, too. A bit more . . . adult. But, he supposed, it had been a rather long time since he’d dealt with any of the Doctor’s old traveling friends. He kept his eyes level on her face. “You’re an acquaintance of the Doctor’s, yes?”
“Yeah, something like that.” She smiled prettily. “Is he around? I really ought to find him.”
The Brigadier nodded to the guard in the booth and had the gate opened. Peri smiled gratefully and hurried across to his side. “The Doctor is indisposed of at the moment,” the Brigadier said. “I’ve sent Sergeant Benton to ring him up at Pembley’s. Hopefully he’ll finish with his business there shortly, and come collect you.”
“Business?” Peri said, surprised. “He’s not on business. We were . . . well, there’s this fellow we were following, you see.”
Very nonchalantly, the Brigadier opened the door to the main building for her and said, “A chap with tentacles for eyes, perhaps?”
She stumbled slightly before recovering. “Did that Sergeant tell you I said that?” She laughed nervously. “I was joking of course.”
“We at UNIT HQ take that sort of thing very seriously, Miss Brown. If there is such a creature on the loose, we must stop it.”
Peri stared at him with open wonder, following him down the hall. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” she echoed, surprised.
“We stopped the Cyberman invasion together, didn’t we, my dear? As well as the Yeti. I don’t think there’s anything UNIT can’t handle.” He opened a door to a waiting room for her, and turned back to find her down the hall several paces, staring at him with clear confusion in her eyes. “Is there something wrong?”
“I’m just a little . . . confused. You know the Doctor, and you know about the aliens? And you’re all right with all that?”
The Brigadier looked conspiratorially down the hall. When he was content they were not being overheard, he nodded that she should enter the waiting room. When she did, he continued. “The Doctor is our liaison to such matters, now. I’d think you’d know that. I do try not to involve myself in the details, but if there is a hostile alien threat, we will stop it.” He gestured toward the couch and chairs arranged in the room. “You may wait here for the Doctor to return.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the phone against the wall rang. It startled Peri, but the Brigadier casually strolled over to it and answered. “Hello? Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart speaking.” Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched Peri take a seat. “Oh, he is, is he? No, no, just have him come here immediately. He has a guest. Yes. All right, thank you.” He hung the phone back up. “You’re in luck, Miss Brown,” he said. “It seems the Doctor has just returned of his own accord. That was the guard at the gate, letting me know he’s just arrived.”
“Arrived?” Peri echoed.
“Pembley is quite a drive away,” he replied.
“I really am terribly confused,” Peri said, uncertainly. “And I’m really not sure I’ve got the time to deal with this Doctor of yours.”
“But you’re the Doctor’s acquaintance.”
“Well, yes I am!” She put her hands on the couch, preparing to stand, but didn’t. “I’m just afraid that we’re thinking of two entirely different men.”
No sooner had she said that then the door to the waiting room flew open, admitting the Doctor in a flourish of black and red silk. “Ah, my good Brigadier!” the Doctor said, animatedly. “You won’t believe what I saw on the way back from Pembley! It was the most curious thing! A creature with three legs and tentacles for eyes! And then, just as if it had never been, it transformed into a man and ran away.”
The Brigadier stared at him patiently, waiting for him to notice the girl. “You seem to have a guest, Doctor,” he pointedly stated.
“Have I?” the Doctor asked. He looked at Peri, then to the Brigadier, his gaze expectant. “In my laboratory?”
“Right here, Doctor.”
Peri got to her feet. “I think there’s been some mistake,” she said. “I’m sorry for bothering you gentlemen. I’d better be going. My . . . my Doctor-friend is bound to be looking for me.”
“Now wait just a minute, young lady,” the Brigadier barked. “Doctor, you mean to say you don’t recognize this girl?”
“Recognize her? My dear Brigadier, I’ve never seen this woman before in my life!”
Flabbergasted at the events unfolding, the Brigadier turned, staring hard at Peri. “Well, I’m certainly familiar with her,” he said. “She accompanied you before, when we first met during that Yeti attack, and then again, when we stopped the Cyberman invasion.”
The Doctor and Peri were both staring at him as if he had just told them he was the new King of England. “I am not making this up!” he announced. “You came around with this young woman, and a Scottish lad. I’m quite sure Sergeant Benton could attest to this.”
A grave expression flittered across the Doctor’s face, his wiry brows knitting in concentration. The girl remained aloof and confused, but it was the Doctor’s reaction the Brigadier was interested in.
“You must be mistaken,” the Doctor said, shaking his head. “I’ve never traveled with this girl, or any Scotsmen.”
“You most certainly have!” the Brigadier announced. “It was before you changed, of course. Perhaps you’ve forgotten?”
Thoughtfulness consumed the Doctor again, and Peri took the lull in conversation to pipe up. “Just what is going on here? I’ve got a Doctor, you know. My own—and it’s not this old man.”
“Old!” the Doctor exploded, coming out of his reverie as he turned to her. “Old! I’m not old! I’m in the prime of my youth in fact! But I’ve hardly got the time to waste, standing around here, listening to you and the Brigadier go on about people that don’t exist. And as you clearly don’t remember me, and I don’t remember you, my dear, I apologize for having wasted you time. You may go about your day.”
“Thank you,” Peri said, uncertainly.
“Now wait just a moment,” the Brigadier countered. “Whether or not you two have forgotten you knew each other or not, we’ve still got a tentacle-eyed alien on our hands.”
“Oh? You saw him too?” the Doctor eagerly asked.
“The girl did.”
Peri studied the floor. “It’s a shape-shifting alien,” she explained. “The Doctor and I were following him, but lost his trail. We split up, and I ended up here. He told me if I ever found myself at UNIT, to ask for Sergeant Benton or some . . . Stewart Bridge or someone? Well, anyway, I did and I thought we’d found the Doctor again, but then it was just you.”
“It’s not ‘just me,’” the Doctor retorted. “I am the Doctor.”
Peri’s eyes narrowed. “Well, you’re not my Doctor.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” the Doctor snapped.
“I believe she means you’ve changed since she last saw you,” the Brigadier cut in. “As I’ve been trying to tell you. She knew you before you . . . looked like this.”
Suddenly the girl slapped a hand to her mouth. “Oh no, Doctor! Don’t tell me you’ve regenerated again! I’d just started getting used to your last one!”
Taken aback, the Doctor stared between Peri and the Brigadier. “You knew me in my previous regeneration?” he asked, suddenly intense.
Peri nodded. “If your previous self was tall and blond with curly locks.”
The Doctor straightened and he and the Brigadier exchanged glances. “Tall and with curly blond hair?” the Doctor echoed.
Looking miffed, the Brigadier said, “It could hardly be further from the truth.” His eyes narrowed. “You know, now that I think about it, I’m quite positive the girl that traveled with you then was British. You don’t forget a thing like that.”
The glare he received from the Doctor told him that he wasn’t being believed. “I’ve got photo evidence, you know,” the Brigadier countered. “Several photos, in fact. Of you, of the boy and of the girl. We could certainly compare them.”
“I should very much like to,” the Doctor said.
“Fine.” The Brigadier picked up the phone again. “Hello? Ah, yes, Miss Grant. You’re in the Doctor’s laboratory now, are you? Excellent. Yes. Would you do me a favor?” He instructed her on where to find the Doctor’s file, and told her where he currently was. He hung up after she promised to bring the photos and files over, as soon as possible. No sooner than had he returned the handset to the cradle, did the phone abruptly start to ring.
Hotly, the Brigadier answered. “Hello? Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart speaking.” He held the phone to his ear for a considerable amount of time. “Who is this?” The Brigadier scowled. “I will be right there. Don’t do anything with him.” He hung up and surveyed the Doctor and Peri critically.
“That,” the Brigadier informed them, “was the gate booth guard, informing me that the Prime Minister has just arrived.”
“That’s a bit unexpected,” the Doctor mused. “What does he want?”
“I haven’t the faintest. But there’s something very suspicious about all this.”
“What’s that?” the Doctor prompted.
The Brigadier headed for the door, to return to the main gates. “He’s arrived alone, on foot.”
The Doctor and Peri exchanged glances. “Shape-shifter,” they both said, at the same moment.
In the hall, they hurried after the Brigadier, eager to meet up with the ‘Prime Minister.’ The Brigadier rounded a corner sharply and unceremoniously crashed into Jo, who was hurrying along toward the waiting room. She staggered back, the files in her arms knocking to the floor in an explosion of papers and photos.
“Miss Grant!” the Brigadier cried, both annoyed and flustered, all at once. “Really, you must be more careful!”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said, bending to scoop up all the papers she’d dropped. The Doctor swooped in easily, bending to help her.
“It’s all right, my dear,” he told her, smiling. “The Brigadier’s the one who ought to watch where he’s going. He really is the sort who—” He picked up a photo and paused, staring at it. Depicted on the photo were three people: a man in frumpy clothes and a teenaged boy and girl.
After several seconds of silence had passed, Jo said, “Doctor? Are you all right?”
He quickly straightened up, handing the photo to her, but his face looked drawn and pale. “I’m sorry, Jo. I’m fine. We’re just very busy.” He said nothing else, just gently pushed the girl aside and strode down the hall.
The Brigadier gave Jo a questioning glance before he continued after the Doctor.
Peri gave Jo a hopeful smile. “I’d like to see those photos, when this is all finished up.”
“Who are you?” Jo asked.
“You can call me Peri,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m a friend of the Doctor’s.”
Jo looked Peri over cautiously, before tucking the folder under her arm and shaking her hand back. “I’m Jo. Jo Grant. Where are they off to, in such a hurry?”
Peri took Jo by the arm, turning her around and leading her after the men. “There’s an alien on the loose, masquerading as the PM, apparently,” she said, conspiratorially. “We’re going to go stop it.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Jo protested, but Peri only beamed.
Outside, a small crowd of UNIT personnel gathered at the main gates. The Brigadier and the Doctor pushed their way to the fore, but the way was largely blocked for the girls.
“Hello, sir,” the Brigadier curtly said, nodding to the Prime Minister. “It’s most unexpected to see you here today, unannounced as it were. To what do we owe the honor of your visit?”
The Doctor ducked under the gate unhindered and slowly walked behind the Prime Minister, studying him carefully. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Sir?” the Brigadier prompted, but the Prime Minister did not say anything.
Sergeant Benton sidled up beside the Brigadier. “He’s not said a word since he arrived, sir,” he said. “He’s just been standing there, looking like that.”
In a conspiratorially low voice, the Brigadier said, “Sergeant, I’m starting to suspect this isn’t the PM at all.”
Benton nodded. “Captain Yates thought the same thing, sir. He’s gone off to call Downing Street and ask.”
“Very good,” the Brigadier replied. “Well, Doctor?” he asked, raising his voice again.
The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, a sort of baffled expression on his face, but before he could speak, someone else cut him off.
“Oh, now this! It’s a very classic example of the Gumorian ‘Take me to your leader’ stance. What a fine replica! Just look at that noble brow, the defiantly raised chin! Yes, gentlemen, I do believe you’ve got yourselves a genuine Gumorian shape-shifter here.”
The Brigadier stared at the man in the foolish clown costume who seemed to have just appeared before him. “Who the devil are you?”
“Doctor!” Peri exclaimed. She wriggled between the soldiers, ducked under the gate and flung her arms around the man in the ridiculously colored coat.
“Hello, Peri,” he amiably said. Then, lifting his eyes, he focused on the Brigadier. “Good to you again, too, Brigadier.”
“What is going on here?” the Brigadier demanded.
The Doctor looked at the new arrival. He took in his curly hair, eccentric dress and calm blue eyes. “Oh, bother,” he said. “It’s you.”
“Me!” the colorful man chided. “I should say it’s you!” He glanced from the Prime Minister to the rest of UNIT. “Are you still trapped on Earth?” he cried. “Of all the times to land!”
“Well that’s hardly my fault!” the Doctor snapped.
“Would somebody please tell me what’s going on here?” the Brigadier demanded.
“All in good time, my dear Brigadier,” the Doctor said. “For now, just know he’s . . . not hostile. We’d do better expending our time trying to figure this chap out.” He gestured to the unmoving Prime Minister.
“I can take care of that for you, gentlemen,” the curly haired man said, smiling beatifically. “It is, after all, what Peri and I came here for.”
“He’s right,” Peri said, smiling. “We’ve been chasing him for some time now.”
The Doctor did not look pleased to have his job stolen out from under his feet. “Now, you can’t just barge in here like that and take over. I’ve got very little to do while I’m trapped on this planet. I hardly need you coming here and doing it for me!”
The expression on the colorfully dressed man’s face softened slightly. “We’re going to take him back to where he belongs,” he said, putting a hand on the fake Prime Minister’s arm. “Which, I’m sorry to say, you can’t currently do in your situation.”
The Doctor moved around the Prime Minister, to stand beside Peri and the curly haired man. “You could take me with you, couldn’t you? I could be very valuable to you!”
“You know I can’t do that,” the man replied, gently. “I wish I could.”
“Doctor?” Peri asked the curly haired man. “Who is this guy?”
He sighed deeply. “Well, he’s me, Peri. A younger version of me, anyway.”
“Now listen here, gentlemen,” the Brigadier said, closing the gap between them. He’d just finished waving away most of the crowd, leaving only himself, Jo and Sergeant Benton behind. “I want to know just what is going on here. What’s all this nonsense about? Is this really the PM?”
“I suppose can explain, Brigadier,” the Doctor said, resignedly. He turned to face the Brigadier and spoke in low tones, explaining the best he could what was going on. Sergeant Benton and Jo leaned in close to listen as well.
Peri stepped back, pulling aside her companion. “How can you be here and there at the same time?” she asked.
“Time travel, of course,” he replied. “I was exiled here on Earth during the 1970s. I’m sure I’ve told you that before.” Off her put out expression, he sighed. “Well, I was. You know, I thought it’d be nice to drop by and say hello to the Brigadier, but I clear forgot that I’d be here too.”
“So he’s trapped here?” Peri asked. “On Earth?”
He nodded, his gaze fixed into the distance. “Yes, I was. And I hated it very much.”
It was evident now that the Brigadier and Jo were unhappy with whatever the Doctor was telling them. Peri sighed, sympathetically. “Can’t we help him?” she asked.
For some time, her companion stood there, staring at the other him, as if reliving that moment. Then he shook his head. “We can’t take him with us, if that’s what you mean,” he said. “And the things he’s forgotten he’s got to remember on his own.” He shook his head, determinedly. “No, no. We’ve got to get this Gumorian back to Gumorus. And we’d do best to slip away now, while we’re unnoticed.”
So saying, he gave the shape-shifting Prime Minister a little tug. “Come along now,” he encouraged. “I’ll take you to our leader,” he joked.
Together, the three of them snuck off. The TARDIS was parked, incredibly not far away, in a field. The sun was shining brightly, Peri was amicably telling the shape-shifting alien—who was back in its native three-legs and tentacles-for-eyes form—all about England and how its real Prime Minister operated, and all seemed well with the world.
About halfway back to the TARDIS, someone began to yell to them. Peri turned around first and spied the older—no, younger—Doctor loping toward them, across the field, his cape fluttered behind him as he ran.
“Wait just a minute!” he panted, waving a hand at the pair of them.
“Doctor?” she questioningly asked.
He did not reply, staring instead at the approaching man. “Peri, take our new friend inside the TARDIS, won’t you? He’ll like some sardine sandwiches, I should think. I’d better have a word with this one. I won’t be but a moment.”
“But Doctor,” she protested.
He looked to her. “Don’t worry, Peri. It’ll be fine. Now, off you go! That’s a good girl.”
She stuck her tongue out at him, but at last, reluctantly, turned and walked the rest of the way to the TARDIS with the Gumorian along side her. She glanced over her shoulder at the two Doctors for a second, before slipping inside.
Waiting, the curly haired man put his hands into his trouser pockets. “You know I can’t,” he resolutely stated, when the Doctor was close enough to hear him.
“You could at least tell me how long this exile lasts,” the Doctor retorted, catching his breath. “I can’t stand this not knowing. There are gaps in my memories I can’t explain. I don’t even remember how I got here, other than the Time Lords are responsible.”
“I know,” the other man said, his tone resigned and soft. “And I can’t tell you anything. Just know it isn’t forever.”
The Doctor looked from the colorful man’s face to the TARDIS standing in the distance. “Those pictures Jo had,” he began. “The ones the Brigadier says were my friends from before.” He focused on terribly familiar eyes. “I don’t remember them.”
The other man just smiled in return—something between a smirk and a grin. “You will,” he reassuringly said. “Go back there now, and look at them. Let the Brigadier remind you. The Time Lords tried to make me forget them, but they couldn’t erase my memories, just suppress them. You’ll forget this meeting, but you’ll remember your friends, and that’s what’s important. And eventually, you’ll remember how to time travel, too.” His smile became broader, more genuine, and he turned to go.
“Wait,” the Doctor said, stepping after him. “Are . . . are they all right?” he asked. “Those friends of mine that I’ve forgotten. Are they safe? I got a feeling of dread when I saw them.” He searched the face of the man before him, seeking answers. “Sometimes it’s better not to remember painful things, you know.”
“Time is a relative thing, my dear Doctor,” he replied, still grinning. “But they’re all right. Far away now, but all right.” He tilted his head in a friendly nod. “Goodbye, Doctor.” Then, he walked away.
The Doctor stood there, watching, until the older him slipped inside his TARDIS and the ship dematerialized. It was perhaps the strangest sensation he’d ever experienced before, standing out in the field, watching his beloved ship slip away—without him.
But it gave him a sense of hope too; the knowledge that this was not a permanent exile. That someday he’d again be free to roam the universe—with a friend or two—and be unburdened by memory loss. He straightened his shoulders, held his head high and proud, and stalked back into UNIT Headquarters as though he owned the place. Knowing he would eventually leave, someday, gave him a renewed sense of purpose, and a desire to make that knowledge reality.
He wasn’t going to be here forever, so he might as well enjoy what he could in the time he had.