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27: `Now you're just showing off.'
mounds and clots of maggots that had been swarming over the plants just a
few minutes before were suddenly still, like piles of rice.
Fitz’s mouth was dry. He just shook his head.
‘Let me see,’ said Calamee, trying to get a look at the flycam remote. Fitz
handed it to her gladly, not sure what he was supposed to do. He had no
idea whether Tain had understood what he’d been trying to say. The Doctor
certainly hadn’t. Even he hadn’t been sure. He didn’t even know if it was
possible, if Tain could do what he’d hoped he would. But what other option
His head buzzed like his mouth was full of wasps, ready to burst. Pandora’s
Box, rattling with the hum of a million insects, a million ills, just waiting to
be unleashed. As the bushes and trees around them, the extremities of Tain’s
body, sagged like a deflated balloon, there was a gentle sighing, a rustling that
reminded Fitz of autumn. His eyes felt gritty and the scars on his body itched
like mad. But not nearly as much as the ones in his head.
And in a silent church tower, at the edge of Saiarossa, Father Roberto knelt
and prayed as a wall of sparkling smoke slid towards the city.
Rationally, he knew that it must be some natural phenomenon – a freak
electrical storm, he had heard it said. But, somewhere inside him, he felt
certain that this must be how the Egyptians had felt as they’d chased the
Israelites across the bed of the Red Sea, only for the wall of water, held back
by God, to tumble down on them. Were the Esperons really so undeserving of
God’s mercy? After all these centuries of trying to follow in His son’s footsteps,
was this how it was all to end?
Roberto fingered his rosary, his lips flickering. You shall obtain all you ask
of me by the recitation of the Rosary, the Virgin Mary had promised. Now, if
ever, thought Roberto, let it be true. He looked up as some almost subliminal
change in the wall caught his eye.
Spots of dark, clear transparency were beginning to form in it, pulsing and
growing, spreading like raindrops on a window. They merged, over and over,
growing larger as they ate into the curtain, leaving it a tattered filigree of grey.
And then suddenly, without a sound, it vanished.
The beads slipped from Roberto’s fingers as tears ran from his eyes.
The Doctor had to fight back the urge to push the new Nessus away, to throw
him against the wall. Everything was happening too fast: first Fitz’s cryptic
message to Tain, then Nessus speaking in Tain’s voice. And now the mokey
was wrapping itself around Trix’s face, its body distorting and surging oddly.
The creature’s arms wound sinuously around the sides of Trix’s head. If she
hadn’t already stopped breathing, he would have thought that Nessus was
trying to suffocate her.
But then he saw Trix’s chest begin to rise; moments later it fell, and he
realised he’d been holding his own breath. Nessus was breathing for Trix.
The Doctor, still on his hands and knees, crawled around to look: Nessus’s
mouth had somehow grown to encompass both Trix’s mouth and her nose.
And, bizarrely, a small hole – like the blowhole of a whale – had formed in
the mokey’s head. It opened and closed in time with Trix’s breathing. He was
acting like an iron lung for her.
And the weirdness didn’t end there. As Nessus continued to keep Trix alive,
he untangled one arm and it stretched out to the wall of the chamber – and
vanished into it. Moments later, the floor twitched beneath him, and a low
sighing noise issued from all around.
‘Tain?’ he asked cautiously, and reached out to touch the wall. ‘Can you
hear me, Tain?’
‘Yessssssssss. . . ’ came the reply, infused simultaneously with a heaviness
and a triumph that made the Doctor grin.
‘So it would. . . seem.’
‘So where are you now?’
‘In my own body – and in the mokey.’ There was almost a chuckle in Tain’s
strengthening voice. ‘This is. . . very strange.’
‘What about Trix – will she be OK?’
‘Soon. I will maintain her until her body remembers how to breathe.’
The Doctor sank back against the wall and there was a long pause.
‘We have much in common,’ came Tain’s voice eventually. ‘Now.’ There was
something in the way he said it that spoke of loss and of sadness.
‘I understood Fitz’s message eventually – but I almost ignored it. The implications were. . . profound.’
‘You’re losing me, Tain.’
‘My first reaction was that Fitz wanted me to recreate him, re-embody him.
But that made no sense. It was only when I examined Fitz’s memories, his
memories of being remembered – of being recreated in a new body – that I
realised he meant for me to re-embody myself.’ Tain paused thoughtfully. ‘And
I almost didn’t.’
‘Why?’ The Doctor looked at his fist, clenched so tightly around Madame
Xing’s key to his past that his fingers had turned white. He didn’t know
whether he should be hearing this – second-hand rumours of a past he knew
nothing about and wanted even less to do with.
‘I have lived for over eight hundred years,’ said Tain. ‘Nothing, I admit,
compared to you. But you at least should be able to imagine the memories,
the information I have stored over those centuries. My neural structures are
not as compact as yours. Do you know how big my brain is?’
The Doctor held his hands out a foot or so apart and looked hopeful.
‘It is the size of your body.’
‘Now you’re just showing off.’
‘In order to copy myself into Nessus, I have had to discard most of my
The Doctor felt something tight grip the pit of his stomach: he never had a
conscious choice in his own amnesia, even though he had made a conscious
choice not to go chasing after his lost memories. If they came back, then fair
enough. But Tain. . . Tain had had to actively dump most of himself, just to
keep himself and Trix alive.
‘And you got all that from Fitz’s stored personality?’
‘Not all of it – I suspect that some of it came from you.’ Tain paused again.
‘But perhaps we’ll never know. I had to discard all I had recorded from you
The Doctor didn’t know what to say. Perhaps Tain couldn’t count on the
Doctor’s using the mind-rubber. But the new Nessus could so easily have used
the thing on himself and wiped out Tain forever.
‘You remember that I said I needed evidence that you’d changed your ways,
Tain? Well. . . ’ He patted the walls of the chamber. ‘I think you’ve just acquitted yourself perfectly.’
Fitz heard Sensimi calling for him before he saw her. She and her father had
gone for a wander and he wasn’t sure where they were.
‘Fitz!’ came Sensimi’s voice again, louder. She sounded excited, and it
grated on him: didn’t she know what had just happened? He dragged himself
wearily across the grass, down into the hollow, Calamee close behind. Pushing through the bushes, he came to a puzzled halt at what he saw: flowers,
everywhere – huge, day-glo swathes of flowers, gushing from every bush and
branch. And even as he watched, more were appearing, like some bizarre and
wonderful time-lapse film. It made the sight of Nessus’s body, still cradled in
Calamee’s arms, all the more pathetic. She shook her head in disbelief, her
‘What’s happening, Fitz?’
Sensimi and her father were staring agog at the display, and he heard Sensimi explaining how it had ‘all been maggots’ before.
‘When you’ve all finished admiring the floral arrangements,’ came a familiar
voice, ‘I’d appreciate a bit of help over here.’
Fitz turned to see the Doctor, with a bundle that could only be Trix, thrown
over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He was struggling to disentangle
himself from the split in Tain’s tree.
The Doctor coughed pointedly as he got his foot caught in the base of the
opening and nearly dropped Trix on the grass. Fitz rushed over and took her
weight, helping to lay her down on the ground. He pulled back as he saw her
properly. Something large and hairy was wrapped across her neck and chest,
covering her face.
‘Is that Nessus?’ said Calamee. She glanced back, instinctively, to where
she’d left him.
‘Think of him as a mini-Tain for now,’ the Doctor said, making sure Trix was
comfortable. ‘He’s keeping her breathing until her own cerebellum remembers
what it’s there for. Then you’ll have your old Nessus back.’
‘Fitz,’ said the Doctor gently, taking him by the arm and pulling him to
one side, ‘I can’t pretend to understand quite what your message to Tain was
about, and I’m not sure I want to know. But it worked.’
‘So Tain’s alive?’
‘And Reo’s gone.’ The Doctor looked at him, something expectant in his eyes
as if waiting for an explanation. Fitz wasn’t quite sure he could give one – or
whether he ought to even try. He settled for ‘Good’.
He watched Calamee as she took hold of Trix’s hand and squeezed it: she’d
heard him talking to Tain through the flycam; she’d heard him ask Tain to
recreate Nessus. This can’t have been what she was expecting.
‘But how. . . ?’ said Calamee, looking up at the Doctor. ‘I mean. . . ’
The Doctor raised his hands. ‘Perhaps you should ask Fitz here – he’s the
man of the moment.’
Fitz waved the Doctor’s comment away. ‘You were the one that went down
there,’ he said. ‘Not me.’
‘Oh, I think you were there,’ said the Doctor, standing up with a tired groan.
‘In spirit, if not in flesh.’
‘We used to be happy with a walnut and a tangerine.’
The Doctor had gone for a walk.
Fitz didn’t know where, hadn’t wanted to ask. But he thought he knew
why. He didn’t want to be around when Fitz explained it all. It made a
change: normally it was Fitz – or Anji or Trix – with the ‘There’s one thing I
don’t understand, Doctor’. But as Trix lay on the grass, the rising and falling
of Nessus’s back obscuring her face, all eyes were on him.
He explained it as well as he could, but even with the Doctor’s ghost rattling
around in his head, he didn’t think he was doing it justice. The Imperator and
Sensimi just stared at him, as if it was all going to suddenly, come clear to
them. He didn’t have the heart to tell them that it probably wouldn’t.
‘But how did what you said to Tain make it all happen?’ asked Calamee.
‘Without that Reo thing cottoning on and stopping it?’
Fitz gave a huge, stupid shrug. ‘I dunno – one minute me and you were
talking, and the next. . . ’ His voice tailed off. He remembered what the Doctor
had said, the choice he’d offered between forgetting and remembering – and,
out of nowhere, he’d suddenly thought of the Remote and what they’d done
to him. ‘I had this flash of memory,’ he said. ‘I remembered – if you’ll pardon
the pun – being remembered.’
‘A long time ago, something happened to me. I died. And then I was brought
back to life by being recreated. Being remembered. That’s what they called it.
I was copied.’ He looked up and down at himself. ‘I am a copy. A remembered
copy.’ The word was starting to sound stupid, made-up. Like him. Once upon
a time, he knew, that thought would have screwed with his head, made him
feel almost physically sick – the fact that he was just an ersatz Fitz. But now. . .
some things you just had to accept and live with. It wasn’t as if he felt any
different. But then how would he know?
Calamee was nodding as if she understood. ‘So now there are two Tains –
the one in Nessus and the one down there? And when Trix is better, the one
in Nessus will, what, join back up with the other one – or just fizzle away?’
Fitz shrugged, guiltily. This was why he didn’t want to be the Doctor. He
wasn’t cut out for this kind of thing.
‘Right,’ said Sensimi slowly and firmly. Fitz jumped – he’d almost forgotten
she was there. ‘So just remind me: who’s Reo again?’
The Doctor was sitting under a tree, a piece of grass in his mouth. He’d taken
off his jacket, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and was doing his best to project an
image of carefree country living. Calamee wasn’t fooled.
‘You must be the only person I know,’ she said, flopping down on the ground
beside him, ‘who, when everything’s turned out OK, still has a face like a wet
‘Wednesday,’ he corrected her. ‘My face looks like a wet Wednesday. Wet
Thursday faces are very different.’
‘Is there something we’ve missed, then?’ She raised her hand and began
ticking off points on her fingers. ‘Tain’s still alive, Reo and the Trojan are
gone, Fitz says that the wave has been stopped, and Trix is going to be fine.
How’s that for a result?’
The Doctor counted on his own fingers. ‘Alinti’s dead, Trove’s dead – and
Trix nearly died.’
Calamee scowled. ‘You are such a misery, you know that? Is your glass
always half empty, then?’
‘I don’t drink.’
‘Tell that to the barman last night. So what’s up? Why the long face, as the
cow said to the horse?’
The Doctor tapped his head.
‘Fitz. The bits of him I’ve got in here. I never realised quite what it’s like to
be one of my companions, my friends – how scary it can be, hanging around
with me. I get caught up in the excitement, you know? I’ve done some big,
bad things in the past – been responsible for. . . for stuff. And people stick by
me – they really, really do.’
‘You shouldn’t be surprised – you’re very stick-by-able.’
The Doctor shook his head. ‘But why?’ He thumped his hand on the grass.
‘Why, that’s what I don’t understand. Today, I’ve felt a little of what it’s like
to be Fitz – the uncertainty, the fear, the sheer exhaustion. And he still stays
‘Fitz has been saying the same thing – only backwards. He says it’s like
being a hyperactive child mainlining caffeine, being you. I reckon that makes
He looked up at her, and she saw the tears in his eyes.
‘You’re tired,’ she said. ‘That’s all. You’ll be fine when you’ve had some rest.’
She took his hand and gave it a squeeze, and felt him press his head against
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