“Where is he now? What did you do to him?” shouted the Doctor, his courtroom calm finally giving way.
Rose thought there might have been some movement from the enormous mound of silken blue robes, a shrug maybe. Or maybe not. She was too far back from the action to tell.
“This is important! We have proven that Kolan is innocent, Magistrate. You have to free him now.” The Doctor’s voice echoed around the marble hall of the Sanyani Justices, magnifying the shrill note of hysteria that made Rose’s stomach clench into a familiar tight knot of worry for her alien friend.
It had been a harrowing few days, the deaths even more numerous, more grisly and more unnecessary than usual, but after an appropriate amount of danger and mayhem, the Doctor had caught the serial killer plaguing Sanyan Four. They hadn’t expected it to be so difficult to free the innocent man already convicted of the crime.
After the echoes faded, there was a long silence in the court room, before the blue robes shifted and a pale hand emerged, gathering up fabric finger by finger until an equally pale face was revealed, wearing a short white beard.
“Very well,” sighed the Magistrate. “We blocked his memory and dumped him on a backward planet that was having some kind of epidemic of amnesia. Clerk, call up the maps.”
While the court clerk punched buttons, Rose sidled forward to join the Doctor at the front of the court room. “What year would it be on Earth now, Doctor?”
“Oh, just a feeling.”
“I can’t get the hat to stay on straight,” complained Rose as she stepped out of the TARDIS and the chill wind of February 1918 whipped the short cape of her uniform.
“Here, allow me.” The Doctor turned to face her in the empty Lancashire lane and reached to adjust the Kirby grips holding the stiff white cap with its red cross onto Rose’s hair.
“There you go,” he said, stepping back to admire his handiwork. “Let’s go play Doctor and nurse.”
“Tch!” tutted Rose, batting him playfully on the shoulder. “That explains some of those outfits in the wardrobe.”
“Come on,” said the Doctor, not rising to it. “It’s this way. Us to the rescue!”
The military hospital was a jumble of buildings, long-established ivy-covered brick stood side by side with bleak grey concrete makeshift wards. Despite the grim weather, a few men stood about outdoors, in the shelter of doorways — a small group, all in uniform, chatting together here, a lone smoker in a red dressing gown there.
As Rose and the Doctor made their way up the path, one of the uniformed soldiers clocked them and let out an appreciative wolf-whistle. Every pair of eyes in the group turned on the pair before settling on Rose’s bare legs.
“Yeah, ‘cos goose-pimples are so sexy,” she muttered under her breath. She’d been stared at on numerous planets, of course, standing out like a sore thumb as different, freakish, alien. It should have been comforting to attract attention just for being attractive. But there was something a little disturbing, a little too hungry, in the men’s gaze.
“Can I help you?” Another man dressed in khaki army uniform was approaching them at a brisk walk. As he got closer, Rose could see his rank badge — captain — and the caduceus on his lapel which identified him as a doctor. It was amazing how much you could learn from a couple of hours study in the TARDIS wardrobe.
“I’m Captain John Smith, this is my friend Rose Tyler,” said the Doctor, handing over his slightly psychic paper, which Rose knew would appear to be a letter from the London General Hospital, referring Captain Smith of the 12th Manchesters for treatment for “palpitations caused by battle fatigue”.
“Welcome to Maghull. Dr Harrison, chief psychiatrist,” the army doctor introduced himself. He looked to be in early middle age, grey flecks visible in his dark hair, his faced marked with recent exhaustion, red eyes with heavy purple bags beneath. Rose suspected he hadn’t slept at all the previous night. “What happened to your uniform?”
“Bit of a mishap,” fibbed the Doctor who was wearing his usual leather jacket, “They’re sending a new one on.”
Dr Harrison nodded and turned to Rose. “A woman escort?” he said. “That’s unusual, even now.”
“She’s a friend,” said the Doctor. “We look out for each other.”
“Yes, well, I’m sure the London General will be expecting you back as soon as possible,” he said, addressing Rose despite the interruption, “But you won’t get back to the station in time now. You’ll have to stay over.”
As Dr Harrison ushered them through the main doors and along stark white corridors the Doctor affected a ram-rod straight military bearing and a kind of scurrying march. Rose had to cover her mouth to suppress a laugh.
At last they turned into a large airy room with tall picture windows and a scattering of tables and chairs, where yet more khaki-clad soldiers appeared to be killing time. At the far end, a game of snooker rolled to a halt as the psychiatrist led them in.
“Greene, could you get our new arrivals a cup of tea?”
At Dr Harrison’s words, a sandy-haired soldier who had been dealing out a game of patience on one of the tables sprang to his feet.
“I’ll let matron know you’re here, she’ll sort you out with rooms.” There was slight disapproving emphasis on the plural, Rose noticed, as if Harrison suspected some kind of inappropriate closeness between the new patient and his escort. “And I’ll see you briefly this afternoon to assess your condition,” he added, addressing the Doctor.
“W-w-what can I get you?”
While Private Greene headed for the tea urn, Rose studied the occupants of the room. The game had resumed and the click of balls was audible over the hushed conversation of the players. At the other tables, men were scribbling on notepaper or lounging back in their chairs, reading books and newspapers. Aside from one man mumbling to himself, the place had the air of a gentlemen’s club, rather than a mental hospital, she thought, searching for signs that someone didn’t belong. It was going to be rather hard to spot alien behavior in an asylum.
“Stop staring,” hissed the Doctor and she started guiltily, causing her hat to fall askew again. She sighed.
“H-here you g-go, said Greene as he placed two steaming mugs of tea on the nearest table. From the way he winced, the stammer seemed to embarrass him. “Anything else I can g-g-get you?”
“Tell me about yourself Private Greene,” said the Doctor, in that disarmingly abrupt, without-further-ado manner of his. “Where do you come from?”
For once it was not disarming enough. “You s-s-sound like Dr Harrison,” said Greene frostily, placing a bowl of sugar on the table with far more force than was necessary.
“He didn’t mean it like that,” jumped in Rose before the soldier could retreat to his card game. “We just don’t know anyone here yet.” She leaned forward, looking as conspiratorial as she knew how. “Tell us about the others instead.”
That worked. Greene pulled out a chair for Rose, indicating for them both to sit, then joined them. “W-well, everyone’s nuts, obviously,” he said. “Matthews — him in the wheelchair there — nothing wrong with his legs according to the Doc. Hysterical paralysis they call it. Legs got numb with cold standing in a shell-hole full of water. He hasn’t been able to feel ‘em since.”
Matthews. Not their man. That was one eliminated.
“Pendergast — chap glowering at his book over there. Reads all d-day. Screams bloody murder all night. Morton,” he indicated one of the letter-writers, “army cook, never even done any fighting, no idea what happened to him, but the poor bastard can’t keep anything d-down. He’s just s-starving to death.”
By the time they had finished their tea, Greene had catalogued the horrors war had wreaked on the minds of every man in the room. Rose felt sick. She had heard of shell-shock of course, had seen enough Timewatch to know a bit about trench warfare, had even done the war poets at school. But this raw damage to young men’s minds was beyond anything she had ever imagined or understood.
“Dr Harrison will see you now, Captain Smith.” The nurse bearing the message was so neat and prim that Rose felt shamed by her wonky hat and unruly 21st century hair. “His office is right at the top of the stairs,” continued the nurse, still standing in the doorway and fixing the Doctor with a stern look.
As the Doctor got up from the tea table he stooped to whisper in Rose’s ear, breath tickling her cheek. “Find out what you can. I’ll see you later.”
As soon as the “patient” had gone, the nurse smiled at Rose, seeming to shed years of age. She could be barely older than Rose herself. “Are you new? We’re desperate for new VADs.”
Rose grinned. “I’m Rose,” she said, avoiding answering the question directly. “How about a guided tour?”
“Matron’s an absolute dragon,” explained the nurse, who had introduced herself as Vicky, as they wandered through the medical bay. “I thought getting away from living with my mum would mean more freedom, not less.”
“Yeah,” said Rose, “I know what you mean, sometimes.”
“Right, this is the medical bay. This being a neurological hospital, of course, we don’t have to treat so many actual wounds, although there are a few.” Only one of the beds was occupied, by a pale man who appeared to be fast asleep. They walked on.
“What are the patients like?”
“Oh, they’re a right mix. ‘Cos this place is for protracted cases it’s both officers and men — separate messes obviously. We get everything from complete mental breakdowns to men who seem fine, except their hands tremble so much they can’t do up their boots, let alone fire a gun. Occupational therapy’s in the next room.”
“Amnesia?” asked Rose, as they entered a busy room in which soldiers were engaged in a variety of projects, electronics components and paints spread out across tables.
“Oh yes, and hallucinations and severe delusions,” said Vicky. “Lt Kelsey there is convinced he’s not from this planet.”
“Tell me about France.”
“Lovely country, excellent wine, beautiful cathedrals.” It was a facetious answer and he knew it. True, maybe, but in very poor taste given the date, as well as deliberately evasive. Something about the whole situation had his back up.
It could hardly be Dr Harrison, looking kind, interested and unruffled by the snappish response, despite his obvious exhaustion. The psychiatrist’s uniform jacket hung on the back of his desk chair and in its place was a saggy green knitted pullover. The room too was a perfect oasis of calm, utilitarian but comfortable.
He needed to concentrate on turning the conversation to the subject of amnesia patients. He needed to stop his foot from beating a nervous rhythm on the floorboards.
“You visited before the war then?”
Oh yes. Before several wars in fact. 1562 had been rather jolly until the Duke of Guise took it into his head to start burning churches. With the congregation inside. Best not mention that though or Harrison would have him down as a complete loony. Ha! Not that it mattered. Harrison already had him down as that thanks to the euphemistic ‘battle fatigue’. He said nothing.
Dr Harrison changed tack. “These symptoms, the palpitations, when did they start?”
“I’m not cracking up,” he blurted out. Nice. Very in-character for poor shell-shocked Captain Smith. But if he was only performing, why were his hearts pounding so hard?
“Very well,” said Harrison. “Just tell me in your own time. What happened to you in the war?”
The psychiatrist waited, leaving a silence into which memories flooded.
Lt Kelsey was a lanky young man with a sallow complexion and cheekbones so prominent that he looked gaunt. He also had a broad Lancashire accent, although based on Rose’s experience of aliens passing for human, sounding Northern hardly disqualified him from being the right man.
“So what planet do you come from?” asked Rose.
“I don’t know. They’ve done something, messed with my head, but I know I’m not from here. Look — I’ve been trying to build an inter-galactic communications system.” He waved at the mess of radio parts. “It’s not exactly easy to get the parts in here though.”
The shout, followed by a furious clatter of footsteps on the staircase distracted Rose. She glanced over her shoulder towards the corridor, half afraid to see a wild-eyed, straight-jacketed madman, half relieved that at least one person wasn’t settling for the strange wet-Sunday-afternoon atmosphere of quiet internal suffering that pervaded the hospital.
Instead she saw the Doctor, running in the unmistakable pose of someone about to be sick, his face grey and taut.
“’Scuse me,” she threw over her shoulder to Kelsey, running after her alien friend, who had already slammed through he next set of double doors down the corridor.
She caught up with him outside, where he was leaning against a wall, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“You okay?” she asked. “Sorry, sorry, stupid question. What happened?”
“It was nothing like their war,” he spat, not looking at Rose. “Nothing.”
“Still war though, right? Still…” Rose floundered for a word adequate to encapsulate the horror. The Doctor looked so lost and distant and she put her hand on his arm, a gentle anchor to human contact.
She hadn’t even made the connection and she kicked herself for it. Ever since he had snapped at her on Platform One, it had been obvious that the Time War was more than just a sore point to be avoided in conversation. She had seen the invoking of it impair his judgement, had seen his fury at the Dalek, but she had never really understood what war did to people, until now.
And what had it done to him?
“I envy them, you know Rose. I envy them this.” His voice sounded hoarse and tired and he was staring off into the distance rather than meeting her eyes. “It’s ruined all to heck, but it’s still a world -- and when the fighting’s over they’ll start fixing it, believing that there’ll never be another war, believing that there’ll never be anything worse.”
“I think I’ve found him,” said Rose. It was a feeble distraction from overwhelming despair, but she had no idea what else to offer. “Kolan — and I think the memory block’s failing, he’s been trying to build something to communicate with us.”
The Doctor pushed himself away from the wall. “Let’s go and get him then,” he said, but for once there was no abrupt switch to enthusiasm as he moved into action.
Lieutenant Kelsey gawped.
“Bigger on the inside than the outside,” said Rose.
“Magnificent isn’t she?” added the Doctor, heading straight for the TARDIS console and running his hands over various knobs and switches.
“Oh God, I’m mad. This isn’t just war neurosis or shell-shock. This is stark, staring mad.” Kelsey staggered backwards towards the TARDIS door, clattering into the hat stand with his eyes squeezed closed. “It’s just a hallucination. When I open my eyes it’ll all be gone… all be gone.”
He opened them. “Damn.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense once the memory block is properly removed. Here swallow this.”
The Doctor held out both hands, a glass of water in the left, a small red and blue tablet in the palm of the right.
Kelsey hesitated for a moment, then grabbed the tablet and stuffed it into his mouth, swallowing it without the water.
Do you remember anything?” asked Rose, ten minutes later.
He did. He remembered everything. “I was born in Accrington in 1896. I went to school, played football, read adventure stories, loved science fiction — HG Wells, have you ever read him?”
Rose shook her head which caused the man who had called himself ‘The Doctor’ to roll his eyes. Apparently the space traveller-come-nurse’s lack of reading was some kind of long-standing joke. “The Time Machine. There’s a copy in the library. You should read it,” said the Doctor. “Go on.”
“I was studying to be an engineer when the war broke out. I signed up straight away to the 11th East Lancs. Didn’t get abroad until February ’15 though. There was a big parade and everything to see us off.
“I was in the attack at Serre. I remember crawling back. Crawling over people. And it wasn’t like anything real. It was something from a story, something from another world. It couldn’t really exist.
“I kept going though. They sent out reinforcements, ‘cos almost no one came back from that battle, and we all kept going, for month after month. But I was more and more certain this couldn’t be reality.”
“Oh,” said Rose, her eyes wet with obvious sympathy. “So, you’ve never really been to another planet?”
“You actually thought I was some alien?”
“Someone in that hospital is.” Compared with sweet, sympathetic Rose, the Doctor had been cold and abrupt ever since they had met, but Kelsey didn’t think it was anything personal. He knew from experience that talking to Dr Harrison could leave a chap feeling brittle and maybe the same went for aliens. Certainly something in the Doctor’s manner reminded Kelsey of fellow officers at the front, just about keeping it together, getting on with the task at hand.
But there was a task at hand. He gave the matter some thought.
“There’s four amnesiacs arrived in the last couple of weeks,” he said. The Doctor and Rose both visibly perked up at the useful information. “Captain Worthing lost a leg at Passchendaele. Your man still has both legs right?”
“God, I hope so,” said Rose.
“Good man,” added the Doctor bounding across the console room, with an encouraging grin. “What about the others?”
“Jenkins. His roommate was complaining that he was screaming at the Boche in his sleep. So probably not him. That leaves Mavin and Lundy.”
“Think, man! Which of them is an alien?”
He’d hardly been in the right frame of mind to observe his fellow man for the past few weeks, but Kelsey dredged his memory for anything concerning the two amnesiacs.
“A letter! Mavin had a letter from his sister. It must be Lundy.”
The Doctor slapped him heartily on the back. “Fantastic!” he said.
With Kelsey’s willing help, it didn’t take them long to find Private Richard Lundy, who was holed up in his dormitory, sprawled across a neatly-made bed, reading the latest newspaper reports of the revolutionaries in Russia.
He jumped up to salute the lieutenant, who bade him sit back down. While the Doctor and Rose listened in the corridor outside, the officer who had believed himself to be an alien persuaded a young man with no memory of what he was to try the miracle cure. One small red and blue tablet.
“What if what I remember is too horrible?” asked the soldier, sounding genuinely terrified. “Maybe I did something terrible?”
“Not according to the people who’ve come to get you, Lundy. You haven’t done anything wrong and you don’t belong here. You have a life somewhere else. You should go and get it back.”
“Give it here.”
A few seconds passed.
“How?” The young man in the doorway stared at the two time travellers. “You’ve come to get me? Does that mean I’ve been cleared?”
On Sanyan Four, the welcome home party was in full swing. As she twirled to the fast-paced music, slapping hands with happy Sanyanis, Rose caught a glimpse of the Doctor standing alone in a corner, studying the glass in his hand. She changed the direction of her dance, hopping and spinning towards him.
“Oof, I’m well dizzy,” she said, staggering as she came to a halt, then grabbing onto her companion as the world kept on spinning.
“How much have you had to drink?” he asked, laughing at her as she wobbled. She was relieved to see the smile reach his eyes.
“Nothing!” she protested, mock scandalised. “Those blue drinks taste revolting! ‘M just dizzy.”
Rose surveyed the cheering, dancing throng of Kolan’s friends, family and neighbours. Among them, still wearing khaki, was one very relieved, innocent young man. She turned to her companion. “We fixed it,” she said. It took a moment, but she saw him recognise his own words.
“Yes, yes we did,” he said, giving her a quirky, wistful smile and straightening a little as though drawing strength from one small victory against injustice.
She wondered how Dr Harrison helped the soldiers in his care come to terms with their war. She wondered whether men like Lt Kelsey ever truly learned to live with the experience when it was over. She wondered how you went about fixing a universe. And whether there ever could be anything worse than what the Doctor had experienced.
“Wanna dance?” she asked.
He looked reluctant for a moment, but Rose once tugged him into the throng he was spinning with the best of them. “What shall we fix next then?” he asked, whirling past her with his arms in the air.
Dr Harrison signed off the paperwork with a sigh. The young man had surely done enough, seen enough. What was the point of curing people, just to give the War Office another chance to drive them completely mad?
But there was nothing else for it. Lt. Kelsey had fully recovered his memory and was perfectly physically fit. He had to be returned to active duty.
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