BIG WHO

Doctor Who/Big Nate fusion fanfiction
by Gary Kleppe

Doctor Who was created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, and Donald Wilson, and developed by too many other talented folk to name. Big Nate was created and written by Lincoln Peirce. This is fan material written and freely distributed solely for the enjoyment of other fans. I do not claim ownership of nor legal right to use either series nor their associated trademarks.

All honest feedback is welcomed and encouraged.


EPISODE ONE
Who's Who

There are only a few things I'd rather be doing than talking with Chief School Administrator Skolnik in his office at Intermediate Public School #32767, if by few things one actually means billions of things basically including everything in the known universe.

"I'm concerned, son," the big guy says. "A lot of us here feel that you're making choices that you may end up regretting for the rest of your life." Okay, so it's going to be one of those talks. With Skolnik it's always one of two. Either he goes full psycho and chews you out within an inch of your life, or he tries to be understanding and supportive. I'm not sure how he decides which to do. Maybe it's determined by lunar phases, or by whatever mood he happens to be in on the day in question, or it's all secretly calculated as part of some grand psychological strategy.

"I know what you mean," I answer. "Like yesterday, when I picked lunch entree number two. I mean, what was that stuff? Some kind of textured vegetable protein? I think it'll be months before I can get that taste out of myŚ"

He glares back, clearly not amused. Okay, so I know what's coming next. I've got enormous potential that I'm wasting on silly antics. Probably going to mention last year's prank day when I programmed the school's holographic image of Rassilon to do burlesque dances.

"I really think you've got tremendous potential, son, but you're wasting it on pointless antics," he says. "Like a couple of years ago when you programmed the school food synthesizers to only make -- what did you call them? Jelly beans?"

"Jelly babies," I correct. "They're like, the coolest food ever. My dad took me on a trip to Earth where they were invented. I hadn't meant to have all the replicators making them. Just wanted to synthesize a few of them for me and some friends. It was, um, an experiment that got out of hand."

What I do now will decide what I can do in the rest of my life, he's going to tell me next. I could become Lord President, but only if I quit fooling around and start behaving myself.

"What you do in these few years can determine your whole future, son. You're one of the cleverest students I've seen come through here in some time. You could one day end up making breakthrough scientific discoveries, but only if--"

"Oh, so you don't think I could be Lord President?" I fold my arms indignantly. "It's a sad day when my own school administrator thinks so little of me that I couldn't possibly make it to the presidency."

He raises his hand and shakes his head frantically. "No, no, I didn't mean that," he says. I try to look very serious and not laugh. "Is that really what you want to be?"

"Not really, no," I admit. "I thought about this a lot. What I really want to do when I get out of school is be a writer."

"A historian?" he says, raising a skeptical eyebrow. He knows full well that World History is my absolute least favorite subject in school.

"No, I mean a writer." I can't help smiling. "Fiction. Adventure novels. Short stories. Also humorous essays, parody pieces, that sort of thing."

Skolnik looks back blankly. "These are cultural mechanisms that societies use to reflect upon themselves and identify things they need to change," he says. "We have no need for such things on Gallifrey."

Right, because our culture is so absolutely perfect that it doesn't need to change anything. That's how everybody thinks, so much so that when you tell them differently, they can barely even hear what you're saying. Sure, the Time Lords have been everywhere through time and space and seen how all the other civilizations do things. But for all of that raw material what they ended up building is one of the dullest existences in the known universe. Compared to the average Gallifreyan, the Grand Marshall of Sontar is a barrel of laughs.

"I remember when your brother was a student here. He..." Skolnik trails off, obviously thinking twice over where that line of discussion might lead. Usually I work my brother into these conversations. Just a reminder that a wise guy and troublemaker like me is still better than someone who most everybody sees as a full-blown psychopath.

"Anyway, there are a lot of things you could do. Think about it," he says. Yeah, whatever. "In the meantime, off to class. Just remember, we're here to help. The next time before you get into more trouble, think about what you're doing, otherwise something could get on your record, and you could end up someplace you really wouldn't want to be."

I grin. "Someplace like... like being an administrator at an out-of-the-way school that nobody cares about?"

***

I stagger off towards class, my ears still ringing. Wow. I guess the lunar phase just changed.

Funny how it always comes back to yelling and screaming. The Time Lords have been all around the universe and studied everybody's theories about child psychology, just like they have every other subject. But when the rubber meets the road, so to speak, when they really don't like something we're doing, they shout, and if that doesn't work it can only be because they didn't shout loud or long enough.

I make my way into class, holding up the excused late slip that I got from the Administrator's office so that the Unspeakable Horror can see it before I feed it into the receptacle. That's not really her name, of course. It's just one of the things I call her. I have five different teachers for five different subjects, but this one and I get along about as well as a data repository cloud and a planetoid-sized cloud of ionized plasma. I'm sure she'd love to write me up for tardy. Not that I'd care all that much. I've probably had more detentions than a lot of the people in my class have had hot breakfasts. But our mind-bending team might make it into the district finals this year, and I don't want to take any chances on giving her an excuse to screw up my eligibility.

"As you all know, today is the day each of you choose a historical figure to do your term report on," she said. "The class helper will take down all of your choices. In the meantime, you can work in your groups on your other assignments." She looked over the room. "Whose turn is it to be class helper?"

"It's not Who's turn," Chadap answered. "He was helper last week."

I turn toward the seat next to me and Hedin and I exchange smirks, and then he goes back to reading on his own unit. He and I have been best buddies ever since we were kids, even though I'll never figure out why he's so into this Gallifreyan History stuff. He's not a suck-up like Ginahepiltona who loves whatever the teachers want her to love. He really does get into this stuff. He's methodical, and organized to a fault, but despite that I really like the guy.

And yeah, my name's Who. I don't know how much truth there is to the story, but supposedly my birth was the most painful one anyone's experienced on Gallifrey for a long, long time. My mom had to be doped up on every different neural blocker known to science plus a couple of new ones they invented right there on the spot. So afterwards when the census bot showed up, Mom was so zonked out that she didn't really have much idea what was going on.

"Please-input-the-name-of-your-new-offspring," the bot told Mom.

"... Who? ..."

And the rest is history. I hated being named Who at first. You can imagine how my schoolmates reacted when they found out that I was an interrogative pronoun. But that didn't last, and now I love my name. I can disrupt the class without even trying.

The teacher rolls her eyes. "I'm asking who-- that is, I'm asking which student's turn it is this week." I try desperately not to laugh. There's something about Chadap, the pudgy kid, smiliing with dimples in his cheeks, that makes everyone want to believe that he's sincere. So he can get away with this. But I know that if I so much as crack a smile, I'll be in detention before you can say quantum chromodynamics. I concentrate on the most boring thing I can possibly think of: Mr. Nilvog's science lecture yesterday about the reproductive cycles of Antarean fungi.

Ginahepiltona raises her hand. "I'll do it, Ms. Osfrey." Of course she will. Whenever there's a teacher to be brown-nosed, Gi is on the job.

"I appreciate your enthusiasm, Ginahepiltona, but we agreed that we would all take turns. Which person's turn is it?" Ms. Osfrey asks, a little more forcefully.

"It's mine," Chadap said. "Sorry about that."

"Get on with it, then. The rest of you, use the remaining class time to get started on your assignments."

Chadap boots up an app on a handheld computer unit and starts interrogating students one by one, while Her Repugnance goes back to her desk. Everybody else huddles around tables and gets to work.

I key up my own unit to remind myself of what the other assignments were. One of the more conscientious students, I'm not. Chadap asks the people at the next table who they're going to report on. One of them tells him she'll be reporting on Maren. No surprise there. I don't know this particular girl's name, but everybody calls her The Witch. She was born here, but her mother supposedly came over from Karn. When she first showed up, Alabellaplunkett from the senior class started bullying her, as with all of the new girls. But the very next day, Al came down with a bad case of stomach flu and was out of school for a week. The news spread, and nobody picked on our Witch after that. Even the teachers go out of their way not to get on her bad side, all the while assuring us that there're no such things as magic and curses.

Chadap finally gets to our table and asks Hedin who he's going to report on. But I answer for him before he can open his mouth. "He's doing Omega."

"How did you know..." Hedin says.

"You always do Omega. You did Omega for last year's report, and the year before that. You've got to be the biggest Omega fanboy in existence."

"All right, all right." He flushes slightly. "But it's such an inspirational story. Omega led a three-man expedition into a black hole. Only Rassilon returned. Omega made the ultimate sacrifice to open up the universe."

My eyes roll. I've only heard this like a thousand times. But something clicks that never occurred to me before. "What happened to the other one?"

"What other one?"

"Three minus one leaves two. It was a three-man expedition. Rassilon came back. Omega got left behind. What about the third? Who was the other one?"

Hedin looks up thoughtfully. I mentally high-five myself. If we'd been playing grav-ball, it'd be time for a victory spike right about now.

"History doesn't record who the third person in the expedition was," Ms. Osfrey says from behind me. I'll never understand how someone with her girth can be so good at sneaking up on people. "A lot of records were lost during the Morbius era. One assumes that the third person was lost along with Omega."

I'm feeling pleased with myself that it takes me a moment to notice Chadap staring at me.

"What?"

"I need to know who your report is on," he says.

"Oh. Right. Um, I haven't really decided yet. Get back to me in a couple of weeks, okay?"

"The report is due in two weeks."

"Hm. Okay, then." I'm frantically thinking, and then a stroke hits me. "I'll do the other one."

"The other one?"

"Yeah, you know, what we were just talking about? The third person from the Omega expedition?"

"Oh, okay." He turns to the teacher. "How do I enter this? We don't know what the person's name was."

"Er, just put down 'The other.'" Wait, is she trying not to smirk? As she turns away, Ginahepiltona sports one of her shit-eating grins, and Hedin tries not to look at me, like he doesn't want to have to tell me that I just screwed the pooch.

***

I put all other thoughts out of my head for the time being as Hedin and I zip down the hallway. It's time for my favorite part of the day: Mind-bending. Administrator Skolnik has been coming down hard on people running in the halls, so we walk about as fast as people can without breaking into a run. We probably look ridiculous, but I don't care. If we win our match tonight and then the last one, we're guaranteed to be in the district championship match.

We go into the room and Mr. Asornek is there, along with the rest of our team and the opposing team from Makeru School. Mr. Asornek is my teacher for Artificial Intelligence class. We need Artificial Intelligence here at Intermediate School #32767, I like to say, because there's not too much of the regular kind. Hedin's heard me say that so many times that he'll probably smack me upside the head if I say it again. Heh. Anyway, Mr. Asornek is my favorite teacher, because unlike certain others who should not be named, he's pretty cool. He's so burned out that he doesn't seem to care much anymore and just lets us goof around on our computers in class most of the time. But he's also the faculty advisor for our mind-bending team.

"I'm ready to go." I eye the opposition. "By the time we're done, you guys will be so bent that we'll be able to use you for coat-hangers." Trash-talking the opposition, the key to an early advantage. Not that we need it against these guys. With a record of two wins and eleven losses, they're one of the worst teams in the district. Our next match will be tougher, but today's will be a pushover.

Niblosky, the fifth-position player on our team, is here. "Ready to kick some butt?" I ask him.

"Yeah," he says. "But the two of you need to get scanned in first."

"Oh yeah," I say. "After all, I might not really be me." Niblosky is one of those people who's never quite figured out that just because something is a rule you don't have to always follow it. I can't resist making fun of him a little for it, even though I do understand why this particular rule is a good idea. There've been stories about how some of the big-name schools in other cities tried to put experienced adults on their team.

Hedin and I step over to the opposing team's advisor. He points the bio-scanning stick in my direction, and it blips, certifying that I am in fact on the list of students for #32767. He scans Hedin, with the same result. Every Gallifreyan has a unique bio-code. Mine is 446F63746F722057686F, though I'm probably not supposed to know that. You can't tell someone's code by scanning him, but what you can do if you think you know someone's code you can verify that it really is, or you can check a person against a list of codes. I hear some Time Lords can even verify others' codes telepathically, without the scanner. Comes in handy for recognizing your friends after they've regenerated and now look completely different.

Niblosky and the Makeru fifth-position player step up to the apparatus. The matches worth the fewest points go first, to minimize the chances of the winner being decided before everyone's played. The apparatus looks like a glorified coat rack, a frame of thin metal poles decorated with a few knobs and rubber tubes and a big circular viewscreen at the top center. Arms stick out on either side with three-pronged claws pointed at each competitor's head. Time Lord wrestling. Niblosky and the other guy each take a step closer, and looks of determination lock onto their faces as waves of color cascade across the viewscreen.

The colors are an abstract representation of the interplay between the two combatants, but the way to really get the full experience is to follow it mentally. Most Gallifreyans aren't telepathic in the sense of being able to read the minds of people who happen to be sitting across the room; but when you're talking about intense brain action that's being electronically amplified and channeled, it's pretty easy for even junior-graders like us to tune into.

A grown-up mind-bender is capable of grabbing ahold of an opponent's memories and rending his consciousness like paper. But the kiddie apparatus they give us doesn't generate anywhere near as much power as the professional-grade kind. For people like us, mind-bending matches are usually a straight-forward battle of wills.


*Surrender to my will!*

**No, you surrender to me!**

*No, me!*

**No, ME!**

*Me?*

**ME!**


The viewport fills up with purple, indicating that Niblosky got overpowered. One point to Makeru. That's okay, it takes eight points to win (the later ones are worth progressively more points) and we're just getting started.

Hedin takes up the battle next. As he and his opponent interface, he starts going over random trivia in his mind. The total population of Gallifrey, the different bird species of Antares, the names of all the emperors of the Draconian dynasties. It's an effective defense. I saw him do this last week and his opponent tired himself out trying to break through his great wall of factoids. But it looks like this guy is smarter. He hangs back, letting Hedin expend his energy for a while, and then goes in for the kill. Colors flash across the screen faster than the eye can follow, then dissipate, then flash again. The time bell rings. No victor. The two points for the fourth-position match are split, leaving Makeru with a total of two and us with one.

Now it's my turn. I smirk at my opponent as I step up to the machine.

"I hope you have someone to go home with you," he says, "'cause after this you won't remember where you live."

Oh yeah, funny guy. "That's okay, I'll just go to your house," I reply, "while your family's with you in the infirmary."

We get started, and he comes on with a straightforward attack.


**Surrender to my will!**

*Hey, where DO you live?*

**What?! Never mind! You will...**

*Are you in one of those new big apartment complexes on the south side of town?*

**Er, no. What does this have to do with...**

*My dad and I visited one of his friends in those buildings. We had to wait an hour for the maintenance bots to get the elevator working. But the house system knew a fun new digital game.*

**Really?**

*Yeah, and you know something else?* I suddenly focus my mental energy. *GOTCHA!*


The screen fills with red. Three points for us. Total score four to two.

The guy steps back, looking a little mortified. "Okay, you beat me," he says. "But our second-position player is the son of a professional competitor." He tips a glance back at the slightly taller guy behind him. "He's been through two week-long training sessions at Frelnap academy."

I pause, making sure he's finished, then smile back at him. "Our second-position player is an Androgum."

The two look up as a hulking gorilla of a man steps forward. The taller one gulps audibly. The Makeru advisor tenuously points his probe and it blips. He checks the text readout and gapes as if unable to believe his eyes.

"He really is a student," Hedin offers. "He's the same age that we are. He's had that mustache since he was a baby."

We have people living on Gallifrey who aren't natives. Some of us refer to them as BOOP -- Born On Other Planets. Chesrick is one. Somehow he got adopted by a Time Lord family. I don't know why that happened or how they can possibly keep enough food on hand to satisfy him. BOOPs seem to come most often from species like the Androgums who are often used as servants by other races. Did the Time Lords free them from slavery? Doesn't seem like something they'd do. But there are a few of them around, and the laws say that once they get adopted by Gallifreyan families, they're entitled to the same rights and privileges as anyone else, at least officially. In practice, the more prestigious schools don't want them, and can usually exert enough influence under the table to get most of them sent somewhere else. School #32767 is about as un-prestigous as you can get, so we end up with a lot of BOOPs compared to other schools; most of us are cool with them being here, but I think we were the first ones to come up with the brilliant idea of putting some of them on our mind-bending team.

"Don't worry," the somewhat shorter Makeru student says somewhat nervously to his teammate. "You only need to beat his mind, not his body."

Yeah, good luck with that. The taller one steps up to the interface.


**Surrender to my will!**

*** FOOD!! ***

** Eep. **


Four more points for us. We've won the match before our last person has even competed. When Chesrick is hungry, he's unbeatable. And he's *always* hungry.

Mr. Asornek leads Chesrick away. "Well, you win," the captain of the other team says to me. "Your stacking paid off."

"We didn't stack," I answer. Stacking is a dishonest way that some of the schools try to win. You're supposed to put your best player in first position, your second-best in second, and so on. But some of these schools put their worst player in first, guaranteeing that they'll lose those points, but letting their better players compete against weaker opponents in the other slots.

"You put your best player in second position."

I laugh. "Chesrick isn't our best player. Alpha is."

"Who's Alpha?"

I nod my head to indicate that he should look behind him. "Hallo!" Alpha holds out a gloved hand for the guy to shake. "Very pleased for meeting you," he says in what is obviously a synthesized voice. He's still getting used to the whole grammar and syntax thing. Oddly enough for a planet that gets almost no outside visitors, Gallifrey is covered by telepathic communication beams capable of letting anybody talk to anyone else and making both of them think that the conversation is happening in their native language. But they're configured so that BOOPs can't use them. When the High Council passed the law saying that BOOPs had the same rights as natives, the Gallifrey Firsters were up in arms. So to appease them, they added a provision requiring alien-born residents to learn the language on their own.

A little hesitantly, the Makeru captain shakes Alpha's hand. In contrast to Chesrick's behemoth frame, Alpha is small and unmuscular and could pass for an ordinary student except for his hairless head looking something like an elephant's except for a mouthful of tendrils where the trunk would be.

"He's an Ood," I say with a smirk.

"Is true," Alpha says, sounding almost apologetic. He and the Makeru student step up, and the final round begins.


**Surrender to my will!**

*Of course, sir. How can I help you today?*

**Er... bend! Bend to the power of my mind!**

*I'd be happy to. What would you like me to be thinking of?*

**...**

*How about some very pretty scenery from Orion Seven? I saw this image on the Cybernet yesterday. Do you like it?*

**Yes, but...**


"Screen is red. We have win, yes?" Alpha says. Yes, we have. Final score: twelve points to one.

That's Alpha. You can't help but like the guy. I do, even though I also hate him. He's so oppressively nice, it makes the rest of us look bad.


***

After some whooping and high-fiving and the obligatory congratulations to the other team on a match well played, we all leave for the day. Hedin and I hustle down narrow dingy footpaths past dull rocks and scraggly bushes.

"This is awesome," I say, for about the twentieth time, but who cares? "We win our next game and we're in the finals for sure. Administrator Skolnik will need to requisition a new case for the trophy." Not because the old case is too small. Because there isn't an old case. As far back as anyone remembers, school #32767 has never won anything.

"We still have to win the trophy," Hedin says. "Omega Tech is sure to be in the final match, and they cheat."

"Uh huh." Everybody knows Omega is the cheating-ist school in the division. Worse yet, it's one of those places where a lot of Very Influential People like to send their kids. So they can get away with things we can't. Unless there's any incontrovertible evidence proving that they broke the rules, the school authority will be pretty much guaranteed to take their side in any dispute.

We round a bend and see a familiar figure stretched out under a tree. Eyes look out from inside a chaotic mass of dirty white hair. A nearly skeletal arm waves with much more fluidity than you'd expect. "Hey there, young fellers."

"Hey, old guy," I answer.

The old guy flashes me a toothless smile. "You're looking yellow today."

Um, what? "Probably the school cafeteria food," I quip.

"Not your face. You. Lemony yellow. Heh heh. New understandings, new positions."

"Yeah, okay, sure. Catch ya later." From what I've been told, the old guy's been hanging around in our area since before I was born. Nobody really knows where he came from or even what his name is. I like the guy, he can be fun to be around, even though his mind's obviously gone and most of what he says doesn't make any sense. So? There's nobody so boring as someone who always makes complete sense. Just look at Administrator Skolnik.

Speaking of which.... "I got called into the Administrator's office today," I mention to Hedin as we follow the path around to the south face where our houses are.

"About that software virus you wrote last week?"

"No. He doesn't know about that yet," I say. "He just wanted to talk about my future. What I plan to do after graduating."

"What did you tell him?"

"Nothing much." I look up at the overcast sky. "I'm going to be famous. For doing what, I don't know. But I'll be the next big thing. Everybody's going to know my name."

We stop walking. Hedin gives me one of those looks where he's trying not to laugh out loud.

"You don't think I can do it?"

"Not really, no."

"Why not?"

"Because this is Gallifrey. Nobody is big. Can you think of anybody who everybody knows? Maybe the Lord President and some of his predecessors, but they're famous for not doing anything."

"There's a first time for everything," is all I can think to say.

Hedin shakes his head. "Some things never happen. It's the same on any planet. To get famous, I mean really famous, you need to do something that changes people's lives. But on Gallifrey, nothing ever changes."

"I will be big," I say confidently. "Failure is not an option."

"That's true." Hedin laughs. "Around here, it's mandatory."

***

"I'm home!" I call as I walk through the door. "Hey, Dad." Dad looks up from where he's setting bean soup and mixed raw vegetables onto the dinner table. Not exactly one of the universe's great cooks, my dad. Grandma probably made the soup. She comes by the house every few days to do all of the chores that Dad's hopeless at.

"Hi, son." Dad pulls up a chair and sits. "Look who's here." He glances quickly past my brother, who's busily slurping soup in between mouthfuls of veggies, over to the next chair where my mother sits. Or so it looks, but I know better.

"Hey, Mom." I wave. My real mom hasn't actually come here for five years or more. Supposedly she's on some sort of secret long-term duty for the High Council, though why that should prevent her from visiting us, I have no idea. With TARDIS technology, she could spend a week here and get back to her assignment the minute after she'd left. No, she obviously doesn't want anything to do with us, and considering how dysfunctional this family is, it's hard to blame her. But every once in a while she does send us an AIvatar. That's an artificial intelligence seeded from the memories and thoughts of a real person, made to look like a likeness of that person. AIvatars have been around for ages. In the old days, they only showed up as video images on flat screens, but the modern ones are three-dimensional projections that look pretty near indistinguishable from the real thing. "How's it going?"

"Very well, thank you," the AIvatar answers with a smile.

"We're all fine here. Still the same." I pat Dad's stomach. "Except some of us are getting larger." Dad looks annoyed. Being a health food nut hasn't kept him from developing a pronounced pot belly. My theory is that he goes out while we're at school and pigs out on junk food. But I've never bothered to check up on him.

"How was school today?" asks "Mom."

"Good," I answer reflexively. "We won our mind-bending match." I look over at my brother, who as usual is steadily finishing off everything on his plate, obviously intending to get back to his room as soon as possible. "Rodel gave me some pointers that helped a lot."

"That's nice." Fake Mom smiles. Dad tries hard not to react. He doesn't know how to deal with a son who was sanctioned for unauthorized and dangerous experiments, and is probably still carrying on with them after getting caught once. So Dad's reaction is to pretend that he doesn't exist. Which may actually be sensible, but somehow it doesn't sit well with me, for reasons I've never really been able to figure out.

"Hedin came up with something interesting today," I say to Mom's AIvatar. "If I were to tell you that the next thing I say would be true, but the last thing I said was a lie, would you believe me?"

The AIvatar looks thoughtful for a moment, then sputters and vanishes.

"Oops." That's the thing about AIvatars: They're made to look and sound just like their originals, but they really aren't all that smart. And AIs, unlike most living beings, just can't resist trying to answer any question that's put to them. Most of them do have information filters so that they won't tell you something you aren't supposed to know, but very few will refuse to answer just because the question is a waste of time. An industrial-grade AI would never choke on a simple logic paradox, but ones like these are no more than glorified greeting cards.

Dad glares at me but doesn't say anything. He's been through this enough times with me that he obviously isn't fooled into thinking I did that accidentally, but what can he do? He really doesn't want to alienate me from the family the way he and Mom did to Rodel. I like to test the limits of what I can get away with, because a lot of times there aren't any.

I sit down at the table and start eating. "Would you like to stay for dinner, Hedin?" Dad asks. Hedin politely shakes his head and waves out. Like the rest of my school buddies, he's used to eating synthesized food, and won't go near the organically grown stuff. With Dad as the cook, he shouldn't worry. When someone like Grandma who actually knows what she's doing raises and cooks it, it ends up with a really strong flavor that takes a lot of getting used to. But Dad's food most of the time has no taste whatsoever. I've often thought about downloading some cooking lessons onto Dad's computer the next time I hack into it, but I think even he would figure out who did it. Or rather Who did it. Heh.

"So how was school today?" Dad asks. "Anything going on that I should know about?" Dad's always worried that there are important things I'm not telling him. I can't imagine why. I always tell him everything. Well, except there was the time for Prank Day when I reprogrammed the school lunch robots to serve computer chips. And the time Hedin and I accidentally coated the school's main hallway with anti-friction paint. Oh yeah, and when I got caught sending Ginahepiltona the fake message telling her she'd been pre-accepted by Rassilon Academy. And, um, a whole bunch of other things. But I mean except for all of that.

"Administrator Skolnik called me into his office," I answer. "He wants me to decide what I'm going to do with my life."

"What did you tell him?"

"That I haven't decided yet." I keep eating, hoping Dad will let me leave it at that. Nothing personal, but I don't need career advice from a guy who washed out as a government agent and became an organic farmer just because he needed the work credits.

Dad chuckles. "You've got time. You're still young."

"Right, Dad. Like, if I'd already regenerated several times, and the best I could do was running some tiny little farm. That would suck."

I try hard not to smile. Dad folds his arms and leans over me. Looks like I found the limit.

***

A couple of hours later, I'm lugging the cleaning robot across the floor and stuffing it back into the closet. Go clean the floor, Dad said. Thanks a million, Dad. You won't have to do the work. We have a robot.
You just have to point it in the right direction.
Let's conveniently forget that the damn thing's sensors are atrophied to the point where it's basically deaf and blind, making me carry it into the kitchen and keep pushing it around so that it gets to everywhere. It would've been less effort to just clean the floor myself, but unlike the robot I don't come with a built-in tank full of ammoniax.

Some people have no sense of humor when it comes to themselves, which is too bad, because they really are pretty funny. All the grown-ups I know insist I need to know exactly what I'll be doing when I'm their age. How many of them are where they had planned to be? Dad certainly isn't. Neither is Administrator Skolnik. Or Mr. Asornek. Ms. Oswin, who could tell? Maybe as a child her career goal was to inflict pain and suffering on students. All of these people asking me to plan out my life know that almost none of us is going to reach his goal. The point isn't to help you toward the life you want. The point is to get you working toward it so you'll stop causing trouble and having fun.

I close the rickety wooden closet door, and wait a minute to make sure the thing isn't going to fall off its hinges. Then I decide to head up the stairs and visit Rodel's room. The steps squeal when I step on them with a sound like a wounded Barglebeast, feeling like they're ready to give under my feet at any moment. Is there anything in this house that gets properly maintained?

Rodel's door is ajar when I get to it. I nudge it a little, and it opens wider. This, I've learned, means that it's okay for me to come in. If he'd been in the middle of something that he didn't want me to see, as he often is, the door would probably have been closed and maybe force-fielded.

"Hey," I say, stepping inside. Coming into Rodel's room is like being teleported to a different world. Goodbye, bare metallic walls; hello, smartly finished wood with inlaid circuitry.

"Hello," he answers, not taking his eyes off his computer screen. It's been months, but I'm still not used to his new face. It's like seeing somebody else sitting in my brother's chair. I found out there's even a name for it: Regeneration shock. It's a standard reaction the first time you find out that someone you know well has turned into a different person. Though usually it's not a close family member, and especially not someone who's only a few years older than you are. But it's not like we're anything resembling a normal family.

"How's it going?"

"Okay." One of the world's great talkers, he is not. We both do this kind of stonewalling with Dad, because obviously there's nothing good that'll come from him being involved in the stuff we do, but with Rodel it's more of a way of life. If he has any real friends or confidants, I haven't met 'em.

As a citizen of Gallifrey
He's not exactly model;
Yet I still kind of like the guy
'cause he's my brother Rodel.

Okay, I was never any good at poetry. I'd have written that one further, but I couldn't come up with a rhyme for "sociopath." Fun fact: His actual full name is Rocaemarberdeltorcaro, but I think even I would end up meeting with an unfortunate accident if I ever used it to his face. He's really every bit the monster they say he is. But what they don't mention is how he got that way. It was about five years ago that Rodel was invited to go through the Time Lord ritual of looking into the Untempered Schism. Dad at the time was all for it. What a great honor! Turns out that the Schism makes a lot of people who look into it go insane. Whoops! Thanks for not telling us that ahead of time.

Rodel didn't seem like he'd had any bad reaction to the Schism... at first. But as the years went by, it got more and more obvious that he wasn't the same happy tech nerd anymore. Now he was a man with a mission, one that he couldn't or wouldn't explain to us. He started spending a lot more time alone in his room working on projects that he wouldn't talk about. Nobody cared that much until one day when he must've messed something up. His experiment exploded, causing him to have to renegerate at the tender age of fourteen. Worse yet, the screw-up triggered some sort of temporal shock wave that the government's sensors detected. They impounded and eventually destroyed the stuff he'd been working on, put him on trial, and forcibly regenerated him a second time for the crime of carrying out dangerous and unauthorized research. Regeneration shock, squared.

As you can imagine, after seeing what it did to my brother, I wasn't too keen to look into the Schism myself. Each different area does the ceremony annually. They first scheduled me to go a couple of years back. When it came my turn to go, I told them I was too sick. They bought it and postponed me until the following year. When that came around, I deliberately got sick by injecting myself with some synthesized germ samples; I knew they'd check. So I got postponed again. This year's ceremony is coming up soon. I really need to think of a different excuse this time. I'm kind of between a rock and a hard place on this; I don't want to risk going bonkers, but I also don't want them to cancel my eligibility and have to spend the rest of my life on this one boring old planet.

Rodel notices me watching as he's fingering through some text documents on his screen. "They're trying to blackball me from the Time Lord Academy," he tells me. I don't ask him who "they" are or how he knows what they're trying to do. Both of us have a habit of getting into things we aren't supposed to, and there are some things you just don't ask about.

"That's bullshit," I say, not lying. Everybody from the Lord President on down will lecture you on how you need to take responsibility for things. But when they themselves have screwed up somebody's life, they have no compunctions about just throwing up their hands and walking away -- sorry we drove you stark raving insane, but it's really not our problem -- and not even giving him what they promised when they made him go through the ritual in the first place.

"Not a problem." A somewhat sinister smile plays along his lips. "I'm on the verge of a major breakthrough. When they see it, even just the part that I'm going to tell them about, they'll have no choice but to admit me."

"I don't want to know," I say, and I mean that too. There aren't a lot of things I'd say that about. Okay, there are all the pointless historical factoids that Ms. Oswin always tries to fill our heads with. But in terms of things that actually might be useful in some way, I'm a knowledge junkie. I want to know it all. Nevertheless, if someday they ask me Did you know about your brother's secret experiments that ended up accidentally time-looping millions of people out of existence, I'd like to be able to answer no.

I don't know why I bother trying to be nice to him. I really don't. Except.... If everybody close to him tells a guy that he's evil scum, chances are he'll end up believing that it's true.

"Maybe you need to think of people as another resource," I say, thinking out loud. "I mean, computer circuits and reality streams are resources, and you operate on them in certain ways, and if you find the right ways then you can get out of them what you want. But people are another resource, and if you give them the right input you can get them to give you what you want."

He swivels all the way around, looking me directly in the face, and I realize that I just had a Chadap Solves The Equation moment. My schoolmate Chadap is a nice guy, but his techincal skills are mediocre at best. But one time when Hedin and I were struggling with a complicated trans-dimensional wave equation, Chadap came up and told us exactly how to get the answer, and his suggestion actually worked. We were both kind of flabbergasted. Turns out that one of the Gorfian fantasy novels that Chadap likes had a sorcerer who opened a portal to an alternate universe. Chadap asked his dad whether somebody could actually do this. His dad, who happens to be a certfied dimensional engineer, explained to him how it could work, and even went through a good bit of the math with him.

Rodel turns back to his screen, but he's clearly still thinking about what I said. And I'm thinking about it too, and hoping I didn't just create an even worse monster.

***

The next day, I'm eating lunch with Hedin and Chadap in the cafetorium, when Mr. Asornek comes in and makes a bee line towards my table, with a piece of paper in hand. I can tell by his expression that he's going to tell me something I won't like.

"We need a new member for the mind-bending team," he tells me.

"What happened?" I ask. "Did Niblosky defect to a different school? Did Alpha decide that bending people's minds isn't nice?"

"It's Chesrick." He hands me his paper. "His eligibility's been revoked."

I look at the paper to see whose signature is on it, but I know before I even see it. When students get shafted at School #32767, nine times out of ten there's one person responsible. "She can't!"

"She can," Mr. Asornek says. "Apparently he hasn't been meeting the required academic standards."

Crap. I actually was worried that this might happen, and tried to prepare for it. I had what I thought was a great way of getting Chesrick to memorize the names of those historical figures. Since the only thing that sticks in his brain is food, I had him associate each name with something good to eat. It worked, but maybe a little too well.

"Who left Time Lord society to start the Sisterhood of Karn?" Ms. Oswin asked him in class a few days ago.

"Maren--" he started to say, and she smiled. "Marinara!" She frowned.

"It's just Maren," she said indignantly. "Have you studied any of the material? Do you even know the name of our most famous president who ushered in the era of the Time Lords?"

Chesrick thought for a moment, then looked up. "Raspberry mignon!"

"Rassilon!" I buried my face in my hand. Worse yet, I knew Chesrick was going to blame me, and when he doesn't like something he always stuffs me into the nearest waste receptacle.

"We'll need someone to take his place until this is cleared up," Mr. Asornek says.

Chadap pushes aside his copiously stocked lunch tray. "I'll do it."

"Okay. You need to start working right away since the match is in a few days," I tell him. "Meet me in the practice room after school." Assuming I don't get detention. "If I'm not there, start on the simulator without me." I get up from the table. "Meanwhile I'll talk with Ms. Crab Nebula."

I head down the hall, knowing that this won't go well. I probably will get detention, at the very least. But I'd hate to lose Chesrick. With Alpha and him at the top of our team, we're pretty close to unstoppable. I don't know how well Chadap will do. He can probably get a certain amount of mileage by being a nice guy who people won't want to attack. Maybe he'll force a draw that way once or twice, but that's about it.

I find Ms. Oswin sitting in her otherwise empty classroom. "Hello, Who," she says, barely looking up. "Can I help you?"

Well, it's theoretically possible, I suppose. But unfortunately I can't give the answer I'd like to. "Okay." I hold up the paper. "According to this... nah, never mind, I don't think I want to do this."

"Why not?"

"Because I already pretty much know how this'll go. You'll tell me that rules are rules and that's that, and probably give me detention."

"I won't give you detention for this." She flashes a smile that would've been at home on a Malkorian predator fish. "Please speak your mind."

"Um, all right." I know in my heart of hearts that this won't go well, but there's no way to back out. "It says you cancelled Chesrick's eligibility to be on the mind-bending team."

"That's right. He failed to meet the minimum academic standards."

"Uh huh. But he's been on the team all season. With him in we've been winning and we can probably make the finals. Why couldn't he stay on just for the last couple matches? There'll be plenty of time after that for him to improve his grades."

"Athletics do not take priority over learning." Her volume goes up a notch, the unmistakeable signal that I'm supposed to stop arguing now. Teachers and administrators will sometimes let you talk so you think you're being listened to, but don't under any circumstances get the idea that you actually have any say in anything. "Once his performance improves, then he can apply to be back on the team."

I turn to go. Clearly I'm wasting my time here.

"By the way, you've got detention."

I whirl around. "But you said--"

"Not for that." She flips the interface screen on her desk over so it faces me. I read what it says.

File submission from user Who00000000000001: The Adventures of SuperWho, Episode 2 Chapter 78: Attack of the Ugly Old History Teacher of Doom!

"Hey!" I say. "I was wondering where that file went! Glad to know it didn't get accidentally deleted."

I hear the Bleep! on my own handheld unit notifying me to report to detention at end of school day. Crap. I walk out. What else can I do? She's obviously not going to buy that I sent the file accidentally. Or more likely she does believe that, but doesn't care anyway.

I step out of the classroom and find myself abruptly face-to-face with Chesrick.

"Hey, Chesrick," I say, smiling feebly. "How ya doin', my man?"

"I'm not your man. Why do you call me that?"

"Take it easy, buddy." My eyes dart from side to side as I calculate my chances of getting away from four hundred pounds of hulking muscle without being pounded to a pulp. Somewhere between fat chance and no way in hell.

"Mr. Asornek said you had something to tell me."

"Um, oh yeah." Marvelous of him to leave me the dirty work. "It seems... now this wasn't my decision, so don't get mad at me, but it turns out that you're off the mind-bending team."

***

I strain to turn my head just enough so that I can see Hedin's smirking face looking down at me.

"Does it hurt?" he asks.

"Don't ask stupid questions," I answer. "Just help me out of this thing."

He reaches down. I twist. He pulls. The waste receptacle shakes. I finally work one arm out, and then my head, and then the other. I push with my feet, and go flying across the room to land on my rear end. I stand up, checking that all of my limbs and joints are still in place.

I walk down the corridor on legs that feel like they might give out at any minute. Darn that Chesrick anyway. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to raise an Androgum as a Gallifreyian, anyhow? I'm not one of those We Are Rassilon people who want to send all of the non-natives packing. I'm not like the Kugorians either. About fifteen percent of their population are colored a slightly deeper shade of yellow than the rest, and because of that those few enjoy lives of privilege while everybody else does all the work. That kind of thing is bullshit and always will be. But Chesrick has a completely different genetic code that's adapted for a completely different set of circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, that means he needs to be treated differently. I shudder at the thought of Chesrick someday cruising around space and time in his own Tardis.

I come into Science class and move over to my table, setting my handheld computing unit down in front of me. For a moment I'm hoping we get to do an experiment today, but there's no equipment set up on the tables, so no such luck. I look over to Mr. Nilvog and he's reading through one of those big hard-cover books that they used to write everything in around three millennia ago. So today's class is going to be another snoozer. I can only hope that I don't start snoring like last month.

***

The detention room is a dreary box, empty except for a few tables and chairs and the AI robot at the front desk. I keep suggesting they put up some posters or something. Even volunteered to do it myself. But do they ever listen? No.

"Reporting for detention," I say to the robot, and the *Blip!* sounds as it scans me in. "Hiya, CZ-3-RWSK-1."

"Greetings," it replies in its mechanical voice. "Take a seat. No talking, eating, or drinking."

"Yeah, I know the rules." I ought to, considering how often I get sent here.

The AI's mechanical eye looks up. "Do you have more?"

I hesitate a moment for dramatic effect, then rattle off a network address code.

The robot's internals start whirring for a moment. "Ah. The Noblewoman's Heart's Desire."

"It's a classic." I smile, and then sit.

Of course Administrator Skolnik is aware that I've been feeding romance novels into the detention bot. I've seen some of his internal memos about it. He, of course, has absolutely no clue as to what I expect to gain by doing this. The real answer? Absolutely nothing. The detention bot is monitored so closely that there's no possible way I could program it to let me out early or something like that without getting caught. But doing something meaningless will keep him guessing, and thinking about this will make him miss other stuff that I do.

I wonder how Chadap's training is going. I stare at the clock. Twenty-five minutes to go.

***

Detention over, I walk down the hall as fast as I can manage without breaking into a run. After school with most people gone, a lot more teachers are paying attention, and I don't want to get another detention for running in the halls.

Coming into the practice room, I see Chadap sitting at a table hooked into a machine, but there's no readout on the screen.

"How's it going?" I ask, but he doesn't answer.

I move around in front of him and wave my hand in front of his face. No response. His chair swivels and his body slumps to the floor, his practice headset still connected.

"Chadap?" I pull his face toward mine. He stares blankly back at me. "Really not a good time to be dead, man."

***

To be continued, of course!

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Who was the Doctor before he became the Doctor? This story attempts to answer that question (that answer, of course, being "Yes!") As Who fans are well aware, answers can sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places, just maybe including a comic strip and book series about a middle school student with a high opinion of himself. If you're not familiar with Big Nate, you might want to look for the books at your local library, or check out these sites:

http://www.bignatebooks.com/

http://www.gocomics.com/bignate/