Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
-- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. -- Sherlock Holmes
As Lom Trevors rode away from Diablo Station, Kid Curry looked at Hannibal Heyes and sighed. "Guess there's no point our goin' on to Porterville, then, is there?"
Heyes shook his head. "None that I can see, Kid. 'Less you have a mind to see that pretty Miss Porter and her hair ribbons again."
The Kid smiled, a regretful expression in his blue eyes. "I don't expect she has much of a mind to see me, anyhow. I was too busy gettin' my partner out of trouble to pay her the attention she expected." He winked, forestalling the other man's protest. "So, what next? Got a plan, Heyes?"
"I sure do -- one that involves us not riding on a stagecoach again for a good long while. What do you say to that, Kid?"
"I say that I like it. Well, we're nowhere near a train, so I guess that leaves us one option. But is there anyplace around here where we can get horses?"
"There's gotta be. The old man who runs the place'll know where." Heyes turned to go back inside, to where the station's manager was slowly setting things to rights, but his partner put a gloved hand on his shoulder.
"I sure am glad that Lom figured it out, about the flag," Curry said.
"Yeah, Kid, Lom's a bright guy. He notices things. I just wish he'd noticed a slightly different attitude in the Governor, though." He looked a little worried, a crease appearing between his dark, straight eyebrows.
The Kid frowned as well. "You and me both, Heyes. You and me both. I hope this don't turn out to be one of those empty promises. I mean, he could be figurin' on stringing us along, keepin' us honest, without ever planning on giving us the amnesty at all."
Heyes' dark eyes turned even darker. "I've thought about that, too, Kid. But Lom would be straight with us, if that was the case."
"If Lom knew."
"Well, there's that. But Lom's good at readin' people."
But the troubled look hadn't left Kid Curry's eyes.
"Heyes, I know you're gonna say I'm crazy, but . . . there's somethin' different about Lom."
"What do you mean, Kid? He don't seem any different to me."
"Heyes, his . . . face. Wasn't his face different?"
Hannibal Heyes smiled. "Kid, you're right. I'm gonna say you're crazy. He's the same Lom he's always been, the Lom we've known for years. You just haven't seen him in a while. Probably you remember him like he was when he was younger."
And Kid Curry couldn't quite bring himself to tell his partner that if anything, Lom Trevors had looked younger today than the way he'd remembered him.
"Hey, hand those back, Heyes." Kid Curry gestured towards his partner through the branches of the tree from which they stood a distant watch over the Hadleyburg courthouse. "Okay, they're coming out of the courthouse. And there's Attorney Brubaker giving us the sign."
"Let's go!" said Heyes, and they climbed down from the tree, mounted their horses, and galloped away as fast as they could.
It wasn't until they'd come to a stop, several hours later, that Curry turned to Heyes. There was a question he'd been wanting to ask him since the binoculars had focused on a tall man in a plaid suit, just outside the courthouse.
"Heyes, do you remember a coupla months back when you told me I was crazy for thinkin' there was something different about Lom?"
"Actually, Kid, you told me you were crazy. I just agreed with you."
"Okay, well with Lom, I know you said I was misremembering something about his face. And I got to thinking about how maybe you were right. After all, Lom's always been a tall man, with a mustache and all, right?"
"So I figured maybe I was just remembering his nose and hair wrong. But Heyes, this Brubaker is nothin' like the Brubaker we met in Junction City. His hair is the same color, but he's taller, and bigger, and his face is different. Didn't you notice that? I mean, you were the one that met with him, and you never said anything about it. What's goin' on?"
"Nothin', Kid. Nothin'. Except maybe you've been out in the sun too long, or maybe we'd better get you some spectacles, 'cause I'm worried about your eyesight. That's the very same Chester Brubaker we met up with in Junction City. There ain't another one that I know of. He just lost some weight, that's all. His face is leaner, not so round. Remember, you saw him from quite a distance, this time. Even with the binoculars." He grinned, and put a hand on the Kid's shoulder. "You better get some rest. Sounds like you're all worn out."
Curry shook his head. Despite the smile and the friendly gesture, the look in Heyes' eyes told him something different. There was something going on. It was almost like his partner was in league with some of their old friends to drive him crazy. But why?
Afterwards, all Kid Curry could think about was that after all the tight situations they'd been in and gotten themselves out of, it would just figure that Heyes would get himself killed as they were walking down the street minding their own business.
All right, the man who shot Heyes clearly recognized him, and obviously held a grudge against him. Well, there must have been plenty of folks who had grudges against Heyes, people whose money he'd stolen or, alternately, won fair and square through his skills at the poker table. But this one, unfortunately, was a good shot, and sneaky. Otherwise Curry would have had him disarmed before he'd taken the first shot.
But as it was, it happened so quickly that all Curry could remember was a voice snarling, "Heyes!" and a flash of light. Then, even as he whirled around and drew on the unknown assailant, there was another flash of light.
By the time the Kid knew who it was he was aiming at, Heyes had already fallen to the ground. He shot the man dead where he stood. He had to -- if he'd have just wounded him, the man would have told the sheriff who it was he'd shot, and it wouldn't have been difficult to surmise who it was who had shot him, either. For once, Kid Curry, who always used his gun to disarm or to wound, never to kill, took a life without much regret. The bastard had shot Heyes, probably killed him. No doubt he'd have shot Curry dead, too, if he could have.
Even the sheriff accepted his story, later on when "Thaddeus Jones" told him about the fatal shooting of his friend "Joshua Smith." Because his story was true. There was only one thing wrong with it. Hannibal Heyes didn't die. But he did, too. And that was only the first impossible thing that Kid Curry had to believe that day.
As Curry ran to his friend's side, he saw that it was too late. Heyes had taken two bullets in his chest, and it was obvious that some vital organs had been hit. Not even a doctor could save him now. He clasped Heyes' hand in his, and felt that it was growing colder even as he held it.
He looked into his partner's deep brown eyes, and saw that they were beginning to cloud over. The end was very near.
"Kid," said Heyes with a weak voice, "you gotta get me inside the hotel. You gotta do it now."
"Heyes, if I move you, you'll just die all the faster."
But his partner's voice had an edge to it. "If you do as I say, I'm not gonna die at all. But you've gotta trust me, and you've gotta do as I say. Now I've gotta get inside, where no one can see me."
A fine time to decide to value his privacy, Curry thought, disgustedly. Why couldn't Heyes understand that to be moved was the worst possible thing for him? Still, if that's what he wanted, who was he to deny his friend's last request? "Okay, Heyes. I'll take you back to the hotel room, if that's what you really want. But I don't think it's a good idea."
All Heyes managed to get out in response was a jagged sounding, "Trust me."
And then Kid Curry had slipped his partner's arm around his neck and half-supported, half-carried him back into the hotel. One of the bystanders was crying out after him, "Are you crazy, mister? You're gonna finish him off!"
"Why don't you wait for the doctor to come?" asked another.
But Heyes whispered urgently into his partner's ear. "The doctor's not gonna do me any good, Kid. We gotta get back to the hotel."
When they reached the hotel stairs, Curry found himself doing a lot more carrying and a lot less supporting. Hannibal Heyes was about the same height as his partner, but he must have lost weight lately, Curry thought. He wasn't light as a feather, exactly, but he wasn't as hard to carry as he ought to be. *Maybe it's me,* wondered the Kid. *Don't people have abnormal bursts of strength when they find themselves in life-and-death situations like this one?* He thought he could remember Heyes telling him something like that, once.
Curry managed to get his partner up the stairs and into their room, where he laid him down on the bed. *It figures we couldn't have gotten a room with two beds, this time,* he thought, and then wondered why it mattered, anyway, whether Heyes died in his bed or just in his room.
"Kid," came Heyes' voice, painful and labored. "I need you to wire Lom right away."
"Lom? Why? You determined to clear your record before you go? What does it matter, now?"
But the only reply was the same phrase. "Trust me."
"I don't wanna leave you, Heyes."
"Please. Just tell him I've been shot in the chest, and he needs to come at once." But that was too much effort for Heyes, and he sunk back on the bed, his dark hair plastered to his head with sweat, his brown eyes looking glassier than ever. "Now," he whispered painfully.
"Dammit, Heyes, all right. Just don't die on me while I'm gone."
Despite the agonizing pain he was obviously experiencing, Heyes managed one of his wide grins. "Promise."
And then Curry was gone, down the hall, down the hotel steps two at a time, nearly colliding with a woman and her small children in the lobby, practically falling down the hotel's porch steps, but still moving, quickly, desperately. He sent the requisite wire to Porterville, and paid the clerk with shaking hands. "JOSHUA SMITH SHOT AND DYING. REQUESTS YOU COME AT ONCE. GRAND JUNCTION, NEVADA. -- T. JONES."
It would take Lom days to get there, and Heyes would be long dead when he arrived. But if that was what was going to give his partner peace, then Kid Curry knew he'd done all he could.
But dammit, what if Heyes was dead already? What if he'd gone without giving his partner a chance to say goodbye? Curry felt a strange tickling sensation in the corner of his eye, and he realized he was crying. He couldn't remember the last time he had cried, but he thought it might have been the day that the raiders had come and killed his family. But even as he dashed the tear from his eye, he'd already covered a dozen of the yards from the telegraph office to the hotel.
He reached the room, heart pounding, and threw open the door.
Hannibal Heyes wasn't lying on the bed. In fact, Hannibal Heyes was nowhere in the room. But Danny Bilson was standing there, with a puzzled look on his face, and confusion in his blue eyes. That's when Curry knew that he'd gone mad for sure. Because he'd shot Danny Bilson dead, himself, six months ago.
It was self-defense, to be sure; Bilson had drawn first, and he was such a good shot that Curry hadn't been able to trust himself to just wing the man. But he'd be lying to himself if he pretended that the fact that Bilson had left him and Heyes stranded in the desert to die, without horses or supplies, or that the old miner Seth *had* died because of Bilson's betrayal, had nothing to do with the fact that Danny Bilson himself was now dead. The $20,000 Danny had stolen from them mattered, too, but Kid Curry believed that life, even the life of a snake like Danny Bilson, was worth more than all the money in all the banks in the West. What Bilson had done to get that money was worse than unforgivable.
"Bilson? What are you doin' here? What'd you do with Heyes? You're dead -- I know you're dead. Unless this is hell and you're my roommate."
"Kid, what you talkin' about? Why you callin' me Bilson? It's me -- Heyes."
By now Curry had his gun drawn. "I don't know what kind of sick joke this is, Bilson, but it ain't funny. I guess you recovered from that gunshot wound after all. But how the hell did you find me, and where's Heyes?" The man standing in front of him was speaking in Danny Bilson's voice -- Curry remembered it well enough from those months at Seth's mine in the Sangre de Cristos. He had Danny Bilson's reddish blond hair and blue eyes, and he had Danny Bilson's long face. But he was dressed in Hannibal Heyes' bloodstained black shirt and his mustard-colored trousers, although both seemed a little too small for him, especially at the wrists and ankles.
"Kid, I'm right here!" If anything, the other man's disorientation seemed to be increasing. "Kid, it . . . it happened while you were gone. I didn't know it'd happen this quickly. I never done this before."
"You never done what before? And why you callin' me Kid, Bilson? You know my name is Thaddeus Jones." He realized that he'd already slipped and referred to Heyes by his real name, twice, but there was no reason why that had to be *Hannibal* Heyes. Thaddeus Jones could know somebody else named Heyes, somebody completely different, couldn't he? Besides, Bilson, if it was Bilson, didn't seem to be in any condition to go run to the sheriff and turn him in.
"The change, Kid, the change." But just then, Bilson, or whoever he was, turned and looked in the mirror, and gasped. He put his hand to his face, and traced its features, its planes. He put his hand for a moment to his fine-textured blond hair, and looked down at the sleeves of the black shirt, which now ended more than an inch short of his wrists. "Kid, I didn't know *this* would happen," he said, and fell to the floor in a heap. His last conscious word was, "Lom."
Curry holstered his gun, and bent to the floor to see to the other man. It made no sense, what he'd just said. Danny Bilson didn't know Lom Trevors. And he couldn't have known what Curry's errand was, unless Heyes had told him before he . . . died.
Bilson was unconscious, but he seemed stable. His breathing was labored, but steady. Curry grabbed his wrist, and felt for his pulse. There was a steady beat, but it felt peculiar, almost as if . . . no, that was impossible. He checked his own pulse, which was racing with the confusion of what was going on, but the rhythm that passed through his own veins was different than the other man's, familiar. It was almost as though Danny Bilson's pulse echoed.
Kid Curry sighed deeply, and, sliding the man's arm around his shoulder, he propelled him to the bed. This man was several inches taller than he, and though lean, was solidly built. He was harder to carry than Heyes had been. Curry hefted him onto the bed, and as he did, his eye was caught by a strand of dark brown hair lying on the pillow. Heyes' hair. He found himself picking up this small remnant his partner had left behind, evidence that he'd really been there.
It felt peculiar, morbid, to be holding it, but after all, didn't people make jewelery of the hair of their loved ones, departed and otherwise? Curry had seen a girl's hair bracelet once, and it was pretty, like muted, faded silk. But what would he do with a single hair, anyway? He let it drop, the last trace of his partner, other than the contents of that saddlebag, and the clothes that Danny Bilson was somehow, inexplicably wearing.
He returned his attention to the man lying on the bed. What could he have done with Heyes' body? That's what didn't make sense. And how did he get those clothes on, and what had he done with his own? Put them on Heyes?
There was nowhere else Bilson could have taken Heyes' body, was there? The other rooms on the floor were all locked up, and besides, the man seemed so weak he could barely stand, much less carry another fully grown man who . . . Curry stopped. He didn't want to think it, but he couldn't help himself. Another fully grown man who had been surprisingly easy for Curry to lift. But if Bilson had moved him, it was probably after he was . . . gone. And then he would have been a dead weight, much harder to move.
The body must still be in the room somewhere. He dropped to his knees, and looked underneath the iron-framed bed. Nothing there except a little dust. Where else? He threw open the wardrobe, looked behind the dresser, found himself looking in places where he knew Heyes wouldn't fit, dead or alive.
Then he turned his attention back to the man on the bed. Danny Bilson was muttering, unconsciously, and what he said made Curry's eyes grow wide with amazement. "Jed, no. Mama! Don't. Don't look. They're all . . . gone now." As he continued to mumble, he went on reliving that day back in Kansas when the raiders had come and killed both their families.
That was something that Danny Bilson couldn't have known. That was something that only Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry knew, and neither of them ever talked about it. Rarely among themselves, and never with anyone else. Ever. Had Bilson somehow gotten this information out of Heyes in the short time that Curry had been at the telegraph office? How would there have been time? There would barely have been time for him to have concealed the body. And Heyes sure as hell hadn't walked out of there on his own two feet.
Curry continued to sit there, as the subject of Bilson's muttering changed. He was talking about the Devil's Hole gang, now. He seemed to be arguing with Wheat Carlson about something. Of course, if Bilson had known about who they really were, he might easily have known about Wheat, too. But the subject of the argument -- it was a particular bank job they'd pulled, one that Curry could remember, down to every last detail. And Bilson was getting them all right.
He just couldn't figure this one out. The man lying on the bed claimed to be Heyes, and he knew things that only Heyes could know. He was wearing Heyes' clothes and there wasn't another set in the room, except the familiar garments that were crammed into Heyes' and his own saddlebags, none of which would have fit Danny Bilson right, anyway. But he was . . . Danny Bilson. There was no doubt about that.
And Danny Bilson was dead. Hannibal Heyes was dead. But somehow there was a living man, unconscious on the bed now, who looked and talked like Danny Bilson, but who knew things about Hannibal Heyes that he had no right knowing. Unless . . . but that was impossible.
There was a low, mechanical sound in the corner of the room. Kid Curry whirled around and drew his gun, pointing it in the direction of the noise where, to his complete amazement, a large wooden wardrobe had appeared, identical in every respect to the one it sat next to. Except that wardrobes didn't just suddenly appear. And wardrobes didn't just suddenly open, and grown men didn't just suddenly step out of them.
Especially not Lom Trevors, who could only have received the telegram sent to him in Porterville within the last half hour. And most especially not Chester Brubaker, who was in New Mexico, as far as Curry knew.
But here they both were.
"How is he?" asked Lom.
"How the hell -- " Curry choked out.
"Never mind that," said Lom, holding up his hand. "Kid, put away the gun. I know I got a lot of explaining to do, but right now, we gotta get Heyes inside that thing," he pointed back at the wardrobe.
The Kid didn't put away the gun. "We gotta get Heyes inside that thing," he repeated. "You wanna tell me what that thing is? You wanna tell me where Heyes is? And you wanna tell me what a man I killed six months ago is doing, lying on that bed, breathing and mumbling and telling stories that only Heyes and I could possibly know? And you better make it fast, because if I'm not crazy already, I'm gonna be, soon."
"Put down the gun, Mister Curry," said Brubaker. "It's going to be difficult to explain, but meantime, your friend is running out of time. And if we don't get him inside, where we've got some equipment to help with things like this, he may not make it."
Lom spoke, more patiently. "When you see what's inside, Kid, it may help you to believe what we're gonna tell you. Now, I know it sounds crazy, but that *is* Hannibal Heyes lying on that bed, there. Heyes told me you noticed there was something different about me. You were right. I changed, just like Heyes, here, changed. Just like Chester, here, changed too. I can explain it, but right now, you've gotta put down the gun."
Kid Curry slowly holstered his gun, but he was shaking his head and saying softly to himself, "It can't be. It can't be." And he didn't stop saying it, not for a long time. Not after Lom and Brubaker had gotten on either side of the man on the bed . . . of Danny Bilson, which was impossible . . . and half-carried, half-dragged him towards the wardrobe from which they'd just emerged. Not after they walked into the wardrobe, which was impossible. And not after he followed behind them, and saw what lay behind the wardrobe doors. Which was the most impossible thing of all.
Behind the wardrobe doors lay a room which was two or three times the size of the hotel room in which the wardrobe sat. Curry tried to pretend that he believed that they'd somehow gotten into the next room, but he knew that was impossible. There were no windows in the room, but it was softly lit by something much stronger and steadier than an oil or a gas lamp.
And in that soft, bright glow, he saw that he was in a room filled with strange and wonderful and frightening things that he had never seen before. There were things that blinked, and things that hummed and things that made noise. But the most amazing thing of all was the thing that stood in the middle of the floor, and the reason it was so amazing was because of the use that Lom made of it. It was a six-sided pedestal, covered with buttons and levers and lights, and Lom flicked a lever and pressed a couple of buttons. "Better secure things," he explained to Brubaker, and returned to Bilson's side. "The isolation chamber's just down the corridor."
Is he going to be okay?" asked Brubaker. "I've never seen anyone begin the regeneration process outside of a TARDIS before."
"He'll be just fine," said Lom. "The disorientation may last a little longer, that's all. But he's young and strong and this is his first regeneration -- all he needs is to stabilize."
Kid Curry wished to hell he knew what they were talking about.
He followed them, through what seemed like an endless hallway. He must have gone mad, he decided. Only once before, when he'd been recovering from a gunshot wound and had been given laudanum for the pain, had he felt anything like this -- the disorientation, the fevered visions. But then he had known perfectly well that he was lying in a bed, even when his fantasies had seemed to carry him elsewhere. This time, things were different.
Suddenly, the trio before him stopped, rather abruptly. Lom touched something by the side of the door, and it slid open sideways, causing Kid Curry to start. The sheriff and Brubaker deposited their weakened companion inside, gently laying him on the floor and then walking out. Lom touched the panel again, and the door slid shut.
They turned around and encountered Curry, who was standing behind them and holding his gun on them. "Now are you two gonna tell me what's goin' on here? Or am I gonna have to shoot one of you?"
Lom held up a hand. "Now, Kid, you wouldn't do that to us. We're your friends."
"I thought you were my friend, Lom. Now I'm not so sure. I want answers. I want to know what's happened to Heyes, and I want to know how come there's a dead man walking around here, and you two are acting like there's no nevermind about it. And I want to know how people can change faces, like you claim they can. I've heard a lot, in my time, but I ain't never heard a story like that."
"We'll be happy to explain everything to you, Kid, but wouldn't you rather wait until Heyes can tell you himself?"
"You got Heyes?"
Lom gestured back to the room in which he had just deposited Danny Bilson. "Kid, I know this is difficult for you to understand, but you've got to believe it. That is Hannibal Heyes in there."
"You're lying!" Curry exclaimed, and a shot went off.
If Kid Curry had wanted to hit Lom Trevors, to injure him or to kill him, there is no doubt that he would have done it. The fact that the bullet went wild only demonstrated that, even with the kind of stress he was under, Curry only wanted to scare him into dropping his ridiculous story, and make him tell the truth. Curry knew that Lom knew that, and was not surprised when the sheriff didn't fire back. But then he felt a strange buzzing sensation at the back of his neck, and heard Chester Brubaker saying softly, "I'm sorry, Mister Curry. This won't hurt a bit." And then there was nothing but darkness.
When he awoke, he was seated on a couch in a rather sumptuously furnished room. There was wood panelling on the walls, and the floor was covered with rich persian carpets. The furniture was dark, and heavy, and comfortably upholstered. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, and the walls were lined with bookcases. It was like a room in Soapy's house, or that railroad president, Mr. Harlingen's. It was nothing like the hotel that he and Heyes were checked into.
"How you manage a fire inside the TARDIS is beyond me," Brubaker was saying. Curry looked around, wondering what a TARDIS was, and saw that Brubaker and Lom were seated by the fire. A hand reached down and applied a wet cloth to his forehead.
"You okay, Kid? You back among us?" said the voice. The words were the words that Hannibal Heyes would have used, but the voice wasn't Heyes' voice. "I've been worried about you. I know this has been hard for you to understand. Hell, Kid, I was pretty shocked myself to see that my regeneration had taken the form it did. My memories of Danny Bilson aren't any better'n yours, you know."
Curry nerved himself to look. There was an expression in the light blue-grey eyes of the man who was speaking to him that was oddly familiar. It didn't make sense. It couldn't be. But then, nothing that had been happening recently made sense. "Is it really you, Heyes? How?"
"It's a complicated story, Kid," came Lom's voice from over by the fire. "Maybe I'd better tell it. Heyes is still pretty disoriented from the regeneration. That isolation room we took him to -- well, it's much safer if the whole process takes place there."
"Let me tell him," said Danny -- no, Heyes -- softly. "You see, Kid, once upon a time there was a place where everyone was serious all the time. Nobody laughed there, not ever. Everyone there was raised to have serious responsibilities when they grew up, and they spent all their time studying and preparing for those responsibilities. The place was called Gallifrey, Kid, and don't bother to tell me you haven't heard of it, because I know that already."
"Is it back East?" asked Curry, frowning.
"No, it's much farther away than that. But just listen, now, Kid. There was a boy there, on Gallifrey. In your terms, you'd call him a nine-year-old boy. He was full of mischief, always getting into places where he shouldn't have been, taking things that weren't his. He was always getting into trouble for it, too.
"But he had a hero, a man who'd just up and left this serious place one day, and stolen a TARDIS, a machine like this one. And left the Time Lords, his people, and went off to see the great wide universe for himself."
"Universe?" Curry gasped.
"Kid, in this thing, we could go anywhere -- anywhere at all -- in time and space."
The Kid frowned, squinting his blue eyes. "You mean this past year, when we been on the dodge, trying to get straight with the governor of Wyoming, we coulda gone anywhere in time and space? Anyplace that's ever been or will be?"
"Well, no, Kid. You see, I don't have one of my own. I'm sure you've guessed by now that the little boy was me. And I was imitating my hero, a man called the Doctor. But the Doctor was a grownup. And he knew how to fly a TARDIS. I . . . well, I didn't. I knew enough to set the controls, and I set them for here. For Earth. It was the Doctor's favorite, well, planet, and so I knew I wanted to go there. So I set the controls, and I managed to take off, but I don't rightly know what happened after that. For a long time, I didn't even remember that. Just that some people found me. A family called Heyes. They took me in, just like I was one of their own. And a few months later, we moved to Kansas, to join my foster father's sister and her family. And I met the best friend I ever had. I met you."
"Planet, Heyes? You're sayin' that you're from another planet? This is crazy. Ain't it crazy, Lom?"
Lom looked at him, with something gentle in his eyes. "No, Kid, it's not crazy. Because, you see, I'm from Gallifrey, too. I was the one who found Heyes' TARDIS and had it returned back home, and I'm the one who told Heyes who he really was, when I met up with you on the outlaw trail. He'd forgotten all about it, you see. Amnesia caused by the shock of the crash."
Curry looked at Brubaker. "And don't tell me -- you're in on this because you're from Galli-whatzit also?"
"I think you already knew that." Brubaker smiled at him.
"And that's why you all can . . . change like you did?"
Lom nodded. "The High Council sent me here to bring Heyes back, when he fled. I decided to stay on and look after him, from a distance like, instead. The Council was going through some difficulties of its own, and they decided it was easiest just to let things be. As for regenerating, I was wounded pretty seriously between the time you first came to see me at Porterville, and the time we met at Diablo Station. Actually, I suppose you could say I was killed. I was lucky that my regeneration was very close in appearance to my original self, and the townspeople of Porterville were happy enough about my miraculous recovery to pretend that any changes they noticed in their sheriff were due to his near-brush with death."
Curry turned back to Brubaker. "And you?"
"I came to observe something, and I got to liking it here. Never knew there were any others of us settled around here until I met you and Heyes in that jail back in Junction City. We recognized each other for what we were, of course. Time Lords always do. Heyes told me about Lom, and I took a little trip up to Wyoming to meet him. Anyway, I got caught in a freak cattle stampede outside of Junction City, four or five months back, and when I'd recovered, I decided I still wanted to stay on awhile longer. Of course, since my appearance had changed a great deal, I had to set up practice someplace else, so I moved to another part of the state."
"You're tellin' me that with all of time and space at hand, you like it best right here?"
Brubaker shrugged. "For now. We live a lot longer than you humans do."
The incautious comparison of Time Lords to humans made Curry feel twitchy all over again, but before he could speak, Heyes interrupted. "What I don't understand is how I took on the appearance of a man who the Kid and I had such a bad experience with."
Lom shrugged. "Somehow the incident must have made a big impression on you. Lady Romana once deliberately regenerated into the form of a woman she'd met."
"But she'd become unreliable by then, as I recall. It happened after she'd started travelling with the Doctor." Brubaker spoke as though the name left a sour taste in his mouth.
"Oh, the Doctor's not so bad, if you give him a chance," shrugged Lom.
"Did you ever get to meet him?" Curry asked Heyes, curiously. "What with him bein' your childhood hero and all?"
"Not yet," said Heyes, smiling so that the corners of his eyes crinkled. With his new face, those light blue eyes almost disappeared when he smiled like that. "But you never know just when or where somebody like him may pop up." His expression turned serious. "Kid, I know this is going to be hard for you. But I hope . . . even if I'm not exactly who . . . or what . . . you always thought I was, you're still the best friend I've ever had. I hope you . . . that is, I know it's gonna make a difference, but . . . "
Kid Curry nodded. "I can't say it won't, Heyes. I mean, you're not the same, are you?"
"No," said Heyes. "With each regeneration, well, it's like another facet of my personality. I'll never be the same, twice, not in all the twelve lives that I have in store."
"Twelve?" asked Curry, his eyes widening. "And this one is only number two? That's a lot of lives, Heyes. That's a lot of different Heyeses, Heyes." A thought struck him, and he grew somber. "I guess I won't be around for all twelve, though, will I?"
Heyes shook his head, sadly. "I doubt it, Kid. Not unless I have a real bad run of luck."
"What?" asked the Kid, stung, and then realized what his friend meant. "You mean you're gonna live for a real long time."
"I'm seven hundred and twenty, in your years," interjected Lom.
Curry shook his head. "I knew you were adopted and we weren't really blood cousins, but why didn't you ever tell me any of this before? I thought we trusted each other with everything, Heyes."
"Kid, I barely trusted myself with this. I couldn't tell you. Besides, Lom convinced me that it would be best if I didn't tell you. I didn't know about it, myself, until we met up with Lom back when you were nineteen and we thought I was twenty-one. That's when he told me. He became an outlaw just to keep tabs on us; he'd been watching me for years and I'd never known." Heyes paused, and looked uncomfortable.
"So many times I wanted to tell you. But it took me a long time before *I* could accept it. Gradually, the memories started to come back. And one day, Lom came up with one of those doctor's listening tubes, and made me listen to that funny echo that I'd always felt in my heartbeat. He told me it was because I had two hearts, because I wasn't human. I told him he was crazy. Then he made me listen to his. Lom's heartbeat sounded like mine, Kid. Nobody else's ever had, but his did. I'd never experienced that before. All those ways I knew I was different, Lom was like me. And eventually I knew that it was true -- that it was because we were Time Lords from Gallifrey. Because I remembered."
Kid Curry looked at his old friend's new face and gave a tentative smile. "This is a lot to get used to, Heyes."
"I know, Kid."
"But I'm gonna try to have it make as little difference as possible. That's all I can promise . . . partner."
He put out his hand, and Heyes grasped it, and each of the men silently promised himself that no matter what happened, they were still partners.
Author's Note: The concepts of Time Lords and regeneration are, of course, borrowed from *Doctor Who*.
Free counters provided by Honesty.com.