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A widely-held secret

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On her first day as a Curator at the Atenan Museum, Marie was sent instructions on accessing a very peculiar file. She'd barely opened it when Fisk, a more senior curator, appeared in the door of her office and said "I'm going to need to explain that." He glanced at her screen. "Have you had a chance to read it?"

"No," she said, "I've only just opened it."

"Well, in that case," he said, settling into a chair, "have a look through and I'll just narrate."

The file opened with a page that held pictures of eleven men. Some of the pictures were security stills, others were sketches (probably by one of the art history curators, Marie thought). The text across the top said simply "The Doctor". Marie stared at the page for a moment before noticing the text at the bottom saying "Protocols" and selecting it. Fisk made an approving noise.

"This is a confidential document, not to be shared with non-curatorial staff," it read. "Please be sure to add your record of any and all encounters with the Doctor, with detail. If updating collections information subsequent to an encounter, please use the term TDBB as a citation; this is the agreed upon term for all accredited Museums when citing information gathered from encounters with the Doctor. Updated image files should be added to the file for each iteration and should not replace the main index image." And that was all there was.

Marie turned to look at Fisk. "TDBB?"

He laughed. "It means The Doctor, Blue Box. Or That Damned Blue Box, depending on who you ask."

"And that means...?"

He looked her dead in the eyes and said. "The Doctor is a TimeLord. Really. And the Blue Box is his TARDIS. Apparently it's some sort of mid-twentieth century public safety device, at least according to James, and since it's not my area I take his word for it." He paused giving her a chance to catch up to the idea that TimeLords were real. "I know, it's a bit much, isn't it? 'S part of why we don't let word get out. Well, that and other things, but those can wait.

"From what we can tell - or rather, from what Mme. Gisela deduced when she started looking into it, lo these many years ago - he really does get to all ends of time and space. If you know where to look, or rather how, you can find reference to him all over the place."

Marie interrupted, pointing to the images on the main screen. "So, all of these are him? His... whatzits. Iterations?"

Fisk nodded. "Yes. And they all look different, but they all have at least one thing in common: big fan of museums. Visiting them, at least. He'll wander through and tell you what's wrong with the label text or provenance on everything, and he comes out with the most amazing stories."

"You've met him?" Marie looked a tad overwhelmed by that.

"Not exactly, no. Had to clean up after his last visit, and I watched the security video, which has audio here. Pretty much because of him, really." Fisk leaned over and pointed to the second-to-last picture, a man in a blue suit and hair a bit wild. "I got that one. Made off with a 23rd century coffee machine, only he said it was some sort of pulse wave generator if you moved the parts about."

Marie shook her head a little at the absurdity of that idea. "What did you do?"

Fisk straightened. "What you have to do when the Doctor's been by - updated the records, saying that the item had been deaccessioned and donated to a scientist, which is more or less true. And updated the files with footage, and a complete report. Oh, and sent out a message to the other institutions which had that model in their collections, to let them know about the alternate use for the thing." He looked directly at Marie. "The Doctor's existence is a widely-held secret by the curators of Associated Museums. We share what we learn, but we don't let on that we know about him to anyone else."

"Why?" asked Marie, still trying to grasp all of the information before her.

"Gisela and some of the other head curators thought that governments and agencies and things might get the wrong idea about a Timelord swanning about the universe." Fisk hesitated, then went on "Besides, he seems to have such fun sneaking in and correcting everything, it didn't seem fair to let on we know who he is."

"Which is why no-one's told security?"

Fisk grinned. "Good catch. Yes, exactly. Plus, he'd be the worst visitor ever if he knew we actually paid attention. Can you imagine?" The curators both made faces at the thought. "Anyway, you should read through, get to know what they all look like, and what he behaves like. According to Steve, TimeLords had up to thirteen iterations, so there's two missing. But no need to do it right away; it's a huge thing. I'm going to pop down the cafe for coffee, if you want to come?"

Marie glanced at the clock. "But I've only been here an hour," she said cautiously.

With a smile, he explained "And that means it's time for the curators from all departments to descend on the cafe and have a gossip. First cup's on me; consider it an initiation gift."

"Well, if you're buying..." she smiled and followed him out of the office, leaving behind the screen with the eleven very different faces of one singular man.