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Title: The Boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne
Rating: G
Characters: Alt!Pete Tyler
Spoilers/Warnings: Through Season Two
Summary: In those days if you were unemployed for more than six months, and you were a bloke under twenty-nine without other claims on you, you were conscripted into the Territorial Army.
A/N: I always wondered how Alt!Pete had gone from the man we met in Father's Day to the man we met in Army of Ghosts in just twenty years. What had made the difference?

In 1984 I was working for a consumer electronics shop. I liked it. I wore a suit every day -- I thought I was so flash! But the punters seemed to like it. I was good at it, sales.

But that was a bad year for the markets, economy was down, whatever Thatcher was saying, and we had a bad Christmas season. That’s death for a retailer, a bad Christmas season. Plus, my manager had a nephew who was just leaving school.

In those days if you were unemployed for more than six months, and you were a bloke under twenty-nine without other claims on you, you were conscripted into the Territorial Army. It was Year Five of the Third General Emergency, we were still until curfew, and they still needed blokes with guns on every street corner.

So my boss’s nephew got my job, I got the boot, and six months later I joined the Terry Army.

The first thing I noticed was that the food wasn’t as bad as everybody said it was. The second was that they gave us a lot of tests. They gave us aptitude tests, and reading tests, and vision tests.

And they came back and called out a lot of names and said that those blokes would be taking another lot of tests. Which were just like the first tests, as far as I could tell. They warned us before we took them that whoever did worst would be on permanent latrine duty. I think now that was to discourage anybody who thought that by doing badly he’d be flagged as unfit for duty and kicked back to civilian life.

I knew I’d done badly on the first lot of tests. I’d always done badly on tests. I knew I’d done worse on the second lot. I could just tell.

So the next day someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Doctor wants to see you.” So I went to see the doctor.

He asked me if I were Peter Tyler and I said yes. Yes, sir. Then he handed me a card, and said, “Read that. Out loud.”

So I did. And I could tell I was in trouble, because what I was reading didn’t make any sense.

He looked at me, hard, and said, “Do you know what “indifferently” means, Tyler?”

And I said, “Yes, it means to do things like you don’t care. Like you don’t care how they come out.”

And he said, “Do you know what “impartially” means?”

And I said, “Yeah, it means to not take sides.”

And he said, “What’s three times 439?”

And that took me a minute, but I got it. And he asked me a couple of other questions like that. They were easy because I was always having to calculate prices in the shop.

And the doctor said, “You thought I was going to tell you you were too dim to be in the Army, didn’t you?”

And I said, “Yeh-yes sir.”

“Because people have been calling you dim all your life, haven’t they?”

“A no-hoper,” I agreed, getting into the spirit of things.

“Well, I’m not going to,” he said. “You’re a lot sharper than you know. Your verbal skills are good, your maths skills are good, your skills for anything written are abysmal. They’re so bad, in fact, that you were flagged for my attention.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I was starting to get hopeful.

“I think you have dyslexia,” he said. And of course I didn’t know what that was. I thought it meant I had some kind of brain tumor. I started thinking how upset my Mum would be.

“That’s not a disease,” said the doctor. “It’s a condition. It means you have a lot of trouble with written words and numbers. But it doesn’t mean you’re dim. It means you need a teacher who knows what he’s doing.”

And I just stood there, feeling stunned.

“I’m going to send you on a training course,” he said. “They’ll teach you how to figure out what a written word really is and how to tell when you’ve got it wrong. With practice, you can get almost as fast as a normal reader.”

And I just stood there, still stunned. All my life I’d thought I was too stupid for school. I’d learned to read people, get on with people, because that was my only stock in trade. But now that was going to change.

“You’re dismissed, Tyler,” said the doctor, “Enjoy the Army.” And I backed out of there, saluting.

And you know what? I did enjoy the Army. Not the standing about, threatening to shoot people, but the people side of the army. The keeping morale up. The figuring out what was wrong with somebody or why something had happened, and who had done it.

I might have stayed in, after my two years were up, even, except that Jackie wanted to get married, and I wanted to start my own business. By then I thought I could do it. I could always hire people to do the really tricky stuff, but I could read well enough by then that I didn’t think I could be completely fooled by written stuff. I used to think how I’d protect my business, how I’d get one lawyer to read what another lawyer had said.

And I married Jackie, and I found this tiny company called Vitex, and I thought, “This could do it. But I don’t want just to be their best salesman. I want to own it,” and I formed a syndicate to buy out the company.

And I did, and you know all the rest.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 17th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
This is now my personal head canon for alt!Pete, who I love almost as much as I loved Rose's dad. And because I have a brother who fought mild dyslexia,before getting on very well in life, I'm standing up and cheering even more. (You also manage to sketch in some really telling illustrations of Pete's world, and I always love world-building like that.) This was great!

Edited at 2011-07-17 08:18 pm (UTC)
Jul. 19th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much!

It made so much sense to me once I thought of it: alt!Pete was not only a tremendous business success at a relatively young age (alt!Jackie was about forty, so Pete was probably about forty-five), he was also able to transition fairly smoothly into the role of military leader. This suggested experience and training that the original Pete never had a chance to get.

It wasn't hard to guess that the original Pete had never been educated to anything like his capacity, and untreated, undiagnosed dyslexia presented an explanation for how a man with so much native ability could have had so hard a time getting his life started.
Jul. 17th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
That was some lovely word-building and character backstory. I really enjoyed this fic.
Jul. 19th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I enjoyed writing it!
Jul. 18th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
I know things have been nuts for you, so I'm really happy that you found time to participate.

An interesting bit of very plausible head canon here! And I always have a soft spot for fics that explore the decidedly more military world that we see in Age of Steel.
Jul. 19th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
It makes sense when you think about it, doesn't it? Original!Pete is a screwup, yet is bright enough to figure out, in "Father's Day", what must have happened, and what he has to do. He's good with people, good at figuring them out. But why do his business ideas always come to nothing? Why can't he hold down a job?

Some day I'll figure out what happened to the Vitex company without Pete Tyler to buy them and make them a huge success. :)

Jul. 22nd, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
So glad to see you writing again. I like this view of alt!Pete. You do have wonder what made the difference in his life's path.
Jul. 29th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I hope there will be more writing, but I've said that before. :(

Glad you liked the story!
Jul. 30th, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
This is what happened. THIS. RIGHT. HERE.

Thank you...

Aug. 7th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm so glad you think so!
Aug. 5th, 2011 04:06 am (UTC)
Just popping by to let you know I enjoyed this so much I rec'd it over on the crack_van. :)
Aug. 7th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, gosh! Thank you! I really appreciate it!
Aug. 5th, 2011 11:31 am (UTC)
The Boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne by Np_complete (G)
User ktbean referenced to your post from The Boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne by Np_complete (G) saying: [...] later I joined the Terry Army. The Boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne by Np_complete [...]
Sep. 20th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
I finally, finally got around to reading this - brilliant. Thanks for letting me know it was here. It makes so much sense that something like this would happen.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )