Nyctolops and Cameron are due to go on...


Eloise the ringmaster caught Nyctolops and Cameron's eyes. Good. They were both ready.

She gave them both a nod, and strode out to the center of the ring as confidently as she could (She hoped she at least looked confident), trying to put her worries about what was happening with or to Sailor Gallifrey in another corner of her mind.

"Ladies, Gentlemen, Goddesses, Gods, and Trolls of all colors," she announced. "I present to you the daring and graceful exploits of Nyctolops and her wild cat Cameron!"

With that, she bowed gracefully as she could, and walked backwards out of the spotlight.

The applause from the pro-fun side of the audience descended over the tent like a curtain of sound as Nyctolops and Cameron took up their positions.

Eloise, meanwhile, used it as a cover to go back to the circle where Alryssa had been stationed. She had abandoned the cards, but maybe Eloise could use them, to find out where she had gone to, and what they could do to bring her back safe before Nyctolops and Cameron finished their act.


Just then, a terrified shriek was heard from the entrance to the ring. Nyctolops came dashing out, yelling, "Help! Cameron the Big Cat is loose and he's hungry! Help!"

As Nyctolops entered the ring, Cameron bounded out with an ear-splitting roar. Spotting the scampering Nyctolops, he gave chase. At the sound of the roar, Nyctolops jumped and ran even faster. As she neared the center of the ring, she stumbled. With a mighty pounce, Cameron was on her, grabbing her by her red vest. Nyctolops yipped as Cameron tossed her high into the air.

Looking down, Nyctolops could see Cameron waiting directly below her, mouth wide open, looking like a pit with sharp teeth. Flailing around in mid-air, Nyctolops managed to land with one foot on Cameron's nose and another on his chin. Not hesitating a moment, she jumped up and landed on Cameron's back, facing his tail, which she grabbed to keep from falling off. Looking around, she saw Cameron looking back at her, grinning and showing off his fangs. Still using Cameron's tail for balance, she got to her feet and leaped off with another terrified scream.

Spotting her chair with her whip standing nearby, she ran for them, never doubting that Cameron was close behind her. Gratefully, she grabbed up her tiny chair and whip, then turned to face the big cat. She cracked her whip and shouted with all the authority that she could muster, "Sit!" Amazingly, the huge cat sat, though he seemed to be smirking.

Actually, Cameron's smirk was the result of stifled laughter. Watching Nyctolops, who barely came up to his chin, wave that miniature chair and whip at him made him want to laugh out loud. He remembered that the plan had been for Nyctolops to lead him out to the ring on a leash, to show how tame he was. Tame? Hah! He'd snatched the leash out of Nyctolops' hand with his teeth and growled at her. The result of that had been most satisfying. He was really going to enjoy this next bit.

Cameron: Hey, Nyc!

Nyctolops: Y-y-yes?

Cameron: This is the part of the act where you are supposed to stick your head in my mouth, isn't it?

Nyctolops: I-I think I've changed my mind about that.

Cameron: Ah, go ahead, Nyc. I won't bite.

Nyctolops: A-a-are you sure?

Cameron: I promise that if you stick your head in my mouth, I won't bite it off. At least, not on purpose.

Nyctolops: Th-th-that's not very reassuring.

Cameron: You don't want to spoil the act, do you?

Nyctolops: N-n-no. I-I guess I can do it.

Nyctolops put her chair down in front of Cameron, who obligingly opened his mouth in a huge yawn. She climbed up on the chair and very gingerly started to stick her head into Cameron's mouth. Just as she got her head most of the way in, Cameron sneezed. It was an enormous sneeze and it blew Nyctolops head over heels to the very edge of the ring. She sat on her bottom, looking at Cameron for a moment. Cameron just grinned.

Nyctolops stood up and shook herself all over, trying to get as much cat spit as possible out of her fur. Keeping a wary eye on Cameron, she decided that the best thing to do was to just go on with the act.

She walked as nonchalantly as she could manage toward Cameron and retrieved her whip. Then she walked over to the next part of the act, the ball-balancing trick. When she reached the mounting platform near the huge ball, she snapped her whip and shouted, "Cameron, come here!"

Cameron obeyed with alacrity. Too much alacrity. He looked like a freight train aimed straight at her. With a squeak, Nyctolops ran behind the ball. Cameron stopped right where he was supposed to, beside the mounting platform.

Cameron: Nyc, you can come out now. Everything's under control.

Nyctolops: Are you under control?

Cameron: As much as I ever was.

Nyctolops: Why am I not reassured by that?

Cameron: The audience is waiting.

Nyctolops couldn't ignore that. They had a show to put on and, so far at least, Cameron hadn't actually hurt her. She crept out from behind the ball and commanded Cameron to get onto the platform.

Cameron: I don't want to.

Nyctolops: But you have to. You are supposed to jump onto the platform, then on top of the ball and balance there.

Cameron: I think that you'd look better on top of the ball than I would.

Nyctolops: That's silly. I'm the trainer, you're the . . . Yipes!

Cameron swatted at Nyctolops with his huge paw and Nyctolops instinctively sought height to get away from him. Before she was really aware of what she was doing, she had swarmed up the mounting platform and leaped onto the balancing ball. Cameron grinned. "That's more like it," he chortled.

Cameron reared up on his hind paws and placed his forepaws on the ball. Nyctolops could see his eyes and nose, but noted with great relief that his teeth couldn't reach her.

Cameron began rolling the ball. At first Nyctolops fought for balance, but then she found that she could keep up with the rolling without too much difficulty, for the big cat was going at a steady pace. She found it easier to stand up and use her arms and tail to help her balance. They made a complete circuit of the ring, Cameron pushing and Nyctolops walking on top. Then Cameron pushed the ball to the center of the ring and dropped down.

"Now what is he up to?" thought Nyctolops, but she didn't have long to wait. The ball started to wobble unpredictably and Nyctolops dropped to all fours, trying to hang on. Cameron was pushing against the ball with his shoulder, trying to make it spin. He backed up a little, then hit the ball hard, again and again. As the ball wobbled and started to spin, Nyctolops found it harder and harder to find any kind of balance and there wasn't anything to grab onto. Finally she slid off and landed on her furry backside once again.

Just as she landed, she heard machinery whirring. From hidden recesses around the edge of the ring, hoops were rising. The Psychic Circus roustabouts were setting up the finale. Nyctolops leaped up and ran for the hoops. When they finished rising, the bottoms were just above Cameron's head and spaced far enough apart so that he could jump through them comfortably. Nyctolops had no trouble climbing up to the very top of one of the hoops.

Cameron: What are you doing up there?

Nyctolops: Getting away from you.

Cameron: We'll see about that.

Cameron began racing around the ring. Nyctolops realized that he was gathering speed to leap through the hoop, and maybe knock her off her perch on the way through. Her only hope was to keep ahead of him. She leaped from the top of the hoop and grabbed the top of the next hoop with her hands, using her momentum to keep her going on to the next.

Cameron cleanly sailed through the first two hoops before he got an idea. He broke off and started running in the opposite direction. Nyctolops was too intent on swinging though the hoops to notice that Cameron was no longer following her. When he had enough speed, he began leaping through the hoops in the opposite direction that Nyctolops was swinging through them. Nyctolops first indication that things were not going as she had planned them was when she saw Cameron coming through the hoop that she had just launched herself at. She wanted to close her eyes, but that huge open mouth held a horrid fascination for her.

At the last moment the mouth closed, the huge head ducked and she heard a whispered "Ears." Nyctolops grabbed Cameron's ears as the head rushed under her and she landed on Cameron's shoulders with a whump. Hearing a soft "Ow" she let go of Cameron's ears and slid down his back to his tail as he made his next jump.

Cameron (whispering): Nyc, turn around, get back to my shoulders and ride me.

Nyctolops (whispering): So you weren't trying to eat me, after all?

Cameron: Nah, I was only fooling. Now get up here where you can hang onto my neck ruff and let's finish this act in style.

Nyctolops caught Cameron's tail with her own tail and used it to steady her as she inched herself around until she was facing forward again. As Cameron came down from one of his leaps, she slid forward to his shoulders and grabbed a double handful of his neck ruff.

Just then, the hoops caught fire. Nyctolops rode Cameron on a complete circuit of flaming hoops. As Cameron cleared the last hoop and headed for the center of the ring, the flames went out and the hoops returned to their housings. As Cameron stopped in the center of the ring, Nyctolops stood on his shoulders and bowed to the audience. Cameron roared and lashed his tail. She sat down rather suddenly again, as Cameron bounded off for the exit, but she managed to grab a handful of fur and stayed aboard. With Nyctolops waving to the audience and Cameron roaring, they exited the ring.


Eloise clapped wildly, and jumped up and down, cheering.

Her Ringmaster's top hat blew off her head as they rushed by.

As she bent down to pick it up, a sudden, sobering thought (several thoughts, actually) brought a queasy, cold lump to her stomach.

What would the Gods do to answer that (What sort of Wild Beast would they bring forth)?

If the Pro-funsters survived that, would they be ready for the Finale?

Then, they'd have to face who or whatever was manipulating the Gods... If they all thought this had been hard....


Meanwhile...

Silence walked into the beer tent, gathering her cloak around her.

Several Voord lay slumped on the floor, one or two lying in a paddling pool. Most were asleep. One of them, wearing a white robe, sat at a table, nursing a glass of beer which had obviously been sitting there for a while.

~ Why are you not out there, helping the others? ~ she signed.

Yartek looked up and laughed. It was not a happy laugh.

"They don't want our help. We're just a joke to them."

He lashed out, sending the glass of beer flying across the room. A few of the Voord looked up to see what was happening.

"Oh, lets bring on Yartek. He was mad, too stupid to take his helmet off when impersonating someone. He got blown up, let's bring him back, make him rap and dance, let's all have a really good laugh at Yartek, because he certainly isn't any good for anything else!"

~ They don't know the full story do they? ~

"Ha, no. To them we're just a bunch of psychopathic killers. History is written by the winners. We fought against racial genocide, for the right to be given a chance, no matter what you looked like."

~ You grew up in a world where they feared the unlike. A world of hypocrites. If someone was left unable to walk, or speak, or think because of an accident, they were treated with care and sympathy. If you were born that way, you were hunted down, destroyed. ~

"Yes, there was resistance, riots, almost civil war. But then they built the Conscience. But they failed. Most of the population fell under its influence, but not us. Because we were different. The House Dukes told the populace we were evil, pure and simple. With the Conscience active, they believed whatever they were told. We were the monsters under the bed, the stealers of children."

~ I was unable to speak from birth. My parents tried to hide me. The Inquisitors found me anyway. They took me and tied me, threw me into the sea, expecting me to die. But I was found before it was too late. You didn't steal children, you saved them. ~

"None of that matters. They look at me and see someone who's too stupid to take his helmet off when impersonating someone else. I lived for over a thousand years, ashamed, only removing my helmet when there was nobody else there, even among the Voord, I could not bring myself to show my face."

~ Because you are an albino? ~

"How do you know all this?!?!" Yartek cried, although he already knew the answer.

Silence threw off the cloak, bringing the object under her arm up and placing it over her head. The triangular helmet sweeped back, aerodynamically shaped. An aerial curved over the head. The black armour was sleek, the claws sharp, the flippers small, but effective.

~ I am Silence, warrior of the alien Voord. We are the fallen, we walk in silence. ~

Silence held up the Sword of Authorial Freedom. She looked straight into the eyes of Yartek, hidden underneath his visor.

~ You cannot rewrite history, but you can choose a path now. You have a chance now. To change their perceptions. To remain a race laughed at by everyone else, or to claim your birthright. ~

She placed the sword on the table in front of him.

~ This time, it is purely up to you. ~


Eloise watched as the figures began walking into the tent. She realised it was the Voord, but they looked like no Voord she had seen before. Gone were the tatty wetsuits, the dull helmets, the lazy movement. Now they were clad in sleek, shining armour, standing tall, moving with grace and confidence.

Eloise looked at Gordon suspiciously. "Exactly what have you been up to?"

Gordon looked down at her, trying, but failing not to grin inanely. "What?" he said, innocently. "Somebody, probably Imran, said we were moving beyond having to use symbols, so I just gave mine to somebody else..."

Yokoi was smiling so much, Saville was blinded by the lights reflecting off her teeth.

"That's the power of the story." Gordon whispered to nobody in particular.

The last two Voord walked in, helmets off. Eloise recognised Silence, but not the other. His skin was pure white. He walked over and his face broke into a smile as he bowed slightly.

"My lady."

He stood back up, standing proud.

"I am Yartek, leader of the alien Voord. We are here to offer our assistance."

And the Eighth Doctor remembers...

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