The TARDIS scanners are going haywire...
'What is it?' the hostess asked.
'Wait... wait, I'm getting something... I can...
'Oh no. Oh no...
'They're back. The Land's creators are back...
'I know who's doing this. I know who's behind all this.
'The ones who created the Land of Fiction. The ones who make stories stagnate, as they feed off the entertainment. Feed off the creativity. Their final feeding. Destroying all the stories...
'The Gods of Ragnarok are back. And they're waiting for us.'
'Can't...' Allie's dark silhouette moaned, almost fading from existence.
'No... Not now! Not now...!' Imran's face twisted in pain. 'We have to keep going, we have to keep going.... The Valeyard knows what's going... NO! NO!!'
"It's back again?" Bokman remarked, remembering the events of CONUNDRUM but not wanting to break whatever Law of Time that would prevent him from telling the Doc his own future. "But the Land of Fiction is outside the universe, right? How'd the Master get here?"
"I took my TARDIS," The Master replied.
"No, not you, the other Master."
"Bobby Fisher? Beats me, I never knew he could travel through time..."
"No, the Master of the Land of Fiction."
"Oh. Never mind."
After the brief confusion about which 'master' they were talking about, Our Hostess brought them into a small huddle, making sure they were out of First's hearing, in order not to break any laws of time or fiction.
"No, no," she explained to Bokman, "the one called 'the master' by the characters in the Land of Fiction was an ordinary human -- a writer, just like us. He was kidnapped by aliens, and brought to a place outside the dimensions of space or time. The energy of his creativity was used to create the Land of Fiction, but he was ultimately controlled by these aliens. They wanted to use that artificial world as a sort of holding pen for humans so they could take over the Earth without damaging it. The Doctor, here," she nodded toward Second, "along with Jamie and Zoe, foiled that plan. But I imagine those aliens are trying again, with a different plan: instead of trapping us within our own fictions, they're trying to sap our minds by destroying our fictions, for we humans need the structure of stories to hold our minds together and make sense of our world."
"But why here, why now?" Zorak asked. "And how are we going to stop them?"
"That's what we're here to find out," she answered.
Allie and Imran disappeared in a flash of light.
One figure reappeared.
'Allie...?' the hostess said.
'Imran...?' Philip said.
'Here... We're... we're here.'
The figure raised its head.
Mismatched eyes. Allie's grey, Imran's brown.
When the figure spoke, its voice fluctuated.
'Fusion... Imran... had to fuse...with Allie... Allie...fading out. Had to fuse... body and mind... keep her going. Give her enough energy to stop the stagnation.'
'It's getting worse,' the Second said. 'Worse and worse as time passes...'
'Sailor Gallifrey... somewhere here. On this planet. Needs... needs our help. Someone... needs to help her, get her free. We need her.'
Allie/Imran's face tightened. 'Just enough. I have just enough... One last effect...'
For a moment, Allie/Imran's figure glowed.
A burst of energy flared out, racing out across the sands of Titan Three into the distance.
And then they slumped.
'What... what have they done?' Phi1ip asked.
'I think...' the hostess said, 'that they - and it is they - are trying to help Sailor Gallifrey somehow. They've combined their energies into something that will help her, wherever she is...'
"I suppose, in order to find those responsible for this mess, we should follow that energy burst. I suggest we split up," said the Eighth.
In the room where Sailor Gallifrey was being held hostage...
'NO! NO... This is not happening!!'
The energy burst exploded.
And the forcefield holding Sailor Gallifrey's staff collapsed.
On top of the staff, the sigil of the Eye of Harmony, the yin-yang symbol, flared open.
Held immobile by the infernal contraption, Sailor Gallifrey smiled.
'You've had... your fun. Now... in the name of Creation...'
Her captor span round.
The Voice that spoke wasn't Alryssa's. Or the spirit of the planet that lived within her.
It was both of them.
Both of them... and much more.
The voice of Sailor Gallifrey.
'...In the name of Harmony. In the name of Fun...
'GALLIFREY STAR POWER, MAKE UP!!'
There was a sound beyond that of human hearing, as invisible bonds shattered. A blinding light, swirling Vortex winds howling around the complex cave system where they had held her, deep inside the planet.
And just as suddenly, it dissipated.
Standing in its place was the living embodiment of Creativity.
And boy, was she pissed.
"I think now would be a good time to say, 'I told you so,' " she murmured to her captor, as she held out her hand. The staff returned to her. The symbol revolved slowly, glowing purple.
"They're coming. They're coming here, and they're coming for you."
She smiled, a dangerous, knowing smile.
"I think it's time I performed a little exchange of energy, hmm?"
And with that, she tapped the staff on the cold floor three times.
"VORTEX.... WINDS.... SCREAM!"
'Anythin' we can do fer them?' Kid Curry asked.
The hostess looked down at Imran/Allie's prone figure, lying on the floor.
Then she looked up at the approaching cave.
'Well... we're just about to meet the man who can help. The Valeyard.'
'But...' The hostess turned to the cart's passengers. '...you have to keep fighting the stagnation that's trying to stop this story. If we can push it back enough, it should give Allie and Imran enough energy, enough time, to recover, to fight back ...and remember, somewhere out there, Sailor Gallifrey needs our help. Some of us will have to go and find her, while the rest of us investigate the dimensional anomalies...'
"Energy?" asked Ninni, who had come up to the group, studiously ignoring the Master's baleful and accusing stare. "Jim has come up with a brilliant idea for generating lots of energy."
The Jim troll, carrying a happily purring moggie in his strong arms, interposed "It's dead simple, really. You take a cat, stroke it for a while, and then ... ZAP!" The spark that flew from his stubby finger almost singed a hole in their hostess' best party waistcoat. "Ooop, sorry about that. The power generated seems to be getting stronger all the time, strange... Anyway, since Daibhid and his rucksack has managed to round up all the cats," he pointed to where Daibhid and the Fifth Doctor stood, each with a cat in their arms, in what appeared to be a sea of waving, furry, tails. Many of the guests were beginning to congregate around them, sweeping up their own cats to be petted and cooed over. "We can now generate as much energy as we want."
"But how are you going to harness it and channel it where it's needed?" their hostess asked. This idea seemed pretty wild to her, but it might be just what the story needed right now. Limitless energy, to feed all the stories in the world.... She forced her attention back to the matter at hand.
"Well," the Jim troll sounded a little uncertain "I thought that perhaps the Master could come up with something... and if the Doctors all helped...."
"Absolutely not," said the Master haughtily, "I will not work with those idiots, they will only spoil everything. But if our enchanting hostess," he smiled winningly at her, "would be so kind and lend me the use of her laboratory, I'm certain I will come up with something useful in no time."
The Doctors had started stuttering at the Master's words, and now they had all opened their mouths to launch into a long diatribe about the Master's general untrustworthiness, personal habits and hygiene, and sundry other shortcomings.
"Don't even think of it!" retorted their hostess, and frowned so sternly at them that the Doctors fell silent. "Of course you may," she replied to the Master. "Anything that will get this story back in full swing again."
"I think their energy has given Sailor Gallifrey the boost she needs - and in turn, her freedom will give Allie strength," said Fourth. "Although it seems as though she might be occupied with whoever was keeping her hostage..."
"All the more reason to split up," murmured the Seventh. "Come on, who's up for watching some fireworks? I hear this Senshi can dish out some real anger when she's capable..."
Eighth didn't look impressed. "That's what I'm afraid of."
Everyone looked at him. He elaborated. "She's still an unstable entity... she shares a human mind, and she has human faults, and that entity isn't quite mentally all with it yet. Now, she's understandably annoyed that she's been cooped up against her will, by someone who wants to destroy everything she stands for... but with the kind of power they granted her -"
"They who?" asked our hostess.
Eighth carried on, regardless. "With the kind of power they granted her... she could take it too far. She might even destroy this planet. Her rage could well be capable of wiping out whole star systems, galaxies, even." He looked sheepish as he said it.
"What... how... why...?"
"It's... complex... can we just hurry up and get moving?"
The little troll decided not to push the issue - for now.
"Right. Pick your team, Doctor. Er, Eighth Doctor, that is. And we'll hopefully still be in one piece when we meet again..." she trailed off, looking somewhat worried.
Eighth nodded... as his fingers crossed behind his back.
And so the party prepared to split up.Previous chapter Next chapter