The avocado troll has learned from Kid Curry of the 'ghost tornadoes'...
She picked up the charm the Contessa had given him, which she had dropped when he'd collapsed, and looked at it admiringly. It seemed to glow with a life, with a light, of its own, shining like a distant blue star in the darkness of the stable. She needed to program its dimensional signature into her TARDIS, if they were to find Kingpin's and Mags' Psychic Circus. But right now, right at this instant, Kid needed it more. She pressed the bead into his palm. His fingers closed around it automatically, like the talons of a bird when it perches on a branch -- a reflex action, and his breath came a fraction easier, a fraction deeper.
"Actually," she said, sitting down on the tack box again, "what you've reported to me confirms my theory of what's going on -- I think." And she told him a little of the Doctor's encounter with the Logopolitans, and how these people used pure mathematics to stave off the slow death of our universe by siphoning off energy from the universes around it. "They said they were siphoning off the 'excess entropy' from this universe into the others... But I think that was just a euphemism. You can't pour a lack of something from one glass to another. By interesting coincidence," she added, "the leader of the Logopolitans was also called 'Monitor' -- but it's a common enough title, I suppose."
"And now," Kid said, coming to the same conclusion she had, "you think someone's finally gotten around to stealing that energy -- that lifeforce -- back."
The troll nodded. "Maybe it's just some poor sods in cubicles somewhere," she said, "chanting out numbers like the Logopolitans were, who don't even realise the effect their having. Maybe it's deliberate, an act of revenge -- payback. But I think the Monitors you saw, and the ones we met together in -- whatever that place was -- are simply puppets. Remember how they kept saying they were 'coerced'? But they certainly didn't seem clear about who was coercing them, did they?"
Kid shook his head, thoughtful.
"It's like -- like --" she struggled to find an image he would understand. She'd used 'drinking straw' with Imran, but she doubted Kid Curry had ever set foot in an ice cream parlor. "It's like someone is dropping a boulder in the ocean..." she wondered if Kid had ever seen the ocean, either, and if that was the metaphor she wanted anyway. The answer to both was probably "No", but she pressed on anyway, "and the waves make ripples, and the ripples scare a fish, and the fish swims away because it feels it has to, without ever knowing the reason why." She shook her head. "That's not exactly right," she said. "But it's the best way I know how to explain it, right now.
"The Monitors felt they had to set up those stone box things, felt they had to trap us and Sailor Gallifrey -- without knowing why, or who was making them do it.
"But you saw the effect of it -- you saw the energy being drained away -- taken out of the universe. I think, when Sailor Gallifrey came into her own, she broke the meta-aliens' hold on the Monitors. Unfortunately, they're not the only conduits the meta-aliens are using. There's also the Gods of Ragnarok, and they're the ones we're fixing to meet up with next. Unfortunately, if all we do is block each conduit as we come to it, a new conduit is bound to open up somewhere else."
"So it's hopeless?"
"Not at all -- the other universes need the energy, the creativity, the hope, as much as we do, so we're going to try and give it to them. We're going to try and generate enough energy -- enough fun -- to fill up all the empty spaces, and then some. We'll stop the leaking of the bucket by placing it in the ocean!"
"That's a tall order," Kid said.
"Perhaps. But I have faith in the power of fun. If we put our minds and hearts to it, I'm certain we can come shining through! We'll need all the help we can get, though," she said. "We'll need your help, too."
"I don't know..." Kid said.
And the troll realised that as hard as it had been to break through the shell of his memory, breaking through the shell of desperation he had built around himself, to find the joy and the hope she knew was inside would be even harder. She knew that joy was there, the expression on his face when he described what it was like when the life came rushing back had convinced her of that... She just had to convince him, too.
She thought a minute, looking at him carefully with her head cocked to one side. "I think," she said, "that that charm of yours -- of the Contessa's -- is what brought you here, where you're needed -- and yes, I think you are needed here --" she interjected, before he could voice his objection, "rather than where the Monitors wanted that dust storm to take you."
"And where would that have been?" he asked, doubtful, challenging her.
She shook her head. "Perhaps the same place, the same cave, where they had trapped Alryssa. To be honest, I can't say for sure. But," she continued, "I think that charm is somehow connected to the stories, and to the power holding them together. I need --" and then, she stopped herself. She was about to say: 'I need to borrow that charm for a moment,' but she had already taken it from him once. She didn't want to do that to him again. "I need you to do something for me," she said, taking him by the hand.
She led him to her water trough console. "Would you," she asked, "please dip that charm into the water for me?"
Kid looked at her like she was crazy.
"Just trust me on this," she assured him with a smile.
Shrugging, Kid complied, lowering the bead an inch or two under the surface of the water.
As soon as the water settled around it and became still again, a glow spread out from the bead -- a bright, blue, living light radiating out from the hole where the eye's pupil would have been, spreading though the water like dye, until the water itself started to glow. And then, the light burst forth from the surface of the water with such intensity and brightness that the whole barn was flooded with light, and all her guests looked up and shielded their eyes from the brightness. Suddenly, the troll understood exactly what Kid had meant when he said when he'd said that everything had "sung out".
There was a slight shift under their feet as her TARDIS changed its orientation within the vortex and followed the pull toward Kingpin, Mags, and the reborn Psychic Circus. There was a shift, too, in the TARDIS's hum. It was almost, now, as if the ol' girl was singing (with harmonies) to herself.
A hush fell over the crowd as her guests tuned their ears to listen, and then, almost simultaneously, laughter bubbled up from each of them.
Even Kid Curry's bush of a mustache was turned up at the corners, quivering slightly with the laughter inside of him, as he slipped the charm back around his neck.
"We're on our way!" Our Hostess announced cheerily. "Has everyone decided what act they want to perform in the Circus?"
"With that coat, no, you don't..." muttered Third, that comment earning him a glare.
"I'm rather into fencing, myself," Fourth ventured.
"I challenge thee to a duel!" countered Eighth, jumping up and grabbing an epee, and waving it at Fourth. The people around him ducked, hoping he knew what he was doing.
Bokman raised his hand. "Me and Zoe are finalizing a sort of magic act- we're drawing up the schematics on a cocktail napkin, should be done in time."
Nyctolops popped her head up. "I could be the trained monkey in an animal act, or I can change from my present form into a large grey owl in a magic act."
Bokman acknowledged her. "That won't be necessary, we think- the whole thing's getting into kind of a weird area." Zoe leaned in next to him, asking "Do we have any Legos?"
The little turquoise troll trotted around to all the guests, oversized legal pad in one hand, oversized pencil in the other, making note of their ideas for circus acts, and the props they'd need to pull them off.
As she turned the corner down one of the corridors, she was surprised to see Jim still in the laboratory, cats milling in and out of his legs. All the lashing tails made it seem like there were a million, but in fact, it was probably only about two dozen.
"Oh, hello, Jim!" she said. "The Master didn't take you to Titan Three, then, when he went in search of missing Eighth's team?"
"Eighth's Team went missing?!"
"Oh, it's okay," she assured him. "That part of the story has all been sorted out. We're all back together now. We're getting ready to put on a circus act, as a matter of fact. Do you have any special talent? You sing, or dance, or juggle?"
"Erm... Right now, I'm rather busy with these cats at the moment... I don't have any hands free..."
The turquoise troll thought a bit. "Right!" she said. "We can use that gadget to power the fireworks for the big finale!"
"Not until the very end?" Jim asked, a little disappointed.
"Want to be the 'lion tamer', too, then?"
"Something to do with mirrors, perhaps," he said.
"As long as they don't lead to parallel dimensions, that's fine by me," Alryssa countered. "I don't think I have an act, really." She glanced across the room at Fourth and Eighth, who were testing lunges.
"Maybe someone needs to keep an eye on those two and make sure they don't get too enthusiastic..." Tessa noted.
"I have an idea or three," Gordon offered.
"Does it involve bouncy castles?"
"Oh no," he replied, an evil glint in his eyes. "Something much, much better..."
"You are not..." said Alryssa sternly "...doing the elephant impression again! You scared the living daylights out of the Tythonian ambassador last time!
"No, that's not what I was about to suggest."
"Masked Mexican Wrestling Armadillos!!!"
"I rescued them from various Woolworths stores throughout the UK, where they were given copious amounts of alcohol and then spun on a Twister(TM) mat to determine that week's Woolworth's Singles Chart!"
The armadillo discussion was interrupted by Auntie Krizu, she was holding something behind her back. Gordon hid under the table. Muttering could be heard, something about "No, not the feather duster... it's tickly....nononononono."
"Hello," said Alryssa cheerfully as an evil grin appeared on Auntie's face.
"I've got something for him..."
"What is it?" asked Alryssa.
"It's small, purple and makes his face light up with joy whenever he plays with it..."
Alryssa's mind boggled.
"With the right thing plugged into it, it even vibrates!"
Alryssa's mind boogled. (Like boggling, but funkier...)
"Yay! My GameBoy! I haven't seen this since the Master stole it after I tossed him off..."
Alryssas mind temporarily shut itself down for exceeding safety limits when the image that last line brought up entered her head...
"...the Scott Monument in Edinburgh!"
Two suited men suddenly appeared behind Gordon, grabbing a shoulder each. "Excuse me sir, we're the innuendo police. You've exceeded your quota for this quarter and we will have to ask you to accompany us down to the station."
Gordon's eyes went like this...
The suited men began to drag him away, still in the chair...
Suddenly a loud thunderous voice shouted, "Wait just a minute!!!"
Cameron smiled, showing enlarged and sharpened teeth.
"Any volunteers to help me with it?"
"Check with Jim," the little turquoise troll said, "-- the last I checked, he was in the laboratory with the other cats and the gizmo we were experimenting with to see if we could harness the cats' static electricity energy. I suggested he try a lion taming act, but he never gave me an answer... maybe you could convince him."
The actual Jim walked out, looking rather surprised and somewhat sooty, like a cartoon character who discovers that the hot dog is actually a firecracker. His face was blackened, and his blond hair stuck straight out. He was wearing a "Babylon Park: Kicking Ass in Outer Space" t-shirt (on which all the characters looked equally surprised and sooty, except KennyKosh, who was dead, and LondoCartman, who was pissed off). His arms were covered in "cat trails" (a.k.a., deep red wounds from playing with cats who have claws). Tiny blue sparks danced around his teeth. He looked a bit dazed and confused.
"Are you okay? What happened?" the turquoise troll asked.
Jim shook his head to clear the fuzz from his brain and and furiously squinted until he could focus on the troll.
"It's that bloody Jonathan Price Master," he said. "He sabotaged the whole thing! I had gone to get a few spare parts and a loaf of bread (sorry, I was out), and when I came back, the various Masters were arguing, and then most of them stormed off. I asked the one who smelled funny what was wrong, and he said 'oh, nothing, i think they've gone off with someone with bigger etheric beam locators or something'. Why on earth did I believe him? Next thing I know, I'm trying to follow the delicate bits of the diagram, and I hear 'Mwahahahahahhhhahha!' behind me. I damn near peed myself! The lunatic Jonathan Price Master was behind me, with the two ends of the power cable crackling with energy. He dove for me, and I had only a second to react."
"Goodness! What did you do?"
"I ripped the hat off my head and stuck it on the ends of the cables. The backlash bounced back and blasted him and my poor 'instant transmogrification' hat, frying the circuits. As for the Master...."
Jim held up a large fuzzy beanie-baby version of the CoFD Master.
"When you push his belly he says either 'Mwahahahah!', 'Die, Doctor!', 'I bribed the architect first!', or 'Five hundred miles of fear and feces!'....pretty cool, actually."
"Obviously the power equipment's all burnt out, and there are about a hundred and fifty highly agitated cats awaiting me back there. So, after I've had a quick shower, I'll help out. Lion taming should be no problem after a roomful of Masters and cats," Jim said.
Cameron stretches out, and roars.
"Excellent! But first I must hunt, kill, and eat..."
Nyctolops decides that this is an excellent time to go calm down the agitated cats and, incidentally, get far, far away from Cameron's rumbling stomach.
'Oh dear...' Allie said.
'Was she like this at college?' Imran asked.
Allie considered. 'Nope. She was even worse...'
'Let. Him. Go.' Yokoi said quietly. 'He's mine - even if he is half-dead, doped to the gills, and seeing armadilloes everywhere he turns.'
'Thanks, Yokoi...' Gordon muttered.
Imran raised a hand. 'Excuse me? Innuendo Police? Umm... I haven't been using my quota very much - at least, I don't think I have...'
'I don't have a quota,' Alryssa said. 'Well, I do write EF stories...'
'Sorry sir, ladies. We will have to ask him to come with us. Going over your quota is a misdemeanor.'
'All right.' Imran said. 'By the way, before you go, would you like some hot chocolate?'
'Oh smeg,' Allie said. 'He's got that I'm An Insane Genius look again.'
'They're dragging me off - and you're giving them chocolate?!' Gordon spluttered.
'With just a touch of something extra.' Imran said. 'Here you go.'
The two suited men took the mugs and gulped them down.
Then their eyes crossed, and they fell over, unconscious.
'Of course, I didn't say what the something extra was...' Imran said, grinning.
Gordon was taking the opportunity to put the boots in.
'Hey, they were dirty after all that stomping around the caverns!' Gordon protested. 'They needed to go back in the cupboard... I'm going to get you for that.'
'Finally decided what I'm doing...' Imran said. 'I think... something a little different from mirrors. Besides, I already did the mirrors leading to a parallel universe thing - Charley's still not happy about that one.'
'You already did them?' Gordon said.
'Long story. Very long story. Screams of "Hello, my name is Skoo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.", Charley disguising herself as a Prince, bad men, good men, hammer wielding, ki-blasts, duels to the hurt...' Imran shrugged. 'The usual sort of thing, really.'
'Y'see, this is why we're called the Odd Trio.' Alryssa observed to no-one in particular.
Imran grinned again. 'I think I'll go with a little magic.'
And, with a flourish, pulled a cup from his magician's cloak.
'Magical milkshakes, to be precise.'
'I was bored, it was late at night, and Allie'd been watching her videos again...' Imran paused. '...So what are you three doing?' he asked Allie, Tessa and Yokoi.
The three muses looked at each other.
Then, very slowly, started to grin.
'Uh-oh...' the Odd Trio chorused.
"This isn't going to involve cloning experiments again, is it?" Imran asked.
"Hey! We were getting better... sort of... we would have had a fully functional clone within about... um... twenty years..."
Alryssa looked at Imran. "They would have managed it if you hadn't sneezed on their slides."
"I can't help being allergic to hairspray!"
"Anyhoo..." Gordon interrupted, from his drug-induced stupor, "What did you have in mind?"
Yokoi coughed politely.
"Well, you know that bit on Bagpuss? Where the little girl says the magic words?"
"We're been working on some magic words of our own," grinned Allie.
Imran scratched his head. 'Wait, didn't those magic words... oh no. Oh bugger.'
'Oh crap.' Gordon moaned. 'So what're you bringing to life this time?!'
The Odd Muse Trio stared at him.
'Bring to life?' Yokoi said.
'We're muses. We're not gods.' Allie added.
'No, we had something... different... in mind.' Tessa said.
Yokoi grinned. 'Much different.'
Meanwhile, in Vortex City...Previous chapter Next chapter