As more guests arrive...
An enormous double-fudge chocolate cheesecake with oreo cookie crust and chocolate ganache appears out of nowhere with a wheezing, groaning sound. It is carried by a pointlessly tall man with blue eyes, shaggy blond hair and a short beard. He clears his throat.
"Sorry about that wheezing groaning sound," he says with an apologetic grin. "My sinuses are a bit backed up at the moment."
He sets down the cheesecake and rummages into his backpack. From its murky depths he produces a large mirror, a yo-yo, a can of deodorant marked "This is not deodorant", a lit floor lamp, a large party umbrella, a stripy deck chair, a startled fat black cat who purrs inquisitively, something that looks suspiciously like the Key to Time, and a crystal decanter of good port.
"Aha!" he exclaims, finally producing a tall, sparkly, pointed blue hat with small stars on it. "Knew I had it somewhere."
He places it on his head; suddenly a large POOF of purple smoke billows forth, and a three-horned, blue-skinned troll appears in his place.
"Bugger," he says. "Wrong hat. Oh well, it'll wear off in an hour or two."
The avocado green troll turns in alarm at the all-too-familiar sound. The last time she heard that inside her barn, the hoe-down went distinctly pearshaped from that moment on (though, to be fair, they did end up saving the world because of it, so the trouble with Compassion did have its upside). Still, she was relieved to see it was a Friend Bearing Chocolate, and not a TARDIS Bearing Chaos. If she could choose between chocolate and anything chocolate would definitely win out.
By the time she carefully wove her way past the mirror, yo-yo, aerosol can that claimed not to be deodorant, the lamp, the umbrella, the chair, and the 3-D puzzle pieces that she is sure she'd seen somewhere before, the tall dessert-bearing man was replaced by a three-horned troll in a sparkly hat (a wizard's hat, probably, she thought. Even official Pro-Fun hats didn't have those powers of transformation).
"Welcome Jim!" she said, extending her hand in greeting. "I hope you enjoy the party." Leaning over, she whispered into his ear: "If that puzzle thing is what I suspect it is, I suggest you keep it with you at all times. It might come in handy if we get caught up in crossing timestreams, but if it gets into the wrong hands..." she trailed off, not wanting to even contemplate the consequences. "Anyway," she said, brightening, "watch out for typo gremlins..."
"Twas merely the wrong hat, lass, that puts me in this horny mode. I'm betting Auntie Krizu or Phi1ip Legge switched it while I was busy baking the cheesecake," the jim-troll replied. "As for the plastic sculpture, fret not. It's not the Key to Time. It's just the Key to Time and the Rani, and it doesn't work very well anyway..."
Cardinal Zorak boggles at the mention of Auntie and Phi1ip.
Jim looks around...
"I don't know, I'm used to being 6'5", not 24"! Everyone looks so different from down here. I'm used to seeing just the tops of peoples' heads. About all I can see here is Philip's Legges and Auntie's Krizu...."
Somewhere in the background, c1ose-by to the gathering in the Virginian cu1-de-sac that is home to the avocado-co1oured tro11, a fami1iar sound begins to sp1it and jar atoms out of their random osci11ations in the atmosphere. Out of nowhere a rectangu1ar shape starts to so1idify, resemb1ing a 19th Century wardrobe in Ita1ian neo-c1assica1 sty1e, made of wa1nut and topped with curious urn-shaped finia1s at each corner.
Phi1ip, a young man sporting a somewhat untrimmed goatee and resemb1ing a stick-insect in bui1d, emerges sneaki1y from one of the doors of the ta11 wardrobe-shaped SIDRAT. Immediate1y after 1ocking the doors he scratches his ear, which he imagines is itching for a reason!
He notices immediate1y a very short b1ue-co1oured tro11 standing before him, and 1ooks rather sharp1y at him, b1ue-grey eyes staring through round g1asses.
"You weren't ta1king about me behind my back I hope?" he asks in a rather gruff basso.
Litt1e does the tro11 know that Phi1ip's apparent harshness is just a p1oy with which he hopes to e1icit a repeat of the ear1ier comments, but instead he remains si1ent.
"Ah, my dearest Cardina1!" Phi1ip recognises Zorak immediate1y from his resp1endent red ve1vet cassock, and embraces and kisses him in the European manner, on each cheek. "I'm so g1ad to see you! I'm sorry I'm 1ate, I was p1aying Cupid with some friends at another party just now."
"I suppose that exp1ains why you're dressed in that toga?" Zorak raises an eyebrow to comp1ete the inference.
"Um... yes, I did want to put in a 'Deus ex machina' appearance!" Phi1ip rep1ies. "Is dearest Auntie here yet?"
Cardina1 Zorak shakes his head but answers enthusiastica11y, "I'm expecting the grouse to f1y in at any minute!"
Phi1ip beams and picks up a g1ass of that sinfu1 O1d Janx Spirit from the Doug1as Adams tribute tab1e. "We11 here's to your hea1th sweetie, and Auntie's! I suppose I'd better put on my pro-fun tro11 hat!"
From underneath one of the numerous c1oth 1oops of his toga he pu11s a green and purp1e tricorne, which c1ashes incongruous1y with the white of his toga.
"Oh we11," he says sad1y, "fashion was never my strong suit."
Phi1ip sudden1y rea1ises the two-feet-high b1ue tro11 is staring at his shins and sanda11ed feet where they emerge from the bottom of his toga.
"Do I know you?" Phi1ip addresses himse1f to the tro11.
The tro11 nods, his three horns bobbing up and down 1ike a pecu1iar trident. "I'm actua11y Jim, though you wou1dn't recognise me at the moment!"
"Jim Vow1es? What on earth happened to you? You never 1ooked 1ike that before!"
Jim the tro11 smi1es wicked1y. "Someone substituted my proper fun hat, which has turned me b1ue, shortened me by three times, and made me a11 horny! So natura11y I thought it might have been Auntie or you."
Zorak frowns s1ight1y, and mutters, "But if Phi1ip's on1y just arrived, and Auntie is yet to f1y in, then who can have done the deed?"
Phi1ip muses, "Who indeed? And why have a11 of the 1ower-case 1etter 1's in my post sudden1y turned into ones?"
Meanwhile, the avocado green troll is surprised when a platter of assorted crispy, cracker like things :::zzippops::: into her hand. Tentatively, she tastes one.
"Hmm, an interesting blend of bell pepper, carrot, celery and onion.... These must be Vegetarian Thins!" She trots over to Daibhid and hands him the platter. "For you, Sir, I believe. Courtesy of the typo gremlins."
"Thank you," says Daibhid, and looks around for the typo gremlins to thank them as well. The three Bokman chased off reappear, and apologise for their behaviour earlier. They claim to know nothing about Phi1ip's prob1ems... The troll bows, then turns to see how Gordon is coming with that bouncy castle....
Oops! The discussion of packages reminds Daibhid that he hasn't made any contribution to the food table he is so eagerly depleting of all things non-carnivorous. Finishing off the Vegetarian Thins, and washing them down with a pint of Irn Bru, he calls his rucksack, which runs up on hundreds of tiny legs.
"Sapient Polyester," explains Daibhid, before realising that Pro-Fun Trolls and their friends see weirder stuff than this every day. Rummaging through the bag, he pulls out a stack of comics, "The Key To Time", "The Thief Of Time" and a black cat in a green collar called Schroedy, before finally locating a bag marked CCCB.
"I brought these from afp." he says, unaware that the mere mention of that group has caused him to break out in footnotes. "There's a bit of a flamewar going on there at the moment, but they're generally pro-fun, so I didn't think they'd mind." He pours the beans into the platter the Thins were in and sets them on the table. "I'm not that keen on them myself, but I'm told that if you like that sort of thing they're delicious." He then follows the avocado green troll to see what Gordon's up to...
 Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. Favourite snack of most of
afp, recently featured in Thief of Time.
 alt.fan.pratchett. My other main hangout.
 A common occurrence on afp, those who post there regularly find it occurring on other newsgroups and message boards.
Across the huge party space, the various incarnations of the Doctor are dancing, or chatting with others, or in the case of the Fourth and Eighth Doctors, having a drinking contest involving much Guinness. People are laying bets on who will go down first.
Meanwhile, outside Phi1ip's SIDRAT...
In a dark corner, a wheezing groaning sound is heard... a peepshow box materializes with a thump!
Phi1ip and Zorak look towards the creaking door expectantly, and scratch their heads when they don't see anything. Suddenly, Phi1ip jumps, clutching his toe, the tails of his toga flapping dangerously high.
Phi1ip lands on his behind with a thump, his thin legs sticking in the air and the long folds of his toga draped over his head.
With effort, Zorak tears his eyes away from Phi1ip's slim, perfectly-formed thighs.
"What is it?"
Grunting in pain, Phi1ip points down.
Zorak looks back down at Phi1ip's pointy^H^H^H^H^H thighs. "Do you want me to kiss it better?" Phi1ip can only make a muffled sound as he tries to extricate himself from the tangled toga. > There's a sudden noise, and...
Zorak turns to see a white flurry of feathers whooshing past, and disappearing around a corner.
"Oh, bloody hell..."
"Does that mean what I think it means?"
"Yes, I think so..."
Heavy bootsteps can be heard from behind the corner, stopping as if to pick something up, then a faint cooing sound as the steps come closer. With a swagger, the Ainley Master steps out of the shadows, cradling Auntie Krizu, in the form of a happily pot-potting snowgrouse, on his left arm. Scritching the grouse's chin with his right hand, he and the grouse both chuckle evilly and grin at Phi1ip and Zorak.
"And me without my umbrella," Jim observes. Suddenly a large part of the set tilts, as though on an unconvincing and gentle pivot accompanied by a wildly tilting camera. Everyone slides leftward with exaggerated movements and giggles.
"Bugger," says Jim, who then has to leap away from several guests who thought it was a suggestion for the next party game.
"Quick, into the SIDRAT!" Phi1ip cries.
"You might find that a little difficult, with it trapped in a Time Cone," purrs the Master, and with the flick of a switch on a small black device in his hand, the wardrobe SIDRAT vanishes into invisibility.
Zorak and Phi1ip look furtively around as if to run, but suddenly the Master steps closer and stares into their eyes, which begin to glaze over. "I am your Master, and you will obey me." Dumbly, they repeat the Master's words back to him, "You are our Master, we will obey."
The grouse flutters up to the Master's shoulder, and whispers in his ear. "What to do with them? Oh,... very well!" The grouse coos and pots in delight.
"Slaves, go to my TARDIS, and fetch out the torture chaise-longue and the silk bondage ropes!" the Master says triumphantly.
Zorak and Phi1ip look at one another with a stupefied look, and then unquestioningly troop across to the Master's TARDIS, cunningly disguised as a peepshow box.
"And now," the grouse thinks to herself, "how to attract Doctor number five away from that drinking race he's overseeing between Doctors four and eight!"
The party is going well...Previous chapter Next chapter