The Circus Wagon approaches the cave at high speed...
Without taking the time to notice the others' reaction, Kid Curry was already scrambling back out onto the box of the wagon, where the reins lay slack on the seat. They were very close to the cave now, with its incongruous dressing of flags and streamers twirling in the breeze, but the twelve horses didn't seem spooked by the dancing scraps of color - nor by the rock-face, now closing at dizzying speed. The team just kept dashing flat-out towards the side of the cliff.
Kid Curry's own brown, galloping free alongside the others, had lathered itself into a sweat with the excitement of the riderless run. The white horses weren't even breathing hard.
They hit another patch of gravel, and the brown propped and slid, swinging in briefly close to the box as it struggled to keep its footing. For a moment, as the wagon rushed towards the rocks, the outlaw almost leaned out to grab a handful of mane again and jump free. Instead, not quite sure even himself why he'd let the chance slip, he grabbed for the thick mass of reins on the bench where the troll had left them, trying desperately to remember what she'd done before leaving the team to its own devices. There was some kind of switch...
Something hard moved beneath his fingers as he caught up the bundled leather, then moved again as he tried to rein in. He didn't know if that was right or wrong. Didn't have time to think about it. There were ways and ways of pulling up a twelve-horse team, but most of the ones he'd ever known had involved being out in front and getting the driver to do the stopping...
The unwieldy circus wagon came to a decorous halt in the very entrance to the Valeyard's cave. The loose horse, trotting alongside, lipped curiously at a whirligig and snorted, ears flattening abruptly as the little windmill blurred into an answering spin.
The guests started to pile out, looking round curiously at the gaudy decorations that adorned what were, on the face of it, unpromising surroundings. Clambering down in his turn, Kid Curry leaned briefly against the side of the wagon, eyes closed, and let his breathing slow.
"I'm not sure that was actually necessary, you know..." the Bookworm said, rather diffidently, from above, examining the settings of the auto-pilot switch in the discarded reins.
Kid Curry directed a wordless glare upwards at the driver's seat. Reaction was catching up with him; after a moment he was almost overcome by the insane desire to giggle. "Yeah, well, you might've told me..."
'...Well, I don't know everything...' the Bookworm said, grinning.
Then it/they looked around, head swinging back from side to side.
'Hey, you okay?'
The Bookworm shook its head. 'I... I don't know. I just... Creative revenges. I'm coming up with creative revenges... '
The Bookworm closed its eyes.
'We're up the creek without a paddle, aren't we?'
'Yes.' the Bookworm said. 'I - we - we're resonating with Alryssa, with the energy she's giving off... at least, I think that's what it is... I hope that's what it is, but I wish I didn't... and right now, what she's thinking of - what she's radiating - is vengeance. She wants someone to pay...'
'For what?' the hostess asked.
'For... I don't know. Hurt... anger... pain... she wants it all to stop, and someone to pay for hurting her...'
'Oh no...' the Eighth breathed. 'Oh no. If she goes all out... if she loses control...'
'Resonance...' the hostess murmured. 'You're resonating with her. Could you - both of you - could she resonate with you?'
'If that worked... She'd... she'd pick up what I felt, what I radiated. But the anger's consuming her. She could choose not to act on what I radiate, not to feel it... I'm fighting it, I'm fighting it... bleedover. I want revenge on something... but it's not my emotion. That helps me block it out. It'd work the other way... because it's not her emotion, she'd block it.'
'But you want to block her feelings...' the hostess said. 'You don't want to feel revenge.'
The Bookworm slowly smiled. 'No. No, I don't.'
'Then what do you want?'
'I want to be free. To create what I'd like to create. To have fun, to enjoy myself... and to be free from the pain... and not to kill anyone.'
The Bookworm blinked. 'Wait... I always want to not kill anyone. Why are - am - I feeling... oh. Oh, I should have remembered... It's not just Alryssa...'
'Gallifrey.' the Eighth said. 'She doesn't want to go ahead with this - the two of them are at cross-purposes...'
'But who's going to win?'
'Hmm...' The Eighth slowly smiled. 'Try resonating.'
'Resonate with her. Try it.'
There's a place inside...
...the link's unstable, the bond incomplete...
...creativity, emotion pouring through...
...push back, push through, to the point where they join...
...where one unstable link resounds to another...
...anger and hurt and I just want my life back...
...I want to be free and I want to create...
...they hurt me, and I hurt them...
...and they hurt you. Or someone else...
...hurt everyone else so they never hurt you...
...creates nothing, creates fun for no-one...
...fun... that's what they want to destroy...
...making me like them...
...you're making you like them, Alryssa...
...they hurt me...
...and that's what they expect you to do to them...
...expect...? They expect...?
...they hurt me... I want them to hurt...
The staff clattered from Sailor Gallifrey's hands to the floor.
She didn't notice.
'Do I...? Do I want that? I want to, but I... I... hurt... so angry, so angry...'
She looked up at the Captain, her face a mask.
The Captain got.
She raised her hands up, not seeing them.
'What... what do I want...?'
'Milkshake?' the Bookworm said.
Then it blinked. 'Want...? Ah...um... is anyone else wondering about where they're going in life?'
The partygoers looked at each other, then, as one, nodded.
'...Oh good. Existential crisis.' The Bookworm blinked again. 'Only here could I say something like that...'
'She's in an existential crisis,' the Eighth deduced. 'She'll be calmer, but...'
'...we've got to get to her.' the Fifth said.
The hostess nodded.
'All right. Now we're here, we can split up. You take the cart and find Alryssa - fast. Before something else happens. Something we can't stop.'
The Eighth nodded, and took the horses' reins. Third, Sixth and Fifth hopped back into the cart (they'd managed to reattach the loose horse).
'We'll meet you back here.' Eighth said.
The hostess nodded.
Eighth cracked the reins, and the cart rolled off.
'He's good.' the Kid observed.
The Bookworm raised an eyebrow.
The hostess clapped her hands together. '... and now, we're off to meet the Valeyard.'
And so saying, her group set off into the cave.
The Valeyard was in the main chamber of the cave, sitting in a lotus position, doing a crossword puzzle.
"Fourteen letters," he murmured. "Begins with S..."
He looked up and saw the motley party standing in the cave mouth. He smiled, stood up, and walked over to meet them.
"It's you!" he said, sweeping the avocado green troll up in a hug. "This is a pleasant surprise," he added, putting her down again. "What brings you to this desolate part of the universe?"
The troll looked concerned. "But... didn't you... Lord Gallifrijan said..."
"Lord Gallifrijan? What's he doing in this time zone?"
The troll rallied. "He said you sent him. He said you'd gone to Gallifrey with a warning about some worrying temporal anomalies, and sent him to ask for our help."
The Valeyard shook his head. "Lord Gallifrijan belongs in the time of Rassilon, remember -- millions of years ago. If I'd sent a warning to Gallifrey, it would have been to Gallifrey in my own time."
"And you haven't sent any warnings to Gallifrey?"
"No. I don't have any means of communicating with Gallifrey here, and even if I did I wouldn't use it. The Time Lords don't know where I am, and I intend to keep it that way."
The Seventh Doctor looked knowing. "Still not happy that you tried to wipe out the High Council, eh?"
The Valeyard nodded. "If I wanted your help, I'd contact you directly. And, pleasant a surprise as this is, it's still a surprise."
"So, no temporal anomalies, then?"
"I haven't noticed any, but that doesn't mean much; I spend a lot of time in my cave, meditating. The person you should ask is Lord Gallifrijan. Where is he?"
The troll thought for a moment. "I left him in my TARDIS, making banana daiquiris."
"I assume your TARDIS is parked outside?"
"No, the Eighth Doctor took it and some of the others to look for Sailor Gallifrey."
The Valeyard looked confused. "Sailor Gallifrey?"
"Long story," said the Bookworm, stepping forward. "It began when... actually, I think you'd better be sitting down for this..."
But as they talked, little did they know there had been a traitor in their midst...Previous chapter Next chapter