Imran has a theory as to who has tampered with Kid Curry's memory - and why...
'As the defender of creativity,' our hostess recalled.
Imran nodded. 'That's what the Monitors had in mind. They created her because...' He hesitated.
'Because - or at least, this is what the Doctor speculates - they had seen how close the Omniverse had recently come to stagnancy and death.'
'When the Black Guardian tried to destroy Cyberspace?'
'No... This happened a little later. In one of the Doctor's Fictiverses-'
'One of them?'
'One. I think we've lost track of how many there are... anyway, in one of the Doctor's Fictiverses - it's the comic fictiverse again, sorry about that-'
'There's really got to be a way to get those on wider release...' our hostess mused. 'It feels as if I'm missing out on something important whenever we get into this.'
'I wish...' Imran said. 'In that Fictiverse... some time ago, the... there's no good word for this - the life-force, the mind, which maintains the Omniverse and all its diversity - it was dying. There was a battle, which the Doctor got caught up in, to choose another mind to keep the Omniverse going. A choice between stagnancy, despair... one way, one path, no creativity...'
Our hostess shuddered.
'...and hope, diversity... many paths, many ways, creativity and inspiration.'
'And the creative side won,' our hostess said.
Imran nodded. 'Yep. And from what we've just seen, it looks like some of the Monitors weren't too happy.'
'Some were, though.' our hostess observed.
'Yeah. Some were.'
'And the Monitors who were happy with what had happened - they created Sailor Gallifrey to try and stop something like that happening again?'
'That's what the Doctor suspects.' Imran said. 'He may not always be right, but... There will be another conflict to choose another mind to keep the Omniverse going... but it won't happen for a long, long time to come.'
'That's something of a relief...' our hostess said. 'But what does all this have to do with what Kid saw?'
'Because of who was caught up in that fight,' Imran said.
'The Doctor?' our hostess said.
'And the Master.'
'The Master?!' our hostess gasped.
Imran nodded. 'Not one of the ones who attended the Hoedown, thankfully. This is 'bout as far into the Master's future as we've seen, the body he got after he and the Doctor fought in San Francisco, when the Eighth Doctor was born and the Master's body got sucked into the Eye of Harmony.'
'He survived even that?'
'So did Omega,' Imran said. 'And the Master was in the same condition - he existed only as a being of pure mind. Survival is what he knows - perhaps better than anyone else.'
'Go on,' our hostess said, more than a little disturbed.
'All right. He was bound into another body again - the body of a man who'd just died in Shoreditch.' Imran held up a hand. 'Not going into all the details here. Someone else did it on the Master's behalf - no-one we're going to meet during this adventure though. He's gone... elsewhere, now, and he's found some peace.'
'So the Master gets a new body...' our hostess whispered.
'And both of them got caught up in the battle,' Imran continued. 'The Doctor on the side of creativity and life -'
'-the Master on the side of stagnancy and death.'
'In this body, the Master's thoughtful, considered, intelligent...' Imran said. 'No ranting, no raving... preferring to watch, and to set things in motion. Okay. When the fight to save the Omniverse was over, the Master was... banished somewhere. I don't know precisely where, though. But I think he's been orchestrating all this - working with the Monitors, the Gods' sudden increase in power - working with them to get what he wants.'
'And you think the Master was the one who blocked Kid's memory.'
Imran nodded again. 'That's why Allie and I asked if he remembered seeing a preacher - an elderly black man in ill-fitting clothes. That's the Master's latest body. He prefers Time Lord robes, usually - but those would stand out in Kid's Fictiverse - so, he went for his other look.'
'And... what does this Master want?'
'Partly... revenge on the Doctor. The Doctor stopped him from being able to reshape the Omniverse to his whim. Now... I think he's trying it another way, from the outside.'
'Working with the Gods of Ragnarok and the Monitors to reduce all stories, all creativity, to one story. A story of death, corruption, and stasis. The final story. The last story. ...But why block Kid's memory?' our hostess wondered. 'What does Kid know, that the Master would want to block his memory? Why didn't he - horrifying as this is - kill Kid?'
'I think... because Kid knows something important, both to the Master, and to us. Something that prevented him from killing Kid. Maybe the Master knew Kid was being protected by something - the same something that let Kid cross our path. Maybe he's important to the Master's future plans - though Kid doesn't know it.' Imran spread his hands. 'I don't know.'
He paused. 'But Kid said something... He said the Contessa had asked him to keep his eyes open, as a favour to her. Then he met the Master, and lost his memory.'
'Hmm. Maybe it was something he saw for the Contessa...' our hostess mused. 'That lady sounds like an intriguing woman.... Do you think we'll meet the Master with the Gods' Circus?'
'I wouldn't think so...' Imran frowned. 'I think he may have something else up his sleeve. Last time we met the Gods, they were feeding off the creativity of the visitors to the Psychic Circus. This wholesale devastation of stories - stories across the Universe - that's far beyond what they were capable of last time...'
'Then we'll have to see what we're capable of.' our hostess decided. 'Especially that wizard's cloak of yours...' She frowned. 'But what was it he saw? Or knew?'
'That I don't know...' Imran said. 'I can only guess why his memory was blocked. I can't guess what the memory is.' He frowned, too. 'Given what we're caught up in... I think it might have something to do with stories. Only a guess, though.'
'Stories...' our hostess mused.
"But it still doesn't make sense," she said. "The Master needs stories as much as the Doctor does, and just as stories need the Master, or someone like him." She turned to the Fourth Doctor. "You've worked with the Master before, didn't you?" she asked.
"Lot of good that did me!" Fourth and Fifth said, in unison.
"Yes, well, I never said it turned up all roses," she conceded. "But doesn't that just go to show that the Master doesn't really want to destroy the Omniverse -- just control it?"
"But how can destroying stories destroy the Omniverse?" Imran asked.
"There are some," Our Hostess explained, "who believe that the Omniverse, multiverse, whatever you wish to label it, is not made of atoms, but of stories -- that stories create reality. I think that's why, when Sailor Gallifrey stabilized the energies for our own story, you, as the writer half of Bookworm, reappeared wearing a wizard's cloak. Did you know," she added with a wink, in spite of herself, "that the word 'spell' originally meant 'to tell a story'?"
"So when stories fall apart," Imran said with a shudder, "the whole Omniverse..." he didn't need to finish.
"Exactly!" the avocado troll said, with a grim nod.
"It will be just like it was in Logopolis, eventually," Fourth said.
"Yes, just like Logopolis. And that's why I don't think the Master is behind this, even a far distant future incarnation, though I could be wrong. He was willing to correct his mistakes back then, even if it was almost too late, and it almost killed him. He's not stupid. He wouldn't go over the same ground twice. Actually," she said, after a pause, "now that I think of it, I think Logopolis may be the key."
"How so?" the Fourth Doctor asked.
"Well," she said, "you were there, and I've only seen the outline of what happened in my TARDIS history banks, but if I recall correctly, the Logopolitans were preventing the heat death of our own universe by siphoning off energy from other universes."
The Fourth and Fifth Doctors nodded slowly, their faces both darkening.
"That's not exactly fair, is it?" the troll asked. "What about all the other life forms in those other universes? What if one of them held a grudge? Say, found a way to enter the minds of the Monitors, the Gods of Ragnarok, the future Master, and use them almost as drinking straws to draw energy away from our segment of the multiverse."
"You mean, siphon off energy through living things," the Fourth Doctor asked, "all the while making their victims think they are acting of their own free will?"
"Yes, something like that. How do you know that isn't how the Logopolitans did it? All they knew were the numbers they chanted, but how do we know what the effects felt like for their victims in the other universes?"
"But you're not saying we should let them, whoever they are, win, are you?" Imran asked, horrified. "Just take the energy back, and let our own universe die?"
"No. Not at all... We just have to employ the opposite of entropy."
"Synergy! The more being the sum of its parts, the ability of patterns to form themselves out of formlessness, the ability of life to make itself more complex as it evolves, rather than less --" she took a deep breath, ready to launch herself into the big finale: "the ability to take a rubber band, a plastic drinking straw, a wire spring, and some crepe paper and building the most fantastic toy, ever!" She rocked up on tiptoe, and threw her arms wide. "The ability," she concluded, "to have Fun!!!"
"If we generate enough fun," Imran said, catching on, "then we'll be able to reverse the direction of the energy drain, and there will be enough energy for all the universes!
"I'm on it!" he said, going back to his keyboard, and hitching up his long wizardy sleeves. "Get ready for some magic!"
The avocado troll lowered herself back onto her heels. "But first," she said, a little more soberly, "we have to stop the siphoning off of the energy long enough for us to build up some fun energy of our own. I need to go talk to Kid. I'm not sure, but I think he may have witnessed the first entry of these meta aliens into our universe, might have seen the mechanism (if it was a mechanism) used. He wouldn't have known what it was, of course, but if he could have described it to the Contessa, chances are she would have known."
"So the siphoners used Future Master to wipe it from his memory..."
"Yes, and they entered our universe through Vortex City, the least known segment of one of the least known of the Doctor's fictiverses..."
"So that no one would notice when the stories there started to fall apart until it was too late..."
"A lot more subtle than entering through the 'King Arthur' fictiverse," she agreed, "or 'Sherlock Holmes'." She turned to leave. "Well, I can't put this off any longer, I suppose.... Thanks, Imran.'
After a while, when the noise from the rest of the barn had begun to get loud and cheerful, and the sound of a fiddle was winding its way up amongst the rafters, the horse raised its head in a soft snort of greeting.
Kid Curry leaned against the side of the stall and gazed down, somewhat abstractedly, into the untouched mug of chocolate that had been pressed into his hand. There was a thick skin beginning to form, but it didn't really seem to warrant the kind of close attention he appeared to be giving it...
The horse nudged his shoulder, and lukewarm chocolate spilled down the side of his sleeve. Kid Curry jumped and swore, dumping the half-empty mug down into a corner in order to dab at his shirt with a hastily- caught-up twist of hay. The horse's muzzle reached over again, snatching for the hay, and he put up an angry elbow to shove it back.
A few more moments' thought, and he seemed to come to some kind of decision. Moving swiftly now, he left the stall and disappeared towards the front of the TARDIS where the doors had been, to return a minute later carrying his worn Gladstone bag in one hand and his coat and hat in the other. He let the whole lot fall on the floor next to the horse's tack to one side of the stall, sighed, and dropped down on his heels beside his own familiar possessions, leaning back against the rough planking, eyes closed, arms linked around his knees. The brown horse shifted from one leg to another behind the partition, blowing quietly. It might almost have been any stable, any town...
A long time later he sighed again, biting at his upper lip, got stiffly to his feet, and reached for the brush that was hanging with the rest of the grooming tackle against the wall. A faint remaining puff of bluish dust filtered down into the bedding with each brush-stroke, but in truth someone had done a good job already on the animal's formerly staring coat.
Perhaps it was just as well. Working his way down past the brown's knee, with his forehead resting up against the reassuring horse-scented warmth of its flank, Kid Curry's mechanical, unthinking movements were those of a man with something entirely different on his mind.
Meanwhile, the avocado troll was looking for him...Previous chapter Next chapter