Alryssa prepares to accept her destiny...
The staff rose into the air.
'By the powers of Gallifrey, by the powers of Earth
Two bound together through bonds old and new
Past, present and future are within my domain
To create and inspire the quest I choose
Creativity embodied, a planet's spirit reborn
Defender of inspiration, a woman discovered
Both human and Gallifrey, the birthright claimed
Magic and beauty, mystery and wonder
Brought together as these forces collide
Technology and creation, revelation and joy
In diversity, creativity - in acceptance, unity
Let these people now become one!'
The staff's sigil glowed with rainbow light-
-and the light burst outward, the onlookers turned away-
-too beautiful, too terrible-
-across the Omniverse, on worlds that would never meet, times unknown to anyone else-
-a feeling, a sense-
-creativity would be guarded, its guardian now come into her own-
-choosing her purpose, to defend and guard that which belonged to all-
-two now become one, and so much more-
The staff descended, settling into Sailor Gallifrey's hand.
She looked at it wonderingly, as if seeing it for the first time.
'You know,' she said, speaking to no-one in particular. 'I've been saying this a lot, lately, but...'
She raised the Staff of Harmony.
'GALLIFREY STAR POWER, MAKE UP!'
And the lights went out.
Then, slowly, they started to come back on.
'I am Sailor Gallifrey,' she said.
'I am the defender of inspiration, a champion of creativity.'
'And I am finally myself.'
There was a brief silence.
Then Alryssa's muse started to clap, beating the Doctor to it by a fraction of a second.
Then Gordon and Yokoi joined in.
Soon enough, all of the guests were applauding.
Our hostess span round. 'Come on, everybody!'
The clapping intensified.
One of the Monitors started to join in, but was quelled by a look from the other.
Sailor Gallifrey bowed.
There was a gasp.
Everybody fell silent.
'Yokoi? Wha-?' Gordon began.
On the floor where the Bookworm had been were two bodies.
One that of a girl with long brown hair and grey eyes, in flowing white Grecian robes.
The other that of a man with short black hair and brown eyes, in a wizard's cloak.
Allie and Imran.
'Wha... what happened to them?' Gordon asked.
'They were linked to Alryssa and Gallifrey,' the Doctor said softly. 'Resonating with them, because their bond was as unstable as Alryssa's...'
'...When they joined,' the hostess said, 'the Bookworm must still have been resonating - it bounced back, and the Bookworm separated back into Allie and Imran...'
'Oh my...' Yokoi whispered.
Allie's eyes opened. 'No way are you getting off without paying that tab, Yokki...'
Allie slowly sat up, rubbing her head. 'Probably... at least, if you stopped shouting, I could make up my mind...'
'Uhhhgghhhh...' Imran groaned. '...Allie?'
'Funny, Mum never said it'd be like this...'
'Oh ha ha...' Allie's face softened. 'Imran...'
'It's okay, Allie.' Imran said. 'It's okay.'
She reached out a tentative hand, meeting his own unsure response.
They looked at each other.
And then both of them started crying into the other's shoulder.
'How come she's not fading?' a bystander asked.
'That would be because of me.' Sailor Gallifrey said. 'The muses here no longer have to fight the stagnation...'
'The muses here?' the hostess asked.
Sailor Gallifrey nodded. 'The other muses... across the Omniverse, they're still being affected. The stories are still stagnating.'
'Then let's go do something about it!' Yokoi said.
'YEAH!' the Hoedown chorused.
Our Hostess smiled. Now she remembered, back at the beginning of the story (or was it the middle?), when she, and Daibhid (and Daibhid's backpack) and Jo were standing around Imran and his keyboard, trying to figure out who the Mystery Guest was...
That was when they realized that the story was falling apart. That was when Imran knew that Sailor Gallifrey couldn't come to help them, because she'd been trapped. They needed to find her and free her so that she could give them strength to move the story forward.
And now, that is just what had happened. Time to get back to the Barn/Circus Wagon TARDIS and get the show back on the road (and, she hoped, let the good times roll once again -- literally). But then --
Alryssa's muse looked around. 'Hey, where'd the Monitors go?'
"Oh, no," she muttered to herself... "How many antagonists does this story have, anyway?"
'Three, last time I looked...' the Eighth Doctor said. 'It's simply that Gordon observed that they wanted Gallifrey dead, and he wanted to know why. And... I'm more than a little curious about their conflicting motivation...' He suddenly grinned. 'Besides, we need them to tell us where the Gods' current home realm is. We can hardly challenge someone if we don't know where the people we're going to challenge are.'
'I could be arrogant, and claim that this was all for the universal balance...' the second Monitor said. 'But I can't. We hurt her, we manipulated her, and you, her friends, were caught in the middle of psychological mindgames.'
'Nice to see you've reached some awareness,' the Doctor observed.
'She came through, despite what was happening to her. Thanks to you - all of you - she survived, and took on her role. I could say this was all a psychological mindgame designed to force her into accepting her role - I won't. It was a trap. You and she would have remained caught here, trapped in mindgame upon mindgame - and if some of us had had their way, she would have destroyed herself - and you with her.' The second Monitor glared at the first. 'Some of us felt the universal balance had tipped the wrong way because of your intervention, Doctor. They wanted one way, static, unchanging...'
'...uncreative, dead...' the Doctor breathed. 'I thought so. But you hadn't realised Alryssa had become the spirit of creativity. You thought she was only its defender - and without a defender, the Gods would make all creativity stagnate - which would, incidentally, serve your purpose.'
The hostess gasped.
'Nevertheless...' The Monitor's hood creased in what might have been a smile. 'You have triumphed over everything we could throw at you, defeated every challenge. No blame lies on us that you won - you triumphed fairly.'
'Something for the transcripts, hmm?' the Doctor said. 'So...'
'...So that's what you really look like.'
'Actually,' Allie said. 'this is what I originally looked like, before I met Imran.'
'And discovered Sailor Moon videos,' Imran muttered. 'All right, all right, I'm sorry...'
Allie frowned. 'I'm not sure why I reverted, though...'
'...Or why I have this cloak.' Imran said.
'Anyway... I needed to ask you something.'
Allie took a deep breath. 'Did you... that is, can you remember, meeting a preacher?'
'An elderly black man,' Imran said.
'...bald at the top, hair on his sides and back...' they said together.
'I...' The Kid hesitated. 'There was a man... a light, I think... A bead in the sunlight? A pearl... Vortex City, done what I'd come to do, take care of some business, some scores needin' accountin'... went to the Contessa, afterwards, somethin' nagging at my head. Spoke to her, she said...Said somethin' 'bout dark forces in my future... somethin' to protect me from them... gave me a... charm? To ward them off, turn them against themselves... Asked to keep my eyes open... do her a favour. Little thin' , no skin off my nose - hell, after all she'd told me, I could hardly do otherwise. Then I left her, set off on my way, through the towns... then I met this preacher fellow. And then...' The Kid frowned. '...Was meetin' up with your hostess, next clear thing... You know that preacher man, or someone like him. Otherwise, wouldn't be askin' me.'
Allie hesitated. 'Yes. Yes, I know him. So does Imran... and I think Gordon and the Eighth Doctor know him too. I was hoping not...'
'I think...' Imran hesitated. '...wait, do you still have that charm?'
The Kid blinked. 'Charm.'
'You said you got a charm. Right at this moment, we need all the charms we can get.' Imran said wryly.
'That's the truth,' the Kid agreed. 'I got it..'. He reached for his neck. '...here, I think.'
He brought it into the light.
Allie and Imran blinked.
A blue bead with a hole in it. Carved into the shape of a little eye.
'Talk about being literal...' Imran finally said.
The first Monitor was watching the Kid thoughtfully, as if it could place his face from somewhere.
'She no longer needs our help, Doctor.' the second Monitor said. 'She may want it... but in the end, it is you she depends on. All of you. We... to be honest, she would be well within her rights never to speak to us again. To reject us utterly. Equally... she could go to the other extreme.'
'Yeah, like that's going to happen.' Alryssa's muse muttered.
'I think not,' Sailor Gallifrey said. 'No, I'm not going to forget what you set up. What you plunged me into. But it occurs to me that one way you might correct yourself... is by advising me.'
She raised up a hand to forestall any protest. 'You are the Monitors of the universal balance. That is your purpose. But... you can be coerced into things, be forced - or choose - to act in ways seemingly against the balance. Those are the rules you're bound by.'
'You're on probation,' she said. 'I think... this time... you have almost stepped too far beyond the balance, set things nearly spiralling out of control.'
She grinned. 'But the universal balance is dynamic, creative. It must be, to balance all the forces at work. And I defend the creative. So... if someone were to coerce you into acting against the balance, I'd set the balance back. Antagonists, protagonists, allies, enemies, advisers... for once, you have a chance to act in the universe, rather than set things in motion - because you'll be interacting with me. And with us. How you choose to act from now on will decide that role in the universe.'
The second Monitor started to speak, then shut up.
'Now, you have another chance,' Alryssa told them. 'Don't mess it up.'
'...All right,' the Monitor said. 'All right. As you said... it is our role, and things are out of balance. The Feeders of Story - the ones you call the Gods of Ragnarok - are going too far. Follow the new Psychic Circus - and the circus the Feeders have reanimated to haunt its steps...'
Then... they were gone.
'Damn,' Gordon muttered.
'One set of antagonists down, two to go,' the Doctor said.
"I'm not so sure," Our Hostess said. "I have a feeling those two weren't exactly of one mind. One of them seemed, despite their actions, to actually want us to succeed, even if ... it ... wasn't able to act on that desire directly. Perhaps that desire itself tipped the balance of the scales in our favor. And one of them seemed downright hostile... Now that that side's lost (for now), there might be a grudge factor working against us." She scratched that curious little itch behind her left ear, again. "Only thing is," she said, "now that they're gone, I can't remember which is which..."
"Hmm," the Eighth Doctor commented. "Does it matter?"
"No, I suppose not... So, where do we go next?" she asked.
The Seventh grinned. 'I've been following what Kingpin and Mags have been doing with the renewed Psychic Circus, and I'm seriously impressed. I think it's time we paid some old friends a visit, don't you? Besides... it sounds like they might need a little help...'
"We're going to the circus!" she said, clapping her hands. "But how will we get there? Here we are, outside all of Space-Time, and our TARDISes are back on Titan Three."
"I wonder," Fourth said, "if there's a decent transmat around here... Wouldn't be surprised." And he went off in search of one.
Our Hostess nodded in satisfaction. Turning to the Valeyard, she asked: "Care to join us? If nothing else, it should be a bit of a romp."
But he shook his head. "I'm not quite ready to jump back into stories, just yet, as I'm still unsure of my character. Besides, I have this crossword puzzle to finish. ... You wouldn't happen to know a fourteen letter word starting with 's', would you?"
The troll thought a minute, then shook her head. "Not in English. How did you get a crossword puzzle, anyway?" she asked. "It's not like they deliver "The Times" to Titan Three."
"I write them myself," the Valeyard said, proudly.
"You write.... ?"
He nodded. "Then I hide them in the caves. By the time I've found them again, I've usually forgotten all the clues. It's ever so much fun!"
"That's It!" Sixth (who had been eavesdropping) exclaimed. "I knew there was something different about the atmosphere on that planet -- it's the spirit of fun. I do believe you've infected the place." He looked thoughtful. "For a long time, I thought you wouldn't amount to anything but trouble," he told the Valeyard. "But I have to congratulate you on this point." And he gave him a hearty slap on the back. "Probably the first fun that bit of rock has experienced since it congealed out of the interstellar gasses," he added.
"Perhaps," the avocado troll said, as the idea formed in her mind, "that's why the Monitors set their mind traps there, as opposed to somewhere else. Titan Three has always been a nexus point of stagnation, of depression. But when fun started to break through even there, they knew that the order of the universe was shifting. So they decided to nip it in the bud, so to speak." A wide grin spread across her face. "And they failed."
Fourth reappeared from around a corner. "You won't believe the transmats they have here!" he said, admiringly. "You could transport whole planets, if you wanted to!"
"How about a motley crew of trolls, cowboys, Time Lords, Writers and Muses?" the avocado troll asked.
"Oh, most definitely!"
She turned to her guests. "Okay, gang! Ready to go spread some infectious fun throughout the universe?"
A wild cheer echoed through the vast chamber.
"All right then! First stop Titan Three to collect our TARDISes (and return the Valeyard to his crossword puzzle), then on to meet up with the Psychic Circus!"
Another cheer. The troll's grin got wider and wider.
A short time later, in the transmat room:Previous chapter Next chapter