The avocado troll hopes to enlist the Master's help...


The door of the wardrobe gradually fell open with a lugubrious creaking noise, and the sound of the Master's chuckling could be heard echoing around the space inside.

Distinctly un-nerved, the troll poked her nose closer to the threshhold. "I can hear someone laughing in there... is that you, err, Master?"

The avocado troll gestured to Imran to come close and back her up, and then thinking better of involving him, she turned to him and said, "Whatever you do, don't follow me. This could be very dangerous."

With no further ado the troll ventured nervously into the wardrobe. She stepped up through the real-world interface into a large black hexagonal room, familiar roundel patterns on the walls, elements of each echoed in the shape of the metallic black console at the room's centre. A strip of subdued lighting around the very edge of the ceiling provided very dull illumination of the contents of the room: a blank scanner on the wall, an interior door, the console, and off to one side of the room another 19th Century wardrobe.

The troll sauntered across to it, and examining it closely, it appeared to be an exact copy of the wardrobe she had just stepped into. After a moment examining the lock of the wardrobe she sensed a presence behind her and spun around to find Imran standing between her and the console.

"I thought I told you not to follow me."

"Yes, but I borrowed this communicator from Doctor number two - apparently we can patch through to UNIT and call for help if we get into trouble."

Imran's face fell. "Of course, that's if it works from inside the confines of a TARDIS."

The troll frowned. "Well, at least we have safety in numbers. If two's any better than one. Are you any good with locks, Imran?"

"Not particularly, but then these wardrobes didn't use particularly complicated locks! I'll give it a go!"

After a few minutes of manipulation, first using a similar type of key to the shape of the lock, and then the antenna of the communicator, Imran finally succeeded and the interior wardrobe's door fell open.

"Do you have a feeling of deja-vu?" the avocado troll asked.

"You're wondering whether there might be an infinite recursion of wardrobes?" Imran smiled.

"For some reason, that thought had occurred to me..."

"Unlikely. I think the Master has simply materialised his TARDIS around the original SIDRAT wardrobe. After you," Imran smiled.

"Erm... thank you, I suppose!" the avocado troll grinned.

The interior of the second wardrobe was much smaller than the TARDIS; done out in rather plainly varnished walnut, and with a greatly diminished control console at the centre of the room.

"Hmm, very season fourteen..." muttered Imran under his breath.

"What did you say?" the avocado troll asked.

"Not a Master to be seen. Nor a Cardinal. Not even an Auntie." Imran replied.

"So what do we do now? The Master must be somewhere else..." The avocado troll turned to go out the same way she came in, and noticed a chaise longue in the corner.

"That must be the chaise longue of unreasonable discomfort!" she murmured, "We should get out of here..."

Cardinal Zorak and Phi1ip suddenly entered the SIDRAT, still with a glazed look in their eyes, bearing silken cords in their hands.

"... before it's too late?" Imran glanced at the avocado troll, arching his eyebrows.

"When I say run, run!" the avocado troll whispered to him, and looked around. The SIDRAT had no interior door, and Zorak and Phi1ip were standing right in the way of their escape...


"Oh, heh, heh..." the troll said, trying to look as though making a run for it was the last thing on her mind. "There you are! We've been looking for you guys." She backed away as casually as she could. "Listen, there've been a few, erm, 'developments' since you ... er ... left the dance floor, and things are a bit hairy right now --"

The Cardinal grinned in a wickedly intoxicated way. "Hmmm... 'hairy'," he said, "I'll get the electric razor!"

"Nonono, No, NO!" the troll said quickly, "Th-that's not what I meant. I-I think it's time for a quick recap of the story's main plot points. Don't you, Imran?"

"What," he asked, incredulous, "all of them?"

"Okay, maybe not. The short version then," she said. And then, with a rapid fire delivery that would make a professional auctioneer jealous, she spit out: "The mystery guest (whom we thought was a Flame Bringer) is really Lord Gallifrijan, who was bringing an emergency message to us from the Valeyard on Titan Three, asking for our help. The reason it took us so long to figure that out is that someone or something is deliberately interfering with our story, first with the typo and tense gremlins, and then by making all the dangling plot lines extra sticky. What's more, this someone or something has dumped a spaghetti western outlaw named Kid Curry into our fictiverse, and has thoroughly messed with Kid's memories in the process. But, based on the bits and pieces of what Kid has said, I believe whoever it is has pirated Time Scoop technology, and is trying to undo every story in the multiverse. So I've piloted my TAR-- EEp!"

This abrupt end to her spiel was brought on by a dark shadow falling across the doorway. Looking toward its source, the avocado troll found herself staring up at the Ainley Master, dressed in full Dom attire, whip and all.

"I came looking for my slaves," he said, sounding almost apologetic. "They were taking far too long. ...I only caught the tail end," he added. "Did I hear correctly -- someone is trying to undo every story in the multiverse?"

"That's right," the troll said, grateful that someone seems to have heard her. "And I could really use your expertise on several technical matters."

"'Every story'?" the Master repeated. "Even erotica?"

"Even erotica," the troll replied.

"Sorry, boys," he said to Cardinal and Phi1ip, tossing the whip into the corner. "Business calls." Catching sight of their puppy dog eyes, he purred: "Don't worry, when this is all over, I'll make it up to you -- with a vengeance! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!"


Grabbing the Master by one hand and Imran by the other, the avocado troll hurried out of the wardrobe TARDIS, with Zorak and Phi1ip taking up the rear. A questioning "Pot, pot, pot?" could be heard as snowgrouse Krizu came out to see what all the fuss was about.

"Come on!" the troll said, "I have a sneaky feeling that if we don't do something big, this story will be turned inside out!"

"By midnight?" Imran asked.

"I wouldn't be surprised." As she stepped out of the TARDIS, she was grateful to see that her guests were still there. It had gone so quiet, she was afraid everyone had called their various pet vehicles and gone home. Even though many of the partiers were dozing or milling around glumly, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"What happened?" Phi1ip asked, a dazed look of relief and disappointment on his face to be free from the Chaise Lounge of Unreasonable Discomfort.

Several in the crowd turned to see who he was talking to, and gasped.

"The Master!" Third bristled. "What's he doing here?"

"That's okay," Fourth reassured him. "We've worked together before, when the universe itself was in danger, and something tells me it's in danger again."

Our Hostess nodded. "That's right," she said. "As many of you may have noticed, our story has fallen victim to nearly threat that a story can: typo gremlins, dangling plot lines, out of place characters --" she paused, and waved down her deputy. "Speaking of which, would you go see if Kid Curry is awake?" she asked. "He needs to be in on this."

The turquoise troll ran off, returning shortly with a groggy-eyed cowboy in tow.

"Good," the avocado troll said, nodding authoritatively. "And now, it faces the greatest danger of all," she continued, "stagnation! Even Imran's muse can hardly withstand the strain." And she indicated Allie, who was now as dark and transparent as a reflection in water.

"Allie, no!" Imran cried, running to her side. "Hang on! I can't lose you now!"

"I fear it is the same for all the muses throughout the universe -- even the original nine -- and they're goddesses! I believe that someone, or some group, is deliberately trying to rip every story in the universe to shreds -- and more than that, to destroy the art of narration itself, so that no new stories can be made."

"But why?" someone in the crowd asked. "What does it all mean?"

"I don't know," the hostess replied. "But if we don't do something soon, all stories -- both fiction and non fiction, will disintegrate. The Valeyard, here on Titan Three, has detected some strange dimensional anomalies, and he sent for our help. So we're here to find him, and learn more. I need you -- all of you -- to do your best to fight the stagnation you feel, and roll this story onward!"

Zorak piped up behind her: "This thing doesn't roll along on wheels, you know!"

"That sounds familiar," First said. "Yes, yes... I wonder where I heard it, hmm?"

The avocado troll turned to the Cardinal and grinned. "You're a genius!" she said. "Wheels! Of course... why didn't I think of that?"

She turned to Kid. "We have a bit more traveling to do," she said, "and I'm thinking you'd be more comfortable riding ... naturally ... than jostling along with this lot," and she indicated the motley crew around them with a sweep of her hand.

Kid gave a brief nod. "Much obliged... Miss," he said.

She nodded. Turning to her deputy, she said: "Help Kid tack up, and lead his horse outside, please. I have some ... adjustments to make."

She hurried to her water trough console and moved her fingers in the air, as though flipping invisible switches (which is, in fact, exactly what she was doing). There was a brief, mechanical "thrum" throughout the barn, and when it was over, the troll went to the door, to see what the finished effect was.

The real world interface was no longer a small grey suburban house, but a full blown circus wagon, led by a team of 12 android white horses with bright purple and fuchsia ostrich plumes adorning their bridles. "Hm. I was going for a wild west stagecoach," she said to herself, "but considering my guest list, this is probably more appropriate." She turned back to her guests to call out a final warning. "Brace yourselves, this will probably be a bumpier ride than you're used to!" she called out. And then she climbed up to the driver's seat.

"What's this?" the troll asked, noticing a big red button on the seat beside her. She pushed it, and rollicking calliope music blared all around them. "Of course!" she said. "'Calliope' -- the muse of epic poetry. Of all the Greek goddesses to protect our adventure from here on, she would be the best!"

She took the twelve golden reins in her hands, and cracked her whip.

They were off -- a garish circus wagon driven by a little green troll, with a wild west cowboy galloping alongside. The dust of Titan Three had never been stirred like that before.

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