Jim has a desperate solution to offer for the stagnation...
Emerging fully from the swirly-whirly special effect, he mutters "go on then, go bother someone else" and the temporo-spacial anomaly scuppers off happily. Jim takes a deep breath and pulls a large, leatherbound copy of Hitchhiker's Guide from his voluminous robes. However, the book is a fake, designed purely to hold one object.
It is a black box, roughly the size of a paperback novel, and with the same glossy-paper shine to its surface. A dimly glowing red button is set in the exact middle, and gold-scripted alien writing rings the button itself. Below the button, the words "PANIC BUTTON" appear in large, friendly letters, though someone has written "DON'T" above them, using a tin of Liquid Paper.
"Behold," Jim says with reverential awe, "the dreaded Reset Button. Rumour has it that a special button was crafted for each season of Trek, allowing writers to conveniently forget all character development, backstory, and any other perceived 'clutter' between stories or between seasons. This is why there are thirty-five stories about Data wanting to be a real boy, several dozen about Worf dealing with his Klingon heritage, and so forth."
As the others look on, amazed and somewhat fearful, Jim continues.
"This very button holds great power. According to my source, it was used once and only once during all of Trek--at the end of season one of Next Generation."
"The one with the brain bugs?"
"The very same."
A timid hush falls over the room. Jim carefully returns it to the book and lovingly closes the cover. With a flourish, he hands it to the Mistress of the Hoe-down.
"My lady, I place this in your care. If you believe it is needed, you may use it. But be warned! I understand that a certain book editor has something similar, and it's caused no end of trouble amongst the fanboys."
And with that, Jim folds his arms and beams expectantly at her, awaiting a response....
This not being the response which Jim was expecting he turns, surprised, to see Daibhid putting a remote-control-sized device with a single button labelled "Deus Ex Machina - Do Not Press" back in the Rucksack.
"My big chance to be relevant to the plot," he mutters. "Back to the cat-herding then, I guess."
The hostess paused in her efforts to free Lord Gallifrijan from the tangled mass of story threads long enough to acknowledge their offers with a smile for each of them. The truth was, she was a tad overawed by the great amount of trust they place in her, but there's no time to let that slow her down. "I don't think we need to go to quite so drastic measures ... yet." She turned back to her task, tearing away at the sticky cocoon with a vengeance as she spoke.
"Don't you see?" she asked, "it's been in front of our noses the whole time: first, it was the typo gremlins, then it was the mirage of the 'flame bringer', then it was Yartek. Someone -- or something --" she repeated, "has been trying to stop our story from continuing, and each time --" she paused again while she shook a particularly sticky and nasty mass of dangling plot lines from her fingers "-- each time we've gotten close to discovering the truth," she continued, "an even bigger disruption has been thrown our way. It was the entrance of Mister Kid Curry here," she said, nodding to her reticent guest with a smile, "that finally made it all clear to me. He," she explained, "has been taken out of his own story completely. It's not just our story that's under attack -- *it's ALL stories EVERYWHERE!* If we don't stop the villain -- whoever is doing this, we might end up scattered through American soap operas, or history books about World War II, or show up in some poor family's genealogical record -- or worse, we could simply cease to exist!"
"But who would do such a thing?" Imran asked. "Not the Black Guardian again?"
"No, I don't think so. I imagine that Eris has him on a pretty tight rein after the mess he caused last year."
"The Valeyard?" Daibhid asked.
Lord Gallifrijan, now free from most of his wrapping, coughed and sputtered, and spit out the last of his gag. "No, not the Valeyard -- he's actually the one who sent me. He came back to Gallifrey from Titan Three to warn us about some very disturbing anomalies that started showing up in the temporal fields around there. He said you lot would be the best people to ask, since you all saved him last year."
"Does that mean that we have to go to Titan Three to solve this?"
"I'm afraid so," the hostess replied.
"But that's the most depressing planet in the galaxy!"
"I know -- but all the more in need of some Pro-Fun agitation, right?" She tried to sound enthusiastic as she said this, but wasn't quite sure she succeeded.
"But if all the pro-fun trolls get depressed," Daibhid said, "the universe will be doomed!"
"I know," the hostess said, "that's what's worrying me."
...for the second time that night, a lightbulb flashed above the avocado troll's head. "The 'Authorial Persona Manipulation Field Projector' --" she asked the Doctors, "is it working?"
"Yes," the fifth said. "But we don't need it now, do we? How is that going to help us?"
"Here's how!" She snapped her fingers and whistled, calling the one typo gremlin who had gotten to Gordon's collection of fanzines too late to join the orgy. "Here boy! Here ya go, a pair of niece jiucy typos!" As soon as it flew within range, she scooped it up in her party hat and set it down on the APMFP. "There! Now, it's an 'Authorial Persona Manipulation Field Protector'! -- As long as the pro-fun trolls join in and become authors, they'll be protected from outside influences, such as depressing atmospheres, and meddling villains.... At least I hope so."
Ninni looked at the outlandish contraption. "So this means we can all do things purposefully now, instead of being sidetracked all the time? Good."
The avocado troll turned to Philip. "Since this is your pet piece of fictional engineering, I think you should do the honors."
"You sure?" Philip asked, a little nervously. "I don't have much experience with this sort of thing."
The hostess nodded vigorously.
Philip reached out and hit the big purple button marked "on" and a quiet, deep thrumming sound filled the TARDIS.
"Right!" the hostess said, heading for her console room. "Time to go to Titan Three. Brace yourselves, everyone!"
"Not at all, not at all. We'll be there in no time."
"In that case... If you'll excuse me for a while. I'll be back soon!"
All during this conversation she had kept a wary eye on the Master, the happily pot-potting snowgrouse on his arm, whom she had noted was now purposefully making their way towards the Fifth Doctor. She would have to act quickly if she wanted to counter their evil plans. She fairly ran up to the Doctor, grabbed his hand and began dragging him away. "Come on. We have urgent business elsewhere, right now. And then you can tell me all about Titan Three afterwards."
Meanwhile, the hostess seized her chance to talk to Kid Curry...Previous chapter Next chapter