The avocado troll gives Imran Epona's roses...


The cape swirled again.

The roses disappeared.

And Imran bowed.

'Thank you.'


Xeffy covered her eyes. 'Oh no... he's turning into Fanboy Mask now!'

'Hey, it works with Allie's Sailor fuku...'

'Allie's what?!'

'Umm... Sailor fuku?'

'Oh no...' Xeffy moaned. 'What is this, a twisted episode of Sailor Moon?'

'Well, there's Sailor Gallifrey...'

'Sailor what?!'

'Shh! Keep it down! Auntie gets sarky 'round anime references...'

'Okay, okay... So who's next up?'

'Bokman and Zoe,' Anji supplied. 'doing magic with Lego.'

'Oh. For a moment there, I thought you were gonna say something odd.' Xeffy said.


A universe around you.

Stars and galaxies. Nebulae and clusters.

Constellations half-imagined, the ones you made when you were a child.

Allie sat in the centre of it all, watching it revolve.

'An Infinity Chamber...' the soft voice said.

Allie shook her head. 'A Zero Room.'

'Maybe both.' The voice chuckled.

'Yeah, this would appeal to you... How's...' Allie breathed out. 'How's Xeffy?'

'Enjoying herself. The Eighth's companions are keeping an eye on her.'

Allie's mouth quirked. 'Love to see that...'

'Mm.'

'Remember when we first met?' Allie said eventually.

'Yes.'

'Short girl, denim jacket and jeans...'

'Mm. And you came up, introduced yourself...'

"Well, I'm on work experience." Allie grinned. 'I swear, I've never seen anyone's eyes go that big.'

'I knew there was something up; strange girls don't usually walk up to me and say "Hi, I'm your Muse..."'

'What... You know, I've never asked this of you, but... was there a Muse before me?' She looked up at him.

'No. No, there wasn't. I'd written stuff, stories... and then you showed up.'

'And you weren't even looking for me.'

'Were you looking for... anyone?'

'...No,' Allie said eventually. 'No.'

Imran reached into his cloak and withdrew something from it.

'Here.'

The light cast shadows on Allie's face, first edged with blue, then with pink, as she held it in her hand.

'A dream.' Allie whispered. 'This is a dream...'

'It was one of Epona's roses.' Imran said quietly.

'Whose dream?' Allie's voice was soft.

'Yours? Mine? Maybe even dreams dream...'

'Dream... Dream is watching.'

Imran nodded, as if such was not unexpected to him.

'The one who is Dream, who embodies them... who takes in the dreams of all things...' Allie let out a deep breath.

'And he gave Xeffy the path here, gave her the bag of sand.' Imran murmured.

Allie nodded. 'It was said once that Morpheus and Calliope were lovers... Perhaps an aspect of her, I heard somewhere. Not the aspect I knew, though.'

'But Dream is no longer Morpheus. And Calliope isn't the same Calliope.'

'Stories still have power,' Allie's voice was quiet, low. 'And so does their Prince.'

'I know.'

'But why? Why bring her? She's twelve years old! What the Hades can she do?!'

'She came here...' Imran pointed out. 'That suggests she feels she can do something.'

'What?'

'Ask her.' Imran said. 'She's the only one who can say.'

Allie sighed.

The dream vanished into the shifting folds of her robe.

Then she stood up.

'Are you sure about this?' Imran's voice was still quiet.

Allie shook her head. 'No. No, I'm not. But...'

'I know.

'I know.'


Eloise looked toward the shadows where a woman-planet-spirit was drawing on powers. It nagged at the edge of her mind: quiet, insistent, alarming -- like the whine of a mosquito that wakes you in the middle of the night. Alryssa's / Sailor Gallifrey's desperation, frustration, exhaustion. After all, she had been expending her energies non-stop since midnight (not that she had regained all of her energy since her ordeal on Titan Three, in the first place), and now, it was nearly dawn.

She picked up one more rose petal -- silver white like the moon, with veins of pale green the color of a luna moth's wings -- and let it grow into a full rose. This was a simple one, like a wild rose, with only five petals, and small. Its thorns were long and narrow, and the ends of the barbs turned upward into tiny hooks. But the petals were as perfectly balanced as the points of the star inside a pentagram. And its fragrance was the headiest of all.

Careful not to break the boundary of the circle Alryssa had drawn around herself, Eloise carefully lay the rose on the floor beside her.

She dared not speak, lest she break Alryssa's concentration. And after the catastrophe with Curry, she dared not send her thoughts telepathically. So instead, she sent her thoughts to the air around her -- a sort of silent chant for building strength:

"Every thorn protects a treasure.
Every lock has its own key.
Every nightmare holds the truth,
If we but have the will to See."


Something stepped out of the shadows backstage.

Looked around.

Stepped over to where Alryssa was sitting in deep concentration.

'You can be hurt.' Shayde said. 'You can be damaged.'

The presence that watched Alryssa turned to the shadow construct.

'You are threatening her. Leave, otherwise I will have no recourse but to use force.'

Pleasure. Malicious, childish pleasure.

'This is not the place. This is not the time. Leave.'

Tease. Aggravate. Frustrate. Lose control.

As did you.

The presence reacted sharply.

Would you care to remember? Mnemosyne said. Again?

Hurt. Cannot hurt.

No, I cannot. Mnemosyne said. I see what you were. I see what you seek to do.

I cannot hurt you, for you have passed beyond. But you still know pain, and hurt, and rage, and so you have set on your path. You seek to disrupt this woman's concentration, to break her part of the web here

You seek to disrupt those who fight you in all the Fictiverses.

But Rassilon's agent has spoken here, in this place, and I stand behind him.

You will leave. Now.

Disappointment. Frustration. A game spoiled.

Leave. Mnemosyne said again.

The presence hung in the air for a moment - then was gone.

'Thank you, milady.' Shayde said.

As ever, Mnemosyne said. I still have much to speak of with the Grey One...

'I'm sure he will be pleased to hear that.'

Getting a sense of irony, Shayde? You surprise me...

'I am often surprised at what I do,' Rassilon's troubleshooter remarked. 'As Fey has often observed, surprise is an important part of life...'

He crossed his arms, and disappeared into the shadows once again.


It was several moments before the Scout realised she had been holding her breath for what must have been a long time...

...infinity...

Concentrate. Don't lose the balance now.

She had felt the other presences, known they were there, but could not communicate with them... now they were gone, and the malicious one with it.

A silent acknowledgement of assistance.

And... as she held up the 20th card, Judgement, she began to see...

See something that would upset the balance forever.

Win them the war.

Every thorn has its treasure....

...Like every nightmare has an end.

And their end was in sight. Bring them into the light!

It was right about then that all hell broke loose... on more than one level.


But meanwhile...

"Okay, here goes!"

Bokman and Zoe walk into the center ring/stage, which is still mysteriously covered with rose petals. Bokman is wearing a Pertwee-esque outfit complete with cape; Zoe is in her catsuit from THE MIND ROBBER. "Not quite a magician or assistant's outfit, but who am I to complain about her dress sense?" Bok observes. He then turns to the audience as Zoe takes out a medium-size box, which rumbles and growls. Chains and a padlock surround it.

"Ladies, gentlemen, horses, gods, and zombies! In this box of mystery and illusion we have captured the force that will generate our entire act. This force is so powerful we dare not unleash it at full strength, but must channel it. I give to you..." -he and Zoe make dramatic gestures- "FACTION PARADOX!!!"

"Aren't they dead?" a voice from the crowd observes.

"The Faction rejects such limiting concepts as death," Zoe replies.

"How can they fit in a box?"

"The Faction rejects such limiting concepts as size."

"How'd you get them in there?"

"I promised them punch and pie," Bokman answers. "Now, anyway, we all know that the Faction Paradox used their control over space, time and whatever to cause paradoxes, mess with people's pasts, jumble up timelines and give everyone headaches. However, we decided to take the Paradox's gift of confusion and use it to everyone's benefit! So, we joined their power with all the universe's great sources of mystic, temporal and general creative energy..."

Behind the two appear large, impressive replicas of the Pyramids, the Eye of Harmony, the Hollywood sign, the Sydney Opera House, etc. Into the center, after dramatic fanfare, is lowered....

... a rather unimpressive 18" replica of Stonehenge made out of legos.

"I knew we should have doublechecked those measurements," Bok observes.

"Maybe if we'd done it in Duplo..." Zoe comments.

"Forget that! Anyhow, we've got lots of weird creative and temporal and whatever power at our disposal, and through this we give you our... FEATS OF DISCONTINUITY!"

Zoe wheels on the first item, a large ornate globe featuring a mysterious, gray-green planet shrouded in clouds.

"This," says Bokman, "is Gallifrey. Home of the Time Lords, most important world in the known universe, inspiration for the Sailor of the same name. For those of you following along at home, sometime last year, this happened."

Zoe presses a button, and the planet explodes into a billion pieces of ash and dust. For some reason the actual globe remains intact, but the image it shows is of drifting debris.

"Now," Zoe cuts in, "not everyone thought this was a good idea. Some people thought all the stories about Gallifrey had been told, or at least all those in the present tense. But you know, I'd never been there. And Bok swore he had an idea for a Gallifrey story he might do one day, so I thought this up."

Zoe flips a switch on the globe. The explosion runs in reverse, and Gallifrey loops back into its old familiar self. "This," Zoe proclaims, "Is the incredible disappearing-reappearing Gallifrey!"

"But wait!" Bokman picks up the spiel. "Suppose you think Gallifrey being blown to smithereens is a good idea? Suppose you've got your idea for something that can only be done if the Time Lords aren't around? Well..."

He flips a second switch, and Gallifrey explodes again. "The incredible disappearing-reappearing Gallifrey works in any direction! In fact, after some discussion and way too many Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, we worked this out..."

Zoe flips a third switch, and the dust and debris all vanish, leaving empty space. "You can erase Gallifrey from existence altogether!" she declares. "Make the Doctor a living paradox! Raise bizarre questions!"

"Obviously," Bokman notes, flipping the first switch to make Gallifrey re-appear, "this third option might not be used much. Still, we took the time to work it out and all, so it's on the thing whether anyone needs it or not! We've also got a Skaro version, but that's more or less the same thing."

"And on to our next feat!" Zoe announces as Bokman wheels the globe off. "Now for this one, we've enlisted the help of someone from Earth."

Bokman comes on stage. Trailing behind him is Sergeant Benton.

"Front and center, Benton!" he orders. Benton complies and stands at attention. "Okay, now at ease!" Benton slumps. "Attention!" Benton stands rigid again. "At ease! Attention! At ease! Attention! At..." Zoe nudges Bok in the ribs. "Sorry." He then wheels out a bizarre ray on a stand, and aims it at the abused soldier.

"Don't worry," Bok says, "this won't hurt him. Much. Now, Sergeant Benton, who do you work for?"

"The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce," he answers.

"Isn't that supposed to be a top secret group?" Zoe asks.

"Oh, damn."

"Don't worry, we all know about it here," Bokman says. "Now, what year is it back on Earth?"

"1971. Wait, that's not classified too, is it?"

"No, no."

"Hang on a tic, that's not right. It's 1980. No, wait, 2001! No, hang on, let's see Sarah was born back in '80, the Brig retired in '75- but he's still working with us..."

"Ladies and gentleman, the paradox of UNIT dating. It has baffled mathematicians, Whovians, and for some reason the entire parking staff at Trader Vic's. Nobody knows how all this happened, but the Doctor said it might have had something to do with the time he reversed the polarity of the neutron flow while mucking with the dematerialization circuit while at the same time trying to replace the cartridge on his turntable. But let's not assign blame. Let's simply try to fix it!"

He goes over to the ray and presses a button. Weird purple energy shoots out, engulfs Benton, and fades off.

"Now, then," Bokman says, striding back to Benton's position, "What year is it."

"1986, sir."

"You sure it's not 2001, or 1972, or the Battle of Waterloo?" Zoe asks.

"Absolutely not, Miss."

Bokman and Zoe make dramatic gestures. "He's cured!" Bok proclaims. "But say he doesn't like 1986? Suppose he's feeling retro? Well, this Time Shifter ray can make it so he and UNIT are back in 1971, or twenty years in the future, or any time. You see, a few decades are so meaningless to the rhythms of the universe that it's easy to teleport an entire continuity a few decades back or forward in time. So, not only can we set UNIT dating to whatever we want it to be-"

"I wish I'd been around to see Woodstock," Benton interjects wistfully.

"We can move any bit of the Whoniverse anywhen it needs to be! Skaro back to 1963, then forward three hundred years- a snap. The Cybermen back to 1988 then just in time to meddle with the Earth Empire- entirely do-able. No more elaborate explanations necessary! You need never reference the official history of the Whoniverse again! Unless of course you want to!"

"Hey Bok, let's get to the closer!" Zoe suggests.

"Good idea, Zoe. Benton, you can have a seat." Benton goes into the audience and is handed some popcorn. "Sgt. Benton, let's give him a hand everyone!" There is applause.

Zoe and Bokman rush backstage. A few moments pass. They come back out, pushing a huge lantern-like device in front of them. They finally manage to get it to the center of the ring.

"This," Bokman says after getting back his breath, "is something me and Zoe worked on together. Now, you remember, at one point in the history of the Whoniverse, a great and wise people called the Logopolitans opened up CVEs to other universes to prevent entropy of this one. Entropy could have ultimately destroyed this universe through increasing and irreversible decay and disorder."

"The same holds true for creativity," Zoe continues. "New blood is needed to get stories going, and new things are needed to use. The Whoniverse is not bounded by space or time, but like any continuity in runs the risk of being too wrapped in itself. To this end, inspired by my brief stay in the Land of Fiction, we've developed what we hope will contribute some much needed outside energy to this Hoedown."

"This," Bokman says, "is an aperture to outside the continuity. From here, you can drag anything into or out of the Whoniverse. Now, though the idea of crossovers between continuities is generally regarded as fanwanky.... we don't care. Let's go crazy!"

He presses a button, and a humming starts up. A red "flame" appears in the center of the lantern. "The way this device works," Zoe explains, "is much like the CVE. It doesn't pull things into or out of this Whoniverse but rather lets just about anything wander in or out. And judging from the radar panel it looks like two entities are just about to... yes..."

Out of the flame step two well-dressed middle-aged men. One is balding, has a ruddy complexion and stocky build. The other is short, lean and blonde.

"Niles, I'm sorry, I can't vacate the apartment just so you and Daphne can recreate your first flagrante delicto. I've got a meeting of the opera board to greet, and somehow I don't think we'd be able to hear my TRAVIATA recording over the moans."

"If you're using the Met recording, there probably won't be any difference. Besides..." the fair-haired one trails off as he looks around. "Is it just me, or have they redecorated?"

"Welcome, travelers!" Bokman declares.

"This isn't Chez Henri, is it?"

"Nope. You're in the Whoniverse now!"

"Sounds like one of those new dance clubs," the larger man cracks.

Zoe laughs. "These two should be fun! They're a regular Holmesian double act!"

"You see, Frasier, I told you people would talk if we kept going to dinner together. We're like the Collier brothers now..."

"Yes, Niles, I heard the story. Listen," he says, turning to Bokman, "what is all of this about?"

"You just stepped outside the continuity. It's a disorienting experience, but you'll adjust."

"Outside the continuity?" Niles says, astounded. "What does that entail?"

"You're not in your universe anymore," Zoe explains.

"Well, that won't do! I've got a group of overagressives to meet with tomorrow, and I need to stop by the cafe tonight to pick up some decaf!"

"Obviously," Bokman says, turning to the crowd, "not everyone enjoys stepping out of their world. But, of course, the change need never be permanent, and..." he turns, noticing Frasier trying to chat up Zoe. "Hands off!"

"Sorry, force of habit," the elder Crane replies.

"Okay, now, if you two need to get back, just step right through the flame, we'll pick up somebody else."

"Finally, some help!" Niles responds, walking through the flame in a huff. Frasier follows.

"That was a bit of a waste," Bokman sighs.

"Nonsense, we'll catch them at a better time," Zoe assures him. "Besides, we've got someone else walking in..."

"WHAT THIS?!" a great confused bellow rings out. A large green dragon lizard walks out, clad in... unusual garments.

"Finn Fang Foom!" Bokman declares. "What were you doing outside the continuity?"

"Stepped into continuity of LEATHER CATALOG!"

"How'd you manage that?"

"Not easy! But WORTH it!"

"I see." Bokman thinks for a second- though Foom is normally a dangerous character to be within a mile's radius of, in a Pro-Fun environment he'd be tolerable, even useful. If the GoR ever were to bring out some heavy artillery- "Why don't you have a seat, watch the rest of the show."

"Anyone DIE?"

"Not yet."

"BORING!"

"There is however the imminent threat of our defeat and apparent enslavement at the hands of nasty deities from the end or beginning or middle of time."

"ENSLAVEMENT?! Why no SAY so?"

Finn takes a very large seat, next to the most daring Hoedowners.

Zoe turns to Bokman. "I think this is getting unnecessarily dragged out."

"That's just his tail. At least I hope it's his tail."

"No, I mean- look, let's do one more, and see where that goes, okay?"

Bokman's reply is cut short by a sudden rush of sound. Figure after figure steps through the flame- recognized fictional icons and original creations alike, from the most dashing hero to the most nondescript thug. Buck Rogers. Emma Peel. Beanish. Zippy the Pinhead, chanting "Rolykin Dalek! Rolykin Dalek! Rolykin Dalek!" An entire Elizabethan theater troupe. A mysterious robed wizard. A werewolf. A superintelligent cybertank. Godzilla. The Karkus, giving a nod of acknowledgement to Zoe. More creations, almost as many as can be imagined. They file out into the circus, filling all the empty seats.

Buck steps over to Bokman and Zoe. "We heard you folks were in a scrap, needed some stories. I'm sure you all are plenty creative on your own, but if you want to use us, any of us, we'll be glad to chip in and fight the good fight. If the Gods of Ragnarok win here, who knows what they'll do to all the other continuities? We'll just sit in the stands for now, but call us if you need anything."

"That's great news!" Zoe declared. "With all these creations we can do just about anything!"

"I never knew Buck Rogers was so philosophical," Bokman ponders. "Um, okay-" turning to the crowd- "look folks, we've got reinforcements!" Applause rings out. "Even though they came through this gadget, really, Zoe and I didn't do anything that anyone else couldn't. The Whoniverse is not a fixed universe, nor is it isolated! All stories are connected, and that's our strength in this battle."

Zoe continues as Bokman brings all the gadgets out together. "We've used science to enhance art, which should show that just about anything can do the same! Life experience, philosophy, religion, anthropology- any area of experience is useful. You've all got a gift- that's why you're all here. Art is composed of ideas and images, so let's hold on to both!"

"Perhaps most importantly," Bokman closes (he won the backstage coin toss), "art is composed of life. We've all gotten a pretty good creative fire going so far, and let's remember that crucial spark of life that got the blaze going. Nourish the fire, and we'll win! So everyone- if you've got an act prepared, good luck! If you've already done one, thanks for the help! And if you're in the audience, you can still make a difference when the time comes! Let's all have some fun with this!"

They close with a flourish and a bow. As applause is (hopefully) heard, Bok and Zoe continue to bow and curtsey respectively. "Thank you all. Enjoy the punch and pie, order a copy of LIFEDEATH- it's for charity, we're in it and I'm not doing this act without a plug- and prepare for the rest of the show!" Together the two pull their gadgets and props off to the side and then head to their seats, buzzing with excitement over whatever will come next.

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