Just thought I'd add a little something to the geography of Nameless...
THIS TIME ROUND: CHECKING OUT THE COMPETITION
"Evil is afoot, I tell you!"
Adric, still polishing a mug, turned to the sound of Proprietorial
bellowing. "What?" he asked reasonably. "Evil doesn't have cab
The Proprietor threw a notepad at his head. "Save the bad comedy
for the customers, boy. I need the full staff in Crisis Mode as
of sooner than now!"
Adric shrugged, since 'full staff' on this shift consisted of himself,
the Proprietor, and Neimi the maid, who was clearing tables not ten
feet away. "Hey, Neimi," he drawled. "Crisis Mode."
"Crisis Mode 1.1 activated," the maid-droid acknowledged. She
carefully set aside the bin full of dishes, then proceeded to run
about in little circles waving her arms and shrieking, "Crisis! Crisis!
We're doomed!" After a few seconds of this, she paused and bowed
to her boss and co-worker. "Is this mode acceptable, Proprietor-san?
Or shall I engage Crisis Mode 1.2, with Improved Panic Simulation?"
"In the words of G. K. Chesterton," the Proprietor quoted, "'Shut up
and listen, my witless minions, because we've got problems.'"
"Did Chesterton really say that?" Adric wondered. The Proprietor
threw the pen that went with the previously-flung notepad at his
"I'm serious, people. I've been going over the numbers and -- brace
yourselves now -- for the first time _ever_, This Time Round's
profits are in decline!"
If the Proprietor had expected this 'bombshell' to garner any reaction
beyond polite disinterest, he was sorely disappointed. He waited a
bit, but that was still the only reaction to be seen.
"And..." prodded Adric after an awkward moment.
"And?!" roared the Proprietor. "All you've got is 'and'?!" His stolen-
off-a-scrofulous-walrus mustache quivered in indignation. "Listen up,
my lad and mechanical lass, the 'Round's profits have _never_ taken
a dive, not the whole time I've been open. This is an unprecedented
event, and one I am eager to root to the bottom of so that it retains
"Proprietor-san," Neimi began gently, "the business cycle--"
"I'm not worried about _vehicles_, I want to know where my money's
going." He started to pace, tugging at his gravy-stained tie like a
black-market Rodney Dangerfield knockoff. "There's some malign
force at work here, some secret evil. Consider the evidence. Not only
are profits down, but have either of you noticed something peculiar
about the clientele of late?"
"Proprietor-san's clientele has always been defined by its peculiarity."
"They seem the same to me," added Adric with a shrug.
"I'm talking about the dog that didn't bark!" Even the Proprietor had
felt the influence of all the recent Sherlock Holmes crossovers. "Who
have we _not_ seen in the 'Round lately? Most notably, we haven't
seen many TSP employees."
To Neimi's puzzled look, Adric explained, "Tin Scarecrow
Productions -- BKWillis's people, in other words."
"Correct!" The Proprietor posed in a manner befitting Martin Luther
finding an extra thesis. "Despite the increase in the number of new
characters working for Tin Scarecrow, precious few of them spend
money in my establishment. Why is that?"
"Perhaps they do not drink, Proprietor-san."
The Proprietor rolled his eyes at her naivete. "They're BKWillis
characters. Of _course_ they drink."
Adric considered this. "Jessica Marlowe's been here -- actually, she
pretty much _lives_ on the end barstool. And I've seen that Time
Lady Saveena around..."
"Feh," the Proprietor scoffed. "She never spends money, just smokes
dope in the begonia bed. Besides, it's not just TSP, either. We've
also had quite a few crossovers who have yet to turn up in here."
"Coincidence, maybe?" sighed the Alzarian.
"And what about Fey? Anybody seen her in here lately? Or what
about Izzy? She used to stop in here most every evening, but now,
once a week, if that."
Neimi took a moment to process all of this data. "You are implying
that some conspiracy exists, Proprietor-san?"
"Worse," snarled her boss. "I think we may have... _competition_!"
"Because you're expendable, that's why."
Adric sighed and kicked at stones as he trudged through the
darkening streets of Nameless. It was bad to be given a crappy
assignment like investigating an alleged competitor that might not
exist and if it did exist was probably -- knowing how Outside
worked -- lethal or something. Worse to be bluntly told that you
were most qualified for it by virtue of being unlikely to be missed if
something went wrong. Worst of all to have an adorable android
maid lay out a detailed spreadsheet of comparative employee
worth in support of that assertion.
"Just for that," the boy thought, "let's see what kind of work ethic
I put into this."
Not that effort was necessarily going to make a difference this
time, it seemed. He'd started off by checking the Nameless phone
book under 'pubs'. Only the 'Round was listed. Then 'bars'. Still
nothing. Nor did 'taverns', 'drinking establishments', or 'wretched
hives' yield anything. No luck with the online search either,
although he could probably have accomplished more with Mel's
help. But that would have meant interacting with Mel and, while
she was nice enough and all, frankly a little bit of Melanie Bush
went a long way.
Thus, he was reduced to common legwork. Ground-pounding.
Physical reconnaisance. In other words, wandering aimlessly
around town in hopes of stumbling across something that looked
vaguely like a competing purveyor of adult beverages or something.
At least he was on the clock.
Turning the corner, he spotted a familiar head of unruly gingerish
hair across the street -- Izzy S, or he was a twelve-legged marsh
spider. She was headed downtown at a brisk, purposeful pace; the
walk of someone with a schedule and a set destination in mind.
Adric instinctively ducked, even though: 1) she was looking the
other way; 2) she had no reason to be suspicious of him if she _did_
see him; and 3) the act of ducking out of sight actually made him
look more suspicious.
He trotted across the road, scuttling along a half-block behind Izzy
in full-bore Alzarian Stealth Mode. This looked not unlike a cheetah
stalking its prey on the Serengeti, if the Serengeti were a comfortably
run-down urban community and the cheetah was wearing bright
yellow pajamas and had only minimal, intermittent control over its
motor functions. But he persevered in spite of his ineptitude and
lack of any plan, which was pretty much how he lived his whole
life if you wanted to be snotty about it. When she turned at the
next street he crept along behind her. When she stopped to check
her reflection in a bookstore window, he slipped out of sight behind
a trash bin. When she suddenly went into a darkened access alley,
he ghosted along after her. And when she reached out of the
shadows and snatched him by the collar, he almost peed in his
"I'd ask what you're doing," Izzy growled -- the same voice she used
when catching the toddlers with an open paint can, "but since that's
obvious I'll go straight to 'why'." Her grip on his collar tightened.
"Why are you following me, Adric?"
Some residual shred of job-loyalty made him try to maintain his
'mission cover'. "I'm, uh, just... um... stalking you?"
Sighing, she let him go. "I _know_ you, Adric. You're way too
wishy-washy to be a perv."
"That wasn't a compliment."
He shrugged. "I take what I can get."
She crossed her arms, foot tapping. "Why really?"
"Erm, well, because the Proprietor thinks some new bar or something
has opened up and ordered me to investigate it, and I thought you
might know where it was."
"Ah. That I believe." Izzy shook her head. "You could just _ask_
me, like a normal person."
"Oh, okay. Is there a new bar in town?"
"Yes, and I'm going there now."
He perked up, mildly surprised that his boss's paranoia was right for
once. "Marvellous. Can I come, too?"
Izzy started, just a little bit, when he asked that. "Uh, I doubt you'd
want to. I don't think it's really your kind of place. You probably
wouldn't be... comfortable there."
"I don't really fit in anywhere, so it's no problem," he chirped.
"No, I think it probably _will_ be a problem for you." She gave him
a thoughtful look, lips twisting. "But, I assume you're probably
going to follow me there anyway, so you may as well come ahead.
Just don't say I didn't warn you."
They set off down the alley, crossed an intersection, then down a
second, cleaner alley before emerging into a half-lit and mostly
empty street. On the opposite corner, nestled among a handful of
closed-for-the-day shops, stood a squat and slightly weather-worn
building, windows softly aglow and abuzz with the low hum of
people enjoying themselves and the faint throb of a jukebox. It
wasn't a pretty building -- judging by the shape, it had probably
been a mechanic's shop at some point in its long life -- but it had a
certain hominess about it. A couple of cheap neon beer signs hung
in the windows, contrasting sharply with the old-fashioned hand-
painted sign over the door. This bore the image of a chunky blonde
valkyrie, complete with winged helmet and ample bosom spilling
over her armored breastplate, a sword in one hand and a frothy mug
in the other. Underneath, in curiously archaic script, was the name
'The Steel Maiden Bar & Grill'.
"So this is it, eh?" Adric gave the place a quick, professional pub-
employee's looking-over, noting the absence of anything TARDIS-
like in the parking lot. "Thanks for letting me tag along. I doubt I
could've found it on my own."
"Don't thank me yet," Izzy mumbled. "I'm not sure I can even get you
past the bouncer intact..."
"There's something odd about this," Adric muttered as he looked
out over the barroom, from just inside the door, "but I can't quite
put my finger on it."
The inside of the Steel Maiden met the expectations set by the
outside: a little run-down, but in a comfortable, workmanlike way.
The furnishings mostly fell into that happy intermediate stage of
furniture life, too old and well-worn to worry about getting it dirty,
but too nice to throw away. Peanut shells crackled underfoot
around the tables and bar, with only the small dance floor being
clear of them. The corner jukebox looked hard-used, but played
strong and clean.
Behind the bar, a tall fortyish woman in a puffy-sleeved shirt that
looked like it came straight off d'Artagnan's back was filling mugs.
Middling-long red hair with a thick streak of gray was pulled back
in a ponytail, revealing a tired and rather lonely-looking face, one
eye covered by a patch. Adric got the feeling that the rapier and
musket hanging beside the bar mirror definitely belonged to her.
He glanced around at the clientele, looking for faces he knew. The
stocky, powerfully-built woman slow-dancing with the huge black
Amazon seemed familiar, but he was drawing a blank on names.
No better luck with the two female UNIT soldiers shooting pool,
one a sharp-faced lieutenant, the other a slim, disreputable-looking
corporal. Ditto the shifty, nervous Time Lady crying into her
margarita at the end of the bar. The pretty young nun and the
platinum-haired girl sharing a plate of spaghetti rang no bells either.
Nor the rugged-looking blonde in workman's clothes drinking beer
with a leather-clad, black-braided barbarian wench in her lap.
Then... ah, success! Parked at a card table in the back were two
people he _did_ know, although whether they could be considered
'friends' or even 'not enemies' might be debatable. On the left, the
neanderthal-with-a-hangover visage and rugby-champion body of
Lauryn Tiberia, who seemed to have grown her graying blonde
buzzcut into something resembling a mullet since he'd last worked a
story with her. On the right, sipping a Shirley Temple and shuffling
cards in a blur of fingers and pasteboard, the young Shinmei
swordsgirl Tsukuyomi, who he'd been working with in the 'Truest
Magic' series. Deceptively cute as ever, she looked like a China doll,
all frills and lace and glasses and church-choir smile over a cheerfully
Izzy took a look around, then motioned him close. "I don't see the
bouncer," she hissed, "so be quiet, stay close to me, and don't
draw attention to yourself. And if we do meet the bouncer, let me
do all the talking. She's not a pushover like Polly."
Somewhat to his surprise, Izzy led him toward the card table in
back. A couple of hard stares were sent his way, the most
intimidating one being from the Ogron cook/waitress who passed
with a platter of steaming pork ribs, but otherwise nothing was
done to stop him.
"Hello, Mr. Adric," Tsukuyomi greeted him, rising to bow without
ever pausing in her card-shuffling. "I must admit, this is the last
place I would have expected to see you."
Tiberia just nodded curtly to him before focusing her attention on
Izzy. "Fey called," she grunted without preamble. "She can't make
it, so we'll be a hand short."
"That must be why Miss Izzy brought Mr. Adric along," Tsukuyomi
chirped. "As a substitute player."
Lauryn Tiberia just laughed into her beer stein, blowing foam onto
the table. "No way! Alzarian balls aren't big enough for that! More
likely he just followed Izzy here, not realizing what he was getting
Izzy pulled a smiley-face sticker out of her bag and handed it to the
musclebound woman. At their puzzled looks, she explained, "At
work, the children who answer questions correctly get a sticker.
Lauryn gets an A+ on that one."
Tsukuyomi chuckled. "Miss Lauryn gets good grades, but she
doesn't play well with others."
Adric decided to draw on his scanty reserves of diplomacy and
ignore Tiberia's needling. "I hope you don't mind me joining you,
"Well _I_ certainly don't mind, though I might wish you had brought
Miss Tegan along with you." As always, Tsukuyomi was being the
sweetest and most polite ruthless evil teenage mercenary you could
ever want to know.
"The management might take exception and throw you out of here a
chunk at a time," Lauryn Tiberia shrugged, "but I personally don't
give a crap if you stay... as long as you play five card draw."
"I play it, but not well," he answered truthfully.
Tiberia's grin was as evil as Tsukuyomi's reputation. "So much the
better," she grunted. "Have a seat, patsy."
"My name's Adric, not Patsy."
"Whatever. Just park your ass, boyo."
Tsukuyomi cast a look over Adric's shoulder and he found himself
_really_ not liking the way she blenched at whatever it was she saw.
The girl made her living summoning demons and having pointy
sharp-edged things swung at her, so anything that made her look
like _that_ was a thing he had no desire to acquaint his own tender
self with. "Heads up, Mr. Adric," she muttered. "Bouncer coming
out of the restroom, headed this way."
"I'll handle this," Izzy advised. "You sit here and look harmless."
Rising, she put on one of her toddler-placating grins. "Bella, _dear_,"
she began. "My favorite member of the service industry..."
Adric, still afraid to look, was surprised when the voice that
answered Izzy turned out to be soft, musical, sublimely feminine.
He'd been expecting Ogron grunts or Ice Warrior hisses something
of the sort. "Izzy," the voice sighed, "you know the house rules, so
don't even start."
"Bella, hear me out. Please...?"
Adric screwed up enough courage to turn around. Bella the Bouncer,
who had even the she-brute Tiberia looking edgy, proved to be a
mere petite slip of a girl in a velvet ball gown of some indeterminate
dark shade. Her face was pale, but perfectly-formed; the kind of
beauty that inspired some men to paint and others to kill one another.
Brown curls, a few shades darker than those of a certain _other_
beautiful, petite velvet-enthusiast's of his acquaintance, fell nearly
to her waist, artfully disarranged. A less-intimidating figure was
hard to imagine this side of Barry Manilow in a bunny costume.
Which was enough to put Adric's metaphorical hackles up. He'd
been around long enough to learn how these things worked. It was
always the ones you least suspected.
"No hearing out, Izzy," the girl responded with dainty firmness.
"House rules say your friend can't come in. Scarlett makes the rules,
not me. I just enforce them. He'll have to leave." She turned lovely,
sea-green eyes Adric's way. "Sorry it has to be like this," she sighed.
"Since you're a friend of Izzy's, I'll at least let you leave intact and
under your own power."
Help came from an unexpected quarter just then. "Aw, c'mon, Bella,"
Lauryn Tiberia drawled. "Poker's no fun three-handed. The kid's
just filling in for a missing player."
Tsukuyomi opted to chime in, too. "He really is a nice fellow and
won't make any trouble."
"Whether he's nice or not has nothing to do with it." Bella was
starting to sound a bit waspish. "This is not the place for him."
Something suddenly clicked in Adric's brain. The thing that had
been bothering him since he'd come in, that odd thing he couldn't
put his finger on regarding the denizens of this place, finally struck
him like Tegan on a bad morning. "Ooooh," he said. "I get it now.
This bar, it's just for... you know... what-d'you-call'ems... ummm..."
He snapped his fingers. "It's only for _minor characters_, right?
Bit-players. And I can't come in because I'm a major series
The looks he was getting from his companions did not translate as,
'Yes, that's exactly correct.' More like, 'Are you smoking radioactive
crack?' "Um... is that not right, then?"
Tsukuyomi firmly believed that if one couldn't say something nice,
one should say nothing, so she merely sighed and clucked her
"There oughta be a Nobel Prize for Missing the Bloody Obvious,"
Lauryn guffawed, slapping her thighs.
Izzy gave the Alzarian a look so cold and dangerous that for a
second he was afraid she was Nyssa in a terribly clever disguise.
"Did-- Did you just call me a _minor character_?! I'm a Companion,
dammit! A Companion, same as you!"
Bella was the only one to retain her composure. "No, this is not a
'minor characters' bar, sir. It is a 'lesbian characters' bar. Men are
politely turned away. Overly persistent men are impolitely turned
into eunuchs and/or vulture bait. And since you are a man, I must
ask you to leave, now that you understand this." She gestured
graciously but firmly toward the door.
But Adric made no move to get up. Or say anything. Or blink. Or
even breathe, until Izzy swatted him on the back.
"I think that little revelation knocked his brain out of joint," Tiberia
Tsukuyomi frowned -- cutely, of course. "Was it that big a shock
Izzy shook her head. "No, knowing him, I suspect it was something
else." She whacked him on the back again, harder, which at least
got his mouth working again.
"A _man_," he breathed. "She called me a _man_."
"Aaaaand, I was right." Izzy rolled her eyes.
"She called me a _man_. Not a boy or a swamprat. A _man_."
"I'm going to call you a projectile if you don't hustle out that door
soon," Bella snapped. She grabbed him by the shirt collar and, with
little apparent effort, hoisted him one-handed out of his chair until
his feet swung an inch off the floor.
He turned to face her, a big stupid grin wreathing his face. "You
called me a man. Thank you _so_ much!"
"Er, what?" the bouncer asked, completely taken aback by this
"Nobody ever calls me a that," he explained. "Everybody considers
me a boy, at best. But to know that someone considers me a _man_..."
He puffed his chest out as best he could, considering his position
and physique. "A _man_!"
"Is he just smegging with me?" Bella demanded.
"No," sighed Izzy. "That's pretty much a high compliment by his
Bella deposited him back in the chair with a thud. "That's so pathetic,
it takes all the fun out of ejecting him." She wiped her hands on her
gown, as though trying to rid herself of any lingering pitifulness.
"I'll check with Scarlett and see if maybe we can make an exception
this _one_ time. With that dopey look on his face now, roughing him
up would be like stomping a kitten." She quickly made her way to
the bar and was soon in deep, muttered discussion with the one-eyed
"Saved by low self-esteem," Lauryn declared as she finished off her
beer. "That's one for the smegging record books!"
"You finished spacing-out yet, Mr. Major Series Protagonist?" Izzy
asked. "Or do I need to smack you a few dozen more times?"
"No. No, I'm good now." He mouthed the word 'man' to himself one
last time, smiling, then took a look around the room before focusing
on his tablemates again. "I guess it makes sense why you'd want to
come _here_, then, Izzy."
"And why's that?" she retorted, a bit tautly. Her 'orientation' wasn't
something she was entirely comfortable discussing with others just
He shrugged. "Because it's a lot more low-key than the 'Round, and
I could see how you'd need that after dealing with the toddlers all
Izzy's mouth opened, closed, then quirked in silent laughter. This
was _Adric_, after all. "That's actually a lot of it, yeah. Three nights
out of four, this is a pretty relaxed place." She gave him a sharp look.
"How is it you can be so clueless about some things and so
perceptive about others?"
"I'm just lucky that way, I guess." He looked questioningly at the
three women. "So, what about the fourth night?"
Before anyone could answer, they were interrupted by the middle-
aged barmaid, who plunked a full pint mug down in front of Adric.
"The very first one's on the house for all my customers," she
explained. "After that, I expect you to spend money here, lad."
"So, that means I can stay, even though I'm a _man_?" Clearly,
Adric was deriving far too much pleasure from applying that word
"Aye. As long as you behave and bother not my regulars, I'll
welcome you here. 'Tis partly professional courtesy, as I hear you
are a fellow tavernkeeper, and partly that I think it would break my
bouncer's heart to toss you out in gory bits." She fixed Izzy with a
fierce monocular glare. "But none others, my ginger lass! Mind the
reason I run this tavern! And if you ever bring that Cwej fellow I've
heard of 'round, I'll have Bella handle the both of you! Understood?"
Izzy had found herself instinctively snapping to attention in her seat
during this warning. The barmaid just had that kind of effect on
people. "Yes, General Scarlett!" she snapped out, stopping herself
from saluting. "Understood."
"Then at ease and do enjoy yourself." The harshness was gone
from Scarlett's voice immediately, as though it had never been.
"Madeleine has made up a fresh batch of those Ogron cheese twists
you enjoy so. Would you have an order?"
"Definitely! In fact, make it a double, so we can all have some. And
just punch to drink. I have to work tomorrow."
Minutes later, Madeleine the Ogron cook was bringing out a basket
of steaming orange logs, each about the size of a breadstick but much
heavier. An experimental nibble revealed them to be strong-tasting,
heavily spiced, and surprisingly good with a cool beer.
Adric was finishing one off when a hush fell over the room. Sensing
the sudden tension in the air, he saw a woman tromping her way up
to the bar. She was tall for a woman and wearing a broad-brimmed hat
and long, filthy coat that flopped open to reveal a pair of old-timey
revolvers on crossed gunbelts. Stringy dishwater-blonde hair framed
a drawn, hard-eyed face, a vicious scar in the shape of an upper-case
'E' marring one cheek. Bella the bouncer, who had been relaxing on the
lap of a lithe young blonde in the far corner, slid to her feet at the sight
of her, while the two UNIT women stopped their pool-shooting and let
their hands glide near their sidearms.
The gunfighter ignored all this, merely sidling up to the bar and
clapping down a handful of coins in front of Scarlett. "I need to rent
the basement room for a while," she growled. "Is there a wait?"
Most of the tension drained out of the room. The two UNIT women
went back to their game, though warily, and Bella resumed teasing her
Scarlett, unfazed by all this, swept the coins into the till without
bothering to count them. "There's no wait, Harlow," she replied.
"It's yours for the next two hours."
"Don't reckon I'll need that long," the gunfighter said, "but I may try
and take it anyway." Without another glance, she disappeared down
"So... what's in the basement room?" Adric asked his companions
once the barroom had returned to normal. Immediately Izzy and --
especially -- Tsukuyomi blushed red as stoplights. So it was Lauryn
who answered, with a creepy little smirk.
"A big, soft feather bed is down there. Along with an _extensively_
reprogrammed Movellan chick named Varla."
"Reprogrammed for what?"
Izzy and Tsukuyomi blushed even harder as Lauryn just stared at him
like a medical researcher discovering a new strain of the Crukking
"Oh. _That_." Adric's imagination started trying to put a picture to
the concept of _that_ and he hastily found something else to occupy
it. "So, five-card draw was it?"
"So it was!" Lauryn Tiberia looked genuinely pleased for the first
time of the night. "Everybody ante up. Tsukuyomi, start the dealing.
And if I catch you crukking cheating again, I'll put you over my knee!"
"Why, Miss Lauryn!" The swordsgirl laughed as she flicked cards
around the table. "I'm a villainess. I don't need such an _incentive_
It took the older woman a few moments to parse what Tsukuyomi
was saying. When it finally sank in, she got a queasy look. "Stop
roiling my stomach, you blade-happy jailbait! Hearing that from a kid
makes me want to bleach myself." She looked at her cards, then
tossed a pair of crumpled credit notes into the pot. "Two."
"Call." Izzy threw in two of her own.
Adric examined his own cards, running the odds in his mind, and
came up with a 100% probability that his hand sucked. Was it worth
two credits to stay in? Since his beer was free, why not? He called
as well, as did Tsukuyomi, still chuckling over Tiberia's discomfiture.
"So, Adric," Izzy asked. "What are you gonna tell your boss? About
the competition, I mean. That was your mission, right?"
He thought about this as Lauryn took two cards, then Izzy four:
apparently he wasn't the only one with a crappy hand. "I think,"
he said, motioning for two cards, "I'll just give the Proprietor
directions here and tell him to investigate for himself."
"You send a guy like that here, he'll get chewed up and spat out,"
Izzy warned. "Possibly literally, if Bella's hungry."
"As This Time Round's official 'Most Expendable Employee', I'm
counting on precisely such an outcome."
Tsukuyomi dealt herself three cards, shaking her head. "Mr. Adric,
that is thoroughly evil of you. It's a shame you aren't a woman, or
I might just fall in love!"
"Clean thoughts, jailbait," Tiberia warned. "I'll bet five."
"I'll stay in for five," said Izzy.
Adric tossed his cards on the table. "I fold."
"Wuss!" taunted Izzy.
"Yeah!" agreed Lauryn. "Don't be more of a little girl than the jailbait
Tsukuyomi threw in a ten-credit note. "Let's not be rude, ladies,"
she chided. "And I'm raising five more."
Lauryn snorted and threw in a tenner, prompting a round of tit-for-tat
raising that Izzy quickly folded out of. Once the bet was up to
twenty-five, the older woman finally called and laid out a pair of aces.
"What you got, jailbait?"
"Regrettably," sighed Tsukuyomi, "I must cause you distress, Miss
Lauryn." She fanned her cards, revealing three fives, and raked in the
pile of cash as Lauryn muttered darkly to herself about 'smegging
juvenile-crukking-delinquents' and 'evil little card-marking Lolitas'.
While Ms. Grumpy-Mullet shuffled for the next deal, Adric found his
attention drawn to the twitchy-looking Time Lady at the end of the
bar that had been moping into her drink all evening. His bartender's
instincts were telling him to beware of trouble from that one. Drunks
often talked to themselves, but when they started throwing angry
gestures into their sodden sermonettes it usually meant that they
were about to externalize whatever problem was eating at them. This
one seemed to be directing her aggression at the bland-faced, short-
haired young Skyborn Temple Guard perched at the opposite end of
the bar, a move that would net a four-star rating on the Dumbass
Scale since the guardswoman held considerable advantages in size,
age, fitness, and -- perhaps most importantly -- sobriety over the
rather schoolmarmish Time Lady. But John Barleycorn had a way
of convincing his friends that he was all the reinforcement they
needed to win a fight and, sure enough, there she went, down the
bar to meet the fist of destiny.
"This will _not_ end well," commented Izzy, who had noticed the
drunk Time Lady also.
"On the contrary," Tiberia growled as she dealt. "Shanka the
Resurrectionist is about to get her creepy ass beaten again. That's
a _peach_ of an ending in my book."
Tsukuyomi shook her head. "Don't be so sure, Miss Lauryn. The
last time Miss Shanka picked a fight with Miss Rhanda, I heard they
_both_ went to the hospital afterwards."
"They did," Izzy confirmed. "Rhanda sprained her shoulder while
she was stuffing Shanka into the trash bin out back."
Lauryn pulled a crisp ten-credit note out of her shirt pocket. "A ten-
spot says Rhanda takes her out in under two hits. Any takers?"
"Oh dear," clucked Tsukuyomi. "How unseemly, to make a woman's
injury the subject of a minor wager. Any bet less than _twenty_ on
such a topic would be simply immoral."
"Done!" A second tenner was produced from the same pocket.
"You two," declared Izzy, "are terrible, godawful people."
"Of course they are," said Adric distractedly, eyes on the impending
clash at the bar. "One's a villain and the other's a violent, bigoted,
barely-domesticated goon. Uh, wait. Did I just say that out loud?"
Tiberia glared at him. "You sure did, marsh-humper. I'd pound you
good if I could actually dispute any of it."
The confrontation at the bar, meanwhile, started getting loud, at
least on Shanka's end of it. The one called Rhanda, for her part,
seemed to be attempting the old ignore-it-and-hope-it-goes-away
strategy that never works but everyone tries, like Neville Chamberlain.
The Time Lady was so drunk that a good three-quarters of everything
she said came out sounding like "joodohnah hurvagurva" with
various emotional inflections, but every now and then a noun would
drag itself clear of the slurs like a mammoth from a spittle-flecked
tarpit. Frequent and notable non-gibberish included the words "Kali",
"two-timer", and "you mouth-breathing slutbucket".
"Here it comes," Lauryn muttered, leaning forward to get a better view.
"Take that swing, Shanka. You know you want to..."
But Shanka didn't throw a punch. She went straight to Maximum
Conflict Escalation by hauling a staser pistol out of her tunic and
trying to point it in Rhanda's face. 'Trying' as opposed to 'doing',
since the Skyborn woman was in motion as soon as soon as she saw
the weapon. She spun on the barstool and brought up her foot in a
sharp kick to the Time Lady's middle. At the same time, she lashed
out a backhanded blow that knocked the staser gun from Shanka's
hand. Rhanda caught it by the barrel as Shanka started to fold and
rapped her upside the head with the butt-end of it on the return
stroke. Shanka the Resurrectionist dropped like a sackful of mud.
Unfortunately, as she fell she knocked a full pint mug out of the
hand of the shady-looking UNIT corporal, who had just retrieved
said beer from the bar. This worthy, still bearing her pool cue in the
other hand, immediately turned her ire on Rhanda. "Hey! Watch
where you're knocking bitches! You owe me a beer!"
"Tell _her_," Rhanda retorted, pointing at Shanka on the floor.
"I'm telling _you_, since you're the one that slugged her. Pay up."
In the meantime, Tsukuyomi and Lauryn had fallen to arguing over
whether the kick in the gut had actually taken Shanka out before
the blow to the head was delivered, and thus who had won their bet.
"...right in the crukking solar plexus, kid. No _way_ was she getting
back up from that."
"Ah, but does a Gallifreyan _have_ a solar plexus, Miss Lauryn...?"
At the bar, the UNIT corporal had evidently not gotten a satisfactory
response out of Rhanda, as she suddenly swung her pool cue at the
guardswoman's head. Rhanda, neither slow nor stupid, ducked off
the barstool and the blow missed her by a foot or more. It didn't miss
the vodka punch she'd been drinking, though. This was propelled off
the bar and across the room like a cricket ball, straight into the back of
a black-braided head.
The owner of this head turned out to be large, leather-clad, barbaric,
and not at all pleased about having her tryst with the crop-haired
blonde she'd been draped over interrupted. She glared at the melee
taking place at the bar, whipped out a dagger so large that, had a man
been carrying it, there would have been snide if not unfounded
remarks made about 'overcompensation', and hurled it into the general
area of the fight under the theory that it would hit somebody who
was, however tangentially, at fault. This turned out not to be the case
as the throw went wide of the mark by several feet. Instead, the blade
buried itself to the hilt in the chest of a small platinum-blonde who
was peacefully eating supper nearby.
The girl glanced down at the hilt protruding from her chest, then
sighed, set her fork down, dabbed her mouth with a handkerchief,
and apologized to her dinner companion, a nun just slightly older
than herself. "I'm sorry, Meg. She ruined the dress you bought me.
I'm in a bad mood now, so please don't watch what I'm about to do."
Rising, not bothering to pull the blade out of her heart, the girl
grabbed a heavy candlestick off the table and started toward the
woman who'd stabbed her. "I know this was an accident,
Emasculator," she warned, "but it's still vexes me and so I intend to
break several of your bones in retribution."
All over the barroom, threats were shouted, fists were swung, and
more and more customers were sucked into the chaos. The corporal's
attempt to brain Rhanda ended up hitting the gigantic black woman
on the dance floor instead, who proceeded to mercilessly pummel the
young soldier. Rhanda herself got tangled up with the nun, who had
produced a huge revolver and was trying to aid her friend against
Emasculator. Emasculator's girlfriend had started chanting something,
only to get chokeslammed into the wall by Bella the bouncer with the
admonition, "No magic! It damages the furnishings!"
As the fighting became general, Tsukuyomi clapped her hands and
beamed at her tablemates. "My, such a _lovely_ fight! Shall we join
Izzy declined. "I'll pass, thanks."
"I tend to get pretty dead in situations like this," said Adric, waving
her off, "so I'll pass, too."
"What about you, Miss Lauryn?" Tsukuyomi asked. "We were
arguing anyhow, so we may as well get physical."
"Not interested in fighting a kid for no good reason, jailbait."
Tsukuyomi upended her Shirley Temple over the big woman's head.
"How about _now_?"
"Why you crukking little--!" The two were soon bashing away at
each other, Lauryn Tiberia's mutton-joint-sized fists against the
Japanese villainess's sheathed swords.
Izzy and Adric wasted no time about flipping the card table on its
side, where it made an admirable shield. Safely ensconced behind
it, they could wait out the brawl in relative peace.
"Remember how I said this place was nice and low-key three nights
out of four?" Izzy asked him.
Adric nodded and took a pull of the beer he'd saved, as cutlery and
combatants crashed against their barricade.
"Well, _this_ is a typical fourth night."
Tsukuyomi's sun hat, crushed and covered in pretzel dust, sailed
over the edge of the table to land beside Izzy. A jangle of shattering
glass and a high, curt scream seemed to indicate that someone had
heaved Rhanda through a window, followed immediately by Scarlett
the barmaid shouting over the din, "That window's going on your
Adric peeked over the edge of the table, then ducked just as a plate
shattered on the wall above him. "You know," his said
contemplatively, "Chris always talks about fights between women
being really sexy."
A pair of brawlers slammed into the wall beside them: Bella the
bouncer's pantherish straw-haired girlfriend and a squinty-eyed
blonde maid choking each other. The maid managed to get the
upper hand momentarily by freeing one hand to punch her adversary
in the stomach several times, causing the woman to release her.
But then Bella's girlfriend recovered and bashed the maid in the head
with a convenient flowerpot. Both reeled, then pounced on each
other again, the fight rolling back out into the room once more.
"I think Chris doesn't know what he's talking about," said Adric.
"I knew that long ago," Izzy snarked back.
"Still, I am definitely enjoying this."
Izzy arched an eyebrow. "You like violence?"
"I like not being the focus of it. _That_ is an absolute hoot."
"You are a very sad and strange young man, Adric."
"You hang out here looking for a date amongst these people, right?"
he retorted. "You might just be sadder and stranger."
"I might, at that." Izzy glanced around and found an Ogron cheese
twist lying beside her. She picked it up, then tapped Adric's beer
with it in toast. "Here's to sad, strange people, then."
"Here's to people like us," he agreed. "Sad and strange, who like
girls but haven't much luck with them." He downed a gulp of beer.
Izzy started to take a bite of the cheese twist, then paused. "I'm not
sure I like the way that sounds when _you_ say it."
"But it's true, isn't it?" He thought about that for a moment. "Hey.
Perhaps this means I'm a lesbian, too. A _man_ lesbian!"
"Perhaps you're an idiot. A _man_ idiot."
"Not so," he shot back. "I'm not an idiot and I can prove it."
"Simple. Through all the drinking, chatting, gambling, and watching
the fight we've been doing, _I_ am the only one who's being _paid_
to do it." He sucked down a mouthful of beer, then burped, the
sound nearly lost amid the bar fight's clamor. "See that? The
Proprietor just paid me good money for doing that."
Izzy laughed. "You've got me there, all right. You might be a lot of
things, but an idiot's not one of them." She toasted him again.
"Here's to sad, lesbian losers like us, then!"
"Eh. Now I'm not sure _I_ like the way it sounds when _you_ say it,"
Sigh. "Just drink the crukking toast, Adric..."
'Doctor Who' is property of the BBC.
'This Time Round' created by Tyler Dion, after Kielle.
Tsukuyomi is from 'Magical Teacher Negima', property of Ken Akamatsu, and
appears courtesy of the 'Truest Magic' drabble series.
Angela and Sister Meg are from 'Tetragrammaton Labyrinth', property of Ei
Itou, and appear courtesy of the drabble 'A Night On the Town'.
Media is from 'Pani Poni Dash!', property of Hekiru Hikawa, and appears
courtesy of the drabble 'Maid for Destruction'.
Cats Hambridge and Meg of Terminus are from the fan fiction 'Nyssa's End',
by Graham Woodland.
Emasculator and the Greenwitch are from the fan fiction 'Don't Kiss the
Frog!', by Clive May.
UNIT officer Jacqueline Maguire is from the fan fiction of Susannah Tiller,
notably 'Runaway Train'.
Other fan fiction characters:
General Scarlett is from 'Scarlett's Last Campaign'.
Lauryn Tiberia is from 'Space Vixens!' and 'Busted!'.
Bella, Mary 'Babydoll' Rokossovsky, Shanka the Resurrectionist, and Rhanda
are from the 'Desert of Fear' round-robin.
UNIT corporal Judy Custer is from the 'Room 308' series.
Lysbeth Harlow is from the 'Master's Companion' drabble series.