Chapter Two The Plot Arrives
"No need to be so formal!" she announced as she swung back the door. "Everyone's invited!"
"A matter of procedure, ma'am," said the taller of the two policewomen who stood just outside, taller being an extremely relative term. She was about five feet tall, with curly brown hair tied into a slightly sloppy braid. Her partner was a few inches shorter, her bright red locks pinned up in a bun under her hat. Both wore what would have looked like slightly martial police uniforms, had there been more to them. In reality, they looked more like Strip-O-Gram outfits than real police uniforms. However, the badges on their caps and breast pockets were shiny and authoritative-looking, the letters 'ADWCMP' emblazoned across a shield and star.
Eloise eyed the two with a bit of unease. Whoever they were, the guns and handcuffs on their belts looked entirely real. "Is there a problem, officers?" she asked. "I hope no one has complained about the noise or parking." As she spoke, she looked past the two, to where an ancient Dodge Challenger sat idling at the curb. It looked as if it had seen better days, but the gumball light on top and the emblems on the side seemed new. 'Alt.DrWho.Creative Muse Patrol', the emblem read.
"There've been no complaints, ma'am," the brunette officer reassured, her tones clipped and professional and British. She glanced at her partner. "We're with the Muse Patrol. I'm Officer Nyssaias and this is Officer Embericles."
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," the redhead said, nodding. Her own voice carried a distinctive Deep South twang. "Do you mind if I take a look around, please?"
"Everybody's welcome!" Eloise answered with a big grin. "Make yourself at home! Have a drink!"
"Thank you ma'am, but we're on duty. If you'll excuse me." So saying, the short Musecop slipped off into the crowd, giving each partygoer a short looking-over.
"May I ask what this is all about?" the Joy Troll asked the remaining officer.
As she approached them the redhead said to the tall, thin, morose-looking man, "You're not going to join in, are you?" with no hope in her tone.
"I always join a tournament on the weaker side."
"Disguised," added the man with the short-cropped fair hair and beard.
"Someone could hit you in the face with a pie ..." suggested the petite woman all in green.
"Excuse me," Embericles interrupted them, "but may I see some identification please?"
"Never carry it!" asserted the old man. But the tall skinny blonde produced one each for them both, if not issued by any authority Embericles had ever heard of. The small woman had nothing, but the other three were Round Table Space Fleet knights. That explained it; they had vibes like crossposters because they visited alt.startrek.creative too. Harmless.
"Is there a problem, officer?" the fairheaded man asked.
"That would take too long to explain," she said reassuringly, and moved on.
"Have you seen this man?"
"Can't say that I have, officer. I think I'd remember somebody that... that..."
"Repulsive?" Nyssaias offered.
"Well, I was going to be nicer, but yes." She handed the photo back. "Who is he?"
"You're new around ADWC, aren't you?" the Musecop asked. "This man we're seeking is an acolyte of the Order of the Cross-Post. He's been spotted roaming around the group and we're trying to alert the public to be on the lookout to help us nab him."
"Oh my. Is he dangerous?"
"Him? By himself, no, not really. It's what he might do that worries us."
"I don't quite understand."
"Well, you see, he's part of a cult that's dedicated to disrupting every online community they come across. They do this by performing a certain ritual that summons hordes of creatures called Spamites, vicious, mindless, soulless brutes from the depths of Hell, which then wander about and terrorize the good citizenry."
"I think I see," the Joy Troll said musingly. "They sound quite a bit like the Nasty Trolls we left RADW to escape."
"They're similar in intent, but a bit different in nature. Nasty Trolls are bad, but they're still people. Of a very pathetic sort. You can sometimes reason with them, even rehabilitate. Spamites, though, you can only handle one way..."
"And how's that?"
At that moment, a huge shape detached itself from the shadows at the edge of the yard and rushed forward, shrieking in rage. It was a tall, slouch-shouldered beast, pink and greasy of skin and with a single bloodshot red eye that glared out over a maw filled with teeth that came straight from an HR Giger painting. Its arms wriggled sinuously, bony hooks on the ends in place of hands. "MAKE MONEY FAST!!!" it screamed as it lunged for the two.
Any curiosity about the nature of the pistol on the Musecop's hip was dispelled as Nyssaias drew and calmly fired a single shot, dropping the creature in its tracks. "Make money fast," it slavered as it died, dissolving instantly into a pool of pink corruption.
"That's how," Officer Nyssaias explained to the wide-eyed Joy Troll as she holstered her weapon.
Officer Embericles rejoined them just then. "No problems here," she reported to her partner. "These're all good folks. Locals, Joy Trolls, a few harmless Typo Gremlins. Oh, and Allie says 'Hi'."
"HEY, ALLIE!" Nyssaias hollered at the crowd, waving. And to Allie's mortification, adding, "You're looking hot tonight, kid! If I weren't spoken for "
"Ahem," ahemmed the other Musecop, scowling and giving her a nudge in the ribs.
"Ah, right. Sorry, dear." Nyssaias grinned cutely, then abruptly turned serious again. "I took down a Spamite just now. That means our fugitive's already begun causing trouble."
The redhead looked chagrined. "Aw, hellfire. Gonna be a long night, sweetie." She turned back to Eloise and offered a courteous nod. "Y'all folks have a good time and enjoy your party. C'mon Nyss, let's go bag this nutball."
As the two young women waved and politely made their way back to their squad car, Eloise eased the door shut, wondering a bit just what sort of neighbourhood they'd moved the Hoedown into.
Halfway through the piece, the musicians wander away from their music stands, off the stage, and out through the audience, each still playing. Each musician is improvising his or her own individual tune, but the overall effect is of a united whole, greater than its parts. One by one, the musicians weave through the audience before making their way back to the stage, and when they are all assembled they smoothly segue back into the main melody, and play on as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
As the last, bright note fades, so too does the jazz band, vanishing into thin air and leaving the stage empty apart from one of the trombonists, who winks before he too disappears.
Finally deciding to do something, this young man starts to walk towards the drinks table and is intercepted by the turquoise deputy. "Jelly baby?" she offers. Somewhat taken aback, the young man automatically asks "Do you have orange?"
After eating the delicious treat, the young man decides to take the plunge, and cordially introduces himself to the joyful troll.
"The name's Danel lurker, multiple fan and Museless Writer."
Puzzled and slightly bemused, the reply is "How can you write without a Muse?"
Danel grimaces. "Exactly."
The sour expression is somewhere out of place in the Hoedown, but the Deputy senses that there is nothing she can do here and slips away. The young man continues onto the drinks table unimpeded. Or almost unimpeded a few paces away, he is brought to a halt by a grey-eyed anime girl possibly Allie, though he isn't sure.
"How old are you?"
The sour expression becomes worse. "I'll get a lemonade."
He contents himself to do this, and Grey Eyes is about to slip away when; "Are there any lemons here? Oranges?"
"No lemons there are children here!"
What follows is best described as a look of death albeit one carried out by someone who is somewhat unscary. More a look of minor twinge of slight fear. Grey Eyes quickly passes the fruit, but before he can add them to the drink, she asks him "Are you the Museless Writer?"
"I am indeed. I'm hoping I may even find one here. I need one my fics lie unfinished, inspiration departed, as I continue, becoming more downhearted..." An attempt at poetry by a man with no muse is often dangerous, especially so with typo gremlins in the area. Fortunately, at this point Danel completes the drink and takes a long sip, an expression of bliss crossing his features to be replaced by one of appalled horror as he splutters wildly.
"That wasn't orange that was a bloody satsuma!"
At that, a relatively thin-faced purple troll popped up across the table, causing Danel to yelp and jump back at least six inches. He cocked his head to one side, and eyed the young man with a look of deep concern.
Finally, he spoke: "You did not get what you wanted?" The troll's words were a statement. His tone was a question.
"N-no..." Danel replied, once he found his voice.
"Odd, odd, very odd," the troll muttered to himself, as he sniffed each of the items on the table with the speed and efficiency of a bloodhound searching for a scent. "My magic has never failed before." He looked up at Danel once more and his eyes narrowed. "Did you get the jelly-baby you wanted?" he asked.
"Y-yes... I think so. I mean: yes."
"You think so?" the purple troll answered. "Hm-hhm, hm-um," he went on, sounding like a doctor looking over a chart. "I think I know what's wrong. You see, I put a spell on all the food here tonight "
(Danel nervously puts the class he was holding down on the table)
" so that each guest would get exactly what he or she wants. The problem is, young man," the troll continued, "that you don't know what you want, or if you do know, you don't really believe that what you want is good enough."
As he spoke, the troll came around to Danel's side of the table, and sputtered violently himself. "What are you wearing?!"
"Just a tee shirt and some trousers," Danel replied, baffled.
"Those trousers!" the troll said, crinkling up his long nose. "They reek of spectral uncertainty! Do you even know what color they are?"
"Well, they're... um... Well, they're... er... No," the young man finally admitted.
"Do you like them, anyway?"
"That settles it, then. Eloise!" the purple troll called out, "May we borrow your wardrobe room? We have a bit of an emergency, and this young man needs to change his trousers."
Danel turned beet red from the neck up. "Hey!" he protested (but quietly... being a lurker, he was unused to raising his voice)
"Certainly, Walter," Our Hostess replied. "Take whatever you need.'
The troll turned to the young man who had come in under the pile of boxes, which were now all unpacked, their contents arranged around the cauldron (aside: but if they're prezzies for Gordon, I guess they're not scratch that). "Do you have everything under control, Imran?" he asked.
Imran was rolling up his sleeves, rocking back on his heels, and looking very pleased with himself. Mysteriously, the cauldron was already bubbling and hissing in a merry way, even with no fire underneath. "Yes, I think so. Thanks for all your help, Walter."
"Don't mention it. I enjoy helping a fellow chef and magician."
Arthur merely nodded in the direction of the author bent over the magic cauldron.
"What about him?"
"Not him, the cauldron," said Arthur. "I was just thinking that, if Helen's Taliesin were here, he'd probably try to talk me into stealing it with him."
Varne: "I just thought that it would be a good idea to tell you not to let my Lord sing."
Eloise: "We are pro-fun. People singing out of tune are not a problem."
Varne: "Oh, Magnus does have talent as a singer, it is what he sings. About all the songs he can remember are either sagas where everybody dies painfully or Rugby songs. Give him a chance and you will get thirteen verses of Four and Twenty Virgins or the Good Ship Venus."
"Well, back there, when you were talking to the leader troll, you made it sound like I ... oh, never mind." He paused. "And I don't need to change my trousers just because you like them!!"
"It's not what I like or want that's the question," Walter answered. "You said yourself that you aren't particularly fond of them. And I can't say that their quantum spectral uncertainty is causing your own doubts... but they're definitely exacerbating it So let's get you into something more definite...If you don't trust your own heart, you'll never recognize your muse even if she blocks your path."
"You heard that?!" Danel asked.
"Of course I heard it! What do you think these big ears are good for if not eavesdropping? Here we are!" the troll said, at the wardrobe door, pushing Danel through. "I'll just wait out here 'til you're changed. Have fun. Go wild. And don't worry about pleasing the tastes of others (The Doctor certainly doesn't!)."
She still hadn't seen where Xeffy and Ayna had disappeared to, which was beginning to unnerve her. She knew her sisters, and one thing they were not was quiet.
And as for Nyssaias and Embericles... Allie twitched as she reached for an orange. Of all the Muses in all the realities, it had to be them.
As for Danel...
Allie winced again as she handed the drink to Danel, by now suitably outfitted from Sweetheart's wardrobe.
"Here you go. No satsuma."
The sour look returned to his face.
Many people could write without a Muse they found their own paths to inspiration.
"It may look that way to a card-carrying Muse," came a quiet feminine voice behind her, "but no. After all that's what I and my lot are doing here."
"Please don't eavesdrop on my thoughts," Allie said coldly to the small, slender woman in skintight green.
"Sorry. But you were thinking rather loudly. Morgan le Fey," she introduced herself. Sensitive to her gaffe, she didn't offer to shake hands, in case it be mistaken as a further attempt at uninvited contact. Odd behavior for an alternate-universe Master-analog, but she also got Sybok's and Guinan's lines. "It's something I only realized after I arrived here. Occasionally my author speaks rhetorically of having a muse, but in truth his muses, his inspirations are the characters he writes about. I suspect it's like that for all fanfiction writers, whether or not they have personified muses as well. That'll be why he instinctively sent us to this party instead of inventing a personification of muse for the occasion. We're his muses, or some of them."
Still a little miffed, Allie observed, "Or it might have been his general laziness in the area of inventing original characters."
But le Fey only chuckled. Perhaps she was unoffended by true statements even if phrased as insults. In any case Allie had things more immediate on her mind
Because if his poetry was anything to go by, Danel needed a Muse, and pronto.
"Perhaps we can help." Allie suggested.
"We?" Danel took in the two men sitting at the table.
"My dad, Dominic," Allie indicated the short, bearded man, his brown hair balding on top. "He's a History Muse."
"A pleasure to meet you." Dominic said.
"And my writer, Imran."
"Hey." Imran said.
"So... what do we do first?"
"Well, we either go for the bouncy castle or the vanilla ice cream."
Danel blinked. "Say what?"
The first was tall, with a high forehead and distinguished nose. His short black hair was combed back neatly and his aspect was somewhat stern, until he suddenly smiled and his face filled with warmth. As for his eyes, you could see galaxies in those eyes. He was dressed in the garb of a Victorian gentleman, with a long black walking stick in one hand, which he didn't really need since his rejuvenation, but kept anyway as he'd become rather used to it these days.
"Ah my friends, it seems we have arrived!"
The second was a young woman, short, with shoulder-length dark hair framing a delicate face. She had somewhat of a piercing gaze, which was only accentuated by her striking eyebrows. She looked round slowly, taking everything in. She wore a long coat, over T-shirt and jeans.
"There's so many people here..."
The third was tall and pale with short, almost white hair. Her body language was almost but not quite human. In another situation she might be described as "dangerous", but here she had a big smile on her face as her gaze moved this way and that with curiosity, taking in all the sights and sounds as if afraid she'd miss anything. She wore a simple black shirt and baggy trousers.
~Are they here?~ she signed with her hands.
Yokoi ran up to them, arms spread wide. "Doctor! Katherine! Silence! you made it!" She grabbed them all together in a big hug, which the Doctor made vague attempts at fighting off. Yokoi finally let him get away from the huddle.
"Gordon is gonna be so pleased you guys are here!"
"I must admit I had slight misgivings about visiting, after all the events of last time..." said the Doctor, brushing imaginary specks of dust from his jacket, "...but my two young friends insisted." He smiled.
"And anyway," Katherine piped up, "Even if he'd refused I'd have locked him in the Cloister Room and Silence would've gotten us here."
~I've been reading the TARDIS manual.~ signed Silence, grinning.
"Well, now that you're all here, you can help us celebrate Gordon's birthday. He wasn't too bothered about celebrating it, but we all decided he was getting a big party whether he liked it or not!"
"I actually feel somewhat sorry for the poor fellow..."
"He'll be alright. Psychologically disturbed for life maybe, but that's more or less normal for him anyway. So..."
Yokoi watched as Oscar raced in from the garden and ran around two dozen and a half pairs of feet before leaping almost all the way up Gordon's leg, looked up as if to say "Hiya!" then jumped off again before racing back outside again leaving a slightly dazed and confused Gordon in her wake. Yokoi grinned, gathered the others into a huddle and whispered.
"Here's the plan..."
#Why don't we use the whipped cream?# Ayna suggested. #A whipped cream/tomato sauce pincer movement's going to throw them off...#
Xeffy considered. "Nah. Let's save the divebombing until we need it. Treacle sponge still in position?"
"Then let's do it!"
Ayna unfurled her wings and leaped for a hoop.
As she leaped, Xeffy crouched down and ran for one of the sirens' goals then froze at the sight before her.
"Oh Hera. Oh Hera, you have got to be kidding. Moshed potatoes?"
Xeffy wiped moshed potato off her face. "Laugh while you can, laughing boys..."
Ayna hung ten and dropped the lemon meringue pie through the hoop.
Landing squarely on the typo gremlins below.
Ayna returned to ground level, and high-fived Xeffy. #Yes!#
The scoreboards flickered to show 36 to the sirens, and 35 to the gremlins.
"TIME OUT!" Sandra yelled.
"Aw..." the typo gremlins said.
#Hmm.# Ayna said, considering the score. #Must be Australian Rules.#
"Time out, guys." Sandra said. "Time to get cleaned up. Looks like Gordon's party's about to get started."
Xeffy grinned. "Then let's get moving..."
"Which explains the boxes." Danel remarked.
"Kind of..." Imran said, noticing the movement over by the stage. "Looks like he's finally decided..."
"So," started Danel, as the three walked along, "you're Imran Inayat, yes? The guy who is writing that Buffy fic with Tara and Spike working in the Wishverse Caritas?"
Imran nodded, then somewhat redundantly said "Yes." However, he did add: "Do you like it?"
Danel smiled blissfully, a smile which, Allie noted anxiously, seemed rather similar to the kind of smiles found on the faces of the most fanatic fans.
"It has Dawn in it." This comment failed to defuse Allie's suspicions. She waited for him to continue. "I think Dawn is now my favourite Buffy character, and I actively search out fics with her in. It's pretty hard, because there aren't many. She's so... aaack!"
Caught up in a stream of reverential fanboy rhetoric he had failed to notice Some Kind of Large DeviceTM foolishly left in the middle of the floor, where anyone could trip over it. If they're weren't looking where they were... anyway.
Hmm. What an odd sentence.
In an attempt to make small talk, she foolishly asked him if he had ever written.
He smiled. "I wrote two chapters of a fic once."
"Then my computer crashed, and I lost them both."
"Luckily, one of the chapters had been sent to be beta'd a little while before, and they still had a copy."
"So I put it up, and no one at all replied. Not that it would have been any good if they did. Then the site lost it, anyway, and my little brother deleted it."
"Bad luck... what did you mean about not being any good if they did?"
Danel chuckled hollowly. "Can't you guess? I'm a literary coward."
Allie's eyes widened.
"A what?" asked Imran, looking up from the SKoLDTM. Allie looked at him.
"Keep poking. A literary coward is a writer who has a morbid fear "
"Almost terror " interrupted Danel.
" of reading reviews or comments of their fiction. It's pretty rare, actually." She turned towards Danel. "You seem to have every little problem a writer can... museless, literary cowardice... do you have critical writer's block and a really slow typing speed as well?"
There isn't much that can be done in reply to this except face-fault, and Allie did so. All the anime practice. While down there, she decided to take over the poking at the SKoLDTM, pushing Imran out of the way with comments about him not poking right.
At that moment, the SKoLDTM finally tired of being poked, and shot Allie with a really poor special effect. It was as if the producer realised too late the budget was all gone, and was forced to recruit his four-year-old son to crayon in a line between the machine and Allie's eyes in post-production.
Whatever its source, a side effect seemed to be Magic Electrical Girl Charley being hurled from the machine, and fleeing, confused, into the crowd while Danel and Imran watched and Allie fainted.
Not to be outdone, Danel stepped forward and peered at the machine. "Fascinating."
It hit him with another awful special effect. This time, a blue monkey bounded from the machine, and fled, shrieking in rage.
"That was Ingo!" exclaimed Danel.
"One of your characters?" asked Imran.
"No... Ingo, le singe bleu, was written by one of my more pretentious schoolfriends. He decided to write a series of short stories in French, to show his mastery of the language. We should stop that creature. Ingo was, I remember, a Neo-Nazi monkey."
"He was in the, uh, Blue Klux Klan. I apologise for my friend's sense of humour. I remember, he was slightly odd. Liked to snort paracetamol and crushed tic-tacs."
"What a strange man."
"Yes. It seems that this machine releases characters from the subconscious, which could be dangerous here... to say nothing of any potential long term eff.. long term... long..." Danel tailed off, and a bewildered look crossed his features. "What was I waying? Who are you? And where exactly am I?"
Imran sighed. It seemed that the odd occurrences had already started.
Eloise's heart sank. The Plot had started already, and they hadn't even gotten to the bouncy castle yet.
"That can't be good!" Our Hostess said. "Follow me!"
And they all (Gordon, Igor and the submarine crew, Yokoi, The Nth Doctor, Katherine and Silence) ran off to where a stunned Imran was standing over an unconscious Allie, while trying to keep a disoriented Danel from wandering off.
Not Good At All.
Eloise was slightly relieved, at least, to see the eight Doctors converging on the scene from other parts of the barn. One thing could be counted on, and that is that catastrophe always brought them out of the woodwork.
Fifth knelt down by Allie's head, and checked her pulse.
"She'll be all right," he said with a relieved sigh. "She just received a massive shock. Danel, too, I imagine."
"What about that thing?" Imran asked he definitely wasn't going to poke it any more.
"Now, that's something trickier," Third said. "We'll have to figure out how to move it out of here without actually disturbing it, and that requires a "
"Transdimensional carrying device!" Fourth finished for him.
"You mean a 'box' don't you?" Eighth asked. "Just calling it a 'box' would be fine."
"But how," Eloise asked, concerned, "are you going to get it into a box without touching it?"
The Doctors all murmured something to the effect of: "That's a good question!"
"Okay, then," Eloise said, "We'll let the Doctors get to work. Ruthie, you take Danel somewhere safe while he recovers. Imran? Can you carry Allie?"
Imran said he could.
"Good. Then you go with Ruthie. The rest of us," (and she indicated the Nth Doctor's companions, Gordon and his "band", and herself) "have to make sure this area stays clear until the Doctors get that thing out of here."
"Perhaps if you allowed me," Sandra said, bowing.
"Sandra!" Eloise exclaimed. "Where've you been?!"
"Looking after the brats." Sandra said. "But they're getting changed, so... looks like I got here just in time."
She winced. "Why is it always us I mean Allie who keeps getting knocked out? Does the Universe have some sort of personal grudge against her or something?"
She considered the Some Kind of Large Device. "We need to get this into a box, right?"
"Perhaps this would do?" Eighth said, holding a box up. Stencilled on the side were the words 'Some Kind of Large Device Transdimensional Carrying Case'.
Beneath that, in smaller letters, it said 'Or you could just call it a box, if you're a party-pooper'.
Sandra rolled her eyes. "Oy. Okay..." She concentrated on the SKoLD.
"Sandra?" Eloise said quietly.
"Shh. I am not feeling terribly happy right now. And right now, I need that feeling..."
The Eighth set the box down, and stood back.
Sandra nodded in acknowledgement.
The SKoLD gently levitated off the floor. Slowly, slowly, it floated over to the box, and descended inside it.
"Aaahhh..." Sandra said. "There. Safely in the box."
Abruptly, the box lifted off the ground.
Sandra shook her head. "Not me. Not me."
The box floated out through a doorway.
Sandra, Eloise and the Doctors exchanged looks, and ran after it.
"That shouldn't happen," muttered Eighth.
"Eh?!" Eloise said, wanting to give the Doctor a questioning stare, but not daring to take her eyes off the SKoLD.
"Well, it may just be a box," Eighth explained, "but it's still a transdimensional box. Now that that thing is inside, it's supposedly in a different dimension than we are."
"But it's still working."