Prologue > Begin at the beginning… > Quack Experimental Fanfic Excel Saga

“Eloise!” The first Doctor greeted the happy troll clasping her hand in both his, and she reciprocated. “Of course you know all my television companions,” he said, waving at the half-dozen people behind him, “but I don’t think you’ve met my niece and nephew, Gillian and John.” He gently pushed two 1960s gradeschoolers at her.

“How do you do, mum,” said the two children politely in unison.

“Niece? Nephew?” said Eloise. “But I thought … I keep hearing about a Loom…”

“Granddaughter over here,” said Susan tiredly.

“That would take too long to explain,” said Florestan to Eloise quickly.

“There,” Steven whispered to Sara. “It’s a cultural thing, must be.”

“Come come, let’s not hold up the line!” said First, ushering all his companions through the entrance. “Good to see you again, sir,” he asided to Florestan as he passed, “we’ll chat later, hm?”

“What? We were to bring tie-in companions too?” Second cried, cheeks huffing in and out.

“It wasn’t in the invitation we sent out,” said Florestan.

“What extra tie-in companions do you have, Doctor?” Zoe asked.

“Why, none, so far as I can remember,” said Second, pulling a little black address book out of his pocket. “He’s just trying to make himself look more important! But I’ve got more up-to-date versions of Polly and Ben than he has!” He was still paging through the little book while Jamie and Ben pushed him through the entrance and into the party.

“Brigadier, I thought you understood this earlier,” Third was griping as he walked up to the entrance. He was followed by several girl companions and every UNIT personnel to appear in more than one serial, including of course the Brigadier with whom of course he was arguing.

“No,” said the Brigadier only a touch shortly, “you told me I understood it.”

“Remember the alternate dimension Inferno project?”

“Of course not. You disappeared for hours and when you turned up you told that story. I never saw any proof. I’m still not convinced.”

“It’s like that,” Third continued desperately. “Except this is an alternate dimension where instead of there being another you, the other you is a fictional character.”

“Right,” said the Brigadier.

“And it’s a sort of neutral zone, too,” Third added, nodding hello to Eloise and Florestan as he led his group inside, being too occupied with exposition for proper salutations. “Which means if you see the Master, you must treat him with no more overt animosity than if this was a ball at Ten Downing and he was a naval officer…”

“Hallo, Eloise!” grinned Fourth. “Hallo, Florestan!” He shook Florestan’s hand with rather more energy than Florestan had been prepared for. “That’s Sarah, and that’s Harry, and that’s Leela, and that’s K-9, and that’s Sharon, and that’s Romana, and that’s Romana, and…” But at this point Florestan’s eyes had glazed over.

“…tie-in comics, you see,” Fifth was explaining as his group walked up.

“But he’s an American!” Tegan objected.

“So what?” Gus growled. “We may be a young country, but we’re older’n you.”

“I thought I was your first American,” Peri whined.

“Wasn’t Steven American?” Adric asked.

“The source of that common misconception arises, I suspect,” Fifth pontificated, “from the artist’s previous role in The Chase, which was a rather stereotypical southern American in the Empire State Building scene—”

Fifth’s declamation carried his entire group past the entrance, and past Eloise and Florestan, with barely a nod of greeting from anyone, until the procession was brought up at the end by Nyssa. “Thank you so much for inviting us,” said Nyssa to Eloise with what on 21st-century Earth is thought of as “old world charm” but was S.O.P. on Traken. She then turned to Florestan and curtsied. “We are honored by your thinking of us in what must still be a time of adjustment to you.”

Enchante,” said Florestan, taking Nyssa’s hand to raise her out of her curtsey, and bowing her through the entrance. Eloise wondered what language he’d been speaking to make his “Time Lord gift” for translation render it into social-French-for-English-speakers in her ears.

“Another me, from earlier?” Peri whined. “Why?”

“It’s your turn!” retorted Sixth. “Hello, Eloise, hello, Florestan. Why, you’ve been redecorating…!”

“And then,” Ace was saying to Mel, “there was this really creepy circus, and then the Cybermen did the holy-relic-of-Rassilon bit—”

“What, them too?” said Mel.

The two women were so engrossed in their catching up that Seventh had to greet Eloise and Florestan for them. Florestan was impressed. “Those two get on well.”

“One of my few companion exchanges with overlap,” explained Seventh. “They met Inside first.”

“You’re lucky,” said Eloise.

“What, Tegan and Gus are here already?”

“… and Charley, and C’rizz, and Trix,” Eighth concluded.

“Not for kids,” noted the last as she passed. Eighth smiled and followed them in.

“I’m not going to have to remember all those names, am I?” Florestan said to Eloise.

“No,” said Eloise. “None of them will ever ask you anything for which you don’t have an answer, or at least an eloquent prevarication.”

Three of the party-goers had taken up positions as “unofficial” bartenders, and were serving drinks to the other guests from behind the Quadrille’s well-stocked bar.

One, Imran, was a young man in his mid-twenties, with light brown skin, short, straight black hair, and brown eyes, with the left offset. He was of medium height and build, with a tendency to run to fat. Currently, he wore a white shirt, black trousers and black waistcoat (this last borrowed from Sweetheart’s wardrobe).

The other two, Allie and Sandra, were virtually identical—both in their early twenties, with long, waist-length brown hair, oval faces, grey eyes, small mouths and noses, and slim, athletic builds.

There were two major differences between them, though.

One was that Allie wore a deep, almost midnight blue, velvet Edwardian dress, while Sandra wore a dress that looked as if it’d been taken from a Wild West stage show.

The other was that Sandra was translucent and floating a couple of inches off the floor.

She was currently mixing the drinks by levitating them in front of her in a cocktail flask, and mentally shaking them.

Seated on the other side of the bar was Dominic, a middle-aged man, apparently in his mid-forties, with short brown hair already beginning to go bald, a close-cut beard, and blue eyes set in an oval face, wearing a casual shirt, jacket and trousers. He sipped at a Scotch whilst he looked out over the dance floor at the would-be dancers.

“Manhattan,” Sandra told a somewhat boggle-eyed guest, levitating his drink over to him. “There you go.”

“Imran Specials?” Allie said to another. “Sorry, we’re not doing them just yet. How about a smoothie?”

“Ahh… I needed that,” Imran said, finishing off a milkshake and setting it down, before turning to the next guest. “Lemonade? No problem.”

“Everything okay, Dad?” Sandra asked.

“Mm?” Dominic said. “…No, no problem.”

“Not dancing?” Allie wondered.

“Maybe later…” Dominic said, half-smiling. “How are you doing?”

“Pretty well, I’d say, huh, Psyche?” Sandra said.

Allie chuckled. “Yeah… Finally getting the hang of this after three years going. Pretty good going, I’d say.”

“Well, we did have to save the Universe the last two times…” Imran observed wryly.

Allie grinned. “Mm. There is that…”

“…Xeffy and Ayna’ll be fine, Dad,” Sandra said gently. “Besides, you know Gran and Grandad’re taking care of them.” She managed a grin. “I mean, the fuss they’re making over Ayna… they’re treating her like a princess…”

“…Yes,” Dominic said, still seeming half-distracted.

Allie and Sandra exchanged looks.

“But it’s not just that…” Dominic murmured. “It’s why they went… why I thought it would be better if they went, why they thought it would be better if they went…”

He sighed. “They knew this would be happening—I know them too well to believe they didn’t.

“I saw the way Xeffy looked at me. I know what she’s thinking. I know what she thinks of what’s going on. And I know she doesn’t feel she can trust herself—or me—in this situation. Not now. Not yet.

“And Ayna wouldn’t willingly leave her…”

“Dad…” Allie began.

“You didn’t have to come, Allie,” Dominic said quietly. “Neither did Sandra. You could have gone with Xeffy and Ayna. The choice was always there for you.”

Allie shot a look at Imran, and then back at her father. “…I know, Dad. But…” She sighed. “It’s too early in the evening for this…”

“We wanted to come, Dad,” Sandra said softly. “Whatever else, we wanted to come.”

Dominic inclined his head.

Allie’s eyes widened momentarily as she caught sight of something near the front door. “…We’ve got incoming.”

“Amber,” Florestan said, making a little bow.

Eloise curtsied. “My Lady.”

The Muse of Metafiction returned the bow. “Florestan. Eloise.”

In her current form, Amber appeared to be a young woman in her early twenties, with long, dark blonde hair, sleepy, hooded eyes of amber hue, a long face, and a full mouth. She wore a long, flowing dress, which glimmered in shades of blue and green as it caught the light from the chandelier.

“I trust you had no trouble coming here?” Florestan inquired.

“No, no,” Amber said. “Although… I believe there was some trace of your handiwork in the upload program?” She raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Florestan inclined his head. “There was. Zaqqum’s defence systems are… somewhat familiar to me. Certain aspects of the design had their origin in Gallifreyan technology… and both Beloved and I have picked up some small understanding of the workings of the divine. With Beloved’s help”—a smile touched at his face as he looked over at his TARDIS’s Maiden form, who had positioned herself near the front door—“I was able to make the necessary changes.”

“I thought as much…” Amber said. “And, in all honesty, there are few, if any, I’d trust with my power’s safe-keeping other than Beloved.”

For some reason, that made Eloise feel oddly… she tried to put a name to it… proud, perhaps? Yes, proud, she suspected… of Sweetheart.

Amber tipped her head, as if listening to something. “…Thank you, Beloved.”

Florestan raised an eyebrow.

Amber chuckled. “Don’t mind us. We’re just mind-speaking… Yes, yes, I will. Thank you.”

The Maiden nodded, a quick smile flitting across her features.

Amber returned her attention to Florestan and Eloise. “I brought a small present for Eloise. I hope you don’t mind…?”

“…What is it?” Eloise asked.

“Hold on. Just let me get it.”

Amber cupped her hands in front of her.

The air flickered—

And a cardboard box rested in Amber’s hands.


“I still have access to the minor arts,” Amber said. “Think of it as an extra-dimensional storage locker.”

“Can I…?” Eloise asked.

Amber nodded. “Go ahead.”

Eloise opened the box’s lid, and looked inside, before looking back up into Amber’s face. “…A camera?”

“A holo-camera,” Amber said. “It takes 2-D pictures—like a normal camera—and 3-D pictures—holograms—and saves them all in memory to develop later.”

“…Thank you,” Eloise said, taking the box—she’d need to put it somewhere safe. “I’ve been looking for something like this.”

“Plus,” Amber added, “it comes with a manual approved by the Plain English Campaign, so you can actually understand it. You wouldn’t believe the trouble I had finding one of those…”

Florestan raised an eyebrow. “I see some things never change…”

Eloise couldn’t help it—a smile broke out on her face at that one. And—was it just her, or had she caught a grin flickering across Florestan’s face?

Apparently it hadn’t been her, because Amber grinned back. “I brought some friends along. I hope that’s okay.”

“Of course,” Florestan said.

Just so long as we don’t lose track of everyone, Eloise added mentally, glancing around to see if she could catch a glimpse of anyone who might have been Amber’s friends.

“They’re the two standing by the caviar,” Amber said, almost as if she’d been reading Eloise’s mind.

Eloise jumped, a little, and followed where Amber had indicated.

Two women—well, one woman and one girl—were standing near the caviar.

The woman looked to be a little shorter than Amber, also in her early twenties, with long blackish-brown hair, dark eyes, and a figure that seemed to be made up entirely of curves. She was taste-testing the caviar and dip.

The girl looked to be about sixteen or seventeen, with a mass of purple hair spilling down her back and startlingly green eyes. She seemed to practically radiate an aura of cheerfulness.

And—Eloise blinked at this—she’d already eaten a bowl of caviar, and was currently licking the bottom of the dish clean.

“That’s”—Amber nodded at the woman—“my PA, Trella, and that’s”—she nodded to the girl—“my intern, Nuku-Nuku.”

Florestan raised an eyebrow.

Eloise blinked. “Nuku-Nuku?”

“Mm. Everyone calls her that,” Amber said. “There’s one other thing you should know.”

“What?” Eloise asked curiously.

“Trella’s a demon.”

What?!” Eloise exclaimed.

“Eloise,” Florestan said softly.

Eloise closed her eyes, tried to calm herself. How…?

“Beloved’s defence systems haven’t failed,” Florestan said. “I would know.

“Beloved chose to allow Trella in, of her own volition.”

He glanced over at the Maiden, who nodded in confirmation.

“…Why?” Eloise said finally.

“Not all demons are evil,” Amber said softly. “Remember Ned, Danel’s friend? Demons can be—are—capable of good… but most of them don’t act on it.

“Trella isn’t one of the Things Beyond—the gates to the metaverse are still sealed. She’s a Lilim, one of the Daughters of Lilith. Her true form looks slightly different—slightly, but enough to give away what she is.”

She glanced over at Trella, who waved back, and continued.

“She has a bright soul, a bright potential—it was part of the reason I took her on. However, one of the conditions was that neither I—or anyone else—could convince her to change sides; she has to make the choice freely.”

“…Why?” Eloise said.

Amber sighed. “To do that would violate the promise I made Trella and her Mother—and a Power’s oath is their bond.”

“…All right,” Eloise said finally. “If Sweetheart doesn’t mind…”

She glanced over at the Maiden, who nodded.

“Thank you,” Amber said. She tipped her head. “…And thank you, Beloved. I wouldn’t have brought her otherwise.” Her mouth twitched again. “Besides, Nuku-Nuku would be wondering why Trella couldn’t come in…”

The Maiden grinned.

Amber looked around at the bustling party. “Is it all right if I let the two of you get back to the party?”

Florestan nodded. “Yes.”

“…Have a good time,” Eloise said.

“Thank you,” Amber said, and headed off to join Trella and Nuku-Nuku.

Eloise mopped her forehead with her hanky, wiping off the sweat.

Well. What should she make of that, she wondered?

Something good, she hoped.

“Well, then,” Florestan said. “Shall we meet the rest of our guests?”

Eloise nodded. “Yes.”

Allie and Sandra’s eyes followed Amber, and then returned to their father.

“I know,” Dominic said in answer to their unspoken question. “I know.


[Two figures strode towards the entrance.]
Just why do we have to wear Regency Evening Dress, and why did you bring that animal?
Well, after all the effort George1 put into designing it for us, we never did get the chance to wear it before. Besides, it may not be quite in period but it seemed more appropriate for a Quadrille.
And I suppose the fact that you have managed to disguise a considerable part of our armoury as jewelry has nothing to do with it. And you still have not said why you brought that animal?
[She pointed to the six-inch-high elephant with Dumbo-style ears perched on Magnus’ shoulder.]
Elph2 brought himself. He seems to have adopted me.
That’s what you get for drinking in Gavagan’s.
At least I managed to offload the dragon… oh, and you are right about the weapons; after last time I am not going to rely on being able to retrieve the bags.
[The pair entered. Elph took off, making a beeline for the bar. Magnus followed, leaving Varne to greet the Host and Hostess.]
Hello Dominic, I will have a gin and tonic.
[He pointed out the hovering elephant.]
I believe my friend here prefers Chevas Regal. Oh, and a Baileys for Varne please. Now I must make my bow. I am delighted to see you and your beautiful daughters.

In Daydream Dome…

“Hey, Amy,” said Q.

“Yeah?” said Amy.

“There’s a party going on tonight.”

“I know, I got the invitation.”

“It seems like fun. Will you accompany me?”

“Q, are you asking me out on a date?”

“Yes. Fictives can go out on dates, right?”

Amy stopped to consider this.

“Sure they can. Yes, I would love to go with you. Let me find something more interesting to wear.” She immediately went to the computer console and began looking for a nicer outfit.

Ten minutes later, she had changed from her jeans and sweater into a green velvet dress with lace sleeves and red-and-blue gems around the hem. The outfit included a necklace with a round ruby on it and emerald-colored shoes, and she appeared to be very pleased with it.

“You look lovely, my dear,” said Q.

“Thank you,” said Amy. “So do you… wow.”

Q looked very different. He had exchanged his usual uniform for an outfit worthy of the prom. He also appeared to be only a few years older than Amy herself.

“Do you like it?” he said.

“Yes,” Amy said slowly. “But why?”

“I know everything you think. One of your compunctions about going out with me is that I’m too old for you. So, here I am. I’d forgotten what it was like to be young…”

“What’s going on?” said Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the rightful wearer of the uniform that Q was usually seen in.

“I am taking Amy out on a date,” said Q. “Just her and me.”

“It was his idea,” said Amy. “If it had been mine, I might have invited you, but it wasn’t.”

“Are you out of your mind?” said the captain.

“I’m perfectly fine, sir,” said Amy.

“I’m not going to do anything to her,” said Q. “I won’t be able to.”

“You see, Captain,” Amy explained, “the deal with this party is that everyone above the level of Muse has to temporarily surrender their powers. It’s going to be an interesting night.”

Picard looked at Q. “I never thought I would see you willingly be reduced to a human.”

“Neither did I, mon capitaine,” said Q. “Perhaps I’ll do better in her company than I did in yours.”

Picard ignored this. “You do look very nice,” he said, turning to Amy.

“Thank you, sir,” she said. “This thing’s been in mothballs for almost four years. I created it for a medieval roleplaying thread, thinking I’d never wear it again…”

“It’s perfect,” said Q.

“Have a good time,” said Picard.

Bon soir,” said Q, and he and his date were gone in a burst of white light.

The unlikely pair flashed into existence just outside the door of a small grey house.

Moments later, the door opened, revealing a woman in an outfit that reminded Q of the time he had tried to set Vash up with Picard.

“Q,” said the woman in a tone of disapproval.

“Who are you?” said Amy.

“I am Maid TARDIS. Welcome aboard.”

“My name’s Amy. I’m his date.”

“You know about the restriction on powers, I’m sure.”

“Yes,” said Q.

“Well, come in. Your powers will be uploaded and returned to you when you leave.”

Amy gave Q a reassuring smile and led him into the grand ballroom.

“That wasn’t so bad,” said Amy. How does she know Q? she wondered.

“No,” said Q, looking around at the interesting assortment of people in the room.

Suddenly, a turquoise troll approached the new arrivals. “Jellybaby?”

[Magnus approached Florestan and bowed deeply without spilling a drop from the glass he was carrying.]
I wish to thank you and your delightful companions for inviting us.
Well, I hope things will be quieter than last year.
[With carefully calculated slightly shallower bows to Eloise and Maid TARDIS, Magnus started to circulate.]
That was very formal.
Indeed, and I believe that the depth of bow indicates members of a royal family; I wonder why.

One of the would-be drinkers at the bar stared at the small elephant drinking from a tumbler of Chevas Regal, stared at his drink, stared back at the elephant, then raised a hand.

“Er, Miss?”

“Yes?” Allie said.

“Klatchian coffee, please.” He looked at the elephant again. “Make it two.”

“Um… before I do, you do know the elephant’s real, don’t you?” Allie said.

“It’s real?” the drinker said.


“Okay, make it scumble.”

“Scumble?” Allie said. “Are you sure?”

The drinker nodded. “If this is reality, I want to see what happens when I’m drunk.”

“Nice party, boss,” Trella observed.

“Thank our hosts,” Amber said. “They’re the ones who set it up.”

“Who’d they get for the catering?” Trella wondered.

Amber taste-tested one of the dips. “Mmm… Walter Duncun, I believe. He’s the troll with dark purple skin.”

“Nuku-Nuku sees him over there,” Nuku-Nuku said, munching on a sandwich and pointing.

“Really?” Trella looked at the vast buffet set out on the tables. “What do you think he’d take for the recipes?”

Amber chuckled. “I think he might get offended at that. Find something you can do for him, and then ask for the recipes.”

Trella considered. “Okay, boss.”

“Nuku-Nuku thinks Walter makes good fish dishes,” Nuku-Nuku put in. “Nuku-Nuku likes the salmon sandwiches especially.”

Amber tried one of the sandwiches. “Mmm… they are good, aren’t they? Just… so.”

Nuku-Nuku paused before taking another bite of her sandwich. “Why are the people at the bar looking at us?”

“Dominic,” Amber said quietly. “It’s… a personal thing, between me and him… and his family. It’s… something we have to sort out. Not just yet, though.”

“Like Mama-san and Papa-san?” Nuku-Nuku wondered.

Amber chuckled wryly, a little sadly. “I wouldn’t say that. No… the problem is, we’re not sure quite what to do about this… whatever’s happening, it’s only just beginning—and both of us are bringing a lot of history to the table…”

“Is Amber-san going to talk to Dominic-san?” Nuku-Nuku asked.

“Maybe,” Amber said. “We’ll have to see how things turn out—and do our best not to let it get in the way of whatever else’s going to happen tonight…”

Trella paused. “Whatever else?”

“Whatever else,” Amber confirmed. “And you know the Doctors—with them around, that’s virtually a guarantee…”

“Uh-oh…” Trella murmured.

“But I don’t see why,” said Seventh as he and Third approached the bar.

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” said Third.

“Hello, Doctor,” said Varne. “Hello, Doctor. What’s obvious?”

“We’re discussing,” said Seventh, “why it is that radw seems, or once seemed, to polarize between his fans and mine.”

“And it is obvious,” insisted Third. “Brandy, please,” he asked of the bartender.

“Lemonade,” Seventh ordered.

“We’re opposites,” Third continued.

“We’re the same person!” Seventh rebutted. “We’re even the two of me played by comedians.”

“Opposites,” Third insisted. “I’m the me most victimized by the normal, stay-at-home, hypocritical manipulative Time Lords,” he said as they were served their drinks, “and you’re the me who most emulates them.”

Any offence Seventh might have taken at this assertion was interrupted by Seventh’s startlement on taking his first good look at Magnus. “What the skaro’s that?” he demanded, pointing at Magnus’ pet, or as it may be master.

Magnus sighed and explained again.

“What’s the matter, old fellow?” said Third, in a good mood for having got the last word on the previous subject. “It’s not as if it were an augmented Androgum.”

“I came across something similar, once, at an outfit called InGen,” said Seventh suspiciously. “That did not turn out well.”

“So I guess it’s not a Hoedown anymore,” was the first thing Evan thought upon reaching the party grounds.

Not that it seemed to make much difference. Things were a tad more elegant, maybe, it certainly had more of the feel of a “quadrille”. (Whatever that was. He’d thought it was a kind of lobster dish.)

He noticed quite a few guests had already arrived, but he clearly wasn’t late this time. No sign of dark forces disrupting the fun yet, and apparently the trolls were working hard to keep such things out. So hopefully things would stay on the easy and fun side. Last year he wasn’t even sure just what had happened.

The Doctors had arrived. This was always good. Wouldn’t be a proper… whatever… without them, and besides, if they’d brought guests, there was someone he meant to meet.

“Evan!” a voice called. He turned around to see a smiling Zoe Herriot walking up to him.

The two hugged. “Good to see you again, Zoe!” Evan said. “It’s been too long.”

“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “But things have been busy all on my end. You know, screaming, fighting monsters, the usual.”

“Wait, are you pre-War Games or post, because…”

“I’m not sure it matters here. But thanks for helping with the memory loss, anyway.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “I don’t suppose you can help him out, can you?” she whispered, gesturing at the Eighth Doctor.

“I’m not sure. I don’t think we should try unless there’s a good psychiatrist nearby anyway.”

“Oh, well. Shall we get a drink?”

“Absolutely. Back home it’s so hard to find even a pint of Carlsberg…”

The two sidled up the bar and set to work catching up on each other.

Nodding at people he recognised as he passed, Daibhid, who’d been tagging behind the Eighth Doctor following their meeting in the ’Round, headed up to the bar. “Hi, Imran!” he said. “Pint of Irn Bru, please.”

Imran made no move to pour. Instead he stared at what Daibhid was wearing.

He had obviously taken the idea of “dressing up” for the quadrille very seriously, and yet not seriously at all. He was wearing a full Regency suit, complete with lace collar and buckle-shoes, and the elasticated thing that usually held his dark brown ponytail had been replaced by a ribbon, of the sort you’d expect in a powdered wig. He’d even replaced his huge, round, plastic-lensed specs with a gold-rimmed pair of half-moons.

Unfortunately, his total lack of fashion sense had resulted in the suit being made up of rather clashing colours, but that was quite appropriate to the Regency look…

What wasn’t was the fact that he’d added his “Guild of Fans”, “Supermen of America” and “I saw the Daleks at MOMI” badges to his jacket, and topped the whole thing off with a Red Dwarf baseball cap.

Behind him was a tall man in a large brown overcoat, with a guitar slung over his shoulder. He clearly didn’t worry about fitting in with the setting. Any setting, ever.

“And this is…?” Imran asked Daibhid.

“Bob,” said Daibhid. Bob opened his mouth and Daibhid quickly amended: “Sorry, Bob the Muse.” Bob nodded civilly, and wandered off to the food table.

“That’s his Muse,” Sandra explained, somewhat unnecessarily. “We met at This Time Round.”

“He doesn’t really seem like a Muse,” said Imran.

“People keep saying that,” nodded Daibhid. “For the record, I agree with them.”

“Dad?” asked Allie. “Do you know anything about a ‘Bob the Muse’?”

Dominic, who’d been lost in his own thoughts, looked up. “Eh?” he said. “Bob? A Muse called Bob? I don’t think…” He stopped. “I need to talk to Amber about something. Allie, Sandra, be polite to this… Bob, but try not to interact with him more than you can help.” And with that, he slipped off his barstool, and strode towards Amber.

“What was that about?” asked Sandra.

“No idea,” said Daibhid. “Er, anyone seen the Rucksack?”

Paul enters the doorway, and stands a moment drinking in the new décor. He is dressed formally in a black suit, complete with white gloves, a cravat imprinted with a pattern of teddy bears, and a shiny top hat—which, for some reason, has a pair of moose antlers growing out of it.

“Hello, Eloise. Greetings, Florestan,” he says. “Where’s Ruthie?”

“Ruthie’s visiting with her grandma,” Eloise explains.

“Oh.” Paul looks disappointed. “There was something I wanted to show her, too. Maybe next year.” He takes off his hat, and considers it for a moment. “Danik and co. here yet?”

“Danik couldn’t make it,” Eloise says, “because he’s—” She breaks off as a thought strikes her. “‘and co.’? How many people were you expecting Danik to have with him?”

“At least three,” says Paul. “Osman, L’Aiglonne, and—but you said he couldn’t make it? Not bad news, I hope?”

“No, it’s all good,” Eloise says quickly. “He and L’Aiglonne are getting married.”

Paul smiles. “Good news indeed. My congratulations and best wishes to them. From what I’ve heard, they’re very well matched.”

“Paul,” says Eloise, “just what have you heard?”

Paul’s smile broadens. He starts to say something, but is interrupted by a voice from within his hat.

“Any minute now he’s going to smile mysteriously and say, ‘Aha!’,” the voice says. “He’s been practicing in the mirror.”

Paul rolls his eyes theatrically. Reaching into the hat, he lifts out a small blue duck.

“Hello, Eloise,” says the duck. “Hello, Florestan.”

Paul lowers it to the floor, and wanders off in search of a hatstand.

“Hello, Donald,” says Eloise. “Do you know what Paul’s heard about Danik and L’Aiglonne?”

Donald gives a smile too mischievous by half to qualify as mysterious, and says, “Aha!”

Eloise’s ears perked up as she heard something outside.


She hurried over to the front door and slowly opened it, peering out into the carpark. She could sense several other guests behind her also wanting too see what on earth could have made that noise.

She grinned at the sight which greeted her. There, right in front of the door, by a bus stop that certainly hadn’t been there earlier was a large bus in the shape of a cat. Or was it a large cat in the shape of a bus? It slowly walked along on a dozen legs, tail swishing slowly, mice on its roof lighting the way ahead. The catbus turned its head and grinned right at her.


A door opened up in the side and half-a-dozen familiar figures stepped out. There was Gordon and his muse Yokoi. Igor lurched happily out behind them, followed by the Nth Doctor and his companions, Silence and Katherine.

Gordon and Yokoi raced over and caught Eloise in a hug sandwich.

“It’s been far too long!” said Gordon.

Igor just settled for shaking her hand enthusiastically. “’Ello.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you again, my dear,” the Nth Doctor said, tipping his hat. “Hiya!” Katherine grinned from behind.

Eloise looked at the catbus. “She’s beautiful!”

Eloise couldn’t resist going over and joining Silence in scritching the catbus behind the ears, listening to the wonderful contented purr it gave. Silence smiled. ~Hello again,~ she signed, before surprising Eloise with a big hug.

The sign on the front of the catbus rolled over. “Next Stop: Tsukamori,” said a voice from somewhere. The catbus turned around, grinned again and with a last MEOW!!! raced off into the night, scattering loose leaves in its wake.

Eloise was about to walk slowly back inside when somebody shouted “Bundle!” and she found herself lifted up by several pairs of hands and carried back inside, surrounded by laughter and smiles.

1 Brummell

2 Short for Elephantas Frumenti—see Tales from Gavagan’s Bar.

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Story copyright © 2003 the original authors; this compilation copyright © 2003–2005 Igenlode Wordsmith and Paul Andinach; HTML modified by Imran Inayat.