And blowing various trumpets, mostly their own, Our Heroes to the Sauvage Gard went...
...Amanda was walking with the Third Doctor. They seemed to be getting on surprisingly well, and the talk was technical. Albert had bowed out discreetly early on.
"...rose as the field coil." The young engineer spread her hands exuberantly wide. "With a whole artificial land to generate the whatever-it-is field, you couldn't ask for more. And why else would it need rotational symmetry?"
"Fixed range, among other reasons." The Doctor was keeping a visibly open mind on the subject. "But go on. Where's your analogues for the other two?"
"If the key is the rotor," Amanda pursued, "then all you need is to connect it up to the power-source which has to be the flame! and away it goes."
"Turning in what sense?" the Doctor mused. "Well, it's a theory. A shame it doesn't tell us what kind of engine we'd be setting in motion, though."
The Fourth Doctor iggled up behind them, much to their mutual annoyance. "I say," he said, in his deep confidential voice, "if that's the case, where would the key have to go, do you suppose?"
"In the centre, I rather imagine," returned Third dryly. "I was under the impression that's where we meant to bring it anyway."
"And what's already in the centre, collecting power from its own sources? Wellll?"
"You think the SKoLD's the key?"
"I think we'd better find another one," returned Fourth ominously. "Because whatever door the SKoLD opens, I don't think we'll want to be in the same reality at the time..."
"Or," frowned Amanda, struck by a new thought and looking up at the Third in appeal, "were you thinking the key is on the same scale as the rose? That would fit, wouldn't it?"
"The crystal castle?" Fourth breathed.
"One of its towers, more likely if we want to go out on this limb." Third worked his jaw a bit, considering. "The SKoLD would be one thing to charge it up with, then. Not the one we want. And the other power-source the flame by Jove, that would be what we had to choose." He smiled a formidable, hard smile at the red-headed young engineer. "Why, don't you see, Amanda? Occam's Razor is the tool, every time. Two of our pieces may have been in plain sight all the while, leaving us only one entity unaccounted for. The flame the power we invoke to turn the key!"
"I think you're wonderful," Amanda said ingenuously. "But, wait up, I'm not sure how this does if we have to keep to our oracle...."
"Simplicity itself, my dear Lady!" Having solved the entire problem single-handed, prompted only by the naive though acute intuition of his latter-self's sparky little assistant, Third allowed himself to become expansive. "Within the present, a rose, a key, a flame. Choose one, choose well. The key is a given, like the rose; the one we must choose is the one flame that will grant us our... whatever it grants us, instead of our enemy's. And I very much suspect that that choice awaits us not far from here, at Sauvage Gard!"
The Eighth, his butterfly attention restless after the twenty-third verse of Tam Lin, drifted over to join the discussion. Other Doctors, never one(s?) to miss a good quibble-klatsch, followed his example. Amanda, feeling she'd stretched her expertise as far as it would go and happy to leave the boffins to it now they were started out on a sensible track, cast about for Albert, and spied him in earnest conversation with Dominic. A little way ahead, the extraordinary Steward and the still-more remarkable Sixth were trudging with mutual heavy-footed bad grace. The Steward was saying something about a mill. Amanda, herself the Miller of Pontisbright in her salad days albeit a grinder of nothing but electrons, pricked up her ears and drifted a little closer.
"You know your Kalevala, don't you ?"
"The Sampo gets forged; a rogue screws;|
There's a wedding, a funeral, the blues.
A serf bites the dust, the Sampo gets bust,
And Finland receives the Good News."
Amanda frowned. This sounded very much like something out of Sibelius, a composer for whom she had absolutely no time whatsoever.
"And therefore?" the Sixth was demanding.
"Well: it's a device made by superhuman technology; everyone wants it, particularly an ice-hearted bitch-queen; the description's completely indefinite; and it's in pieces, one of them round." The Steward snorted. "One SKoLD-type name is silly enough for one adventure, and I'm damned if I'll call our quest-object either a McGuffin or Heart's bloody Desire! Maybe it's really the Everything Mill from the legend, and maybe it isn't I wish we had Auntie Krizu here right now! but I at any rate propose to call it the Sampo from here on in. What d'you think?"
The Sixth shrugged massively. "It's a name..."
Amanda ticketed this for later reference, then peered narrowly over at Albert. His conversation with Dominic was evidently intense and disturbing. She wondered whether she ought to join in, eavesdrop, or just leave him enough space to sort out who'd thumped him and how he'd got here. She truly hoped she wanted him to sort it all out. Since his final, inexplicable disappearance Back Home, she'd suffered from a number of painful suspicions as to what that first blow on the head might have done to his sense-and-sensibilities...
...their long engagement had looked like chugging on forever and ever, until that desperate adventure had galvanised him to arrange the earliest wedding half-decently possible. She'd thought jealousy and fear of losing her had been the spur, not concussion; and she'd been supremely happy with that, then...
...and too soon after their marriage, the Luncheon Meat Affair, and he gone without a trace...
But this was morbid nonsense, and he didn't deserve her distrust. He never had.
'In sickness and in health...'
Fixing her slightly cracked smile, the Lady Amanda Campion fell into step beside Ayna.
#You love him, don't you?#
"Well, it wasn't as if we hadn't made it clear time and time, and for example, time, again." she said, regaining her composure.
Ayna turned white eyes on her. #No. I mean you love him. You don't want to lose him. Again.
#I may be twelve years old, but even I can see that. I'm not blind.#
Amanda tried to derail the conversation all too close to her own thoughts of a few scant seconds ago. "Why should it be anything like that? I was simply thinking on what Albert might be discussing with your father."
#He's not my dad.#
Amanda almost stopped short. "Not? Then how ?" Her gesture took in Dominic, Ayna, Xeffy, and any members of their family she still hadn't met. "Then... who is he to you?"
"Now I'm confused. First you say he's your father, then not. Are you adopted?" It would explain a lot of things, Amanda considered.
#Kind of. Er... okay. Imagine that somewhere else in time, things went differently like a butterfly flapping its wings here, not here, or someone crossing the road a few seconds too late, or a bullet missing the target and things change from that point on. A whole new universe.#
"But that's ridiculous! Every little change can't make that much difference not on a universal scale! Why, the energy needed alone !"
#We're not in continuity any more...# Ayna hummed, grinning wickedly. #Outside, anything is possible.
#I'm from a different universe, yeah. A more sinister one. Not a mirror universe... more like a shadow universe. Things there go... in a darker direction than here.
#Everyone here exists there at least, as far as I know. Most of them are darker over there, some are brighter... and some are about the same.# Ayna smiled humourlessly. #Like me and Xeffy.
#Even if we don't look it.#
The penny dropped.
Vistas opened before Amanda.
Oh, what this meant, what she could do... what could be set down, for future generations, the ideas and concepts...
"You are Xeffy." she whispered. "You are her. And Dominic is your father but not this world's Dominic."
#He's a better dad than the guy who says he is.# Ayna's voice dripped with venom. #He couldn't even come and see what'd happened when the little Hades-spawn went and got herself lost, oh no. He'd have to tear himself away from those damn books first, and we can't have that.#
The anger in her voice took Amanda aback.
"How did you get here?" she risked.
#Xeffy called me.#
Amanda stopped in her tracks.
#She called me.# Ayna continued. #That's the Siren gift, what it's all about. Calling. Summoning.
#She called me here, to her world and I accepted.
#And I met her family my family, the way they could have been. The way they were, here.
#And when my family finally showed up to find out what'd happened to me, they basically told me to piss off.
#First time I ever agreed with something they said.#
"All right," Amanda said firmly, "all right, but I know my Classics, and not even a Siren's voice could do that sort of thing."
#Welcome to Sirens version 2.0.# Ayna told her. #Xeffy and I talked about this. It's been over three thousand years since the original Sirens. Things change over time new ideas, new concepts, getting mixed into the original. The originals were predators and what they did was the way a predator would do things, luring in their prey.
#But we're human that's how we've lived. We're not predators first we're people. Well, kids. Well, you get the idea.#
"I... think so." Amanda finally said. "I must admit, I had been thinking that those wings might be a particularly outré fashion accessory for a while..."
#These?# Ayna tweaked at a wingtip. #Oh yeah. Look good, feel good, and what's more, they actually work.#
It says something about Amanda's state of mind at this point that she didn't point out the various aerodynamical impossibilities this would entail after all, once one has seen a thirty-foot dragon take to the air, a five-foot winged girl is peanuts in comparison.
"Now wouldn't that be a surprise for the Luftwaffe..." Amanda said, chuckling at the thought. "And as for our boys..."
Ayna perked up. #Are any of them cute?#
"Ayna, let me tell you now: You'd have boys lining up to eat out of your hand. You'd have them practically rioting to sign your dance card. You'd be the veritable belle of the ball."
Amanda nodded. "Really. Though when it came to the first coming-out do I attended, things were a little more explosive than the norm..."
#You came out? But you're married.#
Amanda paused. "I think we may be talking at cross-purposes here... Tell you what. You don't tell me what you thought I meant, and I'll tell you what a coming-out do used to be."
"Wonderful. Now, as I said, things were rather explosive..."
The rebels (technically the Agents of Freedom) convened.
Well, Charley gave a report on their mental stability while Imran tried to have Danel executed. Allie took him aside, and had a short conversation with him, during which she explained the values of morality, compassion, and using people as human shields later (I said she wasn't very nice).
Despite their best attempts, the Odd(er) Trio didn't work, especially when one of them wanted to discuss attack plans, and the use of torture to extract information from guards.
Danel lurked and smoked.
Yokoi was a source of some small upset to Gordon in her rather unusual mental state, and Katherine's enthusiasm was somewhat off-putting. Before you could say "No, stop! We need a plan!" the escapees minus Charley had took off for the base, deciding that a quick raid-and-assassination might work if the monkeys didn't realise ("Thanks to citizen duck!" the sane ones recognised the description, and breathed a sigh of relief) that they had yet escaped.
In the sudden calm, Sailor Gallifrey, Gordon and Charley found themselves with little to do except explore the plot. After Charley had explained what she knew Danel's link to Ingo and the SKoLDs involvement Sailor Gallifrey was able to slot a few more pieces into place.
Allie watched Imran and Danel cautiously regardless of her words to Imran earlier, she wasn't prepared to let his ludicrous rivalry their mission.
Too much had already been sacrificed for that nothing could stand in their way now.
Except, apparently for a ridiculous 'magic shield' Danel had contemptuously explained the concept, but Allie cared little for filthy monkey technology.
She was interested when Danel suggested he might be able to break through. Then when Imran ordered him, he refused.
Imran paled with rage. "I ordered you, you little shite. If you don't break the barrier, right now, I'll have you shot for "
"And who'd break the barrier then, you prick? You think you can threaten me just because I'm unarmed don't think I didn't miss you carefully not giving me a gun at base but what can you do to me?
"Wait, there is one thing.
"Say 'please', Imran."
Imran's nostrils flared. "This is outright insubordination..."
"Oh, shut up. You know, I think you need a little help allow me to demonstrate. What I just did was 'disobeying orders'. I wouldn't call it insubordination." He turned to aside for a second, then casually said "pass me your gun, for a moment, Katherine? Thanks." He turned back to Imran, then moving almost to quick for Allie to follow, hit Imran with the gun with devastating force. Imran was unconscious almost instantly. "Now, that's insubordination. Understand the distinction now?"
Allie stepped forward, mouth open to start issuing orders, but Danel cut her off instantly. "No, does anyone else wish to argue with Mr. Gun? I can restrain him for a while, but it's difficult. He's liable to go off with no warning, he has no regard for rank...
"What will happen now is that I'll go to see my friend Ingo. Have a nice little chat, introduce him to my new friend Mr. Gun." He grinned savagely. "It'll be a party. But none of you are invited, so just toddle back to your little rebel camp with your sodding 'leader' and tell them that, okay?"
You know the bit in Buffy, at the end of Series 5, where Glory just hits that magic barrier and it breaks open? Well, Danel did that with the forcefield, and the fact that Glory isn't exactly the stablest of role models should have been a warning. It wasn't.
"I think I'm beginning to understand..." explained Sailor Gallifrey. "If Ingo was produced by the SKoLD from Danel, there should indeed be a link between them. Let's think of it as an elastic band, shall we? A multi-dimensional elastic band. First, it comes from the SKoLD, and connected to Danel in the middle goes to Ingo.
"Now, that's about as tight as the elastic band was ever designed to go, but it then gets stretched again this time to another point, this worldlet.
"The elastic band is something of a faulty metaphor, because the links in it are as important as the band itself. If the SKoLD is stopped, this worldlet will cease to exist, neatly... if we find a way to stop the worldlet, it won't damage the SKoLD... but the middle links...
"If Danel is killed, Ingo loses his connection to the SKoLD. There is no way any of us could take the whiplash. The worldlet would be wiped out along with all of us in it.
"But it's just as bad if any of us kill Ingo, because Danel won't be able to control the worldlet on his own a 'full' writer would have problems, and not only is Danel not himself at the moment but he also lacks a muse. Unless we can solve both of these, killing Ingo would be disastrous it would burn out Danel's mind, and then the worldlet would be wiped out..."
"... along with everyone in it." Gordon finished. "But I don't think it'll come to that I very much doubt any of them will get to Ingo before the SKoLD is shut down how bad can it be?"
Danel moved silently and swiftly through the base like a hunting animal, grinning a feral grin.
Before nightfall, he would have destroyed that monkey-scum Ingo... ... or died trying.
"You had to say that, didn't you?" Alryssa sighed. "Imran and Allie manage to make Bonnie and Clyde look sane, Yokoi thinks she's a rabbit, and Katherine's... I don't know what's with her..."
"A good thing then that the Protean one seemeth unaware of her gift." Fastolf commented. "For I would not care to see what face she would bring to bear..."
~He means Allie doesn't know she's a shapeshifter.~ Silence translated.
"Er..." Ruthie said, "just out of curiosity, which season Spike was Danel?"
"Does it matter?"
"Well... it depends. The earlier he is, the more dangerous he's going to be... there was a reason he was called Spike. Railroad spikes through people's heads...?"
"They wouldn't..." Gordon trailed off. "Oh cruk. Psycho Imran."
"Psycho Imran with an ego." Alryssa corrected. "Imran's not usually that egotistical."
"And Allie's usually not that ever so slightly disturbingly polite..." Gordon finished fatalistically.
"If we could break the Trousers' control..." Alryssa muttered. "Break that, and you break the guys free of their perspective. That, or we find Danel a Muse..."
~Somehow, I don't think he's in the mood.~ Silence signed.
The door opened.
The little group looked up.
Katherine and Yokoi carried the unconscious Imran in, followed by Allie.
"Oh no..." Alryssa whispered. "Oh no. Danel "
"Our resident traitor has decided to launch a one-man attack on the Evil Dictator." Allie said. "And I wish him the best of luck."
"We've got to stop him." Alryssa said.
"We?" Allie shrugged. "Let him try. If he loses no great loss. If he succeeds... well, the rebellion can always use a martyr."
Charley slapped Allie across the face.
"Or two." Allie said, rubbing her cheek.
"TIME FREEZING!" Alryssa yelled, rainbow light spilling from her staff.
Once the glare had dimmed, they could see that Allie, Katherine, and Yokoi had frozen.
"Takes a bit out of me..." Alryssa gasped. "But we've got to find Danel before this wears off and Bonnie and Clyde here come after us."
"And Donald." Ruthie said. "If Donald's here, then Paul's nearby."
~Hm. They said they met Donald in the base.~ Silence signed. ~Which must mean ~
"That the door outside is in the base grounds." Alryssa finished. "All roads lead to the base..."
"Hold on..." Charley said. "Hold on. I'm getting a headache... why am I getting a headache?"
Alryssa paused. "Wait a minute..." She stepped closer to the frozen Allie and winced. "Goddess! That hurt!"
"Why? What is it?"
Alryssa rubbed her temples. "Whatever the Trousers're doing to skew the perceptions here, it's more intense around them. Like a swarm of bees..."
"Yet as far as mine limited eyes can perceive, only Imran doth wear trousers." Fastolf said. "And they do not seem of Spectral Uncertainty, whatsoever that may be."
"I don't know... They're not the trousers we're looking for, but..." Alryssa considered. "What colour are they?"
~Shiny black.~ Silence signed.
Ruthie shook her head. "No, coal-black."
"Actually, they're more sorta like a mucky black colour." Gordon said.
"It's the clothes, isn't it." Charley said. "The clothes are doing this to them. Skewing their perceptions."
Alryssa nodded. "Yep. Which suggests one very obvious way to break them of it."
"Alryssa, are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Gordon wondered.
"If it involves bouncy castles, whipped cream, and curvy female ninja, probably not."
Silence raised a hand. ~Can I just say I am not volunteering to strip them?~
Alryssa looked around. "This is a secret rebels' base. They've gotta have blankets somewhere."
"Unless you want to see a naked Imran."
"I'm looking, I'm looking."
Blankets were found.
"Er... don't you think they're gonna be embarrassed when they snap out of it?"
"It's either embarrassed or psycho."
"Shall I proceed to unveil Imran, for the nakedness of humanity is naught to me, who cares not for such things."
"Yeah, right... Just let us close our eyes first."
"I'll do Allie." Ruthie said. "And Gordon, keep your eyes closed."
"Sheesh. I'm not that weird."
"There, done." Ruthie said. "How are we doing for time? Can we get Katherine and Yokoi done?"
"Well, the Time Freeze always cuts out at some suitably appropriate time, so "
At that point, Imran and Allie blinked their eyes open, looked down at the blankets covering their bodies, looked over at the blanket covering the other one
and bolted straight upright.
" probably right about now." Alryssa concluded pointlessly.
"...Are we dreaming?"
"I really, really hope so."
~Hey, guys, look at this! Allie's got a tattoo on her back!~
"GET OUT OF THERE!!" Allie shrieked. "SILENCE NO HENTAI!!"
Silence turned to Gordon. ~What did she say?~
"Don't ask. Or Allie's going to kill us." Gordon said.
"Did it work?" Ruthie asked nervously.
"Did what work?" Imran clutched his head. "Aaaagghhh... so that's a hangover..."
Allie rubbed her cheek. "Must have been one Hades of a party... I got slapped, and I don't even know what I said..."
"It worked." Charley said.
"Er..." a confused Katherine said. "What just happened? And why are Allie and Imran both stark naked on the table?"
"Long story." Alryssa said. "But the Agents of Freedom are under new management."
Allie and Imran blinked. "The who?"
"Okay. You were made to think you were the leaders of a rebel group. These two here " Charley indicated the baffled (and still influenced) Katherine and Yokoi, "are your loyal rebels, while Danel's usurped your leadership and gone on a solo mission to kill the Evil Dictator Ingo."
"Okay..." Allie said. "Just one thing..."
"Could you explain that again? In words of less than a syllable?"
"No time. We've got to stop Danel before he does something stupid."
Where are you, you little bastard... Danel thought. Come out, come out, wherever you are. Uncle Danel wants to play Shoot The Monkey...
He ducked around a corner as a bluetenant passed.
Couldn't be far now...
Ingo, le singe bleu, marched into the wardrobe room, where the Trousers of Spectral Uncertainty glowed on their hanger. (Why risk yourself when you have minions to take the risks for you?)
Ingo, in his chittering monkey language, informed the Trousers of the success of his mission to capture the control room.
The Trousers replied (in trouser language, what else?) that truly Ingo was the greatest of monkeys, and suggested that perhaps he could now turn his attention to the door of the lounge room.
Ingo pointed out that, as ruler of the world, he had no need to take suggestions from an article of clothing.
The Trousers acknowledged that this was, of course, the case, even when said article of clothing was maintaining the reality distortion that allowed Ingo to remain ruler of the world.
Ingo, after considering this a moment, announced that he had decided to take an army to the lounge room in search of any red or green monkeys that might be lurking about.
The Trousers agreed that this was an excellent plan, and asked humbly how he had managed to think of it.
Ingo replied loftily that, as a blue monkey, he naturally possessed an awesomely superior intellect; the which he then demonstrated by heading off to marshal the attack on the lounge room door.
Paul hid behind a conveniently-parked police box as the door to the Pro-fun Barn began to open. He emerged cautiously when Donald came out.
"How did it go?"
Donald told him.
"A bunny outfit?" Paul asked, when Donald got to that bit. "Like what all the young women wear in the pictures of Hugh Hefner's house?"
"More like what Anya wore in that Halloween episode of 'Buffy'," said Donald. "And she said, 'On behalf of the rabbit people I salute an ally.'"
"So," said Paul, "either she thinks she really is a rabbit, or she's become a member of furry fandom. I'm not sure which is more disturbing. Go on."
"They're obviously all in serious trouble," said Paul, when he'd finished. "If only there was some way I could sneak past the guards and go help them."
"No need," said Donald cheerfully. "Most of the monkeys have been called off to help attack a door."
"Why a door?"
"Don't know. Maybe there's something valuable behind it. From their lack of progress when I went past, they'll be there a while. And in the meantime, there's only two monkeys guarding this door."
"Right-ho. Just give me a moment to get the toolkit out of your TARDIS."
"Got something in mind for the energy barrier?"
"Well, that," said Paul, "and something else..."
The two door guards turned as the new monkey with orange nose came back in.
"Come out here, quickly," he said. "There's something you have to see."
The guards, in accordance with an ancient and venerable law of the universe, looked at each other, shrugged, and followed the new monkey out into the car park, where Paul did to them what Grace Holloway did to the Doctor in the control room.
"That's them sorted," Paul said. "Now, let's have a look at this door they're so keen on monkeying about with."
The band ring tessering through the party in sequence had arrived at one that only did slow songs. Merlin and Nimue were dancing and Guenevere had rolled her eyes and gone to replenish the snack table, leaving Arthur and Lancelot flowering the wall with drinks in their hands.
The band went into 'Torn Between Two Lovers'.
"I hate this song," said Arthur.
"Is ..." Lancelot seemed to be choking on his Altair water. "Is, er, that so?"
Arthur nodded. "Know the lyrics of the chorus?
"'Torn between two lovers|
"'Feelin' like a fool
"'Loving both of you
"'Is breaking all the rules
"There's a mere near-rhyme there when it didn't have to be settled for. If the last line were just changed to 'Is breaking every rule' it'd be perfect. But, no."
"Atrocious," said Lancelot.
"Other than that, it's an all right little song. Meaningful. You feel for her. Say, we never did learn where Morgan's gone, did we?"
"Eloise or Imran'll find her," Lancelot said.
Again, it only took a few beats of her wings for Sweetheart to rise above the canopy of the forest, and as before, Eloise wondered just how much was actual flight, and how much was the perception of flight.
Eloise peered over the white dragon's shoulder, hoping to see a telltale pattern of shadow or movement.
"I don't see them, do you, Cameron? Danik?"
"Um, n-no... I don't think so."
"I see no one, fair lady either friend or foe."
Then, something caught her eye something white, and shiny... And then she recognized it the white boulder around which they had all been gathered when she and Sweetheart returned from the "hunt".
"Land there, please, Sweetheart," she said. I want to have a closer look there is something about it..."
The white dragon alighted deftly beside the stone, and Eloise slid to the ground, Danik and Cameron following cautiously behind.
The stone appeared blank, at first or at least, blank of any message. Like any sedimentary boulder, it was flecked with white and grey, and in a few places here and there flecks of glittering mica showed in the afternoon sun. But as she approached, the flecks shifted themselves, forming letters and words as if for her benefit alone
AN HONEST MAN, A FALSEHOOD-HATING FELLOW
IS BANNED AND BARRED FROM THE HARSH PRISON.
"That's funny," Eloise said. "I'm sure it said something different before. "But, Oh! Now I remember when you read in your dreams, the words change everytime you look at them. And with the SKoLD opening up Sweetheart's subconscious, it's like she's dreaming!" Eloise leaned in closer to get a closer look at this remarkable stone, resting her fingertips on its edge. And pulled back, startled. "Oh!"
She had expected it to be rough beneath her skin, and warmed by the idea of the sun that shone here. Instead it was smooth, and cool.
"Wait a minute! I recognize this!" She traced a forefinger over the surface, and the words shifted out of existence, like grains of colored sand.
Sweetheart made a low rumble in her throat, and her hide twitched, as if she were being brushed by the wings of flies.
"Yes! I was right!"
"About what? asked Cameron.
"This is Sweetheart's secondary console!"
"I don't remember there being a console in the lounge," he said.
"There isn't... but we don't know the boundaries of this worldlet we may have been wandering corridors and not even know it." She turned to the dragon. "I'd like to try and restore some manual control from here," she said. "May I, Sweetheart?"
Sweetheart shook her mane and tossed her head in what Eloise could only interpret as a "I thought you'd never ask!" gesture.
Smiling, Eloise turned back to the boulder, and felt around its surface. "Just like everything else here," she said, "the switches and knobs have been disguised to match... and it's been a long time since I used it... I hope I remember its layout. Hm. Where should I start?"
"How about," Cameron suggested, a 'You are here' feature that's what we need right now to know where we are, and where we want to be."
"Righto, Cam! Thanks!"
And while the others peered concentrated on finding just that thing, trading "why don't you try that"s, Cameron finally figured out how to tighten the waist of his hose.
"Got it!" Eloise said at last. She flicked a fingernail against the edge of the boulder, and something that looked like a cross between a map and a wiring diagram shifted and flickered into view.
"...Oh wait maybe I don't, after all... the energy patterns are All wrong. The area on the map that is supposed to represent the main console room is showing up as a mahoosive energy drain, and the energy showing up in the wardrobe of all places is spiking off the charts! I must've flipped a switch when I should have twisted a knob..."
Sweetheart clawed the ground impatiently, her voice an odd mixture of whine and growl.
"You mean," the troll said, turning to her, "that this is accurate?!"
"Why didn't you tell me?!" Then Eloise remembered: "Telepathic silence!" she said, thunking her forehead. "You poor thing! I'll take care of this right away though we may have to do it in the old-fashioned disconnecting-the-wires sort of way...but first, let me make sure I've got our bearings.
"The lounge, is right about here... if I can reduce the amount of power flowing to that area by just the right amount, I should be able to slow the SKoLD's power-up without actually rebooting it. I can send the extra power into a forcefield around the wardrobe, and contain whatever weirdness is causing that spike (I must've reversed the polarity of the neutron flow when I tried to bake a soufflé and devil's food at the same time this morning sorry about that). And I'll just shut off the main console entirely, for now, since no one can get there to use it..."
She felt along the side of the boulder until something clicked.
The top of the stone came loose, like the hood of a car coming unlatched. Lifting it up, Eloise revealed a mass of wires, tubes, and transformers, and then proceeded to climb over the lip, so that she was half in and half out, her feet dangling over the side like Pooh's legs sticking out of the rabbit hole.
She hummed and chittered the whole time, giving herself instructions on what to do, presumably, but none of the others could quite hear her.
"There!" She said, climbing out. "That should do it!" She slammed the top of the console shut again, and checked the display. "Yup everything back to normal... or as normal as it ever is during a Hoedown. ...Now, to pull up the "you are here, and they are there" feature..."
Little did she know that at that moment, the evil minions of the Spectral Trousers stopped being minions, and went back to being ordinary laundry, and 3 hundred blue nazi monkeys flickered out of existence. This left Ingo very annoyed, and all the guests with painful hangovers.
"Uh-oh..." Alryssa said.
The others skidded to a halt.
"What is it?" Imran said.
Alryssa shook her head. "I don't know... The buzzing's gone. Our perceptions are no longer being skewed."
" WHAT THE HELL?!" Katherine shrieked.
"Waow! Fancy dress!" Yokoi bubbled.
"And someone's just shut down the main console..."
"Which means...?" Imran said, blanket wrapped around him toga-fashion.
"SKoLD Ingo Danel." Alryssa thought out loud. "This won't shut down the worldlet it's not getting power from the main console. If I knew what function the console had here..."
"Has anyone noticed there seem to be far fewer monkeys around?" Ruthie said.
"The deputy hath the right of it, now I think on't. Seemeth to me that we have seen none of the azure simians..."
"Hmm... I have the feeling someone was using the console's power to generate the monkeys..." Alryssa said. "Which means someone outside's doing this."
"Probably from the secondary console." Allie had morphed back into her Edwardian dress at the first available opportunity. "Someone's just given us a massive leg-up... but Danel's still out there, and he's still armed..."
"And if he's found a way out of the worldlet..." Charley said, a familiar sinking feeling in her stomach.
The small group looked at each other, and ran for it.
Donald blinked. "Now that's interesting."
"You mean the way the monkeys all flickered out of existence, the little one in an SS uniform started screaming as if someone had taken all his bananas, and stomped off looking like he wanted to tear someone to shreds?" Paul inquired. "I thought so, too. Now, let's get a closer look at that door..."
Danel wasn't entirely sure where he was.
Danel wasn't entirely sure who he was.
All he was sure of was that he had a gun in his hand.
And he could hear someone chittering.
In a moment of unusual lucidity, he headed in the direction that, as best he could judge, led away from the chittering.
Ingo, le singe bleu, hurled simian imprecations at the traitorous trousers that had, he was sure, removed his blue army at the very moment he was on the verge of triumph, and which was now cowering behind a powerful force-field, where he couldn't get at it to tear it apart as it so richly deserved.
Inside the wardrobe room, the Trousers of Spectral Uncertainty observed that the disappearance of the Blue Klux Klan had been the result of outside interference and the appearance of the force-field. It had made this observation fifteen times in the last three minutes, to no noticeable effect.