Then, a voice.
'Are you _sure_ we're in the right place?'
The voice that responds, when it comes, is female and harassed. 'Of _course_ I'm sure. This is where the map said it'd be, _okay?!_'
The first voice, younger, male, and slightly squeaky, comes back with 'Yeah... but this doesn't look like they described it in the fanfic...'
'And how would _you_ know? You've never been in a pub in your life!'
'I _have_!' First Voice replies.
'Oh yeah? When?'
'You saw one on TV, didn't you...' Second Voice realises. 'Oh dear _God_... Okay. Okay. You look round the back, see if you can find a way in; I'll stay here, see if I can jimmy one of the windows open...'
'Why don't we try the door?' First Voice suggests.
'Don't be ridiculous. What kind of pub would leave its door...' Second's voice trails off as the door swings open. '...open.' She glances at First quickly, to see if he's worked out what she's worked out.
'Woo. That was lucky, wasn't it?'
Blessed are the idiots, for they shall not see the bloody obvious. She grabs him by the shoulder and whispers in his ear. 'It's a _trap_! Come on, do you really think _they'd_ make it that easy?!'
'Hold on... How did they know we were coming? I mean, we only planned this two days ago...' First points out reasonably.
'They have eyes _everywhere_, remember!!'
'What, even in your...' First trails off into a thoughtful silence.
Second shoots him a dark look. '_No._ There's no _way_ they could get in there.'
'So if that's the case,' First says. 'then this can't be a trap, can it? 'Cause they don't know we're coming.' He beams, proud of his logic.
'It could be a trap for someone _else_...'
'Oh yeah? Like who?'
'_I_ don't know...'
'Well, while you're trying to work that one out,' First retorts. 'I'm going in.'
'Mick! Mick, come back here, you bloody idiot...' Second trails off as her partner walks inside. She waits for the screaming to start. Yep, he's young, and yep, he's an idiot, but even _he_ doesn't deserve what the Author Mafia are going to do to him. She's heard the stories - stories of terrifying, mindwarping atrocities against innocent characters, the most vicious tortures the human mind can conceive, the twisting and mutilation of history, the power of life or death over billions at their fingertips.
They _must_ be stopped.
Seconds pass. Slowly, she begins to realise that there's no screaming. He actually _made_ it?
Mick pokes his head out of the door. 'Are you coming then?'
Second looks to the skies. Blessed are the idiots, for they shall avoid life-threatening danger. Nevertheless, she follows him in.
Inside, it's pitch-black, even darker than outside. The two silent figures move stealthily through the darkness, as if it were their natural environment.
'Ow! Hey, where'd that table come from?'
'Lis? You there?'
'I'm over _here_, Mick...'
'Right. Just keep - owww!! - talking - oooff!!- I'll - aaahhhh!!- find my way - what _have_ I stepped in?! - there...'
'What are you doing?'
'Who said that?' Lisa asks nervously
'Wasn't me.' Mick replies.
Lisa swallows. She has a very bad feeling about this...
'I did. What are you doing?'
'WHO SAID THAT?!!?' Mick yells.
The light clicks on. The two would-be ninjas look around them.
Sitting on the floor in front of them is a veritable horde of toddlers, all of them bearing a marked resemblance to Who characters. And all of them staring at the pair silently.
The little boy in the patchwork coat pulls the bottle of milk out of his mouth. 'I did. And I would very much like to know what you're doing in _our_ day care centre at three in the morning.'
'Sh-shouldn't you be a-asleep?' Lisa manages to stammer out.
The little boy shrugs. 'We're toddlers. We get to _choose_ when we sleep. No matter how inconvenient it is for you.' he adds, his voice conveying that he knows _exactly_ how inconvenient it is. 'So... _what do you want?_'
'Umm... Sorry... Wrong out of continuity place...' Mick babbles. 'Must have taken a left when we should have taken a right...'
The little girl with ginger hair and blonde streaks (and a Star Trek T-shirt) stares at them, pulls the Chewbacca figure out of her mouth and announces 'They're ninjas.'
'Izzy...' the boy in the question mark pullover warns.
'But they are!' Izzy protests. 'They've got the costumes an' everything!'
Lisa and Mick suddenly find themselves the focus of a great deal more attention.
'And from his babbling, we can conclude they wanted This Time Round instead...' the little boy in the pullover speculates.
'Great going, genius...' Lisa snaps at Mick.
'Toddlers _scare_ me,' Mick protests.
'They're _toddlers_, what can they do?!' Lisa scoffs nervously.
A silent Izzy passes the toybox over to the boy in the patchwork coat. He holds it in his hands.
The two ninjas start backing away.
Both of them nearly leap out of their skins. Behind them, standing in the doorway, is a teenage girl, with ginger hair and blonde streaks, in a Red Dwarf nightshirt.
'Nice sister you've got there... You are her sister, right...?' Mick trails off nervously.
'You _might_ say that,' the teenager says. 'I'm Izzy S. I help out around here.'
'Umm...' Mick says. But Izzy is blocking the door out, and the toddlers are blocking the door at the other end of the room.
'We're _ninjas_!' Lisa hisses. 'How come we're so scared of a teenage girl and a bunch of babies?'
'Y'know,' Izzy says conversationally, 'there're a lot of perks to helping 'round here. Free lunches, regular wage, company motorcycle, fully paid sick leave...'
She pulls a baseball bat out of thin air. '...And then you get to do stuff like this.'
Lisa's jaw drops. 'How the _hell_ did you do _that_?!'
'C'mon, Lis. You never watch anime? Teenage girls _always_ get to do that. Well, that or the mallet thing. Or the sign thing....' Mick says in the voice of one who has seen far too much anime for his friends' comfort. 'Of course, it usually means whoever's on the other end's going to get pounded senseless...' He trails off as his brain catches up with his mouth.
'You're an otaku?' Izzy puts the baseball bat on the floor. 'So what'd you think of Perfect Blue?'
'Well...' Mick begins. Lisa slaps him across the head. 'This is _not_ the time, Mick! We're _screwed_! Totally!! Or hadn't you noticed?!'
The toddlers look at each other. 'Hmm. So...' Sixth Doc muses.
'Yes.' Seventh Doc says. 'After all, you really have to admire _this_ level of incompetence...'
'Hmm. You know, I think there's a guy who'd _really_ like to meet you...' Baby Adric thinks out loud.
'_Exactly_.' Sixth says. He opens the toybox, rummages around, and pulls a ring out. The ring has an inverted triangle on it, with an eye in the middle. Almost absently, Sixth says 'This is a Threshold ring. It opens a window in space to anywhere, or anyone, the user concentrates on.'
Lisa and Mick watch the ring, hypnotised.
'You'll be able to get back for a sequel,' Sixth continues. 'Well... you _should_ be...'
He raises the ring, and concentrates.
When they're gone, Fifth blinks. 'You know, they never _did_ say what they wanted with the Adults...'
'Oh, they wanted to steal the Author Mafia's plans for the series.' baby Mel says.
The others stare at her. Eventually, baby Fitz says 'Okay... how in the name of the great cookie maker did you know _that_?!'
Baby Mel gestures to her Fisher-Price First Computer. 'They're on Usenet. Alt.fan.ninjas.'
'Oh my _God_....' Izzy starts grinning despite herself.
'Where'd you send them?' Baby Fitz asks the Sixth Doc.
The Sixth Doc grins.
'And so, your honour, it is my contention that the accused, Bradley Keith Willis, was acting perfectly within his rights, after the two plaintiffs erased his copies of 'The Feminine Mistake', parts 4 and 5, to exact redress by making them watch 'Manos: The Hands of Fate' on perpetual loop.'
'And how long were the aforementioned pieces of fan-fiction?'
'In the region of 270 KB each, your honour.'
'The accused is found not guilty. The plaintiffs pay court costs.'
The two plaintiffs whisper to each other. 'This is _your_ fault!'.
'I was dazed, _okay_?! Spatial windows _do_ that to you... It wasn't _my_ fault they got erased...'
'Oh yeah? And _then_ you had to throw up on his keyboard... And _we're_ the ones who brought charges?!'
'I thought we had a case...'
'Not with frigging Manos, you twonk! 'Plan 9 from Outer Space,' yeah, but _not_ Manos!'
Their voices trail into the distance.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat