Izzy didn't look up. Only one person called her Isabelle.
'Hi, Charley. Sit down...'
Charley sat. 'Are you... alright?'
Izzy looked up with a sad smile on her face. 'Yeah, I suppose I am. Y'know... I wasn't expecting this. I thought... never mind. I wasn't expecting Kroton to be the Adversary, to be...'
Charley's brow furrowed. 'To be what?'
Izzy's eyebrows raised. 'You haven't been reading the strip, have you?'
Charley blushed. 'Sorry. I've been trying to understand the Adric/Nyssa situation...'
'Don't bother,' Izzy advised. '_We've_ been trying to work it out for the last couple years, and we still don't know what's with them... Anyway,' she continued. 'it went down on Paradost...'
'Kay. If I've got this right... (Izzy began)... at the centre of _all_ the multiverses is the Glory.
The Glory is... well, it keeps the spectrum of multiverses, the whole Omniverse, going.
Yeah. It keeps _everything_ going.
And if it dies, so does everything else...
Okay... lemme think... _It_ isn't alive... but it needs a living mind to keep it going. And the mind inside gets their lifespan extended to near-immortality...
..but they _do_ die.
Okay... And when that happens... Two Adversaries, equal and opposite, must fight to decide who becomes the next inheritor. The next Glory.
Yeah. That's _exactly_ what it means. Sort of like 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture'.
I'll show you later. Prefer 'Star Trek IV', myself...
And _this_ time... The Doctor and the Master had been found as the Adversaries.
_This_ time... one becomes the Glory.
The other dies.
You noticed. He's still around...
...but he's not the Glory.
He's not dead, either...
...because they _weren't_ the Adversaries.
_Kroton_ was the Adversary. Along with... he _used_ to be a samuari. Katsura Sato. We - me and the Doctor - we made him immortal.
And... Kroton won. Because of me. Of what I did. I... made him remember. Remember _before_ he became a Cyberman...
He never wanted it.
Both, I suppose. His past... _or_ the role...
So he's... at the centre... but also, at the same time, everywhere _else_...
He... he said... He said his wife's name was Shailla...
Charley shook her head. 'I... I...'
Izzy looked at her sadly. 'He won't be back. That was... part of what happened. After that... you _don't_ come back... We'll have his past versions... and his alternates... but _he's_ gone...'
'Whooof. Wooo. Oo.' Anji shook herself down. 'That's _better_...'
Then she noticed Fitz's expression. He looked... well, he looked _boggled_, in fact. Much like she did when Davy started ranting about coverups.
Anji stopped mid-thought.
Davy? Who was Davy?
And why was the name Rezaul bouncing around in her head, when she thought ofhim?
Her _brother's_ name. Rezaul.
But a moment ago... she hadn't remembered a thing about him.
What was going _on_?
Her reverie was interrupted by an intake of breath.
'Yeah, Fitz?' she said absently, still lost in memory.
'You might... might wanna... take a look in a mirror...' Fitz still had the boggled expression on his face. 'Whoa. And I thought only _Sam_ changed that fast...'
Anji took the pocket mirror out of her handbag and clicked it open.
Her face was _shifting_, morphing into...
...Into something new. But also familiar to her. Not _familiar_ - _more_ than familiar. As taken for granted as a leg, or a finger. Features she'd seen every day of her life - but that she hadn't _had_ until a few seconds ago.
From the vague Anglo-Asian outline to...
...medium height. Not _tall_, just... medium. Well-dressed. Black hair worn in a short bob, surrounding attractive features. Brown eyes, light brown skin...
...and it stopped.
Anji looked at herself. Her _body_. She'd grown up with it - every spot, every scar, every teenage pimple was still there, still part of its memory... but... but... she hadn't even _looked_ like this until...
'I thought you were in your mid-twenties...' Fitz murmured.
'I _am_.' Anji whispered. 'I look younger than... than... I am... What... What _was_ that?'
'Hey, guys...' Stacy's voice trailed off as she took in the duo sitting in the booth. 'Oh my God...'
'Anji? You okay?' Fitz's expression was one of concern.
'Yeah... Yeah.... Just... Just have to adjust...'
'Um... You might want to see this...' Stacy said, now with a boggled expression on _her_ face.
Stacy led the way to the computer room, and to one particular terminal in particular, where Anji and Fitz saw...
'Ye _gods_...' Anji said.
'Gordon _Christ_,' Fitz muttered.
'I _remember_ this... I remember _all_ of this... Oh my...'
'It was put up today,' Stacy whispered. 'Few minutes or so back...'
'Your bio. Your "fact sheet",' Fitz said. 'Looks like we're in for the long haul on this one...'
Anji sat down with a *whumph*. 'You mean... _this_ is how it goes? How we get changed?'
'Err... Well, there's usually a bit more 'in-story' reason, but um... yeah.' Fitz shuffled embarrassedly. '_We_ change when the Author Mafia release new changes. And new stories,' he added hastily.
'Oh *f-' Anji began.
'Don't say it! Don't say it!!' Fitz said hurriedly. He looked around. 'I _think_ we got away with it...'
'How powerful _are_ the Author Mafia?' Anji practically shrieked.
'Um... I _think_ I know the answer to that one...' Izzy was standing in the doorway of the room. 'I think... for us, anyway... they're more powerful than God...'
'Yeah... but God - or Kroton, or the Universe, or Whoever - _God_ has a sense of humour...' Fitz said. He looked around again. 'Not to say the _Mafia_ don't... but theirs is a bit more... hardcore...'
Charley had followed Izzy into the room. 'What happens if they hear us insult them?'
'Read the stories...' the others chorused gloomily.
Stacy's eye had been caught by another terminal. 'Oh. Oh dear. Um... Anyone up for being brainwashed, imprisoned, tortured, and generally laughed at and mocked by overbearing megalomaniacs?'
'No, not really...' Fitz said fatalistically. 'But we probably will be...'
The terminal's screen went blank, the fan whirred out, and smoke rose from the CPU.
Stacy hit the terminal. Then she hit it again. 'Oh. Probably burned out again...'
'_That_ was lucky,' Anji said suspiciously.
The printer under an active terminal chugged into life. Izzy picked up the printout as it landed in the delivery tray.
'So... what does it say?' Fitz asked worriedly, his fingers crossed behind his back.
' "STOP PRESS: Author Mafia overruled by higher power. Story designed to torture companions now terminated. Spokesperson calls it 'Act of God'. News at 11.
Yours, Kroton." .' Izzy read.
She looked up, tears in her eyes and a big grin on her face. 'There's a PS.'
'Read it, then!' Charley said excitedly.
'All right, all right... "PS: Expect delivery of new poker table and chairs tomorrow. We've needed a new set for _ages_...
PPS: One last gift. Yes, I know it's a small thing, but you'd do the same for me. I can't be _everywhere_... Well, you know what I mean. So no deus ex machina. Sorry. :)
You will always be in my memory, for so long as I live.".'
Fitz broke the silence that followed. 'You know, for some reason....'
'Yeah?' Izzy said, blinking out the tears.
'...I can't think of anything better to say than "Excellent!".'
'Y'know,' Anji said, putting her arms around them both. 'I think he'd appreciate that...'
'You know, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship...' Stacy remarked to no one in particular.
'Sorry?' Charley said.
Izzy's eyebrows raised. 'Oooh boy, are you in for a treat...'
Fitz grinned. 'Play it, Sam...'
'But Sam isn't here,' Charley protested.
'We'll explain on the way...' Anji said. 'First, several boxes of tissues, and lots and lots of popcorn...'
Their voices trailed off.
The printer chugged out one last piece of paper.
There was one sentence on it.
'Here's looking at you, kid. ; ] '
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat