This Time Round (now in the Michelin Guide to Trans-Continuity Hotels, Pubs and Restaurants, available at your nearest 50th century bookstore) has seen many strange forms of travel in its time.
The vehicle pulling up outside now, however, is unique even by the 'Round's standards.
_Most_ vehicles can't be used to sweep floors... (well, bar the Carbrooms of Hygenous 5, but the less said about _them_, the better...)
The broomstick pulled up outside the 'Round's car park.
'.... the world _isn't_ ready for a jet-powered broomstick,' the tall woman with platinum-blonde hair said as she swung her long legs off the broom. Under her breath, she muttered 'And neither am I...'
'But it'd be so _simple_, sis...' the young girl with long black hair sitting behind her said. 'All I'd - you'd have to do would be to attach my Super Banpei Broom Jet Pack Mark 7, and...' She swept her hand around. 'Swoooossshhh...! Think of it! Speeds of up to 300 kilometres an hour!'
'Swooosh...' the tall woman repeated. 'So how would you stop someone falling off?'
The girl looked blank. 'Falling off...?'
Urd sighed. 'Oyyy....'
Opposite This Time Round, there is a hill.
Behind the hill, the landscape slopes away into moorland.
And somewhere in that moorland, there is a river...
Some have claimed the river is the River Lethe, which steals the memories of those who drink from it. Others have claimed it is the River Styx, the River of Death, beyond which the Land of the Dead lies.
And yet *others* have said that people who claim this have been drinking for the past week straight. Nevertheless, there _is_ something odd about this river...
The Sixth Doctor didn't care _what_ people said about the river. As far as _he_ was concerned, it was a good fishing hole... and somewhere to get away from that... that _gaggle_ of companions. Especially Peri...
He tipped the visor of his sunhat and settled back in his deckchair. Just _one_ more hour, then back to the 'Round...
Further down the bank...
Anji had been sitting here for most of the afternoon. She'd seen the sun set behind the moors, the gradual fading of the sky as night fell, the twinkling of the stars overhead...
(which didn't correspond to any constellations Anji knew, now she came to think of it...)
...listening to the gurgling and surging of the river...
She sighed. She'd _needed_ this, deep down. A place to collect herself, relax... and let everything go.
A place to unwind.
A place to watch the clouds drifting overhead...
There was a splash.
Anji looked up.
And saw the Doctor had fallen in. While struggling with the deckchair.
Anji kept a perfectly straight face, and waded in to fish him out.
She'd giggle her head off _later_...
Urd raised her head. 'Wait... There's something on the Web...'
Skuld eeped. 'Mara?' She paused. 'No... Not a demon...'
'Not a goddess...' Urd frowned. 'Feels like... like an _angel_.'
'An angel without a goddess? Yeah, _right_, sis...'
'You questioning my judgment, brat?' Urd snapped.
Skuld considered this. 'Yep.'
Urd's smile was deceptively charming. 'Then let's make a bet. If _you're_ right... you can fit that jet-pack to my broom when we get home. If _I'm_ right... I'll tell Keiichi just _who_ stole his carburettor to make her jet pack...'
Skuld paled. 'You wouldn't _dare_...'
'Fish or cut bait, brat...' Urd strode towards the 'Round's front door.
Skuld looked after her eldest sister. 'I'll get you for this...'
A dripping-wet man carrying a deckchair pushed past her. 'Excuse me, young lady...'
Anji watched the stars wheel overhead.
And shook her head.
She needed somewhere she could gather herself. Relax. Have her own space.
It was ...something of a jolt, after owning your own flat, to suddenly find yourself living out of a dingy bedroom in a pub gods knew where...
She needed somewhere she could be _herself_.
Without thinking, she reached into a jacket and pulled out a piece of paper.
She didn't need to read it.
Planning permission, allowing her to build a house anywhere she chose... A house tailored to _her_ specifications, _her_ desires.
But... she'd never found the right place. Too expensive. Nightmare neighbours. Psycho hoteliers. Underwater. Taken over by cult. Nowhere had seemed right.
'Urd! Hi!' Fitz's expression was cheerfully brittle. 'Here, lemme get that... Hey, Skuld. Big sis bring you along for the ride?'
Before Skuld could respond, Urd stepped in. 'Well... My _other_ sister and her boyfriend had a story come up, and Ukyou wants a word with the brat over her microwave...'
'Hey! Mr. Micro worked perfectly! How was I supposed to know she'd try cooking cricket legs?!' Skuld huffed.
'...so I brought her along for safe-keeping.' Urd flashed an embarrassed smile at Fitz. 'Hope you don't mind...'
'Safe-keeping? Around here?' Fitz raised an ironic eyebrow. '_That'll_ be the day...'
Polly bustled up to them, clipboard in hand. 'Okay... Just need to make sure you've appeared in Who before...'
Fitz facepalmed. 'Oy vey...'
'And no "they've already been in a TTR story". I fell for _that_ one ages ago...'
'Polly... they're with _me_...'
Polly adopted her most stern expression. 'I know, but rules are rules...'
Urd put her hand on Skuld's. 'No Skuld Bomb...'
'Awww...' Skuld's disappointed expression changed to shock. 'Sis... it's _him_!'
Urd paused. And closed her eyes.
And... she could _feel_ the waves of an angel rippling out of him. Faster and faster and-
'Hey!' The tip of Polly's pen exploded in a tiny 'whumph'. She threw it down.'That's it. That. Is. It!'
Fitz tried to calm her down. 'Pol...'
'AND DON'T CALL ME POL!!!'
She burst into tears.
'Polly. Polly... C'mon, it's gonna be okay...' Fitz waved a concerned Ben away for the moment.
Polly buried her face deeper in his shirt. 'Issnot... Keep lying, tricking me... Got locked inna toilet... Only tryina do my job... my job...my job...'
'Polly.' Fitz took her by the shoulders. 'Polly... *Nobody* could have done a better job than you.'
Polly kept sobbing.
'Pol... It's _because_ you do such a good job we do this.'
'_This_ should be good...' Sam remarked to no-one in particular.
Fitz tried to keep eye contact. Keep talking, keep talking... 'Pol... You're _great_ at what you do. Seriously.'
'It's just... We all have friends from other continuities, friends no-one's written a story for, friends we'd really like to invite over to the 'Round... and _because_ you're so diligent, we have to lie to you to get them in...'
'Why not write a crossover for them in the first place?'
Fitz hesitated. 'Because... because, to be honest... I don't know why we need one in the first place...'
Polly's face froze. 'Why do we need a crossover in the first place? Why?'
'Uh-oh...' Skuld said.
Polly planted a big kiss on Fitz's face. 'Fitz... you're a _genius_! Why do we need one in the first place?' She burst out laughing. 'You know... I never thought of that!'
She spun round, hands on hips, to the 'Round at large. 'Right. Listen up. I'm going to make a few changes to the rules around here!'
'Oy... Boss-man not gonna be happy about _this_...' Francois muttered.
'Okay. _You_,' Polly stabbed her finger at the Doctors, 'and _you_,' she stabbed her finger at her fellow companions, 'are going to vouch for each and every crossover in here. And if one of them breaks the rules... one of _you_ is going to pay damages, clear up the mess... _and_ take my job. Got that?!'
General 'aww'ing from Doctors and companions.
Polly gave them her best, sternest, look. '_Got_. _That_?'
There was a chorus of 'Yes, ma'am's.
Polly turned back to Fitz. 'Thank you so _much_, Fitz!' She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. 'I should have done that _ages_ ago! I can't thank you _enough!_...'
'Well, you could try...' Fitz mumbled, rubbing his cheek.
Polly cocked her head, a twinkle in her eye. 'You're a _doll_, you Know that, Fitzie?' With that, she positively *skipped* over to Ben's table, where Ben was sitting with a slackjawed expression on his face.
Fitz rubbed at his cheek again. 'You're welcome...'
General applause from the 'Round at large.
Anji stood up.
And looked at the stars.
'I really hope you're watching, Dave...'
They took their seats.
Fitz raised a hand to order.
Urd blocked it. 'Fitz... that was a good thing you did.'
'Not if the Proprietor finds out who inspired her...' He trailed off. Urd was looking at him.
'Seriously. You did something good for someone else who needed it. For a friend. A lot of people wouldn't have owned up. _I_ wouldn't have owned up.'
'This isn't going to turn into one of those "Ooh, let's explore Fitz's tortured psyche" debates, is it?'
Urd grinned. 'Hey, I get enough emotional catharsis back home...'
'I'm not alone?' Fitz looked at the roof. 'Hallelujah! I'm not alone!!' He looked back at her, grinning. Which faded abruptly.
'Why _did_ you ask me on a date? We've barely even *met*. Not that I'm _complaining_...' Fitz added, casting an eye up and down Urd's body. '...But beautiful women don't exactly walk up to me on the street and ask me for a date...'
'Or zap you with a lightning bolt and _then_ ask for a date...' Urd smirked. 'But... I think you deserve an explanation. Just so long as you tell me about the angel.' she added with a crooked smile.
Fitz frowned. 'What angel?'
'Your angel. The one inside you.' Skuld said.
Fitz double-took. 'The Revolution Man?! You can _see_ him?!'
'Revolution... Ooh, this is going to be good...' Skuld said, and settled back in her chair, waiting for the story.
Fitz ahemmed. 'Well, it all began when this weirdo author...'
Anji looked at the sky above. 'Here goes... I claim planning permission.'
There was a brief and meaningful pause, which seemed to say 'Are you _sure_ about this?'
'Of _course_ I'm sure!' Anji snapped. 'Now, could we get _on_ with this?'
She tutted. Honestly, meaningful silences these days just couldn't stay quiet...
'...so it's not quite an _angel_. More like a spirit or a force of nature.... With _everything_ that implies...' Fitz shook his head. Then grimaced. 'Speaking of "forces of nature"... gotta go to the toilet...'
Skuld's mouth hung open. 'Whoah....'
Then she noticed the look on Urd's face. 'Sis?'
'I don't... ' Urd shook her head. 'It's too _powerful_, Skuld. It should be as powerful as _he_ is, not more powerful _And_ he barely controls it... Something's not _right_ here...'
'Well, he _did_ say it wasn't quite an angel...' Skuld pointed out. 'Maybe he didn't get it from an angel egg; after all, he never _mentioned_ he had one...'
'Mmm...' Urd still looked unhappy. 'Need to talk about sealing it...'
'Sealing what?' Fitz asked.
'Fitz...' Urd started nervously. 'About the "Revolution Man"...'
She reached out and laid a a hand on his. 'I _think_ I have a way you can control him...'
And then she looked into Fitz's eyes.
Something old and powerful looked back at her. He _knew_ what she was. What he could do against a goddess. And he knew that there would be nothing she could do in defence.
...he went away.
Fitz shook himself down. 'Oooh... Ooooh. That felt _good_...' He shookhimself down again. 'Whooo! Back in the driving seat again...'
Skuld pulled at Urd's sleeve. She smiled mock-bashfully at Fitz. 'Excuse us a moment...'
'You already did it? Without telling him?' Skuld hissed.
'Wasn't _me_, brat! It...' Urd trailed off. 'It sealed _itself_...'
'I'm serious! It sealed itself! Limited its own power...'
'That's a _good_ thing, right?'
'I _suppose_...' Urd said.
'A-*hem*?' Fitz said, tapping his fingers.
Ooh. _This_ was intriguing... Urd thought to herself.
And she _liked_ intriguing. Intrigue was _fun_.
And hey, if he thought _she'd_ sealed the Revolution Man, _she_ wasn't about to disabuse him...
She smiled, and set her hands under her chin. 'So... you were talking about this author...?'
Skuld leaned forward to listen, grinning.
'Okay, there was this time, right, when...' Fitz began.
A Voice echoed from the heavens above.
/WHERE DO YOU WISH IT?/
'Right... _here_.' Anji said, placing her foot on the spot.
The next few seconds were full of incident.
'Bwahahahah!! Oh, that is _priceless_, absolutely priceless...'
'Yeah. And _then_ he said "Well, it can't be _that_ hard. Everybody _else_ does it...".'
Urd wiped the tears from her eyes. 'Don't tell me... don't tell me...'
Fitz nodded, grinning. 'Oh yes. He did... Admittedly, it _was_ on backwards...'
Urd pounded the table, laughing her head off. 'Lunatic. Absolutely. Lunatic.'
'We still like him, though...' Fitz added.
Urd wiped her eyes, and waved Francois over. 'Another bottle of that triple-strength sake. In fact, make that two.'
'And another tub of strawberry ice cream, please,' Skuld requested.
'Do this, do that... when someone do something for Francois, huh?' Francois grumbled as he went back to the bar.
Urd looked speculatively after him. 'You know, I could...'
Fitz grabbed her hand. 'Don't. We have enough romantic mix-ups round here to start our own soap opera...'
'Soap opera...?' Urd said speculatively.
Skuld buried her head in her hands. 'You _had_ to say it...'
Fitz, seeing the direction the conversation was about to take, tried to head it off. 'So... Um... Talking of soaps, why go out with a tall dark stranger you don't even know?'
Urd looked blank.
'I mean me.'
Urd put her glass down. 'Ah. That.'
'Uh-oh...' Fitz said.
Then there was-
'Umm... Fitz. Fitzgerald Kriener.'
/DO YOU ACCEPT THIS CONTRACT?/
A wave of words *whooshed* past Fitz's eyes. 'Umm... I _think_ so...'
/NAME AND ASSENT FILED. BEGIN PROGRAM DOWNLOAD./
Then his eyes cleared. 'Oof. What was _that?_'
Urd's face had become a mask of concern. 'That was a visitation from the Almighty...'
It took a while for her words to sink in, but when they did...
...'I signed a contract with _God_?! Oh, bloody hell... I hope this means I don't have to go to church...'
Urd looked at his horrified face, and started giggling.
'What's so funny?'
'Sorry. Sorry. It's just... well, when my sister met her boyfriend... well, he'd made one of these really, spectaularly, improbable wishes...'
I have to know... Fitz thought to himself. 'What'd he wish?'
Urd leaned forward and whispered in his ear. Fitz started grinning.
Urd sat back. 'Well, after _that_... he looked _exactly_ like you do... Actually, I think I still have the tape of it...'
Fitz was still grinning. 'Wow. It actually got _granted_?'
Skuld nodded. 'You betcha.'
A clap of thunder sounded outside.
'This isn't stormy weather...' Fitz said worriedly.
'That'll be the contract,' Urd said. 'Come on!'
'Hey, guys!' Sam yelled after them. 'What's going on?'
'That's what we're gonna find out!' Urd yelled. 'C'mon, if you're coming! Last one out's a rotten demon!'
They found Anji first.
'Anji? Anji, you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?'
'Wha' are... fin'... fin'ers?'
'She's just in shock,' Urd diagnosed.
' 'kay, Anji. Calm down. Calm down...' soothed Sam. 'What happened?'
'I think she got planning permission.' Fitz said.
'What?' Sam followed his line of sight.
'Plann'ng 'mission. House... o' own...' Anji mumbled.
Standing a few metres back from the river was...
...a plain wooden door.
'Builders, huh? They're the same everywhere... Do one little thing, and then you have to wait an _eternity_ to get them to follow up...' Sam said.
'Umm... You might wanna take a look at this...' Fitz said, from where he'd moved behind the door.
Sam took a look. Then she looked round the side. Then looked back. 'It's only got one side...'
Fitz winced. 'Eye-bending, isn't it?'
On one side... a plain, panelled wooden door, with a brass door handle.
On the _other_ side, where a normal door would have the _other_ handle, and another _side_, for that matter...
...Nothing. Just... uninterrupted moorland.
'Wow.' Skuld said. 'Hmm... wonder how...' She started poking at the door.
'Open...' Anji said. 'Firs' day in... Hous'warming, hey?' She giggled slightly, and reached for the handle.
Her fingers closed on it-
And it opened.
Fitz slowly eased out of the running position. 'No monster?'
'O' cour' not...' Anji said. 'Iss our house...'
And she stepped into the blackness behind the door.
'Anji?!' Sam said.
Anji poked her head out of the blackness, and giggled. 'C'mon in... The weather's lovely!'
Urd was the first one in, followed by a cautious Skuld. Then Sam... and after looking around cautiously, just to make sure there were no monsters, Fitz entered.
The other denizens of the 'Round crested the hill.
'Now _there's_ something you don't see every day...' Mike Yates observed.
Fitz looked around. 'Whoa...'
'Ooh! You've got a holographic TV... Everlasting lightbulbs...' Skuld looked like a kid in a candy store. Which she was. 'It's got _everything_!'
Sam examined a panel on the living room wall. 'Adjustable _room_ settings... Make it smaller, larger, ignore external dimensions, ignore rules of physics, ignore rules of architecture...'
'And this is just the _living room!_' Anji said excitedly.
'So... It just yours, Anj?' Fitz asked, trying to keep the doubt out of his voice.
Anji shook her head. 'Nope! It's for us... Well, actually it's for everyone in the 'Round... if they _want_...'
'Bigger on the inside than the outside...?' Sam asked rhetorically.
'You bet...' Fitz said. '...Ohmigod, an owner's manual. A house that comes with its own _owner's manual..._'
'Why not stay in the TARDIS?' Sam asked. 'The 'Round can be a bit too ... overactive, I know, but...' She left the question hanging.
'_What_ TARDIS?' Anji said. 'It's still healing... And even when it _is_ back, I'd still like a home that isn't gonna hop to Pluto without warning...'
'She's got us there...' Fitz commented.
'Easy access to the shops, the 'Round, the Doctors... well, _everywhere_...' Anji bubbled.
'We're sold, Anj...' Fitz said. '...although I think the Doc's probably gonna stay with what he's got... Hmm. Do we _have_ to tell the others?'
'FREEZE!!' came a voice from outside.
After clearing up the 'extra-dimensional thingies out to invade the 'Round' mix-up, the denizens of the 'Round came in for a housewarming party... with Anji as hostess supreme.
In the confusion...
Fitz finally caught up with Urd next to the television. 'Y'know, you never told me...'
'Why I chose you?' Urd said. She looked down. 'You're not going to believe this...'
'Try me.' Fitz said.
'I wanted... Oh, I wanted some time to myself. Some time with an ordinary guy who wasn't going to raise hell when he knew I was a goddess. Someone who _understood_... Someone who wouldn't mind a little chaos in their life. And... well, you were the first one along, after I decided, and...' Urd looked at him. 'Is that so bad?'
Fitz's face froze. Then, slowly, a smile broke across his face. 'You know... an old friend said something like that to me once. Asked me whether I wanted to come along for the ride. I said "What the hell? What've I got to lose?"...And it's been one _whirlwind_ ride...'
Urd grinned back. 'Wanna come along?'
'Hey, what've I got to lose?' Fitz said. '...Y'know, I'm glad I didn't end up like your sister's boyfriend...'
Urd laughed. 'I know, I know...'
"I want a goddess like you to be with me always..." Fitz quoted. He shook his head in amused disbelief. 'Who'd have thought it, huh? So how _is_ the poor guy?'
'Keiichi?' Urd grinned again. 'K-Boy's never been happier, even if he _does_ have to live at Mayhem Ground Zero... and Bell doesn't regret a minute of it, don't ask me why...'
'Hmm...' Fitz said. He looked over to where a girl with flame-red hair and a withered arm was chatting to Sam.
Urd followed his gaze. 'Old girlfriend?'
'You might say that.' Fitz's voice drifted away. 'I promised her I'd come back...'
Fitz slumped. 'I don't know...'
Urd rested a hand on his shoulder. 'Fitz... If it's meant to happen, then it _will_ happen. And no force in Heaven or Earth is going to stop it...'
'Thanks...' Fitz stayed slumped.
'Fitz... _Trust_ me on this. You've got the word of a Goddess Second Class backing you up, remember?'
Fitz laughed.'When you put it like _that_...' Something caught his eye as he straightened up. 'Hey, isn't that Skuld over there?'
Urd peered over. 'Who's she talking to?'
'Oh, that's Compassion. Our resident Witch-Queen-and-Living-TARDIS-in-Residence...' Fitz said. 'Looks like they're getting on...'
'What's a TARDIS?'
'Oh, umm... Time and space machine. Dimensionally transcendental, don't ask me what that means...' Fitz's voice trailed off.
Urd's face had frozen. 'Machine?'
'You get Compassion, I'll get Skuld.'
'Ever give a monkey keys to the banana plantation?'
Fitz thought about this. Thought about the weird machines he'd seen Skuld carry. Thought about Compassion, the only T102 TARDIS in existence...
'Get that mallet away from me!!' Compassion screamed.
'...You go that way, I'll go this way. Try to head 'em off at the pass...'
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat