The roistering Russian celebrations had come to their end. The last drunken
muzhik had rolled away down the hill, the Grey Wolf had been packed off with a
final vodka-dunked Bonio, and still the presenters remained unaccountably,
though not in the light of recent experience wholly unpredictably, absent. Even
the supersensational stage act hired at vast Proprietorial expense by the
disappearing duo to cover for just such moments as these had yet to fully meet
our discerning Audience's high expectations; and it was ominously clear that
neither Boneless L's indefinably flawed take on 70's nostalgia nor their
lustily jaw-free rendition of nearly their famous hit _Rah Rah Rasputin_ would
be able to hold the fort forever -- however much the restive crowd might feel
that it had already. But some few, we like to think, kept the eternal torch of
Hope burning in this dark hour; and if such there were, we are pleased to
report that their touching faith was about to be vindicated gross-time.

The stage lamps stuttered and strobed. The singing lampreys broke off mid-rah
and hastily decamped for the rivers of Babylon, or in their cases more likely
Berkshire, there to slither down and weep for their worsting at the hands of
the Philistines. Then did a fabulous Presence burst, nay even bust, onto the
stage. Bleach-blonde hair masterfully coiffed by Messrs Muss & Co. -- fresh
warm rope burns in lieu of cold uncaring jewellery -- these mostly revealed by
an elegant yet daring banana-yellow ballgown spangled with blue rhinestones
that ever and anon spat random sparks of static electricity, the right-hand
side of its slit skirts carelessly tucked into the waistband of her Marcel
Proust Fan Club knickers -- the long expanse of shapely gam thus exposed, set
off with a golden garter that did double bandolier duty for carrying what were
presumably emergency rations in 'Rhubarb & Custard' and 'Hellfire Vindaloo &
Lager' sachets -- ngh -- nghh -- *nggghhhh* -- !

Which, er, is a classical allusion in Old Low Salacian, from the myth which
tells how flashing-eyed Kytherea first invented the nosebleed. Oh yes, indeed
indeedy deed!

_"Honey,"_ the Musical Box crooned randily, _"sugar sugar!"_

An exaggeratedly feminine cartoon black panther clad in a few strategically
placed studded leather straps immediately swooshed through the air to pull the
presenter's skirt down.

"Ladies, gentlemen, Lurve Daleks, and other styles of sophont too damn' sexy
for this salutation -- " Candy Harcourt cried exuberantly from the stage,

"That's 'down into its proper alignment'," the Third Doctor warned the Author.

__"You are my Candy girl!"_

"-- stand by for our all-singing all-smoking all-stonking presentation of the
Best Series/Story Arc award!"

Oh, alright then! Kinki's actions were appropriately retconned.

_"And you've got me watching you"_

"And it gives me great pleasure to -- 'hem, but to get back to the subject -- "

Kinki swooshed back to the bar, growling maledictions against all buttinsky
amateur proofreaders.

_"In a Fine Art film or two!"_

" -- will you please welcome back my partner-in-crime, my hunkafunky he-man
assistant for the Nite, our very own Head Voting Machine Wrangler -- the mighty
man himself -- "

And with those very words, a huge voting booth rolled onto the stage, drawn by
a team of twelve Linux penguins, sporting rather more in the way of leather
straps and spiked collars than most Linux penguins are wont. Standing atop it
in all his glory was the deplorable Captain Leader, saluting for all he was
worth and dancing a frantic little goosestep on the spot. "*Doom, havoc, red
justice,*" this apparition bellowed as he accepted the adoration of his devoted
public, all one of her, "and MANIFEST DEMOCRACYYYYYY!"

"_CAPtain LEAder!_" quoth the MM Musical Box, a la Captain Scarlet and the

No-one else amongst our jaded Audience took much notice, except for a claque
hired by a farsighted management for just such occasions as this. Alas, the
claque was instantly suppressed by spontaneous vigilante action.

Piqued, the differently good Captain now displayed his overmanly knowledge of
how to capture the Masses' attention by drawing his deadly DeSpameters and
firing directly into the crowd, picking off one innocent spirit after another.
A sudden and profound silence, pierced only by the heartbroken wailing of woman
(namely an untimely aquavit-bereaved Benny) ensued.

Captain Leader leapt lightly down to the stage, inasfar as one can do such a
deed whilst shod in depleted-uranium-heeled jackboots.

"I see," he intoned, in tones of awful menace which sounded to certain of those
present mysteriously like the Grey Steward of old in Museless psycho-mode, only
with the self-inclusive misanthropy turned up to 17, "that this unseemly
abbreviation of My Theme has robbed the groundlings of their due respect and
terror. *Once more, with feeling!*"

The Musical Box sighed the sigh of one much put upon, but after a couple of
nervous crackles it cranked itself up and obliged the entire jolly company to
drain to its dregs the cup of bitterness and regret, namely by launching into
the following jingle as the Co-Host from Hades cavorted on a nightmare-headed
hobbyhorse about the stage like, and no surprises here, a mad thing:

_"They doubt him, they flout him, they dub his art trash,_
_They die in a space-blaster's nuclear flash!_
_CAPtain Unificated Holy Communal People's Independent Republic of Wellbeloved,
Eternally Dedicated to and Inspired by the Quintessential Exquisiteness of the
Triply Incomparable Dandy LEAder!"_

The final crashing chords of this scanless wonder met with a wild piratical
shield-waving yodel from the loon onstage, and a stunned silence from the
audience, partly from those who had no notion which half-arsed totalitarian
hell-hole in space was being reffed, and more ominously and significantly from
those few who did, and that too well, matey.

"That," heckled Ninth, advancing in a no-nonsense manner on the stage with a
hand extended in poky accusation, "is about as tasteful as Harry Windsor
turning up to a party in full SS fig, except that your Comrade Presterjohn John
Thomas Kim Carmody-Park hasn't even had the decency to start pushing up
daisies. And may I just add that as stupid villain names go, 'Captain Leader'
is the most pathetically stupid I've heard in fifteen hun---"

HEART STRIKE!!!" screamed the enraged co-host, hurling his saw-toothed shield
through the air with more spin on it than Alistair Campbell on a carousel
juggling Catherine wheels. With a dreadful whine it parted the hair of several
guests, sheared through the outstretched wrist of the Ninth Doctor, and
returned to its wielder, subsiding as it did so into a contented purr. The
Doctor's hand flopped messily to the floor. Rose screamed.

"OY!" the Doctor howled, holding his spouting stump aggrievedly up in the air.

The Fourth Doctor's scarf was immediately confiscated, over the
tombstone-toothed one's indignant protest, and applied to the purpose.

Marchie Marchant-Ivory flapped his great ears in amazement, and could be heard
confiding to Kyra, "And I thought *Toonside* was gratuitously violent..."

Candy commenced flogging her partner-in-mayhem with a passing Christmas Squid.
"Behave!" she warned him. "Or I'll cancel your subscription to _Big Stamened

Captain Leader let out a wail of horrified despair. "Can such cruelty stand,
and the very Earth not rise up against it?" A marked lack of tectonic activity
beneath Candy's platform-heeled glass slippers, within whose Mirabiline[TM]
platforms a tiny pirate holodrama of _Valentine Does Verona_ continued to play
itself out with the grace and discretion appropriate to she who graced them,
appeared to answer this tricky conundrum with a pretty conclusive 'Well,
*yeah*! Duh!'.

Sometimes we think Reality was brought up in a barn, we really do.

Meanwhile the Doctor continued to bark instructions at Rose. "Don't just stand
there! Jacket right-hand inside pocket, tube of Anti-Maiming Glue, *stat*!"

As the detached member was duly Bostiked back into the fold of corporal unity,
Candy made shift to calm the rising squalls of popular disgust by explaining,
"BUT-T-T-T-T... we wouldn't like anyone to get the notion that we were, like,
*supporters* of His Dandy John Thomasship! Actually the costume kind of, you
know, ask no questions, fell off the back of an inadequately secret policeman
who won't be needing it any more; and we had to infiltrate the dump and dupe
the dope, defying death to deliver democracy by -- "

"Oh, go on then: chop my hand off *and* pinch my gigs, thanks a lot!"

" -- borrowing the unique Wellbelovedian e-voting booth technology, which with
a few last-minute adjustments for local conditions is finally making it
possible for us to present the most successful That's What I Call an Adrics
Award Ceremony 2005 EVER!!!" Candy looked around and frowned at the strange
silence which greeted this well-nigh hallelujable announcement. "Yay us!" she
added pointedly, and bent down to glare at the groundlings until a sufficiency
of weak-willed types had yielded up her due applause for one reason or another.
"So without more ado, let's see what sagas of splendiferousness are up for this
year's Best Series/Story Arc award! Take it away, Maestro!"

The Roberts Master slumped in dejection, and slouched off with his
get-out-of-here-with-yer-boom-boom-boom-before-I-call-a-Doc. The
ever-chivalrous Captain Leader helped him on his way with a bump o' the boot on
the seat, and fished around in his (own) armoured bum-bag, extracting a wodge
of screwed-up papers, the oddly ballotlike majority of which he tossed into the
air and blasted into glowing ash. The sole survivor he smoothed out, coughed,
and proceeded to read:

"The first nominee is that sodding great hunk of Red Taffy to which *some* of
us have already been drinking more than their wimpy capacity, some
alt-Docwalloping or other by that flagrant delicta, that flame-haired succulent
succubus of depraved dominance, or to those of us who know somewhat of the Old
Church Slavonic bog graffiti, Mistr---"

(Here our hero was cut off by unfortunately slipping in the fast-growing puddle
of his own drool, a mishap in which he was ably assisted by a well-timed shove
from his very own peroxide-haired succulent succubus of etc.)

"The _Books of Taliesin_ by Helen Fayle!" Candy announced, looking rather
flushed herself and whisking a large privacy screen around them both. A scene
began to form upon the screen's scintillant outer surface, upon which the
audience concentrated with fanly devotion and a deep wish not to contemplate
the festering mass of corruption which writhed and quibbled about rhubarb and
custard behind its seemly façade.


He pitched sideways from the Black Throne, caught by Elphin before he hit the
porphyry floor.

'Now perhaps you know why they call that the "Siege Perilous",' Elphin said
half-humorously as he helped Kastchei to his feet. 'Are you always this

'I had something of a reputation in my youth,' Kastchei admitted dryly.

'Why does that not surprise me?' Elphin's reply was equally laconic. 'That was
foolish: those who sit in the chair frequently see more than they intended;
they say Morgaine would spend hours in it, making sense of the images.'

'The table is cut from a living branch of the world-tree,' Kastchei said,
running his hand over the deep fissure again, looking thoughtful. 'The obsidian
throne amplifies the connection, especially when the one sitting in it is
dragon-born - and Morgaine's blood was practically pure. Her time-sensitivity
was astonishingly acute for one so many generations removed from the
first-born. It takes an extremely disciplined mind to touch that of a dragon
directly and make sense of it.'

'Was there any truth to the stories that she could see her path through time to
take the course she needed?'

Kastchei nodded. 'Oh yes. How else do you think she caught me, eventually?'

Elphin couldn't resist. 'Given your much-vaunted superiority, I rather thought
you _let_ her.'


Down went the privacy screen: down came protective elder hands over the eyes of
the young and impressionable, sparing them the sight of Captain Leader having a
thoughtful post-privacy rummage up his capacious nostrils with the crossed
segments of a Twix bar, though alas, not sparing us, welladay and what a swizz!
Flicking the desecrated chocolate contemptuously to the groundlings, where
after some minor unpleasantness it was promptly sequestered in Sixth's
capacious pockets for 'a thorough chemical and microbiological analysis' nor
never seen no more, His Proximate Supremacy declaimed,

"The second nominee is, wossname, a farcical cop comedy which hints at
horse-scaring serum-sprayin' sex 'n' violence _en nachos grande_ but meanly and
repeatedly fails to deliver, by. by. by That transmarine hillbilly
gender-bender who plainly seeks to lead astray the susceptible nature of My
Squeeze with invisible psychic rays -- !"

Various pieces of electric kit around the stage crackled and fused as a
salivary aerosol infiltrated their works. Various diamonds flew from Candy's
knuckle-duster as she addressed her opinion of this conversation's trend with a
stunning, smashing blow to the small unmasked portion of her cohort's ugly mug,

"_Busted_," Candy declared loudly, "by BK Willis!" With a sweeping swirly-thing
motion, she replaced the privacy screen about them just as the Kevlar-Klad(TM)
green-eyed monster of what we wot surged homicidally upwards for her throat.
Ignoring the Batmanoid sound-effects that continued to issue from behind it,
the Audience copped (geddit? geddit? Gor blimey, you lot, I've raised more
laughs reading the _Critique of Pure Reason_ to Codlingthorpe Working Men's
Club on Cup Final night!) THIS.!


The ambulance pulled up then, just as Nyssa got the last of the rope undone. He
answered Tegan as the paramedics rushed over to help him onto a gurney. "It was
about dawn," he said, still perfectly -- almost eerily -- calm and rational. "I
was out for my morning run. As I passed this alley, I finished off the last of
the juice I'd brought with me and I threw the bottle into the gutter..." He
trailed off, gaze growing distant again, and for a second Tegan was afraid he
was about to slip back into that catatonic trance they'd found him in. But then
he spoke again, and there was a strange, almost reverent hitch in his voice. "I
did a great wrong, but then... Justice Man showed up. Justice Man saw
everything. I was judged on the spot and then..."

"Go on, please," Nyssa urged.

"And then I was punished." He smiled as he said this, lying on his stomach as a
medic swabbed antiseptic on his welts. "I was punished by Justice Man and my
sin was purged from me!"

Nyssa arched an eyebrow and glanced at the notes Tegan had taken, frowning
disapprovingly at the cuckoo-bird doodle she'd drawn beside that last
statement. "Okay, sir, I think that will do for the moment. We just need your
name and address, then you can give us a formal statement and a description of
the perpetrator at the station after the doctors release you."

"Perpetrator?" the man asked as they loaded him aboard the ambulance.

"Officer, _I_ was the perpetrator. _I_ was the litterbug."

"No, no. I mean the person who assaulted you. This 'Justice Man'. I assume you
will want to file charges?"

"Charges?" The man's expression became positively beatific. "Officers, there
won't be any charges. What happened to me wasn't assault. It was..." He
sniffled, eyes moist. "It was _justice_!"

The ambulance pulled away as Nyssa took another glance at Tegan's notes. There
was now a second, larger cuckoo-bird drawn beside the man's parting words. And
this time, Nyssa couldn't quite fault her for it.


Under cover of the general chuckling and Aussie-specific whingeing that
followed, the Dire Dyad reemerged from the privacy screen, now both much
bedecorated with sticking-plaster, sundry contusions, and spinning crowns of
multicoloured stars above their respective nappers. Captain Leader's
adamantiumite aegis of invincibility now sported a mysterious bend sinister
across its entire diameter, gleaming with the argentine glamour of the finest
gaffer tape; Candy wore her left Heel of Spiky Death in a sling; their
countenances shared a feral expression which might equally have been a grin or
a snarl. Reclaiming the public attention by flaming a random lurker in the
rafters with his shocking pink DeSpameter, Captain Leader spake, and spake he

"The third nominee is some interminable string of stereotypical anime toss-offs
in which the usual suspects put on inappropriate genders and hang around in
skyborne sushi bars, at least that's what I garner from feedback having long
since killfiled my hated riv--- AAARGH! Willis the Unavoidable
*a-g-g-g-gain*!?!" He spun (three times on his jackboot-heel) round on Candy to
demand sympathy and a complete account of all her netly transatlantic movements
of the Noughties.

Alas, this romantic ambition was thwarted by his partner's notoriously limited
attention-span, for somewhere into the first clause of his speech that fair
lady had whipped out a copy of _Guys with Great Guns_ from her capacious
magazine-rack, with which to while away the rest of his sentence. Whether it
was the steam rising from her forehead, some Issue arising from the crud-stewn
abyssal plains of his own black and midnight psyche, or the simple revelation
of that publication's residence so close to our nymph's great big brassy heart,
this tale does not tell.

What we must report is that with a Cossack-dance of rage and a great hollow cry
of the dread incantation 'Flobalobagob!', the Captain began to. change. His
features seemed to flush, flow, and deform. A vile unearthly odour, as of some
translunary luncheon-meat-based halitosis, boiled suddenly up to sicken and
blast the very digestions of every mortal within three rows or so of the stage.
Candy flung down her magazine, panic writ large on her every expressive
feature, and redrew the privacy screen in haste, hollering as she disappeared
into the pinkening gyre,

"_Spring Surprise_, by BKWillisaaaarggh!"

Even the sophisticated tail of Kyra could be seen, by those who were watching
it and we choose to maintain a discreet incuriosity as to their possible
motives, to be switching with a definite air of unease, as she reached
decisively for the volume switch, in order to drown out the appalling
sizzlings, slobberings, and spurious claims to the throne of Scotland that now
spat like hot pork fat from beyond the screen of sanity. Thus, and thankfully,
the Audience were instead treated to --


When he saw the foreigners, the Guide breathed a sigh of relief.

Both were still human, so maybe he'd caught them in time to avoid another
tragedy. He addressed his warning to the man in the buff coat and Panama hat,
who was leading.

"No stay here! Very bad if you fall in magical cursed springs!"

The man grimaced. "Thanks, but your advice is a bit late." He pushed his long
brown curls out of his eyes and sent an icy look at the little blonde woman in
brown velvet behind him. "_Isn't_ it, Doctor?"

The woman sighed. "Now, Nyssa..."


".Chaos Eddy Stewite!" Fourth concluded his urgent explanation to a curious
Harry Sullivan, in hammily hushed tones and wiggling his impressive ears by way
of conveying the horror, the horror!

That giant of naval intelligence paused in his glass-polishing, absent-mindedly
to mop his honest brow with the bar-rag in question. "Ugh. But I say, Doctor, I
thought that was Trader Grey's dark oppo's eviller alter ego?"

"Mmmm?" The Doctor nodded encouragingly. "And. therefore?"

"By Jingo, Doctor! You mean to say there's *a whole race of them*???"

"Yes! Of course! How succinctly you do put things, Harry!" The Doctor banged
his forehead three times ritualistically on the polished bar-counter, his
tongue lolling outwards on each downstroke to mop up any handy spillages.
"Excuse me. I think I need to go and have a long conversation with a jelly
baby - "

"Oh, hullo hullo, wait a minute there! Something's up!"

Said something proved to be the writhing mass and fume behind the hard-used
privacy screen, which was now being taken up lock stock and two steaming
spam-gebbeths into the rafters by means of a robotic dureum-alloy net let down
from the _deus ex_ apparatus. Kinki revved up her legs to approximately 4800
rpm before shooting forward onto the stage and bouncing gleefully all over it,
finally calming down enough to push a little LoveSkull-shaped button on the
side of the voting booth. A tasteful little scroll of gold-leaf decorated
floral-backed rice-paper slipped out of the machine with an understated whirr.
This Kinki automatically raised to her mouth -- visibly restrained herself --
remembered where she was, and doffed the handcuffs again -- and finally,
*really* finally, read out the long-awaited result.

"And the winner is. Oh, yeah, this is my kind of contest. A surprise *write-in*

<dramatic pause>

"_Yes! I shudder with a thousand spiritual ecstasies at the privilege of
re-endorsing the adorable chicitude of our dear elderbrotherly Dandy Leader,
who alone in his incomparably godlike elan conducts us with nonchalant but very
large strides towards our paradisiac destiny of Perfect Love and Equality or
else! Huzzah!_ Rrrrr. my naughtiness, with 303,543,121 votes!" Kinki shook,
among other things, her head. "What a.

".loser! Oookay, I think we can disqualify that one. That means the *real*
winner would be the former runner-up, which is.

"._No! My imperfect revolutionary consciousness is thanklessly incapable of
fully confessing the exquisiteness of the Dandy Leader, and self-critically
longs in its very bowels for the administration of a lovingly corrective
30-kilovolt shock!_" The booth expressed some programmed reflex or other by
extruding a short thick telescopic spike of ineffable purpose from the centre
of its faux-morocco voting stool. "Ooooh, incompetently re-rigged booths,

Our anti-heroine went with fell intent to assess the possibilities of the
unspeakable rod. In the wings, way ahead of her, Kimiko clicked her claws. The
reticulum ex machina returned; deposited the Captain and His Squeeze in a
groaning, malodorous, and hung-over-looking heap onto the boards; and swiftly
whisked Kinki up whence they came, before worse things could befall. Kyra,
meanwhile, took advantage of the unavoidable hiatus in stupidity to pick up the
fallen declaration and read out Wot We Were All Waiting For, Mush!:

"And the winner is -- _Spring Surprise_, by BK Willis!"

Captain Leader bounded up, beside himself with envy and wrath, and both of him
fell to stoning Candy with a complete Folio Society edition of the works of the
Rev Lionel Fanthorpe. "Nyaaargh! Strumpet! Minion! Traitorous thrower of
competitions in favour of bulging-bicepped bumpkin beefcake!!!!"

Candy whirled her chainsaw protectively around her head, framing the scene in
whole blizzards of romantic confetti. "Love you too, O Tosser of Literature,
but we didn't even have a ^Hed entry!"

"And whose fault was *that*?" shrieked her partner's left enantiomer, in tones
of unanswerable righteousness.

"Besides," snarled the right, if such a descriptor can justly be applied to
such a hemi-anti-hero, "if you hadn't taken a dive on the reprogramming, it
wouldn't have matt--- "

".Guy/s," Candy interrupted urgently, "like, *incoming?!*"

For now the 'Round hung at a deadly crisis. Whilst every gaze had been riveted
upon the surprise-a-minute rigmarole on stage, sinister forces had quietly
filed into the bar, surrounding the entire audience. From their fluffy bunny
jackboots to their rakish Kill You Quick kepis, they were not something you
would like to see, particularly at the wrong end of over-ornate knock-offs of
the lethal Vanir energy-halberds, and one guess as to whether or no *that* was
the case, hah?

"Quicheaters!" Eighth hissed to the Don Magrs poodle with which he had been
discussing the more self-indulgent aspects of postmodernism. "This can only
mean -- !"

"Beloved but erring comrades!" came a high, excitable, strangely engaging voice
from the doorway. There stood a short, well-fed Eurasian man in an exquisitely
cut black suit that might well have obtained the approbation of Beaux Brummel
and Nash their very selves, save and except only a few trifling details such as
the haloed hologram of the wearer on the breast pocket, the extraneous lobster
atop the tall silk hat, and the Barney's Big Adventure T-shirt over which the
whole ensemble was worn. "I *do* hope your more advanced elements might kindly
accept our help in earnestly with tears of socially regenerate repentance
denouncing their lapse into mortal cosmopolitan egoism-peccadillism? Their
families, acquaintances, and random strangers they once sat next to on a
CosyTransport will thank them for it!"

The First Doctor snorted, strutted forward, and jabbed a stern finger at the
logorrhoeac apparition. "And what, precisely, do you mean by this nonsense,

The Dandy Leader's charming smile crimped slightly under the pressure of the
Doctor's formidable presence and inexplicable self-confidence. He peered
curiously forward, as if straining to recognise something just on the very tip
of his cerebrum, and not quite succeeding. Shortly he gave up, and patted the
Doctor chummily on the arm. "I think --and don't quote me on this -- it means,
'My name is Presterjohn John Thomas Kim Carmody-Park. You are standing quite
close to someone who stole my favourite costume. Prepare to die, unless you can
be most awfully amusing.'" His Equality beamed confidingly. "That's rather
good, isn't it? I tell you what, you can quote it after all."

"Oh no, oh no!" Second declared, flapping his hands in a manner that has never
boded no tyrant no damn good. "This won't do at all!"

"You're so right!" The Dandy Leader fined himself a pettish smack on the cheek.
"Dead men don't do quotes. Ah. Well, let's write it down for posterity, shall

Third swept forward like grim death. "Your reign of terror ends here,

"For you, for you, true. Don't I *know* you from somewhere?"

Fourth said nothing, for he had sent Leela up unseen among the rafters and was
surreptitiously confecting a Dialectic Disruptor under his big hat.

"There should be another way," sighed Fifth. "But there isn't," remarked Sixth
complacently, as they each drew very large Dalek guns from beneath their coats.
And so on and so forth.

"The Doctor!" screeched the Dandy Leader, getting it and losing it in one
single mental act. "Doctors *everywhere*! Mwaaah! Meeep! Kill! Quicheaters!
*Let's turn on those love-taps!!!*" And a general melee ensued, the villains'
superior firepower and position amply counterbalanced by the presence of
Doctors everywhere, not to mention the complete incompetence at hitting named
characters inherent in their status as invincible elite stormtroopers.

As the bar was thus re-sawdusted with commendable efficiency, Candy had it away
upon her twinkling-nailed toes, half a Captain Leader under each arm. The
right-hand aspect covered their retreat effectively by whanging the sawtoothed
shield right at the Dandy Leader, producing howls of anguish as the wind of its
passage blew off his hat and skewed his immaculate toupée. Thereafter was no
quarter asked nor given, though many a bold warrior was admittedly laid low by
Sarah Jane's scientific administration of a sockful of pennies to the occiput,
which is about as near as we're going to get in pounds sterling.

And so the grim struggle continued, with a little bit of zip and a little bit
of zap and a squiggle of me pen, boom-boom-boom-boom, until finally Magnus and
Varne got tired of waiting for their spot and joined in the fray _pro bono
publico_, from which point forward the battle was rather brief and most
distinctly one-sided. The Dandy Leader was not found amongst the pile of
casualties to whom François subsequently went about administering Ogron
anaesthesia before ejecting them into the car-park to await collection by the
Nameless police force: the prevailing consensus was that he had snuck away like
a bad 'un as soon as his fortunes began visibly to ebb, although conspiracy
theories were not thin on the ground that he had been surreptitiously carried
away to be held for ransom, eaten, tied up with liquorice, etc., as appropriate
to the theoriser's favourite suspect.

But barely had Sam Jones had time to start up a petition to Free the
Wellbeloved One from the reeking dungeons of the tobacco industry (for tobacco
is illegal on Wellbeloved, except for the Dandy Leader whose great soul is by
definition immune to its addictive and syphilis-inducing effects, wherefore the
motivation for his abduction becomes OBVIOUS to any right-on-thinking person!),
when the forces of darkness and reaction moved to thwart her!


[The lights went out and the stage went dark, seconds later columns of fire
spouted stage left and right illuminating Magnus and Varne,]

Magnus: "Well, here we are again, yet another presentation of the 'Best Dr Who

Varne: "We were wondering what we could do to top our previous presentations,
but unfortunately human sacrifice was banned on the grounds of being too

Magnus: "Before we start, a few words about the proper ways to influence
results. Death threats or threats of serious bodily harm will produce the
result of us being interested in a serious interview with the threatener."

Varne: "The bribes received were welcome but nowhere near big enough to
influence us. In fact, one was insultingly low and for a character who was not
even nominated. We will be having a word with those idiots after the show."

[Darren paled.]

Magnus: "There will of course, be no refunds.

"Of course I do feel bound to point out that we are not the people to bribe in
the first place. Those envelopes are supposed to be tamper proof. I should
know, I helped design them, so I can hardly get away with reading the wrong
result out."

[Magnus waved his hand and a large cinema screen materialised, accompanied by a

Varne: "Right, the nominations are:

"Davros in "Eternal Flame" by K. Michael Wilcox."


He grinned broadly. "Here you go, dear."

"Doctor, I have sand in my gears again," Davros complained. "This Island of
Fire is not what I'd hoped."


Magnus: "What's the score on that?"

[Varne moved towards the blackboard and wrote a 2 in the column labelled 'death

Varne: "The Imperial Daleks will kill us if Davros loses, and the Dalek Supreme
will kill us if he wins."

Magnus: "Put both of them down on our to do list. Mr Fisk is a bit more urgent,
though. Now, who is next?"

Varne: "Next we have Dorothee (Ace) from "In the Café of Reasonable Comfort" by
Paul Andinach.

"We have the clip here."


Dorothee grinned. "Let's try that again," she said. "Me Dorothee. You Emma?"

The blonde nodded, looking relieved. "The Doctor will be along soon. He had
some shopping to do, he said."

"And he couldn't let you watch him shopping?" Dorothee asked, raising an
eyebrow. "Is he back to being a secretive git, then?"


Magnus: "What's the score on that?"

Varne: "Half a million in hard currency, plus a bowl of petunias."

Magnus: "Somehow, I think I have missed a reference somewhere."

Varne: "Anyway, next we have Tegan Jovanka in "Busted" by BKWillis.


"That's right!" Tegan crowed. "Hooray for me! I got to work _on time_, ahead of
_you_, and I didn't do _anything_ on the road that you can get on my case
about! And to top it off, it's a beautiful day and I'm feeling _great_!" She
struck a pose as they entered the office together. "This day will be _perfect_
for me, and I won't hear otherwise!"

Jo Grant intercepted them on their way to their desks, the little blonde
dashing over with her usual breathless energy. "Great! You two are already
here. The meeting starts in five minutes, so you'd better go ahead and get to
the conference room."

"Meeting?" Tegan demanded. "With who?"

"With Commissioner Tiberia, of course..."


Magnus: "Well, Varne?"

Varne: "About two million, I need to check exchange rates to get an exact
figure, and a death threat. The union of airline stewardesses seems to be
pissed off with her."

Magnus: "And the final nominee is?"

Varne: "Your favourite villain.

"The Master from "Dehumanisation" by Paul Gadzikowski "

Magnus: "I always had a soft spot for him. Those conflated plans with so many
spots they could go wrong. In my experience, I prefer KISS."

Varne: "Lord?"

Magnus: "Do not call me lord, Varne, it means Keep it Simple Stupid. Anyway,
what's the score on that one? Oops, better run the clip first."


The more awkward the Doctor became, the more amused the Master became.

"1: That's exactly the sort of imposition of one's will on others that you
detest when you see it in me. 2: You're hardly at your most compassionate and
responsible yourself right now."


Varne: "The bribes were in currency I have never heard of, but we did get
several death threats. plus two cases of grievous bodily harm. Totally garbled
though, I am not sure if the threats apply if the Master loses or if he wins."

[Magnus took the envelope and opened it.]

Magnus: "Well the winner is Dorothee (Ace) from "In the Cafe of Reasonable
Comfort" by Paul Andinach. Time to leave, Varne."

Prelude - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Epilogue - Summary

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