Sensing the need to lighten up the mood, and incidentally prevent any
reinfestation of choral lampreys, the Seventh Doctor now took it upon himself
to entertain the assembled with a little recitation of Tchaikovski's
ever-popular _1812 Overture_ upon, inevitably, the rather less recurrently
acclaimed spoons. This occupied several minutes, with all the verve and éclat
of a Panzer division squatting menacingly on the outskirts of Paris, until the
original faux-Parisenne herself returned regally if rather breathlessly and
flushedly onto the stage, dressed darling in a *shameless* imitation of Liane's
outfit from the 'She's not thinking of me!' scene in _Gigi_, and performed
brisk acts of Resistance which had her target swinging down from the stage on
his umbrella in two shakes of whatever the ferret happened to have in its mouth
at the moment.

"Bucks, buddies, biddies, kiddies, and nameless incubitic abominations who can
find full contact details on my homepage!" Candy hailed her twitching public.
"Due to the ongoing shortage of men I can trust not to let the cat out -- la!
Like I was saying, to let the catastrophe of electoral fraud overwhelm our
pristine, er, whatever the hell's pristine around here -- I beg to introduce my
final assistant for the Nite, a fine upstanding fellow whose incorruptibility
is beyond reproach!"

Extracting somewhat unwholesome from her finely-worked sow's-ear purse, she
applied it to her silicone-enhanced lips and began to blow. No impropriety
should be imputed to this action, since whilst the somewhat did turn out to be
an inflatable George Clooney, its nozzle was decently situated in such a
position that our hourific heroine appeared to be doing nothing more outrageous
than blowing into his ear.

Being sand-weighted at the bottom, the inflated George Clooney now stood ready
and waiting for any actions that might be desired of it, provided these did not
extend beyond the boundaries of standing there being either admired or ignored,
no facilities for other activities being very evidently provided. Clapping her
new assistant affectionately on the back so that he wobbled like a Weeble,
Candy proceeded to remove a sealed envelope from the lining of her hat, and

"Our candidates for the Best Crossover Award are:

"_A Burns Night Poem/To the Doctor:_" by Daibhid Ceannaideach -- "


Fair fa' yer ivver-chyngin face,
Renegade o' the Time Lord race!
Aboon them a' ye tak yer place,
Monk, Master, Dax.
Mair worthy Doctor than Doc Grace,
Or ither quacks.

Eccentric ootfits there ye fill,
As tae yer adventures we thrill.
A man o' peace, ye willna kill,
(Save whan ye do),
An' e'en whan monster's bluid ye spill,
Ye ayways rue.


Candy turned back to the crowd a face of smiling, shining incomprehension, and
plucking her 'Made in the Celestial Empire' Value Babbell Fish out of her
shell-like, lobbed it with pinpoint accuracy across the room to descend into
Mel's vitamin-fortified carrot juice. "Next, we must commend to your attention
_ In the Cafe of Reasonable comfort_ by Paul Andinach!"


"Time is relative," Dorothee said solemnly. "When would you say this cafe was

Emma looked around the cafe, taking in the framed postcards on the white
plaster walls, the rubbery-looking pot plants. "This is a trick question, isn't

"Of course it's a trick question. What's your answer?"

"I'd say it was built... fifteen, twenty years ago?"

Dorothee shook her head. "It wasn't."

"When was it built, then?"

"It wasn't," Dorothee repeated. "One day it wasn't here, the next it was -
weird pot plants, graffiti, and all." She waved her hands expressively. "Ask
anyone around here and they'll tell you - well, probably they'll tell you that
of course it was built, they just can't quite recall exactly when. And you know
what *that* means."

She looked at Emma, who nodded. "And in another few years, it'll be gone again,
the same way it came."

"Wow," said Emma, wide-eyed.

"That's nothing," Dorothee said. "In a few centuries' time, it'll happen all
over again on Argolis. Then in Bellatrix City. Of course, I'm speaking linear
time here. Properly speaking, the 'next' occurrence might just as easily be the
cafe on Ehft, three thousand years ago."


Candy looked wistful. "Gée, my Author used to run an investment service just
like that -- Okay, next we're giving a bit of la vielle ogle to _Next's Time
Round_, by Daibhid Ceannaideach -- "


"Er, maybe I can help." said a new voice. Approaching us was a man in his mid
twenties, with thick glasses and dark hair tied back in a ponytail. The sort of
ponytail that isn't trying to be cool, but just keep your hair out of your
eyes, if I was any judge. He had a rather nervous manner, but clearly felt he
needed to explain. His explanation came as something of a surprise to me.

"Um, you see, *yes*, Ms Next *is* a fictitious character, but she doesn't
*know* that."

My immediate reaction to this revelation was to dismiss it out of hand.

On the other hand the guy knew my name, and had called me "Ms Next", not
"Miss", suggesting he hadn't been affected by Landen's eradication. I was still
sceptical, though.

So was Polly. "Why not?" she asked.

Ponytail swallowed. Clearly whatever explanation he had was one he'd prefer not
to try and explain. "Because, from her point of view, she's, well, she's inside
her continuity." He braced himself, apparently convinced that Polly would
regard this as unbelievable as I did the idea of being fictional.


"Hooters, mon!" Mrs Harcourt's shapely brow furrowed worriedly. "Or should that
be _mes_ -- ? But speaking of hooters, mons, and mes-alliances galore, back
with a boing is our next candidate -- the _Spring Surprise_ series, by the -- "
She paused expectantly, pantomimed a silent count to two-and-a-half, and was
rewarded by the appearance from a trapdoor of a burly vampire in shades and a
carnelian-lined cloak, which fell with frothing destruction upon the
unfortunate Georgeoid Clooney. " -- thinking girl's Southern Comfort, Mr BK

Muse and vampire fell in a spitting swearing catfighting bundle behind the
projection screen, whereupon Kyra tactfully muted the feed from their
throat-mikes, and the peaceable and cultured patrons of the 'Round were enabled
to feast their culture-sponges on --


Urd grinned hugely as she watched Nyssa fussing over Kasumi and an unusually
subdued Lo-Shon. "I think," she said to her little sister, "that we can count
this wish fulfilled. Look how they're all getting along."

"Great," Skuld whined, "now we can get out of here before our magical
interference causes more bugs." She paused and looked down at the mortals
below. "But there's something I don't get. Why did Kasumi lose on purpose? She
could have had Nyssa for herself."

"Because solving things that way... wouldn't be _cricket_."

"What's _that_ mean?"

"That it's super-complicated and probably involves an Englishman..."


"Story of my life," Candy was discovered muttering, as she fed the
central-casting vampire a stake to the heart --

"Buffy is *so* going to dust her clock when she gets back," one of the Willows
channelled ancient sybilline prophecies or something. Amber shook her head

-- through the proverbially best channel, viz. through the stomach --

"Ewwww," one of the more Tara-ly Taras noted.

-- and to judge by the vampire's ecstatic ripping and tearing at the 24-oz
porterhouse in question, and the veritable storm of gently glowing marie curie
sauce driven in all directions by the sheerly eldritch force of its appalling
table manners, the ancient storehouse of proverbial folk wisdom was proving
right on the money yet again.

"Never interrupt a description that way," Amber advised. "It summons lame puns
faster than the deadline for the next Xanth book."

And who are we to argue with the Goddess-Muse of Metafiction, hey?

"Parbleu, messire, gerroff, they tickle! -- And finally, _The Stylist_, by
Adrian Tullberg -- FAUGHING IIIIIIIIQUE -- !"


A figure staggers out of an alleyway into a SHOPPING DISTRICT - it's the NINTH
DOCTOR, in the TATTERED REMNANTS of his previous incarnation.

After staggering down the street for a few minutes, he STARES UNCOMPREHENDINGLY
at the new face in a shop window.

DOCTOR: This ... wrong ... something ... wrong ...

VOICE: (O.S.) I'll say.

THE DOCTOR turns to see CARSON KREESELY standing nearby, disapprovingly,
shopping bags in hand.

CARSON: My good deed for the day.

CARSON hooks his arm around the Doctor's, then leads the dazed man into a
nearby men's store.

DOCTOR: Invasion ... must ...

CARSON: Oh I know. Once the in-laws pay you a visit you want to run like
there's a 50% sale on Armanis. Are they that bad that you had to drag on this
old thing?

DOCTOR: Locusts of the galaxy ... consuming all forms of living matter to fuel
their unnatural life cycle ...

CARSON: Just order out. (Whispers conspiratorally) It's what we do when we
can't sucker Ted into doing it.


"Do *what?*" the transactinide Transylvanian demanded, his cloak held rigidly
at eye-level to obscure his unholy fizzog in manner mightily reminiscent of the
Bela Lugosi impersonator in the posthumous scenes in _Plan 9 from Outer Space_.

Candy cast an impudent leer at the Third Doctor. "I'll explain later," she
explained. She produced a second envelope from the froth of polyester lace that
adorned some portion of her costume or other, which we would describe more
fully were it not for a certain grandfatherly busybody's brutally frank
abhorrence of all cheap frills!

"*Halt!*" came a ringing cry from the rafters.

"I thought we were at a dead stop already," whinged Adric, sulkily.

"I wish I'd thought of that line," whinged Tegan, reflexively.

"The winner *is* -- "

"Hold it right there, independent and powerful woman who sees no need to suffer
fools gladly!!!"

And in the very nick of time, 'Action' Al Gore and his Psephomachic Consensoes
abseiled down onto the stage. Sam Jones leapt from her seat and commenced a
wild cheering, putting of _Piece of the Action_ on the M^3 Box, etc., usw.,
bloody Norah!

"I prefer 'bitch'," Candy said icily, suiting her pose to her words, "and what
the hell's it to do with you, sunshine?"

"I have undeniable *proof* of corruption and vote-rigging on a massfully
advantaged scale! This count stops here!!!"

"Or you'll do what?" sneered the vampire, advancing in demoniac despite of the
Consensoes' united wagging blackboard-pointers. "Tell us we're very naughty and
you'll call us names if we do it again? Wooooooh, I'm scar--- "

"We shall belittle you in public," 'Action' asserted with lantern-jawed

"Scared too," yawned Candy, plucking her chainsaw from its extradimensional

"Good." The defender of democracy allowed himself a small, tight smile. From
every pointer, a ray of cheap special effects instantly lashed out. The vampire
and Candy were instantly and respectively converted to Satanic Action Man and
Inappropriate Career Path Barbie figures, and ceased to take any active part in
the proceedings.

A shocked silence fell. Kimiko the Siberian Tiger broke it, demanding in a high
affectless voice that carried menace in its every note as thunderclouds carry
more innocent and harmless potentials, "Do I take it you've killed my

"Indeed," the least action hero stated, deadpan. "This election is null and
void due to cheating, and must be re-run with a -- new list of candidates. Doom
shall come to all who seek to meddle with the people's holy will. For am I not
'Action' Al Gore, terror of the ballot-boosters and roll-rubbishers, at whose
frown Empires shake and tyrants tremble? MWAHAHAHAHA!"

"Funny you should ask that," Ninth opined, striding in armour of solid
chutzpah-inlaid brass through the ranks of nonplused Consensoes, who fell
bewilderedly to forming strategy working groups and policy review committees in
his unjustifiable wake. "'Cause you're not, are you?" He ripped off the
murderer's face with a single savage twist of his hand. "You're the Master in
an unconvincing rubber mask!!!"

A commotion occurred over towards the door. "The Master?!" a girl exclaimed in
agitation. Well, one or two would, wouldn't they?

"My dear Doctor," sneered the Master, with no attention to spare for extraneous
matters, "the disguise has served its purpose, and you shall join your friends.
Consensoes! The sense of the meeting is to take this hooligan out!" And the
fell deed was done. The fiends! Could nothing stop --- ?

"Gurgle?" the Master demanded, and fell over.

"Hey!" Buffy protested. "Why no dustiness?"

The Audience, urgently needing to vent their spleen, cast about for a passing
chestnut-vendor to beat up, but were pre-empted by the fallible vampire
slayer's shrill cry of alarm.

"Get out! GET OUT!!! Giles! Will!! Wiggly people!!! The Hellmouth is opening
*right here in this bar$%@*!"

Wiggly people ran in magic circles, screamed and shouted, and so on. Wiggy
people, by this stage comprising the vast majority of the rest of the audience,
did likewise, more mundanely. The Magical Mechanical Musical Box chose this
moment to launch into an advanced verse of _Stack O'Lee_:

_"Someone tripped the scaffold, and old Stack fell down below,_
_The Devil heard him coming and said -- _ "

The trapdoor from which the vampire had earlier emerged flew open, releasing a
red glow and clouds of sulphurous smoke.

"I hate that rascal's soul!" karaoked a terrible figure bearing a warm

"Miaieeee!" squealed Catbert. "It's Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light!"

"We don't need him down here!" And onto the boards he pitched a quivering mass
of becaped and too too solid undead flesh.

"Count Bathory Imre at your service -- oh *cabbage*!" mumbled the figure
through a mouthful of Burger McBlackPudding, observing Buffy's vengefully
descending stake and her inexplicable observation that this was for Angel.

But the fatal stroke was interrupted. Launching in one mighty leap off Phil's
head, some athletic denizen of the nether depths somersaulted over the
preoccupied Slayer's head, tripped her forward over her victim with one mighty
shove-cum-goose, and sent her plummeting through the yawning trapdoor into the
finite depths of the Pit of Vague Discontent. Sounds incidental to Buffy's
downfall indicated free-fally contact with Phil and his toasting fork, to no
party's total satisfaction.

"And the winner *is*," carolled Mrs Candia Harcourt (for it was she. Not the
winner, obviously, not being a candidate and all. Yeah, like *that* bothered
her the other time -- !), as the Count rose up, rose up Bathory Imre, to
accompany her announcement with a bravura performance on the air-organ.

"Not so fast," objected the Master, regenerating irritably behind them. "I have
the tapes -- Bah! Release me, brainless pawns!" UNIT led him away in handcuffs.
UNIT led Candy away in handcuffs. UNIT discovered that it was leading Candy
away in handcuffs, and returned her at the Brigadier's spoilsport insistence to
whence they'd found her. UNIT led the still-ranting Master off in handcuffs

"The winner -- "

"Actually," observed Ninth, returning from the Punjabi Puri Palace to which the
Consensoes had, after considerable sub-committing, taken him out in deference
to the Master's foolishly ambiguous order, "I'm just in the mood for a video.
Let's see what these tapes of his have to show us, shall we?" And, grinning
evilly at their guilty expressions, he let us all have a great big honking

A brief flash ensued, and nothing more. Yes, we are still talking about the
display screen. <sigh>.

" -- *is* --"

"Looks like a time-compressed subliminal tachyfeed to me. Let's slow that up a
bit, shall we?" The Doctor played nick-nack on his sonic screwdriver.

"Never heard it called *that* before," Candy muttered sulkily.

And behold! The screen showed a scene which suddenly everyone realised was
rather more familiar than, strictly speaking, it had any honest excuse for
being whatsoever --


Candy, back in her demi-respectable vivandière outfit, stood with Captain
Leader in front of a rather spartan 'Public Service Announcement' set, which
bore certain telling resemblances to a section of a disused warehouse.

"Hail hail my adoring public!" Candy saluted, punching the air lustily. "This
is a Public Service Announcement!"

"This," explained the Captain, "is the 2005 Adrics Awards."

"Voting is now open. We want to see a good clean fight -- no personation,
corruption, divine intervention, voting software companies closely allied to
one of the candidates uploading the results and suffering massive coincidental
audit file failure, eye-gouging, cold-fusion-bombing, or casting of mass charm
spells -- "

Captain Leader scratched his stubbly chin, puzzled. "We do?"

"We want to be on record as completely opposing all forms of naughtiness,"
Candy sort of confirmed. "So! Kids! Always be nice!! Vote early and often,
though, golly gosh, *certainly* not more often than you have legitimate votes
to cast, fritter my luncheon!!! Anyway, now you know the rules, be bold
devil-may-care Corinthians and may the nummiest nerd/nymph win!" Candy swept a
magnificently out-of-place curtsey. "And now, by popular request, a little
something of myself -- my hopes, my dreams, my expectations -- my everything!"
She favoured the camera with a meltingly soulful look out of eyes blue and
sweet as a Fox's glacier mint, and commenced to croon in mechanically accurate
imitation of Julie Andrews:

_"Hot bunny love and obscene sums of money,_
_Lauren Bacall, lions, and limeflower honey,_
_Eight-alarm chillies and big rocks in rings,_
_These are a few of your rigidly incorruptible Returning Officer's favourite
things -- "_

"Thank you. *Thank* you. So it's goodnight from me, and from my Esteemed
Associate here -- "

"-- it's -- " Her Esteemed Associate charged into the dreadful gap between Muse
and camera, got down boogily into a Space Cossack Breakdance, and began

_"Chained-up princesses imploring my mercy,_
_Enemies' plans going all arsy-versy,
_Radium enemas, dead Magyar kings,
_These are -- "_

An unfeasibly long shepherd's crook extended from the wings and hooked him
abruptly from the scene.

" -- just a few of the things we don't want to see at the polls for the Adwc
Adrics Awards 2005!" Candy concluded without missing a beat. "Although come to
think of it, sounds like the princess dodge has real poten---"

Another crooked intrusion from the wings left the stage empty. 'C'EST TOUT,
CITOYENS!' flashed up five times in gross-point neon-red before the scene
lurched violently, as if the whole world were tumbling about the camera or
something, and the screen went a richly deserved blank.

Prelude - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 8 - Epilogue - Summary

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