As the sound of hooves heralded Kid Curry's return...

Imran grinned. 'You know, it's fun seeing all the different theories we're coming up with.'


'Y'know. Explaining just what's going on. We've come up with so many theories about what should be done, and why...' He grinned again.

'That's part of the fun of it, isn't it?' our hostess observed. 'Putting the clues about things together, and seeing what we come up with. All the different theories. Like the different ways we can arrange the acts.'

'Rather like milkshakes. Or food, period. ...Want one?' he asked Nyctolops, offering her a milkshake.

'Thank you,' Nyctolops said.

'Of course, one thing holds steady.'

'Confronting the Gods.' Imran completed.

Our hostess nodded. 'And organising the acts into the type of synergy we need to stop them draining creativity.' She peered into her drink. 'By the way, what sort of magic's in these?'

'At the moment?' Imran thought.

There were low noises from outside, as Kid quieted his brown.

'Well... at the moment, a little divination magic. Nothing big, or fancy - but you may see something of this area's past or future, get an insight into what someone here's thinking, or an insight about the situation.'

'Oh. Will this take effect immediately, or...?'

'In this case...' Imran thought again. 'I'd give it a few minutes. Be careful you're not doing anything important, so you don't get distracted.'

'Hmm. Like the Water of Knowledge.' our hostess mused.

'Well... you might say that.'

'What's in Nyctolops'?'

Imran frowned. '...I have absolutely no idea. I was focusing on the conversation, so I wasn't paying attention to what I was mixing...'

'Nothing too bad?' Nyctolops asked with concern.

'Nah. It'll be something Pro-Fun, I know that much. Maybe something appropriate to the situation - no mind-control magic, or permanent transformations, or anything destructive just for the sake of it.'

Our hostess nodded. 'All right.'

Kid pushed under the awning, and stepped inside, nodding at the others there. He took up a seat by the edge of the ring.

Our hostess noted his presence. Maybe there was something... Hmm.

Then, her mind latched onto what was different: he'd actually greeted the others in the ring. It wasn't much -- maybe nothing. But, at least for now, he seemed to see himself aligned with them ... Maybe -- but no, she didn't want to speculate (and she didn't want to risk triggering the divination potion until something really important came along).

She clapped her hands together. 'Okay! Let's get this show on the road!'

Nyctolops wrinkled up her forehead, trying to remember the various acts. Sadly, it didn't seem to be working very well at the moment. All she could remember was that Imran was doing a magic act. "We really should start with the Grand Parade," she said. "That would start things off fairly low-key, then we build up from that."

"Good Idea!" the troll said, "and having everyone line up for the parade would give us a chance to do a roll call."

"You read my mind!" Nyctolops said.

"Did I? Oh, dear... I was hoping this Milkshake of Knowledge wouldn't kick in until those Ragnarok dudes showed up."

"I know I'm doing a kind of magic thing as well," Bokman chipped in.

The troll nodded. "Right, I remember. With Zoe, right?"

Bokman nodded, a goofy grin on his face.

"Did you find the Legos you needed?" the avocado troll asked.

"I think so..." Bokman said. "I'll go ask Zoe."

"Well, hurry up!" She turned to her deputy. "And Jim is doing some sort of trained animal act with the cats, right?" she asked.

"I don't know exactly how trained they are," the little turquoise troll responded, "but I think he's doing something with them..."

"Hmmm. Getting cats to march in a parade could be tricky... Better get him some tuna to stuff into his pockets."

The little troll made a note on her legal pad. "Check," she said.

Daibhid, who'd been rummaging around in the Rucksack during this conversation, emerged triumphantly with three juggling balls. "A minor talent, but with two magicians already, I figure it's this or my singing, and you don't want that!"

"There's no such thing as bad singing as long as you're enjoying yourself," said the avocado troll firmly.

"Yeah, it's amazing how many people think that before they've heard me. Anyway, this is something I am good at. Well, pretty good, anyway. At least I was last time I tried, which was about a year ago. I think I'll shut up now, before I talk myself out of it."

The little troll noted down on her pad "Daibhid - juggling (probably)".

"Have you seen Gordon and Saville?"

"They're being very secretive," her deputy said, "but I think I heard Gordon mumble something about 'dancing zombies'."

"Oh. ... I hope their dancers are all ... erm ... volunteers. Grave robbing isn't very pro-fun ... on the other hand, if the spirit of fun has managed to survive the grave ..."

"It might be just the thing to tackle the Gods?" Nyctolops finished for her. "After all, the Gods may not be undead themselves, but you could hardly call them living."

"Now you're reading my mind!" the avocado troll said.

"Perhaps it's catching."

"What do you mean they're still in the airport waiting to get to Ibiza?" cried Gordon.

Saville read from the newspaper, "Spanish coach driver's strike, then when that finished, the pilots went on strike."

"Well that isn't very pro-fun is it?"

"It's not a problem though..."

"It isn't?"

Saville whipped a small packet from his pocket.

(singing) "A packet from his pocket, a packet from his pocket!"

Gordon and Saville stared at the Three Muses. |\O_o/| |\o_O/|

The Three Muses looked back. (^_^) (^_^) (^_^) "What?"

"Nothing, carry on..." Gordon turned back to look at the packet from Saville's pocket. He read the label.

"Instant Zombies. Just add water..."

He looked at Saville, "You know, I really worry about you sometimes," he smiled.

"So, what about the rest of our entertainment package?"

Saville looked at his checklist. "The masked Mexican wrestling Armadillos are here, Steve Irwin's Crocodile Roadshow have confirmed, and the ninjas didn't actually say anything, but they did give me a thumbs up which I take it was a yes."

"Cool, anyone else?"

"Well, yeah. A paper aeroplane landed on my head, I unfolded it and it said 'I'll be there to help out as well' but it wasn't signed."

"Hmm, wonder who that could be? Anyway, we should get going, they've probably come up with all sorts of ideas for what's going on by now, so we'd better get caught up!"

They grooved mightily into the tent, past Captain Fallon of UNIT's SB Division[1] who was sort of acting as a bouncer for the night.

"Sorry we were so long!"

Everyone looked and noticed that the cuddly Gengar on Gordon's head was now jiggling about like one of those vibrating Tigger toys. Saville's hat was now glowing in a slightly worrying fashion...

"We're back! And it's about fun!!!"

[1] - SB = Silly buggers. They get called in when we're playing at it... :)

Nyctolops furrowed up her brow again. "Now, how do circuses build up energy in the audience? They build from small to large, like starting off with small animal acts, then go to the horses, then lions, then finish off with the elephants. They also build from the ground up, until they have used all the space in the circus tent, as in using the jugglers and tumblers on the ground, then the fellow who juggles on a unicycle, then the springboard acrobats, and finish up with the flying trapeze. There is also usually a build up from safer acts to the really dangerous ones. Put all these ways of building up energy and tension in the audience together, and synergy should develop."

The avocado troll nodded. "Just like in storytelling," she said, "until all the conflicts build to a single crisis point, from which only one outcome is possible, changing the status-quo that was present at the start of the story."

She took another sip of her hot chocolate. It tasted slightly different, and she suspected Imran had slipped in a little dash of something while she was meditating on the change in Kid. Was that cinnamon, or nutmeg, or something else entirely?

"As a matter of fact," she continued, getting back to her point, "I've been to circuses where all the acts combined into the 'chapters' of a story.

"But, remember, we won't be performing for your ordinary audience -- this is 'dueling circuses' with the Gods of Ragnarok. I'm not sure how it will all go down when midnight comes, but I imagine that the Gods will perform an act, then we'll answer with another. What we need to do is figure out which of our acts will 'undo' the effects of each of the Gods' acts. It may be that 'small to large' will still be the way to go, but we can't afford to assume."

"But then," Nyctolops asked, "how can we plan out our whole act before the Gods even get here?"

"They lack all imagination, and we have the power of divination. Shouldn't be too hard to keep a few steps ahead."

Alryssa nodded, as she toyed with her tarot deck, a deck featuring dragons that seemed to be almost alive as she shuffled them.

"Unleash the powers of both, and you have a pretty potent force to work with," she said.

"And," Imran added, as he stirred his great cauldron of milkshakes, "they're vain. They'll probably start out with their biggest act, in order to scare us into submission before the battle even starts."

"Even after Gordon's little sky show?" Allie asked.

"Well," Imran said, "they're not exactly famous for learning from their experiences."

"No kidding," muttered Tessa. Alryssa shot her a look. The avocado troll read over the shoulder of her deputy. "You mentioned jugglers and acrobats," she said to Nyctolops, "-- two things I do not see on our list of acts. How do you feel about doing either of those things?"

"Hmmm," Nyctolops said, a thoughtful, distant look coming into her eyes, "juggling: the balance of energies, order and chaos --"

"Syntropy and entropy?" the little turquoise troll added.

"Yes. And basic silliness, and trickery! An art long mistrusted by stuffed shirts and bureaucrats throughout history!"

"What are you thinking?" Our Hostess/Ringmaster asked.

"If we could combine juggling with typical "Doctor Who" technobabble gadgetry --"

"Oh, no!" Jim called out from somewhere. "No more of that! I've had enough boominess for this lifetime!"

"If we combine juggling with gadgetry," Nyctolops continued, undeterred, "then maybe we could 'juggle up' the energy the Gods will try to raise -- say if a juggler (or two, or three) just started performing off to one side, just as the Gods began their act."

"What do you have in mind?" the avocado troll asked again.

"Well, we have eight Doctors -- and eight sonic screwdrivers..."

"This sounds like a dangerous combination already," Gordon grinned.

"And the Fourth Doctor sometimes carries around an etheric beam locator and the Third almost always has something gadgety in his pockets and all of them have yo-yos . . . Hey, how many rings does the Psychic Circus have? Many circuses have three rings -- one big and two small, so we could put the Doctors in the two smaller rings and nothing would look out of place."

'Actually, Daibhid's offering to do the juggling,' the deputy said. 'He is?' our hostess said.

'It was either that or the singing...'

'Hmm...' our hostess mused. 'Must ask Daibhid whether or not he feels up to doing this. Maybe Third could offer him one or two pointers.'

'I'm doing the magical milkshakes.' Imran observed. 'Hopefully, that should be able to tell whether or not the zombies are volunteering - of course, with Gordon and Saville, you never know... but basically, my act's the milkshakes.

'And be careful,' he advised Nyctolops. 'Since we don't know what magic your milkshake had, anything might set the magic off.'

Nyctolops nodded.

'Oh, umm.. I took the liberty of slipping a special ingredient into yours,' Imran said to the hostess.

'Why?' our hostess asked.

'Looks like a cold night tonight. Felt it needed something warming. And given who we're up against... you'll need it.'

Our hostess half-smiled. 'You have a point there, now you mention it... Magically warming, or normally warming?'

'A little of both, I think...'

Our hostess smiled at that.

'Will that be a small or large act?' the deputy asked.

Imran waved his hand from side to side. 'Mediumish... I think.'

The deputy noted it on his notepad. 'Imran - magical milkshakes.'

'The Muses -' Imran indicated Allie, Tessa and Yokoi. '- have formed a pop group.'

'You have?' the deputy said.

Yokoi blinked. 'Well, it's not that surprising - anyway, we used to do it back at the Collegium, it was about time we brought the act outta mothballs.'

'That should be a big production,' our hostess commented. '...Sorry, I'm not quite clear on this. Did Allie and Yokoi know Tessa back at the Collegium?'

'Well, we did know her...' Allie hemmed.

'She was in our classes.' Yokoi said. 'Although she actually passed her course - somehow. No, the act was just me and Allie back then. Still can't remember how she managed to get me into that...'

Tessa shrugged. 'We only actually got to meet again sometime after our writers met up. It was polite, after all.'

'And then they decided to form the Odd Muse Trio,' Imran said wryly. 'And that scares me...'

'Wonder why?' Allie wondered.

Imran raised his eyebrows. 'Anyway. I think Alryssa's decided to sit the actual acts out - but she suspects Sailor Gallifrey'll probably be needed to channel the energy we build up, break the Gods' Conduit, and open up a Conduit of our own to return the energy the Gods stole. Might be wrong on all that, though.'

Our hostess paused for a moment. Conduit? Kid's amulet had seemed to act as something of a conduit - when it linked to her TARDIS. She stored the idea away for further thought.

Alryssa nodded. "You're right - in a way. I'll be sitting the performance out - but I do need to be prepared. Which is why I created these tarot cards."

Imran looked at the undersized deck.

"Yes, Imran, there's no minor arcana. We need major power - cosmic power, but I can't release it all at once. Twenty-one aspects, twenty-one forces, twenty-one ways it could all go pear-shaped."

"Oh... joy..."

She smiled.

"Better than seventy-two."

"Will you be needing a milkshake, then?"


'Shouldn't there be twenty-two cards?'


'The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Justice, The Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Strength, The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, and The World.'

Alryssa eyed Imran suspiciously. 'Get that Big Book of Tarot out from behind the cauldron, thanks. I refuse to believe even you could remember all that.'

'Well...' Imran paused. 'Seventy-two? Which deck are you using?'

'Now that's a much better question.'

'I'll say. There's a missing card somewhere; 72 - 21 = 51. Should be 52, cause there are four suits...'

'Who're we starting with?' Alryssa said,.

'Our hostess, I think.' Imran frowned. 'I'm somewhere in the middle, Cameron's the penultimate one, and TYA wrap it all up with the big finale - although I think they're also doing backing numbers through this...'

'I wondered why she was dressed as Harlequin,' Alryssa observed.

"Ahem," the little turquoise troll said quietly (as she couldn't help overhearing -- Troll hearing, normally quite good, becomes excellent when they are nervous), "Our Hostess is acting as ringmaster -- it is I, her deputy, who is going on first."

[Authorial aside: Our Hostess has a clear complexion of avocado green, and stands a little over three feet tall. Her deputy has turquoise colored skin with medium to dark blue freckles across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, and is roughly 6 inches shorter (and thinner).]

'Good. This should go well...'

'Yes...' Imran's frown stayed in place. 'Thing is, I wrote up a Tarot reading - well, a card reading, because those weren't Tarot cards - when all this began.'

[ ]

'You did?!'

'Not for the Hoedown, no!' Imran said hastily. 'Just for one of my own storylines. Done by the bad guy.'

'So what you're saying...' Alryssa said slowly. 'is that you've set something in motion totally counter to what I'm doing.'



'It was telling a story!' Imran protested. 'Anyway, he's done now.'

'We'll see...' Alryssa observed darkly.

'Well, it had the Eighth Doctor as a card.'

'It had WHAT?!'

'The wild card, actually. All change.'

Alryssa raised her eyebrows. 'Hmm...'

Imran winced.

'Muses - pop group' the little troll noted.

'Imran...' Allie observed. 'Somehow, I don't think the Gods would start with their biggest act.'

'They wouldn't?'

'No. Like we said, they're unimaginative and vain. They'll leave their biggest act till last, because it simply wouldn't occur to them to do likewise. We'd do it because the culmination of the show should release the tension the rest of the show had built up - to show the audience something unexpected, inevitable and releasing.' Allie said. 'Basic Story Structure 203.'

'Didn't you flunk that?' Yokoi said.

Allie's cheeks went red. 'I kept my notes, didn't I?'

'Singing, juggling, animal acts, magic with Lego, magical milkshakes... something involving dancing zombies...' Our hostess shook her head at that. 'I think Fourth and Eighth are going to be showing off their fencing skills. Any idea what the other Doctors have planned?'

Popping his head in, Bokman clarified. "Actually the Legos aren't that integral- we're using 'em for a few props."

Zoe came over holding a box that shook and jumped as if something were alive. "What's in this?"

Bokman, startled, replied "Um... let's be very careful with that. It'll help with the show, but we wouldn't want... them... getting loose beforehand."

"Alright," Zoe shrugged. "I'll just put them in the protective area along with the-" she paused, not wanting to leak any secrets- "other props."

Meanwhile, back in Vortex City, the Contessa is attempting to contact the Monitors...

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Story by members of rec.arts.drwho / HTML layout by Igenlode Wordsmith, modified by Imran Inayat
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