TO DIE FOR: CABALS-UP
High on a wooded hill overlooking This Time Round, something sinister
was going on.
Of course it wouldn't have appeared sinister at first glance, that be-
ing part of what makes sinister activity so, well, _sinister_.
The man involved was not particularly sinister, not in the traditional
science-fiction sense of being a faceless entity radiating an aura of
evil or a tentacled slime-thing. He was just this guy sitting on the
hood of a largish pickup truck, smoking a cigarette. Nothing sinister
about his sleeveless Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt, nothing sinister about
his sunglasses, nothing sinister about his cowboy boots or the tattoo of
a red-and-white flag on his arm.
What _was_ a bit sinister was the way he was peering intently at the
nearby pub through a pair of binoculars. People who unobtrusively
watch others through binoculars are seldom up to any good, thus this man
could be considered to have rather questionable motives. Possibly
even _sinister_ motives.
Oh yes. He also had a large Soviet assault rifle lying across his
"Arise, Brethren, and bow before the Holiest of Relics!"
As one, the robed and hooded figures around the table stood and made
obeisance to their leader, He-Who-Is-Never-Named. The Nameless One
stood, as always, in the shadows. There's not much point in being
nameless if everyone can see your face, after all. He was visible only
as a dim and bulky figure standing before his darkened throne, but one
gloved fist was raised into the light, and from that fist dangled in all
its white and chaste glory the object of the group's awestruck
A woman's slip. A _petite_ woman's slip.
An almost palpable wave of melancholy passed through the room as the
venerated undie was put away, and the Nameless One took his seat on the
Throne of Shadows.
"Enough with the formalities," he said in a rich and rolling bass.
"Everyone sit, and let us get this thing going. Number One, you called
this Conclave, so the floor is yours."
At the head of the table, one of the brown-robed figures gave a def-
errential nod to his leader and turned to the assembled Brethren,
fishing a cigarette out of some inner pocket as he did. The Brethren
were an odd-looking group, some twenty seated figures clad in iden-
tical brown velvet robes and all faceless in the shadows of their hoods.
Number One lit up and took a drag on the cigarette, then began to
"My Brethren, before we begin this Conclave, I'd like to welcome our
newest members, Numbers Nineteen and Twenty, and to remind each..."
A figure at the far end of the table suddenly leapt to its feet, shout-
ing, "I am not a number!! I am a free man!! Aheh heh heh..."
"...remind each of you that 'Reservoir Dogs', 'The Prisoner', and 'Star
Trek TNG' gags will be punished _severely_." Number One pressed a
button on the table top and the offender was forced violently back into
his chair. Metal restraints appeared and clamped his wrists and ankles
in place as Number One stepped up behind him. "You will rue your
insolence, Number Twenty," Number One snarled.
"I'm sorry! I didn't know! I'll be good! Honest!" Twenty wailed and
thrashed about fruitlessly as Number One wheeled his chair to a small
booth that sat off to one side of the chamber. "Please! Not this!
Shoot me or something, but not this!!"
Number One placed the chair with the screaming man in the booth, then
turned on a largescreen TV set opposite his victim. Twenty tried to
turn away, but Number One clamped his head in place so that he had to
look. "There are speakers in the clamps, Twenty. So you get the _full_
effect." Number One chuckled evilly and locked him in, the soundproof
door choking off his pleas for mercy.
With the Brethren watching, Number One pulled a videocassette out of his
robe and placed it in a VCR mounted on the booth's exterior.
"'Timelash'?" asked Number Seven.
"'Spice World'?" asked Number Twelve.
"Worse. Shakespeare's 'Richard the Third'."
Number Six sounded puzzled. "But, 'Richard the Third' ain't so bad..."
"Performed by William Shatner?"
"That's revolting," replied Four. "May the Goddess have mercy on his
Number Six sighed. "We lose more newbies this way..."
"Enough sadism for the moment," the Nameless One pronounced. "Number
One, get on with it. Or else..."
"Oh, right. Yessir." Number One stepped quickly back to the table. "My
Brethren, we've got a _serious_ problem on our hands..."
In a back room of This Time Round, three people were very busy. Two of
them, a man and a woman, were wearing army fatigues and were busy
checking and readying various pieces of military hardware. The third,
a young man in a yellow and green outfit, was busy worrying.
"Guys, are you sure this is a good idea?"
The two fatigue-clad individuals nodded in unison. "Uh-huh," said the
man, while the woman continued loading MAC-10 clips.
"You're _sure_ you can protect me?"
"Uh-huh." The man checked his radio and tightened his kevlar vest.
"And this is really the only way?"
"Uh-huh." Thermite grenades... Where were those damn thermite
"Are you even paying attention to me?"
"Uh-huh." Combat knife: check. Gas mask: check. Need a couple more
"I'm doomed, aren't I?"
"Uh-huh." Frag grenades: check. Plastic explosives: check...
The parking lot was a shattered, smoking wasteland, with a large crater
right in the middle. It looked like a Lunar landscape, assuming that
the Moon had been paved and set down in front of an English pub.
Deep within the crater, something moved. With agonizing slowness, it
pulled itself free of the rubble and began to crawl upwards. It was
something metallic and vaguely human-shaped, blue-andwhite-colored.
It collapsed for a moment and panting -- restrained and dignified, but
still panting -- could be heard. With an effort, it resumed crawling
and eventually reached the lip of the crater. At last, the figure
raised its head and shook the dust from its dishevelled brown hair.
In a refined, dignified, and rather sweet voice, the figure muttered, "I
am now _righteously_ pissed-off."
The scene froze.
Number One turned to the Brethren. "Here we have another violation of
Commandment Four: 'Thou shalt not assault Her Holiness.' Add to that a
violation of Commandment Six, which was overheard shortly before these
events. To wit: someone was heard to refer to Her Holiness as
'Psycho-Bitch'." He made the Sign of Contrition at having to say such
words, and the Brethren murmurred their anger at the Blasphemers.
Number One turned off the projector, and the disturbing image of the
battered, mech-suit-clad Nyssa vanished. He rummaged for another
cigarette while he let his news soak in. He wanted them settled down
before he hit them with the even worse news.
Number Three was furious. "They _dare_?!? Numerous violations of the
Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Thirteenth Commandments, plus this ongoing
blasphemy of calling Our Lady a psycho! They must _pay_!"
Number Six's South Carolina drawl was as even as always, but a hard
undertone lay just beneath the surface. "That 'Trakenite Slammer'
business is what gets me. The way it seems to've caught on, we may be
hard-put to stomp that one out."
Number One took a few puffs, then held up a hand for silence. "As much
as it pains me to say it, there is far worse in the offing. My
Brethren, there has come to my attention a plot against the very
foundation of our faith. There are forces at work attempting to en-
gineer a violation of the First Commandment itself!"
The Brethren arose, shouting and gesticulating. Vile curses and ep-
ithets were hurled at the Blasphemers, and vows to see their destruc-
tion were sworn. Just for effect, Number One turned the projector back
on, this time displaying the text of the Most Holy First Commandment:
'Thou shalt never -- never _ever_ -- pair Her Holiness romantically with
anyone dorky or uncool. _Especially ADRIC!_'
"Come on, guys! Can't I at least wear something less conspicuous?"
"Nope." Detonators: check. Armor-piercing bullets: check. "The
whole point is for her to see you. She spots you, she shoots, we take
"And if her first shot is a hit?"
"We still take her out. We can target her whether she hits you or not."
Nerve gas antidote: check.
"I mean, what about _me_?"
Backup pistol in boot: check. "What about you? You've got a Card.
You'll be back."
"Easy for you to say..."
Poison darts: check. "There's more than just you at stake. We're
fighting for _principle_, here. Try to see the big picture."
On the hilltop, the man with the binoculars set them aside and checked
his watch. The time was drawing close. He popped a modified 30-round
clip into his SKS and chambered a round. The bolt closed with the oddly
satisfying snapping noise that Soviet rifles tend to make, and the man
"Soon," he hissed to the rifle. "Real soon."
"So," rumbled the Nameless One, "having apprised us of this terrible
threat to Our Lady and ourselves, what do you propose be done to deal
"Well, sir, at this time we have little knowledge of what dark forces
may be behind these Unholy and foul events." Number One took a moment
to consider. "The more blatant Blasphemers and Defiers of Holy Writ are
known, but may be but a front for some other organization. There is,
after all, the mystery of the so-called ADF. Obviously, there is much
behind the scenes here that we know nothing of."
"So, you believe we should observe them and try to determine who all is
involved before we take action?"
Number One didn't miss a beat. "Nope. I think we should charge in
there with everything we've got, smash everything, and eliminate
everyone who's even the least bit suspect!" His voice rose and he began
to drool a little. "Smite them all with righteous fire! Call down Holy
vengeance on the misbelievers!! Smash!! Destroy!! KILL!!
The Brethren all held up numbered cards, which the Nameless One quickly
tallied and averaged. "Not bad, Number One. You got a 7.8. A little
more 'Holy vengeance', and a little less maniacal laughter, and you
might tie the record next time." Number One bowed to the applauding
Brethren. "However, you know damn well we can't just charge in with all
guns blazing and trounce the Alzarian and his cohorts with our full
"Oh, sir! Just this once, couldn't we--"
"No, we can't. It's all here in the Book." The Nameless One opened the
massive, 4000-page tome, found his place, and began to read:
'Know that when it shall be necessary to do battle with the Unholy, the
Heretics, and the Blasphemers, that in no instance shall the menace be
assailed with the full might of the Holy Order in the opening stages.
Rather, the weakest forces shall proceed to battle, that the enemy's
strength may be gauged, and that the dramatic tension of the story may
be heightened, and the plotline thus drawn out over a period of time as
the enemy gains in strength and experience. For, know that if we
ended these tales too quickly, who would wish to follow them?'
The massive Book was slammed shut and the Nameless One's shadowed bulk
"To that end, Number One, I order that the following be done: First,
you shall continue to observe the Blasphemers and learn their ways and
strength; second, you shall provide them with a small sample of what
fate holds for them should they continue their unrighteous ways; and
third, you shall mobilize your Minions and use them to counter any moves
our enemies might attempt."
Number One began to fidget. Badly. "My Minions, sir?"
"Yes, of course. That's what Minions are _for_."
The fidgetting got worse. "Well... actually, I was thinking, you know,
there's really no need to involve _them_... no need in escalating, I
"Number One, not five minutes ago, you were calling for an all-out
assault, and now you're worried about _escalation_?"
Fidget fidget fidget. "Well, _no_. Not so much that... It's just..."
"Just _what_, Number One?"
"Perhaps," Number Six put in, "Number One is concerned about his
Minions' reliability? Perhaps he doesn't think they can handle the
"I'll get 'em mobilized," Number One said hastily. "I just was con-
cerned about the damage their fanaticism might cause."
"I'm sure," said Six sarcastically.
Satisfied, the Nameless One arose. "Very good, Number One. I want the
rest of you to be on the alert for trouble in your areas, and be
prepared to support Number One if the need arises. This Conclave is
adjourned. Hail the Lady!"
With a chorus of "Hail the Lady"s, the group filed out. In the dead
silence of the chamber, the Nameless One paused and placed an ear
against the Punishment Booth. From within, despite the heavy
soundproofing, he could hear the mangling of the Bard's great work and
the destruction of a soul.
"A... horse! A..... horse! My... kingdomfor....... ahorse!!"
<--RINGRING-- --RINGRING-- --RINGRI-->
"Hello, Darren Ullman?"
<No, _I'm_ Darren Ullman. Who are you?>
Sigh. "Darren, it's me, your Leader."
<Huh? Who is this?>
"Darren, listen to me. This is the man who represents you and your
fellows at the Conclave."
<Conclave? There's a con in town? Cool! I'll get my scarf and my
'TARDIS Crewmember' pin!>
Sigh. Count to three. Think calming thoughts. Happy thoughts. Like
strangling this dumbass with his own intestines. "Listen up, 'cause I'm
only saying this _once_, and if you don't get it, I'm going to find you
and break parts of you that you didn't even know you had. Got it?"
"Good. This is Number One. Do you understand me so far?"
<Yeah. You're Number One. How's Geordi?>
"Right. You just signed your death warrant, shit-for-brains..."
<Hey! I know that insult! You're Number One from the Brethren!>
"Not so loud, stupid. I have news for you and your friends..."
<About a con?>
Sigh again. Rub temples. "No. This is about Our Lady."
<WHAT? Something's happened to Nyssa?!?>
Well, at least he's paying attention. "In a manner of speaking. There
are some people at This Time Round that are giving her a bit of trouble,
and what I need you to do is--"
<Trouble?!? Those _bastards_! I'll assemble the Knights, and we'll put
a stop to this!>
"No! Wait! We need to plan--"
<Don't worry, Nyssa! Your loyal Knights are coming!!>
The man with the binoculars grinned wickedly and hefted his SKS. "Right
on time," he chuckled. "Punctuality is _such_ a virtue."
"So, _Adric_, how are you doing, there, _Adric_?"
The boy in question winced and tried to shrink down into himself. The
role of bait was not one he found enjoyable. Even with a Mortality
Deferment Card, getting killed was a far from pleasant experience.
Especially with the creative ways that _she_ was so fond of.
The fatigue-clad man gestured to him. "Over this way, _Adric_. Sweep
this part of the parking lot first, where it's a lot more _exposed_,
_Adric_." The man looked around quickly each time he repeated the
Alzarian's name, and his hand would drop to the butt of his MAC-10.
"I used to think this was a bad idea," the boy mumbled, "but now, I know
The man set aside his cigarette and peered down the open sights of his
SKS. At 400 yards, the shot was a little long for a 7.62 mm round, but
with an obligingly slow-moving target and that gold star as an aiming
point, he could be pretty sure of a hit. He made adjustments for the
elevation and windage, found his aiming point, and curled his finger
around the trigger...
The fatigue-clad man flicked his eyes back and forth across the sur-
rounding landscape, to the broom-pushing young man, and to his partner.
"Damn. I'd have expected her to strike by now," she called to him. "You
think we've got a no-show, Doug?"
"No, Di," he replied, "I think--"
There was a flat crack of a rifle shot, and the Alzarian was thrown to
"Di! Did you see where that came from?"
"DAMN!" The man called Doug raced to the fallen boy's side and cradled
his head. The bullet had taken him dead-center of the chest, causing a
very messy and obviously mortal wound.
"Did... did you... (cough) get her?" the boy managed weakly.
Doug shook his head. "Sorry, kid. We'll have to do better next time."
"You... you...," the boy drew in a shuddering breath, then hissed,
"Hey, Doug!" called Di suddenly. "I see something! On that hill!"
Doug dropped the boy's head with a thud and snatched up his bi-
noculars. "I see it, too! Let's get her!"
The man on the hilltop grinned down in satisfaction. The kid was down
and out, and the message could be considered as delivered. He could
leave now, but it looked like the GI Joes down there wanted to play,
too. He raised the SKS again, prepared to oblige them.
Doug ducked behind a police-box TARDIS as a bullet chipped the asphalt
two feet away. He leaned out and sent a full-magazine burst toward the
"YAAAAHH! Take that!" he shouted. "Di! Have you got through to the
From behind similar cover, Di nodded and continued speaking into the
radio. "Direction 280. Range 1800. Fire mission!"
Doug grinned in satisfaction and reloaded his machine pistol.
The man on the hilltop chuckled to himself. It was nothing like a fair
fight. If 400 yards was about the limit of the SKS's effective range,
it was about four times the MAC-10's effective range. Add to that the
projectile drop caused by having to fire uphill, and it would take an
Act of God for them to score a hit. He squeezed off another round
towards the man, hoping to spook him out with ricochets.
Suddenly, there was a rumbling like distant thunder. Odd, since it was
a clear day. A moment later, a noise like a ripping sheet filled the
air and the slope a few hundred yards away disappeared in a blast of
flame and dust.
"Change bearing to 290. Drop 50. Fire for effect!"
The big Chrysler engine snarled to life and the pickup slung mud as it
reversed away at full speed. The driver threw it into forward and
darted away, whistling in relief as his sniping position erupted behind
Suddenly, he began to curse. Violently and profusely.
He'd left his smokes behind.
"Cease fire! Come on, Doug! Let's go see what we bagged."
Some ways away, a group of jumpy-looking individuals in army fatigues
were high-fiving each other as they reloaded their battery of field
Doug cursed and kicked at the churned earth. "She got away clean! And
after all that work! Damn it!"
"I'm not so sure," murmurred Di.
"You've found something?"
"Just maybe." She held up a mud-covered pack of Marlboro 100s. "I found
these and some tire tracks over there past the splintered oak tree."
"But... Nyssa doesn't smoke or have a driver's license. That I know of,
The two eyed each other solemnly for a moment, considering poss-
ibilities. None of them were pleasant.
"Looks like the firefight's over!" called the Brigadier. Patrons grad-
ually began coming out from under tables and other improvised shelters
and returning to their thankfully-intact drinks.
"At least they didn't damage the furnishings this time," said Harry
Sullivan happily. "Any casualties?"
"The usual. Looks like a chest wound from here."
"Poor Adric. That had to hurt."
"Eh? Did somebody call me?" Everyone turned to see an unscathed and
puzzled-looking Adric emerging from the basement.
"Hullo, Old Boy," Harry called. "Reconstituted yourself rather quickly
this time, eh? Good show."
"What are you talking about? I've been down the basement doing
inventory. Has something happened?"
"Yes. You would appear to be bleeding to death in the parking lot from
a bullet wound in the chest."
In the parking lot, a young man lay dying and alone. Well, not en-
"COULD YOU HURRY UP A BIT? I HAVE A SCHEDULE TO KEEP, YOU KNOW."
The dying man drew in a weak, hitching breath. Though he knew he'd be
back soon, there was something that he really wanted to say in this
life, something that would profoundly sum up his recent experiences
with existence in general.
"COME ON, KAMELION. I HAVEN'T GOT ALL DAY."
This was not his first death, nor would it be his last. But it was, in
his opinion, the stupidest, and so deserving of comment.
"KAMELION, PLEASE. I HAVE A DALEK-ZYGON SHOOTOUT TO GET TO."
Ah, there it was. The one perfect summary. He drew in his last breath,
and wheezed out a single Word.
Then he died.
"ABOUT TIME," grumbled Death. He hoisted the body to take away for
Reconstitution. If he hurried, he could cover that Dalek business and
be back in time for scumble...
Doctor Who is property of the BBC.
The ADF is the creation of Douglas Killings.
This Time Round is the creation of Tyler Dion.
Characters: Adric, Nyssa, Harry Sullivan, Brigadier, Kamelion
Categories: This Time Round; 'To Die For' series; Humor
Synopsis: Rival sinister organizations clash at This Time Round...