TO DIE FOR: THE FEMININE MISTAKE
PART 1: HAPPILY NEVER AFTER
The great philosophers of the ages have often been given to con-
sidering the concept of Life. What is its nature? What is its
meaning? What can we do about it? Some of the greatest minds
in existence have contemplated this subject, studied its angles
and intricacies, and generally avoided doing any real productive
labor while sitting on their duffs scratching their chins and look-
ing thoughtful. The answers that they have arrived at after all
these centuries of intellectual three-card-monte can basically be
boiled down to the following theorem: "Life generally sucks."
Had any of these so-called intellectual giants thought to do it, they
could have simply asked someone who knew this. In particular,
they could have gone to This Time Round, ordered up a whiskey-
and-soda, and gone to a small side booth where their questions
regarding the generally sucky state of the human condition
would have been answered. They could have sat down, had a bit
of a chat with the very pretty redhead in the opposite seat, and
heard all about how Life not only bites, it bites the big hairy one.
Nietzche and Plato could have nodded sagely over their cups as
Mill and Kant scribbled down notes and Descartes tried to get a
good view of the girl's ample cleavage. Eventually, though, things
would have gone badly when Marx made a lewd pass at her, citing
the phrase "from each according to her ability, to each according
to his needs" as the reason she should go upstairs with him. As
it is difficult to philosophize when one's head has been removed
and inserted into one's rectum, poor Fred Engels would've had to
write _The Communist Manifesto_ all by himself, with the result
that Communism would have been a pathetic, abysmal failure in-
stead of the utter socio-political catastrophe that we are familiar
Or, to put it in less convoluted terms, Number One was currently
very female, very depressed, and intent on getting very drunk.
"How do I hate my life?" she thought. "Let me count the ways..."
She took a long pull at her fifth Singapore Sling and began to
silently enumerate her woes.
One. She hated this stupid curse that turned her from male to
female when she got doused with cold water.
Two. She hated whoever had turned on the lawn sprinkler just as
she (he at the time) was walking up to the pub door.
Three. She hated the way her wet shirt stuck to her.
Four. She hated the way the men in the pub kept staring at her
wet, clinging shirt.
Five. She hated being stuck in this screwed-up country where it
never got warm enough and everybody drove on the wrong side of
the damn road.
Six. She hated whoever the tin-eared sadist was that set up the
jukebox in this place. Whoever heard of a jukebox without any
Charlie Daniels or Hank Williams, Jr. in it? Without even so
much as a Steve Earle song? How in the Hell did they expect
people to get drunk listening to the Spice Girls or any of that
wimpy-ass Gen-X bullshit? Actually, there was _one_ song on
there worth hearing, but she avoided it like the plague. That song
always did strange things to her brain...
Seven. She hated being stuck with four incompetent losers as her
only allies. She had decided that her curse was their fault, since
they caused her original plan to fail. However, she hadn't yet told
them about the curse, and wasn't sure she wanted to. She had
terrible visions involving the WANKERs, a water hose, and a
locked motel-room door. No, best not to tell just yet.
Eight. She hated those Adric Defense Force bastards. Actually,
that wasn't strictly true. She hated the ADF as an entity, despised
the principles it espoused, resented the fact that it was so well-
funded, and was enraged that they had gotten the better of her on
more than one occasion. But, as individuals, Doug and Diane
seemed pretty decent, and a lot more likeable than most of her
own people. And, most of the female ADFers were pretty cute,
come to think about it.
Nine. She hated the fact that her drink was empty. Easy enough
to remedy that...
Nine. (That last one didn't count.) She hated having to worry
about the other Brethren trying to usurp her position. Especially
that smirking son-of-a-bitch Number Six. No doubt he was
already filling the ears of He-Who-Is-Never-Named with all kinds
of misinformation about this latest setback, undermining the
Nameless One's confidence in his chief lieutenant. Damn him,
and that fuzzy little dirtball Five, as well!
Ten. She hated whoever the damn jerk was that shot that cross-
bow and caused her to get hit with the Jusenkyou water. She had
no leads at this point as to who that might have been, but she
would find out one day, oh yes! When she did, that person was
going to scream for a very, very long time before they died.
Eleven. She hated the stupid rulebook that kept her from just
sweeping in and taking out the opposition in one sudden stroke.
She had ten pounds of plastique socked away, more than enough
to turn This Time Round into so much drifting dust. It would be
_so_ simple to just wire the place, call Nyssa out on some excuse,
and then blow pub, ADF, Adric, and all into the next world. But,
_no_. The Nameless One insisted on playing by the Book, and
the Book said that sort of thing was a no-no. Hell.
Twelve. She hated--
She hated _him_. Swamp Thing. The math geek from Hell. The
Boy Blunder. The Thing That Wouldn't Die. Weasel-boy.
She seethed as he came in the door, raged as he said hello to all
and sundry, boiled in helpless fury as he put on his apron and set
to work tending bar. The sight of him was like a red cape waved
in a bull's face. Number One felt herself slowly losing her grip on
"Don't look at him," she tried to tell herself. "Think happy
thoughts... Think 'Earthshock'..."
But, the happy thoughts wouldn't come. All that came was more
of the black, soul-shaking rage. All her sorrows, all her woes,
were the fault of this one kid. One whiny, beady-eyed little poster
boy for the terminally uncool.
He came to her table.
"Care for another drink, Miss?" he asked.
Something snapped inside her mind.
She didn't think to wonder how the pitchfork had suddenly appear-
ed in her booth, and wouldn't have cared. She simply snatched it
up and drove it through the Alzarian's chest before either of them
knew she was doing it.
Adric looked down at the handle protruding from his ribcage. A
bloody froth runnelled from his mouth as he whispered, "Hey,
that..." His eyes rolled back and he slid bonelessly off the bloody
There was total silence. Number One looked at the dripping pitch-
fork as if seeing it for the first time. No one moved.
"Oh my God! She killed Adric!" Ben shouted from the card table.
"You bastard!" added Chris a moment later. Several Cybermats
crawled onto the boy's corpse and began chewing at it.
Tegan looked up from her Bloody Mary-Sue long enough to glare
at the room. "Oh, please. It's not as if he won't be back in an hour,
"ACTUALLY, I'M AFRAID HE WON'T." Number One stepped
back, dropping the pitchfork as Death stalked up to the crumpled
body. "THAT WAS HIS LAST LIFE, YOU SEE." The Not-
Especially-Grim Reaper grabbed the body by the arm and hoisted
it over one bony shoulder.
"HIS CARD IS NOW FULL," he told the dumbstruck audience.
"I HEREBY PRONOUNCE ADRIC OF ALZARIUS TO BE OFF-
ICIALLY AND PERMANENTLY LIVING-IMPAIRED." With
great solemnity he removed a rubber stamp from his robe and
pressed it to the dead boy's forehead, leaving the word 'CROAKED'
in red ink just above his eyebrows.
"Hold on a minute!" cried Nyssa from the doorway. "You mean...
that... Adric is... dead... _forever_?" The Traken girl's eyes shim-
mered wetly and her lips trembled with emotion.
"THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT I MEAN. BARRING POSSIBLE
RESURRECTION BY DIVINE SANCTION AT THE TIME OF
JUDGEMENT, ADRIC IS PERMANENTLY CONSIGNED TO
THE NETHERWORLD. CASE CLOSED."
"Oh," Nyssa said, her voice small. She stared after the limp body
as Death carried it outside. After a moment, she followed, her
"Oi, who offed the punk?" Alexander Carter called as he slipped
in past the seemingly-entranced Trakenite.
Francois the Ogron jerked a dirty claw in Number One's direction.
"Easy-looking girl take out geek-boy. Pitchfork in chest." The
Ogron grimaced, a nasty sight. "Pitchfork do job okay, but lack
aesthetic appeal of bludgeon or straight-razor."
Number One shifted nervously as the crowd began to murmur.
The situation had gotten very awkward very fast. She surveyed
the room and weighed her chances. The Magnum was still in her
truck, and without it, she doubted she could handle a roomful of people
singlehandedly. Oh sure, she might get three or four with
the pitchfork before they got her, but she'd still go down in the
"If I'm gonna die," she thought, "I'm gonna die a man." She
snatched a cup of tea from a neighboring table and doused her-
self with it. The onlookers gasped in amazement as the pretty
redhead was instantly transformed into a dark, brawny young
"...regeneration of some sort...?"
"...easy-looking girl now mirror-eyes man..."
"...a _guy_? I was gonna ask her out..."
"Silence!" The room fell quiet as the Seventh Doctor stepped out
and took control of the situation. "This... person... has just killed
Adric! Permanently and forever! And yet, you stand around gap-
ing like fools! Don't any of you know where your duty lies?" He
glowered challengingly at the crowd. "Will none of you do what
must be done?"
There was a moment of uncertain murmurring and shuffling, and
then, as one, the throng was galvanized into action. They came at
Number One in a determined rush. He made a grab for the fallen
pitchfork, but was siezed from behind by Sergeant Benton before
he could get a hand on it. He attempted an elbow smash, but the
crowd pressed him too thickly, and he could barely move. Strong
hands held him by legs and arms, and he was dragged to the
middle of the room. Number One struggled and writhed, but
couldn't get so much as a hand free. Hands reached out and
clutched at him...
...and patted him on the back.
"Hip-hip-hoooraaaay!!" the crowd cheered. With a shove, he was
raised up onto several shoulders and carried around the room. The
applause was deafening.
They carried the stunned aquatranssexual fanatic thrice around
the common room, then set him down to a thunderous ovation at
the bar. The Proprietor grinned and shook his hand. "Free drinks
for life!" he yelled over the cheering.
"My hero!" Number One felt a pair of lithe arms encircle his neck
and turned to find a semi-inebriated Tegan looking at him from a
range of about two inches. She smiled sloppily and planted a
large, wet kiss in the approximate area of his mouth, then slipped
It was hard to believe, but they seemed every bit as glad to be rid
of the pestilential little geek as he, himself was...
Number One had never been the center of so much positive atten-
tion in his whole violent life. For fifteen minutes, every person in
the 'Round shook his hand, clapped his shoulder, slapped his back.
He was offered drinks, flowers, and heartfelt thanks. They all
cheered him to the rafters.
Except for one person...
Among all the crowd of patrons and staff, Time Lords and Comp-
anions, villains and heroes, bit-players and recurring characters,
Nyssa of Traken was conspicuously absent. Along with all the
inane grinning, sheepish shrugging, and self-deprecating nodding
Number One did, he also kept up a watch for her, but to no avail.
Brooding, he pulled out a cigarette. Instantly, a host of people
crowded around to offer him a light. He nodded thanks to Jamie,
Victoria, Sarah Jane, and Peri, each of whom had stuck a match
to his coffin nail, and took a long drag.
"Speech! Speech!" Roz and Tegan began a chant, and soon the
whole room thundered with cries for the Man of the Hour to offer
a few words. Number One sought to demur, but they would have
none of it. With a sigh and a boost from Harry, he climbed onto
the bartop and smiled nervously at his audience.
"Umm... thanks, y'all. I've, uh, been after the little jerk for awhile,
but I guess I just saw an opportunity and took it. I had, ah, no
idea I'd be a hero for takin' him out..."
The crowd roared its approval. Modest, self-effacing heroes
always go over well.
"Really, I guess I did it for Nyssa." Number One's voice caught a
bit as he said her name. "I just want to make sure she's happy..."
"Is that so?" Everyone turned to look as Nyssa walked back in-
side, her eyes firmly locked on Number One's mirrored sunglasses.
In her right hand was the blue star Adric had worn on his chest, a
small spot of Alzarian blood staining one side. The crowd parted
Red Sea-like as she strode up to the bar, her face expressionless.
"You say you want to make me happy," she said. "But, I am _far_
from happy right now."
Number One's mouth opened and closed several times, but no
words would come out. It felt as though his heart had frozen inside
his chest. The world wavered in his sight. Could she _possibly_
have had feelings for that... that... that... Adric?!
"How could I be happy? How, when Adric is dead and the person
who did it... _hasn't asked me to marry him yet_?" A gasp erupted
from a roomful of throats at her words, while Nyssa merely smiled
slightly and looked at Number One expectantly. "Well?" she
The ice had left the Southerner's heart, only to lodge in his brain.
For a long moment, he couldn't remember how to speak, or how to
close his mouth. Finally, a voice in the back of his mind shouted,
"_Say_ something, you idiot!"
"Er, ahh... will you, uh, marry... me?" It came out as more of a
squeak than his usual low drawl, but at least it came out. The
crowd held its collective breath.
Nyssa looked thoughtfully at him for a moment, then help aloft
Adric's badge for the crowd to see. As everyone watched, she
snapped it in two and threw the pieces into the fireplace.
"Yes," she said.
For the second time, the cheering shook the roof. Nyssa was
quickly hoisted to the bartop to stand by her new fiance, who
still seemed rather uncertain what he should do. The Trakenite
had no such problem and, to a chorus of wolf-whistles, wasted
no time in throwing her arms around the startled man and en-
gaging in what is colloquially known as a 'liplock'. The crowd
loved it, as did Number One.
"My best friend is getting married!" Tegan shouted in drunken
glee. Zoe gave a happy squeal and the Fourth and Fifth Doctors
looked on with avuncular fondness.
Alexander Carter weaved his way over to Number One, a jug in
his hand. "A wedding present!" he declared. "Just pour it on
Number One looked at it a bit dubiously. "What is it?"
"Water from the Spring of Masculinity on Togenkyou Island.
I got it right before Ranma destroyed the Spring in the second
'Ranma 1/2' movie."
"It's... a cure for my curse?" At Carter's nod, he unstoppered the
jug and dumped its contents on himself, wincing from newly-
acquired reflex at the touch of the cold liquid.
"Nothing happened," Nyssa observed.
"I'm... still a guy. I'm _still_ a _guy_! Yes!" Number One
pumped his fist in the air, then turned back to Carter. "Thanks,
man! I--" But the weird merchant had disappeared.
"What is this I hear? Nyssa is to wed this man?" The voice of
He-Who-Is-Never-Named thundered from the doorway as the
Brethren filed in. The brown-robed fanatics pushed a path to the
bar and all bowed deeply before their Goddess. The Nameless
One came last, his shadowy bulk towering over the genuflecting
"Have you in truth chosen this man as your Divine Consort, My
Lady?" he rumbled.
"Then, by the power conferred upon me by the Holy Slip, I
declare that the man known as Number One is my lord and
master, and Lord over all the Brethren of Nyssa!" The Nameless
One bent carefully and kissed the scuffed toe of the Alabamian's
boot. The others followed suit with proper solemnity, although
Number Six may have muttered a few swear words under his
breath and Five scowled the whole time.
"You bastard! You killed Adric!" The ADF had decided to
show up, as well. Six of them, led by Doug, burst through the
doorway with guns drawn and eyes wild and rolling. Number
One watched in horror as Diane took careful aim at him with an
AR-18. He remembered the Magnum still in his truck, and
"Now, the both of you DIE!" Doug screamed, levelling his own
"Not so fast, you!" A second armed group rushed in and placed
their weapons at the ADFers' backs. "Drop 'em, boys and girls,
or else _we_ drop _you_!"
Number One blinked and peered at the newcomers. It wasn't...
It _couldn't_ be...
"Darren? Darren Ullman?"
"Right here, boss!" Darren waved as he prodded Doug in the
back with a gun barrel, then turned his attention back to the
frozen ADF fighters. "How about it, kiddies? Put 'em down,
or get ventilated." Sullenly, Doug and his cohorts complied.
Number One was still confused. "Darren? When did y'all get
"We always were. We were just faking to lull our enemies into
a false sense of security. We waited for the right moment, then
struck, and the WANKERs win again! See?" Ullman beamed
happily at his erstwhile boss, then suddenly frowned. "Wait.
You didn't _really_ think we were that stupid, did you?"
Eric and Tyson herded the disarmed ADF soldiers into a group
where they could all be covered at once, while David trotted up
to the happy couple and bowed gallantly. "My Lord, my Lady,
what shall we do with these prisoners?" he asked.
"Why not take them as servants?" the Nameless One put in. "It
is only proper that you should have some."
Nyssa looked thoughtful. "That's not a bad idea..."
"Servants?" Doug cried. "We will _never_ stoop to the dishonor
"I call Chauffeur," Diane interrupted.
"Dibs on Gardener," Charlie said a split-second later.
Doug looked ready to cry.
"What do you think, dear?" Nyssa asked her soon-to-be-husband.
Number One grinned like the maniac that he technically was and
swept her into his arms. "I think this is the happiest day of my
"...zzzz ...happ'st day m' life... heh heh... zzz..."
"Somehow, I doubt that, Miss," Adric thought as he watched the
sleeping girl. People didn't usually drink themselves into a
stupor by four in the afternoon because their life was all peaches-
and-cream. She smiled prettily in her drunken slumber, and
Adric grinned a little to himself. At least her dreams were going
She looked so peaceful and innocent lying there. Well, if you
ignored the large number of empty glasses on the table, she
looked kind of innocent. Hell, compared to the girl with whom
Adric was most familiar, she looked positively angelic.
He wondered who she was. Francois might know.
In a dimension a few steps removed from This Time Round, a
shadowy figure in a brown velvet robe gazed thoughtfully into
a large viewscreen. On the screen, a yellow-shirted young man
stood in a pub looking at an unconscious girl with red hair and
a pair of mirrored sunglasses perched on her head.
"What do you mean, you don't take Debit Cards? _Everybody_
accepts Debit Cards! What kind of place are you running here?"
The customer was American. The customer was irate. The cus-
tomer was shouting at Francois. The customer, in all probability,
would be joining his ancestors in the very near future.
"Francois never hear of Deadbeat Card before, so business-type
man no can pay for martinis with such." The Ogron held up a
sign and tapped it with one sausage-like finger. "It say plainly,
This Time Round accept Visa, MasterCard, RaniCard, American
Express, SkaroCred, SontaraCharge, Galaxy Express Card,
NatWest Card, all forms cash except Zygon eeurkks, money
orders, traveller's checks, and barter. It not say anything about
Adric, who had been polishing glasses while he waited for the
chance to ask about the still-snoozing girl, sighed and reached
for the mop. By the sound of things, there was going to be a
mess in a few minutes.
"Look, you... you... whatever you are." The man in the Armani
suit positively shook with indignation as he thrust the card under
Francois's broad nose. "This is an electronic banking card. It
works just like one of your damn Limey NatWest cards. It's just
"Where on card is business-type man seeing 'NatWest'? Francois
looking, but only seeing 'Compass Bank'. Not say 'NatWest', so
no is 'NatWest'. Is Compass Bank Deadbeat Card, and such is
not on list."
The American crossed his arms and glared stolidly at the Ogron.
"This Debit Card is all I have. You can let me pay with it, or you
can do without."
Adric closed his eyes, waiting for the sounds of crunching and
rending and anguished howling that would necessarily follow
any such declaration. However, what he heard next shocked him
far worse than the sounds of bloodcurdling violence ever could.
"Francois sympathize with business-type man's problem--"
Adric looked around to see if he had slid into some sort of alter-
nate dimension or something. That kind of thing happened from
time to time. But, no, everything seemed right.
"--but Francois no can change rules. If business-type man want
rules changed, must talk to shift manager."
'Shift manager'? What the Hell was Francois talking about? This
Time Round had no 'shift managers'.
"That will do nicely," the American grunted, satisfied that he was
now getting somewhere. "You just get him out here. Now."
"Okey-dokey," Francois replied, reaching under the bar. When
he straightened up again a moment later, he had a rather crudely-
made sock puppet on his right hand. The puppet had a cat's face
drawn on with a marker and two paper ears taped to its head.
The customer and Adric both stared.
"This shift manager," the Ogron said, gesturing at the puppet
with his other hand. "Is Mr. Moggie."
Francois worked the puppet's mouth and said in a grotesque
falsetto, <What is problem, loyal employee Francois?>
"Well, Mr. Moggie," the Ogron answered in his normal growl,
"business-type man no can pay with anything but Deadbeat
Card. Deadbeat Card not on list, so Francois say no. What
Mr. Moggie say?"
The sock puppet was thrust in the man's face, where it appeared
to examine him closely. <Man in such nice clothes surely have
money, yes?> the puppet 'asked'.
The American was having none of this. "See here, you! I'm not
talking to some stupid puppet--"
"Ooh, poor Mr. Moggie have tooth stuck in head," the Ogron
crooned sadly as he removed the offending incisor. "There!
The customer climbed unsteadily to his feet, blood trickling from
his split lips. "Why you crazy--"
WHUMP! Adric winced.
"Aww. Why Mr. Moggie mash business-type man's face onto
bar? Mr. Moggie know Francois have to clean up mess."
<Mr. Moggie just showing business-type man what nice fixtures
bar have,> the puppet 'answered'. <Customer need understand
how much hard work go into making nice pub, so Mr. Moggie
want give good, close look. Perhaps if give good, close look at
floor, and tables, and plumbing, business-type man appreciate
other side of argument.>
"Is sound reasoning, Mr. Moggie," Francois said enthusiastic-
ally. "Is must be why Mr. Moggie manager and making _big_
money, yes? What say business-type man now?"
"N-no more...," the man in question groaned. "I give up. But, I
don't have any money on me..." He cringed as he said this last.
<Is okay. Mr. Moggie use managerial skills to find solution. Is
simple: This Time Round accept barter as payment. Business-
type man have on nice watch. Give watch, and Mr. Moggie call
Francois gazed at the puppet with adoring eyes. "Mr. Moggie
most brilliant manager Francois ever know. Francois in presence
"My w-watch? But, this is a $7,000 Rolex! You can't expect me
to give it to you for a $15 bar tab!"
<Just think of as tip. Or, if no want, can explain to Mr. Moggie's
boss why refuse payment.>
"Mr. Moggie's boss?" the man asked woozily.
"Yes," replied the Ogron seriously. "Is general manager, Mr.
The Rolex found its way over the counter in short order.
"Have nice day, and come back soon!" Francois called to the
American's retreating back as it went through the doorway in
an unsteady but rapid fashion.
Adric coughed politely. "Umm, excuse me, Francois, but--"
The Ogron quickly took the jeweler's glass out of his eye and
jammed it and the overpriced timepiece into his pocket and
glared at the boy. "Is _not_ extortion," Francois said defensively.
"Is just, uh, 'aggressive capitalism'."
"Whoa, there!" Adric blurted, backing up a step or two. "No
arguments here! As far as I'm concerned, you let the guy off
lightly. I just wanted to ask something."
"Dead boy is much perceptive." Francois grinned at Adric's
wince. He'd figured that the nickname would irk him. "What
Adric pointed to the mystery girl. Said individual was still
asprawl among a litter of empty glasses, snoring daintily and
with a tiny trail of drool running from the corner of her mouth.
All in all, not exactly the perfect picture of angelic innocence,
but still somehow very... 'sweet' was not quite the right word,
but was close enough. "That girl. Any idea who she is?"
The Ogron bartender/thug eyed him curiously for a long moment,
and seemed on the point of asking something, but apparently
thought better of it and just shrugged. "Francois not know name
of red-hair drunk girl, but is guessing must be fan, on account of
Polly no hassle for credentials. Girl come in just around noon,
complain much about jukebox, then drink many Singapore Slings
until pass out sloppy drunk at three." His eyes hardened sudden-
ly. "Know one other thing, too. Know This Time Round not rest
home. Know red-hair drunk girl pass out without paying bill.
Know girl not wake up and pay bill soon, then girl likely wake
up in alley _much_ later and with _much_ bruises. Hmm... Act-
ually, it appear Francois know _three_ other things, but dead boy
get picture, yes?"
Adric got it. All too clearly. He knew the Ogron had not the
least qualm about thrashing anyone, even an unconscious girl.
Somehow, he couldn't bear to see that. Adric was a basically
decent kid at heart, in spite of all he'd been through. He couldn't
just stand by and let something like that happen. He should go
wake her up and explain things. That would be the right thing
In the not-particularly-far-but-still-relatively-inaccessible dimen-
sion, the brown-robed figure suddenly became _very_ interested
in his viewscreen.
Adric gently shook the girl's shoulder. No response. He tried
again, slightly harder. Still nothing but that soft, almost musical
"Hey," he whispered in her ear. "Wake up." No response, which
was unsurprising since she had slept through Francois's noisy
altercation with the American earlier.
Hmmm... Shaking didn't work. Noise wouldn't work. What else
could shock a person awake? Oh, yes...
Adric picked up a teacup from a recently-vacated table. There
was still a bit of tea in it, and it was still hot. Perfect. A bit of
hot liquid poured on the head should do the trick. She might be
a bit annoyed, but once he explained, everything should be all
He stopped and looked at her, the cup poised over her head. She
was smiling again, an innocent, guileless smile of pure joy. He
noted the way her closed eyes crinkled at the corners, the way a
lock of coppery-red hair had escaped from under the mirrorshades
atop her head and fell across her forehead, the way her pert nose
twitched ever-so-slightly. He thought back to another time, and
another girl he'd once watched as she slept. That girl had just
been through the worst that the Universe could throw at her, had
just lost everything that had ever had any meaning for her, had
just escaped death several times over, and hadn't had even the
false comfort and happiness that eleven Singapore Slings could
bring. That girl had finally fallen asleep on an old paisley sofa
in a room where the rain beat forever on the windows, and then,
as now, Adric had been entranced by the way the girl had looked
so peaceful and sweet and... beautiful.
Of course, she had later turned into a death-crazed psychopath,
but that was another story.
Adric sighed, remembering, the vision of the sleeping girl he'd
once watched (watched _over_, a part of him liked to think)
and the reality of the girl before him intertwining. He looked at
that smile again, and thought of another face, and how long it
had been since he'd seen that kind of expression.
Adric sighed again, then reached up and turned off the light over
the girl's head.
Deep in the shadows of its cowl, though no one would have been
able to see it even if they had been there, the brown-robed figure
grinned to itself in deep satisfaction. It would not have been a
pretty sight, were it visible.
He-Who-Is-Never-Named had just gotten the most _wonderful_
"No luck wake up girl? Mr. Moggie say that too bad--"
"How much does she owe?" Adric asked.
"Huh? Oh, uh... twenty-seven fifty." Francois looked puzzled.
"Why ask? If girl not wake up to pay, amount... not... matter..."
The Ogron wound down as Adric passed him three tens. "I'm
taking care of it," he said simply. "I'll give you more for a tip
when I get it, okay? Thirty's all I have just now."
Francois stuck the bills in the register, considered for a moment,
then gave Adric back his change. The Ogron looked far more
thoughtful than normal and once again seemed to want to ask
a question, but once again didn't.
"Dead boy no worry on tip." Francois shrugged again at Adric's
raised eyebrow. "If want throw money away on sloppy-drunk
girl, is dead boy's affa-- uh, business, not Francois's." He offered
the Alzarian a wolfish grin. "Besides, no think dead boy top nice
business-type man's tip from earlier, yes?"
Adric snickered at that, and went back to work polishing glasses.
"So, you say this chap beat you up, then forced you to give him
"That's right, officer." The American was holding a rag up to
his bleeding lip, while trying to wipe the stains from his expen-
sive suit with another. "There was a whole pub full of witnesses,
as well. God, what was I thinking, coming to this shithole of a
"I see," the policeman replied, taking careful notes. "Now, do
you recall which pub this occurred at?"
"You bet your ass I do! It was that strange place at the end of the
road, off by itself in the woods..."
"You mean This Time Round?"
"That's the place!"
The policeman leaned back in his chair. "That changes things a
bit," he said.
"What are you talking about? You get down there and arrest that
bastard, or I'll have your ass! I'll call the Consulate! I'll call the
State Department! I'll--"
"Now, now, sir," the policeman said easily. "No need to take on
so. It's just that we have an officer here who handles all the cases
from the 'Round, and you'll need to talk to him about all this first."
"Well, you just get him out here and get this thing under way!"
the suited man snapped. The officer nodded and went off into
another office. "Good God," the American muttered, "what does
it take to get anything _done_ in this place?" A moment later
the door opened again, and he looked up to see...
...a sock-puppet cat wearing a policeman's helmet. <I'm Sergeant
Moggie,> it falsettoed, <how can I help you?>
The policeman stared after the fleeing man for a moment, then
looked fondly down at the sock puppet on his arm. "Another
case closed, eh, Sergeant Moggie? I'm in the presence of a
police genius, I am..."
Deep in alcohol-induced slumber, Number One remained slumped
across her table, head resting on one arm. Somewhere, down in-
side her dreams, she -- 'he' in the dream -- sang and celebrated
deep into the night. The dream-Number One partied and carried
on like he hadn't done in, well, _ever_. The dream-Number One
was deliriously happy.
A little of that carried over into the waking world. Not much,
though. Just enough to make her sleeping body smile and softly
mumble a fragment of a song.
"...zzzz... heh heh... ...ding-dong, Adric's dead, heh heh hrrmm...
On the other side of the pub, too far to hear this, Adric looked up
and saw that smile. Such a sweet smile. So innocent. So un-
sullied. He'd done the right thing, sure enough.
Adric smiled himself, and felt a little better about the world.