'Xeffy... do you think we think too much?' Ayna said, frowning at her Dr. Pepper.
'Gee, Ayn, what gave you _that_ idea?' Xeffy said, with heavy sarcasm.
'Well, I mean... think about it. "Wedgie". "Manic whirlwind". That should've been a dead giveaway what we were dealing with from the start.' Ayna said.
'Yeah. I'm slapping myself on the forehead.' Xeffy said. 'And if this conversation's going to turn into a deep conversation about why we _have_ deep conversations, I'm _not_ going there.'
'Shame.' Kwen observed, sipping at her Coke.
'Agreement.' Molly said. 'Opinion: more information on humanoid thought processes would be fascinating.'
Xeffy _eyed_ the Grel girl. 'The depressing thing is, you're not joking, are you?'
Molly shook her head.
'Okay.' Xeffy sighed. 'The thing is, we're not the only ones who think like that - so do Dad and our sisters.' She considered. 'Actually, so does Imran, now I think about it...'
'Query: you think analysis is a bad thing?' Molly asked.
'Uh-uh.' Xeffy said. 'No, what I meant was it's bad when it stops you seeing the blatantly obvious.'
Molly _blinked_. 'Query: the Mask is blatantly obvious?'
'Well, it is when you're anyone but _us_.' Ayna said.
'Tell me about it.' Xeffy said. 'Nah, but if you've actually _seen_ the movie - _and_ the cartoon - it's a real "duhhh..." moment.'
'Yeah, you mentioned those.' Kwen said. 'So it's... what? Movie-side? Cartoon-side?'
'Depends.' Xeffy said. 'Could be either.'
'Okay,' Kwen said. 'So... how'd it end up here? I mean, did it get left behind after a crossover? Last owner gave it to the raffle?'
'Statement: I asked the staff at Look Who's Talking, who donated the Mask to the raffle, where it had come from.' Molly said. 'They told me it had been lying around in the toybox.
'I asked them who had originally acquired the Mask, and they told me none of them knew - objects simply appeared in the toybox.' Molly's tentacles quivered. 'Opinion: they could at least keep track of things...'
'Well, there _is_ that...' Xeffy acknowledged. '...if they weren't absolutely right, of course.'
Molly flubbled her tentacles. 'Incredulous query: they were _right?_'
Ayna nodded. 'Uh-huh. You can find almost anything in the toybox, and no-one has a clue how it gets there.
'We think the toybox does it itself somehow, but no-one's quite sure how.'
Molly _blinked_ in shock.
'Okay.' Kwen said. 'But where's the Mask come from in the first place?'
Xeffy shrugged. 'No-one knows. It'd been locked in a box, and ended up at the bottom of the ocean. The graphic novel of the movie suggested it was the prison of Loki, the Norse trickster god - but the movie doesn't say, and the cartoon contradicts both the movie _and_ the graphic novel.'
Molly's tentacles wobbled in agitation. 'Query: the Mask is the prison of a _god_? I am carrying a _god_ around with me?!'
'That's _one_ possible origin,' Xeffy said. 'Then again, 'round here, multiple origins're pretty much the norm...'
Molly's face took on an expression of resolve. 'Then I shall investigate all possible origins of the Mask, and learn every possibility of how it came to be.'
'Actually, Paul Gadzikowski's already kind of doing that.' Ayna pointed out. 'Having the Doctors help Peri choose which origin she wants.'
Molly looked crestfallen for a minute, but quickly rallied herself. 'This is a different situation, in a different context. I wish to learn _all_ pasts of the Mask, not search for the best one. Assumption: there should be little chance of repetition between the two storylines.'
'Good luck...' Ayna murmured into her drink.
'Oh yeah.' Xeffy added. 'Since you've got the - or _a_ - Mask, you're probably gonna get Pretorious coming after it - he's this major mad scientist who wants to get his hands on the Mask and do mad scientist-type things with it, like take over the world.'
'Query,' Molly said. 'What exactly is the nature of his insanity?'
'Well, he can separate his head from his body and have it run round on little robotic spider legs.' Ayna said.
'And before you ask, that's _not_ normal human behaviour.' Xeffy added. 'Plus there's this big hulking guy called Walter.who keeps coming after the Mask - he works for Pretorious, sometimes. He's got a mad-on for the Mask, but no-one's quite sure what he wants to do with it, 'cause he never talks. No-one knows why.'
'Opinion: this is _awful_!' Molly wailed. 'What am I going to do?!'
'Hey, don't worry.' Xeffy said. 'You've got us on your side. We'll help you out.'
Molly _stared_ at her. 'Serious query: you honestly believe four teenagers can stop a mad scientist?'
'You _are_ new around here, aren't you?' Ayna observed wryly.
Kwen raised her eyes. 'Four?'
'Apology, Kwen.' Molly said. 'Xeffy and Ayna said you were their friend, and I assumed that meant you would be willing to help.'
Kwen chuckled. 'Nah. It's just... well, I thought things were going to be quieter here than back home. Getting involved with this Pretorious guy sounds _exactly_ like the sort of thing that happens back home.'
'...Just how weird _is_ RPG-side?' Ayna said. 'I mean, Sandra's all into that sort of thing, but...'
'Weird?' Kwen said. 'I don't know.... hm, let me see. Okay. Yesterday, the Disco Dwarves From Dimension X tried to take over the Earth. The day before that, the entire high school - it's a Japanese-style high school, before you ask - got buried in popcorn. The day before _that_...'
'Sounds about normal for 'round here.' Xeffy said. 'You'll do just fine.'
'Wonderful.' Kwen said dryly. 'Well, at least it's good for the shops...'
Molly furrowed her brow. 'Query: if you know so much about the Mask, why did you not realise what it was immediately?'
'Because we didn't make the connection.' Ayna explained. '"Wedgie" plus "whirlwind" should've equalled "Mask" - the trouble was, the first thing we thought of was someone with super-speed.'
'And, yeah, that should've had us thinking 'bout it straight off.' Xeffy said. 'But we didn't make the connection; once we'd got onto super-speed, we started wondering why someone with super-speed would do what you did - and we pretty much went off track from there. We'd _probably've_ worked it out eventually, if Roger hadn't decided to bully you.'
'...Yeah,' Kwen said. 'You said you had experience with this sort of thing, didn't you?'
'Query: you _do_?' Molly said.
'Yeah.' Xeffy said, her mouth quirking. 'And the other guy's plans're usually either super-easy or super-complex - what they're _not_ are completely off-the-wall.'
'Not unless you live 'round my place, apparently...' Kwen observed wryly, her snakes snigger-hissing.
'Yeah...' Xeffy said with a rueful grin. 'Remember to remind us of that sometime.'
'No problem,' Kwen said, the wry smile still lingering on her face.
'Well, at least we know it's not going to be your typical teen series.' Ayna said. 'Most teen series don't get so totally wrong-footed on their first stories - well, not unless it's a deliberate plot point.'
'Query: was it?'
Xeffy and Ayna thought about that.
'Fat chance.' Xeffy said finally.
Ayna nodded. 'We screwed up. We jumped to the wrong conclusion, and went off-track.'
'Well, not _completely_...' Xeffy said. 'But yeah. We messed up.'
'So... is that a good or bad thing?' Kwen asked.
Xeffy and Ayna looked at each other.
'Got me.' Xeffy said. 'Guess we'll find out.'
'Wonderful...' Kwen murmured.
Her snakes _looked_ at each other.
'Just so I know,' she said finally, 'you guys don't have any continuing enemies, do you?'
'Do we?' Xeffy asked.
Ayna thought. 'Well, the WANKERs - it stands for Wondrous and Adorable Nyssa's Knight-Errant Regiment - they keep popping up to bug us, but I don't think they count as enemies. More as total twats.
'Apart from them, and Roger Master... no, no-one we know of.'
'Of course, if this _does_ turn out to be a series,' Xeffy added, 'we're probably going to get some, whether we want them or not.'
'Isn't that a Gadzikowski thing, too?' Ayna said. 'The obligatory continuing villain, who's in it just for the sake of things?'
Xeffy considered. 'Well, going on previous experience... if we had one, it'd end up being a shadowy conspiracy, a supervillain who never wins, or a conflicted and sympathetic anti-hero - or any combination of them.'
'Knowing our luck, it'd probably be "none of the above".' Ayna added.
'Just so I know.' Kwen said, her mouth quirking into a smile.
She frowned, her snakes glaring at the rest of the room. '...Will you knock it off?!'
Ayna, Molly and Xeffy craned to see.
'I mean, _honestly_.' Kwen grumbled. 'What's with them, anyway?'
'Statement,' Molly said. 'They are making the Elder Sign, a symbol to ward off unspeakable extradimensional entities.'
Xeffy frowned. 'Funny, I don't _see_ any... I didn't think Shub-Niggurath was in today...'
'Um... I don't think she is...' Ayna said diffidently. 'I think it's because of Molly.'
Molly _bugged_. 'Query: me?'
'Wh-' Xeffy began. 'Oh, _Hera_! Those complete, utter...'
Molly turned to Ayna. 'Query: why do they think I am an unspeakable extradimensional entity? Have they not encountered a Grel before?'
'Um...' Ayna said. 'In order: because you look kinda like one group of unspeakable extradimensional entities, and... probably not. The Grel only turn up in the Benny stuff...'
'Oh.' Molly said. She waved cautiously at the other patrons of the bar. 'Hello. I am a Grel, not an unspeakable extradimensional entity.'
'I don't think they're convinced, Molly...' Ayna said. 'Try making the Elder Sign, that might help.'
'I shall try it.' Molly's forehead furrowed as she thought it through, and then made a peculiar hand gesture.
Several jaws hit the floor.
'Well, _that_ seems to have convinced them...' Kwen observed. 'Okay, so where were we?'
'HAH! BEGONE, FOUL FIEND, OTHERWISE I WILL CHOP OFF YOUR HEAD!'
Kwen blinked as she stared at the mirror which the Proprietor had shoved in her face.
'...Hm. Not my best side.' she said, patting at her snakes. 'Maybe if you tried... over there?'
'Hi, Mr. Proprietor.' Xeffy said cheerfully. 'You do know Kwen's not a Gorgon, right?'
The Proprietor risked a peek out from where he was cringing behind the mirror. 'I beg your pardon?'
Xeffy rolled her eyes. 'Kwen not Gorgon.'
'But...' the Proprietor stammered. 'But... the snakes...!'
'Yeah, and the complete lack of people being turned to stone.' Xeffy said.
The Proprietor rallied. 'Maybe she can control it?'
'If she could control it, why were you threatening to cut her head off?' Ayna said.
'Um...' the Proprietor said. 'Um... Er... Oh dear, I've... er, just remembered. Got to, er, do some stock-taking. Yes, that's it, catch up on the stock-taking.'
'Francois do that yesterday,' Francois said, almost but not quite concealing a smirk. 'Bossman no need to bother.'
'Er... Double-checking, that's it. Double-checking.'
'Bossman doubting Francois' word?' Francois inquired.
The Proprietor cringed again. 'Um... no, no, it's just... I need to make sure I haven't over-ordered or anything... Um, okay. Drinks on the house for the four of you, how does that sound?'
'Two.' Ayna said.
'_Two?_' the Proprietor said. 'Why, you little-'
'Ahem.' Kwen said.
'With the snack of your choice, of course.' the Proprietor said hastily. 'If you'll just excuse me...'
The girls watched as the Proprietor hurried for the wine cellar.
'Francois really, really wonder about Bossman sometimes...' Francois observed. 'Brats want to order before Francois go have word with Bossman about "freebies"?'
Xeffy waved a hand. 'Nah, we'll wait.'
Francois nodded, rubbed at his chin thoughtfully, pulled a massive club from out underneath the bar, and headed in the direction the Proprietor had disappeared.
'And they even provide their own entertainment.' Kwen observed, as her snakes watched Francois leave. 'Great place you've got here, Xeffy.'
'Isn't it?' Xeffy said. 'Okay, so where were we?'
'Still trying to figure out what kind of series this's going to be.' Ayna said.
Xeffy shrugged. 'Does it matter? If it _does_ end up being a series, we'll probably just make it up as we go along.'
'Like _that's_ unusual...' Ayna murmured.
'Query: it is?' Molly said.
Xeffy rolled her eyes. 'Let's just enjoy the drinks, shall we?'
With thanks to Paul Andinach and Paul Gadzikowski, for inspiring me to come up with this.
(And yeah, I did mess up in the original fic. Mea culpa...)
Disclaimer: 'Doctor Who' is the BBC's
TTR was created by Tyler Dion.
The Grel were created by Paul Cornell.
Xeffy, Ayna, Molly and Kwen are mine.
Francois and the Proprietor are B. K. Willis's.
Summary: In which we discover the trouble with jumping to conclusions. Follow-up to "Day Of The Tentacles".
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat