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The calamity that had been the Graduation Ceremony had died away a lot faster than anybody had expected. The barman looked quite annoyed that a great deal of his custom had vanished almost instantaneously when the Grand Masters had appeared over two hours early; seemingly deciding that time was of the essence this year. No real reason as far as the barman could determine. Still, he wasn’t completely without patrons, there were still a few dotted around and, naturally, the prices of the drinks had increased dramatically in an attempt to make up for the lost hours of sales. A set of triplets sat huddled together talking quietly over in the far corner. The Academy would be a much better place with them gone; such was the position of most staff and students alike. Then there was dear old Madame Clamberpott the Music teacher slumped over her table after a particularly hard drinking session. She couldn’t deal with Graduation. It was far too boring she said. That was her excuse for downing three bottles of wine before the ceremony, sipping copiously from all four of her hip flasks during, and then relieving three beer barrels of their contents as soon as it had ended. Then, there was the small, sandy-haired person sat by himself at the end of the bar. He, like his fellow students, didn’t have a name. At least not one that he would divulge. He was simply known as Twenty-Two. But that was short for Seventy-Eight thousand, Five-hundred and Twenty-Two. Or 78522 as it appeared on paper. The Seventy-eight-thousandth-five-hundredth-and-twenty-second student at the Academy, that was how it worked. Having said that, by now, he would have his given-name. The one he’d be using from now on, but of course, the barman didn’t know it. Even though he was quite friendly with Twenty-Two, he wasn’t about to go and ask him what his name was. Twenty-Two had done him fine for eighteen years and Twenty-Two would suffice now. ‘You seek for who?!’ The barman’s head shot up as another now ex-student meandered into the bar. Twenty-Two looked up from the pint he had been nursing and a smile crept onto his face. ‘You pine for When?’ Twenty-Two said with a snicker. ‘You Search for Where?’ The new arrival continued. ‘To discover then,’ Twenty-Two replied. ‘That thoughts of What as they reach the sky,’ the newcomer said loftily, embracing his fellow ex-student. ‘Look not for How, but only Why,’ Twenty-Two nodded appreciatively. ‘God,’ Twenty-Two’s associate laughed. ‘Remember when you wrote that?’ ‘It would have been a good song if you could play it a guitar properly,’ Twenty-Two huffed indignantly.’ ‘Alas, we’ll never know.’ ‘I Thought you’d have been long-gone,’ Twenty-Two commented as his acquaintance seated himself on the barstool next to him. ‘Pfft,’ the new arrival said with a wave of his hand. ‘As if.’ ‘You weren’t at Graduation Teen,’ Twenty-Two said markedly. ‘People noticed.’ ‘Let them,’ Teen1 smiled running a hand through his thick black hair that had been haphazardly wound into random plats, some of which had been interlaced with beads or random small trinkets. ‘What are they going to do? Expel me?’ ‘Your tutor will probably have something to say about it,’ Twenty-Two commented. ‘If and when he finally makes himself known,’ Teen said, irritation showing in his voice.
Which, in this instance stood for Seventy-Eight Thousand, Five Hundred and Nineteen.
‘Still no idea who it is then?’ Twenty-Two asked as he drained what was left of his pint and ordered two more, wincing with apprehension when the price of the drinks was quoted to him, but shrugged and handed over the cash. ‘Nope,’ Teen said as he took a thankful mouthful of his beverage. ‘Just keep getting those weird notes telling me to be places at certain times, but the git never shows up.’ ‘There must be a reason for it,’ Twenty-Two mused. ‘I’d think it was someone like Bumblemore if I didn’t know that he’d already signed up Twelve,’ Twenty-Two gave a small chuckle. ‘She was so pissed off; I’d never heard her swear before, not in the whole time at the Academy. But that did it.’ ‘Don’t blame her,’ Teen shrugged. ‘The guy’s a maniac. I hear he goes around with a bomb strapped to his head all the time, just in case he ever gets cornered.’ ‘Its on his chest actually,’ Twenty-Two said off-handedly as he browsed through the evening paper for the tenth time. ‘See!’ Teen scoffed. ‘They’re a bunch of madmen the lot of them. I don’t see what we can learn from them that we don’t already know.’ ‘You know how to pilot a RETARDIS?’ Twenty-Two questioned without looking up, already knowing the answer. ‘How to use a Bionic Screwdriver? How to build a familiar? How to traverse space and time? Hunt down Videos?’ ‘We’re going to learn nothing like that!’ Teen suddenly snapped. ‘Not from those old coots. My brother just finished his tour with that old bleeder Merlot and the only thing he learned after ten years was how to make a cheese toasty. And that’s not really rocket science now is it? Getting us to go with them is so the Grand Masters have little errand boys running around after them. Trust me, it’ll be tea service and laundry at the very most, if we’re lucky. I mean, look at you, look who you’re stuck with!’ ‘The Professor?’ Twenty-Two raised an eyebrow. ‘What about him?’ ‘You think Bumblemore’s a mad old codger?’ Teen hissed. ‘The Professor is a fucking lunatic!’ ‘He didn’t seem all that bad when I met him,’ Twenty-Two shrugged. ‘He was alright actually.’ ‘They all seem like that to begin with,’ Teen continued. ‘All happy and charmingly eccentric, but then, then you find out that all that stuff where they seem like absolute geniuses is nothing more than luck and recklessness mixed in with demented psychosis. You mark my words Twenty-Two; we’ll be scarred for life!’ ‘We’ll see,’ Twenty-Two smiled. ‘And it’s not Twenty-Two anymore anyhow.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ Teen nodded. ‘Me too. Go on then, you first, who are you?’ Twenty-Two shifted a little uncomfortably. ‘Go on!’ Teen persisted. ‘What’s your Given Name?’ ‘Alright, alright,’ Twenty-Two said, taking a large gulp of his beer. ‘I’m, Pi,’ He said finally. ‘What?’ Teen grimaced. ‘Like, apple?’ ‘No,’ Pi replied. ‘As in Three-point-one-four-one-five etc, etc. The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi.’ ‘Oh …’ Teen said, his lip curling. ‘You sure? That sounds a lot better than the usual lot of names they dish out.’ ‘I’m sure,’ Pi nodded back. ‘Pi Holmes.’ ‘Pi Holmes,’ Teen rolled the name around. ‘Could have been worse I suppose.’ ‘And what about you?’ ‘ … Alpha … Richtocorricas Alpha.’ Pi stifled a snort. ‘Rich,’ Teen added hurriedly afterwards. ‘You’re right,’ Pi nodded. ‘It really could have been worse.’ ‘Watch it,’ Rich snarled as he took a long gulp of his pint. ‘So … how come you’re still here … Pi?’ ‘The Professor’s running late,’ Pi replied. ‘Well, not late really, he’s on the normal departure time. Everybody wanted to get ahead for some reason.’ ‘Something important?’ Rich raised an eyebrow. ‘He wouldn’t say,’ Pi shook his head. ‘But he should be here any time …’ VROOOOOOOOOOOOK! ‘… now.’
The barman gave an agitated noise as a RETARDIS began to materialize in the middle of the bar. Nobody else seemed to bat an eyelid. VROOOOOOOOOOOOK! VROOOOOOOOOOOOK! VROOOOOOOOOK! VROOOOOOOOOOK! VROOOOOOOOOOK! ‘Your rides here then,’ Rich smiled as what appeared to be a red post box appeared before them. The door was kicked open and a tall, wizened old man stepped out. His long white hair had been tied into a ponytail behind him. He stood up straight, brushing imaginary lint from his long black coat, and wrapped his trailing multi-coloured scarf around his shoulders so it wouldn’t scuff along the floor as he walked. ‘Hello good fellows,’ he said, addressing the whole bar. ‘What events are occurring presently in this town of leisurely yet excitable activity?’ ‘Errr … graduation mate,’ Rich said, making “Coo-Coo” gestures. ‘Ah yes … … …’ The old man nodded. ‘Pythagoras!’ He suddenly shouted loudly, addressing Pi. ‘Pythagoras?’ Rich sniggered. ‘You liar.’ ‘I can shorten it if I want to,’ Pi said irritably out of the corner of his mouth as the aged Grand Master approached the bar and ordered a double-rum and coke. ‘WHAT?’ He exclaimed when the barman told him the price. ‘I wasn’t expecting to take out a second-mortgage! Now my good sir landlord. Affix a sane label of coinage to this beverage before I alert the High Council to this blatant act of skulduggery upon the campus.’ After paying near to pittance for the drink, the old man addressed Pi and Rich. ‘Holmes dear boy, nice to see you again, it seems like years!’ ‘It was yesterday,’ Pi replied. ‘Was it indeed?’ The Professor scratched his chin. ‘Was it really? My, my. Still! We can’t waste time here now can we? We’ve got to get on! Got to be going! There’s so much time and so little to do … ah … hmmm … no … no … I think that should be the other way around … yes, I’m sure of it.’ Knocking back his drink in one, the Professor steered Pi towards the awaiting RETARDIS. ‘I’ll see you around Pythagoras,’ Rich called after them, rather amused. ‘Most likely, Richtocorricas,’ Pi shot back as he clambered inside the RETARDIS. Any normal being would comment on how much bigger it was on the inside. But Pythagoras Holmes did not. Instead, he watched as his tutor, the Grand Master known only as The Professor sealed the door and strode merrily over to the central control panel. His eyes twinkled in the light of the giant glass pillar that rose out of the hexagonal structure before him into a diverse network of impressive looking circuitry above their heads. ‘So then my boy Holmes,’ The Professor perked up. ‘You graduated afterall then?’ ‘Yes,’ Pi nodded. ‘And?’ The Professor smiled, raising his eyebrows. ‘How did you do?’ ‘I suppose I did alright,’ Holmes shrugged, producing a piece of paper containing his final marks and handed them over to the Professor. ‘Hmmmm,’ The Professor said, scratching his chin. ‘Excellent Science marks, decent English, Maths could have been better … History, fine, Geography excellent … Galactic Law, Music, Arts, Engineering, Diplomacy, passable. IT … I suppose we can work on it … and a nice, neat fail in General Studies. I can almost say I’m proud of that,’ The Professor smiled and handed back the paper. ‘Despite what you might have heard,’ The Professor winked. ‘I did much, much worse than that when I was a lad. Scraped only a few passes, failed most of my subjects. But it was nothing a bit of computer hacking couldn’t fix. Wouldn’t be a Grand Master otherwise, though I can trust you’ll keep that little piece of information to yourself?’ ‘Alright,’ Holmes smiled.
‘Right then!’ The Professor said airily as he fiddled with the controls of the craft. ‘I thought we’d start out … with a bit of History … tell me … what do you know of the Great Video Quest?’ ‘Only that it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,’ Holmes said, as he often did despite the present company. ‘My thoughts exactly,’ The Professor grinned. ‘My thoughts exactly! There’s nary a Video Lord who thinks otherwise aside from those buffoons on the High Council that believe the sun shines from Raljex’s almighty arse-crevice! And that! My dear fellow will be the subject of my first lecture today! I’ve arranged a small tactical demonstration for you. A test if you will, to see how you will cope in the no-doubt dangerous situations in which many of us travelling types find ourselves within at regular intervals. Can’t tell you how many narrow escapes I’ve had over the years! Simply can’t recount them all. I’ve had a fair few blows to the head, so a lot of it’s murky at best. I’ve survived though, Thirteen lives worth! STILL!’ The Professor pulled the largest of all he levers and the central column sprang into life.
‘So, where is it we’re going Professor?’ Holmes questioned.
‘Elementary, my Dear Holmes,’ the Professor smiled. VROOOOOOOOOOOOK! ‘And please, I’m only a Professor because the Grand Masters decreed so. It’s not my name and it’s not a title I have strictly earned.’ VROOOOOOOOOK! ‘Okay,’ Holmes said loudly over the roar of the machine. ‘What should I call you then?’ VROOOOOOOOOOK! ‘My dear Holmes,’ the old man said loudly in return. ‘Call me, The Dr.!’ VROOOOOOOOOOK!
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