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From alt.drwho.creative, it's Missing Internet Adventure #21: Fat Doomsday

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"Everything That Materialises Must Converge" by Tony Whitt "Everyone Loves a Parade" by Kit O'Neal "What a Lovely Umbrella, Shame About the Jacket" by Kim Clarke "Directing Traffik" by David Whittam "Not Poppy" by Cameron Dixon "Cross 3, Knit 1, Slip 1, Purl" by Mary Hyde "Into the Dragon's Den" by K. Michael Wilcox "Let the Bad Times Roll" by Tony Whitt

Chapter One: "Everything That Materialises Must Converge" by Tony Whitt Prologue April 6, 2016 She first had the Dream when she was seven years old. (Once she learned how to write, she always capitalized it in her mind, since it was, after all, the only dream that really mattered to her.) She and Momma still lived in her grandmother's house then, in one of the nicer sections of the Quarter, just after the turn of the century. Maw-Maw had had some money a long time ago, but she had used it just before century's end to buy outright the old shotgun house on St. Ann that she and Paw-Paw had lived in when they first married decades ago. When the girl got older, she doubted there would be any inheritance to send her to college, so, when the Dream came, the girl treasured it, despite its horrifying images, as if it were the only thing she might ever truly own. She knew instinctively not to share it with anyone else in her family. Anyone else, that is, save Maw-Maw, who knew the Old Ways, seemingly dying out by that time, as virtually all religions had begun to die. Maw-Maw knew the most and showed more caring towards her anyway, unlike Momma, whose scowl and stupid looks conspired to make her look older than Maw-Maw. She had always marveled at how her grandmother's dark skin had remained unwrinkled, despite her eighty-plus years and the effects of the harsh Louisiana sun, while her own mother's skin had grown lined and leathery despite her youth. There were rumours that the old woman's youthful appearance had to do with her involvement with Voodoun, but the girl did not believe that -- at the time. She

did, however, believe that Maw-Maw could read dreams; she had often listened to Maw-Maw talking with her lady friends around the coffee table, drinking cafe au lait and eating beignets while they recounted their visions from the night before and decided amongst themselves what they meant. Finally, one night, she got up the nerve to tell Maw-Maw about it, and this is what she said: In the Dream, a powerful Evil, a bright ball of fire, came down to the Earth. Of all the places it could have gone, it came to the City, drawn here, as by a magnet, by a powerful piece of Crystal. The Evil already had a follower here on Earth, a powerful priestess who helped it to hide in the City until it was ready to show itself. Years passed. Then one night, on an evening of great celebration, the Evil revealed itself and spread out over the City, taking away the faces of the people it desired and replacing them with its own, and killing all the rest with fire. Then it began to spread across the Earth, traveling on rivers of fires across the land. The girl herself was an old woman in the Dream, a woman of some ability, and she had become the caretaker of the Crystal, swearing to keep it away from the Evil, which needed it to replenish itself. She did not, however, possess enough ability to take on the Evil by herself. But a Stranger came along to help her in her fight. This Stranger was not a man like other men. For one thing, he had thirteen faces but only wore one at a time, and he dressed in a coat of many colours, just like Jacob in the Bible had. And somehow she knew that she and the Stranger, with the help of others like them, might drive the Evil away from the City and the world. 'But it's not the Evil that scares me, Maw-Maw,' she said, putting her fingers through the spaces of the knitted comforter on the bed. 'What scares me is that at the end of the Dream, I always die.' Maw-Maw listened with a patiently amused expression at first, but as the story went on, Maw-Maw's lips pressed more and more tightly, and she peered closely into the girl's eyes. By the time the girl finished, there was an emotion she'd never seen in her grandmother's eyes before: fear. She would realize many years later that she had also seen awe in the old woman's eyes, but even then, modesty would prevent her from fully admitting it to herself. When the girl finished, Maw-Maw looked at her squarely and said, 'Looks like you got a visit from the ancestors, child, and they gave you a glimpse of what's to come someday.' The girl gulped. 'The ancestors?' she said. She recognized the word from those overheard sessions between Maw-Maw and her lady friends, even though they lowered their voices when they used it. She'd asked her mother once what the ancestors were, and her mother had simply said, 'Ghosts, and a lot of superstitious mess they is, too' and left it at that, not noticing the effect that statement she'd had on her daughter. 'Maw-Maw,' she asked, remembering her mother's chiding tone, 'if that's true, why should I listen to what a buncha ghosts tell me is gonna happen? Why should I die that way, just 'cause they say I will? They don't know nothing -- they's already dead.' Maw-Maw threw back her head and laughed, heedless of her daughter sleeping in the next room. 'They're already dead. And child, that "buncha ghosts" knows more than any of us stuck on this Earth do. But it's rare when they come and tell us what they know, without being asked first.' Even though she had corrected the girl's grammar, she still pronounced the word 'asked' as 'axed,' the way so many of the folks did in that era. 'And when they come, as often as they do to you, and they tell you somethin', you'd better be listenin' hard and figurin' out what

you got to do when that time comes around. Besides, I always knew you'd be able to see the future someday. That's why I had your Momma name you what she did.' 'But how will I know what to do?' the girl asked, ignoring this revelation, hoping Maw-Maw would tell her what she should do, as Maw-Maw always had. But not this time. Maw-Maw only patted her shoulder, took up her book again, and said, 'Don't worry, the ancestors will tell you as you need to know. And that's all you need to know right now.' After trying unsuccessfully to draw more out of Maw-Maw, she went back to her bed and lay down, thinking that she would never be able to sleep again, knowing that she would dream about her own death, and wondering why she had to know of such things. She also promised herself three things: one, that she would look up the name 'Cassandra' and see just what her Maw-Maw meant. Two, that she would try to learn more about these ghosts that disturbed her every night, making her afraid to fall asleep. And three, that she would find this Stone, whatever it was, and do her best to protect it. The thought of having to do all this excited and frightened her, and she was certain she would stay up all night, just to keep the Dream away for once. But soon sleep came, as did the Dream. As it always did, and always would. January 3, 2090 Normally, Ferry Captain Alan James, owner and sole employee of the James Ferry Company, was the sort of man who did what he was paid to do and left the customer alone. To each their own, he always said. If they wanted to take a trip along the Mississippi River in the middle of the night, then he'd take them, no questions asked, as long as they were willing to put some credits in his account. Old Paint was still in need of renovations, being one of the few commercial ferries from the late twentieth century still afloat. Converting the old style combustion engine to standard solar battery converters alone had set him back three years' profits in cold hard credits. His wife Nanette hadn't been too pleased with his purchase of the boat in the first place, but the engine conversions had nearly brought about the end of their marriage. She had come around in time, though, and now she referred to Old Paint almost as affectionately as he did. Certainly his customers loved the boat -- as much as New Orleanians remained fiercely proud of their cultural history, the chance to ride in an original ferry from the 1990's was something most of them just couldn't pass up. Especially the well-to-do, like his current passenger. Still, he thought, as he made coffee for the two of them, there was something damned strange about getting an urgent vidiphone call in the middle of the night from the woman herself, promising to pay triple his fee if they could take the boat out tonight, without delay, to an indeterminate point in further down the river from the city. Nanette had been none too pleased with the timing of the request to begin with -- they had just begun to make love when the call came in -- but when she found out the client was a woman, and one very close to her own age, too, she hit the proverbial roof. Oh, well, he told himself. She got over Old Paint, and she'll get over this. Especially if I get her some of that genuine wool she likes so much for knitting. That ought to get me out of the doghouse soon enough. But even with the money he would get from this odd little trip, he still wondered what would make a high society woman crazy enough to come

out on a cold night like this. Anna Vallier frowned as the chill winds from the north swept over the boat, and she pulled her coat more tightly around her. She had not thought herself crazy at first, when she had called James Charter at midnight and arranged for this cruise down the River. At least, not as crazy as Captain James had apparently thought her. That was before she'd pulled out her debit card and added another hundred or so credits to the boat's account for 'personal inconvenience.' After that, he had begun preparations for the trip to nowhere in particular as if every wealthy heiress in New Orleans made a habit of chartering old-style boats in the middle of the night. She thought she might be crazy now, though, as she glanced at her watch and saw that it was just past three in the morning. After all, the only justification she had for being here was the strong feeling she had had for the past several weeks. No, it was more than that -- a 'strong feeling' was what you got when you ate too many boiled crawfish and chased them with the wrong brand of beer. If she had been asked to classify what had brought her out tonight, she would have said it was a 'calling.' Like the kind that Catholic priests supposedly got -- they said they were 'called' by God. Though she really didn't believe much in any deity, the urge to come here, out into the vast blackness of the sea, had pulled her with the force of faith, and she doubted she could have resisted if she had tried. 'Coffee, ma'am?' a rough voice from behind her asked. She turned to find the short and very stout captain of the boat offering a steaming metal cup to her. Gratefully she nodded and took the cup between her hands, letting the smell of chicory waft to her nostrils. Somehow, the world seemed a little less cold when you had a cup of coffee in your hands, she thought. Her father had been fond of saying that. At the thought of her father, she felt the old stab of bitterness return and turned quickly back to the railing, to avoid James' eyes. 'So, how is business going anyway, Ms. Vallier?' he asked, not noticing the pain in her face. 'Oh, slow but sure, Captain,' she replied, taking a careful sip of the scalding coffee without turning to look at him. The previous troubled state of her family's affairs was well known in the Twin Cities of New Orleans and Metairie, so there was no point in lying about it. 'Returning to peacetime after the war effort hasn't been all that easy, mind you.' He nodded, reaching out a hand and patting his boat affectionately. He knew all about difficult changes. 'Yeah, the ferry business wasn't booming much during the standoff, either. Still, it says a lot for y'all that you was able to go back to manufacturing the old transport machines once the T-Mat shut down. Not that anyone blamed the T-Mat, mind you,' he added quickly, realizing the implication of his words. 'Damn them Martians.' She smiled ruefully. 'True, Captain, the Ice Warriors did cause us all to be uneasy enough with each other to put aside the World Zones Treaties and get into another Cold War, but that couldn't have happened without T-Mat.' They lapsed into silence and listened to the waves lapping against the sides of the boat. James knew he'd managed to make the lady unhappy -- if she was all that happy to begin with -- so he continued, 'They woulda found some way down here without it, I'm sure of that. 'Sides, it's not like your Daddy, God rest his soul, took 'em by the claw and

pointed them in the direction of the nearest T-Mat booth, did he?' Again, that rueful smile. 'No, of course not, Captain,' she replied. 'But as he was the primary investor in the T-Mat system, well... people were unkind.' 'Unkind' was far too gentle a word for it, in James' opinion. He didn't know much about Old Man Vallier, or even that much about the attempted Ice Warrior invasion, for that matter. But he did know that just because somebody made their livelihood off something that caused trouble for folks, it didn't make that person bad, and he said so. 'And the way I see it, Ms. Vallier,' he added, 'if you'll forgive me, everybody makes mistakes, and if somebody wants to break into a house, they're bound to find an unlocked window sooner or later. Those people up at the Moonbase made a mistake, sure, but those space lizards would've gotten here some way or another. It wasn't your Daddy's fault.' 'I wish everyone had shared your point of view back then, Captain James,' she said, turning to him for the first time and giving him a genuine smile. 'Seems like they feel that way now, if what I hear is anything to go by. But you know what they say about assholes and opinions being alike,' he replied, taking a swig of coffee. 'Besides, what with the so-called "war" breaking out not long after that, they was all looking for a scapegoat to blame it on. Don't mean that the "war" happened because of the lizards using the T-Mat.' 'Post hoc, ergo propter hoc,' she said, nodding. 'Huh? 'Fraid you lost me there, ma'am.' 'Latin, Captain James. "It happened after this, therefore it happened because of this."' He laughed. 'Yeah, that just about covers it. Them Romans knew a thing or two for a bunch of dead white guys, didn't they?' She laughed at this, and her smile widened briefly. Deciding that this was as good a sign as any that she was feeling a little better, he turned and went back to the cabin, still laughing. But Vallier's smile faded as soon as he walked away. That mention of the Romans reminded her of the old practice of killing the messenger who brought bad news. Ten years ago, T-Mat had been that messenger, and the World Zones Organization had been the Emperor with the dagger. Their particular dagger, though, had been tipped with a slow-acting poison. They shut down the system gradually at first, pruning back the Terran-Lunar transits and replacing them with old style rocket shuttles, to avoid the danger of another alien invasion. The fact that the Cybermen's attempt on the Gravitron back in '70 was still fresh in their minds made them even more adamant about cutting back. That simple cutback had hurt her father's finances greatly, since it meant that much of the transportation of food and other supplies to the major cities was instead handled by older methods, like land vehicles and aircraft. Her father had tried to diversify by funding R&D into new modes of ground-based transport to put him back on top. It turned out to be too little, too late. Later that year, the "War" began, the standoff between the Eastern and Western power blocs that all people referred to as a war only ironically, if they referred to it as such at all. Living on Earth in the 2080s was like living in the 1950s of the previous century, with the threat of death by missiles or orbital weaponry hanging over the planet like a burial shroud. Leaders on both sides had already witnessed how the Ice Warriors used the T-Mat to deliver their seeds of death all over the planet, and they panicked. What better weapon for terrorists, they argued, than a device which could deliver a bomb right to your enemy's door, without the use

of rockets? They quickly destroyed most of the public booths, used the remaining cargo transit pads to place their Sentinel satellites safely into orbit, and then forgot that T-Mat had ever existed. Or most did, anyway. Vallier's father was ruined, both financially and by reputation. Most people criticised him unfairly and unrelentingly, claiming that Marcel Vallier had made them dependent on T-Mat technology by making it so accessible. As if he were some drug peddler forcing a needle into their veins. Few noticed how readily or often they jabbed themselves with that needle, and those few, unfortunately, held their peace. After all, they were in the midst of the first cold war in a century. Why stir up any more trouble? When her father died, Anna made two promises to herself: that she would rebuild the family's fortunes and reputation; and that she would avenge her father's death on the people who ruined him. She had fairly quickly achieved the first goal -- both during and after the war, the need for armored ground transports and new forms of weaponry increase exponentially, and she had none of her father's pacifistic scruples to keep her from funding R&D into the art of making war. True, she hated violence in principle, but she knew that violence was sometimes necessary to serve the greater good. It certainly served the good of her bank account. In the two years since the end of the standoff and the reinstatement of the World Zones Organization to power, business had not been as slow as she had described it to James, but it certainly had been sure. Additionally, the healing of the Vallier family reputation, against all odds, had actually gone faster than the healing of its bank accounts, thanks to several generous donations to various local and worldwide humanitarian organizations. She had even begun to gradually reintroduce the T-Mat system, though she had to assure everyone from the higher-ups in the WZO to people she met on the street that it would now be used only as an emergency backup to other forms of transport, should they fail. But now that things had begun to look up for the family name, she had lately turned her attention to avenging her father's death. That was slightly more difficult. The new Zone Controllers, like Denes in Europe and Salamander in South America, had not even come into power until after the standoff had ended, and most of those who had originally banned T-Mat were either retired or dead from old age or assassins' bullets. In fact, there was only one person she knew of that she wanted to answer for what he had done -- if he ever returned to Earth in her lifetime. Gia Kelly, the leading expert on T-Mat at the time of the Ice Warrior invasion, was also an old family friend and had told her of the mysterious little man who called himself 'the Doctor' and who had helped them repulse the Martian invaders. It had been the Doctor's suggestion, Miss Kelly told her, that caused the WZO Council to cut back on T-Mat. Miss Kelly herself had had no bitterness regarding her consequent unemployment. Not all that surprising, actually, Anna thought, given the woman's glacial demeanor. She was brilliant, anyway, making unemployment a merely temporary inconvenience. Instead, Miss Kelly had been full of praise for the Doctor, which made Vallier all the more determined to find out who he was. She first ran a keyword/image search on the Net for anyone answering to the name 'Doctor' and meeting the description that Miss Kelly had given her. She figured that she would probably find nothing on so little initial information. To her amazement, the Search Engine soon spat back several matches. Paging through the first few entries left her disappointed. They appeared to concern two totally different men,

both answering to the name 'Doctor,' but living in the late 20th century. The third record exactly fit her search criteria: a file recently declassified by WZO on something called 'The London Event'. But again, it was dated from the late 20th century. Curious about any connections within the files, she cross-referenced the files according to recurrent words and phrases. After a few moments, the computer gave her a list of matches, all of them proper names of some form or another: 'United Nations Intelligence Taskforce'; 'Brigadier Alistair LethbridgeStewart'; 'Sarah Jane Smith'; 'Silurians'; and 'Sea Devils' for example. She noted with interest that almost all of the declassified files came from this old UNIT organization, with one notable exception. It was a visual data record file from a western bloc Seabase, dated 2084, in which the words 'Doctor,' 'Silurians,' and 'Sea Devils' occurred. She viewed the file in its entirety, all five hours, with intense interest, paying particular attention to the tall blond man who called himself the Doctor. After a great deal of obsessive research, she created a complete, albeit fantastic, profile of him; all this business of time travel, multiple faces, and so on seemed like something from a children's holovid series. Yet she promised herself that if this 'Time Lord,' as some of the files referred to him, ever returned to Earth someday, she would make him pay for what he had done to her father. She sighed as she drained the last of her coffee from her cup. Somehow, someday. Such empty words. There had been times in the eight years since her father's death when she'd wondered if she really could harbour such a grudge against this Doctor. After all, how could he have known what effect his off-hand advice to Gia Kelly about shutting down the T-Mat would have on her father? When she actually sat down and allowed herself to think rationally about it, she wondered whether blaming the Doctor for her father's fate wasn't perhaps stretching the limits of culpability a bit too far. But then she would replay that video record of the Seabase disaster, watch everyone except for the Doctor and his young companions die fighting the Silurians and the Sea Devils, and then hear the Doctor proclaim, 'There should have been another way.' If there truly had been another way, she would ask herself, shouldn't he have found it? Or did he always blithely breeze into the affairs of others, meddle in the cause of what he thought was right in the easiest way possible, and then breeze out again, regardless of the effects of his actions on people he would never meet? How had the families of those poor people on the Seabase felt when they saw the video record? Did they feel the same anger towards the Doctor that she did? Did they want the same questions answered? Curious, she thought, that these thoughts had gotten so much stronger only recently, about the same time as this peculiar calling had begun, in fact. Perhaps one had to do with the other. Perhaps whatever was calling to her would tell her how to finally bring the Doctor back to Earth to answer all the questions she had obsessed about all this time. It took her a moment to realize that Captain James had come up behind her with another cup of coffee. 'Thought you might be needing this,' he said. 'You were hugging yourself pretty hard out here, and I figured that first cup must not have warmed you up too good.' 'My apologies, Captain,' she said, accepting the proffered coffee cup. 'I was lost in thought.' She looked up into the sky for a moment and sighed heavily. And perhaps both this calling and these angry thoughts are simply the product of overwork, she thought. Or madness. It did run in the family, after all. Uncles and aunts who had bizarre visions and cousins who supposedly could see the future had all shared

her father's table at one point or another, and she had finally sent each and every one of them away for treatments of various types. None ever worked. Time I stopped this particular madness now, she thought. She turned from the rail and ran a hand through her graying dark hair. 'Captain, I should also apologize for bringing you out here tonight on this fool's errand. I'm keeping us both away from our beds, and I for one could probably do with some sleep.' Trying not to show his relief, James smiled and nodded. 'No problem, Miss V. I'm paid to go on fool's errands all the time, though most of the time, it's a bunch of fools looking for fish where they can't catch 'em. You want me to head us back home?' She nodded and turned back to the rail as he returned to the control cabin. Soon she heard the gathering hum of the solar converters channeling their power into the renovated engines. Just below the soft murmur of the boat, however, she heard a faint shrieking noise. She thought at first that James must be having some sort of mechanical trouble, and she had actually turned away from the rail towards the cabin when she realized the sound was coming from somewhere far off. Perhaps we aren't the only boat out here, she thought. Frowning, she brought out the infrared binoculars she had borrowed from the Captain and began to scan the dark waters for signs of other craft. She saw nothing, not even the outlines of fish jumping upward from the sea to catch the insects above. But the shriek had grown steadily louder, still fully audible even though the boat's engines were now fully engaged. No boat had ever made a sound like this, she knew, for now the uncanny squealing was mixed with the noise of a high rushing wind. She pointed the binoculars down towards the river, thinking there might be a hovercraft in some sort of distress passing overheard. For a few seconds, she saw nothing but empty, muddy waters. Then she saw caught sight of something: a flash of light in the darkness, something small and bright, bright enough that she was sure she could see it without the binoculars. Sure enough, as she lowered them from her eyes, there it was, but it was no hovercraft. Instead, a ball of blazing light flashed across the water. She thought at first it might be ball lightning, despite the weather. As she watched it purposefully slow down and change course for the ferry, however, she realized that she had never seen ball lighting like this before. In fact, she had never seen anything like this before. And yet she recognized it. James finally heard the sound, which now drowned out the highpitched hum of the boat's engines. He came back out to the railing, at first noticing only Vallier's intense gaze across the water, and the sudden manic expression on her face. Then he saw it, too, and stared in awe as the ball of light traveled across the muddy water. It touched the water for a moment, and a huge jet of steam burst upward, as if there had been an explosion. Which was only right, James thought, if this were a meteorite like those he had seen on previous trips. But this was no meteorite. 'That's impossible,' he breathed, knowing as he said it that he was wrong. For instead of exploding on contact with the water, or plunging straight down into the murky depths, the light continued its course directly across the water towards the boat, leaving a wake of superheated steam and dead fish as it came. 'It's coming right for us!' James needlessly shouted, and he ran to the nearest equipment locker to looking for his laser rifle. Normally, he only used it to pick off the scavengers that circled the boat after a

long day of fishing on Lake Pontchartrain. But as he was not sure what the object now approaching his precious Old Paint at speed actually was, he didn't want to take any chances. With trembling hands, he attached the sights to the top of the barrel, praying that he had recharged the power unit after the last trip. The last thing he wanted to do was face this thing with a low battery. Come to think of it, he thought grimly, this may be the last thing I do. He turned back to check the light's progress. It continued its relentless course towards the boat as Vallier watched, seemingly transfixed, at the rail. Within moments it would be upon her. He ran to her side and grabbed her arm, pushing her backwards and putting himself in its path. 'Get to the lifeboat!' he shouted. 'Go for help!' If there was any response from behind him, he took no notice. He shouldered the laser rifle, centered the light in his sights, and fired. To his utter dismay, the energy beam raced towards the sphere and was absorbed into it. The shrieking sound deafened him now as the sphere reached the side of the boat, raised itself to the level of the deck, and moved towards him. He frantically began to cast about himself for another weapon, though what would be of any possible use, he had no idea. Then he noticed Vallier standing at the hatch to the cabin, still watching the ball in fascination. In fact, in its flashing illumination, she almost appeared to be smiling. 'Get out of here, woman!' he shouted. 'We don't know what this damned thing's gonna do...' Then he felt the heat of its proximity, and turned to find the thing floating just above him. He gazed for a moment into its beauty, seeing his horrified reflection in the facets of its crystalline surface. As it settled upon him, he suddenly knew what it was going to do, and he quickly said a prayer for Nanette's sake before the pain began. Vallier never took her eyes from the dazzling sphere of light, even when it descended upon the Captain. Despite her normally squeamish stomach, she watched with intense interest as the sphere grew larger, absorbed the man's corpulent body, and began to burn his flesh. She barely heard his agonized screams as his skin seared and charred, turning a charcoal black in the intense heat. Instead, she listened to the loud shrieking of the ball itself, a noise which sounded almost like human laughter. Nor did the smell of burning skin, fat, and muscle did not make her ill, as it would have any other time. She instead breathed in the heady ozone of the fireball's aura and savoured it as if it were a salt-fresh breeze off the sea. James' blackened corpse collapsed to the deck, still twitching, as the sphere released him. Though the object had no eyes or anything else that indicated a lifeform, she knew that the crystal sphere was alive, and that its attention was now focused on her. She stepped forward fearlessly, despite the murder she had just witnessed. The crystal also moved towards her, and as she stepped into its aura, she somehow knew this was what had called her here, that this was what she was seeking. The energies embraced her like a father cradling a child. No one had ever called Nanette James a patient woman, but she had waited on the docks for her husband to return for several hours. It wasn't so

much spousal concern that kept her awake so much as pure jealousy. She hadn't much cared for the aristocratic looks of the woman who had boarded the boat with him, in spite of the woman's large brown eyes -Alan preferred blue eyes, like Nanette's -- and deeply lined face that betrayed her age. She could scarcely believe that Anna Vallier was only in her forties, like Nanette, given the haggard look of the woman's face. Vallier was also very thin for such a short woman, and Alan liked his women with 'a bit of meat on their bones, as he put it. Still, she didn't think that would stop him from committing some act of hanky panky, if the bitch kept at him long enough and paid him enough money. After twenty years of marriage, she knew from experience that you could make Alan do anything, if you shouted long and loud enough. A chill wind blew in off the river, and she shivered in misery. Someone should talk to that Council up there in Baton Rouge, she thought, and tell them to have them Gravitron people on the Moon send us some warm weather. If they can control the weather, they can at least give us a warm winter day every once in a while. Then, far off in the distance, just beneath the wail of the northerly wind, she heard the hum of Alan's boat. Taking out the spare set of binoculars -- and that was another thing she was pissed at him about, lending that old tramp his best set of binoculars -- she peered out past the end of the dock and saw the tiny speck that was Old Paint rapidly approaching. Finally, she thought, as she glanced at her watch and saw it had just turned four. Now we'll hear some fish stories. The boat trundled a little too quickly into its bay, and Nanette watched in shock as it hit one of the dock pylons, gouging a small hole into the left side of the hull. She guessed Alan must be drunk, or he would never have been that careless with Old Paint. Well, she decided, if she was the one got him drunk in the first place, then she can damn well pay for that, too! Old Paint settled smoothly into the automatic moorings in spite of her rough handling, and the hydraulics underneath the dock sighed as the pylons lifted her slowly out of the water. As the deck came level with the dock, Nanette threw all caution to the wind and leapt across the foot-wide space, furious and ready to kill both her husband and his 'catch-o'-the-day.' She first became aware of an odd burning smell on board that reminded her of roast pig, but she ignored it, figuring that the guilty couple had stopped for some romantic little dinner on the way. Her anger was so great that she never stopped to wonder where they could possibly have stopped at this hour of the morning. She nearly slipped in a greasy puddle on the deck near the railing, but once again ignored it, simply allowing her clumsiness to add fuel to her already considerable fire. She made it as far as the foredeck when the woman stepped slowly out of the cabin. Now Nanette had proof of her suspicions. No wonder Alan did such a rotten job docking the ferry; the woman was completely naked. She was certain now that they had been at it the entire time they were out at sea. But had Nanette not been blinded by fury, she would have noticed the odd lack of hair on the woman's head and body, and she might have wondered what had happened to the long salt-and-pepper tresses she had seen when the woman stepped on the boat earlier that night. Instead, letting out a howl of jealous rage, she pushed past the woman and into the open door of the control cabin. She expected to see Alan buck naked, too, and she was determined to drag him home by whatever body part would be most painful and beat whatever sense he had left out of him. Apart from the woman, however, the cabin was empty. 'Alan?' she shouted. 'Alan! Where you hidin', you cowardly shit?'

She turned immediately on the woman, who stood looking at her with what looked like a guilty smile. 'Where is my husband, you slut?' The bald and naked woman simply pointed to a nearby walk-in equipment locker whose door stood ajar. Without another thought, Nanette lunged for the door and threw it open, expecting to find her husband hiding inside, ready to surprise her. She was surprised, all right. She fell backward from the locker, covering her nose and mouth to keep out the stench and keep in the bile rising in her throat. She collided with the cabin wall, and she grabbed at the doorframe desperately, trying to take her eyes from the pile of grayish ashes that was all that remained of her husband. She finally succeeded in tearing her gaze away and looking at the woman, and now she noticed with horror the total lack of hair on her head, her missing eyebrows, the nonexistent eyelashes. 'What-what did you do to my husband?' she finally blurted out, afraid to ask anything else, instinctively knowing she would never have the chance to ask anything else. 'This,' Anna replied simply, and pointed a finger at Nanette's chest. The air between them shimmered as on a summer day, and Nanette felt a burst of white-hot agony explode in her lungs and spread throughout her body, consuming her as it went. Then the darkness came, delivering her from any further pain. Anna Vallier looked down at the ashen corpse and marveled at the ease of it all and her lack of guilt at doing it. But it hadn't been murder, after all; she was only doing what she had always been meant to do. The energy she'd used to kill the woman still fluttered around her fingertips, and she extinguished it easily, as if it had never existed. But she could still feel the fire smoldering within her, flowing through her body blood in her veins. If only she had had these powers before. If only she could have destroyed her father's persecutors the way she had destroyed these two rejected souls.... We are here now, the voices within her reassured, a multiplicity of almost human thoughts answering her own. You will never suffer again. And together, we shall do all that we desire, and more. Vallier nodded, a smile forming on her lips. Now she knew that she had been right to describe that siren song as a 'calling.' God had called for her, after all. February 20, 2099 Four days before Mardi Gras 'Oh, no, not again.' Evelyn Smythe looked up briefly from the knitting she had pulled from her handbag. That has to be trouble, she thought. Especially given how softly the Doctor said it. In all the time she'd known him, the Doctor had never said anything softly. She steeled herself inwardly for the coming storm, all the while regretting that the temporary quiet after that mess with the Daleks on Gallifrey would end up being so... temporary. 'What is it now?' she asked, not looking up from the delicate work. She was afraid to ask, but she did anyway, knowing that her ignorance of any possible dangers would only make her fussy when they turned up later. As they invariably did. The figure in the multi-coloured, multi-patterned coat behind her chair stared fixedly at the TARDIS console. One of his fingers had found its way between his front teeth, which proceeded in turn to gnaw

at the fingernail trapped between them. The other hand swept slowly back through his curly brown hair. But he remained silent, and Evelyn decided to bask for a moment longer in the rare peace and quiet. The Doctor finally removed his abused finger from his mouth and announced, 'The TARDIS appears to be off-course.' 'Oh,' Evelyn sighed, 'is that all?' '"Is that all?"' he repeated mildly. Then his eyes widened. '"Is that all?"!' he shouted, finally getting the implied insult. The Doctor attempted to kill her with a sharp glance, but much to his annoyance, she remained defiantly alive. 'Listening to you,' he muttered, 'you'd think this sort of thing happened all the time!' Evelyn held her peace and continued her knitting. She had learned that sometimes it was better to present a placid face than risk the Doctor's verbal wrath by rising to the bait. Instead she asked, as neutrally as possible, 'What's causing it, then? The Daleks? The Time Lords? A little storm in the sands of the hourglass?' The Doctor shook his head vigorously, ignoring her chiding remark. He checked a dial and frowned again. 'Interesting.' 'What's interesting?' Evelyn asked. Regretfully putting her knitting back into her bag, she decided to get up and walk around to look at the dial, even though she still had not learned how to read most of them. 'Whatever force is drawing the TARDIS off course, it appears to be something very much like another TARDIS. If it is, it certainly doesn't bode well for our travel plans, to say the least.' 'You said "something like a TARDIS," Doctor, you obviously have reason to doubt that might be what it is.' The Doctor looked at her directly for the first time. It was a very astute observation, as he had come to expect from Evelyn. He was beginning to wonder why he ever bothered traveling with women under the mid-century mark at all. "You're right. If it is another TARDIS, it's causing very little interference. For all I know, it could be the Time Lords themselves.' His expression betrayed his worry. After their recent visit to Gallifrey, for his own people to come finding him again could only mean trouble. 'That's not very comforting, somehow,' she confessed. 'No, it's not,' he replied, flicking a series of switches and peering at the results. 'The TARDIS in no distress at all. Purring like the proverbial kitten, in fact,' he added, absently stroking the cat badge on his lapel. 'That would point the finger at my conniving compatriots.' 'Any idea yet where the old girl might be taking us this time?' 'No idea; the instruments aren't registering properly.' He adjusted another control, then sighed and strolled to the chair Evelyn had just vacated. He plopped into it, creating a huge cloud of dust which he pointedly ignored. Instead, he reached into her bag -- without asking, she noted -- pulled out her bag of chocolates, and began searching amongst them for a specific one. Evelyn looked at him, then at the console, then back again. 'Aren't you going to do anything?' she asked, barely keeping herself from walking over and snatching the chocolates away. Truth was, she was beginning to suspect he'd invented the whole thing just so she'd give up the one chair. He paused in his search and looked up at her with infuriating calm. 'What d'you expect me to do? I've already tried to countermagnetise the towing force, and nothing has done any good. Besides, it's not like the old girl is straining to free herself. If the Time Lords want us

somewhere so badly, and the TARDIS has no problem with it, then who are we to disappoint them?' He then turned back to his exploration of the sweets bag. 'But we have no idea if it is the Time Lords!' 'We will soon enough,' he replied, not looking up. 'So you're saying we should just sit back and leave the driving to them, is that it?' she asked. 'That's it!' he exclaimed with enthusiasm, not because of her sudden enlightenment, but because he had found the chocolate he was looking for. Eagerly unwrapping it, he continued, 'To put it in the vernacular of your students, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."' 'Is that so?' she replied. 'Well, I'll remind you of that next time you decide to "repair" some part of the TARDIS!' With that, she strode to the chair and snatched her bag and the chocolates away from him. He opened his mouth to reply but popped the chocolate into it instead and chewed the candy sourly. He hated it when she was right. The young woman sitting in Jackson Square looked up at the menacing sky and pulled her umbrella closer to her, just in case. The weather forecast had promised a light rainstorm, but at the habitual request of the City Council, the exact time of the downpour had not been released. For some odd reason, most of the city's inhabitants took pride in the fact that they never knew for sure what the weather would be like next. Most said it reminded them of 'the good ol' days,' when there was no Gravitron, no weather control, and nothing keeping humans from being at the mercy of the elements. Even though she was born and raised in New Orleans, Colette Desonier was not prone to nostalgia. She preferred to know the exact moment the rain would fall, the precise second it would end, the specific instant the sun would shine again. And if a hurricane was coming, she wanted to know when and why. She didn't care for unpredictability in matters that could be predicted. This was the 21st century, after all. None of the Mardi Gras tourists milling about seemed to mind the weather's unpredictability or the Council's laissez faire attitude. They walked through the park or along the flagstones in front of St Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, stopping only to watch a street performer or have their fortunes told by one of the amateur palmists and Tarot readers set up there. Colette had never cared much for street performers, especially when they were as bad as the ersatz Dixieland Jazz band now filling the Square with discordant noise which only bore the slightest resemblance to music. She also had never gone to one of the fortune tellers, believing that she could more accurately predict her future than could the lines in her palm or a deck of battered cards. A soft beeping from the handheld Time and Relative Dimensions in Space Detection Unit in her lap gratefully distracted her from the noise and reminded her, all too well, of how 'predictable' her life had really been over the last two years. Back then, she would never have imagined herself sitting in Jackson Square waiting for a time/space machine to arrive. Would the lines in my palm ever have predicted that? she wondered. She had never expected Suzanne's sudden death, either, though she also doubted that losing her lover would have shown up in the cards. Nor, she thought, would they have predicted her meeting the boss in the Bourbon Street Pub, as she attempted to drown her sorrows with a Chambourg Kamikaze the night of the funeral. She had often wondered since why he had been in a gay bar to begin with -- he seemed to have no sex life whatsoever, either homosexual or heterosexual. But he had been

there at just the right time, to give her needed words of comfort and, more importantly, a job. With some unusual fringe benefits. She had heard of jobs that promised travel, but never of any that promised travel in time and space. The beeping of the Detection Unit grew steadily stronger, and she looked around the Square, trying to predict where the ship would materialise. The Boss had told her to come here to wait, but how did he know any more than she did where their guests would appear? She made a mental note to ask him about that, already knowing that he would dodge the question. As forthcoming as he was about some thing, the Boss was extremely tight-lipped about others. She heard a loud drumming begin the space in front of the Cathedral, and at first she thought it might be a TARDIS materialising. That should get some interesting reactions from the crowd, she thought. But then she saw the source of the sound: a street performer, not much older than she and in ragged clothing, had spread various pieces of pipe, metal plates, and household objects on the flagstones around himself. He had also set up a battered debit card reader off to one side so that the crowd could tip his own, probably empty, card. He was now drumming on all of the objects around him to a particular beat, but in a random order. The resulting mixture of clangs, tings, and clanks, Colette decided, was far more entertaining than the so-called jazz band had been, and she found herself tapping her foot to it as she watched the crowd cheer him on. Soon the performance came to an end, and the scraggly performer bowed to the applauding crowd. Colette was already on her way to tip his card herself when she suddenly remembered the Detection Unit, beeping louder and faster now. An amazed murmur rose from the crowd as another sound filled the air behind the performer -- a rhythmic wheezing underscored by what sounded like a tympani drumroll. Then the space behind him slowly coloured and solidified, until a tall blue box was standing behind him. The crowd went wild. They rushed to the drummer's debit card reader, determined to make him rich. As for the drummer himself, he could only smile dumbly and nod in gratitude at their generosity, all the time wondering just where in the hell this new part of his act had come from. Colette smiled and shook her head. Typical Time Lord entrance. At the other end of the park, a couple of dull men in matching black raincoats also noted the blue box's arrival. One was short and muscular, with the dark hair, eyes, and skin of a Cajun. His face was craggy and sun-roughened from long days working in the Louisiana sun. The other man was a tall, portly blond with milky blue eyes. Unlike his companion, his build and pale skin showed that he had never done a day's work in his life. The only similarity between them, apart from the coats, were what appeared to be several strings of Mardi Gras beads around their necks, all of different colours, shapes, and lengths. On top of each of these shiny pilings of beads rested an ornate medallion, carved out of some sort of genuine crystal, with the legend "Krewe of Draco, Celebrating Our 10th Year" circling the central design, a picture of a fire-breathing dragon. And the fact that, as they spoke to each other, neither of them moved their mouths, or made a sound. That must be what Miss Anna told us to look for, Lebeau, the darker one, said, his flat Cajun accent evident even in his mental voice. What is it? Fragamelli, the other man, asked. The disinterested

undertones in his sending, however, suggested that the answer would mean little to him. Dunno, the Cajun replied, looking down at his watch. But we was lucky to see it when it turned up. He looked up at the ever-darkening sky, and continued, Let's keep an eye on 'em. We can't let 'em leave just yet. Not far away, shielded from the eyes of the two men, one other figure noticed the unusual arrival. A stately looking dark-skinned older woman sat on one of the benches around the Square, holding her umbrella across her lap. Cassandra Toussaint stared at the box for several moments to convince her eyes of the truth of it all. But she had seen so many unusual things in her long life that she had long since stopped doubting her eyes. And now, it seemed, that long life would be ending soon. She sighed, looked up at the Cathedral, and crossed herself slowly. "For what I am about to do, dear Lord," she murmured, "give me strength." 'Oh, Doctor? If you can pull yourself away from your chair for a moment, it might interest you to note that we've arrived.' The Doctor gave the column a mild glance and got up with a grunt from the chair. 'Hmph. About time, too.' He moved to the console and flicked the scanner control. The screen on the far wall opened to reveal a crowd of people cheering and clapping wildly. 'Well, well, well!' the Doctor exclaimed. 'Finally, the kind of reception I deserve!' Evelyn peered at the screen and frowned. 'Hardly likely that any of those people could have brought us here.' 'Either that,' the Doctor replied, 'or whoever brought us here has no sense of discretion. Usually, the TARDIS avoids materialising in areas with large concentrations of people.' 'Oh, does it, indeed?' Evelyn snorted. 'And when was the last time you reminded HER of that?' The crowd began to disperse, much to the Doctor's disappointment -after all the rude welcomes he'd received over the years, he was looking forward to being greeted warmly for once. One rather unkempt young man continued to peer out of the screen at them for a few seconds, scratching his head. He finally shrugged and started gathering up the paraphernalia scattered on the ground around him, leaving a small device on a tripod for last. He glanced briefly at the small screen on it and did a double take. An enormous grin spread over his face as he slung the machine over his shoulder and walked off. 'Well, that answers our question about the people, Evelyn,' the Doctor said. 'The device that young man just carried off was a portable debit card reader, just the sort of thing that street performers and sidewalk vendors customarily use.' 'We materialised in the middle of a street performance?' 'Well, don't look at me! I wasn't steering at the time!' 'Of course not, Doctor. So street performers use these debit doohickeys?' The Doctor rolled his eyes. 'A debit card reader is not a "doohickey"!' 'Well, whatever they are, we don't use them in my time. So where and when are we?' 'Let me check the yearometer... no, it's still malfunctioning.

Judging from what I could see of the design of that card reader, though, -- early model, still using a magnetised code strip scanner and a micronised satellite link for accessing the financial net -- I'd say we must be sometime near the end of the twenty-first century. As for the where... Hang on a minute!' He manipulated the scanner controls, and the image onscreen pulled back and widened, revealing a large old style cathedral which towered high above them. 'Wait, that couldn't be St Louis Cathedral, could it?' Evelyn asked. 'In New Orleans?' 'It certainly seems to be,' he replied, turning to look at her. 'Well, now I am impressed! I didn't know the history of the Americas was part of your speciality.' 'It's not, actually,' Evelyn smiled. 'I've attended a few conferences here over the years, and luckily most of them weren't scheduled anywhere close to Mardi Gras. I was here for that once, and once was more than enough, thank you very much. How did you recognise it?' He snorted. 'My dear woman, I know a landmark like St Louis Cathedral when I see it.' 'So you've been here before?' she asked, genuinely interested. 'No doubt when the first stone was being laid in the foundation, I'd bet.' 'No, no,' the Doctor replied. 'For me, it was about a hundred years ago or so, I suppose. Or did I bring Jo that one time? Not really sure. I seem to recall she expressed interest in coming here... Or was it Sarah Jane...?' 'For Mardi Gras?' she asked. To her surprise, he cleared his throat in embarrassment. 'Well, not quite. Actually, no.' Seeing the expression beginning to form on her face, he quickly added, 'Is it really that important that I should have? I'll have you know, I lead very busy lives! I was occupied with other things when I was here before.' She smiled even more broadly. 'So you're saying there's actually something in the Universe that I've done and you haven't?' 'And what if there is? What's so amazing about what you've done, anyway?' he asked. 'Attended an enormous week long and supposedly religiously orthodox party with crowds of drunken people flashing their genitalia at each other for the sake of strings of plastic beads? My dear Evelyn, if you honestly think that's something to be proud of, then it's a very good thing you're traveling with me! Maybe a bit more travel might finally broaden even your narrow horizons!' But Evelyn continued to smile even as she said, 'I would never chide you for that. Like I said, once was enough for me! So, who do you know in this city that could have dragged the TARDIS off course, anyway?' Frowning at her expression -- he knew she was aware of how much her smugness infuriated him -- he replied, 'I've no idea. Why don't we go and find out?' Pulling the door control almost hard enough to pull it out of its housing, the Doctor opened the doors and strode out of the TARDIS, leaving an amused Evelyn to grab her bag and catch up. By the time they got outside, the crowds had completely dispersed, and the new passersby found nothing odd about two people leaving what looked like an old-fashioned phone booth. The Doctor looked up at the sky and said, 'Looks like a bit of rain. The weather can be unpredictable here, even with the weather control station on the Moon.' But Evelyn's attention focused on the large purple and gold holobanner hanging in the air above the Square. '"Laissez les bon temps

rouler!"' she read aloud. '"Welcome to the Crescent City's 400th anniversary jubilee of the first celebration of Mardi Gras!"' Then she thought back to the droning of some of her less interesting colleagues on the history of the city and looked at the Doctor questioningly. 'Four hundredth anniversary? What date are they going by?' 'Probably Iberville's expedition into this region in 1699,' the Doctor replied with a smug smile. 'Good thing I reminded him about Ash Wednesday being the next day, or there might've been nothing to celebrate. That by itself should excuse me for not having celebrated it since, shouldn't it?' Evelyn ignored him. 'That would make it 2099. Looks like you were right about the late twenty-first century part, at least,' she said, not sounding in the least impressed. 'And about the weather, it appears!' he added, just as the first few sprinkles began to fall. 'I'll just pop back in and get the umbrella, shall I? Stay dry!' And before she realized what he was doing, he had already leapt back into the TARDIS and slammed the door behind him, leaving her in the quickly building downpour. She stared at the closed doors in disbelief for a few seconds and then closed her eyes and sighed. I might've known he'd do something like this, she thought. What a big baby -- emphasis on the 'big.' Just as the biggest drops began to pour down and she began considering which of the nearby buildings to run into for shelter, she saw a young woman with frizzy brown hair, olive skin, and glasses running to her side with a huge black umbrella. 'Quick! This one's gonna be short, but it's gonna be hard!' the girl shouted. Evelyn gratefully ducked underneath the umbrella and returned the girl's infectious smile. 'Why, thank you ever so much, young lady!' she said. 'Well, I reckoned your TARDIS's weather forecast systems must not be workin', if you two came out without an umbrella into this mess,' the girl replied, catching her breath. 'Ah, that's the Doctor for you,' Evelyn responded. 'He should be out in... I'm sorry, what did you say?' 'Oh, I just said your TARDIS's weather forecast systems...' 'Yes, yes, that's what I thought you said,' Evelyn interjected, her face turning white. She backed away, but not far enough to be out of harm's way and still underneath the umbrella. Self-preservation was one thing, but getting wet was another. How could this girl possibly know about the TARDIS? Unless... 'Did you bring us here?' 'Me? Oh, no. I was just told you were coming and that I should be here to meet you.' Her smile broadened as she noticed the shock on the older woman's face. 'Oh, God, I'm sorry, I'm being so rude.' She offered a hand. 'Colette Desonier.' Evelyn looked at the outstretched hand for a moment before deciding it was all right to shake. After all, it seemed human enough, although she had come to learn that looks could be fatally deceiving. 'Professor Evelyn Smythe,' she replied. 'But you may call me Evelyn.' 'Hey, what a great name!' Colette replied, shaking her hand vigorously. 'That is a human name, right? With a last name like "Smythe," I'd guess it is, but you can never tell around these Time Lords.' Evelyn giggled nervously, not really sure how to take this quite friendly young woman who seemed to know far too much about Time Lords and TARDISes. To make things worse, the girl continued, 'Speaking of which, I'm assuming that was the Doctor that left you out here like this. He didn't match the description I was given, but the Boss's information isn't always very reliable. I'm sure you know what that's

like,' she added with a grin. Evelyn smiled dumbly and nodded. Time with the Doctor had taught her all too well to keep her silence with dealing with crazy people, especially charming ones. At that moment, the Doctor stepped from the TARDIS with a large rainbow-coloured umbrella. He stared at Colette, then cleared his throat and said, 'Oh, thank you, my dear. I feared my friend here was about to get soaked in this weather, and I thought I'd look in this phone booth to see if someone had left behind an umbrella.' He grinned widely and held up the umbrella. 'My lucky day, eh?' 'And you must be the Doctor,' Colette said warmly, offering her hand and completely ignoring his explanation. Now it was his turn to look surprised, but he quickly recovered and took her hand. 'How do you do? I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage.' 'Her name's Colette, Doctor,' Evelyn murmured, 'and she knows about the TARDIS.' He turned on Evelyn, instantly livid. 'Why'd you tell her about that, then? Who knows who she works for!' 'Don't get all fussy with me!" Evelyn shouted back. "I didn't tell her! She knew already!' The Doctor immediately fixed his eyes on Colette and glared, a dangerous smile forming on his lips. 'Did you, indeed? Could it be that you were the one responsible for bringing us here, perhaps? Well? Speak up!' Colette simply sighed and shook her head, which impressed Evelyn to no end. If this girl could stand up to the Doctor's bluster, she could stand up to anything. Evelyn liked her already. 'Look, I know nothin' about that. All the Boss said was that you'd be here soon and I should come pick you up. I just thought you were coming to visit, though, with what he said about the last time you guys met, I'll admit it's pretty unlikely.' She frowned for a second. 'Or was that the last time you met him? I tell ya, this time travel stuff messes me up somethin' terrible.' 'Don't I know it,' Evelyn agreed, grinning at the girl. 'And who, pray tell, is this "Boss"?' the Doctor asked. 'I have yet to meet a Time Lord who used that particular appellation, but it sounds like the sort of pompous title one of them would use.' Evelyn was about to ask how he knew it was a Time Lord, but Colette confirmed it by replying, 'Oh, you've already met this one, and really I'm the only one who calls him "Boss."' 'And what does everyone else call him?' 'Tell you what, let's get out of this rain first. I'll tell you on the way back to the restaurant.' 'Restaurant?' the Doctor asked, having no choice but to follow the girl, who was already drawing Evelyn along towards Decatur Street. 'The Belfort. I'll fill you in on the way. It's a long story. Of course, with the Boss,' Colette added, 'it always is.' Shit, Lebeau's mental voice muttered. They're leaving. Well, do something about it, Fragamelli responded, his own mental voice sounding very much like it was stifling a yawn. Lebeau shrugged, raised his hand, and pointed at the figures leaving the Square. The rain hitting his hand began to hiss, and the air began to turn very hot....

Chapter Two: "Everyone Loves a Parade" by Kit O'Neal Lebeau raised his hand and pointed at the figures leaving the Square. The rain hitting his hand began to hiss, and the air began to turn very hot.... And then he fell forward as something large slammed into his back. He stood up and angrily spun around. "Sorry, dude." It was a man in his early twenties, one of a cluster that now stood around the two krewe members. All of them held plastic cups full of alcohol -- some had one in each hand. "So, can I have some beads?" Lebeau was thinking of giving the man something else when Fragamelli's voice intruded on the thought. Not here, the shorter man warned. Just give him the beads so we can go. Give him beads for slamming into me? Lebeau mentally shouted. Never mind. Fragamelli started taking off one necklace when the man's friends noticed and asked for some for themselves. Fragamelli smiled as he held the necklace out for a moment, then tossed it into the air. As the men scrambled over each other to be the one to catch it -some dropping their drinks in the process -- the two Krewe of Draco men slipped away. By then, though, the man they were watching had gone. Come on, Lebeau thought. I think they went that way. Colette hadn't led them very far before Evelyn noticed that most of the people around them were travelling in the same direction. She peered around the Doctor and saw that the crowd thickened ahead. Colette looked at her watch. "Shit! I'd hoped to get through before this. Shit!" "I enjoy a good parade," the Doctor said, grinning and rubbing his hands. "What about this boss person?" Evelyn asked. The Doctor stuck out his lower lip. "Do you have to ruin all my fun?" "It's a moot point," Colette said. "The Krewe of Theseus' parade runs the length of Iberville." The Doctor smiled broadly and said, "Let's get some good seats." With that, he started pushing his way through the crowd. Colette and Evelyn slipped in behind him and stayed in the wake he created. By the time Lebeau and Fragamelli reached the back of the crowd of spectators, the parade had begun. Where is he? Lebeau thought. Fragamelli closed his eyes and concentrated. He's at the front, he said eventually, half a block that way. "I love your costume!" the toga-clad man at the front of the float shouted as he threw a string of beads to the Doctor. The Time Lord, who was already wearing several, handed the necklace to Evelyn, who immediately handed it back. "No, it's yours." The Doctor shrugged and slipped it over his head. Almost immediately, some men nearer the rear of the float threw

plastic coins down to him. "I do seem rather popular, don't I?" the Doctor said. Evelyn failed to suppress her giggles. "You're a regular gay icon." The Doctor spun around. "What?" he shouted. "Theseus is a gay krewe," Colette explained. "Didn't you notice the way that everyone on the floats was a man?" Evelyn asked. "Including the King _and_ Queen?" The Doctor started to say something, then stopped himself and pondered for a moment. "So where did you say this 'Boss' was waiting for us?" Colette pointed toward the far side of the street. "That way." "Good." The Doctor grabbed each woman by the hand and ran across the street, dodging between two floats. Just as they disappeared into the crowd on the far side, the two Draco Krewe men emerged in the spot where they'd been standing. Where'd they go? Lebeau demanded. They were here quite recently, Fragamelli thought. I can still feel... "Excuse me?" a high voice said. The two men turned around to see a pair of young women, who immediately lifted their shirts. Now that, Lebeau thought, is worth some beads. Once away from the parade, Colette was able to lead the Doctor and Evelyn out of the French Quarter to a mansion in what the Doctor called the Greek revival style. A sign in front of the building said simply "The Belfort." As soon as they'd entered, the Doctor stopped and sniffed the air. "What is it?" Evelyn asked warily. The Doctor frowned at her. "Don't you smell it?" "Not really, no." "I'd know that aftershave anywhere." He walked past Colette and into the darkened dining room. A small grey shape rolled out of the shadows and stopped by his feet. "Greetings, Doctor." "Hello, K9! Has he been taking care of you?" The Doctor bent down and patted the mechanical dog between the ears. "Affirmative." The door to the kitchen opened, and a man stood a moment framed in the light. He was tall, good-looking by human standards, but in a scruffy way. He wore a crumpled suit, and his tie was hanging loose about his neck. When he spoke, he had a thick Cajun accent. "Hello, Thete!" He flipped a switch and the dining room lights came on. The Doctor looked the man up and down a couple times before responded. "Your regeneration doesn't suit you, Drax," he finally said. Anna paced above her dais, her filmy, translucent robes flowing about her. They never touched her body, always hovering an inch away. Nothing had come in contact with her since that night, when she 'communed' with her nameless master, and she wasn't at all sure she missed the sensation. She quickly scanned the minds of the krewe members she'd sent around the Quarter and the city -- most of them wouldn't even know she'd done it. The scans proved fruitless until she reached two men she'd sent to watch Jackson Square. At present, they were letting themselves be distracted by trivialities, but something startling loomed large in

their memories. The Doctor! The Doctor was here, mere days before her lord's plans reached their climax! And these two incompetents had not only let him slip from their grasp, but instead of reporting this to her, they'd left to... With one part of her mind, Anna dispatched some men to pick up the TARDIS and bring it to her. With another, constricted Lebeau's heart until it exploded in his chest. There was no way she was going to let the Doctor interfere. The parade -- and with it the culmination of her work -- was days away, and the Doctor was not going to ruin it. Drax made a pretense of straightening his tie. "I'll have you know I spent a lot of time coming up with this look. I think I'm very handsome. Ain't I, Colette?" The woman shrugged. "That's what I mean," the Doctor said. "It doesn't suit you." "Oh, ha ha. Very funny. I call you all the way here, and the first thing you do is insult me. I thought we was pals." Evelyn stepped up beside the Doctor. "Why exactly did you call us here?" she asked. Drax smiled. "I'm glad someone here is nice enough to ask. I'm Drax, by the by." He held out his hand. Evelyn shook it. "Evelyn Smythe. Dr. Evelyn Smythe." "It just so happens that I've formed my own krewe for Mardi Gras." Drax looked inordinately proud. "The 'Krewe of Gallifrey' I call it." "You what?" the Doctor gasped. "How could..." "Relax, Thete. It's not like anyone knows about, well, you know. It's just a name. Anyway, we even have a parade right on Tuesday. Mardi Gras itself. Just us and Draco on that night, when..." Evelyn interrupted him. "So what does your krewe have to do with bringing us here to Earth?" "Well, it's about this parade, see? You, Theta Sigma -- I mean Doctor -- are the King of the Krewe!"

Chapter Three: "What a Lovely Umbrella, Shame About the Jacket" by Kim Clarke "King of the Krewe indeed. Well, maybe I don't have much of a fashion sense for this time, but there are other places were I am in fashion," said the Doctor. "Did you know that Fergurson is here and bearing a message for you?" asked Drax. "Really, I didn't know she was here," said a surprised Doctor. As Fergurson had walked through the crowds she thought her ears were burning. Now she saw that someone was talking about her, and that someone was Drax talking to the Doctor. She put her forefinger and thumb partly in her mouth and blew a whistle, followed by "Oi, Sigma!" The doctor turned around Fergurson walked closer and gave her a hug. Then he let go. "It's been along time, Fergurson. My old dear friend Beta Sigma. What's new?" said the Doctor cheerfully; he hadn't been this happy in a long time.

"Chasing time loops, worm holes, Dalek hunting, the usual. And you?" asked Fergurson. "Met up with the Toymaker and left him locked up in the amusement park where Peri and I found him. She met someone; I think she's happy. I must visit her sometime. I guess you have already looked up Evelyn," he said with a mischievous grin on his face "All I did was to inspire her to be a teacher. I did not think she would have taken me so seriously, and I thought it would not be a great importance at the time. She was only a child. I know you would have done it yourself. Oh Drax, what happened to your Cadillac TARDIS you had last time I saw you?" asked Fergurson. "I lost it in a game of poker to some renegade. Don't worry, I won it back, but it can't go back to the original shape. I thought you and David were doing reconnaissance trips on Dalek- and Cybermen-infested planets," Drax said. "David's on holiday and I wanted to come here. Well, I did and I didn't. I was made to come here for a reason: to warn the doctor about something that's already happened, and the effects are trickling down but they aren't being noticed. Drax, did you know that your wanted by the Mar Alimaniati? I told them I had never known or even met you. So you're safe for a few years." Drax stepped back a little. The news was like someone pushing down on him, so he sat down to let the news sink in. The Doctor pulled Fergurson to the side. "What information? I understand the Time Lords of the late fortythousandth century can be a little more than rough with anyone. So what's important that it has to be told face to face not in written format that could be sent to the TARDIS?" said the Doctor in alarm. "It's to do with the Fat Doomsday theory; it has become a device. The council are worried -- not the council which the president runs -and so am I. The first wave was ninety-nine years ago. The second was ten years ago. The third is due any day now. I am not sure who or what is behind this. "Think of all the power that all the enemies you have ever known then multiply by four, and you get a very powerful and dangerous being. It's like a black hole, like a vacuum cleaner which goes over planets until there is only a thin shell remaining. No one knows the total force of this being or what it could do. I must go. Another time, another place I must be. Here." She passed the doctor a homing device. "Press this green button when you need my help and you need it in a hurry. Then give me five minutes and I will be there." "Ok, I will heed your warning. Evelyn and I will start looking for answers in the morning. If I don't need your help, I will see you sometime on some planet," said the Doctor, waving goodbye. A wormhole opened in the sky. Fergurson jumped in and it closed quickly. The others gathered towards the Doctor. Luckily, Drax had rooms above the restaurant, so they all could rest; even K9 was powering up in the kitchen. The Doctor woke a little before dawn. Drax was already up and cooking breakfast for everyone. A small bell went off in the restaurant, and Drax was calling out breakfast was ready.

Chapter Four: "Directing Traffik" by David Whittam The Doctor woke a little before dawn. Drax was already up and cooking breakfast for everyone. A small bell went off in the restaurant and Drax was calling out that breakfast was ready. The Doctor eyed the plate of sausages with a slightly downcast look as Evelyn and Colette attacked it enthusiastically. "Come on Thete, tuck in," said Drax. "You look like you need a good meal." Evelyn chuckled under her breath as Drax shot her an amused look. "Thank you very much Drax," said the Doctor drily, "and can I just say that your regeneration has not managed to improve your sense of humour." He eyed the plate of sausages again, his stomach rumbling slightly. He just couldn't justify it to himself. Drax passed by on his way back to the kitchen. "They are Quorn, you know," he whispered in the Doctor's ear. The Doctor's face lit up, his fork already in his hand, spearing four sausages at once. Breakfast was finished. Drax had stowed the plates away to be washed and they sat around the table patting their full stomachs. "So you're telling me the time disturbance isn't you?" said the Doctor. Drax shook his head. "Nope, the old TARDIS hasn't been out of the garage since I got here - I just monitor the timelines now and then. Just to see who's around, y'know. When I said I'd called you here, I meant as soon as I found out you were about to land in New Orleans. My space-time telegraph is on the blink anyway - couldn't have asked you to come even if I'd wanted to - that's why you didn't get an invitation, just in case you were wondering." A thought struck him. "It could have been Fergie though." The Doctors nose wrinkled slightly. "It could have been, I suppose. I don't think so though. Something else is going on. As I told Evelyn in the TARDIS, there was something odd about the distortion. At first I thought it was the Time Lords, it seemed like them, but the more I think about it the less likely it seems. When it comes to me, they usually aren't so devious. No, this was something else entirely. Something wanting me to come here - something which had no other choice but to bring me here against my will." "Do you think it's got something to do with this Fat Doomsday wotsit?" asked Evelyn. "Possibly," mused the Doctor, "it did seem a little odd that the warning came while I was here. I just want to know why, after calling me all this way, whoever it is who so desperately wanted my company, has failed to show themselves." The old woman was dressed in filthy rags. She sat on the floor in a ruined shop, rain dripping through the ceiling. Her arms tight around her waist as she crooned to herself, watching the goings on in the restaurant in a puddle on the floor. In her arms was a softly glowing crystal. Her face lit up with a crooked smile every time she saw the Doctor's

face. Tentatively she reached out to the puddle, running a finger down his cheek. The surface of the puddle rippled and his face lost definition. She quickly withdrew her finger and let the puddle become calm again. "I knew he would come," she whispered to the crystal, her voice cracked with disuse, "everything's coming true. Everything is happening just as I saw it. Our call was heard by the Stranger. The Ancestors were right - it is nearly time for me to die." She let out a hawking cough, spitting out bits of blood. "Are you sure you're going to be all right, Evelyn?" asked the Doctor for the third time. Evelyn shot him a withering glare. "Of course I am. Stop fussing! I may be old, but I'm not incapable. I'll be perfectly all right. It's a big city, but as long as I stay to the tourist traps there won't be any problems." The Doctor harrumphed a little before acquiescing. "We meet back here though, tonight, before it gets dark." "OK, Doctor, I'm a big girl though - I CAN look after myself. Now you take care too." "I will." Evelyn left the restaurant, the Doctor watching her from the window bay. He turned back to Drax. "I knew she'd get bored," he muttered. "Watching me build a tracer isn't the most exciting thing in the world." "She'll be all right," said Drax. "I mean, there's a lot of people about, but everybody's happy;it is Mardi Gras after all." The Doctor gave a non-committal grunt and continued fiddling with the circuitry in front of him. Evelyn pulled her cardigan a little tighter around herself. It was still early morning and although it had now stopped raining, her breath was still misting in front of her. There weren't many people on the streets around her, as headed towards the St Louis Cathedral. Although she'd been to New Orleans before, she'd never had a chance to have a look inside. Suddenly the street was full of people. Ducking and weaving, music blaring. A fierce explosion of colour. Evelyn stood back, watching the procession move past. A man took her hands and pulled her into the dancing mass. She struggled to get out, but every way she turned there seemed to be arms or legs blocking her. Hands tugged at her every time she got near the edge of the road, pulling her back into the centre of the throng. The mass turned a corner, Evelyn still trapped in the middle and could be heard no more. The street was silent again. The puddle showed the abduction of Evelyn. The old woman smiled to herself. That was bound to bring the Stranger here. Where he belonged; where he would stay with her forever. The door was flung open and the carnival poured into the old gun shop. It danced in and then back out again. The door slamming behind them. A breathless Evelyn was left on the floor in front of the old woman.

Evelyn huffed and puffed and brought herself unsteadily to her feet. She looked around the small shop, noting the ramshackle roof and the layer of dust that covered the antique muskets on the wall. Then she noticed the old woman sitting on a wooden chair in the corner of the room. She lifted her head and walked over with her hand outstretched. "Hello, I'm Evelyn Smythe," she said loudly. "I don't know what I'm doing here but I'm sure you're going to tell me." The old woman flinched in front of her. Her hands flying to her ears. "Quieter," she hissed, "make your voice quieter." "I'm sorry," Evelyn lowered her voice. "Is this better?" The old woman nodded and took her hands away from her ears. Evelyn noticed that her hands were misshapen and claw-like. They were covered in scratches and the nails were virtually non-existent on the end of her long fingers. The woman was huddled in her rags, her pale arms bruised and thin. Evelyn could just see a crystal glowing gently in her arms. Evelyn stared at the crystal - it was quite beautiful. It reached out and touched her mind. She was gone for quite some time. The Doctor paces around the room. "She should be back by now," he said angrily. "Oh, why do I always let them do this?" Drax sniffed, "You worry too much. Can't be good for your hearts." "When you've had as many companions as I have you'll know that they are invariably in some kind of trouble ninety percent of the time," said the Doctor, "and the other ten percent they're drinking cups of tea wondering when I'LL need rescuing." "Is that thing nearly working?" asked Drax. The Doctor shook his tracer. "Not a sausage," he said ruefully. "Whatever it was it seems to have stopped. Its purpose must have been to bring me here and now that purpose is over. I've spent a day making something completely useless." "I don't know," muttered Drax. He picked up the tracer and stirred his tea with it. "It's not a bad spoon." The Doctor gave him a steely glare. The steady tap tap tap of water echoed in the old gun shop. Two old women stood and stared at each other, their mouths half open, their eyes unblinking. A trail of saliva fell from the frailer woman's mouth to the floor, bead after bead sliding down it. The only other sound was a gentle throbbing from the crystal one of the women was holding. The women weren't even breathing.

Chapter Five: "Not Poppy" by Cameron Dixon And what again that I am we are entire but whenwhere? in dreams, always and only but ours and hers, hers who? not the who that we was once but a new her to dream us, call her evelyn, eve, of destruction of birth the

first woman and call her cassie, andra, opeia, in the crystal we join and scatter like fireflies of thoughtlight from faraway and close and hard facets relect refract the onethatwas into the manythatare, in the wrong way shattered lightbits of prism in the air, in the ether, in the ever after. ever. eve. hell. in. Eve-Hell-In. Evelyn. In Hell. "No, no, no, no, NO!" the Doctor chanted furiously as he sorted through Drax's toolbox. If, Drax thought, sorted was the right word. Made a right mess of things that were already unsorted to begin with, was more like it. He took a sip of tea and stirred it again with the useless tracer. "You should learn to relax, you should, Thete. Put your feet up for a while. Let things sort 'emselves out." "Relax? Relax?? *RELAX*??!" The Doctor dropped a spanner back into the toolbox with a resounding crash. "Don't you realise the magnitude of what's being unleashed here? Somewhere in this town is a force capable of giving the Time Lords of the future nightmares, something that's drawn my TARDIS to it like a fly to honey, and with nothing to rely on but your antiquated technocotheca here I haven't a hope of finding it before it, whatever it is, finds *us*!" "Doesn't mean you don't need to relax," Drax pointed out. He set his tea down on the end table. "This is the Big Easy, Thete. Just take it so. It'll all be the same in two thousand years. I know," he added, "I've been there, I checked." The Doctor glared at him. "It most certainly will not be 'all the same'. Or have you forgotten we've already had a visit from the future to tell us as much? As helpful as that most certainly wasn't!" He turned his glare to the ceiling. "You couldn't have actually given us anything *useful*, could you? Oh, no! That would have been *too* easy, wouldn't it? Just as taking care of the problem personally would have been! But no, let the Doctor take care of it, don't bother yourselves with the details! Never put off until tomorrow what you can shove off onto the day before yesterday!" "Here, steady on. You're frightening the Spondilas Chamber." The Doctor turned on him again. "And *you*! Calling me here, interrupting my travels and drawing attention to yourself just to head up a parade! A parade, of all things!" "Yeah, doesn't mean you have to rain on it, now does it? Come on, Thete, no need for all this shouting!" "No need?? Krewe of Gallifrey," the Doctor repeated scornfully. "Didn't you have any idea what kind of attention you'd be attracting with that?" "Oh, c'mon, Thete. It's not like I'm the only one drawing attention to himself, pointedly not mentioning the coat. You know as well as I do hardly no-one in this time zone's ever heard of Gallifrey." "No, I most certainly do *not* know that. What I *do* know is that nobody *from* this time zone knows what Gallifrey is! What I know is that we've already had one verifiable visit from another time zone, and that something in New Orleans is using anachronistic technology capable of forcing my TARDIS down to land!" "Or you know," Drax sighed, "it could just be yer TARDIS going wrong again. You don't take care of 'er properly, you know that..." "My TARDIS?" the Doctor snarled. He pointed accusingly at Drax's teacup. "And since when has my TARDIS ever caused anything like that to happen?" Drax stared at the tea. He hadn't touched it for over a minute, he was sure he hadn't, but the tea was still swirling about the cup, even

faster now than before, a vortex forming in the Doctor. "Coriolis effect?" he suggested "You stirred that tea with the tracer. temporal disturbance in the vicinity." The "There's something here. There's something and I don't know what is, and Evelyn is out

the centre. He looked at weakly. It's responding to a Doctor glared at Drax. *now*. It wants me here, there in the thick of it!"

From here she can see everything, even with her eyes closed. The old plantations and the swamp and the river, and the mausoleums, built above ground to save the bodies from damp and flood. And the havoc and chaos that they call carnival, loose in the streets and eating its own flesh. They call it a party town but they have their own different darker rules here, and even so there are those who will break them. And still the beat goes on. Anna One, Anna Two... She has seen his coat in dreams, his technicolour dreamcoat. A patchquilt clash he wears with pride; individual squares and rectangles and other shapes of colours and fabrics which shouldn't go together, which don't go together, which scrape against the eye like a prismatic cheese grater. And yet it works. The coat is him, it's a part of him, this Doctor, the Sixth; it defines who he is. He takes the random happenstance of the Universe, the unbridled everythingness that Is, and he puts it together without thought to how it fits, and makes it work for him. For Him. That's the important thing. Her own clothes float around her body as if afraid to touch it, supported by the convection currents rising from the heat of her body; just as her own followers, her servants, her seedlings spread throughout the city, not too close to her, but still tied to her by the heat of her conviction. And all will ignite soon. That's what one of the Annas thinks as she floats in the mixture that is now her soul, a great swirling thick mixture of revenge and desire and hate and fear and love and loss, brought to the boil nine years ago and simmering ever since in white-hot rage, only some of which is her own. Something is missing from her life. (her father.) The Doctor took it from her. (the crystal.) Through the eyes of her seedlings, she sees the Quarter drawn out in all directions. A black rose drifts down the street with the merry throng, either a hallucination, an omen of things to come, or the logo of the COMBINE building seen through another's eyes as they pass, she isn't sure. She is an angel, a porcelain Southern beauty, dark desire who'll bring the whole crass menagerie down in shards and fill the land with the stink of her burning. And does that make her a devil? Or are they the same, two facets of the same shattered being? There will be time enough for this after. Time for musing and putting the pieces together and wondering if she's done the right thing, or if there's a right thing to have done. Most of her is certain enough to continue, for now. The parts that see with crystal clarity pull together visions from all sixteenths of the Quarter, and unite them in a whole, with her goal at the end. This is where the woman was taken. Her agents will go to her. There is no hurry. It will all be the same in two thousand years. After a while, there was someone else. "Well," Evelyn said firmly, "I certainly don't want to go through

anything like that ever again." She opened her eyes. "And who might you be, then?" The elderly black woman smiled, revealing a perfect set of teeth which surely couldn't all be her own. "Might be any number of people, child. Things, either. But you can call me Cassie, seeing as how it's my name and all." "I recognise you. You were in the shop, weren't you? Holding that crystal. You brought me here. Wherever here is," she added. "Well, I assume you're a person of some importance, then?" "Now, now, you do know what they say about assuming, don't you, Miss Evelyn? How it makes an ass out o' you and... well, just you, really. No, I'm not all that important -- least, not in the ways you seem to think." The woman, Cassie, smiled again. It was a genuine smile, one which reached up to her eyes; a laughing-with smile, not a laughing-at smile, which took the edge off what would have sounded patronising coming from anyone else. It was the smile of someone who knew that, don't worry, it'll all work out in the end. Evelyn found she didn't mind being called "child" at all, when the words came from the owner of that smile. It would be like a table being upset about being called a table. "So, not important," she said. "But very important to yourself?" "Right you are!" Cassie laughed. "Right you are, Miss Evelyn! And ain't that true of us all?" "I suppose the trick, then, is to know when what's important to you... isn't so important to the universe at large?" "Ha! You's so fast off the mark, we all probably didn't have to go to that trouble of bringing you here!" Does she really talk like this all the time? Evelyn found herself thinking. To distract herself she looked about at her surroundings in bemusement, wondering how she was ever going to be able to describe this to the Doctor afterwards. "So if you're not important in and of yourself -- only *to* yourself -- and yet you went to some trouble to bring me here... Tell me, would it be too much for me to risk making another assumption?" "If it's that I've brought you here to pass on a message from someone else, well, let me save you some time." Cassie settled back, which seemed to present her with surprisingly little difficulty, considering that she wasn't sitting on anything. "What we's in now is what you might call the whole soul of all the Earth, and all those other worlds beyond. What you might call the collective unconscious. Hell, it's as good a name as any." "The birthplace of all archetypes! Well, well! Forgive me for saying so, but you do seem to be rather, er... archetypal yourself...?" "You noticed that, did you? Yeh, archetype, sterotype -- the real me, she's a bit too afraid of what she might run across down here. Thought she'd send an avatar along in her stead, she did. Course, it doesn't really work like that. It's all the same down here. What you see is what you get." "Hm..." Evelyn pursed her lips. "I can't quite say I like the implications of that. But, er, these forces you're speaking for? You've got the skinny on this Fat Doomsday, have you?" She replayed that last sentence in her head and realised that she'd already been travelling with the Doctor for far too long. "Forces..." Cassie waved a hand. "Call 'em the ancestors. Might as well, that's what I always did and never seemed to offend 'em. They've got a warning to pass on, see. Seems there's this one species out there, they got their fingers burnt so bad they just don't exist all that well any more. Tried to send an expedition into the collective

soul, and got it all vented right back out at 'em. All that's left of one crystal sphere that used to be a world is shattered bits and pieces across the whole o' Creation. And a great big whoppin' piece of it's ended up here. "Bits show up on planets all over, you see. Blue bits and green bits and yellow bits, shining diamonds and wind chimes and dark sapphires, and they all got their own ways of affecting the mind. But the one thing they all got in common -- they all wants to get back together, back the way they was. Thing is, it just ain't that simple. They's part of the collective soul in the real world now, and wherever they goes, they got archetypal conflicts goin' on around 'em. Good versus evil, that sorta thing. I got my own opposite number out there even now, and if she gets a hold of this sphere I been protecting, well, you just don't wanna know what kinda chaos that'll set loose. It ain't just this city'll feel the burning of it." She sat back again, apparently finished. "Hm," Evelyn said again. "And having taken this information on, now, what exactly am I supposed to do about it?" "Take it to the Doctor, of course. He's a part of the story, now. Got herself all wrapped up in the mind o' that burning woman. But he's the Doctor. He's got the power, if he wants it, to step outside the stories. That's why we brought you here." "Ah. Archetypal schoolmarm, is that it?" "No, no way, child. You don't go thinking of yourself as anything but real. You know what my name means, don't you?" "Oh, I think I can guess. The one cursed with prophecy, whose predictions were not believed?" "Archetypes," Cassie repeated. "But you ain't one of those. You's real. That's why gran had me named like she did -- as a warning. You know what it means. You know not to repeat the mistakes of the past. And you know you got to get this crystal to the Doctor." She was starting to fade away. "That's my job done, here. I've got to leave you for a bit now. The rest is up to you and him. Keep that crystal away from Miss Anna. It's all lost, you don't do that." Evelyn sighed. (I'm back.) She opened her eyes. Cassie was sitting in front of her, a toothy grin scraped across her face, a distant glaze in her eyes telling Evelyn that she wasn't looking at anything in the world any more, and never would be again. Her hands rested in her lap, gnarled around the space where the crystal had been when Evelyn first entered the shop. Where it was no longer. The man standing beside Cassie looked up, and pocketed the crystal he'd taken from her. "She's back," he said to nobody in particular. "You can kill her now." And he stretched out his hand, and pointed at Evelyn.

Chapter Six: "Cross 3, Knit 1, Slip 1, Purl" (or "Don't Be Krewe-Elle") by Mary Hyde Evelyn sighed. (I'm back.) She opened her eyes. Cassie was sitting in front of her, a toothy grin scraped across her face, a distant glaze in her eyes telling Evelyn that she wasn't looking

at anything in the world any more, and never would be again. Her hands rested in her lap, gnarled around the space where the crystal had been when Evelyn first entered the shop. Where it was no longer. The man standing beside Cassie looked up, and pocketed the crystal he'd taken from her. "She's back," he said to nobody in particular. "You can kill her now." And he stretched out his hand, and pointed at Evelyn. "Y'all jus' need to calm down." Drax shook his head as the Doctor stormed down Chartres Street, eyes fixed on the pulsing of the still slightly damp tracer. "We'll find this little disturbance of yours, get it fixed up and still have time to make it to the Cafe du Monde for warm beignets. Tol' you everythin' would work itself out." The Doctor spun around. "Work itself out?" he retorted. "Work itself... if we had merely sat around *relaxing* like *you* suggested, we wouldn't have had any idea that *this*..." He waved the blinking tracer above his head in a wide circle. "...Was even going on!" Drax shrugged. "Woulda noticed when things got bad enough." Eyes narrowing in consternation, the Doctor huffed loudly. "You have obviously been in this city too long!" Turning away, he stomped around the corner onto the Rue de Toulouse. He continued up the street, sliding to an abrupt stop before a ruined storefront. He was shaking the tracer as Drax caught up with him. "Problems?" The Doctor flicked a cold glance at the thinner Time Lord, then turned his gaze back onto the device. "It just stopped working," he grumbled, prying apart the casing. Drax rolled his eyes, letting his attention drift to the decrepit building in front of him. 'Lafitte', read the faint, weathered paint beside the doorway, 'Antique Knives & Guns'. "Hey, Thete, lookit 'ere" he muttered over his shoulder. "What ya make of this place?" The Doctor waved his hand irritably, busy checking connections inside the tracer. He looked up suddenly, wide eyes fixing on Drax, as the rising whine of a power pack charging unexpectedly filled the air. Evelyn didn't wait the few seconds needed for the laser rifle somewhere behind her to power up. She scampered across the wet, debris-littered floor, skidding into the dubious shelter of a half-rotted wooden packing crate. The growing hum leveled off as the rifle reached full charge. Heavy footsteps crunched toward her position. Fumbling in her bag, Evelyn wrapped her fingers firmly around a slender metal shaft and tugged it loose, tutting silently to herself at the loss of hours worth of knitting. She had once watched a group of young men from one of her classes play a sort of mumblety-peg with her knitting needles (stolen from her bag on a dare). Lips pursed in nervous anger, Evelyn now waited for the body associated with the approaching shadow to come into sight around the corner of box. A loud crash sounded in one of the corners off to her left and the hiss of repeated bursts of laser fire seared over her head, crackling against the damp walls. Ducking her head amidst a shower of charred plaster and framing, Evelyn gripped the end of the knitting needle more tightly as the shadow continued its advance.

Antoin Fragamelli hunched, back pressed against the crumbling brickwork, in the tiny one-foot wide passageway that divided the ramshackle gun shop from the neighboring building. A drunken idiot in a garish costume straight from some Krewe parade had come charging into the shop. He hadn't even bothered to open the door, but had just crashed through it, nearly wrenching the door from its frame. Being a conscientious man (conscious of his own well-being, that is), Fragamelli had dove out the side-door into the narrow alleyway. He was now holding his breath as the sound of his associates' laser rifles died down inside, waiting for them to call out the *all clear*. Evelyn nearly cried out with nervous tension as the shadow paused. Two blocks away, the restored bells in the belfry of the St. Louis Cathedral began to chime the midday Angelus. She drew back her arm as the figure resumed its motion toward her. The knitting needle was out of her hand and flying toward its target almost before it had rounded the corner of the box. Horrified, Evelyn belatedly shouted a warning as she made out the familiar dischord of the Doctor's coat. The Time Lord had already snatched the projectile from midair. "And just *what* exactly," he demanded, shaking the long needle at her as she crawled stiffly out from behind the crate, "were you trying to do with this?" Pausing a moment to dust her clothes down as best she could, Evelyn made a point of taking the slender shaft from the Doctor and tucking it back into her bag. Drawing herself up to the sound of popping joints, she met the Time Lord's furious gaze. "Defending myself," she retorted. "I did tell you I could take care of myself." "Really?" Fists on his hips, the Doctor glared at her. "Well, just for that, next time I *won't* come to your rescue." "Gotta give the woman her due, Thete." Drax looked up from where he was tying up two unconscious men with some cord the Doctor had found in one of his pockets. "It was a mighty good throw." The Doctor snorted derisively. "And just for *that*," Evelyn responded, smiling sweetly, "I won't tell you what I've found out." She turned her back on the sputtering Time Lord and crouched down beside Cassie's crumpled form. The last notes of the Angelus were fading when, as she had expected, the Doctor joined her beside the corpse. Evelyn made a point of ignoring him for a long moment as she pretended to study the old woman's body, almost hearing his mind churning with agitation. Her eyes fell on Cassie's empty hands. "Oh no!" She jumped up, eyes darting across their trussed-up prisoners. "Doctor, that blond man. He's not here! And he's got the crystal!" She started toward the battered doorway. The Doctor caught her arm. "Who's not here? And what's this about a crystal?" Taking a deep breath, Evelyn quickly related her conversation with the woman, Cassie. The very recently deceased Cassie. "I see," the Doctor uttered softly. "This woman, Miss Anna, absolutely must not get her hands on this crystal and *you* let one of her cohorts make off with it." His face had gone completely expressionless. Evelyn instinctively took a step back. Whenever the Doctor' speech got clipped and quiet, things were bad. Actually, they were worse than

bad. "I don't suppose," the Doctor murmured, turning toward her, "that you'd considered taking the crystal away from him?" A note of contemptuous anger threaded through his words and Evelyn *almost* smiled in relief. "Oh, but I'm forgetting," he continued sarcastically, his voice rising to a bellow, "you were busy taking care of yourself!" "You trying to work yourself into that double coronary I mentioned, Thete?" Drax stepped between the furious Time Lord and his companion. "Y'all can always get the rock back, no?" "Get the *rock* back!" The Doctor spun on his heel. "What did you think we were going to do? Play tiddlywinks?" He headed across the room toward the nearest prisoner. Dropping to one knee beside him, he cuffed the man's face. "Time to wake up!" "Unhn?" The man's head lolled to one side as the Doctor shook him awake. "Uhn-uh," he stammered. "I ain't sayin' nothin' to nobody." "We'll jus' see 'bout that." Drax knelt behind the bound man and pulled him up by the shoulders. Evelyn nudged the Doctor and handed him one of her knitting needles. "Here, you might want to use this." "What?" He made an incredulous face and pushed the spike away. "Absolutely not!" He glanced at the bound man. "At least, I hope it won't come to that." Fragamelli eased his body away from the wall and inched silently toward the mouth of the passageway. There had been raised voices in the building: two men, one with a local accent, the other, louder one was Australian or British or something; and the older woman they were supposed to kill. But not a sound from the two other Draco krewe members. Stepping cautiously into the street, Fragamelli high-tailed it up Toulouse Street, glass beads bouncing against his chest, hurrying away from the gunshop as fast as his legs would take him. The Doctor returned his attention to their wide-eyed prisoner. "Who was your friend that left here with the crystal?" The man said nothing, eyes fixed instead on a point just over the Doctor's shoulder from which eminated a persistent clicking noise. The Time Lord turned to find Evelyn standing behind him, knitting, with a trenchant look on her face. "Would you mind, *Madame Defarge*," he whispered tersely, "doing that somewhere else?" Wrinkling her nose in irritation, his companion made a show of dropping the yarn and needles back into her bag and snapping it firmly shut. Bursting through the noontime crowd already milling up and down Bourbon Street, Fragamelli leaned against a building, panting for breath. Across the street, on a balcony surrounded by wrought ironwork railing, a trio of buxom women were busily laughing and flashing various body parts at the growing mass of men in the street below. The sight made Fragamelli grin. And the memory of what had happened to Lebeau quickly wiped that grin from his face. Feeling in his pocket for the crystal, he decided it was probably a good time to check in with Miss Anna.

Anna laughed at the news, the smile momentarily making her bald head look like a grinning skull. That imbecile Fragamelli had apparently learned his lesson and was even now carrying the chunk of crystal to her. That only left one other task still to be taken care of. "Well?" The man shook his head, lips pressed shut. "I ain't talkin'," he mumbled. "Don't matter much," Drax said casually. "Le'see... Miss Anna, hmm? Well, that can only be Miss Anna Vallier, no? And that would mean that y'all are Draco Krewe." The man glared. "I know, I know," Drax continued, "that's supposed to be a big secret. 'Course, we don' know where Miss Anna and her Krewe have set up y'all's Den, but I'm sure you'll be wanting to tell us." The man suddenly convulsed once in his grip and collapsed. Drax looked up in horror. "Or maybe no." The Doctor felt for a pulse at the man's throat, then his chest. Silently, he got up and crossed to their other prisoner. When he returned, he was shaking his head, deep frownlines furrowed across his brow. "She burst their hearts," the Doctor stammered in disbelief. Colette Desonier glanced up sharply. She'd been minding the store like the Boss had told her, when a sudden cold shiver had run up her back. *Devil walkin' 'cross your grave*, that's what the old folks used to call it. Wiping her hands down the front of her apron, she walked to the backroom and whistled for K9. The metal dog rolled around the doorway a moment later. "Mistress?" "You feel that?" Colette asked, eyes darting back and forth. K9's *ears* rotated as the tiny antennae scanned the surrounding area. "Affirmative. Detecting rapid increase in arton energy emissions, Mistress. This way." The dog ploughed through the Dining Room and out onto the street. "Jeanne!" The other waitress glanced up. "Take over for a while, would you?" Frowning, Colette started after the animatron, pausing only to grab his leash. Anna Vallier hovered just above the surface of the raised dais, the gauzy fabric of her robes swirling gold, emerald green and royal purple around her naked form. Four dark-skinned creoles, *borrowed* from the Zulus, stood at each corner of the platform holding fluttering flambeaux. And crouched at her feet, Antoin Fragamelli grovelled, the glowing crystal thrumming in his hands. He bit back a cry as the shard lifted itself into the air and floated toward Anna. She reached out, curling her fingers around the crystal and pulling it to her chest. The feeling of the cool hardness against her skin after being deprived for so long of the sensation of touch was almost overwhelming. Anna reveled in it. "Soon," she crooned, clutching the pulsing crystal to her like a lover. "Less than three days until Mardis Gras, the day of Feasting. And you, cher Doctor, are our *boeuf gras*." She smiled, brushing the

crystal with her lips.

"The fatted calf."

Evelyn stepped forward, tapping the Doctor gently on the arm. "We should go," she noted, indicating the three corpses. "We still have to find the crystal." "Of course we do," he huffed, pulling Drax up from the floor and bustling them out into the sunlight and throngs of revelers. "Because if we *don't* find it, this city with its long, sordid history, along with the planet it is on, I dare say, won't be here on Wednesday." "Now," he said, ignoring the stunned look on Evelyn's face, "where would I hide the floats if I were the Draco Krewe?" Having managed to snap the leash onto K9's *collar*, Colette endured the strange looks she was getting from locals and tourists alike. Robotic dogs weren't totally unheard of in this part of the century, but K9 *was* rather unique. "How much further?" she whispered. The metal canine rolled to a stop. "Destination reached, Mistress." "Here?" Colette stared up at the red brick warehouse. K9 had brought them to the center of the Irish Channel, just outside of the Garden District. "Affirmative, Mistress," the dog told her. "Increase in arton levels originated within this building." "Well, in that case," Colette sighed, striding forward to grasp the doorknob. "I just hope you know what you're getting us into." She twisted the handle and pushed. "Negative, Mistress," K9 responded, extending the laser built into his nose as the door swung open.

Chapter Seven: "Into the Dragon's Den" by K. Michael Wilcox Jeanne stood just inside the kitchen, willing her body to move, but it resisted all her efforts. Louie, the Belfort's chef, was yelling at her, but she barely heard. Then a familiar voice penetrated her foglike mind, and her head turned instantly. "It's your own fault, Doctor," Drax said as he, the Doctor, and Evelyn came in through the back door. "You sat on the dang thing." The Doctor shouted back, "I wouldn't have done if someone hadn't set it on that bench." As he emphasised "someone," he looked pointedly at Evelyn. The older woman returned the look. "I did tell you to..." Drax saw the sagging Jeanne and rushed over to help her stand. "What's wrong?" he asked. "Colette!" "She left," Louie said. "Took that dog-thing o' yours with her, too." "Supper rush," Jeanne stammered. "Colette gone. Krislyn, Cyrus gone. Only three of us left." "Krislyn and Cyrus?" the Doctor asked. "They's in a parade tonight," Louie said. "Where did Colette go?" Drax asked, but Jeanne had fallen asleep in his arms. The door from the dining room opened, and another waiter, Mark,

stumbled in. "Oh, boss, you're here. We're getting swamped out there!" Drax picked the exhausted waitress up. "Well, there's only one thing for it. Doctor, Evelyn, there's aprons over there. I'll be down in a moment." He carried Jeanne over to a staircase leading to the first floor and went up. Evelyn turned to see the Doctor grabbing an apron. "What about Colette and K9?" The Doctor smiled. "I'm sure they can take care of themselves." At first Colette had wondered about the fact that the Krewe of Draco thugs had the necessary equipment to chain her to the wall. Now, though, she was too busy itching all over to care. Granted, it was probably all in her head -- or at least she hoped it was -- but that didn't make a difference somehow. A few feet away, K9 was hanging upside-down from four chains hooked to his undercarriage. A small burlap sack was tied over his head. There was very little light penetrating into this dusty back room, but it was enough for Colette to see the robotic dog straining against his bonds. "You look like a pinata," Colette said. "Query?" K9 responded. "Never mind. Can you use your laser?" "Negative. Bag loosened only 3.75 percent. Not enough room to extend weapon." Light poured into the room as the door opened, and two Draco men entered. They took up positions to either side, then stood to attention as a third person followed them in. She was a head shorter than either of the men, thin and bald. She wore nothing except for a gauzy robe which hung away from her body. Colette could almost see through this to the woman's firm, unblemished body. Despite her best efforts, the corner of Colette's mouth raised just a bit. "Oh, you like?" the woman asked, stepping forward. Colette could now see that the woman's bare feet did not touch the ground. "You want to touch me, don't you?" The tone was calm, but the voice held such anger, such menace, that Colette flinched. "Caress my cheek perhaps? Kiss me?" K9, meanwhile, had discovered how to spin anti-clockwise, and he was rapidly coiling his chains. The woman pointed at him, her finger not quite touching his side, and he suddenly stopped. She pulled the finger back, and K9 began spinning in the opposite direction as the chains uncoiled themselves. "Error! Error!" "What a strange little machine," the woman said humourlessly. She closed her eyes for a moment, then held up her hand. "No, Daniel, leave it where it is for now." She looked back to Colette. "But what about you, cher? What shall we do with you?" It wasn't until she came down to breakfast that Evelyn remembered to ask about Colette and K9. "I'm afraid they haven't come back," Drax said. "The Doctor's already gone out lookin' for them, but..." The Doctor stormed into the dining room. "It's gone!" "What's gone?" Evelyn asked. "The TARDIS! I went back to Jackson Square, and it had vanished."

Unable to resist, Evelyn said, "The square?" The Doctor grimaced. "Doctor Smythe, this isn't the time for jokes." "You're right, of course. What shall we do now?" Drax draped an arm around the Doctor's shoulder, then dragged him across the room to where Evelyn sat, so that he could drape his other arm over hers. "I think I have an idea." Drax gave the door a slight push, and it slid easily to the side. "I'd been hoping to show you this yesterday, Doctor," he said. They stood on the threshold of a warehouse. Inside were a dozen floats in various stages of near-completion. About twenty people were working on them. "Welcome to the den of the Krewe of Gallifrey. Of course, it's Sunday morning, so most of the members're in church." He took several steps into the den, then put his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Most of the krewe immediately stopped, and the rest followed soon after. As they saw who'd called, they came over. "First off, I'd like to introduce all y'all to our king for Tuesday's parade." He beckoned the Doctor forward. "Hello, Doctor," the krewe chorused. The Doctor and Evelyn looked at each other and shrugged. "Second off, I got some bad news. Y'all know Colette, right?" There were nods and murmurs of assent. Though she wasn't a member herself, most of them knew her from the restaurant. "Well, it's lookin' like the Krewe of Draco's up to no good, and I think they've kidnapped her." "What's the ransom?" someone asked. "I didn't think they did that sort of thing," someone else said. As Drax had explained to the Doctor and Evelyn on the way to the den, there was a fairly recent tradition among the more playful krewes of sending spies to other krewe's dens. If they were caught, the krewe on which they'd been spying sent a ransom demand to the spy's own krewe. The ransom was always a pittance, usually doubloons or other throws, which was almost always paid right away. In the last fifty or so years, the rules had become fairly formalised. But as far as anyone knew, no krewe had ever sent spies into the Draco den, and Draco had certainly never sent out their own. Some groups just seemed unwilling to play the game, and the Krewe of Draco was one of them. "There is no ransom," Drax said. "But they gotta ask for ransom!" a younger member insisted. "Haven't heard a peep from 'em," Drax said. "And I don't think there's gonna be. Y'all know what that means, right?" "Rescue mission!" several men shouted. Drax grinned. "Bingo." No one there in the morning knew where the Draco den was, but a few of those who would be coming in after church were city officials, and they'd be able to find out in a snap. In the meantime, those who were there could prepare for the attack. The Doctor had privately questioned the wisdom of Drax's plan, even suggesting that the police might be slightly less ill-equipped to deal with the crisis. Drax told him that the cops wouldn't interfere. This was a krewe-versus-krewe matter. One of the last to come in was Darius LaFollette, whose office oversaw parade assignments. "You think I got a plum spot because of my

good looks?" Drax said to the Doctor. When LaFollette came in at two that afternoon, they explained to him what had happened. Like a number of the older krewe members, he had a bit of a crush on Drax's young employee -- he'd joked that she should marry him just to become Colette LaFollette -- and he was shocked to learn she might be the Dracos' prisoner. "There's someone you should see," he said. Cetshwayo O'Neill, president of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, one of the oldest krewes in New Orleans, showed the group into his office. "A few weeks back, one of our members believed his brother, who was in the Krewe of Draco, was behaving strangely. One night, he told his friend, who was also a member of our group, that he was going to follow his brother. He never came back. "We expected the usual ransom demand -- we keep a store of coconuts just in case -- but none came. Shortly afterwards, the friend and a few other members mounted a rescue; they too vanished. "A few days ago, the first missing Zulu was seen in the French Quarter. He is now a member of the Krewe of Draco. The rest are still missing." Drax told him some of what had happened between them and Draco, leaving out the weirder bits like exploding hearts. "So now we're mountin' our own rescue mission, but we're thinkin' large. What we're wonderin' now is if you want in." "Okay." Anna lay back, the crystal flat against her chest. She could feel as the force within her flowed into the crystal, then flowed back into her, amplified a thousandfold. She felt stronger than she ever had, and she looked stronger, younger, and more beautiful than she had in ages. It had begun from the moment she let the power enter her, but it had accelerated in the past day, and now she looked like she had at thirty. "By the time of the parade," she laughed, "I shall be a debutante!" She felt a ripple of uncertainty. Of course. There was still the Doctor. As long as he was alive, he was a threat to all their plans. Unless... By the time they arrived at the Draco den, the rescue party had expanded, with two other krewes sending members. The Doctor, to whom everyone was looking for leadership, had decided that the direct approach would be the best. He marched up to the loading dock doors, raised his arm above his head, swung it back down, and knocked ever so gently. There was a brief moment of silent anticipation before a voice in the warehouse called out, "Just a moment!" A few seconds later, the door began ratcheting up. As soon as it was at waist height, the Doctor ducked under. On the other side, he stood straight and turned to the man operating the door control. "Hello, I'm the Doctor." Meanwhile, the door continued to rise, and the man could see the army amassed outside. "Umm, hello," he stammered. The Gallifrey and Zulu forces raced into the warehouse, then stopped short. The vast floor was mostly empty; there were only three floats and

fewer than a dozen krewemembers working on them. All the Draco people had stopped work and were looking at them in confusion. "Where's the rest of it?" Drax asked. The man at the door looked over to the floats, then to Drax. "Rest of what?" "The floats," Evelyn said. "The krewe," Drax added. "Where's Anna Vallier?" the Doctor asked. "Beats me." The Doctor held up a holo of Colette. "Do you know where I can find this woman?" "Yeah, sure. She's in the office." The office was small, with nothing but a few chairs and a card table for furniture. Colette sat in one of the chairs, her hands cuffed behind her. K9 was lying on the table, his parts neatly laid out. "K9!" Drax and the Doctor shouted in unison. They rushed over to the table, failing to even acknowledge Colette. "What'd they do to you, buddy?" Drax asked. "He, uh, fell," the woman said. "Fell?" the Doctor asked, holding up the robot dog's dented head. "Fell?" "They had him chained up, and he wiggled free." "And fell," the Doctor added. "Face-first." The Draco kreweman came into the room. "Oh, uh, sorry if you didn't get our ransom and all. I guess you can take them back now." He handed the Doctor a small key, which the Time Lord used to uncuff Colette. A moment later, O'Neill and the other krewes' leaders joined them in the office. "No one here knows anything about any of our people," the Zulu president said. "Well, this can't be the real den," Drax said. "There's no way the Draco parade can be three measly floats." "What now?" another of the krewe leaders asked. Anna watched through the eyes of her man at the warehouse as the dejected forces left. She had underestimated the Doctor's abilities as a unifier, but her decoy had worked perfectly. There was no chance of the Doctor mounting such an effort again before the parade, and then it would be too late. Monday morning the Doctor's group and their allies met at the Belfort to discuss their plans. Pooling their resources and contacts, they were able to search records for another warehouse that might have been secured by Vallier or another known Krewe of Draco member. Unfortunately, they found none. Meanwhile, each krewe sent what members could be spared out to hit the streets. Each group was assigned a different neighbourhood, which they would systematically search for Draco members or a den. Evelyn and Colette each volunteered to join teams. The Doctor, for his part, started repairing K9. With his TARDIS missing -- and they now knew for sure that it hadn't been impounded by the police -- the dog was their best hope for hunting the elusive enemy. By evening, though, spirits were waning all around. The search parties were trickling back in, each reporting failure, and it would be

at least a day before K9 would be able to tell them anything. The Zulus' parade was early the next morning, so O'Neill left before the supper rush, promising to meet with them again at noon Tuesday. The other leaders also made their apologies and went home, leaving only the core group. "It's starting to sound like a broken record," Evelyn said, "but what do we do now?" The Doctor harrumphed. "What time is their parade?" "Five o'clock," Drax answered, "two-and-a-half hours before ours." "We know the route, right? Including where it starts?" "Sure." "Doctor," Evelyn asked, "why do we ever try to do things before the last minute? It never works." The four of them took different corners at the intersection of Esplanade and Rampart, where the parade was supposed to begin. Moments before the scheduled start, the floats rolled into view, coming toward them on Rampart. The Doctor was watching them approach when he heard his name called. "Colette, I thought you were over there," he said, pointing across the street. "I wanted to show you something." "Show me?" the Doctor asked. Colette held up a metal rod. "Yes, this," she said calmly as she brought the weapon down on the Doctor's skull. The Time Lord's eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed onto the pavement. On the lead float, Anna relished in the sensations of her pawn. found that immensely satisfying!" "I

Chapter Eight: "Let the Bad Times Roll" by Tony Whitt The four of them took different corners at the intersection of Esplanade and Rampart, where the parade was supposed to begin. Moments before the scheduled start, the floats rolled into view, coming toward them on Rampart. The Doctor was watching them approach when he heard his name called. "Colette, I thought you were over there," he said, pointing across the street. "I wanted to show you something." "Show me?" the Doctor asked. Colette held up a metal rod. "Yes, this," she said calmly as she brought the weapon down on the Doctor's skull. The Time Lord's eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed onto the pavement. On the lead float, Anna relished in the sensations of her pawn. found that immensely satisfying!" "I

The Doctor found no satisfaction in the darkness in which he drifted, however. This felt different from unconsciousness, though. He had a

long-standing acquaintance with being knocked unconscious, so he knew the difference. There'd been some kind of shift at that last moment, and he knew he was travelling somewhere else. He opened his eyes and realized he was no longer at the shabby intersection of Esplanade and Rampart, where the old world splendour of the Quarter still gave way to the seedier and less prosperous parts of the city, even in the 21st century. He reflected for a moment that what Drax had said was right: the city never changed. Instead, he found himself standing in front of an old-style plantation house at the end of a long avenue lined with weeping willow trees. The haze of midday heat flared across his vision, and yet he could feel no heat, no humidity. The trees hummed with the sounds of insects, and a gentle breeze blew across the swamplands which crept stealthily up to the house. That he could feel, but it carried none of the smells he associated with the swamps of Louisiana, none of that cauliflower-like stench that came from the endlessly rotting plants and algae. The place looked almost like the spot where his dear friend Iberville's expedition landed back in 1699, the night before that first Mardi Gras celebration. The memory brought a smile to the Doctor's face as he remembered how the wine and stories had flowed, as had the camaraderie, even for the elderly British gentlemen who had joined the expedition out of nowhere and who disappeared the following morning without a trace. Then he realized that this was nothing like those memories. He could still feel the cold of that night, biting even to him, and he could smell the swamp smells that most decidedly were NOT coming from the swamps here. This wasn't reality. Then he heard a laugh from the porch. "Well, it's about time y'all figured that out, sugah!" He looked up and saw an elderly black woman sitting in a rocking chair on the large porch and shucking peas. There was another chair beside her. "C'mon on up here, Doctah, and help me with these here peas," she called. He raised his eyebrows but said nothing as he mounted the pristinely whitewashed wooden steps up to the porch, plopped into the comfortable rocking chair, and took a handful of peapods from the basket in front of him. He shucked a few peas from their shells and dropped them into the ceramic butter churn that sat between them. He didn't speak for a long time. The lead float began to move down Rampart Street on its way to Canal Street. Drax was anxious, for probably the first time since the Doctor had arrived. For all his talk of relaxing and taking it easy, this was the endgame, and even a lapsed Time Lord like himself could sense it. He glanced over at the corner where Thete had been standing in all his godawfulness a moment ago, but there was no sign of his old classmate. He started to move across the street, preparing to push through the crowds and dodge between the gaps in the floats, when a hand gripped his arm. "Boss," said Colette, "are you trying to find the Doctor?" "Yeah, honey, sure am," he replied. "Did you see where he went?" "I think I saw him heading off towards Port of Call," she replied. "Said something about getting one of their hamburgers before this whole mess got started." Drax felt his stomach rumble. He couldn't really blame Thete for wanting one of those burgers. It had been too long since dinner last night. But couldn't he have chosen a better time? "All right, honey, I'll go get 'im... looks like we need to get ourselves together, here, though for what I have NO idea." He dabbed her nose and smiled. "Be

right back with a baked potato for ya!" Drax ran off down Esplanade, looking back over his shoulder as he did so. He could see the krewe members in the first float starting to throw out beads and medallions, and he hoped that his own krewe was getting the Gallifrey floats ready. They were going to be cutting it awfully fine, and even though they had to save the world, that was no excuse for a Mardi Gras parade running late. Colette watched him run off and smiled. Then she crossed Esplanade to the corner where Evelyn stood, a string of Draco beads with a glassy medallion hanging on them wrapped around her hand. Anna Vallier smiled broadly as she waved to the crowd. She had her customary holoprojector interlaced in the folds of her gown so that she seemed for all intents and purposes to be the normal everyday woman she'd masqueraded as since that night nine years ago. The hologram showed her in typical Mardi Gras dress, with an elaborate mask of a dragon on her face. Little did anyone know just how much her mask was truly hiding, she thought. She'd also felt her newest minion sending away the Doctor's alien ally, and now the girl was going to take care of the last of the Doctor's party. The Doctor himself had been surreptitiously dumped into the back of the lead float, where he would remain unconscious until she could deal with him. It had been a simple enough matter to lend the girl enough energy to drag his unconscious form to the back of the float, even past the police cordon. The police had only given the girl a few moments' trouble before several Draco krewe members vouched for her presence and explained how drunk their friend in the loud clothes tended to get. Since that explained Colette's presence and the Doctor's current state, the police had no reason not to let them pass. Only the metal dog could have given away the plan, and he was still out of commission. With the Doctor unconscious, his friend sent away, and his travelling companion about to become one with the Crystal... She'd been about to think that nothing in the world could stop her now, but even in her utter joy she could never be so cheesy. She watched as her krewe tossed the beads with their oh-so-special medallions into the waiting arms of the crowds. Very soon now, and she would be able to send the power outwards, flooding into everyone around them, and taking them for her own. She'd already sent special medallions as gifts to her father's old friends all over the world in honour of Mardi Gras, just as soon as she had produced enough of them with the Crystal. Once she unleashed the power, and the influence had travelled outwards from the Twin Cities and around the globe, she would be able to go even further, find the other pieces of the Crystal on all those other worlds, and bring her Masters all together once again. And then she'd deal with that meddling Doctor. The Doctor looked up from shucking the peas and grinned. "I feel like I should have a banjo on my knee at this point, given how incredibly stereotypical this whole set-up is," he said. The woman stopped, looked at him, and laughed uproariously. "Ain't it, though?" she said. "But this is the way some folks persist in viewin' the South, and the way some folks insist on seein' the position of a woman like myself, so that's exactly where I'm stuck at for the time being." "Then I take it I'm exactly where I think I am?" He looked around him with a fresh eye. "The collective unconsciousness, the birthplace

of all archetypes and stereotypes... And I was so certain Evelyn was dreaming it all!" "You oughta trust that child a li'l more, Doctah," the woman said seriously. "She sees a lot more clearly than most of the young'uns you travel with." "On that point I am in complete agreement with you," the Doctor replied with a rueful smile. "I take it you must be Cassandra, then. But I thought that you were..." "It's Cassie to friends, dahlin', and you is definitely a friend. And you thought I was dead? Oh, naturally I'm dead. But they's nuthin' natural about this place, or to look at it another way, it's TOO natural to let a little thing like death have anything to do with it." "I see," the Doctor mused. "At the time that you died, you passed into the realm of archetypes or, in this case, completely erroneous and no doubt incredibly racist stereotypes generated by unconscious minds that aren't aware of your reality and you're... trapped here, is that right? Because of your connection to the Crystal that you guarded?" At the mention of the Crystal, Cassandra's naturally bubbly mood deflated a bit, and she ceased shucking peas. "A task I failed miserably at, it seems," she replied, and her stereotypical dialect slipped a bit. "I had no idea when I connected to that child to give her the information you was needing that we was in such danger, or else I'd never have done it. But you weren't there, and she was. And now you're here." "Yes, but... but WHY am I here?" the Doctor asked. "The last thing I remember, Colette coldcocked me with a pipe. No doubt the poor girl's under Vallier's control." He punched his palm with a fist. "Blast! I suspected there was something odd about our finding her so quickly, but I did almost nothing about it! I should have been able to see it more clearly!" "Maybe," Cassandra replied, "but maybe that's the way it was meant to be. All this was preordained, Doctor. I've been dreaming about your coming since I was a child. You were meant to turn a blind eye, Colette was meant to knock you senseless, and Miss Anna was meant to think that would take you out of the running while she got up to her no-good business. Maybe I was meant to connect with Miss Evelyn like I did and let Miss Anna grab that Crystal." She shrugged and smiled. "And I was always meant to die once all this was over with. I'm doing my last bit, and now you have to do yours." "I understand that, Cassandra... Cassie." He took a pea out of the churn and nibbled on it anxiously, not caring about the taste. "What I don't understand is why I should have come here in the first place. Not just into the collective unconscious here, but HERE here. To New Orleans. What brought the TARDIS here?" "You ain't figured it out yet?" She clicked her tongue and started rocking in the chair. The movement was so peaceful that the Doctor did the same thing. "Evelyn!" Evelyn started at the sound of Colette's voice and smiled nervously as the young woman strode up to her. The fifth float was just passing by, but Evelyn was steadfastly ignoring the beads that dropped like rain around her, as the Doctor had warned her to before the parade. She'd been trying to pick out the Doctor in the crowds, but she'd seen no sign of him, and with that coat, she could scarcely credit that. She had been just about to cross the street and find Drax when she heard Colette calling to her.

"Ah, there you are," Evelyn said. "Have you seen any sign of the Doctor? I thought he might have done something by now, though I haven't the slightest idea what." "I really don't know," Colette replied, staring at the garish fifth float and it slowly moved past. "The Boss went to see if he could find him. By the way, I got something for you." She held out a string of beads with the Draco medallion hanging from them and made a move to put them around Evelyn's neck. Evelyn remembered the Doctor's warning and held up a hand to ward her off. "Oh, no, that's fine, dear," she said evenly. "I'm not really the bead wearing type, I'm afraid." "Oh, no, Evelyn, I insist you have these," Colette murmured, moving closer to her. "No one should come away from a Mardi Gras parade without a throw." Evelyn found herself backing up, despite the crush of the crowd around them. What was wrong with the girl? she thought. Surely the Doctor warned her about keeping any of the throws. No, that's right, he only talked to me. But why? Just before Colette cornered Evelyn, a dark shape rushed behind her, and the girl suddenly collapsed backwards. Evelyn looked past her to see Drax gently taking her in his arms, one of his hands clasped firmly at the join between her shoulder and her neck. "Whoa, I didn't expect that to actually work!" he grinned. He waited until the beads fell from Colette's limp hand and then smashed them underneath his expensive shoe. The paradegoers around them had noticed Colette's collapse, but it was Mardi Gras, and they were used to seeing people collapse by this point, so they turned their attention back to the parade. "Drax, what on Earth is going on here?" Evelyn exclaimed. "It looks like my little lady here is under Vallier's influence," he replied calmly. He laid the girl down in the hollow of a nearby tree where someone had lain a beach towel and placed a beer cooler. He looked around for the owner, but since no one objected, he relaxed and returned his attention to Evelyn. "That nerve massage should put her out for a good four hours or so, just long enough for us to take care of all this. She should be safe enough here until I can call one of the boys to come pick her up." He took a phone out of his pocket, grabbed Evelyn's arm, and began dialling as he pulled her into the street. "We should follow the lead float while we still can. I'll bet Thete's probably tailing it right..." "Wait a moment!" Evelyn shouted. She tried to pull away from him, but his strength was even greater than the Doctor's. She looked worriedly back at Colette. "You can't just leave her here, can you? And how do you know she's under Vallier's influence?" Even as Evelyn asked the question, she remembered the intense look in the girl's eyes as Colette had tried to force the beads on her. "She said the Doc was off to Port of Call for a hamburger," he replied, gently tugging her across the street and along the crowded sidewalk. "I bought that until I remembered which Doc I was dealin' with this time. He'd be mighty tempted by those burgers, but he's the only one of 'em I know that wouldn't eat one." He gave Colette's sleeping form a quick glance. "Hopefully the Draco boys won't come and get her while she's out like that, but I think this krewe's got more on its mind right now. C'mon!" They continued to push their way in the direction of Canal Street as Drax called for assistance for Colette.

Drax was almost right. The Doctor was closer to the lead float than he knew. The Doctor's unconscious body lay in the lower back section, guarded by a single Draco member in a dragon mask with a gun. The man watched the body carefully, poised to knock him out again as soon as he regained consciousness. Meanwhile, a very conscious Doctor listened raptly as Cassandra explained everything. He kicked himself for being so dense as her explanation unfolded. "It was the Crystal that brought you here, darlin'. Didn't you realize that?" she asked in astonishment. "Like I told that friend of yours, this one species out there tried to send an expedition here, and all that energy got sent back and destroyed all of 'em. All that's left of they world is bits and pieces, spread out like stars in the sky. That big Crystal I had, that was a part of it, and another part bonded with Miss Anna. When it bonded with her, though, it took on all that anger, all that bitterness she has about her daddy but don't go asking about that right now, baby. I'll explain later." The Doctor opened his mouth to protest, but she went on as if she hadn't noticed. "Those pieces all over God's creation, all they wants is to get back together, back the way they was. But they's joined with this place now, with all its black and white ways of looking at things, so wherever they goes, they's archetypal conflicts goin' on, because of the way people think about 'em when they join with 'em. They's neutral any other time. When I found the Crystal, it didn't bind to me the way Miss Anna's did because I didn't have no anger, no bitterness. I didn't want to take on its power for me. But she did. The Crystal I found got influenced by the way I felt, just like hers did. And like me, it don't want no evil spreading out across the world." "I see," the Doctor mused. "The evil, the hatred, that Anna would unleash because her emotions have changed the Crystal that bonded with her. Hatred directed at ME, it seems," he added ruefully. "So that's the Fat Doomsday the future Time Lords fear so much, the being that would suck up everything like a black hole. It's the manifestation of these creatures under Anna's guidance. But SHE thinks she's acting under THEIR guidance." He looked up at Cassandra and his eyes widened. "So I was brought here..." "By MY Crystal, while it was under MY influence," she replied. She had stopped rocking the chair and was now regarding him with a steady, dark gaze. Her homespun accent was completely gone now, and the Doctor realized how formidable a woman the real Cassandra must have been, to have waited for this moment all these years, the moment of her death, without flinching from it. "Because you were the original cause of the imbalance. And in the world of archetypes, you're the one who makes things right." She smiled, and the accent came on strong again, though this time he knew she was using it ironically. "That's what you gots to do. You gots to make things right. With Anna." Anna could barely contain her excitement. With each set of beads tossed from the float, she could feel the potential network growing stronger, each person wearing the medallion a future convert to her cause. None of that crude pushing into another person's mind as she had with Colette and her followers. This time the linkages would be even smoother, and those who did not give in would burn. The voices in her head, now doubled by those in the second Crystal

she'd taken from the old woman, longed for release. They could feel each set of beads being tossed from the float, could feel every reproduction of themselves passing into human hands. They had reproduced themselves all night in this specific form, fragmenting themselves even further than they had been fragmented all those eons ago. They would soon exert themselves and use the beings on this planet to take them to the other fragments of their world, and soon they would be whole again. As soon as Anna decided. Anna decided that she could wait no longer. As the parade turned onto Canal Street, she released the energy outwards. All along the first ten blocks of the parade route, thousands of revellers who had been cheering with excitement over having caught a Draco medallion suddenly went silent. They began to walk away from their friends, their lovers, their tricks from last night, their newfound husbands or wives, and started to follow the course of the parade. The krewe members on the float noticed the surge of the crowd and began handing out boxes and bags of medallions to the people below, who then began systematically giving them to anyone who did not have one. They made sure to give them to the police officers along the route first, in what seemed to be a show of appreciation for being such good sports during it all. The shouts of thanks and appreciation died as quickly as paradegoer and police officer alike put their prize around their necks. Their eyes dulled as the alien intelligence seized control of their bodies through the medallions hanging around their necks. Several who had not caught the precious medallions noticed their friends and loved ones leaving them to go up to the floats. Some even tried to stop them, either to chide them for their rudeness, or to beg them for a medallion for themselves. The latter got what they wanted. The former got far more than they expected. Drax and Evelyn had just reached the lead float when they heard a change in the shouts and screams from behind them. They both turned and looked further down Rampart, where they could see distant flashes like lightning and bursts of smoke. Even more terrifying was the rapidly increasing crowd following the parade. The numbers had grown so large already that many of the slack-eyed, slack-jawed followers were being pushed against the floats and underneath the wheels. Drax's vision was far better than Evelyn's, and he could see the traditional tractors which had drawn the floats since the last century rolling over something in their way. He didn't try to focus on what it could be. "Great Rassilon," he breathed, surprising even himself at the religion turn he'd taken at this moment. "It's started." The Doctor slowly made his way to consciousness, slowly for two reasons. One, because his head was still splitting from Colette's attack. Two, because he could sense the presence of one of the Draco Krewe above him. He heightened his senses as he slowly awakened, making sure that outwardly he still appeared to be out like a light. As he cautiously gauged the distance between himself and his guard, he redirected part of his blood flow to his head and gently began repairing the damage to it. Lucky for me I'm so hard-headed in this incarnation, he thought. Old Celery Boy would have been hurt far worse than this. As his head ceased throbbing, he turned more of his attention outwards to the guard, who was obviously ready for him should he regain consciousness. If he was to do this, it would have to be quick, far quicker than he'd ever had to move before in this body. He remembered

the Quorn sausages from the other day and now wished he'd gone a bit easier on them. Even a healthy vegetarian diet such as his didn't always take off the pounds, regrettably, though he'd never admit that to Evelyn. Suddenly the shouts and screams from outside the float took on a different timbre, one which the Doctor unfortunately recognized all too well. But it had just the right effect on his guard, whom he sensed had turned his head towards the screams and had begun to smile. Under the influence or not, the Doctor thought, you deserve this. He moved. The enthralled crowd had already reached the lead float and were dutifully taking down boxes and bags of medallions from the float riders. Some of them ran ahead of the parade to act as a kind of advance guard, tossing them to the crowds of paradegoers who began to cheer as they saw the floats coming. The police officers who were maintaining the barricades along Canal Street moved forward to grab the converts. But it was Mardi Gras, and as the police officers allowed the advance guard to mollify them with gifts of medallions, they soon changed their minds. They reached into the boxes and bags and began to help with the distribution, even to the point of carrying some of the medallions to their colleagues up ahead. *Don't kill anyone in front of the parade, my children,* Anna warned from the float. *Let us infiltrate them as completely as possible first, and then we shall make our move.* She barely noticed that the guard at the back of the float was no longer connected to her. The Doctor took a plastic rod from one of his capacious pockets and carefully lifted the medallion off the neck of the guard, whose unconscious body sprawled in front of him. Then he reached into another pocket and pulled out the tracer. As soon as he flicked it on, the readings went off the scale. "My, my, she was a bit trigger happy, wasn't he?" he murmured. He carefully slid the medallion into his pocket and made his way up through the hollow confines of the float to the top. Evelyn and Drax were surrounded by crowds of people with medallions around their necks, all of them reaching out with beads for them. They'd tried to push the possessed humans away, but as soon as one of the dead-eyed humans stretched out a finger towards them and began to bristle with energy, they ceased overtly struggling and tried to slip away. But it was all to no avail. Evelyn felt her arms pinioned behind her, and a young girl of no more than ten years reached up from below with a string of beads. The unseen people behind her pushed her forward until she was bending before the girl, as if ready to receive a garland of flowers. "Drax!" she shouted. "Drax! What can we do?" She turned her head briefly towards the float and saw that the other Time Lord had problems of his own. No fewer than eight men had pinned him against the side of the temporarily stationary float -- the tractor pulling it had apparently rolled over some poor devil, a still calm part of her mind offered -- and he was thrashing wildly, trying not to let an elderly woman put the beads around his neck. "I'm sorry, darlin!" he shouted back, sounding as low as she'd ever heard him. "I can't shake

them off! We'll just have to hope that Thete can stop 'em somehow! I'm sorry!" Before he could say anything more, the string of beads slipped around his neck, and his eyes went dull. He gave up struggling and moved towards her, his normally active features a blank. Unexpected tears came to her eyes as she watched him moving towards her, and then she saw something that gave her new hope. The Doctor had emerged on the upper tier of the near side of the float and was giving each of the krewe members a swift chop, using what looked like some bizarre form of aikido. He had made his way through them all without anyone noticing him, somehow, in all the hue and cry from ahead. "Doctor!" she wailed. She saw his head turn to look at her just as she felt the icy glass of beads slide around her neck, and as she felt her mind go blank. The Doctor felt as well as saw Evelyn's mind go out like a snuffed candle. He watched as she straightened and took a bag of medallions, without another glance back at him. "This too shall pass, Evelyn," he murmured angrily. "I promise you." He found the small set of steps that led to the top of the float and began to climb. Anna felt the slightest bit of annoyance at the float's abrupt stop. The tractor had, in fact, broken down already, and the backup tractor was being brought up from the back of the parade. It didn't matter, of course, since this happened at every Mardi Gras parade, and it gave her new disciples the chance to run even further ahead and spread the medallions. By the time they made it to Uptown, the influence would be spreading over all the city, and then they could take the next step towards spreading it even further. Within the week, the planet would be theirs. And they would help her punish the Doctor, just as soon as all the pieces were reunited. It wouldn't take long, and oh, the worlds they would conquer in the meantime! She heard someone clearing their throat behind her. "Really, Anna, don't you think this is going a bit too far?" She whirled and saw him there, the alien monster who had destroyed her father's life and brought her nothing but pain. There he stood in that foolish coat, looking at her with the fa�ade of a sad smile, as if he cared about her. She snorted. As if he cared about anything he ever did. "Have you ever asked yourself that question, you bastard?" she shouted, losing herself in her hatred. "Have you ever realized that you've gone too far, and have you ever tried to correct it? Have you ever tried to put back together the lives you've destroyed along the way?" As if on cue, every single possessed human in the crowds began to howl in execration. The sound was even more deafening than the shouts and cheers that travelled down to them from further up Canal Street. But the Doctor only smiled ruefully. "Sometimes I have," he replied quietly, and somehow his voice was completely audible over the ululation from the crowds. "Obviously I haven't been able to put everything right for everyone, but I do try." He moved forward slightly, but came to a standstill when she pointed her finger at him. "Cassandra told me why you hate me. She must have discovered it through her own Crystal's link with yours. All I can do is say how truly sorry I am." Anna laughed mockingly. "Do you think that's enough? Do you? It's no wonder even the aliens hate you! Listen to how they express their hatred of you!"

The Doctor's voice hardened as he gestured out at the crowds. "No, Anna, it's YOUR hatred of me that they're expressing! Yours and yours alone! You must know by now that the intelligence in that Crystal has no feelings of its own, except for the desire to rejoin the others of its kind! You have it now! Look within it and ASK it, for once! Ask it how it felt before it joined with you. Ask it how it felt when it was still with Cassandra! Ask if it really wants this planet!" She hesitated for a moment, and he reached into his pocket for the medallion. He didn't bother using the rod to pull it out this time; instead, he allowed the cold glass to come into contact with his skin, and he felt the energy of the Crystals begin to move through his consciousness. The difference was, he was the only one who understood them, and they were about to find that out. "Or better yet," he added, pausing to put the medallion around his neck, "let me ask them, and let me show you the answer." Anna felt the Time Lord's mind enter the Crystals. She tried to block him, lash out at him with all the mental defences she had, but before she could muster them, she felt the entities within the Crystals respond to him. She moaned loudly as she felt them withdraw their power from her. But then she could feel their renewed attention, almost as if her moan of despair had drawn it to her. She felt their energies surround her again, different this time, making her feel even warmer than they had before. And then she felt a new presence in her mind, one that had thirteen faces but only wore one at a time, and the one it wore in her mind was full of concern... and even contrition. Images began to flood through her head: of the T-Mat station, the Seabase, and every other battle the Doctor had fought that had ended in bloodshed. With each image she felt an accompanying stab of remorse, not always expressed in words or actions, but always there beneath the surface, a surface far more humane than any human's she had ever encountered. She saw every death he had caused, directly or indirectly, and she saw that part of him, buried deep within his psyche, that tortured itself over each and every one of them. She heard it whispering to itself, but not so quietly that the Doctor could keep from hearing it, every single day of his lives, *There should have been another way. There should have been another way. There should have.* *I'm sorry, Anna.* she heard his voice say, and now she could feel the emotions behind it. *I'm truly sorry.* The last thing Evelyn knew, she had seen the Doctor turn his head and look at her from the float. Now she was standing in front of a police barricade at the corner of Canal and Burgundy, a block away from the stationary lead float, with a bag of beads in her hand. Drax stood beside her, looking equally befuddled. Around them, people were shaking their heads as if waking up from a dream, an statement which quickly faded as they shifted their impatient attention to the float the end of the block. They had no memory of what had happened. Come to think of it, Evelyn thought, looking down at the bag in her hands, nor do I. She chucked the bag into the crowd, where a group of throw-hungry tourists immediately started beating each other senseless for it, and grabbed Drax's arm. "Are you all right? Did the Doctor--?" "I do believe the Doctor did, sweet lady," he replied, a grin spreading over his handsome face. He looked down at the beads around his neck and touched them gently. "These are still hooked in to our alien buddies, but they're broadcasting an entirely different tune now. Come see."

He grabbed her hand and led her along the barricade and down Canal Street. The police along the way were too busy clearing their heads to stop them, and there were far too many other people who had seemingly jumped the barricades for them to deal with. Finally they came to a stop just in front of the lead float, the back-up tractor for which was just now being hooked up to it. "Lookee there," Drax whispered, his grin looking wider than ever. "Betcha never thought you'd see that today, did ya?" He pointed, and Evelyn looked up at the top of the float. The Doctor held Anna Vallier in his arms, stroking her back soothingly as she wept on his shoulder. February 23rd, 2099 5:30pm

Colette leaned back in the deckchair Drax had set up for her at the corner of Napoleon and St Charles and massaged her aching shoulder. She couldn't remember having done any of the things the others had said she had done, but since they weren't blaming her for it, she didn't feel any need to go searching for the missing memories. She was understandably upset at K-9's condition, but the Doctor had promised that the metal pooch would be back up and running in a day or so. "He probably can't wait to tell us what danger we're in," the Doctor had said with a smug smile. With her other hand, she absently stroked the Draco medallion still hanging from her neck. She looked over at Evelyn, who was sitting on another deckchair beside her, and noticed she was doing the same thing as she waited for the Krewe of Gallifrey parade to roll. Evelyn caught her eye, noticed what she was doing, and laughed self-consciously. "Hard to believe this is a piece of an alien entity, isn't it?" she said, but quietly enough that none of the people taking their places around them could hear. "Yeah, sure is," Colette replied. "How is the Doctor going to get them all back together? Surely these medallions are spread all over the city by now, and some of them will be headed home with tourists over the next couple days." "From what the Doctor was able to tell me -- and since Drax was trying to get him ready for the parade, he couldn't say much -- it seems that Miss Vallier will take care of that. She'll have the... creatures or whatever they are will exert their willpower one last time and give the people who got these things an overwhelming impression that they should donate them to a charity." Evelyn's eyes twinkled. "And three guesses who the executor of that particular charity will be?" Colette smiled in response. The Belfort was likely to be a very busy place over the next couple of days. "And what then?" "Then I suppose the Doctor will get that ratty old TARDIS of his working and track down the other pieces and put them together," Evelyn sighed. "They found it on one of the floats, you know. I suppose the Doctor couldn't detect it, what with all the brouhaha going on. Still, I can't say I'm looking forward to tramping around the universe looking for segments of a crystal that fits together like a puzzle. That seems like a terribly boring way to see things, doesn't it? Guess I'll catch up on my knitting in the meantime." "What happened to Miss Vallier, though, and to the parade? I was still asleep, no thanks to my loving Boss, when all that mess was going down." Evelyn's face took on a sad statement. "That poor thing. She was very contrite after the Doctor's... apology, or whatever it was. He and

Drax took her home and put her to bed while the rest of her krewe took care of continuing the parade. Good job they still had their bags full of their original throws in the floats, or it would have been a short one." "They let the parade go on?" Colette turned in Evelyn's direction too quickly and felt a sharp stab of pain. She said a very nasty word, causing Evelyn to grimace in sympathy for a moment, and then went on. "I can't believe that! Even after all those deaths at the start?" Evelyn smiled again. "You're a native of this city, Colette. You know what it takes to keep a Mardi Gras parade from rolling." Colette nodded, remembering all the rainy nights she had spent holding up her arms for a cup or a string of beads. "Still, though..." "No one had any official explanation for the deaths, I'm afraid," Evelyn said, "though I overheard Miss Vallier tell the Doctor she'd do something to make amends for that, too. Some chap named Fragomelli said he would help her. It sounds like the Krewe of Draco have a lot to do in the next several weeks...." She trailed off and frowned. "Speaking of parades rolling, what's keeping them, anyway?" Colette shrugged and immediately winced. "Dunno," she replied. "They're probably having some last minute dispute about the Doctor's costume or something." "Goodness knows he needs all the help with his dress sense he can get," Evelyn snorted. She reached into her handbag for her knitting needles and wondered if she could save that last bit of work she had been doing. "Drax, are you totally unhinged?" the Doctor was shouting. "Look at this!" He held up a string of beads, at the end of which hung a Seal of Rassilon rendered in multicoloured plastic. "Don't we have enough problems with ONE set of throws out there already without adding THIS to the mess?" "Relax, Thete!" Drax laughed and patted his friend's arm. His gaudy coat had been replaced with an even gaudier outfit, based on the patchwork design but done up in shiny sequins, metallic fabrics, and even a string of flashing lights around the seams. Drax figured that if the float lights ever went out, they'd be able to see their way just by using the Doctor's coat. "You're going to work yourself into that double coronary if you don't watch it!" The Doctor shook with barely suppressed rage. "It's bad enough you put me in this... this ridiculous garment, riding at the head of a parade with float names like 'The Coming of the Great Vampire' and 'The Horrors of the Death Zone,' but to use the Seal of Rassilon as a throw! A THROW, for goodness' sakes! You might as well shine a spotlight on the Earth and shout out to the Universe, 'Hell-o out there, Time Lords here, come get some good eating, yum yum!' What in the name of all creation made you think you could get away with such a stupid idea?!" Drax simply grinned and reached into his own gaudy topcoat. He pulled out a small device the size and shape of a silver ball and held it out. Immediately the Doctor fell silent and his eyes widened in amazement. "That's... surely that's not what I think it is?" "Yup," Drax replied with the proverbial coprophageous grin. "A little gift from Ferguson. She figured you'd do all right with the whole Fat Doomsday mess." His grin disappeared and his eyes widened in mock horror. "Why, Thete, you don't think I'd have a whole parade based on Gallifreyan history and all of our most ancient and sacred secrets if I couldn't make every single person who sees it forget about it five minutes after it passes, now, do you?"

The Doctor's eyes narrowed and he frowned sourly. "Y'know, Drax, in many ways you and Ferguson are just as bad as Anna was," he said finally, though Drax could detect some amusement in his voice. "You and she, manipulating people's minds. Still, as long as they forget." Then he noticed the beads with the Rassilon medallion still clutched in his hand and sighed in exasperation. "But what about these? Even if they forget..." "Even if they forget," Drax interrupted, "they won't be able to hold onto a medallion made of a material that'll dissolve within five minutes of the last float, will they?" He caught the look in the Doctor's eye and grinned again. "See? You should relax! I've thought of everything, Thete!" The Doctor sighed again, but this time in defeat. "All right, all right," he muttered, still frowning and looking down at his coat in despair, "I'll do it. But if any Sontarans or Daleks come snooping around here for you because of this, don't come crying to me, all right? All I want to do is get this parade over with, get those medallions back, get back to the TARDIS, and get back to work." The band in the front of the float began to play some tune that sounded vaguely like Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part Two," signalling the start of the parade. They hopped onto the float, the head of which was a massive bust of Rassilon himself, and made their way to the First Time Lord's noble brow. The Doctor muttered something about the indignity of it all, and Drax whispered, "Look at it this way, Thete: the only thing these people are going to remember is that they went to some parade on Mardi Gras night, saw a lot of pretty floats, gots lots of pretty throws, and had a good time. They won't be able to remember anything else, and isn't that what happens every Mardi Gras, anyway?" "And how would *I* know, eh?" the Doctor replied brusquely. But in spite of the Doctor's tone, Drax could see the twinkle in his eye as the float got under way and the crowd began to cheer. He held the Rassilon medallion up to the light, watched it twinkle like a star, and tossed it into the crowd with a flourish.

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