Sunday, January 15, 2012

Insert Shiney Hole in Time Here

"Sueish activity detected in Primeval!" Marcus called out from the monitoring desk as the alarm bells rang. Tash leant over his shoulder.

"Level two." she noted, "Hmmmm."

"Also receiving anomalous readings from Yugioh 5D's." Jess called from the other side of the room. "Unusual concentration of True-to-life Dinosaurs appearing in Satellite." Her ever-present handbag, hung on the back of her chair, started to twitch of its own accord.

"Dinosaur King Crossover got out of hand?" suggested Marcus, indicating this at the same time.

"No evidence of supernatural powers, and given that Primeval features Dinosaurs..."

Tash sighed. "Oh, its that Sue again is it?"

Jess nodded, "Looks like it. Which agents know Primeval?" She reached into her handbag and soothed an irritable Leonard.

Tash thought for a moment, "One of our rookie's does. Are we sure she's still just Level 2? Right, send a Clean-up squad into 5D's, then we'll see if Dave has better luck than us at catching her..."


Soon after the unfortunate demise of Professor Nick Cutter, the Anomaly Research Centre (A.R.C) team had investigated an Anomaly (A doorway in time with strong magnetic properties) in an abandoned mine. Emerging on the other side into a prehistoric forest, the first thing they encountered was a teenage girl. She clearly wasn't Helen Cutter (Nick's ex-wife, who had until recently been presumed dead, but had in fact travelled Prehistory after discovering an Anomaly in the Forest of Dean), which was a relief to the team as their last encounter with the nearly insane woman had resulted in Nick's death, and a major fire at the A.R.C itself.

She claimed to have gotten lost through an Anomaly when she was eight after accepting a dare to enter a supposedly haunted house near her home and had lived in Prehistory ever since. The team couldn't help but believe her story, and when it transpired that all her immediate family were dead, she was immediately adopted by the A.R.C. Her experience with the anomalies was put to good use in finding them before they opened, and her rapport with the creatures that emerged through them enabled her to avert many potential fatalities. Danny Quin, Cutter's replacement, had toyed with the idea of making her team leader, but she politely declined him.

She was sweet natured and her only loss of temper came when she viciously called Christine Johnson (A political rival of A.R.C head James Lester) a self-serving cow to her face, which caused Johnson to leave the building speechless, the entire A.R.C staff to applaud spontaneously, and Lester's dry and sarcastic manner to briefly collapse as he grinned approvingly.

She had a long name on the forms, but insisted that everyone called her Mesha, rather than bother them with the details.

It was deep into this utter mutilation of Canon that a society rookie was dropped.

Mesha didn't just enter a room, she inundated it like a monsoon. And yet she seemed quite embarrassed, and even a little fearful of the stir her electric blue and white streaked hair (No one asked how it had stayed dyed in the ancient past, nor how her denim jeans and light blue t-shirt stayed clean) caused every time she came into the main A.R.C operations room. Connor Temple, the inventor of most of the A.R.C's gadgets like the Anomaly Detection Device, waved her over to look over his latest project.

"What do you think?" he asked, "I mean, I'm sure I'm right, but you know what I'm like."

Mesha looked at the sleek machine, capable of completely stopping Anomalies from appearing within its transmission range, then she indicated a small piece near the point of the device and whispered almost sheepishly that it had been connected backwards.

"Ah. Well this thing was your idea after all." Connor said as he hurriedly corrected it. Mesha shook her head.

"I only built on what you and Cutter, God rest him, developed before. You two built the A.D.D, I couldn't do that."

"That's because you're too modest for your own good." Dr Sarah Page (the historian researching the creatures of myth and folklore that may have had a grain of truth in the Anomalies) put in. "You could do all our jobs if you had to."

"No thanks." Mesha said, "I'm stressed enough..."

"Is it ready yet?" Abby Maitland (A.R.C animal expert) interrupted, "Lester wants to test it ASAP."

Mesha looked at Connor, who nodded.

Danny whistled to them, calling them over to the A.D.D where Lester and Captain Becker (Commander of the A.R.C's small military force) were waiting.

"I presume that metal toothpick is about to earn its keep?" Lester asked in his usual dry manner.

"Where are we testing it?" Connor asked.

"The Anomaly in the London underground." Danny said, "Its out of the way and opens on a regular cycle, so we'll know if its worked pretty quickly."

"Okay then." Mesha put in, "We'll need torches to keep the Giant Spiders off our backs, that low-explosive ammunition you developed Becker, and..."

Mesha stopped in annoyance as a voice from the other side of the room snorted heartily. She found the source of the amusement and her mouth dropped open. A tall man with a moustache and an untidy beard was hiding his mouth with his hand, but the expression in his brown eyes made it clear that he was the one that was so amused by her rousing speech. He was unfamiliar, but the badge on his black T-shirt made it perfectly clear who he represented. His grey boots seemed to have enough metal in them to withstand a JCB rolling over his feet, and his dark blue trousers had more pockets than she could count.

"Sorry." the man sniggered at last. "but you do kind of stand out..."

"How long has he been there?" Becker demanded.

"How did you get in in the first place?" Connor asked.

"What do you want here?" Danny interjected.

"And what's the meaning of life?" Lester finished sarcastically, "Give him a chance!"

Dave shook his head and muttered something about inevitabilities before clearing his throat, and pointed at Becker.

"Two minutes." he shifted his finger to Connor. "The A.R.C isn't proof against Self-Inserts." Danny received the wandering finger. "I am on a mission of utmost importance to the fabric of life, the universe, and everything. And while I'm on the subject..." he pointed at Lester. "42."

There was a brief incredulous silence, which Lester broke.

"That is not funny!"

"So you're from the future?" Abby asked, ignoring him.

"No." muttered Mesha, "From the library!" Several pairs of eyes looked from her to the visitor and then back again. They looked slightly dazed, as if they had always thought there was something slightly amiss about Mesha, but were unable to put their finger on it.

"You know him?" Sarah asked her.

"She's led my people on quite a merry chase." Dave confirmed, fixing Mesha with a whithering stare.

"Exactly who are you?" demanded Lester predictably.

"I'm exactly David, and I represent the Anti Cliché and Mary Sue Elimination Society." Dave explained, "And I'm here to arrest Mesha Alicia Maria Susan Maylene Violet... The woman making a run for it." he finished abruptly, as he took off after the fleeing girl out of the double doors of the operations room.

"Hoi, that's just plain rude!" he shouted after her.

The footfalls of the A.R.C personnel echoed in Dave's ears as he reached the exit that led to the car park, along with repeated yells of a "Stop and put your hands up" nature. Mesha was fiddling with something in her hand, and the ADD back in the central operations room activated the dramatic red lighting that signified a new anomaly. Dave had enough experience in fan fiction to know that coincidences like that didn't just happen, and as a result he was not entirely surprised when he ran out of the doors and encountered a rapidly fading Anomaly about 3 metres to his left.

The A.R.C aren't supposed to find anomaly controlling devices until the end of series three! He thought as he ran towards it.

Abby arrived just in time to see the swirling shattered mirror ball shrink and vanish into nothingness right in front of him.

"Oh, Globbits!" he said, dryly.

"Am I to assume that you are unhappy?" Abby asked.

"No, whatever gave you that idea?" he replied sarcastically, as Danny and Connor arrived.

"Great, It's like Kimberly and Henrietta all over again... " Danny sighed.

"What?" Dave asked, momentarily stunned.

"Former team members." Connor explained, "Seems to something of a theme, us loosing them down anomalies... are you OK?"

Most of the A.R.C team had caught up now, and all had a grandstand view of Dave's suddenly confused face.
Hmmm, He thought, this is interesting.

Fact 1: Willowe and Runoa have apparently shown no interest in Primeval since the fandom's creation, the only reason the society know about Mesha's presence is that she was detected as she entered it.

Fact 2: Primeval Canon says clearly that Danny, Becker and Sarah are the only new team members in series three. The fact that Connor states differently suggests that there are other Mary-Sues running wild in the fandom that the society is not aware of!

Fact 3: The fact that the A.R.C team remembers them all means that their Canon warping powers are still working, and beginning to overlap each other.

Fact 4: This mission is beginning to develop into a baptism of fire, and your fan urge to out-sarcasm James Lester will have to wait.

Fact 5: The A.R.C's soldiers have arrived in force and are pointing their weapons at you.

"Ah!" Dave said as he abruptly returned to reality and noticed this. He quickly reached down and tapped the button on the Scene Transition attached to his belt.

"Are Scene Transitions supposed to give you a headache?" Dave asked Tash's Image through gritted teeth.
"No, but then the Anomalies are causing a bit of interference..." Tash replied.

"Better stock up on paracetamol then... Oh BUZZ OFF!"

"Are you talking to me?" Tash responded, in the tone of voice that usually accompanied the words "three weeks cleaning duty".

"No! A dragonfly as big as an eagle that seems to think I'm his soul mate!" Dave snapped back, thrusting the communicator towards the offending carboniferous insect. Dave strongly suspected that it was this sudden movement that made it vanish into the trees surrounding the swamp he was knee deep in, rather than the `EEP` of surprise from his superior. He allowed himself a few seconds to calm down.

"My thanks Madam Operations Leader."

Tash shook her head. "Are you sure there's more than one Sue in Primeval? We're only detecting Mesha..."

"Series 3 is when everything changes. Impossible Pictures said that the original premise of Primeval was "man looses wife several million years in the past", and that pretty much goes out of the window from the third episode of this series onwards. I've got a feeling that makes the storyline mutable enough that small changes that happen between the episodes go unnoticed."

"And any Sues go undetected..." Tash summarised. "Okay, keep on the trail, but don't engage them if there is more than one."

"Right. Reconnaissance mission. Understood, Dave out."

As he put his communicator away, Dave wondered what it was he had said that had convinced Tash he was still on Mesha's trail. After Becker and A.R.C security had arrested him he had only had seconds to purloin a second Anomaly controller and a hand-held Anomaly detector from a workbench, activate the former, jump through the resulting Anomaly and close it behind him. He had landed in the Carboniferous period, and now had to cope with all its swamp monsters, giant insects and disorienting oxygen-rich air. He had searched in vain for an area of dry land for about an hour before calling Tash. And he'd broken the Anomaly remote as well! His one consolation was that mosquitoes hadn't evolved yet...

Bee-Beep, Bee-Beep.

...and that the hand-held detector was waterproof.

The trail led deeper into the swamp, as it would, but then came to a small island of dry land that held an anomaly. Given the fact that it was framed dramatically between two trees that almost formed an arch over it, it was fair to assume that it was artificial, and most likely Sue generated.

Dave stepped through it, and found himself on a lava field. He stopped and thought for a moment. When exactly was he?Grass hadn't evolved yet, that much was clear, but didn't narrow it down by much. He heard a bellow over a rise to his left and climbed up to the crest of the black soil. A herd of dinosaurs was browsing the trees around a stream. Every now and again, one of them would raise its duckbill to call to its fellows resulting in a strange trumpeting chorus.

Hadrosaurs. Anatotitan by the looks of it, and the Pterosaur flying overhead was definitely a Quetzalcoatlus. That put him in the very late Cretaceous period, which meant that he might have to deal with Tyrannosaurs Rex as well if he wasn't careful...

Dave had a sudden feeling of wrongness, which probably had something to do with the fact he was being a worse know-it-all than some of the Sues. He didn't have time to dwell on it though, as he spotted a trail of distinctly human footprints leading from near where he was stood, towards a small copse of fern trees nearby. Discounting the theory that one of the canon A.R.C personnel would wear expensive ladies shoes on a trip to the ancient past, he followed Mesha's trail into the trees.

Adrian entered the monitoring room where Tash, Marcus and Jess were watching Dave's progress.
"He's doing well." he commented.

"He's a Gamer, what do you expect?" Tash replied.

"Oh, so he's with the university society you bury the bodies to confuse?" Adrian asked.

Marcus and Jess turned round and stared at Tash. Leonard popped out of Jess's handbag like a meerkat out of a hole at the mention of bodies, but finding none in sight he dropped back in again with a grumbling noise.

"Yeah." replied Tash, "Long story..." she added. Marcus shook his head.

"I worry about you sometimes..."

"Only sometimes?" Adrian asked, putting his arm around his girlfriend.

"Reality is optional!" Tash retorted, "And highly overrated..."

"What on...?" Jess exclaimed suddenly. The leaders looked over her shoulder at the screen. A new Sueish reading had just appeared in Primeval. Specifically a level 3 Gary-Stu.

Marcus looked at Tash. "Looks like he was right, there is more than one Sue there..."

Tash took her communicator. "Dave, you were rig... What do you mean no signal?" she shouted at it.

Adrian took his and tried Dave's number. Again, no signal. Marcus stood up.

"I'll warn him in person then." He said, just as his plothole generator created a portal the size of his little fingernail, which spat sparks for a second before collapsing.

"Unknown interference, at your destination point." the generator said sweetly, in its best automatic checkout voice.

Tash jumped. "It talks?"

"I think we have a bigger problem." Adrian added, indicating at the screen where Dave was walking into the trees. A long tail at least 6 feet off the ground was vanishing into the same copse from a different direction. On the lava behind where it had vanished was a trail of large three-toed footprints. Tash and Jess unanimously summarised the situation in a single word.


Mesha's trail was easy to follow. Almost too easy in fact, and despite knowing it was a trap, Dave picked his way through the undergrowth towards a clearing in the trees. He caught sight of Mesha, leaning against a tree apparently catching her breath. A pair of small rodent-like creatures reacted to his presence by scurrying noisily away, and Mesha smiled without turning around.

"Caught up at last have you?" she asked.

"Not hard really."

Mesha whipped round. Dave, as yet unnoticed, shrank back behind a thicker monkey puzzle-like tree, as another young man stepped out into the clearing.

"You!" Mesha breathed. She seemed unnaturally terrified of one of her own kind.

The Gary-Stu leered his best evil leer.

"You were expecting someone else?" he asked.

"There's a society agent on my trail. You want both of us to get caught?"

"Oh? And how do I know you're not meeting him here?"

"What?" Mesha suddenly forgot her terror. "Now that really is nuts! Why would I want to get thrown in a dungeon?"

The Stu sneered. "I'll bet you've come to some sort of arrangement. You're cute, so I'm sure that was easy if he doesn't have a girlfriend."

This was unexpected. Dave elected to watch rather than get involved. Tash had told him not to engage if there was more than one of them after all...

The Stu pulled out a gun and shot the Anomaly remote out of her hand, then targeted her forehead.

"On behalf of the Lieutenant, I hereby dispense the due punishment for Treason upon Mesha Alicia Maria Susan Mayl-"

"This isn't the time, or the place." said another voice.

The clearing was starting to get crowded.

The Stu smiled disarmingly at the newcomer.

"Ah, the charming Mrs Cutter. Don't worry, I'm not here to advance my own sordid attempts at grabbing power in the British Government. I'll just..." He stopped, the expression on his face something akin to one of a man who had just discovered his fly was open.

Helen Cutter, Primeval's main antagonist and apparently possessed of sufficient Sueishness herself to be immune to Canon warping, raised her own pistol, looking distinctly unimpressed.

"You need a few lessons in lying." She said, simply.

The Stu's Glib tongue deserted him, along with a sizeable amount of his brain matter. Mesha looked from the abstract pattern this created on a nearby tree to Helen, even more terrified than before if that were possible.
"And you can come out from behind that tree as well."

Dave started, and thought fast.

"It's no' wurth the effrt, Helen."

Helen froze for an instant. Dave wasn't the best imitator of a Scottish Accent, but it sounded enough like the late Nick Cutter to give him enough time to lunge out from his hiding place, grab Mesha's wrist with one hand and activate the scene transition with the other.

*&£$"%^&&*(*=Transition Error 042. Please refer to accredited technicians=*)&&^%"$£&*


Dave and Mesha's reactions were symmetrical. Hers at being forcibly transported, and his at the sudden burning pain that the smoking Scene Transition had inflicted on his hand. He dropped it on the Lava field as Mesha wrenched herself free from his grasp.


"Scene Transition." Dave gasped, torn between examining the smouldering piece of equipment, tending the livid burn on his right hand, and dealing with the hysterical woman. "Its supposed to fill me in on how we escaped. Only it hasn't..."

They were still in the Cretaceous, that was apparent, but beyond that the device seemed to have packed up completely, which meant Helen could be hard on their trail. Looking around the flat volcanic plain however, the Canon character was nowhere to be seen, which was out of character for her...

Mesha hitting him however was perfectly in character.

"No-one asked you to get involved!"

"Excuse Me! You were about to get shot! Maybe twice over!"

"Oh, don't go pretending you care!" Mesha retorted nastily. "I know your kind. Your society that locks us up for doing what our authors tell us. Harassing us across infinite fandoms for doing as we're told! Don't you have anything better to do?"

She swung back to hit him again, but Dave's temper was up. He grabbed her wrist painfully.

"Oh?" he said, barely above a whisper, "The version of the story I heard was that your author woke up one morning and found you gone from his Doctor Who fic. That universe wasn't big enough for you was it?"

"I didn't have a choice!"

"The fact you could leave proves that you did have a free choice in the matter. Then you went and cross-contaminated six fandoms so much that all of them almost came to a juddering halt!"

"You're making that up!"

"Oh am I? The A.R.C found you as a little lost girl in the mid-Jurassic, didn't they?"


"I know that because two Allosaurs, three Diplodocus, and a very angry Stegasaur ended up in Satellite sector; Yugioh 5D's, very nearly killing three canon characters!"

Mesha suddenly went very quiet. "Which ones?" she asked nervously.

"Oh, don't go pretending you care!" Dave replied nastily. Tit for Tat! He thought.

"So that's how he found me... Have I been doing that often?"

"Eh? Leaving plotholes open? Yeah, pretty much every time you use one."

"A trail of breadcrumbs..." Mesha mumbled, recovering her earlier fear.

"Look don't go fishing for sympathy." Dave snapped abruptly.

"I'm not! You saw him in the clearing didn't you?" She had a point, Dave had to admit it. He'd been hell-bent on her death to the degree he hadn't thought to deal with other interruptions. A small pain started to throb in his head.

"If you were trying to hide you wouldn't have distorted Canon..."

"I needed the A.R.C military to deal with him if he showed up! I could have holed up there for months if you hadn't blown my cover!" Again a good point, so good that Dave had the distinct impression he was being manipulated, but he wasn't sure...

"Dave can you hear me?" came a crackly voice from his communicator. He risked releasing Mesha to take it with his uninjured left hand.

"Barely. Signal Terrible. Who is this?" he asked, the screen was snowy.

"It's Tash. Listen, Something's wrong. We're having trouble opening a plothole to you."

"What? Why?"

"The Anomalies are interfering with the gadgets more than we thought."

"The Gadgets the A.R.C use never complain..."

"Well ours do! But that isn't important right now, there's a Dinosaur tracking you!"

"Its a T-Rex." Said Mesha. Dave looked at her.

"How'd you know... It's behind me isn't it?"

Mesha whimpered something unintelligible. Dave felt a sudden burst of hot breath on his left shoulder.

"Oh the mind-numbing inevitability of it all." he murmured. He reached slowly for his plothole generator. Wincing at the pain in his right hand he pointed it at a point some feet away and activated it. A smell of burning metal was the only result, and he abruptly threw it away as a plume of blue smoke started to issue from the barrel.


"Do you want some back-up?" Tash asked, quietly.

"Please?" Dave asked as he turned to face his nemesis.

"Right, leave the link open so we can trace it."

The Dinosaur was regarding the discarded generator with suspicion, but quickly lost interest and turned back to the humans.

"Don't you have any weapons?" Mesha muttered, apparently too stressed to use any Sueish powers she had.
"Not one that I can pull out without startling this lump into attacking..." Dave replied, looking around out of the corners of his eyes. There was a dry riverbed to their right, which gave them one chance...

"When I say now, dive for the river..." he whispered, "5, 4," The Tyrannosaur lunged at them. "NOW!"

Dave was sure he felt the Dinosaur's teeth brush past his ankle as he dived, but there was no blood or pain when he extracted his head from the sand in the riverbed and examined it. Mesha was in a similar position, but being a Sue she had come through it with much more dignity. The Dinosaur was watching them with a look of pure frustration, unable to negotiate the incline down to its helpless prey. If it followed, it would trip and as it was so top-heavy, probably break every bone in its body.

"Right, now we just sit here and wait for my back-up." He summarised. Mesha suddenly seemed to remember they were enemies, but Dave cut her off. "Look, we need to know about that fratricidal Stu. You come with us, maybe we can work something out. Either that or run forever."

"Don't mess with Nukes!"

Not the response Dave was expecting. Looking up, he saw a silver-grey warhead falling towards a point at the far end of the riverbed. He exchanged a look with Mesha, who groaned and nodded before running with him in the other direction. The T-Rex however just stood and watched the device fall. They could tell from the roar that reached their ears as they hid behind a convenient rock that it regretted this decision.

"Alright down there?" said a voice "AH! My Coffee-makers are not controlled by Hoover Dam computers!"

Dave looked up and saw Ben, directing the flood of coffee at a rapidly retreating Helen Cutter. Shirley the cliché stick hovered close-by, holding what seemed to be Dave's discarded scene transition and Plothole generator.

"You dropped these." she said, as Dave and Mesha approached, "Oh, and exactly who was that?"

There was a loud rumble before Dave could respond. A vast cloud of Black Ash was flowing down the side of a nearby volcano, and from the vibrations under their feet, it was clear that it wasn't the only one throwing a tantrum. Ben's Nuke seemed to have started something they couldn't finish.

"Get a move on before we're Pyroclasted!" Mesha yelled.

A thick cloud of black smoke filled the monitor as the Society leaders watched the Agents, muse and Sue fall through the Plothole. There was a brief silence.

"Well." Tash said at last, "I suppose now we know what wiped the dinosaurs out."

Dave and Ben were summoned to Tash's office, their hair and clothes still covered in dust from the fandom's ancient past. Mesha left just as they arrived, prohibited, looking extremely subdued and carrying a large stack of paperwork. She caught Dave's eye and tried a half-smile as she passed, and Dave was hard-pressed to decide whether the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach was due to this or the large quantity of volcanic ash he had swallowed. He assumed the latter, but wondered if he was being a bit cynical...

A sudden sharp pain flared in his head, distracting him.

"She's not confined to the vault?" Ben asked, snapping Dave out of his thoughts.

Tash shook her head. "Not really appropriate. If she's being hunted by her own kind just for refusing to join their side then we can't really put her anywhere there's a chance of anyone killing her." She suddenly reached up and massaged her right temple, as if suffering a similar headache to Dave.

"Which rules out sending her back to Doctor Who when she comes up for parole..." Dave began. Ben was silent, thinking about something...

"For the moment at least. Besides, she's generated so much paperwork, she can bloody well do it! The rate its been breeding, it shouldn't take her less than a year."

"Call it a community order." Harriet added, making Dave jump as he registered her presence. Then he realised that the kitty-eared librarian was present as well, and began to feel slightly nervous.

"Don't look so scared Dave." Harriet added, smiling. "In Lieu of a grand speech, you're in!"

Dave blinked, then grinned. "Great." he said, "Ummmmm. Not wishing to appear rude madam society leader, but can I go and shower now?" It seemed that his dust covered state was what had kept congratulatory hugs to a minimum thus far.

"In a minute." Tash answered. "First, we need a team that goes back into Primeval to root out these other Sues. Most of them might just be self-inserts, but we need to be sure. Can you guide them for us when they're assembled?"

Dave nodded, then frowned as he thought. "Connor said they had gotten lost down Anomalies, so if we can't detect them they've either left, or run afoul of Helen. We'd be looking for bodies in the case of the latter, and Primeval has a major case of step-on-a-bug-and-change-the-future syndrome, so we want them out of there."

"Right, Agents with strong stomachs then." Adrian nodded.

"Camille is working on Gadgets shielded against Magnetic Anomalies." Harriet finished.

"You however," Tash said to Ben in an ominous voice, "will be delighted to hear that you are not going to be on that team!"

"Oh come on!" Ben objected, "Wiping out the dinosaurs is Canon, isn't it? I mean, that volcano punished me already!"

"Technically, it Pumiced you."

There was a sudden silence, as Dave realised too late that Shirley was hovering beside Ben, and was already giving him her best sadistic grin.

"Dude, run!" advised Ben. But Dave had already left, only one step ahead of the cliché stick.

Tash hit herself over the head with the book she happened to be holding.

Adrian groaned. "Is he always like that?"

"By his standards, that was good." Tash replied, shaking her now doubly aching head.

Shirley's voice rang out from down the corridor, yelling that using an Axe was cheating. Everyone looked up,just in time to see her fly past the door, hotly pursued by Dave with the aforementioned weapon.

"He has his uses though." Ben added, his face a strange mixture of concern and amusement.

"He'll fit right in..." chuckled Harriet, as the sound of an Axe being parried by a wooden claw echoed down the corridor.

"Help?" came Dave's plaintive voice, closely followed by a cackle of triumph easily recognisable as Shirley's.

A shadowy figure sat at a workbench, working on a device of arcane complexity. A light flashed on a nearby console and he turned to examine the readout.

"Ah, she's finally in the library!" he exclaimed, "Took her long enough... Though I suppose if you can't remember what you're supposed to be doing, even something simple like getting captured becomes much harder..."

He stared down at a silver-grey old-fashioned pocket-watch for a moment, patted it affectionately, then returned to work, but much happier now.

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