THREE AND A HALF SECONDS LATER
As The Doctor cut a high-spirited jog to the Middlevault, and Ida slumped at her desk - folding the final origami of this iteration of her existence, knowing that O2STK would immediately send down an identical model - a new Ida with an even more visually assaulting dress and all of her memories - and wondering how she got stuck with this rat-bastard bunch of panty waists for heroes - Wendy Watson quietly buttoned her boss at the mouth of the corridor leading out of the Main Hub.
“What’s a Buddha Fish?”
“Well, Dubbie… The Buddha Fish is a unique organism bred by the High Transuniversal Lamas of Samadhilon 5. It acts like an ichtyo-psychic lens, focusing all the good will of the universe into a single unified grain of consciousness. Any sentient being that comes into contact with the Buddha Fish immediately gives up all ambitions and material concerns in exchange for a life of quiet contemplation without any expectation of outcome.”
“OK. And - uh - who’s the guy in the viking helmet?”
“The Doctor? Oh… he’s the last of Time Lords of Gallifrey.”
“Strangely,” shrugged Wendy Watson, “that makes complete and total sense.”
The Doctor popped his head back into the Main Hub:
“How would you feel about ‘wibbly-wobbly’ instead of ‘higglety-pigglety’?”
SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC
The details of how Ida was delivered into the glowing jaws of death and architectural carnage by the timely manifestation of the TARDIS are - frankly - tedious and academic.
Suffice it to say that The Doctor arrived just in the nick of - well, he got there the at the exact and appropriate moment.
He then pushed a crotchety old woman out the door to his time ship (because even he knew that - deep down inside - she was not a crotchety old woman, but a combat-forged Tilonium Battle Chassis wrapped up in the burlap-like skin, hideous house dress, and loud costume jewelry of a crotchety old woman… which may have been why he had by then grown so afraid of her… or maybe it was merely that she was just. so. mean.).
All the way down, the crotchety old woman shouted the following words…
“COME GET SOME YA PRIMORDIAL SCUM!”
At the moment the crotchety old woman’s outer layer of skin, combat-forged Tilonium Battle Chassis, and, lastly, her awful frock, melted in the sweltering heat of the supermassive outer layer of the M.P.T.I.T.U./Vitrioplasmoid Conscience hybrid - revealing the most-exalted form of the Buddha Fish - the erstwhile Kanimang Kang’s lair, as well as all of his plans for world domination, vanished swiftly in a puff of inner peace and kindness toward all beings.
The TARDIS then vanished… its distinctive AROOGA-THUMP noise signifying to all that the plan had come together, the day belonged to the forces of good, and all was right with the world.
THE ILLEGAL SUBLET WENDY WATSON SHARES WITH HER EQUALLY PHOTOGENIC ROOMMATE
The genius brains behind O2STK may have manufactured the latest-generation Middlemobile with an obsidian coat of the Mikheyev/Smirnov/Wolfenstein automotive finish (a type of paint designed to capture runaway solar neutrinos and use their free and clean energy to run the electric engine underneath the hood without polluting the environment)… but they also gave The Middleman’s conveyance the adequately muscular body of a 1967 Pontiac GTO and a speed-responsive sound-and-vibration mechanism that gave the car the appropriate road feel and vulpine thunder of a true American Muscle Car.
The Middlemobile, then, idled noisily outside of Wendy Watson’s loft.
Inside, The Middleman and Wendy Watson congratulated one another on a job well done… though neither of them truly - or entirely - understood how exactly the Hydrogen Atomizing, Incendiary Load, Multi-Armament-Radiating Ypsillon had succeeded in destroying the Most Powerful Thing In The Universe… especially after its melding with the Vitrioplasmic Consciousness had rendered it into an absolutely destructive force of ultimate evil.
But The Middleman never met a Deus Ex Machina he didn’t like… and Wendy Watson was starting to see the wisdom behind his philosophy.
Kanimang Kang - or at least this latest holder of the mantle of Kanimang Kang - was gone. Manservant Neville was once again presumed dead. Most importantly, Kanimang Kang’s Rube Goldberg device of death was no more.
Schlepping the dolphin back to Dubuque had been a chore, but it certainly beat the living meatballs-and-tomato-sauce out of being killed.
As the freight elevator door to the hallway leading to her bizarrely spacious yet annoyingly affordable loft opened, Wendy Watson looked ahead to see the familiar shape of Noser… no doubt once again seeking refuge in the hallway from the depredations of his roommate, Anvil.
“Yo, Wendy Watson.”
Noser’s voice was sweet and welcoming.
“Hey Noser,” replied Wendy Watson, “how you doing?”
“I’m breathing, Wendy Watson, but it’s become a chore.”
“Now that I’ve seen The Doctor, don’t call me anymore.”
Noser smiled as Wendy Watson pushed open the door to her loft.
WENDY WATSON’S BEDROOM/ART SPACE
While the hard work of this - or, really, any - day in the service of O2STK generally insured a good night’s sleep, Wendy Watson found herself unable to summon the sandman, and thus busied herself with a new painting…
…of a man with a distinctive nose, pronounced brow, geometric jaw and a cascade of shiny brown hair. The portrait took shape quickly, the man’s image calling to her with the vivid urgency of a relevant memory; even though nothing in her past indicated the intersection of this man’s life with hers.
The colors followed quickly: the saturated earth tones of his Paul Smith shirt and the dark burgundy bow-tie popping against the warm inner glow of his pale, but not even remotely pasty skin.
Wendy Watson painted furiously but precisely: her every brush stroke capturing the elusive character of a man she had never met but was sure she knew… a moment in a time she was certain had never happened but felt as alive in her mind’s eye as any remembrance…
…and when the painting was done:
“That’s my imaginary friend!”
“How do you know what he looks like, dub-dub?”
Wendy Watson swiveled her stool to see her equally photogenic roommate - still in the fatigues and beret she habitually wore to her Occupy Wall Street protest… and, thankfully, bereft of the swelling and redness she often brought home as a result of the sustained pepper spray attacks from the local police.
“What are you doing home?” Asked Wendy Watson.
“Oh,” she shrugged, “it got a little ripe inside the tent again, so we’re all going home to shower in shifts… how do you know what my imaginary friend looks like?”
Wendy Watson swiveled back and forth between Lacey and her newest work of art - head spinning:
“This is your imaginary friend? The guy who showed up in the fireplace of Doctor Barbara Thornfield M.D., Ph.D.’s mansion all those times and kept you entertained with wild stories of time travel?”
“Yes, dub-dub, that’s him!”
“Your imaginary friend was a time traveling hipster sexgod?”
“No - it was nothing like that - I mean, yeah, I thought he was cute and all… but he was just an imaginary friend.”
Lacey’s voice took on a faraway tone as she completed her thought:
“I know that now.”
“Wait a minute - now you know that?”
“Oh, dub-dub… it’s not like Doctor Barbara Thornfield M.D. Ph.D. didn’t already have me work all of this out with a team of psychotherapists when I was a tween… anyway, the last time I saw my imaginary friend… I was twelve: he promised he would come get me on the day of my graduation from art school…”
“You mean our graduation? And you never told me?”
“Like I said… I’d already worked this whole thing out with a team of mental health professionals.”
“Weird,” replied Wendy Watson, “I just thought I was painting one of the new baristas over at the Java Applet… I think that’s where I saw this guy anyway… he does look so strangely familiar.”
“Yeah,” Lacey replied dreamily, “must be a coincidence… and I have a world that needs to be saved, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go shower…”
Lacey turned to walk down the spiral staircase, but not before having a final look at her best friend’s work.
“If you ever do see that guy? And it turns out he isn’t just a cute barista, but a time traveling adventurer from parts unknown?”
“Tell him I’m over him.”
STAY TUNED FOR THE SPINE-TINGLING EPILOGUE!