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Chapter III: Arrest

"We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken."
—Fydor Dostoevsky


Being cast randomly through the multiverse should, in theory, be utterly terrifying, but I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. This was partly because I've seen far worse things, but the main reason was simply that I couldn't do anything about it anyway. Besides, it provided me with an opportunity to give thought to something that was bothering me.

After the incident with Xehanort's mysterious weapon, I was already slightly concerned about my invincibility. Having started out with absolute confidence that nothing could harm me, the next re-evaluation of this theory came quite swiftly when I suddenly arrived in another reality. I have implied previously that all physical objects are unable to interact with me unless I want them to... or, as a very recent experience revealed, if the object happens to be a TARDIS in out-of-control flight between universes. Unfortunately, my usual intangibility was once again rendered questionable when I hit the ground upon arrival in this new universe. Suffice to say, a physical impact occurring in defiance of my ephemeral nature is bad enough. However, to add injury to insult, it also hurt. Quite a lot, actually.

It took only a few moments for me to recover, and I was on the verge of lifting myself off the floor when something else managed to collide with me, knocking me straight back down onto the ground. Like the first impact, this was far from painless, and I immediately surveyed my surroundings to seek out the offending projectile.

What I saw was someone who had clearly tripped over me. As they scrambled back to their feet, I took note of their features. I had to make some assumptions, since species throughout the multiverse display an astonishing range of characteristics, but I was reasonably confident that they were a female. She was humanoid, with the proportions of an adult human despite being only a metre or so tall. She was dark-skinned, with auburn hair and pointed ears, but there was nothing particularly special about that. I've seen a lot of different species in my observation of the many universes, and plenty of them have pointed ears. No, by far the most striking feature of this being was the intensity of her gaze as her hazel eyes found me.

I was not especially surprised that, like Xehanort, her expression seemed to be tempered by confusion and trepidation. However, judging by the style of her clothing – a green jumpsuit with some kind of insignia pinned to it, which I reckoned to be some kind of uniform – she appeared to be a professional enforcer, perhaps either police or military. My suspicion was reinforced when she quickly bent down to retrieve a helmet, which had presumably fallen off when she tripped over me. Given this deduction about the likely nature of her employment, I decided that it might be a good idea to say something to reassure her that I was not a threat. Actually, a more accurate statement is that I could be a considerable threat, if I chose to be, but that I had no intention of demonstrating any such hostility towards her. Content that I was able to give such a precise assessment, I proceeded to tell her exactly that.

At least, I tried to tell her exactly that. All things considered, I suppose I should have realised that the less accurate statement might have been the more sensible option when faced with a nervous officer. Especially one who was armed, it transpired, with some kind of electrified baton. Naturally, this would not have been a problem were it not for the persistent refusal of things to respect my non-physical nature.

I'd just finished saying the words "considerable threat" before she knocked me out with her weapon. My response to this probably would have been to sigh in a resigned fashion, but I don't have breath. There's also the fact that I'd been knocked out.



"I like normal stuff people fear - like spiders and heights. I'm frightened by the unknown, by things that are hard to figure out and get a grip on."
—Haley Joel Osment


When I regained consciousness, the female was dragging me along a corridor in what I guessed was probably the headquarters of whichever organisation she worked for. The corridor was quite crowded, but our progress was not especially impeded. For some reason, the other people there were giving her a wide berth.

In retrospect, maybe they were backing away from me, not her.

I had assumed that she was typical of this world's population, but the residents of the corridor were not all like her. Some were similar, but with wings, and their skin was lighter and green-tinted. Others were quite heavy-set, with quite frankly huge rear ends. There were a few reptilian individuals, who mostly seemed to be complaining on behalf of incarcerated relatives. There were one or two individuals who were a little shorter than the rest and had almost disproportionately large heads compared to their bodies.

As we proceeded, we passed by a squat, hairy and rather smelly individual who appeared to be picking the pocket of the person he was handcuffed to. My captor gave him a quick buzz with her weapon; presumably, it was on a much lower setting than she had used on me, as it merely singed the seat of his leather trousers.

"What'cha doing there, Mulch?"

Mulch was startled, and dropped a considerable quantity of items. It looked like he'd been picking the pocket of not only his arresting officer, but also every other person in the vicinity. I was unable to discern quite where about his person the many valuables had been concealed. Clearly, he was a pro at this kind of petty theft.

"Officer Short," he said, giving me the female’s name in the process. He looked regretful, though I suspect it was for show. "I can't help myself. It's my nature."

Officer Short's reply had a distinct air of deadpan about it. "I know that, Mulch, and it's our nature to throw you in a cell for a couple of centuries."

I mentally filed away the factoid that, whatever species Mulch was, his lifespan was clearly extraordinarily long. I vaguely wondered whether it was unique to his race, or whether it was common to all of the beings I'd seen. My train of thought was disrupted when Short resumed dragging me along. She raised a hand to knock on a door labelled "Commander Root", but was pre-empted by an incredibly loud voice. The door was ajar, and if I didn’t know better, I could have sworn that the force of the voice made it close very slightly.

"SHORT! GET IN HERE NOW!"

She took her helmet off and smoothed the creases out of her uniform, then turned around and glared at me, gesturing for me to stay right where I was. I can't say that it didn't occur to me to disobey her, but I saw no good reason not to stay put.

She entered the room, properly closing the door behind her, and I took a few moments to look back along the corridor. Virtually everyone in it was staring at me, mostly in mild terror. I still don't know what exactly is so frightening about me, although I do suspect that one factor may be my lack of anything that might reasonably be called a face. I can certainly see how that might be somewhat unnerving to the majority of sentient creatures.

I was distracted by the same voice coming from the room behind me. The completely closed door did absolutely nothing to diminish its volume. It was clear that someone, presumably Commander Root, was unhappy. By the sound of it, Officer Short was late to work. I heard her reply, and although it was too quiet to tell exactly what she was saying, I had a feeling that I was about to be called into the room. A few minutes passed while they continued to talk. I still couldn't hear anything more than odd words. Short’s voice came through loud and clear at one point, speaking less than favourably about someone called "Frond". Eventually, the door opened, and Short beckoned me into the room.

As I entered, I immediately knew that the man behind the desk, who a nameplate confirmed was Commander Root, was almost certainly the one who had been shouting. The beetroot-purple colour of his face was something of a clue. I sniggered slightly at the potential for a pun: beetroot. I stopped laughing when he directed a furious glare at me. The purple hue deepened, if that was even possible, and he almost appeared to inflate like a bullfrog.

"So, this is why you're late? Would you mind telling me what the ruddy hell it is?"

Short was silent for a few moments, before replying, "Not a clue, Commander. I was on my way here, and it just appeared right in front of me. I buzzed and cuffed it when it very kindly told me that it could be a considerable threat."

I did not take kindly to being spoken about in this way, and interjected, "...and if you had given me a chance to finish before you incapacitated me, I would have told you that while I am capable of being a threat, I have no intention of hostility."

They both stared at me for several seconds, then Root slammed his fist down on a button, which I took to be an intercom since he then spoke into a microphone.

"FOALY! MY OFFICE, NOW!"

The door opened, and someone who was quite plainly a centaur trotted into the office. "Already here, bossman," he said. "I've been on my way ever since Holly strolled down the corridor, and my sensors threw up a blank on her companion."

Holly Short glanced quizzically at me, and asked Foaly, "Which sensors?"

"All of them. Your weird-looking friend there is visible on cameras, but my scans tell me that there's nothing there. No mass, no electromagnetic fields, nada. I can detect matter down to one atom in a vacuum the size of the moon, and apparently, this guy doesn't exist."

There was a long silence, during which Foaly cantered over to a computer terminal. I took advantage of the opening. "Well, I could have told you that. Sorceror Nobody, at your service. I would say 'nice to meet you', but you’ve hardly made me feel welcome."

Holly and Root remained dumbstruck. There was a tapping of keys, and a slight buzzing sound. I noticed a flickering beam sweep over me, and then Foaly spoke up. "You might want to apologise to him, Holly. The guy is clearly sentient, and intelligent. Also, I've just cobbled together a new scanner module, and although I can't be entirely confident about the readings, there's definitely some kind of powerful energy around him."

Root regained his voice, and his purple hue. "Cut the jargon, Foaly."

The centaur clattered one of his rear hooves on the floor irritably. "Let me put it this way: if he did mean us harm, we'd all be a smear on the wall right about now."

There was another stunned silence. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day, and a glance at Foaly's expression told me that he thought much the same thing.


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