'Have you noticed how different it is coming to therapy here than it is going to therapy on TV?'
'Therapy on TV?'
'Whenever someone goes to a therapist or a psychiatrist on TV there's a nice leather couch.' Mixt looked down at the chair she was sitting on, a small, uncomfortable piece of wooden furniture. 'There's usually a carpet too. Couldn't they put a carpet in here?'
Mixt and Nakishdan attended therapy in an elderly and dilapidated school building which had been taken over by the local council, and converted into a mental health centre by an underfunded social services department.
'And pictures too. Every time I've seen a therapist on TV, like in a sitcom or something, there's a nice picture on the wall. Not like these bare walls here.'
'At least they've painted over the graffiti. Most of it anyway.'
Mixt counted on her fingers. 'No leather couch, no carpet and no pictures. That's three things missing.'
'Is this going to turn into some weird counting obsession?'
'No. Probably not. Maybe. We'll see how it goes.'
Mixt looked round her, dissatisfied.
'I mean, look at this place. Who could feel better here? You wait for months before you get an appointment and then you end up in this grimy old classroom with a bunch of other mad people. I've seen pictures of kids at school in the thirties and their classrooms were better than this. They didn't even replace the fluorescent light on the ceiling. It's like sitting in a display tank. That makes four different things, incidentally.'
'There are no books either,' said Nakishdan. 'I think psychiatrists on TV shows usually have nice old books on a bookshelf.'
'True. And a plant on the desk. And a desk.'
The room was gradually filling up with the OCD support group, though there was as yet no sign of Mr Baker, their therapist.
'If we had more money we could go to a proper therapist, I suppose. Would that help?'
Mixt frowned. It was something they'd considered, but rejected for the meantime. Mixt did feel a need to do something about the uncomfortable OCD which had plagued her in recent years, but realised it might be difficult to talk face to face with a therapist, because of her very unusual life. At least here, in group therapy, it was easier to hide her past.
'I wouldn't mind NHS group therapy if we weren't stuck in this horrible old classroom. They might as well put a big sign on the wall saying 'The local authority and NHS has no money to look after mental patients. This is the best you can expect.''
Mr Baker hurried into the classroom, looking agitated. At the same time, an alarm went off, somewhere in the building.
'We have to evacuate,' he said.
The therapy group, generally a nervous bunch of people, stampeded towards the door. As they flooded into the corridor outside they could hear shouting, screaming and banging coming from upstairs.
'Ah yes,' muttered Mixt. 'The residential unit.'
They filed downstairs. Another alarm was going off and there was the smell of smoke in the air. By the time they reached the front entrance, police cars were drawing up. Two policemen and two policewomen rushed into the building. In the distance they could here the sound of a fire engine.
Mixt and Nakishdan stood in the small car-park at the front of the building, watching events unfold.
'That's another thing that doesn't happen on TV therapy,' said Mixt. 'A riot upstairs where they keep the really disturbed people. That makes nine different things so far.'
Rainith the Red, fairy from another time, was enjoying the Dr Feelgood set, and remained close to the stage. Geeda Lala liked them too, but, having seen the band before, and having had her drink spilled by the enthusiastic audience, she felt that she could afford to retreat to the bar and replace it. Rainith didn't notice her leave. She watched the singer in his scruffy white suit, shouting in to the microphone and pounding his fist into the air at his side, as if angry with the world in general.
She told me not to worry
And there ain't a single trouble in sight
She liked the way he looked annoyed at everything. Rainith frequently felt annoyed at everything. She was equally impressed by the guitarist. He seemed able to produce an unusual amount of music for just one guitar. She really admired his manic expression.
'I'd look manic like that if I was on stage.'
Rainith had a sudden desire to jump upon the stage just so as she could look around angrily at everyone.
'That must be why people form bands,' she thought. 'To look angrily at everyone and be manic on stage. I'd like to do that. I'd tell everyone how much I hated them. Serve them all right.'
Dr Feelgood ended their set. They departed the stage for a few minutes, returning very soon afterwards for an encore, after incessant and insistent applause from the audience. Rainith, smiling and clapping, looked around for Geeda.
'Where is she?'
Rainith frowned. Her senses, normally good at detecting trouble, had been entirely focused on the band. Now they were telling her that something was wrong. She pushed her way towards the bar, looking for her friend. Geeda wasn't at the bar. Rainith couldn't see her anywhere in the room. She checked the rest rooms. There was no sign of her.
'Damn it,' muttered the fairy, now very concerned. She rushed to the back of the room then ran up the stairs to the exit. She arrived in the street just in time to see Geeda being bundled into a car by several dark-clad men. The car screeched away from the kerb. Rainith, without checking whether anyone was observing her, immediately changed into her fairy shape, and soared into the air, flapping her wings furiously as she set off in pursuit.
'Nakishdan, you remember when we opened this joint bank account - which was a bit strange in a way, us not being a married couple or anything - but we thought it might be a good idea to save the money the Department was paying us, and have it under joint control, so we wouldn't keep getting into financial crisis?'
'We're in financial crisis.'
Nakishdan looked at Mixt, beside him in the car, holding an iPad, outside their therapy centre.
'Isn't it great the way you can check your bank account from anywhere these days? When we were born hundreds of years ago, you really couldn't have seen that coming.'
Mixt glared at him, 'Stop deflecting the issue.'
'Can you deflect an issue? Is that the right word?'
'You're still doing it.' Mixt scrolled down on the page. 'What is Tofu Cute and why have we spent all our money there? Mameshiba Bean Dog 6-Inch Plushie? What's that?'
'A soft toy.'
'Is it a bean or a dog?'
'It's sort of both.'
'Did we need eight of them?'
'They came in different colours,' said Nakishdan. 'I could't make up my mind.'
'Couldn't you have made up your mind not to buy any? Meiji Hello Panda Cute Creamy Milk Biscuits? Do you even eat biscuits?'
Nakishdan looked slightly uncomfortable. 'I liked the packaging.'
'So you had to buy a box of twenty-four?'
'Again, there were different colours.'
Mixt's incredulity grew as she scrolled further down the list. 'Kawaii-Land, the cutest online store. Do you have no shame?'
'They have a lot of good quality products!'
'Indeed. What would we have done without a Rilakkuma Cuddly Bear Stationery Set? What did you need that for? You don't even write letters.'
'I might. You never know.'
Mixt fixed her companion with an angry stare. 'Nakishdan, this has got to stop. You can't keep spending all our money on cute Japanese toys that no adult in their right mind would buy.'
'Well there you have it,' said Nakishdan, cunningly. 'I'm not in my right mind. We're sitting outside our therapy centre at this very moment. How much more proof could there be?'
'We get therapy for OCD and anxiety, not the irresistible urge to buy items suitable only for young schoolchildren. I earned that money too you know.'
'And do I ever complain about the amount you spend on gin?'
Their conversation was interrupted by sirens as two more police cars sped into the car park. Police constables leapt from their vehicles and ran into the building. Alarms were still going off inside.
Nakishdan gazed out the window. 'I never knew the people in the upstairs wards could keep a riot going for this long. You have to admire them, really.'
Mixt nodded. 'We should probably go home. I don't think we'll be getting any therapy this week.'
Rainith the Red pursued her abducted friend through the streets of London, flying above the car as it sped north along Upper Street before turning into Holloway Road. The streets were quiet and the car was travelling fast. Rainith had some trouble keeping pace with it, though she made up ground when the vehicle stopped at traffic lights. It had started to rain, which further hindered her progress. She beat her wings furiously, fifty feet above the ground, determined not to lose sight of the car.
As she flew, Rainith was working on her plan of action. She was sure her fairy sword would smash a windscreen, and determined to attack the car if she could just catch up. The occupants would have to come out and fight, and Rainith had no qualms about fighting any three strangers. She was a confident swordswoman. She was also angry, which boosted her confidence, and her desire for battle.
'How dare they kidnap my friend from a Dr Feelgood gig. I'll show them.'
Rainith wondered how the agents from 102 Woo travelled through time. Did they have to reach some destination before they made the journey? She presumed that they did, or else they'd have left by now.
'Unless they don't need to travel through time? Maybe they can go back home from this era?'
Rainith realised how little she knew about 102 Woo. She cursed her Department for not learning more. Ms Darben, Glade, Duluth, they were all useless.
They'd travelled all the way up Holloway Road and had almost reached Archway when Rainith, now tiring, made a frantic bid to intercept the car before it made its way past the traffic lights at the tube station. She thundered down from the sky and, once again caring little if anyone saw her actions, transformed into her human size. In one movement she drew her sword and aimed a savage slash at the windscreen. To her satisfaction, is shattered under the impact. Fairy steel, refined by the master fairy blacksmiths, made for a powerful blade.
Immediately, three black-clad agents from 102 Woo leapt from the car to confront her. Rainith had a brief glimpse of Geeda Lala on the back seat before she found herself very hard pressed. She was forced back over the pavement by three skilful fighters. If they'd been taken by surprise by her sudden attack, it hadn't put them off. They outflanked her, advancing in a practiced manoeuvre, each wielding the curiously shaped blade carried by 102 Woo. Rainith stood with her back to a shop doorway, and snarled at her opponents. She was about to fling herself at them when they were interrupted by a small girl in an unusual hat, who appeared out of nowhere, and stood at Rainith's side.
'47 Jeng will come to your assistance,' she said.