The tiny, spherical robot delivered its report. 'Structural integrity very poor. Danger of imminent collapse.'
'It's fine,' said Mathematician Girsin.
Deetmir whirred in agitation. 'Not fine. Stress tests reveal weakness in all areas.'
'All right, I'm not very good at putting up tents,' growled the young mathematician. 'There's no need to on about it.'
'Slight breeze may bring down the entire structure.'
'I'm sure we'll survive.' Girsin scowled. Erecting his tent had proved to be challenging. 'You know I had to hammer in tent pegs? It's so antiquated.'
'You weren't concentrating. Emotional read-outs suggest your recent humiliation at the hands of the female Mixt interfered with your thoughts.'
Girsin attempted to swat Deetmir, which was circling round his head. The tiny robot adroitly avoided the blow. A small, transparent screen bleeped as it emerged from Girsin's palm. He studied it intently.
'What's the alert?' asked Deetmir. '102 Woo?'
'They're not here yet.'
'Then who is it?'
'Another visitor from the future. Not human.'
Girsin shook his head. He frowned. 'Doesn't seem to be. Something else.'
'Something else? There isn't anything else here. Humans, animals, and a few Kesh.'
'There are fairies. These readings look similar.'
Deetmir connected to Girsin's screen to study the data. 'It's a creature called an Elf,' it said, after only a few seconds.
'An Elf? What's that?'
Deetmir brought up a page of information. Girsin frowned as he read it. 'These creatures aren't meant to be real.'
'Neither were fairies, but we've met them.'
'This simulation is a mess. Where did they come from?'
'Unknown. Some flaw in the programming, possibly. Unless they emerged as a result of Geeda Lala's arrival. She caused a lot of disruption when she crash landed. All the more reason to eradicate her.'
Girsin didn't seem to be listening. He was still studying the screen. 'What's this Elf doing here?'
'You'd have eradicated Geed Lala by now if you hadn't become distracted by that woman Mixt.'
'102 Woo can deal with Geeda.'
'Obviously they can't. That's why they hired you. Not to waste your time asking women to accompany you to see the pyramids. And be humiliated when she refused.' Deetmir bleeped quite cheerfully, his equivalent of laughing.
Girsin scowled at him. 'Most woman would have appreciated a free trip to the pyramids.'
'Not when they've already seen them. It strikes me that your standard means of impressing females by offering to show them the glories of history is a complete failure when the woman in question has already lived through it.'
'Deetmir, I really am going to de-activate you one day. Can't you do something useful for a change?'
'Find out what the Elf is doing here. I don't like the way these strange creatures keep appearing.'
Nakishdan noticed that Mixt, in the unusual environment of the festival, seemed to forget many of her obsessions. Normally she'd have been highly averse to using any cup, plate or piece of cutlery that had recently been used by anyone else. During their communal meal around the tent, she seemed not to notice that she was doing just that. She hadn't counted how many steps there were between their tent and the next, or become upset and confused because she'd stepped on some leaves with one foot and didn't quite know where to put the other. Their mission, and the unfamiliar surroundings, appeared to have driven much of this from her mind. Nakishdan was pleased, and hoped it would continue. They sat with Geeda, Rainith and Fourteen Trees around a small fire in front of their tent, drinking tea, and a very large can of beer they'd bought at a stall.
'Party Seven,' said Nakishdan. 'You don't see these any more.'
Mixt laughed. 'No wonder.'
It had take quite an effort to open the huge can, which had yielded eventually to a combination of Nakishdan and Rainith's swords.
'How did people open these without weaponry?'
'Screwdriver and a hammer,' said Mixt. 'It was never easy.' She wrinkled her nose. 'Never the best beer either. Though it was handy, seven pints in one tin.'
Mixt looked around at them all. 'I have two things on my mind. Firstly, where to get gin. It's not really a festival drink, but I'm sure there will be some somewhere. Please keep your eyes open. Secondly, this entire situation can't continue. It's time to decide what to do.'
'About what, exactly?' said Nakishdan.
'About Geeda Lala. Geeda, this really can't go on. You're still interfering with our past. Now you're stuck here with Rainith and we're still having to come back and protect you from 102 Woo.'
'I'm not going home,' said Geeda Lala. 'Fourteen Trees said she can hide us.'
'She can hide you if you don't do stupid things to give yourself away. Which you always do.'
'I like this,' said Nakishdan. 'It's like a council of war round the campfire. Did that happen in Lord of the Rings?'
'I don't think so.' Said Mixt. 'Please don't change the subject. 'Geeda, it really would be best if you were to go home. I - '
'I'm sure the Elves had a council of war. I remember liking that bit in the film.'
'That's not relevant at the moment!' Mixt looked frustrated. 'Stop talking about Elves! There aren't any Elves!'
'Aren't there? I thought there were. Rainith, are there any Elves?'
'Don't talk to me about Elves,' said Rainith, and scowled.
'Why not? Don't you like them?'
'There aren't any Elves!' said Mixt, raising her voice.
'Strop talking about Elves' yelled Rainith. The fairy stood up, threw down her glass, and stormed off.
Mixt turned to Nakishdan. 'Did you absolutely have to ruin my discussion? Could you not concentrate for one minute?'
Nakishdan looked abashed. 'Sorry. I didn't know Rainith would get so mad about Elves. I wonder what she has against them?'
The sun shone over the Isle of Wight. On the third day of the festival there was a general air of contentment as people gathered in font of the stage to watch the bands. There had been rumours of trouble outside the festival, with ticketless fans trying to force their way in, but inside, everyone seemed cheerful. Apart from Rainith. She was eyeing the band on stage, Emerson Lake and Palmer, with annoyance. Rainith had ventured into the music arena knowing she'd hate the bands, but also knowing it would give her good material for her fanzine. Unfortunately, she'd miscalculated her tolerance levels for early 70s rock, and was now suffering badly.
'How can Emerson Lake and Palmer exist?' she wondered. 'It's like they're designed to be the worst band ever.'
Rainith gritted her teeth. She could feel her temper rising. 'I can't believe they're playing a drum solo,' she muttered. 'This is so painful.' Rainith looked around her at her fellow festival-goers, hoping for signs of disapproval. To her annoyance, she found none.
'How can these people sit there and listen to this idiot playing a drum solo for twenty minutes? What's the matter with everyone? We should be storming the stage.'
The fairy became increasingly agitated as the drum solo continued, with no sign of coming to an end. Finally she could stand it no longer. She leapt to her feet, shook her fist, and screamed at the stage.
'Stop playing the drums! No one likes it!'
There were some amused looks directed in Rainith's direction from the people sitting on the grass around her. In the sea of long hair, denim, cheesecloth, flowery dresses and tie-dye t-shirts, she already made a notable figure, with her red spiky hair and workman's overalls. However, as Rainith's abuse continued and intensified, the amused looks turned to puzzlement and hostility. When Rainith started screaming that she was going to invade the stage and stab the drummer, there was some consternation.
'Calm down, angry chick,' said one of the young men beside her.
'What do you mean calm down?' screamed the fairy. 'How can you listen to this!'
'Have some of this.' Another young man offered her his joint. Rainith knocked it out of his hand. In doing this, she brought an end the peaceful atmosphere. Both young men stood up to confront her. Rainith faced them, still shouting. For a moment it seemed like there might be a fight, which would have been unfortunate as Rainith, maddened by the drum solo, would have had no hesitation in cutting them down with her sword. Suddenly she found herself gripped from behind by both arms. Mixt and Nakishdan had arrived. They began to pull her away.
'Let go of me! I'm going to kill someone. And the band!'
'Let's take a break by the tent,' said Mixt, as they they hauled Rainith away from the angry crowd. The fairy continued to scream abuse at everyone, but allowed herself to be lead back to Mixt's tent. When they reached it, Rainith has calmed down a little, but still wore a fierce scowl.
'What happened?' asked Mixt.
'The drummer wouldn't stop playing his drum solo.'
'That's no reason to kill members of the audience.'
'Yes it is. They were encouraging him.'
Some time later, while Rainith was busily scribbling on pieces of paper, writing venomous articles for Fairies Hate You, Nakishdan emerged from his tent, where'd he'd been busy for some time. Mixt blinked. Nakishdan's kimono was now the brightest shade of yellow she'd ever seen.
'New metallic sheen.' Nakishdan was proud of his achievement. 'Took a lot of psychic power.' He looked round with a satisfied air. 'I like this festival. Sort of place you can walk around in a yellow kimono and people don't give you a hard time about it.'
Nakishdan looked at Mixt, and frowned. 'I thought you'd be more impressed.'
'I am. But I'm worried. We've been here two days and there's no sign of 102 Woo. I know they're going arrive. Can you sense anything?'
'Do you actually have any psychic power left for sensing anything?'
'No,' admitted Nakishdan. 'I used it all up on the kimono. But Fourteen Trees can't detect anything either.'
'I'm losing confidence in Fourteen Trees. She keeps sneaking off to buy chocolate. I'm not sure she's concentrating on protecting Geeda.'
'What sounds better?' called Rainith. ''The band should be thrown into an active volcano' or 'The band should all catch a horrible disease and die?''
'Eh… the active volcano, I think.' Mixt was still troubled. She was certain that something bad was coming. 102 Woo weren't going to pass up this opportunity to apprehend Geeda Lala.
'Maybe 102 Woo aren't functioning properly because Mathematician Girsin turned out to be such a disappointment?' suggested Nakishdan.
'What do you mean?'
'They hired him to help find Geeda and defeat 47 Jeng and instead of that all he does is try and take you to see the pyramids. That's got to be discouraging. Might have put them off completely. Maybe they've gone home to think of a new plan.'
'I don't think 102 Woo can be put off that easily. Though Girsin is strange. I can't imagine they're that happy with him.'
Mixt glanced at the pot on the campfire, and stirred it while adding seasoning. She didn't quite know how she'd ended up cooking for everyone, and wasn't that pleased about it, but as Nakishdan, Rainith, Geeda Lala and Fourteen Trees all seemed incapable of looking after themselves, she seemed to be stuck with it.
'When we get home you're going to learn to cook,' she muttered to Nakishdan. 'I'm not doing this again.'
'Who's that talking to Rainith?'
Mixt looked round. The young man standing beside Rainith looked familiar. He was tall, and very thin, with long brown hair spilling over his shoulders. He leaned over to read what the fairy had written, and he laughed, then sat down beside her. The normally hostile fairy didn't seem to object.
'Is that a very young David Bowie?' whispered Mixt.
'I think so.'
'Does Rainith recognise him?'
'Probably not. For a fairy she's quite stupid and unobservant.'
'I wonder what they're talking about?'
Though curious, Mixt and Nakishdan didn't interrupt, feeling that Rainith managing to strike up a civilised conversation with anyone was a big improvement on her normal behaviour.
After a while, the young David Bowie stood up and departed.
'Do you know who that was?' asked Mixt.
Rainith shrugged, not caring who it had been.
'What were you talking about?'
'He said he liked my red spiky hair,' said the fairy. 'I told him it would probably suit him.'