Donna Noble wasn't exactly having a good time. Normally she loved the random and exciting places the Doctor took her to, but this place was somehow off, and the sights weren't precisely thrilling her. The river stank to high heaven and was made up more of mud and sludge than water, to the point that she swore she saw people walking on the bloody thing. The Doctor had so far dragged her to some place called 'The Dwarf Bread Museum' (which, to her eyes, seemed to be an exhibit of various unappetising rocks), some pub called 'The Mended Drum' (which was apparantly in a constant state of being mended, if the bar fight they narrowly escaped from was any indication), and a dubious looking food cart to sample the local cuisine. The demented street seller had tried to make her buy a rat-onna-stick (Rat! On a stick! With ketchup, like that would make it any better!), and she'd quickly walked away, dragging the Doctor with her by his tie.
And what kind of a ruddy name was 'Ankh Morpork', anyway? It was ridiculous, no matter what planet you were from.
There was a crowd gathering near what looked to be a dilapidated warehouse, and Donna rolled her eyes as the Doctor was naturally drawn towards it. He couldn't help himself. Present him with a crowd milling about all interested in something or other, and his nose started twitching and pulling him in.
"What's going on here, then?" he asked a rather unwholesome looking... something.
"We're testing the Watch's new PowerShot Cannon," the creature replied cheerfully. "Well, new to us, anyway. Wizards found it buried in the cellars of the University and decided to donate it to us. Thought it might come in handy for us with protecting the city."
The Doctor frowned, "The Unseen University?"
"Yeah, 'course. Who else?"
"You're playing with something that the wizards gave you?" The Doctor looked mildly disturbed at this idea. The troll thing nodded its head enthusiastically.
"Nobby! Stop chattering and give us a hand, will you?" an irate looking woman in armour shouted from where she was bracing the cannon in place with her back, feet planted firmly on the ground.
"Oops, I'd better be off. Don't want to get on Angua's bad side, wrong time of the month and all," and with that said, he hurried off to help.
Donna jumped in shock as he passed behind her. "Oh, God, that... monkey pinched my arse!"
"'S'not a monkey, miss," piped up a small, grubby child that Donna could only describe as an urchin who could have appeared right out of Oliver Twist. She fought the reflexive urge to check her pockets hadn't been picked. The urchin wiped some snot from his nose with an equally grubby sleeve as he continued. "That's Corporal Nobbs, miss. He's human. Got a certificate signed by the Patrician and everything."
Donna stared at Corporal Nobbs as he grinned and gave her a little wave. She wasn't convinced. Neither was the Doctor if his perplexed expression was anything to go by. He shook his head quickly, and wandered after the corporal, probably to get a closer look at the machine. He always was a sucker for new toys.
Following after him, Donna stopped next to a rather attractive and muscular young man and tapped his shoulder to get his attention. "Excuse me, but should you really be testing that here... um... what's your name?"
"Oh, I'm Captain Carrot, ma'am. It should be perfectly safe," he responded, "This building is due to be torn down as part of a revitalisation scheme in the area. Perfect opportunity to test the PowerShot."
"Bit... close to the other buildings, though?" she asked dubiously, pointing to the buildings that were crammed together nearby. Carrot blinked politely at her. "I mean, it's a stonking, great cannon, right? With the added oomph of 'PowerShot' thrown in for the heck of it? Strikes me that you could do more damage than planned, if you're not careful."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry, Donna," the Doctor said appearing next to her. He hooked his arm through hers and pulled her gently back towards the crowd. "It's a Bloody Stupid Johnson invention," he explained.
"What? What have willies got to do with bloody stupid inventions?"
"No, no, no. That's his name. Well, no. His name is actually Bergholt Stuttley Johnson, but everyone knows him as Bloody Stupid Johnson. Bit of a misnomer, really, given that the man was a complete and utter genius... of sorts. I mean, the things he came up with! Fantastic creations that could even astound the Time Lords! And it takes a lot to impress a Time Lord like that, believe me. I met him once, must have been in my third - no, fourth! - incarnation, and he was..."
Donna coughed pointedly over his waffling. "I'm loving the history lesson here, Doctor, but is there a point?"
"Well, yes, the point is that Mr. Johnson's inventions never actually did what they were supposed to do. Had a real problem following any kind of design specification, so what he set out to build ended up being something completely different and unpredictable."
"Well, there's an organ up at the University that can cause the entire building to move on its foundations by several inches, and trigger acute bowel discomfort in a large chunk of the surrounding population. Not pleasant, that, trust me."
Donna privately thought that a regular organ was enough to cause her to experience acute bowel discomfort, but didn't say anything. She eyed the PowerShot suspiciously, "What, so that thing isn't actually going to blow anything up?"
"Unlikely. Probably end up being... ooooh, I don't know... a decorative fountain?"
"Well, if it's useless as a cannon, then, why are they bothering?"
"They haven't worked out it's a Bloody Stupid Johnson creation. I expect the wizards were having a clearout, saw something cannon-shaped, and decided that foisting it off on the Watch would be the easiest way to get rid of it."
"They're wizards, though! Wise men, right? Surely they'd try to find out what it was and if it was safe before they handed it over?"
The Doctor sucked thoughtfully through his teeth. "Not exactly. Bit of a mad bunch, wizards on the Disc. Actually, very mad in the case of Professor Dinwiddie... I think he's the Bursar right now, actually. Might be worth popping in and visiting him for some entertainment..." he trailed off at Donna's glare. "Right. Yes. The wizards. Unreliable lot. Except for the Librarian. Top orangutan, that Librarian, certainly got the brains and the common sense among that lot. The rest? Bunch of lazy, bumbling old men who don't really have any clue what they're doing. Though they do have an uncanny ability to get themselves into all kinds of dire situations."
"Oh, studied from the best there then, didn't you?" Donna snorted in amusement. "I expect you graduated top of the class in 'How to successfully and repeatedly get yourself into Dire Situations'." The Doctor gave her a wounded look, but she was saved from any possible comeback he may have had by a commotion by the PowerShot.
"Okay, we're ready!" Captain Carrot shouted. The entire crowd promptly took several steps back as a female dwarf (at least Donna assumed female; the makeup, leather skirt and heeled boots suggested this was the case, though the beard confused things a little) stepped up to the cannon and lit the fuse. The crowd waited with baited breath for a few seconds.
And then all hell broke loose.
The cannon started jumping about on the wooden struts holding it in place. The crowd pressed backwards to give the thing more room, though no one seemed inclined to do something sensible, like running away. Instead, everyone watched with rapt anticipation. The bucking quickly became so violent that the struts soon gave way, and the cannon started bouncing around on the cobbles, causing a series of deafening clangs as iron struck stone. Then, suddenly, it stopped dead still. There was a strange, metallic popping and gurgling coming from within the belly of the beast, and then it was slowly setting itself upright, squat end resting on the cobbles, barrel pointing up towards the sky.
Everyone waited. After a minute of still silence, people started looking at each other in confusion, then back at the cannon. Another minute passed by, and the crowd started to grumble with disappointment, while the members of the Watch took a few, cautious steps towards the PowerShot.
Then, it exploded.
Not in a shower of sparks and fireworks and falling debris as everyone had expected, but in giant, spurting arcs of rainbow-coloured slime that cascaded in all directions, covering all the members of the Watch, and those in the crowd who had been unfortunate enough to be standing towards the front.
There was a moment of stunned silence, and then a collective 'eew' rose from the gathered masses.
"Well, that was certainly unexpected," the Doctor observed as goo dripped from his hair.
"But... but... they put giant, sodding cannon balls in that things! Made from iron! Where did all this crud come from?" Donna gestured wildly at the iridescent slime that was covering her. A giant clod of the stuff went flying from her arm and further back into the crowd, causing a fair few disgusted squeaks and curses.
"Yeah, another thing about Bloody Stupid Johnson, that," the Doctor said, sticking his hands in his pockets, mindless of the gunk, and rocking back on his feet, "Quite a few of his inventions managed to even break the laws of physics. Bloody brilliant, that man." The grin that exploded on his face was soon wiped off as Donna whacked him on the chest. "Ow! What was that for?"
"'Decorative fountain', he says! 'I wouldn't worry about it, Donna', he says! Sometimes, Doctor, you are an utter numpty!"
"Oi, I got the fountain part right!" the Doctor pointed out indignantly. "And really, the gunk is very pretty. I'd say that counted as decorative!"
Donna gave him a disgusted look as she started walking gingerly in the direction of the TARDIS for a long, hot shower, flicking goo off as she went. She was so demanding a trip to an exotic spa to make up for this escapade, and the Doctor would bloody well take her or she'd be kicking his skinny arse out of the TARDIS doors and right into what passed as Ankh Morpork's river, just see if she didn't.