N°1 knew he shouldn't, but he couldn't resist a parting crack.

"I now pronounce you . . ."

Neither hand-holder was amused, but before they had time to do more than scowl, twin bolts of red energy crackled from N°1's eyes, blasting his friends into the time stream.

"Man and elf," he said, finishing his joke, then chuckling delightedly.

Artemis opened his eyes as he hurtled through the time stream, catching a glimpse of sufficiently confused looking man, wearing a beard and pointy hat, before being dragged further down the stream.

A much younger man, wearing an equally pointy hat, rushed to the old man's side, eagerly surveying the newly burnt carpet.

The older man turned to the younger. "Mr Stibbons, the next word out of your mouth better not be quantum."