I’m currently stuck at the Orlando airport in pre-flight limbo. I’m here too early to check-in or even drop of my suitcase and have only myself for amusement. After making one last perusal of the Disney and Universal stores and procuring a much needed smoked butterscotch iced latte from the demented mermaid (aka, Starbucks), I’m now relegated to sitting outside the security checkpoint, watching an endless stream of people shuffle past. It really is endless: for every person that advances, another two step in behind them to perpetuate the line. Welcome to the Orlando International Airport.
Since I’m too tired for that to hold my attention for long, I’ve decided to blog. In my defense, I’ve had a mid-week one half-ready to go up for a couple days. Because I’m an early riser and my travel companions are not.
Usually an early riser. Today I really wish I’d had another two hours to sleep.
I have this friend. We’ll call her…Vicki (because that’s her name). I’ve known Vicki for something like fifteen years, give or take a month, which means I entered into both sources of my insanity – our friendship and my current employment – at around the same time. It’s hard to say which of the two has made me crazier, but I know which one’s been more fun.
Among her many endearing quirks is her tendency to hand me completely unexpected (but usually awesome) story ideas when I should be busy with other projects. If I may indulge the court, here is Exhibit A: the first day of this year’s NaNoWriMo, while I’m sitting in my region’s first write-in of the year, mid-paragraph on my quasi-Steampunk paranormal alternate history experiment, she pings me with “Hey, I have this great plot bunny for you!” and then proceeds to map out a great story concept that I had no time to work on whatsoever, but has been dancing around in my brain since, begging for me to do something with it.
This is a bad thing because I have enough ideas spinning around in my brain looking for a highway exit to my to-do list without her adding to them. Not that that’s ever stopped her before.
You’re about to read Exhibit B.
A little more background to explain, before I unleash this insanity upon you: I am a Whovian. If this is a new word for you, it means I’m a fan of Doctor Who. (If that is a new term for you, get thee to Google, you’ll thank me later.) Vicki is a Whovian as well. She’d tell you it’s my fault, but all I did was point her in the direction of the show and say “Look, it’s something shiny!”. I just led her to the water; she decided to drink it.
I have this theory that her rampant plot bunny-gifting is payback for getting her hooked on Doctor Who. Or Torchwood. Maybe Penny Dreadful. Maybe all the above and any additional things I’ve introduced her to that I might have forgotten. I don’t have definitive evidence to back up this theory, but it’s a fairly sound one, I think.
When I was casting the first Holmes story, Jenna Coleman, circa the Doctor Who Series Seven Christmas Special, looked the part of my perfect Holmes. Interestingly, Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, fit as the Mycroft to my Charlotte perfectly. This Mycroft is Charlotte’s fraternal twin, genetically gifted enough that his preference for sloth hasn’t caught up with him yet. He’s also a younger man than we meet in the books and thus not quite as homebound as his canon counterpart.
With all this information at her disposal, and knowing that I’ve committed myself to penning a story to go with each of my blogs, Vicki made the following suggestion one day:
“My espresso’d brain just gave birth to a plot bunny for you: Charlotte Holmes meets the Eleventh Doctor.”
So, since she put the idea in my brain and left it to germinate like some out of control alien plague, she is the one to blame for this. At least I have a quasi-canon story I can tie it to, and since it’s going to be a multi-parter, I’ll probably save the finale for when I take on “A Case of Identity” in a few weeks. For now…
Act One: Clara
Clara Oswald never feels entirely comfortable when she visits the Victorian Era. There’s baggage here: people who knew her – the version of her that spilt out of the Doctor’s time stream and landed in London as a barmaid and governess. The version that died here, as the Doctor watched, spurring him on in his search for the Impossible Girl. Victorian London, to put it simply, makes her twitchy.
Here she is, though, wandering around in a bloody corset and a ridiculous hat, trying to find where the Doctor ran off to. “Oh sure, he tells us not to run off, but wave a shiny temporal abnormality at him and poof!” She’s talking to herself, walking along an empty, early morning street. The sky is a dark gray – a darker version of that shade of foggy, bland gray London is famous for – and the sun hasn’t bothered to rise enough to even hint at itself yet. The street vendors haven’t, either. It’s not, strictly speaking, the safest time to be wandering London alone. But here she is. Why? Because someone buggered off and hasn’t made it back to the TARDIS yet.
“’Stay here, Clara’” she says, imitating her Doctor’s manic tone. ”’Don’t leave. I’ll be back. I just have to track down something big and growly that has a taste for the humany-wumany.’ Hah! Worried about me gettin’ into trouble, where’s…” A loud clang interrupts her. Her head snaps in the direction the sound came from, down a dark, foreboding alley at her right. At times like this, she wonders what Victorian women had against pockets, because a smallish weapon in hers would come in handy right about now. Also at times like these, she wonders why the human impulse is always to walk toward the strange sound in the alley, instead of fleeing in the opposite direction as fast as possible. Of the two choices, the one she picks is the latter.
Impossible Girl or not, she still is only human.
“Just a cat. Rat. Loose garbage. All it is, yeah?” She pauses two steps into the alley and bends to pick up a broken piece of wood. Might be silly enough not to run, not silly enough to charge in unarmed. “Yeah. Of course. Just an innocent noise, Clara. Nothin’ to worry about.” It’s still too dark to make out anything of her surroundings, short of vague shapes that only add to the creep-factor of the place and the moment. She can only almost make out the end of the alley for that matter, and depth perception’s kind of bollocks in so little light. If she walks right into a brick wall, she wouldn’t be the slightest bit…
Something grabs her elbow. She screams and spins, swinging the plank as she does. It makes contact with something – something that makes a “squish” sound, like flesh getting pummeled with something solid, like a large wooden plank swung at nowhere near maximum velocity. She pulls back for another swing, but her attacker grabs the other end of the wood in both hands to stop it before impact.
“Blast it, Charlotte! Stop hitting me!” The voice almost sounds familiar – if familiar means mostly entirely not with just a hint of something close to maybe a little bit. Clara tugs at the plank to pull it free, but her only-slightly-maybe-familiar attacker keeps a strong hold on the wood. With one yank, he plucks it from her hands entirely and tosses it across the alley. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
“M’not the one stalkin’ after strange women in dark alleys.” She takes a step back and around, trying to edge past her new “friend” and toward the exit. “So, if you’ll let me just…” As they turn into the light from the gas lamp across the way, the man’s face is illuminated enough that she can pick out the more-than-slightly-maybe-familiar features of the Doctor staring back at her. “Doctor! Why didn’t you say so?? I’ve been lookin’ for you everywhere. D’you realize how long you’ve been gone, you idiot?”
The Doctor stares back at her with a bland, almost concerned, almost unDocterly, expression. “If you’re mistaking me for Watson, either the light is very bad or you really have gone mad. And I don’t know why you would be looking for either of us to begin with. Where you should be is at home, where I told you to stay, far removed from whatever madness this all is. Wandering Catherine Street in the middle of the night, for God’s sake! Anne would faint if I told her.” He takes hold of her elbow and shoves her in the direction of the other side of the street.
“You’re makin’ no sense whatsoever right now.” Clara tugs against the hand on her arm. “Why d’you sound funny? Who the hell is Watson? Or Anne? And why’d you call me Charlotte?”
“I’m making no sense? Did you hit your head somewhere this evening?” His free hand reaches for her chin. She slaps it away. “I’m not the one who sounds funny. You sound like a blasted lunatic. Charlotte is your name. What else should I call you?”
“Charlotte’s not m’name. Haven’t hit my head. Don’t sound funny. Also not crazy. Very funny joke and all, Doctor, but can we stop messin’ about now and get back to the – “
A loud, ground-shaking clang cuts through the night, followed by an unnatural roar. Clara grabs the Doctor – it is the Doctor, isn’t it? – to steady herself.
“Sounds like our cue,” she says, and takes off running, pulling the Doctor behind her.