Billie Potts had been a waitress in Doc’s Saloon, Lukesville for about a year now, and one thing she’d learned was that you needed to be observant. Like, for instance, observing that the woman who had just ordered breakfast had the same unusual eye as the trail boss who’d come in last night. She mentioned this quietly.
“Yup,” said the woman, unabashedly. “You’ll hear people callin’ the boss ‘Heath’, but the name’s Heather. I reckon it’s a bit of an open secret, but they ain’t gonna make a fuss about it, on account of I’m the best trail boss they’ve got.”
“Really?” said Billie. She looked round to check the place was quiet, “I’d love to hear more about it.”
Heather grinned. “Sure you wouldn’t rather be spendin’ time with the lady you gave an extra helping of fried potatoes?”
Oh, yeah, Billie thought, Doc also taught me to remember other people can be observant too.
“So she’s gone?” Bill asked the Doctor.
“I’m sorry, but yes. This body is empty. The PILOT system … it’s sent her out into cyberspace somewhere.”
“Right,” Bill looked determined, “Well, you offered to teach me to be a netrunner, so if I’m gonna find her again, we’d better get started.”
Since the last we saw they were both made of smart-liquid, I think I get a pass on this one…
Upon arriving at the castle, Bill was surprised to be greeted by animated furniture, led by a grandfather clock who introduced himself as the Doctor, and a spherical light-fitting the Doctor briefly referred to as Nardole. Together they explained that the lady of the castle had been cursed to become a pool of water until her True Love found her.
“Right,” said Bill, “So it’s Sleeping Beauty meets Beauty and the Beast and I’m Philip and Belle. Which, with my surname, is a bit of a relief.”
. . . In SPACE!!
It was only Bill’s second day on the HMS Camden Lock, but she was already having doubts about the rest of the crew. And she really didn’t like what they’d done to Heather to make her the Pilot.
Bill gazed at the burning fields.
“So the world is collapsing, the people are mostly dead, the Doctor is nearly dead, and the two of us are pretty much the last ones left. How is this different from canon again?”
“Careful,” said Heather, “That’s the second time you’ve broken the fourth wall in one of these. You don’t want it to become a habit.”
“Pointing that out doesn’t exactly help with the metafiction either. Personally, I reckon the author just can’t do Apocalypse and knows it, so he’s trying to distract everyone.”
As Bill walked through the playground, she saw Heather apparently staring at a puddle. “Hey,” she said. Heather turned, revealing that she was actually staring at her phone.
“Oh, hi,” she said, “You’ve got to see this. It’s a talent show, like BGT but from the old days. It’s really funny.”
“Okay,” said Bill, “What’s it called?”
“Stars in Their Eyes.”
It was Bill’s first day on the air ambulance. As she got in she doubletaked, “Heather? You’re the pilot?”
“Of course. Strap in, we’ll be taking off in a moment.”
“But … last week you were driving an ambulance. A regular ambulance, I mean.”
“I can drive – or fly – anything,” Heather said, simply.
Bill smiled, “And you just happen to always be driving the vehicle I’m assigned to?
Bill Potts ran.
A few weeks earlier, her tutor at the Lucas Institute of Approved Knowledge had unexpectedly turned out to be a deranged alien who called himself the Leader. Apparently having a pathological need for some kind of audience to his activities, he’d decided to drag her across time and space with him. Finally, she’d managed to give him the slip on a huge spaceship, where he was converting the inhabitants (Telosians, she thought he’d said) into some kind of cyborgs. She figured she needed to get out before he decided she was next.
What she didn’t know was where she was going. Even if she found some kind of escape pod or something, what next? She didn’t know when she was, or how far it was to Earth. She needed some kind of transport that could…
As she thought this a pool of water near her feet rose up into a familiar form.
“Oh, great,” she said aloud. “The other alien monster who wanted to kidnap me.”
They called it the Great War or the War to End Wars. Possibly by ending everything else.
On one side were the squat steam tanks of the Skaronians, on the other the silvery automaton soldiers of Movellia. Both sides creating perfect battle plans through their difference engines, then perfectly countering said plans. Neither side prepared to consider that perhaps ignoring the strategy engines would enable them to achieve something their opponents could not predict. The result: a stalemate that had lasted for decades.
And in the middle, Miss Wilhelmina Potts, who had somehow found herself in the centre of the warzone, after fleeing Bristol with her guardian to escape scandal and heartbreak. (Said guardian had blamed his valet for booking passage on the first ship out of port without checking where it was going. Said valet had pointed out that “book us passage on the first ship out of port” was exactly what he had been told to do.)
Some might have said that it was therefore particularly unfair that the source of her scandal and heartbreak was also on the Movellian land-cruiser they had been travelling on, having unexpectedly emerged from one of the Skaronian steam tanks that had recently swarmed the vessel.
Miss Potts, however, felt that it was perhaps the first thing that had gone right in a long time.