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Sufficiently Advanced Technology

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“She’s a Pegasus,” the Doctor said.

This statement was, Jenkins felt, somewhat unnecessary. He couldn’t have worked for the Library for the length of time he had and fail to recognise a winged horse when one was standing in front of him. Even if ‘Pegasus’ was incorrect terminology, being in fact the name of one very specific member of a particular sub-species.

“Just a little one,” continued the Doctor, as if young beings didn’t have a tendency to grow into full-sized ones. He waved a hand vaguely in the direction of the tiny, pale, cyan-hued creature. “Peggy, come here and say hello to Mr Jenkins who is going to be feeding you second-hand articles of clothing from now on.”

Jenkins raised an eyebrow but refrained from observing that it must be the rare northern breed that possibly had goat somewhere in its ancestry, in case the Doctor took that as encouragement. He instead followed up the raised eyebrow with a disapproving stare. “Yes. So I see, sir. But why is it here in the Annexe?”

“I could hardly keep it in St Luke’s,” said the Doctor. “I’ve only got one secret vault over there and that’s already occupied. And the occupant definitely isn’t someone who should be allowed anywhere near an innocent baby pegasus. You know what else?” He leaned in closer and lowered his voice. “You really really can’t trust students with things like this, either. At least, not in this decade.”

“Yes, but why is it – she – here?”

“Isn’t the Library the place for articles and creatures that could be said to be magical if one were ignorant enough and superstitious enough to look at it that way?”

Jenkins coughed. “That is, if I dare say it, just a little rich coming from you. Sir.”

“Yes, but she’s from forty-first century Venus, and while I don’t know exactly how she got to one of my lectures, I didn’t think she should stay there. It’s still got nothing to do with magic.”

Since Jenkins dealt with magic on a daily basis even if it he approached it in a thorough, careful and scientific manner, he gave a small sigh. Besides, it was ironic, given the Doctor’s history, or his present, come to that, either of which might actually be the other way around, depending on how you looked at it. He travelled across time and space in a magical box that could easily be related to the Library. And once upon a time – a time that Jenkins would generally prefer not to dwell on too heavily – he had been so much more than that.

The baby pegasus looked from one to the other and ate a duster Jenkins had just been doing some vital cleaning with.

“The point is, sir, that this isn’t the Library. It’s the Annexe. You should go to the main entrance. Ask for Charlene and tell her you have a winged foal of the northern variety in need of adoption. I expect she’ll give you the proper forms to fill out.”

The Doctor looked at Peggy. “Or you could just pass her on. I don’t want her getting attached to me or something. She’s already eaten my favourite velvet jacket.”

As if on cue, Peggy trotted over and took a bite out of Jenkins’s jacket, which was lying on the desk where he’d discarded it in the midst of one of the experiments that he spent his time on, alone here in the Annexe. Alone being the operative word, and how he preferred it, thank you.

“She’s harmless enough,” said the Doctor. “I’m not sure what’s with the fabric-eating, though. Some forty-first century Venusian genetic tinkering, I suppose. It’s all those arms. They’ve got to keep themselves occupied with something.”

Jenkins gave him another look.

“Oh, and she seems to maybe grant wishes, although, of course, it could have been coincidence that the rain of jelly babies happened at the exact same moment.”

Jenkins drew in a breath.

“Yeah, no, don’t ask,” said the Doctor. “Nostalgic moment. It soon passed. Unlike the mountain of jelly babies, despite the best efforts of a lot of students. Anyway, I can’t let her wonder around granting random wishes to students, or worse, the faculty members. And as you know very well, there are plenty of unscrupulous people who’d kill for only one of her feathers, let alone the whole horse. But I knew she’d be safe here.”

Jenkins gave a nod, recognising it as a compliment. He gave a slight smile. “I seem to remember someone once telling me that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Of course, I now also know where you stole the phrase from, but the point is still valid.”

“Ah,” said the Doctor, and grinned. “Galahad.”

“Merlin,” Jenkins said, and then shook his head. “No such thing as magic?”

“I’ve lived a very long life full of more than sufficiently advanced technology. It’s understandable if the two get confused on occasions. Besides, that was a long time ago in maybe another universe and I’m not sure if I’ve done that bit yet or never will now. It’s complicated, and there’s a lot I’ve forgotten along the way. But you recognised me?”

Jenkins put one hand, gentle but restraining to the creature’s neck before it could make a spirited attempt to eat the contents of his Petri dish, and nudged it back to what remained of his tweed jacket. “Always,” he said. “No matter what form you take.”

The Doctor also looked at Peggy, nibbling on the jacket’s lining. “I think I like your new style better.”

“Yes,” said Jenkins. “So do I.”

“A caretaker of sorts?”

“Yes.”

The Doctor gave a short laugh. “There are worse things to be.”

“Indeed there are.”

They exchanged another look in an uncertain, unspoken truce, and then Peggy caught their attention with a coughing sound before she spat out three buttons, and then calmly turned around and bit the white sheet lying on the opposite desk.

Jenkins gave a yell but was too late.

“Merlin! That was the Shroud of Turin!”

“You think it might give her indigestion?”

“Well, it is most certainly not a promising turn of events,” said Jenkins. “I suggest, sir, that you do something!”

The Doctor shifted towards the door. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll manage. More your sort of thing than mine.” Then, his hand resting on the door handle, he turned and gave a fleeting, bright grin. “Like old times, eh?”

“Forgive me, but I sincerely hope not.” Jenkins directed a glare at the winged horse.

“If you really won’t take her,” the Doctor said, “I suppose I could try Sarah Jane instead. I usually send her my old pets anyway, and she hasn’t complained so far. Picks up stray children, too, although she might not actually have started doing that yet. It’s difficult to be sure.”

Jenkins had a feeling that Sarah Jane, whoever she might be, would probably have a very different view on the subject of having an unexpected mythical creature delivered to her door. “No, no, since you’ve brought the creature here, I will see to it that she’s given a place in the Library.”

“Great, thank you,” said the Doctor. “Give my love to the Library. Thought it best not to try and materialise inside after what happened last time. If it’s still annoyed, give it my apologies. It does tend to hoard, though, and I needed that Osiran artefact very badly. Which was also not magic, by the way.”

Jenkins waved him off. “Just go, Doctor. We’ll have a chance to talk at our next meeting. I remember it well.”

“Ah,” said the Doctor. Merlin lived his life backwards, or at least severely out of order. Jenkins didn’t envy him that. Immortality was difficult enough as it was. “Until next time, then!”

Jenkins watched him go and then turned back to Peggy, crouching down to her level with some difficulty. He heaved a sigh. “I know I’m going to regret this, and there will no doubt be consequences, but I think it might be worse for us both if I don’t.” He cleared his throat with a cough. “I wish you had not eaten the Shroud of Turin.”

The fraying off-white cloth reappeared in his hand.

“Thank you,” Jenkins said, and then with a shake of his head: “Sufficiently advanced technology indeed.”

Peggy bowed her delicate head and glowed a brighter blue.

“And if technology reaches the point where it is indistinguishable from magic, then in what sense is it not magic? In what sense is magic then not advanced technology, even if never an exact science?” Jenkins patted the creature’s mane. “You would think of all people I wouldn’t need to tell him that. Ah, well. Let’s get you properly fed. I have some hideous old curtains somewhere you’ll love. Mustard coloured. Velvet. Slightly moth-eaten, but you don’t seem to be a picky eater.”

Peggy glowed blue again, and followed Jenkins away from the desk. Perhaps company of a sort wouldn’t be so bad. It wasn’t as if he had to deal with any Librarians, after all.