“Anything of note in the news today, madame?” Jenny asks.
Vastra sighs. “Little enough of social value, though compulsory schooling has been extended to children age eleven as well as made available to the blind and deaf.”
Nellie's eyes brighten. “That means Mary can go back for another year! Best news I heard since Allison agreed to watch Neville for the day. Course, that means I've got little Jimmy tomorrow, but he's none so bad.”
“Curses,” Strax says. “It appears I have just missed the cut-off. I should have valued the opportunity to learn more of this planet's culture before the Sontaran fleet bombards it out of existence.” The others ignore him.
“Oh dear,” Vastra says with a jolt. “'DeMarco Claims Another Victim,'” she reads. “Evidently that Boatwright woman's wound became infected and she died. The paper notes that we are unable to locate Mr. DeMarco, and have let him slip through our fingers repeatedly.” She closes the newspaper. “Jenny, have we done anything to anger a member of the press?”
“Far as I'm aware, the only member of the press we know is Mrs. Beer, and she's always been downright fond of us,” Jenny says with a shrug.
“She has been good about trying to call attention to the laundries,” Nellie recalls. Strax, too, shakes his broadly domed head.
Vastra frowns. “I feel as if our good name has been blackened lately, though perhaps it is simply easiest to kick us whilst we are down. See, here is another: Veiled Detective Abuses Connections! They claim that I'm exerting some sort of influence over members of Parliament, which is entirely false!”
“You are blackmailing three separate members of the House of Lords to continue supporting their wives and children with photographs of their affairs,” Jenny points out. “Rather spicy pictures, I might add.” She winks.
Vastra bites her lip but cannot help but smile at her wife's good cheer. “Blown drastically out of proportion at any rate. The writer makes it sound as though I can have legislation passed at my whim.” She snorts. “Goddess only knows how this country would look if that were the case.” Her face brightens. “I suppose we should be glad that whoever is penning these dreadful articles has not discovered our deepest secrets,” she admits, and Jenny signals her agreement by sitting on Vastra's lap and kissing her. Vastra returns the kiss, setting the paper beside them on the sofa. Nellie tries not to blush. Strax simply stares at a wall, waiting until his friends and employers have concluded their disgusting and inefficient habit of exchanging saliva samples.
“I suppose that this is the price of fame and fortune,” Jenny notes, lounging back across the sofa and Vastra's lap, doing a fair imitation of carefree.
“Oh?” Nellie asks.
“Isn't that how you know you've made it?” Jenny continues. “That you've got a rumor of one's own?” Nellie looks at her blankly as Vastra swats her wife's shoulder.
“For all your atrocious, anachronistic puns, my sweet, I think you are correct; there is little use and less justice in piling onto the burdens of those clinging to the bottom rung of society.”
“Like me, you mean,” Nellie interjects. “Don't worry, nobody's said much to us one way or the other. Helps that I keep a low profile about it.” She grins. “And that I have an adorable toddler at my side.”
Vastra nods. “It is probably for the best that you do not hitch your star too closely to ours.”
“Rather make my own way, anyhow,” Nellie agrees. “I'm raising my son, I turned that laundry into a worker-owned enterprise, and I can bloody well handle myself.”
Jenny half-nods in agreement, distracted by the back page of the newspaper. “What's this then?” she asks, straightening her posture and scanning the article. She allows herself a moment to be proud of her hard-earned reading skills, then starts picking out the critical details. “Looks like they found something up north.”
“Scotland?” Strax asks excitedly. Vastra rolls her eyes. Ever since the potato-shaped man had discovered an informal group of pugilists which gathered periodically in Glasgow to bludgeon one another half to death, he had spent almost all of his free time visiting the place. Vastra had far better ways to practice combat which involved losing fewer brain cells.
“No, the North Pole north,” Jenny corrects him. “Frozen in the ice. D'you remember meeting Mary Shelley, madame? It sounds a bit like the monster she described in her book.”
Vastra sighs. “At least if it has been in the Arctic for the past few decades, it can hardly have heard the latest gossip about us.”
“It says that Major Reginald Barclay, explorer and adventurer, is bringing the creature to his manor just outside of London, and will begin thawing it out tonight.” Jenny lowers the paper. “Shall I cancel this evening's appointments, madame?”
“I suppose you had better,” Vastra decides reluctantly. “And send for Dr. Doyle, as well; his scientific knowledge could prove invaluable.”
“My goodness,” Doyle says as they tell him what is afoot in the carriage ride. “I hardly know where to begin!” He bounces even more than one might expect from the cobbled roads. “The idea of creating life, perhaps even a new species, without traditional reproduction! Why, it would be a true marvel! And if the stories of the creature's origin are correct, then it would suggest that electricity and vital energy are linked, and can be transmuted from one into the other!” The others nod, and let him ramble on about new theories for a few moments.
“Do you think it would have a soul?” Nellie asks, finally interrupting Doyle's excited babble. “What with it not being...natural.”
“That, my dear, I cannot be certain of.”
Strax coughs. “May I point out that I am a member of a clone race?”
Nellie goes wide-eyed with embarrassment. “Sorry, Strax; I do forget sometimes, what with there only being one of you around. I just sort of assume you had a mum like everyone else.” She rubs her own belly thoughtfully. “Must be hard, not having a family you can turn to.”
“On the contrary, my clone batch numbers in the hundreds,” Strax boasts. “Every Sontaran is loyal to the empire, striving daily beside his clone siblings in glorious warfare!”
“Except you, Strax,” Jenny reminds him.
“Hm. Yes. I suppose not.”
“I more meant when you had emotional problems,” Nellie expounds, but is met with a blank look by the alien nurse. “Never mind.”
They are met at the gate of the manor by a pair of disturbingly familiar faces. “Go home,” Robert tells them. “Torchwood has this under control.”
“I highly doubt that,” Vastra says, bristling. “And I utterly lack faith in your ability to handle the matter in a humane fashion.”
“Haven't you caused enough ruckus?” Robert asks, brandishing a rolled-up newspaper instead of the revolver at his hip.
“Maybe it would be for the best if you stayed out of the limelight,” Eliza offers. “Just for a while, you know.”
None of them are so blind as to miss such a poorly-veiled threat, and Vastra is strongly considering resolving the matter once and for all when Sir Reginald Barclay arrives. “I say, what is going on here?” His words carry extra weight thanks to the cluster of retainers, fellow scientists, and military chums at his back.
Doyle steps forward into the void and takes Barclay by the hand. “Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle; I believe we met at the Royal Society.” Barclay nods at Doyle's bluff. “I heard about your discovery in the news and couldn't wait to see it,” he explains, which is true. “These four are my associates,” he continues, pointing to Jenny, Vastra, Strax, and Nellie.
“I shouldn't have pegged so many womenfolk for scientific careers,” Barclay says, “but you do look familiar and frankly, the whole world should see my discovery.” He turns to the Torchwood operatives. “And what of you two?”
“Members of Her Majesty's government,” Robert tells him, and produces a false set of papers. “Just making sure everything runs smoothly.”
“Most unusual,” Barclay notes, “but I suppose there is little enough to be done for it. Queen and country and all that. Come in then: he is already thawing.”
Eying each other mistrustfully, the two groups follow Barclay and his men into the mansion at the center of the grounds. Jenny prays that the whole thing doesn't explode in their faces. Two non-humans, two Torchwood agents, a jingoistic explorer, and to top it all off, Frankenstein's monster. Bloody terrific. She's just glad that she's wearing the dress the TARDIS made for her, the one that lets her walk around with an arsenal strapped to her body. Maybe the self-defense training she and Vastra are giving the suffragists will make it more socially acceptable to wear a katana around town.
In the midst of her reverie, Barclay asks, “What a charming style of dress! You know, I think I've never seen anything quite like it; where is it from?”
“Gallifrey, I suppose,” she answers, too distracted to lie.
“Is that in Ireland?”
“Yes,” she says, grateful for the easy answer. “You must visit sometime.”
“Perhaps you could show me around,” he suggests.
Oh dear, she thinks. He is flirting with me, isn't he? One of the many advantages of her perceived status of maid meant that most men didn't bother flirting with her; either they ignored her or they didn't bother with the pleasantries, which tended to cost them their dignity if they were lucky, and a body part if they weren't. But the black dress carried no such disguise, she realized. And she couldn't very well tell him she was married, could she? “Perhaps. But then, perhaps not,” she retorted, just a hint of frost in her tone.
“Ahem,” he says, catching the broad hint. “Well, here we are,” he announces. “Isn't he marvelous?” He is certainly a large specimen, Jenny thinks. But if that's what he considers marvelous, perhaps I should be insulted by the fact that he was flirting with me. “Just look at him,” Barclay continues. The thawing is already progressing quite thoroughly, and details of the face and hands are becoming visible. “Look at the scars he bears, his strange shape, his enormous size,” Barclay gesticulates. “This must be one of the most ancient specimens of humanity, savage and brutal.” His eyes gleam with excitement as he theorizes rhapsodically. “He must have had to fight tooth and nail for his food and shelter with his overpowering frame and great strength. One can only imagine the vast weapons he must have wielded in battle.”
“On the contrary,” Vastra proclaims. “This creature was created less than a century ago using some of the most modern technology then available. It is a marvel of scientific invention, not some barbaric colossus.” Now, she thinks, if you wanted details on ancient humanoids, I could tell you where to turn. Though, of course, her people were far more civilized than Barclay would care to know.
Her accusation causes Barclay to stammer for a moment before he levels a finger at her. “Why, such a preposterous notion I've never heard in my life! Have you looked at this man for even a moment?”
“I hardly need to,” Vastra retorts, which draws a gasp from the scientists in the room. “But I have looked at his clothes. Look, the ice is nearly melted. You can see the buttons on his coat, the stitching of his collar, all thoroughly modern. Not to mention that the cut of the clothes comports rather nicely with what would have been fashionable around the turn of the last century.”
“And it's certainly not as though man has lost his capacity for savagery,” Jenny points out. “Lord knows we've investigated enough brutal crimes. Jack the Ripper's less than five years dead.”
“I beg your pardon,” Barclay says, “but I was under the impression that you were scientists, not policemen.”
Jenny blushes with the foolish mistake. “We often consult with the police,” she says, which is true.
“Well, no matter what it is,” Barclay says, evidently too pleased by his discovery to press the issue further, “we shall be able to learn much from it.”
“Unless it tries to destroy us,” Strax points out with a perverse glee.
“He's a military medic,” Nellie explains to Barclay's confused face. “Turkish Army.”
“I see,” Barclay says, clearly starting to entertain some doubts about the cadre of strangers he has invited into his home. A complaint of some variety is clearly on his tongue when the frozen monster speaks.
“Urgh,” it groans, and everyone tenses and backs away, but anyone who is listening can hear the intelligence even in the grunt. “Where am I? Why am I here?”
“England, 1893, just outside London. The manor home of this man, who found you,” Vastra, appointing herself local expert on unexpectedly waking up after a long hibernation, pushes Barclay forward into the breach.
“I was leading an expedition to chart the Arctic when I found you in a block of ice. My men and I,” he gestures to include his fellow soldiers and scientists, “were able to cut you free, but we didn't want to risk damaging you with our crude tools, so we brought you home, to England, so we could melt the ice and see what we had found.” The recently thawed man nods impassively. “And here we are! We have rescued you!” Again, no response. Perhaps he has developed the habit of silence. “This is all very exciting, don't you think?” Barclay is beginning to become a bit annoyed.
“Hello, I'm Nellie,” the young woman offers, extending her hand.
This, at last, provokes a response. “Adam,” he says, clasping her hand inside his. It is larger and the fingers don't quite match each other, but Nellie doesn't comment on this.
“How are you?” Nellie continues. Vastra, Jenny, and Strax carefully take up flanking positions in case the girl pushes her luck too far.
“Healthy. But sad,” Adam replies.
“Most extraordinary!” Barclay observes. Not if you've read Shelley's book, Vastra thinks. Or talked to Shelley herself.
“Why sad?” Nellie continues, then, when Adam remains reticent, “Tell us about yourself; I'm here to help you.” Helping a depressed fictional character, Jenny thinks. Perfect job for Nellie.
“I was created as an experiment,” Adam begins abruptly. “My creator, the man you call Dr. Frankenstein sought to create new life out of lifeless matter. He is not my father; I do not share his name.” He glares angrily at the crowd as if expecting a challenge, then sighs. “My apologies; ever since Ms. Shelley's book, there has been some confusion.”
“Then you inspired the novel, Frankenstein?” Jenny asks, because she had distinctly gotten the impression that the work was original.
“On the contrary; it was the book which can be said to have inspired me,” Adam corrects her. Jenny curtsies and apologizes. “My creator was an acquaintance of Ms. Shelley's around the time she wrote the book. They had discussed the possibility, and she wrote the book in part as a cautionary tale. Alas, he took it as inspiration.”
“You'd rather not exist then?” Eliza asks in the tone of voice which hints that she may be willing to help make that happen.
“Indeed,” Adam says. “Perhaps if I continue, I can make my position clearer,” he offers to the skeptical crowd.
“No need,” Robert tells him, raising the firearm in his hand as Barclay and Vastra knock it from his grasp.
“You ogre,” Barclay rages, “this being could be of uncountable value to the scientific community!”
“He doesn't want to exist; England can't risk him causing trouble.” Robert replies flatly.
“You have no right to fire upon a peaceful, intelligent person, no matter your justification,” Vastra tells him coldly. “Pray, continue,” she tells Adam.
“When first I was created, I had no idea of what I desired. I felt no need to eat, drink, or sleep. My creator seemed to have even less of an idea what to do with me once I had been created. His experiment had concluded, more or less. I was of no further use, apart from the occasional test. Finally, I realized that I wished for friendly companionship of some sort, beyond mere clinical interaction. My creator refused. I suspect he feared exposing me to the public, either for safety reasons or to protect his discovery.”
“I would be happy to share you with the world,” Barclay points out. “Such a marvel as you are should be put on display.” Vastra winces, and she can tell that Adam is not thrilled by this offer.
“I am not a showpiece,” Adam thunders in a rare display of emotion. Around the room, weapons are primed and aimed in a flurry of motion and mechanical noises. Adam sits down into a large overstuffed chair, dwarfing even its large proportions, and glowers with frustration.
“What next?” Nellie asks cautiously.
“I asked for another of my kind to be made. My creator refused, of course. I believe even then he was beginning to fear my strength and my intelligence, both of which were greater than he had imagined, and, I suspect, greater than his. However, I did not yet have the scientific training to operate the machine myself or create another one such as myself.” He makes a derogatory laugh. “I could not yet even read.”
“Yet?” Vastra asks, detective's instincts cluing in on that word.
“That took some time. My creator attempted to destroy me and I fled, able to stun him and destroy the barriers he had left to stop me. I wandered, invariably alone, finally stealing a primer by which I could teach myself to read, this arcane art which I had seen my creator perform time and again, consulting his journals or textbooks as he experimented upon me. I took whatever books I could find after that—kidnapping my only companions from their homes and rescuing my only friends from the early grave of the rubbish heap.” He smiles at a fond memory. “Novels, newspapers, poetry, philosophy: I read it all., while I could. I suppose I should have known that it would only be a matter of time before someone found me, and feared me. I fled unceasingly, staying just ahead of my pursuers. I had wanted to see the world in more detail than the printed page afforded, but not like this.” His shoulders slump. “Eventually I was hounded north, after a year on the run, as near as I can calculate it. There, at last, I could rest, and think. And so I did, even as the snow and ice piled over me. And there I remained, surprisingly content in my icy apartment.” His eyes close. “Take me back. Let me freeze again.”
“We will need some time to discuss what you have said,” Barclay hedges, and Adam waves a dismissive hand.
Strax eavesdrops on the two Torchwood agents as they plan. A Sontaran has better hearing than one might expect, and very good at keeping a straight face. Well, a dome-shaped face, Strax admits.
“We should still destroy it,” Robert counsels.
“How?” Eliza asks skeptically. “That thing is built like a freight train. It survived God knows how long frozen in the Arctic. It fought a running battle for a year, and it not only survived, it got away unharmed.” She shakes her head. “I think Frankenstein built his monster too well.”
“Pump it full of enough lead. Melt it in acid. Light it on fire. Something will put it down, sooner or later.”
“Sooner or later, maybe. But only after it kills a bunch of innocent people. Probably starting with everyone in this house.”
“I hope you aren't counting us in that tally of innocent people. And I'd wager Barclay and his men have some blood on their hands.” He smirks at the explorer's back. “You don't spend enough time in the army without a few drops here and there. And I sure hope you aren't counting that so-called 'Veiled Detective' and her lot either.” He checks his guns. “Christ, I've wanted to blow her away since we first met her. She gives us any trouble and I swear I will.”
“Sometimes I think I've been doing this too long,” Eliza murmurs. “Only one way out, of course.”
“If you're lucky enough, you might get it, and cleanly too.” Robert grins mirthlessly. “We kill things like that to protect the empire. That's been the name of the game since day one, and you knew that coming in. Not getting soft now, are you?”
“No,” she replies, instinctively checking her own weapons. “I just wish there was something else we could do. In fact, why can't we take Adam down and freeze him? We've got long-term specimen storage; that's what it's there for.”
“You want to escort him across town? Just the two of us? Because I can tell you we aren't letting the others anywhere near HQ unless it's a one-way trip.” He pauses, reconsiders. “Maybe if Barclay wants to join up—the Institute can always use another pair of hands.”
“That might work,” Eliza agrees.
“I don't mean to pry, not when we have such pressing matters to attend to,” Barclay begins, “but who exactly are you people?” Vastra and Jenny blink at him. “I do apologize if you are someone famous, but I spend much of my time out of the country, and while I do own subscriptions to several scientific periodicals, I rarely read newspapers or popular magazines—Not because I find them unworthy,” he adds hastily, for the benefit of a downcast Doyle, “but because I rarely have the time to sit down and read, and I must prioritize. There may be a different Prime Minister tomorrow, but a scientific fact is forever.”
“I'm Jenny Flint, and she's Vastra, the Veiled Detective. We solve crimes together: little ones, big ones, famous ones, or strange ones, which is why we came here. Nellie and Dr. Doyle help us out from time to time.”
“I also write the Sherlock Holmes stories,” Doyle adds. “Based very loosely on our adventures together.”
“Ah, yes, Holmes I have heard of—I thought your name sounded familiar, Doctor.” He squints at Vastra through her veil. “I cannot say that Mr. Paget has captured the likeness very well, though, having seen the original, I rather wish that he had.”
Jenny can hear the tell-tale rustle of Vastra's hat which accompanies the flaring of her crests. “I am just as glad that he did not,” Vastra asserts bluntly, stare piercing him. “If you are flirting with me, then I suggest you stop. Now.” Jenny turns away to conceal a grin. No nonsense taken or given by her love, no sir. “Returning to the business at hand, no, we are not entirely who we say we are. But then, neither are your other guests. They are not government inspectors, or policemen, or whatever cover story they told you. They investigate unusual occurrences, though they will deny this, and do not fall within the usual purview of the government, though they will deny that as well. They are dangerous, untrustworthy people, but they are very good at what they do.”
Barclay blinks. “This is all rather much, I confess. But I suppose I can hardly expect anything else, given what I've brought home with me.” He laughs. “It is a shame that Adam won't consent to be studied.”
“Have you visited the zoo?” Nellie asks. “I took my son a few weeks ago and we had a lovely time. But I shouldn't want to live in a cage to be poked and prodded.”
“No, I suppose not,” Barclay admits. “What, then, are we to do with our new acquaintance?”
“What he likes, within reason,” Vastra tells him. “The same as any of us. He seems to have the same mental and emotional capacities, after all, and we do not generally lock people away or kill them unless they have done us some harm.”
“It does rather make sense when you put it like that,” Barclay says with a sigh. “Still, I wish I could make him see how much good he could do.”
Further speculation on Adam's potential philanthropy is curtailed when Strax returns, and relates Torchwood's plans for the created man as well as the possibility of freezing him here. “And, if I may,” Strax concludes. “I know something of being separated from one's people. I have done well to find new friends here, but I expect Adam may have a more difficult time of it. Given his position, I might well choose to withdraw myself.”
Barclay looks at Strax and nods. “Yes, Turkish army, was it? Do you get to see Turkey often?”
“About once a year, sir, at Christmas time.” Jenny blanches, knowing where this is going given the Sontaran's intelligence level and sense of humor.
“And how do you find it?”
“Delicious, sir,” Strax replies, uncannily straight-faced.
“Of course,” Barclay says, tone dubious. Barrel-chested little fellow probably has a healthy appetite, he supposes. And it's not as though English cuisine has much to recommend it. Probably just as glad to see some home cooking as his family around the holidays.
Thank god that went well, Jenny thinks. And, for a second miracle, Strax had something meaningful to say. And a bit of a point, come to that. Vastra hasn't talked much about her own time in suspended animation, but she supposes it must be safe enough if you can do it 60 million years at a go. She reckons it must be a bit like sleeping. Not the warm, contented sleep of having a lover beside you, but sleep nonetheless, and there'd probably be dreams.
As the two Torchwood agents approach, Nellie slips away. Not because she doesn't care for them (she doesn't), but because she has done enough talking about what to do with Adam for the moment. And because the only other person who feels that way is Adam himself, she sits down next to him. “Hello,” she proffers. “You don't have to say anything. I probably won't, either. I just didn't want to be rude.”
A pause. “Thank you,” he replies, eyes still closed. Behind them, an argument breaks out. “Quite a lot of fuss over little old me.” He opens one eye carefully. “Do you suppose that if I began walking now, I could reach the Arctic Circle by the time they finished up?”
Nellie can't help but giggle. “You could try,” she tells him. Their eyes meet, then shift over to the others.
“Please don't; my friends might get hurt,” Nellie pleads.
Adam nods agreeably, and says, “Do you think I have a soul?”
Nellie blinks, and leans back in her chair. “Goodness, I thought tests were supposed to start out with the easy questions!” She is pleased when Adam laughs. “I suppose asking a priest is out of the question?” she asks, tongue-in-cheek.
He shakes his head. “Men of the cloth tended to be front and center with the pitchforks and the torches.” He leans in closely. “Just be sure that your friends there don't get run out of town as well.”
“How did you?...”
“I've been to Turkey, and the natives look nothing like that gentleman. It's hardly a stretch of the imagination to guess that your lady friend isn't exactly human herself. Never fear, I'll not reveal their secrets—to be alone, as I have been alone, is a dreadful fate, one I would not wish on my worst enemy.”
“You might find that Jenny and Vastra might be some of your only friends in this world,” Nellie informs him.
Adam nods. “Very well. Though I will note that you have yet to answer my question.” He smiles and steeples his hands.
Nellie blushes. She had almost forgotten. “If it were up to me, I should say yes, of course. If nothing else, surely a mere automaton would have broken down after so long. But you appear to be a living, thinking human being.”
Adam nods with satisfaction just as Jenny and Vastra approach. “One last try to convince me?” he asks.
“We've hidden people away—different kinds of people—before,” Jenny begins. “We could find a place for you. Secluded, lots of books.” Adam shakes his head, and Jenny nods gravely.
“Then our...acquaintances are willing to put you into cold storage. They will even thaw you out from time to time, if you like,” Vastra tells him.
“That will be acceptable,” he announces. “I will go quietly.”
“You'll come with me, then,” Eliza says. “Robert'll be staying behind to make sure I don't do anything funny; they insisted.” He nods amicably, and follows her to their carriage.
The hour until she returns passes in silence. “It's done,” she says, then shivers.
“Let's go,” Robert tells her. “Work to do.”
She hesitates, and her eyes fix on Vastra. “Leave town, please. Just for a few days.”
“We will consider your advice,” Vastra tells her as she leaves.
“So that's it, then,” Nellie says as their carriage pulls to a stop outside . “I didn't think the two of you would be okay with him giving up like that.”
“Madame and I have each other,” Jenny reminds her. “And you and Strax and everyone else to lean on. Adam, most likely, wouldn't have anyone. That's a hard road, that is.”
“Does that mean you'll stay in London, bad press and Torchwood be damned?” Nellie asks eagerly.
“Apart from having others to fight with and fight for,” Vastra tells her, “there are other considerations to take into account. When I told Eliza that I would weigh her advice, I was not merely being polite.” She shrugs elegantly. “Perhaps it will be to our strategic advantage to spend a few days touring the country.”
“We'll sort that out tomorrow, I think,” Jenny says. “Been a long day.”
Nellie glances at a clock, not realizing how late it had gotten. “I should get home for dinner!” she exclaims. “Goodbye!”
“I expect my family will be starting to wonder where I am as well,” Doyle admits. “I shall see you tomorrow, then.”
“Another day, another case,” Jenny proclaims as they walk up the steps arm in arm.
“Indeed, my love.” Vastra agrees, and kisses her.