The First Time River Song Met Polly Plummer
Originally written for intrikate
The first time River met Polly Plummer, it was 1901 on a busy street in London – London in England, not on the Star Whale, or in Equatorial New Guinea or New Earth. She had heard there had been quite the fracas. A woman of abnormal size had been careening through the streets driving a hansom cab as if it were a chariot when, suddenly, woman, horse, cabby, and a few bystanders disappeared. It sounded like it might be the work of the Graske and certainly, there were some very odd energy readings and lingering evidence of a time distortion when she ran it through her manipulator.
"You just appeared," said a very matter of fact voice. "You appeared from nowhere. Do you do that a lot?"
River looked up. A girl was sitting on a brick wall next to the walk. No one else had paid her any mind at all – humans never did. This was very singular. The girl was supposed to be in a starched, tucked and pleated uniform, with thick stockings, sturdy shoes, and big bow in her hair. Instead, the dress was very wrinkled, the stockings were sliding down her legs, a shoe was missing and the bow looked to have been chewed upon by a stingray (the arthropods, not the cartilaginous fish of Earth).
"I am surprised you noticed," River said. A quick scan and she concluded that this was really not surprising at all. Some of the anomalous time distortions were emanating from the girl. She was, it appeared, some weeks older than she actually was – a phenomenon River knew well – the days and years one lived, however measured, were not always reflected in the appearance of the body who lived them.
"Lots of people walk here," the girl said. "They look for the woman who was here, but she is gone." She said this with great satisfaction.
"And that is a good thing?"
"Very." The girl hopped down from the wall. "I have never seen a watch like that one your arm. I do not believe it is a watch at all. And, your shoes look strange. They are not proper shoes at all, though I like them rather better than my own." With a grimace, she shoved on the shoe that her foot had lost. "I am Polly Plummer." She held out her hand.
"Doctor River Song." They shook hands.
"Was it magic?" Polly asked. "Is that how you appeared from nowhere?"
"I do not believe in magic," River said. And she didn't. Usually it was just the Doctor or someone like herself tricking the locals with a bit of alien tech – anything was magic if you did not know where it came from and how it worked.
"But you just appeared. Where did you come from?"
"Biblios. I had to return a library book."
"Biblios," Polly mused. "Is that in Italy?"
"No, it's in a binary star system of the same name. Fabulous library."
"I don't suppose you have ever been to a place called Narnia? Or Charn?"
River considered this, turning the names over. "Charn? No, though I have been to Cheem and Chimeria. They are both lovely, very charming. And I don't suppose you mean Navaros? Navaros is always good for a bit of fun."
She was sorry she was not able to give a positive answer, for Polly looked quite downcast as she sadly shook her head.
"I am sorry to hear that, Doctor Song. I should like to know how Narnia is getting on."
"Should we see if we can find it?" River offered. A quick stop at Biblios would tell her where they needed to go.
"Thank you," Polly said gravely, "but, I do not think I am supposed to go back."
"I enjoy doing things I am not supposed to do," River said. "I recommend it highly. Rules are to be broken."
"I suppose," Polly replied, after thinking it over carefully. "But don't you think there are some rules that are foolish and so should be broken by intelligent people, and that there are other rules that you really should not ever, ever break because terrible things might happen? Some things just have to be that way."
It was Polly's voice, but River heard the Doctor's words – the burden of the Time Lord.
"I see your concern though, in my experience, and it is a very lot of experience, there are a lot fewer of those don't ever, ever break rules than one might think." An alarm went off on her manipulator and River slapped it silent. She was supposed to be meeting an archeologist at the Eye of Orion, which was not actually in the Eye of Orion, but was a terrific pub on Midnight.
"If I find any news of Narnia or Charn, I shall come back and tell you, shall I?"
"Thank you, Dr. Song, that is very kind. Narnia especially. Charn it not a nice place at all."
"Time passes differently for me, Polly, than it does for you. It may be a long time before you see me again. But you understand that, don't you?"
She nodded. "Oh yes. I shan't expect you, but if you do have news, do look me up."
Polly took a step back and waved. "Good bye, Doctor Song. I think you may be right about those rules. It does seem that rather a lot of them are for someone else's convenience, and not mine."
"You are quite right. And Polly, you may not be able to go back to Narnia, wherever it is, but there are many other exciting places to see."
The girl smiled widely. "Oh I do think so and I am so relieved to hear you say that! It should be very sad if Narnia and Charn were my last adventures. That would not do at all!"
"I expect to hear of those adventures when I see you again, Polly Plummer."