So I have a confession to make.
One of the reasons I got so annoyed with my progress on Last Of The Time Ladies is that I have not one but three plotted "sequel" or post-Earthsphere storylines ready and planned. But an update rate of one ten-thousand-word chapter every three months is hardly satisfying or speedy, so it became increasingly likely that these ideas would never see the light of day. Unless, of course... well, let's just say I take the phrase 'screw continuity' a bit too much to heart. So this is, technically, a sequel. Despite the fact that LOTTL has not even been completed. If you're interested, the other two ideas I mentioned are set well into the future and hence come way after even this, which begins approximately five years further down Amy's time line than LOTTL. Speaking of which...
This is set in a pre-established, open-ended AU which has major canon divergence. There is no Silence and the canon version of River Song does not exist – emphasis on the word canon. This is Doctor Who, canon is secondary to whatever the hell I want to do. Be warned. It is a pre-established Amy/11. Sorry if that bothers you. Both Amy and 11 – but especially Amy – have developed quite differently to how they develop in the show, and Amy's backstory is somewhat darker. Rating-wise, there will be swearing and the like, a few dark themes and some violence, but I don't think anything that would warrant an M.
Thus far I have approximately five chapters (note: my chapters are long) of this plotted. If I get a good reaction to posting this now, I'll continue this concurrently with LOTTL.
By the way, don't feel you have to read LOTTL to read this. In fact I would advise against it for a while if you haven't (though you'll need to at some stage to get the backstory); it'll make it more fun as more of the nature of the AU is revealed through the story itself.
Usual disclaimers apply; I own nothing etc. etc.
Favourites/follows are welcomed, but reviews are by far the best, especially criticism of the constructive kind. This chapter (apart from this long preamble) is a brief prologue to set things up.
THE LAST OF THE TIME LADIES:
TO CATCH THE WIND
In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.
- Joshua Foer
PROLOGUE: No Ordinary Girl
February, 2010. Sydney, Australia.
Today was a hot day.
Obscenely, ridiculously hot. The forecast had predicted a temperature in the mid-thirties...
Yeah, no, somehow, I think that was an underestimation, the girl thought, as she made her way home from school.
Heat rose off the concrete path in thick, oppressive waves, shimmering in the air around her. It wasn't a particularly hot summer by normal standards, certainly not as insane as last year, but every now and then it would throw up a day like today where moving and melting felt like two sides to the same coin.
First thing I'm doing when I get home, Melody Clarke decided, as sweat poured from the base of her dirty-blonde curly locks. is jump straight into the shower, turn it on as cold as I can and stay there for ten minutes.
She kept walking, trying unsuccessfully to stick to the shade as the fierce sun beat upon her shoulders. She walked, as always, alone. She had friends, of course, plenty of them, but she'd learnt long ago that people didn't really like spending a lot of time around her. Nothing personal, she knew – they just found her view of the world a bit... unnerving. It didn't worry her, really – she was social, and outgoing and all that, but there were a few things about the ordinary teenage girl's life that she simply couldn't stand because they made her physically nauseous, and these set her apart from all her friends. Mostly to do with large, vocal crowds, which ruled out most pubs and clubs.
She'd been slowly drifting away from other people for the last year, and she knew it. They just don't understand. They don't see it, don't hear it. She was unique, she was special, and that wasn't always a good thing.
Her parents comforted her, smiled, nodded with loving eyes, but she could tell they didn't really understand either. How could they? They were just normal people... just like everyone other than her.
What she wanted, what she really, really wanted, was someone who understood. Understood what it was like to be unique. To be special. A sibling she'd never had... could never have.
She blinked, shook her head. Don't worry about that now. Nothing to be gotten out of that.
She was rounding the corner to the entrance of her own street when a piercing screech rent the air, followed by a thunderous crash and a deep reverberation. The sound exploded through Melody's head like a bomb.
Jesus. What the hell was that?
She turned around and headed back onto the main street, heading towards the source of the sound. She could hear crackling flame as she ran, sweltering heat forgotten.
She turned another corner and stopped dead in her tracks as she took in the scene before her.
Twisted metal lay everywhere, the remains of the car strewn across the road. From the skid marks and scrapes in the asphalt, it was clear what had happened – the driver had evidently lost control, slammed into a tree and careened back across the road. This was a quiet neighbourhood, so thankfully no one other than the unfortunate occupants had been at risk from flying metal and glass shrapnel.
Melody stood for a few seconds, staring, utterly transfixed and horrified by the sight before her.
As the flames die down, she spotted something in the grass lining the road – a fanned mop of vivid red hair.
Oh gods. There's someone there.
She raced over. The red-headed girl was face down in the grass, her leather jacket – why the hell is she wearing a leather jacket in this weather? – and skirt both torn and covered in earth. A sick nausea built in her throat, and she forced down a retch. She must have been inside the car and thrown clear. Oh god oh god oh god...
She turned the red-headed girl over so she lay on her back, expecting to be face to face with a corpse.
Instead, stunningly, the girl groaned, recoiled a little, drew her arms protectively into her chest.
How the hell-?
Melody looked the girl up and down. With a slim figure, long legs and a round, angelic face framed by thick ginger hair, the girl was patently stunning – at least, she would be when she wasn't covered in scars and dirt, hair frayed and face discoloured due to bruising. The teenager felt a strange feeling blossom within her – a deep-seated, intense concern and a sense of responsibility for the injured girl.
"Hello?" Melody called out, shaking the girl gently by the shoulders. "Can you hear me?"
The girl opened her eyes. They were a vibrant emerald-green, deep, perceptive. And right now they were filled with pain and confusion. "Y-yes," she whispered.
"What's your name?"
The girl closed her eyes again as if trying to recall something, paused, groaned. "Jac... Jacqueline," she told Melody after a moment. "Help..."
"It's alright, Jacqueline. My name is Melody, and I'm here for you," Melody told the girl. She dove a hand into her pocket and retrieved her phone, fumbling it with trembling fingers as she dialed the direct number for the ambulance. "Hello? I need an ambulance on Redfern Street, right now! There's been a car accident and a girl who's been thrown clear of the car, but she's still alive and conscious..."
That's all she has.
All she remembers is her first name – Jacqueline. She'd been found quite literally in a ditch, having been thrown from a car accident. How she'd survived... well, miracles were best left unquestioned. She'd been found there by a passing teenage girl, flickering in and out of consciousness as she lay in a crumpled heap.
The blonde-haired girl had taken care of her, rushing her to hospital and watching over her as the doctors assessed her. Astonishingly, she'd escaped with only minor injuries, and was moved from intensive care to a normal ward the next day.
"So what's your name?" The curly-haired blonde girl asked her when she woke.
"Jacqueline. What's yours?"
"Melody. You already told me your first name – what about your last?
She opens her mouth, closes it, frowns slightly. After a few seconds, she finally answers. "Don't remember."
Melody raised her eyebrows. After a few seconds, she decided that Jacqueline wasn't pulling her leg.
"What, you've got no clue?"
"Nope. Don't even remember who my parents are... I have parents, right?"
"Well, they said two people were killed in the accident. Everyone's assumed they were your parents – I'm sorry."
"Car accident." Melody sighed, grasping the implications immediately. "Bloody hell, do you remember anything?"
Jacqueline concentrated – hard, on anything she could. But whatever she tried came up blank. She doesn't even know how she manages to walk and talk – it just sort of... happens. It was if someone had taken her mind, tipped it upside-down, poured all the contents out.
Who the hell was she?
It only got more confusing from there. The two people killed weren't blood-related to her at all, so that threw a rather massive spanner in the works. Whoever they were, they weren't her parents – and they hadn't adopted any children, so that was ruled out. So no one knew who her true parents were either.
No, Jacqueline was most definitely not an ordinary girl.
She becomes an enigma. A seventeen year old teenager with no past. And she doesn't even look seventeen – closer to twenty-odd – but given that this was the only other piece of information about her life that Jacqueline actually remembers, everyone ran with that too. She's especially tall, for one thing, so that probably makes her look a little older than she really is.
Experts, therapists, doctors and bureaucrats scratch their heads, wondering what to do with this strange amnesiac girl. Blood tests, cross-checks with missing person databases, even one TV ad campaign – they all turn up nothing. No one has a clue where she comes from – though a few experts, based on her facial characteristics and flaming red hair, had suggested a Scottish heritage. Indeed, Melody had thought she heard a trace of Scottish lilt when she'd first spoke, but that was rapidly submerged in the generic Australian accent of her surrounds. And besides, 'possible Scottish heritage' is hardly the dealbreaker everyone is looking for.
Eventually, they decide that the best thing for this girl to do is find someone to stay with and try to give her a normal life. Melody and her family instantly volunteer to take care of her, the two girls having bonded magnificently, but the 'normal life' part is trickier. That means going to school... a problem, because while she can talk normally (and is surprisingly articulate), she can't really remember anything about school, either. But she's lucky – by sheer chance, all the teachers needed are available at Melody's school and willing, and a mysterious benefactor had covered all the financial stuff.
They predict that if she's fortunate, she'll catch up within several years' time.
It doesn't even take one.
What they hadn't factored in that on top of stunning looks which made heads turn, eyes widen and tongues wag, Jacqueline had serious brains. In fact, it is the universal consensus that Jacqueline was by far the smartest girl anyone had come across. She could literally read a textbook from cover to cover in a matter of weeks and shown just as good an understanding of the material as anyone else could. OK, she was a long way from the top of her class, but everyone else had effectively had a decade's head-start.
It is freakish, and it only adds to the mystery surrounding her. Who is this bona fide genius girl that turned up in a ditch somewhere?
Predictably, she becomes an entirely accidental superstar at school, and a polarising one at that – most of the boys are in love with her, most of the girls despise her. She tries to ignore them all – her life is messed up enough as it is. She didn't ask to be all this. All she wants is a sense of normalcy, solidity – some people she could talk to like a normal person, and it's tough to do that when almost everyone is either hitting on her or sneering contemptuously at her. Granted, that she is also a tad eccentric and more than a little cocky doesn't help, but that's just who she is.
Through all of this, there's this overriding, consuming sense that this life isn't it, isn't her, isn't meant to be.
She yearns for something more. Something that shows her who she really is.
It's the most natural thing to do, really. There isn't any argument about it. After a year of being taken care of by the Clarke family, they decide to adopt her – Melody had always wanted a sister.
It's a surprise to no one. Their kinship had been immediately evident – it was almost as if this is meant to be. Jacqueline would have called it an amazing coincidence that the person who found her was just the person she needed in her life and vice versa, but she doesn't believe in coincidences.
She can't express in words how much her now-sister means to her. Melody is the constant in her strange, nonsensical life. When she goes into one of her deep reveries, her sister is always by her side, asking exactly the right questions, saying the right things.
Like on one sweltering summer's day, not long after the girls have finished high school together (that they did so together is considered nothing short of miraculous on Jacqueline's part, even if her marks don't look outstanding on their own).
"All right, Jac?" Mels asks as Jacqueline sits on the veranda staring aimlessly into the distance, alone – as she often does.
"Yeah, fine." Brilliant or not, she's a terrible liar, and both know it.
"Sure. Come on, sis, what's up?"
"Well, apart from my life making no sense, nothing."
She places a consoling arm across the redhead's back. "You've done a bloody good job finding your way thus far, Jacqueline. I'm sure your memory will come back one day."
"Maybe." A thought suddenly struck her. "Say... have you ever heard of a girl called Amelia Pond?"
"Nope, never. Why?"
"You know when you found me, there was that unlocker thing in my pocket?"
"Yeah. Have they worked out what it was for?"
"Nah, but I found a little name."
"What was it?"
Jacqueline had been found with only one item on her. A cylindrical silver cylinder with a blood-red crystal fixed in claw-like appendages to one end. The device seemed able to lock and unlock any door, which was neat but not all that useful (as well as having questionable legality), so she rarely took it out of her bedside drawer. But sometimes, when the fire within her is burning too brightly, she would take it out and inspect it for any clues as to who she really is. She'd never found anything.
Until last night, when she'd found a tiny engraving.
"Yeah. Like a fairytale..." They moved on, going into small talk, but Jacqueline's mind is elsewhere.
Who was Amelia Pond?
If you're up to date with LOTTL, the title is a big clue as to what's gone on here. A reminder that you should consider most canon divergence as deliberate.
You might have noticed that Amy herself is not present, though many of you will have 'spotted' her. That'll be the case for the first few chapters, but Amy will be present and in fact be the central character in this story. So hold on. The setting, by the way, is fictional to the extent that it is a recreation of places I'm familiar with, but not an exact replica of any real parts of Sydney.
Once again, please review if you can. Especially if I've stuffed up my tenses!