Doctor Who: Red Right Hand – Episode Two

When taking on an existing universe in my fictional escapades, I believe it is important to intimately know the source material. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a serial in the Star Wars universe for a few years now, but I’ve had difficulty in deciding what I would consider canon and accurate source material. I know that I want to call the piece “Jedi One” (I’m odd in that I tend to create my titles before the plot), and that it involves an anomalous force-sensitive individual appearing in a galaxy otherwise devoid of life. It’s ambiguous whether its the same galaxy, far, far away … or something else.

The roadblock is that I need more exposure to the universe than I currently have. Sure, there’s lots of places to get the data I need to create a piece one can consider canon … but with the possibility of Episode VII negating portions of the Expanded Universe, the story is on hiatus.

Back to the Whoniverse. This I know. Time Lords, TARDIS, sonic screwdrivers … I’ve got it covered. That’s why this piece, and the serial that preceded it, was so easy to write. I see the play in my head, and I just write what I see.

The Eleventh Doctor is not my favorite, but he’s close. You always remember your first Doctor and for me it was Tom Baker. David Tennant came very close to taking the top spot in my rankings, but every time I watch a Fourth Doctor episode, I remember why Tom Baker as Four is Number One. That being said, I don’t think I could write a Fourth Doctor serial. Four has a mysterious depth that goes way beyond a 12 foot scarf and a blue box. Eleven has such deep and expansive wisdom by that point in his regenerations that he’s eccentric and unpredictable, and that’s very easy for me to write … that’s very nearly writing myself into the story.

I introduce my own foil to the Doctor here, Captain Light … who also happens to be a character I have in mind for my own sci-fi epic. Crossover anyone?

—–

Doctor Who : Red Right Hand

2. The Kelvaxan Reliquary

“Some lesson plan,” Rory quipped from the uncomfortable metal bench in the holding cell the Doctor and his companions found themselves in.

“Yes, well,” the Doctor stammered. “I suppose this is the Principal’s Office.”

The Doctor paced back and forth in front of the energy field across the entrance to their cell. Occasionally, he spared a glance at the heavily armed guards in the long hallway outside their cell.

“I don’t understand it,” he said to Amy and Rory. “Heems and I have an excellent relationship. I’ve supplied him with countless additions to his collection. Why would he leave us to stew here like this?”

“Maybe this friend of yours is no longer in charge,” Amy offered.

“Perhaps,” the Doctor said quietly, not convinced.

The Doctor continued his pacing and several moments passed without a word being said between the companions. Finally, Rory cleared his throat.

“So, this is like a space museum or something, right?”

“It’s much more than that,” the Doctor explained. Sighing to himself and apparently abandoning his solemn pacing, he sat down between Amy and Rory, causing them to have to move to either side to allow him room.

“This is a reminder of all the accomplishments of all the known species of the universe. Detailed histories, ancient relics, recreations of long-lost technologies. This is the ultimate museum. Mind you, there are several smaller collections throughout every galaxy and I’ve seen several of them, but nothing comes close to the range of history covered here.”

“Is there anything from Earth?” Amy asked.

“Oh yes,” the Doctor said with a smile. “For starters, there’s the Promethean Hearthstone.”

“What’s that?” Rory questioned. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“You wouldn’t have,” the Doctor explained. “It’s supposedly the stone that the progenitors of your species first created their own fire on. Sad, really, how long its taken you to mature since then. If we ever get out of here, you two might become the first true humans to have ever laid eyes on it. It’s from about eight hundred thousand years before either of you were born.”

“You mean we’re the first humans to come here?” Amy asked, surprised.

“I said you’d be the first true humans to lay eyes on it. Once your species masters faster-than-light travel, several humans visit this place – though by that time, their DNA’s a bit … muddled.”

“Muddled?” Amy queried, raising an eyebrow.

“Long story.”

The slamming of heavy doors echoed down the long corridor toward them, followed by the steady sound of footsteps approaching. The Doctor quickly stood up and his companions rose behind him, following his lead. Squinting through the gloom of the poorly lit corridor, the Doctor finally made out the form of the aged curator, flanked by two guards, walking towards them.

“Let me do the talking,” the Doctor said over his shoulder.

“Curator Heems!” the Doctor said loudly. “Have I done something wrong? My companions and I are a bit ruffled, if you understand my meaning. What’s all the fuss?”

Heems gestured to the guards and one flipped up the cover of a control panel housing the energy field controls. The guard keyed the unlock sequence and the field soon dissipated.

“Doctor,” Heems said, his face reddening a bit with embarrassment. “I do sincerely apologize for the unfortunate delay. Had I known you were coming I’d have issued you security clearance that would have prevented all this.”

With a genuine look of pleasure on his face, the curator grabbed the Doctor’s hand and shook it vigorously. The Doctor’s face softened and he too revealed his pleasure at seeing his old friend again.

“It’s good to see you, Curator Heems. I trust you are well.”

“Oh, you know, still an aging relic among relics,” Heems joked. “Who do you have here with you?”

The Doctor turned, putting an arm around the old man’s shoulders and gestured to his companions. “May I present my good friends, Amy and Rory of Earth, circa second millenium OCE.”

“OCE?” Heems remarked, his eyes lighting up. “This is a very special visit indeed.”

“Yes, well, they’re not that special,” the Doctor mocked.

“Any friend of the Doctor is an honored guest here,” Heems declared, shaking each of the companions’ hands in turn. “Now let’s get out of this dank cell and we’ll have refreshments in my office.”

With another gesture to his guards, Heems dismissed them from their posts and they marched off down the corridor. Heems motioned for the Doctor and his companions to follow him and they began walking leisurely down the long corridor.

“Doctor,” Rory whispered. “What’s OCE?”

“Old Common Era,” the Doctor whispered conspiratorially. “Though in this day and age its often abbreviation for a more derogatory and possibly more appropriate label.”

“What’s that?”

“The Oafish Common Era,” the Doctor said with a smirk. “No more questions!”

The Doctor and his companions followed the curator down several long hallways before reaching the ornate doors of the curator’s office.

“That’s new. Is that real Valosian oak?” the Doctor asked, marveling at the rich wood.

“Good eye, Doctor,” Heems verified. “The carvings are the work of Jeb Sabe Sob of Cheem, excommunicated artist.”

“They’re beautiful,” Amy remarked. “Why was he excommunicated?”

“He was a tree of the Forest of Cheem,” the Doctor explained. “His people considered his carving of wood grotesque and abominable. No more questions! You’re here to learn, not ask questions.”

Amy and Rory exchanged puzzled looks.

The group entered the Curator’s office and followed Heems to his old desk where three ornate chairs and a small table had been erected for them. Refreshments of various types had been laid out on the table.

“Help yourselves,” Heems waved absently. “If you desire anything else, don’t hesitate to ask for it. We can probably get it.”

Graciously, the companions took their seats and began to partake of the offered food and drink. The Doctor remained standing and walked around the curator’s office for a few moments, perusing the private collection.

After Heems had situated himself behind his desk and sipped at his own drink, he turned his attention to the Doctor.

“How long has it been, Doctor?”

“Hard to say. What year is it?”

“I’m not sure myself,” Heems chuckled.

“The Van Statten Collection,” the Doctor surmised, snapping his fingers.

“Ah yes,” Heems said, nodding in remembrance. “Not the most intriguing collection of artifacts, but significant nonetheless. Lots of visitors to it.”

“Significant and difficult to get,” the Doctor said. “If you remember I had a thousand tons of concrete to get through to secure it.”

“And we greatly appreciate your efforts, Doctor.” Heems turned to the companions. “Did you know that the Doctor is the second greatest single contributor to our collections here? On the tour, I’m sure he’ll be able to point out all the artifacts he has secured for us.”

“Second?” the Doctor asked with surprise, holding a large egg he had picked up from a display awkwardly.

“Yes, second, Doctor. You’re not the only relic hunter we’ve had the fortune to work with. I’ll have to arrange a meeting while you’re here – he’s expected anytime now.”

The Doctor set the egg down carefully and made his way over to the wall of alien heads and began talking to himself as he looked at each in turn, saying things like “nice bloke” and “so that’s what they look like under all the hair”.

“What line of work are the two of you in?” Heems asked the companions.

“Uh,” Amy hesitated, looking to the Doctor for help that wasn’t coming. “We’re students.”

“This is sort of a, uh, field trip, thing,” Rory offered.

“Excellent,” Heems said with genuine delight. “I’m sure you’ll both just love some of the exhibits we have here. Do you enjoy music?”

“Oh, we love it,” Amy said.

“In our Arts Division we have the entire history of music on Earth on file, from ABBA to Zed Zed Nine.”

“Do you have it in MP3?” Rory asked, hopefully.

“What is MP3?” Heems asked, confused.

The Doctor interrupted before Rory could answer. “What happened to the Thripitifalus Vex you had?”

Again, Heems seemed confused and caught off guard. “I’ve never heard of it, Doctor. Was it something you brought me? I do have the habit of being rather forgetful.”

The Doctor raised an eyebrow and turned to regard the curator. His face was one of momentary concern, but he soon changed the subject. “I’m probably misremembering it, I suppose. So what was the story with all the security, by the way?”

The Doctor left the private collection and sat down heavily in the remaining empty chair.

“Ah yes,” Heems said. “Again, I do apologize. Security was heightened at the time you arrived while a new piece was being delivered to me. We often increase security measures during certain high profile transfers and all traffic to the asteroid is prohibited during such transactions. Of course, the sudden unexpected and unsanctioned arrival of a vessel on the asteroid was quite the breach of that security.”

“Yes, well, I do like to pop in from time to time unexpectedly,” the Doctor joked.

“You’re lucky you weren’t shot on sight,” Heems replied, a bit more serious than he had been since their arrival. “But its all sorted out now.”

Amy and Rory shot meaningful glances at each other, realizing that once again the Doctor had managed to narrowly postpone the death of his companions.

The Doctor took a sip from his beverage and leaped up out of his chair again. “I’m sorry, Curator Heems. It just keeps bugging me. I’m absolutely positive you had a Thripitifalus Vex head on your wall last time I was here.” Walking determinedly towards the data console set into the wall opposite the alien heads, he pulled up an antique chair to it, causing a loud shriek as he dragged it across the floor. “Do you mind if I check your logs for it? Maybe it was moved to a public exhibit.”

His face ashen, Heems quickly rose from his desk. “Don’t touch that console!”

With painful slowness, the Doctor swiveled his head to gaze directly at the old relic collector. His eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“We’re installing a new system and are in the middle of transferring data. You could corrupt that data flow and we would lose eons of research in just one second,” Heems explained. He seemed more than just a bit agitated.

“Hmm, yes,” the Doctor said, moving away but still eyeing Heems. “Perhaps later then.”

Curator Heems sat down again slowly, his brow furrowed as if he found his own outburst unusual.

“We definitely appreciate your hospitality, old friend,” the Doctor said, walking leisurely back to the desk. “I think my friends and I are a bit full now, so we’d like to freshen up a bit before we begin the tour.”

“Actually,” Rory said, moving a cookie towards his mouth. “I thought I’d have a couple more -”

The Doctor slapped the cookie out of Rory’s hand.

“The facilities aboard my ship are somewhat lacking. Do you have some place we might clean up a bit and relax?”

“Absolutely, Doctor,” Heems said, rising from his desk. He pressed a series of buttons and the ornate doors opened again. “If you head down the hall, you’ll come to an intersecting hallway. Take a right there and you’ll come to our guest quarters we set aside for visiting dignitaries. The caretaker is named Dolla, she’ll take care of you.”

“Thank you, Curator Heems,” the Doctor said with a bow. “We’ll leave you now and hope to meet up with you later – perhaps for a personalized tour?”

“Just let Dolla know when you’re ready and she’ll page me,” Heems replied. “I look forward to it.”

“So do I,” the Doctor said and turned to leave. “Come along, children.”

Rory and Amy quickly rose from their seats and followed the Doctor. Rory suddenly turned back and trotted over to the table where he pocketed a few cookies. Heems smiled and nodded that it was acceptable.

“Rory!” the Doctor called from the door.

Rory jumped and knocked the plate of cookies to the ground. “Sorry.”

“Leave it,” Heems said, chuckling.

“I’m coming,” Rory said, and caught up to Amy and the Doctor. The three companions left Heems’ office and the doors closed behind them.

After a moment, Heems opened a small drawer in his desk. Inside was the Speak & Spell, glowing eerily.

“He is a Time Lord,” Heems began, and then related to the Speak & Spell everything he knew about the Doctor.

***

The Doctor and his companions walked casually down the long corridor that led away from the curator’s office, stopping occasionally to view the art mounted intermittently along the walls.

“Alright,” Amy said, having noticed the Doctor’s mood change. “What’s wrong, Doctor?”

“There’s something definitely amiss here,” the Doctor revealed, whipping out his sonic screwdriver. Activating it, he waved it about and looked with interest at the readings. “We should keep our eyes and ears open.”

“Oh great,” Rory sighed. “Even class time is dangerous with you.”

The Doctor didn’t remark on the observation and led them to the intersection Heems had spoke of. “I’d like to take that tour now, but we should probably stick to our story. We’ll pop in for a quick wash and stretch and then get into the thick of things.”

Amy and Rory followed the Doctor as he led them right and towards the Guest Quarters. The architecture changed as they proceeded further down this new hall. The ceiling rose and the hallway  finally gave way to a large vaulted lobby. It was readily apparently that they had entered the equivalent of a posh hotel, complete with sitting areas and a front desk.

As they approached the front desk, they couldn’t help but notice an argument ensuing.

“I don’t have a reservation, for the last time,” a dusty looking man sat to the girl at the desk. The girl, a young blonde-haired petite type with impish features, seemed rather put out with him. “Do you know who I am?” he said impatiently.

The girl, seeing the three companions approaching, brightened up considerably and ignored the troublesome guest. “You must be the Doctor and his companions. Curator Heems called ahead and told us to expect you. I’m Dolla. Don’t hesitate to call on me at anytime, should you need me. I’ll be happy to serve you.”

“Uh, we don’t have reservations, per se,” the Doctor apologized, with a significant look to the other guest who now stood agape at the rebuff.

“That’s alright, Doctor. Curator Heems has told us to give you our finest suite for your stay. You’ll find all the amenities you might need here. I’ll show you to the suite.”

As an aside she curtly said to the other guest, “Excuse me.”

The man reddened visibly in the face and he slapped the gloves he was holding against the desk. A small cloud of dust rose from the impact.

“Now wait just a damned minute,” the man barked. “Who the hell are you people?”

Sighing, Dolla turned an offered an quick introduction. “This is the Doctor and his companions.”

“Amy,” Amy said politely.

“Uh, Rory,” Rory responded in like manner.

“The Doctor, Amy, and Uhrory,” the man repeated. “Imperial dignitaries from the Kalthex Empire? Estimators from the Ixian Council of Artifact Reconciliation?”

“They are special guests of Curator Heems,” Dolla explained. With reluctance, she reversed the introductions. “This is Drustan Light.”

“Captain Drustan Light,” the young grizzled-looking man corrected. He wore a long Earth-style duster over a utility vest and a dirty white long-sleeved shirt. His dark brown hair was short but messy and he was covered in a thick layer of grime in several places. His leather boots looked as if they  had been hastily repaired a thousand times. His beard, though also trimmed close, was wild and shot with grey streaks.

“A pleasure, I’m sure,” the Doctor replied, inclining his head slightly.

“Here to paw unappreciatively at the fine collection here, I’ll wager,” Captain Light said bitterly.

“Actually, I’m a relic collector. Heems and I go way back,” the Doctor said snootily. Amy and Rory didn’t miss the rising tension between the two men.

“Is that right?” Light said with a sneer.

“It is,” the Doctor said, not backing down.

“Interesting.”

“Indeed.”

“Yeah.”

“Mmm.”

“Hmm.”

“Ahh.”

“Can we please wash up before we’re irreversibly stained with testosterone?” Amy blurted with exasperation.

“We’ll meet again Doctor,” Captain Light said before walking away.

“I suppose we will at that,” the Doctor replied. He quickly changed his demeanor and patted his companions on their shoulders. “Alright! Washing up time! Heave ho! Allons-y! Ha, haven’t said that in a while. I shall have to do it again sometime.”

Dolla led the three to their suite without further incident.

***

After thirty minutes or so, the Doctor and his companions emerged from their room and made their way back to the front desk where they found Dolla smiling and waiting for them.

“Curator Heems sends his regrets. He won’t be able to take you on the tour himself, but he has authorized me to show you around,” she explained.

“Is he ill?” the Doctor queried with concern.

“No,” Dolla replied. “Nothing like that. Our good friend Captain Light has his attentions for the time being. Their discussions can get rather heated and lengthy.”

Stepping out from behind the front desk, Dolla clicked a small device in her hand and a service robot rose up behind the desk in her place.

“Enjoy your stay at the Kelvaxan Reliquary!” it said to them as they left.

“I don’t often get the chance to take such esteemed guests on a tour of the facilities,” Dolla explained with enthusiasm. “Curator Heems usually has that honor.”

“Has anything troubling happened here lately?” the Doctor probed. “Heems seems a bit preoccupied.”

“Aside from that awful Drustan Light arriving? Not that I know of.”

“What was the transfer that was taking place when we arrived? A new arrival for the museum?”

“We’re not allowed to discuss it at this time,” Dolla said quickly. “Confidentially, I’ve never seen the place so locked up during a transfer. Apparently, the extra security was requested by the collector. It’s a wonder you weren’t gunned down as you entered orbit.”

Again, Amy and Rory exchanged concerned glances.

“Yes, well my ship offers special access privileges at times,” the Doctor said with a smirk. “Did it have something to do with the new system being installed?”

“New system? I don’t know anything about that,” Dolla said, confused.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows meaningfully at his companions.

The quartet enter the main exhibition area and Dolla took her time going over the history of each piece as they viewed them. Her knowledge of the exhibitions was quite extensive and the Doctor offered personal insight where possible. Several times he revealed that he was the one who had brought a certain piece to the Reliquary. They had passed through several areas and hours had elapsed before the Doctor stopped the tour and asked Dolla a personal question.

“How do you know so much about this place? I thought you were just a hotel clerk.”

“Oh that!” Dolla said, pleased that the Doctor was interested in her personally. Amy rolled her eyes. “I just work the front desk when things are slow here. I’m actually an archaeologist.”

“Are you now?” the Doctor replied excitedly. “Where do you come from, Dolla?”

“Phi Gamma Six,” Dolla responded proudly.

“An Earth colony,” the Doctor said knowingly. Turning to Amy and Rory he mouthed the word “muddled”.

“You’ve heard of it?”

“I’ve been there. Several times in fact. Lovely place. So, I guess that means you’re a student of the Academy?”

“I graduated with the highest honors,” Dolla said beaming.

This time Amy and Rory both rolled their eyes.

“I think its time we split up,” the Doctor said. “I’ll go with Dolla here and discuss some of the intricacies of universal history and you two can wander about as you please.”

“What about that lesson you’re supposed to be teaching us?” Rory asked.

“Hands on!” the Doctor said, hurriedly pushing them along. “Newest breakthrough in curriculum. Enjoy!”

And with that, the Doctor and Dolla left Amy and Rory to themselves.

“That man,” Rory said, clenching his fist.

“Come on, love,” Amy said to him. “Let’s go have a bit of fun.”

From down one of the many corridors they heard the Doctor’s voice in a booming echo say, “Don’t touch anything!”

***

Most of the day slipped by before the Doctor and Dolla finally caught up with Amy and Rory. The two companions had found the Communications Wing and were testing out Earth technology that was only a few hundred years more advanced than their own time.

“Doctor,” Amy said excitedly. “Look at this!”

Amy and Rory were both wearing headsets with small reticles that fit over one eye. On their right hands, small adhesive microchips had been set on each finger and thumb.

“It’s like having an iPad without the iPad!” Rory said in techno-ecstacy. “It’s amazing! the screen looks like its just hovering in front of me.”

“This has got to be an Apple product,” Amy said with finality.

At the remark Dolla burst out laughing.

“What’s she laughing at, Doctor?” Rory asked.

“Let’s just say Apple was a blip on the screen. Significant but passing. And thus endeth the lesson, children. No matter how fantastic, how trendy, how amazing something seems to you, it will soon be obsolete. No  need to buy the next great thing every year. Know your tech, choose your tech, customize your tech, and make it last. By the time its worn out, something better than the four hundred iterations that have passed in between will be there to buy. Rinse and repeat,” the Doctor said sagely.

“That’s actually an older model,” Dolla said. “The last design was eventually integrated cybertech. The chips were implanted in your fingers and a special optical implant obsoleted the need for a reticle.”

“No way!” Rory said. “Do you have any we could take back with us?”

“Absolutely not!” the Doctor chided. “You can’t take future technologies back to Earth, you’ll muck up the whole future history of the planet and possibly the galaxy.”

“Oh come on, Doctor,” Amy pleaded. “We’d keep it secret. No one would know.”

“Besides,” the Doctor continued. “There won’t be a person that can implant it without killing you for another hundred years after your time.”

At that moment, Curator Heems walked up to them, beside him was Captain Light.

“Doctor, I said I’d introduce you to the number one contributor to our little collection here. And this is that man. May I introduce Captain Drustan Light.”

The two men stood glaring at each other, resuming the standoff from earlier in the day.

In unison they both said, “We’ve met.”

(to be continued …)

Doctor Who: Red Right Hand – Episode One

JD and I were at El Chico last night having a serious conversation and it eventually led to me thinking about the future and how I probably won’t be here for the fun stuff.

I’m talking colonization and androids and virtual reality and cybernetics and aliens – all that stuff.

It’ll get here, eventually, and you won’t be here either. I think that’s why we, as a species, seem to want to make everything happen the way we want: we know that everything we make a part of our lives will be bigger and better on the other side of the temporal fence, and we get E.T: The Video Game.We get bitter about it, and decide to just complain about anything new, or anything outside of what we’ve spent thousands of hours wasting time on for rank or gear or sparkles.

I wrote about five more paragraphs about video games, unicorns, fascist fashionistas, and hipsters, but I deleted them when I realized I was becoming the monster I’ve sworn to slay.

I’ll just say to the creative types out there in the video game, movie, music, and literature fields: You decide what makes up the universe in your head, not the spectator you’re making it for. There is no right way to create, and there  is no wrong way to make something yours. Ignore the forums.

If I were the Doctor, I’d teach you a lesson, too.

Doctor Who: Red Right Hand

1. History Lessons

“Funny story, this,” the Doctor explained as he leaned out the door of the TARDIS. He held on tightly to the door frame and extended a small paper tube towards a billowy pink substance, just outside the blue police box. Below him was open space, an endless sea of stars.

“There was this Sontaran I knew that was a terrific gambler,” he said, moving the tube in circles as the pink substance clung to it in lumps. “Could never let a bet go by him. Made a horrible warrior, and I suppose that’s why they exiled him.”

Behind the Doctor, Amy and Rory, his two companions were bent over the small screen of Rory’s phone.

“Still, being a Sontaran, he couldn’t help but want to battle something, so he builds a small strikeforce of mercenaries and starts taking over systems, one by one.” The Doctor continued his tale as he swirled more of the pink fluff around the tube. Once that tube held a significant amount of the fluffy substance on it, he secured it by sticking one end into a pocket, then he began with another fresh paper tube. “Naturally, I couldn’t let him do that any more so I offered him a wager. I told him I could create a nebula made completely of  cotton candy – ridiculous doesn’t even begin to describe the odds against me, and he took the bet. The stakes were that if I won, he would retire from marauding, and if he won, I’d stop giving him problems.”

The two companions burst out in laughter behind him. The Doctor, assuming they were listening to his story smiled and prepared for the ending to his tale.

“And so, one supercharged matter replicator set to infinitely replicate replicators replicating replicators replicating cotton candy placed in stasis right at the center of a sun going supernova was all I needed,” the Doctor said, gathering a final bit of fluff. In one motion, he pulled himself into the TARDIS, shut the doors, and held two generous clouds of pink cotton candy before him. “And voila! Goodbye Sontaran, and hello cotton candy for all!”

Both Amy and Rory were rolling on the floor laughing. The Doctor beamed a toothy smile at them, pleased with the reaction his story had garnered. He soon realized, as his smile turned to a frown, that the two companions’ mirth was coming from something else.

“Look you two,” he said chidingly. “I’m showing you a fantastic marvel of the universe, that I happened to have created I might add, and you’re bent in half over a phone not even paying attention.”

“What Doctor?” Amy asked, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Cotton candy!” the Doctor shouted. “It’s a nebula you can eat!”

“Oh right, sorry Doctor,” Rory apologized, taking the cotton candy that was offered. “It’s just one of my mates posted this insane video.”

“May I see it?” the Doctor asked, seemingly interested.

Rory handed over his phone. “Just hit play. It’s absolutely hilarious, Doctor. You’ll love it.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will love this,” the Doctor said cryptically, pacing back towards the TARDIS doors. He watched the video for a few moments and as the video ended he expelled a brief, “Ah.”

“Well? What do you think?” Amy queried.

“It’s a poor woman smashing grapes then falling off a raised platform,” the Doctor stated flatly.

“It’s brilliant, right?” Rory said, still chuckling to himself.

“Rory,” the Doctor said, opening the TARDIS doors to reveal the Cotton Candy Nebula, “this is brilliant.”

Turning towards the doors, the Doctor wound up. With a throw that would make a professional cricketer take notice, he launched Rory’s phone into space where it quickly began to gather a cloud of cotton candy around it.

“Doctor!” the companions shouted in unison.

“What did you do that for?” Amy said bitterly. “Where’s your sense of humor?”

“Where’s your sense of perspective?” the Doctor countered angrily. “Hello! You’re in a time machine. You’ve got infinite wonders, astounding possibilities, amazing sights to behold out these two simple doors and you’re giggling over a video of slapstick garbage.”

Quickly, he stalked over to the two companions and took the cotton candy from them – Rory was in mid-bite. “You don’t deserve these,” he said, stalking back to the doors and chucking the tasty treats back into the nebula.

“Doctor, you’re being childish,” Amy said, with a hint of a smile.

“I’d say he was being rude,” Rory quipped. “That was an expensive phone.”

“Oh, come on, Rory,” the Doctor replied. “You’ll just buy another the first chance you get. It’s how things work down on Earth. Buy this technology, then buy the next version next year, then the next, and on and on. I don’t understand how you two can be exposed to … ” The Doctor made exaggerated gestures towards the TARDIS console, the nebula outside, and the room surrounding them, ” … this! And you still are slaves to pop culture.”

“Oi, now that’s a bit harsh,” Amy responded defensively. “I happen to think my likes are very untrendy and original. I happen to think Radiohead’s awful.”

“Hey!” Rory snapped, jabbing her in the ribs.

“All beside the point,” the Doctor said. “As is continuously the problem with species delving into advanced technologies, your society is not maturing at the same pace as the science. If you were, you’d have been past crotch shots and people tripping decades ago.”

“Speaking of not maturing at the same pace, its hard for us to tell if we’ve matured at all with you shaving years off our lives in the blink of an eye,” Amy said sarcastically.

“That was necessary,” the Doctor replied. “And I gave you a huge birthday cake for it, from the greatest bakery in the universe. And, once again, that would never have happened if Rory here had been paying attention to the giant signs that said, ‘Don’t mix the gunbunnies’!”

“Doctor,” Amy said, frowning. “He said he was sorry.”

“‘Sorry’ is not good enough anymore,” the Doctor scolded. “It’s time I taught you both a lesson.”

“What is this? Primary school?” Rory asked.

“Apparently so,” the Doctor snapped. Without another word, he launched himself purposefully to the console and began inputting coordinates.

“Alright, Mr. Grumpyface. Where are we going?” Amy asked.

“You’ll see,” the Doctor said, and threw a lever initiating their next jaunt through time and space. The ship jerked, and both Amy and Rory were propelled into their seats roughly.

“Oh,” the Doctor said grumpily. “Might want to hang on.”

***

Hundreds of light years away from the Cotton Candy Nebula, an armored spaceship touched down on a heavily guarded landing pad outside the Receiving Department of a vast underground complex on the asteroid Kelvax. In space, above the ship, the twin stars Ularus and Getis shone brilliantly – their combined red and yellow rays reflecting off the massive ship’s polished hull. As the ship vented gases into the thin atmosphere of the orbiting rock, a giant spherical shield began to block out the stars as it moved to cover the landing pad. Red spinning lights strobed in time with a blaring alarm as the environmental shield closed over the ship and the precious cargo it held.

After several minutes, the red lights turned to green, indicating the environment in the shielded landing area had been equalized with the rest of the complex. Two columns of heavily armed guards jogged out of the complex to surround the ship’s access ramp in a semi-circle as it slowly began to descend. Facing out from the ramp, the guards activated their weapons and took defensive positions, awaiting the the transfer team to disembark and alert for any signs of trouble.

With a dull thud, the ramp settled to the landing pad and a detachment of twelve armored guards from the ship escorted a man in rich robes to the Receiving Area. The Kelvaxan guards parted to allow their honored guest to pass. Another contingent disembarked shortly after, this group even more heavily surrounded. Two guards in the second contingent carried between them a large black box.

The man in the expensive robes spoke briefly with a Kelvaxan official, who then waved the entire group and their cargo through the security portal leading into the depths of the complex.

The group passed through several more security checkpoints without incident as they approached the core of the asteroid and Central Control. Eventually, the heavily guarded group reached an ornate set of wooden doors at the end of a long narrow hallway. It was at this point that they were made to wait while a senior guard entered the doors to secure clearance for them.

After several minutes, the guard returned and indicated that only the man in the expensive robes, the cargo, and its two guards would be allowed through. The man nodded his understanding, and after a subtle hand gesture, the rest of the guards that had acted as escorts took up positions along the hallway, weapons at the ready.

The man stepped through the doors, followed by the guards and their cargo, and into an expansive room with vaulted ceilings. On the wall to their left hung the mounted and stuffed heads of hundreds of alien species, some wild and some civilized. Some represented species advanced enough to have breached the frontier of interstellar travel, while other represented species long extinct. On the opposite wall were shelves of books, from floor to ceiling, broken intermittently by computer consoles – presumably holding databases of writings no longer available in hard copy. Throughout the room, tables and glass cases held artifacts from thousands of cultures across the galaxy.

At the far end of the room, at an old wooden desk that looked more like a relic than anything functional, was seated a wrinkled old man in a tweed suit. The old man was bent over a large tome, a magnifying glass mounted over his right eye. As if not noticing the arrival of the group, he continued to peruse the page before him until the man in the expensive robes and his two guards stood before the desk.

Without looking up he spoke, “Ah, Lord Trelonde. I trust your journey was uneventful.”

The man in the expensive robes snapped his heels together smartly and bowed his head. “We are grateful for the escort ships you sent to meet us at Feldett III, Curator Heems – though I doubt anyone but yourself would see the value in the artifact I’ve brought you.”

“Quite,” the Curator said, looking up at the other man. Smiling, he gestured to the tome in front of him. “Any idea what this is?”

Trelonde gazed briefly at the book and did not recognize the language it was written in. “I’m an avid collector of rare artifacts, Curator Heems, for certain, but I am not an expert on ancient texts such as this, however.”

Heems rose from his seat and shut the book. “Five million years ago, Warlord Walthus Vex wiped out an eighth of the sentient species present in this galaxy at that time.” Heems removed the larger lens from his eye and placed a pair of round spectacles on his nose. “A vicious tyrant, he took what he wanted, including mates. Sex and species didn’t matter to him – his species was the Royn, who all have adaptive reproductive systems and can mate and create offspring with any living species. This book is a detailed record of every creature he coupled with in that conquest – and every creature that died birthing his Royn progeny.”

Trelonde made a face of disgust.

“It’s really quite interesting. The Royn are also empaths. He was able to experience what they felt while forcing himself on them and wrote it all down. This is the twenty-seventh volume of four thousand. The illustrations are very graphically detailed,” Heems said with a smirk.

“Now about this piece you’ve brought me, Lord Trelonde,” Heems said, moving around and approaching the black box. “Are you able to verify its authenticity?”

“It’s authenticity is not what makes this piece worth collecting,” Trelonde explained, a strange look on his face. “It may be an original – it may be a clever copy. That’s not the point. I can guarantee you’ll never see anything like it in your life.”

“Cease the pitch,” Heems said impatiently. “Show me the piece or leave this asteroid. I don’t have time to ponder the possibilities and improbabilities of life.”

“As you wish,” Trelonde replied with a brief bow.

Heems ushered them over to a low table and relocated a few relics from its surface to other tables. Trelonde nodded to the guards and they carefully set the black box on to the empty surface. The guards each removed keychains from their persons and inserted their respective keys into locks on either side of the box. Lastly, Trelonde pulled a key from within his robes and inserted it into a larger locking mechanism on the front of the box. At Trelonde’s signal, the three men turned their keys and the lid to the box popped open with a hiss. Briefly, visible clouds of gas billowed out and dissipated.

Trelonde opened the lid completely and stepped back for Heems to inspect the contents.

Curator Heems had donned a pair of latex gloves and reverently stepped forward to the box. The inside of the box was lit with soft glowlights and for a moment Heems simply stared at what lay inside, the light reflecting off his round spectacles. He then took a deep breath and reached into the box. Carefully, he removed the ancient device from its velvet cushion and held it at eye level.

The American-made 1986 Model Speak & Spell appeared to be in mint condition.

“Very nice,” Heems said. “But there’s still the question of its authenticity.”

“I assure you, its authenticity won’t matter once you see what it does.”

Heems turned a skeptical eye to Trelonde. “It still works?”

“Turn it on and find out, Curator Heems.”

Heems scoffed at the relic collector and pressed the button marked “ON”.

Four musical tones sounded, indicating the device was active. After a pause, the device’s screen glowed green as words appeared. A synthesized voice spoke the words as they printed.

“Good day to you, Curator Heems,” it droned.

“What gimmick is this?” Heems demanded, narrowing his eyes at Trelonde. “I’m not a collector of cheap parlor tricks.”

“This is no trick,” the device said aloud. “You are being given a priceless gift.”

Surprised, Heems regarded the ancient Earth toy in his hands. “For all intents and purposes, it appears authentic. The coloring is accurate. The speech synthesizer is very close to the original, but I suspect its been tampered with. Artificial intelligence module installed?”

Trelonde stood silently regarding the Curator – waiting.

Heems turned the toy over in his hands and examined it closer. “I won’t give you full value unless I can verify its authenticity, and expect a deduction for the electronic tampering that’s been done to it.”

“As it said, it is a gift, Curator Heems,” Trelonde said, his smile waxing cryptic.

“Hmph,” Heems huffed. “I’m still going to open it up.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” the Speak & Spell commanded.

Heems eyes seemed to glaze over and his mouth opened as if he were about to say something.

Then Heems spoke: “I’ll do no such thing.”

Trelonde’s smile widened maniacally.

***

The wheezy, grinding noise stopped and the TARDIS materialized with a thump.

“Right,” the Doctor said, moving to the doors. “Stay together, no touching each other, and more importantly no touching any of the pieces unless given explicit permission.”

“What is this place, Doctor?” Amy asked.

“You are about to step into the oldest and most extensive museum in the universe – the Kelvaxan Reliquary. It is here that I intend to show you that your gizmos, your apps, and your social networking tools are just the detritus on the surface of the deeper technological potential of Earth. First, I’ll introduce you to my old friend, Curator Heems. He should be able to get us into some of the more exclusive exhibits.”

The Doctor grasped the door handle. “Maybe then you’ll learn when and where to show proper respect to the wonders of the universe.” He then added with a smirk, “Especially me.”

The Doctor threw open the door and stepped out backwards, his arms open in welcome as he backpedaled out the TARDIS.

“My friends,” he declared, “welcome to future history!”

The first things that Amy and Rory noticed as they stepped out after him were the thirty-seven laser rifles that were trained on them.

“Doctor,” Rory said hesitantly.

“I know, its a bit much to take in at first, but your senses will soon level out.”

With a flourish, the Doctor spun around with the intent to march purposefully forward into the vast museum. Instead, he marched purposefully into a laser rifle.

“Ah,” the Doctor said. “Not the sort of respect I had in mind.”

(to be continued … )

Doctor Who: Red Right Hand – Prologue

It’s almost February. I plan to initiate a plan of such malevolent evil at the onset of the coming month that it will shatter the foundation of the very universe itself.

And by “malevolent evil” I really meant mediocrity. And by “shatter the foundation of the very universe itself” I mean that it will be different than my normal blogging routine.

If you followed me from the Reliquary, you’ve seen this piece I’m about to share a number of times, so I apologize once again for repetition. If you don’t know what the Reliquary is, I’d like to introduce you to some fan fiction of mine.

A couple of years ago, I read every Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I had a hardback edition of the Complete Adventures (which wasn’t complete) and tracked down a few extra stories that somehow were missed.

I was involved in a writing group at the time, and one of the members challenged me to write a story mimicking Doyle. I took the challenge, and what resulted was three or four short chapters of what I called Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Prime Machine.

Somewhere around Chapter Five I got bored. I had a great storyline for the straight Sherlock piece (mysteries are so very easy to construct, but can appear to be very complex … they’re not, by the way, you just have to know how to write backwards), but my affection for randomness won out and the story instantaneously morphed into Doctor Who fan fiction. I continued it, and eventually concluded it, adopting the style of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures, but leaving out any companions.

Well, that opened up several strings of creativity that I felt I just had to follow out to their ends, so I began to write a sequel to The Prime Machine that begins a larger, more epic story. The first part of that epic story is called Red Right Hand, and I’m posting here now because I think doing so may convince me to finish it.

If you’d like to read the complete Adventure of the Prime Machine, let me know and I will direct you to one of several places you may find it. It’s quite lengthy, but absolutely complete.

When I started writing this adventure, I was watching the sixth season of the new series, so I included Amy and Rory as companions. It seemed logical. So, if you current in your Whoniversal travels, realize that I am not. I’m currently watching all the Doctor Who serials in order from “An Unearthly Child” and I’m only up to “The Mutants” in the Third Doctor’s run.

NOT POSSIBLE! you say? Oh, but I managed. A good chunk of those serials no longer exist on film – but the scripts, novelizations, and audio recordings still do. I’m a completionist – I found a way.

Realize then that I am not current on the Eleventh Doctor past “The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe”

Let me know what you think. I have three chapters and the prologue complete. Here is the prologue:

—-

Doctor Who : Red Right Hand

Prologue: Seas of Blue and Pink

“This is your fault, Rory!” the Doctor shouted back as he sprinted across the Yazoshean fields towards the safety of the TARDIS.

“My fault?” Rory, one of the Doctor’s two present companion travelers responded, also in a full sprint just behind the Doctor. “You’re the one that -”

“Shut up, Rory,” Amy Pond snapped, taking a split second to slap his shoulder as she pushed past him. “Just run!”

Their pursuers, a massive swarm of blue and pink gunbunnies, followed close behind, squeaking in furry fury.

Rory chanced a look back and saw that the swarm was growing by the second. Gunbunnies were shimmering and splitting into twos, threes, and fours by the second. Five minutes earlier, there had been only a few hundred, now there were hundreds of thousands swarming over the lush green hills where the Doctor had decided to park his blue box.

Rory’s eyes widened in terror and with a burst of speed he passed up both Amy and the Doctor. The TARDIS was still two rises away and the gunbunnies were multiplying so quickly that they were beginning to surround the fleeing trio of time travelers.

“Not far now!” the Doctor cried as they began the ascent up the final hill. “Just over this last rise.”

“You said that three rises ago, Doctor,” Amy panted, now pulling up the rear behind the two men. Just behind her, a gunbunny that had pulled ahead of the rest leaped at her and found purchase on her ankle. Before she could knock it away, there were four of the alien creatures on her. Tripping over the multiplying creatures, she fell hard to ground.

The Doctor heard her body hit the ground, and quickly turned back for her. Ahead of them, Rory continued to run up the hill to escape. By the time the Doctor reached Amy, she was covered in the aliens, her screams muffled by the sheer volume of blue and pink fur covering her.

The Doctor braced himself and shouted, “Sorry!” as he kicked one of the gunbunnies off of her back.

Again and again, he kicked the creatures away from her, each time saying, “Sorry!” and “So so sorry!” and “I sincerely apologize” as the gunbunnies were propelled from Amy and into the air where they multiplied in flight like organic fireworks. Grabbing her hands, the Doctor pulled Amy to her feet and they continued their escape as the rest of the gunbunny hoard pushed ever closer to them.

At the top of the hill, they found Rory standing still looking in the distance. There, in a low spot between several rolling hills before them, sat the TARDIS. Between the companions and the vessel of their escape was a veritable sea of multiplying aliens.

“Oh dear,” the Doctor said quietly. “I hope you two know how to swim.”

Without explanation, the Doctor ran into the oncoming waves of gunbunnies, bashing and kicking the knee deep flood of pink and blue. “Don’t stop, keep moving!” he yelled back at them. “They only want to lick you!”

Grabbing Amy’s hand, Rory pulled her with him into the swarm and ran after the Doctor.

Gunbunnies squeaked as they were trod on by the trio. The Doctor continued his progress, kicking and slapping the aliens away, each time expressing his sincerest apologies. The closer the companions got to the TARDIS, the deeper the sea of gunbunnies became until just ten feet or so from the doors of the strange blue box, they were completed submerged in blue and pink.

Amy and Rory managed to reach the TARDIS and were pressed in hard against the Doctor as he fumbled for his keys.

“Oi! Don’t shove!” the Doctor yelled, his voice muffled by a gunbunny licking his face. The Time Lord found it increasingly difficult to unlock the doors to the TARDIS as gunbunnies kept appearing in front of the keyhole.

“Doctor, what happens if they get inside the TARDIS?” Rory asked, pushing a gunbunny from his face just enough to breathe.

“I have a plan!” the Doctor said, just as the key slid home. “Aha! Now, when I open up, quickly get in and help me shut the door behind us.”

Pushed by the force of rapidly multiplying aliens around them, the three companions fell into the TARDIS in a quickly growing pile of pink and blue. Jumping to their feet, the three braced against the door and managed with difficulty to shut it.

“Now this might tingle,” the Doctor said. From an inner pocket, he removed his sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the TARDIS console, using it as a remote control. With a flash, the pile of gunbunnies that had managed to get inside the ship vanished and an incredible stench was left behind.

“Oh my god,” Rory gasped.

“That’s so horrible,” Amy said, covering her nose.

“Give it a minute,” the Doctor said, collapsing into a seat. After a few seconds of tear-inducing stench, the smell gradually faded and the companions breathed sighs of relief.

“Six hundred years, Rory,” the Doctor said frowning at the gangly boy who had caused the entire ordeal. “For six hundred years, the Yazoshean people have kept the gunbunny population in check and in two seconds you caused the biggest catastrophe the planet has seen in millennia.”

“I didn’t know,” Rory stammered.

“You didn’t know?” Amy cut in. “The second we walked into the city there were signs plastered fifty feet high saying  ‘Don’t mix the gunbunnies’.”

“They were both pink! And I checked their -” Rory gestured, pointing to his crotch. “- you know …”

“Rory, you’d need a microscope and an autopsy to see their reproductive organs,” the Doctor explained. “It’s in their brains. They reproduce telepathically. And honestly, just because something’s pink doesn’t mean its a female – you fashion fascist. Pink is cool.” The Doctor started, shocked at what he had said. “No, I take that back. Pink is never, ever cool. No, sorry.”

“Oh,” Rory said, looking down at his feet.

“Oh, he says,” Amy Pond replied sarcastically. “You probably upset the ecosystem or something or other.”

“No, no,” the Doctor said, rising and casually walking to the console. “No worries. Gunbunny longevity is only a day. They’ll soon run out of steam and start to die. It’s the stench of their dying that has the lasting affect. That will take about a year to go away.”

Pulling a lever, the Doctor activated the TARDIS. With a grinding noise, muffled by the sea of reproducing gunbunnies covering it, the TARDIS disappeared from the Yazoshean fields.

“Why do they call them gunbunnies, anyway?” Amy asked, moving to stand next to the Doctor.

Rory doubled over, clutching his stomach, “Why am I so hungry suddenly? I feel like I haven’t eaten in ages.”

“Excellent question, Pond,” the Doctor replied, deftly ignoring Rory’s question. “Easy answer. Under the right circumstances, if you were to fire a gun at a wall fifty feet away, while standing over a gunbunny, the gunbunnies would reproduce so fast as to reach the wall before the bullet. Gunbunnies.”

“You know,” Amy remarked, “I feel ravenous as well. That’s odd. I’m really very hungry.”

Making several adjustments on the TARDIS console, the Doctor plotted their next jaunt in time and space.

“So where to next?” the Doctor asked them, still ignoring their hunger. “Planet of the Infinite Waterfall? Cotton Candy Nebula?”

The Doctor’s question was answered by his own stomach gurgling loud enough to echo in the TARDIS.

“Wait a minute,” Rory said, his forehead crumpled in confusion. “So what happened to the gunbunnies in here?”

“Another easy answer,” the Doctor said. He laughed nervously and carefully said, “I sped up time a year inside the TARDIS. They lived, they multiplied, they partied hard, and died natural deaths. All in an instant.”

“What?” Amy gawked. “You mean I’m a year older?”

“No wonder I’m starving!” Rory exclaimed, “I haven’t eaten in a year!”

“Ah,” the Doctor said, laughing nervously. “Happy birthday? Would you like some cake?”

Amy and Rory both silently glared at the Time Lord.

Hoping to alleviate the suddenly heavy atmosphere, the Doctor pulled out a small party horn from one of his seemingly endless pockets and tooted it. “Now who wants their spankings first?” he said half-heartedly and bit his lip. “Ha. Um … yes.  A bit late. Is it hot in here?”

(to be continued … )

Marvel Project – December 1968

MephistoAnother month down. Almost into the 70s!

Here’s what happened in the Marvel universe in December of 1968:

After battling through Mysterio’s tricks, Spider-Man discovers that he’s not been miniaturized after all. Tracking the villain down to his hideout, Spidey defeats him again.

Captain America is enlisted to save his love interest Sharon Carter, who has been kidnapped and held hostage by the Trapster. After dueling with the sticky villain, Cap discovers that Sharon was never in real danger and the entire event had been a ruse to force Trapster into revealing that he was working for the Red Skull.

Mar-Vell uncovers evidence that Walter Lawson, the man whose identity he has stolen, was working for the Organization and built a deadly robot assassin for them. The robot, acting on Lawson’s final commands, attacks Mar-Vell, thinking he his Lawson.

As Ka-Zar and Banner tamper with the Doomsday device in the Savage Land, a robot is awakened to stop them. Hulk fights the guardian robot, but it appears that Banner dies in the process.

Intent on recovering Destiny’s helmet of power, which Namor believes is too dangerous to let fall into human hands again, the Prince must confront Thing, who has been enlisted to protect the helmet, and transport it to a lab for study.

The Sons of Satannish beg their master for more powers, a request that is granted to them. The mystic villains disguise themselves as Doctor Strange’s assisstant Wong and kidnap Clea.

The Wizard returns with a new pair of power gloves. With Sue Storm out on maternity leave, Crystal steps up and proves her worth by easily dispatching the Wizard with the Fantastic Four. Seeing her abilities, Reed, Johnny, and Ben welcome her as the newest member of the team.

As Iron Man defeats the Gladiator, it is revealed that Jasper Sitwell knew Whitney Frost was an enemy all along. Foiling the Maggia’s plans, Sitwell and SHIELD agents defeat all enemy agents, thus protecting Stark’s secret weapon plans. Whitney Frost escapes capture.

Nick Fury is poisoned with a powerful and fatal hallucinatory drug. In a desperate attempt to find help, he battles visions of foes old and new as the drug slowly kills him. Reaching SHIELD by sheer luck, Fury is sharp enough to discover that the villain who poisoned him is posing as a SHIELD agent. Escaping death again, Fury causes the mole to inject himself with the drug.

Mephisto, having witnessed the honorable exploits of the Silver Surfer, has decided that he wants the Silver Surfer’s soul. Traveling to Silver Surfer’s homeworld, he kidnaps Shalla Bal and brings her to Earth to tempt the cosmic crusader. Try as he might, Mephisto is unable to break Silver Surfer, and resorts to threatening to send Shalla Bal back. Silver Surfer accepts that he must let her go or lose his soul, and Mephisto is defeated.

The Avengers are shocked to discover that a new superhero, calling himself Yellowjacket, has beaten and apparently killed Hank Pym. Vision, Hawkeye, and Black Panther attack the cocky newcomer, but Yellowjacket takes Wasp as a hostage. Escaping with her to his hideout, he waits for the Avengers to find him. In a scuffle, Yellowjacket kisses Wasp and they embrace. When the Avengers arrive, Wasp shocks them all and tells the team that she intends to marry Yellowjacket.

Captain Savage and his men (WWII era) must take down a man who is impersonating Captain Savage. They are captured by a gunrunner who decides to help them against the Japanese.

Daredevil shows a blind man that life goes on past physical handicaps when, as both Daredevil and Matt Murdock, he demonstrates how you must adapt to changes in your life or risk losing your self.

Odin reveals to Thor that his time as Donald Blake was meant as punishment, and a lesson in humility for a transgression Thor initiated against the Frost Giants.

The X-men escape from the clutches of Magneto, Lorna Dane, and Mesmero and his Demi-men. As they regroup, a mutant calling himself Erik the Red appears before Magneto and Mesmero and challenges their leadership.

Best moment from December 1968:

First appearance of Mephisto, one of the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe. Special mention for the first appearance of Yellowjacket and the awkward soap opera moment below. : )

Yellowjacket

Solo: Or These Aren’t the PUGs You’re Looking For

I’m not a social gamer. For decades, I’ve preferred to escape into video game universes alone. Even in MMOs, I’m reclusive and stick to soloing almost exclusively. My anxieties carry over into games, I guess. I never really thought that was possible until I started delving into Xbox Live and feeling the same panicky nervousness that often pervades new social situations I find myself in. It doesn’t matter if its an 8-year-old that I’m getting destroyed by, or a guy in his fifties asking for tips – I cower and turtle up and shut off my mic and exit to home.

It wasn’t always like this though.

Long before social networking sites, I spent a good deal of time in chatrooms. I wasn’t looking for romance or anything like that. I just enjoyed the setting – the openness of the environment filled with people that I could care less about their opinion of me. It was the future. I was myself in those settings – something I couldn’t be in real life.

That eventually led to fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying in chatrooms, merging the computer with tabletop gaming. I found MUDs interesting and enticing, though limited in creativity at times. Then came the first MMOs, like Ultima Online, and it was a natural transition from roleplaying to online gaming. And in all that interaction, I never shied away from conversation. I was a people-person online.

I can’t really remember what caused it or when it happened. One day I opened my mouth to say something over Teamspeak, and I froze. It might have been during a mission with the Razorbacks in WW2Online. It may have been during a Raid with Vengeance in WoW.

One day I shut off the mic, closed the chat window, left the guild, hosted a private game, started declining invites, and stopped playing with other people.

I regret that. I’m still not sure why it happened. I’m introverted enough in public, I don’t need to be so in a setting where I’m essentially anonymous. Why do I cringe thinking about logging into The Old Republic and looking for a group so I can tackle the tough flashpoint without having to wait until I’m 20 levels above the recommended level?

Is there a matchmaking type site for gaming groups? I don’t mean a dating site for gamers – I mean a place where I can be matched with gamers like me instead of suffering through random groups, or shoddily run guilds, or open matches flooded with ten-year-olds who don’t understand words like flank, pull, or fall the fuck back.

I don’t have a lot of friends, and the few I have aren’t really gamers. The ones that are play games that I find boring, like Call of Duty, or Madden. Xbox isn’t really conducive for co-op gaming on the couch with my girlfriend, and I really don’t feel like dishing out a thousand dollars to get a lappy that’s comparable to the PC we use with the television to play MMOs.

Maybe I’m missing it. Maybe its out there and I’m just looking in the wrong place. Maybe I’m just eternally socially awkward and will never be able to make those kind of friends.

What I’m imagining is a deep matching system that doesn’t just look at the games I play, but how and why I play them, and then finding people with similar gaming goals. It should ask if I’m looking for a single partner or a guild, a patient experienced veteran, or a relentlessly confident newbie. It shouldn’t be just about the games either. What kind of music do you listen to? What books do you read?

The reason why it can be just about liking FPS, or owning GTA IV and Skyrim, is that the games and genres themselves aren’t good indicators of my preferences.

I play GTA because I can make it real. I play Skyrim because I can make it real. I play Mass Effect because I love exploring sci-fi worlds, not sci-fi combat. I play Marvel vs. Capcom because I love Marvel Comics, not because I want to memorize a series of buttons to mash to beat some Vietnamese kid name HolyJesusCarnage33. I play WoW because I love the world, the races, the ability to create a story of my own and interact in that universe with others who simply enjoy the ability to escape.

Here’s an example of what my profile might look like:

Username: Jabberwookie

Age: 34

Sex: Male

Location: USA (Region not specified)

Desires Group/Partner for: WoW, SW:TOR, Guild Wars 2, Baldur’s Gate, NWN, Tribes: Ascend, Red Dead Redemption

Preferred Systems: Xbox, PC

Preferred Genres: RPGs, MMOs, FPS

Gaming Styles: Completionist, Explorer, Roleplayer, Total Immersion

Gaming Skills: Quick Learner, Adaptive, Experienced, Number-Cruncher

Looking for:

Age: 25-50

Styles: Completionist, Explorer, Roleplayer

Skills: Strategist, Creative

Sex: any

That’s just the profile. Like other matchmaking sites (I’ll say eHarmony specifically because, well, that’s how I met my soulmate), it matches based on deeper core values and philosophies. The system should ask meaningful questions like:

1. Have you ever logged into an MMO for an hour or longer without moving from your spawn point for the duration? (i.e. to reorganize your inventory, watch other players, talk to someone in chat, wait to see if someone comes online, etc.)

2. In games where the option is available, do you prefer to use fast travel methods or make the full trek by mount/foot?

3. Do you walk in-game?:

a) always

b) only when roleplaying has been initiated with another player

c) only when approaching a roleplaying area (but from a distance so it looks like I always walk)

d) you can walk?

4. In games with linear quests, but that have additional mob-spawning areas away from the quest flow, do you:

a) attack only those mobs that appear on the linear path

b) dodge as many enemies as possible en route to the quest end

c) wipe them out … all of them

5. The most important rule in group combat is:

a) Know your role

b) Follow the Leader

c) Keep Moving

d) Reload/Buff Often

e) If you have to discuss strategy before the match/raid/instance, you suck and need to learn to play

There are deeper connections that are possible within the gaming community, I think. There’s someone out there that prefers to create and build in Survival Mode in Minecraft, and that person would love to have to build massive quarries just to get the rock/ore we need to build a replica of downtown Dallas. There’s someone who wants to do all the quests in a zone before moving on to the next zone appropriate for our level, even if we could skip those quests and not lose anything gear or experience wise. There’s someone who wants to build a team where everyone has their assignments and follows directions and stays in cover. There’s someone who would love to follow a dungeon-master-esque writer’s occasionally scripted material to deepen the roleplay experience while maintaining continuity within the context of the game’s lore and current quest line.

If that service is out there, I haven’t found it. If you know of one as comprehensive as I’ve described, let me know about it.

Until then, if you ever want to game with me, my Xbox gamertag is: Jabberwookie

Or give me a shout: prof.edtt@gmail.com