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[personal profile] eve11
For [personal profile] lost_spook's request.


The Hump Day Party Mix: DVD commentary
Original Story on AO3.

Spoilers ahead!

So, some back story. It is September 2013 and the absolutely fantabulous EleventyFest fic-athon has been methodically revealing all its presents and gifts for a week. People are encouraged to write treats as well, which will all be revealed after the last fest recipient gets their present in another week. And my dear friend [personal profile] clocketpatch is literally the last person to get their main gift revealed. I decided I wanted to make her a treat fic, a week before the deadline. A short ficlet. I took on her prompt, "Just Eleven and Clara having an adventure." Somehow, I thought there was an "and anyone else" in her prompt, so I decided I would cross over with a classic era, and some kind of mystery villain, nothing decided yet.

I was going to basically free associate some ridiculous things into a story. [community profile] fic_rush was going on that weekend and I put out a request for crazy things to include. They were all about penguins that round. I had some inspirational places to see for Clara's 101 places, and some religious terms because I was thinking about monks or something. And somehow that led me also to an article on lava tubes.

SO My notes, starting out were:

"Eleven and Clara, adventure, world building, guest star Frobisher.

Clara breaks him out of prison? has to hold his hand all the way through as they're being chased, since each thing he sees, it's worse than a museum. Kid in a candy shop. Being chased by. . ."


I wrote the first paragraph, the following lines:


"Oh for the love of sanity! Is that a jet pack?"

"No!" The Doctor spun around, grinning like a kid on Christmas. "It's two jet packs! Come on!"


I wanted to write 400 words in the week. I wrote 4000. I don’t exactly recall how it spun itself together, which ideas came first and which came after. But if my comments are to be believed, I had the main idea and plot down for a few days but wrote the middle 2700 words of this story in under 24 hours before the deadline. The Eleventy-fest mods actually delayed the reveal so I could squeak it in at the deadline. I’m not sure where it came from or how it came so quickly, but it was one of the most fun stories I’ve written and I’m pretty proud of it.

So here goes.

The Hump Day Party Mix:
[I did not spend much time on the title. Wednesday is of course Hump Day, but being fandom, there is a chance that people just assume it’s a sexual innuendo and move on.]
--------------------------------
**

The Pembrian Canonicate of Viltri Prime were known for acquiring secrets and oddities. They had a warren of a monastery hollowed out from ancient lava tubes under the planet's surface. Their tunnels spanned the globe miles deep, so the stories said, and their collection spanned millennia. By all accounts of those who had dared to make the trip and returned to tell the tale, it was a marvel of the modern age.

Somewhere else entirely, it was a Wednesday.

[One thing I did with this story was try to write as little as possible. I forget where I found the term ‘Canonicate’ but I do remember explicitly searching for a good term. Also, my plan from the beginning was to free associate among some very disparate things and bring them together into one story, so a good place to start is with breaking into a collection of crazy plot devices oddities. This story is basically a writing version of the Yes, And. . . improv game that I’m playing with myself. I did not reject any idea I came up with for it.]


**

[ Clocket’s prompts were all about Clara. I wasn’t really keen on Clara. Not that I didn’t like her, but I didn’t really feel her very well as a character. She only had had 8 episodes with Eleven, and was still the Impossible girl. So I wasn’t sure how to start out, until she started punning at me. Then it kind of clicked. Oh, oh, okay, that is Clara, she’s excited and clever and subtly ribbing the Doctor. People see the last pun in this sequence but she actually starts early on, with the last word of her first line, in which I see her very much stressing the second two syllables]

"Nuns who nick the universe's treasures?" Clara bounced on her toes by the TARDIS door, her breezy summer dress accented by a pair of practical shoes. "How unconventional." [pun #1]

"They don't nick." The Doctor frowned, cracked the door and peeked outside.

"I'll bet they do. The knaves." [ pun #2 ]

"They--what? Don't say it that way if you run in to any of them," he whispered, still blocking the door.

"Worried about prior offenses?" she tried. [pun #3, she stresses the word, and the Doctor is catching on.]" He turned and raised a finger.

"Stop it. I can turn this TARDIS right around."

"I'm sure you can," she suggested, and he stood stock still for a moment, mouth open. Then he sighed, opened the door and stepped out.

"Anyway, they don't nick," he said. "They procure."

"Yeah?" She crept out after him into a gloomy corridor. "Do they make a habit of it?" [And the 4th. Good show, Clara!]

**

Ten minutes later, the Doctor had managed to cross thirty-two items off of his own running "Things I have to see before I believe it" list. Of course, Clara hadn't made a dent in her one hundred and one places. So far, this one looked like the universe's best attempt at a junk drawer.

[Junk drawers are great. For purposes of another story, I now know basically how to say 'junk drawer' in Latin (arca scrutaria, that is brilliant). Thanks to my twin sister who worked through that with me with no understanding why.]

"Oh look," the Doctor said in the next eddy of a room curling away from the main corridor. He pointed to a clear, faceted ball the size of a satsuma on the wall. "A psychic flash from the aura photographers on Kep!"

[Honestly, IDEK what this is. I don’t do improv in real time. But I will techno-babble like nobody’s business, and I do know that Chekov will be proud of this here story because there are going to be lots of useful things that show up later on.]

Clara leaned against a small spot of bare wall, arms crossed. "I hear Monument Valley is beautiful," she said.

"Been there." The Doctor waved a hand, still perusing the shelves. "I was in a robot at the time. Not a giant one, mind you; just regular size. Me, though, I was tiny." [snerk.]

She huffed a breath. "At least come up with a believable fib."

"Happens more often than you'd think . . ." he said, eyes passing slowly over a very small, very detailed model of some kind of sleek space plane. [You, the audience, are you now suspicious of this tiny incredibly detailed "model" of a space plane? Because I am hoping you are connecting it to the Doctor’s point about miniaturization happening quite often in the greater universe.] Then he spun around. "Long story short, not sure if it still counts as--ooh, is that a Divrixian metallurgic manipulator? Why is it reading yellow?" [Impending crisis!]

He brandished the sonic, and Clara stood up abruptly. "Doctor, I don't think you should touch anything--"

Alarms blared.

[I tend to over-use adverbs when I try to write comedy. I tried to check myself but ‘abruptly’ shows up more than it should in this story. Possibly only one other place, but that’s quite enough.]
**

Five minutes after that, they were racing deeper into the maze with a horde of half-cybernetic centipedes in wimples on their heels. [Thanks, brain. Yes, and . . . ]

[Why centipedes? Well, why not? But this is also cribbed a bit from the Big Finish audios, specifically Sisters of the Flame, a rather brilliant Eight and Lucie adventure that also stars Alexander Siddig as a giant centipede detective named Rosto. Why nuns? Because they are funny, if you weren’t traumatized by them as part of a parochial school education. Nuns and insects. Insect nuns. When my younger sister was very small, maybe 6 years old, my mother was studying for some kind of class at a local catholic college that also had a convent. We had to go with her on occasion and it was not all that fun for a kid. My younger sister complained one summer evening about being bored. "Go catch some lightning bugs," I told her. "Go talk to the nuns," my twin sister said a second afterward. My younger sister frowned. "They make my hands smell." Of course, every kid who grows up in the right climate knows that. You have to be careful how you handle them; they exude chemicals that will get all over you if you’re not careful. ]

"I was just having a look at it!" the Doctor shouted over his shoulder. "It's a good thing too--!"

They turned a corner and were snagged by a plethora of tiny pincers--reinforcements, cutting off their escape. Soon Clara and the Doctor were wrapped up, arms pinned to their sides by approximately forty-two spindly appendages apiece, hugged against the rearing fore-segments of the very modestly dressed arthropods that had caught them. They could only watch as the pursuing posse met the flankers and fanned out into the corridor.

[ Do you all remember the wedding scene in Beetlejuice when the spindly statue comes to life and grabs hold of Delia Deetz? That’s the image I was thinking of when the Doctor and Clara get caught. It’s both ridiculous and terrifying. ]

They were surrounded and immobile. The Doctor cleared his throat.

"Hello! Sisters of the Ciliate Order, may you grow long in life! There's been a bit of a misunderstanding, I'm afraid, and also there is a possible crisis that you really should know about--"

"Ssssilence!" The leader clapped her top two pincers together, and the nun holding the Doctor sent a jolt of blue electricity through him from the ends of her legs. He contained a scream through gritted teeth, but slumped over when the blue arc stopped and the nun slackened her grip. [Aw, I can’t get through a story without beating up on Eleven a little bit.]

"Doctor!" Clara cried, and cut off abruptly [Aaaugh! There it is again! Why didn’t I remove it, it’s like nails on a blackboard.] when she felt her hair start to stand on end. The leader reared up to tower over them, her long antennae swooping down to explore the Doctor's head and shoulders.

"Penitent," she clicked at him. "You will feel right at home in the lower levels. Down there we have such a splendid assortment of thieves."

"You can't!" Clara said. The nun holding her made a disconcerting hissing noise that came from the body segments Clara would have called a neck in a mammal. [I owe so much to Singe and her writing about lizards, I really do.]The body she could feel at her back was strong and solid as stone. She suppressed a shudder and bit her lip. The leader ignored her, still pronouncing sentence over the Doctor.

"Or do you offer usss a rarer and more valuable prize?"

He lolled his head. "Clara," he rasped. For a second her heart sank with the wretched feeling of betrayal, but then the Doctor flicked his eyes down. Clara followed his gaze to a barely free hand that had barely made it to a pocket, fingers curled around a glinting something in his palm. The Doctor finished his offer.

"I realize it's two versus two hundred, but--"

He flicked his wrist and screwed his eyes shut. The psychic flash shot straight up into the air and pulsed. In her brain.

[He doesn’t nick, he procures. Well I’m sure he was only borrowing these things to get a closer look at them before having to quickly run away from their cyber-nun owners.]

"Leg it!" the Doctor shouted. [I am too smugly proud about that line, I’m sure]

The nun let go, and Clara ran.

It was only when she stopped, what felt like miles later, that she realized the Doctor had been counting actual legs and not whole bodies in his assessment. He hadn't followed her. Clara looked around the empty corridor, lost and alone.

**

[Most of these scenes start off with some passage of time. I am not good at continuous narrative, so I just break things up into little segments. I’m sure there’s a trick to it, that I have never really grasped. As it is, I think the style makes this story seem longer than it really is. There’s a lot of stuff packed in, but if you just scroll through it, it’s not actually a lot of words. ]

Two hours later found Clara wandering the lower levels in search of the Doctor. She took care to avoid roving patrols of Centipede Sisters, and she didn't touch anything that looked like an exhibit or a cache. Some of the eddies branching off of the corridors had thick doors blocking them, with viny grates along the top. She had to shimmy up the sides of the rounded walls and hang on, braced like a spider in a corner, to see through them.

Most of the rooms were occupied only by dust and baubles. Some were different. In one she saw a collection of purple sunflowers drooping in earthenware pots, leaves curved like hunched shoulders on dejected frames. That's right, they seemed to be saying as Clara slunk back down to the floor, Just leave us behind while you go search for fauna like yourself. Much more important. Another room held a kaleidoscope-colored pedestal surrounded by incomprehensible tech. Yet another was bare but for a stuffed penguin the size of a man slumped in the corner, sitting next to an old brown fedora on the floor.

Except Clara coughed, and she was sure the penguin moved. She yelped in surprise and lost her grip on the ceiling, tumbling back down to the floor. She heard shuffling sounds from the other side of the door, and clambered back up to the grate.

"Hello?" she said, peeking in.

The penguin was standing now, the fedora hung at the tip of its wing. In one practiced move it flicked the hat upside down and rolled it atop its head.

"In the klink not half an hour, and here's a beautiful dame come to rescue me," it said. "That's nearly enough to make a fellow like this joint."

[If you've never met Frobisher before, dear reader, I imagine you are as dumbfounded as Clara is, and are giving me too much credit for coming up with insane ideas. I am glad to introduce you to him, but I can't take credit. If you have met him, I hope this scene fills you with glee.]

Clara stared.

"Name's Frobisher," the penguin offered. "Private eye."

She blinked. He blinked back.

"Right!" Clara finally said. "Let's get this door open."

[Hey, here are the things from the fic rush list! The judgmental plants, and the kaleidoscope teleporter AND the penguin make their cameos. Sadly the kaleidoscope teleporter fails Chekov’s test, but I was already meandering toward the jet packs, so I didn’t need a teleporter. And hey, our Mystery Guest is revealed! And he is our penguin. Though not a ninja, just private eye shapeshifter. The incarnation of Frobisher that I’m cribbing here is from the Big Finish audio adventure The Maltese Penguin. The actor Robert Jezek does Frobisher’s voice with a somewhat passable New York accent, that lends itself very well to Private Eye lingo. I also love his first line. And I think Clara does a good job here taking the crazy in stride. I would love to see the movie version of this scene. It would start off like weird horror-scare, and then focus on the sounds coming from the other side of the door. Clara can’t really believe what she’s hearing but she needs that second look anyway. And when she looks again, there he is, stock still again but standing in the middle of the cell, staring at her. Then pow, fedora, first line, ice broken, story gets moving again. Yes, and. . .

I really wish I remembered how all of the elements for this story came together. Looking back years later, I didn’t leave myself very copious notes. So it must have just sprung forth fully formed like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. Why I can’t do that with research papers is a question for another time.]


**

Twenty minutes passed before the distant strains of pop music started echoing through the halls.

"So I was on a case, you see," Frobisher was saying. "Had a bead on a missing smuggler ship--I was looking into it for a lady friend; she thought they might have run afoul with the Justice Department and that's bad news if you don't have compression shielding. And the Sisters, well, I didn't even have time to ask before they locked me up! Don't know what bees got up in their bonnets, usually--"

"Sssh!" Clara held up a hand. "Do you hear that?"

Frobisher cocked his head to one side and narrowed his eyes. "Sounds like . . . " He waddled over to the wall and placed an ear-hole against the rock. "A power ballad?" he finished.

"What," Clara said, but it was hardly the most incredulous thing that had happened today. Sure enough, they rounded a corner and the faint strains of music became more noticeably the chorus of "Keep on Lovin' You" by REO Speedwagon. "Huh," she said. "That's funny, I have a--"

Then the last refrain faded, and the next song began. And wasn't that just the kicker, thought Clara.

Frobisher rubbed his stubby wings together and said, "Oh, I love this song, a true classic! What do you suppose it's coming from?"

Clara took his wing and sped them off toward the source of the sound. "I know exactly what it's coming from," she said, "And he is in so much trouble!"

[Ah, that last line of hers is a little clunky, but I didn’t have time to fix things. So, here enters the mix tape. I’m pretty sure that the adventure parts and the meet-up with Frobisher came first on my idea list. And I was perhaps thinking that the whole story was panning out to be like a giant mix tape where you shuffle in your favorites and then press play. And then possibly I thought, why not take that to its logical conclusion and have an actual mix tape? The timey-wimey-ness of the story just made sense in a flash; I remember when the idea hit me I was quite excited about it and that’s what got me to write most of the end of the story before finishing the middle.

You will also notice that Frobisher is looking for something that we possibly have already seen before. That justice department and their compression technology. The same people who think it’s a good idea to shrink yourselves down to fit inside a human-sized robot and go about exacting judgement on people right before they get taken out of time… probably think that shrinking their adversaries is a good way to defuse hostile or dangerous situations. ]


**

It took them all of the next track and half of the second refrain of the following before they found the Doctor's cell. Clara scurried up to the grate and said "Oi!"

The Doctor whirled around from fiddling with some contrivance of bric-a-brac accented by the sonic screwdriver, its green tip pulsing to the staccato beat. "Clara!" he said, his voice quieter and hoarser than usual. "Fabulous! You've found me. I couldn't shout so I had to rig something--"

"You nicked it!" she said, poking an accusing finger through the grate. [There is a lot of accusatory finger pointing in my stories. But I was writing quickly.]

He furrowed his brow. "I what? Can you open the door? Only the sonic doesn't do wood and I had to improvise."

"Keep on Loving You, This Charming Man, Let's Dance!" She said the last bit at the same exact time as it echoed on the refrain in the background. Then she disappeared from the grate and soon the door was creaking open to let her storm through. "You nicked my mix tape!" she said. "From the boom box by my bed, you nicked it! When were you even in my room?"

"What?" the Doctor's eyebrows furrowed the way he did when he was processing too much information too quickly, and then he relaxed and waved a dismissive hand. "Nonsense. That's three songs out of a thousand I could have chosen--"

"Rock the Casbah," Clara interrupted.

Sure enough, Bowie faded out, and the beat started up again with the Clash. Clara raised an eyebrow.

[The thing about mix tapes is that they are undeniably personal. There was none of this multiple playlist stuff, or shuffling the order of your songs, or anything. You listened to them in the same order, and you thought about the order as you made the tape. Clara was about 26 in 2012 when we first met her. Which would mean she was born around 1986. So I had her mum make mix tapes at least through 1983, which was the release year for all of the songs we hear on the tape. Also, Clara’s mum must have a soft spot for Speedwagon because the rest of her tastes seem to run to alternative and punk. What can I say, I wanted the first song they heard in the story to be a ridiculous power ballad, and "REO Speedwagon" has a nice ring to it. But really, a mix tape with Keep on Loving You (REO Speedwagon), This Charming Man (The Smiths), Let's Dance (Bowie) and Rock the Casbah (the Clash)... one of these things is not like the other. But that's also the fun about mix tapes. You sometimes throw in something that doesn't match just to make things interesting. ]

The Doctor stood up straight but not before looking guiltily behind him. The bric-a-brac was in fact a black cassette, its holes rigged up through the pointed nose cones of two front propellors from a very small, very detailed model of a sleek looking space plane, which were slowly feeding the tape across a smooth groove in the handle of the sonic.

[This image owes its existence to the first few sentences of a Farscape fic I read over a decade and a half ago that stuck in my head (and how I found this link to it is a fun little story of free association in itself as I'd forgotten the title, the author, and the particulars of the quote, but remembered a distinct line from a different story that I knew was by the same author. Google is awesome.). The plastic spools of the tape player like the noses of shuttlecraft. It’s a completely different tone in that story, but the image stuck with me . . . aaaaand I procured it. I don’t nick. ]

"I don't nick." The Doctor straightened his lapels. "I--"

"You can procure it right back when we get home," Clara snapped. "Here I was worried about kleptomaniac nuns and I should have been worried about you!"

"Clara," the Doctor placated. "Now is not really the time."

"You know, I nearly had my carryall stolen when I was fourteen--"

"Nearly?"

"Near enough to cause grief! It was just a trinket, a game to them, but that bag belonged to my mum!" Her shout echoed to silence, and Clara finally realized at that moment, she was yelling at a thousand-year-old alien in the middle of a lava tube cum convent in some far-away time where space planes were routine, and even if he'd nicked her tape, it wasn't the theft she was most angry about.

[This bit I think was a little too hasty, but I was pressed for time. It’s probably one of the later things I wrote, after the ending was mostly squared away. Clara is angry, of course, because the tape is a connection to her mother, same as her carryall. It seems a non-sequitir now but we learn later that’s where she found it. She’s angry about the theft of the tape, but she’s more angry that her mom was stolen from her. Of course she doesn’t know the whole story, and the Doctor is right anyhow. There's an impeding crisis you may have forgotten about.]

They looked at each other for a moment.

"Why do you have a boom box?" the Doctor finally said. "You have iTunes and Spotify and Medusa--"

"Pandora," the penguin corrected him, finally following Clara into the cell now that the air had been let out of the row.

[Oh hey, audience, do you remember back at the beginning of series 7b when Clara was a complete tech luddite for some reason? Yeah, me neither. But in this case, of course, she may have the boom box just to play the mix tape. Um. Do kids these days know what a boom box is? Is that even a British term? I picture hers as a red one, a bit more curvy than the really big clunky ones from the early 80s. I picture it as the one my fellow junior high students bought our school bus driver one year—because we knew she liked music and our bus didn’t have a radio. She made a wood holding platform for it and set it at the driver side window on the bus, with the antenna going out the open window. She would listen to hits of the 60s, 70’s and 80’s with Harvey in the morning. It looked like this, only red.]

And here she thought for sure she'd found another thing for his list, but the Doctor only smiled broadly and said, "Frobisher! By my stars, what a day!"

"Doc? I should have known." Frobisher's eyes fell on the makeshift tape deck. "Hey! Is that a model three-seven-delta Hadian skimmer? I've been looking for one of those!"

[So the Doctor of course knows Frobisher, and Frobisher of course finds his unfortunate smuggler ship who ran afoul of the Justice Department without compression shielding. Being miniaturized: it happens more often than you think. . .]

"Whereas I was looking for nothing in particular," the Doctor said. "But--well, there is the matter of the yellow alert on a metallurgic manipulator, and the crisis."

"What crisis is that?" Clara asked, looking around nervously. "Because I don't want another run-in with the centipede-nuns and their rock-hard chitinous abs."

"Don't I know it," said Frobisher. "They didn't even let me introduce myself. They were quite--"

"Touchy," the Doctor supplied, looking distractedly around at the walls. "With us too. Something's gotten into them?"

Sharia don't like it-- the tape sang, and was cut off as the Doctor sprang into action again, dismantling the makeshift stereo in under three seconds. [D informs me that the lyric is "Sharif" like the sheriff, not Sharia like the laws. Ah well. You get the point. Also, the next line starts with "Rock," more clues!]

"Yes, well, a working metallurgic manipulator will also sense metallic changes in the igneous foundation around it," he said, quickly stuffing his pockets. "Pressure . . . temperature . . ."

"Is it just me, or is it getting hotter in here?" Frobisher wiped a wing across his brow.

"Ah." The Doctor raised a finger, stopped, and turned to look at Clara.

"Doctor?" she asked.

The floor rumbled ominously underneath them.

"Clara, this is important," the Doctor said slowly. "The novice who was holding you. Was she rock hard . . . or was she actual rock?"

[I really love this whole exchange. Sciencey-wiency technobabble, adverbs, and then things slot into place, ready to leap right into part 3 of the story. The set-up line is a little bit clunky but I absolutely love the Doctor's payoff line here. It is probably my favorite line of the whole story.]

**

[Mystery Villains Revealed! It may have been only moments before writing the above exchange that I realized the Pyroviles were the perfect villains for this impending crisis. And now they seem like such a huge part of the story, but in truth they really only show up very, very briefly. These next six sentences would have been at least an entire act in a TV episode. This is another "less is more" section, that I was writing at breakneck speed. Humor facilitates brevity. You can get away with a little bit more of tell don't show, when your narrative voice has that cheeky humor perspective.]

They found the Pyroviles three levels down. It was a foothold infestation, but large enough and settled enough to have diverted magma from the planet's core upward toward its ancient stomping grounds again, ready to flood the treasures of the Pembrian monastery to clear the way for a new world order. Upon discovery, they set charges to the tunnels that led up to the surface, trapping the Doctor, Clara and Frobisher in the lower levels.

"The only thing that will clear this rock is cleansing fire!" the abbot screeched at them before the walls came down upon her.

In search of reinforcements, they found an entire corridor blocked by a massive cell door, and full to the gills on the other side with Canonicates who'd been resistant to the Pyroviles' heady mix of volcanic gases, hypnotism, and stone conversion. They heaved the door open and sisters streamed through all around them, clinging to the lava tubes from floor to ceiling.

"A thousand legs of thanks, and a treasure for each!" squeaked a novice who herself seemed to have barely fifty. "We had tunneled to the underground Balac sea and were about to release the waters on them when they overpowered us."

"We can help!" the Doctor said, but the sister clacked her pincers. The ground quaked again, shaking nuns from the ceiling as Clara and Frobisher ducked away.

"You have helped already!" the novice said as they ran. "We need only a few minutes to reach the seal and break it. But the lava is coming!"

["X said as Y did something." This is somewhat lazy writing that, when I realized how much I use that particular setup across every story I've written, I went through and tried very hard to excise it where it did not need to be. It creeps in here a little bit. Hasty writing. 2700 words in a day, non-beta-ed.]

"Right," said Frobisher. "That's our cue to high-tail it!"

"The tunnels--" Clara said, trying to avoid being stepped on a thousand times over by nuns carrying all manner of trinkets and treasures on their backs. She was surprised at the relief she felt when she saw several sisters carrying drooping purple sunflowers in earthenware pots to safety.

"The nearest emergency escape route is two turns from here!" the novice told them, scurrying off. "Flee quickly, and good luck!"

[Thank goodness the nuns had mostly taken care of things, because this story is obviously not about the Doctor and Clara and Frobisher cleverly defeating Pyroviles. Well, yes it is, and. . . ;) I kind of love that this religious order is one that will prioritize saving their collections when every emergency protocol that we know says don't worry about your possessions, just get out. These nuns are all about growing more and more legs and being able to hold a treasure in each one. And it was a bit of an afterthought line, but I was amused at how many people told me upon reading that they were so glad the judgmental sunflowers made it out.]
**


Three minutes later, they were at a dead end.

It was just the three of them. They'd been separated from most of the fleeing centipedes; the few they could see were specks of back legs and modest habits getting rapidly smaller as they watched. The floor shook them again, and the air was oppressive. The lava was right on their heels.

"This is an emergency escape route!" Clara said, taking in heavy breaths as she looked up. And up. And up some more.

"'Course it is!" the Doctor said, winded and looking up with her. "Fastest way out for them, climb the walls straight up! I suppose . . . we should have specified acceptable parameters for ourselves. Although--"

[This is a scene that I can see and hear very clearly. Eleven out of breath is rather adorable.]

Then he sped off to a nearby room. The floor cracked and Clara screamed. Frobisher hopped foot to foot, looking conflicted.

"Of all the times you'd want working wings!" Clara lamented.

"Ahm," the penguin said. "Well, it's not exactly that . . ."

Clara goggled as with a hefty shake and a strange thwock of a noise, Frobisher transformed, literally, right in front of her eyes. The wings he sported this time were definitely functional.

[Oh, you poor audience who have never met Frobisher before. I imagine you are still with me, but again according me too much credit. Yes, and he can shape shift! Well, why not?]

The Doctor popped his head around the corner, pointing at Frobisher and smiling. "Menoptera!" he said. "That's very good! Spent time on Vortis, have you?"

[This visual of the Doctor is straight out of that bit in A Good Man Goes to War where he smiles and points River, that led to a thousand Gifs. And the reference here is to the First Doctor adventure, The Web Planet, but my experience with Vortis, the Menoptera and the Zarbi comes instead from the Big Finish Audio Return to the Web Planet, starring Five and Nyssa.]

"I was nearly married!" Frobisher buzzed. "I'll tell you about it some time! But, Doc, this moth's a one-person deal! I can't carry either of you--"

"Got it covered! Go on, we'll be fine!" The Doctor disappeared back into the room.

"As you say!" Frobisher wiggled his antennae, gave Clara a salute with two legs and set off, fluttering straight up the chute. Clara's heart pounded. The heat was unbearable, and there was no way she could climb. She could hear lava burbling and fizzing the walls and the air was so full of dust and soot that it was unbreathable.

"Doctor!" she said, coughing in great gasps as smoke stung her eyes. "Doctor--please! The lava's coming! We need to--!"

At that moment he appeared again, his back to her, frantically dragging a heap of tubes, poles and gadgetry behind him.

"For the love of sanity!" Clara cried, stifling another cough. "Is that a jet pack?"

"No!" The Doctor spun around, grinning like a kid on Christmas, halfway through shrugging his arms into what must have been shoulder straps in a ridiculous bulky contraption. He straightened and chucked a second one at her feet. "It's two jet packs! Come on!"

[OMG I just discovered there was a typo in Clara's jet pack sentence (stifilng?). FOUR YEARS and I didn't see it!!! In like, the most important sentence!!! *shifty eyes* anyhow it's fixed now. Also I knew I forgot a preposition in there yonks ago (lava "fizzing the walls" what even does that mean?) but I just went with it. Remember to thank your betas, folks! But yes, YES! I made it to the jet pack line! Finally! On to the denouement!]


**

Miraculously, most flora and fauna survived the Great Fiery flood on Viltri Prime. The only casualties were dust and baubles, the abbot, and a megalomaniacal sect of Pyroviles who would not be missed. The stone sickness in the other affected sisters would heal in the coming weeks, the Doctor assured them.

Back in the TARDIS, Clara's dress was only singed a little at the hem. She wasn't sure if it was from the lava or from the jet pack, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

She looked over at the moth who was lounging on the jump seat. "I've never met a mesomorph before," she said.

Frobisher preened his antennae proudly.

"So," Clara tried. "Can you do . . . human? Human-oid?"

"There's one I was working on for a while," Frobisher answered. With another strange shake and a 'pop', he transformed.

"Yeah." Clara stifled a laugh. The coat alone was a monstrosity, and then there was the curly hair and the yellow striped trousers and . . . were those spats green? Something tickled the back of her memory, forgotten again in an instant as she took a deep breath and said, "You might want to work on that some more."

The Doctor came in from his final goodbyes to the Canonicates and stopped mid-prattle at the console when Frobisher came into view.

"Oh, now that takes me back," he said.

[I am pretty sure I had the idea for this little scene in before I realized Frobisher was going to "return" Clara's tape, just because I thought it would be amusing for Clara to not realize just how good Frobisher is at changing in to Six. He spends a good deal of The Maltese Penguin impersonating Six (Colin Baker's accent is pretty hilarious). It's just that Six is so ridiculous to begin with. But as the story unfolded I played the "Yes, and" game. Frobisher can turn into Six! Yes, and he can be the one to stop the hoodlums and secret away Clara's tape in her carryall! There were a lot of moving parts to the timey-wimey bits, but I will say that finishing this story was extremely satisfying :) ]

**

"Well." Clara gathered her belongings and leaned against the console railing. "This was certainly an odd date."

"Odder than usual, even," the Doctor said, narrowing his eyes at the Time Rotor. "If I didn't believe in coincidences, I'd say someone landed us there on purpose to have a go at you."

A bell bonged almost happily. Clara pointedly ignored it. [Adverbs! Ugh! Also, remember when the TARDIS hated Clara? Yeah, me neither.]

"On for Wednesday next?" she asked. "I still have one hundred and one places to see."

"On for Wednesday next," the Doctor confirmed, and Clara held out a hand to him.

"My tape, please."

"In your carryall," the Doctor said.

Clara furrowed her brow and hefted the straps of her bag. "You haven't been near my carryall," she said.

"Nonetheless, I'm sure you'll find it there." He clapped his hands and spun around. "Anyway, busy day but show's over. Places to be. I'm not a taxi service you know!"

[So, this is another clue, and I'm honestly not sure exactly how much the audience knows about this tape quite yet. It's hard for me to judge because I know how things go. I don't think I give enough information for you to figure the whole thing out before hand, but at the least you had the Doctor's confusion earlier when he realized that Clara recognized the tape and knew what it was. So you may be thinking that the Doctor's kleptomania is perhaps a bit intertwined with time. At the point Clara confronted him, he realized he had to give it to her in the past somehow. Luckily she gave him a convenient target--her carryall that had belonged to her mum was nearly stolen when she was 14.]

Clara laughed at him. "See you next week. You and your snog box," she said, and headed out.

The TARDIS door closed, with what sounded like a resigned sigh. The Doctor turned around just as his ersatz sixth form came back into the control room.

"Frobisher, before you change back," he said, twirling something small and rectangular that had appeared from nowhere through his fingers. "There's a perfect sartorial accoutrement for your detective ensemble in the wardrobe. Also, I think I need a favor."

Frobisher snapped a steel briefcase shut around a compressed model three-seven-delta Hadian skimmer, and donned his hat over his shock of blond curls.

"Hey, what are friends for?"

[So Frobisher solves the mystery about the miniaturized Hadian skimmer that he'd been sent to find, and at the same time there is one last thing that we need to clear up.]

**

[And now for something completely different. You don't usually bring completely new scenes and characters into a denouement, but there really was no other way to do this. This scene takes place in 1986, and I did my best to give Dave and Ellie a bit of characterization in their short little stint. Hey, they actually get more time than the Pyroviles did. And there is a bit of personal experience in this. We never had much vinyl when I was growing up; it was all tapes. I remember when my parents bought our first massive stereo with a CD player. It was 1988 or '89. We used the speaker boxes as Halloween costumes (giant Krakel and Mr Goodbar) later that year. And we didn't change over all of our tapes to CDs but we did marvel at the sound quality of the new ones we bought. How you could hear the musician's fingers sliding along the neck of the guitar, like you were in the same room. It was pretty amazing! Who needs mix tapes after that? 1986 may be just a tad bit early for the CD revolution, but I'm taking some artistic license.]

Somewhere else entirely, it was a Wednesday.

"Modern technology!" Dave Oswald reverently took their brand new six disc changing CD player from its box and started fiddling with the speaker cords. "Best sound quality on the market." He looked over at the tower of sleek new discs by the stereo. It was an indulgence for his yearly bonus--surely these days there were much more practical expenses in the queue. But they'd both been wanting to upgrade for a while, and it was down to 'now or never'.

"The nursery closet looks so much bigger now," Ellie's voice came from above. "You should see it!"

She came down the stairs, balancing a big beat-up cardboard box over her prominent stomach.

"Oh, let me--" Dave started, getting to his feet, but she waved him off with a look. She reached ground level and clumped the box to the floor.

"This is the lot. I'll take them to the library tomorrow. Though," she bent down with some effort and took out a smaller shoebox, one corner ripped and held together with tape, from the top of the larger one. MIX TAPES was scrawled in sharpie on the side. "I don't think they'll want these ones. I couldn't even find the cases for most of them."

"Do you want to keep them?" Dave eyed the shoebox, silently calculating space requirements.

"I haven't listened to them in years," Ellie said, then looked up at him and grinned in a way that made him fall in love all over again. "Out with the old, in with the new."

Dave grinned back. He pointed at her stomach. "Yeah, when that one's our age, they'll probably listen to thousand-song mixes on tricorders."

[Yes, Dave and Ellie are both music lovers and sci-fi nerds, who are best friends who manage to compromise on things even without realizing there may be a conflict (or in this case, limited space for old mix tapes).]

**

Clara's mix tape wasn't in her carryall bag. She checked all the pockets, even the inconspicuous zippered pocket at the bottom where she'd found the tape originally when that good samaritan in the fedora and trench coat had told her to see that all of her belongings were accounted for after he chased the hoodlums down who snatched it to begin with and that's where she'd seen those ridiculous green spats before.

Her head shot up and she snapped the bag shut. Everything in her room was exactly as she'd left it.

[Less is more. I was racking my brains trying to figure out the best way to tell this part of the story. Because it is of course super important, but the story did not need a whole new flashback scene with 14-year-old Clara, and Frobisher-as-Six in a newly obtained trench coat saving her carryall from being swiped by bicycle-riding hoodlums. (Yes, they rode bicycles). I sometimes write little narrative synopses of what I want to happen in scenes I’ve not written yet. This started off as one of those and then pow, I realized it did not actually need to change that much if I kept it at Clara at the present remembering in just a bit too much detail the way she found the tape. and that's where she'd seen those ridiculous green spats before was the second to last line I wrote. For once, the last line was the actual last line. But I was back-filling things around the Dave and Ellie scene above and the morning trash collection scene below.]
**

The shoebox went to the curb along with the cardboard and foam detritus that accompanied every brand new modern marvel. The next morning, disposal proved too rough for the taped-together corner, and it split the rest of the way, spitting a lone cassette silently onto the grassy median between sidewalk and street. The waste collectors moved on.

The man at the bus stop lowered his newspaper and looked around, blinking through rounded spectacles. Then he casually stood up and sauntered over, scooping up the cassette and giving it a calculated look before depositing it in a tweed pocket. He walked on, wondering what it might have to say about an impossible girl, but wondering more about where their first Wednesday night would take them.

[Timey wimey; this scene takes place at the beginning of Rings of Akhetan, when the Doctor is investigating Clara, before their very first Wednesday date. It happens before everything else in the story except the Dave-and-Ellie scene. I do hope that is clear—I did have to explain it to at least one poor soul over on Teaspoon.]

**

Clara eyed the old red boom box on her nightstand. Then she tentatively stepped over to it, and pressed PLAY.

[I knew I pictured the boom box as red. Searching through screen caps of The Bells of St. John tells me that no, there was not a red boom box there, but Clara is associated with red--sweaters, Oswin's outfit, etc, so I must have made that association, along with the red radio we students bought our bus driver 25 years ago.

And that's it! It all came together rather nicely and I'm still not entirely sure how. But, hey. Shuffle. Record. Rewind, and press Play. ]

**

Date: 2017-07-01 04:43 pm (UTC)
lost_spook: (dw - bill)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
Wow, so much here! Also I had forgotten that fic_rush conversation but I did vaguely remember after you mentioned it & before I went to look.

It's a fab story and the commentary only makes it all the more impressive!

Also, while pruning out overused words is one thing, I don't think you should worry too much about adverbs. I mean, as long as it's not the "she shouted loudly" type, where they're redundant - also this is a humorous fic, and I've noticed in my own writing that there's a thing where they work in lighter pieces as they convey stuff at the right speed, whereas non-adverbs arrangements that do the same are often clunkier. (Ignore those English teacher types, blah de blah, what do they know about writing marvellous DW fanfic like this?)

And I'm not sure exactly what the 'boom box' should be called in British English, but not that. We (me and my two sisters) had things like that, bought in the early 90s and we kept them until they stopped working, because they had a radio and they still played tapes. The whole iPod revolution came a lot later to a lot of people. We just called them tape players, or radios, I think, but there probably was a more correct name in the Argos catalogue. So, if Clara had one later than that (as she very likely would), she might well keep it as long as it worked either for the radio or for old tapes that wouldn't play on anything else. It's fine. :-)

And, as ever, I'm impressed by the story and you and your writing skills all over again.

(But alas I no longer have a penguin icon.)

Date: 2017-07-01 08:17 pm (UTC)
lost_spook: (doctor who)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
Radio or stereo or something, yes. I'm thinking there probably is a name, but I've used up all my brain today. It didn't make me jump out of the fic, I just thought it was maybe some late 90s thing I'd missed out on, being older than Clara.

Hey, whatever still works! The new thing'll be the old thing by tomorrow anyway. ;-)

Date: 2017-07-03 09:41 pm (UTC)
clocketpatch: (dynamo of volition)
From: [personal profile] clocketpatch
Thanks for the trip back to the heady days of September 2013. There was something just a little bit magical about Eleventy_fest and all of the great stuff it inspired. I definitely remember waiting through story after story for the mods to get around to revealing my gift, and not expecting a treat at all, and then finding this magnificent story posted!

I re-read it regularly, and the sad purple sunflowers still make me grin. This commentary was great. And I'll have you know that I never noticed that typo or all of the abruptlies. Possibly because I'm always too busy squeeing over everything else whenever I read it.

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