Sister Fister (or Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert), Doc’s partner and sidekick (and the original wild-child of the British aristocracy).
The Second Act
The following is a transcript of a conversation with Sister Fister held on the morning of February 7th 2014:
“Good morning. I trust you slept well. I’m afraid Doc Baroque has already left this morning. He is an early riser. He will have gone for a long walk and is not normally back before the afternoon. Please, can I get you some breakfast? We have eggs and bacon, it won’t take too long. And tea? Please. Help yourself, there is Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Assam.
I understand your conversation went well last night. I imagine, he described me as an aristocratic wild child. Tsk. Let me tell you a little and perhaps you can make your own mind up. Yes, it is true I was born into a very minor British aristocratic family although the Fitzroy-Herberts’ were not as wealthy, as you’d normally asociate with the words, British & Aristocracy – the family fortune had been all but squandered by my grand-father with poor investments and gambling. The family home was still in my father’s name, although mortgaged up to the hilt. As children though my brother and two sisters were blissfully unaware of this. I was the second to youngest, after Emily and Frances, then myself followed by our younger brother, Gideon. My mother had had a number of miscarriages too, and another son who died in infancy before Emily. To be honest, my mother suffered from melancholy, depression I think you call it nowadays. So we saw little of her, and would content ourselves playing with one another or the children of the staff. Emily and Frances, especially Frances were always looking for ways to get me into trouble, and I spent an inordinate amount of time outside of my father study for punishment. I admit, yes I was mischievous but not to extent that Frances made out or my father believed. Nowadays, I would have been labelled a Tomboy, I even preferred to wear boys’ britches – so much easier to ride or play, but back then I was “unruly & unladylike”.
My Father was never a patient man, and had a terrible temper, by the time I was 7, his patience had worn thin, and the day after my 8th birthday, I was packed off to St Flora’s convent in Colchester to “learn some discipline & how to become a young lady, like Emily”. Nothing could have been a greater contrast to the home I was leaving. Gone were the open fields of Herfordshire, the countryside of my father estates, the horses we would ride – I loved to ride, and rode “like a boy” – another thing that infuriated my father. Instead were the cold grey stone walls of St Flora’s the rigid, disciplined, joyless life in the convent. It was sheer misery. And that was when my rebellion was truly sparked. The irony of it, is this “unruly” girl sent away to be “tamed”, it was in sending me away actually further created this “wild child” they were trying to tame. By the time I was 14, I had run away from there on many occasions, only to be packed off again by my father the minute I got home. Each time the discipline from the nuns became more severe, I was a “Wicked & Godless child”. I began to hate my father for it, and my mother for letting him.
So, the last time I ran away, I decided not to go home. Instead in the spring of my 14th year, not long after midnight I left & headed straight for London. From there I knew I needed somewhere to go quickly, England & France were again at war, so I cut off my hair, stole some boys britches and shirt and signed up for Wellingtons’ army. I learned to fight with both sword & gun. I know Gaylord likes to tell people I was a nurse, during this time. I think he feels a little uncomfortable with the truth. I was in fact in a field hospital just before I was abducted, but had been shot, rather than “doing my bit as Florence Nightingale”! Of course this time in the hospital meant my little deception was discovered, so as soon as I gained enough strength, again in the dead of night, I slipped out & deserted.
So there I was, alone in a hostile France, for a few days & nights I found an old abandoned barn where I rested & recuperated. I tended to my injuries as best I could, living off of the land, hiding from locals, stealing poultry from farms or vegetables from the fields, this went on for only a matter of weeks, when it happened.
These days, with your modern cinematography and television it has become somewhat clichéd, but it was exactly how it happened – the abduction. Late at night in my barn I heard a noise from outside. I peered out of knot hole & could only see an incredibly bright light, that hurt my eyes, it was mesmerising. I couldn’t help myself, and without a thought of the risk I was taking crept outside to see what on Earth it was. & there, above my barn was a silver metal disc just hovering in the sky, a load humming noise coming from it. I should have been terrified, but wasn’t, I was overwhelmed by curiosity. So I stepped forward for a closer look, into the blinding light, & was immediately pulled up into this craft by some unknown force.
I don’t know how long I was held captive alone, day & night became meaningless in this machine, it certainly must have been a number of months before I first became acquainted with Gaylord (he detests that name by the way, you’d do well to simply call him Doc, I’m still the only one he tolerates to use it). But it must have been a month or two. During that time I discovered these visitors, these invaders were from a distant galaxy. I’m sure Gaylord has told you, but these vile creatures, were like insects from space – the Zigonians. They were here to find out firstly as to where we here on Earth were a threat, but secondly, their Empire was expanding under their new Queen Kemma Axonix & they were looking to humanity as a potential army they could engineer. I learnt all this from a young officer, Quazar, I believe. I’ve since learnt he has gone on to become quite powerful in the empire but I remember him as a young lieutenant.
They kept the ship well hidden in a remote part of the French Alps, & would from time to time go out on abduction forays. Most of these test subjects died from the experiments they were being subjected to, I imagine with them, the extrapolation of our genes was taken a little too far, & they died. Although I also witnessed several being deliberately killed – taken beyond the threshold of their endurance. Then one day, a young man – a sailor judging by his uniform was unceremoniously dumped into my cell. & that was when Gaylord & I first met.
I know he must have told of our escape, it was a combination of the spring thaw, & the constant humming of the crafts engines that ultimately caused an avalanche. In spite of our genetic enhancements we were lucky to escape alive. If it hadn’t been for Gaylord, I’m not certain I would have. His arm was crushed in that accident. Because we had no access to proper medical help, his arm didn’t heal properly. Originally I fashioned a splint of sorts that sufficed.
Immediately after the crash though, there were other survivors, although none of them human. Perhaps a dozen or so of the crew survived. Over the next few decades we took it upon ourselves to hunt them down one by one. They had scattered across the whole globe, & for perhaps 100 years or so we busied ourselves hunting them down to extract our revenge.
Until there was one left, young lieutenant Quasar – we had intelligence that he had made his way to the America’s. It was here, we happened upon a young inventor, a brilliant Austrian. Nikola Tesla I remember, & he fashioned the Doc’s arm strap he still wears today, to support his “gimpy arm” as he calls it. But that diversion cost us, Quasar had salvaged a beacon from the wreckage of their craft, & had periodically been sending out distress signals. Tesla had isolated these signals, & Gaylord & I went off to kill the final Earth bound Zigonian. But that, alas was not to be, we did track him down to a farm in Wisconsin, ironically he was hiding in a barn just as I had been all those years before when they’d first abducted me. Gaylord & I had him cornered & were ready to go in to finish him off, when in “the nick of time” from Quasars point of view another craft from Zigonia materialised & he was whisked away, exactly how I had been.
& that was how Gaylord & my little career began as Bounty Hunters of the Exotic. That wasn’t the last visit of those vile insects, nor will it be the last no doubt. We have taken on many varied jobs for people over the years, but that, my friend is where our hearts lie, Zigonian Hunting each time they return. I understand from one insect we captured, that Quasar has gone on in the Empire to become quite powerful leader. Had we not let him escape, then perhaps not they’d not have returned so often.”
With that Cecilia led me back into the study, where Doc Baroque & I had talked the night before. Without a word, she pulled down a large, dusty, leather bound book.
“I’m over 200 years old now, old enough to be your great, great, great many times over grand mother. I’ve made a note of the things we have done over the centuries”
I opened the first of the books, in beautiful hand written script, the first page, read, “The Journals of Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert”. Clearly many of the books in here we all her meticulous records of her & Doc’s adventures. And I had one of them in my hands.
I turned the first page, in the same exquisite script, capitalised, were two titles, “The Taming of The Malevolence” and “The Salvation of The Zomborg”. I looked up at Cecilia uncertain of what she meant. She nodded her silent ascent for me to continue reading, so I settled down in the same seat I’d so intently listed to The Doc the night before.
As she left the room, she looked over her shoulder, “oh Yes, “Sister Fister”. Where that comes from is no doubt something that puzzles you. Well many assume that the Sister is from my time at the convent, but no, the whole name came from much earlier than that – it was Gideon, when he was very small, barely one, he could say Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert properly, in his little mouth it came out “Sister Fister” – Emily, Frances & myself thought it was so funny, it stuck”.
With that she smiled, closed the door behind her, & there, in the quiet of the study, save for the clock ticking on the wall, I settled down to read, The Journals of “Sister Fister”…