A couple of years ago, I dabbled with online gaming. I wasn’t that impressed as I found the communities around them quite bitchy and cliquey, and often a bit of a time sink. There was one, however, that was different, sadly now defunct Superhero City, was on the face of it, a simple do-the-prescribed-adventure-grow-your character kind of thing, but it did have a very active, vibrant and for the most part, positive community and forums around it, and that was perhaps the attraction more so than the game itself. Part of that community was dedicated to Role Playing, which essentially involved developing back stories for characters. It was pure unadulterated escapism, at times very silly, and to be honest, gave a group of adults that probably should have known better, the chance to kick back and be kids again. My main character was called “Doc Baroque” and was a “Victorian English Adventurer” based around Steam Punk mythos. As the Doc stories increased, I did play with the idea of a graphic novel.
You probably had to “be there” and be part of it to get it and appreciate it, but I’m including his early adventures here, if only to keep stuff I’ve written all in one place. Having said that, one day I might go back, finish and tidy them up, and write down the other ones that I have in my head too.
The Tales of Doc Baroque
The following is a transcript of an interview with Doc Baroque, held on February 6th 2014.
“Good Evening. Thank you for joining me. Can I get you a drink? Brandy? Excellent. My father would neither have appreciated nor approved of it. Here. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable. You found your way then. Well obviously, or you wouldn’t be here, would you? My…. Retreat…. Can be a little um, hard to find, or so I’m told I am off the beaten track here, certainly. But not to worry, that’s how I like it. And you’re here.
Now let me see, if I recall correctly, you were making enquiries about me, yes? Well where shall I begin? Well I’ve already mentioned my father, so why not there.
I was born in the late 1700’s, in a small but thriving coastal market town in the west country of England, its primary form of employment was either as a fisherman or a farm labourer on the local estates. My father, a rather stern and sombre man was the local Baptist minister, Reverend Bertrand Barecock. I was Christened Gaylord – a name which over the years has given rise to much ridicule, hence my preferred nom de plume – Doc Baroque, but more of that later. While we were by no means wealthy, we as a family, were afforded some status in our local town, and for certain, were better off than most. He was a devout and stern man, but for myself and my mother was quite distant. I have very few fond memories of him. My mother, on the other hand couldn’t have been a greater contrast, she was bright, cheerful, in those days we would have called her gay, but I understand in your modern parlance, which has come to mean… something else! My father certainly wouldn’t have approved!
So I was lucky although at the time didn’t really appreciate it. I was well educated, well for those days. My parents ensured I was tutored in many of the new and more modern subjects, botany and science, as well as mathematics as well as the more traditional classics.
By the time I was fourteen though, I was bored. I see that now of course. But I was restless. Market day would come and go, which was the real highlight of the week. All the local farmers would come to town to sell their wool or grain. And in the summer, more exotic traders and entertainers would come to the fayre. I lived for that time in the summer. I would seek out these strange and wonderful people, hanging on their every word for the tales they would tell of their travels. I’m sure now most were embellished at the least, if not down right utter fabrication, but to a fourteen year old boy, blessed with more than his share of imagination, they were enthralling.
It was about this time I became more aware of the doings of adults, and without my father’s knowing I would frequent “The Black Swan”, one of a number of coaching Inns in the town. The Black Swan had much lower tariffs and as a consequence attracted the seedier side of our community. Consequently I found its clientele far more interesting. And soon became acquainted with a close circle of ne’er do wells, & was slowly drawn into their entrepreneurial venture.
Time is short, so I won’t beat about the bush, but they were wreckers and smugglers. I’m sure you’re familiar with the practice as time has somewhat romanticised their trade, but believe me, to a boy of fourteen they were brutal, the deliberate wrecking of ships on the rocks and theft of their cargoes. To me though, it provided the adventure I longed for. Throughout that summer I enjoyed running with these brigands, much to my mother and fathers consternation.
Throughout that summer, we became bolder and our little venture seemed to be going well, but as the nights drew in our fortunes began to turn, Lord Culshaw, the local land owner and member of parliament, unknown to us, became more and disconcerted with the apparent lawlessness of our area, and called in the excise men. And this was when my life really turned around.
It was one night in late October as I recall that it happened. It was moonless, and a storm was blowing in from the sea – perfect wrecking weather. We went out to the cliff’s and set our lanterns to create a fake guiding light to the trade ships that followed the coast, and like Sirens, lure them onto the rocks, where the survivors would usually be killed and the ships loot taken. In my defense, I was too young to be involved in the murderous side of things, that was left to the older members of our gang, but in the taking of the contents of a ships hold, I was most certainly up to my neck in it.
Anyway, I digress, we lured our target onto the rocks as normal, and it was then we discovered what was waiting for us, instead of the usual booty we found the ships hold full of perhaps a dozen well-armed troopers, from the garrison. They immediately opened fire upon us and a bloody melee ensued. But I was terrified, I got off of the ship as quickly as I could and fled up the cliff path, only to spot in time Constable Brownlow of the excise waiting with another group of six soldiers. That night the fortunes smiled upon me and I hid. They were more intent in getting down to the ship and as the remainder of my cohorts tried to flee, they were waiting. I dared not move and eventually the noise of the fighting died down and I listened intently. It was apparent that all but three of our little band had been killed there and then and the three that remained alive were arrested and taken to the town jail. Later to be hanged.
Their voices all eventually died down, and I assumed they’d left, but I waited until the sun was rising and the storm had all but calmed, before I left the safety of my hiding place in the rocks. I knew returning home would be out of the question, so there was nothing left but to flee. And that I did.
As a child my father would on occasion visit Bristol, and from time to time I had been allowed to accompany him, so that was where I decided to head for. I had no plan as such at the time, it was merely a place I’d visited so headed that way. I don’t recall how long it took, I traveled mostly at night stealing food when I came across a dwelling or another unfortunate traveler. Perhaps it was a week maybe two. But I eventually arrived. I slept rough for a few days in the city itself down by the Docks, until hunger drove me out. I found work doing this and that for a few pennies, and took lodgings, in an Inn, the cheapest I could find, and the days and nights all blurred into one. Much could be said of my time then, but let me move on, after all it’s what you came here for.
You seem to have finished your brandy, a little more perhaps? There help yourself. You’ll find cigars in the box beside it too. Please help yourself. I will have on too.
Now, where were we? Ahh yes, Bristol. I was there for more than a year, perhaps two, I’d found regular work in a assisting a local apothecary. Mr Roberts I recall him, a kindly gentlemen. It was mostly cleaning or tidying up his little premises but from time to time I was called on to assist him with preparing a medicine or mixing the compounds for his pills, and I learnt a little about the treatment of sickness. Happy times, & perhaps if the events that ensued had not arisen, then I would perhaps have remained there and lived a natural life.
But that was not to be, no. One evening in my lodging I was eating, when a group of men entered into the bar. They were rather loud but jovial and were buying drinks for all the patrons, such generosity had never been witnessed in this establishment, so of course we took full advantage of it. We drank ourselves into a stupor, so forgive me if my recollection even now is somewhat hazy. The following morning however, I awoke to find myself aboard a ship. The HMS Unicorn of his Majesties Navy – I’d been press ganged into service. England at the time was at war once again with France and I was going to war!
Because of my learning of Botany as a child, and the time spent with Mr Roberts, I quickly came to assist the ships surgeon. Although a surgeon now wouldn’t recognise what went on. Ships butcher would perhaps be more appropriate. In any case, it was my time aboard the Unicorn where I also learned to handle a sword and gun properly. I was involved in many a battle. And could perhaps fill a novel of the time I spent there alone, but that’s not what you came to hear is it? But it was my time aboard where I became known as “Doc Baroque” – the Doc part is self-evident I was working for the ships surgeon after all, but Baroque? Well, the ships Boatswain, had an unfortunate speech impediment and couldn’t say my surname properly and Barecock became Baroque, and so my legend was born. Nothing more than that!
It was however the time where my story does become much more interesting and had I not lived it, and were to hear the tale told to me, would be where I would start to not believe any of it. But I tell you, not a word of this is a lie.
But we’d been in a particularly bloody fight when the Unicorn took a full broadside, and was crippled. We abandoned ship. Fortunately we were not far too far from the coast and headed for land. I crawled onto the beach exhausted, and collapsed. The next thing I knew when I came too I was no longer on a beach, but in a white room, so strongly lit I’d never witnessed brightness like that before. Now much is told in these modern times of beings from other worlds, stories a rife on your internet, but nothing of the sort was remotely considered possible in those days, and would be dismissed as the work of demons. But in actual fact. That is precisely what had happened. My apparent lifeless corpse had been taken by visitors from another world with hostile intent. I later discovered this was an early reconnoiter of our world, and were interested in the dominant species on the planet. As my strength over the following days returned to me. I was taken out of the confines of the bright white room, & put to sleep, when I came round I found I was much stronger
It was then I was put into confines with someone who has become very dear to me, Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert, you will perhaps know her better as “Sister Fister”, the original wild child of the British aristocracy, she’d had a convent education, but the nuns could not assert discipline to her so she left, and she’d ended up working in a field hospital on the land front of the war, as of all things a nurse. She too had been abducted.
Over the coming days the experiments continued, but Cecilia would inform me of precisely what they were actually doing, although how she came to know is still a mystery to me. They were changing the very make up of my body, engineering my DNA in your modern terminology. They wanted to extrapolate how strong human potential was, with view to creating their own army to fight their wars on some distant star. So I was rebuilt from the inside out as it were. This was also where my and Cecilia’s extraordinary longevity has come from too. The bright lights did however do irreparable damage to our eyes, and to this day is why she & I both have to wear these shaded spectacles in all but the dimmest of lighting.
We were kept prisoners for a number of months until the opportunity arose for our escape – the craft we were being kept on was hidden in the alps. The thaw came early and an avalanche destroyed the ship. The irony is that we too would have died had it not been for the experiments we’d been subjected to. We had the strength to firstly survive and secondly escape from the crashed vessel.
And so she & I fled, and this is was the beginning of the adventure that is the lives of myself & Cecilia. We made our way across the world as adventurers, earning a living as we may as Bounty Hunters, Treasure seekers and the like. We settled here in India during the time of the Raj, and as you can see, we have amassed a modest fortune that keeps us comfortable, this has come with our extraordinary longevity, and our somewhat specialised services. With the advent of the aircraft Cecilia learned to fly and so she is our pilot too, she still even has “Betsy” her first ‘plane, but of course we travel in much more modern machines nowadays. We still travel the world and we are still called upon even now by people with only the most interesting of assignments.
And so that, my friend is really how it all began, that is after all what brought you here.
Another Brandy? And what is it you’d like us to undertake for you?”