Geek Meets Girl
This story has appeared in the 8-author FALLING IN LOVE box set. It has been revised and expanded for solo release.
A Time Lord, a Trekker, and a Ghostbuster walk into a science fiction convention. One finds love, one finds trouble, one finds both.
Grace is excited to attend her first SFF event, while con veteran Mick enjoys tweaking her in a debate over whether or not Quantum Leap is superior to Doctor Who. Meanwhile, Mick’s roommate has designs on Grace to win a bet which has nothing to do fandoms.
Mick trades in his red shirt for shining armor, but can he win Grace’s heart first?
Mick Wray savored her withering reaction. He’d attended enough sci-fi cons to know how to push a fangirl’s buttons. The first time he attended Liberty BellCon—a pimply thirteen, helping his older brother cart a boxful of Poul Anderson novels for the author to sign—he saw maybe a handful of women. Yes, there’d been a few die-hard, legitimate fans of the genre, but others had merely come along with their significant others, sighing and glancing at their watches. The surge of female attendance in recent years brought on by a collective fondness for handsome British actors and sparkling vampires annoyed him to no end. Mick felt their presence cheapened the spirit of an event he loved, though he knew the organizers greatly appreciated the money these giggling young girls spent.
He studied this woman, and the scarf obviously purchased from some geek paraphernalia website, and wondered if she’d actually seen a Doctor Who episode from the era represented by that particular article of clothing. He supposed he could quiz her with some the questions he hoped would come up at the panel—of course he had intended to go. The Quantum Leap remark served entirely to irritate her.
Hey, if he was going to be stuck in this elevator for a while, he might as well have some fun.
“What’s wrong with Quantum Leap?” he demanded. He thought to look menacing, but he refused to frighten the young woman. Indeed, he found her naturally disarming. She wore no makeup, and her soft blue eyes glared daggers at him. He sensed the temperature rising already.
“Nothing, I like the show fine,” she said. “I wouldn’t rank it above Doctor Who on a list of top sci-fi shows, specifically where time travel is the focus.”
Mick folded his arms and settled in for a plausible explanation. The most sparkling of the vampire fangirls probably knew enough to bluff through such a discussion, and he couldn’t wait to hear the lady Doctor expound on her viewing preferences.
“Fine, I’ll give you that the show only lasted a few seasons, but compared to Doctor Who every friggin’ television series is short-lived. Judging on what’s available for Quantum Leap, you can’t deny the high quality of acting, or writing…”
“The narrow scope,” she added. “Exactly what is the science behind the accelerator device that allowed Sam Beckett to leap physically into other people’s bodies at different points in time? Wouldn’t it make more sense if he traveled through time as himself, without the confines of another identity to memorize?”
“That’s the thing: each episode is a challenge. It’s not so much he has to solve a puzzle as a fish out of water, he is part of the puzzle and has to figure out that piece before finding the rest. He discovers the self he is in that time, acclimates to his environment, then he solves the mission. Sometimes he doesn’t get the chance and has to do everything at once. That makes for an interesting drama. What science is found in a flying blue box manned by some goofball with weird fashion sense?” Mick posed.
She winced at that. Off came the metaphorical gloves. “The Doctor is an alien, using alien technology, and at least he has better control over where and when he travels. Quantum Leap was limited to a forty-year time span in the twentieth century. Yeah, you could put Scott Bakula in a dress for one episode and get some laughs while he pretends to be a woman, but eventually they were going to run out of ideas. Doctor Who had all of time and space to work with.”
Mick snorted. “And yet, every other episode in the last few series brought him back to present-day London. What a stretch.”
Her eyes narrowed. Oh, but she looked cute this highly annoyed.
“All of time and space,” she repeated. “How would your precious Leaper and his hologram pal have handled the murderous Cybermen?”
“You realize there was an episode where Sam leaped into the body of a Civil War-era soldier, right?”
“I don’t recall seeing Cybermen there.”
“The point it, Sam wasn’t restricted to leaping within his own lifetime. So,” he smirked, “you know what I am talking about then.”
She nodded with a huff. “I saw that episode. He took over the body of a direct ancestor, playing the DNA card on that one. They wouldn’t have been able to do that more than once, though, since record keeping gets sketchy the further you go back.”
Mick shrugged. “I disagree. Recorded history exists back to ancient civilizations. Project Quantum Leap could access thousands and books and documents, and research events as easily as you and I can.”
“Whatever. When they started doing shows where they interacted with famous people, you knew they were grabbing for ratings and not concerned about the core fan base.” Grace gave him a haughty smile.
“Yeah, Doctor Who never did that. No episodes featuring Charles Dickens, Churchill, the Titanic…”
“That was a spaceship named for the original Titanic!”
Mick smiled. Thar she blows! This year’s Liberty BellCon just paid for itself in terms of entertainment. He almost didn’t care if the elevator remained sealed the whole weekend.
“You think they’ll do a Princess Diana storyline?” he teased.
“They could win an Emmy for one now, unlike the long-ago cancelled Quantum Leap.” So, nyah, he expected to hear next.
At that, the floor shook. The lady Doctor grasped at the smooth walls and let out a frightened squeal. Mick had to inhale to slow his spiked heartbeat as well.
“I’m going to die in this outfit.” Her voice quivered.
“No, I think they’re fixing it.”
A low rumble followed by a hard shuddering noise alerted them to the elevator’s resurrection.
“Thank you, God,” she muttered, getting to her feet.
Mick, however, remained still as his leg seized up with a painful cramp. He stretched it out in an attempt to ease the ache, but the limb only tingled underneath his skin. Damn it. He wouldn’t let this impede his escape—he’d crawl out of this box if necessary.
“Hey, you think you could—” He didn’t get to finish his request, for once the bell pinged their arrival at the fifth floor the doors opened and the lady Doctor bolted from sight. A pair dressed in camouflage gave her a wide berth before stepping closer to offer help.
“You forgot your—” He pointed at the coiled scarf, but saw no trace of her in the throng drifting past the cleared space.
“Is this yours? I love it,” said the female half of the couple, handing him the heavy knit garment that looked three times his height.
He said nothing beyond thank you and moved to make room. Just like a geek-girl Cinderella, his lovely lady Doctor left behind a memento. “It is nice, isn’t it?” He balled up the scarf in his arms. The doors closed again and he breathed the same stale air, pondering his next move. He should return to this floor and meet her at the Doctor Who panel. Scarves like this went for about fifty to a hundred bucks, depending on where you shopped, and that seemed a lot to simply leave behind.
The other man mashed the number twelve button on the panel, and the elevator lurched. “Where’re you headed?” he asked Mick.
Mick sighed. His room was on twelve. The morning, mostly this short time stuck here, left him exhausted. Missing the panel didn’t bother him. “Same as you,” he said. He could wait, he decided. Doctor Cinderella wouldn’t get far.