When Polly Met Fleming: Part 1

Image of Polly and Fleming
Polly and Fleming

Fan fiction based on a chapter from Cowl by Neal Asher. Cowl was Asher’s only story related to time travel.

Polly, the heroine of the story, is a 15 year old prostitute from a dystopian future. She becomes an unwilling participant in a battle between good and evil forces from the distant future.

After witnessing an assassination by mercenaries from the future, Polly accidentally picks up a strange object off the ground at the scene. The object implants itself into the palm of her hand and continues to grow up to her forearm.

The object is an antennae from an organic time traveling device. Polly begins journeys through time that take her back millions of years.

The chapter I found to be the most fascinating was the one that dealt with Polly meeting a British naval commander in World War II. The officer’s name was Fleming. I’m assuming this is a reference to Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond Series.

The story expands on the encounter between Polly and Fleming.


It had only been 48 hours since Polly had begun bouncing around time, but she had traveled a grand total of 250 years in time in a couple of days.

She remembered seeing three men appear out of nowhere. She had just finished running head to a customer in a back alley and was walking back to the street.

As soon as Polly stepped onto the wet streets of London, a car pulled up and stopped at a traffic signal.

While Polly turned to cruise the sidewalk, an orange light appeared. The light grew, glowing as it expanded into an egg shape. Tendrils of sparks danced around the shape. The shape dissolved. Three figures, wearing dark clothes and hoods, materialized out of the fading shape.

The figures drew small pistols out of seamless pockets. One of the figures from the shape fired a burst into the hood of the car. A small hole burned through the composite fiber. Pieces of the engine block fell onto the street. As the car was taken out a second burst blew out the passenger side window then plowed through the drivers ear, spattering brain, bone and blood on the drivers side window. The passenger in the back seat sat immobilized in fear. A final burst burned though his chest and a large piece of his heart blew out of perfectly formed 11 centimeter circular hole in his back.

Polly stepped back into the shadows of the alley. She looked back to see if her customer was around. The alley was deserted. The three killers stood back to back. In seconds the orange light appeared, enveloping them. It rotated, tendrils whipping sparks in the air, then vanished.

“What the bloody fuck,” Polly said. She looked up and down the deserted street for signs of life. She was about to walk away when something on the sidewalk caught her attention. She picked it up. It looked like a twig or small branch. Polly felt heat radiating from the thing. She tried to let go. The branch had adhered itself to her skin. “Now what,” she said, trying to shake the strange thing loose.

Polly reached over with her free hand to pull it off. By the time she got her fingers around it the thing had begun boring a hole into the base of her palm. The branch dug deeper into her skin. Hot pain intensified with every millimeter of penetration. Polly’s head fell forward. She was about to black out. The pain stopped. She pulled her head back up and steadied herself on a lamp post.

She felt clearheaded. The methedrine and heroin speed–ball she’d injected before she left the apartment wore off in an instant. Polly hadn’t felt this good since she was twelve. Feeling hungry, Polly continued walking down Stamford Street and turned right toward the Waterloo Bridge. She could see the lights of the Open–All–Night night restaurants and bars that lined both sides of the bridge.

As Polly walked along her forearm tingled. Something inexplicable inside her made look behind. Three people were following and they seemed to walk faster when she glanced in their direction.

Polly kicked off her high heels and broke into a run. She could hear the sound of footsteps coming nearer. Polly ran until she reached the riverbank. Without hesitation she dove toward the dark waters of the Thames.

As Polly struck the surface, she felt a weird resistance. It seemed as if her fingers were pushing through a huge bowl of thick jelly. As her arms pressed deeper, she felt a sucking pulling her in. Polly’s head broke through the gelatinous substance. She experienced a sensation of falling down, sideways, and up simultaneously.

The jelly surrounding her body squeezed hard. When it seemed as if her bones were going to snap, the pressure faded and she was under the water. It was a few long seconds until Polly figured out which way was up. She pushed hard, struggling to the surface.

Her head broke through and she gasped for air. Rain poured down on her face. She lifted on the crests of swells and fell into the troughs. As soon as she realized she was at sea she began to shiver from the cold.

How could that have happened? Waterloo bridge was miles from the ocean. She looked around. She saw no signs of life—just whitecaps stretching to the horizon when lightning lit up the sky.

Polly floated along, legs treading water and teeth chattering. Time passed and she saw a light in the distance. It seemed to grow every minute. It wasn’t growing, it was coming toward her. It was a boat.

Polly kicked harder and screamed, “Help!” After a few long minutes and many screams, the beam of a searchlight probed the surface.

Polly kicked even harder, lifting her waist above the water. She waved her arms and cried, “Over here. I’m over here.”

The searchlight locked onto her position just as she sank back down into the water. Her strength was almost gone. He muscles ached from being battered by the waves. Numbness, from the cold, crept up her calves. She kept waving with one hand.

The boat pulled up beside her. A life ring, attached to a length of rope, was tossed in her direction. She reached up, catching the ring in mid–air. After pulling the ring over head, Polly held onto the attached rope and relaxed. Two crewmen lifted her out of the water and laid her across the deck. One of the rescuers left and came back with an armful of heavy blankets. He wrapped Polly in the blankets. The other rescuer said, “Ma’am we’re going to get you out of this weather.”

“Hmm,” Polly grunted.

The two sailors carried Polly into the wheelhouse. The captain turned, looked at Polly and said, “You found her floating about in this shit.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Well, what can we do for you, young lady?” The captain asked.

“I could use something to eat,” Polly replied.