Written by Zoe Lance Based on an idea from Russell T Davies
Sky wasn’t quite sure how she had ended up in Professor Rivers’ lab in the Pharos Institute. She also wasn’t quite sure of when she first started to see him. It could have been from any point in her life, from her birth to arriving to Earth to just the other day, she wasn’t quite sure. All of her memories were hazy and unclear.
Sky sat back and contemplated.
“Get back!” Sarah Jane ordered, pointing her sonic lipstick like a weapon at the skulking metal robot. “I won’t let you hurt this child.”
The cover was lifted and Sky could finally see. The boy, Clyde, shot her a look of pure fear and terror for the briefest of seconds before he stood and held his ground alongside his friends. Words were exchanged between the opposing three parties but Sky wasn’t paying attention. There was a strange hum dancing around in her head. It wasn’t a gentle lullaby that young children were accustomed to, this was a lullaby of pure, unadulterated destruction.
She couldn’t place the voice, her sensory neurones and receptors were not properly adapted and developed. It was repulsive and yet, she couldn’t escape the voice. It was lulling in the harshest and most terrifying of ways.
“Your life doesn’t have to end here. Embrace your purpose.”
Sky’s big blue eyes were drawn to the Metalkind. Rage bubbled deep in beneath the baby fat of Sky’s stomach.
“That’s right. Just let go. Fulfill your purpose.”
Sky succumbed to the voice. A bone-rattling laugh filled her head and Sky let out a blood curdling cry of fear as she felt warmth envelop her, the laughter never ceasing. When the warmth dissipated, Sky was no longer a baby but, surprisingly, a small and frail teenage girl. She looked up into the eyes of a worried Sarah Jane when she called her, and promptly forgot about the voice.
The portal had short circuited when Clyde and Rani shut down the reactor, and Sky was thrilled with the knowledge that she was no longer a weapon, so much so that she enveloped the trio in a big hug. Sky thought, I like hugs. She quickly spun out of her embrace at the sound of the metallic rasping voice of the Metalkind and watched as it dragged the screaming sorry carcass of a mother through a bright blue fissure.
Sky couldn’t shake the deep satisfaction that filled her when the prospective scenario of her mother’s death crossed her mind. She couldn’t quite place why it had overridden her guilt.
Sky was given a choice; a crossroads even. She had to make a choice: stay or go. The answer seemed very simple. She turned on the spot and faced Sarah Jane anxiously.
“Can I stay here with you?” Sky was pleasantly surprised at the reaction that lit up Sarah Jane’s face. “That’s what I really want.”
It was what she wanted,but Sky couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t just her choice.
Harrison had been defeated and the Skullions had been freed, to Sky’s delight. They were off to celebrate with pizza and a movie. Pizza was Sky’s favourite Earth delicacy. Sky had insisted on driving back home with Luke in his car, as opposed to the regular car with Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani.
The drive was peaceful. Luke and Sky talked and joked about random things. Sky had learnt more about Maria Jackson during the drive. After sobering from a hilarious joke Luke had told her, Sky leaned back in her seat and moved to open the window.
She leapt back when she saw the face. It was a figure dressed head to toe in a black robe. It outstretched a gloved hand, goading her forward. Sky wanted to shake her head but she found herself leaning forward. Whispers filled her head, doubts and the likes trickling into her mind. Her eyes glazed over and fury enveloped her. Her hands started to crackle with electricity.
And then Sky promptly forgot.
Luke, however, didn’t. He never forgot anything.
Sky heard laughter.
It was almost as if it was a siren, a call to arms. Sky gingerly climbed out of her bed and walked to her bedroom mirror. The robed figure was there again - Sky realised that she had forgotten about him - and she could see under his hood this time around. Fleshy skin made up his face with a distinct lack of eyes.
“Who are you?”
“It doesn’t matter.” The benevolent figure replied calmly. Sky felt that she was supposed to be afraid but the figure had been with her for as long as she could remember.
“Why are you here?” She asked, her voice surprisingly steady. “What do you want with me?”
“You are special.” The figure replied in a raspy, gravelly voice that seemed to hold more weight and gravity than it should. “They do not realise that. They do not value your skills, they treat you as a child.”
“No, you’re wrong.” Sky protested half-heartedly, already doubting her words. She frowned and pursed her lips. The figure smiled, revealing a row of razor sharp teeth. It reach out its hand again.
“Sky?” Sarah Jane’s voice was like an electric shock. Sky’s hand surged backwards as the door opened and Sarah Jane poked her head through, and Sky forgot the last few minutes. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Sky nodded with a smile.
“Good,” Sarah Jane smiled. “Breakfast is ready downstairs. We’re going somewhere later.”
“Where?” Sky asked curiously.
“The Pharos Institute.”
“Gran, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Oh, nonsense, Santiago!” Jo scoffed, picking up her pickaxe again. She had spent the last five minutes wearing down a boulder that was blocking the entrance to an ancient temple deep in the forests of Peru. “This temple belonged to the Incas.”
“But this is breaking and entering!” Santiago hissed.
“Oh, don’t be silly.” Jo scoffed as she continued wearing down the boulder. Santiago began to wonder where exactly she had found a pickaxe. Then again, he had learnt a long time ago to not question his grandmother’s unorthodox methods. He ducked when her pickaxe was a little too close to his head for comfort. “Don’t you remember the hidden treasure of Nicaragua? Oh, the gold was positively sparkling!”
“Gran, we almost got arrested for breaking into that temple!” Santiago reminded her heatedly. Jo frowned for a second before shrugging it off and continuing beating down the cracked boulder.
“Those policemen didn’t know what they were talking about!” Jo reasoned. Santiago sighed and decided to let her continue with her train of thought, eyeing the thick undergrowth of trees around him. He pulled at the cuff of his shirt sleeve. He hadn’t realised it would be so hot, which was a stupid thing to think. They were in Peru of all places.
A trail of sweat beaded from his forehead and his messy hair clung to his damp, sweaty forehead. Jo was also sweating but she didn’t let that or her fatigue wear her down as she continued hammering away at the boulder until it gave away with a satisfying, resounding crack. Jo sighed in satisfaction, turning to Santiago.
“There, you see?” she grinned triumphantly. Santiago didn’t say anything to annoy her. It wasn’t like he had a chance anyway, Jo had turned away as soon as the words left her mouth fumbling through her satchel looking for a torch.
“Gran?” he sighed fondly, holding up a pair of torches in each hand. Jo let out a gasp of realisation before snatching one away and hurriedly entering the temple. Santiago sighed and shook his head before he followed her inside.
The temple was ancient. The cavernous walls were rusted and etched with hieroglyphics. There was a minimal amount of sunlight, all filtering through the broken boulder that Jo had cracked open. The air was damp and stifling but that didn’t stop the two intrepid adventurers.
Jo shuffled towards the middle of the room where there was a round altar with something perched on it. She examined it from multiple angles for a few seconds, finding her dim torchlight useless. She sighed in frustration.
“Come here, sweetheart.” Jo gestured hurriedly. Santiago quickly crossed across the room and looked at her questioningly. “Shine your torch on this.”
Santiago did as he was told and noticed a round hole inside the object. Jo reached inside and pulled out a scroll of parched paper. She let out a cry of glee and snatched both torches, spreading the paper on the ground while Santiago explored the cave.
Jo shone the torch and eventually made out hieroglyphics of some sort. There were images of destruction. She squinted as she made out a car and gasped when she realised that the car looked remarkably like the one that belonged to Sarah Jane Smith. She continued spreading the paper, eagerly drinking in the information.
“What are we even doing here, gran?” Santiago asked as he walked further into the cave. He stopped and turned around when Jo didn’t respond. “Gran?”
Jo wasn’t listening. Her eyes widened as she stared at the paper. Etched into the material were the images of death and destruction itself and, in the middle, the heart of it, was the image of a small teenage girl. There was white chalk text etched into a caption under the image and she shone her torch onto it, making out the words.
She will damn us all.
Chills ran up Jo’s spin and goosebumps tickled her skin. She watched in horror as the hieroglyphics slowly cracked and fragmented into tiny, unsalvageable pieces. Jo leaned back, contemplating on the implications.
An omen of things to come.
“It’s just a check up,” Sarah Jane assured Sky as she stepped out of the car. She turned back to see the teenager sitting in the car with her arms crossed, pouting for the world to see. She sighed. “Come on, Sky. It’s only going to drag on if you let it.”
Sky sighed and pulled herself out of the car. It was a particularly windy day and Sky wrapped her jacket tighter around herself as her hair danced and fluttered around her. She had never really been at the Pharos Institute. It was situated inside a majestic old castle.
Sarah Jane pulled the door open and Sky was a little surprised at the modern interior. Her eyes travelled along the professional logo emblazoned into the wall until her attention was drawn by the clicking of high heels on linoleum walls. A dark skinned woman approached them with a wide smile, extending her hand for Sarah Jane.
“Sarah Jane Smith.” Her smile widened as she used her other hand to pull off the glasses that were perched on her nose. “How wonderful to see you again.”
“Professor Rivers.” Sarah Jane smiled, shaking the offered hand. “Thank you for agreeing to see us.”
“It’s my pleasure.” Celeste Rivers shook her head humbly, poking her head over Sarah Jane’s shoulder to assess her company. “Is this Sky?”
“Yes, it is,” Sarah Jane smiled as she brought Sky closer to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “I just need a check up on her electrical capabilities. My equipment isn’t updated enough to run it.”
“Hmm, I’ll see what I can do.” Professor Rivers nodded knowingly as she gestured for the two to follow her. Sarah Jane shared a smile with Sky before she walked off to catch up with her contact. Sky’s smile faded almost instantaneously. She took one last look around the reception of the complex, her eyes momentarily flickering out of view before she shook her head and chased after hermother.
“Talk to her,” Gita urged in a fierce whisper, listening to the quiet smashing behind the closed door of Rani’s room, her sanctuary in trying times. She was hiding awkwardly outside of the door to the bedroom with her husband, Haresh. “She’s been in a right mood for weeks now!”
“Gita, for god’s sake, she won’t talk to us!” Haresh whispered back. “If we tried to force her, she’d get angrier with us.”
“Haresh, that is my daughter breaking something that is most likely very expensive in there.” Gita narrowed her eyes in response. “I am not going to sit back and let her angry moods get the better of her! She’s been a right whirlwind of fury these past few weeks!”
“Gita -” Haresh tried.
“How do we cheer her up? Oh! I could take her salsa dancing!”
Haresh pinched the bridge of his nose as he tuned out his wife’s ramblings and his daughter’s stifled rage, wondering just what he had done to deserve such a horrible fate. The ringing of the doorbell cut off Gita’s ramblings and Haresh seized the opportunity to escape.
“Haresh!” Gita cried out before cutting herself off quickly in an attempt to avoid alerting Rani of her presence. Haresh ignored her, striding down the staircase and opening the door to find Clyde Langer standing on his driveway, his hands stuffed in his pocket.
Haresh expected to be annoyed, but something in Clyde’s contemplative expression forced him to hold his tongue. He frowned. Years of developing a system as a head teacher was alerting him that something was very wrong with Clyde and Rani.
“Now, Sky, this won’t hurt much,” Professor Rivers told the girl as she adjusted some of her equipment. She turned back, clad in her spectacles and fixed her a warm smile.
Sky sighed. She just wanted to get it over with and go home. She nodded to let the professor know that she gave consent for her experiments. Sky leaned back in her chair and tuned out the professor’s aimless babbling as the clicking of keys on keyboards filled the room.
Sky couldn’t pay attention. There was a noise in her head. It was deep, pulsating and carried weight and gravity. It took her a second to home in and realise it was a laugh. The beeping whir of machinery caught her attention. A drone circled around her once, twice, a third time. The laugh became deeper, almost unbearable. Sky’s head hurt. Her chest hurt. Everything hurt. Anger developed and bubbled deep inside and she just felt the urge to kill, destroy, release.
Her eyes narrowed impossibly until they disappeared, her lip curled and twisted into something garish, horrible. Electricity crackled and fizzed around her but Sky wasn’t in control, not this time. With a terrifying scream, the electricity dispersed around the room. Screams of agony and fear pierced the air, the sounds of explosions filled the room, and then there was silence.
Sky opened her eyes, but it wasn’t Sky, not really. Skipping over to the monitor, she examined the screaming pixel of Professor Celeste Rivers for a moment, her lips twisting into a carnivorous smile before she flicked the charred remains of the computer off. And then she forgot.
Sky gasped. The headache was gone now but she was confused at the sight of the empty room and charred equipment. Whatever happened to Professor Rivers? Shrugging it off instantly, she moved to the door and skipped out, never questioning why she was suddenly standing when she was sitting a second ago.
A yawn escaped Sarah Jane’s parted lips and she sat patiently in the waiting room of the institute. Her eyes flicked over the embossed logo. Rather pompous, if you asked her. She didn’t dwell on her thoughts for long as Sky trotted into the room without a care in the world.
“All done!” Sky declared cheerily, all but pulling her out of her seat. Sarah Jane looked around expectantly and frowned at the distinct lack of company with her adopted daughter.
“Where’s Professor Rivers?”
Sky frowned, as if the thought hadn’t occurred to her, before she looked up and shrugged innocently. Sarah Jane’s frown deepened. Professor Rivers usually always said goodbye to them.
“Can we go now?” Sky pestered. Sarah Jane sighed, and nodded. Sky cheered quietly and pulled her out the door. Sarah Jane looked back briefly.
She shrugged it off. She could catch up with Professor Rivers later. She hadn’t realised her hand had slipped out of Sky’s, so she recoiled in shock when an electric shock passed between their fingers.
Sarah Jane frowned at the implications. She also couldn’t help but notice the slightly dishevelled and singed appearance the little girl was sporting.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Rani sighed as he leaned back on her bed, clutching her pillow tightly. She spared a glance at Clyde, who had his gaze fixed on her. His hands were stuffed in his jacket pockets and her was eyeing her intensely. “What?”
“You feel it, don’t you?” Clyde asked plaintively. “The frustration of forgetting?”
“Why would I feel that?” Rani challenged.
“Because I feel it too,” Clyde retorted effortlessly. Rani met his gaze for several seconds and silence filled the void. Eventually, Rani tore her gaze away and pursed her lips into a thin line. Her eyes bore into her pillow.
“It’s weird,” Rani finally decided on when the memory escaped her once again. “I can’t sleep at night. I hear her screaming, her crying, her laughing, even her name! But I can’t remember her face, Clyde. My own daughter and I can’t remember the colour of her eyes or her hair. I can’t remember her favourite colour, her favourite food, her favourite flower. Why can’t I remember that? It’s tearing me apart!”
“Yeah, I feel that way too.” Clyde sighed resignedly. The two sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, wallowing in their own self-pity and trying to picture the face of the daughter they had lost. The only source of sound was the loud ramblings of Gita - something to do with how “salsa dancing was as viable an option as bungee jumping.” The two chuckled hopelessly.
“Things aren’t going to just go back to how they were, will it?” Rani murmured, clinging to the pillow tightly. “We won’t go back to the people we were, with this...this truth hanging over us. We’re technically older than everybody at school now. This is all a huge mess.”
“Do you regret it?” Clyde asked her suddenly. Rani was taken aback.
“I’ve not really thought about it,” she admitted. It was true. Lately, she had been far more concerned with so many other details that she hadn’t questioned what the twenty years of inky memory meant for her and Clyde.
“Oh…” Clyde trailed off, unsure how to respond. He clapped his hands together, trying to cheer himself up. “Tell you what, let’s go visit Sarah Jane. Maybe she can help us.”
“Yeah?” Rani asked contemplatively. At Clyde’s encouraging nod and her own eagerness to escape the emotional turmoil their conversation brought, she sighed and hauled herself off the bed, grabbing her jacket and flicking her hair. “Right, let’s go then.”
The car pulled up into the drive and a chipper Sky jumped out, the events that had transpired already erased from her conscious memory. Sarah Jane, on the other hand, took her time as she exited the car, frowning as she tried to piece together what had happened to her friend.
“You okay, Sarah Jane?” Clyde’s voice snapped her out of her thoughts and she turned to see both him and Rani join her on the driveway. She offered them a small smile in greetings before it quickly disappeared from her lips.
“Something strange happened at the Pharos Institute,” she explained.
“Strange how?” Rani asked, leaning in curiously.
“Well…” Sarah Jane paused, realising how flimsy her reasoning sounded in her head. “Professor Rivers didn’t say goodbye to us today.”
Sure enough, her young friends scoffed at her observation. They tried, very badly, to cover up their error of judgement and earned one of Sarah Jane’s patented glares as she stood to her full height and crossed her arms.
“What, and you think something strange is happening because of that?” Rani asked seriously, attempting damage control. “She might have been busy, right?”
“Maybe,” Sarah Jane murmured.
“What is it?” Clyde asked her.
“Well, I can’t help but feel something’s wrong,” Sarah Jane answered. Before she could elaborate, the honk of a car horn captured the trio’s attention and they turned to see a taxi pulling up on the sidewalk. A light bulb exploded in Sarah Jane’s head, and she brought her hands to her mouth to cover her gasp. “Oh, I had forgotten all about it!”
“Forgotten about what?” Rani asked, eyeing the taxi inquisitively. She received her answer when a familiar duo stepped out of the taxi, the eldest rambling aimlessly while the younger, with significantly bushier hair, smiling and nodding at what she said.
They were quickly identified as the grandmother and grandson unit, Jo and Santiago Jones. The boy in question turned his head and shot them a helpless look and they couldn’t help but chuckle.
Jo seemed to have noticed them as she hurriedly paid their driver while Santiago dragged their luggage behind him. She threw her arms around Sarah Jane and squeezed tightly, laughing joyfully.
“Sarah Jane Smith!” Jo exclaimed jovially.
“Jo Jones!” Sarah Jane smiled brightly as she hugged her friend. “Wonderful to see you again!”
“And you!” Jo replied earnestly. Santiago walked up to Clyde and Rani and smiled brightly at them, a smile the duo reciprocated. Jo pulled away and enveloped Clyde and Rani in a warm hug of their own.
Clyde, Rani and Santiago all clambered into the attic. Clyde scanned the area and was surprised when he didn’t locate Sky.
“I see this place hasn’t changed.” Santiago marvelled. “Granted, it’s not as awesome as a bigger-on-the-inside police box.”
“Nah, it’s just as awesome,” Clyde proclaimed proudly, puffing out his chest slightly.
“Speaking of the police box, have you guys seen him lately?”
“No, not really.” Clyde shrugged. “Not since we last met, anyway.”
“Seriously?” Santiago gawked at their casual stance. “You’re chill about not seeing this dude from outer space and his magic blue box?”
“We have other things that occupy our time, Santiago,” Rani laughed. Santiago’s cheeks flushed and he nodded sheepishly. Sky chose that moment to bound into the attic, fresh out of the shower. She eyed Santiago curiously.
“You’re not Luke,” she noted, looking disappointed.
“No, I’m not.” Santiago nodded in confirmation. “We haven’t met. I’m Santiago.”
“I’m Sky,” Sky introduced herself as she looked around the attic distractedly.
“Are you okay, Sky?” Rani asked worriedly. She noticed how Sky clung to the door for support.
“Where’s Sarah Jane?” Sky asked instead, completely ignoring Rani’s question.
“She’s in the living room.” Clyde frowned. “Why -”
Sky was already hovering out of the door. Clyde and Rani shared a concerned look at her behaviour. Had they been paying attention, they would have noticed how the shadow the retreating Sky cast on the wall seemed to grow and become darker.
“We’re only popping in for a quick visit, and then we’re off to Iceland,” Jo explained as Sarah Jane poured her a mug of tea.
They had flocked to the living room and were seated comfortably in the living room while Clyde, Rani and Santiago retreated upstairs. Sky had disappeared as soon as they returned. She was probably taking a shower, her clothes and hair were slightly singed when she had returned from her check up.
“That sounds exciting,” Sarah Jane encouraged as she sipped her tea. The two sat in comfortable silence and listened to the ticking of the old grandfather clock. Sarah Jane tapped her mug as she contemplated. “Do you miss it?”
“Sometimes,” Jo replied easily, knowing exactly what she was talking about. “I wondered if something had happened.” Sarah Jane smiled sadly at that. “He never returned, never popped in to say hello, but Clifford was there for me, and now I have Santiago and Sydney and my whole family. Do you?”
“I do,” Sarah Jane confirmed. “But, like you, I found a happy life, and I’m glad. If it wasn’t for a good friend of mine or Luke, I don’t think I would be as happy and content as I am now.”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Jo started excitedly, all but leaping out of her seat, her tea cup nearly clattering to the floor and the contents precariously dangling off the edge for gravity to play its role in the descent for a messy end on Sarah Jane’s carpet. “Santiago and I have just been to this gorgeous temple, ancient and rustic. It had the smell of ancient oak, oooh.” She sighed a happy sigh. “It was magnificent.”
Sarah Jane chuckled. Jo’s enthusiasm was infectious.
“Now, what was I doing? Oh, yes!” Jo snapped out of her stupor and shot Sarah Jane an excited grin. “Santiago took pictures! You have to see them, they are glorious.” Jo turned to exit the room but Sky chose that moment to stalk into the room. Her eyes were limp and she looked gaunt in a noticeably taller body. Jo gasped and leaped back in shock, hand over her heart. “Oh, Heaven’s oyster pearls!”
“Sky?” Sarah Jane pushed herself out of her seat, alarmed at Sky’s appearance and Jo’s rather dramatic reaction. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.” Sky answered, her voice thick with fear and confusion. Her body began to crackle with electricity. Sarah Jane instantly pushed Jo backwards. “I feel… I feel…”
Sarah Jane and Jo were blinded by the sudden discharge of electricity that Sky exuded, forcing them to cover their eyes with their hands. The light bulb shattered, the television burst into an explosion, the windows shattered and the photo that lined the wall all crashed onto the ground.
Eventually, Sarah Jane lowered her hands and noticed the damage. The living room looked akin to a war zone. Glass littered the floor, electrical appliances lay broken on the ground, the air was thick with smoke and electricity, and Sky lay in the heart of it, unconscious. Sarah Jane gasped in shock, moving to shake her daughter out of her slumber, to no avail.
Sarah Jane, with the help of Jo, Santiago, Clyde and Rani, managed to move Sky to the attic where she could rest and be scanned by Mr Smith. The Xylok had assured them that Sky would make a full recovery, even though it wasn’t as credible as Rani would like considering he didn’t know what was wrong with her in the first place.
Rani bit her lip as she watched the sleeping girl. She looked calm and serene when asleep, the weight of the world lifted off her shoulders. Rani thought, briefly, where Sky escaped to in her dreams. Did she dream of more adventures, or her home on the Fleshkind world?
But that wasn’t all Rani was thinking about. Pressing her hands to her temple, she attempted to picture the face of her daughter Sarah for the millionth time in five weeks. Thoughts and images circled around her thoughts but they wouldn’t correlate. Her face was blurred. All the little, important details that she should remember, the things she wanted to remember, were gone. In the place of facts was a blur.
Rani paused. She could’ve sworn she heard indistinct whispering. Murmurs reverberating off the walls and filling her senses with the deepest, spine-tingling chill. She glanced around to confirm she was alone. Sarah Jane and Jo had retreated to someplace to talk in private while Clyde was making the tea. She strained her ears to listen, to make out the words.
Rani was so engrossed trying to hone in on the indecipherable words she nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand clasped around her shoulder. Letting out a small squeak, Rani spun around to see Santiago, his lips pursed and his eyes lit up in a way that suggested he was trying his best to hold back bubbling laughter.
“Sorry,” he apologised with a chuckle as Rani let out a heavy sigh of relief.
“Santiago,” Rani said, mostly in comfort for herself. “Don’t do that!”
“Hey, I said I’m sorry, at least,” Santiago held up his hands placatingly with an award winning grin. “What are you doing up here by yourself anyway?”
The smile fell from Rani’s face and she sighed sombrely.
“No reason. I just want to make sure she’s okay,” she replied as she took residence on the steps, Santiago at her side. “It’s strange. This has never happened before.”
Santiago looked at Rani, properly, for perhaps the first time since they met. He admired the way her chestnut hair fell below her shoulders, her hazel brown eyes that held a relentless curious spark, ravenous for new information, and the little bite of her lip whenever she was worried. So maybe he had a little crush on her, but he wasn’t afraid to admit that. Not at all.
“I always wanted to travel,” Rani admitted with a sigh, trying to focus on something other than Sky or her lost daughter. God knows how Sarah Jane felt. “See the world, you know? Ever since I was a kid. There’s so much out there, so much to see, to do, but journalism always came first."
“And now?” Santiago asked when she had finished.
“Now I’m not sure,” Rani shrugged. “I still want to become a journalist, but it’s no longer...as fixed as it used to be.”
Santiago pursed his lips. What he was about to do was a leap. A huge leap that could turn this blossoming friendship on its head and replace it with an awkward aura that he would regret for the rest of eternity, but Santiago was nothing if not a thrill seeker.
“Would you like to come with us?” he asked timidly.
“What?” Rani snorted, looking thrown by his question. “Where did this come from?”
“Well, you said it yourself, you want to see the world!” Santiago continued excitedly. “Me and gran do it all the time, you could come with us!”
“Hang on, slow down,” Rani chuckled. “What’s brought this on?”
“Clyde mentioned you’ll be done with school soon.” He grinned when Rani nodded in confirmation, a small smile on her face as the prospect graced her thoughts. “That’s great! I’ve never been to school, but you’ve been there almost all your life; why not take a break? Travelling the world is totally awesome, I should know!” Rani giggled at that. “And - don’t tell gran I said this - but sometimes even her eccentricity doesn’t hold my attention sometimes.”
Rani laughed. She shouldn’t have, Santiago had just admitted he was lonely in his travels, but she needed a reason to laugh and take her mind off things, and he didn’t look insulted in the slightest. After she sobered, her thoughts turned contemplative. Rani had always had her life planned out, she always knew what she wanted to do in the long run, but this unknown variable was brand new and, she had to admit it, really appealing.
She had asked Clyde if he wanted to see the world last August, because she was curious, and because she herself yearned for the kind of adventure life on Bannerman Road couldn’t supply her with. There were things holding her back, things she needed to do and sort out. Rani wasn’t going to run away from home, that wasn’t who she was. With that, she turned to Santiago with resolve.
“I’ll think about it,” she said with a firm nod.
“Brilliant!” Santiago grinned. It was infectious, Rani couldn’t help but smile as well.
Santiago may have acted on impulse, the spur of the moment, but there was nothing to make him feel guilty about his choice. He was happy, and Rani was happy, but, if he had taken the time to turn around, he would notice the door was slightly ajar and Clyde was looking at both of them, fists clenched and his eyes filled with hurt.
“It was nice visiting, but now we really must be off.” Jo said as she fiddled around with her bag. The taxi was waiting outside for them and they were wrapping up their goodbyes and doing last minutes checks.
“We have to stop by and see some relatives before we move on.” Santiago explained as he zipped up a bag. He stood to his full height and grinned impishly at the three. “We kind of forgot last time.”
“Oh, don’t be like that! You know as well as I do that it was a busy day!” Jo huffed. Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani laughed. The Jones family never failed to amuse and entertain.
“Well, it was wonderful to see you, once again.” Sarah Jane beamed as much as she could when she hugged Jo. The teenagers smiled fondly at the sight before Santiago turned to the teenage duo of Bannerman Road.
“I hope Sky gets better,” he said sincerely with a small smile. After Clyde and Rani nodded their heads in appreciation, Santiago clicked his fingers at Rani. “Remember to think about it.”
“I will.” Rani shared his grin as she sidled closer to him. “Enjoy Iceland.” She said as she kissed his cheek.
Clyde watched the seemingly harmless gesture and his smile dropped into a frown momentarily. He plastered a fake smile as he bid Santiago a brief goodbye. Jo walked over babbling about how they reminded her of an Egyptian temple as she wrapped her arms around them both.
Sarah Jane replaced Jo at their side as the blonde woman quickly hopped into the taxi when the driver honked the horn impatiently. The three waved as the taxi pulled out of the drive and left their sight.
As soon as they were gone, Sarah Jane promptly turned on her heels and went to check up on Sky, leaving Clyde and Rani to their own devices. Rani quickly turned to the despondent Clyde.
“Hey, wanna come to town with me?” she asked excitedly. A frown marred Clyde’s face.
”Oh, I can’t. I’m, er, busy,” he stuttered, quickly leaving Rani in his wake. The girl stood in the drive alone, confused.
“But you said her condition would improve!” Sarah Jane hissed at Mr Smith, gesturing towards Sky’s prone form.
“I regret I do not have enough data to fully form an accurate diagnosis, Sarah Jane,” Mr Smith informed her in his gravelly, metallic voice. Sarah Jane scoffed and turned away from him. Her eyes softened at the sight of Sky and she sighed heavily. She looked as young as she had been when she had first aged during the factory, despite her aged appearance.
“Just… tell me if her condition improves, Mr Smith. Please?”
“Of course, Sarah Jane.”
“That’s awful. You will give Sarah Jane my wishes, won’t you?” Haresh muttered sadly as he dried a plate. “I don’t know what your mother and I would do if you were in that position.”
“You’re changing the subject,” Rani scowled, crossing her arms. Haresh busied himself with the menial task of placing the plate in the correct drawer, hoping to buy some time. Rani’s eyes bore into him, waiting impatiently for his response.
“I’m just not sure,” Haresh confessed with a frown when he finally turned to face her. “These people are complete strangers-”
“To you!” Rani interrupted.
“And what about university?” Haresh frowned, “You always said you wanted to go there.”
“I do!” Rani assured her father with a smile, “I really, really do, but I want to see other things as well, you know? And this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Sarah Jane knows these people anyway and they’re my friends, so they’re not complete strangers and I just- I really want to go on this trip, dad!”
That was only part of the reason. Over the past five weeks, Rani had been questioning her motives and aspirations. She couldn’t quite slot back into normal everyday life She was also growing restless on Bannerman Road. As much as she wanted it to be, it wasn’t her utopia. The streets were too loud, the air was too dirty and her grades were starting to slip at school. There was a whole world out there waiting for her, offering a more tranquil life. One where she didn’t have to get up at ungodly hours in the morning to go to school or work. The prospect was tempting.
Haresh studied her closely. Minutes trickled by, the two stood in a quiet staredown, the ticking of the clock the only indication time was still progressing without them. Finally, he receded. “Fine,” he sighed. “I’ll think about it.”
Rani grinned, launching herself at her father and wrapping her arms around him. She squeezed him tightly. “Thank you, thank you! You won’t regret it, promise!”
“Well, I should hope not,” Haresh sighed in defeat. Rani was still grinning brightly when she pulled back and grabbed her coat. Haresh watched her as she swiftly gathered her backpack and phone in a practised motion. “Give my regards to Sarah Jane.”
“I will!” Rani promised as she bounded out the door.
He wasn’t quite sure where they were. It was always a blur now that he was condemned from time travel. He had just left a planet (he wasn’t sure when) when he felt it. That nagging sensation that seemed to chill his bones and enrapture his thoughts.
He frowned. There was a disturbance, one that warranted further investigation.
The squawk of a parrot, and the man was gone, as if he was never there in the first place. One could compare him to a ghost, but one powerful being would describe him with a single, powerful word.
A day had passed and Sky’s condition hadn’t improved. Sarah Jane refused to leave her side, insistent that she wanted to be there when she woke up, and Rani refused to go home yet, despite her mother’s calls, and that’s how she found herself making tea in Sarah Jane Smith’s kitchen.
Her gaze flicked idly over the newspaper splayed out on the counter adjacent to her, one that hadn’t been granted the opportunity for recycling and was reduced to remaining on the counter, gathering up dust, long forgotten.
The page was marked off on an article hypothesising the global event that occurred months ago, The Miracle. Sarah Jane had been looking into it, but the situation seemed to have been resolved.
Rani was pulled out of her thoughts by the distinct sound of Sarah Jane’s doorbell. Setting the cups of tea down, Rani made her way to the front door and was pleasantly surprised to find Clyde on the other side.
Clyde, on the other hand, was less than thrilled.
“How’s Sky?” Clyde asked curtly before Rani could open her mouth to greet him.
“There’s no change, but I’m sure she’ll come round soon,” replied Rani, slightly unsure what she’d done to upset him.
“Oh, well, is Sarah Jane upstairs?” he asked, avoiding looking at Rani.
“Yeah, she’s still with Sky. She won’t leave her even for a second,” she replied, frowning at Clyde’s tone.
Without a word, Clyde started up the stairs.
“Clyde, wait,” said Rani. “Just talk to me. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know...there’s just so much in my head, a whole life which happened but didn’t happen. Everything was washed away, all that time we spent trapped there. I know it happened, and I can remember bits of it sometimes. But I can’t remember her, I can’t remember a single thing about her. It's not even like she's out there somewhere...at least I know Ellie is out there. But, our daughter...it's like she never even existed.”
“I know what you mean. And the harder you think, the less you can remember. Just...don’t shut me out okay.”
“Says you,” he retorted.
“Wha- you heard what Santiago said, didn’t you?” she asked, trying to keep things civil.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I did. So you’re off then, without a second glance?” he said, his voice rising.
“It's not like that Clyde. He just sprung the idea on me, I was going tell you as soon as I got the chance.”
“And when was that going to be, he can’t be in the country much longer?”
“I was going to tell you. I just needed time to think.”
“So, are you going to go with him?” he interjected, his fists clenched, “Are you?!”
“This, life, it's so much harder now. After everything we went through, we just get to come back to normality, back to our old lives. I can’t do it Clyde, I just can’t. Nothing can be the same, even this place, it just reminds me of everything we’ve lost. Right now, it's all too much, and this is a perfect way out.”
“A way out?!” he retaliated, “So you just want to leave it all behind and run away with them, with him!”
“I didn’t mean it like that and you know it,” said Rani loudly, tears in her eyes.
“Well it certainly sounds like that!” Clyde shouted. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy together!”
“It's not like that Clyde!” yelled Rani, tears now streaming from her eyes, “but if that's what you want to think then fine! I don’t care anymore!”
“Go then! Just...go,” he snapped back at her before storming up the stairs.
Rani just stood there, her eyes still streaming. As soon as the door upstairs slammed shut, she started sobbing, sliding down the wall.
Sarah Jane was tired. Sky still hadn’t woken from her slumber, but her vitals indicated she was still alive. Dark bags clung to the ridge beneath her eyelids and her body argued with Rani when the younger woman had insisted that she has something to eat or drink. She had heard the shouting on the staircase, of course she had, but if she was perfectly honest, she didn’t really care.
That was, until Clyde stormed in and slammed the door angrily. It wasn’t until his eyes made contact with Sarah Jane’s scrutinising glare that he had the grace to look bashful. He mumbled a quick apology and made his way over to his sketching station, Sky long forgotten and the argument with Rani stewing in his mind.
Sarah Jane observed the boy. She had a choice; she could ignore Clyde in his time of need, or she could actually be the friend she had presented herself as to everybody and help him. Her maternal instincts kicked in.
“What’s wrong Clyde?” she asked him.
“There’s nothing wrong with me. Rani on the other hand...did she tell you about wanting to go off travelling?”
“She’s always dreamed of going off around the world, we both know that. Sometimes, even if it doesn’t look like a good idea, you still have to leap in head first.”
“I know, and I get that. But like this, just out of the blue. She didn’t even bother telling me, and Santiago offered to take her off two days ago.”
“Rani had her reasons I’m sure, and you two haven’t been talking that much recently,” said Sarah Jane. “After everything that happened in that place, I can’t say I blame her for wanting to go off and explore the world.”
“But, she’d just leave us all behind to go off having fun.”
“Clyde, listen to me. She’s not doing this to hurt anyone, she’s doing it because she needs to. She should go and explore the world, see amazing sights, and do fantastic things. Look at Maria, she’s done brilliantly in America, but she still stays in touch, and Luke is only down the road really. While they might not be here, they haven’t really left everything behind. Now, I know you’re angry at Rani for not telling you sooner, but don’t let this ruin everything. You can’t just keep your feelings bottled up. Okay?”
Clyde nodded sheepishly. He felt a little silly at being scolded by Sarah Jane, even if she did it far too often.
“I feel a right fool,” Clyde groaned, covering his face with his hands in shame. Sarah Jane just crossed her arms and waited. Clyde turned to face her soon enough. “Thanks, Sarah Jane. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”
“It’s my pleasure, Clyde,” Sarah Jane smiled. “You’ve helped me a lot since you came into my life. It’s only fair I return the favour.”
“You were a right grump when I first met you,” Clyde snorted. “Frosty.”
“Watch it, kid,” Sarah Jane chuckled warmly. The moment dissolved as soon as Sarah Jane’s watch started beeping erratically. Before she could ever flip the lid to examine the readings, a hand shot through the wall and clenched into a fist in front of her face. Sarah Jane nearly fell back and out of the stool in shock.
“What is that?!” Clyde spluttered as he also leapt out of his chair.
“I don’t know, but keep back!” Sarah Jane ordered as she scrambled for her sonic lipstick. She found it at Sky’s bedside and snatched it up. She froze when indistinct whispering chattered ominously through the room, the source unidentifiable.
“Sarah Jane!” Clyde wailed. Quicker than Sarah Jane ever thought she could move, she twisted around to come face to face with a pale white… face, the difference being the eye sockets were empty and lacking in pupils and irises. It opened its mouth to reveal a row of jagged, discoloured teeth and hissed a putrid smog of horrible smelling breath at her.
A steady hand gripped her arm and yanked her back from her shock. With the distance, Sarah Jane had the opportunity to assess the threat. The creature was dressed head to toe in a black tuxedo, topped off with the signature bowling hat. More figures streamed into the room in spades and surrounded the pair until they were confined to the space near Sky’s makeshift bed. Sarah Jane attempted to move forward, but was hissed back into her place. She decided there was no escape and they would have to wait and see what the creatures desired.
“Get your hands off me!” Rani yelled as one of the chittering creatures dragged her into the room and shoved her alongside her compatriots. She relaxed slightly when she noticed Sarah Jane, ignoring Clyde completely as she rubbed her sore wrist, “Sarah Jane, what are they?”
“I don’t know, Rani,” Sarah Jane admitted. She narrowed her eyes as she observed the creatures in closer detail. “But I think that we’re about to find out what they want.”
“You will remain,” the creature whispered, its empty eye sockets directed solely at Sarah Jane.
“For what? Who are you?”
“We are the Whisper Men. You will remain.” the creatures demanded simultaneously.
Sky suddenly started to cough uncontrollably, her prone form shuddering every time she did. Sarah Jane moved to tend to her but a creature roughly grabbed her and yanked her right into Clyde and Rani.
“Let me see her!” Sarah Jane ordered gruffly. The creature simply titled it's head at her. A black aura suddenly enveloped Sky’s hacking form and Sarah Jane’s bravado dissolved into a whimper, “let me see my daughter!”
Sky woke up in perfect health.
Moreover, she woke up confused by her surroundings. The room - chamber - was dark, impossibly so. There wasn’t even the faintest of sounds and when she looked down, she noted, with surprise, that there was no ground. She was floating.
Suspended in the air.
A giggle erupted from her lips. It shouldn’t have, she didn’t feel very happy. In fact, she was very, very scared. Where was she? Where were Clyde and Rani? And the strange boy? Where was Sarah Jane?
Suddenly, a searing pain washed over her and filled her entire being. It only lasted a second, but Sky screamed as if she had been in pain for centuries. When she next opened her eyes (she hadn’t realised she had closed them), she was a child again.
And she was looking directly at an older version of herself.
“I… I can breathe,” Sky announced, seemingly dumbfounded. The hacking had receded and the black aura had dissipated. Her back was turned to them and Sarah Jane couldn’t get a proper look at her face as the creatures insisted on keeping them at bay.
“Sky?” Sarah Jane called out, “Are you okay?”
“Sarah Jane Smith,” Sky hissed in a voice unlike her own. Sarah Jane shared a confused glance with Clyde and Rani. Her confusion melted into horror when Sky turned around and she was given a good look at her face. The eyes were gone. Replacing them were two, very familiar, eye sockets, distinct in their lack of pupils. Her lips were parched, cracked and curled up into a lopsided grin, revealing a row of jagged yellow teeth. The rest of her face was normal, her hair flowing around her like it usually did, her clothes the same as before. It was just that face.
That very familiar face.
“No,” She gasped. “It can’t be. Not you.”
“Even now, you deny what is right in front of you,” ‘Sky’ hissed. “You are ignorant, Sarah Jane Smith. I see you have kept your underlings, but not your son. A shame. I shall take pleasure in meeting him once more.”
“You leave him alone!” Sarah Jane demanded, her fighting spirit reinvigorated, “How? How can you be in Sky? She couldn’t have made an agreement, she wasn’t dying!”
“Ignorant woman,” ‘Sky’ tutted.”This girl was created to be my vessel into the world. She has my seed and my consciousness since the moment of her creation.”
“You mean… you’re her dad?!” Clyde exclaimed, looking visibly sickened. “She’s the Trickster-Sky? Oh, I feel like I’m in Year 7 Biology class again.”
“She is my absolution, Sarah Jane Smith,” the Trickster-Sky announced victoriously. “She has allowed me powers beyond your comprehension and the abilities to create long-lasting chaos.”
“But she was under my care!” Sarah Jane retorted.
“Just as I had planned.”
“My own daughter against me? How could you? It’s sick!” Sarah Jane yelled, the tremor in her voice noticeable.
“She was never your daughter,”The Trickster-Sky taunted, accompanied by the sinister laughter of her lackeys. “She has been my absolution since the moment of creation. I am not benign to intimate entanglements but she shall be with me until the end of the universe and all of it… was your fault.”
“So, what now?” Sarah Jane took a step forward, but was pulled back by Clyde and Rani, “Are you going to kill us? Is that it? Your plan? Take my daughter away at the moment of my death?”
“Senile woman,” The Trickster-Sky howled with laughter. “I no longer require to snuff out your life as a gateway into your world. I now have unimaginable power at my disposal and you will witness as your world crumbles under my command.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Clyde muttered. The Trickster-Sky tilted her head to look at him.
“And you, Clyde Langer, will pay for your treasonous act of defying me millennia ago,” Trickster-Sky hissed.
Sarah Jane was at a loss. She wanted to fight back, to retort and debunk the Trickster, to save Sky at that very moment, but she couldn’t. For now, she would have to retreat. Surreptitiously uncapping the lid of her lipstick, Sarah Jane gave the Trickster one last defiant glare.
“I've stopped you before, I willdo it again,” she vowed heatedly before she aimed and unleashed a sonic wave on the attic’s light bulb, shattering it as a method of diversion. “Mr Smith, protect us!” She turned to Clyde and Rani and shoved them out the door. “Go, move!”
The shattered light bulb succeeded in confusing the Trickster’s compatriots and the added effect of Mr Smith’s resurgence and full-frontal laser assault resulted in a few casualties. The Trickster-Sky remained ambivalent to this development. She had power now, something she noted with glee as electricity crackled and surged through her.
The three stumbled out of the front door. Sarah Jane could have sworn she was in shock. Her hands were shaking and her heart was racing. She could have been crying, but she wasn’t quite sure whether it was rain or not. She just felt numb.
“Did that just happen?” Clyde asked as he bent over, catching his breath.
“Sarah Jane, are you okay?” Rani asked in between her pants, gazing at the older woman in concern.
“I don’t know, Rani,” Sarah Jane shook her head mournfully. “He’s planned this to the last detail. He’s taken Sky. What do I do?”
Before Rani and Clyde could answer her, Gita trundled through the driveway, waving at them with a happy grin. Sarah Jane was hardly surprised anymore, Gita had a habit of bursting to the scene when she wasn’t wanted.
“Ah, there you are, Rani,” Gita smiled tightly, pointing an accusatory finger at her only daughter. “I need to have a word with you.”
“Mum, now really isn’t the time,” Rani spoke through gritted teeth, trying to dissuade Gita from further speech. Whether it was luck or not was up to interpretation, but an almighty clap of thunder interrupted Gita as she opened her mouth to speak.
She pursed her lips, but was otherwise undeterred until something caught her attention and rendered her wide-eyed and slack jawed.
Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani followed the woman’s line of vision only for their hearts to momentarily drop into their stomachs. Sarah Jane’s house was suddenly taller and leaner than before, the top pointed in the shape of a giant tower.
“What…” Clyde stuttered, clearing his throat before he continued, “What is that?”
“Oh no,” Sarah Jane whispered. “He’s taken my house and Mr Smith with it.”
“What on Earth are you talking about?” Gita cut the mournful silence as thunder continued to crackle and boom. “Who’s Mr Smith, Sarah? A new man? Oh, is this like a soap opera? You live an Eastenders lifestyle, don’t you, my darling?”
Further speech was cut off when Sarah Jane’s flower garden grew and replicated, growing gnarlish, pale green-grey translucent roots that burrowed into the ground and forced the group of four out of the drive. The roots festered and soon enough, the sound of shattered glass and destroyed tarmac and debris bombarded their senses as houses caved in and the roots enraptured them in their venomous grip. Haresh quickly stumbled out of his crumbling house, accompanied by many others as they left their houses and stared at the giant tower casting a shadow over their neighbourhood in shock.
“This can’t be happening,” Rani exclaimed. Clyde made his way to a manhole cover in the ground and struggled to open it. Maybe they could hide in the sewers. Not a pleasant option, but one of the few they had left. He barely had time to react when a plethora of new roots shot out of the ground.
Thunder continued to crackle, roots continued to grow and replicate, and Sarah Jane continued to feel like she had lost.
“Stop it!” Younger Sky wailed, “This isn’t what I want!”
“No,” Older Sky shook her head and smirked. “This is exactly what you want. You want to see this desolate planet crumble and fall. You want to rule over it in a new era and do you know what?”
Older Sky’s smirk grew, and she leaned forward. She motioned for younger Sky to join her and younger Sky found her feet moving until she was right in front of her older counterpart. The Older Sky leaned forward and whispered in her ear four simple words that made the blood pumping in her veins run cold.