Written by Zoe Lance Based on an idea by Russell T Davies
“Whatever you choose, Sarah Jane Smith, Sky will fulfil her destiny.”
The tower hung over Bannerman Road like a citadel. Lightning crackled and boomed overhead, casting a looming shadow over Sarah Jane and her entourage. The woman who often stared into the face of danger valiantly was lost, dazed, confused. Everything she had fought for had been stripped from and used against her.
Clyde and Rani watched the rigid woman nervously, expecting a command. A bark of an order, anything to let them know Sarah Jane wasn’t as hollow and broken as they feared she was.
“Sarah Jane?” Clyde called out cautiously. No response, “What do we do?”
Sarah Jane looked at him, her eyes hollow. Neither Clyde nor Rani could detect the usual inquisitive spark tailored to Sarah Jane alone and it filled them with utter despair.
“The Trickster’s taken over the street. It won’t be long until he is powerful enough to take over London. He’s got all my equipment, and he’s got Sky,” Sarah Jane mumbled.
“I-I don’t think I quite understand,” Gita squeaked, clutching onto Rani tightly in fear and confusion. “What are you on about, Sarah?”
“Jane,” Rani added quickly, flinching noticeably. Haresh stumbled into the drive, clumsily avoiding the ghostly pale roots. They all waited expectantly for Sarah Jane’s answer. They didn’t get one.
“Of all the things he could have done,” Sarah Jane whispered. “He took a defenceless child and shaped her into a weapon before she even knew how to speak. It’s sickening.”
She lapsed back into silence, defeated.
The roots oozed along the floor, snaking upwards and constricting around the military building without warning. The personnel, scientists and soldiers alike, clambered towards the nearest exits, doors or windows or anything, it didn’t matter which floor it was, they just wanted to escape, to live.
The few who had been lucky enough to escape watched as the building crumbled and buckled right before their very eyes. The roots continued slithering along the floor, the pale grey vegetation pulsating with added vigour, leaping off the ground and wrapping themselves around the dumbfounded soldiers. Their bloodcurdling screams were absorbed by the thick sticky roots. Those who tried to escape met a similar fate as the roots snaked around their legs and dragged them back, screaming and begging.
The roots moved away to reveal identical looking pale white men. Their eyes and nose stripped away, leaving behind hollow eye sockets and gnashing sharp rows of teeth. The few remaining soldiers stared, paralyzed with fear. They stumbled backwards, and the Whisper Men converged on them.
This exact scenario panned out in every single military base in London, their military soldiers and scientists taken away, any form of resistance squashed. Thunder crackled overhead. London had fallen.
“You’re hurting people!” The younger Sky screeched, turning to face her older counterpart. The other Sky smirked.
“But this is what you want.”
“No it isn’t!”
The smirk faded off the older Sky’s lips, her eyes adopting a colder tone. She walked over and gripped her younger counterpart by her arms. “Yes, it is!” she insisted, “Why can’t you see that? We’re one and the same! We both want the same thing!”
“No!” Younger Sky screamed angrily, shoving her older self away. In her self induced rage, she mustered the energy to produce a putrid yellow ball of electrical energy which she promptly launched at her older doppleganger. The older Sky merely sidestepped the beam, her hands behind her back.
“Not good enough,” she smirked nefariously, her eyes sparkling with electrical energy. “Try again.”
The younger Sky growled, summoning two more energy spheres and launching them at her older opponent. The older Sky raised her hands and the spheres dissipated almost instantly once they made contact with the palms of her hands.
“It’s useless,” the older counterpart taunted. “What hope do you have against me? You hone your powers from your friendships, I source my powers from our father.”
“My friends are stronger!” Young Sky exclaimed vehemently.
“Oh, grow up, you know nothing...” The older Sky cackled, “You’re seriously relying on friendship? What good does friendship have against the power of the Trickster? Did the power of friendship help end the feud between the Flesh and Metalkind?”
“I-” Young Sky faltered. Her older doppleganger sauntered over to her. The darkness around them was suddenly stifling, suffocating.
“You’re nothing but a child.”
Trinity Wells chewed on her lip as she flicked through her notes. The world was ending and she was sitting in her office chair about to record a news broadcast. She should have been at home, hiding and wallowing in pity, but she had a job to do. In the blink of an eye, she was on air. Calming her nerves, Trinity faced the camera with an ambivalent expression, covering up her fear.
“The entirety of London has been submerged in strange roots in the span of half an hour. All flights have been cancelled and airways blocked. The public have been assured that the phenomena will not affect America even as soldiers and scientists across the globe are struggling to understand what is happening. This is a dark day indeed, the United Kingdom is in a state of emergency, and I’m being told that communication towers are down,” She gulped. “May god help them all.”
The roots destroyed everything that crossed their path, from cars to cell towers. Buildings crumbled effortlessly, school buses full of little children toppled over. People scurried to safety, fleeing from their dystopian surroundings.
A little girl who was being yanked by the arm by her hysterical mother tripped over, lost in the stampede of the multitude of people too scared to register their surroundings. She cried loudly, terrified of being alone in such a scary place. The thunder crackled overhead. The air was biting. She was alone.
“I’ve got you,” a woman grunted as she scooped the girl up in her arms. She was surprisingly strong, and her Welsh accent was identical to her own. Her eyes emanated warmth, and the girl felt safe. Her mother ran towards them, her eyes stained with tears; she had thought that her daughter was lost forever. The mysterious woman carefully placed the girl into her mother’s arms. “Get to safety,” she advised them. The woman nodded gratefully and hurried off to find a sanctuary.
Gwen Cooper watched them leave with a small smile. After making sure Rhys and Anwen were safe, she had stumbled out of their shelter and into hell. She had no idea what was happening, but she wanted it to be over.
Lightning filled the skies of Cardiff, and booming thunder echoed throughout the streets. It was like the rift all over again, and there was nothing Gwen could do. Cardiff had fallen.
The delicate balance of nature had toppled. Bannerman Road was in shambles. The people who were lucky enough to escape the collapsed houses scrambled for refuge. Police cars and ambulances soon arrived to assess the damage. The hysterical cry of civilians reverberated off of the street, policemen barked orders and firefighters rushed to help the vulnerable. The street collapsed into chaos.
Black UNIT jeeps screeched to a halt on the road and soldiers streamed out to assist in escorting civilians to safety. They promptly carted off the Chandra family and Clyde, despite their protests, but left Sarah Jane behind as instructed. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart sauntered up the drive, her hands buried in her pockets. Her gaze flicked idly towards the looming tower with seeming disinterest. The fear in her eyes betrayed her calm demeanour.
“Renovating?” Kate snarked.
“What are you doing here, Kate?” Sarah Jane murmured. Kate studied the older woman. She looked despondent. She was sat in a garden chair, her hands on her lap. Her hair fell over the side of her face like a veil. She projected a defeated aura.
The forked thunder continued to hang overhead. Kate wondered if it would ever start raining. Her gaze flicked to her jeep. Osgood was waiting nervously with two guards. She sighed, bending down to address Sarah Jane.
“We’re evacuating the street,” Kate explained quietly. “All civilians will be taken to the safe houses present in London, but we need you to come with us.”
“You’re one of the few people on Earth who have inside knowledge on the Trickster. You know how he operates.”
“Do I?” Sarah Jane laughed mirthfully. “Maybe I don’t, Kate. He’s planned all of this to the last detail.”
“Nevertheless, I need you to come with me,” Kate scowled at Sarah Jane’s reluctance. “If you don’t, I have two guards over there who will drag you under my command.”
“You and I both know that you won’t actually do that, Kate,” Sarah Jane retorted.
“No,” Kate agreed. “You’re right.”
Sarah Jane complied, pushing herself off the chair and following Kate out of the drive. Her eyes locked onto a particular woman standing off to the side, more specifically, her eyes locked onto the multicoloured scarf wrapped around her neck. She smiled sadly, yearning to wrap her hand around the soft fabric, but she refrained.
“I like your scarf,” she told the woman. She nodded nervously. Sarah Jane couldn’t help but notice that the girl looked a little older than a teenager. They all piled into a jeep and quickly drove away from Bannerman Road.
The Trickster-Sky watched as the road was slowly evacuated, her lips curved into a sinister smile. She turned to the Whisper Men still present in the attic. Their army, moulded after their own image. The Trickster had looked into time, and stole a design as a blueprint for his own army, the harbingers of chaos.
“Go, whittle down Earth’s defences, instill fear,” she ordered. The Whisper Men complied, moving in sync and slipping through the walls, actively defying logic. Sarah Jane Smith and her planet had defied them for long enough.
“Could you run it by me one more time?” Haresh asked, struggling to digest what Rani was telling him. They were seated in a quiet part of the room they had been assigned once they arrived The room was not the sanctuary they were expecting. The floor was dusty, the room was dark and the walls were so thin they could hear the sobbing of a woman in the room next to theirs. Gita quietly sat on a chair further away from them, staring out the window distantly, absorbing the chaos around her.
“What’s so confusing about it?” Rani asked incredulously, eyeing her father with disdain, “Clyde and I have been helping Sarah Jane and Luke save the world from aliens! Pretty self explanatory!”
“And this has been going on for how long?”
“Since we moved into Bannerman Road,” Rani shrugged. She didn’t see why her father was making such a big deal about her hobby when the world was falling apart around them.
“Three years,” Haresh calculated. “Rani, what were you thinking?!”
“What’s the big deal?!”
“This is dangerous behaviour, Rani. You could’ve been hurt.”
“But I’m not hurt, am I? I’m still here!” Rani retorted.
“Yes, but you’ve lied to us for all these years!” Haresh flapped his hands in frustration, “That whole deal with those rhino men and that lizard alien was true and you acted like it was all a big joke!”
“Well, what was I supposed to do?” Rani spluttered feebly, “Suddenly spring it on you? Like that would have gone over well.”
“I knew that Langer boy was a bad influence,” he said, scowling bitterly.
“Oi, don’t drag Clyde into this!”
Haresh sighed, slumping in his seat slightly. His mind was whirring, attempting to piece the new information together and determining whether his pride in knowing his daughter thoroughly was misplaced. “I just don’t understand,” he admitted. “Why? Why do all this? Why run around putting your life in danger?”
Rani lapsed into silence, struggling to form her thoughts into words. Why did she endanger her life on a fixed basis? Why did she follow the mad woman across the road in her adventures? She must be mad, it was undisputable. Rani leaned forward, biting her lip.
“It’s...hard to explain,” she started, consolidating her thoughts. “I mean, yeah, some of the aliens are dangerous and scary and I could be killed, but that’s only part of it! The universe is a big place, dad. It’s like Earth, there are good people and bad people. We don’t just fight bad guys, we help those who are lost or need help. You’re the one who taught me to keep an open mind and that’s what I’ve been doing- what I am doing.”
“I still don’t get it,” Haresh confessed and Rani sighed. If he couldn’t see her reasoning, what was the point?
“I do,” Gita stated, rising from her seat resolutely and bending down in front of Rani, gripping her hands tightly. “I understand that my daughter has been very brave. I understand that she has saved people and the universe multiple times.”
“But aliens, Gita!” Haresh spluttered.
“Aliens are just people from another planet, Haresh,” Gita stated firmly, glaring at her husband. Haresh closed his mouth, apologetic. Gita turned back to Rani, “What your father is trying to say Rani, is that we are grateful you and your friends have been doing this. Parents usually worry when their children do things behind their backs and jump to conclusions that are far worse.”
“Oh, mum,” Rani smiled sadly, her eyes tearing up. “You must have been so worried.”
“Well, now I know that it was all for nothing, don’t I?” Gita grinned charmingly. Her expression sobered, and she looked at her daughter hopefully, “Can you save us now?”
“I don’t know,” Rani admitted quietly. “Sarah Jane’s the one who comes up with all the plans to save us.”
“Then you should be with her,” Gita urged. “Rani Chandra with Sarah Jane Smith, saving the world. Off you go, find her.”
“I don’t know where she is!” Rani protested.
“I do, she just walked into this building. I saw her,” Gita informed her proudly. It was true. She had seen a despondent Sarah Jane skulk into the safe house with a group of soldiers. Rani looked at her in surprise, already rising from her seat. Gita smiled. “Go on, my darling. Go.” She shooed her daughter out the room with a smile on her face.
“Why, Gita?” Haresh asked her simply. Gita didn’t move from the closed door.
“Because, Haresh, I have realised that my little girl has been a great woman for many years now, and we shouldn’t rob her of this chance. We are her parents, we encourage her activities.”
“But they’re dangerous!”
“Isn’t everything?” Gita retorted, “You were always far too protective, Haresh.”
“Maybe you weren’t protective enough.”
“It doesn’t matter, does it? We’re lucky enough to call Rani our own.”
Haresh bit his lip, retreating to the sanctuary of his mind to stew over the words.
“Mum?” Clyde called out. He was sitting in a chair, watching his mother worriedly. Carla Langer was stood by the window, staring out distantly. She had been silent ever since Clyde finished his diatribe. She didn’t utter a word.
“Was Smithy an alien?” Carla asked sadly. Clyde noticed how her voice had cracked slightly. The loss was still looming over her.
“No,” he lied. “Are you okay?”
“No. I’ve just found out my son has been fighting aliens and protecting Earth for the last few years,” Carla said. Her words weren’t biting, they were almost as monotone as Mr Smith. This surprised Clyde. He eyed his mother, a mixture of confusion and hope. “All these years I worried you’d end up like your father, Clyde.”
“All talk and no action, useless, arrogant,” Her words were sharp this time and Clyde flinched at her tone. Carla turned around with a smile etched onto her face, unshed tears in her eyes. “But I was wrong. My son is nothing like his father. He spends his free time making sure people are safe to sleep at night. He helps lost aliens and fights bad ones and, the best part of all, he does it for free and always comes back to me at the end of the day.” She crossed the room and wrapped her arms around Clyde. “I love you, Clyde.”
“Love you too,” Clyde mumbled, tears threatening to spill from his eyes as he reciprocated his mother’s warm gesture. They languished at the touch for several seconds before the squawk of a parrot startled them apart. A man dressed in regal robes stood in the room with an enigmatic smile on his face.
“My, I do love a happy ending,” he announced cheerfully, stroking his parrot. “Good day to you, Mr Langer. We meet again.”
“Wh-what are you doing here?” Clyde spluttered.
A voice called out for her. Sky looked around in confusion. Wasn’t she just fighting her older counterpart? Her palms sizzled with unshed electrical energy. A stream of mist filtered into the room. The smog coalesced into the mysterious figure that often kept her company at night.
“Who are you?” Sky asked, “You’ve never told me.”
“Sky, I am your father.”
“I don’t understand,” Sky complained, trying to move backwards. The man scared her now, The soft lull that often accompanied him was gone, replaced by a palpable fear. “Where am I?”
“You are in my realm now, child. You are safe.”
“I want to go home.”
“This is your home now.” the Trickster retorted, gesturing towards their surroundings. “A daughter must always live with her father.”
“You’re not my father!”
“Oh, but I am, Sky,” the Trickster retorted. “I gave you life. My blood runs through your veins. You know this is true, why do you try to deny it?”
“I…” Sky faltered. She wasn’t sure about anything anymore.
“Join me, Sky,” the Trickster extended his hand. Sky looked at his gloved palm in confusion. “Join me by my side as the Child of Chaos. I only need your agreement.”
“My agreement,” Sky murmured.
“Do I have your agreement?”
Everything made so much sense. Sky reached over and gripped his hand tightly, a malicious smile growing on her face.
Sarah Jane sat alone. Apart from the chair, the room was completely empty. No windows, no table, no bed, nothing. It was a strange arrangement, but it provided her solace to sort through her thoughts.
Sky had been taken and she was naively clinging to the possibility that the girl would be strong enough to fight her way out of the Trickster’s grasp. She, of all people, was damning the world because of what she wanted.
Where was Luke? Kate had mentioned Oxford had been transformed into a makeshift safe house, the entire area was sealed off by the army. It was a fruitless attempt to maintain a semblance of order in anarchy, but it was all they had.
Was she being selfish? Absolutely, but she didn’t care. For all the good she had done for the universe, maybe it was time it showed it wasn’t as cruel as she thought it to be. All these thoughts swirled and coalesced in her busy mind. Always busy, Sarah Jane wondered if she ever rested. Constantly on the move. Foxgrove, Croydon, the TARDIS, Ealing, she never stopped. She was always running.
The door slowly opened, and the same scientist that had been present on Bannerman Road stepped into the room tentatively, a tray of biscuits and tea in her hands. She smiled nervously, unmoving. Sarah Jane realised she was waiting for permission to enter. She nodded curtly, and the woman hurriedly shuffled inside, placing the tray in Sarah Jane’s lap.
“We have to make sure all the guests are properly sustained,” the scientist explained, fumbling with her scarf nervously. “And you count as a guest, even if Kate is angry you won’t pool your resources- maybe because you don’t have your resources anymore and-” she paused, fumbling for her inhaler from her jacket and taking a puff. “Well, she’s not really angry, she’s just annoyed and worried- and you should probably have something to eat.”
“I like your scarf,” Sarah Jane repeated absently, tracing her fingers around the fabric delicately. “Have you ever met him?”
“N-no, but I’m a big fan. I’ve read all the field reports I could,” the woman explained. “Most of them are still classified. You really should eat, ma’am.”
“Why did you develop an interest?” Sarah Jane ignored the woman’s request. “And my name is Sarah Jane.”
“No reason, it’s just...nice to know there’s someone watching us, protecting us in a way UNIT or Torchwood could never do,” she smiled to herself. “Oh, my name is Petronella, but people just call me Osgood- that’s my surname.”
“Well, it’s easier, isn’t it? What’s the point of Petronella? Frankly, it’s embarrassing,” Petronella Osgood stated derisively. She shot Sarah Jane a self-depreciating smile.
“I think it’s a lovely name,” Sarah Jane told her bluntly.
“Oh. T-thank you, but I prefer Osgood,” she flushed, scanning the room for a second chair and frowning when she noticed how barren it was. “Blimey, we really should make this place more hospitable.”
“Mm,” Sarah Jane hummed absentmindedly, returning her attention to the scarf and not her plate of food, to Osgood’s disdain.
“Do you think he’ll come here?” Osgood followed her gaze to her scarf, and wrapped herself in it, “Will he help us?”
“I don’t know,” Sarah Jane admitted, averting her gaze from the scarf. “Sometimes the Doctor can’t be here. Sometimes he won’t. I’m not sure why he’s not here, but I am certain he would have been by now.”
“Well, he wouldn’t just leave us in this dystopia, would he?” Osgood inquired, slightly panicked, “I mean, he’s the Doctor! Soldiers are being turned into these creatures, people’s lives are in danger and he’s not here to defend us!”
Sarah Jane noted Osgood’s hysteria, idly flicking her gaze to her, “The universe is a big place, Petronella Osgood. The Doctor’s not here and there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves. We’re defenceless, sitting ducks.”
“My, Sarah Jane, the tone of defeat is hardly inspiring to such a young mind,” the Shopkeeper said disapprovingly, materialising into the room with flourish. Clyde and Rani burst through the door soon after, panting slightly. The two males had intercepted Rani and joined her in their hunt for Sarah Jane. The woman leaped out of her seat, staring at the man in shock.
“What on Earth are you doing here?” she demanded, the spark returning to her eyes.
“I’m a servant of the universe, Miss Smith, I am where I always need to be,” he ran his finger over the wall, eyeing it distastefully. “Your current situation is as far away from a whimsical fairy tale as it can get.”
“No, this is your fault!” Sarah Jane exclaimed, pointing at him angrily, “Sky’s in danger because you put her on my doorstep. You said she would be safe! How could you possibly keep this from me?”
“Some things are beyond my control,” the man stated neutrally, raising his hands and shrugged. “Time is constantly in flux, Sarah Jane. There are grey areas. I can’t see everything, you know.”
“The Doctor has grey areas too,” Sarah Jane noted.
“Isn’t that delightful?” the Shopkeeper snarked, “I can assure you I had no idea of Sky’s capabilities, Sarah Jane.”
“Well, you’re here now, you can save us!”
“Wait, you’re asking for help?” Clyde interrupted, butting into the conversation, “You never do that!”
“This is beyond our control, Clyde,” Sarah Jane hissed.
“Hey,” Rani strode over to her, placing her hands on her friend’s shoulders. “I know you’re hurting, and I know you’re worried about Sky, but refusing to help the world because of it? It isn’t you, Sarah Jane, it never has been. This isn’t what Sky would want, this isn’t what the Doctor taught you, and this is certainly isn’t what you taught us to strive for.”
“What do you want me to do, Rani?” Sarah Jane asked desperately, turning to each person in the room frantically, “What do any of you want me to do? I’m human! I can’t do everything at once!”
“I am confident you know what to do, Miss Smith,” the Shopkeeper mused. “I believe you have always known.”
“Maybe I don’t want to!”
“I’ve actually read your files too,” Osgood confessed, rising her hand nervously. All eyes were on her. She took a puff of her inhaler and continued. “Okay, that was a lie. I’ve read most of your files - some of them are still classified - and Kate always spoke of you and your activities so fondly. She respects what you do. When I hear the name Sarah Jane Smith, I think of a hero, passionate about all life and working to make the world - and the universe - a better place.”
“I was told that we do what we do to protect humanity, for the greater good, not for fame or glory,” Clyde inputted. “I was told to never underestimate myself. You taught me that, and you’re doing that right now. Sarah Jane, you told me you were following the Doctor’s legacy. You’ve always told me that, to Luke and Maria-”
“And me,” Rani interrupted, moving away to stand next to Clyde firmly. Sarah Jane smiled softly. They had put aside their argument to help her. What would she be without her friends? Sarah Jane never dwelled on the question long. “And we’re telling you now. Do what you’ve always done. Be Sarah Jane Smith, defender of the universe.”
Sarah Jane approached her two young friends, and squeezed a hand each. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Jolly good,” the Shopkeeper cheered. “Are you ready now, Miss Smith?”
Sarah Jane took a deep breath. No, she wasn’t, but she couldn’t let her friends down. She nodded resolutely and approached the time fissure the enigmatic man produced. She stared into the rippling white energy. “Will it take me back?”
“Yes,” the Shopkeeper confirmed. “Back to Bannerman Road.”
“It is merely a shortcut.”
“Okay…” Sarah Jane whispered, composing herself. She turned to Clyde and Rani, her two compatriots. They had stuck with her, through thick and thin, “Before I go, I need you two to do something for me...”
Sarah Jane’s insides churned. Time travel was always cheaper without a vehicle. Steadying her frazzled nerves, she noted what she had once called home. It was taller than a skyscraper, piercing the stormy clouds overhead. It was night time. She wondered if Sky was safe up there.
The front doors opened ominously. An invitation. Fishing her sonic lipstick from her pocket, Sarah Jane stepped into 13 Bannerman Road for the first time in hours. The house had been transformed drastically. The paintings of friends, family and her achievements lay on the ground, the glass shattered. Cobwebs adorned the corners of the house, doors hung out of their frames and the lights had burst their bulbs. The wallpaper was wrinkled and peeling. Patches of mould clung to the walls.
Sarah Jane carefully climbed the staircase. They creaked under her weight. Her eyes scanned the dark room, searching for the Trickster’s minions. She turned to the top of the staircase and froze. A familiar looking girl was looking back at her.
“Why did you make me go? I didn’t want to go, I told you so. I didn’t want to leave you. You forced me away from this life, Sarah Jane. How could you? What gave you the right? My life took a turn for the worst, and it’s all your fault.”
She wasn’t real. She couldn’t have been real. It was a figment of her imagination manipulated by the Trickster, an amalgamation. This Maria was still a young thirteen year old girl, but the words still stung. Sarah Jane shuffled past her, only to find herself staring at Clyde.
“I’m always the clown, aren’t I? I had the chance to put my family back together and you ruined it for me! AND THEN YOU TOOK ME AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER! I thought you were my friend? Or were you just spiteful because I always made fun of Luke? You’re lame, Sarah Jane.”
He wasn’t real. She knew he wasn’t real, but her heart betrayed her mind. Tears filled her eyelids as she pushed past him. She almost crashed into Rani, who towered over her vindictively.
“All these years, I could have been a proper journalist, the kind you could never be. I had a proper family, a mum, a dad, a daughter...what did you have? Nothing. So you took it all away from me. Brainwashed me. I meant what I said in Danemouth, Sarah Jane. I wish you just left me alone.”
The tears threatened to burst. Sarah Jane wouldn’t give the Trickster that luxury. She pushed past Rani and ran up the stairs hurriedly. She was at the last flight of steps. She thought she was safe until she came face to face with another familiar figure.
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head in despair as Luke stared at her angrily. “Not him!”
“I thought you loved me,” he wailed. “You clearly didn’t. You sent me go off to Oxford and then you replaced me. You’re not my mother, you’re a fraud! I was better off with Wormwood.”
“No, Luke, I’m- I’m sorry,” Sarah Jane choked on her words, the tears flowing freely down her cheeks
“So am I,” he growled before he disappeared abruptly. He was an apparition. Of course he was. Sarah Jane had known that and yet the words still burned. It was excruciating. It burrowed into her stomach and gnawed away at her insides, leaving her cold. She turned to the attic door as it slowly opened. The Trickster-Sky stood on the other side, her head tilted to the side.
“Welcome to my dominion, Sarah Jane Smith.”
Clyde, Rani and the Shopkeeper appeared in the Pharos Institute. The teenage duo took a moment to steady themselves after the burst of bright light had receded.
“I think I’m gonna hurl,” Clyde complained. Rani shuffled away instantly, shooting him a repulsed look.
“What you do in your spare time is none of my concern, Mr Langer,” the Shopkeeper tutted, eyeing the empty reception hall curiously. “But we have a mission at hand. If we could focus, please?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Clyde muttered, following the strange man as he led them down a corridor. The lab was silent, there wasn’t another human being in sight.
“Everyone really has been evacuated,” Rani muttered, attempting to make conversation. She shivered slightly at the cold. “They could have left the heating on at least!” she noticed Clyde was still actively ignoring her and sighed, jostling his shoulder. “Come on Clyde, don’t let it be like this.”
“What do you want me to say, Rani?” he asked her.
“Anything - preferably not a jab directed at me,” she smiled hopefully. A small smiled graced Clyde’s lips. Rani noticed that. She was making progress.
“I suppose we have talked about this,” Clyde pointed out. “Back in the museum when Mr Smith was a human?”
Rani skidded to a halt, “Is that what we are?”
“I-I dunno,” Clyde confessed as he also stopped. “Isn’t that what we are?”
“Well, yes but...but…”
Rani and Clyde locked eyes. Time seemed to slow down. Nothing else mattered. Uncertainty and warmth hung over them like a blanket, contradicting each other. The crash back to reality was jarring when the Shopkeeper coughed animatedly.
“If we could focus, please?” He asked, staring at them with an amused twinkle in his eyes. The pair nodded sheepishly. The trio quickly rounded the corner and piled into a room. It was a mess. The computer was charred but operational, scorch marks clung to the walls and the equipment was scattered across the floor.
“What a mess,” Rani murmured.
“It is quite distracting,” the Shopkeeper agreed as he eyed the computer. He tapped a few keys and cried out triumphantly. “Ah! It is still operational!”
“Can you do it?” Clyde asked hopefully.
“Yes, but you need to stand back,” the Shopkeeper warned. The two practically leapt to the other side of the room, watching nervously as the Shopkeeper placed the palm of his hands on the side of the computer. The pale white light of a time fissure engulfed the equipment. The computer sparked slightly and a burst of bright light momentarily blinded the teenage duo.
When the light faded, a confused Professor Rivers stood in front of them, her spectacles hanging from their frames.
“Clyde? Rani? I don’t understand. What happened? I was on my computer when…”
“That doesn’t matter right now!” Rani interrupted, “Sarah Jane said that you analyzed the components of Sky’s electrical power?”
“Hm? Oh, yes. Yes, I remember now! I saved a copy of the findings…” She fumbled slightly when she produced a hard drive from her lab coat pocket, “Here!” The squawk of the parrot caught the Professor’s attention and she stared at the Shopkeeper with trepidation. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I am but a school child who has finished his project, good Professor,” the Shopkeeper smiled enigmatically. “It seems my job here is done. Goodbye and good luck!”
The man quickly disappeared in a burst of bright light. A fissure stood in his place, most likely leading back to Bannerman Road. The remaining trio had no time to dwell on it.
“Could you send a copy of the analysis to this number?” Rani asked as she showed Rivers the direct line to Mr Smith, “It’s urgent.”
“Of course, let’s get straight to work!”
“Sky?” Sarah Jane called out, reaching for the girl that stood in front of her. She wondered if the girl was sightless. She had no eyes, and yet she seemed to have no problem sensing her presence, “Can you hear me?”
“Sky Smith is not here,” two voices replied simultaneously. One was Sky’s child-like sing song voice, the other was the deep booming voice of the Trickster.
"Oh, I thought I'd seen the last of you," Sarah Jane spat venomously.
"Then you have learned nothing." The Trickster-Sky spread her arms smugly. "I cannot be defeated."
"Then you haven't learned anything, either," Sarah Jane retorted. She shook her head in disbelief. "Of all the things that you have done, this is the most despicable."
"It was a matter of survival. I needed her help, just as you do," the Trickster-Sky replied coolly.
"And that's what I don't understand." Sarah Jane squared her shoulders. "How does she help? She's not dying. She hasn't even made a bargain with you. What's the point?"
"She is my vessel. My gateway into your reality."
"And the Whispermen? What are they?"
"Mere foot-soldiers," the Trickster-Sky said dismissively. "I pulled the design from the universe and moulded them in my image. They help me fulfil my purpose."
"But I thought you didn't directly interfere with the universe to get your... fix."
The Trickster-Sky hesitated briefly. "I was... desperate."
"You always are." Sarah Jane sighed resignedly. "Why her? She's just a child."
"And that is why she was necessary," The Trickster-Sky proclaimed arrogantly. "You are... magnificent, but even you have weaknesses. I knew you would not to be able to resist a child bred for warfare, who resembled your own son. It was the perfect trap."
"You're cruel," Sarah Jane said defiantly. "Do you hear this, Sky? He used you! He doesn't care about you or me. We're nothing to him!"
“No. I am the Trickster’s daughter, the Child of Chaos.”
“No, Sky, you are your own person!” Sarah Jane pleaded, “You don’t need to listen to what he tells you to do!”
“I have made my decision, Sarah Jane,” the Trickster-Sky smiled carnivorously. “I have chosen this. We are one and the same now. This is what I wanted, you understand nothing.”
“I know the real Sky Smith wouldn’t want this!” Sarah Jane retorted angrily, “Fight him, Sky! Remember what I said? It's wrong to kill!”
“You understand nothing, woman,” the girl barked in laughter. “I am the powerful one here. I feed on chaos itself. What good is love against chaos? Your ‘daughter’ is gone. She is by my side, her rightful place. Earth is my dominion now. You have failed. You cannot stop me now.”
Sarah Jane was silent. She noticed how the chimney breasts opened and closed slightly. A message. She knew what she had to do. “Nothing will stop you?” she asked for confirmation, taking a deep breath, “Nothing at all?”
“No!” the Trickster-Sky cackled, “I am victorious!”
“Then you leave me no choice,” Sarah Jane whispered. Without hesitation, she turned to her trusty computer. “Mr Smith, I need you!”
The computer slowly appeared without the usual gusto. Sarah Jane and Mr Smith were both fully aware of what they had to do for the Earth. They had always known.
The Trickster-Sky whipped her head around frantically. “What is the meaning of this?!” She boomed.
“I’ve known this would happen for a very long time now!” Sarah Jane yelled triumphantly, “Jo investigating ancient murals and the visit to the Pharos Institute were no coincidences!”
“You knew all this time?”
“How else would UNIT have built the correct number of safe houses? You made a fatal error choosing Sky to be your vessel,” Sarah Jane yelled as the attic windows shattered open as the wind and electricity was sucked inside. Her hair flew wildly in the wind. “You chose the girl who could influence electricity! A shock to the system is exactly what she needs. I’m putting her back in control! Mr Smith, now! Force the change!”
“Complying,” Mr Smith’s monotone voice stuttered, having quietly stored electricity during the showdown. Sarah Jane dived for cover as the room was engulfed in a bright, static blue light. Sparks flew off the overloading computer. The Trickster-Sky’s cries echoed around the dusty attic, reverberating all the way to the ground where Clyde and Rani stood nervously, gripping hands tightly.
“You were right, I could never beat you,” Sarah Jane yelled so her voice could be heard over the rushing wind. “Every single time we battled, it wasn’t me who slayed you, that was my friends!”
The bright light became blinding, and Sarah Jane had to squint to see the petite silhouette of Sky splinter into two. The cycle appeared to be violent. The shadows coalescing and splitting frequently. The howls of pain became two, very distinct voices. Sky Smith stumbled, facing Sarah Jane momentarily with the sombre expression before turning to the Trickster, a determined expression etched on her face.
Sarah Jane noticed the change, and dread burrowed to the pit of her stomach. “No, Sky!” She cried out, “Don’t!”
“NO!” The Trickster cried, “No! I gave you your power! Your strength! I gave you life!”
“You tricked me!” Sky yelled, her hands sparking with electricity dangerously, “You turned me into a monster!”
“You will obey me!”
“NO!” Sky retorted, the electricity coursing through her veins. Her hair whipped across her face. The electricity engulfed her body, the tendrils snaking along towards the Trickster, who stumbled backwards.
“You cannot do this,” The Trickster hissed. “You will not do this. I am your creator! You will not defy me!” The electricity formed shackles around the Trickster’s wrists. He was getting desperate. “You are not relevant to the grand scheme of things. You have damned me! You are no saviour, you are nothing but a child!”
Sky ignored him. The electricity sparked around father and daughter, forming a barrier. “It’s over,” Sky told him. “You won’t hurt anyone ever again!” she turned to Sarah Jane. “You have to run!”
“I can’t leave you!” Sarah Jane argued, “I won’t!”
“This isn’t a request Sarah Jane, it’s an order!”
“SKY, NO!” Sarah Jane wailed, pouncing to reach her.
Sky smiled at the Sarah Jane for the briefest of moments before she turned her attention back to the Trickster. With a determined smile on her face, she clapped her hands together. An almighty flash of light engulfed the attic, and then Bannerman Road, manholes covers flew into the air, houses caved in on their foundations, the roots withered away, and Clyde and Rani attempted to dive for cover at the last minute.
When the light faded, Sarah Jane Smith, Sky Smith, Clyde Langer, Rani Chandra and the tyrant that had attempted to damn their world were gone.
Sarah Jane’s eyes slowly opened. She had a splitting headache and felt exhausted. Once her cognitive functions began to operate on a tolerable level, her ears caught the sound of voices, specifically three very familiar voices.
“I don’t get it. I was watching the telly and I’m suddenly here!” a boy exclaimed. The voice registered almost instantly. Sarah Jane shot up from her position.
“Luke!” She gasped, “What are you-”
She paused, examining her surroundings. It was an empty space. There was no ground, no air, no soil, nothing, but it wasn’t dark. A plethora of colours surrounded them, providing warmth. Clyde, Rani and Luke crawled over to her, wrapping their arms around her tightly.
“Mum, you’re okay!”
“I don’t understand,” Sarah Jane uttered. “What happened? Where are we?”
“I think you should ask her,” Clyde gestured to her right. Sarah Jane turned. Standing there was a female humanoid figure. A white robe hugged her slim physique, and her hair glowed with a translucent light. She emanated an ethereal glow, her eyes twinkling with love, warmth and compassion. Sarah Jane pulled herself to her feet, walking towards the figure. She opened her mouth to ask, to inquire who this mysterious figure was, when her face morphed into one that was very familiar.
“Sky,” she laughed in disbelief. “It’s you, Sky.”
“Hello, Sarah Jane,” Sky smiled. Her voice sounded more mature, it echoed off the walls and displayed authority. “It worked, you saved me.”
“What happened to you?”
“A gift from the universe,” Sky explained, shifting slightly. “I feel different. There’s this...warmth. It keeps me warm. I wanted you all to be here, all of you. Even you, Luke! I want you to be safe, always. What is it? What is this feeling? It’s scary but...it’s nice.”
“It’s love, Sky,” Sarah Jane smiled solemnly. “That feeling is love.”
“This is my gift of love. I will offer my services as guardian of the Trickster and ensure he never escapes. He will be imprisoned forever. I am guardian of the dimensions now, and this is my new home.”
“But- that means you’ll…” Sarah Jane stuttered as the truth dawned on her, “Sky, you can’t!”
“But this is what I want!” Sky countered, “I want to do this, Sarah Jane. This is what I was born to do. This is my destiny!”
“I don’t want you to go!”
“It’s too late,” Sky sighed sadly. The environment started to shift. “Goodbye, Sarah Jane.”
“Sky, please, don’t go!” Sarah Jane croaked.
“Goodbye, mum,” Sky smiled sadly, her words devolving into a simple whisper. She turned towards her friends. “Goodbye everyone!”
She faded from view, leaving them alone in the neverland. Sleep tempted them, goading them to close their eyes. When was the last time Sarah Jane had slept? She couldn’t remember, but the prospect was difficult to refuse. Luke, Clyde and Rani also felt the spell call for them and struggled over to Sarah Jane. They linked hands, struggling to keep their eyes open, willing Sky to return. They gave up in a few minutes.
“Bye, bye, Sparky,” Clyde said softly before sleep overwhelmed him.
Sarah Jane was the first to wake up this time. The sensation of the cold ground underneath her back was more than enough to inform her she was sprawled out on a pavement. She slowly picked herself up, her hands shaking. Her insides were numb and tear tracks stained her cheeks. Her tired eyes scanned the environment and she froze when she noticed her house. The building that had stood proudly for many years had been reduced to rubble. Her garden swing lay broken in the street. Her car lay in the drive, damaged irreparably. She turned to the Chandras’ house. Also destroyed. She turned to look down the street. Everything was smoking rubble. Everything had been destroyed, buildings, roots, gardens.
Bannerman Road was gone.
The same thought was repeated over and over in her head long after Luke, Clyde and Rani had woken up. She registered the jingly tune of Luke’s phone going off.
“Oh, it’s Sanjay, he must be worried,” Luke announced nervously, moving to take the call in private. Clyde grabbed him by the arm, stopping him from moving.
“Not that I’m not happy to see you or anything, mate, but we just sort of saved the world. Your mate can wait!”
Luke shoved Clyde’s arm away. “He’s more than a mate!” He froze. “Sorry. I just...I’m not really sure what’s going on. One minute I’m in the Oxford barricade and then Sky suddenly brings me here and- it doesn’t matter, now isn’t the time.” He moved over and wrapped his arms around his frail mother, resting his chin on her head. Sarah Jane stood in the embrace, unmoving. It was only when Clyde and Rani joined the embrace that she allowed herself to cry as the sun rose over the broken street.
Everything was in disarray. England was still recuperating and rebuilding after the Trickster’s takeover. The soldiers that had been transformed into his Whisper army had to be put down permanently. With Bannerman Road destroyed, Sarah Jane had taken up Carla on an offer to stay with her and Clyde temporarily. The Chandras temporarily checked in at a nearby hotel while they looked for a new house. At the end of the day, all had been forgiven and the parents respectfully kept their questions at bay to give the group time to heal.
It was summer now. Children ran around with their water pistols, enjoying the long break from school, blissfully ignorant of the Earth shattering event that had occurred a few months ago. Sarah Jane watched them from her bedroom window, trying to summon the memories of her own childhood. She couldn’t do it. What were once fond memories had been replaced by the image of a unfailingly cheerful little girl skipping her way through a planet so foreign to her.
Her phone started ringing, snapping her out of her thoughts. Sarah Jane reached over to the dresser, and picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hey!” Rani chirped. “We’re at the airport. Just waiting for our flight.”
“That’s brilliant news,” Sarah Jane said encouragingly.
“Yeah,” Rani said quietly. Sarah Jane got the distinct impression there was something she wanted to say.
“What’s the matter, Rani?”
Sarah Jane scoffed good-naturedly. "I’m not the only bad liar, you know. Come on, out with it."
Rani sighed. “It’s just… it’s all so new. I’m going to see the world! I always wanted to, but now that I’m here…”
“You’ll be fine,” Sarah Jane assured her. “There’s nothing you can’t get the hang of.”
“Yeah. It’s just…”
“I’m gonna miss you, Sarah Jane,” Rani admitted sheepishly. “I’m gonna miss everything we do.”
“I’m going to miss it, too, Rani,” Sarah Jane revealed. “But I learnt a long time ago that nothing stays the same, not truly. I did warn you that one day, all this may come to an end, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Look at you, you’re off to travel the world with Jo Grant! You’ll be fine!”
“I suppose,” Rani said. “Is Clyde around?”
Sarah Jane winced. “He’s… preoccupied.”
“Oh.” Rani was unable to hide the disappointment in her voice. “No problem. Just… tell him I was calling, yeah?”
“I will,” Sarah Jane promised.
“Thanks,” Rani sighed deeply, as if she were steadying her nerves. “I’ve gotta go now. But… thank you, Sarah Jane. Thank you so much for showing me the universe.”
Sarah Jane smiled sadly. “Rani, it was my pleasure.”
With that, Rani hung up. Sarah Jane looked down at her phone for a long time. After Maria, she had been unsure if she’d ever truly be able to accept more people into her dangerous life, Luke and Clyde had been a risk already, but Rani had come along with such grace and helped to open her eyes a little more to the universe. She’d always be grateful for that, and she had the perfect opportunity to repay her.
Clyde entered the room, distracting Sarah Jane from her thoughts. She noticed his slumped posture and the sad aura that exuded off him.
“Tea’s ready,” he announced. Sarah Jane nodded.
“Are you okay Clyde?”
“Not really,” Clyde admitted solemnly, leaning against the wall. “She’s going today, isn’t she?”
“Rani’s gap-year trip with Jo and Santiago,” Sarah Jane mused. His sadness was palpable, but Sarah Jane knew how to help him with the context provided to her. “Go with her.”
“What?” Clyde was startled from his thoughts. He gaped at Sarah Jane in shock, “What did you say?”
“Go with her, Clyde,” Sarah Jane urged.
“I can’t just barge my way into their trip!”
“Why not? Haresh is paying.”
“It wouldn’t be fair on Santiago, would it?” He shot Sarah Jane a self-deprecating smile, “You can’t really compare the both of us.”
“Clyde, Santiago travels the world all the time. He goes to all sorts of places, meets different people, but the things you and Rani have been through together, the thirteenth floor? How could anything compare to that? You know that, and she definitely knows that,” she pointed out. “Neither of you have ever got to see the world. The things you do with me? That’s amazing, but only a small slice of what life has to offer you. There’s so much out there, just on our own planet. The two of you, you’re amazing, but you still have so much to see. Take a page out of Maria’s book - you can go and visit her!
“But I don’t have a ticket!”
“Don’t you?” Sarah Jane smiled as she fished out a ticket from the drawer. Clyde’s eyes widened, and he pointed at the ticket in shock.
“How did you…?”
“I asked Jo to purchase another ticket. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that she agrees with us. Rani is waiting for you, you know.”
“But what about my mum?”
“She’s packed all your bags,” Sarah Jane chuckled. “Go, Clyde.”
Clyde dared to hope. He smiled and turned for the door. He paused, knowing there was one thing left to do. He turned to Sarah Jane with a big grin, “Thank you, Sarah Jane. For everything. You know, I’ve never really said it, but you’re pretty cool.”
“Thank you, Clyde,” Sarah Jane smiled. The smile faded once he bounded out the door and left her alone.
Rani had been standing outside the airport for an hour, confused about the reasoning behind it. Jo had assured her that the plane wasn’t due to depart for another hour, but Rani was still anxious and oblivious. She eventually decided she had waited long enough. She picked up her bag and turned to enter the airport when-
Rani spun around in surprise. “Clyde?”
Clyde jogged towards her with multiple bags in tow. His mum had gone overboard, wanting to make sure he would have absolutely everything for his trip. He grinned when he caught up to her, his hands splayed dramatically.
Rani stared at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I realised that I may have been...a little rude during our argument,” he said sheepishly.
Clyde scowled at her biting tone. “Yeah, okay, I get the point.”
“Oh, do you?” Rani responded scathingly, folding her arms, “please enlighten me.”
“You want to forget,” Clyde sighed. “The anger and pain of forgetting Sarah, the pain of knowing she existed, and us. You want to forget us.” Rani averted her gaze sheepishly. It was true. “But it’s not the way, Rani. You can’t just forget all that, it’s- it’s wrong. She’s your daughter!”
“Then what do I do?” She asked, looking at Clyde for guidance. “If I don’t try to forget, it’ll eat away at me, if I forget, I’ll still remember in my dreams. Clyde, I don’t know what to do!”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“We make new memories,” Clyde stated resolutely, “in Sarah’s honour. Together. We don’t have to forget her if we’re together. We can share stories of what we remember and we can be there for each other when the pain gets too much. What do you say?”
Rani looked at him for a long time, studying him. She bit her lip, deep in thought. Could she do it?
She decided she could. She nodded and placed her hand on top of his. “Together.”
A week later, Bannerman Road had been cordoned off by UNIT. Sarah Jane studied the wreckage of her house mournfully. Colonel Erisa Magambo approached her with a box. An assortment of items was placed within it. Pictures, alien gadgets, everything, the remains of Mr Smith’s Xylok crystal. The strain of opening a large enough containment vortex to encompass the house was too much. UNIT had attempted to revive him, but it was too late. Everything had happened in such a rush, Sarah Jane hadn't even managed to say goodbye, to thank him for everything he had done for her, and to scold him for everything he had done to her, as well.
“We’ve salvaged all that we could,” Magambo explained. “And this really is all of it. Kate insisted that you have it all.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” Sarah Jane murmured, accepting the box.
“Here, let me,” Luke took the box out of her hands as soon as he approached her. She smiled reticently at him and they both turned their attention to their broken house. The history had been washed away by the explosion. Everything was gone. Luke looked at his mother worriedly. “Mum?”
“I’m fine, Luke,” Sarah Jane replied unconvincingly. Luke sighed when he realised she was closing herself off. He placed the box down on the ground and wrapped an arm around her.
“There’s something I have to tell you. It’s about Sanjay.”
“Well, him and me - we’re...we’re going out.”
“Oh, that’s alright.”
“And I know it’s not ‘proper’ or anything but I don’t care because I- huh?” Luke pulled away, blinking dumbly, “It is? I thought-”
“Luke, this has nothing to do with the world’s backwards thinking. The bottom line is that I am not here to control your life, but to encourage you to live it. If you like Sanjay, then you like him. It is as simple as that. At the end of the day, you're my son, and nobody else can change how much I love you.“
“Thanks, mum.” Luke sighed in relief. A huge weight had been taken off his shoulders. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms tightly around, an act that Sarah Jane reciprocated. For a brief moment, they stood like that, mother and son shielded from the world, and their burdens, but it ended before it could truly begin.
Sarah Jane gently pried herself away from him. “You should probably get back to him.”
“What? No! I can stay and help-”
“Kate’s offered me a ride to a destination of my choice. I’ll be fine,” Sarah Jane assured him, eyeing his yellow car. Luke followed her gaze and bit his lip. “And you have your studies and a life of your own now! Go on, Luke. Save the world one last time...for me?”
After a long pause, Luke sadly nodded in agreement and said, “Okay. I’ll go, but I want to visit you tomorrow.”
“Of course. Love you.”
“Love you too, mum,” Luke took one last look at the charred ruins of the only home he had ever known. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and kissed his mother’s forehead before walking over to his car. Sarah Jane watched him go. He was a fine man now, even if he was barely six years old. He lingered by the car door, looking back at her worriedly. Sarah Jane shooed him off and watched as he drove away from the street.
She turned back to her house. Her thoughts occupied the empty space that had been carved into her heart. Luke, Clyde, Rani and Sky were all gone.
She was alone.
“Are you ready to go, Miss Smith?” Colonel Magambo called out. Sarah Jane nodded minutely. She knew exactly where she wanted to go. She turned around and stepped into the jeep, the box containing her belongings on her lap. She announced her destination and gazed out the window as the jeep started moving.
Goodbye, Bannerman Road...
The Sarah Jane Adventures will return in A New Melodyon the 24th of October...