The Horde of Darkness Part Two Written by Ryder Smith
With that, their dialogue was over, and the whole Horde stepped forward, raising their staves and pointing them directly at Sarah Jane. Almost as one they marched forwards, heading straight towards her. She didn’t move, she simply waited. When they were only a few feet away, she pulled out her Sonic and activated it.
Nothing happened. And the Horde continued to march forward.
“Oh god,” exclaimed Sarah Jane, terrified.
“Mistress,” shouted K9, revealing himself. “Activating maximum offense mode.”
He began firing at the Dark Horde, with about a dozen of them diverting their march towards the laser firing K9. These then separated again, obviously having detected Luke’s presence too.
“Luke, run!” Shouted Sarah Jane, almost surrounded, “Get out of here now!”
“Mum!” Luke shouted back, being dragged from his hiding spot by a significantly larger Dark Horde warrior.
They threw him down next to Sarah Jane, who pulled him into a hug, sobbing. “Oh Luke, I’m so sorry. This is all my fault.”
“Alert! Power supply failing,” said K9, surrounded by several warriors. “Power supply failing. Power supply failing.”
K9 continued this report, while Luke looked at Sarah Jane, hugging her tightly. “This wasn’t your fault. You didn’t force me to come here, I’m just glad we’re together.”
“Your demise will be swift,” said the Commander, pointing his staff directly at Sarah Jane and Luke.
“Sar-Sarah...Jane,” came the familiar voice of Sentinel, his speech glitching. “I-I have managed to...break through...the communication barrier.”
The Dark Horde warriors surrounding Sarah Jane and Luke recoiled slightly, recognising the new technology. One of the red cloaks spoke, his voice like grating metal, “Advanced technology detected, commencing scan.”
“Sentinel!” said Sarah Jane, relief flowing over her. “You know what to do.”
Suddenly, all the floodlights at the back of the houses, alongside the old railway line, switched on simultaneously. At the exact same time all the lights inside the houses turned on. “Dark Horde,” a voice boomed. “We have you surrounded.”
The entire Horde moved together, forming a tight defensive circle in the middle of the yard, their staves pointing outwards. Once again, they appeared to be scanning the new technology, unable to make any attack until they were certain they had the upper hand.
“Well done Sentinel,” said Sarah Jane. “Now, let's get out of here before they work it out.”
The two of them ran quickly towards the other end of the row of houses, intersecting with K9 who had seemingly run out of power. “Come on K9,” said Luke, picking up the tin dog.
They ran around the side of the house at the far end, leaving the Horde to their confusion, not even sparing a second glance. As they came round the front, the four teenagers stopped whatever conversation, and turned to face them.
When Zoe saw Sarah Jane’s face she said, “Sarah Jane, what's wrong?”
“There’s no time to explain right now,” replied Sarah Jane hurriedly. “We have to leave right now.”
The four of them spared no time questioning her, as it was clear from her tone she was deadly serious. The trio clambered into Sarah Jane’s car, while Melody got into Luke’s with K9 on the back seat. As soon as they were safely inside, Sarah Jane slammed the car into reverse, wasting no time in getting out of there. Luke did practically the same thing.
The Mini was surprisingly fast, especially considering it was a classic, and it belted along the country road. Luke’s Beetle just about managed to keep up with it.
Gita was surprised to see Sarah Jane’s car bombing down the road at such speed, although why anything about that woman surprised her she didn’t know. Something seemed to happen every other week with her, from random relations to soldiers in the garden. Still, it gave Gita plenty of gossip to spread around the neighbourhood, not that she was much of a gossiper.
The car pulled up onto the drive opposite, swiftly followed by Luke’s. And, Gita being her usual lovely self, strolled across the road to greet them all as they exited their cars. “Ah, Sarah my darling. I wondered where you were. Been anywhere nice today? I was intending to do so myself, but Haresh had to rush off for some reason. He wasn’t very specific on that though, still, he’s a busy man, always has been.”
“Hello Gita,” said Sarah Jane, wishing Gita had not chosen this precise moment to saunter over the road. “No, no. We just went to visit an old friend of mine.”
“It’s always nice to visit old friends I find. You get to reminisce on things, and that’s always fun. This one friend I have, she moved abroad somewhere - I think it was New Zealand - and I’ve not seen her since. I keep telling Haresh we should go over there sometime, it’s a beautiful place after all.”
The others were busy trying to sneak K9 out of the car without Gita noticing. Sarah Jane positioned herself between them, shielding K9 from view, trying to avoid another seemingly endless conversation. “You should go sometime Gita, I hear it’s a lovely place to go. I’m sure you and Haresh could do with a break anyway.”
“Well that’s what I keep saying to him my darling. He’s non stop up at that school almost all the time, and I’ve got Bloomin’ Lovely too. And where’s Rani, off gallivanting around the world, who can blame her though? I’d leap at the chance to become a jetsetter. I can picture it now. Me, jumping on planes left, right and centre. Imagine that Sarah.”
“Oh, I certainly can imagine that Gita. But maybe start with New Zealand first, and see how that goes. Next year perhaps,” said Sarah Jane, hoping Gita would take the hint.
“Hmm, next year you say. Well, we’ll wait and see won’t we? Anyway, I’d best get back to the house, lots of stuff to do. Bye my darling, don’t forget dinner tomorrow.”
“Bye Gita. See you tomorrow if not before,” replied Sarah Jane, glad to have avoided a long winded Gita-monologue. She waved before Gita turned round and headed back home.
With her safely back across the road, Sarah Jane marched towards her front door, her mind racing to think of a plan. Once inside, she closed the door, and headed straight up to the attic. The ladder was already lowered, having been weighted down, so up them she climbed.
“You managed to shake off Gita then?” asked Luke.
“Yes, thankfully. Not that she doesn’t mean well,” she said, shooting a glance at the four teenagers. “How’s K9?”
“Not too great,” replied Luke. “His power levels reached critical, and now he’s not responding.”
“Come on K9, you can do it,” Sarah Jane said crouching down next to him. “We’ve been through a lot worse than this.”
“Sarah Jane, what was it you saw?” asked Melody, breaking the somewhat awkward silence the teenagers were in.
“The Dark Horde, a fierce warrior race from the far reaches of the Galaxy. And they are beyond dangerous.”
“What do we do then?” asked Zoe.
“Oh no, not this time. This time we don’t do anything,” said Sarah Jane. “Sentinel, have you managed to break through their communications barrier?”
“Not...not, entirely,” said Sentinel, a series of glitching images appeared on the television screen. “It’s...getting harder to...to maintain a...connection.”
“Are you able to get through to UNIT?” asked Sarah Jane.
“Neg...negative,” he replied. “I’ll keep...trying...to break...through.”
“Yes, for once I am. Last time the Horde came to Earth, well it wasn’t them, it was a simulation, I made a mistake. I could have gotten Clyde and Rani killed, and I can’t bear the thought of putting anyone in danger again.”
“They work logically, and if anything is too powerful for them to overcome, they just retreat. We don’t pose any threat really, UNIT do,” Luke added.
“Are they invading?” asked Dan.
“Not quite,” said Sarah Jane, her eyes darting towards Melody when she thought nobody was looking.
“What do you mean?” asked Zoe, intrigued.
“They’re after something, something of great value to them.”
“Like what? Gold? A Prisoner? A Weapon?”
“Yes, a weapon,” replied Sarah Jane firmly. “But it really doesn’t matter, we’ll leave this to the professionals.”
“They’re after me, aren’t they?” asked Melody tentatively.
After a brief pause, deciding whether or not to tell her, Sarah Jane said, “Yes, they are. But they’re not going to get you. I said I’d keep you safe, and I don’t intend to break a promise.”
“Thank you Sarah Jane,” said Melody, hugging Sarah Jane tightly.
“Now, until Sentinel is able to break through the comms barrier, we’re going to have to stay put,” said Sarah Jane. “How long is that going to take, Sentinel?”
“Five hours?!” exclaimed Zoe. “What are we meant to do in that time?”
“Well, we never got around to playing episode 3 of The Walking Dead,” Beth pointed out.
“Very true,” Zoe nodded. “Come on, let’s go see what Clem’s up to today.”
“I don’t like that game,” Melody whimpered. “It’s a little scary.”
“We could always play Lego Batman!”
“The new one!” Dan cheered. Melody rejoiced at the prospect and with that, the four teenagers bounded out of the attic excitedly, closely followed by Sarah Jane. Luke stayed behind, tinkering with K9 in the hopes he would reboot.
Gita had been in the garden for most of the morning, although somehow she had gotten very little done. She’d suddenly remembered that she was supposed to be going to lunch in London with Valerie. She grabbed the house phone, and punched in her number, but the phone wouldn’t dial.
“What’s wrong with this now?” said Gita, perturbed by this surprising revelation. “I bet Haresh has done something.”
She followed the wire to the wall, before suddenly noticing her watch, if she went now she wouldn’t be late. And, like that, she abandoned her examination of the phone cable, grabbed her van keys and left the house. With the usual spring in her step, she hopped into her van, before placing the key in the ignition.
“Where’s that CD gone?” she said aloud. “Aha, there it is. Now, I just need to pick her up, then London here we come.”
Reversing off the driveway, Gita failed to notice the cloaked figures inside her house, seemingly having appeared from nowhere. She sped off, hoping to avoid any traffic, while the figures surveyed Sarah Jane’s house. Waiting in anticipation to attack.
Above the Earth
The equipment and technology aboard the ship was highly advanced, with lights flashing away left, right and centre. With the various screens displaying an unrecognisable alien language. In the central area, evidently the ship's bridge, stood a lone figure, cloaked in emerald green. On the screen in front of him was what looked like battle plans, with various sections lit up, obviously signifying something. Several other Dark Horde warriors, slightly shrouded in shadow, were busying themselves with one thing another, as if they were preparing for something.
Pressing his hand the touch screen in front of him, the figure rasped,“Commander, have you located the weapon?”
“No, General. But we were confronted by a female, she has technology that is beyond this world. She could be harbouring the weapon.”
“Is the female being monitored?”
“We are in surveillance mode now. Full scan in progress.”
“Contact me upon completion. We must procure the weapon for the Horde.”
“For the Horde.”
It had been about three hours since Sentinel had given them an estimation, and nothing had really changed in that time. The teenagers were still in the lounge, playing their game, with Zoe being rather dramatic about something.
Sarah Jane and Luke, meanwhile, were in the kitchen, but K9 still hadn’t powered back up yet. They’d been talking away about one thing or another, mostly to do with Uni, but their minds had drifted to Sky. Neither of them really knew what to say to the other, so they had simply lapsed into silence.
The events of the year before still haunted Sarah Jane, not that she’d ever admit it. Yes, Sky was out there still, protecting the universe, but she wasn’t with them. Her laughter didn’t fill the house. Lightbulbs no longer shattered frequently. She was gone, and Sarah Jane would never see her again.
“I still can’t believe Mr and Mrs Chandra moved in across the road,” said Luke, having found something else to talk about.
“Oh, that woman,” responded Sarah Jane. “She hasn’t changed, and she’s always popping in for a quick visit. Although, she’s usually here for a least an hour.”
“Do you still do what you used to and hide from her?”
“Yes, well I try to. She always appears at the worst moments though. How she finds the time I’ll never-”
There was a loud crash, as the kitchen window shattered suddenly, with what appeared to be a laser beam narrowly missing Luke’s head. Sarah Jane spun around, looking for the source, when the fence at the back of the garden collapsed, revealing Dark Horde warriors. They didn’t hesitate, swiftly approaching the house, but neither did Sarah Jane.
She locked the back door with the Sonic Lipstick, before retreating into the hall, locking the kitchen door as she went. Luke had already gone into the lounge to check for more of them, his heart sinking when he saw about a dozen outside the front. “Mum, there's more of them out the front!” He shouted.
“Everyone upstairs now!” shouted Sarah Jane, frantically locking the front door.
Before they’d reached the top, Sarah Jane had already passed them and was half way up the attic ladder. Zoe, as always, appeared brave in this moment, keeping hold of Melody to protect her, but it was a lie. She was always scared, of course she was, but what good would being scared do for anyone. Bravery was what the others needed, they needed someone to be strong in these moments.
The five of them hurried up the ladder, as the sound of the doors flying off their hinges echoed through the house. When the hatched closed itself, Sarah Jane bolted it shut, at least giving them a bit of time.
“Sentinel,” Sarah Jane called out. “I’m afraid you’ll have to stop trying to get through to UNIT, we’ll have to deal with this ourselves. I’ll need you to keep the Dark Horde distracted while we make a run for it.”
“What are we going to do?” Asked Zoe.
“Well, fortunately, I have these,” declared Sarah Jane, revealing what looked like five spheres coloured red and white. Beth thought they looked like Poké Balls.
“Are we going to catch them all?” Beth asked, sniggering.
“I see what you did there,” replied Zoe, high fiving Beth.
“Another Pokemon reference! You two never stop,” said Dan.
“Admit it, you love it!” Zoe exclaimed, beaming.
“What are they?” Melody interjected.
“They’re basically an alien mirror, but more powerful than any we have on Earth,” Sarah Jane replied, gathering an assortment of devices from around the attic.
“It will project the Dark Horde back at themselves, which they will recognise as a threat. If they think they can’t win, they’ll retreat,” explained Luke.
“So, we can beat them?” Melody asked.
“In theory yes,” Sarah Jane replied hesitantly. “Now come on, we’ve got to move!”
“Move where?!” Asked Zoe incredulously.
“This way!” She responded, opening the cupboard to reveal a hidden exit with a ladder leading down into the garden. “Down you go then! Sentinel, defend us. Activate emergency protocols.”
“Of c-course...Sarah...Jane,” he stuttered, still struggling with the communications barrier. “I s-shall...keep them...at...bay.”
“Thank you Sentinel.”
With the Dark Horde distracted, the six of them made a run for it. Sarah Jane clearly knew where she was going, not that she’d elaborated any further. They were headed along the road to the old cottages once again, the wind blowing through their hair as they ran. And, considering Sarah Jane was older than them, she sure could run fast.
Zoe shot a glance back down the road, noticing several Dark Horde warriors exiting the house. She hoped they wouldn’t be spotted, but unfortunately the Horde wasn’t so easily distracted. “They’ve seen us!” Zoe yelled, as they were bombarded with laser fire which narrowly missed them.
“Through here, quickly!” Shouted Sarah Jane, heading for the gate between the hedges.
“Mum, we can’t outrun them!”
“We don’t need to. That’s why I brought the mirroring devices.”
“Where...exactly...are we...going?” Dan asked, panting.
“Sentinel triangulated the Dark Horde’s location. They must have been here a while, otherwise they’d have just sent an advance party.”
“And once we’re there, what do we do?” Asked Zoe.
“We use these things,” replied Sarah Jane, holding one of the spherical devices.
“Will is work?” Zoe asked, noticing that Sarah Jane was avoiding the subject.
“It's just beyond that treeline,” she responded, ignoring Zoe’s question.
They kept running. And, while Beth was struggling to keep up with everyone, Melody was up ahead with Sarah Jane. She was surprisingly agile for a young girl, and everything seemed to come naturally to her. As they approached the treeline, the Dark Horde warriors following launched a fresh barrage of laser fire. Sarah Jane had hoped that Sentinel would keep them distracted for longer, and now they were in real danger, just what she’d wanted to avoid. She had seen the Horde’s actions in the past, whole planets turned to waste, and she was not willing to let the Earth crumble.
As they reached the treeline, they were confronted with an obstacle, a dry stone wall. It must have been there for hundreds of years, and was encased with moss, with the trees leaving it uneven. Sarah Jane, Luke and Melody got over easily, but Beth didn’t find it so. Zoe and Dan frantically pushed her up, before both clambering over themselves.
“Quickly, we don’t have much time,” called Sarah Jane. “We need to get there before they catch up with us.”
Above the earth
“Proximity alert!” croaked one of the red cloaks.
“Confirmation, is it her?” The emerald cloaked General questioned.
“Confirmed,” the red cloak replied.
“Is she alone?”
“Negative, she is accompanied by five humans.”
“Prepare the teleport beam, we shall claim our prize, and eliminate the human fools.”
“For the Horde,” chanted the warriors aboard the ship. “For the Horde. For the Horde. For the Horde.”
The site the Dark Horde had chosen as their recon base was an old industrial area for a now-defunct farm. The concrete on the ground had fractured over the years, with various plants growing up. And old tractor lay on the ground, evidently damaged beyond repair, and had been consumed by thorns and leaves. In front of Sarah Jane was an old cow shed, graffiti up the wall, its corrugated roof bowing.
“Everyone in position?” Sarah Jane asked loudly, holding Melody tightly by her side. They both needed some reassurance, as much as Sarah Jane tried to mask it.
“Yeah,” Dan replied, crouched behind a stack of tires.
“Yes, mmhmm,” said Beth, nervously.
“Gladiator, ready,” Zoe said, laughing. “Yes, sorry, I’m in position.”
“Yep, in position,” Luke responded.
“They’ll have detected us by now,” stated Sarah Jane. “So just stay out of sight, and wait for my signal.”
“I’m scared,” Melody whimpered.
“I know, but I will not let them take you.”
A sandy tornado-esque funnel appeared in the middle of the area, kicking up dirt and leaves from the ground. Despite Sarah Jane’s preparations, she had not been anticipating this, and was quite noticeably taken aback. Within seconds, the dust cleared away, leaving five Dark Horde Warriors in its place. The figure in emerald, stepped towards Sarah Jane, while the rest of the Horde appeared. There were at least twenty of them.
“Well, I’ve never had the privilege of meeting a Dark Horde General before,” said Sarah Jane coolly.
“What can you possibly know of the Dark Horde?” rasped the General.
“I was there, at the Kravasta colonies. I watched as you laid it to waste. And for what? Pride?” she questioned.
“For the Horde,” the General replied, with the rest of the Horde echoing his words.
“That's not an answer, that’s a statement. You are beyond logical, you’ll forever be repeating the same pattern, over and over again. What is the point of it?”
“We must protect the Horde, and display our might to our enemies.”
“You seem a bit less, well, constrained than the others. Who are your enemies? And why do you want Melody?”
“We have been at war with the Papal Mainframe for centuries, they seek to prevent the greatest war the Universe has ever known. And she will help us defeat them, and instigate a war unlike any other. For the Horde.”
“So you just want a war. There’s no point, none at all, and yet still you persevere. If this will be the greatest war ever, then let me tell you, you won’t win. You’ll die pointlessly, fighting a pointless war.”
“Not when we have her, our prize, we will be almighty. Everyone will tremble in fear of us, and our enemies shall turn to dust.”
“It comes down to power. That’s what this is, you have gained a taste for warfare, and you’ve realised you aren’t the greatest warrior race.”
“Those words are blasphemy.”
“Sorry, but it's true. The Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Sycorax- have I named enough for you?”
“They are the scourge of the skies, and the darkness will consume them. The Gods are favourable to us, soon enough we shall conquer the Galaxy.”
“Yes, well you’ll certainly try,” scoffed Sarah Jane.
“You dishonour the Horde, prepare to suffer the consequences,” responded the General, the other warriors raising their staves ready to attack. “Your death will be swift.”
As the Horde fired blasts of laser fire once again, Sarah Jane was already prepared. She ran to the right of them, dodging the blasts, keeping Melody close.
“Now,” yelled Sarah Jane.
Luke, Zoe, Beth and Dan rushed into position around the Horde, each holding one of the spherical devices. They pressed the red button on the top, while Sarah Jane pulled out a fifth device. Once they were all activated a bright, white beam of light surrounded the Dark Horde, leaving many of the warriors thrashing about. Even at low level, the devices clearly had an effect, certainly on the standard red-cloaks.
“I command you, leave this planet, and never return,” said Sarah Jane triumphantly.
“They will be back, and this time they’ll succeed,” the General rasped in a rather strange tone, it was almost like fear.
Despite being desperate to know more, Sarah Jane knew that the Horde couldn’t be contained for long. She amplified the devices power using her Sonic, causing the red-cloaks to teleport in response. The Commanders and General attempted to fight back for a while, before they too fled back to their ship.
Sarah Jane just stood still, looking up at the sky, the faint outline of the teleport beam dissipating as if it was never there. She couldn’t help but contemplate the Dark Horde General’s words. What did he mean? She guessed she would find out soon enough, and she would be ready. She always was.
While Sarah Jane was contemplating things, Luke’s phone rang. He hurriedly reached into his pocket, noticing a large number of missed calls. “I’ll be back in a minute, this may be important,” he told the group, before heading off and answering it. The four teenagers merely stood around for a bit, taking in their victory.
“Have they gone for good?” Asked Zoe.
“Well, they did just vanish, so that's probably a good indicator,” Dan replied, rolling his eyes.
“Button it!” growled Zoe, enunciating button as she elbowed him roughly in his rib, fixing him with a withering glare. “Sass me again and I’ll rig your shampoo.”
“Do you really have to do that now?” Beth remarked.
“She started it,” mumbled Dan, before noticing Beth and Melody fixing him and Zoe with a stare. “Sorry.”
“It was just a bit of fun, sorry and all that,” apologised Zoe, before turning towards Sarah Jane. “Are they gone?”
“Hmm,” muttered Sarah Jane, offhandedly, before registering what Zoe had said. “I should expect so yes, those devices have projected their worst nightmares to them… Where’s Luke?”
“He went over there to answer his phone,” Melody piped up, pointing back towards the treeline. She had remained remarkably quiet, even for her, but between the Dark Horde wanting to take her and the usual drama of Zoe, Beth and Dan, it was understandable.
“Sorry about that,” Luke remarked as he headed back towards them, somewhat forlorn. “It was just Sanjay, his sister had to go to A&E with a broken arm. He’d been trying to call for a while.”
“You can go back up to Oxford if you need to,” remarked Sarah Jane.
“No,” said Luke dismissively. “That’s okay, it’s nothing serious anyway. Besides, I haven’t been here that long as it is, and I do leave tomorrow.”
“That is very true,” Sarah Jane noted, aware that something was bothering Luke. She wouldn’t go fussing about it, especially not in front of the four teenagers, besides it would likely be nothing major anyways. And, if it was, she knew he’d tell her. “Right, let's get back to the house.”
“They are currently exiting the solar system, and, let me just say, good riddance. I had to activate all the booby traps, and they still got out within minutes. Plus, they made a right mess downstairs, you’ll need to get someone in Sarah Jane,” Sentinel observed, sounding perturbed.
“Oh, it’ll only need a bit of TLC. Nothing a few picture frames and a lick of paint won’t fix.”
“Only a lick of paint?!” Sentinel shot back, “No, no, the wallpaper is ruined. You’ll have to redecorate.”
“It's just a bit singed in places, it’ll be-” she started, before suddenly realising. “Wait, do you not like the wallpaper? Did you damage it on purpose?”
“Ohh this is gonna be good,” Dan whispered to the others gleefully. “Where’s the popcorn when you need it?”
“I...erm...oh no, there seems to be some kind of glitch. I’ll just have to go,” Sentinel answered nervously, before his kaleidoscopic colours faded from the screen.
“You can’t hide in the internet forever you know,” Sarah Jane him. She turned away from the now blank screen to face Luke and the three teenagers. “Never mind about him, I’ll go put the kettle on.”
She placed her hand on Luke’s shoulder briefly, he was fiddling with K9 electrics again, before heading downstairs. The four teenagers simply sat still, watching K9 for a time.
“So, what shall we do now?” Beth inquired.
“Can we watch another film?” Asked Melody.
“Well, we can have a look at what you’ve got, see if there's one you like the look of,” suggested Zoe.
“As long as it's not High School Musical,” added Dan, groaning at the mere thought.
“I thought it was your favourite!” Zoe teased, “Bet you know all the words.”
“Eugh, I’d rather stay at home with Chris than watch that,” he insisted, doing his best to hide his emotions regarding his brother.
“I don’t think I like musicals,” Melody added.
“I prefer Superhero films,” stated Zoe. “Speaking of, have you seen Iron Man? Or Thor?”
“I don’t think so,” Melody replied.
“It’s settled then, we’ll watch Iron Man. Then Iron Man 2. Then Thor. After that, Captain America. Oh, and then The Avengers!”
“You get way too excited about those films,” Beth pointed out.
“You can never get too excited about Marvel films,” Zoe insisted, beaming just talking about them. “Come on Mels, let's go find the DVD.”
“Okay,” chirped Melody, bounding towards the retractable stairs, with Zoe in quick pursuit.
Beth meanwhile, got up slowly, exasperated at Zoe’s over-excitement. She liked the films, yes, but not to the extent that Zoe did, half the references Zoe went on about Beth hadn’t even noticed. Zoe was, as she herself insisted, an expert on these matters. “You coming Dan?” She asked, noticing he wasn’t getting up.
“Yeah, I will, I’ll be there in a second,” Dan insisted, smiling reassuringly at Beth. She turned back towards the stairs, and headed down after Melody and Zoe.
For a few minutes, or rather, what felt like hours, Dan stared at K9 while Luke tinkered about with him. He hadn’t really studied the robotic dog before, but he noticed the screws, the rivets, the tartan collar, and the scuffed paintwork. Eventually, he pulled himself out of his trance, back into the real world. He’d not really thought about what he actually wanted to say, but the idea had been in his mind for some time, even if he’d tried to deny it at first.
Nervously getting up, having one last second thought, he pushed aside his fear and said, “Luke. Can I talk to you?”
Luke turned around in his seat to face him, a faint smile on his face. “Yeah, sure, course you can,” he replied, laughing nervously. “Sorry if I was ignoring you, just trying to get K9 working.”
“If, erm, you’re busy then that's okay,” he mumbled awkwardly.
“No, I mean, I’ve done everything I can really,” he said. “So, what is it you wanted to talk about?”
“Well, erm,” started Dan. “It's kind of hard to explain. Mostly because I don’t really know what to explain.”
“Just focus on the main things, that's what I always do. Otherwise there’s just too much stuff going round my head.”
“Okay,” Dan said, thinking what he wanted to say. “It’s- I get these thoughts, and I really don’t know what it means. My brother, Chris, he’s always teasing me about it, telling me its wrong and everything.”
“Right, so, if you can, tell me what these thoughts are. Forget about your brother, and what he says, just tell me.”
“Hmm, it's difficult,” he began, tears threatening to run down his face. “Well, I see other boys around school, and some of them make me feel weird when I’m around them, like butterflies in my stomach. But then, it's the same with some of the girls.”
“Like Zoe or Beth?”
“Pfft, no, no,” Dan snorted at the idea. “They’re like...my sisters, but don’t tell them I said that.”
“I mean, I’m no expert on these things really, but it seems pretty obvious to me,” Luke remarked. “And I think it's obvious to you too.”
“I’ve, erm, never told anyone this before,” stated Dan, fighting to keep the tears in. “Promise you won’t tell anyone, especially not Zoe and Beth.”
“I promise,” Luke affirmed. “But there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about, and I’m sure your friends won’t care about it.”
“I just, I don’t want to tell them, they’d only worry about me,” he responded, getting close to crying. “And Chris, well he’d just laugh at me, and probably tell the whole school.”
“You don’t have to tell them anything until you're ready. It took me a while to feel ready to tell Mum and everyone else.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” said Dan, tears still in his eyes. “I-I thought that would be harder than it was.”
He couldn’t hold them back anymore, and the tears rolled down his face as he began to sob, the emotion proving too much. Collapsing back onto his chair, Dan buried his head in his hands. Luke got up, not really sure what to do, so he simply sat next to the teenager.
“Hey, hey. It’s fine, honestly, and you have nothing, nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that, and remember what a great person you are, and what amazing friends you have,” said Luke, trying his best to comfort him.
After a while, Dan sat up, and wiped the tears off his face. Surprisingly, at least to him, crying had helped, all that built up emotion had been drained. Of course, he still felt lousy, and dreaded to think what he’d do when he next faced his brother. But he put it aside for now. “Thanks Luke,” said Dan, lightly hugging Luke.
“Don’t mention it, I was happy to help,” Luke said in response, smiling. “And, if you ever want someone to talk to, not that I can be much help really, just call me using Sentinel.”
“I will. This has been really helpful, thanks again.”
Sarah Jane stood alone in the attic, gazing up at the stars like she so often did, appreciating the clearer skies in the country. She’d left Melody, Zoe, Beth and Dan watching their film downstairs, while Luke had gone out to buy fish and chips. Sentinel still hadn’t returned, clearly too scared to face Sarah Jane.
She drifted beyond such thoughts, staring off into the sky, remembering her many adventures across the stars. Right now, it was like she was drifting through space again, with nebulae, asteroids, and galaxies.
“Mistress,” a familiar voice chirped, bringing her back down to Earth.
“K9!” she called out, spinning around to see him all lit up and working again. “You had me all worried.”
“Worry was not required. My batteries were fully drained, so I went into recovery mode,” K9 explained.
“Well, you certainly took your time.”
“Correct, it has taken me 7 and a half hours. This was deemed ‘normal’.”
“Yes, well, don’t do it again okay,” Sarah Jane told him, laughing in joy. She crouched down and hugged him, beyond happy that he was still okay, her trusted companion and dear friend.
“Should I delete recovery mode from my data drive?”
“Oh K9, don’t ever change.”
“And what time do you call this?” demanded Laurel, having opened the door for Beth, who’d been out since the early morning.
“Sorry, we were watching Marvel films, and I lost track of time,” she explained sheepishly. “And it's not that late.”
“You’re always over there at Sarah Jane’s, anyone would think you were hiding something,” Laurel pondered thoughtfully, running all the possibilities through her mind.
“Hiding something? Why would you think that?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got my eyes peeled.”
“Where’s Mum?” Beth asked, changing the subject.
“She’s on a night shift,” she replied, still thinking up random theories. “While I’ve been left with Mr Nibbles, again. He’s your pet.”
“You just don’t like cleaning out his cage.”
“Ah, there you are Zoe,” said Gavin, looking up from his iPad. “I was beginning to think you were stopping at Sarah Jane’s overnight.”
“Not this time, besides I didn’t take all my stuff to stay over. We did watch Marvel films, oh and we went out this morning. It's been a fun day,” expressed Zoe, still excited from watching Iron Man.
“I hope you’re not planning on going out as early tomorrow, I’ve got some errands for you to run for me.”
“Yeah, okay,” Zoe mumbled, walking to the other room where Finn was playing his game. “Hi Finn.”
“You been with Beth, Dan and Melody at Sarah Jane’s all day?” He inquired, curious.
“Hmm, you sure you guys aren’t up to something?”
“Well, first we went out into town a bit, played a bit of Lego Batman, then we watched both Iron Man films. What else would we be doing?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t like not knowing.”
“Ah, get over yourself!” Zoe grinned, softly whacking him with a cushion. Finn turned to mock-glare at her, only to notice the Z necklace decorating her neck, the gold glinting in the light.
“You’re wearing it today.” Finn noted.
Zoe looked at it, a little sadly. “So I am.”
“You only wear it on special occasions,” Finn started slowly. “And tomorrow’s her birth-”
“Shut up.” Zoe hissed, more forcefully than she had intended. She shook her head and stomped out the door.
“Mum, Dad. I’m home,” called Dan, hanging his coat up on his hook. “Hello?”
A dishevelled looking Chris came out of the lounge in his dressing gown. “Oh, it's you,” he sneered. “Been having fun with your weirdo friends?”
“Yes actually, not that you’d care,” Dan shot back, feeling braver than usual, only to immediately regret his decision to even talk to his brother.
“I bet you’ve been gawking at boys again,” he taunted, laughing. “You like them, don’t you? Admit it!”
“So what if I did?”
“Mum and Dad would hate you for it you know. And those freaky friends of yours would abandon you. You’re disgusting you know.”
Dan didn’t know what it was, but something made his blood boil, far more than normal when Chris said these things. Clenching his fist, taking a note out of Zoe’s book, he went in for a punch. However, Chris realised what he was about to do, and stepped to the side, while Dan went for the spot he was in seconds previously. To further add to this, he shoved Dan in the back, sending him crashing to the floor.
“Loser,” he laughed, heading upstairs to his room.
THE NEXT EVENING
“Have you got everything?” Sarah Jane asked.
“Yeah, think so. Except for K9, I’ll, erm, go get him now,” he replied, heading back into the house.
“Is he off now Sarah, my darling?” an inquisitive Gita asked from over the road, having just been for a stroll to the shops.
“Yes, very nearly, Gita.”
“Well, night Sarah. I’d best get the bags inside- ooh, you’ll never guess what, you really won’t guess this my darling. Rani’s going to do one of those video chat thingies tonight, from Cairo, or is it Orkney- I don’t remember where exactly. But she’ll be on, this technology is amazing, wouldn’t you say?”
“Oh yes, you never know what they’ll come up with next,” noted Sarah Jane, fully aware that half the stuff in her attic was beyond anything Gita would have ever seen. “Well, have a good evening Gita.”
Gita struggled her way back into her house, making it look more difficult than it was, while Luke came back outside with K9. Melody was hot on his tails, following the robot dog as he trundled towards the car.
“Right, well, that's everything,” he said, as K9 glided into his car, Melody having opened the door for him. “I should be getting off now.”
“Yes, don’t want you being tired in the morning,” added Sarah Jane, smiling fondly at him.
“I’ll miss you,” he said. “Both of you.”
Melody ran towards them. “Family hug,” she called out.
The three of them embraced in a hug, each of them feeling comforted by it. Sarah Jane, having her family together. Melody, finding a place to belong. And Luke, happy to see his mum more like her old self.
“I’m going to miss you,” Sarah Jane noted, her words tinged with faint sadness.
“Well, I’ll still only be down the road mum, and you can call me anytime,” Luke reassured her.
“Don’t go,” cried Melody, hugging him for dear life. “I don’t want you to.”
“It's okay, really it is. I’m only a phone call away you know, and I’ll be back up soon,” he said, crouching down to her level.
“Come on Melody, don’t want to make him late,” said Sarah Jane, holding Melody tight beside her. “It's okay, we’ll be fine.”
“Well, bye then,” Luke said, embracing his mum and then Melody. “See you again soon, and I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Bye Luke,” Melody called out, still sad to see him go.
“Goodbye Luke, you drive safe. And have a good day tomorrow.”
“I will. Bye Melody. Bye Mum,” Luke called out the window, reversing back off the drive.
“Goodbye Mistress,” K9 added.
With that, Luke drove off down the road, waving to Dan, Beth and Zoe as they walked home, leaving Sarah Jane and Melody watching on. As soon as his car was out of sight, Sarah Jane wiped the tears from her eyes, and headed inside with Melody.