[Sarah Jane Adventures] Bloomin’ Aliens|
Monday 1st January 2018
Summary: There are aliens at Park Vale and only Gita can save the school.
Notes: For dbskyler
Gita's steps echoed in the hallway as she walked from the front door to reception. It was so quiet you'd think it was a hospital, not a school. It must be lesson time. She imagined the corridors would be more chaotic between lessons, if her own school days were anything to go by.
Ruth, the receptionist, recognised Gita. Although she hadn't been here that often she had met some of the other staff at Christmas and she was used to being memorable. It was part of what made her such a good businesswoman. As Gita signed in, Ruth confirmed that Haresh wasn't in any meetings at the moment, so Gita headed to his office, just across from reception.
It was rare to see Haresh in the middle of the day during term time, so when she tapped on the door and stuck her head round it her greeting was cheery and her smile broad.
Haresh had been frowning at his computer screen while he tapped absently on his keyboard, but at his wife's entrance he looked up and smiled too. "Gita." He stood to greet her. "You've brought the plants?"
She nodded. "I have." When she settled herself on the chair opposite his desk, he sat back down. "A whole van full." She waved her hand vaguely in the direction of the car park.
He looked worried. "We don't need that many."
"Don't worry, my darling." She reached across the desk to pat his hand. "I have other deliveries with me, you're just the first. And best," she added, with a grin.
He looked relieved and she leaned back in the chair as she gazed around his office. "Being here makes me feel just like a naughty school girl." She grinned. Although Haresh's office was much less forbidding than the headmaster's office in her secondary school had been. And Haresh was a much more friendly headmaster to the pupils here. But he was strict as well, of course, you had to be, didn't you?
"Gita, it's lovely to see you, but I have to get this report done by lunchtime." She could see the regret in his eyes.
"You're busy, I understand." She waved a hand as she stood up.
He followed suit. "Ask the secretary to find a student from 12D to help you unload their plants."
Although she went around the desk, it felt wrong to kiss him in here. It was his office, but it was also the headmaster's office, and a little of the schoolgirl fear trickled through. She settled for a peck on the cheek and a wave goodbye instead.
Outside, she was surprised to see Sky sitting on the chairs lined up in a row by the wall. "Sky! What are you doing here?" The only two reasons Gita could think of were either that she was delivering a message,or a teacher had sent her to the head. Sky's demeanour, with her head down suggested it wasn't the former - Gita hadn't seen Sky scared of anything. But Sky always seemed like she liked school and did as she was told. Gita couldn't imagine her misbehaving that badly.
Sky looked up upon hearing Gita's voice. Now Gita could see there were tears in her eyes. Immediately, Gita's heart went out to her. She sat beside Sky on one of the hard chairs and put an arm around her. They really needed to put some cushions on these chairs. Parents must sit in them, as well as pupils.
"It's not unusual for girls to cry when they're sent to the head." Haresh's voice came from behind Gita - he must have followed her out of his office.
She didn't even look round. Whatever Sky had done she needed a friendly ear, not a stern teacher. "What's wrong?" she asked Sky, softly.
Sky pressed her lips together and shook her head. She gave a scared glance in Haresh's direction, then buried her face in Gita's shoulder.
Haresh sighed. "I should be handling this. She was sent to see me, not you."
Gita turned to him. "Why don't you leave it to me and you can get back to your report?"
He shook his head, but she gave him the 'do as you're told' glare and after a moment he shrugged and retreated back inside his office. Although she noticed that he left the door open.
Once he'd gone, Sky sat up. Gita left her arm around her, as she explained, "They said I electrocuted Dominic in science. Mrs DeCastro said I did it on purpose because he threw a pen at me. But I don't remember anything." She wiped her the end of her sleeve over her eyes and Gita hugged her close again.
The poor mite, she must be feeling bad. But Gita hadn't heard sirens so whatever had happened, it presumably hadn't ended in Dominic being hurt that badly. "If he threw a pen at you you were right to retaliate. Who knows what he might have thrown next."
Sky lifted her head to give Gita a small smile. "Rani said that sometimes boys do that because they like you. But I don't think Dominic likes any girls."
Gita patted Sky's shoulder. "You're probably right." Who knew why Dominic had really done it, but right now it wasn't important. "And you shouldn't worry about blacking out. It's really common. But you should get Sarah to take you to the doctor to get checked out anyway."
Sky bit her lip. "Sarah Jane's out, working on a story. She won't be back until after school."
Gita was sure Sarah would drop the story if her daughter needed her. It was what mothers did. "Ring her anyway, and see what she says. She might just make an appointment for you after school. Have you got your phone?" Sky nodded and pulled it out of her pocket.
The bell rang, making Gita put her hands over her ears, wincing as the sound went right through her. They must be sitting right under one of the bells. How on earth Haresh could work with that noise right outside his office she didn't know. When it finally stopped, and she removed her hands, she could hear chattering. They were about to be overrun by children. "Come and sit in my van while you do it." Gita stood but Sky hesitated a moment before following her. Gita wasn't going to have the opportunity to go to 12D, wherever they were, but perhaps Sky would help her, while she waited for Sarah to arrive.
After Gita ushered Sky into the passenger seat, she went around the van to open the back of it. As she often did, when faced with a lot of plants, she took a deep breath. There were a lot of scents, what with the variety of plants inside. But it was a combination Gita loved. It smelt like dirt, hard work and potential. The sixth formers who were planting a garden were going be so rewarded by the way their seedlings grew into beautiful, fragrant plants.
She reached for the nearest tray of seedlings, but then a burst of pain shot through her hand, coupled with the spark of electricity and the smell of burning. She looked up to see Sky had turned round in the seat, but her eyes were glassy. Gita had a moment to wonder if the story about Sky blacking out and electrocuting someone was true. But then the pain hit and the rest of the world faded away.
When the pain diminished Gita opened her eyes and found herself standing in a world made entirely of white. It was such a brilliant, bright white that she couldn't tell how far away the walls were. Her hand tingled slightly and she wiggled her fingers.
"Am I dead?" she wondered out loud.
Gita's eyes widened as a black figure appeared to melt out of the walls, wherever they were. It was - it had to be - an alien. There were times when she almost forgot she'd seen alien rhinos and an alien lizard. Haresh just wanted to pretend the whole thing never happened and without someone to talk to about it, it almost felt like she'd dreamt the whole thing. She'd found some talk of the alien rhinos online, but from people who were also convinced alien shapeshifters lived in America, so she'd given them a wide berth.
This alien was different. He looked more human shaped, but didn't quite have a proper face. Although his mouth was there, it was as if his eyes and nose were covered over with one piece of skin. It scared her a little, much as Gita was loath to admit it. After all, aliens were people too.
"You are Gita Chandra." His voice was loud, but perhaps it was the room's size that made it sound louder than it really was.
"Yes," she said, in a voice that came out a lot quieter than she intended. She coughed, then put a hand over her mouth to stop the nervous giggles coming out.
"I can help you." He didn't appear to notice her reaction, which she was a little relieved about. "An alien is attacking people in your school."
"It isn't my school, it's my husband's," she corrected him without thinking. But then her brain caught up and reminded her of the only threat she'd seen that day. "Through Sky?" She sounded disbelieving, expecting him to refute it, even though something strange was clearly going on with Sky.
He inclined his head. "Through Sky."
She frowned. "How is that even possible?"
"I can help. But I require your assistance."
Gita stood up a little straighter and raised her chin. "Tell me what you need." Something alien was at the school and what with Haresh sticking his head in the sand, she was only one who could help. What if the alien attacking the school used other pupils too? There were hundreds of children at the school. So many could be hurt. Teachers, as well.
"Your permission. But…" He paused, building anticipation, she assumed. "You must stay here."
"You don't want me in your way," she guessed. She sighed. She hated having to stay out of things. What if Sky needed her? Sarah might arrive for Sky and then get caught up in something she didn't understand.
"I need you to say the words." He sounded a little frustrated.
"Words?" She frowned. "I'm sorry, my darling, I don't quite understand." She might not have been concentrating, exactly.
"Tell me I have your permission," he said slowly, sounding each word out.
"Oh!" She supposed aliens might not quite understand English. "You have my permission. I just don't want anyone to get hurt." Especially Rani and Haresh.
He inclined his head again and melted back into the walls. Although when Gita tried, she was sure she'd walked past the point when he vanished.
Clyde idly drew the outline of the next panel of The Silver Bullet while Mrs Pittman droned on about aristocrats getting guillotined. Once upon a time he'd have been all for a bit of blood and guts, but after seeing aliens explode, rich people being beheaded two hundred years ago wasn't nearly as exciting.
He looked up to see Isaac and Tyson in front of him passing notes and he sighed. He'd been popular in his last school. When he'd moved here he'd got involved with Luke and Maria and aliens, which didn't leave much time for other friends. He didn't regret that, but now that Maria was in America and Luke was at university he had no friends left. All the other kids in his year thought he was one of the weirdos and it was too late to make friends with any of them.
He kept his pen in his hand so he looked like he was taking notes, while he sneaked his phone onto his lap under the desk with the other. Luke wouldn't understand how boring the lesson was, but at least he was someone to talk to. Or text, in this case. But while Clyde was looking down to open a new message, Mrs Pittman happened to glance in his direction. He didn't get even manage to type one word before she confiscated his phone.
Lunch was a little better: at least here Clyde had someone to sit with. Even though it was deeply sad to be sitting with a Year 7. Who didn't care that she didn't have friends her age because she didn't understand what friends were for. He really needed to get another human friend.
"Where's Rani?" Sky asked, tucking into her salad with relish, unconcerned that it was limp and watery.
Clyde poked his undercooked potatoes with his fork and wondered whether aliens or canteen food was most likely to kill him first. "Who's Rani?"
"You don't remember Rani?" Sky frowned as she chewed her lettuce.
He shrugged. "Never met a Rani."
Sky swallowed and put her knife and fork down. "What about Gita Chandra, her mother?"
"Never heard of her," he said cheerfully, wondering if Rani was in Sky's year.
"They live opposite me."
"Well, Mr Chandra lives opposite you." Although where Sky was getting the name 'Gita' from, he didn't know. "He's why I sneak round to the house from the other side."
"Yes, he lives with Gita and Rani." She looked more excited now.
He shook his head. "On his own."
She sighed and pulled her phone out of her pocket. At least she still had hers. "Sarah Jane, Clyde doesn't remember Rani." She bounced in her seat a little, sounding worried on the phone. Clyde thought this was all a little over the top, but maybe Sarah Jane would put her right.
"Who's Rani?" he heard Sarah Jane ask.
Clyde gave Sky a look - Sarah Jane had proved that Sky was the crazy one.
But she took no notice. "She's our friend," she went on. "And you've all forgotten her."
There was a pause at the other end, before Sarah Jane said, "I'll be there as soon as I can."
"I swear," Sky said, when she hung up, "I'm right and you're wrong. Rani is real and she does exist. Something has happened to make you forget her. I'm not making this up." She leaned further forward across the table as she spoke.
He liked the sound of having another friend at school. And Sky sounded as if she really wanted him to believe her. It wasn't that he thought she was lying. It was just more likely that something had happened to Sky, than something had happened to make both Clyde and Sarah Jane forget Rani. "I agree that something funny is going on." He put his hands up. "Any bright ideas?"
She looked relieved and smiled a little. "We need to speak to Mr Chandra." Clyde made a face and even Sky didn't look as if she was entirely keen on the idea. "We have to see if he's forgotten them too."
As she stood up he thought about pointing out that they should finish lunch first. Until he took another look at his and decided this mystery was more tasty than his food. He'd get something from the tuck shop later.
As it turned out, Mr Chandra couldn't be disturbed and the secretary wouldn't let them near his office. Clyde thought Mr Chandra was probably getting to eat his lunch in peace, and his stomach growled. He ignored it. "So what now?" he asked Sky. "We can't go round asking the whole school if they know who Rani is."
She slumped a little at that and he was glad he'd knocked that idea on the head before she'd voiced it. After a moment's thought she said, "Let's try Rani's locker."
He didn't bother telling her that Rani didn't have a locker, being as she didn't exist. Sky set off anyway and all Clyde could do was to follow her.
The sixth form lockers were down the corridor from the science labs, which were quiet at lunchtimes. Sky walked confidently over to the middle one three from the wall on the right. They were the only two people about for now, but Clyde looked back over his shoulder in case anyone saw them.
Sky pulled a hair grip from her pocket and stuck it in the lock.
He frowned. "Where did you learn to do that?"
"From Sarah Jane," she said, as if it was nothing.
He was going to have to get Sarah Jane - or Sky - to teach him. Otherwise he'd always end up being the person who acted as lookout while someone else got to do the breaking and entering.
There was a click from the locker and an "Aha!" from Sky. Which was closely followed by a despondent, "Oh," when she opened the locker. Clyde leaned against the lockers next to the one Sky had broken into, while she read the name on an exercise book. "Liz Adams." She sighed. "Maybe I've got the wrong locker." She looked around at the others, but the only way to identify them was by the number on the outside.
"You can't break into all of them," he said, but she wasn't listening.
She gasped as she looked into the little mirror stuck on the inside of the door, and put her hands up to gently prod at her face. "Clyde, what do you see?" She pointed at the mirror and her hand was trembling.
Now he was really worried about what was going on with her and he put a hand on her shoulder as he peered over her head into the mirror.
"Nothing." But since her expression didn't change he added, "You and me and…" He trailed off because it wasn't Sky in the mirror any more. It was the Trickster.
He looked between the mirror and Sky to see her face had turned into the Trickster's too. He let of of her as she put her hands out, electricity crackling around her palms.
"I don't want to hurt you." She screwed up her face and sounded scared. He couldn't blame her: he felt the same way.
He put his hands up, as if he could ward off electricity with them. "I don't want to be hurt either."
It was hard to measure time in this white space. It felt as if she'd been here for hours, but it could have only been a few minutes. He watch had stopped, so she couldn't tell. She didn't usually go in for much sitting around and doing nothing. She much preferred to be busy. At first she'd walked around, but the walls never seemed to get closer. Or appear at all. Eventually she sat on the floor, which was smooth to the touch, but not cold.
A man appeared out of the whiteness on her right. He was wearing a suit made out of sofa material with a hat to match. There was a red-breasted parrot sitting on his shoulder.
"Oh, hello." She stood up and smiled. No need to be unfriendly, especially when she was desperate for some company. "Are you an alien too?" Maybe he was helping the other alien.
"No." The man shook his head. "Captain is a parrot."
She laughed. Aliens really did have a good sense of humour. She'd never have guessed that. The rhinos hadn't been particularly funny.
"I came to ask if you still think you made the right choice." He said it easily, as if they were discussing what sort of cheese to buy at Tesco.
"Of course I have." She took a step closer to him. "I don't know what sort of alien is attacking the school, but they must be stopped, before they hurt anyone else."
The man shook his head. He reached out a hand and in the white space a scene appeared. It was as if they were viewing it on a cinema screen, but in mid-air and with no visible screen or projector. It showed Haresh in his office. He typed a little, then sighed and stared into space. He looked so unhappy. It reminded her of how he'd been when Rani had gone on that school trip to France three years ago. The house had been too quiet and he hadn't quite known what to do with himself. Although he'd been too stubborn to admit the real reason, of course.
"What's happened?" Gita frowned at the man with the parrot. That wasn't the way Haresh had been acting when she'd visited him earlier.
"He's missing his family."
She laughed. "I've only been gone a few minutes." Probably. Maybe. "And Rani's at the same school."
He shook his head. "No. You've been removed from the world. You never existed. Your husband never married and your daughter never existed either."
Gita shook her head. "No, that's not right." It didn't make any sense.
The man waved a hand and the scene changed. This time it showed Clyde insisting to Sky that he didn't know Rani.
"He said I had to stay here. He meant forever." Her voice wobbled as she realised the enormity of what she'd done.
"A trick," the man said, and she nodded. "He is known as the Trickster."
"Did he lie about saving Sky too?" She was scared now and looked at him beseechingly.
The man nodded again. "He always lies."
"So this was all for nothing?" She grabbed his arm. "I have to get back."
"But all is not lost. Look." He motioned towards the screen with his other arm.
Sarah was in her car, her phone lit up on the passenger seat. A man's voice came from it.
"It does sound like the Trickster's work." The man's accent was a bit posh, but his words were careful, as if English wasn't his first language.
Sarah gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. "II know we were looking out in case for something happened. But I still hoped once she defeated Miss Myers and the Metalkind she'd just be an ordinary girl." Her expression turned angry. "I thought the Trickster had used up all his tricks."
Gita was confused. "Sarah knows about the Trickster too?"
He nodded. "Sarah Jane saves the world from aliens all the time."
"She does?" Gita frowned. "Does it need saving often?" Then she thought about the amount of time Rani spent at Sarah's. She was getting great advice about being a journalist, but was there something else too? "Is Rani involved in this?"
"She's been planning for this, not trusting me." He hung his head. "The Trickster tricked me too."
She patted his arm. "I'm sure you only wanted to do the right thing." Whatever that was. But it didn't seem worth asking, for him not to answer.
He smiled a little. "Sarah Jane needs you."
"How can I help?" She let him go and stood up straight, ready to put things right.
"The words you used were important. You said, 'I don't want anyone to get hurt.' Sky and Clyde are being hurt right now. It invalidates the Trickster's contract with you It's what enabled me to find you."
Gita was still confused and starting to become resigned to not getting any answers to her questions. Not that it stopped her from asking them. "So what can I do?"
He held out his hand and the parrot flew to Gita's shoulder.
She gave it a curious look, but it dug its claws into her shoulder, making her wince.
"Captain will guide you."
Before she could ask what that meant she found herself in the school, in an empty corridor. "How did I get here?" She turned around in a circle, but was distracted by a shriek from around the corner. The parrot flew off in its direction. She followed, massaging her shoulder. She was sure the parrot had drawn blood.
As she rounded the corner she saw Clyde slumped on the floor by a bank of lockers, his face twisted in pain. Sky stood over him, one hand held out, palm towards him. Her face looked an awful lot like the Trickster's. But surely Sky wasn't alien too.
"Sky!" Gita shouted, at the same time as the parrot squawked. Its wingspan filled the small locker room as it flew across it to land on Sky's shoulder.
"Get off, you horrible bird." Although the voice came from Sky, it was the Trickster's. But at least now she was focussed on the bird, not Clyde.
It gave Gita the chance to crouch beside Clyde and check on him. He was panting, his eyes closed, and she put a hand on his shoulder. "You're going to be all right," she told him.
The parrot squawked again, and Gita looked up to see it flap its wings, dodging Sky's swipe at it. While Sky was distracted by it, Gita intended to help Clyde get away. But then she heard footsteps and turned to see Sarah arrive, looking stern. The man with the parrot had sounded so sure that Sarah could help Sky and stop the alien that Gita was glad to see her.
As Gita watched, Sarah held out a taser and pointed it at Sky. The parrot hopped off Sky's shoulder to perch on top of the lockers. "No, Sarah! That's Sky." Gita shouted at the same time as Sky turned and Sarah fired.
Sky crumpled to the ground and Sarah ran over. "Sky?" She put a hand on Sky's back and turned her over. Sky looked like herself again and Sarah breathed a sigh of relief, which Gita echoed. Sarah really had known what to do.
It was a moment before Sky opened her eyes. But she said, "That hurt" in a small voice.
Sarah smiled and hugged Sky close. "I had hoped your sensitivity to electricity just needed a little boost to get rid of him."
"Sarah Jane." Clyde crawled over and Sarah Jane opened an arm to make it a three way hug.
Gita didn't think any of them had really noticed her. Did they even know who she was?
The parrot squawked again and flew to the man's outstretched hand. How long had he been here? He gave Gita a little bow and walked off. She got up to follow him, walking fast around the corner. "Hey, I wanted to ask---" But he was gone.
Gita threw her hands up. "Disappearing people. Perfectly normal." Not wanting to intrude on the scene she'd just left, she set off to find Haresh. However, as she approached his office, a moment of doubt crept in. Would he recognise her? If he didn't know who she was would she be able to convince him to fall in love with her all over again? It had been long enough ago that she couldn't really remember how she'd done it the first time.
Steeling herself, she took a deep breath, knocked on his door and peered round it, exactly as she'd done this morning.
Haresh looked up and smiled. "Gita. I didn't know you were still here."
She put a hand to her chest and closed her eyes for a moment, before she entered. "I got talking and lost track of time," she said breezily, not wanting to worry him with her fears. If he didn't know anything about what gone on today at the school then she was happy to keep it that way. He'd hated discussing the aliens they'd seen at Genetec, and she couldn't imagine how he'd react to knowing other aliens were in his school, attacking his pupils.
So she just went around his desk to hug him. Although he hugged her back he looked surprised when they parted. "It's good to see you in the middle of the school day," she explained. Well, she could hardly give the real reason.
Outside in the car park, Gita's van was right where shed left it, back doors still open. A glance inside told her that nothing had been taken. Which meant that she still needed to unload the plants. And then do her other deliveries, which would all be late. Never mind, she was sure she could find a good excuse.
She shut the back doors and found that Sarah's car was here, with Sarah, Sky, Clyde and Rani all stood beside it. They stopped talking as she approached, but Gita ignored them all in favour of hugging Rani.
"Mum?" Rani asked, confused, although she returned the hug.
"I heard something about someone being electrocuted and I'm glad you're okay." She let go of Rani to look at the others. "I'm glad you're all okay."
Rani smiled. "We're fine, mum. But we should go back in. I have double English this afternoon."
Gita let her go, glad Rani had the right attitude about school.
The children exchanged goodbyes with Gita and Sarah, before leaving the two of them alone.
"Rani's fine, you know," Sarah said.
That answered her earlier question. "So she does save the world with you." Sarah looked surprised, so Gita clarified, "The man with the parrot told me."
"Are you going to tell Rani you know?" Sarah was looking less surprised now and more worried. About what exactly, Gita wasn't sure.
"No." Gita shook her head. She was tempted to let Rani know she didn't have to hide that part of her life from her mother. But she was a teenager and teenagers hide things from their parents. "I don't want her to worry. Or Haresh either. You'll keep it to yourself?"
Sarah nodded. "What about the papers? You could sell it to the tabloids, make some money."
"No, I don't think so." The money would come in handy, but she was still thinking of her daughter. "They'd want to speak to Rani and I don't want her involved in all that. She needs to concentrate on her A levels, so she can get into university and become a journalist, like she's always wanted."
Sarah smiled. "I think you're very wise, Gita."
"Do you know, I've been told that before."
The idea of the Trickster using Sky (and the Shopkeeper) comes from The Sarah Jane Companion Volume 3.