This time the silence was palpable. “Jenny, what are you
“How could you not know? I’m talking about this!” Jenny lifted her t-shirt to reveal her smooth skin.
“Don’t be silly Jenny, it’s right there.”
“No it’s not! Look!”
Both parents stared. Rani frowned. This wasn’t like the perception filter on Jenny, this was a total illusion. “Jenny, I see—” Mr Brown’s head jerked suddenly, the word ‘see’ coming out jilted. “Honey, how about an omelette?”
“What?” Jenny said in disbelief.
“Arnold, what—” Mrs Brown began, but then the same happened to her. “Why don’t we all go to the beach, we haven’t done that in ages.”
“Mum? Dad?” Jenny whispered, stepping forward, but hesitantly.
Rani stepped forward, took Jenny’s arm and gently pulled her backwards. “Jenny, I think you should get back.”
“Don’t be stupid, they’re my parents!”
“Jenny,” Mr Brown said. “Honey, sweetheart—time—time—” he jerked more, and a spark flew across his face.
Jenny gasped, and then screamed as he keeled over completely, followed almost immediately by Mrs Brown, falling stiffly. Her face continued to spark, and her voice continued, although her face was no longer moving. “Jen—Jen—Jen—Jen—”
They both fell silent, the sparks died. Rani slowly kneeled down, took hold of one of Mrs Brown’s hands and pulled.
“Rani! What are you—”
It broke free in a mass of wires. Jenny’s legs gave way and she collapsed on the floor.
“Jenny?” Rani dropped the hand and knelt down beside her. “I’m sorry.”
“Wh-what are they?”
“Androids,” Rani said. “I’m sorry, I had no idea.”
“So they’re not—they weren’t—”
“They weren’t your parents, Jenny.”
“But they w-were,” she said with a sob, putting her hands to her face. “Th-they were my m-mum and –d-daddy!”
Rani pulled her into a hug as Jenny began sobbing openly. “Jenny, I am so, so sorry,” she whispered. She allowed her a few minutes before gently pulling away. “But I think we should get out of here.”
“Because I don’t know exactly what’s going on, and till we do you’re better off somewhere safer.”
“G-g-great,” Jenny hiccupped. “On t-top of all th-that, n-now I’m in d-dan-ger?”
“It’s a definite possibility. My friend, she can find out who arranged all … this. You’ll be safe at her house in the meantime.”
It was a mark of how bad the day had already been, that Jenny nodded, and just said, “Okay.”
“Check,” the Doctor said, breaking a long silence. Sarah Jane looked up from her computer, gave a small smile at Luke’s frown, and went back to her work.
They were playing brainiac chess, taking turns to ask the other a question, and if the other got it right they were allowed to move. It was made fairer by the rule the Doctor wasn’t allowed to quiz Luke on anything he stood zero chance of knowing, i.e. if it was from the future. Clyde was supposed to be overseeing the fairness, but in reality Mr Smith was the one doing the checking.
The phone rang again and the chessboard was upended as the Doctor dived for it. Sarah Jane, who was closer, reached it first. The Doctor hovered impatiently as she answered.
“Sarah Jane, it’s me,” said Rani’s voice. “Um … we’re coming over.”
“We?” Sarah Jane said, surprised. “Have you told her—”
“Yeah. Could you put the kettle on? I think Jenny could do with some tea.”
“Of course,” Sarah Jane said, and the line went dead. She replaced the phone slowly.
“Well?” the Doctor said, practically bouncing up and down in agitation.
“Rani’s told Jenny, and they’re both coming over here. Doctor,” she said. “I realise you’re very eager to see her but I think for the moment it’s best if you stay out of her sight.” He deflated. “If she recognises you as the man in her bedroom before we’ve explained everything, she might not react very well.”
“I know,” he mumbled. “You’re right. I’ll stay up here. Just—take care of her, please.”
“Of course I will. Why don’t you go back to your game?” she suggested, looking back at the table. Luke had picked up all the pieces and arranged the chess board in the exact positions it had been in before the phone call. She sent her son a look that said ‘keep him busy’.
Jenny was unsurprisingly silent on the bus journey. Rani wasn’t sure what to say. Only the Doctor could really piece it together for her, but that was going to be tricky. Jenny definitely needed time to digest what had just happened first.
“Rani,” Jenny said quietly, a few stops away from Ealing.
“Back home, you said something about—about my dad. N-not Dad, some … someone else.”
She nodded slowly.
“I-I have a dad? One who’s not …”
“Mechanical?” Rani supplied. Jenny nodded. “Yeah, you do.”
“What about my mum? My … real mum.”
“Er … I think you’d better ask your dad about that, when you meet him,” Rani said unsurely.
Jenny nodded slightly, but went back to staring out the window. She remained silent for the rest of the journey. Rani navigated them to the right bus stop and then a fifteen minute walk to Bannerman Road.
Sarah Jane answered the door almost immediately with her warmest smile. “Hello, you must be Jenny.” Jenny just nodded. “I’m Sarah Jane. Please, do come in.”
Jenny hesitated. “It’s okay,” Rani said. “She doesn’t bite.”
Jenny hovered in the living room. “Sit down,” Sarah Jane encouraged her. “Would you like some tea?”
“Right, like tea will solve everything.” The first thing Jenny had said since arriving, and it sounded quite bitter. She paused for a moment, thinking. “Actually, yes I would, thank you.”
Sarah Jane quizzed her on milk and sugar, and went to get her a ready-brewed mug. Jenny started as there was a clatter of footfalls, and Clyde poked his head in the door.
“What are you doing down here?” Rani asked him, sending him a glare. Clyde ignored her non-verbal reminder that they were trying to make Jenny feel comfortable, not crowded by strangers, and addressed her.
“You’re Jenny, right?”
“Yes,” Jenny said quietly.
“Hi,” he said, entering properly. “Clyde. Nice to meet you.”
“What?” he said in an innocent tone. “I’m only being friendly.”
“I thought you were refereeing the game up there.”
“You’re joking, right? It’s like battle of the geniuses. The only word I can understand is ‘check’.”
“Well go and help with the tea then.”
Clyde seemed to finally get the hint, and disappeared into the kitchen. Rani sighed.
“Please, don’t mind him.” She looked up at Jenny as Sarah Jane re-entered the room, holding two steaming mugs. “Seriously, sit down, you’ll be more comfortable.”
“Would someone please tell me what is going on,” Jenny said, sitting reluctantly on the sofa.
Sarah Jane sent Rani a look. “Rani, you were meant to tell her.”
“What, everything? Even the bits I don’t understand myself? I would have told her more, but there was an incident involving her parents.”
“They’re androids,” Rani said quietly.
Sarah Jane looked from Rani to Jenny, whose head was in her hands. “Oh Jenny, I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t know.” Jenny’s voice was hollow.
“No, we didn’t. We knew they weren’t—weren’t your real parents, but we … assumed they were people.”
Jenny took her tea from Sarah Jane and gulped half of it down immediately.
“Careful, you don’t want to choke.”
“’Bout the only thing that could make my day worse,” Jenny said darkly. “My parents aren’t my parents and not even real, I can’t trust my own memory, and to top it all off, I’m a freak.”
Sarah Jane and Rani went to speak, but someone else got there first. “No you’re not.”
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