Sarah Jane was almost bouncing with excitement. She kept looking at the clock over the big Arrivals Board and calculating how long it would be before the plane touched down, how long it would take for passengers to clear through customs and reach the arrivals lounge where they waited. She seemed disappointed every time she looked to find that it was only a few minutes later than it was before.
“Sit down, mum,” Luke said. “Stop fidgeting. He won’t get here any faster.”
Clyde and Maria giggled at Luke giving parental advice to his parent.
“I know,” she sighed. She sat in a chair that faced away from the board and then twisted around to look at it. Luke tutted loudly and she shifted around guiltily. “Oh, I can’t wait for him to arrive. It’s absolutely ages since he was here, last. He lives in America now. Oh, I do hope you like him, Luke. He’s… actually, he’s a lot like you. He was a really bright boy, top of all his classes at school, a First at Cambridge, and snapped up for a really good job in scientific research.”
“Is that what’s expected of me?” Luke asked. “University, a career in scientific research…”
“No, of course not,” Sarah Jane assured him. “I mean… I hope you will go to university, of course. You’re so clever. But…”
“I still think I’d like to join the army,” he said. “I want to work for U.N.I.T.”
Clyde and Maria exchanged glances. They had been witnesses to this discussion more than once. They knew what Sarah Jane thought about that. She didn’t want Luke becoming a soldier. But she couldn’t say anything much without appearing to be influencing him unduly. And she wasn’t the sort of parent who forced her opinions on her son.
“Anyway,” she said, passing over the subject. “I am sure you will like Brendan. My favourite nephew.”
“Isn’t he your only nephew?” Maria asked.
“That’s why he’s my favourite,” she answered logically.
“Technically, he’s not really your nephew,” Luke pointed out. “He was your Aunt Lavinia’s godson, and her ward after his parents died. He’s not really a blood relation to you. He was the son of your aunt’s friends, Mr and Mrs Richards.”
“I’ve always called him that,” Sarah Jane replied. “At least since Aunt Lavinia passed away. He started to call me Aunt Sarah then. I think it made me feel quite old, as if I was taking over from Aunt Lavinia. She left him the house in Moreton Harewood, and me the house in South Croydon and the one in Bannerman Road. I liked that one better. Brendan sold the Moreton Harewood house when he went to live in America.”
Her young friends didn’t need to know most of the information contained in her rambling monologue. She was talking just to stop her mind from dwelling on how slow the time was passing.
“He lives in San Francisco.” Clyde was impressed by that. “Totally cool.”
“It’s probably really boring actually living there,” Maria pointed out. “I’ve seen American tourists all excited about being in London. I bet all his friends there think him being here is exciting.”
The Arrivals Board finally registered that the plane from San Francisco had landed. Now the time dragged again as they waited for the passengers to collect their luggage and pass through customs and security. Finally, Sarah Jane couldn’t be contained any longer. She went to the barrier where friends were allowed to wait and strained to spot her ‘nephew’ in the crowd that poured through the doors from the secure area. She really did jump up and down as she spotted him. Clyde, Maria and Luke tried to pretend they weren’t with the mad woman who was waving and calling out, while taking stock of the man who smiled widely and waved back.
“He’s rather handsome,” Maria noted.
“He’s about forty,” Clyde pointed out.
“So is Jack, and he’s handsome, too,” Maria answered. “And The Doctor is 1,000 years old and he’s gorgeous, too.”
“When did she turn into such a total girl?” Clyde asked Luke as the two boys decided to pretend they weren’t with Maria, either. “And how long has she been into older men?”
“Maria has always been a girl,” he replied. Clyde got ready to discuss the matter further, but Sarah Jane had steered her nephew and his luggage towards them and was introducing them.
He was very good looking. Maria was right about that. He was tall, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes, slim build, dressed in casual slacks and a sweatshirt from the San Francisco Science Institute where he worked. He smiled at them all as he was introduced.
“I’m thrilled to meet you all,” he said in an accent that was mostly American but with a hint of English public school coming out at the same time. “Especially you, Luke. Aunt Sarah has told me all about you in her letters.”
“ALL about me?” Luke queried, looking a little worried. He wasn’t exactly ashamed of the way he was born, but he really didn’t want everyone knowing about it.
“Er… yes,” Brendan answered him. “Aunt Sarah has always told me everything. I’ve done a bit of the same sort of work in the States. San Francisco is second only to South Wales for concentrations of UFO sighting, you know. The Institute I work for records and investigates them on behalf of the government. Like the X Files, only in reality the FBI have other things to do. They leave it to us. And boy, do I have some stories I could tell!”
“Let’s tell them on the way home,” Sarah Jane suggested. “I’ve hired a car. They all wanted to come with me, and mine is too small for us all and your luggage.”
“Good idea,” Brendan agreed. He put his luggage on a trolley and Clyde and Luke volunteered to help steer it to the car park. As they stepped out of the Terminal and headed for short stay parking, Brendan’s mobile phone rang. He answered it. They all tried not to listen. It mostly sounded like business. There was reference at one point to a sub-ether oscillator. But when he finished, he called the person on the other end of the phone ‘sweetheart’.
“Sorry about that,” he said as he thrust the phone into his pocket. “Gray. My partner. He’s testing some new equipment.”
“Oh, rats,” Maria murmured. “Why is it always the good looking ones?”
Sarah Jane sympathised fully, mentioning that she had the same problem in the 1970s with somebody called Mike Yates. She asked Brendan about his partner and discovered they had been happily living together for eight years now, both working at the Institute on the same projects.
They came to the car. It was a rather nice six seater people carrier with far more room than the Figaro that sometimes felt too small even for four people. Brendan sat in the passenger seat and the three youngsters spread themselves out in the back as they set off out of the airport and found themselves on the smooth flowing A408 heading back to Ealing.
“So,” Luke said, wanting a way into a conversation with Brendan. “You were going to tell us about your work…. The stuff like mum does?”
“Yes, I was,” Brendan answered. “We’re kept quite busy, actually. Only last week we had an invisible space ship in Golden Gate Park. Gray and I investigated it. Turned out to be a race called Iningee. They were just about the most unusual extra terrestrials I’ve seen yet. They were about four foot high, pale blue balls, with no faces or limbs as you’d recognise them, just thin tendrils that they sensed the air with. Their technology was incredible. Their ships worked by passing the tendrils a few centimetres above the controls, like playing air guitar. They let us have the blueprints for a computer in return for fuel. They’d hit an asteroid in our solar system and had to make an emergency stop when their fuel tanks were breached.”
“What sort of fuel?” Maria asked. “Were you able to help?”
“Yes,” Brendan said. “Their ships use salt water, compressed salt water… from the sea. They have a process that turns the water into hydrogen and it flies their ships.”
“Wow, that’s clever.”
“It certainly is,” Brendan answered. “They gave us blueprints for that, too. But we still need to do some work to make it viable. For one thing we have to make sure that we don’t drain the Pacific ocean. The oil companies will kick up a fuss when we go public, too. We’ll probably use it as an alternative energy in the institute for a year or so and see how it goes. But with luck, by the time your kids are old enough to turn a light on for themselves, the electricity will come from clean hydro-conversion energy.”
“Well, good,” Maria responded. “Because the generations before us have made such a mess of the planet. It’s time they started to think about that sort of thing.”
They had been travelling on the M4 for a while, and now they tuned off back onto the A408. As the car slipped into the traffic on the dual carriageway, Sarah Jane gave an annoyed cry. There was a police car behind them, signalling for her to stop.
“What on Earth?” she demanded as she pulled onto the grass verge at the side of the road and reached for her driving licence and the car rental documents. The police car pulled up behind and four policemen climbed out. One stood behind the people carrier, another in front, the other two flanking it. Sarah Jane rolled down her window to speak to the one on her side.
“Are you Sarah Jane Smith?” the policeman asked.
“Yes,” she said. “But how do you know? This is a hire car. You couldn’t have checked the registration. What is this about? Why have you stopped us?”
“Sarah Jane Smith, 13 Bannerman Road, you were under arrest. Step out of the car and keep your hands where they can be seen.”
“What!” Her face paled. In the back of the car all three youngsters raised loud protests. “No, this must be some mistake. Is this about…”
“Step out of the car, now,” said the officer, and Sarah Jane was astonished to see a gun pointed at her. The other officers, all around the car, had guns, too. Brendan glanced nervously at the one standing by the passenger door. He turned slowly and told Clyde, Maria and Luke to sit quietly as Sarah Jane unfastened her seatbelt.
“I’m getting out of the car,” she said. “Step back or the door will hit you. And get those guns put away. What do you think you’re doing? How dare you point weapons at my son and his friends?”
“Mum, no!” Luke protested, tears pricking his eyes. “No, don’t go…”
“It’s all right, Luke,” Sarah Jane answered. “I’ll be all right. There’s been some sort of mistake. I’ll sort it out. Brendan will look after you. Be… be good for him, won’t you…”
It seemed a silly thing to say to a teenager – be good – but it was the best she could do. She was scared. She was surrounded by men with guns who made her turn around while they handcuffed her – in front of Luke, Clyde, Maria, and Brendan, to say nothing of any number of people in cars who stared at the roadside drama.
“Mum!” Luke screamed as he turned and saw her taken to the police car. “Mum! No….”
The armed police all got into the car and it drove away. Brendan at once got out of the passenger side of the car and walked around to get into the driver’s seat. As he did so, though, he stopped and bent to look at something on the grass verge behind them. Maria and Clyde, followed by Luke, got out of the car to see what he was doing.
“Look at this,” he said. “Look how deep these footprints are in the grass. None of those policemen were much bigger than me and my prints are hardly visible. And look at the police car tracks compared to our car. So deep. As if there was a huge weight on it.”
“Androids!” Luke, Maria and Clyde all spoke at once. Brendan was stunned.
“Androids,” Luke repeated. “Brendan, they weren’t real policemen. Mum has been taken by androids – AGAIN!”
To Be Continued...