Marcus L. Rowland
“Daughter of Eve. Why are you here?”
She looks up. She’s not in the vault, she’s in a meadow, a warm summer’s day with a cloudless sky. Her clothes… she’s wearing the green robes and the coronet, the bracelets and rings that were in the box. And walking towards her…
“Aslan!” Suddenly her memories of Narnia are clear, every moment of the time she spent there. How could she have ever thought it was just a game? It’s even more beautiful than she remembers.
“Susan… this is not your time to be here.”
“Oh, Aslan!” Words pour out of her as she tells him everything, her confusion and regrets. By the time she’s done she’s sobbing into his mane.
“Your brothers and sisters, your parents and their friends, all are safe here with Me.”
“Please… can I see them?”
“Not yet. When you are much older, when you are done with your world, then you can come back to Me. Now is not that time.”
“Why can’t I remember properly?”
“There is a cloud on your mind.” He sniffs at her, seems to scowl, and paces around her. “I might cure you here, but you would forget again. Are you sure you wish to remember?”
“Are you absolutely sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
She remembers her fairy tales – he’s going to ask again, three times are the charm – but instead he roars, so loud that she has to clutch her ears and bow her head, screw her eyes closed against the physical impact of the noise. Abruptly the noise stops. She opens her eyes, and finds herself sitting at the table in the vault, wearing her normal clothing, the contents of the box spread out in front of her.
Except… except that the coronet is gone, and when she touches her hair she finds a wreath of tiny exquisite flowers. And there’s something new on the table. A small crystal bottle, containing a teaspoon or so of clear liquid. She remembers; Lucy’s cordial bottle. A single drop was once enough to save a life. With trembling hands she pulls out the stopper and puts a drop onto her finger, swallows it. And remembers.
She’s on her way home from school, three days before the end of term; she’s going to America with father - the convoy leaves tomorrow, so she can’t wait for school to break up. She’s looking forward to the adventure despite the risks of wartime travel; after all, she’s a Queen of Narnia, she’s been in peril more often than she can count, and anyway she’s heard that most of the risk is on the way back to Britain. The journey is slow; mostly the Nazis seem to have given up daylight raids, but the train is low priority compared to armaments and troops, and is taking a circuitous route. A few stops from school most of the passengers in her compartment disembark, leaving her with a woman in WRNS uniform who’s working on the Times crossword. A ridiculously handsome man in an RAF greatcoat boards, carrying a wooden box on a leather shoulder strap. An airman on the platform hands him a duffel bag, salutes, and slams the door closed. As he puts his duffel bag onto the luggage rack his sleeve rides up and she notices a broad leather strap on his wrist, something that looks like an oversized watch with a leather cover.
As the train starts moving the Wren puts her paper aside, closes the corridor door, puts a RESERVED sign on the glass, locks it, and pulls down the blinds. The man sits facing her, and says “Hello, Susan. I’m Jack.”
Memories flood back. The name Jack Harkness, the American Embassy and the picture they showed her (a different man, not quite as handsome and a little older), the Victorian ledgers, everything she’s done over the past week. And things further back, still a little blurred. She puts another drop of the cordial on her finger, puts it in her mouth, and swallows it down.
“Who are you? What do you want?” Susan isn’t panicking – it takes a lot to scare her – but this Jack is bigger and stronger than she is, she can’t ignore the possibility that he might want to hurt her. And the Wren is obviously working with him.
“You need to forget about Narnia.”
“Narnia?” She pretends not to understand.
“You and your brothers and sisters really haven’t been very discreet. You seem to have a knack for finding portals, or maybe they have a knack for finding you.”
“I don’t understand,” says Susan.
He opens the wooden box, revealing a Bakelite panel studded with dials and control knobs, and says “I don’t have time to explain.” He flicks a switch on the box, and it makes a screeching noise, like an out-of-tune radio. “She’s still radiating rift energy, as strongly as ever.” The Wren nods.
“Your brothers and sisters are losing their energy,” says Harkness. “We just need to keep them away from the wardrobe, they can't make a new portal. You’re different… you’re still packed with the stuff. Maybe it’s our fault, we should have realised the wardrobe was a potential portal, we shouldn’t have let you anywhere near the Professor’s house. But it has to stop.”
Without warning the Wren grabs her hand and injects something into her arm, saying “Next station in five minutes.”
Harkness nods to the Wren, saying “I’ll handle the rest, you get off while she’s out,” then turns to Susan and says “You need to forget about Narnia, and the wardrobe, and anything to do with portals. If anything reminds you of them, it’s a game you used to play when you were children. You’re much too grown up for that now.”
“What if I don’t want to forget?” She wants to argue, but feels waves of darkness sweeping over her, memories fading from her mind.
“I’m sorry… we can’t give you that option.”
“but I…” Blankness… “Did I fall asleep?”
“For a little while,” says the handsome RAF captain seated across the railway carriage.
For a moment she wonders if Harkness had her family killed, somehow arranged the train crash; he seems ruthless enough. But surely he would have killed her first, and he’s had opportunities to do so. Nevertheless a cold anger rises in her at the way she’s been treated, at the wonders they made her forget. For the first time that she can remember she feels the urge to kill.
She knows when they caught up with her this time; just after she left Lady Juliet’s flat, two men she’d never seen before bundled her into a taxi and injected her. She can’t remember precisely what happened next, she guesses that they kept her drugged while they took her back to the flat and staged the drunken mess she woke to, told her to forget everything again. Maybe Harkness was there, but it doesn’t necessarily follow; Torchwood must be a big powerful organisation, they have other agents. She goes back through everything that she’s done, and guesses that Scotland Yard probably told them she’d been asking for Harkness. There are other possibilities, of course, but that seems the most likely.
She’d told Scotland Yard that she’d learned that she was adopted, and that the adoption had probably been arranged by Captain Harkness. What else had she said? She thinks it through, and realises that she mentioned the Professor and Mrs. MacReady – she has an uneasy feeling that if she goes back to see her again, Mrs. MacReady will have no recollection of Captain Harkness or Torchwood. Neither will Lady Juliet or anyone at the museum. What else? The adoption papers, of course, and the safe-deposit box.
If she mentioned that – and she’s sure she did – it can only be a matter of hours before someone comes to make sure that nothing in the box points to Torchwood or can remind her of Narnia. She’s only surprised that nobody is here already. She leafs through the papers again and takes the adoption papers, stows the jewellery in her handbag and pockets, the vial on the chain with the locket between her breasts. The bank provides stationery for its customers; she sandwiches the circle of flowers in a folded sheet of blotting-paper and puts it into an envelope, addressed to herself. She’ll post it as soon as she can, maybe it’ll jog her memory if she forgets again.
“What would Peter do?” The question comes to her lips spontaneously. When they ruled Narnia never lost a war, and Peter Wolfslayer’s tactics were the main reason for their success. It’s time to take the fight to the enemy.
Comments greatly appreciated as always.