Marcus L. Rowland
She leaves the bank five minutes later, pretending not to notice the man who’s trailing her, one of the men that abducted her the previous night, and walks a few hundred yards to Oxford Street. She spends the next thirty minutes pretending to shop then loses him via the changing rooms in Selfridges fashion department, and a shop assistant who believes her tale of being followed by an abusive ex-boyfriend and lets her slip out through the fire exit without setting off the alarm.
Could they track her from a distance? In her memories Harkness had a machine that detected something called ‘rift energy,’ whatever that is, but the equipment looked complicated, expensive, and heavy, and Harkness waited until he was close before he used it; she’s betting that it wouldn’t work at any great range. She might be all right if she can stay out of sight. She doubles back towards the bank, sticking to side streets and back alleys, posts the flowers, visits a stationers, and ends up in a cheap café across the road from the bank. She’s already drinking her tea when a black Rover arrives and Harkness gets out and heads into the bank.
“Find what you were looking for?” Harkness starts to twist round in the driver’s seat, then goes very still when he feels the prick of a knife against the back of his neck. It’s only a letter-opener, and not very sharp, but he doesn’t know that.
“Susan Pevensie, I presume.”
“I thought it was time we had a little talk. This time I’d like to remember it.” There’s something about Harkness that grates on her nerves, makes her sharper and angrier. It helps.
“You’re very persistent.”
“I’ve been a queen, Captain Harkness; I expect to get my own way.”
“And if I tell you?”
“First I’ll decide if I can believe you. Then I’ll decide what I want to do about it. Convince me, and I might even try to be helpful.”
“I can be a lot more convincing without a knife at my throat.”
“Actually I think that’s your spine, not your throat. Think carefully, Captain.”
“Okay…” Harkness raises his hands from the wheel. “Tell me what you want to know, I’ll tell you as much as I can.”
“And if I don’t ask the right questions?”
“Drive us somewhere quiet, somewhere where people won’t sneak up on us easily. I’d hate it if we were interrupted.”
“Not with a knife in my back. That’s just an accident waiting to happen.”
“You don’t want to drive? All right, let’s walk to Hyde Park, it isn’t far. We can sit down there and talk.”
“Or we could talk here,” suggests Harkness.
“I expect that you’re thinking,” says Susan, “that if we stay in the car you can inject me with one of the hypodermics I took out of the glove compartment. That isn’t going to happen, although I do wonder what would happen if I injected you. I’m guessing that there’s some sort of antidote, or you wouldn’t be messing around with that muck.”
“I’d rather not try it.” For the first time he actually sounds worried, and she wonders why he considers amnesia worse than paralysis or death. “Okay, the park. I’m going to open the door and get out, if you’ll let me move.”
“Go ahead, I’ll be right behind you.”
He climbs out and moves to open the passenger door, but she’s slid across the seat and got out on the pavement side. “Which way is the park?” asks Harkness.
“Nice try, but I think you can lead the way.”
He glances at her, and says “That’s a paper knife.”
“It is,” says Susan, “but it’s a well-balanced one, I think I could get it into your eye at this range.”
“I thought they called you ‘Susan the Gentle.’”
“That was before people started messing around with my mind.”
After that he doesn’t give her any more trouble. Ten minutes later they’re sitting at opposite ends of a wooden seat in the park.
“Let’s start with an easy question,” says Susan. “What’s rift energy, and what does it have to do with me?”
Harkness raises his eyebrows. “You remember that?”
“I remember that, and I remember that bitch injecting my arm, and your goons last night. What’s this about, Captain Harkness?”
“There’s a rift in Cardiff, a weakness in space and time where things can come into our world. When that happens we detect a particular pattern of radiation we call rift energy, and anything that comes through radiates it for a few days, say a week at most. Usually, anyway. A lot of the things that come through are dangerous, one way or another. Monsters, or technology we don’t understand, things from different times and places.”
“In 1929 the thing we found was a baby, about a year old. You.”
“I’m not from this world?”
“Yes and no. You’re human, as far as we can tell, there’s just no record of a missing child matching your description, and you had the highest rift energy reading we’ve ever encountered. It could be that you’re from Narnia, or the past or future, or another timeline altogether.”
Her head whirls, she tries to concentrate on the essentials. “So what? If I’m human, what does it matter?”
“It wouldn’t matter if that was all of it, but a week after you were found you vanished from your nursery, reappeared ten minutes later covered in sand. Two days later you had an illness resembling chicken-pox – except that it wasn’t, it was a virus that nobody could identify. The day after that every child in the nursery had it, along with three nurses. Fortunately it was reasonably mild and quarantine stopped it spreading, but what if you’d come back with something as dangerous as bubonic plague?”
“You’re saying I fell into this rift again?” She wants to say it’s impossible, but she knows that it isn’t. She’s just been in Narnia, and has no idea how she got there.
“We think you opened the rift, fell through into another world, and somehow came back. But your rift energy readings didn’t fade, if anything they got stronger over time. They’re still ridiculously high. We decided that it was too dangerous keeping you anywhere near Cardiff. Professor Kirke was one of our advisors, he knew your father. At the time the doctors didn’t think that your mother could have another child. It turned out they had it wrong, but your parents were happy to have you anyway.”
“So what went wrong?”
“Kirke had his own agenda. We questioned him in 1941, after we detected the wardrobe rift. He’d been in Narnia and wanted to get back, built the wardrobe from magical wood he’d brought into our world. He thought you’d open the route. And he was right; you went through, so did your brothers and sister. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”
“No, but I’m sure you plan to tell me,” Susan said sarcastically.
“Whatever Narnia is, it plays by different rules to our world. Magic works! Can you imagine the threat that poses to this world, to the human race?”
“The White Witch could control the weather in Narnia; Kirke told us she froze her original world. We don’t want to risk anything like that happening here. We think that Aslan is more powerful. For all I know Aslan might be capable of turning the sun off if he doesn’t like us.”
“He wouldn’t! He’s good!”
“We can’t take that risk.”
“I didn’t even open the wardrobe the first time, Lucy did.”
“You were nearby, sometimes that’s all it takes. As of last night your rift energy is still incredibly high. The wardrobe is gone but we had to make sure that you didn’t go anywhere near Cardiff, or anywhere else that you might open a rift.”
“So you destroyed my memory.”
“We had no choice.” His glance flicks away from her, for a fraction of a second, and she guesses that someone is coming – it won’t have been hard to track them down, and she knows that Harkness has allies in London.
“Of course you did. You could have told me the truth. I’m not sure I would have believed you, but you could have tried. Call your dogs off, Captain. I need to think about this. I promise I won’t go near Cardiff, at least for now. Just let me alone.”
His eyes flick to the side again, and she half-turns to see who’s coming. It’s a bad mistake – there’s nobody there, and as she turns back he’s drawing a pistol. She throws the knife by reflex, and he twists to avoid it and fires.
Pain explodes in her chest and she falls to the path, gasping for breath. Her vision is blurring as Harkness kneels beside her, saying “Susan… what were you thinking?”
“That I’ll see Aslan soon,” she whispers. Her left hand is in her pocket, and she touches her royal ring and feels a throb of power. She knows what’s coming next, with utter certainty, and with the last of her strength grabs his wrist, adding “And you’re coming with me.”
Together they fall into darkness.
Comments greatly appreciated as always. The next part may be a couple of days, I know what's going to happen but haven't written it yet.