When looking at her in passing, Jenny Flint looked like an ordinary girl; long black hair, dark eyes, a lean physique and short stature. But if one bothered to look more closely they'd see passion on her face and her propensity to get into trouble.
She had been feeling strangely restless for a few days, even though her days at the intergalactic combat academy were so full of lessons and studying that very little time was left for reflection.
It was summer and like every other summer, for the past four years, she was waiting for the arrival of someone. The man who had taken her away from the smelly and rough streets of New London, where she was nothing more than cannon fodder for local gangs who enjoyed peddling and raping women in the slums, just to have sink in the message that society didn't care for those who lived in the Zero Level. That they weren't even seen or taken into account by those who lived on the upper levels.
She had dreamed as a child that her life would change, until at fifteen years of age she had said enough. She had rebelled against that hellish life and when the gang in his neighborhood had decided to sell her as a slave she had fled. But not before knocking the guard out with a steel pipe. She would have been killed for it if they had managed to catch up with her And they would have had it not been for that mysterious blue box popping out of nowhere with that rather bizarre little man inside; a worn out too long coat, spiky hair and running shoes. Doctor, he had called himself, and he had taken her away, among the stars, leaving her in the care of the very institute that forged the best warriors in the galaxy.
He had taken care of everything, he apparently was a sort of mentor or hero and the school owed him a great debt. She was enrolled without many questions asked on either her or her origins.
They were called the Doctor's Army, each human at the academy had been brought there by that same man with the kind smile. There weren't many of them, there was her, Martha, Amy and Rory. Humans weren't generally accepted at the school, being considered by may too fragile and weak. She had studied as hard as her classmates, however, and even though she was the youngest in her class she had given a hard time to many of them.
Her family had sold for a song to those scoundrels, too many children to support, and she was the oldest, they could do without her, so she spent her vacations with the sweet man and his TARDIS. But not that summer.
Something had happened, the day before everyone had left for their house, she had been sent a note saying that for that year the Doctor wouldn't come for her, that he was deeply sorry but that he had important business to attend to. She had taken that so hard she had cried for days. In the by now deserted school there were just her and a handful of professors. She would eat with them and spend her days training with her sword, or simply perched on one of the schoolyard's brick walls, just lost in her thoughts.
Lately things had started to get strange, it was as if there were holes in her memory, and the more she tried to force herself to remember, the more those memories vanished into thin air, became cigarette burns in her timeline.
She tried to remember the neighbourhood she grew up in but every time her attention was focused on a point, a door, or even just a face, they disappeared from her memory, leaving her frustrated and making her feel even more alone.
There was only one living thing that could make her feel better: the vice-headmistress Madame Vastra.
There was something about that woman, something that Jenny was trying to find in her mind, but that seemed to be like all the other memories, inconsistent and evanescent. She would often encounter her in the deserted hallways. The school was huge with its halls, library, canteen and student housing, yet they always ran into each other in the same place.
If Jenny had not been too busy figuring out why her memories were so confused and vague, she would have surely noticed those strange coincidences.
There was barely more than a week to the beginning of classes, Jenny could not wait to see her friends, she was missing the company enormously, and for as much as everyone had been kind to her, in the bottom of their eyes she could see the compassion they felt for the small human Jenny Flint, abandoned by everyone and wanted by no one. Only Madame looked at her differently, outwardly she would treat her coldly but she knew that her behaviour was not rude, she urged her to go on her way, never give up. She was a warrior who regarded her as an equal, and didn't consider her to be one of the Doctor's trained monkeys as did the others.
One afternoon Madame sat beside her. Jenny almost had a heart attack, she had not heard her coming. As soon as she turned her gaze and saw her, beautiful and proud admiring the garden with melancholy, she looked away embarrassed.
«There are only two things that this cloister inspires: peace and quiet, but I do not feel either of those in you, Jenny Flint.»
Vastra wouldn't look her way and apparently Jenny had been wrong in her first belief that the woman had not even seen her sitting there or otherwise she would never have sat down with her.
«That's correct ma'am. There is something that prevents me to be.» It was probably the first time they had spoken to one another. She was the best sword teacher of the entire institute, but aside from rare occasions it wasn't her who taught the lesson for she had to administer the school, the principal was never there, it is even rumoured that there was none at all and she was the actual headmistress. The cold Silurian incapable of feelings, who killed without hesitation and had not a shred of remorse, who hated every living being, feeling superior to everyone, or so people said.
But Jenny had never listened to the rumours that portrayed her as a cold and heartless monster, her gaze was the most gentle and calm that she had ever met. There was no greed or evil intent in them, only an intense serene blue sea.
«I'd like that, if you had anything to say, you'd tell me.» Vastra had finally turned to look at her straight in the eye, with such conviction that the young woman felt almost the urge to run away, it was as if she had caved in her and knew of her restlessness.
Jenny opened her mouth and closed it immediately, she could not tell her that her nights had become unusually agitated for some time, she dreamt of a different life, a life not hers. Horses and carriages, cobblestone streets and old-fashioned clothes that she had only seen in books of old photographs of Earth, all of which did not exist in the new world.
«I will. Thank you ma'am.» She said and both went back to their quiet and silent sitting on the wall one next to the other like marble statues, until a movement in the bushes attracted their attention.
Jenny looked instinctively to the adult who motioned for her to sit still and be quiet, the Silurian was awake and alert, she drew her sword with an elegance that Jenny found celestial and crouched behind a marble column.
Jenny followed her at a distance, not wanting to be a hindrance, but yearned to watch her idol while she used the sword, she longed to become at least half as good as her teacher, for that would still have made her the best swordswoman on New Earth.
The thing moved from one corner to the next without giving Jenny the time to understand where it was, but Vastra seemed to know well what was before them and after closing her eyes she flicked her tongue so fast that Jenny jumped up with fright.
There was a brief scuffle, but the thing managed to escape despite the impressive ability of the reptile.
«Do not tell anyone about what happened here.» Vastra turned to the young woman with shortness of breath and frustration in her voice.
«No, ma'am. You can count on my silence.» Promised Jenny who became more and more curious with every second that passed.
«But what was it? Do I have to defend myself from that creature?» She asked, hoping to get some answers while Vastra strode down the hall with Jenny trotting behind her like a puppy.
The Silurian whirled around towards her, suddenly remembering of her presence and, with her hands on the girl's shoulders, looked at her straight in the eye.
«You have to be careful, Miss Flint, careful that your dreams don't distract you.» Jenny's breath caught in her throat. How did she know of her dreams? She stopped in the hallway while the woman walked away with long strides until she disappeared inside the school.
Vastra watched the girl from the window of her quarters, it was dangerous for her to have those dreams, she could upset the foundations of that world, and the Silurian was not willing to lose everything. She had to make sure that the shadows in the girl's head remained confined in her subconscious, if they started to come out of her as they had that morning, no one would ever be safe.
Vastra knew what the girl was important. When the Doctor had brought her there she had refused to meet her, had sent someone else in her place, they were not supposed to ever meet, but this morning the shadow had upset her and had to venture to the cloister against her will. The doctor had warned her to stay away, that was the pact, and she tried to keep it, but it was difficult when the shadows started forming in Jenny's mind, and it would be even more difficult since that morning, now that the girl's scent was stuck in her brain and her self-control had been put to the test. She knew that she should not talk to her again, but her mind could only think of her since that time.
She looked at the device in her hand, it had a prisoner inside, that little ball flashed a number 1, already too many for her liking, and that morning they had almost become two. She sighed, leaning heavily against the window while her eyes rested again on the small human.
The more hours passed transforming sunlight into darkness, the more Jenny wanted answers. She had waited expectantly to run into the teacher again in some hallway, but it seemed that she had suddenly vanished into thin air. Jenny had been to the cafeteria and the library but there was no sign of her, so she tried every classroom and the gym but the girl had not been able to find her.
She knew that to know the exact location of the accommodation of the professors was against the rules, but Jenny Flint did not like rules much, so one day she had followed her teacher to her room in a wing of the institution that she had never seen before, probably masked by some mysterious device, a bit like her friend's TARDIS. It appeared to be just another classroom at the end of the hall on the third floor, but inside there was a long corridor with many doors each with a label with the name of the teacher housed in it.
And now she was there, in front of the door with the plaque that read, "vice-headmistress Madame Vastra, fighter, grand master of sword" she took a deep breath and knocked on the door. No one answered. She raised her fist again ready to knock when the door was opened by surprise. On the other side, the adult looked at her surprised and a little upset.
«I know I should not be here.» Jenny mumbled so fast that her own ears struggled to understand what she'd said. «But I thought about what you said to me this morning, about having to talk about my concerns.» Her excuse sounded too ridiculous to her own ears, much as it should appear to those of Madame.
«You should not even know of this wing.» Jenny had thought she would be scolded, instead Vastra's voice was resigned, as if she already known she'd know of that corridor.
«I know that you followed me.» Added the adult seeing the confusion on her face.
«Oh.» She could only respond by blushing.
«You're not as quiet as you think.» Smiled the teacher turning Jenny into a gibbering mess utterly unable to look at her in the eye.
«Come in, you need a good cup of tea to face your nightmares.» Said Vastra making way for her in her home.
The room was large and well furnished. She had a large desk in the centre of the room, full of scribbled sheets of paper, pens and some ultra-modern gadgets that Jenny was not entirely sure she understood what they were. The large window looked out towards one of the two Suns and it lit up the room with a light orange sunset so similar to that which existed on Earth.
A wicker chair was propped next to a shelf full of books. Some ill shapen volumes losing pages on shelves filled to the brim, threatening to fall and spill their secrets to the ground at the added weight of a single feather. Behind an half opened door Jenny could see the big perfectly made bed.
Vastra tried to make space on her desk for the teapot tray by piling books that fell to the ground in utter confusion. They both sat down and Jenny could see how even in the simplest of gestures the Silurian could be graceful and elegant.
«So.» She tried to start the conversation while the older woman handed her a cup of steaming tea, and Jenny was not sure there was even a stove in that room.
«You have to know that what you see in your dreams is not reality, not yours, so you must not try to remember what you see at night.» Vastra had spoken with clarity even before she could herself ask or make a coherent thought on why she was there.
«But I want to understand what happens. Why do I have the same dream every night only enriched with one more detail every time?» Jenny did not like that someone would give her orders, not even on what she should or should not dream.
«If you continue to do things your way you'll put everyone in danger.» The woman's tone was dry and detached, as if reading from a shopping list instead of telling her that the world depended upon her dreams.
«I can not understand ma'am.» She tried to timidly say.
«And you should not.» She ordered taking yet another sip of tea and angering Jenny as few others has ever succeeded in.
«I apologize for my disrespect, but I think I have the right to understand and to know what happened this morning in the cloister garden.» she said resolutely staring into Vastra's eyes and once again the blur of memories running through her brain left her stunned for some time.
«And it will happen more and more often if you try to remember or understand what you saw this morning. For heaven's sake you must do as I tell you, you have to trust me. Do not follow the darkness.» She tried to convince her earnestly.
«How can I ma'am, I do not even know you.» Or maybe I do, came to her head, but she forgot that he had once thought those words.
«Jenny, think, do you think that I could ever lie to you?» Her voice was soft and sweet, hypnotic in a way and she knew she had to trust her.
The rest of the tea was consumed in silence and after a brief embarrassed farewell Jenny walked to her room.
That night she again had her nightmare again, it was more vivid and real than ever, instead of helping her, Madame's words had disturbed her even more and that night she found herself panting and sweaty in her bed, her throat ached, she must have screamed during her sleep and was shaking like a leaf. She also remembered words this time: be careful.
A shadow moved to her right and Jenny immediately thought that there could be no shadows in the darkness, she saw it slip under her door and in no time she was standing with a torch in her hand, awake as if she had never slept.
She recalled with clarity Vastra's words to forget the shadows but she was Jenny Flint, the girl saved by the Doctor, she felt in her heart that he would have told her to follow her instincts.
She heard a noise and immediately crouched in the shadows, it seemed that someone else could not sleep that night, but in doing so lost sight of her goal and now she was almost scared to be in those dark corridors at night while the building was deserted. A thud, then another, steps approaching that seemed to belong to something twice her size.
Her breath came short as she quickly extinguished the torch not to be discovered around the corner and then a light illuminated her face.
«What are you doing out at this hour of the night, Miss Flint?» The surprised tone of Vastra made her breathe a sigh of relief and she almost laughed at her teacher in her nightgown, and if she had not been absolutely embarrassed to be found in her underwear with an unlit torch in hand in the middle of a deserted corridor, she would have thought that the whole situation was intriguing.
«I ... I couldn't sleep.» Jenny tried to lie, but she suspected Vastra already knew, in fact the look of the Silurian was unequivocal.
«I thought I had been clear this afternoon.» The teacher took her by the shoulders and was already bringing her back to her room when something passed beside them. They turned but the shadow was already gone again.
«Do not look down.» Vastra whispered so softly that Jenny thought she had imagined it.
«Run!» She heard the teacher screaming as she took her by the hand and dragged her into a mad dash to the upper floors of the building. Jenny struggled to keep up with the pace of those long legs and powerful muscles that she, as a human, didn't even think possible for her to have and when Vastra suddenly stopped she didn't have the time to stop and fell on the other woman who held her effortlessly in her arms. Jenny blushed, Vastra was speechless.
«From what we are running, damn it!» Asked the frightened young woman.
«We're not running away, we are chasing.» Informed the adult obsessively looking around and showing off her deadly forked tongue only to stop as still as thunderstruck.
«It's here.» She whispered more to herself than to Jenny who had no idea what the shadow on the wall really was, but before she could ask anything the shadow passed them quickly, and fled from the window.
Vastra hissed every possible Silurian curse while Jenny felt much more relieved.
«Go back to sleep.» Shot the frustrated reptilian.
«No, I'm not going back to that room alone, I'm sorry but I'd rather walk around the halls until dawn.»
«Alright, fine.» Grunted Vastra holding her hand and dragging her into her own room.
«You can sleep here. I'll check that they do not get you.» As relieved as she felt, Jenny was also embarrassed and anxious about sleeping in the headmistress room with her, in that one bed that she had seen through the half open door, with mysterious beings out there who wanted to kidnap her. She thought it would be a pretty hard night.
Vastra decided to watch over this girl while she slept in her bed, as soon as she touched the pillow she had fallen asleep, so still the Silurian had had to check she was still breathing.
The pact with the Doctor was clear, and she was determined to honour it, but she could not leave Jenny at the mercy of her fears and nightmares.
She would kept her at a distance, would not show her feelings, would hide them behind her facade of coldness. Plus there was always the dream that haunted her, that voice that announced disaster.
She heard the girl move and fidget in her sleep, those damn nightmares again and she could do nothing to help her.
She fell asleep in her chair next to the bed when it was already day.
Since that night, and for the remaining nights until the end of summer, Jenny took her pillow every night, and when the lights were all turned off and everyone was sleeping, she walked on tiptoe to the door of Vastra's room who now willingly accepted to see her appear in her door while she read. They had their daily tea ritual, both of them were native of London and were unable to give it up, and then Jenny fell asleep. When Vastra was absolutely certain that the young woman would not notice anything, she'd slip under the covers at her side until the morning.
The last summer night was no exception, except for a very realistic nightmare that caused Jenny to lose contact with reality.
Madame was with her through the streets of London and both were running against something that she could not see, there were gunshots, then a bullet had wounded Vastra and she was so worried the reptilian was dying, she felt her voice in tears calling the Silurian, their faces so close together, their breaths mingled, the adrenaline, the cold fog in her bones, the loneliness, the love she felt for the woman that weighed on her with a bleeding arm.
Her eyes fell open and the face that had inhabited her nightmares until a few seconds before was inches from her own. She narrowed her eyes, she had to kiss her. She moved an inch closer, biting her lip. The feeling of dread was still present in her chest, there were still a few inches between them. Vastra awoke and immediately realized what was about to happen.
«No.» She shouted full of terror. «Jenny you have to promise me you will not try again.» she said, shaking her by the shoulders, her voice so full of fear that she felt more scared than embarrassed by the situation.
«I'm sorry.» She mumbled even if she did not feel sorry in the least. She had always had a strange obsession with that woman, their meetings had been seldom and cold for all those years since she had gotten to the academy, yet she had always dreamt of being able to talk to her and be close to her. She did not know why she felt so vulnerable next to Madame Vastra, respect and fear of a creature so unique and dangerous of course, but also something deeper, as if she had known for some time that they were destined for something more. Her roommates teased her because of her fixation, and for as much as se was trying to look inconspicuous, inadvertently her gaze would rest on Vastra every time she passed her by and her head would shot up every time she heard her name. Martha often told her to look for a nice human girl and not waste time behind her fantasies of the Silurian, and as much as she tried there was always something about that strong and severe woman that brought her back in.
Vastra got out of bed and moved into her studio, sleeping on her chair had never felt more uncomfortable, but she did not want to take the risk of another similar incident.
That morning, Jenny left the headmistess' room before she woke up, too embarrassed by the incident that had occurred a few hours before.
Vastra awoke with a start. That voice again, that sentence again:
«The silence will fall and the girl will be twice lost.» She tried to drive it away from her head and began to prepare, for that day they would all come back from vacation.