It was dark and it was cold, and Carla was all alone.
The three hours since she'd woken up here - wherever ''here'' was - had felt like days. She'd curled herself up in the corner, her back leaning against the icy stone wall, trying to warm herself up by hugging her knees, but it was no good.
She'd cried out a couple of times, for her son and then even for her husband, which was ironic - but once the echo of her own pitiful voice died away she was left with the lifeless silence once more.
She had no idea what was happening but her brain was numb and her head hurt too much even to think about it. Tentatively she put a hand up to her throbbing temples and felt her own warm blood on her fingertips. She couldn't tell how much she'd lost but she knew it couldn't be good.
Suddenly a shaft of light appeared as a door opened. A figure, tall and dark and cloaked in shadows, entered the room.
The door closed.
It was dark and it was cold, and Carla was not alone.
It's good to be part of a team. It wasn't really something Clyde had been used to until he'd moved to Ealing. He'd always been popular at school, sort of a leader, but that was in a more casual, jokey sort of way, not a team in which you knew you could really rely on each other.
It was like that with Sarah Jane and the gang, he thought. Kind of like being on a ship. Sarah Jane maybe the - unassuming and unofficial - captain, being the one with the car and the supercomputer and the alien know-how, but Clyde and the others were all vital members of the crew. And that wasn't him boasting, for once. It was true. And it felt good.
It was hard to explain, but in a weird way he felt almost closer to Sarah Jane, Luke and Maria - and now Rani - than he did to his own mum. Connected, somehow. Like letting them down would be worse than betraying his own family.
When Maria moved away, he'd felt something he didn't recognise - he still couldn't put a finger on it - almost like losing a sister. Of course he could never tell Luke that. Not that Luke would be able to tease him exactly - Luke was a lot more open about missing Maria than Clyde was, and anyway he hadn't quite grasped the concept of taking the mick yet - but Clyde knew that the moment he told anyone he missed Maria, the feeling would change. He wasn't sure whether he wanted it to, or not.
He was brought suddenly back to earth when his maths teacher, Mr Lattman, dropped a heavy workbook on the desk right in front of him, making a loud banging sound.
Clyde was slightly bemused, but not really that bothered, to find that he'd completely dreamed away most of the lesson, and therefore had no idea what page he was supposed to be on.
Oh well. No surprises there.
He leaned over to look at his mate Danny's book; it was open on page 236. Algebra. How inspiring.
''And I'm sure you'll be very pleased to hear that I've marked your homework from last week, and the reward for those of you who actually handed it in - all six of you - will be that you won't have to stay behind after school today to explain why your weekend was far to hectic to manage one page of simplified expressions.''
Clyde sighed, looking down at his maths exercise book, today's page still empty except for a few absent-minded scribbles in the margin. Of course, he could explain why he hadn't really had time for maths homework that weekend. But somehow he didn't think that ''Please sir, I was too busy trying to save the world from being taken over by a freaky alien thing with no face who wanted to rewrite the whole of earth's history'' would go down too well with his teacher. Even if it was the truth.
''So, everyone except Laura, Bethany, Sam, Matthew, Amy and Rashid can stay behind after the bell rings,'' Mr Lattman continued. ''There's twenty minutes left of the lesson so you can all start thinking of some very good excuses while you complete exercises 2a and b.''
Clyde had battled Sontarans and Gorgons, Berserkers and shape-shifting clowns from outer space, but he was sadly powerless against portly maths teachers with too much time to spend handing out detentions.
Unless they were Slitheen in disguise, of course.
''Clyde, where have you been?'' Rani asked as he entered Sarah Jane's vast attic. ''We were supposed to meet here at 3:45! It's 4:30!''
''Is it?'' Clyde asked, grinning his trademark grin as he went to join Rani, Sarah Jane and Luke, who were standing in front of Mr Smith. ''Sorry. Had a Maths detention with Mr Fattman.''
Luke looked confused. ''There isn't a teacher at our school called Mr Fattman.''
Clyde rolled his eyes. Sometimes Luke's incredibly advanced, but also incredibly literal brain, was just too much to bear. ''It's a nickname, Luke. For Mr Lattman.''
Luke paused to consider this. ''So...changing the first letter of someone's name is funny?''
''Only if it makes a word that's funny. Fat man? And he's fat?''
Luke looked blankly at him.
''Oh, never mind,'' Clyde groaned. ''We'll get back to that later. What's this?'' he asked Sarah Jane, nodding at Mr Smith's screen, which was showing a lot of squiggly lines in different colours.
''Just a scan,'' said Sarah Jane, ''of the surrounding area. Mr Smith picked up some unusual energy spikes early this morning and we're just seeing what we can find.''
''My scan shows only one recent example of extra-terrestial activity,'' said Mr Smith in his calm, measured voice. ''A small ship has fallen into orbit around earth and has been broadcasting on a betawave frequency since 100 hours this morning.''
''Can you pick up the broadcast?'' Sarah Jane asked, that little bit of excitement and anticipation which Clyde knew so well creeping into her voice.
''Opening,'' said Mr Smith patiently.
There was a hiss and a crackle, and after a moment they heard a voice.
''...repeat, we need more subjects, a number of them have primaterminated. All scouts to report to the mothership.''
Then there was a scratching sound and Mr Smith's voice came again. ''Connection lost.''
''Whew. What was that all about?'' Clyde asked, eyebrows raised.
''I'm not sure,'' said Sarah Jane worriedly. ''Mr Smith, are you able to tell us the origin of the signal? The species?''
''No data,'' said Mr Smith infuriatingly.
''But what did it mean?'' asked Rani. ''What's - prima-whatsit-ated?''
''Primaterminated,'' Luke corrected her. ''It means something's died before it was supposed to.''
''That doesn't sound too good,'' said Clyde.
''No, it doesn't,'' said Sarah Jane. ''Mr Smith, keep an ear out for any other similar broadcasts, will you?''
''Understood. I will monitor the betawave,'' said Mr Smith.
''Well, I'd better get back,'' said Rani once they'd moved away from the supercomputer. ''Mum'll be wondering where I am.''
''Yeah, me too,'' said Clyde. ''Later, Luke. Bye, Sarah Jane.''
''Good bye, Clyde, Rani,'' said Sarah Jane.
''See you later, crocodile,'' said Luke.
Clyde groaned. Tomorrow he'd have to give Luke some more coaching.