(Author’s Note: This was written for a creative writing group I have recently joined. Like my previous story, it features Jenny Everywhere, possibly the same but a much older Jenny, though she is not its main focus. It’s still unpolished and needs some editing or tweaking but I’ll put it up so you can read, enjoy, critique…)
[Note: The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.]
[Warning: Contains mentions of torture and attempted rape as part of the backstory.]
Grangefield Park, Stockton-on-Tees, Tees Province, Interdimensional Federal Republic of Lyniezia
Saturday 7th October, 2034
Megan looked wistfully over the field at the kids practising football. It brought back memories of a happier time, before the Event, before the hell that the old country had become some twenty years before. No child would dared have played football in the park then- not that many had before, outside of practices; they’d have been sat in on their Xboxes, or hung out on the streets riding their BMXes and causing trouble like she and her friends did, with none of them caring for the fact she was a girl.
No, under the old Commonwealth, they’d have called it a Vain and Idle Pastime, and some stern-faced cop would grab you by the scruff of the neck, whack you across the backside and frog-march you home, where they’d give a stern lecture to your parents on the grave sin of letting your children have fun. But before that, football was still one of the more acceptable pastimes a child might be permitted, nay encouraged, to partake in… even if you were a girl. Of course few of the boys ever let her be in their games, back in primary school, but in secondary at least she got to try out for the girls’ team. Back when her Dad was still alive. He was football mad, a huge Boro fan, and he’d take her to see all the matches. He’d even encouraged her to try out for the team. It was him that the game reminded her of the most. He was one of the first they took. She never forgave them.
Then came the rationing, then came the rules, the ones that forbade you from doing anything even if you weren’t hungry enough to be put off, and being a girl only made things even worse. Why isn’t your head covered? Why are you wearing leggings? Oh, so you’ve been riding a bike, that’s why… so where’s your helmet? Oh, she’d stick to the rules alright… to the letter anyway. Cover your head? No-one said it couldn’t be with a baseball cap… or a bike helmet. Must wear a skirt at least down to your ankles? Well ride a bike and they couldn’t tell you off, that was the law. Couldn’t ride a BMX? Well no-one complained if you borrowed your mother’s old hybrid. But sooner or later they’d get you. They’d catch you for some minor infraction of the “appropriate attire for a female” crap, or you weren’t wearing the correct gear, or you’d strayed too close to Yorkshire and had forgot your internal passport, or that passport didn’t have the right stamp letting you cross the border, and if all that failed, they’d accuse you of being a “subversive”. (Which, when you were a teenage girl, was code for “having too much fun”, rather than doing your chores and preparing to be a good little housewife, and all that entailed.) But, never mind all that, riding a bike was the one freedom she had left. She’d not let them take that away from her.
Of course she hadn’t meant to be back here for very long. Periodically, of course, she’d come back, her, Jenny, and whoever else had been travelling the multiverse with them that time; just to see how her Mam was getting on and so she could refuse to talk to her sister Alice yet again- they never had got on. Mam was dying. She’d only taken a walk to clear the air, through Grangefield Park, past the football fields which had briefly been allotments she had dug and planted in herself when the beck hadn’t flooded, and had intended to carry on back up through Ropner Park and the old cemetery back home. But she had stopped, briefly, to watch the kids playing their game. It appeared to be all girls too, enjoying the freedom which once she had been denied. The hint of a smile began to form on her face, but it all too quickly faded as she looked beyond the children playing to see who else had been standing and watching.
The old man stood on the opposite side of the pitch, shouting and cheering for what appeared to be the team in the red shirts and one girl in particular (with longish blonde hair tied back in a ponytail), was still clearly recognisable after all this time, in spite of his greying hair and somewhat expanded girth. Megan instinctively reacted with fear and trepidation, her throat tightening and her body beginning to break out in a sweat. It was, or had been, Int. Sec. Captain YT-453, a.k.a. Jack Thompson.
Immediately her mind was cast back to the secret interrogation facility, with its drab off-grey painted walls and bare concrete floor, the constant beatings, the electric shocks, the sleep deprivation driving her to the edge of insanity, the shouting, the constant, incessant questioning trying to get her to confess to something – anything! – that would incriminate both herself and Jenny in some nefarious terrorist plot. And overseeing it all, his face, printed permanently on her mind, buried in the dark recesses until now, a face that when it was all over and the Lyniezians had tried to “liberate” the old Commonwealth, she could not be in the same room as and had had to testify to the courts that tried him for his crimes via video link. The worst part of it all was that, by express orders of the Lord Protector himself, torture of this kind was completely illegal even in the Commonwealth. But Int Sec, short for the notorious if shadowy Internal Security Service, was a law unto itself; if they answered to the Lord Protector it was in name only. If they wanted you, for whatever reason, you’d be bundled into the back of a nondescript white van and never seen again. If they wanted to charge you with anything, they’d beat a confession out of you whether you did it or not, and make you believe you did it if they could. If you were female – and sometimes if not – they would do other things to you, and would have with her if the Sec Mon hadn’t been taking an unusual interest and had the agent in question put in front of a firing squad almost immediately after the attempt; but Thompson, no, he’d got off scot-free, as in no way would he soil himself thus, but he’d look the other way whilst his subordinates had their way with her. Little defence it was before the Lyniezian courts, who had put the old bastard away, she’d hoped, for life. But here was he, stood here in the park, with that little girl running up to him and shouting “Grandad!” innocent and unknowing as to the monster he had once been. Unable to remain in that spot a second longer, she turned her face quickly away and made straight towards the edge of the park, pulling her hood tight over her head as if to disguise herself.
It was only as she was half-way down Hartburn Avenue that she realised that she was being followed. First footsteps, then an unmistakable voice:
“Miss Megan!” it shouted. (The form of address was in the Lyniezian style but the accent still carried the same old Northern English intonation.) “Miss Megan Whitehead!”
Megan picked up the pace, unfastening her jacket and fumbling awkwardly for the concealed-carry pistol she kept for situations like this. The footsteps behind her only picked up the pace, notwithstanding the age of the man to which they belonged. His voice, exasperated and sounding increasingly out of breath, called out again:
“Miss Megan, please, I don’t mean you any harm, I just mean to tell you something!” Megan pretended to ignore him and darted through the nearest park gates. Still the old man followed. She felt a hand touch her shoulder, and as if by instinct, froze, whirled around and awkwardly pulled the gun out of its holster, aiming it at Thompson’s face.
Both stared at each other in equal parts fear and trepidation. After a while, Thompson spoke up:
“Please, Miss Megan, I assure you I am completely unarmed! I simply wish to talk to you!”
“Back off, creep!” she shouted back. “Don’t think I won’t use this on you!”
The old man glanced at the gun in her hands.
“I don’t see what you think you are going to do to me with the safety off…”
Undeterred, Megan released the safety catch…
Later that evening, at Megan‘s family’s home
It had been difficult for Megan to come to terms with the events of that afternoon. Thankfully no-one in the vicinity appeared to have noticed the gun and no police had been called, which was cold comfort to the mental anguish she’d gone through in that moment. Jenny had, as so often been the case over the last twenty years and despite her initial reluctance to take on the role, proven the one shoulder available to cry on, as the saying went. It was no use troubling her Mam, who was facing too many difficulties of her own, and Alice was, well, Alice. Though they’d never been intimate- her Jenny hadn’t been interested in that sort of thing even with men – they’d stuck by each other longer than any of those sort of girlfriends; it was, therefore, to Jenny she related her tale.
“I really was almost about to pull that trigger for a moment,” she’d told her, trying her level best to compose herself. “And then… I just thought about that little girl calling him ‘Grandad’. I mean… that little girl might just for a second might have been me. I mean, what if that bastard had been my dad? Could I have lived with that?”
“I’m not sure I could either,” Jenny had replied, “and I’ve met enough of his sort in my time to line ‘em up in front of a wall and take a machine gun to the lot!” Both laughed somewhat nervously.
“But what gets me is he kept saying ‘I have something to tell you, something you need to hear’- as if he really meant it. I mean, I told him I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say to me, I eventually got him to back down, he still told me that he’d be there next Saturday if I changed my mind, and… just what am I going to do?” Tears began to well up in her eyes.
Jenny had little immediate answer but to offer a comforting hug. After a while, she replied:
“I’m sure we can work something out. We usually do.”
The following Saturday
It had been too difficult for Megan to face Thompson again. She wasn’t sure that if she did see his face one more time, she might be able to overcome her anger this time in spite of all other considerations. So it was, in the end, Jenny who had gone in her stead, up to the football field at Grangefield Park, where the girls were once more playing football. It had not in the end been too hard to recognise the old man, even though Jenny had only seen him at the trial twenty years before. She’d even used her old contacts in Army Intelligence, to which she had let herself be recruited when the Lyniezians moved in and ousted the Commonwealth, to pull a few strings and get her access to his file just in case, and anything else she could find out that might shed light on the mystery. What she managed to dig up unveiled some intriguing possibilities, but due to a mixture of uncertainty and an unwillingness to stretch regulations too far, she had not told Megan.
As easy as it had been for her to spot Thompson, so was it just as easy for him to spot Jenny. Her trademark goggles and scarf combination, which she always wore wherever it was appropriate, probably gave her away.
“Ah, the famous Jenny Everywhere,” he called to her. “Or should I say infamous?”
You needn’t talk in your position, she thought to herself, but for the moment decided to keep things at least civil.
“I’ve been called both too many times to be flattered either way,” she instead replied with more than a hint of snark.
“So, I see Miss Megan has sent you in her stead. Why, is she too afraid of me or just too afraid she might kill me for real?” (Jenny quite frankly wished she could do the latter herself.)
“I think we should just get down to brass tacks, Captain; I don’t have all weekend. So, what is this about? I hope it isn’t just you come to make some half-arsed apology and claim you never meant to do any of what you did, just-following-orders, we-did-what-we-had-to-do-back-then nonsense. Heard far too much of that off you people, and I’ll be really disappointed if that’s all you’ve got.”
Thompson shook his head and let out a cautious laugh.
“No, nothing of the sort, Miss Jenny. I would not seek to waste your or your friend’s time over such mindless trivialities. I know full well I did some things in those days which were… not exactly morally justifiable, and I think I’ve more than done my time.” (Frankly Jenny wished they could have thrown away the key, preferably into a jar of strong acid where it would quickly dissolve, but Lyniezian justice felt twenty years more than enough for anyone to be rehabilitated except in the worst of cases.)
“But one thing I will stand by,” he continued as if all that didn’t matter, “is that what I did I did to defend my country, from the terrorist threat.” (Which meant her, or, more accurately, the other her, her less-than-conscientious alter ego, the subject of which was a story in itself.) “For better or worse, I always put Britain first.”
“Which is why, I suppose, you talk like a Lyniezian now, eh?” Jenny inquired; the irony not lost on her.
“Ah, you mean the names. Well, twenty years in a Lyniezian correctional facility will rub off on you. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, I always say, and sometimes…”
“An-y-way,” Jenny interrupted, “can we please get on with it? I want to know what it is that you so desperately wanted to tell Megan- and so does she.”
Thompson beckoned her closer.
“I don’t exactly want this being made public in front of all these young lasses and their parents here,” he whispered, gesturing towards the field, where the team in red shirts had just scored a goal accompanied by wild shrieks of joy all round. “We’ve both been in similar games; I’m sure you’ll appreciate the need for secrecy in certain matters.” (Of all those matters, Jenny’s spy status was unfortunately one of the more open secrets in the entire Lyniezian ’empire’, being information that the other realities she operated in were not privy to.) “What I had to say was meant for Megan’s ears alone, as a sort of attempt to make amends; that being so, I can tell you this much: it concerns her father. He is not quite as dead as you might suppose. I am not at liberty to say more than that. But, I came prepared.” Pulling two envelopes out of his jacket pocket, he explained: “This first letter is my own; it explains what I meant to tell your friend, since I expected I’d not be so well received somehow. The second is from her father. Please could you ensure that she receives both letters?”
Jenny, visibly somewhat distrustful and puzzled by this latest revelation (and only barely paying attention to the equally puzzling fact that people still wrote actual letters placed in actual envelopes), took both envelopes.
“I’ll make sure she gets them,” she replied, “but you need to know a few things: first, we tend to share most of our secrets, and you can be sure I will be checking up on your rather bold assertions. Second, if I ever, ever hear of you approaching Megan again, well let’s just say I hope your little granddaughter isn’t around to see what my gun will do to your head. In short, I don’t like you, and I don’t trust you. Am I perfectly clear?”
“I had hoped you could have been a little less direct but, yes.”
“Then our business is done. Best of luck to your nintansa and her team”, Jenny concluded, somewhat mockingly of Thompson’s new-found Lyniezian speech patterns. She beat a hasty retreat.
It was hard for Megan to accept the few details Jenny had related to her concerning her father, let alone open either of the letters. Unmistakably, one of the letters was from her father- she could still recognise the handwriting from the old-style postcards he had sent her when he went away from time to time, and she had kept to remember him by, safe along with her other most private possessions from the prying eyes of police (who would inevitably search the house from time to time) in parts only she knew. No need to consult Jenny’s “connections” for that bit. But with one parent on the verge of death, the knowledge that the other whom she long supposed to be dead was, in fact, not – let alone that the news came via the one man she probably hated most in the entire multiverse – was a little too much to bear at that point in time. It would have to wait.
Mam’s funeral had been a quiet affair, with only Megan, Alice, Jenny and a few of Mam’s old friends attending the service over at the crematorium on Junction Road, along with the local vicar whom the old lady had, being a devout (if liberal) Christian in a country which had long since ceased in the main to have anything to do with religion of any sort, insisted on presiding over the funeral service in her will. Alice still steadfastly refused to talk to Megan even at the wake, not that anybody felt much like talking. It was a habit the younger sister would seem to be continuing for the rest of time, even in spite of any curiosity she might have felt about her father’s apparent return from the dead. But a burning curiosity would, eventually, cause Megan to open the letters that would reveal the truth.
It had turned out that not only had her father not been dead, but that the reason for his disappearance had not even had anything to do with some purported subversive activity the regime had suspected him of. He had been, in fact, recruited into the heart of it all along, as an agent for the Sec Mon, “the secret police’s secret police” as they had come to be known. But it had been for him an opportunity to ensure that the worst excesses of the regime’s atrocities, and it was in fact he who had ensured his daughter’s would-be rapists at the Int Sec interrogation facility had faced the rough justice of the Commonwealth and, secretly, had been a witness in getting its overseer put away. Yet, it had transpired, he and Thompson had, for some brief moment, shared a cell together and come to an awkward understanding. Lyniezian justice, though equally as uncompromising as Commonwealth justice, was at least somewhat more fair- indeed, thought Megan, a little too fair on the likes of Thompson. She could still not bring herself to forgive him- the mental scars too great, the atrocities he had partaken in too horrible for that to happen. She was not sure what to think of her father- the shock of his involvement in the regime a little too much to give her a great deal of comfort, but with the consolation that, in whatever way he could, he still loved and cared about her, and tried to do the best he could.
One thing is for sure, though- Megan would never again walk through Grangefield Park to clear her head, nor to see the kids playing football on a Saturday afternoon, enjoying the freedoms she had once been denied. Instead, the multiverse beckoned, with promises of more adventures to come.
 “Nintansa” means “little girl” in Lyniezian.