As Samantha came out of the dining hall, she looked around for Jamie, but
it was clear that Tori had already secured him; she was close beside him,
gripping his arm a little more firmly than might be considered appropriate
for mere friendship. Slash and Jezebel, who seemed to constitute Tori's
retinue, were keeping close guard on either side.

With a scowl, Samantha turned away. As she did so, there was a nervous tap
on her shoulder.

"Cleo, could I have a word?"

Samantha, who'd jumped at the touch, tried to force herself to be calm as
she turned to see who'd approached her. To her surprise, she found herself
looking at a familiar face: that of Gwendoline. Compared to the girl in
Samantha's universe this Gwendoline looked somewhat thinner and more worn,
but compared to how different Tori and Slash were, she was a positive double.

"Sure," Samantha said.

"Not here. Somewhere private."

Samantha nodded, and let Gwendoline lead her the short distance to what, in
her home universe, would be the school chapel. It turned out to be one here,
too. At the first glance, it looked reassuringly normal; Samantha had been
half-expecting bones from sacrifices, or severed heads on spikes. It took a
second, longer look, for her to pick up details like the huge, stylised sword
on the reredos instead of a cross, or the fact that the angel supporting the
lectern had a cat's head.

Samantha took a seat near the back, and motioned Gwendoline to take a seat
beside her.

"What did you want to say?" she asked.

"Um..." Gwendoline looked positively terrified. "I mean..."

"Come on, Gwendoline, spit it out."

Gwendoline took a deep breath. "You're not the real Cleo, are you?"

"What?" Samantha tried to keep her composure. "Why d'you think that?"

"Three reasons." Gwendoline seemed a little calmer now she'd broached the
topic. "I'm sensitive, you know. To... body language, I suppose you'd call it.
You look like the real Cleo, even sound like her, but you don't move like
her. She struts; yes, I think that's the right word. As if she's not afraid
of anything." Gwendoline swallowed. "Except Tori, of course. Everyone's
afraid of Tori.

"The second reason is if I'd spoken to the real Cleo like I'm talking to
you I'd be on the floor by now and she'd be kicking seven kinds of slok out
of me."

"Bloody hell," Samantha said. "What was the other reason?"

"You called me Gwendoline."

"That isn't your name?"

"It is, but I don't use it at school." Gwendoline shivered. "Life's hard
enough here without people thinking I'm a stuck-up little ma'am. So I go by

"Right. Wendy. Got it." Come to think of it, Gwendoline's accent did
sound rather more Estuary than her counterpart's back home. "I'm Sam,"
Samantha said, and stuck out her hand.

Gwendoline didn't take it. "And why are you going round pretending to be

"It's not like I had a choice. We just got dumped here. I don't even know
where 'here' is, except it's GH something."

"Grade Hill. Our headmaster's Mr Powell."

"Doesn't ring a bell."

"Where are you from, Sam?"

"It's called H G Wells High School. And how I got here... I suppose
you could say it's a mirror universe, if you know what one of them is."

Gwendoline nodded. "That makes sense. A parallel universe where everyone's
different somehow. Even the initials: H G instead of G H. Is your world
better or worse than this one?"

"Better. This is definitely the evil universe. Sorry."

"Don't be. It's not your fault." Gwendoline finally took Samantha's hand.
"Is there one of me in your world?"


"What's she like? If you don't mind my asking."

"She seems a bit... I dunno, dim. Compared to you, I mean. Or maybe lazy,
like she never takes the trouble to understand something properly."

"I can see that. Maybe that's how I'd have been if I hadn't come here. You
need your wits about you to survive in this place." She nodded at the statue
of the cat-headed angel. "As Tevildo said, 'He that seeketh power must first
gather knowledge.'"

"Yeah, we say something like that in our world." Unbidden, the image of
Jezebel handing snapshots to Tori at lunchtime flickered across Samantha's
consciousness. "Is that why everyone's so scared of Tori? Because of what she

Gwendoline shuddered. "She's got the dirt on everyone. *Everyone*. And
nobody knows where she keeps the evidence. Not on her, and she doesn't take
it home. Eric Klieg tried grabbing her on the bus and searching her." She
shuddered again. "He's never been right since. And Mr Robson broke into her
locker and it wasn't there either. The next day he was arrested. Is there a
Tori in your world?"

"Well, there's a girl who looks like her. But she wouldn't hurt a fly. I'd
never believe she could be anything like Tori."

"And I find it hard to believe there could be a nice version of Tori."
Gwendoline looked around nervously. "We'd better not stay here too long. Tori
might start wondering where you are. Was there anything else you wanted to

"Slash. That isn't her real name, is it?"

"No. I don't think anyone knows her real name. Not even the teachers."

"So why do they call her Slash?"

Gwendoline grimaced. "It's better that you don't know. Just thinking about
it makes me feel sick."

"Right." Samantha cast around for another subject. "I can't place Nik.
What's his surname?"

"Kelly. You mean he doesn't exist in your world?"

"Kelly." Samantha snapped her fingers. "I knew that ponytail was familiar.
We've got a girl called Gia instead of him. Is Nik into engineering?"

"I suppose so. He's got a motorbike he's always tinkering with." Gwendoline
rose to her feet. "And now I really must run along. Stay here a minute or so
after I've gone. It's better if no-one sees us together. Oh, and good luck
for rugby practice this afternoon."

"Rugby?" Samantha echoed. The entry on the timetable in Cleo's satchel had
merely read 'Games.' "Is that what we're doing?"

"I'm afraid so," Gwendoline said. "Here's hoping we survive it."


Samantha was halfway to the locker room when Jamie caught up with her.

"You've had no word from home?" he asked.

"None," Samantha replied. "You?"

"Nothing. Sam, what'll we do if they can't get us back? These people
everyone thinks we are -- Hamish and Cleo -- we canna go to their homes.
And as for Victoria-- Tori--"

"I know." Samantha squeezed his hand. "She's pure poison, isn't she?
Listen, we need to make sure she doesn't see us together. She's got a down
on me already because she thinks I'm trying to nick you off her."

Jamie's mood seemed to lighten momentarily. "And you're not?"

"I can't be, can I, you divvy? You're not hers in the first place."

"Tell that to her." Jamie's brief smile faded. "She kept asking me if I'd
sold anything. I couldnae make out what she meant."

"Drugs, probably."

"That'd make sense. I found some pills in the satchel." Jamie's worried
look deepened. "It's not safe for you here. I'm thinking if we can't get
back by tonight we'll have to make a run for it."

"This is Otherside," Samantha said gloomily. "D'you think it's any safer
out there than in here?" She caught sight of her watch. "Got to go, I'm
nearly late for rugby."

She covered the rest of the distance to the locker room at a run. It did
not improve her composure that Jezebel arrived mere moments later, sadly
shook her head at Samantha, and plunged into a whispered conversation with


Even if Samantha had been an enthusiastic player of Rugby football, the
waterlogged field on which the girls assembled would not have looked
the slightest bit inviting. As it was, with a gentle mizzle falling and a
tendency to sink to one's ankles should one stand in the same place for too
long, Samantha thought it looked like bleak misery made manifest.

"Right, you lot!" Samantha recognised the voice as that of Mr Pink. She
looked round, to see that unlike her home universe's version, this one had a
neatly-trimmed goatee. "Let's get you moving--"

He broke off, at the sound of a shriek followed by a squelch. Samantha
looked round, to see Gwendoline sitting in a puddle with a miserable
expression on her face.

"Wendy, of course," Mr Pink said. "One of these days it'd be nice to get
through a lesson without one of your pratfalls."

"Someone pushed me, sir," Gwendoline snivelled.

"Good for them if they did. Maybe you'll learn some grit."

/So much for any help from him,/ Samantha thought, as the girls went
through their stretches and twists. /Survival of the fittest, I suppose
he'd say./ She glanced at the group, their yellow-and-purple rugby shirts
already soaked by the rain. /Or maybe he just gets off on torturing us./

Once the girls had completed their warm-up exercises, Mr Pink promptly
picked out two captains -- one of them Tori, of course -- had them select
teams, and launched the group into a full-scale match. Samantha, relying on
vague memories of rugby league matches she'd seen her brother watching on TV,
tried to hang back and keep out of trouble, but to no avail; she found the
ball thrown to her, caught it, and was promptly tackled headlong into a pool
of freezing sludge.

"I told you to keep your nose clean," Tori's voice whispered in her ear.
"Maybe this'll help you to remember."

Samantha felt Tori's hand on the back of her head, and her face was pushed
deep into the mud. She squirmed, trying to break free, but could gain no
purchase in the slippery ooze.

"Next time it'll be head first down the toilet for you," Tori added,
emphasising her remark with a further shove. Then she let go, and Samantha
managed to raise her head and spit out a mouthful of mud.

"Well played, Tori," Mr Pink's voice called, somewhere in the distance.
"Cleo, stop rolling about in that puddle and get back to the game."

With her hair matted with mud and her face burning, Samantha gritted her
teeth, scraped muck from her eyes and staggered to her feet. The end of a
games lesson had never seemed further away.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 4 - Part 5

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