By the time the exhausted girls squelched off the pitch, Samantha was
certain there wasn't a clean inch left on her body. Though the game had been
brutal and all the players, even Tori, were nearly indistinguishable under
their coating of grime, Samantha was in a different league of filthiness.
Where Tori had led, Slash, Jezebel, Nancy and numerous others had followed,
and Samantha had spent far more of the game pinned helplessly in the mud
beneath a heap of bodies than she had on her feet. By the end, even the
girls supposedly on her side had been piling in. At first she'd tried to
fight back, but the odds had been hopeless, and she'd fairly soon given up
on that idea. Mr Pink's only contribution had been to blame her for
deliberately collapsing a scrum and deduct five points from Kovarian House.
Not even Gwendoline, who certainly hadn't been immune from the others' gentle
attentions, could compare to the appalling state Samantha found herself in
at the final whistle.

"Are you all right?" Gwendoline asked, falling in with her as they made
their way back to the changing rooms. There was no danger of their being
overheard; Tori was some distance away, rejoicing in her team's performance
and exchanging high-fives with her hangers-on.

"I've got bruises all over," Samantha said. "And muck everywhere, and I
mean *everywhere*. Tori and her crew just don't stop, do they?"

"She doesn't mind getting her hands dirty." Gwendoline shrugged. "They
were so busy with you I got off lightly this week. I usually end up like you
are now."

"How d'you cope with it?"

"I'm the daft girl they play pranks on. I try to keep things that way. If
they're laughing at me they're not doing worse." Gwendoline pushed her
mud-caked hair out of her face. "At least this stuff washes off."

"Doesn't mean I've got to like it," Samantha said. "That Slash shoved about
twenty tons of oomska down my neck and up my--"

"Sam, listen. What Tori and her gang have done to you so far is just --
well, teasing, by their standards. Tori still thinks you're her friend Cleo
and just need putting in your place. If she finds out you're not... she just
better hadn't, that's all. And she's not the only one. Cleo's made a lot of
enemies in this school." Gwendoline paused, and looked nervously around her.
"You need to get back to your universe before someone finds out."

I know. But I don't see how. It was something Ted Maxtible was doing in
the physics lab that got me here. Dunno what. Maybe if Pat and the others
can work out how to do it backwards, they can pull us back. I suppose."

"Then I wish you the best of luck, Sam. You'll need it." Gwendoline winced.
"In Mairon's name, you'll need it."


By the time Samantha had finally got the last of the mud out of her hair
and emerged from the showers, which had long since run out of hot water,
it was well into the afternoon break and the changing room was almost empty.
Not completely, though. Jezebel, who'd finished showering and changed back
into her uniform ages before, was leaning against the lockers with her usual
air of casual impudence.

"Great game, wasn't it, Cleo?" she said. "Wish I'd got some snaps of you.
You really were a picture."

"Yeah, well, it's all part of the game, isn't it?" Samantha said, trying to
sound equally casual.

"Sure. As long as you don't make eyes at Hamish, that's all it is." Jezebel
turned and looked into the mirror above the nearest handbasin, as if to make
sure her own spiky hairdo had recovered from the rigours of the game. "You've
got a cushy number with us, Cleo. Don't ruin it."

She drifted elegantly away. Samantha shrugged, and set about donning her own
uniform. Before she'd finished, though, Gwendoline tapped her on the shoulder.

"I think you might have dropped your keys," she said meekly. "By the last
washbasin on the left."

"Not mine, Wendy," Samantha said, conscious that anyone on the other side
of the row of lockers might hear what they were saying. "Go and bother
someone else."

She finished dressing, then made her way cautiously to the washbasin
Gwendoline had mentioned. The mirrors were still fogged; looking in them,
it was scarcely possible to make out more than the vaguest outline. And,
written in the condensation in the top right-hand corner, the word ?AM.

Cautiously, Samantha reached out and touched the lettering. It seemed to
be on the far side of the glass, if that made any sense. And she noticed
that the dim, reflected silhouette was only now raising its hand, carefully
shaping words with its finger.


Samantha scrawled a hasty OK on her side of the glass. The figure nodded,
and ducked out of view. Samantha turned away, then returned to the mirror
and wiped her towel across its surface. The condensation cleared, leaving
her own worried face looking back at her.


Even after the threats Tori had issued, Samantha knew she had to risk
speaking to Jamie. She found him not too far from the boys' changing rooms,
walking with an undeniable limp.

"What happened to you?" she asked.

"We were playing hockey," Jamie said. "What d'ye think happens when you give
a gang of clabastairean like that great big wooden sticks?"

"Ouch." Samantha gave him a sympathetic look. "Was it that Nik who did it?
He looks a nasty piece of work."

"No, some great brid called Brian who kept shouting all the time. Not
your brother: I think this one's what they've got here instead of Pat. But
they're all nasty pieces of work. Did you get hurt?"

"Just bruises," Samantha said. "And Tori and her gang pretty much buried me
alive, but Gwendoline says by her standards that's just teasing." She glanced
around hastily. "Listen, I need to tell you. We've got to be at the physics
lab at quarter past five."

"That's when they can bring us back?"

"I just hope so."

"And until then we stay out of trouble. It'd not do to end up in detention."

"Yeah, I bet detention here's no picnic." Samantha gritted her teeth.
"Pity. I'd like to do something about that Tori."

The expression that came into Jamie's eyes was one that Samantha was all
too familiar with: he was running through his extensive knowledge of pranks,
schemes and jolly japes. "Maybe we can," he said casually.

"I don't see how we can stop her racket," Samantha said. "But even taking
her down a peg or two, that'd be something." She jumped as the bell sounded
its mournful note. "Catch you later," she said, planted an impulsive kiss on
Jamie's cheek, and hurried off to her next lesson.


To Samantha's slight relief, the next lesson was mathematics. It wasn't by
any means her favourite subject, but at least numbers should work the same
way from one universe to the next. A glance at Cleo's history textbook, which
began with King Hardrada's victory at the battle of Hastings, had been enough
to convince her that she'd have exposed her ignorance in seconds.

What was less comforting was that she was sharing a desk with Slash, who'd
obviously been smoking again in the break, and possibly not confined herself
to tobacco. Between randomly kicking Samantha, defacing her books, copying her
work, and stabbing the desk with a pair of compasses, she gave every
impression of being one wrong word away from a full-on psychotic episode. As
Samantha had come to expect, there would be no help from the teacher. Mr
Lethbridge-Stewart was happy to turn his blind eye in their direction, while
he strayed away from the text of his lesson to reminisce about suppressing
native uprisings in colonial territories.

"Oi!" Slash hissed, while Mr Lethbridge-Stewart was in full flow burning
some unfortunate tribe's village to the ground. "Want some?"

She gestured to the open bag at her feet. Between the battered, graffiti-
covered exercise books, Samantha caught a glimpse of a small bottle and
something beside it that might have been a syringe.

"I'm good, thanks," she whispered back, and realised at once that was
exactly the wrong thing to have said.

"Suit yourself." Slash zipped the bag shut, and seemed to think no more of
the matter. But for the rest of the lesson, she seemed to tire of bullying
Samantha, spending more time gazing absently into the middle distance. It
might just have been an effect of whatever mental state she was in; but
Samantha rather feared she had given Slash too much food for thought.

On the plus side, the comparative lack of distractions made it easier for
Samantha to follow her own train of thought. Everything here -- at least,
everything that she'd come up against so far -- came back to Tori, one way
or the other. And Tori, in turn, depended on her collection of blackmail
material. Where could she have hidden it, and hidden it so well that nobody,
in this school of sneaks and spies, could find it?

She turned the question around in her head. Victoria, in her world, was so
open and honest that the question of her deliberately hiding anything was
ludicrous. But there had been that time when Jamie had borrowed her biology
textbook, and somehow managed to lose it without knowing how...

/Yeah/, Samantha thought. /That could be--/

Slash chose that moment to throw a vicious punch at her, and for the
moment Samantha was forced to postpone her line of enquiry.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 5

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