/Five to five/, Samantha thought. /Not much time./

It had taken her long enough to get away from Slash and make sure none of
Tori's other henchgirls, let alone Tori herself, were covertly following her.
There had then been a further agonising delay until she'd spotted Gwendoline
setting out for the bus stop.

Samantha braced herself, and tried to walk across the schoolyard as if she
owned the place. Or strut, to use Gwendoline's word. Sooner or later someone
else would catch on that she wasn't Cleo -- Slash was halfway there
already -- but until then, her only hope was to make use of her counterpart's
reputation as a bully.

"Wendy!" she called, in the tones of a sergeant-major. "Yeah, you. Here,

Gwendoline jumped, but made no protest as she meekly hurried across to
where Samantha was standing. Nor did she make any remark as Samantha marched
her back into the school and through its corridors, until they Samantha
came to a halt by the door she wanted.

"Sam!" Gwendoline squeaked. "We can't go in there. That's the boys'--"

"Exactly." Samantha took a firm hold of Gwendoline's arm. "But Tori and
her mates can go where they like, can't they?"

She kicked the door open. The lavatory appeared to be nearly deserted
except for one unfortunate boy standing in front of a urinal.

"Hop it, kid," Samantha said. "Or you'll never piss standing up again."

Ricky Smith -- for it was he -- fled, fumbling desperately with his
trouser zip.

"Here." Samantha more or less dragged Gwendoline into the third cubicle from
the end wall, and slammed the door behind them. "Now get up on the seat and
make a back."

"Eurgh," Gwendoline moaned, trying to balance above the noisome lavatory
while minimising her contact with it.

"Better than having Tori shove our heads down there," Samantha said.

She clambered onto Gwendoline's back, and walked her hands up the wall
until she reached the ancient, cobweb-encrusted cistern. It was bolted to
the wall, but the bolts were just as old and rusty as she'd hoped. A firm
tug -- which nearly sent them both crashing to the floor -- and the cistern
rocked forward on its mountings, exposing a dark void in the wall behind it.
Samantha slipped her hand in, and felt her fingers close around damp

There were footsteps outside, and the cheerful sounds of two teenage boys
discussing some murderous variant of football. Moving as quickly as she
dared, Samantha extracted the plastic-wrapped bundle, pushed the cistern back
into place, and perched uncomfortably on the front of the toilet seat while
Gwendoline crouched behind her. Fortunately, the two visitors -- one she
recognised as Mike Yates, while the other, unknown to her, seemed to be
called 'Jack' -- only made a brief visit, and to her disgust didn't even
bother to wash their hands before leaving.

As soon as the coast was clear, Samantha and Gwendoline made their escape.
The briefest glance at Samantha's prize was enough to confirm that here was
Tori's archive of blackmail material: a pink scrapbook, decorated with roses,
and wrapped in plastic to protect it from the damp. She flipped through it,
nodding to herself at the sight of letters, photocopies, snapshots, all neatly
annotated in Tori's copperplate handwriting.

"How did you know?" Gwendoline asked, still pale and shaking from their

"In my world Jamie borrowed a textbook off Victoria," Samantha said. "That's
our Hamish and Tori. He hid it on top of the cistern for a joke, but the next
morning it had gone. Mr Jackson the caretaker found it months later. Turned
out someone pulled the chain so hard the cistern came away from the wall and
the book went down behind it. Don't suppose it happened quite like that in
this world."

"No-one would play tricks on Tori. Not even Hamish."

"Then it's about time someone did. Anyway, I suppose she was nosing around
and found the place. No-one'd think of a girl hiding something in the boys'

"Or even going in there." Gwendoline grimaced. "It was foul."

"Like you said, she doesn't mind getting her hands dirty." Samantha looked
at her watch. "Anyway, got to run. Hope things get a bit better for you."

"They won't," Gwendoline said. "But thank you anyway, Samantha."


Jamie had reached the lab first, and held up a warning hand as Samantha
appeared in the doorway.

"Step across it," he said. "Don't trip."

Samantha looked down, and spotted the barely-visible fishing wire stretched
across the doorway at calf height. Having taken a suitably large and careful
step over the threshold, she looked up. A plastic bin hung precariously at an
angle from the ceiling, its mouth pointing in the direction of the doorway.

"You've been busy," she said. "What's in that?"

"You'll see," Jamie said. "If we're still here when she comes."

"D'you think she will?"

"I got Mary Lopez to write a note like it was from you, saying you'd meet me
here now. And I made sure Nik saw it. Aye, I think she'll come."

"If I had the time I'd kiss you." Samantha was already rummaging in a
cupboard. "But I've got to get this done first."

Jamie shot her a curious glance. "What have you got there, then?"

"Nothing much." Samantha extracted a stand from the cupboard and closed
the jaws of its clamp on the scrapbook. Setting the stand on a workbench,
she took a Bunsen burner from the cupboard and rammed its tube onto the
nearest gas tap. "Only Tori's crown jewels. And I'm gonna burn them right in
front of--" She froze in horror. "Matches! Have you got any?"

Jamie shook his head. "Try your satchel. Maybe your Cleo smokes."

Samantha upended the satchel, spreading its contents across the floor, and
snatched a cigarette lighter from the litter. "Might have known. Right, here

She turned the gas tap and snapped the lighter over the burner, until a
yellow tongue of flame appeared at its apex. Even as she turned the ring at
the burner's base, and the flame shrank into a hard blue cone, the click of
high heels could be heard approaching down the corridor. A moment later, a
small, familiar, demure silhouette appeared in the doorway.

"Cleo!" Tori's voice said, cool and refined and deadly as ever. "And
darling Hamish as well, I see. I have been very patient with both of--"

"Hey, Tori," Samantha called back. "Look what I found."

She pushed the Bunsen burner into position under where the scrapbook hung
on its stand.

Perhaps under normal circumstances, Tori would have been more cautious. But
with her mind full of nothing more than her greatest treasure in peril, she
dashed forward. Her leg caught on the tripwire, the bin abruptly tipped, and
a torrent of viscous purple liquid descended on her. She shrieked, flailed
for balance, slipped, and made an ungainly landing on her backside.

"Blimey," Samantha said. The scrapbook was by now well ablaze; she picked
up a second clamp and began to beat at the mass of paper, ensuring that no
half-burned fragments would survive. "Are you gonna say what that stuff is

"Paint," Jamie said. "Well, mostly."

With the aid of a nearby lab stool, Tori finally managed to drag herself to
her feet. Frantically, she pulled a lace-edged handkerchief from her sleeve,
wiped at her eyes, and conducted a hasty inventory of the damage.

"My hair!" she wailed. "My jacket! My <em>shoes</em>!" Then she caught sight
of the blazing remains of her scrapbook, and the blood drained from her face,
the blobs and streaks of paint standing out jarringly against her sallow
complexion. Her expression one of sickly disintegration, she stared at the
flames with brimming eyes.

"My precious," she whispered. "Cleo, why? With that book I-- /we/ had
everything! And you've b-b-burned..."

"If you've got to ask why, there's no point telling you," Jamie said.

For a moment, Tori seemed to waver; then, as the colour began to return to
her face, her expression of despair gave way to something grimmer. Kicking
off her ruined shoes, she advanced across the lab, leaving a trail of sticky
purple footprints in her wake.

"You're going to <em>pay</em> for this, Cleo Briggs," she hissed.

Samantha shook her head. "I don't think so. Without that book, you're a
busted flush."

"Or maybe a flushed bust," Jamie added, with a grin.

Tori, her eyes gleaming with something approaching madness, ignored him.
"Maybe I'm going down. But in Thû's name I'm taking you down with me." She
reached into the pocket of her paint-splattered jacket, and pulled out an
ivory-handled flick knife. At her touch, its blade snapped into place,
gleaming and wickedly sharp. "I won't kill you -- that would be too lenient.
When I'm done with you you'll be in a wheelchair like that Davril girl."

Samantha struck the glowing embers of the book one last blow, enough to
smash whatever was left to sparks, and then dodged around the other side of
the workbench as Tori approached.

"Hey, you put that down--" Jamie began, grabbing for the knife. Without
taking her eyes off Samantha, Tori elbowed him in the chest, sending him
reeling, then vaulted onto the bench and jumped down in front of Samantha.
Her free hand shot out, grabbing Samantha by the collar as she tried to back

"Enjoy your victory, Briggs," Tori snarled, drawing her knife back for a
vicious thrust. "You treacherous little fuc--"

Swirling silver light roared up around Samantha.


For the second time that day, Samantha opened her eyes to find she was lying
on her back, with a sense of gradually-dispersing giddiness. A girl was
leaning over her, pressing something to her chest.

"Her heart's in the right place, at least," she said, and Samantha
recognised the voice of Liz Shaw.

"On the left?" Gwendoline's voice asked.

"That's a myth: it's pretty much in the middle. But the left side's usually
bigger -- at least, it is if you're from this side of the mirror." Liz
withdrew the stethoscope and straightened up. "Yes, I think we can say we've
got the right ones back."

"And only just in time," Samantha managed. She sat up, a glance telling
her that she was back in her proper -- and far more comfortable -- uniform.
And the concerned faces looking down at her definitely belonged to Victoria,
Isobel and Zoë, not their nightmarish counterparts. A little way away, Gia
was carefully packing the Jacob's Ladder away into a brass-bound wooden case.

"Do you want to tell us what happened?" Victoria asked.

Samantha took a deep breath. "I'll tell you if you like, But you mightn't
like it when you hear it."

"Just a moment," Jamie said. "What about Hamish and Cleo? They must have
come here when we went, didn't they?"

"That's right," Gia said, closing the wooden box.

"Well, didn't they cause all sorts of trouble? Sam thinks yon Hamish was
selling drugs, and Cleo--"

"You're about to say she beat up younger girls for their dinner money," Zoë
said. "We worked that out for ourselves. You see, she thought young Ace
McShane would be an easy victim."

"Ooh." Samantha winced. "Nasty."

"I think Cleo was quite relieved to be rescued by the time we got to her,"
Zoë went on. "Anyway, Victoria and I persuaded her to keep her head down
until we could get her back where she belonged. She seemed pretty scared of
us. I know the literature says that bullies are often cowards, but even so..."

"That's because she's used to you on the other side. You're this crazy
Brummie psycho. And Victoria..."

"Me?" Victoria asked innocently.

"You're... "Samantha groped for a suitable description, and came up only
with "Worse."

"What about Hamish?" Jamie asked.

"He didn't get on much better," Isobel said cheerfully. "He couldn't sell
drugs because he hadn't got any, and then -- talking of psychoes -- he tried
to shove Nyssa up against the wall and kiss her."

Jamie stared. "And he was still in one piece afterwards?"

"Only because he ran like the wind. We did have to get the prefects
involved on that one. Bret put the fear of Maxil into him, and Sara talked
Nyssa down. And that was that."

"Did anyone over there work out who you were?" Gia asked.

"Not a soul," Jamie said.

"Really? I'd have thought I'd have guessed."

"In the other world you're a thick greebo with a head full of motorbikes,"
Samantha said. "And a boy, too. You never spotted a thing. No, the only one
who twigged about me was Wendy. That's what they call Gwendoline over there,"
she added, seeing the blank faces.

"Me?" Gwendoline, who'd been hovering at the fringes of the group, leaned
forward in surprise. "I <em>am</em> sensitive, of course. But I can't imagine
ever letting people call me 'Wendy.' It sounds terribly common."

"I don't see anything wrong with it," Zoë said, sounding a little offended.


"Do you think we made a difference?" Samantha asked. She was sitting with
Jamie on the nearly-deserted top deck of the number 42 bus, as it trundled a
circuitous route through the periphery of Nameless. There were far quicker
ways of getting home -- even walking would have stood a good chance -- but
after the events of the day, the slow bus ride was giving them some
much-needed time to unwind.

"You mean, in the mirror world?" Jamie asked.

"Yeah." Samantha rested her head on his shoulder. "I don't think we actually
made anyone's life better."

"We made Tori's life a whole lot worse," Jamie said. "And probably Cleo
and Hamish, too, when she catches up with them. Maybe that'll make it easier
for everyone else."

"Maybe. Or maybe it'll just end up like it was before, with Slash or Nik or
Nancy or someone else on top of the heap."

"We couldn't have done more, Sam." Jamie put his arm round her shoulders.
"Just getting out in one piece was hard enough."

"S'pose so. And we did take Tori down. I didn't think we could even do
that." She smiled at him. "I couldn't have done it without you, Jamie. Any
of it."

"That'll be why you kissed me, then?" Jamie said.

"Yeah. And other reasons." She winked at him. "Want to do it again?"

Jamie needed no second prompt, and for some minutes conversation fell
into abeyance.

"Hang on," Samantha said, abruptly disengaging from their embrace. "That
was my stop we just went past, wasn't it?"

"Mill Way? Aye, that was it."

"You should've told me!"

"You seemed like you'd got other stuff on your mind."

"Jamie McCrimmon, there are times you can be an absolute beast." Samantha
darted at him and nipped his ear. "Now what'll I do?"

"We'll have to go round again, of course." Jamie pulled her back towards
him. "You don't mind staying on the bus with me all that time?"

Despite herself, Samantha giggled. "Suppose it'll do. For starters."

[ This Time Round was created by Tyler Dion.
Then Do That Over was created by Paul Gadzikowski.
Otherside was created by K. Michael Wilcox. ]

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