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6.6 - I Am Lesion
by ThomasMalthus

Chapter One

Quinn Mallory and Rembrandt Brown sat uncomfortably as the torture seemed to continue indefinitely.

"You ready to try this, QBall?" Remmy whispered over to him, trying not to draw the attention of their captor.

The physics genius tried to be equally discreet. "Anything to get out of this, Remmy."

"On the count of three," Rembrandt said, maneuvering himself into position. Quinn nodded back, preparing himself as well. "One...two..." The nervous look on the two men's face said they were ready to get this over with. "Three."

Turning quickly, Quinn and Rembrandt made themselves face toward Professor Maximilian Arturo and said with one voice, "We have to go to the bathroom."

Turning himself away from the aria being sung by the latest tenor to take the stage for just a second, Arturo grumbled, "Oh, very well." The two of them thought they heard him hurl some sort of insult their way, but they were too busy fleeing and covering their ears to truly discern what it was.

Rembrandt shook his head once they left the balcony. "Man, I know it was Arturo's turn to pick our night's activity, but he could have at least picked something where the people speak English."

Quinn shared Remmy's pain. "I never got opera. People in gaudy costumes singing as few words and as badly as possible in a language nobody understands."

Remmy grinned. "How long til we slide out of here?"

Quinn took the timer out of his pocket to make sure. "15 minutes. I couldn't take that much more of Das Rheingold."

Quinn and Rembrandt hung around outside the balcony, waiting for the other sliders to emerge. Quinn had really gotten to like Rembrandt over the last few weeks. He tended to go with the flow, as opposed to the other sliders who took things far too seriously. After about seven minutes, Professor Arturo and Wade Welles emerged from the balcony and supposedly the best seats in the Florence Foster Jenkins Opera House. "Another five minutes wouldn't have killed you, you know," Wade scolded the two of them.

"Tell that to my ear drums," Rembrandt replied with a chuckle. "Besides, I thought you didn't like opera."

"It's actually not that bad," Wade commented. "Wagner may be a bit much, and he's certainly not as talented as Mozart, but the music itself is very uplifting."

Remmy and Quinn shared a bemused look. Arturo was genuinely pleased. "I'm glad to see I share your opinion of both opera and Wagner. Unfortunately, it was the only opera being performed tonight."

Quinn wanted out of this conversation and now. "Let's just find an out of the way place to slide and get out of this world."

The sliding tunnel wound on, pushing the foursome further down and around its pathways than it ever had before. "What's going on?" Wade called out to the others, hoping that one of them could hear her in the tunnel.

"I don't know," Arturo answered honestly. "It's never done anything like this before."

"Brace yourself," Quinn added. "This could turn into a very bumpy ride."

Eventually, after minutes of harsh twisting and turning in the vortex, the four sliders were deposited in very unfamiliar surroundings. They landed on a cushioned moving walkway, escorting them past several different video screens that were within arm's reach. As the quartet stood up to dust themselves off, they took a gander at the new world they'd entered and marvelled.

"Must be some kinda futuristic world," Remmy commented. "This stuff makes NASA look like Legoland." To prove that Rembrandt wasn't exaggerating, a small flying vehicle with a flaming tail whizzed through the streets past the windows on the left side of the sliders, while some sort of teleportation device that emitted a large blue light was in use on the other side.

"Unreal," Quinn remarked, equally amazed. Taking a look at their more immediate surroundings, they saw that the video screens were attached to individual rooms. When Wade tried to open the door to one of them she received an electric shock for her troubles. The screens themselves spoke in languages none of the group understood. (Well, Wade thought that she could understand most of the Chinese language one and Arturo swore that one of them was almost exactly like Latin, but it was nothing that was entirely helpful to the group getting oriented here.)

Finally, they heard a familiar sound. "Welcome, English-speaking transdimensional travellers, to the Mek Homeworld. We hope your stay here is a pleasant one. If you are understanding my voice, please say 'Yes'."

"Yes," Rembrandt spoke. Arturo looked at him sharply. At the word 'Mek' he had registered an expression of displeasure that was soon mirrored on the faces of Quinn and Wade. Nevertheless, he could say nothing to Remmy. The man knew nothing of the Mek, nor what they were capable of.

The four of them were escorted into the room next to the English language screen. The door opened and the conveyor itself carried them inside.

Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian sat apprehensively at his desk, looking at the reports coming over the closed webwire. 'The war on another world nears success,' he mentally sighed. 'But the war back here fares considerably poorer.' Unfortunately for him, his duties did not concern the war, but dealing with the domestic fallout and the reaction of other interdimensional powers. The last ambassador from a human world had packed her bags and left only a few days before. Now the Cerellian ambassador was threatening to do the same.

Molaudian stopped thinking about that for a moment as an important message scrolled across the vidscreen. 'New human arrivals at Human Embassy. Requesting orders on how to proceed.' Molaudian grinned. He spoke rapidly in Gayars to the screen. "Give them the works."

"OK, where are we and what are we doing here?" Wade asked confusedly, as the four of them now sat in padded metal chairs facing a viewscreen like the ones they had seen outside.

"We shall soon see, Miss Welles," the Professor replied. Speaking lower, he continued. "But if these Mek are anything like the ones that invaded Azure Gate Bridge world, we're in for something gruesome. Psychological torture, some sort of brainwashing." As the screen started to spark to life, he finished, "Whatever it is, I open we can survive it with some semblance of our sanity."

A yellowish, thin hairless humanoid appeared in the center of the screen. "As visitors to the Mek Homeworld, we want to make sure you know everything we have to offer." The image disassembled itself, and a long beach with a green ocean showed itself. "Pristine beaches, untouched by the ravages of pollution." Another image then flashed across the screen. "Visit Colonial Wang'athawasan, and experience the rich history of the Mek nation." The image of orange disks falling onto a metal table followed. "But we suspect what really brought you here is cold hard credit. The Mek Homeworld's reputation for banking, gambling and other sound commercial enterprises is second to none in the multiverse."

The little man was back again, exposing his little sucker of a mouth in what might be a grin. "There are literally googols of reasons to visit the Mek Homeworld. But what will bring you back is the friendly atmosphere and the wonderful hospitality. But, of course, you'll see all those things in your grand tour package. Tell them all about it, Gaharabeban!!"

The slightly deeper voice explained further, while the sliders were flabbergasted. "You'll stay in beautiful downtown Habalinez, the postpostpostmodern capital of the Mek Empire and enjoy complimentary universal breakfast as well as one hundred creds towards gambling in our many plush casinos. When you reach the Hotel Mekalech, the most 'heaven'ly accomodations in the Empire, you'll even be greeted personally by Mek-Larnani Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian!!"

The "man" himself came on screen. "Welcome to the Mek Homeworld, the happiest planet in the multiverse!" A quick voice followed with, "Excluding the opiate mines of Earth 59682."

Arturo leaned over to Wade. "Well, I have been known to be wrong before." The screen pulled itself out of sight. Their seats started to move themselves down a track, as they made their way towards a large metal door. The door tried to open itself, but did not seem to be able to. Blue sparks shot from it, and eventually it stopped trying.

"This is getting weirder by the minute," Quinn said anxiously.

"Let's see if we can get out of these hotseats," Rembrandt said, unfastening himself from the contraption. "I want to find out what's going on around here without being given the grand tour by the people in charge."

"Perhaps that's not such a good idea, Mr. Brown," Arturo commented. "We know nothing of this place. It could be dangerous to..." The Professor was interrupted by some sort of blast from the other side of the door. Then multiple blasts.

"I'd say it's more dangerous to stay here," Wade remarked.

Professor Arturo nodded grimly in the affirmative. "Agreed. Let's see what sort of shelter we can find in this place."

As Molaudian prepared to leave his office for the Human Embassy, he got another message, this time from his holocom. "What is it, Arkalesh?" he said snappily to his assistant.

"You might want to take a look at this," he replied tentatively. "It seems as though a group of protesters are trying to destroy the Human Embassy."

The Foreign Minister inhaled sharply, the Mek version of a sigh. "That is already my destination, Arkalesh. The Prime Minister's office has surely dispatched a phalanx to protect me, as it was under their orders I have been sent."

"Well, yes, but..." Arkalesh paused, considering his options. "I worry for your safety."

"You need not. I will be fine." Jermaches Molaudian walked out of his doorway and immediately requested teleportation to a place not far from the Embassy. 'If this warrants my personal presence, it must be dire,' Molaudian thought grimly. 'The humans themselves may be in grave danger.'

Chapter Two

"Aaah," Remmy said, leaning back in a cushy padded floating-in-midair swivel chair. "Now this is relaxation."

"How very nice for you, Mr. Brown." Professor Arturo replied in an annoyed tone. "Relaxing while an angry mob outside wants to destroy us. The Emperor Nero would be proud."

"You see that big metal door just as well as I do," Rembrandt defended himself. "If you want to get excited about some locals outside with glorified blowtorches be my guest. I got other things to worry about. Like what are we going to eat for two days stuck in this place?"

Arturo sized up the situation realistically. "Well, if worse comes to worse, we can do without food for two days."

Rembrandt scoffed. "Maybe you can. I gotta eat me three squares a day or at least one trip to a buffet that comes pretty close to lookin' like one back home."

"What do you mean 'maybe you can'??" Arturo thundered.

"Can you guys keep it down?" Quinn pleaded from his position looking over Wade's shoulder. "We don't know how sensitive this equipment it is. The other equipment we saw before was voice activated, maybe this could be too."

"How are things progressing, Miss Welles?" the Professor asked in a more calm voice.

"You mean trying to hack an alien computer with an alien alphabet that's for an alien language. Just great. Give me a couple of more millenia and I might have some progress." Wade replied sarcastically.

"Doesn't it have an English language option?" Arturo asked, moving closer to the console where Wade was trying to hack in.

The young woman scowled. "For getting connections to hotels, probably. For stealing their secret codes for defense, I seriously doubt it."

Arturo's face responded with its own trademark grim expression. "We're probably chasing a pipe dream here. However, since there aren't any weapons just lying around waiting for some hapless humans to use them, I'd say it's more or less our only option if we hope to defend ourselves."

"I think I just found the arrow keys!" Wade said, perhaps a bit too excitedly. "Hey, let's take our victories where we can get them."

"Uh, guys," Rembrandt spoke up. "I think you might want to take a look at this." The previously mellow Remmy pointed outside to where the angry-looking group of Mek were gathering. They now had a huge megadestructo-looking laser cannon among their arsenal.

"I believe our options may have just been severely limited," Arturo commented in awe.

"What do we do now?" Quinn asked with concern.

Rembrandt took the jacket that had been slung awkwardly over the back of his chair and put it on. "You guys can do what you want, but I'm getting the hell out of here."

The Professor nodded. "A fine plan, Mr. Brown."

"That's a temporary solution at best," Wade complained. "If we don't find a way to beat them now, it won't help us to run."

Arturo looked impatient. "Miss Welles, we have no idea of the true intentions of the creatures outside and until we do I see no better option than fleeing what will unfailingly be a disaster area in a matter of minutes!"

"Here, here!" Quinn exclaimed in agreement. Wade grumbled acquiescence and the foursome migrated to another area within the Embassy.

Blue light surrounded Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian. As he began to get his bearings, he was surprised at how inactive the transport center was. No movement usually meant some kind of blockage, but his own trip had gone smoothly. As he began to scan the center, only a block away from the Human Embassy where he was supposed to be needed, he saw that the disturbance was outside.

Moving towards the officer in charge of this place, he cleared his airhole and began to speak in a voice that spoke volumes about his authority. "What exactly is taking place outside?"

The commanding officer wearily replied, "Some political group's making a statement by trying to level the Human Embassy. An assembly election stunt, nothing more."

Molaudian grunted. "I do not find this humorous nor trivial, commander, and I find it disturbing that you do." Moving away from the other Mekkan huffily, the diplomat found the Phalanx commander that had been assigned to protect him. "Why have you not moved against this rabble?" he demanded.

The Mekkan warrior moved his armored head slowly so that it faced the Foreign Minister. "Orders from Prime Minister Sauling. If we start butchering these guys, it'll play right into their little political game. So we wait until they do something even more colossally stupid than this, then we stop them without doing any killing."

Molaudian could say nothing against the Prime Minister's orders, but he cursed inwardly. 'Politics'. Of course, Molaudian himself had learned to play the political games that got you into just the right position in Habalinez, but he had done it all within the confines of the office of the foreign ministry, not having to deal with the daily political machinations of the Mekkan Assembly. "Who are these pitiful extremists, anyway? Yellows? Areopagiticans?"

The officer wrinkled his cheek muscles in disgust. "I believe they call themselves Lejun, sir."

Jermaches nearly laughed out loud. That small little fringe party was trying something to get them more seats in the assembly? It would be a task harder than travelling to the five moons in a day. He wondered for a second if the little jingoistic blowhard who was always making those outrageous speeches in the Assembly was the leader of Lejun. After thinking about it a while, he was fairly certain it was. What was his name? Tyrikel? Terkala? It didn't matter.

"Can't we do anything to protect the humans inside?" Jermaches asked the Phalanx commander idly.

"There are humans inside?!?" the officer replied in shock. Molaudian sighed inwardly. The military had always been put on a need-to-know basis in the Sauling regime and it caused a great deal of resentment in the armed forces. Before Jermaches Molaudian could confirm the fact that there were indeed people inside, the other Mekkan moved to a viewscreen not far away. "Let's see what we can do to stop these buggers then."

The Lejun Party faithful were eager to use their new toy, just issued them by a sympathetic general in the Commanders Staff. Orders from Councillor Tarkalan made them stick to the original plan for now, however. The cannon was strictly a prop, for the Party's current intents and purposes. What it might be after the elections, however...

The officer in charge of this little demonstration, Arnalain Morlenn, looked grimly satisfied. The Embassy would be rubble soon enough. Suddenly, a messenger came up with urgency in his voice. "Sir, we've received orders from The Councillor."

Morlenn looked peeved. "Well, don't just stand there with your sucker agape all day, fifth officer Condek. Let us hear it."

Condek paused only a moment more for breath. "It's recently come to their attention that there are four humans trapped inside the Embassy."

"Well of course there are humans in there! It is a human embassy! Did you think it would contain Kromaggs?" He laughed hardily. Others sitting around him who valued their lives did the same.

"Sir, our intelligence reports tell us that there have been no humans arriving at the Human Embassy for months now and that even the human worlds that had already established contact with us have withdrawn their ambassadors. These humans are new arrivals and were not expected in any of our scenarios for this mission." The soldier looked wary. "Sir."

Second Commander Morlenn looked irritated, but said nothing. "Very well. Have we any orders on how to proceed, in light of these new developments?"

"We do indeed sir," the younger officer replied. "But you're not going to like it."

"Do you think we're far enough away from those goons to stop running now?" Quinn asked, out of breath.

"I believe so, Mr. Mallory," Arturo retorted. "Let us try to make the best of our new surroundings, eh? Perhaps have Wade take another shot at the computers?"

"Maybe we should see if there are any weapons in this part of the facility, just in case..." Cutting off Rembrandt's words was a viewscreen coming to life. Ever since the mob outside had been there, the power had been shut down throughout the whole facility, except in the computer terminals (which apparently ran on some sort of backup generator).

A familiar looking Mek came on screen. "Greetings, humans. I am Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian. We mean you no harm."

"Now why don't I believe him?" Wade asked her companions. "If you don't mean us any harm, then why is there an army of you out there trying to get in here?"

"I will explain it all to you in good time, young human female," Molaudian answered. "But first there is something that you must do for me."

Chapter Three

Few had ever heard Arnalain Morlenn squawk like a zarnan before. Assuming they had functioning eartubes, that was all they heard for what seemed like miles around now.

"WHAT?!?!?!?!?" he shrieked, stretching his airhole out til it flapped. "That...how could he...but I...he swore..."

Condek knew he could do little in this situation. "These orders came from Councillor Tarkalan himself, Second Commander." Morlenn sent him a look that told the subordinate officer that he knew that fact quite well.

"Tarkalan...must be under the influence of those...those PRIESTS!!!" The last word came out filled with venom. "Useless chanting freaks!!" As Arnalain Morlenn paced about, trying to adjust his plans to the new situation, he barked orders to his unfortunate lackeys. "Set the laser equipment to Level 5. Move the cannon to a safe distance away from the Embassy so there's no chance some triggerhappy gunner will start firing off rounds. And most of all tell your Mekkans to prepare to subdue the humans, not kill them! Make that perfectly clear! No room for ambiguity, understand?"

"Yessir!" they shouted, unwilling to challenge their commander. They scurried off to their own command posts, ready to carry out the orders.

"Oh, and Condek," he said, grinning evilly. "Make sure to acquisition the kavral gas yourself. I wouldn't trust it to anyone else."

Condek pulled air in slowly with dread. "Yes, sir."

"So let me get this straight. We have to put computer chips in our heads?" Wade asked the alien-looking creature on the monitor disbelievingly.

Jermaches Molaudian paused in thought. "My English is not as good as maybe. I am hoping that these things, when put in the human brain, will work as well as they do for Mekkans. This means everything I say to you in Lakairnan will be heard by you in English."

"Why should we trust you?" Arturo asked spitefully. "The Mek have ruthlessly butchered humans on other parallel worlds..." Seeing Rembrandt's puzzled look, he quickly amended himself. "...that I've heard about."

Now it was time for Molaudian to put forth his own puzzled look. "If you do not trust us, why did your other human leaders send you here?"

"Nobody sent us here," Quinn replied. "We travel randomly. Sliding from world to world, not knowing where we land next."

Molaudian scoffed. "That is illogical. Even humans surely would not behave so."

"How we got here's not really the issue, is it, ugly?" Rembrandt asked. His question came out harsher than he intended, but he continued. "We're here now and there's a bunch of you guys tryin' to kill us. I'd say that warrants a little distrust."

"Very well." The little man spoke some orders to another creature that looked like him, only greener in skin tone and with armor on. There seemed to be a great deal of discussion going on offscreen, but eventually one Mekkan entered the screen and sat down in the chair that had been formerly occupied by the Foreign Minister. "His Honorable Molaudian wishes me to tell you of the war on Earth 82056. It is a bitter war, distasteful to most Mekkans, but one that must be fought." As the English expert spoke, little scenes emerged in the far corner of the screen, detailing the events he was recalling. "A few years ago we were invaded by a group of 'sliding' marauders called Kromaggs. We have been a peaceful planet, our main effort being focused on trading with a few contacts on other parallel worlds, for centuries. We had no way to defend ourselves when they came, but we soon built an army that held them at a standstill. But we needed something more to rid ourselves of them for good."

A picture of a small, hard-looking dark rock flashed on the screen. "It is called Lagnellum, otherwise known as the Fruit of the Old Ones. Our scientists determined that a sonomere, properly calibrated, could become so precisely focused using the Lagnellum to destroy entire armies at a time. The only problem with this potential solution is that our supplies of Lagnellum were low. We managed to push back the Kromaggs, so that they only occupy a part of our planet that you English-speaking humans usually call Australia. There they have us pinned down, fighting a seemingly ceaseless guerilla war. We thought it would go on forever, until we found a world with an abundance of Lagnellum in the Earth's core, accessable from an area of the Earth called Texas."

"Azure Gate Bridge World," Arturo replied softly.

The Mekkan continued, not hearing Arturo's comment. "The resource was accessable only from an area of the Earth called Texas, governed by a country called the United States. Immediately a war declaration was drafted. It was an unpopular move, but one that was undertaken by our government nonetheless. We have finally achieved some measure of victory, after three years of horrible fighting. We are just now calibrating the Lagnellum and sonomeres to finally drive the Kromaggs out of Australia. But so much has been lost in the process."

Molaudian came back on screen. "Please understand. We have no great hatred for humans. One human world, several centuries ago, even gave us the idea for our demo-kratic form of government. Why would we even have a Human Embassy if this weren't the case?"

Quinn now broke the silence on their end. "If you don't mean us harm, what about that mob out there?"

Molaudian made some sort of gesture with his little sucker of a mouth that the sliders didn't know how to interpret. "We are not all like those outside. They are a small group, but very devoted to their cause. Their name is...well..." The Foreign Minister sputtered and talked to his English expert for a moment. "What is it that you humans call our soldiers who are human mixed with Mek?"

"NECROs," Arturo replied. "Neurologically Enhanced and Controlled Replicant Operatives."

The twosome then turned to a computer, frantically typing away. When they finally brought their attention back to the trapped foursome, Jermaches Molaudian spoke with a buzzing in his voice. "Then you can call those who threaten your lives outside LESION, Ludicrously Expansionistic Soldiers Invading Other Nations." Molaudian's sucker mouth curled up a bit and there were harsher buzzing noises coming from both of their 'mouths'. It took the sliders only a moment to realize they were laughing.

"If you'll pardon me for saying so, I don't really think this situation is funny," Wade replied with the slightest hint of anger in her voice.

"Indeed, you may be correct, human," the Foreign Minister affirmed. "But grave humor is better than none at all. Now, will you put the discs we showed you in your ear?" The four of them each hesitated.

"What if this is some kind of trick?" Remmy asked the others.

"I don't think we have a good choice," the Professor told his companions. "We can either trust these Mek or take our chances with the ones outside." As if to negate that option, a large thud was heard inside the compound that showed that those outside were not willing to give up. The other three nodded their assent to Arturo's implied plan of action.

"Very well," the elder Englishman spoke up. Then the four of them placed the small electronic devices in their ears. They each began to move up the ear, inching ever closer to the brain.

"I do not know what the four of you are so worried about," Molaudian grumbled. "I am sure it will be beneficial for you to have other languages translated into your own. Surely every world you have visited has not been an English-speaking world?"

And our four sliders didn't know just what to say to that.

Councillor Tarkalan ran his claws impatiently up and down the arms of his metal chair. "How long until the elections begin now?" he asked nervously.

"Only a few more hours, your grace," one of his servants said to him with a bow.

This did nothing to ease his mind, however. "What of that fool, Morlenn? Has he entered the Human Embassy yet?"

"I...I am not sure, your eminence," another one of those that waited on him grovelled. "Do you want to have the communication lines reopened, so that we might learn from the Second Commander himself?"

"No, you imbecile," Tarkalan said with impatience. "We need those lines closed. I can't be linked to the attack personally this close to our total victory!" The Party leader once again regretted having sidelined First Commander Pokren to guard the portal. Of course, that was their first priority at the moment, but perhaps taking the Human Embassy would be harder than he thought. Tarkalan turned those thoughts around in his mind, and then dismissed them. There would be time for doubt later. Now was the time for action.

But all he could do was wait. And it was driving him insane.

The metal door outside the Human Embassy fell inside it with a large thud. "We have entry!" exclaimed Arnalain Morlenn. He then spoke to his subordinates. "Put your Mekkans in groups of five, send them off throughtout the facility. It won't take us long to find these humans." Morlenn nearly laughed. Their time would be at hand soon.

Chapter Four

The armored phalanx commander, Bruda Hasarri, looked out the window, his face bearing a grim expression. "They've made it inside," he said to himself, as though he had expected them to give up.

"Shall we move against them now, commander?" one of his soldiers asked without much relish of the thought.

Hasarri, too, wanted to avoid political strife. "I shall ask for specific orders from Foreign Minister Molaudian."

"So what exactly do these Lesion guys want with us anyway?" Rembrandt asked the Mekkan authority figure still towering above them on an embassy viewscreen.

Molaudian explained as best he could. "We believe they want to destroy the Embassy as a political statement. The elections are coming up soon, you know. They have no chance of winning, but they want to get as much vid coverage as they can." Suddenly, something drew the Foreign Minister's attention outside.

"What's going on?" Quinn asked, concerned.

"It's Lesion," he spat. "They've made it into the compound."

There was a moment of silence, as the foursome sized up their options mentally. "OK, people," Wade said forcefully, breaking their silence. "It's time to stop running and start defending ourselves."

"No, actually," Molaudian contended, "I think to continue running would be the saner plan. However, since that's not likely to get you away from Lesion, I have something else that just might work."

First Commander Gatarus Pokren didn't particularly care for the duty he'd been given. If he'd been running the show, the best field commander would have gotten the Embassy assignment, and that braggart Morlenn would have guarded this, this...hobby of Councillor Tarkalan's. Pokren, not for the first time, started to regret deserting his army post to support Lejun. There was precious little he could do about that decision now though.

First Commander Pokren had been born and raised an Areopagitican, a faction that had been dying out in numbers for more than a century. Still, they had a great deal of cred to throw around and could support causes that fit their interests. The Areopagiticans had taken a great interest in Lejun once Tarkalan became their leader. They were convinced their own party could exercise a lot more power than they had for years by being early supporters of the Mekkan firebrand. Now Pokren wasn't so sure. Still, he had a hard time convincing his fellow aristocrats to believe him. They still saw Tarkalan as an easily controlled puppet. But they didn't know him as well as his First Commander did.

Now his best soldiers, instead of fighting for their people against the Kromaggs or on Earth 82056, were guarding a large metal electronic gate. Coolant gases hovered around the coils flanking either side of the doorway, looking like fog on a dismal night. Pokren honestly didn't know what Tarkalan planned to do with this thing. He had heard rumors, ridiculous flights of fancy mostly, but you never knew with Lejun. They took the stories of the Old Ones quite seriously.

In a few more weeks, it wouldn't matter. If Lejun couldn't form a successful coalition in the Assembly after the election, the Areopagiticans, as well as the Yellows and the Melians, would abandon all hopes of gaining power through Lejun. If they were successful, well, that wouldn't be too bad either. Especially since Pokren planned on disposing of Tarkalan. 'They'll see,' the general thought. 'He's too dangerous to become Prime Minister. This planet needs a real leader.'

"I'm still not too comfortable with the fact that we've got nothing to defend ourselves with," Rembrandt whined to Arturo.

"Patience, Mr. Brown," the Professor replied. "I'm certain everything shall go as planned." This didn't calm Remmy down very much, but it did get him to stop complaining, which was an improvement.

At that moment Jermaches Molaudian showed back up on the big vid screen. "They're in place," he told them. "Have you found anything that might be helpful in holding Lesion back?" he asked.

"Not really," Remmy replied. "Though I was wondering about this big console over here. Is that some kind of weapons control panel?" he asked hopefully.

Molaudian nodded negatively. "I'm afraid not. That creates a tunnel extension. It's what brought you here instead of where you usually land."

Arturo seized upon an idea. "Could we use it to teleport Lesion somewhere else?"

Molaudian once again crushed their hopes. "No. It only works with an already-formed interdimensional vortex." Looking off from the screen a bit, he said, "I think I am needed elsewhere at the moment. You're on your own, gentlemen."

Rembrandt moved over to the console. "Help me rig this thing up anyway, Professor. Who knows, it may even distract these freaks for a second or two." Professor Arturo did indeed begin to tinker with the controls that Rembrandt had begun to experiment with. He only hoped the plan would go off without a hitch. Especially since theirs usually didn't.

A group of five Mekkans working for Lejun moved through the corridors of the Human Embassy. The rolling walkway had stopped now so they had to move manually. It was just as well. The element of surprise had returned.

Through his audio chip, the group's ranking officer heard that a government phalanx was halfheartedly attacking them outside where they'd breached the Embassy. It wouldn't stop them from completing their mission, but it might make their strategic retreat a little harder. Then he tuned out his audio chip for a moment.

"Did you hear something?" he asked his fellow soldiers. Just then, two older-looking humans came out from behind a piece of electronic equipment. The five of them instinctively pointed their blasters at them.

"Look, we don't want any trouble, OK?" the darker complexioned one said.

"Nor do we," the officer replied. "We seek only one among your party. Neither of you fit the description. So I must ask you...where is the one called Quinn Mallory?"

"Right here." The five of them heard a human voice that did not come from the two humans they held at blasterpoint. Looking around for the source of it, they saw nothing. The missile hit first. The blast floored them all, melting flesh and snapping bone. One of the soldiers managed to continue shooting his blaster wildly. If only they had known what hit them...

"It looks like an overgrown bathtub," Arturo complained as he climbed in. "This is what passes for transportation in this world?!"

"Just strap yourself in, Professor," Quinn instructed from the pilot's seat. The floating craft hovered above the ground, seemingly anxious to take off again.

"I can't see anything through this blasted smoke!!" Wade exclaimed, still sitting at the weapons console.

"You won't have to once we get out of here," Quinn reminded her. "At least I hope not."

Once Rembrandt had boarded the offwhite flying vehicle, the foursome took off. "Are you sure you don't want me to fly this thing?" Wade offered.

"I've got it under control," Quinn replied. Wade rolled her eyes, but said nothing.

"Hey, QBall," Remmy stated. "It looks like they're trying to seal us in." Sure enough, the metal door connecting this part of the embassy with the rest of it was closing.

"Step on it, Mr. Mallory," the Professor exclaimed. As the door worked its way towards the floor, Quinn maneuvered the craft as best he could towards what remained of the opening. The opening got narrower and narrower.

"It's going to close!" Wade exclaimed. Finally she saw enough of the outside from the clear plexiglass bubble surrounding the top of the flying transport to see where the door's control mechanism was. She proceeded to blast the crap out of it. Quinn moved the craft into the space left and it cleared by only a few inches.

"Woohoo! I did it!" Quinn exclaimed. The sliders were jubilant.

"Yeah, sure," Wade muttered satisfactorially to herself. "You did it."

As the smoke dissipated completely, they saw more Mekkans pointing blaster weapons at them. "Faster, Mr. Mallory! Get us out of here!" It was at this point that the mini-vid screen on the main instrument panel sputtered to life.

"Are you escaping successfully?" he inquired half-interestedly.

"Trying to," Quinn said, manipulating some controls frustratedly. "Lesion has other ideas, though."

"I do not think you have anything to worry about," the Foreign Minister assured them. "At your height and speed, their ability to do any sort of damage is minimized to the point of..." An explosion cut him off.

"We've been hit!" Wade exclaimed, stating the obvious.

"So much for height and speed," Remmy commented.

"The main engine's out," Quinn complained. "The auxiliary engines are taxed to the limit."

"How long will those auxiliary engines carry us?" Arturo asked Molaudian.

"Not long," Molaudian replied grimly. "We'll try to get some of our soldiers inside, to intercept your vehic...whe..."

"He's breaking up," Quinn commented. "Electronic shortout. We won't be able to stay aloft for very long either." As if his words were a cue to the vehicle, it began to descend rapidly.

"Brace yourselves!" Wade cried out in warning. The tub landed with a crash. The four of them were knocked unconscious.

Some members of Lesion walked up to the sliders. "Take the one called Mallory, leave the rest." Quinn was escorted forcibly outside the Embassy. The Champion had been obtained. Now the rest was up to fate.

Chapter Five

Wade Welles, Rembrandt Brown and Professor Maximilian Arturo woke up groggily in turn, unaware of where they were or how they got there. Wade thrashed uncomfortably, as she heard an annoying ringing that was waking her up. "Kelly, turn that thing off..." Wade mumbled. She then realized the ringing was coming from inside her head.

Rembrandt and Arturo heard it, too, and puzzled over what in the world it could be. Once the three of them got up (from what turned out to be fairly comfortable beds in what probably passed for a Mekkan hotel room) the ringing stopped. Before they could enjoy the returned silence, there was a buzzing at the doorway. Unlike most hotels they had visited this doorway came up from the floor, much like a trap door. Wade managed to open it, revealing Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian.

Seeing him in the flesh for the first time was a little startling. First of all, because he wasn't human. It took the sliders a few moments to get used to the fact that there was a scrawny yellow alien standing in front of them. Secondly, he was...well, shorter than they expected. Specifically, about three feet tall.

"I see your translator chips have done a splendid job of waking you up. I suspect the effects of the kavral gas have not worn off completely," Molaudian commented in what might be considered a cheery voice (if only he didn't sound so solemn all the time).

"Kavral gas?" Remmy questioned.

Molaudian explained patiently. "The chemical Lesion used to cover their escape yesterday. It is toxic to Mekkans, but only renders humans incapacitated. You have been unconscious for quite a few hours."

"Hey," remarked Wade, finally noticing something. "Where's Quinn?"

"Your other human companion was taken by Lesion. We do not know yet for what purpose."

"I doubt they're giving him a medal," Arturo groused.

"We've got to get him back," Wade half-pleaded half-ordered Foreign Minister Molaudian.

The little Mekkan looked grim. "We have been trying to do so since the attack happened. Unfortunately, it has proven immensely difficult. We have no idea where Lesion is keeping your friend."

"You're the government," Remmy spoke up. "Can't you just order them to turn him over?"

"I'm afraid not," Molaudian answered. "Election Hour draws nigh, and our chances at victory are slim as it is. If we try to make a move against Lesion now..."

"Are you telling me that you can't return Mr. Mallory to us because of politics?!?" Arturo asked, infuriated.

Molaudian was about to respond, but stopped himself. "Wait. Did you say the human's name was Quinn...Mallory?"

"Yeah," Wade replied. "What does it matter?"

Molaudian's face went pale, although, since the sliders weren't used to looking at bright yellow skin in the first place, they couldn't tell. "We shall continue to work on the problem at hand. But right now I have an important meeting that I cannot miss. I apologize." The Foreign Minister began to walk out the door swiftly.

"Wait!" Wade cried out. When Molaudian closed the door behind him, she flopped back down on her bed in defeat. "Great. Quinn's out there in the hands of these alien goons and we can't even rush in and save him."

Arturo added to the pessimism. "We have no idea where he is or even where to start looking."

Remmy's gloom topped it off. "While we sit here powerless, QBall's enduring some kind of unimaginable torture."

"No, really, I don't want more grapes," Quinn told the three attractive women in skimpy outfits standing around him. They looked mildly disappointed, but obeyed the command of the Champion.

The physics genius reclined on his couch as the three ladies fanned him to keep him cool. He stretched out, making himself impossibly more comfortable than he had been before. A robed Mekkan entered the room. He began sprinkling some sort of clear liquid that didn't spell like water on his forehead. "What are you doing?" Quinn asked, somewhat irritated.

"More preparation for the Battle, O Champion," the Mekkan said with an air of obedience. "Those of the Higher Order insist that we do everything just right."

"Yeah, about this Battle..." Quinn asked. "If I'm going to be fighting somebody, shouldn't I be working out or training with weapons? I mean, not that I'm complaining about my current arrangements, they're great. But this Battle thing seems pretty important to you guys..."

"It is of the utmost importance," the Mekkan replied indignantly. "We know how to properly prepare for this. Do not worry. The Champion will be ready for combat when the time comes." As the Mekkan priest walked out of the room, another priest in a more brightly colored robe walked into view.

"Are we certain he is the one?" the priest of the Lesser Order asked.

"The ritual is not clear on which human shall be the Champion," the other priest scolded him. "But this one shall do. He shall be a symbol of everything Lejun plans to do once we are in charge." The other priest nodded solemnly. The time was almost here.

Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian sat unhappily in the meeting he had told the humans about. The Cabinet was convening for perhaps the last time. The Perikletians looked poised to defeat the Solonians, though Election Hour had just gotten underway. Molaudian had already cast his ballot over his compuvid screen, for as much as it mattered.

Right now, Molaudian was more concerned about Quinn Mallory. 'Of course Lesion would want him,' the diplomat mused. 'We thought he was a Kromagg spook story up until now.'

Finance Minister Lephip Sumixam spoke endlessly. Molaudian thought that the Mekkan probably just liked to hear the sound of his own voice. The incompetent boob would have lost his job months ago if Prime Minister Sauling hadn't figured their cause lost anyway. Most Mekkans blamed Sumixam for the economic slump in the government, despite the prosperity of the people. It would be that, more than the disastrous war, that would spell the doom of their party.

The Foreign Minister wished that the Election Hour would already be done with. Once that was completed, Molaudian could move on with his life and help the humans get their friend back. He knew that Lesion would be most vulnerable after it once again made a poor showing in the elections. Yes, after this was done everything would go back to normal.

The three sliders had showered (they had to duck quite a bit, but they managed to get the job done) and dressed (in some odd-looking clothing that Molaudian had sent up) but still didn't know exactly how to proceed.

"Did they take the timer?" Arturo asked, breaking the awkward silence between them.

"No, I've got it." Wade remarked. "Wait, you're not thinking of leaving here without Quinn, are you?" Wade demanded.

"Of course not!" Arturo bellowed. "We have enough to worry about with Quinn in the hands of these lunatics, we don't need to worry about our ticket out of here as well!"

"How much time we got left here?" Rembrandt asked.

"17 hours," Wade said, looking at the timer sadly.

Arturo, unsure of what to do, flipped on the vidscreen. "...and this scene of bodies returning from Earth 82056 could not come at a worse time for the Sauling administration. Election Hour is drawing to a close and the Solonians are taking a beating, as expected. No official word yet from Perikletian leader Arkabon Mangiera, but we can assume that in the course of a few minutes..."

"...we'll hear an acceptance speech." Molaudian flinched at those words. He didn't know why Chrylimen Sauling insisted on torturing himself by watching the live vidcast, but he could not seem to tear himself away from it either.

After a few moments, the election returns came in. The Perikletians actually did worse than expected, not finishing much ahead of the Solonians. The Foreign Minister, or former Foreign Minister now, predicted they would form a coalition government with the Melians, as they had before. He stopped his own internal thought processes for a moment and paid attention exclusively to the commentator, who was now reporting something strange.

"We're getting a report that the Melians are casting their ballots for, get this, Lejun leader Lycurgus Tarkalan. We have no idea why they're throwing their votes away like this, but more news on this as it... Wait just a moment. We are now getting reports that both the Areopagiticans and the Yellows are voting for Tarkalan." Molaudian did the math in his head and came to the same startling conclusion that the stunned Mekkan on the vidscreen would come to in about a moment. "It seems that Lycurgus Tarkalan will be the next Prime Minister." Molaudian thought he could feel a collective shudder.

Chapter Six

A small electronic device buzzed and whirred on the desk sitting next to their beds. "Do I want to answer it?" Remmy asked.

"It's probably Molaudian," Wade reasoned.

"Or Mekkan telemarketers," Arturo mused. He then became serious. "Answer it, if you would, Mr. Brown."

As Rembrandt talked to the foreign minister, Wade moved next to Arturo. "Everybody seems so freaked out about these Lesion guys. I can see why these nutcases taking power would be a big deal to the Mek, but are they really that much of a threat to us?"

Arturo looked distant as he replied. "I can't say I've seen much of Mekkans in battle, the Army only deemed to show us scenes of them sliding in and out of our dimension. What I can tell you are the horror stories I've heard. In unofficial channels, of course, the government hushes up any stories about Mek invincibility."

"Invincibility?!" Wade asked, confused. "Those little guys?"

Arturo sighed. "Little yes, but their flesh is strong and wiry. Flexible in ways the human body would feel pain just by watching. Couple that with the increased mobility and agility of having a smaller body, and some heavy body armor and blaster weapons that make AK-47s look like water pistols..."

Wade gulped. "I think I get the picture." Remmy put the device down and turned to the others.

"Molaudian says he's put his entire staff on finding Quinn," Rembrandt told them pronouncing the Foreign Minister's name 'Melody-an' instead of the standard 'Moe laud Ian'. "Says it probably won't mean much, they'll probably be out lookin' for another line of work." The Cryin' Man chuckled without much mirth.

"We've got to go out there and find him," Wade replied.

"We've been over this, Miss Welles," Arturo chided her. "We know even less of this world than we do of most parallel worlds we visit and our presence on the street would only allow Lesion to keep one step ahead of us. Now we've seen no reason not to trust this Molaudian fellow, and I believe we have every reason to allow him to continue the search without our direct contribution."

"I can't just sit here anymore," Wade fumed. "We've only got nine hours until we slide!"

"I'm with Wade," Rembrandt threw in. "QBall's out in that world we know nothin' about and I want to be doin' something to get him back."

"I'm open to suggestions," Arturo replied, defeated.

"Melody-an told us to stay here," Rembrandt told the others. "Doesn't mean we have to listen. But it does mean..."

"That somebody will have to be here in case he calls with information about Quinn," Wade finished.

"I suppose I have been assigned that duty by default," Arturo conceded, more than a little bit angry that his friends couldn't see he wanted Quinn back as much as anyone. "Very well." Wade and Rembrandt grabbed their coats and started to walk towards the door. "I have no idea how I'll contact you," the Professor called after them.

"We've got those chips in our head that woke us up this morning," Remmy answered. "Tell Melody if he wants to give us a ring, give us a ring."

Second Commander Arnalain Morlenn had been ordered to guard the arsenal. A large array of weapons had been donated by Lesion's "friends" in the military over the last few days. The jewel in the crown, of course, wouldn't be unveiled until tonight. That was what required the most protection, and inspired the most curiousity from the Mekkans guarding it. As he paced by the rather large item, covered by a sheet to keep it from the prying eyes of those other than those "Most Holy" idiots (the priests obviously didn't build it, since they couldn't so much as assemble a child's braklan without having worn out the instruction disk), he heard some of the soldiers guarding it gossiping about what it could be. As it so happened, gossiping was one of Morlenn's pet peeves.

"I heard it was a new automaton, equipped with the capabilities of a laser cannon," one officer spoke with assurance.

"Nah," another Mekkan said dismissively. "It's got to be some sort of floating artillery platform. That's the only way they could have ever got something that big in here."

"You're all wrong," a third replied. "It's one of the lost weapons from the days of the Old Ones. Why I heard that the priests themselves brought it from Halachua to..."

"Well, *I* heard it was a GIANT ZARNAN!!!" Second Commander Morlenn exclaimed, sufficiently inspiring cowed expressions from the Mekkans standing around the contraption. "Now stop gossiping and get back to work!" Morlenn himself turned impressively around and headed out of the arsenal. Tarkalan would be making his first speech as Prime Minister soon, and it was sure to be a doozy.

Vidscreens across the planet clicked on to Lycurgus Tarkalan, preparing himself for stepping up to the job of being their leader. As he prepared to speak, he cleared his airhole of mites and shuffled nervously through his notes. "Citizens of the Mek homeworld, our trade colonies and soldiers on Earth 82056, it is a grave, solemn responsibility that I am handed today. My calling is to reverse the lot of a nation, a people, lost in the murk of empty promises, hopeless wars and incompetent governance. We have much to make up for."

Foreign Minister Jermaches Molaudian watched the speech with great difficulty. The odds that Tarkalan himself had written it were virtually nonexistant. The odds that he meant any but the most boorish of his claims were even slimmer. "But what we hope to do, most of all, is bring back a sense of pride to the Mekkan race. Our name has been sullied with defeat after defeat for years on end. It is time now for action, bold and decisive, in a new direction. We have known about parallel worlds for hundreds of years now. Until today, we had no more than trade contacts with a few of them, excluding the special cases of the Kromaggs and Earth 82056. But that can no longer be. We can no longer ignore that there are other worlds out there. Not when a bunch of glorified apes are ravaging our worlds, devastating our economy and driving us to go to war with humans for a mere rock. Not when the Mekkan name, where it is known across the multiverse, is the name of loss and shame. Not when we, as a nation, have so much to gain and nothing to lose. This will be the main focus of a Lycurgus Tarkalan administration. I only hope that, with Mekalech giving me strength, I can achieve the tasks afforded me by the brave, loyal citizens of our world. Thank you." He stepped away from the podium.

Foreign Minister Molaudian, as attuned to wording as he was, noticed two significant things about how his speech was written. The first, of course, was the interventionist tone of the speech. Tarkalan would clearly break from the isolationist policies of his predecessors. The second thing was only slightly more subtle.

Every Mekkan Prime Minister for two hundred and fifty years had been avowed atheists, mostly without much complaint about it. The name 'Mekalech', the mythological creator god of the Mekkans, had not been heard out of the mouth of a politician in over a hundred years. To hear the Prime Minister speak it...

A thought hit him. And he called the humans.

Quinn Mallory had been treated like royalty by these reverant-looking Mekkans for nearly a day now and he couldn't help but wonder what exactly was going on here. They seemed to be fixated on the notion that he was going to be some sort of Champion, fighting a Battle. The scampering robed figures that served his every need never answered his questions directly however, always choosing to scamper out of the room before he could get a straight answer.

"The less I see, the less I like," Quinn muttered to himself.

"Is the Champion displeased?" one of the girls around him pouted.

"No," Quinn replied, lying through his teeth. He had found the girls charming at first. Until he found out that they were Mek prisoners of war, forced to fill out this role or be subjected to prison labor. "Just thinking out loud."

"He's thinking," one of them giggled. The others joined in a moment later. At that moment two large doors opened and a gaggle of priests walked through them.

"The time has come for the Battle," they announced. Quinn shot up nervously, moving away from his adoring fan club.

"W-what if I'm not ready?" Quinn asked.

"That makes you all the more so," one of them replied, turning its mouth into what passed for a smile. Quinn pondered the twistedness of that logic as he was forcibly escorted into a huge room where a large canvassed object sat in front of a doorway. Both were guarded as if they were the most precious things on earth.

Then the man himself appeared. By the looks that others gave him, he was quite an important man. Quinn wasn't that impressed. Then he gave a speech, and unveiled what was under the sheet.

And then he was impressed.

Jermaches Molaudian piloted a hovercraft himself, escorting the sliders to an old cathedral in the rundown part of town. Luckily they didn't have far to go, since the two sliders who had decided to go looking for their friend on their own had picked the dangerous area to start searching. Molaudian wondered how they hadn't gotten themselves killed.

"Are you sure this is where they've got Quinn?" Wade asked, with a skeptical eye on the worn out old monstrosity.

Molaudian seemed even grimmer than usual. "Not positive. But willing enough to risk my life."

Rembrandt checked the timer. "We're riskin' the slide, too, guys. Less than an hour."

The craft landed smoothly on the roof and the foursome got off to look through the window pane near the top of the building. It was built from ordinary glass, not the super-plexiglass material that most other Mek buildings were made out of. Molaudian showed them a place where they could view the goings on below. "We should be able to see into the building from here. You may not be able to hear what's going on, but my eartubes have been called the biggest in the world. I even believe it was intended as a compliment."

"There's Quinn!" Arturo exclaimed as quietly as possible.

"It doesn't look like they've roughed him up too much," Rembrandt commented.

A flourish and another Mekkan entered. Only Molaudian could recognize him instantly. "Tarkalan."

"What's he doing?" Wade asked Molaudian.

The diplomat looked weary. "Making a speech. He says that they've laid their hands on 'every Kromagg's nightmare' and the 'best humanity has to offer'."

"He's talking about Quinn?!?" Arturo asked incredulously.

"Hush." Molaudian commanded, though not harshly. "He says now he will unveil the secret to Mekkan victory under Lesion's leadership. That the Old Ones will give them and only them victory, ignoring the ones who...the ones who abandoned their ways." Molaudian pressed his ear ever closer to the pane and the other three hovered around him, trying to get a good look at what was going on. "He is unveiling a new host body, built by the priests from an ancient blueprint. And that it will be the new house for..." As if on cue, in a cliche that would not have even been recycled by the most unoriginal writer, the glass below them cracked, making them fall the several stories to the ground below. The sliders groaned in pain, though Jermaches Molaudian recovered quickly.

"Good," Tarkalan announced as several Mekkan soldiers trained their blasters on them. "You're just in time for the ceremony." He pressed a button and the sheet began to be removed. "Say hello to the new body of Mekalech!" The black and yellow monstrosity was hideous. It looked like a large manticore, or a dragon without wings and powerful muscular claws. But it did not move, did not even respond to Tarkalan's words.

"But this is just the shell. The soul of Mekalech is still on the Twelveworld." At Tarkalan's words, a chorus of Priests sang "Hallelujah to Mekalech, Hallelujah to the Twelveworld" over and over again. "No one has yet bridged the gap between our own world and the Twelveworld. Until now." At the Prime Minister's signal, the gateway opened to reveal a black vortex swirling and bellowing in an otherworldly tone. A shade emerged from it, with glowing red eyes and a feral disposition. It made its way towards the large metal construct, built as its new home. When the thing came to life, it was the most fearsome thing any of the beings present had ever seen.

It looked towards Quinn Mallory. And smiled pure evil.

Chapter Seven

Quinn backed away slowly from the thing as it began manipulating its mechanical form, testing its boundaries and capabilities. "Y...you guys don't actually expect me to fight that thing, do you? It's way bigger than me and more powerful and..." he paused as he saw the thing cut through a steel girder like it was butter,"...I am so dead."

"Foolish human," Tarkalan mocked him. "You will not face the great god Mekalech in a physical challenge. What kind of contest would that be?" The Prime Minister laughed out loud. Quinn breathed a sigh of relief.

"But, the Battle..." Quinn asked confusedly.

"Ah, yes," Tarkalan replied, acting as though he had nearly forgot. "Prepare both parties for the Battle," he ordered the priests. "Mekalech must prove himself by defeating a Champion who is pure in heart, a hyperion of his species. It will prove, beyond all doubt, that it is the Mek who are the perfect race, the ones meant to rule the multiverse. But it cannot be just a clash between two warriors. It is a war between the souls of Mekkans and humans." As some of the priests laboriously moved a large electronic device into the room, Tarkalan nodded his head and two guards seized Quinn Mallory. They began to strap him into the seat that was on one end of the device and attach wires to his head and arms. "It is a battle that must be fought...on the astral plane."

"This is getting insane," Wade commented to her friends. "This Tarkalan guy can't be serious, right? This is some kind of joke."

"A sick one," Molaudian agreed. "An impressive light show and a glorified exoskeleton does not an ancient god make."

"Silence," one of the Mekkans guarding them spoke with utter contempt. When the guard spoke, Tarkalan turned his attention to his other captives.

Taking charge of the situation as he usually did, the leader of Lesion spoke with a swagger that spoke of his arrogance as well as his newfound authority. "Take them below. The large storage room should be fine. We can find all sorts of interesting things to do with the humans later, and Molaudian...well, you never know when a good diplomat could come in handy."

As the foursome were escorted through the old cathedral, the sliders looked at their surroundings carefully. The place may have been old, but it was very well kept. No dirt or dust blemished the paintings and tapestries of Mekalech and his fellow otherworldly creatures. Wade, the Professor, Remmy and Molaudian were deposited in a large room that had a Medieval dungeon air to it.

"Homey," Rembrandt commented sarcastically. "Lesion really knows how to treat their guests."

"How long til the slide?" Arturo asked with a worried expression on his face.

"About a half an hour," Wade answered, distressed herself.

"The situation is grim," Molaudian postulated, "but not hopeless. The bigger problem is greater than our own immediate situation. Lesion hopes to conquer the multiverse. Even if the four of you leave this world intact, their goals will remain the same."

"Hey, no offense," Remmy answered, "but you guys couldn't even take over one world's United States. I don't see much hope of you takin' over a bunch of worlds."

"Our generals' hands have been tied throughout the war on Earth 82056," Molaudian responded, as though confessing his greatest sins. "The ruinous war there has been the fault of government mismanagement, not military incapability. A truly determined ruler, like Tarkalan, could easily turn our superior weaponry, much of which wasn't even used on 82056, against less advanced worlds and turn them to rubble. This cannot be allowed."

"I heartily concur," Arturo responded. "But what can we do to stop them?"

Molaudian looked dour. "The three of you must go on from here, and warn other worlds of the evil that Lesion will spread across the multiverse. I will remain, and try to build a resistance force. It will not be easy, but it is a necessity."

"This is all good long range planning," Wade interrupted. "But what about us getting out of here? We're not sliding without Quinn."

The former Foreign Minister withdrew a concealed weapon from under his clothing that vaporized the heavy wooden door that blocked their exit from their prison. "Does this suffice?"

Arturo chuckled and patted Molaudian on the back. "Let's go retrieve Mr. Mallory then, eh?"

"OK, guys," Quinn told the soldiers that were now hooking him up completely to the large system that would presumably allow him to face Mekalech on the astral plane, "I don't want to be the Champion anymore. Really. I resign. So let me go, alright?"

"Coward," Tarkalan barked icily. "You are not the hero of humanity we heard tales of. The Kromaggs are easily frightened or complete fools or both. Nonetheless, you are the only one we have who can serve as Champion. Mekalech must be exalted."

As priests on the other side gingerly hooked up the same equipment to the large mechanical body of Mekalech, Quinn braced himself for what might happen. He didn't really believe in the astral plane, the spiritual realm had never particularly interested him, but he also didn't know what these Lesion guys were capable of.

"Everything is prepared," one important-looking priest spoke to Tarkalan. He made his own grotesque smile and turned to the officers operating the equipment.

"Begin the Battle!" Tarkalan exclaimed. As the Mekkan soldiers pulled some levers and switches, Quinn struggled against the electricity that shot through his body until it stopped his moving altogether. He let himself go then, feeling as though he were slipping away, floating into the bright blue...

The three sliders and their Mekkan diplomat companion rushed through the hallways of the cathedral. Wade had tried to remember the way there, but she wasn't sure she knew. While they were looking for the large room where Quinn was presumably enduring the Battle, they ran into some Lesion soldiers bearing blasters.

"Back into your cell!" one of them exclaimed. "You may not disturb the Battle."

As the three soldiers began to escort our heroes back to the dungeon, Molaudian spoke to them. "Wait, friends. You do not know the horrible fate that Tarkalan will bring on the heads of all Mekkans. Look in to your hearts, your minds. You know that what Lesion stands for is wrong. The solution to our problem isn't more conquest, it's learning to live at peace with our neighbors. The Mekkan name has carried great dignity for many centuries. And perhaps the last government has made many mistakes. But that does not mean that we must resort to such drastic measures to correct them. So join with us, brothers, and help overthrow the cruel reign of evil and tyranny that is sure to result from this Battle and the government of Lesion."

The three soldiers looked at each other, puzzled. They then once again trained their blasters on the sliders and urged them to move forward. "Trag it all," Molaudian spoke and blasted the three officers with his secret weapon. They were vaporized. The sliders stood there, motionless.

"I'd work on that speech a bit if I were you," Remmy commented.

"I'll make a note of it," Molaudian replied dryly.

"We're wasting time," Arturo reminded them. "We slide in a few minutes." As the four of them moved further down the hallway, Wade paused to look carefully at one of the tapestries. It featured a creature that looked much like the Mekalech monstrosity that Lesion had built, only made of flesh. He had a ring of twelve dark orbs hovering around his head like a crown. Wade wondered what it meant.

"C'mon, Wade," Remmy cried from up ahead. She followed him swiftly.

The four of them walked through the door (which Molaudian destroyed with his weapon) to find Quinn and the large mechanical beast hooked up to some sort of weird contraption. There was nobody else in the room.

"I wonder what happened to Tarkalan and his goons?" Rembrandt asked.

"No idea," the Professor replied. "Right now we've got to worry about getting Quinn out of here."

Wade looked at the large mechanical creature standing across from Quinn, its electronic eyes looking dead without the red glow that had been in them. "I'd say that involves destroying Mekalech. That'll kill two birds with one stone."

Molaudian nodded. He then pointed his disintegrator weapon at Mekalech. Instead of a blast coming out when he activated it, he heard a strange beeping noise. "Kurx! It needs to be recharged."

Wade moved around Mekalech trying to see if he had any weak points. "In his back, here, it looks like what might be some sort of power source."

Arturo also examined the supposed deity. "And his leg joints seem to be rather lightly armored. Perhaps if we attacked him there..."

"I'm game," Rembrandt replied, picking up a piece of metal equipment and slamming it into the large body's knee joint. Wade had found something similarly capable of smashing and was using it to attack the box on his back. Arturo, meanwhile, looked at Quinn. The boy looked lifeless. The Professor examined the timer. "Less than a minute."

"It isn't working!" Wade cried out, putting all her strength into one last blow to no avail.

Rembrandt looked as though he was giving up as well. "What do we do now?"

"Help me unhook Mr. Mallory," Arturo instructed the others. "We'll take him to the next world, conscious or not." When Wade looked unhappy with him, he bellowed, "Well, it's either that or leave him to the mercy of these lunatics!" As Arturo and Wade pulled the wires from Quinn's body, Rembrandt took the timer from the Professor and activated the vortex as it hit zero.

"How's he lookin'?" Remmy yelled over the roar of the vortex.

"Still out of it," Wade replied. "Go on through, Remmy. We're going to hoist Quinn into the vortex. You be on the other side to catch him when he comes through. We'll be right behind you." The Crying Man jumped through the wormhole, still concerned about his friend.

As Wade and Arturo carried Quinn to the vortex, Molaudian made one last comment to them. "I wish you good fortune. I do not envy you." Quinn went into the wormhole.

"Thanks for everything," Wade said. She jumped through to the other side.

"The fact that you and these monstrosities share the same species is truly a fluke," Arturo told the diplomat before entering the void himself. It closed behind him a few moments later.

Molaudian walked out of the room, hoping he wouldn't be nabbed by some more Lesion soldiers. He was stopped in his tracks when he heard an ungodly bellow...and turned around to see Mekalech awakened.

[ Earth 2013 Episode Guide | The Otherworlds ]