Part One of the Loose Ends Trilogy,
by Darran Jordan [eclectica]
Chapter Three: Invasion
The street was exploding behind them as they ran. Fire burned thick and fast as buildings exploded to the left and right. A dark shadow fell across their running figures, a black mass of darkness blotting out the light of the sun, firing its roaring pulses of energy as it soared menacingly above. The ship which pursued them banked into the air, soaring upward as a fighter jet moved into intercept. It was almost as an afterthought that the Manta ship fired on the jet, disintegrating it in mid air, then the Kromagg ship returned to its original targets, the running figures of Wade Welles and Professor Maximillian Arturo. It was but one craft, and the sky was black with them. It was the planet's darkest day, the day of conquest, the day the Kromaggs came. The day of the Invasion of Earth Prime.
"This is all my fault," Wade murmured as they ran. "I honestly thought that machine was being used against Quinn. If I'd known that..."
"Don't even think that Miss Welles," the Professor replied as they skidded to a halt in a shop doorway, watching the Manta ship sail past them, "you did what you thought was best. If I had been more certain myself then I would have done more to stop you - no, we cannot blame ourselves for this. The ones we must blame is they," he said, motioning to the invading ships circling above, "and it is them we must stop. We need a plan."
"We need to find Remmy," Wade insisted, "he'll be back at the Chandler."
"As will Logan and Quinn's double. We must hurry. Once we're all together we'll work out how to put an end to this invasion."
They both nodded and hurriedly ran on, through the chaos of the burning streets, on toward the Chandler Hotel. It was not long before they found it.
"There," the Professor motioned, "hiding in the alley over there, it's Logan and the other Quinn."
"You go join them," Wade said quickly, "I'll go into the hotel and get Remmy, then I'll meet you in the alley."
"Miss Welles, are you sure..." the Professor began, concern creasing his face.
"It's the quickest way," Wade insisted. "Come on Professor, we have to hurry."
"But Miss Welles, it has taken me so long to find you, I worry that if we split up we won't be able to find each other again..."
"We have to risk it," Wade insisted. "This is our world at stake now Professor, we have to do something."
"Alright Miss Welles, alright," the Professor assented grudgingly. He gave her a quick hug, feeling awkward as he did so. "Good luck," he whispered, and then they were both running, running for their lives. He saw Wade enter the Chandler's lobby just as he skidded to a halt in the alley beside Logan and the alternate Quinn.
"Max," Logan hissed as he stood beside them, panting, "I was worried. We built our slide-block machine but we must have missed something, we thought it was working but somehow the Kromaggs have..."
"It was Miss Welles," the Professor muttered quietly, "I took her round to Quinn's place to see you both, she thought the machine was designed to keep her Quinn out of this dimension while you two plotted some evil. I'm rather afraid she smashed the device to pieces."
"She did what!!!" Logan exploded with anger. "I'll kill her, I'll tear her to pieces!!!"
"Logan please," the Professor interrupted, "she honestly thought you were up to no good. You never bothered to tell me that you fired a bullet at her head, did you? How on earth did you expect her to trust you after that?"
"I didn't expect her to trust me," Logan hissed, "I expected her to trust you. I told you I was no angel, but surely you realise we have a greater enemy to face here."
"Yes of course," Arturo muttered, "but we have no time to argue about all that now. When Miss Welles comes out with Mr Brown we have to get back to the basement and fix the machine..."
"That would do us no good," Quinn stated, his voice a quiet monotone, eyes wide, watching the Manta ships circling above, the world burning around them. "The machine kept them from sliding onto this world. Now that they're here there is nothing we can do about it."
"Then we need another plan," Arturo countered, "some new device to..."
"We have to leave," Logan stated simply. "We've lost this battle, but we haven't lost the war. We have to leave this earth to the Kromaggs and prepare for our next battle with them."
"We can't," the Professor stated, aghast at the idea, "this is my world..."
"I lost my world this way," Logan stated, "so did Quinn. We both know what it's like -but there's nothing we can do now. Quinn and I have some ideas for using Sliding technology against them, but we need time to research and experiment. We had planned to stop them coming here, then use this world as a base. That's no longer an option. We have to leave."
The Professor hung his head, suddenly feeling very weary, very drained. As much as he hated to admit it, he could see no alternative.
"Very well," he said. "Very well. As soon as Miss Welles and Mr Brown get here we'll..."
"You think I'm taking them with us, after what she just did," Logan spat.
"We're not leaving them here," Arturo bellowed angrily, "they're my friends, I won't..."
But Quinn interrupted them both, pointing out of the mouth of the alley as a Manta ship landed in front of the Chandler Hotel.
"Oh my," Arturo whispered. Beside him the others fell silent as the doors to the ship opened and the uniformed figures of the Kromaggs burst out, guns blazing, running straight into the Chandler Hotel. The Professor made to move forward out of the alley, but Logan and Quinn both held him back.
"But my friends," he hissed, "those creatures will..."
But by then it was too late. The Kromaggs were already emerging from the hotel again, and they were dragging Wade with them.
"Get your hands off her you monsters," came the voice of Rembrandt Brown as he too was dragged out behind her. He tried to fight the soldiers off, but there were too many. Slowly, almost calmly, the soldiers circled him and began clubbing him with their guns. They continued doing so long after he had passed out, his unconscious body, bruised and battered, lying untidily on the roadside.
"Let me go," Arturo hissed menacingly, but Logan and Quinn held him tight, Logan jamming her hand firmly over his mouth. Together they watched as another Kromagg emerged from the Manta ship. This one's uniform was slightly different, obviously their leader. He walked up to where Wade Welles was being held by the Kromagg soldiers, smiling at her with horrid pointed teeth.
"Is this the one we implanted the tracking device in," he asked one of the soldiers. He received a curt nod by way of reply.
"Tracking device?" Wade whispered.
"Of course," the Kromagg leader smiled. "We implanted it back when you and your friends were held prisoner by one of the Kromagg divisions. You didn't honestly think you escaped from us on your own initiative did you? We let you go, implanting a device to track you so that when you returned to your homeworld we could invade it. We must stamp out any human planets that possess sliding technology." He looked around thoughtfully, taking in the burning buildings, the sky dark with Manta ships. "It is so easy, to take your worlds from you, so easy." He smiled again, sharp teeth glinting red in the glow of the nearby flames. "Now tell me human, where are the others of your party? There were four when we encountered you last, but now there are only two, where are the others?"
"I won't tell you anything," Wade whispered, eyes wide with fear, but filled with a fierce determination.
"We shall see about that," the Kromagg answered. "In time you will tell us anything we wish to know. We have plans for you and your friends you see, many plans... you will see." The Kromagg leader gave her one last smile, then motioned to the soldiers. "Take them into the ship and begin the interrogation," he ordered. His troops obeyed immediately, dragging both Wade and the unconscious Rembrandt Brown into the Manta ship. The doors of the vessel closed behind them, then the ship lifted off, drifting lazily up into the sky. It wasn't until it was out of sight, subsumed into the mass of Manta vessels that littered the skyline, that Logan and Quinn finally let the Professor go. He fell to his knees. There were tears in his eyes.
"Why did you hold me back?" he bellowed angrily. "How could you just stand there while those monsters took my friends?!!!"
"What would you have had us do Max!!" Logan countered vehemently. "Dramatically sacrifice our lives in some noble gesture of friendship? Quinn and I have tried to play that game against the Kromaggs before. We can't beat them that way. We can't. There was nothing you could do, nothing we could have done. We have lost this battle. But as long as we are free there is hope. As long as we continue in our researches we stand a hope of finding a way, a final and absolute way, of ridding all the worlds of the Kromagg menace. I will not see that hope dashed by some futile gesture, and I will not let you lose your life for friendship Max, no matter how much you may want to."
"We have to go after them," Arturo insisted, "rescue them..."
"There is nothing we can do," Logan replied. "We have no weapons, no plans. The earth is burning around us. We can't do anything now Max, we can't. But we can come back later. We can come back when we're ready for them, then we'll find your friends, we'll free this earth, and all the others."
Wearily Professor Maximillian Arturo got to his feet. He could see the sense in Logan's words, but that didn't mean her message was any easier to bear.
"Very well," he answered mechanically. "Very well."
None of them said a word as Logan opened up a wormhole before them. None of them even looked at each other as they filed slowly one by one to the mouth of the portal and fell silently into its depths. Quinn was first, then Logan. The Professor paused a moment on the threshold, looking about him at his world, his home. He had been lost for so long, and returned home only to watch it burn, only to have his friends taken from him, only to have all his dreams shattered and replaced by nightmare.
"I'll find you again," he whispered, "Miss Welles, Mr Brown. I'll find you both and set you free. I promise."
Then he fell silently into the portal. Behind him Earth Prime burned and the Manta ships cast their shadow of conquest across the planet. The Kromaggs had won this battle, but the war went on. One day they would come back, one day they would set this world free. Until then there was always Sliding, visiting the worlds of what might have been, dreaming of a better tomorrow. But one day they would all have the happy ending they deserved... one day... wouldn't they?
NEXT: "The Extinction Agenda"|
An all new adventure featuring Professor Maximillian Arturo, Logan St. Claire, the alternate Quinn Mallory... and the return of Wade Welles. The multiverse will never be the same again...