By Slider Sarah
PLEASE NOTE: Contains scenes that some readers may find disturbing.
Laurie forced her eyes open, ignoring the pain in her head. She was still under the rubble. To her left she could see Craig. Well, she could see his head and arms. Other than being out cold, he seemed okay, but her sight was blurry.
"Laurie! Laurie, are you okay?" Evidently Pete had avoided the worst of it.
There was no sign of the Kromaggs yet, but they couldn’t be that far behind. "Of course I’m not. I just got hit by a house."
He tried to shift some of the rubble off her back. "I’m gonna get you out of here."
"What the Hell do you think you’re doing? There’s no time to get me out of here, or Craig, you have to GO!" Laurie’s sense of leadership took over. "I’m buried, can’t do anything properly, probably concuseed and the Kromagg’s will be here any second!"
"But I can’t leave you here! You’re our leader! "We need you!" He seemed unfazed by her outburst.
"Bollocks you do! Now get back to base and leave me here! That’s a direct order!" Her words were puntuated by Kromagg gunfire. They were nearing.
Pete paused. He didn’t want to leave her here, but it was beginning to dawn on him that he could not hope to get her out before they got here. He took her dusty hand and clasped it tightly. Leaning closer he whispered, "It’s not the end of this… we’ll get you out of there."
She smiled as she watched him leave, dodging Kromagg fire and then she passed out again.
* * *
When she awoke for the second time, Laurie leaned over the side and puked. Only then did she open her eyes.
Laurie was pretty much where she’d espected to be, even though she’d never seen one personally. It was a Kromagg interrogation room. She was strapped into a chair in a dark room with no windows. The only light came from a couple of small lit triangles near her chair.
It was pretty obvious they knew she was a Resistance member. They could hardly miss it considering the circumstances. And now they were going to interrogate her. Great.
There was no way of telling the time where she was, but it was a long time before the mechanical doors slid open and two Kromaggs entered. The lights were raised, but not by much. Laurie was thankful for that. Not only did she not want to see her torturers, but she wans’t quite sure how her eyes would have coped with greater brightness anyway.
"Hoo-man, we know you resist us. We demand to know your plans!"
The Kromagg smiled perversely, and turned a dial that made Laurie’s head feel like it was rapidly exploding. "Are you sure you don’t wish to inform us?"
"I said BITE ME!"
This sequence continued for a little while with the same results before the Kromaggs decided that they weren’t going to get anything out of her this way. "She has a strong tolerance," one of the whispered, only just within Laurie’s hearing. "We should just send her for breeding." Laurie flinched at his words, but luckily neither was paying her any attention.
"No, there might be another way." He walked over to her and stood directly in front of her, so she could stare into the dirty depths of his eyes. "Do you know of our abilities hoo-man female?"
Laurie said nothing. It was best not to incriminate herself already. But she shuddered internally at what she knew was coming.
The Kromagg reached out with his mind and tried to find a way in. Every single time he managed it, Laurie ejected him, sometimes violently. How she did it, she would never know, but determination to keep quiet seemed to be translating itself into action.
After he had been thrown across the room twice, the Kromagg became somewhat agitated. He put a hand on each of her temples and pushed harder. This time Laurie screamed, but still did not yield. When he finally let go, she was sick again.
He returned to his companion. "Perhaps you are right. We shall try again later, and again tomorrow, with another of our number. Kronnus is best in this field. If there is still no information, we shall place her in a breeder camp. Maybe that will break her."
* * *
Two pairs of rough Kromagg hands pushed Laurie visciously through the door before immediately slamming it shut behind her. The young member of team 6-Beta of Earth 117 was straight away back upon her feet and beating at the door with clenched fists.
"You can’t do this to me! Let me out of here! Let me OUT!!!!" she screamed at guards who were trained to ignore the cries of those within. When that proved useless, she began pulling at the tracing collar they had attached round her neck. She did however, discover that her precious necklace was still there, thankfully.
"It won’t do any good you know," came a voice from her right.
Swiftly, with reflexes honed by her period Sliding as well as time under Kromagg occupation, Laurie spun around to face the speaker. "Who are you?" she blurted.
The other woman moved out from the shadows and faced her. She was perhaps only around five or six years older than Laurie, but she looked far older than her years. This was someone who had experience of the Kromagg brutality in a way Laurie had not.
She said calmly. "My name is Wade Welles. We’ve all tried that. The collars won’t come off without proper tools and the ‘Maggs won’t come in here unless they’ve come for one of us. We’ve still got three more to go before that."
"What do you mean, three more?" Laurie asked. "Three more what?"
"Women of child bearing age." Wade gestured around the room. "There should be 24 of us in here. They won’t start taking us for breeding until the room is full. You were number 21."
The word ‘breeding’ sent shivers down Laurie’s spine. She’d nearly been in that position once before, back on her home world, and she had no desire to repeat even that part of the experience. Pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind, she took in her surroundings for the first time.
There were twelve sets of beds, one up, one down, like the bunk beds Laurie had grown up with. on each there was a pillow and a coarse blanket and even at a glance she could see that four were currently unoccupied. She guessed that one of those must be hers. The room seemed fairly light, but most of that came from the artificial light high up on the ceiling, well out of the reach of even the tallest women. The windows, such as they were, were equally as high.
Belatedly, she offered her hand to Wade. "I’m Laurie Price," she announced. "Of Alternate Earth 117, assigned to reconnaisence team, 6-Beta."
Her words stopped all talk in the room and all faces turned towards her. Wade’s was the only one that was different. Her’s had broken into a smile which took years off her face. "You’re a Slider too!" she exclaimed. "But wait, you said assigned?"
"My world was taken over by ‘Maggots and I joined the resistance movement. We stole the secret of Sliding from them and went out to seek help." She shrugged as if she assumed everyone did that. Evidently they did not, for all but Wade were still staring at her with some degree of awe.
Wade smiled again and gave her a hug. "I was Sliding long before my world was taken by Kromaggs. An accident with a genius, I suppose you’d say." She gave a short laugh. "’Maggots. That’s was Remmy used to call them too." Her face dropped as she thought of her old friend.
"Did you lose him?" Laurie placed a hand on the shoulder of the older woman.
The other former Slider nodded and wiped a tear from her eye. "He and I, well, we got home, but Quinn, the genuis guy, and the other Slider never followed there like they were supposed to. Only Remmy and I were there when the Kromaggs came. I was sent here, he was in jail. I don’t know what happened to him, or the other two. I miss them so much." When she remembered the others were watching, she forced the feeling away and managed to stop the tears immediately. "I’m sorry, it’s just one of those things. All I can think of is that Quinn is left to wander the multiverse and Remmy is on one of those terrible labour camps." She paused and gathered her composure. "Anyway, is your whole team here? Everyone’s looking at you like you’re superhuman because there are only a few former Sliders in these places. When you have a convenient way out it’s a lot easier to get away."
This time it was the turn of Laurie’s face to drop. As she spoke, her voice cracked with the all too recent loss. "No. I… I got left behind on a Slide and the ‘Maggs invaded that world. I formed a resistance based on the principles of my own, but I got taken in a raid."
Wade nodded silently. She empathised deeply with the girl who was still so young. How could they subject her to such things! But then, when had the Kromaggs been known for their compassion.
She led Laurie over to the cluster of other women. "Here, let me introduce you to the others. This is Grace and Maggie, they were the first two in here."
"Weren’t you the first?" Laurie queried, slightly confused.
Laughing, Wade replied, "No, no. I was seventh." Understanding the source of Laurie’s confusion, Wade clarified it. "They look up to me because I am… was… a Slider. You’ll find the same." She returned back to the original topic in an attempt not to dwell on the past. "Grace has three ‘Magg children already, I only have the one. The three of us were roomates last time. Maggie here is actually a double of the woman I slid with for a while. Completely different. The Maggie I Slid with was a selfish bitch, but I get on pretty well with this version of her. You have to really."
Laurie was led round the rest of the group, but she didn’t expect the reaction she got from the others. Wade was right, they really were in awe of her because she was a Slider. After the meal, which was pushed through a flap in the door, they persuaded her to tell stories of her Slides until lights out curfew. There hadn’t been that many worlds, not compared to someone like Wade, who, it turned out, had been Sliding for over three years, but she figured new stories in here were few and far between.
As she lay there, in the hard bunk in the near perfect darkness, she cried. She cried for Connor, for Stephen and Mike who had never returned for her. She knew if they could have done they would have, so that left some kind of incident. The more she thought about it, the more she cried. She cried as well for the plight of her resistance. Not the Resistance of Earth 117, that would manage quite easily without her, but of the resistance she had built on that world where she had been left. She wasn’t sure it could stand without her, although she hoped it could.
And last of all, she cried for herself. And for all the others in this damned breeding camp.
* * *
After two days of waiting, the heavy bolted doors at one end of the room finally opened again. There was no time for a rush at them, the movement was so swift that the newcomers were thrown in before anyone had a chance to react.
Finally Laurie had a chance to watch the incident from afar. Up until now, her only experience of it was when she herself had been pushed inside. But this was very different from her own. For starters there were three of them.
Three was the magic number, even Laurie knew that. Three remaining bunks meant three more women were to arrive. And then, then came the ‘breeding.’ From what she had heard from the others, multiple arrivals were fairly common when those involved were newcomers. Most newcomers came from recently occupied territories. Laurie had been an exception, having been taken in a raid and interrogated before being sent here. That had delayed her from some of the others of the world she was taken on and had separated her from anything resembling normality.
If communication between the three newcomers was anything to go by, they were indeed of the same world and had probably been transported together. It made Laurie feel even more left out. She had no ties to any of the others here, and becoming closer to any of them was difficult since they treated her as a superior rather than a friend. Only Wade was any different, and she was in the same boat as Laurie.
Grace took them in hand, just as, by a freak coincidence considering what had followed, Wade had taken Laurie in after her arrival. Grace explained about the collars and the doors and then asked them about themselves. It turned out that it was exactly as assumed. They were some of the first taken on a new world for the Kromaggs. It made Laurie feel sick, along with most of the other things the Kromaggs had done.
Spotting Wade sitting on her bunk, Laurie made her way over to sit beside the other Slider. "So what happens now?" she asked, voice quivering.
"Now they come for us," Wade sighed. "I had hoped for the wait to be longer." She looked down at her stomach. "I don’t believe my body can cope with children so close together. Not forever." The last part was more to herself than Laurie. Torment ravaged through her mind and pregnancy would soon ravage her body. She had already seen three women die here, she did not want to become one of them.
Laurie just sat there quietly. There was nothing she could say to change things.
* * *
"Breeder FN 2719."
At the sound of the call, Laurie’s heart immediately dropped about a mile through the floor. She knew she was subject FN 2719. How could she not? It was on everything issued to her, right down to the plastic plates designated for her use. If she did not immediately present herself, they would have no trouble finding her and would be far more rough. She may not have been there long, but that much she knew. Twenty people had gone before her, including Wade. Two had hidden to no avail. Laurie knew better than to go to the trouble, especially when only five of them were in the room, the rest not having returned yet.
"Here." She stepped away from the few left.
The ‘Maggs gestured her to come towards them with their long poles which could give painful electic shocks and Laurie approached them, head held high and attitude reeking of disgust. She glanced back at the four. One was a seasoned ‘breeder’ who had done her best to mother the other three, who were all of newly invaded worlds and did not really understand anything yet. But there was some things the ‘mother’ could not protect them from.
Metal handcuffs with a red flashing light were attached to Laurie’s wrists and she was led away by a chain joined to them. As she was pulled away from the doorway, Laurie tried to give the newcomers a glimmer of home, even though, she was dreading this more than they were, knowing exactly what was to happen. Laurie was a newcomer herself, but it appeared that in their room she was only second in respect to Wade, who as a Slider of more years, held superiority.
Laurie was pushed into a room of clinical whiteness. The sunlight coming from the windows was so bright as to hurt her eyes. The light in the room was dull compared to this and in the time she had spent in there, her eyes had become accustomed to it. This was a shock to her system.
Through the white blindness, she could see a table in the middle of the room. Doesn’t take much for a maggot to get his jollies, then, she thought to herself, still detached from the fact it was she in the situation.
She paced the room for some time, taking in the sights, which were so minimalist they were almost nonexistent. Once her eyes had readjusted, Laurie found herself able to look through the windows. Outside was a beautiful garden, being tended by a couple of labourers, human she noted. They must be male or an older female, although she could not tell from such a distance. The Kromaggs would never let a fertile woman go to waste. They were considered too precious to risk in such an open capacity, despite the fact that they would beat the women often.
Reaching up to her ear, Laurie felt her team earring. The identity earring. If anything happened to her here, they would know it was her. She twisted it round and round, knowing it was the same mannerism she had in common with a three of the other member of team 6-Beta. Idly, she wondered if any of them were doing the same thing at that exact moment and then pushed the thought right back out of her head. She needed to be strong here, not blinded by emotion. She had to…
The door swung open to reveal a hulking ‘Magg figure which stopped laurie’s thoughts dead. This was an officer, to judge by his clothing, and a high ranking one at that.
"Ah, I see they have listened to my requests!"
Laurie began to back away slowly, falling over the bed as she staggered.
The Kromagg officer advanced on her, licking his lips as he did so. "Finally a young one! I found those older ones far to lacklustre to bear my children." His taunts were obviously intended to anger her.
He kept on advancing on her and when she found she could go no further back, he grabbed her arm and held her tightly against the window. "Now we shall see if you have the energy."
It was only then that the enormity of the situation began to dawn on Laurie. She’d had a sheltered life until the Kromagg invasion, living as she did in a lovely middle-class suburb of San Francisco. But since then, she seen more horrors than she ever thought she’d see in a lifetime. And now they were about to add to that list.
She’d known what was going on, of course, but knowing the theory was different to actually being put in that position. And the reality was a whole lot worse than she’d ever expected.
"No!" she shouted as she brought her knee up to hit him in what she hoped was his sensitive area.
It appeared she was correct and he quickly doubled up. Laurie loosened herself from his grip and ran back towards the door. Damnit! It was coded, probably only to Officer Maggot. She tried pressing a few buttons anyway, but all she could get was a red light. Attempting to prise the doors apart with her fingers also proved futile.
By now, the Kromagg was beginning to uncurn himself. "My, My," he sneered. "We are feisty. I’ll break you yet, human!" He rounded the table, but she was too quick for that and ran round the other side. "You can’t keep this up forever, Breeder."
He had afforded her the term all the Kromaggs used when referring to the human women in their captivity. Even though she tried to be calm, Laurie found a red haze dropping over her. It was a mixture of fear and anger, the most dangerous kind. She screamed and lept at him, using the table as a vaulting horse. Throwing obscenities at his ear, the young Slider proceeded to attack him using anything she could. Even if she could not get out, she inended to cause as much damage as she could.
But her attack was short lived, for within a minute four guards had entered the chamber and pulled her off the officer, who proceeded to rearrange his clothing. Each guard took hold of a limb and though Laurie tried persistently to kick out at them, all she actually did was make things slightly more difficult.
They carried her over to the table and held her over it, her screams still hurting their ears. From underneath, the Kromagg officer pulled four straps, the kind they used to restrain patients in hospitals. The four guards lowerd the still violently struggling Laurie onto the table and held her their, while the officer tied them tight. He nodded to the guards who then left.
The ties were so tight the Laurie could swear that she was losing some of the blood flow to her feet and hands. but that didn’t stop her screaming. In fact, it only strengthened her resolve now that she could barely move.
The officer pressed a button on the wall, and out came a cattle prod. He touched her left foot with it, and instantly Laurie howled with pain. "Silence!" he shouted. "If you persist you will feel this."
Laurie looked him in the eye and spat as hard as she could at his ugly face, before renewing her attempt at freeing herself, minus the action of her left leg which was so ravaged with pain she could not move it.
This time he touched her right arm and again she screamed. Loudly. "Please… please leave me alone," she begged once the pain had subsided just enough for her to talk.
The Kromagg just looked at her and laughed. He dropped the prod and moved towards her.
Laurie made no sound as he advanced. There was no sound left in her. There was only pain, anger, resentment, fear. And there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Even the gardeners outside heard her screams.
* * *
The darkness was not just in Laurie’s eyes, it was part of her mind as well. Hunched in a corner, she just sat there, knees drawn up close, rocking back and forth.
Afterwards, they had carried her back to the room she shared with the other women and just dumped her there. Laurie was in a state, to say the least, and she was not the only one. Close to half the women in the room were as bad as she, all newcomers as well. It had taken all Laurie’s inner strength to motivate herself just to move away from the heap they had placed her in.
Absently, and without conviction, she counted the number of people there. Twenty, not counting herself. That meant that the three who had arrived after her were still missing. She scanned the faces of her companions for that of Wade. She found her with Grace, helping to comfort one of the other newcomers. Wade herself looked drained and upset, but offset with a kind of rigid endurance.
Catching the pain in her eye, Wade left the bawling girl and made her way over to Laurie’s corner, where she instantly put her arm around her and held her close. There, Laurie broke. Her body was so entirely racked with pain, and there was not even any solace from that in her mind. The tears flowed freely, but it made little difference.
"Shhh," soothed Wade, gently. "It’ll be okay. In time you’ll be able block it out so it doesn’t hurt so much."
Laurie made some kind of incoherent reply about never being able to forget such ritual humiliation and torture, but Wade just ignored it and continued to hold her. The dark hole in her mind ate away at her soul, but it was the only way. The only way to carry on and seek what they all sought: Freedom.
Wade had been working on the plan for some time now, but previously there had always been a flaw in her plan. For the safety of the group, she needed two who understood Sliding, just in case something happened to her. Not just knew about it, but KNEW it. Someone who had been a Slider. For the first time since she had been here, Wade had been placed with another Slider, Laurie. The opportunity for escape was coming soon, and they had to be ready. It might be the only chance they got.
* * *
For the next four weeks, there was little change in the routine. Everyone was woken up early for breakfast, even though there was nothing for them to do, and were then left to their own devices until lunchtime. The same happened between lunch and dinner time. It was mundane to say the least and to pass the time all there was were the childish games they created.
There was only one deviation during the period. One of the newcomers, Verity, had walked into the bathroom cubicle to find one of the other newbies dangling from a rail. She had hung herself during the night using torn parts of her clothing.
They were now twenty three, but there was no chance of an extra person joining them. As those who had been through it all before explained, the four weeks following the purpose of the incarceration was designed to allow them to find out if they were pregnant. Somehow, most always were, apparently to do with the differences between humans and Kromaggs.
Once they were expecting a Kromagg child, there were a lot more ameneties for the women. The food improved markedly as Kromaggs knew that nutrients were essential for healthy children, and they were allowed to exercise and relax twice a week in the large gardens, under supervision, of course. But the living conditions did not change. it was still the same hard bunks with only minimal heating.
Today was one of their designated exercise days. The whole group went out together, accompanied by four armed Kromaggs. It didn’t seem like much; it was obvious the Kromaggs considered their captives completely broken.
Considering the Kromaggs seeming obsession with military, the exercise gardens were absolutely exquisite. The area was surrounded by bushes and trees, and since it was spring, these were covered with beautifully coloured flowers, fresh and sweet-smelling. Nothing like Laurie had expected at all.
The former member of team 6-Beta blinked the blurriness from her eyes as she sat on the small log bench. Until now, their first foray out, she hadn’t noticed what time of year it was. Since the Kromaggs had invaded again everything had merged into one, and after being brought here, it was even worse. Not until she saw the flowers blooming did she realise it must be about nine months since she started sliding. The last third of that had been spent on her own, stuck on another world, but nine months was a long time whatever.
Nine months since she had joined the team. Since the team had lost their previous member, Andy. In that time she had managed to forge deep friendships with them, and quite simply, she missed them. Yeah, she’d made other friends, but it wasn’t the same. There was something missing, an understanding. Except with Wade. That was different.
Wade somehow seemed to sense Laurie’s thoughts and made her way over, taking a seat next to her. "Penny for them," she smiled, seeming to bloom as much as the flowers.
"What? Oh sorry, I wasn’t paying attention."
"I know. Were you thinking about them?"
There was no need for Wade to clarify what she meant. Laurie already knew. She nodded solemnly and stared at the ground. "I just can’t bear it here any longer. Every day is so difficult. If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably kill myself here, rather than be a plaything."
Wade placed her arm around the younger girl’s shoulders and dropped her smile. "I know, Laurie, I know. I live in hope of seeing Quinn and Remmy again. I just hope Quinn got Remmy out. Maggie I’m not too bothered about." The last drew a slight, bitter laugh from both of them.
She dropped her arm and turned to face Laurie directly. "Did you know there has been an escape before?"
Laurie shook her head violently. "That’s just rumour. To keep morale up amoung the ‘breeders’." Despite her intense hatred for the term, it was amazing how quickly it could permeate into your mind. It was part of the breaking process.
"No, it’s not rumour. Her name was Christina. She escaped with her baby boy, just after I was sent here. Lauren was there at the time. There was a fire in one of the blocks and they had to put all of us together temporarily. She escaped from there. The Kromaggs were mad and security went haywire trying to stop it happening. I don’t know how she did it, none of us do, but she got away somehow." It wasn’t that long ago, yet to Wade it seemed almost like a distant memory.
Laurie shrugged. "That’s not gonna help us. They’re never gonna let that happen twice."
"I have a different plan."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I think I know a way out. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it in our dorm because it’s bugged all over the place, I’m certain. Here it’s safe though." Wade paused and took a deep breath. "But I need your help for it to work; I need two Sliders in case of problems. Myself, and… if you agree… you."
Only now did the blurriness completely disappear. "Why wouldn’t I help? I want to get out of here as soon as possible."
"It’s dangerous. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be us that carries the can. No one else." Despite herself, Wade found her thoughts difting towards Remmy again. He was never far from them, but she tried to distance herself. If she didn’t, there was no hope for her. He had tried to save her and failed. That was why they had him. If it wasn’t for her, he might still be free. She hoped beyond hope that Quinn had rescued him, but how likely was that? They hadn’t seen Quinn and Maggie since they were on that terrible hybrid world with Rickman. Who could say they would ever turn up? Or even if they were still alive.
Laurie sat up straight. "I’ll do it. I have to do it. Not for me. For them." No more than Wade did she want to be the downfall of her friends.
Nodding, Wade pushed all thoughts of her friends back again. There was plenty of time for that later, especially if this all failed. "We have to do this before we all become too pregnant, and that means soon."
"Why not wait until after? I mean, if your friend Christina can do it…"
"No," replied Wade shortly. "It has to be before. It involves being out here, and we’ll have to overpower the guards to gain their weapons. We can’t do that with babes in arms." She sighed quietly. If only Laurie had been here first time around. Then she would not have given up a child she dearly loved. "Once we’ve taken them out, we have a chance at the others."
Leaning back, Laurie paused for a moment. "Won’t they have thought all this? It doesn’t sound so difficult so far."
Wade shrugged. "That’s because it isn’t," she said. "The difficulty is getting off this world. Yeah, anyone could cause havoc, but there would be nowhere to go."
The idea began to dawn on Laurie. "Except by sliding…" she ventured. "If we could get to their machine, we might know how to use it.
"Exactly," Wade confirmed. "That’s why I need two Sliders. In case something goes wrong. They made a mistake when they put us both together. We’ll need to split up. Whoever gets there first will have to try and work out how to get the machine to send us somewhere feasible. That’ll be the hard part."
"Not if I get there first."
"I know the co-ordinates to my home world. In human and Kromagg. All of us in the Resistance learn them as a survival skill." And that was exactly what it might turn out to be.
Everything seemed to be coming together. "You… you know them?"
Wade said nothing further, but thought for a minute. If Laurie knew them, she could teach others, just in case. But this required a slight alteration to the plan. Even if others could learn, Laurie would be the least likely to make a mistake. She had to be the one to exercise that part, unless that wasn’t possible. "I’ll need to change the plan a bit, but it’s now looking more promising." Spontaneously she leaned over and gave Laurie a big hug. "I think we can make this work!"
* * *
Laurie began to teach others the co-ordinates straightaway. It was hard to do so in the dorm, with the cameras and bugging devices, but she was able to get around this by tracing the characters on their hands. It took longer, but it worked, plus it broke up the mindless tedium of their days.
There was a hierarchy to their system. Wade, as main conspirator learnt the co-ordinates first. Then those who had skills with computers or language. Since they didn’t know quite when they were going to put the plan into action, there might not be time to teach everyone, much to Wade’s annoyance. Even if this didn’t work out, it could be useful another time.
Ever since the plan had been circulated, there was a noticable boost in morale, especially with Laurie. She, and the others, now had something to work towards; it had restored to some extent their feeling of self-worth. But Wade knew that if it didn’t work, they would become even more downtrodden than ever.
It was getting late, as far as they could tell, since they had already had their main meal of the day. This was normally the time for idle chatter and storytelling, but most of the women had just taken to simply practicing the co-ordinates on each others’ hands. Wade was confident already of her knowledge and she made her way over to Laurie’s bunk where the Slider was resting.
"You awake Laurie?"
In the bed, Laurie sat up swiftly, twisting as she did so, and promptly hitting her head on the post. "Er, yeah," she giggled, embarrassed. "I think I can manage that."
Wade smiled right back. "Can I join you?" she asked politely.
"Of course you can!"
The bunk was pretty uncomfortable, but Wade sat down quickly, so used now to the basic furniture that she barely even noticed. "Laurie, I need to ask you to do something for me, just in case something happens."
The other girl’s eyes went wide with shock. "Wade don’t be silly! Nothing’s gonna happen to you!"
Placing her hand over Laurie’s, Wade considered her naivety. It would be nice to believe her, but Wade could no longer do that. In fact, she was surprised Laurie was able to, but perhaps it was a coping mechanism. Gently, she said, "You know that’s not true." It was painful to watch Laurie’s eyes drop so suddenly.
"What can I do?" The tone was completely flat, not her prior bouncy self. Like Wade, she tried to push those things as far out of her mind as possible.
Wade took a deep breath. It was not easy for her to say any of this. Once, she had told Remmy, but that was so long ago now and it had changed something. "Laurie, if anything happens to me, I want you to try and find my child. Children, if this one survives." Laurie tried to interrupt, but Wade cut her off. "Only if it’s not too risky. All I want is for my daughter to grow up away from hatred of humans."
She turned away and put her hands to her eyes. The façade she had worn for so long was breaking down at the mere thought of her daughter’s face. This time it was Laurie’s turn to hug her friend. "I wanted a baby for ages," Wade wimpered, slightly muffled. "Not like this, but I couldn’t help but love her the moment I saw her. Kalla, they named her, but to me she was always Kelly, after my sister. She was beautiful… and they took her from me!!"
Turning with fervour in her eyes, she said adamantly, "Laurie, promise me you’ll look for her, save her. Please… for me?"
"I’ll do my utmost best for you," Laurie comforted.
They just sat there for a while, keeping each other sane with their presence.
* * *
She was outside, lying on the grass, looking up at the sky. It was pure blue, just like the grass was bright green. Yet the sun did not hurt her eyes. There was a brook running alongside, when she sat up she could see it.
On the opposite side of the brook there was a person. When she moved a little closer, Laurie realised she recognised him.
"Connor!" she shouted across to him. "Where have you been! I’ve missed you!"
"Oh here and there," he replied. "Come on! Hurry up or you’ll miss the Slide!"
Now Laurie was confused. "What Slide?"
"The one in five minutes! Come on! You have to cross the river!"
She moved to the edge and dipped her now bare foot in. "It’s cold! And deep!"
"You know you can do it!"
As she gingerly stepped in, the water got fast. There was a strong undercurrent that pulled at her. The brook got deep really quickly and soon enough she was waist deep in the water and nowhere near the other side. "I can’t!"
"You don’t want to miss another Slide do you?"
That spurred Laurie on. Soon she was up to her neck in it, and losing her footing, not matter how hard she tried. Halfway across and for some reason she couldn’t make it, even though she was a good swimmer. Twice she went under, but found the surface again. There was no way she could do it.
Then Wade popped up in the water next to her. "Here… take this!" She threw one of those floating rings at her and then started to pull her towards the other side.
"I don’t need any help," Laurie protested.
"Yes you do." Wade pushed her into the shore and stopped.
"Aren’t you coming with me?"
"I have to wait for the next person to cross. Go on, go!"
Laurie pulled herself onto the shore and ran towards the forest where Connor had disappeared. She turned back to look for Wade, but she was goe already, although the ring was still there. Perplexed, Laurie went into the forest where she found Connor waiting by an already open vortex.
He held out his hand to her. "We thought you weren’t gonna make it," he smiled.
She took his hand and together they jumped into the swirling blue colours. But at the end of the tunnel there was no new world, just blackness as Laurie woke up in the dingy dorm, the sounds of twenty two others breathly deeply.
* * *
It was their sixth session in the garden. Several of the girls were getting morning sickness now, but everyone always took advantage of the garden when possible. Even if they were already in labour, should that happen.
But today’s session in the garden took on a different meaning for the twenty three out there. Today was the day. Laurie especially was getting itchy, and not from the pollen. There was one thing she had omitted to tell Wade. Not out of necessity, but out of practicality. The last time she and the rest of the team had been home, they had been given an add-on code to the co-ordinates, something that would tag them as being human and essentially drag them towards the human controlled area. The reason she hadn’t told them was that Laurie wasn’t even sure she could remember it right. Even without it there was still a chance they would land in a safer area.
Wade watched Laurie carefully from the other side of the garden area. When she was certain her fellow Slider was not paying attention to her, she made her way over to Maggie and Lauren, who were stretching by the small running track. "Guys, I need to talk to you."
Both listened intently straight away. They’d known Wade from last time round, and knew the tone of voice that meant it was important.
"Look, you can’t let Laurie know about this at all. Or anyone else for that matter, deal?" The two women nodded. "Laurie thinks we’re all gonna get out of this okay, but she’s forgotton one detail. The machine needs to be destroyed to stop them following. That means a few will have to stay behind to ensure its destruction." She could see in their faces they understood what she meant. "You in?"
Maggie shrugged. "I’ll do it. I guess you figured I’m the best shot since I was in the marines. Obviously I’d rather go with them, but if it means saving them, I’ll do it."
Wade nodded in acceptance. That was the main difference between this Maggie and the one she had Slid with. This Maggie was much less selfish and a generally nicer person. Perhaps that was the effect of the incarceration, but it no longer mattered to Wade. This Maggie she could get along with just fine.
"You know I’d always volunteer anyway. There’s nothing left for me anywhere… I might as well create something for me to go to should the Kromaggs ever fall." She gave a cynical little laugh. "All Empires crumble eventually. I just hope I’m there to see it."
"Thanks guys. It’ll just be us three, and no-one else is to know at all. They’d only try to stop us."
The three separated and joined other groups around the garden doing different activities. Wade scanned the garden for Laurie, eventually spotting her stretching by the small running track. Casually, she wandered over, glancing over her should for a mere second to find one of the armed guards watching her.
"It’s nearly time," she whispered, as she too began to stretch. "Are you ready?"
Laurie nodded her head quickly. "As I’ll ever be."
"Then let’s hit the road."
There was no immediate movement from the pair. Slowly, Laurie stood up straight and walked calmly towards a group of five resting by a bench, in close proximity to one armed guard. When Laurie was safely integrated, Wade moved over to the other five stretching. They were her group. There were four armed guards, and so the women had split into groups and elected one each. Owing to the uneven number, one had less revolutionaries. Maggie had insisted she take that, being the only one with actual military experience, even if she had given that up after her husband’s paralysis.
The petite Slider looked up to see that the others had gathered as required. The signal was now up to her. Suddenly, Wade found hersef nervous for the first time. This was all in her hands now, if they should die it was all her fault. Her eyes caught Laurie’s from the opposite side and her resolve hardened. That girl had seen her world overrun. Twice. And she was only just twenty years old. And that was what they risked for all their children if this was not successful. And if it wasn’t, they would have no kind of life anyway; death was better than that.
She looped her arm in the prerequisite movement and it began.
The first part was over so quickly. Five or six women, even pregnant ones, easily overpowered the four unsuspecting guards. The problem now would be evading the back up teams, who would inevitably come to the aid of their fallen comrades.
Only one had been injured in the attack. The Kromagg guard of the group Lauren had commanded had managed to get off a shot before he went down, and had managed to hit Verity in the arm. It wasn’t life threatening, but if left untreated could be nasty. Someone had used the Kromaggs clothing to make a bandage around it, but the blood was already seeping through.
There was no going back now. Wade had to take control, all the time reminding herself of her double who had led the American revolution on a Soviet ruled world. The strength was there, if she could only draw it. "Right, Laurie, Maggie, your groups go together and take the back way to machine." Maggie opened her mouth to protest, but closed it again, remembering the pact. "You both know how to use them?" Both nodded emphatically. Hopefully they would gain other weapons on the way, but at the moment, each group had only two.
Wade turned to the rest. "We’ll take the front entrance. Lauren and I lead. Everyone know what they have to do?" There were no negative shouts. They all needed to get out of there. "Then let’s make a move."
"Good luck," Laurie said under her breath. Only Wade heard her and she simply smiled, knowing they would need it.
* * *
"This way, I think," Laurie motioned to the eleven others. It was a big group for this kind of mission, but there were only two entrances to the Slide room, so more was not really an option.
Laurie had been inside Kromagg compounds before. Well, just one, the one on her world, but it was one more than any of the others had seen properly. But Kromaggs were nothing if not consistent. They may use existing buildings for their bases, but there were great similarities between worlds.
The pace was not fast, since they had to keep their noise down. Chances were the Kromaggs had already spotted the break out, but they would not know what they were doing. They were far to arrogant for that, and there was no point giving them more clues.
They reached another corner. Laurie and Maggie at the front peered round quickly, guns at the ready. There were two more Kromaggs on guard down here. Maggie motioned her head, indicated she would take the one on the rights. Laurie nodded and Maggie began a very quiet countdown. After one, the pair shot several times, without emerging completely from the corner. The guards went down quickly.
The lading pair then ran round the corner, followed by the rest, to be met by another Kromagg who had entered the corridor from one of the adjoining rooms, apparently upon hearing the noise. Laurie was surprised to see another, but Maggie’s military instinct took over and the Kromagg found himself shot neatly in the chest by a single shot.
"Cheers," Laurie said amicably to the shooter.
"No worries," shrugged Maggie. She stalked up to him an stamped visciously on his head. Without turning she said angrily. "That was the bastard that raped me." She kicked him a couple more times, then bent down to swipe his weapon, as well as those of the two guards. They were now more heavily armed.
Those with the guns checked the rooms down this part of the corridor and gave the all clear. "We need to get outside," Laurie announced.
"There was a door in one of those rooms," one of them piped up, very much in awe of Laurie still, even though the Sliders had proved to be only human after all.
Laurie nodded to Maggie and the two of them went inside and examined the door and the area around it. When they returned to the others, Maggie, as the ex-marine, picked out those carrying weapons. "There’s several out there. We’ll need to get good precision, as it’s from a distance. If we don’t get them pretty damn quick, they can nail us, and we can’t afford injuries this close."
Knowing they were not far from the Sliding room, Laurie began to worry. What if her Resistance was gone? Or she got the co-ordinates wrong? She could be saving these women from one set of Kromaggs, simply to have them enslaved by another. Maggie was helpful, in that her military leadership meant that Laurie did not have to command the group just yet. The time for that would come later. She’s already spent some time sending people to their deaths, she did not want to have to do that in a hurry.
Moving forward with the others, Laurie felt a hand on her arm. "Not you, Laurie," Maggie decided. "We can’t risk you."
"Oh don’t talk rubbish," Laurie complained. "I can handle myself just as well as you can. I don’t need to be mollycoddled."
"Maybe not, but we can’t risk you. You know the co-ordinates better than anyone, and you know the people there. You’re the one person who is not dispensible."
Laurie was not going to give in easily. She puffed herself up to the dignity and determination she had had as a Resistance Leader. "I never ask anyone to do anything that I won’t do myself."
"Yes, and that’s why you’re here. You aren’t asking anyone to do anything; I am, and I’m telling you to keep back, but keep alert." Now more than ever, Maggie wanted to get out of here, but she knew that time wasn’t coming. Not now anyway. Perhaps if this one got a way, she’d be able to get them out. Someday. If not, then Hell, at least some of them would get a better life.
She may have been temporarily demoted, but Laurie could still not relax. There was still too much that could go wrong. She stood with her back to the wall, gun persistently moving, waiting until the sound of shots disappeared. She heard several yells, but none of them were human. Thankfully.
"Clear!" Maggie yelled. Apparently there was no point keeping quiet now. It was pretty certain the Kromaggs knew something was going on.
Belatedly, Laurie wondered about Wade’s group. But there was no time for that now. Laurie made her way back to the head of the group and began to lead them again. She might not be expendable, but only she had any real idea how to get anywhere, except perhaps for Wade.
"This way!" she called back, to the people who were just behind her. This was all ringing very loud bells in her head now. The courtyard looked familiar. Somewhere round here there should be the back entrance into the Slide room. But where? "Spread out and look for doors! We don’t have that much time!"
There was a shout from the other side. The door would not open, but a window showed that it was indeed the Slide room they were looking for. There was only three guards in there, but distant sounds showed that Wade’s group had drawn others off.
Maggie used the butt of her gun to smash the window and then ducked to avoid the fire that would inevitably come out of it. Several shots came through, but no where near any of the women. There was a fumbling of the door, and eventually it opened, the leading Kromagg being greeted by Maggie knocking his legs out from under him and then hitting him with the gun. The other two behind him were taken out swiftly with simple shots.
Once inside, Laurie made a beeline for the control panel. She knew the co-ordinates, but it took time to input them, as well as finding the screen to actually input them in. She kept her gun close by, even if that deprived another of a weapon. In the first case, she knew how to use it, in the second, she was a very likely target.
The others in her group pulled the door stuf and barricaded it with bits of furniture from around the room. As they did so, Wade and her companions practically fell through the door, followed by several weapon beams.
"Barricade this now!" Wade yelled. "It’ll hold them for a little while! Then turn the tables over to hide behind! We have injured!" Wade herself seemd no more than roughed up a little, but there were several with gaping wounds, or blood streaming. "Laurie, how long?"
Shaking her head, Laurie did not stop pressing buttons. "I don’t know. They’ve updated the system here. It’s similar, but it might take me a little while."
Wade turned to look at the door which was banging and moving a lot from the force the Kromaggs were putting against it. "We don’t have time!"
At that moment, the barricade collapsed and Kromaggs poured in, fireing constantly. Frequently Laurie had to stop and duck, even though both Maggie and Wade were trying to protect her. Every time she did that it lost her precious time. Too much time. She heard a human cry as one of them was hit. Laurie could not even turn round to see who it was. She was nearly there.
Just before she was done, one of the shots actually reached her and threw her from the panel. "SHIT!" she screamed and grabbed her arm in pain. Now she had a chance to look around. Several of the women were down, but it didn’t seem any of the were dead. The same could be said of the Kromaggs. Wade and Maggie were still standing, but both had been hit.
Laurie crawled back to the panel and pressed two more buttons. A red vortex opened behind her. "Go, GO!" she shouted at the women. There was movement, but it was slow. Laurie staggered back to them and started helping them in. thankfully it wasn’t far, and the shots fired at them were greatly reduced in number.
One by one the women made it through. Soon it was only laurie left with Wade, Maggie and Lauren. "Come on," Laurie cried at them, "We don’t have much time.
"You go on," replied Wade. "We’re staying."
"No! You have to come!" Laurie tried to drag Wade towards the vortex. "Don’t be so stupid! We can all escape!"
The barricade at the back entrance gave way and more Kromaggs entered the Slide room.
"I’m not being stupid, I’m saving you! It has to be done! You can save my children, I can’t! Go! Goodbye!" With that, Wade physically pushed Laurie through the vortex. Then she, along with Maggie and Lauren, turned on the machine, blowing it to bits and the vortex closed.
Mission accomplished, they surrendered.
* * *
"Incoming vortex!" The customary yell as an opening vortex was detected rang through the Earth 117 Kromagg Resistance Headquarters. The shout always brought with it a rush of fresh activity as it was tracked.
"Magg or Human?" asked Jonathan, base commander and Leader of this resistance.
David, the young lad at the screen, looked confused. "Erm… it’s a Kromagg vortex, but it has our tracking code and the occupants seem human. I think. There’s so many of them!"
"Everyone ready your weapons. It could be an invasion, considering what they’ve been trying recently. Where?" There was the click of many weapons as they were all loaded and prepared.
As he shouted those words, in his breaking voice, the red vortex formed against the wall. Immediately people began to pour out of it. Once they were visible, it was obvious they were human, but still the guns stayed trained on it. There was no sense in being too relaxed.
"Identify yourself!" Jonathan barked at them. "Who are you?"
"Laurie Price!" said one of the less injured women, standing up.
Jonathan shook his head. "Impossible. I know Laurie Price and she isn’t you."
"I know, we’re with Laurie Price! She should be here soon."
Still it hadn’t registered with Jonathan, or any of the others in the room. "Laurie Price was captured. She can’t be with you."
As if to answer his statement, the vortex, which had been quiet for a while suddenly spat out Laurie. It closed almost immediately behind her. Standing up to stare at where it had been, Laurie yelled at the wall. "You stupid women! I could have saved us all! All!" She knew there was no sense in taking out her anger on a blank wall. Even with the vortex open Wade would not have been able to hear her.
She stood up, holding her arm and looked around. It had worked after all them. She was home. Good. "Hi Jonathan," she said simply. "Follow me everyone, we’ll get you all fixed up." She stalked out of the room, barely acknowledging those she had once worked alongside. She couldn’t face it right now.
Laurie walked straight past the weapons trained on them, but the rest of them seemed less sure. Watching her carefully, Jonathan signalled for the to drop their weapons and go back to work. Then he followed the twenty women to the hospital section.
* * *
It was dark, very dark.
Wade was in a cell on her own. The floor was cold stone, and the only things she had found were a blanket, a water pipe to suck on and a chemical toilet in the corner. There was a window high up on the wall, but it had been painted over with black paint. Wade only knew it was there because she could see light through the bits where flakes of paint had peeled off.
She had even less concept of time than ever before. When they had given themselves up, the three of them had first been interrogated, and then she was thrown in here. She hoped Maggie and Lauren were faring a little better. At least the others could have a proper life now, or as near to proper as possible after their ordeals under Kromagg occupation.
A hatch on the door opened, letting in streaming light that blinded her. A Kromagg face appeared in front of the bars over it, although Wade could not see it.
"Wade Welles, Breeder number DL 7942. Our mind probes have determined that you are the leader and the mastermind of the little escape you attempted."
He tried to suggest that it had failed, but Wade knew he was just trying to break her morale. There was no way it had failed, not with what she had seen.
"Therefore, we have sent the others back to ordinary breeder camp. You however, require special treatment. We should have known you would be a troublemaker; your friends seem to try at every possible opportunity," he sneered.
Inadvertantly, he had brightened Wade’s hopes. That meant that they were still out there! Alive! And kicking Kromagg ass whenever they could. She smiled at the thought. If Laurie could not find her, perhaps they would.
"What are you gonna do, kill me?" She tried to peer out from behind her hands, but it was still too bright for her eyes. At least they hadn’t taken them yet.
The Kromagg laughed at her. "You’re a breeder. We need that child in your body, and any more that you can give us. You are too valuble to kill. No, we shall keep you in complete isolation for the duration of this pregnancy. After that, who knows."
"You bastards!" Wade lauched herself at him blindly, but he just laughed at her again.
"I think you’ll find yourself worthy of more security now. And don’t think you can kill yourself either. We won’t be giving you anything you can harm yourself with, and you’re under constant surveillance."
Wade looked upwards, but still could see nothing. There was no chance it would be within her reach anyway.
"Oh, and by the way, we thought we could use you as bait to capture your friends."
Still at the door, Wade spat through the bars. He did not seem very appareciative.
"Although it won’t be you, of course. You are to valuble to risk. No, we have an infertile double of yours we can use. Implant her with all your memories, and she should lead your friends right to us. Oh yes, we have great plans for her."
Wade could do nothing to him now. She had to get out, but how? Any hope dissipated quickly. There was nothing she could do. She may have saved lives, but her friends would die for it. She crawled into one of the corners and curled up, hand on her belly. Perhaps this one would have a chance.
The hatch slammed shut and Wade was alone in the pitch black cell again.
Alternate Earth 117
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