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News of another world

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September, 1977

They had just finished recording a new album. As always with them, it had been quite a process, although it had been done quicker than their previous ones. They had yelled at each others quite a lot and had needed the few days spent with their respective spouse/girlfriend/cats to wind down from their various arguments and feel like seeing each other again. They were, however, quite happy with the result. They only had a little time before the whole craziness of album promotion and preparation for touring started again, and Freddie suggested they could spend a weekend together, just the four of them amongst friends, before the circus started again. They all agreed to meet that night at a small pub near Roger’s house. He knew the owner and they would have the back room for the four of them.

Uncharacteristically; they all arrive on time. Even Freddie, with his uncommon notion of punctuality, even John who has a small child, even Roger who lives next door, even Brian, who feels exhausted, drained as he often did at the end of recording an album. They were all just really looking forward to seeing each other.

They sit down around the table, get a beer, then start discussing where they should head to. John does not want to be far away from his kid, so Freddie’s grand plan for a visit to Tokyo is quickly forgotten. John suggests Edinburgh, then agrees that September in Scotland is possibly a bad idea. Roger’s plan to go to Paris seems to be getting the most approval. The three plans have in common that they include partying hard and getting positively shit-faced. Roger, Freddie and John bustle with energy and keep getting ideas. Brian is pretty silent. He had been hoping for something quieter, he really is too exhausted for all that. He suggested as much a while ago, offered to go somewhere to just talk and watch the stars but nobody seems to have listened. So he sighs and tries again:

“Come on guys, we could to something quiet for once, talk to each other, maybe get some sleep at some point in the weekend”

“Come on, old man!” mocks Roger “Live a little. You’ll have all the time to sleep when you’re dead.”

The others add a few other teasing remarks and come back to discussing their plans. Brian usually does like partying, even if he never lasts as long as John, but right now he is too tired. Even the sound of his friend’s playful argument is getting much. He is getting the beginning of a headache, and when Roger punches him amicably in the shoulder just a bit too hard, he sees red.

The usually calm man suddenly starts shouting which is something he rarely does outside of the recording studio, taking everyone by surprise:

“Look, you can go have some more parties and get drunk all you want. It’s what we’ll be doing on tour, anyway. Right now, I’m exhausted, I just want to get away from it all for a while. But since you seem to be unable to live without the noise, just go without me. That way I’ll get some more time with Chrissy. And you Roger, don’t fucking punch me!”

With these last words, the guitarist storms out from the bar.

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Freddie, John and Roger were surprised. It was not like their friends to burst out for nothing like that. If anything, it was more of a Roger thing. They looked at each other, bewildered. Roger looked at his fist.

“I barely touched him” he said, soflty.

“I know, darling”, Freddie answered. “Maybe he’s more tired and on edge than we thought.”

They all looked at each other. They had to admit their guitar player did look tired, even if to be honest they all kind of still did. John added:

“We are all pretty tired to be honest. Maybe he’s right, we should to something quiet for once.”

After looking at each other again, they nodded. They all knew what they were thinking of. They had failed to pay attention to Brian’s tiredness and jumpiness once three years before and it had ended with one of the scariest time in their lives. Their first US tour in 74’ had to be interrupted and none of them wanted to relive anything like that night on the red-eye flight, holding their dangerously ill friend, wondering if he would get better. The three weeks he had been in hospital had been pretty awful, and the recovery had been long, as the guitarist kept overworking himself and getting sick again. Even if another encounter with an infected vaccination needle was unlikely, they all thought it would be a good idea to take into account their bandmate’s exhaustion this time, and not push it.

Roger, who had known the curly guitarist the longest also had one other episode on his mind. He remembered entering Brian’s room one evening to retrieve a jacket he had forgotten there the previous night, and finding his friend in the kitchen, looking intently at the blood pouring from a cut on his hand, made while cutting tomatoes. He had looked fascinated and was not doing anything to stop the pretty abundant flow. He was also eying the knife with an empty look. That had really frightened Roger. He had gotten Brian away from the knife, had sat him down, stopped the bleeding and patched him up. The guitarist had barely answered any of Roger’s worried comments for a while, and when he had come back to himself, had waved away all of Roger’s concerns. The wound had clearly been an accident and the young man’s reaction could have been attributed to shock but something had not felt right with the drummer who had found an excuse to stay the night. He had then kept an eye on his friend for the following weeks, checking up on him more often than usual. What had bothered Roger the most at the time had been the emptiness in his friend’s eyes. He had seen it a few times since, and though he had never really dared raise the issue, he had just something akin to that just then. It made him forget his desires for a lot of sex and alcohol, and agree to go on a quiet vacation this once. He wondered if he would ever get his friend to really open up.

Freddie started discussing with John where they could go, as he was usually the one looking for a quiet getaway. John confirmed that a Friend of Ronnie’s was renting a peaceful cottage in Bretagne, in the forest. Roger liked going to France, so he was happy with the plan. Once they had all agreed, Freddie was tasked to call Brian to convince him to come with them. It worked. Brian was a bit ashamed of his outburst, and tried to talk them out of it, but finally relented, quite relieved that he would have some down time with his friends. They would go three days later.

The three others celebrated the end of their argument loudly, with a lot of alcohol, but the next day, John still managed to talk to Ronnie and organize everything.

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If they were going to have a quiet weekend, they might as well go all the way, Freddie had argued. After the initial disappointment of not going to one of his huge parties, he quite enjoyed the idea of just spending some time together. And so they had decided to drive themselves the big camping car (that they needed because Roger had steadfastly refused to go without a drum kit). They also had brought a decent amount of food and alcohol.

It was the afternoon, they had gotten out of the ferry in Caen and Roger had just taken the wheel as he was the most used to driving on that side of the road. He drove under the speed limit for once and John was starting to drowse even if he was supposed to look at the map. It awarded him a growl from the drummer. In the back, Brian had fallen asleep as soon as they had touched shore and Freddie, left to his own devices, was looking through the window and softly humming an old lullaby.

After a long drive, they were there. A house at the edge of the forest in Paimpont. Brocéliande. They quickly unpacked. Uncharacteristically for September in Bretagne, it was not raining. The sun had gone down. Everything in the house was ready. John cooked. They all sat around the table, and started eating. They were starving – they had gotten lost a few times and it was getting late. Soon they started drinking, laughing, joking. As the night was bright, they decided to go out on the lawn. They had beers and were looking at the stars, a lot more visible than they ever were in London. They quickly figured it may not have been the best of ideas as Brian soon was giving a whole lecture in astronomy. They generally would not have minded all that much, but they had had a long drive, they were tired and slightly drunk, and so was Brian, who as a result, lacked his usual pedagogy and was almost speaking in equations. The three others were pretty lost. John threatened to start talking about engineering and Roger about cars and Freddie suggested to go back to music. John and Brian got their guitars, Roger got a small drum and they started jamming under the stars. They got back to the house late at night but not as drunk as they thought they would have been. They were having a good time.

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The next morning was spent in companionable silence, reading, tinkering with electronics, looking at photo albums. After lunch, the four friends decided to go for a walk in the nearby forest. All remembered the clumsiness of playing tennis in heels, and so they opted for comfortable walking shoes, but they still dressed in white. Roger pretended to not recognise Brian without his clogs and they were on their way. Freddie had the map. The forest of Brocéliande was up to its reputation, beautiful and old. Trees of different kind were fighting for the tiniest bit of sunlight, birds were chirping away and a lot of movement could be heard in the undergrowth. They even saw a family of hedgehogs making their way across the path. As they kept getting deeper into the forest, they took smaller and smaller paths, and the upkeep of the woods was getting less careful. The noises from the animal kingdom were getting louder, and the road was long forgotten. They kept on hearing the sound of water although they could not see it, and curiosity got the better of them. They left the already tenuous path and followed the noise.

They arrived shortly to a pond, with a clearing around it and only a few tree near the water that came from a beautiful clear stream. The weather was turning nice and the soft autumn light gave the leaves that were just starting to wilt a slight hue of gold. They had walked for about an hour and decided to have a break. They sat down on the ground, and started talking. The quiet did not last long however, as, soon, Roger was betting with John that he was better than him at getting pebbles to ricochet on the water. So they looked for stones, and under the two older men amused looks, started the competition. It was quickly obvious that Roger’s bet had been ill-advised as John was a lot better at this than him. The drummer refused to concede defeat however, and finally threw one of Brian’s sixpence coins (even without his guitar, the man always had a few in his pockets), and the coin ricocheted five times, breaking the established record.

But the drummer had little time to gloat. The pond started to glow and the four bandmates starting feeling pulled towards it. They reflexively grabbed each other for fear of being separated and flew through the pond.

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The first thing Brian noticed after getting some solid ground under him again was that he was entirely dry. The second thing he noticed was that he was still holding John’s arm with all his strength and Roger’s fingernails were buried deep in his shoulder. Freddie was just on the other side of John. Ok, they were all there. They let go of each other, and as their hearing came back to them, they noticed a very high-pitched, barely audible but still piercing sound. They all looked around. Roger had his glasses in his hands so he saw mostly a blur. It was green.

Through his curls that had fallen in front of his eyes, Brian still had a better view. They had landed on their back, next to a fountain. They were in a garden. As he got up on his feet, the guitarist noticed the lush plants and flowers all around. It was a beautiful sight and the air was a lot warmer than it had been on the other side of what Brian decided to call the vortex. Yet, they had little time to admire the view as they saw a series of tall figures approaching, making rhythmic noises that to their musician’s ears sounded a lot like a less masterful version of Roger’s drumming. Even if it sounded nothing like a human voice, it still clearly conveyed that they were angrily screaming.

Brian looked around, unsure what to do. The figures were still far, they looked humanoid, he guessed. He heard a sharp noise, and John gasped in surprise and fear. An arrow, the guitarist surmised. He wondered if they had missed or if it was just a warning shot. But before his analytic mind could evaluate the situation, more arrows were flying, and Freddie had reacted

“Run”, he yelled. He acted immediately on his words, followed by John. Roger caught the guitarist hand and yanked him forward “Come on, don’t stay there, you’re the biggest target”. An arrow had flown through Brian’s hair, luckily not touching anything else. And they ran.

They did not run far, and directly into a trap. They had run less than a minute when they were faced by a row of sharp blades. Hoping that their gestures would be understood, they raised their hands and surrendered. They were not killed on the spot. They were searched, yelled at in a language they did not understand and pushed forward. Their captors were all taller than even Brian, and also a lot broader. They appeared to have some mechanical parts to them – cyborgs, supplied Roger’s brain, his science fiction reading kicking in  – and seemed to communicate by radio. How odd for people who fought with spears and arrows, Brian thought.

They reached a cliff in the garden with a cascade falling from it. They had not walked long. They got behind the waterfall and there was a door. On the other side of it was a corridor lit in electric light. Their guards were replaced by others, armed with something that looked like a blaster from a sci-fi movie. Were these newer kind of weapon forbidden in the garden? wondered Freddie. They were arriving in a larger room. At the end of it, one of the humanoid creature was sat at a desk. He started rhythmically speaking to the four men, although he seemed to be looking mostly at Freddie. Even amongst aliens, he was still the center of attention. They could not make anything of the speech and it must have shown because the other stopped talking. He took his radio and yelled at it. Another creature entered the room. It was smaller than the humans, and very skinny. Its torso was small, and concave and its limbs were very long, with many fingers. It had an elongated face with a long ant-eater like tongue and it was purple. It was also covered in chains. It did not make any noise. The humanoid cyborg touched the purple creature with one hand while a guard forced Freddie to do the same. The purple creature started wrangling in obvious pain, and Freddie started to get a bit of a headache but he also heard a voice in his head. The guard forced the other three humans to also grab the creature and suddenly they all heard the voice. As each band member touched it, the purple creature whimpered more, although it still made very little noise. And so they heard

“-You are strangers and impure. You have trespassed in the heart of our most sacred space. For that, you will die. We will discuss among us the method of your execution.”

Brian and John were just stunned. Freddie tried to argue that that they did not know nor had come willingly but the communication apparently did not work both ways. Roger tried to escape, but was swiftly hit on the jaw by one of the guards, and fell to the floor. He was grabbed back up and chained, then they all were restrained. They were marched down stairs and through corridors. They walked for a little while. They arrived at another corridor and despite all their arguing (Freddie), yelling (Brian), aggressive eying (John) and kicking (Roger), they were thrown into four separate cells.

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Freddie yelled at the door but even his voice was not enough to get any response. He was alone in a small dark cell, with only a bed, a table and a toilet. Everything was small. As their captors were taller than them, Freddie guessed the cells were meant for purple creatures. He wondered what they were and why they were treated so badly. He sat on the bed, wondering what would happen to them. He really did not want to die. His life felt it had just begun. As he had this thought, he chuckled sadly at the use of his own lyrics and hummed the song a little. Although he had, thankfully, not killed anyone, it had never seemed so appropriate. The song did not distract him long, he could not sing it all by himself. Shit, being without the others was the worst. He hoped he would see them again, even for one last time… No, he decided. Not giving up. He was not disappearing without a trace, he was Freddie fucking Mercury, there had to be something he could do. Hell, he hoped the others were alright. He had seen Roger getting hit, he hoped it was not too bad. He hope the other two would hold themselves together. Hope, that’s all he could do right now and he hated it.

As he was having this train of thought, somebody entered the room. Another one of the tall aliens with a purple creature in tow, held by a guard. The set-up was the same as their last communication. They got Freddie to hold the purple creature again, it winced, and the singer heard a voice in his head:

“Stranger. Your fate has been decided. You have been bought as game and prize. You will be hunted and killed tomorrow. You will not be a boring prey. You will eat and sleep.”

A pill was shoved into his mouth and he was forced to swallow it. His hand was still on the purple creature’s head. He decided to try something. He concentrated hard and thought about his friends, trying to express all his worries and interrogations about them. He heard another voice in his head. Well, not as much a voice as an impression, he was not sure there were words, it was quiet and soft. To Freddie, it sounded like a child. It seemed to be coming from the purple creature. Freddie’s brain reconstructed the message as such:

“They will be hunted too, your friends. We’ll go to them next. I’ll tell them about you. Don’t despair, sometimes preys survive.”

The purple creature broke the contact. Freddie hoped the communication had remained a secret. The pill he had been given was starting to take effect. He felt like he had eaten a full meal and he also felt sleepy. He had barely time to reach his bed. His last thought before drowsing off was that the bed would never be long enough for Brian.


 

Roger was angry. Afraid, too, but anger was taking over. He could not believe they would get killed, just like that. He hated the fact that they had been put in different cells. He was disgusted by the way the purple-ant eater-thingy had been treated. His face hurt but it was not too bad, he would gladly throw a few punch at his captors himself, though. But he was not stupid. He knew he was not on the winning side at the moment. He had to wait, look for answers and then strike. And before anything else, he had to find a way to contact his friends. There was no way he would save himself and leave them behind. John was a father for fuck sake. If he came back without him, Ronnie would kill him. He smirked. He had to keep his strength. He sat on the bed, trying to calm down. He was full of nervous energy and started tapping a rhythm on the side of the bed. He wondered if it meant something in the big assholes’ language. He sure hoped it was an insult.

As had happened to Freddie, three beings then entered his cell. The same message was delivered to him. Fucking barbarians, he thought, but compared to an execution, a hunt meant some chances to escape. Then the voice of the purple creature filled his mind, telling him of his friends and of hope. Roger was too surprised to really answer anything but the purple creature felt the drummer’s gratitude and anger at their captors. Although the rhythmic beating of the man’s fingers on the bed had initially put off the creature, he now thought he rather liked those strange prisoners.


 

John was observing every part of his cell, trying to understand anything he could. He had watched the door mechanism as he’d been shoved inside and he was trying to figure out how the technology in this world worked. He was desperately trying to keep his mind off of his impending death but it was getting harder by the minute, and hell, he was normally good at dealing with stress and compartmentalizing. He was a shy man playing concerts in front of thousands of people!

He tried to focus on everything he had noticed so far. He guessed the purple creature was some kind of telepath but he had not been in contact long enough to hypothesize any further, and there was only so much you could learn from looking at a table. Shit, he might no see his family again. His wife, his son. Ronnie would not know what had happened to him. She would keep on hoping, his son would grow up without him. And his friends would die too. Freddie, Roger, Brian, lost for the world. Oh, he would try to get out and get them out too, but he doubted his chances. Not knowing what else to do, he started to pray.

He stopped when the visitors arrived. He would face death with his chin up. The information given by the big alien about the hunt was taken in. He tried to understand how their language worked, to pick up anything, but the interaction was too short. The purple creature’s message filled him with relief and gratitude. At least he would not die alone. Pill swallowed, he fell asleep with at least some hope in his mind.


 

Brian barely looked at anything in the room. Brilliant idea, the quiet holiday, he scolded himself. He was worried sick for his friends, almost forgetting his own situation. He hoped they were ok. He had seen Roger get hit and he hoped they were not getting hurt more. He did not understand why they were set to die, he thought it unjust, and the way the purple creature were treated made him feel sick. Solitary confinement really was torture. His thought kept spiralling from his friends, to Chrissy, to the purple thing, to his own death. He had sometimes wished for it, but now he was afraid. Not so much of being dead – to die, to sleep, no more – he quoted in his head, that did not seem like such a bad option. No, he was afraid of dying. He had been in pain before, and did not want to be there again, and if the way the purple creatures were treated was any indication, their captors would not stop at cruelty. Not that humans would either, he thought.

When the visitors came, he was wondering what would happen to the Old Lady, his beloved guitar, after his death. He would have left it to Roger, but now… His father would get it, probably. When his hand was put on the purple creature’s head he tried to resist, not wanting it to get hurt even if he needed the information. The only thing he obtained as a result was a mean punch in the ribs that landed him on the floor. The purple creature caught him and he could feel its reassurance, even though it was obviously in pain, it still took time to comfort him, a complete stranger. The guitarist bit his lips. The information that he would be hunted terrified him, but he also felt like he somewhat deserved it. He would feel like animals did in his world everyday. The purple creature’s message that all his friends were still ok, and that the same fate awaited them all got some life back into him. He would try to make sure that they would survive and that he would too. He hoped against all hope that he would be able to repay the purple creature for its kindness. With this last thought, he drifted to sleep, his long legs hanging at the end of the bed. The purple creature, who called themselves Tiamon thought that the lanky man and his three friends, by their concern for their fate, already had.

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In the morning, each of the four men woke up with a start seconds before a guard entered their cells and picked them up. They were chained and dragged out. Roger had a bit of a gash on his right cheek ans Brian’s side still hurt from the punch he had received, but they both could walk. They were all dragged in the same room were purple creatures were also present. They could see each other but could not speak or touch. They were put in a line, separated by guards. Freddie, Brian, Roger and John. When they were pushed to the front, Brian visibly winced. The two of his friends who were behind him noticed. Roger felt a burst of anger in his chest and his fist curled up. No one hurt his friends, as many a homophobic asshole who had tried to harass Freddie had learnt. Not now he thought. But they will pay. John also noticed. He bit his lip. Shit, I hope he will be alright. Being hurt even before things begin will not help him survive. We’ll have to take that into account, protect him.

His thoughts were interrupted as music started to play. Screens lit up and the prisoners understood that they were being looked at. The screens were playing something that sort of looked like football reruns. So this was sport, then, they all thought, with anger. The screens showed two teams of huge humanoid metal robots, then cut back to the people with remote controls in their hands. Highlights of previous games were being shown on screen. John was looking intently. The cameras seemed to be mostly on the robots themselves. The scenes were hard to watch but the bass player still looked. Screaming – but still not particularly noisy – purple creatures were picked up. Robots fought each other to catch them. Once caught, the creatures were thrown in a goal that apparently disintegrated them. So that’s the death they had to avoid. Sometimes, the purple creatures were wounded or even already dead when they were thrown, other times they only seemed paralysed, unable to move, their eyes still screaming in terror. Those seemed to get the most cheers.

Freddie was looking at the purple creatures around him. There were about 15, no exactly 16. Potential allies maybe, if he could communicate. The light grew brighter, Roger closed his eyes, blinded by the light even with his glasses on. The screens stopped broadcasting and they were grabbed, and separated again. They looked at each other, putting everything they could into what could be their last look. They were each put in a closed box from which they would be individually dropped on the field.


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Roger was waiting in his box. He was not a fan of being locked in a cupboard without wanting to. He felt the thing move, drop, and the doors opened again. He was pushed out, the box being craned away. He was in a plain. He needed to find cover, get some time to think. He was already hearing alarming metallic sounds, although they seemed to be pretty far away. He saw a thorny bush about two hundred meters from his current position. He ran towards it, and on his way noticed a crouched figure doing the same from another direction. He hoped whoever it was would be friendly. He ran as fast as he could, he was pretty noticeable in the plain, maybe not as much as the purple creatures though. He jumped under the bush, scratching his already beaten face and his hands on some thorns on the way. He came face to face with long brown hair.

“Roger, are you alright?”

John. It was John. That was lucky. Better not being alone. He almost crushed the other man in a hug, and simultaneously tried to sound cool and detached, in a wholly unconvincing way:

“Yeah, I’m alright, you?”

John nodded and Roger noticed the bass player was looking at him, assessing the damage on his face with concern.

“It’s nothing, don’t worry, have had worse fighting as a kid”

The bassist was clearly scared but put himself together quickly and added:

“Good. We can’t stay here, it’s too exposed. We are barely covered by the bush. We need to find Freddie and Brian. Well, and water I guess, if this thing is going to last any more than a couple of hours.”

Roger nodded, impressed by the younger man quick recovery and practical sense. Secret weapon indeed. He looked up out of the bush and saw a huge robot coming right at them. Shit. It was fast. They needed to run. He grabbed John, and pointed at a depression in the landscape.

“That way. There should be water, somewhere to hide. Run.”

And they do. Disco dancing and drumming are not the same as running but they are in shape. And they feel like they are maybe running faster, feeling lighter than they normally would. Still, the robot is gaining on them, and the water they can now hear does not seem to be getting any closer. They do not dare to look back. They are out of breath but they can now see the stream and the robot sounds further away. Jumping down the slope to the river, they risk a look.

The robot who was behind them had changed directions. It had caught two purple creatures and was going left, towards the goal. It could have caught them too but it was being followed by another robot. The purple creatures were visibly in agony, but the two musicians did not divert their eyes, ashamed of the relief they were feeling. The first robot stopped in its tracks, facing its pursuer, which was not alone anymore, a third had joined the fray and they both attacked. The fight was quick, the new robot ripped the other’s head clean off. It fell, deactivating. The two remaining robots each grabbed one purple creature and went away either forgetting the humans or deciding it would not be worth the hassle to look for them that early in the game.

John and Roger exchanged glances, knowing what awaited the purple creatures, knowing it could as well have been them, and decided not to talk about it right then.

“I’ll get a look at the water, keep an eye out”, Roger said.

When he came back with some water, he had had some time to calm down. He was thinking about what he knew of the game. On the screens there had been two teams of five robots each. It would probably be a quick match at that rate. He hoped the other two were still alive. They would need to make sure they went unnoticed. And even if he was not very good at being unassuming, that was John’s thing, the others were as bad if not worse. Freddie could arguably tone it down a bit, but he was still Freddie Mercury, always attracting attention. And Brian was, well, too fucking tall and had already taken a punch. If he dies, I’ll kill him, both of them.

As he rejoined John he found him deep in thought, looking over the edge at the fallen robot.

“Deacy?”

“I need to get to that thing. See how it works, pick up anything like a control mechanism, a radio, a weapon. Get some advantage.”

“Ok Deacy. Good plan. Let’s see how we’re going to do that without getting ourselves killed.”

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Unbeknownst to John and Roger, Freddie was hunched under another bush, situated on the other side from the path where the robots had fought. He was too far to see his friends escaping the robot while two purple creatures did not have that chance. The bush he was hiding in was quite a bit larger than the one John and Roger had found temporary shelter under. It offered a decent amount of cover and Freddie was not alone there. Three purple creatures were huddled with him. Freddie had appeared quite a long way away from the bush, but had gotten lucky, no robots in sight. He had been able to run for cover undisturbed, helping the purple creatures along the way.

Having learnt from his previous interactions he had managed to establish contact with them and as a result briefly felt the creatures intense pain as two of their own were killed. It had not lasted long as the creatures had withdrawn from their newly established bond, sparing him the worst of it. Freddie did not know why they had done that, but it had seemed a thoughtful gesture, and he hoped he could help his new companions escape their fate. He was still mostly concerned with finding his bandmates, though. As the robot had fallen, he had asked his new companion if it would be replaced. It would not be and if only robots from one team were left standing, the game would be over and they would stand a chance.

The robots could be destroyed, at least by other robots and they had a carcass at their disposal. Surely, there was something he could do from there. Well, he himself could not, but surely, Deacy could figure something out. He is quite the engineer, making amps and everything. He had a new goal: he was going to find his bandmates, win the game and help the purple creatures. That was not incompatible. First, get some equipment from the fallen robot before anyone got any ideas, then find John and the others.

He knew picking up robot pieces could be dangerous, the place had proven to be one busy tin-can road. Freddie decided to go alone, not wanting to put the purple creatures in harm’s way for a far-fetched plan. He did not like to think about it but he had not guarantees his friends were even alive. Armed with somewhat blind courage and a dose of stealth, Freddie Mercury started to slowly make his way to the fallen robot’s carcass.

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Well, there he was. He had just been thrown out of the box. He looked around. He was in the middle of a small slope, and on top of it was a chaotic pile of large rocks. He hated that he had been separated from his friends again. Well, if it’s time to die, he thought, might as well do it with a nice view. He shook his head, curls moving across his face, and started walking upwards. His ribs were still pretty painful, bruised maybe. That slowed him down quite a bit, but he was also feeling unusually light. He stoped on tope of the slope, in the middle of the stones, and sat down. He looked around, hoping to see his friends alive, and dreading to see them dead. He hoped they would make it, but in a hunt where they were taller and with less knowledge of the environment than everyone else, he doubted they had much of a chance. And with his slowed pace, he would reduce their chances even more. Not worth it. He would not put his friends in anymore danger for his sake. He would just wait. He was tired anyway.

The rocks were giving him some cover but the small hill was the only point from which one would have a far reaching view, so it would probably be sought after by the hunters. He would not have to wait too long then. His back on a large stone, his long legs stretched out, he looked out. The landscape was an arid plateau, with scattered bushes. A kilometre or so in front of him, the terrain went down sharply, probably to a river, as there seemed to be more plants over there. He could see fencing on his right, high and menacing, and something he recognised as the goal he had previously seen on screen.

A metallic noise attracted his attention. Probably time for the robots to make their entrance. Three of the metal giants were running towards the hill, but they did not climb it. They were chasing five purple creatures across the plain. They were catching up on them, the purple creatures were really slow. They were small and not built for running. Three of the creatures were hit with a beam of light coming from one of the robots. They stopped moving.

One of the robots was picking up one of the creatures when another one, coming from the left, just grabbed it and ran. The ensuing squabble resulted in the new robot ending up carrying a creature that had lost one of its limbs. There was a weird silver substance all around. The purple creature’s blood was not red, but still flew out. The first robot had quite the hole in its side, although it was still moving.

The fight had picked up Brian’s attention. So they could be destroyed, he thought. He looked on, as another robot was repairing the one that had gotten a hole in, using a small kit on its side with surprising agility. The actions were precise, but a bit hitched, as if their was a delay between the command from the player in the controlling room and the robot’s action.

As a third of Brian’s brain was calmly analysing the capabilities of the robots trying to kill him, another third was busy panicking and dealing with the horror of what he had just seen, and the last third was building up a healthy dose of righteous anger and disgust. It made him physically sick. He had always hated cruelty and harm done to those without means to fend for themselves. He did not know much about these creatures but they seemed pretty defenceless, in this situation at least. He could not let that happen without at least trying to stop it. He starting feeling it was wrong of him to just sit there and wait for death.

He had to do something. The robots were destructible, he was maybe not as powerless has he had thought. If he was going to die, and he was pretty sure he was, he would try and take as many as he could with him. He knew it would not kill the people controlling them, but maybe, if enough robots were destroyed, they would stop the hunt.

He needed a plan. But first, he had to get out of there, as more robots would soon be coming his way. The steepness of the ridge a kilometre in front of him seemed to be his best bet, and he slowly and silently started going in that direction. He was still in pain, but the feeling of lightness was still there, and he was clearly quicker than the purple creatures. And he seemed to be making almost no noise at all. Feeling lighter… Yes, of course, that was it. Gravity. It was probably a bit lower than, well, on Earth. He was not as helpless as he had thought. He would make his end matter.

Chapter Text

“Ok, Deacy, summing up the plan” said Roger. “I’ll go first, you stay behind me, keep watch. I’ll check if the robot is guarded or booby trapped, then come back to get you if it’s safe, and watch your back once you pick up what you need. Everything clear?”

John nodded. He did not like the fact that the drummer was taking most of the risks, but Roger had argued that John was the one who knew how to make anything of what they would find, so they could not afford to put him at risk. The bassist had had to admit that the argument, even expressed with a lot of swearing, was logical. Roger was swift and agile, and the robots could be seen from far away. He would be ok. John was looking around, pretty nervous, as Roger was swaying away. His white clothes made him a bit too visible, but he was still more stealthy that John had ever thought their fiery drummer had in him to be.

The blonde was planning every move with care. They had no idea how good the robot’s vision could be, and even with his sunglasses, Roger’s was, well, not the best, so he was not taking any chances. A last spot of running got him to the metal wreck. It was really high, and the blonde could not see the other side of it. Shit, should have gone around it first. The robot was lying on its side, head attached to its body by only a few wires. He started walking across the severed neck, careful not to touch the wires. He was looking for any sign that there could be some trap, or other hidden danger, finding none.

He heard noises. Steps. Not those of a robot, he was pretty sure, but he was not certain robots were the only hostile forces around. He hid back behind the robot and looked. He noticed a hunched form advancing carefully as he himself had done earlier. He wiped his glasses to try and get a better look.

Clearly human, he concluded with relief. Dark hair, too small to be Brian, it was Freddie! He almost screamed in joy. It was his friend who was approaching when he had expected an enemy. Getting nearer, the drummer whispered-yelled:

“Freddie!”

The singer turned around and saw him. He immediately beamed and started running towards him. Roger closed the distance, and hugged his friend.

“Freddie, thank goodness, you’re alright.”

“Yes, darling, of course I am.”

Roger was grateful for his sunglasses right about then, as relief washed over him. Freddie could not see Roger’s eyes, but his voice betrayed the drummer, as it was far from firm when he added:

“Shit, Fred, I was afraid you may have died.”

Freddie said nothing but he hugged his friend tighter, then pulled back.

“We’re too exposed here, Rog, we need to move. I assume you came to get some equipment from our fallen foe, any idea what we should take. How I wish Deacy was here. He would know what to do!”

“Freddie, I forgot to tell you, he came with me, he's fine. He’s keeping watch over there. Shit, he must be worried sick, wondering what’s taking me so long, I’ll go and get him. I’ll be right back. Try to get anything looking like a radio, stay hidden, and mind the live wires.”

Roger left, and Freddie hoped they would not be separated again. He had forgotten to ask for a rendezvous point, should that happen. Roger had not mentioned Brian, the singer assumed it meant he was not with them. Freddie decided to try not to think too much about it, at least he knew of the whereabouts of two more people than five minutes ago. It had not been long, their friend would be alive and well.

The singer started to look for anything useful, and grabbed a few things. The robots was still humming, so Freddie made sure the camera had stopped recording. It was apparently broken, so hopefully they would not show up on film.

John soon arrived. Roger had stayed behind to keep watch. John quickly nodded at Freddie, a tense smile on his face, and immediately started to work, giving some instructions. In ten minutes they had grabbed everything they thought they could need. They were disappointed to note that all the weaponry had been destroyed. They heard Roger’s voice telling them to hurry. Some robots were approaching though they were still pretty far away. The retreated to the ridge, electronics in tow.

Chapter Text

Roger, Freddie and John had found a good hiding place. Next to the river, under a tree, they were really hard to spot. As long as the hunters did not go on searching for the remaining preys one by one, they were ok. Or, as John dryly put it, other people dying gave them some more time to live. They had to be quick, all the more so that they still did not no where Brian was or even if he was still alive. They were hatching a plan to escape but did not want to go without him. And as long as they kept hidden, their last bandmate was unlikely to find them. Freddie also wanted to save the purple creatures he had allied himself with. They had figured that it would be better for them to stay put when he left. The creatures were a lot slower than humans and going across open land was nothing shirt of suicide for them. If they stayed hidden they had some chance to survive long enough for the rockers’ plan to be put into place and maybe even succeed.

John was their secret weapon. He had to figure out an alien technology, ideally before nightfall, whenever that would be. Without Brian, they could not get much information about how long the day would last from the movements of the sun. They guessed it seemed maybe slower. John was working hard, mumbling to himself. It all seemed to be similar enough to earth technology, he could sort of figure out what was what. He had identified the robot’s command centre and was looking for a way to override it remotely. While he was working, using the robot’s repair kit for tools, the other two felt useless. After about an hour, the bassist said he thought he could do something, but it would take some time.

The other two tried to not succumb to worry by trying to write a song, but it did not really work, as they were trying not to make too much noise. They could see John’s lips trembling but the bassist kept on working. Noticing that Roger’s palms had the mark of his nails imprinted into them, Freddie gently squeezed his arm.

“Shit, Fred” said the drummer “John is working faster than should be humanly possible, but it’s taking forever. What if it’s not quick enough? What if we get caught? What if it’s too late for Brian? I wish I could do something.”

“I know, love, I know.”

“Well” interjected John “You’ll have to. Cause I'm done with the electronics and I think I’ve got a plan that’ll let us take control of one of the robots. See, I built that thing a control unit and a remote.”

“John, you’re a genius” said Roger

“Darling, I know we could count on you.” added Freddie

“Yeah, well, there’s a bit of catch. I won’t be able to do anything without getting the control unit on the robot. We’ll have to attach it on the robot’s neck, with a magnet. It should block the signal from the player in the control room and allow me to control the robot’s movement.”

“So someone has to climb on the robot’s back?” asked Roger

“Yes, that’s it. I don’t like it either. I did build some magnetic straps to put on the hands and feet to make it possible though.”

“Won’t the robot know someone is climbing on it, dear?” asked Freddie

“I can’t be sure, but I don’t think they have a sense of touch. If the person stays out of the view of the camera it should be alright.”

“I see” said Roger, “Attack from the rear, eh. Well, Deacy, I guess that’ll be my job!”

“Rog...”said John

“What? John, we need you to operate the remote control, and Freddie, you can’t climb for shit. I’ll do it.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense” John had to admit. “We’ll probably also need someone to attract the robot, serve as a distraction.”

“Well, that’s my job, obviously”, said Freddie, “who better to catch the attention of even the toughest crowed than Freddie Mercury”, he bowed.

“The range of my remote is not great” added John “so I’ll have to stay close. We’ll need to be on uneven terrain, where Freddie will actually have some chance of outrunning the robot long enough for Roger to climb. Rog, you’ll have to be quick.”

The drummer nodded

“Once we have the robot, we can get in its hand, try to escape notice as much as possible, and then we’ll find Brian.” added Freddie

“And as soon as we get him, we destroy one of those awful goals and get the fuck outta here.”

“Yeah, Rog, that’s a very precise and well thought out part of the plan” John snickered.

“Hey, do you have anything better?”

“No. I’m just pointing out that our chances of survival are close to zero.”

“Come on, guys, stop bickering” Freddie intervened “We need to get moving. Close to zero is better than what we had before you built that thing Deaky. Thanks”

John had to admit that his outburst had been pretty unfair. He was just really tense and annoyed at himself that his plan implied so much risk-taking for his friends. So he quickly apologized.

“Yeah, you’re right, sorry Rog.”

“That’s alright, we’re all on edge. I just hope we find Bri and get out of here.”

“And try and get as many purple creatures out as possible, too” reminded Freddie

“Yeah, that. Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

First they had to find an isolated robot. Then, they would have to get him on difficult terrain, next to the tree Roger was currently busy climbing on. The fact that some time had passed and that the robots were probably moving to the stage where they would look for remaining hidden prey would probably help them. John had spotted a robot turning a bush over in search of hidden fugitives, without success. It seemed to be a good catch but it was a bit far. If Freddie got in front of it now, he would get caught and killed before Roger could act and that was definitely not the plan.

“I guess we’ll have to make some noise, get it over here.” suggested John

“I’ll have to make the noise, darling, they must not know you two are here.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right.” said John “Let’s see, how are you going to make it sound unintentional?”

“Oh, really, dear, are you daft, I do have a very loud singing voice.”

“You can’t just get out and sing, they’ll know it’s a trap!”

“Oh, come on, Deacy, yes, maybe, but they don’t seem to think we represent any threat, they have been quite careless so far.”

From his tree, Roger approved

“You have a point there Fred, they do seem to be quite fantastically stupid.”

“All right, have your little concert;” John said, rolling his eyes

“Well, it could be my last, what should I sing?”

“Please, Freddie, don’t say that...”

“All right, all right, Grim occasion. Should I sing of Brian’s to go with the mood then? Oh, no I know ! I haven’t done a cover in a while, that could be fun! And probably better to so something a bit easier to sing. I’ve got one especially for the occasion, dears ! Is everyone ready?”

John, who had just climbed in another tree to be out of sight said they were ready to roll. Roger had the control centre in hand. Freddie climbed out towards the top of the valley, and started singing:

What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

 

The bassist smiled at his friend’s antics as he was walking towards danger. He checked one more time that his remote was working and watched Roger’s concentrated expression in the tree next to him. The blonde man was moving his hands around like he would do before a show, ready to put his drumming-trained muscles to good use. Their plan was pretty desperate. Had Brian been with them, they would have had more of a back up. But now, if anyone could do it, it would be them, John thought. They were perfectly coordinated without having to think about it, and they had each other’s back no matter what. At the very least, they would not go down without a fight.

 

The fight was coming to them, at any rate. Freddie’s loud – and pitch perfect – singing had not failed to attract the robot’s attention and Freddie was running right back at them, followed by said robot. The metal giant was getting nearer and nearer. Roger was crouched on his high branch, ready to jump, magnets strapped across his hands and feet.

 

Freddie ran next to the tree, robot in tow. And then all hell broke loose. They heard a big sound and three other robots appeared on their right hand side, heading directly for John’s tree. Roger was distracted for a second, and when he looked back, the robot was further than he would have liked it to be. He still jumped, barely making it onto the robot’s left side. He now had to climb as fast as he could. He started up.

 

Freddie and John were even more startled than Roger, though, as they saw who the three robots were chasing. Tumbling down the slope, clutching his side, hair looking messier than ever, was their very own Brian May. And he was stumbling.

Chapter Text

Brian had managed to prepare a plan without too much trouble. He had seen, or more accurately heard at least one other creature get killed but he had kept on going. He had been surprised by the sound, as the creatures had been remarkably silent so far. He told himself that it was too high-pitched to have been produced by one of his bandmates. Even Roger, yeah, even Roger. He had found a cliff and had walked his way to it, taking a long while planning a route that would make it possible to get a few robots on his trail and lead maybe one or two of them to their end before meeting his own. He hoped he would destroy enough robots so that the game would stop for lack of robots and not for lack of prey, thus giving others, the purple creatures, and his friends, a chance to live. And he sure hoped that those wielding the remote controls, killing without any risk to themselves, would feel some pain when their robots were destroyed.

His course of action set, he still had to find robots to pester. It had been ridiculously easy. He had found them, walking away from the goal, wiping the silver blood of the purple creatures from their hands. Brian had waved and thrown a rock at them, untill he got the three of them really pissed, and now he was running, following precisely the path he had planned, just quick enough on difficult terrain to not have been caught yet.

It was getting harder and harder though. Even though Brian was pretty good at running around, generally while playing guitar and singing, two things he was not doing right now, without losing his breath, he was also generally not working on an empty stomach and with ribs that were making every breath painful. As he arrived on top of the slope he had to go down just before the last straight line to the cliff, he was clutching his side in pain and the robots were catching up on him.

As he started going down the slope, things got even worse. He was now running towards a fourth robot who was chasing someone. That person was, even more than the robot, directly in Brian’s way. He had to do something. He did not have the occasion to though. The surprise was the last straw for his already exhausted body and he tripped and fell down the slope. His fall landed him directly next to the still running other prey and even though he was a bit disorientated from the fall, the guitar player recognized him immediately:

“Freddie”

The other looked at him but had no time to say anything. Under the guitarist’s horrified gaze, a metallic hand grabbed the singer and blood started flowing from his chest. Brian was scrambling to his feet, trying to stop Freddie from being picked up by the robot, but he suddenly felt something hit him in the back. He felt an unimaginable jolt of pain and fainted.

Chapter Text

Roger kept on climbing. From where he was, he had not seen any of the things that had just happened. He did, however, hear John’s cry of horror, and immediately knew something had gone horribly wrong. He was almost there. He had reached the right spot on the nape of the robot’s neck. He only had to grab John’s apparatus from his belt, hanging on with one hand and clasp it on the robot. He could do it

John had seen everything. Their quickly recognized Brian stumbling and falling down the slope, then Freddie getting wounded and picked up by the robot Roger was climbing on, then Brian trying to get up only to be hit by one of the following robot’s rays and to fall back, mouth open, no sound escaping his lips, an expression of agony on his face. It was finally too much for the bass player and a shriek of distress escaped his lips. He hoped he had not betrayed his position. He could do nothing, his remote control was still not connecting. He looked to Roger and saw him hanging from his target. Finally the remote control beeped. Roger has managed to clasp the control centre and it had worked, the robot was loosing contact with its player. Now John could do something.

Freddie had been passed from one hand to the other and was not moving. Brian was lying on the forest floor, and three robots were coming toward him. John activated his remote control to get his robot to grab Brian. The robot answered, but it was more brutal than John had expected and though it did pick up Brian, it also fell forward on its knees, landing directly under John’s tree.

Roger was falling. The sudden move had been too much for his precarious grip and he had slipped. He was falling on his back, head first, and from quite a height. As John was trying to figure out how to gently catch him, one of the three robots that had been chasing Brian hit John’s tree and he fell too.

In the very little time he had, John operated the control and the robot moved to catch them both. The hours spent playing pong against Brian had never seemed so useful.

The robot had caught Freddie and Brian. He would soon catch Roger, and him too. But Brian was not moving at all, and Freddie's shirt, god, there was so much blood.

Chapter Text

Freddie and Brian were in the robot’s right hand, John and Roger in the left hand. Roger seemed to be a bit dizzy from his fall, he was not speaking, but checking on him would have to wait. John had no idea how long they had before the three other robots noticed something was amiss. They all seemed to be on the same team, at least – meaning most if not all of the team was there – so they would not attack on sight, but it also probably meant that the players could and would communicate with each other.

John directed his robot on a course toward the goal, as it would be the expected action to take, and also probably the only exit, albeit one they would have to deactivate first. The other robots followed, but they were slower. There seemed to be a bit of a delay in the way they reacted. Why was that, John thought. Oh maybe the scrambler he had used to cut his robot from its original controller, though not powerful enough to do that from a distance, was still slowing their connexion down. So maybe if he powered the thing up a bit, he could slow them down even further, maybe enough to…

As he was pursuing this hopeful train of thought, he felt Roger’s hand squeeze his arm. So the drummer was conscious, good. John smiled and said:

“Hey, good to see you move. You’re right on time, I think I may have a way to slow down those big idiots.” he pointed at the three robots, and pushed a button. The movements of the three robots slowed down dramatically almost to a standstill.

“I don’t know how long it’ll last, they’re bound to find a counter-measure, we should go.”

“Destroy them first” said Roger with a somewhat rough voice.

“I’ll have to use a hand for that, we’ll have to move with Brian and Freddie in the other, there won’t be much space. Can you move?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Ok”

John got the two hands next to one another and helped Roger cross the gap before crossing himself. It was a bit tight but they would manage. Sat on a finger (they had left the palm to their injured friends), John activated the other hand again, and taking advantage of the other robots slow movements, ripped their heads right off. If he understood the marking on the robots correctly, the 5 robots that had been destroyed or taken over by them were from the same team. The match should now be over. John did not count on it too much though, and he got his robot back on course towards the goal at full speed.

Chapter Text

Just as they arrived at the gate they saw they were not alone. John was busy directing the robot, and Roger, having found back his breath was trying to check on his other two bandmembers, but the rapid movements of the robot did not make it easy. He had just managed to reach Freddie, who, as Roger touched him, opened his eyes and grabbed the drummer’s hand.

John looked on to the gate. There, there was a robot carrying a purple creature that seemed to be very alive.

“Brace yourselves” said John, and without hesitation he pushed the same button he had used last time, slowing down the other robot, and ripped its head off. The goal flickered a bit revealing a door behind it. John got his robot to grab the falling purple creature.

“We need some help to find our way” he said

“Right” said Roger, who was busy trying to find a way to look at the wound the singer appeared to have on his chest. “But where are we going? And how are we going to get help?”

“Back to the garden” said Freddie, and boy, were they glad to hear his voice, even if it was strained “Are we controlling the robot?”

“Yes, we are” said Roger “John’s plan worked”

“Deacy, darling, you’re a wonder. I’ll ask this new friend of ours – he was pointing at the purple creature – for the way. You’ll have to give them the plan of your device, John, this way they get a chance to fight back.”

The singer was out of breath after those few words, and did not wait for an answer. He grabbed John’s shoulder, then the bassist got the purple creature near them and Freddie grabbed their hand. He concentrated, thinking calming thoughts, and explaining their problem. John meanwhile got the robot to reap apart the goal, while Roger, having told Freddie to press on his wound, went to check on Brian, who still had not moved.

As they had thought, there was a door behind the goal and they went through it. Freddie had let go of the purple creature’s hand, and she – they had figured out that the purple creature was a she – and John were communicating. She was guiding them through the corridors, and learning as much as she could about the bassist's invention.

Freddie sat up to give some space to the other, hand pressed on his chest, trying to stop the blood flow. It was slowing down. They were encountering no resistance. The robot wielders had obviously not expected the preys to rebel and had very little security in place.

Roger was kneeling next to Brian, trying to find a pulse:

“I think he’s breathing, but barely” he said in a worried tone “Are we there yet?”

Turned out they were, they had arrived at the garden door. The purple creature refused to go on with them. She had the information she needed and would get it back to her people. So they left her there, with their thanks and wishes. The place was as safe as any she argued, and safer as the game at any rate, as they had not yet been followed.

They got in and closed the door. They were behind the cascade again.

Chapter Text

John put them all down on the floor, placed the robot as a barricade on the gate to give them some time, then destroyed the robot, getting it to rip its own head off. He then also destroyed the apparatus he had built, not wanting it to fall into the wrong hands. They needed to go back where they had arrived. It was not far, but they were not at their strongest. Roger seemed to have fully recovered from his fall but Freddie could barely stand, and Brian was still unconscious. John wondered if they maybe should take care of them first. The same thought had apparently crossed the drummer’s head, and he said:

“The sooner we get there the better. I’d rather we did not have to move them, but we can’t stay next to the door and we need to get back home. Help Freddie, I’ll carry Brian”

John doubted the drummer would be able to lift the tall guitarist, but Roger managed just fine:

“Lower gravity or something” he said, glad he had listened to some of Brian’s ramblings about the universe for once. And as he helped the singer up, John noticed he was surprisingly light, almost as if they were under water.

Even like that, it was not a pleasant journey, however short the way was. Freddie was pressing down on his wound, and it clearly hurt, and even if he was light, Brian was impossibly tall and pretty much a dead weight.

They got there though, next to the fountain. Roger laid Brian down on the ground, and after checking he was still breathing, however faintly, he went to look at Freddie, whom John had helped sit down, his back to the fountain. The singer was pale, and looked exhausted, he had visibly lost a lot of blood, but when Roger looked at it, his wound appeared to be just a nasty gash, and it had stopped bleeding. Freddie would probably need a few stitches and get quite the scar but it was not life-threatening. Roger sighed in relief, and told the others of his observations.

John was looking at the fountain, wondering how they would get home. Roger asked him to go and help Freddie wash his wound a bit, while he went back to check on Brian.

The guitarist was still breathing, but with even more apparent difficulty than before and his pulse was really slow. He felt cold to the touch, and would not wake up, even though there were no other visible wounds than the nasty bruises on the ribs and some scratches on his knees. Roger had no idea what was wrong with his friend. Hell, he was a dropout from dentistry school, not a qualified physician. He was getting really worried. They would have to get him to hospital as soon as they got home. He hoped the guitar player would make it that far.

How would they get home? They had arrived by throwing a coin in the fountain, maybe they could go back the same way, provided they had a coin. He had just found one in the guitarist's pocket – bless him for his weird habits – when he heard Freddie’s voice, a lot stronger sounding than a few minutes ago:

“Rog, I’m not hurt anymore. The water from the fountain did something.”

Roger turned back and saw that the cut on Freddie’s chest was visibly closing down. He walked towards him, amazed. John was looking at his hands, that he had dipped in the water to get some for the singer. They had been full of scratches and small electrical burns and were now as good as new. He put them back in the water, walked to the drummer, and slowly, almost tenderly, put them on Roger’s split cheekbone and swollen face. The drummer felt a weird warmth go through him and any trace of the cut disappeared. John’s hands fell to his side.

The three conscious band members looked at each other, understanding why the garden was a sacred place, and feeling appalled at the cruelty of the beings graced with it.

Roger, who had been about to throw the sixpence into the fountain to try and get them home decided to try something else first. Gently getting Brian nearer to the fountain, he used his hands as a cup and got his unconscious bandmate to swallow some of the water. He also got some of it on the guitarist’s bruised ribs. As the other two looked in silence, he held him in his arms and hoped.

Their guitar player got warmer in the drummer’s arms and opened his eyes. Roger could have cried. He gave the coin he was still holding to John and said:

“Let’s try and get out of here”

John put a hand on Roger’s shoulder, Freddie did too, and the bassist threw the coin in the water. A second later, they were back in the forest.

Chapter Text

They appeared on the other side of the portal, next to the small pond. The forest was still peaceful and it seemed the sun had not moved in the sky. They landed next to each other, Roger still holding Brian pretty tight. As John helped Freddie get up, checking on him, the guitarist finished opening his eyes, still very disorientated. Roger had trouble keeping it together now that the imminent danger was passed and held onto his friend repeating:

“Oh shit, you’re back, you’re not dead, you’re here! How are you feeling, are you ok?”

“Yeah I think so. My ribs don't hurt anymore somehow... What happened? Where are we? Oh shit! Freddie?” he tried to get up, but the drummer did not let him.

“I’m here, I’m ok, dear. You got buzzed by one of those nasty robots, but we’ve escaped them, we’re back in the forest.”

“But you were hurt.”

“I got better. We got out.”

“And John? Is John ok?”

Roger, who was still holding the guitarist added:

“He his. Well, basically, John saved us all.”

The bassist got a bit red

“Everyone did their part” he said. His voice was trembling. He had kept it together during the whole ordeal but the reality of the danger they had been in was catching up on him and he started shaking.

“Hey, Deacy, you’re alright, dear, you’re alright”, said Freddie, squeezing the younger man's shoulder. With his bandmates pretty shaken up, Freddie thought he needed to take charge. “We still have quite a walk to get home, darlings, do you think you can do it?”

They all nodded.

“We should check what supplies we have left, get some food and water” added Brian, always good at making sure everyone was properly fed. John shook himself and got the bag. The ate and drank quickly and in silence. They kept in close contact with each other. They got up and started to walk back. Roger was helping Brian who was still not very stable on his feet. Even when he started to feel better, Brian noticed that the drummer kept his arm around him, and the guitarist let him, not knowing why Roger was that upset, but happy he could be of some help. A few feet away, it was not clear who was supporting who between Freddie and John.

Chapter Text

They got home as the sun was setting. Freddie opened the door and they all fell on the couch. John who was recovering pretty fas from the fear, looked at his friends. The wounds had disappeared but Freddie’s shirt was still covered in blood, there was also some on Roger’s collar and they all looked tired. After a while spent just staring at the walls, they each took a shower and changed really quickly, none of them wanting to be alone just yet.

However tired they were, they all knew they would not sleep without getting the whole story of what happened to the others. As Roger was very silent, only offering some monosyllabic comments, John told their story very matter-of-factly, glossing over their fear and feelings of hopelessness and Freddie told his with a bit more narrative flourish but in much the same way. They all wanted to hear from Brian, wondering how he had gotten three angry robots behind him, but the guitarist mostly evaded questions.

Roger could not quite get the image of his seemingly dead friend out of his mind. He could not help thinking that there was something weird about three robots hunting one guy, Brian must have had a plan, to get them that angry, and the fact that he would not tell them what it had been did not sit right with the drummer. He remembered the empty look in his bandmate’s eyes earlier and could not quite shake the feeling that maybe their guitar player had not minded the whole death part all that much, and it really frightened him. He was too tired to push the issue that night, and after he had thoroughly embarrassed John by telling how the bassist had managed to remote control robots while free-falling, and calling him “pretty damn awesome”, the subject of their ordeal was dropped and the conversation started to melt in their tiredness.

That night, none of them felt like sleeping alone. At some point somebody had opened the sofa bed and they fell asleep there, as a pile of limbs. The bed was too small for four, but they still managed, snuggled into each other. John was on the left side of the bed, pressed against Freddie, head on his shoulder. Freddie and John’s legs were interlocked. Freddie had one of Roger’s arms across his face. The drummer’s other arm was squeezed around Brian’s shoulder like his life depended on it, and the guitarist, whose curls were sprawled everywhere, was lacking space on the bed, and once again his long legs were dangling over the side.

The next morning, Brian and John were the first up and made breakfast. The guitarist seemed to be back to normal, and the bassist was relieved. When the other two joined them at the breakfast table, they all started eating in silence. They were famished. Once their first needs were met, they decided to keep what had happened the previous day to themselves since, as Freddie put it “it would be misconstructed as the weird fantasy of four rockers’ drugged up brains”

“Yeah, and I can’t believe we had to got through all that while fucking sober” added Roger.

Everyone approved, happy that their drummer seemed to be back to his usual snarky self. Brian started asking what they should do for the day, that would be their last here before they had to go back to London. He offered to go jamming in the garden, but Roger interrupted, his voice serious:

“Brian, before we go there, there is something I have to say.”

“Alright, Rog, is something wrong?” asked Brian, surprised by the drummer unusual solemness.

“Well, yesterday, we all thought we were going to die. Seeing so much of Freddie’s blood is an experience I don’t ever want to make again...”

“Me neither, darling, believe me!”

“Let him speak, Fred, it's something that should be said” argued John

“Thanks, Deacy. And thank you again for keeping your head through all this”

The bassist nodded.

“But, Brian, the hardest thing was that I had to keep an eye on you while I thought you were dying. Again. There was nothing I could do. And you have not told you what happened to you before we crossed path. Those three robots must have been pretty pissed to follow just one person like that, and the four of you were headed for a cliff. So please, just, what happened, Bri. Did something happen? Were you heading for the cliff? And are you really alright?”

Brian wondered what he should reply, looking at his friends, then decided to just tell the truth.

“Well, yes, I was headed for the cliff. I was trying to take as many robots as I could with me.”

The tone was cold, detached.

“Bri...”

Roger hesitated. He did not know how to put his worries into words, nor if he even should. A look at his bandmates encouraged him. They seemed to understand and maybe share his concern.

“Brian, were you trying to die?”

“No, of course not. I just thought I was going to. We all did.”

“Yeah, but, you actively looked for danger, not trying to save yourself. Like... you did not… mind all that much. Did you?”

The guitarist hesitated. He saw the anguish in his friend’s face and did not find it in himself to lie:

“No, I guess not.” He paused, trying to find a better explanation “I just thought I was going to die anyway, I was slowed down by the punch in my ribs and I was tired. I waited for the robots for a while. Then I saw, really saw, what they did to those poor creatures and I thought I’d try and help them, and you, by destroying some robots. It was what mattered. My dying was just, I don’t know, a side effect. Would not have made that much of a difference anyway.” he shrugged.

A pause when nobody spoke followed the guitarist’s statement, then the drummer spoke again, words carefully chosen.

“Brian, please, listen to what I’m saying. I would have mattered to a lot of people. It would have made quite the awful difference. To your family, to Chrissy, to your fans, and of course to us, to Queen. To me.” Roger said.

“He’s right, Bri, dear” added Freddie

John just emphatically nodded putting his hand on the guitarist shoulder.

Brian felt a bit embarrassed at how serious the conversation was getting and how he seemed to be bringing his friend down. He was fine, really, just a bit tired:

“Thanks” he said “Don’t worry so much about me. I don’t really think that. It’s just a bit of after-album blues is all”

“It almost got you killed, Bri. We could have lost you in there.” said Roger. Then he added “So please, tell us if you feel that bad again. We’ll be there.”

The guitarist looked at his bandmates. They were nodding, approving what the drummer was saying. He guessed it would be nice to have people to help sometimes. And he would not get out of the conversation without promising that anyway. He thought it was strange. He was usually the one worrying for everybody’s well-being. Well if he was to promise that, they would have to do it too. He’d spent enough time worrying about them, not knowing if they were alright.

“All right, I will, but it goes for all of you too. When things go bad, we’re here for each other. We’re family right?” he said, looking at all of them.

“Fair enough” said Roger.

John nodded again, and Freddie remarked “I quite like this new arrangement. We are now an even better band of wonderful misfits.”

“Who make some pretty damn good music” completed Roger.

“That, we do. What about we go make some noise right about now?” concluded Brian.

With this last remark, the subject was dropped. They spent the day jamming and playing scrabble, enjoying each other’s company and some alcohol in the evening. On the next morning, they would have to go back to the world, their album, the publicity, and they would get to see their loved ones again, which they were looking forward to, but for now they were together, very much alive, and with a friendship that was even closer than before.