6.4 - Rome Alone
dedicated to Croooow
"There's nothing more I can do for them now," one Quinn Mallory said to another. The first Quinn, the one who had just spoken, had only recently taken up travelling with Maximilian Arturo, Wade Welles and Rembrandt Brown. The other one was, well, no longer in existance.
He was also very persistent. "You don't see it, but there is. There's chores for everyone. Just because you're new in town doesn't mean you can just slack off."
"I know where I want to go. I don't know why you're keeping me here." Right now, here was a swirling vortex with seemingly infinite entrances and exits.
"Because it's better than here," the other Quinn's disembodied voice said, and thrust him forward suddenly through a tunnel that took him back to the island that had been his home, and prison, for so many years.
"This isn't fair! I just wanted to make it home! That was the deal!" Quinn yelled to nobody in particular.
Quinn2 scoffed in a voice that was all around him. "This wasn't just some deal. This is your life now, with all its changes, and all its ups and downs. But if you don't want it, you can just stay here forever. I hear the bugs get tastier after you've eaten a hundred or so. Well, you'd know, is that true or just one of those urban legends they cook up?"
"I can't be here again," Quinn practically moaned in suffering. He looked around the island and saw a giant serpant slither around a clay pot full of silver pieces. At a swish of its tail, the pot shattered and spilled its contents. "Not again."
"You take this world with you on your back like a snail. It's your home. It's in every word you speak." The other Quinn said nothing. "The other path seems riskier now, but in the long run, I think you'll find that it's not so bad being their Quinn Mallory." He thought he heard his name repeated, ever so faintly, in the distance and there was some shaking, until he realized he was looking into the face of Professor Maximilian Arturo.
"Mr. Mallory, wake up or you'll miss the slide!" the Professor exclaimed in exasperation.
Quinn groaned and sat up in his chair. "Where are the others?"
"Wade and Remmy are in the other room." As if to prove Arturo's statement, some R&B music that Quinn didn't recognize started to play in the room where he pointed to.
"How long til the slide?" Quinn asked with a genuine urgency in his voice.
"Just a few more minutes," Arturo responded. "I only hope we can manage to tote Rembrandt around with us without too much trouble. Some worlds might be too dangerous for us to..."
"I'm not going on with you," Arturo was stunned into silence. "Not for any long period of time, at least. We find a world where you can get along without too much trouble, then I'm leaving you there, taking my timer and sliding alone."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this," the Professor retorted with a wounded note in his voice. "Why?"
Quinn chuckled mirthlessly. "I leave on this big quest that some ghostly version of myself puts me on, and everything just seems to fall into place. The first world I land on, you're there, heading up some great sliding project that wants to poke and prod at me until I tell your buddies I'm some alien spy. I take you with me, and straightaway we find Wade in that tunnel world. The last world we land on, Oz pulls back the curtain and there's the last member of our little rogues gallery, Rembrandt. So was it too much to ask, since this Quinn spirit guy can take us to any world he wants, that he could take me home? Instead, I get a world where stupid hatwear is considered holy. I fulfilled my end of the bargain, he reneged on his. Now I want out."
The R&B music in the other room got louder while Arturo fumed. "I don't pretend to know what exactly has brought us all together, Mr. Mallory, but perhaps it's for a reason. And I seriously doubt it was so that you could skulk off in self-pity and leave the rest of us facing an uncertain future!" The elder man's tone grew more and more agitated. "Do you even care what happens to us?
"You'll take care of yourselves just fine," Quinn retorted with certainty in his voice. "You're experienced, you know how the sliding gig works."
"And that's something else to think about, Quinn. Sliding is extremely dangerous, and it's even more so when you're on your own. How are you going to survive traveling through the multiverse by yourself?"
"I'll make do," Quinn said while stuffing some of his clothes into a duffel bag. "I always have."
"Mr. Mallory, you need us to survive," Arturo stated flatly. "And more than that we need you."
"You need Quinn Mallory," he said, angrily thrusting his finger in Arturo's direction. "But you'll settle for me. And I don't want that to be my life."
"Fine," Arturo practically growled. "If you want to strand me, the person who has done nothing but help you since the day I met you, Miss Welles, who seems on the verge of an emotional breakdown and believes you to be her Quinn, and Mr. Brown, who is virtually catatonic, on some Godforsaken earth for all eternity, I suppose I can do nothing to prevent it. Although it is hard for me to believe that your conscience would allow you to inflict the same fate upon others that you so loathed for yourself."
"I'll drop you off on a world where there's technology, so you can build your own sliding machine. You did it once before. I'm sure you'll have no problem doing it again." Before Arturo could begin lecturing Quinn again, he began walking out the door with the timer. "See if the others are ready. I'm going outside to try to find a good place to slide."
Arturo sighed deeply. His life had changed so rapidly in merely a few days. He only hoped he could keep up the pace, because the others were going to need a lot of support. If Quinn left...
No more of that. 'That way madness lies', the Professor thought, remembering an appropriate Shakespeare quote. For once, Arturo was hoping they would land on some backwards world, so that Quinn wouldn't have a chance to leave them behind. Perhaps it was a fruitless hope. If this Quinn Mallory truly wanted to leave, he could not wish for him to stay with them forever. It had to be his choice.
Trying to remove all such gloomy thoughts from his head, he went in to check on Wade and Rembrandt. Recognizing the song that had been playing as "Tears in My Fro", the Professor then heard "Cry Like a Man" begin to play. Rembrandt lie on the bed in a stupor and Wade sat near him, examining him closely.
"Damn," Wade cursed to herself with her head downcast. "I thought the music from this album I picked up on the last world would bring him out of it if anything would." For good measure, she went over and turned up the song once more. He was surprised that somebody hadn't already been complaining about the loud music from their hotel room, but with the celebration going on, perhaps they wouldn't. Wade then grimly sat back down on her bed, parallel to where Rembrandt was laying in his bed, looking for some sign of comprehension. There was nothing. Arturo sat down beside her and put his hand on her shoulder. It was plain to see that she had been crying. A lot.
"You know, last night I couldn't tell if he was asleep or awake, so I kept waking myself up just to make sure he was still breathing," she sobbed. "I can't believe he came through everything he has just to end up this way. Maybe he would have been better off dead on some Kromagg world, going down fighting like the hero he was."
"He'll get better, Miss Welles," the Professor assured her. When she looked at him disbelievingly, he replied with total confidence, "He will, and soon. But right now we have to get ready for the slide."
He smiled at her to see if he'd reached her and she smiled back, which Arturo counted as a small victory. Considering the large defeats they'd been handed lately, it was very welcome. As Wade and Arturo started to help Rembrandt outside, with as much of their gear as they could carry with them at the same time, she asked her elder companion, "Is something wrong with Quinn? He's seemed upset this entire slide."
"He's worried about Rembrandt a lot more than he lets on," Arturo fibbed, although he sincerely hoped it was true. Not wanting to dwell on Rembrandt's condition, which had so consumed Wade on this world, he continued "Also, I don't think he was too keen on the idea of landing on a world where the people all worship the Big Funny Party Hat."
Wade chuckled at that reference to the extremely odd religion that the locals here were following. "It is strange, but it's not nearly as bad as some of the worlds we've visited." Arturo nodded his affirmation as they continued to walk to where Quinn was. When they saw him, it appeared as though he was being harangued by locals.
"No, you must stay for the Big Funny Party Hat Jubilee. We let off our special fireworks and then we do let loose with the giant streamers!" he exclaimed enthusiastically in an accent that bordered on Hindi.
"No thank you," Quinn replied sullenly to the man, although the slider did have a fake-looking smile on his face.
"No, please, we insist," the important-looking native continued. Quinn looked like he was ready to tell the man off when Arturo stepped in.
"Now, Mr. Mallory, we don't want to offend our hosts," the Professor said with a smile. "We would be delighted to stay for your festivities."
Once the man showed his delighted expression and walked off, Arturo remarked to the others, "I don't think they'll try to stop us, Mr. Mallory. It shouldn't be any problem to slide out in public here."
"Besides," Wade remarked with a grin, "it should be one heck of a show. Maybe the vortex will be the crowning effect."
Nonplussed, Quinn looked at the timer. "Only about three minutes until we slide. They better hurry if they're going to..." Just as he spoke, the fireworks started. This culture had apparently taken fireworks to some higher technological level. They seemed to dance and frolic in the sky, as though they truly were living creatures. They began to act out the story of how, according to this world's mythology, the Big Funny Party Hat came to Earth and liberated the world from devils, IRS agents and felonious pro athletes. As the ceremony ended, a large countdown clock came down from above a big pile of fireworks that looked bigger than the ones that had been set off before. As it began ticking down from one minute, the timer began ticking down from thirty seconds.
"I wonder what they do for an encore?" Wade asked, in awe. In reality, Quinn was a little engulfed in the ceremony himself, although he would never admit it.
"They sure know how to treat their guests. I hope the next world has room service that's as good as this one had," Arturo commented in admiration.
As the last seconds counted down, Quinn opened the wormhole. The Professor pushed Rembrandt into the vortex and a few seconds later, Arturo jumped in behind him. Staying to see what really happened when the clock hit 0:00, Wade and Quinn watched the timer anxiously. "5...4...3...2...1..." and then a bunch of garbled cheers that the sliding twosome didn't know how to interpret erupted among the people around them. As Wade got ready to jump through the vortex, they saw that this time a stream of firework-like glowing entities floated around among the people, swirling and making colorful patterns with their trails. Not really wanting to leave, but wanting to miss the slide less, Wade jumped in. Quinn waited a few more seconds, wanting to soak up every moment of the first time in his experience with sliding that he'd been enjoying himself. With just a few more seconds until the wormhole closed, he jumped through. And one of the "fireworks" ran smack dab into the vortex behind him.
Quinn felt a jolt as he sailed from one world to another and came landing down hard on the sandy ground. 'Sandy?', Quinn thought. 'Good Lord, he couldn't have punished me for wanting to leave them by sending me back to...' Too horrified to continue that train of thought, Quinn looked around and saw not a tropical island, but a large desert. "What kind of a world is this?" he turned to say to the others. Only the others weren't there.
"I'm alone," Quinn said, looking at the timer that was in his hand. "Four days. What if I'm stuck out here in the desert all alone, with no food or water, and no one to..." He was silenced by a blow from behind. The robed figure then began to cart Quinn away. "Not alone no more," he laughed to himself.
The vortex opened on a new Earth and spit out a still-quite-out-of-it Rembrandt Brown followed in quick succession by Maximilian Arturo. They had landed in what appeared to be a nondescript alleyway in the middle of somewhere. Arturo had taken this opportunity to hit his head on a brick wall. He moaned and began to attempt getting up. Once he had done so, he pulled Rembrandt to his feet and looked into the man's eyes. There was still no comprehension in them. The Professor cursed inwardly and then made way for Wade to land. Stealthily, she managed to position herself so that she could land unscathed on all fours on the ground.
"I'm going to have to get used to these rough landings again," Professor Arturo grumbled to Wade. Wade nodded and rubbed her shoulder in a seeming show of sympathy. Her body was healing steadily from all the abuse it had taken recently. The rest of her might take a while longer.
The vortex suddenly closed, without Quinn emerging. "What?! No!!" Wade exclaimed.
"Quinn didn't make it," Arturo said almost numbly in remorse. As they stood there saying nothing for a while, Arturo decided to speculate to make things look a little better. "Perhaps we shouldn't give up hope yet. It's possible that he's landed somewhere else on this world. It's happened before."
"It doesn't happen often," Wade snapped back, with more mourning in her voice than venom, at the Professor. "Let's just face facts. Quinn probably didn't make the slide. And we're stuck here, just the two of us, with no timer and a frigging coma patient!" She calmed down a bit before Arturo could suggest it and then asked, with just a hint of despair in her voice, "So what do we do now, Professor?"
"I honestly have no idea, Wade," Professor Arturo replied, calling her Wade for the first time in a long time. "But I suspect we shall soon have to find out."
Quinn awoke painfully in what looked and smelled like the bed of a horse-driven cart. Which, as he looked around, was probably because that's exactly where he was. 'Great, not only am I in Desert World, I'm in Primitive Desert World.' Looking down at his pocket to see if the timer was still with him, he was immensely relieved to see that it was. The readout gave him about four and a half days here. That wasn't too bad, he supposed, assuming he cold hold onto the timer for that long.
Taking a more thorough look at his surroundings, Quinn noticed that the cart wasn't covered and that his entire body was covered in tiny particles of sand. He somehow suspected the two were related. He also noticed, quite painfully, that his wrists were tied tightly to a small pole jutting up from one side of the cart. His hands were bleeding from where the ropes had been violently brushed up against his skin. Trying to get the best look that he could at the front of the cart, he saw that he was wrong about the horse-driven cart part, there was actually a pack of camels pulling it.
The mischievous looking man at the reigns was of indeterminate ethnic origin and wore a long, flowing tan robe that blended well with his desert surroundings. Or at least, what used to be his desert surroundings. It appeared as though the cart was making its way to some sort of town. Quinn strained his neck trying to get a good look, but eventually slumped back in defeat. He spat sand out of his mouth and tried his best to enjoy the considerably bumpy ride.
Arturo, Wade and Remmy checked into the Hotel California, apparently some sort of popular resort hotel on this world. "I don't know, isn't that kind of an ominous name for a hotel?" Wade asked. Arturo gave her a befuddled look. "You know. 'You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave'?"
"Perhaps I am a bit unaware of American song lyrics, but these locals certainly look friendly enough." He smiled politely at the bellhop as he began to take their luggage with them. (Wade had come up with the bright idea of actually packing some clothing and such into a bag and taking it with them instead of making themselves have to worry about it constantly on the next world. Arturo pondered why they had never thought of it before.)
"We're just lucky we found a world that's fairly modern," Wade said back to the Professor.
"And that this world takes our money," he retorted with a chortle.
Wade paused a moment in thought, then went on with "Maybe we can even build a new timer."
"'We'?" Arturo queried in exclamation.
"You know, I steal the parts, you do the science stuff," Wade replied with a grin. The Professor started to chide her for, well he hadn't figured that out yet, so it was probably a good thing that the bellhop interrupted them to tell them that they were at their room.
The bellhop then grinned and leaned in closer to them. "Also, I have got to tell you Jauntees that you never cease to amaze me, the way you get in character like that. It's phenomenal!" Arturo and Wade (and, well, of course Remmy) replied only with blank looks. "You are here for the Space Jaunt convention, right? I mean, you were talking about other worlds and stuff..."
Arturo chastised himself for his carelessness. "Uh, yes, that's precisely the case," he fumbled weakly.
"That's great! You'll have a great time, I just know it." As the threesome tried to move inside their room, the bellhop wouldn't stop jabbering. "You," he said, pointing to Professor Arturo, "even look a little like that Captain Burgund guy." He pounded his head in frustration. "Man, I can never remember that guy's name. But I loved him as Macro in 'I, Claudius'." Just as they were about to close the door on him, the guy asked, "What happened to your friend? He looks a little out of it."
Wade replied quickly. "He's going in character as one of the Red Shirt Space Zombies from Episode 4L-73, 'They Came to Eat Spock's Brain.'"
"Oh," the bellhop replied knowingly. "I was just going to tell you if he really does have problems with his mental state that there's a visiting Dr. Yarabek who claims to cure all in that department."
"Dr. Yarabek?" Arturo replied with surprise.
"Yeah. He's in room 314." He then walked away muttering to himself. "I don't know why I told them that. I could get fired for giving out other people's room numbers. Oh, well. Live and learn." He shrugged and walked to the elevator. As he entered it and the doors began to close behind, a thought occurred to him. "Wait a minute!! Who's Spock?!?!"
Quinn had finally managed to get back to sleep after sunset when he was rudely awoken by the same man who had captured him out in the desert chattering away to someone. Then he heard larger chatter, almost a roar. Craning his neck to look outside the window of the stable? he'd been taken to, he saw seemingly endless crowds of people. Not able to see much else, he turned his attention to the conversation that had awoken him in the first place.
"I look for meal, I end up with stupid slave. Now he yours...for the right price." the tan-robed man replied with a menacing grin that showed some gaps in his teeth.
"Don't really need any slaves right now," the man replied. "And this one's too scrawny to do the kind of work we need around here." Quinn felt a flash of indignancy. Then he realized that was stupid, he didn't really want to be a slave (although he would hate to see his fate if the tan robe guy couldn't sell him as a slave).
"I give you him, practically. Cheap, cheap." He continued
"How cheap we talkin'?" the man replied, seemingly genuinely interested for the first time.
"Three denari." At that, the heavier man, dressed in what looked like Medieval garb, balked and began to walk away. "Alright, two. And I throw in camel."
"The one with a broken hoof?" the man asked skeptically.
"Absolutely of course not." The greasy merchant looked as though the other man had wounded him. "The garbage-smelling one."
"Sold." They shook hands and the meaty hand of his new master placed two small coins in his hand.
"Well, that's it, dumb one," his former captor breathed contemptuously. "You slave now of the Roman Empire."
Quinn considered that for a moment... and then fainted.
Quinn felt like he had woken up in the middle of a cold shower. As it turned out, that was putting it mildly.
Quinn Mallory was nude, strapped in an X-position between two posts and being thoroughly hosed down by some guards behind him. All around, he could hear some other men jeer and taunt him mercilessly. A sharp pain in his shoulder when the water spray hit him there reminded him sharply of his injury four worlds ago, sustained while trying to save Professor Arturo from his son's deranged double. It had mostly healed, and had given him little trouble thus far, but it still stung pretty badly. Finally, the assault stopped and he was released and at last he could clearly hear the words of those around him.
"Gonna break you now, slave...You'll be cleaning out the Pits til you puke your guts out...Seventy lashes for talking back...won't last five seconds out there..." OK, so it was still jumbled, but at least it wasn't being literally drowned out by the harsh blasts of the water hose. The man who bought him threw some sort of blanket over him, and he soon had fashioned it into a piece of clothing to cover himself with. This brought a combination of boos, hisses and cheers from his unpleasant compatriots.
Two of the same flunkies who had been hosing him down now began to take him somewhere else...and hastily. "What the hell's going on here?" Quinn managed to moan. The only response was a harsh whip to the back by one of the guards accompanied by howls of delight that were growing ever farther away. His new owner grinned evilly. "If you're going to curse, at least curse right. Hell's for Christians. You're among Romans now. Haven't you ever heard the expression, 'When in Cappadocia, do as the Cappadocians?' Say 'in Pluto's name'."
One of the guards turned to their boss and said, "Actually, the Emperor Constantine..."
He snapped back. "Nobody cares about Constantine anymore! Now show our new slave his cot and get him assigned to a work detail immediately!" After the guards showed him the dingy looking piece of wood that would be his new home, they immediately began looking over their records to find out which work team needs another member. All of a sudden, Quinn realized something. "The timer," he inadvertantly said aloud.
"That clock thing you had with you?" one of his captors took the time to ask him disinterestedly. "We'll give it back to you...eventually." Quinn's heart sank in despair and the guard let a smirk escape his otherwise stony face.
"Detail 17 looks like it could use another set of hands," the less arrogant guard commented to his co-worker.
"The practicing field!" he replied. "Perfect." He rubbed his hands together with glee and laughed maniacally. The other guard rolled his eyes and yelled for the boss. "Lagrius! Snidlius is acting like an old cinemus villain again!"
"Stop that this instant!" came the disembodied voice from another room. "Awww," was the sound of defeat from the other man. 'What kind of weird world is this?' Quinn wondered to himself.
Cut to the Hotel California, where the Professor, Wade and Rembrandt were staying. "So what's the game plan?" Wade asked Arturo earnestly, consciously deferring command to him for the first time since they had begun sliding together again.
"We need a way to slide out of here first and foremost," Arturo replied to a slight frown from Wade. "Then we need a way to support ourselves in order to be able to do so. After those matters are attended to, we shall search for Quinn. Everything must take place in that order."
"If we find Quinn, we find the timer." Before Arturo could interrupt her, Wade continued, "I'm not saying that it's even very likely that he's somewhere else on this world, or that we'll find him soon even if he is. But, without the timer, it's not like we're in a hurry to leave here. With the exception of nosy bellhops, this world doesn't seem very threatening. We've got a lot of time to build our own sliding machine."
Arturo finished her thought for her. "But potentially not so much until the timer hits zero. I see what you're saying. I just wouldn't know where to begin looking. Don't forget also that one of us has to look for a job, while the other one needs to take care of Rembrandt. That doesn't leave us with a lot of time to comb the earth for Quinn Mallory." Wade sank back in defeat. Arturo sat as well, not very pleased with the situation himself.
The Professor hoped to change the subject. "On the brighter side of things, there's an opening for a physicist's job at a place called ChemCo not far from here. I talked to them over the phone and they seem very excited about a new face at their company."
Wade sighed heavily, got up off the bed and began to walk towards the window. "So I guess I've got nursemaid detail again, huh?"
Arturo blinked in surprise. "I, uh, well of course, if you want to go out and..."
"No, that's fine," Wade made herself say. With a bitter note in her voice, she continued, "All the things I have extensive experience in are probably illegal on this world anyway. As well they should be." Wade paused in thought for a moment as Arturo moved next to her in sympathy. "I guess I just hoped that once the four of us were together again everything would finally come back to where it should be. It just started to feel like it was all falling together, but pretty soon it's the same old nightmare. We run for our lives and if we lose anyone along the way, so be it." Wade bit her lip and looked out the window as it started to rain. "Most of all, I just miss him. Already." She paused for a moment, and then said it. "Like I wanted him to miss me."
Quinn Mallory did start to miss his companions, if only because he really didn't want to be a slave in some demented lunatic's version of Ancient Rome. Not by himself like this. He knew the way Wade and Arturo were, they would already have twelve different contingency plans for escape. Of course, they probably wouldn't work the way the sliders planned, but...
Snapping himself out of that line of thought, Quinn again tried to listen to his new overseer. "And if the humwees start to come through here..."
"Humwees?" Quinn asked curiously.
"They're like yeeps, only covered and more heavily armored," another slave explained to him while the overseer rolled his eyes in contempt.
"Yust take cuwer whenewer anything big and roaring comes rumbling through here." The gruff man grumbled. "Any questions?"
"Yeah," said Quinn, putting his hand in the air. "If you guys are Romans, how come you all speak English?"
The overseer got a big smile on his face...and then punched him hard in the mouth. "Any other stupid questions?" he asked. Getting no response, he chuckled a little. "Good. Now start acting like a good slawe."
A slight African-American (would they be African-Romans here?) moved up next to him. "Sorry about that. Tiberius goes a little rough at first, and he's a real stickler for Latin pronunciations, but he's not as bad as some around here."
"Who are you?" Quinn asked the man as he gave him a small enclosed goblet of water.
"Elstonus Diggus," he replied. "From me to you: welcome to our world. At first you'll hate it, but in time you'll come to loathe it."
"I have no doubt of that." Quinn replied with a chuckle.
"What's your name, anyway?" Elstonus asked him.
Quinn paused a minute, remembered the slave master's saying about Cappadocians and just decided to go with it. "Mallorius. Quintus Mallorius."
"Interesting name," Elstonus replied. "Cyrenaican?"
Before "Quintus" could respond in the negative, a golden chariot roared past, not far from where they were standing along the main thoroughfare. A fully armored figure with plating that matched the yellow tint of the vehicle emerged from the chariot to the cheers and hoots of the slaves around him. Coming up alongside was a black armored charioteer with red markings. Drawing their swords, the two dueled for the general merriment of the crowd around them, with the slaves cheering vociferously for the golden-armored one and booing the black-armored one as though he were the devil himself. Or Pluto.
Elstonus immediately became enthralled in the action, and for that matter, so did Quinn. At last, the black-armored one made a hideously sloppy move and was promptly knocked off his feet for his troubles. As the vanquished merely lay on the ground, the victor bowed to the crowd and then removed his helmet to reveal...
that he wasn't a he at all. It was actually a young blonde woman who most in the audience thought was stunningly attractive. Quinn was one of them. "Don't even think about it," Elstonus Diggus told him, snapping him temporarily out of a blonde-induced haze. "She's the coliseum's star attraction. She wouldn't date a slave for all the olive groves in Achaia. Besides, I hear she's dating Emperor Paligulpah. And that's one dude you really don't want mad at you."
Quinn nodded, but couldn't get her out of his head. He knew that he was still waiting for Melissa, he knew it for certain, but five years was a long time to wait. For both of them. A dalliance here and there was to be expected, wasn't it?
Quinn Mallory shook his head free from such thoughts. There was no way he could ever just become some interdimensional gigolo, picking up attractive-looking blondes on every world he landed on. Before he would do that, he would stop caring about getting home at all. And he knew that could never happen.
"Quintus Mallorius" had been assigned cleanup detail in a place called the Firing Range. Quinn had no idea why it was called that and he hoped that he wouldn't find out anytime soon. The thoroughfares that ran through the place were dusty and filled with garbage and debris. On either side of the main road empty buildings, fairly modern looking if with a slight touch of Graeco-Roman design, which looked like they weren't even designed for housing. Which seemed to explain why nobody was living in them.
"When they say deserted, they mean deserted," Quinn muttered to himself. This place of empty houses, that quite frankly looked like abandoned backlots at a movie studio, gave the new slider with an old slider's face the willies. "Doesn't give off the friendliest vibes, I'll tell you that."
With his pathetic pushbroom and pan, and accompanied by a sort of garbage can on wheels, Quinn did his best to get all of the junk away from the houses. The task was so repetitive and pointless, he felt as though he was going through some sort of Roman slave hazing ritual.
This all was getting him nowhere. The guards that were keeping him enslaved had the timer. The slide was in three days. Not to mention that his companions were lost, probably sent to another world when that wacky firecracker damaged the vortex's integrity, and he had no idea how to find them or even if he wanted to find them.
'You said you wanted them gone,' Quinn chided himself mentally. 'Looks like you got your wish.'
"I didn't know it would be like this," he said to defend his earlier position to nobody in particular. "I lived on my own for five years and I didn't think that there was a situation that could be worse. But now I..." But before he could rant anymore, he heard a rumble in the distance. In his desire just to see or hear from anyone else after so long in isolation, he forgot the warning of his overseer.
There were humwees coming.
He heard the hooting first, the cries of reckless men, caught up in the thrill of victory. Then he saw them speeding towards him, the force of their wheels turning up the earth and spreading dust further across the barren landscape. There were about two dozen of them, filling up half a dozen of the Roman military cars, the "humwees" that Tiberius had talked about before. They didn't wear uniforms, not any kind of uniforms Quinn had ever seen anyway, so he figured they weren't soldiers. But they seem to be of one body.
When he looked at them more closely, he saw that they were all in good shape, most of them very muscular. Some of them bore cuts, scrapes and burns on the exposed part of their skin, around the arms and shoulders. They were not all men, either, he saw some distinctly feminine features in the group. They all wore the traditional Roman peasant garb that Quinn had seen on this world (togas were for the rich, these looked more like Medieval serfwear) and carried a weapon that looked sort of like a rifle, but not quite.
As they roared by, Quinn's face was suddenly plagued with dust and he became extremely irritated by the jeers that followed. As the young scientist had just about finished cleaning up the area around him, a few of them threw out their own garbage, stuff that Quinn wouldn't have even looked at in a different situation. As the last car rolled by, it stopped and some of the more rambunctious passengers took the time to insult Quinn.
Just before they drove off, the driver took the time for one final insult. "Hey, slave!" he cried. Picking up his weapon, Quinn did not know to shield his eyes when a laser blast eminated from it, sending the entire part of a building crashing to the ground. Quinn had fallen to the ground by the force of the blast. "You missed a spot." Maniacal laughter ensued and the group thankfully sped away. Quinn muttered some choice curses under his breath and then resumed cleaning.
Professor Arturo came in looking completely exhausted from his first day working at ChemCo. "Miss Welles, you would not believe what kind of blistering idiots I have had to deal with today! If it weren't for the cash advance involved in taking the position, I would have told them exactly what I think they should do with their cosmic wormholes."
Wade nodded grimly, she had not slept well the night before and it looked like she hadn't had much of a chance to catch up anytime today. "Has there been any change?" the Professor asked with a distinct note of concern in his voice. When she nodded her head and then held it down in exhaustion and mourning, Arturo moved next to her.
"Perhaps we should go see this Dr. Yarabek. That bellhop may have been a blathering ninny, but if this man has even the slightest chance of being able to help Rembrandt..."
"Then we should go for it," Wade finished, her voice filled with resignation. "We ran into a double of him before, not for very long before he died, but his research was very helpful to us. Maybe it will be again."
"Doubles can be vastly different from world to world," the Professor began, but when Wade gave him a look, he finished, "but let's hope that's not the case here. Come on Miss Welles, let's go look him up, shall we?" They began to walk out the door to find a certain Dr. Yarabek...
and then there was movement.
Rembrandt Brown stood alone in the dark, looking at the gigantic nothingness that was making its presence known before him. Suddenly a gigantic spotlight shone down upon him. Now being able to see, at least somewhat, he could make out a microphone before him and an auditorium around him. Deciding to just go with it, he started to sing the National Anthem.
"Oh say, can you see
With no eyes in your head
What so proudly we lost
In our last life's vain preening"
Rembrandt paused in confusion. This clearly wasn't the National Anthem. He couldn't even seem to control what was coming out of his mouth.
"Whose brave dolts and bright men
Through the perilous night
O'er the Kromaggs we watched
Were so virulently scheming
And the vortex' bright glaaaare" He started to hold the note, and as he did so the microphone suddenly went away from him as the spotlight got hotter and hotter. He fell back into a chair, was tied to it with hands that were invisible to him, and he saw how quickly it was all turned into an interrogation.
"Where were you on the night of March 29th?" a distorted voice from a shadowy figure asked with authority in his voice.
"I don't know...don't remember." He was hit fiercely across the face for his answer. Suddenly, the light got much brighter and spread out over all the arena. His hometown choir sung in the lower part of the rafters. The tune he recognized, it was "Lord, I'm Comin to the Glory Land". What he couldn't figure out was why they were there.
As soon as they had come, they disappeared and more interrogators came. They looked larger and meaner than before.
"Gonna break you, boy," one said with a Southern drawl. As he moved in closer, he saw a face like an ape with a dripping fangs. "Gonna make you forget all about your people and they freedom."
"No," Rembrandt spoke in simple defiance. A voice from behind him came through like a trumpet. "Fight it, Remmy. Til your last breath, fight it." It was Quinn's voice, he knew he heard it. If he could just make out his face, he knew he would be alright. If he could just move a little bit more into the light...
and then there was movement. And Rembrandt Brown was awake.
And Rembrandt Brown was angry. Disoriented, his mind a jumble, he jerked awake and grabbed the nearest sharp implement, a knife that Wade had left on the nightstand near the beds of their hotel room. As Wade and Arturo moved towards him, he grabbed Wade from behind and put the knife to her throat.
"You people are gonna tell me what the hell's going on right now!" Rembrandt screamed. Wade looked terrified and sad at the same time. The Professor was perplexed, not knowing exactly what to do.
Quinn had finally complained to his overseer, Tiberius, enough that he got out of the tedious chore of cleaning the Firing Range. Now he had been moved to work the coliseum, the place that Elstonus had told him about. He wondered idly if the blonde woman he had seen before would be in the gladiatorial contest and then tried to convince himself that he didn't care if she was. It didn't work.
Looking up ever so often from his cleaning duties, Quinn watched the progress of the various gladiators. Some were ferocious and brave, making short work of the various animals and obstacles put in front of them. Others, well, weren't. It was really quite brutal and Quinn had to resist the urge to throw up in his trashcan-on-wheels more than once.
At last he saw her, his golden-armored Amazon, move into the center of the arena. She was going to be fighting a group of tigers. The whole lot of them were feral-looking and they eagerly salivated at the prospect of eating her alive. Quinn moved to a vantage point not far from the barrier that kept the public out of harm's way.
At first, everything went perfectly smoothly. And then something happened. Her timing was off. The tigers moved faster than she expected. Before long, she was on the ground, her helmet off, surrounded by chained-up tigers. And then they let the tigers off of their chains.
"Are they insane?!?" Quinn bellowed. Acting without really thinking things through, he jumped over the arena, decked the guards and immediately began to put himself between her and the hungry-looking tigers. He only hoped he wouldn't be too late.
The crowd gasped in amazement as "Quintus Mallorius" entered the field of play, as all who saw him realized he could only be a slave by his apparel, and slaves were not allowed inside the center ring of the arena.
Quinn attempted to thrust his pushbroom menacingly in the direction of the tigers. "What are you doing?!?" the blonde woman hissed in protest.
"Saving your life," Quinn said with a touch of indignant anger in his voice. As the tigers drew nearer to Quinn, he had more trouble keeping them away from her with the poor weapon that he had made of his cleaning supplies. Finally, realizing that the battle would be just him and the tigers, no weapons or tricks, he knew what he had to do. What any red-blooded man would do.
He ran like hell.
The blonde woman gave Quinn a look that said 'I'm brassed off and you're going to hear about it later'. The tigers looked slightly amused and slightly infuriated. But the audience roared with laughter. Some even applauded as Quinn vainly struggled to climb over the wall that he had crossed before to get into the arena, only to be shoved back in by some of the same gladiators who had passed him before, who were laughing as much as anyone.
"You got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out of it," one of them said with an amused sneer.
Quinn reluctantly turned around to face the tigers again. The blonde warrior had gotten herself up and again began yielding her weapons unenthusiastically against the large dangerous cats. Trying his best to think on his feet, a difficult task, considering how just plain scared he was, he picked up a handful of dirt and threw it in one of the tiger's eyes, then began clubbing it with his pushbroom. This drew yet more laughter from the crowd and a growl of irritation from the tiger.
Just as the animal was about to unleash the full fury of its claws on Quinn, who was cowering in terror after having realized the futility of fighting the tiger with a broom, the armored woman sank her spear into the attacking beast, and it dropped like lead. Surveying the landscape, Quinn saw that the other tigers were dead now, too. The crowd gave Quinn and his savior a standing ovation and cheered loudly for the slave who had "performed" so marvelously.
Quinn didn't know quite what to think. He was certainly glad to be alive. But he wondered how much that would mean as soon as he was out of the ring.
Arturo knew he would have to act quickly to stop Rembrandt from doing something he would surely sorely regret later. "Mr. Brown, there's no need for this. We're your friends."
"I saw...you die," Rembrandt said to the Professor, although the memory that told him so seemed to be slipping away from him. "Didn't I?"
Seeing an opportunity to inject reason, Arturo pounced on it. "That wasn't me. It was just a double. Remember that world where the Golden Gate Bridge was blue?"
Rembrandt's brow furrowed. "I don't...remember..."
Wade then chose that moment to speak up. "We took the wrong Arturo with us there, Remmy. And now we've found the right one and we're all going to get home together."
"Miss Welles is quite correct, Mr. Brown," Arturo said soothingly. "You don't want to hurt her, now do you?"
"I don't know," Rembrandt breathed. "Don't know who to believe anymore. Been strung around too much."
"I know how you feel," Wade said. "After so much of the Kromagg lies and tricks, you don't know if you can trust anyone again. But this is the real deal. Can't you just feel it, Remmy? Doesn't this feel like home?"
Rembrandt Brown paused for a moment, practically frozen in time. "I..." he then released Wade and fell back onto his bed, weeping. "I just don't know anymore. I wish to God that..."
Arturo couldn't bring himself to say anything, but Wade was more than willing to try and work this out with him. "I know it seems like it's impossible for you to deal with what's going on right now. So we'll take it slow for a while, OK? Til you get used to everything again." Rembrandt didn't respond, but he did seem to calm down a bit.
Now that Arturo sensed a calm in the storm, he pulled Wade aside. "We've got to take him to Dr. Yarabek." Before Wade could bitterly protest, Arturo cut her off. "He's unstable, Wade. He needs help. Help that, as much as we'd like to, we cannot give him."
"We can try," Wade said, putting as much sting in her voice as possible even though she already knew the Professor was right. "How are we going to get him to go?"
"We may have to bring Yarabek here," Arturo replied, recalling a proverb about Mohammed and a mountain.
Wade nodded solemnly. "See what you can do, Professor. I'll stay with Remmy."
Professor Maximilian Arturo thus headed off to make an appointment with a Dr. Yarabek. He only hoped that he could help his friend.
"I am so going to kill you!!!" the blonde warrior practically growled at Quinn, all the while lunging at him menacingly.
"Now, now," a sleazy looking brown-haired man in a toga said as he entered the "dugout" where the gladiators stayed between matches. "'Quintus' here's just become a hot property for you, Hippolyta. And the crowd just loves him."
"He ruined EVERYTHING!!!" she shrieked at the man in frustration. "And you expect me to work with this guy? For how long?!?"
The man's grin widened. "For as long as he's popular. Then you can do whatever you like with him."
Hippolyta now flashed her own menacing smile. "That just might be worth putting up with you for a few months, Mallorius. Possibly. If you don't screw up again."
The man then interjected again. "Yeah, about that, Hippolyta, we don't really want to go with the common-man-becomes-gladiator angle because, well, quite frankly, that's been done to death. I mean put the coins on their eyes and let the ferryman sail, you know what I'm saying here?" Dumbfounded looks from both Quinn and Hippolyta. "Now I've been talking to the Emperor about this and he wants a new comedic angle on the gladiatoral games and he thinks you and Quintus would just be a perfect..."
"Comedy?!?" Hippolyta exclaimed, looking about ready to destroy everything in sight. "I MADE the gladiatorial games here, Gaius, and I will not be made fun of."
"You misunderstand," Gaius replied slimily. "You won't be doing any of the comedy, just Quintus."
"Wait," Quinn interjected while Hippolyta seethed. "Don't I get a say in this?"
"Sure," Gaius grinned. "Do this gladiatorial comedy bit, or go back to your slave masters and tell them that you left your duties to go 'save' the most powerful warrior in all of Nova Roma. But I'm sure they'll be understanding. Slavers always are."
Quinn realized the man was right. Thinking immediately of the timer, he asked, "Will you at least have them send my stuff over here?"
"Certainly," the weasely man agreed. "Now I'll let you two 'creative geniuses' put your heads together and see how you're going to work out a routine." At that, he left the room and Quinn was sore afraid of what Hippolyta would do him without Gaius present.
"So," Quinn started nervously. "What are we..."
"You listen to me, slave," Hippolyta replied viciously as she pointed her bloody spear in Quinn's direction. "You may have jeopardized my journey to the next world for now, but it'll come soon. And when it does, if you keep this up, I just might think about taking you with me. Are we clear?" Quinn nodded dumbly. "Good. Now I'm going to go get some sleep. It's been a long day."
Quinn was visibly exhausted. This was the third time he had gone out in the arena today and his arms and legs felt as though they were put together with straw. He still was no closer to getting the timer back from those thugs who held him. "You're a slave", Gaius mocked, "what do you need that fancy-looking device for?" Gaius was apparently not as big on Latin grammar as Tiberius had been, for he ended his sentence with a preposition. Not that that mattered much to Quinn.
Hippolyta looked equally worn out, and there was a discernable tone of anger in her voice. "They've been working us for hours on end! When are they going to give this routine, and us, a rest?"
"Beats me," replied Quinn, wearing a bright orange fez and riding around in a circle in a mechanized miniature version of a chariot, all decorated in pink and purple. Surrounding him were bears in similar vehicles, growling and swatting at him. "I guess all we can do is grin and bear it. Hehe."
The blonde-haired warrior Hippolyta gave him a nasty scowl for that particularly bad pun. She stood in the middle of the minichariots, routinely whipping the bears, supposedly to keep them in line but mostly just to get them agitated enough to scratch "Quintus". As if to bear witness to her purpose, Quinn screamed out a painful-sounding "Ouch" as one of the ursine creatures' paws made contact with his bare back.
"How long do we have to keep this up?" Quinn groaned.
"As long as it takes until I have my chance to go to the next world," Hippolyta replied grimly.
The Emperor Paligulah was enjoying the games thoroughly. Or, at the very least, the profits that came from them.
"I told you, I want eighty shares. Eighty, not eight, you moron!" Paligulah practically screamed over his cellular phone.
As one of his servants approached him, he started to wave him away, until he saw what was in his hands. "Hold on, Herman. The latest numbers just came in. I'll call you back later, 'kay?" The Emperor pushed the button to hang up without even waiting for a reply.
"So, what have we got?" he asked his small, unassuming minion, Ciphius.
"Mostly the usual, sir. High numbers for gladiators killed in the ring, low numbers for whatever intellectual drivel the Senate makes us show." In a much quieter voice, he continued. "ohthereissomethingelsebutitsnotimportantilljustleaveyoualonenowokbye"
Paligulah stopped him. "Give me those!" Scanning over the reports as only someone who had examined them hundreds of times before, and who had an extremely tiny brain, could, he soon howled in outrage. "What?!? Hippolyta and Quintus are that unpopular ALREADY?!? Why, their last performance ranked lower with the public than when the Olsenus twins WEREN'T devoured by that ferocious maneating lion!!!"
Ciphius tried his best to soothe his Emperor's nerves. "I'm sure it's just a shortlived disaffection, sir. The bear in the chariot routine is a little stale. Perhaps we could get them to change their routine a bit."
His attempt at diplomacy failed. As it always did. "Nonsense!! I'm getting those two clowns out of my gladiatorial games right now!" He then got a mischievous look on his face. "Ciphius, that special surprise we have saved up for Augustus sweeps, is it ready yet?"
"I think so, sir, but why would you..." Ciphius was suddenly horrified. "By Jove, sir, you don't intend to..."
"But I do, Ciphius, I do," he cackled mercilessly. "And it should be a pretty good show, too. If I do say so myself. Which I just did. Bwahahahaha!!" Suddenly his cell phone rang. "Well, hello, Herman. We were just talking about you. No, not really. So what were we talking about earlier? Ah, yes, I was chewing you out for your financial imbecility. Ninety shares, not nine, you moron!!" Ciphius rolled his eyes and walked off screen.
The Professor and Wade had ended up having to take Rembrandt to Dr. Yarabek's, as he didn't make house calls. Wade and Arturo waited patiently in the "lobby", which was actually the one of Dr. Yarabek's two rooms that weren't occupied by himself and Rembrandt.
As the Professor leafed idly through the literature on his hotel room table, he read the contents of a pamphlet to Wade. "According to this, psychiatry is practically unheard of on this world because Sigmund Freud's Oedipal complex theory was extremely unpopular with multiple world rulers. Only a few rich eccentrics, like Yarabek, still keep it alive. It seems he made millions from inventing Cheetohs and used it to start his own psychiatric practice."
Wade wrinkled her nose. "Inventing snackfood qualifies you to practice medicine on this world? Freaky." Wade continued nervously pacing about the room. "Are you sure we should've trusted a guy like that with Remmy's brain? Are you sure we should've told him everything about sliding? Are you sure we should've given him the timer?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Miss Wade," the Professor commented. "No group of sliders would ever be stupid enough to just hand the timer over to some lunatic doctor. Besides, we don't even have it with us anymore, remember?" Arturo sighed. "I still believe that Yarabek is Rembrandt's greatest hope on this world, as depressing as that sounds. There was no way we could expect him to cure Rembrandt without some knowledge of his sliding adventures. And until we can get the technology to slide off this world, which will take a long while if those idiots at ChemCo are any indication of the technological status of this world, Rembrandt's mental health is our first priority."
Wade nodded her head. "I just hope he stops threating us at knife point. Cause that's gonna get so old so fast."
"You're being a bit flippant about all this, aren't you?" the Professor said in a voice that showed concern.
"Extreme worry equals flippancy," Wade replied in a much more restrained voice. "All part of the new me."
"Yes," Arturo replied. The concern left his voice, but not his mind. "The new you."
Quintus and Hippolyta achingly entered the dugout and promptly collapsed. The dust that was kicked up by their falling to the ground blew away to reveal the form of their boss, Gaius.
"Yes," Gaius chirped while looking down at them. "You'll need your rest, all right. For tomorrow. When you face...the GRIFFIN!!!"
It was Quinn Mallory's sliding day. Or at least he hoped it would be. The timer, which should reach the end of its countdown today, was still being held captive by Gaius and the "men upstairs" who he worked for but Quinn never saw. However, they said they would return it to him today...on one condition.
He and Hippolyta would have to kill the Griffin.
The odds of a combined lion-eagle beast actually having evolved here were slim to none, or so Quinn thought anyway. 'It doesn't matter if it's real or not,' Quinn mused. 'To get the timer back, I'd go out there and slay Harvey the Rabbit if they wanted me to.'
Hippolyta was considerably more wary of the whole situation. She looked positively ill when she heard they were going to be fighting the Griffin. And that they'd have to kill it... she practically fainted. That left Quinn a little disheartened. He had already gotten lonely in the four days he had been without his recently-acquired sliding companions (curse it all!) and had never gotten over his affinity for Hippolyta. She was good-looking, no doubt. And blonde. Can't forget that.
But he would have to leave her, too. It was the curse of sliding. You can never get too attached.
"You sure Q-Ball's gonna meet us here?" Rembrandt asked the Professor earnestly.
"This is where he told us to meet him," the Professor lied. According to Dr. Yarabek, Rembrandt's mind was such a jumble of horrible memories and jumbled thoughts and ideas that he was repressing memories. He remembered something about the Kromaggs ("Bunch of ape-looking things in sweaters who want to conquer the universe, right?" he had asked Yarabek when he brought up the subject) but had no memory of the Professor's death. The good "doctor" went on to tell the Professor and Wade that Rembrandt had a good chance of getting his full memory back, but the longer he repressed, the greater the chance that he would accept the repression as reality.
Since Rembrandt believed that Quinn was with the group and since Remmy had no idea why he was at Yarabek's in the first place, the Professor and Wade struggled to find a story that would be believable. The younger slider then proceeded to spin a yarn about how Rembrandt and Quinn had been possessed on the last world by a group of evil telepathic children. Wade explained later that she and a still-quite-out-of-it Rembrandt had watched "Children of the Damned" a few nights ago and it was the first thing that popped into her head. Quinn had supposedly taken some "cool down" time on this world, but Rembrandt had needed to see a psychiatrist for the damage the little hellions had done.
"Why this place?" Rembrandt asked curiously. "Seems like it's run by those Society for Creative Anachronisms weirdos." Wade and Arturo both shot him surprised looks. "I was a member for a few weeks. You gotta love a bunch of people who like getting hit with swords. They got a little too into it for me, though."
"I don't know," Wade commented. "I kinda like it. Makes you feel like you're a part of the time period."
"For the prices they charge for admission, it should," Arturo growled. The three of them stood under the awnings of the entrance to a local amusement park, "Nova Roma", that purported to bring the Ancient Roman world to life again. "They should also provide you with your own golden stretch chariot and a personal colosseum."
"Speaking of the colosseum," Wade replied, looking at the park guide she had just picked up at the visitor's center, "there's supposed to be something big going on there right now." Reading more carefully, she groaned. "But we have to pay extra."
"Preposterous!" Arturo bellowed. "This place has already cost us a fortune!"
Rembrandt looked over Wade's shoulder. "Hey, there's supposed to be a griffin!" Remmy and Wade looked up at the Professor pleadingly. He scowled in response. Then, finally, "Oh, if we must!"
Professor Maximilian Arturo grumbled all the way to the colosseum. Wade and Rembrandt shared a look of victory and for the first time in a little while, things seemed as though they actually approximated goodness.
Quinn was worried. Make that terrified. The way the Romans had been building up this Griffin, it would have to be something fearsome. Hippolyta's fearful face mirrored what Quinn thought his own must look like.
"Are you ready to see the face of terror?" Gaius asked them with a cold grin on his face.
"Do we have a choice?" Quinn asked. Gaius just laughed in reply.
Quinn and Hippolyta just stood in silence in their matching full golden armor as they heard their names announced over the loudspeaker. They entered the ring in great trepidation.
Quinn turned to Hippolyta with a brave look on his face. "Whatever it is, we face it together."
The blonde woman scoffed. "Get bent. If the thing goes for you and I see an exit, I'm gone."
Quinn suddenly felt himself missing his former sliding companions. Even Rembrandt would have been useful as a human shield.
The loudspeaker cut Quinn's selfish thoughts short. "And now...the moment you've all been waiting for... THE...GRIFFIN!!!!!"
The two hesitant gladiators steeled themselves for anything. As the massive doors swung open, they got their first glimpse at the hideous creature. No, hideous wasn't the right word. It was so...so...
"Cute!" Wade shrieked and giggled aloud from the audience. The threesome had lucked out by being the 999,999th, 1,000,000th and 1,000,001st customers for today and so they got the best seats in the house, right next to the "Emperor" Paligulah. They also got unlimited trips to a free snackbar!
"It's atrocious!" Arturo exclaimed. "It looks like an alley cat with bat's wings taped on."
"Just wait til you see the thing in action," Paligulah boasted. "Worth every penny I paid for it, yessiree."
Sure enough, the little thing may have been pathetic-looking, but it was ferocious enough to make up for it. It began to claw the gladiators viciously. When the thing managed to bat Quinn's helmet off, Remmy got his first good look at the gladiators themselves. "Hey, isn't that Quinn down there in the arena?"
Professor Arturo scoffed. "Don't be preposterous, Mr. Brown. Do you have any idea the kind of trouble that our Mr. Mallory would have had to gotten himself into to get him into such a life-or-death situation so very quickl...Yes, I see your point. It's definitely our Quinn." The elderly man let out a sigh. "Let's go rescue him."
After having first laughed off the creature in front of him, Quinn was now fighting desperately for his life against the "Griffin". The thing had razor-sharp claws and was extremely maneuverable courtesy of its wings. It could move swiftly out of harm's way every time Quinn or Hippolyta tried to attack it, but could easily move back in for the kill at any moment it pleased. Quintus Mallorius hacked ineffectually at the thing and left himself open for some cutting blows from its claws.
As Quinn hunkered back behind his shield, he saw Hippolyta fall to the ground after suffering a particularly vicious attack from the creature. Now incredibly violent with anger, Quinn thrust his spear in the air with all his might...and it promptly missed by a mile. However, in the creature's attempt to dodge the spear, one of its claws broke off and buried itself in its own left eye. Howling in pain, the griffin landed...and then collapsed. In a million-to-one fluke accident, the griffin's claw penetrated to the brain, killing it instantly.
Quinn, more than a little stunned, took a bow before the crowd. Then, suddenly remembering Hippolyta, he checked for a pulse. It was weak, but there. Desperately, he yelled, "Somebody get this woman a doctor!!" At that moment, a couple of slaves came out with a gurney and put the female gladiator on it. Quinn rushed behind them as they took her behind the arena.
"Where's he going?" Wade asked to Arturo and Rembrandt, as if they'd know.
"Hell if I know, girl. Probably got a little more attached to the blonde than he'd like to admit." Rembrandt half-chuckled. Wade looked genuinely depressed. Arturo, who knew about the other Quinn's peccadillos, rolled his eyes. 'So much for Melissa', he thought.
"At least he's not in danger from that blasted winged cat anymore," the Professor muttered.
"Why do you keep...ruining...everything!!!" Hippolyta shrieked as she began to pummel him with her helmet.
"Hey, I was just trying to save you!!" Quinn exclaimed, trying in vain to shield himself from her blows.
"You...keep...saying...that...like...I...NEED...saving!!!!!" she said, still walloping him good. "What, were you born in the frigging Middle Ages?!? Well I am NOT a damsel in distress and you HAVE ruined my life!! I was bound for the starring role over at Wild West World until you showed up!!"
Quinn stopped resisting the beating for a second and looked up at her. "Wild West World?!?"
"Yeah!!" she exclaimed. "They're looking for a new Annie Oakley over there and I had a pretty good shot at it too until YOU SCREWED UP MY DEATH SCENE!! Now that Kari witch is bound to get it for sure..." Quinn was too stunned by all of this to reply. "And to think I was going to put a good word in for you as Frank Butler..."
It was at this moment that the other sliders arrived on the scene. "Quinn..." Wade managed to make out. She was going to hug him...but, well, the smell was rather unpleasant, even from where she was.
"How did you guys get here?" Quinn asked stupidly.
"We've been here the whole time, my boy," the Professor replied. "Do you have the timer?"
"No, I do," Gaius said, holding the timer in his hand as he entered the room. He was flanked by a tearful Emperor Paligulah and some burly-looking guards. As the sliders began to position themselves for a confrontation, Gaius continued, "Oh, don't get all heroic. You can have it." He tossed it effortlessly to the Professor. "As for you," he said pointedly to Quinn, "you are so fired."
"Fired?" Quinn asked, still in awe of the whole situation. "How can you fire me? I'm a slave."
Gaius chuckled mirthlessly."You method actors really don't know when to quit, do you? Well, maybe you'll listen when your check doesn't show up in the mail, you'll know when to pack up your bags and ride on back to Ostia, you know?" Noncomprehending looks all around. Gaius went off muttering something.
"You'll pay for that griffin!" Paligulah moaned through his tears. "Don't think you won't! It'll come out of your paycheck," he said, again referring to Quinn. "And as for the rest of you, you can just forget about the free nachos!" He then stormed off. A huffy Hippolyta followed him.
"Well, seventeen seconds until the slide, my friends," the Professor commented dryly.
"Odd that the timer was so close to runnin' out when we got it back. It could have easily been too late for us to slide." Rembrandt commented.
"Odder that there was a real griffin on this world, even if it was hokey looking and easily killed," Wade went on.
"Oddest that this resembles a movie that I saw on Azure Gate Bridge world," the Professor retorted. "It seems there was this Russell Crowe fellow who..."
"Hey Professor," Quinn interrupted nervously. "Isn't it about time to do your famous three...two...one...thing?"
"Ah yes," the Professor replied. "Three...two...one..." With that, he pushed the button and jumped through the vortex. Rembrandt followed and then Wade went in. Quinn took one last look at this world before jumping through. Then he shook it off. "I should really stop hesitating before I slide. Look at the trouble it got us into this last time." Ready now to rejoin his newfound companions, who he was truly glad to have back with him, Quinn threw himself into the wormhole and a whole new world of adventure for himself and his friends.
[ Earth 2013 Episode Guide | The Otherworlds ]