|Disclaimer: The Sliders television series' characters and storylines are property of Universal and St. Clare Entertainment, series creator Tracy Tormé and Fox Broadcasting Network and The Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary profit is being made off of this work. All other characters who are not found on the Sliders television series were created by me, and should only be used with my prior permission. Posting to archives is encouraged as long as my name and title stay with the story.|
Author's Note: Beware of spoilers. This story is part of my Season 6 Sliders series, picking up where the episode "The Seer" leaves off. You should be familiar with most, if not all, of the original Sliders series, as well as the preceding episodes of my fanfiction, before reading this story.* * *
Maggie Beckett tapped her foot impatiently as she paced back and forth across a dusty Oakland sidewalk. The sidewalk was covered with people dressed in disheveled, ragged clothing; most of their faces exhibited sad, bleak hopelessness. There was not one single smile in sight.
Taking a moment to scan the vicinity, Maggie took in the full extent of this pitiful world. These poor, helpless citizens stood for hours in lines on the street, waiting to receive minuscule portions of food - - mostly dry bread and polluted water. All around her, Maggie could see mothers holding their crying babies, young children slouching around with no education or aspirations. The people here were almost like zombies, weathered and worn out from their distressing condition of poverty.
Diana tapped Maggie on the shoulder. "Where the timer?" she asked.
"Remmy has it," replied Maggie, her voice empty and lifeless.
Glancing around, Diana could sympathize with Maggie's discomfort. "I know, it's depressing," Diana conceded, referring to the parallel universe they were currently on.
"I guess that's why they called it ‘The Great Depression'," Maggie sighed. "It's terrible. People standing in breadlines . . . parents who can't even feed their children . . . no schools, hardly any jobs for anyone. It feels like we've stepped back in time."
"Their history diverged from ours," Diana reminded Maggie. "This world never endured World War II, and apparently nothing else caused America's economy to bounce back. For these people, it's been like this for over seven decades. Breadlines and unemployment are ways of life around here."
Pursing her lips together, Maggie tossed back her golden blond hair. She'd just gotten it freshly highlighted on the previous world.
Soon, Rembrandt and Malcolm came bounding toward the two women. Mallory and Janine were not far behind.
"Hey slowpokes!" called out Maggie, trying to muster up a light-hearted grin. "What took you so long?"
"They insisted on snatching some grub." Malcolm pointed to Mallory and Janine.
Rembrandt shook his head, slightly amused. "I told them we can eat on the next world."
"Hey, we were hungry. And they were just giving this away for free," rationalized Mallory. He took a big bite out of a small hunk of bread in his hand.
"Yeah, it's not like we can even get a decent lunch around here," complained Janine.
"Janine!" Maggie looked incredibly annoyed. "These people have NO FOOD! Don't you feel even a little bit guilty taking from their food supply?"
Janine thought about it for a moment. "Not really," she responded, monotonously. She bit into her piece of bread.
Maggie groaned out loud. "How much time, Rem?"
"Under 30 seconds."
"You know, Maggie," Janine shoved the rest of the bread into her mouth, "we didn't even take that much. We're not going to cause some worldwide famine by stealing a couple loaves of bread."
"It's the principle of the situation!" Maggie blurted out in frustration.
"Would you please just let it drop, Maggie?" Diana sounded slightly annoyed. "I'd like to make one slide without you two getting into an argument."
Janine pointed accusingly at Maggie. "She started it."
Maggie put her hands on her hips. "You're being greedy and thoughtless! This Earth is trapped in poverty!"
Rembrandt gave her a sad, empathetic look. "We can't save every world we come across, Maggie." He pointed the timer forward. A stream of energy spewed from the timer's nose, creating a rift in the space-time continuum. The pinkish opening revolved in a swift, circular pattern with glowing radiance.
Maggie and Diana both jumped into the vortex, with Malcolm right behind them. Rembrandt and Janine then followed suit; Mallory brought up the rear.* * *
As Maggie landed on the charred ground, she foresaw Diana falling out of the vortex behind her; she helped Diana to steady her descent from the wormhole. Malcolm came tumbling out of the portal next, and Diana reached out and took Malcolm's hand while she cringed against the wind of the vortex. Then Rembrandt was flung from the portal, flopping on his stomach. Janine and Mallory were spat out of the roaring wormhole, right before it vanished from sight.
"Well, doesn't this Earth look friendly," Mallory sarcastically quipped.
They all scanned their immediate surroundings. For miles, there appeared to be acres of nothing but barren, desolate land covered with black ashes. The sky above them was dark and cloudy.
"Look!" Malcolm pointed off in the faraway distance to a structure that seemed to have been almost pulverized. "Isn't that the Golden Gate Bridge?"
"Yeah, barely," Maggie commented. She could hardly make out the structure, although it resembled the basic design of the Golden Gate.
"We must be in San Francisco," determined Diana. "Or whatever's left of it."
"Six hours on the dot," Rembrandt reported, glancing at the timer. "We may as well see if we can find some kind of temporary shelter."
The sliders hiked forward, absorbing the morbid landscape around them. A raw sense of uneasiness filled the air.
"I wonder if it was Kromaggs?" Maggie ventured, her eyes exploring the windswept, charcoal ground. "Anything that may have been here before seems completely destroyed."
"No, this isn't the ‘Maggs' handiwork," concluded Rembrandt. "They usually leave more buildings intact that this."
"So what could have happened here?" Malcolm asked, kicking at the ground.
"My guess - - maybe a nuclear meltdown?" guessed Diana. "Perhaps a massive fire that raged across San Francisco and burned most of the buildings to the ground."
"The Golden Gate is almost demolished," Janine observed, looking back at the bridge which was no longer red but a burnt charcoal black color instead.
Mallory scratched his head. "So where do we go? It doesn't look like there's anyone around here for miles. And it's getting dark out."
"I don't know," Malcolm responded, craning his neck to stare off in the distance. "But we'd better find someplace to hide. Fast!" Malcolm gestured to an aircraft quickly approaching from beyond the horizon.
The sliders gaped at the colossal-sized unidentified flying object. It was shaped like a flat pancake, slightly bent and curved around its edges. The spaceship had a glowing emerald tint to its outer exterior, and made a squeaky whistling noise as it crept closer and closer.
"Run!" Maggie blared out loud. She and her five friends began scampering away, fleeing from the ominous spacecraft with all their might.
Having zeroed in on the six humans from its advantageous aerial position, the spaceship ejected a steady laser-like ray from its nose. The beam of yellow glowing light splashed down upon the sliders, freezing them in stasis. A magnetic force from the laser gently pulled all of them up off the ground, guiding them upward into the sky toward the mouth of the ship.* * *
Rembrandt was the first one to awaken. After rubbing his eyes and yawning, Remmy immediately searched his coat pockets.
The timer was gone.
"Maggie!" Rembrandt frantically shook Maggie, who was lying on the floor right next to him. Mallory, Diana, Janine, and Malcolm also were sprawled out across the metallic floor, sleeping soundly.
"What?" whispered Maggie with an exhausted moan. She opened her eyes and found herself staring up at Rembrandt's brown face. "Rem, what happened? Where are we?"
"I don't know . . . I just woke up," Rembrandt whispered back to her. He studied their enclosure. "We seem to be in some kind of holding cell. There's a force field surrounding us." A glossy, hazy covering of energy could be viewed from the inside of their "cell"; it rimmed the perimeter of the mini-prison.
"Wake the others up!" commanded Maggie. She started to shake Mallory and Diana. Rembrandt attempted to wake Janine and Malcolm.
"No mommy, I don't wanna go to school today," murmured Mallory. His eyes popped open in time to see Maggie rolling her own eyes at him.
"Remmy?" Malcolm mumbled groggily. He gave Rembrandt a relieved hug, glad to see that his friend was all right.
Diana and Janine had gotten up on their feet too. "What is this place?" Diana squinted, looking around.
"I don't care where we are. I want out!" stated Janine in a no-nonsense tone of voice.
"Whoever brought us here took the timer," Rembrandt informed them. "We can't get out of here without it."
"Wherever ‘here' is," blinked Maggie, cynically.
"We are prisoners of the Dublian empire," came a monotonous, feminine voice. There in the cell sat a familiar-looking Asian woman, slumped against the wall of the ship.
"Oh my lord!" gasped Rembrandt. He remembered her delicate face and haunting voice.
"Mary?!" Mallory suddenly piped up.
"Who's Mary?" asked Diana.
"I am." The alternate version of Mary, a young woman whom Remmy, Quinn, Wade, and Professor Arturo had met during their first encounter with the Kromaggs, got up on her feet. Her skin was pale; she looked weathered and sleep-deprived.
"Mallory, how do you know Mary?" queried Rembrandt.
"I remember her . . . from one of the flashbacks I had of your Quinn's life. She's a Kromagg translator, isn't she?"
"I have no idea what a Kromagg is," Alternate Mary replied. "All I know is that the Dublians have captured us as their prisoners. I was taken earlier this afternoon . . . the rest of you recently arrived here about four hours ago."
"Dublians?!" Malcolm repeated Alternate Mary's response, mystified.
"Who the hell are the Dublians?" frowned Janine.
"Have you people been off the planet for the past three years?!" exclaimed Alternate Mary.
"Actually, longer," Rembrandt quipped.
"Lady, we're not from this Earth," Maggie spoke up, confronting Alternate Mary. "I know this may sound fantastic to you, but we traveled here from another dimension."
"You really don't know who the Dublians are?" Alternate Mary said, not sounding surprised to hear Maggie's explanation.
"No. Care to enlighten us?" Mallory cocked his head.
Alternate Mary sighed. "Well, wherever you're from, I will tell you what has happened to our planet." She paused, painfully recalling the memories she was scrounging up from inside her head. "It all began in 1997. An alien ship from outer space crashed near Roswell, New Mexico . . ."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Janine. "Where I come from, we were taught that the Roswell crash happened in 1947 . . . right in the middle of World War II."
"Same on our world," Diana added, indicating herself and Mallory. "Except World War II had ended by then."
"I know my planet's history," Alternate Mary insisted, a bit peeved. "The Roswell crash took place three years ago . . . many decades after World War II."
"Go on, Mary," encouraged Mallory.
"Scientists retrieved three dead Dublian bodies from the crash wreckage," narrated Alternate Mary. "Although at the time, we didn't know the name of their species. The government chose to reveal this occurrence to the public."
"Unlike on my Earth," Rembrandt mumbled.
"Unfortunately, the Dublians who crashed at Roswell were just the prologue for what was to come. A massive fleet of Dublian reinforcements descended upon Earth. They apparently blamed us Earthlings for the damage caused to that first ship of Dublians which landed near Roswell. And so they invaded." Alternate Mary looked mournful. "They decimated the human population, incinerating and scorching large areas of our planet."
"Like San Francisco?" Malcolm ventured.
Alternate Mary nodded. "Yes. Most of the major metropolitan cities around the world. I've been hiding underground for the past three years. But not everyone is so fortunate. The Dublians enslaved much of the surviving population by implanting humans. They now occupy all of the remaining cities above ground."
"So why would they bother beaming us up here?" Maggie asked. "Why didn't they just kill us when they first spotted us?"
Alternate Mary frowned. "The Dublians still abduct random humans for experimentation at their own discretion. I was ambushed by them this afternoon when I ventured above ground . . . it was my turn to find food for the others below. They will probably dissect me now . . . as well as the rest of you."
"We don't give up without a fight," Mallory declared.
"It is useless. The Dublians possess superior technology. We will never defeat them as prisoners on this ship." Alternate Mary looked forlorn.
"This is wild," Malcolm gaped, awestruck. "So on this Earth, the Roswell crash happened 50 years later than on all the rest of our Earths. And the Roswell aliens were really the bad guys after all."
"The Dublians are evil," Alternate Mary nodded, matter-of-factly.
All of a sudden, two strange-looking beings appeared outside the cell. Both of them had bald, oval heads, almond-shaped beady black eyes, and fluorescent green skin. They wore plain black bodysuits.
Diana grimaced at the scary creatures. "What are those?"
"Those," Alternate Mary stated, "are Dublians."* * *
"You will come with us," spoke one of the Dublians in a raspy voice. He was pointing straight at Rembrandt.
"Where are you taking me?!" demanded Rembrandt, as the two aliens grabbed ahold of him after deactivating the energy barrier.
"You shall find out soon enough," the other Dublian hissed.
They brought Rembrandt to a sterile room, where many other Dublians stood around clutching foreign-looking handheld guns.
"There is no escape from this ship," the first Dublian cautioned Rembrandt. "If you attempt to escape, you will be executed immediately."
Rembrandt bristled. "What do you want from me and my friends?!"
Another Dublian shoved Rembrandt into a chair. "We want to study you, to learn more about you." He held up the timer which they'd obviously confiscated from Remmy's jacket. "What is this device? What does it do?"
Remmy remained silent.
"Answer me, human! It is counting down. What is it counting down to?!"
"We will dismantle your apparatus if need be," another one threatened.
The first Dublian intrusively stuck his face right up to Remmy's. "Tell us, or each of your human companions will be eliminated, one by one."
With a grunt of anger, Rembrandt knocked out the Dublian with his fist. The extraterrestrial collapsed to the floor, a bloody blister forming on his forehead. Bluish blood began to ooze out of the gash.
Two more of the Dublians fired their guns at Rembrandt; but Rembrandt ducked, and the simultaneous ejections from the alien weapons concurrently struck the opposite Dublians. Both of them were instantly vaporized.
Seeing this result inspired Rembrandt. He snatched up the gun belonging to the unconscious Dublian whom he'd decked, and fired it at all of the other remaining Dublians in the room. Within a matter of seconds, Rembrandt had vaporized all of his Dublian captors; he was now alone in the room.
Nimbly, Remmy made his way out into the hallway outside the interrogation ward. Other Dublians in the hallway spotted the escape. In self-defense, Rembrandt shot the weapon at them again, its laser-like ejection causing the aliens to evaporate within seconds.
Rembrandt arrived back at the cell where his friends were still trapped.
"Remmy!" cried Malcolm, jumping to his feet at the sight of his friend.
Maggie was grinning from ear to ear, confused but nevertheless relieved. "How did you get away from them?"
"No time to explain." Rembrandt deactivated the force field, freeing the six captives. "We've gotta find a way off this ship!"
Diana looked around frantically. "Do you know what they did with the timer?"
"It's back inside the room where they were holding me."
"There are hoards of Dublians swarming around inside of this ship," Alternate Mary insisted. "We will never escape alive."
"Like hell we won't!" negated Janine. She pointed at Rembrandt's gun. "Where'd you get that?! I want one of those!"
"First things first. Let's get the timer back." Mallory slapped Remmy on the shoulder. "Lead the way, Rem."
The seven of them hurried to the interrogation ward, where their timer was laying on the floor, having been dropped by one of the Dublians upon vaporization.
Malcolm picked it up. "Looks like we have an hour before the slide."
"There's only one way we're going to get off this flying saucer," announced Maggie, her eyes narrowing.
"Uh, oh. Maggie has that ‘Look' on her face," teased Mallory.
Maggie pointed her finger in the air and declared, "We need to take control of this ship!"* * *
Leaving the interrogation ward, Maggie, Diana, Mallory, Janine, Malcolm, and Alternate Mary had each grabbed a Dublian weapon. There were several of the aliens' guns scattered across the floor, abandoned there after their previous owners' termination.
"How do we find the cockpit?" Diana asked the rest of them.
"We'll find it," asserted Maggie, knowingly. "I know my way around an aircraft."
Rembrandt raised his eyebrows. "Then I guess we follow Captain Maggie."
A team of Dublians suddenly emerged from the other end of the hallway. Mallory pointed his gun at them and fired. The blast from Mallory's gun knocked the aliens over like bowling pins.
"Hey, that was kinda fun!" whooped Mallory, cheerfully.
"I wanna try that!" Janine enviously stomped her foot, pouting at Mallory. "Let's find us some more Dublians."
"You got your wish, Janine," said Rembrandt. He pointed to another posse of approaching Dublians.
Janine giddily pulled her trigger. A rapid stream of laser energy streamed from the nozzle of the alien weapon, disintegrating the group of Dublians upon impact.
As they moved further through the endless corridors, another single Dublian unexpectedly jumped out at the sliders, scaring Diana half to death. She screamed loudly and shot at the Dublian, vaporizing him instantly.
"Doesn't it give you a rush, Diana?" winked Mallory, putting his arm around her.
"Yeah Mallory, I think I'll take this up as a hobby," Diana sarcastically answered.
Before long they arrived at a sealed off door.
"I wonder if this leads to the cockpit?" said Alternate Mary.
"Only one way to find out." Maggie aimed her gun at the metallic door and fired away. The steel door disintegrated, forming a crude opening into wherever it led to. Maggie pretended to blow the tip of her gun with her lips as though she was the sharp-shooting Annie Oakley. "Follow me." She led the way in.
Two Dublian pilots sat at the spaceship controls, flying and navigating the vessel through the starry night sky. Upon the sliders' entrance, the two Dublians whirled around in shock.
"Hi! Bye!" called out Malcolm, swiftly shooting his gun, the lasers eliminating both Dublian pilots. "See ya! Wouldn't wanna be ya!"
"Great going, Malcolm," murmured Janine, grumpily. "Now who's going to fly this ship?"
Maggie straightened her posture. "I am."
"We're doomed," joked Mallory, lifting his head upward toward the heavens.
"Hey!" Maggie glared at him, her hands on her hips. "I used to be a fighter pilot!"
"But have you ever flown a Dublian shuttle?" Alternate Mary challenged the former Marine.
"Well . . . no . . ."
"Like I said, we're doomed," repeated Mallory.
"You'd better do something, Maggie," Diana spoke up. "Or this ship will end up colliding with the earth."
"Step aside!" Maggie marched over to the controls. "Come on, Rem. Let's show these skeptics what we veteran sliders are made of!"
"I don't know anything about flying a spaceship!" Rembrandt exclaimed, joining Maggie at the helm of the controls.
"I know. You're my good luck charm." Maggie planted a friendly kiss on Remmy's cheek.
"Don't be getting all lovey-dovey, just land this damn ‘space-pancake'!" Janine irritably ordered to them.
Maggie reached out and randomly pulled one of the levers. To her dismay, she'd pulled the lever too hard and it broke right off. "Ooops. It wasn't supposed to do that."
"This isn't a human aircraft!" shouted Alternate Mary. "The Dublians think differently than us. Their design will be different."
"I'm a fighter pilot, dammit!" Maggie lectured Alternate Mary as the ship began plummeting downward from the atmosphere above. "I know what I'm doing." She flicked a couple of switches and the Dublian ship began plummeting downward even faster. "Okay, so maybe I don't . . ."
The sliders screamed as the ship crashed to the ground.* * *
"Some good luck charm I am," muttered Rembrandt. He and the other six were climbing out of the wreckage; they'd been only partially scratched and bruised, but nothing serious.
"Well at least I got us out of the air and off this ship," huffed Maggie, stumbling as she tripped over shattered pieces from the Dublian shuttle.
Janine guffawed. "Maggie, only you could manage to crash an extraterrestrial shuttle. You know I'm never going to let you hear the end of this."
"We still have the timer." Malcolm held up the apparatus. "We've got some time to kill though. Over 40 minutes."
Diana looked around. "We're in some kind of park."
"Hey, I recognize this place," Mallory said, identifying their surroundings. "This is a park that my foster parents used to take me to as a kid . . . when we lived in San Jose."
"San Jose?" Alternate Mary's eyes lit up. "So this is San Jose? I have relatives here! I must search for them, to see if they are still here."
"Good luck." Rembrandt genuinely patted Alternate Mary on the arm. "I hope you find them."
"By the way," Malcolm asked Alternate Mary, "how come you weren't surprised when we told you we're sliders?"
Alternate Mary grinned sheepishly. "If space travel is a possibility, which it is, then travel between dimensions must be distinctly plausible as well."
"Are you sure you don't want us to come with you?" Diana asked Alternate Mary.
The Asian woman shook her head. "I can move faster by myself. Thank you all for freeing me. I'll never forget it." She then disappeared into the night.
"Let's get away from this area," Mallory suggested. "When the Dublians find out about their crashed ship, they'll suspect something's up."
The six of them deviated further away from the crashed Dublian spacecraft, venturing into some wooded park trees. When they came out on the other side, they were confronted by the visual span of a widespread, lit-up, futuristic city. Mini-shuttles flew around the buildings. Rather than human pedestrians, Dublian pedestrians were walking everywhere.
"Downtown San Jose," realized Mallory. "Just like I remembered it - - only this one's got green aliens living here."
Their group made sure to remain hidden in the shadows. "Look!" Maggie pointed.
There were Dublian "citizens" leading around human men, women, and children on mechanical leashes. The humans seemed to be fixed in some kind of sleepy robotic trance. All of them had crescent-shaped implants embedded within the fleshy sides of their necks.
"They've literally enslaved the population," Rembrandt grunted, his eyes shining with indignant empathy. "The humans remaining on this world are forced to obey their Dublian masters."
"No wonder people prefer living underground," commented Diana.
"I think we ought to lay low," Malcolm voiced, his vocals trembling a bit. His hand shaking, Malcolm stuffed the timer into a pocket of his jeans.* * *
Eventually, the sliders had managed to slink through the darkness and sneak into a quiet back alley behind some buildings.
"Just think, their entire world has become subjected to this . . . this . . . THIS!" Maggie blurted out, frustrated enough to pull at her hair.
Rembrandt shook his head. "As terrible as it is, Maggie - - and this is oppression at its worst - - you know we can't save every world we slide into."
"I know . . ." Maggie trailed off, too upset to speak anymore. A small tear escaped from her eyes.
"It makes you wonder if the Dublians exist in the galaxies of our homeworlds," Mallory speculated.
"Well it's a good thing Remmy didn't let them keep our timer," Diana said. "Who knows what the consequences would be if we had wavered our sliding technology over to the Dublians from this universe?"
"This has definitely got to be the weirdest dimension you people have ever brought me to!" Janine stated. "Green bald aliens implanting humans with electric chips . . . UFOs shaped like flapjacks . . . laser guns - - although I have to admit, that part was FUN!"
"Well, the fun's over," said Malcolm. The timer's digits had reached the final numbers of the countdown. "May I do the honors, Remmy?"
"Go for it, Malcolm." Rembrandt smiled at his young friend as all of the sliders dropped their Dublian lasers on the ground, so as not to transport them to the next world which might result in detrimental ramifications.
Malcolm extended the timer, proudly clicking the activation button. Pink quantum energy spewed from the timer's nose, whooshing forward to form a circular vortex that spiraled around with cheerful glory. Janine jumped into the wormhole first, followed by Malcolm and Diana. Mallory went through next. Rembrandt placed his arm tenderly around Maggie's shoulder to console the depressed ex-Marine. Together they leaped into the vortex.* * *
The six explorers felt the abrupt twists and turns as they were tousled and catapulted to and fro inside the tunnel of whirling, marvelous pink and red quantum energy. Janine was the first one to reach the end of the wormhole, and she fell straight out of the portal opening. Malcolm came shooting out next with an excited yell.
As Diana, Mallory, Rembrandt, and Maggie dropped out of the vortex, they all found themselves crashed in a heap atop the dinner table of a fancy dining room. But they nearly choked when they saw who was seated around the dining room table - -
- - Kromaggs!
Members of a suburban Kromagg family stared in shock at the sliders. The mother, a petite female Kromagg, wore a frilly dress covered by an apron. She was holding a bowlful of a disgusting-looking concoction.
"And I was just about to serve my specialty, Eyeball Casserole!" she snapped at them, angrily bothered by their interdimensional intrusion.
A couple of young Kromagg children scampered to the table, joining their clan of aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The children stopped short when they saw the sliders sprawled across their dinner table. Hungrily, the young Kromagg kiddies licked their lips and showed their razor sharp teeth.
A burly male Kromagg entered the dining area from the living room. He smoked an old-fashioned pipe which stuck out of his mouth, and he carried a newspaper covered with printed characters written in the Kromagg language.
"Children!" he shouted. "How many times have I told you to pick up your G.I. Maggs off the floor before dinner?! I'm trying to read the newspaper since your uncles and I would like to be able to discuss Dynasty politics, and I don't want to be tripping over your toys every time I get up to go to the kitchen!"
He stopped in his tracks when he saw the human sliders. The Kromagg father grinned and smirked deviously. "Ah. Dinner guests."
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