|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.* * *
A carefree mime gleefully made lively motions with his hands for a crowd of spectators in the center of Golden Gate Park. He was dressed in striped attire, his face slathered with smooth white paint. The mime gestured at Janine, who stood at the side of the paved walkway with her arms folded. Grinning broadly, the mime proceeded to imitate Janine's staunch posture, changing his facial expression to match Janine's rigid scowl.
"You know," Janine said, turning to face Malcolm and the Professor, "for an alternate Earth that's supposedly in the middle of its own modern-day Renaissance, you'd think these kooks could come up with material that's more original."
"I remain unimpressed as well, Miss Chen," stated Professor Arturo, agreeing with Janine. "He is obviously an amateur at his trade."
In response, the mime held his arms out to his sides, emphasizing a mock reflection of Arturo's robust body size.
"That will be quite enough, you unflagging moron!" Arturo snapped at the mime.
Malcolm chuckled in amusement. "I had no idea that you could get this many kicks out of sliding."
A few moments later, Rembrandt, Wade, and Mallory came trudging back from an eatery located several kilometers away.
"Another unsuccessful attempt at ordering some chow," sighed Rembrandt. "For the life of me, I don't think there's one single restaurant around here that doesn't require customers to give their orders in sign language!"
"It IS the recognized language on this world," Wade acknowledged. "I've seen most people here using sign language to communicate rather than verbally speaking."
"Who knew it would be so hard to get a decent Big Mac?" grumbled Mallory.
Rembrandt looked at his watch. "I wonder what's keeping Maggie and Diana?"
"They had better be here soon," the Professor said, removing the timer from his pocket. "We slide off of this world approximately one minute from now."
Just as Professor Arturo finished up his sentence, Diana and Maggie came bounding down a park trail toward the other six sliders.
"That's the last time I shop at a store owned by people dressed as beatniks!" Maggie practically growled.
"Maggie, those WERE beatniks," Diana told her.
"I don't care either way. They would not let me charge anything to my double's credit card account, and that's just wrong!" Maggie complained. "Those dopes wanted me to swap some personal items in order to make purchases . . . and they wouldn't even address me in English! It's just sign language, sign language, sign language on this Earth! Honestly, what does a girl need to do in order to have a fun shopping spree in this city?!" Steam was practically rising from Maggie's beet red face.
"Many people on this world don't believe in using money," Wade pointed out. "They trade goods through the bartering system."
"That's a little outdated," Malcolm critically commented.
"Not in the eyes of this civilization, Mr. Eastman," interjected Arturo. "What may seem odd to us in parallel dimensions may be the daily norm to other societies. Their culture simply evolved differently than did ours."
Janine glanced around Golden Gate Park, staring at the many residents who were accustomed to that Earth's customs. "Well I'm beginning to think we're the only sane people left in the multiverse."
"Speaking of the multiverse," said Mallory, looking at the Professor, "isn't it almost time for us to slide?"
"That it is, Mr. Mallory," affirmed Arturo, positioning the timer. Before long, the sliders' pink portal appeared in front of the group. They braced themselves for travel to the next world.
"Did we mention how great it is to have you back, Professor?!" Rembrandt clamped his hand down on Arturo's shoulder. Ever since he and Wade had found their old friend who'd been stranded on Azure Gate World, Remmy gained more and more confidence that they'd be able to separate Quinn from Mallory to reunite the original four sliders of the team, as well as rescuing Colin from his "unstuck" state.
"Mr. Brown, it is good to be back," asserted the Professor in response.
For the past few slides, the vortex had continually revamped itself to support the extra body of Arturo, as Diana fiddled around by adjusting the power setting on the timer. By this point, their portal was altered to a comfortable medium.
The interdimensional octet made a swift, safe leap across the Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski Bridge, moving into and out of the space-time continuum with remarkable ease and normalcy.* * *
Mallory tumbled from the opening of the wormhole, falling flat on his back in the middle of a back alley littered with garbage. Wade and Malcolm landed next to him.
Professor Arturo shouted out wildly as he came flying out of the vortex, doing a belly flop upon hitting the ground. Diana exited the portal after Arturo, unintentionally landing with a thud smack atop the Professor's pudgy hump of a body. Rembrandt, Janine, and Maggie were the last ones to emerge.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry, Professor," Diana hastily apologized, climbing off of the Professor's back so she could help him up off the ground.
Arturo simply laughed. "Quite all right, Dr. Davis. I'm very accustomed to serving as a landing pad by now."
Staring around the alley they were in, Maggie noticed clusters of disheveled people adorned in rags. They slept in huddles against the walls of buildings, some wide awake and shivering furiously; others virtually unconscious. Many of them gazed at the sliders in fear.
"This might be Homeless World," Maggie hypothesized. "Too many people, too few housing accommodations."
"Or we just landed in a bad neighborhood," proposed Mallory.
"Come on, let's try to find the Chandler. Or the Dominion. Or the Royal Chancellor. Depending on where we are." Rembrandt led the way as the group cleared out of the alley, stepping over lounging bodies upon their exit.
"Whoa!" gasped Wade, as the eight of them walked onto the bustling city street.
Everywhere they looked, the sliders could see hoards of people covering the streets, while pedestrians occupied space for as far as the eye could see.
"Where did all these people come from?!" exclaimed Malcolm.
Janine shrugged. "I guess the folks on this world really enjoy sex."
"It seems safe to conclude," suggested Professor Arturo, as the sliders slowly made their way through the enormous sea of human bodies, "that we have landed on a world suffering from an extreme population explosion. Apparently, the human race on this Earth has reproductively accelerated at a much faster rate than we normally witness in other parallel dimensions." He held up the timer. "Fortunately, we only have 2 hours and 28 minutes on this world."
Mallory seemed to be lagging behind everyone else, even though his traveling companions were moving at a snail's pace. Quinn's fraternal alternate huffed and puffed with great effort, unable to catch his breath.
"What's wrong, Mallory?" queried Maggie, stopping in her tracks. She could see his face was turning blue. "Guys!" she yelled. "Something's the matter with Mallory!"
The rest of them gathered around Mallory, who had collapsed against the side of a brick building. Rembrandt kneeled down and took his friend's pulse.
"His pulse is racing!" Remmy reported.
Diana squatted next to Rembrandt. "Mallory, can you hear us?!"
Mallory's eyes were bugged wide open. He suddenly screamed out in excruciating pain. His face began to morph into the facade of the original Quinn Mallory.
"Quinn!" called out Wade, recognizing the image of her long-lost friend. "What's happening to him?!"
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the Professor, watching as Quinn cried out vainly to be released from his bond with Mallory.
"We've got to get him to a hospital!" urged Rembrandt. The Cryin' Man and Diana each took one of Mallory's shoulders and lifted the bellowing man up onto his feet. The rest of the sliders proceeded in front of them, trying to persist through the crowd by commanding people to make way due to their emergency.
However, upon reaching an intersection where a bright orange crosswalk was painted across the gravel, the sliders were startled by a dark black van that pulled over in front of them while they'd been attempting to cross the street. The side door of the van slid open, and a fleet of uniformed soldiers carrying weapons hopped out of the vehicle.
"Dr. Arturo!" one of them addressed the Professor, marching up to him. "Come with us! We'll get you back to home base!"
Professor Arturo crinkled up his face in confusion. "Sir, my name is PROFESSOR Maximilian Arturo - - I am hardly a ‘doctor'!"
"No time for discussion!" Two of the soldiers grabbed ahold of both of the Professor's arms.
"Unhand me this instant!" ordered the Professor, irately.
"Wait!" Maggie rushed over to them. "We have a sick man here!" She gestured at Mallory. "He needs desperate medical attention!"
"Dr. Arturo?" One of the soldiers looked to Professor Arturo for his approval.
"Yes, this man is a personal friend of mine." Arturo decided to take advantage of the situation. "I demand he be brought to our . . . facility so his urgent needs may be attended to."
Heeding Arturo's orders, a few of the soldiers helped Mallory, led by Remmy and Diana, into the van. A few of the other military operatives escorted the Professor into the van, as well. Maggie, Wade, Malcolm, and Janine piled into the vehicle just as its side doors slammed shut. The van veered away, driving as fast as possible through the sluggish traffic.
Left standing on the sidewalk was Colonel Angus Rickman, who'd been trailing his interdimensional foes across the streets this whole time. Rickman had vortexed onto this world shortly after the other sliders, having been tracking their photon trail for months. Unfortunately for Rickman, the sliders' departure time had always seemed to fall significantly before that of his own timer on every succeeding world.
"Sliders!" Rickman whispered under his breath with wicked contempt. He looked down at his functional timer. One week to kill on this world. Rickman knew he had to strike while he still could.* * *
A tall, blond female scientist wearing a cleanly white labcoat sedated Mallory's arm with a syringe. As the needle penetrated his blood vein, Mallory lost complete consciousness. Two lab orderlies helped the unconscious man onto a cot.
"What did you give him?" Diana asked, intently.
"We've injected him with a mild sedative," the female scientist explained. "It should temporarily halt his seizures."
"Temporarily?" pressed Janine. "So what happens when he wakes up?"
The scientist didn't answer. She leaned over Mallory, taking his pulse. "Your friend's heart rate has slowed down. That's a good sign." The doctor turned to Professor Arturo. "Max, how do you know these people?"
"Madam," the Professor started to say, "I believe you have me confused with . . ."
At that moment, an alternate version of Professor Arturo burst into the laboratory, dressed in lab attire similar to that of the female doctor.
"Uh, oh," quivered Malcolm, glancing ominously back and forth between the two Arturos.
Alternate Arturo stomped over to his double. "Is this some kind of a joke?!"
Professor Arturo stared his alternate in the eye. "My good fellow, I assume that, like myself, you are a man of science? Therefore, I anticipate you will have an open mind in regard to what I am about to tell you."
Crossing his eyes, Alternate Arturo folded his arms. "This had better be good," he warned the Professor.
Professor Arturo cleared his throat. "My companions and I," he indicated Rembrandt, Wade, Maggie, Janine, Malcolm, Diana, and Mallory, "are from various parallel universes. I am your double on an alternate version of this Earth." He showed Alternate Arturo the timer. "This is a quantum translocation device which we use to journey from one Earth to another. It is ticking down because when it reaches zero an interdimensional gateway will open, allowing us a narrow window of opportunity within which we must slide to the next world."
Alternate Arturo appeared to be in awe - - and very interested. "Good heavens! I always had a gut instinct that quantum translocation was a distinct possibility!"
"We call it ‘sliding'," explained Rembrandt.
Alternate Arturo gazed at his double. "So you're ‘me' in another reality?"
Professor Arturo laughed heartily. "Yes, my friend. That I am."
"Well," spoke Alternate Arturo, "perhaps it is appropriate that I introduce myself. My name is Dr. Maximilian Arturo; I am a doctor of biochemistry and quantum physics. This is my assistant, Dr. Rachel Manoff." He gestured to the blond female doctor.
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am," Arturo nodded at Dr. Manoff. "I am Professor Maximilian Arturo, a professor of cosmology and ontology."
"So you are an educator?" inquired Dr. Arturo.
"Yes," Professor Arturo replied. "Before I began sliding, I lectured at an esteemed university in San Francisco."
"An alternate San Francisco, I presume?" Dr. Arturo raised his eyebrows. "Right now, we are in Sacramento, California. It is one of the densest metropolitan areas in the entire state."
"So back to Mallory," said Maggie, steering the conversation her way. "Is he going to be okay?"
"I would hope so," Dr. Manoff responded. "Dr. Arturo's sedatives are usually reliable." She gazed in admiration at her mentor.
"What exactly is it that ails him?" Dr. Arturo requested.
Diana shifted from foot to foot. "He was merged in a laboratory experiment with his double. Mallory now bears two quantum signatures within his body."
"So their bodies have bonded together?" asked Dr. Manoff.
"Well . . . yes. But a few months ago we were able to take some X-rays," recalled Diana. "His quantum signatures are gradually unraveling - - my guess is that it's due to our frequent dimensional fluctuations as sliders. By the way, I'm Dr. Diana Davis, quantum physicist."
"Wow, you've sure got some brains in your group!" smiled Dr. Manoff. She looked at Janine. "So what are you . . . are quantum chemist?"
"No, I'm an exotic dancer," Janine sarcastically dead-panned.
"Please," Wade pleaded with them, "can you help us to separate our two Quinns? The one who's dormant is a good friend of ours who we share a long history with." Wade had tears in her eyes.
Dr. Arturo bit his lip with uncertainty. "I cannot make any promises. This is the first incident of this magnitude which I've ever seen."
"Maybe you'd like to tell them about our scientific establishment, Dr. Arturo?" suggested Dr. Manoff.
"Ah, yes." Dr. Arturo swept his hand around the laboratory. "This is the heart of our organization . . . as I'm sure you'd noticed outside, our Earth is suffering from dire overpopulation. This predicament can be directly traced to the Sexual Liberty Act of 1967, in the midst of what the young hippies called their ‘Sexual Revolution'. President Barry Goldwater signed this bill into law under immense pressure from antiestablishment sects, and all previous restrictions on sexual activity were lifted. In addition as part of a bipartisan compromise, President Goldwater convinced Congress to unconditionally ban any and all forms of abortion, a decision which yielded an astronomical population influx. Eventually, these trends spread across the world and were signed into international law. The facility we are in houses an abundance of scientific materials which we are utilizing in an attempt to . . . alleviate the situation. Our project is under strict government supervision - - the program itself is known as ‘Big Daddy'."
Rembrandt gave Dr. Arturo a weird look. "Kind of like ‘Big Brother'?"
"No," Dr. Arturo straight-forwardly corrected him. "Big Daddy!"
"So who, pretell, is ‘Big Daddy'?" inquired Professor Arturo.
Dr. Arturo met his double's gaze square in the face. "That would be I!" he proudly stated.
Diana concentrated her stare on the two scientists. "How does . . . ‘Big Daddy' plan to . . . ‘alleviate' your overpopulation problem?"
Dr. Arturo traded glances with Dr. Manoff. He nodded at his assistant.
"Our objective," began Manoff, "will be to randomly . . . ‘eliminate' particular segments of the population at large . . ."
"Eliminate?!" Malcolm glared at them. "So you mean you're gonna kill people!"
"Young man, ‘kill' is such a harsh word," Dr. Arturo told Malcolm, gently. "I prefer to think of it as . . . reducing the populace for the environmental good of the planet. Such a decline in global habitation will ultimately yield less pollution and a greater distribution of wealth."
Maggie scowled skeptically, recalling the destruction of her and Malcolm's own homeworld. "How exactly do you intend to go about ‘reducing the populace'?"
"We're in the process of engineering biochemical ‘cocktails' which will be released into the atmosphere," Dr. Manoff informed them, pushing her glasses up onto her nose. "The chemical composition of these cocktails is designed to target specific genetic traits in random humans . . . specific blood types, DNA patterns, chromosome structures . . . the immune and nervous systems will be disabled, causing them to expire!"
Rembrandt frowned, thinking of the Kromaggs. "That's murder!"
"Yeah, you can't do that!" Wade protested. "Think of all the families you'll be splitting up, all the children who'll become orphans, all the birth defects you'll be causing . . . you're talking about destroying lives!"
"Young lady," Dr. Arturo spoke in a clipped voice, "the lives people do currently lead on this planet are hardly anything to be desired. I do not know about the world you hail from, but our Earth is plagued by pollution, poverty, famine, disease - - all due to a wide-scale lack of resources. The unavailability of essential elements on our planet has forced us to resort to this drastic measure. I am no more fond of this option than are you, but we have no other alternative."
Janine squinted. "Haven't you heard of condoms or birth control?"
Dr. Arturo shook his head. "I have no idea what you are referring to."
"In all fairness," Professor Arturo spoke up, "it is not our place to interfere with how this Earth handles its affairs."
"Professor!" reprimanded Maggie.
"Miss Beckett, you were not with us at this point, but when Mr. Mallory, Miss Welles, Mr. Brown, and myself first began sliding, we landed on a world in a reverse scenario," Arturo narrated. "They had ideologically maintained their planet's population at under 500 million by offering a lottery system through which citizens sacrificed their lives. The lottery proceeds would be inherited by the families of the voluntarily deceased."
"Lottery World," pouted Wade, recollecting the memory. "They were going to kill me because I ended up being one of their ‘lucky' winners."
Dr. Arturo sighed. "Our Earth has an estimated 20 billion people. If we don't do something soon, we'll end up decaying as a species."
"But you're playing around with nature," argued Maggie. "What if this ‘virus' you release has unforeseen results?"
"We plan to check and review the results of our experiment prior to the actual experimentation," said Dr. Arturo.
Professor Arturo raised his eyebrows at his double. "How can you possibly do that?"
"That's where our application of quantum physics comes in," provided Manoff, looking specifically at Diana and Arturo.
Dr. Arturo nodded. "We have devised the technology to make quantum space-time acceleration a probable reality."
Gasping, Professor Arturo widened his eyeballs. "You mean? . . ."
Diana breathed out in realization, "Time travel."* * *
Rembrandt cocked his head at Dr. Arturo and Dr. Manoff. "So you mean to tell me that you know how to travel through time?"
"Well," Manoff replied, hesitantly, "today was going to be our first official trial."
"I had just returned from my lunch break," Dr. Arturo informed them, "only to discover you folks had wandered into my laboratory."
"I'm afraid we'll have to include you people in our first experiment," Dr. Manoff said. She turned to the orderlies. "Lock-down!" she ordered them.
Obediently, the orderlies scurried out of the laboratory. Rhythmic clicks of the security locks on the laboratory doors could be heard sealing the sliders and their hosts shut inside Dr. Arturo's sterile lab.
"You're kidnapping us?!" Wade blurted out.
"Well, we can't very well release you," Manoff responded. "It would be too great of a security risk."
Professor Arturo bristled. "So am I to understand that you intend to pluck us out of the present time, transporting us to a future reality of your world?!"
"Precisely," confirmed Dr. Arturo. The Professor's double had taken out a rectangular handheld device that looked very much like a calculator. "This, good sir, is my quantum accelerator. Using this apparatus, we shall journey forward into the future to witness what the condition of this Earth will be like centuries from now."
Janine pointed at the quantum accelerator. "You mean that little gizmo is gonna zap all of us into the future?"
Dr. Arturo nodded. "I have programmed my quantum accelerator to zero in exclusively on human DNA within a confined area equivalent to the perimeter of this laboratory. The solar flares emitted from this device are fast enough to transfer us forward through time."
"Wait!" Diana held up her hand. "Do you even realize what the ramifications of time travel could be? You're about to disrupt the delicate fabric of the space-time continuum. You may cause drastic quantum fluctuations between our time and the future."
"Dr. Davis," stated Dr. Arturo in a superior tone of voice, "if man was unwilling to take risks, we as humans would never have evolved science as far as we presently have."
"What'll happen to our timer?!" demanded Malcolm.
"I do not know. And frankly, it is not my concern." Dr. Arturo had started punching in digits by pressing buttons on his quantum accelerator.
"You can't just use us as your lab rats!" Maggie shouted, angrily.
A luminous swirl of visible, emerald-green energy fluidly wafted from the nose of the accelerator. The quantum energy surrounded Dr. Arturo, Dr. Manoff, and the sliders, enveloping all ten of them.
In a blinding flash, all of them had vanished from the laboratory.* * *
A few moments later, the ten travelers found themselves in the middle of a freshly scented flower garden, amid an array of roses, daffodils, lilacs, tulips, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and other assorted flora. Every color of every plant seemed to scream out to be noticed.
Professor Arturo crinkled up his face, uncomfortably. "I certainly hope we do not run into a fleet of Eloi and Morlocks."
Diana whipped her head around to face Dr. Arturo. "What year did you bring us to?!" she demanded.
Holding up his quantum accelerator, Dr. Arturo showed the sliders the numerical digits on the display panel of his gadget. "We have traveled to the year 2538."
Sure enough, the accelerator's digits read "2538".
"So it worked?!" Dr. Manoff seemed to be in shock.
"Of course it worked!" spat out Dr. Arturo, egotistically. "I invented it!"
"So we're 537 years into the future of your world?" Malcolm wanted to make sure he understood.
"Yes, my boy," confirmed Dr. Arturo. "We are."
"I'm not your boy!" Malcolm snapped back, testily.
"Mallory!" Rembrandt suddenly remembered. He spotted Mallory, lying still unconscious atop a patch of fluffy green grass.
Diana, Wade, and Remmy kneeled down beside their friend. They soon observed that Mallory's skin was slowly morphing its texture and appearance . . . to resemble the facade of the original Quinn Mallory!
"Quinn!" shouted Maggie, recognizing the face of the man whom she loved.
Maggie's own face then fell as she witnessed Quinn's face gradually morph back to that of Mallory's.
"What is happening to him?!" Rembrandt looked to either Diana or the Professor for guidance.
"Mr. Brown, you must understand that we have literally journeyed across a large gap of the space-time continuum," theorized Arturo. "This quantum leap has conceivably taken a toll on our two Quinns, even further agitating their increasingly fragile bond."
Diana nodded in agreement with the Professor. "Quinn and Mallory are already unraveling. Our ‘quantum leap' might only have sped up the process."
Wade looked to Diana with tremendous fear in her eyes. "So can both of them survive? Will they split into two, or what?"
Sighing helplessly, Diana answered, "I don't know. This is the first time I've dealt with a phenomenon of this caliber."
"Well, come along, people!" instructed Dr. Arturo with great enthusiasm. "Let us explore our world, to see what the future holds for us."
"This is YOUR world, not ours!" sneered Maggie.
But Dr. Arturo and Dr. Manoff were already pacing away through the garden, Dr. Arturo toting his quantum accelerator.
Janine shrugged. "He's our only ticket out of here. Let's follow him."
Rembrandt and Wade hoisted Mallory up onto his feet, draping his arms over their shoulders so they could lend him bodily support. Malcolm, Diana, the Professor, Maggie, and Janine walked alongside them.
As the gang made their way out of the park, they plodded onto a boardwalk in downtown Sacramento. The tall buildings were structured like shiny skyscrapers, with a very "futuristic" look to them. There were noticeably fewer people on the streets; flying cars hovered above the city through the air, rather than vehicles on the streets.
"My friends, we appear to be reveling in an idealistic, utopian society of tomorrow," proclaimed Dr. Arturo, excitedly. "It is most probable that this which we see before us has directly resulted from the population downsizing that we have vowed to implement back in the present."
"Don't be fooled by your first glance at a situation," Rembrandt morbidly warned Dr. Arturo. "Where there are Eloi, there've gotta be some Morlocks too."
"At any rate," said Professor Arturo, removing the sliders' timer from the breast pocket of his suede jacket, "we have under half an hour before our next window of opportunity opens. The timer appears to be functioning properly, despite our ‘quantum leap' into the future."
"What would happen if we slid from here, Professor?" asked Wade.
The Professor placed his finger on his chin, thoughtfully. "That is indeed an intriguing question, Miss Welles. My guess is that we would slide into the year 2538 on another parallel Earth. But hopefully, we will not need to find out." He swiveled his head toward Dr. Arturo, pointedly. "I trust you can safely transport us back to your present reality?" he interrogated his double.
"Of course I can!" Dr. Arturo folded his arms. "But do you people not realize the significance of this accomplishment?! With the capability of time travel, we can manipulate the history of our world at will!"
"Don't you realize how unethical that is?" Diana exclaimed, appalled at Dr. Arturo's ignorance. "You have no idea what the consequences will be if you interfere with your Earth's natural timeline!"
"Well at the very least we know what the future of our world will hold for us, if we commence with our plans to minimize the population," Manoff defensively claimed.
"Not necessarily," pointed out Professor Arturo. "You must keep in mind that the future is simply a potential alternate reality of what MIGHT occur. Since nothing is predetermined, your subsequent actions may alter this future reality which we are presently witnessing."
"But think," Maggie interjected. "If we could time travel in other dimensions, we could stop certain events from happening. We could prevent Geiger's experiment so Quinn and Mallory would never have been merged and Colin wouldn't be unstuck. We could prevent Steven's death, by changing events so Rickman wouldn't have murdered him!"
"Or we could warn Earth Prime about the Kromagg invasion!" added Wade.
Rembrandt thought back to his very first slide. "We could go back and warn Q-Ball about the dangers of sliding . . . and save my DeVille!"
"Guys, think about this," Diana provided a voice of reason to their senselessness. "First of all, we no longer have the coordinates that Dr. Geiger gave to us."
"And even if we did," elaborated Professor Arturo, "traveling back through time and changing our original past actions would ultimately lead to a domino effect across other dimensions. We've touched the lives of people on so many other alternate universes . . . we would be erasing the widespread impact of all of our past slides."
Diana nodded in consent with the Professor. "It's cause-and-effect. Everything in the multiverse is relative, including time and matter. If we disturb the temporal flux of one Earth, it will inevitably cause a ripple effect across other parallel universes."
"But if you could slide back to prevent this whole mess from happening, then that would put me back on my homeworld, right?" Janine had distant hope in her eyes.
"Well . . . yes," Diana admitted. "In theory it would. But it would also change everything else. Remmy would never have met Malcolm and thus Malcolm never would have met any of us. Quinn, Wade, Remmy, and Arturo, would never have met Maggie, Mallory, Colin, or myself. None of us probably would ever even have met Rembrandt."
Malcolm stared at Maggie. "We would have been killed by the pulsars on our homeworld!" he realized in horror.
Rembrandt placed his hand on Malcolm's shoulders. "Malcolm, Diana, and the Professor are right. We've changed too many lives to take it all back."
No one spoke for a few moments. Then, a thunderous roar began reverberating overhead.
"Look!" Maggie pointed up at the sky. A familiar pancake-shaped aircraft could be seen approaching the city.
It was a Dublian spaceship.
"Dublians!" Rembrandt recalled the vicious alien creatures.
"They must exist in outer space of alternate realities, as well," Diana hypothesized.
Dr. Arturo stared up at the Dublian spacecraft in extreme shock. "What in God's name is that?!"
"That," said Malcolm, "is a Dublian ship from outer space."
"What's a Dublian?" asked Manoff.
"Oh, just genocidal extraterrestrials who exterminate the population, implanting any surviving humans as their slaves," Janine non-chalantly narrated with mock composure.
"We've run into them before," Remmy explained.
"What do we do?!" yelled Wade, frightfully.
"You blistering idiot! Look what you did!" Professor Arturo ferociously grasped the collar of his alternate self. "You've gotta get us back to the present, man! If you don't, we'll all be at the mercy of those ruthless aliens!"
As sweat trickled down his neck, Dr. Arturo reset his quantum accelerator by punching in the keys to send them back to where they came from. The moment he typed in the year "2001" and pressed the activation button, another vivid emerald swirl of energy enveloped them, transporting the group back to their year of origin.* * *
"Are you all right?"
Mallory's eyes popped open; he saw Diana's light brown face peering closely at him, her nose only a few inches away from his.
"I'm fine," Mallory gasped, unconvincingly. He mustered up tremendous strength in order to sit properly upright.
Rembrandt lent Mallory a hand, helping him to sit up. "Easy there, Fog Boy."
"Hey! We're outside!" Maggie noticed, seeing how they'd ended up in the middle of a crowded parking lot, rather than in Dr. Arturo's lab. "Where'd your laboratory go to?" She looked at Dr. Arturo, expecting him to have an answer.
Dr. Arturo scratched his head. "My hypothesis would be that since we diverted from our original vicinity of arrival while in the future, we are now at the location where we previously were right before returning from 2538."
"What a blessing!" Professor Arturo was studying the timer. "We made it just in the nick of time. There are only 3 minutes remaining until the slide."
Manoff held up her hand. "Wait! You can't leave yet! Aren't you going to share with us your formula for . . . ‘sliding'?"
"No way!" Wade refused. "The last thing we're going to do is give you people access to sliding! You'd make a mess out of the multiverse!"
"As though you have not, sliders?!" came a cruel, taunting whisper.
There stood Rickman, glaring at the eight of them.
"Rickman?!" gasped Wade. "You're supposed to be dead!"
"Sorry to disappoint you, Wade," hissed Rickman. His scruffy, hairy face flared in rage.
"Who is this?" demanded Arturo, pointing at Rickman. "Do any of you know this fellow?"
"He's Angus Rickman . . . the traitor who killed my husband!" Maggie stated through gritted teeth.
"And he killed my father too!" Malcolm added, equally upset.
Rickman smirked at the Professor. "Don't tell me you forgot who I am, Professor? Wait a minute . . . didn't I kill you?!"
Arturo frowned at Rickman, in confused agitation. "I would certainly remember a face as hideous and animalistic as yours."
"You are responsible for making me this way!" Rickman accused them with resentful bitterness. He showed his pointy, white teeth.
Rembrandt shook his head in protest. "You brought this upon yourself, Rickman."
Maggie turned to Diana, hands on her hips. "WHY did you fix his timer?!" She stuck her finger out at Rickman.
Diana's face turned pale. "I was just tinkering with his timer to buy us some extra time. We had to bust you guys out of his cave, remember? He probably would have sacrificed you to the hybrids. I had no idea what I was even doing, and I certainly didn't know that I'd actually gotten Rickman's timer to reactivate itself."
Rickman seethed at Diana. "Thanks to you, I'm stuck on a random sliding course. I've been tracking your wormhole this entire time, because I plan to make you all pay dearly for what you've turned me into!"
"What exactly did we turn you into?" Janine challenged him. "Sounds to me like you were always a bastard."
Rickman growled, his nostrils flaring.
"You're dead, Rickman!" shouted Maggie. With blind passion, the blond marine jumped on Rickman, tackling him to the ground, scratching and clawing at him with her bare hands.
"Get him, Maggie!" cheered Malcolm.
"Miss Beckett, it is time to depart!" emphasized the Professor. He'd opened the wormhole. "Go! Go!" Arturo urged Janine and Diana, pushing them forward into the vortex.
"Come on, Remmy!" Wade was helping Mallory into the portal. The two of them had disappeared through the gateway.
"Maggie, we've gotta go!" Rembrandt called out.
"Mr. Brown, grab her!" Arturo told Remmy, referring to Maggie. "Come along, Mr. Eastman!" Professor Arturo prodded Malcolm toward the ERP bridge, and they both vanished into its bright pink glimmer.
Maggie was rolling around on the grass, punching and clawing at Rickman. He tried his best to elude her, but Maggie's violent, vengeful persistence was resulting in many painful bruises for the insane colonel.
"We've got to go, Maggie!" repeated Rembrandt, even louder. Seeing that she wasn't listening to him, Remmy grabbed ahold of Maggie and pried her off of Rickman. He carried Maggie kicking and screaming through the vortex just before it closed up.* * *
"How could you do that to me?!" Maggie heavily sobbed, smacking Rembrandt in the shoulder. She was more than frustrated. "How could you deny me my revenge on Rickman?!"
"Maggie, you were gonna miss the slide! I had to do it!" Rembrandt roughly grabbed ahold of Maggie's shoulders. "Get a grip, girl! I didn't want to see anything bad happen to you . . . I care about you too much."
Realizing that what Remmy had done was for her own good, Maggie tearfully buried her face against Remmy's chest. "I want him to pay for what he did to Steven!" she blubbered.
Rembrandt held Maggie tightly. "Don't worry, he will," he comforted her. "For what he did to Steven, Alisandra, Malcolm's parents, and his other countless victims. We'll all make sure of that." Rembrandt knew that they probably hadn't seen the last of Rickman, after Maggie's previous attack on him.
Giving Maggie and Remmy their space, Wade addressed the others. "Is everyone okay?"
"One week and change, Miss Welles," reported the Professor, holding up the timer for all to see.
"This looks like a fishing village," Malcolm deduced, scanning the wooden-built wharf which the sliders stood upon. The wharf overlooked a crystal clear bay of water, with scads of fishing ships docked along the harbor's edge.
"That's Sausalito!" Diana gestured to the coastal shoreline across the bay. "I recognize the buildings along the shore."
"Where's Mallory?" asked Janine, looking around.
As if on cue, Mallory could be heard yelping out in discomfort. He hobbled across the wooden-planked dock, an usually large red lobster clinging to Mallory's leg.
Janine winked. "Looks like Mallory made a new friend."
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