|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.* * *
Tripping over some broken branches on the wet, moist, grassy ground, Mallory fell to his knees, having rushed forward. He, Maggie, Janine, and Professor Arturo were frantically on the run from an incoming threat, in a search for safety.
"Get up, Mr. Mallory!" urged Arturo, helping the young man to his feet. He glanced uneasily over his shoulder at the approaching colossal wave of water which was overflowing the city streets.
"This is all your fault, Janine!" scolded Maggie, yelling over the sound of the heavy rain falling. "If you hadn't of been flirting with that waitress back at the hotel restaurant, you wouldn't have delayed us! We could have beat the rain to meet the others!"
"Are you kidding me?!" Janine pulled her poncho even tighter over her head. "It's been flowing over like this for the past three days! We're just now experiencing the worst of it."
Maggie pouted, wincing as the raindrops pelted down upon them even harder from the ominous sky above. "I still blame you and your lesbian hormones. Janine, your social experimentation has caused us so much grief . . ."
"And they're at it again!" Mallory announced, sensing the usual tension between Maggie and Janine. "Some things never change."
"Well I'm sorry my sexuality bothers you so much, Maggie," Janine insincerely responded over the falling rain. "But when I see a pretty woman and my gaydar kicks in, I go for it!"
"Do you HAVE TO flaunt it so much, though?!" Maggie scoffed.
"Oh, like you don't turn on the charm every time you meet a guy who you're attracted to!" Janine testily retorted at Maggie. "The only reason you're complaining about this is because you think being gay is ‘gross'!"
"Well, it is!" shot back Maggie. "God didn't intend for two women to be together . . . or for two men to be together!"
"How do you know? . . . did God tell you that himself?!" Janine challenged her rival. "Did you two chew the fat over tea and scones?!"
"Ladies, that will be quite enough!" The Professor was getting a pounding headache. "Must you miserable shrews relentlessly bicker every time you disagree over something?!"
"Besides, we've got to meet up with the others," Mallory pointed out. "We'll be stuck here if we don't catch the next vortex."
The quartet scurried through a residential neighborhood - or at least, what was left of it - the streets completely overflowing with water . . . practically rivers!
"There they are!" Arturo pointed to an unhitched trailer which was floating in the middle of the former street. Rembrandt, Wade, Malcolm, and Diana were sitting on top of the lone vessel. Malcolm held the timer.
"Hurry up, we have about 20 seconds!" Malcolm shouted to them.
Diana and Wade were using elongated metal rods as "oars" with which they rowed the trailer toward the "shore". Mallory, Janine, Arturo, and Maggie waited on higher ground until their four sliding counterparts could reach them.
"Come on!" Diana encouraged them. "Suburban Anaheim is quickly turning into a lake!"
Wade and Remmy reached out to hoist each of their friends up off of the remaining landmass onto the floating unhitched trailer. The Professor was the last one to ascend, and it took five strong arms to lift him up to join them. Only moments later, they began to drift away from the "shore" with the dominating force of the flowing water.
"How much time, partner?" Rembrandt called over to Malcolm.
"5 seconds," Malcolm reported.
"Don't look now," observed Wade, "but we're about to get wet."
A mammoth-sized gush of flooding water veered toward them, almost reaching the magnitude of a monstrous surfer's wave. Cries of peril could be heard screeching around them from besieged residents of Anaheim.
Malcolm aimed the timer at a slanted downward angle. "Now!" he commanded, opening the vortex amidst the sea of intrusive floodage. The wormhole gyrated marvelously in a fixed position as though it was a whirlpool within the flooded basin.
Malcolm jumped in, followed steadily by Janine and Wade.
"Go Professor!" Rembrandt prodded his friend.
"Mr. Brown, you just want a soft landing pad!" The Professor suspiciously raised his eyebrows.
"No time to argue!" With that, Remmy shoved Arturo down into the portal, the jolly fat man screaming as he plummeted into the interdimensional abyss. As Rembrandt prepared to make his own descent into the vortex, Mallory shuffled in front of him.
"Sorry, Rem. This landing is for me." Mallory grinned and leaped downward, following the Professor.
Maggie shrugged. "Guess you can't win them all, Cryin' Man."
Diana dived into the wormhole after Mallory. Together, Maggie and Rembrandt linked hands and allowed themselves to fall freely into the interdimensional whirlpool.
Just before the vortex closed up, a massive splash of water cascaded down upon the shrinking portal.* * *
As Malcolm came hurtling out of the open wormhole, the tall, lanky adolescent crashed on top of a homeless man who had been sleeping soundly atop a sidewalk bench.
"Sorry, man," Malcolm apologized, quickly rolling his body off of the homeless man's stomach. No sooner had Malcolm shifted out of the way when Janine dropped out of the vortex next, also collapsing onto the homeless man.
"Watch where you're sleeping!" Janine snapped at the homeless man in an annoyed tone of voice. She crawled off of his belly and joined Malcolm on the sidewalk.
The rugged homeless man watched with astounded, widened eyes as he saw Wade fall from the mouth of the vortex, landing in a flower bed along the sidewalk. Then, they heard a familiar pompous holler with an unmistakable British accent echoing toward them from within the wormhole.
Professor Arturo flew out of the portal, thudding against the cement pavement flat on his belly.
"I hate landings!" Arturo groaned, growling grumpily.
But before Arturo had the chance to stand up and get on his feet, Mallory shot down out of the vortex directly above Arturo, colliding on top of the Professor.
"All right! Soft landing!" whooped Mallory, excitedly pumping his fist in the air.
Professor Arturo moaned again. "Mr. Mallory, you are most fortunate that I am in a good mood today! . . ." he grunted, irritably.
Mallory snickered. "THIS is you in a good mood?"
"For him it is," Wade wryly supplied, crawling out of the flower bed filled with tulips and marigolds.
"Gee, I'd hate to see the Professor in a bad mood," quipped Mallory, batting his eyelashes cutely at Arturo.
"Mr. Mallory, don't even get me started . . ."
Diana then came tumbling out of the swirling vortex, landing abruptly on the ground. "Maggie and Remmy are right behind me."
Sure enough, Rembrandt and Maggie fell from the portal right after Diana. A gigantic splash of water cascaded from the vortex just as it closed up, completely drenching both Maggie and Rembrandt.
"Good thing we were still wearing our ponchos," Rembrandt laughed, removing his plastic hood.
The sliders all discarded their ponchos and looked around at their newest port-of-call.
"Let's find a chip shop. I'm starving!" Arturo declared.
"You're always starving," grinned Mallory, giving Arturo a playful little poke in the belly.
"I'm not in the mood today, Mr. Mallory! . . ." Professor Arturo was becoming more and more peeved at Mallory's light-hearted ribbing and clowning around.
"Well, we have just under a day on this Earth," said Malcolm, holding up the timer for them to read.
"Have you all noticed something about this place?" Maggie suddenly spoke up. She was studying the pedestrians who graced the streets and sidewalks of the city around them. "There aren't any male/female couples on the streets!"
Indeed, almost every couple who walked by appeared to be composed of either two men or two women, holding hands or draping arms around their shoulders lovingly. Some were even making out.
"How odd indeed, Miss Beckett," the Professor humbly agreed with Maggie.
"What is this, Gay World?!" Maggie loudly sneered, as the octet began making their way down the street. Several pedestrians shot Maggie weird or annoyed looks.
Janine coughed pointedly. "Ahem," she huffed. "And what exactly is wrong with being gay?!"
"It's unnatural!" Maggie spat out. She seemed truly disgusted by all the affection between the same-sex couples around them.
"What gives you the right to judge them, Maggie?!" piped up Wade. She shot Maggie an irritated glare. "It isn't your place to determine someone else's sexuality!"
"It's in the Bible," stated Maggie, matter-of-factly and defensively.
"So? Isn't it possible that people altered the Bible over the course of history to reflect their own prejudices?" Wade folded her arms.
"Wade, please don't rock the boat," Remmy pleaded, desperately wanting peace to prevail.
"Sorry Rem, but I can't let her get away with this." Rembrandt sighed helplessly as Wade swiveled her head back toward Maggie. "Who says that the authors of the Bible knew everything?"
"Because they recorded God's words?" Maggie rationalized.
"Well if God was so powerful, why didn't he write those words down himself?" Wade titled her head.
Maggie's face was red. "This is your problem, Wade. You're just too liberal when it comes to religion."
"Or maybe you're just too conservative when it comes to religion?" Wade retorted.
"All right! Finally, some common sense!" Janine cheered. She amiably put her arm around Wade and gave Wade a friendly squeeze of camaraderie, partially to irk Maggie. "Wade is my new best friend!" Janine emphasized, smirking deviously at Maggie.
"Okay, you ladies have had your fun," Remmy intervened in a fatherly manner. "Now let's focus on finding a hotel . . ."
Rembrandt's voice of reason was harshly interrupted by a frantic cry for help which came from a nearby alley that the sliders were just passing by. Glancing down the alley, they could see a group of provocatively dressed female ruffians who had formed a semicircle around someone. The female assailants were obviously kicking and torturing whoever was crying for help.
The ruffians spouted a barrage of various catcalls and obscene insults at their victim.
"Come on, that person needs our help!" Diana shouted.
Making their way toward the perpetrators, the sliders approached the scene. Remmy and Mallory grabbed ahold of some of the women, who instinctively kicked them back in retaliation. Wade, Maggie, Diana, and Janine, seeing that the victim was a woman, all came to the defense of their fellow female. The four distaff sliders began punching and kicking the female antagonists, knocking them to the ground. Remmy and Mallory, uncertain about attacking women, cautiously offered the female sliders backup as stationary reinforcements. Malcolm and Arturo watched this spectacle in fascination.
Wade, Diana, and Janine kneeled down by the attacked woman, who was slumped over on the paved blacktop. She had long, smooth strands of black hair covering her face, with noticeable scratches on her hands and arms.
"Are you okay? Can you hear me?" Wade softly brushed the woman's hair out of her petite olive-skinned face and gasped when she got a peek at the woman's profile.
There laid Janine's double, half-conscious and groaning in agony. Alternate Janine wore a few swift, bloody red lacerations slashed across her delicate facade. She forced open her eyes, catching sight of her alternate.
"You . . . you're me!" Alternate Janine choked out, staring up at Janine in bewilderment.
Janine looked down at Alternate Janine, shocked and horrified at her double's abused condition. This was the first time she'd ever even met one of her doubles in the flesh. "No . . . you're me!" she responded, truly taken aback. "At least . . . I think."* * *
Janine and Wade entered the Chandler Hotel, supporting Alternate Janine by draping her arms over their shoulders to steady her pace. Alternate Janine's face was bleeding and bruised; she looked forlorn, as though the entire world had defeated her.
"Are you sure you don't want us to bring you to the hospital?" Wade asked Janine's double.
Alternate Janine shook her head. "No. I'm fine . . . I'm used to this. Besides, if I don't clock back in to work, I'll be fired."
Janine led her alternate to a cushy chair in the hotel lounge. "Why were those bitches attacking you?" she asked her double, helping Alternate Janine sit down upon the soft cushion.
"Because I'm not a lesbian," Alternate Janine acidly replied, resentment in her voice. "Just because I'm different, just because I'm het . . ."
"What's a ‘het'?!" Maggie exclaimed, coming up behind Wade and Janine along with Mallory and Diana.
"It's short for ‘heterosexual'," answered Alternate Janine. "They don't believe we're living up to our ‘God-given roles'."
"That's ridiculous," sneered Maggie, glaring as she eyed a lesbian couple walking by, hand-in-hand. "There's nothing wrong with you being . . . ‘het'! I am!"
"You are?" Alternate Janine gaped at Maggie, admiring the former marine's pride, strength, and assertiveness.
Diana nodded. "Most of us are."
"Except for Janine here . . ." Maggie stuck her thumb out at Janine.
"Yeah, Maggie thinks my number is 6-6-6," Janine murmured, bitterly.
"Hey, it's not my fault that you made the wrong choice in your life!" Maggie snapped at Janine.
"It wasn't my ‘choice', Maggie!" Janine shot back. "You just think it was because you were raised under the assumption that everything other than heterosexuality is ‘abnormal'!"
"You know nothing about my life!" Maggie was near tears, all of her built-up disdain for Janine polarizing to an extreme.
"You're right, I don't! And you know even less about my life!" Janine's hands were shaking as she shouted in a state of emotional vulnerability that none of them had ever witnessed in her before.
Mallory stepped forward and stood between the two women. "You'd both better calm down. You're attracting an audience."
True to Mallory's observation, an assembly of onlookers were watching and listening to Janine and Maggie's argument, most of them shooting nasty looks at Maggie.
Rembrandt, Malcolm, and the Professor had joined the crowd. "We checked us in," Remmy informed them, directing his words mainly at Maggie and Janine. "Let's go to our suite and we can settle this there."
"You're coming with us." Janine pulled at her double's sleeve, indicating for Alternate Janine to join them. "We've got to get you cleaned up."
"No," Alternate Janine protested. "I've got to go back to work. I'm a housekeeper here at the Chandler - gotta pay my way through law school somehow. Mr. Calhoun will get majorly pissed if I'm late for my shift."
"Janine, darling!" The effeminate voice of an Alternate Gomez Calhoun called to Alternate Janine. A colorfully dressed Alternate Gomez had high-tailed it over to his employee. "We're not paying you to sit around and look pretty, hun!"
"Can't you see? - she's hurt!" Janine emphasized to Alternate Gomez.
Alternate Gomez gasped dramatically. "Janine, honey, what happened to you?!"
Alternate Janine's eyes bashfully dropped to the floor in humiliation. "I fell on my face."
"No need to lie to me, dear," Alternate Gomez spoke to Alternate Janine sensitively, knowing full well what had probably happened to her. "We've gotta get your pretty little face healed up!"
"Sweetheart!" A handsome middle-aged man had rushed up to Alternate Gomez. "Are we still on for lunch?"
"In a minute, lovebug," Alternate Gomez sweetly told his husband. "Janine here was in a little accident."
"Oh, no!" Alternate Gomez's husband slapped his hands against his facial cheeks in sincere sympathy.
"Hi Derek," Alternate Janine greeted her boss's husband. "It was no big deal, really . . . nothing new, at least . . ."
Derek made a flamboyant "tsk-tsk" noise with his tongue. "Some people can be so intolerant. Okay, I'll see you in a bit, sweetie." He leaned over and gave Alternate Gomez a loving kiss on the lips.
Maggie grimaced, repulsed.
"We'll hook up later, during my next break!" Alternate Janine called over her shoulder at her alternate self. "They say everyone has a twin . . . maybe we were separated at birth?!"
"Or maybe we're the same person," Janine murmured under her breath, watching as her double was led away.* * *
"Well, this Earth's version of the Bible is quite . . . interesting, to say the least." Professor Arturo had a copy of the Holy Bible cradled in his lap while he sat atop a floral patterned double bed in the sliders' Chandler suite.
"What does it say, Professor?" inquired Malcolm.
"According to the Book of Genesis," paraphrased Arturo, "God created two men, Adam and Isaiah, and two women, Eve and Vivian, whom he placed in the Garden of Eden. He intended, according to this scripture, for Adam to be Isaiah's husband and for Eve to be Vivian's wife. These same-sex couples resided in the Garden of Eden until they were tempted by the lure of Satan's Forbidden Fruit."
"So how did they . . . make babies?" Mallory asked, as tactfully as possible.
"The scripture says that God combined the sperm of Adam or Isaiah with the eggs of Eve or Vivian in order to yield human reproduction," narrated Arturo.
"So no boy-on-girl action?" Mallory's face fell.
"It doesn't specify the graphic details, Mr. Mallory!" The Professor lambasted him. "This is a biblical account, not Hustler magazine! If God is omnipotent, he obviously found some way to do it!" Arturo threw down the Bible in agitation. "Read it yourself if you're so eager to be entertained." His face was beet red.
Rembrandt chortled another one of his trademark laughs. Picking up the Bible, Remmy paged through it. "Well, it looks like Moses and Paul condemned heterosexuality in their writings," he observed, after a few moments of selective reading. "They claim that heterosexual breeding will lead to rabid worldwide overpopulation."
"Well just look at that one world we visited, where the Professor's double invented time travel," recalled Janine. "They sure didn't know how to control their population - they had about a gazillion people."
"But if everyone was gay or lesbian, then there'd be no reproduction and no future generations of children," Maggie argued. "So the gay agenda will lead to humanity's demise."
"The only ‘gay agenda' is to promote acceptance of homosexuals in society," clarified Janine. "We are not trying to ‘wipe out' the heterosexual population."
"Maybe not on our homeworlds," Wade said. "But on this world, it looks like homosexuals fear there's a ‘het agenda', judging by what happened to your double."
Janine nodded solemnly. "I still can't believe my alternate actually likes men," she spoke quietly.
"Your alternate on this world has obviously made the right lifestyle choice." Maggie stuck her nose in the air.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Maggie?!" flared Janine, hot under the collar. "It ISN'T a ‘choice'! We don't ‘choose' our sexuality! Did you ‘choose' to be heterosexual, Maggie?"
Maggie was left momentarily speechless; she'd never really wondered about that before. "All I know is what I was taught as a child."
"Janine is right, Maggie," piped up Diana. "In alternate dimensions, it's biologically conceivable that our doubles may be different sexualities than we are. If sexual hormones differ from person to person, they probably fluctuate from one world to the next, as well."
"Yeah, Logan is Quinn's double . . .and she's a different gender than him!" Rembrandt pointed out.
Diana had a copy of Newsweek spread across her lap. "I've been reading up on the latest political news in the nation."
"And what's up with it?" Malcolm requested.
"Apparently, the leader of the free world on this Earth is President Ellen DeGeneres," Diana reported, reading from the magazine. "She was a well-known comedienne, sitcom star, and lesbian activist on my homeworld. President DeGeneres currently resides in the White House along with her wife, First Lady Anne Heche. The vice-president is John F. Kennedy Jr., who lives in the Vice-presidential Mansion with his husband, Second Gentleman George Stephanopolous."
"John-John is gay on this world?!" Wade's face fell. "I mean, I don't have a problem with him being gay . . . but I always had a major crush on him!"
"Don't worry, girl," winked Rembrandt. "Someday we'll slide onto a world where John-John is single, ‘het', and looking for a sassy redhead to be his old lady."
Wade gave Remmy an embarrassed, playful punch in the side.
"This American government operates on its own version of the two-party system," continued Diana. "The Expansion Party promotes extending equal rights to heterosexual couples, such as marriage, civil rights protections, and adoption opportunities. Meanwhile, the Preservation Party favors maintenance of a homosexual ideal in this society."
"That's stupid!" sneered Maggie.
"Of course it is," Janine agreed. She flashed Maggie a pointed, provocative look. "Heterosexuals deserve the exact same rights which homosexuals currently enjoy on this world."
Steam rose from Maggie's head.
"So sex between men and women is looked down upon?" Remmy asked.
Diana nodded. "Basically any kind of intimacy between opposite sexes is prohibited in this society."
"Man, I wouldn't last one week on this world!" Mallory lamented. "Good thing we're only here for a day."
"The Expansion Party is presently attempting to pass legislation through Congress which would legalize opposite-sex marriages, extending marital rights to opposite-sex couples," Diana explained. "Same-sex marriages are already legal here." She held up the magazine, spread open to an array of color photos showing several politicians. "Senator Lenora Fulani of New York and Senator Amanda Bearse of California are forerunners for legalizing opposite-sex marriages."
"Never heard of them," Malcolm said.
"Lenora Fulani was a political activist on Earth Prime," Wade recollected. "She spoke to my Political Science class once . . . she's an awesome woman, intelligent and dedicated to her work."
"Well on this Earth she's a senator," Diana provided. "Senator Fulani is the first openly-heterosexual black female to be elected to the U.S. Senate on this world. This issue is obviously of a personal nature to her."
"Hey, isn't that Marcy from Married . . . with Children?" Mallory pointed to the magazine photo of Senator Amanda Bearse.
"Ugh! You actually watch that show, Mallory?" Wade grimaced.
"Senator Bearse is a lesbian who sympathizes with and supports the ‘het community', especially in California. Both she and Senator Fulani are Expansionists." Diana turned the page of Newsweek.
The Professor placed his finger thoughtfully against his chin. "So if heterosexual sex is a social taboo, how are babies born here?"
"I think I read about that," Wade said, picking up a pamphlet she'd browsed through earlier. "This was sitting on the desk in the adjoining room. From what I understand, male sperm and female ovaries are ‘donated' by citizens and genetically combined in labs. Then the infants are nurtured for 9 months in artificial gestation tanks which simulate the conditions of a female womb."
"So women do not endure the pain of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth," concluded Arturo.
"And that's the social ideal which the Preservation Party claims it's trying to ‘preserve'," Diana elaborated. "Senator Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Senator Elizabeth Birch of Maryland are leading the crusade to ‘purify' society from the heterosexual influence. Both of these Preservationists have doubles on my homeworld who were gay rights activists - it looks like on this world, their alternate selves are ironically the oppressors."
"Wow, this is sure one messed up place," Janine criticized, making a disapproving face.
"Really, Janine? I would have thought this would be paradise for YOU!" Maggie sarcastically lashed out with shrewd hostility.
"No Maggie, this isn't MY ‘paradise'!" Janine irately yelled, jumping up off the bed. "MY ‘paradise' would be a world where everyone was accepted regardless of our sexual orientation. But I guess that's just too damn much to ask for, huh?!"
Janine's face was now filled with a red hot, furious, disgusted expression of anger. She abruptly headed for the door.
"Janine, wait . . ." Rembrandt called after her.
"Screw you!" Janine slammed the door behind her, most likely having intended to direct her final comment at Maggie.
"Let her go, Rem," murmured Maggie, rolling her eyes at Janine's behavior. "She's not worth it."
Rembrandt glared at Maggie. "What's your problem, girl?"
Wade shot an equally upset glare in Maggie's direction. "Maggie Beckett, sometimes your stupidity and bitchiness still never ceases to amaze me."
"Leave me alone!!" hollered Maggie, a betrayed look of hurt etched upon her face. Stomping across the room, Maggie stormed into the adjoining suite, slamming and locking the door behind her.* * *
"Sorry I'm late," Janine hastily apologized to her double. Sitting across the table from Alternate Janine in the Chandler Bar, Janine blotted her puffy red eyes with the back of her hand.
"That's no problem at all." Alternate Janine observantly studied Janine's weathered facial features. "You've been crying," she noticed.
Janine nodded silently. "My stupid friends," she said with a slight hint of laughter. "Actually, just one of them in particular: Maggie, the blond woman who you met in the lobby earlier today. She can be a real bitch."
"Why is she picking on you?"
"Because Maggie believes it's a ‘sin' for someone to be gay or lesbian."
"Sounds like many of the people I know . . . only they think it's a sin for someone to be het."
Janine stared back at Alternate Janine, with timid curiosity. "So you . . . like men? I mean, you're actually attracted to them? Like, sexually?"
"Yes." Alternate Janine pulled a leather wallet out of her pocket. "This is my boyfriend, Jeff. He's the love of my life." She handed her wallet-sized photograph of Jeff over to Janine, who took the picture to look at it. "Jeff and I are planning on getting married as soon as President DeGeneres convinces Congress to legalize opposite-sex marriages. I just adore our president."
"This is so strange." Janine handed the snapshot of Jeff back to Alternate Janine. "On my homeworld, opposite-sex marriages had always been legal . . . gays and lesbians were fighting to attain the right to obtain a simple marriage certificate granting legal recognition of our marital unions. But not even the president was on our side . . . and he was a Democrat!"
"That's the same thing we're trying to do . . . gain the same marital rights which same-sex couples are given. We don't care if the churches won't recognize it . . . as long as the law does." Alternate Janine gazed intently at her otherworldly counterpart. "But what do you mean by ‘your homeworld'? And what's a ‘Democrat'? Are you from another planet or something?"
"Same Earth, different dimension," Janine answered coyly, taking a sip from her glass of iced tea. "And to answer your second question, a Democrat is a basically someone who specializes in hypocrisy and tokenism, spends taxpayers' money on useless programs, and enforces political correctness on people."
"Yeah, not even all of the Expansionists truly support us. Many of them just blow smoke to the het community in order to get our votes." Alternate Janine squinted back at her double. "What do you mean by ‘different dimension'?"
Janine sighed. "You're not going to believe me when I tell you this. I know I sure wouldn't, if I were you - which I am." Taking a deep breath, she revealed her secret. "I'm an alternate version of you from a parallel universe."
Alternate Janine slowly digested this information for several moments. Finally, she replied, "I believe you. I can't explain why . . . I just feel that you're telling the truth, and you and I are connected somehow."
"We are." Janine looked deep into the brown eyes of her alternate self. "I'm one possibility of how you might have turned out had your sexual hormones developed differently. And vice versa."
"So . . . how did you arrive on my Earth?" Alternate Janine blinked. "Did you come here to help us?"
"I wish I could tell you that I did. But the fact is, my friends and I ‘slid' onto your world at random. Through an interdimensional vortex." Janine looked down at the wooden tabletop. "I was sucked into their wormhole by a fluke accident. Now I'm trying to find my way home . . . back to my homeworld."
"I hope you find it."
"Yeah, me too."
After a long pause, Alternate Janine broke the silence. "This is just amazing. You and I have the same body, the same voice, we face the same types of prejudices, yet, we're still totally different people."
Janine nodded in agreement. "That's because we've each lived different lives. Tell me more about your homeworld. When did this . . . ‘heterophobia' start?"
"I prefer to use the term ‘orientationism' to refer to discrimination against people of various sexualities. It's the same as racism or sexism." Alternate Janine's eyes began to well up. "And it's always been like this for as long as I can remember. People on my world think that male/female sex is ‘unnatural' because they claim it says so in the Bible. Although I believe the Bible is up for broad interpretation. But that's why I was afraid to go to the hospital . . . if it turned out that the doctors needed to give me a physical exam and they found traces of sperm in me . . ."
"From Jeff?" Janine assumed.
Alternate Janine nodded. ". . . I'd be ostracized and blackballed. We're taught from an early age that it's ‘shameful' for women to give birth naturally through the female womb. Even in ancient civilizations, women were exiled from the rest of the community during bodily pregnancy and child birth. At least, that's what both of my fathers always drilled into my head."
"Fathers?! You have two of them?!"
"Yeah. Society looks down upon families being raised by both a mother AND a father together. They say that households headed by opposite-sex couples promote the ‘het agenda'. The argument is that having two parents of the same sex provides children with more stability and less confusion. Personally, I don't think the parents' genders should matter as long as they give their kids proper love, discipline, and respect. I also think it's a woman's right to physically give birth to her own child if she wishes."
"Sounds familiar." Janine thought of all the reverse components which her own heterosexual parents had tried to drill into her during Janine's childhood.
"Us heterosexuals are blamed for everything from the spread of AIDS to pedophilia to child molestation. People accuse us of disrupting normality in society with our ‘alternative lifestyles' and ‘social experimentation'. They're afraid that us ‘breeders' are going to cause worldwide overpopulation - partially because Noah supposedly warned humanity of potential overpopulation in the Gospel." Alternate Janine had a stiff, teary expression on her face.
Janine compassionately grasped her double's hand, about ready to begin crying herself. "Are your dads supportive of you? Or haven't you . . . ‘come out' to them?"
"Oh, they know," Alternate Janine spoke in a hostile, embittered voice. "But they disapprove. My fathers raised me under the assumption that I was a lesbian. Ever since I was a little girl, I suspected I might be het, based on my attraction to boys rather than girls . . . but I kept quiet about it because of my fear. Eventually, I just couldn't hide it anymore."
"Your last name is Chen, just like mine, right?"
Alternate Janine affirmed Janine's inquiry with a nod of her head.
"So did your fathers have different last names?"
"Of course. I don't know how it works on your world, but on my Earth each spouse keeps his or her original last name. When a couple adopts children, the children take on only one of the last names of either parent. I received my last name from my father, Richard Chen. My other dad is named Emeril Nakamura."
"Richard Chen?" Janine repeated the name. "That's the name of MY father too! Before I left my homeworld, I'd had a big fight about my sexuality with my father and my mother. I never got the chance to make up with them. You see, my parents came from a very traditional cross-cultural Chinese/Japanese background. Their attitudes were always heterosexist . . . and it sounds to me as though your fathers' attitudes are mainly homosexist."
Alternate Janine nodded again, to confirm Janine's assessment. "They won't even acknowledge Jeff. I'm no longer on speaking terms with my dads." She dabbed at her teary eyes using a handkerchief.
"I'm still not understanding something. If my mom and dad never ‘got together' on this world, then how can you and I be so genetically identical?" Janine had a blank look on her face.
"What most likely happened is that you and I have the same biological parents. Our biological mother, whom I've never known on my world, had her ovaries anonymously and artificially combined with the sperm of my dad, Richard. This was done because Richard and Emeril wanted a child. Then when I was born, Richard and Emeril took me to raise as their own, since technically I was conceived from Richard's sperm to begin with. On your world, your parents conceived you the old-fashioned way."
"Wow, talk about dimensional fluctuations."
"Yeah. Many of the people who exist on your homeworld probably don't exist on mine, and vice versa, due to genetic differentials and dissimilarities between dimensions."
"You sure know your stuff. No wonder you're a law student." In amazement, Janine glanced around the bar. "So what part of L.A. are we in right now?"
"This is a less tolerant section of West Hollywood," explained Alternate Janine. "Unfortunately, it's the only neighborhood in which I could find a decent paying job to cover my tuition. Those bitches who attacked me this afternoon are lesbian supremacists. They consider this area of town their turf, and they found out about me and Jeff's engagement from some mutual acquaintances. Usually, both West Hollywood and San Francisco tend to be safe havens and Meccas of acceptance for the het community. But naturally, there's hostility and hate no matter where we live. Even right here in West Hollywood." Alternate Janine's vision became foggy as tears once again welled up in her eyes. "I just wanted my dads to be happy for me," she whimpered, sniffling.* * *
Janine, harboring immense empathy for her double, stood up and edged her way around the circular table toward Alternate Janine. She embraced her alternate self in a warm hug.
"I can't believe this!" Maggie threw down the newspaper she'd been reading, repulsed. "This radio talk show host, ‘Dr. Laura', is going around calling heterosexuals ‘unbridled walking hormones'! And the gays say WE'RE bigots?!"
Diana leaned over Maggie's shoulder, visually scanning the newspaper article. "On my world, Dr. Laura spoke out against homosexuality. It appears as though her double condemns heterosexuality on this Earth. From what it says in this article, the ACLU of this world has filed harassment charges against Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her ‘anti-het' media content."
"People in this dimension just can't seem to get over how ‘immoral' they think heterosexuality is," Mallory pouted, locking his lips together tightly.
"Well they're wrong!" Maggie indignantly insisted. "It's the other way around . . . homosexuality is immoral!"
"Maggie, will you give it a rest?!" Wade snapped, irritated with the marine. "You're obviously so insecure with your own sexuality that you feel the need to criticize others."
"Watch it, Wade!" glared Maggie, her voice dripping with disdain. "I wouldn't want to have to pull your ‘pretty red hair' out!"
"Oh, so you wanna go, ‘Captain' Beckett?!" Wade snidely patronized Maggie, standing up defensively.
"However you wanna play it, ‘princess'!" Maggie rose to her feet, as well.
"Both of you, knock it off!" Rembrandt was getting sick of having to play referee. Nevertheless, he coolly stood between Maggie and Wade, dividing the two women as a barrier of neutrality.
Mallory, Diana, and Malcolm were nervously on edge, watching, entranced, as a potential face-off began to unfold within their hotel suite.
"She started it, Rem!" complained Maggie, sticking her finger out at Wade.
Wade bristled, pointing back at Maggie. "She's being an ignorant jackass!"
"Takes one to know one!"
"Enough." Professor Arturo calmly and diplomatically arose from his spot next to the mini-bar where he'd been chomping on pistachios. "Miss Wells," he addressed Wade, "Miss Beckett is entitled to her opinion. However," he switched his gaze to Maggie, "I cannot help but infer, Miss Beckett, that this issue is of somewhat of a personal nature to you."
"That's ridiculous! . . ." Maggie began to protest.
Arturo held up his hand to silence her. "Let me finish, woman!" he cut her off, slightly losing patience with Maggie. "Now I myself do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle either. But be that as it may, why must you constantly rehash the topic to such an extreme degree? How does another person's chosen lifestyle affect you personally, Miss Beckett?"
Maggie tried to open her mouth, but nothing came out. The Professor's articulate words had sliced her ego in half like a butterknife.
"I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it as a ‘lifestyle choice', Professor," countered Diana. "You have no idea what it feels like to be inside of someone else's body, to experience someone else's sexual instincts and desires." She picked up a copy of Time magazine. "Look at the murderers who ruthlessly slaughtered Matthew Shepherd, an openly-het college student from Wyoming. They took it upon themselves to assume that their bodily sensations were the only ‘right' ones . . . and someone else ended up DEAD because of that!"
"Don't make excuses for them, Diana," lectured Maggie, regaining her ideological stance. "Being gay or lesbian is wrong. And when they kick the bucket, those queers are gonna have to answer to the Big Guy . . ."
"SHUT UP!!!" Malcolm's voice could be spontaneously heard, sharply piercing its way into Maggie's eardrums. The adolescent had been quiet for a long while, hardly uttering a peep over the last few hours. Now, a stone cold expression of hurt had become an eminent presence in Malcolm's chocolate-brown eyes.
Maggie froze in mid-sentence, suspended with stark confusion and shock at Malcolm's emotional reaction. Even Remmy and Wade were speechless.
"JUST SHUT THE HELL UP!!!" Malcolm cried out again. He was trying with all his might to hold back his tears. Overcome with the difficulty of repressing his upset state, Malcolm hurriedly ran out the door of their suite, fleeing as quickly as he could down the hallway.
"Malcolm?! . . ." Rembrandt called after his friend, obviously concerned for Malcolm following the boy's sudden outburst.
Rembrandt poked his head out the door into the hallway, but Malcolm had just continued to run. He was nowhere to be seen.
Wade shot a silent but vicious glare at Maggie, who frowned in bewilderment - and in guilt - at what had just occurred.* * *
Eventually, Rembrandt had tracked down Malcolm outside of the Chandler and convinced him to return to the security of their hotel suite. Nevertheless, the dispirited teen refused to talk with anyone about how he felt - not even with Remmy. He spent the remainder of the evening sulking in solitude.
The animosity among the interdimensional octet became clearly evident once Janine returned from her late-afternoon chat with Alternate Janine. Tension eroded the atmosphere as the two adjoining rooms began to feel more and more uncomfortably cramped. Janine was mad at Maggie; Wade was mad at Maggie; Maggie was mad at Wade and Janine; Remmy was frustrated and fed up with all three women; Malcolm had shut everyone out as he isolated himself from the group; and Arturo, Mallory, and Diana could only watch helplessly as they witnessed their friends bubbling over in turmoil.
As the evening fell, the weary travelers turned in for the night. Their slide would not be until mid-afternoon of the following day. With two double beds in each adjoining suite, the male sliders occupied one room while the female sliders took the other. Since Maggie wasn't exactly on friendly terms with Wade or Janine, her only alternative was to share a bed with Diana - an option which Maggie preferred. Meanwhile, Janine and Wade would share the other double bed.
"Maggie," Diana ventured, sensing how both she and Captain Beckett were having a difficult time falling asleep. "May I ask you something?"
"Sure, Diana," responded Maggie, who was also wide awake.
"What exactly do you have against gays and lesbians? Did you have a bad experience with homosexuals when you were younger?"
Maggie flinched, that question having been the last one she'd expected. "I'd really rather not talk about it, Di."
"Talking about it might help you feel better," Diana pointed out. "At least, better than keeping it all bottled up inside."
"Promise you won't tell the others?"
"Of course I promise."
Maggie sighed as she closed her eyes, even though it was too dark to hardly see anything. "Back when I was a private in the marines, there were a lot of lesbians in my platoon. Some of them would . . . ‘play around' with each other in the barracks, or leer at us normal women like we were their toys. Many of them would stare and drool at me and other women in the shower, checking out our bodies." Maggie winced at the memory. "After awhile, the rest of us couldn't take it anymore. We filed formal complaints with our commanding officer, and we got their gawking asses booted right out of the service." Just remembering the events appeared to place a terrible strain on Maggie, evident from her flustered voice.
As Diana silently mulled over Maggie's words, she simultaneously listened for noises from Wade or Janine. Both of them sounded as though they were snoozing soundly in the other double bed.
Finally, Diana reached through the darkness to softly place her hand on Maggie's shoulder, supportively. "I'm sorry that you had to endure that harassment, Maggie. Some of their behavior was totally inappropriate, given the setting and your military objective."
"The General always preached how ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'. We can't have people like that infesting our military - or our society." Maggie uttered the phrase "people like that" with a cringe of repugnance.
"True, gays and lesbians shouldn't be engaging in sexual conduct when their goal is national defense," acknowledged Diana. "But you have to admit, neither should men and women - with each other. It goes both ways."
"I know," Maggie sighed. "The truth is, Diana, I've been questioning EVERYTHING ever since we visited Atheist World, the one where Wade got arrested by the ‘Logicalists'." The captain rolled her eyes as the memory of that overzealous group. "I've been trying to stick to my guns and remain true to everything I was taught while growing up. But HOW am I supposed to know what God really intended? Inside of me, I just can't figure it all out anymore. If the Logicalists' thinking was flawed . . . then maybe Christianity is flawed too?"
The Maggie who'd seemed so adamant and aggressive only moments ago now sounded confused, meek, and helpless, as though she was about to cry.
Diana hugged Maggie, being there for her as a true friend should. "Maggie, NO ONE has all the answers . . ."
A muffled sniffle from Maggie's nostrils interrupted Diana's thought. "Has my entire life been a lie? . . ." Maggie trailed off as she wept quietly in Diana's arms.
Meanwhile, in the other suite, Rembrandt couldn't fall asleep either. Malcolm had been the second one to turn in for the night, crawling into the bed that an exhausted Mallory was already asleep in, as Malcolm often did. That left Remmy and the Professor to share the other bed, which Rembrandt didn't mind terribly. He'd slept with the Professor before, back near the beginning of his sliding journey when he was accompanied by Q-Ball, Wade, and Arturo. Quinn and Wade had often doubled up in bed together - platonically, of course - leaving Remmy and Arturo to bunk together. Aside from the Professor's occasional snoring, Rembrandt didn't mind having to share covers with Arturo.
"Professor," Rembrandt whispered to his friend, as soon as he detected for certain that both Malcolm and Mallory were asleep, "I'm really worried about Malcolm. Something's been bothering him, I can tell. He just won't seem to open up to me."
"Give the young lad time, Mr. Brown," advised Arturo, yawning. "He will come to you when he is ready. Mr. Eastman looks up to you like a big brother, and the best thing you can do is be there for him when he needs you." A low grunt coughed out from Professor Arturo's throat. "Forgive me if I sound rude, Mr. Brown, but I must get some sleep."
As the Professor rolled over to rendezvous with the Sandman, Remmy realized how right Arturo was.
All Rembrandt could do was wait for Malcolm to come to him when the time felt right for Malcolm.* * *
Warm rays from the bright, shiny sun streamed down upon Malcolm Eastman, who was sprawled out across the creamy, tan-colored sidewalk. While the other sliders dined on breakfast inside the Chandler, Malcolm kept himself distanced from the team. His smooth, brown fingers clutched a fat piece of colored chalk, with which Malcolm used to sketch a colorful, detailed chalk portrait against the sidewalk ground. Malcolm's swift hand motions curved, looped, and swept across the sidewalk as his piece of pink chalk scraped against the pavement. An exotic variety of reds, pinks, greens, yellows, blues, and purples blended together on the sidewalk, creating the image of a lustrous rainbow which arched over the horizon of a majestic valley; a visual image masterminded entirely by Malcolm.
The youthful artist repositioned his body, now kneeling in front of his design to put the finishing touches on it. Pedestrians passed Malcolm and his work-in-progress, smiling at the teenager and giving him the thumbs-up, as they walked by. Malcolm stepped back to examine the intricacy and detail of his drawing; concentrating on his beloved craft had provided Malcolm with an opportunity to meditate in peaceful serenity.
"Hey, Picasso," came a recognizably friendly voice. These vocals belonged to Rembrandt. Malcolm turned as Rembrandt placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. Rembrandt was taking a good, long look at Malcolm's artwork.
"You like it?" Malcolm sheepishly asked, blushing.
Rembrandt was beyond mesmerized. "Malcolm, this is incredible!" The hues and textures of Malcolm's impressive sidewalk portrait literally jumped out and grabbed one's eye, screaming for attention and praise.
"Thanks." Malcolm's eyes dropped toward the ground. He had no idea how long Remmy had been observing him. However long it had been, Malcolm had been oblivious to Rembrandt's inconspicuous presence.
"So," Remmy draped his arm around Malcolm as the two of them walked toward a nearby city fountain, "care to tell me what's on your mind, partner?"
Malcolm glanced back at the large fountain behind them, which was spouting gushes of sparkly water. "Remmy . . . I'm your little bro no matter what, right?" Malcolm sounded so timid and scared . . . it was easy to forget that he was 16 years old.
"Of course you are, Malcolm." As if to emphasize his point, Rembrandt gave Malcolm a brotherly squeeze.
Although Malcolm cracked a hint of a smile, trepidation still filled his face. "Remmy . . . I think I might be . . ." He paused, as if he was frightened to say the words. ". . . I think I'm gay." Tears immediately began slipping from beneath the adolescent's eyeballs.
Instinctively, Rembrandt embraced Malcolm with a loving hug. "Malcolm, I'll always love you no matter what your sexuality . . . gay, het, or bi." He made eye contact with the boy. "There's nothing wrong with being gay either. Don't you ever let anyone tell you otherwise."
"But Maggie . . ."
"Forget about Maggie. Her bark is bigger than her bite. I used to be intimidated by Maggie too, until I got to know her as a person."
Malcolm mustered up a small smile for Remmy.
"When did you first begin to suspect?" Rembrandt inquired, relieved that Malcolm was finally opening up and confiding in him.
"I remember liking other boys when I was little," Malcolm recalled. "Then I realized how I didn't have that same feeling toward girls. My parents always expected me to end up marrying a woman and having kids, so I never told them how I felt. When I hit puberty . . . man, did it become clear! I always fantasized about only guys and imagined myself interacting with them when . . . when I . . . well, you know . . ." Once again, Malcolm began to blush.
Rembrandt nodded knowingly. He wanted to convey to Malcolm how much he empathized with him, and how he'd done it too as a teenager when seeking his own self-relief while envisioning and dreaming about beautiful women.
"Do you think that's gross, Remmy?" Malcolm was clinging onto Rembrandt's every word for guidance.
"No, Malcolm. It isn't gross at all. It's a completely natural thing to do." Rembrandt's sincere gaze met Malcolm's. "I did it myself when I was your age, when I first began liking girls. In fact," he gave Malcolm a little wink, "I still do."
Malcolm returned the smile, then commenced with his recount. "After my Earth was destroyed and we began colonizing the Primitive World that Quinn and Maggie had scouted out for us, the adults told us kids that we'd all need to ‘pair up' eventually to repopulate our new world. This one girl, Tamika, said she wanted me to ‘pair up' with her when we reached 18 . . . but I just couldn't tell her about my secret. I couldn't tell anyone . . . not even Gretchen. I kept quiet for all those years . . . then, the Kromaggs came . . ." Malcolm became misty-eyed at the memory of Gretchen and the Kromagg invasion.
"We'll find her," Remmy assertively reassured Malcolm. "We found Wade, and we'll find Gretchen too."
"I never told Gretchen I was gay, because she was a Christian. I thought she'd hate me."
"I'm a Christian, but I don't hate you."
Malcolm blushed yet again, embarrassed at his presumption.
"Gretchen would have - will love you, no matter what. And so will I." Rembrandt took Malcolm in his arms and hugged him, letting Malcolm cry freely on his shoulder.
After Malcolm had released all of his tears, he stared up at Rembrandt. "Remmy . . . is it just me . . . or is Mallory really cute?"
Rembrandt burst out laughing, affectionately. Now he knew why Malcolm had preferred to share a bed in their suite with Mallory.* * *
The sliders watched their hotel room television with intrigue as President DeGeneres signed the official document legalizing opposite-sex marriages. She did this live on CNN, in front of tons of cameras and reporters.
"These people have been waiting a long time for their freedom," Wade commented, the corners of her lips curving upward with happiness for the people of that dimension.
Rembrandt turned to Wade. "I wonder how long it would have been before gays and lesbians gained the right to marry on Earth Prime? I mean, if the Kromaggs had never invaded."
Wade shrugged. "Probably before I would have reached middle age," she guessed. "They were making so much progress."
"I suspect you are correct, Miss Wells," Arturo agreed with Wade's estimate. "The political pendulum tends to swing to and fro between various eras of history . . . they would have no doubt had their day in court."
"This world still has a long road ahead of it," brought up Diana. "Many of the Preservationists will still try to overturn the decision . . . they view heterosexuality as a hideous abomination, and thus they'll oppose marriage between men and women. Of course, it goes without saying that their reasoning is extremely flawed . . . they're basing it on hypothetical religious doctrine."
As Diana spoke, the TV screen showed Preservationist protesters marching outside of the White House, holding and waving picket signs while shouting and chanting obscenities.
"Well, in honor of the monumental passage of the Marital Equality Act," said Janine, referring to the bill which President DeGeneres had just signed, "my double has invited us to her and Jeff's wedding. She wants me to be her maid of honor!"
Mallory chuckled. "She hardly even knows you - aside from the fact that you're the same person."
"Actually, her best friend was flying in from New York to be the maid of honor," Janine admitted, "but she won't be able to attend because of a last-minute conflict. So I offered to fill in."
"All right, Janine!" cheered Malcolm.
Maggie forced a smile out of her lips. "That's a nice thing for you to do for her, Janine." The words coming from Maggie's mouth were surprisingly sincere.
Janine tried returning a smile. "Uh . . . thanks, Maggie." She was a bit confused at this sudden nicety which Maggie had unexpectedly directed at her.
By noon, Alternate Janine's wedding ceremony was underway. Alternate Gomez had offered use of the Chandler conference room and banquet hall for the matrimonial ceremony and subsequent refreshments. Seven of the sliders took their seats over on the bride's side of the aisle. Janine, meanwhile, had disappeared into the dressing room along with the other bridesmaids to help Alternate Janine prepare for her momentous day.
Before long, a harmonious organ began playing the wedding march, and one by one, the ring bearer, flower girl, groomsmen, and bridesmaids came gliding down the aisle. Fragrant rose petals, which had been dropped by the flower girl, dotted the red-carpeted aisle; the flora was stepped upon by the succeeding procession of Alternate Janine's bridesmaids and Jeff's groomsmen.
Second-to-last down the aisle was Janine, escorted by Jeff's best man. She reluctantly allowed him to link his arm with hers.
"You realize this means nothing," Janine whispered to the best man, as the two of them fluidly made their way toward the altar.
The best man nodded at Janine knowingly. "Don't fret, hun," he answered. "I've got my own man waiting for me at home."
As the organ player shifted to the musical climax of "Here Comes the Bride", Alternate Janine stepped into the room, walking arm-in-arm with a handsome young Asian man, her husband-to-be. Respectfully, the congregation of guests stood up from their chairs while Jeff and Alternate Janine proudly walked together to the altar; both of them were beaming, very much in love. Jeff wore a spiffy black tuxedo, and Alternate Janine was adorned in a captivating, frilly, creamy white wedding gown, its long train slithering behind her across the petal-coated aisle.
The rest of the ceremony was pretty much standard wedding procedure. Jeff and Alternate Janine exchanged their own vows, exchanged rings, and were married by a justice-of-the-peace. After their first public smooch as a married couple, the happy newlyweds gleefully frolicked back down the aisle together, finally husband and wife.
Afterward, a reception was held in the Chandler banquet hall. The sliders had decided to stick around until they had to leave to catch their next window of opportunity.
"I'm so glad you all could make it," Alternate Janine gushed, greeting Rembrandt, Diana, Arturo, and Malcolm. Her arm was lovingly linked with Jeff's, and Janine stood by her double's side, ecstatically holding the bouquet of flowers.
"So, how's married life treating you lovebirds?" Remmy light-heartedly joked. He'd noticed that someone had done an excellent job applying makeup to Alternate Janine's face; it moderately covered and camouflaged her dried out facial slits and cuts from yesterday's brawl.
Jeff surveyed the four of them. "Where are the rest of your friends? Weren't there more of you?"
Malcolm gestured to a conga line composed of wildly whooping wedding guests; the crazy conga line was snaking its way around the banquet room. "Maggie, Wade, and Mallory are working off some of their excess energy."
Indeed, the three absent sliders were positioned at different spots throughout the conga line, shaking their bodies along with the beat of the rhythmic calypso music.
"How does it feel to finally be joined in your union of wedlock?" Arturo inquired from the newlyweds.
"Oh, we aren't ‘legally' married yet," admitted Alternate Janine. "It will still be a few weeks before the courts begin actually signing opposite-sex marriage licenses. But Jeff and I still wanted to schedule our actual ceremony to commemorate the day when the president was expected to sign opposite-sex marriage legislation. A few weeks ago, CNN made it obvious that today would probably be that day. We'll always consider this day to be our true anniversary."
"So what would have happened if they hadn't passed the bill?" Rembrandt wondered.
Jeff blushed. "Then I would have wasted a lot of money on this reception."
Alternate Janine put her arm around her husband. "Jeff and I plan to be the first ones in line at city hall on the day when the courts first begin writing out opposite-sex marriage certificates."
"Are your parents proud?" Diana asked.
Alternate Janine's face fell. "My fathers refused to attend. They don't agree with our decision to marry. Neither do Jeff's mothers."
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the Professor. "So are all children on this Earth raised by two parents of the sex opposite to the child's?!"
"Not necessarily." Jeff shook his head. "I may have grown up with two moms, but former President Jesse Jackson, for instance, was raised by two dads."
"And former President Eleanor Roosevelt had two moms," added Alternate Janine.
"But that's about to change," smiled Janine.
Jeff nodded, grinning at his new wife. "Janine and I can finally have children of our own, belonging to both of us - and we'll be able to raise them together."
"Hopefully, the military will eventually abolish ‘don't ask, don't tell', so soldiers won't be ‘dishonorably discharged' merely due to their sexuality," Alternate Janine speculated. "It may surprise some people, but a few of our Founding Fathers could have been het."
Janine took in the sight once more of her alternate and Jeff together. "This has really been an eye-opener for me. I'd never thought of it before, but I guess our alternate selves on other worlds COULD be different sexualities than us. Hell, you're the first one of my doubles who I've actually met in person!" She nodded at Alternate Janine.
"I hate to cut in, Mountain Girl," Rembrandt spoke up to Janine, "but we've only got a few minutes until the slide."
Janine gave her alternate a big hug. "I'll always remember you," she whispered.
"Same here," Alternate Janine whispered back.
The two of them shared one final gaze of mutual friendship, as Rembrandt left to retrieve Mallory, Wade, and Maggie from the conga line.* * *
The illuminated pink vortex vomited the sliders out onto the next world and then disappeared. All eight of them had landed on a grassy hilltop.
"Looks like this could be the San Fernando Valley," Wade guessed, surveying the landscape before them. Fertile hills sloped across the horizon, seeming spread outward for infinity.
Malcolm checked the timer. "3 weeks, guys," he informed them.
Mallory poked Janine, who was still wearing her sleek, red satin bridesmaid gown from the wedding, in the ribs. "This is the first time I've ever seen YOU wearing a DRESS!"
"And it'll probably be the last," Janine quipped with a smirk.
"Oh my god!" gasped Diana. She as staring at a far-off pasture down below the hill. "I don't believe it!"
A herd of gallant, snow white unicorns handsomely galloped across the valley. Their study horns pointed forward, manes flapping in the breeze as the unicorns frolicked through the grass, heading straight for a sparkling blue lake nearby from which they would chug thirsty sips of lakewater.
Arturo's eyes widened. "Perhaps on this Earth, these creature from Greek mythology weren't such a ‘myth', after all?"
"You mean they never died out?" asked Rembrandt.
"We've seen worlds where dinosaurs avoided extinction, Rem," pointed out Wade. "Why not unicorns too?"
As the group began trudging downhill, Maggie pulled at Janine's arm, the two of them lagging behind.
"Listen, Janine," Maggie confessed. "I can't claim to understand what your life is like . . . so I guess it wouldn't kill me to be a tad less judgmental."
"No, it wouldn't." Janine shot a combined smirk and grin at Maggie before proceeding down the hill after the others.
Maggie sighed, smiling in spite of herself.
Same old Janine . . . no matter what her sexuality.
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