|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.* * *
"This is the most pathetic world I've ever seen," remarked Janine, a bit toploftically.
She goggled at the formation ahead of her and the rest of the group. Several crudely hollowed out tunnels skewed outward in numerous tangential directions.
"Which tunnel do we follow?" Wade queried, boggling her eyes at the seemingly infinite subterranean options.
"It doesn't really matter," Quinn answered Wade's inquiry. He displayed the timer for all to see. "We've only got a few minutes until the slide."
"It's so damp and dark down here," Janine continued to complain, whining. "Imagine, this is where many people live out their lives."
"They kinda have to," Diana reminded her. "One-third of the population on this Earth is born with irregularities in their lungs. They can't withstand the biosphere above ground, and are forced to take refuge down here and reside within this underground subway system for their entire lives."
"Reminds us what a major ‘no-no' gene-splicing can be," Mallory put in, wittily.
"This place makes me claustrophobic," commented Rembrandt, raising his chin to scan the cavernous underpass overhead. "Too bad this world doesn't have the science to build an artificial biosphere where those people can live."
"Yeah, on my world they were working on a biosphere project, an experimental facility supplied with manmade oxygen and other gases." Maggie kicked a pebble with her sneaker. "But then our government cut its funding because the Democrats wanted to focus on providing foreign aid."
Professor Arturo coughed, a spray of the dusty air slipping into his throat. "Can we get out of this cramped corridor already?! How many more seconds, Mr. Mallory?"
"Not many," answered Quinn. He turned to his brother, placing the timer in Colin's hands. "You do the honors, bro."
Colin beamed with gratitude as he activated the timer for the first time in almost two years.* * *
The pink vortex opened, shooting all ten sliders out onto a field. They landed roughly in a large dogpile on the ground. A muffled cry could be heard from beneath their haystack of bodies.
Arturo was moaning in discomfort. "Must you ALL land smack atop of me?!" he huffed. As the rotund Englishman struggled to his feet, he stated, "That does it! From now on, I'm going through the vortex last!"
Rembrandt snickered. "It could be worse. You could be sliding with nine of your exact duplicates."
The Professor shot Remmy an unamused glare.
"Guys, look at the ground," Malcolm said. He kicked his shoe against the strangely matted down grass. "This field has seen a lot of action lately. It's been trampled over by many feet."
Off in the distance, a faint bugle tune was belted out of a trumpet, its sound waves carrying to their ears, obviously signifying something of great importance.
"For some reason I don't like the sound of that music," Janine commented, ominously.
"You got that right," agreed Mallory. He pointed toward the horizon off in one direction. "Here comes the cavalry."
Approaching them was a widespread fleet of blue-uniformed soldiers mounted on horseback, ferociously charging straight toward the sliders.
"Run for cover!" shouted Wade, without hesitation.
The ten of them scrambled out of harm's way, ending up leaping into a nearby ditch which was inconspicuously entrenched within the sidelines of the battlefield.
"They weren't aiming for us," Diana noticed. "Look!" She gestured her arm outward toward the opposite direction. A similarly riled body of armed infantry was charging on horseback from the other end of the field, adorned in drab gray uniforms.
Rembrandt's mouth hung wide open in shock. "It's like we've stepped back in time!"
A gaze of desperation glimmered in Maggie's eyes. "Maybe it's not real? Maybe this is just a Civil War reenactment?"
But in the next moment, Maggie's hypothesis was directly contradicted. Gunshots and cannons were fired into the air, overlapping the shouts and primitive warcries from the mouths of the soldiers. Screams of anger and wrath permeated across the valley. A very real stench of blood began to waft toward the sliders' trench, mercilessly invading their nostrils.
"So much for that theory, Miss Beckett," retorted the Professor.
Colin's face was sorrowfully pale. "I think I'm going to be sick," he warned the group, apologetically.
"Hold on, Colin." Quinn protectively grabbed ahold of Colin's chest in an attempt to contain his brother's nausea. But it was a lost cause. Colin keeled over, regurgitating his insides out onto the grass.
Janine held her nose, wincing. She'd plucked the timer away from Colin, as it had fallen out of his grasp. "2 days in this hellhole," she read. "What is with all of these war torn worlds?!"
"Man, you would have hated the Slidecage," Quinn shot at Janine.
"Oh, please don't remind us, Q-Ball," groaned Rembrandt, wanting more than anything to erase that calamitous memory from his mind.
"I'm sorry, guys," Colin hastily apologized for his less than tactful regurgitation.
"Colin, it isn't your fault," Diana reassured him.
"But I -" Colin stopped short, spying a familiar figure out of the corner of his eye. A blue-uniformed man was rolling down the side of the trench, into the pit with the sliders. He clutched his shoulder, clenching his teeth together in searing pain. Watery tears blurred his peripheral vision.
"Oh my God!" Quinn gasped.
The wounded soldier was Colin's double.
Rembrandt also noticed this. He and Mallory quickly stepped in front of the Mallory brothers, ushering Colin and Quinn into a hidden position amongst the group. But Alternate Colin was too preoccupied with his burning shoulder wound.
"We've got to help him!" Wade cried out, her humanistic instincts speaking volumes.
"No, we've got to get out of here!" persisted Janine.
Malcolm ended up pointing out yet another unexpected surprise to his friends. "What's that?!"
About one hundred yards away from their ditch, an ameba-like vortex composed of orange, yellow, and red swirls materialized in the air. Logan St. Clair came flying out of it.
"Logan!" Quinn hissed the name of his nemesis through gritted teeth.
It took a few moments for Logan's sight to register, but she immediately recognized her interdimensional foes amid the group. Clutching her timer in one hand, Logan aimed her gun at them with her free hand, angling it straight at Quinn. "Die, Mallory!" she yelled at him.
Quinn narrowly dodged the bullet which pelted from the butt of Logan's pistol. Swerving out of her immediate range, Quinn shouted to the others, "Let's go!"
The sliders scattered away in so many directions that Logan was taken by surprise. She tried contemplating who to target first, firing shots from her gun almost at random. In addition to Quinn's resurfaced presence, Logan was equally shocked to spot Professor Arturo's profile amidst the posse of her friends.
Diana and Maggie had both grabbed on to Alternate Colin and were practically dragging him away. This caught the attention of a new figure who had plunged downward into the ditch.
"Time to finish you off, brother!" squawked a sinister voice which sounded exactly like Quinn's.
There stood Quinn's alternate, wearing a gray Confederate uniform . . . toting a rifle in his arms.* * *
From his concealed position behind an oak tree, Quinn spied his alternate adorned in Confederate garb - rotating his weapon toward Alternate Colin. As Alternate Quinn fired his rifle, a bullet ricoqueted off a nearby boulder which was partially embedded within the soil. Diana, Maggie, and Alternate Colin had been able to duck behind the boulder just in time to dodge the rogue bullet.
Logan's gun had fired off again, hitting Alternate Quinn smack in the arm. As Alternate Quinn fell to the ground, dropping his rifle and grasping his arms, Logan realized that in her fury she'd carelessly shot at the wrong Quinn.
A mixture of blue and gray clad Union and Confederate soldiers shuffled downward into the ditch in a mad, senseless disarray. Upon seeing the reinforcements coming her way, Logan took off running. She figured she could catch up with her enemies later.
Mallory had just enough time to drag Alternate Quinn out of the pathway of intruding soldiers. He lent a strong shoulder to Alternate Quinn and together they hobbled away from the feuding pandemonium.
The dectet eventually met up in a nearby forest toward which they'd all headed, lugging the Alternate Mallory brothers along with them. Knowing that their doubles were in the presence of their team, Quinn and Colin made sure to linger in the shadows to remain out of sight from their alternates.
"Mallory!" reprimanded Maggie, seeing how he'd rescued Alternate Quinn. "Why'd you bring HIM along?! He's the enemy!"
"He's hurt," Mallory told her. "I couldn't just leave him out there to die!"
"He deserves to die!" Maggie shot back, critically sizing up Alternate Quinn's gray Confederate uniform.
Alternate Quinn snorted, eyeing the group suspiciously. "You folks Yankees?" he grunted in disgust. He then fixated upon the sight of Rembrandt, Diana, and Malcolm. "Abettin' runaways, eh?"
"They ran away to escape your slaughter!" Alternate Colin lambasted his brother, glaring at Alternate Quinn.
"Hey, calm down!" Wade piped up. She shifted her gaze back and forth between Quinn's and Colin's alternates. "Let's just be glad we got you away from those monsters safely."
"Some of them ‘monsters' is my comrades," drawled Alternate Quinn, with a hint of a Southern accent. "We is defendin' our way of life against you damned Yankees!"
"You're exploiting the lives of innocent people based on their skin pigment!" Alternate Colin retorted.
Arturo cleared his throat, as the group began to advance forward through the thicket. "One would surmise," speculated the Professor, "that this world is amid its own version of the American Civil War, only at a later point along the historical timeline."
"Where you been, grandpa?!" snorted Alternate Quinn, rather rudely. "This war's been a -ragin' for over 140 years. They ain't any closer to winnin' now than they were then."
Alternate Colin gritted his teeth. "In the end, morality will prevail!"
"All right, boys," Mallory intervened. "Both of you are wounded pretty badly. Why don't you each take a time-out?"
"I suggest you call a temporary truce," Arturo declared.
Alternate Quinn sneered, wincing from the thundering pain of his wounded arm. "Fine!" he spat out.
"Can you help us get to our cabin?" Alternate Colin asked them. "It's close to here . . . on the outskirts of Santa Barbara."
"If you guide us, we'll take you," Diana answered.
Alternate Quinn was grimacing in revulsion at the sight of the three black sliders - Diana, Malcolm, and Rembrandt. It seemed like he couldn't stand to be in their presence.
They had just about reached the end of the forest. Quinn and Colin made sure to keep a safe distance between themselves and the others. The last thing they needed was to be spotted by their doubles - the fewer questions they had to answer, the better.* * *
It was close to dusk by the time the sliders had reached a fertile orchard. There, they saw tons of black slaves dressed in rages, toiling in the fields. The slaves were picking lush oranges from orange groves, and plucking clusters of red grapes off of thick, thorny vines. In the middle of a vast plantation field, more slaves were hoeing rows to plant new crops; others gathered corn, tomatoes, and other vegetation which had grown to fertile lengths in the sweltering sun. But by now, the sun was beginning to set. It was growing noticeably cooler.
"Sweet Jesus," gasped Rembrandt in a barely audible whisper. Malcolm had grabbed onto Remmy's hand, slightly trembling.
"This must be some kind of plantation," guessed Maggie.
"Gee, what tipped you off, Sherlock?" Janine snorted.
Wade shook her head. "This is inhumane!" she said, mortified.
"You read about something like this in the history books," observed Professor Arturo, both captivated and revolted, "but until you see it with your own eyes . . ."
"Them coloreds need to be kept in their place!" Alternate Quinn roughly said. "Give ‘em an inch, they take a mile. Them needs to know who's boss."
"How can you be so heartless?!" Alternate Colin wanted to throttle his brother. "I can't believe I'm actually related to you!"
"Now is not the time for dramatics, gentlemen" Arturo told them. "Our priority should be getting you two the appropriate medical attention." He turned to address Rembrandt. "Mr. Brown, as much as I revile this suggestion, it is a matter of our survival on this Earth. I would advise that you, Dr. Davis, and Mr. Eastman pose as the . . . ‘property' of Mr. Mallory. If anyone asks, you three are, for all intents and purposes, slaves."
Rembrandt frowned. He didn't like it. Diana softly touched Remmy's arm and met his gaze. Rembrandt read from Diana's expression that it was the only way.
"Hey, our's last names is Mallory too," piped up Alternate Quinn.
Arturo ignored him. "Miss Beckett, Miss Welles, and myself will head into town for purposes of . . . research." He titled his head subtly in the direction of where Quinn and Colin were crouched behind a tree. "The others will join us."
Mallory, Rembrandt, Diana, Malcolm, and Janine headed off, Alternate Colin navigating their way with Rembrandt's bodily support. Alternate Quinn begrudgingly allowed Mallory to lend his weight to him, in order to escort him along.
Once they were gone, Quinn and Colin emerged from their hiding place.
"Can you believe those are our alternate selves?" Colin asked Quinn.
Tilting his head, Quinn thoughtfully said, "I guess Geiger's theory WAS wrong after all . . . when he said that being unstuck kills one's doubles."
"More importantly," Wade diverged, "where do we go from here?"
The Professor cupped his hand under his chin. "We check into a hotel," he determined, after a bit of thought. "In the morning we'll try to find a library to see what information we can dig up on the history of this world. The others will know to meet us in Santa Barbara."
"They'd better," Maggie said, with sudden realization. "Because Janine has the timer."* * *
"Who would have thought there'd be a Chancellor Hotel in Santa Barbara?!" exclaimed Wade, as she entered the library along with Quinn, Maggie, Colin, and Arturo.
"Technically, Wade, it's called the ‘Chancellor Inn'," Quinn corrected her.
Wade swatted Quinn. "Do you always have to be such a scientist?"
"The important thing is that we got a good night's sleep," Maggie said. She clamped her hand down on Colin's shoulder. "What do you say, gang? Let's do some research."
"That's the spirit, Miss Beckett!" belted out Professor Arturo, with jovial exuberance. He headed straight for the reference section.
"This library seems to be less advanced and less equipped than many of the libraries we've seen on other worlds," Colin noticed.
"Yeah," Wade agreed with Colin, as she surveyed the large open room. "No computers, no book scanner, no microfilm . . . just bookshelves."
"Pretty old-fashioned," Quinn conceded, nodding. He slapped his brother on the back. "Come on, Colin. Let's see what fossils of data we can scrounge up around here."
Hours later, Wade and Arturo had sifted through a pile of historical records. Their search had ended up fruitful.
"I've traced the divergence of this Earth back to the year 1863," announced the Professor, gathering the others around the table where he and Wade had been working. "On this world, Lincoln never gave the Gettysburg Address . . . the Union suffered heavy casualties at Gettysburg and was defeated by the Confederacy. The South was able to hold its own against the North in a majority of battles, but the Union would not give up its fight. Remarkably, the war has been raging ever since 1861 - for the past 140 years!"
Maggie's mouth dropped open. Then she thought about it for a moment. "I guess that would make sense. The weapons they were fighting with at the battlefield we slid onto seemed pretty ancient, compared to what we've seen on other worlds."
"But how did the fighting extend all the way out to California?" Quinn asked.
"Both sides of the war expanded their respective territories westward," the Professor narrated. "You see, contrary to popular belief, the Civil War was not entirely fought over the issue of slavery. On Earth Prime, the North and the South each wanted to control a transcontinental railroad for it to run primarily within each side's borders. So on this Earth, the North and the South each built their own transcontinental railway systems."
"So why wouldn't that end their dispute?" asked Colin.
"Because they were still at odds over the issue of slavery," Wade provided.
"That and the animosity which carried over the Mason-Dixon line," added Arturo. "On this Earth, rather than surrendering to the Union, General Robert E. Lee burned Appomattox Courthouse to the ground in 1865 . . . with General Ulysses S. Grant inside! Further hostility arose as the Confederacy acquired additional states well into the Twentieth Century. To compensate, the Union grabbed all of the northernmost states it could reach." The Professor now spread out a map of North America from a gigantic atlas across the table. "In supplement to its already-established states east of the Mississippi, the North also annexed North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and most of Northern California remained in Northern possession as well. Those states were all eventually admitted to the Union. Meanwhile, the Confederacy admitted Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, many Caribbean territories including Puerto Rico and Jamaica, and even Hawaii in the mid-Pacific."
"How about the border states?" Quinn inquired.
"Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia were captured by the Union," Arturo said, pointing to each state on the map in turn as he said its name. "Missouri and Kentucky fell to the Confederates."
"You said ‘most of Northern California'," Maggie backtracked, eyeing California on the map. "What about Southern California?"
"That is where things get interesting," Arturo stated. "As you can see, the borders of Arizona and Nevada flank much of California's eastern border. By the 1950s, the Confederacy had besieged a large portion of Southern California, assimilating their presence and values system into Southern Californian culture."
"California divided into two separate states," Wade picked up Arturo's narration. "Northern California and Southern California. Northern California remained a free state, and Southern California seceded from the Union and entered the Confederacy as a slave state." She traced a horizontal line of division with her finger across the continental map. "The Mason-Dixon Line runs along the northern borders of Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and the southern borders of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho. When it reaches Nevada, the division runs along the northern and western Nevadan borders, and then crosses into California at Reno, Nevada, running south at direct 180 vertical longitude. Both Fresno and Santa Barbara in Northern California are located along the western edge of the newly-extended Mason-Dixon Line."
"So we slid in basically near the border of the Mason-Dixon Line?" Quinn confirmed.
Wade nodded. "Probably on the Southern Californian side. We unknowingly crossed over to Northern California, into Santa Barbara, which is where we are now."
"So Rembrandt and the others could be in slave territory right now?" concluded Colin.
Silence blanketed the group for several moments. Finally, Maggie spoke up, "Who's winning the war?"
"Neither side is," answered the Professor. "Both the Union and the Confederacy have prospered economically. The North has found bounty in mining, while the South still thrives in exploitation of plantation labor. In Southern California, for instance, the principle crops are oranges, grapes, tomatoes, and other citrus fruits. Since each nation has its own functional continental railway system, the two opposing sides compete not only in combat, but also for economic power."
"Most slaves are too afraid to revolt," added Wade. "On this world, Harriet Tubman was captured and publicly executed by hanging. Her apprehension struck fear in the hearts of Southern slaves, and made her a martyr in the eyes of Northerners."
"The economic boom is too great for the South to abandon slavery," Arturo elaborated, pursing his lips together. "This world is still caught up in the fervor and excitement of the Industrial Revolution, which took root in the late Nineteenth Century. Because of its wealth gained from exportation, Confederates are willing to spill blood and exploit human lives . . . all in the name of a few juicy oranges."
"Without slaves, they'd have to actually pay people to maintain their precious orange groves," sneered Wade, rolling her eyes. "And we can't have that, can we?"
"We'd better get to Remmy and the others . . . fast!" Quinn asserted, his face turning pale. "If they're still in Southern California, and Mallory's cover gets blown, Rembrandt, Diana, and Malcolm could be mistaken for runaway slaves!"
"As best as I can estimate, Mr. Mallory, they're probably somewhere near Montecito." Professor Arturo stuck his pudgy finger straight down upon a magnified map of Northern and Southern California.
From behind an adjacent bookshelf, Logan St. Clair was quietly crouched on the floor, eagerly eavesdropping on her enemies.* * *
"Ma'am," drawled a Southern accented sheriff, courteously tipping his straw hat toward Logan in acknowledgment. "What can I do for ya?"
Logan creaked up the decrepit wooden steps of the log cabin-style Montecito sheriff's office, picking some straws of hay out of her shoulder-length strawberry-brunette hair in mild annoyance.
"I'm here to report a fugitive slave," she replied, tapping her foot against the rickety floorboards beneath her. "His name's Rembrandt Brown. Escaped from a slave trade in Albuquerque." Logan paused for a moment, recalling Remmy's traveling companions. "Brown is travelin' with a woman slave and a colored teen boy . . . possibly fellow runaways from his plantation."
The sheriff twitched his nose in disgust. "Brown, ya say, eh? Where ya think he's headed?"
Logan sneered. "Up toward Santa Barbara way," she estimated, still feigning a Southern accent. "A group of ‘em Yankees is helpin' ‘em try to flee. Probably through them Underground Railroad traitors in Montecito."
"I'll send word to our boys in town right away," declared the sheriff, picking up the speaker of an old-fashioned radio. "Thank the lord for modern technology!"
Giving the sheriff a fake smile, Logan's eyes curiously darted around the room. Aside from the sheriff's radio and a copy of mobile lamps powered on exposed light bulbs, the office didn't seem to house any of the modern conveniences which she was accustomed to. Outside, Logan had seen no cars or trucks, just buggies pulled by horses.
"Brown best watch his step," the sheriff smirked, after completing the dispatch to his colleagues. "Or he'll end up like ole Harriet Tubman. Not that it'd be a bad thing." He twinkled a glint of malice in his eyes.
Logan did an about face and headed out the door.
"Your service is much appreciated, miss," he called after her.
Not looking over her shoulder as she walked away, Logan responded, "Just doin' my duty, sir. Makes me proud to be a Confederate!"* * *
Past dusk, through the dim, shadowy night, Alternate Quinn and Alternate Colin guided Rembrandt, Mallory, Diana, Malcolm, and Janine through the night toward their parents' settlement. The sliders had sneaked onto a citrus plantation shortly before nightfall, swiping a lantern and a horse-and-buggy from the plantation's barn. Led by the soft glow of the lantern, the five sliders steered the injured Alternate Mallory brothers to their homestead.
"Quinn! Colin!" came the frantic shrieks from Amanda Mallory's alternate, running out of the house at the sight of her boys hobbling from the carriage.
"Ma!" Alternate Quinn shouted back.
Alternate Amanda embraced her two sons simultaneously. It was an odd sight: a distraught mother with bobbing red curls and a frilly peach-colored hoopskirt, smothering her sons, each of whom wore either a blue or gray uniform of enemy troops, with a barrage of hugs and kisses.
"Who are your friends?" Alternate Amanda asked, when she'd gotten her relieved sentimentality out of her system. Her voice resembled a sophisticated, Northern accent.
"They ain't our friends!" snarled Alternate Quinn, glaring contemptuously at Rembrandt, Diana, and Malcolm. "They is runaways!"
"They are human beings!" shot back Alternate Colin, piously.
"Boys, don't be like that!" Alternate Amanda wanted at least some degree of peace in her home. "We'll invite your guests inside for something to eat and a warm place to sleep."
Alternate Colin smiled victoriously.
"Where's pa?" demanded Alternate Quinn, looking around inquisitively for his father.
"Out late at his town council meeting. Come along now, before he gets home." Alternate Amanda shooed the seven of them inside.
The group found themselves inside a homey kitchen, pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, the floors and tables scrubbed clean with a shiny, spotless glimmer. A large pot was boiling on top of a gas-lit, non-electric stove; a spicy, fragrant aroma wafted from it.
"What's cookin'?" Mallory asked, raising his eyebrow cutely.
Alternate Colin took in a satisfied whiff. "Mama's roast pork and steamed vegetables . . . her specialty!" Having recognized the scent, he smiled with adoration at his mother.
With a tight-lipped smile at her fawning son, Alternate Amanda hurried Diana, Malcolm, and Rembrandt toward a brick wall covered with bookshelves and family memorabilia. Lifting a panel hidden against the wall by a paperweight, she pulled a switch and the wall slowly slid open, revealing a hidden room.
"Get in!" Alternate Amanda swiftly ushered the three black sliders inside the room. "I'll bring you something to eat, I promise."
Remmy, Malcolm, and Diana did as they were told.
Alternate Colin didn't seem the least bit surprised, but Alternate Quinn's mouth was hanging wide open at the revelation of the secret room.
"Ma!" he reprimanded. "You is a conductor on this Underground Railroad, isn't you?! You traitor! Does pa know?!"
"No, he doesn't," she quietly replied to her son, as the movable partition closed. "Quinn, you know my views on slavery. You know I'm an abolitionist, just like your brother. It's one of the major issues your father and I disagree on." Alternate Amanda sighed. "Your father would have a cow if he knew I took in and housed slaves when he was out of town or out late at night. But all they want is their freedom."
"They don't deserve no freedom!" Alternate Quinn collapsed onto a cot. "They is men's property! They ain't like us!"
"They're every bit like you and I," protested Alternate Colin, frowning at his brother. He tiredly slunk into a cushy armchair. "The only difference is their skin color."
Alternate Quinn gritted his teeth in pain and resentment as his mother began to remove her son's shirt to dress his arm wound, which was more severe than Alternate Colin's shoulder wound. However, Mallory helped Alternate Colin unbutton and take off his shirt, so his mother could dress his shoulder wound right after she attended to Alternate Quinn. Alternate Colin's shoulder had been grazed and bloodied by his bullet wound, but the bullet had not embedded itself within any portion of his flesh. On the other hand, Alternate Quinn's arm had a bullet lodged within a fleshy layer of his skin.
"Thank God you're a nurse, ma," Alternate Quinn thankfully exhaled, as his mother went about removing the bullet. It hurt him like hell, but at least the bullet was now out of his arm. She began to bandage it with antibiotics from her cupboard.
Alternate Colin moaned softly as Janine placed some cool, wet rags over his raw shoulder abrasion. "How about some dinner now, mama?"
"Mama's boy," Alternate Quinn hissed under his breath.
"Bite your tongue, young man!" Alternate Amanda scolded Alternate Quinn. She directed to Mallory, "Do me a favor, okay hun? Serve us up some of those vittles from the stove, so we can fill our bellies." She was preoccupied with putting the finishing touches on her son's wounded arm.
Mallory lifted the lid of the pot on the stove. A cloud of scrumptious-smelling steam blasted from within the pot. "Hey Janine, get a whiff of this."
Janine joined Mallory, and the two of them began to slice the meat and spoon up roasted vegetables onto plates from Alternate Amanda's cupboard. The devoted mother turned to her older son, Colin, and started to dress his wound. Setting one plate of food down next to Alternate Quinn, Janine and Mallory headed toward the secret hiding place. Their arms filled with plates of home-cooked dinner, Mallory lifted the latch behind the paperweight as Alternate Amanda had, and the sliding door creaked open. He and Janine carried the edible morsels in to Malcolm, Diana, and Rembrandt.* * *
"I'm famished!" exclaimed Diana, gratefully lighting up as Mallory and Janine carried in the dinner plates.
Malcolm began rigorously gobbling his food down, shoving strips of pork into his mouth faster than he could chew.
"Aren't you gonna stop to swallow, Malcolm?" asked Janine, sardonically.
Malcolm shook his head. "I'm a growing boy," he said, not looking up from his plate. "I need my nourishment."
Rembrandt stared blankly at the dinner plates. He'd completely lost his appetite. "Man, I never thought I'd see a world where people could justify slavery."
"Let's just count our blessings and be glad we're not stuck here," Mallory reminded him. "We have a vortex to get us out of here. All of those slaves on the citrus plantations are stuck here for good."
"I'm just glad to know that some people on this world have grasped common sense," spoke Diana, chewing a cooked carrot. "Colin's double and his mother are both abolitionists."
"Let's hope they can get us out of this jam," Malcolm said. "I really don't want to live out the rest of my life on the Underground Railroad."
"Finish your dinner and get some sleep," Janine commanded to them. "We'll figure this out in the morning."
Mallory and Janine ducked back out of the concealed room.* * *
Diana, Remmy, and Malcolm slept well into the next morning and early-afternoon within their small enclosure. Concurrently, Janine and Mallory snoozed on a double bed which Alternate Amanda had prepared for them in a spare room. Having slept in, Mallory and Janine awoke to the sound of two voices bickering.
"I told ya not to take in strangers, woman!"
"They brought Quinn and Colin back from battle, Michael! It was the least I could do for them in return for aiding our wounded boys!"
"Our ‘boys' is men! They oughtta deal with pain n' bruises . . . that's what war is all about!"
Janine and Mallory poked their heads out of the bedroom doorway. Alternate Amanda was hovering in the kitchen, arguing with her husband - Michael Mallory's alternate.
"Just cuz I get in late, woman, don't give you the freedom to take in strays left and right!" Mallory stared in fascination and disgust at this version of Michael Mallory - a double of his own biological father whom he'd never known.
"Stuff it, Michael!"
"Don't backtalk me, Amanda! I is your husband! . . ." Alternate Michael stopped suddenly and swerved toward the bedroom doorway. He glared at the sight of Mallory and Janine. "So these is them strangers you took in?!" He turned back to his wife. "Just cuz I spend the night at Jethro's cuz I don't wanna make the overnight trip home through dark, don't think this ain't still MY house! . . ."
Alternate Amanda was shaking her head, her eyes closed. "You're a lost cause, Michael. You're impossible! Sometimes I wonder why I even married you."
In a swift, sharp movement, Alternate Michael had slapped Alternate Amanda squarely across her cheek. The poor woman winced, her face stinging from the slap.
"Hey!" Alternate Colin jumped up from his trundle bed. "Don't you dare lay another hand on her!" He bravely approached his father, standing up to Alternate Michael's intimidation.
"Don't you be lecturin' ME, boy!" growled Alternate Michael. "I is your father and you WILL respect me!"
"Why should I?! You don't even respect mama!"
Suddenly, Alternate Quinn blurted out, "Ma houses runaways, pa!"
Alternate Colin seethed at his brother in fury.
"WHAT?!" bellowed Alternate Michael. He glared again at his wife. "Is that true?!"
"I won't deny it," stated Alternate Amanda, in a strong, clipped voice.
"They is my slaves," supplied Mallory, speaking up and doing his best to feign a Southern accent. "I . . . uh . . . am auctioning ‘em off and needed a place to hide ‘em from bandits!"
"He is lyin'!" Alternate Quinn stuck his finger out at Mallory and Janine. "They is those coloreds' friends, tryin' to escape with ‘em up North! He is pretendin' to be ignorant!"
"No, he isn't pretending," quipped Janine.
Alternate Michael flared at Janine. "And who's this little China doll?" he demanded from Mallory. "Shouldn't she be workin' on the railroad with the rest of her kind?"
"No, my job is to kick bastards' asses," Janine countered. Squinting, she sized up Alternate Michael's pompous figure. "Looks like I struck oil with you, Jed."
"Don't talk to me that way, woman! . . ."
"Hey!" Mallory interjected. All of a sudden, he draped his arm around Janine's shoulders and gave her a loving squeeze. "She's my wife."
Janine rolled her eyes. "Unless you want to lose your arm, Mallory, you'll take it off of my shoulders right now."
Mallory receded. "Thanks for blowing our cover," he muttered.
"See! They is fakin' it!" accused Alternate Quinn, belligerently. He rushed over to the partition and lifted the secret latch. The sliding door creaked aside, revealing the three black sliders huddled asleep on the floor. "Coloreds!"
Rage boiled up in Alternate Michael's face, turning his facade a shade of deep crimson. He dashed over to the wall and grabbed his rifle, which was hanging from a hook. "All right, you runaways! Get the hell outta my house before I shoot you!"
His booming voice certainly woke them up. Rembrandt, Malcolm, and Diana timidly bugged out their eyes, like frightened deer trapped in blinding headlights.
"Michael, stop it!" Alternate Amanda ran toward her husband in an attempt to restrain or distract him. Without thinking, Alternate Michael abruptly shot his wife in the chest.
"Mama!" Alternate Colin shouted, as his mother toppled to the floor. He knelt down next to her as blood gushed from her abdomen. "You bastard!" He lunged at his father.
But Alternate Quinn tackled his brother and was rolling around on the floor with him, trying to beat up on him with his free fist.
Alternate Michael angled his rifle toward Rembrandt. "You shoulda stayed in Africa!"
In the next moment, however, Alternate Michael felt the cold muzzle of another musket penetrating against his back.
"Drop the damn rifle, our I'll blow your guts out, Happy," threatened Janine, her grasp on Alternate Quinn's rifle firm and steady.* * *
Mallory, Rembrandt, Diana, Malcolm, and Janine fled from the Mallory family's settlement - but not before they'd grabbed both Alternate Quinn's and Alternate Colin's rifles. Jumping into their "borrowed" horse-and-buggy, the sliders high-tailed it out of there, Mallory taking the horses' reins. As the rode away from the homestead, a window could be heard shattering. Looking back toward the Alternate Mallorys' cabin they saw Alternate Michael's bloody body hurtling through the window. Alternate Quinn's grief-stricken voice screamed out, "PA!!!" One could only conclude that Alternate Colin had managed to kill his own father.
Dusk was nimbly approaching. While the five of them had been sleeping in and then making their getaway from the Mallory homestead, the others had been finishing up their library research and retreating to the Chancellor Inn back in Santa Barbara. Janine pulled the timer out of her vest pocket.
"11 hours," she reported. "We slide out of here in the mid-morning."
"Doesn't give us a whole lot of time to catch up with Q-Ball, Farm Boy, Maggie, Wade, and the Professor," Rembrandt sighed.
"I'd really hate to have to slide off this world with only half of our group," Diana made a sour face, "but if we can't find them before the timer reaches zero, we may not have any other choice. At least we'd be able to save this world's coordinates and slide back here for however long it takes to reunite with them."
"This is one world I want to leave FAR behind!" insisted Malcolm.
"Uh, oh," muttered Mallory under his breath. "More trouble."
Two uniformed night patrollers were plodding toward the sliders' buggy on horseback, holding lanterns and pistols. Signaling for them to stop, Mallory heeded the officers' commands and choked up on the horses' reins.
"Yes, officers?" Mallory addressed them, with an innocent smile and exaggerated cuteness. The others had crouched down low inside of the buggy.
"We is on the lookout for runaway slaves," one of the patrolmen drawled. "One in particular: his name's Rembrandt Brown.
A shudder of fear poked down Remmy's spine like sharp icicles. He couldn't explain it, but somehow he felt that Logan had something to do with this.
"No runaways in here," shrugged Mallory. "No sir, just nothin' but empty space."
"Can we search your buggy?" It wasn't a question; it was an order disguised as a question.
Without waiting for a response from Mallory, one of the patrolmen dismounted his horse and climbed into the back of the buggy, glowing lantern in hand.
A gunshot rang out, and then another one. Rembrandt had shot and killed that busybody patrolman on foot with one of the rifles. Diana had aimed and fired the other rifle at the second patrolman still on horseback, just for insurance.
"We've got to get to Santa Barbara." Diana crinkled her nose as the putrid scent of humid blood filled the cool night air. She could hardly believe she'd just killed one of the patrolman, but she knew that it had needed to be done. "The others probably checked into a hotel. We'll be safe there, on the Union side of the border."
By dawn, they'd pretty much lost their way, having no clue as to where they were or how close they were to Santa Barbara.
"Too bad they don't sell tourist maps," Janine lamented.
"Hey, guys!" they heard a familiar voice call out.
"Is that Wade?" Malcolm thought he recognized the voice.
"Remmy!" Quinn's voice shouted out next.
"Mr. Brown!" Arturo's voice echoed after Quinn's.
Ahead of them on the road, another horse-and-buggy was traveling toward them from the opposite direction. The horses were being steered by none other than Maggie Beckett.
"Maggie!" Rembrandt yelled, poking his head out the front of the wagon next to Mallory.
The two buggies halted and both parties merged into one, amid a myriad of relieve hugs and slaps of affection.
Minutes later, all ten of them sat on a sandy beachfront which was located nearby, right off the dusty road. Ocean waves lapped against the sandy floor of the beach, whooshing softly along with the chirps of seagulls.
"How did you find us so quickly?" asked Mallory.
"We were coming to look for you," Colin answered.
Professor Arturo nodded. "We obtained a map to the Mallory homestead from the city hall in Santa Barbara. Speaking of which," he looked around, "where are young Quinn and Colin's alternates?"
"We took all of their weapons away from them before we left," replied Malcolm. "They're probably still back at the homestead, duking it out."
Wade pointed further down the beach. "Not quite."
Irate brigades of Union and Confederate troops were charging at each other from opposite directions. Leading the charge on the Union side was Alternate Colin, his shoulder bandaged; leading the Confederate offense was Alternate Quinn, his arm in a sling. As the cannons began to roar and shots were fired, the Alternate Mallory brothers rolled around in the sand, tackling each other, each trying to get his gun quickly enough.
Maggie gestured at a sign which identified the beach they were on. "What do you bet this will be known as ‘the Battle of Carpinteria Beach'?"
"I don't care what they call it. As long as we arrive on the next world in one piece!" Janine held up the timer for everyone to see. "There's not much time left. Let's slide out before they spot us and get even more trigger-happy."
Activating the vortex, Janine dove into the wormhole; Wade and Mallory followed her lead. Diana, Rembrandt, Malcolm, and Arturo all entered the portal as well.
"I'm glad we don't have the same relationship as THEM, bro," Quinn said to Colin, gesturing toward their alternates in the far-off distance.
Both Quinn and Colin then gaped in horror as their doubles proceeded to simultaneously shoot each other fatally in their chests.
"Tell me about it," agreed Colin.
Quinn and Colin ascended into the wormhole together. After the gateway had closed up, Logan stepped out from behind a palm tree. She'd arrived there only seconds earlier - it had taken her awhile to properly track them down after following the tracks left imprinted by their buggy wheels.
Seething in acidic disappointment, Logan looked down at her timer.
5 days remained until her next sliding window would open.* * *
Colin and Quinn sat inside their canvas tent, which shaded them from the sunniness and humidity of the tropical jungle around them. The squawks and grunts of various simians resonated from all around them.
"This is literally The Planet of the Apes," Quinn scoffed, sticking out his tongue.
"Yeah, but only 16 hours left to sweat," Colin pointed out, the blinking timer on the ground by his feet.
Mallory suddenly popped his head inside the tent. "I think this gorilla is trying to mate with me."
Quinn and Colin burst out laughing. Mallory crawled inside the tent with them, to elude his female simian pursuer.
Not long after that, Arturo stood in the opening of their tent, a baby orangutan clinging onto him, its long, fuzzy arms hanging around the Professor's neck.
"Mr. Mallory," the Professor began, addressing Quinn.
"Yes?!" Quinn, Colin, and Mallory all answered Arturo in unison.
Professor Arturo bristled. "How do I get this little imp to stop treating me like its daddy?!"
"You could threaten to breastfeed him," suggested Mallory.
Everyone else laughed.
"I don't know if you can, Professor," snickered Quinn, peeling a banana and popping it into his mouth. "You look so much like him . . ."
Arturo growled again.
Everyone else laughed again.
And the baby orangutan squealed giddily, clapping its hand above its head.
Back to Episode Guide
Back to the Otherworlds