|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 the second episode 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, and read my previous story "Lady of the Lake" before reading "The Garden."* * *
Maggie Beckett led the way as she and her three exhausted companions hiked across the humid, grassy savanna. Silhouettes of serene bonsai trees dotted the horizon ahead of them. In the distance, a herd of giraffes craned their elongated necks as they fed from a cluster of baobab trees. The morning sun was just beginning to rise.
"You know, if I didn't know any better I would swear we were actually in Africa," claimed Maggie, "instead of in southern California."
Diana Davis took a swig of water from her canteen. "After almost being trampled by that posse of elephants last night, I didn't get a wink of sleep." The physicist yawned strenuously, as if to prove her point. "This might as well be Africa, Maggie."
"I don't know about that, Diana . . . the fried zebra seemed a little stale to me at yesterday's roast," grinned Mallory, licking his lips.
"You are disgusting!" Maggie exclaimed, giving Mallory a playful whack in his ribs.
"I've seen a lot of things in my days of sliding," Rembrandt Brown remarked to the group, "but who would have guessed on this world that Zimbabwe would go on to become such a major world power?! According to the witch doctor I spoke with back at the village, the country of Zimbabwe has conquered most of North America!"
"Considering the terrain of this world," Diana pointed out, "I'm not surprised that an African nation was able to occupy a similar continent. The global climate on this Earth is so much like that of equatorial Africa . . . it's much different than what we're routinely accustomed to seeing."
"Well, it looks like we're about to bid this place farewell." Mallory glanced at the timer and made a face of mock sadness. "Let's say goodbye to our African animal friends before we leave."
As if on cue, a gigantic ostrich scurried past the sliders, almost knocking Maggie off her feet.
"Yikes! Open the damn vortex, Mallory!" snapped Maggie, recovering from her near-fall.
Seven seconds later, Mallory was able to click the timer button, activating the vortex. The sliders jumped upward, allowing the wormhole to suck them in.
"Thanks for the safari!" Rembrandt called out to the savanna as final words, before falling into the glimmering pink vortex.* * *
Clunk! Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!
Each of the four sliders landed with a thud in the center of what seemed to be a fertile garden. Everywhere they looked, the weary travelers were surrounded by sprawling groves of every type of flower, fruit, or vegetable imaginable.
"I guess we've slid right into the Garden of Eden!" said Rembrandt, inhaling the fragrant aromas which wafted throughout the gardens.
"We'd better enjoy it while we can," Mallory proposed. He held up the timer. "We've only got seven hours and forty-six minutes on this world."
The sliders began blazing a trail through the eclectic maze of vegetation and flora.
"Guys, I was thinking," Diana brought up, "we may not be at such a loss with this new timer of ours after all."
"How's that?" Remmy asked, brushing aside some hanging leaves of a willow tree which drooped in front of him.
Diana showed them a familiar microdisc which she'd removed from her pocket. "I still have the coordinates Dr. Geiger gave me. I just realized this last night when I was changing clothes."
Rembrandt, Maggie, and Mallory stopped in their tracks. Their faces had all lit up, especially Remmy's and Mallory's.
"All right, Diana!" whooped Maggie, flinging her arm around Diana's shoulder and giving her friend an amiable squeeze.
"Way to go, Di!" Mallory echoed Maggie's sentiments, pumping his fist in the air.
"Praise Jesus, we can finally go home after all!" Rembrandt lifted his head up toward the heavens.
Diana held up her finger. "Not so fast, guys. We can't celebrate yet. I downloaded the supposed coordinates of Remmy's homeworld into the Kromagg sliding machine on Seer World, remember? And did they transport you home, Remmy?"
Rembrandt paused. "I don't know," he spoke hesitantly. "I wasn't there long enough to determine whether it was my world or not. There were ‘Maggs there . . . but there are still most likely ‘Maggs on Earth Prime. So it could have been Earth Prime . . . but maybe it wasn't?"
"I thought you ran into an alternate of Quinn on that Earth who gave you his timer?" Maggie pressed.
"Yeah . . . but he wasn't ‘our' Quinn. He was probably a slider from another parallel universe who'd accidentally slid into Kromagg territory."
"So in other words," Mallory assessed, "we don't know if Geiger gave us bogus coordinates or not?"
"Basically that's the abridged version of it," agreed Diana. "We have to look at this from all angles. Even if Dr. Geiger did give us the correct coordinates to our homeworlds, that Kromagg sliding machine we used was very unstable. For all we know, it could have jumbled or misconfigured the coordinates I'd entered when we tried to send Remmy to Earth Prime. He may have been sent to an alternate Kromagg-occupied Earth other than his homeworld."
"Or they could have been the wrong coordinates all along," pouted Maggie.
"Or it could have been Earth Prime but I wasn't able to confirm it because I had to slide out of there to get away from the ‘Maggs!" scowled Rembrandt.
"So what are we supposed to do?" Mallory asked.
"There is a way we can test our doubts," Diana suggested. "For one of our next slides, I'll download the coordinates of me and Mallory's homeworld from Geiger's microdisc into our new timer. We'll see where that takes us."
"Sounds like a plan," affirmed Maggie as they began walking again.
"I'm hungry," Mallory suddenly whined. He reached up and yanked at an apple that was dangling from a nearby apple tree.
"Ouch!" came a squeaky voice from the tree.
Mallory did a double take. "Who's there?" he asked suspiciously.
The apple tree shook irritably. "That hurt!" complained a deep rumble.
"Okay, this is getting a little spooky," Rembrandt quivered.
"Relax, Remmy. It's probably someone just playing a trick on us," Maggie guessed. She moved forward. "All right you fool, come on out wherever you are!"
Unintentionally, and not really caring, Maggie had stepped on a string of vines protruding from an adjacent pumpkin patch.
"Watch where you step!" crackled a high, angry voice.
"Excuse me?!" Maggie glanced around in confusion.
"Down here!" One of the pumpkins seemed to be talking to Maggie!
Kneeling down on her knees, Maggie crouched next to the pumpkin patch. "You're not actually talking to me . . . are you?"
"That I am," replied the pumpkin, shaking a little.
"Whoa . . . unreal!" gasped Rembrandt.
Diana blinked. "How can this be?"
"This has to be some kind of joke!" Maggie skeptically declared.
"No joke," insisted a tall stalk of corn right behind Rembrandt. "We are just as real as you are."
"We?" Mallory repeated, not following.
"This entire garden is alive!" called out a patch of orange marigolds, giggling in high-pitched unison.
"That's it - - we're getting the hell outta here!" howled Rembrandt.
All of a sudden, Mallory collapsed to the bare ground, holding his chest and gasping for breath.
"Mallory?!" shouted Diana.
The young man unexpectedly began to morph, his facial features temporarily resembling the original Quinn Mallory whom Remmy and Maggie had slid with for so long.
"It's Quinn!" cried out Maggie.
Mallory then morphed back to his regular image, panting and perspiring. Sweat trickled down Mallory's neck as he squinted his eyes shut. Releasing another sharp cry of anguish, Mallory's exterior once again began transforming to resemble that of the original Quinn Mallory whom he'd merged with.
"Q-Ball's still inside of him!" Rembrandt just knew it had to be true.
"Hey you!" Diana called over to someone she'd just noticed, a young Hispanic man in overalls who was watering some nearby tulips. "We need help! Is there a hospital anywhere around here? Our friend is having a seizure!"
The gardener took in the sight of Mallory alternating between his own facade and that of the Quinn Mallory trapped inside of him. "I will take you to Dr. Alvarez. She may know what to do."
"Let's hurry!" emphasized Rembrandt. He and Maggie each supported a shoulder of Mallory, who still yelped out in excruciation.
"Dr. Alvarez has her lab not far from here," the gardener informed them. "I will take you there." He began to lead them away, heading toward a spherical glass building in the distance.
As the sliders carried Mallory while following the gardener, an extensive tree branch reached out and intrusively grasped onto Diana's shoulder. As a reflex, Diana knocked the branch away, accidentally breaking off a limb of the tree.
"ARGGH!!" squeaked the maple tree, reeling from the pain of its broken branch.
"Check yourself," Diana spoke to the tree in an annoyed, warning tone. She continued on her way, following the others.* * *
"I'm Enrique," the young man introduced himself, leading the sliders toward a group of large spheres designed to be indoor botanical gardens. The exteriors of the spherical buildings shined with a glossy, glass-like texture, reflecting sunlight from the sky.
Enrique held the door open while Maggie, Rembrandt, and Diana towed a suffering Mallory into one of the botanical gardens. Once inside, the group viewed a tremendous collection of flora and fauna housed before them. Plants of all shapes, sizes, and colors covered virtually the entire room. Laboratory equipment, including computers, examination tables, bottled chemicals, beakers, vials, and test tubes were situated along the walls.
"Enrique, please introduce me to your friends," spoke a friendly, soft accented voice. A short Latina woman with delicate features, dressed in a plain white lab coat, emerged from behind a grove of banana trees.
"Our friend needs help, doctor," Rembrandt abruptly stated, ignoring the woman's request for introductions.
Concerned, her doctor's instincts taking over, the woman lent her support to Mallory, guiding him over to one of her examining areas. "My name is Dr. Consuela Alvarez," she said to Mallory. "Can you tell me what's wrong?"
Mallory just groaned loudly, once again morphing into the image of the original Quinn whom he'd melded with.
"Dear God!" exclaimed Dr. Alvarez, her eyes bulging wide open in shock. "Enrique, please bring me some of Lucy's grapes."
Enrique quickly rushed over to a grapevine that was growing in the laboratory only a few feet away from them. He momentarily whispered in a low voice, as though he was talking to the plant. Then, Enrique broke off a cluster of grapes and delivered them back to Dr. Alvarez.
"Eat this," Alvarez instructed to Mallory, feeding him a few of the grapes with her fingers. "They will calm down your nervous system."
Mallory did as he was told, and sure enough, within a couple of minutes and several grapes later his seizures died down and he sustained his own facade.
"What's in the fruit?" Maggie asked, awestruck in amazement at Mallory's miraculous recovery.
"It's living fruit," Alvarez answered. "Aren't you from around here?"
"We're . . . from . . . Canada," stuttered Mallory, still a bit weak.
"Sssh. Don't try to speak. Rest." Dr. Alvarez gently placed one of her fingers against Mallory's lips. He closed his eyes.
"Pardon me," Diana broke in, "but what do you mean by ‘living fruit'?"
Alvarez stood up. "It's all part of the work I do here. I bio-engineer fruits, vegetables, and other plant life to provide medicine and healing substances which we send on to be commercially marketed."
Remmy scratched his head. "You . . . ‘bio-engineer' supermarket produce?"
Dr. Alvarez laughed. "Simply put, I literally bring food to life."
"Lucy is very pleased she could provide your friend with relief from his pain," added Enrique.
"Who is Lucy?" Maggie asked, more confused than ever.
Enrique cheerfully gestured to the grapevine which he'd plucked the stem of grapes from.
"You actually named a plant?" exclaimed Rembrandt.
"Enrique maintains and cares for a large majority of my organic life," Dr. Alvarez explained. "Both in here and outside in the surrounding gardens."
"Wait, I still don't understand," Diana squinted, baffled. "I'm a scientist, and I'm interested in hearing how you do this."
Alvarez seemed receptive to Diana's inquiry. "A while back we had a significantly huge conflict between American vegetarians and non-vegetarians," she narrated the account to them. "Many herbivores and vegans began resorting to violent and extreme measures to express their perspective that it is wrong to kill animals for human food. In retaliation, omnivores recruited scientists, such as myself, to prove their point that plants are living things as well. This led to the idea of experimentation on plants, to send a message to vegetarians: ‘What if plants could talk and have feelings? What would they have to say about being the source of food for so many other creatures in the food chain'? Through genetic engineering, this," Alvarez gestured at the vast spread of vegetation, "was our result."
"Talking plants?!" Maggie blinked again, still in disbelief.
"We call it the ‘Macrobiotic Revolution.' Giving a verbal voice to plant life," Alvarez said with a wink.
"I still don't understand how the plants reached a point where they could . . . verbally communicate with people," Diana admitted.
Dr. Alvarez grinned at Diana. "That was the fun part. By crossing plant DNA with the DNA of mammals - - animals and humans - - we created a whole new breed of organic hybrids. We discovered so much in these new plants - - increased levels of protein, iron, potassium, calcium, and other elements . . . resulting in possible cures for countless diseases and human disorders. We've only begun to scratch the surface of what can be found in our new creations."
"Is this even genetically possible?" Diana was astounded beyond words.
Enrique cocked his head coyly. "Well . . . Dr. Alvarez did it."
"Of course, an application of different experimental growth hormones and enzymes were needed," continued Alvarez. "But eventually, we were able to produce a more nutritious order of plant life with potentially infinite possibilities."
"So . . . how did the plants learn how to talk?" Rembrandt inquired.
"Several speech pathologists have worked exclusively with us, to see if our test subjects could be taught a verbal language. As you can see," Alvarez motioned to the plants in the room, "in many cases, it has been successful."
In the background, many of the fruits, vegetables, and flowers were chattering away with each other, engrossed in their own conversations.
"Children, can you keep it down a bit?" Enrique called to them. "The doctor is trying to speak with our visitors."
The vegetation resounded in compliance and lowered their voices a few decibels.
"This is unbelievable!" proclaimed Diana.
"Hold on," Mallory spoke up. He had been sitting there the entire time in silence, absorbing what Alvarez was telling them. "Those grapes I ate . . . they were . . . alive?"
"Don't worry," Dr. Alvarez assured him. "They were a gift from Lucy. She gave you part of herself in order to heal you."
Mallory looked disgusted. "Doesn't this border on cannibalism?"
"No more so than eating a cooked steak or fried fish," Alvarez grinned again.
Enrique smiled. "Would you folks like a tour of our gardens?"
"Actually," Diana turned her gaze on Dr. Alvarez, "what would really be helpful is if you had some x-ray equipment."
"I certainly do," confirmed Dr. Alvarez. "What do you need it for?"
"I'd like to take some x-rays of Mallory, perhaps see if we can determine the root of his seizures."
"Certainly," offered Alvarez. "I have some very reliable x-ray equipment that I use to analyze the biological and atomic makeup of our living plant life."
Diana and Alvarez immediately got to work. They used some handheld scanning devices belonging to Alvarez which consistently absorbed Mallory's skeletal data. Consuela Alvarez performed a quick "cat scan" on Mallory, using her hands to sweep the handheld scanner over his body and then feed that information into her ultra sound machine.
"It will take a few minutes to process the results," the doctor told them.
"I can show you around," Enrique invited them.
"Now that you mention it, I could use some fresh air," Mallory confessed.
Remmy sighed. "Okay . . . but we're coming with."
"Yeah Mallory, one awkward gasp for air and we're bringing you right back to Dr. Alvarez," insisted Maggie.
"That would be wise," Alvarez agreed. "If you even feel the slightest bit dizzy, Mallory, you speak up to your friends and come back here immediately."
"Don't sweat it, I feel great!" Mallory enthusiastically asserted.
"I'll stay behind with Dr. Alvarez so we can examine the results as soon as they're complete," Diana told her friends.
"Okay then!" Enrique clapped his hands together. "I can't wait to show you the rest of my babies!" He grabbed his pair of gigantic hedgeclippers.
Mallory eagerly followed Enrique out the exit, with Maggie and Rembrandt reluctantly tailing behind them.* * *
"Helloooooo!!!" chimed a giant sunflower, as Maggie, Rembrandt, Mallory, and Enrique passed by it.
"Whoa!" Maggie gawked at the noticeably enlarged sunflower. "Is that some kind of . . . mutant flower?"
"Some of the plants grow at faster rates than others," Enrique explained to them. "And we've found that some even grow and mature beyond their expected normal size."
"Wow, this clove of broccoli is almost as tall as me," noticed Rembrandt, comparing his own height to a giant head of fertile green broccoli that stood in front of him.
The head of broccoli shook a little. "Pleased to meet you too," it rumbled at Rembrandt in a deep voice.
"I guess you'd never go hungry in this garden, eh?" snickered Mallory.
Enrique laughed. "No, one wouldn't. This has given us an amazing outlet for providing food to the local, national, and international populations. Other countries are now obtaining their own resources to start similar projects."
"Sounds resourceful," commented Maggie. As she strolled forward not looking ahead of her, Maggie stumbled right into a giant orange carrot with a sizable, leafy stem. Maggie shrieked as she came face-to-face with the colossal carrot atrocity.
"Watch it!" barked the carrot, irately, at Maggie.
Rembrandt Brown burst out laughing. "Girl, you should have seen the look on your face!" he hooted, slapping Maggie on the shoulder.
Maggie bristled. "You scared me half to death, you big doofus!" she snapped at the carrot, giving it an angry punch in its "stomach."
The carrot heaved a painful moan.
"You know what he reminds me of?" remarked Remmy, pointing at the carrot while still giddy with laughter. "The giant talking carrot named Tybo on that one episode of Lost in Space."
"Oh, I used to love watching old episodes of that show," Mallory recalled, "although Florence Henderson was kinda annoying as Maureen Robinson."
"Hmmm, on my homeworld Maureen was played by June Lockhart," said Rembrandt, identifying the slight difference between his and Mallory's alternate dimensions.
"I wonder how Diana and Dr. Alvarez are coming along back at the lab?" Maggie pondered.* * *
"The results should be finished processing momentarily," Alvarez reported to Diana. The Latina doctor had uploaded the data from her handheld scanning device onto microfilm, and then transferred the microfilm onto a computer disk. As Diana watched in amazement, Dr. Alvarez showed Diana the computer program she'd personally designed which allowed cat scan results to be displayed and automatically analyzed by the computer's medical database. Meanwhile, the ultra sound machine was already beginning to formulate a graphic of Mallory's internal system.
"Dr. Alvarez . . ."
"Please, call me Consuela."
Diana smiled. "Consuela, I was wondering . . . why are there so few people around here? The only people we've met so far are you and Enrique."
"That's the beauty of this facility," raved Consuela Alvarez. "I get to work in frequent seclusion and peace. Enrique keeps me company, and he's learned to tend to the various orders of vegetation around here, but I really hate large crowds when I'm trying to get work done."
"So I guess my friends and I were kind of an annoyance?"
"Not at all. I still enjoy meeting new people every once in awhile. So what part of Canada are you and your friends from?"
"Uh . . . Vancouver," Diana lied through her teeth, although she hated deceiving someone as friendly and hospitable as Dr. Alvarez. "But we like to travel. This is our first time in California, though."
"No wonder you were confused when I introduced you to my greenhouse," remarked Alvarez. "California is the top producer of living vegetation in America."
"Can I ask you something about your . . . living vegetation?" Diana hurried to change the subject.
"You mentioned earlier that this plant life was crossed with mammal DNA?"
"Yes. It took many different trials, but we were finally able to do it."
"So how has this gone over with animal rights groups and activists?" Diana ventured. "Since technically, your fruits and vegetables are now part-animal."
"Oh, various radical sects have made noises over it." Alvarez didn't seem too sympathetic. "But Diana, in the name of human science this has been the most progressive road for our planet. More and more world leaders are recognizing that."
"But doesn't it challenge your ethics as a scientist somewhat? I mean, you're genetically engineering living organisms for human profit."
"The profit isn't just monetary, Diana. It's a moral profit too." Dr. Alvarez turned toward her indoor garden of fertile bounty, and waved her hand panning the spectrum of the room. "I've always prided myself with attempting to alleviate the plague of world hunger and starvation among the poor. This has been my life's work. Whether it's at the expense of animals or plants or a mixture of both, spreading prosperity throughout our global society is our moral obligation." Alvarez sighed. "I don't mean to sound preachy. It's just that I've seen and experienced human oppression up close, and I know that we as a species can do better than that. I realize that we are exploiting lesser beings. But other species do it. Animals eat other animals. Mammals eat plants. Plants absorb nutrients from the earth. It's all part of the circle of life."
Diana digested what the doctor was saying. "I suppose when you look at it that way . . ."
"I'm just following my conscience. That's all I can do."
Dr. Davis once again felt compelled to alter their topic of conversation. "So what impact has this had on American life in general?"
"A tremendously profound one," answered Dr. Alvarez, obviously priding herself in her work. "By isolating amino acids and injecting them into the plants, we've managed to spawn organic hybrids containing all sorts of basic nutrients . . . glucose, lactose, fatty acids, carbohydrates, the list goes on."
"So hypothetically," Diana proposed, "a person could obtain adequate nutrition of all the basic food groups simply by consuming your engineered vegetation?"
"Absolutely. Much of what we harvest here is processed and sold in supermarkets all across the United States. Our engineered flowers have been the source of many new vaccines and health remedies. And by communicating with these organisms through verbal language, we've been able to learn so much more about the actual species themselves."
"Pretty cool, huh?" winked Alvarez, grinning from ear to ear.
A sounding device on the computer beeped off, indicating that Mallory's x-ray results were complete.
"Let's have a look, shall we?" Alvarez led Diana over to the ultra sound machine and called up the image of Mallory's internal organs.
"Oh my lord!" Diana gasped.
"What is it?" Alvarez could see that the x-ray looked strange, oddly blurred in some places, the texture replicated in other spots. She had never seen anything like this in her life.
Diana directed Dr. Alvarez over to the computer, where a more detailed image of Mallory's x-ray was moving in graphic animation. "He appears to contain two slightly different quantum signatures within his body!" Diana explained, pretending to be shocked. This, of course, was no surprise to her.
"Oh my!" Alvarez was baffled.
"But that's not all," Diana continued. She pointed to the animated x-ray, which was moving in a very slow, spiral formation. "Mallory's two energy signatures are gradually unraveling!"* * *
Mallory released a piercing yell.
"Oh no," Remmy lamented. "The boy is acting up again."
Sure enough, Mallory launched into his involuntary morphing, alternately bearing the original Quinn Mallory's face, and then his own.
"We must bring him back to Dr. Alvarez," urged Enrique.
Suddenly, some thorny vines of a rosebush behind Maggie reached out and clutched onto Captain Beckett. Maggie found herself entangled in the monstrous rosebush.
"Get me out of this!" Maggie struggled against the hefty grip of the thorns, stems, and vines that held onto her.
Out of nowhere, an adjacent Venus flytrap stretched out its neck toward Maggie and opened its giant petals, revealing an incredibly large mouth.
Acting nimbly, Enrique grabbed his oversized hedgeclippers and clamped them down on the Venus flytrap, slicing off its stem-like neck.
"Let her go!" Enrique commanded to the roses.
Obediently, the rosebush released Maggie. "Oh, that was fun!" Maggie sarcastically quipped, picking thorns out of her arms.
"Sorry, sometimes they act up," apologized Enrique. "Now let's get your friend back to the greenhouse."
Rembrandt lent a supplementary shoulder to Mallory. Enrique took Mallory's other side, and they dragged him hastily toward the botanical greenhouse.* * *
As soon as they hauled Mallory through the greenhouse entrance, Alvarez spotted the morphing, yelping young man and hurried over to Lucy. Plucking some grapes from their vine, Alvarez rushed over to Mallory and fed him. Quickly, Mallory's seizures died down.
"Thank you," Mallory whispered, gratefully but weakly.
Dr. Alvarez looked over at Rembrandt and Maggie. "Diana told me about sliding," she said.
Maggie glared at the physicist. "Diana! . . ."
"I had to, Maggie!" insisted Diana. "Mallory's quantum signature is unraveling with Quinn's. I had to explain our situation to Consuela."
"Wait . . . so there's still a way to separate Mallory and Q-Ball?!" A glint of restrained hope shined in Rembrandt's brown eyes.
"Theoretically . . . yes," Diana confirmed.
"I thought Dr. Geiger said their signatures were permanently bonded together?" Maggie recollected.
Diana shrugged. "Dr. Geiger didn't know everything. His equipment wasn't nearly as advanced as Consuela's is."
"So that means there's still a chance to separate me from Quinn?" Mallory stared at Diana's eyes with vivid hope.
"Possibly. But I don't have the proper equipment with which to separate you two," responded Dr. Alvarez. "Not even my technology is that advanced."
"Great! So what can we do?!" Maggie frowned and stomped her foot.
"After Diana pinpointed what was wrong, I prepared a genetic cocktail for you, Mallory," spoke Dr. Alvarez. She held up a syringe filled with some colorful liquid. "It's a vaccine derived from several of our living lilacs. We've used it on our world to treat chronic seizures, and it's had a 99% success rate."
Mallory took no time in extending out his arm for the doctor. "Lemme have it!"
As Alvarez injected Mallory with the syringe of fluid, she said, "This should be effective. I can't guarantee that it will contain your seizures permanently though."
"We have your homeworld's coordinates," Rembrandt told her. "We can always come back again for more, if Mallory's seizures return."
"Remmy, I also think it's a good idea if Consuela takes a blood sample from you," Diana added. "We need to see what effect the anti-Kromagg virus you injected yourself with has had on you, if any."
"Hey, I'd forgotten about that!" Maggie realized.
"Well ever since we left Seer World, I haven't felt any complications," Rembrandt said. "But you're right, we need to know if I'm still carrying the virus."
Consuela Alvarez prepared a clean syringe for Remmy. In the meantime, Enrique stared with fascination at the sliders. "So tell us more about this . . . ‘sliding'?"
"Yes, Diana tried explaining it to me, but I've never been savvy in physics," admitted Alvarez, as she prepared to extract a blood sample from Remmy. "Biology and botany are my forte."
"Well, basically we slide through parallel universes with this little gizmo," Mallory removed the timer from his jacket pocket. "As you can see, we've only got under half an hour left on this world."
"By activating the timer when it hits zero," explained Diana, "we create a vortex which opens a hole in the space-time continuum."
"Then we jump in and pray for a soft landing." Rembrandt winced as Alvarez used the syringe to extract his blood.
"And it take you to other planets?" asked Dr. Alvarez in wonderment.
"No, alternate versions of Earth," supplied Maggie. "Imagine if one tiny part of your planet's history had been altered, you could be living a whole other existence. We travel to many of those existences."
"Why do you do this?" Enrique was confused.
"It's a long saga," sighed Rembrandt. "We're basically trying to find our way back to our homeworlds."
"My homeworld was destroyed," Maggie put in. "But now that I have a chance to get Quinn back . . ." The ex-fighter pilot had a faraway look in her eyes.
Rembrandt's blood took minutes for Alvarez to analyze. When she finished, the doctor reported the outcome. "It seems whatever you injected yourself with has assimilated itself into your bloodstream, Rembrandt."
That was not what he'd expected to hear. "Are you sure? Is it still potent?"
"I have no way of knowing that," Alvarez sympathetically resigned. "I'm unfamiliar with the composition of the substance which you've injected into your bloodstream. But as far as I can tell, it's causing no damage to your immune system."
"I guess we'll have to wait until we slide onto another Kromagg world," Maggie presumed. "We'll try out the virus then."
"How?! By feeding them one of my eyeballs?!" exclaimed Remmy.
"We'll find a way," Diana assured him. "We always do."
"It's almost time to go," Mallory reminded them.
Consuela and Enrique escorted the sliders outside.
"I've only known you for a few hours, but I'll miss you," sighed Dr. Alvarez.
"Good luck on your journey," Enrique wished them.
"We've got your world's coordinates stored in our timer's memory chip," Diana reminded them. "We'll try to come back."
"Especially if I begin to feel lousy again," contributed Mallory. "I'll look forward to some more of Lucy's grapes."
They all laughed as the final seconds passed by. Mallory opened the vortex, while Enrique and Alvarez watched in awe as the sliders departed through the wormhole.* * *
In a cheery cathedral lined on its walls with brightly colored stained glass windows, a bald, robust preacher spoke to his congregation. The congregation sat attentively, listening to their clergyman with loyalty and respect.
Spontaneously, the sliders' pink vortex opened right in front of the church altar. The preacher stopped his sermon to watch as the four sliders fell out of their wormhole before the very eyes of his congregation.
Standing up, the quartet could see that most members of the congregation were now on their knees, bowing to the interdimensional travelers in worship.
"Oh lord," groaned Remmy, sighing and rolling his eyes.
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