|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. The Farscape television series' characters and storylines are property of Jim Henson Productions 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.* * *
"Hurry up or you'll miss the slide!" Diana Davis called to her friends. The physicist wore a sombrero-like sunhat that shaded her face from the solar light of that extremely sunny day.
Mallory hurried over to where Diana stood on the sidewalk. "Remmy and Maggie are coming. Wait until you see . . ." He muffled his laughter and adjusted atop his head the fedora he'd just bought.
"Just wait until you see it for yourself."
Rembrandt then came bounding out of the boutique they'd just finished shopping at, wearing a bright green beret.
"So Remmy bought a stupid hat?" Diana rolled her eyes. "Big deal."
"Hey!" protested Rembrandt. "I think it makes me look sophisticated."
"Wait until you see Maggie," snickered Mallory.
Maggie emerged from the glass doors, wearing no hat - - but her hair was dyed a very bright and noticeable shade of blonde.
Mallory cracked up in amused giggles.
"Quit laughing, Mallory!" snapped Maggie, irritated.
"Maggie, what did you do to your hair?" gasped Diana, reaching out to touch Maggie's long now-blonde tresses.
"I went blonde," Maggie said, spreading out her arms. "What do you think?"
Diana was in shock. "I think . . . I think . . ."
"I think she should get her money back!" piped up Mallory, who burst out laughing again.
Maggie gave Mallory an angry swat with her hand.
Rembrandt was trying his best to hold in his laughter. "I can't believe you actually went blonde!"
"Hey, I've lived the past two years of my life as a brunette . . . I decided it was time to experiment."
"Back to the lab, Maggie," teased Mallory, who was exploding with laughter and about to bust a gut.
"So what was this, like a last-minute dye job?" Diana inquired with a straight face.
"You don't like it, Diana?"
"Oh, it's you, Maggie. It's definitely you." Diana paused. "You just look like you've drenched your head in a bucket of yellow paint." Dr. Davis finally released her laughter just as she opened the vortex at the end of the timer's countdown.
The pink portal enlarged itself and Mallory, Diana, and Rembrandt quickly jumped in to escape Maggie's wrath.
"Come back here, you cowards!" Maggie shouted, leaping into the vortex after them.* * *
"Oooomph!!" Mallory landed with a thud on the pavement and rolled across the charred ground. Diana fell down through the vortex next, collapsing beside Mallory.
"Whoa!!" yelled out Rembrandt, descending from the portal. Remmy ended up facedown on the pavement.
Maggie was the last one to emerge from their wormhole. She would have landed smack on top of Rembrandt had the Cryin' Man not shuffled out of the way before she hit him. The vortex closed.
Rembrandt took in their surroundings. "I sure hope this isn't another Kromagg warzone," he said. The buildings around them looked like rundown slums. Fires burned in certain spots, and sirens could be heard echoing in the distance.
"We've only got thirty-one hours here," Diana read from the timer. "Not that I'd want to stay any longer, from the looks of this place."
"I don't see any manta ships," observed Mallory, still remembering his and Diana's own homeworld which had been invaded by the Kromaggs not too long ago. "So that's a good sign."
A group of young teenagers wearing grungy clothes ran past the quartet.
"This Earth seems to be inhabited by humans," Maggie determined, spotting some more local youth lurking nearby. "Don't these kids have SATs to take or something?"
A gunshot rang out.
"I guess that means no," dead-panned Rembrandt.
"What was that?" gasped Mallory.
"Gee Mallory, I think it was the voice of God!" Diana sarcastically quipped.
"I don't think I want to stick around to find out," Rembrandt shouted, leading the rest of them over to some large, empty gasoline bins which they quickly hid behind.
Two young adolescent males ran out into the spot where the sliders had just been at. They were followed by two uniformed police officers. The police had their guns aimed at the teenage guys, and vice versa.
"Show us your ID/Draft Cards!" one of the officers ordered.
"No one has to get hurt," the other officer added, a little more calmly than his partner. "Just let us scan your ID/Draft Cards, and you'll be free to go."
"Scan this!" responded one of the teenagers. He and his friend promptly fired their guns, killing the officers instantly.
"Witty comeback, at least," commented Maggie, recalling that very same line she'd used at Data Universal.
"This is a freakin' suicide camp!" Rembrandt exclaimed.
Mallory glanced over his shoulder. "Let's keep moving," he suggested. "Maybe we can find a safe place to hide out until the next slide?"* * *
"Is that what I think it is?!" Maggie pointed at the Chandler Hotel which remained unharmed along with several other buildings.
Rembrandt took in the view of the familiar hotel. "We've walked a few blocks away from that gunfight . . . maybe those thugs don't hang around on this street very often?"
"We just left a bad neighborhood," Diana reminded them. "This is likely a better part of town, for however much that's worth here."
Mallory was staring down the street at an approaching group of tough-looking young adults. The group was of mixed gender wearing bandannas and ragged clothing. "Don't look now, but here come more of those ‘thugs' you were talking about, Remmy."
Diana began walking toward the Chandler Hotel.
"Where are you going, Diana?" called out Maggie.
Not looking back at them, Diana answered, "I think we'd better check to see if they have any vacancies. I'd rather be in there than out here."
"I'm with her," declared Mallory, following Diana who'd disappeared into the hotel.
"Let's just pray they have locks on their doors," Rembrandt referred to the hotel suites as he and Maggie headed after the others.
Behind the front desk in the Chandler's lobby, Maggie and Rembrandt recognized a familiar face - - one belonging to Holly, a hotel owner whom they'd met two years earlier while sliding with Quinn and Colin.
"Hey, isn't she the woman who owned the haunted Chandler?" Remmy whispered to Maggie.
"I believe so," Maggie replied.
"Hello, we'd like one suite if you have any available," requested Diana, leaning against the front desk.
Alternate Holly checked the computer. "Yes we do," she answered Diana. "How many nights will you be staying?"
"Just one." Diana took the keys from Alternate Holly as Mallory leaned forward.
"Sign us in under my name," he flashed a charming smile at Alternate Holly. "Quinn Mallory."
"I'll need to see your ID/Draft Card," Alternate Holly informed Mallory.
"Your ID/Draft Card. You're legally required to carry it with you at all times, you know."
Maggie glanced at the others and gave Alternate Holly a sweet smile. "We're from Canada."
"Ah. That makes sense. I guess you're not familiar with American laws."
Giving her friends a peculiar look, Maggie continued, "No . . . we're not. Just register us under my name - - Maggie Beckett."
Alternate Holly entered Maggie's name into her computer. "Thank you very much, Ms. Beckett. If there's anything I can assist you or your party with during your stay, please let me know."
"Yeah, can you tell us more about these ‘ID/Draft Cards' . . . us being foreigners and all." Mallory raised his eyebrow cutely.
"Mallory!" hissed Diana.
"Certainly." Alternate Holly seemed to think nothing of it. "All males between the ages of 16 and 34 are required to carry their government-assigned identification cards with them wherever they go. It's a federal mandate for tracking purposes in case the president deploys more soldiers to Mexico. Of course, the Rebels completely ignore the law and blow away every authority figure in their path." Alternate Holly spoke that last sentence a bit resentfully.
"The Rebels?" queried Rembrandt.
Alternate Holly gestured to a group of teenagers who'd just entered through the hotel doors, headed for the adjoining bar. "Anyone dressed like those boys . . . you can pretty much assume they're Rebels or Rebel-sympathizers."
"I'm sorry," Diana squinted her eyes, "but I don't quite understand what you mean by ‘Rebels'?"
"Don't you Canadians follow international news?" exclaimed Alternate Holly. "The Rebels are young men who dodge the national draft. Ironically, they go around committing violence to protest the war."
"What war?" Mallory blinked.
"The war with China and Mexico!" Alternate Holly looked at them like they'd lost their minds. "I thought the entire world knew about that!"
"Uh . . . thanks." Maggie motioned for Diana, Mallory, and Rembrandt to follow her. They walked toward the lounge. "We don't want to draw too much attention to ourselves."
"I don't know about the rest of you," Rembrandt sighed, "but I could sure use a drink."
"Me too," echoed Mallory.
"I think I'll pass," Diana decided. "I'm going to try to find out some information about this world from some of the ‘friendlier' townsfolk." She gestured toward the adjoining hotel restaurant which was in the opposite direction from the hotel bar. "I'll be back in an hour or so and we'll settle into our suite." Diana walked off toward the more inviting restaurant, obviously a bit intimidated by the bar.
"Hey there." Maggie felt someone tap her on the shoulder. She swiveled around and came face-to-face with the most handsome man she'd seen in a very long while. "Mind if I buy you a drink, pretty lady?"
Maggie took in the sight of him. He was a tall, broad-shouldered Latino man who appeared to be in his early- to mid-twenties. The man wore a suave leather jacket and jeans, with his hair shaved in a short but stylish buzz cut. A silver chain was fastened around his neck. Smiling, Maggie answered, "Sure. Why not?"
"Maggie!" Rembrandt tapped her on the shoulder.
"Don't worry, I won't let him take me home with him," Maggie assured Remmy. She allowed the Latino hunk to escort her over to a couple of barstools.
"I'm Jorgito Sanchez." He took Maggie's hand and planted a tender kiss on it.
"Maggie Beckett," she introduced herself, tingling a little.
"Two martinis, Hal," Jorgito ordered from the bartender.
"So you're a regular here, I take it?"
"What gave me away?"
"Well, you know Hal by name, and," Maggie tilted her head in the direction of a bunch of other ruffians who were watching the two of them, "you seem to have impressed your buddies by reeling me in." Maggie smirked playfully.
Jorgito gave Maggie's observation an awkward laugh. "Don't mind them. They have trouble getting dates and enjoy living vicariously through me. I see you have your own set of groupies too." He tilted his head in the direction of Rembrandt and Mallory who were sitting at a nearby table, watching them but trying to be inconspicuous about it.
Now it was Maggie's turn to blush. "They're just overprotective . . . kind of like the big brothers I never had."
"So what do you do?" Jorgito asked, as Hal set their drinks on the counter.
"Oh . . . I travel a lot. I used to be a fighter pilot." Maggie sipped her martini.
Jorgito frowned. "How can that be? Our ‘beloved' military won't allow women to serve in active duty. They give preference to destroying the lives of young men." His voice was stained with hostility.
"I served . . . in the Canadian air force," Maggie improvised, taking another sip.
"Really? I didn't know Canada allowed its women to fight." He gently fingered Maggie's freshly dyed blonde hair. "So are all the women up there as beautiful as you?"
Maggie blushed again. "If this is a come on . . . it's working."
All of a sudden, a young Asian man who looked about Jorgito's age pranced over to Maggie and took the barstool on her opposite side. "Hey there, foxy." He flashed his own smile at her.
"Do I have some kind of aphrodisiac sprayed on me today?" Maggie exclaimed, laughing some more.
"Hey Wing, buzz off!" sneered Jorgito. Although Maggie didn't know who he was, the young Asian man happened to be an alternate version of one of Quinn's former college classmates.
"You know, he looks familiar," Mallory whispered to Remmy, indicating Alternate Wing. Mallory had not absorbed the full spectrum of Quinn's memories yet. "But I can't put my finger on it."
"Why don't you make me?!" Alternate Wing retorted at Jorgito.
"Shut your trap, Oriental freak!" Jorgito glared at his nemesis.
"You want a piece of me, hot tamale?!" blared Alternate Wing.
Both Jorgito and Alternate Wing were on their feet, about ready to duke it out.
"Hold on, guys," Maggie interjected. "Listen, I'm not going to put up with any immaturity from either of you, especially not racist immaturity!" She stood up. "I'm outta here. Remmy! Mallory!"
"Hold up!" Alternate Wing blocked Maggie's path. "You WANT to stay on my good side, woman. I can be your tasty piece of sugar."
"She's mine, Wing!"
"In your dreams, Jorgito!"
"If both of you losers don't get out of my way, you'll each be eating dinner through a hospital tube!" snapped Maggie, pushing them aside.
"Not so fast, woman!" Jorgito roughly grabbed Maggie's arm.
Rembrandt and Mallory were at their friend's side in a second.
"I believe the lady has made up her mind," Remmy spoke.
"This ain't your business, dark chocolate!" Jorgito chastised Rembrandt.
Remmy ferociously grabbed Jorgito by his collar. "I won't take any of that talk, boy!"
"Come on Remmy, let's just cool off and go find Diana," reasoned Mallory.
"You want some of this, vanilla cracker?!" Alternate Wing slammed his fist into the palm of his opposite hand, making a grinding motion.
On one side of the room behind Jorgito, a posse of hoodlums began to assemble. A similar group gathered around Alternate Wing. Incidentally, the Rebels of each group were of mixed races and genders.
"Okay guys, call off your cronies!" Maggie insisted in a clear, authoritative voice.
"Not a chance, babe." Jorgito pulled away from Remmy and flung his arm around Maggie. "You're my woman now."
"MY woman!" clarified Alternate Wing, snatching onto Maggie's arm.
"Or why don't you creeps just saw me in half?!" Maggie finished sarcastically, pulling away from Jorgito and Alternate Wing.
"What do we do?" Mallory asked Rembrandt in a hushed voice.
"Well," voiced Rembrandt, "in the words of the great Maximillian Arturo . . . run! Run like hell!"
The trio made a mad dash from the bar, forming a beeline to the hotel restaurant.
"Hey, you didn't pay for your drinks!" Hal called after them.
* * *
Back in their hotel suite, Maggie, Remmy, Diana, and Mallory were piled atop the two double beds in their suite. Mallory was examining the remote control to the television.
"Isn't it weird? . . . from the looks of this Los Angeles outside, I wouldn't have imagined that they'd have TV," Mallory stated.
"Mallory, we have more important things to focus on . . . like getting out of here alive in one piece," Rembrandt told him.
Diana had spread out a newspaper from that world in front of her on the bed. "I borrowed this from some of the patrons downstairs in the Chandler Restaurant. They were actually quite friendly. I had to pretend I was a clueless Canadian, though, to get some information."
"So what's the skinny on this Earth, Diana?" asked Maggie.
"Not long ago, Al Gore was elected president here," Diana explained. "Unfortunately, he got the United States involved with a messy international crisis. The way I understand it, China formed an alliance with Mexico, and the two countries made a pact to ‘bring down' America by pooling their supplies of illegal drugs and cooperatively distributing them on the American black market."
Rembrandt sighed. "It would have to be drugs, wouldn't it?" he lamented, disapprovingly.
"That's just the tip of the iceberg," gritted Diana. "The Chinese apparently suckered the Mexicans into assaulting Americans north of the border through guerrilla warfare. China has been essentially using Mexico to invade and attack the United States. Prior to all this, Gore had made so many defense cuts that the U.S. military was diluted down to virtually nil. President Gore convinced Congress to actively reinstate the national draft."
"And I remember Vietnam on my world," recollected Rembrandt. "It wasn't pretty."
"Hey, this TV has cable!" Mallory's eyes lit up as he flipped through the channels.
"Mallory!" scolded Maggie. "Listen up, we need to know what we're dealing with on this world. Go on, Diana."
"Anyway," Diana continued, "the locals tell me that Gore turned out to be a lousy commander-in-chief, putting it mildly. He used presidential power to expand the draft age to include males ages 16 through 34. With the exception of boys still attending high school, a great many of those males were chosen at random from an active lottery and ordered into combat . . . including high school drop-outs."
"That is NOT an effective way to build a nation's defense," Maggie insisted. "On my world the government ALWAYS kept our military strong . . . Colonel Rickman made sure of that!"
"It gets worse," Diana cautioned them. "All males were assigned electronic ID/Draft Cards which they are forced to carry around with them on all occasions. This made a majority of the guys feel like second-class citizens, and I can see why - - it's not like women have to worry about being drafted. In fact, women are banned from serving in any extent of active military duty on this world."
Maggie's face became irately red. "That is such bull! Women can be just as capable of serving in combat as men, if not moreso!"
"So how did things escalate to this point?" Rembrandt solicited from Diana. "What you're describing sounds like martial law. Out there it seems like a bloody free-for-all!"
"Well, young men destroyed their ID/Draft Cards and revolted. They are now commonly known as ‘the Rebels' in America," Diana narrated. "Most of them refused to report for duty when drafted. They armed themselves with weapons and fought off any law enforcement which tried to restrain them. Gore attempted to pass gun laws limiting firearm possession to authorities and the military, but by that point he was merely a figurehead. This had become a vigilante society of both men and women killing anyone they considered a threat to them - - be it police officers, military officials and soldiers, or guerrilla warriors from Mexico or China."
"Which could account for all the racism we saw in the bar," Remmy concluded.
"Americans literally took the law into their own hands after their government let them down," said Diana.
"Sounds like they have bogus leadership in the Oval Office," Mallory commented.
Diana made a "tsk-tsk" noise with her tongue. "They should have elected Bill Bradley," she lamented knowingly, recalling a similar election from on her own homeworld.
"It was only a matter of time," Rembrandt agreed. "Arresting all the draft dodgers would only lead to overcrowded prisons."
"Women began changing too," expanded Diana. "Many women of this world are outraged over their exclusion from the military."
"I can see why," mumbled Maggie, bitterly.
"Females started a second revolution of feminism," Diana revealed. "They joined the male Rebels and formed gangs. Many of these women have become crusading ‘biker chicks', for lack of a better term."
"Sounds like my kind of party!" whooped Mallory.
"Yeah Mallory, we all know how you have a thing for biker babes," Maggie remarked dryly.
"Well I can see why Holly is so hostile," Rembrandt speculated. "She's scared silly that these punks are gonna tear down her hotel!"
"What I don't understand," Maggie voiced, "is why the Rebels antagonize other Rebels. Jorgito and Wing seemed to hate each other's guts, but you'd think they'd be glad to be on the same side."
"Racism," said Rembrandt. "It brings out the ugliness in people. I know this firsthand. It's sad . . . I can see why they'd blame the president, but it's shameful how they turn on each other over their differences."
"Not to mention how Wing and Jorgito are vying to ‘win' Maggie," pointed out Mallory.
"Well too bad for them! I'm not some trophy that can simply be captured!" Maggie steamed with indignation.
Diana sprawled out across one of the two double beds. "I don't really want to think about these crazy people anymore, at least not for the rest of tonight." She glanced at the television screen on which Mallory had just flipped to a new channel. "Mallory, what on Earth are you watching?!"
"Ladies' wrestling," Mallory grinned. Two sweaty, muscular women on the TV screen were attempting to clobber each other in the middle of a wrestling arena.
"You pig!" spat out Maggie, throwing a pillow at Mallory who simply laughed in return. Yet, Maggie couldn't help but smile a little herself.* * *
Late the next morning, Rembrandt, Mallory, Maggie, and Diana awoke to find themselves extremely hungry. They made a unanimous decision to take advantage of the continental breakfast, or rather, what was more of a "brunch," offered by Alternate Holly.
Downstairs the sliders discovered a decent buffet-style spread of breakfast/brunch set up in the Chandler's dining room. It was available only to the hotel guests.
"So do you think we'll run into those goons again?" Rembrandt asked Maggie, as they stood with their friends in the buffet line. He used a pair of tongs to put some crispy slices of bacon on his plate.
Maggie frowned. "I hope not. Those guys make me sick!"
Diana spooned some scrambled eggs onto her plate. "From the way you've described them, it sounds like these men have a lot of pent up anger."
"Along with an excess of testosterone," Maggie added, snatching a few pieces of cinnamon toast.
"Don't worry Maggie, we'll protect you if they come back." Mallory was pouring a mountain of maple syrup atop his stack of pancakes.
"Mallory, how can you stand all that sugar?" grimaced Maggie, as they headed over to their table.
"This isn't sugar, it's syrup."
"Syrup has sugar in it, birdbrain!"
"It does?" Mallory stared at his flapjacks as the four of them took their seats. A slick smile spread across his face. "Then it's all the better."
Maggie and Diana shuddered, and Remmy laughed, amused, while Mallory proceeded to gobble up his syrup-drenched pancakes.
Alternate Holly passed by their table while circulating around the room to check up on her guests. "Are you all enjoying your meal?" she inquired cordially.
"Mmmm, delicious!" praised Diana, her mouth full of strawberry croissant.
"My compliments to the chef!" Remmy echoed Diana's sentiments.
"I'll pass the word along to him," beamed Alternate Holly, pleased. "Glad you're enjoying your stay. I trust you had a good night's sleep? . . ." She suddenly trailed off, viewing something approaching in the distance. "Oh no! They're back!"
Jorgito and his gang were back in the Chandler's lobby. They spotted Maggie at her table with the other sliders, and immediately charged toward the dining area.
"We've got trouble . . ." Rembrandt muttered under his breath.
"You punks get out of here!" Alternate Holly yelled at them. "Or I'll have you thrown out!"
"We're not afraid of no cops!" Jorgito shoved Alternate Holly aside and made his way over to where Maggie sat. "Besides, I'll be leaving just as soon as I collect my prize."
Maggie went on the defensive. "You come any closer and I'll gouge your eyes out!" she warned Jorgito, holding up her fork threateningly.
"Maggie, I want you to join my posse." Jorgito made that statement as a command rather than a request.
"No way!" she refused. "I'm not going to spend my days blowing people's heads off with a bunch of vile cretins."
"For your information, we're called The Piranhas."
"And I suppose that would make me your Piranha Queen?" Maggie mocked him. "Forget it!"
Just then, Alternate Wing entered the dining room with his cronies.
"Oh, let me guess!" Maggie shot up from her seat and sardonically addressed Alternate Wing's gang. "You must be . . . what, The Jaguars? The Pythons? The Coyotes? The Screeching Hyenas?!"
"We're The Scorpions," Alternate Wing informed her, "and we're here to make you one of us, Maggie!"
"I don't think so!" Maggie put her hands on her hips.
"Yeah Wing, she's joining The Piranhas!" Jorgito directed a murderous gaze at Alternate Wing.
"No, she's a Scorpion!" shot back Alternate Wing.
"No, she's a Piranha!"
Alternate Wing took out a knife and most of The Scorpions followed his lead.
"Oh, so you wanna play it that way, huh boy?!" Jorgito responded by whipping out his own knife, as did most of The Piranhas.
"That's enough! I'm leaving!" Fed up, Maggie stormed out of the hotel restaurant.
Diana rose from her chair and followed after Maggie.
Rembrandt gave The Piranhas and The Scorpions a collective evil glare. "You leave us alone! We didn't ask to be a part of your damn war!" He got up out of his chair.
"All of a sudden I've lost my appetite!" Mallory sneered in disgust, throwing his napkin down onto his plate.
They both exited the dining area, leaving the two rival gangs behind resentfully.* * *
"God, those assholes just won't give up!" Maggie laid back on top of a bed in their suite. Diana sat next to Maggie on their double bed, trying to comfort her.
"We've only got to stick it out here for the next five hours." Rembrandt held up the timer. "In the late-afternoon we'll slide right out of here, leaving this messed up world behind us forever. Until then, we'll just hole up in here."
"Thank goodness!" Diana breathed a sigh of relief. "This is one window I'm really looking forward to!"
Mallory, who was once again on his and Remmy's double bed watching the television, was immersed in hysterical laughter. "Aw, that Rygel cracks me up!"
There on the TV screen was the cute little uppity Hynerian, aboard the living Leviathan ship Moya. The muppet-like alien annoyingly tapped his fancy gamepiece against a galactic type of "chess board."
The soothing but presently irritated voice of Zhaan, the blue-skinned Delvian high priestess, could be heard reprimanding Rygel in frustration. "Rygel, if you do not stop that, I will . . ."
"Do what? What would that be?" retorted Rygel with crotchety defiance. "Surely it's more entertaining than the doldrums here."
Diana squinted at the TV. "What are you watching, Mallory?"
"Farscape," answered Mallory. "Man, this show is better than Stargate SG-1!"
"It sure looks . . . different," Remmy observed. "Who's the blue lady?"
"That's Zhaan," explained Mallory. "And oh mama, is she a fox!"
"I wager this ship!" Rygel proclaimed.
"Rygel!" Zhaan scolded the Hynerian again, in exasperation.
Rembrandt chuckled. "Rygel kinda reminds me of the Professor."
In a split second, a harsh pounding banged against the door to their suite.
"Oh, please don't let that be who I think it is!" Maggie closed her eyes and rolled over on the bed.
With one swift blow, an obese gang member had knocked down the door to their hotel room. Jorgito and Alternate Wing were standing in the doorway, flanked by a handful of Piranhas and Scorpions.
"Oh, look who crawled out of the sewer for a visit," Diana chided mockingly, glaring at the ruffians.
"Please let this nightmare end!" cried out Maggie, stuffing two pillows over her ears and head while squeezing her eyes shut.
"How did you find our room?!" Mallory demanded.
"We followed you up here," replied Alternate Wing, flatly.
The gang members made their way into the hotel suite. "Yo Maggie, it's time for you to make up your mind!" Jorgito commanded. "Who's it gonna be, yours truly or pathetic chopstick boy over there?" He waved his hand at Alternate Wing in a dismissing manner.
"Hey, I'll take you on right here and now, boy!" Alternate Wing shouted back at his enemy, stepping forward threateningly.
Rembrandt stood up and moved in front of Maggie protectively. "Hey now, fellas, take it easy," he said to them, calmly.
"And who the hell are you, Mr. T.?!" barked Jorgito. He advanced forward and harshly punched Rembrandt in the gut. Remmy keeled over, and Diana ran to his side.
"Remmy!" she shouted, as the Cryin'' Man collapsed on the carpet, the wind knocked out of him.
Alternate Wing had additionally entered the room and approached the bed which Maggie laid on. He picked her up and hoisted her over his shoulder.
"Put me down, dammit!" Maggie tried to kick Alternate Wing, but Jorgito had grabbed Maggie's legs as the two of them carried her away.
Mallory was now on his feet. He came after them, but several of the Piranhas and Scorpions aimed their knives at Mallory, causing him to stop in his tracks. They made their escape.
Rembrandt just began to regain his breath. "Where do you think they're taking her?"
"I don't know," answered Diana, "but wherever they're going, we'd better follow them." She grabbed the timer and motioned for the others to follow her.* * *
It wasn't very difficult for Remmy, Mallory, and Diana to locate where the Piranhas and Scorpions had taken Maggie. They simply followed the unmistakable sound of Maggie's screaming vocals to lead them after the punks, down to the lobby of the Chandler Hotel.
The Chandler Bar was bursting with people during Happy Hour, hosting hoards of gangs including female bikers. Maggie's captors dragged her into the bar, obviously intent on getting her drunk. Hal had his hands full pouring and mixing drinks for all the young hoodlums.
"Okay Maggie, which one of us are you gonna be the old lady of?!" Jorgito folded his arms, intrusively inching his body close to Maggie's.
"Yeah, choose!" agreed Alternate Wing, sneering at Jorgito. "And remember, Maggie, I'll protect you against these Chuplas!"
The Piranhas hissed at Alternate Wing and his Scorpions in response.
"Okay, fine!" Maggie had had enough. "You want me to choose? Well I choose . . . NEITHER of you!" She was shrieking at them so loudly that the entire bar of youngsters was now watching.
Mallory, Diana, and Rembrandt had arrived in the bar also, at that moment.
Jorgito's face was a deep, furious shade of red. "No woman ever turns down El Jorgito!"
"Well there's a first time for everything, El Jorgito!" snapped Maggie.
"You've just bought yourself a whole lot of trouble, woman!"
"What is your problem?!" Diana suddenly cut into their verbal exchange, yelling indignantly. "You act like Maggie is your property!"
"Yeah," agreed Mallory, "and besides, you can do a whole lot better than Maggie!"
"Hey!" Maggie reached out and swatted Mallory, insulted.
"Don't you people have any respect for each other?" Rembrandt asked them in a serious tone. "You sure don't seem to have any for strangers!"
Alternate Wing frowned. "We can't respect no one in this wacked out country of ours. It's every man for himself!"
"That's a pitiful attitude to have!" Maggie scolded him.
"Lady, you're trippin'!" Jorgito blew her off. "You're from up north! You don't know nothin' about this country we live in!"
"You'd be surprised at all we've seen," Mallory told them.
"Yeah?! Well we live in a freakin' dictatorship!" Jorgito exclaimed. His cronies passionately voiced their agreement with loud yells.
"We have no rights!"
"Knives and bullets are all we can count on!"
"The police won't leave us alone!"
"Gore messed this place up for us!"
"Look, we're not going to deny the awful condition of your world," Diana spoke up. "I'm sure Al Gore IS a bad president. Hell, I voted for Ross Perot!" She sighed. "But that doesn't give you the right to harass innocent people. It's not nice."
"Not all of us are like this," piped up one person in the crowd. He stood up from where he'd been sitting. "Some of us have been trying to pick up the broken pieces of our government, to get some capable leaders running it for a change. But no one ever listens to us!"
"Then you've got to scream louder," Mallory encouraged him. "You need to act as examples for other people your age to follow the leads of. Tell your government what you want to change, and don't give up until you achieve it."
"And don't compromise your principles," Rembrandt added. "History didn't change by people sitting around doing nothing."
"Now if you'll excuse us, we have a vortex to catch!" Maggie broke away from the crowd of stunned youth and exited the hotel.
"By the way . . ." Rembrandt forcefully slugged Jorgito in the gut on his way out, " . . . that's a little thing called payback."
"Good luck!" Mallory called over his shoulder as the rest of the sliders departed.
"And remember what we told you!" Diana added.* * *
The interdimensional quartet walked down the sidewalk which was scorched with ashes, moving further away from the Chandler Hotel.
"I kinda feel guilty that we skipped out on the hotel bill," Mallory said. "Holly was really good to us."
"Hopefully, what we instilled in those kids back there will more than compensate for it," commented Diana. She showed them the timer. "Less than a minute before we slide."
"The time sure flew by here," Rembrandt remarked.
Maggie tossed back her waist-long strands of blonde hair. "I'm just thankful we're getting away from those horny, rude control freaks!"
"I feel bad for them," Diana admitted. "They're living under one terrible, restrictive government." She watched as the final digits counted down.
"Maybe we'll luck out and on the next Earth they'll have a perfect government?" Mallory put forth.
Diana activated the timer, and the wind produced by their pink vortex blew against the sliders' hair and faces.
"Any place has got to be a step up from here," said Maggie, jumping into the wormhole. Mallory was next, then Diana, and finally Rembrandt.
The radiant, swirling tunnel of pinks and reds carried the four of them across the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge, forcing them to take many awkward twists and turns before reaching the end of the tunnel.
After falling from the opening of the portal, the four travelers landed on an average sidewalk in front of what looked like . . ."
"The White House?!" Mallory noticed the magnificent National Capitol Building spread before them.
"But we're in California," Maggie said. "The nation's capital is Washington D.C."
"Maybe not on this world," Diana reminded her.
Maggie slapped her hand against her forehead and groaned, "Oh please, not another presidential sex scandal!" She was recalling Tabloid World where she'd been roped into an executive plot hatched to distract a sensationalist society from international matters.
"Excuse me," Remmy tapped a man on the shoulder who was passing by. "But can you please tell us where we are?"
The pedestrian gave Rembrandt an odd look. "You don't know where you are? This is Los Angeles, our nation's capital." He gestured at the White House. "That's 1600 Wilshire Boulevard . . . also known as the White House."
"Well . . ." Remmy glanced at his three friends before asking a second question, ". . . who's the president?"
The man gave him another bizarre look and answered in an obvious tone of voice, "Colin Powell."
Rembrandt smiled at the others. "What a relief!"
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