|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 stuff's pretty good," Mallory remarked, digging up another forkful from his carton of Beef Egg Foo Young.
He sat along with his four companions around a circular table at an outdoor café. They were grabbing a quick bite to eat of the local Chinese food before catching their next sliding window.
"It's not every day we get to chow down internationally!" chorused Rembrandt Brown, who took a bite of his Chicken Mai Fun.
"Yeah," Maggie Beckett agreed, spreading out another pancake to top with more Moo Shou Shrimp. "Sometimes we're lucky if we can even find anything edible in a dumpster."
Diana Davis savored the tangy, creamy noodles of her Lobster Lo Mein. "This is heavenly!"
"Yuck. Chinese food makes me sick," stated Janine Chen in monotone, as she bit into her double cheeseburger.
"Really? Well you should try this stuff, Janine!" Mallory shoveled another load of white rice into his mouth. "It's great! You'd love it!"
"What? Are you saying that just because I'm Asian that means I'm automatically supposed to like Chinese food?!" snapped Janine, before chomping on a couple of French fries.
"Uh, no . . ." Mallory was a bit taken aback.
"He was just trying to be nice," Maggie shot back at Janine. "Maybe YOU should try it for a change?"
"Look who's talking," Janine snorted in return.
"All right, now that's enough," Rembrandt scolded them. "Can't we have at least one peaceful meal?"
"Yeah, we're all going to have to get along. We'll probably be sliding together for a long time," Diana reminded them. "Since the Kromaggs erased all of our coordinates from the timer, we have quite a bit of traveling to do in order to relocate our homeworlds. I no longer have the microdisk that Dr. Geiger gave me . . . I must have misplaced it on one of the previous alternate Earths we visited."
Janine swallowed her food, an empty gaze lingering in her eyes. "To think, only two days ago I was at home relaxing in my warm, bubbly hot tub back on my Earth. And now," she glanced around at her fellow sliders, "I'm stuck flying interdimensional with you people."
"Gee, we love you too," Maggie sarcastically replied to her.
"You'll get used to us," Rembrandt reassured Janine, patting her on the shoulder. "You've only known us for a day or so . . . who knows, we could end up being your best friends?"
Janine rolled her eyes and sipped her soda.
Half an hour later, it was time to slide. Having finished their lunch, the sliders left their umbrella-shaded table and made their way over to an open area.
"Let's go," Maggie said, clicking the timer.* * *
The five explorers allowed their glistening vortex covered with swirls of pink and red carry them across the ERP bridge. Each of them flailed wildly while sailing through quantum space, waiting to land on the next alternate world.
"Is it just me, or do each of these slides become more fun?!" called out Mallory to his friends, from inside the vortex.
"It's just you!" Diana called back to Mallory over the thunderous roar of the rapid force generated by their uneasy flow across the space-time continuum.
Many additional moments passed, and finally they emerged from the wormhole. The five of them were catapulted onto a sandy, noticeably humid beach.
"At least we didn't land in the ocean," Mallory observed, brushing sand off his pants.
"Boy, I can't wait to get back to Earth Prime," voiced Rembrandt. He scanned the landscape around them. "I've got plenty of killer blood in me for all of them!"
Maggie read the timer's counter. "Well, we have less than three hours here. How much trouble could we get into?"
Rembrandt gave her a dubious stare. "Maggie, this is us you're talking about!" he pointed out.
"So why don't we just lie here for the next few hours?" suggested Janine. She squatted down to the ground and sprawled out on the sand.
"Have fun when the high tide rolls in," Maggie grunted.
Diana helped Janine to her feet. "We usually try to find out something about the world we've landed on."
Mallory pointed to some chalk cliffs in the distance. "Let's head up that way. Maybe there's a town nearby?"
As they hiked up the steep hillside, Janine frowned at Maggie. "You really like to throw your weight around, don't you?"
"Hey," Maggie shrugged, "I'm a born leader."
Janine stuck out her tongue. "Yeah, born to be a bitch."
Maggie stopped in her tracks.
"Oh lord, here we go!" Rembrandt heaved an exhausted sigh.
"Guys . . ." Diana started.
"You did not say to me what I thought I just heard!" Maggie cut Diana off, and shot a deadly glare right at Janine.
"Oh come on, Maggie," bristled Janine. "It's so obvious that you're power hungry and you love telling others what to do."
"Hey, I come from the military. We learn how to get things done. Unlike you, complaining and mouthing off to everyone you meet!"
"Yeah, bite me."
"Ooooh, chickfight!" Mallory rubbed his hands together gleefully.
"Shut up!" Maggie and Janine shouted in unison at Mallory.
"Knock it off, you two!" Rembrandt reprimanded them, standing between Janine and Maggie. "I'm getting sick of listening to you two go at it!"
"Amen," echoed Diana.
"Maggie, you go on ahead with Mallory and Diana. We'll catch up to you," Rembrandt instructed. He lagged behind them, escorting Janine and speaking to her in a low voice. "Look, I know you didn't ask to be dragged into this mess with us. When I first began sliding, I got sucked into it by a fluke accident too. But could you at least try to make the best of it? Try to get along with your fellow travelers - - including Maggie."
"Yeah, whatever." Janine waved him away, sounding uninterested.
"No, I'm serious." Rembrandt blocked Janine's path and made direct eye contact with her. "I've slid with four other friends whom you've never met. One of them was named Wade, one of the nicest people you'll ever meet - - and that girl sparred with Maggie like hell! It wasn't pretty. So I guess what I'm trying to say is . . ."
"I know what you're trying to say, Rembrandt!" interrupted Janine, flaring at him. "And I don't like people bossing me around or telling me how to act! Now get out of my way!"
Janine pushed Rembrandt aside and followed the others. Rembrandt simply smacked his hand against his head in frustration.
Soon, they spotted what appeared to be some buildings in the distance. A couple of uniformed police officers were approaching the group.
"Pardon me, officers," Mallory said to them. "Could you tell us where we are?"
A lanky officer with dark, brooding features took in the sight of these five strangers. "Where are your dog collars?" he asked.
"Our what?" Diana squinted.
"Your dog collars!" he repeated, in a louder, more irritated voice.
"Do we look like beagles to you?!" Janine patronized him. "We don't wear dog collars, you idiot!"
"That's unfortunate for you," spoke up the other policeman. "Because you're in violation of Malibu public ordinance. We're going to have to arrest you all for trespassing."
"I don't suppose you'd believe us if we told you our dogs ate our collars?" Mallory asked, wryly.
"You have the right to remain silent . . ."* * *
Each of the sliders was, in turn, hastily pushed into a dim, cramped prison cell. They all had been handcuffed, their wrists bound together with metal chains in front of their stomachs. The cell was filled with decrepit inmates, similarly handcuffed and lying around in disheveled heaps on the floor.
"Well this is just great!" Janine swiftly kicked Mallory in his shin.
"OW!!" yelped Mallory, falling to his knees in pain.
Janine's eyes showed no sympathy. "You just had to get us arrested, didn't you?!"
"It isn't Mallory's fault!" Maggie yelled at Janine, agitated by her own handcuffed wrists. "He isn't the one who called those cops ‘idiots'!"
"Well, they were," Janine grumbled. "What kind of psychotic dimension is this? - - throwing strangers in jail just because we don't wear dog collars!"
"Different worlds, different expectations," Rembrandt emphasized, glaring at Janine. "We gotta play by their rules. You should know that by now, you being such an ‘experienced' slider and all!"
"Hey, the worst that ever happened to me during one of my slides was when I was given a ticket for sticking my tongue out at a meter maid," insisted Janine. "Not that I actually paid the fine . . . I left that alternate universe before their courts could track me down."
"Sounds like you folks didn't wear your collars when you were supposed to," crackled a scratchy male voice from the shadows. An elderly man with ample graying hair and a wrinkly old face was slumped against the wall, his wrists also confined within handcuffs. "Shame, shame. They always find us sooner or later."
Mallory hobbled over to the man. "Is that what you're in here for?"
"You can bet your britches on that, sonny boy," quavered the old man.
Diana kneeled down next to him. "What's your name?"
"Abe," he responded, his eyes shifting their way toward Diana's direction.
"I'm Diana," she introduced herself. "This is my friend Mallory . . ."
"I don't care what your names are!" snapped Abe. "It don't matter. We're all gonna die . . . die . . . die here!" He stuttered, as though it hurt him to get his words out.
"Well kids, the good news is we still have a way outta here in a couple of hours," Rembrandt said. He turned to face Maggie. "You do have the timer, right?"
"Yeah, it's in my pocket," Maggie disclosed, looking down at the forest green vest she wore. "All we have to do is find a way to activate it when it hits zero."
"You'd better get me home," Janine murmured.
"Yes, Janine! We are going to do everything in our power to get you home!" Maggie shouted at her. "Since you take every opportunity to remind us how you're here against your will! We don't like the fact that you're here anymore than you do!"
"Well, aren't you Little Miss Sunshine today?" Janine sarcastically sneered back at Maggie.
"I wish I still had my PDL," Diana said. "Then maybe we actually could track your wormhole to get you home, Janine."
Janine looked confused. "What the hell's a PDL?"
"My Portable Dimensional Laboratory," explained Diana. "It was an electronic paddle-like device I brought with me to take energy readings and make calculations during our slides. Unfortunately, I lost it back on African World."
"I still think that witch doctor took it," Mallory claimed. "He seemed awfully sneaky to me."
"So what's the deal around here?" Rembrandt asked Abe. "Why are the dog collars so important to the authorities?"
"It's what the government uses to keep tabs on us lowly citizens," Abe explained to them wearily. "Prime Minister Falwell convinced Parliament that it was for Americans' own safety. So we can either choose to be implanted with a permanent tracking device, or we can wear those damn dog collars everywhere we go. I certainly don't want nothin' implanted in me, but wearing them collars is a real pain in the arse!"
"And if you don't have some kind of tracking device on or in you, they throw you in jail?" Diana tried to understand.
"Yep," said Abe. "They cast you away to rot in these cells like yesteryear's garbage. All because Falwell is a cheerleader for universal fascism!" Abe began to close his eyes.
"So basically, the government wants to know where its citizens are and what they're doing all the time?" Maggie solicited.
"Yep. Them collars or implant chips are how they identify us. I've lived in Malibu my whole life . . . but when Falwell took over, they busted me for refusing to wear one. Each city is responsible for enforcing the rules over its own people . . ." Abe had suddenly slumped over and dozed off.
"I guess on this Earth, once you lose your identification you no longer exist in the eyes of the law?" Diana surmised.
Footsteps neared their cell, growing louder as they came closer. The sliders listened quietly. The heavy, metallic door opened and some guards shoved a handcuffed woman into the prison cell. She landed face-down with a hard thud on the cold cement floor. The woman moaned.
"Here, let me help you," Rembrandt offered, trying his best to maneuver his handcuffed wrists to assist the female prisoner. As he reached over to rotate her body face-up, Rembrandt almost choked at the sight of the woman's familiar face.
The brown-haired, petite-chinned face belonged to Logan St. Claire, an enemy whom Quinn, Wade, and the Professor had made three years earlier on another Earth.
"You!" Logan seethed at Rembrandt, recognizing his face immediately. "I know who you are. Rembrandt Brown, the fourth slider! Quinn told me about you! I remember your face!" She had seen Rembrandt for a few moments on Reggae World, three years ago.
Rembrandt was wide-eyed in shock. "Logan St. Claire? You actually remember me?"
"The image of all four of you is permanently etched in my memory!" hissed Logan, her eyes filled with hatred. "It has been for the past three years! I've been sliding at random, lost in the multiverse . . . and this is the latest world I'm currently stuck on - - ALL BECAUSE OF YOU!"
"Quinn, Wade, and the Professor told me all about you too," Rembrandt glared at Logan. "You tried to kill my friends!"
"They deserved it after the way they double crossed me!" Logan's voice was dripping with resentment. "Where are they?! Where are the rest of them?!" She looked around the prison cell, not recognizing anyone there other than Rembrandt.
Rembrandt's chin quivered. "The Professor is dead, Logan."
"Dead?!" Logan's eyes flared with a vengeance. "I should have been the one to kill him!"
"Sorry to disappoint you," mumbled Remmy.
"How did he die?"
"A military leader from my world, Colonel Rickman, killed Professor Arturo," spoke up Maggie. "Rickman murdered my husband too."
"Who are you?" Logan asked Maggie.
"Not your friend," Maggie answered bitterly.
"Too bad you and Rickman never got to hook up, Logan," chastised Rembrandt. "You two would have made the perfect couple."
Logan ignored Rembrandt's hostility. "What about Wade?" she demanded.
"We're not sure," Rembrandt sighed. "We lost Wade awhile back. A few months ago we finally found her again, but then she . . . disappeared." Remmy was unsure how to explain Wade's situation to Logan.
"And Quinn? . . ."
Rembrandt kept silent.
"Where is Quinn Mallory?!" cried out Logan.
"He's inside of me," piped up Mallory.
Logan swiveled her head at the young man. "What are you talking about?!"
"I was merged with your Quinn in a laboratory accident," Mallory confessed. "He's my double."
"That can't be!" Logan protested. "You look nothing like Quinn!"
"It's me, Logan." Mallory's vocals all of a sudden had adjusted their pitch to sound exactly like the original Quinn Mallory. Rembrandt and Maggie were flabbergasted.
"Quinn!" Logan knew his voice instantly.
"Q-Ball?" Rembrandt asked.
"Yes, Remmy. It's me," Mallory replied in Quinn's voice. He looked at Maggie. "Maggie?"
"Quinn?!" Maggie peered closely at Mallory's eyes. She was in shock, close to tears. "Is it really you?"
Mallory embraced Maggie, and somehow Maggie knew that her Quinn was reaching out to her from within Mallory's body.
Logan glared. "Quinn Mallory, if that is you, it's time for you to die!"
Mallory switched back to his own vocals. "What happened?" he asked, confused, feeling a little dazed.
Maggie turned to Diana. "What's happening to him?!"
Diana came over to Mallory. "I don't know. The original Quinn might be fighting the body for dominance again. He may have resurfaced."
Janine had been watching this spectacle the entire time. "Uh, I hate to interrupt all of your little reunions," she spoke up, insincerely, "but would anyone care to fill me in on what's happening here? Because I'm totally lost."
"Really? I thought you didn't care about us?" Maggie chided Janine.
"I hate being left out of the loop!" Janine spat back at Maggie. "Besides, you four are my only way home."
"That's it!!" Rembrandt roared, making his voice heard over all of them. "Maggie, Janine, quit your bickering, or I'm gonna throttle the both of you! And Logan," Remmy turned to Quinn's female counterpart, and with both of his handcuffed-together fists, punched out Logan St. Claire, knocking her unconscious. "You're better off to us not being awake!"* * *
Mallory groaned. "My head hurts," he whimpered, resting it on Diana's shoulder.
"Is Quinn really in there?" Maggie peered at Mallory's face, hovering over him curiously.
"Maggie," Mallory whispered as Quinn's real voice surfaced, "what happened to your hair?" He reached over to touch Maggie's blond-dyed tresses.
"Quinn!" called out Maggie.
Mallory closed his eyes in pain, and Janine asked impatiently, "WHO is Quinn?"
"He's the guy who invented sliding," Rembrandt said. "Q-Ball is the one who we always turned to for scientific answers."
"That's absurd," protested Janine. "Everyone knows that Erwin Schrodinger invented sliding."
"Maybe on your world," Maggie argued, "but if it hadn't been for Quinn, none of us would be here right now. Hundreds of refugees who he saved from my homeworld would be dead!"
"Oh boo hoo," said Janine, mockingly. "If it also hadn't been for your Quinn, I'd still be back on my homeworld!"
Maggie gave Janine a deadly look. "No way! You're NOT going to blame Quinn for your situation . . ."
"Something's happening!" Diana shouted.
Mallory had once again morphed into the original Quinn on the exterior of his body. Janine's mouth dropped open, while Rembrandt and Maggie ran to Quinn's side.
"Help me!" Quinn cried out, as both he and Mallory cringed in excruciating pain. He shifted back and forth repeatedly, from the original Quinn's image to Mallory's image.
Logan, lying flat on the floor, began to stir. She regained consciousness just in time to see Quinn and Mallory alternately morphing within the same body.
"Quinn, are you still alive?!" Maggie yelled out to him. "Have you been alive this whole time? Was Geiger wrong?!"
"His pulse is racing," Diana informed them, feeling Quinn's/Mallory's wrist.
Quinn pointed straight at Logan. "Don't trust her!" he emphasized to Rembrandt and Maggie, before switching back to Mallory's body. Quinn was once again dormant.
Logan began crawling as best she could toward Mallory. "Wait until I get my hands on you, Mallory! . . ."
Rembrandt flung himself in front of Logan. "Hold on, girl. You're not ‘getting your hands on' anybody."
"Thanks to Quinn, I've been sliding randomly for the past three years, going from one horrible world to the next!" Logan bellowed. "I'm lost, and it's all your fault! I've vowed to make you pay for what you've done to me!"
"You'll have to get past me first," Maggie told Logan. "And I'm not someone you want to mess with."
In a blind rage, Logan lunged at Maggie, but Rembrandt used his body to block Logan's path.
"Get out of my way, Rembrandt!" ordered Logan St. Claire. "I'll kill you too!!!"
"Chill out, you psycho," Janine casually spoke to Logan, rolling her eyes at the slider. "You're really getting on my nerves."
Logan snarled at Janine, and Janine stuck her tongue out at Logan in response.
Maggie had been trying to remove the timer from her vest pocket, and at that moment did so successfully. The timer clattered onto the hard solid floor.
"We've got just under a minute before we slide," Diana spoke up, reading the timer's digits.
Maggie and Diana both lent their physical support to a weakened Mallory, helping him as best they could.
"Come on, Janine, it's time to go," said Remmy. He looked at Logan loathingly. "Sorry to say this, but we won't be taking you along."
Janine kneeled down next to the timer and activated it, scooping it up in her cuffed hands. The majestic pink vortex opened against one of the prison walls. Maggie and Diana, allowing Mallory to lean against them for bodily support, charged forward into the wormhole. Janine ran in after them.
"Come on, Rembrandt!" she called to him.
Remmy used his handcuffed fists to forcefully knock Logan off-balance. Quinn's vindictive female double fell to the floor in a heap.
"I can track wormholes, remember?!" Logan called after Rembrandt who disappeared through the vortex. "I will track you down and kill you!!!! Do you hear me??!! Quinn!! Rembrandt!! I WILL find you!!!!"
In response, the pink portal closed up.
Logan looked down at her timer, which had fallen out of her pocket the second time Remmy had struck her.
She still had 22 hours before her next window opened.* * *
"Today," a middle-aged teacher was lecturing to her Physics class, "we will be covering Einstein's theory of relativity. Please open your textbooks to page . . ."
The teacher's words were interrupted as a colossal pink wormhole appeared at the front of her classroom, generating enough wind to blow most of the loose papers right off her desk. She and her students gaped in disbelief as Maggie, Diana, Mallory, Janine, and Rembrandt - - in sequential order - - tumbled out of the vortex . . . all of them handcuffed.
"Looks like we're back in high school," Maggie commented, taking in the classroom and its awestruck adolescent pupils, after the vortex had closed.
"I hope we don't get sent to the principal's office," muttered Rembrandt.
Janine handed the timer to Diana, and walked over to face the front of the class. She held up her handcuffed wrists. "Anyone got a blow torch?!"
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