|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.* * *
"Mr. Brown, you've already surpassed your maximum credit limit," the beady-eyed teller declared, reading from his computer screen.
An outraged Cryin' Man banged his fist down on the counter. "How can that be?! I haven't charged anything to my account in the past three months!"
The bank teller shrugged. "I'm sorry, but that's what our records show."
At that moment, Rembrandt Brown, Maggie Beckett, Mallory, Diana Davis, and Janine Chen walked into the lobby via the glass revolving door at the bank's front entrance.
"Maggie, I'm canceling my double's credit card," Rembrandt told his friend, "and that's final! You've already run my alternate's credit rating through the roof on your latest shopping binge!"
"Aw, come on, Remmy! Have a heart!" Maggie whined.
"Girl, I'm telling you, that's the last time I ever loan you my double's credit card!"
"Too bad they make you complete all transactions and cancellations in person on this world," Mallory lamented. "Otherwise you could just cancel your account - - er, your double's account - - over the phone."
Janine suddenly bumped into Rembrandt's alternate. "Oh, pardon me, Rembrandt! Hey, wait a minute . . . !"
Diana looked back and forth from one Rembrandt to the other. "Oh no . . ." she groaned.
"Hey!" Alternate Rembrandt pointed at the real Rembrandt and glared. "Are you trying to impersonate me, man?! You're the one who's been draining my account!"
Rembrandt blushed. "Sorry, man," he awkwardly apologized to his alternate self. "She made me do it!" Remmy hastily pointed at Maggie.
"Hey!!" Maggie gave Rembrandt a betrayed swat on the shoulder.
"I want my freakin' credit back!" Alternate Rembrandt complained, advancing toward his double.
A gunshot blasted through the air. Two males wearing black bodysuits and character masks on their faces had barged into the lobby of the bank. One wore a Dan Quayle mask; the other wore an Al Gore mask.
"Everyone, on the ground! NOW!" the robber wearing the Quayle mask ordered, firing another shot in the air.
Several people shrieked in fear and dove to the floor.
"I want your wallets, I want your jewelry, I want all your valuables!" commanded the robber wearing the Gore mask, calling out in all directions.
"All your money!!" instructed the Quayle masquerader, aiming his gun at the bank teller who'd been waiting on Alternate Rembrandt.
"You!" The Gore masquerader pointed his gun at Maggie. "Give me that necklace!" He indicated the elegant diamond necklace which Maggie wore around her neck.
"No way!" Maggie protested, clutching her necklace protectively. "I just bought this at Tiffany's today!"
"With MY money!" growled Alternate Rembrandt.
The Gore masquerader reached for Maggie's necklace. "I said give me the diamonds!"
But Maggie stubbornly refused, clasping her hands against her neck to shield the necklace.
"Come on, Maggie! Give the nitwit your necklace!" Mallory prodded her.
"No!" Maggie resisted in vain as the Gore masquerader tugged at her necklace. They were now engaged in a tug-of-war over that piece of shiny jewelry.
Diana and Janine were both standing between the two robbers. The Quayle masquerader was being given bags of money by the second teller.
"Oh, come on! . . . Dan Quayle?! Al Gore?! How do you expect anyone to take you two seriously?!" Diana scoffed at the two burglars, glancing back and forth between them.
Janine shrugged pointedly. "Every boob is accompanied by another boob. Although these dopes aren't the kind of boobs that I like . . ."
"Let's just be glad neither of them is wearing a David Peckinpah mask," voiced Rembrandt.
Mallory watched as the timer counted down to its final seconds. "Okay, we're outta here!"
"You're not going anywhere!" shouted the Quayle masquerader.
"Wanna bet?" Maggie kneed the Gore masquerader in his groin and he keeled over in pain. Mallory had just opened the vortex, and Maggie was the first on to jump in.
"Sorry for the trouble," Remmy apologetically slapped Alternate Rembrandt on the shoulder and followed Maggie.
The robbers and their hostages watched in amazement as Janine, Diana, and Mallory each disappeared into the wormhole before it closed up.
A police siren could be heard approaching the bank from off in the distance.* * *
Each of the sliders made a bumpy landing onto a fresh, summery spread of green grass. As their portal between worlds faded from sight, the five of them began to stand up from their rough descent.
"Hey, I recognize this place," Maggie said, observing the familiar fertile valley. "This is the Earth we brought the refugees from my homeworld to."
"Are you sure it isn't just a similar landscape?" asked Diana, placing her hand perpendicular to her forehead as she scanned the scenery of the San Fernando Valley.
"I'm sure," confirmed Maggie, pointed to a spot several hundred feet away. "Look."
The rest of the sliders followed Maggie's gaze to a clearing next to a sparkling clear lake. A herd of brontosauri was feeding from some bushy trees next to the water.
"Dinosaurs?!" Janine spat out in disbelief.
"I hope they're friendly," murmured Mallory.
Diana nodded. "Those are from the brontosaurus family. Strictly herbivores."
"Plant-eaters only," Remmy translated for Janine and Mallory.
"The only carnivorous dinosaur on this world was a Tyrannosaurus Rex who we killed the last time we were here," Maggie recalled.
"Sounds fun," snorted Janine, as they began following a trail alongside a ridge of rocky hills.
"It looks like we're here in Jurassic Park for . . . 12 hours and 45 minutes," reported Mallory, reading the timer.
"I wonder how this world has changed since we were last here?" pondered Maggie.
In a split second, Maggie's inquiry was answered. A large Kromagg manta ship appeared in the distance. It spotted the group of humans and headed straight toward them, zooming at rapid speed.
"Run for cover!" Maggie shouted.
The five of them dove down into a trench behind a solid cluster of large rocks. A steady laser was ejected from the manta ship, barely missing the sliders as the ship sailed further away.
"Kromaggs invaded this world too?!" Diana exclaimed.
"Is there no escape from those baboons?!" Janine ranted, her face hot from the excitement.
Rembrandt's eyes narrowed in realization. "Malcolm!" he instantly remembered.
Maggie touched Rembrandt's arm. "Remmy, I'm sure he's all right . . ."
"But what if he's not, Maggie?!" Rembrandt's eyes widened in horror. "What if the ‘Maggs got to him? Boy, if they hurt Malcolm - - I swear, I'll kill those sons of bitches!"
Janine squinted. "Who's Malcolm?"
"A young boy from my homeworld who Remmy befriended," Maggie filled in the blanks. "They're very close."
"We'll find him, Remmy," Diana assured the Cryin' Man.
Rembrandt simply closed his eyes, heaving in distress and praying silently for Malcolm.* * *
Soon the interdimensional quintet reached a forest. They followed a trail that had apparently been blazed earlier by someone through the woods.
"Do you hear something?" Mallory stopped short, straining to hear a cry from off in the distance.
"Yeah, several somethings," Maggie agreed, having heard many similar sounding noises.
Remmy crouched down behind a huge boulder and peered over the edge of it. He was overlooking a valley . . . where a few humans could be seen running for their lives.
The others kneeled behind Rembrandt. "They're being hunted by one of those Kromagg spaceships," observed Janine, indicating a manta ship which chased after the humans, firing beams of energy at them.
One woman cried out in agony as the manta ship shot a blast of radiation into her back. She collapsed to the ground, dead.
"We gotta help them!" Rembrandt jumped up.
"Remmy! No!" Diana pulled Rembrandt back down behind the boulder. "You'll just get yourself killed. How will that help us to rescue Malcolm?"
"Malcolm! We need to find Malcolm!" repeated Rembrandt, both frantically and impatiently.
"Calm down." Maggie used both of her hands to position Rembrandt's face looking straight at her own. "If we panic, we'll never locate Malcolm."
Rembrandt exhaled, trying to get a grip.
A roar from one of the dinosaurs caused the sliders to whip their heads back around and peer down upon the valley below. Another manta ship was corralling a group of brontosauri.
"I wonder if they eat dinosaur eyeballs too?" Mallory quipped.
The humans who'd been running across the valley were now being confronted by a humvee full of Kromagg soldiers. Circling the tired humans a couple of times, some of the Kromaggs jumped out of the jeep and surrounded their prey. They used some Kromagg torture weapons to induce screams of mercy from the human beings.
"Damn ‘Maggots!" Remmy had had enough. He pulled out his Swiss army knife from his back pocket, and sliced into his arm. Blood oozed from Rembrandt's skin, and the anti-Kromagg virus started to take flight.
Within a few minutes, a handful of Kromaggs laid dead on the ground in the middle of the valley. Their human victims quickly got into the Kromagg humvee and drove away.
"Well, that should solve our Kromagg problem," stated Janine.
"But we still need to find Malcolm!" Rembrandt blurted out.
"Don't worry, Remmy. With the virus released into this Earth's atmosphere, we have all the time in the world to find Malcolm," reasoned Maggie. "And if we can't find him before the next sliding window, we'll just slide right back here from the next world we land on. We've got the coordinates to this dimension again, and the ‘Maggs are being wiped out as we speak. We won't give up until we retrieve Malcolm."
Rembrandt threw his arms around Maggie, relieved that she was being so supportive.
"We're with you, Remmy!" agreed Mallory, slapping Rembrandt on the back.
They continued moving down the trail.* * *
"I need to rest!" Diana plopped down on a tree stump, exhausted. Their group had been hiking across the primitive terrain for over half a day.
Mallory took out the timer. "We only have half an hour left."
"We gotta find him! We just gotta!" Rembrandt shouted passionately up toward the heavens.
Maggie put her arm around Rembrandt who was now on the verge of tears. "We'll keep coming back here for as many slides as it takes. You know that." She squeezed him tighter. "Diana will reprogram the timer for as long as it takes for us to find him. We're not going to abandon you or Malcolm."
Rembrandt hugged Maggie back, unable to speak.
"At least we haven't run into any Kromaggs," Janine pointed out. "I wonder how many of them are dead by now?"
"The virus is supposed to be fast-acting," provided Diana. "I'd estimate about 48 hours give or take for it to infect all the Kromaggs on the planet."
"Footprints!" Mallory noticed, pointing out some tracks in the ground that led toward a nearby cave.
Rembrandt studied the footprints. "Could they be Malcolm's . . . ?"
"There are supposedly lots of humans still on this world," Maggie interjected. "But if someone is in this area, he or she could be able to help us find Malcolm."
Rembrandt and Maggie led the group as Janine, Mallory, and Diana trailed behind, following the footprints into the wide opening of the cave.
A muffled sniffle could be heard.
"Someone's in here," whispered Rembrandt.
"There!" Maggie pointed.
Huddled in an obscure corner of the cave sat a young teenager, his face buried in his knees. While they couldn't see his face, the boy obviously had short, buzzed black hair and brown skin.
Remmy approached the figure. "Malcolm?" he called out to the boy, hopefully.
Malcolm lifted his head up from his lap, staring at Rembrandt in shock. His eyes lit up. "Remmy?!"
The young adolescent, once so spirited and energetic, now looked frail, innocent, and helpless. He'd obviously been crying for quite awhile.
Malcolm ran straight into Rembrandt's arms, allowing his friend to embrace him in a warm, overjoyed hug. Remmy's reaction was mutual to Malcolm's. Both of them were sobbing tears of relief.
"You came back again!" Malcolm exclaimed, not knowing whether to laugh or to continue to cry.
Rembrandt took a good look at Malcolm. This was still the same handsome, determined young man he'd left behind on this world two and a half years ago. "What were you doing in here?"
"I was hiding . . . from the Kromaggs," Malcolm explained. "You're never going to believe me when I tell you this . . ."
Rembrandt interrupted Malcolm. "I know all about them. Boy do I! I've got a lot to tell you about, Malcolm."
They hugged again.
Finally, when the time seemed right, Maggie crouched down next to Rembrandt. "Hi, Malcolm. Remember me?" she spoke softly.
Malcolm studied her face. "Maggie, right?"
Captain Beckett nodded.
"Your hair . . . it's longer. And blonder," Malcolm observed.
Maggie smiled good-naturedly. "Yeah, I've been experimenting." She gave Malcolm a little hug.
"Malcolm, I want to introduce you to the rest of my friends," Rembrandt said. He gestured to the other three sliders, in turn. "This is Mallory, Diana, and Janine."
Malcolm looked at the other three, not recognizing any of them. "Where's Quinn? And Wade?"
Maggie exchanged glances with Rembrandt. "That's a bit complicated," she answered him.
Suddenly, Malcolm frowned. "They took Gretchen," he informed them, flatly.
"Gretchen . . . ?" Rembrandt browsed back through his memory. "That blond woman who looked after you?"
"Yeah." Malcolm kicked the ground, angrily. "The Kromaggs got her."
"Is she still on this world?" Maggie asked.
"I don't know." Malcolm looked sad again. "I don't think so. We were brought to a Kromagg prison together, but they separated us . . . put Gretchen with a bunch of other women. Said they were taking them to some camp on another world."
"An offworld breeding camp," guessed Maggie.
Malcolm looked horrified. "Breeding camp?!"
Rembrandt held Malcolm close to him, and gave Maggie a warning look over Malcolm's head. The kid had already been through enough trauma.
"How did you end up here?" Diana asked Malcolm.
"Gretchen told me to make a run for it if I could." Malcolm looked at Diana. "I escaped when the ‘Maggs weren't watching. Hid in here."
"How long have they been on this world?" inquired Mallory.
"Since yesterday," responded Malcolm, brushing a tear away from his eye. "This morning I got out of the prison they set up for us, and I found this cave. Haven't seen Gretchen since last night."
"So maybe she's still on this world?" suggested Janine. "They might not have shipped them off yet."
"But how do we find out?" Mallory asked. "We've got barely 20 minutes until the next slide."
"Wait a minute!" A thought had popped into Maggie's head. "Rembrandt, remember when we rescued Wade's friend, Christina, from that Kromagg Breeder Camp World?"
"Yeah . . ." Remmy thought back too.
"We hacked into the Kromagg database to find Christina's homeworld coordinates. If we can somehow access another global device like that . . ."
Diana cut in. "Didn't we see a crashed humvee with some dead Kromaggs in it a ways back down the trail?"
Glancing at the timer in Mallory's palms, Rembrandt wasted no time in taking charge. "Let's go!"* * *
Once they'd reached the wreckage, Rembrandt rushed over to the lopsided humvee and peered closely at it. Three Kromagg officers were dead; one of them held a global transmitter in his lifeless hands.
Rembrandt snatched the global from the dead Kromagg's clutches. "He must have been online when the virus got to him," Rembrandt noticed the global was still operational and logged onto the Kromagg computer network. "Okay, how do I access prisoners' profiles . . . ?"
"Gretchen's last name is Chambliss," contributed Malcolm, trying to be helpful.
"The Kromaggs don't bother to learn humans' names," Maggie told Malcolm. "Every homo sapien is given an ID number."
"I'll try to scan through photo profiles of the female prisoners from this world," Rembrandt decided, doing his best to translate the Kromagg symbols. He was stumbling half-hazardly through the computer system.
"We only have a few minutes left," reported Mallory.
"We've gotta find her!" Malcolm exclaimed, his eyes hazing up.
"Diana, help me out here!" Rembrandt solicited from the group's computer expert.
"I can't read Kromagg," said Diana, apologetically. She leaned over Remmy's shoulder to view the global's screen, but couldn't decipher any of the keyboard symbols.
Suddenly, the computer screen froze up.
"Dammit!" snapped Rembrandt, in frustration. "It froze!" He shook the global desperately in vain, to no avail.
"Two minutes," called out Mallory.
Malcolm was in tears again. "How are we gonna find Gretchen now?"
Rembrandt sighed. He knew the time had come to make a decision that he really didn't want to make.
Pulling aside Maggie, Mallory, Diana, and Janine, the five of them huddled in a circle. "Should we bring Malcolm with us?" Remmy asked his friends.
Maggie looked skeptical. "He's just a kid, Rembrandt. I know you love him, but . . . you know how dangerous sliding can be."
"The boy's seen an awful lot of terrible things happen on this world," Rembrandt realized. "I don't know what's left for him here. But I couldn't live with myself if I brought Malcolm into a worse situation, especially if he ended up . . ." Rembrandt gulped; he couldn't finish the words.
"Well we can't just leave him here," Diana said. "He's lost someone close to him . . . you're the only one he has left, Remmy."
"And you can't stay behind," Mallory added. "We need you too."
Rembrandt looked at Janine, waiting for her opinion. "What about you, Janine? What do you think?"
"I don't know!" Janine threw up her hands. "I don't even know the kid! What do you want me to say? Yes Rembrandt, bring him along. Sure, the more the merrier!" Janine looked thoroughly disinterested.
"Can the wormhole support another person?" Maggie solicited, glancing at Rembrandt and Diana.
"We've taken six people through the vortex before," recalled Rembrandt. "But that was when we still had Q-Ball's homemade timer."
" I doubt it would pose a problem," Diana predicted.
"I say we take Malcolm along, if he wants to come with," Mallory gave his view. "Not all the ‘Maggs are necessarily dead yet. If we leave him behind, Malcolm could run into unexpected trouble."
"Then it's settled," declared Rembrandt. He broke away from their huddle and approached Malcolm, who was now sitting on the ground, crying. "Malcolm, I know it's unfair for me to ask you to decide this so quickly, but . . ." He stared back at Mallory, who held the timer. ". . . we have to leave through the vortex in a few moments. And we want you to come with us."
Malcolm looked up at Rembrandt, and wrapped his arms around his friend. "I love you, Remmy."
"I love you too, Malcolm."
"I want to go with you." Malcolm gave him a half-smile. "I don't think I could stand losing another friend."
Rembrandt kneeled down facing Malcolm, peering straight at his eyes. "We're gonna find Gretchen, I promise you that." He took Malcolm's hand and led him over to the others.
"Are you sure you want to slide with us, Malcolm?" Maggie asked the teenager. "Sliding can be a pretty exhausting life at times."
Malcolm stared at Maggie, Mallory, Diana, Janine, and finally back at Rembrandt. He nodded his head with a smile. "I'm sure."
"Okay then." Mallory activated the vortex, and he jumped through it, followed by Janine and Maggie.
Diana lagged behind, her eyes meeting Rembrandt's.
"Go!" Rembrandt signaled for Diana to go ahead into the portal. "We'll be right behind you."
As Diana disappeared through the wormhole, Malcolm took one last look at the world he was leaving. Bravely, he joined hands with Rembrandt, and the two of them leaped into the vortex together.* * *
One by one, the six sliders tumbled out of the pink vortex, falling onto a city sidewalk. When the portal had closed, they all got on their feet and took a look around.
"We have two weeks on this world," Mallory said, glancing at the timer's digits.
"Okay then." Diana marched over to a nearby newsstand. "Let's see what today's headline is."
Rembrandt smiled at Malcolm. "So what did you think of your first random slide?"
Malcolm chuckled. "Bumpy."
Diana unfolded a newspaper to the front page. Maggie came up next to her and read from that day's headline, "President King speaks out against L.A. race riots."
"President King?" Janine saw the president's picture with a blank stare on her face. She had no idea who he was.
"Whoever he is, he must oppose racism," concluded Maggie.
The rest of the sliders gathered around Diana and Maggie. There on the front page was a dignified photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. making a speech on the White House steps.
"So Dr. King became president on this Earth," Diana exchanged glances with Mallory. "He was never assassinated on this world, the way he was on our Earth."
"On Earth Prime too," Rembrandt told Mallory and Diana.
"Who's Dr. King, Remmy?" asked Malcolm, looking up at Rembrandt with curious eyes.
Rembrandt smiled back at Malcolm. "He was - - is - - a great man, Malcolm. A great man."
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