|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 Sliders fanfiction 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.* * *
“Auggh!” bellowed Professor Arturo, dodging a thick blast of fire as it soared past his arm. “You blistering idiots!” he shouted over his shoulder at the army of natives who were in hot pursuit of him and his friends.
One of the warriors released a shrill battle cry from his throat. The Hawaiian native had blue and purple streaks of paint smeared across his golden brown face, and wore a jungle-print loincloth. He led his fellow warriors - who were dressed almost identically - carrying a long staff as they charged after the sliders. With a flick of his finger, the warrior chief was able to expel a massive, fiery flame from the head of his staff. The other warriors all toted a variety of knives, slingshots, and staffs that looked similar to their leader's.
“This is what we get for asking where the nearest airport is,” Mallory lamented, pushing Wade forward and using his own body to shield his girlfriend's.
Malcolm called over to Wade, “Wade, try calling out to the spirits! Maybe they're active on this world?”
Wade tilted her head upward and screamed, ”Pluvia!”.
Nothing happened. Nothing fell from the sky. But the impending natives stopped in their tracks, momentarily confused by Wade's actions.
“Wade, it didn't work!” Janine huffed, prodding Rembrandt and Diana forward as she ran. “I don't think the spirits speak Latin on this world!”
Trying again, Wade wailed with all her might, “Ua!”.
A clap of thunder echoed across the valley. Shortly thereafter, rain began pouring down upon them. The warriors, taken aback by this surprise occurrence, began slipping on the sand-turned-mud and inadvertently dragged one another to the ground into the mud.
“When did you have time to learn Hawaiian, girl?” Remmy hooted at Wade, over the noise of the rainfall.
“We had a lot of down time while waiting at the airport!” Wade shouted back at him. “I figured it might come in handy! And I was right!”
“Let's just get outta here!” Quinn stressed to the group. “This Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement just about got us killed! How many more minutes, Janine?”
Janine pulled the timer out of her pocket. “Yikes! 15 seconds! We've been so preoccupied with these goons that we almost lost track of time!”
The warriors had regrouped and were directing their attention to the sliders again.
“Ka La Ho'i Ho'i! Ea!” they chanted.
“Say what?!” Mallory squinted, as raindrops splattered against his face.
A stream of energy shot out of the timer's nose, creating a glossy whirlpool of purples and blues. The Hawaiian warriors gaped at the magnificent wormhole, and then began shrieking offensively at it.
“Go!” The Professor waved Rembrandt and Colin forward, since they were the two sliders nearest to him. Remmy, Arturo, and Colin disappeared through the vortex, with Mallory scampering right behind them.
Malcolm was about to follow Mallory through the gateway when a pulse of transparent energy was lobbed at the portal from one of the warriors. He had ejected an energy burst from the head of his staff, and the energy splattered onto the vortex, causing it to wobble and sending ripples across its surface.
“Hurry, Malcolm!” Diana called out to her friend. As Malcolm leaped onto the ERP Bridge, Diana and Janine scurried in after her, narrowly missing being hit by another energy blast from the warrior's weapon.
“They're going to destroy the vortex!” shrieked Maggie, who was beginning to panic. She dived into the rift, which was now circulating at a much slower pace.
Wade hurried after Maggie. “Come on, Quinn!” she beckoned him over her shoulder, then disappearing into the portal's shiny exterior.
Quinn jumped upward, his body making contact with the vortex just as a third energy pulse was launched from the warrior's weapon. As the lethal energy struck Quinn and the vortex, Quinn's body suddenly combusted into millions of microscopic fragments. His atoms scattered all over the gateway, hovering at the vortex's entrance. Then, Quinn's body particles recoalesced back into the physical shape of his regular body, which propelled forward across the Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski Bridge.* * *
Rembrandt hit the ground flat on his back. He was about to roll over on the grass when . . .
Colin landed smack on top of Rembrandt, their bodies now sandwiched together.
“Aw, Farm Boy . . .” moaned Rembrandt, his abdomen aching from where Colin had pounced on him.
“I am sorry, Rembrandt,” Colin sincerely apologized, still laying on top of his friend.
The Professor's rotund body suddenly came hurtling out of the vortex above them. “Incoming!” came the projected voice of the British academian.
Remmy and Colin rolled off of each other and out of the way as Arturo hit the ground hard in the exact spot where they'd landed.
“Good heavens!” grumbled the Professor, standing up to brush himself off. “I always have the worst landings . . .”
Mallory's vocals hollered out, but not in time for Professor Arturo to dodge Quinn's fraternal double. Once again, the Professor found himself flat on the ground, this time with Mallory clinging to his belly.
“Hi, Professor,” grinned Mallory, his chest level with Arturo's, their faces just inches apart.
Professor Arturo was not amused. “Mr. Mallory . . . !” he bellowed, in irritation.
“The vortex? Look!” Colin pointed upward, as the swishing of their wormhole began to slow down and then speed up, erratically.
As the four of them gazed up at it, the vortex receded inward, like the petals of a flower closing up. Then it expanded once again, morphing into a supernova. Next, the wormhole blinked, disappearing and then reappearing again. It shimmered and rearranged its shape, changing from a large hole in the sky to a thin, narrow strip of an interdimensional doorway.
“What the devil . . . ?!” a confused Rembrandt gasped, as the vortex continued to randomly rearrange its shape and appearance.
“Where are the others?!” Mallory asked, watching the wormhole shimmer and blink. One second it was there, and in the next moment it wasn't.
“This is indeed peculiar,” agreed Arturo, studying the movement of the vortex as it slowed down and swirled at a snail's pace. “My God! I hope the others aren't still trapped inside!”
“Where else would they be?” Colin said, scratching his head.
A chorus of snarls followed Colin's words. He, Mallory, Rembrandt, and the Professor instantly found themselves surrounded by a gallery of scantily clad Hawaiian natives, very similar to the ones whom they'd encountered on the last world.
“Hey,” Mallory greeted them, with a nervous laugh. “Sorry we're late for the party.”
Several of the native tribesmen raised their spears offensively.
“Boy, this doesn't look good,” commented Rembrandt, pessimistically.
The vortex continued to hover above the group of warriors and sliders. It abruptly split into two elongated funnels, which sparkled as ripples cascaded across them. Several of the Hawaiian natives pointed up at the interdimensional anomalies, screeching and grunting. Two husky warriors, their brown skin slathered with body paint, grabbed ahold of each of Colin's shoulders.
“Hey! Let me go!” Colin struggled against their grip, as the natives began to haul him away.
“Where are you taking him?!” Rembrandt demanded, held back by the strong arms of his captors.
“Now is probably not the best time to ask questions, Mr. Brown . . .” stammered the Professor, his voice shaking. One of the warriors had positioned a knife against the flesh of Arturo's neck.
Mallory raised both of his arms straight above his head, indicating a willingness to surrender. “Don't hurt him!” he begged the natives. “We'll do whatever you want. Just don't kill us!”
“I don't think they speak or understand English, Fog Boy,” Remmy quivered, as he ceased resisting the grips of their assailants.
A throaty grunt flowed from nearby. The gallery of Hawaiian warriors parted as a native chief made his way over to the three remaining sliders. “We speak!” he told Rembrandt, gruffly. “I am leader. You speak to me!”
Rembrandt studied the warrior chief. He wore a flashy necklace woven from strips of animal skins and polished rocks. Atop the chief's head was a headdress made from the leaves of palm trees, with small pieces of whole fruit - cherries, grapes, apricots, and pomegranates - dangling from strings attached to the core of his headwear. His skin was slathered with paint, brushed and dried to form intricate symbols against his skin. He wore a loincloth covered by a grass skirt, and had moccasins on his feet.
“What you looking at?!” the warrior chief abruptly barked at Remmy.
“Oh, nothing. You just . . . have an interesting outfit on.” Rembrandt chose his words very carefully. “Um, how do you prefer to be addressed?”
The chief snorted. “You call me Hanohano. Chief Hanohano. You our prisoners!”
“And we're very honored to be,” Mallory nervously laughed, bowing his head toward Chief Hanohano.
“He's not an emperor, Mr. Mallory,” hissed Arturo, a bit grumpily. “No need to act like a geisha.”
“Come!” Hanohano commanded to the sliders. “We take you to village. Decide your fate.”* * *
“Pssst! Fog Boy?” Rembrandt whispered hoarsely at Mallory. The Cryin' Man winced, his wrists still aching from having been bound together behind his back for so many hours.
“I'm here, Rem,” replied Mallory. “Been here with you all night and all morning. I was afraid to try to talk. They might be listening.”
The Professor's nostrils were humming rhythmically, rumbling like the motors of a pontoon boat as he slept.
“I don't think they'd be able to hear us over the Professor's snoring,” Rembrandt quipped, struggling against his restraints. “Man, my wrists hurt like hell.”
“Really? Mine don't ache at all,” Mallory said, shrugging in the darkness of the hut.
The three of them were all seated back-to-back on the ground, their tailbones forming a small triangle. Each of them had his wrists tied together with coarse, sturdy rope; their ankles were similarly bound, with their legs outstretched on the floor of their dark hut. The natives had placed Arturo, Rembrandt, and Mallory in this small hut the previous afternoon. They had spent the entire night and the following morning tied-up in there, with nothing to eat or drink.
“I don't want to even begin thinking about what they've done to Farm Boy,” lamented Rembrandt, shaking his neck a little in an attempt to cool off the sweat that had built up against his skin. “It's gotta have been at least 12 hours since we've seen him . . . probably more like 18. I wonder if Colin's . . . ,” Rembrandt gulped, “. . . still alive?”
A rustling could be heard outside of the entrance to the hut. The canvas flap was brushed aside, and Chief Hanohano crawled in, trailed by a handful of his knife-toting men. As the entrance opened, a crack of sunlight shone in from the outside world, causing Remmy and Mallory to blink in mild discomfort. Hanohano held a torch as a tool to create both light and intimidation for his prisoners. “Which of you leader?!” he roughly demanded.
“Talk to me, Chief,” Rembrandt sullenly volunteered his speakership on behalf of his trio. “Why are we being kept here? Where's our friend Colin?”
“Your friend hoa paio!” exploded Chief Hanohano, his eyes burning with hatred. “He be killed!”
Professor Arturo awoke with a start. “What?! Who's being killed?” he groggily demanded.
“They're talking about Colin,” Rembrandt told the Professor. He turned his attention back to Hanohano. “Why? What did Colin do that was so bad?”
“He bring death to us!” growled Chief Hanohano. “For that, he must die!”
The other warriors snarled in agreement.
“Look, we're starving. Can we at least have some food and something to drink?” Mallory pleaded, weakly. His throat was dry and seemed scratchy. “Can't we see Colin?”
“No!” Chief Hanohano roared. “Hoa paio get no food. You friends of hoa paio - that make you hoa paio too!”
“Sir,” Arturo address Hanohano, in a calm, neutral voice, “how long from now do you intend to . . . punish our friend?”
“Hoa paio die tonight!” Hanohano told them. “And so do you!”
With that, he backed out of the hut, leaving the sliders alone in darkness once again.* * *
The vortex had been slogging in an anemic, clockwise rotation for the past 22 hours. Its transparent surface had become as thin as saran wrap in both texture and geometry, yet it had remained perpetually open, overnight, in a variety of morphing forms. By now, its velocity had stabilized to a movement comparable to that of a millipede.
Chief Hanohano had assigned a sentry to keep an eye on the strange interdimensional anomaly and monitor its behavior. The indigenous sentry remained crouched in the leafy, tropical brush, his bright, beady eyes trained intently on the wormhole's slow gyration.
In a sudden explosion, Malcolm's body was propelled from the wormhole. The adolescent flailed through the sky, eventually crashing down into a bed of marigolds.
The sentry, camouflaged by surrounding terrain, let out an abrupt grunt of shock.
Diana was spat out of the wormhole next, falling flat on her face atop the knoll of abundant pili grass below.
The sentry grunted again, this time slightly less surprised.
Finally, Janine thudded to the ground alongside Diana, complaining under her breath about a headache.
The sentry's mouth opened widely; he was speechless.
“Ow,” Janine said, in monotone. “Did it seem to anyone else like we were in the vortex for longer than usual?” she asked her companions.
“Now that you mention it . . .” Diana paused as she scanned the area for her friends. “Where is everyone?”
“I'm here!” Malcolm crawled out of the flowerbed, several colorful marigold petals stuck to his head.
“No, that's not what I mean. Remmy, Mallory, Colin, and the Professor were the first ones to go into the vortex.” Diana gestured around, pointedly. “I don't see them anywhere.”
“Remmy!” Malcolm yelled, his voice echoing across the valley. “Colin!”
“Mallory! Professor!” Diana joined in, calling out for the absent sliders.
Janine snorted, crinkling up her face into a bewildered expression. “What's with the wormhole?!” she exclaimed.
The outermost fringes of the vortex were now wiggling in a wobbly pattern, causing the entire portal to jiggle erratically.
“Quinn, Wade, and Maggie haven't come out of it either,” Malcolm observed, his voice shaking.
Diana reached into the pocket of her toucan-patterned bellbottoms, and pulled out her PDL. “I'll try to determine its stability - or lack thereof.”
“Remmy!” Malcolm yelled out again, in desperation.
“Do you think it has something to do with those high-tech weapons they had on the last world?” Janine speculated. “Remember, they blasted the vortex with that pulse of energy right before we jumped in?”
“That weapon was powered by electromagnetic radiation, so its effects may have traveled with us across the multiversal continuum,” theorized Diana, as she punched the tiny keys on top of her PDL's rollout keypads while keeping her gaze fixated on is corresponding screen. “According to this analysis of the wormhole's trajectory, its tail-end has closed but the front of it is staying open.” Janine and Malcolm peered over Diana's shoulder, as the physicist pointed out to them a 3D representation of the wormhole and its pathway between dimensions, displayed prominently on the miniature computer screen. “And get this! . . .” Diana suddenly noticed, reading some numerical data at the bottom of the screen. “. . . our vortex has apparently been open for the past 22 hours, 41 minutes, and 38 seconds - PRECEDING our emergence from it. And there's also a chunk of mass still inside, gradually making its way toward us.”
“So what does that mean?” Malcolm asked, blankly.
“It means that nearly a whole day has passed since Mallory, Colin, Rem, and Arturo exited the vortex. For some reason, the three of us remained inside the tunnel during the period of time that's elapsed since then.” Diana shifted her gaze to make eye contact with both Malcolm and Janine. “It also means that Maggie, Quinn, and Wade are still trapped inside.”* * *
Arturo, Mallory, and Rembrandt were awoken from another spontaneous nap by several strong hands slapping against their skulls.
“Get up!” roared Chief Hanohano's familiar voice. “We move you!”
The three male sliders felt themselves being physically hauled out of their small hut. As they were pulled outside, the cool air noticeably kissed their sweaty flesh, offering a momentary reprieve from the hut's stuffy confines.
“You go!” the chief commanded, as Remmy, the Professor, and Mallory were prodded along a sandy path by Hanohano's muscular henchmen. Palm trees and thick vegetation lined the trail that they were following.
Rembrandt bristled as the tribe member who'd been assigned to guard Remmy inconsiderately poked Remmy's spine with what felt like a stick. He then gasped at a horrific sight they'd encountered along the trail.
Skewered on the top of a stake was the head of a human corpse. Remmy could tell it had come from a once-living human being because, although it had basically deteriorated to a bony skull, strips of decaying flesh were still hanging loose off the edges of its bone structure. The skull's eye sockets were empty.
“Who are you people?!” Rembrandt choked out, trying to prevent himself from gagging.
“We the Kokokoa!” answered Hanohano, annoyed. “Move!”
The Kokokoa who were flanking Mallory, Rembrandt, and Professor Arturo shoved their captors forward.
After about half an hour of hiking, the procession ended. Rembrandt, Arturo, and Mallory were surrounded by even more Kokokoa carrying spears and knives.
“Good heavens!” gasped Arturo, pointed to the grotto that the three of them had been led to. “Look!”
Hanging from a wooden pole was Colin Mallory. His feet had been bound together and his arms were each tied to a horizontal bar that had been built perpendicular to the vertical pole. Colin had been stripped naked, and a variety of freshly bleeding welts covered his legs and chest. Colin's eyes wee closed, and he appeared to be unconscious.
“You bastards!” Mallory shouted at the Kokokoa. “How can you do this to him?!”
A Kokokoa reached out and slapped Mallory squarely across the face to shut him up. Mallory didn't even flinch as his pale face became slightly reddened.
Suddenly, the sentry who'd been assigned to watch over the vortex came running into the grotto. He was shrieking at the top of his lungs, “Ko kaua kuini! Ia mai eia nei! Ko kaua kuini puka! Ia ku ka makua!”
Vocal commotion erupted from the Kokokoa. Chief Hanohano held up his staff for silence. “Hoa paio noho!” he ordered, flicking his thumb in a gesture at the sliders. “Makou haele! Makou pono ka makua!”
Hanohano led a contingency of Kokokoa out of the grotto, following the excited sentry.
“Where are they going?” Remmy wondered aloud, helplessly staring at the imprisoned Colin.
“Probably to start boiling the cauldrons, Mr. Brown,” answered the Professor, ominously.* * *
“Okay, so we have 56 hours on this world,” Janine realized, watching the timer as it counted down. “Do we stay here and wait for Quinn, Maggie, and Wade to come out of the vortex . . . or should we go searching for everyone else?”
Sighing in strained frustration, Diana shook her head. “I don't know. If the vortex is still open when the timer reaches zero, I don't know if we'll be able to access the next window - even if Wade, Maggie, and Quinn have exited the wormhole by then!” She sat on the edge of a boulder, manually entering more data into her PDL.
Malcolm shrugged. “Wouldn't the vortex just automatically close when all of its mass has traveled the whole way through?” he reasoned.
“It should.” Diana looked up from her Portable Dimensional Laboratory. “But the electromagnetic interference might somehow change the wormhole's behavior.”
Janine peered over Diana's shoulder again, trying to get a good look at the PDL screen. “Remember when the vortex split in half and dumped us off at totally different locations on Witch World? How do we know that didn't happen again this time? With our new sliding radius, maybe they landed on some of the other islands?”
“Maybe . . . but that still doesn't explain why the vortex is staying open. However . . .” Diana tapped some other buttons and slid open another of the PDL's layered screens. “Janine, you reminded me to check where exactly we've landed within our radius.” She waited a moment for the PDL's digital map of the Hawaiian Island chain to pop up. “According to my geographic spectrum locator, we're on the island of Maui, close to where Kaanapali Beach would be on my world. But the readout indicates that the wormhole's pathway has remained stationary in this same spot for the entire past 22 hours. No alternate pathways have veered off to any other point on this Earth.”
“So what happened to Remmy, Mallory, Colin, and the Professor?” asked Malcolm.
“They should have landed in this exact spot 22 hours ago.” Diana closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. “I'm going to have to analyze this data some more . . .”
“What's left to analyze? We're screwed!” concluded Janine, throwing up her hands.
“Not necessarily,” Diana reassured her. “Reactivating the timer may simply open up a new wormhole for us. But first I need to determine the precise nature of this anomalous pathway and what caused it.”
They began walking toward a beach that could be seen off in the distance, waves lapping at its sandy shores. Diana continued to tinker with the timer while Janine and Malcolm picked up and examined seashells.
“Is it really a good idea to leave the vortex unattended?” Malcolm asked them.
“Why? It's not like we can go anywhere right now,” snorted Janine. “And even if we could, we'd have to slide back here again to search for the others anyway.”
“That makes me wonder . . .” Diana pressed the tip of the timer against her lips in thoughtful contemplation. “Assuming we have to return to this Earth after we arrive in the next dimension, is there a way I could program the timer to land us in this general vicinity? If our radius randomly sends us to one of the other islands upon a return slide, that could really complicate things.”
“Hold up. Shouldn't we be looking for everyone and try to slide out for good before THIS countdown reaches zero?” Malcolm stressed to them, anxiously. He kicked a hermit crab that scampered past his feet, sending the crustacean fleeing across the beach.
“Of course we are.” Diana lightly touched Malcolm's arm. “But we might not be able to find them before the next window, Malcolm. If that's what we're faced with, we'll have to continue coming back to this world until we track everyone down. That would mean, for now, no more attempts at pinpointing Kromagg Prime . . .” She turned to Janine, solemnly. “. . . or your homeworld.”
Janine laughed roughly, rolling her eyes. “I'm fully aware that this isn't my Earth, Diana. Trust me, if we were on my world, there would be vortices opening and closing all around us. Hawaii is a hot tourist spot for intradimensional travelers in my dimension . . . we'd KNOW if we were there.”
The trio of sliders had begun walking back toward the vortex. It was still where they'd left it, its surface now retracting inward.
“Oh, you better not close up!” Malcolm declared, glaring at the vortex with hostility. “Not with the three of them still inside!” He senselessly shook his fist at the Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski Bridge.
Suddenly, the Kokokoa came crashing through the brush, led by Chief Hanohano. Diana jumped back and shrieked, startled, as Janine hastily stuffed the timer down through the collar of her tie-dyed shirt.
Hanohano's eyes lit up in excitement. He was staring straight at Janine. “Ia ku pela!” the chief called out to his fellow Kokokoa tribe members. “Makua hele mai!”
“Makua!” the tribesmen loudly chorused, dropping to their knees and bowing toward Janine, subserviently.
Malcolm and Diana exchanged glances, and then both shifted their gazes to Janine, inquisitively.
Janine's eyebrows were raised; she wore an absolutely flabbergasted and baffled expression on her face. “O . . . K . . . ,” she said, with uncertainty, glancing back and forth from the tribesmen to her companions.
“Ka'u kuini, pehea hiki makou lawelawe 'oe?” Hanohano asked Janine, in a submissive, respectful tone.
“I have no clue what the hell you're saying,” Janine stated to him, shaking her head.
Seeing that Janine spoke English, Hanohano turned his head and speculated to his tribe, “Ia 'olelo ka hua haole. Ia'u hilina'i ia ka'ahele eia nei hana kipaku ia kakou!”
A rousing cheer arose from the mouths of the Kokokoa.
Turning back to Janine, Hanohano said to her, in English, “What you say? We do.” He avoided eye contact with her.
Janine looked at Diana and Malcolm to get their reactions. Neither of them seemed to have any idea what to do or how to respond.
“Okay . . . stand up!” Janine ordered Chief Hanohano, motioning with her hands for him to rise to his feet. Hanohano stood obediently, and the rest of the Kokokoa followed his lead.
His eyes still not meeting Janine's, Hanohano asked her, “You wish to meet Makamae? She be your hulai.”
Shrugging, Janine looked over at her friends, neither of whom still had any idea what Hanohano was talking about. “Um . . . sure. Yeah. Sounds great.”
“Makamae!” Hanohano verbally summoned from the crowd of Kokokoa a young, tan-skinned maiden, who immediately scrambled to her chief's side. “'Oe lawelawe Makua,” he instructed. “Ia 'olelo ka hua haole. 'Oe e 'olelo ia keia.”
Makamae kneeled in front of Janine, and bowed her head. She was a skinny girl, and could not have been older than 20. Makamae wore a dark blue sarong, and her long, sleek black hair cascaded past her shoulders and down her back. The girl kept staring at the ground as she asked Janine, “Makua, why you speak haole tongue? You return to our world to punish hoa paio?”
With a puzzled nod, Janine conceded, “Uh, sure. Yeah, that's why I'm here. We're gonna hit that hoa paio where it hurts! Solidarity, sister!” Janine raised her fist in a salute, uncertain of what she herself was even referring to.
Giving Janine a shy smile, Makamae was struck with minor confusion by Janine's words and tone of voice. However, she merely nodded in acceptance of Janine's explanation.
Two strong muscular Kokokoa grabbed ahold of Janine, lifting her up onto their shoulders.
“Whoa, you boys have been working out, haven't you? Hey,” Janine added, as they began carrying her forward, “don't forget my servants.” She motioned with her hand to indicate Diana and Malcolm.
“Servants?!” Diana stared after Janine, her mouth hanging open in insulted disbelief.
“Well what am I supposed to tell them? - that you're my interdimensional sliding buddies?!” Janine retorted over her shoulder as the Kokokoa carried Janine into the jungle.
“Ho mai hapas palaunu,” Makamae instructed to her tribemates.
Malcolm and Diana soon felt themselves being hoisted onto the shoulders of other male Kokokoa, and were similarly transported right behind Janine.* * *
“What else you need, Makua?” Makamae kneeled before her perceived queen, Janine, and respectfully waited for orders.
“Okay, first,” Janine crossed her legs, seated in the wicker chair that the Kokokoa had furnished for her, “knock if off with all this Makua-drivel. My name's Janine . . . but you can call me ‘your highness' if you really want to. And quit kneeling.” Janine took Makamae's arm and pulled the young woman to her feet.
Another young Kokokoa maiden carried a ti leaf over to Janine; the ti leaf was topped with square chunks of juicy pineapple. “Hala-kahiki,” the girl offered to Janine, kneeling in front of the slider and bowing her head.
“Mmm, hala-kahiki!” Janine exclaimed, recognizing the Hawaiian fruit and licking her lips. She reached out, grabbed a pineapple chunk, and popped it in her mouth. “Oh, this really hits the spot!” she said, savoring the sweet fruit. “Diana, Malcolm, you have got to try some.”
Malcolm stepped forward to try the pineapple, but the young girl who was feeding Janine turned her back on him. “'A'ole! Na Makua wale!” she insisted.
“Makamae,” Janine sharply intervened, in a bossy tone of voice, “I want you to make sure my servants are fed! Give them some hala-kahiki!”
Makamae nodded, and then whispered to a few of her peers. Soon, the woman whom Makamae had spoken to returned with more ti leaves containing fresh pieces of pineapple.
“Thanks, Janine!” smiled Malcolm, as he and Diana sat down next to Janine's chair so they could enjoy their snack.
“No problem.” Janine stretched out her legs, kicking off her scandals. “Diana, rub my feet.”
“What?!” Diana nearly choked on her pineapple slice upon hearing Janine's request.
“Well, we have to convince them you're my servants. So get to it. Start rubbin' these little piggies.” Janine reclined her neck back, smirking.
“Fine, twinkletoes!” Diana crawled over to Janine's feet in a huff, and, rolling her eyes, proceeded to massage Janine's bare feet.
The Kokokoa maidens all stared wide-eyed at Janine's outstretched legs. “Ooooh!” they all chorused, seeming fascinated with Janine's cloudy patterned purple-and-blue cotton bellbottoms.
“So Janine,” Diana asked, through gritted teeth, still begrudgingly rubbing her friend's toes, “when are you going to ask if any of them have seen the others? You remember, don't you? Colin, Arturo, Mallory, Rembrandt . . .”
“All in good time, my child,” grinned Janine, giddily. “These people expect their Makua to behave like royalty, you know.” Janine laughed cheerfully, as Makamae picked up another chunk of pineapple and fed it to Janine with her fingers.
Malcolm looked up at the sky. “It's getting dark,” he observed. “Where do you think that head chief guy went?”
“Probably to hump his wahines,” Janine stated, dryly. “Speaking of which,” she snapped her fingers in front of Makamae. “Yo, lady! Bring me your most beautiful lesbian girl on this island.”
“Janine!” Diana's mouth dropped open.
“Lesbian?” Makamae hesitantly asked, not understanding.
“A woman who makes love to other women . . .” Janine patiently explained to her hulai, “. . . a les-bi-an.”
Makamae nodded slowly, comprehending Janine's description.
“Janine, seriously?! . . .” Diana sputtered.
“Don't worry, Diana, I'm not forgetting about you,” Janine assured Dr. Davis, with a wave of her hand. “Makamae, bring Diana a hot hunky beefcake . . . or whatever you heteros call it.”
Diana's mouth dropped widely open, again. She was speechless.
“Hot hunky beefcake? . . .” repeated Makamae, with painful confusion apparent in her voice.
“A handsome man,” Janine clarified for the Kokokoa maiden. “Oh, and go fetch a cute little gay island boy for Malcolm here,” she added, with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Gay island boy? . . .” squinted Makamae, once again failing to comprehend the meaning of Janine's words.
Malcolm was blushing furiously.
“A handsome young boy who would make love to another boy,” elaborated Janine, giving Malcolm a mischievous wink.
Nodding resiliently, Makamae scurried off.
“Ja-nine!” Diana hissed, her teeth grinding harder together. “You remember what happened on the last world when we got involved with the locals . . . Quinn asked one too many questions about what Liliuokalani VI was trying to achieve, making an undercover freedom fighter suspicious . . . his pals then proceeded to overrun Iolani Airport . . . we barely got out alive!”
Janine scoffed, shaking her head. “Do you see Liliuokalani around here anywhere, Diana? I'm the queen on this Earth, hon.”
“Ah, so I finally meet our beloved kuini,” a somewhat condescending voice derided them.
A tall, uniformed officer stood before them, speaking in a heavy Irish accent. His long, curly red hair was pulled back into a queue, and his pale skin stood out amongst the native islanders.
“Who the hell are you?” Janine demanded, scowling at the soldier.
“Admiral Gareth Mackay . . . I'm a protector of the Kokokoa.” He smirked. “So, you're really the famous Makua, aye? Why do I find that hard to swallow?” Mackay's eyes flickered, suspiciously.
Diana cocked her head, also suspicious. Something wasn't right here. “Why would the Kokokoa need a ‘protector' . . . especially someone of European descent? It appears as though they do quite fine for themselves.”
Admiral Mackay shifted from one foot to another, and then cleared his throat. “Me people have brought wealth and prosperity to this tiny island. Furs from America, silks and spices from the Orient, elephant tusks from Africa . . .”
“Your people sure get around, don't they?” muttered Malcolm, frowning critically at Mackay.
“Aye, you don't know the half of it, lad.” Gareth Mackay attempted to chuckle light-heartedly. “Our naval alliance with the Americans allows us unprecedented access to all four oceans.”
“Well, you're on MY island now.” Janine stuck her nose up in the air, proudly. “Any trading you want to do will have to be approved by me.”
“Aye, yes. I forgot . . . you laid claim to these shores years ago, Makua. Forgive me. I am humbled by your return.” Mackay's voice once again had a sarcastic ring to it.
At that point, Makamae had returned. She kneeled before Janine, bowing her head as she spoke. “Makua, in a short time your luau will be ready.”
“A luau? All right!” Janine excitedly pumped her fist in the air. “Oh, Makamae . . . this lugnut claims he's your ‘protector' . . .” She pointed to Mackay. “Is he telling the truth, or is he just full of it?”
“Oh, yes, Makua,” confirmed Makamae, nodding emphatically. “He is a Ali'i Haole. He good to our people.”
“I see,” Janine verbalized, pretending she knew what that meant. “Just making sure, Makamae. A kuini can never be too careful about looking out for her subjects, you know.”
“Well, your majesty, I look forward to seeing you later tonight at your luau.” Mackay bit his lip, as though trying to contain a laugh. “Perchance we shall get to know each other better, eh?”
As Admiral Mackay sauntered away from them, Diana shook her head, grimacing. “There's something I don't like about that guy,” she mumbled.
“Ah, he's probably just going through a midlife crisis,” Janine said, waving her hand away, dismissively. “He can't hurt us. I'm Makua, remember?” Crossing her ankles, Janine pushed her bare feet against Diana's knees. “Come on, Di - these toes ain't gonna massage themselves.”
Diana simply narrowed her eyes at Janine, who threw her head back and laughed boisterously.* * *
Accompanied by Makamae and the other Kokokoa women, Janine, Diana, and Malcolm entered a large grotto rimmed with plant-life and strong-scented flowers.
“Aloha.” A young, finely-tanned male Hawaiian teenager placed a pink lei around Malcolm's neck, and gave Malcolm a tiny peck on the lips.
“Uh . . . thanks.” Malcolm looked down at his floral necklace, fingering the soft anthurium petals.
Diana lowered her head so that a dark, beefy island man could place a red lei of anthuriums around her neck. He respectfully kissed Diana on her forehead.
“Thank you,” Diana nodded at him, blushing slightly.
A voluptuous, buxom female Kokokoa placed an elegant crown of taro leaves atop Janine's head, to compliment the multiple Hawaiian leis that already hung around Janine's neck. “Kalaunu,” the woman sweetly told Janine.
“Oh yeah, this is more like it!” Janine adjusted the taro crown upon her own head.
Makamae stepped in front of Janine and bowed to her. “Makua, your lover, as you wished.” She indicated the presence of the big-chested lady who'd crowned Janine. “Her name Kaunu. She good?”
“Yes Makamae, she'll do quite nicely.” Janine absorbed the sight of Kaunu, who wore nothing but a tiny bikini-style garment made from some type of dyed animal skin.
Gesturing to the young man who'd greeted Malcolm, Makamae introduced him. “This Kilika. He ‘gay island boy.' He for him.” Makamae pointed to Malcolm, to whom Kilika smiled at shyly. Kilika wore only a tiny loincloth, and his golden skin glistened perfectly.
Malcolm tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth. The adolescent slider's face merely got redder.
“This Hunua,” Makamae introduced Diana to Diana's arranged mate. “He . . . ‘hot hunky beefcake,' as Makua say.”
“Janine!” Diana hissed at her friend, as Hunua gently gripped the physicist's hand. “Is this really appropriate?”
Janine shrugged. “We've got some time to kill before the luau.” She grabbed Kaunu's hand and started to walk away with her.
“Um . . . Janine,” Malcolm bashfully spoke up, “I've never . . . I mean . . . well, I'm only 16.”
Rolling her eyes, Janine reached out and linked Malcolm's and Kilika's hands together. “Come on, Malcolm. Live a little. At least let him give you a blow job.”
Malcolm turned to Kilika, and the two of them gazed deeply into each other's eyes.
“Ja-nine!” Diana sputtered, putting her hands on her hips. “What has gotten into you?” Diana's body tingled as Hunua began to massage her shoulders with his strong fingers.
Janine didn't reply and didn't look back. She was tightly holding hands with the scantily-clad Kaunu, the two lesbian women making a beeline for the closest hut.
Two hours later, the three sliders had reassembled in the grotto. Malcolm and Diana watched as Janine emerged from the hut, once again holding hands with Kaunu, a satisfied grin smeared across Janine's face.
“So,” Janine clapped her hands together, “when's the luau? I'm starving!”
Malcolm sniffed the scent of grilled pork that filled the air. “I'd guess pretty soon.”
Makamae had returned. “Come. We go to luau,” she invited the sliders, motioning with her hands.
The young hulai led Janine, Kaunu, Diana, Hunua, Malcolm, and Kilika into another, much larger, grotto. A galley of Kokokoa sat spread out across the ground. As Janine made her entrance into the gigantic clearing, all of the natives dropped to their knees and bowed before her.
“You know, this bowing-thing is getting kind of old,” Janine murmured, out of the side of her mouth. Two more maidens proceeded to escort her over to a bed of stacked flora and leaves, where they immediately motioned for Janine to sit.
Diana visually surveyed the area. She noticed that the assembly of Kokokoa was divided by gender, with males sitting on one side of the grotto while females occupied the other. In between the two groups was the special spot that had been designated for Janine and her entourage. Situated in the middle of this spacious enclosure was an underground pit, from which clouds of smoke were emanating. The scent of smoky meat wafted strongly from that epicenter.
Malcolm inhaled through his nostrils. “It smells like they're roasting a pig for us.”
Nodding, Makamae confirmed, “Pua'a. They cook pua'a for you in imu.” She gestured toward the underground pit where the pork was being roasted.
Several young Kokokoa men had laid a bunch of pigs down on the ground, atop ti leaves. With knives, they began to cut open the dead pigs' bellies and remove the guts and intestines. After that, they rubbed a variety of salts and spices inside of the pigs, and then handed the ready-to-grill pigs over to some more men who were stationed beneath the underground imu.
Diana crinkled up her nose, as the pigs' innards were removed. “I'm almost tempted to follow Wade's lead and become a vegetarian.”
A line of hulai woman entered the grotto, carrying ti leaves stacked with grilled Molokai sweet potatoes and Maui onions.
“Ah, the first course has arrived.” Janine summoned the hulai over to her night, which had been where they were heading anyway.
“Wow, we've drawn quite a crowd,” Diana noticed, as the spacious grotto had now filled with hundreds of native islanders. The Kokokoa spectators were being gradually served food by additional hulai. “Now we know why they needed time to prepare so much food.”
As Diana finished her sentence, Hunua softly fed her a Maui onion. “How taste?” he asked.
“Mmmm . . . this is so sweet and flavorful,” Diana praised, savoring the delectable onion.
“They grow in Haleakala,” Makamae informed them, referring to the Maui onions.
In addition to the roasted pig, the Kokokoa had also brought many clusters of freshly cleaned fish into the grotto. Some of the fish were silvery green and resembled small dolphins, while others were sea blue with striped patterns. They came in all shapes and sizes. While the hulai began to gut the fish in preparation for grilling, the men lit tiki torches all around the edges of the grotto. As it became darker outside, the outdoor dining area was decorated with fiery light.
Finally, the main course had arrived. Janine was the first one to be served a platter of roasted, salted pig meat.
“Pua'a Kalua,” Makamae told Janine, who bit into the cooked pork right away. “Pa'ao Haole call it ‘Kalua Pig.' We serve in honor of you.”
Janine winced, before popping a chunk of pork into her mouth. “I don't know whether I should take that as a compliment or an insult.”
Diana followed Janine's example, and sampled the Kalua Pig. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed, closing her eyes in ecstasy. “This tastes exactly like Mexican carnitas. I've always loved Mexican food so much!”
“Then you're going to love the Lomi Salmon,” Malcolm said, as he was feed from a coconut-shell bowl by Kilika. The bowl contained a salty mixture of chopped salmon, onions, and tomatoes - it looked like a concoction that appeared similar to salsa.
Diana, staring out at the crowd of Kokokoa, caught sight of a familiar figure standing inconspicuously behind a tree, partially hidden by the flare of a tiki torch. “Look who's back,” she groaned, pointing.
Janine and Malcolm looked over to where Diana had pointed. Admiral Mackay ducked back into the shadows, but not quick enough for the sliders to have missed seeing him.
“Makamae, what's the story on this Mackay-character?” Janine asked her hulai.
Smiling, Makamae recounted for Janine, “Mackay came not long after you left island, years ago. I was little girl - do not even remember it. My kahiko 'ae tell me.”
“That's fine,” Janine wanted to get to the bottom of this, “but WHO is he? What is he doing here? Why has Mackay taken such an interest in us?”
“He chase hoa paio through skies,” said Makamae. “Now we sacrifice hoa paio, to honor you, Makua.”
Janine sighed, feeling as though she was getting nowhere. “So . . . Mackay has been ‘protecting' your people in case hoa paio returns?”
Makamae nodded. “Now hoa paio is here again. He be sorry he came back.” Her eyes narrowed with vengeance.
The hulai carried over some grilled fish to Janine and her contingency.
“Mahi-mahi. Ono,” Hunua announced, identifying the two kinds of fish, in turn.
Diana leaned over to whisper in Janine's ear. “I feel so guilty. I know I should be concerned about the others, and I am. But Hunua is just such a great guy and he's so nice to be around.”
“Never underestimate the power of pheromones, children,” Janine declared, opening her mouth so Kaunu could feed her a chunk of ono. After swallowing the fish, Janine asked Makamae, “So where exactly did Mackay say he journeyed from?”
Makamae shut her eyes for a moment, to recall the name. “Au . . . au . . . aus-tral-uh.”
“Australia?” queried Janine, taking a guess.
“'Ae! You wise, Makua!” gushed Makamae, in admiration of Janine.
Janine leaned over and whispered back to Diana, “Apparently, the ever-charming Mackay is Australian. Do you think he knows Mel Gibson?” She stuck out her tongue.
Diana bit her lip to stifle a laugh. “Just keep probing for more information,” she advised Janine.
Rotating her head back toward Makamae, Janine asked, “How long has Admiral Mackay been on this island?”
Makamae closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “He came after you leave. Came from Oahu, where he live ever since he was little boy. His makua kane banished hoa paio.”
A hulai set down a ti leaf with Baked Banana in front of Janine. The banana was sliced into halves, cooked, and slathered with golden honey. “Na Makua, wale.”
On the men's side of the grotto, male Kokokoa were being served portions of Baked Banana by female hulai, as well. None of the women dining in the grotto, however, received any.
Suddenly, a little girl screamed out, projecting a sharp cry. She had been curiously reaching for an idle banana that had fallen on the ground. Immediately, the Kokokoa girl was seized and scooped up by two burly tribal men.
“'A'ole! Kaikamahine loa'a mai 'ole mai'a!” one of hem growled at the little island girl, who was now crying. “'Oe pono loa'a 'opa'i!”
The girl's mother lunged forward, screaming out for her daughter's safety. Two more men held back the Kokokoa mother, restraining her from going after her young daughter.
“Ia opiopio! Ho'ike iaia aloha!” shouted out many islanders from the crowd.
One of the men pulled out a knife, positioning it toward one of the little girl's eye sockets. The girl wailed, absolutely terrified, with tears streaming down her face.
“Hey! Knock it off!” Janine had jumped to her feet, and marched straight over to where the struggle was taking place. She grabbed ahold of the sobbing, scared little girl, taking her in her arms. The girl, still shaking with fear, wrapped her arms around Janine's chest, afraid to let go. Janine glared at the Kokokoa. “Just what the hell are you doing? Unless you're a licensed plastic surgeon, you have no business aiming knives at small children!”
Makamae tugged at Janine's sleeve. “Makua, it law. Girl must be punished.”
“Why?!” Janine spat out, as the little Kokokoa girl buried her sobbing face into Janine's stomach.
“No woman can eat banana. It forbidden,” explained Makamae. “But she is too young to die. Scoop out her eyes . . . show her mercy.”
Janine's face froze in shock. “I don't think so!” she declared. “Who made up that insane law?!”
“Pa'ao Haole say it your wish, Makua,” Makamae told Janine, meekly.
“Well Pa'ao Haole lied to you all!” Janine spat out. She gently guided the little girl over to her mother. “This girl will NOT die!” she announced to the crowd.
A chorus of murmurs arose amongst the Kokokoa as Janine's statement was translated from English to Hawaiian.
“Auwe, ho'omaika'i 'oe, Makua!” wept the girl's mother, gratefully, bowing before Janine.
“Makua!” a sharp, familiar voice called out. Chief Hanohano came marching into the grotto, trailed by a procession of his men. He bowed his head respectfully in front of Janine. “We have hoa paio. They prisoners.”
Stepping aside, Hanohano revealed Rembrandt, Mallory, and Arturo, who had been led into the grotto at knifepoint.
“Remmy!” Malcolm shouted out, recognizing his friend.
“Malcolm? Diana? . . . Janine?!?!” Remmy's eyes lit up as he saw each of his sliding companions, especially Janine adorned in royal island attire.
Janine bit her lip and smirked. “What, am I too chic for you, Rembrandt?”* * *
“Janine, tell us again how you were crowned Queen of the Island?” asked Mallory, coughing hoarsely. Diana handed him a mug of herbal tea that had been brewing over the fire pit.
“I have no clue,” Janine shrugged, laying her head back onto Kaunu's lap. The six sliders and their four Kokokoa allies were huddled inside a sturdy hut, gathered around a small, crackling fire. “I guess, compared to the rest of you, I look the most Hawaiian.”
Malcolm held his hand up for silence. “Do you hear that?” he whispered. Faint footsteps could be heard tiptoeing against the ground outside the hut.
“I thought I'd made it clear to those imbeciles that I wanted to be alone with my ‘prisoners',” grumbled Janine, through gritted teeth. “Makamae, I want you, Kilika, and Hunua to stand outside and guard us. Will you please do that?”
Makamae nodded obediently. Whispering to Kilika and Hunua, she ushered them out of the hut.
“You trust them?” Rembrandt pointed at the departing Kokokoa.
“I trust them more than that buffoon Mackay,” said Janine, as Kaunu began to stroke Janine's hair.
Diana leaned forward, speaking to Arturo, Mallory, and Remmy. “Now what about Colin? Why did they hide him away?”
“Heaven only knows, Dr. Davis,” lamented the Professor. “Apparently, these islanders believe that young Colin is some evil spirit. They stripped him completely nude and have turned him into their own personal whipping boy.” Arturo proceeded to grumble, bitterly, “Superstitious knaves . . .”
“Yeah, Farm Boy wasn't looking too good, the last we saw of him,” Rembrandt recalled. “We've gotta get him back before they burn him at the stake.”
Janine waved her hand away, assuredly. “Piece of cake. I'll just tell the Kokokoa that I want to use Colin - and the rest of you - as my personal slaves. They'll believe anything I say, and do whatever I tell them. Remember, I'm Makua!” She grinned proudly.
Rembrandt flared, and exploded at Janine, albeit quietly. “Janine, this isn't some game! We have no idea what these people are capable of! They're savages with no moral compass!”
“All we have to do is deceive them until we slide out of here,” argued Janine. “Trust me, I know what I'm doing.”
“Do you, Miss Chen?” challenged Professor Arturo. “You have no idea what they did to us. They tied us up, refused to feed us, not to mention the abuse Colin has endured from them. Honestly, Miss Chen . . .”
“Don't ‘Miss Chen' me, Professor,” Janine shot back. “You should be grateful you have someone like me on your side. If I hadn't fallen out of that vortex, you'd all be human poi by the end the week.”
“Doesn't it bother you that they have a heinous disregard for human life?!” Rembrandt grilled Janine. “You act like it's no big deal!”
Janine sat up, now fully engaged in this verbal exchange. “Rembrandt, did you ever stop to think that the only reason they've targeted Colin is because they're racist?! They only think I'm one of them because I have slanted eyes. They've let Malcolm and Diana off the hook because they're black and because I told the Kokokoa that Diana and Malcolm are my servants. The only reason they've persecuted you, Rembrandt, is because you arrived in the presence of fair-skinned people. Rembrandt, you always bitch about how racist people are, but unlike you, I'm actually finding a way to use the situation to my advantage. So you bet I'm going to exploit their ignorance for all I can! Besides, we're leaving in two days.”
“IF we can even slide when the time comes,” Diana pointed out. “The electromagnetic radiation from the last world may have corrupted the timer's window. That could be why Quinn, Maggie, and Wade haven't emerged from the wormhole yet.”
“Well, we won't find out sitting around in here, will we?” Janine stood up and marched out of the hut, Kaunu tagging along behind her. The two of them nearly collided with Gareth Mackay.
“Well, hello again, Makua,” smirked Mackay, with a sneer. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Get out of my way, Chuckles!” Janine harshly shoved Mackay aside. “You knew this was my hut! Who are you trying to kid?”
“You wench!” Admiral Mackay got up off the ground, his forearms scratched from his fall after Janine pushed him. Losing his temper, he lunged at Janine. However, he was stopped by Kaunu, who spun around and nailed Mackay with a swift kick to his groin area. Mackay fell to his knees and howled in pain.
“What happen here?!” demanded Chief Hanohano, who came bounding down the trail toward them. He immediately dropped to his knees when he saw Janine. “Makua, why Ali'i hurt?” He gestured to Mackay.
Janine stomped over to Hanohano and pulled him to his feet. “Get up! Take me to Colin!”
“Colin . . . ?” Hanohano stared at her blankly, in confusion.
Janine exhaled an exasperated sigh. “The one you call ‘hoa paio.' He's tall, brunette, probably very naked right now . . .”
“Ah, hoa paio!” Hanohano realized who Janine was referring to. “I take you to! Hoa paio face Makua's wrath!”
“Oh, yeah, he's gonna get it,” Janine muttered sarcastically under her breath, as she followed Hanohano down the trail.
Rembrandt, Diana, Malcolm, and Arturo came to the doorway of the hut, looking stunned. Mackay, still keeled over on the ground, looked up and snarled at the four sliders. “I know that your . . . ‘Janine' is a fraud!” he hissed, as Hunua and Kilika began dragging Mackay away.* * *
Chief Hanohano led Janine, Kaunu, and Makamae into the isolated grotto where Colin was being held captive. The physicist from a parallel universe still hung from wooden poles, his welts and lacerations scabbing up. His head hung down, and Colin's eyes were shut - he appeared to have all the life drained out of him. A crown of wilted, almost-dead taro leaves had been placed upon his head.
Janine's mouth hung wide open; she was appalled. “Makamae, cover him up,” she ordered to her hulai. Makamae quickly removed the grass-skirt from around her own waist, plodded over to Colin, and wrapped the grass-skirt around his lower abdomen to cover Colin's nudity. Janine turned to Chief Hanohano. “There will be no killing,” she stated, adamantly. “This man will become my slave.”
Hanohano shook his head in protest. “But Makua, we must sacrifice. It the law . . . your law.”
“Well, I just overruled myself,” Janine declared. When she saw that Hanohano wasn't understanding her, Janine awkwardly shifted tactics. “Oh, um, but one thing about my law that I forgot to tell you all. Hoa paio can't be sacrificed until the evening of the . . . Cosmic Equinox,” she improvised, creating some impromptu bogus astronomy.
“What is that?” grunted Chief Hanohano.
“Oh, it's really beautiful . . . stars and space dust exploding all over the place. Yeah, a multi-colored nova in the sky. You're gonna love it.” Janine bit her lip, proud of her embellishment.
“When it happen?!” the chief demanded.
“In three days,” she answered, thinking of the slide window. “Three evenings from now. That's why I arrived early . . . to prepare you for this magical event.”
“Oh. That good, then,” grunted Hanohano, with a nod of approval.
Malcolm and Diana came running up the pathway next to Janine, escorted by Kilika and Hunua. They gaped, horrified, at the sight of the battered and bruised Colin.
“What are you two doing here?” Janine hissed at them, slightly annoyed as she stressfully contemplated her next move.
“We're your ‘servants,' remember?” whispered Diana, nudging Janine. “What are you waiting for?” she hissed back in as just a raspy manner as Janine had been. “Get Colin out of here.”
Shooting Janine a morbid stare, Malcolm hurried over to Colin and gently took Colin's arm. Wielding knives, Kilika and Hunua began to cut the ropes that bound Colin's wrists and ankles to the poles. Quinn's brother stumbled forth slightly, dazed and anemic, so Malcolm and Kilika helped to guide the young man forward.
Turning to Chief Hanohano, Janine decisively told him, “I must rest.” She yawned for effect. “While I sleep, I do not want to be bothered. My slaves will guard hoa paio, and they will give him his daily punishment. No one else is allowed near our huts. Is that understood?”
Hanohano nodded emphatically, dropping to his knees.
The sliders and their Hawaiian entourage scampered back down the trail to rejoin their companions.* * *
The purple wormhole, which had been slogging around in circles for the past several hours, spontaneously sped up its gyrations once again. This time, Maggie Beckett flew out of the vortex, landing in a grassy patch of emoloa. Wade shot out of the vortex after Maggie, being flung into a bed of orchids.
Crawling to her knees, Maggie looked around. “Did Quinn make it?” she asked Wade.
Wade opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by Quinn's familiar yell as the physicist ricocheted toward them. The vortex wiggled, like an ameba, and abruptly closed shut.
Maggie and Wade scurried over to Quinn, who was lying flat on his face.
“Quinn, are you okay?” Wade called out to him.
Making eye contact with the two women, Quinn appeared weathered and sweaty. He was breathing hard, and reached out to take Maggie's hand.
In the next instant, as Quinn's flesh touched Maggie's, a bright flash invaded Quinn Mallory's eyes. He suddenly saw Maggie, looking much younger with shoulder-length strawberry-blond hair and wearing a spiffy olive green military uniform. She was saluting to a beefy man in a much more decorated uniform. Quinn watched as the military officer, wearing a stone cold facial expression, dutifully pinned a medal onto the fabric of Maggie's uniform. As the stern general saluted back to Maggie, Quinn snapped out of his trance. Realization hit him as to what he'd just witnessed.
“Quinn?!” Maggie was shaking both of Quinn's shoulders, her face millimeters away from his.
Quinn stared back at his lover. “I saw you . . . and . . . and . . . your father? The General!” The young physicist broke away from Maggie and began to pace around in circles. “You were both in uniform . . . he was pinning a medal on your chest . . . a reddish medal . . .”
Inhaling, Maggie immediately knew what Quinn was referring to. “The Maroon Heart! I received it after the Caracas Raid.”
Wade shook her head in confusion. “Maggie, what are you talking about?! What's the Maroon Heart? I mean, I've heard of the Purple Heart . . .”
“It was a high honor that military officers could receive on my homeworld,” Maggie explained, staring off into space. “Specifically awarded to soldiers who risk their safety to save the lives of fellow officers in peril who'd been injured by the enemy. I received it after we busted a lower level squadron out of a Venezuelan prison during the Latin American Conflict of '92. That was one of the only times I ever saw any shred of humanity in The General's eyes, because I could tell he was actually proud of me.” She wiped a tear away from her lower temple. “That was a defining moment in my life . . . it reminded me how Pop would never see me as anything more than just another soldier. But I've NEVER told anyone about that moment - it's just too painful.” Maggie turned to Quinn. “HOW did you know about that? I've kept that memory locked up for almost a decade.”
“I . . . I don't know, Maggie,” whimpered Quinn, who was shaking after hearing Maggie's recount of her past. “It was almost like watching a home movie, with faces I've seen before. I remember your father from our life in the Bubble Universe.”
Wade came over to Quinn. “Are you sure you're not just tired? It's been a long day . . .”
“No, Wade! I know what I saw!” As Quinn insistently reached out to grasp Wade's arm, another flash of light spontaneously zoomed into his line of vision.
There was Wade, sprawled across an operating table, wearing only a drafty hospital gown. She screamed in terror, her spunky red-haired head wildly oscillating back and forth. As a Kromagg physician cautiously approached Wade, clutching a tubular device, he was thrown back off his feet and fell out of Quinn's line of vision. A slender female Kromagg officer in uniform stepped forward, strategically placing herself behind a tiny Kromagg nurse who came out of nowhere and jabbed Wade's arm with a syringe. Wade's screaming subsided as she lapsed out of consciousness.
Quinn snapped out of the trance, his body jerking away from Wade's. “I saw you, Wade . . . in the breeder camps. There were Kromaggs swarming all around you, and one gave you some sort of injection. And I recognized one of them - it was that one female Kromagg colonel . . . Kesh? The one who had custody of you when you led Maggie, Rem, and the others to the manta base through your space folds. I remember seeing her through Mallory's body.”
Wade cringed, and then closed her eyes. She remembered all too well what Quinn was referring to. “I don't want to talk about it,” she stated.
“Wade . . .” Quinn reached out in another attempt to touch her.
“I don't want to relive it, Quinn,” Wade choked out her words, hoarsely. She turned her back on him and Maggie. “Please don't make me go through that again.”
Quinn and Maggie were snapped back to reality as several husky brown arms grabbed them around their upper abdomens. They kicked at their abductors and resisted them, to no avail. The sharp cries of island men pierced the sliders' ears as Wade was literally swooped off of her feet by several sets of hands. It all happened so quickly that Quinn's, Maggie's, and Wade's arms and legs had all been restrained by their abductors.
“Loko ‘ino!” seethed one of the Kokokoa warriors, shoving the blade of his knife understand Quinn's chin.
Quinn was able to wriggle away his left hand long enough to push his captor's knife so it wouldn't be in such a lethal position. However, upon touching the silvery metal, another bright flash intruded upon Quinn Mallory's eyesight.
Nearly regurgitating from nausea, Quinn gagged at the vision he was beholding. A Hawaiian man was screaming incessantly as his eyes were gouged out by a knife clutched in the grip of brown-skinned fingers. Somehow, Quinn sensed that the knife being used to commit the past atrocity he currently viewed was also the exact same knife being pressed against Quinn's skin at that very moment.
Everything then went black for Quinn, as he was knocked out by an incoming Kokokoa fist.* * *
When Quinn awoke, he found himself cradled in Maggie's arms. They were in front of an encased fire pit, entrenched within a dark hut made of bamboo and grasses. One-by-one, the blurry faces of each of Quinn's friends cleared up and became visible to him: Rembrandt, Wade, the Professor, Malcolm, Diana, Mallory . . .
“Welcome back,” Maggie softly whispered to her interdimensional lover. Her familiar scent wafted into Quinn's nostrils. “I was getting scared you'd never wake up.”
Quinn took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the dimmer atmosphere inside the hut. “Where's Colin?” he asked, after surveying all those who were with him.
“Mr. Mallory, do not panic,” Professor Arturo calmly reassured his student. “Your brother is safe right now. We have unfortunately run across some people who are rather . . . unfriendly toward Colin.”
Confused, Quinn strained in order to understand. “What?!”
“Q-Ball,” explained Remmy, realizing that Quinn had to find out sooner or later, “the Kokokoa - they're the tribe who live around here - seem to think Farm Boy is some sort of evil spirit.”
Quinn's eyes bulged out. “Where's Colin?!” he repeated, immediately remembering his previous vision of the Hawaiian islander whose eyeballs were severed from their sockets.
“We were able to convince the Kokokoa that they should not sacrifice Colin to the gods . . . at least, not quite yet,” Arturo elaborated, hesitantly.
“NOT QUITE YET?!” Quinn bellowed. “What do you mean ‘not quite yet'?!”
Diana placed a couple of her fingers on Quinn's lips, shushing him to be quiet. “The local natives think Janine is some sort of queen or goddess or something. They believe she's returned to them from another world. Janine told them not to do anything to Colin until two nights from now. We slide out of here before then.” Diana withheld from Quinn the fear she had that they might not be able to slide at all if the vortex had been seriously damaged.
As his breathing became less intense, Quinn asked, more calmly, “So where are they keeping Colin?”
“He's with Makamae right now,” Malcolm said. “Janine is taking a nap, so she told the Kokokoa that Makamae would have custody of Colin until Janine wakes up. The Kokokoa think we're all Janine's ‘servants.' It's the only reason they're keeping us alive.”
“This Makamae,” inquired Quinn, “can she . . . can she be trusted? Who is she?”
“She's Janine's personal hulai - sort of like a female page in Hawaii,” Diana made an analogy for him. “Don't worry, Makamae won't hurt Colin.”
“How do we know that?!” Quinn pressed.
“Quinn, it's out of our hands.” Maggie turned Quinn's head so he was facing her again. “Colin will be fine. Everything's under control. I'm more concerned about you.”
Wade crawled over to join them. “What happened after you came out of the vortex, Quinn? You were talking about having ‘visions' of us? . . . of me in the breeder camp?”
“And me receiving the Maroon Heart?” added Maggie. “How could you have seen those things happening?”
“All I know is what I saw when I touched each of you. And before they knocked me out!” It came back to Quinn in an instant. “I saw a Hawaiian man being blinded by a knife . . . right after I touched that knife!”
“Are you sure it was the exact same knife, Q-Ball?” Rembrandt asked, softly.
“I'm positive, Rem! Don't ask me how I know - I just do.” Quinn shut his eyes and whimpered. “What is happening to me . . . ?”
Arturo kneeled down next to Quinn. “Mr. Mallory, what do you remember from the last world? Did you experience anything strange before you entered the vortex?”
Thinking back, Quinn slowly nodded. “Yeah . . . yes! One of the natives who was chasing us blasted his energy weapon at me. It happened just as I was jumping through. It felt weird . . . not painful at all, but like I was separating into millions of pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.”
The Professor bit his lip, pondering Quinn's account.
“Professor? Do you have a theory?” Diana spoke up. As a fellow scientist, she had come to detect whenever Professor Arturo's neurons were churning.
“Yes, Dr. Davis. I believe I do.” Arturo addressed the group as a whole. “How do we account for three separate sets of us emerging from the wormhole - each set positioned at intervals of nearly one day apart from the others - in the exact same location? There must have been some time discontinuity caused at least twice across the Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski Bridge.”
“Time discontinuity?” Rembrandt needed a clarification.
“Gaps of missing time, Mr. Brown,” said Professor Arturo, relishing his own theoretical brainstorm. “Imagine, if you will, blocks of stone literally dividing our group into three smaller segments: the first consisting of you, Colin, Mallory, and myself, the second composed of Miss Chen, young Mr. Eastman, and Dr. Davis, and the third containing Miss Welles, Miss Beckett, and Mr. Mallory. Those gaps must have each occurred in accordance with a vortex disruption from the weapon blasts. Each blast slowed the natural flow of the wormhole, causing time to slow for each of our three subgroups. The final blast struck Mr. Mallory, resulting in this - supernatural condition of his.”
“Elementary, my dear Arturo,” chimed in Mallory, giving a tired laugh from the corner of the hut.
“That's an interesting theory, Professor,” said Diana. She was still a bit skeptical. “So why didn't it affect the timer? It's still been counting down normally this entire time.”
“The timer only controls the ability of the vortex to be opened,” Arturo answered. “Any electromagnetic energy from the weapons solely affected the existing tunnel, but not the timer's capability for locking in on new coordinates.”
“Ah. So there's no barrier preventing us from accessing the next window,” Diana understood, “the way there was in Purgatory when we got stuck in Hyperspace, or like the quantum wall Claire LeBeau put up to prevent us from leaving Seer World?”
“Or like when we were trapped in the Slidecage?” Maggie added.
“Correct. Or, at least, that appears to be the case.” The Professor had opened the timer to get a better look at its mechanical insides.
Kilika had shyly peeked his head inside the hut. Malcolm came over to him, and Kilika gently took Malcolm's hand. The gay island boy motioned to the rest of the sliders, beckoning them forth. “Come to luau,” he said.
“Another one?” Diana turned to all of her friends for consultation.
“I say carpe diem, Dr. Davis,” declared the Professor, patting his stomach. “Besides, my belly desperately needs some sustenance.”
“Come on, Di. It's free food.” Mallory made a beeline for the hut's doorway, but suddenly lost his balance and stumbled. Diana and Wade both helped Mallory to his feet as he wiped the perspiration from his brow, and the sliders emerged into the sunlight.* * *
“Poke.” A tiny hulai woman offered Wade a small bowl made out of half a coconut shell; the bowl contained a salad comprised of reddish chunks of raw fish along with chopped vegetables.
“Aloha,” Wade politely thanked the maiden. After taking a few nibbles of it with her fingers, Wade passed the bowl along to Mallory.
Mallory simply grimaced. “Please, no sushi,” he whined, meekly.
“Mallory, are you okay?” Diana lifted her head to address her friend. Hunua had been feeding Diana from a bowl of loco-moco, which was a combination of steamed white rice, beef, and fried egg. “You look kind of pale.”
“I'm . . . okay . . .” Mallory suddenly keeled over, falling forward flat on his face as he exhaled.
“Quinn!” screamed Wade, dropping her coconut bowlful of poke. She grabbed his shoulders and then used her fingers to rapidly and repeatedly tap Mallory's cheekbones in an attempt to wake up him.
Everyone else got to their feet, as Diana, Remmy, Malcolm, Quinn, Maggie, and Arturo - his mouth still full of haupia, a type of coconut pudding - rushed to Mallory's aid. The grotto full of Kokokoa roared with sounds of the natives' confusion.
Janine stood up. “Be quiet!” she ordered to her subjects, motioning with her hands for silence. She quickly turned to Kaunu. “We need your local witch doctor! Now!”
“Kauka!” Kaunu realized what needed to be done. She shrieked to her people, “Hana ala ia makou a hiki i hele i kauka! I keia Manawa!”
Rembrandt and Hunua lifted up Mallory and dragged him to his feet, hauling the unconscious slider down the pathway that was being cleared for them. Kaunu led the way, knowing exactly where they were headed.
Soon they arrived at an expansive grass hut, puffs of smoke billowing from the roof. A tall, tan-skinned Kokokoa man emerged from the dexterous hut, adorned in a fine-woven, brightly-colored robe. His long, black hair contained strands of gray, and he clutched a wooden walking stick to support a slight limp. The medicine man pointed straight at Mallory. “You! Come!”
Diana and Wade followed Rembrandt, Hunua, and Mallory into the shaman's dark enclosure. The shaman gestured for Mallory's handlers to set the young man down on a stone stump. He began to circle Mallory, examining the slider's skin through his shrewd eyes. Reaching out with one finger extended, the shaman poked a pale, whitish patch on Mallory flesh, one of many that had formed. Mallory had no sensitive reaction to the shaman's probing.
After five minutes of visual scrutiny, the shaman made his diagnosis. “Ma'i lepela!” he shouted, with a combination of fear and repulsion.
By this point, Janine, Arturo, Malcolm, Quinn, and Maggie had entered the hut.
“What are you bitching about?” Janine abruptly questioned the shaman. “What's wrong with him?”
“Hoa paio lawe mai make haole!” the shaman screeched, loudly enough for the Kokokoa gathered outside his hut to hear.
Shouts of fright and condemnation began to murmur from outside the shaman's residence.
Makamae crept up next to Janine, tugging at Janine's sleeve. “Your friend carry make haole. Our kauka think it come from hoa paio.”
Arturo had taken that moment to squat down in front of Mallory, examining the young slider's face. “Oh, dear God! Mr. Mallory is exhibiting all the symptoms of leprosy.” The Professor gestured to Mallory's pale face. “See those white patches on his skin? They indicate how his body has become numb and infected.”
Makamae shook her head. “He be banished by Pa'ao,” she solemnly prognosticated.
“No!” Wade grabbed ahold of the shaman's wrists. “You're supposed to be a healer! You've got to save him!”
“Miss Welles,” said Professor Arturo, “this society most likely has no cure for leprosy. Typically, lepers have been quarantined on their own island colonies, until modern medicine developed in the mid-Twentieth Century.”
The shaman angrily pushed Wade away. “No! He die!”
“You can't kill him!” Wade protested, standing protectively in front of her boyfriend.
“Please, we need your help.” Quinn reached out to grasp the shaman's arm. “If we don't do something . . .”
Another bright flash blinded Quinn. He saw a younger, earlier version of the shaman - his hair not so gray - standing amongst the shaman's fellow Kokokoa. A glossy yellow vortex was open in the sky above them. Janine Chen, dressed in a sleek floral robe, ascended upward into the vortex, timer in hand, having allowed the wormhole's energy to pull her in. The pull of the vortex lifted this Alternate Janine, up off of her feet, giving the illusion that she was supernaturally ascending into the sky.
Then, the point-of-view that Quinn was observing in the flashback tersely shifted, focusing in on Colin Mallory - or more accurately, someone whom could only be Colin's double. A mob of angry Kokokoa chased Alternate Colin as he sprinted toward the vortex. Timer in hand, Alternate Colin plunged through the tunnel, headfirst.
“What did you see, Q-Ball?” asked Rembrandt, as Quinn snapped back to reality.
Taking a deep breath, Quinn said, “I think I know why they're persecuting Colin. They think he's actually the alternate version of himself from this world.”
“Gee, what else is new?” Diana sarcastically commented, alluding to many of their past slides.
Meanwhile, the shaman had already stuck his head outside the doorway of his hut. “ Ma'i lepela! Ma'i lepela!” the diviner shouted, warning his fellow Kokokoa about the threat.
“Get back in here, man!” Rembrandt tugged at the shaman's collar, pulling him back into the hut.
The irate diviner swung around and clasped his hands around Remmy's throat. He squeezed as hard as he could, causing Rembrandt to gag and choke.
“Stop it!” Malcolm flung his leg out, using a swift tae-kwan-do kick to knock the shaman to the ground. Malcolm ran over to Rembrandt, who was still struggling to regain his breath. “Remmy, are you okay?”
Rembrandt nodded, cringing, as he gradually phased back into stable inhalation and exhalation.
Amid a chorus of cries from the islanders outside, Chief Hanohano charged into the shaman's hut, a machete in hand. He was trailed by Admiral Mackay, who had a weasely grin on his face.
“Where Ma'i lepela?!” demanded Hanohano, raising his machete.
With a devilish grin on his face, Mackay pointed at Mallory. “That one. Look at his skin.”
“Make haole!” hollered Chief Hanohano, charging at Mallory with his machete positioned forward.
“NO!!” Before she even knew what she was doing, Wade had telekinetically swept the machete out of Chief Hanohano's grip. The machete flew straight at the shaman, who was lying weakly against a wall of his hut. Hanohano's machete jabbed the grass wall, narrowly avoiding contact with the shaman's body.
The weakened diviner's eyes widened in fear. “Hana mana!” screeched the shaman, raising an accusing finger at Wade.
“Ah, so you have a little witch in your party,” Mackay observed, his eyes gleaming with waggish spirit. He then said to Hanohano, “See what hoa paio has brought to us? A witch! - a hana mana!”
Chief Hanohano fled from the hut, screaming to his people at the top of his lungs, “Hana mana! Hana mana!” The scared reaction he received from the masses was calamitous.
Quinn stormed over to Gareth Mackay. “Man, what's your problem?! . . .” He fiercely grabbed Mackay's shoulder, but before Quinn had time to release his grip, another bright light jumped into his eyesight.
A crossfire of cannon blasts and bows-and-arrows surrounded hoards of European soldiers and Kokokoa warriors. Multiple vortices opened and closed, and more white men piled out from intradimensional space onto the island. Quinn's vision was erratically shifting to a number of various angles and people's perspectives. Then, as the rapid succession of post-cognitive vantage points slowed, Quinn's line of vision focused on one particular individual. The man had dark, greasy hair, slicked back and parted, and also had a small, pointy goatee on his chin. He was dressed in an archaic Naval uniform, and wore a serious frown on his face. This soldier stood atop a grassy hill, overlooking the battle that was ensuing in the bluff below him: his men versus the Kokokoa. Quinn concentrated, and his view zoomed in on a bronze badge that this soldier wore. He focused his eyesight closer to the man's military decoration, magnifying his view of it to the point where he could read the nameplate that was printed on and cemented against the small medal: Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton.
“Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton?” Quinn recited the name, as his flashback ended and he let go of Mackay's shoulder.
Gareth Mackay glared suspiciously. “Why did you say that name? . . .”<[>Their exchange was interrupted by prodding from the other sliders, as Quinn's friends ushered him out of the hut.
It was much darker outside now. Rembrandt and Malcolm supported Mallory's weary arms around their shoulders, escorting him through the crowd of angry villagers. Intermittent cries of, “Make haole! Hana mana! Make haole! Hana mana!” arose from the mob, as some of the Kokokoa began pelting the sliders with stones while others of them ran away.
Suddenly, a Kokokoa marksman jumped out from the vegetation, armed with a bow-and-arrow. The vengeful archer screamed at Wade, “Hana mana!” and took aim, releasing his arrow from the crossbow.
Wade shrieked as the sharp arrow hurtled toward her. She jumped back a few inches, releasing a telekinetic surge in the few seconds before the arrow made contact with Wade's body. The arrow's pathway was diverted, and it abruptly veered off in a ninety-degree direction, straight toward a passive bystander. More cries and screeches reverberated across the meadow. A Kokokoa woman laid flat on the ground in a puddle of blood, the arrow having pierced her heart.
Amid the commotion, Admiral Mackay hurried over to where the sliders had been cornered, and pointed an accusing finger at Wade. “Kill the hana mana!” he loudly encouraged.* * *
Chief Hanohano positioned his machete in front of Wade's abdomen. “You die, hana mana!”
“Leave her alone, you son of a bitch!” Rembrandt growled at Hanohano and lunged toward the chief, tackling him and knocking the machete from Hanohano's grip.
Hanohano smacked Rembrandt across the face as several tribesmen restrained the Cryin' Man. “You die too, hoa paio!”
“Stop! Stop it right now!” Janine barked at the Kokokoa. She stepped into the fray, causing Hanohano and his tribe to back off as Janine separated them from Rembrandt and Wade by blocking their contact with her arms. “You people are really pissing me off with all your hoa paio-this and hana mana-that. Give it a rest already, folks!”
Chief Hanohano dropped to his knees, obediently. “But Makua . . .” he began to respectfully protest.
Loudly clearing his throat, Gareth Mackay joined the thick crowd of chaos. “Hanohano, I believe Makua wants to kill the hana mana herself. It is the duty of the kuini, after all.”
Nodding insistently, Chief Hanohano picked up his fallen machete and handed it to Janine. “Makua, kill hana mana, please. Save pae 'aina.”
“You heard him, ‘Makua.' Only you can kill hana mana,” Mackay prodded Janine, mockingly. “You must do it for your people. They are counting on you to save them from hana mana.”
Janine hesitated, her hand trembling as she held the machete.
The eight sliders watched with anxiety.
“She wouldn't do it,” Maggie whispered to Quinn. “Not even Janine would do this.”
“Hana mana kill hala 'ole,” Chief Hanohano emphasized, grabbing Wade's shoulders and shoving her toward Janine. “Hana mana must die!”
“Come on, ‘Makua.' What are you waiting for?” Mackay pressed, smirking with sadistic glee. “Hana mana must be punished. Wikiwiki.”
Janine dropped her machete to the ground. “Hana mana must suffer before she actually dies,” Janine said, projecting her voice for the benefit of Hanohano and his Kokokoa translators. Stepping forward, Janine harshly gripped Wade's shoulders, yanking Wade out of Chief Hanohano's grasp.
“What the devil is she doing?!” Rembrandt hissed at his companions, still struggling against the manual restraint of his Kokokoa custodians.
Making direct eye contact with Wade, Janine gingerly inched her head close to Wade's. “Play along,” Janine mumbled out of the corner of her mouth, ever so inaudibly that Wade was the only one able to hear Janine.
Wade gave Janine a slight, virtually unnoticeable nod of her head, to indicate that she understood.
Projecting her voice once again, Janine loudly announced to the villagers, “I will now fry the brain of hana mana, using my mental powers. She will be rendered ignorant, and she will have no ability to inflict her evil on anyone else ever again.”
With that, Janine bugged out her eyes, fixating her gaze on Wade, while humming noisily with her lips. For good aesthetic measure, Janine began rotating her neck in small circles, as she pretended to invade Wade's mind. In accordance, Wade cooperatively collapsed onto the ground and released a piercing scream.
Whispers from the astonished Kokokoa villagers swept across the meadow. Janine continued to stick her face - bulged out eyeballs and her mouth formed in a whooshing oval - closer and closer to Wade's convulsing body. For several minutes, Wade kept up the spectacle, feigning agony. Eventually, Wade's shrill cries subsided, and she sprawled out motionless across the ground.
“What was that?” Arturo whispered to Diana, in a raspy tone of voice, confused.
Tilting her head toward the Professor, Diana quietly answered, “A charade.”
“There!” Janine turned to Chief Hanohano, gesturing toward the immobile Wade. “I have purged all of the evil magic from hana mana's body. And trust me, it hurt me more than it hurt her.”
“That punishment?” Chief Hanohano seemed utterly baffled by the unorthodoxy of what he'd just witnessed.
Admiral Mackay shook his head, disapprovingly. “Not good enough. Hana mana is still alive. The evil may return to her body someday.”
“Trust me, it won't,” Janine said, with a glare.
“But it might,” Mackay played devil's advocate.
“Can't you just go build some sandcastles or something?!” Janine snapped at Mackay, getting more irritated with him by the second.
“Hana mana must pay with her life.” Mackay picked up the dropped machete and tucked it into Janine's hand. “I want to see some blood, Makua.”
“Then I suggest you stick out your groin,” Janine shot back, raising her machete in a vertical position.
Diana cleared her throat. “Um, Makua, perhaps we should subdue hana mana so she can adjust to her new existence?”
Makamae and Kaunu came forward and dragged Wade over to where the other sliders were gathered.
But Mackay wasn't done yet. “You're all forgetting!” He stuck his pointer finger at Mallory. “Make haole! He's contagious! Make haole!”
Another chorus of pandemonium arose from the Kokokoa. Many of them fled, while others began pelting rocks in Mallory's direction. Some of them proceeded to light tiki torches.
“Stop! You're wrong!” Professor Arturo held up his hand as he stepped into a spot next to Janine. “Make haole can be cured.”
“Impossible!” Chief Hanohano stubbornly protested. “We banish Ma'i Lepela! That how it always been!”
“Nalowale!” the crowd of Kokokoa chanted in agreement.
Arturo sighed as he leaned over and told Janine, “I suspect this bunch will not be easily persuaded.”
“Oh, ya think?” sneered Janine, rolling her eyes. She addressed her subjects once again. “I say we find a cure for make haole. And don't argue with me - or I'll summon a swarm of locusts to come and feed on your flesh!”
“There is no cure!” scoffed Mackay, dismissively. “Ma'i Lepela are sent to Molokai. That is how it is done.”
Janine glared at him again. “Didn't your mommy ever tell you not to argue with Makua?” she berated the Irish admiral. “If you don't quit trying to dictate everything, I'll have to kick you off my island!”
Mackay bit his lip, silently fuming.
“Take him to the hut,” Janine ordered her hulai. Makamae and Kaunu began to usher Mallory away toward an isolated grass hut nearby. Kilika and Hunua followed them, carrying torches. Meanwhile, Janine stared at all of the Kokokoa authoritatively. “Anyone who makes contact with Ma'i Lepela will receive a bucket of hot coals on their bare back! Is that clear?!”
The villagers were all bowing down before Janine, respectfully.
“Okay, now she's really scaring me,” Quinn quietly stammered.
“You don't think this is going to her head?” Malcolm asked, almost as more of a rhetorical observation.
Maggie shook her head. “Nah. Not at all,” she sarcastically stated, watching as the moonlight shone down on Janine, giving her body a luminous appearance.* * *
“Come on, Mallory. You have to drink.” Diana tilted a coconut bowl filled with cold water toward her friend's lips. “It will make you feel better.” She continued to kneel in front of Mallory, whose entire face, arms, and legs were pale and swollen.
“Professor, he's not getting any better,” Malcolm nudged Arturo, as they watched from the corner of the hut. “He's been coughing and moaning all night.”
Arturo responded with a low whisper. “I'm not a doctor, Mr. Eastman, but I do believe it's obvious what's ailing Mr. Mallory. Skin lesions, numbness, muscle weakness. As I surmised earlier, he is exhibiting all the symptoms of leprosy.”
Malcolm gritted his teeth. “How could he have contracted it so quickly? We've only been sliding onto Alternate Hawaiis for a couple of weeks now.”
“Be that as it may, Mr. Eastman, we may have come in contact with malignant bacteria in recent weeks.” Arturo thought back. “Remember that world prior to the last one? We were only there for five days, but all the buildings in downtown Hilo had been boarded up. At the time, we didn't bother to ask why - we just found an empty supermarket to hole up in for the duration of that slide. But now it seems quite obvious why that Alternate Hilo was nearly abandoned.”
“Quarantine.” Quinn caught on. “Like when my double contracted the Q virus and spread it throughout his San Francisco. That society must have endured an outbreak of leprosy.”
“But don't the symptoms of leprosy take several months to become apparent?” Diana pointed out. “How can Mallory be exhibiting them already, when it's been less than two weeks since we left Leper World?”
Arturo frowned. “Unless we're dealing with an advanced strain of leprosy, Dr. Davis. Mr. Mallory could have easily contracted it from a mosquito bite, and its presence throughout his body has grown at an accelerated rate.”
Maggie had been pacing back and forth across the floor of the hut. “So what do we do? There are no hospitals around here, and the locals aren't about to help us.”
“Well, how do you treat leprosy?” Malcolm asked.
“On Earth Prime, our doctors used an antibiotic called Dapsone,” explained the Professor. “Unfortunately, I fear the nearest hospital may be several dimensions away from our current location.”
Quinn had been thinking hard. “Professor, remember when we were afraid of spreading the Q virus with us to other parallel Earths? You slapped together that sample of penicillin and saved their entire world. Couldn't you try making a similar raw version of Dapsone?”
“Mr. Mallory,” the Professor said, in a serious tone, “I cannot just ‘slap together' a cure for leprosy. Dapsone is a complex chemical substance manufactured in laboratories. It can't be found in nature.”
“But its ingredients could,” Quinn countered. “What's it made from? . . . sulfonamides, I'll bet. There should be plenty of plants containing sulfur on this island.”
“Sulfur alone will not do the trick,” sighed Professor Arturo. “You need Prontosil, which requires oxidizing anilines. In order to obtain aniline, you must derive it from coal tars.”
Rembrandt looked desperately at Mallory, who seemed to get paler by the minute. “So where do we get coal tars, Professor?”
“From coke, which is made from decomposed coal.” Arturo stared up at the hut's ceiling in contemplation. “But it must be naturally-occurring . . .”
“What about a volcano?” Diana ventured. “Wouldn't an eruption leave behind deposits of coal?”
“Possibly . . . are there any volcanoes in the area?” answered Arturo.
Quinn nodded. “I saw some mountainous structures above the valley, as they were bringing us to the luau. They looked pretty similar to the volcanoes I've seen.”
“Then we've got to get some of that coke.” Rembrandt took the lead. “We have to do it - for Fog Boy.”
“Take Hunua and Kaunu,” Diana suggested, as the sliders began to get to their feet. “You saw the marksman they had set to take out Wade. You never know what's going to happen.” She handed her PDL over to Quinn. “We only have until dusk before the next window. So hurry.”* * *
Pushing a button on Diana's PDL, Quinn zoomed in on the digital geographic map of Maui.
“We should be close to Honokowa by now. It's a dormant volcano - at least, it is on Diana's homeworld.” Quinn handed the PDL over to Arturo so he could pause to catch his breath. Sweat was dripping from the young physicist's neck down onto his back and chest. Momentarily blinking at the sweltering sun, Quinn whipped off his shirt so he could feel the cool Hawaiian breeze against his bare chest.
Nodding eagerly, Kaunu confirmed Quinn's estimation. “Honokowa!” she affirmed, pointing at the valley ahead of them. They were approaching a caldera, above which endless bumpy, rounded peaks towered.
“So what exactly are we looking for?” Remmy asked, as they entered what resembled a barren wasteland. The lush fertility and greenness that had been previously surrounding them seemed to have waned.
Professor Arturo scanned the post-volcanic valley. “We appear to be in luck, gentlemen. These are sulfur banks - but there is no steam rising from them, at present. That means this Honokowa isn't any more active than the one on Geiger Prime.” He bent down to examine the sedimentary deposits around his feet. “Sulfur crystals. Excellent.” He pointed downward to a layer of glossy, brownish, crystalline rock. “Start chipping away, Mr. Brown. We've found our sulfur.”
“Since when did you become a geologist, Professor?” mumbled Rembrandt, getting down on his knees, armed with a bucket and a miniature handheld ax. Hunua came to Rembrandt's assistance with a machete to loosen the rock.
The Professor simply marched on ahead. “Mr. Mallory, let's see how good your memory is. You must have taken entry-level Geology at North Shore?”
“Yeah, my high school didn't offer it.” Quinn stopped to sit down at the edge of a rocky plane.
Arturo stood facing his student. “Can you tell me what kind of rock this is, my boy?”
Quinn looked down to analyze the hardened magma beneath his feet. “Dark, fine-grained, comes from magma . . . it's gotta be igneous rock. What else could it be?”
Professor Arturo nodded proudly. “Very good, Quinn. Not only should its sulfur content be fairly high, but it's likely there's coke in the vicinity.” His eyes suddenly hit upon an asphalt seep, which appeared as a diversely textured beach blanket made from an assortment of sediments, basalt layers, and darkened magma elements. Arturo motioned for Kaunu to come join him. “Madam, please bring a pick and a bucket. Oh, Mr. Mallory, we have coke . . .”
An exhausted Quinn had rolled over onto the bed of magma beneath his body. Panting, he used his arms and hands to support his own weight as he leaned against the magma surface. All of a sudden, a panoramic image of Honokowa appeared before him. Steam was rising from the base of the volcano. With a thunderous rumble, the top of the volcano exploded, releasing a splatter of fiery orange lava and volcanic ash. The ground seemed to shake beneath Quinn as the volcano's eruption became more audible and intrusive within his ears. Quinn wailed in fear, anticipating a rush of great pain.
Quinn opened his eyes to see Rembrandt and Arturo hovering above him. Their faces, looking down upon Quinn, now dominated his vision. Remmy's and the Professor's heads were joined by Hunua's and Kaunu's.
“Q-Ball, what happened? Talk to me, man!” Rembrandt looked extremely concerned.
“Honokowa just blew its top.” Quinn sat up, looking past the confused stares of Professor Arturo and Rembrandt. “It's happening again. And it's getting worse.”* * *
“So you had another flashback?” Maggie inquired, sensitively holding Quinn's arm.
Quinn rolled away from Maggie, burying his head in his folded arms. “It was much more than that. It was like I was actually there. I could hear the damn volcano erupting. I could feel the lava rushing toward me. I thought I was going to die.”
“You're not going to die.” Maggie stood up and walked over to Rembrandt. “What are we going to do? This . . . time distortion or whatever it is doesn't seem to be going away.”
Rembrandt sighed. “The Professor says we can't do much of anything, until we get to the next world. That's still a few hours away. We just stick together and pull Quinn through it.” He gestured over toward the quarantined hut. “I'm more concerned about Fog Boy's situation. He ain't gonna be cured by the time we slide. What if we bring his leprosy with us to the next world? What right do we have to do that?”
“It's just a chance we'll have to take,” Diana spoke up, matter-of-factly. She was approaching Maggie and Rembrandt, hauling a few baskets of herbs and leaves. “We're not leaving him behind on this Earth. And Maggie, you could at least help me with this. We'll need your help identifying all of these. You're the one who told me which ones to gather.”
“Quinn needed me,” Maggie stated, with an empty voice. Her eyes lingered after her lover.
“Diana, you of all people should know we can't be playing with other people's lives,” Rembrandt lectured the physicist, irritated. “We could be exposing innocent people to a contagious disease.”
“Not if the Professor cures Mallory,” Diana countered. “What do you suggest? Should we leave Mallory here to be slaughtered by the Kokokoa?!”
“Of course not . . .” Rembrandt flinched, shaking his head apologetically.
“I won't argue with you about it anymore, Rembrandt.” Diana shoved one of the baskets into Maggie's grasp. “Mallory has suffered enough in his life. We're not letting him get banished to a leper colony.” She stomped away, going to join the Professor and Malcolm in front of a small fire pit that had been built.
“Now coal tars come from the gasification of coke,” Arturo was explaining to Malcolm. “We burn the coke with steam and oxygen inside this enclosure.” Arturo indicated the still they'd suspended above the flaming fire pit. The still was filled with coke gasification. “Once we discard the ashes, we'll be left with coal tars.”
“And then we just dissolve them in the hydrogen chloride to get a diazonium salt,” Diana finished up. She and the Professor had conferred earlier about what process they should use.
Malcolm scratched his head. “How did you find hydrogen chloride way out here?”
“It's actually a hydrogen chloride substitute,” explained Dr. Davis. “We'll be liquefying plants that contain sulfuric or nitric acids. That's why Maggie had us collect those specific plants, Malcolm.”
Malcolm stretched his legs out, as Professor Arturo watched over the oxidizing coke still. “While you guys were building the still, I had a nice conversation with Kilika. He speaks pretty good English, actually. Mixes some words up, but basically you can understand him.”
“What did he tell you?” Diana asked. She suspected this was going somewhere.
“Our ‘buddy' Mackay - it turns out he was appointed protector to the Ali'i on Maui.”
“The who?” Maggie squinted, as she and Rembrandt joined them.
“The Ali'i. They're the rulers of these islands. According to Kilika, his grandparents have told him about the ‘old ways,' before the Pa'ao took over.”
“Pa'ao? Come on, partner. Speak English,” Rembrandt probed.
“From what I can tell, the Pa'ao are a ruling class of priests who took over this society centuries ago. They introduced a lot of new language and myths to the Kokokoa. The Pa'ao also brought new rituals, including laukini.”
“What's that?” Maggie asked.
Malcolm gulped. “Human sacrifice.”
“So Europeans introduced this barbaric practice to the Kokokoa?” surmised the Professor. “That explains why Admiral Mackay is so eager to see Young Colin burned at the stake.”
“But the Pa'ao look Hawaiian,” Malcolm clarified. “I'm guessing that the Irish on this world colonized Australia, and then migrated east, conquering South Pacific islands like Tahiti and Samoa. They probably coerced the enslaved Tahitians or Samoans into suppressing the people of Hawaii, with the promise that they would get to ‘rule' and live well as part of the Irish puppet governments.”
“But what they were really getting was a choice between their own enslavement or doing someone else's bidding,” Arturo caught on. “The Irish needed minions who looked Polynesian so they could trick the Hawaiians into subservience.”
“Makes sense,” Rembrandt said. “The Kokokoa would be more likely to mistake Polynesians over Europeans as being some of their own ancestral spirits or gods.”
“Kilika also mentioned the `Io . . . they were the original priests who ruled the island before the Irish came. He said his grandparents once spoke of ancient tales of a peaceful society that existed when the `Io were in control,” Malcolm said. “That was back during a time when Ku was a benevolent deity, not a vengeful war god. And Pele, the goddess of fire, apparently wasn't even a part of their mythology. Only faint remnants of this knowledge seem to remain in the Kokokoa culture today. Overall, Kilika's people seem to prescribe to what the Pa'ao preach.”
“No thanks to the Ali'i,” muttered Rembrandt.
“My, my, my,” came a cloying voice that had grown ubiquitous to the sliders. Admiral Mackay stepped out of the shade of a palm tree, armed with a shotgun. “You blokes are terribly persistent. We'll have to remedy that, hmm?”
Arturo got to his feet. “Sir, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Corrupting these people all in the name of imperialism! It's people like you who give Englishmen a bad name.”
Mackay smirked. “I'm an Irishman, not an Englishman.”
“Oh, who cares? Your accents all sound the same,” Maggie spat out. She glared at the Irish admiral. “So you're the mastermind behind all of this? I should have known! What's your objective, Mackay? ‘National pride'?”
“It ain't pride, my dear. It's practicality.” Admiral Mackay placed his fingers against the shotgun's trigger. “Our empire reaps the rewards of this game. How can we ignore economic profit?”
“Yeah, I'll bet you're having a blast on the ERP superhighway,” scowled Quinn, who had weakly crawled over on his belly to join his friends at the fire pit.
“I beg your pardon?” Admiral Mackay raised his eyebrows.
“Oh, didn't he tell you guys?” Quinn addressed his friends, glancing back at Mackay with contempt. “The Irish have been using interdimensional travel to aid their ‘conquests'.”
“They're sliders?!” Maggie, flabbergasted, could hardly believe it.
“How do you think they managed to colonize Australia all the way from the tiny island of Ireland?” revealed Quinn. “Remember my flashback, guys? They invented a vortex so they could go globe-trotting for exotic imports. And I'll bet it was invented by my very own brother, Colin Mallory.” His eyes sharply locked on to Mackay's.
Mackay's eyes darted around, anxiously. “Yes. His great-grandfather, actually. Michael Mallory. Unfortunately, Michael Mallory's early vortices were not strong enough to stay open for long periods of time. Me people could get to the island, but we couldn't get back. After nearly a century of travel by sea, we were ready to expedite our ways. We weren't hauling the cargo fast enough, and the aborigines wanted us gone - they were willing to fight us all the way to the Great Barrier Reef or die trying. So Michael's great-grandson perfected his great-grandfather's . . . ‘sliding' device so we could cross the globe faster. And these foolish savages thought it was some sort of portal between realms. So we played into their naivety, and sent a Chinese wench through the tunnel to masquerade as a goddess. And so ‘Makua' was born.” Gareth Mackay eyed Quinn critically. “But then, the Colin Mallory who the Kokokoa presently wish to sacrifice isn't ‘our' Colin Mallory now, is he? And neither is the Asian lass?”
Quinn shook his head. “You aren't as dumb as you look, Mackay.”
“Aye. I knew they had to be imposters, since the real Colin Mallory is back in Dublin right now, probably hiding out in a safehouse somewhere. And our ‘Makua' is on vacation in Denmark - at our expense, of course. But the real question is: where did you blokes come from? Another dimension, perhaps?”
The look on Quinn's face confirmed it for Mackay.
“Aha! I knew it! Colin never mastered the science of traveling between worlds . . . although apparently he did wherever you came from.” Admiral Mackay beamed with glee at himself for figuring it out.
“Actually, that was me,” Quinn corrected him. “Colin, my older brother, never existed on my world. The world where he came from wasn't advanced enough for him to have uncovered the sliding equation by the time I located him.”
“Ah, I see you have some intriguing tales to share.” Mackay's eyes sparkled. “Unfortunately, you folks won't be around long enough for me to hear about them.”
“Wait,” Rembrandt spoke up to buy some time. “How come Colin's double is in hiding on your world? I thought he helped you engineer sliding so you could use it to raid tropical islands?”
“Aye, he did. But to his own undoing. Poor Colin developed a conscience, and was going to provoke an uprising against our men,” Mackay recalled the scenario, with venom in his voice. “We had to frame him for the murder of a high-ranking Pa'ao priest. While we were at it, we also blamed him for the outbreak of leprosy that had come to the island, and the natives bought it. The Ali'i were none too happy, and sentenced Colin Mallory to death. He somehow escaped his imprisonment and hitched a ride through one of our tunnels, just as ‘Makua' was leaving for Europe. We had no choice but to make Colin a scapegoat, in the event that he ever attempted to return to the island.”
“So that's why the Kokokoa think that Janine has to ‘punish' Colin?” Diana veered her head toward Mackay. “You basically created a false deity for these people, to serve your own needs.”
“And now your ‘Makua' is ruining everything we have worked so hard to achieve. But I cannot allow that to happen.” Mackay tipped his head toward a group of robed Hawaiian priests and other Polynesian warriors who were proceeding their way from off in the horizon. “Ah, delightful. The Pa'ao and Ali'i are right on time. Now I shall expose your ‘Makua' for the fraud that she is!”
Arturo and Maggie helped Quinn stand up. “Quinn, what else did you see in your flashbacks?” Maggie asked him, frantically. “Anything that can help us?”
“I saw . . .” Quinn paused, trying to remember. “I saw ‘Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton' . . . whoever that is. He was watching the Europeans battle the Kokokoa on this island. But I could sense it had occurred decades ago.”
“Ernest Henry Shackleton . . .” Arturo recalled the name from his memory. “Shackleton was the explorer who accidentally ran across Australia when he was trying to get to the South Pole, back in the early Twentieth Century.”
“Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton,” repeated Mackay. “Me great-great-grandfather was one of his men. Shackleton then claimed the Australian continent for Ireland. Me entire family was raised in the Australian colony once we had settled there. Every man in our family has served the Irish navy.” He beamed with pride. “Eventually, Admiral Schackleton and his fleet oversaw the first . . . ‘slide' to these islands, in Ireland's name.”
“That explains why you had the vision of Shackleton when you touched Mackay, Quinn,” concluded Diana.
“Ahem.” Janine had arrived on the scene, flanked by Makamae, Kaunu, and Hunua. “I thought we were supposed to be making an antidote? What's HE doing here?” She stuck out her finger at Admiral Mackay.
Mackay narrowed his eyes at Janine. “Exposing you for who you really are.”* * *
Over the next hour, a gallery of Polynesian-looking Pa'ao and Ali'i, along with other Kokokoa, had gathered around the sliders' fire pit at the request of Chief Hanohano. Despite their growing audience, Professor Arturo and Diana continued to watch over and filter out the organic elements they needed from their distilling coke and salt spray.
“Mackay, what you call us here for?!” Hanohano demanded, as the Pa'ao and Ali'i silently yet intently looked on.
A bunch of Ali'i warriors emerged from the grass huts, hauling Colin, Wade, and Mallory from their sanctuaries, as the three weak sliders struggled against them.
“Hey! I thought I told you not to go anywhere near those huts!” Janine angrily protested, as the Ali'i brought Wade, Mallory, and Colin closer to the assembly of natives.
Many of the Kokokoa onlookers backed away in fear, amid shrieks of, ”Hana mana!” and “Ma'i lepela!”
Admiral Mackay mounted a stone boulder, so he could speak from a prominent pedestal. “This woman is NOT Makua! She has no divine powers! She has no authority! And I shall prove it!”
Before anyone knew what was happening, Mackay had aimed his shotgun and fired a bullet straight at Janine.
As the bullet traversed directly toward Janine Chen, its pathway abruptly veered off at an obscure angle. The bullet's course was diverted, and it plunged into the heart of a little boy. The child fell to the ground, and a wave of madness erupted.
“What? . . . How? . . .” Janine, confused amid the hectic screams of fear and anger, found her eyes wandering upon Wade, who was still being restrained by the Ali'i. Wade's gaze was intensely focused, with no readable expression on her face.
“No! No! It's not what you think!” Mackay desperately tried to deny his guilt as the Pa'ao lunged to apprehend him. “Look at Makua! She did that! She sent the bullet to kill the young lad! Have you seen her do any magic in all the time she has been here, other than killing that little boy?!”
All heads in the crowd turned toward Janine, expectantly.
In the next instant, Janine felt her body slowly being lifted up off the ground. Janine blinked and grimaced in confusion as she watched herself ascend higher into the air.
“Oh my . . . goddess!” quipped Diana, balking at Janine in shock.
“Wade,” whispered Rembrandt, under his breath. The Cryin' Man noticed Wade's gaze fixated on Janine as the Asian slider levitated several feet above them. “Way to go, girl. Damn.” He was in awe.
So were the Kokokoa. Every single one of the villagers was down on his or her knees, venerating Janine. Even Admiral Mackay had been rendered speechless.
Eventually, Janine's body descended back down to the ground. Wade wasn't strong enough to suspend Janine in midair for an extremely long period of time. As Wade's telekinetic endurance wore off, Janine finally tumbled to the ground. However, she was close enough to the earth so that she could make a soft landing without being injured.
“NO!!” hollered Mackay, in distress. He rushed forward, lunging at Janine like a madman.
In a blind rush, Janine picked up the nearest machete and protracted it outward, half-shutting her eyes as she did so. What followed were miserable, harrowing howls of terror and torment. When it was all over, Admiral Gareth Mackay laid flat on the ground in a bloody, lifeless heap.* * *
“Keep drinking, Mr. Mallory.” The Professor gently fed the grayish-brown tonic that he had synthesized to Mallory.
Quinn's fraternal double grimaced, crinkling his nose as he forced himself to choke the thick, slightly rancid liquid down his throat. Between chugs of the liquefied anti-fungal cocktail, Mallory allowed himself to be fed spoonfuls from a coconut bowlful of kulolo, a wet, brown, bread-like coconut pudding. Diana fed the Hawaiian dessert to Mallory using a homemade utensil that Malcolm had whittled out of wood. The treat was intended to help Mallory's taste buds dilute the rather unsavory taste of Arturo's homemade Dapsone.
“Alright, we're almost done. Just a few more sips to go.” Professor Arturo talked Mallory through it as the infected slider forced himself to swallow the remainder of the antidote.
Mallory moaned. “More kulolo please, Diana,” he requested, allowing another spoonful of the coconut pudding to be shoved between his lips.
Wade sat down next to Mallory and positioned his head in her lap. Diana smiled at Wade, and handed the bowl of kulolo to her so Wade could take over.
“Is he going to be okay?” Malcolm asked Diana and Arturo, clearly concerned. The two scientists had moved out of range so Mallory couldn't hear them.
“I have been administering it to him every hour for the past four hours,” the Professor summarized. “Let's hope the next world is more civilized, and that there will be an adequate medical facility wherever we land.”
Diana sighed as Quinn, Maggie, and Rembrandt joined them. “It's not actual Dapsone. But I'd say it's pretty close, considering our limited resources. We only had so much to work with.”
Arturo nodded in agreement. “It will hopefully prevent him from getting any worse . . . for now.”
“For now?” Rembrandt frowned. “So it won't cure him?”
“What we have synthesized is like hinging a door in an empty doorway, but without a doorknob,” said Professor Arturo. When he was met with confused stares, the Professor clarified, “It is as though we are confining a disease from attacking his immune system, but with no real ‘lock' on its entrance. What I mean is that if we slide onto another primitive world, we could keep medicating Mr. Mallory with our tonic in the hopes of preventing his leprosy from getting worse. But the tonic itself does not contain the fullest potential of effective components for treatment. Ideally, administering actual Dapsone to Mallory will be the only way to completely cure him. And there is no guarantee that the next area we find ourselves in will have that degree of advanced medicine.”
“We'll just have to pray for the best then.” Rembrandt embraced both Arturo and Diana in an affectionate hug.
About forty minutes later, Janine wandered back to where the sliders were camped out. She had been walking the beach in solitude, accompanied by only Makamae and Kaunu. Upon her return, the Kokokoa were still flocking around their perceived deity in eager anticipation. However, the zest and placidity she had evinced during the past few days had completely disappeared. In its place was a somber, sullen aura of lethargy that was apparent in Janine's emotionless demeanor.
“Janine . . .” Diana came over to stand beside her.
Janine Chen fingered a couple of the heliconias on the lei that hung around her neck. “I've never actually killed anyone before,” she said, pretty much in monotone. “Sure, I've shot evil creatures dead when the situation called for it. But those have usually been non-human critters . . . Kromaggs, Dublians, huminals, witches . . .” She gritted her teeth. “This is the first time I've actually had to take the life of another human being. And it didn't feel nearly as empowering as I thought it would.”
Diana pulled Janine in close for a hug, although Janine made no attempt to reciprocate. “Janine, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Mackay was a madman. He was going to let Colin be burned alive. He would have let Mallory die of leprosy. Mackay was subhuman - he was just as bad as Rickman.”
“Yeah, only with less facial hair,” Janine dead-panned.
Diana chortled, but Janine's shoulders still sagged.
The others began to join them. “Diana is right, Janine. You did the Kokokoa a favor,” Rembrandt declared.
Maggie stepped forward. “Janine, I know what it feels like to take another person's life. Believe me, I've been there. It's no warm and fuzzy feeling. But sometimes it's a matter of necessity.”
Malcolm reached out and took Janine's wrist. “There are some people that the world is just a lot better without.”
Janine didn't answer any of them. She just stared off into the sunset.
Eventually, Colin came to join his seven friends. “Somehow I knew you guys would come through for me. You have no idea what hell I have endured. My mother always said that evil runs rampant in our world. I guess that applies to all parallel worlds.”
“I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost you, bro.” Quinn, tears in his eyes, hugged Colin tightly.
Rembrandt coughed, nervously. “We're not out of the woods quite yet, kids. Remember, we have a bunch of corrupted Pa'ao and Ali'i to deal with.”
“I took care of that,” Janine said. “They're all still excited for the ‘Cosmic Equinox' tomorrow night. We'll be long gone by then, and I warned them not to disrupt its ‘sanctity' by showing any aggression before then. Besides, I just told them Mackay was a demon who'd been banished into a human body.”
The Professor simpered. “Miss Chen, you certainly are a creative individual, I will grant you that.”
“Yeah, well now let's just make sure Fog Boy pulls through.” Rembrandt glanced over at Wade and Mallory, who were cuddled lovingly on a bed of ti leaves. “I'm sure glad he's found Wade.”
Quinn followed Rembrandt's gaze, and his eyes lingered on Wade.
“Mallory will need another dose of our tonic soon,” said Diana, looking at her watch.
“And before long, it will be sliding time.” Malcolm held up the timer, which was counting down to its final hours.* * *
Quinn and Maggie knocked on the hospital door.
“How's our patient today?” smiled Maggie, as she and Quinn bounded into the hospital room to greet Mallory.
“Awesome of you guys to show up!” Mallory's face brightened even more as he extended his arm to shake Quinn's hand.
“Colin and the Professor couldn't make it,” Maggie explained, taking a seat next to Diana by Mallory's bedside. “They're still out there making the island beautiful.” She was referring to Arturo and Colin's temporary employment as gardeners at the Lanai City Botanical Gardens.
“Rem is performing in the children's ward right now,” Quinn said, looking at Diana, Wade, and Malcolm. “Nothing like some good, comforting gospel songs to lift the spirits of sick children and their parents.”
“And Janine? . . .” Diana asked, raising her eyebrows.
“She's healing.” Quinn sighed. “Still spending the day by herself at the hotel. I don't know if Janine will ever be the same again. It might take her awhile.”
An awkward silence followed. Mallory broke it by informing them, “Dr. Kamaka said they can discharge me on Saturday.”
“Well that's a relief, seeing how we're set to slide on Sunday morning,” laughed Maggie, patting Mallory on the shoulder.
“But we're storing these coordinates in the PDL log - right, Diana?” spoke up Wade. “Dr. Kamaka wants him to stay on the treatment for at least five months. Obviously, it's available on the mainland too, so when we get back to the coast we can still slide from there to come back and get more medicine every month.”
“Yeah, I'm so glad it's a pill,” said Mallory. “I still can't get the taste of that icky tonic out of my mouth. Yuck!” He shuddered in an animated way.
Diana snickered, snorting. “Hey, don't complain. We needed something to give to you in case we had another bad slide. We tried to cover up the concoction with some flavor, but there was only so much that garlic, fennel, and horseradish could add to give it zip.”
“It's a good thing we were here for three-and-a-half weeks,” Malcolm added. “We needed time to pay off your hospital bill.”
“And of all the places for me to be stuck in the hospital!” Mallory gestured out his hospital room window. His room overlooked a sandy beach bustling with tourists, sparkling blue ocean waves lapping at its shores. However, the whole time, the ocean horizon was slowly rotating to the left, as fluffy clouds passed by and new ones appeared in the sky. The sliders could barely feel Lanai Island moving beneath them.
“It's definitely . . . different,” Diana agreed, chuckling. “This is the first Earth we've been to where humans managed to rig up a ‘floating city' - not to mention a ‘floating island.' I guess underwater satellites can do a lot.”
Wade was suddenly rushing toward the door. “Excuse me,” she mumbled, uncharacteristically, and disappeared as she made a rightward turn.
The sliders exchanged baffled glances.
“I'll go see what's wrong,” Diana volunteered, getting up to go after Wade. With curiosity, Maggie followed behind Diana.
They spotted Wade at the end of the hallway, in front of a vending machine.
“Dammit!” Wade kicked the juice machine in fury. Her V8 was refusing to come out of the slot.
“Wade?” Diana cautiously approached her friend.
Wade spun around, to reveal tears streaming down her face. She was sobbing uncontrollably.
“Wade, what is it?” Diana took Wade into her arms.
“I can't believe what I did . . .” she choked out between gags. “On the last world . . . I killed that poor little boy, not to mention that innocent woman. She was probably a mother. If I hadn't diverted those bullets . . .”
“Janine would be dead right now,” Diana reminded her, cutting off Wade's guilty statement. “You had no idea the bullet would hit that kid, Wade.”
“Didn't I?!” Wade shook her head wildly. “Subconsciously, I must have known it was going to kill someone in the crowd. Some random person. Then again, I didn't even bother to think, did I . . . ?”
“Wade . . .” Maggie moved forward, touching Wade's shoulder with uncertainty. “That was one of the most heroic things I've ever seen you do. It was an accidental death. Yes, you feel bad because of what happened, but you can't blame yourself for it.”
Maggie's voice was drowned out, though, by Wade's sobs. As Diana held Wade closer, Maggie turned and proceeded back down the hall.
Quinn met up with Maggie outside Mallory's hospital room. “What happened with Wade?” he probed, insistently.
Maggie shook her head, sighing. “Like you said, it's going to take time . . .” she replied.
Leaning his head back against the wall, Quinn closed his eyes and exhaled. “Man, I've got such a headache right now.”
“Oh, let me get you some aspirin,” piped up a friendly voice. A nurse had been rolling a medicine cart past them, and overheard Quinn's complaint. “I think we've got some Advil here . . . woops!” A bottle of aspirin dropped to the ground, and the nurse laughed. “Clumsy me . . .”
“No, I'll get it.” Quinn bent down to reach for the aspirin at the same time as the nurse did. Their hands brushed together inches above the tiled floor.
Quinn was propelled into a dark bedroom, and a chill ran up his spine. He looked over and saw a burly figure continually slamming his fist against the slender body of a woman with recognizable jet black hair. Quinn heard the woman's continuous screams as they echoed through his ears.
“Sir . . . ?” The woman offered the bottle of aspirin to Quinn as his flashback ended.
He looked straight back at her, recalling her presence in his vision. “Your husband beats you,” Quinn stated. Utter shock overtook the nurse's face. Quinn then noticed that one of her eyes was slightly more swollen then the other, and appeared a bit bruised. She had covered it really well with makeup. “Let us help you . . .”
“Stay away from me . . .” the nurse backed away from them, a perilous fear anchored in her eyes. She scurried away down the hall, not looking back.
“What was that all about?” Maggie asked, although she had a feeling she knew.
Quinn turned to face his lover, somberly. “It's gonna take a lot more than just time to make this go away.”
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