Barriers to Entry|
Place: San Francisco, late May 1997
Time on world: A little under 3 days, all things consideredOPENING SEGMENT
[ Open on a side stage of a television studio. The closing theme music to 'Jeopardy' is playing. Enter Arturo, who is coming from the direction of the stage. As he storms toward the camera, a stagehand giggles as he passes by. Switch to Quinn, Rembrandt and Wade. Both are trying hard to suppress smiles as Arturo joins them. ]
Arturo: I have never been so humiliated in my life!
Quinn: [ trying hard not to laugh ] You did fine…considering…
Arturo: This damn world and its crazy alternate history! How was I supposed to know that here Ronald Reagan hosted "Mr. Reagan's Neighborhood" on public television instead of becoming President? I must have sounded like a complete imbecile.
Wade: I've never seen Alex Trebek actually laugh at a contestant before.
[ Quinn can't restrain himself any longer and chuckles. ]
Arturo: Laugh it up Mr. Mallory! You didn't even make it out of Contestants' Row on the 'Price is Right.'
[ Arturo walks off muttering. ]
Arturo: Who ever heard of a world with mandatory game show duty...
Rembrandt: I guess that makes me the big winner of this slide with one thousand dollars.
Wade: Hey, I won at least that much!
Rembrandt: Yeah, too bad it was all in furniture!
[ Wade elbows him playfully. ]
Quinn: Come on guys, let's find a place to slide.
[ Quinn takes out the timer. As they exit the side stage, the last notes of the 'Jeopardy' theme play. Dum. DUM! ]
[ Sliding bumper. ]
[ The vortex opens near the sidewalk of a wide city street. One by one, the sliders emerge hitting the pavement in their usual haphazard fashion. Some groans and stifled profanity from Arturo, who hits the curb. Vortex closes. ]
Quinn: Everybody up.
[ Quinn and Rembrandt grab onto Arturo's arms and pull him up. ]
Rembrandt: You OK?
Arturo: Oh, just wonderful. Now my body is as bruised as my ego.
[ Pan to Wade who's looking around. ]
Wade: Guys, something's odd about this place.
[ Switch to Wade's POV. People are coming and going, cars are driving by. No one is paying them a second glance. ]
Wade: No one seems to be concerned that four people just emerged out of thin air.
Rembrandt: [ shrugs ] Maybe they didn't see us.
Wade: [ sarcastic ] Yeah.
[ Quinn is catching on. ]
Quinn: Wade's right. Something odd is going on. [ looks up ] Hey, check this out!
[ Quinn points to a billboard across the street. It features a caricature of Uncle Sam grabbing another Uncle Sam (clad in different colors) proclaiming 'This world ain't big enough for the both of us.' In large letters: 'Illegal Immigration affects all of us. If you see a double of yourself or someone you know, report them immediately to the INS.' ]
Wade: [ disbelief ] Double of yourself or someone you know?
Rembrandt: Hey guys, it gets better.
[ Switch camera to a sign posted on the sidewalk. Arturo reads it aloud: ]
Arturo: [ slowly and with enunciation ] Interdimensional Loading Zone. Absolutely no parking or loitering weekdays between eight and six.
[ Arturo looks at the others. ]
Wade: What kind of a world is this?
Arturo: I'm not sure, but I intend to find out.
Rembrandt: Hey, what time is it?
Quinn: [ looks at his watch ] Four-thirty. Why?
Rembrandt: Shouldn't we move out of the way?
[ Rembrandt points at the sign. To hammer the point home, a large vortex opens just to the left of them. ]
[ The four scramble on to the sidewalk just as a truck rumbles through the vortex and stops where they had been standing. Shot of the four as the wind whips around them and fade. ]
OPENING CREDITSACT I [A]
[ Commercial Break ]
[ Pan the city streets. Every so often run across an open or closing vortex. The camera stops at a large newspaper stand. All four are leafing through different periodicals—Quinn is reading "Time", Wade has a newspaper, Arturo has "the Economist" and Rembrandt is reading "Billboard." ]ACT I [B]
Arturo: Simply astounding. We have encountered a world where sliding has gone mainstream and has been so for over a decade. It says here that this earth is one of five involved in commercial trading between worlds… an interdimensional economy of sorts. [ shakes his head ] It puts the burgeoning global economy of our earth to shame. How the devil did they get this up and running? It took us centuries to overcome the arbitrary boundaries of nationalism before we could even consider the possibilities of a world economy, let alone something like this.
Quinn: Technology has a runaway effect. Look at the internet.
Wade: Guys, check this out.
[ Wade points to a rack of San Francisco Chronicles. ]
Wade: They all have different headlines, [ she picks one up at a time to illustrate ] but they're the same date.
[ Arturo grabs the papers. ]
Arturo: Epsilon edition, Alpha edition... [ He flips through them. ] I bet these papers are from those parallel earths. Apparently, they've used the Greek alphabet to distinguish one from the other.
Wade: Oh brave new world…
[ Quinn flips a few pages. His eyes light up. ]
Quinn: Here's an article of interest.
[ Quinn displays the article in "Time" to Wade. A large headline on one page reads: THE ERA AHEAD. On the accompanying page is a large photo of a man about Arturo's age with long graying hair. ]
Quinn: [ reads ] 'According to Professor Theodore Freedman of the University of California, we have only scratched the surface of the benefits to be reaped from interdimensional travel.'
[ This grabs Arturo's attention. He puts the papers down. ]
Arturo: Let me see that.
[ Arturo snatches the magazine away from Quinn. He grows furious. ]
Arturo: I don't believe this!
Wade: Who's Theodore Freedman?
Arturo: Theodore Freedman is a thieving, lecherous scoundrel who has never had an original idea of his own in his miserable life.
Wade: [ under her breath ] Sorry I asked.
Rembrandt: What's the deal?
[ Arturo shushes him as he reads the article. ]
Quinn: One of the Professor's rivals hit it big here.
Arturo: He is not a rival. He's not even in the same league as me. It would be like comparing Mr. Brown to Verdi. They both work in music and the comparisons stop there.
Wade: Looks like this Freedman has hit a nerve.
[ The Vendor of the newsstand interrupts. ]
Vendor: Hey look, are you guys going to buy anything? This isn't a library.
[ Arturo reaches into his pocket and hands him a $50. ]
Vendor: Woah, I can't make change for that. It would empty my register.
Arturo: You don't have enough to break a fifty?
Vendor: Not a Beta fifty.
[ Arturo raises an eyebrow. ]
Vendor: Aren't you carrying any Epsilonian money?
Quinn: We, uh...just arrived and the banks are closed.
Rembrandt: I think I've got some smaller bills.
[ Rembrandt takes out his wallet and hands the Vendor a $1. ]
Vendor: And your change.
[ He hands Rembrandt two dollars back, except these bills are yellow. ]
Arturo: Thank you, sir.
[ The four depart the newsstand. ]
Rembrandt: Beta fifty?
Arturo: One of the other trade worlds. Apparently our currency must resemble theirs.
Rembrandt: And it's worth how much more?
[ Arturo looks at the prices on the magazine. ]
Arturo: Judging by these numbers, I'd guess close to six times more.
[ Rembrandt flips through his wallet and smiles. Cutaway. ]
[ Cut to a partially enclosed area outside. The four are riding a moving sidewalk, not unlike what one would find at Universal Studios to move weary guests from the parking garages to the park. The sun is getting low. Arturo's face is buried in the magazine. ]
Rembrandt: So this is what we have to look forward to--a chicken in every pot and a sliding machine in every basement.
Quinn: Pretty amazing, huh? It's a shame we don't have more time to explore it. We may be looking at the future of our own Earth.
Arturo: What amazes me is that Freedman is responsible for it! It says here that he discovered the ERP bridge and that he has been the driving force of its mainstream acceptance.
Wade: Are you still on this? What is your problem with this guy?
Arturo: My problem is that he's an intellectual charlatan! [ pauses and goes into lecture mode ] On our world, Freedman and I were colleagues, even friends for a brief while. We both hailed from the British Isles and emigrated to America in our youths. He was always a competent physicist, but he lacked both the spark of brilliance found only in the truly gifted and the rigor found in the rest. I was concerned he would be relegated to lab work or even worse, teaching in southern liberal arts colleges. [ shudders at the thought ] So I agreed to collaborate with him on what was then a cutting edge paper expounding on the properties of MACHOs and WIMPs, two key particles in the dark matter debate.
Rembrandt: [ snickers ] Machos and wimps? Sounds more like the Village People debate.
Arturo: Don't knock the WIMPs, Mr. Brown. For all we know it is precisely those particles that allow sliding in the first place.
Rembrandt: [ laughs ] OK, sorry I dissed the WIMPs. So what went wrong between you two?
Arturo: When our findings were released, only one name appeared on the paper- Theodore Freedman. He cut me out on the most groundbreaking research of my career! I was caught completely unaware and had not taken the necessary precautions to safeguard my intellectual property. When the time came, I could not adequately refute his claims of sole ownership. That was fourteen years ago. We have not spoken since.
Quinn: The search for dark matter is akin to the search for the Golden Fleece in cosmology circles. On the strength of that paper, Freedman went on to the chairmanship of astrophysics at Harvard.
Wade: [ to Arturo ] You weren't even a chair at UCal, were you?
Arturo: Thank you for pointing that out Miss Welles. Freedman is a lousy chairman. Even today he still leeches off of his colleagues and assistants, tacking his name onto others' works. To think that he had the imagination and intuition to cross the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge here is unfathomable. He must have stolen it.
Wade: [ sarcastic ] You do realize that there's a chance not every Freedman in the multiverse is a no good bastard.
Arturo: [ grumbles ] Not bloody likely...
[ Quinn takes out the timer. ]
Quinn: To be continued, you two. It's time.
Rembrandt: Are you just going to open it right here?
Quinn: Why not?
[ Quinn opens the vortex directly in front of them. ]
Arturo: I guess I won't be needing this any longer. [ Arturo flings the magazine away. ]
[ The moving sidewalk takes them right into the vortex. ]
[ Sliding bumper, but very short. ]
[ Vortex opens. Out glide the four sliders, still on a moving sidewalk. ]
Rembrandt: Say, now that's the smoothest slide we've ever had!
[ They've reached the end of the moving sidewalk and step off. Quick pan of the surroundings. Everything looks the same. ]
Quinn: That's funny. We don't usually get such site to site accuracy.
Wade: I could've sworn that billboard was here on the last world.
[ Quick shot of the billboard. It shows a FedEx truck driving through a vortex. It reads " When it absolutely, positively, has to be there in three minutes…". Quick shot of concern on Quinn's face. He walks behind the still open vortex. ]
Quinn: [ alarmed ] Professor! I think you need to look at this.
[ Rotate camera around Quinn and stop at his POV. The other side of the vortex is open! ]
Arturo: My God!
[ Stay focused on the vortex and fade out. ]
[ Commercial Break ]ACT II [A]
[ Pick up moments after we left off. The vortexes are closed. Quinn has the timer out. ]ACT II [B]
Quinn: This is weird guys. It's started counting down again.
Rembrandt: I thought we didn't go anywhere.
Quinn: It didn't look like we did.
Wade: This place may not be what it looks like. We've slid into back to back worlds that have been pretty close before. [ Reference to SL-202 "Time Again and World." ]
Rembrandt: But this close?
[ Switch camera to ground level. Arturo stoops over and picks something up. It's his 'Time' magazine. Wade looks over his shoulder. ]
Wade: I guess that settles it. We didn't slide.
[ Quinn is shaking his head. ]
Quinn: It doesn't make sense.
Arturo: No it does not.
Rembrandt: Look, it's getting dark. Let's see if we can get a place to stay and sort this out afterward. [ flashes his cash ] Come on, my treat.
[ Cutaway. ]
[ Exterior of the Dominion at night. Switch to Interior of the best suite in the hotel. Rembrandt is reclining on a cushy couch with a glass of champagne in one hand and a remote control in the other. He's watching TV. Close in on the television set where this dimension's Ross J. Kelly is making outrageous promises. ]ACT II [C]
Kelly: Are your doubles stealing your ideas and passing them off as their own? Call my offices today to learn about how you can protect your interdimensional copyright. Call within the next ten minutes and you'll receive a free five minutes of legal counsel. Remember, I'm Ross J. Kelly and I won't take no for an answer! I'll FIGHT…
[ Click ]
Rembrandt: Every freakin' world…
[ Click. The next image is of a Mother boxing up belongings while her young Daughter watches. ]
Daughter: Mommy, why are we moving?
Mother: Now that the plant has closed, we can't afford to live here anymore. It seems people just aren't buying Epsilonian anymore.
Daughter: Why, Mommy?
Mother: [ fighting back tears ] I don't know, honey. I just don't know.
[ Click. The television switches to Mace Moon in the middle of a sales pitch. ]
Moon: The new Beta-max VCRs are in and just look at the quality of that picture! You'd have to be a lunatic not to make the switch! Also in stock, the new Deltian line of digital camcorders from Sony! You'd have to go to Earth Delta itself to buy these beauties at prices this low! I'm the Moonatic…
[ Click ]
[ Switch to Quinn, Arturo and Wade who are seated around the table. The timer is out and reads 64 hours. ]
Quinn: If we hadn't left, the timer wouldn't be ticking down.
Wade: How can you be sure? This is the first time it's happened. Besides, how else can you explain the Professor's magazine?
Quinn: Maybe we slid into a spin-off dimension where everything is exactly the same except for one little thing. That's happened before too.
Arturo: Yes, but we've never seen both ends of a wormhole before. Now it's possible that our wormhole was somehow affected by the extraordinary amount of sliding going on in this world. But how I'm not certain.
Wade: So what's going to happen three days from now? Are we going to leave or are we going to bounce right back?
[ Quinn shrugs. ]
Wade: That's not the encouragement I was looking for.
Arturo: At least we've got some time to find out more about what's going on with this world and learn what went wrong. If we all just keep our heads, we'll figure this out. Now is not the time to panic.
[ Cut to Rembrandt. Something has caught his eye on the television. ]
Rembrandt: Professor! There's something you might want to see.
Arturo: Not now, Mr. Brown.
Rembrandt: It's that ex-colleague of yours.
[ That gets Arturo's attention. He gets up and joins Rembrandt. Quinn and Wade will follow in a moment.
Close on the television where Professor Freedman is a guest on a talk show. ]
Freedman: You see Larry, it's not only about the economic impact on Earth Epsilon. Sure, we would all probably be better off if we ended this so-called free trade agreement, especially with the Alphas and Betas. But there is a far greater threat here than just money. We can't just keep warping the fabric of space-time and not expect any consequences.
[ Another guest, Bob Novak, interrupts. ]
Novak: Oh yes, your 'dimensional breakdown' theory. We've heard it all before, Professor. You protectionists are all alike, sounding alarm bells at every turn.
Freedman: [ interjects ] This is bigger than your petty politics. I'm talking about the potential destruction of the universe!
Host: Are you telling our viewers that one planet has the ability to bring down the entire universe?
[ Switch angle to show the four watching the TV- Rembrandt and Arturo seated; Quinn and Wade standing behind them. ]
Rembrandt: Dimensional breakdown! I don't like the sound of that.
Quinn: Why is he coming out against himself? In the magazine, he's pro-sliding.
[ Back to the TV. ]
Novak: The science of interdimensional travel has been well-studied for over a decade now and physicists with far greater credentials than yourself, including the Theodore Freedman of Earth Alpha I might add, conclude there is no threat. Now until you can produce some actual evidence proving otherwise, I would hope you would end your reckless crusade and stop needlessly scaring the public.
Host: Woah, we have to take a commercial break. More heated debate and your phone calls when we return.
[ Switch angle again. Quinn steps away. ]
Wade: [ to Arturo ] Now is it time to panic?
Quinn: Guys! Look at this!
[ Quinn returns. He points to the 'Time' magazine. Close-up. In small print in a corner it reads "Alpha Edition." ]
Quinn: The Freedman on TV must be the double from this Earth!
Wade: The two Freedmans are fighting each other?
Arturo: That sounds like the Freedman I know.
Quinn: You need to call in, Professor. If this guy is on the level, he might be able to get us out of here.
Arturo: I agree, Mr. Mallory, but it will take more than a phone call to get to the bottom of this. [ takes a deep breath ] I believe it is high time I pay the good professor a visit.
[ Cutaway. ]
[ The next day. Quinn, Wade and Rembrandt are walking in downtown San Francisco. Pan the buildings across from them. Every other storefront should be boarded up or have a 'This Space for Rent' sign posted. Pedestrian traffic is light. ]ACT II [D]
Wade: This is so sad. Back home you can't even drive down this street, let alone find a parking spot.
Quinn: This world must be in a recession of some kind.
Rembrandt: More like a depression. From what I saw on TV last night, this world has been hit hard by the free trade agreements. So much for the rising tide lifting all boats.
Wade: Well that store seems to be doing all right.
[ Wade points across the way to a place with good traffic in front of it. It's Moonatic Discount Electronics. ]
Quinn: Come on. Let's see what we can learn about this world.
[ Cut to the three entering the store. It's well lit and jammed with merchandise. The atmosphere is loud as televisions, stereos and other electronics are going off. Think 'Best Buy', not the dark empty store featured in SL-105, "Last Days." ]
Quinn: [ to Wade ] Do you remember the last time we were here?
[ Wade nudges him with her elbow, then relents and smiles. ]
Rembrandt: Here he comes. I'd know that mug anywhere.
[ A man in a shirt and tie, Mace Moon, approaches them. ]
Moon: Hello shoppers! Welcome to Moonatic Discount Electronics. I'm the Moonatic, and you're a lunatic if you don't take advantage of some of my gold light specials today. Come on in and let me show you some great deals.
[ Moon turns to lead them toward some merchandise. ]
Rembrandt: [ softly to Quinn ] Does this guy have an off switch?
Moon: Check out these toaster ovens. This shipment just came in from Earth Gamma. It may not have that Alpha quality to it, but you can't beat the price!
Quinn: No doubt. [ Quinn pretends to be interested. ] This is a nice set up you have here. Tell me, how is it you're managing to thrive while everyone around you seems to be going belly up.
Moon: You know how it goes. If you want to survive in a cutthroat world of competition, you have to advance with the times.
[ Moon gets all hush-hush for a moment. ]
Moon: Can I drop the persona for a minute?
Wade: Oh please do.
Moon: The secret is to go multidimensional. Deal with the Double, as it were?
Quinn: You've formed an alliance with the other Mace Moons?
Moon: Who can you trust in business other than yourself, right? We've got the San Francisco market cornered on all five worlds of the trade federation. We buy in bulk and sell low. Goods that aren't moving on one dimension are sent to one where they will go. It's the perfect set-up.
Wade: Sounds like collusion.
Moon: No, no, no. [ looks around nervously ] I still have to compete with the Dopplers and the Qmarts. All I'm doing is making sure I don't have to fight against myself, and chain franchises have been doing that since long before the discovery of interdimensional portals.
Quinn: It's the death of main street--only on a global scale.
Moon: [ continues ] I don't like this recession any more than you do. People out of work means less disposable income for luxuries and that affects me. But protectionism and isolationism are not the answers, my friends. Ultimately, consumers buy the best product for the best price and everything else is irrelevant. Speaking of which, I've just got this new item in from Alpha.
[ He leads them over to a stack of black boxes set up by a video monitor. ]
Moon: It's the latest craze. They call it a DVD player.
[ Cutaway. ]
[ Exterior shot of a great stone sign engraved with "University of California." Pull back to reveal academic buildings and Arturo exiting a cab. ]
Arturo: How much?
Pavel: Thirteen dollars.
Arturo: Keep the change.
[ He hands Pavel the cab driver a $20 Beta bill. Pavel grabs his hat. ]
Pavel: Sweet Barishnokov! [ to Arturo ] You need cab, you call me, yes?
[ Pavel holds up a cell phone and hands Arturo a card, presumably a business card. Arturo nods and Pavel drives off. ]
Arturo: I could get used to this exchange rate.
[ Interior shot of a university building. Arturo looks at a board with the title – "Physics Department." There is a list of names and their office numbers. Theodore Freedman is Office 206. Arturo walks off. Let the camera linger long enough on the board so astute viewers see 'Robert Weiss – Office 214' near the bottom. ]
[ Switch to Arturo knocking on door #206. From within, a voice: ]
Freedman: Come in!
[ Arturo opens the door. Freedman is looking down writing furiously. ]
Arturo: Hello, Ted.
[ Freedman stops writing. He drops his pencil and pushes his glasses into place. He slowly looks up. ]
Freedman: [ dry ] Why if it isn't my old friend and colleague Max Arturo.
Arturo: [ unsure ] It's been a long time, no?
Freedman: Only fourteen years. [ gets up from his chair. Anger flashes in his eyes. ] How dare you show yourself in my university! I should call security.
Arturo: Now, now, surely that's not necessary.
[ Freedman approaches Arturo. ]
Freedman: I wouldn't be so certain. What's the matter? Run out of ideas to steal on Earth Beta?
[ Arturo's hatred of Freedman gets in the way of his better judgement and he forgets where he is. ]
Arturo: Me?! If memory serves, it was you who stole the credit from me. I have never committed an act of intellectual dishonesty in my entire career.
[ The two men close to within inches of each other. Camera closes on them, face to face. ]
Freedman: [ animated ] Just because the press and scientific community has bought your lie doesn't make it true, you blistering idiot!
[ Arturo is taken aback. ]
Arturo: [ softly ] What did you just call me?
Freedman: You heard me.
Arturo: My God. [ softly, more to himself ] Could it be our roles were reversed on this world? Would a double of mine be capable of it?
[ Arturo sighs. He knows all too well that he has doubles capable of such a thing. ]
Freedman: Double? What are you babbling about?
Arturo: Isn't it obvious? I am not the Arturo you know. I am from a parallel Earth.
Freedman: The Deltian? But I thought you were an opera singer?
Arturo: No, an Earth from outside your little federation, you closed-minded dolt!
Freedman: [ shocked ] Outside? [ His shock turns to amusement. He laughs. ]
Arturo: What do you find so comical about this?
Freedman: Everything. [ laughs again ] Mr. Arturo, you could not have found a worse world to visit. [ Freedman makes a grand gesture and says: ] Welcome…to the black hole of the multiverse!
[ Close up on a concerned Arturo and fade. ]
[ Commercial Break ]ACT III [A]
[ Pick up where we left off. ]ACT III [B]
Arturo: Black hole? I'm afraid I don't follow you.
Freedman: [ sneers ] It doesn't surprise me. Allow me to demonstrate on the blackboard. Perhaps if I use pictures you will be able to better comprehend it.
[ Arturo is furious, but he holds his tongue this time. Freedman goes over to a board and starts drawing circles in a circle format. ]
Freedman: What we have here are five earths in five different dimensions, each one doing extensive business with the other. [ Freedman draws lines to each circle. ] To open these pathways, a great deal of force is required. And as every first year physics student knows, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Something has to absorb the strain of the exotic matter holding these pathways together. And that something is what I've come to refer to as the dimensional barrier. [ He spells it out on the blackboard in a condescending fashion. ]
Arturo: The dimensional barrier varies from dimension to dimension. [ Arturo steps to the blackboard and takes the chalk from Freedman's hand. He draws wiggly lines around each circle. ] Some, the so-called "strong" barriers, are impervious to transdimensional travel or "sliding", as I prefer to call it. Whereas weak dimensional barriers are practically magnets for Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridges.
[ Freedman is visibly stunned that Arturo knows all this. He grabs the eraser. ]
Freedman: And there lies the problem. Each time a bridge is opened the dimensional barrier is destabilized just a bit more, weakening and already weakened system. [ Erases part of Arturo's "barriers." ]
Arturo: The barriers erode until any bridge created in the immediate vicinity of this area of space-time is compelled to anchor there. [ Arturo draws a circle within the five circles and his line spirals in. ]
Freedman: Just as a black hole's gravity draws all matter to it. But we're not dealing with gravity; this is the inverse. Here, the strong repel and the weaker attract. The dimensional barriers of our little federation are so destabilized from excessive use of exotic matter that any vortex opened near it is drawn right in.
Arturo: And once you're in a black hole…
Freedman:…you don't come out.
Arturo: That explains why our wormhole failed. [ pauses a moment to take this in ] But if we were truly in a black hole, we wouldn't be here to discuss the implications of it.
Freedman: Well, we're not there quite yet, thank God. The five earths of the trade federation all had weak barriers to begin with. I know that now. We were natural targets for each other and all were of surprisingly similar background. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if all five had spun out of one dimension long ago. But now we are on the verge of destruction. If we don't stop the trade, one of the barriers will finally give out. When that happens, the dimensions will cease to be their own entities. They will merge into one and destroy each other. The chain reaction will annihilate the federation and in its place will be that black hole.
Arturo: And nothing is being done to stop this?
Freedman: There are scattered movements. We're trying to make a dent in the public consciousness, but you know how these things are. The business community—they all know, they just don't care! Economics is all about short-term gain and damn the consequences—as long as their quarterly bottom line is good, the future will never come.
Arturo: But we're talking about certain death!
Freedman: Pah. It makes no difference. Take the ozone debacle ten years ago. It took a declaration of war from Argentina before anything was done about that. And today we still have people crying it's a hoax!
Arturo: [ shakes his head ] How much time do you have left?
Freedman: That's just it. How can one be sure just how low a barrier can go? It may be months, may be a decade. But I do know it cannot last forever. Eventually, we'll pay the piper.
[ Shot of a pensive Arturo. ]
Arturo: It may surprise you to hear that I know a great deal about dimensional barriers. There may be a way to solve both our problems. Unfortunately, that means we'll be spending a lot of time together in the coming days.
Freedman: [ grimaces ] The things I do in the name of science…
[ Shot of a wary Freedman and cutaway. ]
[ Violins are heard in the background. Slowly move across a fancy restaurant where the waiters are in white suits and the patrons are dressed elegantly. Each table has long candles. There's a general buzz of laughter and contentment. Stop at a table where Arturo, Quinn, Wade and Rembrandt are eating. ]ACT III [C]
Quinn: [ looking around with disdain ] Funny how the upper classes are always better equipped to weather the occasional economic downturn.
Rembrandt: I'm just glad to be part of the wealthy for once. [ to a waiter walking by ] Garcon?
[ The waiter snaps to attention and hurries over. ]
Waiter: Oui, monsieur?
Rembrandt: My friends and I could use a refill on these drinks. And oh…bring us the dessert menu.
Waiter: Bien sur!
[ Rembrandt slips him a Beta $5. The waiter nods and scurries off. Rembrandt is enjoying himself. He lets out a chuckle. ]
Rembrandt: You gotta love the free market!
Wade: That's just the problem. This market isn't free at all. The Alpha and Beta worlds are manipulating the situation to their advantage.
Quinn: [ to Arturo ] While they have no problem exporting their merchandise, both worlds have severely clamped down on interdimensional travel out of fear that their citizens would only buy from the Epsilonians and Gammarians due to the favorable exchange rate. The flow of their money has dried up here in recent months causing an even greater disparity.
Arturo: If they don't stop this trade, they'll have far worse things to fear than a few dollars. As I was saying before, their dimensional barriers are crumbling. That is why we failed to slide out of here. The wormhole immediately anchored itself to the weakest dimension available- this one.
Quinn: Then how are they doing all this business with each other?
Arturo: Freedman says that commercial sliding devices are equipped to connect to all five worlds--all pre-programmed. With a known target, it's possible to slide out. But to slide randomly has become impossible.
Rembrandt: I don't see the problem. When the next window comes up, we'll just punch some coordinates in and get out.
Quinn: Ha. It doesn't work that way Remmy. The timer can only visit places it's already been. I'll have to reprogram the timer to backtrack and take our chances I don't lose our home coordinates in the process.
[ Arturo leans in over the table and speaks low. ]
Arturo: There is another possibility.
[ The other three look at Arturo expectantly. ]
Arturo: Not long ago, we encountered a similar phenomenon when we had that misadventure with our doubles. [ Refers to SL-319 "Splitting Hairs." ] If you recall, the accident was made possible when my doppelganger's experiment momentarily lowered the dimensional barrier. Now I've given a lot of thought to that experiment over the last two months and I believe it is possible to do the opposite.
Quinn: Temporarily raise the barrier?
Arturo: Precisely. If we can create a stable field just as our timer activates the wormhole, we may be able to slide out of here with a negligible chance of return.
Quinn: But if what Freedman's saying is true, we'd just be grabbed by one of the other four worlds. We'd need to raise them all at once. How are we going to swing that?
Arturo: That's where Freedman comes in. I'm hoping he has enough ties with the rest of the scientific community to pull this off.
Wade: Can you trust him?
Arturo: About as much as he trusts me, I suppose. But we each have something the other needs. It will have to do.
[ Arturo stops as the Waiter returns with their drinks. He starts with Rembrandt. ]
Waiter: Et voici, Monsieur.
Rembrandt: Muchas gracias.
Waiter: Eh-heh. [ The Waiter, being French, is insulted, but what is he going to do? ]
Wade: [ smiles ] Merci.
[ After the Waiter departs, Arturo resumes. ]
Arturo: I have about two days and an impressive amount of equipment and data to work with. I think we have a very good shot.
Quinn: I guess that means we start immediately.
[ Arturo looks uneasy. ]
Arturo: That's very good of you Quinn, but I'd like to handle this matter personally.
Quinn: You can't be serious.
Arturo: I'm quite serious. My knowledge of quantum fields far exceeds yours. This is a task I am uniquely qualified for.
Quinn: Yeah but still, any help you can get…
[ Arturo squirms. Quinn's eyes glaze over. ]
Quinn: Oh I get it. This is really about you and Freedman. You want to show him up.
Arturo: [ interrupts ] Nonsense…
Quinn: That's exactly it and you don't want your victory dance spoiled by help from the student.
Arturo: [ a little too loud ] Maybe I don't need your help!
[ Arturo looks around to see if any of the other diners were disturbed. ]
Arturo: All I ask for is two days. Is that too much? If I fail and we slide back here again, there is no harm done. At that point, I will gladly ask for your assistance. But for now, allow me this indulgence. [ pause ] This is something I need to do.
[ Quinn nods, but doesn't smile. Cutaway. ]
[ Exterior of the University of California. Daylight. ]
[ Interior. Freedman and Arturo are walking down a corridor. Freedman opens a door. ]
Freedman: And here is the lab.
[ The lab is fully loaded. Think Quinn's basement- times three. Arturo is visibly stunned, not only by the equipment but by the staff of five young men and women. ]
Freedman: Forgive the age of my assistants. They may be young, but they still have the fire of idealism and all are quite gifted.
Arturo: I thought we'd be working together.
Freedman: We are! But we'd be fools not to enlist everyone we possibly can for such an endeavor in so short a time.
[ Arturo runs his hand through the back of his air with an embarrassed look on his face. A young assistant walks by him that Arturo recognizes. ]
Arturo: Good morning, Ms. St. Clair.
[ Logan nods to Arturo and heads back to a lab station. ]
Freedman: [ whispers to Arturo ] A brilliant mind on that one.
[ Arturo nods. ]
Arturo: Pardon me, I have a phone call to make.
[ Fade forward. Still in the lab. Quinn has joined Arturo at a large blackboard. ]
Quinn: No, no, no. You didn't factor in for the bosons.
Arturo: I did so! What do you think this is for right here?
Quinn: I thought that was related to spin.
Arturo: Mr. Mallory, I think I know an integer when I see one!
[ Time progresses. Through continuous fading images, we see the eight move about the laboratory. Arturo and Freedman shout it out. Freedman is one-upped by Logan running a computer simulation. Lastly, Logan attempts to flirt with an extremely uncomfortable Quinn. Stop with the blackboard covered by a sheet. Arturo and Quinn are presenting to the assembled. All the lights are on in the lab, signifying night. ]
Arturo: As you know, the experiment my double conducted was intended to be part of the proof for a unified field theory.
Freedman: That old thing? We solved that back in '82.
[ Arturo shudders with indignance. ]
Arturo: My point is that there were some unintended consequences thanks to the delinquency of his assistants. They devised a way to temporarily lower a dimensional field. [ sighs with satisfaction ] This will raise it.
Quinn: Check this out.
[ Quinn unveils the board. Focus the camera on Freedman. He squints. He takes his glasses off and wipes them. He replaces them and looks at the board again. Then at Arturo. Then back at the board. Again he looks to Arturo who has an incredibly smug look upon his face. ]
Freedman: Who are you and what have you done with Max Arturo?
[ Freedman then smiles and laughs. ]
Freedman: This is absolutely brilliant!
Arturo: I must share the credit with all involved, particularly Mr. Mallory.
Quinn: Nah, everything I know about quantum fields I learned from you, Professor.
Arturo: You are too kind, my boy.
Freedman: [ still enthralled ] I've never seen such an application of super-string theory. If we could harness it…
Arturo: That's where you and your double come in. With his knowledge and connections…
Freedman: [ disgusted ] His knowledge? He has no knowledge.
Arturo: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the man did discover the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge on his earth.
Freedman: Then consider yourself corrected. Theodore Freedman Alpha is a sham. I am the true father of interdimensional travel.
[ And with that, Freedman storms off. Quinn and Arturo stare at each other and fade. ]
[ Commercial Break ]ACT IV [A]
[ Freedman's office. It is dark. By an open window, you can see a faint light burning from a cigar. Arturo enters. ]ACT IV [B]
[ Through the light from the hallway, we can see Freedman motion for Arturo to come in. Arturo joins him on the windowsill. ]
Freedman: Care for a smoke?
Arturo: Thank you.
[ Freedman lights another cigar for Arturo and the two stare out the window at the night sky. ]
Freedman: There is nothing so deceptive as the night sky. We only see the flashiest of what's out there, but it's what lies in the dark that holds the universe together. [ Freedman takes a puff ] So it is on earth.
Arturo: What happened?
Freedman: [ sighs ] Originally I came from what is now known as Beta Earth. Your double and I were working together fourteen years ago, but not on dark matter as you said. No, no, we were going for an even higher prize- harnessing exotic matter. And we succeeded! The first place we landed was Alpha Earth where we encountered a double of myself. I was naïve to…"sliding," as you call it… and assumed this man was more or less me. [ pause ] I was so very wrong. Where I saw the portal as a triumph of science, my other saw an opportunity for glory and wealth. He claimed the discovery as his own. Had it been my word versus his, I would have triumphed. But my Arturo turned on me too. The lure of fame and wealth was too great for him.
[ He pauses to wipe his brow. Arturo's expression has softened. ]
Freedman: I should have fought harder, but I was so hurt and humiliated that I went on a two-year sabbatical. In my absence, my other began building his empire. Eventually, I left Beta and moved here where the people barely knew me and I could work and teach in peace. I'm just another Epsilonian hand-me-down now. [ laughs ] It's quite the story, eh? No wonder that no one believes me.
Arturo: On the contrary, that's a story I know all too well. But I've grown tired of that story. Men like us have nothing to be ashamed of. If it turns out that I'm the dark matter that binds the universe together, that's a role I've learned to accept.
[ Freedman looks at him and smiles. ]
[ Cutaway ]
[ The Lamplighter. Camera starts at one end of the bar and slowly moves along. ]ACT IV [C]
Patron #1: I can't believe the Giants traded Bonds to the Mariners for that Griffey twerp.
Patron #2: I know. Dumb, dumb, dumb. From now on, I'm cheering for the Delta Giants.
Patron #1: You said it.
[ Pan to next set of patrons. ]
Patron #3: It's like President Perot says--that giant whooshing sound is all of our jobs heading to Gamma.
[ Camera continues down and stops at Rembrandt and Wade. Each has a beer. ]
Wade: Just you and me again. The non-techies.
Rembrandt: That's all right, girl. They do their thing. We do our thing.
[ Wade stares at him. ]
Wade: What exactly is our thing?
[ Cut back to the lab. Logan and Quinn are on consoles. ]
Logan: Initializing the field.
Quinn: Inputting the equations...now.
[ Switch back to the Lamplighter. ]
Rembrandt: I mean, we're the glue that keeps the unit together.
[ Switch to the lab. Arturo and Freedman go over to a computer monitor. ]
Freedman: Quickly, get me the spectral readouts.
Quinn: I think it's working.
Arturo: Ha! Ha!
[ Switch to the Lamplighter. ]
Rembrandt: The levelheaded voices of reason that pull those two back from the brink of nerdness.
[ Switch to the lab. ]
[ The monitor goes fuzzy and the light start to flicker. ]
[ Switch to Lamplighter. ]
Wade: They're big boys. They know what they're doing.
[ Suddenly everything goes out. High shot over the area as block after block of lights go out. In the distance horns are honking and sirens begin to wail. Fade out. ]
[ The lab. It is morning. Apparently the power has been restored as the computers are humming.. Arturo looks like he slept in his clothes. He's hunched over a schematic; his glasses have slipped to the very edge of his nose. ]ACT IV [D]
Arturo: Confound it! You would need to hook this machinery up to the Sun to power this barrier around the clock.
Freedman: [ from across the room ] Don't give in to hyperbole.
Arturo: A dwarf star then.
[ Freedman enters the camera view. ]
Freedman: We can't give up yet! The barrier is possible. For eight glorious seconds this world was impervious to a vortex.
Arturo: And we also took down the state of California's power grid and disrupted God knows how many satellites in the process!
Freedman: Eh, there's too much junk in space as it is.
Arturo: I'm sorry. We tried. But we have to accept that maintaining such a device is unfeasible. We'll have to find some other way.
Freedman: There is no other way.
Arturo: There is one.
[ Cutaway ]
[ The University of California, but somehow different. The corridors are bustling. Soon a path opens up among the students and professors as a white-haired man makes his way through followed by an entourage of men and women in suits and skirts (Lackeys) including Wing, hair tied back in a pony-tail. The white-haired man is Theodore Freedman. ]ACT IV [E]
Freedman: Something stopped those transports last night and I want answers!
Wing: Word has been sketchy out of Epsilon. A copy of the Epsilonian Denver Post says all of Northern California suffered through a six-hour blackout last night and they've apparently sustained serious damage to their global network.
Freedman: Solar flare?
LackeyFemale#1: None reported.
Freedman: Then what the devil could have caused such a disturbance?
Wing: We don't know sir.
Freedman: Don't know? You're supposed to be the best and the brightest UCal has to offer?
Wing: We're still awaiting word, sir.
LackeyFemale#2: [ phone to her ear ] Sir, there's a message that's just arrived for you from Epsilon. It's urgent.
Freedman: I'm on my way. Prepare my vortex.
[ Cut back to Epsilon lab where Freedman and staff are frantically going over formulas. Arturo is looking out the window. Wade and Rembrandt have arrived. ]
Freedman: Perhaps there is a way to better channel the vibration of the strings themselves. It would require less external power.
Arturo: Meddling with matter at such a microscopic level can have dire consequences.
Freedman: More dire than the prospects we already face? Hmmph.
Quinn: I hope this works, we slide in less than an hour.
Arturo: We have to try.
[ Arturo gives Quinn a hug. Attention then turns to the open door of the lab, where Alpha Freedman is standing. ]
Alpha Freedman: I should have known.
Freedman: [ rises ] You! Get out of my dimension!
[ Alpha Freedman's Lackeys enter the room. Alpha Freedman walks over to Arturo. ]
Alpha Freedman: Max! It's been a long time. I was a little surprised to hear from you, especially slumming on Epsilon.
Arturo: Stuff it Ted.
[ Alpha Freedman is taken aback. ]
Alpha Freedman: That doesn't sound like the Max I know.
Arturo: That's because I'm not the Max you know. And yet, I know you all the same. For on my world, you were the same scheming, duplicitous plagiarist that you are here.
Alpha Freedman: [ uneasy ] Ha. Ha. That's nonsense. Why I…
Arturo: Don't insult my intelligence. If you were truly the inventor of transdimensional travel, you would have the depth of understanding to comprehend the havoc you have unleashed.
Wing: [ to Alpha Freedman ] What is he talking about, sir?
Alpha Freedman: Nothing. He's just another protectionist desperately reaching for anything to halt the progress of civilization.
Wade: Are you some kind of idiot? He's not even from this world! What does he have to gain? All we want to do is slide out of here and we can't because we've been sucked into your little black hole.
LackeyFemale#1: That's the talk of fools.
Quinn: Oh yeah? See for yourself. [ Hands her some schematics from the lab bench. ]
Alpha Freedman: You dragged me down here for this? For the last time, there is no black hole. Show me one bit of tangible evidence…
Freedman: [ shoves three folders worth of data at Alpha Freedman ] Will this do?
LackeyFemale#1: [ to another Lackey ] Take a look at this.
Lackey Male#1: In the name of Oppenheimer! If those calculations are correct…
LackeyFemale#1: …sustained crossing of the dimensional barrier will destabilize our entire universe.
Freedman: [ to Arturo ] See? It's like I told you. Once explained, any first year physics student can understand it.
Alpha Freedman: Oh don't condescend to me Teddy! I know about the destabilization. I knew even before you, back in '93.
[ The room falls silent. ]
Freedman: Then wh…why didn't you say anything?
Alpha Freedman: Because it was bad business, that's why. We knew something was up even before that as more and more of our expeditions landed us on worlds we had already been to. Soon every expedition landed us on either Beta, Delta, Epsilon, and Gamma. It was then I learned the truth.
Wing: I don't get it, sir. If you knew then, why did you let it get worse?
Alpha Freedman: Because I might have been wrong! There were no terrestrial ill effects; you can't feel a dimensional barrier. Who was I to stop what we had built? Even if there was something wrong, there was nothing I could do about it. The genie was out of the bottle. There was no turning back.
Arturo: I don't buy that for a moment. Your silence had less to do with helplessness and everything to do with your own reputation. You couldn't bear to announce that your greatest accomplishment, earned or unearned, was in reality the greatest curse the world has ever seen. Rather than admit your error, you were prepared to face down the end of your existence.
Alpha Freedman: I don't know what you're talking about.
Arturo: Oh I think you do. I know because I've been there myself. Pride is a double-edged sword, Mr. Freedman. It can spur you on to greatness but it can also be your undoing. [ walks over to him. ] But I've learned that the truth...no matter how hard it is to accept...is your only salvation.
Alpha Freedman: But all that I've created will be ruined.
[ Alpha Freedman looks down, ashamed. Arturo continues. ]
Arturo: That is the price every true scientist pays.
[ Focus on Alpha Freedman. Cutaway ]
[ Outside on the lawn of the university. Quinn, Wade, Arturo, Rembrandt, Freedman, and Alpha Freedman are there. ]ACT IV [F]
Alpha Freedman: The coordinates I downloaded into your timer will take you to one of the outpost worlds in which we've had limited contact. I believe it will be far enough away from here for you to avoid us on your next journey. It's a nice place. Run by Swedes.
Rembrandt: Swedes are good.
Alpha Freedman: [ to Arturo ] You are quite an orator. I only wish you were the man I met fourteen years ago.
Quinn: It's time.
[ Quinn opens the vortex. ]
Quinn: No offense, but I hope we never see you again.
[ Quinn jumps through. Then Wade and Rembrandt. ]
Arturo: Good luck to the both of you. I don't envy you the task ahead.
Freedman: We have a good head start. If it can be done, we will find a way to heal our damaged dimensions. In the meantime, we're going to have hell of a fight on our hands getting people to stop using the wormholes.
[ Arturo shakes hands with both men. ]
Arturo: Who knows? If the two of you can resolve your differences, perhaps even I can make peace with my Freedman.
Freedman: We may be bastards on the outside, but I'd like to believe we're all decent fellows at heart.
[ The three share a final laugh. Arturo slides. ]
Freedman: Do you truly believe we can pull this off?
Alpha Freedman: [ shrugs ] If worse comes to worst, there's always that group of uninhabited worlds we discovered.
[ Sliding bumper ]
[ Rembrandt and Wade are in a spa. They are on massage beds, wrapped in towels while a tall blond Nordic person of the opposite sex works on their shoulders and necks. ]ROLL CREDITS. END EPISODE 322.
Wade: Now this is a world I could get used to.
Rembrandt: How Swede it is, girl!
[ Wade groans from the terrible pun. Rembrandt chuckles. ]
[ Move to the next room where Arturo and Quinn are also getting rubdowns. ]
Arturo: Mmm…a just reward for a job well done.
Quinn: I suppose.
Quinn: It's just too bad we didn't have enough time to perfect the barrier. If we could have made it impervious, our Kromagg problems would be solved forever. It would certainly give me some peace of mind at night knowing it was up.
Arturo: I agree, but the means to power such a device are beyond our abilities at present time. Still I wonder…[ pause ]…knowing what we do about dimensional damage, are the Kromaggs sowing the seeds of their own demise? Surely sliding warships must put an incredible strain on their homeworld. It would be a shame if their barrier should fall…
[ Close on Arturo chuckling to himself and fade out. ]
Before we start receiving angry letters from first-year physics students, let's immediately acknowledge that all of the above is fudged physics. While I believe it to be reasonably plausible for a TV show, I don't endorse it in reality. But I do like the way anti-gravity is portrayed here. Quinn's accident may not have been so miraculous after all if he was on the right track.
For you non-physics majors, WIMP stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, also known as "exotic matter." Exotic matter is what counteracts gravity and keeps the wormhole stable for our sliders. Are WIMPs involved? Possibly, but considering a WIMP has never actually been positively identified, it's pure speculation.
Much of this episode derives from SL-319 "Splitting Hairs," which was supposed to be the last "nature of the dimension" episode. Initially I didn't want to revisit Bennish and Wing's experiment, but I just couldn't leave it dangling out there. If a dimensional barrier could be lowered, then it also could be raised. The theoretical possibility would prove irresistible to Arturo; it's only natural he would explore it. And voila- a whole new world of funny physics enter the picture.
Some viewers may have asked 'What about spin-off worlds?' Excellent question. And originally, we had a segment in Act 3-B addressing that situation. However, it was cut for time and story considerations. Nonetheless, I provide it here:
Wade: How is that possible? I thought you said coordinates have no set number.
Quinn: They don't. Coordinates are all relative to the point of reference. It would be like calling our Earth 'Earth Prime.' It's Prime to us, but to another Quinn and Wade, it's Earth 211 or some other number. While each dimension has its own intrinsic signature, it doesn't have a fixed coordinate.
Arturo: That's how this trade must work. Each spin-off world retains relative coordinates to another set of spin-offs. These worlds are so intertwined that it wouldn't shock me in the least to learn that an entire set of five is created each time a divergence occurs.
Rembrandt: Guys, I'm trying to enjoy my meal. Can we talk about something else?
The title "Barriers to Entry" has a triple meaning. First, it's a common economics term: a barrier to entry is something that would prevent a new enterprise from entering a specific market. It's highly relevant to the story at hand. Second, this story is all about dimensional barriers and entry and re-entry. Finally, it also represents Arturo's frustration that he is not considered an elite in his field.
It's not often the main plot and subplot involve the same character, but I felt like giving Arturo the stage before Quinn resumes lead role for the final episodes. Unfortunately for our team, the last slide before the slide home will be the worst...