[ Earth 317, by Mike Truman ]
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The Peculiar Institution
Number: SL-323
Time & Place: San Francisco, one slide after SL-322 "Barriers to Entry"
Time on world(s): 49er world - 60 hours, Raiders world - 55 hours


[ Camera opens on a waning crescent moon low in the sky. It's not quite dark, but some stars are already out. Pan down to a man lighting the lamps on the street. The surroundings indicate a city of the mid-19th century. As the camera rotates, the Lamplighter tavern comes into view. ]
[ Interior of the Lamplighter. A large fire in the hearth and lamps lit along the walls would provide a cheery glow to the establishment if not for the grim mood inside. The bartender (Isaac) is wiping down his bar. Isaac is about fifty, heavyset and balding. Camera stops on four men (Terry, Joseph, Tracy and David) at a circular table drinking ale. They're all in their 30s or 40s and are dressed as blue-collar laborers. Their dialect suggests and Irish ancestry. ]
Terry: It's nearly the new moon. Do yeh think they'll strike agin?
Tracy: If they do, this time we'll be ready for them.
Joseph: Yeh can't fight what yeh can't see.
Tracy: Well we can't run and hide neither! They'll find us; they always do.
David: If we were smart, we'd go back to the motherland. I'd sooner live under the oppressive reign of King Charles and Queen Diana. At least a man can sleep with both eyes closed there.
Joseph: Then why don't yeh go back, David?
David: [ sips his ale ] I cannot afford it. Not yet. [ David winks ] But when I get my hands on some of that gold, I'll be buying meself a first class ticket on the first train out of here, I assure yeh!
Tracy: Don't yeh see? That's what it's all about! Someone's trying to run us off the land and get the gold for themselves. My money's on the Chinese on the west side of town.
Terry: If not them, then it's the damn Mexicans creeping up from Los Angeles. Though I'll be a Scotsman if I can figure out how they're arranging it.
[ Grumbled assent. ]
Tracy: I don't know how they're doing it, but mark my words gentlemen, one of those sets of outsiders is responsible.
[ More grumbled assent. ]
Voice: It's a different outsider altogether. One from the Spirit world.
[ Pan the camera to the bar, where an old Native American is nursing a whiskey. The others know him derisively as Chief. Chief may not be as old as he looks but his face and hands are weathered. ]
Tracy: What's that, Chief? Are yeh going to impart upon us some more of yer ancient wisdom?
[ Tracy laughs. ]
Isaac: Lay off of him, Tracy.
[ Tracy only laughs harder. Chief slowly turns his head toward the table. ]
Chief: Soon, the Spirit will come for you. I have seen him in the forests. First He slowly opens the sky. [ Chief spreads his hands out to form a circle. ] Then in the shimmering light, He emerges from the other side. Once you go over to His domain, you do not come back.
[ The bar has a good laugh at that. Isaac just shakes his head as Chief's attention returns to his whiskey. Tracy is almost in tears laughing. ]
Tracy: Yeh hear that gentleman? Soon we will all be sucked up into a hole in the sky! [ to Isaac ] Isaac, set up Chief with another one. He just made me night.
[ Cut to a wooded area where there is indeed a hole in the sky. Wade, Quinn, and Arturo are waiting for their final companion to arrive. Rembrandt emerges and the vortex closes. ]
Wade: You took your sweet time with that slide. We were beginning to think you didn't make it.
Rembrandt: Sorry, sweetheart. I was just giving Olga a proper goodbye. [ Rembrandt shakes his head with a look of regret. ] Damn I'm going to miss New Sweden.
Arturo: Perhaps this world will be even more hospitable.
Rembrandt: I doubt that.
[ The four exit off screen and their voices start to trail away. ]
Wade: What are we going to do for accommodations? I doubt we have any money they'll accept.
Quinn: What makes you think King Gustav II isn't on the krona here?
[ Pan through the woods another few hundred yards. A second vortex opens- blood red. It is massive and the trees shake from its force. A branch is ripped off and sails right by the camera. As something emerges, fade to black. ]

[ Commercial Break ]


[ Open outside the Lamplighter. The streetlights are being extinguished and the last few patrons are leaving the bar. Pull back to reveal the Sliders across the street. ]
Arturo: Well there's the Lamplighter, but no sign of the Dominion.
Quinn: And this world doesn't look like it's quite ready for the Motel 12 chain.
Rembrandt: Oh well, gotta start somewhere.
[ Cut to the interior of the Lamplighter. Isaac is moving chairs around in order to sweep up. His daughter, Rachel, is wiping down tables. Rachel is in her early to mid-twenties, red headed, and rather attractive. ]
Rachel: Do you want me to take care of that, Pa?
Isaac: If you wouldn't mind, Rachel. My back's acting up agin tonight.
[ Focus on the bar door as Arturo and the others enter. ]
Isaac: We're closed for the night.
Arturo: Forgive our intrusion but we just arrived in town and are in need of some direction. We are looking for the nearest hotel.
Isaac: There's the Inn at Union Square, but it's a bit pricey. The Nob Hill Hotel is a bit more reasonable.
Arturo: How reasonable?
[ Isaac looks at him with his eyebrow raised. Wade steps in. ]
Wade: We're a little short from our trip. It was a uh…long journey.
Isaac: Well how much do you have?
[ The four just stand there; hands in their pockets. ]
Isaac: [ sighs ] The Lord says to be kind to strangers. [ pause ] I…suppose I could help set you up at my home. For a short while! And you'll be staying in the shed.
Quinn: [ ecstatic ] Thank you, sir. We won't be here more than three days. If there's anything we can do…
[ Isaac looks at Rachel and gives her a wink. ]
[ Dissolve forward. The Lamplighter, the following evening. Arturo, towel slung over his shoulder, is tending bar while Wade is serving drinks. A din of voices from the patrons permeates the scene. Wade comes over to the bar to refill some steins. ]
Wade: I thought we agreed a few slides back that you and Quinn would be doing the manual labor while Remmy and I got the slide off.
Arturo: [ indignant ] I am a professor of Cosmology and Ontology…[ Quick shot of Wade rolling her eyes ]…and here I am serving brewskis to Jeb the prospector!
Wade: And I'm the lucky one? Spare me.
[ Arturo grabs the steins and refills them. He places them back on her tray with a huff. As Wade departs, change focus to Quinn and Rembrandt hauling in a keg. Both are sweat-stained and a little dirty. ]
Rembrandt: That's the last one!
[ Isaac walks by. ]
Isaac: For today lad! We've got lager to barrel tomorrow.
Rembrandt: You know, I could handle bartending duties. I've been known to mix a few drinks in my time.
[ Isaac hedges. ]
Isaac: If it were up to me, I would. But I'm afraid less enlightened patrons would have difficulty with a Negro behind the bar. [ hangs his head ] I'm sorry, Mr. Brown, but I have to do what's best for business.
[ Isaac walks off and Rembrandt just shakes his head. Quinn slumps down on a barstool. ]
Quinn: One ale, barkeep.
[ Arturo glares at him. ]
Rembrandt: Better make that two.
Arturo: [ irritated ] Is there anything else I can do for the two of you?
Quinn: Take keg duty tomorrow.
Arturo: Two beers coming up.
[ Arturo exits. ]
Rembrandt: Did you just hear that?
[ Quinn nods ]
Quinn: Look man, you know I don't agree with it. But not every world we land on is going to be enlightened.
Rembrandt: Easy for you to say, Q-ball. You're never the one on the receiving end.
[ Quinn is about to prod further when Arturo returns with their beers. ]
Arturo: Cheer up, Mr. Brown. At least we're in a free state.
Quinn: How did you learn that?
Arturo: Well, there are some advantages to being a barkeep. There are always people who want to talk. Now from what I've gleaned from my patrons, this world is very similar to our own…
[ Rembrandt raises an eyebrow. ]
Arturo:…in the mid-19th century anyway. Gentlemen, welcome to the San Francisco gold rush of 1997.
Quinn: Another Van Meer world?
Arturo: Strangely, no. Events here seem to be taking place approximately 100 to 150 years later, give or take a bit. My drunken friends here aren't exactly scholars of history, but I have learned that on this dimension, the New World was discovered in 1588 by Sir Francis Drake. Colonization came in 1732. Here, examine this coin.
[ Arturo hands Quinn a half-dollar. There is an engraving of Theodore Roosevelt on one side. ]
Rembrandt: So?
Arturo: Say hello to General Theodore Roosevelt, First President of the United States of America. We declared independence in 1912.
Quinn: Unreal.
Arturo: Indeed. In the place of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, this country's founding fathers are Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, and George Norris. It makes you question the entire cult of personality theory. It seems some events were meant to transpire, regardless of who instigates them.
Rembrandt: Well I can't wait for the slide. The 1850s were not exactly good times for black men in America, even in the free states.
Arturo: These are not good times for anyone. The talk of the bar tonight has been a rash of disappearances. No one can seem to explain anything. [ Arturo leans closer and whispers. ] There is foul play afoot and I don't want any part of it. We all remember what happened the last time we encountered a town having problems with disappearances. [ Reference to SL-315 "Paradise Lost." ]
Arturo: [ continues ] If we are wise, we should just stick close and lay low for the next thirty-six hours. No more local involvement than is necessary! Understood?
[ The two nod. Dissolve. ]


[ The sky is black but for the light of the stars. It's a new moon. Exterior of a city street in a residential area packed with buildings. Close in on a shed (more like a garage) adjoining a bigger building. Pan by the sleeping Sliders wrapped up in blankets and hay. Stop at Wade who is tossing and turning. She has just found a comfortable position when a flash of light falls across her face. Wade opens her eyes and goes to the shed's window. Her eyes grow wide. ]
Wade: [ quietly but urgently ] You guys! Quinn!
[ Arturo murmurs. Wade trips going to them and falls right on top of Quinn. ]
Wade: Get up! Now!
Quinn: Wade…? [ He opens his eyes to find Wade lying on him. She shifts her head and he sees the light through the window. ]
Quinn: What is that? There's no electricity…
Wade: [ grabs his hand ] You need to see this!
[ Quinn and Wade go to the window. A massive red vortex is open in the street. Figures are emerging, but they are too dark to discern. ]
Quinn: Get down!
[ The two drop. Arturo and Rembrandt are waking up. ]
Arturo: [ loud ] What the devil is going on? It has to be two in the…
Wade: Shhhhh!
Quinn: Check out the window. Carefully.
[ Arturo sneaks a peek. ]
Arturo: Oh dear…
Rembrandt: What? What is it?
Wade: [ to Arturo ] What do you think? Kromaggs?
Rembrandt: Kromaggs?!
Quinn: Keep it down.
Arturo: I can't see. The vortex has closed.
Quinn: Where's the timer?
Wade: Here.
[ Quinn flips the timer over, revealing the Kromagg tracking device. ]
Quinn: It's not flashing. The last device we encountered went off when the Maggs were in close proximity.
Arturo: This one may not work the same way.
[ Quinn hands the timer back to Wade and gets up to take another look out the window. ]
Rembrandt: What are we going to do?
Arturo: We will hope that whatever is out there remains out there. We will stay put.
[ A bell rings furiously. A voice cries out: ]
Voice: To arms! To arms! The invaders are here!
[ Switch to Quinn's POV. Neighbors are beginning to emerge from their doors, weapons in hand. Tracy (from the Teaser) leaps out his door, still in his bathrobe and stocking cap. ]
Tracy: The gold is ours! Be gone yeh damn Orientals!
[ Tracy fires indiscriminately into the first wave of invaders (referred to as Raiders from this point on. The citizens of this world will be the 49ers.) The dark figures are moving quickly. Lamps are beginning to be lit increasing visibility, but it's tough discerning their numbers. They sweep through the streets and into homes, pulling people out kicking and screaming. Quinn recognizes one of them. ]
Quinn: Oh my God! Rachel!
[ Arturo knows the tone in Quinn's voice. ]
Arturo: Mr. Mallory, no local involvement! Whatever you are thinking, discontinue doing so.
Quinn: She's the daughter of our host. We have to do something!
Wade: Quinn, we'll be caught too.
Rembrandt: She's right, man. Just let it go.
Quinn: You know I can't do that.
[ Before they can reply, he's moving for the door. He grabs a pitchfork. ]
Arturo: I urge you my boy, do not run out there. [ Quinn hesitates for half a second. ] Please, be reasonable.
[ Quinn gives him a wistful look, but he opens the door. ]
Arturo: [ mutters ] Damn him.
[ Switch to outside, where confusion reigns as Quinn emerges. A close shot of the Raiders shows they are wearing black protective helmets, concealing their identities. Camera focuses on a 49er firing at a Raider at point blank range. The shot hits the Raider square in the chest, dropping him initially, but he scrambles back to his feet seemingly unscathed. ]
Tracy: [ panicked ] Chief was right! They really are from the other side. They can't be killed! RUN!
[ A chorus of "Retreat!"s ring out. Quinn heads for Rachel. The Raider holding her reaches for his side (presumably for a weapon) but Quinn butt ends him with the pitchfork. The Raider loses his grip on Rachel and falls. Quinn turns to see another Raider with his weapon trained on Rachel. He drops his pitchfork and dives to knock her out of the way. The Raider fires and a pulse of electricity hits Quinn as he reaches Rachel. The shock knocks them both out. The fallen Raider grabs the discarded pitchfork and heads for Quinn. As he raises the sharp end of the pitchfork over the unconscious Quinn, a rock smacks him in the back of the head. The Raider drops; the camera re-focuses on Rembrandt about 50 yards back with his arm still in a follow-through position. Behind him are Wade and Arturo, each with rocks of their own. ]
Rembrandt: Q-ball!
[ Rembrandt is about to charge forward when the large red vortex reappears. The three stop dead in their tracks. The other Raider kneels and grabs Quinn and Rachel by their collars. Suddenly the vortex bursts forth encompassing the entire block. Show Rembrandt covering his eyes as the light from the vortex washes out the camera…As the light subsides, re-focus on Rembrandt. Wade and Arturo are still behind him. ]
Rembrandt: Can someone please tell me what just happened?
Wade: [ looking around ] They're gone…
Arturo: [ growls ]…and so is Mr. Mallory.
[ Pull back over the mostly deserted street and fade out. ]

[ Commercial Break ]


[ Resume. Arturo, lamp in hand, is walking up and down the street. He occasionally kneels to inspect the ground. Other 49ers have returned and they are going house to house calling out names. Switch back to Arturo joining Wade and Rembrandt. ]
Arturo: No bodies, no weapons, not a single trace they had ever been here aside from the damage done to a few doors.
Wade: They must have had a recall beacon.
Arturo: My thoughts exactly, Miss Welles.
Rembrandt: A what?
Wade: It's how our timer is supposed to work, remember? You punch in the time you want to spend and when time's up, the vortex pulls you back in.
Arturo: Not just you, but everything you brought with you as well.
Rembrandt: Yeah, and everything you take too.
Arturo: At the very least, everything they were in contact with. That would explain why we're still here. I must admit it's an impressive bit of technology. Instead of a lone vortex recalling the slider, they must have set up some sort of slidewave device so as to leave no one behind. It's a rather advanced application of quantum signatures.
Rembrandt: Save the techie talk. What are we going to do about it?
Arturo: The good news is we still have the timer. With the modifications made to it, we should be able to track their photon trail to wherever they took Quinn. The bad news is we have no idea what sort of a hornet's nest we'll be walking into.
Wade: The Kromaggs we last encountered didn't wear helmets.
Arturo: No, and if this were an invasion, why retreat fifteen minutes into the battle? I think we're dealing with something else entirely. Before we dive headlong into it, we need to do as much reconnaissance as possible. We have 30 hours; let us use them wisely.
Wade: I just hope Quinn is OK.
[ Cutaway. ]


[ Quinn's POV. The camera is completely out of focus. Quinn moans. Switch to Quinn blinking. It's hard to make him out as it is very dark. ]
Quinn: [ softly ] Wha...
[ Quinn attempts to sit up but he can't. His arms and legs are bound in chains to the slab he rests on. He fights with them but it's no use. ]
Quinn: Rachel...Rachel!
[ Quinn hears a Voice, not familiar to him but perhaps to the viewer. ]
Voice: She's down here, still out cold. Or at least I think it's her. It's hard to see,
Quinn: Who's that?
Voice: Joseph Flannery from Beacon Street. [ This is the same Joseph from the Teaser. ] Who are you?
[ Quinn ignores him. ]
Quinn: Wade? Rembrandt! Professor!
[ Another voice, also recognizable from the Teaser, shouts out. ]
Voice: Joseph? It's Terry! Terry O'Connell!
Joseph: They got yeh too?
Terry: Aye.
Joseph: I can't move Terry.
[ Suddenly the area is alive with voices. ]
Voices: Terry, it's me! Shamus!
Ack...my head...
Linda? Linda!!
I can't stand the dark! Let me out! Let me out!
Linda? Are yeh here? Please speak to me!
[ A door opens and light floods the area. Switch to Quinn who is blinking rapidly as he adjusts to the light. From his perspective, it's evident he is on an upper bunk. There are people to his right and left tied down as well, but he can't see the door. A Voice addresses them. The tone is sharp and angry, but Quinn can't make out any of it. The language is unrecognizable. But there are a few sounds he can recognize—the smack of a whip and the ensuing cry of anguish. Dissolve. ]


[ Daylight. Pan a mountainside. Close in on Wade and Rembrandt. The two are trekking up a beaten path. ]
Rembrandt: How much further?
Wade: [ irritably ] How should I know?
[ Rembrandt looks at her as if to say, 'What did I do?' ]
Wade: Sorry. Isaac set it was about an hour and forty minutes from the base. [ pause ] I didn't sleep well last night. I'm a little...on edge.
Rembrandt: Yeah, me too.
Wade: Why couldn't Quinn have just stayed in the shed? He just always has to play the hero.
Rembrandt: He's an idealist, Wade. He sees wrong and he feels compelled to put it right. If Quinn didn't try to save everybody, he just wouldn't be our Q-ball.
Wade: I know, but he has no sense of self-preservation. It's not like we could just go on if we lost him. We need saving too.
[ Wade picks up her pace pulling away from Rembrandt. Fade forward. ]
Wade: There it is.
[ Up ahead is a rustic cabin. It looks pretty shabby. Switch back to Wade. Rembrandt has caught up to her. ]
Rembrandt: Let's see if this Chief guy is home.
[ Inside shot of the cabin as the door opens. It's a one-room home and it is fairly Spartan. There is a blanket of Native American design hanging on the far wall. ]
Rembrandt: Hello?
[ Wade and Rembrandt enter. ]
Wade: Looks pretty quiet.
[ Wade turns around and is startled. Standing in the doorway is Chief. ]
[ Fade forward. The three are sitting around Chief's fire pit outside of his cabin. He's making himself lunch. ]
Chief: I noticed you about halfway up to the cabin, so I decided to follow you. I don't get many visitors and I don't tolerate claim jumpers.
Rembrandt: You can keep the gold, man. We need information.
Chief: Hmmmm...
Wade: You told some people in town that you've seen the invaders before.
Chief: They are not invaders, but avengers—sent by the Great Spirit.
[ Wade and Rembrandt share a look. Rembrandt shrugs. Chief continues. ]
Chief: The white man, the yellow man, the brown man—they all come. They take up the land and drive my people away. All but me. For years I have called out to the Great Spirit to give the land back and He has heeded my call. He sends His servants and they take away the usurpers.
Wade: How long has this been going on?
Chief: Long time now, maybe three seasons. At first, the Spirit took those far away from the center of San Francisco. The people believed they had abandoned their claims and just up and left. But I knew better. Soon, the people became afraid to be isolated and moved closer to the city. Now it will be easier for the Great Spirit to remove them.
Rembrandt: You're saying people have been disappearing for close to a year and yet these people are still here? I'd have been on the first train back to Detroit.
Chief: They want the gold too much. But it won't be long now before the land is swept clean and returned to me.
[ Chief smiles at the thought. Cutaway. ]


[ Arturo, Wade, and Rembrandt are walking down a street in town. ]
Arturo: And?
Wade: I'm not buying the Great Spirit story, but I don't think he's completely insane. Someone is working to empty this town. They've methodically worked their way in from the edges, herding everyone into the middle. I get the feeling that last night was a test run for much bigger things.
Arturo: That jives with what I've learned today as well. All quarters of the city have been hit- Irish, Chinese, Mexican...no one has been spared. Everyone seems to think they're after the gold.
Rembrandt: If they wanted the gold, they could just take it. I think they want the people.
Arturo: I agree, but for what purpose...
[ Dissolve. ]
[ Quinn is on his feet, slowly shuffling down a hall. He is chained to the others. He hasn't had a change of clothes and he looks like hell. But he still looks better than his mates, some of which have dried blood on the backs and sleeves of their shirts. The voices of their captors are heard, but they never appear on screen. The language remains incomprehensible. Rachel is directly in front of Quinn. As they trudge along, they talk softly. ]
Rachel: Are they going to execute us?
Quinn: If that was the plan, they'd have done it already.
Rachel: Then what?
Quinn: I don't know. Just try and stick close to me.
[ Rachel nods. ]
[ A command is issued by one of the captors and a set of double doors are pushed open to reveal their destination. It is a massive enclosure with high ceilings and for all intents resembles a warehouse. Inside are endless rows and rows of men, women and children toiling at various sewing equipment. They're making sneakers. Shot of a stunned Quinn. ]
Quinn: It's a shoe factory?
[ Long shot of the warehouse and cutaway. ]


[ Shot of the sun rising. Rembrandt takes a last look around and enters the shed. Arturo is putting on his coat and Wade has the timer out. It reads 46 seconds. ]
Rembrandt: You sure this is going to work?
Arturo: Logan designed this well. Wherever Quinn is, this will take us there.
[ Arturo takes the timer from Wade's hand and replaces it with a pistol. ]
Wade: Are you sure this is necessary? Bullets had no effect on them before.
Arturo: Yes, but those were soldiers. They may have been wearing shielding.
Rembrandt: I don't like it either sweetheart, but we have no idea what we're getting into. [ Rembrandt holsters his weapon. Wade does the same. ]
Arturo: Remember, be alert. We may have to move in a hurry.
[ Rembrandt takes a deep breath. ]
Arturo: Ten seconds...
[ Wade looks on, determined. ]
Arturo: 5...4...3...2...1...Ready or not...
[ Arturo activates the vortex. Wade marches in and Rembrandt follows. ]
Arturo: Here we come.
[ Arturo jumps in. ]
[ Sliding bumper. ]
[ Arturo hits the ground and rolls. He's immediately on his feet, ready for anything. Switch to his POV. It's a beautiful day in modern San Francisco. The sun is shining. There's the sound of laughter in the air and people can be seen across the way walking leisurely. Arturo looks at Rembrandt and Wade. ]
Rembrandt: Not exactly what we were expecting, is it?
Arturo: This adventure just keeps growing more curious
Wade: I'll take any break we can get.
Arturo: I suppose the next step is to begin searching for Mr. Mallory.
[ Overhead shot of the three. Pull back over the city as the three get smaller and smaller. ]
[ Fade out. ]

[ Commercial Break ]


[ Interior of the shoe factory, the rat-a-tat-tat of the machinery is incessant. Slowly pan through a row. This company is a regular League of Nations when it comes to ethnic diversity. Stop at Quinn who is taking a short respite. Quinn's POV. He's staring at an emblem shaped like an elongated "v". There's a stack of them in front of him. His job is to stitch each emblem onto to the side of each sneaker. The man to his right (Zhao) taps his desk. ]
Zhao: No time for break.
Quinn: My hands are cramping up.
Zhao: Better cramped than broken.
Quinn: At least if I could walk around and stretch. Is this really necessary?
[ Quinn tugs at an ankle lock. He's chained to the floor. ]
Quinn: What if there's a fire?
Zhao: [ emotionless ] Then we're replaced.
[ Quinn stares at him incredulously. ]
Zhao: Slaves have no value here. We're cheap to obtain and there's plenty more where we came from. That's why we must keep working. We don't want to be replaced.
Quinn: I find that hard to believe.
Zhao: Oh no? There were 27 others that were taken with me six months ago. Now only ten remain.
[ Quinn looks down his row. Rachel is diligently sewing away. She suddenly jerks her hand back and puts her finger to her mouth. Close up on her hand. It's not the first finger she's pricked. ]
Quinn: [ softly ] I have to get us out of here.
Zhao: There is no way out.
Quinn: We'll see. I've got friends who ought to be coming for me.
Zhao: Friends? What friends could you have here? Even if you did, what could they do?
Quinn: Don't underestimate them. They've gotten mighty good at adapting to situations on the fly. With any luck, they're already formulating a rescue plan.
[ Cut to a busy city sidewalk. Arturo is walking against the tide. ]
Arturo: Um...excuse me...excuse me sir? I...Madame, if you would be so kind...
[ He is receiving strange looks and no one is stopping for him as they push past. ]
Arturo: Pardon me, but does anyone here speak English? Or perhaps ancient Greek? [ exasperated ] Does anyone understand a word I am saying?
Rembrandt: Professor!
[ Rembrandt grabs Arturo and pulls him out of the crush of people. He leads him under the awning of a storefront where Wade is waiting. ]
Arturo: Ah...Mr. Brown! I was afraid I'd lost you.
Rembrandt: It's easy to get lost when you can't read a single thing and no one can give you directions.
Arturo: I know. The parlance here is completely foreign to me. I can't even make out a root language, anything to serve as a Rosetta Stone of sorts.
Wade: And check out these street signs.
[ Pan a shot of what is probably a "No Parking" sign, but it is total gibberish. ]
Wade: That's no alphabet I've ever seen.
Rembrandt: Yeah. I mean, I can make out a few letters, but not so that they make any sense.
Arturo: This is intolerable. How are we supposed to find Quinn when we have no way of articulating what we are looking for?
Rembrandt: Whatever we do, we'd better do it fast. We've got just over two days.
Wade: Well we're not doing it here. Maybe if I can find a computer, I might be able to find a website in a language we understand. Let's go.
[ The three exit. From a nearby doorway, two men eye them. One is Latino (Miguel), the other Anglo (Cameron). After a second or two, they follow after them. ]

[ From this point on, our actors will have to be creative. Anytime someone needs to speak in a language the Sliders don't understand, they're lines will be designated "..." Stage direction will dictate tone and inflection. ]


[ Exterior of a building that looks like a Doppler, though you can't read the sign. ]
[ Inside, Wade is typing away. Arturo and Rembrandt are watching her back, but trying to avoid being conspicuous. ]
Rembrandt: Any luck sweetheart?
Wade: Considering I don't even know what I'm typing in, I think I'm making progress. It's like those cryptoquips you find in the Sunday paper. Once you know one letter, you can start to work out the rest.
Rembrandt: What do you have so far?
Wade: Something equivalent to the letter "I." [ She looks up at him and smiles weakly. ] Or maybe "A."
Arturo: Ahem. Miss Welles, do not turn around.
[ Rembrandt looks up. Michael Hurley, familiar manager of Doppler, is walking over to them. ]
Hurley: [ pleasantly ] ...?
[ Arturo raises his hand and shakes his head as if to say, 'No thank you. We're just browsing.' Hurley is undeterred. ]
Hurley: ...
Rembrandt: Uh...no thanks. We're cool.
Hurley: [ confused ] ...?
Arturo: [ soft growl ] Nice going, Mr. Brown.
[ Cameron, one of the men who had followed them, steps in. ]
Cameron: [ asking a question ] ...?
Hurley: ...
[ Hurley goes off to help Cameron. Miguel steps forward. ]
Miguel: That was a close one.
Rembrandt: [ astonished ] English! You speak English!
Miguel: Shhh...keep it down. Let's get out of here before that guy comes back.
[ Wade looks at Arturo. Arturo looks at Rembrandt. ]
Miguel: It's OK. You're with the Underground Freeway now. Now come on!
[ Miguel starts for the door. Arturo nods and the three follow. ]
[ Dissolve ]


[ Exterior of a home in a nice neighborhood. Cut to a furnished basement inside. Among those present are Wade, Arturo, Rembrandt, Miguel, and Cameron. ]
Arturo: [ incredulous ] Slave trade? On the verge of the 21st century?
[ Miguel nods. ]
Arturo: What kind of monstrous society is this?
Miguel: A shockingly compliant one.
Rembrandt: And you're all from other worlds?
Miguel: All of us but Maria. She is a sympathizer with our cause. This is her home.
[ Maria waves a hand. She's in her mid-40s and of Spanish descent. ]
Maria: It is the least I can do.
Wade: You speak our language too?
Maria: Miguel has been teaching me.
Miguel: And she has taught me much of her language.
Arturo: And this Underground Freeway you spoke of?
Miguel: It's an organization to help slaves escape to freedom. We've got points set up all the way down to what was known as Mexico on my home.
Cameron: With no way of getting home ourselves, we've dedicated our lives to the liberation of our compatriots and putting a stop to this once and for all.
Maria: Tell us, how did you manage to escape? We hadn't heard of any breakouts.
Arturo: We were never captured. The invaders took our friend...
Wade:...and we came after him.
Miguel: You jumped into that vortex voluntarily? You're pretty damn brave.
[ The three just look at each other. ]
Arturo: Please, we need to find him. Is there some central place where the prisoners are kept?
Cameron: Slaves are assigned to specific jobs based on their world's technological capacity. The thugs you described are employed by the Victory Corporation, loosely translated.
Wade: A corporation?
Miguel: Sneaker company, athletic apparel. Their needs require at least post-industrial workers, but not much more. It's a good bet they have him. We just need to find the factory he's been assigned to.
Wade: How long will that take?
Cameron: We've got people close to the inside. With any luck, we're looking at a day or two. As long as your friend keeps in line, he should be in good shape.
Arturo: And if he doesn't?
[ The looks on Miguel and Cameron's faces say all Arturo needs to know. ]


[ Focus on Quinn at his workstation. A Supervisor smacks him upside the head. ]
Supervisor: [ harshly ]...!
[ The Supervisor exits. ]
Quinn: What did he just say, Zhao?
Zhao: He said you are using too many stitches.
Quinn: How do you know that?
Zhao: I've been here six months. I've started to pick up their words, especially ones they say over and over. It's how I learned English too, back when I was working the railroads. I immigrated to America about eight years ago. It was very much the same there at first. They put you to work laying down track, but no one bothers to learn your language. You just follow along.
Quinn: At least that was your choice.
Zhao: Or starve in China? Some choice.
[ Switch back to the Supervisor who is now lecturing Rachel. She is trying to follow along but can't understand his directions. The Supervisor grabs her by the hair. ]
Rachel: Let go of me!
[ She backhands him to brush him off. A sudden hush falls over the slaves. The Supervisor grabs her by the back of the head and pulls her back violently. ]
[ Cut to Quinn. He tries to stand but Zhao grabs his arm. ]
Zhao: [ hushed ] Stay seated.
Quinn: [ hushed ] I have to do something.
Zhao: [ quiet but stern ] You do nothing!
[ Focus on Quinn's wrist where Zhao is holding him tightly. ]
[ Cut back to Rachel. She's flailing wildly. Two other Non-Slaves join the Supervisor. One throws a solid right into Rachel's gut, sending her gasping for breath. ]
[ Cut to Quinn's arm shaking, but Zhao holds him. ]
[ Return to Rachel. The Supervisor unchains her and drags her out. ]
Quinn: Where are they taking her?
Zhao: Away.
Quinn: What do you mean, 'away'?
Zhao: No one strikes a supervisor.
[ Once the Supervisor has exited, Zhao releases Quinn. Quinn's wrist is white from the pressure applied. ]
Quinn: So she's going to be disciplined. Is that it?
[ Zhao returns to his work, as does everyone else. All except Quinn who grabs Zhao's arm. ]
Quinn: What are they going to do to her?
[ Zhao doesn't need to answer. Over the din of the machinery, a terrible scream cuts through the walls. The slaves temporarily stop work and for a second all is quiet. ]
Quinn: What just happened?
Zhao: A moment of silence for the recently departed.
[ The moment passes and the machinery starts again. Switch between Quinn and Rachel's empty workstation. Close on the face of a horrified Quinn and fade out. ]

[ Commercial Break ]


[ Act IV opens with a short sequence of scenes.
A door opens and a light crosses Quinn's eyes. Switch to Quinn and others being blasted with water. Back in his old clothes again, Quinn sucks down some slop for breakfast. It doesn't look appetizing, but he's greedily eating it anyway. Shot of Zhao giving him a look of disgust across the table. Cut to Quinn and fellow slaves doing the shackle shuffle. Quinn arrives at his workstop. Close-up of Quinn's ankle being locked to the floor. Quinn sighs. A whistle blows and the machinery jumps to life as the workers begin their day.
Cutaway. ]

[ Close up of a bird in a tree. It's chirping and fluttering about. Pan down to Arturo. ]
Arturo: It's so normal, and that's what scares me.
[ Pull back a bit to reveal a patio in back of the house. Rembrandt and Wade are also there. ]
Rembrandt: Racism is an ugly thing, Professor. Back when I was a kid, there were still places that had separate water fountains. I didn't understand it then, I never will.
Arturo: But this is bigotry of an entirely different sort. It's not racism; it's a sort of...dimensional superiority. It's fundamentally absurd. If this world has managed to develop sliding technology, the people here must know that dimensions are just reflections of choices made. There is no right or wrong dimension.
Rembrandt: Well this feels like the wrong one.
Arturo: [ continues ] Yet if we are to believe our friends here, and I see no reason not to, this world would enslave doubles of themselves without a second thought. It borders on incomprehensible!
Rembrandt: What's incomprehensible is that there aren't more people like Maria working to stop it.
Wade: Are you really that surprised?
[ Rembrandt and Arturo do look surprised. ]
Wade: Slavery may technically be abolished on our world, but hundreds of millions, maybe even a billion live in a state that's no better. What differentiates the sweatshops in Indonesia from the Victory Corporation here?
Arturo: Surely there's a difference...
Wade: Really? Would you work for one, given the choice?
Rembrandt: Girl's got a point.
Wade: The reason no one steps in here is the same reason no one steps in back home. We like low prices on our merchandise. And as long as we don't have to see how the corporations come by those low prices, we can live with ourselves. Slavery didn't die, Professor. It just changed its face.
[ Rembrandt nods. ]
Wade: It's time somebody takes a stand.
[ Once again, that tone of voice sends off alarm bells for Arturo. ]
Arturo: Oh no, Miss Welles. This is not our battle.
Wade: It is now.
[ Arturo looks to the heavens. The porch door slides open. Enter Maria and Miguel. ]
Miguel: We've tracked down your friend.
Wade: Where is he?
Miguel: The Victory plant down on Fisherman's Wharf.
Rembrandt: [ gets up ] Let's go.
Miguel: Woah, woah, hold on amigo. You don't just waltz into one of these places and ask them to hand a slave over.
Rembrandt: Well what do we do?
Maria: The corporation is opening a new plant in a few weeks. Expansion. They will need new workers. A friend on the inside says a large contingent of the security team will be tied up making new acquisitions. We'll have a short window of opportunity to overwhelm them when they transfer part of the work force.
Wade: A few weeks will be too late. We need to get him out of there in less than 22 hours...
Arturo: [ interrupts ] What Miss Welles means to say is that our friend is hot-tempered. Every moment he remains in there puts him that more in danger.
Miguel: We'd never make it far enough inside, not without compromising the people trying to help us.
[ Rembrandt paces. ]
Rembrandt: Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. We're trying to find a way to break in; what's preventing us from just walking in? It's a place of business, right? What if we say we want to talk business?
Maria: Business is conducted at the corporate offices downtown. The only business the workhouses do with outsiders involves the bounty hunters.
Arturo: Bounty hunters?
Miguel: For escaped slaves.
[ A beat ]
Wade: I'll do it.
Arturo: Do it? Do what?
Wade: I'll play the runaway. You guys will be the bounty hunters.
Miguel: [ chuckles ] Are you insane? What if we fail? Do you know what they do to escaped slaves?
[ Wade's look wipes that smile off of Miguel's face. ]
Rembrandt: Are you sure about this, Wade?
Wade: Why should Quinn hold the monopoly on brazen stupidity?
[ Miguel looks at Wade. She remains defiant. ]
Miguel: OK, I'll make the arrangements. We can try as soon as tomorrow.
[ Miguel says something to Maria in her language. She looks at Wade and nods. Miguel and Maria exit. ]
Wade: If we time this right, we should be able to grab Quinn and slide out right from the factory.
Arturo: I hope you're right, Miss Welles. I hope you're right.
[ Cutaway. ]
[ Inside the shoe factory. Close up on Quinn picking at his lock. ]
Zhao: I wish you'd stop that. If they catch you...
Quinn:...then they catch me. I'm not going to live like this. I'm going to get out of here or die trying.
Zhao: You may get your wish.
[ Fade out. ]


[ The following day. A car driven by Miguel pulls up outside of the factory. Cameron is in the passenger seat; the three Sliders are in the back. ]
[ Miguel and Cameron exit the car. ]
Arturo: How much time Mr. Brown?
[ Rembrandt sneaks a look at his inside jacket pocket. ]
Rembrandt: Twenty-two minutes.
[ The three get out. Arturo helps Wade as her hands are cuffed behind her back. ]
[ Cut forward. The three reach the main door of the building. ]
Miguel: Last chance to back out.
Wade: No way.
Arturo: You know what to do.
[ Wade nods. The five enter and are greeted by two guards. ]
Guard: ...
Miguel: ...
[ The Guard takes a long look at Wade and then waves them through. Two different security guards then escort the five down a hallway. They meet up with a man in casual business attire (Plant Manager). ]
Plant Manager: [ extends a hand to Miguel ] ...!
[ Miguel shakes hands with him. The Manager waves them forward. Cameron and Arturo drop back a few steps. ]
Arturo: [ whispers ] What's going on?
Cameron: They're taking us to his office to discuss terms. This should take us past the factory floor.
[ Switch to the factory floor. Focus on Quinn. He looks around and slides down to work on his ankle lock a bit more. Zhao sighs but continues working, ]
[ The doors swing open and in walk the Sliders and their escorts. As soon as Wade is inside, she begins yelling. ]
Wade: Somebody help me! I don't want to be here! Let me go home!
[ Quinn looks up. ]
Quinn: Wade?
Wade: [ continues ] You can't let this happen! Help me, please!
[ Zhao reaches for Quinn but Quinn slaps him away. ]
Quinn: [ growls ] Not again.
[ Quinn frantically works at his lock. (Click!) It gives. Quinn is on his feet. ]
Quinn: Wade!
Wade: Quinn!
[ The guards unholster their weapons and take aim at Quinn, but Miguel and Cameron hit them from behind. Plant Manager turns to run, but Rembrandt blocks him. ]
Rembrandt: How do you live with yourself?
[ Plant Manager doesn't understand Rembrandt's words, but he does comprehend his right hook. Plant Manager slumps to the ground. ]
[ Switch back to Wade who drops her handcuffs. Quinn runs to her and embraces her. ]
Quinn: Thank God!
Arturo: Mr. Mallory, we must hurry...
Quinn: But the others...
[ Sirens go off. ]
Arturo: Now what?
Wade: There!
[ Focus on a Supervisor by a security alarm. ]
Rembrandt: We've got six minutes 'til the slide. Let's get out of here before the goon squad arrives.
[ The four start to run deeper into the factory, but Miguel and Cameron do not follow. Quinn and Arturo stop. ]
Arturo: Come on!
Miguel: We might not get this chance again. We can't leave them here. You go!
[ Miguel grabs a set of keys off of the Plant Manager and runs out onto the floor, unlocking the first row of slaves. Slaves begin to topple machinery and cheer. Security charges in. The slaves pelt them with a barrage of sneakers and sewing machines. In retaliation, they open fire. ]
Quinn: NOOO!
Arturo: Now Mr. Mallory!
[ Arturo grabs Quinn and the two exit. ]
[ Switch to the four Sliders running down a hall. They duck into a room and close the door. Arturo locks it. ]
Arturo: Mr. Brown, the time please?
Rembrandt: Just under three minutes!
[ Quinn looks at the door. ]
Quinn: We have to put a stop to this professor.
Arturo: [ grabs Quinn by the shoulders ] There is no time. The prudent course of action is to count our blessings and slide out of here.
Wade: Quinn's right. We can't let this dimension continue raiding others.
Arturo: Oh no? What do you propose, Miss Welles? Shall we attempt to destroy every sliding machine on this earth? We have no way of knowing how commonplace these are. Might be ten, might be ten thousand. It's too much to ask of four people. You'd need an army.
Quinn: My thoughts exactly. [ to Rembrandt ] Timer!
[ Rembrandt hands it to him. Quinn flips it over, revealing the Kromagg tracking device. ]
Arturo: Mr. Mallory, what are you doing?
Quinn: Giving this world a taste of its own medicine.
[ Quinn tears off the tape holding the homing device to the timer. ]
Quinn: This is a group decision. What say you?
[ The other three are stunned. Rembrandt speaks first. ]
Rembrandt: I say leave it. These guys and the Kromaggs deserve each other. What goes around comes around.
Quinn: Professor?
Arturo: [ horrified ] Regardless of how we may feel about this world and its inhabitants, who are we to decide its fate? [ to Quinn ] What about the other slaves, hm? By doing this we condemn them as well. Are you prepared to live with that? [ to the others ] Are any of us?
Quinn: They're doomed either way. We can't save everyone, but we can try to prevent it from happening again.
Arturo: And damn the consequences?
Quinn: I'm thinking about the consequences. You weren't here, Profesor. You didn't see… [ a beat ] This world must be stopped at all costs.
[ The two stare each other down. ]
Arturo: No. All costs is too steep a price for me to pay. I'm sorry. But I cannot in good conscience vote to go along with this.
[ Quinn turns to Wade. ]
Quinn: That leaves you, Wade.
[ Wade looks at Quinn, then at Arturo. ]
Wade: [ softly ] I want to go home.
[ Arturo closes his eyes and shakes his head. ]
Quinn: Three in favor. Decision made.
[ The timer counts down. 3...2...1...Quinn opens the vortex. ]
[ Rembrandt slides. Wade looks at Arturo. She opens her mouth as if to say she's sorry, but no words come. Wade turns away and slides. ]
Arturo: May God have mercy on us.
[ Arturo slides. ]
[ Quinn drops the Kromagg homing device to the rug below. The camera follows it down. A whoosh indicates Quinn has slid. Slowly close in on the abandoned homing device. Fade to black. ]


Production Notes

This episode was an absolute nightmare to film. This is the first world we've encountered where the Sliders must engage with a populace that speaks a language other than English for more than a few moments. Rather than construct an entirely new language, the actors were encouraged to make up words as they went along. So everyone was on the same page, we decided the language was derivative of a romance language. Lots of vowels, no hard sounding consonants. It's always a cop out when the "foreign" language is nothing but "K"s. There was also a lot of pressure to convey not just emotions, but acknowledgement with only facial expressions. Tone of voice was critical as well. I tip my hat not only to the regular cast but also to the extras.

To the story. It seems only natural that a show based on alt-history should eventually confront slavery. But I didn't want to do the Civil War. Too obvious. I wanted someone to experience the slave trade itself; the absolute brazenness of those who participated in it. More importantly, I wanted Quinn to experience it. Quinn is the idealist of the team who sees good in everything and everyone, even more so than Wade. For him to ever agree to drop that Kromagg device, his very faith in humanity needed to be shaken to the core. While many may feel it was still a horrible thing to abandon this world to the Kromaggs, let me remind you that we never are shown the true technological abilities of this society. The Kromaggs may be in for a whole heap of trouble...

We also had the opportunity to take some jabs at the unethical behavior of many of our own corporations. It shouldn't take many guesses to identify who the "Victory" company was modeled after.

This episode was so darkly themed that we didn't get as many opportunities at humor as we would have liked. However, we did get to spoof "Indiana Jones," which is something I'd been looking to do for a while. Arturo assumed the role of Marcus Brody and Rembrandt played the role of Sallah, who of course was originally played by John Rhys-Davies. We even mixed in a few extra lines from the movie in that scene as well. When you can slip a homage in tastefully, I'm all for it. I just don't like dedicating entire episodes to such a concept.

With the tracking device behind them, the Sliders are finally able to use the stored co-ordinates in the timer to go home. The only question is—will they work? Next week: the series finale.

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