On a corner stool, a dynamite blonde—maybe twenty-five years old—sat alone in a bar known as the Flaming Blue Oyster, a popular establishment in the heart of Los Angeles. The bartender and proprietor, Elston Diggs, came over and pointed to a man four stools down.
"That fine young man over there wants to buy you a drink," he said, waving his hand toward the strapping individual.
The blonde lifted an eyebrow and with a slight motion of her head invited the stranger over. Quinn Mallory flashed a grin.
"Why don't we get the lady the house specialty?" he said, taking the seat beside her.
"One golden nipple coming right up," said Diggs, crossing in front of his autographed picture of Richard Simmons. "Oh and by the way, that leather jacket looks fab-u-lous on you."
Quinn gave him an uneasy wave before returning his attention to the blonde. "So, ever have a superhero buy you a drink?"
"You're a superhero?" she playfully asked.
"That's right, baby," he said.
The blonde pushed her hair back behind her ear. "And just how did you become a superhero?"
Quinn smirked. "I'm glad you asked…"
And so am I. Otherwise, this would be one short story…
A sewer grate popped open and Quinn poked his head out. The skies were overcast and a cool breeze blew back his hair. "Ah…San Francisco."
Following him out of the hole were Wade, Rembrandt, and Maggie—all looking none too happy.
"This is a new low," moped Rembrandt. "Literally. Can't you…"
"…fix that damn thing, blah, blah, blah, give it a rest, Remmy," finished Quinn.
"At least there weren't any ten foot alligators down there," Wade said.
"No, but those six foot guppies were a bitch," Maggie said, wiping her hands on her shorts. "I'm going to smell like fish for weeks."
Wade had an additional comment but a nearby commotion drowned her out.
"My son! Save my boy!" a woman cried.
Across the street, a four year old was playing in the trolley tracks, blissfully unaware of the trolley bearing down on him. Everywhere pedestrians yelled for the boy to step out of the way. The trolley operator furiously rang his little bell. But the little twit didn't move. Numbly, he just stared at his oncoming demise.
While Wade and Remmy hollered to him, Maggie put her hands to her hips. "Hell, if he's this dumb, he deserves to get run ov…Quinn! Come back!"
The next few moments seemed to take place in slow motion. Faster than anyone could have thought possible, Quinn was across the street, nimbly evading the passing cars and trucks. Just as the trolley was bout to steamroll the boy, Quinn lunged for him. The kid was knocked clear. Quinn was not so lucky.
"Qball!" Rembrandt screamed. "Nooooooooooooooo!"
The trolley struck Quinn, throwing him back a good twelve to fifteen feet. But instead of rumbling over him, the car jumped the tracks. Leaving a trail of sparks, the trolley careened down the hill and into a nearby McDonald's. Inside, a drive-thru operator's last words were: "Would you like to supersize your AAAAAAAA!!"
As Quinn lay immobile in the tracks, both trolley and restaurant burst into flames. Wade looked crushed. "Now we'll never get home."
The three sliders ran over to their fallen leader. "He needs mouth to mouth!" Maggie declared. She got down on her hands and knees and put her lips to his.
"Uh…Maggie," Rembrandt interrupted. "You need to press down on his chest to give CPR."
Maggie looked up. "What's CPR?"
A groan came from the ground as a body struggled to sit up.
"Sometimes you find destiny," Quinn's disembodied voice stated. "Sometimes destiny finds you. I've been given a gift, and it is my duty to share that gift. My name? You don't want to know. But seeing as 'hey you' would get kinda old, you can call me…Sliderman."
Does whatever Superman can
Opens gates, any size
He's got radioactive eyes
Look out! Here comes the Sliderman
Is he strong? Listen bud
He survived losing all his blood
Faster than a speeding train
Never needs to use his brain
Look out! Here comes the Sliderman
In the dark of night
He's surrounded by crime
Some girl needs a light
He arrives just in time
Does as many COWs as he can
Folks in need, he's ignored
Action is his reward
To him, Wade is a great big hang-up
But where there's a chick to bang up
You'll find the Sliderma a a a a a a a n n n n n
Off the sirens of the theme song, we dissolve to ambulances, police, and fire trucks arriving on the scene. In the general chaos, a small group is huddled together.
"I think Quinn's been replaced by a robot," Maggie said in hushed tones to Rembrandt and Wade.
"Maggie, don't be ridiculous," Wade said. "We just visited that stupid earth a few months ago. Even our writers aren't that repetitive."
A dinosaur poked its head into the shot, whimpered, and sulked off stage.
"Then how is he still alive?" she hissed. "I'm telling you he's a machine. Whatever you do, don't tell him we know that he's a you-know-what. You know, just in case he has some sort of kill program."
"He's not a robot." Rembrandt rolled his eyes. "Besides, he's standing right here!"
"I don't get it, Crying Man," said a shaken up Quinn. His sleeves were rolled up and he was examining his forearms and elbows. "People don't just bounce off trolleys…"
("Well, maybe Maggie could," Wade said in an aside to Rembrandt.)
"…I don't even have a scratch on me."
"Ee-say? Ehz-hay a obot-ray, " Maggie said to the others, making a wind up motion with her arm.
"We should get you to a hospital. Just in case,"' Wade said, taking Quinn's arm.
"Yeah. For X-Rays. Maybe run a big magnet over you and see if you stick to it…or something like that," Maggie added.
"I'm fine. I just need some quiet place to think. Let's find a hotel," Quinn said.
So the four walked away from the scene, and no one—not the police, the EMTs, or even the mother of the idiot child—prevented them from slipping off.
"Firemen aren't going to get any help putting that blaze out. The skies are clearing up," Rembrandt absently noted. The four looked up to see the sun breaking through…only it wasn't the sun they knew.
This sun was red.
"I don't get it," the blonde asked. "How'd the sun turn red?"
"Diggs, explain it to her," Quinn said.
Diggs, now wearing a construction hat, leaned over the bar. "You see, a star's color depends on its temperature. On this particular parallel universe, the sun was cooler, thus it was red. Red like a big ol' cherry Popsicle…"
"Thanks, Diggs," Quinn mercifully interrupted. "I think she gets the picture…"
And so do we, but we're not done belaboring it. Not by a long shot.
"So now you're Superman?!" Wade incredulously repeated from the hotel room of the Dominion, which curiously resembled the rooms at the Chancellor.
"It all makes sense now, Wade. Don't you see? On Superman's home planet, he was just a normal guy living under a red sun. He comes to our solar system with its yellow sun, and then all his super powers emerge," Quinn explained. "The inverse must be at work here, and the red sun has made me invincible."
"I think we're forgetting one subtle point," Rembrandt slipped in. "Superman is a freaking comic book! This is real life."
Outside the window, a passing quasar buzzed by and eradicated the neighboring building.
"I was able to run here in like three seconds. I lifted a telephone booth over my head. I walked through downtown Oakland and I'm still alive," Quinn shot back. "Now how do you explain that?"
Maggie stiffly walked by, her arms extended. "Warning! Danger, Mr. Smith!"
"Say you're right," Wade said. "How come you're the only one with super powers? Why are Remmy and me still the same?"
Quinn shook his head. "That I don't understand. It's almost like we came from different earths."
"Yeah, next thing you'll be telling us your real parents left you on our earth to save you from the destruction of their world," Rembrandt chuckled.
"Uh-huh, and then some supervillain's going to make an evil bizarro clone of you," Wade joined in.
Quinn took a deep breath and then blew out. The next thing they knew, both Rembrandt and Wade were sporting new frosted hair-dos. "Still don't believe me?
"Look, it doesn't matter how I got my powers. What does matter is I have them. This is a great power, and with great power comes great responsibility," Quinn solemnly declared.
Both Rembrandt and Wade looked at each other. Together they said, "This dimension is doomed."
"Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto…"
"Maggie, give it a rest!"
The door to the Flaming Blue Oyster flung open and in strode Maggie Beckett, flanked by her reluctant associates Rembrandt Brown and Wade Welles. Maggie stopped suddenly; her careful eye scanning every inch of the establishment. Rembrandt and Wade weren't so careful and knocked her down as they pushed past her towards the bar.
"There you are!" exclaimed Rembrandt as he reached Quinn. "We've been looking all over for you."
"What did you think you were doing?" Wade accused.
"Relax, guys. We've got plenty of time before the slide," Quinn said.
"Slide, schmide, we're talking about you ditching us with Maggie. It's your turn to Maggie-sit," Rembrandt sit. "She's dragged us half across the city investigating crack houses in search of Rickman."
"What did you expect me to do? Ignore all those needle marks?" Maggie challenged.
Wade screamed. "Rickman left this world three days ago you stupid, stupid…"
"So what happened next?" the blonde asked Quinn, lightly putting her hand on top of his. "You can't tell a girl you have superpowers and leave her hanging."
"Aw, fudge," the other three collectively muttered. Wade punched Quinn in the shoulder. "How many people are you going to tell about that slide?"
Quinn turned his head to look into the television camera. "Try ten million," he smirked.
Ok…maybe thirty people, if I'm fortunate.
Two old men sat on the front porch of a convenience store playing an old-fashioned game of horseshoes, which was this world's name for cribbage.
"So why didn't you just call it cribbage?" the blond interrupted.
"I'm trying to give you a feel for this world's alt-history," Quinn explained.
"Oh…so what's cribbage?"
"I don't know about that Sliderman," the one in the overalls grumbled. "I think he's trouble."
"Pshaw!" said his opponent, rolling the dice. "Sliderman's the best thing that ever happened to this rathole. Before he came, you had that stupid TransAmerica tower ruining the landscape. Property values have skyrocketed since that eyesore collapsed."
"Technically, that wasn't Sliderman's fault," interrupted a mild-mannered bespectacled gentleman who happened to be passing by. "The supervillain he was fighting is really responsible."
"I always liked the Teal Troll," groused Farmer Bill, spinning the wheel. "Gave this city some character."
"You're an old fool," said Amos. "Thanks to Sliderman, we can cross the Golden Gate Bridge again without having to answer he these questions three."
He pressed down on his buzzer and declared, "No whammies!"
The young man left the two old codgers to their game, both blissfully unaware that they'd been in the presence of Sliderman. Behind his glasses, Quinn Mallory smiled. His secret identity was holding—Sliderman by night, mild-mannered photographer by day. Or whenever it was convenient.
"Sliderman!" the editor-in-chief of the Planet Bugle shouted. Lonnie Laroux spun in her chair to face her ace reporter and her photographer, a newspaper shaking in her clenched fist. "Who is this guy? Where does he come from? And why is he so damn handsome?"
"He wears a mask," ace reporter Wade Welles pointed out.
"A handsome mask, Welles, a very handsome mask!"
Wade rolled her eyes. She couldn't believe she was listening to this. She also couldn't believe they'd hired her as a reporter despite having no experience whatsoever. It just showed the value of journalism on this world…about the same as it was back home.
"I want answers!" roared Laroux. "This Sliderman is a menace to the city. He must be stopped, although preferably after we hike up our ad rates."
"Yes, ma'am," said photographer Quinn Mallory.
"Hold the phone, a moment. We're just a newspaper. Shouldn't we let the police handle Sliderman?" Wade asked.
"Police, shmolice. You can't just sit around waiting for news to happen. You have to make it happen! That's why I've rigged a bomb in the Dominion Hotel. When Sliderman comes to save the day, I want you two to be on hand to catch him. It'll make for great press."
"What if he doesn't come?" Wade asked, aghast at what her editor had done.
"Either way, it's still front page news. Now get out to that building before it explodes!"
"Don't worry, boss. I have a feeling Sliderman will be there," Quinn said.
Five minutes later…
"I have a feeling Sliderman will be there," mocked Wade once the two were outside.
"Relax, Wade, I know what I'm doing," Quinn said.
"Do you? We have a crazy editor-in-chief committing crimes just to create news! It's almost like someone stole the plot of a Bond film and made it into this dimension…"
A loud coughing noise off stage cut her off.
"Quinn, this might turn out alright so long as you're around, but we slide in two days. What will happen then?" Wade asked.
"There's no time to worry about the third act right now, Wade. Get Remmy and Maggie and meet me at the Dominion," he said. Quinn undid the top two buttons to reveal the beginnings of a vortex emblazoned across his undershirt. "I've got a job to do."
"You know, Quinn. We've left that world a few weeks ago. You can stop wearing your costume under your clothes," Rembrandt pointed out.
"Visual aid, Cryin' Man, visual aid."
On this world the Dominion Hotel was a very posh, five-star establishment that didn't look anything at all like it had years ago. "You guys used to stay here?" Maggie said. "I'm impressed."
"I thought the cold, hard ground was always good enough for Captain Beckett," Quinn smirked.
"Just because she's easy doesn't mean she doesn't like comfort," Wade commented. "Damn, I said that out loud again. Oops."
"All right, Q-ball. This is going to be harder than it looks," Rembrandt said, taking in the sheer size of the lobby. "This bomb could be anywhere."
"No problem, Remmy. That's what X-ray vision is for," Quinn assured.
"Quinn, why don't you use your X-ray vision on me?" Maggie said seductively.
"Hey, I never said that!" Maggie corrected. "This is what really happened..."
Maggie pointed both thumbs at her chest. "You don't need X-ray vision to see these babies."
"Oh yeah, my mistake."
Quinn's stare became a deep trance as he switched to X-ray vision mode. Patiently, his eyes swept the lobby, inch by inch.
"Ow! My sperm!" yelled Gomez Calhoun as Quinn's steely glare passed by.
He paused for a moment, his attention riveted halfway up the wall behind the front desk. "You see it?" Wade asked.
"Not quite. Remmy, you should see this woman. She's got the nicest set of…"
"Oh yeah? Which room number?" he said, pulling out a notepad.
"Find the BOMB," Wade sounded out slowly.
Quinn's gaze swept down to the floor. "There it is. It's somewhere in the basement. Or it's the kitchen and I'm looking at a toaster," he said. "Maggie, you come with me. Wade, you start getting people out of here. Remmy?"
"Room 212, I'm on it," Rembrandt nodded.
Using his super speed, Quinn was in the basement before Maggie could even ask for directions. It was an unusual room, as it did not appear to be part of the foundation. The walls were distinctively rough, almost like he had entered a cave of some sort. The bomb trigger was in the middle of the room, attached to a canister of explosives. A large timer sat atop of it, counting down the six minutes until everything went kablooie.
"It's a good thing I didn't stop for lunch," Quinn commented as he examined the bomb. It was a simple enough device, easy enough to disable. But that wouldn't be cool enough. Quinn rattled off a list of potential ways to dispose of it. Blow it up with his heat vision? That would defeat the purpose. Toss it into space? Nah, that would throw them overbudget. Supercool it with his breath? Turn it into a work of modern art with his super human strength and apply for a grant from the NEA? He was so busy running scenraios that he didn't notice his eyes becoming blurry until he fell to the floor.
"What's happening to me?" he asked, as he struggled to get to his feet. His strength was gone and a sharp pain shot through all of his body. Nausea overwhelmed him and he pulled himself into a ball next to the bomb. "Must…use…ughhhhhh…"
"Quinn?" Maggie asked as she entered the room. "QUINN!"
She ran to him and cradled him in her arms. "Quinn, speak to me. Snap out of it. Quinn?"
His lifeless body lay limp in her arms…
Is this the end of our masked Mallory?
Has Quinn taken the last slide?
Will this be the third time Quinn dies this season?
"Well, you're here telling the story aren't you?" Wade rolled her eyes.
Wade rolled her eyes and ran back into the building. "Don't you hear the alarms? There's a bomb in your basement!"
"Mother says I can't leave! A good doorman always goes down with the hotel," Gomez whimpered.
"There's a time in every boy's life where he just has to leave the nest," Wade said, grabbing the quivering man's arm and dragging him toward the door.
As she reached the exit, Wade saw Maggie come charging out of the basement, Quinn draped over her shoulders. "Oh my God! Quinn!"
"No time for sniffling, Wade, get yourself and the clerk out of here before we all end up like your pal, the Professor," Maggie commanded.
Clear of the hotel, the three sliders assembled around their fallen leader. "Q-ball! Speak to me, man!" Rembrandt said, pulling back Quinn's mask. Quinn's eyes rolled around as he tried to regain consciousness. He coughed and the others breathed a sigh of relief.
"I knew you weren't dead," the blond cooed at Quinn, to the disgust of the other sliders.
"This girl has a keen grasp of the obvious," Rembrandt whispered to Maggie.
"I know. You can't kill a robot. Haven't you ever seen the Exterminator movies starring Arnold Stallone? Scary," Maggie nodded.
Rembrandt rolled his eyes and got up. "Whenever you wanna leave Act One and join us in Act Three, you let me know."
"He'll be back," Maggie said to Wade, doing her best Arnold Stallone impression. Wade also got up and left.
"Quinn, are you all right? What happened?" Wade asked as Quinn groaned.
"I'LL ask the QUESTIONS here, Wade," Maggie said, slipping into command mode. "Quinn, are you all right? What happened?"
"I don't know. I was taking care of the bomb when suddenly I just felt all sick inside. I couldn't focus or even standup. It was like the bomb was made of kryptonite," he said.
"But you're not from the planet Krypton. Kryptonite would have no effect on you," Rembrandt said. "I can't believe I just said that."
"No, Remmy, I'm from the planet Earth. Don't you see? I was underground! That's my weakness!"
"Trolls?" asked Maggie.
"No, the earth! The earth is poison to me just as kryptonite is poison to Superman. It all makes sense!" Quinn stated with authority. After all, he's a genius. If he says it with authority, it must be true!
"We'll have to keep this in mind. For me to retain my superpowers, I have to stay in the light of the sun," Quinn said. He stood up, fully recovered.
"We also need to take care of our maniacal editor," Wade added. "We just can't have her destroying people's lives in the hopes Sliderman will come."
"Speaking of destroying things, did you manage to disable that bomb?" Rembrandt asked Quinn.
"Damn! I knew I forgot something!" Maggie exclaimed.
The Dominion imploded, a cascade of rubble dropping down before them. Over the din, Gomez Calhoun could be heard crying, "Mooooooommmmmmmmyyyyyyy!"
"Fantastic!" raved Lonnie Laroux from her chair at the Planet Bugle. Wade and Quinn, their faces and clothes still blackened from the Dominion disaster, sat quietly opposite her. Laroux slammed down the copy of the story with a gleam in her eye. "This is just the sort of thing that reminds me of why I became a newswoman in the first place!"
"A morbid fascination with human suffering?" opined Wade.
"A bloodlust for sensationalism?" offered Quinn.
"No, the ego trip that would make Tom Brokaw wet his bed at night!" she declared. "The only thing that would make this story better is if Sliderman had actually showed."
"Well, rumor has it he never misses 'Judge Judy' for anything," Quinn hedged.
"Well, now we know better," she agreed.
"Couldn't we just politely ask Sliderman for an interview? He seems like an affable enough guy," Wade suggested.
"I have a better idea," Laroux said. "Exactly thirty-seven hours, sixteen minutes, and twenty-six seconds from now, I will destroy the Golden Gate Bridge!"
Dum dum DUM!
Quinn snuck a peek at the timer. "Could you make that thirty-four hours, twenty-two minutes, and eight seconds from now? I have a hunch it would be more dramatic that way."
"You've got good instincts, kid. All right, we'll do it your way."
"And this time, you can count on Sliderman being there!" Quinn declared, leaping from his seat.
Quinn leaped from his seat and knocked his drink all over the bar. "Heh heh, sorry. I kind of get carried away."
"That's OK, sweet thing!" Diggs assured. "I'll mop up after you anytime."
Moving right along…
Thirty four hours, twelve minutes, and eight seconds later…
"Dangerbunny to Hot Stud, all quiet here. Over."
"Cryin' Man to Quinn…"
"I mean…Hot…Stud…all quiet. Over."
Rembrandt flipped off the walkie-talkie in disgust. He and Wade sat perched on top of the second tower of the bridge, scanning the surrounding area for Laroux or any other suspicious character. Maggie had tower one and Quinn was hovering beneath the bridge in case the attack came from below. They'd been on stakeout for over a day and a half and still nothing.
"Where is this crazy woman?" Rembrandt asked Wade. "It's cold, I'm tired, and I've had to take a wiz since this morning."
"If I can hold it, so can you," Wade said, cutting off any suggestions of letting anything fly.
Beneath the bridge, Sliderman maintained his vigil. He had grown bored with looking up women's skirts as they walked above him and had even raided the Teal Troll's lair for comic books and some stale tacos. 'Focus,' Quinn said to himself. 'I have to focus. When Laroux strikes, I have to be ready. Ready I'll be. Get ready, cause here I come. Get ready, cause here I come.'
"And I'm bringing you a love that's true, so get ready! So get ready!" A loud screaming from above disrupted Quinn's homage to the Temptations. He hit his intercom button. "Maggie! What's going on up there? Maggie?"
The walkie-talkie only answered with static, the same for Rembrandt's channel. The time had come. "Sliderman, away!"
Quinn charged up, busting through the bridge in a mighty explosion (and likely causing close to a million dollars in damage to the superstructure, but damn it, it LOOKED cool!) "Never fear, fair citizens of San Francisco, for Sliderman is here! Faster than tall buildngs, mightier than a silver bullet, able to hook up with hot chicks on every slide. It's a bird, it's a plane…what the hell is that?!"
Hovering in mid-air was a woman in full body armor, floating on an impressive bit of CGI. "At last, I have you in my clutches Sliderman," Laroux shouted. "I am the most feared of all supervillains. I am the controller of minds, the decider of who lives and who dies."
"No…no…it can't be! You're…"
"Yes! I am Network Executive!"
DUM dum DUM!!!!
Quinn looked up in awe. "Where did you get that…thing?"
"Fool! On Planet Bugle, there are no limits!"
"Impressive effects or not, you are no match for me, Network Executive!" Sliderman declared.
"Perhaps not," Laroux said, "but I believe I have something you want."
A spotlight flashed on Maggie, Rembrandt, and Wade, who were tied to a cable dangling above the water.
"I know what you're thinking, Sliderman. You can catch them if I let them go. But it will cost you." A second spotlight flashed on a huge bomb sitting in the middle of the bridge.
"How did you guys miss that?" Quinn yelled to his friends.
"I thought it was a pretzel vendor!" Maggie yelled back.
Laroux laughed her maniacal laugh. "So what will it be, Sliderman? Your friends? Or all the people trapped on this bridge?"
"Get the bomb, Quinn. Leave us!" Wade yelled.
"I can't swim!!!" screamed Rembrandt.
Quinn looked at the bomb, then back at his friends. Bomb, friends, bomb, friends. Laroux cackled and reached for the button.
"And then what happened?" the blond asked. By now, all of the Flaming Oyster's patrons had surrounded Quinn.
"Simple. I disarmed the bomb, caught my pals, and tied Network Executive to the second tower of the bridge."
"But…but how?" a mangy biker asked him.
"How? I'm Sliderman! I can fly and I move faster than the speed of light. You think some old lame ass 'you must choose' thing is going to stop me?"
"You did it, Sliderman! You saved me!"
"Relax, Remmy," Quinn said, prying his friend from his shoulders.
The bridge erupted in a wave of cheers for Sliderman. Car alarms were set up, flare guns were fired, all in celebration of Sliderman.
"You did it, Quinn," Wade said with a smile.
"That's right. I did it. Me, and only me," Quinn smiled back.
"I guess you're all right after all," Maggie smirked, "for a robot."
They all laughed at that, and then Wade shoved Maggie off the bridge.
"And that's the whole story," Quinn said.
The blond gazed soulfully into Quinn's eyes. "Oh, Sliderman, do you have any…other…special powers you'd like to show me?"
("How about I show her my amazing gag reflex," Wade muttered.)
Quinn took her into his arms and kissed her passionately. Behind the bar, Diggs pulled out his hankie and dabbed at his eyes. "Oh how I love these happy endings!"
And as we fade from this joyful scene, remember one thing: Wherever there is injustice, you will find him! Wherever there is suffering, he'll be there! Wherever…line? Ah hell, SLIDERMAN!
- With sincere apologies to the creators of Superman, Spider-Man, James Bond, and the Three Amigos.
- I also apologize for putting the mere thought of Quinn singing the Temptations into your heads.
Really, really sorry.