by Tyler Russ
It was the kind of day in Los Angeles when no one should be outside. Hard rain was falling, the wind was blowing and lightning was flashing. The buildings in the background were falling apart and car alarms were going off. The few people who were outside were carrying guns and looking out for themselves. No one would willingly put themselves into such a situation, but four people had no choice. They were Quinn Mallory, Wade Welles, Rembrandt Brown and Maggie Beckett. They were running away as fast as they could when they reached a brick wall at the end of an alley. They had been on this Earth for less than 24 hours and wanted more than anything to get off.
"So what's the skinny on this world Quinn," Wade asked him. Shortly after they first landed here they found an abandoned library and took shelter there. This gave Quinn the opportunity to study up on this world's history. That was, until a street gang caught up with them and chased them out, continuing to chase them ever since.
"It seems that on this Earth, Hitler was successful in created the atomic bomb during World War II," Quinn replied. "He used it against his enemies, and ever since then all hell has broken loose. Eventually most if not all government collapsed and now the streets are ruled by various gangs. That's what I got from what books remained on this world's history."
"Well as much as I'd like to learn about the rest of this world Q-Ball," said Rembrandt, "I just want to get out of here. How much longer till the slide?"
"Just about two more minutes," Quinn replied. "Then we can be finished with this world for good."
"Amen to that," Maggie said. The other sliders all nodded in agreement.
There was nowhere else to run down this alley, but they didn't think this made much of a difference seeing as they were just about to slide. Then the street gang that had been following them caught up. "There they are," the gang's leader Baldwin yelled. "They found a nice little hiding place. Too bad it only has one exit." The other gang members grinned and started to advance.
"Listen," Maggie said. "All we have to do is fend them off for another few minutes, then we slide out of this world for good." As a trained soldier, Maggie was pretty confident that she could keep them off. As one thug approached, she ran at him and tried to punch him out. They were fighting hand-to-hand when another assailant got through and threw Maggie against the wall.
"Are you OK?" Quinn asked Maggie frantically.
"I'll get by Mallory," Maggie answered. "For now we have more important issues, how much longer till the window opens?"
"Just another 60 seconds!" Quinn replied as more gang members stormed through the alley. Just then two men grabbed Wade, and Quinn ran forward to protect her. He picked up a glass bottle and knocked one of the men out, then threatened the other one with the sharp edges but he dropped it. Wade started to run away when the man grabbed Quinn.
"Quinn, are you OK?!" Wade yelled at him over the rain and the fighting.
Just then it was time, and Quinn was able to elbow the man holding him and activate the timer, opening a swirling blue vortex against the brick wall. "Go everyone, I'll catch up later," Quinn yelled at them. Instinctively Maggie ran through the vortex, followed by Rembrandt. "Go Wade," Quinn yelled at her when he saw her just standing there watching him. "I promise I'll make it through, just don't miss the window!" Wade had a troubled look on her face, but eventually went through when Quinn kept motioning her.
Quinn tried to break free from the grip of his captor but was only able to bring himself closer to the vortex, which only mildly surprised the man holding onto him. He was sufficiently used to seeing weird stuff that he didn't question it anymore. He almost got into the vortex, but couldn't get out of this man's grip. He figured he might have to bring him over to the next world, and deal with him there. The slide would probably break him free and after the landing he could easily knock him out. But was it right to bring a dangerous gang member to a new world? Before he had time to think about this anymore, a bolt of lightning struck the gang member, and as a result also shocked Quinn and the timer. A surge of energy came out from the timer and hit the vortex, which started flashing yellow. Both of them were propelled forward and went through the wormhole, which then started flashing. It closed, and the brick wall briefly flashed with yellow lightning before returning to its normal appearance...
What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds?
Where it's the same year...
And you're the same person...
But everything else is different?
And what if you can't find your way home?
As Quinn regained consciousness, the first thing he saw was Wade looking down on him. As he came to, he began to regain his memories of the events that had led him there, of the gang members and the lightning.
"Good to see you again," Wade said to him cheerfully. Quinn noticed that Wade had her hand in a bandage, most likely from an injury she sustained in the fight on the last world.
"After what happened the last time the vortex encountered lightning, it's good to be seen," Quinn replied.
"This time, it doesn't look like the vortex was struck directly," Wade said back to him. "The guy who was holding you must have been struck, which affected the timer."
"What happened to it?" Quinn asked.
"Some parts of it were fried, and it also got broken open. It looks pretty bad right now, but we don't think it's beyond repair. Remmy and Maggie are looking at it right now, but they're really mostly just waiting for you to wake up because you're the only one who can fix it. You've been out for almost 12 hours."
Just then Rembrandt and Maggie walked in. "Hey Q-Ball, nice to see you up again," Rembrandt said to Quinn.
"The feeling is mutual, Remmy," Quinn assured him. "So what's up with the timer?"
"It's repairable, but it needs some serious work," Maggie replied. "I picked up a little on sliding when Steven was working on it, but not that much. All I can say is once a few parts are replaced and it's put back together properly it should be working again. Our biggest concern now is if we can get it together in time for the window."
"How are we going to replace the parts?" moaned Quinn. "We lost all our money when we were mugged on that last world, and we don't even know what kind of technology this world has. How are we going to do this?"
"We're in luck," Wade replied to Quinn. "It seems that this world is at peace, and they are always willing to help people when they're in trouble. When they found you unconscious out there they were more than willing to give you the proper medical attention, and us a place to stay until we leave. We also asked them about their technology and they were happy to give us some parts. It looks like we have just what we need, you just need to make the proper repairs and hopefully we can slide out of here on time."
"But what happened to my attacker," Quinn asked once he remembered. "Didn't he also get pulled through the vortex?"
"When they found us," Rembrandt said, "we told them that you were jumped by some guy who came out of the alley. That's another reason why they're being so nice to us, this city is proud of their low crime rate and were shocked that some visitors had to experience that. See, we told them that we were tourists from Canada, which is why we don't understand all of their customs. They gave us all this stuff as a way of saying sorry and hoping that this wouldn't taint the way we think of Los Angeles. Your attacker was taken away for whatever the punishment for that is here."
"I'm suspicious of they way they just took him off," Maggie added. "In fact I'm very suspicious of this entire world. If you ask me we should try and avoid as much of it as we can. Just fix the timer, lay low until the window opens and slide out."
"Are you always this cynical?" Wade replied to her. Wade had tried to avoid starting up any rivalry they had going since before they got home and she did notice a change in her personality, but sometimes she just seemed too negative. "Can't you just see a world that looks this perfect and accept it for what it really is?"
"Nothing is this perfect," Maggie insisted. "You can't have something that looks this perfect without a dark secret. We had a saying on my world: for every gold coin, there's a tarnished lining."
"We have the opposite saying," Quinn cut in. "Every cloud has a silver lining. It means that for every tragedy, there's a positive aspect."
"Silver clouds?" Maggie scoffed. "That doesn't even make sense. Besides, the opposite is just as true. You can't have a good thing without a downside. For something this good, the downside must be huge. That's why I'm not about to trust this world."
Just as they were talking, a man walked into the room. All of the sliders went through a minor state of shock when they saw his face; it was Baldwin, the leader of the gang that attacked them on the last world.
"Hello, guests," Baldwin said in a calming voice. "I hope you tourists are enjoying yourself, and that this does not reflect negatively on your view of the City of Angels. My name is Baldwin and I'm the leader of this neck of the woods. As you probably learned before you choose to travel here, my party controls most of this great country, and I was made leader of the area surrounding southern California. We're sorry for all the trouble that you've endured on your visit to the City of Angels, and hope that what we have provided you with is enough for you to forgive us. We assure you that this kind of thing happens very rarely here, and the individual responsible will receive the maximum penalty. Feel free to visit the City of Angels anytime and you'll always have a place to stay here."
Quinn felt calmed hearing his voice, but still couldn't shake the suspicion he had after seeing that man's face again. Maybe Maggie was right, this place did have a major downside. But for now he would have to trust him in order to get the timer repaired.
"I'm Quinn Mallory," Quinn said to him after getting up to shake his hand. "Nice to meet you, and thank you very much for all the hospitality you've shown. My friends and I are very grateful."
"I saw that you and your friends were working on some kind of electronic device and needed some spare parts. I'd be more than happy to give you more if need them." Quinn nodded to him. "Just come with me this way and I'll show you what we have. If you don't mind me asking, what is it exactly that you're working on? I've never seen anything like that before."
"It a new kind of radio," Quinn said repeating the first thing that came to his mind.
"A new model cellular phone," Wade said at the same time also repeating her first thought.
"I mean... it's a combination radio and cell phone," Quinn said, trying to get out of this. "That way you'll always have one on you when you need it."
"Well that sounds just splendid," Baldwin said to him while smiling. "But it's time for dinner now, and we all like to eat together. Would you care to join us?"
"You know, I'd really love to, but I'm still feeling hurt from the incident earlier. I'd like to just stay here."
"Me too," Wade said after him. "I was also injured and would like to stay with my friend. Maybe you our friends could bring us some food."
"Well we usually have rules against eating up here," Baldwin replied, "but given everything that you've been through this time we'll make an exception. Your friends can come with me to the cafeteria while you two stay here and work on your invention, and they'll bring you some food. The room with all the electronics is just to your left outside that door, use whatever you need." With that Baldwin left the room, followed by Rembrandt and Maggie. Quinn and Wade walked out the door and into the electronics room.
"Listen, can I please get a steak or a hamburger here," Rembrandt asked the woman behind the lunch counter one last time in desperation.
"For the last time Mr. Brown," she responded, "we do not serve meat here. We live in harmony with all the creatures of the Earth, all animals included. How would you like it if all of a sudden a bigger animal started eating you?"
"But isn't that how the circle of life works? Animals must eat animals to survive. I don't see anyone going down to Africa trying to get lions to eat a soy zebra substitute." Rembrandt was growing very impatient with the dietary habits of this world.
"That's the point Mr. Brown," Baldwin said as he approached. "We are above the animals. It is our job to take care of the Earth. Some animals have no choice but to kill others, but we are above that. Killing the defenseless for no reason is above our nature. I don't know how you do things in Canada, but you're in America now and must follow our customs."
Rembrandt finally caved and ordered a salad and sat down next to Maggie. "Man, I'm surprised they don't have laws against breathing on this world to protect all the microbes which are drawn into your lungs and die," Rembrandt said, still frustrated.
"Come on Remmy," Maggie said to him. "You can survive another world without eating meat. You got plenty to eat on the world we were on before the last one."
"Maybe, but the food there all seemed a few days old. I just hope Q-Ball gets the timer fixed on time. This world may look good on the surface, but I'm starting to agree with you that something has to be up and I don't want to risk having to stay here for the next 29 years."
"We have to have faith in him. We've gotten out of tougher spots than this and still come out alive."
Quinn was working frantically to get the timer repaired and Wade was loyally by his side helping whenever he needed it. Quinn was making some real progress with the parts that Baldwin had provided him and would hopefully be finished with it in another couple hours. They just had to pray they hadn't missed the window of opportunity already.
"Have you found out what happened on this world," Quinn asked Wade trying to make small talk.
"I thought you might ask so I looked it up," Wade said back to him with a smile on her face. "Surprisingly, this world was a lot like the last one we were on. Only on this world after a nuclear war destroyed most forms of government, the people begin to work for change. A group of citizens who were fighting for peace took control of the government and that's how the world got to this point. Now there's no more war or any kind of violent crimes and everyone gets along perfectly."
"This is amazing," Quinn replied. "These are two worlds I never thought would have started out the same."
"It just goes to show that a group of committed citizens really can bring change upon the world. I'm going to have to remember this and tell everyone when we get home."
"I wonder if this is the utopia world that my double mentioned."
"Just remember what happened the last time you thought you found that place," Rembrandt said as he walked in the door. "Wade almost got killed and you ended up with a bullet in your back." He walked up to the Quinn and Wade, followed by Maggie and gave them both a boll full of salad. "Sorry Q-Ball, this is the best food we could get."
"Well I like it," Wade said. "I'm not surprised to see a world like this doesn't kill its animals for food. I don't see why you all have to be so negative about it. You're sounding like the professor."
"The professor was a wise man, and we should remember what he had to say," Rembrandt replied to her, "I'm just saying that we should watch out. We've been on worlds that looked good on the surface before but had a major downside. So how are you doing with the timer Q-Ball," he added as he turned to Quinn.
"I've almost got this finished, but there are a few parts that seem to be missing, as if they were just lost. You told me that the timer was found in two pieces. I'm wondering if some of them spilled out. I can probably compensate with these parts but it would be nice to know what happened to the other ones. Unfortunately I'm still having trouble with the wormhole tracking system. With the damage done here and the limited supplies it may be longer than I thought before I get it fixed."
"We could go and look for those missing parts in case they're still there," Maggie said. "It would give us something to do and help with."
"Sounds like a good idea," Rembrandt added. "We'll go back to the alley that we slid into and take a look."
"Why don't you take this with you," Quinn told them as he picked up some kind of communication device. "In case we get separated. I found it among the electronic equipment. It should work like a normal walkie-talkie."
Maggie nodded and picked up. "We'll contact you if anything comes up." Maggie then walked out the door and Rembrandt followed her lead while Quinn got back to work on the timer.
"Well, this is the alley," Maggie said looking around. "Not much stuff here."
"Maybe they already sent a cleaning crew through," Rembrandt mused. "Seeing how neat-freakish this world is, it wouldn't surprise me if they clean the streets every few hours."
Maggie started examining the alley as much as she could for anything that may be of some use. "I wonder if when the vortex opened it could have distributed some of the parts somewhere else, maybe on another world." Maggie felt against the side of the brick wall, and received a small shock as ripples and little yellow flashes and almost looked like lightning started occurring around where she touched and the area began to cave in on itself, and to her surprise her hand started to go through it.
"What the hell just happened?" Rembrandt asked, just as surprised with this as Maggie was.
"I don't know Remmy, but there's only one way to find out," Maggie replied as she began to walk through the wall. As a soldier she felt it her job to explore and take the risk of whatever might be on the other side. Rembrandt thought it might be better to tell Quinn about this first and see if they could find out what it was, but before he could say anything, Maggie was already gone. All he could do was follow her lead.
After a long, bizarre period that felt like they were going through the wormhole again in slow motion, Rembrandt and Maggie found themselves on the other side of the wall. As they took in their surroundings they saw they were in the same alley, and they had been in this alley before.
"Looks like we're back on the last world," Maggie said. "When the timer and the vortex encountered that lightning it must have somehow created a gateway between these two worlds. Has anything like this ever happened before?"
"Once," Rembrandt replied. "The vortex was struck by lightning once and Quinn was sent to some kind of 'astral plane' as we called it. I don't know how this works or if this is somehow related, you'll have to ask Q-Ball about the technical stuff."
"We better call the others," Maggie said pulling out the walkie-talkie. She turned it on, but all she could get was static. "Of course, it must not work because we really are on different worlds. We'll have to go back through and get in contact with Quinn."
Just then, the street gang they had encountered earlier came into view, led by Baldwin. "Look, there's two of 'em now!" Baldwin said upon seeing them. "Grab 'em!" he ordered two of his lieutenants. Quickly Maggie and Rembrandt ran away and back through the wall, as the thugs went after them. They stopped and looked at the wall in amazement. After tentatively feeling the surface and confirming that their hands could sink all the way into it, the two gangsters plunged in.
After emerging in the alley on the other world, Maggie took the walkie-talkie out again to try and call Quinn. It wasn't long though before the two gang members also made it through the portal, and they had to start running again.
Maggie almost made it out of the alley when she noticed that Rembrandt was not behind her anymore. She looked back and saw one of the hooligans attacking him, so she went back to help him, but not before encountering the other one. She tried to hit him but he grabbed her hand and went for the other arm. Maggie struggled to break free by applying her military training, but he had a strong grip on her. But after noticing that this area was still unprotected, she gave him a knee him in the groin, causing him to lose his grip, then hit him one more time, sending him down.
While he was recovering, Maggie went back into the alley and attacked the man who had Rembrandt from behind. After her first chop, the man lost his grip of Rembrandt and tried to get Maggie. They exchanged several blows, until all of a sudden he fell, revealing Rembrandt behind him holding a board. "Great move Remmy," Maggie told him, relieved.
"The least I could do considering how you saved me. Did I ever tell you that you do make a good contribution to the team after all?"
They didn't have long to talk though before the first man that Maggie had knocked down started getting up again. Maggie and Rembrandt started running back into the alley hoping to escape him long enough to form a plan when he fell to the ground again with a dart in his back and what appeared to be two police officers dressed in white uniforms approached him. Rembrandt and Maggie just watched them from behind a corner in the alley.
"Looks like another one," the first police officer said as he approached the body. Then they noticed the other gang member who was now laying unconscious after the attack. "Three people dressed like this have shown up within the last day, what could be happening?"
"I don't know," the other officer answered, "but I think it has something to do with those visitors who claim to be from Canada. They both showed up at the same time and they won't give very much information on their background. We better alert Master Baldwin of this."
After the police officers took the gang members and left the area, Maggie quickly took out the walkie-talkie and contacted Quinn. "Hello, Quinn, it's me..." Maggie said frantically.
"Hey," Quinn said interrupting, "you don't need to find the rest of the parts after all. I was able to fix the timer with what we had here. It's about another two hours till the slide."
"We have more important concerns right now," Maggie said even more frantic.
"What could be more important...," Quinn started asking.
"I don't know how this happened but somehow there is a gateway to the last world on the brick wall in the alley that we slid into," Maggie stammered, interrupting him this time.
"What?" Quinn asked shocked.
"I'm serious, you can walk through the brick wall and it leads to another universe, the violent one we were just on before this one. Do you have any idea how the hell something like this could have happened?"
"Well I've always wondered if it was possible for the gateway to stay open, but never thought about how it would happen. It obviously has something to do with the lightning, perhaps the extra energy just made it stronger so it never fully closed."
"Now, can you think of any way to close it?"
"As I said I have no idea how this could have happened, so I don't know how it can be reversed either. Our best chance is probably to open the vortex in the exact same spot and hope they both close in unison. We'd better give it a try because the impact of having a portal open between these two of all worlds could be awful. You and Remmy come back here and we'll go back there when it's time to slide."
"There's more," Maggie added. "Two more gang members came into this world, but they were captured by the police. Now they think that we're involved. It might be better for you and Wade to try to escape and meet us here, in the alley."
"I hardly think that we're in much danger on a world like..."
Just then, Quinn was interrupted as Baldwin burst into the room. "Nobody move," he told him and Wade with some kind of gun drawn on them. "We know the truth about you people."
"We checked with Canada," Baldwin continued, "and there's no record of anybody with your description registering to visit the City of Angels. Two of your attacker's accomplices have recently appeared in the area that you were found in, freshly beaten to a pulp, and your friends were seen there shortly earlier. It's been decades since an act of violent crime was last committed in this area. Then all of a sudden four unknowns appear lying about their backstory, and some troglodytes follow them? We know something's up. Who are you really?"
"I assure you, we can explain who we are," Quinn said frantically, trying to think up an excuse.
"Oh really," Baldwin replied. "Who are you then and why can't I find any record of your existence?"
Quinn paused for a moment, before deciding the truth was the best answer. "Have you ever heard of parallel universes?"
"Is that the best you can do?" Baldwin replied. "People like you disgust me. It was because of your kind, you human garbage, that civilization was almost completely destroyed, before we took over and saved the world. You vermin will be executed tomorrow before you can do any further damage to society."
"How can you call yourself a peaceful society," Wade asked him, "when you're murdering people like this?"
"This isn't murder," Baldwin replied. "People like you are the murderers, the ones who murder our values and our way of life. We are the surgeons who cut away the dead flesh of society so she may continue to thrive. If we didn't execute people like you, none of us would still be here today."
"How many people did you have to kill?" Wade asked, disgusted.
"We've never bothered to keep an exact toll," Baldwin answered, "but we had to do it. Believe me, when my people took over more than 50 years ago we tried to be as easy on the people as we could. But humans just can't follow instructions without punishment, it's in their nature. So we had to be tougher on them. We never send anyone to prison anymore, where they will just rot while we support them. We had to institute capital punishment and the use of hard labor to save the rest of us."
"You mean you had to start murdering them," Wade butted in, still disgusted. "So what crimes do you think it's all right to murder people for?"
"We are not murderers. We never kill them unless they've done something wrong, and then we do it only on schedule. Even the guns we carry do not kill, they shoot a poisoned dart that puts you out for an hour. Then they are locked up until their execution is scheduled, in which they are taken away painlessly to no longer burden and corrupt society."
"You can call it whatever you want and continue to trivialize human life like this but it doesn't change what you're doing. You people are no different than any other murderer."
"Believe me, we try to be as easy on the people as we can. Crimes that cause severe damage to civilization and show the perpetrator must have no soul are punished with death. For some crimes which aren't as serious, in which the perpetrator is judged to have a chance at recovery -- such as petty theft, vandalism or acts of rebellion -- we punish them with hard labor. That way these people can be helping society while they work to recover themselves."
"What gives you the right to judge people like this?" Wade felt the need to ask him.
"God allowed us to take power, and it is His will we are following. If you have a problem, take it up with Him. You can do that after your execution tomorrow, in which He will judge you. If you truly believe you are sorry and can make amends, may He have mercy on you." Just then Baldwin raised his dart gun and fired it at Quinn and Wade, putting them out as they were taken to their cells for their pending executions.
After about an hour Quinn and Wade came to and noticed their surroundings. They were in a different room than the ones they had seen before and there was no way they could see to get out. First thing Quinn tried jiggling the handle of the doorknob after noticing that all of the doors on this world appeared to be unlocked, but soon found out that this door was only unlocked from the outside. Wade tried checking the walls for studs as he parents had told her to do, but couldn't find any area that could be knocked down. There were no windows and Quinn couldn't find any way that the door could be opened. For the time being, they were trapped.
"Well Maggie was right about this society," Wade said breaking the silence. "I guess I owe her an apology. This world has a major downside."
"You can worry about that when you see Maggie again," Quinn said to her very tense and angered, "that is if we see Maggie or Remmy again. We're scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning, and we slide in less than an hour. If we don't get out of here in time we'll be dead, Remmy and Maggie will probably be caught and executed eventually, unless they cross over to the other world... where they don't really have a much better chance of surviving what with the gang that's after them, not to mention that God only knows what will happen if that portal between these two worlds stays open forever, merging a world plagued by violence and a world that has achieved a sense of peace by killing anyone they sense as a threat..." Quinn took a breath. "To sum all this up, I think we have more important concerns right now than that your paradise didn't turn out the way you wanted it."
"I'm sorry Quinn," Wade replied as if he offended her. "I know you're the genius, and you'll think of a way out of this. I'm just getting in the way."
"I'm sorry for that outburst," Quinn apologized. "We've all been through a lot recently but we can't let this affect our relationship. After everything we've been through together, we can't just let it end here. Now we really need to find a way out of here. Do you have any ideas? I'm sure if we just put our heads together we'll find a way to escape like we always do."
"There don't appear to be any ways out," Wade replied. "How is that door locked? Have you thought about any ways we could pick it?"
"It appears to be unlocked on the outside, just locked in here. We'd need to get it opened from the outside."
"Or we could get someone else on the outside to open it for us."
"How would we do that?" Quinn asked sensing that Wade might have an idea. "Do you expect one of the guards to open it for us?"
"Well I did have one idea..."
"Help, help me," a guard heard a woman screaming from the room where Quinn and Wade were being held.
"What is it," the guard asked. "Is anything going on in there?"
"She needs help," Quinn yelled through the door. "She just all of a sudden starting breaking into a seizure and it looks serious. I think she'll die if she doesn't get some help soon."
"Well we can't her dying before her execution," the guard said as he opened the door, "we better get her some help." No sooner did he walk in before he felt a chair hit him on the back of the head and he was unconscious.
"I can't believe that actually worked," Quinn said.
"Well we know that this world doesn't keep very many prisoners for very long," Wade responded. "Chances are there aren't any prison movies here. Most likely nobody ever would have expected that."
Quinn kneeled down in front of the unconscious guard and started going through his belongings, picking up his gun. "Should he have some kind of key card?" Wade asked.
"I told you already," Quinn answered, "the doors don't have locks in this world, from the outside at least. We just need to find out behind which door they're keeping the timer, then get out of here and find the others before time runs out."
Quinn and Wade checked all of the doors, which were indeed unlocked, around the hall that their cell was in. They found that all of the rooms were cells similar to their own until they reached the end of the hall and found a larger room. As they went exploring it they found what appeared to be several items confiscated from prisoners, including the timer sitting on a table near an open window.
"We have less than 20 minutes left," Quinn said picking up the timer and taking a glance out the window to survey their surrounding locale. "We'll be cutting it pretty damn close, be we've had closer calls than this and made it out too many times to count. This should leave us enough time to reach Remmy and Maggie."
But just as they were getting ready to leave, as if to prove that things would always get more complicated whenever they had to cut a slide this close, another guard showed up. "Shouldn't you people be in your cell?" the guard asked.
"I promise, I can explain this time," Quinn answered.
"Does this explanation answer how you got out of your cell that was locked from the inside and why there's a guard lying outside it unconscious? I think that requires a mighty fine explanation here."
"And... I have one," Quinn said, as if he knew what he was doing. "Why should we do what you want us to anyway? I mean, you're going to execute us tomorrow no matter what. That's not how I expected to go. When I die, I want it to be by my own terms." As Quinn was making this little speech he began moving closer to the window, as Wade watched him thinking to herself that he must have a plan this time. "So with that in mind, it would be much more meaningful to me if my death were by my own hands." And with that he turned to face the window and made a dive out of it.
"Ditto everything he said," Wade added as the guard watched in amazement not knowing what to think as she gazed out of the window and then followed Quinn's lead.
"Man, they even try to keep the garbage on this world as clean as possible," Quinn said while getting up from a dumpster filled with perfectly tied white trash bags. "I guess that's what this world is all about, making everything look good on the surface. But at least it provided us with a nice landing spot."
"You think they'd know better than to leave a window open with such a conveniently placed dumpster beneath it," Wade said following Quinn out of the dumpster.
"You said yourself that this world isn't used to prison breakouts," Quinn replied to her. "The window was probably opened to let the breeze in on such a hot day. And maybe they place dumpsters underneath in case someone has something to throw away, and there's no garbage pail in the room so they can avoid littering, which is probably also a capital offense on this world. Now we better get moving, it's only going to be a short matter of time before they send people after us and we have precious little time before the slide."
"We need to get to the exact same location where we slid in," Quinn said to Wade as they started running. "That's where Remmy and Maggie will be waiting for us, and we have to try to open the vortex at the exact same spot as this doorway between worlds because that's the only way I can think of that might close it. Since I was unconscious when we were taken here, you lead the way. I'll take the rear and cover you in case any guards start to catch up to us," Quinn added pulling out the dart gun he took from the guard they knocked out.
"You let them what?" Baldwin shouted at the guard, steaming with anger. "How could you let those prisoners get away so easily?"
"I swear, they must have had something big planned," the guard replied trying to defend himself. "When I found them the guard who was assigned to their cell was out cold and they had found this room and taken back that counting device of theirs. I thought I had them but next thing I know they completely surprise me by jumping out the window. Can you even survive that?"
"They obviously have a plan that's bigger than we thought," Baldwin said. "We have no record of their existence on file but somehow they've been bringing criminals into the city, as if out of nowhere. And I bet it has something to do with that counting device. You can redeem yourself by collecting a few other guards and going after them so we can catch them before they carry out whatever their final plans are."
Quinn and Wade had made good distance in the time they'd been running when they noticed three guards chasing after them. "Uh-oh," Quinn said as he noticed them, "don't look behind you Wade but we're being followed."
"What are we going to do now?" Wade asked.
"At first we just keep running and hope we lose them," Quinn answered. "If that doesn't work we're going to have to take care of them somehow."
They kept running as fast as they could until the guards began firing their dart guns at them. "Looks like we can't outrun them anymore," Quinn said. "I'm going to have to try and take care of them."
Quinn fired his dart gun at them once, almost randomly, while still running, and missed. He realized that he most likely only had a limited amount of darts and would have to be careful how he did this but if he stopped running he'd make himself an easier target. He saw once guard stop to try and reload his gun so he stopped and took careful aim and hit him. Quinn always had trouble killing people, even in self-defense but he knew these were only dart guns that would put you out for an hour so he could shoot to hit and not feel any remorse for the time being. The first guard being sent down temporarily distracted the other guards but then they realized they had to get him while he was stopped. One of them tried to fire but realized he had also run out. Quinn was at an advantage, having only fired two shots from a gun that was most likely fully loaded when he stole it from the guard. There was a pause, when Quinn saw the opportunity to start shooting, taking out the guard after firing another two shots. This left one guard standing and he and Quinn both had their guns drawn on each other.
"Give it up," the remaining guard shouted over at Quinn. "I saw you fire four shots from that gun, and that's all these guns can hold. You don't know how many I fired."
"But you're forgetting," Wade said approaching Quinn, "we have you outnumbered. You may be able to get one of us but we'll beat you in the end."
"Not necessarily," the guard replied. "I'm sure there are reinforcements on their way at this very minute. The longer you just wait here the better the chances that they'll catch up to you."
"Well then maybe we'll just have to take you right now," Wade replied.
"I'm warning you," the guard said holding out his gun, "don't come any closer or I'll shoot." He was waving his gun around trying to intimidate them but he seemed a lot more reluctant to fire. Wade began to step closer, and the guard began to reach into his pockets as quick as he could. He had run out of ammo too and was bluffing them. He pulled some darts out of his pocket and not knowing what to do began throwing them at Quinn and Wade as fast as he could but missed. Wade ran up and picked up a few of the darts and threw them at him at a closer range and finally put him out.
"I could have sworn I heard 12 shots fired," Wade said, "meaning all three of them used all their darts. He also seemed awful reluctant to fire, even when you were shooting the other guards. I called his bluff." Wade leaned over and picked up for darts off the ground and out of the guard's pockets. "I don't think he was bluffing about the reinforcements though. You better reload with these, and then get going."
After running for what felt like forever, Quinn and Wade finally made it to the alley. As they were approaching they saw Rembrandt and Maggie, standing in front of the brick wall waving their arms frantically to signal them.
"It's about time you made it Q-Ball," Rembrandt said.
"Come on, have I ever let you down before Remmy?" Quinn replied.
"Sorry to interrupt, but I don't think you guys made it back alone," Maggie said, pointing to a group of guards, including Baldwin riding in the middle in some kind of motorized cart. "You guys always manage to make a few enemies along the way don't you?"
"I knew they had others on the way," Wade said. "How much more time do we have Quinn?
"Just a little over two minutes," Quinn answered.
"Think they'll catch up to us in that time?" Rembrandt asked.
"I don't know," Quinn answered. "This is just great," he added, seeing Baldwin and his men get closer "I thought our problem would be not enough time, now it turns out we might have too much time. What do we do if they catch up to us?"
"We could try to stall until it's time, then open the vortex and run away as quick as we can," Wade answered.
"But will these enemies of yours let us wait that long?" Maggie replied. "Our best bet may be to wait on the other side until it's time."
"That could work," Quinn replied. "We'd need to come back to this side before we open the vortex in case it's only active on this world but we could use the other side to wait."
"But what if our other enemies are waiting over there," Wade replied, "and what if these guys are ready for us once we return?"
"I don't think we have any other choice right now," Quinn said as he Baldwin and his men drew closer and had their guns drawn, ready to fire. Quickly he ran through the wall, and the others realized that this was their only way out for now and followed his lead.
The sliders emerged in the same dirty back alley in Los Angeles that they had left in the previous world, and that Rembrandt and Maggie had emerged briefly in when they entered the portal.
"Wow," Quinn remarked, "the portal really did stay open."
"Just like we told you," Maggie replied. "The question is, can you close it?"
"Opening the new vortex over the old is our best chance. Hopefully it will absorb what's left of the previous vortex and send us to a random parallel universe as usual, and then the portal will simply close as it usually does. Then we'll be gone and those two worlds will have to go on with all their issues without us around."
"What is it with that other world?" asked Rembrandt. "It seemed like the people there were pretty nice, even if they did have bad taste in food. How'd you make enemies with them so fast?"
"Long story," Wade answered. "No time right now, we'll tell you on the next world.
"Uh, guys," Maggie cut in, "we're not alone anymore. She pointed towards the gang leader Baldwin and his men, who were coming towards them.
"Them again," shouted Baldwin. "After pulling their disappearing act twice and taking three of our boys with them, they have the nerve to show up again. This time, get them once and for all, and then we can get some answers!"
"Well. I guess that's our cue to go back to the other world," Quinn said quite calmly. "It was about time, anyway." Quinn stepped back through the wall, and the others quickly followed.
"Where did they go?" asked one of the gang members as they watched the sliders disappear through the brick wall.
"I don't know," replied Baldwin, "but I'm sure it has something to do with that machine the leader of the group was holding when we first spotted him. Crap, this guy must have invented some kind of transport device that allows him to just appear and disappear in different places. That would explain everything."
"Imagine what we could do with that power," another gang member said in response.
"Yeah," Baldwin replied, "we could appear anywhere in the city at any time we wanted. With this thing we could dominate the place, and even branch out into the next few cities. We've gotta get our hands on that thing."
"But how do we get them? They just disappeared, remember?"
"I know, but they always seem to appear and disappear around that wall over there. Maybe they're keeping a doorway open there. If we can follow them, we can get our people back and take the device."
The four emerged on the other side of the wall, once again in the peaceful world. They were greeted by Master Baldwin and his guards, who had gotten up out of their motorized carts, but none of that mattered to the sliders anymore.
"Remarkable," Baldwin remarked to the guards as he watched the sliders emerge. "That must be some kind of transport device. Can you imagine what we could do with that? We could use it to enforce order in places that we were previously unable to reach." Baldwin then turned to Quinn. "You must give us that device. If you do, I might be willing to cut you a deal and sentence you to hard labor for the rest of your life instead of execution."
"As tempting an offer as that is," Quinn responded sarcastically, "we have other plans."
"Fine, have it your way," Baldwin replied. "All four of you will be executed for your crimes, and we will seize your technology anyway. First, I must explore what you did to this wall. Guards, seize them until I return."
Baldwin touched his hand to the wall, and saw the yellow lightning forming around it. He then put his entire body through the wall, and disappeared.
Meanwhile on the other end, the other Baldwin and his gang members were still examining the wall.
"Well," said Baldwin, "they obviously did something to this wall to allow them to be transported."
"Where do you think they're going?" one of the gang members asked.
"I don't know, but there's only one way to find out," Baldwin spoke as he walked through the wall himself.
The sliders were fighting off Baldwin's guards on the other side, when the other Baldwin emerged through the wall.
"Master Baldwin, you have returned so soon," one of the guards said. "But where is your uniform? What happened over there?"
"I don't know who you are," Baldwin replied, "but I want to know where I am, and what happened to my men."
"We are your men," the guard responded.
"I've never met any of you before. I'm talking about at least three members of my gang who disappeared into here going after those four!" Baldwin said pointing at the sliders.
"You mean those criminals?" the guard replied. "Are you saying that you're the one responsible for sending them here?"
Enraged, Baldwin flung himself at the guards, who fought back as best they could. Using the distraction, the sliders broke completely free from the guards.
"What are we going to do about him?" asked Wade.
I don't think there's anything we can do," Quinn replied. "We have to slide now."
"I think he'll get what he deserves," Maggie added.
Quinn pointed the timer directly at the brick wall and activated the timer. Pulses of blue energy shot out of the timer and against the wall, which started flashing with yellow lightning again. A blue vortex started to appear over the brick wall, but the yellow lightning kept flashing and the vortex soon turned yellow. The sliders quickly ran through the vortex in hopes of avoiding any future confrontations with the guards.
Shortly after the gang leader Baldwin disappeared through the wall and came out on the other world, Master Baldwin appeared on the gang world. He took in his surroundings and noticed all the thugs standing around.
"This must be where those criminals were getting their reinforcements from," Baldwin remarked.
"What the hell are you talking about, Baldwin," asked one of the gang leaders, "and why are you dressed that way? What happened to you on the other side of that wall?"
"You know my name?" Baldwin replied. "Good Lord, this must have all been an attempt to overthrow me. How dare ruffians like you challenge my authority!"
"Hey," another gang member responded, "in all these years we've never challenged your authority. But you always had respect for us. You just caused three of our brothers to disappear behind that wall, and all you still seem to care about is getting that machine, whatever it is. Maybe it is time we start challenging your authority."
"I don't know who you are or what you're talking about or why you're addressing me as if you know me, but what makes you think you're any threat to me? My guards will have you taken and executed easily. I will get them."
Just then, the wall also began glowing with yellow lightning, and the lightning eventually came to form what looked like the back of a vortex. Everyone starred at it for about a minute, and then it closed.
On both sides of the wall, the two alternate Baldwins starred at the wall at the place where the vortex used to be, and ran their hands over it. Nothing happened. The portal that was once there was no gone. They both looked back and examined the background of the worlds that would become their new homes.
As he was still starring at the wall and trying to feel for a portal, the gang leader felt a dart hit him in the back, and soon fell over unconscious.
"What are we going to do with him?" asked one of the guards.
"I guess we'll have to turn him in to the council," answered another. "It sounds like he confessed to being responsible for everything that happened today. He must have gone crazy. It will be up to them what to do with him.
Master Baldwin turned away from the wall and toward the group of gang members, who with the distraction of the vortex now behind them, began walking towards him.
"So," one of the thugs was saying, "what was that you were saying about challenging your authority?"
The gang member pulled out a knife, as did many others, and they began charging toward Baldwin, who realized that he had no weapons on him because he had been relying on his guards.
Meanwhile in an alley in yet another alternate version of Los Angeles, another brick wall began glowing with yellow lightning. Then the lightning began to form into the shape of a vortex, and then turned from yellow to the familiar blue color. The four sliders were spat out and landed on the ground below.
After the vortex closed, Quinn got to his feet and began feeling at the brick wall. To his relief, there were no signs of any portal still open.
"Man," Rembrandt remarked, "we've supposedly got a 90 mile radius on that timer and we land in the same alley in front of the same brick wall three worlds in a row."
"Did we even leave those last two worlds?" asked Maggie. "What if we're still on one of them?"
"I don't see why we should be," Quinn answered. "The surroundings look different from either of them. And I think the reason we haven't left this alley the last three worlds is because of the interference from the lightning. We should land somewhere else on the next world."
"I sure hope so," Rembrandt added, "I couldn't be happier if I never saw this alley again in my life."
The other sliders nodded in agreement at that statement, and journeyed out to explore this version of Los Angeles.
"I just can't believe that last world," Wade said after they made it out of the alley and were walking down the street. "I wanted to believe that that world really was perfect. I guess if it was, that would mean I would know that it is possible, and it would give me hope that one day we could achieve that on our world after we get home."
Maggie gazed over at Wade. She didn't say 'I told you so,' but Wade could feel it in her eyes.
"I don't know if we'll ever find a perfect world," Quinn responded, "but remember that there are a potentially infinite number of parallel universes out there. We may never find perfection in the traditional sense of the word, but we'll find better worlds. Worlds that you can learn from, and take those lessons back home."
"Q-Ball's right," added Rembrandt. "One bad world isn't worth getting so hung up over. No reason to put an end to your quest to save the world, yours or anyone else's."
Wade smiled, and the group continued walking.
"Man, I could really use a hamburger right now," Rembrandt said, changing the subject. "They better be legal on this world."
"We're still completely out of money," Quinn added. "We'll need to get jobs here. Which we have time for, because it's more than a week before the next slide.
The group went exploring where they could find a place to eat and possibly a place for employment, when they were approached by a man, and his identity completely shocked them: it was Baldwin.
"Hello," Baldwin said.
"What are you doing here?" Maggie reacted defensively. "How did you follow us here? Which one are you anyway?"
"I just wanted to share this with you," Baldwin said, and he pulled out several copies of what appeared to be the Watchtower. "Did I come at a bad time? I guarantee you, this will change your life for the better. It did mine."
Everyone laughed, except for the alternate Baldwin, who was not in on the joke.
This story is based on one of my earliest ideas for Sliders fan fiction. In fact, it started out not even as Sliders, but an original science fiction series I was writing in my head that also involved parallel universes. But I eventually scrapped the entire parallel universe part of this series and attempted to salvage as many of the ideas from it as I could as Sliders fan fiction. The alternate history of Future World involving the Greeks from Starting From Scratch was one of those ideas. This was based on an entire story I had involving the possibility of a doorway between worlds remaining open, and because it was one of my favorite ideas it seemed a natural choice for the second episode.
The original story this was based on involved only one person, so the story needed a little tweaking to get it to work with four. I do admit that it's a little convenient that Remmy and Maggie are able to just disappear after they discover the portal and don't reappear until the story needs them again. But splitting the group up did allow for some extra Quinn and Wade interaction, which I felt was missing from the first episode.
This story also gave me a chance to deal with other loose ends, such as whether the timer's ability to track wormholes will be restored. I don't want this to happen until later in the season, so the damage that the timer took in this story damaged the wormhole tracking ability further and it will take longer to fix. The relationship between Wade and Maggie is another. We see that they're not at the level of the infamous season 3 catfights (rrrrrreOWWWW!) but that there's still hostility between them. This will be dealt with more in the next story. Stay tuned!
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