by Tyler Russ
It was a sunny day in Los Angeles. Many people were walking down the streets of L.A. and they appeared to be having a good time. Four people, however - Quinn Mallory, Wade Welles, Rembrandt Brown and Maggie Beckett - ran quickly down the streets of Los Angeles, attempting to outrun their pursuers and asking themselves once again why they had to get into danger this close before the slide once again.
"Did you have to hit him?" Wade asked Maggie, hostilely.
"What else was I supposed to do?" Maggie shot back, equally hostilely.
"You could have found a way to escape without resorting to violence."
"What other options were there? Those men would have raped us, and we couldn't have turned to the police."
"How was I supposed to know it's illegal on this world for a woman to turn down a man's advances? You didn't know either when you hit that creep."
"Well, if we had turned to the police then we would have simply been arrested and turned over to those guys, so I think I just saved us."
"Maggie has a point…" Quinn said, cutting in.
"Why do you always have to take her side?" Wade interrupted.
"But she does have a point," Quinn continued. "You've always reacted similarly on worlds where women are oppressed. How would you have reacted?
"I think this world is absolutely disgusting," Wade replied, "but we've only been here for a day. We don't have time to try to change it or anything."
"So what you're saying," Maggie cut in, "is that we should have just let those men have their way with us? Maybe then they could share us with their friends when they're done. Is that what you would have preferred?"
"I already said I find this world's customs disgusting," Wade responded, very angry at that last comment from Maggie. "But given the limited amount of time we had to spend here, it would have been best to just lay low for a day, and then slide on and leave this world behind us forever."
"Well," said Rembrandt, finally breaking his silence, "we might get a chance to do that right now. We slide in about 30 seconds, so I suggest we just put aside this arguing until the next world. In fact, let's just forget about it altogether on the next world and just start over. Every new world is a chance to start fresh, right?" Rembrandt sighed, frustrated at witnessing another argument that he did not want to get in the middle of once again.
Just then, two men followed by several police officers caught up to where the sliders were standing.
"That's them," said the man with a black eye pointing at the sliders. "Those two girls turned us down, and then one of them hit me."
"She looks like a difficult one," said the police officer motioning towards Maggie.
"You have no idea," added Wade.
"But we can deal with that," the head police officer said to his men. "Take them. Arrest the men, they're clearly accomplices. As for the women, you know what to do with them. Hey, maybe you can let us have them when you're done with them."
"I think that's our cue to get out of here," Rembrandt said as he pulled out the time and activated it, creating a swirling blue vortex in front of them.
"You men are disgusting," Wade yelled at the men. "I wish I could do more to stop you, but I'll have to remain satisfied that you can't reach me where I'm going."
Wade ran into the vortex, followed quickly by Rembrandt and Quinn.
As the men were dazed by the vortex, Maggie took the opportunity to deck the other man who had previously confronted her and Wade. Jarred back into reality, the police officers drew their guns, but Maggie was inside the vortex, which then closed before they could do anything, leaving several police officers with guns drawn at nothing.
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?
The swirling blue portal opened a few feet off the ground in Golden Gate Park, depositing Wade first, then Rembrandt and Quinn, and finally Maggie.
Wade was on her feet as the rest of the group began getting up and dusting themselves off.
"Let's just agree to never speak of that last world again. Ever." The rest of the sliders nodded in agreement as they got to their feet.
"So, how long are we on this world for?" Quinn asked, trying to change the subject.
"Almost a week, or 6 and a half days to be precise," Wade answered.
"So, it looks like we're in San Francisco again," Quinn stated the obvious, trying to keep the topic changed from the last world. The Golden Gate Bridge was clearly in the background behind them. "We've slid into San Francisco many times since Logan St. Clair first messed with our timer a year ago, but I don't think we've landed directly in Golden Gate Park for a while."
"Did you used to land here a lot?" Maggie asked.
"It was the first place we all landed together after we first had to open the portal early after our first slide," Quinn answered. "That is, Wade, Remmy, Professor Arturo and I. We also used to try and slide from here, after the Professor hypothesized that because this is where we first landed, sliding from here would increase our chances of making it home. But of course, it never worked."
Maggie listened with interest. She was feeling increasingly alienated from the rest of the group, and was becoming interested in hearing about their early adventures, hoping to become more connected.
"Maybe since we're here we could try sliding out from here again," said Wade. "For old times' sake. And you never know - maybe it'll finally work, and our next slide will be home."
"But what about me?" Maggie asked. "I can't breathe on your world, remember?"
"It'll be better for us to find Logan again and use her timer to get back home," Quinn said trying to reassure Maggie. "It wouldn't get us home any faster anyway, it never worked all those other times."
The sliders walked out of the park and onto the streets on San Francisco, taking in their surroundings and trying to get a feel for the city.
"I wonder if we could be home again," Wade wondered aloud. "Our home, I mean," Wade amended after she turned her eyes to Maggie.
"How likely is it really that you would really be home again so quickly?" Maggie responded.
"I'm just trying to be optimistic," Wade shot back.
"I wish it were too, but I don't think this is home," Rembrandt cut in. He pointed up at a billboard advertising New Coke. "That didn't last too long back home."
"I don't think these buildings quite match the San Francisco of our world either," Quinn added. "Or at least San Francisco as I remember it. It's been a while since I've actually had the chance to explore downtown San Francisco on our world. But I don't remember this being here at all," he said pointing to a building with a sign reading San Francisco Memory Clinic.
"What is that, some kind of place for Alzheimer's patients or accident victims to recover lost memories?" Wade asked.
"I don't know, but the technology in there looks advanced beyond anything we have on our world. I think I need to check it out." Before anyone could stop him, Quinn entered the building. Realizing they couldn't stop him, the rest of the group followed Quinn into the clinic.
"Hello, welcome to the San Francisco Memory Clinic," the woman behind the front desk said cheerfully as Quinn entered the clinic. "Do you have any memories you'd like erased or altered?"
"You erase memories?" Wade asked.
"Well of course, we specialize in erasing and altering memories. That's the whole reason this clinic is here."
"How do you do that?" Quinn asked.
"Where have you been?" the woman replied. "This technology has been well known for years."
"Does that chair have anything to do with it?" Quinn asked pointing at a chair sitting in the corner of the room. It looked something like a dentist's chair, but with electrodes around the neck and some kind of a metallic halved dome at the top that presumably went over the patient's head.
"Yes, that's where the memory erasing is performed, although that one is just for show. The real work is done in the offices behind this desk."
"So wait, you people really erase memories here?" Rembrandt asked.
"Yes, that's what I've been saying," the woman replied, getting frustrated.
"Who would want to have their memories erased?" Rembrandt added. "That's just crazy."
"Well many people who have experienced painful or traumatic events believe that the memories of those events can make it difficult for them to move on. Erasing their memories can allow them to put that part of their lives behind them and move on. This applies to crime victims, accident victims, those who have been abused, or just anyone who had a part of their lives that they would like to forget."
"You also said that you alter memories," Quinn added. "How is that possible? Can you actually create new memories?"
"Listen," the woman replied, becoming frustrated again. "I've answered all the standard questions. If you have more questions, and from all the questions you've asked me already you're obviously interested, why don't you pick up some of our brochures, and come back when you understand the process a little better."
The woman motioned at the brochures sitting on the desk in front of her. Quinn flipped through them and picked several up, smiled at the woman one last time, and walked for the door. The rest of the group followed.
The quartet exited the clinic, with Quinn holding several brochures in his hand.
"Why did you take those?" asked Rembrandt. "You actually considering going through with that procedure?"
"Of course not," answered Quinn. "I'm just interested in the science."
"If you ask me, this is all just crazy," Rembrandt replied. "What a crazy world."
"So," Maggie chimed in, "I guess we should start looking for a place to stay now. The Royal Chancellor?"
"I don't know if they have that here," Quinn responded. "On most worlds that's an L.A. chain."
"We used to stay in the Dominion back when we landed exclusively in San Francisco," Wade added. "Before you joined the group. I guess we'll have to see if we can find it here."
Quinn hailed for a cab, and one soon stopped for them.
"Hello," said the cabdriver over a thick Russian accent. "Where am I taking you today?"
Everyone laughed, accept for Maggie who was not in on the joke.
"The Dominion Hotel," Quinn responded after he stopped laughing.
"Lovely hotel, I'm sure you will enjoy your stay. Hop in."
The quartet entered the cab.
"So, where are you coming here from?" Pavel the cabdriver asked.
"Los Angeles," Quinn answered. Technically that was true, although he failed to mention that they came here from an alternate Los Angeles.
"Fun place to visit," Pavel responded, "though I wouldn't want to live there. Much happier in San Francisco." He looked back and noticed the brochures Quinn was holding. "I see you just visited the Memory Clinic."
"Just checking it out," Quinn replied.
"They do a great job there. Erased the memories of that accident I was in. At least I think it was an accident, that's when my insurance rates went up. But that's why I had the procedure, to not remember."
After hearing that everyone was nervous for the rest of the cab ride, but thankfully it was only a short time before they reached the Dominion.
The sliders sat around in their suite as the Dominion Hotel. Quinn was lying a bed reading through the brochures, while Rembrandt was sitting on a chair drinking a can of New Coke that he purchased from a vending machine in the lobby.
"I remember when they came out with this on our world," Rembrandt said looking up from his can. "I had a few cans of it while I was on tour. It's not really that bad."
"I thought that New Coke was such a colossal failure on our world," Wade remarked.
"Funny story," Rembrandt responded. "It was only after the suits as Coca-Cola announced that they would be discontinuing the original flavor of Coke when the outrage started. And once New Coke was off the shelves and Coke Classic was back, sales went through the roof, which leads many to believe that this was all just a clever marketing scheme. I guess it's no surprise why New Coke is still around on this world, considering that people here throw away their old memories like last week's garbage."
"This is all quite fascinating," Quinn said looking up from his brochure. "It seems that this all started as an attempt to cure Alzheimer's disease. Scientists figured out how to map where specific memories are stored on the brain, and from there this technology took off. Using a combination of drugs and hypnosis they're able to call up the specific memory that the patient doesn't want to remember, and then they can find where on the brain it is stored and erase it."
"You mentioned that the can also alter memories back at the clinic," Wade added. "How is that possible?"
"That's actually the simplest part," Quinn answered. "There's something that was labeled False Memory Syndrome on our world. This is what led to stories of ritual abuse as the hands of satanic cults that don't actually exist."
"Oh, they exist," Rembrandt said, cutting in. "My brother's friend's daughter was almost a victim of one, but she managed to escape unharmed."
"Anyway," Quinn continued, "when you're under hypnosis you can be led to believe in many things that never really happened, which you then interpret as real memories. This leads to claims of satanic abuse, alien abductions, past life experiences…"
"Past lives are real," Wade interrupted.
"Well I'm not saying that ALL of the stories are false," Quinn said trying to avoid an argument, "but you can be led to believe in false memories. Which is how this procedure works. The patient tells the doctor what they want to believe in place of the erased memory beforehand, and once they're under hypnosis the doctor plants it as a hypnotic suggestion. The patient's mind fills in the rest with what he or she imagines he or she would have preferred to happen."
"Well this is all well and interesting," said Rembrandt sarcastically, "but let's see if there's anything on TV." Rembrandt picked up the remote control and turned on the TV, then started flipping through the channels, until he came across a familiar face.
"Hi, I'm Ross J. Kelley," said the man in the TV.
"It's that lawyer again," Rembrandt said. Everyone gathered around the TV and started watching.
"Have you been injured in an accident? You can have the trauma erased from your memory, but what if you still need extra care? I'll get you the settlement that you deserve."
"Do you know this guy?" asked Maggie, breaking her silence.
"We've seen him before," Quinn answered, talking over a construction worker giving his testimony about how Kelley won him a generous settlement in the commercial.
"Watch," said Rembrandt enthusiastically, "he's going to deliver his trademark line, 'I'll fight for you.'" Rembrandt made a pointing gesture with his finger as he delivered that line.
But the next face to appear on the screen, with not Kelley again, but another familiar face: Steven Jensen.
"I was injured in what I've been told was a skiing accident," said the alternate Steven. "Memory erasure took away the mental trauma, but I still found myself needing extra help."
Then an alternate of Maggie came onto the screen, and she appeared to be pregnant. "Ross J. Kelley won us the money I needed for my husband's care," alt-Maggie testified, "and allowed us to continue on and start a family."
As the commercial ended with Kelley pointing at the screen and delivering his trademark line, everybody else in the room was looking at Maggie.
"What?" Maggie asked as everybody was looking at her. "I know that there are other doubles of Steven out there, and I know that some of them are also married to doubles of me."
No one knew what to say to Maggie.
"Well if you're all just going to sit around the hotel room all day, I guess I'll go explore this world on my own." Maggie got up and left the room. The others could tell that she was experiencing emotions that she did not wish to share with the rest of them at this time.
A day had passed. Rembrandt was sitting in the suite at the Dominion, when Quinn and Wade walked through the door.
"What were you two off doing?" Rembrandt asked.
"Just exploring this world a little more," Quinn responded.
"We just saw the best movie ever," Wade added. "'Hindenburg', starring Johnny Depp and Nicole Kidman as two star crossed lovers aboard the doomed blimp. I think it was directed by that guy who did 'The Terminator' on our world."
"Doesn't sound like my kind of movie," Rembrandt responded.
"Come on, tell him what a great movie it was, Quinn."
"Well I didn't particularly care to see a three hour love story in which I already know the ending, but the special effects were pretty good."
Wade elbowed Quinn in the side, and then smiled.
"Have you seen Maggie lately?" Quinn asked Rembrandt, changing the subject.
"Not since the last time you saw her," Rembrandt answered. "I think she got back late last night, and then left early again this morning. I wonder where she is."
"If she wants to run off and do her own thing, I say we just let her," Wade responded. "We should take the time to enjoy not having her around."
"You don't always have to be so hard on her," Quinn said to Wade.
"And you don't always have to take her side," Wade responded defensively. "And I don't think I am being too hard on her. At least not based on how hard she is on me, or the rest of us."
"We're all that she has…"
"If that's true," Wade interrupted Quinn, "that's all the more reason for her to treat us better. And it's not like she doesn't have anywhere else to go. We have the coordinates to her world and Rickman is dead, yet she still chose to keep sliding with us."
"I don't think she thinks of that world as her world. All she has there are bad memories. She'd rather help us find Logan and get the timer that has the coordinates to that futuristic world so that she can help her people find a better home, and be reunited with the double of her late husband that she met. Can't you admit that she's changed since then?"
"Yes she has, I'll admit that. I noticed that she had a change in personality after Rickman died and she met the double of her husband, but it's not enough. But it's been a month now since we got home but were forced to keep sliding thanks to Logan, and we still manage to get into a fight every few worlds. And it doesn't help that you always have to take her side."
"I don't always take her side, I just try to defend her when I think she deserves it."
"Maggie is quite capable of taking care of herself, in case you haven't noticed. Yet you seem to care more about trying to take care of her than to get us home."
"Is that about what I said in Golden Gate Park yesterday about finding Logan instead of finding home? I said that it would be better to find Logan because it's extremely unlikely for us to randomly land on Earth Prime again, and it would be easier to find the person who has the coordinates to our world instead. And yes, I do care about Maggie too, and instead of landing on a world where she can't breathe while she is still with us I think it would be better she found what she was looking for before we get back home. Considering that of our goals both involve finding coordinates that Logan has with her, I don't see why we can't all work to accomplish our goals together."
Before Wade could say anything in response, Rembrandt, who was tired of watching all of this fighting going on stood up and spoke. "Excuse me, I think I'll go explore this world some more on my own. I'll keep a lookout for Maggie while I'm out, and if I see her I'll tell her we've been looking for her."
Maggie sat alone in a booth at the Lamplighter bar. She was holding a small tape recorder that she had recently purchased in her hand. Sitting on the table in front of her was one of Quinn's pamphlets from the Memory Clinic.
"The Steven you know now is not the original Steven you were married to," she said into the microphone. "Your original Steven was a double of his from your original world. He was killed by Col. Rickman after he found out the truth. Even though you will be happy with your new life with the new Steven, I thought it was important that you - that I - should know the truth."
Maggie pressed the stop button on the tape recorder, and pulled out the tape. She then sealed it into an envelope labeled 'to be opened after you complete your mission' which she placed into her pocket. Then she walked out of the Lamplighter, and hailed a cab.
"It is you again," said Pavel the cabdriver over his Russian accent. "How are you enjoying your stay at the Dominion?"
"It's just lovely," Maggie responded, and smiled.
"Where can I be taking you today?" Pavel asked.
"To the Memory Clinic."
"Ahh, so you decided to use their services. They do a good job. At least I think they do. I don't quite remember. But then, I guess that means they do a good job."
Maggie smiled again, and got into the cab.
Maggie entered the San Francisco Memory Clinic and approached the front desk.
"You again," said the woman behind the desk, who was the same women who the group had annoyed with all their questions the previous day. "Are your friends with you?"
"It's just me this time," Maggie replied, "And I actually called ahead. I have an appointment to see Dr. Rorke. I've decided to have the procedure."
The woman smiled at Maggie. "Well why didn't you say so? I'm Nurse Owens. I'll take you to see the doctor right now." Nurse Owens started walking into one of the offices behind the desk and motioned for Maggie to follow, which she did.
"Hi, you must be Maggie," said the older, white haired doctor, shaking Maggie's hand. "I'm Dr. Rorke. Please sit down."
Maggie sat down, and Dr. Rorke and Nurse Owens stood in front of her.
"So what memories would you like to have erased?" the doctor asked.
"Well this gets complicated, but it started when my husband died."
"Oh you poor thing," Nurse Owens consoled Maggie, "that's a very hard thing for a woman to go through. So how much do you want erased? Do you want your entire relationship with him to be erased so you can start over, or would you like just his death erased and to believe that he left you or that you separated?"
"Well this is where it gets complicated. I want only his death and the events leading up to it to be erased. I've recently met someone new, but we've been separated for the time being. I would like to believe that this new man is the same man as my late husband and that we are simply separated, but will one day be reunited."
Dr. Rorke looked at Maggie with a puzzled expression on his face. "Well that's going to be more difficult. But it is possible. The mind does have the ability to replace the image of someone's face from memories with someone else, so it is possible to alter your memories of your late husband so that you believe that he is this new man."
"Well that's going to be the easy part. This new man looks just like my late husband. You could say that he's like his twin."
Dr. Rorke looked even more puzzled at Maggie's latest explanation, and Maggie could tell her story sounded fishy. Yet the doctor chose to go along with it.
"Okay, I'll see what we can do," Dr. Rorke said to Maggie. "Nurse Owens will lead you to the room where the procedure is done. We'll put you under and begin the memory erasure. Then we can give you the hypnotic suggestion that will begin the process of altering your remaining memories.
Maggie was sitting back in a chair just like the one that had been seen on display in the front office. The halved dome was on top of her head, and electrodes were running along her head and neck. She had been given the appropriate drugs and was in the process of being placed under hypnosis by Dr. Rorke, while Nurse Owens was monitoring the process.
"Now Maggie, I need you to recall your worst memory, where you would like the memory erasure to begin," Dr. Rorke said over the drugged and hypnotized Maggie.
Maggie eventually spoke out from her hypnotized and drugged state.
"Steven and I had just parted ways, vowing to see each other again either at the end of this world or the beginning of the next. It was hard to believe that the world was really ending. But as long as I had Steven on my new world, I knew we could make it work. It was that thought that sustained me, that allowed me to lead the others who would be making the trip to the new world through the vortex, and to witness the plight of those who were not making the trip and would be left behind as the world disintegrated. But I held through it all, and as all the teams made it through the vortex it appeared that the mission has been a success. We would be able to start anew on a new world. Then Col. Rickman, the man I trusted more than anyone else in the world, including my husband, delivered the news I thought I'd never hear. Steven has been killed. Militarily, I knew I had a mission to complete and had to slide to the next world and help my people rebuild, but personally I had no idea what to do next. Being the good soldier that I am I knew I had to go to the new world, but I knew there was no longer anything waiting for me there. As I continued on the new world, I found myself trusting Col. Rickman less, but I didn't know why. He just delivered the news; he had nothing to do with Steven's death, did he? I finally got my answer when Quinn and the others appeared. Col. Rickman, my commanding officer who I trusted more than my husband, who I had even once made the greatest mistake of my life by cheating on my husband with, had murdered him."
"Are you hearing what she's saying?" Dr. Rorke asked as Maggie continued recanting the events of that fateful day while under hypnosis.
"Of course I am," Nurse Betty answered. "Do you know what this means?"
"Of course I do. She's insane."
"Poor thing. It must have been the trauma of losing a husband that sent her over the edge and caused her to create this whole alternate reality in her head.
"Well whatever the reason, I'm sure you know what we have to do now."
Another night had passed and morning had come, and Maggie still had not returned. The rest of the sliders, including Wade were now getting worried about her. They decided to try and find her, with Quinn and Rembrandt going out searching while Wade stayed at the Dominion in case she returned.
Quinn and Rembrandt entered the Lamplighter to ask around there, and sat in front of the bar. While they waited for the bartender, they began talking.
"Do you think we're falling apart?" Rembrandt asked.
"What do you mean?" Quinn asked in response.
"I mean, look at us. We lost the Professor, we finally made it home only to be forced to keep sliding again, and now everyone's fighting all the time. Things seemed better between Wade and Maggie when we first started sliding again, but now they seem almost as bad as before. You're always trying to play the mediator, and I'm always being left out. No one is asking me how I feel about all of this."
Before Quinn could respond, the bartender approached. Quinn and Rembrandt both ordered a beer, and hoped that he could give them some information.
"Excuse me," Quinn asked the bartender, "have you seen a particular woman in here recently? She's in good shape and well built with blondish brown hair and brown eyes."
"There was a woman fitting that description here yesterday. I usually don't remember every woman who comes in her, but she stuck out because she was sitting alone talking into a tape recorder the entire time. Probably could have gotten any guy in here, but she didn't seem interested. She seemed pretty depressed actually."
"Do you know where she went?"
"After she left the bar she got into a cab. No idea where she went from there."
"Well, thanks for your help."
Quinn and Rembrandt finished their beers, paid the bartender and left. They stood at the curb and waited for a cab.
"Remmy, about what you said before," Quinn started saying, "I'm sorry if I haven't seemed concerned about what you think. I guess I've just been so preoccupied lately."
"Well we've all got stuff on our minds, and it wouldn't hurt you to ask how we're feeling every once and a while."
"Well Remmy, how have you been feeling lately?"
"Frustrated that our group hasn't been getting along the way we once did. Concerned about how much longer we can continue this way, and whether we can continue to escape from all the conflicts we inevitably face, because it's always been teamwork that got us through. But most importantly, I just wanna get home."
A cab finally pulled up to the curb - this one not driven by Pavel - and Quinn and Rembrandt got in to explore more of San Francisco. They got off around Golden Gate Park where they first entered this world to see if Maggie went back there. After exploring the park and looking in the various shops and restaurants in the area, Quinn finally thought he saw someone fitting Maggie's description come out off a cab.
"Maggie," Quinn yelled as he ran to her.
Maggie turned around at hearing her name, but registered no recognition. "Excuse me, do I know you?"
"It's me, Quinn. And this is Remmy." At her lack of reaction, he sarcastically finished: "We all slide together, along with Wade."
"I'm sorry, but I don't know either of you nor do I know a Wade, and what do you mean by slide?"
"Do you think it could be her double?" Rembrandt asked.
"From the commercial we saw the other day, her double appears to be pregnant."
"We don't know when that commercial was filmed. She could have had the baby by now."
"I was just getting a cab ride home," Maggie interrupted. "If you're looking for a lost friend you can come over and use my phone. I just moved here and I'm happy to show off my new house."
"Thank you, that would be nice," Quinn said. He followed Maggie back into the cab, and motioned for Rembrandt to do the same.
A short time later the cab pulled out to Maggie's house, which was located in what appeared to be an isolated neighborhood, with rows of houses all of which looked the same. Maggie paid the cabdriver and smiled at him, and walked into her house, motioning at Quinn and Rembrandt to follow.
"Nice place you got here," Rembrandt remarked as they entered the house.
"Thanks," Maggie replied. "Though I really can't take much credit for it. It's government housing and I was just assigned to it. It came already furnished and decorated like this, I haven't had time to add my personal touches to it yet. But then, I don't quite know what my personal touches are yet either."
"Where did you move here from?" Quinn asked.
"Probably from somewhere else in San Francisco, but I'm not sure exactly. The clinic told me they couldn't find all of my information, and it's probably best that I don't know everything about myself right now anyway."
"The clinic?" Quinn said with a hint of panic. "You mean the Memory Clinic?"
"Yes. I just underwent a procedure there for reasons that they've said they can't tell me right now. I'm sure that's all for the best. I don't remember much about myself, but I'm ready to start again in this new house while I'm recovering from whatever they're treating me for."
Quinn and Rembrandt looked at each other, and realized that they had found their Maggie, but wondering how she got to this point.
"Well thanks for your hospitality, girl," Rembrandt said, "but I think we just found what we were looking for. Can we please use your phone to call our other friend now?"
"Certainly!" Maggie pointed at the phone, which Quinn picked up and dialed the room number.
"Wade," Quinn spoke into the phone, "we found her. I need you to meet us at the Memory Clinic."
Quinn and Rembrandt waited outside the clinic, until they were joined by Wade.
"You said you found Maggie," Wade stated. "Where is she?"
"We found where she is," Quinn answered, "but she doesn't seem to remember us. And I'm guessing that the people in here have something to do with that."
Quinn entered the clinic, and Rembrandt and Wade soon followed. Nurse Owens was behind the front desk again.
"You guys again," Nurse Owens said after looking up at them and the recognition hit her. "I was sorry to hear what happened to your friend, but it's a good thing we were able to get to her on time."
"That's actually what we're here to talk about," Quinn responded. "We want to know exactly what you did to our friend, and why she no longer remembers us."
"Didn't you know? She came to us to have her memories of her husband's death erased."
"We knew about her husband's death, but not that she wanted the memories erased. She left without saying anything."
"Oh dear, she must have been keeping information from you. Well the shock of her husband's death has driven her insane. It appears that her husband represented her entire world to her, so much that after she died she invented a story about how her world was destroyed, and she's now traveling between worlds. She also came to believe that her husband is still alive on another world, and if she keeps traveling between these worlds she'll eventually find him again."
The rest of the group quickly realized what had happened.
"I see," Quinn responded. "Do you think I can talk to the doctor who performed this procedure on her?"
Nurse Owens called for Dr. Rorke, and a few moments later he stepped out of his office.
"Hello, what can I do for you?" Dr. Rorke asked.
Quinn immediately grabbed him by the neck and held him against the wall. "What did you do to Maggie?" Quinn demanded from him.
"Quinn!" Wade yelled in shock at Quinn's behavior.
"Let him go Q-ball," Rembrandt said calmly, "this is not the way to get information."
Reluctantly, Quinn let go of Dr. Rorke. "Now, if you can calmly explain what you want with me, I can try and help," Dr. Rorke said as he rubbed his neck.
"What did you do to our friend Maggie," Quinn repeated, this time more calm.
"You mean that woman who came in here claiming she came from a world that was destroyed? We did the same thing we do would to anyone who was clearly insane, erased enough of her memory so that she can recover."
"Why do you do that?" asked Wade.
"Where have you been? That's been the standard procedure for the insane for two years now. It's tragic that people who have been through painful experiences like she has wait so long to get their memories erased in the first place so that they reach this stage. I believe it that all people who go through something like that should be given immediate and mandatory memory erasure for their own good."
"That's just a load of BS," Rembrandt responded passionately. "I have my fair share of painful memories in my head. Sometimes it almost seems like the bad memories outweigh the good. But it's all our memories, the good and the bad that define who we are. And when we remember the bad situations, that just lets us know how good we have it when things are going better. You can't just throw away old memories because they're painful."
"But what about your friend Maggie?" Dr. Rorke responded. "She had a painful memory that clearly drove her insane."
Quinn wasn't sure how to explain their situation, but finally tried. "What if we told you that those memories of hers that made you think she was insane are actually true?"
"You mean to say that she actually is from a world that was destroyed and is traveling between worlds right now? Then I would believe you all to be insane as well."
Rembrandt decided to try his hand at convincing the skeptical doctor. "Have you seen that commercial for the lawyer Ross J. Kelley? You know, the one with the man who was injured in a skiing accident and his pregnant wife."
This registered some remembrance in Nurse Owens, who began typing at the computer at her desk and looking through records. "I have seen that commercial," Nurse Owens said while typing, "and I remember that man. Steven Jensen." She accessed Steven's file. "He was paralyzed in a skiing accident a year ago and we erased his memory. He is married to Margaret Jensen." She typed more at the computer. "Now I'm accessing her file from the local hospital. Here it is. Margaret Jensen, maiden name is Beckett. Her picture looks just like the woman we just treated, but it says here she's 8 months pregnant."
"Could she have had the baby already," Dr. Rorke asked, looking at the file.
"I don't think so, they keep these records up to date. And her husband is clearly alive. This can't be the same woman whose memory we just erased."
"Whether you believe in other worlds or not, can you accept that there may be more to Maggie's story than you know, and it was a mistake to erase her memory?" asked Quinn.
"Well I honestly don't know what to believe right now, but you have shown me that there are inconsistencies in the story she told us and she is probably hiding something, something that could be important. I'll tell you what. I'll call my superiors and ask them what to do. It is possible to restore erased memories, but it's very rarely done as most of the people who have the procedure are people who really want to forget. But in cases where the patient's erased memories might be important, such as crime victims whose testimony is needed against the perpetrators, it can be done."
Quinn, Rembrandt and Wade waited outside the clinic while Dr. Rorke spoke on the phone.
"I'm beginning to wonder if we should have Maggie's memories restored," Quinn said.
"Are you crazy?" asked Rembrandt. "Just a few minutes ago you were strangling a white haired old man to get her back, and now you're having doubts?"
"Talking to them made me think of everything that Maggie has been through. Maybe she's better off living here in a stable life without her old memories."
"What they did to Maggie isn't right," Rembrandt responded. "Living without your memories, believing in what other people decided is best for you, that's not living at all."
"I agree with Remmy," added Wade. "I may not have believed that Maggie should still be sliding with us, but she doesn't deserve this. If Maggie ever wants to just leave us and settle down on a new world she can do that whenever she wants to, but it should be her choice."
Quinn soaked in what his friends had just said, and decided that restoring Maggie's memories was the right thing to do.
Dr. Rorke talked on the phone with people from the AMEA (American Memory Erasure Association), the governing body of all memory erasers and explained Maggie's bizarre case. While they did not know what to make of her case, they agreed that it was questionable the way she so closely resembled somebody else and had three friends who vouched for her, so they agreed that Maggie's memory should be restored so she could be questioned. Dr. Rorke called Maggie at the new house she had been set up in, and scheduled an appointment.
Because she lived so close to the clinic it didn't take Maggie that long to reach them, and soon enough she arrived, and was lying unconscious in the same chair hooked up to the same machine as she was a day ago. Dr. Rorke and Nurse Owens were tending to her, while Quinn, Wade and Rembrandt were standing in front of her.
"Alright, we've given her drugs that encourage memory stimulation," Dr. Rorke addressed the group, "but in order to fully recover her you need to coax the memories that were erased back. Then we can find where on her brain those memories are hidden and fully restore them."
The group stood around and stared at Maggie for what seemed like forever, until she finally began to open her eyes.
"Welcome back, Maggie," Quinn spoke to her.
"I'll leave you guys alone for now," Dr. Rorke said. "Nurse Owens and I will monitor Miss Beckett's signs from outside this room."
"Do I know you?" Maggie asked, feeling groggy and not sure where she was or how she got there.
"I'm Quinn," he answered. "And this is Wade and Remmy. We're your friends."
"Are you sure about that? How long have I known you for? How did we meet?"
"We come from a parallel universe. I invented a device capable of traveling between different universes." Quinn pulled out the timer and waved it in front of her. While this was not the same timer that he invented, he didn't feel that that fact was important right now.
"That sounds crazy," Maggie responded.
"That's what I thought too when I was sucked through a vortex for the first time," Rembrandt took over. "But it's very real. We've all been sliding through parallel worlds together for three years, and you just joined our group a few months ago."
"How did that happen?" Maggie asked. She still found this story strange, but something in it was striking a chord with her.
"We landed on your world," Quinn continued, "and soon learned that it was threatened with destruction by pulsars. I worked with your husband, who was also a scientist, to develop a method to use sliding to take people to a new world before the pulsars hit."
"My husband?" Those words really struck something in Maggie. "I'm married?"
"You were," Wade took over. "Your husband was shot by a madman, who also killed the fourth member of our group. You joined our group to help track him down. He is now dead."
"Why should I believe you about any of this?" This news left Maggie distraught. Her memories were starting to come back.
"You don't have to believe us, you can listen to yourself."
Wade took out a small tape player and pressed play, and Maggie's voice started coming out of it.
"Hello, Maggie. I am making this tape for you for you to listen after you find Steven again and settle down. By this time your memories will have been altered. This was recorded before you had the procedure. On the world where you were born, you were a Captain in the military, where you served under Colonel Rickman. You were married to Dr. Steven Jensen. Your world was destroyed by pulsars and you escaped, but Steven didn't make it. The Steven you know now is not the original Steven you were married to. Your original Steven was a double of his from your original world. He was killed by Colonel Rickman after he found out the truth. Even though you will be happy with your new life with the new Steven, I thought it was important that you - that I - should know the truth."
Maggie just stared at the group, unsure of what to say next. Hearing all of this brought so many memories flooding back that she wasn't sure what to think.
"Why are you making me remember this?" Maggie asked. "Maybe I was supposed to forget this for a reason."
Before anyone could answer, Dr. Rorke entered the room and injected Maggie with another needle.
"What did you do that for?" asked Rembrandt. "I thought we were making real progress."
"You were," Dr. Rorke responded. "You managed to invoke enough memories in her so that we can tell where the memories we erased are being stored now, which will allow us to finish the reversal of the procedure. When she wakes up she'll be able to remember most of what she erased, though it'll be hazy for another few days. You'll still have to help her to make sure she remembers everything, but she should be fine."
Maggie awoke the next morning, with full memories of who she and her companions were and how she got there, although she was still a little fuzzy on some of the facts. After Dr. Rorke could tell that her memories were returning, he allowed her to return with the group to their suite at the Dominion, although he wanted to check up on her to make sure she was remembering everything properly. He also required that she agree to talk to a psychiatrist to find out why she had memories of living on a parallel universe, while other authorities wanted to find out why she bore such a striking resemblance to someone else. Quinn has scheduled her first appointment for after the time when they were scheduled to slide. The mystery of the girl who thought she was from a parallel universe would just have to remain a mystery.
The gang walked through Golden Gate Park, as they prepared for the slide.
"Are you sure you want to slide out from here?" Quinn asked Maggie.
"Sure," Maggie responded, "why not? I doubt it'll increase the chances that you'll land on your home world anyway. I see it as a symbolic thing."
"You know you can talk to us about any issue you might have."
"You've been saying that to me for the last several days. I get the message."
"You really gave us a scare when you ran off. What if we hadn't found you, or if there was no way to restore your memories?"
"Give the girl a break," Rembrandt cut in. "Nothing wrong with running off and having your own little side adventure. I used to do that all the time." The rest of the group smiled at this.
"But Q-Ball is right, girl," Rembrandt continued. "You can always come to us with anything. We're a team, and like it or not you're now part of it."
"I guess it wouldn't kill me to be more of a team player," Maggie said.
"No, it wouldn't," Wade added. Then she smiled at Maggie, who smiled back.
"Remember," Wade continued, "at the same time you lost your husband we lost a good friend too. We all have memories we'd like to forget. But we've always had each other. That's what's gotten us through everything, and allowed us to continue with the hope that one day we'll make it home. I think you'll find it much easier if you open up."
"Thanks," Maggie responded. "I'll try to remember that."
"Would you like to do the honors?" Quinn asked as he removed the timer from his coat.
"I'd be honored," Maggie replied, as she took the timer. She activated the device, and watched as blue light shot out of it, forming into a large blue vortex in the middle of Golden Gate Park. One by one they entered the vortex, sliding out as a team.
I'd like to start out by saying that this story was not meant to be an homage to the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." I came up with this story back in 1999, although I never shared the idea so I can't prove it. The fact that both stories feature pretty much the same technology (a procedure that can selectively alter memories) is just a coincidence, but I like to feel that the movie gives my story more legitimacy now that I know I'm not the only person to come up with this idea.
Anyway, my intention with this story was to give Maggie the type of character development that she was never given during season 3. Even when she did have a moment of character development, she was always back to her old self by the start of the next episode. I actually tried to give Maggie a chance during season 3 when everyone else hated her from the start, but the way she was always written made it so hard to defend her. During the real season 4 they made her much more likeable (in my opinion anyway) but we never got to see the character development that led to this. I can only hope that I succeeded in the goal of molding third season Maggie into someone who can develop into a likeable character.
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