"We're back from commercial," his producer announced through the earpiece.
"Welcome back," said the bespectacled host of 'Barry King Live'. "Please join me in welcoming our first guest, live via satellite, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, Professor Stephen Hawking."
"Thank you, Barry," said Hawking, as his visage popped up on the studio monitors. Stephen Hawking was more than just a professor of mathematics; he was the
"And with me in studio, visiting us from San Francisco, the
And then there was this other guy.
"Wooooaaaah! It's great to be here, Bar," said Bennish, pushing stray hairs out of his face.
"You can remove your sunglasses in here, son," said King.
"Let's get right to it," said the host. "Professor Hawking, exactly three years ago four people disappeared off the face of the earth without a trace. Mr. Bennish here says they found a portal to another dimension. You say it's all a hoax. Why?"
"Every time I hear of Mallory's vortex, I want to reach for my gun."
"Dude, you say that about Schrödinger's cat, too!" interjected Bennish.
"Mr. Bennish, please, you'll get your turn," cautioned King.
"Riiiiiight, sorry," said Bennish, practically bouncing in his seat.
"Professor Hawking, please continue."
"The theory of multiple universes revolves around calculating conditional probabilities," said Hawking. "And even under the most extreme conditions, it is highly improbable a wormhole to another dimension was opened in a university student's garage."
"It was in his basement!" said Bennish.
"Whatever," dismissed Hawking.
"So, Professor Hawking, you're saying there is no way Quinn Mallory could have opened a wormhole," King prodded.
"The only thing that could hold such a vortex together would be a form of exotic matter capable of acting as a sort of
"Oh yeah? Well what about the witness?" said Bennish. "Quinn's neighbor saw a man drive a Caddy through a hole and vanish off the street..."
"Ah yes, the venerable Mrs. Randall. In addition to the vortex, she has also reported seeing
"Scoff all you want, brah, but you're just too blind to see the truth. I've seen the equipment and watched the tapes. I'm willing to stake my career on it."
"Such a high roller," needled Hawking.
"You just wait and see," insisted Bennish, pointing at the studio camera. "They're out there, man...they're still out there..."
Somewhere out there, four weary travelers had just completed their one hundred and fortieth slide. A few had been long, but most had been short-just enough time to grab a postcard and it was off to another place. By now others would have lost count, but not Quinn Mallory.
He loved these moments inside the tunnel. The rush of whooshing through the unknown, never knowing what new and exciting world would open up before him on the other side. But the adventure came at a steep price. He was lost out here. That he could accept; his sliding companions were another story. What was supposed to have been a little spin had turned into a runaway ride, and he was more or less responsible. He knew it was his duty to get them home.
When they'd first begun, Quinn had a realistic hope that home was just a tunnel or two away. Time and a deeper understanding of what he'd gotten them all into had dulled that optimism. Still, there was always a slight swell of faith when they reached the end of the vortex's tunnel that their journey was finally over. Quinn was pondering that thought when the slide gave way to the hard pavement.
"One hundred and forty one," said Quinn almost inaudibly as he tried to suck some wind back into his lungs.
"What did you say, Q-ball?" asked his companion. Quinn grabbed the extended hand of Rembrandt Brown and got to his feet. He didn't have time to answer before the next slider careened out of the vortex.
"Heads up!" she yelled. Quinn grabbed her before she scraped herself up on the tar below.
"Nice catch," said Wade Welles as Quinn deposited her on her feet.
"That's three, one to go," said Rembrandt.
"Look out below!" bellowed Maximillian Arturo as he flew out of the wormhole.
"Duck!" the other three yelled as they dropped to the ground. Quinn got a quick glimpse of his mentor as he sailed over top of them. The Professor's journey ended in the flatbed of a pick-up truck. Before he could even cry out in pain, the alarm went off.
"Confound that racket! What fool puts an alarm on a truck?" cried Arturo, as he began to climb out. "Especially one as filthy and rusted as this one."
"Maybe he's got valuables inside," suggested Rembrandt.
"I could write 'Steal Me' through the dirt caked on this window and there'd still be no takers," grumbled Arturo.
"Guys, we've got bigger problems," said Wade.
The swirling vortex had not gone unnoticed in the parking lot. A crowd of gawking shoppers had gathered around them. Quinn nudged Arturo. "You want to explain this to them?"
"I had the dubious honor of explaining our last public entrance on that world enraptured with tractor pulls. Your turn, Mr. Mallory."
The vortex closed. Without it to admire, the onlookers turned their attention to the four people who had come falling out of it. Before Quinn could begin his explanation, the crowd began to softly chant.
The chant grew louder. Soon the entire parking lot was yelling at the top of their lungs-men, women, children, even the elderly woman in the '91 Grand Marquis that was parked across two handicapped spots. They began stomping their feet and banging on anything they could find such as shopping carts, other vehicles, and the warm twelve packs of Miller High Life on special for $3.99.
Two nondescript men stared steadily at where the vortex had once been. "Hot damn!" one exclaimed. "Now we have the vortex!"
His friend put his hand to his head and saluted the four sliders, "God bless America!"
The four looked at each other uneasily among the noise of the crowd and the blaring sounds of hundreds of car alarms going off.
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 news of their arrival quickly made its way into the store. The manager declared an immediate special on champagne, and in a matter of minutes the parking lot of the Shop and Drop supermarket turned into a full-fledged tailgate party.
"Right here, my man," said Rembrandt as he was handed a bottle of beer. Rembrandt twisted off the cap and took a swig. "Yes, yes, it's high time we received a reception like this!"
"Usually people freak out when they catch us sliding in," said Wade. "These guys are reacting like we won the World Series."
The Professor let out a loud scream as a large bucket of Gatorade was poured over his head. The perpetrators yelled out "Whooooooo!" and slapped Arturo on the back.
"Maybe sliding is some kind of extreme sport on this earth," Rembrandt remarked casually. "I mean, who cares? As long as the party's going on, I say go with it. Hey, Q-ball, please tell me we're here longer than twenty minutes."
"Try 68 hours," Quinn replied, sneaking a peek at the timer. Quinn was often amazed that it still worked. He had designed it in less than a day, never imaging he'd be relying on it for his very survival. It had been fried, struck by lightning, disassembled countless times and dropped even more, yet it kept on ticking.
"What'cha got there?"
Quinn looked up to see a large, heavyset man leering over his shoulder. He was wearing stained blue jeans, a jean jacket, and a Sacramento Kings cap. In each hand, he had a bottle of the High Life.
"It's nothing," Quinn said, putting it away.
"Say no more, say no more," the man said with a wink. "Security and all. Man oh man, the Ruskies are going flip when they hear about this. They haven't been this red-faced since Chernobyl. U-S-A! U-S-A!"
"If you'll excuse us," said a dripping Arturo, pulling Quinn aside.
"Ruskies?" repeated Quinn, his eyes still on the celebrating Kings fan.
"Judging from the jingoism, I'd wager we've landed on a world where the Soviet Union is not quite an historical footnote," began Arturo. "The wise move would be to make a hasty retreat and learn more about this place before..."
Van after van screeched into the parking lot, their occupants jumping out of side doors before the vehicles even came to a stop.
"...the press arrives," finished Arturo.
"That's our cue to depart. Come on, guys," Quinn said. He grabbed Wade by the arm, jostling her plastic cup of champagne.
"Hey, watch it!"
"No time. Rembrandt, let's go!"
Rembrandt sighed and shook his head, downing his beer before following the other three through the crowd.
The press swarmed as the four tried to escape. Quinn could see them on the edges trying to gather from the crowd just who the newsmakers were. Looking back, his eyes locked on the guy in the Kings hat. He was talking to a woman with a microphone and his finger was pointed in their direction. They'd been made.
"They've spotted us," he said, picking up his pace. But it was too late. The stampede was on.
"Run!" shouted Arturo.
The four broke out of the pack of people, the press on their heels. As they ran, the reporters peeled off questions ranging from 'Why weren't the people informed of today's experiment?' to 'Is Elvis still alive on your world, and if so, how much does he weigh?'
Led by Arturo and Quinn, they headed down the parking aisle and toward the exit. However, it only led into a busy street. It would come down to dealing with the mob or darting into traffic, neither more preferable than the other.
"This is intolerable," huffed Arturo.
"I'm open to suggestions," shouted Quinn.
The suggestion presented itself in the form of a large black limo pulling out ahead and cutting off the exit to the row. A state flag flew from its antenna and the government plates were labeled by a single number "1". The press's interest was now split between the sliders and the limo as shouts of "Governor! Governor!" rang out.
The car stopped in front of the four and the back door opened. A young man in a suit and dark glasses emerged and motioned for them to step inside. Wade stopped just shy of the door. "What do you think?"
"Anywhere is better than here," proclaimed Arturo, shoving his way through to the car. The others followed suit.
"Whooo!" shouted Rembrandt once he was safely inside. "That was almost as bad as Memphis of '75. Hundreds of screaming fans wanting a piece of the Cryin' Man. They chased me three blocks before Artie rescued me."
The doors to the limo shut and the reporters clamored around, faces pressed against the tinted glass hoping for a glimpse of those inside.
"Driver, take us out of here," said a man with salt and pepper hair. As the car lurched into motion, he extended his hand to the four.
"Patrick Hofman, representing Governor Thad Sawyer," he said. Quinn shook his outreached hand, "Quinn Mallory."
"I'm delighted to meet you, Mr. Mallory. Heck! Delighted's not the word for it, more like..." he snapped his fingers.
"Ecstatic?" offered the young woman seated next to him.
"That's it! Ecstatic!" he said with a smile.
"How'd you know we were here?" asked Wade.
Hofman pointed to a small television installed in the limousine. On screen the limo was pulling away from the reporters outside. "We just followed the horde. They led us right to you," he said.
"Hey, I was just talking to that guy," said Quinn as the image flipped back to the man in the Sacramento Kings cap.
"Look, all I saw was this wormhole open up and these four people come flying out, just like in
"Did you hear that? This rube actually used the words 'parallel earth'," said Arturo to Quinn. Quinn nodded, his eyes glued to the television.
"They were definitely speaking English, so I figured 'All right! They're on our side!' In your face, Gorby! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!" he said, pumping his arm furiously.
The feed switched back to a studio, where an anchorman continued the story. "At least three dozen others claim to have witnessed an alleged Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge, but at present we lack any footage to confirm it. The Federal Interdimensional Agency had not announced any tests of the vortex prompting some to claim that this wormhole's origins are not of this earth. The four 'visitors', as it were, are this very minute being escorted away from the scene by representatives of the governor's office. As unbelievable as it sounds, the race for the vortex may be over...with America the victor."
Quinn shook his head in disbelief before turning back to the others. "Race for the vortex?" he repeated. "What does that mean?"
"I'll tell you what it means, son," said Hofman with a wide grin. "It means you four are...are..."
"Heroes?" suggested his aide.
"Exactly!" he said with a slap to his knee. "American heroes."
About a mile and a half away, the dome of the capitol building could be seen glittering in the setting sun as the limo arrived at its destination. After establishing that the four did not have to check in with their home dimension for approximately three days, Hofman offered up accommodations at the governor's guesthouse. As each slider stepped out of the car, they looked up at the large Victorian building that would be their temporary home. If its exterior were any indication of what lay beneath, they'd be sliding in style.
"Mr. Thompson here will take care of any and all of your needs," said Hofman from the limo. "It really is a shame Governor Sawyer couldn't have been here for this moment in person, but I suppose it's not like you could call ahead and give us the heads up."
"Just think of the long distance charges," said Wade.
"Ha! That's good! I should put you on the speechwriting team," Hofman laughed. "Anyhoo, the governor is down in Los Angeles doing a disaster relief tour, but he'll be back here in Sacramento by tomorrow. We'll send someone around tomorrow morning for the appointment."
With Mr. Thompson leading the way, the sliders filed into the guesthouse. The limo pulled away from the curb with just Hofman and his aide in back.
"This is big, Jenna. Big!" Hofman began. "Bigger than John Glenn! Bigger than Neil Armstrong! Bigger than a Lakers' lead over the Clippers at halftime!"
"That's pretty big, sir," responded his aide.
"And the timing is beautiful considering we're six weeks away from the election. This is just the kind of break we needed to turn the polls our way and stay on top. That lunatic from San Francisco still has an eight point lead on us, but if we can capitalize on this, we should be able to write our own ticket indefinitely." Hofman cracked his knuckles and kicked back in his seat. "Yes, I like the possibilities. This is very...very..."
"Yeah. That's it."
"This is not good," the Speaker of the Assembly said as the news reports continued to come in. He and a few other party members were gathered in his office, flipping through channels trying to glean any new tidbits on the vortex and the governor's plans. "Not good at all."
"Think this is one of Hofman's little publicity stunts, Mace?" one of his colleagues asked.
The speaker shook his head, an unshakable scowl chiseled onto his face. "If it is, this is his best one yet. We can't take the chance. Better to take the offensive."
Mace Moon was elected speaker in 1994 following a meteoric rise through the party ranks. The former retailer had a natural gift for raising campaign money, often boasting there was no candidate he couldn't sell. By being particularly generous to key supporters, he had maneuvered himself to the head of the state party and won the right to fight Thad Sawyer for the governorship of California. It had been his good fortune-although not his constituents'-that California's economy had taken a dive in the past year, not to mention a 7.2 earthquake that had ravaged the southern portion of the state. Despite the fact that most of these trends were beyond Governor Sawyer's control, Moon had managed to tar him with them to build a slim lead in the polls.
But all that was now threatened.
"Gentlemen, tonight we stand beside the precipice," he began gravely as he leaned over his desk. He had removed his suit coat and his tie hung loose between his suspenders.
"If we allow the governor to take credit for delivering the vortex to the people, not only will our opponents retain their hold on the Governor's Mansion, there's also a very good chance none of us will be here in a few months," Moon continued. There was audible hemming and hawing from the room at such a terrible prospect.
"We have to look at the big picture in November. If we can't find a way to use the vortex to our advantage, we must make it work against the governor," he solemnly proclaimed. "Get your offices working on this. I want every detail about the four visitors."
"What good will that do?"
"You know the old adage," Moon said, staring intently at the footage of the four sliders entering the limo. "If you're not with us, you're against us."
The limousine pulled up to the Capitol building at exactly ten of ten. Patrick Hofman watched the four occupants exit from the window of the governor's office. This was not the first governor's office he'd worked. He'd also masterminded victories in Texas, Illinois, and Wyoming. All told, he was working a sixteen year undefeated streak. He desperately did not want to see it snapped, especially to a man who referred to himself as 'the Moonatic.'
In addition to his aide Jenna, Hofman was joined in the governor's office by Admiral Joseph Thornton. The Admiral was a silver haired man in a white military uniform with black trim. His hair was short and his jaw was square-almost as if he had walked out of a war movie from the 1950s. Formerly he had played a major role in the strategic defense initiative, also known as "Star Wars." Unfortunately he was ultimately forced to step down from the project after the prototype went awry. Shoot down one civilian aircraft and the American people never let you forget it.
"What tests?" replied Hofman.
"Don't get smart with me, Patrick," snapped the Admiral. "Just because you went to school at Colby, you think you're so high and mighty."
"Relax, Admiral, you weren't kept in the dark. There weren't any tests being conducted," chided Hofman.
"Then where did those people come from?"
Hofman shrugged his shoulders, a slight grin on his face. "The FIA has nothing on them. I had Jenna start some research and she did turn up a Maximillian Arturo in San Francisco, a civilian professor whose whereabouts have been accounted for. Which means our visitors are just that. I guess you could call them...damn...what did we call them again?"
"Sliders?" suggested Jenna.
"Yes! Sliders," proclaimed Hofman. "Because they have the ability to slide from world to world. I like it. It has that friendly feel you just don't get from 'interdimensional alien.'"
The side door to the office opened and Governor Thad Sawyer entered. At just over 200 pounds he was a good-sized man, but he wasn't what you'd consider to be all that overweight. He had a tendency to relentlessly run his fingers through his hair when he was agitated. Judging by the odd angles his hair was sticking out at, the governor was not in a good mood.
"Good morning, Governor," said those assembled, but Sawyer was having none of it.
"Good morning, my ass," he said, settling down in his chair in a huff. "Who the hell planned yesterday's itinerary? You guys had me touring one disaster area after another...and those were just the campaign stops. THEN I reached the truly destroyed zones."
"Demographics suggested Compton should vote our way," suggested Jenna.
"Compton doesn't vote!"
Sawyer hit the intercom button on his desk, signaling his receptionist. "Scotch, Miss Charette. Make it a double." Sawyer looked up at his advisors and noticed Thornton. "What's he doing here?"
"Surely you can't expect to keep something as important as the ERP Bridge to yourself, Thad," Thornton answered. "This clearly falls under my concerns."
"The ERP Bridge?" Sawyer laughed. "Is this some kind of a joke?"
"No joke, Governor," said Hofman. "You're scheduled to meet with our visitors at ten. They're being escorted into the building right now."
"What? You're kidding me!" roared Sawyer. He looked at his aides waiting for the punch line, but none came. "You're not kidding me? Good God! And what exactly am I supposed to say to them? 'Greetings, travelers from another world?'"
"Just act natural," said Hofman, rubbing his hands.
Wearing new clothes provided by the taxpayers of California, the four sliders were ushered into a conference room a few doors down from the governor's office. In the center of the room was a large oval table with eight chairs surrounding it. On one edge of the table sat a VCR attached to an overhead device aimed at a large white screen.
"The governor will see you momentarily," the aide said. She closed the door behind her, leaving the four alone.
"Ok, here's how we do this," said Rembrandt, rubbing his hands together. "No matter what their first offer is, we refuse it."
"Rembrandt!" said Wade, shocked.
"What?" defended Rembrandt. "These are politicians, Wade. They sell out every day. If they're willing to give up millions in tax breaks for ten thousand dollar campaign contributions, just think what they'll cough up for sliding."
"Blackmailing your own government," deadpanned Arturo. "You are a true patriot."
"All I'm saying is that if you don't take advantage of them, they'll take advantage of you. Trust me, I was in the recording industry," said Rembrandt.
"We're not holding sliding for ransom," announced Quinn.
"Yeah, Rembrandt. I lost a double to the Soviets. If we can help, we should help," declared Wade. "This may not be our America, but it's still America."
"Not to diminish your sense of duty to flag and country in any way, but we must at least take a cautious approach to these talks. We've been fooled before by forces we believed to be benevolent," said Arturo. "And Mr. Brown does have a point. There are things they can do for us in exchange for what we bring to them. If this world is engaged in a fight with the Soviet Union for sliding, God only knows the untold millions poured into its research. They may have what we need to repair the timer once and for all."
"Are you saying we could get home?" asked Wade eagerly.
"Maybe. But it's still a long shot," cautioned Quinn, not wanting to getting anyone's hopes up. At least not yet. "And can we ease up on the trade talk? All we've got is a timer that opens a gate a little over two days from now. It's not like we can do a demonstration."
"In any event, as the elder statesman of our group, it seems proper that I take the lead in the negotiations," said Arturo.
"Why you? I'm the one with experience cutting deals," exclaimed Rembrandt.
"And what a stunning path of success you've cut for yourself," Arturo retorted.
"Aren't we forgetting that this is Quinn's invention?" asked Wade incredulously.
"Miss Welles, I am far better suited to the task regardless of..."
The opening of the door interrupted Arturo, and the governor strode in with his entourage. Sawyer had put on his political face and was ready to cajole and glad handle.
"Governor Thad Sawyer, allow me to introduce you to the head of this operation..." introduced Hofman.
Arturo stepped forward with his hand extended.
"...Mr. Quinn Mallory," finished Hofman. Arturo quickly put his hand behind his back and rocked in his place.
"It is an honor," said Sawyer, shaking Quinn's hand vigorously. "I am truly at a loss for words. It's not every day you meet people from another planet."
"Actually, it's the same planet, Governor. Just a different dimension," explained Quinn.
"And this is Admiral Joseph Thornton," said Hofman. Quinn stepped forward and extended his hand, but the Admiral refused it.
"You salute when a superior enters the room, I don't care what the hell dimension you come from," growled Thornton. Quinn quickly raised his right hand to his forehead, his friends doing the same as the Admiral's glare swept the room.
"You know, you don't look much like a military man," Thornton said as he sized up Quinn. "Matter of fact, none of you look like servicemen."
"I was in the Navy," volunteered Rembrandt. Arturo rolled his eyes and lit into him.
"For the last time, Mr. Brown, a three month tour with the USO does not make you a Navy man!" chastised the Professor.
"It counts! I don't see you volunteering for your country..."
"I marched though the infested swamps of Tunisia...!"
"Gentlemen, I wouldn't draft either of you to raid a Cuban cigar factory!" shouted Thornton, adding derisively, "Civilians."
Sawyer quickly changed the subject. "Well, Mr. Mallory, I can't tell you how much this means to the American people to know we won the vortex race. I suppose your team is in charge of keeping us ahead across the multiverse?"
"Kinda like that," Quinn said. Arturo grimaced.
"Excellent. I am happy to accept the vortex on behalf of a grateful nation," said Sawyer, reaching out his hand as if Quinn would just deposit a vortex in his palm.
"Well...it's not quite that simple," stammered Quinn. "You see, my team and I, we have to uh, you know, research this dimension to make sure you are worthy of the technology. You know, we have to make sure you're not communists in disguise."
"I assure you we are a 100% capitalistic society. We don't even have a welfare net! No handouts here," declared Sawyer, his staff nodding in agreement.
"That's really great but I need more than your word. Those communists are crafty...communists," spat out Quinn, failing to come up with a synonym.
"This should tell you all you need to know. Take a seat." Thornton inserted a tape into the VCR and took up position at its side, remote control in hand.
"Now I don't know what kind of a world you come from, but on this earth the vortex is no laughing matter. What I'm about to show you will explain why it is imperative the United States of America perfect the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge," said Thornton. He dimmed the lights and pushed play. On the screen in front of them, the following played:
The Final, Final Frontier
As the lead frame faded away, canned patriotic music blared over the speakers as the voice of Peter Graves began the narration. "Since the end of the Second World War, the United States of America and her allies have been engaged in a terrific fight with the Soviet Empire to decide the fate of nations. In this struggle, both sides have had their share of victories."
The screen flipped between stock footage of some of the great competitive moments of the latter half of the twentieth century, naming each as it appeared: the hydrogen bomb, Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, the moon landing of 1969, the U.S. victory over the Soviet Olympic hockey team.
"But all these accomplishments pale in comparison to the ultimate prize-the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge. Long forgotten among the accomplishments of the great scientist, Einstein's bridge is a wormhole connecting our universe to parallel worlds. These worlds are the final, final frontier of man's exploration."
An animated diagram appeared detailing the theoretical wormhole. "The difficulty has always been the tremendous amount of gravity required to keep such a portal open, for the same gravity that created the opening would crush anything or anyone that tried to cross the bridge. But all hope is not lost. Through the ingenuity of American industry, we will conquer the problem as we have conquered the atom, the moon, and the Native Americans.
"It is imperative that the peace loving and righteous nation of America be the first to traverse between dimensions. If the Red Russian menace were to triumph, universe after universe would fall to communism."
To illustrate the point, a cartoon hammer and sickle jumped into a spiral vortex. On the other side, it encountered a row of green and blue "earth" dominoes. The sickle toppled the first domino. As it fell, it let out an 'Eek!' in a text balloon. Its tumbling set off a procession of 'Ack!'s, 'Ergh!'s, and 'Confound You!'s from the dominoes behind it. As each "earth" fell, it turned red.
"But this is just the beginning of the Politburo's pernicious plan. For each dimension under communist control will spawn new dimensions also infected with the red plague," Graves announced as the dominoes divided into two, four, eight, "until the entire multiverse has fallen."
The dominoes multiplied until the entire screen went red and a cartoon devil, complete with pitchfork, laughed as he speared the United States flag and set it afire.
"This is why the United States cannot, nay, will not fail." The devil dissolved into an image of Ronald Reagan standing proud behind the presidential seal, prompting Quinn to remark, "Interesting juxtaposition of images."
"We will meet the evil Soviet Empire on land, at sea, in the air, in outer space...even in the fifth dimension," declared Reagan. "That is why I declare today that by the year 2000, America will put a man on a parallel earth. It will be incredibly difficult and cost an unfathomable amount of money, but so God help me, we will succeed or bankrupt the country trying!"
The tape stopped and Thornton raised the lights. "Speaks for itself, doesn't it?"
"In more ways than you can possibly imagine," said a dumbfounded Arturo.
"Clearly, we recognize the dangers this represents," said Sawyer. "We are ready to join with our sister Americas to fight the spread of the red machine."
"Well then, I'm sure all this will look good in our report," Quinn commented, adding, "and of course, we'll have to check out your progress on your sliding machines to see if the technology is adaptable."
"Well, I can promise you total cooperation. We'll get the boys in Houston up to speed and have you down there ASAP. The Johnson Interdimensional Center will be at your disposal," promised Sawyer. Thornton raised an eyebrow at the offer, but a quick wave of Hofman's hand kept him silent.
"This is an historic day!" Sawyer declared, wrapping one arm around Quinn's shoulders tightly. "Today will witness two Americas-literally worlds apart-joining together to face down a common enemy."
Hofman smiled. Take that, Mr. Moon.
"Man, I don't think I've toured Texas in ten years," Rembrandt said as the four sliders emerged from the state building, a crisp breeze blowing towards them. "Too many country fans down there. The day the Cryin' Man starts singing about friends in low places is the day I call it a career."
"The bad news is it's halfway across the country," countered Arturo. "I'm concerned it may affect the timer's radius."
"Well, we've slid outside the radius before without any problems. Don't you remember the time we got deported?" asked Wade. "Besides, if we get home, I'll spring for the bus tickets."
"I'm not worried about the radius, but I am worried we're going to get sucked into something over our heads. These guys are playing for keeps over the vortex. Who are we to decide who gets it? I'm not falling for another Prototronics again," declared Quinn.
"Look, we don't know that. This is a chance to fix the timer, right? We have to take it," Rembrandt challenged.
"It's not that black and white, Remmy," said Quinn.
"Oh come on, man. Can't you think about us for a change?" Rembrandt added. "I mean, why can't we at least check it out? It's not like anyone is stopping us."
"Misters Brown and Arturo?" asked a young man with a manila envelope.
"Look kid, no autographs today," Rembrandt said, attempting to brush him off.
"I don't need a signature. This is for you?" he asked, unsure of whom he was speaking with. Rembrandt grabbed the envelope as the man departed. He opened it and found two smaller envelopes inside, addressed to himself and the Professor respectively. "What are these?"
"Let me see," said Arturo, ripping open his letter. He scanned it quickly, his face turning red. "I don't believe this!"
"What?" asked Wade, the resignation dripping from her voice.
Arturo thrust the letter at Quinn, declaring, "Rembrandt and I have been served!"
"And you're saying you believe the four sliders to be completely legitimate, Professor Hawking?" Barry King asked his guest.
"I see no reason to doubt the witnesses, Barry. If our model of the multiverse is correct, we would have to assume an infinite amount of earths have been looking for the ERP Bridge for as long as we have, if not longer. The mediocrity principle assures some have been successful," proclaimed Professor Hawking via satellite from his home in England.
"Shuh, riiiight," the other guest scoffed.
"You don't buy it, Mr. Bennish?" asked the host. On the other monitor was Conrad Bennish Jr., sunglasses and all from a studio in San Francisco. The graphic below his name announced he was President of Scientists Taking on NeoFascist Enterprises and Developments (SToNED).
"Even if Steve-o is right, the odds of any transdimensional travelers sliding to our earth are astronomically poor," replied Bennish.
"Then how do you explain their sudden appearance?" pressed King.
"Easy, dude. This is just another scam by the government to generate popular support to justify continued military expenditures," explained Bennish, adding," which of course is turned right around to the contractors who just coincidentally happen to be big campaign contributors. It's all bogus, man."
"Whatever he's smoking, please send some of it to me," retorted Hawking. "All kidding aside, Mr. Bennish fails to present any evidence of such a conspiracy, which seems a bit too complex for your government. And another thing, who says 'bogus' anymore? I am sorry, Ted, but the excellent adventure is over."
"Eat me, pal," fired back Bennish.
"Now, now, Mr. Bennish. We are live..." interjected King.
"Yeah, but on cable. I thought we could get away with saying that kind of sh...."
Quinn muted the TV so he could continue his conversation on the phone.
"Now, now, hold on. First of all, it's not a court. Your friends can't be found legally guilty of anything," explained Hofman. "Let me assure you, Quinn, that we are every bit as outraged as you are. Our scurrilous opponents are only doing this because they can't bear to give this administration its rightful credit. Their resorting to partisan politics is...is..."
There was a pause before Quinn heard a woman's voice offer up "Shameful."
"That's the word!" snapped Hofman. "Absolutely shameful."
"Credit? What credit?" yelled Quinn into the receiver. "I'm the one bringing you the vortex. What have you done?"
"Well, we were in office when this momentous breakthrough occurred. That's gotta count for something," Hofman replied. "Look, don't worry. These things always blow over. It's show and nothing else."
"Yeah! Think of it as a game," Hofman answered encouragingly, completely misinterpreting Quinn's remark. "We're still on for the press conference tomorrow, right? Good. Although, better make it just you and the girl. Just in case."
On the other side of the room, the others were busy making sense of the subpoenas. Wade sat down and examined the documents in disbelief. "The California Subcommittee on Un-American Activities?"
"Yes. According to Mr. Thompson, it's a long dormant subcommittee formed back when Joe McCarthy was in his heyday. It seems the United States Congress was having so much fun, the states decided to get in on it as well. California had a grand old time managing the Hollywood blacklists," groused Arturo as he poured himself a glass of whiskey.
"Apparently the race for the vortex is not confined between nations. Each of the major political parties is vying for credit as well," continued Arturo. "The governor's political enemies are seizing upon this show trial to deflect the electoral damage our appearance will cause."
"So you can guarantee it won't be pretty," added Rembrandt. "This Moon guy is going to try to destroy us."
"Mace Moon?" asked Wade. "The 'my prices are so low, I put the entire Jamaican limbo team in traction' guy?"
"It's a slippery slope from discount electronic sales to politics," shrugged the Professor.
"What I want to know is how the heck they know our names?" asked Rembrandt.
"Oh, I think have an inkling of an idea," said Arturo as he walked over to the window. As he passed in front, dozens of flashes went off outside. He raised his drink and gave them a smile before returning to the table. "Rembrandt and I must have doubles on this world. It probably didn't take the press too long to put two and two together."
"We need to find a place for you guys to wait out the slide," said Quinn, now off the phone.
"Well hold on. If we're in hiding, how do we get to Houston?" asked Rembrandt.
"Well, we don't..." said Quinn, perhaps a little too smug.
"That's where the equipment to get us home is," replied Rembrandt.
"You're under subpoena. They're not going to let you leave the jurisdiction."
"Man, this sucks! Every time it looks like we're going to get a chance to go home, something screws it up," Rembrandt vented, slamming his hand down on the arm of the couch.
"Quinn and I could go," suggested Wade. Rembrandt looked to Quinn expectantly.
"I don't see how it can work," said Quinn. "I mean, by the time we get there and I get a chance to even begin figuring out what they've got to work with, the window will have come and gone. There'll be no time for us to regroup and slide together."
"There is another option." Arturo folded his hands and placed them on the table. "We could stay here."
"You mean miss the slide?" said Wade slowly, as if she were talking to a man with the cognitive skills of a three-year-old.
"I don't like it either, but this endless merry-go-round must end at some point," said the Professor. "We don't know when this opportunity will again arise. At least here we have a fighting chance of leaving again."
Quinn shook his head. "That's way too risky, Professor. What if these hearings go bad?"
"What are they going to do? Revoke my security clearance to Los Alamos?" chided Arturo. "I'm willing to endure this charade if Rembrandt is willing. For me, it's worth the price of fixing the timer."
"Count me in," Rembrandt immediately added.
"But what if they don't have what we need? What if I can't fix it?" asked Quinn.
"You've done it before with less," said Rembrandt reassuringly. "You'll come up with something, Q-ball. Besides, worse comes to worst, I can get used to 'Rembrandt Brown, Hero.'"
Yeah, thought Quinn, but you can go from hero to goat very, very quickly.
The flashbulbs clicked so rapidly that Wade feared someone might have an epileptic fit. "That's it, no more photos. Thanks for coming everybody," Patrick Hofman announced, waving her backstage. Wade blinked repeatedly trying to re-focus.
Quinn stumbled around a bit before he could see again. "Mm-hmm. Now let's talk technology," he told the wall. Wade spun him in Hofman's direction. "Shouldn't we be getting on a plane to Houston?"
Hofman hedged a bit before saying, "Well, we're having a little clearance problem with that. The Johnson Center is locked up tighter than an ABM treaty in the grip of Henry Kissinger. The FIA is not prepared to take you at your word. But the Admiral has friends in high places. We'll get it done."
"When?" Quinn challenged.
"Soon. No later than Wednesday, I promise," the campaign consultant assuaged. Quinn rolled his eyes, a gesture unappreciated by Hofman.
"I'm not sure about the planet you come from, Mr. Mallory, but here we take security very seriously," said Hofman in a condescending tone. "Now I'm doing the best I can, but these things are delicate as you are no doubt aware of. This isn't the first mission you've undertaken, right?"
"Right," Quinn grumbled.
"Great!" said Hofman, flashing a grin. "Now come along with me. I've got some friends from Silicon Valley I'd like you to meet."
The image on the screen was of a little girl in a field of daisies and dandelions. Giggling, she blew the dandelion away, its seeds floating through the wind until they formed the outline of a spiral. Rapidly, the spiral grew until a vortex burst forth. As the child screamed, Soviet soldiers charged through, trampling the flowers below.
"These are the stakes," declared the voice of Mace Moon. "Can we afford to take any interdimensional traveler at his or her word?"
To answer that question, a tank rolled out of the vortex, crushing the remainder of the daisies.
"Don't be a loon. Vote Moon."
The ad went unnoticed by the two sliders in the living room of the governor's guesthouse. They were too busy with the task at hand-preparing for tomorrow's hearings. While the Professor worked out the history of this world, Rembrandt was researching the culture. This entailed a thorough studying of the television guide. "Hey, Professor! Dig the line-up for the Sci-Fi Channel on this earth - 'The Day No Duplicate Would Die', 'The Sliding Man,' and my personal favorite, 'Crisis on Infinite Earths.'
"When truth, justice and the American way are threatened on dimension after dimension by the Red Menace, the Superfriends must prevent the fall of the first universe to the Commune of Doom. Starring Patrick Stewart as Lex Lenin," chuckled Rembrandt, reading the description.
"I can only imagine parallel earths have been pretty popular ever since the start of the vortex race. There are no limits to what can be done with the concept," said Arturo. "Even Hollywood, as derivative as it is, couldn't possibly screw it up."
"Never underestimate a Hollywood hack, professor," said Rembrandt. "So, how's the reading going?"
"Let's see...we've got the 'Joy of Capitalism', 'Détente, Schmétente', and 'Ten Reasons to Nuke Russia Now.' And these are some of the tamer titles," replied Arturo.
"Any reason why this Soviet Union is still around?" said Rembrandt.
"I'm afraid that information isn't readily available. Even on our earth, we're still debating the combination of factors that caused the union to collapse," lectured Arturo. "Many credit President Reagan's arms race as the leading contributor to the USSR's demise. But I see no record of a major build-up here. It appears the vortex race took precedence during Reagan's last term."
Rembrandt shrugged and switched off the TV. Yawning, he said, "I'm going to turn in. Big day tomorrow."
"You go ahead. I'm just going to get a little more reading done," said Arturo, replacing his reading glasses. "Reason Number Two to Nuke Russia: the thing on Gorbachev's head..."
Quinn fiddled with his breakfast, slowly spinning his orange wedge through the syrupy remains of his pancakes. He and Wade had passed on the limo ride to the State House and had decided to grab breakfast before the hearings were set to begin. If he was conscious of Wade, he didn't show it. Wade decided to test that supposition.
"And so then I told the Professor, just take me now, big boy!" Wade said. Quinn made no motion. "You're not listening to a word I'm saying, are you?"
"Forget it," she said, flipping a home fry off the table.
"I'm sorry, my mind's elsewhere," Quinn said.
"No duh, you've been like this the entire slide," said Wade.
"Wade, this runaround is officially out of hand. We've been here nearly three days and we've gotten nowhere. It's like the governor's men are deliberately keeping us away from the lab."
"Don't get paranoid," said Wade.
"I can't help it. It's the culture," rebuffed Quinn. "What are they hiding from us?"
"Probably nothing. We just need to be a little patient," said Wade, adding, "and the clearance problems make sense. They have no reason to trust us at our word."
Quinn frowned. "Neither do we. I think we're making a mistake."
"Gee Quinn, I'm beginning to think you don't want to go home. Let's just cruise around the dimensions another three or four years. It's not like we have anywhere else to be," she said angrily.
"Hey! I'm fully committed to getting you guys home. That's the only reason I'm going along with this!"
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem is I might fail!" shouted Quinn
Wade softened. "Quinn, no one's asking to be back by Columbus Day. You'll have time..."
"No, Wade, I won't! It's not just a case of being stuck here. This country is going to want that vortex. If I don't deliver it-and fast-they'll think I've played them. There's no actual footage of us sliding in, no tangible proof. Think of the consequences if they decide we're spies who just wanted a look at their lab. On second thought, don't think about it," Quinn snapped.
"Ok, ok. So it's risky. But we need to start taking risks," said Wade. "This is the best chance we've had in eight months. Eight months, Quinn! It's got to end."
Quinn was about to reply but he caught a glimpse of his wristwatch. "Oh man, we're going to be late for the hearings. We gotta go!"
"Always avoiding the issue, huh, Quinn?" she said under her breath as Quinn threw down some money for the food. They hurried out to the street.
"Taxi!" shouted Quinn. A cab came to a halt in front of them and they jumped in.
"Where to?" asked the driver in his thick Russian accent. Quinn immediately recognized him as Pavel Kurlienko, a man they had encountered a good two dozen times or so in their travels-and always as a cab driver. If Quinn hadn't been so preoccupied, he might have asked himself what Pavel was doing in Sacramento.
"State House," Quinn replied. Pavel nodded and started the meter.
Quinn leaned his head against the window and slowly slid his hand up his forehead. The slide was just over an hour away. Were they really going to intentionally let it go? He was pondering various scenarios when Wade's voice interrupted his thought process. "Are we going the right way? I thought it was east of here."
"Right," said Pavel with a slight hesitation. "State House. Is shortcut."
"Shortcut? The dome is practically visible from here."
Quinn suddenly lurched back into his seat as Pavel hit the accelerator.
"Mr. Brown, are you a communist?"
The press gallery of the Nixon Room was filled to the brim for the first assembling of the Subcommittee on Un-American Activities since Steven Spielberg was grilled for his "E.T. the
Arturo and Rembrandt sat across from them at a table that was slightly lower than the semi-circle platform occupied by the legislators. Arturo remained calm. His line of work demanded he defend dissertations before academic boards of review so this situation was not unfamiliar. But Rembrandt was nervous. He'd had bad luck in interrogations before and he didn't see his luck changing today.
Before the hearing started, Arturo gave him these words of advice, "Now remember, Rembrandt. I don't care what they think they have on us, we admit to nothing. We are from a parallel earth. Plausible deniability is the best course of action."
Rembrandt wasn't sure what these legislators thought they had on him. It was possible his double had a shady past. Anyone involved in the music scene during the 60s and 70s was bound to have some questionable contacts, but he was determined to just tell the truth. The truth will set you free, he kept repeating to himself.
"I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party," said Rembrandt defiantly to the question asked, "nor have I ever been part of any socialist movement, unless you count the three weeks I spent touring with Parliament in 1978."
Mace Moon shuffled his papers before settling on one leaf. He pushed his reading glasses to the bridge of his nose and stared down at his witness contemptuously. "Is that so?" he sneered. Rembrandt nodded back, but braced for the worst.
"Then how do you explain owning a copy of Billy Joel's 'Kohuept'?"
There was an audible gasp from the gallery. Rembrandt was staggered by the question. How did they know he owned that disc? He looked to the Professor for support. Arturo shrugged, not knowing Billy Joel from Billy Idol. Rembrandt heard himself saying, "I...I do own that record, but it's not what you think. The music club sent it to me when I forgot to send my coupon in to stop it from coming. It was the album of the month!"
"And which music club would this be? Not the People's Republic of Columbia's, hm?" Moon snarled. There was louder murmuring in the gallery and the sound of scribbling pencils could be heard from the press stations.
"I only kept it because I opened the box by mistake! I thought it was the new Billy Ocean LP, I swear!"
"The same Billy Ocean indicted in the scandal with her Royal Highness of Jamaica?!" responded Moon. Rembrandt opened his mouth to reply, but figured the hole was deep enough. He turned to Arturo for support, but the Professor was slumped over the table, his head shaking in his open palm.
Pavel deftly maneuvered his taxi through the downtown Sacramento traffic, never stopping or slowing enough for Quinn and Wade to bail out. The two held on for dear life as he screeched through the streets, but Pavel remained the picture of tranquility.
"So, now that you have met with Governor Sawyer, you must be feeling pretty flattered, no? Rest assured, whatever he offered, my government is prepared to double it," said Pavel, his accent remaining but the fractured English gone.
"Your government?" sputtered Quinn as the cab jumped a curb en route to a sharp right turn.
"The Kremlin is most interested in your technology and will reward you handsomely. Our own scientists are very close and would have discovered the portal shortly, but we would not want such sensitive information in the hands of an imperialist nation," explained the Soviet agent, clipping a fruit stand on the sidewalk. He casually flipped the windshield wipers on to clear away the blue and blackberries.
"I'll bet," sneered Quinn, gripping the door handle as Pavel accelerated up to fifty miles an hour in an urban district.
Pavel began his sales pitch. "You have no idea what this country is capable of! You should hear the horrors in the southern hemisphere perpetrated by Americans. The propping up of fascist dictators to secure mineral and oil rights; the virtual enslavement of entire families to produce athletic apparel to be sold at exorbitant prices. They pay these poor laborers mere rubles while their corporations profit by hundreds of times over."
"Not like your government doesn't do the same thing!" retorted Wade. "How about the tremendous environmental damage done to Slovakia? Or the brutal oppression of the Poles and Czechs? Or Chechnya?"
"Chechnya? What is wrong in Chechnya?" inquired Pavel.
"Sorry, wrong dimension," muttered Wade.
"Misrepresentations by a biased American media," he dismissed. Quinn and Wade shared a look of disgust before being thrown into each other by a sudden left.
"Here is our offer," Pavel posed. "You give us the wormhole, we give you Belarus. Is it a deal?"
"You're offering an entire country?" asked Quinn. He looked at Wade as if he thought it was a good offer. She gave him a quick elbow for even thinking it. "I'm sorry, no deal."
"Ah, holding out for Tajikistan," nodded Pavel. "Oh well, the details can be worked out once we are back in the motherland."
"Not so fast. Even if you are telling me the truth about the Soviet Union, which I don't believe for a moment, why should I trust you?" asked Quinn.
"Consider the alternative," said Pavel, laying on the horn to avoid a jaywalker. "Besides, if my intentions were less than pure, we'd already be heading for the first plane to Leningrad."
Pavel swerved into the right line and pulled over to the curb. "State House. Told you is shortcut."
They were indeed back at the capitol building and Pavel had resumed his cover. The two passengers slowly opened the doors, expecting any moment to be launched back into traffic, but the taxi did not move. Quinn fumbled getting out of his seat, asking "What do I owe you?"
"No charge. We put this on company tab, yes?" chuckled Pavel. Quinn didn't smile at the joke. Before he exited, Pavel handed him a card. Almost under his breath he said, "Call this number and we can have you in Moscow in under twenty-four hours."
Quinn hesitated, but he took the card. Pavel gave him a slight smile and a knowing look. As Quinn stepped out, a man in sunglasses and a business suit brushed him out of the way and hopped into the taxi. "Sacramento International, and step on it. I don't have all day!"
"OK, my friend," said Pavel, ripping back on to the road.
"State your name and profession for the committee."
"Maximillian P. Arturo, professor of cosmology and ontology at the University of California."
Arturo sighed audibly. "No, sir, I am not."
"Why should I take you at your word?"
"Look, you've already had me say the Pledge of Allegiance, the state oath, the Ten Commandments and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, not to mention the singing of our national anthem. What more do you want from me?" sneered Arturo.
Moon continued, "You say you are a professor at the University of California. This would be the Berkeley campus, yes?"
"That is correct," said Arturo after a pause.
"The same Berkeley known for its pro-socialist views and thoroughly un-American activity," prodded the speaker.
"Perhaps that is true on this earth, but on mine, the UC-Berkeley campus is a bastion of conservative thought," said Arturo, very glad he wasn't attached to a lie detector.
Quinn and Wade made their way to the floor containing both the Nixon Room and the governor's office. At the top of the stairs, Quinn turned to Wade and said, "Our window of opportunity is coming up fast. You go check in on the others. Make sure they haven't been drawn and quartered yet. If I'm not at the hearing in twenty minutes, grab the others and meet me at the governor's office. Just in case."
"And what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to announce to the governor there's a competing bid," Quinn said.
Wade stopped cold. "You can't be serious. You'd sell out your country? For Belarus?!"
"Of course not," Quinn said before smiling broadly. "But they don't know that. I think we have a way of speeding up access to that lab."
Quinn found the usual suspects in the governor's office- Sawyer, Hofman, and his aide Jenna. He didn't even knock as he walked in.
"Mr. Mallory! Why, come in," stammered Sawyer, gesturing to a chair.
"This is a courtesy visit only. I've been made a better offer. The vortex will be going to them," Quinn ventured.
"What? From who?" exclaimed Hofman. "Surely not Moon."
"No, the Soviets!" said Quinn, amazed at how single-minded these people were. But even more shocking was the lack of response to such an announcement. Quinn felt compelled to prompt them. "You know? The big, bad communists? The real enemy?"
"You wouldn't...,"said Hofman.
"You may not deserve credit for sliding, but you'll certainly take the fall if you were the man who let it get away. From what I hear, the Russians are right on the verge. I can put them over the top," Quinn bluffed.
Sawyer laughed, "Yeah right." As Quinn gave him a puzzled look, Sawyer continued, "Heck, even I know the Russians aren't even close. They're pulling the same sham that...I mean, the same scam...no, that's not it..."
Hofman rolled his eyes as Sawyer spun his tongue. "What I mean to say was..."
"You don't even have a lab, do you?" said Quinn quietly as the realization that he was the playee and not the player sunk in. "This has been a game all along."
"Patrick?" prompted Sawyer to his top man. Hofman took the cue.
"Son, there is a lab in Houston and it is called the Johnson Interdimensional Center. It's just we don't actually use it for much more than a storage facility. Truth be told, we gave up on the project back in '87. While theoretically possible, the bridge just didn't seem feasible. But we couldn't just up and quit and give the Soviets a moral victory. So we perpetuated the lie," said Hofman coming clean.
"What about Admiral Thornton?" Quinn asked.
"Retired. He's a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin now," said Hofman. "The vortex race is just another trough for defense contractors. Your presence threatened that trough."
"Look, we had no way of knowing one day someone would actually pull this thing off!" said the governor, trying desperately to spin this.
"Unbelievable," Quinn muttered.
"So now you know, kid. But our offer still stands! Hell, I'm sure you could have that vortex up and running in no time-preferably before November 4th. We'll spare no expense. Anything you want, it's yours. Just say you're in," said Hofman, rising to his feet. "It's your patriotic duty."
"My duty? My duty is to my friends and them alone. They're the only reason I came here in the first place." Quinn turned to leave. As his hand reached the doorknob, Sawyer called to him, "Wait! You can't leave."
"Oh yes I can. The same way I came in." Quinn marched out and slammed the door behind him, leaving the four to engage in the inevitable acrimony. Sawyer literally banged his head against the wall. Hofman stared at the door where his political dreams had just exited. "We are so...so..."
"Screwed," finished Jenna.
"What did he say?" asked Wade as Quinn met up with her outside the Nixon Room.
"The deal's off," said Quinn. "It was all a hoax. The vortex was nothing more to them than an election year ploy. We're not going home."
"Figured as much. Once I got the message to the professor about our encounter, he was resolved to slide regardless."
"How did Remmy take it?"
"He's disappointed, but he'll deal," said Wade.
"And you?" Quinn asked.
"Hey, we'll get 'em next time," she said, but try as she might she couldn't suppress a small frown.
Quinn sighed. "You know, just once I'd like to land on a world with honest politicians."
"Hey, infinite dimensions right? You gotta figure there are one...maybe two..." suggested Wade.
They looked at each other. "Nah..."
"Are they coming out?" asked Quinn. "We slide in about a minute."
"They'll be out in a second. But first they need to create a distraction," said Wade with a wink.
Suddenly a loud commotion broke out inside the Nixon room. The sound of a gavel pounding and shouts of "Order! Order!" could be heard underneath the squeals and shrieks. The door flung open and out came Arturo and Rembrandt, the latter buckling his belt.
"What did you just do?" asked Quinn as he looked Rembrandt up and down.
"Vented some frustration," Remmy said.
"To use the vernacular, he 'mooned' the Speaker," said Arturo, closing the door behind him and leaning against it.
"Hey, it was Wade's idea," defended Rembrandt. Wade smiled and shrugged. "It seemed appropriate."
Quinn looked at Arturo. "You didn't..."
"No!" the Professor shouted indignantly, moving away from the door. Within half a second, the door flung back open knocking Arturo into the wall.
"OW!" he proclaimed as Mace Moon emerged. Moon angrily pointed a finger at Rembrandt. "You will march back into that hearing and give it the respect it deserves!"
"I just did!" Rembrandt joked.
"Why, you little..." Moon stopped when he saw Hofman running down the hall, Jenna in tow with her customary pile of folders.
"Mallory! Please reconsider, maybe we can cut you some tax breaks or something...Moon!" Hofman growled. "This is your fault. You and your petty one-upmanship..."
"My fault? I'm not the one trying to claim credit for something I had nothing to do with..." Moon charged.
"No, you're just the one blaming people for things they had nothing to do with..."
"Oh stuff it, Hofman. Why don't you actually run for office instead of hiding behind others!" Moon bellowed in return.
The political enemies continued as if there wasn't a maelstrom of gravity in the hallway, except now they were shouting over the noise of the wind.
"By the way, nice commercial. Real innovative," slurred Hofman. "Ripping off LBJ and Dukakis in one swing. I mean, Dukakis? What the hell were you thinking..."
They didn't even notice Quinn depart or the vortex even closing. They were only interrupted when a legislator popped his head out of the Nixon room. "Excuse me?"
Both Hofman and Mace turned to him and yelled, "What?"
"Point of order. Who has the floor?"
You can't re-establish a series' origins without details on how sliding works, and you can't know how sliding works without consulting Nigel Mitchell's technical guide. It may have been written during the second season, but it has well withstood the test of both time and outrageous Sliders continuity.
Hearty thanks goes out to TemporalFlux and his website, the Dimension of Continuity. The finer details that enhance many of my stories come from material I would never have seen or even imagined without his making it available. Extra gratitude for the quick continuity checks he has so often provided.
I would like to acknowledge Timothy Ferris' "The Whole Shebang." This 1997
And of course, to Tracy Tormé. Without him, this story would not have been written. Thanks for opening up a world (or worlds) of brand new possibilities.