"Sticks and Stones"
No, this does not mean I'm secretly TM. It just means that he gave me leave to write an edition of...
This collection of vignettes is loosely titled: "Sticks and "Stones"...
The professor leaned over the side of the hospital bed and threw up into the bucket provided. Gently wiping his face clean, he then sat up and glared at anyone and everyone.
"Feeling any better yet, professor?" Wade ventured carefully.
His gaze turned specifically to her and she flinched. "Does it look to you like I'm feeling any better?" the professor blasted in Wade's direction.
Wade said nothing. She was only trying to be polite anyway. And breaking the silence.
The four Sliders had been in the hospital since the early hours of the morning, and it showed that none of them had had more than two hours sleep. It was now nearly lunchtime, although the three who were not being sick had already had two full breakfasts in the cafeteria. Professor Arturo wouldn't let them eat in front of him because he claimed it made him feel worse.
The nurse who had seen the professor had managed to find him a cubicle all to himself, so he wouldn't disturb the other patients, and it was in this that they were sat. Quinn had propped himself up against the wall in the corner, whilst Wade and Rembrandt simply had to sit on the hard plastic chairs. Wade had already fallen off twice without anything to stop her.
Somehow, Rembrandt seemed far more awake than the others. Perhaps it was the fourteen cups of coffee he'd had, compared to Quinn's six and Wade's four. " I told you not to go for the salmon, professor," he teased gently. "Didn't I tell you the story about when we were on tour in Canada and we all got food poisoning the night before one of the gigs?"
"Yes, Remmy, you already told us. Three times." Quinn didn't even bother opening his eyes. He might not be able to sleep, but he could rest, and he wasn't giving up his corner for anyone.
At that moment Wade surprised everyone by fally if her chair. Again. She got up hurriedly and tried to pretend that nothing had happened.
Arturo looked for a second like he might hurl his sick bowl at the singer, then recovered his dignity and relaxed a little. "Mr. Brown, it has not yet been proven that it was the salmon at all. It could still have been the prawns, which I remind you, were on your plate as well as mine."
This time Quinn opened his eyes soon enough to watch Rembrandt stare at the physics professor for a moment before gagging and running out of the cubicle.
When he was gone, professor Arturo let out a little chuckle. "Now that has made me feel better."
"What do you mean?" Wade asked innocently.
"I mean that Mr. Brown is living proof of the effect of psycosomatic disorders on the brain," he replied simply.
Wade fidgeted. "Er… right."
"It was the salmon then?" Quinn seemed to have half an idea what he meant.
The professor was sick again before answering, but it didn't seem as violent as before. "Oh probably. What I meant, Miss Welles, is that I merely planted a seed of doubt in Mr. Brown's head. He did the rest."
It was some time before Rembrandt returned, accompanied by his own sick bowl. He didn't seem to notice that every time the professor looked at him, a small smile broke out.
After another hour, Wade threw her magazine on the floor in disguest. "Quinn, come and get some food with me, I'm starving!"
Before the object of her attention could respond, there were hushing noises coming from her other two companions. "Don't say that word!"
"The 'f' word!"
She thought for a moment. "Food?"
"Sshhhh! Don't say it!" At the thought of her words, the two afflicted patients were both sick again.
"Oh, sorry," Wade apologised. "You coming Quinn?"
He protested, "But I'll lose my place!" but Wade was having none of it. She grabbed him by the arm and tugged until he gave in. "Okay, okay! Do we have to go to the cafeteria again!"
"Yes," she said laconically. "They change the F-O-O-D for lunchtime."
As soon as they were well out of hearing of the other two, Wade turned to Quinn and said. "Do you think we should tell him?"
"Are you kidding? No way! You saw how what he did to Remmy, he'll kill us!" Quinn was quite rightly cautious.
They took the same seats as they had on their two previous excursions once they had picked up what was allegedly macaroni cheese and chips. "I don't know," Wade mused as she pushed around the food on her plate. "If we told the professor that we overheard a waiter telling another that he was putting something in his food for being a pompous British tourist it might help him get better quicker?"
Quinn shrugged. "Of course it would. But he would hit the roof if he knew we hadn't told him about it before!"
"Yeah, I suppose," she sighed. "Could you pass the pepper?"
Laughing, Quinn handed it over. "I think it'll take more than pepper to make this taste of anything. I'm going with ketchup!" As if to demonstrate, he covered all the food on his plate with the red sauce.
"I think I'll stick with the pepper," Wade said, screwing her nose up at his eating habits.
"Tell you what," Quinn began before he had finished his mouthful. "If we take the nurse aside and tell her, she can do something about it and she won't be allowed to tell him. Will that satify you?"
She nodded. "I guess so. I don't think I could cope with a sick professor when we slide tomorrow morning."
"We'll finish up here then and go find her. Want dessert?"
"No thanks, it's probably no better than this cardboard."
Somewhere in a hospital in the middle of San Angeles, a blue swirling wormhole opened and spat out four people, two men and two women… into a small storage cupboard.
"Ow, watch where you're kicking, Maggie!" Wade yelled as she tried to disentangle herself from a mop in the dark. "That hurt!"
"It wasn't me!" came back an angry retort. "Why is it always my fault anyway? You kicked me, not the other way around!"
The lights flicked on. "Sorry ladies," Quinn said apologetically. "They were probably both me trying to find the lights. He looked around at the mess on the floor with Wade on one side and Maggie on the other. "Where's Remmy?"
"I'm up here!" The three looked up to see Rembrandt perched somehow on and between a large shelf and a ladder. "Just don't ask!"
Wade tried to reach up to him but found she couldn't. "You okay?"
"I'll let you know when I get down."
As always, Quinn was being the practical one. "Maggie, you and I are taller. If you stand on that box over there, and I stand on this one, we might be able to reach him."
"Can't I help instead?" Wade asked, but Quinn shook his head. "Even on two of these, you'd never get close enough to be of any use. Sorry," he added as an afterthought. "But you might want to get out of the way."
Quinn and Maggie followed the plan and reached up to try not only to help their friend down, but to move the things that had fallen on top of him.
They had barely been trying for a minute, when the shelf collapsed and all three fell into a heap on the floor. A couple of half empty tins of paint that had also been on the shelf had fallen as well, and they were now splattered with green and blue blobs.
"Oh great!," said Maggie sarcastically. "It's not like I really liked these clothes or anything."
Having escaped the paint completely, Wade could do nothing but laugh. Maggie shot her a warning face, but Quinn and Remmy were more concerned with any potential injuries than the paint.
"Is everyone okay?" asked Quinn from the bottom of the pile. He received moderate affirmatives from the others. Suddenly he realised his foot was sticking to Maggie breast and he removed it quickly. "Er… shall we go see where we are?"
Emerging from the closet, they were greeted by a pair of stern looking hospital staff. "I don't care who you are, but that kind of behaviour is no way to behave in a hospital!"
"What did we do?" asked Maggie, unfazed by it all.
"I think you know what we mean," the second nurse, a man, replied. "What other reason could the four of you have for making so much noise in a storage closet?" Quinn opened his mouth to protest, but the nurse stopped him. "No, we don't want to hear about it! Just keep your sordid fantasies out of the hospital. Now please leave."
Heads down, the four Sliders made they're way towards the exit as indicated by the signs on the wall. "Just our luck, eh Q-Ball?" Rembrandt whispered. "Not only do we land in a cupboard, they hear us!"
Quinn agreed with him. "And I don't wanna know what they thought we were doing. Don't they have work to do?"
The exit appeared to be the same as the Emergency Room entrance. It was absolutely packed. Evidently there'd just been an incident, since several doctors and nurses appeared to be waiting for something, a la 'ER.'
After a few moments, that case arrived, before the Sliders had got as far as the door. "What's the status?" one of the doctors asked the paramedic who'd brought the man in.
"We're not sure," the paramedic replied. "Seems stable, but comatose, and he's got these strange puncture marks on his neck. A bite maybe?"
The doctor took a quick look at shook his head. "Looks like needle marks to me. But why would anyone be sticking a needle in their necks?"
The man on the gurney was wheeled out of sight. "It's Rickman, I know it is," said Maggie firmly.
"Yeah, well so do we, we're not stupid y'know," Wade spat at her. "It was pretty obvious."
This time Maggie just ignored her and turned to Quinn. "Is he still here?" she asked.
"Give me a sec," said Quinn quietly. "I can't check in here. Lets go outside."
Outside was completely different from anythign at all they'd seen recently. They were surrounded by skyscrapers, but they looked different… more futuristic somehow. And there appeared to be high tech tram lines everywhere. None of them could see any motor vehicles, except for the ambulance sitting outside the hospital, and even that had more or a tram look about it than a van.
"Here," Quinn led them around a corner and into a rubbish filled alley. Wade and Remmy instantly wrinkled their noses up at the smell, although Quinn and Maggie seemed to engrossed in the timer to notice. "Yeah, he's still here. No trail."
"Right… how the Hell do we find him?"
At that moment, there was the stange rushing noise and a blast of wind came down the alleyway.
"This way!" cried Maggie, as she ran in the direction of the noise.
She arrived just in time to see a red vortex retracting into a small pinprick and then disappearing. "Damnit! So close!"
Quinn was just behind her. He checked the timer. "Now he's not here. And we can't follow for twelve hours."
"Twelve hours??" Maggie was livid. "We were this close, and we have to wait twelve hours to go after him? There's something really screwed up with your system Quinn Mallory."
"Yeah, well, maybe there is." Quinn knew she was right, but there was no way to fix it now. And anyway, technically this wasn't his system anymore, it was the one from Egyptian World. "Don't worry,Maggie. We'll catch up to him sooner or later."
"Yeah," she said. "It's the later I'm worried about.
"Hurry it up, Quinn!"
Quinn Mallory emerged round the corner waving his arms wildy at the other three Sliders standing in front of the already open wormhole to a parallel dimension. Following him was a large group of young women, all shouting his name and how much they loved him. "Go! he screamed.
They needed no further encouragement. The problem would be if any of the hoardes of fans thinking Quinn was some great movie star made it through as well. Thankfully, a few miliseconds after Quinn had disappeared into the blue swirls, the vortex closed, leaving many of the girls to fall flat on their faces trying to catch their idol.
The four of them landed on a very solid sidewalk, down a very empty road, that seemed to house a group of disused factories.
"Thank God that's over!" sighed Quinn as he lay back in relief, I was beginning to wonder if they'd ever give up!"
Colin just looked confused, but Rembrandt had a snappy answer. "Yeah, well, there's nothing like a bit of complicated astrophysics to keep the girls at bay, eh Q-ball?"
"But it's not that complicated," Colin protested.
Remmy shrugged. "Not to you maybe, but I sure as Hell don't know anything about it." He noticed the lone female Slider sitting to one side, nursing her ankle. "You okay, Maggie?"
"What? Oh yeah, sure."
"Hurt your ankle?" Quinn asked with mild concern.
She shook her head. "Oh no, no, it's fine. Really. Come on, let's go see what this world has to offer us poor interdimensional travellers." Maggie tried to pull herself up using a disused metal trash can, but her ankle crumpled beneath her and she was forced to sitback down again.
"Woah there girl, I think you've hurt that pretty bad," said Rembrant, reaching out an arm to help.
The former marine brushed it away lightly. "It's fine really, I'll be alright in a minute." She tried again to stand up but to no avail.
"Here." Quinn joined Rembrandt in offering assistance, and this time she took the two proffered arms.
"I'm fine, really."
Quinn shook his head. "Maggie, that's not gonna work. You might as well admit you need the help an accept it."
She said nothing, but allowed them to prob her up and help her walk, albeit whislt making faces the whole time. She didn't like being dependant on anyone but herself.
Once they found their way to something that resembled civilisation rather than its cast-offs, Rembrandt hailed a taxi to take them to the hospital, which it turned out would have been too far for Maggie to walk even with help.
"Looks nice," Maggie commented, as they practically carried her up the ramp outside. "Nice and clean and stuff." She wasn't really sure what 'stuff' she was talking about, but it had sounded good before she said it.
There didn't seem to be a reception as such, but a nurse attended to them pretty quickly. "Sprained ankle?"
"Yeah, we think so," Rembrandt replied. "But it looks pretty bad. I'm no doctor, but she might need an x-ray to rule out a break."
The nurse nodded curtly. "I see. Can I see your paperwork please?"
None of the Sliders had any idea what she meant. "Er… we don't have it with us," Quinn offered. "Can't we do it later?"
"I don't need to see yours, I need to see hers," she pointed at Maggie.
"I don't have it with me either."
The nurse shrugged, disinterested. "No paperwork showing your insurance, no treatment. Unless you wish to pay the $1000 for the x-rays and the time to care for her." The Sliders shook their heads. They didn't have that kind of money and she knew it. "Simple as that." She turned to leave and go find something else to do, but Rembrandt stopped her.
"Wait!" he called. "What about Medicaid… can't she get help on that?"
"What's Medicaid?" the nurse asked innocently. "Never heard of it. Even if you provided the bandages yourself, I can't do a thing. Time is money you know, and that costs. Now if you don't mind, I have work to do for paying clients." She walked away, but as an afterthough turned back and said, "There's a chemist two blocks down. Can you afford that?"
Maggie swore under her breath madly, before returning to a more audible level. "Please tell me we Slide in five minutes. I don't think I can stand this too long. Stand being the operative word." During the short trek here she had finally accepted that it was actually hurt and that it wouldn't go away.
"Actually, we've got three days."
"Three days?" Maggie spluttered violently. "By the time we Slide I won't have any ankle left!"
There was a slight pause, and then Colin suggested, "I might be able to help."
"Not to be mean, Colin, but what could you do?" Maggie voice was skeptical.
"I dunno," offered Quinn. "My bro here can do a lot more than it seems." He clapped Colin on the back in expression of his pride.
Colin took that as a backhanded compliment and continued. "Hospitals like this didn't exist on my world. The doctor could sometimes be miles away, we had to learn how to treat basic injuries. Of course, that was no good when Mr. Gillibrand was thrown from his horse. He died of internal bleeding before the doctor could come."
Somewhere in there, Maggie had got confused. "So what's your point."
"If we can get some bandages and splints I can strap your ankle up. You won't be able to use it much, but it will stop it getting worse before the Slide."
Maggie looked considerably brightened. "Well then, off to the chemist it is then!"
All he could see was darkness. Darkness with a few yellow spots dancing before his eyes. And there were sounds. Fuzzy sounds that sounded like voices. Voices and beeps. An answeing machine? No, that couldn't be right. He strained harder to see what he could hear. He'd given up on his eyes for the moment.
"Do you think he's coming round?" asked a female voice.
"A second woman replied. "I don't know. His heart rate is better, but he doesn't seem to be reacting to us yet. I haven't seen him like this since one of the experiments when wrong. But I'm a doctor of physics, not medicine." She sighed. "In other words, I don't know."
Well, these people seemed to know him. Perhaps if he opened his eyes he would recognise them. Right now he couldn't seem to remember anything, let alone how he got here.
It hurt in his head, but he continued trying anyway. He couldn't stand this state of limbo any longer. It was like there were two of him in his head, fighting for supremacy, and he just wanted it to go away. Gradually, his eyes began to open a little more each time, until he could see some bright lights. They dimmed and he could make out two figures standing by his side.
"Oh, he is waking up! Look!"
One of them took his hand. "Mallory, it's me, Maggie. Do you remember what happened? Do you know where you are?"
He groaned quietly. He'd got the eyes and ears working, but speaking was more difficult. "H… hos…pital," he finally managed to croak out. "Don't… know."
The other woman, Diana he remembered, crouched down alongside Maggie. "It's okay. You hit your head, that's all. You'll be fine now." She seemed to be forcing a weak smile. Had she been crying? Probably not. He couldn't think of any woman who would cry over him.
At that point, a door somewhere outside his vision opened, and it sounded like someone entered the room. Mallory tried to move his head, but found that not oly were there pillow in the way, but that hurt too. Not being one for unnecessary pain if he could help it, he gave up pretty quickly and waited for the newcomer to enter his line of sight.
"You should have told me he was awake! How ya doing, Fogboy?"
Even though he still wasn't in the line of sight, Mallory knew it was Rembrandt who spoke. He was the only one who called him Fogboy. He tried to respond, but all that came out was a garbled mess of noises.
Rembrandt moved into Mallory's sight, and muttered to the two girls, "Is he okay? He seems a bit… I dunno… off."
Maggie shrugged. "He did hit his head. And he's only just coming round now. He'll be fine soon. Well, as much as he ever is."
"I… heard… that."
"Well look at that," Remmy smiled. "You are in the land of the living after all."
There was a knock on the door, although the person did not wait for an answer before entering. It seemed to be only a formality. "I see our patient is awake then," he announced brightly and the proceeded to poke and prod Mallory, much to his discomfort.
"Hmmm," he continued. "He seems to be doing quite well, I think. But we'll send him up for a cat scan anyway, just to be safe. You can never be too sure with head injuries." He didn't notice the horrified look on Diana's face. "I'll be back soon, it might be a bit of a wait for the machine anyway."
As soon as he was gone Diana blurted out, "We have got to get out of here!"
"Why?" Maggie asked. "It's just a cat scan, what harm can it do?"
Diana waved the PDL in her face. "Remember there's two of them in there. We don't know what that'll do to a scan. If he looks strange, they'll want to keep him in, or maybe keep him permernantly to experiment on."
"Are you sure?" Now Remmy was concerned too. "Have you done one before or anything?"
She shook her head. "No, that's why I don't know. But two people in one head could make all kinds of things look strange. We have to get out of here, before they notice there's a problem."
"But what about Mallory? How are we gonna get him out of here?"
Mallory tried to speak again. "I'll… fine." He tried to push himself to sitting position. "Help… me… up."
"We can't get him out like this," Maggie protested, as she helped him up. "We won't get very far!"
"We don't have a choice." Diana looked around the room. "We need a wheelchair."
Remmy was right on it. "I'll go find one. There's several around, I saw them in the hall."
As Rembrandt tried to look inconspicuous, Maggie and Diana tried to get Mallory out of the bed. Had he been in a better state, he would have enjoyed it, but as it was, all he could think about was stopping his head hurting.
"You think it'll work?" Maggie asked of Diana quietly. "We still have a while till the Slide."
"I hope it does," Diana replied. "If not, we have a problem."
So whadda you think? A selection of events proving some kind of continuity across seasons? Or just proof that the Sliders are very accident prone. You decide... and we'll see you again for the next edition of...
Mundane Slides, and other Tales of Interdimensional Tedium!