By Laura Brigandi (Robin14334)
Jerry O’Connell as Quinn Mallory
Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt Brown
Kari Wuhrer as Maggie Beckett
Charlie O’Connell as Colin Mallory
Linda Henning as Mrs. Mallory
Jason Gaffney as Conrad Bennish, Jr.
Yee Jee Tso as James Wing
A vortex opened on a deserted street. Four people tumbled out, 3 men and a woman. They got up, brushing themselves off, and looked around. The woman tucked a strand of her long auburn hair behind her ear and turned to one of the men. "Quinn…," she started.
"Twelve days and change," Quinn replied as he looked at the timer, in response to her unasked question.
"How did you know what Maggie was going to say?" asked one of the other men, who looked remarkably like Quinn.
"Colin, the first thing anyone says every time we slide is always ‘How much time do we have here?’" Quinn told him.
Colin nodded. He hadn’t been sliding as long as his brother or their friends, but he was learning. All the parallel earths were difficult to grasp. But then, who wouldn’t have trouble adjusting to being able to travel to alternate dimensions?
As the group looked around the familiar surroundings, they noticed where they were.
"Hey Q-ball, looks like your street!" Rembrandt, the fourth slider, remarked.
"Yup," Quinn said proudly. "I adjusted the geographic stabilizer to the original range and the…."
"Uh… Quinn?" He would have gone into a lengthy scientific description but thankfully, Maggie interrupted him.
"Sorry," he replied. "It means we’re back to sliding in San Francisco."
Quinn gazed up at his house. He hadn’t seen it in so long. Ever since Logan St. Clare had extended the sliding radius to 400 miles, they had been sliding all over Southern California, anywhere from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Looking around, Quinn noticed a woman in the garden. It was his mother. Well, her double. He knew it wasn’t really her. He knew where his real mother was: in a prison camp, a prisoner of the Kromaggs.
Just then, Mrs. Mallory looked up and saw her son. She got up, obviously overjoyed to see him.
"Quinn!" she shouted, running to him. "Oh my God, Quinn! I thought I'd never see you again! After the last time…." She hugged him fiercely. Quinn exchanged a look with the others.
"I'm sorry," he said sadly. "But I'm not your son. I'm… his double from a parallel earth."
Mrs. Mallory looked slightly confused at first, but seemed to grasp what Quinn has just said. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she apologized. "I didn't mean to…"
"It's all right, I understand," Quinn comforted her. He had dealt with this kind of thing before.
Just then Maggie collapsed, gasping for air.
"Call an ambulance!" Quinn shouted frantically.
Mrs. Mallory scurried into the house, following his order. Quinn and the others gathered around Maggie.
Later, after an interminably long wait, the sliders were allowed to see Maggie. She was sleeping peacefully in a drab, impersonal hospital room. The other sliders and Mrs. Mallory filed in and stood around the room. Soon, a doctor came in.
"Is she going to be all right?" Quinn asked anxiously.
"Yes," the doctor replied. "I gave her some medication. She should be ready to leave as soon as she's rested. But I just can’t figure out why she couldn’t breathe all of a sudden. You're sure she's never had asthma?"
"No, never," Quinn told him.
"But we're not from around here," Colin told the doctor. "We're from... Canada. Perhaps the different atmosphere caused this problem?"
"Could be," the doctor said doubtfully. "But, anyway, make sure she takes this medication, or she'll have more problems." He put an inhaler on the table.
"Oh we will," Rembrandt assured him as he left the room. Then he turned to Colin. "Canada?" he sighed. That excuse was so overused.
"I had to think of something!" Colin replied indignantly.
"Well, he was right about one thing," Quinn said. "It probably is the atmosphere. Remmy, remember before, when Maggie and I slid home? Maggie couldn’t breathe on that world. I think it’s the same thing here. Her lungs just aren’t adjusted to the air."
"How long till you… slide?" Mrs. Mallory asked them.
"Too long," Quinn sighed. "Almost two weeks." He turned to Maggie. "Can you hold out that long?"
Later, after Maggie had woken up and Rembrandt and Colin were talking to her, Quinn pulled his mother aside. "Mom, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, honey, what is it?" It was so easy for both of them to slip into the mother-son relationship, after being separated from each others’ doubles.
"When you first saw me today, you said, "After the last time." Why did… what did you mean by that exactly?"
"Well," she began, "you left… I mean, your double left, about 4 years ago." Quinn was nodding his head as she spoke. It was all the same. "After awhile, I had just about given up on him ever returning. But then, he came back one day, a year and a half ago. He was with your friend Maggie, the same thing happened, she couldn’t breathe. We took her to a hospital, but then he opened a… a tunnel and jumped into it with her. I haven’t seen him since." Her eyes began to water as she finished.
Quinn was stunned. Without even thinking, he put his arm around her to comfort her, but his mind was reeling. Could he have come here with Maggie? That would mean that this was home. But they had been home… hadn’t they?
About a week later, the sliders were sitting at the kitchen table. Quinn had called a "meeting" saying he wanted to talk to them. Once they were all settled, he began to speak.
"Well, I’ve been doing some research on the history of this world," he started, "and it is remarkably similar to Earth Prime. All the history matches exactly. And Remmy, Wade, the Professor, and I have all been missing since approximately four years ago. That’s when we also started sliding," he added, for the benefit of Maggie and Colin, who hadn’t been part of the original group of sliders.
"Are you saying this is your homeworld?" Colin asked.
"Well, it certainly seems like Earth Prime," Quinn admitted. "But it can’t be. There’s no way."
"It's creepy, though, isn't it, Q-ball?" Rembrandt said. "I mean, even down to Maggie not being able to breathe. I noticed stuff too. I went to my old house. My family wouldn’t speak to me… as usual. And I talked to Artie, my agent. It seems my singing career was just as successful here as it was at home."
Quinn smirked at that. He knew Remmy wished he could’ve stayed on that world where his double was bigger than Elvis. "If I didn't know better, I'd think we were home," he admitted. "But it's impossible. You know it is. Remember what Earth Prime was like last time? Taken over by Kromaggs. This world has never heard of them."
"But is it really impossible?" Maggie asked. "Maybe that world we landed on wasn't Earth Prime after all." Her voice was a little hoarse, and she’d been tired all week, but she was well enough. At least she could breathe now.
"So you think this world may be your real home world?" Colin looked slightly
disappointed, and reasonably so. If this was their real home, then he and Quinn weren’t really brothers. Quinn had found out about his long-lost brother on what they thought was Earth Prime. If that wasn’t really home, then Colin’s real brother was merely Quinn’s double….
His thoughts were interrupted by Quinn and Rembrandt arguing. "It could be Earth Prime, but we don’t know for sure," Quinn was saying.
"It is, man. I know it is," Rembrandt said vehemently. "You have to admit, everything matches Earth Prime exactly! I can't even find one difference!"
"Did you check the Golden Gate Bridge?" Quinn asked dryly. He was remembering the time they thought they were home, until the Golden Gate Bridge turned out to be blue.
"I’m taking a walk," Quinn said, ending the conversation. "I need to think."
He left the rest of them sitting there, wondering where they really were.
Quinn’s walk found him at the University of California, the university he used to attend, before he became a slider. He saw two of his old classmates, Conrad Bennish, Jr. and James Wing. He ambled over to say hi, hoping he wouldn’t make a fool of himself. His doubles didn’t always have the same friends he did.
"Bennish? Wing?" he said. "Is that you?"
"Quinn Mallory!" Bennish exclaimed, in his usual dazed manner. "Man, we never thought we’d see you again!"
"Where’ve you been?" Wing asked him. "The FBI was all over your house when you disappeared. Couldn’t make sense of the stuff in your basement, though. Eventually they just gave up. Called it an ‘unexplained disappearance.’"
"Wow, that’s weird," Quinn remarked. He knew his double had discovered sliding without telling anyone. Just like he did.
"So, like, where’d you go?" Bennish wanted to know. "Did you really cross the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge? That would be, like, awesome, dude."
Quinn figured he might as well tell the truth. "It was amazing! There are so many different worlds out there!"
"Wow…," Bennish said in awe.
"Where’s the Professor?" Wing questioned. "Didn’t he go with you?"
"He was killed," Quinn told them sadly. "On another earth." He felt a pang of guilt as he said that. It was his fault the Professor was dead. He had taken a bullet for Quinn. Not to mention whose idea it was to slide without knowing what they were getting into. Mine, Quinn thought. It was my idea. My fault. He tried to turn his attention back to his friends.
"Guys, tell me," he asked them. "Who else ‘disappeared’ when I did?" He already knew the answer, but he wanted to hear it from someone else. He just couldn’t believe it. He wouldn’t let himself.
"Uh, Wade Wells, that girl you worked with at the computer store," Wing said. "And they think some singer did, too. The ‘Crying Man’ I think they called him."
"Rembrandt ‘Crying Man’ Brown… yes, that’s right. It’s just like home," Quinn noted, at the same time trying not to think of Wade, and where she was right now. Man, he had kicked himself enough times for that one.
"What do you mean?" Wing had a puzzled look on his face. "You are home… aren’t you?"
Quinn shook his head. "I have doubles on just about every world. Everyone does. It’s not necessarily home. You see, we’ve slid to many worlds we thought were home. But there’s always one little difference." He paused, thinking. "Hey, have you ever heard of Kromaggs?"
Now Wing was looking at him like he’d totally flipped his lid. "Cro-Magnons, you mean? Sure, they were the first humans from…."
"No, Kromaggs," Quinn interrupted. "They’re an alternate race that evolved on some worlds. They have sliding technology and conquer every world they slide to. They, um… have a taste for human eyes. Last time we slid home, our world had been taken over by them," he explained.
"Never heard of ’em, man," Bennish said.
Quinn sighed. "Oh, well. I knew it was too good to be true."
Then he headed off towards home, leaving Bennish and Wing as they exchanged confused looks.
Quinn passed the Golden Gate Park on his way back. There was Crazy Kenny preaching about the benefits of communism. There was the statue of good old Abe Lincoln. All just like Earth Prime. Like home. What if Maggie was right? Maybe they didn’t really get home last year. Maybe their world wasn’t taken over by Kromaggs. Maybe… maybe this was home.
Quinn reached his house and went to open the gate. Suddenly a memory was superimposed over the real world. It was almost three years ago, yet he remembered it as clear as day. He was standing in front of this very gate, or an exact duplicate on another earth, with his friends. This gate has been squeaking since I was twelve. I know the sound it makes like the back of my hand, he had said. They had 53 seconds to decide whether they were home. He had opened the gate, and when it didn’t squeak, they slid off that world.
He opened the gate now. It squeaked. Just like always. Quinn just shook his head. For the first time since they had started sliding, he had no idea what to do.
He continued into the house. The rest of the sliders were still sitting at the kitchen table where he had left them. They looked up as he came in.
"I talked to some old friends of mine," he told them.
"And?" Maggie prompted.
"It looks like this is home, guys. But I’m just not sure." Quinn looked around at the others’ faces. He couldn’t tell what they were thinking. "I’m going upstairs."
Quinn went up to his room. It too looked just like Earth Prime. As he sat down on the bed, he looked up and saw Colin in the doorway.
"I want to talk to you, brother," Colin said. "This is important."
"All right," Quinn conceded. "I’m just so confused. I don’t know what to do. What if we leave, and we miss the chance to get home? But then, what if we stay, and it turns out we’re not home? Then we’ve missed the slide and we’re stuck here."
"I don’t know, brother. But Remmy seems to believe this is the right world."
"Yeah, he does, doesn’t he?" Quinn agreed.
"You know, if this is your home world, and the Kromagg world isn’t, that means we’re not really brothers," Colin said apprehensively, revealing the disturbing thought he had, up until now, kept to himself.
Quinn was shocked at this. "Colin! You are my brother. No matter what. Even being from another earth. I feel so close to you now, no matter what happens, you’ll always be my brother," he assured him.
"But do you think this is your real earth?" Colin asked.
"I guess…" Quinn sighed. He wanted to believe he was home. But experience had made him wary. How many times had they thought they were home, only to find it was just another parallel world?
"If it is your home… then that means this is it," Colin stated with finality. "Maggie can’t stay here. If you and Remmy decide to stay on your homeworld, we’ll have to split up." Quinn looked up at Colin, realizing this, and he knew that he was right. But Colin wasn’t the one who had to make the decision.
A little while later Quinn came downstairs and called everyone to the kitchen. An idea had occurred to him, and now he was sure. "I’ve been doing some thinking," he said. "Maggie, remember when we were scouting for a world for your people? Where did we land when we made it home? To my homeworld, I mean."
"Your street," Maggie answered, not sure where Quinn was going with this.
"In San Francisco, right. Now when Remmy and Wade used the same co-ordinates to slide home, they should have slid to that exact spot. That’s the way the co-ordinates work. But they didn’t. They landed in Los Angeles. So the world Maggie and I slid to and the world Remmy and Wade slid to weren’t the same world. That means it’s possible we made it home this time."
Quinn looked around. They seemed to understand, and they also seemed to accept the fact that this was Earth Prime. But then, maybe they always had. Perhaps he was the one who had needed convincing. He looked at Colin, who was nodding silently. He knew he had made the right choice.
The day of the slide came eventually, as it always did. The sliders were sitting in the Mallory kitchen with Quinn's mother. Quinn was trying to explain to her that he had to go with his friends, to make sure they were safe.
"Mom, you just don't understand. Maggie has no choice, she has to slide. She can't stay on this earth. And Colin wants to find his real brother."
"So why do you have to go?" she pleaded. "I've only just found you again, and you're leaving me?"
Quinn tried to console her. "I don't want to, Mom, but I have to. I can't send two of my friends into the multiverse alone. Who knows what could happen? I promise, as soon as they're safe, I'll come back."
"But what if something happens, like last time?" she continued, trying her hardest to get him to stay.
"It won’t," Quinn assured her. "I have the co-ordinates this time. I’ll write them on my hand so I won’t forget them, if it’ll make you feel better." He was trying to make her smile. No such luck.
"It's almost time to go," Maggie said, looking at the timer. "Man, Remmy, I'm gonna miss you!" She gave him a bear hug.
"What do you mean, girl? I'm coming with you!" he exclaimed as the others looked at him in shock. "Why not? I've got nothing left here. Sliding is my life now. The only thing left here is my past."
"Wise words, Remmy," Maggie laughed. She remembered saying that once.
"You sure, Crying Man?" Quinn asked him.
"We’re a team, right?" Remmy continued, putting his arm around Maggie and hugging her to him. "I’m not gonna desert you guys now. And if Q-Ball’s willing to give up his home for a while, so am I. I'd miss you too much anyway."
"It's time, guys," Quinn said. "I'll be back soon, Mom, I promise. As soon as I find Maggie and Colin a nice world, I’ll come home. I made some adjustments to the timer so I can get back again. It'll all be fine." He smiled at her, assuring her it would, indeed, be fine. With one final glance around the home he had wished he could see again for so long, he pointed the timer in front of him. 3...2...1.... A vortex opened in front of him and he jumped in. The others followed.
The sliders came out of the vortex and landed on hard ground in an alleyway.
"Oh man, that hurt," Rembrandt complained, picking himself up. They looked around and groaned.
"Uh-oh, another war zone," Maggie said. It was true. The smell of nitre was in the air and they could hear the bedlam of fighting nearby. They heard someone coming around the corner and before they had time to run, they were face-to-face with the Kromaggs.
"Oh great! Just great!" Maggie exclaimed sarcastically, as the Kromaggs apprehended them.
To be continued
Alternate Earth 117
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