By Laura Brigandi (Robin14334)
Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt Brown
Kari Wuhrer as Maggie Beckett
Robert Floyd as Michael Mallory, Jr.
Tembi Locke as Dr. Diana Davis
Peter Jurasik as Dr. Oberon Geiger
Sliding. Michael had never experienced anything like it. And now it had become his life. Not that he regretted his decision. He was loving every minute of it. His two companions, Maggie Beckett and Rembrandt Brown, had been upset about leaving their friends behind, but they didnít neglect to make him feel welcome.
All his sliding knowledge had come from Quinn Mallory. His double from a parallel universe. Quinn had found his home world and wanted to stay, so he invited Michael along to replace him, to "take care of his friends." Everyone had been surprised, though, when Colin, Quinnís other double, had made a last-minute decision to stay with him. They had thought he was going to look for his homeworld.
"I donít know whatís real anymore," he had told them. "First I have a brother, then heís my brotherís double, then heís my doubleÖ I donít know if I can even find my homeworld with the slidecage up. Besides, Iíve never really had a family. Quinnís the closest Iíve ever had to a brother." So he was moving in with Quinn and his mother and becoming Quinnís brother. The four friends had shared a tearful good-bye, and now there were just three of them sliding. Maggie, Remmy, and Michael. It would probably take some getting used to, but theyíd adjust.
Michael looked around their room at the Dominion Hotel. It was his first time in this hotel, but his new friends had been to this very same place countless times on other worlds; it was like home to them. Rembrandt was flipping through the channels on TV and Maggie was taking a nap. This was the first world Michael had been to, except for Earth Prime, and so far it wasnít all that exciting. But it would get better. He knew it would.
Rembrandt looked up at Michael and asked, "You wanna go out and see if we can get some decent food on this earth?"
"Sure," Michael replied. "Should we wake Maggie?"
"Nah, let her sleep."
The two of them walked out to the street and began looking for a restaurant to eat at. As they passed an ATM machine, Rembrandt checked in his wallet and then stopped.
"We could use some extra cash," he said, putting his card in the machine.
"That works?" Michael asked incredulously.
"Yeah, as long as my double has an account on this world," Rembrandt responded, pushing a few buttons. "This shouldnít take long."
"Hey, Remmy, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, whatís on your mind?"
"Well," Michael began, "I was just wondering why you didnít stay on Earth Prime with Quinn and Colin."
"I made a promise," Rembrandt told him. "I told Quinn that Iíd find a friend of ours thatís lost. Iím not going home until I find Wade. Quinn would have kept sliding too, Iím sure, but heís worried about his mother. Sheís getting old and he doesnít want to take the chance that sheís not there when he gets back." He took the money that came out of the ATM. "There we go, that should be enough. Come on, letís eat."
"But isnít that stealing?"
"We-eell, we gotta live somehow. Now letís see about some dinner."
Michael just shook his head in disbelief. He had a lot to learn about the ways of sliding.
Rembrandt laughed to himself. Even though he wasnít Q-Ball, Michael was an awful lot like him. Quinn had always yelled at him for taking money out of the ATM machines on parallel worlds. Once, when he almost missed the slide, Quinn had said, "One day weíre gonna land on a world where you do not wanna stay," and Remmy had responded, "Yeah, but Iíll have money!" Yeah, he was gonna miss Q-Ball. But this new guy wasnít so bad.
"Diana, Iím sorry, but itís not working out."
"All I need is some more time! Please, Doctor, I promise you, I can do it. Just convince them not to pull the funding on the project."
"Iíve already gotten you two extensions."
"I know, and Iím sorry. I just need a little more time to test it out. Iím positive it will work."
Rembrandt and Michael had been listening to the couple next to them arguing for several minutes, and they had decided the "project" they were talking about was sliding.
"Should we offer to help them?" Michael asked.
"I donít know, weíve got to be careful. We canít just go giving out the secret to sliding to any old Joe we meet," Rembrandt cautioned the novice slider. He turned and looked at the people at the table. They were an unlikely pair, and he guessed there was nothing personal about it. The man looked fairly old, and had something of a mad scientist appearance to him, although it was clear he was more on the business end of things, but it was the woman that kept his attention. She appeared to be in her late twenties, dark-haired and very attractive. She glanced over, catching Remmy looking at her, and smiled shyly. He smiled back. "Although, on the other hand," Rembrandt continued to Michael, "thereís no crime in helping out some nice people once in a while."
Michael grinned. He could tell he was going to like Rembrandt.
"Excuse me," Rembrandt interrupted the couple. "I couldnít help but overhear your conversation. By any chance, were you talking about sliding?"
"What?" the man asked, looking confused.
"Traveling between parallel dimensions," Rembrandt clarified. "We call it sliding."
"Oh!" the woman, Diana, said. "Well, yes, we were, only we call it quantum probability translocation." Her tone became more accusing. "How do you know about that? Itís a classified government experiment."
"Weíre sliders from another earth," Michael told her. Man, it felt weird to be saying that.
"Michael here is a scientist, perhaps he could help you," Rembrandt volunteered. Michael shot him a look that clearly showed his annoyance. What did he really know about sliding? This was only his second slide. But he wasnít about to disagree. "Sure, Iíd be glad to help," he said.
"Whereíve you guys been?" Maggie asked as soon as they got in. They could see she had ordered room service for dinner.
"We went out," Michael said, "and Remmy volunteered me to help some chick he was hitting on to build a sliding machine."
"Her nameís Diana Davis, and sheís a scientist," Rembrandt defended himself, and the woman. "Sheís trying to invent sliding, but sheís having a problem, and her superior, Dr. Geiger, told her she was going to lose her fundingÖ so I said Michael would help them out."
"We slide tomorrow night so weíre supposed to head over to their lab bright and early tomorrow," Michael said. "Thanks to lover boy."
"You just wait till you wanna impress a girl," Rembrandt warned.
The lab amazed Michael. It was full of sliding equipment much more advanced than anything in his basement Ė or Quinnís, for that matter. And more expensive, too. The thought of working here excited him. Despite his complaining all night about Rembrandt dragging him into this, he really couldnít wait to get to work.
"So how do we get started?" asked Dr. Oberon Geiger. He was the man from the restaurant the night before. He had come to oversee the work done with the sliders and to deem whether or not it was worth extending the project yet again.
"Well," Michael said, "Iím rather new at this, but I guess the first thing to do would be to check your equation."
"Iím sure itís right," Diana stated. "Iíve checked it and rechecked it. No, thereís something wrong with the machine. Itís not generating a stable vortex. Every time I try to send something through it, the wormhole collapses in on itself."
"All right, well then, letís take a look. How about we compare timers first?"
Diana nodded, and pulled out a key. She unlocked a drawer and took out what could, at first glance, be mistaken for a TV remote control, but upon further inspection was really quite sophisticated-looking.
Michael studied her timer for a moment. Then he grabbed some tools and began to take it apart. Once he had opened it up and exposed the wires and inner mechanisms, he began working on taking apart their own timer.
"Whoa, there," Rembrandt said. "Are you sure you know how to put that thing back together?" He knew Michael had some knowledge of sliding from his own work, but it was limited. After all, Q-Ball had had to teach him a lot.
"Well, weíll find out when we slide, wonít we?" Michael retorted, smiling. Actually, he had no idea. He hoped heíd remember where everything went.
After a few hours, Michael came up with his diagnosis. "Well thereís nothing wrong with your timer. Itís just fine as far as I can tell. I think the problem is with the sliding machine. Iíd like you to take a look at it with me, if you donít mind."
"Certainly," Diana said gratefully. "I hope you can fix whatís wrong with it. I really need to show the government they shouldnít shut down this project."
"Iíll try. But itíll have to be quick, weíve got to slide in a few hours."
Meanwhile, Dr. Oberon Geiger was getting very upset. If anyone had been looking for him they would have found him in his office, in the middle of a heated argument over the telephone. Luckily for him, no one was. He had some very important matters to deal with, and he didnít want anyone bothering him. "Yes I know Dr. Davis and Mr. Mallory are working on the sliding machine," he said into the phone. "They should be done soon, and that canít happen. Weíve been working on this technology for quite a long time now, and weíve put too much time and money into it to fail now. Do you want some college kids getting credit for quantum probability translocation, or us?Ö. Then I suggest you do something about itÖ. Iíve given you all of Dr. Davisís research, how difficult can it be for you numbskulls to finish it?Ö. I donít care! That Mallory will invent translocating, or sliding, or whatever he calls it, unless we do something about himÖ. Fine, then Iíll do it myself." He hung up the phone. Well, he wasnít going to get any help from those stupid scientists over at his personal lab, so heíd have to do something of his own accord. If he couldnít invent sliding himself, heíd just have to steal it.
Michael was getting frustrated. He just couldnít figure it out. He knew it was simple, but this sliding machine stubbornly refused to cooperate. Maybe he just wasnít good enough. Why did Maggie and Rembrandt bring him along? Quinn had left some pretty big shoes, and Michael didnít think he could fill them Ė not by a long shot.
He looked at his watch and turned to Diana. "It doesnít look like we have time for anything else," Michael said, finishing up what he was working on in the sliding machine. "Weíve only got ten minutes. Iíve gotten you started on the right track. Youíll have to finish the rest yourself."
"But weíre not done," Diana said uneasily. She needed Michaelís help, despite his claims he didnít know what he was doing.
"Iím sorry, but weíve got to go."
"All right, letís go find your friends," Diana conceded. The two of them left the lab and turned down the hall. They didnít notice the man who snuck quietly into the room behind them.
"Well, Remmy, youíve sure done a lot of work today," Maggie teased. The two of them were sitting on a sofa in the lobby of the laboratory building. They had been there all day. "You know, you were the one who volunteered us for this, and all youíve done is sit around with me while Michael fixes their sliding machine."
"Like Iíd be any help, girl? I know about as much about sliding as that receptionist over there." He pointed to a blonde woman sitting behind a desk, twirling her hair and chewing gum. She didnít look like she knew much of anything.
Maggie laughed. "Probably somebodyís daughter," she said.
Rembrandt suddenly became serious. "Maggie, do you think it was a good idea bringing Michael along? I mean, he had no idea what he was getting into."
"Well, it was his decision. Although maybe volunteering him to invent sliding on his first slide was a little muchÖ."
"Hey, why does everyone make this out to be my fault?"
Maggie grinned. "Cause it is."
Just then, Michael and Diana entered the lobby. "Come on guys," Michael said. "Itís time to go. The timerís in the lab, weíll slide from there."
Michael got to the lab first. He tried the door. "Itís locked," he said, as the others came up behind him.
"What do you mean itís locked?" Diana asked, confused, and tried the door herself. It was indeed locked. They peered in the window. They could see Dr. Geiger with the slidersí timer in his hand.
He turned and noticed them looking in. He laughed. "Iím going to get credit for sliding!" he said. "Even if I have to use your timer to get it!" He held up the timer as it counted down.
"You canít do this!" Maggie exclaimed, banging on the door.
Dr. Geiger just smiled as he pointed the timer in front of him and pressed the button. A vortex opened and he jumped into it. The sliders tried in vain to get into the room, but they watched the vortex shimmer and fade from outside.
"Now what?" Michael asked. He knew theyíd be stranded for 29 years if they missed the slide, but it had never been brought up what to do if someone else stole the timer and slid without you.
"Well, I guess weíre stuck here," Maggie said dejectedly.
"Maybe not," Diana mused. "We were really close, Michael, Iím sure we can get the sliding machine to work. We can use my timer."
"Itís worth a shot," Michael agreed, "but first we have to get into this room."
"Iíll get the keys." Diana left, walking swiftly down the hall.
"Itís the adventure of a lifetime, isnít it, Mallory?" Maggie asked dryly, patting him on the shoulder. Michael rolled his eyes and laughed slightly. It was certainly turning out to be quite an adventure, for his first slide.
"Youíre sure this thing works now, right? Weíre not gonna get burnt to a crisp or anything when we slide, are we?" Rembrandt asked, about a week later. When they had gotten in the lab, they had found a lot of things smashed and the timer broken, probably so they couldnít follow. But Michael and Diana had been working nonstop on the timer, and they were finally ready to go.
"Donít worry, we tested it plenty of times," Diana assured him.
"There is one problem, though," Michael said. "We never fixed the sliding machine. We just reprogrammed the timer to work on its own. We still wonít be able to control how long we stay on a world. Also, this timer is very simple. It doesnít have the ability to track wormholes like ours does. Weíd be sliding blind."
"The way it was before we landed on Maggieís world and got help from Dr. Jensen," Rembrandt said.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Well, what choice do we have?" Maggie asked. "If we ever want to go back to Earth Prime, we need those coordinates and theyíre in the timer. We have to get it back."
"Yeah, my home coordinates are in that timer too, but we have a minor problem," Michael said insistently. "We canít get it back. We wonít be able to find the good doctor in order to get our timer. We just have to wait for him to find us."
"Then why donít we just stay here?" Rembrandt asked, trying to rationalize. "What do we have to slide for? Weíll just wait for Geiger to come back."
"Well, I donít think heís coming back," Michael told them reluctantly. "From what Diana has told me, he didnít really know all that much about sliding, he just oversaw the project. It may take him a few slides to figure out how our timer works. And if he doesnít know to imput the coordinates in order to slide back here, heíll end up sliding randomly and getting lost. We may not see Dr. Geiger for a long time."
"Dr. Geiger used to be a scientist," Diana added, "but he hasnít done lab work in years. Eventually, Iím sure heíll be able to figure out the timer. But who knows when that will be?"
"Then what are we sliding for anyway?" Maggie asked dubiously. "Itís not like we have any place to go."
"Well would you rather stay here the rest of your life?" Michael shot back. "I didnít think so. Besides, we might find a world with more technology and improve the timer, or better yet, we find Earth Prime, although thatís a stretch. And what about your friend Wade? Donít you want to find her? And stop the Kromaggs? Now letís go." He pushed the button and crossed his fingers. Slowly the air in front of them distorted and a vortex formed. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
"Nice job, Mallory. I think weíll keep you," Maggie said appreciatively.
Michael turned to Diana. "Thanks for everything!" he said as he ran towards it and jumped in, followed by Maggie and Rembrandt. Diana stood there watching them for a moment. She then made a split-second decision that she knew would impact the rest of her life. "Here goes nothing," she muttered, and then, at the last minute, she jumped in after them.
On another earth, someone else was doing the same thing as Diana, but thinking something very different. Dr. Geiger had just opened the vortex he thought would bring him home to glory and fame. He looked at it, relishing the moment. He leaped and was plunged into the swirling distortion. But when he emerged, he didnít see the lab, he didnít even see his world. He looked up at the Golden Gate Bridge in front of him. Or, more accurately, the San Francisco Memorial Bridge, according to the sign. He realized what that meant. He sank to his knees, a single cry escaping his lips. "Noooooooo!"
"Ahhh!" Michael dove to the side to avoid the familiar Abraham Lincoln statue in front of him. Just as he hit the ground, Maggie flopped on top of him. He looked at her face, about two inches from his. "Well now, this is awkward," he remarked. He rolled Maggie off of him just as Rembrandt slammed into him, limbs flailing. The three of them scrambled to get up before they caused a scene. Just as Michael got to his feet, an unexpected Diana flew out, knocking him once more to the ground. Needless to say, the sliders were shocked, particularly Michael. "Man, am I having a bad day," he muttered.
"Diana! What are you doing here?" Rembrandt exclaimed, extending a hand to help her up.
"I followed you," she replied, standing. "It was my fault you guys lost your timer and canít get home. I wanted to come along, and perhaps I could help you with improving the timer."
"Well thatís very nice of you, but I hope you know what youíre getting into," Michael said, with his hand raised as if expecting someone to help him up. When no one did, he got up himself and brushed the leaves and such off his clothes. "Believe me, sliding is not what youíd expect." He had certainly learned that in quite a short time. "And the landings are the pits!" Everyone laughed at that.
As they started walking, Michael looked around at the others, and all his doubts about not being "good enough" faded. It didnít matter if he wasnít the next Quinn Mallory. They were a team. Theyíd stick together, help each other out, and pull their weight in their own way. Yeah, thatís what they were. A team. The sliders.
Alternate Earth 117
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