Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt Brown
Kari Wuhrer as Maggie Beckett
Robert Floyd as Michael Mallory, Jr.
Tembi Locke as Diana Davis
Sabrina Lloyd as Wade Wells
"Thank goodness, a quiet earth!" Rembrandt sighed as they strolled through the park.
"Tell me about it. Being chased by natives is not my idea of a good time!" Maggie agreed wholeheartedly.
"Well maybe you shouldn’t have been flirting with them," Michael teased.
"I didn’t think they’d want me to be the sacrificial virgin at their feast!" Maggie defended herself.
"Not like you could have been anyway," Rembrandt muttered. Maggie smacked him. "Hey!" he yelped. "I was just telling the truth!"
"Why is it always me?" Maggie complained.
Diana sat down on a park bench. That last world had been an adventure, especially for her. She was very new at this, and having to spend the entire slide running away from attacking natives was not exactly her idea of a good time. Luckily they had only been there overnight, but that was enough. But this was a new world, and maybe it would be better.
She was beginning to understand the true effect of what she had done. She had abandoned her whole world for this sliding life. Perhaps she should have thought it over more carefully. But there hadn’t been time. She had to slide with these people or never. "How much time do we have here?" she asked.
"Three days," Michael replied, sitting down next to her.
"Hey what’s this?" Maggie bent down and picked something off the ground. "It looks like a diary."
"We should return it," Michael said. "Is there a name on it?"
Maggie opened to the first page and gasped when she saw what it said. "Yes, there’s a name," she managed. "Wade Kathleen Wells."
Rembrandt’s eyes widened. "Wade?"
Maggie nodded. "But it’s probably not our Wade. How could it have gotten here?"
"What are you talking about?" Diana asked. She didn’t know this Wade person.
"Wade Wells," Rembrandt told her, "was a friend of ours and a fellow slider. She was captured by Kromaggs, and put in a breeding camp. We never found her."
"Oh," Diana remarked. "What’s a Kromagg?"
"You don’t want to know," Maggie replied.
Michael and Diana exchanged confused looks. It was tough being the new guys.
"What should we do?" Maggie asked. "Should we try to return the diary?"
"I guess so," Rembrandt agreed. Then he glanced at the diary again. "Although…."
"What?" Maggie was curious what Remmy was up to.
"Well, if it is our Wade," he started. "I know it’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Anyway, if it is, we’d feel terrible if we didn’t do anything about it. So maybe we could just… you know, read a little bit and see what it says."
Michael looked a little worried about that. "But if it’s not your Wade, you’d be invading a stranger’s privacy."
"But the not knowing would be worse," Rembrandt insisted. "Trust me, you don’t know how it feels to lose someone like that. We have to make sure."
"All right, we’ll take it with us to the hotel," Maggie agreed. "But first thing tomorrow morning, we find Wade and return it."
"Can we go shopping first? Please?" Diana begged. "I’ve been wearing these clothes since I started sliding!" Everyone agreed with that one, so they headed for the ATM.
"You’re really going to read it?" Diana asked Rembrandt, back at the Dominion.
"Yeah," Rembrandt said. He opened the diary and began to read silently. His eyes widened as he read.
"What does it say?" Maggie asked anxiously.
Rembrandt shook his head in disbelief. "Listen to this: I’ve decided to keep a journal of our experiences. We’ve seen so many amazing things, I just want to have some kind of record of them. On this world, San Francisco feels like a small town. We’ve been here almost 18 hours and we haven’t seen a single person who didn’t look content. No crime, no pollution or poverty. No racial strife. Maybe it’s because there’s a lottery here that simply gives out money whenever you want it. The sad thing is, we only have three days here. I’m starting to wish we could stay forever."
"Sounds like paradise," Diana remarked.
"Yeah, how come we never land on worlds like that?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, some paradise," Rembrandt said, remembering that world. "Lotto-of-death almost killed Wade, I got arrested, Quinn got shot… yeah, real fun time."
"Oh," Michael felt somewhat foolish now.
"We did pick up a dog though," Rembrandt continued, immersed in memories. "Henry. He ran off on the next world, never saw him again. Wonder what happened to him….?"
"Why don’t you keep reading?" Maggie suggested.
Rembrandt nodded. He flipped a few pages and began reading again. "The end of another slide. We’ve been stuck here for more than two weeks. Everybody’s unhappy and snapping at each other."
"What earth was that?" Maggie asked.
"Girl, that could be every earth!" Rembrandt replied, laughing. "Although," and he scanned a few more pages, "I’d say it was the world with the bearded women." He chuckled at Michael’s disgusted face.
"Keep going, Rem," Michael said, shaking his head.
"With each passing slide our earth seems farther and farther away. Quinn says I’m being irrational. He tells us sliding is a random process, not a straight line journey. Still, the realization we may never see home again is never far from our minds. Hey, this is right before gangster world," Remmy said, turning the page. "That was the world where I met Mel Torme’." He said it with such admiration that the others wondered who Mel Torme’ was. He read silently to himself for awhile, then chuckled.
"What is it?" Michael asked. He couldn’t get enough of this woman’s diary. He didn’t even know her, but he felt like he did. That was just the way Wade was.
"We have three days till the next slide," Rembrandt continued reading. "I wish it was longer, so I could explore this world where America is a monarchy. Everything is so pretty, and the people are so gracious, it’s like being in a romantic movie."
"What’s so funny about that?" Diana asked.
Rembrandt held up his hand to quiet her, and kept reading, a smile on his face. "When they moved Remmy back to the royal mansion, there were telegrams from all over the world wishing him well with his pregnancy. Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote those words! Even though Remmy’s double could never be king because he’s a commoner, it turns out his baby is fourth in line for the throne."
"Um… so?" Maggie responded. She didn’t quite grasp the full meaning of that diary entry.
"That was the world where I had the baby!" Rembrandt revealed through laughter. "There was some virus, and women couldn’t carry the babies to term, so the docs invented this ‘shared pregnancy’ thing where they put the baby in the man. They thought I was my double, and I ended up having a baby!"
Diana’s eyes went wide and Maggie doubled over in giggles. Michael continued to look puzzled. "But how did they… I mean… how could the… never mind, I don’t want to know." Maggie gently smacked his arm and he too started laughing.
"Let’s hear more about this world, Remmy," Maggie suggested.
Rembrandt nodded and continued. "Well, Remmy survived and the nation welcomed their new king, Rembrandt I. Stellos decided to keep quiet about who his real father was and accepted an appointment by the Duke as Lord High Protector until the king is of age. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster ride for Remmy, but he seems to have come to a place of acceptance. I sure am glad he’s coming with us. You know what the Professor told me?" he asked. The others shook their heads. "He said, ‘Congratulations, Mr. Brown. You gave birth to a son and a king – and that’s a remarkable achievement for any man anywhere!’" Rembrandt told them, doing a perfect impression of the Professor.
The others laughed again, but then it was time to get serious.
"So it’s definitely our Wade," Maggie said thoughtfully.
"Yeah," Rembrandt replied. "You know, there’s more here. I wonder what she’s been through since we got separated."
"No," Diana said firmly. "You’ve read enough. You know it’s your Wade. Don’t read anymore. It’s an invasion of privacy. Would you want someone to read your diary?"
"But this is our friend," Rembrandt argued, "and we want to know what happened to her. She’d probably tell us anyway, if we saw her." He began to read aloud again.
"I’m surprised the Kromaggs didn’t take this diary from me, but since I still have it, I might as well keep writing. I wonder if Remmy is okay, I worry about what the Kromaggs are doing to him. I wonder if Quinn and Maggie ever even made it here, if they’re captured, too. Or maybe they’re out there somewhere, trying to rescue me."
Rembrandt skimmed through a few pages, then stopped. "There’s more here, when she was sent to the breeding camp. I’ve been shipped to another earth. It seems to be a breeder camp or something. I’ve made a friend though. Her name is Christina, and she was captured when her world was taken over. Her brothers were killed. I can sympathize with her. I know what it’s like to lose someone."
He flipped a few more pages, reading silently. "She was rescued. Christina mentioned that she was shipped off-world to another breeder camp. She was rescued from there."
"By who?" Michael asked. He didn’t know this Wade, she didn’t have a double on his world, but hearing her diary had piqued his interest. Especially since she and his double had obviously been close.
"An alternate Quinn," Rembrandt answered. "He was sliding with Conrad Bennish and they ended up on the world where she was a prisoner. Here, listen: I’m very grateful to Quinn and Conrad for rescuing me and bringing me back to their world. I wish I could find my friends, but there really isn’t any way to do that. I don’t want to be disloyal to Quinn, my Quinn, but it feels like there’s something, a special bond, between this other Quinn and I. He lost his Wade. She was killed in a car crash two years before he started sliding. We just feel very close to each other."
"So what happened?" Maggie asked impatiently. "Is she still staying with Quinn? Can we find her?"
"Yeah, she’s still living with Quinn," Rembrandt answered. "They’re… married."
Everyone’s eyes widened at that. "Married?" Maggie gasped. She couldn’t believe it. Well, actually she could. After all, it was Quinn, sort of. She knew it was easy to pretend that you were with the person you loved, even if it was only a double. She had done that, when she met her deceased husband on another earth. She was doing it now, with Michael. Maybe Wade had given up hope that her Quinn would ever come to her. And he hadn’t come, had he? He had stayed on Earth Prime once he found it.
Rembrandt was thinking along the same lines, only he knew how Quinn really felt. He remembered the pained expression, the pleading in his voice, when he asked Remmy to find Wade for him. But now, Wade might not want to come back. She was happy where she was, she had started a new life. He could see that from her diary. Maybe it was for the best. He couldn’t have gotten her back to Earth Prime anyway. She’d have ended up sliding again with them and who knows what danger she’d end up in before they found Earth Prime again.
Michael didn’t know why, but for some reason, he found himself enthralled by Wade. He wondered if it was possible to love someone he had never met. He wanted to meet her. Another thought occurred to him. Quinn had never mentioned Wade in all the time they had spent together in Earth Prime before sliding. He wondered why.
Diana was the only slider who wasn’t really affected by this. She didn’t know Wade, or any doubles of her. It was just a stranger’s diary. And now it was time they stopped snooping in other people’s business and returned it to the owner. "So how do we find this Wade, and return her diary?" she asked, interrupting the others’ thoughts.
"Well," Rembrandt said, coming out of his reverie, "it shouldn’t be too hard. She’s married to Quinn, so the first place to go would be his house."
"This is it, 4151 Blue Jay Way."
Rembrandt’s hand shook as he reached up to knock on the door. He couldn’t believe after all this time, he was going to see Wade, his Wade. It was such a shock knowing how her life had turned out. He wondered what she would say when she saw them.
The door opened and a familiar face looked out at them. Her hair was longer and darker than it used to be, and her abdomen was expanded in a pregnancy just beginning to show, but she was still the same sweet woman Rembrandt had always known. At first their faces didn’t seem to register, then a look of surprise and what looked like hope crossed her face, but quickly disappeared as if she recognized him but dismissed him as a double. Rembrandt opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Diana stepped forward.
"We found your diary in the park," she said. "We wanted to return it to you." She handed it to Wade, who smiled, relieved.
"Thank you, I thought I’d lost it for good."
"I have to confess," Rembrandt said, finding his voice again. "We read it." Wade’s face became dark and accusing. "We just wanted to see," he added hurriedly, seeing her face, "we wanted to see… if it was really you."
Now Wade looked confused. "What do you mean?" she asked, knowing what he was going to say, but not wanting to believe it. Then Maggie stepped forward, past Michael and Diana, and stood in front of Wade.
"Hi, Wade," she said cautiously. The two of them had never been the closest of friends, and even after such a long time, Maggie wasn’t sure how she felt about this. Wade had been the reason she and Quinn never became any more than friends. His love for Wade had always been there, a barrier between them, and Maggie always resented Wade for it. Now Wade was married to Quinn, not her Quinn, but it still hurt. Maggie couldn’t even stay on Quinn’s world because of her breathing problem. It just wasn’t fair.
Wade looked from Remmy to Maggie and back to Remmy again. "Is it you?" she whispered, barely audible.
Rembrandt nodded. "We’re here, sweetheart." He hugged her with all the strength he had. It had been so long, so long. Then Wade reached out and pulled Maggie to her. She too was so overcome with happiness at finally seeing her friends again, whatever anger she had felt towards Maggie was forgotten. Maggie hugged back with reservations. Just because Wade was willing to forgive and forget didn’t mean Maggie would. After all, Maggie didn’t have her Quinn.
Suddenly Wade pulled back in shock. A realization had just occurred to her. She didn’t recognize the man and woman standing behind Maggie. "Where’s Quinn?" She was almost destitute.
"He’s home," Maggie smiled. "We finally made it."
"You made it home? To Earth Prime?" Wade was overjoyed.
"Yeah, but uh… we can’t get back there," Michael said. "I’m Michael Mallory, Jr.," he added, taking Wade’s hand in his own and shaking it vigorously, "and this is Dr. Diana Davis. We sort of had a little… problem on Diana’s world and we lost the timer with the coordinates to Earth Prime."
"Well, we didn’t lose it, it was stolen," Diana defended.
"Oh," was all Wade could manage. Then she glanced outside at the car pulling into the driveway. It was Quinn, her husband. He had called, just before the knock on the door, to let her know he was coming home for lunch. He had done that every day since they had been married. Maybe it was fate that Wade couldn’t go home. She had a life here, a very good life. She had a wonderful husband, she had a child on the way…. She knew she could never have made the choice between her old life and her new life, and she was glad she didn’t have to. But perhaps someday, she would go back and see her old world, and her family… and Quinn. Someday.
"Won’t you come in?" she said to the group on her doorstep. "My husband and I were just about to have lunch; you’re welcome to join us."
Alternate Earth 117
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