By Fran Glass aka dynojet, macfran, farscapefran and foreverx
Summary: This is a Sliders/X-Files crossover story. In an alternate universe, Mulder gets a tip on a vortex sighting in Butts County, Georgia which may hold the clue to four missing persons from San Francisco and possibly lead him to his long lost sister.
Disclaimer: This story was written using the characters and situations from The X-files created by Chris Carter. It also uses the characters and situations from Sliders created by Tracy Torme. No infringement is intended.
What if you found a portal to a parallel universe? 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?
Now, what if Fox Mulder and Dana Scully resided in a world where the existence of extraterrestrials was never a topic of conversation, but the idea of traveling to parallel universes is an issue for government involvement and cover-up?
Highway 1941 - Butts County, Georgia - Oct. 16, 1996 - 11:34 p.m.
Earl Ray Jackson pulled his truck to a stop along the dark, deserted highway. Nature was calling. He got out and strolled a few short feet into the bushes. The five beers he had consumed at Dixie's Bar & Grill were taking their sweet time exiting his body. As he stood there emptying his bladder, a sudden gust of wind blew in from behind. It wasn't a chilling wind, which is what he would have expected on this cool, southern night. Instead, it was a blast of thermal air which caused the trees to rustle wildly and lose more of their leaves. The warm wind itself wasn't enough to cause him alarm, but added to the glowing ball of light that appeared out of nowhere and the unusual whirling sound that grew louder with each second, alarm wasn't far off.
Earl hastily zipped his pants and headed back towards his pickup. No more than twenty feet away from his vehicle, he saw it. It hovered in the middle of the road, a giant circle of swirling blue and white light. He stood and stared as a small opening developed in the center of the circle. It widened quickly, creating a whirlpool effect. He would have run if he could have. He would have gotten into his truck and floored it all the way home. But he was frozen solid with fear. They had come for him and he knew it. There was no running away.
As he stared at the ever-widening vortex, waiting to be sucked into it, he saw a shadow appear. It moved quickly, out of control, tumbling onto the grassy shoulder of the road. The first shadow was followed by a second of about the same size, then a third much smaller one, and by a forth much larger one. As soon as the vortex had expelled the four shadows, it shrank quickly in size and disappeared altogether.
"Is everybody all right?" Earl heard one of the shadows speak as they began to stand and dust themselves off.
"I'm still in one piece," came the reply from a female's voice.
"The only thing injured is my dignity," a deep, baritone voice declared.
"Uh oh, guys," said one. "Looks like we've got company."
If Earl hadn't just done it in the bushes, he was sure he would have done it at that instant. With the ultra bright, swirling light no longer silhouetting them, the dirty headlights of his pickup were better able to illuminate the four visitors. The three men and one woman walked slowly his way.
"Hi," said the tall, younger man in a none-threatening manner. "I know this might look a little odd, but I can explain everything. What's your name?"
"Ea-a-rl... Earl Ray."
"Nice to meet you, Earl Ray. I'm Quinn. These are my friends Wade, Rembrant and Professor Arturo." As he introduced them, they each gave a signal of greeting. Then he held his palm out in a friendly gesture. He saw Earl's shaking hand come up to meet his. On contact, however, Earl's eyes rolled back in his head and his body collapsed to the ground. Quinn grabbed the man's hand and cushioned his descent.
"Is he all right?" asked Wade as she moved in for a closer look.
"I think he just fainted," said Quinn, stooping down to check the man's pulse.
"Passed out might be more accurate, Mr. Mallory," said the stout man with the baritone voice. "I can smell the stench of cheap booze on him from here."
"Where do you think we are?" asked Wade.
"Butts County, Georgia," announced Rembrant confidently.
"How on earth could you possibly know that?" asked the professor.
"Easy. Pine trees covered with kudzu on one side of the road, corn field on the other, that thick, southern drawl of our unconscious friend there, and the license plate on his truck. I've got an uncle lives out this way. Well, at least back on our own world I have one."
Wade stepped in closer to Quinn and asked, "Wherever we are, how long are we going to be here?"
Quinn stood up and pulled out a remote control-looking gizmo from his jacket pocket. After fiddling with a couple of buttons on it and waiting for some red lights to finish flashing, he stated, "Well, we've got a little better than thirty-four hours to try and find your uncle, Rembrant."
"First things first," said Arturo. "We should do something about our witness here."
"Witness?" Wade laughed. "You actually think he'd tell someone that he saw four people emerge from a spiraling, multi-colored, lighted wormhole that just appeared out of thin air? Even if he wakes up tomorrow and remembers us, who the heck in their right mind would believe him?"
Outdoor Running Track - Washington D.C. - Oct. 17 - 6:34 a.m.
Sweat exuded from ever pore in his body, his breathing was labored and he was beginning to feel a bit euphoric. Finally forced to slow his pace, his full run around the empty track changed into a trot, and then a walk. His hands rested on slim hips as he concentrated on regulating his breathing. As Mulder headed back towards the bleachers where he had left his gym bag, he saw a lone man sitting on the bench watching him. He took his time in approaching the stranger, curious about his presence but leery of his motives.
"Mr. Mulder," the man stood and greeted him with half a smile and a towel from the gym bag.
Mulder accepted the towel and wiped the perspiration from his face and neck, all the while, keeping a cautious eye on the stranger. He looked him over carefully, profiling him in his mind. The guy could easily pass for a banker or corporate lawyer, but Mulder saw past the expensive trench coat and tailored suit and considered the fifty-something-year-old man to be in a branch of the government. The generous crinkling of his eyes made him appear rather fatherly and non-threatening.
"You know my name," said Mulder, "but I don't know yours."
"Who I am is unimportant. I've been watching you, Mr. Mulder. I've been watching you work. You have a gift -- or shall I say -- a tenacity for seeking out hidden truths. I have something for you."
Mulder became somewhat alarmed when he saw the man reach inside his coat for something. The man noticed his apprehension and smiled amusedly. He slowed his actions to show he was not reaching for a weapon. Instead, he pulled out a business envelope which he held out to the young agent. Mulder accepted it and immediately checked the contents.
"What is this all about?" he asked after a quick perusal of the document inside.
"It's something you'll want to investigate further."
"Some drunk phones in a report to NASA and you think I want to investigate it? Why would I want to do that?"
"If you choose not to investigate, I'm afraid that would be a costly mistake. The decision is purely up to you. But you'll need to move quickly. You won't be the only one with an interest in this." The man turned and began to walk away.
"Hey, what if I need to get in touch with you?" Mulder called after him.
The man turned and replied in a cautious tone. "For both our sakes, I suggest strongly that you not try. If you have any success, we may meet again," he added, then briskly walked away.
Day & Night Diner - Butts County - 7:45 a.m.
Taking refuge at a truck stop diner, the Sliders filled their stomachs with hot coffee and what the waitress touted as being "the best home cooking anywhere." Reading the morning paper and watching the TV set on a high shelf behind the counter, they got a glimpse of the new world in which they had landed. It appeared to be pretty much like their own. There was no obvious deviation in evolutionary, geological or political development. At this point, the only evidence they uncovered to let them know they weren't back home was the fact that John Lennon was alive and well, and the Beatles were still together as a group.
Rembrant had leafed through the local phone book and found a number for his uncle Cleatus. He debated on whether to give him a call so early in the morning, but took a chance anyway and was pleasantly surprised by the wide-awake voice on the other end. As soon as he introduced himself as Rembrant Brown, his uncle let out a whoop.
"Crying Man, is that you? Where the heck you been keeping yourself, boy?"
"I've been traveling around a lot, Uncle Cleatus. But I'm passing through town with some friends of mine and we wanted to stop by and see you, if it's convenient."
"Shoo-o-ot, yeah! Come on!"
Rembrant smiled at his uncle's enthusiasm. "Thanks. Okay, we'll catch a cab then --"
"Cab? What do y'all need with a cab? Where are you? The bus station?"
"No, we're at a truck stop. A place called the Day & Night Diner."
"I know where that is. Don't go wasting your money on no cab. I'll come and pick y'all up."
"Well, we wouldn't want to put you out of your way."
"Naw, I got me some running 'round to do out that way anyhow. And I can just swing on by and pick y'all up on my way back home. Take me 'bout an hour or so."
"Well that'll be great, Uncle Cleatus. We'll wait for you outside. Bye."
"Did you talk to him?" asked Wade when Rembrant returned to their table. "Was he the right one?"
"Oh, he was the right one all right. He's coming to pick us up in about an hour and take us to his place."
"You don't suppose he'd let us sleep on his floor overnight, do you?" asked Quinn. "We don't have enough money for a motel."
"No harm in asking. He seems pretty accommodating. It'll be nice to see him again. Of all the places for us to land, seems kind of odd to end up here, doesn't it?"
"That's exactly what I was thinking," said Arturo. "Mr. Mallory, can you think of a reason why we would stray so far off our normal course of landing in San Francisco?"
"No, I can't. Maybe this world has some kind of special magnetic curve to it."
"Or perhaps an emotional curve," Wade suggested.
"Emotional curve? How do you mean?"
"Sort of like the time when we landed in San Francisco, only in a different era and we met up with you when you were a little boy. A young Quinn who was going through a pretty emotional time of it, and an older Quinn who needed to help him. Maybe it's the same kind of thing with Rembrant and his uncle. Maybe the emotional pull is what brought us here. Maybe his uncle really needs him."
Everyone was quiet for a moment to allow the concept to sink in. Finally, Arturo spoke up. "Hell, it makes about as much sense as anything else."
FBI Headquarters, Washington D.C. - 8:54 a.m.
When Dana Scully entered into the secluded X-File basement office, she found her partner standing at a file cabinet, weeding through the contents of the second drawer.
"Morning, Scully," he chirped as he continued his search.
"Morning, Mulder," she responded in kind, then took off her coat and hung it up. When she went to her desk to put her purse away, she discovered a hot, cup of coffee waiting for her next to a large, fresh croissant and a file folder. She ignored the folder for the moment, already sure that it contained one of Mulder's special projects. Instead, she settled down comfortably in her chair and sipped the special purchase, amaretto coffee that she knew was more than a simple act of kindness. It was a bribe, along with the bakery fresh croissant that she delicately nibbled.
She liked it when Mulder sucked up to her. He didn't do it often enough, probably feeling that his partner would easily follow him to the ends of the earth if he dropped enough bread crumbs. And she probably would. But it was nice when he did small things like this to lure her.
He finally finished rummaging through the file cabinet and approached her desk, carrying several folders. "And how are you, today?" he asked, much too politely.
"I'm feeling fine, Mulder. How are you?"
"Good." His eyes shifted from Scully to the folder that lay untouched in front of her. "Aren't you the least bit curious?" he asked.
Scully popped another tidbit of pastry into her mouth and shook her head in a negative motion.
"You think you already know what it is, don't you?"
She nodded, her chewing exaggerated.
"I could easily investigate this by myself," said Mulder as he parked himself on the edge of her desk. "But I know what a joy you get out of shooting down all my hair-brained theories, finding logical explanations for inexplicable phenomenon, and having new reasons to say, 'I told you so.' However, if you'd rather not go along this time, I'll try not to think of you as a none-believer and a party pooper."
Scully took another unhurried sip of coffee, then with a look of total disinterest finally flipped open the folder in front of her. She silently read the words on the only sheet of paper inside. Upon finishing, she closed the file, such as it was, clasped her hands together and placed them on top of it. She looked up at her partner and spoke in a placid demeanor.
"Mulder, you've got to be kidding."
A huge grin spread across his face, "That's my little skeptic."
"You're getting all excited about a vortex sighting in a place called Butts County by a guy named Earl Ray?"
"You know me, Scully. I get excited by the vortex created when I flush a toilet."
"So what's so special about this one?"
"If you read that report carefully -- and somehow I don't think you did -- you would have seen that Earl Ray gave a description of the people he claims came out of the vortex. If you'd like to take another look at that...."
Mulder pointed with his finger, encouraging his partner to open the folder again. As she complied, he opened the other files he had been digging out of the cabinet when she arrived, and placed them within easy view.
"Earl Ray describes one of the men as being tall and young with dark hair. This," Mulder spoke of the photo in the first file, "is Quinn Mallory, age: twenty-three, height: six-two. Earl also describes a young, short female. This is Wade Wells, also twenty- three, five-foot-two. Then Earl goes on to mention a black male. This is Rembrant "Crying Man" Brown."
"Crying Man?" Scully questioned.
"Aptly named from his emotional outbursts during his concerts."
"Oh, so he's a musician?"
"Singer. Released a couple of albums back in the eighties, but he never hit it big. The last man Earl Ray said he saw, looked like an opera singer. This is Professor Maximilian Arturo. Looks like he could probably belt out a mean "Figaro," doesn't he?"
Scully studied the four photos laid out in front of her. "Okay, so how does this all connect?"
"Those four people have all been reported missing. The thing that makes them unique is that they all disappeared at the same time in the same fashion."
"Let me guess.... They were all sucked into a vortex?"
"You say that as if you don't believe it's possible. Three months ago at the University of California, those four people were seen entering the physics lab together. Five eye-witnesses reported seeing what appeared to be a vortex through the classroom window. Those four people were never seen again after that.
"Today, in the wee hours of the morning, Earl Ray Jackson woke up in the back of his pickup with a blanket thrown over him. He was five miles away from where he'd fainted after encountering the vortex and the people he saw expelled from it."
"Mulder...." She started to shoot down the conclusion she knew he had already drawn. She had planned to show him how it could all be logically explained away, but she made the mistake of looking into his eyes. Those sometimes playful, most times serious, hazel orbs were now dancing with enthusiasm and the hope of finding a long, lost treasure. She realized suddenly that she didn't have the heart nor the desire to extinguish his dreams. "When do we leave?" she asked with a tired smile.
"What? You're not even going to give me a decent fight first?"
"No. I don't feel like fighting today."
Mulder searched her eyes for some hidden secret she was keeping from him. "What's wrong?" he asked, detecting a hint of something not quite right.
"Nothing." She could see he wasn't buying that, so she instantly added, "Nothing I want to talk about right now."
He reluctantly gave up. "Okay.... We're on an 11:30 flight to Atlanta. Then a nice little drive to the country from there. Finish your croissant and I'll take you home so you can pack some frilly things for the trip."
"I don't own any frilly things, Mulder."
"No?" Mulder smiled devilishly. "Well, if you're a good little girl, I'll let you borrow some of mine."