"Well, there they are," said Scully. "What now?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know? We came all this way to find them, we found them, and now you don't know what to do about it?"
"I guess I never thought it would be this easy. It's like big game hunting. You don't necessary expect to bag that moose or bear you're trailing through the woods, and when you happen upon them in the next clearing, you're a little overwhelmed."
"I never knew you've been big game hunting."
"I haven't. But I imagine the sensation's about the same."
"So, are you going to just sit here and admire your moose from afar or are you going to at least get out and take a closer look?"
Mulder turned off the ignition and got out of the car without answering. Scully dutifully followed his lead. As they approached the Sliders, Mulder took out his ID and held it up.
"We're with the FBI. I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder, this is my partner, Agent Scully. We've been looking for all of you."
"Looking for us?" said Arturo. "Whatever for? We've done nothing illegal, have we?"
"No, Mr. Arturo, you haven't. We've been looking for you because you've been reported missing."
"Oh. Well, in that case, as you can see, we are no longer missing, are we?"
"Would you mind telling us where you've been for the past three months?"
Being caught off guard with the question, the quartet looked to each other for a believable response. "We've been... out of the country," Wade offered, non too convincingly. "We were doing some volunteer work in a poor African village. There were no phones or TV or radios, so we never knew anyone considered us missing."
"I see," said Mulder with a nod which said he bought her story. "Well, I guess that explains everything then. You should contact the local authorities in San Francisco so they can remove your names from their missing list, and of course, friends and family members who may not be aware of your safety."
"Of course. We'll take care of it right away."
Mulder turned and began to walk away, leaving Scully dumbfounded over his actions. They couldn't have possibly come all this way just so he could make such a simple speech and walk away. She shook her head in disbelief and started to trail behind him. She almost bumped into him when he made a sudden about-face.
"One more thing, Mr. Brown," Mulder addressed Rembrant.
"I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your music."
"Oh.... Well, thanks," he beamed. "I'm always glad to meet a fan."
"I was wondering what you thought about Elvis' remake of your hit song, "Baby, Not Tonight."
"Elvis redid my song?" Rembrant asked excitedly.
"Of course, Rembrant," Quinn nudged him to stick with the game. "How could you forget a thing like that?"
"Oh yeah. What was I thinking. Must be the jet lag."
"Or perhaps you just arrived from a different dimension and you don't know that Elvis died ten years before your singing career even began, not to mention that you've never had a hit song on the charts."
"Very clever, Agent Mulder," said Arturo. "Mind informing us of your true motive in seeking us out?"
"A Mr. Earl Ray Jackson filed a report to NASA early this morning."
"NASA; what does that stand for?" Wade questioned.
"National Agency for Slider Activity. You really aren't from this world, are you?"
"No," Quinn confessed. "We're not. And we'll be leaving tomorrow, so you really don't have to worry about us causing trouble or anything. We just want to be left alone, then we'll be on our way."
"Will you be leaving the way you came?" Mulder asked.
"You know how to control it?"
"No, not really. It was part of an experiment. Unfortunately, I didn't get all the bugs worked out before I decided to test it out."
"You... are you saying that you personally invented a way to travel inter-dimensionally?"
"Mulder," Scully's voice broke through his mounting excitement. "We need to talk."
"Not now," he brushed her off quickly and resumed his questioning of Quinn. "How many worlds have you visited?"
"I don't know. I've lost track. Fifty, sixty or so."
"Look here," Arturo spoke up, "why are you so interested?"
"Believe me. I'm not the only one interested. And if it was this easy for us to find you...." His eyes registered panic as a terrifying thought came to mind. "I'm afraid your lives may be in danger."
"The Black Squad."
"Who or what is the Black Squad?"
"There's a clandestine part of our government that has been trying for a number of years to create a device for sliding into other times and dimensions. Some believe they got the idea from others such as yourselves who have visited here. Apparently, some information was left behind that got them started in the right direction, but the rate of success has been less than stellar. So you can imagine that they would like nothing better than to get their hands on you and coax -- by whatever means necessary -- the secrets of your invention out of you. I wouldn't have come looking for you in the first place if I hadn't been tipped off by someone privy to such information. He told me it would be a mistake if I didn't come and find you. I believe he meant for me to protect you from others who may want to do you harm."
The Sliders looked to each other with obvious trepidation. "So," Wade spoke up, "you think some government goons will come after us, take us to some secret laboratory somewhere and torture us for our secrets?"
"Mulder, please," Scully grabbed his attention again. "We have to talk. Now!"
He wanted to ignore her again, but he could tell by the edgy tone of her voice that she was past becoming impatient. He walked off with her a few yards away from his newest obsession.
"Look, Scully, I know what you're going to say --" he began.
"Then shut up and let me say it!" she snapped at him. When he seemed taken aback by her anger, she took a couple of breaths and forced herself to calm down. When she spoke again, her voice was much gentler. "Mulder, I know that you want them to be the real thing and I know why. But we've been through this before. There's no proof that they're from another dimension."
"They didn't know that Elvis was dead," Mulder pointed out.
"Why should they? There are more Elvis sightings now than when he really was alive."
"Scully, if you're so sure I'm just on another wild goose chase, then... then why did you even come with me?" After he'd asked the question, he realized that he already knew the answer. He saw the flicker of sadness that crossed her features as she had a quick flash of her father's recently disclosed illness. "I'm sorry," he apologized, feeling instantly like a heel.
"It's okay. But it's not the only reason I came. We're partners, Mulder, and I feel that I have to look after you because you won't look after yourself. You react first and think later. Now, you've got these people all upset and frightened for no reason."
"Scully, I know it's your self-appointed job to keep me in line. Now, I know I've been wrong on occasions, but not often and not by much. Someone else initiated this search. It wasn't me this time. You have to ask yourself, why would anyone else but me be interested. Look at them, Scully."
He kept his eyes on his partner while he encouraged her to check out the topic of their conversation. She casually let her eyes shift to the three men and one woman whispering among themselves.
"Ask yourself," Mulder continued, "why are they together? What one factor could keep such obviously mismatched people together? I mean, the kid and the girl I can see. But a has-been singer and a pompous college professor... where's the common denominator? They're together because they have to be. All they have is each other. And they're trapped in an ongoing voyage that they have no control over. These are not the same people who disappeared from our world. I think someone in the government is aware of what actually happened to them. That's why when the description of these guys cropped up, someone took an interest."
"If they're not the ones who disappeared, then who do you think they are?"
"Their parallel doubles. Scully, I'm telling you, it's only a matter of time before the guys in black arrive."
While the two agents were having their private conversation, the Sliders had a discussion going on themselves. "What do you guys think?" Wade started off the debate.
"Well, it would stand to reason," said Arturo, "from what we've read that there would be special interest in anyone thought to be an actual Slider. Reminiscent to our earth's obsession with space aliens."
"Yeah," said Rembrant, "the government did go to a lot of trouble to keep what happened at Area 51 a secret."
"But how do we know we can trust this guy?" said Quinn. "I don't know, but I think he's a little weird. I mean, did you see the way his eyes lit up when I told him about my invention?"
"He was probably seeing dollar signs," Rembrant grunted. "Figuring he can get in on the ground floor using your design."
"I don't think so," said Wade. "Looked more to me like he was excited about the prospects of inter-dimensional travel on a more personal level."
"In any case" said Arturo, "We should decide on a course of action. Do we take what this gentleman tells us at face value or do we avoid him like the plague?"
"Call it woman's intuition, but I believe he's one of the good guys," said Wade.
"Mr. Brown, your opinion?"
"I don't know, but I'd say his partner looks more dangerous than he does. Maybe if we talk to them a little more...."
"Mr. Quinn, what do you say?"
"They could be setting us up for something. But then...." He looked over at the two arguing agents. "Looks like he's really trying to convince her to go along with something they hadn't planned on. I'm with Remmy. I think we should try finding out more about them first and go from there."
"I also concur," said the professor.
Both sets of conversations came to an instant halt when Cleatus came out of the house. "What we got here?" he belted out when he saw the two new visitors.
"Uncle Cleatus, these are a couple of acquaintances of ours," said Rembrant. "This is Mr...."
"Fox Mulder," Mulder took over the introductions and approached the porch. "And this is Dana Scully," he said, pointing to the demure redhead who had not bothered to step forward, though she nodded with a dainty smile. "We're with the FBI," he added, displaying his badge.
"FBI? What the FBI doing all the way out here? You ain't come to arrest nobody, have you?"
"No, sir. We didn't come to arrest anyone. We were following up on the missing person reports someone filed on your nephew and his friends."
"It's all just a big misunderstanding though," said Rembrant.
"But for our records," said Mulder, "we'll need to get some more information from you all before we can close the case."
"Well, don't y'all just stand out here like lost orphans," said Cleatus. "Come on inside and make yourself at home. Come on!" he waved the strangers inside.
Mulder looked to his partner and gave an "After you" gesture to which she begrudgingly responded. As she passed by, he whispered in her ear, "Don't you just love southern hospitality?"
Cleatus was delighted to have more company, and Mulder ingratiated himself by taking an interest in his host's wine bottle collection. Though not much of a drinker himself, his investigations over the years had included a multitude of alcoholics and fine wine connoisseurs. Mulder was able to put a brand name to many of the unlabeled, decorative bottles which Cleatus had rescued from the garbage heap.
When Cleatus invited him and Scully to stay for dinner, although his partner gave him a dirty look, Mulder saw no harm in accepting the offer. Faced with the thought of feeding his house guests earlier that morning, Cleatus had already taken a couple of chickens, some ground beef and frozen vegetables out of the freezer. Still, he needed bread and something to drink to complete the meal. Mulder donated money to the cause and volunteered his partner and Quinn to go to the store.
Scully went reluctantly, knowing what Mulder had in mind for her to do. He wanted her to get Quinn to talk about his invention, not that she even believed that it actually existed. As she followed the directions Cleatus had given her to the nearest supermarket, Quinn was the one to start the conversation.
"So what's it like being an FBI agent?"
"It has its moments," she replied in a flat tone.
"I take it, this isn't one of them, huh?"
"No, it is not."
"You don't believe we're what we say we are, do you? That we're actually from a totally different universe."
"No, I don't."
"But your partner does."
"Mulder is more open-minded. He believes in his gut instincts. I believe in hard evidence. I need proof."
"Well, tomorrow morning at nine-forty-five, you'll see your proof. That's when the portal will be ready to open and we slide out of here."
"I thought you said earlier that you couldn't control it. How do you know exactly what time it'll happen?"
Quinn reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the timer. "This keeps track of the portal openings. So although we always know when, we just never know where the portal will lead to."
Scully took her eyes off the road for seconds at a time to get a look at what he held in his hand. "Looks like some kind of fancy remote control unit. Do you think it's wise showing that to me? I have a gun. I could shoot you and take it from you."
"Yeah, I guess you could. But I should warn you, if you start fiddling around with the wrong buttons in the wrong sequence, you could blow yourself up. And I'd hate to be responsible for the loss of such a pretty and intelligent woman."
Scully smiled, amusedly. "You're full of it, aren't you?"
"So, you won't be shooting me?"
"You're safe, for now."