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SLIDERS: ELECTION NIGHT by Nigel G. Mitchell
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains a reference to the ending of the second season episode, "Into the Mystic." If you haven't seen the episode, you might want to skip this story.
*** November 5, 1996 ***
Quinn sat in the Lamplighter Bar and Grill, a cold beer chilling his hand. He was looking at a TV across the bar. So were Arturo, Rembrandt, and Wade. The bar was almost silent as Dan Rather spoke.
"All right," Rather said, "the final votes have been tallied, and it has been confirmed. Senator Bob Dole has been elected as president of the United States of America."
Cheers and boos rose up from the crowd in the bar. As Rather went on to go into more detail, Quinn turned away, shaking his head. "Incredible."
Rembrandt grinned as he nudged Arturo in the ribs. "You heard the man, prof. Pay up."
Arturo murmured as he fished some bills out of his wallet and tossed them in front of Rembrandt. "A lucky guess, Mr. Brown, pure luck."
Wade was still watching the TV with a thoughtful expression. "I wonder if this happened on our world, too, you know? I wonder who was elected president back home."
Arturo brought his whiskey to his lips. "I suppose we'll find that out when we get there."
"But haven't you ever wondered about that?" Wade asked. "Maybe Perot was elected president or maybe somebody we've never heard of. We've been gone for over two years. That's a long time. What's changed on our world?"
Rembrandt lowered his beer. "Yeah, I think about that, too. Wonder what new bands've come up, what new music they came up with. Hey, remember that world we saw where everybody was crazy about that nutty mexican dance, the macarena?"
Wade nodded. "Yeah, that was weird, all right. Everybody doing that dance with the hands and the hips flying all over the place. Wonder if it caught on in our world."
Arturo gazed into his beer, where light was reflected in intricate patterns on the table. "I wonder what new scientific theories have been developed, what breakthroughs have been made. Maybe they've come up with a cure for cancer or...perhaps even completed the Human Genome Project. They might even have completed Mr. Mallory's research and developed interdimensional travel. On their way to come get us, eh?"
Rembrandt and Wade chuckled. It was nice to think about, anyway.
Quinn glanced up at the TV where Dole was giving his victory speech. "You remember that time we met that sorcerer version of me and he sent us to that world he claimed would be ours?"
"Yeah," Rembrandt said. "That world where O.J. Simpson was on trial for murder."
Quinn spoke in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper. "I wonder sometimes."
Arturo looked at him with a grave expression. "I know what you're going to say, Mr. Mallory. You wonder if it was our world, after all."
Rembrandt looked at him over the rim of his mug, then put it down. "Hey, now, wait a minute, guys. I mean... we settled that, right? The fence didn't squeak, it wasn't our planet. Right?"
Wade looked down into her mug, as if to avoid the gaze of the others. "What if somebody oiled the fence?"
"They couldn't have, man," Rembrandt said. "Quinn, you said so yourself, that gate squeaked all your life. You tried oilin' it before, right? And it never worked. Right?"
Quinn sighed. "Yeah, Remmy, you're right. But... just suppose it was home. I mean, it's like you guys said. We've been gone for years. Things change. Suppose there was an earthquake that wiped out California? Or suppose there was a nuclear war? In the beginning, it was easy for us to tell our world. We just looked around for differences. But now..."
"I see your point," Arturo said. "The longer we stay away from our own world, the harder it will be to recognize it when we see it."
Rembrandt looked from him to Quinn, then back again. "So what're you guys sayin'? That we might get home and not even know it? That we might just keep on slidin'? That we might never get home?"
"No." Wade's eyes blazed with determination. "That's not what anybody's saying. Because it's not true. We're gonna get home. Right, guys?"
Quinn looked up, then gave the table a lopsided grin. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right, Wade. Guess it's the beer talking. We're gonna keep sliding and we're gonna get home and this'll all be over."
"I second that," Arturo said just before he brought his mug to his lips again.
Quinn watched the others settle back in their chairs. They were feeling a little better. Maybe it really had been the drinks they'd had while waiting for their next slide, coupled with a little paranoia.
But Quinn looked up at the TV where Dole was shaking a fist, bathed in cheers from his audience and the bar. And he couldn't help but wonder. Would they know their own world if they saw it? What if Bob Dole hadn't been elected president on their world?
What if Bill Clinton had been re-elected, instead?