By Scott E. Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: A Sliders-Lois & Clark crossover in which a maddened Quinn Mallory seeks to destroy Superman.
It took me a long time to write this story, so I hope you do enjoy it. SLIDERS airs at 8:00 on Fridays [on Fox] and LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN is on at 8:00 on Sundays [on ABC]. I would encourage viewers of only one show to tune in to the other. A brief encapsulation of both shows follows
Also this take into account that the DC Character of Superman, never existed on either Earth Prime or on the Super Earth. SLIDERS - Involves the invention of a young quantum physicist genius, Quinn Mallory. He is a normal man who holds none of the prodigy stereotypes. He is smart, crossing into the brilliant. He has found a way to cross the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge, a bridge which leads between alternate realities. Wade Welles is his former colleague who worked with him in a Computer store in their original home world, a world known as Earth-Prime. Professor Maximillian Arturo is Quinn's teacher and mentor. Quinn had invited both Wade and Arturo to see his new invention, and curiosity seemed to get the better of them. They all decided to try this invention on themselves. Previously, only Quinn had "slid." However, the sliding had an unexpected side-effect. The Vortex, also known as the Warphole, opened outside Quinn's home and swallowed a 60's singer named Rembrandt "Cryin' Man" Brown. Rembrandt accidentally drove his Caddie into said Vortex. As Arturo put it upon landing, "I could have sworn I saw God, and He was driving a red Cadillac." LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN - Well, the Superman mythos is generally known. The main characters here, Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen, are generally known. What is different about the show is that they concentrate on the relationship between Lois and Clark more than the "Adventures Of" part of the title. All Characters are copyrights of DC Comics and Universal Studios. The following story is written for enjoyment and is not for sale. All characters are fictional and any similarity to real persons is purely coincidental. I would also like to express my gratitude to my editor, Debby Stark. Any comments are accepted!
Water dripped from the ceiling onto his smooth pate. Each drop brought back violent memories. Memory's that weren't quite memories. The Earthquake, panic, the looting, guns, shooting, it all combined to equal death. All were unfortunate and unwanted memories.
He was a good man. He was convinced of this. He had just been the subject of bad luck. That must be it. Certainly it must. He was a double doctorate in Quantum Physics. He was on the threshold of creating a gate between worlds, worlds of astounding differences, yet all similar. Then The Accident happened, the accident that destroyed his life, his hope.
Stepping forward into the rubble of what once was a lab rivaling STAR Labs, he reached up and brushed the cool water off his head.
His laboratory was in a bomb- and vibration-resistant vault. He had thought nothing could harm him. San Francisco could wither and burn outside, but when he was absorbed in his work, he'd never know until he was done.
But The Accident, now The Accident happened. Working alone while the vast majority of California was undergoing the worst Earthquake in written history, he had nary a clue. It had been so large an earthquake, that if it hadn't been for Him, the majority of the state would have broken loose and sunk into the ocean within years; perhaps months.
But He held the state together. He managed to move faster than the Earth could and fix things before they were even broken. It had taken Him a full week to make sure everything was settled, but California managed to escape. Managed to escape relatively unscathed and with little damage, considering the magnitude to the quake. Only several billion dollars worth of initial damages, not the expected $100 billion. He and His all-perfect self.
The blasted hero, and he used the term loosely, hadn't realized there was a chamber well below where his mother's home once stood. A home which he had accidentally destroyed along with a washed up 60's singer and one of his professors, back in the early days. A time when he was careless, when he couldn't wait to start the machine until one simple question had been answered. A home which belonged to his beloved mother, who thankfully was off on a vacation with the gardener.
He was now buried in this place, deep below the former site. Now grass grew above, a tree where the squeaking gate once stood.
In His damnable exuberance to save an entire people from a slow death, He had jolted the lab with more force than any other thing imaginable. Burrowing carelessly, ceaselessly, all to relieve some fictional stress. This had shaken the chemicals stored in the laboratory. They had spilled all over his equipment, ruining it—and all over him, burning him, condemning him to an eternal damnation of baldness, scarring his face irrevocably.
All around him, what he saw, said he was slipping into insanity. His wife had stood by him for the first month, the twins hadn't even started to show their fear of him. But he knew. He knew! His mind was as sane and clear as ever. But his wife didn't agree. The children had started to cry every time they saw him. She had finally fled with their namesakes. Gone to find Him. Gone to Metropolis.
He had never considered himself a bigot, but one responsible for all of this was not a man. No, the "hero" was an animal, an EVIL animal. An animal to be put down like all other mad animals, and he knew just the way to accomplish this.
For the most part, his equipment had been destroyed, his lab left in a shambles. But as he stood here, overseeing the damage, he decided another timing device might be built. Another device that might lead others like him TO him. A person with a Timer that truly worked. A way to send Him on a one-way trip to another world. He felt a smile cross his face; the sheer excitement stimulated him.
He felt a certain logic in this. Maybe his family would return to his side. Maybe he, not Noah, not the Toyman, not Spencer Spencer, not even Lex Luthor, not anyone but him, *he* would be the ultimate destroyer of Superman.
The plane touched the runway and she felt a jolt in her spine. A hard landing, she thought, but she was alive, albeit scared. She wasn't afraid to admit it. Fright was a good thing. As long as you felt it, you were alive. Fearing your husband would ultimately kill you and your children was the worst of all fears. And she had come to Metropolis with her children seeking help with that fear.
She turned her head to look at her sleeping children. Twins, fraternal, but except for sex and a few minor features, they looked alike. The littlest angels. Maybe that was a mother's perspective though. They had slept through the landing; however, she suspected they wouldn't sleep much on this trip. They were only three years old and both were already able to read novels. They had their father's brains. No, that would be too cruel for them. Their father was slowly unraveling. His mind was slipping. With the power at his disposal, he was also very dangerous.
She stood up to get her packages and a bead of sweat rolled down her spine. Chills filled her body and the children seemed to sense her distress. A cold logic had taken over her husband in past months. She would not allow it to consume her.
Arousing from a deep slumber, sharp blues eyes on both focused on her, seeming to sense her internal turmoil, "Mommy? Are you okay?"
"I'm okay, children, was just getting ready to leave, unbuckle your seat-belts. We need to find Clark Kent and Lois Lane at the Daily Planet."
The stewardess came up to her and lightly tapped her on the shoulder. "Mrs. Mallory, your limo is waiting for you on the tarmac."
She nodded to the woman and thanked her. The stewardess was young, like she had been once. Adventurous, a go-getter, even though Quinn's brilliance had made him a senior when she was in the 7th grade, they were still the same age and she felt strongly attracted to him the minute they met.
Quinn, boy genius, so studious, he had no interest in a personal life. Graduated at 14, had his first doctorate at 19, second at 22. She often wondered what he would have been like if he had slowed down a little, maybe taken up football, or got a job at some computer store, just be a regular Joe. It might have humbled him. Maybe it would have humbled *her*; he did pay for everything for her after all. She was used to the high-life.
The children in tow, she headed down the plane's stairs to the tarmac. A long, sleek black limousine waited for her. Her husband had amassed considerable patents and was a wealthy man. She was still married to him though they were separated. Being Mrs. Quinn Mallory did have its advantages at times. Like getting the limo on the tarmac. She was grateful to see it, she had been so tired, she doubted she could go though the hassle of dragging the children through a major international airport.
A young man—he wasn't much younger than herself—stood taking pictures. He was a handsome young thing. Respectable as well. Despite wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, he still had an air of professionalism. She was use to the attentions that came with being Mrs. Mallory, but this was odd. No one except her maid had known she was coming, so it must not be common knowledge if only one photographer were here, but still it was odd.
"Jimmy!" Perry White's voice boomed through the newsroom. All grew quiet because when the chief spoke, people better listen. If you didn't there was little hope for your future at the Daily Planet. But under his leadership, the Planet had risen to become the premier newspaper of the United States. Lois Lane and her fiance, Clark Kent, were considered the best investigative newspaper reporters in recent history. Everyone knew that Jimmy Olsen was the Perry White's right-hand man, but none would dare admit that.
"Don't you have some work to do, people? This is a NEWSPAPER not a playground. Get to WORK!"
"Get down to the airport pronto! We have an anonymous tip at our office in San Francisco that Mrs. Quinn Mallory will be flying into Metropolis this afternoon to look for Superman. I want some shots. This could be interesting."
"Mrs. Quinn Mallory? Who's that?"
Rolling his eyes in exasperation, defeated by the mentality of the MTV Generation, Perry said, "Jimmy, I'll explain this calmly: Dr. Quinn Mallory is easily considered the greatest scientist of our time. He has almost as large a following as the King himself did. He's got about as many patents as that Gates guy. He was recently injured in the Quake of '95 in San Francisco. No one has been able to get a photo of him since. Now get going!" Throwing his arms up in the air, Perry White scowled at Jimmy and internally laughed as the boy backed away and ran to the elevator. Nearly forgetting his camera.
"Hey, Q-Ball! You've finally done it! You've slid us into a world I can deal with!" The former singer stood posed to throw a football to his young friend. A bond had grown between them through the mutual crisis they both shared. He knew he would have no hesitation in laying down his life for his friend. How had he put it to the lady? "Emotional blackmail." And that's what it was. They had all grown as close as any family could possibly be. That is, if the family included a boy genius, a girl who loved these little adventures, a British professor who had all the stereotypical British pomposity, and a Black Soul-Artist whose main hits were back in the 60's. A Gilligan's Island for the 90's.
"Right, Rembrandt." Quinn Mallory stood waiting to receive the football and his mind flowed to older memories. Memories of his home, his life, "A world revolving around football … field in every town. Sure, if you didn't get killed on the first tackle, maybe you'd survive if you stayed on the bench!" Quinn laughed as he returned the man's good-natured barb. His friend, whom he had met only AFTER he slid, had grown to be of more importance to him than most people he knew. Of course there was always his dottering professor. If dottering was the right word, anyway. He was a man guiding Quinn on the road to his Masters in Quantum Physics. Quinn had resisted skipping grades in high school so he might attend the usual high-school programs, he had joined the football team, gone to his senior prom at the ripe old age of 18, not 14. He had heard the tales of "prodigies" and how some became so ostracized they had become all but mad. His mind had flirted with the thought of what he might have become of he hadn't reigned himself in.
"Shut-Up, Rembrandt, we're going to get home and we're only on this world for a few more minutes!" Wade Welles was a small lass. Most judged her by that alone. She was diminutive in build and only average in height. She was the first to try to talk things out and try to walk away from a fight, but as all these people, her family, knew, if cornered, she'd become a Hell-Cat.
"You blistering idiot! Trying to become complacent on a world where you can have 'fun' does NOT always mean you will be happy; or have we forgotten our encounter with Stardom?" Professor Maximillian Arturo was a large man, often mistaken for Luciano Pavarotti—until they heard him, that is. He sat looking out onto the field watching his friends, waiting for the next slide.
"You there! You with the camera! Who are you?" Descending the stairs one at a time, Mrs. Mallory looked out over the tarmac. Bustling with activity, the tarmac seemed to be alive, like a beehive active with drones that swarmed around their queen, save in this instance, their queen happened to be a 747.
The young man bounded to her with an energy she had possessed just years ago. She was feeling older by the day.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I was trying to stay out of your way…" His energy seemed boundless, his enthusiasm for his job knew no limits. She felt for sure he was from one of those tabloids, but the question was why wasn't she being swamped with attention? What better way to get an audience with Superman than to have her request publicized? But one tabloid, that seemed strange. But what else could it be but a tabloid paparazzi. She told him who she suspected he was.
She was wrong. He was better.
The timer was almost done. Saying he was going to have his revenge might sound too much like a comic book, but it was the feeling that best fit. He tied some parts onto his older Marolta cellular phone, hooked the timing mechanism into the touch pad, and prayed.
This device may not be able to take him to a different world, but it was designed to home in on other sliders and bring them to him. The ones in the closest parallel universe anyway.
He pointed the device at open air and turned it on. The air before him shimmered as a silver tunnel appeared before him. Warm air blew out of it, smelling of freshly cut grass.
No. It should suck IN not out. Maybe this was the effect of a reversed timing device. There was no way to tell except for him to wait. Should be no longer than a minute or two.
Rembrandt threw the ball. As it whistled through the air, cutting though the wind currents like a missile aiming at its target. The ball was mid-way to Quinn when the familiar vortex appeared before it. A watery, silver tunnel appeared in mid air. Its winds sucking in. The ball disappeared in a flash into the gaping hole.
"Q-Ball, what's going on?"
"I don't know, Rembrandt. I haven't touched the timer. According to it we still have ten minutes to go."
"Nevertheless, Mr. Mallory. I suggest we take this window of opportunity while we have it. We may check the timer at the next Earth and see if it is broken. We only have 60 seconds so we must hurry!"
"I don't know, professor. This could be dangerous. I mean the timer does say we have," Quinn pulled the timer out of his pocket so he could get a better look, "God! It says NOW. I thought for sure we had at least ten minutes!"
Wade Welles needed no further encouragement. As usual, she darted for the hole and dove into it. Rembrandt was close on her tail. Next came the professor. He had felt more comfortable going after the artist as his back could not handle the man's landings much more. Quinn, as usual, followed up the rear of the quartet. He tried to do this as much as possible. He felt responsible for getting them into this mess and he'd be damned if he was going to leave one stranded on some strange world.
Before jumping into the gaping hole, he risked one last look at the timer. Now all the readout were scrambled. *You sure are acting odd today. I'll have to open you up on the next world. If I have time, that is.
Jimmy Olsen bounded out of the elevator with his usual exuberance. It had been a pleasant day. The sun was shining and the temperature was over 80, the beginning of summer, great time of the year. Especially for those who wore bikinis. The young, buxom women gallivanting all over the beach. He knew he shouldn't think of these things. After all, if Perry ever found out he was thinking this at work, he'd have his camera. Though, with his situation with Alice, maybe he'd like to go to the beach *with* him. Nah, that would be too relaxed for The Chief.
"Hey, C.K.! I've got someone who needs to talk to you and Lois. She says it's important." Clark Kent, tall, handsome, well built and Jimmy's best friend, well, one of two. It just so happened that Clark was engaged to Jimmy's other best friend.
"Sorry, Jimmy, Lois is at the doctor's getting her check up. I know she probably won't be back for the rest of the day. You KNOW where she stops when she's done!"
"Yeah, Castle O'Fudge! Hope her credit card has a big limit!" Jimmy's joke was delivered with a smile and laughter. To a stranger, he might seem to be disrespectful of his friend but both Clark and he KNEW Lois was a chocoholic to end all chocoholics.
"You'll just have to deal with me. Who is it?"
As if in answer to his question, the elevator bell rang and the doors opened. A small woman, beleaguered with two squirming children, stepped out. The children were restless and fidgeted with all their might. Clark could hardly suppress a smile as he saw this woman. She was beautiful, though not (in his opinion) in Lois' league.
"Here she comes now. I told her I'd bring you out to her. It must really be urgent for her to come all the way up here."
The woman looked over at Jimmy who waved her down. She struggled with two children who seemed to be pulling in all directions. They were enamored with all the bustling activity of the Planet.
"Mr. Kent. My name is Mrs. Wade Welles-Mallory, Dr. Quinn Mallory's wife. I need to get in touch with Superman as soon as I can. I fear for his safety and my safety—and my husband's sanity."
This woman appeared to Clark as well spoken and well educated. But how can one NOT be well educated and live with one of the greatest genius' of all time?
Clark handed Jimmy a $20 bill and suggested he take the children down to McDonald's for a couple of Happy Meals. They might be hungry, which would only add to their level of exuberance. He watched as Jimmy knelt down to eye level with the children and started speaking with them. He realized Jimmy was going to make a great Godfather someday. The children seemed to instantly endear themselves to him. Mrs. Mallory seemed to have the same reaction he did and smiled as she saw her children attach themselves to the young man. It seemed the happiest they had been since they realized their father was not quite the same. She reached in her wallet and withdrew a $100 dollar bill and handed it to Jimmy. The young photographer's eyes widened at the sight, but then he instantly replaced it with a look of confusion.
Seeing the bewilderment on Jimmy's face, Mrs. Mallory smiled at him and simply suggested he take the children for some ice cream as well.
Jimmy smiled and thanked the woman, giving her $100 back and explaining that the money Clark had given him would be plenty. He thanked her and turned to the elevator, holding the children's hands.
Mrs. Mallory seemed shocked about what Jimmy had done, and she watched as her children happily left with the young man who had become part of their life so quickly. She looked at Clark and shook her head as she said, "If I had done that in San Francisco, he would snatched the money right out of my hand. Metropolis is a very different city. Maybe it's the effect Superman has on the populous."
Internally, Clark bristled at the suggestion. He was already having some difficulty with a cult that had popped up and was worshipping him as though he were the second coming. He realized his influence could be the reason Metropolis had the lowest crime rate, but that didn't mean he liked some of the theories for it.
She stopped him before he could complete his thought, "Mr. Kent, I only prefer people to call me 'Mrs. Mallory' in front of my children or employed by my husband or me. Please call me Wade. 'Mrs. Mallory' makes me sound so old!"
"All right… Wade," he replied, placing a good natured sarcasm on the name, "What can I do for you?"
"Mr. Kent. I understand you and your fiancee are very close to Superman. I need to warn him. When he saved San Francisco, he injured my husband…" Wade trailed off, fighting back tears. Just the thought of her husband before the accident was more than enough to evoke an emotional reaction. She was devastated by this whole thing. It took her more time than she thought it would because she could hear Mr. Kent's voice calling her back.
"Wade, I had heard that. Superman hadn't intended to create havoc for even one man. But the entire state of California was at stake. And please, call me Clark."
Fighting back a growing flood of tears, Wade continued, spinning a wildly emotional tale of Superman that was unfortunately familiar to Clark. How Superman had burrowed deeply into the seemingly vacant lot in an attempt to relieve some stress for the overtaxed tectonic plates. How he had burrowed far too close to a hidden laboratory and had accidentally doused its occupant in a bath of chemicals, destroying all his equipment and causing the doctor's hair to fall out. How Wade had sensed something wrong almost immediately and the children shortly thereafter.
Clark felt a shudder down his spine. Had he somehow managed to do just what Bruce had? Had he created another Joker—except one without the maniacal humor? Worse, one with the brains and knowledge of the world's greatest scientist? The thought tore at his very being. *What have I unleashed?*
But Wade's tale wasn't done yet. She started rambling about some Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge. Clark couldn't understand this fully, but he had had his own experience with time travel, and Lois had told him of her travels to another dimension. What this woman was explaining to him was all too possible.
"Mrs… um, sorry, Wade, I'll be sure to contact Superman as soon as I can. What hotel are you staying at and I'll have him meet you."
Wade gave him this information, smiled too briefly, and left.
Clark realized he needed to talk to Lois. He needed advice, and he didn't feel he had time to go back to Kansas. With a wee bit of irony he thought *Clark, we're not in Kansas anymore.
The warm air flowed all over his body. He stood with only his boxers on feeling the warm breeze blowing all over him caressing his body in its embrace, tickling his bald head as it moved around him. *It's working*, he thought, *If my counterpart has an ounce of brains, he will see how much evil this creature is committing on my world.*
A football flew through the vortex hitting this man in the chest with such force that it pushed him back. This was a good thing, for as he fell, a young woman leapt through the hole with more grace than a leaping elk.
He heard himself whisper, "Wade…" for this was truly the woman he married. Youthful, beautiful, and exotically adventurous.
She was followed by a black man who's face had been irrevocably etched into his mind. "Weeping Man" Brown. No, that wasn't right. "Crying Man" that was it. This man stumbled out of the gate and fell straight onto his face, but was quickly able to right himself. *He didn't die. Amazing. I wonder how different my counterpart is."
Just as one man was righting himself, a large man emerged from the gate. He fell on his stomach and was slow to right himself.
But before the man even attempted to right himself, he rolled quickly to the side. Out of the way of the next emerging figure. He had been logically prepared for it, but not emotionally. Staring him in the face was a counterpart from another world.
Suddenly he felt foolish to have stripped to enjoy in the warm air. His counterpart was obviously in better health than he.
Clark, realizing the urgent need for his counterpart's attention, headed for the store room to find Lois. Before he completely stood, the elevator rang and Lois stood dumping aspirin in her hand. Moving to his future wife, he remembered what his mother told him just weeks ago, "Always put your personal life first and professional second." He then asked Lois how the dentist was.
"What's wrong? You've got that look in your eye."
Sighing at his future wife's observational skills, he wondered how Lois ever was fooled by his glasses. He then proceeded to lead his wife to the store room. Clark spun into his "working clothes" and said, "I'll fill you in on the way."
Clark landed with Lois in the alley, "Wait here," and he proceeded to spin into his daily suit.
Walking out of the alley he spotted Jimmy right away. His look of defeat told Clark, Jimmy had new found respect for mothers everywhere. "Jimmy, here's Mrs. Mallory's hotel and room number. Tell her Lois and I will meet her in California with Superman. Lois and I want to do some research on the Earthquake first. "No need to mention that research was in California itself.
Clark nestled Lois in his arms as he brought her up to date on what was happening. She rested comfortably, wrapped in his cape. Martha had offered to make her a flight costume, but she felt too comfortable in this piece of red material. They were somewhere over the US, but Lois didn't rightly care where. This story was so fantastic. And if she had heard it just five years ago, she might never have believed it.
Flying Air-Superman was safer than any other type of flight. And it had its perks, too. She had to admit, she still liked seeing him in The Outfit. The only problem was explaining to Wade Mallory how they, Clark and Lois, would both get a ride from Superman.
Listening to Clark's further explanation of Wade's account was fantastic, but believable. But Quinn Mallory mad? That was hard to believe. But as soon as she said that, she remembered she had said the same about Lex.
Upon exiting from the vortex, Quinn saw his friends all gaping at some man. He had been moving too fast to focus on the man, but upon seeing him, he realized why they seemed so entranced by this figure. The man was himself. A less imposing a figure, but him not the less. And the man was standing in his boxers. The newly arrived Quinn felt a wave of misplaced embarrassment.
The two Quinn's stood staring at each other. They circled each other like hawks. Quinn barley understood where he was. Then it came upon the healthier Quinn when he realized he was in a laboratory. He also realized there was a second vortex that HADN'T closed after 60 seconds. It was just starting to close after two minutes.
"You've perfected the gate?" Quinn's first words on this world were those only the two men would understand.
Wade, however felt differently.
"QUINN! What the Hell do you think you're doing? I mean you've just come face to face with yourself and unlike other times, this one seemed to be EXPECTING you. All you can say is 'you perfected the gate'?"
"Always was a spitfire," the bald Quinn said. "That's probably why I married her in the first place."
Wade's expression immediately turned to shock, then blush as she realized the power that statement held. Quinn knew how she felt about him, but always played it cool due to the circumstances they found themselves in. But he couldn't help but look at his "wife" and show a sly grin. Wade just turned away, and Rembrandt giggled, "You and Q-Ball!"
"At any rate," The Doctor looked at Wade, "as the young lady pointed out, I *was* expecting you. However, I have not perfected the gate and was hoping you had."
Clark and Lois landed in a secluded alleyway. Clark did his usual spin and was instantly out of the costume and into his street clothes. *How was I ever fooled?* Lois thought as she looked at the man she loved.
Exiting from the dark alley, they were immediately sighted by a police officer. He seemed to be sizing them up as to what kind of threat they posed. They simply walked by him without offering any defiance. But once out of ear-shot, Lois looked at Clark and said, "We never get that in Metropolis."
"California is a different place. You've been here before. It shouldn't surprise you."
"It doesn't. But I *am* used to being in Metropolis. Now let's see if we can find anything out about Dr. Mallory."
The two of them spent the next hour checking on Mallory's possible acquisition of ill gotten goods, but that well seemed to be dry.
"Look, Clark. Dr. Mallory is a multi-billionaire, right?"
Clark just nodded.
"Well, why would he have to come down to the dark end of SF? I mean, I bet he could get what he's looking for and bury it so deep Batman couldn't find it."
*I doubt that* Clark thought, but just said, "So what we need to do is find the man himself. But maybe I shouldn't be 'Clark' to do that."
"My exact thoughts."
Lois and Clark passed an electronics store that was having a special on radios. Out of the speaker came a dedication, "The people of California have adopted this song as the new state anthem. It seems appropriate for what Superman did for us in the Big Quake."
Clark grimaced as he heard, "I Need A Hero" spilling out of the radio.
Lois just laughed, knowing how uncomfortable adulation made him. *Martha would have a field day with this,* she thought.
Without stopping to prolong Clark's discomfiture, they moved on to meet Wade at the airport.
"Now let me see if I understand this," Quinn asked himself some time later. "I'm told there's a man who can fly, has the strength of a thousand men, bounces bullets and lasers off his chest like spitwads, he sees through things, melts things with his eyes, and can see the atoms of an object if he wishes. Human kind has no defense against him except for a green rock. He's saved the world on more occasions that one would care to count, helps people, stopped California from slipping into the ocean and still is bent on human destruction. And STILL isn't a human, but an alien. Is that about right? You had me going until you said alien. I mean there's no such thing… on Earth, that is. Probability indicates there is life elsewhere…"
Quinn was interrupted in his train of though by a deep sigh from the professor, "Not quite, Mr. Mallory."
"*MR.*? I had completed my first doctorate and gained my first billion by the time I was 19!" the shock was obvious on the Dr. Mallory's face. An obvious disgust grew on his face. "What happened?"
"Maybe I could have done those things, but I chose to have a life! I joined the football team, screwed up, got a job, all the normal teenage things. I just wanted to stay healthy, no, *normal*. I'm not so full of myself to believe I *could* have done them, but maybe."
"Good Lord! I can't imagine not succeeding where my father wanted me to so much before his death."
"Well, MY father wanted me to live normally, not be a slave to my mind!"
"Man, this is getting confusing," Rembrandt's attempt at humor calmed the situation a bit.
"OK, Rembrandt, he's Dr. Mallory and just call me Quinn." The healthier of the two added with a pointed barb at his counterpart.
"Gentlemen!" the professor's harsh voice broke the rage both Quinns were beginning to feel, "If I may get us back on track, Mr. Mallory, in 1966 a meteorite crashed near Smallville, Kansas. Now this is what the public believes. In that day and age, I was still operating under my doctorate title as a quantum physicist for the US Air Force. I had no direct involvement, but there were rumors all over the base I was stationed at that it was not a meteorite but an alien space craft. A birthing matrix, if rumors are to be believed. A living infant child was supposedly recovered. Even those of us who heard rumors were sworn to secrecy. And the couple who discovered the child were paid off. The US Armed Forces feared another Roswell, New Mexico incident."
"But if this were true professor, why don't *we* have a 'Superman'?"
Quinn's question was only natural. However he knew what Wade's reaction was going to be. After a long, drawn-out breath Arturo answered, "Again, if rumors are to believed, he was… dissected." No statement ever hurt more. He knew what the young lady's reaction was going to be. Despite his gruff manner, he truly did care about her.
As if on cue, Wade let out a combination shock and dismayed gasp of air. A look of depression crossed her face. "You mean half the things that have happened to our world, never should have?"
"Young Woman! Pull yourself together! These are only rumors. Each world is different, remember." He felt it was important to corral the young woman's disgust before it grew. But he had to admit to himself that there was a growing knot in his stomach. He knew at that moment that the rumors must have been true.
Superman flew past the windows of many a skyscraper back in Metropolis, but he hadn't received an experience such as this. Everywhere he looked there was his chest emblem tacked on walls, flags, doors, T-shirts, and even dog jackets. Buildings flew his symbol as high as the state flag. When he was spotted, everyone stood and applauded. *If I'm not careful, I'll get a super big- headed ego from all of this.* Truth be told, however, he just wanted to return home to his quiet life. *Leads you to wonder, though, if Metropolis hasn't gotten so used to me, if they've become blase…*
Alighting on the rooftop of a medium-height building, Superman looked out upon the rest of the city. It was a pretty scene. Lois and he would have to fly above the clouds here before they went home—or, if Wade's fears were to be believed, *if* they went home.
Sighing at the possibility of a brilliant, methodical, and, more frighteningly, patient Joker, Superman turned around and headed to the rooftop entrance. Even being careful not to use his full strength, the door was so worn with age it nearly came off at the hinges. *What kind of lab was this, anyway?* But upon entering his ideas about it were completely changed.
His eyes were immediately assaulted but adjusted to bright florescent lights in the hall ceiling. A sterile stairwell lead down in front of him. The insides of this building were in direct contrast to the outside.
He descended the stairs one step at a time with caution.
The door at the bottom of the stairwell led to a hall of laboratories. He immediately detected the smell of ammonia. *Someone is keeping this place clean*. Walking down the hall, Superman passed some people in white lab coats, people who looked like doctors and others who looked like technicians. All fell silent upon seeing him, the man who had saved California from a slow and painful crippling, if not outright death. They stood and stared at him in awe.
It made Clark more than a little uncomfortable. He approached a gold plate on a wooden door. *It seems all directors want to show off,* he thought. The door stood about 7' 5" and was a wooden oak.
The gold name plate said simply, "Dr. Dana Mulder - Director STAR Labs".
As he was about to knock on the door, it flew open. A woman in her early thirties stood in front of him. She was about a head shorter, unassuming, with long straight hair. She had a gold cross about her neck and a cherubic face. Initially, she seemed to pose no threat to anyone, but he couldn't shake the feeling she was not one to upset. *That's probably how many people feel about Lois*, he thought, trying not to smile.
She seemed so familiar, yet so different, he was unsure on where to place her face.
"My God! It *is* you," the woman exclaimed. "Do you know how much my husband would love to get his hands on you?!" She asked with a wry smile.
"Perhaps… later, Dr. Mulder. I'd like to ask you a few questions if you have the time."
The young woman nodded and indicated the way into her office with a sweeping motion of her hand. "What can I do for you?"
"I was hoping you could provide me with some information on the whereabouts of Dr. Quinn Mallory."
"Wow. He's almost as large a figure as you are. I'm not sure what I can tell you, except that we buy our equipment at the same scientific warehouse."
"I was hoping you could tell me where I might *find* him. I'm sure you heard about the accident he had during the quake a few months ago. His wife, Wade Welles-Mallory, visited Metropolis and told a friend of mine how the accident caused him to go quite mad. She's worried her husband will do something deadly." Superman then went on to explain the theory that was presented to him about the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge, Dr. Mallory's obsession with his destruction, and his personal fear of another Joker loosed upon the world.
"Well, I've heard of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge but always assumed it to be theory. But then again, for a long time I assumed aliens weren't real…" Dr. Mulder smiled, "No offense… Let me see what I can do here." Reaching for her computer terminal, she started working furiously. Within ten minutes, she had hacked into the distribution section of the scientific warehouse her laboratory used, found that Mallory used it, too, and she pulled up his address.
"How did you do that? I've never seen anyone hack a computer that quickly before!"
"I have a back door. Old G-man attitudes die hard." She looked up with a smile, "But don't tell."
"Don't worry, I know how to keep a secret." Superman added with a smile.
The printer on the corner of the desk started whirring. It spat out piece of paper and Dr. Mulder grabbed it. "This is the address, and mine is below it. If you have a moment, would you mind stopping to speak with my husband? He used to run the X-Files division at the FBI. Those were the cases the government wanted to forget, but when you showed up, they were forced to admit the existence of the extra-normal. He's heading up the new division out here in California."
"He sounds like an interesting man, I'd like to meet him, but for now I have to find Dr. Mallory. If you'll excuse me …"
"Of course, of course. If we at STAR Labs can be of any help, please let us know."
With a simple nod of his head and Superman's trademark smile, he turned and opened the door.
Only to be greeted with many more awe-stricken faces. The awe lasted only a quiet moment before those wearing the expressions suddenly began to applaud.
Behind Superman, Dr. Mulder cleared her throat. "There's a window in my office…"
He looked at her thankfully, closed the door again, and turned to flee the growing crowd.
Clark and Lois had just met Wade and her children at the airport when Lois heard her cellular phone ring. She pulled the phone out of her pocket book, flipped open the little panel and started talking to someone back east. *Probably my mother*, Clark thought, *Lois has one of those amused looks on her face again.*
As Lois was placing her phone back in her purse, Clark noticed Wade out the corner of his eye. She had been staring at the phone as if in a distant trance.
"Are you okay, um, Mrs. Mallory?" Clark remembered she liked to be addressed formally in front of her children.
"Oh, I'm fine, Mr. Kent. That phone just reminded me of Quinn's older model. His pre-satellite hook up days. He used the thing often in school to make deals."
"Oh. I see, brings back older memories. I'm sorry." Lois added to the conversation..
"Don't be sorry, Ms. Lane. It's nice to remember my husband the way he was, not is."
Turning to Clark, Lois said, "That was the west coast division. They had some background on the address we received,"
"What address?" Wade asked.
Clark quickly brought her up to date on what they found, including the address and Superman's experiences with Dr. Mulder and Star Labs.
"That's his mother's old address. But more importantly, if Dr. Mulder has that back door, I'm sure Quinn has one, too. He must know we're here looking for him already!"
Clark thought Wade was about to cry with fright. He really didn't know what to do to make her more comfortable, but if Dr. Mallory knew Superman was here, the situation just became that much more dangerous. He half listened to how Dr. Mallory bought the entire neighborhood and buried his laboratory under his mother's old house. He knew this already, but only as Superman. Watching as Wade spoke, he touched Lois on the back to get her attention. The essence of nonchalance, he motioned to his future wife with a wave of a hand. This was an unspoken communications between them that he needed to take a flight.
"Mrs. Mallory," Clark began, "Superman has gone back to Metropolis to get Jimmy. I told him the effect Jimmy had on your kids so he wanted to ask Jimmy to watch the kids when we went to see your husband. I hope we didn't overstep our bounds."
"No, Mr. Kent. I appreciate the thought as a matter of fact. I was worried about what to do with them." Wade Welles Mallory glanced over her shoulder at the children playing with their toys on the ground.
Clark did his usual dance around his morality and said, "I'll go… call Jimmy and set it up," he lied. Before Mrs. Mallory could say anything he started down the street and quickly disappeared. Had he looked back, he might have noticed a smile on the twins' faces.
"Jimmy, I can't tell you how much I owe you for this."
Jimmy Olsen was almost too flabbergasted to respond. He was being held in the arms of a man who could crush mountains. He was higher in the air than most planes could go, and he was flying *faster* than a plane, "Well, from this height, I wouldn't say no even if you weren't my friend!" Jimmy joked uncomfortably.
"We're almost there."
"We just left Metropolis ten minutes ago! At this speed I should be burnt to a cinder!"
"Well, there's a complicated, scientific reason for it, but let's just say my aura surrounds you!" Superman knew that was going to drive his friend crazy, but he'd just have to hold off on the explanations.
"Miss Lane, where did Mr. Kent go? It's been fifteen minutes since he left to find a phone!" This statement from their mother cause the twins to giggle. "What's so funny?" Their mother asked.
"Nothin'," The children replied in unison.
Before Wade was able to prod them for further information, Superman came to a soft landing in front of her. Jimmy leapt out of his arms, "Wow, you should charge admission for that! It's the coolest roller coaster I've ever been on!"
"Jimmy! I knew Superman would get you. I just didn't think it would be this quickly." With a glance to Superman, Lois added, "I was just going to tell Mrs. Mallory where *Clark* went."
Superman looked at Mrs. Mallory and said, "Oh, he had an extremely urgent matter back in Metropolis, so on my way to get Jimmy, I took him back there."
"Oh, well, that explains it." Mrs. Mallory turned to Jimmy, "My driver is around the corner. My purse is there, too. Feel free to take whatever money you need."
"Thanks, Mrs. Mallory. I'll take the kids some place and try to keep them entertained." With that, Jimmy took the kids around the corner of the building they were standing before and got in the back of the limousine. It was plushly decorated, with a TV, VCR, even satellite access, a refrigerator and wet bar. But upon further inspection, Jimmy discovered that the bar was filled with children's drinks.
A gasp came from the children and Jimmy looked up.
"That's… that's not Joe!" one of the children exclaimed.
Jimmy was greeted by a smiling face of a bald man who had had a glimmer in his eyes Jimmy didn't trust. His view of the man was cut-off, as the glass partition raised between them.
"That's our FATHER!" The children cried.
Jimmy reached for the door, but it was locked. Before he could pound on the window and yell for Superman's help, gas filled the cabin, and he soon swimming in darkness.
"Mr. Mallory, calm down! The doctor may be gone for now, but he will be back. He said he needed to pick up his children."
At the mere implication of that, Rembrandt could hardly contain himself. Wade shot the singer a stinging look of displeasure, knowing how he liked to tease her about the relationship she and Quinn had. Sitting around was driving her crazy. She wanted to see this world. Wanted to learn about its extra cities. This Metropolis or Gotham. It sound interesting.
Quinn, on the other hand, never seemed to notice, or even hear the singer, "I'm telling you, professor. That may be me biologically, but we are two different people! Something really bothers me about this man. I mean he tells us this 'Superman' is bent on world domination, but from the descriptions of those alien abilities, he could have taken over the world years ago. And did you notice how my counterpart speaks of his wife and children? He's… reserved. Almost like he didn't care about them anymore. It seems with each passing moment he becomes more and more uncontrollable."
"I have to agree with Quinn on this one," said Wade. "Despite the obvious, uncomfortable, implications between Quinn and myself, I don't feel comfortable when he's here. Something's wrong. Besides, he talks about *your* counterparts almost like they were dead or something."
"And you, do *you* have something to add, Mr. Brown?"
At the professor's question, Rembrandt just looked up and nodded. Despite loving this group like family, he felt over-shadowed by them. The feeling was intensified here.
"Ah, so we all feel the same way…"
Quinn shot the Professor a look of surprise, "But I thought…"
"I admit that I, too, have entertained similar feelings, but I had identified them as simple discomfort with our current situation. However, since we *all* feel the same way, I suggest we move away from here at once. The further we get from this man, the easier it will be to sort out our feelings."
"Not true, Professor."
The quartet swung around to face the voice. There, exiting the service elevator, was Dr. Mallory. He was pushing a wheelchair. In it was propped a young man roughly Quinn's age. He was sleeping despite the fact that there were two small children sitting on his lap and propped up against him. Dr. Mallory pushed the wheelchair off to one side and pulled out a gun, pointing it at the quartet of travelers. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to insist you stay. What I said about Superman is quite real and I need to use your timing device to send him on a one-way trip to oblivion!"
Quinn shook his head at his counterpart's words. The man seemed to have become even more unhinged while he was gone. He pointed at the three newcomers. "What have you done to those people?"
"Oh, that guy is Jimmy Olsen and he's the key to my re… success. And those are my 'children,' or so Wade told me, but she can't fool me. They must be Hurley's down at my computer store. All she does is go on about how he is a 'putz' and a source of aggravation. So she's obviously hiding something."
Wade was furious at the implications leveled at her counterpart. "Hurley's been a putz on every world we've been on!"
"Nevertheless, she's hiding something, I'm convinced of that!"
Wade was unable to contain herself and lunged at the man who was her husband in another reality. She leapt through the air with surprising speed. If the wheelchair containing the three people hadn't been in the way, she might have made it. Unfortunately, all she met was the barrel of a revolver smashing into her skull.
"I can hit you, or I can kill you. Try that again and I WILL kill you!"
The doctor watched as his healthier counterpart scrambled across the room to his assist his friend. *Young love*, he thought in disgust.
The children were the first to awake. They open their eyes almost simultaneously. They looked around the room filled with scattered equipment. They saw the two who were in a photograph their father kept in a safe place. One was round and bearded. He was a logical man, they could tell that from his posture. The other was a black man with a mustache. His stature was more relaxed than the others and he looked like, in another situation, he'd be as fun to play with as Jimmy was. They had witnessed their father just hit a woman who looked a lot like their mother. They smiled as a man who looked a lot like what their father use to looked like run to help the woman. They didn't really understand what was going on, but they did understand that they were scared.
They looked up at Jimmy, who seemed to be sleeping, but on closer inspection, they saw that he was just waking up. Good! Smart they were, but there were times when adults came in handy!
"Jimmy…" The young girl whispered so as not to draw their father's attention. "Jimmy, wake up. I'm not sure what to do…"
Jimmy, to his credit, quickly figured out exactly what to do. After quickly remembering what had happened in the limo and seeing how it could lead to his being here, he was also able to see he was not in a position to do anything. On the other hand, if the group of people the bald man was pointing a gun at were on his side, maybe they could overpower him. If they weren't, if the gunman was advising them to get their guns, too, he and the kids were dead. Looking down at his wrist, which was resting on the wheelchair arm, he saw the watch. It had once been destroyed, but he had rebuilt it.
Seeing his young charges looking to him for comfort, he felt pressured to go ahead with what he had decided to do, now. He reached over carefully and pressed the button on the side of the watch. All he could do now was wait.
Dr. Mallory came over to them, "Ah, you're awake," he smiled. "I hope you've called Superman."
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, it was a sound that came instantly and cut through Superman's bones like a knife. There was only one thing that made that noise. Looking to Wade and Lois, he said only, "Excuse me," before he shot off in the air faster than even Lois, who was used to that, could follow. *Jimmy…*, she thought as she grabbed Wade's hand and dashed for a taxi.
Before Dr. Mallory received his answer, the door behind him splintered. The building that was earthquake proof was NOT Superman proof.
Superman stood in the doorway with a look of shock on his face. He looked to the sliding quartet then to Dr. Mallory. Despite the obvious differences in the two Mallorys' health, he was still taken aback by their similarities.
However, that instant was all the time that Dr. Mallory needed. He reached for the Quartet's timer, being held by Rembrandt, and grabbed it. He pointed the device next to the wheelchair, activated the vortex, and gave the wheelchair and its occupants a hard shove.
This happened so quickly that Jimmy had no time to react as he and the children were propelled into the vortex.
"NO!" Superman shouted so loudly that it shook the scattered equipment all around him. Diving for the hole and Jimmy and the children, he began to get sucked in.
Quinn ran forward to his mad counterpart, pushed him down, and grabbed another device off the table next to his right. Before he could close the vortex, he saw Superman become fully enveloped in the hole.
"Yes! I did it!" Mallory laughed.
"You bastard, this isn't ever yet!" Quinn growled, and with that he leapt into the hole.
The Doctor shook his head. "Inferior!" He turned to see that Rembrandt and the Professor were bearing down on him, hard.
Jimmy knew only that he was scared. More terrified that he had ever been. But he had to be strong, strong for these kids that were in his care. But strength was difficult when you were on unfamiliar ground. He was flying through a tunnel of swirling light. The air around him was warm and sickly sweet. It was purer oxygen than even Metropolis had. He risked a glance back, and to his surprise, he saw Superman and Dr. Quinn's counterpart.
He watched as the other Quinn Mallory grabbed hold of Superman's cape and pulled and held on to the Man of Steel, all the while talking to him. Jimmy couldn't hear what he was saying, sound didn't seem to travel here. Just seeing Superman, though, he felt reassured.
Suddenly there was a white light at the end of the tunnel, and, to paraphrase a cliche, he was emerging.
"Red Alert, Red Alert!" The computer voice echoed across the quadrangle.
Three men and two children stood in the middle of the concrete blocking. A man who was obviously deformed at birth, ran to them. He was dark-skinned and had sharp bumps on his head, "Who are you people! Tell me NOW!"
Superman only looked at Quinn hoping maybe he had the answer. But Quinn only pulled the timer out of his pocket and pointed it at the ground in front of him. Superman felt air blowing out of the hole at such speeds that he was going to have difficulty beating them. He grabbed a hold of the wheelchair and flew into the hole with surprising ease. *Teach me never to take things at face value,* he thought. Quinn leapt after him with surprising speed.
The strange man was about to leap after him, when another man, smaller and balding, seemed to hold him back. All Quinn heard as he jumped into the vortex was "The Enterprise-E…" but then he was completely swallowed into the tunnel.
"My BABIES!" Mrs. Wade Welles-Mallory had just heard the story of what her husband had done. She sat down and began to weep. Wade Welles tried to comfort her.
Rembrandt and the Professor, both angry and upset, were trussing up the Doctor like a pig, when suddenly, next to them, the Vortex reopened. They jumped back in surprise and Dr. Mallory screamed.
Out of the Vortex emerged Superman, flying as he carried a wheelchair loaded with Jimmy and two children. On his heels was Quinn, grinning.
Wade Welles stood up and rushed over to her friend, "QUINN!!" She sobbed and threw her hands around her friend. "I though I'd never see you again…"
"Hah, I'm smarter than that! I just grabbed Dr. Mallory's reverse timer which brought us here to begin with, and I took that along with me. I'll admit I was scared, I wasn't sure it would work. Hold on a sec." He went over to his counterpart who was tied to a chair. His counterpart hung his head in shame as if looking for forgiveness. "Inferior? Now who's inferior?" Quinn started to turn around when he looked back, "They were your own kids, man. Kids!" With that he hauled out and decked his mad counterpart. "I hope you rot!"
Superman looked shocked while both Wades and Jimmy couldn't help but smile.
Quinn and Wade stepped out of the Vortex together. Wade looked at him, "Pretty clever taking the reverse timer. Where did you guys go, anyway?"
"I'm not sure. It can't be too different. However, it's still not an Enterprise. Everyone likes to wear their PJ's though."
Quinn looked down the street and saw complete desolation. He walked over to a newsstand and grabbed a paper, "Well, looks like we landed on a world where Earth is united, but under martial law. Says we have to listen to Earth Force and Night Watch."
Superman stood holding the two children as they played with his cape, much like Lois did. Lois was grinning. Mrs. Welles-Mallory was talking to the police, who were taking away her husband.
One of the children looked up at Superman, and innocent look on her face. "How do you do it?"
"I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"The glasses, the hairstyle, they'd never fool a kid! Do adults lose some of their observational skills?"
Superman stood in a state of shock, "Ah, Lois? I think we have a problem…"