When Worlds Collide -- REALLY Collide
Friday, April 17th, 1987
Hill Valley OckDocumentary
“Oh, will you quit whining? It’s just a scratch!”
Marty-3 glared at Biff. “It still frickin’ hurt!”
“And I think it’s a little more than just a scratch,” Marty-5 agreed, looking nervously at the bloody gouge in Marty-3's side.
“If you think that’s serious, I can’t wait to get your opinion on what I’m going to do to you all later,” Jack said, smirking. “Come on, Martin, it’s really not all that bad. I could have been aiming at some more vital organs.”
Marty-3 supposed that was true. He wouldn’t put it past Jack to blow his head off just for the fun of it. As it was, he’d had to freeze time briefly and scoot himself over to get away with just getting it through the side. “The least you could do is put a bandage on it,” he said, looking at the blood flowing down his side and ruining his shirt and pants.
“I don’t see why. I doubt you’re going to bleed to death from that. It’s really not all that deep. Trust me, I know wounds very, very well.”
Marty-5 shook his head. “This is all nuts. All completely goddamn nuts. And trust me, I know nuts.”
“We don’t doubt you do,” Marty-1 said. “We all know nuts.”
“Discussing the dear doktour, then, are we?”
Marty-2 shot Amina a look. Amina smiled back at him. “Must have hurt, knowing that he wouldn’t even check on you to see if you were all right.”
“Probably because you would have come over and slit one of our throats if they had,” Marty-4 mumbled.
Biff rubbed his stomach. “Hey, at this stop, can we swing by a grocery store for a minute? I’m getting kind of hungry.”
“I suppose,” Jack said. “Only for a moment, though. We have a lot of dimensional ground to cover.”
“Come on, you’ve got five of us!” Marty-1 said, looking desperate. “Isn’t that enough?”
“Nope,” Jack replied cheerily. “I still haven’t gotten the one I’m looking for, you know.”
“Then why don’t you tweak your little system there so you can just go get him?” Marty-5 said.
“Because, honestly, I’m quite liking this random jumping. It amazes me how many different worlds there are out there.” He frowned. “Though one thing is puzzling.”
“What?” Amina asked, winding a stray lock of hair around a finger.
“Well, you think I’d exist in at least one of these other alternate worlds. Granted, it’ll make tracking down my Martin easier, but still. . .it doesn’t seem right.”
“Maybe the whole goddamn universe decided it could only handle one of you,” Marty-2 snapped.
“Maybe,” Jack agreed, much to his surprise. “You can’t get much better than me.”
“No, you can’t,” Amina purred, coming up behind him and wrapping her arms around him.
The Martys shared a look of disgust. “This is shitty,” Marty-3 muttered, wincing as his wound throbbed again. “I don’t get it – why don’t the Docs rescue us?”
“Probably scared we’ll get hurt,” Marty-4 said. “Or worse.”
“Yeah, but--” Marty-3 looked over at Jack. “Aren’t they all, ya know, special?” he asked, not wanting to get into specifics. If his Doc did decide to use his powers, he wanted the bastard to be surprised.
The other Martys looked at each other, frowning. “I guess,” Marty-2 said. “Except for One’s. And maybe Five’s.”
“Depends, yeah,” Marty-5 admitted. “Though some of the stuff they’ve--” he nodded toward their captors “– been talking about sounds nutty. I bet I wouldn’t believe--”
It hit them all at once. “Oh, shit,” Marty-4 whispered. “Of course!”
“Doc’s old ‘you can’t trust anyone’ coming out,” Marty-1 nodded. “Secrecy above all else.”
“Plus they’re probably afraid of scaring each other,” Marty-2 agreed, looking pissed. “Crap.”
“Well, they gotta find out sometime,” Marty-5 said, trying to be encouraging. “There’s gotta be one Doc who can’t hide his specialness.”
Friday, April 17th
You know, I don’t think there’s a lot of people who would consider us a help in the kitchen.
“Then they’re sadly lacking in imagination,” Doc said as Jules pulled a sheet of cookies out of the oven. “You’re suited for a variety of tasks. I created you four as general helpers, not just for lab work.”
I think it’s mostly the way we look, Verne said as he stirred a pot of pasta. We have a very industrial appearance. Like we belong on one of those car assembly lines.
Me, I’m much happier here baking cookies, Tommy said, eagerly eyeing the rows of chocolate chip.
“Those are for later,” Doc said firmly. “You can’t stuff cookies down my throat just because you like the taste of sugar. Besides, they’re too hot to eat right now.”
Albert added some cheese to the pasta. He’s right, Tommy. If we have him eat too much junk food, he’ll start looking as plump as the real Dr. Octopus.
“Yes, and then I’ll have to get a bowl cut and Elton John-style sunglasses and start wearing orange and green spandex. And nobody wants that.”
Well, definitely not the bowl cut and the sunglasses – but I don’t think Mother would mind seeing you in spandex, Verne said playfully.
Doc swatted the tentacle. “Behave yourself! You’re supposed to go on standby when Clara and I engage in those sorts of activities.” The tentacle just buzzed and continued fussing with the pasta.
Clara came inside, looking around at the tentacles. “How’s dinner coming?”
“Pretty well,” Doc said, slicing up some carrots. “We should be ready to eat by five.”
“And there’s cookies for later,” Tommy said, holding up one.
Clara took a deep sniff and smiled. “It all smells delicious.”
“Thank you,” Doc replied, smiling back. “Though I’m sure my culinary skills aren’t equal to yours.”
“Your friends tell me you did all right before I came along,” Clara said, moving so she was standing beside him. “Marty’s raved about your pancakes.”
“Perhaps, but you saw all those Burger King wrappers in my old home.”
Clara patted his back. “I have no doubts dinner will be fine.”
A black tentacle flicked out from her clothes and peeked into the pot. Verne chittered at it. “Your symbiote have any requests?” Doc asked playfully as the goo attempted to sneak a piece of pasta.
“No, she’s pretty content with what I eat,” Clara said, chuckling as Verne lightly whacked the probing tentacle with his spoon. The goo recoiled, then tried to snatch it away from him, leading to a tug of war. “Now behave, you two!”
“She started it!”
Doc rolled his eyes. “You know, I have no idea what we’d do if we had normal children,” he remarked as goo and tentacle continued arguing. “The ones we’ve got keep us busy enough.”
Clara grinned and patted her swollen abdomen. “Well, we’re going to find out soon enough, aren’t we?”
Doc smiled and shook his head. “I suppose so. A small part of me still can’t believe it, you know. I never thought I’d have children at my age. Now look at me. Four tentacles, one symbiote, and an actual baby on the way.”
“How are you feeling, Mother?” Albert asked, winding around Clara.
“All right. Though a little tired and bloated.”
“There’s only a couple more months to go,” Doc said. “That should take care of the bloated. I don’t think a newborn will do much for tired, however.”
“I don’t know. I plan to foist off as many of the nighttime duties to you,” Clara said playfully. “You’re up half the night most of the time anyway.”
“Oh, gee, thanks.”
“Do you think it’s a boy or a girl?” Tommy asked, looking curiously at Clara’s belly.
“I hope it’s a girl,” the symbiote said, finally manage to snatch a piece of pasta away from Verne and absorb it. “You boys outnumber us two to one.”
“Not exactly our fault,” Jules said, adding the carrots to the pasta mix. “Technically, none of us have sexes. It’s Father who decided we were boys, and Mother who decided you were a girl.”
“You just sounded male in my head,” Doc shrugged. “I imagine it was the same with Clara, right?” Clara nodded. “I don’t suppose it really matters in the long run.”
The tentacles shook their heads. “Anyway, we kind of hope it’s a girl too,” Albert admitted. “If only because we’ve got a definite name picked out for a female child.”
“Well, I used up my initial ideas of Jules and Verne on your brothers,” Doc said. “And I really do want something that links back to my best friends.”
“Me too,” Clara agreed. “Though – maybe we could call a boy Clint or Calvin.”
Doc looked thoughtful. “Hmm. Clint might be seen as a little unusual in this day and age, but Calvin could work. What about Jennifer, though?”
“There’s got to be a male form somewhere. We’ll have to go to the bookstore and leaf through a couple of their baby name books.”
“Maybe we’ll do that tomorrow.”
“Do you think Marty and Jennifer will be surprised when you finally reveal the name?” Verne asked, taking a brief break from stirring the noodles.
“I hope so,” Doc smiled. “I particularly can’t wait to see Marty’s face, especially if we have a girl. Martina Jane.”
“I hope it’s not too much for him,” Clara joked. “I don’t think he’s still quite over the shock of that wing harness you built him.”
“Hey, it seemed only fair.” Doc sampled a bit of the pasta. “I’ll have to work on that after dinner tonight. I promised him I’d have it fixed up soon.”
“He does seem to enjoy flying, doesn’t he?” Clara nodded. “Almost makes me wish I could do it.”
“Sorry, Mother, but I think making actual wings is beyond my abilities,” the symbiote admitted.
“Might not be beyond mine, though,” Doc said with a grin. “Or, if you’re willing to go a less technological route, we can go out to higher ground and see if we can rent hang-gliders.”
“That sounds like fun!” Tommy agreed enthusiastically.
“Do you think such a craft would support us, though?” Jules asked, chittering nervously.
“Never know until we try,” Doc shrugged. “Anyway, we can do some research beforehand. I doubt we’re going to go out and try it with a pregnant woman.”
“Yes, the last thing I need is to possibly go into labor mid-air,” Clara said, smirking.
“Talk about a ‘look out below,’” Tommy agreed.
“Tommy!” Doc said, though he couldn’t quite hide the smile that came to his face.
Clara rolled her eyes. “So, where is Marty tonight?” she asked, taking a cookie and nibbling on it. “It feels a little odd for him not to be around.”
“Out on a date with Jennifer,” Doc said. “It’s almost like he lives here at times, isn’t it?”
Clara nodded. “At least it means we’ll know what to expect during the teenage years. I hope he and Jennifer have a good time.”
“I’m sure they will.”
Friday, April 17th
Marty scanned the bouquets in the florist section of the Shop-N-Save, forehead wrinkled in thought. He wanted the flowers to be just right for tonight. They were going on a pretty fancy date, after all. Okay, I know she likes daffodils, but roses are the ones everyone picks when they’re feeling romantic. . . .
Another man came over and started looking with him, rubbing his chin. Marty gave the guy a sympathetic glance. Flowers could be really tricky. He’d struck out a few times during his more casual dating days – including one time where he had gotten a pretty selection of daisies, only to discover the girl was allergic to pollen. He’d been a lot more careful about getting flowers after that. Good thing Jennifer doesn’t have any allergies.
The guy looked over at Marty. “Date tonight?” he asked, making conversation.
“Yeah,” Marty nodded. “You?”
“Anniversary.” The guy picked up a mix of wildflowers and looked it over. “I nearly forgot – good thing I looked at my calendar before leaving work.”
“Yeah,” Marty nodded. He frowned at a bundle of daffodils. They did look nice and cheery. . . . “Why are women so much better at remembering that sort of thing?”
“I don’t know. Programmed into them, I guess.” The guy put back the wildflowers and selected some roses instead. “Might as well stick with the classics. Good luck with your date.”
“Thanks, good luck with your anniversary.” Marty watched the guy head over to the cash registers, then resumed looking over the flowers. Daffodils or roses, daffodils or roses. . . .
After a minute, he suddenly felt eyes on him. Wondering if it was someone he knew, he turned around.
Staring at him was a blond woman he’d never seen before, carrying a basket filled with snack food. She had an odd expression on her face – curious and – slightly predatory? Marty frowned and turned back toward the flowers. Ooookay. . .maybe she likes younger guys? A sudden image of his mother checking him out forced its way into his brain. ACK! Cancel! Cancel! Jesus, lady, THANKS, that’s JUST what I need to think about right before a date.
The woman didn’t stop staring at him, though. Annoyed and wanting to get out of there, Marty grabbed the daffodils and made his way over to the express lane. Go away. I have a hot date tonight, and I don’t want anything ruining it.
He paid for the flowers and a candy bar for himself, trying to ignore the woman still staring at him. He headed out the front door more quickly than usual, nearly bumping a couple and their baby coming in. He was out in the parking lot and heading to his car, when –
He felt a hand grab his shoulder, and the tip of something sharp pressed against his back. “Move and you’re dead, McFly.”
Marty froze instantly. What the hell?! he thought. What’s going on? That’s a girl’s voice – is this the same lady who was staring at me before?! Why the hell is she trying to kill me?!
“Glad to see one of you jackasses is smart. Now we’re gonna get in your car, and we’re going to drive away really casually. Otherwise, you’re going to get to see what a human kidney looks like up close and personal.” She tightened her grip on his shoulder. “And don’t even think of trying to elbow me in the stomach or anything. Trust me, I am a lot stronger than you.”
Marty nodded, his mind too filled with baffled thoughts to even think of struggling. So. I’m being kidnapped. Why?? What did I ever do to this lady? I guess she wants a ransom from my Dad. . . . I know he’s got a best-selling book under his belt, but it ain’t like we’re rich! Shit, why now? Why when I’ve got a date and my wing harness is busted? Damn it, I really miss that thing now. . . .
They got in the truck, the woman putting him into the passenger seat and buckling him in before he could make a move to escape. As she got into the driver’s seat, he could see she had a large knife, like one of those an Army man would carry. “Give me the keys,” she snapped, pressing it hard into his ribcage.
Marty reluctantly handed them over. The woman smirked and started up the car. “Just sit tight,” she told him, driving away. “If you try to escape, I will run you over or crash the car. I don’t give a shit.”
“Why--” Marty began, knowing it was probably stupid to talk to his kidnapper but needing some answers.
“You’ll see soon enough.” The woman abruptly laughed. “Never thought you’d be at the grocery store. I just went out for snack duty!”
The woman smirked at him again. “Like I said, you’ll see soon enough. It’ll probably blow whatever brain you have.” She turned her eyes back to the road. “Now keep quiet. I don’t want to attract any attention.”
They drove for a while, taking side streets to avoid cars. Marty surreptitiously tried to make eye contact with the driver of each one they had to pass, hoping to communicate a silent message of help. Twice he’d thought about trying to leap from the car – the woman had unfortunately sensed his idea and jerked the wheel hard to show him she was serious about crashing. Mostly he hunkered down in his seat, eyeing the knife she still had on him and feeling miserable. I really fricking hate my life sometimes.
Eventually they drove into the woods, following the road that would take them to the local campgrounds. Halfway there, though, they stopped. The woman pulled the keys out of the ignition and quickly tossed them on the floor, out of reach. “All right, come on,” she said, unbuckling him. “Just a quick walk, and we’re there.”
Marty nodded, looking around. It was pretty heavily wooded around here. . .if he made a break for it, he’d probably lose her really quickly among the trees. . . .
Suddenly, another face appeared right by his window. Marty yelped and fell backward. “What the – Carlyle?!”
Stanley Carlyle, disgraced doctor, smirked at Marty through the window. “Hello McFly. Fancy seeing you here!”
The woman glared at Stanley, grabbing Marty’s arm tightly and pointing the knife at the interloper. “Who the hell are you?”
“Relax, Sandra, he’s with us,” another voice said. Marty noticed someone walking out of the woods – someone who looked a lot like – “Doc?”
“Doc” rolled his eyes. “Again with the misidentification. I’d grow a goatee if it wasn’t so cliche.” He looked down at the badly-confused Marty. “Has Emmett ever mentioned a brother? A Jack Brown?”
“No,” Marty said, staring. What the hell???
“No attacks in 1986?”
“Doc” shrugged. “Another loser. Though I suspected as much when Carlyle stumbled upon our train.” He smiled coldly. “All right, Sandra, bring him on back.”
“Wait a minute! What’s going on? Why are you kidnapping me? And who the hell are you?” Marty demanded, his words running over each other as he tried desperately to figure out what was happening.
The “Doc” leaned into his face, licking his lips in a rather predatory manner. “Me? I’m your worst nightmare.”
Friday, April 17th
“And – I think we’re done!”
Doc looked proudly at the spread before him. “Boys, we did good,” he said, smiling back at the tentacles.
“Yes, we should celebrate,” Tommy said, holding up a cookie meaningfully.
“No, Tommy. After dinner.”
“Aw, come on, Fath--”
Tommy cut off mid-sentence as all four tentacles snapped to attention. Doc immediately got concerned. “What? What is it?”
Something’s happened, Jules said, not bothering to speak out loud. We heard what sounded like sonic booms far off. The same kind created whenever the DeLorean travels through time.
“What?!” Doc turned and ran out of the kitchen. He saw Clara sitting in the living room, reading a book. “Did you use the time machine at all today?” he asked automatically.
Clara looked up at him and lifted an eyebrow. “In my condition?” she asked, rubbing her belly significantly.
Doc blushed slightly. “Right. It’s just – the boys just heard something that sounded like the time machine.”
Clara paled. “Oh, dear.”
“That’s putting it mildly, but yes.” Doc jogged to the front door and ran out to the garage. He opened it, keeping his fingers crossed tightly. Clara waddled after him, looking worried.
The DeLorean was right where it was supposed to be. Doc frowned thoughtfully. “Well, that’s a relief,” he said slowly. “Though that means someone just entered this time period in a different machine. Probably a future self – what does he or she need back here?”
Clara looked calmer. “If that’s all, that’s all right,” she said. “I’m sure any future self of ours would know better than. . . .” She stopped as she noticed the tentacles scanning the sky again. “What now, boys?”
“Something’s approaching,” Albert responded. “Something big. Can’t quite tell what it is.”
“No visual feed?” Doc asked, concerned again.
“Either it’s too far away – which is rapidly becoming unlikely – or it’s invisible to our cameras,” Jules responded, turning in a full circle.
“Damn it,” Doc muttered. “This is about the last thing I want to deal with tonight.”
“Shouldn’t any aliens be visiting Marty’s father?” Tommy agreed.
“They could be my relatives,” Rosie pointed out.
“Somehow I doubt that,” Doc muttered, scanning the sky himself. Now he could hear something – something that sounded oddly like a train. But that’s impossible, trains can’t fly. Well, not yet. Last I checked this wasn’t 2015.
Clara moved closer to him as the sound drew nearer. “Emmett – do you have any idea--”
“Not really,” Doc admitted, the tentacles making nervous squeaks. “Do you want to go back inside?”
“A little,” she admitted. “But I don’t think my curiosity will let me.” She lightly squeezed his arm. “Oh, I hope this isn’t anything bad. . . .”
The noise finally stopped right above them. Rosie rippled a little in displeasure as the tentacles withdrew a bit under Doc’s coat. What are we going to do, Father? Verne asked nervously in Doc’s head.
I don’t know, Vernie. Just keep my fingers crossed we’re not dealing with a serious problem.
You honestly think that’ll work? Albert said skeptically.
No, but a man can dream.
“Hey down there!”
Doc’s eyes grew huge as the tentacles chattered in shock. Was that – was that his own voice? “Yes?” he called back weakly.
“Emmett?” Clara squeaked. “Oh, God, what’s happened?”
“A very nasty situation,” the Doc-voice above them yelled. “Before we land, I want to ask you – do you know where your – Mar – what in the name of Sir Isaac H. Newton are those?!”
The tentacles screeked as a Doc head popped out of thin air above them. Doc jumped backwards, shocked. “How did you do that?!” he demanded.
“What? Oh, sorry, we’ve had so many things on our mind – One, cut the invisibility!”
A train appeared out of nowhere in front of them, hovering above the ground. Doc and Clara openly stared. “Great Scott,” Doc squeaked.
“What’s the matter?” Another Doc appeared in the doorway, standing next to the first one.
“You’ve got a flying train,” Clara said slowly.
“Um – yes?”
“You’ve got a flying train,” Doc repeated, the tentacles squeaking in shock.
The other Docs looked at Clara, then back at him, puzzled. “You don’t? I thought that was standard in worlds in which we’re married,” the one on the left said.
“In – what’s going on?” Doc demanded, tentacles hissing softly. “Why are there two of – me, I suppose – here? Shouldn’t one be enough if we’ve done something to destroy the space-time continuum?”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that,” the right-most Doc said. “And there’s more than just the two of us. You’re actually number six on the list of dimensions.”
A Jennifer appeared, wringing her hands. “Look, this is a very long story, so answer us this first – is Marty here? Have you seen him at all today?”
“Um – no, I haven’t,” Doc said, the tentacles shaking their claws. “He hasn’t been over all day.”
The left Doc hit his hand against the side of the train. “Damn it! We should hit at least one reality where he’s still around! Ow,” he added, shaking his hand.
The right Doc sighed. “Just figures. All right, now what are those and why are they attached to your back?”
“We could ask why we’re not attached to yours,” Albert said, clacking his claw disapprovingly.
Both Docs and the Jennifer jumped. “They talk?!”
“They talk,” Doc confirmed, rubbing his scalp. “It’s a very long story, but then I’m guessing you have an equally long story to share with me.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” the right Doc admitted. “Why don’t you and Clara just get in the train and we can have the long conversation while we look for the bastard who keeps kidnapping any Marty he finds.”
“Kidnap – clear the way, please,” Doc said firmly, marching toward the train. The tentacles grabbed hold of the doorframe and hoisted him up. The others moved out of the way as he got in. “Clara, are you coming?”
Clara nodded, waddling forward. The left Doc looked at her in surprise. “Great Scott. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you like that. One, bring the train down a little farther!”
“Oh, no need!” Clara said, smirking.
“But how do you intend--”
The words died in the Doc’s throat as Clara shot a black web onto the doorframe and pulled herself up easily. All three of the newcomers stared. “What was that?” the Jennifer said weakly.
“Part of the long story,” Clara said. “It’ll make more sense if we tell it together.”
“I suppose,” the left Doc mumbled, still looking rather stunned.
Inside the train were more Docs and Jennifers, plus some Claras and some women the current pair didn’t know. All were staring at the pair like they were about to explode. “You have tentacles,” one of the woman, a black-haired, pale-skinned woman, pointed out weakly.
“I’m aware,” Doc replied with a nod. “You have a flying steam train.”
“It’s actually ours,” another Clara spoke up, eyeing her counterpart’s pregnant belly. “Your first?”
“Yup,” Clara said with a glow, putting her arm around Emmett. “We’re hoping for a girl.”
“Not a boy? Jules should come first.”
“Jules as a name is taken, I’m afraid,” Jules said, somehow managing to look contrite.
The Clara snapped her head around to stare. “Huh??”
“They have names?” the Jennifer from before asked.
“Well, they’re like my children,” Doc said, frowning a little. “Everyone, this is Jules, Verne, Albert, and Tommy.” He indicated each tentacle – upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right – in turn.
“Nice to meet you all – we think,” Tommy said with a little wave.
“Why are there so many versions of Father here?” Verne asked, looking around. “Are you all missing Martys?”
The Docs nodded, looking grim. “Sad to say we are,” one, standing by a window, said. “And we’ve got the nasty suspicion you are too, if you haven’t seen him at all today.”
“Well, Jennifer might have seen him. They’ve got a date today.”
“Really?” The Docs perked up. “There’s a chance, then. Where are they supposed to be?”
“Getting dinner at Dubon Henri’s,” Clara said, looking out at the ground.
“Then that’s our first stop.” The Doc at the controls – Doc supposed him to be One – took them higher up. “You might want to get away from the door.”
Doc and Clara obligingly moved farther in. “So, ah – how do we keep each other straight?” Clara asked, looking at all the different versions of themselves.
“We’ve been using a numbering system,” another Jennifer said. “You guys get number Six. I’m Jennifer Three.”
“Some of us get to go by our own names, though,” a young blonde girl in a green cheerleading outfit said, jogging up with a grin on her face. “I’m Josephine Caroline. Call me J.C. Especially since we have another Josephine on board already.”
“Hi,” another, older blonde woman said with a small wave.
“I see,” Doc said. He sighed and leaned against the wall, tentacles splayed out around him. “So, who wants to go first with the long story?”
“What’s yours involve?” a Jennifer asked, toying with a lock of blondish hair.
“Being kidnapped by the Libyans, having the tentacles inadvertently welded to my back and gaining sentience in the bargain, dealing with a crazed intern doctor who wants to cut them off, getting my eyesight fixed in the future, having Biff Tannen steal the time machine and destroy the present, fixing that, getting stuck in the past, meeting Clara, and finally getting home,” Doc listed off.
“Hmm. Ours involves multiple dimensions, a variety of very different life experiences, another flying steam train – which, incidentally, is capable of time travel – a lot of missing Martys, a team of all our worst villains, and a psychotic madman who happens to look just like us and claims to be our twin brother,” the window-Doc said.
Doc and Clara looked at each other. “I think we’ll go first,” Doc said, tentacles chittering nervously. “Though however you can fill us in before would be very useful. It all started in late 1985. . . .”
Friday, April 17th
They arrived at Dubon Henri’s as Doc was wrapping up the mess with Stanley Carlyle. Two shook his head as they landed as discretely as possible in the parking lot, avoiding the cars. “Amazing. How’d he even get into the medical profession?”
“A few bad apples always get through,” Three said. “It happens in every line of work.”
“Some more than others,” Four muttered, looking oddly bitter.
“I take you’ve had some personal experience with the type?” Doc said sympathetically, the tentacles rubbing up against Four.
“Not quite like your Stanley Carlyle, but yes, I’ve had experience.” Four looked down at the tentacles, amused. “Your Marty is right – they are affectionate little things.”
“Better than them being destructive,” Three pointed out, looking – in Doc’s eyes – strangely knowledgeable. “Imagine the damage they could cause if they were inclined that way.”
“We try to confine those impulses to Lego buildings,” Verne said with a chitter.
“Yeah, they shatter quite satisfyingly,” Albert agreed with a nod.
Three looked amused. “I’m sure they do.”
Doc opened the train door. “I’ll go check on Jennifer, see if Marty’s with her. Keep your fingers crossed, everyone.” He headed outside and across the parking lot.
Jennifer came out the front doors just as he arrived, looking angry. “Whoa, watch – oh, hey Doc,” she said, quickly backpedaling a bit to get out of the way of the tentacles. “What brings you by?”
“I was hoping Marty was with you,” Doc said, his stomach twisting a little. “But I can guess by the expression on your face that he’s not here, is he?”
“No! I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes! Damn it, five minutes I could take, but fifteen? Where is he?” Jennifer peered around the tentacles, scanning the parking lot. “Why are you looking for Marty, anyway? He told you we had a date, right? He’d better not have forgotten.”
“I doubt he forgot,” Doc told her, frowning. “But I also doubt he’s coming tonight.”
“What? Why?” Jennifer looked up at Doc, worried. “Did something go wrong with the space-time continuum that you and he have to fix?” She paused. “Though if that’s the case, can’t you drop him off a little earlier and I’ll just fake looking for him next time you show up?”
Doc couldn’t help a laugh. “I’ll keep that in mind for future emergencies. No, this is something different.”
“And very, very weird,” Verne said.
“Weird? Weird is not good with us.”
“And it continues to be not good,” Doc agreed. “Jennifer – what would you do if I told you there’s some madman going around kidnapping Martys for some twisted reasons involving revenge?”
Jennifer stared at him for a second. “Well, first of all, I’d ask why you’re using a plural when talking about Marty. What’s going on?”
“Perhaps it’s best to show you first. . . .” Doc turned back toward the spot where the train was parked. “Drop the invisibility for a moment!”
The train obligingly flashed into view for a minute before disappearing again. Jennifer gaped. “Holy shit, where’d you get that?”
“It’s not ours,” Jules explained, curling around her. “Another version of Father created it.”
“Out of five,” Doc said. “This is the way they summarized it for me and Clara – this man, named Jack, who looks just like me and claims to be my twin brother, somehow discovered a way to travel through dimensions. He’s got a vendetta against Marty for ‘beating’ him somehow, and apparently thinks the best revenge would be to kidnap every Marty from every dimension he lands in and slowly kill them all.”
“. . .Seriously?!”
“So they tell me. And, honestly, I have no reason to disbelieve them. They are all me, and I can tell when I’m lying.”
Jennifer looked for a moment at the spot the train occupied invisibly. “So I guess I should go tell the waiter to cancel the reservation,” she finally said.
“Probably,” Tommy said, patting her shoulder.
“All right, I – I’ll be back out in a minute.”
“We’ll wait here,” Doc nodded. “Just to let you know, though, there’s also five other Jennifers. And three other Claras.”
“Only three Claras?”
“Er, yes,” Doc said, fidgeting a bit. “Apparently there’s at least two realities where I fell in love with someone else. Quite – disconcerting.”
“After the shit we went through with you falling in love with Clara? I’ll say.” Jennifer fidgeted too. “Are – are they nice, at least?”
“Perfectly nice,” Doc said. “I can’t say they’re bad people, even though I don’t know them that well yet. Still, it’s – not exactly pleasant to see – myself with them.”
“I can bet.” Jennifer patted his arm. “Give me two minutes, then I’ll join the crazy party.”
Two minutes later, Jennifer boarded the time train with Doc. She took a moment to stare at her other selves, then sighed deeply. “You know, I thought I’d hit my quota of weirdness when we got stuck in the Old West for two months.”
Three blinked. “You were there too?”
“No, but then that entire mess happened in 1985 for us, not 1986 as your Doc seems to be saying.”
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Two agreed. “That whole incident in the future never happened for me. I went to a different date than some of the others and inadvertently prevented things on my own.”
“I’m from Hell Valley,” Four added. “And I’ve already dimension-traveled once.”
“Yeah, he was living with another version of himself, or so they tell me,” Jennifer Five said. “Crazy, huh?”
“This goes right through crazy and out the other side,” Jennifer said, putting her hand to her forehead. Then she smirked. “Then again, we’ve got a Doc with tentacles while you guys all seem pretty normal, so – why do most of you look awkward?”
There was a moment of general fidgeting. Then everyone started to speak. “Well--”
“It’s kind of silly--”
Two, Three, Four, and Five stopped talking and looked at each other. “What, you too?” they said in near-perfect unison.
There was a moment of silence. Then One stopped the train and leaned against the controls, arms folded. “All right, everyone is to confess any oddities of their physical or mental structure right now,” he said firmly. “If we’re going to get through this together, we need to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
“Why didn’t you say anything before?” Clara One demanded.
“Didn’t want to scare everyone,” Two said.
“Same here,” Three admitted, shifting.
Four and Five nodded. “Precisely. I was worried it would distract from our main mission,” Five admitted.
“Fair enough, but – let’s just get it out in the open now. No secrets.”
The others nodded. “I’ll go first,” Two volunteered. “I’m actually a vampire.”
Three, Five, and Doc looked at him strangely. “A what?”
“You mean – change into a bat, suck people’s blood, all of that?” Jennifer repeated, stunned.
“Yes to the latter, no to the former,” Two said with a small smile. “I know it sounds a bit unbelievable, but our entire situation is unbelievable. Not to mention One here can vouch for me.”
“You knew?” Five said, looking at one.
“We’ve met before,” One admitted. “A previous dimension shifting accident caused by our time machines achieving temporal displacement at the same moment. Two actually ended up saving my family and Marty from some burglars who broke in at the wrong moment.”
J.C. walked up to him and stood on tip-toe, looking into Two’s mouth. “I don’t see any fangs.”
“They’re retractable,” Two explained, opening wider and letting them extend. J.C. went “eep” and retreated a bit. “Otherwise I think I’d find it very hard to talk.”
“Yeah, I can bet,” Jennifer said, eyes wide. “Sheesh. Vampires.”
“It’s just the one,” Clara corrected.
“No, she’s right to use the plural,” Mystie said. “I’m one too.”
“As are we,” Four said, indicating himself, Josephine, and Jennifer Four.
“You too?” One said, this time looking surprised. “Two, you could have told me.”
“I didn’t think he’d want it getting out,” Two shrugged.
“Yeah, I didn’t,” Four confessed. “But yes, I’m a vampire myself. The entire family is.”
“Me, Emmett, Jennifer, and Marty,” Josephine explained. “We all vampirized each other, really. I did Emmett and Jennifer, Emmett did Marty.”
“Wait a minute – if your Marty’s a vampire, why doesn’t he just turn into a bat or something and fly away?” Jennifer Five protested.
“It doesn’t really work like that,” Two said. “We do have several advantages over natural humans, but they’ve got a professional vampire hunter as part of their team. She’s probably figured out how to neutralize that Marty pretty quickly.”
“All this sun can’t be helping,” Four admitted, yawning. “I hate to ask this, but can we land in the next dimension at night? It would really help clear my head.”
“I suppose we should figure out some sort of sleep schedule,” One said, looking grim. “We could be at this a while.”
“Oh, I hope not,” Jennifer Four said, squeezing up close to Josephine.
“What about you, Three?” Doc asked. “How are you different from the norm?”
“And why did you keep looking at us weird when we first got on?” Albert added.
“Albert, they were all looking at us weird,” Verne pointed out.
“Yeah, but he kept glancing back with this funny expression like he’d seen us before.”
“That’s because I have,” Three confessed. “In pictures, at least.”
Doc looked at the kids in puzzlement. “The comic book versions didn’t really look like the kids,” he said. “Believe me, I know.”
“I’m not talking about comic books. I’m talking about the real Doctor Octopus.”
Doc blinked, eyes going wide. “What – are you from a universe where the Marvel comics are real?”
Three nodded. “Yes. And I myself – am a mutant.”
There was the requisite moment of silence. “Mutant?” Clara finally repeated. “Like the X-Men?”
Three actually blushed a little. “Exactly. I actually know the core team somewhat. I managed to contract a nasty mutant-specific disease during a trip to the future, and they helped save my life. Of course, I had to help them fight off an attack by a bunch of supervillains, but that’s par for the course in their world.”
“So I’ve read in the comics,” Doc said as the tentacles ogled his counterpart. “That’s amazing.”
“Not much more than your tentacles there,” Three said, looking at Jules with interest. “But yes, that’s why I acted like I knew them. The tentacles attached to the Doctor Octopus I heard about looked a lot like those. More – malicious, granted, but still.”
“We don’t want to be malicious,” Tommy assured him, nuzzling his side. “Being mean gets us nowhere.”
“Yeah, certainly didn’t do the real Doc Ock any good,” Jennifer Three said.
“What is it you can do?” Jennifer asked, looking intrigued.
Three grinned. “Electricity control, actually. I can manipulate most electrical objects, and send electrical current through just about anything. Can’t produce more than a few volts internally, I’m afraid. I have to use outside sources.”
“Can you give us a demo?”
“Sure – anyone have anything electrical on them?” he asked around. “I’d prefer not to suck power from the train.”
Everyone checked their pockets. “Hey, I’ve got this,” J.C. said, holding up a TV remote.
“I was wondering where that went!” Five said, taking it away from her. “How long have you had it?”
“I have no idea. Things get lost back there.”
Mystie raised an eyebrow. “Back in your skirt?” The other eyebrow raised. “Come to think of it, you don’t seem to have any pockets in that outfit of yours. . . .”
“Let him do his demonstration, then we’ll tell you about our weirdness,” Five said, handing the remote over to Three.
“Fair enough,” Mystie said, leaning back.
Three nodded, took the remote and fiddled with it for a second. Then a crackle of electricity zipped over the surface into his hand. Three pointed at the wall and gave it a mild shock, eyes glowing slightly. “Wow,” Jennifer said, impressed. “Can you do anything bigger? Like lightning or something?”
“I can, but it takes a lot out of me,” Three admitted. “I end up exhausted and rather nauseated.”
“Too bad,” Jennifer Two said. “I was hoping you could just hit the other train with lightning and make it stop working.”
“That would be a bad idea for different reasons,” One said, shivering a little as the image of the train plunging out of the air, full of helpless Martys, went through his mind. “But it’s still a useful ability. Just need to figure out how to apply it properly.”
“What did Marty think about you being a mutant?” Doc asked, cocking his head. “Mine was all right with the tentacles, but that’s because he was fairly acquainted with them from the start.”
Three smiled. “He and Clara were fine with it, much to my relief,” he said, as Clara Three put an arm around him. “In fact, during that incident with the X-Men I mentioned, it turned out that he himself was a mutant.”
“What? You’re kidding!” Jennifer said, shocked.
“Marty’s a mutant?” Jennifer Four repeated. “What can he do?”
“You’re not going to believe this,” Three said. “He can stop time.”
“. . . .You’re right, I don’t believe it.”
“Stop time?” Four said incredulously. “And he only found this out after you invented a time machine?”
“And far after the messes the Tannen family caused,” Three said with a sigh and a roll of his eyes. “He’s complained about it a lot himself.”
“How did he even get captured if he has the ability to stop time?” Jennifer Five demanded. “I mean, if I could stop time and there was a psycho madman after me, I’d definitely use it!”
“I don’t know,” Three said, looking frustrated. “Jack must have gotten the drop on him or something when he went up to investigate. And Amina couldn’t have helped.”
“The terrorist woman he picked up in my reality. She’s pretty damn vicious.” Three shook his head. “And now, he’s tied up, so using his power would be an exercise in futility.” He looked over at Four. “It’s annoying how they keep getting around his advantages, isn’t it?”
“Tell me about it,” Four grumbled, looking bitterly out the window.
“All right, that’s Three done – what’s the deal with you?” Mystie said, looking back at Five and his entourage.
The group looked at each other. “I – don’t know how to explain it,” Five finally said. “Our physiology appears to be much different from yours. We’re more resistant to injury, for one thing.”
“Yeah, watch.” J.C. abruptly punched the side of the train, then yelped. “Ow!”
Five facepalmed. “J.C., that wasn’t the smartest way to show them.”
“I wanted it to be dramatic!”
“Doesn’t look like you’re very resistant to me,” Josephine said, looking awkwardly amused.
“Oh?” J.C. held out her first. “You see any bruising?”
To everyone’s surprise, the girl had a point – her hand was still a nice healthy pink. “Okay, that is good,” Josephine admitted. “Can you bleed?”
“Yeah, but it takes a lot to scar,” Clara Five said. “That’s why J.C. asked about your cheek, Four.”
“I gathered,” Four said, looking over with a frown. “I – suppose it would be too much to hope for, but I’ll ask anyway – you wouldn’t happen to be bulletproof?”
“Nope, sorry,” Jennifer Five replied, looking sad. “Trust me, I wish we were.”
“Wait a minute, you guys are the undead,” J.C. noted. “Aren’t you bulletproof?”
“Nope,” Two said. “We’re perfectly alive, honestly. And although we’re more resistant to injury, like yourselves, getting shot is no fun. Probably wouldn’t kill us, but it could leave us incapacitated.”
“And like you said before, they’ve got a professional vampire killer,” Josephine added. “She’d probably go for the jugular. Um, no pun intended.”
“Damn it,” J.C. grumbled. “All these cool powers and we can’t put them to use.”
“Well, it does bode better for us if we can ever get close to the other train,” One said, trying to lighten the mood. “Being resistant to injury is better than nothing.”
“That still doesn’t explain how you managed to yank that TV remote out of nowhere,” Mystie said, pointing at the item still in Three’s hands.
“Oh, that was in my hammerspace. Guess you guys don’t have that either.”
“Yeah. Little extradimensional storage area. Most people have one. Where we come from, anyway.”
“Extradimensional – what, like when Bugs Bunny pulls out--”
Two stopped, blinking. He raised an eyebrow, looking very thoughtful. “Bugs Bunny. . . Do one of you mind if I – take a taste?” he asked suddenly.
“You want to suck our blood?” Jennifer Five asked, surprised.
“Not really, but--”
“I volunteer!” J.C. said promptly, jogging up to him with a big grin and baring her neck.
Two smirked at her. “I’ll take it from the hand, thank you.”
J.C. pouted. “Party pooper.” She held out her hand, palm up. “You gonna suck or do you want me to scratch it?”
“I’ll bite – it’ll be faster. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much.” Two extended his fangs and bit down gently at the side of her hand. J.C. let out a little “meep,” but didn’t pull away.
Two did, though, after just a moment. He grimaced, looking like he wanted to spit. “Seems my hunch was right. That’s not blood.”
“What?” J.C. looked at the two puncture wounds on her hand. “Sure looks like blood.”
“Well, it’s blood for you, but to the rest of us – it’s ink.”
“Ink??” Mystie repeated. She went over and sniffed the wound. “Christ, you’re right! That is so weird. . . .”
Two shook his head. “Living cartoons,” he said, looking around. “They’re living cartoons.”
Jennifer One whistled. “Now that’s strange.”
“Cartoons? Like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck?” Tommy asked, looking eagerly at Five’s group.
“I would guess,” Five said, looking quite surprised. “They’re actors in our world. How do you know them in yours?”
“They’re animated – drawn characters,” Three explained. “Do you not have that in your world?”
“We have some, but it’s mostly clean-up work for the actual actors,” Five responded. “This is so odd – I thought your colors seemed a little more muted.”
“We thought you seemed brighter,” Two said.
“Explains the ‘teleport trick’ she pulled off earlier,” Jennifer Two agreed, nodding at J.C.
“Yeah, we can all pretty much do that,” J.C. nodded back. “Standard stuff.”
One shook his head. “Two vampires, one electricity-controlling mutant, one living cartoon, and one with four sentient tentacles welded onto him,” he said. “You know, the truly strange one in this bunch is me – I’m totally normal.”
That got a round of chuckles. “Yeah, really,” J.C. agreed. “So is that everybody? We all know how weird we all are now?”
“Wait – we know about him, but what about her?” Jennifer Four asked, pointing to Clara. “You obviously have some sort of power too, the way you got yourself onto the train.”
“Yes, I do,” Clara admitted, letting Rosie revert to her natural black. “I’m sort of – bonded to an alien.” She patted the shimmering black symbiote. “Meet Rosie.”
Rosie extended a couple of tentacles to wave hi. “An alien?” Jennifer Three repeated. “Holy crap.”
“She’s quite friendly,” Clara quickly reassured everyone. “Rather like Emmett’s tentacles, in a way.”
“And just as mischievous,” Doc added, earning himself a raspberry from Tommy.
“But how did you manage to get bonded to an alien?” J.C. asked, looking stunned. “Aren’t you from the 19th century?”
“Well, yes, but – it was an accident, really. A meteor fell down by my house one night when I was young, and Rosie was on it. The poor thing was dying, so. . . .” She shrugged, obviously knowing she was explaining this badly.
“It’s part of my story too, if you’d like me to continue the narrative,” Doc said, the tentacles nodding.
“Sure,” One said, going back to the controls and starting them up. “We still need to find our other train and ascertain whether or not your Marty is on it.”
Jennifer wrung her hands. “I hope he isn’t. I mean, that means he might have forgotten about our date, but I can handle that.”
Clara One sighed. “We hope he isn’t either, Jennifer. But things don’t look good at the moment.”
“There’s still that chance,” Verne said hopefully.
“Yeah, but you really have to consider our luck here Verne,” Albert pointed out. “We redefine Murphy’s law.”
“You’ve got that right,” Four said, looking vaguely amused at talking to a tentacle.
“Let’s all just keep our fingers crossed,” Doc said, doing the same as he sighed. “Now, where was I?”
“You’d just gotten this Stanley Carlyle fellow kicked out of the medical profession,” Four supplied, with a perhaps rather evil grin.
“Oh, right. . . .”
Fifteen minutes later, Doc was halfway through telling them about Marty getting inadvertently kidnapped while in the future when Jennifer Three let out a cry. “There’s the other train!”
Everyone rushed to the windows except One, who stayed at the controls. Sure enough, there was a second, near-identical train hovering in the air nearby, slowly executing a turn. Doc and the tentacles whistled. “Amazing.”
“Be more amazing if a lunatic didn’t have control of it,” Three muttered, hands clenching in anger.
“Do you think we can risk pulling up alongside again?” Five asked, looking back toward One.
“I don’t know,” One admitted, looking nervous. “I’m frightened he might try to hurt another one of the Martys. We still don’t know what happened when. . . .” He let his voice trail off.
“Yeah, but if we don’t, it might take us a lot longer to figure out whether or not they have his Marty,” J.C. pointed out, jerking a thumb over at Doc.
The other train finished its turn, then started coming toward them. One quickly turned his train so there would be no chance of a collision. The villain train pulled up beside them, Jack standing in the doorway as usual. “Still following me, I see,” he said, voice cool and smooth as silk. “Good. I want you around to witness my ultimate triumph.”
Clara let out a bit of a squeak, Rosie tightening around her. “Oh my God. He does look like you!”
“Creepy,” Jennifer muttered.
Doc proceeded to the doorway, eyes narrowed. “Damn it, you asshole, what do you think you’re doing?” he yelled, the tentacles in strike mode behind him.
“Yeah, leave our Marty alone, you big meanie!” Tommy added, nodding furiously.
Jack started to speak, then stopped. He stared for a moment. “All right, he did warn me about this, but he never said anything about them being able to talk.”
Doc felt a sudden chill up his spine. “He?” he repeated, really, really hoping he was wrong.
He unfortunately wasn’t. Stanley Carlyle appeared right on cue, looking maniacally happy. “Hello Dr. Brown!” he called, poking his head around the doorframe. Then he stepped into full view, dragging someone with him. “Missing something?”
“Let me go, you asshole!” Marty yelled, struggling vainly with Carlyle’s arm around his neck.
“Marty!” Doc cried, the tentacles squeaking unhappily.
“Shit!” Two said, raising a hand to hit the side of the train before thinking better of it.
Jack smirked. “I always find my man, Emmett. Even by accident. I sent Sandra out to get us some food, and guess who was at the grocery store?”
“Yeah, he was buying these,” Carlyle said, tossing some daffodils out the train.
Jennifer made a pained noise. “Oh, he must have been buying those for our date. . . . I’m so sorry, Marty!” she called.
“Not your fault!” Marty yelled back, twisting desperately. “Damn it, I still don’t understand what’s going on!”
“That’s because you’re a simpleton,” Jack told him, running his fingers along Marty’s chin with a smarmy smile. Marty squirmed away as best he could. “Don’t worry, I’m sure your other selves will be happy to fill you in. It’s amazing how easily you accept each other’s presence, honestly.”
“Time travel does that,” Marty snapped, glaring.
“Yes, I suppose it would. Still, it’s interesting to watch.” He grinned wider. “Especially when I’m hurting one of you. You all whimper and squirm most adorably.”
Doc felt sick, deep in his stomach. His other selves hadn’t been exaggerating when they said that Jack was a sick bastard. That display there proved it. “Wish I could make you squirm,” he growled, Albert’s blade starting to extend.
“Sorry, dear ‘brother,’ I’ve never been interested in incest,” Jack winked.
“You’re nuts!” Verne yelled at Jack, the other tentacles nodding and screeking in agreement.
“No, I’m quite sane,” Jack said calmly, as if he dealt with this a lot. And Doc was fairly sure he did. “It’s the rest of you who are nuts. Never wanting to experience true pleasure – what makes life worth living.”
“This? This makes life worth living?” Marty asked incredulously.
Carlyle glared at him. “You know, I think you talk too much,” he said.
Then he shoved Marty out of the train.
For a moment, the blood froze in Doc’s veins. He and the tentacles stayed absolutely still as they watched Marty scream in fear and claw at Carlyle’s clothes, trying to hang on. Carlyle still had a hand on him, but he could see the man’s grip slipping. . . .
Suddenly, Jack grabbed Marty’s collar and dragged him back into the train. “You idiot!” he yelled at Carlyle, who looked surprised. Marty just looked relieved, still breathing hard. “You don’t do that unless you know you can keep a good strong grip on him! I don’t want to kill any of them yet!”
“Hey, you shot that other one! The guys told me!” Carlyle protested.
“Yes, but he’s still alive!”
“Oh, thank God,” One said, letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.
“Come on, I had him!”
“No you didn’t!” Jack abruptly slapped the other man, causing Carlyle to recoil in shock. “Listen here, you, this is my train and what I say goes! I don’t have any compunction against carving you up a little if you prove to be less than useful!”
Carlyle looked appropriately cowed, hunching down against the door. “S-sorry.”
Jack just grumbled and practically threw Marty at him. “Tie him up with the others. And make sure the knots are tight. We can’t risk any of them getting lose and trying to escape.” He shook his head as Marty and Carlyle disappeared from view again. “Reliable help is so hard to find these days.” He looked over at Doc. “You probably know that, you have to put up with your little friend here as a lab assistant.”
“I don’t ‘put up’ with him,” Doc growled, the tentacles hissing again.
“Oh? Why’d you build those tentacles, then, if not to help you with your experiments?”
That brought Doc up short. He stood there silently, trying to come up with an appropriate response. The tentacles, however, beat him to the punch. “Just because has us doesn’t mean he’s going to get rid of Marty!”
“You’re a bad person and you’re going to get yours! We dangle people like you off buildings if we have to!”
“Seriously?” Three said, looking rather startled.
“It was that nasty 1986-A Biff Tannen,” Jules explained. “We wouldn’t have dropped him, we just wanted to scare some information out of him.”
Jack looked deeply amused. “I see,” he said simply. “Well then, I look forward to engaging you in person. I’ll have to work up some proper restraints so you can’t attack me while I kill your little friend in front of you.” He raised his voice. “Then maybe, if he’s good and doesn’t make any more stupid mistakes, I’ll let Carlyle cut you off. Without turning you off first.”
The tentacles squeaked and pulled close to their father. Doc put a hand on them, trying to fight off the fresh chill going through his blood. Jack seemed to have a talent for doing that. “You monster,” he whispered, eyes narrowed in pure, unadulterated rage.
Jack just grinned. “You go ahead and think that. I have work to do. Plenty more Martys to catch! Now, if you will excuse me--”
There was a “thwip” noise, and suddenly Jack’s face was obscured under a mess of black goo. The man flailed, clawing at the stuff for a full minute before finally managing to peel it off. He leaned against the doorframe, gulping down air and staring at Doc in disbelief. “How–?”
“There’s more where that came from!” Clara snarled, Rose swarming over her face to show off her hunting jaw, with its large teeth and long tongue. One hand was raised in her usual “shooting symbiote” pose. “I am a very good shot!”
Jack glared at her, teeth clenched and gleaming in the sunlight. “You’ll pay for that, you bitch,” he growled, getting his breath back.
“Jack! Are you all right?” A Middle-Eastern woman with strangely animate hair – Amina for sure, Doc thought – raced to Jack’s side, looking genuinely worried.
“I’m fine, dearest,” he said, standing up straight again. “One of my brother’s lovely whores decided to try and smother me.”
“Don’t you dare call my wife a whore!” Doc yelled, the boys moving back into their attack position. Behind him, One, Three, and Five looked utterly furious, fists clenching and eyes narrowing almost to slits.
“I’ll call your freak of a woman whatever I want!”
“I’d be careful who you call freak,” Clara retorted, baring her fake teeth.
A knife suddenly hit the wall just to the left of her head with a loud clang. Everyone jumped. “And I’d be careful who you insult,” Amina hissed, her hair moving up in a passable imitation of Clara’s symbiote. “I’m a very good shot too.”
Jack smiled and kissed her. “Well said, Amina.” He closed the door and moved back to the controls. Moments later, the villain train shot out of sight.
There was a moment of silence in the cab. Then Doc spun and grabbed Clara in a almost crushing grip. “Don’t do that!” he said, sounding half horrified and half angry. “God, Clara, it’s bad enough that he’s got Marty, I – you’re pregnant!”
“That doesn’t mean I’m made of porcelain!” Clara protested, wiggling a little as Rosie pulled off her head. “And – damn it, Emmett, he made me so angry--”
“She could have killed you with that knife!”
“Not likely, Rosie’s very good at catching anything thrown at me.”
“Even still! There’s always the chance, and. . . .” Doc sighed deeply, the tentacles wrapping around them both and making unhappy noises. “Great Scott, we’ve only been on this adventure for a half hour and already I feel more stressed out than I ever have in my life.”
Clara looked up at him, eyes starting to get watery. “Oh, Emmett.” She leaned up against him, Rosie reaching out a few tendrils to wrap around his middle. “I – I know I acted a little rashly there, but – you heard the way he was talking. And Marty is my friend too, you know.”
“I know,” Doc said softly, voice strained. “He – he almost died there. . . .”
One went over and put a hand on his back. “Trust us, we know how it feels,” he said softly. “Jack dangled one of our Martys out the door to make us back off early in this trip. I was honestly surprised to see him haul yours back in.”
“I’d say ‘thank heavens he did,’ but we know what he’s in for now,” Three added, looking sick. “I’m sorry. We really hoped. . . .”
“I know,” Doc said softly, biting his lip to keep the tears from coming out. “It’s certainly not your fault.”
“Father, is – Marty’s not going to die, is he?” Jules asked, sounding very childlike.
Doc looked at the tentacle and felt his insides twist up in a knot. “I don’t know,” he said softly.
One patted his back comfortingly. “We will get them back,” he said, voice firm and authorative. “I promise.”
“I suppose there’s a tiny little silver lining to this,” J.C. said, though her voice was as dull and depressed as anyone’s. “By throwing that knife, she gave us a weapon.”
“Not that it’ll do us any good,” Four muttered, looking pissed.
“You never know,” One said. “Come on, we need to keep up the chase.” He returned to the controls and set off in the direction Jack had gone.
Doc brought Clara over to one of the side seats, Jennifer following. “How are you feeling?” he asked, eyes roving worriedly over her abdomen.
“Besides very angry and scared? All right, I suppose,” Clara said, patting her belly. “The baby’s fine, Emmett. I promise you that much.”
“You’re sure? I can have them stop and let you out. I don’t know if dimensional travel is good for pregnancies. You’re fairly far along, granted, but still.”
“I weathered time travel with mine,” Clara One spoke up. “Brief time trips when I was pregnant with the twins.”
“We have twin girls,” One spoke up. “And yes, we never noticed any adverse effects from time travel. Dimensional travel could be different, though. We’d be willing to stop and let you off if you feel the need.”
Clara shook her head. “I’ll be fine. Rosie can protect me if need be.” The symbiote waved a tentacle in the affirmative. “I’d just be a nervous wreck at home, worrying about all of you. And that probably would hurt the baby.”
Doc sighed and bowed his head. “There’s no way to win here, is there?”
“Not really, I don’t think.” She hugged him tight. “I’ll be fine.”
“I sure hope you’re right. I can only take worrying about one person I love at a time.”
Jennifer leaned against him, sniffling. “Daffodils,” she muttered. “My favorite.”
Jules wrapped around her. “It’s not your fault he ended up like that,” Doc told her, the tentacles clicking their claws in agreement. “He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They all were.”
“You’ve certainly got that right,” Jennifer Four said. “Why can’t we find a Marty who’s having dinner at home with his family or something?”
“Well, here’s our next chance to see,” One said, pointing to the now-familiar ripple in the air that signaled a hole between dimensions. “Everyone ready?”
“Ready as we’ll ever be,” Four said, coming to stand by him.
“Then let’s do it.” One hit the accelerator.
“Brace yourselves,” Clara Three warned as they approached the hole. “The trip tends to be a little bumpy.”
The three nodded and strapped themselves in, Rosie and the tentacles stretching out to provide additional anchors. They clung to each other tight as they left their world behind.