When Worlds Collide -- Really Collide
Sunday, March 14th, 1897
Hill Valley Girl Genius Verse
“Why are we in 1897?”
Sandra looked over at Jack in confusion, reading the date again in case she’d managed to transpose those two middle numbers. Nope – they stayed just as they were. “I somehow doubt there’s any Marty McFlys back here.”
“Probably not,” Jack admitted readily. “But I feel like making a small detour. Taking some downtime, so to speak.” He grinned over at the line of six Martys. “Maybe having a little fun.”
“I think you had your fun when you shot me,” Marty Three snapped, looking at the wound in his side. It was still bleeding a little, but far more sluggishly. “Man, I hope I don’t need stitches.”
“Maybe just one or two,” Jack said, looking at the wound himself. “But really, Martin, how is that any fun at all? I barely got a chance to hear you scream.” He looked distastefully at his weapon. “I hate guns. Too impersonal. You get far, far better results with a knife.”
“That’s how I think,” Amina purred, arms wrapped around him.
“Yeah, me too,” Sandra admitted. “Bullets can’t keep a vampire down, but a knife in the right place might.” She smirked over at Marty Four. “Ain’t that right, vamp-boy?”
Marty Four glared at her. “You have no idea what you’re in for once they catch you,” he snapped.
“I know what we’re in for – very little,” Jack said, smirking. “Emmett could never match my level of talent in this arena. Causing pain was never his forte. Too soft-hearted.”
“Too ‘not full of pure evil,’ you mean,” Marty Six said angrily. “Jesus Christ, dude, what is wrong with you?”
“It’s more what’s wrong with all of you,” Jack replied. “None of you seem to realize the kind of pleasure you can get from doing this. It’s all very puzzling.”
“Not all of us can be as enlightened as you, Jack,” Amina said, lightly patting his behind.
Jack abruptly stiffened, an expression of distaste playing across his face. Anyone watching closely would have been shocked to see a flash of fear in his eyes. Then he relaxed and gave Amina a rather awkward grin. “I’d really prefer if you didn’t touch me like that,” he said, voice calm as ever.
Amina frowned, blinking in puzzlement. “Oh? I thought that was a standard display of affection for Americans.”
“Perhaps, but I don’t like it very much.”
Amina shrugged and put her arms back around him. “Suit yourself, love.”
Jack grinned. “Great. Now, why don’t we find a good quiet place to land for a little bit, then I’ll--”
Everyone jumped, even the Martys. “What the hell was that?” Marty One asked, looking badly confused.
“Damned if I know,” Biff said, looking out the window. “Sounded like something just blew up.”
“Oh? Too bad we’re so far in the past, I could ask if we’re over Emmett’s lab.”
“He doesn’t blow shit up that often,” Marty Five protested.
Jack smiled at him. “All it takes is the once.” He looked over at Biff, who was still standing by the window, staring at the world below. “What are you looking at?”
“You gotta come see this,” Biff said, sounding awed. “It’s – it’s crazy! Absolutely nuts!”
Puzzled, the other villains went to the windows and looked down. Sandra gasped. “Holy shit!”
“The hell?” Stanley said, blinking rapidly, as if that would make what he was seeing disappear.
“Oh my God,” Jack muttered, sounding truly stunned.
Below them was a Victorian-era version of Hill Valley, complete with cobblestone streets and wooden, slightly rickety-looking buildings. There was nothing particularly shocking about that. What was shocking was the elephantine thing stomping its way down Main Street. The sunlight glimmered off its brassy skin, and steam shot out of it with every alternate step. It seemed bent on causing as much destruction as possible. “We have landed in a very weird universe, haven’t we?” Sandra said, toying with her ponytail.
“Certainly seems that way,” Jack muttered, one eyebrow raised. “Interesting. . . .” Then he grinned. “But I’m certainly not one to pass up pain and destruction. Let’s go on down for a better look, shall we?” He went back to the controls and brought the train around and down.
They landed the train on a side street, out of sight of the general population. Not that anyone would have noticed them, really. Most everyone was running away screaming from the strange steam-powered creature storming the city. To Jack’s mild annoyance, the thing didn’t seem to have stepped on anyone yet. Still, it was destroying a lot of buildings, and that was pretty interesting. And maybe he could give it an assist on killing people. . . .
He opened the door to the cab. “I’m going out for a closer look,” he said, heading down the stairs. “The rest of you stay behind and take care of our guests.” He paused and looked back at Stanley. “But don’t start the party until I return. I mean that.”
“Right, boss,” Stanley said, coloring.
“We’ll keep him in line, don’t worry,” Biff said, slinging a too-friendly around the fat man’s shoulders.
Jack smiled. “Thank you, Biff. I’ll be back in just a few minutes.”
He wandered into the street, into the wake of the creature. Broken wood and glass littered the ground. Jack idly picked up a piece of glass and made a few cutting motions through the air. A nice, jagged chunk like this would probably rip through flesh very easily, tearing open skin and causing blood to gush out. . . . He practically beamed and pocketed it for later use. I think I’ll use it on Martin Number Six, he was certainly asking for a little punishment earlier. . . .
He was searching for someone to push into the path of the monster when he saw it. A sight that made him do a double take, then rub his eyes in disbelief. A sight he had not expected to see at all in this strange past world.
Jack stared, still not quite believing his eyes. What was Martin McFly doing here, in 1897? The boy hadn’t been born until 1968! Had he somehow caught Emmett and Martin on a time trip in this world? That would be interesting. Curious, he walked closer.
The new Martin was watching the creature storm down the street from a safe nook in a building. He was dressed for the time period, if in brighter colors than one usually associated with the era – a bright red vest paired with white checked shirt and blue pants. He looked – well, honestly, he didn’t look frightened so much as he looked disgusted. He shook his head and muttered to himself, too softly for Jack to hear, then seemed to signal to someone.
It was too much. Jack just couldn’t resist. He snuck up behind the young boy, pulling out his piece of glass. Once he was certain the Martin’s attention was away from him, he grabbed him from behind and put the jagged edge against the boy’s throat. “I wouldn’t recommend struggling,” he purred to the startled teenager. “I’ll cut your throat before you can blink. Not deep enough to kill, but enough to leave a nasty scar. Maybe even ruin that voice of yours. Bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
The Martin didn’t respond, just stared at him in mute shock. Jack chuckled and pulled him away, stifling the boy’s resistance with a quick kick in the rear. If only they were all this easy! Still doesn’t explain why he’s here, of course, but hey – I’ll take what this universe so kindly gives me.
He returned to the train, dragging the Martin along. Amina greeted him at the door. “That didn’t take – Allah and the Prophet! Is that--”
“Yup!” Jack said proudly, yanking the kid into the train. The Martin stared around with wide eyes, looking both frightened and really confused. “Caught him a doorway nearby. Don’t ask me what he’s doing here, I didn’t bother to inquire.”
“That is freaking strange,” Sandra said, eyeing the Martin.
“Well, Emmett does have access to time travel,” Jack shrugged. “Perhaps that thing outside is one of his inventions gone wrong.”
Biff leaned down in front of the Martin. “This one doesn’t talk much,” he noted. “Especially compared to that last butthead we got.” He smirked at the teen. “Hey, kid, wanna give us your thoughts?”
The Martin blinked at him. “Was ist dies?”
There was dead silence in the cab for a moment. “Why’s he speaking gibberish?” Biff asked, scrunching up his forehead in confusion.
“That’s not gibberish,” Jack said, looking down at the Martin in shock. “That’s – that’s German.”
“So why’s he speaking German?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea!”
“Was ist dies?” the Martin repeated, looking around frantically. “Wer sind Sie?” He turned his head to look at Jack. “Emmett?”
“Figures that would be recognizable,” Amina groused.
“No – Emmett?” Jack repeated, even more confused. “Since when do you call my brother Emmett? I thought he was ‘Doc’ to you.”
“Nein, Sein Name ist Jack. Er ist ein nutcase, der uns entführt hat.”
Now it was everyone’s turn to look at Marty One in surprise. “You speak German?” Sandra asked, disbelievingly.
“Doc taught it to me once,” Marty One explained. “I was curious.” He turned back to the new Marty. “Sorry you had to get caught up in this,” he continued in German.
“It’s – it’s okay. I’ve – no, you know what? I haven’t been through weirder. Not yet.” The teen looked around again. “What’s going on?”
“I can sum it up in three words, dude,” Marty One said blandly. “Welcome to hell.”
Sunday, March 14th, 1897
Hill Valley Girl Genius Verse
Once the shaking had subsided, all the Docs flew to the windows. “All right, where is the bastard?” Doc One demanded, scanning the sky.
“Probably hiding from us, as he always is,” Doc Four grumbled.
“Where do you think Marty is this time?” Doc Five asked, looking both worried and curious.
“Wherever he is, I hope he isn’t – Great Scott!”
“What? What is it?” Jennifer Six asked, eyes wide with nervousness.
“To quote a famous movie, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Doc Six replied, he and the tentacles staring at the scene below them.
The others looked down. Spread out below them was a Victorian version of their beloved hometown, at least partly familiar to the ones who had spent some time in the Old West. This one had a slightly more London-like feel to it, but the major landmarks were the same.
What wasn’t familiar was the large elephant-shaped thing stomping down the street, wrecking buildings with each movement. The Docs openly gaped at the scene. “What in the name of Sir Isaac H. Newton. . . ?” Doc Four said.
“When are we?” Doc Two asked, glancing over at the controls.
Doc One checked. “1897! What the hell is he doing way back here? Marty wouldn’t be in this time period. Hell, I don’t think I would be! I moved back to the 1980s earlier in the decade.”
“And he certainly doesn’t seem like the type of person to just decide on seeing the sights,” Doc Three agreed. “Not to mention I’m pretty sure we didn’t have those!” He pointed at the creature, which was still ponderously making its along.
“Maybe we landed in a universe where robotics somehow started earlier,” Doc Six said, watching as steam spurted from gaps in the creature’s side.
“That would be weird,” Albert commented.
“Wonder what they’d make of us,” Verne agreed, clacking his claw.
“I’m still wondering why he’s stopped here,” Doc Two said, frowning deeply. “Like you said, Marty wouldn’t be in this time period. Unless the us of this world took him on a time trip back here, but that’s unlikely.”
“Well, you’re the ones who are always saying he’s nuts,” Jennifer Five pointed out with a small shrug.
“Yes, but not nuts in that way,” Doc Five replied. Then he shook his head. “Does it really matter why he’s here? If he’s not going after a Marty, maybe we can try freeing the ones he already has instead.”
“How, though?” J.C. said, waving her hand around in a vague “this is impossible” gesture. “Bastard’s not above hurting them to keep us away. And that Stanley fellow – you were right, Six, he’s looney.”
“I know,” Doc Six said with a shudder. “Just our luck Jack would have to go and pick him up, huh?”
“That’s always our luck,” Albert pointed out.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
“I was thinking that maybe the tougher ones of us could go on a reconnaissance mission of a sort,” Doc Five said, holding up his pointer finger. “Me and the two vampires. Perhaps we could do something. At least give the Martys some encouragement.”
The others looked at each other. “Better than nothing, yeah,” Doc Three admitted. “And you could attempt to sabotage the time train while you were at it.”
“That is, if he didn’t accidentally land in the path of that thing,” Doc Four said, looking back at the creature. “What is that?”
“Only one way to find out,” Doc One said, returning to the controls. “Let’s bring her down and see what’s happening.”
They landed the train a few streets away from the creature’s path of destruction. As they did so, there was a sudden loud clanging noise. “What was that?” Clara Six asked as Rosie rippled in discontent. “We haven’t managed to damage our own train, have we?”
“No, I don’t think that came from us,” Doc One said reassuringly. “Don’t know where it came from.”
“Maybe the steam creature?” Jennifer Two suggested.
“Good a guess as any.”
The clanging was followed by a screeching (Rosie rippled more, and started dripping off Clara Six), then a loud metallic thud. Moments later, there was wild cheering. “Lob dem Heterodyne Erben! Lob dem Heterodyne Erben!”
Jennifer Three blinked. “Um, what the hell? What are they saying?”
“That’s German,” Doc Four said quietly, one eyebrow raised. “What in the name of Sir Isaac H. Newton are they doing speaking German here?”
Doc One checked the controls again. Then again. “Er – well – according to this, we’re in Hill Valley, Germany,” he finally said, scratching his head.
“Germany?! There’s no Hill Valley in Germany! Not that I know of, anyway!”
“That’s what my equipment’s saying!”
“But that’s the Clock Tower over there!” Tommy protested, pointing at the building. “And the town square – and even that one tree that’s been growing beside the tower for ages and ages! This has to be Hill Valley! What’s it doing in Germany?”
“Don’t ask me! I can only tell you what the equipment’s telling me!” Doc One shook his head. “We’re obviously in a very alternate universe to our own; that much was obvious once we saw that robot creature. Maybe – maybe they didn’t discover the Americas in this world?”
“Maybe,” Doc Six said, looking outside. “Though it’s strange how much this Hill Valley looks like our own.”
“I still want to know what they’re saying,” Jennifer Three said, looking curious.
“It roughly translates to ‘Praise to the Heterodyne heir,’” Doc Three provided, leaning against the wall. “Don’t ask me who the Heterodynes are, though, I haven’t the faintest idea.”
“It doesn’t really apply to us anyway,” Doc Two said, giving his head a quick shake. “We’re not here to interact with anyone local, we’re here to catch up with Jack and see if we can do anything about his reign of terror. Now, Five was saying that--”
“Dort ist es!”
There was the sound of rushing footsteps outside, then the sound of something powering up. “Sie dort, bereiten Sie sich vor, getäfelt zu werden!” a voice yelled, sounding very angry – and something more, something – indefinable.
Everyone froze. Finally, Doc Five whispered, “Is it just me – or did that sound like us?”
Doc Four ran to the door and opened it. Standing outside the train was a group of four teenagers – three girls and one boy. All were shockingly familiar, despite the Victorian clothes and age difference. The first girl was dressed all in black, with black hair and strange grey eyes. The second was in purple, with thick curly brown hair and brown eyes. The third was in red, with brown hair and eyes again. And the boy–
The boy was a tall, lanky blond in a green vest and pants, holding a strange-looking gun, with big brown eyes Doc Four knew very, very well. After all, he saw them in the mirror almost daily. “Great Scott!”
The boy stared at him, jaw hanging open comically. “Großer Scott!”
“Emmett? Emmett, was – was?” said the girl standing next to him, looking between him and Doc Four.
“Is it one of us?” Doc Five said, debating whether or not to look in person.
“Yes,” Doc Four replied weakly. “And Holly, and Clara, and Jennifer. And we’re all teenagers!”
“Speaking German,” Verne added.
“Wait, I’m there?!” Jennifer One elbowed her way in next to Doc Four. Sure enough, there was another Jennifer outside, this one in a somewhat-tattered red dress with a high neck and lots of buttons. Jennifer One grabbed onto the doorframe. “Oh my God, you weren’t kidding. . . .”
The Jennifer outside looked similarly stunned. “Emmett, was geht weiter?” she said slowly, eyes fixed on her alternate self.
“Ich habe nicht einen Hinweis,” the teenage Emmett replied, looking his “older self” up and down in utter bafflement. “Wer – Wer sind Sie?”
“What did he say?” Jennifer One asked.
“He asked who I am,” Doc Four said softly. He looked at Emmett and switched to German. His dialect was a little rusty, but it would do. “I’m – another version of you. Emmett Lathrop Brown, I presume?”
“That’s me,” Emmett confirmed, still looking baffled. “What are you doing here?”
“Looks like you do get your time machine off the ground,” Holly interjected, wrapping a lock of black hair around a finger. “Nice train.”
“But what about the other train?” the Jennifer analogue asked. “And the other me? I don’t look to have aged a bit!” Her eyes went to Jennifer One’s legs. “And I’m wearing trousers?”
Jennifer One scowled. “I don’t like not understanding what I’m saying.”
“Hold onto your horses,” Doc Four said, trying to keep calm. “Look, I’m not from the future or anything like that. I’m from an entirely different world. We both are. One which seems to have evolved very differently from yours. We’re here because we’re chasing someone in a similar train.”
“Different – dimensions?” the Clara said, eyes wide. For the first time, Doc Four noticed she was covered in scars. “Are you serious?”
“Quite. It’s a very complicated situation that would probably take hours to properly explain.” He looked back over at the Jennifer. “Listen, answer me this first – is there a Marty McFly to go with that Jennifer? One about 17 years old?”
“Coming up on 19, but yes,” Emmett replied, looking a bit suspicious. “Jennifer here said someone grabbed him and pulled him into a train just like that one you’re in.”
“That’s the one we’re following,” Doc Four said. “It’s helmed by a madman who’s determined to hurt as many Martys as he can. He’s already taken all of ours.”
“‘Ours?’” Holly repeated, blinking.
“You’re actually number seven on the list of dimensions we’ve visited,” Doc Four said, hoping they wouldn’t decide to write him off as some sort of crazy future self of their own Emmett. “First one where we’ve been a teenager in the far past, granted.”
Emmett looked him over suspiciously, running a hand along the barrel of his weapon. “This is – this is weirder than anything I’ve ever heard about,” he finally said. “And trust me, I know weird. I wonder – hey, Maxim, where are you?”
“Maxim?” Jennifer One said, picking up on the one word she could understand.
Jennifer One screamed as a purple head popped over the top of the train. Doc Four stumbled back a bit himself, startled. The head’s owner looked pretty surprised himself. “Meester Emmett? Miss Jennifer?” He looked back up at the two teenagers outside the train. “Vat haff hyu gotten hyuself into dis time?”
“This isn’t my fault!” Emmett protested, coloring slightly.
“Really, it isn’t,” Doc Four said, trying to regain his equilibrium. He was a freaking vampire – something like this shouldn’t surprise him so much. “This is the fault of a psychotic with a taste for torturing people who haven’t actually done anything to him.”
“Oh, like Dr. Liptenschein? Dat vas a crazy vun. Made carnivorous balloon animals.”
Doc Four quietly decided he didn’t want to know as Emmett spoke. “He says he’s a version of me from another universe. Would you mind smelling him? See if the scent’s right?”
The purple fellow – Doc Four supposed he was Maxim – nodded, then leaned close to Doc Four and sniffed. His eyes widened. “Jah – he does schmell like hyu!” He leaned close to Jennifer One, who squeaked, and sniffed her too. “Und she schmells like – herself, hy schuppose.”
Emmett nodded, looking a bit more friendly. “Well, that clears that up a little, at least. You’re definitely me if you smell the same.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Doc Four said as Maxim grinned at him. “Getting back on track – I hate to tell you this, but it seems definite that your Marty’s just been kidnapped by the main we’re chasing. He’s probably going to be hurt at some point – our villain has shared a few details on what he eventually plans to do.” He shuddered a little as he remembered feeling his adoptive son being staked, then his heartbeat just vanish altogether. . . . At least it’s still here now. We still have a chance to catch up. “If you want, you and your entourage can join us. We’re keeping on his tail in the hopes of stopping him once we get a chance.”
“You haven’t gotten a chance already?” Holly asked, sounding incredulous.
“We haven’t been able to catch him before he takes one of the Martys yet,” Doc Four said, voice bitter. “And our previous attempts to confront him have ended – badly.”
“But you’re a Spark! Can’t you just throw something at him and hope for the best?”
Doc Four blinked a few times. “I’m a what?”
Silence. “Maxim, smell him again,” Emmett finally said, the look of bafflement back on his face.
“I told you, I’m from a different universe! How would I know what this ‘Spark’ business is?” Doc Four protested.
“Because it’s kind of who you are?” the Jennifer said, frowning. “A Madboy? Mad scientist through and through?”
“Oh. Okay, that makes a bit more sense,” Doc Four admitted. “You call that sort of person a Spark here?”
“Yeah. What do they call them in your world?” Emmett asked.
“Crackpots, mostly. Or just plain mad scientists. And no, I can’t, because I don’t have any inventions I can throw at them. Wish I did.”
“Really? Not even a good lightning gun?”
Doc Four stared. “Lightning--” He stopped and put a hand to his forehead, turning away from the group. “I’m getting a headache. Someone else please take over.”
“I thought I heard the phrase ‘lightning gun,’” Doc Three said, looking shocked.
“Me too. How could you even make something like that in 1897?”
“How could they make that thing we just saw?” Doc One pointed out. “We must be in a world where technology advanced at a much more rapid rate.”
“What’s going on in--”
Emmett froze as he poked his head in. His eyes traveled around the large group, openly gawking at everything. “Holy shit,” he finally said weakly.
“What’s in there? What language are they talking in?” the Clara’s voice called from outside.
“Uh – ah – you know, I think I’m just going to believe them when they say they’re telling the truth,” Emmett said weakly.
Maxim, peering inside, looking similarly shocked. “Vow. Dat’s new.”
“We were all pretty shocked too, when our other selves showed up,” Doc Five said. “And to answer your – lady friend, we’re speaking English.”
“English? You don’t sound English.”
“American English,” Doc Five clarified with a small frown.
Emmett’s eyes nearly fell out of his head. “American – ?! You’re from America??”
“Yup, California born and bred,” Doc Five confirmed.
The Docs looked at each other. “Yeah. You know. Of the United States of America? Though perhaps it’s still just a territory now, I can’t recall off the top of my head.”
“No, I wouldn’t know. We – we haven’t had contact with the Americas since – well, since before I was born, I think. 18 years, at the least.”
There was another one of those ubiquitous silences in the cab. “What on earth kind of reality have we landed in?” Doc Five finally asked, looking gobsmacked.
“Hey, my reality’s perfectly nice,” Emmett protested, pouting a little.
“What about that thing we saw storming down the street earlier?” Doc Three countered, pointing outside.
“Oh, that. Some idiot decided to unleash his latest creation here for a test run. People do that all the time here. It’s kind of my job to stop it. At least, when Agatha and Gilgamesh aren’t around to do so.” Emmett paused. “Do you know Agatha and Gil? Or the Heterodynes or the Wulfenbachs at all?”
“Can’t say I’ve ever heard of them,” Doc Three admitted as the others shook their heads. “Doesn’t mean they don’t exist in some capacity, but. . . .” He shrugged.
Emmett frowned. “What about my other friends?” He looked over at the Claras and Jennifers, who stared back at him. “Er – well, obviously, you know them, but what about--”
“Holly we know,” Doc Two said. He looked over at Maxim, still hanging from the ceiling. “Him we don’t, though. Who are you?”
“And would you mind getting off my train?” Doc One added, frowning.
Maxim nodded and hopped down, landing in a crouch. He straightened up, fixed his hat, and grinned. “Hy’m Maxim. Hy’m vun ov de Jaegerkin.”
“They probably don’t have Jaegers where they come from,” Emmett said. “He’s a construct – wait, I don’t know if you have those either. . . .” His eyes went to Doc Six’s tentacles. “Then again. . . .” He waved a hand, shaking his head violently. “Well, the important thing is is that he’s a friend of mine. A bodyguard type.”
“Und Holly’s boyfriend,” Maxim added, as if that was the most important thing of all.
The Docs looked at each other, surprised. “Holly’s boyfriend? Maybe he’s John’s analogue,” Doc Six mused, the tentacles chattering.
“Of course, John’s not purple,” Doc Four pointed out, eyeing Maxim.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Doc One said, sighing. “What matters is apparently he’s got a Marty that we’ve failed to save yet again!” He slammed his fist onto the controls in frustration. “Damn it, would it be so awful for us to get one chance to keep a Marty safe? Just one chance?”
Clara One put her arms around him. “Emmett, this isn’t your fault.”
“Then whose fault is it? If – if – damn it, Clara, what if he dies? It’s not like we can just zap him back to life like Frankenstein!”
“We do have the time machine.”
“He has one too!” Doc One leaned over the controls, feeling his emotions threatening to rage out of control. “He has all the advantages, and – for Newton’s sake, I’ve never even seen him before!” Then, voice softening, “Except in the mirror. . . .”
“Don’t start,” Clara One said firmly, squeezing him hard. “I went through that whole mess with you years ago, and I’m not going through it again. Especially not when this is a situation in which you really do need sleep.”
Clara Three raised an eyebrow. “Did we miss something before?”
Doc One shook his head. “Never mind. Just this situation hits sadly close to home for me in a very nasty way.” He looked at her. “If you must know, we’ll discuss it later.”
“Right, later,” Clara Three agreed, looking concerned.
Emmett was watching the scene with deeply concerned eyes. “There’s obviously something big going on here,” he said. “Which means it’s probably my duty to go along with you, even if my Marty wasn’t in danger.” He paused. “Who is this guy and why is he kidnapping Martys again?”
“His name is Jack – he claims to be our twin brother, though not one of us has heard of him yet,” Doc Three provided. “He’s taking the Martys out of some twisted grudge he has against them – apparently one of them beat him at something once, so now he’s going to take it out on as many as he can get.” He paused. “He’s already shot one of them – nonfatally, but. . . .”
Emmett stared for a moment. Then he spun around. “All right, who’s with me?” he said, voice firm and cold, grip on his gun tightening.
“I definitely am,” Jennifer said, heading for the stairs.
“Me too,” Clara added, joining her.
“Shouldn’t we all go on this little trip?” Holly said, holding up a point-making finger.
Emmett looked back down the street and frowned. “Actually, someone should probably stay behind and make sure nothing else pops out of that thing. You and Maxim can take care of that, I’m sure. Plus someone needs to send a message to Agatha that I might be gone for a while.”
“Point,” Holly admitted reluctantly.
“Hyu schure hyu don’t vant me to come along?” Maxim asked, looking around the train. “Hy could help. Looks like a hunting party.” He grinned, showing off his teeth to best effect. “Und hunting’s vhat ve Jaegers do best.”
“I think you’re scaring them a little,” Emmett pointed out as some of the Jennifers made “eep” noises. “Plus there’s limited room on this train.”
“Exactly,” Doc One said, having regained his control somewhat. “Plus we’re probably going to have to travel to another dimension at some point, and who knows how you’d be received by some of our other selves.”
“Not to mention we could be at this for days,” Doc Four said, sounding tired. “You want to be stranded outside your normal world for days?”
“Hy vork for de Heterodynes. Hy can take it.” Maxim paused, his smile lessening. “Dough I vould miss Holly. . . .”
Emmett clapped him on the shoulder. “You two stick together and keep a watch out for our rogue Spark,” he said authoratively. “He’ll probably try to strike again now that his main clank’s down. Jennifer, Clara, and I will work on taking care of this guy. Okay?”
“Hokay,” Maxim said with a nod. “Good hunting.”
“Thanks, the same to you.” Emmett descended the stairs to give Holly a hug. “I’ll see you soon, I hope.”
“Me too.” Holly patted his back. “Don’t get yourself killed on this crazy adventure. It’ll take forever to find a good cold storage to keep you in until Gilgamesh can work his magic.”
Emmett chuckled. “Heh, I know. I’ll be careful, I promise. Careful as a Spark can be, anyway.” He released her and went back to the train. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Our sentiments exactly,” Doc One agreed. He and the others waved to Holly and Maxim, then he closed the train back up and took to the air.
Emmett went to stand by him as Clara and Jennifer eyed their other selves with a mixture of shock and curiosity. “So, what do we do first?” he asked, looking ready for action.
“First, we stop excluding the majority of this train’s population from the conversation, I think,” Doc One said, looking over at his slightly befuddled wife and friend. “Hang on just a moment. . . .” He handed the controls over to Clara and went to the back of the train. He pulled open a drawer underneath one of the seats and started searching through the various gizmos contained within. “Come on, come on, I know I put them in here. . . .”
“What are you looking for?” Jennifer Six asked, sitting next to him and peering down into the rather overstuffed drawer.
“I’m looking for – aha!” Doc One pulled out three little white devices attached to lapel clips. “They’re universal translators,” he explained. “Clip to the shirt and provide automatic translation for the speaker.” He handed one to Emmett, who had followed him out of curiosity. “Clip that on. Hopefully it should make it so you’re intelligible to everyone here.”
Emmett took the device, studied it for a moment, then hooked it onto his shirt collar. Doc One pressed the power button. The device came on with a little beep and a flash of light. “Did it work?” Emmett asked, poking at it a little.
Doc One grinned. “Sounds like English to me.”
Emmett smirked. “Still sounds like German to me. I guess it works.” He examined the device again as Doc One handed them out to Clara and Jennifer. “Did you make these?”
Doc One shook his head. “Bought them at a store in the future,” he explained, shutting the drawer with a bit of an “oof.” “I thought they’d come in handy someday, especially if I ever decided to expand my time travels outside of Hill Valley.”
“Bought? Tch, I thought you were a scientist.”
“Hey, I made the train,” Doc One said with a smirk. “Besides, I don’t feel any shame in buying something if I need it. I enjoy inventing, but if the need is urgent. . . .”
Emmett shrugged. “I suppose I can see that side of it. I just make most of what I need by hand. Mass producing isn’t really done here. I take it’s different in your worlds.”
“Well, our worlds are more – I hesitate to say technologically advanced, because you seem to be doing quite well in that regard,” Doc One admitted.
“Not as well as some of you,” Emmett said, grinning at Doc Six and his tentacles. “How’d you make those? How do they work?”
“It’s complicated,” Doc Six said, chuckling a little at Emmett’s enthusiasm. “Do they have comic books where you’re from?”
“I don’t recognize the term. We have illustrated stories – roughly the same thing?”
“When did comic books come into being as we know them? Do you know, Father?” Jules asked, sounding curious.
Emmett’s jaw dropped. “What – they talk?!”
“They’re sentient,” Doc Six said, a hint of pride in his voice. “They’re alive.”
Emmett looked a bit like Christmas had come early. “Really?”
“Dude, what happened to your voice there?” Jennifer Five asked, frowning at him. “You sound – weird.”
“That’s Spark voice,” Jennifer answered her, looking puzzled. “Well, it’s not limited to Sparks, but you mostly hear it from them when they’re getting into the inventing mood. They don’t do that?”
“Not to my knowledge,” Jennifer Five said, looking toward Doc Five curiously. “You ever do that?”
“Nope,” Doc Five said. “Unless I’m not listening to myself when I do.”
Emmett looked a tad embarrassed. “Sorry, it just happens automatically,” he said, voice going back to normal. “It’s funny that you don’t do it, though.”
“Different dimensions, different rules,” Doc Four said, looking at Doc Five significantly. “We’re all weird in some way. Well, except for One here--” he pointed “– but then, being the lone normal human in this bunch is probably strange in itself.”
Emmett, Jennifer, and Clara looked at each other. “Weirder than us?” Jennifer said slowly.
“I know you come from a very strange dimension, but yes, I think we are,” Doc Two said, looking amused. “You lot know anything about vampires?”
“Just that two different sparks in Transylvania tried to make some,” Emmett said, absently rubbing his gun. Then he frowned, suspicious. “You aren’t saying--”
Doc Two let his fangs extend. “Both me and Four are,” he said, motioning to the correct Doc. “Three is a mutant who can control electricity, Five is – I don’t know if you know what cartoons are, so let’s just say he conforms to a different set of physical laws. And Six, of course, has his arms.”
“Jules, Verne, Albert, and Tommy,” Doc Six said, each tentacle waving in turn.
Emmett was silent for a moment. Then his face split into a huge grin. “I am so awesome.”
Doc Five snorted. “Glad you approve of most of us being odd.”
“Well, it would be hypocritical of me to be upset,” Emmett shrugged. “I’m a Madboy. I’m suffering from a controlled insanity that allows me to build all sorts of amazing stuff.”
“And gives you a bit of an ego to boot,” Doc Four noted, looking a little disturbed at the “insanity” comment.
“Occupational hazard,” Emmett admitted with a faint blush.
“He does have the inventions to back it up,” Jennifer admitted. “You got anything on you besides the lightning gun?”
“I’ve always got Fetch on me.” Emmett reached into his pocket and extracted a brassy clockwork ball and a key. “Watch this,” he said to the other Docs with a mad smile. He set the ball on the ground, stuck the key in the keyhole, and wound it up. There was a soft ticking noise –
Then, suddenly, the ball leapt into the air and uncurled, revealing itself to be a little clockwork dog. The dog barked twice and wagged its spring tail happily. Emmett chuckled and patted it. “Isn’t he great? He’s designed for fetching tools and the like. Which I suppose is obvious from the name,” he admitted with a shrug. “I’ve tried changing it, but Fetch just sounds right at this point.”
The other Docs stared, amazed. “Great Scott. Is – is he all clockwork?” Doc Three said slowly.
“Yeah, pretty much so. Don’t ask me how exactly I made him; I was – kind of sleepwalking at the time.”
Emmett nodded. “Sparks go through something called a ‘breakthrough,’ where they first start warping the laws of nature and find their speciality. Mine was retarded through the use of a special device – my mother--” his voice suddenly wobbled for a moment “– my mother was trying to keep me safe. Hill Valley wasn’t especially tolerant of Sparks in the early days.” He took a deep breath and continued. “I accidentally destroyed the device one day, and I guess my brain was so eager to get on with things it started working even while I was sleeping. Woke up to a half-constructed vehicle of some sort and Fetch.”
“Amazing,” Doc Six said, as Jules and Tommy poked curiously at Fetch. The little clockwork dog yapped in surprise and mouthed them with his metal jaws. “Does that little robot actually think, like my boys?”
Emmett looked up in puzzlement. “Ro-bot?”
“. . . You don’t know the word ‘robot?’”
“Never heard of it,” Emmett said. “We call these things ‘clanks.’ And not to the level of your boys, I’m sure, but of course he can think.”
“But – how? He’s made of clockwork!”
“Well, like I said, I’m not entirely sure how I made it, but it’s an extrapolation of the basic Babbage engine,” Emmett said, sounding a bit like a professor. “Shrunk down and simplified a lot, granted.”
“Babbage engine?” Doc One repeated.
“Yes. What, they didn’t have that in your world either?”
“Only sort of,” Doc One admitted. “Charles Babbage came up with the engine, but he was never able to get it built.”
Emmett looked intrigued. “Really? Maybe that’s one of the things that separates my reality from all of yours. That and the Spark.” He looked around the train. “Though the latter is debatable, if you can construct something like this even in a non-Spark universe. Maybe whatever makes a Spark a Spark is just toned down in your dimensions.”
“Possibly,” Doc One said. “The smallest change to any world can result in amazing differences. We’ve seen that close-up.”
“Time to continue this conversation another time,” Josephine suddenly said, peering out the window. “I think I see the other train over there!”
“Really?” Doc One rushed to the controls. “Let’s keep on their tail, then. The closer we are when they try to switch dimensions again – and I have no doubt that they will – the better chance we have of stopping them from getting another Marty!”
“What if they try firing on us again, though?” Clara Five said, looking concerned.
“Biff doesn’t have an infinite amount of bullets. I’d rather take the risk than worry about another Marty.”
“Biff? Like Biff Tannen?” Emmett said, surprised.
“The very same.” Doc One glanced over at him. “Is he a teenager too?”
“Yeah, he bullied me mercilessly in school.”
“Figures,” Doc Four grumbled. “You know, this makes me wonder about Marty’s family. It’s hard to picture George as being older than myself. Did you ever meet his parents?”
Emmett suddenly looked very awkward. “Um, no, actually,” he said quietly, eyes on the ground. “Marty came into our town alone, as a traveling minstrel.”
The Docs looked at each other. “Huh.”
“That – doesn’t quite sound like him,” Jennifer Five said, raising an eyebrow. “Marty’s definitely the type to go around playing his music for all to hear, but I think he’d take his family along. Where were they?”
Emmett fidgeted for a moment, then sighed and looked up. “They’re dead,” he said, voice soft. “Mob violence. There was this Spark called the Other in the recent past who nearly devastated Europa, and some of her nastier inventions are still around. Something called slaver wasps. Turn the person infected by them into controllable minions, and often leave them shambling wrecks. Someone accidentally released a swarm on Marty’s old hometown. His parents sacrificed their lives to lock him in the basement and keep him safe. When he finally got out, they’d been killed by the frightened survivors. He had to run for his life, he told us.”
Everyone looked horrified. “Great Scott,” Doc Four whispered. “Poor George and Lorraine. . . .”
“Oh, God, Marty,” Jennifer One said, twisting her hands. “That’s horrible.”
“I know,” Emmett said, looking down.
“What about his brother and sister? Are they all right?” Jennifer Three demanded, eyes wide with fright.
“As far as we all know. They’d moved away earlier, and our communications system isn’t the best. We’re working on the assumption they’re okay.” Emmett grimaced a little. “Europa Wulfenbach/Heterodyne is a dangerous place.”
“Yeah, I can tell,” Jennifer Five said, looking at Clara. Then she blushed. “Oh, jeez, sorry. No offense.”
“None taken,” Clara said, smiling weakly. “I’m well aware I look – unusual. And the level of scarring probably is indicative of some of the worst dangers of our world.”
“Still, that wasn’t polite. I’m sorry.”
Clara smiled more genuinely. “Thanks. Not a lot of people say that.”
They pulled up behind the villain train, making sure to keep enough distance between them to avoid any gunfire. The Docs looked out the front window at the back of the other train. “How do you think they’re doing?” Doc Four asked softly, voice a touch strangled.
“They’re all alive still – at least we know that much,” Doc Five replied.
“But for how much longer?” Doc Six asked. “What happens if this Jack gets tired of his game? Or he decides he needs more room for the new Martys?”
“I don’t want to think about that,” Doc Three admitted, voice low as he shuddered.
Emmett stood on tip-toe to get a better look at the villain train. “What does he do to the Martys he collects?” he asked, in a tone that indicated he probably wasn’t going to like the answer.
“Ties them up,” Doc One said. “Beyond that, we’re not sure. But we know it isn’t pleasant.” He sighed. “He hasn’t been above dangling them out of the cab to threaten us. Or shooting them.”
“You mentioned that,” Emmett said with a grim nod. For a moment, his expression contorted into something rather haunted. Then he shook his head, getting control of himself again. “So long as he hasn’t killed any of them yet.”
“No – but the reason he doesn’t want them dead is to torture them more,” Doc Four said, looking sick. “So it’s not exactly a better fate.”
“What do you think he’s done to our Marty?” Jennifer asked, cracking her knuckles. They popped strangely loudly.
“Tied him up, perhaps thrown a barb or two his way,” Doc Two said, frowning. “I wonder how he reacted to discovering he spoke only in German.”
“Wonder how the rest of them reacted as well,” Doc Six said, the tentacles chittering a bit. “I don’t think Biff or Stanley would take kindly to a Marty they couldn’t understand.”
“And our own Martys are probably confused out of their minds,” Jules said.
“Yes, imagine meeting a version of yourself who spoke something akin to gibberish.”
“Actually, my Marty should be able to understand him,” Doc One said, causing Doc Six and the rest to look at him in surprise. “I taught him German a little while ago. We got stuck in a time loop for a while.” He waved a hand. “It’s a long story.”
Doc Five couldn’t help a smirk. “Is it just me, or is everything about us a long story?”
Doc One smirked back. “I don’t think we’d be us if everything about us didn’t involve a long story.”
Emmett was eyeing the train, shifting from foot to foot. “Are you sure we can’t just charge in there and stage a daring rescue?” he suddenly asked.
“We’d like to,” Doc Three said. “God, we’d like to. But as long as he isn’t above hurting the Martys to get at us, we can’t, not really. And we don’t dare do anything to his train for fear of harming them.”
“Damn.” Emmett scowled in the villain train’s direction. “I hate these situations.”
“So do we, kid, so do we.”
“It’s just not right! I’m a Spark, I should be able to. . . .” Emmett stopped and looked back at Doc One. “Take us around. I want to try something.”
“Sparks can be damn persuasive when they want to be,” the teenager growled. “I want to be.”
The other Docs looked at each other, expressions of worry and doubt on their faces. “Well, I know how stubborn I can be, so I won’t try to talk you out of it,” Doc One said, adjusting the train’s flight path so they were parallel with the other train. “I don’t think it’ll do any good, though. That voice probably won’t throw Jack for long.”
“You haven’t heard Emmett in action,” Jennifer said, grinning. (Behind her, Jennifer Six muttered, “Sheesh, that’s weird, hearing me call him ‘Emmett. . . .’”) “He once scared the shit out of a pretty nasty Spark.”
“Well, threatening to rip apart the very foundations of someone’s castle will do that,” Emmett said, looking a little embarrassed.
“Why’d you do that?” Doc Five asked, cocking his head.
“He said some rather nasty things about my relationship with Clara and my supposed relationship with Marty.”
Doc Five’s eyes narrowed, picking up on the hidden meaning in Emmett’s words. “Oh, that. I probably would have threatened to rip his home apart too.”
Jennifer scowled, cracking her knuckles again. “I wish I’d have been there at the time. I would have given you a hand.”
“I’m sure,” Emmett nodded, fingering his gun.
They pulled up alongside the villain train. The door to the same promptly opened, revealing Biff in all his smug glory. “Boy, you guys just don’t give up, do you?” he commented, rolling his eyes. “Hey, Jack! I think we gotta play another round of ‘Piss Me Off And I Hurt Your Best Friend!’”
“Oh, goody.” Jack himself appeared, smiling menacingly. “It amazes me how often you’re willing to put your supposed ‘best’ friend in jeopardy. If you’d just back off for a little while, I might treat them better.” He shrugged. “Or I might not. Depends on the mood I’m in. You’re not helping with that, you know.”
“I know, but our latest ally has something to say to you,” Doc One said, tone cold. He indicated for Emmet to step forward. “The floor is yours, kid.”
Emmett moved forward, gun held in front of him, eyes blazing. “So I take it you’re Jack. I’m warning you right now – hurt my Marty – or any of the others you’ve got trapped on your train – and I will destroy you.”
“Dude, what is with your voice?” Stanley asked, poking his head around the frame.
Jack, however, merely looked amused. “My dear boy, the other Emmetts have been making that threat ever since we first met,” he said smoothly. “You’re going to have to be a bit more creative to convince me.”
“You want creative? I can do creative,” Emmett shot back. “You release your hostages right now. Or I’ll bring down the wrath of heaven and earth upon you. Nothing will save you, Jack. Or Jonathan, if that’s your full name.”
“Nope, it’s just Jack,” Jack said pleasantly. “Though if you feel the need to use my full name in your little speech, that’s Jack Merridew Brown.”
Emmett smirked. “Jack Merridew Brown. Do you know who I am?”
“Emmett Lathrop Brown, if I don’t miss my guess.”
“Not quite. I was born Emmett Lathrop Von Braun, but I cast aside my false father’s name when he attempted to murder me.” The Docs behind him gaped at each other in shock. Even Jack raised an eyebrow, surprised. “And the blood in my veins speaks of a far greater legacy, you pathetic little man. You think you’re smart? I’m the bastard heir to two of the greatest Sparkdoms in the world! My mother the sister of Klaus Wulfenbach, creator of an empire and known throughout the world as a Spark of magnitude, a scientist who is able to improve practically anyone’s work! And my father – my father was Barry Heterodyne, one of the Heterodyne boys, one of the greatest heroes and strongest sparks the world has ever known! He and his brother created wonders unimaginable before disappearing! And I have inherited that talent, inherited their abilities, inherited their power! I can create things your little mind can barely conceive, let along design! I can command the heavens if I want, bring lightning down from the sky, cause the earth to shake beneath my feet! I’ve defeated far greater men than you, with far greater monsters at their disposal! Blood-sucking squid, carnivorous carrots, awful, twisted algamations of animals long dead and those which evolution never intended! And I’ve beat them all!” Emmett’s voice was rising now, the mad note becoming even clearer than before. “You are nothing, you sack of wretched flesh! You are at the mercy of someone who has destroyed clanks no one else could stop, torn castles down to the very foundations, utterly annihilated the most powerful of madmen! And you think you can stand before me? I AM A HETERODYNE-WULFENBACH, AND I BOW DOWN TO NO ONE!” He suddenly fired the gun into the air, and the sky crackled with electricity. “NOW RELEASE YOUR HOSTAGES, OR I’LL SEE YOU--”
There was a thump as something hit the far side of the train, along with a brilliant flash of sparks. The Docs, including Emmett, turned to see what had happened. “What was that?” Doc Six asked, though the way he kept eyeing Emmett made it hard to say whether he was asking about the train or about his “younger self.”
“I don’t know! But I think it got some of the wiring on that side!” Doc One grabbed the controls. “I’m going to have to take it down.”
“We’ll be going then,” Biff said, looking honestly frightened by Emmett’s speech. He moved slowly back into the train. “Ta ta.”
“You’re not going anywhere! If we have to land, so do you!” Emmett snarled, pointing his gun straight at the other train and turning a dial on the side up.
Jack, for his part, wasn’t exactly keeping up an air of calm. Still, he looked less ruffled than either Biff or Stanley, who was rather white and whimpering a little. “Strong words,” he acknowledged. “Have you got the spine to back them up?”
“You don’t want to find out,” Emmett hissed, eyes narrowed. “Now land and release your hostages, or you’re going to find out what it’s like to be on the wrong end of one of the most powerful forces on earth.”
Jack frowned, and involuntarily took a step back. “I’ve already been on the wrong end of one of the most powerful forces on earth. I doubt your gun there could be any worse.”
“Hah,” Emmett said with a sneer.
Jack smirked. “All right, it appears you are rather serious about this,” he said, moving back into the train. “Here, I’ll cut you a deal.” He reappeared with Marty, who was tied hand and feet. The Victorian teenager was struggling a little, though mostly he continued to look confused. Jack produced a knife and placed the tip against Marty’s heart, causing the boy to go stiff. “You let me kill yours – and I’ll let the rest of them go.”
Emmett froze, eyes widening. “What?” he whispered, the anger and madness draining out of his voice.
“You let me kill your Marty, and I’ll release the others,” Jack repeated, starting to smile in earnest again. “It’s a simple sacrifice, really. One death, and all the other versions of your friend go free.” He pushed a little on the knife. Marty let out a squeak of fear. “It’ll be nice and quick, even. Straight through the heart. He’ll be dead before he hits the floor. I’m very good at killing people. You can trust me on that.”
Emmett stood there for a long moment, breathing hard. His eyes were a bit unfocused, like he wasn’t really seeing the scene before him. “Don’t,” he finally whispered, the beginnings of tears in his eyes.
“No? You’d let me keep them all, hurt them, torture them, use them to torture all of you, just so you don’t have to see this one die?” Jack was grinning widely. “And after that little speech, too. After all that bluster about being so insanely powerful, so willing to do whatever it takes. I thought you’d stopped better monsters than me.”
Emmett didn’t reply, lips pressed tightly together, gun sagging in his grip. Jack leaned toward him a little. “One death for the greater good,” he said softly, in complete control of the situation. “I thought you were a hero.”
“Emmett,” Marty said, voice pleading. “Das ist okay.”
“No it isn’t,” Emmett said softly, shoulders slumping. “I – I couldn’t--”
Jack chuckled. “No, you couldn’t, could you,” he said, taking the knife away. “Because in the end, you’re still that soft-hearted, weak little pile of trash I always knew you were.” He shoved Marty away, leaving him to land on the floor. “Sandra, take us away. I’m weary of this time period.”
“Sure thing, sir.” The other train streaked away into the distance.
Emmett watched it go as Doc One brought their train down. Then he stepped away from the door, shoulders shaking. Clara promptly went to his side, wrapping him in a hug as Jennifer put a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, Emmett. . . .”
Doc Four looked at him sympathetically. “A lot of us have made similar threats, kid. They’ve all turned out the same.”
“I – I – I just couldn’t do it,” Emmett whispered, squeezing up his eyes in a desperate but futile attempt to keep the tears from coming. “I couldn’t stand to – not again.”
“We know,” Doc Three said, though he frowned a little at the ‘again.’ “Trust us, we all know.”
Emmett looked dubiously up at him. “Do you really?”
“He’s got our Martys, doesn’t he?” Doc One said, landing the train. “You did shake him up, though. That’s more than any of us managed.”
“Not enough,” Emmett growled, wiping at his eyes.
“No,” Doc One agreed. “I know.” He went to the door. “I’ll be right back. Hopefully whatever hit us caused only minimal damage.”
“Keep your fingers crossed,” Doc Five agreed, doing such. “We can’t afford to lose any more ground.”
Doc One nodded and disappeared outside. The other Docs waited, Clara and Jennifer comforting theirs as best they could. A few minutes later, he returned, shaking his head. “Well, the good news is, the damage is minimal,” he said to the relieved group. “Just some damaged wiring. I’ve got some spare coils, so that’s easily replaced. We’ll be grounded for a few minutes, but no more.”
“Good,” Jennifer Six said. “I want to bring this bastard in.”
“All of us do,” Doc Two said. He suddenly winced and put a hand on his chest.
“Are you all right?” Clara Three asked, looking concerned.
Doc Two nodded, though his face was grim. “They’re gone. New dimension.”
“How can you tell?”
“Vampires can form links with humans,” Doc Four explained, rubbing his own chest. “A strong telepathic bond. Normally it’s always there, just in the background, but when they travel to another dimension. . . .”
“I see,” Doc Three said. “Well, at least now we’ll know when they disappear on us again. One, what caused the damage to the side?”
Doc One held up a strange, cylindrical robot with four eyes (two on each side, two on either end), a propellor, and two brassy legs. “Emmett – or Seven, by the numbering system – I think it’s for you.”
Emmett stomped over and grabbed the robot from Doc One’s hands, glaring at it. “Damn it, what do you think you were doing?” he yelled at it. “You could have hurt something important! You ruined my chance to get my friend out of there!”
Spinbot made a frightened-sounding clicking noise, squirming in its master’s grip. “Don’t you try to get away! I should cut you open and use you for spare parts!” Emmett roared, shaking the pathetic clank.
“Steady on, Emmett, it’s just a clank,” Jennifer said, looking unnerved.
“It distracted me! If I’d gotten a clear shot--”
“You would have fried everyone in the train, most likely, not just him,” Doc Three interrupted, frowning. “You were about to fire a gun that shoots a very powerful electrical current into what amounts to a large metal container!”
Emmett paused at that, looking up at the front of the train. “Right,” he said slowly. “Oh, shit, maybe it’s a good thing he hit the train when he did.” He grumbled to himself. “That’s what I hate about the Madness Place – it lets you do amazing things, but rational thought is often left by the wayside.”
“That’s becoming clear,” Doc Three said, now looking concerned. “Are you all right? Really?”
“He’s not that crazy,” Clara said in his defense. “Not like some of them.”
“They have a right to be concerned,” Emmett responded. “But yes, I’m normally better at keeping it in check and thinking straight. Just – when I get angry. . . .” He shrugged and released Spinbot, who shot to the end of the train and hid in a corner. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Doc Three said, sounding tired. “I’ve done stupid and nasty stuff when I’m angry too, even without this Madness Place. And given the situation we’re in at the moment, I might do some later.”
“We’re all probably prone to doing something stupid,” Doc Six said, the tentacles nodding. “Stress does that to a person. I’m sure we all know that.”
“Amen,” Doc Five said, leaning heavily against the wall. “That was one hell of a speech you gave, Seven. I doubt I could have pulled it off.”
Emmett smiled faintly. “Well, you don’t have the Sparkvoice. Those tentacles, however, could probably help you make your point.”
“We have, in the past,” Verne agreed. “Mostly to stubborn Tannens.”
“What was all that about your false father trying to murder you?” Clara Five asked, looking rather shocked. “Did you make that up for effect?”
Emmett shook his head sadly. “Afraid not. Elias Von Braun hated Sparks with a passion. When I finally Broke Through, it was in front of him. He would have shot and killed me if Marty hadn’t managed to grab the gun from him. I had to flee town with my friends that very night.”
Doc Two winced. “Great Scott. My version just disowned me when I insisted on becoming a scientist, he didn’t--”
He paused and looked up. “Wait a minute. Elias was your ‘false’ father?” Emmett nodded. “Does that mean – that bit about being fathered by a Barry Heterodyne – was true?!”
“Yes,” Emmett said. “If Maxim was here, he could confirm it. I’ve got the distinct smell of the lineage.”
“Great Scott! Mom had an affair?!” Doc Two paused and considered that. “Mom had an affair?” he repeated, in an almost hopeful tone.
“You sound less upset by that then I’d expect,” Mystie said, raising an eyebrow.
“You didn’t meet my father, Mystie. Xenophobic bastard when it came to scientists and the like. I’d rather I wasn’t related to him.”
Doc One returned from his repair job, looking pleased. “That was simple,” he said happily, stowing away his tools. “We should be good to go.”
“Glad to hear it,” Jennifer One said. “We’re back on the trail, then?”
“Of course.” Doc One brought them back up, searching for the telltale shimmer in the sky. “Seven, are you ready to change dimensions? You’re probably going to be flung into the future as well.”
“I’d do anything for my best friend,” Emmett said firmly. Then he smiled a bit. “Besides, I’ve always wanted to see the future. You’re not the only one working on a time machine.”
Doc One smiled back. “A man after my own heart. Which is only natural.” He found the shimmer and gunned the train toward it. “In which case, hang onto something.”
And seconds later, the train left the world which Agatha Heterodyne and Gilgamesh Wulfenbach ruled, leaving behind some very confused birds.