When Worlds Collide -- REALLY Collide
Wednesday, May 7th, 1986
Hill Valley Changeling Verse
“Isn’t this cutting it kind of close?”
Jack looked back at Biff with a frown. “What do you mean?”
“Well, if this the right reality or whatever it is, isn’t this kinda soon after – ya know, the first time you did it?” Biff clarified, waving his gun around for emphasis.
Jack smirked. “Perhaps,” he admitted, bringing the train closer to the ground. “But if it is the right reality, it might be fun to torture a Marty who doesn’t quite get why I hate him so much. Not that I have an excess of that, to be sure,” he said, nodding back at his unwilling passengers. “But still. And if it isn’t the correct reality – well, no harm, no foul, right?”
Amina clung to Jack’s side, her hair twisting around his body. “That was wonderful, what you did just now,” she purred to him. “Too bad they stopped just in time.”
“I know,” Jack said, smirking back at her. “I was just going to plow into that building myself, but then I heard them coming up to stop me and thought, making them do it would be a hell of a lot more fun!” He kissed her cheek. “My improvisational skills are quite good, no?”
“They’re amazing,” Amina said, going on for a full-on lip kiss.
The Martys remained mostly silent, trying to ignore the disgusting scene before them. Marty Seven was still staring at Marty Eight, looking utterly shocked. “What?” Marty Eight finally asked around the gag.
“Sie sind ein Funken?” Marty Seven whispered, eyes huge.
“. . . I repeat, what?”
“He asked, ‘You’re a Spark?’” Marty One translated, looking slightly freaked himself. “He’s from some weird reality where we’re all German, so he doesn’t speak English.”
“Oh. That explains before. . . . Um – I don’t know what a Spark is.”
“According to him, it’s this special name they’ve got for scientists who can warp the laws of physics and stuff. Kind of like Doc, only – more awesome?”
Marty Eight laughed. “Oh. We just call them Mad where I’m from. And yeah, I am. Sorry if I scared you all with the voice, I kind of lose control of it when I get pissed off. . . .”
“No, it’s cool,” Marty Three said, smiling faintly. “Most of us have something kind of weird about us. I’m a mutant. Can stop time.”
“Seriously? That’s bitching.” Marty Eight looked his counterpart up and down. “How’d you get stuck in this mess, then?”
“I mistook him for Doc and got caught off guard,” Marty Three admitted, looking at his feet. “Add to that my stupid power didn’t show up until Doc had been nearly killed twice during our first time travel trips, and it seems more like a waste of time than anything bitchin’.”
“You ain’t kidding?”
“How can you be a Spark?!” Marty Seven cut in. Marty One promptly translated. “You’re – I’m not – Emmett I can see, but me?! No way!”
“He calls his version Emmett,” Marty Five said as Marty Eight raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. “Apparently they’re the same age. And he does the crazy voice thing too – we heard him in the last universe.”
“Oh.” Marty Eight shook his head, muttering, “This is too goddamn nuts,” to himself, before looking over at his German counterpart. “You run into a lady named Helen Narbon yet?”
Marty One translated. Marty Seven shook his head, frowning. “Just wait until then,” Marty Eight said, leaning back. “She drove me nuts, she’ll probably do the same to you. Just pray your Doc – or Emmett – is around to talk you down.”
Marty Seven eyed Marty Eight as Marty One relayed the message. “That doesn’t sound promising.”
“No shit,” Marty One agreed. “What happened?”
“It’s – tough to talk about,” Marty Eight admitted, redirecting his eyes to the floor. “I was really – scary – for a while there.”
“I’ll believe it,” Marty Six nodded. “You managed to freak them out for a bit. That’s not something most of us have been able to do.”
“Yeah, but look what comes after the freaking out,” Marty Four pointed out, wincing as he remembered the knife being driven into his heart.
“What are you lot up to now?” Stanley asked, coming over with his hands on his hips.
“We’re just talking,” Marty Two said, glaring up at the fat man. “Nothing concerning you guys.”
“Hmph. You’d all just better watch your mouths,” Stanley said nastily, shaking a pudgy finger at them. “Or we might just cut out all of your tongues and be done with it!”
“No, no, Stanley,” Jack said from his position at the controls. “I don’t want to do that. Otherwise, how would I hear them scream?”
“You were pretty ready to slice his out,” Stanley said, pointing to Marty Eight, who whitened.
“Momentary lapse of judgement,” Jack said, smirking over at Marty Eight. “Though don’t think the other part of my threat wasn’t serious. You keep back-talking the way you were to me before, and you will lose those precious hands of yours.”
Marty Eight scowled and looked away. “Damn it, couldn’t bring one of my projects with me. . . .”
“What exactly do you do?” Marty Five asked, looking confused. “I mean, I like helping Doc out, but I never – you know, thought of doing it on my own.”
Marty Eight smiled. “I work with sound, natch. You should hear some of the great stuff I’ve come up with for the guitar! Hell, I’m even working on a new musical scale!”
“Honest? Holy shit.”
Marty Eight nodded, looking quite proud of himself. “Yeah, I know. I didn’t exactly like going Mad, but some of the results really make it worthwhile.”
“Suppose that’s good for me, if we do meet this Helen Narbon,” Marty Seven said softly, still looking rather confused.
“So, where do you think the McFly of this universe is?” Biff asked, idly twirling his gun.
“Be careful with that, you idiot, you could hurt somebody,” Sandra snapped.
“I know what I’m doing!”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Jack said, rolling his eyes at their bickering. “But we’ll track him down.” He grinned. “I hope he puts up a fight. I kind of like it when they do.”
“Just hope he doesn’t kick you in the balls,” Biff said, grimacing as the sore parts twinged.
“No better than you deserved,” Marty Four growled.
“He can try and kick me all he likes, wherever he wants,” Jack said simply, looking smug. “I’ll take him and I’ll break him. After all--” he beamed, showing far too many teeth. “He can’t have seen worse than me.”
Wednesday, May 7th, 1986
Hill Valley Changeling Verse
The crowd watching them burst into applause. Marty bowed as Victor grinned and waved. “Gets ‘em every time,” Marty said happily, unslinging his guitar. “It still amazes me how good you are on that piano, you know.”
“Thanks,” Victor replied, getting up and stretching. “It still rather amazes me how good you are on that guitar.”
“What amazes me is how good you sound together,” Allysin said from her barstool, swinging one foot while she tapped her ever-present mallet against her seat. “That shit is supposed to take years of practice, and even then you might not get it right.”
Marty smirked at her as he and Victor joined their friends by the bar. “Hey, maybe we’re just that good.”
“Eh, maybe. I could believe it,” Allysin admitted.
Doc patted Marty on the shoulder. “You boys were great up there tonight,” he said proudly.
“Thanks Doc,” Marty beamed.
“Yeah, thanks Doc,” Victor nodded, accepting his soda from Fred the bartender. “You should join us sometime. Marty says you used to play saxophone.”
Doc waved a hand. “Nah, I’m too out of practice. Haven’t touched the instrument in years.”
“Oh, don’t be that way,” Fred said, leaning over the countertop. “You’re the one who’s always telling us, ‘if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.’”
Doc flushed. “True enough,” he admitted, looking sheepish. “I should have added that I no longer even own a saxophone. Rather hard to practice without an instrument.”
Victor grinned. “Then I guess I know what I’m getting you for your birthday this year, don’t I?”
Doc smirked back. “Aw, that takes all the fun out it, Victor.”
“Indeed, Victor, ze element of zurprise is paramount! Oh, no one asked your opinion. What, I cannot give my opinion if I feel it iz warranted?”
Allysin gave Fred a playful, light smack upside the head. “Shaddup, Napoleon.”
“You heard the lady,” Fred said. “Fine, fine.” The tall man with the overlarge nose shook his head. “Alternate personalities. Way more trouble than they’re worth sometimes.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Doc said, sipping his root beer.
A rather drunken girl suddenly stumbled into Marty’s barstool. “Oops! Sorry,” she giggled, obviously too gone to feel any pain from banging her shins into the metal footrest.
“Heh, it’s cool,” Marty said, helping her stand upright.
The girl looked at him. “Wow, you’re really handsome,” she said admiringly. “Look kinda like you just walked out of a painting or something.”
Marty shrugged, embarrassed. “I get that way.”
“Amy!” One of the girl’s friends ran up. “The karaoke machine’s free! I thought you and I wanted to sing ‘Super Freak!’”
“Yeah, yeah!” Amy said, giggling madly. “She’s super freaking out!”
The other girl nodded enthusiastically, then looked over at Victor. “Sheesh, dude, eat something,” she said, grabbing her friend’s wrist. “You’re just skin and bones.”
Victor blushed and nodded shyly. “I hear that a lot.”
“You should see his girlfriend,” Allysin said, earning her a rather pointy elbow to the ribs.
The drunk girls just stared for a moment, then toddled off to the karaoke machine. Victor looked at his friends, frowning. “Do you think they were drunk enough to see me as I really am, or not?”
“Dunno,” Marty shrugged. “I mean, even to normal people, you’re pretty damn skinny. Might have seen me as I really am, though.”
“That’s also iffy – to normal people, you’re still pretty handsome,” Allysin pointed out.
Doc’s elbows suddenly let out a blast of steam. Everyone looked at it as it drifted away. “Now, if they’d seen that. . . .”
“Or your hair changing colors,” Doc noted, drinking more of his root beer.
“Or my skin all yellowy and paint-like,” Fred nodded.
“Think it would have been that beak of yours that got their attention, Fred,” Marty teased.
“That doesn’t count – I’ve got that in normal form.”
“Hey, only I’m allowed to tease him about the beak,” Allysin said, putting her hand over his.
“All is fair in love and war, dear Allysin. He’s got a point there, Ally,” Fred nodded, chuckling.
“Even still – you’re mine,” Allysin said with a grin, rubbing her nose against his.
“That reminds me – where’s Emily?” Marty asked, looking around the crowded bar.
“She said she was spending the night at the library,” Victor said, sipping his soda. “Wanted to look up something. I offered to help her, but she said she would be fine. . . .” He frowned, looking at his friends. “It’s – it’s like she’s been avoiding me lately. You don’t think I’ve done a-anything to o-offend her, do you?” One hand reached up and started playing with his tie. “I know I’m not the b-best around women, I don’t usually know what to say. . . .”
“You’re fine around me,” Allysin pointed out. “And don’t worry too much about it. I’ve seen the way Emily looks at you, Victor. Trust me – she’s smitten.”
“Yeah, I’ll second that,” Marty said. “I doubt she’s cheating on you or anything. Maybe she’s got some personal family project going or something.”
Victor pulled at his tie a little. “Maybe. . . . I just want her to be happy, you know?”
“We know,” Doc said, reaching over to ruffle Victor’s hair a little. “But you can’t get so nervous about it.”
“I can’t help it! Nervous is my default state!” Victor gave Doc a bit of a look as he put his hair back to rights. “Besides, you told us you were nervous as anything when it came to your girlfriends.”
“Fair enough, but look how my relationships turned out,” Doc said, steam hissing from his backside. “You and Emily have got something much stronger.”
“I hope so,” Victor said, sighing. “I really like her. I haven’t liked anyone that much since – well, since Victoria.”
Marty gave Victor a friendly pat on the back. “Well, here’s hoping something doesn’t decide to try and steal you away from Emily too.”
“We’ll beat up anyone who tries,” Allysin promised, giving her mallet an extra-loud smack against the barstool.
Victor smiled at that. “Of that, I have no doubt.”
The karaoke machine turned on, and the two drunk girls started warbling. The fivesome winced. “Oh, ouch,” Victor muttered, covering his ears.
“If those two girls weren’t tone-deaf before getting sloshed, they certainly are now,” Allysin said, grimacing.
“And the song they’re singing doesn’t help,” Doc said, looking a bit like he wanted to drown himself in his root beer.
“I think I need some air,” Marty said, sliding off his stool. “One of you come out and call me once the ‘Can’t Sing for Shit’ twins get off stage.”
“If we haven’t killed ourselves first,” Allysin grumbled, cringing as one girl hit a note just wrong.
“Yeah, exactly why I’m getting out of here.” Marty headed toward the door, trying to ignore the awful sounds coming from the far side of the bar.
Once outside, he relaxed. “Whew! Some people shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near music,” he muttered, walking down the sidewalk. He didn’t intend to go far – just up the block and back around. He just didn’t like standing out there with nothing to do. Plus, distance would make it even harder to hear the “wonder twins” slaughter their chosen song. “People wonder why I don’t drink. . . .”
As he reached the end of the block, he suddenly heard a crash. Puzzled, he stopped and looked around. There didn’t seem to be anybody around – but still, that didn’t mean he was alone. Marty knew all about those contracts to make someone seem invisible or the like. Suddenly a little worried, he turned around and started heading back for the club. Better to brave the terror twins than –
“Score! There’s the little bastard!”
Someone lunged out of a nearby alley and wrapped their arms tightly around Marty. The teenager let out a yell and tried to twist away. The person had him pretty tightly though, and forced his arms behind his back. “Oh no! We’ve had lots of practice here, boy – you’re not getting away!” a female voice said to his side, sounding almost like she wanted to giggle. Marty looked to see a young woman with long blond hair wrapped in a ponytail standing near him, holding a knife. Twisting his head around further revealed the very unwelcome sight of Biff Tannen holding him still. “Hey, Jack! We got him!”
“Excellent! That didn’t take long at all!” Another figure emerged from the alley, though he was still hidden mostly by the darkness. “Hold him there and I’ll see if he’s the right one.”
“Let me go!” Marty yelled, continuing to struggle as hard as he could. Damn it, the air around him seemed almost supercharged with emotions – mostly of pleasure, which really ticked him off – and yet he couldn’t seem to concentrate enough to try one of those contracts he’d learned. Damn it, bet Doc wouldn’t be in this situation. Calm down and focus, McFly.
“What are you doing?”
Everyone involved in the scene froze. Someone walked up to them from the right, stopping just short of getting in range of the nearby streetlight. Something about the silhouette seemed strangely familiar to Marty. The voice, too. “What’s it to you, butthead?” Biff snapped, keeping a firm hold on Marty’s arms.
“He’s our son, troubled child, just ran away from home,” the woman improvised quickly.
“Look, it’s none of your business, all right?” Biff snarled. “I’ve got a gun!” Marty stiffened a little at that.
“Well, honestly.” The man sounded hurt. He stepped forward, into the light. “I was just asking.”
The blood in Marty’s veins went ice cold. Standing beside them now was – was – those eyes, that face, those stained fingers, that look – no, no, nononononono
The teenager promptly redoubled his efforts to get free, screaming in terror now. No! He wasn’t going back there, and he wasn’t letting Doc get dragged back there either! I have to get out of here, I have warn him!
Biff nearly lost his grip on the teen, staring at him in shock. “The hell? Why’d he freak out like that?” he said, struggling to make sure Marty didn’t break lose. “Sandy, shut him up, will ya?”
The woman – Sandy– walked over and slapped Marty across the face. “Shut your yap, you stupid baby!”
That, coupled with him standing right there, was too much. Far too much like old times. The teen burst into tears. “No, no, it’s supposed to be over, we’re supposed to be okay. . . .” he whimpered.
“Oh, so when you do it, it just leaves a mark?” He leaned over Marty, starting to smile. “That’s interesting! Must be a change from before, right Marty?”
Sandy and Biff both stiffened. “You – know each other?” Sandy said, suddenly looking rather concerned.
“Yes, though I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve last seen each other.” He patted Marty’s head in what he thought was a friendly way. The teenager jerked it away, still crying. “I’m actually looking for a friend of his--”
He paused, looking up at the other figure still concealed in the shadows on the opposite side of the teen and his captors. One eyebrow went up in surprise. “Professor? Is that you?”
The other figure came forward, blinking a few times. To Marty’s absolute shock, the guy kind of looked like Doc. The clothes were different, but the face was pretty much exactly the same. “Er, no,” the Doc clone said, frowning. “My name’s Jack.”
“Oh.” He looked Jack over, studying him for a few moments. “No, not mine,” he muttered quietly. “You bear an incredible resemblance to my Professor, though.”
“He’s got a name,” Marty whispered, still crying hard. This was just his shitty luck. First a bunch of human kidnappers grab him, then he shows up. He was almost hoping the human ones would drag him away, just to get him away from him. Except then he might find out where Doc is – and Victor and Fred and Allysin in the bargain! Damn it damn it damn it!
He looked down at the teen and shrugged. “I don’t see what’s so wrong with Professor.”
Jack, Biff, and Sandy were looking increasingly confused. “I don’t think this is yours, Jack,” Biff said, tightening his grip on Marty.
“Me either, but the world intrigues me nonetheless,” Jack admitted, lips pursed with interest. He knelt down in front of Marty and smiled. “I assume you know a ‘Doc’ Brown? Did he ever mention a brother named Jack?”
Something about the way Jack smiled managed to chill Marty’s blood even further. The smile contained no warmth, no genuine human joy. It reminded him a lot of his, to tell the truth. Damn it, humans weren’t supposed to look like that. “No,” he sniffled. “Just – just a sister.” It didn’t seem worth mentioning that Doc didn’t really remember anything anymore. . . .
“I see. Figures, really.” Jack straightened back up and looked at him. “Well, my dear sir, I’m afraid Mr. McFly here and I have rather urgent business together. So we’d best be off right away.”
“What are you doing with him?” He asked, looking quite curious.
Jack arched an eyebrow. “Haven’t you ever seen a kidnapping before?”
“Oh, is this what this is?” He grinned. “I know that’s what humans usually call what we do, but I’ve never seen them do it to each other! What do you plan to do to him?”
The three were staring again. “Uh – hold him captive until his friend here comes looking for him,” Sandy said slowly. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No, I’m not,” he said easily. “I like coming here, though. The others don’t, but you people are just so interesting!” He looked around thoughtfully, frowning. “Though I don’t like having to stay here. My lab must be gathering dust. That’s not exactly acceptable.”
“Great, a freakshow,” Biff muttered, shaking his head.
Jack, however, was looking quite intrigued. “Well. I don’t know who you are, but something about you. . . . You said you were looking for your Professor? If he looks like me, I assume he’s my brother. The whole purpose of this little exercise is to get my brother to come after me, so if you’d like to come along. . . .”
Marty nearly had a full-fledged panic attack at that. How the hell could that guy be asking – but then again, he didn’t know. No one knew until it was too late. And – and despite that awful smile, he – he couldn’t actually want one of those to come with him, right? “NO!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, hoping to attract attention. It was a quiet night, and they seemed to be the only ones out, but a kid could hope. “NO, YOU DON’T WANT TO DO THAT! HE’S NOT HUMAN, HE’S A--”
Biff slapped a hand over his mouth. “Damn it, do you ever shut up?” he demanded. “Sheesh, you’re worse than that other one!”
“Tell me about it,” Jack said, rolling his eyes.
“I’m impressed at the lung capacity myself,” he said cheerfully. Then that all too familiar smile curved his lips. “Not that there aren’t ways to improve that. . . .”
Jack looked impressed. “Seems like you might be a man after my own heart,” he said, grinning back. “I didn’t get the name?”
He held out a friendly hand. “Just call me Andrew. Andrew Sparks.”
Wednesday, May 7th, 1986
Hill Valley Changeling Verse
“She’s a – ahaha – super freak! Super – freak!”
“Fred, you couldn’t ask Napoleon to kill them for us, could you?”
“I think he’d be reluctant to attack a pair of drunk, unarmed girls. Oui, my friends. I make it a principle never to raise my hand to a lady.”
“Trust me, whatever these people are, they’re not ladies.”
“They’re – they’re slaughtering that song!” Victor said, looking almost near tears as he worried his tie. “I know it wasn’t very good to begin with, but – have mercy!”
“Don’t worry, it appears they’re pretty much finished,” Doc said, noting that the two girls were laughing much more than singing at this point. “Thank every deity above.”
“Really,” Victor nodded. “If either one decides to start fiddling around with my piano. . . .”
“Technically, it’s the bar’s piano, Victor,” Fred pointed out, straightening his hat.
“I don’t see you or your boss tuning it,” Victor retorted, frowning. “Or making sure it stays clean.”
“Why bother when you’re here with a tuning fork and a can of Pledge every day?”
“I am not!” There was a pause. “Marty takes turns too.”
Allysin laughed. “What is it about musicians?”
“It’s the same thing that makes you wax that thing once a week, I’m sure,” Victor said with a smug little grin, pointing out her mallet.
“Hey, this thing’s liable to splinter if I don’t.”
The two drunk girls tottered by them again, back to the bar for more alcohol. “Did you hear that guy screaming while we were singing?” one said to the other, swaying as she attempted to sit down.
“Yeah, I know! Like, so rude!” her friend replied, hanging onto the counter for support.
“Think it’s time to cut them off, Freddy,” Allysin commented, smacking her mallet against her thigh.
“Screaming? I didn’t hear anyone screaming,” Doc commented, looking around the bar. “Then again, their caterwauling drowned out most everything else.”
“Perhaps they heard everyone’s inner music critic shrieking in agony,” Allysin suggested, getting up. “I don’t know. I’m gonna go get Marty, let him know it’s safe to come back inside.” She headed for the door and opened it, poking her head out. “Hey, Marty! All clear!”
There was no reply. Puzzled, Allysin stepped outside in full, looking up and down the block. “Yo! Marty! Where are you?”
Still no reply. The street was empty in both directions. Allysin felt a nervous prickle go up her spine. Something wasn’t kosher about all this. “Marty?” she called once more. “Marty, uh, this isn’t the best time to be playing hide and seek. You know how much that game freaks Victor out.”
Silence greeted her. Now starting to get really worried, Allysin headed back inside. Bypassing the confused stares of her friends, she headed straight for the drunk girls. “Oi! Dumb and Dumber!”
The girls looked up, minds too foggy to properly process the insult. “You said you heard screaming, right?” Allysin asked, frowning down at them. “While you were singing?”
“Yeah,” the first one said, waving a hand around purposelessly. “Ruined my timing.”
“No, booze ruined your timing,” Allysin said bluntly. Then she grimaced. God, she didn’t want to ask this next question. Doc would pick up on it immediately, and. . . . Well, she liked the guy, she didn’t want to scare him. But if Marty really was in danger. . . . “Did you hear if it came from outside or inside?”
The girls sighed and rolled their eyes. “Hell, we don’t know,” the second one responded. “Don’t give a shit, either.”
Allysin sighed deeply, annoyed. Figures that these two would be too sloshed out of their minds to care about anyone but themselves. “Okay. Thanks for all the help, girls!” she chirped in a too cheery, false tone. The girls just grinned and nodded before trying to beg more drinks off of the other bartender.
Sure enough, Doc was sitting up a lot straighter as she came back, eyes wide with fright. “Allysin, why did you want to ask them where they thought the screaming came from?” he asked, in a tone that clearly said, “I’m trying to control myself for the sake of not looking like a lunatic, but so help me God you better tell me Marty’s all right.”
Allysin sighed again. Oh man, this sucked like few things could suck. Doc and Marty were tied at the hip, and to have to say something like this to one of them. . . . “I didn’t see Marty outside,” she admitted. “And then I remembered them saying they heard screaming--”
Doc didn’t even wait for her to finish – he shot toward the front door, leaving a trail of steam in his wake. He burst outside, looking up and down the street frantically. “Marty? Marty?!”
Allysin, Victor, and Fred ran out after him, Fred stripping off his bartender’s apron before following the others. “Let’s not panic!” he said quickly. He grabbed Doc’s arm as the scientist prepared to march down the street. “Marty could have just taken a walk.”
Doc glared back at Fred. “Without telling any of us? People don’t just take walks around here, Fred! I don’t care how nice a little town it’s supposed to be.” He looked back down the street. “And besides, what about the screaming?”
“The girls could have been imagining things,” Fred said, though he didn’t sound very convinced himself.
“Oh no,” Victor whispered, yanking at his tie again. “This is not good. . . .”
“Look, before we do anything we’ll regret, let’s go and see if we can hunt down the kid,” Allysin said quickly. “Maybe he just wandered a bit far afield and can’t hear us. Come on, boys.” She started down the street, the boys trailing in her wake.
Marty didn’t appear to be anywhere on the street. Doc’s fingers started twitching as they turned the corner. “Damn it, if he’s hurt, I’ll--”
“We’ll kill whoever did it,” Allysin corrected, switching her mallet from one hand to the other and back again. “We’re a team in this, Doc. We’re all friends here.”
“Exactly,” Victor said. Then, trying to lighten the mood, he added, “I’m certainly not going to let anyone abduct one of my roommates. How else are we supposed to make the rent?”
It got something resembling a smile. “Incidentally, if that landlord of yours raises it again, we’re all going to be out on the street.”
“We’ve still got that spare room in the back,” Fred said, jerking his thumb back toward the club. “You’re welcome to it.”
“Thanks, Fred,” Victor said gratefully. “Hopefully we won’t need it, but if worse comes to worst. . . .” He sighed. “I would have to have gotten fired from my job over at the cemetery.”
“Technically, you were ‘laid off,’ weren’t you?” Allysin said, thankful for the distraction. It made what they were doing – looking for the missing member of their motley – easier. “‘Fired’ suggests that you did something wrong. Which you didn’t,” she quickly added, knowing how easily Victor tended to blame himself for everything that went wrong in his life.
“I suppose,” Victor said, sounding depressed. “Still, fired, laid off – either way I’m out some income I could use.”
“It’ll all work out in the end, Victor,” Allysin said reassuringly. “You’ll see.” She stopped at the next corner over. “Speaking of ends. . . .” She peered around it cautiously, hoping against hope to see Marty.
Instead, she came face to face with a pair of bright blue eyes. “Gah!”
Allysin stumbled backwards, automatically raising her mallet a few degrees. “What? What is it?” Fred asked, moving up behind her.
The “what is it” promptly appeared from around the corner, looking just as startled as Allysin. “Whoa!” she said, holding up her hands as she saw the mallet. “We’re all friends here! All friends! Hitting people with – is that a flamingo head?”
The girl frowned over at Allysin’s mallet. “Why’s it carved to look like a flamingo? I’d ask if it was a fancy umbrella, but it’s obviously not. . . .” She smiled at the other girl. “Anyway, no reason to hit me with it.”
“I don’t usually hit people I’ve just met,” Allysin told her, getting her nerves back in order. The girl in front of them looked harmless enough – couldn’t have been more than twenty, twenty-one at the most. She was blonde and blue-eyed, and dressed in a green cheerleader’s uniform. A golden shield on the chest held the initials “F.G.” in bright purple letters. “What’s your name, F.G.?”
“Josephine Caroline Jones,” the girl said, nodding on each word. “Though most people call me J.C.”
Fred frowned. “What’s the F.G. for, then?” he asked, motioning toward her chest.
J.C. looked down. “Oh, that? That’s my nickname. Fan Girl.” She giggled. “Because I am one. Obviously.”
The group exchanged a look. Oookay. . . . “All right, J.C., we’re kind of in a hurry here--” Doc started.
The smile disappeared from the girl’s face. “Oh, for the love of all that is crunchy, please tell me you’re not looking for your Marty.”
“What? How did – what do you mean, our Marty?” Doc asked, blinking and frowning.
“Did you see what happened to him?” Victor asked, yanking on his tie again in worry.
“No, but I’ve got a nasty feeling I know anyway,” J.C. admitted, slapping a hand onto her face. “Aarrgh, damn it. . . .” She looked back up, a resigned expression on her face. “All right, guys, this is going to get into the realm of complete and total crazy pants stuff. You’re welcome not to believe me, but I’ve got plenty of backup that says that I’m not the total looney tune everyone says I am.” She hesitated there, thinking that last statement over. “Well, okay, I probably am, but not about this! Totally different reasons!”
Allysin was feeling the strong urge to back away. “Fred? Diagnosis?”
“It’s hard to tell from such a short time around her, but something about it screams manic-depressive,” Fred admitted, fighting off a similar urge.
“Oh? How would you know?” J.C. asked, hands on her hips.
“I used to be Head Orderly at Thorney Towers Institute for the Mentally Disturbed,” Fred said, folding his arms. “You pick up things.”
“Great, a full on medical professional.” J.C. held up a hand. “Swear to God I haven’t escaped from any mental institutions lately.”
“Could have fooled me,” Allysin muttered, rolling her eyes. J.C. stuck her tongue out at her.
“Miss, please – I don’t know how you know Marty’s missing--” Unless you’re a part of it, Doc added mentally, but something about the girl’s manner made that rather unlikely. “– but we’re rather intent on finding him. So if you’ll excuse us. . . .”
“Well, if you’ll let me explain, I can tell you,” J.C. said, stepping in front of him, one hand raised. “Look, do you know anything about different dimensions?”
That got them all to pause. The group looked at each other, frowning. How much did this person know about what they’d gone through? She wasn’t registering as a Changeling to their senses. . . . “Maybe,” Victor finally allowed.
J.C. grinned. “Maybe! That’s better than most. Though Four’s got this crazy situation back home, apparently. Nuts. Totally crazy. But then again, this whole situation’s totally crazy – I’m babbling, aren’t I? Anyway, the thing of it is, is that there’s this lunatic going around kidnapping Marty McFlys.”
“What’s with the plural?” Fred asked, one eyebrow arched.
“Well, you see, he’s nabbing one from each dimension he goes through. Yeah, we’ve got a nice little dimension hopper on our hands. Which means we’ve got--” she did a quick mental count. “Eight other versions of our dearest darling super sexy Doctor Brown hanging around here, hoping desperately we wouldn’t have to pick up number Nine. But it appears we do. Now then, the rest of you are?”
The group gawked at her. “Dimension hoppers?” Allysin repeated, one eyebrow raised.
“Eight other versions?” Fred added, staring wide-eyed.
“Kidnapping Martys?” Victor said, jaw hanging open in horror.
“. . . . Did you just call me sexy?” Doc finally asked, looking completely confused.
“Yeah,” J.C. said eagerly, smiling. “Along with dearest and darling.”
“I don’t know you.”
“Well, in this reality, obviously not. But I know you! A version of you. And he’s smoking hot. So, ergo, it follows that you are too.” J.C. grinned, bouncing on her toes and heels. “Logic.”
“Yeah, definitely manic-depressive,” Fred muttered to himself.
“I – how old are you, anyway?” Doc demanded. It seemed easier to focus on the whole “desiring him” thing than anything else she’d said. Or anything else that was happening, frankly.
“Twenty,” the girl replied, still smiling.
That got her a stare. “You’re – you’re young enough to be my granddaughter!”
Allysin shook her head. “Look, Miss Crazy, we know, we sympathize, but we also have to get going. Marty might have gotten himself in trouble, or maybe he just wandered off somewhere to prevent the assault of a lifetime on his ears. I don’t know what you’re trying to do with the dimension hopping stuff, but we can’t stick around.”
“No, of course not,” J.C. said, going back to serious. “You really ought to come with us, I guess.”
“The eight other Docs. On the--” J.C. abruptly paused, lips pursed. “Oh. Oh, how do I say this without sounding completely insane. . . .” She looked at them. “But judging by the looks on your faces, that ship has already sailed. On the train.”
“The train?” Fred asked.
“Yeah. The, um, flying steam train. That one version of Doc built.” J.C. rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. “Okay, why did I volunteer to go out alone?”
“I don’t know,” Allysin said, obviously starting to reach the limits of her patience. “You’ll have to ask your keepers once they catch up with you. I, personally, have a mission to accomplish.”
“Yes, we all do,” Doc said, scowling. Every minute spent with this lunatic was a minute spent not looking for his best friend. “It’s been--”
“No, look, I know I’m annoying, I know I’m a pain in the ass sometimes, but don’t leave just yet! Because – because if your Marty ends up hurt or – or dead because of me I’ll never forgive myself because I know how close you two are and it’s starting to get physically painful in there because of all the hurty vibes and that’s probably why I wanted to go out and I can show you to the train it’s just the next street down except that it’s probably invisible because One doesn’t want people seeing it and--”
“And you should probably remember to breathe at some point,” Fred pointed out, looking just a bit concerned.
“Right. Breathing’s good.” J.C. inhaled deeply for a few seconds, concentrating on calming herself down. “Okay. So, yes, there’s a train that may or may not be invisible. But I’m sure it’s only about a minute out of your way. So please let me take you there. And if it turns out that I am just insane – well, you can hit me with the mallet. Many times. Hell, my version of Doc might help.”
Allysin, Fred, Doc, and Victor looked at each other. The girl seemed to be genuinely distressed, despite her rather manic moods. And if it turned out she had a legitimate lead on Marty and they didn’t follow up. . . . “You’re not going to leave us alone unless we let you, are you?” Allysin asked, leaning on her mallet like it was a cane and regarding J.C. coolly.
“Well, it’s important,” J.C. said. “Please? Please please? I know I can’t make puppy dog eyes like Dockie over there--”
“Dockie?” Doc interrupted with a bit of a splutter.
“Fine! What do you want? Dr. Emmett Lathrop Brown? Because that’s a freaking mouthful!”
“Let’s just go see your invisible train,” Fred said, pressing his lips tightly together to keep in the threatening giggles. “Get it over with.”
“Good! Follow me!” The girl took off, skirts bouncing as she ran.
“Yeah, let’s go, Dockie,” Allysin said, smirking over at her friend.
Doc made a deeply frustrated noise deep in his throat. “They’re not going to stop teasing me about that for weeks!” he yelled after the girl as they started off. “I didn’t think I’d say this, but thank God Marty wasn’t around to hear it.”
Victor snickered. “Oh, he would jump on that immediately.” His small grin faded. “Do you think she’s telling the truth? And if so, do you think Marty’s--” he paused, obviously not wanting to say it.
“I hope she’s not,” Doc said, feeling his stomach tie itself up with worry. “I don’t even want to consider the possibility.” He shook his head. “Of course, even if she is just insane, that still means Marty’s missing and we have to find him. Something I’m not looking forward to.” He sighed, a long, unhappy sigh. “Damn it, I know those two were awful, but – did he really have to leave the bar?”
Allysin slung a friendly arm around him. “Hey, we didn’t know he’d disappear. Hell, he probably didn’t know either. And if he did, we’re going to have words. Lots of them.” She patted his back. “We’ll find him, Doc. We won’t let him vanish for good.”
“Of course not,” Fred nodded reassuringly. “We’re a team. All for one and one for all and all that. Exactly! Ack, stay quiet, you!”
“Don’t worry, Fred, I don’t think she heard,” Victor said, looking at the girl racing in front of them.
“Still. . . .” Fred lowered his voice. “Sheesh, Napoleon. If she is crazy, hearing me talking to myself might make things worse.”
“You really think that’ll make him shut up?” Allysin asked, frowning up at her boyfriend.
Fred pouted. “No, but it’s worth a shot, right? Oh, Fred, I am not ze monster you pretend I am.”
“We’re here! Well, we should be here, anyway.”
The group stopped and looked up. J.C. was standing in front of them, and behind her was – a big expanse of nothing. “Appears to be invisible. Shall I call the Docs to make it not invisible? They’ll be willing.”
“Shouldn’t they have heard us coming up?” Allysin pointed out, looking just a bit smug.
J.C.’s smile faded. “Ah – crap, that’s right. Oh, please, tell me I did not forget where the train was. . . .”
Fred shook his head. “Well, I think we know what you are now.”
“Says the man who was muttering to himself with a French accent. You do that a lot, Mr. Oh I Am Big Important Orderly at Mental Institution?”
“I was an orderly. I’m not anymore. For obvious reasons,” Fred admitted.
“He’s fine,” Allysin said. “Functional, at any rate, and that’s all we can hope for, right? Now, we gotta get going.”
“Wait, wait! Guys! Turn off the invisibility!” J.C. ran around wildly, flapping her arms. “You guys! We’re losing support in the war here!”
Doc sighed. “So much for that. We need to find our friend, miss. Good luck with your invisible train.” He turned to go down another side street. “Come on, everyone.”
“No! Damn it!” J.C. jogged after them as they started walking it. “I’m not leaving until we find this stupid invisible train, because otherwise I’m stuck here! And I don’t want to be stuck here! I want to go home! With Marty!”
Allysin gave her a look. “Well, you can’t exactly tag along with us, can you?”
“I have to! I don’t want to say, ‘Yeah, I found the Doc of this universe, and yeah, his Marty’s missing, but, uh, I kind of lost him. . . .’”
“Don’t you mean ‘Dockie?’” Doc said sarcastically.
“Eh, they complain when I call you that. I’ve been trying to tone down the hyper, really.”
“Doesn’t seem to be working,” Allysin remarked casually.
“Well, it’s hard!”
Victor moved to the front of the little pack, shaking his head. “Everyone, please. We’re all here for the same purpose, and as long as she’s not in the way, I don’t see--”
Victor abruptly stumbled backwards, putting a hand to his forehead. He and the rest of the group stared at the seemingly empty spot before him. “No way,” Allysin finally said. “You are not that clumsy.”
“The train!” J.C. squealed, running up to Victor’s side. “You found it! Rather unorthodoxly, but you found it!” She held out a hand until her palm seemed to touch something, then rapped. “Yo! Let’s have visibility here!”
“J.C.?” came what sounded like Doc’s voice from inside the train. “Just a moment! I thought you were going to be out for longer.”
“I lucked out! They were out looking for their Marty already! Which really isn’t a good thing if you think about it, but still.” J.C. glanced over at Victor, still rubbing his forehead. “Uh, one of them walked into the train. You okay there, buddy?”
“Yes, f-f-fine,” Victor stammered, backing away from the invisible “wall.”
There was a sudden click, then abruptly the street was filled with a large, old time steam train. The foursome’s jaws dropped open. “Holy shit,” Allysin whispered, shaking her head a bit.
“Sacre bleu!” Fred gasped, some of Napoleon’s accent leaking into his regular voice.
“Oh my God,” Victor said, eyes huge.
“Great Scott,” Doc muttered.
J.C. beamed smugly at them. “See? What did I tell you?”
“It’s – it’s a train,” Allysin said, still trying to process it.
“It’s a late nineteenth century steam locomotive,” Doc corrected, still gawking himself. “That looks like Captain Nemo got a hold of it.”
“It flies, too,” J.C. said, sounding oddly proud. “And you – some version of you – built it into a time machine. Because you? Freaking awesome.”
“Thanks,” Doc said slowly.
The door of the cab suddenly opened, revealing a set of plush red steps and a velvet-lined interior. And, sure enough, there was another Doc standing there. He turned to look at the group. “I’m starting to think Five is right – you do have a sixth sense where we’re concerned,” he commented, glancing at his other self. “Good job on finding them. Though Marty’s missing already?”
“Yeah – it sucks,” J.C. said, grimacing. “But then, what in our lives doesn’t at this point?”
“Good point.” The other Doc tried to give them all a friendly smile. “Hi, I assume J.C. explained this somehow. In her own, unique way.”
“Sort of,” Fred said, cocking his head at the train. “You guys are from – different dimensions?”
“Exactly. So’s the person we’re hunting, though how he got into the dimension this all started in has yet to be determined.” The other Doc shook his head. “This is actually the ninth world we’ve come to – we’ve been chasing this man for hours, at least. I’ve rather lost track of the time.”
“I – I--” Allysin abruptly reached down and pinched herself, hard. “Ow! Okay, not dreaming!”
“Wouldn’t you, of all people, know?” Fred asked her.
“Yeah, but best to make sure, right?”
Victor grabbed onto a nearby wall, just staring. “I – good lord,” he said. “I thought I’d seen it all. . . .”
“Nope,” J.C. told him, grinning. “You haven’t seen it all until you’ve seen this train. Trust me on this.”
“I do,” Victor nodded weakly.
“Look, why don’t you just come and get in, and we’ll get the full explanation over and done with while we look for our fugitive,” the other Doc suggested, with a sweeping motion toward the insides of the train. “It’ll be easier that way.” Then he frowned at them. “Though I was expecting a Clara or a Jennifer, not. . . . Who are you all?”
“Motley looking bunch, aren’t they?” J.C. said with a nod. “But yeah, I think introductions kind of got short-circuited.”
Allysin couldn’t quite hold back a smile at the word “motley.” “We are,” she agreed. “I’m Allysin.”
“Fred,” Fred offered.
“Victor,” Victor introduced himself.
“And you must know who I am,” Doc said, finally managing to get his bearings a bit. Okay. Another version of himself, he could take. He’d been taking it for a while now. Unwillingly at first, but. . . . And at least this man didn’t give off the same “not quite right” feeling his fetch did. This was like looking at himself. Though without certain modifications, of course. Doc felt a tug at his heart as steam hissed from his back. None of this for you, I see. What made Andrew miss you?
Does Andrew exist at all in your world?
Doc forced his mind away from the question. Something else his counterpart had asked was puzzling him. “And what do you mean, ‘a Clara or a Jennifer?’”
“Well, that’s the formula the rest of us were following, more or less,” the other Doc explained easily. “Our wife and Marty’s girlfriend.”
Doc felt his stomach twist. “Wife?” he repeated, voice soft.
The other Doc frowned. “Er, yes. . .you’re not married?”
Doc shook his head. “I don’t even have a girlfriend.”
The result was instant. “YOU’RE SINGLE?!”
Rather abruptly, Doc found himself holding J.C. – or, rather, his hands automatically going up to support her as she clung to his neck. She was grinning maniacally at him, looking like both her birthday and Christmas had come early. “Single! I thought it would never happen! There is a God!”
“I can’t say I agree with that assessment!” Doc said, stumbling backward a few steps as he tried to regain his balance.
“J.C.! Get off him! Five! Call off your – attack – girl,” the other Doc said, blinking a little as he came to the end of the sentence. “Damn it, when did this become my life?”
“We know the feeling,” Allysin said, hefting her mallet. “All right, girly, off my friend!”
“But he’s so fluffy!” J.C. protested, running her fingers through Doc’s hair.
“You’re twenty! Shouldn’t you be going after people your own age?” Victor pointed out, moving a few cautious steps forward.
J.C. turned and looked at him. “How old are you?”
Victor blinked at her. “Er – twenty five, I would--”
“Okay then!” J.C. literally leaped off of Doc and onto Victor, who made a very undignified “meep!” noise and went down in a heap. J.C. giggled and put her nose up to his. “You’re rather cute too, Victor.” She looked down at the rest of him. “Though skinny as a rail – don’t you eat?”
“He has a girlfriend,” Doc said firmly.
“It doesn’t stop her,” another Doc voice came from inside the train, sounding resigned. Doc resisted the urge to jump. She warned you – you thought she was insane, but she did warn you. . . .
“It does! A little,” J.C. protested. She smirked down at Victor, who was just gawking up at her. “I’ll stick to mussing up your hair then,” she said, ruffling the raven-colored locks. “You are cute, you know.” She turned and grinned at Fred. “You’re kind of cute too, come to think of it.”
“Back off, he’s mine,” Allysin warned, waving her mallet warningly. “And get off poor Victor already, you’re probably crushing him.”
“Okay, okay,” J.C. said, holding up a hand in surrender. “You see, this is what Clara needs. A good stout club, and you get – SHIT!”
J.C. jumped off Victor, scrambling to her feet and pointing. “We’ve got unfriendly skies at two o’clock!”
“What, we’re about to be shot at, now?” Fred demanded, spinning around so he could look where she was pointing. “Oh, ze guns, zhey make things too easy! I remember when warfare was honest and – oh, shut up!”
“Did – did he just talk to himself with a French accent?” somebody asked from inside the train – Doc didn’t recognize the voice.
“Never mind that!” J.C. yelled. “It’s our friends!”
Everyone looked. Right where J.C. was pointing was another steam train, practically identical to the one they were standing in front of. This one was flying in the air, heading south at a chugging, leisurely pace. “There’s two of them?” Allysin said weakly.
“How do you think he’s been ferrying around all the Martys he’s been capturing? He stole Three’s version! And if he’s in the air, that probably means he’s got your Marty! Come on, we have to move!” She snagged Doc’s wrist with one hand, Victor’s with the other, and yanked both boys along, dragging them toward the train. Victor barely had time to get back to his feet before she was pulling them up the steps.
“Hey, take it easy!” Allysin yelled, she and Fred jogging after them. “It’s not like we can just glue him back together if he breaks apart!”
“I’m sorry, but we have to hurry!”
Doc managed to pull his wrist free once they were inside the train. “Damn it, woman, don’t you know anything a-a-a. . . .”
The next word couldn’t quite make it out of his mouth. Doc stared around the interior cabin of the train, utterly gobsmacked. It was one thing confronting just one other version of yourself.
It was another to see seven more of them sitting around and staring back at you, surrounded by people you didn’t even know. (Well, didn’t know well – Doc recognized Jennifer as that girl Marty’s fetch was dating. They hadn’t interacted often, but he knew the face.)
Doc moved a step backward, ignoring the sounds of Allysin and Fred getting on the train. His head was starting to spin a little, frankly. Seven other hims, all fully human as far as he could see – one was even a teenager! And dressed rather anachronistically, weirdly enough. And that other one over there appeared to have – they looked like metallic snakes almost, and were they coming out of his back? Briefly his mind went back to that operating table in Andrew’s basement, being strapped down, unable to move, to escape. . . .
He snapped himself forcibly out of it, reaching out to steady himself with the wall. He had to be calm. He had to be calm and logical about all of this. He had to be the intelligent, thoughtful, rational man he knew himself to be.
“Are you okay?”
. . . . One of those things had just talked to him. Doc stared down into a glowing red camera set into a metal pincer. “Fine,” he said, voice a little higher than normal. “Thinking that perhaps I’ve lost my mind, but otherwise. . . .”
Allysin came up behind him, staring openmouthed at the scene. “You really weren’t kidding! Holy crap. . . .”
“This is too weird,” Fred agreed, glancing nervously at everyone in turn. Then he frowned over at Doc. “Maybe you’d better sit down. You’re just about as pale as Victor there.”
“Yeah, I think I should,” Doc agreed, a shudder going through him.
“I think I ought to sit too, frankly,” Victor added, trembling a little.
The other Docs were kind enough to clear a space for the four new people. “Sorry about the kids,” the tentacle Doc said as they sat down. “They’re curious.” He held out a cautious hand. “I’m number Six. These are the boys – Jules, Verne, Albert, and Tommy.”
“We’re the Doc Ock tentacles, only more sentient and less mean,” the tentacle on the lower right provided.
“Jules and Verne? Why am I not surprised,” Allysin muttered. She briefly took the hand and shook it. “Er, pleasure to meet all of you.”
“Sentient?” Doc said, looking astonished. “They – think for themselves?”
“Thanks to a rather interesting accident,” Doc Six confirmed, as the tentacles nodded. “I created them originally as just manipulator arms to assist in my experiments. Like Tommy said, they’re based off the Doc Ock design – Doctor Octopus, from Marvel comics, I don’t know if you read them – with a lot of future technology mixed in. Then – it’s a long story,” he said, shaking his head. “Suffice to say they’re now sentient and – well, permanently fused to my back.”
“We’re all weird somehow or another,” another Doc spoke up as the motley stared. “Even One’s distinguished for just being normal. I imagine you’re no different. So what happened to you?”
The motley looked at them for a moment, then at each other. “Give us a minute to catch up with all this,” Doc requested, still feeling a little shaky. “Great Scott. . . .”
“How are we supposed to deal with this?” Victor mumbled, pulling at his tie.
“You’d better figure out a way,” J.C. said, patting his back. “Because, if things keep going like this, you’re gonna be dealing with the weirdness for a while.”