When Worlds Collide -- REALLY Collide
Wednesday, May 7th, 1986
Hill Valley Changeling Verse
“You know, you really don’t think your life could get any stranger, then wham! Shit like this happens,” Allysin commented, rubbing the head of her mallet as the train took off into the sky. “At least you guys are apparently the good ones.”
“Yes, I dread thinking what might have happened had the other train’s occupants found you,” the Doc with the tentacles said, he and his appendages shuddering.
One of the Jennifers looked at the group curiously. “This is weird, not seeing me or Clara with you.” She paused. “Of course, before today I would have never said something like that. . . . Anyway, where am I? If you’re looking for Marty--”
“It’s complicated,” Doc interrupted, feeling a sudden stab of guilt. “Suffice to say, our Marty isn’t dating you.”
Jennifer’s eyes went wide. “Huh?”
“So we finally hit that reality,” yet another Doc said, leaning against the wall. “I know it’s a shock to the system, Jennifer – I’ve experienced it before – but it was probably inevitable.”
“But – I don’t want it to be inevitable!” the Jennifer protested, looking a bit teary-eyed. “Eight realities in a row we’ve been dating – I don’t want to break the streak!”
“You guys obviously know us,” another Jennifer pointed out. “Did – did Marty and I break up or something?”
“No, it’s – er--” Doc scratched his head, trying to find the right words.
“Would you believe us if we said there’s two of them?” Allysin asked, looking sheepish.
This got the attention of the Doc against the wall. “Really? Are you in a situation like mine?”
“God, I hope not,” Victor muttered, yanking at his tie yet again.
“Depends on what your situation is,” Fred said, looking concerned now.
“Well, it’s just that I’ve dimension-hopped before,” the Doc explained. “My new home world already has a version of me there, married to a different woman than I am. I’m assuming that’s not quite what happened with you, given your reactions to seeing the train and us. . . .”
“No, definitely not,” Doc confirmed, looking around the room again. “What happened to us--” he hesitated, unsure how to proceed. Even in this situation, telling the truth could get them labeled as crackpots.
“If you don’t want to talk about it just yet, that’s okay,” another Doc said. “We can explain to you just how we’re all different instead.”
The Doc at the controls nodded, making subtle adjustments. Doc marveled at the view of the city outside the window. It was strange, seeing it from so high up. “We’re really not trying to make you uncomfortable. It’s just this whole stupid situation has got us on edge,” he said, the stress evident in his voice.
“If someone’s been kidnapping Martys, I can’t blame you,” Allysin admitted, tapping her mallet gently against the floor. “Look, why don’t we start with full names for everybody and work up from there?”
“Introductions are good,” J.C. agreed, hovering near the newcomers like she owned them.
“Fine then,” the Doc at the controls nodded. “I’m One, that’s Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, and Eight.” He pointed out each Doc as he named them. “Don’t ask why Seven is so much younger, it just seems to be a quirk of his reality.”
“I’m Clara Clayton Brown,” the curly-haired, brunette woman standing next to Doc One said. “There’s also Clara Three, Clara Five, Clara Six, Clara Seven, and Clara Eight.”
“No Claras Two and Four?”
“Realities where we married someone else,” Doc Two explained, putting his arm around a black-haired, extremely pale woman. “We figured it was easier for the Claras to share the number of their respective husband.”
“Me, I’m Mysteria Jones Brown,” the woman introduced herself. “I’m Two’s wife. You can call me Mystie.”
“And I’m Josephine Grey Brown,” a blonde, green-eyed woman spoke up. “Josie for short.”
“Jennifer Parker,” the Jennifer with Doc One said. “Though you probably knew that already. We’ve got the same numbering system as the Docs.”
“And you know my name,” J.C. said, bouncing on her heels again. “That should be everybody – now it’s your turn!”
“Right. Well, I’m Allysin,” Allysin said, waving a little. “And that’s A-L-L-Y-S-I-N. Allysin Wunderlandt.”
“Allysin Wunderlandt?” Jennifer Five repeated, blinking.
J.C., however, raised an eyebrow. “Alice In Wonderland?” she said slowly, sounding a bit suspicious. “You gotta be kidding me.”
“I picked it out myself, I admit,” Allysin confessed, blushing a little. “I always liked those books. And the Disney movie, too, though it was kind of cutesy.”
“Why didn’t you just go with Alice, then?”
Allysin shrugged. “This felt more right. Though I constantly have to correct people on spelling my first name. Just call me Ally, it’s easier.”
“Just to warn you, mine’s kind of weird too,” Fred said, grimacing slightly. “But trust me, mine’s real. I’m Fred Bonaparte.”
“What, like Napoleon?” Jennifer Six asked, looking Fred up and down.
“Oui, Mademoiselle – stop it! What? I cannot talk to ze pretty lady? Not without us explaining first!”
There was a round of staring. “I assume there’s a good reason you’re talking to yourself with a French accent,” Doc Four finally said, giving Fred a weird look.
“He’s got a minor case of split personality,” Allysin said, blushing in earnest now. “It’s nothing serious, really, he gets along fine. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Don’t say that on this expedition, you might find yourself meaning it,” J.C. said, tone unusually serious.
“Yes, well, anyway, it is like Napoleon, and I’m sure you can guess who the other personality in my head is,” Fred said, rolling his eyes. “I’m a great-great-great-great grandson.”
“Kinda tall to be a Bonaparte, aren’t you?” Jennifer Three asked, eyeing Fred.
“Actually, few people know this, but Napoleon was actually of fairly average height for a Frenchman at the time,” Doc Three said, holding up a point-making finger. “People have gotten taller throughout the years. He also had a habit of surrounding himself with tall bodyguards.”
“I knew it! You can quit your whining about everything being too high!” Fred snapped, eyeing the ceiling since he had no better place to look. “Fred, I may not have been as short as everyone zeems to zhink I was, but you are six foot three! Zhat is still quite tall!”
“You know, this is oddly entertaining,” Emmett Seven admitted, smirking a bit. “Of course, I might not be the best authority on that, my home world being what it is. . . .”
“No, it’s okay, we find it funny too sometimes,” Allysin said with a small smirk of her own. “Luckily Napoleon isn’t one of those ‘rawr kill them all’ personalities.”
“I abide by ze rules of fair combat,” Fred/Napoleon confirmed. “Yeah, usually he’s just a pain in my behind. Don’t let him get to you.”
“Isn’t there something you can do to – you know,” Jennifer Two said, waving her hand. She was obviously reluctant to say more for fear of offending the other personality.
Fred sighed. “That gets back into complicated stuff.”
“Oh.” She turned her attention over to Victor. “Do you have a weird name too?”
Victor smiled a bit. “Not really. I’m just Victor Van Dort.”
“Van Dort – fancy,” J.C. commented. “Nice accent too – guessing you’re English?”
“Born and bred,” Victor confirmed with a nod. “Burtonsville. You’ve probably never heard of it, it’s just a small fishing village.”
“Can’t say I know much about small fishing villages in England, no. How long have you lived here?”
Victor frowned thoughtfully. “Four years, I think. Yeah, in that range.”
“You like America?”
“For the most part. Except when situations like this happen.”
“Which is thankfully not often,” Allysin said, reaching over and around Doc to pat Victor’s back. “In fact, let’s hope this is the only time.”
“You’ll get no argument from us,” Mystie said, shaking her head. “All right, now that we’ve got names out of the way, want to go over how we’re all weird? Except poor One?”
“I’m strange by being the normal one – I thought we agreed on that,” One said. “And that conversation may have to wait – we’ve caught up with the other train.” He looked over at the newcomers. “Do you want to confront him or not? I won’t blame you if you want to, but be forewarned it never does any good.”
“Well, shouldn’t we make sure he has our Marty?” Allysin pointed out, waving her mallet back and forth.
“He does,” Doc Four said, wincing. “Trust me on this.”
“What does he want with all these Martys anyway?” Fred asked, standing up.
“Apparently the one of his home universe did something to tick him off,” Jennifer Four said, glaring at the other train now in front of them. “And he decided the best revenge would be to grab every one he could find and--” Her face crumpled. “Guys, he’s threatening to kill them. Slowly.”
That got Doc to his feet. “What?”
“He’s twisted,” Doc Eight said. “I haven’t been on here long, and already I know that.” His face twisted up. “Of course, it helps that he nearly tricked us into ramming a building in my home reality.”
Allysin, Fred, Doc and Victor looked at each other, shocked. “Oh, no, this will not stand,” Allysin said, she and Victor getting up. “Yeah, we want a chance to yell at the bastard, however brief.”
Doc One nodded and moved the train around. “Let’s see if he’s willing to talk.”
He did seem to be – the door opened as Doc One moved their train into position. A heavy set man with thick glasses smiled at them all as their own door opened. “Back for more, huh? I can tell you right now, this latest one’s a crybaby.”
“Hello, Stanley,” Doc Six grumbled, the tentacles hissing insults.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Allysin demanded, glaring as she and her cohorts stood in the doorway.
Stanley didn’t respond, his eyes widening. “Oooh, ho ho! Lookie what we have here! Man, sweetheart, can you ever fill out a dress!”
“Excuse me, but this is my girlfriend,” Fred snapped, eyes narrowing.
“Yeah, and said girlfriend is carrying a very heavy, very nasty mallet,” Allysin added, holding up her weapon.
“We have guns. I’m not impressed,” Stanley said simply.
Doc was glaring. “If you’ve done something to make him cry, I say the fault lies with you, not with him,” he said, voice cold. There was a hint of something very dangerous in it, something that clearly said “you hurt him, I will hurt you. That is a promise.”
“I dunno about that. Biff told me he completely freaked out when Jack picked him up. Something to do with Jack’s crazy new friend.” Stanley frowned. “Don’t know why we even bothered to let him on. He seemed afraid of the walls.”
“Afraid of the walls?” Victor repeated, puzzled.
“Don’t ask me! He just kept complaining that he didn’t feel right! Jack finally stole a car and made him sit in it in that weird little storage compartment. Least it shut him up.”
“Where is this Jack person, anyway?”
For what felt like the fiftieth time that day, Doc’s jaw dropped. The person who had just come to stand beside Stanley looked just like Doc himself! Physically, at any rate – of course the clothes were different. And there seemed to be something different, something harder about the eyes. Still, though, the resemblance was uncanny. “Great Scott!”
“Damn it! Should have warned you about that too,” Doc One said apologetically.
“What? And cause me to miss out on all these wonderful expressions of shock?” Jack said smoothly. He smiled at Doc, who felt his stomach twist again. That smile was – nothing good was behind it, that was for certain. Doc felt suddenly sick about the fact this bastard shared his face. “Hello again, local Emmett. Don’t suppose you know me.”
“Wouldn’t want to,” Doc muttered, glaring. “And I doubt my Marty does either. Any particular reason you decided to grab him off the street?”
“The usual. Torture him mercilessly, have some fun, then kill him and leave the body somewhere ironic for you to find,” Jack smirked. “Maybe a bit over the top, but – well, I had to spend years before pretending I was one of you lot. I think I’m entitled to spend my off time being overly dramatic.”
“You bastard!” Allysin snapped, mallet smacking against her leg.
“You see? You make too easy.” Jack frowned a little. “Different group than I’m used to, though. What, no wife to yell at me?”
“Not here, no,” Doc said, trying to ignore the small pang that brought up.
“Interesting. About time one of you realized he wasn’t husband material.” Jack’s gaze slid over to Victor, standing by Doc’s side. “Oh, Emmett,” he said, looking quite amused. “What is it with you and young boys?”
Victor flushed red, his eyes narrowing. “I’m twenty five, to start,” he said angrily, hands bunching into fists.
“That still counts as young,” Jack said mildly. “Can’t you make any friends your own age? Maybe it’s only your peers who see you as the pathetic mess you really are.”
“Hey! No one insults my comrades while I’m around! En garde, you miserable – miserable Wellington! Oh, good one, Napoleon, that’s an insult for the ages,” Fred said, rolling his eyes. Then he glared back at Jack. “But yeah, leave him alone!”
Jack and Stanley blinked at Fred. “. . . Okay, they’ve got a nutcase on the train now,” Stanley finally said. “Maybe we’d better watch our steps.”
“I’ve dealt with insane people before,” Jack said, giving Fred a searching look. “Generally not with people who talk to themselves with French accents, but I can adapt.”
“Enough of this!” Doc said, moving forward a step. “We’re not going to let you hurt Marty!” His eyes scanned the train. Did he dare try some of his powers on it? He was certainly in the presence of enough emotion to fuel them – but what could he do? Maybe I should leave that to my companions here and try and distract him. . . .
“That old line again,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “Really, Emmett, you need to come up with something original.”
“You want original, you can ask us,” Allysin said, smacking the mallet against her free hand threateningly. “He’s our friend too.”
“What, are you guys some sort of group?” Stanley asked, eyeing them.
“Pretty much,” Fred confirmed.
“We’re proud of it,” Allysin said, chin up. “And we don’t like having our youngest member threatened.”
“Get used to things you don’t like,” Jack told her with a smirk.
“Trust me, we already have.”
A Middle Eastern woman appeared on the scene, looking a bit grumpy. “Where did you find this new person?” she demanded of Jack. “Did he just come up to you on the street?”
“Actually, yes,” Jack said. “He wandered up to us while we were catching our latest Martin and expressed interest. I didn’t expect him to react so strangely to the train.” He frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe I should have, though – he was acting pretty strangely beforehand too. I thought it was amusing, though.” He grinned over at Doc. “He was looking for you, you know.”
“Me?” Doc said, puzzled.
“What would he want with the American dog?” the woman asked, glaring at Doc like he was lowering than the scum on her shoe.
“Don’t know. Why don’t you tell us, Professor?” Jack asked mockingly.
Doc’s spine went stiff. He pressed his lips firmly together, fighting off his automatic reaction to hearing that name. No, not a name, just a worthless title. Something he’d had to live with for far too long. Some steam hissed out his back as he struggled to keep a hold on himself. “It’s Doctor,” he said firmly, voice slightly strained.
Jack raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“The hell was that?” Stanley suddenly said, eyes widening.
“What was what?” Jack snapped, rounding on him.
“He just – it looked like--” Stanley made a vague motion with his hand near his rear end, then shook his head. “Never mind. Couldn’t have been.”
“My name is Doctor Emmett Brown,” Doc said, getting the conversation back on track. “Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown.”
“I know that, you moron,” Jack spat. “If you haven’t guessed yet, back home I’m related to you. Not that I want to be. . . . But you were a professor too, right? You taught school?”
“Years ago,” Doc admitted, trying to repress a shudder. He didn’t like to think of those years.
“Well then, this must be one of your old students. And I think you’d remember a student like this. He’s utterly bizarre.”
“Bizarre?” Fred repeated.
Doc blinked. Something about this didn’t feel right. “I don’t – it’s been almost--”
Suddenly, there was a scream from inside. Everyone’s heads jerked toward the source. “DOC, YOU GOTTA RUN! IT’S ANDREW, HE’S WORKING WITH ANDREW!”
“Will you shut up?!” Jack yelled back, looking deeply frustrated. “Or do we have to gag you like that other one? Damn it, this one has to be the most annoying one we’ve picked up yet! He won’t stop crying for whatever reason, and – and I’d swear he’s an inch or so taller than the other ones! How on earth did – what’s with you?”
Doc had gone dead white, stepping backward. Every part of him felt like it had been abruptly soaked in ice water. No. . . Oh, God, no. . . . “Andrew?” he said, voice barely above a whisper. “As – as in Andrew Sparks?”
“That’s the guy,” Stanley confirmed, eyeing Doc over his glasses. “What? Is he some escaped lunatic from the local mental institution, out to carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey? Would explain a lot about him. Especially the creepy niceness. Does he always smile like that?”
Fred, Allysin, and Victor looked at Doc in horror. “Oh, jeez, Doc – that’s him, isn’t it?” Allysin said quietly, going rather pale herself.
Doc nodded, unable to talk for a moment. His mind was racing with terror. No! He’s not supposed to be here! He’s supposed to be back in Arcadia! He’s supposed to be out of my life! How could they – don’t they know what he is? Do they not care? How could they not care? Oh God he’s looking for me that means he wants me back but I’m not going back I’d die first and –
and Marty’s on that train with him. . . .
Doc suddenly lunged for the open door, almost falling out in his haste. Victor and Fred quickly grabbed a hold of him to keep him steady. “Damn it, let him go!” he roared, his face a mixture of terror and rage. “Don’t you dare let that – that thing near him!”
Stanley let out a yelp and hid behind the woman, who backed up, eyes wide and fixed on Doc. Jack himself backed up a step, looking honestly startled. “Wow! This one’s really got you upset, huh?” A cold, shark-like smile appeared on his face. “I like it.”
“You idiot! Don’t you know what that creature will do to you?” Allysin demanded, her voice rising shrilly. “They don’t – if he gets his paws on you, it’s game over! I can’t believe you’d let one into your train!”
“Why do you keep talking like he’s not a person?” Stanley asked, still cowering behind the woman. She gave him a look and pushed him away.
“Because he’s not,” Fred said, a hint of old pain in his voice. “He’s something entirely different. Something really dangerous.”
“You may be a sick bloody a-arsehole, but trust us, it’s in your best interest to land that thing and throw him out!” Victor yelled. “You do not want him around!”
Jack stared at them for a moment. Then he burst out laughing. “Oh my God! He’s really got you all spooked, doesn’t he?” he said, chortling madly. “Oh, Andrew, I tip my hat to you! I don’t think I ever got my Emmett this frightened in his life! And your friends besides!” Jack beamed at them, showing off brilliant white teeth. “Well, we’re definitely keeping him now. I have to see what he’s like in action.” He leaned toward Emmett, smile still in place. “And guess what? I’m going to let him do whatever he wants to your precious Martin. Whatever he wants at all.”
“He lays one finger on Marty, and I’ll kill you both with my bare hands,” Doc hissed, enraged.
“That goes for all of us,” Allysin said, she, Fred, and Victor glaring at Jack.
“I look forward to seeing your murderous wrath, then,” Jack replied, still beaming. “I’m sure it’ll be absolutely hilarious. Much like your reaction here.” He stepped back a bit. “Sandra! I’m ready to leave now!”
“Aye aye, captain!”
“Oh no you don’t! I’ll--” Allysin started, raising a hand.
“No, don’t!” J.C. grabbed her arm, looking frightened. “He’ll hurt one of them! It’s not worth it!”
“Listen to the little cheerleader,” Jack said as his train started moving. “She knows well of what she speaks. We wouldn’t want your Marty to come back missing certain pieces, would we?”
“When we catch up with you, I’m going to make sure you know the meaning of fear,” Victor growled through clenched teeth. Doc thought he saw a brief flicker of autumn leaves around the young man – a sure sign he was getting upset.
“You will not escape us! I am Napoleon Bonaparte, and I will destroy you! And I’m Fred Bonaparte, and I’ll let him!” Fred yelled.
“Of course you will,” Jack grinned. “See you later! With Andrew next time, I hope! Once he gets over whatever he doesn’t like about the train.”
“You bastard!” Allysin yelled. “You’re not getting away with this!”
“But I am! And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!”
“Goodbye, American pigs!” the woman called, waving cheekily.
Stanley, apparently mostly over his fear now, looked out around her. “Yeah, see ya pretty lady!” he called to Allysin. “Man, it’s too bad we didn’t pick up Andrew’s girlfriend!” he added to Jack. “Probably would have loved to see them freak out about her!”
“Girlfriend?” Doc said, now confused. Given what he’d seen between Andrew and Carlos, he’d always figured. . . . Of course, Andrew being what he was, who knew how those particular biological processes worked. “He doesn’t have a girlfriend!”
“Well, he mentioned someone named Rosie!”
Now it was Victor’s turn to go pale – quite the feat, given how white he was most of the time. “What?” he squeaked.
But the other train had moved on. They watched as it picked up speed, chugging steadily into the distance. For a moment, there was silence. Then Allysin spun around to glare at Doc One. “Why don’t you get this thing moving?!”
“I will, just as soon as you back up so I can close the door!” Doc One shot back. “I’m not letting you fall out!”
“Right.” The group backed up and watched the door close. “And why’d you stop me?” Allysin added, turning her glare on J.C. “Damn it, I might have been able--”
“No, you couldn’t have!” J.C. interrupted, matching Allysin’s glare with one of her own. “He’s got a gun and a knife and a lot of psychotics on that train of his, and one of the Martys would have ended up hurt!”
“You don’t know that!”
“I do know that! HE SHOT ONE OF THEM BECAUSE I DIDN’T SHUT UP IN TIME!”
Allysin recoiled a bit in the face of J.C.’s scream. “He – he what?” she said, breathing hard.
J.C. nodded, looking teary-eyed again. “I was yelling insults and he shot one of them,” she repeated, softer. “For a while I thought I’d managed to get one of them killed. I didn’t want you to have to go through that.”
“He was also not above dangling some Martys out of the train and threatening to drop them if we tried anything,” Doc Two added, shuddering.
“Or threatening to kill one right in front of me,” Emmett Seven said, biting his lower lip a little. He looked up at the motley with a dull, sarcastic smile. “Welcome to hell.”
Doc leaned up against the wall and let his head thunk back. “Oh, God. . . .”
“What was going on there, though?” Jennifer Six asked, looking worried. “Who is this Andrew person and why is he so horrible?”
“Yeah, you all seemed – really, really upset,” Mystie confirmed, frowning. “More than any of us have been about him gaining an ally.”
The motley looked at each other. “I’m afraid you might not believe us,” Doc admitted, scanning the room.
“Emmett,” Clara Three said. “Of the versions of you we’ve already got, two are vampires, one’s a mutant who can control electricity, one is a living cartoon, one has the arms, and two – I’m not exactly sure how to classify Seven and Eight,” she admitted, looking over at them.
“We come from universes where Mad Science rules supreme and the laws of physics sometimes seem more like suggestions,” Jennifer Seven said. “At least, that’s how home seems to me.”
“Sounds about right to me too,” Jennifer Eight agreed.
“All right then. At any rate, most of us deal with the weird and supernatural on a daily basis, and meeting each other has only intensified things.”
“She’s right,” Doc Five confirmed. “Whatever happened to you with this Andrew, it can’t be any weirder than what we’ve already experienced.”
“Yeah, that’s becoming rapidly obvious,” Allysin said, eyes wide. “All right then – we were kidnapped by faeries.”
A moment of silence. “. . . I shouldn’t say things like that. Each reality seems to feel compelled to top it.”
“Tell me about it,” J.C. agreed, blinking as confusion replaced sadness. “Fairies? Really? I’ve only ever heard of the godmother types.”
Fred smirked a little. “Yeah, most of us were raised on Disney too,” he admitted. “The reality is nothing like that. You want to think something closer to H.P. Lovecraft.”
“Or worse,” Doc muttered, going back to his seat. He plopped down heavily and put his head in his hands. “Damn it, why is this my life?”
“I think we’re all asking that question,” Doc Four said sympathetically, coming over to sit by his counterpart. “So this Andrew. . . ?”
“One of them,” Doc confirmed. “Specifically the one who took me. He was posing as a student of mine back in 1965. We got friendly, he asked me for some help with a project at his house – then he locked me in the basement and kept me there for twenty years.” He looked sadly over at Doc Four. “I never – I was working on my time machine at the time, and I never got a chance to complete it. I probably never will.”
The various Docs looked utterly horrified. “What?” Doc One said, stunned. “You never – 1965?”
“Yup. I was pretty out of date for a while after we finally managed to get back.”
“That – couldn’t you escape?” Emmett Seven asked, voice squeaky.
Doc smiled bitterly. “Oh, I tried at first. But where they take you – it’s outside normal Earth reality. It’s their home, Arcadia. And it’s bordered by the Hedge.”
“The Hedge? Is that like it sounds?”
“Yes and no,” Allysin said, she, Fred, and Victor going to sit with their friend. “There’s all sorts of different ecosystems in it, not just what somebody might call a hedge – swampland, forest, all that shit. But the defining feature is the thorns that pop up everywhere. They’ll rip you apart if you’re not careful.” She swallowed. “Not everybody makes it out.”
“I didn’t, not the first time,” Doc confirmed, shivering a little. “The Thorns did rip me apart. They don’t tear just at your flesh, you see, they tear at your mind. I – I ended up totally amnesiac. I had no idea who I was, just that I liked to invent. Andrew took advantage of that when he found me and put me to work making things for him. He calls himself The Seeker of All Knowledge, you see. Wants to know everything there is to know. So he kidnaps scientists and puts them to work. I was the latest victim.” Doc sighed deeply, looking back at his feet. “He called me Professor, that’s why I reacted so badly to the name. He never bothered using my real one. I didn’t even know I was anything more than that until – well, the bastard nearly killed me, and it gave my memory a shock. Even then, though, I only knew I was a doctor until Marty showed up.”
“Oh my God,” Clara Five whispered, pale. “I’m so sorry. . . .”
“Marty?” Doc Five repeated, his own voice a bit strangled.
Doc nodded. “They got him too. One of them, named Carlos, took a shine to him because of his musical talents. So he tricked him into coming with him, promising the kid he’d be a star.” Doc laughed bitterly. “He was a star all right. Carlos had him playing concerts for who knows how long at a stretch. And he was forcibly changing the kid’s face to make him more handsome. Nothing too major, happily, he still looks like himself, but--” He stopped, shook his head. “We met when Marty finally worked up the courage to ask for a microphone. I think I scared him at first, telling him to hang onto his name with both hands, but – I couldn’t let anyone else end up in my situation. We got past it pretty fast – the kid was desperate for non-Fae company, and so was I. After a while, we ended up best friends. I was the one who got him back on his feet once that joy juice Carlos was forcing down his throat finally failed him on stage. Marty was sick for ages. In return, he--” Doc stopped again, voice choked with tears. “He told who I was. He reminded me I had a home outside of that awful place. He basically saved my life.”
The other Docs exchanged worried, sympathetic looks. “So how did you two get out?” Doc Three asked gently.
“Carlos ended up trying to take Marty’s father too,” Doc said, getting more control over himself. “When George showed up, we decided we had to run, if only to save him from that hell. So we did. It wasn’t easy – poor George ended up blinded after a bad fall – but eventually we made it back to Hill Valley. Twenty years too late for me, two years too late for George and Marty.”
“That must have caused quite the stir,” Clara Six commented, trying and failing not to look shocked.
Doc smiled at her, a smile with almost no warmth at all. “Not really. Fae are smarter than that. They’d replaced us. People called fetches. Replicas of who we were just before we got kidnapped. When we came back, it was like we’d never been gone at all.”
“Is that what you meant before?” Jennifer Eight asked. “With there’s two of them?”
“Exactly,” Doc nodded. “Marty’s fetch is dating you. We know you peripherally from that.”
“That’s – that’s just freaking weird.”
“It is,” Allysin agreed. “Not that our Marty doesn’t think you’re pretty.”
“Do all of you have these fetches?” Doc Eight asked, looking curious despite himself.
“I’m pretty sure I do,” Fred said. “Didn’t stick around my home long enough after getting back to check.”
“I do,” Victor nodded. “He’s been causing a few problems for me lately, actually. For some reason he’s visiting town, and – well, people have been seeing double on occasion.”
“I don’t, but that’s only because she got herself killed,” Allysin said, a bit sadly. “Car accident. It was a shock when I got back, let me tell you.”
“Yeah, I bet,” J.C. said, stunned. “Jesus. . . .”
“What happened? What did you do?” Clara Seven asked.
“Well, we were pretty shocked for a while. Hid out in the basement of the Clock Tower for lack of anyplace to go. Then Marty met Victor here, and we found out about the rest of them. We met Allysin and Fred soon after, and we ended up getting friendly.”
“We’re technically called a motley – a group of changelings – Fae victims – who look out after each other,” Allysin said. “Hell, Victor, Doc, and Marty share an apartment.”
“Really?” Doc Four said, cocking his head.
“It was a serendipitous arrangement,” Doc said. “Marty and I needed a place to stay, and Victor’s landlord had just raised his rent.”
“What about George?” Jennifer Two asked.
Doc smiled again, this time much more genuinely. “George got lucky. His fetch got killed shortly after we came back, so he was able to get his life back. He’s now a published author, if you can believe it. Working on a book.”
Jennifer Six looked confused. “But he already – oh, wait, this is Twin Pines, isn’t it? Holy crap.”
Now it was the motley’s turn to look confused. “Twin Pines?”
“As in the mall,” Doc One explained. “In our initial time travel experiments, Marty got sent back to 1955 accidentally and ran over one of the pine trees on the farm that previously occupied the area. When he returned, the mall was named Lone Pine. It’s one of the ways we differentiate between timelines.”
“Oh.” Doc looked a little sulky. “I see.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t gotten to build a time machine yet either,” Emmett Seven said, trying to smile.
“Yeah, but you should see my home world. I really should have made more progress. You’ve got more of an excuse.” Emmett Seven frowned at Doc a little. “Are you going to try and start again?”
“I don’t know,” Doc admitted. “My fetch already realized my dream. Though things didn’t go at all like they were supposed to, if the mall is supposed to be Lone Pine. Not that I’m surprised. . . . I’ve been working on other small projects, but – to tell the truth, I feel a bit adrift. It doesn’t help that I still don’t remember a lot of my life. My fetch has told me a lot about it, and he’s been kind to me. But – it’s not the same as actually having it in your mind.” He slumped down in his seat.
Victor put a comforting arm around him. “We’re all a little like that,” he said, both to Doc and the others. “Comes with being what we are.”
“What happened to the rest of you, if you don’t mind us asking?” Doc Eight asked, looking between Victor, Fred, and Allysin. “I mean, if it’s too uncomfortable, feel free to tell me to mind my own business. . . .”
“No, it’s okay,” Fred said softly. “Might as well let you know the whole story. I used to be an orderly at Thorney Towers Home for the Disturbed. One day I was walking home when this guy approaches me and tells me he needs me to head up an army for him. I thought he was a nut, but – turned out to be a Fae. Never knew his name – just knew him as the Chessmaster. He grabbed me to play in his latest little war game. Based on the last name, of course. Thought I’d be this great general.” Fred smirked. “Thing is, I hate fighting. I’ve never been competitive. I just wanted to be a doctor and help people. Stuck on a play battlefield and forced to fight, not allowed to leave until I’d won – wasn’t long until I resembled some of my patients, gibbering to myself in the corner. And zhen I showed up! I, Napoleon Bonaparte, took pity on my descendant and took control, beating back ze forces of ze enemy and leading us to a great victory! Uh, yeah, what he said.”
“Oh, yeesh,” Jennifer One said, clutching at her shirt. “And then what?”
“Well, an amazing thing happened – the Chessmaster actually let me go. Apparently he only uses fresh pieces for each of his games, so once I’d won. . . . Of course, a few months had passed in real time, and I had the split personality to deal with, so I figured I might as well just make a clean break from it all and leave. Ended up in Hill Valley a little while later, got a job at the local bar as a bartender, and there you have it.” He sighed softly. “Incidentally, that’s why I never bothered doing anything about Napoleon. I – I know he’s just some fractured part of my own brain, but – I feel like I owe him. Oh, Fred, you are a good boy. Besides, he still needs me a little. I do all ze fighting.” Fred blushed a little. “Yeah, that’s true. I still hate to fight unless I have to, so if things get serious I let him take control. Otherwise he just bugs me inside my own head.” He shrugged. “You can find worse arrangements.”
“Whatever works,” J.C. agreed. “What about you, Ally?”
Ally smiled thinly. “You remember how I said I loved Alice In Wonderland? Well, when I saw the white rabbit during my college sophomore year, I was utterly ecstatic. I’d been hoping and praying that maybe, just maybe those worlds were real and some day I could visit them. I dashed right after him and followed him down a rabbit hole, through the brambles and into Arcadia. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I’d found Wonderland for real. Got to play Alice for a few days, seeing all the sights and such. Then I got a little lonely, tried to go back for my friends. . . . You ever read any of those stories where they warp Alice? Make it so she’s really insane or there’s real blood and guts?”
“Uh, no. Guessing that’s what happened, though?”
“Something like that, yeah. Needless to say, I was terrified. That’s how he kept me there – as long as I went along with the pretending, everything was fine. Try to escape or break the spell, though, and things got really goddamn nasty real goddamn quick. I finally managed to make a break for it while he was playing the Queen of Hearts and was distracted yelling at his servants about a croquet game. Took off running and didn’t look back. I ended up crashing through a mirror in a department store and getting caught by security. That’s when I learned I was technically dead.” She shook her head. “I managed to sneak out of jail before they realized anything major was up. Visited ‘my’ grave, then headed west. Stopped in Hill Valley intending to just stay a few days – I was actually on my way to San Francisco – but I ended up liking the little place and made my home there.”
“It is a nice place to live,” J.C. said with a small grin. “Is that where the mallet’s from?”
“Yeah, I ran out of Arcadia holding it,” Allysin confirmed. “I keep it around as a weapon. It’s really good for smacking people around.”
Jennifer Five looked at Allysin curiously. “So, why’d you name yourself Allysin Wunderlandt?” she asked. “If I’d gone through that, I’d never want to see or hear anything Alice-related again.”
“Because it’s all about not letting them win,” Allysin said, tone hard. “That was my favorite book – favorite two books, really – and I’m not letting them ruin it for me.” She smacked her mallet against her leg. “Nobody’s going to steal my fantasies ever again.”
“I see,” Jennifer Five said, looking a bit intimidated. “What about you, Victor?”
Victor sighed. “I – I was nineteen,” he started. “Fresh out of school, hoping to start a career in lepidopterology. The study of butterflies and moths,” he explained, seeing most everyone’s puzzled looks. “I was also engaged to be married.”
“At nineteen?” Doc Six commented, frowning a bit.
“It – wasn’t really my idea,” Victor admitted, blushing. “My parents wanted me to marry this girl named Victoria Everglot who happened to be of noble birth. They were always maniacs about getting up in society – being related by marriage to nobles would help them immensely. Victoria’s parents, meanwhile, were noble but flat broke. They wanted our fortune – my father’s the CEO of a very successful fish cannery. Basically, Victoria and I were shoved together and told to like each other. Luckily for all involved, we did and decided to go ahead with the wedding.” He looked off into the distance. “It all went wrong at the dress rehearsal. I kept fumbling my vows. The pastor finally had enough of me and banished me from the church until I’d learned them. I was horribly embarrassed, and fled into the nearby woods to practice. I must have stayed there for hours, reciting them to myself over and over.” He let out another, deeper sigh. “Some time during it, I must have blundered into the Hedge. That happens every so often, and it never bodes well. Case in point – that’s when I met Rosie.”
“Apparently,” Victor said with a shudder. “I didn’t think – well, anyway. I thought she was just a little girl at the time. She asked me to play with her – I thought it was a little odd, but I needed a distraction and agreed. She told me the game was hide and seek, and that I was going to be punished if she found me. I thought she was just being silly, and the first time she let me go free. But the second. . . .”
Victor’s voice trailed off as he stared hard at the floor of the train. “Yeah?” J.C. prompted, a bit reluctantly.
Victor’s voice was barely a whisper. “She strangled me. Throttled me with a vine until I blacked out. I woke up in Arcadia, in her house. And the game continued.” He looked back up, his brown eyes brimming with tears. “Two years. Two years, we played that game, and – and she killed me every time she found me. Or at least brought me to the very verge of death, before healing me for the next round. It got so I could barely think straight, I spent so much of my time in a panic.” He took a deep breath, trying to steady his nerves. Doc slid his own comforting arm around him. “My escape was actually an accident – I ran back into the Hedge in an attempt to hide. I was only after I’d been wandering a while that I remembered my home and made a proper break for it. Of course, once I got there, I discovered I’d been gone for two years and that my fetch had married Victoria in my absence. I moped around for a while, then decided I had to start anew. I caught the next plane I could for America and went as far away from England as I could manage.”
“Which, oddly enough, turned out to be Hill Valley yet again,” Allysin noted. “I don’t know what it is about that little town, but it seems to attract the supernatural.”
“I’d believe it,” Doc Two said. “Back home there’s a vampire subculture centered around a certain bar – Darkness Falls.”
“Darkness Falls? That’s our bar!” Fred said, startled. “Weird!”
“Don’t think I’ve ever heard of it, but now I may have to see if it exists, just in case any local mutants in my world patronize it,” Doc Three said, interested.
“It’s a vampire bar in my adopted world too,” Doc Four said. “Perhaps it’s a usual magnet for anything strange. I mean, the normal people who attend tend toward the odd side of the spectrum, don’t they?”
“Yeah, we get a lot of Goths and the like,” Fred admitted. “Helps the rest of us blend in, though.”
“I’m sure,” Doc One said. “I’m – I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to you.” The other Docs nodded in sympathetic agreement.
“It’s all right,” Allysin said softly, shoulders slumping a bit. “It’s a couple years in the past for most of us. Doc, Marty, and George are the local newbies, but even for them it’s been a few months.”
“Which is what makes this situation all the more appalling,” Doc muttered, feeling a fresh jolt of pain in his heart. “I thought – we thought – this sort of thing was over. That once we were out. . . .” He grimaced, steam hissing unnoticed from his elbows. “Now this bastard from another dimension’s got Marty, and – and Andrew’s looking for me! Damn it, he’s supposed to be back in Arcadia! He’s supposed to be out of my life! Not trying to hunt me down!”
Victor looked over at him with wide, frightened eyes. “Do you really think that Stanley person was telling the truth when he mentioned a Rosie?” he said, voice getting a little squeaky. “That – that it might be--” He stopped, his eyes getting watery once more. “If – if she w-wants me back, w-wants me for her playmate again. . . . D-damn it, I – I don’t want to die again. . . .”
He looked down at the floor, biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut to keep back the tears. J.C. looked at him and Doc for a moment, then threw her arms around the both of them. The boys started, surprised, but accepted the hug after a moment. “It’s gonna be okay,” she said softly. “We’re gonna get Marty back. I promise you that.”
“Damn straight,” Doc Five agreed. “We’re going to get our best friend back or die trying.”
“And then, maybe we’ll spare a few minutes to make sure Andrew doesn’t bother you again,” Emmett Seven said, pulling out his gun again. “These faeries of yours vulnerable to lightning?”
“. . . I’d love to find out, at any rate,” Doc said, starting to look a bit more cheerful.
“It’s iron that they don’t like,” Allysin said. “If you’ve got anything made out of iron, especially cold--”
She stopped as something hit her. “Well, that explains that.”
“What explains what?” Doc Four asked.
“Why Andrew was ‘afraid of the walls,’ as Stanley put it. This whole train’s one big iron container, isn’t it? I’m surprised he was even able to stand being inside!”
“That might work to our advantage,” Doc said, starting to smile a little. “If we can keep him trapped in there, and manipulate things so he HAS to touch the walls at some point. . . . At any rate, it should severely weaken him.”
“And then lightning?” Emmett Seven asked eagerly.
“What is your obsession with lightning?” Doc Three asked, arching an eyebrow. “I can control electricity, and even I’m not that fixated on it.”
“You forget, electricity isn’t particularly common in my world,” Emmett Seven replied. “Some sparks use it, but a lot more depend on just pure machinery for what they want. I like building things with clockwork and the like too, but there’s just something about the way electricity crackles through the wires, through the sky. . . .”
“Doc, have we told you you’re weird yet?” Fred deadpanned.
Doc managed a smile. “Many, many times.”
“Well, I’m saying it again. You’re weird.”
“Good weird,” J.C. said, smiling at him. “You too, Victor. Unless you think being called ‘weird’ is an insult. Then you’re just good.”
Victor managed his own smile. “Thanks. Though I know perfectly well I’m at least a little strange.” He swallowed. “I’m sorry for nearly breaking down like that. It’s just – bad memories.”
“Perfectly understandable,” Clara Six said, sounding motherly. “I really do hope this Rosie person isn’t looking for you again.”
“And if she is, that you can kick her ass six ways to Sunday,” J.C. said with a firm nod.. “Hell, if I could, I’d stick around and help.”
Doc winced a little. “That’s a very nice offer, but I don’t think you’d do very well. Fae are very dangerous creatures.”
Doc Five smirked a little. “You haven’t seen her in action. There’s quite a few people who learned what happened when you threatened me or mine back in my home world.”
“I’m not that bad,” J.C. said, though she sounded completely insincere. “But yeah, give me some of your iron, and I’d give her a smackdown she wouldn’t forget.”
Victor raised an eyebrow. “What if she tried to hurt you in return?”
“Well, that’s where being what I am comes in handy!”
“And you are. . . ?”
J.C. beamed at him. “We’re the living cartoons! Two over there proved it. Apparently we’ve got ink instead of blood. Which is kinda strange, but hey, works for us.”
Victor’s already large eyes got huge. “L-l-living car-cartoons?” he stammered, jaw hanging open.
“Yeah. You want proof? Here.” J.C. reached behind her, felt around for a moment, then suddenly produced a large croquet mallet seemingly out of nowhere. “Hammerspace,” she said happily as the others stared. “Ain’t it great. And look, Ally, now we match! Sort of. Close enough.”
Victor gaped for a moment. Then his face broke out into a huge grin. “That – that is so cool! How do you do that? Can you pull out anything else? Can you paint things into reality, like holes and the like? Oh, good Lord, do you know the Looney Tunes, I love that show!”
J.C. stared for a moment, then backed away a few steps, eyeing Victor nervously. “Uh – well – Is this what I act like?” she asked her Doc, who was snickering madly.
“Victor,” Allysin said, laughing. “Stop with the fanboy thing. You’re scaring her.”
“I didn’t know she could get scared,” Doc Five said, still snickering.
Victor blushed a little, but frowned at Allysin. “I am not a fanboy.”
“You most certainly are. You’ll have to excuse him – cartoons are his thing,” Allysin explained, grinning.
“Saturday morning, eight o’clock, it all starts,” Doc agreed, patting his friend’s back. “Can’t miss a week, otherwise he gets mopey.”
Victor blushed more. “Well, they were one of the nicer parts of my childhood,” he defended himself, hands moving automatically to his tie. “I could always depend on them to make me laugh. I kind of wanted to be animator when I grew up. Of course, Rosie derailed those plans. . . .”
“Evil witch,” J.C. said, scowling. “Still, it’s not too late. You could still be an animator. You’re only twenty five.”
“I think,” Victor said, blush deepening still more. “I can’t be quite sure.”
“Fae time doesn’t work like normal time,” Doc explained, frowning a little. “We’re all a little iffy on our ages. We generally just go by how long we were missing in the real world. Though that doesn’t always work.”
“Yeah,” Fred nodded. “I was only gone about half a year in the regular world, but I’d swear to God that stupid game took a hell of a lot longer. Until I showed up, zhat is.”
“Same here,” Victor nodded. “Of course, I wasn’t exactly in a state to keep track of the time, if there was any time to keep track of.”
“None of us were,” Doc said. “I can tell you, though – the twenty years I spent as Andrew’s captive? Felt more like a hundred.”
J.C. glared at nothing in particular. “I’m going to find this guy and I’m going to beat his brains in.”
“We won’t stop you,” Allysin promised, voice hard.
Jennifer Eight sighed. “Someone explain to me how Jack manages to find all the assholes in every reality,” she said, looking depressed. “It seems most of us have got someone with him who we want to smack around.”
“Must be his own special brand of luck,” Doc Four said, eyes narrowed in annoyance.
“Who else is with him, exactly?” Fred asked. “There’s that woman, and this Stanley person. . . .”
“And Andrew,” Doc muttered, getting himself a pat on the back from J.C.
“Starting from the beginning, he picked up Sandra Rayben from my reality,” Doc Two said. “She’s a slightly insane vampire hunter. We had to deal with her and her organization back home a little while ago. It got to the point where she was willing to kill civilians just to try and get rid of me and Mysteria and our friends.”
“What’s pathetic is that, right before they showed up, we had to deal with an infestation of the nasty kind of vampire,” Mysteria said with a soft groan. “There’s two types you see – the type who keep their minds when they change over, and the type who – don’t. Our version of Biff Tannen apparently got it into his head he could control them, and – it was a mess.”
Doc Four frowned deeply, looking over at the other vampires. “You know, the soulless vampire population in our version of Hill Valley seems to be increasing,” he said slowly. “And our Biff was in the woods for no apparent reason I could think of. . . .”
“I’d keep a damn close eye on him, then,” Doc Two said promptly, frowning back. “Trust me, you do not want to go through what we went through. We managed to keep casualties to a minimum, but. . . . Oh, and if there’s a vampire around named Henry Fleming, keep a close eye on him too. He’s one of ours, but my version tried to sell us out because of a grudge against me. One of those who considered me the local nutcase.”
“Will do,” Doc Four promised, scowling.
“This Sandra got any special powers of her own?” Allysin asked, looking thoughtful.
“Unfortunately, yes. She actually was once friends with a vampire who turned her into a Partial – basically, that’s a human who’s had vampire blood and got some of the powers,” Mystie explained. “So she’s stronger and faster than most humans. Plus she’s got all that nice ‘how to kill vampires’ training.”
“From my reality, he appropriated my train and Amina Ali,” Doc Three continued. “She was the Middle Eastern woman you saw earlier. She really doesn’t like me, but then she doesn’t like most Americans.”
“How do you know her, then?” Allysin asked, tapping her mallet against her leg again.
The Docs looked a little awkward. “Well, you see – in order to get the time machine to run, I needed plutonium. And since that’s near impossible to get by legal means. . . .”
“The Libyan terrorists, right?” Doc said. “My counterpart told me about them. But he also told me you got them arrested after you proved the time machine worked.”
“Libyan terrorists?! Does your brain just not work sometimes?!” Allysin demanded.
“No, it doesn’t,” Doc Three readily admitted. “And yes, they were caught after the first time machine test, but apparently Amina escaped. She must have been trying to come after me when she encountered Jack and agreed to join up with him.”
“That seems rather hypocritical,” Fred said, looking suspicious. “You think she’d hate anyone who looked like you on sight.”
“Hypocrisy seemed to be the Libyan United Front’s motto,” Doc Three deadpanned. Then he grimaced. “And, well – she and Jack appear to be equally bloodthirsty. In fact, from what we’ve seen. . . .”
“We think they like each other,” Jennifer Three provided. “A lot.”
There was a moment of silence. “Ewwww,” J.C. finally said, wrinkling her nose.
“I know,” Doc Three muttered. “And of course, to make things harder on us, she’s a mutant too. A Medusa-type – she can animate and control her hair like tentacles. She must have used it to grab my Marty so he couldn’t escape. Time-stopping powers aren’t useful if you’re bound up and can’t move yourself.”
Allysin groaned. “Only two in and already I’ve got a headache.”
“If it makes you feel any better, the Biff Tannen he picked up from my world appears to have no special powers,” Doc Four said. “However, he does have a bad personality and a gun with plenty of bullets, so – six of one, half a dozen of the other.”
“He doesn’t seem to have gotten anyone from my reality,” Doc Five said. “Which is good, because considering some of the things we can do – I think it’s enough he has the woman with the Medusa hair.”
“From us he got Stanley Carlyle,” Doc Six said, the tentacles hissing. “He’s another normal human, albeit with the necessary bad attitude to put up with Jack. He was an intern at the local hospital once. And, once again, he’s someone with a grudge against me in particular.”
“He tried to kill us!” Albert said with a snarl. “He didn’t believe we were alive! He locked our real doctor in a closet, drugged Father and tried to cut us off!”
“Not to mention he nearly killed Father with the sedative he used,” Jules added, sounding disgusted. “Father was allergic to it. Lucky for us Marty showed up at the right moment.”
Doc smiled thinly. “That kid’s got a talent for saving our lives, doesn’t he?”
“Luckily for us,” Doc One nodded, trying to smile back but not quite doing it.
“Yeah, I know,” Doc Six said, the tentacles grumbling. “If he hadn’t come in when he did. . . . Well, suffice to say Stanley had the book thrown at him for what he did. He’s barred from practicing medicine now. I thought we’d honestly seen the last of him, but apparently not. At least he doesn’t have a gun as well.”
“Yeah, really,” Jennifer Six said. “Bad enough Biff does.”
“What about your realities?” Fred asked Emmett Seven and Doc Eight. “He pick up anyone there?”
“Not that we know of,” Doc Eight said. “He grabbed Marty from mine and took off.”
“I don’t think he was expecting to pick up anyone from my world,” Emmett Seven admitted. “I’m from 1897, actually, and a place you call Germany. It’s Europa Wulfenbach back home.”
Doc blinked. “1897? What’s an alternate of me doing back so far in the past? As a teenager, no less?”
Emmett Seven could only shrug. “I don’t know what to tell you. Where I’m from, we’re all about the same age. Hell, my Marty’s slightly older than I am. We were born the same year, but he was a June baby while I was October.”
The other Docs looked rather weirded out. “I – see,” Doc One finally said. “June 9th and October 22nd respectively, correct?” Emmett Seven nodded. “I guess that’s what you get, then. Still, it’s a concept I’ve never entertained before.”
“Wonder if there’s a reality where our ages are switched?” Doc Five wondered, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Or maybe one where we’re the same age, only both old men?”
“We keep doing this long enough, we might find out,” Doc Four said grumpily. “There’s thousands of variations on worlds out there, I’m sure. Maybe we’ll find another one where I never invented the time machine.”
“Or maybe one where it didn’t work,” Mystie postulated. “Of course, that might mean bad things for that world’s Doc and Marty, given that first test. . . .”
“Perhaps one where Marty and I never met,” Doc Six suggested, earning himself shocked stares from the tentacles. “What, it could happen!”
“Hell, there might be a world where we’re bitter enemies,” Doc Eight said. “I have a very hard time imagining it, but it’s possible.”
“I can’t imagine it at all,” Victor said, looking quietly baffled. “It just doesn’t make sense in my head.”
“Yeah – more likely to me is one where you actually raised him as your own kid, instead of just acting like you did,” Allysin said, causing a couple of the Docs to blush.
“What happened to George and Lorraine in that scenario?” Doc Three asked, frowning. “And his siblings?”
“I don’t know. Maybe something happened with their finances, and they couldn’t afford a third kid? And Lorraine decided you were the best candidate to raise Marty?”
Doc Three snorted. “I somehow doubt that would ever happen.”
“Hey, infinite universes.”
“I keep wondering if we’re going to stumble upon a world where we don’t exist at all,” Doc Two admitted. “Or one of us doesn’t, at least. An accident at birth, and either of us could have ended up prematurely dead.”
Mystie shuddered. “Ugh. Don’t talk like that.”
“I’m sorry, honey, but it is a possibility.”
“I wonder if there’s any other realities where you know us?” Allysin said, frowning. “All of you seemed to consider us new people.”
“Well, our worlds don’t have faeries – at least, not like the ones here,” Doc Two pointed out. “Your counterparts are probably all still back in your homes.”
“Oh, that’s a--” Allysin suddenly went rather pale. “Oh my God. That – that means I – I’m probably dead.”
“Well – without a fetch – I’d be the one to get into that car accident.” Allysin sat down, looking quite freaked. “Yeesh.”
Fred sat down next to her. “You okay?” he asked, obviously concerned.
“I don’t know.” She looked down at her hands. “Better dead than captured by the Fae, I guess, but – on the whole, I’d prefer just plain alive.”
“Then I hope one of our realities has you avoiding that accident and living a long and healthy life,” Doc Eight said, trying to sound reassuring.
“As we’ve said, infinite universes,” Doc Three nodded. “There’s all sorts of possibilities out there, once you know to look.”
“Yes, well, I think the only reality we’re all really interested in is Jack’s home reality,” Doc One said, spotting the familiar shimmer in the air in front of them. “Because once we find that one, we can find a version of ourselves familiar with him. And hopefully, familiar with how to stop him.”
Jennifer Seven shook her head. “Boy, I feel sorry for the version of you who had to grow up with him. That had to be tough.”
“I know. We may have to get him a fruit basket or something,” Josie said, only half-kidding.
“How long do you think it’ll be before we find it?” Clara One asked her husband, sounding quite weary.
Doc One sighed. “I honestly don’t know. The only thing we can do is keep stalking him until we do.” He tried again to smile. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and this next one will be the one we want.”
“We don’t have luck,” Albert said morosely. “We have anti-luck.”
Doc Six patted him. “Still, we can’t give up hope. And no matter where or when it is, Jack’s on the other side. We have to see anyway.”
“Precisely.” Doc One got ready to gun it. “All right, you four. Ready to see how at least my life could have turned out differently?”
“Ready,” the group chorused.
“And maybe this time we can help the local Marty before Jack – or, worse, Andrew – gets his paws on him,” Doc added.
“We hope,” Doc One agreed softly. “All right, hang onto something – this’ll get bumpy.” Doc One opened up the throttle.
And moments later, the Changeling universe was short one very unique motley.