I’m still mired in the late 80s and early 90s, the salad days of my childhood, and if I’m being honest, I probably haven’t had an original thought since Twin Peaks went off the air. I think in song lyrics and movie quotes, and I’m prone to howling random quotes from Dune at innocent, bewildered people at little provocation. I think we all know that the last time I tried writing a screenplay, the results were…shall we say, Clerky. Only nowhere near as good. I am a hackish, cartoony parasite, and the only real difference between me and the guy who writes Doom 3 fanfic is that I know what a Shift-key is for.
Anyway, enough stalling! Let the shame begin!
Sliding has always had its share of gremlins. Their first slide landed them on a frozen wasteland torn apart by icy maelstroms, and they had to activate the timer early to escape a tornado. As a result, the timer’s electronics were fried and they were unable to select their own destination. At that point, sliding became a hopeless guessing game akin to spinning a roulette wheel with infinite slots and hoping to land on one exact point. Worse, Quinn and the Professor were never able to correctly suss out how much power to allocate to the portals for a safe journey, forcing them to take their best guess. And on top of all that, the remote has seen a ton of abuse, and oftentimes one of the brainiac characters has to spend the B-plot of each episode trying to jury-rig up replacement electronic parts to get it working again.
In short, the timer was a piece of shit, cobbled together with what the group could afford from a dozen Radio Shacks scattered across wildly different corners of the multiverse. Of course it doesn’t work properly, and they’ve never been able to fix it because Quinn left all his schematics back on his PC. They’re actually pretty lucky it worked as well as it did until they managed to swipe a better one from the Kromaggs.
Until then, they had to deal with some dreadful mishap cropping up on every slide. The timer and interdimensional portals were easy to disrupt with electrical surges and inclement weather, and when that happened, the slide became even more unpredictable than before: Quinn might spend the entire slide invisible and incorporeal, the individual group members might be scattered in radically different locations, or maybe even lost between dimensions forever. Quinn found himself amalgamated with a parallel version of himself known only as Mallory (a condition that was never reversed).
That should have been their clue right there: the effects had been steadily getting worse, even after they’d managed to get a better timer. The old timer sucked, sure, and was outright dangerous to use, but it had nothing to do with the timer.
It’s because sliding itself is tearing the multiverse apart.
You can’t just go ripping holes in the fabric of the space-time continuum and jumping through them. Quinn Mallory may have seemed a brilliant young man with a savant’s grasp of theoretical quantum physics, but in reality, he wasn’t all that bright. In fact, he was lucky to have solved the equations to open the portals at all. He never would have figured it out without a timely visit from a much more intelligent Quinn-double from another dimension to fill in the gaps. He lacked a fundamental understanding of certain other laws of physics, like the laws of conservation of matter and energy, and the fact that all of these physical laws and universal constants only work if the universe itself stays constant. And it doesn’t.
That’s part of the reason why Wheeler and Fuller demonstrated why sliding, a.k.a. the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, doesn’t work. Their paper showed that any attempt to open a wormhole between parallel dimensions should close instantaneously the moment it was formed, before even light could escape. Even something with the mass of a photon bleeding through between dimensions causes an imbalance, a shift in the constants of mass and gravity of the universe. This shift will always cause sweeping, pervasive changes in every single physical object in the universe. It affects the accelaration of gravity. It changes the orbital distance of electrons around their nucleus. It changes the speed of light. It changes the flow of time and its dilation over distance.
In fact, Einstein and Rosen knew this. They were the first sliders, but they realized almost instantly that something was wrong. The first thing they did upon entering their first new dimension was to run scientific experiments to prove that it was the same Earth with the same physical laws, just causal independence in the way their histories unfolded.
But the equations didn’t balance. The constants were off. By millionths of a degree, but they were off. Einstein postulated that their mass transitioning between dimensions caused this imbalance, and left unchecked, would eventually cause all matter to unravel at a submolecular level, leaving the entire dimension a black, lifeless void of drifting hydrogen clouds. Einstein and Rosen abandoned the project and falsified their journals, “proving” the entire theory infeasible and hoping it would dissuade further research.
Things are spiraling out of control, or more appropriately, down the tubes. Quinn and the gang have been gallivanting around for years, poking holes between dimensions wherever they go. The holes look like they collapse, but they don’t. Not completely. The “fabric” metaphor of space and time is apt, because like a fabric, it frays, and if you punch holes in it, it leaks. The Kromaggs have been sending entire invasion fleets between dimensions, and they’re the first to notice something is desperately wrong. Entire outposts are vanishing. Entire planetary garrisons. All that’s left is slowly-dissipating hunks of base metals and gas, and the effect is starting to spread. There are so many holes now that the multiverse is beginning to hemorrhage dimensions into one another. They’re merging, compressing, expanding, or just outright exploding. It’s hard to tell, because the multiverse is desperately trying to find its own equilibrium point– to find a set of physical constants that fits.
That’s what Rembrandt finds when he brings his virus to Earth Prime– an already dying Kromagg race. Every planet they’ve taken is unraveling at its molecular seams, and they’ve been scrambling to find a reason why, falling back in desperation to their home dimension. Their extinction is already at hand. The world Remmy finds is one of chaos and mutation, where people can bend matter to their will and wield power akin to magic. Entropy is pulling worlds apart, and the only solution is more sliding, to try to find more Sliders, explain the situation to them, and find a way to stop it all.
But even with infinite possible realities, there may not be a way to fix what’s been broken. Infinity isn’t as big as it used to be.