The four friends gathered in the lobby of the Chandler Hotel. It was a very familiar place to them. Slide after slide, world after world, the Chandler was usually there to welcome them, the closest thing to a home any of them had any more.
"Save the coordinates for this place, Q-ball," Rembrandt said placing his hand on Quinn's shoulder. "I may want to come back here some time. The women are so beautiful!" he added with a wink.
The others just laughed, and Quinn, noticing the counter on the timer, suggested they head to the alley behind the Chandler.
This was a pleasant world, untouched by the Kromaggs, a utopian society with little crime, where poverty was non-existent. Nevertheless, in the alley the timer reached zero and the four travelers prepared to jump without hesitation into the whirling vortex, unaware of what awaited them. They were on a quest to find Quinn and Colin's homeworld and the secret that would defeat the Kromaggs, forever.
"It's time," Quinn announced and fired the trigger on the timer. The vortex opened in front of them. Rembrandt leapt first, then Maggie right behind him. Colin turned and shot his brother a wink and a grin, then jumped into the vortex. After taking one last look around Quinn, too, smiled and leapt into the whirling vortex and the unknown.
The sliders landed in a dusty, unpaved alley. There were crates of rotting garbage stacked against brick walls and debris littered the ground. They could hear a commotion coming from the street at the entrance to the alley.
"This will be a short one. Barely five hours before we slide again," Quinn announced slipping the timer into his jacket pocket.
Looking at the other three Maggie said, "Well it'll be boring as hell just standing here. Let's see what's going on." And she started off toward the street.
"Be careful, Maggie," Rembrandt said as they caught up to her. "Something just doesn't feel right about this world."
"Something's not right about most of the worlds we visit, Remy," Maggie retorted.
"Still," Quinn whispered, "we're only a few feet from the street now. Can any of you make out what they're yelling?"
There was no answer from the others. While the voices from the street became clearer the closer they got, they could make no sense of what they heard - babbling, no words.
The four friends reached the street. There was a throng of people lining the avenue and the sliders found their attire very strange. It seemed to be an odd mixture of recognizable modern designs combined with flowing robes and loose fitting clothing. They were all holding signs and yelling at the top of their lungs.
"Well, I can't make it out," Rembrandt said in frustration. "It's all Greek to me."
"Yes," Colin said, gazing at one of the signs. "That's exactly what it is... Greek."
"Oh, that's just terrific," Rembrandt exclaimed. "What are supposed to do now?"
"We find a place to lay low," Quinn answered guiding them down the street. "We're only here for a few hours. We'll be all right." He had to yell to be heard above the din.
The crowd roared around them and the sliders feigned participation not to attract attention. A man passing out signs gave one to each of them, which they began to wave with the crowd. Then Quinn saw what the crowd was cheering. A procession was coming down the street led by brightly dressed banner bearers. Following were soldiers on horseback, wagon-borne cannons and columns of infantry. It was obviously a military parade or some sort of review. As the procession passed the crowd spontaneously broke out into song.
Maggie grabbed Quinn's arm and dragged him through the doorway of a nearby building; Colin and Rembrandt were already inside. Once away from the crowd and the door shut, it was quieter and the friends could talk again, though the roar from outside could still be heard.
"What the hell was all that about?" Rembrandt asked.
"It was some sort of military parade," Quinn answered.
"From the looks of these signs," Colin said examining the one in his hands, "they're going to war."
"Wait a minute," Rembrandt said. "Are you telling me you can read this?" he asked incredulously.
"Well, yes," Colin responded. "Most educated people on my world can read Greek. Aristotle, Plato. their writings have been the basics of enlightened education for centuries. I am mostly self-educated, but all the universities require students to read and write Greek and Latin."
"But you didn't seem to understand what they were saying out there either," Maggie interjected.
Colin grinned and said, "True, reading and speaking are two different things. On my world Greek is a dead language. I've never heard it spoken without an American accent."
"I imagine the dialect may be a little different than Plato's, too," Quinn added. "It might take you a little while to begin to understand it." They walked through another door and into a much larger room. It appeared to be some sort of anteroom, part of a grand design; they had apparently come in through a side entrance. The floors were polished marble and there were floor-to-ceiling columns flanking a set of inner doors. The walls between the columns were engraved with the likenesses of men and women Quinn assumed were probably gods or other mythological figures.
Colin opened one of the inner doors and peered inside. Seeing the coast was clear he entered with the other sliders close behind him. The room they entered was cavernous. It was oval shaped and crowded with plush couches and thick pillows. A 20-foot golden statue of a man stood at the center of the room. He had two large wings sprouting from his back and he carried a crossbow with a quiver of arrows slung over his shoulder.
"Amazing," Colin whispered as he approached the statue, navigating between the couches. "It's so beautiful!"
"What is it?" Rembrandt asked.
Colin turned to face his companions and with a big grin on his face he declared, "It's Cupid. We're in a temple dedicated to the god of love." He almost giggled. "This is unbelievable!"
The others approached the statue. It was a marvelous work of art, so detailed it almost looked alive.
Maggie let out an appreciative, "Hmmm," at the size of the statue's genitals. "But if he's the god of love," she asked, "why did they portray him so. relaxed?"
Quinn, Rembrandt and Colin chuckled. Then Colin answered, "Greek statues usually depicted male genitalia in a. flaccid state. Whereas the erect phallus by itself," he said pointing back to the phallic ornaments above the doors, "was a symbol of prosperity and good fortune."
"Uh-huh," Maggie smirked in response.
Just then a side door opened and in walked three young men dressed in flowing white and red robes talking with each other. Seeing the four sliders they hesitated, then one of them turned and called through the doorway.
"He's calling for guards!" Colin exclaimed.
Without thinking the sliders acted on instinct and began to run. They crossed the room quickly and exited through another side door. They ran down a corridor, crossed a courtyard and zigzagged through the temple complex. They could hear the guards' footsteps behind them but each door they came to was locked. Finally Quinn found an unlocked door and rushed the others inside.
The room was small, only about twenty square feet. The walls were covered with red drapes and the floor with plush carpet. In the center of the room there was a small altar before a life-size marble statue of Cupid. There were no other obvious exits. Outside they heard the guards rush by.
"That was close," Rembrandt sighed in relief.
"Actually," Colin interjected looking around the room and particularly at the small altar. "We might be worse off now." After questions from the others he continued. "This room has all the earmarks of a holy sanctum, a location reserved solely for priests. Trespassers into the holy sanctums of ancient temples were imprisoned. or even sacrificed to the deity."
"Are you sure?" Maggie asked looking around the small room. "Couldn't it be just a prayer chapel?"
Maggie's question went unanswered for just then the door swung open and several guards with pistols drawn entered the room. The four sliders raised their hands.
An hour later the four sliders found themselves imprisoned in one of a series of cells beneath the temple complex. It was dark, lit only by a scattered series of dim gas lamps. The half-dozen other cells were dark but appeared to be empty. Their persons had been searched and the timer taken along with everything else they carried in their pockets. Quinn noted accurately that they had been in worse situations.
"At least this time we're all together," he concluded.
"How did this screwed up world get like this?" Rembrandt wondered aloud.
"I've been thinking about that," Colin began. His mind was racing. Since they had arrived everything he had seen was predominantly Greek. the language, the art, the architecture. "Have you noticed the dominance of this world's Greek heritage with only the faintest Latin or Roman influences?" He began to pace back and forth head down,
absent-mindedly chewing on a fingernail. "It's as if the Roman Empire never existed."
"Did you see the plaque outside the main door to this. dungeon?" Quinn asked? "If I remember what little Greek I knew, it was a date. 2336. Probably the year this complex was built. And from the look of this cell I'd say that it hasn't been cleaned in at least twenty years."
"If it's 2336 or 2356," Rembrandt asked, "then why are they using gas lamps and riding horses?"
"Remy, we don't time travel, we slide between dimensions," Quinn retorted. "You know that. And we've encountered worlds that aren't as developed as ours before. The calendar this world uses is based on an event several hundred years before the birth of Christ."
Rembrandt nodded in acknowledgment.
Colin suggested, "Something happened on this world to cause North America to have a predominantly Greco-Roman rather than English society. It may also be safe to assume that it was the same event that set year 1 of the calendar they use. Now, on our worlds," he said stopping his pacing and looking at his companions, "what was happening around 350 BC?"
The four companions froze. The voice seemed to come out of the darkness of the next cell. Maggie, who was closest to the source of the sound said, "Who's there? Come out where we can see you!"
Slowly a figure began to emerge from the darkness. He was not a tall man, and his long, curly blond hair hung down over the collar of his copper-colored, floor-length coat. His soft blue eyes seemed to dance from slider to slider as he moved forward into the dim light. Beneath the coat he was dressed in shades of yellow and brown with a long, thin foil dangling from his hip, the tip of the scabbard peeking from beneath the hem of his coat. "You speak of the birth of Alexander the Divine. The first emperor."
"Of course!" announced Colin as if the appearance of this English speaking stranger was nothing out of the ordinary. "Alexander the Great. What if he didn't die at the end of his Indian campaign? What if he, in fact, returned to Greece? He probably would have gone on to conquer the western Mediterranean and Europe. Rome might never have risen to prominence, or merely been a province of a Greek Empire. I wonder if Caesar or Augustus would have risen to."
Colin was hushed by Maggie's hand on his mouth.
"You speak English," Quinn said. It was a statement that sounded more like an accusation than a question.
With a quizzical expression he responded, "I am a Briton. I speak the native the tongue of Britannia." He paused for a moment, then with a grin he continued, "I know of none, save those born upon that isle, who know the tongue. And less and less of they, I fear." His accent was melodic, but not quite the English accent the sliders were used to
Quinn introduced himself, Maggie and Rembrandt, but when he turned to introduce Colin, "And this is my broth."
"Yes," the stranger broke in. "Your brother, Colin Mallory." He chuckled at the shocked glances the sliders gave each other. "Your arrival was foretold," he said in explanation. "And greatly anticipated."
Just then there was a flash of light in the sliders' cell and when it faded there was another person with them. He was tall, with short blond hair, dark stubble on his jaw and hazel eyes. A pair of silky, white wings protruded from his back. A pair of leather straps crisscrossed his bare, muscular chest and attached to his black leather pants. The sliders immediately recognized his resemblance to the temple statues.
"Cupid." Colin whispered in amazement.
Cupid took a step forward and brought his hand up to Colin's neck, then gently ran his fingers up into the slider's hair.
"Colin Mallory," the god said his voice sultry and seductive.
The three other sliders found themselves mesmerized by the god, and immobilized. Colin closed his eyes; he felt an intense heat at the point of Cupid's touch - an electrical surge that seemed to streak to his very soul. He also felt the stirrings of arousal. Colin turned his face into Cupid's hand and kissed the palm. Then in another flash of
light they were both gone.
"Wow," Maggie whispered as she sank to the floor. "Is it just my imagination or did it suddenly get hot in here?" Quinn and Rembrandt mumbled inaudible responses as each adjusted the front of their trousers.
"Don't be embarrassed," the Briton told them with a wink and a grin. "The god of love can have that affect - especially on the uninitiated."
With great effort Quinn regained his composure and walked to the cell bars separating them from this man. "Just who are you, really? And you don't actually expect us to believe that was THE Cupid, the god of love, do you?"
The man chuckled and moved closer to Quinn. "Yes, that was the god of love." He straightened himself up, as if posturing for a regal presentation. "I am Lord Iolaus of Coventry, High Master of the Knights of Hercules." Then relaxing his stance he extended his right hand and a broad smile to Quinn, "but please, call me Iolaus. I'm here to help you."
Quinn accepted the handshake.
"What is all this business?" Rembrandt demanded joining Quinn at the cell bars. "And what have you done with Colin?"
"Relax, Mr. Brown," Iolaus said. "Mr. Mallory is in no danger." He turned and walked back toward the middle of his cell. Then he turned to face them again and with a grin he added, "In fact, he's in very good hands."
When Colin opened his eyes he was no longer in the cell beneath the temple. Instead he found himself in an oval room decorated in plush reds with golden tapestries covering the walls. The chairs were upholstered in red and the large bed in the center of the room was covered with red pillows and red, satin sheets. And there, standing across the room staring at him, was Cupid.
"Wh-what's going on?" he stammered.
"It's cool, Colin Mallory," Cupid said, slowly closing the distance between them.
Colin took a step backward.
Cupid raised his hand and whispered, "No, don't be afraid. I won't hurt you, baby." He continued his slow approach. "In fact, you're actually the one in control."
Cupid stood directly in front of Colin. He reached up his right hand and with the backside of his fingers caressed Colin's cheek. The heat from Cupid's touch was again electric and Colin closed his eyes. Cupid's hand slid down Colin's neck and lingered on the small bit of exposed chest above his low riding shirt collar. Then Colin felt the
buttons begin to come open and Cupid's hand slipped inside to caress a pectoral. He wanted to resist. This wasn't right. "No," he uttered, barely audible.
Cupid paused his manipulations but he did not remove his hand. "No?" he whispered in Colin's ear. "You want to," he continued. "I feel your need." He rubbed his bristled chin against Colin's smooth earlobe. "Who better than the god of love to be your first?"
Colin still did not open his eyes, but he turned his head slightly bringing his cheek flush against Cupid's. "It isn't right," he whispered. "I'm not gay."
Cupid released him and pulled back. Colin's eyes flew open and he gasped at the sudden loss of contact, shocked at how desperately he wanted it back.
"You're not gay," Cupid repeated softly, frowning and crossing his arms. Then bringing his hand up to stroke his chin, he repeated himself, "You're. not. gay."
"No," Colin said, his voice cracking a little.
Turning away and walking across the room Cupid said, "Colin Mallory. You really are from another world, aren't you? Not gay?" He turned to face Colin again. "How can such an enlightened mind have such a narrow-minded view? Bummer." Cupid turned and approached him again, and once their faces were only an inch apart he said, "Love knows no bounds, Colin, and neither does lust or sexuality." He paused for a moment staring into Colin's blue eyes. "You want me. You know you want me. You want to experience me, but you're holding back." He paused for a moment, searching deep in Colin's blue eyes. "Let yourself go," he said. "Forget about your labels. and just be."
Colin stared back at Cupid. After looking deep into the god's hazel eyes for a moment, he moved his gaze around the god's face taking in his strong features, the golden hair, crooked smile and bedroom eyes. Then his eyes traveled down the god's neck to his bare muscular chest before returning to the eyes and piercing, dark pupils.
"Come on," Cupid urged and leaned forward slightly. "Love me."
Colin timidly raised his hand and touched Cupid's cheek. Cupid leaned into the contact. Colin then moved his hand to the back of Cupid's neck and gently pulled the god forward into a kiss.
In the cells beneath the temple Quinn, Maggie and Rembrandt were still trying to get a grasp on the situation. Their new acquaintance, Iolaus, was quite talkative and they had learned some of this world's history from him. As Colin has surmised, Alexander had gone on to conquer Europe and northern Africa. He was worshipped as a god and founded a massive empire that lasted over two thousand years before breaking up. The current calendar year was 2354. North America in this world was known as New Macedonia and had been an independent country since it threw off the old empire in 2104. Ten years ago the centralized government of New Macedonia collapsed and the country reverted to a loose confederation of autonomous city-states, just like ancient Greece. Iolaus attributed the collapse of the government to the incessant quarreling of the gods.
"If the gods can't get along, how can the people?" he asked rhetorically.
"This is all fine and dandy," Rembrandt interjected. "But why did you say that our arrival was foretold?"
"Because it was," Iolaus answered. "The Western Oracle predicted that you would arrive on this date, just as you did. My god sent me here to assist you."
"And who is YOUR god?" Maggie asked, aggravation in her voice.
"Why, Hercules, of course," he responded, sounding a little surprised. "The god of justice."
"Hercules wasn't a god," Rembrandt declared.
Quinn leaned in close to Rembrandt and said, "Actually, according to mythology, after Hercules died, his immortal side he inherited from Zeus went up to Olympus to live with the gods."
"But what has any of this got to do with us?" Rembrandt exclaimed.
Iolaus just smiled and sat down on the floor in the middle of his cell.
Cupid lay naked on his red silken bed. Colin, also naked, was between his legs struggling to take the god's massive manhood completely into his mouth.
"You're a quick learner," Cupid chuckled at the young mortal and tousled his brown hair.
Colin pulled the shaft out of his mouth and stroked it slowly with his hand smiling up at blond god. "I've never experienced anything like this!" His response was giddy and innocent. "I never want it to end!"
Cupid laughed and pulled Colin up on top of him. He wrapped his arms around the man and kissed him deeply again. Pulling back he whispered, "All things do come to an end, my eager one. But we still have time." And he rolled them over so that he was now on top of Colin.
Cupid pinned Colin's arms above his head and explored the mortal's face with his divine lips, his silky wings flexing and extending outward. He showered Colin with kisses from his forehead to his chin before diving back into the mortal's mouth to dance with his tongue once more.
Cupid moved down Colin's neck, licking and kissing as he went. He nibbled on the mortal's tricep as it strained against Cupid's hold. Then he nuzzled Colin's armpit reveling in the scent of this human. Colin moaned and ground his erection against Cupid's. Cupid then moved to one of Colin's nipples, circling it several times with his tongue
before clamping down and sucking hard.
"Oh my God!" Colin exclaimed at the sensation.
"That's right," Cupid whispered back to him, "I am your god. And don't you forget it." And with that the god of love released his hold on Colin's hands and settled between the mortal's widespread legs.
Cupid stroked the strong, pale thighs and abdomen, circling ever closer and closer to Colin's throbbing manhood. Colin rose up on his elbows to watch. Slowly the god's fingers entered the mortal's dark pubic hair and began to tease the base of his cock.
Colin moaned with anticipation.
Cupid grinned at the response and leaned down to gently lick the underside of Colin's shaft. Colin fell back with a cry and covered his face with his hands as Cupid was rewarded with a huge surge of pre-seminal fluid. The god gratefully lapped it up and circled the head of Colin's cock with his artful tongue.
Cupid felt Colin's large hands grasp either side of his head and he knew the mortal could hold out no longer. He allowed Colin to guide him down onto the swollen phallus, deeper and deeper until Cupid's nose was buried in the human's dark brown pubes. The god flexed his throat muscles, gripping and massaging the cock deep within him. In another moment Colin cried out and thrashed about savagely on the bed as he pumped shot after of shot of virgin liquid down Cupid's throat. He held Cupid's head tightly with his hands and thrust deep into the god's mouth, his thighs clamped hard together trapping the winged creature and keeping his face impaled on the cock throughout the orgasm.
As the intensity finally ebbed, Colin released his hold on Cupid and relaxed back on the bed. The god of love crawled up beside the mortal, who was grinning back at him, and propped himself up on his elbow.
"That was truly amazing," Colin beamed reaching up to caress Cupid's cheek. "I had no idea."
"That was only the beginning," Cupid said and winked. Then taking on a serious look he continued, "But we don't have much time left and there is something I need to tell you."
Colin reached down to grasp Cupid's still rigid cock and stroked it a few times. Cupid sighed, laid back and with a grin said, "Well, maybe we do have a little more time."
Temple acolytes had brought the sliders some food, sweet fruits and three cups of wine. The sliders did not eat but searched every inch of the cell for a possible way out. Iolaus just chuckled and watched them from the floor of his cell where he sat.
"I thought you were sent here to help us." Maggie said accusation dripping from the statement like venom.
"I was," he said. Then looking at his watch he announced, "Okay, it's time." He stood and opened the door to his cell and walked over to the slider's cell door.
"You've been free all this time?" Rembrandt demanded.
"Yes," he said then pulled a key from his pocket and opened their cell door. "Now, you slide in ten minutes. We need to hurry." With a wink he added, "You can thank me later."
Iolaus led the sliders up corridor after corridor, stair after stair, winding their way through the massive temple complex. Finally he stopped before a closed door.
"Good, you slide in thirty seconds," he said glancing at his watch and he shook each of their hands. "I wish I could have told you more," he said to Quinn. "But Cupid has taught Colin what he needs to know. He will remember and act when it is time. That is all I can say. Now go." And he opened the door for them.
The sliders entered the room. They found Colin naked, relaxing on the bed, a big grin on his face. On the bedside table sat the timer. Quinn rushed over and snatched it up.
"It's time!" he announced and activated the vortex.
Colin was not very responsive to Rembrandt's and Maggie's attempts to get him dressed; he was giddy and clumsy almost as if he were drunk. So Rembrandt grabbed him by the waste and lifted him over his shoulder.
"Sorry, kid," he snickered, "looks like you're going bare-assed." And he jumped through the vortex.
Laughing at the image in her mind of those two landing on the other side, Maggie grabbed Colin's clothes and jumped, too. Quinn looked back at the door and saw that Iolaus had been joined by to men. One was Cupid and the other was a tall man with shoulder length brown hair wearing a yellow shirt and brown twined-leather pants. Quinn shook his head and followed Maggie through the vortex.
After the aperture closed Cupid walked over to where it had been, turned and said, "Well you were right, unc. It happened just like you said."
"The Oracle is never wrong," Hercules responded.
"And they'll be back?" Iolaus asked looking up at his god. "You're sure? In time to stop the war?"
Hercules slapped his arm around Iolaus' shoulders and squeezed saying, "Yes, Iolaus, they will."
Cupid added, "Ares is going to be so pissed!" And all three laughed heartily.