TITLE: "Wade Welles, Slider"|
Series: "Wade Welles, Slider"
Series Timeline: D-zero. This is the Divergence point, where my series creates a new future for Wade.
Spoilers/References: Anything in the first three seasons, but especially the "Pilot" and "This Slide of Paradise" and "Exodus".
Disclaimers: "Sliders" and its characters, etc., are the property of a group of people and corporations, including Universal and St. Clare. I am just borrowing them. No copyright infringement is intended and, besides, I'm not making any money on this.
Copyright: Original story, characters, settings and situations are Copyright 2005 by JTHeyman.
Archiving: Yes, please. Just let me know where it is so that, if I ever revise the story, I can send you the revised copy.
Author's Note: This story begins in May/June 1997, with "This Slide of Paradise" (the season 3 finale), following Wade and Remmy through the wormhole. Then, it goes in its own direction.
Thanks: To Paul M for beta-reading.
"Wade Welles, Slider"
Wade's cry of "No!" was lost in the vortex. She couldn't believe it. Quinn had thrust Rickman's timer into her hand and then pushed her and Rembrandt into the wormhole. He had stayed behind to help Maggie. For only the third time ever, she Slid without Quinn. As with the two times before, the whirlwind ride was ... diminished ... by his absence. Even now, she couldn't describe in words what was missing. It was the same kind of lack when the Professor had died. It was as if, in the wormhole between dimensions, the Sliders shared their very being with each other ... only this time, Quinn wasn't there to share. That was as close as she could come to describing it but it still felt woefully inadequate. Wade barely had time to reach this conclusion when their latest "E Ticket" ride ended.
Emerging simultaneously on the other side, Wade and Remmy landed gracelessly in a parking lot, tangled in each others' limbs. Landings with Rickman's timer were apparently rougher than those with the other timer ... the one that Maggie had. Even as she thought about it, Rickman's timer shot out of the wormhole. Wade managed to grab it one-handed before it hit the pavement.
The wormhole closed. The two of them rose slowly, unsteadily. After all, they were ... home? Quinn had seemed to think so, but they'd been fooled before. On the other hand, Quinn had landed in San Francisco and it looked like they were in Los Angeles.
Remmy dusted himself off and looked around but said nothing.
Wade knew what he was feeling. It was as if speaking might break the spell and prove they weren't really home. She remained silent as well ... waiting. The other timer would reach zero in just a few minutes and then Quinn would Slide in by tracking their wormhole.
Remmy gave her a hug and finally broke the silence. "I guess we're home."
"Is it home?" Wade asked, a trace of bitterness creeping into her voice. "Where's Quinn? Shouldn't the other timer have reached zero by now?"
Remmy understood, but wisely chose to say nothing. If Wade wouldn't raise the subject of her relationship with Quinn, or rather the lack of one, he wasn't going to bring it up either. Getting involved in a romantic tangle between friends was never a good idea. He checked his watch. "It should be another minute or two, Wade. Let's just sit down on that bench over there and wait for them, okay?"
"Okay," she said. Ten seconds later, she said, "Wait. Shouldn't we call an ambulance or something ... for Maggie?"
Remmy smiled. Wade might hate Maggie but she was too kind a person to let the woman, for whom Quinn obviously cared, suffer needlessly. "Let's wait for them to get here. There's a public phone over there. And I think I recognize this neighborhood. I played in a little club around here about ... oh ... two years before Q-ball sucked my Caddy through that first wormhole. There was a hospital about seven blocks from here. I don't imagine it's closed down."
Wade had been staring at the phone and forced a laugh. "Icebergs ... communist phone booths ... 'The People's Court' ... not quite what you were expecting when you got up that morning, huh?"
Remmy laughed as well, and his old Cryin' Man persona surged to the top. "Y'know, I never did get to sing at the Giants game. I wonder if Artie could still line up that gig for me."
Wade smiled and was about to reply when it hit her. "Okay, now I'm worried. They should definitely have been here by now. Where are they, Remmy?"
Remmy thought for a moment. "I don't understand the science, but they know Maggie can't breathe here, right? So maybe they went someplace else. And once Maggie is safe, he'll come back by tracking our wormhole. He can do that, right?"
Wade looked uncertain. Quinn was a super-genius, but could he track a wormhole from a different world than where it had originated?
Remmy continued. "That means it could be weeks before he comes home."
Wade was willing to grasp at straws rather than think he'd been stranded on Animal-People Earth, as she referred to it. "You really think so?" she asked, tears coming to her eyes as it began to sink in.
Remmy put an arm around her shoulder to comfort her. "Yeah, I'll bet that's it. Once Maggie is safe, he'll come home."
"I hope you're right," she said, letting the tears come. "I really hope you're right."
They sat on the bench for a while.
After Wade's tears had ceased, Remmy said, "So, how long do we have here?"
Wade realized that her hand was sore. She had been gripping the timer tightly ever since it flew out of the vortex, as if it were a lifeline. Slowly, she eased her grip and looked at it. "A little over three days."
Remmy nodded. "So, since he probably isn't gonna be coming here right now, what say we go to the Chandler Hotel, check in, and try to confirm whether or not this is really home?
Wade wiped her eyes and nodded. "Deal." After a moment, she said, "Any idea how we can confirm it after almost three years?"
"Yeah," Rembrandt said. "As soon as we're settled, the first thing we do is call my agent, your family ... and Q-ball's mom."
· · ·
"Good morning. Field Agency," came the chipper voice on the speaker phone.
"Hey, Tracy," Remmy said, recognizing Artie's assistant. "Is Artie in?"
"I'm sorry. Mr. Field is semi-retired and only comes in once a week." She paused, then asked, "Do I know you?"
Remmy was silent for a moment. Artie was retired? Well, semi-retired? He would've thought the old man was going to stay in his office until Death himself came knocking, and then he'd have asked the Grim Reaper to sing for him. "Uhh ... yeah ... yeah, Tracy, it's me, The Cryin' Man."
"The one and only." Remmy's face lit up when anyone recognized him, even if it was only his agent's assistant. He beamed at Wade and gave her a thumbs up.
"Where the hell have you been?"
Remmy's grin faded. This didn't sound like the perky young assistant he remembered. "That's a long story. Look, what I need to know is this: how much do you and Artie remember about my disappearance?"
"Disappearance? That's what you call ditching your chance to sing the anthem, to give you a new start?"
Remmy barely heard the scathing tone in Tracy's voice. So far, the facts matched up. "Tracy, listen. This is important. How did I disappear?"
"Please, Tracy. Humor me. I can explain everything, but only if you tell me how I disappeared."
"You practically broke Artie's heart, you know." Tracy's voice had softened. "Who knew the old guy had one? Look, all I know is that you and your red Cadillac are supposed to have disappeared down some sort of whirling blue thing in some neighborhood, then the FBI took over and we never heard another thing."
"Yes!" Remmy shouted. He put one arm around Wade. "Tracy, you're a sweetheart. Tell Artie to give you a raise."
"Remmy ... first of all, I'm now the senior agent at the Field Agency, and I don't need to give myself a raise. And second, what is this all about?"
"I'll come by and tell you in person. What day does Artie come in?"
"He comes in on Tuesdays ... tomorrow."
"I'll be there."
"Remmy, wait, I ...."
But Remmy had hit the disconnect button.
"Okay, girl. So far, so good. Your turn."
Trembling a little, she dialed her home number.
"Welles residence. We can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message after the beep."
Wade hung up the phone. "At least they exist. I recognized my sister's voice on the answering machine. I'll try again later." She stared at the phone for a long time, then looked at Remmy.
"Maybe you should ...." Remmy began.
"I can't do it. I can't just call her up and ask her if she's the one Quinn saw just a few months ago."
"I understand," Remmy said. "Tell you what. I'm going to see Artie tomorrow anyway. Why don't we go see her together?"
"I'd like that," Wade said, "but I'm not sure I can face her."
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm gonna call around and see about getting us transportation back to San Francisco. You gonna be okay if it's a plane instead of a train?"
"If it means finding out we're really home? I'll risk it. While you make the calls, I'll go leave a message for Quinn in case he shows up here."
· · ·
Wade entered their room just as Remmy was hanging up.
"I got us an early morning flight on stand-by," he told her. "Turns out flying is cheaper than the train."
"Well, that opens up tonight. Did you know that this Chandler Hotel has an opening for a singer who can play piano? I'll bet they'd be willing to hire The Cryin' Man for a one-night stand."
Remmy looked at Wade for a moment, then broke into a smile as he realized that, if this was their world, he'd need to start up his career again. "Yeah," he said. "I suppose a little tune-up before I see Artie would be a good thing." He couldn't help adding, "As long as I'm gonna be working, I don't suppose they had an opening for a waitress?"
Wade smiled. "Well, yeah, they did, but since we're going back to San Francisco in the morning, I figured I'd wait until I knew where I'd end up before getting a new job."
Remmy laughed. "Yeah, I'll bet." He went to the door. "I'll go see about that gig. What are you gonna do?"
"I'll try my family again." Wade yawned. "Then I'm going to take a nap. I can't remember when I slept last."
"You sure you don't want me to be here when you call?"
"No, I'll be okay, Remmy. Thanks."
"Sleep tight, girl." He closed the door as he left.
Wade dialed her home but got the answering machine again. On an impulse, she dialed Information.
"What city and state?" came the smooth, impersonal voice of the operator.
"Wade Welles ... W-E-L-L-E-S."
"Did you say 'Wade'?"
"Yes, W-A-D-E." Wade liked her first name. It was unusual, and that was a good thing, but she had to admit that always having to spell it out for people got tiring at times.
"We have no listing for a Wade W-A-D-E Welles W-E-L-L-E-S in San Francisco or the surrounding area. There is a W Welles listed. Would you like that number?"
"Umm ... sure," Wade said. She wrote the number down on the hotel notepad. "Thanks."
There had been no "W Welles" in the phone book when she had first Slid. She wondered who it was, but it gave her a sinking feeling to think about it. She carefully folded up the notepaper and put it in her latest Diary, a small book that easily fit into a back pocket. Taking the far bed, she lay down, thinking. She took out the Diary again. In her tiny, space-saving script, she read over her adventures of the last three years, all the worlds they'd visited. Often, there were just a few notes to describe jobs and important variations from world to world. The long, rambling entries she enjoyed writing had been impossible to maintain after they had been travelling for a while. She would've needed a heavy backpack just for her diaries if she'd kept up that pace. This small book was all she permitted herself ... something that allowed her to run at full speed when it was necessary (which was all too often), but which allowed her to keep track of all the worlds so that, when she did make it home, she could reconstruct everything she felt about those worlds. She smiled, remembering how Azure Gate World, as she had called it, had loved her stories.
The smile faded when her thoughts turned, as they often did, to Quinn. He was so sure they weren't home and the rest of them were so sure they were ... and he was eventually proven right ... that time. Now he was so sure this was Earth Prime, as he called it. Wade hoped he was right but she also knew that, without Quinn, even Earth Prime wouldn't really be "home" ... not to her. She put her Diary away and lay on her side. Quinn was in love with Maggie. Remmy was willing to risk missing the Slide home to find Alessandra on Moreau Earth. The Professor was dead. Even if this was Earth Prime, was it really home? She looked over a the timer, sitting on the table between the two beds. Just about three days, now. She had to decide who she was, what she was, and what she was going to do. She'd been searching for home for so long, she never really thought about what it would mean to find it.
"Three days," she mumbled to herself as she fell asleep.
· · ·
"C'mon, girl," Remmy said. "You've got an hour before we have to leave for the airport."
"Wha-?" Wade asked, rising slowly. "Is it time for the Slide?"
"The Slide? Wade, wake up, sweetheart. We're home and we're going to the airport to go to San Francisco so we can talk to Quinn's mother, remember?"
"Ohh ... how long was I out?"
"You were asleep when I got back from arranging the gig, you were asleep when I came back from buying an outfit to perform in, and you were asleep when I got back from the gig. You must've been exhausted."
"Yeah. So, go hop in the shower. Breakfast will be here soon."
"Sorry I missed your performance," Wade said, walking slowly to the bathroom.
"Aw, that's okay, darlin'. You've seen me perform before. Besides, you needed that rest. Still, you should've seen me last night. I had them eatin' out of my hand. They loved me."
She paused at the door to the bathroom. "No sign of Quinn? No word?"
"Nothing," Remmy said. "Did you reach your family?"
"No. I called once after you left but got the machine again.
"Well, c'mon, Wade. At least, when Q-ball gets here, we'll be able to tell him for sure that this is home."
"Yeah," Wade said, unconvinced, as she closed the door. "Home."
· · ·
The trip was uneventful. The two of them stood nervously on the porch of the Mallory home. The address was right ... and the gate had squeaked ... but they were about to tell Quinn's mother that he had sent them through the wormhole and stayed behind, and then they were going to grill her to find out if it really was her son after all.
Suddenly, Remmy was a lot more willing to take it on faith that he was home, but Wade had to know. She knocked on the door and waited.
"Shouldn't we ring the bell?" Remmy asked.
"The last time I was here, the bell didn't work," Wade replied. She paused. "I guess it might have been fixed in the last three years."
Before she could push it to find out, the door opened and Mrs. Mallory stood there, a few years older but looking just as she did that night three years earlier when she welcomed Wade into her home and her son had disappeared.
"Mrs. Mallory?" Wade asked.
Quinn's mother stared at her for a moment. "Wade?" Then she looked at Wade's companion. "And Rembrandt Brown? But ... you disappeared with Quinn ... is Quinn with you? Where is he?" She ran down the steps and to the gate, looking up and down the street.
Wade lost her nerve. "I can't do this," she said to Remmy. "Will you...?"
"Sure, Wade," he said. "Why don't you go home? That's the best way for you to check things out, anyway, since you keep getting their machine. After I talk to Quinn's mom, I'm going to go see Artie. We can go to the Dominion Hotel this evening and meet up."
"Thanks, Remmy. I owe you one."
"Naw, girl. Friends don't owe each other. Friends just do for each other."
Mrs. Mallory was coming up the walkway, confused and crestfallen.
Remmy said quickly, quietly, "I hate to ask again, but how much time before we Slide if this isn't our home?"
"Day after tomorrow, just after noon," Wade said. They had another forty-odd hours to figure out if they were really home or not.
Mrs. Mallory came up. "What happened? Where's Quinn?"
"Mrs. Mallory," Wade said, "I'm going to let Remmy here explain it. I ... I really have to go home."
"Okay, Wade," Quinn's mother replied, switching all her focus to Remmy. "Please ... what happened?"
"This might take a while," Remmy said.
"I'm sorry. Please come in."
Remmy looked at Wade who mouthed a "thank you" and walked down the steps. Then he entered Quinn's home.
· · ·
Wade's house was within walking distance of Quinn's. Many people wouldn't consider two miles to be "walking distance" but Wade needed the time. She went over as many possible reactions of her family as she could think of ... from elation, to suspicion, to caution, to anger, to welcome, and on and on. She tried to prepare herself for their reaction if she really was home, to their reaction if she wasn't. It occurred to her when she was getting close that, three years ago, she wouldn't have worried about it. Back then, she didn't overanalyze things. She just acted and reacted according to her moods and whims. Three years of Sliding had changed her. She wondered how much her family had changed in that time as well.
Approaching the front door, she saw the small pile of newspapers on the doorstep and the mailbox overfull.
Her family wasn't home.
This was the one thing she wasn't prepared for, and she mentally kicked herself for overthinking things the way she did. So, what to do now?
Like the other Sliders, she had long ago lost her house keys on another Earth. The fact that Remmy still had his wallet was something of a minor miracle. Still, if this was home, the spare key should be hidden under a rock by the side of the house. She went to the side, counted 7 rocks down and turned it over, revealing the key.
"Well, this is a good sign, at least," she said.
She gathered up the papers and mail and opened the door. An alarm started beeping, telling her that she had no more than 30 seconds to enter the correct code. "This ... is new," she said, dropping the mail. She thought furiously. Since this was probably her mother's choice, what would she have chosen as the code? She entered her parents' anniversary. The code was rejected. She entered her father's birthday. Rejected. She realized she had time for only one more guess. "Come on, Wade. Think." Quickly, she typed in her sister's birthday. The beeping stopped and the light turned green. Wade sighed. "Kelly always was the favorite."
She gathered up the mail and papers and walked to the dining room. She paused when she saw the stack of newspapers and mail sitting in neat piles on the table. Someone had been clearing the front steps every few days for at least a week, judging by the stack. Suddenly, Wade felt exposed. She dropped the papers on the table and turned to leave, then shook herself. "Cool it," she said to herself. "You're not trespassing ... you're home." She turned to head for her room.
"Who are you?"
Wade froze at the question that came from the doorway. Slowly, she turned around, a sinking feeling in her stomach. She recognized the voice. To the other Wade Welles, she said resignedly, "I'm your double from a parallel Earth."
· · ·
Wade was cheered slightly by the fact that her cab's driver was the ubiquitous Pavel Kurlienko, cab driver on a least a dozen Earths so far. As he drove her to the Dominion Hotel, she mentally replayed the conversation with her double.
"A parallel Earth?" her double said softly. Before Wade could respond, her double continued, "Quinn Mallory! My god, is he finally back?"
Wade's mind raced like an engine with its load removed. "No," she said, trying to sort out her thoughts. "At least, I don't think so. Quinn ... our Quinn ... thought this was his home Earth and sent us here." Wade shrugged helplessly. "He was wrong. I don't know what happened to your Quinn."
"But ... why would Quinn ... I mean, your Quinn ... think this was his home?"
"A squeaky gate and a pendant he bought for his mom," Wade said. Realizing what she'd just said, she rolled her eyes. Her voice was quavering as she continued, "I can't believe we were so gullible. I guess we needed to believe that he'd finally done it, that he'd finally found home again."
Her double nodded, not really comprehending. "Do you want a drink?" she asked suddenly.
"I ... I could use one."
Her double went to the refrigerator. "We have milk, juice, water ... or there's probably some wine or scotch around?"
"You sure? You look like you could use something stronger."
"Just water. Thanks. I think I'll need a drink later, when I tell Remmy."
"Remmy?" her double asked as she handed Wade the water. "Oh, Rembrandt Brown? Yeah, he disappeared here, too. Did Quinn's teacher also go with him on your Earth?"
"Yeah," Wade replied. "Y'know, you're taking this awfully well."
"I ... had several years to think about it." Wade thought her double might be holding something back but, before she could pursue it, her double continued. "I was supposed to go over to his house on that night but ... I had a feeling that I shouldn't, so I stayed home."
Wade let out a short laugh. "Yeah. I sometimes wish I'd never gone there that night."
"Do you really?"
Wade put down the empty glass. "I ... I should go." She turned and headed for the door.
Wade paused, her hand on the doorknob.
"Your Quinn," her double said. "Is he okay?"
"I don't know," Wade said, tears in her eyes. "And will you please stop calling him 'my' Quinn?"
"Sorry. It's just ... I've regretted not going there, not being with him, not going off on an adventure with him."
"Not seeing your real family for three years? Dodging monsters and people with guns and, oh, yeah, watching your friends die? You don't know how lucky you are."
Her double's eyes opened in shock. "Not Quinn?"
"No. Professor Arturo."
"Oh ... I'm sorry."
"Yeah. So am I. Look, I need to go."
"Okay, but ...." Her double grabbed a phone message pad from the kitchen and scribbled a phone number. "This is my number. If you need anything, give me a call, okay?"
"We'll only be here for another two days," Wade replied.
"Two days? We?"
"It's two days until the next wormhole to take us to the next Earth. And it's Remmy who's with me. Quinn was supposed to follow us, but something must have happened. Oh, God, I have to tell Remmy ... and leave a message for Quinn so he'll know this isn't home ... and ...." Wade trailed off, the immensity of the disappointment hitting her full force.
Her double came to her and put the folded slip of paper in her hand. "Well, look. Take the number, just in case."
"I mean it," her double said. "Call me if you need anything."
Wade wondered just why her double was so insistent but, after agreeing to call her if she needed to do so, Wade left. After walking for a mile or so, she hailed a cab and told Pavel to take her back to the Dominion.
How was she going to tell Remmy?
· · ·
When he entered the hotel bar that evening, Rembrandt Brown's smile was so wide that no one who saw it would ever believe that he was known professionally as the Cryin' Man. "Wade, Wade, Wade, we are home!" When the waitress came over, he told her, "Champagne! We need to celebrate!"
The waitress smiled, put two menus on the table, then left.
"Girl, we are home! I can hardly believe it."
"So ... you're sure?"
"Sure? Girl, I talked to Q-ball's mom for an hour. It all added up. He disappeared on the same night I did. She's wearing the same pendant he'd left her for a gift. She even remembers when he and Maggie were here a few months ago. Hell, even the gate squeaks, remember?"
The champagne arrived and Remmy paused long enough to pop the cork and pour two glasses.
"To getting home," he said, raising his glass.
Wade just stared at her glass.
"What's wrong, girl?"
"It's just ... my parents and sister weren't home. It looked like they've been away for at least a week. Look, are you sure you're home?"
"Yeah. Look, after I left Quinn's house, I went to see Artie. Everything matches up. I was supposed to sing at the Giants game. The vortex sucked up my caddy and me. I was even wearing my new, 90's look, brown tuxedo. It all matches, Wade. We're home. Artie even says the publicity from my disappearance might jump start my career again." He raised his glass again.
Wade paused for a long moment. Then, slowly, she raised her glass as well. "To home."
· · ·
Wade's double stared at Wade across the diner's table, her breakfast untouched. "You didn't tell him?"
"I couldn't. He has a real chance to get his life back. I couldn't take that away from him."
"But this isn't his world."
"So far, the only difference I can see is me ... you ... us. You said I could call you if I needed anything. I'm asking."
Wade's double was silent for a long time. "What, exactly, are you asking?"
"Pretend to be me."
"When I Slide out of here tomorrow, I want you to pretend to be me, for Remmy's sake ... and for Quinn's."
"You're not serious."
"Look. Right now, Remmy is working with his agent to line up a long-term gig at the Chandler Hotel in L.A., because if ... when Quinn comes, that's where he'll show up ... by tracking our wormhole. If I'm not around, they'll know something is wrong. But if you pretend to be me, just until Quinn shows up, they'll settle in and that'll be that."
"He won't be the Quinn I knew."
"He won't," Wade agreed. "But after three years, if his travels have been anything like ours, even the Quinn you knew won't be the Quinn you knew. Besides, he's in love with Maggie."
"Here," Wade said, putting her diary on the table. "After I called you, I spent last night updating it. Everything I can remember about the Slides and everything I know about Quinn and Remmy and Maggie ... and my own experiences. It'll be tricky but, if you stick to generalities, no one should know the difference."
Wade's double flipped through the pages, stopping at one entry. She looked at Wade. "It ... may not be as tricky as you think. Do you remember the world you called 'Desert Earth', where you were in telepathic contact with the girl who could find water?"
"I had a feeling you might ask me something like this. The same way I had a feeling that I shouldn't go to Quinn's that night. And it's why I showed up a day early to pick up the papers and mail for mom and dad. I've always been able to ... anticipate things. And sometimes I can even anticipate people or sense the future. It's not true telepathy, and I'm not always able to interpret it correctly, but I think that, with your notes, it'll be enough to keep Quinn and the others from discovering the truth."
"So you'll do it for me?"
"I'll do it for Quinn, because I can't be there for my own Quinn. At least I can help this one find some peace. It's you I'm worried about."
"You'll be out there alone. I can't imagine it'll be easy."
"It probably won't be ... but we both know that two of us here is a sure giveaway."
"There's one more thing I'll probably need."
"Your necklace. I never got one with my name spelled out like that. I assume Quinn and the others know it?"
"Yeah, they do," Wade replied. "Quinn gave it to me as a birthday present one year. I picked this one up from my double's room on an Earth where we all thought we were home. Once we realized we weren't home, we Slid. I didn't realize I still had it on at the time." Wade removed the necklace and handed it to her double.
Wade's double put it around her neck. "I'm sorry, but I have a feeling this necklace is going to be important somehow. Quinn got it for you? Here, on this Earth, he forgot my birthday and ended up getting me flowers instead."
"Would ... would it be okay if I checked back in a few months, to see how it all went?"
"You can do that?"
"Yeah ... the timer can store coordinates. I just ... I just want to be able to come back and make sure everything is all right."
"Of course. I've been needing a change anyway. My boss has been hitting on me ever since Quinn disappeared, as if I'd ever go out with that twerp."
Wade grinned in spite of herself. "Not Hurley?"
"Yeah ... Mr. Computer Boy, himself. You worked for him, too?"
"Yeah, before I Slid. Actually, I ran into him on a few worlds. Y'know, in one Earth, he was a private in the American Underground force that my ... our ... double commanded."
"Oh, I would have liked to see that."
They both smiled, one from memory and the other from imagination.
"So," Wade said. "What will you do?"
"Well, I was renting a small loft space here, but I can sublet it to a friend easily enough. I'll head to L.A. with Rembrandt and take that waitress job at the Chandler and wait for Quinn. Maybe I'll try my hand at screenwriting while I wait. Your diary certainly has enough movie-type Earths and situations in it." She grinned. "When you come back, one of your alternate Earths might be the setting of a future Hollywood blockbuster. But what about you?"
"I'll keep Sliding. Maybe someday I'll find someplace to settle down but I can't stop until I'm sure. Maybe I'll even find your Quinn and my original Earth and help him find peace there, the way you're helping the Quinn from my Earth."
"So how are we going to make the switch?"
Wade thought for a moment. "Let me talk to Remmy tonight. I'll call you with the plan once I know what he's going to do. In the meantime, do you have clothes that match what I'm wearing?"
Wade stood up. "It'll help keep Remmy believing that you're me ... no changes that he can't explain. Wear them tomorrow. And good luck." She walked out of the diner.
"To both of us," her double whispered. She touched the necklace with her fingertips and shivered. She had a bad feeling she couldn't shake. She hoped Wade would be okay.
· · ·
Remmy entered the hotel suite in a great mood.
"How'd it go?" Wade asked from the couch where she'd been sitting and thinking.
"Great," he replied as he raided the mini-fridge. "Artie and Tracy got me a 3-month gig at the Chandler while he starts to spread the rumor that I'm back from my 'self-imposed sabbatical' as Tracy called it. They'll try to get some record execs and promoters to stop in the Chandler and see me play and sing. I might get a new recording deal out of it ... or maybe even a shot at playin' Vegas."
"That's great," Wade said, cutting off Rembrandt before he had planned out his future up to and including the mansion he wanted to buy. "When do we leave for Los Angeles?"
"I have to be there tomorrow evening but what about you? Your family?"
"Oh ... well ... I spoke to one of the neighbors and they told me they were off on a one-month tour of Europe. I'll leave them a letter telling them where to find me when they get back. I can wait. Besides, I want to be in L.A. when Quinn gets there." She laughed. "Looks like I'll be taking that waitress job, huh?"
He sat down next to her. "You sure, girl?"
"I'm sure," she said, rising. "So ... when do we leave?"
"I'll tell Tracy to book a second seat on tomorrow's noon USAir flight to L.A."
"Yeah, thanks. That'd be great." She began walking to her bedroom.
Rembrandt reached for the phone and began dialing.
"Remmy," Wade said from the doorway.
He paused in mid-dial. "Yeah?"
"We had some good times, Sliding, didn't we?"
"Yeah ... we sure did. But I'm just glad we're home." He turned and finished dialing.
As Wade closed the door, she heard her friend say, "Tracy, I need you to book another seat for me tomorrow. My friend, Wade ... yeah, the one I told you about ... she's...."
With an effort of will, Wade stopped her tears before they came. She had too much to do. Through the door, she heard Rembrandt get up and go to his own bedroom. She picked up the bedside phone, dug out her double's phone number and called her.
"Hello?" her double answered.
"It's me," Wade said. "We're supposed to be flying down to L.A. on a noon flight tomorrow, USAir. I think it'd be best if we make the switch at the airport. How about you meet me at the bathroom nearest to the USAir ticket counter? I'll walk in, you walk out, Remmy'll never know."
"That sounds okay, but I thought of a problem," her double said. "Our hair. Yours is reddish but mine is more blonde and shorter."
"I didn't think about that," Wade admitted. She thought for a moment. "Okay, new plan. I leave the hotel today, tell Remmy I'm going to get a haircut and then color it. I'll say I'm going to stay at my parents' house because it's closer to my old hairdresser. And then I'll meet him at the airport tomorrow ... only it won't be me who meets him ... it'll be you."
"That could work, but why don't you stay here tonight? I've been reading your diary, which is weird on so many levels by the way, but I'm going to need some more details on some of this stuff."
Wade hesitated. "Okay. If this is gonna work, he's gonna need to believe that you're me. Quinn'll have to believe it, too. Give me the address." As she wrote it down, Wade realized it was the address of the same "W Welles" in the phone book. "I'll be there as soon as I can," Wade said to her double. "I have to say good-bye to Remmy without letting him know I'm saying good-bye."
"See you soon," her double said.
Wade put down the phone and took a deep breath. It would be better to get it over with as quickly as possible, if only because she didn't know how much longer she could keep from crying. With one more deep breath to steady herself, she opened the door.
"What's up?" Rembrandt asked from the easy chair by the window. He was reading the newspaper, but put it down when Wade came in.
"Nothing," Wade replied. "Actually, if I'm going for a job interview tomorrow, I figured I'd go to the hairdresser, get my hair cut ... maybe colored. What do you think?"
"Hey, I think you always look fine, girl, but I learned a long time ago that when a woman thinks her hair needs a change, the proper response is 'if you think you should, then you should.' It's gettin' late, though, ain't it?"
"Uh, yeah, but ... my old hairdresser stays open late and I called to see if she has an opening." Wade shrugged. "She does."
"Okay. Hey, where's your necklace?"
Wade put her hand to her neck and realized that her double already had it. "I ... took it off. If I'm going to have my hair done, I can't very well be wearing a necklace, can I?" She paused waiting to see if Remmy was buying it. "It's in my pocket," she added.
Remmy nodded. "Makes sense. You seem nervous," he said, rising. "Anything wrong?"
"No," Wade said. "It's just, I think I'm gonna go stay at my parents' place after I'm done at the hairdresser's. It's closer and I'd ... I'd like to spend one night at home, even if no one is there. Can I meet you at the airport tomorrow?"
"Splitting up before the Slide was never a good idea, but ... since we're home and it's only a plane ride ... yeah, sure. Let's meet at 11:00 by the ticket counter."
"That's fine, Remmy." Wade walked up to him and gave him a big hug.
"What's that for, girl?" he asked, perplexed.
"It's just ... until I see you again," Wade said. "I have to go, now, if I'm gonna make that appointment."
"Okay," he said. "Take care, now. We may be home but it's still a big, crazy city out there."
"I will," Wade replied. As she went to the door, she added, smiling. "You take care, too. No insane groupies while I'm gone, okay?"
"Heh. No chance of that," Rembrandt replied. "I've got a gig lined up, a new start and I am finally home. I'm takin' no chances. See you tomorrow."
"11:00," Wade said. "Wouldn't miss it."
She closed the door behind her. She said, softly, "Well, one of me won't." Then the tears began to fall.
· · ·
Wade and her double rode to the airport together. Her double had argued against it, but eventually gave in. Her double was wearing a simple outfit of jeans, blouse and leather jacket ... practical travelling clothes ingrained from years of Sliding. Wade was wearing a similar outfit. The cabdriver had commented about them being twins ... twice.
"Why are you doing this?" her double asked again.
"I have to watch him leave," Wade said. "I have to see that plane take off safely."
"Well, I still think it's a risk we shouldn't take, but you're enough like me that I know I can't change your mind once it's made up."
"So, you're clear on the details now?"
"I'm clear. Man, you really do not like Maggie, do you?"
"When you meet her, you'll understand. You probably won't have to bring it up unless she comes here. But she probably won't, because ...."
"Because she can't breathe our air," her double finished.
"And if Remmy asks about the Timer ...."
"I tell him I left it at my parents' house. You can stop testing me, you know. I've got it."
"Sorry," Wade said. "I just want Remmy and Quinn to believe that this is their home so they can stop Sliding."
"What about you?"
"We're here," Wade said, changing the subject. She dug in her pockets for the cab fare and paid the cab driver. The two of them got out. "You'd better go in alone," Wade said. "He might be watching for me."
"What about you?" her double repeated.
"Just go," Wade told her. "Now."
Her double looked at her for a long time, then turned and entered the terminal.
"Wade!" a voice called from inside.
Wade stopped herself from her near-automatic response to Rembrandt's call as her double called back, "Here!"
Wade waited outside, glancing through the doors whenever someone entered or left, until she saw Remmy and her double get their tickets and head for their gate. Only then did she enter the airport and find a place where she could watch the planes take off.
She stood there in a reverie, wondering if she'd made the right choice, wondering if her double could pull off the deception, wondering if Quinn was here yet. And her double's last question to her went around and around in her head. "What about you?" Who was she ... what was she going to do?
She'd tuned out most of the airline intercom chatter as she stood at the window until she heard, "Last call for boarding, USAir flight 1120 non-stop to Los Angeles."
A few minutes later, she saw the little commuter jet back away from its gate and taxi toward the runways from which all the planes were taking off. She tried to keep her eye on it, her view was momentarily blocked from time to time by the big transatlantic and transcontinental jets. With a grim determination, she maintained focus on the USAir plane and her last friend going off to his own future. Then the plane was racing down the runway and then it was airborne and then it was banking, out of sight around the corner of the building.
"Good bye, Remmy."
She turned at the voice behind her. It was a security guard.
"One of the patrons reported that you've been standing at this window for almost an hour. Is everything okay?"
"Sorry. I was just ... watching my friend leave. He's going to Los Angeles to sing in a hotel bar." She paused and checked her watch. "He's gone, now. And I should get going, too."
"Miss ... since a patron brought you to our attention, I'm required to get your name. I can't take no for an answer."
Wade sighed. "I'm leaving now, if that'll put your mind at ease."
"It won't," he said, putting his hand on her arm. "We still need to know your name."
Wade stopped and turned to face him, dislodging his arm. "My name is Wade Welles." She paused as he wrote that down. "I'm a Slider."
· · ·
Thirty minutes later, airport security was called to the pick-up/drop-off area when several patrons reported seeing a swirling reddish whirlwind and a young woman who stepped into it and disappeared.
That night, Rembrandt Brown was performing at the Chandler Hotel bar and missed the airport security camera footage when it appeared on the news. It appeared only once before the FBI seized it in the name of national security.
A few months later, the Kromaggs invaded that Earth and no one ever followed up on it.
Wade Welles is still Sliding.