Series: "Wade Welles, Slider"
Series Timeline: D-02
Spoilers/References: Anything in the first three seasons, but especially "Gillian of the Spirits" and "Invasion", plus the fourth season premiere, "Genesis". Also, previous stories in the "Wade Welles, Slider" series.
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 takes place immediately after "Masque". It deals a bit with loneliness and self-reliance and choices we make, especially consequences of Wade's choice to Slide alone.
For Those Who Came In Late: This series follow the further adventures of Wade Welles after Season 3 of "Sliders". Please refer to "Wade Welles, Slider" (the first story in the series) to find out how and why she started Sliding alone.
Having managed to get away from the twisted Wing, Bennish and Logan of Nuclear World, Wade found herself Sliding alone again.
"There are worse things," she thought to herself as she Slid.
This time, the wormhole threw her out upon a dingy city that resembled Los Angeles, with a few major exceptions. First, everything was dirty and gray. Second, there were roadblocks and barbed wire in several directions. And third, the men running toward her were wearing uniforms with which she was all too familiar from years of movies and TV. Nazis.
"I wasn't looking for proof that things could get worse," she muttered at the multiverse.
The Timer began beeping. She pulled it out and saw, thankfully, that her window was already here.
"Halt!" shouted one of the Nazis in perfectly unaccented English. "Halt in the name of the Fuhrer!"
Not caring to find out why Nazi soldiers were speaking English, Wade's response was to push the button to access the wormhole. Gratefully, she noted that the advancing Nazis had stopped in shock and fear at the vortex. Not giving them a chance to react further, she jumped into the Slide headfirst.
"Just once, I'd like a peaceful world," Wade thought.
The wormhole threw her out onto a beach. Landing on soft sand for a change, Wade smiled slightly. It was a good beginning. Checking the Timer, she saw that she had nearly three months on this world, whatever it was. Looking around, she saw that the trees were already laden with fruit, despite the fact that it was either late May or early June, by her reckoning. By the heat, it felt like late July, so she took off her jacket.
"The climate must be different, here," Wade thought.
She brushed off her clothes and walked to the nearest tree. The fruit on it was nothing she'd ever seen before, so she left it there. After all, there was no need to take chances with strange foods just yet. Some distance away, there was a tree with bananas on it. She didn't recognize the species of banana, but they were definitely bananas. Then something odd caught her eye. On one tree, there were bananas in most stages of development: from tiny green buds ... to ripe and ready to eat fruit ... to fruit that had matured and fallen off the tree. She looked around and saw that other trees were the same. One was an orange tree with orange blossoms and small unripe oranges and ripe oranges ... and overripe fruit on the ground.
"Weird," Wade thought to herself. "I wonder what's going on."
Putting a banana and an orange into her jacket's pockets, she began walking north. After a few hours, she sat and rested by a small stream. Pulling out the orange, she pulled away the peel and tasted it tentatively. To her relief, it tasted exactly like the oranges she remembered. She ate it slowly and deliberately. She hadn't seen any fruit trees for the last hour and was aware that if she didn't find any signs of civilization or any more food, she'd have to head back toward the grove. She washed her hands in the stream, then tasted the water. It tasted cool and clean. She knew there could be harmful microorganisms in it but she needed water ... and Sliding meant taking the occasional risk.
She remembered Quinn and the Professor explaining to her why they so seldom brought anything from world to world. After they had nearly been arrested on 1950's World because of the Professor's digital watch, they realized that taboos from different worlds couldn't be predicted ... and the more stuff they carried, the greater the chance that something would tick off the locals and endanger them. "Sliding means improvising," Quinn had said. Still, Wade wouldn't have minded a small water purification kit right then ... just to be sure.
Remembering Quinn and Arturo's advice reminded Wade just how alone she was. Tears came and, for a while, Wade sat by the stream and cried. After a while, the stress and anxiety of the last week had worked its way out of her system and she was ready to go on. From the sun's position, she figured she had about four more hours of daylight. She decided to continue for another two hours and, if there was no food and no sign of people, she head back and camp here that night.
Two hours later, just before she had decided to turn back, she saw the skyline of a city in the distance. Even better, she had encountered more of the peculiar fruit trees. She added two oranges and three pears to her hoard. Then, eating the banana she had picked up earlier, she headed for the city with a bit of a jauntier step. She'd have to find work, and it was a long time until the Slide, but she could do it.
As she got closer to the city, however, things started getting weird again. Walking by some of the suburban houses, there were no people around. None. Everything was neatly arranged ... cars in driveways or parked by curbs ... no extra newspapers on doorsteps ... no mail in mailboxes. It was as if everyone had disappeared after first tidying up for whoever was expected. Listening, she didn't hear any birds either. No animals at all.
Wade got a creepy feeling up her spine.
The sun was starting to go down. Wade decided to try to find a hotel or motel. She didn't know which city she had found, but headed toward downtown.
As she walked, she didn't see a single soul. It was dark by the time she saw a hotel ... a place called the Brabant Arms. It looked a bit ritzier than what she was used to, but she figured she could afford one night there and then find a cheaper place in the morning. Right now, she just wanted to get off the street. The streetlights had come on but that just made the empty streets more eerie.
Entering the hotel, she knew she was in trouble. It was utterly empty. No guests. No staff.
"Hello?" she called. There was no answer.
She walked over to a stack of complimentary newspapers, yellowed with age. The name of the paper was The Pacifica Chronicler. She was in Pacifica, a small city just south of San Francisco. The headline, dated nearly fourteen months earlier, read:
SCIENTISTS RELEASE CORVUS INHIBITER TOO LATE!
Wade slumped into a chair and read the article. Apparently, this world was a technological marvel in which science had developed dozens of advances and inventions: cold fusion was their greatest achievement but, on a more personal level, they created things to free people from drudge-work: automated cleaning systems which kept everything dust-free and neat, automated food service and reclamation, fruit trees that could bear fruit year round, and on and on. Eventually, they got the idea for a microorganism that the press called the Corvus. It was based on the idea of the oil-spill-eating bacteria. They created it as a way to eliminate dumping grounds by consuming organic matter. Since inorganic matter was already handled by advanced recyclers, it was considered the last step in cleansing the world of breeding grounds for diseases. Unfortunately, they lost control of it and it spread. Eventually, it began consuming people ... vastly more efficiently than the flesh-eating bug Wade recalled from her home Earth. It even consumed people's bones. Apparently, the Corvus preferred people to plant life. It consumed people at several dozen times the rate it affected plants. The scientists released the anti-Corvus virus, but they knew it was too late. It would take six months, they knew, for the virus to conquer the Corvus but by that point they'd all be dead, because the virus was ineffective inside animal tissue. Once a person was infected with Corvus, there was nothing anyone could do.
Wade shivered. If the news article could be believed, she was safe. The Corvus has been stopped, and the clockwork world the scientists had created just kept rolling along, powered by fusion energy, making everything neat and tidy for people who were all long dead. She wondered if anyone had survived, or if this truly was a dead planet.
Wade had, indeed, found the peaceful world she had wanted.
· · ·
Excerpts from the Diary of Wade Welles:
"Day 9 on Corvus World. I need to start doing something. I mean, a vacation is one thing, but this hotel picks up after me and serves me tasty food made from the soy products in its vats and basically takes care of everything except keeping me entertained. I'm going stir crazy. Maybe I'll start teaching myself piano again."
"Day 15 on Corvus World. Piano lessons coming along. (I found some teach-yourself manuals in the library.) Also, found an old bartending manual behind the counter. I'm guessing it was a back-up system in case the computer ever went down. I've started learning how to mix drinks. The machines provide me with the alcohol but I'm mixing them myself. I think I might be drinking too many of my creations."
"Day 18 on Corvus World. I've moved all my Diary entries onto a word processor. I was taking up too much of my book and, the longer I'm here, the more I need to write. Began writing short stories based on our ... my ... Sliding travels. Maybe on some world I'll be able to sell them and make some extra cash."
"Day 32 on Corvus World. I've finished learning every recipe in the bar manual. I could probably tend bar professionally, now. I even learned a few bottle tricks. It's easy when you know something else will clean up the broken glass when you drop a bottle ... or seven."
"Day 40 on Corvus World ... I think. I don't really remember how many days I had when I arrived here ... and I lost at least a few of them. I got about as drunk as I ever have and the last few days are a complete blank. I think I did some screaming because my throat is raw and sore. There's a fragment of a something that I apparently wrote during those days. I think it might be the beginning of a suicide note. I'm worried that I'm losing my mind."
"Day 42 on Corvus World. No more alcohol. Coming down from that binge was horrible. Besides, I know how to mix drinks now. My hair has gotten longer and the brown is taking over from the red. Another couple of weeks and I think I'll cut off the red hair and go back to being a brunette. Piano playing is really coming along. I think I've figured it out. I think I also gained weight. Need to start exercising. Luckily, the hotel has a gym."
"Day 47 on Corvus World.
In case I don't survive and you find this someday, I wanted to tell you a few things. First, I love you. I need you to know that. I know I've pushed you away too often and now you're in love with someone else, but I was afraid. I love you. Second, I forgive you ... for whatever you think you did to me. Sliding was my choice, remember? Third,
Oh, forget it. It's not like Quinn is ever going to see this."
"Day 51 on Corvus World. I am so lonely. So goddamn lonely. I miss Quinn ... and Remmy ... and the Professor. Heck, I even miss Maggie a bit. If nothing else, I could have bitched at her. I miss people. I miss birds singing and insects buzzing and dogs barking. I'm living in a tomb ... a planet-sized tomb. I can't believe I still have another forty days here. I just want it to stop. I want it all to stop."
"Day 58 on Corvus World. Lost another couple of days, there. Oddly, though, my mind is clearer now than it has been in weeks. I think ... I think, maybe, I'm going to be okay."
"Day 66 on Corvus World. Gave myself a haircut today. I'm back to being a brunette. Unfortunately, my skills as a stylist are limited ... at best. Apparently, these people never bothered to develop an automatic hair-styling machine."
"Day 77 on Corvus World. I'm in nearly the best shape of my life, now. I've got almost a full book's worth of stories. I might be able to play piano and sing for a living and, if not, I can tend bar. And I finally figured out how to live on my own. Would I recommend months of solitude for other people as a way of developing self-reliance and a level of comfort in their own skin? No. But these last two and a half months have taught me a lot about myself, about why I wanted to go on the Slide in the first place, and about my feelings for Quinn. And I was able to learn a few skills to help me on the journey. I think I'm going to be okay. Two more weeks until the Slide."
"Day 90 on Corvus World. It's finally over. Just one more night and I get to Slide out of here. I'd better print out this journal and my manuscript. I think I'm going to go back to Remmy's World and see how he is. I wonder if I'll recognize him. I wonder if he'll recognize me, because I'm definitely not the same person he knew when I left."
· · ·
Finally, the day of the Slide arrived. Wade knew she needed to be around people again ... friends. She very carefully set the Timer to take her back to Remmy's world. Maybe Quinn had shown up. It was worth a try.
Finally, the Timer counted down to zero and Wade activated it. The reddish vortex opened up right on cue. Wade had never liked the red vortex, preferring the blue of the original Timer, but this time she thought it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Holding her manuscript tightly to her, she took one last look at Pacifica ... and jumped.
This time, Sliding was wonderful. The thrill of the ride was amazing and she knew she was headed to Remmy's World.
The wormhole spit her out into the remains of a war zone, not far from the Chandler Hotel. Los Angeles. This was the place that Remmy and her double, this Earth's Wade, were going to be working. Quickly, she moved to the door of the hotel and peered in. Deserted. The distant sound of gunfire let her know that she wasn't alone on this Earth. She wasn't comforted. She ducked into the hotel and looked around. It appeared to have been deserted for some time but some glasses on the bar still had liquid in them, indicating that someone had been there within the last couple of days.
A noise behind her made her whirl.
"Whoa," a scrawny young man said. "I was just trying to ... Wade?" He dropped the box he was carrying.
"Who are you?" Wade asked.
"You know me," he replied. "We met ...." Suddenly, he pulled out an odd-looking handgun. "If you don't know who I am, then you're a Kromagg spy ... or maybe you're a 'Magg."
"Kromaggs?" Wade said, more afraid of that word than the gun. "Here? Where's Remmy?"
"Yeah," the man scoffed. "Like I'd tell the 'Maggs anything."
Suddenly, both of them heard trucks pulling up.
"Damn," the man said. "They're here. I really didn't want to die today."
Through the window, Wade could make out odd-looking humanoids that vaguely resembled the Kromaggs she remembered, but she'd take the guy's word for it. They seemed to be organizing a search of the entire block. She turned to the guy, who was putting the gun in his mouth.
"Wait!" she said. "I think they came here because they noticed the vortex when I Slid in here. Can you hide us from them?"
The man pulled the gun out of his mouth. "Slid ... wait, that's what the others called it. Sliding. But how...?"
"Questions later," Wade said. "Hide now."
"Down here," the man said.
He turned and ran down into the cellar. Wade followed him quickly. Once in the cellar, he went to one wall, reached behind a gray metal wine rack, and pulled at something. A section of the wine rack pulled away, opening onto a tunnel.
"I'm not sure what these tunnels were used for," the man said. "Probably bootlegging or something. I just know that if we're very quiet, the 'Maggs might not find us."
The tunnel didn't go back very far before the ceiling had caved in during some past earthquake. It was more of a secret storeroom than a path to go anyplace. Much of the tunnel wall was encrusted with a grayish material. The man took out a chemical light, cracked it and shook it, bathing the tunnel in a yellowish, greenish light.
"So," the man whispered, "you're a Slider?"
"Yeah," Wade whispered back. "Who are you?"
"Name's Trevor Blue, hacker extraordinaire. But wait a minute. If you're a Slider, how do you know Remmy and the others? They already had a Wade."
"Uh-uh," he whispered, waving his finger at her. "I'll play Q-and-A with you, but only if we take turns. How did you know Remmy?"
Wade smiled. That's fair, she thought. "I'm the Wade that Slid with him from our Earth. The Wade here was born here. She took my place because Remmy thought he was finally home, and I let him think that. Your turn. You said 'they'. Who else was here?"
"Remmy warped or Slid or whatever you call it out of here with a Quinn Mallory and Maggie Beckett. They said they were going to try to find a way to get rid of the Kromaggs by finding Quinn's real home world. My turn. Why did you leave Remmy here?"
"He was so sure we were home that, when I found out we weren't, I couldn't tell him. Besides, the only difference I could see was the other Wade. I couldn't take him away from his happiness again." She was silent for a long time. "You said they left to find Quinn's real home world. So, Remmy knows that this wasn't his Earth?"
"Naw. Quinn found out that ...."
Trevor was interrupted by the sound of footsteps in the bar above. He and Wade hunkered down even more, Trevor hiding the light beneath his body, as if making themselves small would somehow help them hide. Both of them held their breath when the footsteps came down into the cellar.
After a few minutes, a voice called from the stairway, "Human! Did you find anything?"
"No, master," someone in the cellar replied. "The interdimensional device we seek is not here. There is no signal."
"Then get up here and help the other slaves check the next building!"
"Yes, master!" Footsteps hurried toward the staircase. When the footsteps had gone, Wade and Trevor breathed a little easier.
"Your Timer," Trevor whispered. "That's what they're looking for ... but how did they not detect it?"
Wade smiled, suddenly realizing. "This grayish metal on the walls? It's lead. This tunnel must have been used something to do with lead ... maybe forgeries or something. It's blocking the signal or whatever the Timer gives off. The Kromaggs can't track it."
"We got lucky," Trevor said, pulling some of his patented energy food out of his jacket.
Wade winced at the portable sugar-shock the man was holding. "You sure you wouldn't rather have some fruit?" she asked, pulling out the pears and bananas she'd carried from the last world.
"Nah," Trevor replied. "I'm so used to this stuff, I think real food would kill me."
Wade shook her head and began eating a pear. "We should probably stay here as long as we can. Last time I saw Kromaggs, they followed us to another Earth to track us down."
"You have some kind of time limit on that thing, right?"
"Yeah," Wade said, pulling it out. "I'm here for another three hours. Then I can Slide."
"You could come with me when I Slide," Wade said. "I can't promise we'll get away from the Kromaggs, but at least you'd have a chance."
"Nah, not me," Trevor replied. "I'm stayin' here. I've gotta try to make occupying us more trouble than it's worth for the 'Maggs."
"You were saying that Quinn was trying to find home and Remmy went with him?"
"Well, his home. You see, I guess Quinn wasn't really from this Earth ... your Earth. There was this chip-thing his mother gave him ...."
For the next few hours, Wade and Trevor exchanged information and, eventually, food. (Wade figured the sugar rush would keep her alert for a while.) Wade told Trevor everything she remembered from her own "visit" with the Kromaggs. Trevor was interested to hear that all Kromaggs might not be the same species, and especially about what tricks they had pulled on Wade and her friends. He told her all about Quinn and the invasion and how Remmy never knew he wasn't home and about what happened to her double ... and how she had missed them by three days.
"Three days?" Wade asked. "I can't believe I missed them by three days." She shook herself, regaining her composure. "I hope my double will be okay," she said, "but if this isn't our home Earth, then my Quinn isn't the Quinn from the Kromagg planet. So he and Remmy are looking for the wrong Earth, in order to save the wrong Earth?"
"Hey, easy on that 'wrong Earth' business."
"Sorry," Wade said. "What I mean is ... why would this other Quinn's Earth even want to help him, let alone this Earth? If they could have stopped the Kromaggs from conquering other Earths, wouldn't they? I've gotta find them and tell them."
"I can track wormholes," Wade said. She pulled out the Timer to search for Quinn's photon trail. "Oh, no."
"It's picking up seven different photon trails leaving this world. There's no way to know which one is Quinn's."
"And the other six probably lead to Kromagg-controlled worlds."
"I'm going to have to Slide randomly and hope to run across him someplace else."
"I think it's safe to get out of here now."
"No," Wade said. "The lead in the walls is the only thing keeping the Timer concealed. This is how it has to go: I'll Slide from here and then you run as fast as you can back to your bolt hole. They'll chase me. I just have to hope I can make a couple of quick Slides in a row to throw them off."
"I hope you're right," Trevor said.
"If I'm wrong, I'll know soon enough."
"Hey," Trevor said.
"If you do find a way to kick the Kromaggs off our Earth, here ...."
Wade nodded. "I'll come back and let you know ... and bring it along if I can."
"It's the least I can do for someone who saves my butt as an introduction."
"Well, from what I saw, it is a cute butt," Trevor said, grinning.
Wade gave an exasperated smile and pulled out the Timer. "Fifteen minutes to go. You ready?"
"I'm ready," Trevor said. After a moment, he added, "Look, I won't go with you, but maybe you could take a friend of mine or two. You know, so you won't be alone."
Wade looked Trevor directly in the eyes and he flinched from what he saw in hers. "I can handle being alone," she said.
"I believe it," he said.
The two of them were silent after that.
As the Timer neared zero, Wade looked at Trevor and smiled. "Thanks for everything," she said, giving Trevor a kiss on the cheek.
"No problem," he replied. "G'bye."
Wade pointed the Timer toward the back of the tunnel and activated it. The vortex seemed a lot louder in the enclosed space, but it formed without any problem. Wade gave a last nod to Trevor and then Slid.
Trevor Blue waited until the wormhole vortex had closed, then opened the tunnel entrance. He had to get on the CB to the others. They now had two Slider groups trying to help them. Maybe his Earth had a chance after all.
· · ·
"Three vodka martinis," the waitress said. "Shaken, not stirred."
Wade sighed as she began mixing the drinks. More Spy-Fi fans. The hotel was being overrun by them for a weekend convention and most of them ordered the same drink over and over. She handed the drinks to the waitress, saying, "Here you go, Sia. Too bad they don't tip like their hero."
"You know it, girl," the waitress responded. "Uh oh ... more geeks in tuxedos."
"More vodka martinis," Wade said knowingly. The Dominion Hotel on this Earth hosted a lot of conventions and special events. In her first month on this world, she had served Guinness Stout with a shamrock cut into the foam using a special tool on St. Brendan's Day, ales with blue food coloring in oddly shaped plastic containers for fans of an old TV show, and several hundred Pina Coladas on the birthday of this world's king of pop: Rupert Holmes.
Still, after leaving Remmy's World, as she still called it, she'd had six Slides in a row, each under fifteen minutes, before landing here for ten weeks. There was no sign of Quinn and Remmy, but there was also no sign of the Kromaggs. And tending bar paid better than waitressing.
"Wade Welles?" a man in a business suit asked.
"That's me," Wade said. "What'll you have?"
"My name is Don Cohen," he said. "I work for the Vetter Literary Agency. I'm here about your manuscript."
Wade looked at him carefully. He didn't look like a Spy-Fi fan, although she been fooled once during a convention by someone who "just wanted to get to know the pretty bartender" and had managed to overhear Sia mentioning Wade's stories. That had cost her a day's pay. "Sia! I'm taking five!"
Sia nodded and waved.
"Okay," Wade said, walking to the end of the bar where it was quieter. "You've got five minutes. What's this about my manuscript? And why didn't you just send me a letter?"
"It's fabulous," Cohen said, not wasting any time. "We want to get it published for you. I think we can get a big advance. And we didn't want you talking to anyone else. We want to represent you."
Wade looked at him shrewdly. "I'm going to be ... moving ... in another six weeks. Any chance you can get this sold and get the advance beforehand?"
"Six weeks?" the agent said. "I think so, although the advance might not be as big with a time limit on it."
"I'm less worried about the size of the advance than about having money before I go. Can you do it?"
"Yes, I'm sure we can," Cohen replied. He knew all writers had their idiosyncrasies. He could deal with one who was willing to settle for less money on her first book. "When can you come by the office to sign the paperwork?"
"Tomorrow is my day off," Wade said.
"Great," he replied, handing her his business card. "How about 10:00?"
"Tomorrow at ten," Wade agreed. "I'll see you then. Right now, I have to get back to work."
"One thing I have to know," the man said. "How were you able to see so clearly into the depths of the human soul with your stories? I've never read anything else like them."
Wade was silent for a moment. "I spent a lot of time travelling, and then a lot of time alone," she said. "It gave me some ... clarity."
"Stick with the Vetter Agency and you'll do a lot of travelling but you'll never have to be alone again," Cohen said as he left. "You're gonna be rich and famous!"
"Is that so?" Wade said softly as she headed back to her station.
"Five vodka martinis...." Sia began.
"Shaken, not stirred," Wade and Sia finished together.
Wade laughed as she mixed the drinks. Six weeks until the Slide and she might have enough cash to relax for a while. Things were looking up for a change.