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Slider General's Warning

Reading this story without reading "Azure as the Sun Rises" can be hazardous to your continued existence in this dimension. Also, you may find out what world David Peckinpah's sick twisted mind thinks it would be funny to stick you on. Remember, he was the one who wanted Wade on rape camp world for no reason.

P.S. It's okay to read this without having read "Azure." Really. I was just kidding. Please?

6.2 - It Also Sets
by ThomasMalthus

Chapter One

She ran. As the wind that was not actually wind whipped around her, she gazed longingly at lights ahead that had the slightest possibility of being a way out. Or it could be just another mindgame they were playing with her. Her legs ached mercilessly and her lungs threatened to collapse if she kept up this frantic pace much longer. But she had no choice.

The area around her was small, and reminded the young woman of nothing more than an old subway tunnel or perhaps a very clean (they were also very methodic and clinical about everything) sewer. Places of escape were lethally rare. That was their intention, of course.

She heard the almost psychedelic pounding rhythms behind her. Though she had scarcely thought it possible, she increased her pace. As the thing gained ground, the woman spotted something on the ground, it was still very dark and she couldn't make out what it was for certain. Nonetheless, she seamlessly reached down for it and flung it back at her most recent pursuer. A howl of agony proved that it was the right thing to do. She pushed herself onward. A few hundred yards ahead was where the mysterious light seemed to be eminating from. As she moved her extremely unwilling body closer to her chance at salvation, she heard it again behind her. It now began to hiss and whine rapidly. At last, she reached her destination.

It wasn't much, really. A small duct where supplies were sometimes transported. Desperate, she crammed herself deep within the small hole and hoped that its grasp wouldn't be able to reach very far. And that no shipment of supplies would come soon.

"It'll move on," she whispered, confident the thing couldn't understand her. "It has to. It just has to."

The turbulent vortex erupted on a dismal scene. A flat gray box that extended far beyond the range of human vision was illuminated by the swirling blue maw held nothing but a few puddles of murky lifeless water and stale, recycled air. The uncaring wormhole nonetheless deposited Quinn Mallory and Professor Maximilian Arturo there, and then resealed itself, oblivious to their fate.

"What in the world is going on here, Mr. Mallory?" the Professor bellowed, at the time not caring about how little he really knew about this particular version of Quinn Mallory.

"I don't know. This is all pretty new to me, too, Professor." Quinn replied. Standing and getting their bearings, the twosome took a look around. Deciding their surroundings were too depressing to discuss at the moment, they moved back to other issues that were still pressing.

"The timer's still reading twenty-four hours and some change. It didn't bring us here." Quinn pocketed the timer in what would become second nature to the brilliant young slider in future times.

"I suppose that just leads us to the question: then who, or what, did? And that would merit some investigation, wouldn't you say?" the Professor queried, not really expecting this Quinn Mallory to disagree.

Quinn barely nodded his assent. He had already began scanning the perimeter with his eyes, as they had not had advance warning to grab any lab equipment from the last world, for information about their new location. The Professor continued to speak.

"If we're to survive on this world, we'll have to find other people. We'll need food, possibly some weapons if this is a hostile environment and," he said with a wrinkled nose and a quick glance at some of the small water deposits surrounding them, "hopefully better water than this."

"What kind of a world is this?" Quinn asked. It was a question that had lingered in the back of Professor Arturo's mind as well. His sliding skills had atrophied some in the four years that he had been doing purely theoretical work on Azure Gate Bridge world, but this world made any he had visited seem like a tropical paradise.

Arturo looked grim. "We have to face facts, Quinn. We have no inkling of exactly where we are. It's possible we're not on Earth at all." Quinn turned quickly to face him and began to speak, but the Professor cut him off. "Yes, we've obviously crossed into a parallel dimension, but without knowing the exact parameters of the sliding machine that transported us here, we could have just as soon landed on the Moon as in San Francisco."

"I hadn't thought of that," Quinn admitted soberly. The pair then agreed on a direction in which to explore, but not before the younger physicist decided to leave a marker, a small piece of cloth from his tattered jeans, so that they could find their way back. Hansel and Gretel would have approved.

"The other Quinn said he would guide me to the ones I'm supposed to save," Mallory began wistfully as they walked down the dimly lit tunnels. "I suppose I shouldn't have expected immediate results, but it would have been nice if I could have at least met up with one of them by now."

"Oh, but you have, Mr. Mallory," the Professor replied. As Quinn gazed at him strangely, they were interrupted by the muffled sounds of conflict a few yards away. Turning a corner, they were horrified to see a disheveled-looking man with a gun pointed at a small child and a woman who was quite obviously ill. The man tightened his gaze and leveled the weapon at its intended victims. Quinn and Arturo could only marvel at what happened next.

Chapter Two

Quinn and Professor Arturo gazed in horror and revulsion as the gun levelled at the sickly woman and her small child. The fierce glint in the eye of the man on the other end looked determined. The man squeezed the trigger and a dart surged through the weapon and hit the woman squarely in the arm. She collapsed in a heap and the young boy beside her began to whimper.

Wasting no time, Quinn grabbed the man by the collar, realizing that the two of them stood and did nothing as this person possibly killed someone. "What did you do to her, huh?!?"

Professor Maximilian Arturo moved beside him and put his arm on Quinn's shoulder. "My dear boy, we know nothing of this world as yet. This is the first person we've met who might be able to clue us in on our unusual situation. I would recommend you leave this man alone until we at least find out what in blazes is going on." Reluctantly, Quinn released the man, whose face bore a subtle mix of amusement and frustration.

"Listen to the English guy, he makes sense," the man said. "I take it you're new in town." A look of confusion passed their faces. "A figure of speech, of course. You couldn't call this place a town. What I mean is you don't seem like you've been here that long."

"We have, indeed, just arrived," the Professor confirmed, cutting off any other sort of response from Quinn. "We know little of our surroundings. Where are we exactly, sir?"

"The Underground," the man replied. "It's like a sewer of humans who were rejected by humanity."

"Rejected?" Quinn asked with little compassion in his voice.

The man explained. "About fifteen years ago, there was a virus that created terrible welts on the body. There was a world crisis for a couple of years. They herded everybody who wasn't affected into little camps where labcoats could poke and prod us. After a while, they figured out some things about the virus. The first obvious one was: it didn't kill you right away. But then they found out it made you stronger, increased your mental capacities. Pretty soon they didn't want to fight the virus anymore, they wanted to infect everyone with it. Those who were still immune got thrown in here." He flashed them a smile that revealed rows of rotten teeth. "And people who slid in from parallel worlds, like yourselves."

Quinn and Arturo's mouths hung agape. "Oh and by the way, I didn't kill that woman, I cured her. They had already fixed up a cure, but by the time they had it ready, nobody wanted it. The kid's an immunie and he managed to haul his mom down here, didn't you kid?" The little boy nodded and at the same time his mother started to come to. "Speaking of hauling, who wants to help me carry this woman back to base camp? Name's Zeb Pike, by the way." Quinn and Arturo exchanged puzzled glances, but the young Mr. Mallory came to Pike's help with all due haste.

She was running out of crawlspace. It was nothing she could actually feel, really, but she knew it as sure as she knew her own name. Her frantic pace never slacked though. They were gaining on her, they had to be by now. Just a few more feet. Just a few more feet.

General Minerva Ko was beside herself. "Mr. Chairman, I do not see how I can be personally held responsible for the departures of scientists Maximilian and Douglas Arturo or that of our acquired test subject."

An elderly looking gentleman of The Committee looked at her reproachfully. "And who would you have us blame? Conrad Bennish, Jr. and all other scientists have been cleared of culpibility. Thaddeus Westmoreland has testified that your appointment was a mistake and to your incompetence in previous military matters. The loss of two of our most brilliant minds at this crucial juncture in our country's history will be a permanent stain on the United States of America. Now explain to me how you are not to blame for this!!"

General Ko now realized they would not listen to reason. They merely wanted a scapegoat and they were determined it was going to be her. "You are fully aware of my circumstances at the time of their escape."

A female African-American member of The Committee glanced down at a file in front of her. "Trapped in one of your own cells and could not escape because you were in the process of changing the codes to prohibit Maximilian Arturo from accessing unauthorized areas of the project without permission, yes?" Ko nodded. "It sounds to me like that was a situation of your own making, General."

Ko paused a beat. "Perhaps, however there were special circum..."

The Chairman banged his gavel and silenced the room. "That is enough, General Ko. You are relieved of your position effective 0900 hours tomorrow. We will name an interim head at our discretion and will be taking recommendations for a more permanent replacement from General Westmoreland and the President. That is all."

General Ko stood up and walked away from the hearing with a smirk on her face. They thought they had won. Soon they'd be finding out differently. The smirk disappeared into the folds around her face, as it became a mask of iron once again.

Chapter Three

21: 17: 47

Her lungs felt like they were desperately screaming for air and she needed food and water badly. The young woman honestly wasn't sure how long she could hold out in here. Moving herself backwards in a sort of slithering maneuver, she inched ever closer to the small door that led to the outside. Finally getting close enough to let her eye peek through one of the slivers of open space, she made her breathing stop for a minute, and forced herself to hear every little sound that took place on the outside. When she neither heard nor saw anything to make her concerned, she gently removed the small door (it was actually more like a large plate or manhole cover) and crawled out.

Planting her feet on terra firma (or what passed for it in this place, at any rate) was a great relief, although it took her a few moments to get her bearings. Still hypersensitive to anything moving around her, she began to debate over which direction to move in. A few creaking sounds coming from over her right shoulder, though they may have actually been nothing, motivated her to move to her left (Was it west? Who could tell here?).

The light was dim, but it was there. 'They must be looking for me close by', she reckoned, as the light that illuminated the place was not its own eery natural light. Taking care to make every step she took as inconspicuous as possible, she continued to move cautiously down this portion of the tunnels.

Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks. The noise completely paralyzed her body and made the hairs rise on the back of her neck. It seemed to be coming from both behind and in front of her. 'Please, don't make me crawl back in that hole', she pleaded mentally to anyone who might hear her. 'Anything but that'. There was something, a knife maybe?, she had grabbed on her way here, stuck in her pocket, ah yes, there it was. Retrieving the thin, sharp piece of metal from her pocket, she prepared to face the thing that had tormented her so. In mere seconds, it was upon her. A scream shot out through the tunnels.

21: 18: 23

Two individuals in suits that would protect them from the immunie atmosphere of the tunnels, Samuel Jameson and Anna Fiatsu moved through them as they had many times before. A young woman had escaped from their facilities, evidently an immunie, but they had to check and make sure. 'Lots of crazies with the virus who might want to come down here to escape from us', Fiatsu thought to herself.

Sam Jameson's mind was consumed with his own thoughts. He had only been 15 when the plague tore the world in two. The Liberian town he'd grown up in was mostly immune, but Sam caught the virus right away. They'd treated him like a devil child, turning him out from every place that he had to hide in, cursing his name and that of his family, throwing rocks at him as he left for another place. He had come back a couple of years later, once the labcoats had decided the virus was a good thing and had seen what happened to those who had spat on him. He didn't believe in vengeance, but whoever meted out the fate of his townspeople evidently did.

Since that day, he had sworn not to be part of that again, either the hunter or the hunted. But here he was, searching for a runaway just trying to breathe free. Sometimes life didn't turn out according to your ideals. Lumbering forward, he heard a scream shoot out a few hundred feet in front of them, and Fiatsu's expression registered that she had heard it as well. The two agents of the Center for Disease Proliferation dashed off in the direction of the sound.

20: 57: 35

Quinn Mallory, Maximilian Arturo and Zeb Pike, along with the woman and young boy they were transporting back to Pike's base camp, finally arrived at what looked like the spot.

"Odd that Missy and Hap left camp," Pike commented. "They usually don't leave it unguarded."

Arturo glanced at Quinn and asked Pike, "Is there any way he could get medical attention? I'm afraid there's a rather nasty wound on his shoulder."

Quinn had not paid the mark much attention, but the pain registered in his brain now. Pike handed Arturo some bandages and he quickly attended to his new sliding companion.

"Ah, there they are," Zeb Pike exclaimed as he saw his two friends come into view and Quinn gave out a yelp that had nothing to do with the pain of his injury.


Chapter Four

20: 56: 33

Quinn moved to the woman he had known so well on his own world slowly. "It is you, Melissa! How did you find me? How could you..." As he reached out to touch her, she moved coldly away from him, stepping rapidly backwards and looking at him with a slightly startled expression in her gray eyes. "I didn't mean..." Taking another look at her, slowly processing every detail of her face, he noticed some things that were different about her. A scar that he didn't remember her having. A few freckles out of place, some worry lines there that had not been the last time he'd seen her. An horrendous thought entered his mind. "A double," he managed to breathe. "Just a double."

Melissa Tennyson looked decidedly uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, but I don't know you." Although Quinn already knew the truth, the words still cut him like hot steel. Her next words were to Zeb Pike. "Report came in on the daily newscast that a possible immunie escaped from the CDP's facility in Oxnard and into these tunnels. We went to investigate, but didn't find anything." The large mid-thirties African-American male with broad shoulders and meaty hands, Hap, Arturo thought he'd heard Pike call him, merely nodded.

"It's a clear breach o' protocol," Zeb chastised, but then continued with, "and if protocol meant a flippin' thing down here, I might be angry. You did the right thing."

Quinn was still numb and silent, but Arturo asked, "This escapee, will you be going after them?"

"If there's even a slight chance that the fugitive's an immunie, we've got to," Melissa replied and Zeb quickly affirmed her words. "We're not about to let those Disease Proliferation fascists experiment on one of our own. Not again."

Quinn and Arturo were instructed to stay by the camp and attend to the woman and her child while Zeb and his crew went to search. After a few minutes of silence, Arturo ventured, "Do you want to talk about..."

"Her?" Quinn cut him off harshly. "Not really."

"Meeting doubles of our loved ones is one of the most excruciatingly painful things about sliding. You never quite get used to it. This may come to a surprise to you, my boy, but something similar happened to me on one of my slides. I met my late wife, Christina..."

"Yeah, well, Missy's not dead!" Quinn burst out. "She's home. Waiting for me. She is!" He said, trying desperately to convince the Professor and himself.

"I'm sure that..." Professor Arturo started off.

"No, you're not sure. You're not sure because you don't know anything about me or my life back on my world! So just don't start acting like we've been friends for years! I'm not your Quinn and I'm not your boy." The rest of the time until Zeb, Missy and Hap got back was spent in silence.

21: 17: 37

Center for Disease Proliferation agents Sam Jameson and Anna Fiatsu's faces both became masks of revulsion. A hideously deformed creature had viciously attacked the young woman they were in pursuit of. Jameson inwardly swore as he realized the only real weapons they had brought were transquilizer dart guns. Still...

Acting as one, Sam and Anna fired the tranks at the creature. Anna's connected with the thing in what might be called its chest. Sam's dart only glanced off its shoulder and landed pathetically on the wet floor of the tunnels. Barely phased, the creature ceased attacking the woman, and came for its two most recent attackers. Sam, always a physician at heart, took a quick glance at the woman before she bolted for safer parts of the tunnels. She was scratched up pretty badly, but no major damage appeared to have been done. Thank God.

And then they ran for their lives. They didn't run for long.

00: 00: 00

"What?!?!?" was the extremely loud exclamation of Project: Backdoor scientist Conrad Bennish, Jr.

"I believe I've made my orders very clear, Mr. Bennish." General Ko tonelessly replied.

The young man had an air of exasperation. "Look, even if we had that much knowledge of slidewave capabilities, which we totally don't, we'd never be able to get enough power to slide the whole base to another world!"

"You let me worry about the power. Just get the slidewave device ready to go. You, Mitchell and Davis are in charge of it." Bennish still looked indignant, mostly because there was no slidewave device except in Max Arturo's notes and General Ko's imagination. "Oh, and have it ready by 0800 tomorrow."

"But that's only..." Bennish began to protest. "Yes, sir," he corrected himself. The FBI wouldn't like this, not one bit. They might be able to stop it. Otherwise, who knows what might happen to them if they all got stuck on some Godforsaken parallel world. And who could imagine what life would be like if that happened?

Chapter Five

21: 14: 42

The beast rose slowly on its hindquarters and gazed at the kill laid out before its feet. Fresh blood dripped appallingly from what might be called its mouth, flapping open and shut, open and shut, in a rhythmic pattern. With its inhumanly pale white skin, its long ratty black hair, its huge red bulging eyes and its yellow-and-green armored skin reflecting in the red pool below it, the creature bellowed and mindlessly attacked the image. After the ripples settled, the image reappeared. The monster skulked off indignantly. At least there was the thrill of the kill to take the pain away. And the utter joy of more kills to come.

16: 18: 05

For a fleeting instant, Professor Maximilian Arturo had no idea where he was. The place was as big as a warehouse and contained more gizmos that he could ever have imagined.

"That's funny," the Professor commented to nobody in particular. "I don't remember the Mallory basement being quite this large."

Quinn emerged (From where? Arturo was sure he had been looking...) with that all-knowing look on his face. "Been expanding. Renovating. Making room for new roomies."

Looking around again at the massive expanse, Arturo replied, "I can tell." Looking more carefully, he noticed something. "You took out the sliding machine."

Quinn flashed a trademark Quinn smile. "Nah. I just made it smaller. It fits under your thumb. See?" Quinn showed a microchip to the Professor that was hidden underneath his right thumbnail.

Professor Arturo paced to where the old machine had been located. A swirling blue vortex stood in front of him. "Is that vortex going to close?"

Quinn replied quickly. "Once and forever. Better hurry, if you're going."

Not knowing how to take that, the Professor continued to look at the vortex. "I don't know who I'm looking at anymore."

Quinn moved to reassure him. "You will. It's all new for a while."

"I think it stays new."

"That's the fun." Looking in the vortex himself, Quinn went on, "He's not Atlas, you know. He can't hold it up on his own."

The Professor sighed. "I've got to go, then?"

Quinn smirked. "You know, you'd think when you missed the train once, you'd be on there early ever after."

"I've never been one for ever afters," Arturo chuckled in reply.

Quinn looked serious now. "I've got too much work to do to keep you here for eternity. She's coming soon and I haven't even started on the women's bathroom."

Arturo put his arm around Quinn. "I'll leave you to it, then. Goodbye for now..." the Professor moved himself into position to slide through the vortex. "...my boy." As the aging physics professor began to hurl himself through the vortex he began a freefall that would wake him up in about three minutes.

13: 51: 29

Professor Maximimilian Arturo and Quinn Mallory awoke slowly and reluctantly, as the power of the dawn's brilliant caresses did not reach to the bottomless depths of this world's abysmal tunnels. Both were surprised that their grungy, rebellious hosts had not returned yet, but neither wanted to vocalize that fact and break the silence the palpable tension between them had caused. At last, Arturo had the courage to speak.

"What you said earlier..." Quinn tried to interrupt, but the Professor continued. "I suppose you know then that I'm the Professor Arturo you've been sent to look for."

Quinn actually managed to flash his double's mentor (and his mentor's double) a half-smile. "I've been told I'm a bright boy. I sometimes figure these things out." Arturo chuckled at that as well. "The outburst last night was uncalled for. I..., well, I'm sorry."

Arturo nodded his acceptance. "The search for home gets to all of us after a while. It makes a man lonely, angry and desperate. But you have my word we'll both see our homeworlds before we're through, m..." he stopped himself "Mister Mallory."

Cutting through this conversation were three figures in shadow. Zeb, Missy and Hap ran breathlessly and only had time to mutter one word to their two new companions.


20: 58: 03

There was no choice but for her to hide out in the most remote parts of the tunnels all night. She had been without food, water, or sleep for what seemed like a lifetime. On the plus side, her wounds, as deep and as downright nasty as they seemed, were healing well and didn't cause her much trouble as she moved around.

Which was very good, because she was moving around quite a lot now. She was sure that the key to not seeing that hideous creature again was to keep moving. It had seemed to work so far, but she was reminded of a joke about elephant repellant ("I have elephant repellant on." "There aren't any elephants around here." "Then it must be working pretty well".) Or something to that effect. Her mind was a jumble these days, and most things she just didn't want to remember.

She heard sounds up ahead, but luckily they weren't the same kind of sounds that that thing made. They were human sounds! Could those people from the CDP have survived the way the creature attacked them?

No, the voices weren't filtered and metallic-sounding, as those had been. They must be immunies! "Hey!" she bellowed, the first human sound she had made in ages. "Hey, wait for me!" She rushed as quickly as she could towards the sound, but stopped dead in her tracks as she saw what was there in front of her.

"Quinn?!?!?" she exclaimed. They were rushing frantically away from something (the creature? the CDP?) and he couldn't get a good look at her. Could that be... the Professor with him? Maybe they were just doubles. The thought made her heart sink as low as it ever had.

But no, Quinn was looking at her now and it made him come to a screeching halt. "Wade?!?" he exclaimed. Wade Welles rushed to him, practically throwing herself into his arms. "It's you. Thank God, it's you." Wade kept repeating to herself.

A shabby looking man with gray hair looked back with a worried expression on his face. "Look, kids, as much as I'm thrilled with this lovefest, we need to keep moving, they'll be on us if we don't..."

"Too late," a voice that Wade recognized as being from CDP agents replied. "And don't even think about escaping." Seven large guns lowered at the six escapees and three of them got the feeling they wouldn't be seeing the tunnels again for awhile.

Chapter Six

08: 29: 17

Professor Maximilian Arturo was brusquely returned to the white, clinical-looking holding cell that he, Quinn Mallory and Wade Welles had been held in since their capture by the Center for Disease Proliferation. "Blistering idiots," he muttered, too low for them to hear in their heavy suits.

Arturo was alone, which meant Wade and Quinn were still going through the poking and prodding that being the latest immunie inductees to their center in San Francisco. The middle-aged physics professor rubbed his battered and bruised arm in sympathy pains for what his two recent companions were going through.

Bored for the first time in ages, the Professor gave a quick glance about the room. The propaganda poster which hung over his cot was an irritating eyesore which reminded him that this was not his world, nor anything even close to it. It read: "Get Enhanced Today! It's Not Just a Good Idea, It's the Law." Nearby was one for children that featured a sad little boy in a corner. "Nobody Plays With The Little Immunie Boy" was the line spouted by an impossibly happy looking little blonde girl with pigtails, with the tagline "Get Enhanced and Make Every Day a Happy Day". Disgusted, Arturo looked for something else to occupy his mind.

A book he had not noticed before now (it must have been placed here when all of us were gone, the Professor reasoned) was on a small table next to the cot Quinn had been assigned. "'Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra,'" Arturo read aloud. Looking closer at the book, he exclaimed, "On the New York Times Best Seller List for five years straight???" Arturo managed to calm himself. Of course Nietzsche's ideology would fit right in on this world.

The timer still was sitting on the other side of the table. Arturo was surprised that it was still in their hands, but thought it a sincere stroke of fortune that they could slide out of here in just over eight hours. That is, if they could manage to all be together then.

Which of course brought him back to the matter of Wade. Could she really be the young woman he once knew? It had been four years, yes, and that could be exceptionally long while sliding, but something had changed in her. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but it was something that made Arturo question if she was the Wade that left Earth Prime with him at all. But that was a question to be settled later, long after they departed this horrendous world.

After waiting for what seemed like eons, the Professor was greatly relieved to see Quinn returned. "When they say 'every orifice', they mean 'every orifice'", a visibly sore and bitter Quinn bemoaned.

"Indeed," the Professor affirmed soberly and without further comment. "Did you see Miss Welles during your travails?"

"That's a negative," Quinn replied. "I guess she still thinks I'm your Quinn."

Thinking briefly of the fate of his Quinn that was implied by this Quinn's mission, Arturo mourned inwardly and briefly for his departed charge. Quickly suppressing these feelings, he moved forward. "I'm aware of that. And I'm of the opinion that it should stay that way."

Quinn quickly became indignant. "What?!? I can't keep telling her that I'm some double that she knew for years on end. I'm bound to slip up sometime!"

"It's only for the time being, Mr. Mallory. She needs order and stability in her life right now, and I seriously doubt it will ease any of her confusion to know that she'll be dealing with a man who is the double of someone that she deeply cared about on a daily basis for an indefinite period of time!!" Arturo exclaimed, perhaps a bit too loudly than he hoped. More quietly, almost to himself, he went on, "It certainly hasn't done wonders for my mental health."

"Fine." Quinn replied, looking away. "We play it your way for now." The young scientist became consumed in thought. "But only for now."

- 00: 10: 00

"Right now we've got enough power in our back-up generators to black out most of the West Coast," Bennish reported to General Ko, "and we had to cannibalize most of the electronic equipment on the base to get this Slidewave dealie up and working and it's only got enough juice for one trip. Don't know what we're going to do for power once we get to the other world..." Minerva Ko sent him an icy glare that told him to quickly move on with his report. "At any rate, it's up and ready to fire any time you are."

"Your hard work's appreciated, Bennish. Andersen, start the countdown at ten minutes. Activate our Electronic Anti-Missile Defense Systems. We don't want to land on a new world without our guard up. Make sure all necessary personnel are onbase and ready for the transfer." General Ko looked down at her watch. The Committee would relieve her of duty in fifteen minutes, which meant at the time of transfer she would still be in command of the base. Grinning inwardly, she endured the countdown with a tactician's mind, mentally checking off everything that would be necessary for their survival on the next Earth.

Ten minutes later, a giant vortex flash would engulf the entire base and 4.5 billion dollars worth of space age technology and some of the government's most well-trained personnel would be permanently AWOL.

07: 49: 22

Professor Maximilian Arturo and Quinn Mallory both stared blankly at the door to their holding cell. At last, they saw the sight they'd been waiting for: Wade. What they didn't expect was that she was unconscious and being carried by a strange man they hadn't seen before. He was wearing plainclothes, was short and stocky with a five o'clock shadow. "You've got to come quickly! Most of the facility has been gassed and its effects will start to wear off at any moment. It won't affect immunies, but it'll keep those filthy fascists down and out."

As Arturo and Quinn both stared in amazement, he continued. "Don't worry, she's OK, we just gave her a little sedative. She wasn't too cooperative."

Quinn ranted in outrage. "You can't just expect us to go with you when we don't even know who you are or what you want."

"Look, do you want out of here or not?" the man said, as two others of similar clothing and manner joined him.

Arturo and Quinn looked at each other and hesitated. The man grimaced and handed Wade off to one of his companions. "Aw, geez, not you guys too," just before two well-aimed tranquilizer darts found their way to the necks of the two sliders. And all was black.

Chapter Seven

Wade wiped the blurriness out of her eyes and took a careful look around her. A lush green forest grew around her and trees stretched so high into the atmosphere that she couldn't make out the tops of them.

"These aren't native to here, are they?" she asked to a man standing beside her. Turning to face her, she realized it was Quinn, only with long hair, a small beard and glasses.

"You're too smart for your own good. They've been transplanted." Quinn then chuckled to himself.

"I'm supposed to be finding something. I got lost, but I'm pretty sure that..."

"I think you should run now," another Quinn, this one with a wizard's cap and a blue gown with white stars on it. "The Big Bad Magg is coming and he doesn't like what's in your basket."

Wade selfconsciously looked down at her arm, which contained a small wicker basket. Opening it up, she discovered a small picture of a human face she didn't recognize. Looking further down the long, winding pathway of the forest, she saw some horses tied to a tree a few feet away.

"They look like they're ready to ride," the young woman commented. "Why do I have to run away when..."

"They're waiting for Godot. Or the horse equivalent." This Quinn sported a small pony tail and a zebra-skinned jacket. "All gussied up and no place to gallop. Where's Paul Revere when you need him?"

Wade began walking slowly down the path, away from the uncomfortable-looking horses. Gearing herself up to almost a jog, she eventually came to a fork in the road with two signposts up, but they only bore strange letters that Wade had trouble recognizing. Eventually she made out that one, pointing right, was written in Kromagg, the other symbols on the sign pointing left were written in the witch's alphabet. Shooting a terrified glance behind her, she cried out, "Which way do I..."

Quinn-as-a-young-boy stood directly behind the signpost with his arms folded. "You can't just stay here. Choose soon, the forest can be scary after dark."

As if heeding the boy's words, the forest was soon plunged into complete darkness. Hearing a menacing growl from behind her, she dashed to her left. Running very fast for her life, Wade's shoes were both caught and sucked up by a patch of mud. Everything seemed to slow down then as her chest rose and fell rhythmically to the sound of her bare feet hitting the cold dirt of the ground. Surprising even herself, she stopped in front of a grave, where Ryan was patting the newly relaid dirt over a grave with a shovel. The headstone read, 'Maximilian Arturo - 1995-97.'

"I don't know why they bother to bury people here anymore," Ryan said grimly. "Like Sisyphus wanting so desperately to stop pushing the boulder but forced by fate to continue indefinitely."

"Is this one the Professor I knew?" Wade asked hesitantly.

"Does it matter?" Ryan snapped back. "You can't give up now. Not while the truth's still out there." Her former companion then shoved her nonchalantly back on the path, only Wade didn't recognize where she was. The primal growling seemed to be growing closer now.

Dashing ever forward, Wade saw a Quinn with moussed hair wearing a greasy t-shirt and jeans, looking confoundedly at an odd-looking timer.

"Quinn, you've got to get us out of..." Wade began breathlessly, but Quinn cut her off.

"Can't ya see I'm working on it now?!?" Quinn demanded frustratedly. "I'm supposed to be able to fix things, right? Ya think I'd be able to get this gizmo workin'. It's not much bigger than a remote control or a cell phone..." Wade's heart seemed like it would literally jump out of her chest as she began to feel an evil presence from behind her. "There, now it's set for the right year." A vortex opened behind him, swirling in shades of green, blue and red. "What're you waitin' for, cutie? Jump in." As much as Wade wanted to, it was as though her feet were glued to the ground.

Suddenly, the vortex lurched forward, almost snakelike, and devoured her whole, sending her spinning and tumbling into...

A strange laboratory?

00: 17: 52

Wade began to look around her. She was in cord-like restraints, bound to a metal table that looked like it was used primarily for medical purposes. Around her, Professor Arturo and Quinn were bound similarly. A lean, gaunt man with a stubbly beard and wearing a red bandana, black ragged t-shirt and faded blue jeans stood over them. The two of them looked like Wade felt: groggy and disoriented.

"I'm afraid I must apologize. We had no idea such a mild sedative would have that much of an effect on you. Differences in tolerances between people from parallel worlds, I suppose."

"Maybe you should apologize for dragging us off to who knows where without our permission," Quinn threw out venomously.

The man snorted. "I suppose you would rather have remained in the hands of those CDP thugs?" When he heard no response, he continued smugly. "I somehow thought not."

Professor Arturo shifted the tone of the discussion. "How is it that you know we're from a parallel earth?"

"Haven't you been wondering how you got here?" another voice, this one rumbling and deep, spoke from the shadows behind his slimmer companion. "We need test subjects. Ones that haven't been completely poisoned by those plague-spreading fascists. Another dissatisfied scientist was peddling a sliding machine, so..."

"So you abduct them from parallel worlds?!?" Wade asked incredulously. "What gives you the right?"

"You're being 'borrowed' so that the rest of humanity on this world doesn't turn into a race of hideous monsters like the one you saw down in the tunnels!" When the Sliders did not reply to the apparent ringleader's words, he continued, "That modern-day Frankenstein was born when we did experiments to see what would happen to humanity years down the line after the virus became infused in our genetic code. When the suits at the Center for Disease Proliferation saw it, they not only rejected our theories, they accused us of scientific quackery. For humanity's sake, we were forced to continue our research using the only large source of noncontaminated test subjects."

Before Wade could protest again, Arturo jumped in, "Surely you must know that all data you gather from people from parallel worlds might be useless when applied to people on your own world."

"It's a risk we have to take," the larger man bellowed. "We can't just condemn humanity to a fate worse than death."

"We will return you to the world we retrieved you from after our experiments are completed", the slighter man spoke authoritatively, moving around the Sliders to a table brimming with medical instruments.

"No," Wade softly moaned. "You can't!" Quinn protested. "I am afraid that is completely unacceptable," Arturo spoke calmly, yet with an air of fear.

The larger man grinned widely and a slight touch of malice could be detected in his voice. "I'm sorry. It's for the good of humanity. Surely you must understand."

"No!!" Wade yelled. Suddenly she managed to withdraw the knife she had used against the tunnel beast from her pocket and cut her restraints with a panther-like agility and speed. Shooting into an upright position, she wrapped her arm like a muscular coil around the neck of their nearest captor. "Let them go or he dies!!"

Quinn looked mildly alarmed and Professor Arturo's eyes bulged wider than he thought was physically possible. 'What the devil's happened to her?' he thought, dismayed.

Frightened by the desperate look on her face and urged on by the frantic gesturing of her captive, the other man moved to free the Professor and Quinn. "Have you still got the timer?" Wade asked the latter man.

"Yeah." Quinn Mallory removed the timer from his pocket. "About eight minutes until the slide."

Instead of letting her hostage go, Wade tightened her grip around him. "We need a place where it's safe to slide out and we need it now! You don't want to find out how desperate I am to leave, you do what we say." As the frightened man looked to the other Sliders almost pleadingly for salvation, they reluctantly did nothing to countermand her threat.

Desperately gesturing for the other pseudo-scientific bandit to move out of harm's way, the man began to guide them down a massive hallway. There were no windows and everything had a disinfected scent to it, artificial and processed. They were likely at least several hundred feet underground, not too far from the tunnels where they'd ended up.

After a few minutes of awkwardly traversing down the hall, the man opened a door and indicated that the Sliders should follow him in. Once there, they saw a laboratory that contained various electronic gadgets and vials of liquids stacked up against each other.

"Does this door lock?" Arturo asked the man who was still in Wade's painful grip. After slowly nodding yes, Wade pushed him towards the door, making a few adjustments, he backed away from it and again shot Wade an utterly pitiful look.

"You better hope you got it right," Wade replied harshly. "These vials, this equipment, what's it all for?" she shot at him, after a few moments had passed.

"Research equipment, stuff we use to slide people here or chemicals we use to experiment on them," he replied hesitantly.

"We have to destroy it all," Wade instructed the others.

"Wait a minute, Miss Welles," Arturo responded. "As misguided as this group of medical school rejects may be, the research they do here may well be vital to the future of humanity on this world. We cannot simply obliterate it."

"Less than two minutes," Quinn reminded the others, although it only barely registered to them.

"So it's OK to perform experiments on people they kidnap from other worlds, as long as it isn't us, is that what you're saying, 'Professor'?" Wade asked bitterly.

Maximilian Arturo was legitimately irked now. "Do you think they'll abandon their project, just because we destroyed a few of their trinkets, hmm?!? If anything, it may cause MORE people to be subjected to their inane testing, to make up for the damage we caused!!"

"Or they might not know how to duplicate some of the stuff they have here! At the very least, it might slow them down a little!" Wade fumed.

"'Or'?? 'Might'??? Your words depict our situation very well, Miss Welles, we have no idea what effects our actions in this matter might have in the long run." Arturo was in rare form today.

Wade was indignant. "So we might as well not do anything, huh? Just leave the entire population of every world at the mercy of these needle-happy lunatics, right, Professor?"

Quinn interrupted them as gingerly as he possibly could. "Um, are you two likely to do this a lot? Because if so I'm hoping for 'Earplug Earth' anytime now."

Arturo turned his anger temporarily on the young Mr. Mallory. "Now is hardly the time for your particular brand of ill-appreciated humor, Mr. Mallory."

"You're right," Quinn said, aiming the timer at the wall and activating the vortex. "It's time to slide. You can finish arguing or leave all the baggage from this world where it belongs. Your choice," he said, jumping into the vortex voluntarily for only the second time in as many days.

Arturo still looked very perturbed, but after deciding that the argument was futile at this point, he catapulted himself into the vortex. Alone, Wade walked to where the vials of chemicals were and threw them all, hard, against the row of electronic equipment that adorned the other wall. Feeling quite pleased with herself, she followed the others into the void, leaving this world with its last, best chance of hope potentially destroyed.

Deep under the Earth of this world, the monster was reborn.

[ Earth 2013 Episode Guide | The Otherworlds ]