"A.I. Deficiency Slide"|
It was dark all around her. Not dark like night dark, more dark-like-her-eyes-weren't-open dark. She could hear voices around her.
"It's taking a long time for her to thaw out. I wonder if it's normal."
"We could put her in the microwave." A pregnant pause. "What?"
"I think she's starting to come to."
Maggie's eyelids fluttered. Above her she saw the faces of Quinn, Rembrandt, and Wade. Slowly she became aware that she was lying on a bed, covered in at least six blankets. "Wha…what happened?"
"We had to put you in the deep freeze, Maggie, so we could get that thing out of you," Rembrandt explained. "Quinn here played Casanova to lure it on out. We barely made the slide."
"You don't remember, do you?" Quinn asked.
"I remember…I remember coming on to you," she said.
Wade huffed. "That could be any slide…"
Maggie turned to Wade, "And I think I tried to hurt you."
"Again, any slide."
"Ugh, my head's pounding. I feel like someone shoved a toilet brush down my throat," she said. The other three had no real response to that other than to look at each other queasily. "Could I get something to drink? Maybe eat?"
"Sure. Wade, call room service," Quinn said.
Wade sighed and headed for the common room, mouthing out Quinn's request mockingly. "Anything but pancakes!" Maggie yelled after her. Wade lifted the receiver of the phone. "Hi, room service?" she looked back in to the room and then said in a low voice, "are you still serving breakfast?"
"Of course," Gomez Calhoun said from the check-in desk. "Blueberry pancakes…extra chunky? Well, we'll see what we can do. Room 214. Right. Bye bye."
Gomez chuckled as he hung up the phone and looked down at the large prone body of the desk clerk lying out of public view, a telltale puncture wound at the base of his neck. The face of Calhoun morphed into the familiar visage of one Colonel Rickman…the one played by Neil Dickson. He smiled. "One pancake surprise, coming right up."
What if you found a show to ruin about parallel universes?|
What if you could plug the word 'slide' into a thousand different movie titles?
Where it's the same premise...
and Michael York still appears...
but everything else is inferior.
And what if you were too drunk every night to find your way home?
Sliders: The Peck Way.
"What's taking so long?" Quinn asked, he and the other two unfrozen sliders in the common room of the suite.
Wade, overreacting, charged back, "So this is my fault somehow? I didn't order her food quick enough? I didn't promise an extra big tip if they delivered in thirty minutes or less?"
"Woah, girl, calm down," Rembrandt said. "No one's blaming you."
Wade folded her arms and sunk deeper into the sofa cushion. A groan emanated from Maggie's room. Quinn went to the closed door. "Head still pounding?"
From inside, Maggie mumbled, "Um…yeah. Headache. That's it."
"I can't wait any longer," Quinn said. "I'm going down to the kitchen to get her something myself. Why don't you two go across the street and see if you can find her some aspirin?"
"You're the boss," Wade said, storming out of the hotel room.
As they exited the suite, Quinn pulled Rembrandt aside. "Keep an eye on her. I can't put my finger on it, but Wade seems upset about something."
A few blocks down from the hotel, Wade and Rembrandt found a small, community convenience store. You know, the ones that charge way too much and blame Wal-Mart for it. Outside a young girl, probably fifteen, sat on the curb taking a drag off a cigarette.
"Aren't you a little young to be smoking?" Wade said.
The girl sneered. "A cigarette never hurt anybody. Get bent."
Rembrandt shepherded Wade into the store before the unstable slider could respond. "Kids," he said. "They think they're invincible."
"Let's see how invincible she is after a bus hits her," Wade grumbled.
"Wade, what's the matter with you? You haven't been acting like yourself," Rembrandt said.
"I'm fine. Just adapting. That's what everybody wants, right?" Wade stormed off toward the beer cooler.
Making a mental note to do something about Wade later, Rembrandt headed to the counter where an extraordinarily aged man sat rigidly. "Excuse me, my old man, I mean good man, do you have those little packets of Tylenol?"
"What?" the wizened cashier asked.
"I said, do you have any Tylenol?"
"What's that, you say?" he said.
Must be deaf, Rembrandt thought. "TYLENOL," he said loudly.
"I can hear you just fine, sonny. I just don't know what you're asking for."
"Sorry. I'm looking for aspirin."
"It's pointless, Remmy," Wade said, placing a 40 oz. Budweiser on the counter. "I didn't see any medicine at all on the health shelf. Corner stores must not be licensed to sell them here."
"Not true, young miss," the old man said. "We can sell anything we like, including bootleg sex tapes. Got some real nice ones here behind the counter…"
"That's Ok, pal we're all set, " Rembrandt said quickly. "Just let us know where we can get some medicine."
"Ugh," Remmy sighed. "Medicine. You know, the stuff you take when you're sick."
"I swear, you youngsters today with your crazy hip hop slang. I can't understand a word you're saying."
"When you don't feel well? When the world is collapsing in on you and all you want to do is curl up in a ball and vomit until there's nothing left inside? What do you take for that?" Wade asked.
"This," the clerk said, putting the Budweiser in a brown paper bag.
Ding! Ding! "Hello?" Quinn dinged the bell at the front desk a few more times. Not seeing anyone, he snuck his way down towards the kitchen. As he approached the double doors, he could hear a commotion inside. Stealthily he peaked through the circular window—only to see a terrible sight!
"Heh heh heh. They'll be surprised indeed!" Rickman declared, his face and clothes covered in flour. He lovingly flipped the pancake out of the pan and onto a well-made plate complete with orange wedge and garnishing. "There! That should be chunky enough for them."
Quinn kicked the doors open—only to have them swing back at him and smack him in the nose.
"Mallory!" exclaimed Rickman.
"What are you doing here, Rickman?" Quinn said, rubbing his nose. "Expanding your palate? The needle no longer good enough, now you need brown sugar and maple syrup?"
"Such harsh words, and here I am slaving over a hot stove attempting a peace offering."
Quinn sneered. "Pancakes of Peace? Nice try Paul McCartney."
"I'm serious, Mallory. I grow tired of this chase. What say we call a truce?" Rickman saw that Quinn wasn't buying. "Will you at least hear my offer?"
"I have something that you want and you can give me something that I want—my freedom. You think I enjoy living like this?"
"It certainly looks that way…"
Rickman's eyes flared, if such a thing is possible. "I regret ever making that fateful decision to join the American army. Foolish NATO exchange program…but no matter. My proposal is this: you take my timer and I take yours."
The Colonel now had Quinn's attention. "That's right," he said, removing the timer from his apron pocket. "Inside this little device are some very precious co-ordinates to you. You and your friends can go home!"
"Not all of us. Maggie can't breathe on my world."
"That's an eventuality you will have to face sooner or later. You know this, Mallory. It might as well be now, before you grow too attached."
"I take your timer and search for an America that can cure this horrible disease."
"And in the meantime you continue putting innocent victims in comas," Quinn said.
"I never said the plan didn't have its flaws."
"I have a better plan. Why don't I take your timer and escort you to prison?" Quinn said, lunging toward Rickman across the kitchen island separating them. The Colonel reacted quickly, smacking Quinn over the head with a cookie tray. Stunned, but far from incapacitated, Quinn reached for an electric eggbeater. Flipping it on, he waved it menacingly at Rickman. Not to be outdone, Angus armed himself with a pair of spatulas and handled them as he would a pair of knives.
Slowly they felt each other out, maintaining their distance as they circled the table. "It doesn't have to be this way, Mallory! We can talk this out!"
"Not this season, we can't!" Quinn flung one of Rickman's extra chunky pancakes at him. Rickman dodged and retaliated with a scoop of baking soda.
"AAAA!" Quinn cried, clutching at his eyes. The Colonel took advantage with a bear tackle, knocking them both to the ground. Before Quinn could recover, he had a spatula to his throat.
"Now, let's discuss terms of the exchange," Rickman smiled.
"Rickman?" Rembrandt said from Maggie's room, where the four had gathered. "He's here?"
"Not anymore," Quinn said, trying to brush the baking soda out of his hair. "But he left the distinct impression he'd be back before the slide. And just so I didn't forget, he left me this."
Quinn blushed while Maggie admired the ceiling tiles. He then pulled his shirt back a bit to reveal a sequence of spatula marks forming the letter "R" by his collarbone. "He said killing me would be just what we'd expect. There will be time to tell you the rest later. First, did you get something for Maggie?"
Rembrandt handed him a small package. Quinn gave him a questioning look. "Band-aids?"
"It's the best we could do. These people have never heard of Tylenol," Rembrandt explained.
"What about Bayer?"
"How about Excedrin?"
"There's no medicine at all!" Wade practically screamed. "None! Zip! Natta!"
"So no Mydol…"
"UGH!" Wade took a swig from her bottle.
Maggie, who had been silent throughout the conversation, raised her head from her pillow. "How can there be no medicine? What do people do when they get sick? Suffer?"
"That's just it," Rembrandt said. "These people don't get sick. The clerk at the store thought we were mad. They’ve never heard of illness."
Quinn stroked his chin. "Just a few months ago, I'd have said that was impossible, as the evolutionary consequences would make this world unrecognizable. But given what we've seen lately, we must accept the crazy old man at the convenience store's story as truth."
"Let's not waste time working out this world's history. We've got Rickman to kill." As she got off from the bed, Maggie reached back down to steady herself. Quinn grabbed a hold of her to keep her upright.
"Woah, Maggie, take it easy." He put her hand to her forehead and turned to the others. "She's burning up."
"I'll get a wet towel," Rembrandt volunteered, leaving the room.
"She must have caught a cold from being frozen like a slutsicle...er, popsicle on that last world," Wade said.
"I'm fine, WADE," Maggie said, brushing Quinn off. "It's just a little fever. Unlike some people, I don't fall all to PIECES at the sign of a sniffle...or a dead body."
"That's not the point, Maggie," said Quinn. "This world is free of disease. If your fever spreads, who knows what the consequences would be?"
"Hey guys, you need to see this!" Rembrandt had forgotten about the towel and was watching TV in the next room. "I think we've got trouble."
On screen, a woman was reporting live from a gas station downtown. The four sliders looked at each other. "That's where we slid in," Quinn said.
"Thanks, Ieesha. I'm standing here at Phil's Fill-Up and Go, or ground zero if you will, of a strange epidemic that is gripping the city," the reporter said. "People are dropping dead without any apparent cause and this service station is at the center of it all."
"What can you see, Traci?" the in studio anchor asked.
"A lot of dead people, Ieesha," she replied stoically. "Before dying in my arms just a few moments ago, an attendant said something about an Eskimo arriving from the sky with a frozen woman, a black man, and a very pale ghost. I have no reason not to believe the dying man's words."
"Unbelievable," muttered Rembrandt. "All they see is the color of my skin."
"Scientists are working feverishly to determine the cause of the outbreak of death, but have yet to hazard even a guess. However, in this reporter's opinion, it can only be one thing—a nefarious Inuit plot to claim the more temperate regions for themselves. I blame Canada's liberal government for their recog—"
Before she could finish her sentence, Traci dropped dead. The camera swung out of position and crashed, filling the airwaves with static. "Traci? Traci? There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. An eyewitness account of the plague consuming us all and you saw it here first on Fox!"
"This is terrible. Even more terrible than the plague we unleashed upon the last world," Quinn said."If only the Professor were here," sighed Wade. "He'd know what to do."
"Wait a minute," Remmy said, "the Professor DID know what to do! Way back when we started sliding, we encountered a situation just like this and he came up with a—"
"Forget it, Rem. The Professor's DEAD. He can't help us now," Maggie said.
"Maggie's right," Quinn agreed. "We can't live in the past. We'll have to figure this out on our own."
The four remained silent for a few moments. Wade took another swig.
"I've got it!" Quinn declared. "Maggie's blood is the answer. Using the white blood cells fighting her fever, we can synthesize the antidote…just like I did when I was turning into a zombie."
"Those were good times," Maggie said warmly.
"All right. Let's draw Maggie's blood and be done with it," Rembrandt said, rubbing his hands.
"There's a catch," Quinn said, to the collective groan of his friends. "In order to draw the blood, we need a syringe. And since this world doesn't have illness…"
"It doesn't have syringes," Maggie sighed.
"Right. But I know someone who does," Quinn smiled.
Ring! Ring! Scott Weiland picked up the phone. "Hello? Quinn who?"
"I don't believe this," Rembrandt said as he, Quinn, and Wade walked down the street. "The only person who can save this world is Colonel Rickman?"
"If Scott Weiland doesn't have access to a syringe, then they simply don't exist," Quinn said. "It's Rickman or nothing."
"And it just so happens that he's willing to make a deal with us, a deal which you completely neglected to tell us about," Wade said.
"Hey, there's only so much exposition I can handle in one scene. After Rickman cut me, he said if I changed my mind I could get in touch with him by leaving a certain item in a certain place at a certain time of day. Now that the stuffed giraffe is on top of the Transamerica tower, we need only wait."
"Couldn't he have just left a phone number?" Rembrandt asked.
"You really don’t understand the mind of a criminal genius, Remmy," Quinn said.
"Sure I do…on Batman…" Rembrandt muttered.
"I don't understand you," Wade said, stopping in her tracks and pointing an accusing finger at Quinn. "You were offered a way to get us home—again—and you didn't think it important enough to tell us immediately? It was the Professor who died and made you boss, not God! Don't we get a vote?"
Quinn, now angry, lashed back. "You want a vote? Fine! Let's vote. Who here wants to trade timers with Rickman and just go home?"
Rembrandt and Wade raised their hands. "Looks like 2-1," Wade said.
"Make that 2-2," came a voice from behind. Captain Beckett joined the three, looking a little tired, but otherwise no worse for wear.
"Maggie, what are you doing outside? You might still be contagious!" Quinn said.
"The hotel caught on fire, I had to leave! Besides, the bug's out. Keeping me locked up isn't going to put that genie back in its birdhouse." Maggie huffed.
"I don't care if she is from a parallel world, that last analogy made no sense!" Wade screamed.
Ignoring Wade, Rembrandt asked. "How exactly did the hotel catch on fire?"
"Beats me." From across the street, there came a popping sound. Then another. And another. "What the…"
It was horrible. So horrible it shouldn't be shown on TV. And not just because it costs too much to show.
"Those people," Rembrandt said, his mouth agape. "They're spontaneously combusting."
"The virus must have mutated," Quinn said. It was a few moments before anyone could say anything, so taken they were by the horrors around them. Finally, the overwhelming urge to blame someone broke the silence.
"We told you to leave her behind," Wade said, her voice even yet resigned, "that we couldn't risk infecting another world. But you couldn't do it, Quinn. No, you just had to save her. You can't save Arturo, you won't save us, but Maggie? Let the world end before you fail her. Now the world IS ending. I hope you're proud of yourself."
Quinn didn't even flinch in responding. "Everytime we step into that vortex, we take that risk. We've been taking that risk from the very beginning, and not once have I heard you bring up the ramifications of our actions, Wade. We don't know what microbes travel with us. Just like the Europeans didn't know the sicknesses they'd unleash upon the native populations of the Americas, we didn't know either at first. But we learned. No one said it, but deep down we knew, just as we know the reverse could happen and kill us all."
"I didn't know!" a terrified Rembrandt interjected.
"So what's it going to be people? Is this the end of the line? Maybe we should just stay here and not risk infecting any more worlds," Quinn said. "Is that what you want, Wade?"
Wade was defeated. "I just want to go home," she said weakly.
"Then listen to me. I have a way for us all to get what we want," Quinn said, putting his hands on her shoulders.
"Does that include killing Rickman?" Maggie asked.
"Something even better, Maggie," Quinn said. "Something even better."
Out near the wharf was a warehouse that was almost always abandoned on every world they slid on. This world proved to be no exception. While it was unnecessary to make the exchange in such a place, tradition dictated it be so.
The four sliders entered warily with Quinn and Maggie in the lead. The lights were off, though sufficient sunlight came in from the broken windows. "See him?" she asked.
Quinn shook his head. He strode out to the middle of the floor and looked to the ceiling, striking a good pose for any potential camera angled beneath him.
"I don't know, Q-ball. What if this is a trap?" Rembrandt asked.
"Four of us and one of him," Quinn mused. "Doesn't matter. We don't have a choice."
"Oh, you always have a choice, Mallory."
Rickman's voice echoed throughout the warehouse. The sliders looked around, but couldn't pinpoint it. "You merely choose not to see those choices. Everything is always so black and white to both you and my dear Maggie."
A hum preceded the lights as the power surged on. "You chose to interfere in my plans, chose to pursue me in this vain attempt at revenge, redemption, or whatever it is to you. Now you can choose again."
Rickman emerged from the dark, a weapon in one hand, his timer in the other.
"Choose to live or choose to die."
Quinn slowly raised his hands. "I thought we had a deal. Win-win, remember?"
"And a deal we shall have, once I have your timer," Rickman said, beckoning Quinn to hand it over with his weapon. As Quinn slowly reached down to his ankle to retrieve the timer, Maggie and Rembrandt revealed weapons of their own.
"Looks like the deal just changed," Remmy said.
"Two guns to your one, and only one of you," Quinn said, standing back up with the timer in hand.
"Are you really willing to die for the chance to get home?" Rickman asked, leveling his weapon at Wade's head.
"Don’t matter much now does it," Wade said. The dead tone of her voice was enough to convince Rickman of his opponents' resolve.
He laughed uneasily, then madly. "To the deal then!" He slowly bent down and placed his timer on the floor, all the while keeping his gun aimed at Quinn. Quinn did the same, putting his timer down too. "How is your football game, Mallory?"
"We call it soccer," Quinn said.
"On three?" Rickman said. "One, two,…"
Rickman knocked the timer across the floor with a sidesweep of his shoe, Quinn booting his with his toe. Rickman scrambled for it as Quinn calmly retrieved Rickman's timer. "Now, the syringe."
"What? That wasn't part of the arrangement," Rickman said.
"It is now. We need it to save this world. If you have any decency, you'll hand it over," Quinn said.
Maggie released her safety. "I'm hoping for lack of decency."
Rickman looked between the two of them and grit his teeth. "Fine," he said, fumbling inside his pocket for his syringe. A smile crossed his face. "Here you are!" he announced, and tossed the syringe high in the air.
"Don't let it hit the ground!" Quinn yelled.
"I'm under it, I'm under it," Rembrandt declared, slipping his gun into his coat pocket. The syringe came down softly into his hands. "Got it!"
"Nice catch, Remmy! You're a regular Hank Mays!" Maggie said to Wade's audible sigh.
"Still got the hands," he smiled, handing Quinn the syringe. "Wait, where's Rickman?"
They looked around, but he was gone. Quinn shook his head. "Doesn't matter. He's not going anywhere." From his waistband, he pulled out the timer. "The timer I sent him was a modified remote control I picked up at Radio Shack. It's counting down to the next episode of 'Married With Children.'"
Even Wade had to laugh as the tension finally broke. "I can't believe it. We did it. Well, you did it."
"No," Quinn said. "We did it. This was a team effort, and a team victory."
"I just regret that Rickman didn't put up more of a resistance," Maggie said, mournfully putting her gun away.
"It's your call, Maggie. If you want him, you can still go after him. It's not like he's going anywhere soon." With that, Quinn placed the Egyptian timer in Maggie's hands. "This is for you. When you're done with Rickman, use it to find a place where you can find peace."
Maggie looked at the timer and seemed lost for words. "I…I don't know what to say…except why is this tracking a wormhole?"
"What?" Quinn grabbed the timer back. "This can't be right." His free hand fumbled in his pocket for Rickman's timer. "Oh no."
"What is it?" Rembrandt asked.
"This isn't Rickman's timer. It's a Sega Genesis controller…."
"Things are starting to return to normal here in San Francisco after a stunning outbreak that has claimed the lives of thirty thousand people and counting. Citizens are scurrying to hospitals, clinics, and department stores where the vaccine is being distributed. No one has taken responsibility for the outbreak or the mysterious vial containing the cure delivered to Mercy Hospital…"
Rembrandt cut the anchorwoman short with a flick of the remote control. "Life goes on, I guess."
"It goes on for us too, Remmy," Quinn said, checking the timer as the last seconds counted off. "It's not over. We'll catch Rickman and get home. We're close now. I can feel it."
"I'm feeling it too," Wade said, stumbling across the room, a bottle of vodka in her hand.
Quinn activated the timer and opened the vortex. Wade staggered in first with a "Wheeee!" Maggie turned to Quinn and Rembrandt, saying, "I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think something may be off with Wade."
"Eh, she's a big girl. I'm sure she knows what she's doing," Quinn shrugged. "Come on. We've got a job to complete."
One by one, the three jumped off screen into the shimmering light, leaving a lone Sega Genesis controller to collect dust on the coffee table.
- Hey, blame Blinker. Had he not re-introduced me to the stylings of slider75 and his wealth of uh... intriguing concepts, you may have been spared the above.
- There are others I should thank, but seeing as none of them would want to be associated with this, let's just say I'll keep them in my thoughts. Hey, I'm doing YOU the favor here! (I'm looking at you, Eleah...)