"With God On Our Slide"|
Open on a bright day in sunny LA, the four sliders walk down the beach in pairs of two; Maggie and Quinn in the lead, Rembrandt and Wade some fifteen feet behind.
"Can't you get that timer to move any faster? Rickman already has an eleven hour lead on us," Maggie complained.
Quinn didn't turn his head, instead focusing on the device in his hand. "I've explained this to you at least a dozen times," he growled. "We can only access the window once the timer reaches zero, and that's in another three minutes. Deal with it, Captain."
Maggie huffed. "We're never going to catch the colonel like this. We need a better system."
"Sliding isn't about systems, it's about plot contrivances. And we've been using this one since Day Two."
Behind them, Wade was talking to Rembrandt about her feelings, as usual. "I just can't believe he's gone. It doesn't seem real, that this is just a horrible nightmare I'll wake up from any moment."
"Now, now, Wade. The professor didn't want to be remembered like this. He wanted us to go on living," Rembrandt comforted. "Besides, it's possible the Arturo who died isn't even the right one. The real one could still be alive, trapped alone where we left him, living under permanent ridicule and hostility when he couldn't deliver on the sliding technology his double promised."
"Oh God!" Wade gasped, beginning to weep.
"There, there," Rembrandt said, patting her on the shoulder.
"Time to go," Quinn declared. He fired the timer straight up into the air, opening the vortex some twenty-five feet above them.
"It's a good thing the gravity on this earth is only one-sixth of what it is back home," Maggie said, bounding three stories up and into the void.
The congregation assembled in its rickety hut to sing praise unto the Lord. The building wasn't much, but it was all they had and for that they were thankful. "Oh Lord, please look down upon your humble servants in our time of need," the minister proclaimed. "Give us a sign of your love as to hearten our souls and spirits."
There was a loud whack to the roof. The assembled look up in amazement, twittering as assemblies do. The minister, suspicious but eager, looked to the roof and asked, "Lord, are you there?"
Another resounding whack, this time accompanied with a mysterious phrase comprised of four letter words.
They were all very excited now. After centuries of neglect, could it be that their God had chosen now to reveal himself? The minister cried out again. "Oh righteous Lord, reveal yourself to your people!"
The third thwack crashed the roof of the humble temple, sending dust and dirt everywhere. When the congregation could open their eyes again, a shimmering hole in the sky held position over them. From that hole, fell a man. He landed gently on the ground amidst the pieces of sticks and stone, and the sun shone down upon him through the busted roof. The assembled averted their eyes in awe.
"The Messiah! The Messiah!" they chanted, as Quinn Mallory looked anxiously around him.
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.
Rembrandt lifted up a large section of thatch to reveal Wade and Maggie, both of whom had been partially buried by the collapse of the temple roof. The feeble carpentry had been able to hold together under the weight of the women, but Rembrandt's landing proved too much for the building's structural integrity. The three fell through, exposing both Quinn and the vortex.
"OK, there's a very reasonable explanation for all of this," Quinn began to the awestruck followers.
"You are the Son of God!" they cried. "You are here to heal the sick, raise the dead, and give all everlasting life!"
"Like I said, a reasonable explanation…"
A parishioner rushed Quinn, forcing him to brush him back. The man collapsed to the ground, howling "I have been smote!"
"I barely touched you. Just get up," Quinn said.
The man staggered back to his feet. "I can walk again!" he exclaimed. "It's a miracle!"
"A miracle!" they all chanted, each dropping to their knees in reverence.
"Quick, run, while they're all bowing down!" Rembrandt declared. Together, the four sliders charged for the exit. The assembled reached for them and tore at their clothes. "This is just like Chattanooga in '76!" Rembrandt yelled as they pawed at him.
"Weren't you serving in the military in '76?" Wade questioned.
"Yeah, what did you think I was talking about?"
They had to drag a few persistent worshippers several dozen meters, but the sliders did manage to escape into the surrounding community. It wasn't much to look at. The people here were obviously poor and the land they had chose to settle was barren. If there had been trees of size, they had been incorporated into the architectural Cuisinart that passed for buildings. Wade shook her head. "It looks like it was just thrown together overnight."
"I'm not too concerned about the history of this place, Wade. Right now I'd prefer a nice quiet place to hide for the next…twenty-three hours," Quinn said, checking the timer. "Pretending to be all-knowing is one thing, having to deliver is an entirely different matter."
"I hear that," Remmy agreed, even though he had no real reason for doing so.
"Could we FOcus on the MISsion?" Maggie yelled. "We're here to find Rickman. If these people think Quinn is some sort of a god, I say we use that to our advantage."
"You want me to play on the hopes and fears of these people just so you can get your revenge?" Quinn dryly repeated.
"Right," Maggie nodded. "So just walk back over there and threaten them all with leprosy or something if they don't help us."
"I'm not going to do it, Maggie," Quinn replied, Wade and Rembrandt nodding their approval.
"You'd choose these people you don't even know for me, someone you've known for four whole days?" Maggie fumed. "Rickman took everything from me. He needs to pay…and I don't take Federal Express."
With that bizarre alt-history reference, she huffed off. Quinn stopped the others from following. "I'll handle this."
As he jogged after Maggie, Wade turned Rembrandt. "I'm starting to regret taking her along."
"Go easy on her, Wade. She may not want to show it, but she's going through a tough time. She's lost everything she knew—her husband, her world, everything. This bloodlust for vengeance is all she has left. We can't take that away from her," Rembrandt said.
"And what prevents us from getting rid of her?"
Some ways down the backlot, er set, um, I mean road, Quinn caught up with Maggie. He grabbed her by the shoulder only to get his hand shoved away. "Save your speeches, Mallory. This is between me and Rickman."
"Not anymore it isn't. We're a team, Maggie. We make decisions as a team. Now start walking back to where I told the others to stay," he ordered.
"I'm not feeling much part of a team right now," she charged. "All I'm asking of you is to play god! Is that so damn hard?"
"It's wrong, Maggie."
"Oh please. These people are just deluding themselves anyway. There's no all powerful being that's going to raise them out of their pathetic lives," she said.
"When did you become so cynical?" Quinn questioned.
"That's life, Mallory. THINGS happen, people DIE, there's no mystical HAND controlling things. I learned that lesson long ago when my mother died. She was being treated for breast cancer when the typhoid came on. And then she was hit by a bus."
Quinn was stunned by her admission. He struggled to find the words, offering up only, "I'm sorry, Maggie."
"She was weak."
Rembrandt and Wade now approached the two of them, appearing out of breath. "I thought I told you two to wait there," Quinn said.
"That was before the faithful found us," Wade said, pointing back towards the approaching mob. "Time to run!"
"No," Quinn said, looking to Maggie. "We're standing our ground."
"But what about…"
"We're standing our ground," Quinn repeated. "I'll take care of this."
The crowd stopped in front of him and many fell to their knees and moaned, "Messiah! Messiah!"
Quinn swallowed hard. "Yes, I am your Messiah. What is it you want…aside from food, shelter, or a decent quality of life?"
"Heal my sister," a man cried out. Three men followed him out of the group carrying a woman. They presented her at Quinn's feet. Rembrandt looked uneasily at the ground as Quinn knelt to examine her. She appeared to be breathing normally, though she did not speak.
"What's wrong with her?" he asked, checking her pulse.
"She has fallen into an enchanted sleep. It is the work of some demon undoubtedly," the man answered.
"Enchanted sleep? Let me see her," Maggie said, shoving her way forward. She roughly wrenched the poor woman's head so she could get a good luck at her neck. "A puncture hole."
"Rickman?" Rembrandt asked.
"No, the tooth bunny, of course it's Rickman!" Maggie sneered. She pulled her pistol from its holster and released the safety. Her eyes narrowed as she announced, "I hope the Colonel's said his prayers, cause I'm going to send him to meet his maker."
Everyone turned to Quinn. "She means she's going to kill him," he stated.
"Look, I believe you when you say you'll follow me to the ends of the earth. I'm just not hiring apostles right now. Good day," Quinn said, shutting the door on the groveling man. He sat down in a chair in the spartan quarters the people of the community had given them and moaned, "Everyone wants a piece of me."
"The Lord's work is never done," Rembrandt said. "Except you're not the Lord, now are you?"
Quinn rolled his eyes. "Don't start in on me. I didn't have a choice…"
"Of course you had a choice. You always have a choice. You didn't have to impersonate a deity. You didn't have to stop the rest of us from sliding home while you made googly-eyes at Maggie. You didn't have to turn up the power on the timer to 'Hoover deluxe' and suck me and my Caddy into your…"
"Do you think you could do a better job?" Quinn said, thrusting the timer toward Rembrandt. "By all means, take it. You become the leader and I'll just tag along and whine about my car." There was an awkward pause as the two sliders stared each other down. "Go on, take it."
Rembrandt looked down. "All right, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go off on you like that. It's just, I don't know what we're supposed to do any more, I mean with the Professor gone…I know you're trying."
"It's all right, Remmy. We haven't known what we're supposed to do for half a season," Quinn said, patting his friend on the shoulder. "We cool again?"
"Until next slide when we do it all over again," Rembrandt nodded.
The door swung open and Maggie charged in, followed by a visibly annoyed Wade. "It's as I thought," Maggie announced. "Rickman's been at large and he's piling up victims. There were two OTHer mysTERious illnesses in town, both of them with pretty little needle marks in their necks."
"How often does he need to inject himself?" asked Rembrandt.
"The base had only thirty of forty coma patients, but those people were compatible with his DNA. Who knows how much he'll need if he's just killing people at random?" Quinn said.
"I don't intend to find out. We're taking him out now. He's still here right?" Maggie asked.
Quinn held out the timer, which didn't even appear to be turned on. "It's not tracking any outgoing vortexes."
"Sweet," Maggie smiled, stroking the handle of her gun ever so delicately.
Wade raised her hand. "Hold on, Wyatt Earp. I'm still not clear on what happens when we catch Rickman. Sure, we need to stop him, but kill him? That's not our style."
Maggie sighed and mocked her. "And just what is your style, Wade? Nag him to death?"
Wade made a move as if she might actually strike Maggie, though Quinn caught her and pulled her away. "Ok, that's enough. We've already had one internal fight this scene and even we have our limits. Now, did you guys getting any leads as to where Rickman might be hiding?"
"The townspeople are very superstitious," Wade said, shaking Quinn off. "They settled here so they could devote their lives to worship. They fear the outside and there are warnings about what lies beyond their boundaries."
"That sounds like an ideal place to hole up if I were a brain sucking freak," Rembrandt said. "Guess we'd better start searching."
"Rembrandt and I will take care of it," Maggie announced. "This kind of search and destroy mission needs a little bit of discretion. Rickman would hear us from a mile off between Quinn's entourage and Wade's complaining."
Wade fumed as the two sliders exited. "Don't fall into a ravine."
"Give me your hand," Rembrandt yelled to Maggie, who was clinging to a thin ledge at the edge of a ravine. Maggie rocked from her right to left side and lunged up with her left hand. Rembrandt caught it with both hands and hauled her back up to safety.
"Thanks. I slipped on some loose rocks," she said as she recovered. Maggie was breathing heavily from the misadventure. It didn't help that it was a scorching hot day and the hills offered little in the way of shelter. She wiped the hair out of her face, her sweat-soaked shirt clinging tightly to her ample…hey, don't look at me! I'm just reading the director's notes here!
"I can continue now." Maggie stood up, examining her exposed arms for cuts.
"You need to be more careful, Maggie. Especially when you're carrying the timer. We lose that and it's all over for all of us," Rembrandt said as they continued their climb up the ridge.
"I didn't drop it, it's right here," she snarled, pulling the timer from her back pocket. "See? All set and…oh no!"
"What?" Rembrandt practically screamed. "Did we miss the slide?"
"No, it's tracking a vortex. Rickman must have slid! And we've still got fourteen hours before we can follow," Maggie growled. "This is hopeless! How are we ever going to catch him when he always has the jump."
"He has the jump today, but it won't always be like this, Maggie. One of these days we'll hit a nice two week slide and you can hunt him down to your heart's content," Rembrandt said.
"Promise?" Maggie playfully asked.
"You are one seriously disturbed lady."
The two had reached the top of the ridge. As she peered out, she gasped, "What is that?"
Rembrandt looked down upon the expected sight below. "I think it's San Bernadino." OK, so there were no markers or landmarks that would readily announce the place as San Bernadino, but it's definitely a modern city and we might as well just take Rembrandt's word for it.
"I think we seriously underestimated these religious freaks. No one in their right mind would live in that hole when civilization is less than five miles away," Maggie said. "They've got to be some sort of cult."
"What do you think'll happen if they determine Q-ball's a fraud?"
"And what does this parable teach us?" Quinn asked his followers.
They stared at him, bewildered. After a lengthy pause, one young woman slowly rasied her hand. Quinn pointed to her, "Yes, my child?"
"Um…one should never eat the waste of mutated creatures?"
"Exactly. Sure, you may think it will give you eternal life, but realistically, the chances of that are pretty damn slim," Quinn explained to the nodding approval of the assembled.
"I think you're getting into this too much," Wade said.
"Are you not seated at my right hand? What do you have to complain about?" Quinn shot back.
"Tell us more, Lord!" they cried out. "Give us words of comfort and wisdom!"
"This should be amusing considering who they're asking," Wade mumbled.
"I heard that, Wade. You know, there are seven circles of hell reserved for nonbelievers like yourself," Quinn cautioned.
"I thought there were nine."
"Um…revisionist text. Who's the deity here? You or me?"
The cries for more teachings overwhelmed them and soon Quinn was forced to accede to their demands. They learned many things that night, including Pythagoras' theorem, all of the names of the Hall of Justice and their alter-egos, and to always, always wait thirty minutes to go swimming after eating. By the time, Maggie and Rembrandt made it back to town, Quinn was running low on material.
"Don't switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no. Don't masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no," he proclaimed to their murmered assent.
"You can quit being their savior now," Maggie yelled aloud. "Rickman's already gone."
"Uh…Maggie, I'm kinda in the middle of a sermon," Quinn spat out, his face turning four shades of magenta.
"Right, and I'm telling you the mission's failed. Time for a new plan," she said.
"It doesn't quite work that way," Quinn said through gritted teeth.
"What is she saying, Lord?" the minister asked.
"Nothing, she's saying nothing at all," Rembrandt jumped in, grabbing Maggie by the arm.
"Oh give it a rest, people. He's not a god," Maggie sneered.
"Blasphemer!" they cried. The entire congregation arose in anger at Maggie's horrible accusation. "Burn her! Burn her!" some declared. Others screamed out, "Drown her! Drown her!" While still others prefered the more ceremonial approach, "Crucify her! Crucify her!"
"Wade, be quiet!" Quinn snarled.
"Enough!" the minister cried. "Burning? Drowning? For shame. Is this the kind of behaviour our Creator has taught us? The only true method for dealing with a blasphemer is stoning. Take her away!"
"But I don't do drugs…" Maggie said as the townspeople dragged her out.
Maggie was roughly discarded to the ground, the dirt kicking up around her. Surrounding her on all sides were townspeople of all ages and persuasions. Some held their stones gripped tightly to their chests, others flipped them absently. One very elderly woman was whittling the edge of her stone to make it as sharp and cutting as possible. Maggie staggered to her feet and held her hands out.
"You think you can take me? Just bring it!"
"Hold your rocks!" came a cry from the back. A path formed among the people as Quinn made his way inside the circle. "Hold, good people. You don't want to do this."
"But Lord, she spoke against you. Surely, you wish us to strike her down for you," the minister pleaded.
Quinn assumed a look of solemnity. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
"Ow!" Maggie yelled as the aged woman's toss connected with Maggie's shin. Quinn raised his hands. "What I meant is that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. The true believer forgives everyone their trespasses."
"You want us to forgive her?" the minister repeated.
"Yes. No matter how egregious the sin—be it lust, pride, or getting your friends lost in the universe with a companion hell-bent on homicide—all these things must be forgiven. No one is in position to judge another…except me, naturally," Quinn concluded.
"You are both a wise and patient lord if what you say is true," the minister began, "however, you are most certainly not the God of our beliefs. Ours is into vengeance, retribution, floods, and the like. Infidel! You are not the true Lord!"
With that, the crowd rushed upon Quinn and bound him. Desperately, he shouted the first words of scripture that came to mind. "Wait! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!"
"That's commie talk," the old woman spat.
"Take him to the desert. Stoning's too good for him. It'll have to be crucifixion," the minister declared to the cheers of the crowd.
"What about the woman?" they asked.
"She blasphemed an impostor. I suppose technically she's off the hook." The minister stroked his chin. "Eh, better safe than sorry. Stone her anyway."
Maggie barely had time to cover her head before a volley of stones came flying her way.
Rembrandt and Wade stood over her as one of the townspeople checked the prone body of their fallen companion. He hung his head. "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do for her."
"Oh my God, Remmy. I was only kidding before. I didn't really mean…" a coughing sound interrupted Wade. "Maggie?"
The former pilot groaned and struggled to sit back up. "I'm all right. Just really pissed off."
Rembrandt grabbed the man who had checked her out. "I thought you said there was nothing you could do for her?"
"I have no medical training." Then he walked off.
"Can you stand?" Wade asked. Maggie grabbed a hold of Wade and got up on to one knee, reaching an erect position with the help of Rembrandt. And wow, did that line sound really kinky.
"I'm impressed, Maggie. Lesser women would still be writhing in pain. Maybe even dead," Wade said, all trace of repentance gone.
"I'm not like other women," Maggie growled.
"I know. Most of us can't afford that type of surgery." Wade felt Rembrandt's scowl. "What? Someone had to say it!"
"You two can claw each other's eyes out later. Right now we've got to save Quinn. He's scheduled to be executed at sunrise. Now that's about the same time as the slide," Rembrandt said. "We need a plan."
"I've got a plan. It involves me threatening to shoot everyone…hey, where did my gun go?" Maggie cried.
"Why are you looking at me?" Wade asked.
"Cause you're the animal rights lover of the group," Maggie charged.
"I didn't take your stupid gun. You probably lost it when the villagers were dragging you across town!"
"Ladies, ladies, please!" Rembrandt yelled. "It's all right. I think I have a plan, and it doesn't involve killing anyone."
"I thought we wanted a plan that would work…"
"Shut up, Maggie."
In the pre-dawn, a lonely sound was heard in the cool desert air—"Damn, I wish we had a chainsaw!"
Two guards lay unconscious as Maggie and Rembrandt diligently tried to cut through the bottom of the cross. They weren't getting too far with their makeshift knives. Wade hovered nearby, timer in hand. "We've got just ten minutes til the slide," she warned.
"And just thirty until the dawn," Rembrandt said softly.
"We need to speed this up." Maggie called up to Quinn, "Can you try rocking this thing a little?"
"I'm kind of tied up at the moment, Maggie," was the terse reply. Still, he attempted to push the cross back and forth with what little leverage he could get from the ropes binding his hands and feet. Quinn was very thankful that this community was too poor to afford nails.
"This is hopeless," Maggie said, throwing her knife down in disgust.
"You know, you could just climb up unto each other's shoulders and UNTIE ME!" Quinn yelled down.
"Too late, we've got company!" Marching as a cluster in classic angry mob style, the villagers advanced to the cross, torches and picnic baskets in hand. The three free sliders met them some twenty feet in front of Quinn.
"Be gone, unless you wish to join your lord," the minister announced.
"He's not our lord. Yeah, we take orders from him and OK, we are completely dependent upon him for our survival, and sure he's the only one who can lead us back to the promised land…you know, come to think of it…" Rembrandt said.
"I don't get it," Wade interrupted. "You tie him to the cross last night and then come the next morning? Why? To see how he's doing?"
"To set the cross on fire," the minister shrugged, as if it were obvious.
"Must be a Southern denomination," Maggie said in an aside to Wade, the first thing they'd agreed on all slide.
"That is enough exposition. Time for the barbecue!" The crowd cheered, raising their mutton on a stick high above their heads.
"Wait! Don't I get my last words?" Quinn shouted.
There was grumbling from the assembled, but finally they assented. "Just make it quick! The fertilizer isn't going to collect itself today," one man shouted.
"I can't watch this," Rembrandt said, lowering his head.
Quinn saw this and was moved by his friend's fealty. "Cheer up, Rembrandt. You know what they say. Some things in life don't work, especially when you're produced by jerks. It can make you hang your head and cry. But if you're surrounded by circus freaks, there's no need to yell and shriek. Everything'll work out for the best if you…
Always look on the bright slide of life.
Always look on the bright slide of life.
If the slide's got you glum
Then look around you chum
We've beat the odds together since season one
The Professor may be dead
But Wade still has her head
And Rickman must be killed before we're done, so…"
"Always look on the bright slide of life," the gathered sang, whistling in between refrains. "Always look on the bright slide of life."
"Take it away, Maggie!" Quinn said
"I'm learning as I go
Sliding's hard, you know
My husband's death still has me feeling numb
But now it seems I find
Who needs a military mind?
To survive when the opponents are so dumb, and…"
"Always look on the bright slide of life…" And as the congregation sang, Wade activated the timer directly behind the cross. The three free sliders charged at the weakened cross and shoved with all their might. Fortunately, crosses give pretty easily in sand and it fell.
"Timber!" Rembrandt shouted as Quinn fell into the vortex, cross and all.
Still smarting from their defeat (yet still humming a bouncy tune), the congregation assembled in their broken church to seek penitence from their God. "Oh Lord," the minister cried. "Forgive us for accepting a false prophet and our failure to properly execute him. We grovel before you."
In answer, a mighty wind was felt and a new vortex opened in the sky above them. This time, only a single woman fell from the void. They quivered in fear as she glared at them.
"Who…who are you?" the minister asked.
"The name's Logan," she said. "And I'll be your worst nightmare if you don't do every little thing I tell you to do."
The assembly cheered. "That's our Lord!"
- Thanks go to Monty Python for their "Life of Brian", which I ripped off in true S3 fashion. I mean, paid homage. Yeah.
- I also thank Steve Kriozere for the chance to explain that tantalizing teaser in "Sole Survivors."
- Lastly, I thank all of you who have read and replied to these little larks. This was my last planned story for this series and I've had a lot of fun doing them. I hope you enjoyed them too.