|The rules for me were simple:|
1) Sabrina Lloyd was not available for even one second of screen time. Neither was anyone else banned from the series like JRD and Bennish.
2) Genesis had to pick up where “This Slide of Paradise” left off, Remmy and Wade Slid first, supposedly to Earth Prime, and Quinn and Maggie Slid second to “Future World.”
3) Charlie O’Connell is the new 4th Slider. He doesn’t have to be Quinn’s brother but he looks and sounds a LOT like Quinn so something has to be explained there.
4) Rickman is dead so there has to be a reason for Maggie to keep Sliding. Indeed, the reason for them to Slide each week has to be tweaked because three seasons of “we’re trying to get home” is getting a little old. After three years they’re reaching the point where they wouldn’t recognize home if they saw it.
5) A villain or villains who will recur throughout the season needs to be introduced. It doesn’t have to be the Kromaggs, but it better be good.
This was a tall order. I spent a couple days locked in a room with CRACK PIEs and Doritos and when I came out, “Genesis: Rewired” was the result.
Prelude: Earth Prime, Remmy’s House, 2:31am
The phone rang shrilly. Remmy moaned and slapped at it sleepily. On the fourth ring he finally sat up with a disgusted groan and picked it up. “WHAT?!”
The distorted, panicky female voice on the phone said, “Remmy! You have to run! You have to leave ... <incomprehensible gibberish> ... time!”
“What? Who is this? Wade?” He couldn’t be sure but it SOUNDED like her.
“He’s coming after you next, Remmy! Re-.” The voice was cut off by a loud blast and then the phone went dead.
Remmy dropped the phone and hurled himself out of bed. It had to have been Wade. It had sounded like her despite the distortion. He hurriedly pulled on a pair of jeans and socks and ran to the closet for a shirt. Then he rushed to the bedroom doorway, still pulling it over his head.
A tall man was in the doorway, blocking his path. Without a word the man seized Remmy and threw him against the wall with almost inhuman force.
When the man advanced on him again, Remmy lashed out with a kick. It connected in the middle of the intruder’s stomach. The man grunted. Remmy followed up with a leg sweep. The attacker jumped back to avoid that and fumbled with something.
A gun! Remmy knew the attacker was pulling out a gun so he got his feet under him and launched himself at the intruder. They went crashing against the floor and the man’s head cracked hard against one of the bed legs.
The man lay still after a slow grunt.
Remmy got up, turned on the overhead light, and grabbed a bowling pin from his closet. It had been a gift from some lunatic fan but it would be great right about now for bashing this home invader.
The man was laying flat on his back, his legs splayed. Remmy turned on a lamp to get a look at his attacker. “Quinn?” He murmured, noting the trace of blood coming from the scalp wound where his head had connected with the bedpost. But as he moved away from the lamp and the light fell fully on the man’s face, Remmy realized the man was not Quinn or one of his doubles. The man looked a lot like Quinn, but would only be mistaken for him in poor light and then only for a moment.
Remmy checked the man’s pulse, found it strong, and proceeded to tie up the home invader’s hands with a lamp cord. The scalp wound had stopped bleeding already so it was not serious at all. The man had no ID, indeed, nothing in his pockets except for a lightweight derringer size pistol that most people would have taken for a toy. It was certainly not a projectile weapon. But Remmy had seen a lot of things during the three years of Sliding that had come to an end three months ago. Too much to automatically discount energy weapons.
Despite the hour, the thing to do now was call Wade back. He had no doubt now that it had been her calling. Her phone was answered on the second ring but only silence followed the sound of it being picked up. “Wade? Are you there?” He said anxiously.
The only answer was a click and then a dial tone. Remmy cursed and slammed the phone down. He left without another thought about the man tied up on the floor. He had to get over there now. Obviously Wade had received her night time visitor a little earlier than he had and she had felt he was in similar danger. Most likely the two intruders had planned to call one another when both of them had completed their missions, explaining the answering of her phone. However, the person answering the phone couldn’t be sure it wasn’t someone else calling Wade, unlikely as that would be at this hour, so he would not speak first and raise all sorts of questions. It was up to the caller to initiate the conversation.
Very smart. Very organized. And he had just revealed to Wade’s attacker that he had defeated his own.
What had been their aim? Murder? Remmy’s attacker had not immediately gone for his weapon, so it seemed unlikely. Kidnapping then. Or perhaps forceful questioning. Perhaps one of the greedy corporations that had taken an immediate interest in Sliding when their story was released wanted to find out as much inside info as they could to further their research projects. Not likely, though, since Remmy and Wade knew nothing that would be helpful.
The futuristic gun, assuming it was not a bluff prop, pointed towards sliders from a more technologically developed world.
Remmy debated calling the police from his car phone, but they wouldn’t reach Wade before he did, and he might not want to involve them if she had been kidnapped through a wormhole to another world. He and Wade had agreed to not reveal they had a timer. They would never be allowed to keep it, if nothing else the government would seize it. They would have felt naked without it. The countdown had passed 5 weeks ago (they had spent the entire night alone with each other, drinking wine and watching the last minutes tick away. When it reached zero their eyes had met and his hand had involuntarily reached for it, but he moved his hand instead to open a bottle of 63 year old French wine) so it was useless now but they still didn’t want to give it up.
The police would not and could not follow kidnappers to another world, but they MIGHT find the timer hidden in Wade’s bedroom. If he had it, he might be able to get Quinn’s egghead college friends to do something with it. Better not to involve the authorities until he had the timer hidden somewhere else.
Remmy made it to Wade’s house in record time, putting an end to his speculation and debate. His car screamed to a stop and he raced across her yard while digging his key chain out of his pocket. It had been only ten minutes since he hung up the phone. If the goal had been kidnapping they probably hadn’t had time to get her out of here yet.
Unless they used a timer, his pessimistic side whispered in his mind.
Such had been his panic that he didn’t smell the smoke until he had her key in her lock, didn’t see the flames burning behind the curtains until he darted to the side of the door to the nearest window and peered inside.
The interior of Wade’s house was an inferno.
He still would have charged inside, looking for Wade, if he hadn’t heard something behind him.
Two doubles of the man presumably still lying tied up on the floor of his bedroom were standing six feet from the porch. Both of them were pointing the same weapons at him that he had recovered from the first attacker and which now resided in his right jacket pocket.
“Rembrandt Brown.” One of the men said, in a voice that was strongly reminiscent of Quinn’s but was not his voice. “You’re coming with us.”
Remmy went for his captured gun. Both attackers fired, spearing him with green energy bursts. Remmy was hurled against Wade’s front door (it was already so hot it was warping) and rebounded to the porch with a dazed grunt. There was no pain yet but his chest, where the bursts had hit him, felt numb from neck to belly button so shock could be masking pain for now.
He heard more firing before he lost consciousness completely.
Earth 2034, Courtroom #374, 9:00am
“All rise! This World Court is now in session, the honorable Judge Joseph Brown presiding, you may be seated!”
The judge, a grim look on his face, took at seat. He looked at the defendant’s table where a small woman dressed in a yellow jumpsuit was seated, her head in her hands and her hair covering her face. She had been growing it out the past three months and she had enough now to obscure her face. His gaze turned to the prosecutor. “You may proceed.”
“Your honor, we charge the defendant, Wade Welles, with 3 billion counts of accessory to murder.”
The Judge turned his gaze to the defendant’s table. “How do you plead, Miss Welles.”
There was silence from the table, the woman did not move.
“Miss Welles! How do you plead!”
“Not guilty,” finally came from behind her arms and hair. The voice was tear stained and muffled.
Earth 2034, Penthouse Office of Quilin Enterprises Building in Downtown LA, 10:13am
There was a knock on the door. “Come in,” Quinn Mallory said in a weary voice.
A double of the attackers came in, closed the door behind him, and took one of the plush seats across from the desk.
“Give me some good news, Colin.”
“Wade has been arraigned and charged with the murders. Prosecutor Washington assures me conviction will only take a couple weeks. He asked that you hand over the tracking device for evidence, though.”
Quinn reached into a side drawer and produced a small gold lockbox. He opened it with a thumbprint and voice code, pulled out a plastic case containing a computer chip half the size of a pinky nail. “This alone will be enough to burn her.” He said in a satisfied voice as he tossed it over.
Colin caught it with an uncertain look.
“You still have doubts.” Quinn stated coldly.
“This won’t bring anyone back, Quinn. This won’t bring our parents ba-.”
“Our parents! OUR PARENTS!” Quinn said, getting to his feet, leaning over his desk, and screaming. “How dare you talk to me about our parents!” He straightened, fighting for control. Then he rounded the desk and knelt beside Colin. “What about you, Colin?” He continued, softly. “What about you, dear brother?”
The phone rang. Quinn rose quickly and answered it. “Yes? ... Report. ... Very well, bring all teams back here. They will come after her, we’ll get them then.” He hung the phone up. When he turned back to Colin his face was tear streaked. “Your death hurt the worst, Colin. Can’t you see that? You don’t see me bringing in every father and mother double I can, do you?”
Colin rose, face impassive. “We’ll get them, Quinn. We’ll get them all, I promise.” He gripped the plastic case so hard his fingers were ghostly white. “I’ll deliver this right away.”
“Colin?” Quinn whispered as the other man almost made it to the door.
“Tell Washington that after she’s been convicted I want him to ask for her to be Nerve Stapled. That goes for the rest of them too.”
Colin swallowed hard. “Yes sir.” He fled quickly.
Remmy groaned and sat up.
“He’s awake.” Maggie said. There was a rustle and he was handed a cold bottle of soda.
“Thanks,” he groaned.
“Remmy.” Quinn said softly. “It’s so good to see ya, man.” He sounded pained.
Remmy drained the bottle in three big gulps, set it aside, and explored his chest with tentative fingers. He winced but it didn’t seem to be that bad. “What’s going on, Qball?”
Quinn sighed. “We were there last night, Remmy. We were with Wade, filling her in, when six of them attacked the house. They overwhelmed us. Fortunately they were so intent on getting Wade through the wormhole first Maggie and I managed the break free of them and escape into the neighborhood. By the time we circled back around, you were there and had been stunned on the porch.”
“We fought them off you and took you with us.” Maggie added.
“They tracked us here. Maggie and I thought we escaped clean but they must have bugged our timer or find a way to isolate and track our specific wormhole. It took a month get this timer to retrieve this world’s coordinates so they must have been following us all this time. Waiting for us to find Earth Prime and lead them to you and Wade. You'd think after what happened that I'd be wise to this gambit...” His voice trailed off.
“If we’d had any idea they were following us we never would have come home.” Maggie added.
Quinn met Remmy’s eyes. “You know why I went to Wade first, don’t you? Do you understand?”
“I know, buddy. You don’t have to explain.” He leaned back heavily against the seat of the minivan. “So that was last night. But who are these people? What do they want?”
Quinn looked haunted. “We’ll explain later. We have to go rescue Wade. But before we do that, we need to take you home and get you packed. It might be a while before its safe for you to come home.”
Remmy looked more pained than he had when touching his chest. “Back to the Sliding grind? Of course I’ll do it for Wade, but Jesus, I was just getting settled back into my life.”
“I’m sorry, Remmy, I really am.”
He found a grin for his good friend. “It’s okay, Qball. I was only playing to a sell out football stadium tomorrow night.”
“A one song set before the game, eh?” Quinn chided, a ghost of a smile on his face. He still looked haunted though.
“What?! I’ve become huge since we got back and this story hit the papers! They filled that stadium for ME, brother!”
Maggie patted his arm with a smile and headed for the front of the minivan.
An hour later Remmy had two suitcases packed. In addition to those two cases of clothes, he had a combination locked briefcase. “I didn’t know if word would come from you that we needed to come get you or something so I kept this case ready. It has everything I could imagine needing while Sliding, including several thousand dollars in cash. That would depend on the world, of course.”
“That was smart.” Quinn observed. He helped Remmy carry the bags to the car.
“I still don’t know why you think it will be possible to carry all this crap from world to world,” Remmy complained with a grunt as he tossed one of the cases in the back of the Explorer. “Obviously it will be easier with my own clothes with me but this is a lot to lug around.”
Quinn and Maggie shared a meaningful grin as they climbed in the vehicle.
Maggie started the car and pulled away from his house. “Better put your seatbelt on Remmy.”
Quinn opened the glove compartment, exposing a control panel covered with a monitor, keyboard, and various dials, buttons, and blinking lights. He pressed some keys and turned one dial.
“No way.” Remmy said with barely suppressed glee.
“Yes way,” Maggie grinned, driving towards the Golden Gate Park as fast as traffic would allow her.
“Wade told us she had the timer,” Quinn stated as they drove. “She was going to get it out but they attacked before we had gotten much further in our conversation. Our plans were to talk until about dawn, when you might not kills us for calling you and waking you up, and then we’d all have breakfast and catch up. We had no idea we needed to be in a hurry.”
Maggie noted the pain in his voice and patted his leg. “We’re going to get her. She’ll be with us within a couple hours.”
They rode in silence until they reached the park. Maggie drove in and down to the parking lot within the grounds. It was past lunchtime on a weekday so this part of the park was nearly deserted.
Quinn’s thumb hovered over a red button as Maggie slowed. “Ready?” He asked her.
She nodded tightly and Quinn pressed the button. An energy pulse shot out from bumper level of the van and the second largest vortex Remmy had ever seen opened in front of them. The minivan entered the vortex at about 20mph.
Only one homeless man witnessed this. He stared at the vortex until it disappeared with a final loud clap. Then he shook his head and rolled over on his park bench.
The phone rang.
“Colin 23, sir. They’ve just arrived, we have confirmation on their wormhole. They are in the Golden Gate Park district.”
Quinn reached into another desk drawer, drew out a longer, uglier looking version of the energy weapon the home invaders had wielded. “It’s about time.” He growled as he hung up.
Earth 2034, Maximum Security Jail Branch #34, 1:44pm
“Is it safe to talk yet?” Remmy hissed. “Cuz I don’t understand how you two got us in here. You had passes, code words, and knew the guards’ names.”
“Not now,” Quinn whispered back as he peeked around the corner. “Okay, the coast is clear. Now, our clearance took us this far but will take us no further legitimately. So if we see any more guards we have to walk casually to and past them. If they challenge us we have to stun them. Okay?”
Remmy fingered the weapon they had given him and briefed him on. “Sure. Fine. Whatever.”
They rounded the corner, walking at a normal speed. Quinn and Remmy side by side with Maggie taking up the rear. They passed empty cells and guard stations. Everything was powered down except the overhead lights, not even the cameras seemed to work. Apparently this world didn’t have many prisoners anymore. At least not maximum security ones.
Around the next corner Quinn slowed them to a stop. This hallway was a dead end, and the cell door at the end was hanging open. He listened for a second, then turned to Maggie and whispered, “this is more your area of expertise. What do we do?”
She was checking a printout. “This is where they were keeping her. Even if she were transferred, why would the door be open like that?”
Still no sound either ahead of them or behind them. Maggie set her face and gripped her stun blaster. “Let’s go check it out.”
The two men followed her down to what had recently been Wade’s cell. A man was now sitting on her bunk. It was Quinn’s double. He regarded the three of them with unreadable eyes for a second, and then looked down at his long, ugly weapon. “The worst part about everything that has happened is that I was foolish enough to trust you two. Three months ago you two arrived on this world with a burned out timer and were stranded from your two close friends. Agents from my company met you and brought you to me. I took you under my wing.”
Quinn still had his head down, his longer hair falling over his eyes. As Remmy watched him he realized suddenly that the Quinn double was staring directly at him through his hair. This was all for his benefit! This Quinn wanted to gauge how much Remmy knew. “They haven’t had a chance to tell me much, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Do you realize what these two did to repay me for my trust?!? I gave them an apartment! A weekly stipend! Full access to my company’s labs and all the help they needed to fix their timer and recover the coordinates to their home world!” This world’s Quinn rose to his feet with cat quickness and gestured with his pistol. The longer hair fell aside to reveal a tear streaked face. “I treated you like a BROTHER! Like the brother you were not fortunate enough to have! And you LAID WASTE to this world! Three BILLION DEAD, my brother! Half of every continent is radioactive ash because of you!”
“That’s not true!” Sliding Quinn raged back.
“NOT TRUE?” This world’s Quinn screamed, his face turning a bright crimson. “Do you want to take a hop over to Chicago then? There is plenty of parking space now, I assure you!”
“How could I know that the Kromaggs had implanted a tracking device in me?!!”
“The Kromaggs!” Remmy breathed, starting to understand.
The Quinn in the cell turned to Remmy at this. His voice now was a hoarse whisper. “Oh yes. The Kromagg Dynasty hit my world a month after these two arrived. Apparently they were checking each world my Sliding brother here visited. Our world, with the most advanced technology we’ve encountered in our own Sliding explorations, was too much to pass up. They attacked us with everything they had.”
He sagged, having lost all his energy, and fell back to a sitting position on the bunk. “I lost everything. There was a scientific conference in Chicago the day they attacked. My parents and younger brother were attending. They mel- ...... the Kromaggs melted Chicago down to the earth. Along with a dozen other cities in the US and more cities all over the world. In this country they headed for the West Coast next. By that time our defense forces had mobilized and we crushed the invasion. But not in time. Each of their invading ships was equipped with nuclear self-destruct bombs. The ships over the Soviet Union, Asia, and India heard about our success blowing their ships out of the air and used their bombs before they could be shot down. There are only a handful of people left alive in those regions.”
This world’s Quinn sighed deeply. “Oh, we struck back. We backtracked their wormholes to their home world. Instead of ships all we had to do was send through Core Melting Bombs. Kromagg Prime is now an asteroid belt. A recent space worthy probe confirmed this.”
“The Kromaggs are all dead?” Remmy asked dully. The death numbers were so staggering he couldn’t get his mind around it.
“All except whatever forces they had occupying other worlds. Those forces combined won’t be enough to do anything more than local harm.” He rose again to his feet, seeming to have recovered his energy. “So you see, Mr. Brown, the four of you who encountered the Kromagg Dynasty are equally at fault. You should have realized your escape was too easy and you had been allowed to. You should have realized that one or all of you must be carrying a tracking device. The fact that you failed to engage your brains cost my world three billion souls. Your Quinn realized this, so after I got suspicious and ordered him scanned and the tracking device removed, he fled. He broke and ran to avoid being brought to justice. For the last month he has been running from world to world, until he finally felt it was safe to go to his home world and find you and Wade.”
“I didn’t break and run!” Sliding Quinn protested. “You said you were going to convict and execute me for what THEY did! Destroying five billion Kromagg lives, many of them innocent citizens going about their daily lives, wasn’t enough revenge for you! You needed to blame and kill me. And then Remmy and Wade. And then maybe our doubles! Then you’d probably hunt down every last living Kromagg! It will never be enough, Quinn.”
This world’s Quinn gestured towards his double with the pistol. “Do you see, Remmy? Can you hear his Kromagg loving talk? ‘Innocent Kromagg citizens’!” He mimicked his double with a mock whinny voice.
Remmy shook his head slowly. “Look man, we didn’t think, you’re right about that. For that reason, some of the responsibility is ours. That’s something we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives. But trying us for murder? That’s not appropriate and you know it!”
The Quinn within the cell glanced lovingly down at his weapon. “We were a peaceful world, Remmy. Two months ago, before the invasion, I would be severely fined for having this weapon in my possession. Unlike the stun blasters our security teams carried, this weapon kills. It uses finely tuned sonic blasts to burst your internal organs like overfilled water balloons. Agonized victims often take hours to finally succumb to death. Now, these weapons have been handed out en masse. This is a different world now.”
“This is pointless,” Maggie said nervously, looking behind them as if she expected soldiers to round the corner any second. “He’s insane, there is no reasoning with him.” She directed her attention to the Quinn in the cell. “Where is Wade?”
This world’s Quinn laughed. “We knew the second you arrived here! Did you really think we’d leave her in this cell?”
Before he had finished speaking, Maggie pressed the trigger on her stun blaster. Her question had only been intended to distract him since she knew he would never answer honestly.
Her weapon didn’t work. “They have a dampening field in place!” She shouted as she charged into the cell.
Quinn realized she tried to fire and was bringing his weapon up to her. She chopped it out of his hand and then kneed him in the crotch. He grunted but seized her, spun her around, and slammed her to the floor. Her head hit the edge of the room’s bunk with a meaty thud.
The other Quinn was there. He kicked his double off of Maggie and the two began trading blows.
Remmy, still in the corridor, heard a sound. Six Colins had rounded the corner. Before he could even cry out three or four stun blasts had ripped into him. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
Quinn stepped over the stunned form of his short haired double. “Take Quinn and Remmy to be arraigned. I want them charged and their plea entered before tonight!”
“What about this one?” Colin 45 said, pointing at Maggie’s prone form.
“She wasn’t with them when the Kromaggs implanted trackers. Dump her on some world, I don’t care which one.”
Earth 2034, Penthouse Office of Quilin Enterprises Building in Downtown LA, 3:34pm
“The medical scans you requested, sir.” Colin 1 said, handing over a small disc.
Quinn inserted it into his computer. “Wade and Remmy didn’t have trackers! The Kromaggs must have felt like Quinn and Professor Arturo were the only ones worthy of being followed. They didn’t care where some lounge singer or store clerk went.” He rubbed his jaw. “We shouldn’t care either. They are irrelevant. Dump those two on the same world as Maggie. Then we can convict and execute Quinn and be done with this mess.”
Colin 1 hesitated.
“What is it?”
“I don’t understand, Quinn. You keep changing your mind. We could have picked up the other Quinn any time since he fled. Why go through all the trouble and risk of life to capture Remmy and Wade and then just release them?”
Quinn shrugged. “I thought they had trackers. But I should have known they were irrelevant.”
Colin 1 said nothing, his face impassive.
“Colin, you were the first double of my late brother whom I recruited. You alone I recruited with reasoning, with my logic and the story of what happened. Your world was a rotting slum which had only discovered penicillin two years ago. It was backwards and a horrible place to live. I rescued you from all that. I could have implanted you like I implanted the rest of the Colins. I chose not to do that because I wanted a free thinking brother like mine was. Is this too much of a burden on you? Would you rather be oblivious like the rest of them?”
Colin swallowed. “No sir. I didn’t mean to seem judgmental, sir.”
“Good. Carry out your orders.”
Quinn sat there thinking for a while. He examined the pictures of Sliding Quinn’s three companions. There had been no Wade Welles born on this world. But his visits to other worlds had told him this was rare. Most worlds possessed a Wade Welles. And in most of them, she and Quinn were involved with each other to one degree or another.
What did his double see in this woman? She was attractive, sure. Sensuous, definitely. She had taken the news of what happened here very hard, so she seemed sensitive.
He picked up the phone and speed dialed Colin 1. “Colin, have you dumped the three irrelevant prisoners yet? ... Good, I’ve changed my mind. Dump Maggie and Remmy as planned but not Miss Welles. Take her to Guest Suite Four and have fresh clothes and a hot meal brought to her. Tell her that she is free to take a shower but she will not be allowed to leave her room yet. Let her know that I’ll be stopping by tonight at 7 to offer her a deal. ... Thank you, Colin.”
He hung up the phone with a slight smile.
Earth 2034, Guest Suite Four of Quilin Enterprises Building in Downtown LA, 7:04pm
Two Colin guards stood outside the door to the guest suite. Quinn arrived dressed in a dashing black suit, his long hair tied back in a pony tail. He examined his nails for a second, then nodded to be let in.
He noted, pleased, that the room felt a little steamy as if the shower had been on for a long time and only just recently turned off. “I’m here, Wade!” He called out, going to the kitchenette to make two drinks. “You know, Wade, I’ve been thinking that maybe I was a little too harsh with you earlier. You had every right to spit in my face. Why don’t we start over, on the right foot this time?”
There was no answer. No sound from her bedroom. Quinn set aside the wine bottle he had been filling the glasses with and headed towards her room. “Wade?”
Still no answer. Her bedroom door was locked. Quinn, ever the boy scout, produced the universal key for this suite and opened the door carefully. “Wade, there is no place to hide for long. I must assure you that my intentions are honorable. I just want to talk!”
Without the key, Wade couldn’t have locked the bedroom door from outside the room. So she had to be in here.
The bed was still made and was the kind blocked off below so she couldn’t be under the bed. The closet was empty despite his order to have clothes brought to her. Why hadn’t Colin 1 brought the clothes up yet?
The bathroom was still cloudy with steam and the mirror was completely fogged over. No attempt had been made to clear it. The bathroom was also completely empty, especially the shower which he checked twice because he just couldn’t believe that she had vanished from a locked room.
He checked the towels and found they were dry except for the thin misting from the steam. For that matter, the floor towel and the rest of the floor were also drier than they would be if someone had stepped wet from the shower.
Eyes narrowing, Quinn checked the bathroom’s wall computer. It had been programmed to operate the shower from 6:20 until 7:00pm! The computer’s control over the shower came in handy with anyone who had trouble taking care of themselves, but Wade had discovered (like so many of this world’s teenagers before her) that it could also make someone think you were still in a room you had already abandoned.
Quinn sighed and lifted his watch to his mouth and keyed a number. “Colin 1, come in, we have a problem.”
There was no answer ... at least not the one he had expected. Quinn rushed into the bedroom and spoke again. “Colin 1.”
From the floor next to the bed, a watch on the floor echoed him, “Colin 1.”
Face reddening, fists clenching until his nails opened up his palms, Quinn raised his head and uttered a primeval scream.
Earth 2034, Guest Suite Four of Quilin Enterprises Building in Downtown LA, 7:34pm
“His supply locker has been cleaned out, sir,” Colin 63 reported. “All four weapons assigned to him are missing.”
“I can’t believe Colin 1 would betray me!!” Quinn raged.
The two Colins in the room were silent. Finally, one of them said, “it’s worse than that, sir. Colin 1’s last order was that Quinn be transferred to the Forbidden World along with the other two.”
“Colin 1 or-.”
“NO! Did you say ‘Forbidden World’?”
“Um, yes sir. That is where he ordered all three prisoners deposited.”
Quinn calmed. His voice, when he spoke, was soft. “I see. He’s been planning this for some time. This wasn’t a sudden act as I thought it was. This required forethought. That world was banned before my time but he must have looked into why and discovered it was viable. He must be hoping we'll be too scared to follow.” He went to a cabinet and pulled out a rifle that looked uglier, if possible, than his pistol had. “Enough games. We’re going to do what I should have done from the beginning. Wipe them out. First the ones on the Forbidden World, then my Judas and his whore.”
Forbidden Earth, 8:34pm
“The stuns are wearing off.” Quinn heard as he came to. The person he first saw when he opened his eyes convinced him that he had been dreaming.
The kneeling man smiled back at him. “I’ve been through this with your friend Remmy. I’m not the man you know, I must be his double.” He was dressed in a breechcloth and nothing else, revealing tanned skinned and woodsman muscles. Other than his moccasins, he didn’t seem to have any other possessions. His eyes looked wild, disturbing, but his smile was gentle.
“We’re not exactly sure what happened.” Remmy told his friend. “We just woke up here a couple hours ago. Then, about an hour after we woke up, another wormhole appeared and one of those Colins brought you through and dumped you here. We called to him and he actually smiled and waved to us. But he left before we could reach him.”
“Ryan here found us and was there when we first woke.” Maggie added.
“This man, Colin.” Ryan said casually. “He’s a good man. He has come here often and we’ve had many long talks. He is greatly troubled by his brother’s mindset and emotional state. He felt like he might have turn against his brother if the man went too far. Apparently he has.”
Quinn sat up too swiftly and had to contend with a dizzy spell before he said, “so one of the Colins betrayed Quinn! He’s not going to be happy when he finds out! We have to find cover, he’ll be coming.”
“We’re safe here, we’re in the middle of a thousand mile forest.” Ryan assured him.
“But how far as we from where the wormholes appeared?”
Maggie looked alarmed suddenly. “You’re right! They appeared just over that hill!”
“We’d better get out of here.” Quinn said grimly, getting heavily to his feet.
At that moment, six wormholes appeared with loud booms. They appeared in a rough circle surrounding the point at which Quinn’s entry hole had formed. Thus one of them popped into existence not ten yards in front of them, near the top of the hill.
The Sliders and Ryan leapt to their feet and started running the other direction.
As the wormholes behind them disgorged 6 men each, Ryan broke ahead of the pack, leading them further into the woods.
When the wormholes behind them died out, Quinn suddenly gasped and grabbed Maggie. “It’s no good! Hear that?”
They could. Ahead of them were the sounds of more wormholes. A lot more of them, apparently in a wider circle from the origin point.
Ryan cocked his head. “It sounds like the second wormhole line is about a mile diameter, centered around where you first came out.” He glanced at Maggie, looking bemused by the expression on her face. “What? You use miles for distance measurement, right?”
“It’s not that, how could you estimate that from just listening?”
He shrugged and quipped, “it sounded good, didn’t it? Come on, this way!”
“I’m glad he’s in a good mood about our impending capture,” Remmy snapped.
“It’s worse than that if I’ve gauged my double like I think I have,” Quinn replied grimly.
Ryan led them around a particularly thick group of bushes and stopped short two yards from two Colins. The others were far enough behind him that they stopped in time without being seen.
“Surrender and you’ll be spared.” One of them ordered coldly.
Ryan nodded and raised his hands. “I know that you’re being controlled by implants.” He said soothingly. “But technology can never completely subjugate human will. You are controlled only because you wish to be. That is the trap your brother has laid for you.”
“On the ground, Confucius!” The one on the right cracked as his companion spoke into his watch.
Ryan nodded and lay flat on the ground, face first. “The violence he is forcing you to commit is against your nature. I know this because I have talked to one of your own.”
The other Colin listened to his watch, and then nodded despite the fact that it was an audio only communicator. Then he raised his sonic blaster. The blast it fired was invisible, but it sounded like nails on a chalkboard raised to the hundredth power.
Maggie winced and Remmy uttered a breathless “Ryan!” while Quinn started looking around for a weapon to punish these two murdering bastards.
Ryan sighed and got to his knees. “You tried to murder me in cold blood.” His face was severe, his tone harsh. “And you can’t hide behind those implants because nothing man made can force someone to do something against their inherent moral code.”
The two Colins looked shocked. The one who hadn’t fired raised his weapon and did so now. Two feet directly behind Ryan a geyser of dirt exploded from the earth and a branch shattered.
“You compound your partner’s sin,” Ryan spat brusquely. He seemed to come to a decision and sighed heavily. “Rabid animals must be put down with a firm hand.” With that he opened his mouth wide and pushed a sound out. It was like nothing the Sliders had ever heard before. It was almost too high pitched to hear, and if it had gone on longer than a couple seconds the three of them would have come down with horrid headaches.
A bitterly cold wind started up then, shaking the leaves and making the Sliders shudder despite it being a warm summer day. Something that sounded like low muttering started up, like the chattering of a thousand skeletons.
The Colins were scared now, and they both thought of their stun blasters at the same time. When they went for them, Ryan, apparently not immune to them, dashed to his left and disappeared into the woods.
The Colins started to follow him when they heard a sound behind them. A massive hairy paw reached from behind an ancient oak and snatched one of the Colins. The tall man was carried out of site as easily as a child carries a rag doll. They quickly heard bones snapping and muffled screams. The remaining Colin broke and ran the other direction. He was pulled down and began his own screams before he’d gotten six feet.
Ryan appeared before them. “You better stay with me,” he advised needlessly. After what they had just seen he would have needed a crow bar to pry them from his rear end.
He led them back the way they’d come. Around them they could hear more rustlings, more thrashing, more twigs or bones being snapped, and plenty of screaming and shouting. They could also hear sonic and stun blasts and, several times, animalistic screams.
They weren’t going straight back because they reached a small clearing they had not passed through coming the other way. Three Colins had formed a defensive circle in the middle of the clearing and were firing every direction with their stun blasters. Ryan stopped and told them to get down lest they be hit by a stray blast.
“Disarm yourselves and I’ll call them off!” Ryan shouted out to them.
They turned as one in his direction and fired immediately. Ryan fell to his face to the ground to avoid being riddled with stun beams and cracked, “I’m getting entirely too friendly with the ground today.”
They had broken their circle, leaving their backs exposed. Half a dozen wolves, each the size of a pony, ripped from the woods behind them and made short work of the attacking Colins.
The Sliders and Ryan got to their feet. The sounds of fighting were dissipating now, and the fact that they heard only two wormholes created revealed how devastating the invaders losses must be.
“I guess this is useless against you,” Quinn said from behind them. He was covering them with a nasty looking rifle.
“Yes,” Ryan replied coldly. “My people are immune to sonic weapons. Didn’t you ever wonder how your people suddenly devised them twenty years ago? Why would my people trade you technology that could harm us? Oh, by the way, the bears that even now are creeping up behind you to rip you apart are also immune to that toy.” His cold certainty and the fact that Quinn was a good ten feet from them removed the possibility that this was the infantile ‘look behind you!’ ruse. It sounded instead like a death sentence.
The last of the screaming and shooting around them ended and in the stillness that followed all of them could clearly hear the slow advance of several massive animals.
“It’s not useless against THEM.” He gestured towards Quinn, Maggie, and Remmy. “Call those things off or I’ll empty their guts.”
Ryan’s eyes narrowed. He made a soft clicking sound and the heavy rustling behind the other Quinn ceased.
“Good. I’m leaving now,” he fumbled for his timer while keeping his rifle trained on the Sliders. “They live, I leave. Fair trade.”
“And you come back with projectile weapons?” Ryan replied savagely. “Or perhaps the wormhole will disgorge core melters? No, you die, whatever the cost. These three, while innocent and good of heart, are not worth the extinction of my people.”
Quinn was very pale and his eyes bugged out even further than before. But he was still sharp enough to catch onto the fact that Ryan had not yet called on his beasties to continue their advance. “So ... is there another option?”
“Surrender and agree to tell your double here how to liberate the surviving Colins. You’ll spend your life imprisoned on this world but that is better than being ripped open in the dirt like a slow rabbit.”
“You’ve done some awful things,” Sliding Quinn added. “Surely you realize that. I know you. I know that on some level you want to pay for your actions. You can save some of those men you enslaved, and then you can rest here on this world with the responsibilities finally taken from your back. You won’t have to worry about anything anymore.”
The other Quinn sagged. “You’re right.” He tossed aside the sonic rifle. Immediately the surrounding woods came alive with charging animals. Quinn brought up the timer he was still holding, activated a wormhole, and leaped for it before it had completely formed. Fortunately for him, it did stabilize just before he hit the event horizon.
A tall gray wolf charged after him and pounced into the vortex. Before any more charging animals could reach it, however, the wormhole popped closed with a final clap.
Ryan looked distantly for about thirty seconds, then his expression turned grave. “Rusk didn’t survive. The escaping Colins had armed themselves with projectile weapons and were waiting. Rusk did manage to grievously wound Quinn, though. Perhaps he will die from his injuries.”
“Were you going to keep your bargain?” Sliding Quinn asked intently as they were surrounded by dozens of blood stained predators.
“No.” Ryan replied simply.
“He’s the way he is because of what he’s suffered, the horrors he’s had to endure. He needs therapy, not murder!” Quinn said, raising his voice.
The wolves around them began to show their teeth.
Maggie kicked him hard in the shin. Remmy took his arm. “Um, Quinn, maybe now is not the time.”
“Not only were you willing to throw our lives away, you lied straight faced to him!”
Ryan showed his teeth, much as the wolves and now foxes were doing. “Come on. My camp isn’t far from here. We can discuss this over dinner while we wait to see if your double survives and shoves Armageddon through a wormhole to us.”
“If you had kept your word he wouldn’t have been spooked into fleeing in the first place!”
Remmy squeezed his friend’s arm. “Quinn! Perhaps you haven’t noticed but the entire cast of ‘When Animals Attack’ have us surrounded! Do we really want to piss off Tarzan while he’s holding the reins?”
Ryan chuckled stiffly and patted Remmy’s shoulder. “It’s okay. Feeling a double is worth redemption is a common aliment among Sliders. Come.” He walked towards a black bear and it ambled to one side to let him pass.
The Sliders followed closely, having to brush against several growling animals not willing to give them much space.
“What’s eating you?” Maggie hissed to Quinn as took up the rear behind him.
“Hardy har har.” He replied tightly.
Forbidden World, Two Days Later
“Those puppies are giving me the creeps,” Remmy muttered, eyeing the two massive wolves keeping tabs on them. They wouldn’t see the wolves for hours and then there they would be lying next to the river where they got their water. Or there would be a flash of eyes from the surrounding darkness when they first started a fire. But mostly the wolves lounged 30 feet away from their camp, just within eyeshot.
“You and me both,” Quinn agreed. He had woken the morning after the forest battle to find Ryan gone. Ryan had informed Maggie he was going to confer with his people and would return soon. In the meantime they were to remain at his camp.
“I’d give anything for some meat,” Maggie grouched. Ryan was, not surprisingly, a vegetarian. His food stores consisted of corn cakes, dried vegetables, and a bag of beans hard enough to shatter teeth.
“That’s the thing I don’t get,” Remmy replied, “You can’t tell me Growl and Snarl there are vegetarians! They are eating some meat! So it must be okay to eat whatever they eat.”
“Do you always judge an ENTIRE WORLD on what you personally witness in a day or two?” Ryan said from the several yards away. He was dressed the same except for a leather backpack slung over his left shoulder.
When the Sliders had gotten over their collective heart attacks, Quinn said, “I think we’ve fallen into that trap a couple times. If a group of Sliders had arrived on my world in LA during the last riots they might think the entire world was that way all the time. But it would just be a case of bad timing.”
“I’m a vegetarian by choice, many of my people are not. Nor are most of our animals able to hear human thoughts. The animals inhabiting this forest have been genetically engineered for decades to reach this point of development.” He laughed at loud at their expressions. “So you thought my world was centuries behind yours because of the way I was dressed? The animals and trainers like me are here for a reason. My world has some very uncommon magnetic properties. We believe this is what affected our evolution to make us a little different from most humans. The immunity to sonic blasts, for instance.
“When we discovered Sliding we realized that returning wormholes were only possible in this narrow corridor of land on this continent. The other continents have their own zones. My people quickly became isolationist, it took only a few Slides for this to happen, so we began to take steps to insure the few Sliding zones were as inhospitable as possible.”
He joined them at the fire and sat tiredly. “Anyway, my people decided to send an envoy to the world you escaped from. Years ago we cut off ties with them and all other trading partners and warned them all of the consequences should they visit our world. Two companies from your most recent world didn’t give up, though. They kept sending through gifts ranging from food, fine aged wines, news pamphlets of multiversal happenings, stuff like that. One of these companies was run by your double’s family, Quinn. The other was his main competitor, Gates Enterprises. Our envoy contacted this company for news. We gave more news than we got, and apparently Quinn was violating almost every Corporate Baron Agreement accord. A collation headed by Gates is even now in the process of a hostile takeover of Quilin Enterprises. He is ruined. His company is being dismantled, his assets seized, and, when he is caught, he will face judgment from and be executed by the very court he tried to force upon you.”
Maggie looked up in alarm, “so they haven’t caught him?”
“No, a few loyal aides retreated with him into a wormhole no more than an hour before security forces descended on his mansion. A timer had been left behind programmed to generate wormhole after wormhole randomly to cover his tracks. There is no way of tracking him.”
“Fabulous.” Quinn said sarcastically.
“From the blood splattered everywhere to the amount of medical debris they found in his mansion, he was horridly injured. He’s not going to be doing anything but sleeping and or dying for the next year. I’d be very surprised if he still had all his limbs. In any case, he lost most of his implant slaves here in this forest, and almost all of the rest were captured yesterday and today. They will be released from their implants and returned to their homeworlds. Quinn has at most three to five zombies at his disposal, few hand weapons, and no weapons of mass destruction. My world is no longer in danger from him.”
“You don’t know him like I do,” Quinn sighed. “He can’t hope to get revenge on us, but he can and will try to find Wade. We’ve got to find her before he does.”
Ryan nodded sagely. “I anticipated this.” He took his backpack off and opened it. “Our friends at Gates wanted to give you this.” He handed over a slick looking silver timer. It was compact and covered with a flip top. “The wormhole Colin used to steal away Wade was recorded by Quinn’s people and was still on record with the offices were captured. That signature has been programmed into this timer. When you reach a new world it will take some time for your timer to acquire the departing wormhole’s destination. When it has done so it will beep to get your attention and you can Slide any time after that. You don’t have to immediately Slide, you can do it any time after you have acquired the destination.”
Remmy snorted, “back to Sliding by countdown.”
“Well, obviously the timer can’t predict how long it will need to acquire the coordinates, so there won’t be a countdown. You’ll never know whether it will need two minutes or two days. As I said, it doesn’t matter how long you wait AFTER you’ve gotten the next destination, but if you Slide out BEFORE your timer has done it’s job, you’ll need to return to that world and start all over again if you want to continue to follow Wade.”
“All this is assuming Colin took her somewhere else after his initial Slide.” Maggie offered.
“Colin would know Quinn would come after him, and know that he could be traced. He will keep moving.” Quinn said confidently.
“Why didn’t Colin just bring her here with the rest of us?” Remmy said, asking what had been on all three Sliders’ minds.
They all looked at each other. Quinn finally said, “I guess we’ll have to ask him when we catch up with him. So what happens when we reach the same world they’re on? We’ll be moving as fast as we can, so we should catch up with them.”
“If you arrive on a world Colin and Wade are on, your timer will search for their departing wormhole. If it doesn’t discover one, it will beep as normal and give you a ‘destination not found’ message. Hit the enter button to make it look again and start trying to contact them before they leave that world. As long as it flashes that message you’re in business.”
“Sounds good, we really appreciate this, Ryan.” Quinn offered his hand.
Ryan shook it, but his face was set. “Despite how things turned out I still don’t regret lying to him. Killing him was the right call, even at the cost of your lives.” He smiled finally, “but I’m glad you’re alive.”
“So are we,” Remmy returned.
Quinn released his hand but returned the smile. “I still disagree strongly with you. But that’s a debate for another time. I appreciate all your help.” He turned to Remmy. “We have to go to my double’s world anyway to start from there, and I want to get Earth Prime’s coordinates programmed into this new timer. So it wouldn’t be any trouble to drop you off at home. You have a life now, Remmy. Your career is on the upswing, and this journey could be very dangerous. Maggie and I don’t have that, and we can handle recovering Wade and bringing her home by ourselves.”
Remmy smiled charmingly. “Are you trying to get rid of me? Hey, as long as Wade is in danger, I’m helping you find her. Nuff said.”
Earth 2034, Nobles Parking Garage, 7:34pm
“I’m going to miss this van,” Quinn sighed, caressing the side.
“We can always come back and get it,” Maggie soothed. “Charlie said he’d make sure no one messed with it.” Charlie was the Gates bureaucrat they’d dined with before coming here.
Quinn didn’t seem to hear. He was staring absently through the concrete barriers to the darkening sky beyond.
“We’re going to find her,” Remmy assured him, placing a comforting hand on his close friend’s arm.
“I know,” Quinn said with conviction. “Maybe we’ll even get lucky and bring my double to justice.”
Maggie touched his other arm in a sign of solidarity. Then she brought up the timer, which had told them during dinner it had acquired Colin 1’s wormhole, and activated a wormhole.
They leapt through one at a time, Quinn passing through last.
When the vortex closed behind them, a dark figure rolled out from underneath a nearby car and got to his feet. He checked his timer, seemed satisfied, then activated a wormhole of his own.
The world on the other end was alive with people, none of whom seemed particularly surprised to see his wormhole. The man, clearly a Colin now that he was in the open if fading light, walked quickly down the block and entered a hotel.
He took an elevator all the way to top floor, opening the elevator doors with a key card. The top floor was divided into only four rooms. Colin 5 went to the closest door and used his card again to gain admittance.
Another Colin sat next to the King sized bed in the master bedroom.
“Report,” Colin 2 barked, his eyes darting down to the unconscious Quinn before them.
“The wretched Quinn, Maggie, and Remmy just left. I recorded their wormhole signature. They are following Judas Colin.”
Colin 2 snorted. “They are worlds behind Colins 20 and 31. They will run into those two before they ever reach Judas Colin.”
Colin 5 dragged a chair over to the other side of the bed and looked down lovingly at his master. “What if he never wakes?”
“We know what his will is,” Colin 2 shrugged. “We serve until we die.”
Back to the Otherworlds