"Do you believe in love at first sight?" Hazel inquired.|
"Sure." Death replied.
"I didn't. Not before that. But it was utterly like, HI, whoever you are, I want to be with you forever."
"Forever?" Death echoed.
"You know. The whole bit. Till death us do part."
Death raised her face. "I know."
- Neil Gaiman
• • •
(written on a notepad)
It was, of course, the ultimate irony.
The vial flew in the air, and it rained Destruction down on all of us but me. Obviously I have a biological immunity to it. It happened several hours ago and I haven't felt so much as a tickle in the back of my throat yet.
Everyone else in the base is dead, near as I can tell. I'm pausing to write this in case someone enters this hanger after I make my way down into the bowels of the base to try and discover a way out of here. I will leave this in plain sight. At this point I don't think anyone will find it, because Destruction is still thick in the air. I stink of it. But if someone comes in garbed in protective gear, and reads this, I wanted you to know what happened. I have already written of what transpired up to now. I don't really know why I felt compelled to write this, but I did and it is written now.
It was a horrible death for all of them. I can still hear the screaming. It was awful. At a time like that, there are no sides. No battle lines. Just suffering human beings. That is what they were all reduced to.
Oh, but the irony.
It is very ironic that the only person to survive this holocaust was the only person, to my knowledge, at this base who is soon to be dead with a terminal illness.
I am going to attempt to discover this base's secrets, a cure hopefully, and leave with whatever is useful to the people of this world in time to Slide with my friends.
And I want to pay tribute again to the brave woman who might have single handedly halted this plague's intentional spread. She is a real hero.
To whoever finds this, respectfully yours,
Professor Maximillian Arturo
Arturo set the pad down and, after giving a last glance at the brave and sweet and now quite deceased Maggie Beckett, left the hangar bay for the last time.
Earth 7749: "The Exodus, Part II"
Someone was in the base with him.
Someone was following Arturo as he went from room to room, searching for any information on Destruction that might be helpful to the people of this world. He and his friends wouldn't need it. Obviously, because they were of a different world, the Sliders were immune to Destruction. At least, Arturo had positive proof that he was immune to it.
But someone was following him.
Someone else was alive.
Who or why he didn't know. He kept hearing little sounds behind him. A scrape on the floor. A chair nudged slightly. Breathing once, as if someone was panting. It started shortly after the power grid went down and the lights went out. That had been about an hour after his search began.
The sounds followed him, no matter where he went.
It didn't help that he mostly walked in the dark to save the battery of his flashlight. He used it to enter and search each room, but in the hallways he gauged the distances and then turned it off and walked the long walk between doors with one hand trailing on the wall on the door side. If only he could find another flashlight or ever some batteries. Like all good bases, this one kept their flashlights and dark scopes under lock and key and hidden, to frustrate escapees. The lack of emergency, battery operated lights was another such measure. He had been lucky to find this one. Fortunately one of the deceased officers had been wearing one. But he might be searching the base for days, if necessary. Something useful had to be here!
However, the sounds of someone following him was driving him mad.
He had already raged loudly twice at the unseen person. Questioning their manhood, their parentage, their perverse sexual preferences, their fondness for the show Farscape, and their ability to perform impossible and/or illegal acts with themselves and inanimate objects. None of it worked. Still someone followed him, and that individual did not speak, even in reply to the worst insults and comments. The times that Arturo suddenly lunged around halfway down a hallway and turned on his flash behind him never revealed the person.
It was driving Arturo mad.
So much so that by the second day he began to seriously ponder if it might not be a person at all but Death herself that he heard following him.
The sounds and the searching for something useful so occupied Arturo that he hadn't noticed his senses growing dull. He didn't noticed the numb patches all over his body.
He also didn't notice that the numb patches were growing.
• • •
The next time Wade checked on Quinn he was fast asleep at a work table, and the rest of the scientists and assistants were celebrating. Quinn had been sucessful. Sliding had been perfected on a grand scale, and as soon as the search teams found a suitable world, they could start emptying the base and also sending any other heathly citizens they could get their hands on. And keep sending them as long as possible. The one good thing about Destruction was that it acted so quickly that anyone who had it would be dead long before they could approach the base and try to Slide. So a carrier was not possible. If someone could walk through the vortex, they were safe to go to the other world.
That was the theory, anyway.
So far none of the recon teams had located a suitable world. As Wade entered the cavernous research lab, another four man team Slid out. Two more teams were being debriefed right next to the control panels, so they could go right back out.
Quinn was sleeping hard. Wade sat next to him and stroked his back lightly. Not in such a way that it might wake him, but just as an expression of affection.
"This man is a genius."
She looked up. Two scientists had approached her. The male one was a pleasant looking man with a long thin neck and a tuft of hair that looked like a nightmare to control. The woman was tall and beautiful, with long blonde hair and piercing, intelligent eyes. "Hello." The woman said with a tired smile. "I'm Sammie and this is Fred. We worked closely with Professor Mallory and he was a Godsend. We couldn't have finished in this short of time, if at all, without him."
Wade smiled back. She was a little jealous, but the fact of the matter was her and Quinn would never be anything more than friends. That was a grim reality. And maybe it was time to start acting like it. That did nothing for the jealous twinge though, she noted with amusement. "Yeah, we're pretty fond of him too."
"Have you heard anything about your friend?" Fred wanted to know.
Wade shook her head. She was about to go on when Remmy appeared. "So he's finished? Has he done the modifications on our timer? Can these people help us get home now? Let's wake him and find out!"
"Remmy! He's collapsed with fatigue. He worked something like 48 hours straight with barely a break. We've waited three years, I think we can wait a couple more hours."
"And wait until we catch Destruction?!?"
That got her attention. Wade looked at her close friend, really looked at him. Remmy was anxious, and stressed out to the max. He was tired of Sliding. They all were. He was drained and exhausted and he'd had plenty of it and was anxious to get home now more than ever, because there was a realistic shot at it. And all of the Sliders knew that he resented Quinn for getting them all in this mess. The resentment was always there. Sometimes up close. Sometimes far away. But it was always there. And Wade feared that it was ready to explode out, perhaps consuming them all. If things got out of hand, statements and actions might occur which might never be able to be taken back. Some things, once said, can never be taken back. Some things, once done, can never be forgotten.
She felt like they were losing their grip on what they had.
"We can't leave anyway until the Professor gets back." Wade said calmly.
Remmy was about to say something. Perhaps something that couldn't be taken back. But he stopped himself in time. "You're right." He mumbled in a voice that sounded like he'd swallowed glass. He left without another word.
Wade sighed and glanced around for the scientists. They had made a hasty exit, so she was alone with her exhausted Quinn. She stroked his back again, worrying what would happen when he woke.
• • •
Gaiman and Chalker were waiting when General Rickman came out of the holding cell.
"Report." He ordered.
Major Chalker spoke. "We're not here to report sir."
Suddenly, Rickman was aware that four MPs were also present. "I see. Then what is this about?"
"Why are you spending so much time with the enemy, General?"
Rickman smiled grimly, folding his arms across his chest. "I didn't tell you?"
Confused by the question, Chalker stammered. "Um, I- no sir, you didn't."
"Then it must not have been any of your fucking business!"
The four soldiers and two officers were stunned. Chalker found his voice. "The men are uneasy about it-."
Rickman turned to Gaiman. "You and these MPs are dismissed. Attend to your duties." His manner left no room for argument.
When they were gone Rickman shoved Chalker against the wall. "I love you, Jack. I've known you for most of my life. You and Neil are my only family. But we are at WAR. The human race on this world is DYING around us! And you dare to question me or my tactics? Jack, if you so much as hesitate before following an order before we are out of this situation, I will have you strangled where you stand. Am I clear on this?"
"Perfectly clear." His tone lacked resentment OR fear. It seemed resigned.
Rickman released him. "I want the Sliders who helped us out of here ASAP. Give them what they need and send them on their way. Now get out of my sight!"
Chalker didn't dare question why or mention the missing Slider the others were waiting for.
• • •
Inside the holding cell, the Aztec soldiers exchanged amused glances.