T4  8950

"Woah!" yelled Quinn, flying out of the newly opened vortex. He was uncharacteristically twisted around and found himself watching the wormhole as his feet touched ground. Unable to maintain his balance, Quinn fell over backwards. There was a cracking sound as he awkwardly landed in a cloud of ash.

The Professor and Rembrandt quickly followed, also facing the wrong direction. Arturo had no time to roll out of the way before Rembrandt flattened him. Wade landed rather comfortably on her two fallen companions.

"Get off! Get off!" yelled Arturo from below. Wade and Rembrandt rolled off and each gave the Professor a helping hand, which he accepted irritably.

"Now I know for a fact you two entered the vortex before me," a confounded Arturo said. "How the devil did I end up at the base of the pile?"

"I don't know, Professor," chuckled Rembrandt. "I guess you managed to find a passing lane."

"Quinn, are you all right?" Wade asked, noticing Quinn hobble over to them.

"Yeah, I think so. For a second there I thought I'd snapped something," he winced. The dull pain in his body, however, was secondary to the stark reality of the world they'd slid into.

Misshapen piles of brick and mortar, presumably the remains of buildings, lay in rubble all about them. Cars and lampposts in various wrecked conditions lay flipped and shattered. Everything was covered in ash except for places the wind had cleared, forming little drifts. It was almost like new fallen snow if it weren't so gray. "Looks like a tornado swept through here...or thirty," said Wade.

"Kromaggs?" suggested Rembrandt, echoing their previous encounter.

"The Kromaggs are conquerors, not destroyers," Quinn said.

"Yeah, well maybe this earth fought back," said Rembrandt, breaking off from the group to look around.

Arturo looked across the desolate landscape and shivered. As chilling as the destruction was to survey, that's not why he shook. "Is it me, or is it unusually frigid for November?"

"It's not just you, Professor," said Quinn, buttoning his jacket. "I doubt it's much warmer than thirty-five, forty degrees. It's also a lot darker for your typical afternoon."

"I don't know about you guys, but I'm hoping this is a short slide," said Wade, the mist from her breath slowly drifting away. She huddled with Arturo and Quinn. "How much time do we have?"

Quinn removed the timer from his back pocket. His face hardened with alarm.

"I don't like that look," said Wade.

"It looks like that crack I heard when I landed wasn't my back after all," he said sheepishly. The display window was out.

"Wonderful," Arturo said. "What next?"

"Hey guys!" Rembrandt called. "I think you should see this."

They found Rembrandt crouched over the street. Etched in the asphalt was a figure of some sort, more of a shadow than a tracing. Arturo bent over and examined it closer.

"What is it?" asked Wade, almost not wanting to know the answer. Arturo got down on one knee and covered his head. The shadow matched his posture.

The Professor slowly stood up. "Only one thing could have left this impression."

He didn't need to tell them. The shadow spoke for itself. This was the work of an atom bomb.

What if you found a portal to a parallel universe?
What if you could slide into a thousand different worlds?
Where it's the same year...and you're the same person...but everything else is different?
And what if you can't find your way home?

Sliders: T4
"The Missiles of November"

Written by Mike Truman

Act One

Arturo spied the charred metal of the street sign--'Chaney S', the rest was blacked out. "San Francisco," he said softly. Even the earthquake reinforcements present in nearly all of the city's buildings had not been enough to keep it intact. The bomb had been a powerful one and it had done its job well. The heat from the blast had melted the glass and twisted the surrounding metal into grotesque shapes. Wood had simply burned and turned to ash. So had flesh. Looking out at the lifeless city, his mind drifted toward the book of Jeremiah. "Flee from Babylon. It is time for the Lord's vengeance, he will pay her what she deserves."

"Oh God, oh God, oh God," repeated Rembrandt.

"Don't panic yet, Rembrandt. The timer's probably still functioning; we just can't see the readout. All I need are some new LEDs and we'll be all set," Quinn assured.

"And where are we supposed to find these...whatever you just said?" Rembrandt asked. "I don't see any electronics stores around here."

"Actually, I think we're standing on one." Wade pointed to a sign poking out from under the rubble featuring a battered anthropomorphic moon.

"Look, not all of San Francisco is destroyed. We'll find the equipment we need and slide out of here," Quinn reassured. "Believe me. This is one world I don't want to spend the next twenty-nine years on."

Rembrandt put on his brave face, although the slight squeaking in his voice gave him away. "All right. I'll stay cool."

"All right. There are buildings to the north. We'll go that way first," Quinn said, slipping the timer into his coat pocket. "Starting with my house."

A light snow fell as the four wandered through the ruined city. The snow was black, polluted by the smoke and ash that now constituted much of the lower atmosphere. They had yet to encounter anyone, only more shadows of those vaporized by the blast.

"'Terminator' was always my favorite nuclear holocaust movie. Sure, 'Planet of the Apes' was good and symbolic and all, but nothing beats a cyborg from the future on a mission," Rembrandt remarked. He was talking for the sheer sake of talking. Anything to break the horrible silence.

"'Terminator 2' was better," responded Quinn.

"How can you say that?" scoffed Rembrandt.

"Four syllables. Liquid metal. The T1000 was far cooler than Arnold," said Quinn.

"Nah, you're missing the whole point. Arnold was so scary because he looked human. The first time you see his skin ripped off...now tell me that didn't freak you out seeing that glowin' red eye!"

"I really don't think that ripped off flesh is an appropriate topic of conversation," Wade said.

"Miss Welles is right. This debate is pointless," said Arturo. "Everyone knows 'Omega Man' is the greatest holocaust film."

"Would you just stop it!" Wade practically screamed. She stopped in her tracks. "This is serious. We're in the aftermath of a nuclear war and you guys are handing out Oscars."

"Miss Welles, no one here doubts the severity of our situation. Forgive us, but this chatter--though inane--is rather comforting at the moment," the Professor said.

"I'm sorry," said Wade, genuinely apologetic, albeit flustered.

"It'll be all right, Wade," said Quinn.

"There's no way you can know that, so don't try and..."

He cut her off. "I recognize this rubble. We should be a few blocks from my house."

Quinn led the others through a maze of debris and abandoned structures until they reached the corner where his house stood.

"Well, it's a fix-er-up'er," Rembrandt remarked as they looked at what was left of it. The gate and fencing had been blown down and the front of the house had collapsed. Parts of the back and sides, however, looked intact.

"Let's see if we can get in through the kitchen," Quinn said.

There were fragments of the roof in the walkway and the screen door was nowhere to be found, but the back door to the kitchen did open. The smell of spoiled food was in the room.

"Looks like the refrigeration has been out for some time," remarked Quinn.

"A keen observation," muttered Arturo, but Quinn paid him no mind. His eyes were on the basement door.

He instinctively flicked the power switch upon entering, but no electric light was forthcoming. There was a little natural light filtering in through the windows from one end of the basement. The other side was dark from the rubble out front.

"Careful," Quinn said as he began to descend. A step or two had cracked and the staircase creaked under their weight.

"Do you see anything?" Arturo asked.

"Nothing," Quinn replied.

"Should we look for candles?" Rembrandt suggested.

"No, I mean nothing. There's nothing here," Quinn said. That wasn't exactly true. There was a washer and dryer, assorted pieces of furniture, and the standard array of cardboard boxes. It's just not what they were looking for.

"Perhaps your double doesn't live here," the Professor opined, "assuming you even have a double on this world."

Quinn lifted a fallen rocking chair and returned it to its upright position. "This was my grandmother's. This is definitely my house. Looks like we're out of luck here. Maybe if we make our way to the university..."

"Hey, Q-ball! What's inside here?"

"What's inside where?"

"This hatch. Where does it go?"

Quinn worked his way over to Rembrandt, who was beneath the stairs. "I don't know. There was nothing like that in my house."

Arturo peered over their shoulders. "It looks like the opening to a bomb shelter," he remarked.

Gloved hands worked at the entry hatch as two other sets of gloved hands held flashlights over them.

"OK, heave!" said Quinn.

Quinn and Rembrandt lifted the hatch open, a cloud of dust crossing the beams of the flashlights.

"Let's go," Quinn said, taking the flashlight from Wade.

Quinn hit the floor first, followed by Rembrandt. The other two stayed above, shining a light down into the hole. Quinn slowly moved the light across the shelter. His beam cut across the cavern, first revealing a shelf with a few jars. "Mom's raspberry preserves."

"What's that on the floor?" Rembrandt asked

Quinn shone the beam down. It was one of his Tesla coils. "I think we're in business."

"What? What is it?" came Arturo's voice from above.

"We've found the lab."

The blast had not been kind to the shelter. Everything had been knocked about from furniture to equipment. "I'm going to need some help searching," Quinn said as the other two sliders descended into the room. "This place is a mess."

Wade was making her way toward Quinn when she kicked something. "Hello?" she asked, stooping down to look at the object. A faint red light glowed in the darkness. "Eee!" Wade yelled, falling back. Quinn ran to her.

"What is it?" Wade frantically pointed at the floor with her free hand, the other clinging to his coat. Quinn found the object. "It's my video camera. The battery light is still on."

"It's Rembrandt's fault! Him and his stupid 'Terminator' movie," said Wade. Quinn didn't chide her; he was far more interested in the camera.

"If we could get this running, we might be able to figure out what happened on this world."

"That may be arranged after all," said Arturo, his gloved hand caressing a machine on the far side of the shelter. He moved the flashlight to show the grin on his face. "We have an emergency generator."

Quinn and Arturo went to work immediately. "It's a little old, but I think it is serviceable," said Arturo, inspecting the generator. "But that's making the large assumption that the EMP burst hasn't permanently crippled it."

"This shelter looks pretty secure. It may have escaped its effects," said Quinn. "We won't know until we try."

"What's an EMP burst?" asked Wade, holding the flashlight on the generator.

"An electromagnetic pulse," answered Arturo. "If you detonate a nuclear weapon at a high atmosphere, it will emit such an intense burst of gamma rays as to literally knock the electrons out of atoms, causing widespread disruption, if not outright destruction, to all electronic devices."

"And when does this disruption end?"

"That's rather tricky. The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 prevented anyone from conducting further tests on the EMP. The last experiment knocked out communications for one hour, but that was just one bomb and it was over thirty years ago. Heaven knows what was unleashed here. The damage could be so extreme as to have permanently altered the Earth's magnetic field."

"Let's try to think optimistically, Professor," said Quinn. "We're going to need that magnetic field to slide out of here."

As they fiddled, Rembrandt ransacked the house for supplies. "Didn't your mother ever go grocery shopping? The cupboards are practically bare," Rembrandt complained. "I can't live off pancake mix alone."

"You'd think she would have stocked up if there was an impending disaster," Wade said.

"Maybe they didn't have any warning," Quinn said grimly. The idea that he and his mother had perished on this world was discomforting. At the very least, they hadn't found any bodies. They wouldn't know any more until they could get a look at the tape in that video camera.

"I think I've got it," Arturo said. There was the rev of a motor and the hum of power as the shelter came to life.

"Great, I'll get to work repairing the display screen." Quinn was already sifting through the drawers of his workbench. "You get the video camera hooked up."

The picture wasn't exceptionally clear, but it was coherent. After a few vertical flips of the screen, the Quinn of this world appeared. He was in the shelter and addressing the camera.

'October 24th. Relations with the Chinese hit an all time low today when they discovered the missile silos in Japan. I fear war is inevitable and I'm not confident that the bomb shelter here in the basement is going to do a heck of a lot of good in the case of Armageddon. Fortunately, I may have discovered an escape tunnel.' With the press of a button, a vortex opened behind him. 'Pretty cool, huh? I only wish I knew what it was!'

Arturo was bemused. "Unbelievable. Another Quinn Mallory unwittingly opens an Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge. Apparently it's so simple that soon toddlers will be creating them out of Legos."

'October 28th,' the video continued. 'I'm making headway, but I feel time is of the essence. What may take weeks for me to accomplish alone could be done in half the time if I enlisted some help...'

"Weeks?!" interjected Arturo. "The audacity! Why it's an insult to every physicist that came before him!"

The recorded Quinn continued, '...so I have brought in my former physics professor from the University of California, Maximillian Arturo. If anyone can solve these equations in so short a time, it's him.'

"Well," stammered Arturo, " I suppose there is...some merit in setting ambitious goals if you have the proper resources."

The video continued on with further documentation, but progress was slow.

'This is Maximillian Arturo, it is the first of November, and as you can see behind me, we have been successful in opening a hole in er... time and space, which we believe to be Einstein's theoretical bridge to alternate universes. The 'vortex', as we refer to it as, is approximately two point four meters in diameter and is fluctuating, as you can see, by the um...pretty colors.'

"Very scientific, Professor," chided Quinn from his workbench.

'November 7th,' resumed Alt-Quinn. 'After a week of study, we are no closer to determining exactly what is on the other side. We've tossed a few objects through...a tennis ball, a slice of pizza, a copy of Newton's "Principia"...but no one has thrown anything back. There are so many questions. Does the bridge lead to the same place each time we open it, or does it open on an infinite amount of dimensions? Does the portal remain open on the next universe so long as it is open here? Or do you have to re-open it once you reach the other side? Until we determine the answers to these questions, no live tests can be conducted.'

'November 10th. The Chinese have given the United States three days to disassemble the silos in Osaka or else. President Quayle refuses to negotiate unless the Chinese remove their submarine base from the coast of Ecuador. Both sides seem hell-bent on seeing this maniacal standoff through. We may be forced to do something rash.'

The next image was a bit busier as the basement was bustling with familiar people carrying camping equipment and crates of food.

Alt-Quinn stepped back in front of the screen, dressed as though he were embarking on an expedition. A large camping pack was attached to his back and he had on at least three layers of clothing.

'The air raid sirens are going off and I believe this is it. Japan is already burning, as is Ecuador. It's only a matter of time now. A group of us have decided to take our chances with the vortex. It's a one way ticket, and we don't even know if we'll emerge in one piece, but it beats the alternative. I sincerely hope that someone finds this. It will mean cooler heads have prevailed and life goes on. Take care, and maybe, just maybe, we'll see you again.'

'We need to go, Quinn. Now,' said the Wade of that world, tugging Quinn by the arm. He lifted the remote to the video camera and pressed stop...and that was all there was to the tape.

"They slid without a timer," Wade said.

"Would you want to come back here?" asked Rembrandt.

"Point taken."

Arturo sighed. Stretching his legs a bit, he walked over to Quinn. "How's it going, my boy?"

"It's hard working with small diodes wearing these," Quinn said, holding up his gloves. "But I'm all done."

Quinn replaced the timer's casing. "And we will be on this world for another...twenty-nine point seven years."

"What?!" Arturo grabbed the timer from Quinn's hand.

The numbers were counting up.

Act Two

The timer read six hours, twenty minutes, and eight seconds. Nine seconds. Ten seconds.

"Judging by the time elapsed, the window must have come and gone just minutes after we arrived," Arturo said.

"All right, all right. So the timer's dead. That's OK, cause we have a whole other machine, right?" Rembrandt said.

"The sliding machine is fried, Remmy. My double overloaded it to slide as many people as he could," Quinn explained.

"Well you have to try," Wade implored. "We can't stay here."

"I don't think we have a choice."

'The air raid sirens are going off...'

The video was playing again.

"Did you rewind the tape?" Quinn asked Wade.

"I didn't touch it," she replied.

The video skipped back to the previous entry. It was like someone had simultaneously pressed down on both the rewind and fast forward buttons, and the machine couldn't make up its mind which direction to follow. Arturo went over to the television. "What's going on?"

"I'm not sure," said Quinn, clicking furiously away on the remote. The television became distorted and the sound emanating from it began to backtrack. No, not backtrack. Skip.

"Oh my God!" shouted Quinn. He charged out of the shelter and bounded up the basement stairs, each step shuddering under his weight. When he reached the kitchen, his eyes locked on a spot by the door. Not finding what he was looking for, Quinn rummaged through the debris on the floor.

"Quinn, what's wrong?" The others had followed him out of the shelter. Quinn held up the kitchen clock.

"The face," Arturo said. "It's backwards."

Quinn turned to them. "There's nothing wrong with the timer, it's time itself that's reversed. Time's arrow is moving in the other direction. It's taking us back to the attack."

It had gotten quite dark once the record stopped skipping, pushing them past the dawn and back into night. Outside the black was total. No star or moon could penetrate the thick cover of ash and soot that had enveloped the planet, and the fires that engulfed the city had yet to reignite, time flowing as it was. The only light for miles was confined to the shelter in Quinn's basement.

"If this world is backwards, how come we slid in?" asked Rembrandt. "The last time we landed in a place like this we just showed up in San Quentin."

"Actually, it makes sense when you think about it," replied Quinn, who had done nothing but think about it for the past few minutes. "The last time it was just the three guys. We had the timer but we didn't have Wade. You know we'd have never slid without her, so we didn't activate the vortex. We just...appeared. Believe it or not, this development is good."

"Oh sure, instead of slow death by radiation poisoning, we get vaporized. Some improvement," Wade retorted, making no attempt to hide her incredulity.

"If we were able to slide in...or out, however you look at it, then it means we must have managed to survive up until now, right?" explained Quinn. "All our actions have already taken place so far as this timeline is concerned. We may not have lived them yet, but they have happened. So we know the outcome of this slide. We do get out of here."

"I'm so confused." Rembrandt shook his head.

"Professor, before--the first time this happened--you were able to figure out when we'd be compelled to slide. How did you do that?" Quinn asked.

"Before...before," Arturo's brow furrowed as he stroked his beard. The three stared at him, awaiting an answer. "The date," he snapped.

"I don't know, it's the 13th I think," Rembrandt said.

"No, the date, that's how we'll know when to slide. As you just said, it was the 13th on the last world. That's when we'll slide out, er, in. However, because we perceive time in reverse, we know that we are at some point in the future. But how far ahead?"

Rembrandt started sifting through the debris. "What are you looking for?" Arturo asked.

"Newspaper, receipts, something with a date on it," he said. He snatched at a sheet of newsprint. "I found something."

Rembrandt laid the piece of newspaper out on the table, the front page of the sports section. The eyes turned away from the 49ers report and to the top of the page. The dateline was November 13th.

"Does that mean what I think it means?" Wade mumbled. Quinn nodded grimly.

Arturo ran his finger under the date. "It still doesn't tell us what day it is now. There may be no way of determining it here in the aftermath."

"OK, OK," said Rembrandt, trying to regain his composure. "It's still all right. We'll just stay put and wait for the vortex to pick us up. Piece of cake."

"I wish it were that simple, " said Quinn. "I don't think we were meant to stay here. If we had, the shelter would have appeared lived in when we arrived...because we'd have been here the entire duration."

"You want us to go back out there?" Wade questioned.

"It's daunting, I know, but we have reason to be optimistic. We're here now, right? If we follow our instincts and use good judgment, we should be able to get through this," Quinn assured.

"And good judgment dictates we get as far away from ground zero as possible," Arturo added.

"In case you didn't notice, it's gotten kinda dark," said Wade, stating the obvious.

"Very well, Miss Welles," Arturo said. "I suppose one night won't hurt. Sleep well. This may be the last comfortable rest we'll have in some time."

They couldn't be sure if time had skipped while they were sleeping or if they were just worn out, but they woke very late. Hours after that, Quinn and Arturo carried what few supplies remained out of the damaged house and on to the back lawn. The two had accepted not seeing the sun for awhile, but they had underestimated how thoroughly depressing a continuous dark gray sky can be.

"That's everything we can use," Quinn said, wiping the cold sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. They hadn't pulled up all that much--almost anything metal had been left behind, excluding the flashlights and a small selection of canned goods. Arturo had been adamant they limit their exposure to metal, citing a need to survive the next slide as much as this one. They would have left those items behind too if they weren't absolutely essential to getting through the coming days.

Arturo and Quinn slumped down on to the ground and relaxed while they waited for Rembrandt and Wade, who'd been sent on a reconnaissance mission to scrounge up whatever food and drink they could find. Arturo carelessly picked through the pile of preserves.

"It's such a senseless waste," he said.

"Well the stuff I left behind wasn't all that good anyway. I can do without the canned beets and asparagus," Quinn replied.

"Not the food, the world," said Arturo. "To think they actually did it. How reckless must a world be to bring about its complete and utter destruction?"

"It's not the world, Professor. Just the humans," said Quinn.

"We always maintained that mutually assured destruction was the only deterrent you'd need. But now I wonder if Reagan was right. Perhaps we should have built and perfected a missile defense system to prevent this sort of thing," said Arturo.

"For all we know, these people did," replied Quinn. "That false sense of security may be what brought this world down. But I don't think we'll ever know for certain what happened here."

"Considering that would mean living through it, I certainly hope you're right," said Arturo.

Wade and Rembrandt returned while the other two waxed philosophically, each with two backpacks and as many blankets as they could carry.

"It felt weird taking all this stuff from the neighbors, but we got what we were looking for," Wade said, dropping the bags.

"Water!" exclaimed Arturo, eagerly opening a bottle of Evian. "And as to your breaking and entering, I feel quite confident the former residents won't mind."

"We also raided a few pantries," said Rembrandt, pulling items out of one of his bags. Arturo's hopes for better cuisine were quickly dashed however.

"Cheetos? I thought we were trying to survive this ordeal."

"Energy food," Rembrandt replied.

"One more thing before we depart," said Arturo. He removed a small black box from his jacket pocket. "Hand over all necklaces, watches, and rings."

"Is this some sort of a stick-up?" laughed Wade.

"If you want to use those items again after we slide, you'll want to protect them from radiation. This box appears to be made from lead and will shield our things adequately," explained Arturo. Quinn's watch, Wade's necklace and Rembrandt's rings joined Arturo's items in the box.

"Speaking of radiation, how bad is it going to be on us? We can't all wear lead suits," said Rembrandt.

"Northern California is fortunately situated in the event of a nuclear attack. As hard as it may be to believe, this may be the safest place in the nation right now," answered Arturo. "You see, the jet stream moves east, taking most of the lethal radiation away from us. Even if Wyoming did not suffer a single attack, the fallout there is far more dangerous than it is here.

"However time is moving backward and the winds are now blowing back our way. The longer we stay here, the more poison will return to its origins," said Arturo.

"So I take it we're not fleeing east," said Wade.

"Most certainly not. We should go north as there are fewer military or civilian targets between here and Oregon. We will have to take our chances that the Golden Gate Bridge is intact," said Arturo.

Quinn strapped on a backpack. He took one last look at his destroyed home before turning away for good. "Come on. There's nothing left for us here."

The streets were damp where the water mains had blown and a stray dog lapped at a puddle, unaware of the contaminants it was ingesting. At the sound of voices, it scampered out of sight. The four had yet to find a human survivor from this world. They were also quickly running out of conversation material.

"I see a color and it is gray," said Wade.

"I'm sick of gray. That's the sixth time in a row you've chosen that color," griped Rembrandt.

"If I could see anything else, I'd choose it," said Wade.

Behind them, Arturo and Quinn were playing a more complex game. "Judging from the arc of destruction, I believe the hypocenter is probably close to the Mission District," Arturo said.

"That would be a yield of less than a megaton," Quinn said.

"More than enough to get the job done," the Professor concurred. "Have you noticed the increase in fires since yesterday? By the time we reach the thirteenth, San Francisco will make the burning of the Iraqi oil fields look like a backyard barbecue."

Quinn took a swig from his water bottle and absorbed the lay of the land. There were telephone poles snapped in half. The remains of one former skyscraper had littered itself over three blocks. He'd seen pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on television before, but it was a lot different to be walking through it. If it weren't so terrible, he'd probably be awestruck.

"Uh oh," said Rembrandt, his eyes crossing a crumbled building a little south from them. "I see a color, and it looks like bone."

Rembrandt headed for it, followed by Quinn. They leapfrogged over fallen columns and support beams until they reached the collapsed building. Sure enough, the remains of a human body were reaching out from under the wreckage.

"Looks like he got trapped under the building," said Rembrandt.

"I doubt he felt it," said Quinn softly. "He probably died moments after the bomb judging from the lack of...skin."

The sight was nauseating. There was not much left of the head and face, just empty sockets. The arms were half-intact with the bone exposed from the elbow down to the hands. Tattered clothing covered the rest of the visible body.

The Professor and Wade had now reached them. "Dear lord," whispered Arturo, immediately turning his head once he realized what he was looking at. "Miss Welles, you don't want to see it."

"Probably not, but I might as well get used to it," said Wade, pushing forward. Despite the warning, she still gasped in shock. "I think I'll walk over there," she said, ascending the pile of stones and brick.

"The heat from the blast is not sufficient at this range to cremate its victims," said Arturo, inspecting the body. "Not much decay either. We may be closer in time to the attack than we initially thought."

"Professor! Quinn!" cried out Wade.

The three men climbed over the fallen building. "Man, another body," said Rembrandt once he realized what Wade was examining--a man lying face down in the road.

"Not just any body," said Wade, pointing to the ground by the man's chest. There was a small pool of blood. Rembrandt bent down and helped Quinn turn the body over. The man's lifeless eyes looked up at them, but he was not deformed or mutilated. His jacket was stained a deep red where his heart once beat, a pair of holes puncturing his chest.

"The bomb didn't get this guy. He's been shot, and from the looks of things, pretty recently," said Quinn.

"Great, it's not enough the world's been destroyed. Those that are left are fighting each other," said Wade.

"Rule of the jungle, Wade. At least they're not eating each other," replied Quinn.

"I didn't have to hear that," she said.

"We're going to need to be on our guard. Who knows what type of highwayman or marauder may be patrolling the area?" Arturo said.

"Yeah, for all we know they could be watching us right now," Rembrandt said, taking furtive glances in all directions. "If they're guarding the bridge, we'll never get through."

"We'll have to approach...do you hear something?" Quinn asked. Suddenly the sky went black.

Day turned to night as their perception of this timeline adjusted itself once more. Having been caught out in the open, they choose to camp outside rather than stumble through the dark. Tonight they kept watch.

Quinn was on duty when he felt a second shifting of time. Without the sounds of the city to be distorted, the skipping record effect could pass you by. However, Quinn's senses were keen from an hour of silent vigil. The small fire he was maintaining crackled when it should have popped and he watched with fascination as the flames undulated in backward time. He didn't notice the appearance of a torch not far from his position until his fire vanished. The record had stopped skipping and they were no longer alone.

Quinn tapped Rembrandt on the shoulder, whispering "Rembrandt." When that garnered no response, he shook his shoulder and hissed "Remmy!" into his ear.

Rembrandt was stunned awake and reflexively kicked out, catching Arturo in the shin. Rembrandt made good contact. "Aaargh!" yelled Arturo, waking up.

"Shhhh!" hushed Quinn. "There's someone out there."

"Just one more hour," muttered Wade, still half-asleep.

"Get up," Quinn said, gently squeezing her shoulder.

Quinn crouched down, attempting to see what was bringing the points of light their way. The torches were multiplying, probably others lighting off of the original one. One thing was certain. There were more of them than four. A lot more.

"Suggestions?" asked Quinn.

"There's always option one," said Rembrandt. "Run."

"And abandon our supplies?" challenged Arturo. "Besides, running in the dark is just inviting a twisted ankle...or worse."

"Hey! Who's there?" yelled one of the torchbearers. The four remained quiet.

"Don't pretend you ain't there," the voice continued. "You just stand up and call out, maybe nobody gets hurt, you hear what I'm saying?"

"It's possible they're just as afraid of us as we are of them," said Arturo in hushed tones.

"Yeah, and it's possible they just want easier targets," replied Rembrandt.

"I recognize that voice," whispered Quinn.

"Who is it?" whispered Wade.

"I'm not sure yet. He needs to get closer," said Quinn.

"Is that you, Mallory?" the voice cried out.

"How does he know your name?" asked Rembrandt.

"How should I know?" rebutted Quinn.

"Because I'm a sporting kinda guy, I'm gonna give you one last chance to do this the easy way," the voice called out, followed immediately by the sound of guns being cocked. That was enough. Quinn stood up and called out. "Over here. We're unarmed."

The torches closed in on them, all held by some rough looking characters. In the lead was a black man wearing a winter cap pulled down over his ears.

"Yeah, I thought that was you. What you trying to pull taking off like that? I though we were all in this together, man," he said.

With the torch in front of his face, Quinn was finally able to put the voice together with the man. He'd run into this guy before, a long time ago. His name was L.J., a street hustler who "helped" them when they landed on a prison world only to betray them for the timer. He had been told at that time by a fellow traveler that L.J. was a no good backstabber on her world as well. It would be bad news if that trend continued.

"I guess we got lost," Quinn weakly offered up.

"Oh, you got lost?" L.J. said with a sarcastic smile. "All four of you just happened to sleepwalk away from the camp. Do I look stupid to you?"

While Quinn weighed his answer, Wade noticed a smaller light closing in too. It was no torch or flashlight, more like a firefly. As it got closer, she recognized it as a lit cigarette. The figure paused just outside of the light.

"Hey, check it out," L.J. said, waving the figure over.

From the darkness, the man strode forward. He was dressed completely in black from his jacket down to his boots. He took the cigarette from his mouth and slowly exhaled a puff of smoke into the cold night air. "Well, well," he said, stepping full into the light.

Wade and Rembrandt spoke simultaneously. "Sid?!"

Act Three

"It's not enough that we slide on to a world after it's been blown to kingdom come. It's not enough that time is moving backwards so we can all be bombed again," said Rembrandt slowly. "No, we need to throw in a psychopath too. Un-freaking-believable."

"That's assuming the psychopath lets us live," said Quinn. The four huddled together while Sid, apparently in charge of this ragtag group of survivors, determined what he was going to do with them.

"Of all the possible people to survive a nuclear war, we get Sid," said Wade.

"The man's a cockroach," said Rembrandt. "I just can't believe these people would follow him."

"Since he has absolutely zero charisma, he must have taken over the same way his double had--by fear and intimidation," said Wade.

"Yeah, well, anytime that vortex would like to open up would be fine by me," muttered Rembrandt.

"It probably wouldn't do us any good. If this Sid is anything like the last one we encountered, the moron would probably jump right through, " remarked Quinn.

Their meeting concluded, Sid and L.J. ambled over to the four. "You'd better let me handle this," said Arturo. "Perhaps I can reason with him."

"I don't think the word 'reason' is in his vocabulary, Professor," said Wade.

"Miss Welles, I'd be shocked if the words 'cat' and 'dog' were in his vocabulary," he replied. Arturo moved to greet Sid, but the thug brushed past him and went for Quinn.

"Mallory. I take you in, treat you like a brother, and this is the thanks I get?" said Sid. He grabbed Quinn by the throat with his free hand. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you right now."

"I...I'm sorry?" Quinn apologized, although he wasn't sure what for.

"Yeah, I bet you're sorry," said Sid. "Tell you what, for sparing your life, I'll call it even."

"That sounds...more than fair," said Quinn, struggling for breath.

Sid released him and Quinn fell to the ground. He stayed on his knees until he began to breathe normally again. L.J. approached with one of their packs in hand. "At least some good came of this. They did manage to round up some fresh supplies."

"Exactly," interjected Arturo, sensing an opportunity. "That was our intent all along. We had gone out looking for supplies as a...as a..."

"Surprise," said Wade.

"Yes, a surprise," said Arturo, jumping on Wade's train of thought. "However, we couldn't find our way back in the dark so we holed up here until morning. Fortunately, you discovered us."

"Did you see anyone while you were surprising me?" Sid asked.

"Sid, San Francisco is a wasteland, man. There's no way..." L.J. interrupted, but Sid held up a finger signaling him to shut up.

"I said, did you see anyone!"

"You fine gentlemen are the only souls we've encountered."

"I'll bet," Sid sneered, but his gruff voice couldn't conceal the look of disappointment on his face. He discarded his spent cigarette and turned to his party. "There's a place I know nearby where we can camp. Let's keep moving.

"That includes you," Sid said, jabbing a finger into Quinn's chest. He smiled his malicious smile and reached in his pocket for another cigarette, then he walked away. L.J. followed.

"We're not actually going to go along with these thugs?" Rembrandt said in a low tone.

"He already knows my name. How could he if we hadn't already met?" Quinn said. "I'm sorry, but we don't have a choice. Our path is with Sid, scary as that sounds."

The next day Rembrandt awoke to find his backpack ransacked. "Hey! Someone stole my Cheetos!" he exclaimed, rooting through it. "I was saving those!"

"Probably one of these ruffians," said Arturo. "Look on the bright side. It's one less bag to carry."

"I'll keep that in mind when I'm starving three hours from now."

"With any luck, we'll find an abandoned convenience store by lunch. I hear Twinkies have a shelf life of twenty years, surely they have enough preservatives to survive a holocaust," joked Arturo.

"Come on!" shouted L.J. "We've got business downtown." They finished packing up and strapped their gear on. The four joined up with the others, who to their surprise were heading north.

"Excuse me, L.J., but downtown is that way," said Arturo, pointing south.

"No kidding," L.J. said, shaking his head like he was talking to an idiot. L.J. moved on leaving Arturo dumbstruck.

"We're surrounded by imbeciles," he said.

"No, Professor, it makes sense," said Quinn. "If we're moving back through time and they are going downtown, then we must be heading to wherever they started from. And by extension, wherever we started from."

It was worse, much worse than they could have anticipated. Here at the edge of the firestorm the dead were everywhere. They clung to their steering wheels, slumped in shaded areas, and huddled together in vain. Sources of water such as swimming pools were filled with people who had tried to cool the burns or simply to drown themselves. In many instances, you couldn't tell if you were looking at their fronts or backs as all distinguishing features had been melted away.

The group of some twenty survivors moved slowly along the northern coast of the peninsula, taking care to ransack and pillage as much as possible along the way. The four sliders kept to themselves and were strangely left alone, almost as if there had been an order. Sid was particularly pleasant, if such a word could be applied to him. Whatever transgressions Quinn had committed against him had seemingly vaporized over night.

"How do we know we'll be in the right place when the vortex opens? What if it opens back in San Jose while we're in Sausalito?" asked Wade.

"It's unlikely we'd have come all the way here if we started in San Jose. A better question is, 'what were we doing in San Francisco when we arrived?'" replied Arturo. "Nonetheless, we are treading a pre-ordained path. All we must do is follow."

"Since when are you such a man of faith?" scoffed Wade.

"Break time," Sid declared, stopping under an overpass. They weren't far from the Golden Gate Bridge now and would be at its base in less than an hour if they continued in its direction.

Rembrandt used the break as an opportunity to glean some information. The last L.J. they had met couldn't stop talking. Maybe this one had the same defect. As soon as he and Sid split company, Rembrandt headed for the right-hand man. "This is all pretty crazy."

"Life's crazy. You just play the hand you're dealt," L.J. shrugged.

Rembrandt looked at him hard. "How can you be so carefree? This is the end of the world!"

"No, my friend, it's a brave new world. One of opportunities for the enterprising man. All the old constraints are gone. No banks, no government, no law. From now on, every man decides his own fate," L.J. expounded.

"Looks more to me that Sid's deciding our fate."

"Appearances can be deceiving. Sid and I have had a long and prosperous business arrangement. I make the deals, he makes sure the other parties deliver on their promises," said L.J. "Never thought I'd spend the apocalypse with him, but he's a pretty good asset...providing you know how to handle him."

"And you do?" Rembrandt probed.

L.J. curled up his nose. "Hell, yeah. He may be the figurehead, but I'm the power behind the throne if you know what I'm saying. Take this San Francisco nonsense. The brother is hell-bent on looking for his woman who was there when the bomb hit. Now I know there ain't no way that girl survived, but I'm going along with it because I figure a week wasted doing this is better than having him moody for the next few months. That's business sense."

"Sid's a softie at heart?" said Rembrandt with a broad smile.

"The official story is that the bitch owed him money," said L.J. with a wink. "Remember, you didn't hear nothing about this from me."

While L.J. was spilling his story, Quinn returned from a reconnaissance mission of his own.

"What did you learn?" asked Wade once he was settled.

"We're going to be in for it. There's a rival group holding the bridge," said Quinn. "This group just recently fought its way through from the north. They lost half their numbers in the battle.

"Hopefully we can..." Quinn stopped. The area around them was becoming distorted. "Time skip," he said. It was the first they had experienced in the presence of other people this slide and the effect was disconcerting. A few seemed frozen while others morphed around the scene. In about ten seconds it was over, and a greater problem presented itself. Sid and the others were gone.

"This is insane," sighed Wade.

"It's physics. They don't call it quantum weirdness for nothing," said Quinn. "Right now, we better catch up with Sid."

"Why? We should be thankful we've lost them," Wade said.

"You want to take on a gang of thugs with no weapons?" Quinn asked. She had no reply. "If we're to leave San Francisco, Sid's the only ticket out."

They found Sid's company camped not far from the bridge, tending to their wounded. Sid was not angry when the four showed up. Rather he was expecting them.

"What's it look like over there, Mallory?" he asked. "You see anyone?"

Sid was pointing in the direction they had come. Taking the cue, Quinn responded, "The center of town's pretty devastated. There are buildings to the east, but it's pretty quiet. Only weak signs of life."

Sid lit a cigarette. "We'd better check it out anyway."

"What on earth is he talking about?" Rembrandt hissed to Wade.

"I don't know. He must have made us his scouts," she whispered back.

Rembrandt shook his head. "One minute he chokes you, the next he promotes you."

"Yo, Sid! We're losing another one!" yelled L.J. from another camp, motioning the five over. A small assembly of the refugees had gathered around a man lying on the ground. He was wheezing badly.

"He wasn't doing so well in Sausalito either, but we thought he was getting better," said L.J. "We thought wrong."

"It could be radiation poisoning," said Arturo. "Victims usually experience a lull after the initial nausea, but the high dosages of radiation prevent new red and white blood cells from forming, making the body vulnerable to any disease."

Sid stared at him. "He's dying," Arturo simplified.

Arturo removed the hat from the man's head and felt for temperature. As he brushed the hair back, he noticed thatched lines across the man's forehead.. "Flash burns," he said softly.

"Can he continue?" asked Sid in the same tone he'd use to ask for a cigarette. Arturo shook his head.

"That's too bad, " said Sid, turning away.

"We're just going to leave him here?" spouted Wade, horrified. "He's your friend!"

Sid looked at her like she was speaking another language. "He's not my friend, honey," he said and left it at that.

"See ya around, Tommy," said L.J., stooping to grab the dying man's watch. "Nice knowing ya."

"Professor, we have to do something," Wade said as the gang began packing up. Arturo sighed.

"There's nothing we can do, Miss Welles. Any of you seen this man before now?" The other three had not. "The reason for that is because he was already dead."

"Because he was left to die! We could stop that from happening."

"You know we can't do that, Wade," said Quinn. "We're not allowed to change the past. We all know what happened the last time."

Wade knew. The consequence was a hole in time and space. They slid out before they could see all of its effects the last time, but it was safe to say it shouldn't be repeated. Even if this world had little left to lose.

The march out of San Francisco depended upon the state of its best known landmark--the Golden Gate Bridge. From end to end the bridge was a hair under 9000 feet, 4200 of them suspended between the two towers. It may seem surprising that the bridge was intact after a nuclear strike, but one must remember it was built to withstand the worst. Situated just eight miles from the most volatile fault line in the country, it had to be. The Golden Gate Bridge survived the earthquake of '89 without taking any damage at all.

"Be ready," Sid declared, pulling out his gun from his inside coat pocket. His gang pulled out their respective weapons ranging from pistols to exposed nails on jagged pieces of lumber. The four sliders were without arms and none were offered. Each scooped up a few rocks.

While the bridge was unharmed, the tollbooths and cars were another story. A line of vehicles on highway 101 stretched back into the city, its end unknown. Here they jockeyed for position among the five northbound lanes and the lone southbound, the fortunate stuck where the electromagnetic pulse disrupted their computer chips. The rest had been whipped around from the force of the blast, forming mini-barriers of twisted metal. The stench of death was heavy in the air. If one listened carefully, there were still faint sounds of life coming from a few vehicles by those too crippled to move. The sliders were powerless to do anything for them. It was best to keep focused on the task at hand.

"This is going to get very dangerous," Arturo said once they were a third of the way across. "I suppose it goes without saying that our primary task is to get to other side and that's it. This is not our struggle. Do you hear that Mr. Mallory? No playing hero."

"Loud and clear, Professor," Quinn said.

Rembrandt looked around uneasily. "I thought they said they fought through both ends."

"Correct, and they have defeated this end. However, as we move back in time, this side of the bridge will once again become guarded," replied Arturo to Rembrandt's blank look.

"It's a discontinuity caused by us moving forward," Quinn added. "Time should skip any moment. The question is, how far will it skip? From experience, it could be anywhere from nine minutes to nine hours."

"In this case, I'd bet the former. And when it skips we'll likely be surrounded," Arturo said. "There is no sign of struggle here, so we must presume the south guard came to the rescue of the north."

"Which means we'll all meet in the middle," Quinn said.

Act Four

They felt the distortion of time as soon as the group crossed the midway point of the bridge. In the confusion, the sliders took refuge behind a Chevy Caprice station wagon. Gunshots and shouts filled the air as time straightened out, leaving Sid and company engaged with the highwaymen. The fight was underway.

"I suggest we creep north. The battle is done there. With any luck, no one will miss us!" Arturo shouted.

The four kept low as they scurried up the bridge between the first and second northbound lanes, occasionally ducking down when a firefight became too close. Through the windows of the stopped vehicles, they'd catch glimpses of the struggle. Rembrandt had to look away when he saw L.J. elbow a highwayman off of the bridge. The thought of the icy water below was something he didn't need to contemplate.

"Blocked!" Wade yelled. There was a drift of vehicles piled on top each other preventing passage.

"We'll have to climb through them. Remmy and I will cover you. Go!" Quinn yelled. With some effort, Wade pulled open the back door of a painting van at the base of the pile. She and the Professor jumped into the vehicle and worked their way forward. Arturo reached his hand around the front seat only to graze the body of the driver. He quickly snapped his hand back to his side.

"The driver side door is trapped. So is the passenger. We'll have to break the windshield," he said. Wade quickly scanned through the gear and handed him a rolling bar. Arturo shook the spongy implement in his hand, "I said break the windshield, not massage it!"

"Try this," Wade snapped, thrusting a small stepladder into his chest.

"Very good," he said. Turning, Arturo lunged at the glass. A small hole was pierced as the windshield cracked. A few more hits shattered it completely. Arturo grabbed a painter's rag and knocked away some of the jagged edges. "Come on, Miss Welles. Hurry!"

There was a rapid succession of thuds, like hail striking the side of the van. "Gunfire!"

Outside, Quinn and Rembrandt dropped to the ground as glass windows shattered around them. "We need to get out of here," Rembrandt declared, throwing open the door to a nearby Camry. He slid through the backseat and out the other side into the third northbound lane, Quinn right behind him. "We'll catch up with Wade and the Professor on the other side!"

The two had just about reached the perimeter of the struggle when Quinn saw a ghost. It was the dead man they had found in the city the day before. Quinn crouched behind the tail end of a Jeep Cherokee and traced the angle of the man's gun to its intended target--Sid.

"Look out!"

Sid twirled in time to see a stone come sailing across the bridge and into the head of his would-be murderer. Struck, the man crumbled momentarily, but quickly regained his footing. Sid opened fire on him, but he made it behind a Dodge Caravan. While Sid reloaded, he bolted down the bridge toward San Francisco.

"You better run, Joey!" Sid shouted after him. "Cause when I find you, you're a dead man!"

He turned his eyes to where he'd seen the rock start its journey. Quinn was still there. Sid gave him a nod and gave his heart two taps with his fist. Then he resumed fighting.

"So much for staying out of it," Quinn mumbled. He got back to his feet and ran low behind the cars until he caught up with Rembrandt. A hundred meters later they met up with the others and proceeded to clear the bridge without further incident.

Chaos consumed the night, yet somehow they all managed to sleep. They held up in an enclosed area across the bay just off highway 101. From their camp, they had a clear view of the water. The blazing city served as their nightlight. By morning, a thick black smoke obscured all view into the heart of San Francisco.

"How much time do you think we have?" Quinn asked Arturo as the four looked out across the water.

"If today is the thirteenth, just a few hours more." he replied.

Silence again descended upon them as they hesitated to make the next move. Was this the end of their journey? Or was the vortex waiting for them elsewhere? Doubt began to creep back in.

Rembrandt fidgeted. "At least Sid's gone."

"At least indeed," Arturo said. "After spending a day with that singularity in which no intelligent thought escapes, I was beginning to welcome the bomb."

"Be careful what you wish for, Professor," Wade said as a huge gust of hot air ripped past them.

The four looked at each other, then back to the bay. The smoke was pulling back in.

"Does this mean what I think it means?" Rembrandt asked. The looks of terror on the faces of his friends answered him. "Yep, that's what I thought," he squeaked.

The clouds gathered themselves in to form a frightful apparition--a grandiose and deformed mushroom. The sea went flat and the sky began to grow bright.

"There's something I should tell you," Arturo suddenly announced. The other three turned to the professor. He began slowly. "In trying situations, we sometimes find ourselves compelled to omit certain information. It's not quite lying, but for all intents they are one and the same."

The Professor took a deep breath. "I'm sorry...I ate Rembrandt's bag of Cheetos."

Rembrandt looked at him and couldn't help laughing. Once Rembrandt started laughing, the others broke out too. For some reason Rembrandt thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. Soon he was chuckling so hard he was in tears.

"Hee hee, that's all right, Professor. I forgive you," laughed Rembrandt, sniffling. "Man, the way you built that up, I thought you were going to make some big revelation."

"Yeah," laughed Wade, "like we took the wrong one of you back on Almost Home world."

"Heh heh, yes, that would be quite the revelation," said Arturo.

"Wait a minute, shhh..." said Quinn, breaking up the fun. "You hear that?"

"I don't hear anything," said Wade.

"Exactly. The record...it's skipping. Down!" Quinn shouted. The four dove to the ground, shielding their hands and faces. Quinn threw himself on top of Wade and buried his face in her hood.

The missiles had arrived.

If the four could have looked at the blast without going blind, they would have been treated to a surreal moment. As the great ball of fire pulled back to a single point, the skyscrapers of San Francisco rose out of the ashes. Millions of men, women, and children rematerialized, picking themselves up from their covered positions and resuming their activities. The cars that had plunged into the sea when the bridge had been rattled leapt out of the water like trout struggling upstream and returned to their gridlocked positions on the reformed roads. It was just another sunny day in California...aside from the chaos and panic.

An El Camino fresh from the Golden Gate Bridge roared up the hill, its two male occupants casually shooting the breeze.

"I don't know, Sid," said L.J. "Maybe we shoulda spent a little more time looking for Michelle. Just in case, ya know."

Sid took a drag off his cigarette and chuckled. "You telling me you believe all that crap? We're not going to war. Even I'm not that stupid."

Sid flung his cigarette out the window. It hit the pavement and rolled toward the curb where four homeless people lay on top of each other.

"Is it over?" asked Wade. Quinn pulled his face out of her hood slowly. There was the faint sound of sirens in the distance, but other than that things looked normal. He let out a slow, loud, "Whooooo!"

"We made it!" exclaimed Wade, getting to her feet. Quinn repeated her, "We made it!" The two embraced and jumped around, shouting and laughing. Rembrandt and Arturo were jubilant as well.

"Man, that is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!" declared Rembrandt as he stared out at the bay. The Golden Gate Bridge was shimmering in the sun against the backdrop of the resurrected San Francisco.

"Astounding." said Arturo, beaming at his companions. He hugged Wade and Quinn. "Simply astounding."

Quinn pulled out the timer, which now read three days, two hours, forty-three minutes and fifty-two seconds. "I guess the EMP burst has no effect in backward time."

"Oh but it does, Mr. Mallory. It does. Think about it. Why would we venture back into a burned out city when we were safely on the other side of the bridge?" Arturo mischievously inquired.

Quinn rolled his eyes. "Of course! The burst must have disabled the timer. Without being able to repair it, we would have been trapped here. That's why we went back to my house."

"So the timer wasn't broken when we arrived?" Rembrandt asked.

"Another consequence of backward time. It only appeared to be out. Otherwise, we wouldn't have known to fix it," answered Arturo. "Only one question remains. Where did we slide in?"

"I have a hunch," Quinn grinned as he began walking toward San Francisco.

Rembrandt 'LeRoi' Brown was barreling through a San Francisco residential district in his red Cadillac Seville, heading for the Golden Gate Bridge. He didn't expect to drive across it, too much traffic. The plan was to get as close as possible and then run like hell. Barring that, he'd swim across the bay--anything to get him the heck out of here.

"Man oh man, why did I ever leave Mississippi to come out here? People buy records in Jackson. At least I'd be safe there. No one would think to nuke Mississippi. Ain't nothin' worth destroying!" he muttered to himself.

He was so self-absorbed with the thought that Bad, Bad Rembrandt Brown was at his last curtain call that he didn't see this large distortion emanate from a nearby house. By the time he saw it, it was too late.

"AAAAAAAAAA!" he screamed as he and his red sled were sucked up into the hole.

A few hours later, a fresh-faced set of Sliders emerged from a public restroom in the Geary Street marketplace. Merchandise had been left behind for the taking, yet they ignored it. There would be no change of clothes as that would disrupt the timeline. They hadn't made it this far just to destroy the dimension over a clean shirt.

On the corner, a vagrant was standing atop a bench, screaming at the top of his lungs, "The repressive communist era of America is near its end! Soon, our Chinese liberators will plow all this into the ground so we may start anew in a truly free market! The glorious new order is coming!"

"We've been there, and it ain't all that glorious," remarked Rembrandt after they passed by. No sooner than the words had come out of his mouth, a hole appeared before them.

"Now that is glorious!" declared Arturo as the vortex became fully formed.

"I feel it pulling me...wooooah!" yelled Quinn. The vortex yanked him from his feet and through, gobbling the Professor up next.

"This is one world I hope we never see again," said Wade.

"Agreeeeeeeed," cried out Rembrandt as he was pulled in. A few seconds later, Wade slid, leaving behind the chaos of a world at its end.

"Miss, I ordered a side order of breadsticks. These are cheesesticks! I'm lactose intolerant!"

If the waitress comprehended a word the patron had said, she didn't show it. "Lactose intolerant?" the man repeated. "I can't eat dairy products. You know, cheese. Dairy. Ugh, just forget it."

A few tables over, four weary travelers shared a pizza. "Hold the mushroom clouds," Rembrandt had joked to the audible groans of his friends.

"Thirteen days," Arturo sighed. "Thirteen days here in twitland."

"That's what happens when you sacrifice the public school systems," munched Wade. "Sure, it costs less in the short term, but you do pay for it."

"Quit complaining. I can use the time to sub out some of the parts of the timer--just as a precaution," Quinn said. "And just think, Professor. These people are so desperate for substitute teachers, we should all be able to find work."

"Oh goody," muttered Arturo.

"I'll take a little incompetence over the previous world, thank you," said Wade, pulling the pepperoni off of her slice.

"As long as time's going the right way and the only radiation is coming from the microwave, you won't hear me complaining," added Rembrandt, "...much."

"It's troubling all the same. I had hoped we'd never encounter such a world. Now I fear this past nuclear adventure may not be our last," Arturo said.

"Why do you say that?"

"After the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy said the odds of nuclear war were one in three to even."


Written byMike Truman
Edited byML Thouvenel
Coded byBlinker

The following books and sites were used in the researching of this episode:

"The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes
"Nuclear Choices" by Richard Wolfson
"Nations in Darkness" by John Stoessinger
"A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking
"About Time" by Paul Davies

Yahoo Maps
The Golden Gate Bridge District
TemporalFlux's Dimension of Continuity
Adam Eisenberg's The Electromagnetic Pulse
Marshall Brian's How Stuff Works

Title inspired by a remark JFK made during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where he hoped no one would ever write a book titled "The Missiles of October." (Stoessinger)

Special thanks to Steve Brown, who introduced this lunatic concept of backward time to Sliders in "As Time Goes By."

Earth 8950