by Jules Reynolds, December 1996
The following story is intended for entertainment purposes only. This document can be freely distributed with the condition that no part of the text is modified, and this notice is included with all copies.
This document cannot be sold or translated into any other form without written permission from the author. Some characters and elements of this story are the property of St. Clare Entertainment, used without authorization. No copyright infringement is intended. The author receives no compensation from the distribution of this work. Any comments or criticism would be welcome.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: The following story is story three in the Fifth Slider serial, a Sliders fanfiction series created by David Pesqueira (email@example.com) that introduces a fifth slider to the group.
The first two stories "Silent Voices" (David Pesqueira) and "Have a Nice Day" (Nigel Mitchell) are available on the archive.
The world in "Natural Selection" was inspired by a world which was seen briefly at the end of the story "Full Moon" by Nigel G. Mitchell and the concept is used with his kind permission.
The darkness of the sky was overpowering. The electric storm unleashed its vengeance on the landscape below, illuminating its devastation with sheets of lightning. Thunder rumbled in the distance, a threat which spoke of more to come. Then it crashed overhead.
The rain fell in hard unrelenting spikes, churning the ground below it and mixing with the earth.
The trees bent in supplication to its power, desperate to stand their ground despite the forces which tore at their roots and tried to topple them.
The circle of blue light opened out unnoticed beneath them and ejected the five travelers onto the ground below. The torrent of water soaked them within seconds.
"We've got to find shelter," Wade shouted above the noise and pointed towards the forest behind them. The rain ran in rivulets down her face and dripped off her chin as she spoke. Her hair was already stuck close to her head.
Quinn nodded and put his hand up to pull his jacket over his head and give it some protection. The lightning flashed brightly across the trees in front of them.
The small group ran across the mud soaked ground and headed for the trees. Their apparent density offered some hope for shelter in an otherwise seemingly unfriendly environment.
The ground was treacherous and unstable. A muddy, wet surface which afforded little in the way of anything to grip as they ran.
Arturo slid to his knees as he ran. He splayed his hands out in front of him. David Mallory bent and slipped his arm under the Professor and heaved hard. The mud held tight to the Professor's feet, but David acted as a lever which gave him the push he needed.
Arturo nodded in appreciation at the young man and put his hand up to wipe away the moisture which ran down his face, half blinding him.
David held on tight and half dragged the Professor across to where the others had reached a small opening into some heavily entwined bushes. A flash of sheet lightning briefly lit the entrance as he pushed the Professor hard, and thrust him through the opening to the others, and then followed on himself.
Arturo sat for a moment, his breaths coming in short pants after the exertion. Finally he turned to David and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Thank you," he mouthed clearly to the young man. Although Wade was David's usual interpreter, David did understand some lip reading, if it was clear enough.
David smiled and nodded, wiping a hand across his hair to remove the excess liquid before it ran down his face. He sat back against a dense piece of the bush and closed his eyes briefly. The shock of landing in such a harsh, inhospitable environment had taken his breath away. He felt sure the others were more used to it, but he needed to draw a breath for a moment. Closing his eyes meant that he could withdraw for a brief moment into his own world. No distractions of sound, and no distractions for his eyes. Peace. David loved that.
Wade looked across at him and smiled knowingly. She wished she could do what he could do. Withdraw completely for the moment and recharge her batteries. She understood the need, but couldn't do it herself. She envied him.
Quinn breathed out hard as a crash of thunder shook their small shelter. "Wow, that's some storm."
"Yeah. It sure took my breath away," Rembrandt agreed, and leaned back and closed his eyes too.
Arturo was brushing the mud off his clothes as he spoke. "The chances of us arriving in the middle of inclement weather in any world are quite high. Frankly I'm surprised we've not encountered a similar scenario on numerous occasions before."
"Yeah, rain world was bad enough. I guess we should be grateful it's not that often," Quinn observed and looked around him at their immediate surroundings.
The bush was thickly intertwined with woody branches. Its center seemed to have been deliberately hollowed out. The resulting enclave was dry and relatively warm.
"I wonder if this is some sort of nest or something for some animal," Quinn suggested, looking at Arturo for an opinion.
Arturo looked above his head at the arch of branches, reaching up to feel the wood itself. "Possibly. It's quite hard. Not easy to entwine these branches tightly. I would think any animal would have to be pretty dextrous."
Wade interrupted. "If it's not an animal, are you saying it could have formed naturally like this?"
"Yes," he answered slowly, still looking around him. "Or there are humans who have built it. Though primitive I would say."
"Maybe we'll see more when the rain dies down," Wade suggested hopefully and then shuffled across to David and nudged him. He'd had time to recharge his batteries.
He opened his eyes slowly and grinned at her.
"You okay?" she signed at him and smiled.
"Yeah. Fine. Are you all okay?" he signed back.
Wade nodded and then indicated with her eyes across at the Professor. He had taken off his shoes and was busy emptying the mud onto the floor. His socks were soaked and his toes protruded through two large holes on either side of each foot.
David laughed along with Wade at the sight.
"I fail to see what is so funny Mr. Mallory, " Arturo said indignantly as he noticed the laughter revolving around his actions.
"Sure you don't, Professor," said Quinn grinning broadly. "Trust us. Watching you sit there, dumping a ton of mud out of your shoes is funny. Especially since your socks look like they're on their last legs."
Arturo blew out his chest and sighed. "Our predicament on the last few worlds has meant that I haven't had the time or money to purchase such things as new socks. And I feel sure that if we were to examine yours or Mr.Brown's socks we would find a similar state of affairs."
Quinn lowered his eyes and grinned. He remembered the last time he'd examined his socks. They were getting threadbare to say the least. They were usually able to purchase such basics every three or four worlds or so, but recently they'd been so involved on each world that shopping trips had been out of the question. In two of the worlds there hadn't even been shops. He didn't hold out much hope on shops being available here either. Maybe when daylight came they'd be in a better position to look around.
"Quinn, how long on this world?" Wade asked suddenly.
Quinn pulled the timer out of his jacket pocket and read the display. "Three days and counting." He stuffed the device back safely.
Wade leaned back and closed her eyes. Three days on a world which looked so far to be grossly inhospitable. She sighed.
She felt the hand on her arm shaking her and opened her eyes. She turned her head and looked into the smiling eyes of David.
"Wanna wake up now?" he signed in query, grinning broadly.
It took a moment before Wade got her bearings. She realized she had fallen asleep and David was waking her up.
"Don't let a girl get much sleep, do you?" she signed back.
"Six hours seems plenty to me," he replied with his hands.
Wade let her mouth drop open slightly at the mention of the time.
She watched as David laughed openly and then looked around her.
"Where are the others?" she asked, her hands moving swiftly.
David indicated the outside with a sweep of his arm.
"The rain?" she signed.
David drew a hand across to indicate that it had stopped.
"Phew" Wade signed by pulling her hand across her forehead briefly. Then she smiled and got to her feet. She reached a hand out to him and pulled him to his feet. As he stood up, his height caused him to touch the roof of the small wooden shelter. Wade grinned and led the way out through the narrow entrance.
The sun had risen above the trees and was gradually doing its job of drying the ground which was exposed outside the canopy of the trees. Below them, the ground was still mulched and muddy.
It's so quiet," Wade mentioned to Quinn as she moved to be with him. He was looking across a fast flowing river which ran its course to the side of the trees. The rain had obviously filled it to its capacity and Wade could see logs and branches of trees rushing past with the fast stream. They were unhindered and crashed into anything smaller which happened to get in their way.
Quinn shook his head. "Yeah, it's not right. There's no sound at all. Not even a bird. I can't believe there's no wildlife here."
"Anything is possible, Mr.Mallory," Arturo said as he joined them. "We cannot judge any world on which we arrive, before we know the full facts."
David touched Wade's arm and looked questioningly.
"There's no bird song, David," she explained in sign. "No animal noises even."
David wrinkled his nose with confusion. He shook his head and pointed behind them.
"What is it?" Wade asked, taking his arm.
David gesticulated quickly and stared at her.
"David says there are animals here," Wade told the others as she nodded encouragingly to David. "He can smell them. They're not far away. He can also smell burning firewood."
"How can he smell them?" Rembrandt asked confused and looked questioningly at David.
"His sense of smell is better than any of ours. You should know that by now Remmy. Lose one sense and gain stronger use of the others. They all become enhanced. David can sometimes smell things we don't notice."
David nodded, watching her lips move in explanation to the rest of the group. He found Wade easy to lip read, she was clear and concise in the way she said things. He wished that the others would speak slower sometimes.
"David, do you know where the fire is coming from?" Quinn asked, turning to him.
David looked at Quinn in confusion. He had spoken too quickly.
Wade signed the question swiftly.
David nodded and pointed to the trees behind their shelter.
"Can you take us there?" Arturo asked, speaking slower than Quinn.
David nodded and smiled at Wade. He was delighted at being able to read the Professor's lips without too much trouble. Just Remmy and Quinn now. Then he wouldn't have to burden Wade so much with translating. He knew she didn't mind, but he would like to function more as an independent member of the group. He felt proud that he was on the way.
As the group moved slowly through the muddy landscape under the trees, hidden, greedy eyes watched their progress with glee. The plotting started here. The plan which had been waiting for this very scenario would now move into effect.
She shadowed them carefully. It hadn't happened how she'd expected it to, nor how he had told her it would. Never mind. Her patience had paid off. There was opportunity here. A chance at last. She'd take it, even if he was too chicken to do so.
They were easy to follow. They had no sense of moving with stealth or with care. They'd have to learn. If they didn't, they'd soon find out what living on this God forsaken planet was like. They'd either learn or die. Just like the others. She missed them sure, but they'd been stupid.
She smiled to herself and studied the small group carefully. Especially the girl. She was important. She had to watch her carefully. And him. He was slightly different but it didn't matter. He'd serve the purpose. Her eyes glinted as she paused behind a tree. They were too slow. She was used to speed. You had to be fast here. Speed meant life or death. Death if you were caught. A rather nasty death from what she remembered. She shuddered inwardly and watched.
"I don't like this," Rembrandt said as he looked anxiously at the trees.
"David says the smoke from the fire has lessened now," Wade said as she finished a sign conversation with David. "He thinks it's possible that whoever was burning it has put it out."
"And the animals?" asked Arturo anxiously, looking from left to right as he walked forwards.
Wade looked at David and signed the question.
"They're still around," she replied.
"Marvelous," Arturo said sarcastically and joked, "Let us hope that they are of the small furry variety as opposed to the larger hungry kind."
"I second that, Professor," Quinn agreed and pushed ahead through to a clearing.
"Well it looks as though this was the source of the smoke," Arturo observed as he bent down in the middle of the clearing and poked a nearby stick into the ashes which remained of a camp fire.
"That answers our question on whether there are humans on this world," Rembrandt offered as he sat down.
"Seemingly so," Arturo agreed and looked towards the trees. He then gazed down into the fire. "I'd say this was put out in a hurry. Look at the way the earth's been kicked across the sticks. Not many of them are burned. It hasn't been alight for long."
Wade sighed as she slumped down next to Remmy. "You know, I don't know why but it makes me kind of relieved in a way."
"About what?" asked Quinn, looking puzzled.
"That there are other people on this world. I mean if it was totally human free it would be kind of weird."
"Quiet though," Remmy added and looked down at his boots.
"Too quiet. At least for me. I mean there'd be no human contact if something went wrong and we were stranded here," she continued and caught David's eye.
He smiled gently and nodded. She knew he understood the meaning of needing human contact, perhaps more than the rest of them. This was only their second full slide with the young man and she was beginning to understand more and more about him, and especially now, how he existed as a deaf person living in a hearing person's world. A world he hadn't been used to. The opposite world to his own natural one. She admired him for having the strength to want to travel with them, and more than that she wanted to help him.
The girl crouched still for a moment and then heard the creature approach the clearing. They wouldn't hear it of course. Too busy making noise to hear its steady approach. She wouldn't interfere. The strongest would survive. Just as it had been with her own group. Just as it always would be on this world. The survival of the fittest. The triumph of the few. Nature ruled on this world. Bow to its superiority or perish. Learn to live alongside its gifts or starve to death.
She crept away from the clearing and headed towards her own shelter. She had to tell him how many there were. They had to make plans. Although they'd been planning for this day for the past two years. Never expecting it to come true and never believing they would get another opportunity. And now they had. Now they must make sure nothing stood in their way.
Its yellow eyes glinted as it stood hidden in the undergrowth. It could smell them. It was hungry. It had long given up hunting the two other creatures. They'd inflicted pain on it for a long time. It couldn't catch them and now it lived in an uneasy truce with them. They knew not to touch its mate or its young, and it left them alone. It was the way of things now.
But these creatures were different. They looked vulnerable. They weren't prepared for it. It rose to its full eight feet in height and bared its teeth. It crept forwards on its two legs and kept its claws sharp and ready. It had the element of surprise on its side and it could see no weapons. The other creatures had weapons which caused it great pain. These creatures looked unarmed. As it moved through the clearing towards them it watched their faces register first the alarm, and then the confusion.
The creature rose up on its hind legs like a man. The thick lips of its long snout curled to expose rows of sharp teeth. Its front paws were elongated like fingers and tipped with claws. It let out a deep bear- like roar as it charged.
They were in its path now. Ready victims. It could take whichever it wanted, perhaps two or three of them if it was quick. It knew from the past, that a single blow from its giant clawed paw finished these creatures off. It hadn't forgotten the eight creatures it had taken in that first year. The year they had arrived on its world. Through that tunnel of light. The tunnel which seemed just to drop them onto the surface of the earth and then it had disappeared. It had never returned.
It reached the small group which stood transfixed in front of it and then it felt the sting of pain. The pain was different somehow and it remembered its young, its mate. As it turned and sped into the trees beyond the clearing, it felt grateful that the pain had been brief and that it had been spared its life.
Quinn stared at the yellow vortex which opened to their side. The whole scenario was unfolding as though he were in a dream. The great bear creature which had rushed from the trees and lumbered towards them, its paws raised ready to attack. The two people who walked calmly from the vortex and now stood in front of his friends, their weapons aimed directly at the bear. He watched the beam of red light streak across the clearing and singe the raised arm which was poised to bear down upon two of his friends. He felt the relief which pushed through his adrenaline rush and forced him to breathe out, as the bear turned tail and ran back to the trees.
"Good Lord what was that?" Arturo said, as he wiped his hand across his brow and banished the beads of sweat.
"I dunno but it sure seemed to want us for dinner," Rembrandt said and chuckled nervously.
Wade was signing to a rather pale faced David. "Are you okay?" she asked.
He smiled and drew his hand across his head in relief.
"Who are they?" he signed and indicated the two visitors who stood quietly to one side, their weapons at rest.
Wade shrugged. She looked over at them. They were both in their early sixties, she estimated. A woman and a man. Both white-haired and both smiling quietly at them.
Quinn decided that someone had to break the silence.
"Thanks," he said simply and put out his hand to them.
The man moved forwards and took his hand firmly. "It seems that we arrived just in time," he said, smiling.
"You sure did," Remmy agreed as he too moved forwards and shook their hands.
"We seem to have a knack for arriving in the middle of trouble," the woman said as she shook Wade's hand. She had a neat figure and was wearing a long red tunic top over some sort of soft gray leggings. Ankle boots and a wide black belt finished the outfit. Her appearance belied her years. Her face was lined with the care of the sixty odd years but on the whole the complexion was unblemished and clear.
She shook hands with the man. He was handsome and tall, and his gray hair was still thick for his years. He wore a blue belted tunic top over gray pants.
"Can you tell us anything about that creature?" Arturo asked as he greeted the two strangers. He'd move on to discuss their vortex a bit later. Time for that. He didn't want to reveal the fact that they too had a device which manufactured a vortex. After all, they didn't know enough about the couple yet.
"Yeah, like is it gonna return?" Rembrandt added nervously, looking at the forest and exchanging glances with Wade.
"'Fraid not," replied the man. "We're not totally familiar with this world. We've only visited it once before and only for a few hours then."
"Are there other people here?" asked Wade eagerly.
"Not what you would call natives, no," replied the woman smiling.
"You mean there are visitors like yourselves," persisted Arturo.
"Sort of." The woman wasn't revealing too much information.
"Forgive me madam but..."
The woman interrupted Arturo with a raised hand.
"My dear Professor," she said gently. "Please let us explain our presence to you. Then we will answer your questions. If you have any remaining."
She turned to the man. He smiled and sat down on the forest floor, nodding at her encouragingly.
"Very well. One question first?" Arturo said as he too sat down.
As the others followed suit, the woman nodded her agreement.
"How do you know my name?" Arturo asked and sat back for the answer.
Wade could feel her mouth drop as the woman started to answer. As the story of their presence unfolded, she knew that things which she had taken for granted, things which she had perhaps thought could one day be, were now a reality.
The woman spoke softly and clearly. She had a mesmerized audience.
"The same reason that I know your name and that of everyone else here, except this young man." She pointed at David at this juncture. "Though I can see the relationship to Quinn of course," she added and smiled. "We are Sliders from the future. My dear friend and I had traveled to so many worlds in the past forty years that sliding in the present became less and less of a challenge. He therefore worked on, and finally developed, the ability to slide through time. Don't you see, we are your future. We may not be from your exact world. But we are Wade Welles and Quinn Mallory. We've come to warn you. You're in danger."
Wade Senior smiled at her young companion. "Are you confused?"
Wade nodded and managed a weak smile in return. "I guess the thought of us managing to stop sliding uncontrolled would be neat enough. To choose to continue sliding but to different times... I dunno. I just don't know whether I'd choose to do it."
The woman grinned and patted her arm. "Neither did I. We were sliding for thirty years unchecked, when we finally found our way home. I always thought I'd be happy. I thought I'd be so relieved."
"And weren't you?" asked Wade.
"The truth? No. Quinn and I had been through so much by then. We'd seen so many worlds and never settled in any of them. We lived together sure, but he couldn't settle. He worked day and night to build a time travel machine. We were addicted to sliding really. I guess it was an insatiable need by then. But the act of sliding itself wasn't enough. Quinn was fascinated by something he'd learnt on one of the worlds. Something one of his counterparts had been studying. He knew enough to build a machine which allowed us free access to time travel within sliding."
"And do you enjoy it as much?" Wade studied this older version of herself with interest. It was the chance no human being ever had. To look into the future and see yourself as you would one day look. She liked what she saw.
Wade Senior seemed to ignore her question but saw her look and smiled kindly. "Not so bad is it?"
Wade looked puzzled. "What?"
"Old age," she replied.
Wade felt embarrassed. She shook her head. She looked up and saw Quinn talking excitedly with his older counterpart.
"Tell me what happened to Remmy and the Professor," she asked, not knowing whether she wanted to know the truth.
"They never made it back," the woman replied softly.
Wade paused for a moment, waiting for more details. When none came, she could see that she'd get no explanation as to what happened, so she changed the subject.
"You didn't recognize David," she said, nodding in her young friend's direction.
Wade Senior shook her head. "He's obviously related to Quinn," she replied and looked questioningly at the young man.
"He was Quinn's younger brother on one of the worlds we visited," Wade explained. "A deaf world."
The older woman looked at him with interest. "Not a world we visited."
She looked back at Wade. "I guess that answers the question you're dying to ask."
"What?" said Wade.
"Am I you?" the woman replied.
Wade nodded. "I guess we're not the same, or you'd recognize David and remember the Deaf world, wouldn't you?"
"I'm afraid so," she said.
"Can I ask you something personal?" Wade ventured. There was something which always interested her about her counterparts.
"Of course," the older woman said.
"Do you and Quinn have children?" Wade asked.
Wade Senior chuckled. "No dear. We never even married. Quinn and I are such good friends. We've been through so much together. There was never time for romance. Sure we live together happily now, as friends. But how could we ever be apart, after forty years sharing hotel rooms and various other means of accommodation? Could you imagine what it would be like for us, being apart? We don't know how to live any other way. We depend on one another too much."
She laughed and squeezed Wade's arm. "I guess we're not your typical idea of what a couple should be, are we?"
Wade smiled. She didn't answer. She just thought.
The girl crept back to her camp and pounced on the stooped form bent over the fire in front of her.
"Hey, knock it off!" he declared in alarm, as he threw her off him.
"You should be more careful," the girl said pouting. She moved to be closer to the fire which glowed in front of him.
"Why did you leave the other clearing so fast?" she asked him, as she pulled a piece of fish from the stick which lay across the center of the heat.
"You were gone too long and I thought I heard the bearwolf prowling around out there. Anyway I wanted to get back to eat," he answered without looking at her.
"We've got visitors," she offered and continued to eat slowly, waiting for the reaction.
He dropped his own piece of food to the mud below in alarm. "Where? How many? Are any suitable?"
As he cursed and picked it up, the girl laughed.
"Five of them, and yeah, two of them are suitable. But they're acting pretty stupid. No sense of danger. Some are probably dead by now." She loved baiting him. A harmless pastime on this world without entertainment.
"Dead?" he asked, dusting the mud from the food in front of him. "How?"
"The bearwolf probably had his fill. I left them about to die," she said nonchalantly.
"You're a fool," he said angrily. " We've waited forever for this chance. How do you think we can use them if they're dead."
"Don't speak to me like that," she said rising to her feet, her eyes glinting dangerously. "You know I hate it when you talk like that."
"You know I'm right. That's why you're so mad." He put his head down and ignored her.
The girl threw the remains of her food to the ground in disgust and moved towards their shelter, a makeshift wooden hut. Her torn clothing was dirty and threadbare. Her hair hung down limply onto her shoulders.
"We'll go back and see who survived when it's dark," she said over her shoulder.
"And if the right two aren't still alive?" the man ventured.
"You worry too much, Rembrandt Brown," she replied and turned to grin at him.
"And you Wade Welles are the most insane person I've ever met," he replied grimacing.
"I'll take that as a compliment," she retorted as she disappeared into the interior of the small shelter.
"It'll be dark soon," Quinn Senior advised. " You ought to find some shelter."
"And you?" Quinn asked in surprise. He'd thought about spending the night talking to this older alter-ego. The future filled with time- travel excited him more than he ever realized. Arturo had been mesmerized by the details which this older version of his friend had given to them.
"We are scheduled to leave for the night," the older man replied mysteriously and rose to his feet. "We'll return when the time is right. We were merely checking that these events were about to unfold."
Wade Senior joined her friend and pulled a small device from her tunic belt. It had nestled unnoticed next to her weapon.
"Your timer," she said to Quinn. " What does it display?"
He pulled their own timer from his pocket and checked the LCD. "Forty eight hours. Is that relevant to what's going to happen? You said you had to warn us. What about?"
"We will return in forty hours," the older Wade replied gently and smiled at them all. "We can tell you nothing specific until then."
"All I will say, is take care of each other," she added. She pointed the device which she held and a yellow beam shot out and seemed to be swallowed up within itself, as a broad circle of yellow light fanned out.
The two stepped into it without looking back, and within seconds the clearing was quiet again.
Arturo looked around the small stunned group. "I suggest we go back to that shelter we had the other night. It's getting dark and I for one do not fancy being an evening meal for that thing we encountered this morning."
"I'm with you Professor," Rembrandt said and taking Wade's arm, he started off across the clearing and towards the river.
Quinn walked slowly beside Arturo and David. The three were in silence, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Quinn's excitement was tinged with fear. Fear at some event over which he seemed to have no control. An event which was known about already by two sliders from the future. The thought terrified and excited him all at once. He turned to smile at David.
The younger man looked back at him and returned the smile. He couldn't know what Wade and Quinn were feeling. Seeing themselves, as they would be in the future. He hadn't wholly understood the relevance of the visitors' presence in this world, but he sensed that they were important to his friends. He had understood one thing though. The final words which the older Wade had said to them all. "Take care of each other." He had read her lips as easily as he could read his own Wade's. He would be vigilant and make sure that he did just that. He would take care of his friends.
"We have to take them one at a time," the girl said as she walked alongside the antithesis of Rembrandt. "Let one of us get into the group and make the opportunity for the other one."
"Yeah, but which one first?" he replied as he picked his way carefully through the undergrowth with her.
Wade's evil counterpart stopped and turned. "We'll take the man first. Tonight. Tomorrow morning you bring the girl to the clearing. Alone. We'll take her then. After that we're home and dry."
He nodded and they continued. Within seconds she had stopped again and turned to face him. Her eyes flashed as she fingered the knife at her waist.
"Mess it up and I might choose to leave you here instead of your double. Understand?" she threatened quietly.
He nodded in acknowledgment and swallowed hard. He knew she meant it.
The dark sky had settled now and there was no sign of further storms. A quiet hush lay across the land, interrupted only by the sound of fast water flowing. Occasionally, the sound of the undergrowth moving made them turn sharply. When it was this quiet the bearwolf was usually near. They'd learnt in the time they'd been on this world to take care and take nothing for granted. All their comrades dead. Wade and Rembrandt were the last of the group of ten who had been sent there. To Rembrandt the deaths had been a waste of life, good friends he'd come to rely on, if only briefly. Wade had made no excuse for her opinion that they'd been stupid and careless. More or less deserving to die. But then, as Rembrandt mused to himself, she had always been more the psychopath than the rest. She was the ultimate of the warrior class of their world. Intent on destroying anything which stood in her way. Ready to die to achieve her end.
At times Rembrandt felt lucky to be alive, alongside this strong character. He would follow her to the end. He knew it. She was the leader of the group and he owed his allegiance to her. Their banishment to this hell was harder for her. A punishment she endured only because she had planned that one day she would be able to leave, and take revenge on those who had sent them. Leave in the same way that she'd arrived. Through the time portal. And now their chance had come at last. What appeared to be another group of time-sliders. The first to arrive since their banishment.
Wade would kill them all if she had to. She would rather leave as part of the group, undetected if she could. He knew then that she would take great delight in leaving their counterparts behind. A bitter irony. If anyone came to check that they were still here, then they would be. In appearance anyway. And what if the new incumbents protested their innocence? Who would believe them anyway. They were declared mad before they came here. Just the ramblings of a pair of prisoners who were even nearer to the brink of total insanity than before. Rembrandt's darker self smiled. He liked that. He liked that a lot.
The real Rembrandt stood next to David and they looked at the clear studded sky.
"Sure is beautiful, huh?" said Remmy to the young man.
David read his slow speech and smiled, nodding enthusiastically. The sheer blackness in contrast to the thousands upon thousands of bright white stars. It took his breath away. He knew that this world was quiet. Wade had told him so. He realized that he was missing nothing by standing silently with Remmy. Remmy couldn't hear anything around them either. Wade had told him there was nothing much to hear. He felt a part of what they were experiencing. It was a good feeling.
David yawned and looked towards their small shelter. They'd worked out that it was probably an old abandoned bearwolf den. Certainly it hadn't been used for some time. Wade was already asleep inside, along with the Professor. They were both exhausted. Quinn sat next to the small fire that they'd built and was turning the timer over and over in his hands. His thoughts were muddled, jumbled. David knew that. He knew that his "brother" was disturbed by the visit from the other, older sliders. He had been thinking about what he could say to him. Should he write down his thoughts? He wasn't sure. Wade was asleep now and he needed her to communicate successfully with Quinn. David decided that he'd just sit with his brother. His presence might be comforting somehow. He touched Rembrandt on the shoulder and thumbed over to the camp fire.
"No you go, David," Remmy said slowly and clearly and then smiled. "I sure like looking at these stars. Never know when we're gonna get chances like this. I sure love the way this world is so peaceful."
David grinned his agreement and ambled over to the campfire. He couldn't hear or see the two shapes which rose up behind Remmy and smothered his cry for help. As Rembrandt was dragged unconscious into the bushes, David sat himself down next to Quinn. He didn't think to look back towards where he'd left his friend looking at the sky. There wasn't a reason to.
"You okay?" Quinn asked as he felt the presence of his young friend next to him.
David only just caught the lip movements but more or less could guess the question. He nodded and touched Quinn's arm, pointing at him.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he answered and then grinned as David screwed up his brow in surprise.
"Just thinking about those two," he explained and then mouthed the words slower as David shook his head that he hadn't caught what he said.
David nodded his agreement and threw a stick into the fire. He had so much to talk to Quinn about but he couldn't. He still needed Wade's skill, and it frustrated him so much. He wanted the independence more than anything. He felt the touch on his arm and looked up.
"I know you want to talk to me," Quinn said to him gently but slowly. "Take your time. Do it later. We've got plenty of time while we're sliding."
David nodded and shrugged his shoulders trying to indicate that it didn't matter all that much. He stared into the fire.
Quinn laughed and reaching across, turned the youngster's face towards him. "You can't fool me. You're dying to talk. How about getting Wade's paper and pen?"
David shook his head solemnly and put his hands to the side of his head and thumbed in the direction of the shelter.
"I know they're asleep. Oh all right then. Tomorrow then? Promise?" Quinn said slowly, and put his hand on the young boy's shoulder.
David nodded and felt proud that he could read all that Quinn had said. He was getting there. He turned as he glimpsed from the corner of his eye the shape of Rembrandt approaching the fire.
"Remmy. Time for some shut eye?" Quinn said as he rose to his feet and stretched his arms.
"Sure. Gotta get some sleep I guess," their friend replied and looked at David who was staring at him.
"Something wrong?" Rembrandt asked the youngster, his lips moving fast.
David shook his head and signed that he didn't understand. Most of the group understood his sign when he was confused. Rembrandt looked at Quinn and shrugged.
"What's up with him?" he asked.
Quinn's eyes narrowed and he glanced at David who was looking confused. He was grateful the youngster hadn't seemed to hear Remmy's comment.
Quinn turned his back to David and spoke softly so that Rembrandt could just catch the words. "That was un-called for," he hissed fiercely.
"What?" Rembrandt asked, looking surprised.
"You know damn well what. I'm really surprised at you, Rembrandt. Just as well he can't hear you, isn't it? You know you have to speak slowly," he replied and taking David's arm, he moved towards the shelter.
The duplicate Rembrandt stood, his eyes narrowing as he stared after the two young men. Whatever he'd done, he'd have to be careful in future. He just hoped that he could fit into the shoes of this "Remmy". He'd make a point of being especially nice to the youngster tomorrow. After he'd disposed of their Wade of course.
The real Rembrandt woke to find himself bound hand and foot and strapped to a rather uncomfortable trunk of an old tree. He was wearing old torn clothes, his own were missing.
The voice which spoke to him seemed familiar but there was something different about it, something harsher. As he opened his eyes, he stared into the face of Wade and saw immediately that the eyes which greeted his own were not the caring eyes of the girl he'd come to know over the past few years. These eyes were cold. Their depths plunged a man into an abyss. Whereas his own Wade's eyes were dark and full of compassion. These were dark and full of hatred, full of a madness which a man shouldn't have to glimpse. Rembrandt shuddered and looked away. When he looked back and met her eyes once more, she had softened somehow, a grim smile playing across her lips. She held a knife in her hand.
"You look softer than my Rembrandt. He'd die for me. Would you die for me?" she asked, laughing as she took the knife and raised it upwards, stroking it down her cheek gently as the blade caressed her skin.
Rembrandt wasn't sure whether to lie or tell the truth. If he said he'd die for her then she might take him at his word, right there and then. If he said he wouldn't, she'd probably kill him anyway, in a fit of pique. She certainly looked mad enough to do so.
"Can't make up your mind? A sad excuse to carry the name of Rembrandt Brown. I hope my counterpart isn't such a specimen. We'll see won't we?" she said and taking the knife she drew it across her long hair and started to cut it into the length which was more suited to Wade. Rembrandt just prayed that whatever she was going to do, the others would be able to see the madness which the girl held within, before it was too late for them.
David skimmed a stone across the water. He watched as it skipped gently along the surface and then slid neatly beneath. He sat on his haunches at the water's edge, thinking of nothing in particular, just drinking in the beauty of the scene before him. He put a hand down to the stones next to him and his fingers closed around a flat, well shaped one. As he went to draw his hand up he felt a warm hand on top of it. He glanced up.
"Hey, how're you doin'?" the duplicate Rembrandt mouthed easily. He'd had a mouthful from the Wade who traveled with this group. How he'd been unthinking towards the boy, not thought about how hard it was for him getting to used to being with hearing people. He didn't need lectures, especially not from another one of her. He got enough of those in his own campsite. But he realized he had to go along with the whole scenario. Just a couple of hours more and they'd be in position to leave when the group left. He smiled inwardly and outwardly at the young man who sat in front of him.
David nodded and forced a half smile. He kept his eyes averted. Something didn't feel right about Rembrandt. He couldn't put his finger on it. But he had been acting kind of funny since he'd come back the previous evening. And there was something else. Something David was too wary of telling the group. This Rembrandt smelt of the forest, of the mud. He smelt like he belonged on this world. His own Rembrandt didn't smell like that. He just smelt clean and of aftershave. His own favorite brand. Rembrandt always wore it. David knew his observation could be thought of as offensive. So he kept his counsel. But he couldn't look Rembrandt in the face. Not yet.
Rembrandt looked at the downcast face of the youngster and got to his feet. He wasn't achieving anything. Maybe when his Wade came. The kid seemed to have a relationship with the Wade here. Maybe that trust could be used by his own Wade. She'd be devious enough. He'd seen her charm a human being until they believed they could trust no one better. He'd seen her slit that person's throat. If anyone could fool this group, his Wade could. Rembrandt smirked quietly and moved away from the river. He'd arranged with the Wade from this group, that they'd take a stroll back through the woods, part way to pick some berries he told her he'd seen. He mentally hoped his Wade would be waiting. He knew she would.
Wade Senior sat looking out across the valley. Their house had an enormous picture window which overlooked the green lawn and flower beds which surrounded it. The cat which sat in her lap snoozed happily while she absently stroked its sleek black fur. "Are we doing the right thing?"
"You know we are," came Quinn Senior's voice across the room. He put down his small glass of whiskey and met the look which she gave him as she turned around.
"I wonder sometimes," she continued. Sadness tinged her voice.
"We know what happens and we know we've got to stop it," Quinn reminded her.
"To think that we caused it," she said softly as she reached up and brushed away a tear.
"Forget the images, Wade," he said gently. "They're not going to happen. Not this time. Not ever again."
"I hope we get it right. I hope we can stop the madness." Her throat ached now. She reached across to the table and took her glass of water. The cold fluid was good and soothing.
The cat, disturbed by her actions, leapt to the floor in a single bound and stretched its limbs before moving outside.
Wade smiled as she watched him go. "Quinn. This one event. This thing which we unleashed. Doesn't it ever make you think we shouldn't have interfered with time?"
He shrugged and looked down. "I guess sometimes. We're a part of it now. We're part of the time circle. We'll never know whether we started the event or we ended it. It's a part of what we did and what we've got to do. We're caught up now, Wade. It's too late to go back."
Wade smiled and got to her feet. She moved across the room and bent down to kiss him gently on the forehead. He smiled and patted her hand. "Always right, Quinn Mallory. Always right," she said as she moved through the door and went upstairs to get some sleep. They needed to rest to meet what was going to happen the next day.
"It's so peaceful here, Remmy," Wade said as she walked slowly next to her friend and reached out to entwine her arm in his.
He felt the jarring of shock at her friendly act. His Wade would sooner link arms with the bearwolf than another human being. Strange seeing her double acting so different.
"Yeah," he replied, not committing himself to a conversation he felt ill-equipped to join. "It's quiet all right."
"Maybe no humans wouldn't be so bad, so long as I had you guys," she said and laughed, squeezing his arm tightly.
He looked down at her as she strolled so happily. Did he feel a twinge of conscience? He wasn't sure. Something nagged at him. Conscience wasn't something he was used to handling. He'd never needed it before. Being Warrior class meant never having to regret your actions. Something his Wade took to extremes sometimes, admittedly. But he couldn't say he felt bad about anything he'd done, not even the killings back home.
"You're quiet today Remmy," Wade observed as they reached a huge blackberry bush, half buried in some shrubs.
"Maybe I'm doing some thinkin'" Rembrandt replied and ignored her look. His Wade would be here now. He could feel her presence. She was watching them. She'd strike soon.
"Even thinking doesn't normally shut you up for this long." Wade laughed and punched his arm playfully.
He pulled away and started to pick the berries.
"What a nice little domestic scene." The voice echoed from behind.
Wade swung around and was greeted with the image she always found difficult to take, herself. This one though was different. The eyes were blazing and dark. The madness she glimpsed inside made her shudder. Then the face relaxed and assumed a benign friendly look.
"See, I can look just like you little sister. Just good enough to fool your stupid friends," the dark Wade said and allowed a broad smile to cross her face fleetingly. Then Wade saw the knife in her counterpart's hand.
Wade backed up instinctively to Rembrandt. The two of them together. They stood a chance, even against a weapon. But as she backed she felt two strong arms grip her own. It was a tight, vice-like grip which hurt. She tried to wriggle free but failed. The realization that this Rembrandt was an impostor sunk into her system like a stone. The feeling was swiftly followed by a deep abiding fear which settled on her like a mantle.
She sat against the tree trunk some half an hour later, her back to her own dear Remmy. Her nostrils were filled with the stench of the damp, mud soaked clothes which her counterpart had so generously given to her. As the two sat wordlessly, she stared after the retreating forms of the two impostors and she remembered the words of caution which Wade senior had said. Surely someone would notice the madness which lurked beneath the surface of the facades which the impostors presented. Then she remembered how easily she'd been fooled by the false Rembrandt. Her heart sank.
David felt the pressure build in him all day and night. He'd wanted to talk to Wade about what he felt and believed about Rembrandt, but since the two had returned from the woods he started to feel the same about her. He almost felt that he was going mad. Every time he approached her she spurned him. Too busy or ignoring him. She refused to sign with him, saying she had a headache and she'd be up to chatting with him tomorrow. He noticed though that she had time to walk around talking to Remmy. And that smell. The mud, mixed with the forest. She was the same. Maybe he was going nuts. He didn't know what to believe any more. Maybe they got covered in some mud from the clearing and cleaned it off. Maybe..
David sat by the fire and let a deep sigh flow out through his lungs. It made him feel better. The other two were busy in conversation most of the time. He watched Arturo's lips and heard half the conversation. They were intrigued by the time-travel concept. They had no time for anyone else, just each other. It was natural, this separation. Wade had talked to him before about it. The two scientists going off together. She said it was best to ignore it. That he'd learn more and more and be able to join with them once he could lip read Quinn. Wade was trying to teach Arturo signing. He had a basic knowledge but not enough for a conversation. But he was trying. That was something.
This world was beginning to depress him. He felt his heart rise as he saw the sudden flash of yellow and watched the two figures walk calmly from the vortex. He turned to speak to Wade, express his enthusiasm for the fact that the slide was eight hours away now. As he turned he saw Remmy and Wade's look of alarm at the arrival of the two visitors. He watched Remmy whisper to Wade. He couldn't read Remmy much. He certainly couldn't decipher a whisper, with a hand half in front of the face. Wade spoke back, her face turned forwards, but her lips moving slowly, deliberately. How loudly she spoke, David didn't know. What he did know and see was part of what she said. He felt his heart thump loudly in his chest as the words tripped from her mouth.
"They've come to take us. They'll spoil the plans. Keep quiet and leave all the talking to me. Once we've escaped, we'll kill the others."
David didn't know if he should run to Quinn and tell him. Tell him what he already now knew. The two people he thought were his friends, weren't. They were impostors, doubles. He understood that. But how they came to be on this deserted world and how they recognized the two older sliders he wasn't sure. What he did realize was that they were all in danger.
If he ran to Quinn how would be explain things? He needed Wade. He needed her to sign for him. Maybe Arturo. Maybe he understood enough by now.
David watched as Quinn and Arturo moved towards the couple and shook their hands once more. He watched as the older woman moved towards the impostor Wade and threw her arms around her neck. Wade looked relaxed and friendly now. A complete contrast to the dark eyed creature he'd witnessed talking seconds earlier to Rembrandt.
The others wouldn't believe him. They'd think he was going mad. He looked at Rembrandt and saw him smile in his direction. David forced a smile in return. His only hope was to find the other two who were missing.
He moved across to Wade and pulled her arm. He'd prove this once and for all.
He signed swiftly at her and she nodded. Then he pointed towards the trees. She nodded and smiled, then turned to the older Wade who was talking to her. He saw the older woman ask what David said. He also watched the alternate Wade smile and say clearly enough for David to read, "He's going for a walk for a bit, in the forest. Best to leave him alone." David smirked inwardly. Proof before his very eyes. He'd actually said to Wade that he was going to climb the tree and throw himself off it. His Wade would have known that.
His Wade would have signed her horror at his suggestion. He had to find her, and Remmy, before they slid and before it was too late. He turned and looked at the group once more. Then he moved into the trees.
Quinn senior sat on a large rock outcrop next to the camp fire and took a deep breath. "You are all owed an explanation as to our presence here, and what we need to do. We've discussed not telling you, but we'd want to know if we were you and we need your help to make this work."
Arturo nodded his appreciation. "I'm sure I speak on behalf of all of us here when I say that we are grateful."
Evil Wade nodded enthusiastically and slid her hand through her older counterpart's arm. She'd be close enough to finish her off if necessary, and if not..well it looked pretty good. She laughed inside her mind at the irony of the situation.
The older Quinn smiled at his younger self and cleared his throat.
"A year ago we visited a world on our time-travels which was one of the worst we have encountered. The people who populated San Francisco were a band known as the 'Warrior class.' It appeared that the city of San Francisco was the headquarters for, and colony of, a unique genetically-engineered group of psychopaths and their offspring, whose prime objective was to act as soldiers, mercenaries, murderers and anything else the government could dream up for them to do. The basic premise was that no one would ever be needed for war, or used in battle other than these people bred from this particular City. The groups were self governing, wild and untamable. Included in one particular group were two people who you know very well, Wade Welles and Rembrandt Brown."
The others turned to their friends with sympathy. They knew what it was like to know of counterparts who were killers or otherwise. The evil Wade and Rembrandt lowered their eyes in mock horror.
Wade Senior patted her younger counterpart's hand in sympathy and took up the story. "We controlled the time we spent in each world. We decided to leave when we learned the nature of the people there, but it was too late and yours and my counterparts were too clever for us. Or shall I say too devious. Ten of them followed us through the vortex and arrived on our own world directly behind us."
Quinn spoke up. "Why didn't you send them straight back to their own world?"
The older Quinn replied. "Back then the machine wouldn't let us re- visit a destination within one calendar year, and never at the same time period. I've made some adjustments since those early days and we get some flexibility now. We watched them come through the vortex and before they could set a foot past the slide chamber I reprogrammed the machine. The vortex sucked them back again. I sent them to the coordinates of a world we had visited previously but at a different time. This world. We knew it wasn't inhabited because we had visited here before, much earlier in our travels. We thought they would harm no one again. We were wrong."
Wade Senior rose to her feet. "Some six months later we visited a world in the past. It was a beautiful world, full of animals and people who lived peacefully. There was no war. We were unfortunate enough, or should I say that perhaps it was fortune which guided us, to witness your two evil counterparts arrive on that world together with two of you. They'd obviously escaped this world by changing places with you both".
She looked sympathetically at Wade and Rembrandt before adding, "We watched as Wade Welles and Rembrandt Brown murdered Quinn Mallory and Maximillian Arturo in cold blood. In the future which we saw, both Quinn here and the Professor will be murdered."
"How do you know it was the two you left here?" Quinn asked solemnly and glanced at Wade and Remmy. They seemed quiet but undisturbed by the revelations. He found that odd.
"Because they recognized us and tried to kill us too," replied the older Quinn. "We returned today to make sure that they don't leave with you. That they remain on this world. We unleashed them by unwittingly letting them hitch a ride through time. Your murders are on our hands. Possibly more innocents will die. We can't let it happen and we won't."
Arturo rose to his feet suddenly, looking around him. "Where's David?"
"Gone for a walk," replied Wade nonchalantly, though her heart beat fast. She felt sure now that the boy was up to no good. If he discovered that they were impostors she'd have to kill all of them right now, before the slide. She had no problem with that.
"Good God, and you let him go?" Arturo asked with surprise.
"He's old enough to look after himself, Professor," she returned swiftly, her eyes burning with anger. Then she softened them immediately, quenching the fire of darkness which burned within. She couldn't let her guard down, not now.
Arturo clasped his hands behind his back. "I'm sorry, Miss Welles, I suppose you are right. We're so close to the slide now, that's all. If he should miss it, especially since we know there are two psychopaths out there.."
"I'll go look for him," Rembrandt said, jumping to his feet and catching Wade's eye.
"I'll come with you," volunteered Quinn.
"No. I'm on my own on this one," insisted Rembrandt firmly.
Quinn looked at him for a moment and then shook his head. "Nope. I'm coming. No one should be on their own right now."
Rembrandt nodded silently and the two men moved towards the trees.
"Can we take some time to get to know one another," evil Wade crooned as she linked arms with her older counterpart and moved to the fire to sit down and wait. The smile which the older woman gave her was warm. The evil in Wade liked that.
David came across his two friends without much difficulty. Their heads hung forwards, their mouths were bound and their hands were strapped behind the tree. He saw the dirty clothes and knew immediately that his sense of smell had been right about the two impostors. He untied them immediately.
"David are we glad to see you," mouthed Wade clearly after she'd pulled the rag from around her mouth. He saw the shine in her eyes. That shine which was missing from the other Wade, replaced with coldness and malevolence.
Remmy clapped him on the back and smiled. "Quite a tracker, aren't you?"
David grinned. He could read Remmy's lips okay.
David quickly signed the story of the two impostors' arrival at the camp to Wade and what he'd witnessed them discuss. She nodded and explained to Rembrandt what he'd told her.
"We've got to warn the others," she said and they moved back towards the river.
It wasn't far but their progress back to the camp seemed an eternity to the three friends.
A sudden rustling in the bushes was followed by the appearance of Quinn and the impostor Rembrandt. Quinn stared at the three people in front of him and shouted a warning to David.
"They're not our friends, David. Get away from them!"
This time David didn't need to read Quinn to know what he said. He shook his head firmly and clasped his friends' hands either side of him. Then he let go and pointed at the Rembrandt who stood next to Quinn.
"That's the impostor, Quinn," said Wade softly.
"You must be messin' with us. I'm the real Rembrandt," said the evil Rembrandt as he folded his arms across his chest and forced his most disarming smile. "You know that I'm not lyin'."
Wade narrowed her eyes for a minute and then smiled. "Okay, tell me what your nickname for Quinn is," she suggested.
The evil Rembrandt smiled triumphantly. He wasn't going to be tricked. "I don't have a nickname for him."
"Wrong answer," said Quinn as he grabbed both his arms and pinned them behind his back. Remmy ran across to help him and between them, they subdued him.
"Good to see you, Q-Ball," Remmy said and smiled.
Quinn turned his prisoner around. "Where are the rest of the group who came with you?"
The duplicate Rembrandt met his gaze and locked it. "Dead," he replied flatly.
Quinn didn't want to know how. He tightened his lips and caught Wade's eye. "We've got a couple of hours before the slide. If your counterpart is as evil as she sounds, we've got trouble. I've got a lot to tell you guys on the way back."
Arturo paced the camp. "What is keeping them?" he said angrily and not for the first time.
The older Wade was sitting talking to her younger counterpart. "I hope nothing's happened to the young man," she said anxiously. "I was wondering why he didn't appear in the future we saw."
"Yeah. Sure hope he's okay. He's a good friend," agreed the evil Wade, feigning worry.
"Here they are," said Arturo as he saw the figures coming towards him.
Evil Wade felt the eyes of the group turn to her as they spotted the other Wade reach the camp.
"And which Wade do you have?" asked Arturo.
"The right one," said Quinn flatly and moved towards the evil girl who stood before them.
The knife moved swiftly from her belt and she waved it in front of her.
"Don't think I won't use it," she threatened, her eyes glinting.
"We know you will, my dear," said the older Wade as she stepped swiftly away from her.
The flash of red which shot out of the weapon in Quinn senior's hand reached the girl's knife arm before she could realize what was happening. The knife fell to the ground, the girl following it as she tried to retrieve it. The second strike hit the knife and shattered it into a thousand pieces. She screamed in frustration.
"We've broken the cycle," the older Wade said quietly to her Quinn.
He nodded and bending to her ear, whispered, "Almost." He smiled at her look of surprise and then helped the others to tie both the evil counterparts to nearby trees.
As they watched the small group of five people leap through the blue circle to the next world, Wade and Quinn senior stood and contemplated the two people they'd allowed to meddle with the lives of others.
"We've righted the wrong, Quinn," she said. " It can't happen again."
"It won't happen again," Quinn replied solemnly. "I'm going to destroy the time-slide machine. I'm also going to do this." He moved across to the two people strapped to the tree. From his belt he removed a small device which he activated. He pressed the end of it to their necks. They both squirmed as a blast of gas shot through their skin. Quinn stood back.
He spoke quietly and solemnly. "You can't leave through a vortex again. Try it and once you're inside the tunnel the gas I've injected you with will inflate your blood cells to the point that you'll explode." He watched as their faces registered the death sentence he'd imposed on them should they try to escape.
Wade senior watched her friend leave them and walk to her side.
"Are you sure it's the right thing to do?" she whispered as she watched the two evil counterparts squirm against their ropes.
"I'm sure," he said, as he too glanced at them. "How about going back to straight sliding?" he whispered in her ear.
She smiled. "You'll never give up sliding, Quinn Mallory. Never."
They moved several hundred feet away and activated their vortex. The yellow circle hung, suspended a foot from the ground. As they moved towards it Wade spoke quietly. "I didn't know you had such a powerful gas."
Quinn senior grinned and took her hand to leave. "I don't," he said softly. "It was a mild sedative, but they don't know the difference."
Wade senior stifled a laugh and kept her eyes ahead of her as they walked forwards.
Quinn senior put his foot into the opening and added, "I doubt they'd want to try it though."
The vortex vanished as swiftly as it had arrived. The forest was quiet again, it's only sound the subdued groans of two prisoners destined to live their days out in each other's company.