A Sliders X-File

Chapter 4

Cleatus, Rembrant and Arturo each boasted on knowing the best way to prepare chicken and beef. As they argued over the right to cook, Mulder and Wade set the dinner table, then went outside on the front porch to talk. He listened intently as she told him about how her journey through the cosmos had begun, and what some of the places she had seen were like. When she had reached a stopping point, Mulder told her what he knew of the phenomena.

"When I joined the FBI, I ran into a lot of unsolved cases involving abnormal disappearances. There had always been talk about mysterious vortexes appearing out of nowhere and gobbling people up, and people claiming to have been expelled by the same unsubstantiated phenomenon. The mental hospitals were full of those people. But when I started to investigate some of those claims, I discovered there was a lot more truth than fiction. Irrefutable evidence was hard to come by, but photographs and videos have been authenticated. Eyewitnesses have passed polygraph tests. The government is well aware of the existence of Sliders. Rumor has it that they've even captured a few in hopes of discovering the technology needed to slide."

"And this Black Squad you mentioned earlier...?"

"So named because they dress in black, wear dark sunglasses and drive a black car. No one knows exactly who they are or who they work for, but everyone agrees, they're not very nice people."

Wade shook her head and grunted. "It's just so odd that we're looked upon as though we're little green men from Mars or something."

"Is that some kind of back home saying?"

"Oh yeah, that's right. You don't know about outer space stuff."

"Well, give me a few minutes and I could probably babble out a theory or two."

Wade looked towards the darkening sky. "Mars is one of the nine planets in our solar system," she stated, thinking that was sufficient enough explanation.

Mulder looked at the sky, then looked back at her questionably. "You believe that there are eight other planets out there?"

"If it were dark enough, I could probably point a couple out to you. Some you can see with the naked eye, some you can only see through high-powered telescopes. Astronomers have charted the positions, the sizes and the movements of other planets for centuries."

"Is there a significant reason why anyone would need that kind of information?"

"Well, it helps when we send a rocket up."

Mulder shook his head in confusion. Wade went on to answer his unspoken question.

"We have a space program where I come from. They've been sending manned rocket ships into outer space for years now. They've even made a trip to the moon."

"Really? And what did they find there?"

"Not much, I'm afraid. They brought back some rocks."

"Seems like a long way to go just for rocks."

"They didn't go just for rocks. The moon is the closest thing to us. That was the first goal, now they want to go further."

"Why? Did they figure the rocks get better the further out you go?"

"No, the whole thing about space exploration is to... uh... explore... strange new worlds... to seek out new life and new civilizations... to boldly go where... no one has gone before."

"Sounds like you're describing the one day a year I clean out my refrigerator," Mulder deadpanned.

Wade chuckled openly at his joke. Later, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I guess it's pretty much like your scientists here trying to master the concept of sliding into other worlds."

"It sounds truly fascinating though, the idea of other planets and civilizations out there," Mulder mused as he cast his eyes towards the full moon making its debut. "But if I were you, I wouldn't mention any of this to my partner. She's apt to get the guys with the nets to come for you."

"That's considered crazy talk?"

"Personally, I don't think so. But then, I tend to live in a special world all of my own."

"No, you're just more opened-minded. Sometimes, on other worlds it's been necessary for us to tell people about ourselves and very few are willing to believe."

"I always believe the truth when I hear it," said Mulder matter- of-factly. "Problem is, sometimes I don't know when I'm actually hearing it. Or as my partner would put it, I'm extremely gullible."

"Did she warn you about believing in us?"

"Yes, she did."

"And yet...."

Mulder faced Wade squarely, searching her eyes for a sign that said she couldn't be trusted. What he saw was innocence and goodness and a complete lack of cynicism. His gut instincts were at it again. His gut told him that he could confide in her, so he did.

"When I was twelve, my sister disappeared," he began solemnly. "Samantha was eight. She was a genuine pain in the butt as is most younger siblings, I believe. She'd borrow my stuff without asking, barge into my room without knocking and threaten to blab to my parents about everything I didn't want them to know. There were times she got on my nerves so badly, I'd actually wished I could sell her to the circus or something. Then there were those times when I felt that she was my best friend and I was the big brother who could protect her from the world.

"My parents had gone out for the night and left me in charge. Samantha and I were in the den watching TV. Actually, we were fighting over what to watch. Anyway, being bigger and older, I won. Samantha went off to her room to play with her dolls. About a half hour later, I heard voices coming from her room. She was talking to someone, which in itself wasn't unusual, because she always talked to her dolls out loud. But I heard a man's voice -- soft and somewhat familiar.

"I went up to the half-opened door and peeked inside. I saw a man sitting on the edge of the bed, holding Samantha in his lap and stroking her hair. I wasn't sure what to do at first. My parents were at a neighbor's house, so I went back into the den and called the number my dad had left for me. While someone was calling him to the phone, I heard this strange whirling sound and I looked back into the hallway and I saw this bright light coming out of my sister's room. I dropped the phone and I ran into the room. The man was standing now with Samantha in his arms, and behind them was this large, swirling circle of blue and white light.

"The man looked at me, and at first I thought he was my father. It looked just like him except that his hair was longer, he had a mustache and he wore some odd looking clothes I'd never seen before. I asked him who he was. He said his name was William Mulder and that he was from a universe that was identical to mine. Then he looked at Sam as though she was the most precious thing in existence, and said, 'Almost identical.' My sister asked him if I could come with them, and he looked at me with such sadness in his eyes and shook his head. 'I'm sorry, but we have one of him already,' he told her.

"Then before it could all sink in what was happening, he turned and leaped into the swirling light. I heard my sister scream my name and I watched, frozen in that spot as they slid down a spiraling hole. By the time I thought to follow, it was too late. The opening closed up just as I reached for it and the force of it knocked me off my feet and slammed me into the wall.

"I was in a state of shock when my parents found me. Stayed that way for two weeks afterwards. When I finally rejoined the living, I told my parents what I saw that night. My mother only cried, thinking that I had lost my mind. But my father... I think he believed me. He never came out and said so, but he had this expression on his face which said to me that what I saw was possible. But all he said to me was, 'You knew where I kept the gun. Why the hell didn't you use it? Your mother will never forgive you for this, you pathetic little shit.'"

The pain he had felt when those words were first spoken so many years ago, had returned full strength. Mulder squeezed his eyes shut, attempting to block out his father's voice and the anguish it instilled.

"It was that moment that I started praying for the man who was my father in another world to come back. I could tell in those brief few moments when I met him that he was a much better dad than mine was. My sister could tell too. That's why she let him pick her up in the first place. But he never even wanted me. He had one of me. I wished so much that he hadn't. I'd go into my sister's room nightly for years, hoping to see that swirling light, hoping Samantha could talk him into coming back for me."

Mulder finally fell silent. Apparently drained from the mere act of opening himself up to another human being. Tears welled in his eyes as he stared off into the darkening distance. He felt a tiny hand on his back, rubbing gently in a circular motion. He was so use to having Scully by his side, that he was surprised when he looked to his left and saw Wade nestling against him in a show of compassion.

"You've had a pretty hard time of it, haven't you?"

Feeling suddenly embarrassed, he shook his head. "I didn't mean to bore you with my pathetic life story."

"I wouldn't call it boring or pathetic. Just... sad."

The even sadder part he had neglected to tell her. The part where his parents had sent him to a shrink for six months and the man convinced him that what he saw had been imagined. He was told that he had substituted the intruder's face for his father's because he couldn't bare to think that his sister had been taken by someone who would harm her. He was told that the reason there had been footsteps leading up to his sister's window outside, but none heading away, was because the man had simply gone out the front door, pushing in the button to lock it as he left. And the reason there were no muddy footprints beyond his sister's room was because the man had removed his shoes to keep from making so much noise as he walked about. And the reason young Fox didn't recall any of this was because when he tried to attack the intruder, he had been shoved against the wall and suffered a concussion.

That's the story that had been drummed into his head and that's the story he had believed for years until he joined the FBI and began his own investigation into Samantha's abduction. With full access to the police records, he discovered that a neighbor out walking his dog had reported seeing a bright, blue glow through the opened bedroom window with windblown curtains flapping wildly, though the night had been a calm one.

The report also contained a statement from his father who admitted to hearing a strange noise through the phone when his son had placed a call to him that night. He stated that he heard mumbled voices, heard his daughter scream followed by a loud thump. He had heard it all. He had probably heard the voices clearly enough to know that his son had told the truth. He had probably known back then that sliding was possible and that his parallel duplicate had stolen his daughter. And yet....

Mulder shook the thoughts of the past out of his head and turned his focus to a new idea. "What would you say to my wanting to go along when you guys get ready to slide?" He tried to keep the desperation out of his voice, but Wade was able to easily pick up on it.

"You think you'll be able to find your sister by sliding with us?"

"I don't know. I just know that I won't find her on this world. Has an outsider ever gone with you before?"

"Yes, there have been occasions, you know, to help save someone's life or give them a new start someplace else."

"Then I'd like to come with you."

"What about your life here? Your family and friends? You'd willingly leave them behind?"

"There's only my mother," stated Mulder ruefully. "She's comatose from a massive stroke. I think that my sister's return would benefit her a lot more than my hanging around."

"But you realize, don't you, Mulder, that if you slide with us, there's no guarantee that you'll ever find your sister. And there's a greater possibility that you may never find your way back home."

"I understand the risks."

"What about your partner? You two look like you're pretty close."

"We are," Mulder readily admitted. "Scully seems to have adopted me like a puppy from the pound. She looks after me. Perhaps if I wasn't carrying around enough personal baggage to cripple an elephant, I might admit to feeling something stronger towards her. But even so, Scully knows what my number one priority has always been. She's known that the day might come when I would have to choose. She knows which way I would choose. I'm prepared to go with you, if you'll allow me."

She could see it in his eyes how much this meant to him. "If you're really sure about this --"

"I am," he replied with no hesitation.

"In that case, I'll talk to the others and we'll see how it goes."

"Thank you."

When Scully and Quinn returned from the store, Mulder walked out to meet his partner at the car while Quinn and Wade went on into the house with the groceries.

"Learn anything?" Mulder asked as he walked her to the rear of the car.

"He told me about some of the places he's been and he showed me his gizmo," she said teasingly.

"Oh yeah? How big was it?"

"I don't believe in judging a man by the size of his gizmo."

"That's a relief," he smiled. "Are we talking about the same thing?"

"Actually, it's called a timer. It looks something like a remote control for a television set. Supposedly, it lets him know when the portal will open, and if you handle it incorrectly, you could conceivable blow yourself up."

"And you don't believe a word of it, do you?"

"I told him that I needed proof. He said that I'd have it tomorrow morning at nine-forty-five. That's when the portal is scheduled to open."

Standing at the rear of the car, Mulder gently pulled on Scully's arm to position her in front of the trunk. To her surprise, he placed his hands around her waist and with one swift motion, lifted her to sit upon the car's trunk. This placed her at an eye to eye level with him. He looked at her, an odd grin on his face. He obviously had something on his mind, but he seemed reluctant to come out with it.

"What is it, Mulder?"

"What if tomorrow at nine-forty-five, a gateway to a different world does open up? I don't have any proof that it will happen, and I admit to having some doubts that it will happen, but I'm not going to dismiss the possibility that it may happen. And if it does indeed occur, I plan to step through it with them."

"Mulder," Scully sighed, "I know what this is all about and I wish you wouldn't do this to yourself again."

"Do what?"

"You set yourself up for disappointment, and when it comes, you're completely devastated by it. Think. Even by the greatest miracle imaginable, even if this promised gateway did open up and you stepped inside, according to Quinn, there are countless dimensions out there. Searching for a missing person in only one world is hard enough, but trying to search, hundreds, perhaps thousands of worlds is like... like trying to find a lost contact lens in the ocean. And you're not even sure which ocean to look in."

She had expected a look of despair, but instead she found a determined gleam in his eyes as he responded to her analogy.

"Scully, if someone told me that the only hope I had of ever finding my sister was to go search the oceans, I'd be out swimming with the dolphins this minute, and Jacques Cousteau would be my best friend. I believe I'll find her someday. For over twenty years now, that belief has been the force that drives me to get out of bed each day, to put one foot in front of the other and step out into the world. Meeting those people in there has been the break I've been waiting for. This is my chance to find the right ocean to search. I have to go for it."

"What about your mother, Mulder? Are you just going to desert her?"

"Scully, if anyone or anything can bring my mother out of her coma, I believe it would be Samantha. Look, Wade told me that every world they've been to, it was always the same year. She said she did the math and counted all the days that they've actually spent in other worlds. In reality, it's been a full two years, but technically, only a few weeks have gone by for them. So, I don't believe that much time will actually have passed between the time I leave and the time I return."

"You plan on coming back? How? Quinn invented his own stupid gizmo and he hasn't a clue on how to get back home."

"I believe that the man who took my sister had total control over his coming and going. I think that his own Samantha had probably died, and that he came looking for a replacement to take back home. So, when I slide into a world where the technology is such that sliding through the universe is comparable to surfing the internet, then I'll know I'm in the right place. I'll just find Samantha and bring her back with me."

"What if she doesn't want to come back with you? What if she's all grown up with a family of her own and a brother who's your duplicate?"

She saw the gleam in his eyes finally go dim. He hadn't thought of that. He still thought of Samantha as the eight-year-old pigtailed little girl in the pictures he had enshrined at home and in his office. Scully was almost regretful that she had brought his dreams crashing down so hard. He was silent for several moments, then at last, he looked at her, a new sparkle gaining life.

"If that is the case, then I'd like to see for myself. I'd... I'd walk up to her and I'd introduce myself. I'd say to her, 'Hi, I'm Fox, your original brother. I just came to see how you were doing. I've missed you a great deal, but I see that you're happy and healthy and you've got a beautiful family. I just want you to know that... I love you.'

"Then, I'll lean over and kiss her cheek and we'll hug and cry, and she'll tell me how much she's missed me and wanted me with her. And she'll ask me to stay for dinner and ask about my life. And we'll share a perfect evening together. Then, about a half century later, my great-grandkids will gather around me and ask me to tell them the story again about when I found my long lost sister. And there'll be this big, stupid grin on my face."

The gleam in his eyes began to resemble tears. "Don't try to talk me out of it, Scully. Please don't. I have to go. I have to try. This is the closest I've ever been to that no name ocean."

The fact that he was begging her not to talk him out of it, signified to her that he could be talked out of it. She thought seriously about doing just that, but decided against it. If she insisted on interfering with his lifelong dream, he would come to despise her. Their partnership would disintegrate, their friendship dissolve. Besides, the odds were he wouldn't be going anywhere anyway. So far, despite what their new acquaintances boasted, there was still no proof that sliding was possible. Keeping that frame of mind, she was able to muster up a smile for him.

"You're a big boy, Mulder. You're old enough -- if not necessarily wise enough -- to make your own decisions. If this is what you really want, I won't try to talk you out of it."

He was at first shocked to hear her give in until it dawned on him why. "Oh, I forget; you don't think it's possible. That's why you gave up on me so easily."

"I'd never give up on you, Mulder. Science would never forgive me. You go. You find your sister. You have dinner and a special evening with her. Then you come back here and work on being a great-grandfather."

"Yes ma'am. I will."

After dinner, Mulder asked Cleatus where the closest motel was. Scully was about to speak, but Mulder signaled her with their own special silent code to keep her still. They had already visited the local motels in the area, so she realized that Mulder must have been up to something. It became clear just what it was when Cleatus extended his hospitality once again and encouraged them to spend the night. Scully agreed to share a room with Wade, while Arturo and Rembrant shared the other spare bedroom, each with bunk beds. That left Mulder and Quinn to share the fold-out sofa in the living room.

"Did Wade tell you that I wanted to go with you guys when you slide tomorrow?" Mulder asked as he unbuttoned his shirt.

"Yeah," Quinn nodded, already stripped down to his underwear and sitting up in bed. "But I think maybe you should give it a lot more thought first. You know, this is something you might easily regret later."

Mulder nodded. "Just so there's no misunderstandings during the night; I like to hog the covers, and that something hard you might feel poking you in your side, is more likely to be my gun than anything else."

"Thanks for the warning."


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