The Stage Is Set

As Sarah took care of Aaron and the others Mia went to her brother and saw a look in his eyes that chilled her to the core. She went to him and put her hand on his shoulder.

"Hey, what happened over there?" She asked him, worried.

Miles shook his head in disbelief. "I just saw a world get destroyed by something I... I cannot even fathom..." He looked to Mia. "Mia I think we're way in over our head here. I don't know what we're gonna do. I just..."

Mia pulled her brother into a hug. "Hey, it's okay. We'll be okay as long as we stick together. Remember? You told me that when we first got into this mess. And it's still true now. We'll figure this stuff out."

Miles seemed to calm down slightly and nodded. "Yeah.... Yeah... together." He looked to Logan and WA who had disappeared into the bathroom where Agent 47 was still tied up.

"So now you know." 47 said as they entered. "You've seen it."

"Sure did." Logan said. "Kinda hard to miss. So that's what you meant by things worse than the Kromaggs."

"That thing makes the maggs look like an elementary school bully by comparison." 47 said.

"How do we stop it?" WA asked.

"Don't know." 47 shrugged. "And the ITF can only respond to a handful of the worlds it destroys. And even then, when we can get to those worlds, we aren't able to save anywhere near enough people."

"We know," Logan said as she crossed her arms. "We called them in to try and help."

"It's worse than that," 47 told her, "The ITF is so unsure of what to even classify this thing as that most attempts at trying to research it are shut down by my superiors. They see it as some sort of "natural disaster" that the ITF has no real way of reacting to. So they decide not to do anything."

"Ridiculous!" WA exclaimed. "How can they just stand by and let that thing destroy entire Earths?"

"My sentiments exactly." 47 said. "They'd rather spend their resources arresting sliders like you, it's something they can handle. But I got into this business to help people. Help other worlds when they needed it. This is bureaucracy getting in the way of saving lives. Which is where you come in..."

Logan raised her eyebrow. "What do you want from us?"

"I want you to work with me." 47 proposed. "Not in an official capacity, my superiors wouldn't tolerate rogue sliders, but it's clear we need someone out there trying to find a way to stop this destroyer of worlds."

"How could we help?" WA asked.

"You can go to places ITF agents can't or wont. I've got informants and researchers scouring various Earths who are interested in this machine... They call it Shiva."

"Clever name." Logan chided.

"But the point is, I can send you the coordinates to these worlds of interest, you've got my phone already I can send you relevant data whenever my contacts find something of note."

"And why isn't the ITF sending agents to these worlds to look into it?"

"Either the worlds are deemed too hazardous to send an agent, or they sent an agent and deemed it to be of no particular interest. But my contacts operate outside of traditional ITF guidelines. Plus I'll be doing my own research and sending it to you. But I need you to go out and actually look for what we're trying to find. Be it information on where this Shiva came from, or ways to stop it."

"And what if we did find something, we'd send it to you?" WA asked.

47 shook his head, "No, I've got a guy you'll deliver any relevant tech and information to. The ITF would just confiscate it and leave it in a vault somewhere. The ITF can't know about this. They will just get in the way."

"So I guess that means if we did run into your ITF buddies they wouldn't be inclined to help us?" Logan asked.

"Afraid, not. You're fugitives, so they'll try to arrest you, or kill you if you provoke them." 47 said solemnly. "However, I'd warn you if any of the worlds I send you to were ITF occupied worlds. You'd know what you're getting into."

WA thought for a moment then nodded. "Fine. I've seen enough of what that thing can do. There's little I won't do to try to stop it." He went over to release Agent 47 but was stopped by Logan.

"Are you crazy? You're just gonna let him go?" Logan exclaimed.

"Uh-huh." WA said. "You saw what that thing did, are you seriously telling me you'd rather run?"

Logan was about to say yes to that question, but she caught herself. She sighed and closed her eyes as something played inside her mind that made he shake her head. "No... Despite all my years of sliding, all my years surviving alone, all of that telling me that I should... No... But can we trust this guy?"

"I'm committing so many crimes by just letting you all go that they'd send me to an uncivilized world on the spot." 47 told her. "I'm in this as deep as you all are now. But I think it's worth it if we can find a way to stop Shiva."

Logan thought for a moment before hissing through her teeth and gesturing to WA to go ahead and let the agent out of his binds. 47 rubbed his raw wrists and nodded to WA, "Thank you. Now... if you don't mind, I need to get back to ITF Headquarters and let them know that all the fugitive sliders we found in this world have fled elsewhere." He smirked, "Never thought I'd ever do something like this..."

They all stepped out of the bathroom. Miles and Mia looked at them in surprise.

"I'll explain everything later. Just know..." WA looked to 47, "...he's on our side."

Once they opened the vortex for Agent 47 to return back to the ITF WA stopped to ask the agent one last question. "When should we be expecting you to make contact with us?"

"A few days, I need to get in touch with my contacts, just keep that phone handy." 47 said to WA.

Sarah snatched the phone from her husband and grinned. "Maybe I should hold onto it then..."

WA rolled his eyes and grinned at her, he was never going to live losing his phone down.

Agent 47 hopped into the vortex and it soon closed behind him.

After discussing what was going on to Mia, Miles, and the others WA led the group back to the old boarding house where they would be setting up their new operation, as well as letting Aaron and his family reside. Mama Latasha, peeved at the sorry state of the place, was already getting to work cleaning the place as the others settled in.

Mia and Miles crashed onto a couch in the basement, which was going to be the embarkation room and lab once they got more equipment, and suddenly the last couple days caught up with them and they were soon passed out on the couch.

Sarah looked to the two young sliders and smiled, a look of nostalgia came over her. She looked to WA who was watching them as well. "They're both bright kids. Reminds me of us back then."

"I just hope we can help them get back home one day." WA said. "I'm not even sure if they should be helping us with this Shiva business."

"Let them decide that, from what you told me about that thing I don't think it'd be fair to deny them the chance to help." She squeezed his arm reassuringly, "Right now let them rest."

---

When Miles woke up he found his sister curled up next to him, though it didn't bother him. It was preferable to having to sleep together to stay warm on an Earth tidally locked and in a permanent winter. He simply nudged her to wake up and she slowly opened her eyes and sat up.

"How long were we out?" She asked him.

"Several hours," Mama Latasha said suddenly appearing with a tray of freshly prepared cookies. "We didn't have the heart to wake you two."

"It was a cute sight, seeing you two cuddled up together like a pair of kittens." Logan chided with a teasing grin that made Miles grimace in discomfort.

Mia reached for a cookie and thanked Mama Latasha. She was pleased to find them to be chocolate chip, her favorite kind of cookie. "Where are the others?"

"Upstairs," Logan told her. "Apparently our friend Agent 47 has already gotten in contact with us."

"About what?" Miles asked.

"He sent us coordinates to the world where this Shiva-researcher is supposed to be stationed," WA answered as he descended the stairs. "We're gonna slide there and meet with him and get some much-needed tech and supplies for our operation."

"When do we leave?" Miles asked.

WA paused and a soft smile formed on his face. "Look," his gaze went from Mia to Miles as he spoke. "You two don't have to do this if you don't want to. You can stay here and try and find your homes if need be. But don't feel obligated to join us on what may very well be a very dangerous mission."

Mia stood up and shook her head. "No way! I'm not just leaving you to have all the fun. Besides, I want to help!" She looked to Miles. "We're in this together, right?"

Miles nodded slowly. "Right. I saw what happened to Aaron's world. I don't want that happening to my world, or any other worlds if I can help it. We're with you, Dubs."

"Same goes for me," Logan said. "Maybe I can find some sort of redemption for all I've done by helping you. If you'll have me..."

WA nodded. "You're welcome to come, Logan. All of you are. I'm glad to have the help."

Once a good amount of Mama Latasha's chocolate chip cookies were consumed by all the group decided to slide to the world that Agent 47 had provided. Miles offered to stay behind and help Sarah and Mama Latasha get the boarding house prepared for their return with whatever tech and supplies they needed. So Mia, Logan, and WA slid out to meet the contact.

---

The world they had slid into turned out to be a world formerly owned by the Kromaggs during their heyday. Much of San Francisco had been abandoned, and they didn't meet many people as the made their way through the streets. Though the feeling in the air was one of calm, not uneasy tension. The people who were there regarded them with smiles as they went about their lives.

"So do we know who this Shiva researcher is supposed to be?" Logan asked.

"All I know is that he's meeting us at the Dominion." WA told her.

"Naturally," Logan said with a self-aware tone.

When the entered the Dominion they found a double of Gomez Calhoun resting his elbow on the front counter. He regarded them with a nod. "'sup? Lookin' for a room?"

"Someone who has one, actually," WA said. "Room 314."

"He said you'd be coming, go on up." Calhoun said with a disinterested nod.

When the group reached the room WA knocked and was told by a deep, booming voice to enter. When they stepped inside both Logan and WA were met with quite a familiar face.

"Ah!" Professor Maximillian Arturo said with grin. "You must be the sliders our mutual friend was talking about. Please, come in! We have no time to waste! Shiva waits for no one!"

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