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6.10 - Home, Sweet Home
by ThomasMalthus

Chapter One

Professor Maximilian Arturo, Rembrandt Brown, Quinn Mallory and Wade Welles were all deposited on the ground in turn. Quinn rose first. "Home," he stated simply. "I can already smell it."

"Let's not get our hopes up just yet, eh?" the Professor added as a note of caution.

"Well, there aren't any aliens, earthquakes, sieges or murder frame-ups that I can see, so I'd say we're in good shape no matter where we are," Rembrandt commented with a half-chuckle.

"Don't count your peaceful slides before we see the locals," Wade said, altering the proverb horribly.

In fact, the scenery was quite serene. The quaint portion of San Francisco they had landed in was pure suburbia. Although it did seem familiar...

"This is just a few blocks from my house," Quinn stated authoritatively.

"Perhaps we should do some research first, find out exactly what the history of this earth is," Arturo said. Everybody continued following Quinn. "A library, perhaps?" Still no one responded. Professor Arturo grumbled incessantly.

"My house," Quinn said in a faraway voice. "I wonder if the gate still..."

"Give it a rest, Q-Ball," Rembrandt interrupted abruptly. "I've had enough failed squeaky gate tests to last me a lifetime." Wade and Rembrandt chuckled lightly, Quinn wondered what it meant, Arturo continued to grouse.

The quartet wandered up to within viewing distance of the Mallory house. Quinn froze, unable to move any closer. His eyes were transfixed, looking at the home he had longed for for so many years. Arturo picked up a newspaper from off the ground. "Not that again," Wade complained.

"August 14, 2000," the Professor read.

"2000," Rembrandt repeated, a little dazed. "Doesn't seem right...somehow."

"It's hard to keep up with dates when you're sliding," Arturo responded offhandedly. "It says here that Al Gore is running for president...against George Bush?!"

"Weird," Rembrandt assessed.

"Not important," Quinn breathed. His mother had just walked outside of the house. "Mom..." he started to cry out. She would have heard him, too, if not for Professor Arturo's hand covering his mouth. His other hand was
pushing him back, out of her sight.

Quinn's eyes shot death rays at the Professor. "We have to be sure," the elder man stated emphatically.

"Yeah, Quinn," Wade agreed. Arturo was glad to see her backing him up. "We don't want what happened on that world with the Azure Gate Bridge to happen again, do we?"

"We must go and research this world's history to determine whether or not this is truly home," Arturo said as if he were instructing small children. Quinn started to protest, but the elder man cut him off. "Do you want to get emotionally involved with these people and then have to leave them again? Do you have any idea how painful that is?"

Quinn Mallory remained silent for a moment, taking it all in. "Fine. Let's get it done." They walked down the block (away from the Mallory home) and eventually hailed a taxi. In the driver's seat was, for once, not Pavel Kurlienko, but Ross J. Kelly.

"Where to?" he asked.

"The library," Arturo answered soberly.

Rembrandt was having a hard time containing his laughter. "Say, don't I know you from somewhere?"

The driver sighed. "I used to be a lawyer, until I got a letter from some sort of a 'Bar Association'. I mean, I've never been in a bar and suddenly they want to take my practice away. Next thing I know I'm driving cabs."

"Tough break, man," Remmy responded, barely containing his laughter.

"You look kind of familiar yourself," Ross J. Kelley threw back at Rembrandt. "Yeah, you were with a musical group. The Twirling..."

"Spinning Topps?" Rembrandt finished for him, more than a little interested in how he would respond.

"Yeah, that's it," he said. "Haven't heard anything from you in a while. Your last hit was what ten, fifteen years ago?"

Before Rembrandt could rant, Wade cut him off. "He just got back from a big tour and he's very tired," she told their cabbie.

Remmy slinked back in his seat as if to rest. "That settles it," Rembrandt said smugly. "We're home."

Wade rolled her eyes. "You always think we're home when we find a world where you're a singer that people have heard of. And you've never been right."

There was little more conversation of consequence before they arrived at the local library. The four of them filed out and looked up at the impressive structure. "It's amazing to me that we've never done this before," the Professor remarked. "It would seem the most natural thing in the world to research a parallel world's history at one of it's libraries, but we've never..."

"Fascinating," Quinn noted sarcastically. "Let's get to the research already."

They entered the building and spread out quickly. Rembrandt pulled out a book about sports, Wade on San Francisco, Arturo a general history book.

"Hey, Q-Ball," Rembrandt pointed out with a smile, "the 49ers beat the Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX!"

Quinn looked puzzled. "So?" Rembrandt returned a similar look of confusion.

Maximilian Arturo stepped in with a chuckle. "Yes," he said flipping quickly through Rembrandt's chosen book. "And I'm sure Roger Maris' home run record has an asterisk by it as well. Very thorough, Mr. Brown. But there's many more differences that could pop up. Let's start reading, shall we?"

"The Golden Gate Bridge is golden here, too. Not blue." Wade looked up from her book and gave Arturo a portentious glance.

"Mr. Mallory, are you going to give us a hand?" the Professor asked. He then noticed Quinn was gone. He continued to flip through his history book.

Quinn Mallory approached the library phone with trepidation. Dare he risk making contact with his wife, even if it turned out she wasn't really the person he'd known?

He threw caution to the wind and picked up the local phone directory. He began flipping pages, searching for his own name. He came up empty. A search for a Melissa Mallory turned up the same results. 'It doesn't mean anything,' thought Quinn. 'It's been five years. She could have moved away or moved back in with her parents.' That gave him another idea.

Finally coming to the name Isaac Tennyson, Melissa's father, he quickly deposited thirty-five cents to make a phone call (hadn't it only been a quarter when he left?) and dialed the number. With each ring of the phone, Quinn's heart stopped. "Come on. Pick up," he said to himself impatiently.

"Hello?" an older man's voice finally answered.

"Mr. Tennyson? It's me, Quinn," he responded nervously from the other end.

"Who?" he asked harshly.

"Quinn Mallory," he told him. There was a discernable pause after Quinn stated his name. He had to remember him. He had to.

"I don't know any Ken Mallory," Isaac Tennyson stated with confusion. "Guess you must have the wrong number."

"No, wait," Quinn said, trying to stop the man before he hung up. "I know your daughter, Melissa. Please, could you just tell me where she is."

"What kind of a sick joke is this?!" the man who might have been his father-in-law replied. "Missy's at San Xavier Cemetary, where she's been for the last twenty years! Now don't call and bother us anymore!" Quinn couldn't be sure, but it sounded like the phone had been slammed down.

An hour passed. Quinn Mallory walked up to Professor Arturo, who was still thumbing through a history book. Wade and Rembrandt were elsewhere, most likely continuing the search. Quinn wanted to end this right here and now. "I'm not home, Professor," he stated with a morose confidence. "It didn't work."

"Can you be sure?" Maximilian Arturo asked him.

He nodded in response. "I called Missy's parents and they told me she died twenty years ago. I looked through the obituaries for 1980 and found hers. She drowned at eight years old." Quinn Mallory looked a million miles away. "So you can stop looking. Let's go find a hotel and wait out the slide."

The Professor did not close his book, he merely laid it down on the table. "Yes, about our research," he started, not knowing quite how to say what he wanted to. "You are not home, that much is for certain. But there is emerging a distinct possibility that we are home."

Chapter Two

"What do you mean, you're home?" Quinn had to practically stop himself from shrieking but it still came out rather more loudly than he expected.

"Calm down, Mr. Mallory," the Professor told him and ushered him into a chair where Arturo had been sitting. "All the history we've seen matches up. From the little things to the small things. It all resembles our home earth."

"I don't get it," Quinn stated numbly. "My timer was autoset. How could it take you to your home world?"

"I honestly don't know," Professor Arturo replied. "That bears further exploration at a later date. What we must now do is determine for certain that this is Earth Prime..."

"You did this, didn't you?" Quinn asked coldly.

"I beg your pardon?" Maximilian Arturo gave him a look of genuine puzzlement.

"You made some sort of deal with the Sorceror so that he wouldn't send me to my home, because Lord knows you couldn't stand that, and so he'd send you to yours instead," Quinn stood with an accusing look in his eyes.

"That's preposterous," the Professor retorted dismissively.

"Is it?" Quinn asked, his face radiating intensity. "You didn't want me to go home. You made no secret of that. And you were the last one through the wormhole. Paying the Sorceror for his services, were you?"

"Now see here, Mr. Mallory," Arturo answered authoritatively. "I have no idea why you're not home and I most certainly had nothing to do with it. I can understand the cause for some bitterness, but this 'conspiracy theory' madness has got to end!"

Quinn remained silent for a few moments. "What now?"

The Professor looked around the library. "Well, I suppose once we're finished here, we'll have to do some more thorough..."

"What I mean is...what do I do now? Slide alone? Stay here?" Quinn interrupted.

"That can wait until we're sure this is home, Mr. Mallory," the Professor answered him, not knowing what kind of comfort he could give him. A few moments later, Wade and Rembrandt walked over to join them. "What did you find out?" Arturo inquired.

"The history of R&B's just like I remember it," Rembrandt stated confidently, holding a book with that title. "Everything from Sam Cooke to James Brown to the Topps themselves. And they didn't end up 'cowriting' my songs."

"All the movies I remember are here too," Wade threw in, holding an Entertainment Guide in her hand. "What now?"

Professor Arturo scratched his beard. "If this continues...if the things we remember match up with the history of this world, then the only remaining item to be dealt with would be..."

"Wait," Quinn spoke. "There could still be little differences, right? In the history. Stuff we're missing. I mean we haven't looked at everything."

The Professor viewed Quinn with mild irritation. "Yes, we should be sure everything matches up before we start settling down here. But after we've exhausted this library's resources, there's only one thing left to do."

"What's that?" Rembrandt asked.

"Go home, Mr. Brown," he spoke with some amount of warmth radiating through his eyes. "Start living our lives again. If everything in our lives is like we remember it, with the amount of time that has passed taken into account of course, then..."

"We've made it," Wade finished, as if she could hardly believe it herself. A wave of joy passed through all of their faces. All except Quinn's.

Wade managed to get Professor Arturo alone, as Rembrandt and Quinn flipped through history books. "What's going on here, Professor?" Wade asked.

"It's exactly as it appears, Miss Welles. There's a good chance that we've made it home," Arturo responded, with a tone that made it sound as though nothing going on here were out of the ordinary.

Wade's face formed into a frown. "Two points. One, wasn't this supposed to be Quinn's homeworld? Maybe his Earth is just really similar..."

"I'm afraid not," the Professor replied, sounding not at all disappointed. "Quinn has already proved to himself that this is not his world."

Before Professor Arturo could say more, Wade continued, "Two, our earth was overrun with Kromaggs, remember?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not." Maximilian Arturo looked thoughtful. "You yourself said that there are an infinite, or at least near infinite, number of worlds in existance, Miss Welles. How many of them are exactly like our homeworld? How many world have differences that only affect places in Africa or South America? How many are close enough that weary travellers will accept them as home without digging too deep to find out an uncomfortable truth?"

Wade paused, taking it all in. "So there could be more than one world that's our home...or close enough so we would never be able to tell for sure..."

"Precisely," the elder Englishman answered. "Although it is a rather disquieting notion, it is possible that we will never be completely certain we've reached home."

Wade nodded again, still a little dumbfounded. "It's just a little hard to believe. After all this time, all the hell I've been through...home." She shrugged off her distraction for a moment. "How can anything ever be the same again?"

"It won't," the Professor responded soberly. The two stood without moving much for a few moments.

"Guys," Quinn called out, "come take a look at this." Professor Arturo and Wade rushed over to look at whatever Quinn thought was so urgent. "Benedict Arnold, the hero of Saratoga, was a traitor here. It says he tried to hand West Point over to the British with the help of a Major...André." Quinn looked up at his fellow sliders as though he had just delivered a revelation.

"Everybody knows Benedict Arnold was a traitor, Q-Ball," Rembrandt told him almost mirthfully. He then returned to his book. "You scared me for a second."

"My mistake," Quinn said softly, and then buried his nose in the book once again.

After a few more hours of relentless searching, the sliders found everything matched what they remembered of their home. It was time to make some difficult choices.

"I believe one of us should try and go home," the Professor spoke to all of them. "Start living again and see if everything in your own life is basically as you remember it."

"I'm for that," Rembrandt said with a big smile. "You wanna do the honors, Q-Ball?"

Quinn froze. He really didn't feel like making up a lie, but didn't think Rembrandt deserved to receive any of Quinn's wrath over the comment either. Professor Arturo stepped up to the plate. "Maybe Miss Welles would like to go home first, eh?"

"I..." Wade trailed off. She couldn't think of a convincing reason for it not to be her.

Arturo dismissed her nervousness. "Oh, come now. It should be one of us with family in the area. You deserve a proper homecoming as much as anyone."

The four sliders hopped in a cab, not driven by Pavel or Ross by a Hindi man they hadn't seen before, as unimaginable as that might seem. Wade cheerily told the man her address, and was almost surprised when she remembered it perfectly.

"I'm going home," she told herself, almost in shock. Rembrandt reassuringly squeezed her hand. The Professor just looked pleased. Quinn tried not to look at all.

They filed out after a few minutes' cabride and Arturo paid the cabbie with the money the Sorceror had given them before the slide from the last world. The four of them all looked intently at Wade's house. "Well, this is it, girl," Rembrandt said.

Wade looked back at the Professor, almost hoping to get into another verbal sparring match with him. It would bring some comfort and familiarity. Strangely, the idea of home was foreign in contrast. After Arturo gave her an encouraging look, she began moving towards her doorway, fingers crossed. Suddenly, a familiar whooshing sound was heard and Wade was forced to move back. She was too close to the portal as it opened to see what the others saw.

"We did it!" Wade heard her own voice cry. Two shapes moved into view from out of the wormhole that had formed between Wade and her house. One was Quinn, the other Wade. They kissed quickly and then moved out of the way.

"Incoming!" cried another Professor Arturo. As soon as he hit the ground, Rembrandt followed, landing on Arturo's backside. Rembrandt hugged Wade. "We made it home, girl," Remmy said with assurance.

"Uh, guys," Quinn pointed out once the vortex closed behind them. "If we're home, who are they?" He pointed to our dumbstruck sliders, who remained silent throughout their sliding in.

Wade nearly collapsed. Arturo looked dumbfounded. Rembrandt just looked distressed. Quinn moved forward, hand extended.

"Hi," he stated simply. "I'm Quinn."

Chapter Three

"OK, this is confusing," the newly-arrived Rembrandt proclaimed. "Who the devil are you people?"

"Fools," our Arturo muttered ruefully.

"What he meant to say," Wade threw in, "was that we're your doubles. I mean, I guess that's pretty obvious, but..."

"Another group of sliders," the Quinn from the other team stated in awe.

Rembrandt held up the timer, not knowing what else to do.

"What are the four of you doing here?" Arturo2 asked frankly.

"Going home," the other Professor answered. "Or we were, at any rate."

"This is my house," Wade2 remarked after getting a good look at the surroundings. Wade1 nearly contradicted her, but thought better of it.

"Yeah, maybe we should get away from here," Quinn1 threw in. "This situation's already thorny enough without family members in the mix."

"What exactly is the situation?" Rembrandt2 inquired suspiciously.

"We'll explain when we get to my house," the Professor1 threw in. "No risk of running into family members there." Both Professors looked disquieted at that remark.

Once all eight of them arrived at Casa Arturo, the discussion commenced.

"We've done some research on this world and come to the conclusion that it could very well be our home," Arturo1 reported to the other sliders. "The final test was going to be living our lives and seeing if there were any divergences in our personal lives that were evident."

"I guess our showing up stopped that," Quinn2 mused. Arturo1 nodded in reply.

"Perhaps we should explain how we came here as well," Arturo2 stated. "I was scouting earths for a world that was slowly being devoured by a race of large carnivorous tomatoes when I stumbled on a world that bore remarkable resemblance to our Earth Prime. I stored the coordinates in our timer, which was then stolen by a crazy Frenchman with a heart defect named Major Rochambeau. I won't bore you with the details of how we easily defeated the wily Rochambeau, but needless to say we did and used the coordinates stored in his timer to get home."

Arturo1 cleared his throat. "You know, you might want to do some historical research yourself. After all, this Rochambeau fellow could have easily deleted your home coordinates and substituted another set that would be more advantageous to him."

Arturo2 scratched his chin. "I never thought of that."

"So let me get this straight," Rembrandt2 spoke up. "We *both* think this is our homeworld?!"

"Looks that way, Cryin' Man," Quinn2 answered him.

Arturo1 yawned. "I'm sure we'll come up with a satisfactory conclusion to this dilemma in the morning." A thought suddenly struck him. "How long does your team have on this earth?" he asked the other Quinn.

"Four days," he answered his elder mentor's double.

Arturo1 looked relieved. "We ourselves have three. Very well, let's all find ourselves a place to sleep for tonight. Who wants the kitchen?"

After all the sleeping assignments had been made (and after the Arturos had squabbled sufficiently over the bedroom), Team 1, who had been on this world already when they arrived (just in case there was any confusion as to which team was which) gathered around to discuss things. They assumed Team2 was doing the same.

"What is this, 'Whose Home Is It Anyway?'?" Rembrandt asked with distress in his voice.

"That's being a bit glib, Mr. Brown," the Professor told him. "Our situation has become more complex..."

"I'll say," Wade threw in bitterly.

Professor Arturo ignored her. "...but it is hardly worthy of our despair. There is still a possibility that these sliders come from a parallel world with a radically different history."

"What if they don't?" Quinn asked, trying to hide his amusement and not succeeding very well. "What if this is as much their earth as it is ours? What decides who goes and who stays? Do we draw straws? Play rock, paper, scissors?"

"I'm glad you find this so amusing," the Professor scolded him. "There was an idea I was working on a few months ago about determining a person's interdimensional point of origin by using a machine that finds traces of slide signatures in cells. Perhaps, with Mr. Mallory's help and possibly with the help of our doubles, we can use such a device to solve our quandary."

Rembrandt and Wade gave him blank looks. Quinn translated. "We're going to dust for interdimensional fingerprints."

"Sounds good," Rembrandt told them. Wade yawned wide. It had been a while since they'd had a good night's rest.

"I sure hope your closet's a lot more comfortable than it looks, Professor," Wade groused playfully.

"At least you haven't been deprived of your own bed," he grumbled in reply, heading towards his Aunt Julianna's old rocking chair to hunker down for the night.

The interior of Maximilian Arturo's house was only one of the places that the various monitors captured in full detail for a small audience of two men. "They've arrived," one of them remarked without much relish.

The other man seemed too concentrated on punching some data into his computer to reply to his companion's comment. "How are our patients today?" he finally managed to ask.

"The same as always," he said stoically. "Do they need to be prepared for..."

"Not quite yet," the man sitting down interrupted. His glasses reflected the images of the Arturo House, blocking out a clear view of his eyes. His thin frame was covered by a black shirt and black jeans. "Give me just a little more time."

The two Arturos and Quinns were assembled in Arturo's basement. Arturo1 studied the others' timer carefully. "Ingenious," he marveled. "I've seen technology that can store interdimensional coordinates before, but to be able to package such a monstrous amount of technology inside a timer..."

"It's really not that difficult," Quinn2 told him. "I ran into a Dr. Beckett that had a timer built around the design and he helped me incorporate it into our timer."

"Incredible!" Professor Arturo1 exclaimed. "The process must have taken weeks or months, yes?"

Quinn2 looked a little flustered. "Um, yeah, something like that. We could fix your timer up like that if you want..."

"I'm afraid we don't have that much time, Mr. Mallory. Besides," Professor1 smiled while elbowing his Quinn in the ribs, "if everything goes our way, we won't need a timer at all." Quinn1 gave him a dirty look but said nothing.

"Now to the matter at hand," Professor Arturo2 commented. "We'll need to do some serious mathematical engineering and design work today and then go on to actually build the prototype tomorrow and then if we have time, test it..."

"Nonsense!" Arturo1 said dismissively. "I have the basic mechanics for a working slide signature detector in my head, all we need to do is draw it, and incorporate some of the knowledge your Mr. Mallory acquired when adding this device to your timer."

"I see where you're going," Quinn2 replied. "We could make a semi-portable device that would use the same sort of input receiver..."

"And a similar power source to the timer," Arturo1 threw in. Both were clearly designing such a device in their minds.

"Yes, well, perhaps we should start putting some of those ideas on paper, gentlemen," the Professor2 said after a few moments of feeling altogether inadequate.

Another vortex opened outside of Maximilian Arturo's house. "Odd that we should land here," the Professor commented a few minutes after the foursome landed.

"Wonder what your double's like on this world, Professor?" Wade asked him, teasing him while remembering Arturo as the cannibal king of the last world.

"Well, here he comes..." Quinn started and then stopped as he saw there were two Professor Arturos exiting the building.

"Or should we say they come," Rembrandt finished.

Chapter Four

"So is everything perfectly clear now?" Professor Arturo1 asked the assembled group.

"I think so," Quinn3 answered. "You two landed here not long after each other, each thinking it was your home earth, then we landed here, too."

Arturo1 nodded. "This makes things more complicated...and odd." He paused for a moment in thought. "Myself, my double and the two Quinns are working on a little science project and we're wondering if maybe your Arturo and Quinn would like to help as well."

Quinn3 and the Professor3 looked at each other. "I see no reason why not."

Arturos 1 and 3 and Quinn3 walked down the basement steps to find the other three hard at work on the device that would be able to trace slide signatures in cells. "How's it coming?" Arturo1 asked.

Wade2 had went to an electronics store a few blocks down the way and picked up some equipment they had requested. Quinn2 was now trying to fuse together what they had while Quinn1 and Arturo2 tried to look helpful. "We've almost got the gizmo together, though it's gonna be bigger than any timer I've ever seen."

"It stands to reason, I suppose," Arturo1 responded. He then brought his new companions up to speed on what they were doing.

"I've never heard of anything like it," Quinn3 said with some amazement.

"It would have been easier to tell which you was which on that world where the Statue of Liberty was red, eh?" Arturo3 chuckled. Quinn3 nodded solemnly.

The six of them gathered around Arturo's workbench. This would take some time.

"I fold," Rembrandt3 told his two doubles and the three Wades with whom he was playing poker.

Wade1 looked at Wade2 carefully. "I'll see your ten and raise you five."

"I'm out, too," Wade3 bemoaned.

Wade2 carefully pondered her hand. She bit her lip and placed more chips out on the table. "I'm in."

Wade1 smirked. "I call." She then laid down two pair.

"Damn," Wade2 cursed. She then put her hand down on the table.

"An Ace, King, Queen, Jack and ten. If they were of the same suit, you might have had me." Wade1 scooted the chips to her side of the table.

"I thought I was supposed to be the card shark of the group," Rembrandt1 complained.

"Hey, this game's a lot easier when you're playing against your doubles," Wade1 pointed out. "You can tell when you're lying to yourself."

The sliders at the table pondered that for a moment. Before Wade1 could protest, Wade3 started to put the cards up. "Who's up for a game of Monopoly?" Rembrandt2 asked. Wade1 shook it off and deposited the chips in her duffel bag.

"Did I ever tell you about the time we hit a world where playing Monopoly was the most popular form of gambling?" Rembrandt3 asked the rest of the group. "These guys got in a fistfight over who got to be the man on the horse and..."

The scene played out on the monitors before them. And it looked like the scientists of the group were making real progress on detecting slide signatures. He was going to have to move quickly.

"Three," the other man said matter-of-factly. "Do you think that'll be enough?"

"It'll do for now," he responded. "Any more and the whole situation will be just too confusing. In fact, in future maybe we could just limit it to two."

"Should I start to recharge now?" his faithful friend asked somberly. "I know I usually wait til nightfall but I thought you might need me..."

"You're right, of course," he told himself, peeved that he hadn't thought of it first. "Go ahead. How silly of me."

The other man lumbered off while he stayed behind to watch the Arturo House. "Soon and very soon," he said with a smile on his face.

"It's finished," a bleary-eyed Quinn2 commented after hours of working nonstop on the device.

"Yes, but will it work?" Arturo3 asked.

"Only one way to find out," Quinn 2 answered. He punched a few buttons and the thing took two readings. "It'll take a minute for it to process."

After waiting a few moments, the device beeped and showed two different signatures. "Yes!" Quinn2 exclaimed. The others had blank looks on their faces. "That was my quantum signature, or the signature from my world of origin, and my slide signature, from the last world I was on." The five men around him now shared his enthusiasm.

"Well, what are you waiting for, my boy?" Arturo2 asked. "Use it on the two of us." He indicated Arturo1 as the other person in 'us'.

Quinn2 then took readings for both Arturo1 and Arturo2's quantum signature. When the readings came up, Quinn2's face grew hard. "They're the same," he said numbly. "Look." The two Arturos examined the readings, which were indeed identical.

"It's like we're the same person," Arturo1 commented, looking carefully at his doppelganger.

"We can deal with the ramifications in the morning," Arturo3 remarked with a yawn. "Right now we need some sleep."

"Tell everybody to meet us down in the basement tomorrow morning," Quinn2 said as he started off to take Arturo3's advice.

Arturo1 stood before the other eleven sliders, who had all managed to crowd into Arturo's basement. "We've managed to build a working prototype for the machine that detects sliding signatures."

"So spill, Professor. Whose homeworld is this?" Rembrandt2 asked impatiently.

"All of ours," he said, waiting for that information to sink in. "All of our quantum signatures are identical. Which means we all come from this world."

"How can that be?!" Wade3 asked disbelievingly.

"Scientists aren't certain how parallel earths are formed, but it's possible that alterations in history are the root cause." Arturo2 explained with some degree of pomposity.

"That being the case," Arturo1 added, "some worlds have divided dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of times since our departure."

"Which means that we sliders have divided with them," Arturo3 finished.

"And that's not all," Arturo2 continued. "In all likelihood, Earth Prime has also divided multiple times since we left it, creating a quite disturbing possibility."

"The three of you are a little hard to take," Rembrandt1 commented. "It's like listening to the Three Tenors only all of 'em are Pavarotti."

Quinn2 jumped in. "What the Professor...s are trying to say is that it seems like there's more than one Earth Prime...and more than one group of us."

"Yes," Professor Arturo1 continued. "And the frightening prospect that lies in front of us is that the two numbers don't correspond."

Wade3 raised her hand. "You mean there might be more of us than there are worlds for us to go home to?"

"Perhaps," Arturo2 answered. "But would it be any less distressing to considering that there might be more homeworlds than there are sliders, with families that will never see their loved ones again?"

The twelve of them took a moment to take it all in. "Man, I knew there was a reason I hated opera," Rembrandt1 commented. "It's the tragic endings."

"Let's not despair yet, Mr. Brown," Arturo1 reassured him. "There's still a possibility that we can use some of this technology to..." Arturo1 swooned, but caught himself.

"Does anybody else smell that," Wade1 asked. Before anyone could really answer, they were all unconscious.

Two figures in gas masks entered the basements. "Gather them up carefully. We don't need any injured donors," one barked to the other.

"No," the other figure responded, carefully toting each member of the group into a truck to be transported to their underground laboratory. "We certainly don't."

Chapter Five

Wade thought she spied a blurry light above her, but she couldn't quite make it out. If only she could open her eyes a little more, but they protested bitterly when she tried to. Her head felt dizzy too. Where was she? It sounded like...a hospital?

"No," she moaned. "Got to get out." But her body wouldn't obey her commands. And she still couldn't see that well...

It was then that she registered another presence in the room. "...limbs seem to be in perfect working condition. My examination of the heart and other necessary internal organs is as yet incomplete. I'm going in for a closer look now."

"Stop," she spoke meekly in a voice that tried to sound forceful. "What are you doing?" She couldn't be going through this again, not so soon, it had to be a nightmare, it just had to. It just couldn't be.

Her eyes started to come into focus and fixed on the figure hovering over her. "Remmy?" she questioned disbelievingly. Something she couldn't recognize flashed across his eyes. He said nothing.

"I can't move," she realized, as she tried to make her arms come up to push her into a sitting position to no avail. "Remmy, I can't move."

"You shouldn't be talking," he finally spoke, making her pause for a moment to register that his voice sounded different from what it normally was.

"It's the Kromaggs, Remmy," she pleaded, still a little delirious. "They're going to cut my head off again. I can't do that again, please Remmy you've got to stop them."

"I don't know about any Kro-Maggs," he replied coldly. "Just lie still and be quiet."

"How can you not know about the Maggs?" Wade asked with confusion. "They captured us together, we fought and they took us..." He turned his face completely towards her and she gasped. His face had a big scar down the middle with one side of it looking puffy and slightly discolored. "You're not Remmy," she stated simply.

"No," he answered her. He then pulled open his labcoat to reveal tubes bringing blood and other bodily fluids into a torso that was half-flesh, half-machine, his legs were made of metal, but had some skin and muscle attached to them. "I'm not Rembrandt. Not yet."

"What do you mean not yet?" Wade asked. "What is this? What are you doing to me?"

"It's not for you to question," the man who might be Rembrandt replied. "You're just a donor. I'm not even supposed to be talking to you."

"Donor?" Wade queried with ever-growing confusion. The light dawned...at least partially. "Look, Rem...whoever you are, you can't use parts of me on yourself!"

"Of course we won't," Rembrandt's voice answered her. That slightly reassured her until he started the examination anyway.

"So if we're all understanding each other on this, why are you still taking my vital signs?" she asked.

"You hush now, girl," his voice cooed back in response. "You're going to get us both in..."

"Don't call her that!" a mysterious figure said in a harsh tone. "She's not a 'girl'. She's spare parts. I thought we were clear on that."

"Of course," Rembrandt responded to the figure emerging from the shadowy other room. He was gangly and scrawny and dressed all in black. He wore thick glasses that made his eyes almost invisible. "Quinn."

"Quinn," Wade said, after a few moments of silence. "Are you the boss around here?"

Quinn smiled thinly. "My decision not to have you gagged was made due to my fear that you might suffocate. Don't make me rethink it."

Wade ignored the threat. "Where am I? What are you going to do to me? Where are the others?"

"Her limbs are up to standard I assume," Quinn said, moving to Rembrandt.

"There's been some damage to one of the arms recently," Rembrandt responded. "But nothing that should make her ineligible for donorship."

"What the hell am I supposed to be donating?!?" Wade exclaimed, trying to get their attention.

"Still," Quinn went on, "we might want to consider just taking the legs...or maybe some heart tissue." He smiled once again. It was not a pretty sight. "I feel like a kid in a candy store." Rembrandt only grunted in reply.

Then he reconsidered. "Maybe we should put her back under and examine the others before we actually do any cutting. See if they have any defects. Maybe their arms are worse than hers, we won't know until we've looked..."

"No," Quinn interrupted. "We have to take what we can as soon as they come out of it. There's a possibility that they'll build up a resistance to the anesthetic, we've been over this!"

"I just think we should look at all of them before we do anything," Rembrandt's voice protested. "It might come out wrong..."

"Who is in charge here? Huh?" Quinn retorted angrily. "Is it you? Are you the one that's going to do the surgery? Are you the one that set up this lab in the first place? Can you patch yourself up? Can you repair the generator when it breaks? Hell, if you're so smart, why do you need me at all? You can make everything all better all by yourself!!" He then flung some medical equipment across the room angrily.

"No," Rembrandt replied meekly from his knees on the floor. "Don't leave us now. Don't mess it all up. You're right. I'm sorry."

Quinn did an emotional 180. He began to smile cheerily and gave Rembrandt a hand up. "Besides, if we don't have all the parts we need, there are bound to be more donors out there. We'll suck them in the same way we did these three. Just trust me, OK?"

"I do," Rembrandt nodded.

"If you're done, there's something I'd like to discuss," Wade threw in, although her voice was muffled. One of the trays that Quinn tossed across the room had a scalpel on it and it had evidently gotten close enough to Wade's head for her to grasp in her teeth. She hoped it was menacing. "If you don't tell me what's going on, I'll cut you before you can cut me."

"Must you persist in this nonsense?" Quinn asked with mild irritation. "Very well, I'll check on the others. Rembrandt will tell you all you need to know. Then I suppose you'll cooperate." He walked off, leaving her alone with the patchwork Rembrandt.

"You're making this difficult," Rembrandt pointed out sullenly.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Wade replied with sarcasm. "Was I supposed to take my kidnapping and mutilation lying down?" Looking at herself motionless on the cold metallic table, she guessed she was.

"What do you want to know?" Rembrandt asked coldly.

"Not much," Wade responded. "I'd just like to know why FrankenQuinn and his Rembrandt monster are making me into their first experiment."

"We were like you once," Rembrandt said, startling Wade. "We were sliders. The four of us. Me and Quinn and Wade and the Professor."

"Four of you," Wade repeated. "But I've only seen just you and Quinn..."

"Bad things happen," he told her, as if she didn't already know, "when you go sliding. There's so much you're not ready for." He moved to the other side of the room, a part that had been covered by a curtain up until now, and removed the barrier. Wade was so stunned the scalpel nearly fell from her teeth.

Professor Maximilian Arturo lie in a bed, his eyes closed, a monitor keeping track of his heart rate. Another part of the monitor was flatlined. A scar covered part of his forehead. "One world we landed on, we came across the sorriest excuse for human beings any world could ever produce. Took us all captive and made us...do things for them, horrible things. Then came the torture. They lobotomized the Professor, 'cause he was so smart. They shot me up so bad...I didn't think I was going to be able to make it until Quinn came along. Wade...God what they did to her."

"I can't see," Wade remarked. "Where is she?"

"Here," Rembrandt said, removing a sheet from a gray container. "In her coffin."

"She's dead?" Wade asked incredulously. "Then how can you think that I..."

"Coffin's what I call it," Rembrandt explained. "It keeps her in stasis so Quinn can fix her. Her heart needs constant defribulation to stay beating. They hacked off her arms and legs." He covered up the 'coffin' again with the sheet. "I don't want to talk about this anymore. You know enough now. You know what you'll be donating your life for."

"But you can't do this!" Wade exclaimed. "Cutting us up and attaching our body parts to the bodies of your former friends isn't going to bring them back! Do you really want to live like that forever? And how do you think your Wade and your Professor will feel? Do you think they'll want life, if they'll just be a monster like he's made you?"

Rembrandt paused in thought for a moment. He then grabbed the scalpel from Wade's mouth violently, cutting his hand in the process. He put some gauze bandages over the wound. "Cut's deep, but it'll heal. Give it time and it'll heal."

"I've changed my mind," Quinn said from the door of the laboratory, where he apparently had the other eleven sliders who had landed on this world out of commission. "I'm bringing the Arturo from the first group out to join her friend. I think we can go ahead and do both today, don't you?" Rembrandt merely nodded and they began to prepare for the surgery.

Chapter Six

Arturo groaned sharply. It took a moment for him to get his mental bearings. "Where in blazes am I now?"

Wade tried her best not to sound scared. "We've been taken captive, Professor. By some sick-minded Quinn double who's using our bodies to replace damaged parts on his friends. Don't try to move, he's got us on some sort of anesthetic that keeps everything below our necks frozen. Also there's a Rembrandt double walking around here that's not too pleasant to look at..."

Quinn stood on the other side of the room, injecting a fluid into Wade's 'coffin'. "Thank you. I do get so tired of explaining everything myself."

"You don't have to do this," Wade told him with desperation in her voice.

"I do," Quinn responded, all mocking leaving his voice.

"And why is that, hm?" the Professor asked. "Some sick fascination with how the human body works, the desire to bring people back from the dead..."

"No!" he yelled, silencing Arturo. "I have to do it. I promised... I swore I'd get them home and that's what I'm doing."

"You're sick," Wade told him. "You think these people are your friends? They're your obsession. You don't even care about them anymore."

"Shut up," Quinn answered her nonchalantly. "We need to get started. Unless you want to do this after the drugs wear off."

Quinn carted the surgical equipment over to the table where Wade lay. "Don't think you can get away with this," the Professor cried out, stalling for time like crazy. "There are more of us than you think. One of us is bound to overpower you, to stop this, to turn you into the authorities..."

"They're all in stasis in another room," Quinn smiled. "And they'll all wake up like you did, numb and disoriented. But please...feel free to stop me anytime you like." He began to raise the sheet covering Wade's body off of her to begin cutting.

"Stop," Rembrandt's metallic-sounding voice called out from the doorway.

Quinn looked exasperated. "What do you want now? I'm just about to get started."

"Leave the sheet on," Rembrandt told him. "She deserves at least that much."

"She doesn't deserve anything, Remmy!" Quinn exclaimed. "That thing is not Wade, it's just another damn double! They're a dime a dozen, Rembrandt."

"That's not true," Wade pleaded from her vulnerable position.

"You...shut...the...hell...up!!!" Quinn cried out angrily. He then struck Wade across the face.

"Don't touch her," Rembrandt warned.

Quinn's eyes glowered fury. "Whose side are you on?!" he demanded. "Look, we have a deal here. If you're not willing to fulfill your end of the bargain..."

Rembrandt gave a pained look to Wade and then faced Quinn. "Fine. But the least you could do is be gentle."

"My dear Rembrandt, I wouldn't have it any other way," Quinn laughed. "Would you go ahead and medicate the Professor? We'll need him ready for brain tissue transfer within a few hours."

"Can't," Rembrandt answered him. Before Quinn could scold him again, he explained. "Power's running low. Moving all of their unconscious bodies out of that basement took a lot out of me. I need to recharge."

"Fine," Quinn conceded. "I'll do it myself." He watched Rembrandt go to the generator and hook himself in and then left the room to get the medication.

"They're going to take my brain tissue out and transfer it to my double?!" Professor Arturo asked Wade. When she nodded in reply, he looked distraught. "I'll be a vegetable."

Wade looked extremely discomfited herself. "Talk about your deja vu."

"Is there any chance that this can actually succeed? That we'll actually end up as spare parts for our unfortunate doubles?" Professor Arturo asked her with panic in his voice.

Wade's brow furrowed. "I've met people who could do things like it, but they were more spiritually-oriented than scientific. That's your area of expertise. You tell me."

The Professor sighed. "Miss Welles, it would be astonishing in and of itself if I knew the entire breadth of what the great scientific minds were capable of doing on my own world, which, by the way, I don't. On a parallel world, who knows what their minds might have developed?" They had both failed miserably in giving any comfort to the other. Their frustrations wouldn't allow it.

Quinn reentered the room, gave the lobotomized Professor some medication through an IV and turned his attention back to Wade. He picked up the scalpel. "I hope this is sharp enough. We wouldn't want any damage to come to the legs. Perhaps I should cut high instead..."

"You know, I think my anesthetic's wearing off," Wade stated. "Maybe you should give me another dose."

Quinn grinned evilly. "Sadly, I don't have enough to waste more on a troublemaker like yourself. You'll just have to bear the pain."

"How did you ensnare all of us here anyway?" Arturo asked. "Some sort of quantum signature magnet?"

"You're stalling," Quinn teased them in a singsong voice. Then worry crossed his face. "Why?" He spun around just in time to see another Quinn standing behind him with some sort of pipe raised over his head. He grabbed the pipe before it could hit him and tossed the other Quinn across the room. "Always the hero, aren't you?" he spat out. "How did you get out?"

"My theory," Quinn said as he gradually began to stand again, "is that you didn't turn the gas on. That's the thing with you insane geniuses, you're good with the big stuff but you mess up on the details."

Quinn ducked as his dark-clad double swung the pipe and lunged for him. They both went to the ground, but Dark Quinn managed to make the pipe graze Quinn's ribs. Reeling in pain, Quinn managed to pin one of Dark Quinn's arms to the ground, but the other was still free to make a sloppy shot at Quinn's face. Quinn rolled off of his double and Dark Quinn rose to finish him off with a clear shot to the head, but Quinn managed to grab the pipe and push the other end towards his head. Dark Quinn released the pipe and Quinn stood shakily triumphant.

"We don't have to do this," Quinn told him, brandishing the pipe in such a way as to make it clear that he was about to finish his doppelganger off.

"You're right," Dark Quinn answered him solemnly. He moved with lightning speed to jab a needle in Quinn's foot. "We don't." Quinn slumped to the floor.

"What did you do to him?!" Wade demanded.

"Nothing much. Just gave him a little sedative. You know, it's a shame one of your companions will now have to undergo surgery without any medication, but it cannot be helped. Now I believe we've had enough interruptions for one day..." However, his attention was again diverted by a beeping sound. "Ah, we have new arrivals. Excellent. I'm sure they'll be heading to the same places..." He was interrupted by a swift punch and fell to the floor.

Rembrandt's scar-divided face was set in determination. He stood over his Quinn, the man he had trusted for so many years, and didn't recognize him at all. The Quinn he called out to was another one altogether. "Make sure the others have made it out alright. Professor, you get Wade out of here." To Dark Quinn's surprise both of them got up and began to follow his commands.

"They were supposed to be..." Quinn began to protest.

"Sedated?" Rembrandt asked. He held up a syringe. "I switched the numbing agent with water."

"What are you doing here, Rembrandt?!" Quinn asked with pure hatred in his eyes.

"Saving lives," Rembrandt replied simply.

"You picked a hell of a time to do it," Quinn spat angrily, rising to his feet to oppose his old friend.

At that moment, the retrieval machine started to spark. "Maybe so," he answered him. "But I made the choice. I decided to move on. Accept that the Professor and Wade aren't coming back..."

Quinn hit Rembrandt. "You have that luxury. I don't."

"Right. You're responsible for them and I'm not?" Rembrandt asked him rhetorically. "You're too far gone."

The sparks from the machine spread out and became a fire. It spread quickly across the room.

"No!" Quinn exclaimed. "It'll destroy them!! I've got to stop..."

"You're not going to stop it," Rembrandt said. He then hit and knocked out Quinn with the pipe from the Quinns' struggle earlier. "I am."

But first, it was time to check on the others. Before he rushed up the stairs to check on his team's doppelgangers, he took one last look at the fire, which was heading towards where Professor Arturo and Wade lie. The fire gleamed in his eyes for just a moment, until he walked away.

Chapter Seven

The sliders, all twelve of them, heard Rembrandt's metallic legs clank as he climbed the stairs out of the building. "Is everyone OK?" he asked the Quinn who seemed to be in charge of the disoriented group.

"I think so," Quinn answered with some hesitation. "Are you going back in there or..."

"Take care of them," Rembrandt stated simply. Quinn could only nod in reply. The reconstructed Rembrandt headed back down into the basement without another word.

He surveyed what the fire had done to their basement laboratory. Quinn still lie unconscious on the floor, although he seemed to be coming to. The blaze had formed a sort of wall between the two of them and their former companions. The smoke kept him from seeing much of anything other than what was right in front of him. He had to get out of here quickly and salvage what he could, he began to help Quinn up and then pull him towards the stairs.

"No!" he cried out. "We can't leave Wade and the Professor!"

"They're already gone, Q-Ball." It was the first time Rembrandt had called Quinn that in ages. "If I could do anything for them, I would..."

Quinn refused to go. "There is! Even if there's a lot of damage done, we can find a way to fix it, just like before. We can come up with another plan, but not if we just let them die!"

"It's too late for them, but not for us," Rembrandt stated with sorrow. "Or at least not for you."

That took a moment to sink in Quinn's brain. Without the lab equipment and the generator, Rembrandt couldn't stay alive for long. "Rembrandt, I'm so sorry. I wish I could have done more for you. I failed."

"You didn't fail," he reassured Quinn. "You did all you could. And you never gave up on us. But now it's time to just let go, to get out of here..."

"You're right," he admitted reluctantly. As Rembrandt turned around to lead him upstairs, Quinn pressed a control switch on Rembrandt's back that made him power down immediately. He collapsed to the floor. "We have to get out of here. If there's time, I'll come back for you." He looked at the fire surrounding him, and waded through the flames as best he could. "Wade! Professor! I'm getting you out! I didn't forget you!" At that moment, one of the burning rafters fell from the ceiling. Quinn could see it about to hit, but there wasn't enough time (nor space) to move out of the way. "I'm sorry," were his last words, although nobody heard them.

"Rescue workers responded quickly to a blaze in Oakland yesterday. An old tenament building, reportedly abandoned, began burning about 8:43 pm. A spokesperson from the fire department said that they do not suspect arson..." Wade flipped off the television.

"You ready?" Rembrandt asked her.

"As I'll ever be," Wade responded with melancholy.

The four of them joined their two sets of doubles in an open field not too far from the Mallory House (but far enough that they felt safe about not being detected). A medium-sized headstone lie at rest in the middle of the field. Wade put flowers next to it, taking the time to read the inscription again, "Here lies four heroes who died so that we might live."

"It's a bit of an overstatement, isn't it?" Quinn whispered to the Professor. "I mean, my double was more than a little bit on the crazy side..."

"Hush now, Mr. Mallory," Professor Arturo instructed him somberly. All of them were silent as Rembrandt3 said a few words for the deceased. After their little ceremony was done, everyone filed out quietly and without much daliance. Quinn1 lingered only a moment, thinking of the demented man he stopped as he hovered over the memorial headstone.

"Lucky," he breathed and then moved away to be with the others.

"OK, so I bet you're all wondering the same thing...where do we go from here? What happens now?" Quinn2 asked rhetorically. "Which one of us gets to stay here?"

"We've been pondering the matter carefully..." Arturo1 cut in.

"...and we've reached an unanimous consensus," Arturo3 finished.

"We're going to have a lottery," Quinn3 explained to the others.

"Wait," Rembrandt2 piped up. "Are you saying we're going to draw numbers out of a hat to see which one of us gets to call this world their own?"

"Basically," Quinn2 answered, "yeah."

Wade3 threw her hand in the air with a sour look on her face. "Wait. You brainiacs have had time to discuss and digest this, but we haven't. Each group needs to have a meeting. Now."

None of the Quinns or Arturos could dispute that, so every foursome moved into its respective place. Wade1 looked puzzled as she huddled with her Quinn and Arturo. "Where's Rembrandt?"

Quinn smirked. "He went to get supplies for our bon voyage party." He paused for a moment. "You mean you didn't notice he wasn't here before now?"

Wade shrugged. "There were two of them here. I didn't know who was who. I was nearly cut apart by a couple of raving loonies last night, you could cut me a little slack!"

Arturo sighed. "Just make sure you're with the right group when it comes time to slide. As for Mr. Brown's absence, this gives me an opportunity to discuss something of utmost importance..."

"I don't think I'm gonna like this," Wade groaned.

The Professor raised his eyebrows but said nothing. "...as to which group stays here, I believe we should withdraw ourselves from consideration."

"I knew it!" Wade exclaimed, perhaps a bit too loudly as the other groups turned and looked at her. She grinned sheepishly and they all went back to their business. "What is your problem? You don't even want there to be a chance for us to be able to settle down and make this our home..."

"We have commitments, Miss Welles," Professor Arturo interrupted her. "We promised a very brave individual that we would help him stop Lesion by warning every group familiar with interdimensional travel we run into, which we will do with our two counterpart groups before we leave by the way. And then there's the big reason."

"Me," Quinn answered with a twinge of regret in his voice.

Arturo did his best to refocus the conversation. "Let's look at this logically. If our number gets drawn, only three people have reached their homeworld, if we allow one of the other groups to stay here, four sliders get to go home."

"And the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," Wade remarked with a little bitterness in her voice.

The Professor nodded curtly. "Not to mention what we'll have to tell Rembrandt when Mr. Mallory slides out of here by himself. And what about Quinn's family? We'll have doomed them to never see their boy again."

"It's complicated," Wade remarked sadly. "I guess it would be easier if we just withdrew ourselves from the lottery. You're right," she said, looking at the Professor with a smile starting to form on her lips. "I hate that."

Quinn1 lie on the couch, seemingly immobile. His eyes were blurry and just coming into focus. "That was some party."

"Yes," Arturo1 replied, stretching and strongly resisting the urge to rush to the bathroom. "I feel fortunate merely to have survived it."

"How long do you have?" Wade2 asked them. Team 2 had been the lucky group that got to stay here and group three had slid out the night before.

"About twenty minutes," her double responded, looking at the timer.

"Great," Rembrandt2 said from Arturo's kitchen. "Just enough time to let you taste the omelettes I learned how to make on that world where Major Rochambeau was frequenting this little diner just outside of Oxnard and we decided to go undercover."

Having sufficiently filled up on breakfast, the foursome said their goodbyes. "Good luck," Rembrandt said to his counterpart just before he slid out.

"You sure you shouldn't have told him the truth?" Rembrandt2 asked the parallel version of Professor Arturo standing in front of him.

"His mental condition is unstable," Arturo answered him. "One day. When the time is right."

"Don't wait too long," Rembrandt2 cautioned. Wade and Quinn jumped through the vortex after Rembrandt.

Arturo2 approached his doppelganger. "We decided you should have this." He then handed him the quantum/slide signature detector. "It's not much of a consolation prize, but..."

"Thank you," he said to the other version of himself simply. He then followed his companions through the wormhole.

As they watched what would likely be the last interdimensional tunnel they would ever see close behind them, Arturo heard a knock at the door. Since it was his house he decided to be the one to answer it. Opening the door, he saw a Quinn Mallory whose face fell the moment they made eye contact. Behind him stood another version of Professor Maximilian Arturo, Wade Welles and Rembrandt Brown. He could think of nothing to say. "Yes?"

Quinn looked pained. "Sorry," he explained as the four of them began to trail off. "I guess we got the wrong house."

[ Earth 2013 Episode Guide | The Otherworlds ]