Quinn Mallory had been through a lot. Seven years ago, he was a successful, young student in theoretical physics, and now he was re-living a horrible dream. It all had all started so innocently. Just a little experiment. Just a little trip around the universe.
It wouldn't have been as bad if he had been alone. But he had brought along other people, and they had to live with him in this personal Hell. And the sight of his double just made it worse. It meant that he wasn't alone in making this decision. He had banished millions of his friends to this kind of life on millions of worlds.
In a lot of ways, he envied Colin. Colin had made a mistake, and he was able to make up for it by bringing down the Kromagg Dynasty. Quinn couldn't do anything to make up for his mistake. Or could he?
It was time for the slide. Wade was looking into the stars for answers. She hadn't decided whether to stay with Quinn or to continue to slide yet. What was she going to do? She loved Quinn, but she was also falling for his double. She was also already starting to miss the action, the suspense, and the magic of sliding. Could she honestly leave that behind?
With a tear in his eye, Rembrandt opened the vortex. Quinn and Arturo felt similarly, but held back their tears.
"I can't watch this!", Wade screamed, running into Quinn's arms. Rembrandt couldn't take it either. He immediately jumped into the vortex, forgetting even to say good-bye. Quinn and Arturo said good-bye, however, and they were both wished luck on their journey.
As the vortex closed, Wade let out a huge scream that she continued as she woke up. It was all a dream. However, she wasn't sure. She ran to the other side of the hotel room and looked for both Quinns. Thankfully, they were both there and accounted for. Seconds later, she ran to the living room and checked the timer. She still had almost a full day to make the decision.
But since when was this a decision? For some reason, it never came up in her mind. She was too busy cheering up Quinn, helping out with the relief for the city, or explaining things to Agent Parker. But now the decision was ever-present in her subconscious. What was she going to do? Could she honestly leave her home again? Possibly forever? If it wasn't forever, then she'd eventually be back to this point.
But in the same thought, she couldn't imagine a life without sliding. A life where she'd have to go back to work and beg for her computer job for the second time. A life where the most exciting thing to happen or the most beautiful thing to see would be on television. Was it possible to leave her world behind? Was it possible to leave sliding behind?
She couldn't stand it anymore. She had to find out how she really felt. She decided to go for a walk.
Outside, there was still a variety of military personnel outside. She had to avoid them to avoid getting caught for breaking curfew. Agent Parker had said that all five of them had to stay completely out of trouble, or he'd have them all imprisoned. Maybe that would be easier, because then he would essentially be making the decision for her. That would be the easy way out.
But ever since the attacks had ceased, there had been fewer and fewer officers to avoid. She still had to be careful, though, since Quinn had told her that Parker probably was keeping tabs on them. But this was much more important than anything she'd ever done. This was the most important decision of her life, and she had to find herself before time ran out.
Everything she saw on the street brought back a memory. Strangely enough, every image reminded her of a sliding adventure. The Azure Gate Bridge. Quinn's gate. City Hall. Everything was too familiar. The blue bridge almost shocked her when she saw it, and she had grown up watching it. "Golden Gate Bridge" still sounded strange, but it was beginning to feel right.
After a few hours of walking, Wade crept back to the hotel. She thought she had made it when she entered the hotel room, but she was startled by Agent Frank Parker, who was sitting on the couch.
"So! You didn't take my threat seriously, I see," Parker said as he lifted his hands to reveal the timer. Wade was speechless.
"I'm going to be keeping this."
Parker got up out of his chair and started walking towards the couch to sit down.
"Ms. Welles, I'm not a bad guy. I've known about the location of this for a long time; practically since you got here. And I wasn't going to do anything about it until now. I was going to let you "slide" or whatever, as long as Mallory stayed away. But now I see it all. You all are dangerous, hostile people with no regard for rules. And I fully blame you for all of the destruction around the world."
He rose off the couch, still holding the timer.
"Now, I should just break this, but I'm not going to. You'll all have been completely reformed in about twenty-nine years."
Opening the door, Parker looked back at Wade, who looked completely astonished and still speechless. As he was leaving, he looked back. "You see, Ms. Welles, I do my homework."
Wade sat motionless for hours, replaying the scene with Parker over and over again. She couldn't move, but at the same time she was angry that she had done nothing at the time. After a while, her body simply gave up and she fell asleep on the couch.
Wade woke up to the sound of the other Sliders frantically searching for the timer.
"I swear, Remmy. I didn't take the timer anywhere. I put it right in the top drawer, where it's been ever since we got here," Quinn said.
Rembrandt rose from his position on the floor. "Yeah, well it's never just disappeared before," he countered.
Wade mumbled out a couple words, but although both Quinn and Rembrandt heard her, neither understood what she had said.
Rembrandt moved towards her. "Sorry, girl, for waking you. Tough night?"
Wade tried to open her eyes, but they were far too heavy to keep open. She closed them and collapsed back onto the couch. Rembrandt looked worried.
Rembrandt looked to be both puzzled and worried. "She doesn't usually sleep on the couch, does she?" Rembrandt asked, more talking to himself than Quinn.
Quinn, still angry, could only blurt out "No, but this is her world. She can do what she wants."
Quinn said this jokingly, but this struck a nerve with Rembrandt. He, like Wade, had never thought about the prospect that Wade could soon be leaving the group.
"You think she's going to stay here?"
"The thought's crossed my mind..." Quinn answered.
Rembrandt looked up at Quinn, shocked. "And that doesn't concern you?"
Quinn was still very angry. He didn't feel like sulking over Wade. "I just lost a brother, Remmy. I'm not really concerned with what happens to Wade's double."
Rembrandt did a double take, looking both at Wade to see if she had heard and then back at Quinn. Neither seemed to realize what had just been said. Rembrandt began to feel angry, before he realized that he had forgotten about the situation with Colin. He decided not to push the issue anymore.
Rembrandt sighed and turned away, saying, "Okay, let's just try and find the timer."
In the laboratory, Arturo was working with Quinn's double. They were trying to clean up some of the mess left by the Kromaggs, but their main focus was on the Kromagg device.
Turning to face it, Arturo said, "Fascinating."
"It sure is, Professor," Quinn-1 said. "And Remmy said that it was originally a human design, probably stolen by the 'Maggs."
Arturo looked up at Quinn-1. "Don't be so surprised, Mr. Mallory. You've seen what humanity is capable of."
Quinn-1 thought over all of the horrors he had seen humanity create. "Yes, Professor, I unfortunately have."
"That's not what I mean, Mr. Mallory, and you know it," Arturo said. "You of all people should be the first to understand. I've seen things created by your doubles that would have utterly baffled me a few years back."
Quinn-1 smiled at Arturo, but his smile quickly faded as he saw Agent Parker approach.
Parker approached the two scientists. "Good to see you too, Mallory. And you, Professor."
Arturo gave Parker a very sarcastic smile. He had had similar confrontations with Agent Parker, especially in the early years of his life on this world. In fact, he had kept to the story that he was this world's Arturo for a couple reasons. He really didn't have the heart to tell them, but he mainly wanted to avoid the legal problems that would've been caused. Either way, he hated Parker just as much, if not more than Quinn-1 did.
Parker smiled at them. "Don't act that way, Professor. You and I should really get to know each other, because you're going to be staying a little longer than you expected."
Quinn-1 turned to face him. "What in the Hell is that supposed to mean?"
Agent Parker pointed to his jacket pocket, hinting that he held the timer. Although the timer was actually back at the FBI Headquarters, both Quinn-1 and Arturo knew what was going on.
However, Quinn-1 was speechless. He could only mutter a couple of sentences. "How...? Why would you...?"
Parker continued to smile, saying "Talk to Ms. Welles. She's your culprit."
Walking away, Parker muttered, "I'd talk to her if I were you. Good-bye Mr. Mallory, Professor."
Arturo looked up at Quinn-1. They dropped what they were doing and headed straight for the hotel.
In the hotel, Quinn and Rembrandt had turned the hotel upside-down looking for the timer. It was nowhere to be found.
Quinn looked at Wade's room. "Maybe we should wake up Wade. Maybe she has it on her?"
Rembrandt looked up. "Why would she have it on her?"
Quinn replied, "Well, it could've been a dream, but I could've sworn that I remember seeing Wade walking around the room last night. I don't know, Remmy. Let's just talk to her."
Rembrandt didn't want to have another argument. He was tired enough as it was. "Whatever you say, Q-Ball."
Rembrandt nudged Wade softly, but Quinn was rather impatient. He was noticeably on edge because of the situation with Colin, and he was taking it out unfairly on his friends.
Wade struggled to a sitting position. She knew what they wanted to talk about, and in fact, she had been awake for a few minutes prior to that. She was hoping to pretend to sleep forever, so that they would forget she was responsible for the losing of the timer and she would forget about the decision.
Without a great deal of remorse, Quinn said, "Sorry, Wade, but we really need to talk to you."
Wade began to cry, and Rembrandt sat beside her, handing her a tissue.
Quinn looked surprised. "Sorry about what?"
"He took it. Agent Parker!"
Rembrandt's eyes widened. "What?"
Wade fell into Remmy's arms and continued to cry loudly. She hoped that she could avoid the rest of the conversation if she cried long enough, but she realized it was futile.
Wade summoned all of her strength, uttering "I took a walk last night."
Quinn was furious. He slammed down a pillow and rushed into the next room.
Wade knew that Quinn would be mad at her, but she had to tell the truth. "Quinn! I'm so sorry! I just had to take that walk! I swear to God that I didn't mean to get us into trouble! I'm so sorry!"
Rembrandt tried to console Wade. "It's all right, girl. I promise we'll get it back." He sighed. "We always do."
It was at this moment when Quinn's double and Arturo entered the room to find Wade crying in Rembrandt's arms.
Quinn's double was worried. "What's going on here? Why's she crying, Remmy?"
Rembrandt didn't want to make matters worse, so he tried to pick his words carefully. "She made a mistake and Agent Parker stole the timer."
Arturo said, "We know, Mr. Brown. He came to the lab to boast."
Rembrandt tried to change the subject. "Did anyone happen to see how much time it had on it? With all that's gone on this week, I honestly couldn't tell you when we're supposed to leave."
Rembrandt looked around at Quinn-1 and Arturo, who didn't seem to know when the slide was either. Wade, of course, knew, but she decided to stay quiet so that she wouldn't get into more trouble.
Quinn-1 smiled, trying to make the group feel better. "Well, I guess we'll just have to get it back to find out."
Arturo knew that they had to look at the situation realistically and consider the ramifications of their actions. "I'm afraid that isn't an option, Mr. Mallory. You know what the punishment will be for you. You'll be exiled."
Quinn-1 looked surprised. "From this world? Look, Professor, there's nowhere I'd rather be than out there sliding with you guys. Being home isn't as sweet as I once thought it was."
This thought seemed strange to Rembrandt. He had spent more than six years searching for his home, and he decided that he and Quinn-1 were different. He would never get sick of home once he returned.
Rembrandt said, "No way, Q-Ball. Its too dangerous for all of us."
Quinn-1 looked surprised at Rembrandt's comment.
"That's not the attitude I'm used to seeing from you, Remmy."
Arturo tried to think of alternate solutions. "What about the other timers, Quinn?"
Quinn-1 thought for a second. "Almost everything I've done has been confiscated. Everything but this, basically."
Quinn-1 pulled a timer out of his pocket. It was the timer invented to travel to different parts of the Earth.
"I could try some adjustments on it, but I honestly don't think it has enough power for more than a couple of offworld slides. I'm not about to risk stranding you all until we look over some of the data and find a reliable power source."
Rembrandt questioned Quinn-1, "'We', Q-Ball?"
"Yeah, Remmy. Like I said, I'm coming with you. And, no, you're not going to stop me this time. It's no fun being out of the loop."
Rembrandt knew that Quinn-1 was serious, so he decided to get ready for what the group had to do. "So, what's the plan?"
Quinn-1 smiled. "I still think we can get the timer back from Parker. The only positive thing that I've gotten from all of the times I've been dragged to that place is that I know it inside and out. I may even know stuff about that building that Parker doesn't even know about."
Arturo looked at Quinn-1. "And what if we've already missed the slide?"
Quinn-1 smiled and pointed to his timer.
"Then we use this. But either way, we're getting off this Earth by tomorrow. All of us."
Quinn was angry. Not only was he powerless to save his brother, but now his fate was sealed. He had neither the motivation nor the ability to get the timer back. Despite the number of times exactly like this one, he didn't believe this was an escapable situation.
Wade entered the room, still shook up.
Quinn was annoyed. He really didn't want to see her. "What do you want?"
Wade cowered. "I just want to get away. To talk."
"What do you want to talk about?"
"I don't know. Why are you so angry?"
"Why am I angry? Why in the Hell do you think I'm angry? Not only have I condemned a couple of the best people I've ever met to this Hellish journey, but I have also been screwing around with countless worlds and individuals. Now I'm stuck on this Godforsaken world where the authorities would like nothing more than to see me executed. No, Wade, I feel fine."
Wade couldn't take this anymore. She had to get away, and she had to get away now.
Wade ran by Quinn's double, who was going to talk to Quinn.
Quinn-1 looked around, and then he looked over at Quinn. "What's wrong with her?"
Quinn, still annoyed, said "Who knows?"
Quinn-1 shot Quinn a double take. "What's wrong with you?"
"I'm not going to answer that again. Just leave me alone."
"Well, get comfortable because unless we succeed, you'll be here for a while."
Quinn's double meant it as a joke, but Quinn didn't take it that way. The fact that he was stuck on this world of all places was the final dagger in his back. This world wasn't his double's world or Wade's world or Azure Gate Bridge world. This was "broken promises" world, where he had told the greatest lie of his life to the one he loved the most.
Quinn was suddenly enraged. "That's not funny. That's not funny at all!"
Quinn lashed out, throwing a glass at his double that broke on the wall behind him.
Quinn-1 didn't know how serious Quinn felt. "What the Hell's wrong with you? It was just a joke!"
Quinn sarcastically said, "Ha ha! Very funny."
"I'm just trying to lighten the mood. You know, you have absolutely no reason to be angry! You've got the best life in the world. Not only do you get to slide, but you've got an actual Earth to go back to. Not this Hellish place. Plus, I think Wade's falling in love with you. You messed it up with her last time, and I'll be damned if I let you do it again."
"Oh, so now you're looking out for me, huh?"
"Yeah I am, Quinn. I'm you! I'm always looking out for you!"
Quinn looked up, knowing that he could make a strong effect on Quinn if they met eye to eye. "So where were you with Colin? In a lot of ways, he was your brother too, and you let him kill himself!"
Quinn-1 looked surprised that Quinn was blaming this on him. "Let him kill himself? Quinn, few people get to make up for their mistakes. When someone messes up like Colin did, they'll do anything to atone for it. I'd think you of all people would understand that. Colin made a mistake by allowing himself to betray you, but he has made up for it by saving the multiverse for humanity. Why can't you see that?"
Quinn got up and walked out. He made sure to slam the door loud enough to knock over a few items in his double's room.
Wade took a taxi to the outskirts of San Francisco. With very little time to go, she had to find herself quickly. She was subconsciously going somewhere and only realized where she was when she arrived at the door. She was even shocked when she saw her sister open the door.
Kelly Welles looked surprised to see her sister. "Wade! What are you doing here?"
Wade timidly looked at her sister. "Hi, Kelly. Can I come in?"
Quinn-1 was ready for action. "So, here's the plan, guys. I'm going to go in to try and talk with Agent Parker. While this is serving primarily as a distraction, there is always the chance that Parker has some humanity left in him and we won't have to break in."
Rembrandt was ready. "Sounds good."
"Now, we'll know almost immediately if my plan's going to fail. So, if it does, you guys are going to go through the back entrance."
Rembrandt wasn't sure that sounded right. "The back entrance? Don't you think they'll find us there?"
"That's the beauty, Rembrandt. I guarantee that they'll bring the back door guard in to monitor the Professor in the car. He's not the best agent of subterfuge in the world. So, you will slide in through the back and slip down into the basement."
"Why the basement?"
"I know Parker well enough to know he keeps most of his best stuff in the basement. However, I don't know exactly where it will be. So, you hide. When he's sure I'm not trying to pull something off, he'll go down and make sure the timer's still there. When he pulls it out and then puts it back, you send me the message with the cell phone, and I'll slide everyone in there."
"Sounds simple enough. Sure it will work?"
Quinn smiled. "Remmy, I've never been more sure of anything in my whole life."
Wade sat in her sister's living room for the first time since their fight. It was just stupid sister-stuff, but Wade had always taken pride in the fact that her parents had taken her side. She had always regretted not going to visit her on her return, but she didn't want to face Kelly or her parents either way.
Wade said very quietly, "Kelly, I'm so sorry. I've been so stupid."
"Don't worry about it. So, how's Mom?"
Kelly apparently didn't know that Wade had been gone for about a year, if she even knew she had slid at all. She thought it best to lie to break the ice.
"She's good. She misses you, and talks about all the time."
Wade nodded her head, but found it hard to look into Kelly's eyes. She couldn't lie to her excited face, but she didn't want to tell her that her parents had all but forgotten her.
"So, what's up Wade?"
"You read right through me. Well, I need your advice on something."
Kelly was surprised. Never in her life had Wade wanted advice. She always looked up to her sister and always asked her advice. In fact, it was how that stupid fight had started in the first place.
Any other time, Wade would not have been able to ask her sister for help. But this was different. She had nowhere else to turn. "You see, I might be going away soon. I have to make a decision, and I don't think I can make it alone."
"Sure, sis. Where would you be going?"
"It's hard to explain. Well, there are these two guys. They're both really sweet and I'd be honored to be with either, but I don't know if I can turn my back on home. On my family."
"Oh, it's that serious."
"I'm afraid so."
Kelly was, in reality, very angry with Wade. She had never shown it on the outside, however, out of fear. Wade was not very easy to get along with in their childhood, so Kelly had learned to assume a false personality when speaking to her.
But for some reason, she actually wanted to be nice with her sister. She wanted to rectify things once and for all.
"Follow your heart, Wade. It's never failed you before."
Arturo and Quinn-1 arrived at the FBI headquarters in the late afternoon.
Quinn-1 knew that he would have to improvise on this mission, but he didn't figure Quinn or Wade into the equation. "This is going to be harder than I thought. Quinn and Wade are still gone, and we'll have to come back for them before we slide out."
Arturo focused on Rembrandt's safety. "Isn't that dangerous for Rembrandt?"
"Yeah, Professor, but there's no other way."
After leaving her sister's, Wade could only walk around the neighbourhood aimlessly. Kelly had been so kind to her, when there was absolutely no reason for her to do so. It was as if she wanted to restart a relationship.
And now what? Was she going to stay and be a good sister, or was she going to leave it all behind again? She came looking for answers, but she left with many more questions.
Quinn-1 entered the front desk and asked to speak with Agent Parker. Almost as if he was expecting him, Parker emerged from the shadows.
With that same smile, Parker looked at Quinn-1. "Mr. Mallory. So nice to see you."
"If only that were true. I've come to ask a favor."
"No way, Mr. Mallory. It's not going to happen."
Quinn-1 smiled right back, but not enough to make Parker feel threatened. "I didn't even say anything. How do you know I wasn't going to ask you to a Giants game?"
Parker wanted Quinn-1 to just be honest with his plan, but he knew that Quinn-1 was too smart for that. "Don't act stupid with me, Mallory. You're not getting that timer back. I'm watching every one of your friends, and they're not going to either."
Quinn-1 sat back in his chair and watched the security guard peering through the window, monitoring Professor Arturo. Everything was going according to plan.
Wade returned to the hotel in the early evening. She knew that if Quinn-1's plan was going to work, it was going to be going on now. She didn't want to interfere, so she decided to stay put at the hotel. Coming in seconds after her was the other Quinn.
Quinn still looked rather angry. "Oh, so you're home?"
Wade, however, was also angry, and she was tired of Quinn's moodiness. "Listen, Quinn, I can't take any more yelling. So, if you're still angry, please just go in your room."
Quinn knew he had crossed the line with Wade. He knew he had to backtrack and try to rectify things before they went too far. "Wade, I'm sorry."
Wade was startled and looked at Quinn to see if he was telling the truth. She could tell by his face that he was.
"I've just had so much happen these last few years. The thing with the Professor, Wade, Colin, the Kromaggs, Mallory, everything. I guess this just made me snap."
Wade broke down. She was very emotional, and Quinn's speech had broken her. "Oh, Quinn. I completely understand. You've been through so much. We'd be lost without you! All of us."
Quinn smiled at Wade, but he suddenly looked out the window and noticed that it was getting to be dark.
"Where are the others?"
Wade looked surprised that Quinn didn't know what was going on. "They're out trying to get the timer back."
Quinn was suddenly nervous. "When's the slide?"
"No one knows."
Quinn got up and moved towards the door to get his jacket. "Let's go and find out then."
Quinn-1 exited the building and re-entered the car with the Professor.
"How'd it go?"
Arturo held out a cell phone with a thumbs up sign on the display.
"Message received, Mr. Mallory. But what will we do about Ms. Welles and Quinn?"
Quinn-1 was worried. Everything else was working fine, except for this. "I don't know, Professor."
Arturo looked out into the night and began to smile.
"Fortune is smiling on us, my boy."
Quinn and Wade approached the car, and Arturo drove up, signaling to Quinn-1 to move out of sight. Arturo parked the car and activated Quinn-1's timer. Seconds later, Rembrandt welcomed them inside Agent Parker's office.
Rembrandt smiled. "Well, your timing's perfect, guys. We have just about a minute left."
Arturo asked, "Why didn't you tell me, Mr. Brown?"
"You expect me to know how to use this thing? It beeped so much I just threw it in the trash."
Wade smiled, knowing that she wouldn't have to make that decision. It was going to be made for her, and that was a huge relief.
Rembrandt counted down and activated the timer. He decided to jump in first, followed by Arturo and Quinn. Suddenly, the two remaining Sliders were left admiring their world for the last time.
Quinn-1 looked around the basement and back at Wade. Smiling, he said, "You know, I don't think I'll miss this place one bit."
Suddenly, the door to the FBI basement opened up and Parker appeared, gun in hand.
"You're not going anywhere, Mr. Mallory. Back away."
Quinn-1 was sick and tired of Agent Parker. "You won't shoot, Parker."
Parker cocked his gun and fixed his aim. "Dare me, Mallory. Please. Because you're definitely worth getting kicked off the force. But the way you've been messing with our planet, I'm sure I'll get off without a reprimand."
Quinn-1 saw the vortex begin to destabilize, but he was afraid he wouldn't make it. He motioned for Wade to jump in, but she was just as frozen as he was. Seconds later, the vortex closed.
On the other world, the three remaining Sliders looked on in amazement as no one else came through.
Rembrandt's eyes and mouth were wide open. "My God..."
Quinn was equally surprised. "They didn't make it. You think Parker caught them?"
Arturo commented, "I wouldn't rule it out, Mr. Mallory."
Quinn focused on the task at hand. He knew they needed to get back to save Quinn-1 and Wade. "Remmy, how long?"
Rembrandt looked at the timer and back down at the ground. "A week, Quinn."
Quinn threw his hands down. "That's too long! There's no way they'll survive that long."
Agent Parker was still aiming his gun at Quinn-1 and Wade.
"Well, now that's settled, so let's take you back upstairs. I think you know the drill."
Quinn-1 nodded at Wade, showing her the timer. Wade knew what Quinn-1 meant and she didn't like it at all. Quinn-1 quickly pivoted around and activated his timer. He had made the adjustments, and he had set it to track the other vortex. Immediately after he opened it, Parker shot at the timer in his hands, destroying it in a shower of sparks.
Parker wanted Quinn-1 to know he was serious. "Next time, I'll aim for your head, Mallory. Now, don't move a muscle."
Quinn-1 was suddenly worried. He hadn't thought that Parker was going to shoot. "Let her go! She's not involved!"
"No way, Mallory. Don't move, Miss Welles or I'll kill him."
Quinn-1 looked Wade in the eye. "Go Wade! Save yourself!"
Wade began to shake. This was her last chance. She didn't want to be stranded on this world at the mercy of Parker, but she couldn't let Quinn risk his life for her. She didn't know what to do.
Quinn-1 yelled, "Go! I can take him!"
Wade dashed and jumped into the vortex. Before entering, she screamed as she heard a gunshot.
Arturo tried to be optimistic about the situation. "Perhaps they just missed the slide. Quinn has his timer, and I suggest we just wait for him."
Rembrandt looked into thin air. "I hope you're right, Professor."
Seconds later, a very unstable vortex opened, spilling out Wade. The others ran to meet her, but Wade turned from them and stared ominously into the destabilizing vortex as it closed. As it did, she let out a shattering scream into the night air. Her decision had been made, and she would never know if she had been right.