"Quinn," a voice called. "It's time for your breakfast. You're not going to be late again! You'll lose your job!"
It was his mother again. She was half-right, though. He was on his last strike at Doppler. Hurley was going to fire him, but Quinn didn't care in the least. He had very important work to do, and a damn job at a computer company wasn't going to stop it.
He had been at this juncture before. Almost seven years ago, he had been ready to test his machine. But that was the day the world stopped.
Quinn remembered it like it were yesterday. He had recorded his final log when he heard the news. His father had died of a heart attack. Then, there was the funeral. Then, he had to get a job. Life had suddenly become very difficult, and there was little time for his experiments.
But now it didn't seem like it mattered. He hated his job, and he wanted to get out. He felt he was being held back, and he also knew that this device could make things so much better for his family.
He was ready to go. He held up the mechanism he had created to open what he believed to be a passageway through the ERP Bridge. But he wanted to get it on tape, just in case. So, he moved to set up his video camera.
The vortex opened. Arturo, Wade, Quinn, and Rembrandt toppled out of it. Wade looked at the timer to see how much time they had on this world.
"Well guys, don't get too comfortable," she said. "We only have thirty more seconds here."
Arturo looked around, trying to get a mental picture of the world. They had landed in Golden Gate Park.
"Looks pretty normal, Professor," Quinn said. "I don't think you need to record this one."
"And if this is Earth Prime?" Rembrandt said.
"Well, I can't see anything distinctly different," Arturo said. "Ms. Welles, please record the coordinates of this Earth. We may want to come back here."
"Already done, Professor," Wade said with a smile.
"This is Quinn Mallory. If you are watching this, you're either my mother sneaking around in my room, a group of scientists, or the police. Either way, I can tell you where I am. The only question will be whether or not I'm ever going to come back. I may just be over-estimating, but I believe that this device will take me across the Einstein Rosen Podelski bridge. However, I may never come back."
Wade counted down the seconds until the vortex was going to open. As soon as the timer hit zero, she pointed the timer in the air. Moments later, the vortex was open.
"Well, here goes nothing," Quinn thought. He turned a dial, and a clear vortex opened in front of him. He looked at it, noticing that he set the timer for 12 hours. He looked around the basement, hoping it wouldn't be the last time he saw it.
The experience inside the vortex was extraordinary. It felt like a waterslide, but his stomach was going all over the place. He noted that if the process needed a name, "sliding" would be very fitting.
Quinn didn't know how long he would be in the vortex, but he was taking too long.
Rembrandt Brown had been sliding for over six years, and he had been inside a vortex hundreds of times. And with the exception of a small instance in his first year of sliding, he had never seen anything in the vortex.
But about halfway through the slide, he saw something fly by. It looked to be another Slider, but it was going the opposite direction.
Quinn was the trailing Slider, so he did not see what was coming towards the Sliders. In fact, he really wasn't even looking ahead this time. He was relaxing, and he wasn't prepared to see anything inside the vortex.
Quinn had never been inside a vortex, but he was sure that he wasn't supposed to see people inside. Granted, there definitely had to be more "Sliders" than him, but he didn't expect to see them in transit.
He had managed to avoid the first three people he saw, but unable to maneuver himself inside, he slammed into the fourth. The struggling he had done forced him to knock the man he collided into to go backwards.
Seconds later, he exited the vortex, landing on top of the man.
Rembrandt, the Professor, and Wade exited the vortex. Once again, there was someone missing from the group.
"What in the Hell just happened?" Rembrandt exclaimed. "It looked like someone was inside the vortex with us!"
"Well, Mr. Brown," Arturo said, calmly. "I think that's exactly what that was."
Quinn Mallory's first trip to a parallel universe was already a disaster. He had committed an "interdimensional hit-and-run. The man he hit was out cold. Luckily, though, he had landed in the park, and he could get water for him.
He found an old hat and filled it with water, bringing it to the man. After he poured some on the man's brow, he checked inside his wallet to see who he was. However, it must have been a mistake because the man's name was "Quinn Mallory."
"How can that be, Professor?" Rembrandt asked, looking very confused.
"Well, as you know," the Professor said, trying to use the simplest words words he could. "The vortex is a tunnel between worlds. It is a road that Sliders use to get from one world to another. Now, I have a theory that there can only be vortex connecting two worlds at a time."
"That makes sense Professor," Wade said, trying to remain in the conversation.
"Well, let's say you have two worlds with two sets of Sliders," the Professor said. "They both activate their timers at the same time, each going to the other's respective worlds. My theory is that they would share a tunnel and even pass each other in the vortex. That is what appears to have happened in this instance."
"Well Professor," Rembrandt said. "Why haven't we seen anything like this before?"
"Mr. Brown," the Professor said. "I must admit that I am surprised that it hasn't happened in all of our trips across the multiverse, but with so many variables, the probability is rather small."
"So, Quinn is on the world we just left?" Wade asked.
"Yes, Ms. Welles," he said. "That appears to be exactly where he is, along with whoever that was in the vortex."
Quinn slowly opened his eyes. He wiped his forehead, and he looked up at the person above him. And while he knew that he was looking at his double, he was startled to see "himself" looking at him face to face.
"Who are you?" his double asked.
"My name is Quinn Mallory," Quinn said, raising himself to a sitting position. "I'm your exact double from a parallel universe." Suddenly, Quinn remembered that he had Mallory's face. "Well, almost exact."
"Of course," Quinn's double thought. On other worlds, the skeletal, integumentary, and other systems would have to be different. That explained his counterpart's appearance.
"But I'm sure you already know that," Quinn said, remembering that his double appeared to be a Slider.
"Actually, you're the first 'double' of myself I've ever seen."
Quinn thought for a second. He couldn't be implying that he had just been on his first slide, could he?
"You've never met one of your doubles?" Quinn asked, looking very surprised.
"Well, this was actually my first time to cross the ERP bridge," Quinn's double said, looking almost ashamed to admit it.
"This is your first slide?"
"What are we going to do, Professor?" Rembrandt asked.
"Whatever we're going to do, we're should get out of Q-Ball's basement," Rembrandt said. "I don't think that we need to get busted for trespassing here."
"Agreed," Professor said, nodding. "I believe that we should hurry to the Dominion before someone sees us. I think we can sneak out the storm cellar."
Quinn stared at his double. This was actually his first slide. All he wanted to know is how he was delayed that long.
"Well, my father died on the day that I was originally going to test my antigravity machine," the double answered. "Then I had to get a job, take care of Mom, and I guess I just never had enough time to get back to it."
"Well, I suggest that you return to your own Earth while you still can," Quinn said. Immediately, however, he wished that he had not said it.
"What is that supposed to mean?" the double asked. "Anything has to be better than my Earth."
"I really don't want to talk about it."
The three Sliders moved to the Dominion, where they found the rooms surprisingly cheap. There was no cost for the room apparently, but there was a small tax for something called a "PDA."
"Can you believe that the room is free?," Wade said with a smile on her face.
"Well, its about time that we got a frequent Slider discount," Rembrandt said, trying to keep Wade smiling. She had almost forgotten that Quinn was, again, missing.
Upon entering their suite, the trio noticed that there was an odd mechanism on the bed. Arturo went to investigate.
"I do not like the looks of this," he said. "I would have to disassemble this machine to discover its true purpose. But its placement on this bed makes it very suspicious."
"What do you mean, Professor?" Wade asked.
"I'm thinking that this might be some sort of mind-reading device," Arturo responded. "Like I said, I cannot be sure, but I do not think that we need to sleep on the beds here. And to be safe, I do not think we should even sleep on the couches."
"So, that means we're sleeping on the floor?" Rembrandt asked, looking both surprised and disgusted.
"To be safe, Mr. Brown," Arturo answered. "We'll order extra blankets and pillows, and it will be as comfortable as you need."
"Well, Professor," Rembrandt said. "You can tell my back that after three nights of sleeping on a rock-hard floor."
The Professor approached Rembrandt.
"Mr. Brown," Arturo said. "I understand your concern. My back is already in pain at the thought, but not only would we be risking the discovery of our identity as Sliders if we try sleeping on these beds. But we also run the risk of mental damage. These machines were not intended for our bodies, and they may have adverse effects."
Rembrandt looked defeated, and Arturo tried to finish on a positive note to give him something to look forward to.
"Mr. Brown," he said. "I promise I'll research these devices in the morning to see what they're about. But until then, let's try to make a makeshift bed on the floor."
It was getting dark, and the two Quinns had to find a shelter. Quinn checked his pockets, and he didn't have enough money (of any currency) to even get a room at the Motel 12.
"Don't worry," the double said. "I brought plenty of money, just in case."
The double pulled out a wallet, stuffed with money. However, the money was a very faded but very obvious blue.
"One thing you learn while sliding is that you can't exactly bring money with you," Quinn said. "And you'll also discover that a majority of Earths use green money. That's probably useless here."
"So, what are we going to do?"
Quinn didn't know. But apparently the other Quinn did, as he started to jog out of the park. Quinn was curious at first, but he knew where he double was going.
"Quinn!" Quinn yelled. "We can't just go back to our house! Someone probably lives there."
"Well, that's all I can think of," the double said, arriving at the spot of his home.
Quinn arrived at the house seconds later to see a real estate sign in the front, announcing that the home was for sale. But from the looks of it, the house was completely empty.
Rembrandt couldn't sleep. He had slept in much worse conditions in his old days on tour, but almost seven years of sliding had taken a lot out of him. Some days, he felt one hundred years old.
"What could happen if I slept on the couch?" Rembrandt thought. "It looks harmless enough."
Rembrandt looked over the couch to see if he saw any wires connecting to it, but before he was able to look at the pillows or the couch itself, he collapsed onto it.
Seconds later, the green pillow emitted a soft glow, as the transmitter began searching Rembrandt's mind. Once he began REM sleep, the device activated and began pulling his thoughts from his mind.
The two Quinns moved into the house. In order to allow his double to feel a sense of home that he probably still felt, Quinn let him sleep in his old room. Quinn found solace in the old basement, which was still full of all his old equipment.
But the chalkboard had no final solution to the sliding equation. Either this world's Quinn had died, or he had just given up. Quinn pondered that as he fell to sleep.
Ricky Kramer had the sweet life. He was actually being paid to watch television. He didn't know what he deserved to get this job, but he knew that he loved every second of it.
Of course, it was not all glamorous. He had just watched an hour's worth of the most boring and unrealistic tennis he had ever seen. He was about to call it a night when a new show came on that caught his attention.
He saw a man running from dinosaurs, fighting giant mechanical spiders, racing on a bullet train, and serenading a beautiful woman. All in the same hour. This man lived the lives of millions of people, and Ricky had to tell his boss. This man was oil just waiting to be tapped.
Quinn awoke to the sound of his own voice. He expected to see his double talking to himself, but instead, he found his other double on a video journal. The Quinn on screen seemed very irritated and was almost screaming into the camera.
"After all these months of work, I refuse to fail. If they want me, they're going to have to find me on another dimension. Of course, if I'm successful, they won't want me anymore. I'll be a hero. A scientific hero.
"Of course, I don't have everything worked out, but my theory is that the final piece of the equation is irrelevant. Relevant, maybe, if you want to perfect this science, but I'm out to prove its possible. Then, I'll leave the work up to the real scientists."
This world's Quinn then turned the dial on his device and a very shaky vortex appeared. He was hesitant, but eventually he jumped straight in. There was an hour of the empty basement before the tape stopped.
Quinn broke the silence. "Well, one of two things happened," he said. "But neither one is pretty."
"He's probably dead," the double said. "He's missing more than one part of the equation."
"You're right," Quinn said. "I'm surprised he even got the vortex open."
Quinn then focused himself and thought about their predicament.
"How is your timer doing?" he asked.
"I think it's still recharging," he said, sounding very unsure of himself. "I'm honestly not sure, though."
"You didn't use a timing mechanism?" Quinn asked, looking very surprised.
"I did," the double answered. "I deactivated it when I realized what I had done. I stranded you here, and I'm getting you back to where you belong."
Quinn was angry but appreciative. Hopefully, he would be able to override what appeared to be another amateur mistake by an amateur slider.
Rembrandt woke on the floor. He had wasted all that energy in the middle of the night to move to the couch, only to fall off it later. His back hurt like Hell.
"Oh, good, you're up," Arturo said, entering the living room. "How did you sleep?"
"Not very good, Professor," Rembrandt answered. "To be perfectly honest."
"Well, I have been doing research on this world, and I think that I found something extremely interesting," he said.
Suddenly, the two heard a sound from the next room. It was Wade.
"Remmy, Professor, get in here quick!" she screamed. Rembrandt and Arturo ran into the bedroom to see that Wade was watching television.
"In Entertainment news," the female journalist said. "The world is still buzzing about the impressive ratings of an unknown television station featuring an amazing story of adventure, action, and romance. The man, seen here, was captured on a private frequency, and KKBL is not authorizing the man's name or his location, but they promise more projects. And they should, considering that the late-night viewing had some of the best ratings in television history. And of course, that came with no advertising. Impressive stuff," she said, as Wade turned down the television's volume.
"Mr. Brown," the Professor said in a stern voice as he turned to Rembrandt. "Where did you sleep last night?"
Ricky was in heaven. He had discovered this man, and that meant that he was going to reap the benefits of bringing him to the major networks.
He had spent hours speaking to agencies about this mysterious man. He alone held the man's identity and his location. And he would only offer that information to the highest bidder.
Quinn looked over his double's timer. It was definitely low on power, and he didn't want to risk trying to activate it. He could sit and wait, and eventually his friends would come for him. But he liked having this timer as a back-up option.
However, he did not like the fact that he was now the one causing the hold-ups. He had yelled at Maggie for the same reason, and she had a terrible illness. Quinn's only problem was a huge case of bad luck.
"I'd guess another day," Quinn said. "Just to be safe."
"That sounds fine," his double replied. "My Mom has probably gone crazy already. She won't get any worse. Okay, since we're here for a while, tell me about Sliding."
"Mr. Brown," the Professor said. "You have had your mind read by the entertainment field."
"What are you talking about, Professor?" Rembrandt asked. "I only slept on the couch."
"Which was equipped with one of these devices that reads one's mind in order to entertain the populace. You see, Mr. Brown, years ago, Hollywood realized that they were paying a fortune on actors and actresses. They then tried to look for alternative ways to make motion pictures and television. And that's when they came up with the Personal Dream Analyzer. This device monitors the brain during a REM cycle and it records it for all to see. Within weeks of its adoption, the Screen Actors Guild dissolved and all entertainment was made by recording dreams.
"At first, the studio executives themselves were the dream subjects, but the public soon became disenfranchised with their dreams. So, instead of returning to standard movies, the studios turned to the regular people, allowing them to partake in the magic of dream recording. The response from the nation was so overwhelming that the studio executives allowed everyone to be tapped. The studios literally divided the country into pieces and were allowed to tap into the dreams of anyone who owned one of these devices.
Of course, there are also private companies like the Dominion hotel who try to profit off this medium. That, it appears, seems to be what happened. And now the world is starving for more stories from you, Mr. Brown."
Rembrandt felt sick to his stomach. For once, he wished that the Professor was not such a father figure, because he felt as if he had disobeyed his father. He tried to think of a good excuse, but he could not. His back was the least of his problems at the moment.
Quinn did not want to answer his double. How could he sum up Sliding in a way that would not force his other self to denounce it forever? How could he explain the wondrous benefits of the exploration without going into the numerous tragedies that he, himself, suffered?
He had the chance to influence his double's life. He was in the position that another one of his doubles had been on after his first slide. That double had told him that Sliding was wonderful and well worth the risk. And he ended up losing seven years of his life and one of his best friends.
Could Quinn do just the opposite and tell his double the pains of Sliding? Especially alone, as he was? Could he tell him what could happen if anything goes wrong? Could he tell him of people like the Kromaggs, who roamed the multiverse looking to kill Sliders of any kind? Could he tell him all the times he barely escaped death, and all the suffering and pain he saw on so many other people?
He couldn't decide now. He would have to think about it. The other Quinn did not think about the ramifications of his advice, but Quinn certainly would.
The phone in the Dominion's suite rang. It was Ricky Kramer. He asked to speak to Rembrandt and Wade handed him the phone.
"Hello, Mr. Brown," Ricky said. "Yes, I know your name. I know almost everything about you. I know your birthday, your height, and your favorite pizza topping. But, there'll be plenty of time for that. I have called you to talk to you about your career in dream entertainment."
"Listen, Mr. Kramer," Rembrandt said. "I'm very honored to be offered this opportunity, but I have to decline. My friends and I-"
Ricky interrupted Rembrandt in mid-sentence. "You misunderstand, Mr. Brown. This is not up to you; it is up to me. If I want you in the industry, you will be in the industry. I just need to know when today I will see you."
Rembrandt was angry, but he was also concerned. This man seemed to be very confident, and he had certainly dealt with some powerful men in his years of sliding.
"How do you think I know all this about you, Mr. Brown? Do you know how the PDE works? Sure, it analyzes dreams like everyone knows it does. But there are some "side effects" of the process that happen naturally. You see, we get all kinds of information that goes into databanks. And that's how we get all of our entertainers to stay onboard with us. And you'll do the same thing or you'll face the consequences."
"If you have really read my mind," Rembrandt said, trying to call the man's bluff. "You'll know that I won't be here long enough to face any consequences."
"I know all about the timer and when you're leaving," Ricky said. "I know all about sliding. Mr. Brown, I know everything there is to know about you. And I also know you're afraid of that. I know that your greatest fear is not getting home. And I know that you can't get home if your timer is confiscated."
"This is bad," Rembrandt thought. Arturo and Wade looked on in anticipation, but they did not like the way that Rembrandt looked.
"And one call to some of my friends in Washington," Felix continued. "And you will be on the cover of American Science Weekly."
"Well, what do I get out of this," Rembrandt said, desperately trying to think of a way to get out of the situation. "I mean, if I agree, I'm not going home anyway."
"That's the beauty in it, Mr. Brown," Felix said. "I also know that your friends mean more to you than anything. If you agree, I'll let them go on their way. And they'll even be able to save Quinn."
This guy had a scary amount of Rembrandt's knowledge. He now strongly regretted having slept on that couch. He knew that he was going to get out of this all right like the group always did, but he didn't know how they were going to do it.
"Fine, Mr. Kramer," Rembrandt said, shocking both Arturo and Wade. "What do I do?"
"In five minutes, you'll get another phone call," Ricky said. "It will be automated, so don't try and answer it. When you get the call, leave your room alone and go out the back entrance of the hotel. You'll see a blue sedan outside with a driver. He'll drive you to the place where the magic is born. Thank you very much Mr. Brown and wish your friends a happy journey."
With a sarcastic laugh, Felix hung up. Rembrandt faced his friends crestfallen.
"We'll talk about it later," Quinn said, trying to switch the subject. "Let's try and work on the timer."
However, the double would not accept Quinn's move.
"Quinn," he said. "I've spent seven years trying to perfect this sliding machine. It has almost destroyed me on more than one occasion. The least you can do as a "professional Slider" would be to just tell me what happened."
Quinn thought for a second, and then he just went out and told his double the whole story. He told him about his first ambitious experiment, the terrible accident that left him stranded, and the rest of his first three years of sliding. He told him of the Professor's death, Wade's capture, the drama with Colin and Maggie, and the events with Mallory. He then went into the details of the last two years, and when he looked at the clock, he noticed that a full hour had passed.
And his double was left speechless.
Right on the mark, the phone call came to the room. Rembrandt acknowledged it and left the room. Arturo and Wade wanted to follow him so that they would have an idea where he was going to go, but Rembrandt didn't want to endanger them anymore.
"Professor, I don't like this at all," she said. "I know that we've been in bad positions before, but this one seems to be worse than all of them."
"I know Ms. Welles," Arturo responded. "But we have to carry on until we can rescue Rembrandt."
In the car, the driver was absolutely silent. Rembrandt tried to strike up a conversation to try and calm himself, but the driver didn't appear to speak English.
In a few minutes, the car approached a large complex where he was led into a room that resembled a medical clinic. But there was also a bed inside the room with another one of those mechanisms.
Suddenly, Rembrandt heard a sound from the ceiling. It was unmistakably the voice of Ricky Kramer.
"Welcome, Mr. Brown," Ricky said through the intercom.
"Okay, what do you want me to do?"
"Not a thing, Mr. Brown," Ricky said very enthusiastically. "Here, we do all the work for you."
Suddenly, gas started to fill the room, and Rembrandt collapsed onto the floor. Seconds later, two uniformed men lifted Rembrandt onto the bed, strapped him onto it, and activated the PDA.
Quinn's double was speechless. He could not believe what Sliding could do to a person. Not only had he heard what sliding had done to Quinn, but he heard what it had done to several of his doubles and what happened to all his friends.
If he did not have one slide left, he would have smashed the timer onto the ground then and there. But how could he turn his back on all those years of research? Could he just consider them wasted years?
"I can't believe this," he said. "It has so much promise. How can it cause so much pain?"
"Quinn," Quinn responded. "I'm not here to tell you not to slide. I know of doubles of ours out there who have had great lives sliding. But, like any frontier we have to cross, there is danger."
Quinn's double looked to be a little cheered up by that last comment. He definitely wanted to hear more.
"But someone is going to lead the multiverse into this frontier. And I must admit, despite the pain and horror, its amazing to be one of those people. Especially seeing how many of us are out there leading the way."
As evening approached, Arturo and Wade closely monitored the major television stations. They knew that Rembrandt's dreams would be put on television, and they assumed that it would show up on one of the network's primetime lineups.
"This is a scary world, Professor," Wade said. "To have all your hopes, fears, and dreams just spread all over the world for everyone to see. I couldn't do it."
"Well, Ms. Welles," Arturo responded, trying, as always, to be the one to rationalize the decisions made my the inhabitants of parallel worlds. "You must remember that these people were born on a different world from your own. They might have a different definition of the word 'privacy.' That may be what makes this dream technology so attractive for the citizens here."
"I know, Professor," Wade said. "It just gets to me sometimes."
"Very understandable, Ms. Welles," Arturo said with a smile. "But that is part of the wonder of sliding."
Quinn felt that he was doing well with his double. He was giving him plenty of reasons on both sides, but he knew that he had to allow his double to make the decision for himself.
Either decision held dangerous ramifications. If he decided not to slide, he would definitely miss out on the beauty and excitement that are only found on parallel dimensions.
However, if he decided to slide, there would be a greater than none chance that his own timer would reset and he would be lost forever. Just like Quinn and his friends.
Finally, he knew what he wanted to say to his double.
"Quinn," he said. "You have to make this decision on your own. I have given my story and the story of many other Sliders. Sliding can be the greatest adventure you could ever dream of. But it could also be the greatest nightmare you could ever imagine.
"My experience tells me only one thing I can advise you to do. You probably need to slide. I know that you probably would feel that all your research would be worthless, and you might even turn your back on science if you did not. But you must also see that sliding has more dangers than you have probably considered.
"So, here is my advice to you. Slide. But only do it every once and a while. Don't make it a habit, but you certainly shouldn't forget about it. Its an amazing thing, and you should cherish it.
Rembrandt awoke on the bed. He was tied down, and he now had an IV going into his arm.
"Let me out of this!" Rembrandt screamed. "I've agreed to your terms! I'm here! I don't have to be tied up!"
"Mr. Brown," the intercom said. "We didn't obtain thousands of stars all over the country by trusting people. No, we turn people into "dream factories" and they're never heard from in person ever again."
"You can't just keep me prisoner!" Rembrandt shouted.
"Of course we can, Mr. Brown," the voice responded. "We've done it for years, and we'll do it for years to come. The Government knows that we keep people here, but they have no idea that these rooms exist. Look at the door; does it look strange?"
Rembrandt turned his head towards the door, but he couldn't find it. It seemed to have disappeared.
"As you can see, you only exist one place," the voice said. "On screen. Now, do not worry about your health. The IV in your arm will provide you with all the nutrients you need. And should your body go weak, the bed can trick your muscles into thinking they are working. But now, you need your rest."
With that, a gas filled the room and Rembrandt fell back to sleep.
The phone rang again in the hotel room. Expecting a call from Rembrandt, Professor Arturo answered it.
"Hello, may I please speak to Mr. Brown," a voice said.
"Who is this?" Arturo demanded. "Are you one of his captors?"
"Captors?" the voice asked. "Then, I'm already too late. Who am I speaking to?"
"My name is irrelevant until you identify yourself," Arturo said.
"My name is Detective Ross J. Kelly," the man said. "I'm working to try and find Rembrandt Brown before it is too late."
"What do you mean?" Arturo asked.
"The dream industry is more than it seems, sir," Kelly said. "If we don't find Mr. Brown soon, you'll probably never see him again. Good day, sir."
"Wait a second!" Arturo yelled, trying to keep the detective on the phone. "If you're going to find him, I'm coming with you."
"Very well," Kelly said. "I'll meet you outside your hotel in two minutes."
Quinn's double needed to think. If he was going to decide his destiny as a Slider, he would need to investigate at least one world to see if Sliding was worth it.
He walked all over San Francisco. He was looking for differences that would tell him whether or not there was need for yet another explorer in the multiverse. If the benefits of exploration outweighed the dangers.
After hours of exploring, he found that little was different. His favorite restaurant still existed, and the food didn't taste out of the ordinary. The Golden Gate Bridge was red. With the exception of minor changes (the color of a neighbor's car, for instance), everything was the same.
Quinn's double returned to the house depressed. He had traveled across the ERP bridge only to find that the rest of the multiverse was just as boring as his world was.
But upon returning to his home, Quinn was sitting in the living room with a history book in his hands.
"The differences in one world and another cannot always be seen," Quinn said. "Sometimes, they can only be found in one place," he said, tapping the book.
"Nothing's different here, Quinn," the double replied. "I expected to see a world where China has taken us over. Or one where the dinosaurs never went extinct. But, nothing."
"Are you sure?" Quinn said with a smile, bending a page in the book and throwing it to his double.
"What's this?" he said. "Oh my God!"
Quinn started to laugh as he watched his double's reaction.
"The Confederacy won the Civil War on this Earth!" Quinn's double screamed in surprise. "How can that be? More importantly, why aren't there any differences?"
"Quinn," Quinn said. "The Civil War happened a hundred and fifty years ago. What did you expect to see?"
"I don't know," the double said, trying to think of something. "Slaves in the street? Rebel flags? Gunfire?"
"Quinn, the Confederate States of America abolished Slavery just like the rest of the world did," Quinn said. "It just took them longer to do it. And California is still part of the good old US of A."
The double put his nose back in the book, as Quinn went back to the couch.
"You see," Quinn said. "Sliding is full of surprises."
"Are you sure this is going to work, Professor?" Wade said, on her way to Kelly's car. "I mean, its usually Quinn or Rembrandt who are the heroes. We're usually the ones who sit back and watch."
"You might be right, Ms. Welles," Arturo said. "But does that make us less able? In fact, that might even work to our advantage."
"How, Professor?" Wade asked.
"The man who has captured Rembrandt knew almost everything about us based on his memories," Arturo said. "Since we do not do this often, he shouldn't be expecting it."
"Let's hope so," Wade said, as the two Sliders arrived at Kelly's car.
"There are two of you?" Kelly said, looking at the Professor with an unpleasant look on his face. "I thought there would just be one."
"Wherever I go, she goes," Arturo said. Kelly rolled his eyes and began to drive. About halfway through the journey, Kelly looked through his rearview mirror.
"Well, I'll be damned," Kelly said. "You're Professor Arturo, aren't you?"
"Why, yes," Arturo said. He wondered if, perhaps, he was famous on this world. "How do you know me?"
"Professor," Kelly said. "It was your class at the University that made me abandon my dreams to become a lawyer. You're the reason I'm earning chump change as a private investigator."
"Well," the Professor thought, wondering whether or not to respond. "This just got a lot more interesting."
Ricky Kramer was now ecstatic. And he was also now a millionaire. In only two showings, Rembrandt's dreams had broken all kinds of records.
And this was only the beginning. He was still working off of old memories. He hadn't needed to provoke nightmares or hallucinations yet. Not only would this man be the most popular dream creator in television history, but he would probably going to last the longest.
He was pure gold, and Ricky loved the fact that he discovered him.
Arturo was already starting to sweat, and nothing had happened yet. Wade was right. Most often, the leaders of missions like this would have been Quinn or Rembrandt. But, now, Rembrandt's safety rested on his shoulder's. And he wasn't sure he could handle it very well.
"Okay, here's the plan," Kelly said, pulling up the the back entrance of the complex. "I've been here before, on business. I know that they're keeping all their subjects in this building, but I could never find out where. It appeared as if the entire compound was an elaborate maze of hallways. But unless they're wasting 90% of the space in there, there are probably hundreds of hidden rooms in that complex.
"I'm guessing that there is a central area to the compound where they control all the hidden doors. All we need to do is find that compound, let everyone out, and we'll expose this field for what it truly is."
"And how will we do that?" Wade said.
Kelly reached into his jacket's pocket and pulled out a camera. "We're going to bring them to the papers," Kelly said. "The one part of this country not impressed by the dreamworld created here."
Kelly, Arturo, and Wade stepped out of the car and went to the middle of the forest.
"Shouldn't we be going towards the complex?" Wade asked sarcastically. "You know, instead of away from it?"
Kelly looked back at Wade with an angry look on his face.
"Listen, Missy," Kelly said. "If you've been in my business as long as I have, you'd know one thing."
Kelly removed a bush that appeared to be artificial. Underneath was a panel that held a ladder going down into a corridor.
"The bad guys are always lazy," he said with a sarcastic smile. "This corridor leads straight to what I believe is the brain of this complex. Okay, let's get going."
Quinn looked over the timer one last time. His double was still enthusiastically looking at the history book.
"Okay," he said. "It appears that this thing has recharged about as much as it is going to. When you get home, you're probably going to want to find a new power source. That is, if you want to continue your journey."
Quinn looked up, but his double was not paying attention.
"Quinn?" Quinn asked. The double looked up, and he quickly apologized and asked what Quinn had said.
"Nevermind," Quinn said. "I see that you will probably want to research a little longer. But whenever you want to go, we're ready."
The three people were able to sneak into the command center of the compound rather easily. They only had to get by a single guard, who, ironically, was stuck to his television set watching Rembrandt's past adventures.
They were almost to the room that controlled the entire complex when they heard the loading of a gun. By the time Kelly turned around, he saw Ricky standing in front of him with a gun to his head.
"Freeze!" Ricky said as he aimed the gun at Kelly and Arturo's head. Fortunately, Wade was small enough to crawl into the room without Ricky seeing her.
"What?" Ricky asked. "Did you think that I would just let you walk in and let you steal my greatest investment? Get on the floor."
Arturo and Kelly moved to the floor, and Kelly was told to throw his gun to the ground. Seeing that Wade had snuck into the control room, he threw it inside there.
Wade was quickly trying to find Rembrandt's room number to open the door and let him escape when she saw the gun. She picked it up, and she screamed at Ricky in her toughest tone of voice.
"Drop your gun!" she yelled. "And tell me where Rembrandt is!"
Arturo was impressed at Wade's ability to take control of the situation. Although he wished that she would keep her voice down, in fear that the other guard would come to give assistance to Ricky.
Ricky sighed as he dropped his gun to the floor. He then kicked it in the corner so that Kelly wouldn't be able to go after it, just in case he could get the gun from Wade. He then walked into the control room and opened up the door to Rembrandt's room.
Arturo walked down the corridor until he found the open door and walked inside. He found Rembrandt sound asleep in the bed. As he started unstrapping him, the Cryin' Man woke up with a smile on his face.
"Man," he said, still a little exhausted. "I am so glad to see you. Where is Wade?"
"She is just outside, Mr. Brown," Arturo responded. "Let's get going!"
Arturo carried Rembrandt to the center of the complex, where they met Wade and started off to the ladder.
"Thanks for everything, Mr. Kelly," Wade said as they left.
The group reached the ladder and ran to Kelly's car. Kelly had instructed them to call 911 on arrival and then take his car back to the hotel. They did so and began driving to the Dominion.
Ross J. Kelly had defeated the ultimate corporation rather easily, and he felt very good about himself. He only had one thing left to do. He reached for his camera, but he took his eyes off of Ricky, who had waved the other guard in his direction.
"Freeze!" yelled the other guard, who arrived as soon as his show terminated. He aimed it at Kelly's head. Kelly knew when he was beaten, and he fell to the ground.
The vortex opened in Golden Gate Park, and Wade, Arturo and Rembrandt started to look around. They didn't see anyone.
"Where do you think he went?" Rembrandt asked.
"Well, I don't think Quinn has any money, so there's only one place where he can be," Wade said.
They arrived at the house to see the two Quinns having a discussion about alternate history. It made Arturo laugh, but it left Wade and Rembrandt rather confused.
The next morning, everyone was getting ready to leave, including Quinn's double.
Quinn had avoided asking his double what he was going to do. He felt that he had made his decision, and he didn't want to be any more of an influence.
"Well, good luck," Quinn said. His double told him to do the same as he opened his vortex and jumped inside.
"What do you think he's going to do," Arturo asked, looking at Quinn.
"I honestly don't know," he said. "But I know that I'm now a little more happy with my original decision. I know these last few years have been tough, but honestly, I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world."
"Tonight, on NBC. See the most novel television phenomenon in years as a lonely and helpless police officer fights all kinds of evil forces. Yes, watch "Ross J. Kelly: Private Eye" on NBC, tonight!"
Ricky laughed as he shut off his television. He really did have the sweet life.