Quinn couldn't believe his luck. Three straight slides had been near perfect. First, he landed on a world where he was part of the California Royal Family, where he enjoyed two weeks of peace and quiet. Then, he enjoyed one day on a sunny, luxurious resort that his family owned. Finally, he landed on a world where sliding technology had been researched for several decades.
It was on this world where he found the most luck. The first two worlds had given him the strength to work almost eighteen straight hours on his timer. Fortunately, he had made major breakthroughs on it. Unfortunately, he was at a dead end.
The laboratory he was working at had made several major repairs and improvements on the timer, but they had never had to return someone to their home Earth before. They did not have the technology necessary to send the Sliders home, but they had collected enough data to narrow the list down to about one hundred Earths.
It wasn't everything, but it gave Quinn hope. It gave everyone hope. He considered staying and trying to develop the technology he would need, but after going to several hundred Earths already, one hundred more seemed like a breeze. For the first time in years, he felt like his journey was finally winding down.
He bid farewell to his new colleagues and met his old ones, ready to slide. The timer was activated, and the team was on their way.
The vortex opened alongside the wall of an abandoned bank. The four Sliders toppled out and began to look around their surroundings.
"Wow, Q-Ball," Rembrandt said. "I know you say that you have a device in there to make sure we don't slide into walls, but every time we have a close call like this, it makes me nervous."
"Don't worry, Mr. Brown," Arturo said. "I assure you that you do not have to worry about that. But, by the looks of things, we may have something to fear from this world."
They looked around, and they saw what appeared to be a dilapidated bank. There were signs of human life, but the setting made it look like there had been recent trouble. The Sliders had seen buildings like this before several times, and it never meant good news.
"I don't like this, Q-Ball," Rembrandt whispered. "It's too quiet."
Suddenly, Quinn felt an object press against his head. The sound of a click told him the object was a gun.
"I don't like it either, Remmy," Quinn muttered, trying to keep the mood in the room light. Quinn instinctively tried to put the timer away, but the armed man had already seen it. It was out of his hands before he knew it.
"I assure you that we mean you no harm," Arturo said, hoping to show enough kindness to get some answers. But his voice seemed to terrify the men. The gun quickly left Quinn's head and was pointed at Arturo.
"Get down, now!" the man demanded. Arturo complied, putting his hands on the ground and lying face-down.
"This is not necessary, gentlemen," he said. "If you give me a minute to explain-"
"Shut up, Brit!" the man yelled. "Get him to the Brig, and get the others to quarantine for questioning!"
As the others were taken away, Arturo cringed. The man had called him "Brit" as an obvious insult. Knowing past incidents with alternate worlds, he realized something terrible could be in store for him.
Quinn Mallory had been in situations beyond his control several times, and this was really no worse. Nor was it much better. This experience was like a breeze compared to the year he spent imprisoned inside Mallory, but out of the many times he and the Sliders had been captured, this was one of the trickiest.
The Professor, long seen as the mentor and father of the group, had been captured by men who appeared to want him dead. While Quinn trusted that the Professor would come out alive, he knew that his luck would eventually run out. Too many times, sheer luck kept him from death's door. Too many other people had died along the way for only one of them to have died.
It was only a matter of time before another one of the group met their maker.
Professor Arturo tried to keep silent so that he would hear what his captors were saying. He knew that his British accent had triggered the hostility he faced, and he figured that the British Empire was the enemy of the United States on this world for some reason.
Of course, finding that reason was not his first concern. He needed to make sure the men did not do anything crazy. And then he had to find a way to make it back to the other sliders. Hopefully, the slide was soon... but not too soon.
After a few hours, Quinn was able to convince the men that he, Rembrandt and Wade were no threat to them. Oddly enough, all the tests of this were medical. Quinn thought it was better not to ask about the history of the world, although it was high on his list of priorities.
He even convinced his captors that he should be allowed to spend some time with the Professor, to let him in on everything.
"Thank God for you, my boy," Arturo said, as his blindfold was removed. "Please tell me the slide is near."
"Sorry, Professor," Quinn answered. "No such luck. We're here for a little more than a week."
"What have you discovered about this world?" Arturo asked. He felt most comfortable when he spoke with Quinn about things like this.
"Not much," Quinn answered. "Apparently, there was some sort of war with the British, and some sort of apocalyptic virus. But I'm not sure if they're related."
"Based on the way I have been treated, I'm sure that they are," Arturo said.
After about a week, the sliders had made a good impression on their captors. Quinn had befriended a young doctor, and they convinced the central government of the facility to allow free access to Professor Arturo.
Rembrandt was the one who took the most advantage of the access. He visited Arturo around the clock, while Quinn investigated the world's history.
"What do you think he's so interested in?" Arturo asked, trying to get a picture of everything.
"I'm not sure," Rembrandt responded. "But I think he's trying to find enough out so that he can make a case to let you go when it's time to slide."
"Let's hope that works, then," Arturo said with a smile. "And what of Ms. Welles?"
"She's been sleeping most of the time," Rembrandt said.
"Is she sick?" Arturo asked, raising an eye.
"I don't think so," he answered. "I think she's trying to sleep through some of these bad slides. We'll have to talk with her about that."
Quinn had found out a lot about the world without seeming too suspicious. He would pretend to play a sort of historical game, and he would be able to answer easy questions thrown at him. When something harder came, he would play the fool.
From what he found out, the Federalists stayed in power with John Adams' re-election. By 1812, the United States had decided to stay out of all European affairs. Quinn thought that this was standard procedure despite the party change, because of the Monroe Doctrine.
But because the War of 1812 was never fought, the British never fully respected the Americans as a nation. Over the next 100 years, the relationship never matured and the two countries began to hate each other. When the World Wars arose, the British and Americans, like the Americans and Russians, fought together on the same side. But before the end of World War II, the British and Americans began to start fighting.
To avoid war, the United States pulled out of Europe and a Cold War started between the two. When the British attacked the Germans with their new atomic bomb, the Americans began to fear the British. Much like the American/Russian Cold War, nothing good happened as the world chose sides.
But all that changed when the virus first reached the Americans. Everyone believed the British had created it, and the world started to join the Americans. But the British denied it, but there was nothing to do anyway. The whole world suffered in a matter of weeks from the virus. There were rumors that even the British were struck by it, but the Americans were too angry to believe it.
For some reason, Quinn wanted to ask one specific question about the virus itself. He felt that he knew enough about the history, but he was just curious about it.
"Okay, here's a tricky one," Quinn said with a smile. "When was the first case of the virus?"
Quinn's friend looked to the sky as if in deep thought. He looked to be struggling, even though he had known almost everything about recent history.
"March 23rd?" he said, sounding unsure. "Of 1995?"
Quinn was suddenly frozen. The date was off, but there could be several reasons for that. But Quinn had to know. He immediately rose and ran out of the room.
"Was I right?" the man asked, looking very confused.
A few hours later, Arturo heard a lot of commotion from his cell. He wanted to scream for Rembrandt, but he didn't want to cause any trouble. Besides, Rembrandt ran to the cell after a couple minutes.
"What is it, Mr. Brown?" Arturo asked, looking worried.
"Quinn's gone," Rembrandt said.
"Yes," Rembrandt answered. "I don't know where he went, but he's not in the compound. The worst thing is that if he exposed this place to air, we could all be infected."
"I can't imagine that Quinn would endanger us," Arturo said. "But I also can't imagine him leaving. There must be some explanation."
"I know, Professor," Rembrandt said. "I'll go talk to Wade."
Quinn wandered the streets of San Francisco as fast as he could. He knew there was a deadly airborne virus, and to be honest, Quinn regretted leaving the building. But at least he knew that he had found a way to get out without allowing the toxic air to get in.
He was probably going to die, but at least he would be the only one to pay for the mistake.
Wade awoke to Rembrandt's face. She was glad to see him, but she was afraid at the look on his face.
"What's wrong, Remmy?" Wade asked, yawning.
"Quinn's gone outside for some reason," Rembrandt said. "So, we need to all get up and think of what to do."
"What do you mean, outside?" Wade said, apparently ignoring his last comment.
"I mean outside!" Rembrandt said.
"You mean, he's outside with the killer virus that basically wiped out the whole planet's population?"
"That's what I'm saying," Rembrandt said. "So get up."
"I'm tired, Remmy," Wade said, but Rembrandt was immediately angry with her.
"You're tired?" Rembrandt said. "You've practically slept the whole slide! And don't claim that we had a stressful time the last one, because you know as much as I do that we had a relaxing one. So, get up and stop ignoring all the danger of this ride."
"Why, Remmy?" Wade said, starting to cry. Rembrandt felt that he might have gone too far with her. She was obviously stressed.
"I've had enough of this," she continued. "I didn't come on this thing for the danger. I came on this trip to have some fun with Quinn. And now he's probably dead, and I'm never going to be able to go home ever again. So, you'll excuse me if I try and go through some of these horrible worlds without seeing them."
Rembrandt didn't want to hurt her feelings, but he had to speak up.
"You think I wanted to go on this journey?" Rembrandt said. "I was the only one who didn't sign up, and I've seen more than my fair share of bad things. And sure, I'd love to just close my eyes and wait until I'm home, but I don't do that because we can't afford to lose any of us. We're all very important to each other, and if one of us quits, all of us fail. So, if you want to stop, we might as well follow Quinn out there, because there's no reason for us to go on."
Quinn moved down the street. It was empty, and anything that existed there was dead. Trees had fallen down, bushes were overgrowing; it was obvious humans hadn't been around for years. Quinn had seen abandoned worlds before, but this one was eerie.
And for more than one reason.
But Quinn had a mission to see if one of those reasons was true. He turned down his own street and headed for his house. He had to see if it was connected.
Rembrandt entered Arturo's cell again, this time accompanied by Quinn's friend.
"Professor," the friend said. "My name is Mike Avidson, and I was probably the last person to meet with Quinn."
"Hello my boy," Arturo responded.
"For what it's worth," Mike said. "I don't think you are a bad man. But I have to admit that your accent does anger me."
"No trouble," Arturo said. He was still disturbed that the men hadn't seen his peaceful nature, but he didn't want to further the trouble they were already in.
"I must tell you," Mike said. "The leaders are not pleased with your friend's action. But for now, you are safe. If he returns, particularly if he returns inside the compound as secretly as he came in, you all will be found culpable."
"And what if he makes his return known?" Arturo said, concerned.
"Neither probable scenario will please you," Mike said, making Rembrandt cringe. "If he returns alive, the leaders will probably leave him outside to die, for they can do nothing for him."
"And the other scenario?" Rembrandt said.
"Its more likely that your friend will die out there in a matter of hours," Mike said, putting his head in his hands.
The door to Quinn's house was wide open, which worried him for a second. He was concerned about his mother until he realized that she, like his double and the rest of the world, was probably dead. He didn't even yell out her name when he entered.
He found the house looted and vandalized. There were angry messages to Quinn and his family, indicating that Quinn's double (or at the very least, one of his parents) was probably Patient Zero for the virus.
A photo of Quinn and his parents showed him that he looked the same on this world. Odd, Quinn thought, because no one recognized him at the compound. But then he realized that he had Mallory's face. That enraged him because he would probably die trapped inside his double's body.
After Mike left the room, Rembrandt and Arturo began to talk by themselves.
"We need to tell him Professor," Rembrandt said. "I think they'll let Quinn back inside without any trouble if they know we're going to leave soon."
"That is a possibility," the Professor answered. "But a greater one would say that they would want to come with us off this world."
"And what's the problem with that?" Rembrandt said, remembering the situation on Maggie's earth. "We've done it one time before, and it worked out great. At least, for the most part."
Rembrandt remembered the problems that erupted on Maggie's "new" world, and his thoughts turned to Malcolm. Thinking of him made him forget that Arturo hadn't even been with them when that happened. But the Professor realized this and let it go.
"Even with the new components in the timer," Arturo said. "This timer cannot take the number of people in this facility. We could probably safely take six people. That includes each one of us, Mr. Brown. Its just not wise to tell them."
"So we're just going to let them live here?" Rembrandt asked.
"As cruel as it sounds, fate put them on this earth," Arturo said.
"That doesn't fit well with what we did our first year of sliding," Rembrandt said, locked in his second heated argument of the day. "You must remember the world with the asteroid and the world with the virus. Fate chose them to put those people on those worlds and we interfered. We saved those people. You saved those people!"
"I'm well aware of that," Arturo said, purposefully trying to stay overly calm. "But I've grown to question my motives then. I know we saved those worlds from extinction, but as a scientist, I should've seen that we shouldn't interfere with the order of a world."
"You can't mean that," Rembrandt said.
"Maybe I do," Arturo said, slowly allowing his voice to get louder. "Look, we're explorers. We're here to explore and gain information about parallel worlds. Nothing more and nothing less. The explorers of the 16th century accomplished great things they could never imagine. But they brought unimaginable pain to the natives."
"What are you saying?" Rembrandt said, wanting to get alone for a few minutes.
"That I don't think its our place to save these people. That I think we should leave them here to live their lives. If something happens that endangers them and they require our help, we'll bring them along. But they've lived well for the last few years. They have a brand new society that appears to be better than many we've found along our journey. So let's let them live here as well as they can."
Rembrandt wanted to disagree, but he was exhausted. With everything that had happened, he needed to relax. When he woke up, he hoped everything would be better. Maybe he'd even see that this had all been one big nightmare.
Quinn saw that the door to the basement had been locked. That meant that whatever was in the basement was probably safe. It also meant that it would be harder to get in.
He tried to knock the door down with an abandoned baseball bat, but he wasn't able to even make a scratch on it. Quinn should've assumed that the door was strong (maybe even made of metal) since it wasn't knocked down by the looters.
He had to find the key. He checked in all the places he had ever left a key, but he couldn't find it there. Maybe it had been found and taken by the looters without knowing what they had.
So, he had come all this way and he wasn't going to find anything? He was going to die without even finishing the ludicrous quest he was on.
The whole basement appeared to be encased by metal, and there was no way he could break in. Apparently, his double had been worried about radiation or something, and it had definitely kept everyone out.
As he was leaving, he kicked the wall next to the basement door and he saw part of the door shake. Maybe it was decaying? He shook it, but it was still completely strong and firm.
But what had he shaken? Had he imagined it?
Running his hand down the door, he found there was nothing wrong with it until he reached the bottom right corner. The paint on that part of the door appeared to be a little loose. He scratched at the paint in a last-ditch effort to see if he could get in.
The paint was very strong, and he needed something to chip it away. He felt that the way in had to do with that part of the door.
He ran to the kitchen, but he couldn't find a knife or a spoon or a fork. Everything had been taken. But there was a lamp hidden away on a shelf that had not been stolen.
"Sorry Mom," Quinn said aloud, grabbing the lamp and dropping it to the ground. A piece of the glass broke off that would work.
Arturo knew he had probably crossed a line with an emotional Rembrandt. He wasn't sure if he even believed in everything that he said. He said a lot of things in the heat of the moment, and he wasn't even sure if the timer could only take six. The previous world had added components that could probably support eight to ten.
But the compound had almost one hundred people. Assuming it would hold six extra people per slide (a huge assumption), they would be in for about thirty-two slides back and forth. Any of which could be a month long.
And what if the world was dangerous? Dare he say even worse than the world they were already on? What would they do then?
Plus, it was hard enough to keep track of four sliders. Let alone two and a half times that.
But what else could they do? Bring six and hope everything works out? Which six? Would you hold a lottery to see who gets off the world? That seemed more wrong than just leaving them there.
It was something he'd have to consider, but he just couldn't seem himself making that choice.
He just hoped he hadn't been thrust into the position of leader...
Quinn had chipped away at the area that he had seen rattle. It appeared that a slice of the door had been cut out and replaced. He put his hand in and tried to pull the piece out, revealing that the door was extremely thick.
To his surprise, when he pulled out the piece, it was revealed that the piece was actually a kind of drawer. And inside, not surprisingly, was the key to the door.
Walking inside, he was hit by a strange neutral scent. The basement had not been entered in years apparently, and there was nowhere for new air to escape to. Even the windows in his old basement were gone here.
But Quinn assured himself that it was probably safer down there, and he walked inside.
Inside, he had all the equipment to produce sliding. So, this Quinn was a slider. Looking at the chalkboard, he saw that the equation, much like his own without his double's help, was incomplete. That meant that his first slide might not have worked.
But there was only one way to find out. He looked around the room for the video camera and the box of tapes. But he couldn't find either.
In a box in the corner, however, he saw a heap of partially scorched rags. Apparently, Quinn's double had tried to burn the box, but it didn't take.
Inside the box was a collection of tapes and the video camera. After all the barriers to break through, Quinn was finally going to find out what happened to his double, and he feared what he would find.
Rembrandt walked into his quarters at the bank and he collapsed on the bed. He didn't immediately fall asleep because he knew he was constantly being watched to see if he gave signs of the disease. No one trusted or even understood how they came.
He waved at the man outside his door, who spoke into an intercom and then waved back. Rembrandt wasn't sick, but he was drained.
But one thing kept him up. Where in the Hell was Quinn?
Quinn arranged the video camera and hooked it up to the television monitor in the basement. The electricity didn't work, so Quinn hooked up the monitor to the generator.
He pushed play and sat down. He realized how weak his legs felt, and he knew that wasn't good.
"I decided to test my anti-gravity machine last night," Quinn's double started on the tape. "And I came up with some, well, unexpected results."
On screen, Quinn's double activated his device and a vortex opened.
"I'm not sure what it is," Quinn continued. "But I have a feeling that it is a gateway somewhere. Where? I'm not sure. I'm going to continue working with it later today, and I'm hoping to come up with something."
The screen went black, and then it came back on again.
"I threw one of my dinosaur figurines into the gateway one hour ago," Quinn said. "I set a timer on it, and it should be returning in a matter of seconds. Three. Two. One."
The vortex opened and a black mass of plastic flew out. Quinn went over to pick it up, and he gasped in pain at the first touch of it.
"Ouch!" Quinn yelled, and he immediately turned to the camera. "There seems to have been a problem with the trip. I'm not sure what happened, but the dinosaur came back completely burned up as if it were in a furnace. I don't know what to think."
The next tape was labeled at three weeks later, and it started after several more tests that apparently were not videotaped.
"This is Quinn Mallory again," Quinn's double said on the monitor. "After the failure of my first test run, I've thrown different objects into the gateway. A baseball, a piece of paper, and a glass bottle were my first objects. And even though the bottle came back broken, none came back burned. I then sent a basket of fruit, a steak, and a live turtle through the vortex.
"Every single one came back intact," Quinn continued. "The next step is to see what is on the other side. Now, I have hypothesized that the vortex is a kind of tunnel to a parallel universe. So, I could go to the government or some scientific lab, but I don't think they would believe a college drop-out.
"And, besides," Quinn continued. "I need to see if it works first. So, I am going to test the machine on myself to see if it really works. If it doesn't, then these tapes will be my video memoirs. I love you Mom and Dad, but I had to do this."
Quinn looked at the timer he set up and explained it to his audience.
"I'm going to set the timer for five minutes," he continued. "If there's any sort of danger, I should be able to get out in time. And if I need to explore more, I can always travel again."
Quinn then looked at a pad of paper and the melted dinosaur figurine.
"At least, I think I can," Quinn said.
With that, he opened up the vortex and he stared at it. Yelling something inaudible to the camera, he jumped inside.
Quinn got up to fast forward the tape when he realized that he was feeling a little nauseated. He knew that the virus was still alive, and it was probably attacking his system. But he also knew that his mind could be playing tricks on him. Either way, he had to keep going.
Five minutes later on the tape, the vortex flew open and Quinn flew out. He looked amazed and he had a huge smile on his face.
For a second, he forgot that he was on television, and he suddenly remembered the camera.
"You will not believe what just happened," Quinn said. "I just had a quick conversation with myself! He turned on the television, and there were a bunch of things that were different. Like George Bush's son was the President! And guess what? The other Quinn built the same device, and he told me to come back to discuss it later. Unbelievable!"
With that, Quinn turned off the camera and Quinn moved to insert the next tape. With that, he realized that he was definitely feeling sick. It was no longer in his mind.
He needed medical treatment, but he also had to see what happened. There was only one tape left, and he slowly slid it into the camera's VCR.
Wade moved out of her quarters for the first time in hours. She had taken another nap, and she awoke with the same problems.
Rembrandt was right. The problems wouldn't go away, and they did need to work together to succeed. Quinn was in major trouble, and she was going to sleep through it.
But what could they do? Quinn had left. No one understood why he had left, and he hadn't told anyone. Something was wrong about that. He wouldn't have left without letting someone know something.
Wade feared the people in the compound. They were fishy with Arturo, and they seemed to accept their story too easily. There weren't any questions, and that made her nervous. What if they had killed Quinn? What if she was next?
No, she was getting paranoid. She just needed to talk to Rembrandt.
The next tape opened very eerily. The tape flickered on and off, and then there was an image of Quinn's double, who was as pale as Quinn had ever seen someone.
"As you can see," Quinn's double said on screen. "Something has gone terribly wrong with the trip through the gateway."
Quinn told the audience of all the symptoms of his condition, including some strange sores on his shoulders.
"I can only assume that it happened inside the gateway," Quinn's double continued. "The world on the other side looked identical, other than the political changes I already mentioned, to our own. This has to be a side effect of the process itself."
Quinn knew that was wrong. Sliding itself had no medical problems, but it did present something he hadn't even thought of. Many times, Quinn and his compatriots had become sick with strange diseases. They were the result of diseases that were harmless to the world's residents but apparently not to the sliders.
That must've been what happened to Quinn's double. On his first slide, he was in direct contact with his double, and he spread the disease. Something that had been apparent on that world but considered harmless had almost killed a world because of sliding.
It really made him consider what he had done to other worlds.
"It's obvious that this science is dangerous," Quinn's double continued. "I cannot and I will not allow this to harm anyone else. This is why I am going to lock up the basement and hide the key in this case. But I'm going to destroy all my equipment before I do that, just in case.
"I'm also going to destroy these tapes so that no one will be able to follow my work," the double continued. "So you're asking yourself why I'm even recording this."
Quinn could tell that his double was completely out of his mind. Not only was he not making sense, but he was starting to slur his words. He looked terrible, and he guessed that he'd die soon.
"Well," the double continued. "I have to confide in someone about all of this. If this is going to kill me, I at least have to figure out how it all went wrong. But this will all be gone soon."
Quinn's double was now completely gone. He started looking around for a minute, and then he appeared to lose his train of thought. Quinn assumed that this was the state he was in when he tried to burn the tapes. He was surprised that he was even coherent the way he looked.
"I apologize to everyone," Quinn's double continued, his eyes starting to close. "I need to see a doctor now.
"Bye bye," he said like a child as the tape went black.
Quinn was in shock. For a second, he feared the device in his pocket.
"Oh my God!" Quinn said aloud. He still had the timer. He was already feeling a little feverish, and he still had to make the trip back home.
He got up from the chair, knowing he had to get out of the house. But as soon as he moved from his chair, he slumped to the ground, unconscious.
Wade stopped by Rembrandt's room, but the light was off and she assumed he was asleep. Was it night already?
Hoping to catch him before he fell asleep, she rushed to Arturo's "cell" and found him awake.
"How are you, Ms. Welles?" Arturo said with a smile.
"Fine," Wade said softly. "I was just wondering what you think we can do about Quinn."
"I don't know if there is much we can do," the Professor replied. "Our captors apparently will not let him back in if he returns. And, well, I don't blame them."
"So we'll go out and get him, right?" Wade said.
"Well," Arturo started. "There's two problems with that. First of all, we cannot leave without endangering the people inside. We certainly do not want that. Now, we could leave the same way Quinn left, but that will be up to you and Mr. Brown."
"And the second?" Wade asked, fearful.
"Well," Arturo said, pointing around the cell. "I don't think they'll let me out of here. Even if it's going out there. And I certainly don't think they'll just sit and watch as we 'break our way out here.' Its not safe for them and it would definitely not be safe for us. From their perspective at least."
"So," Wade said, trying to sound cheerful. "We'll just break our way out of here like we always do."
"Its not that simple," Arturo said. "Let's say we get out there, get Quinn, and slide out. What then? We've exposed ourselves to an extremely lethal virus that kills in a matter of days. We'd have to rush Quinn to the hospital immediately on the next world to save him. If not, he'd die anyway."
"Yeah?" Wade said.
"Let's assume the next world lacks adequate medical facilities," the Professor continued. "Now we have just exposed ourselves and if we're lucky enough to get off that world, we had better find treatment on the next."
Wade knew where the Professor was going, and she didn't like it at all.
"Not to mention that we'd be spreading the virus to every world we land on that cannot help us," Arturo finished.
"So we're just going to leave him here?" Wade said.
"That is probably the most rational thing to do," Arturo said, trying not to sound cold, despite his words.
"After all he's done for us?" Wade asked. "Rembrandt just told us that we need to act together and be united. If we do that, we can accomplish anything. We've done it before and we'll do it again!"
"But we'd be risking too much," Arturo said. "Especially since Quinn made the decision to leave by himself."
"I don't believe this!" Wade said.
"I'll tell you what," Arturo said. "We'll slide to the next world and if we have enough time, we'll come back with medicine for Quinn and ourselves."
"And if we don't?" Wade said.
The Professor put his head in his hands and said nothing, telling Wade everything she wanted to know.
"Thanks a lot Professor!" Wade said sarcastically as she ran out of the room crying.
"Amazing," Arturo thought to himself. "I've personally insulted two of my friends when they might be the only ones I have left after the next day."
He knew there were other options, but would they even work?
The next morning, Quinn woke up. He was definitely sick, and he was feeling extremely weak. He didn't want to look in a mirror because he knew he'd see the same ghastly image that he had seen from the tape the day before.
He still had the timer. He only had an hour to get to the compound to save them. Otherwise, they'd die here, just like he would.
But he had a plan.
Wade awoke after an awful night's sleep, and she ran off to Rembrandt's room to see if he was awake. Luckily, he was.
"What's up, girl?" Rembrandt asked, trying to look and sound cheerful. She didn't seem to respond.
"Arturo wants to leave Quinn behind," Wade said. Rembrandt noticed that she called the Professor "Arturo." He didn't remember her ever calling him that.
"Well," Rembrandt said. "It may just come to that. I know it sounds awful, but it's the truth."
"I don't believe either of you," Wade said. "I'm going to go after him. If you all want to follow me, you can."
Wade left, and Rembrandt didn't want to follow her. He knew she wouldn't leave immediately, so he had time to go and find her.
He had another thing on his mind. The timer was gone. He knew that the leaders had confiscated it, but he also knew that they had gotten it back. But, then, where was it?
"Oh no," Rembrandt said aloud.
After a few minutes in the basement, Quinn rushed upstairs. He had to get to the compound and he didn't have a lot of time.
He went to the side of the house and saw that there was a garage. It had, of course, been broken into, and the car was a mess. But the keys were still under the mat, and the car was driveable.
He had never had to drive himself to the hospital before, but he found that he was able to focus amazingly well. He expected to crash into several things, but he didn't.
He was very close, but he also felt as if he were teetering in and out of consciousness.
"It's gone," Rembrandt said.
"What?" Arturo said. "The timer is missing?"
"No," Rembrandt said. "It's gone. I know exactly where it is."
Arturo didn't even have to ask. He knew that Quinn had the timer.
"What should we do?" Rembrandt asked.
This was the Professsor's first real duty as the leader of the group and he didn't like it.
"Well," Arturo started. "We have two options. We can either go after Quinn and see if we can make it. Of course, we'd be exposed to the virus. Or we can stay here. But this will have to be our home."
Rembrandt had no idea what to choose. He asked which idea Arturo liked better.
"Neither," Arturo said. "We can either risk dying and have a chance of making it out or give up here, where I'll probably be locked away for the rest of my life."
"I agree," Rembrandt said. "Let's do it."
Wade walked over to the entrance, but she didn't see any way that Quinn could've gone out.
But she looked up and saw the vent. And she had an idea how he did it.
Quinn saw the compound at the end of the street, and he knew that he wasn't going to make it all the way.
He threw on the car's emergency brake, took his foot off the pedal, and let the car fly down the street, slowly slowing down. He tried to stay awake, but he couldn't do it.
Rembrandt didn't know how it worked, but he was able to get Arturo out of his cell with only Mike as his guard.
"I don't know what you're planning," Mike said. "But I'd advise against it. I don't think they'd do this if they didn't have something up their sleeve."
"Don't worry," Rembrandt said. "We do too."
They arrived at the entrance, just as Wade finished climbing up the vent.
"Come on up here guys," Wade said. "I think this is how Quinn got out."
Rembrandt started helping Arturo climb up into the vent, and Mike started to intervene.
"What are you doing?" Mike asked, a little louder than he wanted.
"Going home," Rembrandt said with a smile.
"You were infected, weren't you?" Mike asked, looking angry and afraid.
"No!" Rembrandt said, taken aback. "And you won't be after we leave."
Mike wanted to scream for help, but he something about Rembrandt made him remain quiet.
"When they find out what happened," Mike said. "I'm going to tell them that you hit me."
Rembrandt looked at Mike and hit him in the face, knocking him out.
"Mr. Brown!" Arturo said, almost entirely inside the vent.
"Well," Rembrandt said. "That'll make his story more convincing."
Just as Rembrandt spoke, the sliders heard a car screeching and crashing into something outside. They knew that it had to be Quinn outside. They were excited, but the noise also alerted the guards.
Rembrandt quickly jumped inside the vent, and he tried to pull himself up. But the guards came running, with guns out. They were thinking "shoot first, ask questions later" and Remmy knew it. He tried to pull himself up, but he heard the shot and felt an intense pain in his foot just as he was completely inside.
He saw the guards were not coming after him, and they were even closing the vent behind them in fear of the disease.
"Go, go!" Rembrandt shouted. He had logged the time of the slide on his watch, and he knew that it was minutes away.
The sliders ran over to the crashed car to find Quinn at the wheel. He was very pale and looked like he was close to death. The doctors had said that the sick looked like this for a couple days before they died, so Quinn did have some time.
"Do you see the timer?" Wade asked Arturo, as she helped Rembrandt walk. He had been shot in the foot, and he was bleeding severely from his shoe.
"It's here!" Arturo said. "But there are coordinates logged."
"Should we trust them?" Wade said.
"I should think so!" Arturo said. "After all he's done for us."
Wade smiled and so did Arturo.
"Do you think they're for home?" Rembrandt asked.
"I certainly hope not," Arturo said, looking dreadful. "I don't think our world is much more advanced than this was. We could be wiping out our world if we go."
"Well," Wade said. "We need to do something."
Arturo looked at the timer, and he looked at the sliders. He knew what he had to do.
The vortex opened inside Quinn's basement. Sitting inside was one of Quinn's doubles, and he saw them come out.
"Well, we're not home," Rembrandt thought to himself. But his foot felt terrible, and he felt he might pass out from the pain.
"We need to all get to a hospital," Arturo said.
"Sure," the double said, looking very prepared for sliding emergencies. He took them upstairs, and they rushed to the hospital.
A few hours later, a doctor entered and started speaking to Arturo.
"Well," he said. "I have to say that I'm very surprised. How did you ever come down with Van Ziden's Syndrome? Weren't you ever immunized for that?"
"I guess not," Arturo said.
"Well," the doctor said. "Your friend's paid for your treatment, and you two are free to go whenever you feel better."
"What of my other two friends?" Arturo asked, after seeing Wade asleep next to him.
"Well," the doctor said. "Your friend with the gun shot will have to stay overnight while the wound heals. And your other friend is already gone."
"He died?" Arturo said, starting to choke up.
"No!" the doctor said. "We gave him an aggressive treatment, and he was up and walking in an hour. Those sores on his shoulders should last for a couple weeks, but he'll make a complete recovery. Van Ziden's Syndrome is completely treatable rather easily. We just need to get everyone immunized. But I really thought we already had..."
Wade and Arturo arrived at Quinn's house later that day. He had checked the timer, and they had plenty of time on this world to let both Quinn and Rembrandt heal completely.
Surprisingly, Quinn answered the door.
"What's up, guys?" Quinn said.
"I'd like to know that myself," Wade said.
"Come in," Quinn said. "And I'll explain as soon as you come inside."
Quinn told the sliders the whole story. He told him about how he had discovered that his double's first slide was the reason for the decimation of the world. He told him about his double's tapes and everything he found out.
Then he told him where they were: on the world of Quinn's double's first slide.
"I thought this was the only place I could go," Quinn said. "This world would be the safest place because they've already developed a cure for it. So, I hooked the timer up to the equipment in the room and derived the coordinates from the last world slid to. And, of course, that was this world."
"Genius," Arturo said.
"And that's when I thought of my second plan," Quinn said. "As soon as I woke up at the hospital, my double was there. He was curious about me and and where I came from. He was a slider, but he hadn't been on too many slides.
"He was smart," Quinn continued. "He sat in his basement, occasionally sliding, but mainly just perfecting the timer. And if so many mistakes hadn't been made, I probably would've done that. So, I gave him the coordinates to the last world, and I sent him there with enough medicine to allow the compound to recover from the disease. And he'll be able to teach the doctors there how to make the immunization."
Arturo and Wade were amazed at how well-thought-out Quinn's plan to save everything was after all that he'd done wrong.
"I knew that sliding had caused a huge tragedy on that world," Quinn said. "And I thought it was only rational to have sliding try and repair it as well as it could."
Arturo went to visit Rembrandt at the hospital, and he wanted to talk.
"How are you doing, Mr. Brown?" Arturo asked.
"Fine," Rembrandt said. "The doctors tell me that I won't have any lasting damage in my foot. I won't be able to run as fast, but I'll be all right."
"Well," Arturo said. "I want to apologize for all that I said. I'm not sure I believe that, nor do I believe that we should stay out of everyone's business. We can truly help people with sliding."
He told Rembrandt all that Quinn had done, and how impressed he was with what he did.
"I'm glad you see that now, Professor," Rembrandt said with a smile, accenting "Professor" sarcastically.
"Thank you," Arturo said. "And feel free to re-teach me things whenever you feel necessary."