Rembrandt woke up in a cold sweat. He had the dream again. It had bothered him for weeks now, affecting his ability to work with the group. Sure, he had adapted, and he was sure that no one knew about it yet. But it had been too long. He had seen too much. He was never getting home; no matter what. He was convinced of that, and it depressed him now more than ever. It had been much too long, and the years had taken their toll on him.
It was still dark outside, so it wasn't very hard for Rembrandt to slip out unnoticed. Of course, he said good-bye to his friends. He apologized to Quinn for the grief he was about to cause. But this was all Quinn's fault, anyway. This was his mess, and it was his job to clean it up. If only he had thought about the consequences.
Rembrandt walked around the city. He loved San Francisco, but it was now very foreign to him. It wasn't home anymore. Since that first slide, he had no home. He was more alone now than ever.
He looked over the San Francisco Bay. It was beautiful, almost beautiful enough to change his mind. But the sight of the Emerald Gate Bridge changed everything. He was doing what had to be done. He waited for all of the nearby cars to pass his location. He couldn't be caught this time.
He climbed the railing and looked over the water. This was it. He couldn't jump off. Suddenly, Wade entered his mind. How could he do this to her? How could he do this to himself? But this had to be done. Everything was different. He moved his head forward slightly, and his feet couldn't save him.
On the way down, he thought about the long journey. He had witnessed more pain, suffering, and evil than anyone ever should. And the positives of sliding were not enough to make a difference. This had to be done. It had to be done.
He was home...
Rembrandt had been through his share of problems. The only one out of the group that consistently slid for all seven years, he was feeling much older and much more tired. How was he going to keep going.
The last few weeks had been even more stressful. Although it appeared that Arturo, Diana, and Quinn had experienced the majority of the suffering on their "time travel" experiment, immediately after, Rembrandt felt years older. Like he had lived a whole other life.
He brought this to Quinn's attention, since he had literally lived another life as a result of the bubble world. Quinn informed him that he felt no different after that experience, and that maybe all the sliding was finally starting to catch up to him.
Now the others were all acting a little nicer to him. They forced him to spend much of his time relaxing. It was nice at first, but he wasn't a senior citizen. Arturo was a lot older, but Rembrandt supposed he didn't look nearly as worn down. Maybe he should take advantage of the lazy slides and take advantage of the treatment.
Now, for example, he sat in a massage parlor, getting the works, while the rest of the group slaved over jobs. Unwilling to bother him about his double's ATM account, they'd taken on the group's finances themselves. And because of his special treatment, Remmy was left out of the mix.
Maybe he could get used to this.
"You know," Wade said, thinking of Rembrandt and her aching back. "I've been worn down a little by sliding too. I think I might need to join Rembrandt and his masseuse."
"Don't even think about it," Quinn said, getting out of the mine and taking off his helmet. "Rembrandt really needs the rest. I don't know why, but he just seemed a lot older and wrinkled than he was before that one slide. Trust me, he's more than earned some R and R."
"I know," Wade said, sighing. "But why do we have to be out in the mines, while Diana and the Professor get office work?"
"Hey," Quinn said. "You had your chance at that receptionist's job, but you lost it to Diana fair and square. And I can't help it if the Professor's double happened to be the owner's cousin. Besides, he's not exactly the most suited to physical work."
"And I am?" Wade asked sarcastically.
"We all have to pull our weight," Quinn deadpanned. "We're miners, Diana's a secretary, and... Arturo happens to be the company President."
"You know," Wade said. "One day, my double is going to be the famous one, and I'm going to get the first class treatment."
"Keep dreaming and get back to work," Quinn said, smiling and putting his helmet back on.
"Mr. Brown?" the receptionist said, entering the room where Rembrandt looked as if he were dreaming.
"Yes?" Rembrandt said, a little startled. This made the receptionist chuckle a little.
"Your friends are here," she said, waving the masseuse out of the room.
"Already?" Rembrandt said. "I guess time does fly when you're having a good time!"
Laughing, Rembrandt got fully dressed and met his friends out in the front. Arturo was paying for the bill, and Wade was still covered with dust from the mine.
"What's wrong with her?" Rembrandt said, still smiling.
"Jealousy, Cryin' Man," Quinn said. "She's pouting because she doesn't get the same royal treatment."
Quinn revived the old nickname in the hopes that it would remind his friend of the old times. And from the looks of it, it appeared to be working. Rembrandt was smiling a lot more, and he was a lot like he was in the first few years of sliding. Before everything got so serious.
"I'm not pouting," Wade said. "This is a symbol of the fact that I had to slave out there while everyone else had the slide of their lives."
"Hey!" Quinn said.
"I know you were out there too," Wade said. "But you have to admit that you had fun watching me, so you don't count either."
"You'll get no argument here," Quinn said, breaking out a smile to match Rembrandt's.
Arturo approached the group with a strange look on his face.
"I suggest we not exit this facility before we slide," Arturo said, "which I'm hoping will be very shortly."
"Why?" Diana asked.
"Well," Arturo started. "I do not know what you purchased during your duration here, Mr. Brown, but the combined salaries of all four of us could not pay your bill."
Everyone broke a smile, and Rembrandt looked a little concerned.
"We're going to walk out on the bill without paying," Rembrandt said very quietly so the receptionist wouldn't hear.
"They've been paid well enough," Arturo said. "They probably don't deserve another cent."
"Now, Professor," Rembrandt said. "These are miracle workers in here. I feel fifteen years younger. I might have to go re-enlist in the Navy when we get home."
Again, everyone was forced to smile, but Quinn interrupted the happy moment.
"Ladies," Quinn said. "Last call."
With that, Quinn opened the vortex, and the sliders started to jump inside. With all the noise, people started to come out to see what was happening, including Rembrandt's masseuse.
"Good-bye," Rembrandt said, and he mouthed the words "I love you" to the masseuse before jumping inside himself.
The sliders arrived on the next world, right beside the bay.
"You know, Q-Ball," Rembrandt said, walking up the beach to the street above. "You've been lucky that we haven't flown into the middle of that bay. I don't plan on pulling an Alcatraz any time soon."
But Quinn didn't hear him. The other four sliders had made their way down to the water, where they saw what looked like a corpse. When they approached it, it was easy to see that a man had drowned in the bay.
This was something that they couldn't tell Remmy. He was under enough stress as it was without having to see "himself" dead.
But it was too late; he had already seen the body, and he would see who it was soon enough.
"Oh my," Rembrandt said, maneuvering in to see who the cadaver was. "Who is that poor... oh, God."
Putting his hand to his head, Rembrandt sat on a rock. The happiness he had just gained seemed to leave him all at the same time. "You know," he said. "No matter how many times I see them, it feels weird to see your own double. Especially if they're dead."
"Don't worry, Rembrandt," Arturo said, choosing to go with the familiar touch. "But we have to get out of here."
"I know," Rembrandt said, and the sliders proceeded towards the Dominion hotel.
In the lobby, Rembrandt walked to get some coffee at the coffee machine. He knew that he hadn't just seen his own body, but the sight of "himself" lying there motionless was more than a little unnerving.
But his friends were being great about everything. He hoped things would return to normal soon, but he wanted to reap the benefits of their graciousness as long as he could.
"Remmy!" a voice called from across the lobby. It was Wade.
"Where the Hell did you think you were going?" Wade said, angrily. This was certainly different, Rembrandt thought.
"I was just going to get some coffee to cool my nerves," Rembrandt said. "What's the matter?"
"What's the matter is that you left at the worst time!" Wade said. "Now let's get upstairs."
"Okay," Rembrandt said, following Wade up the stairs to their room.
Quinn finished paying for the room, and he looked over at the coffee for Rembrandt. He wasn't there.
"Did you guys see where Remmy went?" Quinn asked.
"No," Diana said. "But he probably just went for a walk. He was doing so much better, and then to be hit with something like that. It has to be strange."
"Yeah," Wade agreed. "I think we should let him walk it off. We have a couple days, here, right? So, it shouldn't be a problem. He knows where we are."
"You're right," Quinn said. "Let's get going. I'm sure you want to take a shower, don't you Wade?"
"I guess so," she said. "You're obviously not going to take my symbolism seriously, anyway."
Rembrandt entered the hotel room Wade had led him into, and it was pitch black inside.
"What's going on?" Rembrandt asked, sounding a little worried. His friends should have already been in the room.
"Quinn's turned the damned lights off again," Wade said. "Damn it, Quinn! How do you expect to work if the room's dark as Hell?"
Rembrandt had never heard Wade use profanity like that. Something was wrong; what was Wade talking about Quinn working?
"What is it?" Wade said.
"Where are the others?" Rembrandt said, causing Wade to look confused. This was obviously wrong, but he was going to get to the bottom of the situation.
"You know," Rembrandt said. "The Professor and--"
"That's not funny," Wade said, before he was able to finish. "It makes me sad when you mention him, and I definitely wouldn't say it around Quinn. He's gone wacko enough because of the Professor."
"I think I have the wrong room," Rembrandt said.
"What are you talking about?" Wade said. "No, you can't get out of this. We're in this Hellhole together until our resident genius can get us out of here."
Suddenly, Quinn entered the room wearing a very cheap looking pair of night vision goggles. He was mumbling, and the only words Rembrandt understood were "too much light."
"And I don't expect that to happen anytime soon," Wade finished. "So, really, where were you this morning?"
"On another world," Rembrandt said, trying to sound genuine.
"Sounds nice," Wade said, drifting into a sort of smile. But she didn't have any happiness in her face. "I can't wait to get out of here."
"No," Rembrandt said. "Really. I'm not your Rembrandt."
"But you have to be!" Wade said. "I don't have a double here, and you recognized me! Wait!"
Wade's eyes grew big and she looked a little crazy when she finally had a big smile.
"You're a slider!" Wade said. "A slider! A slider! A slider! A slider! I love you!"
Wade jumped into Rembrandt's arms and started kissing him on the lips. He was so taken aback that he didn't fight back until she jumped off of him and started to roll on the ground.
"Quinn!" she screamed, still rolling on the ground. "We have a ticket off this godforsaken world!"
Rembrandt didn't like this. This couple seemed a little out there, and he had apparently just volunteered to take them with him. And if, indeed, their Rembrandt was the dead man he had just seen, they would soon be receiving bad news. How would they take it?
Quinn stared out the window. It wasn't like Rembrandt to just walk off without telling anyone. He knew that Remmy was under a lot of stress, and he knew he was at his breaking point, but he seemed to be doing so much better.
He knew that seeing your own double laying dead was a little freaky, having experienced it himself a few times. But something was wrong, and he needed to do something about it. Especially if this had to do with Rembrandt's double's murder.
"Don't worry, Quinn," Wade said, looking over at him. "He'll be back in an hour or two. Just give him a minute."
"I know we've been babying him a little for a while now, but I don't think this is related," Quinn said. "This just isn't like him."
"Maybe that's just the problem," Arturo added. "He might just want to get away from us because we've been being overly nice to him."
"I just don't know, Professor," Quinn said.
"Look," Wade said. "If you're that worried about him, get up and go look for him. I doubt you'll find him on the street, but if it calms your mind, go for it."
"I think you're right," Quinn said, smiling. "Now, you go and take a shower. You'd better be clean by the time we come back."
"Why?" Wade said under her breath. "Its not like we ever go anywhere nice."
"What was that?" Quinn said, walking out the door.
"Nothing, sweetie," Wade said, breaking out a smile.
Wade's double was hysterical in her hotel room. She was screaming about finally going home, and that made Rembrandt a little nervous. They had their own journey to finish without having to take on any more people.
He knew that sounded harsh, especially for people who looked like they really needed help.
While Wade was still running around the hotel room, much to Quinn's annoyance, Rembrandt slipped out the door.
Quinn reached the lobby, and he hoped that Rembrandt would be inside there somewhere. Wade was right; it would be nearly impossible to find Rembrandt if he didn't want to be found.
But, eventually, he would find him.
Luckily for Quinn, fate was on his side, as Rembrandt came down the stairs and met him in the middle of the lobby.
"Q-Ball!" Rembrandt said. "Man, am I glad to see you!"
"What's up, Remmy?" Quinn asked, hoping that he hadn't gotten himself into trouble.
"I met up with some doubles of ours," Rembrandt said. "Well, at least some doubles of you and Wade."
"You think that was their Rembrandt in the bay?" Quinn said, bluntly.
"Yeah," Rembrandt answered. "And I think they might've also lost their Professor, because Wade seemed a little touchy on that subject."
"So," Quinn said. "What's the problem?"
"I think they want to hitch a ride home with us," Rembrandt said. "I think we might need to try and hide from them."
"Why?" Quinn asked.
"Because we don't have time to search for their home too, Q-Ball," he said. "We've been on this trip long enough."
"I know, Remmy," Quinn said, smiling. "But getting home is a lot easier for them. All we'd have to do is find their quantum signature, and then we'll send take them home on our way. It would only take us one world out of the way, unless they have their own sliding equipment."
Rembrandt looked a little confused. He knew there were special complications with their own situation, but why was it so easy for everyone else?
"I know what you're thinking," Quinn said. "The Kromaggs have made it almost impossible for that to work for us. Between their false signatures for us and the duplicate Earth Prime, we have to do it the hard way. But don't worry, Remmy, we can do a little charity work while we're at it."
"But what about the extra load for the vortex?" Rembrandt asked, still worried. "You and the Professor used to talk about the dangers of taking too many people."
"Don't worry, Remmy," Quinn said. "The vortex can safely take a couple more people. And even if it couldn't, it's probably worth the risk to help a couple sliders in need. I mean, I'd hope other sliders would help us if we were stuck."
"I guess you're right," Rembrandt said. "But you haven't seen these doubles. They seem like they've lost it a little bit. I don't know about taking them with us."
"It'll be all right, Remmy," Quinn said, smiling. "Quit worrying or you'll give yourself an ulcer."
From across the lobby, a voice screamed. It was Wade, who still appeared to be on caffeine-like high.
"Rembrandt!" Wade said, sounding both excited and angry. "Where do you think you're going? Don't think you're not taking us with you!"
She then looked at Quinn and her eyes opened up wide again.
"Quinn!" she screamed, jumping into his arms and showering him with kisses. "I'm so glad to see you! I love you!"
Quinn smiled and looked over at Rembrandt. "She doesn't seem that bad to me, Remmy," he said with a big smile on his face.
"Maybe you're right, Professor," Diana said. "Maybe we should try to start acting 'normal' towards Rembrandt again. I think he's feeling better, and maybe he'll return to normal if he thinks we have."
"I couldn't agree more," Arturo said. "I'm sure that Mr. Brown has had quite enough extra fun the last couple weeks. I can tell that he wants things to return to how they were."
With that, Quinn and Rembrandt returned, followed closely by Wade's double.
"Well hello Mr. Brown, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said, noting the third among the group. "And who is your friend?"
"Oh," Wade's double said, breaking into the conversation. "I can answer that right now."
"Oh yeah?" Quinn said, looking surprised.
"Yeah," the double said. "We've already checked that. None of us exist on this world. Quinn's house isn't even there. Not even his mother exists here."
"Well," Quinn said. "That does present a problem. I could extract your signatures here, but I'd like to be able to double check it with my basement equipment. Since, of course, we're in no hurry. Right?"
"As long as we get off of this world," Wade's double said. "Its A-Okay with me."
"Cool," Quinn said with a smile. "We have a little under two days here. We'll slide off then, and then we'll get you home."
Wade smiled and she seemed to be completely happy. Too happy, if you asked Rembrandt, but the rest of the group seemed to think that she was legitimately relieved.
"Great!" Wade said. "I want to introduce you all to Quinn. He's a little strange nowadays, but he's still pretty smart. Maybe you can cook up something together while we wait."
Quinn wasn't sure if he wanted to do that just yet. Rembrandt claimed that his double was really crazy, and Wade had just confirmed that. And since they still didn't know anything about Rembrandt's double's murder, he was going to tread softly.
"Oh," Wade added, walking out the door. "And my Rembrandt. I wonder where he wandered off to."
*This probably wouldn't be the best time to tell her,* Quinn thought.
He motioned to his friends that he'd be okay, and that he would be back in a few minutes. Rembrandt stepped forward to follow him, but Quinn waved him off. He could take care of himself.
The door closed, and Rembrandt looked at Diana and the Professor.
"I don't like this one bit," Rembrandt said. "These doubles are complete wackos, and I think that they may have had something to do with my double's murder. Especially if I don't exist on this world."
"I admit that it doesn't seem like the best of situations," Arturo said. "But I think that it is our duty to help fellow sliders. And if this Quinn is smart enough to invent a working timer in the first place, surely he can't be all that bad."
Arturo was trying to make Rembrandt feel better, but it wasn't working. What if this double was brilliant and crazy? What would that mean for him?
They needed to be careful. Very careful.
Quinn entered Wade's hotel room, and the door was not locked. In fact, it was a little open. And inside, the lights were completely off.
"This can't be right," Quinn thought. "This might've been a really bad idea."
Wade reached for the light switch, but it didn't work. She tried it a couple more times, and the lights refused to come on.
"Something's definitely wrong," Quinn thought, starting towards the door. But Wade didn't follow him. She went into the room as if this were normal.
She said something under her breath, and it sounded angry. She screamed for Quinn's double and got no answer.
Quinn had had enough. He was getting out of this while he was still in control. But as soon as he turned around, he bumped into a figure with glowing red eyes. Quinn screamed and fell backwards onto his back.
"Damn it, Quinn!" Wade screamed. "Turn the lights back on!"
"They can't be turned back on," Quinn's double whispered. "I re-wired the electricity in here, so that you wouldn't be able to interrupt my experiments."
"Quit talking like that!" Wade screamed. "Didn't you hear what I told you before I left? These people are here to take us away from here, but they won't if you keep acting like a lunatic!"
"If there is too much light in this room," the double said very loudly, as if he didn't hear what Wade had just said. "I can't work on my experiments. And if I can't work on my experiments, we can't slide out of here. And if we can't slide out of here, we're going to lose our minds!"
"Speak for yourself!" she screamed. "You've already lost yours, and I'm leaving with these guys!"
Quinn's double continued to ignore her, moving to the other side of the room. Wade walked over to a lamp,and turned it on. She knew Quinn was crazy enough to rewire the overhead lights, but he wouldn't think to cut power to the wall outlets.
"Skeptic!" the double screamed, slamming the door to his dark room.
Quinn was still on the floor. He was a little dizzy, but still conscious enough to be amazed at that conversation. He had seen sliders fight, but this was the worst. And this double certainly seemed to be a little crazy.
"Sorry about that," Wade said. "I'd leave him here to rot if it weren't for my conscience."
Suddenly, the door to Quinn's room opened, and he walked out with a large smile on his face.
"So," Quinn said, as if he was already in the conversation. "You're a slider."
Quinn was amazed. Seconds earlier, he was screaming and whispering like a crazy person, and now he was acting like he was a dear old friend to both he and Wade.
"Yeah," Quinn answered. "And we're going to get you home. It's just going to take a little time."
"That's great!" the double said, far too enthusiastically to be real. "By the way, do you have your timer with you?"
Quinn was worried. He wasn't going to hand the timer over to anybody; especially not this person. He was in favor of helping these people, but he wasn't going to jeopardize himself or his friends. But he was worried what this person might do if he said "no."
"Sure," Quinn said, pulling out the timer. But he held a strong grip to it, and he refused to let it go. The double looked at it as if it were a piece of gold. He wanted to look at it closely, but Quinn made it clear that he wasn't going to let that happen.
"It's amazing," the double said, turning around and walking back to his dark room. "Thank you very much."
"He just has a little cabin fever," Wade said, as Quinn placed the timer back in his pocket. "He'll be better as soon as we get off this world."
Quinn thought that made sense, and he reminded himself to ask later how long they had been on this world.
Wade turned on the television, and she saw Rembrandt's face. Later followed a story about how the police found him dead as a result of drowning. They speculated that he was a homeless man who jumped off the Emerald Gate Bridge.
"Oh my God!" Wade said, starting to cry. "I can't believe we're still here. I hate how they call it the Emerald Gate Bridge!"
Quinn was stunned. How could she think about that on a time like this! Her friend was dead, and she was obsessing over the name of a bridge?
Suddenly, the lights went out again. The tv and lamp went out, and Quinn was laughing from the other room.
"Damn," Wade said. "Okay, I think it's time for you to go. We'll stay out of your hair, and we'll meet you when its time to slide. Okay?"
"Perfect," Quinn thought. He didn't want to have to deal with them any more than he had to. And if they didn't seem in such desperate need of assistance, he would've left them here.
He opened the door, and he rushed back to his room. He was never more relieved to get out of a situation.
The next morning, the sliders were turning the hotel room upside down.
"It was here!" Quinn said. "It was in my pocket when I went downstairs. They had to have taken it!"
"But we should at least make sure," Diana said. "Plus, even if they did take it, its no use to them until tomorrow afternoon. So, there's no sense in jumping to conclusions too soon."
"I know," Quinn said. "But I'm starting to see what Rembrandt was saying. They're completely crazy, and I think it has something to do with this world. She even said something about 'cabin fever.'"
"I know," Rembrandt said. "If they did take it, I think we need to get out of here. There's no sense getting in any sort of trouble with them if we don't have to."
"Yeah," Quinn said, having pulled a complete 180. "They might've even had something to do with Rembrandt's double's death. Wade's double seemed very indifferent when she heard about it."
"We should not rush into this," Arturo said, trying to be the voice of reason. "The fact that they might be mentally unstable tells us that we shouldn't accuse them unless we are sure. It might turn them against us, and we do not want that."
The Professor was right, but Quinn knew they had taken it. That last time the lights went out, someone had reached in his pocket and stolen it. Hopefully, they could be found before the slide.
Wade's double sat with a flashlight trying to read a magazine when there was a knock on the door. It was Quinn, Rembrandt, and Arturo. The Professor had come along to try to keep everyone reasonable.
"What's up?" Wade asked, a little surprised to see the group before the slide.
"Where's the timer?" Quinn asked accusingly. Arturo put his hand to his head, embarrassed.
"I didn't take your timer," Wade said, letting the group inside.
"Then your friend did," Quinn said, barging into the back room, almost tripping over the table in the dark.
"What are you doing in here?" screamed the red eyes from the corner. "I thought I told you-"
"Where's the timer?" Quinn interrupted. "I know you have it, so just turn it over."
Quinn heard a clap, and the lights returned. On the floor beside his double was the timer.
It was completely taken apart, in pieces on the floor.
Arturo, Diana, and Quinn spent the day reassembling the timer. Some pieces were used in a very poor replica made by Quinn's double, and others were completely missing.
"I don't understand it," Diana said. "Why would he disassemble the timer to make a completely new one?"
"I guess you're looking for something more poetic than 'because he's a complete psycho,'" Quinn said sarcastically.
Diana looked a little offended, and she looked at the Professor for backup.
"In other circumstances," Arturo said. "I'd be forced to agree with you, Dr. Davis. But I think Quinn might be right here."
"So," Quinn said. "What's the plan? We obviously can't do much for these people."
"And yet," Arturo said. "We can't leave them in with good conscience. Leaving them here for other people to deal with could have disastrous consequences. If, indeed, their problem lies in their entrapment on this world, then the logical course of action is to take them out of it. But with extreme caution. We will not risk our lives to help them."
"Agreed," Diana and Quinn said simultaneously.
Rembrandt and Wade's double incapacitated Quinn's double, believing that he was in desperate need of sleep. They also didn't want to have to deal with him. Just in case, however, Wade sat outside his room to see if he moved. Rembrandt opted to talk with her double.
"I'm really sorry," Wade's double said. "I knew Quinn was crazy, but I never thought he'd do anything like this."
"Listen," Rembrandt said. "We don't blame you, but we all want to have a good grasp of what's going on. Tell me what happened and what led up to this point."
Wade looked up. She certainly didn't want to go deep into those memories, but she felt the need to. She felt she owed a debt to these people, and this story was one of the few things she could offer.
"Well," Wade started. "My story probably starts the same way yours does. I suppose all sliders' journeys started the same way. We all loved the excitement and the adventure at first. But, after a while, we all became tired of it. To pass the time, we played a little game. That's probably the start of everything."
Wade obviously looked as though she were in pain, but Rembrandt wanted her to continue. She had to know what would've driven them this far. Maybe, she'd let him know what happened to his double.
"On each world," she continued. "We looked for differences from our own world. We had a list of things we'd check for, and hoping that one day, we'd get enough to know we were home. It made sense at the time, but in hindsight, it ruined everything. Several times, we came close. But every time, something convinced us that we were on the wrong earth.
"Eventually, though," Wade said. "We got tired of sliding. Quinn and Arturo sat us down one day, and they told us the hard truth. There were billions of parallel worlds, and the odds of us randomly landing on our own would be infinite. They said that we might as well just stay on the closest to our own. After several tries, we found this world.
"It had some big differences," Wade continued. "Of course, the biggest difference was the color of the Golden Gate Bridge, or I should say the Emerald Gate Bridge. To think, we didn't even notice that for a couple weeks! So, we let the timer run down, and we decided that this world was close enough.
"One of the advantages of this world was that none of us existed," Wade continued. "We wouldn't have to worry with doubles at all, and we could start over. At the time, it made perfect sense. But it's nearly impossible to start from scratch legally. We made it, though, and things were starting to look up. We all got jobs, and things were starting to work out for the best.
Suddenly, Wade's face turned cold. She had obviously reached the end of the "happy times." This is where things would start going straight downhill.
"Until that night," Wade said. "Arturo had earned a job at the University. It was as a janitor, but he knew that he could earn his teaching position back sooner or later. Well, he had to stay late at night, and one day he was walking back to the hotel around midnight."
Wade began to cry, but she seemed very determined to get through her entire story. Rembrandt wanted to console her, but he was caught in the drama of the story and couldn't move.
"Some muggers," Wade squealed, almost inaudible between her sobs. "They grabbed him, beat him up, and stole all his money. He was left alive, but he developed some infections, and a strange case of pneumonia. He stayed in the hospital, and he died a week later from complications."
Wade was completely crying now. She was gone, but she seemed even stronger, determined to finish.
"That hurt us real bad," Wade said. "The Professor was the head of the group, and it made everyone's emotions raw. We were irritable, and we all seemed like robots. We couldn't be consoled, and the grieving process seemed to take forever."
Rembrandt felt her pain. Many of the same things happened after the alternate Professor died. Thankfully, he was replaced with Maggie, but she wasn't nearly the same person.
"We separated for a while," Wade said. "I slept at work, and I spent most of my spare time walking around. That's when I noticed that we were all starting to go crazy. When I was sliding, I had learned to notice different things. Now, that was working against me. I noticed that everything was slightly different, and it made me crazy. I wasn't home! And this place would never be home to me!
"I soon learned the drawback of not existing," Wade said, and that made her laugh a little. "If you didn't exist, you didn't have to worry about doubles, but you also couldn't rely on the strength of friends and family. I was alone, and I had to go back to my fellow sliders."
"I soon learned that both Rembrandt and Quinn had experienced the same feelings," Wade said. "But they both took it harder. Quinn, especially. He seemed like a ghost of his former self, and none of us knew what to do with him. We resolved that we needed to try and find our real home. Even if we didn't make it, our minds would be distracted by the journey itself.
"The problem was," Wade continued. "The timer was completely trashed. And Quinn was so gone that he couldn't possibly focus on it. Rembrandt and I learned that after a couple weeks. He would reprogram the remote control, and we knew he would never be able to do anything. So, Rembrandt and I started doing research to see if we could build our own timer. We did research for months, but we never got much further than Quinn. We gave up a few weeks ago.
"Even though we really needed money," Wade said. "We both were fired from our jobs. Quinn was fired months earlier, and none of us pursued other jobs. Rembrandt would wander off late at night and come back with a huge hangover. I'd never known Rembrandt to drink, but he started to do that a lot. I didn't blame him, but I couldn't allow myself to go with him.
"That's why I wasn't all that surprised when I saw that he was dead," Wade said. "Sure, I was sad, but I have lost all emotion, Rembrandt! I'm basically dead myself! I live with Quinn, but we almost never communicate anymore, and he's getting stranger by the day. I don't know what he's doing in there, and I know that he's the shell of his genius self. I'm afraid, Rembrandt!"
Rembrandt finally allowed himself to comfort her. He had to tell the guys what had happened. And he had to help her get home.
By the next morning, the timer was almost done.
Quinn woke up and looked around. He had fallen asleep last, and he awoke to the Professor and Diana putting the finishing touches on it.
"Oh," Diana said. "You're up; how'd you sleep?"
"I haven't had that lousy a night since college mid-terms," Quinn said. "I feel like we've been working for days."
"But we're almost done, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said with a smile.
"You went out and got the extra materials?" Quinn asked, looking surprised.
"Yes," Diana answered. "Thankfully, your timer's nothing like the one we used a couple years ago. This one is made from actual parts you can find at Radio Shack!"
"Well," Arturo said with a smile on his face. "Quinn and I built it with that in mind."
"How do you think it's going to work?" Quinn asked, as the timer resumed counting down.
"It should work fine," Diana said. "It won't be as strong as it was, since we're not familiar with some of the things placed on the timer when it was given a tune up, but it should safely carry all of us."
"I hope you don't mean all seven of us," Quinn said.
"I do," Diana said. "Rembrandt tells us that staying here is the reason they're going crazy. They settled for this world instead of home, and it messed up their minds. We'll get them home, and they should improve. And if not, they can get suitable help on their own world."
"I hope you're right," Quinn said, still skeptical.
With the timer repaired and secure in the room, Arturo decided to go to the library. He had long since lost his journal on a perilous slide, but he had acquired an electronic notebook that could hold hundreds of entries. And the best part was that it fit in his pocket. He was able to log every world without worrying about losing the information.
Although Rembrandt had told him that the world was "normal", Arturo knew that they had to continue logging the worlds. Although the trip would always be considered a failure, he refused to end it without gaining any information.
Meanwhile, Quinn and Rembrandt stayed with Wade and Diana inside their hotel room. They knew that Wade's double was going to watch Quinn's double, but they wanted to stay in the room and protect the timer nevertheless. They didn't know what to expect from the crazier version of Quinn, but they weren't going to take any chances.
Wade's double sat in her room for the first time in a while, with all the lights on. Quinn had woken up again, but he had mainly stayed in his own room. She couldn't tell if the lights were off, but she honestly didn't care.
But it was awfully quiet in the room. What was Quinn doing in there? He couldn't be asleep, since he had already slept most of the day. The slide was in a couple hours, and she had to get him ready. He would be all right in a day or two. He had to get better after they left this world.
She would just put her ear to the door. Quinn was usually rambling to himself, and she would be able to tell that he was all right. She did so, and she heard nothing. Quinn was either asleep or he was gone.
She would just crack open the door. If Quinn was inside, he wouldn't even see her. And if he did, she could explain herself. He would be mad, but they'd be home soon enough.
She opened the door, and no one was inside. The lights were off, but she could tell that the room was empty. Because the window was wide open.
Quinn had escaped.
Suddenly, she heard a noise at the door.
"Looking for me?" Quinn said in the same whisper voice she had learned to hate. "What are you doing in my room?"
"N-nothing," Wade said, stuttering. "I was just seeing if you were all right. I was worried about you."
"Worried about me?" Quinn said in a sarcastic voice. "I'm surprised you still remembered me after you showed your true colors this morning!"
"Quinn," Wade said. "You're scaring me!"
Quinn walked slowly towards Wade with glaring eyes. He looked tired and ill, but he seemed content in a very scary way.
"Scaring you?" Quinn said, again sarcastically. "I thought we were doing characters today. You play the thieving double-crosser, and I play the crazy lunatic! They stole my timer, Wade, and you sided with them! You, Brutus! You sided with them!"
Wade was really scared now. She wanted to scream, but she couldn't muster the voice to do so. What was she going to do? Charge him? Yeah, she could do that; Quinn was just tired enough for that to work. But what was that in his hand?
In his hand, Quinn was holding a gun. He had obviously just bought it because it still had the tag on it.
Now, what was she going to do? Was he going to shoot her? She had to get out of there!
"They stole from me, Wade!" Quinn continued, now screaming. "And you just let them do it! You helped them! But no more! I'm reclaiming what is rightfully mine, but I don't want you to come with me. So, stay in here, where you belong. This is all your fault!"
Wade didn't think he was going to shoot her, but she was still scared enough to go for the window. They were only two floors up, and they were right above the back entrance. She could jump onto the awning and run to safety.
"To think I wanted you to come along with me!" Quinn screamed. "To think I brought you along on this journey. You're the reason we're lost! You were the crucial vote! You killed the Professor and Rembrandt and my sanity! And you're not going to get away with it!"
Quinn was beyond the point of no return. He saw Wade climbing out the window, and paranoid thoughts started to fill his head.
"I won't let you turn me in!" Quinn screamed, and he ran towards the window with all of his strength.
With thirty minutes until the slide, the group was resting. Quinn and Diana were exhausted from all the work, and Rembrandt and Wade rested until the Professor returned. They all slept through all the commotion outside.
Arturo returned to the sight of police cars and an ambulance outside the hotel. A few guests were outside giving their accounts of what they saw. Arturo approached one of the officers, and he asked what happened.
"Apparently," the officer said, a little annoyed. "A woman was pushed out a window. But we have some conflicting reports, and it may be ruled a suicide."
This struck a chord with the Professor. "Do you know who the woman was?" Arturo asked.
"Welles," Arturo said. "W. Welles, I believe."
Arturo rushed up to room as fast as he could.
Worried about Wade, Rembrandt insisted that the group go to the hospital. Quinn's double wasn't going with them anymore. He had done enough to ensure that, but they had to save Wade's double. If they didn't, he might come to finish her off.
"I'm not sure about this, Mr. Brown," Arturo said, entering the hospital. "I think that the local authorities on this world can protect Ms. Welles. But we might be walking into a situation that we will regret."
"I don't think he'd come here," Quinn said.
"I think he's counting on us doing just that," Diana said. "I have to agree with Professor Arturo."
"Of course you do," Quinn snapped. "You're always agreeing with him. Maybe you're his double or something."
"We have to do something for her!" Rembrandt said. "This all happened because we arrived. This is our fault, and we have to try to fix it."
"Yeah," Quinn said. "I don't think he'll come in such a crowded place, anyway."
"He's just crazy enough to do just that," Arturo said, and Quinn knew he was right."
"How much time?" Rembrandt asked Quinn, as the group sat vigil around Wade. She was in stable condition, but they didn't know when she would wake up.
"Four minutes," Quinn said. "I think we have to try to get her up right now. If that doctor sees us trying to move her, she could get suspicious."
"More suspicious than when he saw me?" Wade said with a smile. "I don't think that's even possible.
"Twins, Wade," Quinn said, smiling. "Twins."
Rembrandt brushed Wade's double's hair out of her face. "Wade," he said softly.
Wade slowly opened her eyes, and she relived the fall. She had luckily landed on her back on the awning, and it slowly broke her fall. She had a slight concussion and a broken foot but little else.
She smiled at Rembrandt, but her eyes quickly filled with fear. Quinn's double was standing in the doorway, and he was holding a gun.
"Get out of here," Rembrandt said, not having to turn around. He knew Quinn was there. "I won't ask you again."
Quinn and Arturo looked at each other in comparison to Quinn's double. Neither were in a good strategic place to combat the assassin and take his weapon. Like it or not, he was in charge.
"No!" Quinn said, and the others hoped that it was loud enough to attract attention to the room. "I'm taking back what is rightfully mine! Now, give me that timer!"
Quinn had it, but he hid it behind his back. A quick check showed that they had just over a minute left before the slide. If they could delay his double long enough, they could make sure the vortex opened.
"Listen," Quinn said, in a soft voice. "You're right. We took this from you, and we were wrong. But let's not make two wrongs. We can both use it, and we'll both go home!"
"No!" the double said. "I'm the only one who's leaving!"
Quinn eyed the Professor. While his double was looking at him, he had moved into position.
"You're not going to win, Quinn," Quinn said. "You might as well give up!"
"No!" Quinn said, and he aimed his gun at Wade's double. "This is all your fault!"
Quinn and Arturo simultaneously lunged at the gunman, but they were both too late. He had fired off a shot.
As soon as the three hit the ground, they heard Rembrandt's scream.
"NO!" he screamed, in nearly the same voice as Quinn had just used. Wade was bleeding. Badly.
"Remmy," Wade said, softly. "Don't make the same mistake we made. Don't let your group fall apart."
"Don't say that," Rembrandt said. "You're going to make it. We're leaving in a few seconds."
"Get home," Wade continued. "Don't accept anything else. There's no place like home."
She laughed at what were her "final words" and smiled. As soon as the vortex opened, she closed her eyes. She was gone.
A few days later, the sliders were still reflecting on what had happened.
"She was right, you know," Rembrandt said. "Wade. She told us that we can't accept any other world. We have to get home."
"I know," Quinn said. "That group was the same as what we have. Well, without you, Diana."
Diana smiled. "Maybe I'm the glue that will hold you all together," she said.
"But really," Quinn said. "That easily could've been us in that situation. How many times have we all thought of the fact that we weren't getting home? How many tragedies have we met, when we could've just said, 'I'm done'? Sure, we could say that we're just stronger than them, but we'd be wrong. We have to admit that those were ourselves that did all that. We quit."
"He's right," Arturo added. "And 'we' ended up destroying 'ourselves.'"
"So," Rembrandt said. "We just don't stop. We don't accept any other world as our home because it might drastically affect us."
"Exactly," Quinn said. "That's why I'm getting all of us home. The odds are against us, but I believe that we are extraordinary examples of ourselves. We won't let that happen to us."
Wade and Diana looked at each other. The way things were going, they wouldn't see their homes again. Even if the others made it home, they wouldn't without further help. What would that do to them?
"Doctor," a nurse said. "We need you to come see this one. He's one of the strangest cases we've seen."
The doctor rushed down the hallway of the mental ward. "The transfer from San Quentin?"
"Yes, Doctor," the nurse answered. "He keeps screaming that he's not where he's supposed to be. That he's not 'home'."
The doctor opened the door to the room, and he heard screaming from the man. He had obviously screamed throughout the night, and his voice was very hoarse. But he was still understood.
"The Golden Gate Bridge is green!" the voice screamed. "It's green, but it's supposed to be gold! It's golden! The Golden Gate Bridge! Ha ha ha ha ha! Golden!"