A beautiful, calm day in a quiet San Francisco neighborhood was interrupted when a the sky was ripped open by a blue vortex.
Out of the swirling hole flew Quinn, Wade, Arturo, and Rembrandt. Then, they expectantly looked up to see a fifth slider fly out.
"Caitlin!" Quinn said, smiling to see she was okay.
"Don't scare us like that, girl!" Rembrandt said, rushing to help her up/
"After all of the time we've been together," Arturo said. "I think it'd be hard to lose you!"
"Thanks guys," Caitlin said. "Do you think that this Earth Prime?"
"I don't think so," Rembrandt said, pointing to the blue stop sign on the edge of the street.
He looked over at Caitlin, who looked discouraged.
"Are we ever getting home, Remmy?" Caitlin asked.
"Of course we will," Rembrandt said, putting his arm around her. "After all we've survived, how can you think that we won't?
"I know," Caitlin said, smiling.
"I mean, we're the only ones to last the whole trip," Rembrandt said. "We've survived Kromaggs, mergers, dragons, an asteroid, crazy colonels, and even crazier scientists."
"Not to mention two Professors," Caitlin said with a smile.
"If anyone else had said that," Arturo said. "I would have taken offense. But from you, I can tolerate it, Miss Murphy."
"Why thank you, Professor," Caitlin said proudly. "How much time do we have on this beautiful world, Quinn?"
"A little over an hour," Quinn said.
"No reason to check into the hotel," Rembrandt said. "Why don't we split up and have some fun?"
The others agreed. The last few slides had been light, but they all needed to mix some fun in with the action.
As Arturo and Rembrandt walked off, Caitlin talked to Rembrandt and Wade.
"Where are Smart and Smarter going?" Caitlin asked.
"Where else do geniuses go to have fun?" Rembrandt asked.
"The library," Caitlin answered.
"Bingo," Rembrandt said.
"Well," Caitlin said. "I'm going to try to find a good gym. I can't remember the last time I had a good workout. Do you guys want to come?"
"Sorry," Rembrandt said. "I actually can remember the last time I worked out, and I still think I'm sore."
"Suit yourself," Caitlin said. "See you in an hour."
"She's great, isn't she?" Rembrandt said, as he and Wade walked off.
"She is a special girl," Wade said.
"So, what do you want to do?" Rembrandt asked.
"I don't know," Wade said. "I'm a little tired; I think I just want to sit down somewhere."
"Okay," Rembrandt said. "Let's just go inside this cybercafe."
The two sliders walked into the cafe, and they both logged onto the Internet.
"I have an idea," Rembrandt said. "Let's see what all of us do on this world."
"That sounds like fun," Wade said.
Rembrandt found an online database with an entry for every person in the country.
"That's some good luck," Wade said. "Let's see what the Professor does."
Rembrandt typed in Arturo's name and waited for the results.
"You'll never believe it," Rembrandt said when the results popped up.
"What?" Wade said, moving closer to the computer.
"He's so predictable," Rembrandt said. "He's Regents Professor of Cosmology and Ontology at California University. You know, once, I'd like to see him as a travel agent or something."
"Yeah," Wade said. "Or a singer."
"Oh boy," Rembrandt said. "I would have fun then, but I'm not that lucky."
The pair of sliders laughed as Rembrandt typed in Quinn's name.
Rembrandt typed in Quinn's name.
"Here we go," he said. "Quinn is the quarterback for the Wichita Knights. They're apparently an NFL team on this world."
"Well, my Quinn played quarterback in high school," Wade said. "He hurt his toe or something and couldn't play anymore."
After looking up himself and Wade, Rembrandt stood up. He thought for a second, and he sat back down.
"That's funny," Rembrandt said with a confused smile on his face. "I forgot about Caitlin."
"You'd think after all that time you've been with her," Wade said. "It'd be impossible to forget."
"Yeah," Rembrandt said. "I guess I'm tired too."
Rembrandt typed her name in, and he read her profile.
"Prison?" Rembrandt said, thinking out loud.
"Sweet little Caitlin is in prison on this world?" Wade asked, laughing. "This is definitely a parallel world!"
"It certainly is," Rembrandt said.
It didn't seem like anything big, but it bothered Rembrandt the rest of the slide.
When the hour was over, the sliders met and moved to an alley for the slide. They landed on the next world, and Quinn checked the timer.
"Well, another short one!" he said. "Only four hours."
"I don't know about you'll," Caitlin said. "But I need to take a nap. I've got some extra cash, so let's just check into the Dominion."
"Sounds good," Quinn said. "I could use some rest myself."
"Are you coming, Remmy?" Caitlin asked.
"Actually, I'm going to decline," Rembrandt said. "Something's been bothering me, and I want to check it out."
Wade was curious, so she decided to follow him.
"What's been bothering you?" Wade asked, walking beside him.
"The Caitlin thing," Rembrandt said.
"What Caitlin thing?" Wade asked, suddenly remembering the database file. "You're still thinking about her being in jail on the last world?"
"I know it's probably nothing," Rembrandt said. "But for some reason, I believe it, and I want to see if I'm crazy."
With no cybercafe on this world, they had to go to the library. Unfortunately, the database didn't exist either, and Rembrandt simply did a search for Caitlin's name.
The search confirmed his fears. He found a story about a brutal murder, a dangerous car chase, and a massive showdown between a woman and police.
All involving Caitlin.
"Nothing special, Remmy," Wade said. "Quinn once told me that some worlds branch off each other, and that a lot of the things are the same. Maybe we've just reached a series of worlds where Caitlin has run into some bad luck?"
"Yeah, you're probably right," Rembrandt said with a smile.
But inside he was worried. He had known Caitlin for years, but she was beginning to fade from his memories. He imagined total slides where she wasn't even there, even though he knew she had to have been there.
Maybe the stress of sliding was finally catching up with him. He trusted Caitlin.
At least, he thought he did.
The vortex opened on the fifty-yard line of 3Com Park in San Francisco. Rembrandt flew out, and he began to talk to himself.
"Wow," Rembrandt said, looking around as Quinn exited the vortex. "Look at this."
"You said it," Quinn said, marveling at the stadium.
Quinn and Rembrandt looked around, noting that the stadium was at least twice as big as it was on Earth Prime.
"How many do you think this holds?" Rembrandt asked, as Arturo flew out of the void.
"I don't know," Quinn said. "What do you think, Professor? 150,000?"
"No," Arturo said. "I would guess even higher. Maybe 200,000."
"Wouldn't you hate to have those nosebleed seats?" Quinn asked.
"More like coma seats at that elevation," Arturo said, as Wade flew out of the vortex.
The group started to walk out, when they saw Wade staring at the vortex.
"What are you doing, Wade?" Quinn asked.
"Waiting for Caitlin," Wade said, surprised that they would even ask.
The others were confused for a second. Who was Caitlin? But as the fifth slider emerged from the gateway, a faint memory of her emerged.
It was as if they had to be reminded of her, but as soon as she came out, the memories of her quickly returned.
The men were confused. How could they just forget someone like Caitlin, who had been with the group since the beginning. It seemed like the only one who didn't forget her was Wade, who had been with the group the least amount of time.
None of them told each other about the memory loss. Not until they could figure out why Caitlin was the only thing disappearing from their memories.
With night upon them and a longer slide on this world, the group decided to check into their suite at the Dominion Hotel.
While the rest of the group went straight to sleep, Rembrandt had trouble dozing off. He had to check something.
Rembrandt crept to the room's phone while the others slept.
"Hello," Rembrandt said to the operator. "Give me San Quentin, please."
In the morning, Rembrandt brought Wade down to the lobby to talk about the night before.
"This can't be a coincidence," Rembrandt said, telling Wade his finding. "This is three straight worlds! I don't know how or why, but I think that she's a criminal."
"You've known her for 11 years!" Wade said, shocked that he would even bring it up. "How can you possibly say that after all you've been through together?"
"But I'm having trouble remembering her being there at all!" Rembrandt said. "It's like she's a ghost in my memories."
"You're obsessing over this, Remmy," Wade said. "Caitlin is a good person, and this is just a coincidence."
"I guess you're right," Rembrandt said.
"I am," Wade said. "Go talk to her, and you'll see that you're mistaken."
But he wasn't sure. He knew that she was his friend, but he was convinced that she wasn't telling him something.
He approached her as he re-entered the room.
"Caitlin?" Rembrandt asked, sitting on the couch next to her.
"Yeah, Remmy?" Caitlin said, turning off the TV.
"I have a question," Rembrandt said. "Its going to sound weird, but I need you to answer it."
"Okay," Caitlin said with an awkward smile.
"How did you start sliding?" Rembrandt asked.
"Why?" Caitlin said, laughing. "You were there!"
"Just tell me," Rembrandt said, not breaking a smile.
"I was inside your Cadillac when it was sucked into the vortex on our way for you to sing the national anthem," Caitlin said. "Then, Quinn reset the timer on that ice world, and we haven't gotten home yet."
"That's right," Rembrandt thought. "But I don't remember you being there when all that happened."
"Have you ever been to prison?" Rembrandt asked.
Suddenly, Caitlin's playful poise turned more serious.
"No," she replied nervously. "Why would you ask that?"
"I'm not sure," Rembrandt said. "I just felt like I had to ask."
"You know me, Remmy," Caitlin said, tapping him on the shoulder.
Caitlin moved to get up, but Rembrandt stopped her.
"Do I?" Rembrandt asked. "Who are you?"
Caitlin had been almost completely erased from his memories, and he wanted to know how she really began sliding.
Knowing she had been found out, Caitlin quickly put her hands to her temples, and she closed her eyes. Concentrating hard, she emitted a strong pulse, knocking Rembrandt unconscious.
Alone in the hotel, she quickly searched for the timer. Turning the room inside out, she looked in every corner of the room, but she came up empty-handed. With nowhere else to look, she ran out of the room, leaving the door slightly ajar.
In the corridor of the Dominion hotel, Wade, Quinn, and Arturo were laughing about their trip to the San Francisco National Redwood Forest.
"I swear," Quinn said. "This city must have been built on a toxic waste dump or something because everything in the city is two or three times as big."
"I'm glad we didn't run across your double, then, Professor!" Wade said, laughing.
But Arturo and Quinn stopped.
"I'm surprised with you, Wade," Quinn said. "We were both thinking it, but I can't believe you said it."
"What?" Wade said. "You let Caitlin get away with it, but not me?"
Wade walked towards the room, leaving Arturo and Quinn even more confused. Who was Caitlin?
But their confusion was broken when they both heard Wade scream, and they ran to her side. Inside, the room was in complete disarray, with chairs and tables overturned, and windows broken.
"Oh my God," Wade screamed, as Arturo and Quinn reached her.
"What happened?" Arturo asked.
"I don't know," Wade said. "When I got to the door, it was wide open and the room was trashed."
Suddenly, Rembrandt pulled himself up to his knees, rubbing his forehead.
"Remmy!" Wade screamed, running to his side.
"What happened, Mr. Brown?" Arturo asked.
"All I remember is being knocked out by someone," Rembrandt said. "Then, they ran off."
"Did you get a good look at their face?" Quinn asked.
"I thought I did," Rembrandt said, trying to remember. "But I can't even remember if it was a man or a woman."
"We should call the police!" Arturo said, looking for the phone amongst the mess.
Wade was looking around too.
"What are you looking for?" Rembrandt asked.
"Where's Caitlin?" Wade asked.
"You mentioned her before," Quinn said. "Who is Caitlin?"
"Your friend!" Wade said. "You honestly don't remember Caitlin? What is wrong with you people."
"Are you okay, Ms. Welles?" Arturo asked.
"I'm all right," Wade said. "I'm not sure about you all."
"I just talked to the police," Arturo said. "They'll come and take a look at the room, but they'd like you to try and remember what the intruder looked like."
"I don't think it was an intruder," Wade said. "I think it might've been Caitlin. I think you were right, Remmy."
"Right about what?" Rembrandt said. "And who's Caitlin?"
Wade was losing her mind. How could she be the only one to remember the fifth slider? Especially since she and Rembrandt had been talking about her just a couple of hours ago.
"She's one of the original five sliders!" Wade screamed. "She's been sliding with you since the beginning!"
"I think you're confused, Wade," Quinn said. "It was just the three of us and our Wade when we started sliding."
"I can't believe this!" Wade screamed. "You honestly don't remember her?"
"We all don't know what you're talking about," Quinn said.
"Well," Wade said. "If I'm the only one who actually remembers her, maybe I'm the one who's going crazy."
When the slide came, the sliders were tired of arguing the existence of Caitlin. She had been completely erased from the men's memory, but Wade distinctly remembered conversing with her that very morning.
But they had convinced her that going out to look for her was crazy. So, if Caitlin was a criminal, she was to be unleashed on this world. But, if she was innocent, she would be stranded.
"Sorry," Wade said, as the vortex opened in front of her.
After the fourth slider jumped inside, Caitlin reappeared. Knowing that her only chance at power lied on the other end of the vortex, she jumped inside.
On the next world, the vortex opened on the banks of the San Francisco Bay. The four sliders fell out, and walked back to dry land, drying themselves off.
But before they all knew what was going out, a female slider fell out of the vortex, and only Wade recognized her.
"Caitlin!" Wade said, running to hug her. "I'm so glad that you made it!"
"So you're Caitlin," Quinn said as if meeting her for the first time.
"Yes," Caitlin said, bringing out a gun. "Do you remember me?"
"I can't say that I do," Quinn said. "And I guess I'm glad that I don't."
"Not funny, Quinn," Caitlin said, motioning to them with the gun. "Now give me the timer. We're going to go for a little walk, and I think I should be in control of that little gem."
Quinn handed the timer to Caitlin, and they all slowly walked towards an abandoned part of town.
"If this world is like my own," she said. "I should have some friends in this neighborhood."
A couple of minutes later, the group of five entered an abandoned warehouse.
"We'll wait here," Caitlin said, smiling.
Wade was confused. This was nothing like the Caitlin that she had been told about. Rembrandt had always talked about her in the nicest way, and now she was acting like the criminal that he had started to think about.
Which made her think. Was this a dream?
"Why did you do it, Caitlin?" she asked
"Yeah, and who are you?" Rembrandt asked.
Caitlin looked offended.
"You don't remember me, Remmy?" Caitlin asked, trying to pout. "After 'all those years?'"
"I've never even met you," Rembrandt responded.
"I have to give you credit," Caitlin said. "I chose you as my alpha subject because I thought your mind would be the weakest. But I guess I was wrong."
But Caitlin walked over to Wade, looking down on her.
"But you," she said. "You are the one I should've chosen because you have the weakest mind I have ever encountered."
"Psycho lady," Quinn said, attracting her attention. "Can you please explain what's going on because I feel very left out."
"I have the gun so I should be giving the orders, but we have some time to kill," Caitlin said. "About 10 or so slides ago, you guys came across my world. I had just escaped from prison, and I saw your vortex open in front of my eyes."
"That was bound to happen sometime," Quinn thought.
"Needless to say, we have very powerful minds on our world," Caitlin said. "After quickly reading your minds, I learned about sliding, and I knew it was my perfect chance to escape. So, I decided to force you to take me with you."
It was all becoming clear for the other sliders, but Wade couldn't believe what Caitlin was saying.
"I was able to read your minds and know your memories," Caitlin continued. "I was then able to implant myself into those memories. You'd be surprised how easy a person can go from a stranger to a close friend with a little bit of mind control."
The men were disgusted that they were used in that way. They were puppets in her game for weeks.
"I assumed it was working perfectly until you approached me about my criminal history," Caitlin said. "I quickly ran through your memories, and I saw myself in almost none of them."
"Why not just do it again?" Quinn asked.
He didn't remember any of these events, but he assumed that they had all happened.
"I thought about that," Caitlin said. "But I think there's something odd about your minds. I can implant memories into your minds, but they don't stay in there forever. So, it would've been futile for me to keep doing it over and over."
"So you just attacked Rembrandt and ransacked the room?" Quinn asked sarcastically.
"It was the easy way out," Caitlin responded. "I may have a superior brain, but I don't like to use it if I don't have to."
"Wait," Rembrandt said. "If what you are saying is true, then how come I don't remember what happened since you joined us?"
"Yeah," Quinn said. "Those aren't implanted memories, and there isn't any reason why they would disappear."
"I wonder about that as well," Caitlin said. "I guess your minds caught on to my trick subconsciously, and they erased every trace of me. Including, I suppose, everything up to this morning."
"Can our minds do that?" Rembrandt whispered to Arturo.
"Mr. Brown," Arturo said. "There are parts of the human mind that can't be explored. I wouldn't be surprised if everything she is saying is true."
"Of course it's true!" Caitlin said. "I can prove it, but I see no reason to."
"It is true!" Wade said. "I've seen the last part, and I remember everything! I can remember the first time I saw her on my world. You and the Professor were there! Why don't you remember?"
Wade was in tears now. She and Caitlin had become close friends since she had begun sliding again. She knew her as long as she had known Rembrandt, and she couldn't believe that she was a criminal.
Across the room, Caitlin was reading her thoughts. For a second, she was disgusted that someone could have as weak a mind as she seemed to have.
But perhaps she could use Wade's undying commitment to her new truth to her advantage?
After a couple of hours, a small gang of criminals carefully entered the warehouse. Caitlin moved the sliders out of the way so that she could test her theory.
The gang pulled out a couple of bags full of stolen goods, dumping them onto the table.
"Not bad for only a day's work," one of the male criminals said.
"Certainly not," Caitlin said, coming out from the shadows, surprising the gang. "But we can do much better, can't we?"
The gang quickly pulled out their guns and aimed them at her.
"Wrong direction," Caitlin said, focusing her mind on them.
Immediately, the criminals turned their guns around, pointing them at their own heads.
"Amazing!" Caitlin said with a big smile on her face. "It's like a whole world full of her!"
Even though it was an insult to her, Wade laughed. Even though the male sliders were tied up, they tried to talk to her.
"Don't let her control you," Quinn said, but it was like Wade was in a trance.
"This is going to be fun," Caitlin said. "I think I've found my Eden."
"So I guess you can just let us go on our merry way," Quinn said.
"Unfortunately no," Caitlin said. "You see, if you all live, then you will be the only blotch on my otherwise perfect record."
"Can't you make an exception," Quinn asked, trying to be charming.
"No," Caitlin said. "Especially not in front of my new underlings. No, I'm afraid you must die."
"Do you want us to kill them?" one of the criminals asked, cocking his gun.
"That would be easier," Caitlin said. "But I'd rather see her kill them."
She was pointing at Wade, who had an evil smile on her face.
"You want Wade to kill us?" Rembrandt asked. "She wouldn't do that?"
"I will for you," Wade said.
"Wade!" Quinn said. "We're your friends!"
"Not anymore," Caitlin said. "You see, I have just made Wade my sister, and she will do anything for me."
"You're insane!" Quinn said. "You can't just play with minds like that!"
"Why not?" Caitlin asked, trying to act innocent.
Quinn knew that she was beyond reasoning with. She was completely insane, and they were going to have to defeat her the old fashioned way.
"Wade won't kill us," Rembrandt said. "She's stronger than that."
"Unfortunately she's not," Caitlin said. "But I think I have a way to even the score."
Caitlin went to the corner, and she picked up a baseball bat, handing it to Wade.
"Go get him," Caitlin said, mentally untying Rembrandt's rope.
Rembrandt quickly moved up, but it felt like Caitlin was suppressing his muscles mentally.
"Don't do this, Wade," Rembrandt said, but Wade stared at him with inhuman eyes. It looked like all she wanted to do was kill him.
She pulled the bat back and swung it as hard as she could at his midsection. Even with slowed reflexes, he was able to get out of the way, but he knew he wouldn't be able to dodge her forever.
In the other part of the room, Quinn was almost out of the restraints. With Caitlin focusing completely on Rembrandt and Wade, he could do something if he could get out in time.
Arturo tried to get out, but his restraints were on much tighter. But he did notice that Caitlin had left the criminals in a trance, so Quinn escaped, they wouldn't be able to protect her.
With Wade now swinging frantically to stun him, Rembrandt tried to turn around and run. But now Caitlin slowed him even more, and the bat hit Rembrandt on the back of his leg. Knocked to the ground and completely under Caitlin's control, he knew Wade was going to do some serious damage very soon.
Quinn wiggled out one of his hands, and he quickly pulled out the other. As Wade pulled the bat up to launch a massive blow to Rembrandt's head, Quinn ran and lunged at Caitlin.
The blow to her caused her to lose her control over Rembrandt, but Wade was still trying to attack him. Rembrandt quickly moved out of the way of the blow, and the bat slammed against the floor, causing her to drop it on the ground.
Rembrandt ran towards Quinn and Caitlin, just as Caitlin mentally threw Quinn across the room. But before she could do the same to Rembrandt, he punched her in the face.
She wasn't knocked out, but she was very woozy.
"We'd better hurry," Rembrandt said, untying Arturo.
Arturo grabbed the timer, as Rembrandt tried to restrain Wade. Wade fought as hard as she could to fight him, but Rembrandt overpowered her, dragging her to Quinn's side.
"How much time?" Quinn struggled to say.
"You won't believe it," Arturo said. "It's actually now."
Arturo opened the vortex, and Rembrandt quickly dragged Wade into the vortex with him.
"Are you okay?" Arturo asked.
"Yeah," Quinn said, struggling to his feet. "It feels like my whole body is numb."
Arturo looked over at Caitlin, who was staring at Quinn. It was obvious that he was trying to prevent him from leaving, but she was too weak to stop him completely.
"Go!" Arturo said, helping Quinn into the vortex.
As soon as Quinn was inside, Arturo felt the same way. But he overpowered the numb feeling, jumping into the vortex himself.
As soon as the vortex closed, Caitlin collapsed to the ground. She had lost.
Using her mental power, she pulled herself up. Grabbing her head, she felt awful. But then her eyes came onto the gang of criminals, still in a trance.
Maybe losing this battle wasn't as bad as she thought. This was a new world.
An innocent world.
On the next world, all four sliders landed on the ground hard, lying in pain.
"Guys?" Rembrandt asked, holding onto his sore leg. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Quinn said. "I still feel a little weird, but I bet that goes away the further we are from her."
"I agree," Arturo said, feeling sore all over his body.
"Wade?" Rembrandt asked, who was kneeling on the ground. "Are you okay?"
"I don't know," Wade said. "Did I black out for a while there?"
Rembrandt laughed, and Quinn and Arturo cracked a smile.
"I think you did, Miss Welles," Arturo said, smiling. "But I think you're okay, now."
Quinn and Arturo helped their friends to their feet, and they slowly walked towards the Dominion Hotel. As they walked, the memory of Caitlin Murphy slowly faded away.