In a sea of cars, news vans, cameras, and people, a reporter inched closer to the house of Quinn Mallory. He had been told to stay away from the house, but he wanted to be the closest reporter to the scene.
His cameraman quickly turned on the camera, and he tried to get his speech done before the police caught him.
"Yes, Charlie," the reporter said. "I'm here at the former home of Quinn Mallory, a man who died four years ago in a hit and run accident.
"Inside," the reporter continued. A man claiming to be Mr. Mallory is holding Wade Welles, an employee at a local computer store, hostage. He is demanding that the nation's best scientist in the field of theoretical physics be brought to the scene for a reason unknown to this point. Now, of course, we will stay here at the crime scene, and we will update you with news as it comes in. From the hostage situation in suburban San Francisco, I'm Donovan Michaels. Back to you in the studio."
Trying to improve his work in a familiar location, Quinn sat in his double's basement. He thought that he could work better there, but it was no use. He couldn't fix it.
Although he had cut the time on each world down from two days, six hours was a long time for the sliders. Quinn assumed they could knock out more than twenty worlds every day at the rate they were going. Either way, it was going to take luck, but he also wanted speed and quantity on his side.
But he was tired of worrying about the timer. It wasn't going to get better, and he just had to move on. Six hours would allow them to thoroughly investigate each world. And it would allow them to get a little more deserved rest.
Quinn got up, and he looked across the hallway to a small bathroom in the corner. His double apparently spent enough time in the basement that it had a bathroom, and even a makeshift bed in the corner.
Arturo was on his knees beside the toilet, in obvious pain.
"I can't do it," the Professor said, pathetically. "Just leave me here!"
"Come on, Professor!" Rembrandt said. "You only have a small fever."
"Yeah," Quinn said, joining the conversation. "If you call 99.1 a fever."
"Its not the fever I'm concerned about," Arturo said. "Its the slide! If I have to go through another one of those blasted trips with my stomach like this, none of you will enjoy the results!"
"That's sick, Professor," Quinn said.
"Guys!" Wade said, trying to break up the argument. "Stop fighting! We're going, and we're going now!"
Wade opened the vortex, and quickly jumped inside. Rembrandt and Quinn stood in front of the vortex, looking at Arturo, who seemed to be begging for assistance.
The pair quickly played a game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors," and Rembrandt's paper beat Quinn's rock.
"Paper beats rock," Rembrandt said with a smile. "I get to stay upstream."
"Very funny, Rembrandt," Quinn said, shoving Rembrandt into the vortex. "Let's go, Professor."
Quinn took Arturo onto his shoulders, and lightly pushed him into the vortex. Taking one more look around, Quinn jumped in before the gateway closed behind him.
On the next world, the vortex opened in the kitchen of Quinn's house. As soon as he landed, Arturo rushed to the nearby bathroom.
"Godspeed, Professor," Quinn said, laughing. He then noted the unfurnished kitchen. "Well, I'm certainly glad there wasn't any furniture in here. I guess my family moved on this world."
"Well, I guess we'll just relax here for a few hours?" Wade asked, smiling.
But Quinn didn't answer her. He was too busy staring at the array of police cars outside of his house.
Wade walked up to Quinn, who curiously looked at the activity outside.
"Oh!" Wade said excitedly. "Its a stand-off; I want to see!"
Rembrandt knew that was a bad idea. The standoff was pointed towards Quinn's house. It was aimed at them. But before he could say or do anything, Wade was out the door. Within seconds, she was grabbed by the police and taken behind the wall of squad cars.
"Wade!" Quinn said, trying to follow Wade out the door. But Rembrandt held him back.
"All right," the lead officer said. "We've got the hostage, but we still have a man inside with a bomb. So, we still have to work with caution. I don't want any fatalities today!"
Rembrandt grabbed Quinn, and pulled him towards the basement. This was not a time to act quickly. They had to be careful because the police would be on edge. They had to get answers first.
But the basement was not empty.
"Don't move!" a man said, reaching for a device of some kind. "I'll detonate it, and kill everyone within a block's radius!"
"Hold on, buddy," Rembrandt said calmly. "We're not involved in your conflict."
"You are now, buddy," the man said sarcastically. Rembrandt now recognized the voice.
It was Quinn's double.
"Wait," the double said. "Are you this Earth's Quinn. I thought he had died."
"No, I'm not," Quinn answered. "I'm just a traveler. I suppose you're a slider also."
"Good guess," Quinn's double said, annoyed.
The phone rang before the conversation could continue. Quinn's double answered the phone, but he was surprised to hear what the police had to say. They wanted him to negotiate his surrender.
"Surrender?" the double said, shocked. "I hate to inform you that I still have a hostage! I will kill her if my demands aren't met!"
"Mr. Mallory," the negotiator said. "We have Ms. Welles right here. Now, we don't want to see anyone die here today, so we're still going to work with you. Please don't make me do anything I'm going to regret."
"I agree," the double said. "Just get me that scientist."
Quinn's double stared at Quinn and Rembrandt. He knew it had been their Wade who had been captured. They had ruined his plans, but he also might be his savior.
At the police barricade, the police were baffled. Their hostage taker had been dead for years, and now he was still demanding things after he allowed his hostage to escape. It was all too strange.
Chief Rembrandt Brown had never seen anything like it. He walked past the blockade to the area where they were questioning the hostage.
"Ms. Welles," Chief Brown said. "I hope you can shed some light on this situation. Why does Mr. Mallory still claim to have hostages?"
Wade was frightened and confused, but she thought of a story fast.
"That's because he does," Wade said quickly. "He kidnapped me and my sister, Wade. I'm Kelly Welles."
As soon as she said that, she regretted it. She didn't even know whether she had a sister on this world. If she didn't, her story would be completely blown. And even if she didn't, it would be easy to find that Kelly wasn't a hostage.
"I wasn't aware that Ms. Welles had a sister," Chief Brown said. "This is the craziest crime scene I've ever been at. Please tell me as much as you know."
"I don't know very much," Wade said.
Chief Brown turned around to walk away. She wasn't going to give him any straight answers. Hell, she might even be involved somehow.
"Sir," Wade said, causing the chief to turn around with a strange look on his face. "I can't explain it, but I feel I must rejoin my sister."
This was it. Why would she want to get back into the house?
"Then, why did you leave?" Chief Brown asked, surprised and annoyed.
"I don't know," Wade said, knowing she was blowing her story. "But I know I need to get back in there. Maybe I can help you from the inside?"
Chief Brown didn't even give her an answer. This case would require unorthodox methods, but there was no way he was going to let a hostage back into the arms of a terrorist.
After a few minutes, Quinn's double began to talk. Rembrandt noticed that he was extremely nervous, and it seemed like he wanted to talk to keep his composure.
Rembrandt wanted him to remain calm, so he asked him how he ended up on this world.
"Well," Quinn said. "My was badly damaged on my previous slide. I knew I needed to let it rest before traveling, but I was on a very primitive world. I was worried that I would get stuck there, so I risked one more trip. I was excited to land on a world like this, but I knew the timer was completely fried. Even my fail-safe device was destroyed. I didn't have any money or means to fix my timer, so I tried to find components here."
"However," Quinn's double continued. "I couldn't find anything useful to fix my timer with here either. But I did find components to make a bomb."
"So, you kidnapped an innocent girl and held her for ransom?" Quinn said condescendingly.
"Well," the double said. "In hindsight, it wasn't my brightest moment. But it was the only way I could get my timer fixed."
"But why bring her into this?" Rembrandt asked, looking at Wade's double, who was trembling in the corner.
"Oh, no," the double said, defensively. "I brought Wade here because I need a companion. You see, my Wade was my wife. She died a couple slides ago, and I was crushed."
"So you took Wade against her will," Rembrandt said.
"Its for the best!" Quinn's double screamed. "I tried sliding alone, but after just a couple slides, I went crazy. Sliding is a completely different beast when you're alone."
"So, get someone to come voluntarily," Quinn said. "Your Wade must have come voluntarily."
"She's just scared because the Quinn she knew is dead," the double said. "As soon as she gets over that, she'll see this is for the best. Why spend your life at Computer Hell when you can take a spin around the universe?"
Rembrandt was disgusted. But he didn't want to excite Quinn's double. He was at an emotional crossroads, and Rembrandt wanted to make sure that he didn't make another big mistake and destroy the house.
He went over to comfort Wade's double, while Quinn moved in to look at his double's timer.
"There's no need for that anymore," the double said, with no hope in his voice. "We'll just hitch a ride with you."
"It's not that simple," Quinn said. "We've got a six-hour wait. Let me take a look at your timer. Maybe I can do something so that you don't have to terrorize all these people."
"Fine," the double responded. "We'll go with you, and we'll bring the timer with us. On the next world, we'll keep working."
"We're not taking you with us," Quinn said sternly. "I'll do whatever I can to try and fix your timer, but I'm not going to have my hands in your kidnapping."
Rembrandt was worried that Quinn was going to irritate his double. He didn't want the situation to get out of hand. He got up to monitor the situation.
"Besides," Quinn continued. "We've got missing friends ourselves. My Wade was taken by the police, and I don't even know where the Professor is. Remmy, when did you last see him?"
"He went to the bathroom as soon as we landed," Rembrandt answered. "He's probably still there."
"Well, we've got to get him," Quinn said. "If the cops rush in here, we won't have any time to searching for him."
Quinn looked at the timer. It still read well over five hours.
"Actually, we'd still have quite a while." Quinn thought. He hated having no control over when to leave. It was times like these when he wanted to be able to leave whenever he wanted.
"Remmy," Quinn said. "Do you think you could run up and get the Professor?"
"Yeah right, buddy," Quinn's double said. "And you could bring the cops in here to take me down. No, you all are staying right here."
"No," Quinn said. "I've had enough of this. What would I have to gain by going to the police. I just want my friend to come down here, and that's what I'm going to do."
Quinn ran up the stairs, while Rembrandt carefully watched to make sure Quinn's double didn't do anything crazy. He had to watch carefully, because he'd be the one to take him down if things went sour.
Quinn slowly went up the stairs to the first floor. He crawled to the bathroom, and entered it. Inside, he saw the Professor asleep by the toilet.
"Professor," Quinn said, tapping him softly on the arm. "It's time to wake up."
Arturo woke up slowly. He was exhausted, and he didn't want to get up, let alone crawl to the basement.
"Professor," Quinn said with urgency in his voice. "We have to get you to the basement right now."
Arturo forced himself up, and propped himself onto Quinn's shoulders. They walked slowly to the basement, and Quinn put Arturo down near Wade.
"Did they see you?" Quinn's double asked.
"I wouldn't be surprised," Quinn said sarcastically. "But do you see a line of cops behind me?"
"Not yet," Quinn's double said. "But I'm sure they're coming now."
"Hey!" Quinn said, sick and tired of his double's attitude. "I had to lug the Professor half the way across the house, Wade is in a police barricade, and we've been nothing but considerate to you. And only because you have an inferiority complex because you got careless and fried your equipment. If you knew your Wade as well as you claimed to have, you'd know she hates people who act the way you're acting! I mean, look at her!"
Alt-Wade was sitting in the corner, crying. She was afraid, and didn't know what to do.
"She's not scared because she thinks your a ghost," Quinn said. "She's smarter and more mature than that! She's scared because you keep threatening to kill her if your demands aren't met. And no matter how polite you act when this is all over, she's never going to respect you. So, you might as well just let her go!"
"No way," Quinn's double said. "I didn't go to all this trouble to give up. She's coming with me, and she'll learn to love me!"
Quinn was going to respond, but Rembrandt made a face that convinced him to keep his mouth shut. He didn't want to drive his double over the edge.
Hours passed, and Rembrandt was worried. The two Quinns were working on the timer, but they argued constantly over many issues. Quinn would attack his double's idea and situation, and the double would counter with an attack on Quinn's intelligence. Then, Quinn would insult his double's "flawed design."
The first few times, a worried Rembrandt broke up the fights. But by the second hour, he gave up. He needed to watch over the Professor and Wade's double, and he assured himself that the arguing wasn't making the situation worse.
But, suddenly, the phone rang. The room was silent for a few seconds, as Quinn's double walked across the room and answered the phone.
"Yes, Mr. Mallory," the voice on the other end said. "This is Chief Brown. That scientist you wanted is here. Sorry about the delay, but he was very hard to track down."
"Well you're lucky I'm a patient guy," Quinn's double said, causing Quinn to roll his eyes.
"How do you propose he gets in the house?" Quinn's double asked.
"If you look out your window," Chief Brown answered. "You'll see that we've moved our perimeter back almost ten feet. And all of our officers have their guns holstered."
Quinn's double was only mildly impressed. He knew there were snipers, and that it was probable that officers were well beyond the perimeter. But he needed his timer fixed, and he was willing to take that risk. So far, the officers had been very cautious, and he didn't expect them to change this far along in the standout.
"The professor is going to approach the house alone," Chief Brown continued. "How would you like him to enter the residence?"
"The door is open," Quinn's double answered. "He can just walk in, but don't try any funny stuff. I'll have my finger on the trigger the whole time."
"Okay," Chief Brown said. "He'll be at the door shortly."
At the barricade, Chief Brown was talking to another officer.
"Chief, we have a problem," the officer said. "We checked the records. There is no Kelly Welles."
"Why would she lie?" Rembrandt said, wiping the sweat from his brow. "That makes no sense."
This was the strangest case he had ever seen. There was no reason to go back into the house if they weren't connected. But, then again, she hadn't done anything to indicate she was doing surveillance for him.
"Yes," the officer said. "And she has requested to return to the house with the professor."
"I know this sounds crazy," Chief Brown said, worried. "But let her go."
"Chief?" the officer said, shocked.
"Do it," the chief responded sternly. "But give the professor a weapon. I want a guy on the inside if things go wrong."
Chief Brown wondered if he was making a huge mistake. Now, he was letting his hostage back into the wolfpack, and he was letting a professor into the building with a concealed weapon.
There were so many things that could make the situation much worse. So many things that could make that house blow up. But this was a strange, desperate case. And it caused for a strange and desperate strategy.
Chief Brown called the house again. He alerted Quinn's double that "Kelly" was going to rejoin him so that she could help with whatever he was planning.
Quinn's double thought it was a trick at first. He was going to rush to his device until he realized that Wade was coming, and that the scientist sent was a double of Professor Arturo. They walked through the open door, and went down to the basement.
"Professor Arturo, what a pleasant surprise," Quinn's double said as soon as Arturo's double appeared at the top of the basement stairs.
"Do I know you?" Arturo's double said condescendingly.
"I've heard of you, that's all," Quinn's double said, trying not to start any trouble. He knew Arturo was brilliant, but he didn't want to get on his bad side. Especially since he was now a hostage.
"I understand that you are the best in your field," Quinn's double continued. "Do you know anything about theoretical physics?"
"Of course I do, you blistering idiot!" Arturo's double screamed. "I will accept that I am the hostage of an apparent ghost, but I will not have my intelligence mocked. I was rudely interrupted from an experiment I was conducting, and I just wish to get this over with."
"Well then," Quinn said, emerging from the corner. "We had better get to work."
Arturo's double looked shocked.
"There are two of you?" Arturo said amazed. "Would either of you care to explain?"
"You'll understand in a matter of minutes," Quinn said. "But let's just say that we're both travelers from a parallel universe."
Arturo's double was speechless.
"Are you meaning to tell me that you, sir, crossed the Einstein-Rosen-Thatcher bridge?" Arturo said. "It lacks logic!"
Quinn smiled. It even shocked him sometimes.
While the two Quinns and Arturo's double worked on the timer, Quinn examined his own. Ten minutes until the theoretical limit. He didn't want to abandon his double, as evil as he appeared to be, but he also didn't want to endanger his friends.
He would have to make a quick decision, and he hoped he would make the right one.
In the corner of the basement, Arturo was gaining his strength back. The long sleep he was able to get had really helped, and he felt as if his body was recovering from the illness.
"Rembrandt, our current condition doesn't allow us to investigate this world," Arturo said. "If Quinn's here, I don't think we'll find him."
Rembrandt had been so concerned about their situation on this world that he didn't even think about finding Quinn.
"I hadn't thought of that," Rembrandt said. "But there's not much that we can do about it. We'll just have to hope that he's not."
"But speaking of that, I wanted to bring something up," Rembrandt said.
"Yes," Arturo said, slowly pulling himself up.
"Well, my friends and I slid in LA," Rembrandt said. "Now, its great to be back home in San Francisco , but I don't think we can find Quinn as easily here. I think it will be easier if we go to LA."
"And do you know how we would go about doing that?" Arturo asked.
"I think," Rembrandt answered. "Quinn, while we were with your double, met this woman. She put some kind of 'geographic stabilizer' in the timer. If we get one of those, we could slide into Los Angeles."
"Its not that easy, Rembrandt," Arturo responded. "Our timer is designed to keep us sliding in a certain radius inside the limits of San Francisco. We have a geographic stabilizer, but it keeps us here so that we don't slide to the middle of the Pacific Ocean."
"But you picked me up in LA," Rembrandt said, confused. "On that Kromagg Earth."
"That's different," Arturo said. "The machine we built is a centralized position that could create wormholes all over the country if necessary. We'd have to go back to the lab if we wanted to create that effect. But that would take even more time than we're spending now. Unless."
"What?" Rembrandt asked.
"Unless we could move the sliding radius somehow," Arturo said. "The timer acts strange in respect to geography. If we were to simply travel to Los Angeles and open the gateway, one of three outcomes would happen. Either the vortex wouldn't open, we would land in our original radius, or a new radius would be created. I'll have to discuss the idea with Quinn; maybe he can shed some light on the subject."
With only a few minutes to spare, the trio put the finishing touches on the timer. It would need additional work for extended sliding, but Quinn's double just wanted enough juice to get off this world. He'd worry about the next world when he arrived.
"We're done," the double said with a smile. "Come on Wade, we're going for a ride."
Arturo's double realized that Quinn's double was about to leave. And although he desperately wanted to see the timer work, he was told not to let the suspect leave. He knelt down and grabbed the gun he was given.
"I'm afraid I can't allow you to do that, young man,". Arturo's double said. "Now hand me that device."
"Okay," Quinn's double said. "Just be careful with that thing."
Quinn's double moved to grab the timer, but instead, he grabbed his own gun. He turned around and shot Arturo's double in the leg. Arturo went down in pain, firing his gun towards the ceiling.
As soon as Chief Brown heard the shots, he knew there was going to be trouble. He ordered the officers to move back, just in case the bomb went off. He grabbed his walkie talkie and radioed his other officers.
"This thing's going down now!" the chief screamed to his officers in the bushes outside the Mallory house. "Its now or never. Rush!"
With that, three officers broke down the front door and rushed towards the basement. But Quinn's double heard them coming and fired several shots at the basement door. He wounded the lead officer, who backed off with his partners.
Quinn's double then rushed to the bomb he had created, and he set it for five minutes.
"I hope that your time is over because we're out of here," Quinn's double said, activating his timer. "Come on Wade."
Rembrandt grabbed the gun that Arturo's double had grabbed. He held it out at Quinn's double.
"No!" Rembrandt said strongly. "You're not going to take her with you. Now, you disarm that bomb, and then you can go about your business. I won't turn you over to the police, but you're not taking her."
Thinking quickly, Quinn's double pointed his gun at Remmy and pulled the trigger. But the gun was empty.
"No!" Quinn's double said, throwing his gun away. "Come on Wade! It's for your own good!"
Wade's double emerged from the corner, and she spoke out loud for the first time since the sliders arrived.
"No!" she screamed in a soft but strong voice.
Quinn's double looked at the vortex, noting that it was beginning to implode. Without any other options, he gave up.
"Fine," the double said, looking at the bomb with a smile. "Have fun for the next couple of minutes."
The double laughed as he jumped into the vortex.
The sliders rushed to the bomb.
"Can you stop it?" Wade asked, nervous.
"I don't know," Quinn said. "This isn't exactly my line of work."
Quinn motioned towards the bomb, but stopped as he heard a beeping noise. He feared it was the bomb, but gave out a sigh of relief when he saw that it was the timer.
"Yes!" Quinn said, throwing his hands in the air. "Its time to go!"
"But what do you plan on doing with the bomb?" Arturo's double asked, as Wade's double wrapped his leg with a nearby towel.
Quinn looked at Arturo, who nodded. It was worth the risk.
"We're going to take it with us," Quinn said, trying to act confidently.
The bomb read 3 minutes, 10 seconds. Quinn knew that if he left it, many more could die. He knew the risk, but he didn't want to think about that. These people had suffered enough.
"And what if we land in a populated area?" Arturo asked. "It could end up costing even more lives."
Quinn hadn't thought of that.
"Let's just pray that that doesn't happen," Quinn said. "But we have to go now!"
Quinn opened the vortex, and he grabbed the bomb. Hoping for a soft landing on the other side, he jumped inside. Arturo weakly jumped in himself, followed by Wade. Rembrandt smiled at Wade's double, who smiled back, before jumping in himself.
On the next world Quinn flew out of the vortex, and started to work on the bomb. As the others came out, they noticed that they were still in Quinn's house.
"Get everyone out of the house!" Quinn quickly screamed. "I can do this!"
Rembrandt helped Arturo up the stairs, as Wade made sure no one else was in the house. The three sliders went to the street, waiting for Quinn to come out. A few seconds later, Rembrandt got restless.
"I can't stand this!" Rembrandt said. "I've got to go back for him!"
"No, Mr. Brown," Arturo said, still weak. "Too much time has passed for you to do any good. We can't risk it."
Arturo's face went cold, as he realized Quinn had the timer.
"Then I definitely have to go back inside!" Rembrandt screamed, as he ran towards the house.
Arturo wanted to stop him, but he was already gone. They needed the timer, and maybe two heads would prove to be better than one.
A couple minutes later, Quinn and Rembrandt walked out of the house, laughing. Rembrandt held the timer in his hand to show that it was all right.
"You'll diffused it!" Wade said, ecstatic.
"Not exactly," Rembrandt said, still laughing.
"Yeah," Quinn said. "That Quinn thought he was so smart. He could build a timer, but he couldn't build a simple bomb."
Just then, the sliders heard a small explosion. The bomb had detonated, but had no effect on the stability of the house.
"Or maybe he can," Quinn said.
The group was able to laugh, even though they had all come dangerously close to dying.
"Maybe I should call the fire department," Wade said, rushing off.
As Wade ran to a neighbor's house, Quinn looked at Rembrandt.
"What are you looking at, Q-Ball?" Rembrandt asked, smiling.
"You," Quinn said. "I'm amazed at how brave you were on that last world. You were incredible. My Rembrandt would never have done half the things you did back there."
"It was nothing," Rembrandt said. "When the people you love are in danger, you do things out of character to bring them to safety."
Arturo and Quinn were surprised at Rembrandt's elegant words.
"You weren't too bad yourself," Rembrandt said, embracing Quinn. "Now, the Professor and I wanted to discuss something with you."
"Oh no," Quinn said. "What is it this time?"
"We need to go to Los Angeles," Rembrandt said. "And we need you to get us there."
"I guess 'Take Action Rembrandt' is long gone," Quinn said with a smile.
"No," Rembrandt said. "He's here to stay. I just don't want to hog all the action."
"Los Angeles?" Quinn asked.
"Los Angeles," Rembrandt said, smiling.
"Yes," Arturo said, disgusted. "Los Angeles..."