"Did they make it?" RB said, looking into the empty space in amazement.
Dr. Palmer was confident that the slide had been successful, but only God knew if they could find Dr. Davis and her friends.
The vortex opened on a dark world, and the sliders tumbled out.
"What is this," Wade asked, rubbing the back of her head. "Dark World?"
Quinn felt around for the wall, and he found the light switch. He tried to flip it, but it didn't turn on the power.
"No," Quinn said, defeated. "It's just 'we don't pay our power bill world.'"
Arturo found a door, and led the others to the outside. Rembrandt smelled the air and looked around.
"Yep, I've definitely been here before!" he said confidently
Rembrandt wasn't really sure, but it made everyone feel better for the moment.
"If Quinn is here," Arturo asked. "Where would he be, Mr. Brown?"
"I would guess he'd still be at the hotel," Rembrandt said.
Rembrandt trusted the scan, but he worried that his friends had already left. As the group walked towards the hotel, he couldn't help but wonder.
How long would he have waited if the shoe were on the other foot? And, more importantly, how long would they wait for him?
Diana knew it was time to go. They had been working on a way to leave for weeks, and there was no indication that Rembrandt was ever going to come back.
Besides, even if Rembrandt was going to come back, how was he ever going to find them? He had learned a lot about sliding, but he wasn't a scientist.
Plus, he had bigger things to deal with. He had to save his world first, and she knew that he trusted her to get the rest of the group home.
"Maggie!" she said. "We have to leave. There's nothing for us here."
"She's lost it," Mallory said, pulling Diana to the corner. "I've been thinking. I know she's the senior slider, but she's not in any condition to lead us through possibly years of sliding."
"I know," Diana said. "I've been thinking the same thing."
Diana didn't say it, but she wanted to assume command of the group. Granted, she was very new at action, let alone leadership, but Mallory seemed to be just as distracted as Maggie was now. But, then again, he was probably the logical choice either way.
"I think I should be the leader," Mallory said. "I don't want to sound macho or sexist, but I don't want to leave those kind of responsibilities to you when you have the timer to worry about."
Diana knew that was probably the truth. But they would be able to worry about that later. They just had to focus on getting off this world.
"Maggie?" Diana said, softly tapping her on the shoulder, but Maggie was completely out of it.
She was conscious, and she knew that Diana was telling her to leave. But she was ignoring her, hoping that she would give up for a week or two. She knew that Rembrandt was going to be coming back for her, and she simply waited to see him walking down the street towards the hotel.
"Maggie," Mallory said. We've done everything we can do here. If Remmy comes, he'll understand that we left. We'll leave word with the front desk or something."
That was enough.
"Yeah, but there isn't any way for us to find him!" Maggie exclaimed. "Or for him to find us!"
"But why would he even come?" Mallory said. "He's got a connection to us, but he's got his own world to think about. Kicking the Kromaggs off of his world isn't going to take a week or two. It's going to be a grueling process that might take years to pull off."
Mallory was just saying what everyone was thinking, but Diana was shocked to see that he was actually saying it.
"And by the time he gets that done, he will have expected us to have gone," Mallory continued. "Think about it, Maggie. Do you think Remmy would've wanted us to just sit here waiting for him?"
"He's right," Diana said, softly. "None of us like the fact that we'll never see Rembrandt again, but we have to face the fact that the odds are really against us. We have to go. It's what he would've wanted."
Maggie was speechless. She had no answer, and she knew they were both right. There was no reason to sit waiting for him.
She sat up from the window and silently gave her approval to leave.
Just as Maggie left her post by the window, the group approached the hotel entrance.
"Here we are," Rembrandt said as the group entered the hotel.
To make sure, he grabbed a bellhop.
"Have you heard of 'Slidology?'" Rembrandt asked to the disinterested young man.
"Of course," he said.
He looked up at the group, and he instantly looked annoyed.
"You've got to be kidding me," he said. "Sliders impersonators? You guys still exist?"
"What?" Wade asked.
"I think Slidology might still exist in some parts of the country," the bellhop said. "But people caught on to the B.S. when the creator died. The show's still on, but the religion fell apart when it turned out his daughter was insane."
"Already?" Rembrandt asked. "It's only been a few weeks!"
"Hey," the bellhop said. "It was just a phase, so it didn't take long to get over it."
The bellhop walked away, laughing at the group softly.
"Fascinating," Arturo said. "But are we sure now?"
"If this isn't the right world," Rembrandt answered. "We'll never find it."
The group walked to the sliders' suite, and Rembrandt knocked on the door.
The knock on the hotel room caught everyone by surprise. For a second, Maggie thought it might be Rembrandt, but Mallory noticed this and motioned Diana to open the vortex.
"Trust me, Maggie," Diana said. "In a few years, you'll thank us."
Diana lifted her timer up, and she moved her finger to activate it.
For the last few hours, Rembrandt had been thinking about how he would reintroduce himself to his friends. Always the joker, he decided to prank them.
"Room service," he said in a slightly altered voice.
"See?" Mallory said, nodding to Diana. "It's just room service."
"Wait," Maggie said, slowly moving towards the door.
"No," Diana said, activating the vortex.
"Stop!" Maggie screamed. "Remmy?"
Rembrandt was having fun with this, but something wasn't right. Maggie was definitely in there, but she sounded like she was in trouble. And it almost sounded like a vortex had opened in the room.
"Maggie?" Rembrandt said, giving up on his joke.
"It's him!" Maggie screamed. "It's really him!"
But Diana and Mallory didn't hear anything. The man's voice sounded a little like Rembrandt's, but it wasn't him. Diana had thought that the sight of the vortex would finally force her to come along.
"If we go," Mallory said. "She'll follow."
Mallory prepared himself to jump inside, but Diana held her arm out to stop him.
"Wait," she said, as Maggie opened the door.
Maggie had gone over this moment in her head a million times, but she couldn't believe it was actually happening.
She opened the door, and Rembrandt stood before her.
"Remmy!" Maggie screamed.
Maggie almost knocked him to the ground when she hugged him. He was glad to see her, but he never imagined she'd be so happy to see him.
"It's him," Mallory said, his mouth wide open. "It's really him."
Diana was just as shocked. She looked up at the vortex, and she closed it manually.
Maggie looked over at Rembrandt's companions, and she saw a recreation of the original group.
"What's going on?" Maggie said, confused.
For a second, Maggie thought she was dreaming, and she quietly pinched herself.
"That's a long story!" Rembrandt said. "But I'll let you in on it in a minute!"
While Rembrandt and Maggie got reacquainted, the rest of the group sat silently in the hallway. They really had no connection to this part of the group, and they felt out of place. But after Rembrandt entered the room, they followed.
Diana and Mallory weren't as excited as Maggie, but they were still very happy to see Rembrandt. Both pinched themselves also to make sure they weren't dreaming.
"Good to see you'll," Rembrandt said, hugging both at the same time. "I missed you both!"
"Right back at you!" Mallory said, giving Rembrandt a slap on the back. "We'd just about given up on you. But Maggie believed in you until the end."
"I just knew you'd come back, Remmy," Maggie said, giving him another hug.
"You know me," Rembrandt said. "I love to make an entrance."
"So, what happened on your world?" Diana asked.
"I promise I'll let you in on that eventually, but we have pressing matters," Rembrandt said. "We've found a way to split Mallory."
Diana was skeptical. Hadn't they been through this before?
"Remmy," she said, sighing.
"Actually,Mr. Brown is correct," Arturo said, making his presence known. "My associate and I have done it before, and I assure you the procedure is quite flawless."
"Does he know how long they've been merged?" Diana asked.
Rembrandt nodded and smiled.
"I'm impressed," Diana said. "If you can do what you say you can do, we'd better get started."
As the three scientists began to work on splitting Mallory, Maggie and Rembrandt sat down to talk.
"Okay," Maggie said, a smile imprinted on her face. "All of the serious stuff is being taken care of, so now you have to explain what happened."
"It's not that big of a story," Rembrandt said. "I was nervous as Hell when I went through the vortex, and I was sure I was going to die. But I landed on the world and it was completely empty. I wasn't there for more than a minute when Quinn approached me, and he told me that that wasn't Earth Prime."
"So, the coordinates Diana got were wrong?" Maggie asked.
"No," Rembrandt said. "That's the beautiful part. The world we landed on with the Kromaggs on it wasn't Earth Prime. We all think it was some kind of trick to get Quinn to unlock the slidecage."
"Amazing," Maggie said. "And what happened next?"
"Well," Rembrandt continued. "Quinn took me back to his world, and to my amazement, the Professor was standing there."
"And he's your Arturo?" Maggie asked.
"Yeah," Rembrandt answered, with shame in his voice. "We accidentally left him on Quinn's world, and we took his double.
"I know how that feels," Maggie said, remembering a similar experience two years earlier.
"He doesn't seem bitter about it," Rembrandt continued. "But I can't imagine that's the case. He claims the whole thing let him reexamine his life, and it helped him figure out a lot about sliding. But it had to have been hard to just sit there, realizing that your friends have just abandoned you. I just have so much respect for him."
"He sounds like a great guy," Maggie said, looking over at him.
"He is," Rembrandt said, smiling.
"So, what happened next?" Maggie asked.
"I told Quinn about what happened with Mallory," Rembrandt said. "He told us that it would be possible to separate him from Quinn, and he volunteered to take Arturo and me to find him." "That's great, Remmy," Maggie said. "But I have one question. If that world wasn't your world, what's the deal with Quinn's parents?"
"I don't know," Rembrandt said, shrugging his shoulders. "I guess he's not from Kromagg Prime, but I just don't know. It just seems like whenever we answer one question, another one pops up."
"Well," Maggie said. "We'll figure it all out. It's just so good to see you, Remmy."
"Right back at you, girl," Rembrandt said.
After introducing Diana to the specific process of splitting the Quinns, they began to talk about how to go about doing it.
"The way I see it," Arturo said. "Quinn and I can bring Mr. Mallory to our lab on his world. There, we have the equipment to separate the two halves, and we can return here to send everyone home."
"You three will go alone?" Diana asked.
"Yes," Arturo said. "I don't think we should risk taking seven people; the consequences outweigh the benefits if we try that."
"Okay," Diana said. "So, we're set?"
Arturo nodded, but Quinn shook his head. He looked at Diana's timer on the table, and he got an idea.
"Maybe there's another way," Quinn said.
"What's that?" Diana asked.
"Well," Quinn said, scratching his head. "We could re-configure our timer with yours. The combination of the two timers should create the same effect as the equipment back home."
"And that will work the same way?" Diana asked.
Arturo hesitated. He knew there was a bigger risk with the timer, especially in its weakened state. But it was Quinn who had thought up the procedure, and he forfeited to him in this instance.
"Well," Quinn said. "There's always a risk involved, but there'd be a similar risk either way. Your timer, from the looks of it, has imperfections, but our timer should override that. We'll let the multiverse take care most of the work, anyway."
Quinn knew he was taking a risk. But he didn't want to waste even more time with any more trips. No offense to these people, but he just wanted to get everyone home as soon as possible. This journey had been much more taxing than he had expected, and he didn't want to take any more chances.
"Great," Diana said with a smile. "What do you need me to do?"
"You ran into the Kromaggs again?" Maggie asked, as Rembrandt continued updating Maggie on his adventures.
"Yeah, I know," Rembrandt said. "It sort of ruined our streak, but they're still around."
"At least you know they haven't overrun your world," Maggie said.
"Thank God for that," Rembrandt said. "But the possibility is still out there, and it worries me. Eventually, someone has to do something about them. I don't think a full-out war is going to solve anything, but there has to be a way to protect ourselves from him."
"Maybe this Laze guy has the answer," Maggie said.
"Maybe," Rembrandt said, not sure if Laze was the right guy to trust. "His device is a start; that's for sure. I just hope we find a reason before it's too late."
As the three scientists worked on the timer, Mallory watched. He was hoping that Quinn's mind would reemerge to help in some way. For the first time in well over a year, he wished Quinn would come back.
But nothing. He was nervous that Quinn was dead. And if Quinn was dead, what would happen with the separation?
Quinn finished up the merged timers, and he explained the final stages to Diana.
"So as not to reset the timer," he said. We're going to wait until the six-hour limit has passed to open the vortex."
"And to be completely safe," Quinn said. "We've re-routed the power from your timer to run through ours. That way, if your timer fails at any time, our power source will make up for it."
"But isn't your timer weakened?" Diana asked.
"Only slightly after the six hour window passes," Quinn answered. "When that happens, almost full power is restored."
"Almost?" Mallory asked, breaking into the conversation.
"Don't worry, Mallory," Diana said. "They know what they're doing."
"I hope so," Mallory said, hoping that Quinn's mind would give him hope.
"Are you ready?" Diana asked.
"As ready as I can be," he answered.
Mallory was ready but extremely nervous. He had been told that separation wasn't possible because the merger had lasted so long. Now it was weeks later, and it was possible again?
"Come on, Quinn," Mallory thought. "Give me something."
As the limit approached, Quinn was still fine-tuning the timers. He wasn't sure he was doing the right thing, but they had already come this far. Sure, it was safer to do it at the lab, but this would work too.
"Are we going to do this or not?" Mallory said, pacing by the window.
He was completely nervous by now. He had tried reading, walking, and even watching TV, but he couldn't get the butterflies out of his stomach. In a few minutes, it would all be over.
"Ready," Quinn said, putting down the tools.
He had done all he could do to make the procedure as safe as possible. There was no reason to stall any longer. The only thing to do was just get it done.
Rembrandt and Maggie came to the center of the room, and Wade turned off the TV. Diana and Arturo watched as Quinn pointed the merged timers towards the wall.
Mallory nodded, and Quinn opened the vortex.
The vortex quickly changed from a bright blue to a dark yellow. It was already highly unstable, and Arturo wanted to abort. But Quinn smiled as if the situation was right, and he tossed the timer to Mallory.
"Wish me luck," Mallory said, diving into the vortex, before it collapsed.
"If it works," Quinn said. "Two vortices should open, and the two separated parts should exit safely."
"And what if it doesn't work the way you wanted?" Rembrandt asked, worried.
"A lot of things could happen," Quinn said. "If our timer overrides Diana's, then he'll return to this world by himself. If the opposite happens, then he'll go to another world."
"And that's the worst case scenario?" Maggie asked.
"Yes," Quinn said.
But he was lying. He knew there was a distinct possibility that the procedure could kill one or both of the people. But there was no reason to bring that up.
The room was extremely tense as everyone waited to see what would happen. Maggie held Rembrandt tight, and Rembrandt did the same. They all looked at Quinn, to see if he started to look nervous.
But everyone turned towards the center of the room, as two vortices opened in front of them. Two figures flew out of the different vortices, and everyone ran towards them.
The first Quinn coughed, and it appeared that he was having trouble breathing. But he adjusted quickly, and he picked himself up.
"What a rush," the Quinn said.
He looked up and around the room. When his eyes met Wade, he smiled.
"Wade?" the Quinn said.
"Q-Ball," Rembrandt said. "Is it you?"
"It's me, Cryin' Man," Quinn said, and they hugged each other.
But he still looked like Mallory.
"Why does he still look like Mallory?" Maggie asked.
"That's just a side effect of the separation," Quinn said. "He should be happy to have his mind back."
"I am," the other Quinn said.
The group celebrated the successful procedure, but everyone's attention moved to Mallory.
"Mallory?" Diana said, running to his side.
Mallory was obviously in pain, and he had trouble moving his body.
"What's happening?" Mallory screamed, scared and in pain.
"Mallory's hurt!" Diana exclaimed, and they all rushed to him. "When can we leave?"
"Our timer has to reset," Quinn said, as the other Quinn tossed him the timer. "But you can leave with yours in a second."
Quinn rushed to the table, and he carefully separated the two timers. The countdown didn't stop on his timer, so he assumed the separation was successful.
"Okay, we're leaving!" Diana said, opening the vortex as fast as possible.
"How can we find you on the next world?" Rembrandt asked.
"We can track her wormhole," Arturo said, as Rembrandt and Quinn picked Mallory up and carefully placed him inside the gateway.
Quinn looked at Diana, who was almost in shock. He wanted to take Mallory to the hospital himself, but she was already gone.
As the vortex closed, Arturo looked at Maggie.
"Why did she want to leave?" he asked. "What is wrong with the medical community on this world?"
"This world is a mess," Maggie said. "They're recovering from a Kromagg invasion, and it's almost impossible to get a doctor quickly."
"But if they can't find good medical help on the next world?" Wade asked. "What will they do?"
But nobody knew the answer.
Inside a hospital on the next world, Diana was crying. She was thankful to have landed on a modernized world, but the doctors had told him that there was very little they could do.
She desperately wanted to try to land on another world, but she knew that it would be nearly impossible to find a futuristic before Mallory's time ran out. Besides, he was too far gone.
"There's no hope, is there?" Mallory asked, extremely weak.
Diana tried to stop crying, but she couldn't do it. So she tried to stay strong when she answered him.
"You'll be all right, Mallory," Diana answered softly.
Mallory smiled, but she knew he was lying.
"Don't lie," Mallory said. "I have to tell you something."
Diana moved in closely.
"What is it?" Diana asked.
"I love you," Mallory whispered, and his head fell back to the pillow.
Mallory's eyes slowly closed, and he tried to smile. But it was too late. He was gone.
Diana held his hand as hard as she could, and her face fell to his hand.
"I love you too," she said, slowly raising her head.
When the time came, the six sliders arrived on the world Diana had landed on.
"Thank God," Rembrandt said, noting that it looked normal.
"Do you think they'll be able to do anything here?" Maggie asked.
"If they can or not," Arturo said. "Dr. Davis gave it a shot because I'm not picking up another trail."
"Let's get to the nearest hospital, then," Quinn said, flagging down a cab.
The group reached the hospital, and they found Diana in the waiting room. She was crying, and they all knew what that meant.
Maggie and Rembrandt quickly teared up, and they rushed to Diana's side. She embraced them.
Wade was sad too. She didn't know Mallory very well, but she knew what it felt like to lose a friend. Arturo held her, as she began to cry.
But Quinn felt the worst. It was all his fault. The procedure was dangerous enough as it was, but he decided to go with an even riskier plan just to shave a few hours off of his journey.
Was he crazy? What possessed him to do that? He had sworn that he would never make another mistake like he did six years earlier when he stranded his friends. But that didn't lead to anyone dying.
This did. And he would never be able to forgive himself.
Arturo decided that the group needed to stay on this world for the full two days to try and get over the death of Mallory. So, he led the rest of the group to the hotel, while Rembrandt stayed behind with Diana.
"Diana, I'm so sorry," Rembrandt said.
"He was so brave," Diana said. "He felt responsible for trapping Quinn inside, and he wanted to rectify it."
"It wasn't his fault," Rembrandt said.
"I know," Diana said. "But he kept saying that after you left. That if, somehow, Quinn could resurface that they would be able to get off that world and get home. He kept saying that Quinn had more to contribute than he did. But that was wrong. He was so strong; up until the end."
Diana realized that she had to stop crying, so she stood up.
"Can I go home now?" Diana asked softly.
Rembrandt nodded, and they began to walk towards the elevator. But halfway there, Diana stopped, as if she remembered something.
"He was right," Diana said.
Rembrandt looked puzzled.
"Geiger," Diana said.
Rembrandt remembered what Geiger had said about trying to split Mallory. And he was right.
Even with Quinn's procedure, only one of them could make it.