|Disclaimer: The Sliders television series' characters and storylines are property of Universal and St. Clare Entertainment, series creator Tracy Tormé and Fox Broadcasting Network and The Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary profit is being made off of this work. All other characters who are not found on the Sliders television series were created by me, and should only be used with my prior permission. Posting to archives is encouraged as long as my name and title stay with the story.|
Author's Note: Beware of spoilers. This story is part of my Season 6 Sliders series, picking up where the episode "The Seer" leaves off. You should be familiar with most, if not all, of the original Sliders series, as well as the preceding episodes of my fanfiction, before reading this story.
Special thanks to THE BEEVE for his creative encouragement regarding this story.* * *
"Remind me again how we got ourselves into this mess?!" Mallory shouted, looking over his shoulder as he ran across the grassy hillside.
"Just keep running, Fog Boy!" answered Rembrandt, who was a couple of paces behind Mallory. "The faster we get off this world, the better. We don't want to be gobbled up as this bug's lunch!"
A gigantic ladybug chased after Mallory, Rembrandt, Maggie, Janine, Diana, and Malcolm with extraordinary speed. The monstrous insect hungrily snarled at her prey, as she compelled the sliders to run faster and faster for their lives.
"This is what happens when scientists take genetic engineering too far!" lamented Diana, rounding the nearest corner which contained a cluster of trees. "Play around with too much DNA, and you end up with genetic mutations!"
Malcolm, the youngest member of their team, was leading the group being the fastest runner of them all. "How much time left, Janine?!" he called behind him.
"Five seconds!" Janine replied. At the moment the timer hit zero, Janine clicked on the activation button to open the vortex.
The colossal-sized insect, bearing a red shell dotted with large, round specks of black, was gaining on them. Malcolm reached the vortex first; he leapt through the interdimensional gateway. Janine and Diana were next. Running with all their might, Mallory, Rembrandt, and Maggie barely made it into the wormhole before it closed up - - leaving the giant ladybug to abandon her greedy pursuit.* * *
"Whoa!" yelped Maggie, tumbling onto a patch of green grass on the next parallel universe. She was the last one out of the vortex. The portal disappeared, and Maggie got up on her feet. "That slide was just a little too close. I still don't understand how a world could breed giant killer ladybugs!"
"Maggie," said Rembrandt, wiping some perspiration off his brow, "we've been to Earths with wizards, zombies, vampires, killer snakes, cannibals, robots, dinosaurs, naked people, spiderwasps . . . you should know by now to expect the unexpected."
Diana blinked, extremely confused. "Spiderwasps?!"
"Not to mention all the pirates, space aliens, and talking vegetables," Mallory added.
Malcolm heaved an exhausted breath. "Well guys, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm dog tired! I could sure use some rest."
Rembrandt slapped his hand on Malcolm's shoulder. "I'll drink to that." He walked over to a nearby drinking fountain. They seemed to be in what looked like a leisurely city park.
"Nine hours on this Earth," established Janine, reading from the timer's display panel.
Mallory stretched his arms out and yawned, "That should be plenty of time for a nap."
"Just a quick one," Diana suggested. "We don't want to oversleep and miss the slide."
Maggie plunked herself down underneath a shady tree in the park. "Wake me up when it's time to leave," she mumbled.
Soon, the rest of them had joined Maggie. In front of where they were all sprawled out, a young girl with frizzy brown hair was playing hopscotch on the blacktop. Eventually, all six of the weary travelers had drifted off to sleep.
Rembrandt was now in his state of subconscious. While in reality he snoozed under the protective shade of an oak tree, in his dreams Rembrandt could feel himself floating in slow motion through a dim, chilly astral field of space. All around him was darkness. But suddenly, Rembrandt heard a familiar voice calling out to him.
"Remmy!" the voice softly beckoned him.
He recognized the voice immediately, as he'd had an experience similar to this before.
"Wade?" Rembrandt gasped.
The haunting image of Wade Wells, one of Remmy's original sliding companions, materialized before him. Wade's face clearly bore sadness and depression, her short, bright red hair being most noticeable compared to the rest of her body.
"Wade? I thought I'd lost you for good this time . . ." Then Rembrandt remembered the psychic link he shared with Wade. About a year ago she had been turned into a human computer by the Kromaggs, enabling Wade to open wormholes with her mind. After having guided Rembrandt, Maggie, Diana, and Mallory to her location months earlier, Wade ended up sending them back to their previous Earth when the Kromaggs posed a direct threat to the sliders. Wade had then heroically vaporized herself and the Kromaggs on that manta base by activating a self-destruct system. Rembrandt still had no idea whether or not Wade had ended up surviving the explosion in some form.
Rembrandt choked up. "Wade, you . . . survived?"
Wade's eyes connected with Remmy's. "Yes, I am alive, Rembrandt. And I can sense that deep down in your heart you have always known that I am still here. I have become one with the multiverse . . . but I can feel myself slowly fading. Please . . . help me."
Tears surfaced to Rembrandt's eyes. "What can I do, Wade? Tell me how I can help you - - I must help you!"
Wade smiled at Rembrandt. Her previous words echoed in his ears. "I'll always be with you, Remmy. Whenever you need me, I'll be there."
"Please, Wade," whispered Rembrandt, "tell me what to do."
"You are close to my current location in the multiverse," she informed him. "You are only one world away from where I am now. I will stay in contact with you . . . through our spiritual and psionic bond. I will send for you . . ."
Wade's words faded away as Rembrandt awoke from his sleep. He looked at the others. All five of them were still snoozing soundly.
A loud blast of roaring wind caught Rembrandt's attention. He swiveled his head toward the blacktop to catch sight of a distorted greenish-blue wormhole gyrating several meters away from him. The young girl who'd been playing hopscotch on the blacktop, as well as some pedestrians who were casually passing by, all froze along with Rembrandt to gape at the bizarre portal. Then, Rembrandt heard Wade's voice again.
"Rembrandt. Enter the wormhole."
"Wade!" Rembrandt cried out at the vortex. The people around him looked at Remmy like he'd lost his mind. At that moment, the wormhole closed up.
"Rem, what's the matter?" Rembrandt turned around and saw Maggie standing there, looking concerned. She'd just woken up.
"We didn't miss the slide, did we?" Rembrandt was feeling an odd sense of deja vu.
"I don't think so." Maggie gave Janine, who was lying near her feet, a little wake-up kick. "Hey, Janine! What'd you do with the timer?"
Janine sat up and rubbed her eyes, sleepily. "It's in my secret hiding place. Why?"
"We need to see it."
Yawning, Janine half-heartedly removed the timer from where she'd stored it within the bosom of her chest. "Over eight hours. You woke me up after less than half an hour's sleep?!"
"What's going on?" asked Mallory, sitting up. He, Malcolm, and Diana had each emerged from their respective slumbers.
"Maggie woke me up because she wanted to check the timer," Janine said mockingly.
"Rembrandt thought we'd missed the slide," explained Maggie.
"Why'd you think that, Remmy?" asked Malcolm, curiously.
Rembrandt was completely wide-eyed. "It's Wade. She was calling to me. She came to me in my dreams . . . and just now she opened up another of her space folds! I need to rescue her - - she needs me, she told me so!" He was practically shrieking.
"Rembrandt," Maggie grabbed ahold of both Remmy's shoulders to steady him, "Wade is gone. It was just a dream. Do you hear me? Wade is gone." Maggie enunciated her words loudly, slowly, and clearly.
"No!" Rembrandt stubbornly stomped his foot. "I know she's out there! She told me so! She said she's only one world away!"
"Rem, we can understand if you miss Wade . . ." Mallory started, a skeptic look on his face.
"You don't believe me?!" Rembrandt stared at all his friends. "So you all think I'm crazy?! None of you believe me?!"
"I believe you, Remmy," spoke up Malcolm, quietly. Malcolm's young eyes communicated to Rembrandt that the young man honestly trusted Rembrandt's judgment.
Rembrandt took Malcolm's hand. "You do?"
Malcolm nodded. "If you can feel Wade's presence, she must be close by."
"Rembrandt." Wade's voice suddenly rang out, reverberating through Remmy's eardrum. "Come. Bring your friends. Help me."
"She wants us to save her," Diana spoke up, concluding that the voice she'd just detected must belong to Wade Wells.
"Diana, you can hear Wade too?" gasped Rembrandt.
Diana nodded. She turned to Maggie. "Remmy's not imagining it, Maggie. I can hear Wade calling to him. Ever since I joined the universal consciousness of the multiverse by leaving my physical body, I've been able to hear various voices from outside the dimension. Wade is reaching out to Remmy through their mutual link, and I'm able to pick up on it!"
Maggie looked at Diana, astonished. "Diana, why didn't you tell any of us about your . . . ability, before?"
Diana laughed. "And what would you have thought? If I'd told you I could hear paradimensional voices you would have thought I was schizophrenic!"
Mallory and Maggie exchanged glances. They both realized that Diana was right; they probably would have.
"So what are we going to do?" Janine challenged them.
Once again, one of Wade's translucent space folds appeared in front of them. The luminous wormhole roared rhythmically, almost begging the sliders to jump through it.
"I'm going in," Rembrandt declared. "Who's with me?"
"I am," Malcolm stated confidently.
"Me too. I believe you," Diana told him.
Mallory shrugged. "Hey, we did it once. I'll try anything a second time."
Maggie squarely made contact with Remmy's eyes. "Are you absolutely sure about this, Rem?"
"Even more sure about it than I was the last time," he nodded.
Sighing, Maggie conceded. "Okay. I'm in."
"Well you can't all just leave me here alone," Janine pouted, folding her arms.
"Then come with us, Janine," Malcolm invited her.
Janine threw her hands up into the air. "Fine. Since you're all twisting my arm . . ."
Rembrandt and Malcolm joined hands and ran forward into the fold of space-time Wade had opened up for them. Their friends followed them, allowing the spatial energy to absorb them into the interdimensional tunnel which would send them to who-knows-where.* * *
Wade's wormhole unfolded itself, expelling Rembrandt, Malcolm, Diana, Mallory, Janine, and Maggie from its windy interior of greenish-blue quantum energy. All six of them were tossed into an odorous, trash-filled dumpster in a back alley.
"Well, as slides go," Mallory commented, ascending from the heap of rancid garbage, "I'd rate that one as a ‘5'. Pretty average."
The six of them climbed out of the dumpster, brushing themselves off in the middle of the alley. They walked out onto the sidewalk amid the fast-paced bustle of a city. Average buildings lined the streets as cars and other vehicles sped down the city avenue.
"Looks like Los Angeles," Diana observed, recognizing some of the buildings.
"Yep, there's the Chandler," noticed Maggie, pointing to their favorite hotel which was a block or so away from them.
"Should we check in and get a room?" asked Janine, still a bit sleepy. Then she realized, "Oh wait, we're only here for eight hours, aren't we?"
"No! Wade brought us here to find her!" Rembrandt insisted. "We have to stay for as long as it takes!"
"But Rem," interjected Maggie, "what if we can't . . ."
"Rembrandt, you're here," Wade's voice flowed into the Cryin' Man's ears.
"Wade, I'm here for you!" Rembrandt loudly spoke out. "Where do we go to find you?"
"Follow my voice," responded Wade.
Rembrandt began walking toward where he could feel Wade's vocals resonating from. Malcolm stuck close by Remmy's side, and the others followed them down the street.
"Hey, let's stop for a moment and catch up on the news," Mallory suggested. He gestured to an electronics store they were passing by with television sets in its window display. There was some sort of ventilation within the glass windows so passers-by could hear the sound of the TVs from outside the store.
"And in other news," a conservatively dressed news anchorwoman could be seen and heard reporting on the screens of the TV monitors, "earlier this morning President Jesse Ventura signed a bill amending the constitution to abolish use of the electoral college in future presidential elections. This legislation was previously passed by both the House and the Senate, due to fervent lobbying from members of the Future Party. Upon signing the bill, President Ventura maintained he supports this legislation as it would eliminate any technicalities from the General Election in future presidential races and put the power of democracy directly into the hands of the American people. National accumulative popular vote will now be officially tallied to directly determine the outcomes of all future presidential elections."
The newscast cut to a shot of Jesse Ventura speaking in front of a podium at a White House press conference.
"One person, one vote. It's that simple," President Ventura was saying to the media audience in his gruff, straight-forward voice. "It doesn't make sense to put a president in office who won fewer individual votes than another candidate."
Malcolm squinted at the TV screen. "Didn't he used to be a pro-wrestler?"
"Rembrandt. Help," Wade's voice softly wafted into Rembrandt's ears.
"She's obviously trapped somewhere," speculated Diana, who could hear Wade's words too. "Ask Wade where we can find her."
"Wade," Rembrandt called out, cupping his hands over his mouth, "where are you?!" Pedestrians who strolled by were beginning to throw strange glances in Remmy's direction.
"Van Nuys," replied Wade, her voice echoing through Rembrandt's and Diana's eardrums. "Come to Van Nuys."
"Wade says she's at ‘Van Nuys', wherever that is," Rembrandt told the rest of them. "That name sounds familiar . . ."
A proverbial lightbulb appeared above Maggie's head. "Van Nuys Hospital! It's a hospital in L.A., remember Rem? We've been there a couple of times before."
"What would Wade be doing at a hospital?" blinked Mallory, scratching his head, confused. "Especially if she's no longer in her body?"
"I don't know. But we've gotta find out," Rembrandt declared.
Diana nodded, supportively placing her hand on Rembrandt's arm. "We'll go to Van Nuys and see what we can find."
"How do we get there?" asked Malcolm.
"Hail a cab," replied Janine, stepping out onto the street. She stuck her hand out and flagged down an approaching yellow cab. "Taxi! Taxi!"
The taxi came to a halt at the edge of the sidewalk next to the sliders. A window rolled down as the driver's face was revealed. He was a heavyset middle-aged man with rough facial whiskers, and he wore a pea cap atop his head. "Where you want to go?!" he bluntly demanded from them, in his thick, Russian accent.
"Van Nuys Hospital," Maggie responded. "There are six of us."
"Two in front with me! Four in back!" the cab driver briskly instructed.
Rembrandt and Maggie piled into the front passenger seat of the taxi next to the driver. Janine, Mallory, Diana, and Malcolm squeezed themselves tightly into the backseat.
"Hey, wait a minute! I know you!" Rembrandt realized, recognizing the cab driver. "Pavel?! Pavel Kurlienko! How are you doing, man?!"
Alternate Pavel coughed. "How you know my name?!" he solicited in an irritated huff.
"Uh . . . never mind," mumbled Remmy, remembering that this was just another one of Pavel's doubles.
After minutes of silent driving, Alternate Pavel pulled the cab in front of Van Nuys Hospital. "We here! Get out!" he commanded.
As they opened the vehicle's doors to exit, Alternate Pavel reached over and touched a shoulder-length lock of Maggie's golden blond hair. "You have pretty hair, woman!"
"Hands off, Yeltsin," Maggie commented, pushing away Alternate Pavel's chubby hand.
"Where my tip?!" Alternate Pavel grumpily snapped at the sliders.
Mallory reluctantly paid the cranky cab driver, who expediently drove off.
"Well," said Diana, "he seemed . . . uh . . . um . . ."
". . . nuts!" Janine finished off for Diana, annoyed at Alternate Pavel's rudeness.
"At least you didn't have to pay him," Mallory whined, sulking.* * *
Once inside the moderately crowded lobby of Van Nuys Hospital, the sextet headed to the reception area.
"So what are we supposed to ask the receptionist? ‘Hey, seen any invisible women with supernatural powers lately'?!" Janine asked them, dryly.
Then once again, Rembrandt could hear Wade's harmonious voice. "Sperry . . . Sperry . . ." she repeated for him.
"Sperry?" Diana channeled Wade's words to her own brain. "Roger Sperry! That's all I can think of. He won a Nobel Prize on our homeworld," she gestured to herself and Mallory, "for his work in split-brain patient research."
"But he could have done something different on this Earth, right?" Malcolm concluded.
"Exactly." Diana marched up to one of the receptionists. "Pardon me, but I was wondering what you could tell me about Dr. Roger Sperry in relevance to this hospital?"
The receptionist derisively rolled her eyes at Diana. "Where have you been?! Roger Sperry was only the founder of modern-day neurology. His research led him to develop the conscious mind transfer techniques we routinely use. I thought everyone knew that - - it was groundbreaking medical history!."
"So is he a resident here?" Maggie asked.
The receptionist rolled her eyes again. "Roger Sperry has been deceased since 1993. If you want more information, go bug Dr. Quinn Mallory. He's the head of our Sperryology ward." She went back to her bookwork, looking disinterested in their questions. Her phone rang, and the receptionist picked it up to address the caller. "Good morning, Van Nuys Hospital . . ."
"Quinn Mallory?" Rembrandt gasped. "Could it be Q-Ball's double?"
"Let's find the Sperryology ward," suggested Janine. "Whatever ‘Sperryology' is."
Before long, they'd found the neurology wing of the hospital. A pudgy nurse brushed past them in the hallway, but suddenly stopped short after catching a glimpse of Mallory. "Dr. Mallory? Why are you out of uniform?" she queried.
"Uh . . . I'm his twin brother . . . Bob Mallory," stuttered Mallory, making up a hasty excuse.
The nurse gave him a weird stare and then continued on her way.
"Bob Mallory?" Maggie teased, elbowing Mallory.
"Hey, what do ya know?! My double's a doctor!" cheered Mallory, clapping his hands together.
"Don't get too excited, Fog Boy," Rembrandt cautioned him. "We don't want you accidentally bumping into your alternate right here."
"I'm going to peruse the waiting area," volunteered Diana. "See if I can dig up any information on this ‘Sperryology'." She headed toward the waiting room, tailed by Janine.
"I think I found our ‘Dr. Mallory'," piped up Malcolm. He pointed to an operating room across the hallway with a glass window. A group of fascinated spectators were peering through the glass window from the outside looking into the O.R. Rembrandt, Malcolm, Maggie, and Mallory joined the crowd of observers.
Inside of the operating room they could see Mallory's double, dressed in a white labcoat and surrounded by several nurses. He hovered over two bodies which were lying motionless across two adjacent examining tables.
Mallory grinned. "I kind of look like a young George Clooney, don't you think?" he light-heartedly remarked, sizing up his alternate self as a medical physician.
Maggie elbowed Mallory again.
Alternate Mallory switched on a metallic machine that hung from the ceiling. One of the nurses dimmed the lights in the operating room, and a glittering gust of energy began forming in midair above the patients' heads. The onlookers gaped and gasped in awe as the glittery transparent substance flowed from the anterior of one of the bodies over to the head of the other body. Sparkling with exotic flare, the glistening energy descended downward, seemingly disappearing into the head of the second body. Within moments, that second person slowly started to sit up on the table. A couple of the nurses hurried over to assist him.
The spectators, marveling in fascination, clapped and cheered enthusiastically after having witnessed this spectacle.
Mallory's mouth hung open as he stared at his alternate in disbelief. "I guess I'm pretty damn good . . . whatever I just did."* * *
"Guys, we got the scoop on ‘Sperryology' on this world," Diana told her friends, meeting up with them in the waiting room. Diana held a pamphlet, which she'd taken from a nearby brochure rack, in her hand.
"Yeah," added Janine. "Apparently, people dish out big bucks to have their minds literally transplanted from one body to another."
Maggie squinted. "How do they do that?"
"In 1974, Roger Sperry embarked upon a follow-up project to his previous split-brain research," Diana narrated. "During this endeavor, he discovered how to magnetically attract brain cells through solid matter. Sperry eventually applied this concept to spawn a new branch of neurology utilizing an innovative laser surgery technique. This allowed the neurons of an active brain to be transported into another body. And ‘Sperryology' was born."
"They grow clones and artificial bodies on this world into which people can have their consciousness transferred," provided Janine. "All through the magic of painless lasers."
"So elderly people can have their conscious brains surgically placed into a new body when they begin dying," Maggie speculated.
"Or if their old body becomes too fat," said Janine.
"Sort of like on that show Now & Again!" Malcolm exclaimed.
Mallory grinned. "So that's what we saw my double doing in the operating room! All right, me!" He proudly patted himself on the back.
"You actually saw a conscious mind transfer being performed?" asked an awestruck and envious Diana.
Mallory nodded. "By MY double!"
"Yeah, they allow people to watch the surgery from behind a glass divider." Rembrandt frowned, worried. "But how does this information help us find Wade?"
"I have a theory," said Diana.
"Of course you do," dead-panned Janine.
Diana ignored her. "When transferring a conscious mind, the lasers need to be fed a lot of power to operate effectively. This power is run by electromagnetic energy, which is only supposed to be turned up to a certain degree."
"So how does that help Wade?" Malcolm asked. "She's not even in her own body anymore."
"But in theory, Wade now exists within the multiverse simply as a cluster of energy particles," clarified Diana. "If we can get ahold of that laser, I can try to create an energy field strong enough to attract Wade's energy pattern into one place and stabilize her."
"Will it bring her back?" Rembrandt demanded.
"I don't know. I've never done something like this," responded Diana.
"It's worth a shot," Malcolm encouraged them. "If Diana can't do it, then no one can."
"But how do we get our hands on the laser equipment?" countered Janine. "They're not going to let us just waltz in there and use their expensive lasers."
Maggie smiled and patted Mallory on his shoulder. "That's where George Clooney here comes in."
Mallory blinked in confusion.
Strap on some hospital scrubs, Dr. Ross - - or should I say, Dr. Mallory," Maggie told him.* * *
"How do I look?" Mallory asked his comrades, adjusting the collar of his medical labcoat.
"Like a big fraud," joked Janine.
Malcolm slammed the door of a janitor's closet shut. "Okay, we tied up and gagged the real Dr. Mallory. I jammed the door so hopefully he won't escape."
Diana and Rembrandt emerged from another of the rooms wearing their own white labcoats.
"Dr. Davis, Dr. Brown," Mallory nodded playfully at both of them.
"Mallory, take this seriously," Diana crossed her eyes. "You're supposed to be a doctor, not a comedian."
"Maggie's all set," Rembrandt said. "We've got her strapped to the gurney. Dr. Mallory here," he slapped Mallory on the shoulder, "is gonna transfer the mind of our ‘terminally-ill' Ms. Beckett into an artificial body from the cryogenics ward."
"In actuality," Diana lowered her voice, "we'll be juicing up the electromagnetic energy to accumulate a mass amount of polar subatomic particles. We can only hope that Wade's matrix will be drawn to it."
Four orderlies then wheeled out two gurneys; two of the orderlies pushed Maggie, who was laying on the stretcher, toward the O.R.; the other gurney contained an artificially synthesized female body from the hospital's cryogenics lab.
"You two wait out here," Rembrandt instructed Janine and Malcolm. "Be on the lookout for any possible signs of trouble."
Once Remmy, Mallory, and Diana had entered the O.R., Mallory spoke into a microphone used to communicate his voice through a speaker to the people watching the surgery from the other side of the glass window.
"Ms. Beckett here is dying of a severe brain tumor," Mallory told his spectators through the microphone. "There is no known cure for her condition. Ms. Beckett's only chance for survival is a transfer of her consciousness into the body of a healthy, uninfected, artificially synthesized female. Assisting me will be two visiting physicians, Dr. Rembrandt Brown and Dr. Diana Davis."
Maggie laid motionless atop one of the operating tables, pretending to be unconscious.
Diana switched on the metallic laser device, gradually adjusting the laser to a higher frequency. A steady beam of light penetrated against the wall, growing brighter with every passing moment.
Malcolm and Janine gazed into the operating room from behind the glass divider.
"I hate being left out of the fun," Malcolm remarked, pouting slightly. "Remmy is like an older brother to me, but I can tell he tries to protect me from stuff he thinks is too dangerous. I wish he wouldn't worry so much; I know how to take care of myself."
"Well at least you'd already known this group for awhile before they found you again," muttered Janine. "You have a connection with them. I'm just an extra burden to these guys, one more body to lug through the vortex. They never wanted me here, and I never wanted to be here." Janine sighed. "The scariest part - - these dopes are actually beginning to grow on me."
"Sliding does that to you," chuckled Malcolm. "I never forgot Remmy, Wade, Quinn, and Maggie - - especially not Remmy - - even after they had to slide off my new world."
Janine snorted. "From the way Rembrandt describes it, they've had some pretty ridiculous adventures in the past."
Malcolm smiled at Janine. "But they're the best friends I've ever had."
"Yeah," conceded Janine, turning back to face the glass window, "now that my homeworld has been taken away from me by the discretion of fate, you people are all I have . . ." She trailed off.
Janine and Malcolm had turned their attention back to the action inside the operating room. Mallory was hovering next to Diana, pretending that he knew what was going on for the benefit of his audience.
"We need more power," determined Diana. She flicked the switch, increasing the magnitude of electromagnetic energy.
Suddenly, a burst of radiant quantum energy began to swirl around with a heavy, rotational force. Body cells visibly generated right before the eyes of the sliders and the spectators outside the Sperryology ward. The outline of a woman's body formed, swiftly being colored in by the image of a human body.
There, standing in front of the surgical laser device, was Wade Wells. She looked down to examine herself. Wade was wearing a plain hospital-like gown; her hair was in the same short spunky red style she'd had it in prior to and during her imprisonment at the Kromagg breeding camp.
"Wade!!" shouted Rembrandt. He ran over and swooped up Wade in a huge hug. "Is it really you? I can't believe it's actually you!"
"Remmy!" Wade spiritfully hugged Rembrandt back. "You actually rescued me! You've saved my life!"
Holding Wade close to him, Rembrandt asked, "How did you know where to bring us?"
"I was floating from universe to universe," Wade told him, with energetic verbal emphasis. "I felt so free . . . like an endless ball of energy. I saw so many different worlds, and none of the people could see me. But then I sensed your presence, Remmy. I was drawn to you . . . it was our link."
A tear slipped down Rembrandt's cheek. "And The Seer said you were dead!" he sniffed.
"I don't know who ‘The Seer' is," Wade replied, "but I'm definitely not dead! As far as I know, I never was!"
"The Seer could have been lying to us, Rem," Mallory reminded his friend. "Remember how he wanted us to stay on his world so badly, because he was convinced our next slide would send us to instant death? He probably told us your friends were dead in order to persuade us to give up sliding. Or maybe he assumed Wade was dead when he saw her blow up the Kromagg manta base?"
"We must have randomly slid into Wade's approximate vicinity at this point in time," Diana theorized. "Then she was psychically drawn to you by the link you two share with each other. The energy generated from the surgeries performed by Mallory's double probably lured Wade to this particular spot in the hospital. That's how she knew where to bring us . . . ‘Van Nuys' and the Sperryology ward."
Wade nodded. "I could see all of you, but none of you could see me."
"I don't know how you did it, girl," gushed Rembrandt, "but I'm glad to have you back!"
"And I'm glad to be back!" smiled Wade, holding onto Remmy.
"How were you able to open the space fold if you weren't hooked up to the Kromagg computer anymore?" Mallory asked.
Wade shrugged. "I don't know. I just channeled my abilities naturally, the way the Kromaggs had programmed me to . . . and it somehow worked from my position in the multiverse."
"Can you still open wormholes at will?" Diana questioned Wade.
Wade shook her head. "I don't think so."
Maggie was now sitting up, her legs dangling over the edge of the operating table. Captain Beckett stood up and approached Wade.
Wade gave Maggie a shy smile. "Hi Maggie."
Maggie cocked her head at Wade and smirked. "So, I'm a ‘tough bitch', am I?"
Wade blushed, her face turning red. "I guess you met Marta, didn't you?"
Staring back at this woman whom she'd both despised and admired, whom she'd both sparred with and high-fived, Maggie extended her hand out to Wade. "Glad to have you back on the team, Wade," she reluctantly forced out of her mouth.
"Uh, thanks," Wade replied, taking Maggie's hand and detecting the ex-marine's discomfort. She peered closer at Maggie's hair. "I see you went blond."
Now it was Maggie's turn to blush, tensely. "The last time I saw you, your head was in a jar."
"The last time I saw you, you were a light brunette," Wade retorted.
A beat passed. Then Wade and Maggie both burst out laughing and gave each other a small hug.
"Uh, guys," Mallory interrupted, "we're in trouble."
Mallory was staring straight at the window full of spectators. Standing behind the glass was Mallory's alternate self, the real Dr. Mallory - - looking incredibly angry.* * *
Alternate Mallory shook his fist at the sliders inside his operating room. "Get out of my O.R.!!" He'd obviously been freed by someone from his confinement inside the janitor's closet.
Two armed security guards burst into the operating room. One of them aimed his weapon at Mallory. "The real Dr. Mallory is out there." He pointed to the hallway. "So if he's the real thing, then who are YOU?"
"I guess I'm his twin!" grunted Mallory, roughly punching the guard in his gut. The guard keeled over. Mallory scooped up the guard's weapon.
"None of you move!" the second guard commanded to Mallory, Rembrandt, Wade, Diana, and Maggie. "Just take it nice and easy . . ."
"I don't have time for this," groaned Wade, rolling her eyes. Wearing only her drafty hospital gown, Wade assertively flounced over to the security guard and kneed him in the groin. He collapsed to the ground, dropping his gun.
Wade picked up the gun off the floor. "Let's go."
"Better give that to me, Wade," ordered Maggie, stepping forward.
"What, you think I can't handle it?" Wade cocked her head at Maggie.
"Here Maggie, you can have my gun," Mallory submitted, handing his weapon over to Maggie.
"Let's get out of here!" Rembrandt yelled.
The five of them rushed out of the operating room, meeting up with Janine and Malcolm in the outside hallway.
"Malcolm?!" Wade was shocked and surprised to see the young man whom Remmy had befriended years earlier. "What are you doing here?" She embraced Malcolm with a big hug.
"Long story," uttered Malcolm, blushing at Wade's warm and open affection.
"Girl, you can't be running around wearing only a nightgown," Rembrandt protectively told Wade. He swooped Wade up off the ground, carrying her in his arms.
"Remmy, I can walk just fine," Wade tried to reassure him.
Rembrandt ignored her, handing Wade's gun over to Janine. "You take this." He then led the way, all the while carrying Wade in his strong arms.
Janine followed right behind them with her gun. Malcolm, Diana, and Mallory were in the middle, while Maggie brought up the rear. A fleet of security guards were now chasing after the fugitive sliders. Maggie fired shots at the guards, warding them off so the sliders could safely exit Van Nuys Hospital, making a clean getaway.
The group ran across the street and ducked into a café. Customers who were dining inside the restaurant looked up in bewilderment at the seven people who'd just burst into the luncheonette.
"Who has the timer?!" Diana shouted.
"I do." Janine gave her gun to Mallory and studied the timer's display panel. "We slide in just under two minutes."
"They're coming after us!" Mallory pointed out the window, where several more security guards could be seen approaching the café from Van Nuys.
"We'll have to slide from here," Maggie stated. "If we can hold out that long."
Within a matter of seconds, the security team scurried into the café, aiming their guns at the sliders. "Drop your weapons!"
"You drop yours!" Janine shot back at them.
"You don't wanna mess with us," Diana cautioned the security fleet. "We've got . . . a bomb!"
Janine held up the timer for all to see. The restaurant customers screeched and shrieked out in fear.
"It's counting down!" one of the security officers noticed. "What is it counting down to?! What will happen when it reaches zero?!"
"This whole building and everyone in it will explode!" Malcolm lied, a wicked grin plastered on his face.
Everyone else in the restaurant screamed in a loud, panicked uproar.
"Quiet!" The officers tried to calm down the commotion. He saw there were less than 30 seconds remaining. "You people don't want to do this," he urged the sliders. "A lot of innocent bystanders will get hurt."
"Do you think we really care?!" sneered Janine.
"Put down your guns, and we'll dismantle the bomb," Wade instructed them.
Slowly, the security guards all lowered their guns and set them on the floor. "Okay, we did our part. Now halt the countdown," one of them pleaded.
"Ten . . . nine . . . eight . . ." Janine was counting down aloud.
"You don't need to do this. No one has to die!"
". . . seven . . . six . . . five . . ." Janine gleefully continued her countdown, her voice overlapping the officer's.
The restaurant patrons maniacally released screams and cries of fear in tumultuous pandemonium.
". . . four . . . three . . . two . . ." Janine looked like she was having the time of her life, making them all squirm and sweat and beg for mercy.
"NO!!!" roared another of the officers.
". . . one!" finished off Janine, activating the portal.
A wispy swoosh sizzled out of the timer as the sizable, glorious pink vortex formulated itself in the middle of the luncheonette. The guards and all the customers flinched against the impressive windy strength of the sliders' wormhole.
Still carrying Wade, Rembrandt jumped into the vortex. Mallory, Janine, Malcolm, Diana, and Maggie all followed. Moments later, the wormhole closed up.
"Like, where's the ‘bang', dude?" asked an alternate version of Conrad Bennish, Jr., who'd been eating in the cafe with some of his friends.* * *
One by one, the seven sliders clunked out of the vortex onto the ground, landing on the grass in a gigantic dogpile.
Mallory moaned, crawling out from the bottom of the heap. "Did you all have to land so hard on top of me? My head is throbbing like hell."
Wade surveyed the landscape around them. They had ended up in a familiar locale. "Hey, Golden Gate Park! We're back in San Francisco!" She turned to Rembrandt. "And what's with the pink wormhole?"
Rembrandt chuckled. "Another long story."
Janine stood up, brushing herself off. She helped Diana up off the ground and then pulled out the timer. "Well, according to my math it looks like we've got about two weeks on this Earth."
Maggie extended her hand to Malcolm, helping him to his feet. "Sounds like a decent enough break. Assuming this world is friendly and peaceful."
Glancing around at the rest of her fellow travelers, Wade said, "I'm sorry, but I don't believe we've all met." She gestured to Mallory and Diana. "You two look familiar. Didn't I see you both with Remmy and Maggie when I guided you to the Kromagg manta base?"
"I'm Dr. Diana Davis," the physicist introduced herself, shaking Wade's hand. "And this is Mallory."
"Mallory?" Wade instantly recognized Quinn's last name.
Mallory gritted his teeth, not looking forward to telling Wade the news about her Quinn. "Why don't we explain later?"
Wade turned to Janine. "But I've never seen you before."
"Janine Chen," answered Janine, stating her name for Wade. "And if you're wondering how I ended up with this bunch, you might as well sit down because it's yet another long story."
Malcolm felt a gloved hand tap him on the shoulder. Whirling around, Malcolm came face-to-face with a circus clown. The clown wore a gaudy, brightly shaded polka dot jumpsuit containing all the colors of the rainbow; his face was covered with thick white face-paint. He also wore a big round red nose and floppy shoes on his feet. In one of the clown's hands was a cluster of strings belonging to assorted colorful helium balloons.
"Hello, little boy!" the clown sweetly spoke to Malcolm. "Want a pretty balloon?"
"Get away from me, you freak!" Malcolm rejected the circus clown's rather provocative offer, annoyed.
"Hey Bozo, maybe I want a pretty balloon!" Mallory demanded from the circus clown. He eyed the colorful balloons floating erect in the air above the clown's head.
Surprised at Mallory's request, the clown took off running.
"Come back here!" yelled Mallory, chasing after the clown. "I want my pretty balloon!"
"Mallory!" Maggie yelled after him. "Don't go chasing that pervert!"
"I say we pop his damn balloons!" suggested Janine.
Maggie, Janine, Malcolm, and Diana took off running after Mallory and the oblique clown.
The two of them now alone together, Wade smiled up at Rembrandt. "It feels weird to be back. But I'm glad we're together again!"
"Same here, Wade," Rembrandt returned the smile, taking Wade's hands. "Do you still feel a psychic link between us?"
Wade paused, trying to feel what was there - - or what wasn't. "No," she finally decided. "I believe the link is gone. At least, the psionic one is."
"Probably because you're back in your real body," Rembrandt concluded. "It doesn't matter now. We've got each other again."
Linking hands, Rembrandt and Wade strolled off toward the direction in which the other sliders had gone. The two of them smiled at each other.
It just felt like everything was going to be all right.
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