earth 30858
Episode 6.22
Double, Double, Vortex and Trouble
by Slidemania
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.

* * *

“I think we can pretty much conclude this isn't our homeworld,” sputtered Colin, as the amateur scientist and his nine friends scampered down a cobblestone pathway.

“Gee, bro, what tipped you off?!” Quinn Mallory rolled his eyes at his older brother's rather rhetorical statement.

The sliders were being chased by a flock of angry young adolescent women; the girls were clad in stark black clothing and had on an assortment of body piercings, as well as Wiccan jewelry dangling around their fingers, wrists, and neck.

Wade gave Professor Arturo an abrupt swat in his rotund stomach. “Did you have to insult those poor girls, Professor?” she snapped.

Arturo bristled, his face turning beet red. “Miss Wells, those ‘poor girls' were attempting to sacrifice me to some fictitious goddess! I refuse to partake in their childish, preposterous rituals!”

“Oh, they were just joking around!”

“Would you two give it a rest?!” Rembrandt huffed at Wade and Arturo. “Joke or not, those . . . witches are threatening to set us on fire! That ain't something the Cryin' Man takes lightly.”

Maggie shook her head. “Only on a world where Wicca is the official religion,” the marine grumbled.

“Hey!” Wade flared at Maggie, insulted at Captain Beckett's condescending tone.

Malcolm turned to Diana as the gang came to a stop next to a straw scarecrow at the edge of a cornfield. “Do you have the next coordinates set, Diana?” Malcolm asked her.

“Sure do.” Diana had finished entering a new set of numbers into the handheld timer. “There wasn't a whole lot of time, so I randomly switched only two of the digits,” she explained to the group. “We'll be sliding from world #546-658-101-118 to world #546-666-101-118. And there are 19 seconds and counting.”

“I don't suppose those witches would calm down if I offered to ask out their doubles on the next world?” Mallory batted his eyelashes suavely.

“Mallory, I'D ask them out if it would make them quit dogging us,” Janine insisted.

Diana, arm outstretched, activated the timer. Their lustrous pink wormhole materialized in mid-air, gyrating around in a windy gust.

“See you guys on the other side!” Wade shouted over the roar of the vortex, before diving in. Mallory also leaped through the interdimensional gateway, trailed by Malcolm and Rembrandt. Janine was next, her slender body being absorbed into the translucent abyss.

By now, the group of adolescent female witches was only a few feet away from the remaining sliders. The young enchantress glared mainly at Arturo.

“A hex on you, oh Elder Buffalo!” their High Priestess screamed at the Professor, addressing him as an animal.

“Elder Buffalo?!” blurted out Arturo in disbelief, clearly insulted and peeved.

The witches all held out identical silver talismans; each witch had one chained around her neck. As they directed their psychic energy at the vortex, the High Priestess continued, “May your journey to the Other Side prove fruitless!”

A sudden wave of energy rippled across the exterior of the vortex.

“Let's go!” Maggie commanded. She catapulted herself into the portal along with Quinn, Diana, Colin, and Arturo.

“I love cursing mortals,” cackled the High Priestess, as the sliders' vortex vanished from sight.

“Too bad it shall be your last, my dear,” a raspy, British-accented voice whispered in the High Priestess's ear.

The High Priestess choked out a desperate gasp as Colonel Angus Rickman extracted some brain fluid from the back of her neck with his syringe. All of the other witches gathered around their coven leader as the High Priestess collapsed to the ground. Meanwhile, Rickman injected the brain fluid into his own nervous system through the back of his scalp. For a split second, Rickman's face morphed to resemble an image of the High Priestess whom he'd just killed.

“You murderer!” one of the witches shrieked at Rickman.

“So sorry to leave so soon, ladies,” smirked Rickman, activating his vortex, “but I have some sliders to catch.” The colonel sidestepped into his sinister red vortex before any of the coven members could react.

* * *

The pink vortex spat out Wade, sending the energetic young woman flying and landing against a large boulder covered with green moss. Mallory was regurgitated from the wormhole next, crashing to the ground next to Wade. He stood and then helped Wade to her feet, just as Remmy came hurtling out of the vortex, knocking over both Mallory and Wade.

“Well, that was fun,” murmured Mallory, with sarcasm. He, Wade, and Rembrandt began to crawl to their feet again.

Malcolm and Janine rolled out of the vortex after Rembrandt. Then, all of a sudden, the portal evaporated.

Janine did a double take. “Where's everyone else?”

“They didn't come out of the vortex!” Malcolm shouted.

“Now don't panic, partner.” Remmy put his arm on Malcolm's shoulder. “This isn't the first time we've been separated like this.”

“Do you think they're still trapped in the wormhole?” Mallory asked, his face twinging with fear.

Rembrandt looked skeptical, but said nothing.

“I bet it was those witches on the last world,” Wade surmised. “They probably put a curse on the vortex because they were mad at the Professor.”

“Oh come on, Wade! That's ridiculous!” Janine sneered.

“I don't know, Janine,” said Rembrandt, tentatively. “We've had some pretty freaky things happen to us.”

“Maybe the others landed somewhere else on this Earth?” Malcolm proposed. “Shouldn't we search for them?”

“That sounds like a plan,” agreed Mallory.

“Wait a minute,” Wade interjected. “How many days do we have until the next window? Who has the timer?”

Janine frowned. “I think Diana had it,” she recalled.

“So we're stuck here?!” cried Malcolm.

“Not necessarily,” Rembrandt reminded him. “Come on now, we need to be strong. We can't lose faith . . . Quinn, Colin, Diana, Maggie, and the Professor are somewhere around here . . . we just need to find them.”

Rembrandt sounded more certain than he actually was.

Wade led the way as the wayward quintet made its way through a dense, damp thicket surrounded by forest. Darkness filled the sky above them; a chorus of chirping crickets noisily penetrated the night's air, their voices reverberating rhythmically. Twigs snapped and leaves crunched beneath the travelers' feet as Wade, Remmy, Mallory, Janine, and Malcolm wandered aimlessly in search of civilization.

Rembrandt stopped in his tracks suddenly. “Guys, do you hear that?”

A faint murmur of human voices lulled in the distance. The sounds were seemingly human, with feminine tones to them. Several meters away, the light from a bright bonfire flickered within the dim evening.

“Let's get a closer look,” suggested Wade. Still at the helm, Wade led her friends nearer toward the bonfire. She kneeled down and peered over a conglomeration of bushes and tangled branches. The others ducked behind Wade and Rembrandt.

Standing in a circle, at least a dozen women had linked hands and were reciting a chant in Latin. They all wore black gowns, and pentagrams engraved upon silver pendants were draped around their necks. The light from the bonfire swept over the women, dispersing brightness across their faces.

“Look at their faces,” whispered Malcolm.

“Sweet Jesus!” Rembrandt gasped.

Some of these women had hideous facial features, distorted with plentiful, deep wrinkles and ghastly sores dotting the skin of their faces.

“More witches?” Wade whispered.

“What the hell? . . .” Janine grimaced at the sight of the witches' disfigured faces.

“They sure could use some beauty tips,” Mallory commented, releasing a sharp, disdainful whistle from his lips.

“Quiet, Fog Boy,” Rembrandt said. “I can't hear or understand what they're saying.”

“That's because they're babbling in Latin,” Janine quipped.

One of the witches was conducting the ceremony. At the top of her lungs, she wailed upward toward the sky, “Oh Mother Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, Keeper of the Moon . . . we plead to you, empower us with your strength and wisdom, let us follow in your footsteps so we may care for your sacred domain of nature! . . .” Surprisingly, this leader of the chant was a relatively young woman who possessed normal, apparently unblemished, clear skin. Her long brown hair fell freely around her shoulders and hung below her slender waist.

“She must be their High Priestess,” concluded Wade, referring to the beautiful young witch.

At that moment, Wade noticed that one of the more elderly witches who stood in the circle had made eye contact with her. The old witch, her stringy graying hair entangled like spaghetti, met Wade's gaze; her piercing yellow eyes bore holds into Wade.

“Ah, visitors,” cackled the elderly necromancer.

* * *

As the spinning vortex opened for a second time in that dimension, Maggie flew out of the gateway, flopping face-down into a pile early autumn leaves.

“Heads up!” called out Quinn, as the young genius was tossed from the portal, landing next to Maggie.

Diana emerged from the wormhole next, clutching the timer and her PDL. Colin followed Diana, being flung onto the grass on his stomach. Finally, Professor Arturo's massive body shot out of the Einstein-Rosen-Pudalski Bridge, thrusting him onto the ground inches away from Colin. The vortex evaporated.

“Everyone okay?” Maggie asked.

Quinn got to his feet and looked around. “Where are Wade and Remmy? And Malcolm? And Janine? And Mallory?”

“I don't see them anywhere.” Colin whipped his head around, scanning the vicinity left and right for their five absent companions.

“Wade! Rembrandt!” yelled Quinn, cupping his hands around his mouth. “Malcolm! Janine! Mallory!”

“I didn't see any of them ahead of me inside the vortex, Quinn,” said Maggie, a look of frantic concern on her face. “I was the first one out.”

“What happened to them?!” Colin blurted out in a worried gasp.

“Now, now, Mr. Mallory. It will do us no benefit to panic,” Arturo reasoned. He turned to Diana. “How much time on this world, Dr. Davis?”

“Just under 36 hours,” answered Diana. She looked over at Quinn. “Do you think the wormhole may have accidentally diverted them to some other location on this Earth?”

Quinn nodded. “It's possible . . . it wouldn't be the first time it happened to us.”

Maggie directed their attention to a nearby statue of Artemis, the Greek Goddess of forest creatures, young women, and youth. “Isn't that the huntress?” She eyed the bow-and-arrows, which the statue clasped in its bronzed hands. The sculpture of Artemis was positioned atop an identically bronzed rectangular platform; the platform read: Mother Artemis welcomes ye to Silver Gate Park.

“Aha!” The Professor pointed his finger in the air. “We're in Golden Gate Park, except on this world it's known by a different name - - Silver Gate Park.”

“I think I can see why,” Colin pointed out, gesturing to the faraway view of San Francisco Bay. Suspended over the bay, from one coast to the other, was the Golden Gate Bridge. But rather than being painted in red, this version of the Golden Gate Bridge was slathered in sparkling silver, which glittered and twinkled in the night sky.

“Must be the Silver Gate Bridge on this Earth,” Quinn said. “So this means the Dominion, assuming it exists on this world, is probably only a few blocks away.”

Maggie nodded. “Then let's check in. If the others landed here in San Francisco, they'll know to meet us there.”

The quintet wandered out of Silver Gate Park, following the familiar streets as they made their way toward the Dominion Hotel. As they strolled along, Diana began taking energy readings with her PDL.

“According to these quantum frequencies,” Diana reported, her eyes glued to the PDL screen, “this dimension has a similar energy pattern compared to the last Earth we visited. There are minimal fluctuations, of course; but I'm not surprised about any of this, since the digits I entered are so numerically close to those of the previous coordinates.”

“And it shows,” grunted Arturo, scoffing at a group of middle-aged women dressed completely in black, who scurried past them. The witches were cackling in a stereotypical manner, and were decorated with ornate Wiccan charms. “It appears as though this Earth is every bit as obsessed with the occult as the last world was!”

“As long as they don't turn us into frogs, Professor,” quipped Quinn, as the Dominion Hotel came into view, “I think we'll be all right.”

* * *

“Make a run for it!” Rembrandt shouted to his friends.

The Cryin' Man and Mallory both took off running. But before they got very far, a strong force whipped against their heels, tripping the two men. Malcolm ran over to help them to their feet.

Wade stared defiantly at the witches, who were approaching her and Janine in a flock. “What do you want with us?!” Wade demanded.

“Fear not!” came a firm, feminine voice. The coven's leader pushed her way through the crowd, and all of her fellow witches parted like the Red Sea, allowing their leader to pass through. “We are your friends.”

“If you like us so much, then why did you do that voodoo on our friends?” Janine sneered, gesturing toward Remmy and Mallory who were recovering from their hasty fall.

“I apologize for that,” spoke the coven leader. “Sometimes my Sisters do not realize their own strength. They were simply surprised and momentarily startled, resulting in a telekinetic reaction.” She stepped closer to Wade, who was being given a flabbergasted expression of scrutiny by Janine. “Allow me to introduce myself . . . I am Aurora, High Priestess of the Daughters of Artemis - - San Francisco Chapter #59.”

“And these are the other members of your cult?” Janine waved her hand to indicate all of the additional assembled witches.

“We are not a cult. We are a coven,” Aurora prudently corrected Janine.

“Wow!” Wade's eyes were lit up like Christmas lights. “I've always been fascinated by the study of witchcraft!”

Aurora smiled at Wade. “We do not consider it a ‘study' . . . for us, the Craft is our way of life.” She looked deep into Wade's eyes, examining the spunky redhead's soft face. “I can tell that you wish to learn more, am I correct?”

“Oh, yes!” Wade nodded enthusiastically.

“Wa-ade,” quavered Rembrandt, cautiously. The Cryin' Man, Malcolm, and Mallory had joined Wade, Janine, Aurora, and Aurora's coven.

“As I said before,” Aurora swiveled her head to address Remmy, “you need not fear us. We are peaceful women.” She reached out and beckoned Wade. “Come, my Sister. Accompany us back to our grounds of worship. Your friends may join us, as well.”

Mallory summoned Rembrandt, Wade, Malcolm, and Janine, and the five of them huddled together in a small circle. “I don't think this is a good idea. Call me crazy, but I don't trust Black Magic.”

Wade shook her head. They don't practice Black Magic, Mallory . . . these are good witches.”

“How do you know that?” Rembrandt challenged her, still speaking in a hushed whisper. “These women are scary and butt-ugly, right down to their pointy noses, wrinkled faces, and warts.”

Aurora cleared her throat. “Ahem. We ARE right here in the forest, you know . . . as in, WITHIN EARSHOT.”

“Oh, we weren't referring to you,” Janine called over to them. “We were talking about our friend Maggie.”

“Guys, I just trust Aurora,” Wade conveyed to them. “I feel this . . . connection with her. Call it instinct . . . my woman's intuition is telling me to befriend Aurora.”

“Yeah, well my man's intuition is telling me to get the hell outta here,” Mallory contradicted.

Malcolm spoke up. “I say we keep alert and watch them closely,” he said. Turning to Wade, Malcolm continued, “but if you have a good feeling about Aurora, we oughtta give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they can help us find the others?”

“Okay then, it's settled,” Wade quickly declared. Before any of them could protest, she spun around and faced Aurora. “Show us the way!”

The other four sliders reluctantly followed Wade as Aurora's coven led the explorers away. Meanwhile, Colonel Rickman hung back beyond the trees and bushes, slinking slyly through the forest as he trailed behind his prey.

* * *

“Meeting Adra was an amazing experience,” Wade was telling Aurora, as the two of them sipped ambrosia while the crackling campfire warmed their bodies. “She was so in touch with the paranormal world. Her premonitions spooked me out, but she herself intrigued my hunger for exploring the supernatural.” Wade was, of course, recounting her mystical experiences on Fog World over four years earlier.

“I'm sure she possessed a truly beautiful soul,” agreed Aurora. The rest of her coven, along with Mallory, Janine, Malcolm, and Rembrandt, were sitting on logs, encircled around a campfire built upon branches on the ground. The witches had brought them to an isolated niche, tucked away in the backwoods of Silver Gate Park.

“What's in this juice?” Rembrandt asked, sipping from his mug of ambrosia.

“It's a special blend,” replied one of the more elderly witches. “A mixture of lanolin, chamomile, eucalyptus root, and chrysanthemum petals.”

Mallory toasted his mug in the air. “Very tasty.”

Janine made a face upon hearing the ingredients of the witches' ambrosia. “You had to ask, huh Rembrandt? . . .”

“Wade, my dear,” Aurora spoke up in her harmonious voice, “I would like you to meet one of my dearest Sisters.” She summoned forward a middle-aged witch who was wrapped in a dark shawl embroidered with golden pentagrams. “This is Felice, our resident hedge witch.”

“Hedge witch?” blinked Malcolm, in confusion.

“She's a shaman, Malcolm,” translated Wade. “A medium between this world and other realms.”

“Quite right, dearie,” croaked Felice, who hobbled over to Wade and sat down next to her atop the hollow log. “And I can sense that you are eager to learn many of our ways, aren't you, my child?”

As Wade excitedly conversed with Felice, Aurora stood up and moved over to join Mallory atop his log. “So . . . Mallory, correct? Tell me a little bit about these travels among the cosmos which you've claimed.”

Mallory gave a small laugh, his eyes nervously falling upon Aurora's shapely bosom; the Wiccan beauty wore her black priestess robe unbuttoned, a stark black halter top tightly covering her intentionally exposed chest. “Uh . . . well, I can't say I know what a . . . uh, ‘cosmo' is,” Mallory stumbled over his words. “We . . . er, we basically slide from one dimension to another in search of our homes and several friends . . . it's, uh, called ‘sliding'.” His eyes awkwardly darted back and forth between Aurora's breasts and the sizzling campfire, which they were gathered in front of.

Suavely, Aurora reached out and fingered Mallory's shirt over his chest. “Sliding, eh? I like it . . . sounds invigorating.” She inched closer to Mallory. “Explain to me again how you transport yourselves from one dimension to the next?”

Mallory tingled, allowing Aurora to gradually invade his personal space. “It's complicated . . . you know, technobabble . . . my friend Diana could explain it better.”

“Diana?” repeated Aurora. “Ah, so your friend was named in honor of the Roman incarnation of Mother Artemis? Interesting . . .” Aurora maneuvered her arm around to cuddle Mallory's waist. “Mallory . . . your name is rather feminine, at least on my world. I love a man who is willing to get in touch with his feminine self.”

“Well, ‘Mallory' is actually my last name; my first name is Quinn . . . my friends just call me Mallory because it's easier, since another of their friends has the same name as me, and he invented sliding . . .”

Aurora softly placed her slender fingers over Mallory's lips to hush him. “Why don't we go someplace where we can be more . . . secluded?”

Mallory's heart thumped against his chest. “You must have read my mind.”

Together, Mallory and Aurora sneaked off inconspicuously, Aurora leading the way. Janine caught sight of Mallory and Aurora's subtle exit, and nudged Rembrandt. “Hey Rem, check out Orgasm Boy running off with Glinda over there. I'll betcha anything he's aiming to get lucky.”

Rembrandt buried his forehead in one of his palms. “Janine, I don't even wanna KNOW.”

“So you are a student of the Craft?” Felice was asking Wade.

“Yeah . . . well, kind of.” Wade took another gulp of ambrosia. “I used to be Christian, even when I first began sliding; but as I've visited more worlds and seen more than I'd ever imagined I would see in my entire lifetime, my mind has been opened to so many possibilities. I guess you could say I've informally converted to Paganism.”

“You should have seen her on the last Earth we visited,” Malcolm told Felice. “Wade was practically buried in spell books at the library during the whole trip.”

“Those were all they HAD at their library,” Janine pointed out, rolling her eyes.

Felice gave Wade an amiable smile. “You must see our coven's Book of Shadows . . . would you be interested in learning a new ability or two?”

Wade's eyes lit up. “Would I?!” she echoed, rhetorically.

“It's almost dawn, people,” Rembrandt announced, gazing up at the sky. “I think we'd better start looking for the others. Where did Mallory and Aurora disappear to?”

At that very moment, Aurora and Mallory were plodding through the forest toward a small cave. But unbeknownst to them, Colonel Angus Rickman was tiptoeing behind the couple, lurking in the shadows.


* * *

“It appears as though the people of this world would not have gotten along with the elders from the world I was raised on,” Colin remarked, making a reference to the people of the Amish World on which he'd grown up. Colin cradled a textbook in his lap; he, Diana, and Maggie were doing routine library research that morning to find out all they could about this current version of San Francisco. With less than a day before the next slide, they thought some quick research might help them understand this dimension better, and therefore be an asset in helping to somehow locate their five missing companions.

“Yeah, they thought YOU were a warlock,” Maggie agreed with Colin. “I'd hate to see their reaction to REAL witches!”

“Well apparently, witchcraft has been the driving force in this society for quite awhile,” observed Diana, looking up from the historical encyclopedia she was reading.

“I still don't understand how it all happened.” Maggie turned to Diana for clarification.

“You've heard of the Salem Witch Trials?” Diana asked Maggie.

Maggie nodded.

“In 1697, the same three women were the first ones to be accused in Salem, Massachusetts of practicing witchcraft: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and a Caribbean slave named Tituba. Except on this Earth, those three women openly admitted to being witches. They rallied masses of Salem's young women and young men to storm the village and eventually bust them out of prison. In anger and retaliation over being oppressed, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba led what would come to be known as the Salem Revolt. They and their followers massacred traditional Puritans in hundreds of colonial villages, starting with Salem.”

“That's awful!” Maggie exclaimed.

“It was only the beginning. Soon, the trend extended beyond Massachusetts Colony and spilled over into other American colonies,” Diana continued. “A chain reaction had been set off all across North America. Britain lost control of the colonies in 1765, when Druid invaders from Ireland allied themselves with the American witches by sailing across the Atlantic to drive the British out. Many of the famous accused patrons of Salem formed guerilla covens on this world, including George Burroughs, Giles and Martha Corey, and John and Elizabeth Proctor.”

“The witches used magic to defend themselves against their enemies, and later took over society,” elaborated Colin, paraphrasing from his own text. “So I guess magic really does exist.”

“I still can't believe it!” Maggie negated.

Diana picked up a scholarly journal she'd been reading. “Nine witches and warlocks, five female and four male, serve on the U.S. Supreme Court of this Earth. And the current leader of the free world, Prime Minister Cybill Shepard, is the national High-Priestess-in-Chief. The official religion, naturally, is witchcraft, as was mandated by former U.N. President Aleister Crowley in 1949. Religious people on this Earth worship both male and female aspects of a deity, referred to as either their God or Goddess. The Greek Goddess of the Hunt, Artemis - - whom I was named after, by the way - - is the prime female deity revered by this society.”

“Makes sense, since her statue was in Golden - - I mean, Silver Gate Park,” recalled Maggie.

“In addition, witches commonly believe there is life within nature and animals,” Diana added. “But as is the case with any society, people abuse their power .”

“The Wiccan Rede is supposed to embrace the concept, ‘If it harms none, do what you will',” Colin explained. “Instead, some witches and warlocks cast spells and exert magic to achieve evil gains of power and wealth.”

“So it's the good witches versus the bad witches?” Maggie summarized.

“That just about says it all,” affirmed Diana. “Many moral covens are trying to prevent the evil covens from attaining control of the State. In turn, the evil covens attempt to corrupt the moral covens. Since covens rule the government on both local and federal levels, the representative majority influences the extent of economic distribution and social greed.”

“That must not be pretty.” Maggie shook her head. “Especially with so many women competing for these positions of power using their magic. Women are particularly competitive with each other . . . I should know, because I am one!”

“Well, we should head back to the Dominion,” suggested Colin. “Quinn and the Professor will want to help us search for the others. I sure hope we don't have to slide out with half of our team still missing.”

“We can always return here if we run out of time by tomorrow,” Diana pointed out. “At least now we know what we're up against on this Earth.”

After leaving the library, Maggie, Diana, and Colin immediately took a taxi back to the Dominion Hotel. As they each passed through the metal detector inside the hotel lobby, Maggie spotted Quinn and Arturo heading straight toward them.

“How'd your research go?” Quinn asked.

“Quinn, this entire world is obsessed with magic!” Maggie blurted out. “Witches control basically EVERYTHING on this Earth!”

“We've noticed, Miss Beckett,” grunted Professor Arturo. “Everywhere you turn, it's bedknobs and broomsticks! Not to mention their silly illusion of magical powers.”

“It's REAL, Professor,” insisted Diana. “Magic really exists on this world.”

“Dr. Davis, I challenge you as a woman of science to provide a rational explanation for such a trite claim,” Arturo asserted, sticking his nose in the air. “I'm sorry if I sound like a cynic, but this place reeks of fraud and deception!”

Quinn held up his hands. “Okay, let's not start fighting. The most important thing for us to do is find Remmy, Wade, and the others.”

“I agree, brother,” consented Colin. “Perhaps we should utilize the trolley system to search the city? One of us needs to stay behind, though, in case they check in here at the Dominion while we're gone.”

“Great, bro! Thanks for volunteering!” Quinn slapped Colin on the back as he, Arturo, Diana, and Maggie headed for the exit.

“But, I . . .” Colin began to protest, but gave up after a moment. Sighing, he plunked down onto a sofa in the lobby.

“We shall reconvene in our hotel suite this evening at ten o'clock sharp,” the Professor stipulated, as Maggie passed through the metal detector.

Quinn walked toward the metal detector next. “I'm telling you, Professor, there's something creepy going on around here. I can't find a scientific explanation for it.”

“Bah!” scoffed Arturo. “Honestly, Mr. Mallory . . .”

“Professor Arturo, if there's one thing sliding has taught me, it's not to rule out supernatural possibilities,” Diana said, looking back behind her at the Professor as she walked across the metal detector. “I'm constantly in touch with the universal consciousness, remember.”

“Dr. Davis, I fear you have been spending a tad too much time with Miss Wells lately,” the Professor scrutinized. “Now I love Miss Wells dearly, but her wild imagination may be affecting your ability to properly reason.”


A piercing alarm belted out, startling Arturo as he passed through the metal detector. Several of the Dominion Hotel's bellhops rushed over, gathering around him.

“Young man, what is the meaning of this?!” Arturo demanded from one of the bellhops. “Am I wearing a forbidden metal?”

“Not at all, sir!” smiled the young male bellhop. “In fact, you've been selected to bestow a tremendous honor upon the Great Spirits. You're the 1000th person to pass through here this week.”

“Meaning? . . .” Arturo cocked his head, suspiciously.

“You get to perform the weekly incense ceremony,” smiled a hotel hostess, who was dressed in an exotic beaded shawl made with gold and silver beads.

“Incense ceremony?” Maggie asked, baffled.

“Your friend must prepare during the next 12 hours to execute our ritual burning of incense to honor the Gods and Goddesses,” that same hostess supplied. “He should consider it a great privilege.”

Professor Arturo rolled his eyes. “Madam, I must politely decline your offer . . .”

“It is not an offer,” she insisted, seriously. “It is your duty as a mortal, as mandated by fate. The burning of incense by a Chosen One each week - - in this case, you - - is essential to the appeasement of the higher powers who govern our natural world. To decline this privilege is to show the deities a great disrespect.”

“Maybe you'd better do it, Professor . . .” Quinn proposed.

“Absolutely not! We have more crucial matters at hand to attend to!” The Professor veered his head at the Wiccan hostess. “Listen here, young lady! I refuse to entertain your ridiculous, idiosyncratic fantasies! Now tell your minions to unhand me this instant!”

“Fate has chosen you,” the hostess repeated. “By refusing to engage in this sacred ritual, you are committing an act of treason.”

“Just perform the damn ceremony, Professor!” Maggie pleaded. “We'll come back to make sure you're okay.”

“Colin, go with him!” Diana called over to Quinn's older brother.

Grunting and protesting, Arturo was dragged away by several members of the hotel staff. “You superstitious nitwits!” the Professor hotly bellowed at them, as Colin followed them so he could chaperone Arturo.

Quinn looked helplessly at Diana and Maggie. “It's just the three of us now, I guess. We need to find Remmy, Wade, and the others so we can all get outta here . . . before the Professor manages to piss off too many more witches.”

* * *

“Wow, look at that sunset,” Mallory breathed out, gaping at the glorious orange nova that was slowly slipping beneath the horizon.

Aurora's auburn eyes twinkled. “Father Apollo, the Horned One, is retiring for the day, making way for Mother Artemis to alight the evening sky with the brightness of her moon.” Reaching out to caress Mallory's smooth facial cheekbones, Aurora leaned in and once again locked her lips with Mallory's.

All morning and afternoon, Aurora and Mallory had been snuggled up in the cave, enjoying each other's company. Mallory knew he should really be searching for his friends, that he had a responsibility to the rest of the sliders. Yet, the immense passion of Aurora's embrace enveloped Mallory, immobilizing him, causing him to delve into a deep state of hedonistic bliss. Mallory had soon lost all track of time, exploring and savoring his closeness with Aurora's body and mind. It was like she had propelled him onto an entirely new plane of existence where all of time stood still.

Meanwhile, Rickman had been shifting back and forth between the cave and the campsite where Aurora's coven was stationed. Throughout the day, Rickman coyly observed the five sliders: Wade learning all she could about witchcraft from Felice, Mallory and Aurora making love, and Rembrandt, Malcolm, and Janine impatiently exploring the vicinity for any signs of the absent sliders while still remaining within the relative proximity of Silver Gate Park. They didn't want to stray too far from each other, especially since they were surrounded by a bunch of witches.

Now, Rickman had returned to the cave entrance. He peered in and spotted Mallory and Aurora, both fully clothed again, cuddled in each other's arms. He had decided it was time to make his first move.

“Hello, Mr. Mallory #2!” called out Colonel Rickman, in a disturbingly whimsical voice that echoed across the cave.

Mallory's eyes snapped wide open. “That's Rickman!” he recognized, hearing the creepy voice.

“Who's Rickman?” Aurora asked, glancing around.

Rickman stepped out of the shadows. “That would be me.” He clutched a syringe in his arm. “I'm tired of waiting . . . thirsty for blood . . . the blood of a slider, any slider . . . you'll have to do!” His words were staggered and incoherent as Rickman snarled at Mallory, stepping toward him with calculated increments.

“Man, you've gone totally insane now!” Mallory shouted, backing away while blocking Aurora's body to shield her from Rickman. “Even more than you were before! That brain fungus of yours must be growing out of your ears by now!”

“I want revenge!” seethed Rickman, his face a flustered shade of bright red. Sweat poured from the madman's forehead, dripping down his face, moistening Rickman's shaggy facial hair. Rickman firmly clutched his syringe, aiming it at Mallory's chest. “I'm going to suck the brain fluid from your body, and then I shall have the brain fluid of your pretty little girlfriend too!” He showed his pointy teeth at them.

Aurora spontaneously leaped forward at Rickman.

“Aurora, no!!” wailed Mallory.

But Aurora tuned him out, focusing all of her negative energy on Rickman. Directing her psychic forces at the British colonel, Aurora applied her telekinetic power to knock Rickman right off his feet, causing the colonel to topple over.

“Come on! We must warn the others!” Aurora grabbed Mallory's hand and practically yanked him out of the cave and through the woods.

Rickman moaned, crawling to his knees and gazing into the darkness.

* * *

“Come on, Wade. Just a little bit more,” Felice softly encouraged Wade, who was seated cross-legged on the ground, attempting to move a large pile of stones with her mind.

Wade had been at this all morning and afternoon. Felice was tutoring Wade in the fine Wiccan art of spell-casting, using their coven's Book of Shadows to recite the necessary chants. By focusing all of her concentration on a single object, Wade had learned to exert a minimal magnitude of pressure from her brainwaves. However, so far she'd only caused inanimate objects to quiver or tingle a little.

“I can't do it!” gasped Wade, flustered and breathless.

“Yes you can,” Felice insisted. “Now recite the following with me . . .”

In unison, Wade and Felice repeated an incantation from the grimoire, their words and vocal tones becoming louder and more powerful as they spoke: ”Mother Earth, hear my plea; release your intensity; let my mind transcend its shell; walls of inertia we quell!”

With a loud clack, the pile of stones leaped upward off the forest's soil, thrust forward by the psychic force directed via Wade's inner consciousness. All of the stones fell back onto the ground, scattered apart from each other a foot or two from their original position.

Wade's mouth hung wide open.

“You did it, Wade!” exclaimed Felice, proudly squeezing Wade's arm. “Finally! I knew you could do it! Wade, you're a natural!”

“I can't believe it! I moved those solid objects . . . with my mind!” Wade squealed as she and Felice hugged and squeaked like excited little schoolgirls.

“That was only a simple incantation,” admitted Felice. “Since you're a novice, we need to start you off small. But soon you'll be able to knock over the trunks of trees with a simple blink of your eyes. It'll eventually become second nature to you, once you refine your skill.”

Wade ceased her excitement. “Felice, I've been so caught up in learning from you today that I almost forgot . . . my friends! We have to find them so we can all make the next slide together.”

Felice shook her head. “Wade, my Sister, don't be selfish. You are a part of us now. We are all a part of each other . . . you cannot leave us.”

Bristling, Wade broke away from Felice. “Are you saying that I can't rejoin my friends?!”

“We are all you need now, Wade. We are your Sisters.”

Wade shook her head. “I can't just abandon my friends, Felice! You can't ask me to do that!”

“But they are not the same as us.” Felice had a serious expression on her face. Many of the other witches who'd been sitting with Wade and Felice throughout the day joined Felice's side, and directed their attention at Wade as well. “We will not let you go.”

Wade stood up and cautiously backed away from them. “Janine was right - - you ARE a cult! You're not my Sisters! You're not even my friends!” She looked hurt and infuriated at the same time.

“You're not going anywhere!” Felice sharply blasted at Wade. “You now know our secrets, and you shall carry them with you to your grave, Wade, my Sister . . . our Sister!”

“No!” Wade quickly swiveled around to run away. But as she turned to flee, Wade found a myriad of additional witches from Aurora's coven blocking her path. By now, they had all surrounded Wade.

Wade stared straight at Felice and saw that her former confidant's face had morphed, manifesting its true form: an unattractive mess of warts and boils protruding from her crinkly, scarred facial skin.

“Stay away from me!!” Wade shrieked.

“We are your family, Wade,” Felice croaked. “You belong to us, and we belong to you.”

“Hey, Wade!” Rembrandt's voice could faintly be heard shouting to her from off in the distance; he, Malcolm, and Janine were strolling through the forest toward them as dusk approached.

“Remmy, guys, run! It's a trap!” Wade yelled a warning to her friends.

Rembrandt, Malcolm, and Janine, who'd just been searching the area for the five remaining sliders, had now walked right up to the assembly of witches huddled around Wade.

“What's going on here?!” Remmy demanded.

“They're frauds, Rem!” screamed Wade, pointing her finger accusingly at Felice and the coven sisters. “They want me to quit sliding and abandon you guys so I can join their cult!”

“AHA! I knew it!” Janine said, of the “cult” reference.

“We're a coven,” reiterated Felice, through gritted teeth.

“Lady, what happened to your face?!” Rembrandt squinted at Felice's now-decrepit complexion.

Felice flushed in humility. “We can only sustain our natural beauty for so long. Father Apollo blesses us with herbs, which restore our youth temporarily. But alas, in order to have such a precious gift renewed to us regularly, we must retain our allegiance to the Spirit World. That means sacrificing our beauty for long periods of time. In this manner we are staying true to the essence of the Old Religion.”

“By practicing Black Magic?! I don't think so!” Wade put her hands on her hips. “You bitches are manipulative, corrupt, presumptuous, rude . . .”

“. . . don't forget ugly and brainless,” Janine added.

Wade continued. “Have you ‘Sisters' ever heard of the Threefold Law of Karma? Whatever magical powers or spells you cast will return to you magnified and multiplied by three. I know the real reason why your skin keeps becoming more hideous and unhealthy as time goes by - - you're being punished for your mistreatment of innocent people!”

“You tell ‘em, Wade!” cheered Malcolm.

“Enough of this poppycock!” crackled Felice. She turned to her fellow Daughters of Artemis. “Sisters, we must vanquish these scoundrels . . . they are corrupting our newest Sister, our dear Wade!”

“Don't you dare touch my friends!” Wade seethed at them.

Janine suddenly whipped a matchbook out of her pocket. Quickly flicking a match against its cardboard container, Janine lit a small flame and threw it down on the ground. A massive conflagration of fiery tangerine flames erupted from the ground of the forest. All of the witches screeched in fear, scrambling away from the fire as fast as their feet would carry them.

“That's what I call a little ‘Orange Magic',” quipped Janine, lighting up another match.

“Malcolm, run!” Rembrandt instructed his young friend, concerned for the boy's safety. The 16-year-old heeded Remmy's plea, dashing away as fast as his legs could sprint.

At that moment, Mallory and Aurora were fleeing from what they feared might be Rickman in hot pursuit of them. Little did they know that Rickman was still back at the cave, fumbling around in the darkness. Nevertheless, Aurora and Mallory rode atop Aurora's broomstick, which was kept afloat above ground through Aurora's ability to self-levitate. They zoomed overhead above abundant forest trees; their destination: the Daughters' of Artemis camp.

Meanwhile, Felice had uttered a prayer in Latin as she perspired from the heat emitted by Janine's bonfire. As if in answer to Felice's prayer, an elemental force manifested itself from Felice's hands, originating from her perspiration. This gush of water drenched the bonfire, subduing its scorching flames.

“Water. One of the four natural elements,” Wade observed, awed and horrified at Felice's proficient power.

By now, Aurora and Mallory had arrived on Aurora's broomstick. They descended to the ground.

“A broomstick?! Oh, that is so cliché!” scoffed Janine.

“Guys, Rickman tracked our wormhole to this world!” Mallory shouted to his companions over the commotion.

“We've got bigger problems, Fog Boy!” Rembrandt called back.

Mallory widened his eyes at the spectacle unfolding before him. Wade shot a murderous glare at Aurora; she no longer trusted this woman.

“Mallory, get away from Aurora! She's dangerous!” Wade cautioned him, passionately fearing for Mallory's life.

Aurora now held her broomstick brush-side up. “He belongs to me!” She aimed her broomstick at Mallory and shrieked, “Terra!” As Aurora shouted, her face began to wrinkle and became pruny. Aurora's beauty faded as she exerted her powers.

Mallory, gaping in disbelief at Aurora's altered façade, felt himself sinking deep into the ground's soil, as though he was stuck in quicksand. The ground rumbled, and a small crack had formed beneath Mallory's feet that was sucking him in.

“HELP!!” yelped Mallory.

“Mallory!” Wade yelled.

* * *

Wade watched in horror as Mallory was pulled deeper and deeper beneath the earth's surface. Aurora concentrated all of her psychic energy on burying Mallory, to isolate him from his friends. Wade just couldn't accept defeat; she couldn't allow Aurora to steal Mallory away from her.

Spirits of the night and day, help me make Aurora pay!” Wade extemporaneously chanted an implicit, impromptu rhyme while directing all of her anger and rage at Aurora's bodily mass.

Affected by Wade's irate telekinetic exertion, Aurora was thrown off her feet, hitting her head hard against the cracked ground. Wade ran over and extended her arm out to Mallory. “Mallory, take my hand!” As Mallory reached for and clasped Wade's hand, his body weight caused him to break through the shaky, crusty ground and plummet into the underground shaft that he'd been falling into. Since Mallory had already gripped Wade's palm, Wade was yanked downward into the underground shaft along with him.

Meanwhile, Janine and Rembrandt began lighting more matches, setting nearby trees and shrubbery ablaze. They grabbed some of the biggest branches, which spanned several feet in length, and dipped the branches' tips into the scorching fire. Using these branches as informal “torches”, Remmy and Janine each whacked their branch/torch at the witches' bodies, setting many of the diabolical necromancers aflame. The witches screamed and shrieked in agony as they were burned alive; some of their untouched Sisters attempted to put out the fires, by summoning the elemental spirits to assist them in manifesting water particles, with which the witches doused the fire. But by that time, many of the witches had been literally transformed into charcoal, burnt to a crisp.

“Come on, Mountain Girl!” Rembrandt ushered Janine along as the two of them sprinted away from the Daughters' of Artemis campsite.

“What about Mallory and Wade?” asked Janine, as she and Rembrandt fled through Silver Gate Park.

“We need to get outside help so we can restrain these spell-casting freaks!” Remmy emphasized. “That's the only way we're gonna be able to dig out Wade and Mallory from beneath the earth!”

Rembrandt and Janine rushed closer toward the Silver Gate Bridge, which they spotted stretching overhead across San Francisco Bay; the lengthy silver bridge twinkled in the stark black twilight. Its glitter guided them toward civilization.

Then, approaching them in the distance, appeared Malcolm . . . leading Quinn, Maggie, and Diana behind him “Look who I ran into!” Malcolm said.

“We knew it!” Rembrandt threw his arms around the three of them as their paths crossed. “We knew the vortex dumped you off someplace else on this world. Are Farm Boy and the Professor okay too?”

“All things considered, yes. They're back at the Dominion,” explained Quinn. “It was those witches who were chasing us on the last Earth, Rem. They put some sort of curse on the vortex right before the five of us jumped in. The ERP Bridge must have forked off, veering us onto another pathway that landed us in a different location.”

“We're just glad to know you all are safe,” Maggie said. She looked around. “Where are Wade and Mallory?”

“Oh, the earth split open and sucked them underground,” Janine mentioned, non-chalantly.

“What?!” gasped Diana.

“We've got to go back for them!” Rembrandt spat out, quickly. He then instructed, “Malcolm, you go back to the Dominion. I don't want you getting hurt.”

Malcolm was about to protest, but Diana cut in. “Take the timer too,” she said, handing the device to Malcolm. “We need to make sure it stays safe.”

Without argument, Malcolm did as he was told.

“Uh, oh. The fruitcakes are back.” Janine gestured to a flock of witches running toward them, their black robes flapping in the wind. “I've only got a few matches left.”

“Who are they?” Maggie grimaced, giving the approaching witches a disgusted gaze of scrutiny. “They look like rejects from The Wizard of Oz.”

“Those are the Daughters of Artemis. They tried to recruit Wade into the Craft . . . of Black Magic.” Rembrandt reached out and broke a long branch off a nearby tree. “Light me up, Janine.”

Janine flicked out another match from her matchbook, igniting the tip of Remmy's “torch” with a fiery spark. “They're afraid of being set on fire,” she explained to the three newcomers.

“Wouldn't anyone be?” responded Diana.

“Q-Ball, grab a branch!” called out Rembrandt, who'd begun swatting at the swarm of witches with his torch. About a dozen of them were screeching at Remmy, yet backing away when he aimed the fire at them.

Quinn responsively attained his own torch, allowing Janine to light it up for him. Both Rembrandt and Quinn were whipping their infernal branches around left and right, setting scads of the witches aflame. Unfortunately, about a dozen additional witches were approaching to join their Sisters.

“I've got an idea!” Maggie suddenly said. She pointed to an abandoned cauldron, one obviously belonging to members of an absent coven. “Janine, help me fill that cauldron up with water.”

Janine and Maggie cooperatively gripped the cauldron, dragging it to the edge of San Francisco Bay. Tipping the cauldron over, Maggie and Janine dipped it into the bay and began filling it up with water.

Diana watched in horror with her mouth wide open as Quinn and Rembrandt fought off more necromancers; the two male sliders had set over half of the enchantresses afire.

Maggie and Janine were now dragging the cauldron toward the ruckus. Lifting it up, the two of them flung its water at some of the witches, completely drenching the evil sorceresses. The sopping wet witches glared vindictively at Maggie and Janine.

“Well . . . don't just stand there! Melt!” Janine commanded to the soaked, angry witches.

“Fools!” one witch snapped at them. “That only works in the movies!”

All of a sudden, one particularly feisty witch pounced on Diana, tackling the scientist to the ground. The witch pulled a sharp, shiny athame out of her pocket and raised it above Diana's neck. Thinking and moving impulsively, Diana grabbed ahold of Janine's matchbook, which Janine had accidentally dropped only inches away from where Diana lay pinned. Lighting the solitary remaining match, Diana flung it in her attacker's face, setting the aggressive witch afire. Furthermore, that witch, who was flailing around in excruciating pain, backpedaled and crashed into all of the leftover witches. The final Daughters of Artemis had been scorched to ashes, the fire devouring their corpses as it illuminated swarms of fireflies dancing in the night.

“Come on!” Rembrandt Brown led his friends back toward the witches' campsite. They high-tailed it over to the spot where a giant crater had formed in the ground.

During this whole time, Wade and Mallory had been huddled together at the bottom of the underground shaft that Aurora had created for Mallory.

Wade was weeping, and Mallory hugged her tightly. “I can't believe I trusted them,” Wade sobbed, burying her face into Mallory's well-toned chest. “They're probably going to kill Rem, Malcolm, and Janine!”

Mallory stroked Wade's neck, soothing her. “Well how do you think I feel? Aurora tried to bury me alive.”

Wade, despite her emotional state, laughed out loud at Mallory's wry humor. “You can be such a cornball, Mallory,” she cried, smiling in spite of herself. “Aurora wasn't going to bury you alive . . . she intended to ‘shelve' you away down here so she could come back to have you for herself after killing our friends.” With that, Wade burst into tears again. “They're goners, Mallory! And we can't do a damn thing about it!” She looked up at him. “I couldn't bear to see Aurora manipulate you the way she did. Mallory, I've . . . cared about you for a long time now . . . I can't believe I'm telling you this, considering everything . . .”

Mallory placed his finger softly against Wade's lips and hushed her. “I've felt the same way about you too, Wade.”

Wade's eyes widened. “You have?” She stared at Mallory, sniffling and gulping as she wept.

“Yeah, I have. Wade, I feel something for you that I've never felt before . . .” Mallory blushed, sensitively stroking Wade's short red hair.

Mallory and Wade stared deeply into each other's eyes, leaned in closer, and intimately locked their lips in a sincere kiss.

“Hey!” Rembrandt's voice could be heard calling from above. “Wade . . . Fog Boy . . . are you guys down there?!”

Wade and Mallory broke away from one another at the sound of Rembrandt's voice.

“Remmy!” Wade shouted upward, overjoyed. “Are you okay?! Is everyone else okay?!”

“We're all fine!” Maggie's voice joined Rembrandt's.

“Maggie?!” Mallory cupped his hands around his mouth. “So you and the others did land in San Francisco?!”

“Yes!” called back Maggie. “We're all checked in at the Dominion!”

Mallory and Wade grinned at each other and embraced.

“You two still there?!” Remmy called down to them.

“Yeah, Cryin' Man!” Mallory then caught sight of Rembrandt's face surfacing at the rim of the crater's opening, poking out from its edge. “But could you please do us a favor? . . . Get us outta here!”

* * *

After a hearty breakfast and a relief-filled reunion at the Dominion Hotel the next morning, Wade, Mallory, Janine, Rembrandt, and Malcolm joined Quinn, Colin, Maggie, and Diana to watch a reluctant Arturo perform his incense ceremony for the denizens of San Francisco.

“Blasted cauldron-bathing blowhards . . .” Professor Arturo grumbled, murmuring under his breath as he lit a few ceremonial candles at the altar. “. . . blithering idiots . . .” The Professor had been forced to wear a long, baggy, pure white robe used for ritual purposes. Arturo's robe was tightly tied above his waist around the upper half of his body, but loose and too long below his feet.

“Maximilian Arturo, the Old Ones thank you for this blessed sacrifice,” resonated the High Priest who stood by the altar.

Arturo put on a fake smile. “My pleasure, good sir,” he forced out of his mouth through gritted teeth. Under his breath, however, the Professor muttered with a snarl, "Blistering idiot..."

As the Professor poured a container of incense into its golden thurible and lit the fire to burn it, everyone else in the room raised their chalices high in the air.

“May we never thirst!” chorused the ceremony attendees. Every person took a sip of wine from his or her silver chalice - - including each of the nine sliders.

“So what happened to Aurora and Felice?” Malcolm asked Rembrandt and Janine. “Did you set them on fire too?”

Janine shrugged. “I didn't bother to study the faces of who I was burning. If I saw a witch, I hit her with a burning branch. No questions asked.”

Wade shook her head regretfully. “I feel sad for the innocent people in this society. With all these bad witches and warlocks in power, the true meaning of witchcraft is being diluted and misrepresented.”

“There are still good witches and warlocks,” Quinn reminded her. “So there's still hope.”

Rembrandt made a “tsk-tsk” sound with his tongue. “To think, all of this came about as a consequence of the Salem Witch Trials.”

Colin frowned. “Reminds me of a lot of the ignorance I encountered growing up in El Segundo.”

“Well, for all we care it's in the past,” Diana said. She held up the timer. “In a few minutes, we'll be out of here for good.”

Maggie bristled. “I just hate to leave this world without getting Rickman first. He's probably back at Silver Gate Park . . .”

Remmy held up his hand. “Maggie, for all we know he could be dead. We can't just drop everything and stay here because he MIGHT still be on this world.”

Sighing, Maggie muttered, “I know. I wish Aurora had shoved an athame through Rickman's chest.”

On cue, the doors to the banquet hall they were in burst open. Aurora and Felice came gliding into the room, their piercing eyes fixated on the sliders. “You betrayed us, Wade!” Felice sneered, as she and Aurora interrupted the incense ceremony.

Wade gasped in shock. “How'd you find us?” she demanded from them.

“Tea leaves!” snarled Aurora. “We stood back in the shadows and watched you exterminate all of our Sisters!”

“I can't believe I was attracted to you, you horrible, disgusting woman!” Mallory blared at Aurora.

Aurora smirked. “So my aphrodisiac worked. You'll learn to love me, Mallory . . . my aphrodisiacs never fail!” She and Felice pushed their way through the befuddled crowd and extended their witchy palms forward.

Incendium!” the two witches crackled in unison.

Incredibly, small but forceful fireballs shot from Aurora's and Felice's palms, bouncing into the crowd and setting some innocent bystanders on fire. People screamed and scattered all over the place.

“It's time.” Diana pointed the timer straight downward in a vertical position. The interdimensional gateway opened right atop the floor of the banquet hall. “Go!” she shouted to her friends.

Colin and Malcolm dived into the wormhole first; Janine and Diana went right after them. The whirling ERP Bridge also absorbed Quinn, Maggie, and Rembrandt, who leaped through the portal's translucent pink surface.

“Hurry, Professor!” Wade called to Arturo. The Professor had left the altar, stumbling toward the vortex as he comically tripped over the bottom of his ridiculously long robe. Arturo's robust body plunged through the gateway.

“Come on, Wade!” Mallory urged her.

“Time for your comeuppance, Wade Wells!” seethed Aurora. Felice, who was nearest to Wade, ejected a series of blazing, circular fireballs from her palms.

Wade's reaction time was just perfect. She channeled her telekinetic emotions, returning the fireballs back at Felice in midair. Felice exploded in a hellish eruption of infernal flames, her own fireballs having been telekinetically lobbed back at her and used against her.

In a split second, Mallory grabbed Wade's wrist and yanked her into the vortex with him.

* * *

A week had passed since the sliders' departure from Witch World. Aurora strolled solemnly through the forest of Silver Gate Park, her feet stomping over weeds and thistle. Sighing heavily, Aurora stared off as she gazed at the serene sunset. The last living Daughter of Artemis, the sole survivor of her coven's massacre, Aurora glanced down at her stomach.

In a few months, it would start becoming noticeably enlarged.

“Mallory, my stallion,” Aurora whispered, dreamily. “I've lost you forever . . . and alas, you shall never come to know your child - - our child.”

* * *

Wade and Mallory were the last ones to emerge from the vortex. Rembrandt and Diana helped them both regain their balance.

“Well, one thing's for sure,” declared Wade, brushing herself off. “I'm done dabbling in witchcraft . . . for good.”

Quinn turned to Arturo. “So what's your scientific explanation for those fireballs, Professor?”

Arturo was speechless. “For once, Mr. Mallory, I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea! I'm inclined to believe it was all an illusion.”

“What makes you so sure spirits don't exist, Professor?” Wade challenged him. “You as a scientist acknowledge that the world is immaterial . . . we've witnessed all kinds of REAL supernatural powers . . . anything's possible.”

“So how do you think they tapped into their magical abilities?” Malcolm asked Wade.

“Felice was telling me that as the moon becomes stronger, so do the powers of witches and warlocks,” Wade explained. “I don't know . . . maybe the energy of the Spirit World is more active in certain dimensions?” Wade gulped. “I'm just sorry that I had to actually kill Felice, but she left me no other choice.”

Mallory put his arm around Wade to comfort her.

“So what Earth are we on now?” Colin asked Diana.

“I don't know,” Diana replied. “I only had time to set our fixed latter six digits. I think the energy emitted from Aurora and Felice must have recalibrated the first six digits at random.” She punched some buttons on her PDL and called up the timer readings. “Hmmm . . . that's strange,” Diana observed, looking at their current coordinates.

“What?” Maggie joined Diana and read the coordinates aloud from the PDL screen:


“What the . . . ?!” Rembrandt couldn't believe it.

“It's just a coincidence, gang,” Quinn tried to reassure them.

“Are you sure about that, Q-Ball?” Rembrandt quivered, as an ominous noise buzzed overhead.

“Oh, no . . .” Mallory made a pained face as a recognizable pancake-shaped ship hovered over the landscape, heading straight toward them.

Janine stomped her foot. “Not again!” she groaned.

Rembrandt Brown gulped, staring in dread at the incoming spaceship.



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