By Marc C. (Crambam@aol.com)
(You may wish to skip to Chapter One
if you are familiar with the events leading up
to THE SEER.)
Rembrandt Brown took one last look at his friends, and leapt into the unstable vortex. This particular slide was risky, and Rembrandt knew full well that he might not make it out of the wormhole alive. But the fate of his world was at stake, and Rembrandt could do no less. The timer was destroyed beyond repair, and the only way off this world was a barely operable Kromagg sliding machine. Without a timer, this was a one way trip.
Diana concluded that four people would never survive in this vortex, but she did believe that one person had a chance. So without giving his friends time to argue, Rembrandt injected himself with a synthetic anti-Kromagg virus capable of saving his world. The risks were too great, and Rembrandt never even considered letting one of his friends take the chance in the wormhole. It was Rembrandt's world that was in trouble, so Rembrandt was going to go. There was no other option.
Once in the wormhole, the trip lasted mere seconds. But from Rembrandt's perspective, this particular slide seemed longer and rougher than any other trip through the vortex. As his body twisted and spun through the wormhole, Remmy could not stop thinking about the events that brought him to where he was on that day. It was hard for Rembrandt to imagine a life without sliding. Just five years earlier, he was a washed up former rock n' roll singer who was on his way to a gig singing the national anthem at Candlestick Park, when fate changed his life forever.
The adventure began in a San Francisco basement when a brilliant college physicist named Quinn Mallory, who had been working on an antigravity machine, accidentally discovered a way to travel between dimensions. Quinn would refer to this interdimensional travel as sliding. As he would later explain, the universe consists of an infinite number of Earths. Same year, different dimension. Basically, any scenario that can happen, does happen, and each possibility is represented by a different Earth. For example, on Rembrandt's home world, John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963. But on other worlds, that assassination might not have taken place. History on that particular world therefore would be radically different.
One of the more interesting aspects of sliding was the existence of exact duplicates of people on any given world. Sometimes these people were very close to their counterparts, and other times, they led radically different lives. In fact, a duplicate of Quinn had slid onto Quinn's Earth just before the adventure began, and even gave Quinn a few sliding pointers.
Excited about his invention, Quinn gathered his mentor, Professor Maximillian Arturo and his close friend Wade Welles to show them the portal, and to take them on an adventure to a parallel Earth. To make sure that the portal was able to sustain three people, Quinn boosted the power. Unfortunately, Quinn made a mistake, and fate intervened, changing Rembrandt's life forever.
Quinn made the gateway too powerful, and after he, the professor, and Wade entered, the portal actually moved out of Quinn's basement, and out to the street. On his way to the game, Rembrandt's car was approaching Quinn's street when it collided with the portal, sending the singer spiraling to his destiny.
In the beginning, there was no way to control to where the portal opened. The Professor would later explain that the multiverse was like a roulette wheel with an infinite number of slots. Each slot represented a different Earth. Opening the vortex was like spinning the roulette wheel, and they had no idea where they would land. But with all the different worlds to explore, Quinn's discovery allowed him the chance at the adventure of a lifetime.
In order to safely return to his homeworld, which Quinn called Earth Prime, the young scientist carried a timing device that was about the size of a TV remote control. When the timer ran out, the wormhole would reopen, and the sliders would return home. For this first adventure, he set the timer for five hours.
Unfortunately, the portal opened on a world undergoing an ice age. A very frightened Rembrandt quickly met the other sliders and it became very clear that there was no way they would survive the full five hours. Some sort of ice tornado was heading straight for the four travelers. Thus, because of the danger, Quinn was forced to open the portal early. Due to some scientific theory Rembrandt did not understand, opening the portal early caused it to open at a random world, and not Earth Prime. Worse, Quinn had no idea how to find Earth Prime. The sliders were lost.
To make things worse, after just a few slides, the timer became so badly damaged that Quinn could no longer open the portal at will. Luckily, on each Earth they visited, there was a short window of opportunity to open the gateway. The time period was different on each Earth. On some worlds it could be minutes, on others, weeks. To make sure they made the window, Quinn and Arturo reprogrammed the timer to count down to when the portal could be opened. The sliders would have to be together at that point, because if they missed the slide, they would not be able to access the portal for another 29 years.
Time passed and the sliders moved from world to world. Some worlds were good, some were not, and some seemed very close to Earth Prime. But they never quite found their own world, and that was their goal. Still, during the next two and a half years, Rembrandt, Arturo, Wade, and Quinn had grown to be like a family. They visited hundreds of worlds, always hopeful that they would finally get home.
Though many of the slides proved to be dangerous, sadly, one slide proved fatal. The hardest slide of all came when they slid to a world that was about to be destroyed by pulsars. The military on that world knew doomsday was coming, and led by a brilliant scientist named Steven Jensen, they worked on a mass sliding device to help save as many people as possible. Unfortunately, the world was going to be destroyed before the sliders' timer ran out, and Quinn was convinced to work with Dr. Jensen to save as many people as possible.
Jensen's work had not developed to the point where he could transport someone to another world and bring him back alive, but he did figure out how to both track wormholes and store the coordinates on a particular world in a timer. In exchange for Quinn's help, Jensen promised to give Quinn's timer those abilities. Quinn accepted, and along with Dr. Jensen's wife, Captain Maggie Beckett, he traveled to several worlds searching for a safe one to send survivors. On one of those quick slides, Quinn believed he found Earth Prime. Quinn and Maggie did not have time to stay, but Quinn was able to store the coordinates in Jensen's timer.
But before the sliders could return to Earth Prime, tragedy struck. Several years earlier, Colonel Angus Rickman, Maggie's commanding officer, had contracted a biological weapons induced disease during that world's version of the Gulf War. Rickman had managed to survive by draining the brain tissue of suitable donors and injecting that tissue into his neck. Fate put Rickman in charge of the sliding mission, and he was able to use his power to arrange for only people with compatible brain tissue to slide off his world to safety. His plan was to use the survivors' brain tissue to live.
Arturo discovered the plan, and confronted Rickman. Rickman promptly attacked the professor's brain tissue, though the attack was broken up before Arturo died. Unfortunately, Rickman was not finished. While Arturo was trying to recover, Dr. Jensen also discovered Rickman's plan. Rickman shot and killed Jensen. Later, he was about to kill Quinn when the injured Arturo stepped right in front of the bullet. As Rickman jumped through the last vortex off his world, the Sliders watched in horror as the professor died right in front of them.
Rembrandt, Wade, and Quinn managed to survive long enough to slide off the dying world and to follow Rickman and the survivors. However, thanks to Dr. Jensen's timer, Rickman managed to escape. The colonel traveled from world to world eluding the sliders and searching for more victims. Rickman's timer had the coordinates to Earth Prime, Quinn, Wade and Remmy used their new abilities to track wormholes and store coordinates to follow Rickman. Recovering that timer meant going home. Meanwhile, Maggie, desperate for revenge over the death of her husband, joined them.
Things were never the same after Arturo died. Maggie and Wade never really got along, and all three of the original sliders took the professor's death hard. Quinn placed the whole burden of sliding on his shoulders, and he never got over the guilt of condemning his friends to perpetual random sliding. Arturo's death only made Quinn's guilt worse. The professor was like a father to Quinn, who had lost his own father at a young age in a car accident.
Though Wade and the professor sparred occasionally, she cared for him deeply, and losing him was almost like losing a beloved family member.
Rembrandt also missed the professor. He loved the running gag he had over landing on him when exiting the wormhole. The professor was known for his temper, but the sliders knew that his bark was much worse than his bite. And Rembrandt loved making the professor bark. The professor constantly accused Rembrandt of landing on him when they popped out of the vortex on purpose. He was right, but Rembrandt never did let him know. Arturo's death ended a private joke that Remmy would carry with him forever in his heart.
But while Quinn, Wade, and Rembrandt wanted Rickman for his timer, Maggie was solely out for revenge. She simply wanted Rickman dead. The group tracked Rickman from world to world, and in a final confrontation, Rickman was accidentally killed when he tried to leap into an open portal. The portal was open over a cliff, and it closed as the colonel jumped for it. He fell to his death.
Quinn recovered Rickman's timer just before the colonel died, and opened the portal to Earth Prime. The plan was for Maggie to use the other timer to find a life for herself. The portal was open, but once again, timing proved to be against the sliders. The two timers were not in sync. Rickman's timer was open to Earth Prime, but the other timer still had a few minutes before the portal could be accessed.
At the same time, Maggie faced a fight that she could not handle alone. In addition to Rickman, Maggie would have found herself facing off with several allies that the colonel had made on that world. Quinn, finally relieving himself of some guilt, pushed Rembrandt and Wade through the portal, and stayed to help Maggie as the vortex closed. When the fight was over, Quinn and Maggie tried to track Wade and Remmy, but somehow the timer was damaged, and it took them 3 months to get to Earth Prime.
Those three months were the worst in Rembrandt's life. What should have been a happy homecoming had turned into his worst nightmare. Shortly after returning home, the Kromaggs invaded Earth Prime. The Kromaggs were a race of nonhuman intelligent beings that evolved on many parallel Earths. They had sliding technology, and invaded many worlds. Normal 20th century technology was no match, and humans were forced into slavery, prison, and in many cases death. The sliders had encountered the Kromaggs during one of their slides, and the group barely escaped alive. When Earth Prime was invaded, Rembrandt and Wade were captured. Rembrandt spent three months being tortured in a cell until Quinn and Maggie found and rescued him.
But Wade was not so lucky. She was taken off world to a Kromagg breeder colony. Though Rembrandt desperately tried to stop them from taking her, he failed, and the former singer was forced to live with that guilt ever since.
Meanwhile, the trip to Earth Prime had proven even more startling to Quinn. He found his mother in a Kromagg prison, where she revealed that he was not originally born on Earth Prime. His real parents were from a more advanced world, which had been fighting the Kromaggs. The Kromaggs thought of that world as Kromagg Prime, and they wanted to purge humans from it. Until a way to defeat the Kromaggs was found, Quinn's real parents wanted the Mallorys of Earth Prime to take care of Quinn. Mrs. Mallory was a double of Quinn's real mother, and she raised Quinn as her own. Quinn also learned that his real parents did indeed come back for him, but his adoptive parents wanted to keep him, and told the real parents that Quinn was dead. But the bottom line was that the people on Quinn's homeworld managed to find a way to defeat the Kromaggs.
Quinn's real parents left a message for him embedded in a microdot – a piece of advanced technology that delivered a personal message to Quinn when placed on his head. The message told Quinn that he also had a brother, and gave him the ability to track that brother down.
Quinn was later rescued from the prison by Maggie and Rembrandt, and the sliders left Earth Prime with several missions—find Quinn's brother, get to Quinn's homeworld and find a weapon to defeat the Kromaggs, and of course, find and free Wade.
The sliders successfully tracked Quinn's brother to an Amish-like world, where they met Colin Mallory. Quinn convinced Colin to join the team, and the group was once again four people. They continued their adventure, and their mission.
About a year later, tragedy struck again, as the sliders encountered Dr. Oberon Geiger. While the group was in the wormhole, Dr. Geiger used a machine called the Combine as part of an experiment. Quinn was ripped from the wormhole, and merged into a fraternal double on that world. The double's name was also Quinn Mallory, and Maggie would refer to him as Mallory, to distinguish. Mallory did not have the scientific knowledge of Quinn, and their personalities were quite different. Quinn was buried inside Mallory, with Mallory's memories and body type dominating.
Meanwhile, Colin was ripped from the wormhole, and made unstuck. As was later explained, when a person is unstuck, he cannot stay in anchored in any one world. Essentially, Colin was lost in a state of perpetual sliding.
Dr. Geiger was a very selfish man. Like Colin, Geiger was also unstuck. He was held to his world by a machine in his lab, but that stable field was not very big. He could not even leave the room. Thus, his goal was to use his Combine machine to collapse all the Earths in the multiverse into one, so he could survive. Thus, for his own selfish reasons, Geiger was willing to play God with the lives of trillions.
Once again, the mission of the sliders changed. Quinn was like a brother to Rembrandt, and Remmy had to do everything in his power to help him and Colin. Both Geiger's assistant, Dr. Diana Davis, who was horrified by the actions of her evil mentor, and Mallory joined the group. The goal was to somehow separate the two Quinns and ground Colin. With the professor, Wade, and Quinn gone, Rembrandt was the last of the original sliders.
In addition to Quinn's predicament, Rembrandt was still haunted by Wade's fate. As the two original nonscientists, Wade and Rembrandt had grown especially close during the time they slid together. As they would learn, they even had some sort of psychic connection. During one slide, Wade managed to communicate with Rembrandt, and she led the sliders to the world where she was kept prisoner. When the sliders arrived, they were horrified to find that the Kromaggs had connected Wade into a computer, in an attempt to use the energy of her imaginative mind to create a new way of sliding so they could retake Kromagg Prime.
Years earlier, Quinn's parents had created something to protect their world called the slidecage. The slidecage was a place where all beings would be sent if they tried to slide onto Kromagg Prime. Quinn, Colin, Rembrandt, and Maggie were once trapped in the slidecage. To escape, Quinn rigged the computer to return all of the cage's inhabitants to the world they were on just before they were trapped in the slidecage. But thanks to Quinn, Kromagg Prime remained blocked via traditional sliding. The Kromaggs hoped that this new method of using human consciousness would make the slidecage obsolete. Because the Kromaggs used drugs to suppress Wade's brain functions, Wade had no idea what had happened to her.
Diana, who had taken over as the group scientist since Quinn merged with Mallory, had no idea how to unravel the Kromagg technology and save Wade. And as usual, time was not on their side. The Kromaggs were attacking. Wade, in a last ditch effort to save her friends, managed to get them time to escape safely off the world, and to cause an explosion that prevented the Kromaggs from following as well as end their experiment. Though he failed to save Wade, Rembrandt still felt in his heart that she was still alive.
Rembrandt was suddenly shaken back to reality as the slide continued. "Now I know how a pinball feels," he thought, as he bounced through the vortex. He continued his flashback.
Rembrandt thought back to the last few weeks. After they met Geiger, sliding seemed like one failure after another to him. Rembrandt was tired, and just wanted to go home. Though his world was still overrun by Kromaggs, at least he could fight to liberate it.
Shortly after they failed to save Wade, the sliders once again encountered Dr. Geiger. Geiger had managed to create a stable bubble in space-time, and diverted the sliders' wormhole to that region. The scientist claimed he needed Diana's help to help about 20 remaining innocent people he had trapped in the bubble. In exchange for Diana's help, Geiger offered to help separate Quinn from Mallory.
In reality, Geiger wanted to use these people to merge into, like Mallory merged with Quinn, but Rembrandt and Maggie put a stop to that plan. Defeated, and under the close supervision of Diana, Rembrandt and Maggie, Geiger agreed to try to separate Quinn and Mallory, but the attempt failed. The doctor said that the two Quinns had been merged too long, and like conjoined twins, Quinn could not be brought back without killing Mallory. Knowing that Q-Ball, as Rembrandt called Quinn, would never want to endanger Mallory, Rembrandt told Geiger to shut the experiment down.
As for Colin, Geiger said that he had no way of tracking him. Colin could have died in the initial contact, or he could be out in the multiverse somewhere. But Geiger would not be able to help them.
Time ran out, and the sliders opened their wormhole. One of Geiger's captives broke in and shot Geiger, ironically just as he was about to release them back to their respective worlds. With the wormhole open, Diana managed to complete the task of sending those people home. Just before Geiger died, he handed Diana a computer disc. To her surprise, the disc contained the coordinates for each slider's homeworld.
And that brought Rembrandt's flashback to his most recent world. As they prepared to return to Earth Prime, the wormhole was diverted by an unscrupulous woman named Claire LeBeau. As Remmy understood it, Claire's father, a man whom they called The Seer, was somehow able to track the sliders' adventures through some sort of sixth sense. He knew about many of the worlds the sliders visited. Meanwhile, his stories of the sliders' adventures became a cultural hit. The sliders were celebrities.
In addition to their fame, the group found that this world had even more benefits to it. Apparently the Kromaggs had attacked, but this world managed to repel the invasion with a synthetic virus that was safe for humans, but lethal to Kromaggs. And, as fate would have it, Quinn's mother had been in a labor camp on that world when the Kromaggs were defeated. Mrs. Mallory was still there when the sliders arrived. However, the Seer told her about what happened to Quinn, and she was heartbroken to find her son trapped inside Mallory.
Thus, with Geiger's chip, and the virus, Rembrandt had what he needed to free Earth Prime.
Unfortunately, several people hindered the sliders' ability to leave this world. First, the Seer mentioned that he sometimes had the ability to see the group's future. His latest vision told him that if the sliders tried to leave his world, they would die in the next slide. He said he foresaw the deaths of Arturo and Wade.
Meanwhile, the Seer's stories of the adventures of Rembrandt, Mallory, Diana, and Maggie were so popular that the general populace had practically made a religion out of it. Claire, like many evangelists on Remmy's world, saw too much profit potential to simply let the group go. In fact, the search for profit was the reason she used Kromagg technology to bring the sliders to her world in the first place.
She also prevented the slide by using a leftover Kromagg device to put a forcefield around the wormhole. The forcefield somehow reset the window to open the wormhole, so Claire sent her people to the sliders' hotel room where they destroyed the timer during a fight with Mallory, Diana, and Mrs. Mallory.
The events on that world led to a final confrontation at a warehouse that contained the Kromagg equipment. The sliders defeated Claire and her people, but during the fight, the Seer suffered a heart attack. As he lay dying, Diana was able to use a Kromagg sliding machine to open a wormhole to Earth Prime. The machine was badly damaged, and the wormhole was unstable. If all four sliders went through, the wormhole would have collapsed killing them instantly. But Diana theorized that one person might make it. Without hesitation, Rembrandt injected himself with the Kromagg virus, said his goodbyes, and jumped through the portal, leaving Diana, Mrs. Mallory, Maggie, and Mallory behind. The remaining sliders tried to ask the Seer if Remmy made it, but he died before he could answer. Trapped on a world with no timer, and desperate for information on Rembrandt, for the first time in a long time, the sliders were left wondering what to do next.
But Rembrandt had a very definite mission -- find help, especially someone who could use his blood to recreate the virus and save his world.
Finally, the wormhole opened, and Rembrandt popped out. For the first time in nearly two years, Rembrandt Brown was home.
Rembrandt landed in an alley in the heart of San Francisco. Last time he was there, the city was devastated by the Kromagg invasion. Buildings were destroyed, and people were being imprisoned and slaughtered by the thousands. But when Remmy looked around, he saw no such damage. It was as if the Kromaggs never were there. "Well, either we drove the Maggs off, or I'm on the wrong world," he thought to himself. Clearly, he needed information. "Well," he said aloud, "if sliding's taught me one thing, local libraries are the place to go." Since the nearest library was at the university, that's where Remmy headed.
"What do we do now?"
Mallory's words rang in Maggie's head as she tried to regain her composure seconds after Rembrandt slid. With the Seer dead, she had no way of knowing whether Rembrandt lived. But Maggie had not survived two and a half years of sliding by being a pessimist. Thus, assuming that Rembrandt was dead was not an option. And as the most experienced Slider of the group, she took charge. "We fix the equipment and follow Remmy," she told Mallory. Turning to Diana, she asked, "is there any way you can use this Kromagg equipment to fix the timer?"
Diana shook her head. "No. Like I said before, the timer's smashed beyond repair. Maybe if I could salvage some parts, I could put them in a new timer, and we can track Remmy. The problem is, I don't know that much about Kromagg technology, and I've never built a timer before. I can only try."
Maggie smiled. Next to Quinn, there was no one she would rather have working on the problem. "Well, we seem to have time. If we can help, let us know."
"I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm hungry," said Mallory.
"What is it with you and food?" asked Maggie, joking.
Mallory laughed and turned to Mrs. Mallory. "Hey Mom, you want anything?" None of the sliders, Mallory included, even noticed that he erroneously referred to the woman as his own mother.
"I'm okay right now," replied Mrs. Mallory. "But shouldn't we do something about Claire?" she asked, referring to the Seer's daughter.
"Right," Maggie added, "Mallory, you get us some food. Diana, see what you can do about getting us off this world, and Mrs. Mallory and I will take care of Claire." And with that, the sliders went back to work.
In the university library, Rembrandt had spent several days reading through some old newspapers. Despite the lack of a Kromagg presence, this world was a lot like his own, so Remmy decided the best place to start was to look up articles beginning a few months prior to his first slide. The more he read, the more this world seemed to be like what he remembered before he slid. History was the same, and there was even an article about his singing the national anthem at Candlestick on the night he first slid. He read on, and found a story about his, Arturo's, Quinn's, and Wade's disappearances. Still, Remmy had landed on worlds similar to his own before, but there was always something that distinguished that world from his home. But here, only the lack of Kromaggs made him doubt he was on Earth Prime. And from what he remembered, there was no way the humans could have driven off the invaders and repaired the damage—not even after two years.
Rembrandt read on, and learned of the Yankees' re-emergence on top of the baseball world, Bill Clinton's impeachment for obstruction of justice, the rise of Ricky Martin, and various other historical events that could have happened on his world.
Diana was confident that Geiger had given them the right coordinates, and Rembrandt trusted her judgment. Though Oberon Geiger was an evil, arrogant, megalomaniac, he was also a brilliant man. Then again, it was possible that Geiger gave Diana false coordinates as a last means of revenge. Without a timer, Rembrandt had no way of leaving this world, so Earth Prime or not, this would be Rembrandt's home.
Finally Rembrandt found an article that made him certain he was on the wrong world. He felt as if he was kicked in the stomach, and bittersweet feelings overwhelmed him. Real tears formed in the eyes of the Cryin' Man, as he was called when he was a singer. The article said that Professor Maximillian Arturo had miraculously returned after being missing for three and a half years.
Memories of the professor's death flooded Remmy's mind. He recalled the moment on Maggie's world when Colonel Rickman shot and killed his friend just as he stepped in front of a bullet aimed at Quinn. Since that day, Rembrandt made it a point to avoid Arturo doubles, and for over two years, he had been successful.
But the stakes were too high now. Judging by the article, the Arturo on this world was very similar to the Arturo he had once known. He was a Professor of Cosmology, and a brilliant physicist. Though the article did not mention sliding, Rembrandt knew in his heart that this man was a slider. The article did mention that the FBI debriefed Arturo before he returned to the university, and sliding was the only way to explain such a long disappearance.
The professor's existence on this world led Rembrandt to the conclusion that despite the similarities, he was not on Earth Prime. Also, since he found no article mentioning the return of Quinn, Wade, or himself, Rembrandt concluded that somehow, this Arturo traveled alone. Still, he figured that this professor was his best chance for help. Rembrandt needed someone to either get him to his real world, or to get back to Maggie, Mallory, and Diana. Thus, despite the painful thought of confronting someone so similar to his lost friend, Remmy did the only thing he could, and marched straight to Arturo's office.
"Damn!" Diana yelled in frustration. A few days had passed and Diana was not making much progress on a new timer.
Meanwhile, Claire had been arrested and was out of the sliders' hair permanently. Maggie and Mrs. Mallory had talked to the police and like so many others on this world, the authorities were only too happy to help their sliding heroes. The mayor of the city even allowed Diana access to anything she needed to build a timer, including the Kromagg technology and the labs at the local university. No one wanted them to leave, but the people did respect the sliders' wishes.
"Anything we can do?" asked Maggie.
"I've tried everything but I just can't crack this technology. I can open a wormhole, but I can't get it any more stable than Remmy's. Without knowing what happened to him, I don't think we should enter," said Diana.
"Keep at it," responded Maggie, "if anyone can get us out of here, it's you."
"Did you try rerouting the power to the subatomic spectrometer?" Mallory asked, munching on a sandwich.
Both Diana and Maggie were startled by the question. Mallory may be Quinn's fraternal twin, but he was no scientist. "WHAT?" they both said, at the same time.
"What?" Mallory repeated, confused.
"You just mentioned rerouting power to the subatomic spectrometer. How would you even know what a subatomic spectrometer is?" Diana asked.
"What are you talking about? I didn't say anything about a subatomic whatsis," replied Mallory.
"Quinn," Maggie said, softly.
Mallory suddenly stood up with a blank look on his face. "I feel dizzy," he said, as he fell to one knee and clutched at his head. Mrs. Mallory, who had been helping as best as she could, rushed over to Mallory. Mallory may not have been her son, but her Quinn was trapped inside him, and in her heart, she knew he was still alive. Besides, she and Mallory had bonded since Rembrandt left. So with his head in Mrs. Mallory's arms, Mallory simply looked up at her and said, "Mom, help me." Then, he fell unconscious.
Nervously, Rembrandt approached Arturo's office. However, those nerves were quickly calmed when he heard a familiar voice doing what it did best.
"DAMN! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO EXPLAIN M-THEORY TO THESE BLISTERING IDIOTS!!! THESE STUDENTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST! NANCY!" Arturo's secretary came running in. "HAS MY LUNCH ARRIVED YET?"
"Yes, professor, I didn't want to disturb you."
"WOULD YOU RATHER I STARVE?" he asked, slightly perturbed.
Nancy smiled, knowing the routine. "I'll get it." The secretary brought in a bag, and walked out, seeing Rembrandt for the first time. "May I help you?"
"Uh…yes, my name is Rembrandt Brown, I need to see the professor," he politely asked.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"Well, no, but I'm hoping he'll see me anyway."
"DAMN! I TOLD THOSE PEOPLE I WANTED NO MAYO! JUST ONCE I WOULD LIKE TO SEE SOMEONE FOLLOW SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS!" Arturo screamed.
And with that comment, Rembrandt lost it. He laughed harder than he had in years. Remmy knew that despite Arturo's dramatics, it was all an act. Sure he got angry, but above all else, the Maximillian Arturo that Rembrandt knew was a good man. And Rembrandt would not even consider that this professor was any less.
Remmy's laughter caught Arturo's attention. He got up, and walked out of his office. "WHO THE DEVIL IS LAUGHING?" And when Arturo saw Rembrandt, his jaw dropped.
"You know Professor, I wasn't sure whether to come here or not, but just the sound of your voice and the look on your face made it all worthwhile," Remmy said, still laughing.
Arturo's anger quickly faded as he was filled with pure joy at seeing his friend. "Mr. Brown!"
"You know me?"
"Well of course I know you! Or at least, I knew one of your doubles. Of course, somehow I think you know that, or else you wouldn't be here. Tell me, what can I do for you?"
"I need your help. It's a long story."
"I'm sure it is. Please. Come inside."
Rembrandt followed Arturo into his office, and sat down. The professor closed the door.
"Well, since the Rembrandt Brown of this world slid with me years ago, and has not returned, I must assume that you are either my Rembrandt Brown returned at last, or more likely, one of his doubles. You did slide with my double, a Quinn Mallory, and a Wade Welles?"
"Yeah. You too?"
"That is correct Mr. Brown. I first slid off this world with my student Quinn Mallory, his friend Wade Welles, and obviously a double of yours. I was separated from them on a world in which we were fooled into believing we were home. They unknowingly slid off that world with that world's version of me. I knew that the odds of them returning for me were astronomical, so I managed to return home on my own. Is your Quinn, Wade, and Arturo with you?"
"No. That's part of the long story, but I'm here alone."
"Then it would seem, Mr. Brown, that we both got separated from our respective groups."
Suddenly, Rembrandt had a thought. "Professor, I know the odds of this being true are less than winning the lottery, but could you describe that world you say our doubles left you on?"
"Well, to elaborate, we had been sliding for about a year and a half when we landed on a world very similar to Earth Prime. At first, we were fooled into believing that we had indeed returned home. But then, as I was told, Mr. Mallory had seen subtle differences between that world, and ours. I arrived at the truth separately when I found that my double on that world did not slide with his Mr. Mallory, Miss Welles, and Mr. Brown. That common coward kidnapped me and held me hostage while he tried to steal Mr. Mallory's idea for sliding. Unethical slime."
Rembrandt's heart liked what he was hearing. "Professor, did that world have an Azure Gate Bridge instead of a Golden Gate Bridge?"
Arturo could see where Rembrandt was going. "Yes Mr. Brown it did."
"Professor, I know it's crazy, but we landed on a world like that. The Arturo of that world kidnapped our Arturo too. In the end, when the wormhole opened, the two professors were fighting, and only one jumped through the wormhole. He convinced us that he was OUR professor, and acted as much a part of the team as ever."
"Well Mr. Brown, it would seem that this was indeed a very similar adventure, only when I experienced it, I unfortunately lost that altercation and was left watching my double slide off this world, with my friends." Arturo sighed at the memory.
"Professor, is it possible you are my original professor?" Remmy asked, knowing it was too good to be true.
"Mr. Brown, no one would be more pleased at the thought than I, but as I stated, the odds of me being your Arturo are absolutely astronomical! There could be literally thousands of worlds where our doubles had that same adventure! Literally millions of Arturos could have had that fight, and in some cases, the right Arturo slid, and in others, the wrong Arturo slid. It is quite possible that you took the right Arturo, while my group obviously took the wrong Arturo." Still, despite the sureness in his voice, the professor was secretly thinking the same thing as Rembrandt. "If only it were true," he thought.
But Rembrandt did not share the professor's negativity. In fact, he was starting to get excited. "Look, I know we thought we got the right professor off that world. He was so much like you, and knew so much, that we believed him. He convinced us he was ours, and after a while, we dropped it. He became part of the team."
Arturo was curious. "What happened to him? Is he still with Mr. Mallory and Miss Welles?"
Rembrandt felt the sadness tug at his heart. "No. The professor was killed. He sacrificed his life taking a bullet for Quinn."
The professor slapped the desk with his hand. "That settles it Mr. Brown. I can't possibly be your Arturo. The Arturo that slid off that world with my friends was a no-good impostor. He was a coward and a selfish man, who would never sacrifice his life for Mr. Mallory's."
Rembrandt laughed. Though deep down he knew the professor was probably right, he also knew that he was reacting exactly like his Arturo would have had his Arturo been left behind on some world.
"What the devil is so funny?" Arturo asked. Rembrandt told him, and Arturo laughed too.
"Look, I don't know if that was our professor or not anymore, but he was a good man, and even if he was an impostor, he never acted that way. I just wish we had a way to know for sure." At this point, Rembrandt was so intrigued with the thought of potentially getting his Arturo back that he had all but forgotten the reason he came to see him in the first place.
Arturo smiled. "Well Mr. Brown, you are in luck. When I was left stranded on that world, I had to figure a way to either track down the rest of my friends, or get home on my own. Luckily, when I explained my predicament to the Mrs. Mallory of that world, she allowed me to use her son's equipment to work on building a new timer."
Rembrandt smiled. "You can't keep a good man down."
Arturo continued, "Yes, thank you. Anyway, a few months later, I did indeed succeed in opening my own wormhole, with my own timer. I bid that wretched world goodbye, and resumed my quest to get home. I had been travelling from world to world, keeping a low profile, for about a year and a half, when I met a double of my Quinn Mallory. His genius rivaled that of my prized pupil's. Together, we finally perfected sliding and found my world."
Arturo continued. "You see, from our perspective, we only exist in one universe. But as you know from sliding, there are in fact many different universes. Each and every piece of matter in any given universe has its own quantum signature, which is like a fingerprint to that particular universe. With the help of that world's Quinn Mallory, and another brilliant scientist named Steven Jensen, I was able to create a chip for my timer able to track quantum signatures. Dr. Jensen even created a way to program the timer to track wormholes, a feature that did not exist when we first began sliding. He also developed the means to store coordinates, which would prevent returning to the same world twice. The new timer not only took randomness out of sliding, it had the ability to locate any world based on the quantum signature. Once I could do that, all I had to do was scan my own quantum signature, program the timer for the matching world, and I was home in a matter of seconds. I have been here ever since. I held out the hope that my comrades had made it home too, but I was sadly disappointed. So you see Mr. Brown, all I have to do to prove you are not the man I slid with, is to take you to the lab and scan you."
Rembrandt got up. Years of sliding made him understand science a little better. "Professor, your story is making me think more and more that you're the real deal and that I'm home. I thought made it home once, and not much after that, my world was taken over by the Kromaggs."
"Who the devil are the Kromaggs?"
"Come on Professor, you were with us the first time…" he stopped himself, remembering the potential switch of Arturos. "Well, maybe that happened after Azure World. Anyway, the Kromaggs are a race of beings that slide from world to world killing humans and raping the planets' resources, before moving on to the next world."
"GOOD HEAVENS!!" Arturo said, astonished.
"We first ran into them before our Arturo, or your impostor, was killed." Arturo nodded. Rembrandt continued. "Anyway, to make a long story short, on the same world where we lost your double, Quinn located a world that he thought was Earth Prime, and we believed him. But he wasn't there long, and we've been fooled before."
"So what makes you think this is your world more than that one?"
"That quantum signature mumbo jumbo you were talking about. Look, I don't know much about science, but I know that I slid to this world because of some computer disc that had the coordinates to my world. Maybe the guy who made the disc got the based my quantum signature. If I'm here, then this could be my real home."
Arturo listened attentively, and was starting to be convinced. "Mr. Brown, I think we had better get to the lab." And with that, the two men left Arturo's office, and Rembrandt began to tell the professor about all that had happened since Azure World.
Before Mallory merged with Quinn, his life was not a very happy one. His parents died when he was very young, and as a teenager, he was stricken with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy that confined him to a wheelchair. But then he thought his life changed for the better when he met Dr. Oberon Geiger. At first, Geiger made all of Mallory's dreams come true. Using the DNA of Quinn Mallorys all over the multiverse, Geiger was able to cure Mallory of his M.D. Mallory was able to walk, and owed a Geiger great debt.
Thus, he agreed to the experiment that changed his life forever. Aided by a machine he called the Combine, Geiger sent Mallory into a wormhole. However, unbeknownst to Mallory, it was the same wormhole that Quinn, Maggie, Colin, and Rembrandt were using to travel to Mallory's world. Maggie and Rembrandt were unharmed, but Quinn and Mallory collided inside the vortex, which caused their quantum matrices to merge. As for Colin, he became unstuck, and was gone without a trace.
At first, Quinn was very aware of what happened to him. He was fading in and out of consciousness, but he was also struggling for control over the singular quantum reality. In other words, both personalities were fighting over the body. The struggle was difficult, and in the end, Mallory's was the dominant pattern.
Geiger told Mallory that Quinn would eventually fade away, but Mallory did feel badly about what happened. Perhaps it was Quinn's presence in his body, or perhaps it was a sheer desire to get Quinn out of his body, but Mallory felt the need to slide with Maggie and Rembrandt. Diana joined them, and the sliders' new mission was to find a way to separate the two Quinns and to stabilize Colin.
Still, Quinn's presence in his body haunted Mallory. On one of his first slides, Mallory landed on a world very similar to one Quinn had been on previously. The familiar images, and the newness of having Quinn inside him, caused Quinn's personality to resume its fight for control. Mallory found himself reliving Quinn's memories, and nightmares. Still, Mallory remained in control, and Quinn remained dormant.
A few weeks later, just before a slide, while running for their lives and into the vortex, Mallory was shot in the back by some sort of laser weapon that scorched his spinal cord. Once again, Mallory was unable to walk. But he also learned on the next world that a group of people called the Believers possessed the means to heal him. The Believers possessed a type of water that was infested with microscopic robots that could rebuild Mallory's spine. The water worked, but the tiny robots stayed in his system. The robots promptly linked with other robots inside the other Believers sending Mallory into a collective consciousness. On the next world, Mallory blood was purified, but the most significant aftereffect of the water was that all traces of Quinn were gone.
Several months later, the sliders landed on a mini-dimension that Dr. Geiger created to survive. Claiming to be reformed, Geiger asked Diana to help him return several people who were accidentally trapped when Geiger created his safe haven. Though Diana did not want anything to do with Geiger, she relented when he claimed to have a means to separate the two Quinns.
In the end, Geiger's attempt failed. The Quinns were merged for too long, as the doctor explained. He also said that he could not help Colin. Geiger was shot and killed before the sliders left, but as he lay dying, he gave Diana a computer disk containing the coordinates for all their homeworlds. Still, Quinn and Mallory were still merged, seemingly with no hope.
But recent events showed that the separation attempt did not fail completely. Beginning with seeing Mrs. Mallory, Quinn's feelings and memories began to re-emerge inside of Mallory. Now, Mallory felt Quinn's emotions stronger than ever. The struggle for dominance began again.
"We've got to get him to a doctor," cried Mrs. Mallory.
"Mallory, are you ok? Diana, what's wrong?" asked Maggie. Mallory was hunched over on the ground, strange memories flooding his mind.
"I'm not sure," Diana answered, "It seems as if Quinn, your Quinn, is resurfacing."
"Quinn?" asked Mrs. Mallory, hopeful.
"Why now?" Maggie asked.
"It could be a number of factors. The separation attempt combined with seeing his mother probably caused the dormant Quinn to seek to come out again. It could have been losing Remmy, the last of the initial group to slide with Quinn. That, plus the attempts at recreating Quinn's initial sliding experiments from scratch could have caused Quinn to reawaken on the subatomic level."
"Can we help them?" asked Maggie.
"I don't know. Maybe between the lab and the Kromagg technology, we can do something beyond what Geiger did, but…" Diana hesitated.
"But what?" Maggie asked.
"But if we do that, I doubt I will be able to use this stuff to recreate sliding. We would be trapped here forever."
"I DON'T BELIEVE IT!" Arturo exclaimed.
"Don't believe what?" asked Rembrandt.
The professor was beaming. "THE RESULTS ARE IRREFUTABLE! Mr. Brown! You ARE from this world. You ARE the Rembrandt Brown I once knew, and I AM YOUR Arturo."
"Now I don't believe it." Rembrandt replied, overjoyed and in near tears.
"See for yourself Mr. Brown. Everything around you is from this world except your clothing. That Dr. Geiger you told me about may have been a scoundrel, but he wasn't lying when he gave you these coordinates." Arturo smiled a big grin. "Congratulations Mr. Brown, you are home."
Rembrandt was thrilled, and for the first time in a long time, the Cryin' Man cried real tears of joy. "Oh Professor, you have no idea how much I missed having you around."
"Likewise Mr. Brown, likewise." He patted Rembrandt on the shoulder.
Then Remmy turned serious. "Wait a minute. If I'm home now, and I wasn't home before, then Q-Ball is from here too. That means Colin isn't his brother and he's not from Kromagg Prime."
"That is correct Mr. Brown. I'm afraid Mr. Mallory has been one of us all along. And as for this brother, the man you knew as Colin Mallory is really the brother of one of Mr. Mallory's doubles."
"I get it. But you know something Professor? I watched those two get along for almost a year. Whether they were real brothers or not doesn't change that they acted that way."
"I understand Mr. Brown."
"Professor, I can't stay. I never wanted in on this ride, and for years, all I wanted was to get home, and get my life back. But I can't stop now knowing that Maggie, Mallory and Diana still need me. I have to get back to the others. And I still feel responsible for that world I thought was home. I still owe those Maggots for what they did to Wade. And I have to go back and try to help Q-Ball. I need your help."
The professor was equally serious. The years of separation had not altered his feelings for his sliding companions. Quinn was like a son to him, and perhaps there was something he could do to help. Plus, if any hope that Wade were alive existed, Arturo would make it his mission to find her. "Mr. Brown, my timer still works. When do we leave?"
"Whoa wait a minute Professor. This isn't your fight. I can't ask you to come along."
"DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT AFTER ALL WE'VE BEEN THROUGH, I WOULD EVEN CONSIDER STAYING BEHIND? You left me behind once Mr. Brown. NEVER AGAIN!"
Rembrandt was touched by the friendship, and not fooled by the angry tone. Still he had to try to convince his friend to stay behind. "Professor. Max, your double had us fooled hook line and sinker. As far as we were concerned, he WAS you. You have no idea how it felt seeing him die. Knowing that you're alive doesn't change that he was my friend in his own right. I've lost enough friends. I don't want to lose one more."
"Don't KNOW how you feel? No idea? MR. BROWN, I was ABANDONED on that world by accident. I LOST ALL THREE OF YOU! AND IF THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH, I HAD TO WORRY ABOUT WHETHER THAT IMPOSTOR WOULD HARM YOU! YOU BLISTERING IDIOT! I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL! NOW ENOUGH OF THIS DILLY DALLY, AND WHEN DO WE LEAVE?"
Remmy smiled and started to laugh. "Same old professor," he thought. Remmy knew he could not talk the professor out of coming, and was not sure he would if he could. Arturo was a member of his team. He was family, and Remmy missed him. Besides, yesterday, Arturo was dead to him. Today, he was back. If that could happen, then anything was possible, including rescuing Colin and Q-Ball. Also, having another scientist along would only help Diana, and Remmy secretly missed those soft landings Arturo's ample body provided. "No time like the present."
Arturo nodded. "Very good Mr. Brown. Allow me to gather a few things, and we will be on our way. All I have to do is program the timer to track your wormhole, and you will be reunited with your friends in no time at all." And with that, Remmy and Arturo prepared for their journey.
When Maggie first started sliding, she relied on Quinn for all the answers, and with Quinn gone, she and Remmy relied on each other, while they taught Diana and Mallory the tricks of the trade. But when Rembrandt slid off Seer World, Maggie became the leader of the group by default. Perhaps it was her marine training, or perhaps it was the result of learning to rely on and trust her sliding companions, but Maggie really cared about her sliding family. Thus, when Diana presented Maggie with the choice of whether to use the Kromagg machinery to slide off this world with the hope of finding Rembrandt, or to use it to save Mallory and give up sliding forever, there was really no choice.
"Diana, whatever it takes, help Mallory," she said.
Diana nodded, not surprised. With Mrs. Mallory's help, the three women carried Mallory over to the physics lab, as Diana took parts out of the Kromagg machinery and combined them with the lab equipment. She put Mallory on a chair, and pointed a laser at him. Mallory at this point was struggling in and out of consciousness.
Diana turned to Maggie. "Ok, I tried to duplicate Dr. Geiger's Combine machine from memory. I used the Kromagg technology to give us more power, and I've recalibrated the particle beam so it will generate a more powerful hyper-quantum vibration than last time. Theoretically, it will cause both Mallory and Quinn to repel from each other, and separate."
"Will this help my son?" asked Mrs. Mallory.
"I hope so. Geiger's separation attempt failed because the two Quinns had been merged for so long that their molecules bonded at the subatomic level. He couldn't restore Quinn without killing Mallory. I'm hoping this Kromagg technology will somehow get around that problem."
Maggie paid attention, and was nervous. All she could say was, "well, no time like the present."
Diana nodded, and flipped a few switches. A beam shot out of Diana's machine and hit Mallory straight in the chest. He struggled, as if in immense pain, and soon his whole body was lit. Soon, as was the case in the earlier attempt, it looked as if two bodies were appearing. Quinn's face was clearly visible like a ghost over Mallory's. However, unlike the last time, Quinn was able to show signs of consciousness. For the first time in almost a year, he saw Maggie, and called out her name.
But before she could answer, Maggie sensed something was wrong. Something about the sound of the machine changed. Between that, and the look on Diana's face, she knew the attempt was not working. "What's happening!?" she screamed.
"We can't keep this up!" yelled Diana. "It's just like before! The bond is too strong and we could end up killing one of them! I can't distinguish their quantum patterns! I have to shut it down!"
Defeated, Maggie told Diana to shut the machine down. Diana saw the tears in the eyes of both Maggie and Mrs. Mallory. Though Diana had never really met Quinn, she did feel a bond with him. Both were scientists, and physics was their passion. Also, Diana's knowledge of physics gave her a responsibility in the group that allowed her to understand how Quinn must have felt when everyone looked to him for answers. She tried to comfort her friends. "Look, I know it failed this time, but maybe if I recalibrate the subatomic matrix, I can boost the power to the quantum transformer. We can try again."
Maggie looked at her. "How many more times can I go through this? I've lost Quinn, but I can't even grieve because he's still alive in there. And Mallory—he's become like family too. If we don't do something, they could both die. I feel so powerless."
Diana was overwhelmed with feelings of sympathy and guilt. It was her mentor that did this to Quinn and Mallory. Her intellect had not been able to solve the problem of separating them. She was the best chance Quinn and Mallory had, and her efforts were not good enough. Also, though she kept the information to herself, time was running out. All the stimuli and recent experiences had caused Quinn to desperately try to resurface, but very soon, the mixture of the minds would first drive both Quinns insane, and then kill them. Diana calculated that if the two were not separated in just days, all would be lost. But for the moment, her concerns were on Maggie, the closest friend she ever had. "Maggie, why don't you go back to the hotel and get some rest."
"I won't leave them!" she cried.
"Look, I have a lot of things to figure out before I try again. And I need to concentrate. I'd feel better knowing you were getting rest so I could think."
Mrs. Mallory took the hint. Her son's future rested on the shoulders of this physicist, and in as diplomatic a way as possible, she helped Diana. "Come on Maggie, I'll go with you. Diana needs to work, and we're only a distraction. I could use some sleep too, and I would appreciate it if you came with me. Let's go back to the hotel."
Maggie nodded, gave Diana a few words of encouragement, and went back to the Chandler with Mrs. Mallory. Diana went back to work.
As the portal opened, the wind in the area started blowing, and papers and objects began swirling like a mini tornado. Arturo screamed as he came out of the vortex first, and Rembrandt was right behind him.
"NOW I KNOW WHY YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT BRINGING ME ALONG SO EASILY MR. BROWN! YOU WANTED TO ONCE AGAIN USE ME AS YOUR PERSONAL LANDING MAT!"
Rembrandt was laughing. "Professor, I don't know what you're talking about," he lied. Rembrandt's mood was contagious, and Arturo's anger quickly turned to a smile. Though the professor would never admit it, this particular landing was one of the happiest moments he had in recent years.
"So where to? The Dominion Hotel?" Arturo asked.
"Actually, we go to the Chandler now." Rembrandt replied.
"The Chandler it is then." And the two men went on their way.
Maggie was tired. Her mind was focused on absent friends. She missed Quinn, Rembrandt, Colin, and even Wade. As much as she cared about Diana and Mallory, something about losing Rembrandt sucked the will to go on right out of her. The only thing that helped her get through the day was the hope that Quinn might be saved. But now, even that hope was fading. Plus, with no way to slide off this world, Maggie was really starting to feel dejected.
To make things worse, someone had the nerve to knock on the door. She was not in the mood for visitors, and she did not order room service. Mrs. Mallory was asleep in the next room, so Maggie forced herself to get up.
"What do you want?" she barked, as she opened the door.
"Is that any way to treat an old friend?" Rembrandt replied, with a big grin.
"REMMY!" Maggie flew into his arms and the two hugged while Arturo stood politely in the background.
"Girl, you know I couldn't stay away for long." He turned to Arturo. "Maggie, I want you to meet a very close friend of mine, Professor Arturo."
"The pleasure is all mine Miss Beckett," Arturo chimed in, extending his hand.
"Don't you mean a double of Arturo?" she asked.
"No doubles. This is the same man I slid with in the beginning." Rembrandt still smiled.
"My Rembrandt's professor is dead."
"I assure you Miss Beckett, the rumors of my death are highly exaggerated. I am Maximillian Arturo, Regents Professor of Cosmology and Ontology at California University."
Maggie was skeptical, since she knew that Rembrandt's Arturo was gone. She missed Rembrandt, but did not have the patience right now to deal with sliding doubles.
But no one knew Maggie Beckett better than Rembrandt, and he immediately read her mind. "Look, I didn't believe it either at first. Okay. Remember I told you about the time, Quinn, Wade, the Professor and I slid into that world that was like our own, but with the Azure Gate Bridge?"
"Yeah," Maggie responded, realizing where Rembrandt was going. "You said that there was a short time when you thought you took the wrong professor, but you changed your mind because the professor you took was such a good man."
"That's it. Well, I was wrong. We had the wrong Arturo all along. When Geiger's chip got me back to Earth Prime, there he was. He proved his identity with some gizmo that showed his quantum signature matched mine. And he helped me get back here."
"Mr. Brown filled me in on his adventures since that infernal impostor replaced me. He told me about how you joined the group to track that man who shot my double and killed your husband, and how you had thought you found Earth Prime. But as it turned out, the world you had thought was Earth Prime was merely another close alternate, not unlike the world on which I was stranded. But rest assured, our Earth was never invaded by those barbarian Kromaggs."
Maggie was shocked, though she believed the story. The professor and Rembrandt gave too many facts about their sliding adventures. Suddenly, she had a realization. "That means that Quinn and Colin…"
"…are not really brothers," Rembrandt finished.
Arturo nodded. "Precisely," he said, not noticing Mrs. Mallory had entered the room.
"That's not true!" she said.
Arturo recognized the newcomer, and based on what Rembrandt told him, he knew he should be tactful. "Mrs. Mallory, I presume."
She looked at Arturo with fire in her eyes. "I don't care what you presume! I don't know who you are, but why are you lying about my son?"
Maggie answered before Arturo could. "Mrs. Mallory, you don't recognize this man?"
"I've never seen him before in my life."
Rembrandt interjected, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Mrs. Mallory, this is Professor Arturo. He was Quinn's physics teacher at the university, and he slid with us. And he met Quinn's mother just before the first slide. If you don't recognize him, then -"
Mrs. Mallory interrupted. "I don't care what you are saying, that's not Professor Arturo. The Arturo I knew was much thinner, had no beard, and was bald." Mrs. Mallory completed.
Rembrandt did not know what to say. But Maggie was starting to understand. "Mrs. Mallory, I met Arturo, or at least this man's double, before he died. This may not be the Arturo I met, but he is that man's double."
Suddenly Rembrandt understood the confusion. "Wait a minute, maybe the Arturo you knew was some sort of fraternal double, like Mallory is to Q-Ball."
The professor was impressed. "Mr. Brown, when did you acquire such an understanding of theoretical physics?" Arturo asked, lightheartedly.
"You slide as long as I have, you begin to pick up the lingo."
Mrs. Mallory began to realize the truth. "But if that's the Arturo that slid with Quinn, then . . . your Quinn is not my son."
"I'm terribly sorry Mrs. Mallory, but if it is any consolation, perhaps your Quinn is still out there." Arturo interjected.
"But what about that chip that told Quinn he was from another world? That was only supposed to work on him?" Mrs. Mallory asked.
Arturo put his hand on his beard. "I have been pondering that question myself. The only theory I could come up with is that the quantum signature on the world that dropped off your son is so similar to ours that it fooled the chip. Either that, or storing the chip inside your arm caused it to malfunction and work on the wrong Quinn Mallory."
Maggie changed the subject. "So how exactly did you get back here?"
"By using the timer I helped create to get back to Earth Prime myself. Thanks to a double of Quinn's, and my good friend Dr. Steven Jensen, I now have a timer capable of opening the wormhole at will, tracking wormholes, and even going to a particular world, based on that particular universe's quantum signature."
"Steven Jensen?" Maggie interrupted, and sat down on the bed, dejected.
Arturo turned to Rembrandt. "Did I say something wrong?"
Rembrandt answered, "Steven Jensen was her husband."
"WELL WHY THE DEVIL DIDN'T YOU MENTION THAT BEFORE?" Arturo responded, edgy. "Miss Beckett, I apologize if I said anything that brought back bad memories, but if it helps, I would like to add the Steven Jensen I knew was a very good man."
"So was my husband," she replied.
"Professor, can you do anything to help my son…I mean Quinn?" Mrs. Mallory asked.
"I cannot be certain, but Mr. Brown briefed me on the problem, and of course, I will do everything in my power to assist your Dr. Davis. I still find it unfathomable and unethical that someone who calls himself a scientist would do what he did to Mr. Mallory. To combine two people would require an enormous amount of energy, and separating them will prove to be even more difficult. But I did not come all this way to not try. Where is the boy?"
"He's at the university lab, with Diana," said Maggie.
"Well, I think it is high time that I met this Diana," Arturo responded.
Rembrandt smiled, renewed with hope. "That's our professor. Did I mention I missed having him around?"
Maggie smiled too. Though she had met Arturo's double briefly before he was killed, she sensed he was a good man. And if Rembrandt trusted the professor, then that was good enough for her. Besides, Maggie admired the professor's confidence. "Let's go," she said, as the sliders and Mrs. Mallory made their way back to the lab.
Arturo was impressed with Diana. Her knowledge of physics was quite advanced for someone so young. She was highly intelligent and motivated, and clearly possessed all the traits he wanted in a student. Still, the professor felt badly over Diana's obvious guilt over what happened to Quinn. He turned to her. "Now as I understand it, the reason you have been unable to separate Mr. Mallory from, well, Mr. Mallory, is that the bond at their subatomic levels are so intertwined that your machine is unable to distinguish between the two quantum signatures without overloading the system."
"Exactly," Diana replied, "this De-Combine, as I call it, can't filter out Quinn from Mallory without killing one of them, even with the Kromagg technology. I was able to pull Quinn closer, but if I continued, I would have killed Mallory."
Arturo looked intently at Diana. "I see. A very delicate problem. Perhaps I can offer a solution."
Simultaneously, the sliders' faces brightened. Only Rembrandt was not surprised. He had overwhelming confidence and trust in Arturo, who, with the exception of Q-Ball, was the most brilliant man he had ever known. If anyone could come up with the means to rescue Quinn, it was the professor.
"I'm listening," Diana said, excited to finally have some help.
"If I am understanding your explanation, Dr. Geiger tried to separate the two individuals by generating a hyper-quantum vibration in the membrane which maintains Mallory's space-time." Diana nodded as Arturo continued. "The theory was that when the rate of vibration matched the frequency that bonds the two Quinn Mallorys, they should come apart, not unlike two magnets repelling each other."
"Or like a singer shattering a glass with the right note," Diana corrected.
Arturo nodded. "Because the two people were bonded for so long, their patterns had become so intertwined that it became impossible to get a phase lock on both patterns."
"You took the words right out of my mouth," said a sarcastic Rembrandt.
Diana ignored him, listening to the professor intently. "That's how Dr. Geiger explained it, Professor. I had hoped to use the Kromagg technology to fine tune the hyper-quantum frequency to possibly reach further into the subatomic level."
But Arturo was not convinced. "Dr. Davis, I believe that the reason all attempts have failed was because not even the Kromagg equipment can properly distinguish each individual's intertwined quantum signature. Now as I explained earlier, my enhanced timer has several features that yours did not have. I can open the wormhole at any time, and I have a chip that can find worlds based on quantum signatures. I believe it is possible to remove the chip and adapt it to separate the two Quinn Mallorys."
"But wouldn't that hurt the chip?" Diana asked.
"No Dr. Davis, the chip will be fine. I even have a few ideas on what to do with it after we complete the separation."
"What do you mean?" Rembrandt asked.
"All in good time, Mr. Brown, but for now, let's continue with the task at hand."
Maggie walked up to Mallory, who was still unconscious. "Don't worry Mallory, this time, it's going to work. And Quinn, if you're still in there, I miss you." Mallory shifted in position.
"Well then, I believe we should begin adapting Dr. Davis' De-Combine," said Arturo. And with that, the professor and Diana began to work.
"Of course! Why didn't I think of it before?" Diana said, as Arturo worked on the De-Combine.
"Sometimes, Dr. Davis, a fresh perspective can shed new light on an old problem," Arturo replied, smiling. "I believe that about does it," Arturo said as he finished up the modifications. Diana smiled.
"Boy, I hope this works. I can't wait to see Q-Ball," added Rembrandt.
Maggie was nervous. "Professor, why do you think it will work this time?"
Arturo turned to her. "Well Miss Beckett it is really quite simple. It is my theory that in addition to the quantum chip, one essential element has been missing from the other attempts at restoring Mr. Mallory. You see, all of the prior separation attempts involved a machine that would attempt to remove Quinn from Mallory inside of a lab or under a laboratory condition. However, the experiment that combined the two Quinns occurred inside of the wormhole. Thus, beginning with Dr. Davis' knowledge of Dr. Geiger's work, adding the more advanced Kromagg technology, and finally using my quantum chip, the plan is to open up a new vortex. Mr. Mallory will be sent through the wormhole. Once inside, we will separate the two quantum signatures at the subatomic level. Theoretically, both Mr. Mallorys will emerge from the wormhole good as new."
"Piece of cake," Remmy said with a smile. Rembrandt and Maggie were not scientists, but Diana was confident, and Rembrandt trusted the professor, so all they concerned themselves with was the well beings of Quinn and Mallory.
Meanwhile, Mallory was sitting in the De-Combine machine, having just regained consciousness. "Maggie," he called out.
"I'm here Mallory," she said.
"Do what you have to do to save your Quinn, and I mean anything." Mallory knew how much Quinn meant to Maggie and Rembrandt, and though he had established his own relationship with them, without Quinn, Mallory never would have slid. For that, Mallory felt he owed Quinn a debt.
"Look, you're OUR Quinn too. You may be a pain in the neck Mallory, but you're OUR pain in the neck. We won't put you in any danger," Maggie responded.
Mallory mustered up a weak, yet appreciative smile.
Remmy agreed with Maggie. "Listen Fogboy, you got nothing to worry about. We're not gonna let anything happen to you. You're in good hands."
Up until now, Mallory had been unconscious. This was the first time he even realized Rembrandt came back. "H..how did you get back here?"
Remmy smiled, "I had a little help from an old friend," he said, as Arturo stepped forward.
"You needn't worry my boy, in a few minutes, everything will be fine."
Mallory saw Arturo face to face, and felt an overwhelming sadness. Somehow, he felt a strong connection to this man, yet in his heart, the man he thought of like a father was dead. He knew instantly that he was a double of the professor, from one of Quinn's memories. "Professor," he said.
But before Arturo could say anything, Mallory had a seizure. He was convulsing uncontrollably.
"What's wrong?" Mrs. Mallory yelled, frantically.
Diana was the first to speak. "It has to be the professor. The connection between Arturo and Quinn was strong, and seeing him must have triggered a reaction in Quinn."
"Oh dear," Arturo said, feeling guilty.
"Hey, Professor, it's not your fault," Rembrandt responded.
"Thank you, Mr. Brown," Arturo said, appreciatively.
Diana chimed in. "We've got to act now. Professor, I could use your help."
"Dr. Davis, I am at your disposal." Arturo and Diana began to work the machine, while Rembrandt, Maggie, and Mrs. Mallory backed away. Rembrandt watched in awe. A beam hit Mallory, and as Arturo predicted, a wormhole opened up. Mallory vanished, and Arturo shut the machine.
"Where is he?" Rembrandt asked.
Arturo answered. "The machine opened up a wormhole, and Mallory entered as planned. If all went well, he and Quinn have separated and re-emerged in this world. I set the geographic spectrum stabilizer to just a two hundred yard radius, so they both should be very close."
"Then let's find them," Maggie said, excited.
The sliders walked toward the exit when they got a pleasant surprise. The wormhole opened just outside the building. Mallory knew where he was from before he was unconscious, and simply walked inside to the lab. He began to knock on the door just as Maggie opened it. To everyone's delight, right behind him, looking just as he did before the merger, was a smiling Quinn Mallory.
Maggie was the first to rush to Quinn, practically crushing him with her hug.
Rembrandt had a smile from ear to ear. "Welcome back Q-Ball. This is fantastic, first the professor, now you."
Quinn looked confused. Then he saw Arturo. Despite being stuck inside Mallory for almost a year, Quinn's mind was completely in tact. His heart wanted this man to be the professor, but his mind would not let him believe that this was anything besides a double.
Arturo read the expression. "I assure you my boy, I am indeed your Arturo. I am the Maximillian Arturo that first slid with you, whom you accidentally left behind on that world with the Azure Gate Bridge. I have already proven it to Mr. Brown, and once I get my quantum chip out of that De-Combine, I will prove it to you. But before I do that Mr. Mallory, I would also like to welcome you back and say what a pleasure it is to see you again."
Whether this man was his Arturo or not, Quinn owed him his life. Also, the emotion of seeing him again, even as a double, was overwhelming. There would be time for questions later. Unable to muster any major words, Quinn just hugged him, and said, "thank you."
Meanwhile, Diana was with Mallory, who also was doing well. "Well," Mallory said to Quinn, "no offense, but I am really glad to have you out of me."
Quinn smiled. "No offense, but I'm really glad to be out of you too." Then Quinn saw Mrs. Mallory. "MOM!" he shouted. Quinn hugged her, but he was confused at the woman's lack of excitement.
To Mrs. Mallory, seeing Quinn was bittersweet. This was the man to whom she mistakenly gave the microdot back on her world, but he was not her son. Still, after all he had been through, she did not want to simply blurt out the truth at this time. "I missed you Quinn," was all she could say. Still, her mind was on her true son.
"Do you remember anything?" Rembrandt asked.
"Everything is so fragmented. I remember jumping into the wormhole, and then sliding with you, inside of Mallory's body. I remember bits and pieces for awhile, and then everything went black, until recently. It was like being in and out of consciousness."
"Well, it's good to have you back," Maggie said, with a smile from ear to ear.
Suddenly Quinn had a horrible memory. "COLIN! We've got to do something." He jumped up.
Rembrandt put his hand on Quinn's shoulder. "Q-Ball, we've tried everything. Geiger wasn't even sure whether Farm Boy is even alive."
Quinn just shook his head. "I can't accept that Remmy. I won't accept that. He's my brother." Quinn was puzzled at the reactions of his friends at that statement. Maggie and Remmy approached him. "I think we'd better have a talk," Maggie commented.
Respecting their privacy, Mallory, Arturo, Diana, and even Mrs. Mallory left the room.
Quinn learned of all that had happened while he was gone. The news filled him with mixed emotions. He was thrilled to have the Professor back, though still saddened by the death of his double. He was ecstatic about just being alive, but he still felt responsible for his missing friends. He was saddened by the fact that Colin was not his real brother, but he still thought of him as family. He and Colin had grown so close that Quinn would never stop until Colin was saved. Besides, Colin began sliding only because he thought Quinn was his brother. Like the others, Quinn felt Colin's fate was his fault, and finding Colin was his responsibility.
As for Wade, when told that the mysterious connection she had with Rembrandt was not broken, Quinn still believed he could save her.
"So what do we do now?" asked Mallory.
For the first time in a long time, the Sliders had their leader back. While Quinn never wanted the job, he understood that people looked to him for the answers. "Professor, is your timer back together?"
"Yes Mr. Mallory."
Quinn nodded. "Good. Maggie, take the broken timer. We may need it later. Two years ago, we slid into what we thought was Earth Prime. I was wrong about that. Still, we left that world to find a weapon that could liberate it, and thanks to the virus they developed here, we have the weapon we need to help those people. If no one objects, I want to go back to Mom's … Mrs. Mallory's world, and help those people out with that virus. Then, back to the real Earth Prime to work on helping Colin and Wade. Any objections?"
No one objected. Mrs. Mallory appreciated Quinn's help. Rembrandt and Maggie were thrilled to see Quinn back in action. Arturo was proud at his pupil's decisiveness, and agreed that liberating Mrs. Mallory's world was the humane thing to do. Diana and Mallory had come this far, and had no intention of stopping now. Arturo scanned Mrs. Mallory and programmed the timer. "Mr. Mallory, the coordinates are ready."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Maggie said, as she took the timer out of Arturo's hand and activated the wormhole. With the wind blowing and objects swirling, the sliders looked at Quinn.
"I believe the honor is yours, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said, smiling.
Quinn returned the smile, and jumped into the vortex, never feeling so alive. Mallory and Maggie followed. Then Arturo entered, followed by Diana, Mrs. Mallory, and finally, Rembrandt. The vortex closed behind them.
Six weeks passed, and the Sliders returned to Earth Prime. To Rembrandt, these were exciting times. He found it amazing how his life could turn around so quickly. Beginning with the death of Arturo's double, life had seemed to take a downhill turn for Rembrandt. He lost Arturo, Wade, Colin and Quinn, and even what he thought was his world. Before that slide onto Seer World, Rembrandt had just wanted to go home. But now, the Professor was back, Quinn was saved, and things could not have gone better on Mrs. Mallory's world. Rembrandt was rejuvenated.
When they arrived on Mrs. Mallory's world, the sliders found that the human resistance was still alive, though weaker than ever. The group immediately brought Rembrandt to a doctor, with the hopes that the virus in Remmy's blood could be reproduced.
The doctor gave Rembrandt good news and bad news. The good news was that he could indeed recreate the virus from Remmy's blood. The bad news was that they got to Mrs. Mallory's world just in time. Rembrandt's own immunity system had been attacking the virus. Had they waited much longer, the virus would have been useless. Thus, Rembrandt was no longer a walking anti-Kromagg weapon.
The next few weeks were some of the most gratifying weeks Rembrandt had experienced in all his years of sliding. During the three months he was imprisoned on this world, Rembrandt developed an intense hatred for the Kromaggs that was beyond any level of hatred he could imagine. Those three months were never far from his mind. But worse than the imprisonment, was the memory of losing Wade. At first, they were captured together. But then, the Kromaggs took Wade to a breeding camp. Rembrandt never forgave himself for allowing that to happen. The guilt over Wade still ached at Remmy's soul.
So when Rembrandt watched the virus kill Kromaggs by the thousands, the Cryin' Man was shedding tears of joy. The resistance replicated the virus and placed it in gas canisters. Once released, it multiplied and spread throughout the atmosphere. The Kromaggs simply could not survive, and in just two weeks, V-K Day was declared. Though that world was damaged horribly, the Kromaggs were finally gone, and for another week, the Sliders enjoyed being treated as heroes.
But not surprisingly, Quinn began to grow restless. After two years, Quinn, Rembrandt and Maggie managed to keep their promise to bring back the means to get the Kromaggs off that world. But now, Quinn wanted to focus on other problems -- namely, Colin and Wade. Wade's final communication to Rembrandt had left them with enough hope to at least try another rescue attempt, and Quinn had already begun thinking about ways to locate Colin.
So with Mrs. Mallory's world secure, it was time to slide back to Earth Prime. There, Quinn hoped to have a stable place to continue his work. As a sign of gratitude, the sliders were given a canister of the virus. Though the Kromaggs had never invaded Earth Prime, the group launched the virus into the atmosphere anyway. Since the virus was long lasting, if the Kromaggs attacked, they would die quickly. Earth Prime was protected forever.
Upon his return home, Quinn was finally reunited with his real mother. It was a very happy reunion. Rembrandt also finally got the chance to reunite his own family. Considering he had spent the last few years thinking they were dead, the reunion was extra special. He even found time to look up his old agent Artie.
Naturally, Quinn's mother was thrilled to have her son back, and since Maggie, Diana, Mallory, and even Rembrandt had no place to live, she invited them all to stay at the Mallory household for as long as they wanted. And to make their work easier, Arturo even moved in temporarily.
Once back on Earth Prime, Quinn divided the sliders into two teams. Diana headed the attempt to restore Colin, while Arturo worked on finding Wade. Quinn worked tirelessly on both problems. Maggie, Mallory and Rembrandt could only offer support, but it was appreciated. Still, with Quinn back working with the Professor and Diana, Rembrandt was more confident than ever.
"I GOT IT!" Quinn screamed. It was 2 am, and the other sliders were asleep at Quinn's house.
"I GOT IT!" he repeated, running around and waking up the others.
"Got what?" a cranky Mallory asked, as he put a pillow over his ears.
"Colin! I think I know how to get Colin back here!"
Diana jolted out of bed. Since she began sliding, her mission was to somehow put right what her mentor did to the Mallory brothers. Quinn's rescue was only half the job. The other half was to somehow rescue Colin from his state of being unstuck. So far, all attempts had failed. But Quinn was the most brilliant physicist Diana had ever known, even more so than Dr. Geiger, and where Dr. Geiger failed, perhaps Quinn could succeed. "How?" she asked.
"Ok. Let's start at the beginning. What was the point of Dr. Geiger's experiments?"
Diana answered. "Well, he told us that he was trying to take healthy genes from doubles of other worlds to combine them with sick people from our world, to help humanity and cure almost any disease. Mallory was his first guinea pig." Everyone was up and listening at this point. "But in reality, he was seeking to cure his unstuck condition. His goal was to use his Combine machine to collapse all the worlds of the multiverse and make one world, where he could survive."
"And that's where we came in," Quinn continued. "He combined me with Mallory as a test."
"Right," said Diana, "first he would test his theories on a person, then a city, and finally he would start to combine worlds, hoping to carve out a way for himself to survive."
Quinn was excited. "When you first started sliding with us, you went to a world where you used his recombinant technology to try to carve out a better life for your double."
"I remember," Diana replied, sadly. On that world, Diana had met a double that had a child and lived a very poor existence, in Diana's judgment. She tried to use a university lab to change the world and make life better for her double. Instead, all she accomplished was wiping her double's daughter out of existence. Though she tried to put things back, she did not have time before the vortex opened. The guilt stayed with her, though she did learn a lesson about playing god.
"Somehow, your experiment attracted Dr. Geiger himself," continued Quinn.
"Right. I created a stable quantum bubble, and Geiger was attracted to it. He even tricked me to expanding the stable field to allow him access throughout the room," Diana added.
Rembrandt interjected, "Ok Q-Ball, now that we have a history lesson, where's this going?"
Quinn smiled and turned back to Diana. "Can you duplicate that experiment at the university?" Quinn asked.
"I guess, but what would that do?"
"Let me ask you this, why didn't that experiment attract Colin too? He was also unstuck, and should have been attracted to the stability field as well."
Diana considered Quinn's question. "It could have been a number of factors," Diana answered. "First, the stable field wasn't that big. Perhaps in the beginning, it was only big enough for Dr. Geiger. Geiger had been unstuck longer than Colin, which would mean that his quantum makeup was less stable, causing the pull of the stable field to be stronger for him. He would have arrived first, and Colin would have been locked out."
Maggie interjected, "So what your saying is, your stable field served as a magnet for a small stable hole for unstuck people. It was a race, and the magnet's pull was stronger for Dr. Geiger."
"That's it Maggie."
"So when did you get so smart?" Mallory asked.
"Like Remmy said, spending a lot of time with physicists can teach you a few things. You might learn some things too if you paid more attention," Maggie said, playfully elbowing Mallory in the stomach.
"Whoa," said Rembrandt, "if I get this straight, the only reason Farm Boy didn't show up was because the stable place was too small. Then why didn't he show up when Geiger expanded it?"
Quinn answered. "That's the thing Remmy, there was no reason for Colin not to be attracted to the bigger stable bubble. Therefore, it had to be something that has nothing to do with random science. Geiger was a selfish man. He was willing to collapse whole worlds just so he could be stable. Perhaps something he did prevented Colin from entering the stable bubble."
Diana interjected, "Quinn's got to be right. The expanded quantum bubble was based on calculations Geiger gave me. Maybe that data also blocked out Colin."
"But what would Geiger have to gain by blocking Colin's return?" Maggie asked.
Diana responded. "That's easy. He needed me to help stabilize him and continue his work. Colin was one of his bargaining chips. Why allow Colin to return if he could use him as bait later?"
Rembrandt chimed in, "But he later said he couldn't find Colin."
"Maybe he lied."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Maggie added.
The professor spoke. "I believe I see where you two are going. Perhaps if the experiment can be duplicated without Dr. Geiger's interference, and a stable environment can be created, Colin will be attracted to it, much like Dr. Geiger was. But once there, Colin would still be trapped within that bubble. He would hardly be much better off."
Quinn smiled again, "Leave that to me Professor. If Diana can get Colin here, I'll take care of the rest."
Quinn was too excited to sleep, and his restlessness had spread to the other sliders with the exception of Mallory, who slept like a baby. Early the next morning, Quinn and Diana rushed to the lab to implement Quinn's plan. Diana adjusted the equipment and was finally ready to go.
"Ok," she said. "If my calculations are correct, I believe that I can create a stable quantum bubble. Theoretically, it will attract Colin."
"Diana," Rembrandt asked, "last time you did this, you got Geiger and Colin was nowhere to be seen. How do you know you won't get some other unstuck person out there?"
Diana shook her head. "I thought of that. I realize there are a lot of similar worlds out there, and there are a lot of similar people doing similar things at the same time. But once sliding is thrown into the equation, things change. With so many different worlds out there, it may even be conceivable that doubles of ourselves slid at the same time initially, but once the sliding process began, thanks to the randomness of sliding, those doubles would not necessarily land on similar worlds. Plus, those other sliders have timers of their own, which open their wormholes at different times. Also, Geiger said that his accident also destroyed all of his doubles. Therefore, there would be no other Geigers doing that experiment at the same time. But even if there were other Geigers out there, the odds of a similar experiment taking place inside a WORMHOLE, at the same time, would be astronomical. But just in case there are other unstuck people out there, I tried to adjust the energy frequencies so that someone who became unstuck at or around the time period Colin became unstuck, would be attracted first." Diana took a deep breath. "If I did this right, only Colin will be attracted here. Then it's up to Quinn to expand the stable bubble like he said. Of course, theoretically, without Geiger's interference, any unstuck person in the multiverse may find themselves here, as long as there is room, but again, the odds are Colin is alone."
Rembrandt nodded. And Maggie, who was right next to him, said, "so what are we waiting for?"
Quinn, who had been busy working on his computer during Diana's explanation, was just finishing up the final calculations. With a last tap on his keyboard, he said, "That is just about that. Diana, whenever you're ready. Professor, may I talk to you in private? I have some numbers I need you to see."
Diana nodded as Quinn and Arturo left the room. Maggie thought it was odd that Quinn would leave with the return of his brother so close. Meanwhile, Rembrandt and Mallory looked on with concern. Mallory was more worried about how another failure might affect Diana, though his time merged with Quinn did give him a connection to Quinn's brother. The moment of truth had arrived. Diana threw the switch.
As Diana worked the controls, Rembrandt could see by the expression on her face that things were going smoothly. At first, in a chamber hidden safely away from the sliders, a smoky bluish field started to form. It was fuzzy, but Diana kept working the controls with an expert touch as the field began to sharpen. To Maggie's delight, what looked to be a human form began to emerge just as Quinn re-entered the room alone. Diana continued her expert adjustments as by now, everyone was looking intently at the form starting to come into focus. Soon, a face could be clearly seen as Quinn got as close to the chamber as he could. Though not completely solid, the identity of the man in was clear. Diana had done it. A stable quantum field had been created, and to everyone's delight, Quinn was now standing face to face with Colin Mallory.
"Hello brother," Colin said to Quinn.
"Long time no see, Bro," Quinn replied with a smile. No matter what the true nature of their relationship was, Quinn would always consider Colin to be his brother. Colin tried to step out of the bubble but was met with a minor electrical jolt, causing him to back up.
"What is wrong?" Colin asked Quinn.
"It's a long story. To put it simply, you've spent the last year or so being unstuck, meaning your body couldn't stay in one dimension for any period of time. It was like a constant slide."
"I see," said Colin, still a bit confused. "All I remember was a gunfight, and jumping into the wormhole with Quinn. It was a strange slide, different than the others. It seemed eternal, and like I was everywhere at once. That is all I remember, until I came here. But I still do not understand what is going on."
"Farm Boy!" Rembrandt shouted, smiling at seeing his old friend. Maggie was next to him, also happy.
"How ya doin, Colin?" she said.
Colin was pleased to see his friends. "I can say with most certainty, that I am fine. But why am I not able to leave this area?"
Diana spoke up. "Perhaps I can help. My name is Dr. Diana Davis. About a year ago, my mentor, Dr. Oberon Geiger, intercepted your wormhole for an experiment. As your brother pointed out, that experiment left you unstuck, and Mallory and I have been sliding with Maggie and Rembrandt ever since, in part, to help ground you."
"Who is Mallory?"
"That would be me," Mallory interjected, "I tagged along because Geiger's experiment merged your brother inside of me."
"Inside of you? But how is that possible?"
"Like I said, it's a long story, but first thing's first. We have to get you out of that bubble."
Diana added, "Quinn is right. Right now, that bubble is the only place in the entire multiverse stable enough to keep you grounded."
Colin was taken aback by all the information. He could not believe that he had been gone over a year, and how in that time, so many changes had occurred. The conversation continued, as Quinn brought him up to date on the current state of events.
"Then, you are not my brother after all," Colin said, disappointed.
Maggie and Rembrandt felt for the man. One minute, he is living his life normally, and the next, he finds out he lost a year of his life, and everything he thought was true, was not.
But Quinn cut Colin off. "Wait one minute. After all we've been through together, there's no way in the multiverse that anyone's going to tell me you're not my brother. That is, if you don't mind knowing that you have a real brother out there."
Colin smiled. "I am glad you feel that way, and I feel the same. I could only hope that my real brother is like you. All of you have been a family to me, and I am glad at least that none of that has changed."
Suddenly Arturo burst into the room. "Mr. Mallory! What you are proposing is absolutely extraordinary! Do you really think this will work?"
Rembrandt noticed a sly grin on Quinn's face. He had seen that look of confidence before, and when Quinn had it, Rembrandt knew that something good was about to happen. "It's the best way to help Colin." Quinn answered. "But that's why I asked you to look over my calculations Professor."
"I must say, Mr. Mallory, I not only confirm your calculations, but I find your plan to be most ambitious."
"He's my brother, Professor. And it's the best way."
"Q-Ball," Rembrandt interjected, "will you or someone fill the rest of us in on what the devil is going on?"
"Yeah Quinn, spill it," Maggie added.
"Ok, ok," Quinn began. "Maggie, remember that world where my double slid the entire population of his world, onto another world?"
"Sure, he was a real jerk," she responded.
"Amen to that," Rembrandt added, turning to Diana and Mallory, "that was just before we met up with Colin. Q-Ball's double made his sliding gizmo so powerful that he sucked the entire planet in, kind of like our Q-Ball got me in the beginning."
"That's it, Remmy," said Quinn. "But that's what gave me the idea to help Colin."
"Your going to slide everyone off Earth Prime?" asked Mallory.
Quinn looked at him. "No. But I think we can help Colin using the same principle. My double tapped into the local power plant to get the power he needed. He took so much power that his wormhole covered the whole planet. So I got to thinking, if Geiger could expand a stable bubble to cover a room, why not expand Colin's bubble to cover the entire planet?"
"Ambitious indeed," said Diana, "but how can you do that?"
"Allow me to interject, Dr. Davis," Arturo said, "Beginning with what you told him about your initial encounter with Dr. Geiger in the stable field, Mr. Mallory has calculated the amount of energy it would take to expand the stable bubble to encompass this entire planet."
"But how would you maintain the power?"
Arturo shook his head. "If Mr. Mallory's calculations are correct, and I believe they are, then one burst will sustain the bubble for a long period of time, even after the power is cut. Think of it this way. When the United States used the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or when the nuclear accident occurred at Chernobyl, remnants of those reactions lasted for decades. As is the case with a nuclear bomb, Mr. Mallory has concluded that if done properly, a stable quantum bubble can sustain itself for centuries."
"Actually," Quinn added, "it's about 150 years. But the point is, with enough power, we can add to what Geiger started, and expand the stable bubble to encompass the entire planet. 150 years is more than enough time for Colin to live a long and happy life here." He turned to Colin. "Bro, I realize this is a big decision for you, but I don't know of any way to reverse what Geiger did to you. If this works, you will be able to live a normal life. The problem is the field will only be on Earth Prime, so unless a total cure can be found, your sliding days will be over. That's the reason I wanted to do this experiment on Earth Prime—so when I am done sliding forever, you'll be here. It's your decision."
Colin nodded in understanding. "Brother, from what you told me, why would you need to slide anyway?"
Quinn answered. "Wade's still out there. Until she's safe, I'm not done. Look, this experiment will only work on one world. If this world isn't good enough, we can always try to find a world for you to be happy. But that also means we'd have to duplicate this experiment to transfer you there. That could be unpredictable. I wish we could bring you back to the world you grew up on, but even if we could find it, I don't think that world has the technology to pull this off. I'm sorry about that."
Colin remembered the world on which he was raised. Technologically, it was not much more advanced than the 19th century, but it was the place he grew up. Still, the decision to be remarkably easy. He smiled. "A wise man once said that home is where the people you care about are. If you, Maggie, and Rembrandt are here, then I would like to be here too."Maggie smiled, and Rembrandt clenched his fist in approval. Only Diana showed some concern, "Quinn, with all due respect, are you sure this will work? And what about the repercussions to the rest of the planet? Is it safe?"
Diana's question brought a new thought to Maggie. "She's right Quinn. Your double screwed up a whole planet when he used that kind of power. Do we really have a right to play god?"
Quinn addressed the concerns. "Maggie, I'm not my double. He ran his experiment based on pure arrogance and as a result, he was careless. I'm not careless. I went over these numbers several times, and asked the professor to check them over. And though the nuclear analogy is the best way to explain it, there are no harmful side effects. The only person that will be affected is Colin, and perhaps any other unstuck people that may be out there."
"Wait a minute Q-Ball, are you saying this room could be flooded with unstuck people?" asked Rembrandt.
Quinn shook his head. "I doubt there are even that many people out there, and if anyone is, they could appear anywhere on the planet. Odds are we'll never know."
Quinn's explanation satisfied Diana, who actually saw another interesting point. "Quinn's probably right. This could be a good way to help virtually all the unstuck people in the multiverse."
Quinn jumped on Diana's comments, "Exactly. Guys, trust me. This WILL work."
Despite their concerns, the sliders did trust Quinn. All that was needed was to tap into the power plant. While Quinn, Diana, and the professor worked on adapting the equipment in the lab, Mallory brought Maggie and Rembrandt along to convince the power company to give the university a little bit more juice.
The next day, they were ready to run the experiment. Colin sat in his bubble calmly, while Rembrandt, Maggie, Diana, and Mallory waited anxiously. Quinn and Arturo were together, and quite serious, as the final data was being inputted into the machine.
"That will about do it, professor."
"Then I believe there is no time like the present."
Quinn nodded, and in a room filled with anticipation, threw the switch. Rembrandt watched and thought that the light show was even better than the one that brought back Colin in the first place. But this time, the effects were not confined to the lab. All over the world, ramifications of Quinn's actions were being experienced with what looked like an electrical storm. A wave of energy swept over the entire planet. Just as Quinn predicted, the quantum bubble expanded. Finally, at the precise moment the energy hit the right level, Quinn cut the power.
"So did it work?" asked Rembrandt.
"I believe there is only one way to find out," said Colin, as he began to walk forward. At first his steps were slow. He placed his hand on where the border of the bubble should have been, and to his delight, he was able to extend his arm with no problem. Encouraged, he walked through the barrier, and was greeted by applause by the rest of the sliders. Quinn hugged him first. After a moment, he stepped back to allow Rembrandt and Maggie their own moments with Colin. While Mallory and Diana formally introduced themselves, Arturo patted Quinn on the back and smiled.
"Well done Mr. Mallory. Well done indeed," he said. Then, he too walked over to Colin. Quinn stood watching his friends interact with Colin, and was happy for them. Yet though he knew he should enjoy the moment, his heart turned its attention to the one lingering problem in his life —- Wade.
Several more weeks passed, and though Quinn was happy to have Colin back in his life, he worked tirelessly on finding Wade. The Seer may have told the sliders Wade was dead, but Quinn and Rembrandt refused to accept it. After all, the Seer did not foresee what really happened with Arturo, and Rembrandt still believed Wade lived.
Meanwhile, Quinn had gathered his fellow sliders in his house to continue work on the problem. "Tell me one more time what exactly happened last time you saw Wade," he asked.
"Again?" Mallory replied.
"We have been over this countless times, Quinn," Diana mentioned.
"And we'll go over it countless more times until I can figure out how to help Wade," Quinn snapped.
Rembrandt made the peace. "Look, bickering is not gonna help Wade. Now I don't care if I have to repeat this story a thousand times if it helps Q-Ball come up with an answer."
Arturo interjected. "Mr. Brown, I believe you have the floor."
"All right then. Maggie, Diana, Mallory and I were on some peaceful world when Wade somehow contacted me. I don't know how she did it, but it was her. At first, the others thought I went out of my mind, but then, she managed to produce some strange wormhole, that I just knew would lead me to her."
Maggie continued. "We went through the wormhole, and found out that the Kromaggs were using humans, Wade included, as some sort of sliding device to retake their homeworld."
Diana picked up where Maggie left off. "It was quite ingenious actually. They managed to find a way to tap into the psionic energy of human consciousness to travel between dimensions. Highly imaginative people like Wade proved to be the best test subjects."
Rembrandt's emotions took over. "Those maggots hooked Wade up into a computer and drugged her to keep her from fighting back. But that girl has got a lot of fight in her, and she was able to lead me to her, at the same time preventing the Maggs from stopping us."
Maggie joined in. "The Kromaggs were ready to use the humans to open up a new wormhole to Kromagg Prime, so they could launch an anti-human virus and retake the world. They had a fleet of manta ships."
"The point of this experiment was to create a new way of sliding to get around the slidecage," added Quinn. Quinn thought that Kromagg's plan was actually brilliant. When Michael Mallory, Colin's real father, created the slidecage, the Kromaggs were effectively blocked from sliding into Kromagg Prime. Even though Quinn managed to escape the slidecage, Kromagg Prime was still protected against conventional sliding.
"But Wade got in the way of their plans," Mallory said.
"We tried to get to Wade, but there was nothing we could do. The Kromaggs were coming, and the timer was running out. Mallory, Diana, and I escaped through the wormhole, but Remmy refused to leave. He wanted to be with Wade," Maggie added.
"But not before we were able to show Wade what they did to her. I still don't understand how she could do it, but she was able to see herself through my eyes. Suddenly, she knew where she was, and what she had to do," Remmy said.
"Somehow, the shock of seeing herself through Remmy's eyes caused an adrenaline rush that restored Wade to full consciousness," added Diana.
"And boy, she let those maggots have it good," Rembrandt said, with a bittersweet smile. "She tore up their ships, and managed to stall them until the others could slide out. Then, knowing that I couldn't help her, she opened up that strange wormhole, and sent me back to the others."
"Ms. Welles is indeed an extraordinary lady," Arturo said.
"Ok, I get all that, but you also said that you think she survived that," Quinn pointed out.
Rembrandt answered. "Yeah. Whatever happened, she told me that she would always be with me. We have got to get her out of there."
"I know Rem, I know," Quinn said, "Professor, do you have any new ideas on how to get her back?"
"WHAT DO YOU THINK I'VE BEEN WORKING ON SINCE WE GOT BACK HERE, MR. MALLORY? HOW TO BUILD A BETTER MOUSETRAP?" Arturo snapped.
Quinn smiled to lighten the mood, "I mean, is there any way I can help?"
"Mr. Mallory, it is my belief that the best way to find Ms. Welles is through the quantum chip in my timer. I was thinking that perhaps we could reverse the polarity on the quantum chip so that it will attract objects from this world that are located on other worlds. Much like Ms. Welles did when she contacted Mr. Brown, we would create a wormhole that would bring Ms. Welles to us. Unfortunately all such attempts have been unsuccessful."
Colin, who had been listening up until this point, asked, "Professor, on my world, we had a saying, 'if we can't bring the mountain to Jebediah, then we take Jebediah to the mountain.'"
"What the devil are you talking about Mr. Mallory?"
"What I mean is, if you can't bring Wade here, why can't we use your timer to find Wade."
Quinn snapped his fingers. "Professor! That's it! We've spent all this time on focusing on how to bring Wade to us, maybe we should focus on going to Wade. If we can recalibrate your chip to find Wade, then maybe we can get her out ourselves."
Arturo sighed. "Amazing. Sometimes scientists get so bogged down with one idea, that they lose all focus on other possibilities. I did initially consider Colin's suggestion. But if Miss Welles is still connected to that computer, it may take time to find a way to restore her. We may run into the same difficulties that Mr. Brown did when he found Miss Welles last time. How would we rescue her?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Look, we can't help Wade if we can't find her," said Quinn.
Arturo reluctantly agreed. "Though bringing Ms. Welles back here is the less dangerous alternative, perhaps you and Colin are correct. Perhaps the time has come to focus on locating the world Ms. Welles is on, and retrieving her."
Quinn smiled and patted Colin on the back. "Well, a fresh perspective adds a lot. Good job, Bro."
"Thank you brother," Colin said, returning the smile.
Arturo shouted, "Well don't just stand around Mr. Mallory, Ms. Welles is waiting!" And once again, the sliders went to work.
"Well Mr. Mallory, I believe that does it. If our calculations are correct, we will be able to scan the entire multiverse for signs of our quantum signature. If Miss Welles is out there, we should be able to locate her." Arturo was clearly pleased.
Maggie had a question. "Professor, let me ask you this, suppose when you started this, you went to lots of worlds. If I understand what you've been doing, anything from this world would have the same quantum signature. That includes your clothes, shoes, or anything else you were carrying. How do you know your machine won't lock on to a lost coin or wallet?"
Arturo was impressed. "An excellent question Miss Beckett, and I might add, answering it was the reason it took so long to complete this task. To answer your question, you need to understand the true nature of this quantum chip. Together with the doubles of Mr. Mallory and your late husband, I constructed this chip for the sole purpose of locating Earth Prime. The very essence of the design is therefore to locate worlds. As Miss Welles is considerably smaller in mass than a world, I was forced to alter the chip to scan for objects the size and mass of a person. To the best of our knowledge, the only person who is off world with our quantum signature is Miss Welles. If the calculations are correct, the chip will locate the world she is on. Then, a gateway can be opened, and a rescue attempt can be made. Since the chip will only lock onto a person, the odds are we will not be landing on a world with, as you say, a lost wallet. The unfortunate consequence however, is that the alterations I have made will render the quantum chip useless in the future."
Arturo's revelation stunned the laymen sliders. "Wait a minute Professor," said Rembrandt, "you used that chip to bring Quinn back, and then you fixed it. How come this time, the chip becomes no good?"
"As I said Mr. Brown, the chip itself initially was programmed to track whole worlds based on the quantum signature of whomever was scanned. Thus, the chip works essentially in two parts. It scans a person, and locates the world. When I modified it to restore Mr. Mallory, the only portion of the chip that was changed was the scanning portion. Quinn's signature was scanned inside the wormhole and separated from Mallory's. However, since the effects of my modifications only affected the scanning function of the chip, the chip was easily restored to its original function. But now, I had to alter the chip's infrastructure and world locating function. Instead of scanning the person and locating that person's world, I will be scanning the world, and locating a person from the world. The chip will no longer be able to locate worlds, just one particular person on a world with our quantum signature. When that person is found, the coordinates of that world will have to be programmed into the timer by conventional means."
Mallory joined in, "Couldn't we just use the thing to scan for people on this world? If we can locate Wade, we can locate anyone on this world and slide back here, right?"
Arturo answered. "Good reasoning, Mr. Mallory, but I'm afraid that is not the case. You see, in order to prevent the population of this world, which is entirely made up of our quantum signature, from interfering with locating Miss Welles, I was forced to program the chip to ignore this world."
"Then how DO we get back, Professor?" Maggie asked.
Quinn entered the room and answered. "Not a problem. Remember, both timers have the ability to track wormholes and store coordinates. Believe me, Earth Prime's coordinates will be stored."
"Both timers?" Maggie asked.
Quinn nodded. "Exactly. Generally speaking, the wormhole really isn't stable enough for more than four people. The professor's timer was able to handle the extra mass because it was more advanced."
"So what's different now?" asked Mallory.
Arturo answered. "Scanning the multiverse for Miss Welles will require an inordinate amount of power. In order to generate that power, I was forced to reroute the energy wave in the timer from the wormhole, to the re-calibrated quantum chip. Now the timer will still work, but it will be no more powerful than Mr. Mallory's timer."
"In other words," Quinn added, "only four people per timer. Anyway, while Professor Arturo and Diana were working on recalibrating the quantum chip, I was working on creating a backup timer. I even was able to salvage some parts from the one destroyed on Seer World. It works just like my original timer. We'll take it as a backup. Both timers will be set to return to Earth Prime."
"If we have that original timer, doesn't that mean we won't have unlimited sliding time?" Remmy asked.
"Unfortunately, yes," Quinn answered, "But again, this is like the original timer, before we got stuck on random sliding. I can set the return time for something I can live with."
Something about Quinn's comment concerned Maggie. "What do you mean 'something I can live with?'"
"Exactly what I said Maggie. The second timer is for emergency only. I'm going alone."
Remmy was the first to object. "Hold on a second Q-Ball, what's with all this alone stuff? There's no way you're going without me."
"Remmy, I appreciate that, but I got Wade into this, I won't risk any of my friends to get her out. This is my fault, and my problem."
Rembrandt would have none of that explanation, "Like hell it is. We're in this together. And I was the one who let the Maggots take Wade. I was the one who let them keep her! There's no way in hell you're going without me."
"That goes for me too Quinn," Maggie said.
"Come on Maggie, you didn't even like Wade," Quinn retorted.
"First, Wade wasn't THAT bad. Second, where you and Remmy go, I go. We're a team and there's no way you're leaving any of us behind."
"Mr. Mallory, you blistering idiot!" Arturo shouted, "if you think that I will allow you to face these unknown dangers without me, especially in the wake of finding Ms. Welles, then you must be positively mad!"
"Count me in," said Mallory.
"Me too," added Diana.
The others looked at them in surprise. Neither of them really knew Wade, and with Quinn and Colin restored, they really had no further obligation to risk their lives for the sliders.
Mallory smiled. "Look, someone's got to look after you in case something goes wrong." Maggie playfully elbowed him in the ribs.
Diana spoke next. "Like Maggie said, we're a team, and we're going into an area where there is unknown technology. You can never have too many scientists."
Quinn did not like the idea of putting his friends in danger again, but he knew them well enough to know that he would not be able to talk them out of coming. He also appreciated the support. He mustered up a reluctant smile. "Thanks," was all he could say. Then he saw Colin on the side, with a frown on his face. Quinn walked over to him.
"Hey Bro, I know you'd be here if you could. But if you jump in that wormhole, you'll be unstuck again, and I just got you back."
"It is just that I feel so…useless," Colin added.
"Useless? It was your idea that set this plan in motion."
"You are kind brother, but I do not believe that between you, Diana, and Professor Arturo, that one of you would not have found the answer."
Quinn smiled, "Hey…we're three stubborn scientists first. We were so focused on pulling Wade back here that we ruled out adjusting the chip and going after her. Your comment made us rethink. It happens that way sometimes." He noticed the concern on Colin's face. "Look, don't worry, we'll be back."
Colin sighed. "Best of luck, Brother."
Quinn thanked him.
"All right then, let's get moving," Maggie added.
Quinn just finished making a few adjustments to his timer. "That should just about do it." He handed the enhanced timer to Diana. "We'll go in two groups. Diana, Mallory, and Rembrandt will go with the enhanced timer. The Professor, Maggie and I will go with my timer. If all goes well, when I press the button, the chip in my timer will open a wormhole to wherever they got Wade. The Professor's timer is set to track that wormhole. Diana will activate it right after I activate mine. I'm setting the timer for 8 hours, programmed to return here. If all goes well, we'll have Wade back here by then. We just need to stay together."
"Why is that?" asked Mallory.
"Because activating the timer early might cause some problems," Quinn answered.
"NOW he tells me. What problems?"
"No time to answer now." Quinn activated his timer, and a wormhole opened. On cue, Diana did the same.
The others nodded. "Well what are we waiting for?" Maggie shouted.
Arturo and Maggie jumped in Quinn's wormhole, while Mallory, Diana, and Rembrandt jumped in Diana's. Quinn was left with Colin, with the open wormhole and wind swirling.
"TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF BROTHER!" Colin shouted.
"DON'T YOU WORRY! I'LL SEE YOU SOON!" Quinn answered. The two brothers hugged, Quinn jumped in the wormhole, and Colin was left alone.
"I will always be with you Remmy, whenever you need me." Wade Welles was asleep in her Kromagg prison cell, dreaming about the last time she saw her friend Rembrandt Brown. Five months had passed since she brought Rembrandt, Maggie and their new friends to her. Wade still did not understand exactly what the Kromaggs did to her, but thanks to Rembrandt, she learned that they were using her mind as a means to slide into their homeworld and kill all the humans there. She put a stop to that experiment quickly.
The Kromaggs did not anticipate the strong bond between Wade and Rembrandt. Thanks to her body being connected to the sliding machine, Wade was able to reach out to the worlds of the multiverse, find Rembrandt, and bring him and the rest of the sliders to her.
When it became clear that her friends could do nothing to help her, she encouraged them to leave through their wormhole before the Kromaggs captured them. But Rembrandt stayed behind, willing to die by her side. However, aided by her link to the Kromagg computer, Wade managed telepathically to not only foil the Kromagg plans by destroying the manta ships and most of the Kromaggs that held her hostage, but she was able to send Rembrandt back to the other sliders.
With Rembrandt safe, Wade was able to send one final message to him, telling him that she would always be there. But after that, she went blank. The next thing she knew, she was back to normal, completely removed from the computer. Her captors told her that their plans were put on hold because humans like Wade were too unpredictable. And as for Wade herself, rather than just kill her, they decided to study her for awhile and then return her to the breeder camps. After all, they said, why waste a perfectly good human female? Wade did not believe the explanation, but she took a lot of satisfaction that she was the one who put a stop to the invasion of Kromagg Prime.
In the three years she slid, Wade had adventures that she never would have thought possible. She was always a caring and imaginative person, and before her imprisonment, she never would have taken pleasure in harming a living creature. But that was before she and Rembrandt landed on Earth Prime. Watching her home and family destroyed, and being taken prisoner made Wade rethink her views. She hated the Kromaggs, for what they did to her, and for how they hurt the people she loved.
Still, through it all, she managed to keep her sanity and upbeat attitude. Her hatred was limited to the Kromaggs. She refused to give them the satisfaction of allowing them to change her. Besides, she never lost hope that one day her friends would find her.
When she was first taken captive Wade had endeared herself to virtually all of her fellow prisoners. She made them feel better by telling them stories about her adventures with Quinn, Arturo, and Rembrandt. The human children especially liked Arturo stories, and Wade never had the heart to mention that he died. Wade was probably the most shaken by what happened to Arturo, and perhaps part of the reason she never liked Maggie was because she did not want to allow her to be the professor's replacement. Of course, after spending more than two years as a prisoner, she would gladly slide with Maggie again.
But currently, Wade was alone and very tired. Though she would never give the Kromaggs the satisfaction of seeing her break, she desperately wanted to go home. The only thing that kept her going was the hope that somehow, she would be rescued. Those thoughts got her through each day. She knew Rembrandt was out there, and he would never stop looking for her.
But one thing she found strange was that Quinn was not with Rembrandt and Maggie in their last meeting. Between the drugs and the lack of time to talk to Rembrandt, she was not able to get any information. At first, she feared the worst, but then, she refused to allow herself to believe that anything bad happened to Quinn. At one point she even considered the Rembrandt that she brought to her was a double, but the look in his eyes and his sheer emotion told her in her heart that she was with her Rembrandt Brown.
Finally Wade came up with an explanation for Quinn's absence that satisfied her. A few months before she was taken prisoner, the sliders were separated. She and Rembrandt were on Earth Prime, but Quinn and Maggie were on a different world with a separate timer. Because Maggie was with Rembrandt, Wade knew that at least Maggie returned to Earth Prime and somehow rescued Rembrandt. So Wade convinced herself that Quinn had become separated from the rest of the group somehow. He was out there, just not with Rembrandt. That was the only explanation she would allow herself to believe.
Suddenly Wade was awoken by a sound she had not heard in a long time. Through her cell, wind started to gust, and Wade sat up in her cot as her hair started to blow in the wind. A bright light followed, and she shielded her eyes from that and then a second bright light.
Wade could not believe her eyes. The first person to exit was some guy she had recognized but did not really know. A black woman stumbled out next. Finally, to Wade's absolute delight, the wormhole spat out her friend Rembrandt Brown.
"WADE!" Rembrandt shouted. He did not know how she got out of the computer, but for now, he did not care.
"Remmy?" Wade responded, as the two hugged. Wade was in shock and was crying tears of joy as she and Rembrandt hugged while Mallory and Diana watched. "How did you get here?" she asked.
But before Rembrandt could answer, the surprises continued, as people began to fall out of the second wormhole just outside Wade's cell.
"Girl, you are going to love this!" shouted a smiling Rembrandt.
Wade looked on in amazement. Seeing her friends seemed too good to be true. If Remmy was excited, only good things would come out of the second vortex. Maggie came out first, then, Arturo, and finally Quinn.
But the sight of Arturo set off warnings in Wade's mind. The Kromaggs had the ability to read Wade's mind, and could make her see illusions. Suddenly she remembered that she was just dreaming about her friends. "NO! You're not real! This can't be real!"
Rembrandt's smile faded and he grew serious. "Wade!" He grabbed her. "What's wrong?"
"This isn't real! None of you are real!" Wade cried. Suddenly Rembrandt understood why Wade was so upset. In a Kromagg prison, one never knew what was real. The Kromaggs tried to manipulate Rembrandt's mind many times when he was their prisoner. In fact, he and Wade stopped talking to each other because they were afraid they might reveal something to a Kromagg spy.
"Wade!" Rembrandt shouted back forcefully looking into her eyes. "It's us. We're here! Look, I know what you're feeling. When Q-Ball came and got me, I didn't believe he was real either, but he was. He got me out, and now, we're here for you."
Quinn saw what was happening, and briskly walked to the cell. "Wade, it's me."
Wade glared at Arturo. "You can't be real! He's dead." She looked up and shouted at no one in particular. "LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Arturo realized what was going on. "Miss Welles! I can assure that I am very much alive. It is true that I am not the Arturo you saw die, but I am YOUR Arturo. Think back to that world where we thought we were home—the one with the Azure Gate Bridge. You slid with my double."
"That can't be true," Wade said, her tone slightly changing, though still skeptical.
"Wade, ask us a question that only we would know, something you know the Kromaggs don't." Quinn said.
"Fine. When we first started sliding, we landed on a world that was about to be destroyed by an asteroid. What happened?"
Quinn smiled. "We thought the world was going to be destroyed before we slid. I tried to use my double's sliding equipment to get us out of there, but I fried the thing. One thing led to another until…"
"Until what?" Wade asked.
Arturo answered, "Until Miss Welles, your romantic escapades were foiled by my interruption."
Wade was starting to believe, but was not convinced. "We once landed on a world where the hippie revolution never ended. Who was the President on that world?"
"Oliver North," Quinn responded, grateful for his memory. "That was the world where Remmy's double was married with a son, and Remmy almost took over his double's life."
Rembrandt grimaced at the memory. "Yeah, until she found out I was a fake and almost shot me."
Arturo added. "If I remember correctly, you and Mr. Brown entered the vortex separately on the prior world. We had barely escaped some rather large spider wasps." Rembrandt grimaced again. "It was only through Mr. Brown's misfortune with his double's wife that we were able to find you by happenstance."
"That was the world where we lost the ability to open the gateway at will and the professor and I reprogrammed the timer to countdown to when we can open the wormhole," added Quinn.
Wade was impressed with the knowledge, and she had even forgotten about the spiderwasps. But still, the Kromaggs could have probed her mind when she was not aware. She asked another question. "We once landed on a world where women were in control. Where did I get my job?"
"I shall answer that. Ms. Welles, on that backward world, you worked in that witch mayor's office. And to anticipate your next question, I took it upon myself to enlighten that world on what men can do by running for mayor in the local election." Arturo responded.
"And you won," Wade lied.
"No. Ms. Welles, I did not. Though I expected to lose, the race was a lot closer than I had anticipated. Still, the people of that world were not ready for a male mayor, and I slid off with the rest of you. And in the ultimate humiliation, I was forced to honor a bet I made with you and be your servant for the duration of the following slide."
That final comment made Wade smile, as she remembered Arturo serving her drinks on the next world. But she was still not convinced. "The Kromaggs have been probing my head for years. I want to believe you, but I just can't."
Maggie spoke up, "So how can we prove to you we're real if you think everything we say is a lie?"
Before Wade could answer, Rembrandt knew what to do. "Girl, if this doesn't convince you we're real, nothing will." He started to sing:
'cause I'm standing on my head over you
And I, I've got a long way to go
Will this crying stop?
I wish I knew.
At first I thought our love was never-ending
Rembrandt's singing was the final straw. Before he finished the song, Wade was laughing and crying at the same time. There was no way the Kromaggs would know that song. She never even knew all the words herself. Between that song, and the questions her friends answered, it was apparent that the day she had been dreaming about for over two years had arrived. Her friends had found her. Plus, as an added bonus, the professor was alive. That knowledge made her feel so good that for the moment she did not even care that she was in a Kromagg prison. She threw her arms around Rembrandt, and when that hug was finished, she rushed toward the front of the cage. "Professor, I missed you so much," she cried.
Arturo reached through the bars and wiped her tears. "Ms. Welles, I am truly touched, and I am sorry my double put you through that."
"He was a good man Professor, but I am glad that you're ok," she responded.
Quinn stepped forward. "Wade, I am so sorry. This is all my fault."
Wade would not hear it. She reached through the bars and took Quinn's hand. "Quinn, there's nothing to be sorry for. I've told you this before—I have absolutely no regrets. You've shown me wonders that I could never have seen, and I thank you for that. And you're here now, as I always knew you would be."
"How did you get out of the computer?" Diana asked.
"I'm not even sure myself," replied Wade, still looking at Quinn.
Quinn was speechless. But Mallory was not. "Hey guys, I realize this is touching and all, but we are in the middle of a Kromagg prison, and maybe we can get out of here."
Rembrandt agreed. "Fogboy has a point, let's get Wade home."
Maggie also agreed. "The sooner we get out of here, the better."
Quinn spoke up, "Four of us can go now, but the rest will have to wait another 7 hours and 43 minutes."
No one of the group wanted to leave any of the others behind. Realizing the problem, Wade intervened. "Guys, I appreciate this, but don't worry about it. The Kromaggs usually only check on me in the mornings, and that's hours from now. Those of us staying will be fine."
"Please, four of you go," Quinn begged, "I don't want to put any more of you in danger, and Wade just said it will be ok. Diana, Wade, Mallory, and the professor—please do me this favor and go. Remmy, Maggie, and I can take care of ourselves."
"See here Mr. Mallory," Arturo started.
Quinn cut him off. "Please Professor, it's nothing personal. Remmy and Maggie both have military experience. There is less of a chance of them getting hurt. We'll be all right, I promise. Diana, activate the timer."
Reluctantly, the others saw Quinn's point and agreed. Diana pressed the button on her timer, but when she tried to jump in the wormhole, she bounced back to the ground. "Uh oh," she said.
"What is it?" asked Quinn, as the wormhole closed.
"Must be some sort of forcefield blocking the wormhole. It has to be the Kromaggs. We saw something similar on Seer World," she responded.
"Looks like we'll have to do what we always do and improvise," said Maggie. "I guess the first order of business is to get you guys out of that cage."
"I don't think so, human. You aren't going anywhere." The sliders turned around, and found themselves staring at a smug Kromagg pointing a weapon at them.
Rembrandt's mood quickly turned to anger. Though time had caused him to lose his desire to kill Kromaggs on sight, he still hated them. His first instinct was to lunge directly at the Kromagg, but unfortunately, he, Diana, Mallory, and Wade were still in Wade's cage. Rembrandt was powerless to assist Arturo, Maggie and Quinn.
"Your primitive translocation device will not function, Quinn Mallory," said the leader.
Quinn was surprised by the recognition. "Who are you and how do you know my name?"
"I am Kolorang, and the Kromagg Dynasty is quite familiar with you and your…what do you call it? Sliding. Primitive term. Anyway, the Dynasty has been tracking you and your transdimensional duplicates for quite some time. We knew that one of you was the son of the human that built the device that prevents us from returning to the homeworld."
"Then there's been a mistake, I'm not that Quinn Mallory. I thought I was at one time, but it turned out to be wrong."
"But you are the Quinn Mallory that escaped the slidecage."
"What's a slidecage?" Quinn bluffed.
"DO NOT LIE TO ME, HUMAN! Your quantum signature is identical to the Quinn Mallory who reprogrammed the slidecage. And if you continue these lies, you may find yourself without one of your precious friends." He pointed his gun at Maggie.
"Wait!" Quinn shouted. "Don't hurt her!"
Kolorang put his gun down, grinning in satisfaction. "As I was saying, we have been tracking you for quite some time. At first, a directive from the Dynasty said you and your group were not to be harmed. But later, you were considered a threat, to be eliminated." He looked at Wade. "After our plan to send an armada to the home world proved… unsuccessful..."
"You mean after Wade blew your manta ships to kingdom come," Remmy interrupted with pride.
Kolorang ignored Rembrandt. "…I came up with the idea of capturing this particular Quinn Mallory to get him to release the slidecage. But the plan was delayed because we lost track of you. At first, we thought you had managed to defeat our tracking device. But then you reappeared on our sensors. We knew of your connection to the human female, and that it would only be a matter of time before you arrived on this world. You humans are remarkably predictable with that weakness you call loyalty."
"We consider it our biggest strength," Wade said defiantly.
Unlike the double that replaced him, Arturo had never seen a Kromagg live before, not even when the group liberated Mrs. Mallory's world. Despite their repulsive appearance, the professor listened intently to the leader, and his scientific mind was curious. "You mentioned that you were tracking us. How?"
"You mean you haven't figured it out yet?" Kolorang laughed, and then nodded at one of the other Kromaggs. The other Kromagg nodded back, took out a device and walked over to Quinn.
"Give me your arm human," he ordered. When Quinn hesitated, the Kromagg immediately grabbed his right arm and pulled it toward him. He stuck his device on Quinn and turned it on. Immediately, Quinn dropped to his knees in obvious pain.
"LET HIM GO YOU SON OF A -- !" Rembrandt rushed the cage, and tried in vain to break through the bars.
But the cage did not inhibit Maggie. She rushed to aid Quinn. Quickly, another soldier tried to grab her. Using the fighting skills she learned in the Marines, she kicked the soldier in the stomach, and punched a second in the face, but she was finally subdued by several more of the troops, who held her in check. Meanwhile, the Kromagg finished with Quinn, who got up, clutching his arm.
Kolorang shook his head. "Really, when will you humans learn that you are powerless against us? To answer the enormous human's question," Arturo frowned while the Kromagg continued, holding up a small blinking item no larger than a dime, "we were able to track you with this device, which the lieutenant just removed from Quinn Mallory's arm."
"Whoa," Remmy said, "are you saying you've been tracking us this whole time?"
"Brilliant deduction human. We inserted that tracking device on Earth 113."
"That was the first time we ever encountered the Kromaggs," remembered Wade.
"We have intercepted and tracked literally hundreds of Quinn Mallorys. The Dynasty decided that a Quinn Mallory would find us the key to defeating the slidecage."
"So you took an interest in me specifically because I was the first Quinn Mallory to escape the cage." asked Quinn.
"Precisely. Whether you are the son of the real Michael Mallory or not is of no consequence. The Dynasty has been unable to penetrate the slidecage. We used that female as bait to lure you here. Once the unauthorized transdimensional activity was detected, we immediately activated a wormhole inhibitor. You will not escape with your sliding device." He turned to the other Kromaggs. "Put the female and large one in the cage with the others. Quinn Mallory will come with me."
The trooper did as he was told, and when he opened the door, Mallory seized the opportunity and rushed him. Mallory's move was all Rembrandt needed. A brawl ensued. Maggie, Arturo, Rembrandt, Mallory, and even Diana were fighting for their lives. Without even talking, they knew the plan was to escape first, and then figure a way off this world.
At first, Kolorang allowed the brawl to continue so the humans could be taught the price of disobedience. But to his surprise, his troops were losing. So the leader shot his weapon in the air, and when the noise got the attention of the sliders and Kromaggs in the cell, he pointed it at Quinn's head. The sliders stopped fighting, and the Kromaggs exited the cage. "ENOUGH!"
Quinn struggled in the grip of his captor. "What makes you think I'll help you? You kill me, and you'll never get home."
Kolorang smirked. "Killing you was not what we had in mind." He pointed his weapon at the cage, and straight at Mallory, who had nowhere to run. As he fired his weapon right at Mallory, Maggie's military instincts again took over. In an instant, she managed to push Mallory out of the way and take the brunt of the discharge herself.
"MAGGIE!" Quinn shouted.
The Kromagg leader laughed. "No matter. Pity to waste a human female though. She would have made a great breeder." Quinn was about to charge him when the leader once again pointed his weapon at the cage, though this time, he did not fire. "I wouldn't do that human, or perhaps I will hurt someone else you care about. Like I said before, that weakness you call loyalty makes you very predictable. If you do not do what we say, when we say it, you may find yourself losing more of your precious friends." He laughed.
"Quinn don't do it!" Wade shouted.
"Q-Ball, no matter what, you can't let them beat that slidecage," Rembrandt agreed.
"Mr. Mallory, do not concern yourself with us. Those scoundrels must be stopped!" yelled Arturo. Diana and Mallory were tending to Maggie, who was struggling, though still alive.
But Quinn was a beaten man. He did not spend all this time getting his friends back to lead them to their deaths. He would not have that guilt on his conscience. So he did what he knew was right. "Put your gun down. I'll go with you."
Kolorang smiled, "I knew you would say that." He turned to his troops. "Make sure the cage is locked. Take him away." So as Quinn went with the Kromagg leader, the troops followed, and the sliders found themselves locked in a cage alone.
"How's she doing?" asked Rembrandt, concerned about Maggie.
Diana and the professor were both hunched over Maggie. Neither of them were doctors, though sliding had provided them with several chances to learn a bit about the medical profession. Arturo turned to Rembrandt and the others. "The good news is that it would seem that the blast Kromagg weapon was not fatal to Miss Beckett." The others sighed in relief. "However, Miss Beckett does have a rather serious fracture in her left leg and the blast from the weapon has her moving in and out of consciousness, indicating a possible concussion. I'm afraid that if she does not receive proper medical attention soon, things could turn quite serious."
"Great," said Mallory, "do the Kromaggs take HMOs?"
"Look," Remmy said, "we have to get out of here and help Maggie and Q-Ball."
"Even if we could get out of here we have several problems. First, we have to find Quinn, then we have to get our timers back from the Kromaggs, and then, we have to turn off that machine that prevents us from sliding in the first place," Diana commented.
"I know the layout of this place pretty well. If we can just get out of here, I know I can find Quinn," said Wade.
Rembrandt and Diana looked right at Mallory. "What?" he said.
"Getting out of cages is your specialty Fogboy," Rembrandt said.
Mallory smiled. "Then it's a good thing I took this during the fight." The others grinned as Mallory showed them a key.
"So that's why you started the fight," realized Diana.
"Yeah, but I didn't mean to get Maggie hurt." He turned to Maggie, who had regained consciousness and was listening.
"Just get us out of here so we can go home," she said, in obvious pain.
"Mr. Brown, I shall require your assistance in rigging a stretcher for Miss Beckett," noted Arturo. Rembrandt complied. The work was soon completed, and Mallory opened the cage. Quinn was still captive, but the cavalry was on the way.
"Faster human!" the Kromagg ordered.
Quinn was doing his best to stall, hoping for a way out of this mess. He had come so close to reuniting all his friends and getting them home safely, only to be stopped now. Still, if Quinn learned one lesson during all the years of sliding, it was to never give up. He had no doubt that his friends would find a way out of the cage, and his job was to stall the Kromaggs until they could help him. So Quinn typed away at a keyboard, planning for his escape. "I'm doing the best I can, but this programming is tough. I don't read Kromagg very well," he answered.
Though the computer keyboard was in English, Quinn hid his experience with Kromagg technology. The fact was, every computer Quinn had ever encountered was based on mathematics, and during his lifetime, he never had a problem figuring out a programming language, not even if it was Kromagg. Quinn knew full well what he was doing, and even planned a few surprises for his captors. He also was happy that the Kromaggs' constant underestimating of human intellect allowed him to get away with his trick. All he had to do was stall until his friends arrived.
Quinn's biggest concerns were escaping and preventing the Kromaggs from following. Finding the timers would not be a problem. Quinn actually knew where they were. Kolorang was so confident that the humans were under control that he left the cage unguarded, and kept the timers right on top of the interdimensional inhibitor, which was right next door. The problem was that Quinn might have to activate his timer early, and despite the advancements since his first slide, such a course of action remained a last resort.
Then, as Quinn predicted, an alarm sounded. He heard the commotion of the Kromagg soldiers, and clearly became intrigued by the scuffle that was going on outside the room. Arturo was the first to make it into the lab. Diana and Wade were next, carrying a stretcher with Maggie on it. Though he expected them to get this far, he could not help but smile when he saw Mallory and Rembrandt back in carrying Kromagg weapons. One minute his friends were locked in a cage, and the next minute, they not only had escaped, but they managed to disarm trained soldiers and take their weapons. Quinn loved it. But his good mood instantly turned to quick concern as Kolorang emerged, aiming his gun right at Wade.
"WADE! LOOK OUT!" Quinn shouted, as Wade ducked. At the sound of Quinn's words, Rembrandt turned around and shot at Kolorang. Kolorang hit the deck, but as he hit the ground, Arturo was on him as Diana kicked his weapon away.
Arturo sat right on top of the leader, while Rembrandt and Mallory barricaded the door. "I'll show you an enormous human you blistering idiot!" he shouted. Rembrandt could not help but smile at the comment.
"Remmy! The timers are in the other room!" yelled Quinn. With Arturo sitting on Kolorang, and Mallory pointing his weapon right at him, the Kromagg was effectively neutralized. Rembrandt and Diana retrieved the timers and Diana turned off the Kromagg machine. Rembrandt shot it for good measure.
When they returned, Quinn was holding Maggie's hand. "Diana, take the professor's timer. You and Mallory get Maggie to a hospital on Earth Prime."
"NO!" Maggie objected. "I'm not leaving you."
"Maggie, listen. I've got a few things to take care of here. Even if the professor's timer could make a wormhole stable enough to take all of us, I still need a few minutes. You're hurt, and you need help, now," said Quinn. "You'll only hold us back. Believe me, we won't be far behind you." He turned to Diana. "I don't care if you have to strap her down or knock her out, get her back to Earth Prime and to a doctor. Promise me you'll do that." They both nodded.
"How much time is left on the timer?" asked Arturo.
"2 hours, 13 minutes," Rembrandt replied.
"Damn," said Quinn.
"What is it? I thought it's programmed for Earth Prime," asked Mallory.
"This timer isn't as advanced as the Professor's. If we open it early, it probably won't open to Earth Prime."
"What about tracking our wormhole?" Diana asked.
"That's why you're leaving first. If we can't wait until the timer runs out, tracking you is our best shot," admitted Quinn.
"I'll stay with you. You'll need all the help you can get." said Mallory.
"I appreciate it bro, but Maggie needs the help more. Besides, Diana needs at least one more person to help keep Maggie as steady as possible in the wormhole. You'll be helping me by helping her." He turned to the Wade, Rembrandt, and Arturo. "Look, there's room for four people. One of you can go with Maggie."
Immediately, Rembrandt objected. "Listen Q-Ball, it only takes two to get Maggie home. I'm not leaving you alone here." All eyes turned to Wade.
"Well don't look at me! I'm not leaving you guys," she said.
"But Wade," said Quinn, "you haven't seen your real family in over five years. You can go home."
"Quinn, I lost you for two years. I'm not leaving you here. Mallory and Diana can get Maggie home. If you stay, I stay."
Quinn looked at Arturo. He wanted him to go with Diana, Mallory, and Maggie, but he knew what was going to happen. "Professor?" he asked.
As predicted, Arturo's mind was made up. "Mr. Mallory, you are wasting your time. I shall be joining you as well."
Quinn desperately wished one of his friends would go with Diana, Maggie, and Mallory. But unlike the case in the Kromagg cage, when Wade convinced the others that the Kromaggs would probably not come, this time, there was more danger. Wade, Arturo, and Rembrandt would never even consider leaving with so much at stake. Had Maggie not been hurt, Mallory, Maggie, and Diana would also have stayed. Quinn knew his friends well enough not to argue, and he simply smiled in appreciation.
"Quinn, no," said Maggie, desperately wishing she was not hurt.
Quinn knelt down beside her. "Maggie, we'll be all right." He rubbed her hair and gave her a soft hug. Then, he got up and nodded at Diana, who activated the vortex.
Rembrandt was next to kneel beside Maggie. "Listen girl, you focus on getting well. We'll be back before you get out of whatever cast they put you in." He smiled.
Realizing that her friends were right, Maggie grabbed Remmy by the shirt with a tear in her eye and said, "you'd better be." And with that comment, Diana and Mallory picked up the homemade stretcher, and carefully entered the gateway.
Quinn breathed a sigh of relief as the wormhole closed. Rembrandt turned to him. "Ok Q-Ball, play it straight. Can we really follow them?"
"I don't know Remmy. The timer is set for Earth Prime, but in 1 hour and 58 minutes. There's no telling what opening the wormhole will do to the tracker. I tried to improve the thing, and I have it set, but I don't know what will happen." He looked toward the door and the makeshift barricade. "And it doesn't look like we'll have enough time to wait it out."
Wade and Arturo both understood. Time clearly was running out. The barricade was starting to fail. Kolorang smiled, "there is no escape. We'll track you down wherever you are."
Quinn, who had picked up Mallory's gun and was covering the Kromagg, already had an answer. "I don't think so. I spent the last two hours putting a virus in your computers that will make it impossible for you to track any wormholes that leave this world. I also managed to set a field around this room that will neutralize any tracking device that may have been put inside my friends or I once we enter a wormhole. Once we leave, we'll never see you again."
"Don't bet on it human," Kolorang responded, as his troops broke through the door.
Out of time, Quinn shouted, "REMMY! ACTIVATE THE TIMER!" Rembrandt did as told, and the vortex opened early. Wade jumped in first, then Arturo. Rembrandt gave a Kromagg soldier a last punch in the face before jumping in himself, and finally Quinn backed in, throwing his weapon at Kolorang just as the wormhole closed.
On Earth Prime, Colin Mallory had not left the lab since the others left. He simply had no place to go. For over six hours, he had paced the room worrying about the danger his brother and friends were facing. Finally, to his relief, a wormhole opened. Mallory and Diana popped out, hanging on to Maggie's stretcher for dear life. But after the three exited the wormhole, Colin's fears increased as the vortex closed without four missing.
"Where is my brother and the others?" Colin asked.
Mallory answered. "They were right behind us with their timer. They should be tracking our wormhole. But right now, we have to get Maggie to a hospital."
"Quinnnnn," Maggie cried.
Colin approached his friend. "Will she be all right?"
"It's not fatal. But she needs a doctor," said Diana. As Mallory called the ambulance, Diana noticed the look of concern on Colin's face. "Look, when we left Quinn and the others, they had the upper hand. I have no reason to believe they didn't make it off that world. Assuming they activated the timer at the right time, they should be here in just over an hour and a half."
"And if they did not?"
"Then, if their wormhole tracking device failed, they could be lost in the multiverse again. But at least they'd be alive."
"What about the Professor's chip?"
"Damaged beyond repair. It could have been the professor's alterations, or maybe something the Kromaggs did when they had the timer. As of now, I don't know how to recreate it. But don't worry, once Maggie gets better, I'll get right to work on finding them."
Colin stood up, determined. "If my friends are out there, then they need my help. The world I was raised on did not have the advancements of most worlds, but I did gather a small understanding of sliding thanks to my brother. If I need to read every physics article ever written, I will make it my life's work to help perfect a means to bring my brother and the others home."
Diana nodded. Quinn Mallory was perhaps the most brilliant person she had ever met. Perhaps with some training, Colin could be Quinn's equal. Two hours later, it was clear that Quinn, Arturo, Wade, and Rembrandt were either dead, or on another world, lost from Earth Prime. Diana, Mallory, Colin, and especially Maggie would never accept that they were dead. The first order of business was taking care of Maggie, but once she was better, they would do whatever it took to find their friends, and bring them home.
The portal opened, and Wade, Arturo, Rembrandt, and finally Quinn popped out. Quinn immediately looked around and began examining the timer.
"Are we home?" asked Wade.
"I know a way we can find out," said Rembrandt, as he picked up a newspaper.
"What is it Mr. Brown?" asked Arturo.
"We're not home," Rembrandt complained. He handed the paper to Quinn. "Look."
"Cubs beat Giants 4-3. The World Champion Cubs…" Quinn put the paper down. The Cubs had not won a World Series on Earth Prime since 1908.
"What happened?" asked Wade.
"Just what I was afraid of -- the same thing that always happens when we activate the timer early. Everything was scrambled, including the wormhole tracker. I can fix it, but it won't help us find Earth Prime. All stored coordinates were erased," responded Quinn. Meanwhile, Quinn opened up the timer, and began making some adjustments.
"Wait a minute Q-Ball, why can't we just track the other timer's wormhole once you fix the thing?" Rembrandt asked.
"Like I said, all the coordinates were erased. We could track the wormhole we just opened, but the other timer didn't slide to Earth Prime from this world. We would have to go to the last world, and hope that residue of the other wormhole is still there. Do you want to go back to a world filled with angry Kromaggs?"
"Hell no," Rembrandt said.
"Couldn't we go back and try our look for a few seconds?" asked Wade.
"I'm afraid that it will do us no good Miss Welles," Arturo added. "You see, even with tracking abilities, the residue of a wormhole does not last forever – only a few days at the most. Plus, there is also the problem of accessing the wormhole. We are once again dependent on the timer countdown to open the wormhole. That could force us to spend days, perhaps weeks on that world trying to elude the Kromaggs."
Quinn finished adjusting the timer, closed it, and looked up. "I'm afraid the issue is moot anyway. I just finished fixing the timer to countdown to when we can open the vortex. Guys, we're here for two weeks. Even if we did go back, all traces of the other wormhole would be gone."
Wade was disappointed. "Then that means…"
"I'm afraid we're back to random sliding," Arturo finished.
Though saddened, Rembrandt looked at the bright side. At least Quinn, Wade, and Arturo were back with him. It was like the adventure was beginning again. But this time, Rembrandt was not a reluctant passenger. He had his chance to go home, and stayed with his friends. And he knew that somehow, Q-Ball would find a way home. He smiled. "Well, if I'm going to be stuck in the multiverse, I'm glad you all are with me."
"Thanks a lot," Wade joked.
Arturo returned Rembrandt's gesture. "Mr. Brown, I can assure you the feeling is quite mutual," he said.
Quinn spoke up. "Look, we made it home before, and we'll make it home again."
"Well Mr. Mallory, since we are here for a few weeks I believe the first order of business is to find food," Arturo said. "Does anyone have any money?"
Rembrandt smiled. "Professor, it's time I showed you how to rip off your double with an ATM card." And with that, the sliders moved on, continuing their journey.
Back to List of Otherworlds
Copyright 2000, by Marc C. All characters from the TV show Sliders are property of Universal. This story may not be repeated or used without the express consent of the author. Any resemblance to any other story out there is purely coincidental. Tears in My Fro is taken from the episode THE KING IS BACK by Tracy Tormé.