Part Three of the Loose Ends Trilogy,
by Darran Jordan [eclectica]
It was over. All of it was over. Maggie, Mallory and Diana looked up from the Seer’s body, staring at the broken Kromagg machine which had opened a wormhole only moments ago - a wormhole into which Rembrandt had vanished. The machine was silent, as dead as the man who lay on the ground behind them, and their collective dreams were as shattered as the broken remnants of the timer which they had travelled with for so long. Their battle, all their battles, had ended. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. None of them spoke. There was nothing anyone could say. But then a sound came which shocked them all to their feet in moments.
The Kromagg machine was shaking, energy coursing through it, sparks cascading from its circuits as it suddenly shook back into life.
“What on earth...?” Maggie muttered, but before she could say any more there was a flash of light and the sickly red swirl of the unstable wormhole reopened before them. Diana was the first to move, rushing forward to stare intently into its depths.
“It’s the same path Remmy followed,” she shouted over the roar of energy, “I can see him in the tunnel, he’s still falling through the vortex.”
“How...?” Mallory began to ask, but as he spoke the Kromagg machine suddenly burst into flames, the wormhole flickering before them, starting to shrink from sight.
“Go,” Maggie shouted, “go, go, go!!!”
And then they were diving, falling into the familiar blue of the vortex, tumbling after their friend, their dreams alive once more. It was only as they caught up with Remmy, only as they saw his expression of shock turn to an expression of joy, that any of them thought to wonder about the words of the Seer. He had foretold their doom if all four of them decided to slide again. And here they were, together again, falling back towards Earth Prime, to face a future once more uncertain.
As he fell through the tunnel of light, falling to his death for all he knew, Rembrandt ‘Crying Man’ Brown could only think: ‘at last’. At last an end, at last a resolution, at last he would make a stand. He had often wondered if it would have been better to have done that after Quinn and Maggie rescued him from the Kromaggs, back after the invasion of Earth Prime. Quinn had wanted to find his brother, and the secret weapon to use against the Kromaggs, and Rembrandt had gone with him, partly in the hope of finding a way to defeat the Maggs, and partly in the hope that they might rescue Wade. But none of that was possible now. Quinn’s brother, Colin, had been lost to them, unstuck between dimensions. Quinn himself had been merged with his double, and was as equally lost to them, trapped somewhere in his double Mallory’s subconscious, and they had no idea how to get him back. Even the secret weapon they’d hoped to use against the Kromaggs had turned out a false hope, worse than useless. And Wade... after searching for so long he had found her, only to lose her again, forced to leave her behind to die in the explosion of Kromagg Outpost 88. To die... just like the Professor had, shot by a madman, his body left to be incinerated on a world destroyed in a hail of rock and fire. There had been so much death, so much loss, and sometimes Rembrandt wished he had stayed behind, all that time ago, to face the Kromaggs on his homeworld of Earth Prime. To make a stand.
He knew that was all the others wanted now too. Maggie had lost her husband, then her world, and later, after she and Quinn had become involved, she had lost him too. He could see it in her eyes, not a desire to die, but a desire to find some sense of meaning, some resolution. The desire... no, the need, to make a stand. And so they fell through the vortex, tumbling headlong towards Rembrandt’s homeworld, finally returning to Earth Prime. Finally facing the Kromaggs, their worst enemy, once and for all, to make a final stand.
Remmy couldn’t help but smile as he thought of Mallory and Diana, tumbling through the wormhole somewhere behind him. Earth Prime wasn’t their world, this wasn’t their fight, but they’d come along anyway. He had no idea how they’d managed to follow him, but he was glad they had. Having lost all the members of his first Sliding family Rembrandt consoled himself that at least he had found others he could rely on just the same. He knew he could rely on all of them, Maggie, Mallory and Diana, come what may. Even in the face of their last world, where they had been told a prophesy that on their next slide they would all die, even in the face of that they had still followed him on to Earth Prime, still found a way to go on. It was all they could do, all they wanted to do anymore, to make a stand, to end the madness. Rembrandt knew full well that there was little the four of them could do, unarmed and untrained, against the full military might of the Kromaggs. Even with the virus he had in his bloodstream he realised they were still facing the threat of death at the hands of their enemies, but they’d faced the impossible before and come through it. He just hoped that this time would be no different. He just hoped that this time they could find a way, could make a difference, could make a stand. He smiled as ahead of him the other end of the wormhole opened up, ‘at last’ he thought, and fell out of the vortex and onto the other side.
“What the hell...?” The words had barely left Rembrandt’s lips before his fellow Sliders tumbled through the portal behind him, the vortex closing after them, but wherever the vortex had brought them it wasn’t Earth Prime.
“Where on earth are we?” It was Maggie that posed the question that was on all of their minds, but since none of them knew the answer her words were followed merely by silence as all four of them looked about themselves, taking in their strange surroundings with awed silence.
It was as though a world had been created from the blue energy of the vortex. The ground on which they stood, although very solid to walk upon, looked like the shimmering blue energy that each of them associated with sliding. So too were the walls which loomed high on either side of them, and the shimmering sky which hung far, far above their heads. The walled corridor they stood in stretched off in either direction as far as they could see, and there was no sign of anything or anyone. The only thing they could see was the shifting shimmering blue energy that usually formed the sliding portal and the world within the vortex, only here it formed everything. Rembrandt ran his hand along the nearest wall. It felt like a solid brick wall, although smoother and colder. He turned back to the others with a frown.
“Diana, are you sure you set the right coordinates?”
Diana nodded sagely.
“The coordinates were right, but then the portal was only meant to be able to send one of us. Somehow the machine overloaded after you went through Remmy, it reopened the portal for us to follow, but maybe that threw the tunnel off course. We could be anywhere.” She looked at the others grimly. “And without the timer, wherever we are, we’re here to stay.” They all stood, staring, hardly moving, hardly breathing, too shocked to say a word. When the silence finally was broken, it was by a cry of pain.
“Mallory?” Maggie moved forward to stand by Mallory; his face was creased with agony, his teeth biting at his lower lip and his hands clawing at his chest and head. “What is it?” Maggie urged, trying to comfort him. “What’s wrong?”
“I felt weird when we slid in,” Mallory hissed through gritted teeth. “I thought it’d be alright, but the feeling just got worse. Now it feels like my guts are on fire... feels like... I feel like I’m...” Mallory broke off suddenly, screaming, collapsing to his knees, clamping his fists against his temples. “My head...” he cried, “my head’s on fire... help me... help...”
Then, quite suddenly, he pitched forward onto the ground, twitched once, and was still. Maggie leant forward to help him up, but stopped short as soon as she touched him, drawing her hand away as though he were hot to the touch. When she reached out toward him again she took his wrist, feeling it with her own fingers before looking up at Rembrandt and Diana, her face grave.
“He’s dead,” she whispered gravely. “Mallory’s dead.”
“It’s the prophesy,” Diana muttered, “the prophesy is coming true, we’re all going to die.”
“I don’t believe in fortune telling,” Rembrandt stated loudly, “we make our own fates. We’ve been through worse before and come out okay, we just have to pull together. Maggie, see if you can resuscitate Mallory, if not just keep him alive with CPR. I’ll go see if I can find any help. Diana, see if you can figure out where we are. Okay, let’s get to it...” Rembrandt turned, planning to run off down the walled corridor in the hope of finding some sort of medical aid for Mallory, but as he turned a figure, previously unnoticed by any of them, suddenly stepped out from the electric blue shadows of one of the walls and began walking toward them. It was like an animal, so misshapen and twisted in form, an unnatural monster looming tall in the light of this strange world. But even in its primeval guise they all recognised the creature’s race immediately.
“It’s a Kromagg,” Maggie stated, stepping forward.
“But look at it,” Rembrandt replied, “it’s all twisted out of shape. Damn it girl, that’s the ugliest Magg I ever did see.”
“I am Kromagg,” the creature hissed. “I kill.” And in a single fluid movement the monster leapt forward and knocked Diana to the ground. The force of the blow was so great they could hear her skull shatter. Even as Diana’s lifeless form fell Maggie and Rembrandt were leaping forward, a twin scream of anger on both their lips as they raced toward their foe with bloodlust in their eyes. The creature turned and seemed to smile, ever so slightly, pointed teeth gleaming in the electric light. Its fist connected with Maggie’s face, crushing it, killing her instantly. Then it grabbed Rembrandt, holding him between its huge hands, smiling at Rembrandt’s expression of hatred.
“Go on you monster,” Rembrandt hissed, “do it.” The monster stared at him silently. “DO IT!!!” Rembrandt screamed, spittle flecking from his mouth and he let loose his cry of frustrated anger and violence. Without another word the Kromagg twisted Rembrandt’s neck, breaking it with a resounding crack. Rembrandt Brown’s final thoughts before darkness took him were: ‘At last, at last we made a stand.’ Then there was no pain, no anger, no burning need for vengeance, there was only still. Only silence. Only darkness. Only death. Only four unmoving bodies, and the twisted form of Kromagg stalking silently away through the blue world.
Four bodies lay unmoving in the electric blue world, four bodies still and silent. How long they remained so is not certain, hours perhaps, days even, time seemed to have no meaning in this strange place. However long it was, it seemed an eternity before one of the bodies twitched and stirred. Mallory’s body began to spasm, his eyes still tightly shut as his limbs convulsed and thrashed. His mouth opened in a silent scream, but instead of sound instead light poured from between his lips, the harsh blue light of the electric world around him. As though infected by it, the shimmering blue began to crawl across his skin, quickly subsuming his body in an intense glow of energy. It smothered him with its sickly embrace, covering his features until all that could be seen was a glowing cocoon of energy. Then it began to grow, larger, slowly larger, a cocoon rapidly doubling in length. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the energy faded away. But instead of one body beneath its surface, there now were two. The body of Mallory lay twisted, his eyes still firmly shut, but the other body which lay beside him was stirring, slowly rising up onto elbows, groggily pulling itself to its feet. The man stood, hands held gingerly to his temples, looking blearily at the world around him.
“Oh man,” he muttered, “Colin, you are never going to believe the dream I had...” But as he spoke he seemed to become aware of where he was, and of the bodies that lay scattered around him, and Quinn Mallory’s face suddenly drained of colour. “Maggie...” he whispered, his face a mask of horror as he saw her body before him. Instantly dropping to his knees he grabbed her head in his hands, feeling the tears within his eyes, a torrent threatening to drown him in their fury. “No, no, no, no, no. Maggie, please, you have to be okay...” But as he spoke it seemed as though a spell was broken, and the woman who had lain so still, who had seemed so death like, suddenly opened her eyes.
“Quinn?” she whispered, her face breaking into an uncertain smile. “Quinn, is that really you?” But Quinn found he suddenly couldn’t talk, found words could not express what he wanted to say, what he needed to tell her. Maggie sat up, wincing as though in pain, looking at Quinn with eyes of eager hope.
“It’s me,” Quinn finally answered, and the two of them fell into each other’s arms without another word being spoken, holding each other tight, as though that way they could make up the time they’d lost, the long separation from each other they’d suffered. It was some time before they reluctantly pulled apart, and began to try and make sense of their situation.
“Are we dead?” Maggie asked uncertainly, looking about at her friends, still unmoving on the ground around them.
“I don’t think so,” Quinn answered. “This place... from the looks of it I’d say it is very similar to that pocket universe you and I ended up in that time.” Maggie smiled at the memory.
“Where we lived our whole lives together in the space of a day,” she said, and Quinn returned her smile.
“Yes,” he stated. “In that case the energy of the vortex formed a world around us, from our minds, memories and desires. Theoretically it would be possible to create any world in that way, with sufficient energy. The world we made was a short lived one, formed from a natural pocket of energy in the vortex. I think this is the same sort of thing, but this seems to be artificial in construction.”
“Someone has managed to use the energy of the vortex to create all this?” Maggie queried. “But why?”
“I don’t know,” Quinn shrugged in reply. “It’s only a theory.”
“Well there are a few other points I’d appreciate a theory on,” Maggie continued. “How did you get separated from Mallory? Why aren’t I dead? How did a second portal open on our last world to let us follow Remmy? And can we save the others?”
Quinn looked about at the others and turned immediately to his friend Rembrandt Brown.
“I think they’ll all be fine,” Quinn responded. “Like I said, it’s possible to create any sort of world in the vortex with enough energy. I think someone has created a world with a perpetual loop of chronal energy. In here you can die, but the effect would only be temporary.”
“But why?” Maggie pressed. Quinn shrugged, frowning.
“A trap maybe,” he suggested. “Like the Slidecage. It would be the ultimate prison. With enough looped chronal energy to reverse the effects of time, death or aging... nothing would release the prisoners from their torment. They would be perpetually alive, perpetually young... but perpetually trapped. As to your question of a second portal opening... the path you opened must have intersected with this realm accidentally, sliding into this place probably released energy back along the slide path, that would have reopened the portal on the last world for a limited period. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that we may be stuck here.”
“You paint a grim picture,” Maggie whispered.
“Maybe,” Quinn smiled, “but it does seem to have saved all our lives.” As he said this Rembrandt stirred and sat up.
“Q-Ball?” he breathed, eyes wide with shock.
“It’s me Remmy,” Quinn answered with a smile, and Rembrandt burst into laughter, slapping his old friend on the back as he did so.
“I knew we’d get you back again,” Rembrandt laughed, “I just knew we would one day. But what happened? How did you get separated from Mallory? And come to think of it, why aren’t I dead?”
“So far as I can tell none of us can die permanently while we’re here,” Quinn answered. “But I’m afraid I’m not certain about much else, all I have are theories. The last thing I remember clearly is Sliding with Colin after you and Maggie. I have some other vague memories, but they seem more like dreams than reality. Who is this Mallory you both mentioned? And what was it that killed you all before I woke up here?”
“That’s Mallory over there,” Maggie stated, pointing at the still body of her travelling companion. “He’s one of your doubles. That last slide you remember... you got merged with him. He’s been travelling with us for a while now, so has Diana over there. We’ve been trying to find a way to separate you both again, but haven’t been able to. After we arrived here Mallory just collapsed. We thought he was dead.”
“He wasn’t,” Quinn answered. “It’s the energy of this place, the longer he was here the more it subsumed his body. Normally it wouldn’t have any effect, except to keep you alive and young, to stop you dying as happened to you all before. But with Mallory the energy affecting him on the submolecular level must have had the effect of separating the two of us. When you thought he was dead, that was just the first stage of our separation.” Quinn nodded to himself, as though satisfied with his conclusions, then he turned to Remmy once again, his brow furrowed with concern. “But what killed all of you? From the way you were lying it looked as though you’d been attacked.”
“We were,” Remmy answered, “by a Kromagg, a big ugly brute. And if what you say is true, if we can’t be killed here, then neither can it. The virus I’m carrying won’t have any effect on it.”
“It seems like your theory about this being a sort of Slidecage is looking more certain all the time,” Maggie stated.
“Which doesn’t bode well for us getting out of here easily,” Quinn answered.
“Hey Q-Ball,” Remmy smiled, “we’ve been through worse. And now that we’ve got you back there isn’t a problem that exists that we couldn’t tackle.” Quinn smiled in reply.
“I hope you’re right Remmy,” he nodded worriedly. “I only hope you’re right.” Then the three of them set about waking up Diana and Mallory.
A billion billion voices echoed in its head, a billion billion personalities each vying for dominance, a billion billion minds all screaming out, trying to get free. Kromagg grunted, a deep guttural sound, halfway between pain and defiance. It knew that there was knowledge in its head, the assorted knowledge of whole populations and scientists, the military genius of whole squadrons of commanders. But although it knew what was inside it, there was too much confusion to be able to think clearly enough to access any of it. The only thing that was constant, the only thing it could hold on to, to anchor itself to some kind of identity, was the anger. Deep aching anger and the need to express it in violence. That was why it had killed those it had found, why it had torn their lives away and left their lifeless bodies to rot in the cold blue light of this world. But now it wondered if that had been a mistake.
It did not fully understand where it was, what this place was it had fallen into, but it knew one thing with a certainty that belied its confusion - this was a cage. And although he had been here for some time, wandering the endless maze of the blue corridors, it could find no way out. The first thing out of the ordinary it had encountered had been the four humans, and although every instinct had told him to destroy them, although his sated bloodthirst told him it had been the right thing to do, still there was the question in its confused mind: ‘could they have shown me the way out?’
It was instinct more than a specific idea or plan that drew it back to the spot where he had attacked the creatures, but as he approached he heard voices, and peering cautiously up ahead he saw the group, now comprising five, standing huddled in a small circle, talking anxiously to each other. As it saw them Kromagg felt its hatred grow, but it held back the fierce urge to leap forward and crush them once more. It knew one thing for certain other than its hatred and rage, and that was that it was trapped in a cage. There was knowledge in its head, knowledge that might have freed it, but that knowledge was lost in the chaos of its twisted mind, and so it had to rely on others to show it the way out, the path out to the worlds beyond this world. It would watch, and wait, and then - when it knew the way back - then it would give in to its hatred. Then it would kill. The twisted face of Kromagg broke into a smile, crooked pointed teeth shining in the electric light. It would wait, and when the time was right it would kill them all. Again. And again. And again.
Diana Davis found herself smiling once again. It was wonderful talking to this man, this Quinn Mallory of whom she had heard so much. His mind was so sharp, so brilliant, and for once she found she could ramble on about quantum theory and submolecular fusion all she wanted without having three blank faces staring back at her. Well, that wasn’t true, Remmy, Maggie and Mallory were still giving their standard blank faces, but Quinn’s face was alive with energy, just as his mind was alive with ideas.
“In principle,” Quinn nodded, “that should work, but we don’t have any equipment here to help us in trying to assemble a device of those proportions.”
Diana had known that of course, her suggested plan of escape that Quinn was replying to had only been stated so that it would fuel other thoughts, other ideas. By bouncing possibilities back and forth between each other she felt sure that she and Quinn would hit upon an idea soon that would get them out of this strange vortex world.
“What we really need to do,” Diana mused, “is find some way to tap into the energy of this place. It’s obviously composed of the same energy we use to slide between worlds. If we could only redirect it somehow we could open a portal out of here.”
“That’s true,” Quinn nodded smiling. “I think that would be our best bet. But how would we go about doing that...”
“Hey Q-Ball,” Remmy interrupted, “Diana, I know you guys are trying to figure a way out of here, and I’m all for it, but shouldn’t we have a look around first. Sooner or later we’re going to need food and water...”
“Actually we shouldn’t,” Diana replied. “If Quinn’s theory proves right, then the energy which keeps us from dying should also keep us from aging, from getting hungry or thirsty. From our bodies point of view we could stay here decades and it would still seem like we just arrived. We won’t develop an appetite or even get sleepy.”
“Well,” Remmy smiled, “maybe my body won’t get hungry, but I’m sure my mind will always be hankering for a large pizza.”
Mallory stepped forward, frowning as he did so.
“Even if you are right, that we can’t die and don’t need to eat and all that, I’d just as sooner have a look around anyway. That creature that attacked you all before, it could come back at any moment. Even if the damage isn’t permanent, I’d really rather not go through getting my neck snapped.”
“I’m with Mallory on this one,” Maggie agreed, taking Quinn’s arm in hers as she spoke. “What do you think Quinn.”
“I think we could all do with a walk,” Quinn smiled.
“Alright,” Remmy nodded, “well let’s see what else is in this place.”
Diana nodded and together they all started walking. She wasn’t worried, not now. She had used to feel the pressure of being the only scientist in the group, trying to find the solutions on her own to problems the others didn’t have the training to comprehend, but between her and Quinn she felt certain they’d figure a way out of this place. The vortex walls on either side flashed with blue energy as she walked after the others. Of course they’d figure a way out. Wouldn’t they?
They had not been walking long when it happened, the endless blue corridor before them suddenly sparked and surged, the walls trembling, the floor resounding with a sudden pounding.
“What on earth...” Mallory muttered, but he didn’t get to finish his sentence as it was then that the pounding quake hit them and all five of the party tumbled to the ground. All around them it seemed that the world was coming apart. Everything was shaking, sparks of blue energy cascading around them.
“What’s happening?” Maggie shouted over the pounding noise.
“I don’t know,” Quinn shouted back, “some kind of interference maybe, interference with the energy that this place is composed of.”
“What could cause that?” Rembrandt called.
“Maybe someone sliding in,” Diana suggested, “or sliding out. Some sort of portal disrupting the integrity of this world.”
Quinn was about to reply to this suggestion when there came a sudden shout from Mallory and all of them tried to turn, stumbling as they did so, to follow the direction of his outstretched hand.
“Look,” Mallory cried, “look over there.” And they all turned to see the familiar circle of a portal of energy spinning into view further along the corridor. The world was still cracking apart around them, but they forced themselves forward, hope mirrored in all their faces as they looked upon what they prayed might prove to be a way out. It was then, however, that someone slid through the portal, landing deftly on her feet in the corridor in front of them, and Quinn and Remmy stopped dead, blocking the three behind them from following.
“What is it?” Maggie asked. “What’s wrong?”
“We’ve met her before,” Remmy answered, his voice level, “back with Wade and the Professor. Her name is Logan St. Claire.”
“And obviously she’s bad news,” Mallory interjected, “if your expressions are anything to go by.” But if their expressions were any judge then the second figure who emerged from the portal after Logan St. Claire was ten times worse, for all of them immediately recognised this figure, even those who had not met him before. His hair was long and his face was covered in a white tribal paint, but unmistakably it was Quinn Mallory, or at least one of his doubles.
“Him,” Maggie whispered quietly. “It looks like we’ve solved the mystery of who trapped us here. If those two have teamed up then who knows what surprises they’ve got cooked up...”
But if that wasn’t enough of a surprise the third member to emerge from the portal into the electric blue vortex world put a whole different perspective on their situation. Diana and Mallory had never seen him before, but from the similarity of his features they could well guess his identity.
“Farm boy?” Remmy muttered, shocked.
“Brother?” Quinn whispered, equally surprised, leaving Maggie to finally announce his name so that Diana and Mallory were sure of who it was that was walking toward them smiling.
“Colin?” Maggie called. “Colin, is that you?”
“It’s me,” he smiled and, with the world still shaking itself apart around them, Remmy, Maggie and Quinn fell upon him in an untidy embrace, each of them filled equally with laughter and tears at a reunion they had never thought would happen.
“First Q-Ball and now you,” Remmy laughed. “Boy oh boy is this ever turning out to be a red letter day.”
Colin’s smiling face suddenly became serious as he looked back at the other two who had come through the portal with him. Logan St. Claire seemed to be concentrating, her brow furrowed with intensity, while the other Quinn stood by impassively. The portal behind them was still open, and around them the world continued to shake.
“We don’t have much time,” Colin stated, “Logan can keep the portal open for a while, but if she loses concentration we’ll be trapped here, it’s a two way portal, our only method of escape, and the longer the portal remains open the more unstable this world becomes...”
“But hey, Farm boy, you can’t really be working with those two can you? We’ve come up against both of them before, and believe me they are bad news...” Remmy began, motioning to Logan and the other Quinn, but Colin cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“It’s a long story,” he said, “but trust me, I can vouch for them. They helped get me unstuck between dimensions, and they merged all the Kromaggs of the multiverse into one being using Oberon Geiger’s technique. This place was made by me while I was getting unstuck, I shaped it from the untapped energy which remained after the Kromaggs were merged and I was freed. It was meant to be a perpetual prison for the Kromagg creature, but unfortunately you all slid in before the barriers around it had fully formed. We only realised when we tried to follow your quantum trail through the vortex to see which world you were on so I could reunite with you. When we found that your trail ended here I managed to convince Logan to try and free you, but as I said we don’t have much time. We have to get through the portal now before it’s too late...”
“But Colin, I’m not sure I understand,” Maggie interrupted, “you say the Kromaggs have been merged into one being?”
“Again, it’s a long story,” Colin said hastily, “but we’ve wasted enough time on explanations here already, I promise I’ll fill you all in as soon as we get to safety.”
“I’ve got no problem with that,” Mallory stated quickly, striding forward across the shaky ground, moving past Logan and the other Quinn to the portal. “See you all on the other side,” he smiled, then jumped into the vortex and vanished from sight. Diana followed soon after, giving a nervous wave before following Mallory through.
“I hope you’re right about this,” Remmy muttered to Colin, but Colin just smiled.
“Oh I am Remmy, and there’s quite a surprise waiting for you on the other side.” Colin continued to smile as Remmy gave him a quizzical look, then leapt into the vortex. Quinn gave Logan a glare, but she was too preoccupied to return the look. Maggie gave the other Quinn with his painted face an equally withering glare, but he remained stoic and unmoving. Then the long lost lovers, Quinn and Maggie, looked at each other and smiled, locking their hands together in unspoken agreement. Without another word they jumped, hands still locked together, falling side by side into the next world. Colin moved up toward his two companions, smiling.
“Looks like we didn’t have to worry after all,” he smiled, “Kromagg mustn’t be near this area. Everything has gone according to plan.”
“Just hurry it up,” Logan replied curtly. “I can’t keep this portal open much longer.”
The ground was still buckling beneath them as Colin jumped into the vortex, leaving Logan and the alternate Quinn behind. Logan was just about to get her Quinn to jump, then follow after, when they heard a fierce growling roar and turned to see Kromagg stumbling towards them across the quaking ground.
“Go,” Quinn said quietly, his voice low and impassive, and he began to walk towards the creature.
“Quinn,” Logan cried out, “Quinn, what are you doing? We don’t have time for this, we have to get out of here!!”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Quinn replied. “One of us has to keep him occupied so the other can escape. Go Logan, go quickly while you can.”
“Don’t be a fool Quinn,” Logan cried, “we can both get out. Come back!!” But the portal was beginning to lose its shape, falling apart around the edges just as the world around them began to settle back into order, the ground quakes lessening as the walls stabilised around them. “Quinn!!!” Logan screamed, but he was only moments away from the bloodthirsty Kromagg looming down upon them.
“This is my penance,” Quinn cried, “it is what I deserve... what I want.” He turned and looked back at Logan, and his usually impassive features broke into a sudden smile. “Go Logan,” he said, still smiling, “I’ll be fine.” Then the Kromagg was upon him and the two exploded into struggle. Logan felt a tear well in the corner of her eye, but there was nothing she could do, it was what he wanted, he had made his choice. As she dived into the portal her last sight was of Quinn, knocking the roaring Kromagg to the ground, the tribal paint which coated his face cracking as his mouth curved into a wide smile. Behind her the portal closed, and the vortex world sealed forever, leaving Quinn and Kromagg locked in a duel that would never end, a struggle, a penance for them both. Sometimes Quinn would defeat his oppressor, at other times the bloodlust of Kromagg would be sated in its opponents death, but it was a fight neither could truly win. It was a battle that would last until the end of time itself, death and rebirth and endless struggle, over and over, replayed again. And again. And again.
The sun was rising on Earth Prime and a silent group sat upon the hill, watching the warm red light seep over the horizon. Explanations had been given, old friends had been reunited, old battles had finally been laid to rest. The reign of the Kromaggs was finally over. Earth Prime was finally free. And the Sliders were all together again. The sight of Wade and the Professor waiting for them at the other end of the portal had been enough to knock Remmy, Quinn and Maggie speechless. They’d had to listen to their separate stories four times over before they started to believe the truth, started to finally understand that it was over, finally it was all over. They were reunited, all of them, all the Sliders, and they were back home, on Earth Prime, free of the Kromaggs. Free. Forever. All of them free.
Logan sat with Professor Maximilian Arturo, still uncomfortable in the company of the others, her one time enemies not altogether comfortable in her presence either, but tolerating her, since she was the one who had brought them all home. Remmy and Wade sat together, holding hands, inseparable ever since they had found each other again, as were Quinn and Maggie, holding hands and seated on the hill beside them. Nearby sat Quinn’s mother, only just rescued by Maggie and Quinn, who had forced Logan to take them back to Seer’s World to get her. She sat quietly, still shocked at all she had been through, shocked to find herself home and the war finally over, her son back with her at last. Colin, Mallory and Diana sat together. Mallory and Diana knew they could go home to their own world anytime they wanted now, but for the moment they were content to sit quietly, somewhat shocked that their long journey was finished, happily numb as they sat watching the sun rise.
None of them spoke as the land before them was illuminated in the glow of the rising orb, it was a land still cracked and damaged from the Kromagg incursion, but from a distance, lit by the rising sun, it was impossible to think of the sorrows of the past, only the burning hope of the future.
“It’s over,” Quinn whispered, “the long journey that started all those years ago in my basement, it’s finally over.”
“Oh no Mr. Mallory,” the Professor replied, his face beaming, “it’s just beginning. We have a world here to rebuild, but there are others out there who’ve suffered from the Kromaggs too, who could use our help. Interdimensional trade, treaties of help and friendship between the cultures of alternate worlds, these are alliances we should forge. It is how Sliding was meant to be, before we became lost, we were always meant to be explorers, but we should always have had a home to return to. We have that now, have our home, have our happy ending. But it isn’t the end of our adventures, just the beginning of new ones.”
“Happy days,” Wade smiled.
“Here’s to the future,” Remmy smiled back.
“To the future,” they all echoed, and all of them, Quinn, Wade, Remmy, The Professor, Mrs. Mallory, Logan, Colin, Diana and Mallory all looked on as the sun lit the land before them with the promise of a bright tomorrow, a warm red glow which eased their hearts and minds and filled them with the surety that whatever the future held for them it would always be bright, so long as they were together. Friends. Family. Sliders. Finally living happily ever after.