Lost and Found

By SouthernSlider

Originally posted at the JOC Fanatics BBoard

PROLOGUE

Lauren woke suddenly and jerked her eyes open. Then came a deep sigh. "Thunder." she said aloud. She jumped involuntarily as another loud clap sounded almost at the exact second she saw the bright flash through her window. Her hand flew to cover her eyes as another flash followed almost immediately. Another flash, another loud, resonate boom.

Fingers brushed the scar on her cheek. She couldnít help trailing down the scar all the way to her jaw line. It was still tender to the touch, even after a year. Another flash. Another boom. Another jump. And then silence.

She closed her eyes as she heard the beginnings of the rain on the window pane. Pitter pat, pitter pat. Softly at first, no regular rhythm to the sound. Then more, until the sound was constant. A torrent of rain assaulted the window in a matter of minutes.

Lauren allowed her heart to slow its racing as the rain poured steadily outside. Her hearing seemed to be attuned to each individual drop. It was amazing how well she could hear every sound so clearly since the operation. With her eyes in bandages for months, she had needed to rely on her other senses to get her through the ordeal. Her sense of smell and hearing had escalated to new heights. Everything was magnified. And those senses had not diminished since the removal of the bandages and the return of her sight.

CHAPTER ONE

Quinn tumbled out of the vortex and onto the wet ground. As he looked up to watch the others exit, his face was pelted by huge drops of rain. He shielded his eyes with his hand as Remmy fell from the sky, followed by Maggie and then Colin. Remmy hit the ground with a "slosh". Maggie landed on top of him, squishing his body into the mud even further. Remmy grabbed her and rolled just as Colin made his entrance, so as not to be crushed. He landed face down in the mud puddle, much to the amusement of his companions.

"I really do not see the humor in all of this!" Colin said as he tried to rise to his feet. Quinn, Remmy and Maggie were almost doubled over with laughter. "If you need a good laugh, you should take a look at yourselves. I have never seen a better picture of drowned rats!"

"Well, at least we didnít eat mud." Remmy said, between the guffaws of the group. The four of them slipped and slid as they rose to their feet, taking turns laughing at each otherís soaked appearance.

As the laughter subsided, common sense began to take over. "Guys, we have got to find shelter." Quinn piped up.

"And where would that be?" Maggie asked. "Itís the middle of the night!"

"Well, 5:30 am to be exact. There should be a hotel around here somewhere that will take us in. But right now, letís just get out of this downpour." answered Quinn. He was almost yelling to be heard over the rain and thunder. "There, across the street. Under the awning of that store." They ran to their shelter, sloshing through puddles and splattering each other viciously. Not that more water would matter. They were all thoroughly soaked to their skin anyway.

Reaching their destination, Remmy asked, "How much time, Q-ball?" It was the standard question. Always the first thing they wanted to know.

Quinn took the timer from his jacket and peered at the numbers, then showed it to Remmy. "Four days and change." he yelled. The rain battering the metal awning over their heads was almost deafening.

They stood huddled together to wait for the rain to abate. They didnít think there would be a problem for them to just stay right where they were for the moment. The streets were deserted. Daylight was beginning to roll around, and they would look for accommodations soon. A nice, dry room and a warm bath would seem like heaven. Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched.......and recognized.

CHAPTER TWO

Lauren lay in bed, wide awake now, just listening to the rain pounding the roof. Her thoughts ran wild about the day ahead of her. Could she handle it? Would she be able to pull it off? Her doubts made her restless and she threw back the covers and put her feet on the floor.

"I have to make it work." she thought. "Iíve waited a year for this, and I wonít back down on my vow." She rose and went to the window. Dawn was breaking and she wanted to see the first light of the first day of the rest of her life.

The rain would not let up, but it would not dampen her spirits. She finally had landed the job she needed to accomplish her goal. Nothing could stop her now.

She stepped to the window and opened the curtain all the way. The dim light assaulted her eyes. They were still so sensitive to even the least bit of light. She reached for her sunglasses and put them over her eyes. Just then, she saw four figures running from the park to the store across the street.

"Why on earth would anyone be out this early in this weather? Crazy people!" She continued to watch them, to see if they were up to no good. They appeared to be soaked thoroughly so they had to be out in this mess for some time. The tall, handsome young man pulled something from his jacket and showed it to the other guy standing with him. Hmmm. It looked familiar. Another tall good-looking young man, strangely similar-looking to the first, turned around to face her building. Then the other man stepped out from the awning slightly, putting his hand on the guyís shoulder, gesturing in the direction towards the middle of town.

Lauren then gave a sharp intake of breath. "My God! It canít be!" she said aloud. She removed her sunglasses and squinted at the light of day now pouring into the room. She struggled to open her eyes fully to get a better view. The rain was beginning to subside, so the scene in front of her was not as blurred. The young man then stepped completely away from the awning and looked around. He seemed to be looking straight into her window.

Another gasp. "It is! Quinn Mallory! I.....I....canít believe it." she whispered to herself. She stood stock still, taking in the sight before her. "First I land this job...... and now this!" She was almost in a state of shock.

Quinn and Colin were discussing which direction they should take in looking for a hotel. Both agreed it should be to the right, towards downtown. He looked around briefly at his surroundings and as he looked up at the building across from him, he saw a figure in one of the windows, staring back. He hoped she hadnít seen their entrance.

CHAPTER THREE

Maggie came out of the bathroom wrapped in a thick, white hotel bathrobe, toweling off her damp hair. "Okay, guys, next?"

Remmy jumped up, surprising Quinn and Colin that he could move so fast. "Fellows, in this case I apply the old adage, ĎAge before beautyí." And he was behind the closed door to the bathroom before they could reply. Quinn just shook his head, then continued flipping through his magazine.

Maggie walked over to the edge of the bed, kicking a pile of soggy, wet clothing as she passed by. She sat down on the floor cross-legged and started toweling her hair again.

"I donít think Iíve ever seen Remmy move quite that fast." she said.

"Yeah, he was a regular Olympic sprinter." said Quinn. "But, personally, Iím glad he went ahead. I was tired of looking at the caked mud all over his face." He paused, then turned to Colin. "And you can be next, bro. Your face is worse than Remmyís"

"You will not get an argument from me, brother. I will gladly go next." Colin replied.

***********

The refreshed sliders went down to the lobby of the hotel and headed straight for the cafe. It was amazing what a little soap and water could do to change their outlook. They were invigorated and hungry and ready for adventure.

The waiter guided them to a table in front of the window and proceeded to pull the chair out for Maggie as she approached. The other three went to their seats and grabbed menus before they hit the chair. They were starved. Quinn looked up to ask Colin what he might be interested in, but his eyes were drawn past him to a beautiful woman crossing the street headed toward the hotel. He didnít hear Remmyís question as he followed her all the way and saw her enter the hotel lobby.

"Q-ball, are you gonna answer the question, or sit there with your mouth open?" Remmy asked.

"Huh, what? Sorry, Remmy I didnít catch what you said." was the reply.

"No, I guess not. The sight of a beautiful woman does do something to oneís eardrums." Remmy teased, for he had seen the path Quinnís eyes had taken. "I said.........What are our plans after breakfast?" Again, Quinn never heard the question. The lady he had caught sight of through the window had entered the cafe.

*********

Lauren was slightly tall, about 5í9" with thick dark, shoulder-length hair. She had a great figure, long legs, and, as Quinn noticed, a beautiful smile. But as she turned to follow the waiter to her seat, he noticed the scar running down her cheek near the hairline and across her jaw. Somehow, it didnít seem to mar her beauty, but only enhanced it. Quinn couldnít explain that thought, but he just felt it.

Lauren had noticed Quinn and his companions when she came through the door. She had planned to camp out right here until she found them, and now the waiter was taking her right past their table. Quinn had certainly noticed her, but she didnít think his look was a look of recognition. But then, it couldnít possibly be; and that would certainly work to her advantage. She came here to get a good look and to make absolutely sure it was Quinn; and to see if he knew her. It was and he didnít. Now she had to formulate a plan.

As Lauren passed his table, she gave him a very demur smile. He returned it and she knew he was interested. She sat down with a more satisfied smile on her face and went to pick up her menu. At that moment she looked up to see the other young man staring at her. She blinked. He had caught her off-guard. He looked so much like Quinn. But she didnít remember him having a brother. She was sure he never mentioned it. But this guy had to be. Too many similarities not to be.

Colin saw what had gotten Quinnís attention for the first time as she sat down at the table next to them. No wonder he didnít hear Remmyís question. She was beautiful, but for some reason, Colin didnít have the same feeling about this beauty that he normally would. He couldnít put his finger on it, but it was more like admiration, than Ďlustí, for lack of a better word. What was it about her?

CHAPTER FOUR

Remmy, Maggie and Colin decided they wanted to see what this world looked like without a million raindrops pelting them, so they left after breakfast to go exploring. Quinn had told them he was tired and would probably go back to the room after his coffee and take a nap. His real plan was to catch the woman behind him on her way out and to strike up a conversation.

Quinn rose slightly to turn his chair, hoping to be better able to see her out of the corner of his eye. As he did this, he caught the table cloth, dragging it downward and pulling china, silverware, glasses, and a full coffee decanter on to the floor.

"Oh, my goodness!" Lauren gasped, as she had a direct view of what was about to happen.

"Shit!" was Quinnís only comment, but it was loud enough for the entire room to hear. And all turned their heads at the commotion he had created to see him trying desperately to avoid the scalding coffee. To no avail. With everything hitting the floor with a loud crash, the coffee went straight to Quinnís lap. As it quickly soaked through his jeans, he jumped, tripped over the chair and went sprawling all over the floor, landing with his head right at Laurenís feet. If he hadnít been in such pain from the hot liquid, he would have been totally humiliated. But as it was, he could only scream with pain.

Lauren jumped up immediately, and knelt beside Quinn. "Someone please, help! Heís been burned!" she yelled. She knew the immense pain he must be feeling; nightmares of her horrid burns still haunted her. "Bring some baking soda from the kitchen and a wet towel! Now!" was her next command. "We have to get those jeans off of you." she said to Quinn as she reached for the zipper.

"Jesus, lady! What do you think youíre doing?" he grunted through clinched teeth, as he grabbed her hand. His skin was on fire, but he still had some dignity left.

"This is no time for modesty, Qu........er, sir. If we donít get something on that burn now, you could be scarred for life. I know what Iím talking about!" she spat back, almost making the big mistake of calling him Quinn. She hoped he was in so much pain he didnít notice.

So thatís why she had that scar, he thought, grimacing in pain. She returned her hand to his zipper, this time daring Quinn with her glaring eyes to say a word. Just then someone from the kitchen ran up with the things Lauren had demanded and helped her remove Quinnís jeans by pulling at the legs.

"UUUUHHHHHH!" was all Quinn could muster. His leg was burning and little prickles like needles sticking in his leg were starting to take over. She immediately took the towel and put it over the burned area on his leg, then she removed it and applied the baking soda liberally.

"This will help until we can get you to the hospital. The burn has got to be soaked in a saline solution. Your jeans helped; it didnít get on your skin directly." she explained and then turned to the manager to make sure he had called the ambulance. "This man needs attention right away."

"Theyíre on their way, lady. Be here any second." he responded. Just then, they heard the sirens in the distance.

 

Remmy, Maggie and Colin were across the street when the ambulance pulled up to the front doors of the hotel. They stood with other curious on-lookers to see what was going on. Colin noticed the beautiful lady from the cafe coming out beside the gurney and then realized the guy on the gurney was Quinn.

"Itís Quinn!" Colin yelled, and they all took off across the street.

"What happened?" Maggie asked the lady as they picked up the gurney and placed it in the ambulance.

"Q-ball? You alright, man?" yelled Remmy. He didnít answer.

"Uh, hi. Iím Lauren. Youíre friend, here, spilled scalding, hot coffee on himself and burned his leg. I think he will be fine, but he needs medical attention. I did what I could in the cafe, but he needs more." She held out her hand to Maggie as she spoke, sizing her up in the process.

"Hi, Lauren. Iím Maggie. This is Remmy and Colin, Quinnís brother. Thanks for helping. Where are they taking him? We have to go there now." Maggie said.

So that is his brother, Lauren thought. She knew it had to be. But she wondered who these others were. Maggie had not been in the picture before. Was she his new love interest?

"Theyíre taking him to County General. Look, I have my car right across the street. Iíll take you there myself. I would like to see if what little I did helped any. I have an interest in burn victims, as you can see." And she turned her face slightly to show them her scar.

"Thanks, girl. We would really appreciate the ride. And thanks for helping our friend." Remmy said. "Iím really sorry about your burn, but Iím glad you knew enough about it to be able to help."

"Thanks. Iím just glad I was there." Lauren then hustled them over to her car and they proceeded to the hospital to check on Quinn. As she drove, all she could think about was the turn of events that had taken place in the last few hours. Finding Quinn and having this opportunity to get close to him again was a dream come true. She had hoped, but really never thought it would happen.

CHAPTER FIVE

Lauren peered at her watch as she paced impatiently across the hospital waiting room. She hoped they came out with news of Quinn soon. She didnít want to leave before knowing something, but she couldnít be late for her new job. She saw Maggie eyeing her. Lauren supposed she was suspicious of why she was acting so concerned.

Maggie sat on the sofa trying to take her mind off Quinn by looking at one of the out-dated magazines. No such luck. She looked up to see Lauren pacing nervously. What was her story? Why was she so interested in Quinn? Maggie supposed that wasnít really a hard question. Who wouldnít be interested in Quinn? But there was more to it than that. This lady beared watching. And Maggie Beckett was just the one to do it! She wouldnít voice her suspicions to Remmy and Colin just yet. Just bide her time and keep a sharp eye out.

The doctor came through the doors from emergency. All four ran to him simultaneously. "Are you the friends of Mr. Mallory?" he asked.

"Yes. Yes, we are. How is he, doc?" Remmy asked.

"Heís going to be fine. A nasty burn, but it will heal nicely and heíll be no worse for the wear. Whoever helped him at the cafe saved him from being scarred. Smart move with the baking soda." he remarked.

They all turned to look at Lauren, and she blushed just a little. "I guess that would be me. Iíve, uh, had a little experience with burns."

"Well, Iím glad you were there. Made my job easier." the doctor told her.

Maggie was grateful, of course, but it irritated her just a little that Lauren had been the heroine here. She tore her glare away from Lauren to ask the doctor, "When can we see him? Is he awake?"

"Yes, heís quite aware and anxious to talk to all of you. Especially, the lady who helped him at the cafe. He was very adamant about speaking with you." the doctor explained as he turned to Lauren.

Lauren took that opportunity to make a request. "Look, I know heís your friend and I just arrived on the scene, but would you mind if I went in to see him first? I really want to speak with him, but I have a new job to go to today, and if I wait around much longer I will be late. Would you mind?"

The three looked at each other, and then Remmy spoke, "I...guess not. We do kind of owe you, you know."

"Thank you. I wonít take up too much of his time. I know youíre anxious to see him." Lauren said, and took Remmyís hand and squeezed it. Then she left, following the doctor through the double doors and down the hall towards Quinnís room.

Colin looked after her, a serious look on his face.

"Farm-boy, whatís the matter? You not want her going in there first?" Remmy asked when he noticed his pensive look.

"No. No, that is not a problem. I just have a nagging feeling about her. I can not put my finger on it, but there is something about her. I guess you think I am crazy." he answered.

Maggie piped in. "No, Colin, not at all. I have had the same feeling. Iím going to watch this woman like a hawk. You can count on it. And I think we need to head down to that room and be waiting outside when she comes out."

"Maggie, youíre just jealous. And maybe you are too, Farm-boy. Wish she was giving you all that attention." Remmy said, teasingly. Maggie whacked him on the arm and Colin just rolled his eyes.

"No, Remmy, seriously." Colin responded. "When I saw her in the cafe, I just had this strange feeling come over me about her. I really can not explain it at all. She has not done anything out of the ordinary, but there is just this feeling that........I just do not know."

"Well, while you two are wrestling with "your feelings", Iím going down to check on Q-ball." Remmy said, shaking his head. He slapped Colin on the back and turned and headed in the direction Lauren had gone earlier. Maggie and Colin just looked at each other, understanding what the other felt, and left to follow Remmy.

***********

Lauren pushed the door open slowly and peeked her head around the corner. "Okay, if I come in?" she said softly.

Quinn pushed himself up into a better sitting position. "Yes, please, do come in. I have some thanking to do." Quinn replied, as she stepped all the way into the room and closed the door.

"Of course not. It was nothing." she answered shyly as she made her way to the side of his bed.

"Well, it was something to me. I really appreciate all your help. I like my leg and donít want it all scarred up." Quinn bit his tongue at that last remark he made about scarring. Why the hell did he have to say that! How insensitive could he be! He could tell it had affected her. He let out his breath. "I.....am sorry about that. I didnít mean....." He started trying to apologize, but Lauren cut him off.

"No apology necessary, Quinn. Of course, you donít want your leg scarred. I understand." she said, lowering her eyes.

"But it was very insensitive of me." He took her hand in his, causing her to look into his eyes. "I am sorry." He paused a moment, then continued, her hand still in his. "Were you burned badly?"

She removed her hand suddenly, and turned away from him. "Yes, it was quite traumatic. My eyes were in bandages for quite some time. There was a chance I would never see again." Then she turned back to him. "But everything turned out just fine. I see as well as I ever did. I just have this small reminder, thatís all."

He saw that she was not going to offer any more information, so he decided it best to drop the subject before he made any more asinine comments. "I donít even know your name." he said softly.

She smiled. "Lauren. Lauren Chambers."

"Well, thank you, Lauren Chambers, for helping me and for being here to see how I faired." He smiled a big grin her way.

"Youíre very welcome, Quinn Mallory." She returned his grin with a shy smile. "And now I think Iíve taken up enough of your time for the moment. You have some friends outside that were gracious enough to let me come in first, since I have to get to work. I shouldnít overstay my welcome. They are anxious to see you."

"Well, you didnít overstay your welcome at all, but I donít want to keep you from your job. But please say that I will see you again. I donít know how long Iíll be here, but if I leave soon, Iím staying at the hotel we were at earlier. Is there a way I can contact you?" He hoped she would say yes.

"I will call here later and if you are gone, I will call the hotel, and maybe we can discuss having dinner together." she said.

"That would be great! And thanks again. Really." was his response. He was so glad she had brought up having dinner.

She headed towards the door and turned back to him with a smile. "Your welcome." And she left. Remmy and Maggie thanked her as she came out, but Colin just raced through the door to see his brother.

As Lauren left the hospital, she was buoyed by the fact that Quinn was so receptive to her. She hoped they could have dinner tonight, but he might not be up for that yet. Hmmmmm. Maybe dinner in his room at the hotel. That would be even better. She could snoop around a little and gather some information. She knew she might not have a lot of time. They could be leaving soon. That would be the first thing she would have to drag out of him. How long were they going to be here?

And how quick would she have to work to get what she wanted?

CHAPTER SIX

Quinn stayed the rest of the day in the hospital. But after dinner, when his burns were checked, the doctor seemed to think he was doing fine and told him he could leave. He was given some antibiotics for infection and was told how and when to dress the wound. Since tight blue jeans were out of the question, Maggie had gone out and purchased some loose sweatpants for him to wear back to the hotel. He sat in the room now, waiting to hear from Lauren.

 

Lauren unlocked the door to her apartment, tossed her purse and keys aside and headed straight for the phone. She sat down on the sofa, slipped off her shoes and grabbed the phone book to look up the hotelís number.

Before she opened the book, she started reflecting back on her day. New job, finding Quinn. Destiny! The job..........all went well actually. Roger Davidson, her immediate boss, was very helpful in getting her settled and informed. Boy, would he be surprised when he found out what she had in store for that place. He already knew she had a lot to offer, but this! Quinn had fallen right into her lap.......again. And this time she would not let him get away.

She found the number, picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello?" she heard after only one ring. It was Quinnís voice.

"Well, you must have had your hand on the receiver." she stated. "This is Lauren. I trust you are okay, since you are there and not at the hospital."

"Hi, Lauren. Iím so glad you called. Iím fine. The doctor said he didnít see any need to keep me. I can rest here as well as there. Probably better."

"Iím glad youíve been released. Have you eaten?" she asked.

"I was at the hospital. What do you think?" he joked. "My friends left just a few minutes ago to go and get something, but I was hoping you would call, so I told them not to bring me anything."

"Well, sit tight. I will be there shortly with plenty of food for both of us." she answered, then told him good-bye, slipped her feet back into her shoes, and left her apartment.

 

Lauren parked in the hotel parking lot and exited her car with a bag in each hand. As she entered the hotel, she was spotted by Remmy, Maggie and Colin from across the street. They had just been seated at a sidewalk cafe and were about to order from the menu.

"I donít like this." Maggie almost growled.

"Maybe we shouldnít stay here." Colin said. "Maybe we should just go back to the room."

"Um...um...um. You two are crazy!" said Remmy. "What has that beautiful girl done to make you guys so suspicious of her? This is getting out of hand!" He picked up his menu and opened it. "You two can go back if you want, but the Cryiní Man is here to stay until his belly is full." He paused and then continued. "And somehow I think you would be causing more trouble than you would prevent if you go back to that room. Q-ball told us she might be coming by and you could tell by his voice, thatís exactly what he wanted.......her and not us. Now get a grip, guys, and letís order. Iím starved!"

Maggie and Colin yielded to Remmyís near tirade and picked up their menus. They exchanged still-worried glances, but neither said a word.

 

Lauren knocked on the door and heard a voice say to come on in, that is wasnít locked. She turned the knob and entered with her bundles. Quinn was sitting up on the sofa, propped against some pillows. He wore a t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts that hit just above his bandage. She walked over to the chair next to the sofa and unloaded her bundles onto the coffee table.

"I hope youíre hungry. I had ĎThe Roadhouse Bar and Grillí fix up a steak, grilled to perfection, with a tossed salad and baked potato." She started pulling containers from the bag. "And their best beer. Smoothest there is, around these parts." she added, as she pulled the bottles out of the other bag.

"Lauren, this is great! I am starved, but you didnít have to do all of this." he said

She smiled as she began to set everything out for him. "Of course, I didnít...........but I wanted to. Now, does this look like everything? What else do you need? Can you eat comfortably in that position? Can I help move you to a better one?" Her questions rolled out, one after the other. She guessed it was her nervousness at what she was going to do. And she hoped it was not so obvious to Quinn.

"Lauren! Everything is fine. You donít have to fuss so. Really......Iím fine. Please, just sit down and enjoy this with me." he begged, and gestured for her to sit in the chair.

"Just let me get these beers into these mugs I brought. I donít like beer from a bottle. Just a funny little quirk, I guess." She scooped up the 2 bottles and went to the table in the corner of the room. As she poured the beer, she took a peek over her shoulder to see what Quinn was doing. Thank goodness he was fussing over his food and not looking at her. Now was the perfect time. She took the capsule from her pocket, broke it open and dumped the contents into the liquid. Then she quickly deposited the capsule back into her pocket and scooped up the two mugs.

"Here you go." she said, sitting them on the table in front of Quinn.

"Hmmmmmmm. Now, that, I could use." he said, picking up the mug. He raised his mug towards Lauren. "Hereís to beautiful, intelligent women who know how to take care of burns." And he took a big swallow.

Lauren smiled, and raised her glass too, then watched him down a good portion of his drink. Her smile turned from shy and demur to almost evil. Heíll be gone in fifteen minutes, she thought, and took a big swallow from her mug too.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Lauren unlocked her car and lifted the handle. Just then an arm reached out and prevented the door from opening.

"May I speak with you for a moment?" said a voice behind her. She jumped and jerked around to find Colin standing behind her.

She gasped. "Oh, my God. You scared me to death!" she said breathlessly.

"I am sorry. I did not mean to startle you so." he answered.

After dinner Remmy and Maggie had decided to walk down the street to the movie theater and catch the show. Colin had begged off, saying he really didnít feel up to a movie and just wanted to walk around for a while. They tried to convince him, but he stood his ground. They then left him to his own devices and told him they would see him back at the room.

He meandered around the town for over an hour before he caught sight of Lauren exiting the building. He figured this would be the perfect opportunity to feel her out and see if his and Maggieís suspicions had any basis. As he crossed the street, he noticed Laurenís actions seemed a little animated. She seemed nervous and in a hurry to get away. He was anxious to get upstairs to see if Quinn was alright, but he did not want her to leave without speaking to her. They didnít even know her last name or where to find her. As she unlocked her car door, Colin decided to pin her down with some questions. He was glad she had not seen him approaching. Better to catch her off guard.

 

"I,...uh, didnít know anyone else was around." she said, trying to breath normally again; and so desperately wanting to make a quick exit.

"I was across the street when I saw you come out of the hotel. I did not thank you properly today for helping my brother." Colin told her. Why was she acting so nervous? he thought.

"Thatís, uh.... quite alright. I know you, uh, were anxious to speak with him yourself, and I.... had to hurry to work." she stammered. Get a grip! she said, mentally, and tried to control her shaking hands.

Colin noticed her trembling, figuring it was not because she was cold. He took her hands in his. "Are you okay? Is something wrong? My brother did not .....do anything, did he?"

Her eyes widened. "No! No, he...uh, heís fine. I guess Iím just still shaken by your sudden appearance. You really scared me, you know." she said, trying frantically to waylay his suspicions.

"I am sorry. Would you let me make it up to you by buying you a drink.....or some coffee? The cafe across the street would be just right for some conversation." He hoped she would agree. Maybe by talking at length to her he could put a label on his suspicions.

Lauren so wanted to get out of here, but she needed to keep Colin away from that room a little longer. She had no choice; she was trapped. She knew he would head that way if she left. "Uh, sure,....that would be great." she said, then returned her keys to her purse.

"Wonderful." Colin answered. He let go of her hands and put his at her back to guide her across the street.

 

Maggie and Remmy exited the theater and headed back up the street towards the hotel. "You want some coffee or something before we head to the room?" Remmy asked.

Maggie looked at her watch. "No, I donít think so. Weíve given Quinn enough time with that woman. I want to go check on him." she answered. Remmy didnít argue or make any comment about what she said. She was glad, because she was not in the mood to justify her suspicions any more.

As they came up the sidewalk and were about to cross the street to the hotel, Maggie noticed Colin sitting at one of the tables outside the little cafe. And there she was. Lauren! Sitting right there with him. She looked at Remmy. He hadnít noticed the pair, so she nudged him, and gestured with her head to look in that direction. At that moment, Colin saw the two of them and made a motion pointing to the hotel, while Lauren wasnít looking.

"Whatís Farm-boy doing?" Remmy asked, puzzled.

"Heís pointing across the street." she said. "Quinn! We need to go check on Quinn!" And she started running toward the hotel. Remmy looked once more at Colin and saw the gesture again, and figured Maggie was right. He turned and trotted across the street to catch her.

Maggie burst into the room and found Quinn lying on the sofa. Asleep? Unconscious? Dead? Which? "QUINN!" she screamed, and slapped him on the cheek. "Quinn! Wake up!" jostling him a little. Nothing. She placed two fingers at his neck to check for a pulse. Remmy then ran into the room.

"My, God! Is he dead?" he asked almost in a panic.

"No, heís got a pulse. Unconscious. She must have drugged him." Maggie answered. "Bitch. I knew it. I knew there was something about her!"

"Well, why the hell would she drug him? What does she want?" Remmy asked. They both looked at each other just as he finished the question and simultaneously said. "The timer!"

Maggie jumped up. "Check around here for it. Iím going down there now and get her before she leaves!"

"Hey, but what about Q-ball?" Remmy asked as he rose.

"Heíll be fine, she just slipped him a mickey. Heíll wake up soon. You just look for that timer!" she yelled as she ran out the door.

 

On the street, Lauren and Colin had just risen and were about to leave when Colin saw Maggie running out of the hotel. He knew that was not a good sign. Before he could even say anything to Lauren, Maggie was on them.

"Okay, you little bitch! What did you do to Quinn.....and why?" she growled at her, grabbing her arm.

Colin was taken aback. "Maggie! What are you doing?" he asked, then realized what she said. "Is Quinn alright?"

"He will be, but Iím not so sure about you!" she spat out as she glared at Lauren.

Lauren glared right back at Maggie. "Let go of me! What are you talking about? I havenít done anything to Quinn!" She tried to jerk her arm free, planning to make a run for her car, but when she did, she lost her footing and fell backwards. She dropped her purse as she was falling to try and grab on to something. It hit the ground, contents spilling all over the sidewalk. As Lauren hit the ground also, her eyes fell on the timer that lay amid the other items from her purse. She looked up to see that Maggie and Colin had spotted it too.

Maggie bent to retrieve it. "And just where the hell did you get this?" she spat out, as Colin went to help Lauren to her feet. She just looked at them, a little wild-eyed and mouth agape. Colin put a death-grip on her arm.

"I think you have some explaining to do. I think we should go see Quinn and maybe call the police." he said with a very determined look in his eye. He was much stronger than she and she knew she had no defense. There was no way she could get away from this man. The trio then moved across the street, with Laurenís arm locked in the vice of Colinís hand.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Quinn sat on the edge of the couch holding his head in his hands. Remmy was trying to pump him full of the coffee he had just made.

"I canít believe she did this to me! What on earth for?" Quinn kept questioning Laurenís actions and unfortunately neither he nor Remmy had any answers.

"Maybe Maggie and Colin can shed some light on the subject when they return. I hope Maggie made it down there before she left." Remmy told him. He had tried to explain the events that had occured over the entire day. He wanted Quinn to know of Maggieís and Colinís apprehension about Lauren.

"What did she do to make them feel something was wrong?" he asked.

"I donít know, man. I asked them that over and over and they couldnít give me an answer. Kept saying there was just something about her. What, I donít know. But I guess they were right." Remmy said, as he poured Quinn more coffee.

The door opened and in storms Maggie, with Colin close behind and Lauren still in his grip. Quinn raises his head slightly to see the entrance, but returns his head to his hands as he tries to stop the throbbing.

"Quinn! Youíre awake. Thank God! Are you alright?" Maggie asked urgently as she went straight to his side.

Colin escorted Lauren to the chair next to the sofa and pushed her into it unceremoniously. It was out of character for him to be so forceful on a lady, but he was upset that she had tried to harm his brother, and she really wasnít acting much like a lady anyway. As this was occurring, Quinn turned to Maggie to answer her question.

"Iím...going to be..fine." he said, haltingly. "I just have a pounding headache!" He then put his fingers to his temples and pressed hard, hoping to relieve some of the pressure that was building inside. And his leg was beginning to throb too. He wasnít sure which felt worse, his head or his leg. Then he looked up at Lauren. "What the hell did you do this for?" he asked.

Before she could open her mouth to answer, Maggie flipped the timer onto the coffee table in front of Quinn. "Thatís what she did it for!" she said, very clipped. "Now we just have to find out why. And how the hell she even knew about it. This was obviously planned. She didnít just happen to see it laying around and get curious about it."

Remmy turned an astonished face toward Lauren. Colin stood behind the chair with his hands on her shoulders. He didnít want her to get the idea that she could get out of this.

"I think you had better start talking, girl. You have some explaining to do." Remmy said, surprising himself at how calm he sounded.

Lauren looked from Remmy, to Maggieís hateful glare, to Quinn. She felt the grip of Colinís hands on her shoulders. She knew she was caught and was not going to get out of it. Nothing came to mind. What could she say to them, but the truth? The truth. How would Quinn react to knowing who she really was? Maybe....just maybe, she could still get something out of this, even with the truth.

"Youíre right. I did know about the timer. I know youíre sliders." she started.

At that revelation, the quartet looked around at each other and then Quinn asked, "How do you know that, Lauren?"

"Because Iím not Lauren Chambers. At least I wasnít on my world." she answered. "Iím you, Quinn. Or should I say the female you."

Colin released his grip from her shoulders and came around to look at her. Maggie looked at Quinn with a very perplexed face and said, "What? What did she say?"

"Logan! Itís really you?!" Quinn gasped.

"Oh, my Lord!" was Remmyís only reply.

"You...you know this person?!" Maggie said, startled even more. "A female Quinn Mallory!? This is crazy!" She jumped up from the sofa and started walking around the room in disbelief.

Quinn followed Maggieís pacing with his eyes for a moment, almost amused at her reaction, then he turned his attention back to Logan.

"Itís true girl. Believe it." Remmy assured her.

Colin sat down on the corner of the coffee table right in front of Lauren. "You are a female double of my brother? How interesting? How is this possible?"

"Well, as the professor told me the first time we encountered her, ĎItís the difference between an x and y chromosome, my boy!í" Quinn piped in.

Colin looked toward Quinn at that remark and smiled his crooked smile. Then he looked back to Logan, looking her over, up and down. She felt like a lab rat. "This is very interesting." he said.

She had had enough, and jumped up out of the chair. "Look if you wouldnít mind. I donít care to be examined like some lab experiment!"

Colin rose to apologize. "I am sorry, but I did not know that this was possible. It is very intriguing."

Maggie had grown more irritated by the minute. "Look, can we just cut to the chase here. What the hell is going on?!"

"Yes, Logan. That is my question too." Quinn told her. "And as Remmy said, ĎYouíve got some explaining to do.í So why donít you just have a seat and do just that. Youíre not leaving here until we get some answers."

Logan looked around the room to each one and saw the determined looks in their eyes. She knew she had to tell them something. Maybe she could reveal just enough of the truth to get what she wanted and leave the rest as a trump card, ..........just in case.

CHAPTER NINE

Lauren proceeded to tell them all about her travails since she had been sucked into the vortex the last time she saw Quinn. She had been spit out of the other end of the vortex right into the street in front of a raging fire. Debris was flying everywhere. Lauren was hit and knocked unconscious. She suffered 2nd degree burns on her face and arms and was in and out of the hospital for several months. Plastic surgery had to be performed on her face, and her eyes were damaged, but not to the point of blindness. Miracles had been performed on her. She took that as a sign that she was saved for a reason. And now that reason seemed to present itself.

They all sat and listened to her every word. Colin and Remmy seemed to feel much compassion towards her. At one time, she almost broke into tears during her explanation. Colin reached over and took her hand, squeezing gently to let her know he cared. He knew he had felt some kind of connection to her earlier. It surprised him somewhat, that it was a brotherly connection.

Maggie and Quinn, on the other hand, were very skeptical. Maggie, by nature, and Quinn, because he was familiar with her evil ways. He knew what she was capable of and didnít trust her for a minute. He would have to warn Colin sternly, about her. Quinn could see she was getting to him.

After pausing for a moment to compose herself, she continued telling her story. She even let them know about International Communications Industries, just not everything for the moment. That would come later. Right now she needed to tell them just enough to squelch some of the suspicions they had about her since her little escapade, and enough to peak their interest in the technology of this world. She had heard enough while waiting in the emergency room to know they were still sliding randomly. Just like last time, she could help them and they could help her. But unlike last time, she would not let Quinn get the best of her again.

"This is all very fine and good, but you just drugged your double to get the timer from him." Maggie said as she rose from the sofa, hands placed on her hips. "This is you!" pointing to Quinn. "How can you do this to yourself? And why?"

Quinn winced. Her yelling was causing his head to throb again. He pulled at her to sit down. "Uh, Maggie, could we hold it down to a low roar. Sheís evil, but sheís not hard of hearing."

Now it was Laurenís turn to jump up and yell in disgust. "Look, I donít have to stay here and take this abuse." Quinn winced at her loud words and groaned. It didnít stop her. "Iíve answered your question. You know who I am, and why I did what I did. Quinn, you know I want your sliding technology. And I surely didnít think you would just hand it to me. You know I have different reasons now for wanting it. Not the same as before. I want to go home, Quinn. With your timer and my work at International, I could get there. Now, can I please go? Or are you going to call the police? You have your precious timer, and I am at your mercy."

Maggie looked incredulous. "You donít really believe weíre just going to let you walk out of here, do you?"

"Uh, Maggie, just what do we do with her?" Colin asked. "We can not turn her over to the police. They would want to know about us."

"Farm-boyís got a point, Maggie." Remmy interjected.

"Yes." Quinn agreed. "We canít call the police in on this. No matter what she did to me."

"So, you can just let me go home. I have a job to do at International. Iím not going to disappear on you. You know I want you there to help me out, and in turn, I can help you." Lauren told them, hoping they were about to give in and leave her alone.

"Been there, done that. Donít think I want to go that route again." Quinn replied. "Thatís what got you in this mess in the first place, Logan. Youíre evil, conniving ways almost cost you your life."

"I have a suggestion." Colin spoke up. "I will go with Lauren,.....uh, Logan,.....to her place and keep an eye on her. She can take me to work with her and I can see what is going on. I will say I am her brother, visiting from out of town."

Logan looked startled. She didnít need someone looking over her shoulder and was about to protest. But on second thought, maybe she could use Colin to her advantage, so she kept her mouth shut.

"Now that just might be a good idea." Remmy said.

"Are you kidding?" was Maggieís response.

Quinn was in agreement. "I donít know about that Colin. You donít know this woman."

"I can take care of myself, Quinn." Colin answered. "I know she tried to drug you, and I will be on my guard. Besides, she needs our help. She will not jeopardize that possibility by trying to do anything to me."

Quinn raked his fingers through his hair. "Donít count on it brother. She can not be trusted."

Logan finally decided to speak. "Although Iím not too fond of having a shadow, he is right. I do need your help; and if having me watched will improve your trust in me, then I will not object." She hoped this would ease their distrust just a little; just enough to agree to having Colin go with her. This just might be the best thing that could happen!

After several minutes of a war within, Quinn finally relented and agreed that Colin should go home with Logan. But he warned him sternly to be on his guard every second. Maggie was outraged and stormed out of the room. Remmy decided to go after her and try to calm her down.

"If Iím not back in a few minutes, please send the meat wagon for me." he said, almost half serious.

Quinn turned to Logan and with all the constraint he could muster, warned her that if any thing happened to Colin......even so much as one hair lost from his head........he would kill her and not think twice in the doing. Maybe they were not so different after all.....she thought. She could do the same to Quinn.

CHAPTER TEN

Logan unlocked the door to her apartment and gestured for Colin to enter. As he walked around, he saw a nicely furnished place, with a great view of the park, where they had entered this world, below. Lauren set her purse and keys on the table by the door and proceded to inform Colin on where he could find things.

"The kitchen is to the right, with juice in the fridge and a coffeemaker and coffee on the counter. Iím afraid this is just a one-bedroom apartment, so you will have to sleep on the sofa. The restroom is that door on the left." she explained.

"This is fine Lauren....uh, Logan. I have stayed in worse places, for sure. By the way, what should I call you?" replied Colin.

"Well, this world only knows me as Lauren. If you say Logan, there would certainly be questions from others." she answered.

"Then Lauren, it is." he said, and went to sit down.

She watched him as he walked to the sofa, then moved to sit beside him. "Look, Colin. Iím really not as evil as your brother makes me out to be." she said, trying to be just a little shy. She needed to score points with him and Colin didnít seem the type to go for a forceful woman. "On my world, there were circumstances that dictated I do certain things. It was getting to be a desperate situation. People do crazy things when they are desperate." She lowered her eyes and fidgeted with her hands.

"Like tonight." was his simple reply.

She looked up into his eyes, and tried to display a very shy smile. "Yes." she answered meekly. "I...didnít intend to hurt Quinn. I just needed to get that timer. And I knew he wouldnít just hand it over.......not with our track record." She slowly placed her hand over Colinís and gave him her best demur look. "I am truly sorry for the deceit. You know you have nothing to fear from me."

Colin looked down at the small feminine hand covering his. He swallowed hard and looked up into Laurenís eyes. "I think maybe we both should get some sleep. It has been a long day for both of us, and tomorrow will prove to be the same."

Lauren smiled, then rose to go and get sheets, a blanket and a pillow for Colin. As she left the room, the smile turned into an evil grin as she thought of what she could accomplish with Quinnís brother. "This just keeps getting better and better." she said to herself. She retrieved the items she needed from the linen closet and headed back to Colin with a very satisfied look on her face.

***********

Maggie came bursting through the door with Remmy close behind. Well, at least he made it back alive, Quinn thought. But the way she looked, he wasnít sure either of them was safe in this room with her.

"I still cannot believe you just let Colin walk off with that...that....... evil incarnate of yourself! Are you out of your mind?! You know what sheís capable of and you know how naive Colin is. How could you be so..." Maggie was on a tirade from the second she walked in.

"Maggie! Would you stop for just one minute!" Quinn interrupted. "My head is pounding enough without any help from you! Can we just sit down here and calm down?"

Maggieís face just grew redder. She stalked around the room for a few more seconds, then finally plopped herself down on the sofa beside Quinn. She opened her mouth to say something and he saw it was going to be another tirade, so he threw his hand up to silence her.

"Look, Maggie." Remmy interjected. "Farm-boy can be a bit naive sometimes, but weíve all seen him take care of himself. Remember that crazy western world where Quinn and I were hung? Colin took care of things just fine there."

"Look you two. Out-gunning a Kromagg is one thing, but dealing with an evil female is something no man can win at. Colin is out of his league here, and you two handed him to her on a silver platter!" Maggie argued.

Quinn rose and walked over towards the window. "She may be right Remmy. I donít have a good feeling about this. Do you remember the last time we saw her? She was ready to kill Wade. In fact, she did fire the gun. Only the vortex saved it from happening." He paused. "She was very willing to kill someone that she knew meant the world to me. And now I have just turned my brother over to her. How stupid can I get?"

Remmy came up behind him and put his hand on Quinnís shoulder. "Itíll be alright Q-ball. She wonít do anything tonight. She needs our help again. Weíll play along with her and get Colin out of her clutches before any harm comes to him."

"I hope youíre right, Remmy." he answered. "I do hope youíre right."

************

Colin lay back on the pillow, hands clasped behind his head. Lauren was going to be tough. But if he played his cards right, everything would be just fine.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Lauren awoke to the bright sun shining through her window. She let her sensitive eyes adjust and then rose to see if Colin was awake yet. When she peered through the door, she could see him still laying on the sofa......one long, lanky leg off the sofa and his arm across his eyes. She tip-toed softly toward him to get a better look.

"Good morning." Colin said, never moving a muscle.

Lauren jumped. "OH!" she squealed. "Do you always have to scare me like that? First last night, and now! I thought you were still asleep!"

He sat up and stared at the sight before him. Seeing as how she thought him sound asleep, she didnít bother to put on her robe, so she stood there in a very revealing pale blue satin and lace negligee.

"Uh, no. I have been awake for quite some time now." he said softly, while almost mesmerized by what he saw. "Just thought I would lay here until you were awake, so I would not disturb you." His breathing was becoming a little heavier. He stood up and walked toward the window. "I think maybe we should get dressed for work." he said, staring straight ahead.

Lauren looked down, suddenly realizing her state of undress. Then she looked up and saw Colinís red face, and a smile slowly spread across hers. She didnít plan this, but maybe now would be a good time to see just how far she could get with him. She slowly padded across the floor in her bare feet and came up behind Colin, putting her hand on his shoulder.

"Itís still quite early, Colin. We donít have to be at work for 3 hours." she whispered. She felt and saw him stiffen at her touch. She moved her hand slowly down his arm to his wrist, then turned him to face her. As she did so, she leaned in just enough so that his arm brushed across her breast. She smiled.

Colin looked at her, face flushed. But she misinterpreted the redness. He grabbed her wrist as she attempted to bring her hand up to his face. The lock he had on her almost cut off the circulation. Calmly, but sternly, he said, "Lauren, you are making a mistake. You are like my sister. And even if you were not, you would get nowhere with me at this time. Please, go get dressed and save us both any further embarrassment."

Now it was Laurenís turn to become red-faced. She jerked her wrist free, let out a growl of disgust and stomped off to her room. Colin smiled ever so slightly and shook his head as she slammed the door. He had felt that she would try something like that sooner or later. He just didnít think it would be this soon. Thank goodness it had entered his mind. If he had been caught off-guard by her, he might not have had the presence of mind to resist. Colin turned to face the window again, and made a mental note to stay very aware of this woman at all times.

****************

Quinn paced back and forth in front of the window. His leg ached, but he could not let that hinder him. Nor could he wait much longer for Maggie! "Will you hurry it up in there?! We need to get going. I want to check on Colin!" he yelled through the bathroom door. It opened immediately.

"Will you keep your shirt on? Iím coming!" Maggie yelled back. "Whereís Remmy?

"He went downstairs to the coffee shop twenty minutes ago. Letís go!" Quinn limped towards the door, with Maggie close behind. She frowned at his gait.

"Quinn, maybe you had better stay off that leg. Remmy and I can do this." Maggie suggested.

"If you think Iím going to sit in this hotel room while my brother is in the clutches of that depraved woman, then youíre insane. I put him in her hands with my blessing and now I am going to get him out." he replied, and opened the door to leave. Maggie quickly followed behind, a little miffed at his stubborness, yet admiring him at the same time.

They found Remmy in the coffee shop, then left immediately for International Communications Industries. Lauren had told them she had to be at work by 9:00. Quinn hoped they would arrive at about the same time she and Colin did. He wanted Colin away from her before they ever got in the building.

He mentally kicked himself everytime he thought about what he had done last night. How could he have let Colin leave with her alone. His leg obviously caused him to think irrationally; either that or he was just as naive as they all thought Colin to be. Naive or stupid! He wasnít sure which one.

The taxi pulled into the International compound and deposited its riders at the front door. Quinn looked at his watch.......8:45. They should be arriving at any time. The man at the entrance gate said that Miss Chambers had not arrived yet. He paced, lop-sided, because of his throbbing leg, on the sidewalk. Maggie and Remmy were just as nervous, but tried to hide it from Quinn. He had been in such a state on the ride over. They didnít want to add to his guilt.

Quinn stopped and stared at his watch again..........8:55. Where were they? Surely she would be on time for just her second day on the job. He felt the knot in his stomach growing larger, and closed his eyes to try and stop the spinning in his head. When he opened them again and saw 9:00 on his watch, he couldíve sworn time was standing still. He felt like he had been waiting here for hours.

"Theyíre not coming. I know something is wrong." he voiced.

"Itís just now 9:00, Q-ball. Maybe sheís just not a prompt woman." Remmy said, trying to ease his mind just a little.

"No, she would be here now, if she were coming. That woman had a plan up her sleeve from the beginning and now she has Colin to help her carry it out. How COULD I be so stupid!?" he chided himself. But what could he do now?

CHAPTER TWELVE

Lauren didnít have time to play games. She knew Quinn and his companions were scheduled to leave sometime day after tomorrow. And Colin wasnít going to be the push-over she had, at first, thought. That shy, gentle demeanor masked a determined inner strength and intelligence. She would have to use her best tactics to overcome his quick mind and levelheadedness. And throwing herself at him was definitely not going to be the way to go.

As she dressed, her mind went on a rampage, coming up with different directions she could take to accomplish her goal. She heard Colin in the bathroom washing up and getting ready. Hmmm. A quick phone call might do the trick. She pulled the cell phone from her purse and dialed the number to his office.

"Hello, Roger? Itís Lauren. ...... Remember that little story I told you about what I did before I came here? ........ Yes, well, a recent opportunity has just fallen into my lap and I want to act on it now. ......... Three people are going to show up there about 9:00 looking for me and a friend I have with me here. He is their friend too, and they will be very concerned about him, Iím sure. This is what I want you to do."

Lauren proceeded to tell her boss, but more importantly, her future partner, the plan she had in mind. Luckily, she had pegged him right. He thought very much like her and was willing to go along with what she wanted to do. Thank goodness all men werenít like the Mallory brothers. But thank goodness she was, in some respects. She would use her Mallory intelligence and stubborness, and her feminine wiles to get Roger to do her bidding. And that would put home only a few days away and the Mallorys would be gone forever. When she finished her conversation with Roger, she felt on top of the world. Now..........to tackle Colin.

**************

Quinn had turned around on his last leg of pacing and was headed to the entrance when a man exited and approached them. Maggie and Remmy looked at each other and hoped this was not going to be a confrontation.

"Are you Quinn Mallory?" Roger asked as he came close to the trio.

Quinn was surprised the man knew his name, but answered quickly. "Yes.....I am."

Roger extended his hand. "Hi, Iím Roger Davidson.........Laurenís boss." Quinn shook his hand, then proceeded to introduce Maggie and Remmy. "Hi, folks." he repeated to the two. "Uh, look.....Lauren just called from home and said she would be arriving a little late. Seems she had a rather late night with an out-of-town guest and they overslept......if you know what I mean." Roger nudged Quinn and smiled, then continued. "She said that the three of you were to meet her here to discuss the plans for the new project Iíve put her in charge of."

Quinn, Remmy and Maggie all looked at each other, almost with panic.....especially Quinn. What the hell had she done to Colin? If she had seduced him and put his life in danger, he would strangle her with his bare hands.

Roger saw the looks on their faces, but pretended everything was fine. "I was asked to escort you to her office to wait for her. She shouldnít be more than 20 minutes late. I do apologize for her tardiness, but she said you were all good friends as well as colleagues from her last place of employment, so you would understand. I hope that is true."

Maggie spoke up. "Yes, no problem at all. We know Lauren very well..........donít we, guys." she said, giving them Ďa lookí. "We will just wait for her inside. And maybe get a peek at your facilities?"

"Yes, I would love to show you around." He proceeded to the door, opening it for Maggie and gesturing for the gentlemen to enter as well. He would show them some superficial areas and then leave them to Laurenís office to await her arrival and her surprise.

*************

Lauren paced the floor of her bedroom and looked at her watch for what seemed like the hundredth time. Where was he? She was afraid she couldnít stall Colin much longer without raising suspicion; and she needed to catch him off-guard. She heard the doorbell ring. Thank God! she thought. It was about time! She exited the bedroom, heading for the door as calmly as possible.

"Iíll just see who this is, Colin, and then weíll leave for work." she said as she passed by him.

"That will be fine." he answered.

She opened the door and ushered in Tommy, a big hulking guy that worked as a guard at International. She took a deep breath and hoped her acting skills were up to par. "Tommy! Oh, I completely forgot that I had asked for help in transfering the boxes of my research work from home to the office." she said, with as much surprise as she could muster. "Please, do come in."

She ushered him in as she spoke. "Colin, this is Tommy from my office. Tommy,......Colin, a good friend." Tommy walked over to him and offered his hand. When Colin took it, Tommy locked his grip on Colin and flipped his arm around behind his back, rendering him helpless.

"Sorry, fellow, but I got orders!" he spat out as he put handcuffs on Colin and then shoved him over to the sofa. Colin had no defense as he turned and saw a gun pointed in his face.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Roger had entertained the trio for a few minutes, showing them very little of what really went on around the place. As he was taking them to Laurenís office, he was met by another employee about some minor crisis, so he deposited them with a quick apology and told them to make themselves comfortable.

"UHHHHHHH! I thought we would never get rid of him!" Maggie growled. "Now, what the hell is Lauren up to? And what do we do next?"

"I guess we donít have much of a choice, but to wait and see if she shows up." Remmy answered.

"While my brother could already be dead." was Quinnís response, barely audible to the other two.

Maggieís heart lurched. She went to his side and placed her hand on his face. "Quinn, she is not going to kill Colin. She needs him to get to you. You know he will be safe. And weíll get him before she can do him any harm." She tried to be reassuring, but inside, she was just as unsure as Quinn. With all he had told her about the last encounter with Logan, it would be very possible for her to hurt Colin just to prove she could.

"Yeah, Q-ball. Weíve faced danger many times before and we havenít let it get the best of us yet. And this time is no exception." Remmy interjected.

The door opened suddenly, and they all turned to see Logan standing there.....alone. Quinnís eyes lit up with fire and he sprang toward her. "Whereís my brother, you crazy, bitch!?" he screamed, as Remmy and Maggie both grabbed for him. Logan slammed the door behind her and moved into the room.

"I would suggest that you be very, very nice to me, Quinn Mallory." she sneered. "I have Colin exactly where I want him........where you canít get to him, unless of course, you cooperate fully with me."

Maggie so wanted to slap that evil smile off her face. It had irritated her from the second she first saw it back at the hotel last night. But now was neither the time nor the place. Getting Colin back safely with them was her first priority.....then she would knock that smile into the next world with one blow!

Quinn was still straining against Remmy and Maggieís grasp. He wanted to get to Logan so badly. Even knowing he had to cooperate for the moment didnít keep him from trying to reach her. "What the hell do you want, Logan?" he snarled. Her evil smile continued. "Why, Iím surprised you have to ask?" she said so sweetly. "I had what I wanted last night, but you took it back. I need that timer Quinn, and I need your knowledge. I want to go home. This facility, with your equipment and intellect will get me there. If not, then by the time your timer counts down, you wonít have Colin. So.......you have three choices, .........give me what I want...........stay here and look for your precious Colin........or leave without him in a couple of days and wonder about his fate for the rest of your life. Choice number two would prove futile and I just donít believe you would choose number three." She folded her arms and just stared at the trio, knowing full well she had them where she wanted them.

Quinnís body finally relaxed and slumped in Remmyís and Maggieís grasp. He knew he had no choice. But he certainly wasnít just going to hand over the timer without some assurances. "Youíll get what you want Logan, but not until Colin is here by my side, safe and sound!"

"Quinn, dear." she spoke, with that sickening sweet voice, "You are in no postion to do any bargaining. I call the shots. If you donít hand me the timer now, youíll never see Colin again. You see, it works this way. I get the timer. You get to see Colin. I get some technical help from you. You get Colin, all safe and sound, like you want."

Quinn looked at Maggie and Remmy. They all knew there was no argument. They had to give it up and then they would figure out how to get to Colin. They didnít trust her for a moment to turn Colin over to them after she had everything she needed.

*****************

Colin sat quietly and still on the sofa while the big goon sat at a small dining table reading a magazine. His gun lay on the table very near his hand. After a while, Colinís eyes grew heavy and his head began to nod. Tommy peered over his reading to see this and relaxed his guard just a little. Good, he thought, now I can read in peace.

Unbeknownst to the big lug, Colin had wiggled his hand down between the cushions and as luck would have it, he found a small, sharp object during his groping around. It must be a needle or small nail, he thought. He held it in his hand for several minutes and pretended to dose off. Then the work began. Those cuffs would be off in no time.

After just a few minutes, Colin heard a muffled click. He wiggled just a little and layed his head back on the sofa. This way he could lift his eyelid slightly to see his captor. The idiot had fallen asleep, magazine flopping lazily at his knees. Colin slowly slid his hand out of one cuff and then worked quietly on the other. The guy never moved.

Another muffled click. Colin was free. He sat frozen for just a second, then lunged upward towards the guard with a loud scream and threw a karate kick to his chin that Bruce Lee would have been proud of. The guard never knew what hit him. His head jerked back as he fell to the floor unconscious. Colin grabbed the gun, then yanked the telephone cord out of the wall. He took the cuffs and placed them on the guard and took the key from his pocket. He then took the telephone cord and tied it around the guyís legs. After gagging his mouth, Colin left the apartment and headed straight for International Communications Industries, hoping that the others would be there and all in one piece.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Logan had taken Quinn to a private lab, with the timer in hand, and had proceeded to fill Roger in on some of the details of what she was about to do. Remmy and Maggie had been left in her office under the close watch of another guard that she had enlisted. Divide and conquer. Logan was nobodyís fool.

Quinn had been seated at a computer panel and was given instructions on how to proceed. A shiver went up his spine.....a feeling of deja vu. He had played out this little scene before. Roger and Lauren stood in the corner in deep conversation, but their eyes were on Quinn. He hoped he could stall or at least fool them for a while until he could figure out his next move. Having Remmy and Maggie separated from him was going to make things tougher.

************

Colin was opening the door of the cab before the driver could even come to a complete halt at the front doors of International. He paid him in a rush and ran to the entrance. Upon entering, he saw the information desk to his right. He had to take a chance on the information he had heard Lauren discussing over the phone with some ĎRogerí guy. Hopefully, she hadnít told them to be on the lookout for him.

He went to the desk and ask for directions to Laurenís office. He told them that he was the fourth member of the team that Lauren had brought in for her new project. He mentally crossed his fingers that this line was plausible. He had heard Lauren say something to that effect when talking on the phone. The lady directed him towards the hall to her right and gave an office number. Colin thanked her and headed that way, breathing a sigh of relief as he left.

As he walked gingerly down the hall, he passed by what seemed to be some kind of lab and his heart stopped. There sat Quinn, and Lauren was leaning over him. No sign of Remmy and Maggie. He wondered if they would be in Laurenís office. He made it by the lab windows without being seen and proceeded towards the office. When he arrived, he put his ear close to the door to see if he heard any sound. Maggie was talking. He would recognize her rantings anywhere. But she was stopped by the voice of a man that Colin knew was not Remmy. Okay, he thought, another element of surprise is needed here.

He knocked softly on the door and waited. In seconds, the door knob turned and before it was opened a crack, Colin was using another kick......a forceful blow that knocked the door open against the man, knocking him backwards. Maggie immediately took up the flag, landing a blow to the stunned guard before he knew what hit him. He was out like a light.

"Farm-boy!" Remmy yelled, as he adjusted to the scene that had just played out before him. He grabbed Colin in a bear hug and just kept slapping him on the back.

"If you guys could suspend your lovefest for just a minute, I could use some help in getting this guy wrapped up and we could go look for Quinn." Maggie said, sarcastically. "Uh, sorry, Maggie." Colin apologized, and moved to help her tie him up. "I just passed a lab on the way down here. Quinn and Lauren were there."

Remmy moved to the door, poking his head out in the hallway to see if anyone had heard the disturbance and was headed their way. The coast was clear. The door was a little worse for wear, but Remmy was able to close it somewhat while they finished their job inside.

"Anybody got a plan?" Remmy asked as he walked over to survey the job Colin and Maggie had done on the guard. He was still out. "We canít exactly go in with guns blazing, seeing as how we donít have but the one from the guard. I think we might be outnumbered."

"Well, I donít think Logan is going to harm Quinn for the moment. He is probably busy giving her false information as we speak, but heís smart enough to do it in a way that she wonít realize it. He knows that we are working on a way to come to his rescue." Maggie explained.

*************

Lauren and Roger were having a deep discussion when she noticed Quinn at the computer panel. He was fidgety. Her mind raced and she knew he was stalling. That nasty, evil smile spread over her face once more. She excused herself from Roger and headed towards Quinn.

Quinn felt her move up behind him and she put her hands on his shoulders. He stiffened at her touch, feeling almost unclean.

"Quinn, dear. I sense that you are stalling on your work. I have witnessed how you worked before. I wonít be fooled again by your little games." Logan whispered sweetly in his ear. Quinn shuddered and tried to move away from her. He was sickened by her very presence.

"Logan, you know I donít do this willingly. For the moment, you have me over a barrel. But donít expect me to do this with all the wonder and glory of a scientist at work on a pet project." Quinn replied, grimmacing at her near presence.

"Well, Quinn, dear, then maybe you just need a little more incentive." she answered. She sat down on the stool next to his chair and crossed her legs, rather provacatively, hiking her skirt well above her knee. Quinn thought he was going to be sick. Logan saw the look and read his mind. She smiled a satisfied smile. "Youíre thinking that I am going to try and seduce you." The smile turned to laughter. "Dear, dear Quinn. As much as that thought intrigues me, I have something even better than myself to get you motivated.............if thatís possible. There is something on my world that you would dearly love to have; and the only way you are going to get it, is to get me home."

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

With the guard securely bound and gagged, Maggie, Remmy and Colin sat in Laurenís office to discuss their next move. "Colin, can you tell us anything at all about Laurenís motives here?" Maggie asked.

"Well, I overheard a phone conversation she was having with some guy named Roger." he started.

"That would be her boss." Maggie interrupted.

"And her partner in crime, from what I understand." Remmy added.

"Yes, well, she said something about getting the coordinates for her homeworld. She said she had some unfinished business there." Colin continued. "She also said something about torturing Quinn before she left."

"Torturing him?! What the hell does that mean?" Maggie shouted. "Remmy, you were around when Quinn first encountered her. Can you shed some light on the subject?"

"Girl, I have no idea. I wasnít really around Logan at all until we slid and she came after us. You see, there was this lady...." Remmy started explaining.

"Remmy. Weíve got no time to hear about your sexual escapades!" Maggie interrupted. "Weíve got to think of some way to help Quinn!"

Colin took up the questioning. "What did Lauren do when she came after you guys?"

Remmy rose from his chair and started pacing as he rubbed his hand across the top of his head. Then he turned to face the pair. "Well, she demanded the timer Quinn had, and just got really crazy. She threatened Wade and when Quinn threw the timer into the vortex, she just went whacko and shot. The bullet headed straight for Wadeís head, but the force of the vortex pulled it back, and the bullet and Logan were sucked in. She kept screaming, ĎIíll get you for this!í" Remmy shuddered. "It was such an evil scene. She looked like evil incarnate."

"So, Quinn caused her to slide here, and she was hurt in the process, with no way to get home." Maggie surmised.

"No wonder she wants to torture him." Colin said. "She has suffered a great deal here with her burns and her stranded state. With a way to finally get home, of course she would do whatever it takes, and with a raging need in her heart to get revenge for this fate, she will gladly try to hurt Quinn in the process."

Now it was Maggieís turn to pace. "Okay. Knowing what is driving her is the first step. But we have to stop her.....pronto. We canít let her get her evil hooks into Quinn by playing torture games. And we have no time to spare. She could come through that door at any moment."

Colin rose and headed toward the door. "And just where do you think youíre going?" Maggie asked.

Colin turned and said, "I am going to check the lab, to see if Lauren and Quinn are still there. I will be careful. You two stay here." And he disappeared out the door before Maggie or Remmy could object.

"Great! Thatís all we need.........both the Mallory boys caught in the web of that black widow spider!" ranted Maggie in disgust.

Colin stepped slowly down the hallway, looking both backwards and forwards to see if others would be around. So far, so good.......no one. He came to the lab windows and peered inside. Quinn was up, waving his arms and yelling, pacing back and forth in front of the computer panel. He was in a near frantic state, it seemed. Lauren just stood leaning against the countertop, arms crossed, legs crossed at the ankles, with a smile of pure enjoyment on her face. Whatever she had said to get Quinn in such a state was really making her day. What on earth could have set him off like that?, Colin thought.

Then he peered around the lab to survey the surroundings. The man that had been with Lauren earlier was nowhere to be seen. In fact, no one was anywhere around except Lauren and Quinn. Colin pondered his next move. Should he go back for Maggie and Remmy and make a real show of force? Or would that just waste time? Maybe he should just go in right now. He and Quinn could easily overpower her. But there had to be some kind of distraction.....but not too much......not enough to attract others.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Colin continued to survey his surroundings to make sure no one would sneak up on him. As he turned back to the scene in the lab, he noticed Lauren had moved from her previous position and had her back to the lab windows. Quinn was still in a state, yelling and pacing, but he would be able to see Colin, if he would just look toward the window. Colin positioned himself in front of the window hoping for just that. Quinn still ranted. Then Lauren spoke and Quinn slumped against the computer panel, head down. "Come on, Quinn." Colin whispered aloud. "Look up, see me."

Then, just as if Quinn had heard Colinís words, he did look up and see him in the window. Quinn let out a relieved sigh. Logan misinterpreted it as a sigh of resignation. "So you agree, Quinn. You do see that you have no choice now, but to do my bidding."

Quinn pulled his eyes away from his brother and looked at Logan. "You will get what you want, Logan. I will fight you no longer." he said, hoping he displayed a very hollow emotion towards her, instead of the hope he felt in his heart. He decided to engage her in a continued conversation; to distract her and give Colin a chance to make a move. He started explaining what he needed in way of her help and what the results should be.

Colin took his cue from Quinn and waited until he had Lauren in deep conversation. He knew Lauren would be so interested in what Quinn had to say that she would not hear him enter.....if he would proceed slowly and carefully. Now was not the time to rush.

Quinn knew he needed some noise to buffer any sound Colin might make getting into the room, so he turned on some of the machinery, whether he needed it or not. He began to get very technical with Logan, being careful not to make a stupid blunder. He had to remember that Logan was him. She was a genius in her own right and knew a lot of sliding technology. But he also knew she had been out of the loop for a year and so much could have developed in that time span. He trusted that she would realize this also.

Colin checked the hallway once more, then moved to the door of the lab. He had noticed Quinn working toward a distraction, so he knew it was time to make a move. The door opened without sound and he slowly stepped inside while Lauren was in conference with Quinn. They both had their backs to him, but Quinn could feel Colin in the room. He just hoped that Logan was so preoccupied that her sibling vibes were not as strong as his. He knew Colin was almost upon them.

*************

Maggie paced back and forth across the small office. She was growing more impatient by the second. "Remmy, how can you just sit there?! Colin just left to go to Quinn and now both of them are doomed!" Maggie ranted.

"Girl, I think you donít give old Farm-boy enough credit. Look at what heís done so far." Remmy started pointing out Colinís accomplishments. "He purposely put himself in company with Logan and gathered some good information. When she tried to detain him, he got away. He came here and was able to find us without a hitch. So, it stands to reason that he can take care of himself and has enough smarts to take care of his brother. What have we done, but get ourselves caught by that woman and locked up with an armed muscle-man!"

Maggie picked up a book from the desk and threw it at Remmy. "Ooooooo. I hate it when youíre right!"

Remmy dodged the incoming ammo and chuckled. "Well, at least you do admit that I am right."

"Be that as it may, I can not idly stand here and do nothing. I think we need to go and see if we can help." Maggie answered. "Standing around here, waiting, not knowing, is driving me crazy!"

"I feel the same way, girl, but Colin said to stay put. If we go out there now, we may jeopardize his work." Remmy rationalized. "Besides, we donít even know what lab he was talking about. We might head in the wrong direction and get caught all over again."

"Remmy, Iím willing to take the chance. Anything is better than sitting here. And Colin just might need our help. Iíll give him all the credit in the world for being the hero in this little saga, but it wouldnít hurt to provide a little back-up." Maggie told him. "And weíre not dummies. Weíve snuck around enough places in our sliding careers, so we should be experts at it by now."

***************

Quinn saw the full coffee cup and seized the opportunity. He swung his left hand out in a sweeping gesture, slapping the cup over on itís side and spilling the contents all over the counter and down to the floor. "Geez!" Quinn yelled. "What is it with me and coffee these days?"

Logan was temporarily surprised and that was all Colin needed. He lunged at her, grabbing her around the waist and putting his other hand over her mouth to stifle any scream. There was a slight struggle, but Logan was no match for Colinís strong arms. Quinn pointed towards a door at the back of the lab and headed in that direction. Colin followed with a flailing Logan in his arms.

Just as they reached the door of the back room, the lab door opened and in ran Remmy and Maggie. They had reached the lab windows just in time to see Colin overtake Logan, and Maggie had nearly screamed aloud out in the hallway.

"Way to go, guys! I knew you could do it." Maggie said excitedly. She glared at Loganís wild-eyed look with a smug one of her own.

"What do you mean Ďyou knew they could do ití? Youíve expressed nothing but doubt on their part since weíve been here, girl." Remmy said, looking astonished at Maggie.

"Guys, guys.......no time to argue. Get in here now!" Quinn whispered, while surveying the room. "We canít be seen or heard!"

Remmy quickly closed the door to the supply room, while Quinn filled them in on a few details. Colin kept his stronghold on Logan dispite her constant jerking around and trying to get free. The more she fought, the tighter his grip became. Finally she had exhausted herself and went limp. Colin didnít loosen his grip one bit. He knew better than to trust this woman for one second.

"Guys, Iím afraid weíre going to have to help Logan get home." Quinn said at the end of his talk.

"What!?" the trio yelled simultaneously.

"We have no choice." Quinn answered. "Iím not exactly going to do it Loganís way, but we are going to her world with her. We have to."

"Q-ball, I think you have finally lost it. Did that burn on your leg also burn up all of your brain cells?" Remmy questioned.

"Yes! You must be insane! We arenít going anywhere with this bitch!" Maggie protested.

At those words, Logan once again found the fight in herself. She tried to wrestle free of Colinís grip to get at Maggie. She had had enough of Ďthis bitchí. It was like the pot calling the kettle black. Maggie raised a fist in defense, just in case, but Colin held fast and Logan got nowhere.

"Brother......uhhhnnnn." Colin tried to speak as Logan continued to struggle. "I.....uhhn......think you had better.......uhhhhn......explain."

Quinn looked at each of his friends in the eye for just a second. He took a deep breath and then said, very calmly, "There is something on her world we need. We have to go."

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

When Quinn had told them they had to return with Logan to her world, she was still struggling to get free. Colin had managed fairly well to hang on to her, but she was tough and he was getting tired. Quinn suspended his explanation momentarily so that they could take care of getting Logan restrained.

She now sat in the corner of the supply room, all bound and gagged, just as Maggie and Remmy had left the guard in her office. She had put up quite a fight, but between the four of them, they finally managed. The knot on Colinís shin was growing where Logan had landed a blow with her heel. Maggie still felt the sting of a slap across the face, but she had delivered one of her own with a more forceful blow, so she felt it was worth it. Quinnís burned leg ached where Logan had managed to kick at him, but it wasnít severe. Colin had pulled her back just as she was kicking, so her foot didnít have a full-force impact. Remmy received a scratch, drawing blood, which put him in near hysterics for a moment. He felt, that as evil as she was, he might surely die from blood poisoning. They finally convinced him otherwise and he slowly began to breathe normally again. With all of that done, the others impatiently waited for Quinn to continue.

"Now, Quinn, explain. What is going on?" Maggie demanded.

"Yeah, Q-ball, what gives? Weíve got her where we want her. Letís get the timer, get out of here and hole up somewhere until time to slide." Remmy said.

"Guys, we canít." Quinn answered. He was standing there, hands on his hips just staring down at the bound figure on the floor. He looked up at the trio before him, wondering desperately how to say what he needed to say. There is no easy way, he thought. He raked his fingers through his hair. "Look, guys, thereís no easy way to say this, so Iím just going to blurt it out. Logan says that we slid with the wrong Wade. Our Wade is still on her world." There. He had said it. Let the tirade begin.

Remmy and Maggie started in on him, both at the same time. "What do you mean...... Ďthe wrong Wadeí?!" Remmy yelled.

"What?!" Maggie screamed. "How can you fall for that, Quinn? Sheís just trying to push your buttons, and has obviously done a damn fine job!"

"Man, you know we had our Wade! How I would love for it to be true, but......all those slides before the Kromaggs. I know I would have noticed a difference.......and you would have too, Q-ball!" Remmy continued.

Quinn let them continue on for several minutes. He knew they needed to vent their feelings, and when they calmed down a bit, he would try to explain his. He noticed Colin had never said a word, but then why would he. Colin had never known any Wade......his or otherwise.

"Quinn......Quinn!" Maggie snapped her fingers inches in front of his face to bring him out of his trance. "Listen, Quinn, I didnít know Wade as long as you and Remmy. The only one I did know was the one with you two and the professor when you slid to my world. But Iím with Remmy here. Surely you would have noticed some little difference.....something that would not have been the same as your Wade.......something that she would have said or done that would tip you off." Maggie rationalized. "Come on! You know it!"

Quinn looked each one of them in the eye. He knew their doubts, but he had no choice. "Guys, I know you are very skeptical, but there are some other things you donít know. Things I donít want to say yet. And besides, donít you realize that if there is even one iota of a chance that Logan is right, that we have to take that chance to recover our Wade......my Wade?" He paused to let that sink in with them, then continued. "I guess I canít ask you to go there with me, but I have to go. I have to know for sure. Then I can return here to get you guys."

Colin stepped forward and put his arm around Quinn. "You know you are not going through this alone, brother. I will be with you all the way." He then smiled his crooked smile. "Besides, it seems I am the only one who can handle Lauren,...uh, Logan, with any regularity. I think you need me."

Quinn put his arms around Colin in a solid bear hug. "Thanks, bro. I do need you. Sometimes, I donít even realize how much,......... but I do need you."

Maggie rolled her eyes and put her hand to her forehead. "Oh, God. I think Iím going to be sick!" Remmy just grinned and put his arm around her.

He knew how this would end. All five of them would be sliding out of here day after tomorrow to Loganís homeworld. Quinn was right. There was no way they could take a chance on their Wade being alive and well on Loganís world and not check it out. But he wondered, as he watched the brothers, what else Quinn knew that he hadnít revealed.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

The four sliders sat huddled in the supply room planning their strategy while Logan sat in the corner trussed up like a Christmas turkey. With every passing second she was also planning.......planning ways to torture each and every one of them before she outright killed them. She wasnít even sure she cared about getting back to her world right now. She just wanted them eliminated.....in the most hideous manner known to mankind. Quinn and his little, ever-changing entourage had messed up her life for the last time.

Quinn informed them that Roger was gone for the rest of the day. Logan had been left here on her own to do whatever she needed to do. Although Roger was her Ďbossí as far as International was concerned, he was just her lackey in this project of hers. She had promised him the moon if he would give her access to whatever she needed. That moon and a little of herself was all Roger needed to hear about to turn this lab over to her, no questions asked.

Quinn felt he could work in relative solitude, without much of a chance of disturbance from anyone at International. Evidently, it was known that there was a "project" going on and that it was Rogerís baby. Supposedly, it was top-secret, but they knew he had hired Lauren to help and that she had brought in a Ďteamí from her previous work to help her. Ergo, Quinn felt they would be safe now that Roger was out of the way for a while. No one would disturb them. And the rest of the day would be all he would need.

Maggie and Remmy went back to Laurenís office to check on and take care of the guard. If he escaped or someone missed him, there could be trouble. Quinn and Colin found a way to tie Logan to an immovable object so that she could not get away.......not that they thought it possible the way she was tied up, but with Logan, they took absolutely no chances. Logan did manage to gouge at Quinnís burned leg, and he noticed as they left the supply room, that is was starting to bleed through the bandage and his pants. And so did Colin.

"Donít you think you should get that taken care of?" he asked.

Quinn just brushed him off. "No. We have more important things to do right now. It will have to wait. Itís alright." He didnít let Colin see the grimace of pain on his face. It hurt like hell, but he would not let it hinder his work.

He moved over to the computer panel and begin to set things into motion. When everything was worked out they would be able to activate the vortex and leave before the scheduled time. Technology here was very advanced and he was trying to absorb as much of it as he could. He knew it would help down the road.

Colin moved behind him and leaned over his shoulder. "Is all of this going to get us out of here soon?" he asked.

"Yes, it wonít be long now. I hope Maggie and Remmy get back before too much longer." Quinn replied.

"Quinn, what are you not telling us? You said there were some things we did not know. Are we in more danger?" Colin was full of questions and he was hoping Quinn would open up to him. He wanted to help and he did not want his brother to carry the burden alone.

Quinn looked up at Colin and opened his mouth to speak, but just at that moment, Maggie and Remmy entered the lab. Quinn closed up and looked at Colin with pleading eyes to just drop the subject for now. Colin took the cue and pursued it no further.

"Okay, guys.......no problem with the guard. He wanted to come around, but we took care of that and left him high and dry in the office restroom. Heís going nowhere and saying nothing for quite a while." Maggie informed them with this satisfied look on her face. She always reveled in getting the best of the bad guys.

"Good." said Quinn. "Sounds like we will be long gone before he can do any damage."

"Howís it going, Q-ball? Weíre outta here soon, then?" Remmy asked.

"Yes, with this technology, weíll have what we need soon. Then we can activate a vortex straight to Loganís world immediately."

"Exactly how do we plan to get Logan into that vortex?" Remmy asked nervously. "I donít think sheís going to be too nice and cooperative about it."

"That will be my job, Remmy." Colin said. "Do not worry. I will handle her."

"Well, good. That makes me feel better." Remmy wanted to avoid her at all costs. Something about her gave him the willies. And to think, he defended her earlier when Colin and Maggie were having those Ďfeelingsí about her. Quinn didnít need to get near her. He saw that she had re-injured his leg. And as for Maggie, well there just might be more blood-shed, if Maggie had to deal with her. At that thought, Remmy chuckled. Colin seemed to be the man in charge and was doing a damn fine job. He wasnít going to argue.

They generally sat around the lab for a while waiting for Quinn to give the word. Occasionally, Colin would go to the supply room to look in on Logan. Each time, she sat in the same place, with the same evil stare burning a hole through him. Then Maggie or Remmy would check the lab entrance and hallway. Everything was quiet.

As Colin returned from his last inspection of Logan, he noticed Quinn was sweating profusely, and he was quite pale. He moved to sit beside him. "Brother, you donít look so good." he whispered. He didnít want to attract the attention of the others.

"Iím fine. Iíll be just fine!" he said, unconvincingly.

"I do not think so." Colin answered. "It is your leg. It bothers you more than you want us to know. I think it might be infected."

"Colin, weíre almost ready to leave. Iíll deal with it when we get to Loganís world and check on Wade." he answered, almost angrily.

"It will be hard to check on anyone if you are unconscious." was Colinís reply. "I already have one uncooperative bundle to take care of, I do not need another." And with that he summoned Maggie over to them to tell her about Quinnís leg. He received a protesting glare from Quinn, but he was not affected. He knew Quinn was in trouble, and that his leg needed immediate attention.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

When Maggie saw Quinnís leg and realized what kind of shape he was in, she was livid. He had failed to take any of the medicine that the doctor had given him and the bandage had not been changed. Quinnís excuse was his worry about Colin, but Maggie just lambasted him for not worrying any about himself. She had cut his pants off above the burn and taken the bandage off to survey the damage. It looked horrible and she was afraid he was going to lose consciousness at any moment. He needed antibiotics, and fast.

"How much longer before we have what we need, Quinn?" she asked. He just looked at her with his eyelids wavering from opened to closed. "Quinn!" she yelled as she slapped at his cheek. "Listen to me! How much time?"

"Not long." he whispered. "Within the hour."

Maggie turned to Remmy. "Remmy, you go, right now, back to the hotel and get the medicine and the bandages. We have got to get that medicine in him, pronto."

"You got it, girl!" Remmy answered and headed out the lab doors.

"Colin, you stick with Quinn and donít let him pass out. Talk to him, keep him aware, however, faintly." she ordered. "And see if you can get him to tell you whatís going on, so if we do lose him, temporarily, we can function and get to Loganís world."

"Right." said Colin. "And where are you going?"

"Loganís office." she said, as she headed to the doors. "You just keep him awake!"

Colin began talking to Quinn and tried to glean as much information as possible from him about the timer and how to do what they needed to do to get to Loganís world. Quinn was getting weaker, but he kept talking, however haltingly. He knew he would pass out eventually and he was aware enough to know that Colin needed to be filled in on everything he knew.

Minutes later, Maggie returned with several towels. She had dampened one and proceeded to wrap it around Quinnís leg. She knew it caused him pain, before she even looked up to see his grimacing face. She was trying to be gentle, but there was no way around hurting him to some degree.

Through the pain, Quinn had managed to look at the read-out on the computer screen and saw what he needed. He told Colin what to do and said that it was time to go. And with that he passed out completely. He had willed himself to stay conscious until he had the information and then let himself trust that Colin, Maggie and Remmy could finish the job.

Maggie then took charge once more. "Colin, you take care of getting Logan ready to travel. As soon as Remmy gets back, we will somehow get the medicine in him, re-bandage this wound and get the hell out of here. You do know what to do, right?" she asked.

"Do not worry, Maggie. I have everything under control." Colin assured her, then left to go check on Logan.

Maggie continued to work on Quinnís leg. With him out of it, she could do a little more without fear of causing him excruciating pain. His wound needed to be cleaned throroughly, and when Remmy arrived she could administer some medicine and re-bandage it. Then with perfect timing, Remmy came through the doors just as she finished.

"Bless you, Remmy. That was fast." she said as he handed her the necessary items.

"Money talks, girl. That cab driver can take the rest of the week off on what he just made from me." he answered. "How is he?"

"He stayed with us just long enough to get the needed information and then he passed out. It was really for the best. I needed to clean this wound and he couldnít have stood the pain. Colin is getting Logan ready and knows what to do, so as soon as I fix this, we are outta here." she explained. "Remmy, you are going to have to carry him."

"You got it, girl. You donít need to worry about that. Q-ball has carried us many a time on his shoulders. Itís about time I returned the favor." Remmy replied.

Colin exited the supply room with a limp Logan tossed over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The look on his face was not a good one. Maggie wondered what in the world had happened.

"Colin, are you alright? You donít look so good." Maggie said. "And is she out? What did you do?"

He adjusted his bundle slightly and replied, "I had to hit her. I have never raised a hand to a woman before in all my life. And I did not like having to do it now. But there was no other way. Even tied up as she is, she was fighting me and I knew I could not handle her like that." Colin just shook his head.

Remmy put his hand on Colinís shoulder to console him. "Donít you worry about it, Farm-boy. We do what we have to do, to survive. And donít think of her as a woman; think of her as the devil!"

Maggie joined in the encouragement. "You did the right thing, Colin. We can take no chances with her." Then she turned to Remmy. "Okay, Remmy. You gather up Quinn, and letís get out of here. Our luck has been fantastic up to this point. Letís not push it." She then collected all of the medicine and bandage materials and put them in a bag. When she saw that Remmy had Quinn securely in his arms, she instructed Colin to open the vortex.

He complied, using the coordinates Quinn had given him, and the vortex opened immediately. Maggie sent Remmy and Quinn first, then Colin and Logan. She jumped in last, praying that everything would go smoothly on the other side.

CHAPTER TWENTY

Remmy tumbled out onto the grass cushioning Quinn as best he could. Colin followed with Logan, still unconscious, as was Quinn. Then came Maggie, tripping over the two bundles in her path. She looked around and saw that no one was in sight to notice their entrance. Funny, she thought, there are no people here at all.

"Okay, Rem. Does any of this look familiar?" Maggie asked, looking just a little leery.

Before he could answer Colin spoke. "I have instructions on where we are to go, Maggie. Quinn said we needed to go to this worldís Mrs. Arturo......that we could trust her."

"Thatís right!" said Remmy. "I remember the professor talking about her. Her husband, this worldís professor, was killed by Logan. She pushed him into the vortex while they were still in the testing stage. He was burned up. The professor said they gave Mrs. Arturo the info that was needed to bring things down around Logan and her crew. She had met with the professor and Wade on more than one occasion." Remmy recalled.

"Well, we canít very well walk around with two unconscious people in our arms, especially with one tied up. Not that anyone would notice, though." Maggie deduced. "Uh, guys, do you see that there is no one out and about around here?"

"Yeah." said Remmy. "That is kind of strange. There were plenty of people here before."

Colin looked around and noticed an alley behind them. He pointed it out to Maggie and suggested they duck in there for the moment. He took Logan, and Remmy followed with Quinn. Maggie surveyed the area a few more minutes before joining them. No sign of anyone. She didnít like this at all.

As Colin transferred Logan from his shoulder to the ground, she began to come around, moaning through the gag around her mouth. When she was fully aware, her eyes sent daggers out to Colin immediately and she began to fight and strain to get loose.

"It will do you no good to fight Logan. You will get nowhere and you will just tire yourself out." Colin told her from a safe distance. His shin was a sore reminder of what happened when one got too close to her. She continued to fight a few more minutes, but saw that what he said was true, so she slowly let her tirade subside.

Colin turned his attention to his brother. "How is he, Maggie?"

"Iím not going to sugar-coat it, Colin. Heís burning up with fever." Maggie answered. "I just gave him another dose of the antibiotic, but he really needs a doctorís attention. This leg is infected."

"All of you stay right here." Colin ordered. "I am going to see Mrs. Arturo. Maybe she can get help for Quinn right away, then we can check into this story about Wade."

He headed out of the alley with Remmy hot on his heels. "Farm-boy, you be careful. There is something not right about this place. Are you absolutely sure we landed on Loganís world?"

"Remmy, I just know what Quinn told me. He said these were the right coordinates. I will be careful. You just take care of my brother and I will take care of the rest." Colin answered. They exchanged concerned glances and Colin headed off to find Mrs. Arturo. Remmy returned to Maggie and her charges. She was sitting on the ground checking Quinnís burn.

"Girl, what are we going to do? I have a funny feeling about this place. Something just doesnít seem right." Remmy said, cautiously.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Colin made his way to the address that Quinn had given him before they slid. He encountered no problems along the way, probably due to the fact that he saw no living creature whatsoever. The place seemed desolate. As he approached what he thought to be the correct house, he saw no signs of life and paused to mentally offer up a prayer that she would be here. As he came up the walkway, a woman exited the door to meet him.

"Mrs. Arturo?" Colin asked.

"Yes. And who are you? What on earth are you doing out at this hour?" she inquired. Colin was puzzled at that last question, but began explaining who he was. She remembered her encounter with her husbandís double and the young lady with him and seemed to accept that Colin was who he said he was, but he noticed that she was a bit fidgety.

"Please, it sounds like this may take a while, so you had better come inside." she said, as she gestured him through the door. Colin entered, then stepped back to allow her to show him the way. She ushered him into the living room and offered him a seat.

As he sat, he could not help but ask, "Mrs. Arturo, why is it not good for me to be out at this hour?"

"My dear son, this world is in grave danger. Therefore, all those who live upon it are also in jeopardy." she answered. "Our natural resources are all but gone. That was the problem when Logan was around, you know. But she wanted to correct the situation in a totally unacceptible way. She was out for the glory and gain to herself, not to help this world."

"Yes, maíam. I understand that from what my brother was able to tell me, but has nothing been done to help correct the situation in all this time?" he asked.

"Although the information your Professor Arturo and Wade gave me helped to bring an end to the corruptness of that company, it didnít help find a solution for our biggest problem." she explained. "Unfortunately, no one has been able to do that. We are struggling to survive. Everyone is to be off the streets and in their homes by 6:00 pm. No businesses can operate."

"Well, my friends are out on the street as we speak, and my brother is very ill. We need to get him to a doctor immediately. He has an infection from a burn he suffered." Colin explained. He wanted to take care of that detail first and then he would approach her about Wade.

She stood and then turned to face Colin. "Oh, dear. I donít know what we can do. I have no vehicle. They have been banned except for emergency personnel."

"And I assure you this is an emergency." Colin exclaimed as he stood also. "My brother is unconscious and has a fever. He needs immediate attention. Surely there are doctors and hospitals that operate at all hours."

"Hospitals can care for those that they have under their roof, but no one can go to one after 6:00 pm. If you can get your brother and friends here safely, I will do what I can till morning. But a hospital is out of the question for now." she said sadly.

"I guess I have no choice." Colin resigned. "But there is one thing I have to tell you. One of my party is not exactly my friend. She is Logan St. Claire."

Mrs. Arturo was stunned. "Logan St. Claire!" she said loudly. "But....but, I thought she was dead. They said she was killed in a sliding accident......much like my husband. But, of course, we now know that his was no accident. I should have known better than to think we were rid of her."

Colin did his best to explain what had happened. He knew he might not have all the details correct since he wasnít around then, but he told her all that he could. And while he waited for darkness to take over completely, he told her about Loganís disclosure that there had been a switch with the Wade of this world and the Wade that had helped get the disc of information to her. That was their big mission after getting help for Quinn.......to check into the possibility that the switch really had occurred.

Mrs. Arturo just shook her head. "There doesnít seem to be anything that Ms. St. Claire wonít do. What about the Wade that is with you? What does she have to say about it?"

Colin, again, tried to explain the events that had occurred since Quinn and the rest had left this world. She needed to know as much as possible in order to understand the situation clearly, and it would help pass the time until he could leave under cover of darkness. She listened and sympathized throughout his story. When he finished, she took his hands in hers and vowed to help him and his friends in any way possible. Her home could be theirs for as long as they needed it.

"Now, you need to get going. If your brother is as sick as you say, he needs to be here. I think the darkness will keep you out of harmís way. Just donít stay out in the open too much. But there will be no lighting whatsoever to hinder, or to help, you." she explained. And with that, he left to retrieve his friends, his brother, and Logan.

Colin kept off the main thoroughfares and darted in and out of cover as best he could. It was hard to see in total darkness, but at least there was a partial moon in the sky. It did help some. He saw the park that was across the street from where they had entered and knew he was almost there. He hoped Quinnís condition had not worsened. He took a moment to look around and then headed for the alley. He entered the narrow street and saw...........nothing. No one was there.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Maggie cradled a still-unconscious Quinn in her arms as Remmy paced back and forth across the room. Logan sat in the corner, still tied and gagged. Thank goodness, the two goons that had come and hauled them off had, at least, listened to her about Logan, Maggie thought. If they had untied her, all hell would have broken loose. And at this point, Maggie felt like letting go with a little hell of her own. Quinn was burning up with fever. If he didnít get help soon.........well, she just didnít want to think about the consequences. But if something bad happened to him, she would single-handedly make somebody pay a dear price.

She raised her head toward the ceiling. "Please, wonít someone come and help us........please!" she whispered, and a tear trickled down her cheek.

"Maggie!" Remmy said, as he rushed to her side. "Are you alright, girl?"

"Iím fine." she said, brushing the tear away, hurriedly. "Iím just worried about Quinn. Heís been out too long, and heís so hot! I donít know what else I can do. Heís got to have professional help......and soon!"

Remmy got up and went to the door. Of course, it was locked, but he started banging and making all kinds of noise. He yelled and screamed and hit the door repeatedly, until Maggie could take it no more and yelled for him to stop. "I just want to get someoneís attention!" he told her.

"Well, if that didnít do it, then they are either deaf, do not care, or no one is around to hear." she said. "Just give it a rest for now."

Logan wriggled in the corner trying to get their attention, but she was totally ignored. She kept twisting and turning, hoping to catch their sight or to get loose, but every turn only seemed to tighten her bindings. Damn that Colin to hell!, she thought. He will pay for this!

Remmy returned to where Maggie and Quinn were and bent down to touch him. "Geez, he is so hot! Weíve got to do something!" Just then, they all heard someone on the other side of the door. Someone was coming in.

*****************

Colin moved up and down the alley searching for some clue, but found nothing. He peered out into the streets again and could not see anything around. Someone had obviously found them and taken them away. But where? He decided the best thing to do would be to return to Mrs. Arturoís and see if she knew where someone would be taken if they were out past 6:00 pm. Surely she would know. He retraced his steps and made his way back without incident. When he came to her door, she opened it immediately, without him even knocking. Apparently, she was watching for him.

"Where are your companions?" she asked.

"When I came to the place where I had left them, no one was there. Not a trace." he said.

"They must have been spotted by the patrols and taken to headquarters. Anyone caught out after 6:00 pm, is taken there, no questions asked. There are no excuses or reasons tolerated for being out." she explained.

"What happens to them at headquarters? Will they be alright?" he wanted to know.

"Nothing will happen tonight. Everything is shut down. They will just be put away in a room to bide time until morning." she answered.

"But my brother. He needs medical attention. Will they at least help him in that respect?" was Colinís next question.

"I donít know, son. I really donít know." was her sad reply.

"Please tell me where the headquarters are. I must go there to check on my brother." he insisted.

"You will do nothing but put yourself in the same predicament that they are in. You can help your brother much better by staying right here until morning. Then we will go there and find out what it going on. Trust your friends to do what they can for him." she reasoned.

"I guess that you are right. I need to be on the outside. And I know that Maggie and Remmy will take care of him." he replied. Then he sat down, with his elbows on his knees, putting his face in his hands and began to pray for his brother and friends.

***************

The door opened and Remmy stood up in front of Maggie and Quinn. In walked the two that had hauled them out of the alley and into this place. Remmy could see someone else behind them. When they parted to let her through, Remmy almost swallowed his tongue. Right before his very eyes, stood Wade. Was it his Wade? Oh, God, he hoped so. He started to run toward her and envelope her in the biggest bear hug known to mankind, but something held him back. Something in her eyes froze him in his tracks.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Remmy looked at the figure before him, not sure of what to do. Why didnít she say something?, he thought. Was it her? Or was Logan just playing out what she said she would do.....torture Quinn......torture all of them with a false hope.

Maggie still sat on the floor with Quinn cradled in her arms. She stared long and hard at the woman before her......wondering if this woman was the Wade that Quinn had loved so. Nothing was said. This Wade was just made of stone, not moving so much as an eyelash.

Wade stood stock-still, and just stared at Remmy. She had waited for this moment for so long. And now that it was here, a gamut of emotions was running through every fiber of her being. She had played out this scene a million times with a million different outcomes; and now........not a single one of them was forthcoming. She couldnít move; she couldnít speak. She just stared. Until she realized, that what she had noticed out of the corner of her eye, wasnít just somebody laying on the floor. It was Quinn.

Her body jerked. Her eyes blinked. She allowed herself to look away from Remmy to the figure on the floor. The guards had told her that one of the violators was deathly ill. Why did it have to be Quinn? A lone tear rolled down her cheek. Thatís all Remmy needed to see. He knew. He knew in his heart. "Wade?" he whispered.

The sound of his voice brought her eyes back to his face. She saw the tears rolling down his cheeks. She felt as if her feet were cemented to the floor. But she found her voice. "Remmy?" she whispered in return.

"Oh, God, girl. Itís really you!" And he ran to her with arms wide open, enveloping her and holding on for dear life. Wade buried her face in his chest and let the tears flow, unashamed. After a few seconds, she pulled back and stared, with panic, into Remmyís eyes.

"Quinn! Whatís wrong with Quinn?" she questioned, but without waiting for an answer. She forgot all about the feelings she thought she should have at being abandoned by her friends for so long, and ran to his side, kneeling down, looking askance into Maggieís eyes. "Whatís happened to Quinn?"

Maggie looked up at Remmy and then back to this new Wade, a Wade she didnít know. What a strange feeling. Then she mentally shook the cobwebs from her mind. Getting medical attention for Quinn was the most important thing right now, not trying to discover her feelings about this Wade.

"He had a nasty burn on the world before this one. It became infected after getting medical attention, but we had to leave before we could return to the doctor. I have given him some antibiotics that were prescribed, but it seems to do no good." Maggie explained, all the while watching the love and fear in Wadeís eyes.

Wade said nothing to Maggie in return, but immediately rose and went to the men guarding the doorway. She said something that neither Maggie nor Remmy could hear, then one of the guards left. Wade then returned to Maggie and Quinn.

She gently put her hand on Quinnís forehead. The heat almost burned her hand. He was in trouble. She just hoped she had found him in time. Found him, she thought. They were supposed to find her. To be without him all this time, then find and lose him all over again......it would be more than she could bear. She ran her fingers gently through his hair, then trailed them down his cheek to his dry, cracked lips. She rubbed her thumb across his lower lip and began to cry. "Donít you dare die on me, Quinn Mallory! Donít you dare!" she whispered between sobs.

Remmy was at her side almost instantly. He put his hands on her shoulders and tried to give her encouragement. "Weíre not going to let him die, Wade. You know us. We fight for each other until weíre all safe and together again. Sometimes it may take a while, but we get the job done."

Wade turned to look at her long, lost friend, with a smile trying desperately to peek through the tears. How she had missed this man. And the professor.......the professor? Where was he? And who was this woman holding onto her Quinn?

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Wade had so many questions. And she knew Remmy would have them too. But there would be time later for talking. Right now, the only thing that mattered was getting Quinn out of danger. Quinn. She continued to stare at his face, becoming lost in thought. So lost, that she never heard the guard re-enter the room, ushering in a tall woman in a white coat.

Remmy saw her advancing towards them and pulled on Wadeís sleeve to get her attention. He was stunned. This woman looked too much like the woman tied up over there in the corner of the room. Beads of sweat seemed to pop out on his face the instant he saw her. Oh, Lord, please donít let this be another evil Logan person, he thought.

Wade rose as the doctor neared. "Thank you so much for coming." Wade whispered. "And please.....please tell me you can help him." She gestured toward Quinn and stepped back to give the doctor easy access to his prone body. Maggie just stared as the doctor bent down. She, too, saw the resemblence in this woman and Logan. She had not relinquished her hold on Quinn since their incarceration, and she wasnít about to turn him over to the clutches of a woman that might be a Logan double, even though she heard Wade call her a doctor.

The breath Remmy had been unconsciously holding was expelled. "Sheís a doctor?" Remmy asked Wade.

"Yes. And a dear friend. If anything can be done for Quinn, she will do it." Wade answered softly.

Remmy motioned for Wade to back away a little from the trio on the floor. She frowned, wanting to stay near Quinn, but did as Remmy suggested. "What is it?" she asked.

"Wade, I donít know if you are aware of this or not, but over there in the corner all tied up and gagged, is Logan St. Clair. You know......the one responsible for you being seperated from us all this time." Remmy told her. "And that woman with Quinn looks remarkably like her. Are you sure we can trust her?"

Wade smiled at her dear, dear friend. "Yes, Remmy, I was aware that one of the violators brought in tonight was Logan. The guard recognized her right away. She may have disappeared from this world, but she was not forgotten." Wade said. "And the reason the doctor looks so much like her is because she is Loganís sister."

Remmyís eyes grew wide and Wade thought he might just pass out on her at those words.

"But donít worry." she added quickly, "Sheís nothing like Logan. Lauren is a very upstanding citizen of this world. She is an extremely dedicated doctor and very respected around here. She will help Quinn."

"Did you say Lauren?" Remmy asked.

"Yes. Dr. Lauren St. Clair. Why?" Wade replied, puzzled at Remmyís question.

Remmy just shook his head and chuckled. "That is the name Logan used when we first encountered her on that other world. She said she was Lauren Chambers."

"Excuse me, Wade," the doctor interrupted, "but I need to get this young man into the clinic right away. I do not know what you want to do with these two," she said as she pointed to Remmy and Maggie, "but I suggest you get my sister to confinement before she causes a problem. I would not trust her for a second if I were you."

"Donít worry, Lauren. I wonít make the same mistake twice with her. But what about Quinn? Is he going to be alright?" Wade asked.

"I hope so. But I can not say for sure, until I can examine him more closely, what effects his fever will have on him. It is so high, and I understand it has been that way for many hours now. It will be touch and go for a while, but I will keep you posted. You just take care of my sister and I will take care of your Quinn." she said. She then turned to give instructions to the guards about securing a gurney for the unconscious patient.

Wade turned to Remmy and instructed him to sit tight for a few minutes while she took care of getting someone to come and take Logan off their hands. Remmy agreed and went to stand with Maggie as they took Quinn away. Maggie was reluctant, but Remmy filled her in on who the doctor was, and that Wade trusted her implicitly.

Wade left the room with Quinn, leaving Remmy and Maggie to stand guard over Logan, who was fuming and fidgeting in the corner. The evil in her eyes permeated the air, and Remmy felt as if he couldnít even get a clean breath. A shiver went up his spine as he made eye contact with her.

Minutes later, Wade returned with two other guards. They went over to Logan and hauled her to her feet. Wade pulled the gag from Loganís mouth with a jerk. "Well, well. Miss Logan St. Clair. I never thought to see you again, but I do like what I see right now." Wade said, sarcastically, looking over her bindings. "You look good in ropes."

Logan seethed, and not being able to get at her with arms and hands, she just spat in Wadeís face. Wade never even flinched; she just slowly wiped the spittle away with the sleeve of her jacket. "Take her to confinement, gentlemen." she instructed. "And do NOT remove her bindings. Leave her tied up, even in her cell."

The guards started with her towards the door. She struggled every inch of the way. "Iíll get you for this, Wade. Iím not through with any of you, by a long shot!" she yelled. "Youíre all going to suffer! Especially you and Quinn!" And she continued her tirade as she exited the door and was dragged down the hallway.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Colin arose with the sun, dressed quickly, and fidgeted until he heard Mrs. Arturo up and getting ready also. He hadnít slept much during the night. He went from fitful dreams about Quinn to wide-awake worries about all of them. He almost wished he had never left them. At least if he were with them, he would know what was going on. Although he knew with him being here there was the possibility that he could help them better, he still ached to be with his brother and his companions......his friends.......his family......the only family he had.

Mrs. Arturo entered the room and saw Colin staring out the window. She could tell he was nervous and scared, even though his back was to her. His fears seemed to emanate throughout the room. She took a deep breath and approached him, hoping she could give some words of encouragement and hope about his brother. She placed her hand upon his shoulder. He turned and gave her a weak smile, but said nothing. She knew his pain, and knew there were no words that she could speak that would help at the moment. So she simply took his hand and they left the house in silence.

*****************

Wade had taken Remmy and Maggie to her quarters as soon as she had made sure that Logan was secure. They had talked through the night, with sleep not even a considered option. All the pent-up emotions Wade and Remmy had buried had come flooding out. There was crying and laughing, shock and fears, even anger......not at each other, but just in general, at how fate had played with them so cruelly.

Remmy introduced Maggie and gave Wade the details on how she came to be with them. Then he had the horrible task of giving her the bad news about the professor. Remmy had held Wade in his arms for what seemed like hours while she tried to deal with the loss for a second time.

Maggie felt a little sorry for Wade and a little irritated at herself for how she had handled the death of the professor at the time. She guessed she had mellowed some since then. The military had taken away all her emotions. She knew that now. Sliding with Quinn, Remmy, and Colin had stripped her of her need to be independent and tough at all times. And she realized it wasnít a weakness to let yourself feel pain and sadness, or even fear. You needed those emotions, so you would know how good it felt when you didnít have them around.

She mentally shook her head at herself. How horribly she had behaved with the other Wade when the professor died. But now she had a second chance. She would embrace this Wade with open arms and be her friend......and understand her feelings.

But one thing she didnít understand was how Remmy and Quinn could not tell that they did not have their Wade with them. How could the two Wades be so identical as not to be detectable by such close friends for such a long period of time? That one thought nagged at her. There was something they didnít know. Hadnít Quinn said just that?

Maggie was brought out of her reverie when Remmy asked a question about the Kromaggs. She then realized that he was informing Wade about the fate of her double. Wade had such a pensive look on her face. There was a war of emotions. Certainly she was sad that the other Wade had met such a fate, but she also realized that even though she had been so angry at what Logan had done, that she owed Logan her life. If not for the evil ways of Logan St. Clair, Wade Kathleen Wells would now be in the hands of these awful Kromagg people. Maybe fate wasnít so cruel after all.

When all the seemingly bad events had exhausted themselves, Remmy turned to some brighter news. Quinn had a brother, he informed her. Wade couldnít believe it. But when she thought about it, it did make sense. If Logan was a female Quinn and she had a sister, it stood to reason that Lauren was the female double of Quinnís brother, Colin. Remmy and Maggie tried to fill her in on all of the twists and turns that had occurred since Quinn had discovered he wasnít really originally from their earth. Wade had a hard time absorbing it all.

And speaking of Quinnís brother........Remmy told her he had left them in the alley to try and find Mrs. Arturo. They didnít know if he had or not. He hadnít returned to them by the time they were found by the patrol.

Wade had remained friends with Mrs. Arturo and had helped her tear down Loganís company. Thatís when Wade began to get on with her life on this world. Mrs. Arturo had been a great help. Wade knew that if Colin had made it to her, he would be safe. She assured Remmy and Maggie that Mrs. Arturo would take care of him and would probably bring him straight here when daylight dawned.

She tried to give them the ĎCliff Notesí version of how things were on this world, her part in it now, and why Colin was better off with Mrs. Arturo for the moment. And she was sure he was with her. With Wade being in charge of curfew violators, she would be the first to know if he had been caught and brought in.

*************

Meanwhile, in a seemingly secured cell, one Logan St. Clair was finally beginning to loosen the bindings that had held her captive for so long. Perseverance pays off, Logan, she said to herself. Never forget that!

And in another room not far away, Quinn Mallory was slowly opening his eyes. With his blurred, groggy vision, he saw what he thought was Logan St. Clair standing over him.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Colin and Mrs. Arturo approached the tall, tan brick building as she pulled a small card from her wallet. On reaching the doors, she put the card into a slot and then pressed her hand to the glass slab. The doors opened and she gestured for Colin to enter. When inside, she asked the guard at the desk if Miss Wells was available yet. Colin looked puzzled on hearing the conversation. She had acted as if she just remembered Wade from long ago. Now it was as if they were well acquainted in the here and now.

The guard led them down a narrow hallway and stopped at the third door. "You may wait in here, Mrs. Arturo. I will inform Miss Wells of your presence." he said.

"Thank you." she answered and entered the room with Colin close behind. As the guard closed the door, Colin knew he could keep quiet no longer.

"Mrs. Arturo, it sounds as if you know Wade very well. I was under the impression last night that you barely remembered her from when my friends were here before." Colin suggested.

"Yes, Colin. I do know Wade quite well. We worked together in getting Loganís company destroyed." she replied. "Iím sorry I had to mislead you, but I needed to be sure of who you were. And I still do. Wade will clear things up when she arrives, and if you are not who you say you are.....well, you are in a confinement facility."

"Why do you think I might not be who I say?" he asked.

"Well, Wade has never mentioned you at all. She never said anything about Quinn having a brother." she answered. "I would think that would have come up in the conversation. You could be engaging in some sort of scheme with Logan for all I know. Yet, you have seemed so sincere and concerned about Quinn. You can see my concerns, canít you?"

Colin started explaining to her why Wade would not have mentioned him, when the door opened and in walked Remmy and Maggie, along with a petite, short-haired, very cute lady that Colin knew had to be Wade.

"Farm-boy!" Remmy yelled. "Thank goodness youíre alright."

"Maggie, Remmy! Where is Quinn? Is he okay?" Colin asked.

"We have a doctor taking care of him as we speak. We donít know anything yet, but we will soon." Remmy explained. Then he motioned for Wade to come forward. While Remmy and Maggie had embraced Colin, Wade had engaged her friend in conversation and had relieved her mind about Colin.

As Wade came forward, she was amazed at the remarkable resemblence between this man and her Quinn. She smiled and her eyes sparkled as Remmy introduced them. Colin smiled in return and gave her a hug rather than the customary handshake of two new acquaintances. This lady was his brotherís long lost love; just a handshake would not do.

It didnít take but a few minutes of conversation for Colin to understand why Quinn would love her so. She was strong, confident, vivacious, caring. Colin could go on and on. But he had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that wouldnít turn loose. Quinn had said there was more, but never got the chance to explain. Was this his Wade? He hoped he could talk to Quinn soon and get some satisfaction on his thoughts.

******************

Quinn moaned loudly. How could Logan have gotten loose?, he thought. And where were they? Where were the others? He felt so......detached. What had happened? He seemed to have a million questions......and not one single answer.

"Well, itís about time you opened those baby blues." said a soft, caring voice. "I was beginning to doubt my medical skills."

Quinnís eyelids fluttered. He must be delirious. Either that, or he had died and gone to hell, and the devil was playing an awful trick on him. That couldnít be Loganís voice. She would never sound that nice. He moaned again and tried to speak, but couldnít seem to form the words.

"Donít try to talk. Just listen." she said. "I am Dr. Lauren St. Clair, and you are in my clinic. You were brought here by your friends. You have been unconscious with a high fever, but your fever has broken and you are going to be fine. I know you do not feel so well right now, but that will change, I promise."

Lauren!, Quinn thought. God!, it is Logan. What the hell has happened?

Just then Quinn heard a door open, and another familiar voice. Now he knew he was dead. He was hearing things.......things that just couldnít be true. Wade wasnít here. She was taken away from him and he was never going to get her back. Why was this happening? Why was he being punished so? But he knew the answer to that. He hadnít done everything in his power to save Wade, and now he was going to pay the ultimate price.....an eternity of torture in hell. Logan had warned him. He didnít know how she was carrying out her threat, but he knew it was happening just the same.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Wade opened the clinic door and stopped dead still. It was like a five-car pile up on the freeway. No one was prepared for her sudden stop. One by one, Colin, Remmy, Maggie and Mrs. Arturo bumped the preceding person. Lauren had looked up just in time to witness the spectacle and stifled a laugh.

Wade had seen Quinn earlier, but she still wasnít prepared when she opened the door. She had spent so much time thinking she would never see him again. It was still a shock to her system to realize that he was really here......alive.......in the flesh. She put her hand on her chest and made herself breathe normally. Even in a hospital bed, he still looked so wonderful to her.

"Lauren?" Wade said softly. "Is he okay? Can we come in?"

"Yes, his fever has broken and he is conscious. I think it would be good for him to see some familiar faces. Heís still a little groggy and disoriented, though. Just take it easy with him." she warned them.

They all approached his bed giving a silent thanks above that Quinn had pulled through the fever. Lauren stepped back as Wade and Maggie came to the right side of the bed. Colin and Remmy moved to the other side and Mrs. Arturo stayed at the foot. Quinn looked at his brother first, then made his way around the bed until his eyes fell on Wade.

"Wade?" he whispered. "Is it really you?"

She smiled at the sound of his voice. "In the flesh. You didnít think you were going to get rid of me, did you?" she teased.

"But Logan said......." he started, then looked beyond Wade to the woman behind her. "I donít understand. What is Logan doing here?"

Wade looked puzzled along with the others. Then it dawned on her that Quinn, in his near-feverish state, thought that Lauren was Logan. She stepped away from Maggie to bring Lauren to the bedside.

"Quinn, this is not Logan St. Clair. This is her sister, Lauren." Wade explained. "She is a doctor and a very good friend of mine. And she is nothing like Logan. We have Logan in confinement, still bound the way you guys slid with her."

"Yeah, Q-ball," Remmy spoke up, "Just as Wade discovered that you have a brother, you are discovering that Logan has a sister........Colinís female double. Ainít that a kick?!" All in the room enjoyed a moment of laughter, except Quinn. Colin shook his head as he smiled. He remembered when he found out that Logan was Quinnís female double. He still didnít see how it was possible.

"This is all so bizarre, but thank God you are all right." said Quinn. He expelled his breath and closed his eyes to hide the tears welling up. Wade didnít miss seeing that he was about to be very emotional. She turned to her friends.

"Guys, would you mind if I spoke with Quinn alone for just a minute.......please?" she asked shyly. They all looked at each other with little smirks on their faces, then turned to exit the room. When the door closed Wade took Quinnís hand in hers.

"Quinn, itís going to be alright now. Weíve been separated for quite some time, but now we are together and nothing or no one is going to separate us again." Wade whispered.

Quinn opened his eyes and the tears spilled down his cheeks, onto the pillow beneath his head. "Wade, I have been in such agony. It was bad enough that I thought I had lost you to the Kromaggs."

"I know all about that. Remmy and Maggie filled me in last night." Wade interrupted.

He squeezed her hand, then tried to continue his conversation. "Logan wanted to get back here, in the worst way. First, she told me that the Wade we had with us was not the right one.........that they had made a switch on us before we left. I didnít believe her at first. I didnít think there was any way we could not know we had the wrong one all that time. She saw that I was very skeptical, so she concocted another story. Another story I didnít want to believe. But just on the outside chance that my Wade was here, I had to go along with her."

"What did she tell you, Quinn?" Wade asked.

"She said that they had taken some brain fluid from you and injected it into their Wade. This would make that Wade be exactly like you in every way. There would be no way for us to tell the difference." Quinn told her.

Wade just wanted to laugh at such rubbish, but she saw that Quinn was so serious. She couldnít dismiss it so lightly to his face.

"Wade, I know that sounds crazy, but we encountered a man, when we met Maggie, that did exactly that." he said. "I couldnít take a chance with what Logan said. The problem was..........when that man took brain fluid from a victim, it would put them in a coma......or kill them. Logan said you were alive and well the last time she saw you, but I knew that she could easily be lying. I have been on such an emotional roller coaster these last few days. Thinking you were captured by Kromaggs, then hoping that you had been switched, then wondering what kind of condition you would be in if what Logan said was right."

"Quinn, itís all over now. We are both alive and well...........and together. No more worries." she assured him.

He lifted his hand to her face and ran his finger along her jaw line to her chin. They stared deeply into each others eyes. The corners of her mouth went up into a smile and she placed her fingers on his cheek. Quinn moved his hand to run his fingers through her hair to the back of her head. Ever so gently, he brought her towards him. And then he placed his other hand on her cheek. Just before their lips met, Quinn whispered, "I love you, Wade." Wade never got the chance to return the sentiment. His lips were on hers and a deep, passionate kiss ensued.

TWENTY-EIGHT

Wade sat in the waiting room talking to her friend, Mrs. Arturo. She knew she would be leaving with Quinn and the others soon, and she wanted to thank her for the friendship that had developed. Colin, Remmy and Maggie were with Quinn.

He was feeling much better now, and was able to get out of bed and walk around. Dr. St. Clair had cleaned and re-bandaged his burn and the infection was dying away. The four of them were discussing their good fortune of finding the real Wade and speculating at what might happen to Logan. Although they held an extreme dislike for her, they had to give her credit for giving them Wade.......even if it wasnít really her intention to do so.

They looked up as the door opened and saw the doctor walk in. They all jumped slightly at first. She looked so much like her sister, that it was still a shock to see her.

"Well, I take it youíre feeling much better now, seeing youíre up and about." Lauren said to Quinn.

"Yes. I am. I want to thank you for your help, Doctor." Quinn said as he offered his hand to her.

She took it and shook firmly. "Please, call me Lauren. And it is my job. Iím just glad I got to you when I did. Things didnít look good for a while. Your fever had been so high for so long."

Remmy slapped him on the back and said, "Well, old Q-ball here, is one tough guy. Nothingís gonna keep him down for long."

"Besides, we wouldnít let it anyway." Maggie chimed in. "We donít take kindly to having one of us in trouble. We fight for each other all the way."

Lauren envied the group. They were all so close, she could tell. If only she could have that relationship with her sister. But Logan was such an evil person. When did that happen?, thought Lauren. When did she lose the goodness in her? She was brought out of her thoughts as Wade entered the room.

"Well, I just said goodbye to Mrs. Arturo." Wade said, with a tear still in her eye. "She was such a good friend to me. I almost hate to leave her."

Quinn stepped forward and held out his arms. "But I hope you have a better reason for leaving than staying." he said.

She smiled and moved to be held in those out-stretched arms. Oh, they felt so good. She closed her eyes and buried her face in his chest. Quinn rested his cheek on top of her head, closing his eyes also and savoring the warm, softness of her body. He vowed silently, to never let her out of his sight again. The others just stood by, a little awkwardly, while Quinn and Wade embraced.

They finally ended their embrace when Colin broke the silence by wondering if they would be able to let go of each other long enough for Quinn to open the vortex at the appointed time. They were having a good chuckle when the door to the room opened quietly. No one even heard it.

"Well, well, well." said a voice. "Arenít I just about the luckiest person in the whole world."

They all felt their blood freeze at the sound of that voice. Collectively they turned to face her.

"I just happen to have a gun here with six bullets. And the six people I want to kill most in the world are all standing right here together, just waiting for me. How convenient!" she said, with a sneering smile on her face.

"Logan! How the hell did you get out of your cell?" Quinn asked.

"Well, Quinn, if you were going to live long enough, you would find out that nothing keeps Logan St. Clair down for very long. I have been through hell because of you, and I wasnít going to let you have the last laugh. Not by a long shot." she answered. "Now, who wants to be first? Letís see.......who should suffer the most? Thatís the one I will shoot last. I will let you see everyone else get shot before you. Who should that be?"

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Logan sounded so crazed. Quinn moved Wade behind him, and then limped to stand out in front of everyone. Lauren moved up next to Quinn. Remmy moved Maggie behind him, and then Colin stepped forward in front of all of them.

"Logan, you can not kill all of us." he said softly. "One of us, definitely; maybe even two, but you will be stopped before you can empty the gun." Colin paused and took a deep breath. "When it is all over, this world will have you executed for killing others. You can not win."

"Oh, I will win, dear, dear Colin. Because whoever I shoot, it will hurt Quinn deeply. He cares for all of you so much. And whoever dies, will die because of him. It will haunt him for the rest of his life.......if he lives." she replied, confidently. She hadnít notice that Colin had inched just a little closer towards her.

"Are you going to kill your sister, too?" he asked. He had to keep her talking and occupied.

"What sister? You call her a sister?" she asked as she waved and pointed the gun in Laurenís direction. Everyone held their breath. "What kind of sister has she been to me? Maybe she should be the first to go!"

Colin didnít mean for the conversation to go in that direction. He certainly didnít want Lauren getting shot, but at least Logan was distracted enough not to notice his inch-by-inch approach. Lauren saw what Colin was attempting to do, so she took up the conversation to keep Logan focused on her.

"Logan, what kind of sister could I be to someone like you? You wouldnít let me in. You were so hell-bent on doing things for your pleasure and gain. Never a thought for anyone but yourself." she said. She kept direct eye-contact with Logan, but watched Colin out of the corner of her eye.

He moved another inch as Lauren spoke. Almost close enough. Just a couple more steps. Keep talking, Lauren, he thought.

Logan had the gun trained on her sister. Lauren was making her very angry, and she decided that maybe her sister should be the first to go. She raised her arm and took aim. Colin saw he had no more time and lunged at her. POW! The gun went off. Everybody hit the floor as Colin grabbed Loganís arm and pushed her to the floor, falling on top of her.

Quinn and Remmy looked in Laurenís direction. She was still standing. The bullet hadnít hit her. They turned simultaneously to the two bodies on the floor in front of them. Logan was struggling under Colinís weight. Colin didnít seem to be moving, but there was blood on the floor.

"NOOOOOOOO!" screamed Quinn, and he rushed to his brother. Remmy was there almost at the same moment. Quinn turned Colin over. There was blood all over his shirt. Lauren ran to their side. Maggie and Wade were so stunned, they just stood where they were.

"Quinn, please, let me get to him." Lauren said as she tried to push Quinn aside. He turned his eyes on Logan as she was trying to wiggle away. He grabbed her around the neck. His eyes were glazed.

"Iíll kill you for this!!!!!" he screamed. "Iíll kill you!!" And he continued to choke her with his bare hands.

"Q-ball, NO!" Remmy yelled, as he moved to try and get Quinn away from her. "You canít do this. Sheíll get her justice. But not like this!" He struggled with Quinn to loosen his grip. "You have to be here for Colin. Please. Go over there to your brother. I will take care of her."

Quinn was breathing heavy, and he slowly let Remmyís words sink in. He released his hands from around her neck and she struggled to suck in some air. Quinn stared at her as he rose reluctantly. She wiggled and backed away to lean against the wall while she recovered her breath. But Quinn couldnít let it go. He grabbed her by the shirt and hauled her to her feet.

"If he dies, you can rest assured that I will kill you with my bare hands, and the consequences be damned!" he spat out, just inches from her face. Then, as he started to turn and check on Colin, he just had to do it. "Ah, what the hell!" He brought his fist back and knocked Logan right across the jaw. The look on her face as she realized what he was about to do was worth the sore fist. He left Remmy to take care of her crumpled body and he went to Colinís side.

Remmyís eyes were wide with shock. "My God. Q-ball hit a woman! And it couldnít have happened to a nicer one. Way to go man!" he said to himself.

Quinn rushed over to the bed where Colin lay. "Lauren, is he okay?" he asked breathlessly.

"Heís going to be fine, Quinn. Itís just a flesh wound. Looks a lot worse than it is." she said as she worked on his shoulder.

Colin was awake, but pale from the loss of blood. He looked into Quinnís eyes, saying nothing. Quinn returned the look, knowing that nothing needed to be said. He took Colinís hand and held it while Lauren finished patching him up. The bullet was out and a bandage had been placed over the wound. Lauren assured them he would be fine and ready for inter-dimensional travel whenver they needed to go.

Maggie and Wade stood by the bed watching the brothers bond. Tears formed in Wadeís eyes and began trickling down her cheeks. She was so glad it hadnít been Quinn that was shot, but she hurt for Colin too. He had been so brave. Maggie saw Wade getting emotional, and true to her own personal vow to get along with this Wade, she put her arm around Wadeís shoulder to comfort her.

Guards entered the room minutes after hearing the gunshot and saw the crumpled body of Logan St. Clair on the floor. Wade went to fill them in on the events, and then they hauled the still-unconscious Logan off, promising better security and dire consequences to the guard that had helped Logan escape.

Lauren decided that Colin needed some rest. His body had been given a shock and needed some sleep to help it recover. She ushered the other sliders out, promising that they could return in a few hours. All but Quinn left immediately. Quinn needed a minute alone with his brother.

" I donít know what I would do without you, bro." he said.

Colin smiled his crooked smile and responded, "I hope you do not ever have to find out, brother. I hope we are always here for each other."

With that, Quinn left Colin to get some rest and joined his friends and his long-lost Wade. Life was good. He promised God that he would make every effort not to complain so much in the future. He had his brother, Wade and two of the best friends in the world. With them and Godís guidance, thatís all he would ever need to get along in any world.

 

THE END


Alternate Earth 117
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