"But all those worlds? Aren't we going to explore them?" Wade asked.
Quinn put the timer down and sighed. "Professor Arturo's right," he said. "We don't know enough; we have no idea what could happen." He looked over at the blackboard. "I have to understand that."
"I do believe this deserves a toast," Arturo said, staring intently at the equation on the blackboard. "A fuller understanding of this equation will come, but tonight is for celebrating. A new era of theoretical physics has begun; we should mark it. I shall go and procure some champagne." He glared at Quinn. "Of course, this will remain until I return."
They had champagne with the dinner Quinn's mother prepared for them.
The next morning, Arturo knocked on the Mallory's front door. "Professor," Quinn's mother said with a smile, "welcome back. Quinn's still asleep; let me go get him."
"Thank you," Arturo said. "I'll just wait for him downstairs."
When Quinn walked into the basement fifteen minutes later, Professor Arturo and the timer were gone. They never returned.
Five years later, Wade and Quinn were talking over dinner. "I just wish I understood why he left like that," Wade said, as she had so many times before.
"We'll never know," Quinn said with a shrug. "Maybe his curiosity just got the better of him. I think he was probably going to go with us in the first place; it wouldn't have taken much for him to agree with us."
Wade nodded, but then started humming to a song on the radio. "I love this guy. Did you know they call him ‘Crying Man’ because he can cry real tears on stage?"
Quinn shook his head. "Whatever. Good-night, Wade. I have to go to bed; I have an early class tomorrow."
2. Post Traumatic Slide Syndrome
"We have just under two days," Professor Arturo said. "Let's confirm that we’re really home."
After toasting to friendship and to home, the four of them agreed not to discuss what had happened with anyone but their families until Quinn and the Professor had figured out how to control sliding.
Two days later, Professor Arturo called a press conference to announce that he had invented sliding.
While trying to call the Professor, Quinn saw a newspaper article in which the 49ers beat the Jets in Super Bowl 19. He remembered the 49ers beating the Dolphins in that Super Bowl.
Moving over to Wade and Rembrandt, Quinn showed them the paper. "On the one hand," he said, "I suppose it doesn't matter. The timer's reset; it will be twenty-nine years before we can use it to slide again."
"And that's if you remember that Super Bowl right in the first place," Wade said.
"It's the Super Bowl," Quinn said. "Of course I'm remembering it right. It's the Super Bowl!"
"Look," Rembrandt said, "there's nothing we can do about it now, and the important thing is that the Professor is taking credit for your idea. You can't let him do that, Q-Ball."
"It doesn't matter," Quinn said, pushing his hands into his hair. "Something's wrong. I just know it."
It wasn't until he saw the Azure Gate Bridge that Quinn was able to convince Wade and Rembrandt that he was right. "I guess I wanted to be home so badly that I just ignored it," she said, tears in her eyes. "We'll never get back home again."
"Don't give up, Wade," Quinn said. "We'll just have to learn how to control the slides, that's all. This world is one where I can do the research. In the meantime," he sighed, "we might as well make ourselves comfortable until it's done."
Wade sighed and then smiled. "There are certainly worse places we could be stuck. But Arturo has to admit that sliding is your invention."
" I just want my timer back," Quinn said. "It doesn't matter to me who gets the credit.
In the end, they broke into the Professor's house and found their Professor handcuffed in the basement. "The Arturo of this world decided, and very smartly as it turned out, that his chances of returning were minimal," the Professor said. "So, he chickened out. At the last minute, he didn't slide. He's been on sabbatical in Grass Valley, trying to reconstruct sliding so he can get the credit."
Of course, this world's Arturo was determined to stop them. Not only would they ultimately be able to take the credit for sliding, but he could even potentially be arrested for the other Arturo's kidnapping. In the end, Quinn crashed one of the other Professor's press conferences and stated to the world that he was the one who had invented sliding. Before the press could begin to react to that, their Arturo walked in and asked, "Do you believe the man who claims to have invented sliding, or the one who acknowledges that his young protégé is the genius behind it?"
"A toast," Arturo said, three years later on the anniversary of their arrival, "to the man who has won the Nobel for sliding and who has now learned to control it."
Quinn looked around happily as Arturo, Wade and Rembrandt cheered him on, their families present now as well. "I hope they found their way to our world," he said, a little wistfully.
"That would be the best outcome," Arturo agreed.
3. The Exodus
After he and Maggie managed to stand, Quinn raced after Rickman. Just as Quinn reached him, the Colonel pulled out his timer. Quinn managed to jump on the Colonel and stop him from activating the wormhole, but when they fell, the timer dropped out of Rickman's hand. The two men struggled for a few moments, but the Colonel finally knocked Quinn down.
While the two men fought, Maggie was able to dart in and grab the timer. Then she waited for Rickman to stand over Quinn, preparing to fire. Maggie didn't give him the chance. As soon as she had a clear shot, she fired. Rickman fell; he was dead by the time she reached him.
After the three remaining Sliders were reunited, they held a memorial for Arturo. "Thanks to your husband," Quinn said to Maggie afterwards, "we can go home. After everything you've done for us, is there anything we can do to thank you?"
She smiled. "Just get home," she said. "We have a new life to build."
Two weeks later the Kromaggs invaded their home.
4. This Slide of Paradise
As Maggie headed for Rickman, Quinn turned to Wade and Rembrandt. "I said go!" he shouted and stepped forward to push them into the vortex.
Rembrandt was ready for him. He grabbed Wade, and pushed back. Both of them stepped away from the vortex before Quinn could push them through.
"What are you doing?" Quinn shouted.
"Saving you," Rembrandt shouted back.
"Come on, let's go save Miss Not-a-Team-Player," Wade shouted.
The three of them turned and went to rescue Maggie from Rickman. Once separated, Rickman saw the vortex and, determined not to be stranded on this world, jumped into it. Unfortunately for him, the vortex closed just before he reached it. He fell to his death.
"Can't we just use this timer again?" Rembrandt asked, holding it up. "It's not on random, is it, Q-Ball?"
"Maggie can't breathe our air," Quinn said. "We can't—"
"Yes, we can," Maggie said. "You'll just have to make sure I can breathe somehow."
"All right, but we're using the other timer," Quinn said. "Just to be safe. It can track the coordinates of the other wormhole; we'll still get home."
When the timer reached zero, the four Sliders leapt into the vortex. As soon as they landed, Quinn turned to Maggie. "We've got to get you to a hospital."
"Wait a minute," she said. "This isn't your home world. I'm not having any trouble breathing."
"The tracking device must have been damaged in the fight with Rickman," Quinn said, looking at the timer. "We just slid randomly." He stepped to a railing and looked out onto a futuristic landscape. "We must have slid into the future."
Wade and Rembrandt stared at the view before them, Wade's eyes filled with tears.
Maggie looked at them quietly. "Then how do we get you home?"
"I don't know," said Quinn.
It didn't take long for them to discover that they hadn't slid into the future after all; they were still in the same timeline, but the original timer was showing signs of breaking down. "I don't want to risk using it," Quinn said, after spending a week working on it. "It might take us home, but it might not. Anything could happen to us. We're better off using the other timer; it still has the coordinates of our home world."
Three months, and ten worlds, later, Wade said, "I'm not sure how much longer I can take this."
"You just hang on, girl," Rembrandt said. "I know Q-Ball's going to get us home."
"Here we go," Quinn said as he activated the timer yet again.
As soon as they landed, Maggie started gasping, clutching her stomach and bending over, trying to get more air. After a few minutes, she was able to say, "You're home."
Quinn had already scooped her up and was running to get help. Wade looked around and ran for a nearby pay phone. "Wait a minute," Maggie said, holding up her hand. "Don't bother. Quinn, put me down. I can breathe."
Quinn sat her down on a nearby bench. "That's amazing!" he said. "Your body must have adapted to be able to use our air."
Wade and Rembrandt looked at each other and grinned. "The Chandler?" he asked.
"Why not just go to your homes?" Maggie asked.
"We've been gone over three years," Wade said. "They probably believe we're dead by now."
"And we've been fooled into thinking we’d made it home before," Rembrandt added. "Checking things out carefully is a better idea than just appearing out of nowhere."
"You're the experts," Maggie said.
They checked into the Chandler. Wade and Quinn waited tables and Rembrandt played in the bar. Even though Maggie could breathe the air, she found herself tiring easily. The other three insisted she take it easy.
When they weren't working, they were looking to confirm they'd returned home.
Two weeks later, when they were finally ready to believe they were home, the Kromaggs invaded their world.
When Maggie rushed at Rickman, Quinn turned to Wade and Rembrandt. "I said go!" he shouted and stepped forward to push them into the vortex. Then he turned, grabbed Maggie around the waist and pulled her with him, kicking and screaming. "You can slide from our world!" he shouted. "We have both timers; Rickman will be trapped here."
Rickman didn't follow them through the vortex. "How much longer until the wormhole opens?" Wade asked, looking at Maggie gasping.
"Just a few minutes," Quinn said. "I'm going with her; you two are home."
Wade stepped closer and hugged him. "Good luck, both of you."
"It's been a hell of a ride," Rembrandt said, hugging him as well.
As Quinn turned to activate the wormhole, Maggie held up her hand. "Wait a minute," she said. "I can breathe." She looked at the others. "Don't open the wormhole, Quinn," she said. "The three of you are home and mine is gone. I can breathe, so I'm staying."
"Your lungs must have adapted somehow," Quinn said, staring. He looked down at the timer. "Last chance."
Maggie took a deep breath. "I'm staying."
Wade and Rembrandt looked at each other and grinned. "The Chandler?" he asked.
"Yeah," Wade said, smiling. "That'll make a good home base to start with. We can get in touch with our families and figure out what to do next."
Two weeks later, the Kromaggs invaded their world.
"There you are," Wade yelled, smiling and waving her arm. "We've been waiting for you." She didn't look quite steady on her feet.
"Here I am," Quinn said, smiling at her. "Looks like you got started without me."
"She wouldn't let us have any of the champagne, Q-Ball," Rembrandt said, grinning as he pulled the champagne bottle out of its bucket and carefully popped the cork. He poured the sparkling wine into the four champagne glasses and raised his. "A toast," he said. "To friendship."
"And home," Quinn said, raising his own glass.
"Don't take this wrong, Quinn," Maggie said, "but you look awful. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Quinn answered. "I haven't been sleeping well lately, that’s all. I've had the weirdest dreams."
"Ooooh, about what?" Wade asked. "Hey, do you remember that world where they could make your dreams real?"
"Okay," Quinn said, raising his hands. "Let's not get all freaked out. They're just bad dreams, not omens, not attacks, just dreams."
"Tell us about them," Maggie said. "Even if they're only bad dreams, what else are friends for?"
"Never mind," Quinn said, shaking his head. "I'm just glad we're home, safe and sound."
The four Sliders raised their glasses in a second toast. "Gonna need to order another bottle if we keep up like this," Rembrandt said.
"So, Maggie," Wade said, "did they call you?"
"Yeah," Maggie said, looking embarrassed. "I don't know; I don't much like the limelight."
"What's this?" Quinn asked. "And why haven't I heard about it?"
"Because I've been waiting for Maggie to tell you," Wade said with the air of someone stating the obvious.
"Wade's publisher contacted me to write about those three months we were sliding after Wade and Rembrandt got home," Maggie said. Quinn thought she was pleased and wanted to be coaxed into accepting.
"So, what's the problem?" he asked.
"Don't see one from here," Rembrandt said.
"Yeah, maybe," Maggie said. Her shoulders were a bit hunched in, very unlike Maggie's usual perfect posture, and she looked uncertain.
"I'm just glad you found your way back to us," Wade said. "All that time sliding, and then we almost lost you because of Rickman at the end."
"We got back," Quinn said. "That's all that matters."
"To coming home," Rembrandt said. "Y'know that's the title of my new album."
"To Professor Maximillian Arturo," Quinn said. The other three joined him in the toast.