I felt the bus come to a stop next to a shopping center in San Jose, California. I stepped off on to the sidewalk and I looked around. Across the parking lot was my destination-the Borders bookstore.

I had spent a few days on this world. The native Quinn was unable to help me, so I got a job to support myself until I would slide out. During my free time I went about learning more about the world where I would be living in for a while.

I came across a novel, written by a man named Ben Conrad. The title stood out.

It was called Sliders.

The protagonist, whose name was Jerry, invented a machine that could generate a wormhole. He, a woman named Sabrina, and a professor named Arthur Maxwell all jumped in. A singer named Derek also drove in accidentally. Something went wrong, and now they slide randomly from universe to universe.

I knew in my heart this could not be a coincidence caused by quantum interference. The story was too similar to what my brother Quinn told me in the year-and-a half that I had known him.

I went to the Internet to learn more about this. Sliders was a series of novels, all based on the adventures of Jerry, Sabrina, Arthur, and Derek. This was the first work by Ben Conrad. After doing more Internet serching, it turned out that Ben Conrad was going to sign books at Borders in San Jose. So I collected my money and took a little bus ride all the way from Daly City to San Jose.

I entered through the glass doors of the building. And it was a huge bookstore, with two floors with plenty of bookcases and books. I saw a book by some guy named Larry Elder on a display in the front along with other new releases. There were also books titled Harry Potter, which was apparently a serial novel like Sliders.

I saw a crowd of people in the cafe section of the Borders store. They must be there to greet this author Ben Conrad.

I stood in line behind all sorts of people, who all have a common interest in the Sliders novels. They all left the line as they received their book. After a few minutes, it was my turn.

I looked at the fellow, who had brown dreadlocks covering his ears and was dressed in flannel clothesd. I recognized him, for I had a few encounters with his other incarnations.

"You're Conrad Bennish," I said. "That's your real name, isn't it?"

There was a look of surprise on his face. "Well, if you say so," he said.

"I read your novels. They're based on real people. I know that Jerry stands for Quinn Mallory. Sabrina stands for Wade Welles. Arthur Maxwell stands for Maximilian Arturo. And Derek stands for Rembrandt Brown."

He sat there silent for a minute. Then he said, "I couldn't use their real names."

"My name is Colin Mallory. I'm Quinn's brother. I'm a slider just like he is. And I need your help."

"Sit tight," he said. "I'll talk to you later."

So I did. And I waited as Conrad signed more and more books, until the book-signing tour was over.

"Let's talk, Colin," he said. "But not here."

We decided to sit at the outdoor patio of a brewery. We all got brewery-made beers to drink.

"This is Jewel," said Conrad, referring to a young woman with shoulder-length blond hair.

"Hi," I said.

"Nice to meet you," said Jewel.

"Conrad," I said, "the story you wrote is similar to my experience with Quinn. In September of 1994, he opened a wormhole while researching anti-gravity. He, Wade Welles, Rembrandt Brown, and Maximilian Arturo went in. They did not come back. Quinn was a grad student. Maximilian Arturo was his professor."

"Quinn did not have a brother," said Conrad.

"He did not know about it until he returned to Rembrandt's home world. It had been conquered by some people called kromaggs who came from another version of Earth. He learned he was from the same world the kromaggs came from, and that he had a brother. I met Quinn almost two years ago."

"So where is he?"

"I got separated from him last June. I know why you are here, Conrad. The kromaggs were overrunning America, so you escaped to here."

"I'd like you to meet some people," said Conrad.

I was riding in the back seat of Conrad's sport utility vehicle, a DeLorean Cougar. We here headed north on Interstate 880.

Conrad exited in the city of Walnut Creek and then headed east towards the hills separating the San Francisco Bay basin from the Central Valley. He got onto a dirt road, past a sign reading, "Private Property. No Trespassing."

Conrad parked the Cougar and shut off the engine. I saw our destination-a big house.

"This is where we live," said Conrad. "We decided to stick together."

He went out the front door and unlocked it. We went inside to what appeared to be the front hall. There was a huge staircase in the center which led to the upper floors.

"Who's the visitor?" asked a female voice which sounded familiar.

I looked and my eyes confirmed what my ears have heard.

I was looking at Maggie Beckett!

"Maggie!" I shouted, greeting her with a hug. "I'm glad you're here. Where's Quinn and Remmy?"

"Who are you?" she asked.

"It's me Colin! you know, Quinn's brother."

"Quinn didn't have a brother."

"I spoke with him, Maggie," said Conrad. "I think we should all meet him."

So that's what we did.

I met with the people living in this commune east of Walnut Creek. Aside from Conrad and Maggie and Jewel, I was introduced to Alexander Hunt, Angus Rickman, Wing, Diana Davis, Steven Jensen, and Vladimir Jariabek.

"So tell us your story," said Maggie.

So I did. I told her how I met Quinn, Rembrandt, and another version of her. I told them that Rembrandt returned, and soon after, the U.S. was attacked by the Kromagg Dynasty. I told them that I had become separated from Quinn, and now I slide randomly from universe to universe without a timer.

Maggie looked at her companions. "I think it is time we told Colin Mallory here about where we are from," she said.

"Okay," I asked.

"In January of 1995 I was promoted to captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. Afterward, I met with General Hunt and Colonel Rickman and the Joint Chiefs. They told me that four people disappeared in San Francisco. Conrad Bennish, Jr. here told them about the sliding generator. After preliminary interviews, President Clinton decided to continue the research. In March of 1995, Congress passed a bill authorizing the expenditure into sliding research, and placed the research under the control of the U.S. Marine Corps. A research facility was set up at Yerba Buena Island in the San Francisco Bay, and I was assigned there. Bennish and a fellow classmate Wing were hired, along with Drs. Davis, Jariabek, and Jensen. We studied the wormhole for over a year before we sent a human through."

"And that was you," I said. "You were the first to slide from there since my brother's experiment."

"Yes, I was," said Maggie. "I was the first to go. I came back fifteen minutes later. We sent Marines to scout the new worlds even as the researchers studied the nature of these wormholes. We even tracked some of the worlds where Quinn Mallory and his friends went to.

"It was on February 6, 1997 that the lab received a call from Elizabeth Mallory, who is Quinn's mother. She told us that Quinn and an unidentified woman came back, but the woman had to be brought to a hospital. Quinn later slid out. Three months later, on May 13, Mrs. Mallory told us that Rembrandt and Wade came back. Colonel Rickman and I visited them at the Mallory residence the next day. They seemed to recognize me, and they also seemed to have a problem with Rickman. I brought them to the base where I asked them about their travels as well as their personal lives. They told me that they had been sliding from universe to universe, just as the researchers predicted. They also told me that another version of me had joined them in February, and she was the one who was brought to the hospital. They also told me that Professor Maximilian Arturo had been killed-by another version of Colonel Angus Rickman no less."

"Well, that explained the initial hostility towards me," said Rickman.

"We gave them full access to the facility. After two weeks, they decided to move to Los Angeles to renew their lives on Earth Prime. I kept in touch with them. They told me if Quinn and my double made their way here, they would contact me."

"Rembrandt told me that he met his world's version of Maggie Beckett," I said.

"Well, as I said," said Maggie, "I kept in touch with them. I even visited them sometime in June. I told them to keep up hope; that Quinn will come back. They even told me more about the Maggie Beckett they have known for three months. Then the fate of the whole world changed on Friday, July 11, 1997; a day even more infamous than the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"I was having a few drinks in a San Francisco bar that Friday night when a special report came on the news. An Army general named Shinseki came on TV and announced that Washington had just been attacked. There was no word on the number of casualties, or even if the President had survived. Even though I was drunk, I immediately got into my car and headed over to Yerba Buena. I had the radio on. there was all sorts of emergency announcements. Governor Pete Wilson mobilized the entire California National Guard. Every police department, sheriff's department, and law enforcement agency was on full tactical alert. Over the next few days, the bombings continued. Treasury Secretary Rob Rubin was sworn in as acting President of the United States in an undisclosed location. After two weeks of bombings, the enemy was finally sighted.

"They were aliens. The Army and Marines tried to drive them back, but they were defeated. They took Los Angeles and then San Francisco. From news reports we heard that the aliens were overrunning America. We hid in an underground bunker in Yerba Buena. We received no word from the chain of command, and our supplies were running low. Soon July 29, 1997 we decided to evacuate Earth Prime, and hide out here."

"Why here?" I asked.

"The history here is very similar to Earth Prime, with a few minor differences. We wanted to live somewhere where we could adapt easily."

"Did you ever try to go back?" I asked. "Maybe the kromaggs were defeated."

"No, we haven't," said Maggie. "How much do you know about these kromaggs?"

"They are a species of people that originate from some versions of Earth," I said. "I was born on a world which was shared by humans and kromaggs. Around the time I was born, the kromaggs started a war to conquer the world. The U.S. developed a weapon that succeeded in driving them from our world. A slidecage was later developed to prevent any intrusions from another dimension. The kromaggs started conquering other worlds, including your home world.

"I think Quinn, Rembrandt, and your counterpart are still alive. Wade was captured by the kromaggs and sent to a prison camp on another Earth."

"Well," said Alexander Hunt, "I suggest we eat."

We had roast chicken for dinner. I spoke with the others and leanred more about them.

"So you defected from the Soviets?" I asked Dr. Jariabek.

"Yes," he said. "I came to work in their physics program, and I worked onsliding research from 1995 to 1997."

"Have you checked into the lives of your duplicates from this Earth?" I asked everyone. "I mean, it's not a good idea to get mixed up in their lives."

"My duplicate is dead," said Maggie. "She was a Marine pilot like me. I learned she caught an air-to-air missile during the Gulf War back in '91. I remember how I had a near miss with a missile when I flew in the Gulf War. I guess she was not as lucky."

"Listen," said Conrad after dinner was over, "you can spend the night if you like. They let Jewel spend the night with me."

"I have work tomorrow at 10 AM," I said. I went to the common living room. There was a Toshiba television and a Zenith stereo system. I saw a Time magazine with President Sam Nunn on the cover, and I saw a People magazine with Jenna von Oy on the cover. I decided to turn on the television to learn more about the news.

"So Senator," said Bill O' Reilly, "you think that the time has come to invade Iraq?"

"Yes," said Senator Dan Lungren, who was the guest on that news show. "Saddam Hussein has been violating the ceasefire for nine years. Getting his regime to comply with the ceasefire terms has been a priority under the Dole and Nunn administrations. It is clear after nine years that he is not going to comply, ever."

"There are quite a few Republicans who oppose the war."

"I understand the reason, Bill. In war, people get killed-some of them who have done nothing wrong. When we invade, Americans will die, and Iraqis who have done nothing wrong will die.

"And yet we can not appease people like Saddam Hussein. He launched an invasion of Kuwait and he signed a ceasefire to avoid invasion, and for the past nine years he had openly violated the ceasefire. There has never been a case where a criminal on parole openly violated parole for nine years without being arrested. The ceasefire was broken almost nine years ago. We imposed sanctions, we bombed his military, and he has not come to the table to renew the ceasefire. So now we must take him down."

"And yet you are running for the Republican nomination hoping to unseat President Nunn."

"I've disagreed with Sam Nunn sometimes, many times," said Dan Lungren, "and I am quite vocal when I do so. But what we need to remember is that Sam Nunn is not the enemy; Saddam Hussein is the enemy."

"Once again, that was Senator Dan Lungren," said Bill O' Reilly, "Republican from California, running for the nomination for President."

I had asked for a book on the history of Earth Prime; apparently they had time to pack sauch things when they evacuated. I wanted to compare the history of Earth Prime with the history of the Earth where these refugees settled.

The histories were similar. It was on the small scale that I noticed the differences.

On this world, General George Washington was killed during the Revolutionary War. On Earth Prime, George Washington went on to be first President of the United States.

On this world, Hannibal Hamlin succeeded Abraham Lincoln in 1865 following the end of the American Civil War. On Earth Prime, Andrew Johnson was Lincoln's successor.

On this world, Franklin Roosevelt ordered the atomic bombing of Germany in 1945. On Earth Prime, Harry Truman ordered the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945.

On this world, President Richard M. Nixon was assasinated in 1973. On Earth Prime, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

On this world, President Bob Dole was elected in 1988 and re-elected in 1992, while President Sam Nunn was elected in 1996. On Earth Prime, President George Bush was elected in 1988 and was defeated by President Bill Clinton in 1992. Bill Clinton was President on July 11, 1997 when the kromaggs attacked. there were minor differences in history, far too many to count.

Conrad took me to the basement. I saw all sorts of equipment.

"We built a sliding generator here," said Conrad. "We set it up back in 1997, before we evacuated here. This was one of the worlds we were monitoring, so we set up a base of operations here. We never dreamed this would be our refuge."

"You ever slide to other worlds from here?" I asked.

"Only to safe worlds," said Conrad. "We keep a log of every world we visit on this computer."

I went to sleep in a guest room. It was simple with a bed and a lamp. It was then I contacted him.

For over half a year a man from another version of Earth has been contacting me in my dreams.

"Hello, Colin," he said.

"Hi," I replied. "So, are these people from the same world my brother grew up in?"


"Are they all right?"

"Yes, they are. You still have a long way ahead of you before you meet them. There is still so much for you to do. But do not lose faith. You will meet them when the time is right."

"I'm glad you're watching over me."