May 13, 1997

Thirty seconds.

That is the amount of time left on the timer.

Quinn Mallory, Wade Welles, Rembrandt Brown, and Maggie Beckett stand in a forest. There is less than half a minute before the vortex can be opened. and, if Quinn had entered the proper coordinates into the timer, they would slide home.

Quinn kisses Maggie goodbye, and gives them the timer they had been using.

These seconds are the longest seconds in his life, Rembrandt thinks.

Then the timer reaches zero, and the red vortex is opened. This is it; this is the way home.

they all hope.

Suddenly, as if coming out of the shadows, Colonel Angus Rickman attacks Maggie. The other sliders look in horror at the man who had murdered Professor Maximilian Arturo.

Quinn tells Rembrandt and Wade to just jump into the vortex. They hesitate for a second, but the look in Quinn's eyes tell them otherwise. They jump in.

Now Wade and Rembrandt fly through the tunnel of light. Soon the tunnel of light disappears and they look around at their surroundings.

The first thing they notice is the big, red vortex leading back to the island where they came from. Will Quinn come through?

Or will it be Colonel Rickman who will pursue them through the vortex and kill them.

they wait patiently for many seconds.

Then the vortex closes.

"My God," said Wade. "Quinn didn't make it."

"Q-Ball," Rembrandt whispers softly. Rembrandt can only imagine Quinn getting killed by Rickman. He looks at the timer; there are forty-eight hours left, forty-eight hours until they can open the vortex back to the world they came from.

He looks at his surroundings. He seems to be indoors. The walls are made of white plaster, and his feet are pressing against a carpet.

He then sees a bed. and there is a man and a woman in the bed together, covering their bodies with the blanket.

"I don't know who you are, or how you got here," says the man. "But we called the cops, and you'd better be out of here!"

"Okay," says Rembrandt. "We were just leaving."

The two of them leave the bedroom and head out the front door of the house. they find themselves on a residential street, with the night sky above them. From the looks of things, he and Wade seem to be in a suburban development somewhere in California.

"Quinn was left behind," said Wade. "My God, he could be dead."

Rembrandt looks around at the quiet street, not quite like the island laboratory which they had fled. They had to deal not only with Rickman, but with Huminals-human/animal hybrids. Rickman and the Huminals are fast becoming a distant memory.

"We should not give up yet," says the singer. "Now, Q-Ball and Maggie have the timer which is set to track Rickman's timer. And from what I remember, they will be arriving home shortly."

"But they can arrive hundreds of miles away." The sliding radius of the timers could open a wormhole anywhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"We'd better find out where we are," says Rembrandt. "the next thing we do is find a public library and do some research to see if this is home."

"I don't think the library would be open at this hour, if this is indeed home. But I think there is someone whom we could call."

Wade and Rembrandt walk down the street until they reach a street corner. the street signs show they are on Sierra Drive and Black Oak Street. They continue walking until they reach a major street called Westlake Boulevard.

"There must be a gas station or a shopping center down the road," says Wade. And so she and Rembrandt walk down the sidewalk for a few minutes, until they reach a shopping center.

"North Ranch Mall," says Rembrandt, looking at the sign. He then looks at a traffic signal at the cornet where the North Ranch Mall is located. He reads the signs hanging from the mast arms which hold the traffic signals.

"Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard," he says.

"And look, there is a sign for the 101," says Wade, looking at a green road sign. she and Rembrandt both remember that U.S. Highway 101 leads to San Francisco. "Well, let's make a call."

Wade goes to a public telephone and dials 0 for the operator. She gives the operator the number for Quinn's house, and tells her whom she is.

"Hello?" asks a female voice.

"Mrs. Mallory?" asks Wade. "this is Wade Welles."

"Wade?" asks Quinn's mother. "you're home?"

"I think so."

"Where's Quinn?" asks Mrs. Mallory.

"Quinn got separated from us. We don't know where he is."

"What happened to him?"

"We don't know, Mrs. Mallory. He has anothet timer, and he might have followed us to this world. You might be receiving a call from him soon. Mrs. Mallory, we're now in the city of Thousand Oaks, and we'd like transportation."

"that's really far away."

"Mrs. Mallory, we need to check things out first. But we'll get home soon."

Wade hangs up the telephone. "Quinn's mom doesn't know where she is," she says.

"Maybe Quinn's somewhere where there isn't any nearby public telephones," suggests Rembrandt. "He must have followed us here. Listen, we'll need to get to San Francisco, and we'll need cash."

Rembrandt and Wade go to an automated teller machine at the North Ranch Mall. Rembrandt uses his personal identification number.

"So far, so good," says Rembrandt. "My PIN works here." He proceeds to withdraw three hundred dollars. Rembrandt checks the dollar bills. There are some pre-1995 bills; they all look the same as he remembers. "Money from before we left still looks the same."

"Well, the last time we thought we were home, the Golden Gate Bridge was blue," says Wade.

"And before that, Quinn's dad was alive," adds Rembrandt. "Well, there's no time to waste. We'd better call a taxi and head for the nearest Amtrak station."

Elizabeth Mallory looks through the Rolodex in her kitchen. She then dials a number on one of the cards.

"This is Elizabeth Mallory," she says. "I'm sorry to disturb you on this late at night, but I have important news."

After paying the taxi driver the proper fare, Rembrandt buys two tickets for an Amtrak train to San Francisco. He also buys a copy of the May 13, 1997 issue of the Los Angeles Times. He browses the newspapers for references to pre-1995 history.

President Bill Clinton is mentioned in one of the articles in the front section, and Governor Pete Wilson is mentioned in another section. Both Rembrandt and Wade scan through the newspaper. So far, there are no signs of any historical deviation.

At least there will be more time to research the history of the world tomorrow morning, when the libraries are open.

Then the train arrives, and they both sit down together in one of the cars. The train continues its journey to San Francisco.

May 14, 1997

The Amtrak train finally arrives in San Francisco. Rembrandt and Wade wake up. They immediately head for a Pacific Bell public telephone in the train station's waiting room and tell Quinn's mother that tthey have arrived and that they will go to her house. Then Rembrandt dials another number and asks for a taxi. Then they go wait outside.

Soon a Ford Crown Victoria taxi arrives. When Wade and Rembrandt approach the yellow taxi, they find out that the taxi driver is none other than Pavel Kurlienko!

"Hello," he says in this thick Russian accent.

"We need a ride," says Rembrandt.

And so they get in. The two sliders lost count of how many times they have met duplicates of this man. This duplicate may be their version of Pavel Kurlienko.

Soon the taxi drops them off at the Mallory house. The two of them look at the house. This simple, tweo-story house is where their adventure began.

Wade rings the doorbell. A middle-aged woman answers that she recognizes as Quinn's mother.

"Mrs. Mallory, I am Wade Welles," she says. "It is such a pleasure to finally meet you."

They both hug each other. "Welcome home," she says. And it is true they never actually met. Wade had met duplicates of Quinn's mother, but never the original.

"Mrs. Mallory, is your husband dead?" asks Wade.

Quinn's mother stays silent for a few seconds. "Yes."

"What color is the Golden Gate Bridge?"

"Red."

"Please excuse us," says Rembrandt. "We just want to make sure we were home. By the way, ma'am, I am Rembrandt Brown."

"You were the one who drove into the vortex, right?" asks Elizabeht Mallory.

"Yeah."

"Would you like something to eat?" asks Quinn's mother. "I have frozen foods which can be heat in the microwave."

"No thanks," says Wade. "We'd like to go to your study."

"Sure, its' upstairs."

Wade and Rembrandt browse through the books in the study, including the World Atlas and the World Book Encyclopedia and textbooks on world and American history. All of the books were published before 1995.

"Everything checks out," says Rembrandt. "We're home."

"I hope so," says Wade. "I haven't checked out my own personal history. I guess I'll find out when I meet my family tomorrow."

"You looking forward to that?"

"Yes. I have so much to tell them."

The two of them wake up the next morning. They both have Frosted Flakes cereal and toast for breakfast. As they eat, they wonder if they will receive a phone call from Quinn. But none came.

then the doorbell rings. "It could be Quinn," says Wade.

She, Rembrandt, and Quinn's mother answer the door. they hope to find Quinn.

Instead they face a woman in a U.S. Marine Corps dress uniform. There is a pilot's badge over her left breast, and the rank insignia on her shoulders show she is s captain.

"Maggie," says Wade.

"You made it," says Rembrandt, thrilled to see the woman whom he and Quinn and Wade have known for the past three months. "Where's Quinn? Is he with you?"

Then he sees another man standing behind Maggie, also dressed in a Marine dress uniform. He focuses on the face. It is a face that he will never forget.

It is the face of Colonel Angus Rickman.