Concept by Brand_S
Wade put away her journal in her newly bought backpack. She felt that she should carry around some of the mementos from her newly rejuvenated sliding experience. Right now, it only held her calendar and the journal. But she hoped it would be full by the time they reached Earth Prime.
Now, Earth Prime was her new destination, so Wade wanted the other Sliders to tell her as much about it as they could. Remmy and Quinn had fun talking about home, but there really wasn't much of a difference between Earth Prime and her world. The main difference was the Golden Gate Bridge, but that was already a familiar sight.
"Wade, come on!" Quinn yelled from the living room.
When Wade arrived in the room, the vortex had already been open for almost half a minute.
"That journal's going to be the end of you Wade, I promise!" Quinn said as he waved her inside the vortex.
Wade smiled and jumped inside, followed quickly by Quinn. After a rather rough slide, the group landed on some very soft grass.
"Well, that's nice," Rembrandt commented, looking around. They appeared to be in Golden Gate Park, but it was so much nicer looking than usual.
"Wow, I'm very impressed," Quinn added. "Is this Green week or something?"
The group walked around, finding absolutely no trash at all. Very surprising, considering the near lack of trash cans.
"Do you all notice that," Rembrandt said, inhaling the air. "Have you smelled air this fresh in a while?"
"Not on a world as industrialized as this," Quinn answered. "We should probably find their secret to share with the rest of the multiverse."
The sliders approached the edge of the park, as they came to the first road. The cars all appeared to be electric, and there was not a hint of smog in the sky over downtown San Francisco.
"Paradise?" Wade asked.
The rest of the group was speechless, as they approached the first taxi cab they saw. Driving the cab was a familiar face in a different atmosphere.
"Where do you want to go?" asked a very cheerful Gomez Calhoun. The rest of the group wondered whether this was the first time they had seen him outside of a hotel, but Arturo finally answered his query.
"Take us to the Dominion hotel, my good man."
Gomez gave a strange look back at Arturo. "Hotel," he asked. Well, the old part of town has some antique hotels, but I'm not sure if one's called "The Dominion."
Quinn responded quickly. "Nevermind, then. Why don't you just take us around town? We'll tell you when to stop," Quinn said, passing Gomez some money.
"That's what I like to hear," Gomez said. He put the cab into gear and started to drive.
On the ride, the group tried to discuss the reason as to why there were no hotels. Arturo had a good theory, but he decided to hold off to avoid looking strange in front of Gomez. Once the conversation died down, the group began looking outside at the eerie cleanliness. One thing they saw a lot of was the logo for a country called "OmniClean."
"What is this OmniClean company?" Wade asked. She knew better, because questions like that usually forced them to explain their sudden presence, but the silence in the cab was getting to her.
"You don't know what OmniClean is, lady?" Gomez responded. "Where have you been, a cave?"
Rembrandt and Quinn thought quickly, and both responded quickly. "We're from Canada." Both laughed, as it harked back to their past adventures.
"Oh, I see now," Gomez said. "Well, its a great company. It was established about fifty years ago, when it decided to clean up the country. They created electric cars and other stuff to reduce pollution. They even invented a power plant that runs on trash, so there aren't any more landfills."
Quinn and Arturo wondered about the air pollution from that type of power plant, but they assumed that Gomez wouldn't know.
"You know what?" Gomez said. "It'll probably cost me a few bucks because its right down the street, but I'm going to take you to the OmniClean plant. Since you're tourists, I know you'll have a blast. I'll even admit that I've been there a couple times, and I live here!"
Quinn and Arturo were excited to look into this world's resources, and even Wade and Rembrandt wanted to know how the OmniClean company kept things as clean as they were. They decided to take Gomez up on his offer.
Quinn payed Gomez the remaining charge for the cab ride, while Arturo, Wade, and Rembrandt went to get in line for the plant tour.
"You see, Ms. Welles, I believe that this world has some sort of housing development for visitors. With the extra room from the lack of landfills and the extra money that would have gone towards pollution control, its certainly not impossible. I wouldn't even be surprised if it were free."
Quinn ran to catch up with the others, but he was stopped by a security guard.
"Whoa, buddy. There is no need to run. If you need to catch up with a tour group, I can drive you in my..."
The guard stopped and took off his sunglasses. He stared Quinn in the face, and this made Quinn nervous. However, the guard suddenly had a big smile on his face.
"Mr. Mallory?" the guard asked.
"Yes, I am Quinn Mallory," Quinn answered.
"Is that what they're calling you now, Mr. Mallory?" the guard asked. "Are you here to see your brother? I wasn't informed you were coming, but I'm pretty sure your brother's here anyway."
Quinn thought about the conversation. He knew he looked like his fraternal double, and that might have explained why the guard didn't see him as Quinn. But the word "brother" sent shivers down his spine. He wasn't sure if he could face Colin again, even if it was only a double.
"Right this way, Mr. Mallory," the guard said, inviting him into his electric cart. On the way, the guard attempted small talk, but Quinn was not interested. He was preparing himself for a meeting with Colin Mallory.
At the end of a sterile corridor, the cart stopped. "Just up those stairs and to the right," the guard said. "But you know that, of course. Good day, sir."
Quinn told the man "thank you," and he moved up the stairs. After turning right, he approached an office door and turned the doorknob. Looking inside, he saw a man he didn't recognize. Looking outside, he saw that the name on the door was "Colin Mallory."
"Cameron! What are you doing here?" the man said, very excited. "I had no idea you were coming into town. Come in, come in!"
The man had called him "Cameron." Quinn quickly adapted, but his mind remained on his "brother's" face. Of course! Just like he was in the body of his fraternal double, this was Colin's fraternal double! Quinn breathed a sigh of relief as he responded.
"So, how was it?" Colin asked. "Is it as bad as they say it is?"
Quinn was puzzled. He had learned how to think on his feet, but he was clueless how to answer in this instance. He knew better, but he asked what Colin was talking about.
"Prison, Cam," Colin asked. "How was prison?"
Arturo and Wade were still talking about the possibilities of this world, but Rembrandt was concerned with Quinn. The three were almost to the front of the line, and Quinn still hadn't shown up.
"Guys, have you seen Quinn?" Rembrandt asked.
"Why, no," Arturo answered. "I haven't seen him since we left the cab."
"Well, I'm going to look for him. You guys go ahead with the tour. I'll find him."
As Rembrandt walked away, Arturo paid for two tickets for the plant tour.
"Prison?" Quinn thought. On this world, he must have been a criminal of some sort. He thought best to keep quiet as much as he could.
"Why didn't you call me when you got out?" Colin asked. "Its great to see you!"
"You too, Colin," Quinn responded, so to not look strange.
"Come on, let me show you around. You haven't seen much of the new stuff, have you?"
Rembrandt walked to the front office of the plant and asked if they had seen anyone resembling Quinn.
"I don't know, sir," the man said. "But I can punch up the security cameras to see where he went, if he came in the building."
"That'd be great, thank you very much," Rembrandt responded with a smile on his face.
As the man went to activate his computer, Rembrandt glanced at the timer. They had just over a day left on this world. Plenty of time to find Quinn and then get some rest.
"Here we are," the man said very politely. Rembrandt noticed that most of this world's inhabitants were very kind. This world just might have been paradise.
Rembrandt and the man looked at the camera of the front door and watched Quinn enter the building with a rather confused look on his face. They then switched cameras to see Quinn speak with the security guard. On that camera, the man noticed Quinn.
"Oh, that's Cameron Mallory!" the man said. Rembrandt was about to correct the man, but he assumed that Cameron was Quinn's name on this world.
"I'll take you to his brother's office," the man said. "I'm sure that's where he is."
"No, I suppose I haven't, Colin," Quinn answered. He didn't really want to leave the office, because he knew that he would have to be finding his friends soon.
"Okay, then, let's go," Colin said. He rose from his chair and moved to get his jacket.
Quinn stopped Colin before he got there. "Don't you think that we can sit for a second," he said. I'm pretty tired from the ride over here.
"Sure, Cam," Colin said with a smile. "I guess we could look over the plant from my laptop."
Just then, there was a buzz on the intercom.
"Mr. Mallory, there is a man here to see you," the voice said.. "He says he's looking for Cameron."
On the plant tour, Arturo and Wade did not learn as much as they would have hoped. It seemed to be designed for people who were already very familiar with the technology on this world. The two sliders thought it best to not ask any suspicious questions, but Arturo still wanted to know more. As the tour ended, he promised himself a visit to the library.
"Pretty short tour," Wade commented. "That's the last time I trust Gomez Calhoun."
Rembrandt entered Colin's office, and he also greeted "Cameron." Colin offered him a chance to watch the "virtual tour" along with the two brothers, but he declined.
"Cameron, we have friends waiting downstairs," Rembrandt said. He knew that the tour was probably over by now, but they still had to meet up with Wade and Arturo. "And we also need to find a place to stay."
"You don't have a place to stay, bro?" Colin asked with a hint of surprise in his face.
"Well, not really. I mean, there's this little place, but..." Quinn lied because he actually wanted to find more about this world and his "family," and he wanted to take Colin's invitation.
"There's no buts about it Cam," Colin said. "You and your friends are staying with me. I'll send down for your other friends right now. What do they look like?"
Colin moved towards the intercom and waited for a description. But just as Colin said that, Quinn saw the Professor and Wade on the laptop monitor. "There they are," he said.
Wade and Arturo were walking down the hallway of the power plant, back to the entrance.
"Great, now Remmy's gone!" Wade said. "Its like they're cleaning out us!"
"Now, Ms. Welles," Arturo said. "There is a completely logical explanation to all of this. I'm sure Mr. Brown just found Quinn and he's waiting for us somewhere. I wouldn't worry about it."
Moments later, the same security guard that helped Quinn earlier that day came up to the two Sliders.
"Sir, ma'am?" he said. "Mr. Mallory and uh, a Mr. Rembrandt Brown have called for you, and they are waiting for you upstairs. Please come with me."
Arturo smiled at Wade, as reassurance refilled her face.
As soon as Arturo and Wade arrived in Colin's office, Rembrandt made sure that they knew what was going on.
"Professor, Wade, this is Cameron's brother Colin." He deliberately enunciated the two names so that they would understand.
"Well, Cameron, we were worried about you," Arturo said uncomfortably. Rembrandt had to laugh at him struggling with it.
"Professor Arturo, Miss Welles," Colin said. "How are you? Like Mr. Brown said, my name is Colin Mallory, and I am the Executive Vice President of the Energy Department here at OmniClean. I was just showing Cam and Rembrandt a virtual tour of the plant."
"Do not worry, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said. "We've already been on the plant tour downstairs."
"That thing?" Colin laughed. "I'm surprised that tour doesn't qualify as legal theft. How long is it now? Five minutes?"
"Just about," Wade answered.
"Well, I guarantee this will be a lot more informative," Colin said. "And a lot more interesting."
Colin Mallory's tour was, as even Wade admitted, very interesting and informative. He showed how the plant, in fact, used trash as a fuel source(in addition to a chemical formula), and how they emitted absolutely no exhaust.
Arturo commented that it was an ingenious process, and slyly told Quinn to remember how it works for "future reference."
Soon after the tour ended, Colin took the four Sliders back to his condominium. He showed them to their individual rooms, and Rembrandt found a chance to talk with Quinn.
"So, how are things going with you," Rembrandt asked. "It looks like Colin is well off."
"Its strange, Rembrandt, but I half expected to the the Vice President of that company when that guard approached me," Quinn admitted. "I mean, on so many worlds, I was the one who made the difference. I was the one to find the cure, to make the bomb, to lead the resistance. But on this world, Colin was the one to excel, and I am just a common criminal."
"Now, Q-Ball," Rembrandt said. "You can't expect to be the savior of every single world."
"But this world is perfect, Remmy. I wanted to be the one to lead the way towards perfection. I mean, is it just me, or do my doubles only thrive in worlds that are completely messed up?"
"I think you're just tired, Q-Ball," Rembrandt said, full of compassion. "We need to find more worlds like this, where we can get some good rest. Its no good that we're just here for a day. Just get some rest. We never know what we'll run into tomorrow."
"That's what I'm afraid of Remmy..."
On the next world, the Sliders took advantage of Colin's luxurious condominium. They relaxed mostly, as Arturo surfed the Internet to find how this world reached such perfection.
When the time finally arrived to slide, the Sliders were ready and relaxed.
"Thank you so very much, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said, as he and the group entered a cab. They had to get to a remote area in order to slide.
"Are you sure you don't want me to pay for the cab?" Colin offered. "Or you could take one of my cars!"
"No way, Colin," Rembrandt answered. "You've been way too kind to us as it is."
The group entered the cab, who was driven by a very excited Gomez Calhoun. "Oh, its you guys again. Where to this time?"
"Oh, just somewhere down the road, my good man," Arturo answered.
"Did you happen to catch the tour?" Gomez asked with a tone of excitement in his voice.
Wade and Arturo both gave a very unenthusiastic answer of "unfortunately."
After a rather smooth slide, the group landed in the middle of a forest. Immediately the group covered their noses because of an unthinkable smell.
"Oh man!" Rembrandt said. "Do you all smell that?"
"How can we not?" Wade screamed. "It smells horrible."
"A little different from the last world, eh?" Quinn said, trying to make a joke, but the others were too concerned with trying to leave to care.
The group ran to a main road in hopes of getting a ride into town, but there was nothing there. The road was eerily calm.
"What are we going to do?" Wade asked.
"Well, we're just going to have to walk to town," Quinn said.
Upon arrival to San Francisco, the group found a world resembling the late 1800's on Earth Prime. There were no cars, and the majority of the people seemed to be in carriages. However, there seemed to be almost no one outside.
"What do you think is going on?" Rembrandt asked.
"There's only one way to find out," Wade said.
The group approached the Dominion hotel in hopes of getting some answers. They entered and approached the front desk. They expected to see Gomez behind the desk, but a busy-looking woman was there.
"What do you want?" the woman asked very rudely.
"Are there any rooms, madam?" Arturo asked, trying to be polite as possible.
"Look buddy," the woman said. "The rules ain't different here. You get a room if you work in the clinic."
"Well then," Quinn said with a smile. "Where do we sign up?"
On their way to the medical clinic, the Sliders noticed that there were about a hundred people who all appeared to be on Death's door. There appeared to be a plague of some sort, and the Sliders had to live through it for approximately eighteen hours.
The woman from the front desk introduced the Sliders to Mary Alexandria, the head nurse. While no one else noticed, Quinn knew that this was the woman who he met at the Kromagg camp. He wasn't sure how to feel upon meeting her again.
"Thank God," Mary said. "You have no idea what kind of trouble we would have been in if you all hadn't shown up. Not that we won't be in trouble either way, but, well, you know."
"We're glad to be of service, madam," Arturo said.
The Sliders were each assigned a section of the room with about ten to fifteen patients. They had to feed and keep each of them comfortable.
After a short while, Arturo believed that he had the answer to the illnesses. He approached Quinn with his theory.
"Mr. Mallory, what do you notice about all of these patients," he asked.
"Hair loss, inflammation of the skin, vomiting, and a lot of bleeding seem to be the most common symptoms," Quinn said.
"That's right," Arturo answered. "And do you not know what all these signs point to?"
"I don't know," he said, trying to think of a good guess to avoid looking na´ve. "Well, one of the ladies in my section looks like she's been through some terrible chemotherapy."
"Exactly!" Arturo exclaimed. "They all appear to be suffering from radiation poisoning!"
"Radiation poisoning?" Quinn said looking surprised. "Professor, these people don't even know what radiation is, so how can they have that? It has to be something else."
"I know that it seems improbably, my boy," Arturo said, looking confident. "But you have to trust me because I know what I'm talking about."
"But Professor, unless they have built this city out of plutonium, this is too widespread to be radiation poisoning," Quinn said. "I mean, based on the number of people here and reportedly around the city, there would have had to be an atomic bomb or a nuclear meltdown to cause this kind of widespread poisoning."
"I don't know what it is Quinn, but I know what I'm seeing," Arturo said, rather annoyed. He knew that the people had radiation poisoning despite the fact that this world knew practically nothing of radioactivity. But he was going to figure it out before the slide.
On the other side of the clinic, Rembrandt and Wade were sharing their two sections. Wade's interest was mostly in a small child who had lost her parents to the Illness.
"Hi there," Wade said to the child. "My name is Wade. What is yours?"
Rembrandt, on the other hand, tried to spread himself around. It was too painful to watch one single person for too long, so he knew that he had to move around to a new person as much as possible.
After what Arturo considered to be an unpleasant conversation with Quinn, he turned his attention to his patients. He knew that they were suffering from radiation sickness, and if that were the case, then there was very little he could do but try and keep them clean.
However, that presented a new problem since he was unaware of the source of the radiation. If it were in the water itself, then that would be futile. If it were in the air, then it would also do little good. Any sensible treatment he could think of had ramifications.
So, he decided to just try and keep the patients happy. He approached one elderly man, and he started a conversation.
"You there," Mary said, pointing to Quinn, who seemed like a fish out of water in the clinic. "If you're not going to treat your patients, I sure as Hell could use you over here.
"Sorry, ma'am," Quinn said. "I'm not exactly a doctor, and I don't want to worsen the situation."
"Well, young man, I wasn't a doctor before The Illness came, but I learned to cope," Mary responded. "And I'm afraid that nothing you could do aside from killing all of these patients could make the situation worse."
"I'm sorry," Quinn said. "By the way, the name's Quinn."
After a small talk with the old man, Arturo realized that he was once a scientist. So, despite the fact that there were people in more need of care than the man, he decided to try and find out about the science of this world.
"Sir, what do you know of radiology?" Arturo asked the man.
"I'm afraid I do not know much about radio waves, Doctor," the man answered.
"No, sir. That's not what I mean. What do you know of radioactivity?"
The man appeared puzzled. He did not know what the word meant at all.
"Well, what do you know of uranium or plutonium?" Arturo asked, searching desperately for answers.
The man, again, did not know what Arturo was talking about. When Arturo dove further into the subject, the man became more puzzled. On this world, only about fifty elements had been officially discovered, and the Periodic Table of Elements was only known to a select few.
This puzzled Arturo intensely. How could these people be suffering from radiation poisoning if they knew nothing of radioactivity or radiation? There had to be a reasonable explanation, but there seemed to be none.
"Hi there," Rembrandt said to a middle-aged woman who looked very sad. "My name is Rembrandt, what's yours?"
"My name is Catherine," the woman said. "My husband just passed," the woman faded away.
"Listen, I am a singer, and I know a song that is usually sung at times when people die," he said. "Do you want to hear it?"
The woman slowly nodded her head and turned to Rembrandt. As soon as she did, Rembrandt started an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace." For the first time in quite a while when Rembrandt sung, he cried real tears. He finally felt like the Cryin' Man again.
Wade was speaking to Tina. She had never seen a child as scared as she was at that moment. Her eyes seemed so far away, and the child appeared to be close to death because she felt as if she had no reason to live. Wade knew that she had to cheer this child up.
She looked over at Rembrandt sitting, singing to the sick woman next to him. She saw the tears in his eyes, and she saw the bright smile on the face of the woman. She knew that she had to get Rembrandt to sing to Tina before it was too late.
"Hand me that washcloth, please," Mary asked Quinn. But just then, Arturo approached her and gave her the cloth.
"Mr. Mallory, I'll assist Ms. Alexandria," he said. "You go back and cover your patients, please."
"What about your own patients?" Mary asked.
"All of them are asleep, madam," Arturo answered, pointing to his patients' cots.
"But are they...?" Mary asked, but Arturo interrupted her. "No, ma'am, they are all alive. Don't worry I checked."
Quinn did not know why the Professor was doing this, but he saw the determination in his eyes. He surrendered his post and moved over to try and deal with his patients.
"Thank you, Mr..." Mary asked, trying to get Arturo's name.
"Arturo. Maximillion Arturo at your service madam," Arturo answered very suavely. He helped her for a couple minutes, but he quickly moved towards her and began to ask her about the Illness.
"Ma'am, I'm from out of town, and I was wondering something about this 'Illness'," he said. Mary's eyes widened.
"Where from out of town," she asked. "I'm not aware of any part of the country or even the world where the Illness hasn't struck."
"Well, I'm from very far away," Arturo answered, trying to cover for his mistake. "Now, in this town, where did the disease start?"
"I don't know, Mr. Arturo," Mary said, very annoyed with the question.
"Okay then, where is the city's water supply?" Arturo asked.
"Why are so curious, Mr. Arturo?" Mary asked. "Did you come over here to help me or to interrogate me."
"I'm sorry, madam," Arturo said with fake apology. He was still very curious about everything. He was determined to make himself look right.
"Look, you are just part time workers," she said. "You have a break coming up in a few minutes. Why don't you take that out and investigate for yourself. You're obviously not going to work here anyway."
Arturo was about to take offense to the comment, but he decided not to. What the woman was saying had merit, and he desperately wanted to prove that he was right.
After a second encore of "Amazing Grace," Catherine fell to a peaceful sleep. She looked so exhausted, Rembrandt believed that it was her first good rest she'd had in weeks.
Rembrandt got up and started dealing with the rest of his patients. However, he discovered that many of them had fallen asleep to the song like Catherine. So, he got up and moved to Wade, who was waving him over.
"This, Remmy, is Tina," Wade said. "She asked if you could sing to her as well."
"Sure, Tina," Rembrandt said with a smile on his face. "What song do you want to hear?"
"Any song would be good," Tina said very quietly.
"Why not stick with a winner?" Rembrandt asked, as he began to sing "Amazing Grace" again.
The Professor approached Quinn with an assignment.
"Quinn, we have a break right now," he said. "I was hoping you would want to come with me to check on something."
"Professor..." Quinn said with an annoyed look on his face.
"Now, look Mr. Mallory," Arturo said with a stern look on his face. "I know what these people are suffering from. And we have to find out what's happening."
"And then what?" Quinn said. "What happens when you find out what's causing this?"
Arturo was struck aback by the comment.
"What happens if you find the reason? Professor, radiation poisoning isn't something you can treat on a world like this. We may have to face that we can't do anything here!"
"But," Arturo tried to say.
"But nothing, Professor," Quinn said, now sounding very confident. "This is a worldwide phenomenon. You heard it yourself from Mary. All you'd be accomplishing is to. Wait, that's it isn't it? You just want to prove that you're right!"
"That is preposterous," Arturo said.
"Is it, Professor?" Quinn asked.
"Well, I'm going to go," Arturo said, removing his makeshift doctor's uniform. "Whether you're coming or not."
Quinn thought about it for a second. If Arturo was right, the place he was going would be pretty dangerous. He'd have to come along to make sure things went right.
After Quinn came over to tell Wade that they were going off for a few minutes, she returned to Tina's bedside to watch Rembrandt's performance.
After he was done singing, Tina and the majority of the patients in the clinic were asleep. Mary came over to the two Sliders to talk to him.
"Mr Brown.," Mary said. "That was, in a word, 'amazing.' I've never seen these people act so happy or get such good rest. You're a Godsend. I don't suppose there's any chance we can keep you on board full time?"
Rembrandt was about to cry tears of joy. His music had never had this kind of effect on people, and it made him so happy. He promised that he would start devoting more time to his writing.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," he said. "But we'll be leaving tomorrow."
"Well, you've earned all of us a break," Mary said with a smile. It looked like it was the first time she smiled in a long time.
Arturo tried to get a carriage to use to get to the outskirts of town, but he could not purchase one. Money seemed to be the last thing on the minds of most people. And he couldn't trade anything of his.
So, Quinn and the Professor walked to the outside of town alongside Quinn.
"Listen, Professor," Quinn said. "Do you know what kind of risk we're running here? I mean, if this is all because of radiation, there'd need to be tons of it to affect the whole world. And we're deliberately going into the heart of the beast. Now, since you're the Professor, I'm asking you: does that sound smart to you?"
"Mr. Mallory," Arturo said. "I have become entirely tired of you. My invitation to bring you along was voided, you have chosen to come on your own. If you don't like this, go back."
"But, Professor," Quinn said. "How do you even know where you're going?"
"Quinn," Arturo said, too tired and angry to be formal. "Please be quiet. I am going on a hunch, and I would like to be left in silence to pursue it. Like I said, if you have a problem with my methods, you are perfectly free to go back to the hotel.
Mary showed Wade and Rembrandt to their room. It was very small and run-down, but the two Sliders were so tired that they didn't even notice. Rembrandt, who had several hours of sleep the day before, felt as if he hadn't slept in days, and Wade just wanted to get over the emotion she felt in the clinic.
While Rembrandt went straight to the bedroom, Wade recorded another entry in her diary.
As soon as Quinn and Arturo reached the top of a hill, the awful smell they experienced at the beginning of the slide returned. They felt that they could withstand it for a while, but after a few minutes, they had to cover their noses.
"What do you think it is?" Quinn asked.
"Well, it smells like trash," Arturo answered. "Burnt trash. Maybe they have a landfill over here."
The sliders approached a clearing in the forest. Several trees appeared to be cut down in the middle of the forest.
"Odd strategy," Quinn said, trying to make himself smile. "I guess they just go to the middle of the forest to cut down trees. You'd think they'd work from the outside in, but I guess not."
Arturo ignored Quinn and moved towards a metal object he saw in the ground.
"Quinn," he asked. "Do you see that piece of metal in the ground?"
"I can't see much, Professor," Quinn answered. "There's a strange glow. Do you think this is where the radiation's coming from?"
"I'd count on it," Arturo answered.
Back at the hotel, the Sliders were trying to sleep, but both Rembrandt and Wade had headaches after a while.
Rembrandt checked the timer. There was still a few hours until the slide. They both knew that they would be required down at the clinic soon, but neither really felt well enough to go.
Silently, they both prayed that they would land on a medically advanced world next, just in case they had come down with The Illness.
Arturo and Quinn had begun to dig at the metal in the ground, when they both felt instantly sick. They had to move quickly if they were going to solve the mystery.
About half way into revealing what appeared to be a metal barrel or canister, the Professor collapsed.
"Professor!" Quinn screamed, as he rushed to his fallen mentor. But as he looked back up at the barrel, he saw something very familiar.
"Professor," he said, trying to wake him. As soon as Arturo opened his eyes, Quinn pointed him towards the barrel.
"Do you see what I see, Professor?" Quinn asked, looking completely surprised.
Arturo looked up and saw two letters connected stenciled onto the barrel in white paint. They couldn't tell for sure because the name below was still underground. But they had seen it so much that there were few alternatives.
On the barrel, clearly painted, was the logo for OmniClean.
When Quinn returned, nearly dragging the Professor behind him, Rembrandt and Wade were already back at work at the clinic. They helped Arturo to a bed, and Quinn immediately went to sit down by the door.
"What the Devil happened, Quinn?" Rembrandt asked.
"We know what's behind The Illness, Remmy," Quinn said. "Its OmniClean. They're dumping their waste on this world. They're killing this world."
"What are you talking about?" Rembrandt asked, looking very surprised.
"We saw the barrels, Rembrandt," Quinn answered. "They must slide in their waste. That's why there was no pollution or trash. They send all of it here."
"Quinn, are you sure this isn't just jealousy?" Rembrandt asked. As soon as he did, though, he knew he shouldn't have.
"Jealousy?" Quinn said. "Ask the Professor, Remmy. Look at him! He's got this "Illness" too, and its all because of OmniClean. We're going back there, Remmy, and we're going to rectify things as much as we can."
Quinn got up and moved to the room. Mary said that both he and the Professor weren't much good to her anyway, and this forced her to assign their patients to Rembrandt and Wade.
After Quinn left, Arturo was moved to a bed of his own. Because the people wouldn't understand "radiation poisoning," Wade said that he had come down with the Illness. She moved his bed near her so that she could watch over him and Tina at the same time.
Rembrandt ended up watching the rest of the patients with the help of Mary. However, after about an hour, he ended up signing to the group. This time, he sang several different songs, and Rembrandt felt just as good. The sick people continued to rest until it was time for Rembrandt and Wade to go to the room to sleep.
In the room, Quinn was feeling terrible. He was probably feeling as bad as the Professor, but he did not want to be down with the rest. He wanted to be alone, or at the very least, with his friends.
But when Rembrandt and Wade returned, Quinn pretended to be asleep. He didn't feel strong enough to talk, and he didn't want them to see that his hair was starting to fall out.
With nothing else to do, Rembrandt and Wade climbed into bed and fell to sleep.
The next morning, Quinn looked terrible. Rembrandt and Wade assumed that Arturo probably didn't look any better. They didn't feel too great themselves, but they fought through it until it was time for the slide.
With minutes to go, Rembrandt was forced to trace the way back to the OmniClean world. He knew how to do it, and he had done it a couple times, but he was afraid he'd mess it up. But then he thought of something.
"Why don't we bring some people with us?" Rembrandt asked. "I mean, we're going to save Quinn and the Professor; why don't we take a couple of these people with us?"
"Rembrandt, we can't," Wade answered. "Remember how the timer starts acting up when we start carrying more than four people. We can't risk it."
"But we can't just leave them here!" Rembrandt screamed, full of emotion.
"We're not, Remmy," Wade said. "We're sending help."
When the time came to slide, Wade and Rembrandt helped Arturo and Quinn into the vortex and then, holding hands, jumped in themselves.
On the next world, the Sliders landed exactly where they left. They weren't far from Colin's condominium, so they decided to try and get a ride.
After a few minutes, a car came by. Wade waved it down, and it turned out to be Colin's car.
"Why, Ms. Welles, Mr. Brown, how nice to see you," Colin said. "What's the matter. I thought you were supposed to be leaving?"
Just then, Colin saw Quinn lying on the ground.
"Cameron!" Colin screamed. "What in the Hell happened to him?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," Rembrandt answered.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Colin asked, not enjoying Rembrandt's tone.
"You'll find out in due time," Rembrandt said. "But for now, we have to get these two to a hospital."
At the hospital, Quinn and Arturo were admitted with radiation poisoning. Rembrandt told Colin to make sure that no questions were asked about his condition.
Then, Rembrandt faced Colin and began to tell him what Quinn had said.
"Mr. Mallory," Rembrandt said. "That man in there is not your brother. He's not Cameron Mallory. He is Quinn Mallory: a double of his from a parallel universe."
"Oh my God," Colin said. "You all are Sliders, aren't you?"
"How do you know that?" Wade asked.
"Well, there was something we left off the tour," Colin admitted.
"You sure did, Mr. Mallory," Rembrandt said, in full accusatory mode. "You've been sending your waste to other Earths!"
"How did you know that?" Colin asked.
"We just came from one of those worlds, Colin," Wade said, entering the conversation. "Your company is killing billions on that world, because you wanted to make your world perfect. And you know what, we almost fell for it."
"What?" Colin said. "I had no idea. I mean, when we started this program, we scouted a little, and we thought that no one lived on that world."
"What a load of bull," Rembrandt said. "If you didn't find anybody, you didn't look very hard. I'd be willing to bet that you didn't even scout. You just threw your waste wherever you pleased."
"I promise you," Colin said. "I had nothing to do with this."
"Well, you might not have had anything to do with the problem," Rembrandt said. "But you're going to have something to do with the solution."
Colin was speechless. He knew of the waste disposal project, but he didn't know the consequences of his actions. OmniClean power plants around the world had been dumping their waste on that world for years. The horror that world must have been, Colin thought.
"That's right," Rembrandt said. "First, you're going to send Doctors in that world to treat anyone and everyone that's sick. And then you're going to have clean-up teams go and clean that world up."
"That's impossible, Mr. Brown!" Colin said. "That would be a massive operation. There's no way it would ever work!"
"Well, Mr. Mallory," Rembrandt said. "This is your mess, and its your job to clean it up. No matter what."
After confronting Colin, Rembrandt checked the timer. They had two weeks on this world. And Colin offered his condominium to the Sliders, while he was away "on business." After a week in the hospital, the hospital released Quinn and Arturo good as new. They even gave Quinn hair transplants until his real hair grew back.
"I can't believe how wrong we were about this place," Wade said.
The rest of the group appeared to agree, but then, Arturo stepped in.
"Now, Ms. Welles," Arturo said. "Don't be so quick to judge the entire world. Granted, the "waste disposal" part of it is terribly monstrous, but what of the rest of the world? What of the crime ratio? Or the kindness that everyone exhibits? Or the world peace? That kind of thing cannot be manufactured in a power plant, and those things are pure on this world."
The group looked around, and they knew that the Professor was right.
"Now," Arturo added. "The only mistake this world made, and even we made it, was to assume that they could be perfect. Perfection is an excellent and noble goal, but that's what it will forever remain. A goal. Eden is, in a word, impossible."
"But Professor," Quinn added. "According to our own theories, there are worlds created at each decision. Now, assuming that each decision has a right and wrong choice, there has to be a world where every decision made was right."
"And by your theory," Arturo noted. "There's also a world where every decision made was wrong. That, my boy, is the beauty of sliding. That is what makes this journey worth taking. Good or bad. Bad or good."