Quinn Mallory sat in a log cabin deep within the California forest, writing in a journal.
"I don't know how it got this far. All I wanted was to help the world with a wondrous invention. Interdimensional travel offered so many possibilities to help the world.
"I don't know how it could've all gone so wrong. 'Just a little spin around the universe.' That's all.
"Now I'm running from the law, forced to hide out in the woods outside San Francisco. I've turned into the prey of a cop with a personal vendetta against me. And the new chaos this world has faced will allow that vendetta to continue without punishment.
"So, I'm telling you all I know because the written word has become my only ally. And since I realize my time is coming, I feel that I need to tell all that I know about what happened."
"It all started after the first slide. Three people had vanished off the face of the Earth, and the police wanted to know why. They pulled together my colleagues, the most helpful of whom was Conrad Bennish Jr. Professor Arturo would've been more useful, but he refused to co-operate.
This is when Agent Frank Parker first found out about me. I don't know why he started to hate me, but he did apparently from the start. Bennish has told me the story several times, and he was far more suspicious than he should've been. Not about Bennish's story of our disappearance; of my reasons for going."
"And what would Mr. Mallory's reason be for building this device, Mr. Bemmish?" Parker asked.
"It's Bennish," the young man replied. "And please don't patronize me. I have stoner friends with more brain capacity than you."
"That's enough," Parker responded angrily. "Now, what about Mallory?"
"Why do you build anything?" Bennish asked sarcastically. "To test it."
"And once it's tested?" Parker asked.
"There'd be tons of applications for that kind of technology," Bennish said. "Imagine finding an untapped world, full of all the oil, trees, and water you could ever imagine. Imagine finding a world with the cure for cancer or AIDS. The benefits are unlimited."
"But could it be used in a bad way?" the agent asked, obviously digging.
"Of course," Bennish said. "But any discovery can be ab-"
"Thank you very much, Mr. Bennish," Parker interrupted.
"As you can see," Quinn continued. "Parker was digging, but he was too determined to let me ever get away. He kept on digging, and he found little things on me. Unpaid parking tickets, fights at school, underage drinking. You know, anything that would make me look like a felon. Someone who wants revenge on the world that was so cruel to him.
"I couldn't help but laugh when I first heard about all of this. I had never done anything seriously wrong. Nothing more than any other guy my age, and far less than even Parker himself.
"Eventually, the FBI gave up on the case and called it simply an unsolvable missing persons case. Parker was reassigned, but he continued to follow the case. When they discovered his obsession, he was transferred across the country."
Agent Parker sat at a bar in Atlanta, Georgia. He had been there for a couple months, and he hated every minute of it. He knew that there was something to Quinn Mallory, but he had to admit that he had gone a little crazy about it. Maybe this was the best option.
But he had stayed on the case as best he could. After months of digging, he hadn't found any real reason for Mallory to have done anything dangerous. But why would he leave so suddenly? And why take Rembrandt Brown? What was his connection in all of this?
And why bring Wade Welles? She was his friend, but if all this was planned, wouldn't she tell someone?
No, there was something to all of this, and it was fishy. Quinn Mallory was a dangerous man, and he needed to be dealt with.
Why did he hate Mallory so much? It really wasn't Mallory himself, but what he stood for. In his childhood, he had always been a fan of science fiction.
But in his adolescence, it started to scare him to death. The thought of aliens or other superior beings coming to Earth with evil motives frightened him beyond comprehension. He didn't think it would really happen, but it made him paranoid about things he couldn't control.
And this was certainly something he couldn't control. "A world where anythin g is possible" made him think about all the bad things that could be brought to his home. No, Mallory and parallel dimensions were dangerous.
This case had become his eternal quest. And he had to get to the bottom of it.
That's when he saw the news coverage on the bar TV.
"And that's the exciting news out of San Francisco," the anchor said. "Quinn Mallory, Wade Welles, and Rembrandt Brown have all returned, after being gone for over a year. Originally, the FBI ruled this a simple missing persons case, but the three claim to have returned from a parallel universe. You heard right, a parallel universe. Not only that, but their mentor, Professor Maximillion Arturo has called for a press conference to display the technology. Very exciting, isn't it Michael?"
"Very exciting, indeed," Parker thought. "So, Mallory's back. I have to get to San Francisco before something happens."
But instead of that, he passed out. When he woke up, he was in the alley. He had forgotten everything about Mallory. He stumbled to his apartment and fell asleep.
After another day, he awoke with a renewed spirit, and he immediately remembered that Quinn and company had returned.
"Of course, that wasn't me," Quinn continued. "We wouldn't return for another year. But this was a significant moment in my life. It was the start of everything bad, both at home and on the slide. It was at this point in our slide that Wade and I began to fight.
"She had had fun sliding, but she was now getting tired and afraid. Tired of the constant sliding, and afraid that she would never get home. Our fighting alienated Rembrandt, and our relationship never improved after that. He was a great man, but he was never someone who cheered me up the way he did Wade. So, I was the lone man out as they spent more time together.
"At home, a group of our doubles were having their own dilemma. They thought they had reached their home, but they weren't home. In fact, I still don't understand how they did. But this is when Professor Max Arturo took advantage of them. He had always been a scoundrel and in search of a second chance. So, he took it. And in the process, he left behind a newer, better version.
"But I'm getting ahead of the story."
After recovering from his massive hangover, Agent Parker went to his regional FBI office. He wanted transferal to San Francisco, but his superiors wouldn't allow it.
"But you don't understand!" Parker said to Deputy Director Collins of the Atlanta Field Office.
"No, Agent Parker," Collins said. "You don't understand how the command structure of the FBI works. Now, you're a very talented agent. When you haven't been suspended, you've done phenomenal work. But, unfortunately, that hasn't been the case more times than not. If you cleaned yourself up, you could be director before I am. But you won't do that, so I'll always be able to boss you around!"
"Look," Parker said, trying to sound as polite as possible. He rarely acted polite, but this was a desperate move made by a desperate man. "I'm the only one who sees something bad coming. I'm the only one who knows more about Mallory than his mother. I know he's here to stir up something, and I have to be there before he does."
"No Frank," Collins said. "Now, get out of my office. I want to see you start working hard on the assignments I give you or I'm going to recommend that they transfer you. And, trust me, if I do that, you'll be asked to leave the FBI. And you're too good of an agent to have that happen."
Collins didn't want to see Parker fall apart in front of his eyes, but he couldn't keep him around if he was dead weight. He was serious in his threat."
Parker was going to ask for some time off, but he knew that it, too, would be denied.
As he was leaving, as if he read Frank's mind, Collins spoke.
"If you're thinking about flying the coop without permission, Frank," Collins said, trying to avoid looking at Frank directly. "You might as well leave your badge with me."
Parker couldn't afford to lose his place on the FBI. He knew it was worth the risk to investigate Mallory, but he couldn't do it. But he knew someone who could.
He went home and called his old friend from San Francisco, Eddie Valesquez, to check on the sliders.
"What do you want checked on?" Eddie asked. "I don't exactly have a lot of time for a lot of staking out."
"Just watch them for a week or two," Parker said. "See what they're up to. If they're going to do anything, they'll do it soon."
"Whatever you want, Frank," Eddie said. "But if I hear you've been kicked out of the Bureau, then I'm going to stop. Deal?"
"Deal," Parker responded. He saw that a lot of people wanted him to recover. He knew that he had to shape up, or he was going to lose a lot of people he cared about.
Two weeks later, Parker got a call from Valesquez. Parker hadn't heard from him, but he had fulfilled his half of the bargain. Trying to get a little more time to investigate Mallory, he rushed through any work that he had left. But he was ready for a progress report from Valesquez.
"They're not here," he said.
"They're not there?" Parker said, sounding very confused. "Where'd they go?"
"They slid out," Valesquez responded.
"Slid?" Parker asked.
"That's what they call what they do," Valesquez said. "Of course, the Bureau isn't letting that be known. They see a lot of potential value with this machine, and they're going to try and build it in secret. You remember that guy you interviewed first about the Mallory disappearance. He's going to lead the program."
"That guy?" Parker asked, sounding very surprised. "Why not get this Arturo guy to lead it?"
"They're going to let this whole debacle fall onto him," Valesquez said. "The thing is, there were two of them.
"Two?" Parker said. "Like a twin?"
"More than a twin," he said. "It's like they are the exact same person."
"What does that mean?" Parker said.
"We don't know," Valesquez said. "And if we did, I sure as Hell wouldn't understand a bit of it."
"What did you get before they left?" Parker asked.
"Not much," he answered. "They made a few phone calls to each other, but nothing out of the ordinary. They did have some question about the Azure Gate Bridge."
"What about it?" Parker asked, trying to see if they were planning to blow it up or something. He could feel he was on to something.
"Nothing like terrorism or anything," Valesquez answered. "More like its color."
"Its color?" Parker asked.
"Yeah. They found it strange that the bridge was blue."
"What other color would it be?"
"I don't have any idea, but they don't seem angry at the world or any danger to the country at all."
"And you're sure?" Parker asked.
"Completely sure," Valesquez answered as the phone conversation ended.
But Parker wasn't convinced. A week later, he turned in a sophisticated report to DD Collins about the danger posed by Quinn Mallory. The report was filed, but Parker knew it wouldn't get past Atlanta.
"After almost a year of fighting amongst ourselves, our group finally returned home. We finally figured out that we needed to track our sliding signatures and get our coordinates back home. Fortunately, we found a world where we had plenty of time to fix up the timer to do all that.
"When we arrived, we immediately went our separate ways. Unlike the other sliders we met, we didn't gel at all. We didn't really get along, and we didn't want to spend any more time together than we had to.
"Our good-bye was anything but historic."
The three sliders stood in Azure Gate Park. None of them wanted to be the first to speak, but they also wanted to get beyond this moment. Rembrandt, who had tried to stay positive throughout, was the first to speak.
"Well, Quinn," Rembrandt said. "I would be lying if I said I had a great time sliding. But I've had some experiences that I owe to you. And for that, I have to thank you."
"Thank you, Rembrandt" Quinn responded.
With that, Quinn shook Rembrandt's hand and Wade hugged him.
"After that, Rembrandt walked out of our lives. He and Wade kept in touch every once and a while, but I didn't see him for three years. And even then, we didn't have much of a talk. It was my fault that he was trapped with us for three years, but he never forgave me. Like I said, we just didn't gel.
"My homecoming wasn't nearly as nice as I thought it would be, either. My mother had apparently become the personal hotel for all my doubles. While this is a nice gesture, it tarnished the value of my homecoming. Instead of seeing her face light up at the sight of her long-lost son, it was like business as usual until I told her everything."
Quinn knocked on his front door, and his mother came to the door to receive him.
"Oh, hi," Amanda Mallory said. "You can stay here for as long as you want. How long is your slide?"
"Mom," Quinn said, looking astonished. "It's me!"
"You're confused," Amanda said. "You're one of my son's doubles. Don't worry, it happens all the time. By the way, where are all of your friends?"
"No, mom," Quinn said. "It's really me!"
"Well," Amanda said. "It will take a little more than your word to convince me, but come inside to see."
"So, my mother didn't even believe that I had come home. What a homecoming. I hadn't seen her for three years, and she acted like I was just another tenant. A horrible journey had a horrible ending, but I don't know exactly what I expected.
"The worst thing is that I never forgave my mother for that, and we really haven't been close since.
"But while I was having an awful year, Agent Parker's got much better. He finally settled down and started to shape up. He finally gained the respect of his colleagues at the FBI, and he started to make the promotions that his superiors believed he could make.
"With a little security and some money in his pocket, Parker settled down and made himself a little family. He married a nice girl from Atlanta, and he finally made his way to Washington, D.C.
"Every once and a while, Valesquez would call him with a "Mallory sighting" but he stopped caring. He interviewed Professor Arturo, and after a few minutes with the man, he knew that Quinn wasn't coming back. As long as Mallory stayed away, there was nothing to worry about."
One day, Agent Parker received a call from Valesquez.
"Hey buddy, what's up?" said a calmer, cooler Agent Parker than the same one who had spoken over a year earlier.
"He's back," said Valesquez, quietly.
Agent Parker had heard this before. Quinn Mallory seemed to return time after time, but nothing seemed to happen. While he was alert the first few times, he started to ignore them after a while.
"No, this time it's different," Valesquez said. "The other times, he would come with all of his friends. This time, he's alone, and he's actually starting to live there."
"What do you think that means?" Parker asked.
"That he's back for keeps this time," Valesquez responded.
Parker didn't know what to think about that. He had gone a year without worrying about Quinn Mallory, and now he was back. Why? He had to get to San Francisco. And, now with his upper level position at the FBI, he had the opportunity to do so.
"I saw Agent Parker a couple weeks later. He approached me very casually, and at the time, I thought he was a really good guy. He told me about his family. His wife, his son on the way. He seemed like a really stand-up guy.
"Sure, he asked me some crazy questions. Where I was, who I was, why I kept returning. And I answered every question as honestly as I could. I mean, there was no hiding the sliding technology anymore. The secret government project had all-but failed under the leadership of Conrad Bennish (who, by all accounts from one of my doubles, was vastly less intelligent than his doubles).
"Of course, after I settled down in my life at home, I went to talk to Professor Arturo. Boy, was it a surprise when I found out that he was a changed man. Well, as a matter of speaking, he was a different man.
"It wasn't until later that I found out that he actually was a different man. Professor Arturo was very good at playing his "evil" double, but he had gradually become more of himself. After a week, the FBI came up to me, and they offered me the head position at a new public agency.
"So, I ran with that game for the next few years, but I didn't know that I was under the strict supervision of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the eyes of Frank Parker.
"He had arranged that he be in charge of the San Francisco field office. He had risen to that kind of power, and now he was in charge of my job. It was kind of strange, but he stayed out of our business for the most part.
"While we worked, we made all kinds of advances. We found Arturo's true Earth and logged several others. We also improved the timer as much as we could in such a short time. The military didn't seem to want anything, but I'm sure that meant that they had their own secret facility with information stolen by us. It didn't matter, because we helped a lot of people.
"We basically did a lot of the same thing for the next couple years. But a new project was something we were really excited about. We rigged a machine to examine a world that was created to trap Arturo's friends. When they landed there, we'd go and get them. When Rembrandt did so, we went and found him.
"And that's when the next chapter of my life started. The Professor wanted to go and find his friends, and then to go home. I had gained such a respect for him that I couldn't allow him to go alone. For some reason, Wade went along with us. I guess she was bored with life outside of sliding, too. Odd, we spent so many years dreading sliding, and now Wade and I were jumping right back in. But, this time, it was bulletproof.
"We left the laboratory in the hands of Bennish, who was the only carryover from the private days, knowing that no major breakthroughs would be made with him at the helm. So, we went on an adventure.
"Little would we expect that so many things would go wrong. The timer reset over and over again until it was as primitive as my original model. But, finally, we made it home, only to see it attacked by the Kromaggs. Not taken over; only attacked. We thought that was odd, but we were more worried that all our equipment had been destroyed.
"And, this is when Parker went crazy. This is what he had waited years to see happen. The result of all my 'hard years of work.' I was finally 'getting my revenge.'"
Agent Parker sat in his office in San Francisco. He went through another "progress report" from Conrad Bennish. He was completely worthless, and if he really cared about progress, he would have him taken care of.
But Bennish wasn't the first of his concerns. Mallory had taken off without permission. And, he had been told that any unauthorized sliding would result in major trouble.
He had ceased worrying about Mallory's patriotism or his allegiance to this world. But he wanted to know where he kept going. When Mallory returned, Parker wanted to assign a chaperone to him, who would follow him wherever he went.
Suddenly, Parker looked down on the laboratory and saw all kinds of gunfire and explosions. He ran down to see what was happening, and he investigated the scene. Some creatures had entered through a red vortex and had attacked.
Surveying the damage, Agent Parker could only say one word.
"Of course, I was only partly responsible for the attack. We did allow the Kromaggs to come to my Earth sooner, but they would've arrived anyway (as evidenced later) in an aggressive attempt to gain as much territory as possible.
"To sum up the latter story of the Kromaggs, the humans pulled together and started an aggressive attack on their Cro-Magnon enemies. They developed a strong, airborne virus that kills entire worlds of Kromaggs.
"So, the Kromaggs stole the design of the Slide Trap, created by an old enemy of mine, Dr. Laze, and started protecting themselves. They attacked every world they could and tried to start a resistance. But, the humans were too fast and developed a way around the slide trap.
"For all we know, the Kromaggs are all-but extinct from the multiverse. Every world is getting hit, and all kinds of Kromaggs are being wiped out. I'm not sure how I feel about that, since not all Kromaggs are evil. But what am I going to do about it now?
"A few months later, we returned home to see it in the stages of rebuilding. The Professor, Rembrandt, and their Quinn, who we had picked up, were devastated. They had lost their world's coordinates, and they would have to keep looking for their home world.
"I knew that I couldn't come, and fate was with me as I missed the slide. I had grown fond of Wade, but I couldn't continue sliding as my life on my own world started to fall apart.
"Without the Professor, I was not nearly as successful at rebuilding the Sliding Institute. Especially since Parker was up my nose about everything I did. Before, he'd only check on me occasionally and he basically left me alone. Now, he was pestering me almost every day, blaming me for everything. He wanted to pull me up on charges, but I think he enjoyed seeing that the only thing "I" destroyed was my own building.
"But it's not like he didn't try to find reasons why I would be guilty."
Agent Parker sat in his office, looking over the damage from the small Kromagg attack. He called for Agent Fitzhugh for a report.
Agent Anthony Fitzhugh was a young recruit, brought to San Francisco by Parker's order. He saw in his profile that he was against the public control of sliding, and Parker wanted as many people with his point of view on his team as possible.
"Is there something you need, sir?" Fitzhugh asked.
"Just a report on Mallory," Parker said with a smile. He had assigned Fitzhugh to watch Quinn 24/7, while he himself would just appear randomly.
"It doesn't appear that he was behind the attack, but he does seem guilty about something," Fitzhugh said.
"He's not behind it, but was he involved?" Parker asked, digging for clues.
"I can't say that either way," Fitzhugh said. "But I really don't think he was involved. I mean, look at how angry he is at how destroyed the institute is. But he does seem like he's responsible somehow."
"How can he not be involved but be responsible at the same time. That doesn't make sense."
"I don't know. Maybe he led the attackers here somehow."
"Maybe you're right," Parker said. That made the most sense. He decided to approach Quinn about it.
"And he did just that. One day, he approached me in a very aggressive manner. I thought he might actually attack me, but he got straight to the point."
"Mallory," Parker said. "I know you're somehow involved in the attack. I don't know how, and I probably will never be able to prove it, but I know you are."
"What are you talking about, Parker?" Quinn asked, genuinely wanting to know what Parker had on him.
"It's no coincidence, Mallory," Parker said. "You leave again, and while you're gone, we're attacked. You were like a rat fleeing a sinking ship. You knew they were coming, didn't you?"
"The Kromaggs have access to every world that exists," Quinn said. "I guess it was just our turn."
"And you didn't feel it necessary to warn us about these interdimensional pirates?"
"I never knew they were coming," Quinn said. Parker had caught him. He probably should've mentioned sliding dangers like the Kromaggs, but he had only seen them a couple times. He really didn't think they were going to come to his Earth.
But now he looked really suspicious.
"I'm on to you, Mallory," Parker said. "If those guys come back, I'm holding you personally responsible."
"I never wanted to slide again, nor did I ever want to rebuild a timer from scratch again. So, while I had the lab start rebuilding itself, I started on an old project that the Professor and I had started. Because of a previous adventure, I was able to redesign a standard timer to act as a sort of teleportation device.
"Things were looking up until the Kromaggs returned. The human resistance had kicked up its attacks, and the Kromaggs were getting desperate. Their first attack had failed, but it was small. This time, they brought a last ditch invasion fleet. Soon after, I received a message from the human headquarters. Unable to understand their instructions, I "summoned" my friends, hoping they were still sliding.
"Fortunately for me, they still were. I told them the situation. The Kromaggs were everywhere, but their attacks on the developed world were failing. Eventually, we figured out that the message was the virus itself. We used it and drove the Kromaggs off the Earth.
"We even used my double's brother as a carrier to worlds faster than anyone ever. I don't understand how it worked, but I know that it did.
"With the world safe, you'd think that Parker and the world would be grateful. But he was still on to me. He stole the timer from Wade, and he told us that we were never going to slide again. But we were determined to get the timer back, and even I wanted to get off the Earth and away from everything. Quinn's Earth, what he called Earth Prime, sounded pretty damn good after the last few months.
"We stole the timer, slid out the last sliders, when Parker arrived. He knew we were planning to escape, but he didn't care about the others. He cared about me. I opened up another vortex, sent Wade through, and he stared at Parker, just as he fired a shot. I jumped out of the way, but I was hit in the leg.
"Mallory!" Parker screamed. "What did I tell you about sliding? I guess you didn't believe me."
Quinn lay on the ground, bleeding from his leg. His timer was destroyed, and there was nothing left for him on this Earth. He knew that they would link him to the Kromaggs somehow, and there was nothing left for him. He waited for Parker to come to him, and he silently hoped that he would just put him out of his misery.
Agent Parker saw that Quinn was sitting with his hands nowhere near his hands or head. He knew that this indicated that Quinn was no longer concerned with himself, and it might even indicate that he was ready to die.
"You're not getting out of it that easy," Parker said, dragging Quinn slowly to his feet. He tore off part of Quinn's shirt and formed a tourniquet.
"You're not dying, Mallory," Parker said. "At least, not yet."
"And he was right. He actually very compassionately rushed me to a hospital, and they performed surgery on my leg immediately. Because of the state of the world medically speaking, he had to have pulled some strings to pull that off successfully.
"Parker was actually starting to seem like a good guy, but it was all an act. He absolutely hated me, and he was destroying my life as I lay in bed. The day I signed out of the hospital, I asked the cabbie to take me to the Sliding Institute. He informed me that the Institute had been 'destroyed.'"
"How can it be destroyed?" Quinn asked. "I work there. My supervisor told me the rebuilding process was ahead of schedule. You must be mistaken."
"But he wasn't. I drove up to find that the building was actually destroyed. The gorgeous brick building had been dismantled piece by piece. All the equipment was gone, and there was no indication that the Institute had ever even been there.
"Even the land was sold. So, Parker had been lying to me the entire time. And he was even there to laugh at me when I arrived. He mockingly entered the cab and started talking to the cab driver."
"Sir," Parker said to the cab driver. "Can you please drive us to the metro police station?"
"What?" Quinn asked. "Why?"
"Because you're going to jail," Parker said.
"The cab drove in the direction of the police station, and I discovered that I had already been booked for a cell.
"I sat in a small jail cell for a week without a phone call or a meeting with a lawyer. The police officers all claimed that the world was too busy rebuilding to deal with the justice system. I knew they were breaking the law, but there was very little that I could do while in jail.
"A week later, I was approached, finally, by a lawyer, but I was very disappointed with what happened."
"Good morning Mr. Mallory," called a very familiar voice. It was Frank Parker.
"What the Hell are you doing here, Parker?" Quinn asked angrily. "I'm waiting for my lawyer so I can get out of here."
"Well," Parker said. "You're looking at him."
Quinn looked completely surprised, and he even looked as if Parker was teasing him.
"You're joking," Quinn said, forcing Parker to smile.
"I wish I were," Parker said.
"But you haven't even been to law school. I don't even think you went to college."
"Now, that's no way to talk to the man who controls your life."
"The judge isn't going to let the man who captured me represent me. Especially if he's really not a lawyer."
"You keep saying that," Parker said with a smile, reaching into his coat pocket. "But I think that this will explain everything you want to know."
Parker threw the diploma into the jail cell, and Quinn picked it up.
"This is one of those diplomas for one week's worth of night school," Quinn said. "This is worthless. And what's even more surprising is that you actually went to night school. Is getting revenge on me that important?"
"It's way more important than a couple days of night school. I plan to watch you crumble completely in front of my eyes."
"While Parker 'prepared' for my case, I actually found out why he was so angry with me. His beloved wife and child had been killed in the second Kromagg attack. And since Parker held me responsible for the attack, he held me responsible for the deaths. I had 'killed his family,' and he was going to kill me.
"But he was going to do it as legally as possible.
"The scene in the courtroom was a complete joke. The judge refused to allow me to represent myself because of a lack of background in law. But I knew more about law from an episode of "Matlock" than I'm sure Parker knew in his week of night school.
"During the case, Parker continually called up bad witnesses. They did not give a good view of my personality, and at times, it even seemed like he was helping the prosecution.
"Because of the extreme loss of life, the populace wanted someone to blame. They certainly couldn't bring the Kromaggs to justice since they were dead, and they couldn't believe that a human wasn't behind everything. I mean, h ow can apes launch a sophisticated attack without help from man? Too bad "Planet of the Apes" was never greenlit.
"With no case on my side whatsoever, even though the prosecution had no case either, the jury found me guilty. I knew this would happen, and I was just hoping that the judge would give me the death penalty. But Parker actually gave a convincing closing argument, and I was 'spared' execution.
"A week into my life sentence, Parker visited me again."
"So, this is it?" Parker said, looking Quinn in the eye.
"This is what?" Quinn asked sarcastically.
"This is what it's like when all your dreams come true," Parker said coldly.
"Agent Parker," Quinn said, trying to calm his tone. "I heard about your family, and I'm sorry about that. But both you and I know that I had nothing to do with the Kromagg attack."
"That's not true, Mallory," Parker said. "Let's say that you're right. Let's say that I'm wrong and you didn't lead them to our planet. But you admit that you knew they existed. And if you know there are pirates on your country's shore, you tell your country's navy."
"And what would you do?" Quinn asked.
"Prepare ourselves," Parker said. "These guys aren't that tough to take out. We did it rather easily once we understood them."
"That was a half-assed attack from a beaten group of Kromaggs," Quinn answered loudly. "I've never seen humans defeat the Kromaggs when they're at their full strength. And I don't know anything that could've helped the military."
"Sure, Mallory," Parker responded. "Now, let's say your wrong. Before I jump into this, I want to say that I believe this is the truth. Let's say that you take a trip through your machine, and you realize that your world isn't as good as others. You form an alliance with a band of pirates that you call Kromaggs, and they promise you safety on their world if you help them conquer yours."
Quinn tried everything to keep from rolling his eyes. This story was crazy, and Parker knew it. He wondered why he would even make a story up, when the whole world already believed he was a traitor.
"So, you come back after a year and a half, and you get the people excited about sliding," Parker continued. "Then, you get Professor Arturo in the spotlight, before going to meet your masters again."
Quinn finally rolled his eyes and looked away, but Parker continued to go on with his speech.
"A year and a half after that," Parker said. "You return again. This time in preparation for the attack. You had played the FBI perfectly, and you got the government to pay for the doorway to our Earth. When your installation was finally complete, you set off again."
Parker had definitely done his homework, but this was pure craziness. No one outside of Parker's crazy mind would ever believe all this happened.
"While you were gone, the Kromaggs flew in for a small attack," Parker continued. "This served two purposes. First of all, it was to test our planet's defenses. Secondly, it was to try to get the blame off you. Why would you be involved in the destruction of your own institute? So, when you returned, you were completely 'surprised' at what happened. But I had someone watching you, and he told me that you looked like you felt responsible. Why? Because you were behind it."
"Stop this, Parker," Quinn interrupted. "What's the point of all this?"
Parker continued as if he wasn't even listening to Quinn. "So, you remain for a few more months, and then the Kromaggs finally make their move. But they didn't anticipate our power, and the power of the human spirit. How does that sound to you, Mallory?"
"That's the worst piece of fiction I've ever heard," Quinn said. "And that's all it is. A piece of fiction."
"That's not what the world thinks," Parker said with a smile.
"Let me tell you the real story," Quinn said. "I went for a trip in my new invention and I got lost. I got back and then helped out some friends. Human friends. And that's it. I didn't even communicate with the Kromagg Dynasty. Their humanity's enemy."
"Whatever you want to think, think that, Mallory," Parker said, trying to intimidate Quinn. "But we all know that I'm right."
"Of course, he wasn't, but I wasn't about to keep arguing. It seemed to make him stronger, and I didn't want that. I had lost, and I just needed to find a way to get out of jail. Then, I needed to think a little.
"The answer would eventually have to come to me.
"For the next few weeks, I studied the patterns of the jail, but I found little or no way out. I was being kept in a special section of the jail that prohibited me from any human contact, escape, or even suicide.
"Honestly, I never again wanted to kill myself after Parker saved me. I thought about it, but I didn't think I could ever do it. Besides, my life in jail was better than my life outside, and that was strangely comforting."
"One night, I awoke to the sound of metal clanging on metal. I thought that maybe I had slept through the daily wake-up call, and the jailers were summoning me to go and work in the fields as punishment. But, when I looked up, it was still dark outside. Even at his early wake up, there were signs of early daylight. Something was different, now.
"I looked up to see my former compatriot in front of me in all black, standing with a set of keys. It was Rembrandt Brown."
"Come on, Quinn," Rembrandt said, hurrying him along. He led Quinn down a dark corridor that Quinn had never gone down. It went into the sewer system, and it led to the outside. Rembrandt then gave him the keys to a log cabin outside San Francisco.
"I know this will only be a temporary solution, but it's the best I can do without leaving any evidence of my being here," Rembrandt said. "And, no offense, Q-Ball, but I'm not about to end up in there over you."
Quinn noted that this had been the first time that Rembrandt had called him Q-Ball. For the first time in a very long time, Quinn thought of Rembrandt as a friend.
"Why'd you help me?" Quinn asked.
"Quinn," Rembrandt answered. "You're a lousy scientist and a lousy leader, but you helped me get home when you probably could've left me. I appreciated that, but I don't think I ever said it. And I know that you didn't lead the Kromaggs here. So, I'm setting things right. I tried to get myself into that courtroom, but they wouldn't let me."
Quinn laughed and started up the hill towards the safety of the trees.
"Quinn," Rembrandt said as loudly as he could without drawing attention. "If I ever owed you anything, we're even. So, I'd appreciate you leaving me out of whatever happens next."
"I could do nothing but nod at him. I guess our newly formed friendship was over. I really wanted to reconcile things with Rembrandt, but we just were not able to form any kind of relationship.
"I guess I could simply blame everything on everyone else. I mean, our group was never like my double's group. But I know that it's probably equally or mostly my fault. If they're different, I'm different. It's all added together, and it ends up making us insoluble. I just wish things had been different."
Agent Parker woke up in his office. Ever since his family's death, he stayed there most of the time, refusing to go home. Often times, he would cry himself to sleep, promising God everything if they would bring them back.
But he always woke up alone. And this time, he awoke with even more bad news.
A note was on his desk. One side told him to go home and get some sleep. The author obviously wanted him to read that part first and then turn it over, because no one would've expected him to sleep after reading the other half of the card.
It read, simply, "Your bird has flown the coop."
Parker crumpled up the note, grabbed his gun, and he walked out of his office.
"And that's what happened. Now I'm sitting in this cabin, wondering what to do next. I know that Parker's going to come after me, but the world won't care if I get killed. To them, I'm responsible for all the death and destruction. So, I'm going to get these papers to safety and then I have to do something. I can't run forever, and Parker will eventually go too far and kill me.
"I know he doesn't want to, but he's going to have to. And he's going to get away with it. And I really don't care if he does. I just want the world to know the truth. Believe it or not. But don't use this to castigate anyone else. Leave Rembrandt alone like he wanted. Leave Wade alone if she ever returns. Let this story die with me. That's all I ask."
Agent Parker spent most of the day running through Quinn's whole life again. He looked for anyone or anything that could've helped him. During his trial, he checked out everyone close to him, and no one had seemed to anxious to do so.
He checked over the court records, and he saw a strange note. It was saved for people who wanted to testify but were denied. There was only one name, and it was Rembrandt Brown.
"That's strange," Parker thought. From all testimonies after the three returned, Rembrandt and Quinn were not close. But he wouldn't have been denied if he had anything negative to say. It had to have been some mistake.
So, Parker placed the file on his desk and he walked out to try and sleep on it. Maybe something would come to him at night. Mallory wasn't getting too far.
But he turned around, and he looked at the file. Something told him to investigate it before dismissing it.
He logged onto the FBI database, and he investigated Rembrandt. He looked over places where Quinn could be hiding. Again, he found nothing. But there was a link to his father, and Parker clicked it.
After a couple more dead ends, Parker came to a house that Rembrandt's father owned with a friend.
Parker grabbed his gun again, and he headed out the door. This was a stretch, but it was the only lead that he had. And he wasn't going to sleep until it was exhausted.
Quinn Mallory was exhausted. He had spent the majority of the day writing, and the rest of the day was set preparing his plan. He had come to a conclusion on what to do, and he was ready to face Parker if he came that night.
If he didn't, he would leave the cabin for Europe, and he'd try to live a normal life. But there were two things he was sure of. He would never return to the United States alive, and he would never attempt to re-build a timer. He wasn't going through that again, even if it saved his life. Sliding was the reason he was going to die, and he wasn't going to rely on it to live.
He had left his manuscript in the woods, and he hoped that someone would eventually find them. They weren't well hidden, but he was sure they were saved from the elements until someone found them. They were his only hope from being forever known as the Earth's enemy. He didn't want to go down in the same books as Hitler and Stalin. He wanted to be known as the misunderstood scientist who tried to make things right but failed in the face of unbelieveable controversy.
Outside, Quinn heard the sound of a helicopter. It'd only be possible to find this cabin if you were looking for it.
"It's Parker," Quinn said aloud to himself. This was it. He was going to face his enemy, and neither of their lives would ever be the same.
Agent Parker's pilot put the helicopter down far away from the cabin. Not too far, but far enough. He knew that Quinn had heard him approaching, but he could still retain the weapon of surprise if he hid in the shadows.
After walking for a while, Parker came across Quinn's memoirs on the ground. After skimming them briefly, he placed the papers in his backpack, and continued towards the cabin. Oddly enough, the interior was still fully lit, and Quinn's silhouette could be seen sitting in a chair by the window.
"What the Hell are you thinking, Mallory?" Parker thought. "You know I'm here. What are you planning?"
Parker burst inside, his gun aimed at Quinn's chest.
"Hello Parker," Quinn said with a smile that didn't seem too forced. Quinn was ready to face his fear.
"If you have any weapons, put them away, Mallory," Parker said. Then, oddly enough, Quinn thought, Parker put his gun away.
He placed his backpack on the table, and he pulled out another gun, this time a six-shooter. He pulled up a chair to the table, and he placed the gun on the table.
"Now, Mr. Mallory," Parker said. "One of us is going to die tonight. Either you're going to kill me and remain a fugitive, or I'm going to go home a hero, having killed the escaped attacker of the world. Either way, neither of us lose. Because, deep down, neither of us want to live. So, I'm prepared to help you, and I hope you're prepared to help me."
Quinn rose from his chair and moved to the table.
"The game is Russian Roulette," Parker said. "But we'll play by Frank Parker's rules."
"And if I refuse?" Quinn asked.
"Then I kill you, and I win the game," Parker said. "But I want to give you a chance to win because I'm a nice guy. Don't you think?"
Quinn knew he was egging him on, so he didn't flatter Parker with a response. He simply nodded his head, as if allowing Parker to play his game.
"In this game," Parker continued. "We each take a turn firing the gun at each other. Homicide will make us feel better, I think. The last one standing after six shots wins."
"And what's my insurance if you cheat?" Quinn asked.
"What's mine if you do?" Parker said, but he immediately remembered his gun. Convinced that Quinn would play his game, he threw his gun out the cabin window.
Parker opened up the gun, showing Quinn that only one bullet was inside. He then spun the bullets around and closed the gun up before it finished spinning. Quinn wasn't convinced that neither of them knew where the bullet was.
Parker then looked at Quinn. "Do you want to go first or should I?"
Quinn had a plan, and he wanted to be the last one with a shot. He felt that would somehow give him the advantage.
"You, Parker," Quinn said.
"As you wish," Parker responded, and he picked the gun up again. Pointing it at Quinn, he fired. The gun clicked, and nothing came out.
Quinn, looking almost disappointed, picked the gun up. Instead of immediately firing, like Parker, he began to speak.
"You know, Parker," Quinn said. "You've hated me almost since the day we met. Why is that?"
Parker didn't understand, but he knew that he didn't want to respond. When Quinn stood up and started to circle him, he started to worry. He knew he could overpower Quinn, but he had just thrown his best insurance out the window, literally.
"I've had a lot of time to think about what I should do now, and I think I've come up with the best option," Quinn continued. "You say that one of us is going to be dead when this is all over. And you're half right."
Parker was intrigued, confused, and scared. He wasn't sure where Quinn was getting at, but he didn't want to find out. He just wanted Quinn to fire his shot.
Quinn walked over to a box, picked it up, and he placed it on the table.
"What are you doing, Mallory?" Parker asked, a little bit of fear in his voice that Quinn picked up on.
"Playing my own game," Quinn said.
"Fire the damn gun, Quinn!" Parker said.
Immediately, Quinn aimed the gun at Parker, but he suddenly aimed the gun at the top of the cabin window. He fired, and a bullet exited the gun, shattering the glass.
Parker wanted to jump Quinn, but he now was not afraid of Quinn's power. If it was man against man, Parker would definitely win.
"Now, what's your game?" Parker asked, the fear having left his voice.
"Oh, you'll like it," Quinn said with an evil grin. "It's a bang."
As he said "bang," Quinn opened up the box to reveal a large box of dynamite with a timer attached to it. The timer indicated that only 30 seconds remained before the bomb exploded. Not enough time to run away.
"You're crazy, Mallory," Parker said, afraid again. "You'll kill us both now."
Quinn continued, just as Parker had before, as if he didn't hear Parker's words.
"You'll be amazed at what you can find in an old mine," Quinn said. "Yes, Parker, we're both going to die. But, at least I'll know that this is over forever. There'll never be another meeting like this over that accursed sliding machine."
Suddenly, the helicopter reappeared. The pilot had obviously heard the shot and came to investigate and check to see that everything was all right.
The helicopter started to make wind pass through the cabin's open windows and doors. Quinn smiled until he saw Parker's backpack fall on the ground, as papers started to circulate around the room.
Quinn recognized the papers. They were his memoirs. Well within the radius of his newly formed bomb.
"NO!" Quinn exclaimed, diving for the bomb. Those papers were his last hope.
But it was too late...
All over the world, the news came on that Quinn Mallory and two FBI agents had been killed in the woods outside San Francisco.
"Another strange aspect of this story," the anchor continued. "A paper was found outside the wreckage of the cabin, apparently written by Mallory. Although it was badly burned, officials say that it was some sort of confession from the fugitive, claiming to tell the world 'the truth.' Unfortuantely, the rest of the paper appears to have been destroyed in the explosion. So, the world may never know why Quinn Mallory did this, but it will certainly never forget that he did."