The vortex opened, and snow started to fly from it. Soon after, Rembrandt, Maggie, Quinn, Arturo, and Wade exited as well, all dressed in Eskimo clothing.
"Whoa!" Rembrandt said, getting up from the soft snow that had blanketed the ground around the vortex.
"Whoa is right," Quinn said, brushing the snow off himself.
"What are the chances that we would land on three straight ice worlds?" Rembrandt said. "I never thought I'd feel my hands again."
"Better than you'd think," Arturo said. "But the good thing is that the snow provided us the best landing we've had in weeks."
"Speak for yourself," Rembrandt said. "I had a great landing last week."
"That's because you landed on me, Mr. Brown," Arturo said, coldly.
"I know," Rembrandt said, smiling. "That's my point."
Quinn pulled the timer out of his coat pocket and checked the time.
"Just over two weeks here," he said.
Rembrandt hated hearing that. He had gotten used to staying only a couple days on each world, and now they were back to spending extremely large amounts of time on each world.
But sliding didn't seem as stressful with this group. And things were starting to look up for he and his friends.
"I suggest we get out of these clothes before people start suspecting things," Arturo said.
"What are they going to suspect?" Maggie asked.
"I don't know," Arturo said. "What would you suspect if you saw five people walking in this type of clothes?"
"The same thing you would," Maggie said. "That those five people are interdimensional travelers that landed on three straight incredibly cold worlds."
Everyone laughed, and Maggie felt really good. She had tried very hard in the last couple of weeks to start to blend in, and she finally felt like a part of the group.
She, Quinn, Arturo, and Wade were able to abandon their clothes by a tree, but Rembrandt left his clothes on.
"What's the matter, Rembrandt?" Quinn asked.
"I think you know, Q-Ball," Rembrandt responded.
Quinn looked curious for a second before a light went off in his head.
"You mean you're not wearing any?" Quinn said, laughing before he could finish his sentence.
"Not funny," Rembrandt said. "Let's just get to the hotel."
When they arrived at the hotel, the sliders found that most of the rooms had been taken, including their favorite suite. They had to settle for two normal rooms; the men took one and the women took the other.
All the way to the rooms, Rembrandt got some curious stares. To keep the act together, he left his ski mask and cap on, so it was impossible to see his face at all.
Quinn, Maggie, and Wade couldn't hide their laughter from him.
In the men's room, Rembrandt was given the first shot at the bathroom, where he took off his heavy clothes and turned on the shower.
Quinn and Arturo relaxed and turned on the news.
"We have some breaking news," the anchor said. "The noted civil rights' leader, Reverend Rembrandt Brown, has been shot. His condition is unknown at the moment, but stay tuned to KSFO for the latest on this breaking news story."
Quinn and Arturo watched in amazement as they showed footage of a Rembrandt double taking a bullet before chaos ensued.
"Remmy," Quinn said, his mouth still wide open. "Come in here."
A couple seconds later, Rembrandt came out with a towel wrapped around his waste.
"Come on guys," Rembrandt said, annoyed. "I was just about to take a."
Before Rembrandt could finish his sentence, he saw the footage of the shooting and couldn't believe his eyes.
"Brown is considered by many the only person that can stop Civil War," the anchor continued. "His emotional speeches, in which he would shed real tears, convinced many people to go against the highly popular Californian movement. Analysts believe that if Brown is dead, then, war could break out any day."
"Unreal," Rembrandt said, unnerved by the continuous shots of "himself" getting shot.
"I suggest that you lie low until we slide," Arturo said. "If your double is as powerful as this report suggests, then your presence could significantly alter this world's reality."
"What about the time you ran for mayor?" Quinn said, rendering Arturo completely speechless.
But Rembrandt was fixated on the situation. He was a civil rights leader on this world, and that hit home with him. He was determined to look further into it, despite the Professor's warning.
With no Internet access in the hotel, Arturo decided to research the world by going to the library. In the recent slides, he had been keeping a detailed log of every world they had landed on. But this world had more of a personal connection. He knew that Rembrandt would be curious about this world, but he didn't want him to go out personally.
When the Professor returned, Rembrandt was still glued to the television. He turned it off, and told Rembrandt and Quinn what he had found out.
"This world is amazing," Arturo said. "It seems that Abraham Lincoln was able to prevent the Civil War by compromising his stance on slavery. Eventually, during his third term, he was able to peacefully rid the country of slavery, and the Civil War was erased from existence."
Quinn and Rembrandt nodded.
"However," Arturo continued. "California was highly against the move. On this world, slaves were brought en masse to work in the gold mines, and California was one of the leaders of the Confederate movement. And even after the movement died, many Californians kept the Confederate spirit alive."
Quinn thought that sounded very strange. That California, a state usually in favor of equality, would be a hotbed for slavery, just sounded very alien to him.
"In the late 1970's, the Confederate movement began anew," Arturo continued. "And by 1990, California elected a the first governor from the Confederate Party since the 1850's. Throughout the 90's, the movement continued to grow, with more and more states joining. Mr. Brown's double seems to be the only person who has prevented war, and he travels the 'Confederate' states promoting peace."
"Yeah," Quinn said. "We hear that there will be no one to prevent secession if Rembrandt's double is dead."
"I've got to do something," Rembrandt said.
"No," Arturo said. "First of all, we don't know that your double is dead, and second, it is far too dangerous."
"Something brought me to this world at this exact time," Rembrandt said. "I think that I'm supposed to do something, and I think I should if I can prevent war!"
"Delay, not prevent," Arturo said. "You have to slide in two weeks."
Rembrandt was speechless, but he had already decided that he was going to go. He would have to decide what to do when the slide came, but for now he was deciding to go.
He didn't normally believe in destiny, but this all seemed to fall into place too perfectly. Something told him that he was supposed to look into it, no matter the consequences.
At night, he snuck out of the hotel. Knowing the racial situation in the state, he covered his face as well as he could with his winter clothing. He also traveled down sparsely populated streets on his way to his double's local headquarters.
When he arrived, he knocked on the front door. A part of the door slid open, and two eyes stared at him.
"What do you want?" the man asked.
Rembrandt slowly took off his hat to reveal his face.
"My name is Rembrandt Brown," he said. "I would like to help."
The man obviously rolled his eyes.
"Nice try," the man said. "You may look like him, but I know you're not him. Now you'd better leave before I call the police."
"Give me a chance, man," Rembrandt said genuinely.
The man didn't know why, but he trusted Rembrandt. He called a guard in just in case, and he opened the door.
"Come on in," the man said, and he was shocked at the personal resemblance of this man to the Reverend.
Rembrandt entered the room, and he saw what looked like a memorial service. He immediately knew what must have happened.
"Did he die?" Rembrandt said.
"We're not letting anyone know," the man said. "But he died about an hour ago. We're hoping we can delay until his successor is ready.
The man pointed across the room to a short, middle-aged white man.
"That's James Carver," the man said. "We've been preparing him to take Reverend Brown's place in other states, and just in case that the Reverend was unable to perform his duties."
Rembrandt saw that the man was shivering and obviously overwhelmed with people.
"But he's not ready," the man continued. "In a couple of weeks, he should be, but it's almost as if they knew this is when we would be the most vulnerable. I don't know what we'll do."
Rembrandt suddenly had a light go off in his head.
"Look," Rembrandt said. "What I'm about to tell you may sound crazy, but you have to believe that it is the truth."
The man seemed accepting, but Rembrandt didn't think that he would ever believe the truth. But he had to give it a shot.
"I am from an alternate Earth," Rembrandt said. "I really am a Rembrandt Brown, and I'd like to help."
The man seemed tired and hopeless enough to believe him. In reality, he saw Rembrandt's arrival as the miracle he was waiting for.
"I could 'fill in' for the Reverend until Mr. Carver's ready," Rembrandt said.
The man wasn't sure that he was telling the truth, but if he was sincere about helping, it might be crazy enough to work.
"Great," the man said. "My name is Dennis Gray, and you're my new best friend."
Dennis met with his advisors, and they all agreed that they could use Rembrandt as a temporary solution until Carver was ready to step up.
Arturo and Quinn woke up and discovered that Rembrandt was gone. They were both upset that he would disobey them.
"He doesn't act like this now, does he?" Quinn said, hurriedly getting ready to go.
"No," Arturo said, turning on the TV. "Not at all."
The two sliders looked at the television, and they saw Rembrandt talking to the camera.
"I don't believe it," Quinn said.
"Yes, Tom," the anchor said. "It appears that Mr. Brown's injuries weren't as severe as once thought. Here he is at a press conference earlier today."
"Yes," Rembrandt said, in a very nice suit. "I have returned, and I will continue to preach, despite the threats thrown at me. Nothing will prevent me from doing what the Lord put me on the Earth to do."
Rembrandt seemed nervous and hesitant, but the two sliders thought he had made a good adjustment.
"What is he doing?" Quinn asked.
"Damned if I know," Arturo said. "We have to find out, though."
Rembrandt was back on the road, traveling all over Northern California giving his sermons. He was being fed all of his speeches, but every once and a while he would say something from the heart.
Of course, he kept crying during his speeches like his double. Again, he was back to being the Cryin' Man, and that made him really happy.
The bus stopped in San Jose, and Rembrandt stepped out to astounding cheers.
It reminded him of a highly successful trip to San Jose with the Topps. It was one of his first tour stops, and this is exactly what it felt like to walk onto the stage.
Rembrandt stepped up to the podium, speech in hand, and began to preach.
"I don't understand!" Wade exclaimed. "We can't even talk to him?"
Quinn shook his head, hanging up the phone.
"They say it has to do with security," Quinn said. "It's not like people don't know where he is."
"I know," Wade said. "He's like a walking bullseye out there."
"If we can't talk to him, how is he going to know when to slide?" Maggie asked. "I'm sure that he isn't keeping a good track of the time."
"Remmy will be ready," Quinn said. "If they let him leave."
"You think that they'll hold him here?" Wade asked, concerned.
"People will do drastic things to avoid war and protect their homes and families," Arturo said. "It's human nature."
Rembrandt was standing at a podium, beginning another speech.
"Ladies and Gentleman," he began, beginning to cry.
This time, he was actually overwhelmed. Most of the time, crying had been an act. But this world's condition was genuinely changing him.
"Slavery can not come back to our country," Rembrandt said. "The Constitution will not allow it. And I am confident that the good people of California will realize that this is the Devil's pipe dream. Humanity has moved beyond archaic brutality, and it will never return."
The crowd began to cheer. Rembrandt was proud to be the Reverend Rembrandt Brown, and for the first time in weeks, he forgot about home.
Wade and Maggie moved into the men's room so that they would be able to talk to Rembrandt when he arrived. It was cramped, but Quinn and Arturo understood how worried they were.
"Don't worry about Remmy," Quinn said. "He'll find his place here, and then he will come back. I promise."
But this didn't help them, and Arturo was also worried. Watching the television, he noticed a growing hatred toward Rembrandt.
After the emergence of the successful Confederate movement, militia groups were growing to protect its interests. And they saw Rembrandt as a failure that they were going to correct at any cost.
And there was nothing the sliders could do about it.
Dennis congratulated him an exhausted Rembrandt as he reentered the bus.
"Great job out there!" Dennis said, patting him on the back. "You were great! For a second there, you reminded me of the Reverend back when he was in his prime."
"Thanks," Rembrandt said, wiping his face on a towel. "I feel great out there."
Rembrandt was happy, but his thoughts moved to his friends and the slide.
"Dennis?" Rembrandt said, calling him back into the room.
"Yeah, Rev.?" Dennis responded.
"Can I call my friends?" Rembrandt asked.
"I wouldn't advise it," Dennis said.
"Okay," Rembrandt said. "But if they call, would you make sure that I get to talk to them?"
"I'll see what I can do," Dennis said, smiling and returning to the back of the bus.
But he was lying. He already knew that Rembrandt's friends had called several times, and he didn't even tell him that they had called. He was determined to prevent war and save his country, and he wouldn't allow anything that would endanger either.
A minute later, Dennis returned.
"Hey, Rembrandt!" he said, holding up a piece of paper. "Good news."
"Yeah?" Rembrandt said, expecting to hear from his friends.
"HQ just called," Dennis said. "They want us to head back to San Francisco, so we'll be home pretty soon."
Rembrandt smiled. This was good news. Rembrandt wasn't getting tired of life on the road, but he wanted to spend some more time at home.
They reached the headquarters, and Rembrandt retreated to his room. But when he opened the door, the light didn't turn on.
He knew he was in trouble, but before he could do anything, he was knocked out by a dark figure.
Arturo, having trouble sleeping, walked into Wade and Maggie's room and turned on the television. It had been his only way to check on Rembrandt, and he was becoming overly dependent on it.
He turned it on, and sat on the edge of the bed. On it, he saw a picture of Rembrandt and braced for bad news.
"This just in," the anchor said. "Reverend Rembrandt Brown has been kidnapped."
Arturo's eyes widened, and he was immediately worried and angry. He knew that Rembrandt was in danger, but he had hoped that he could survive for the slide. But now he could be dead.
"A source from inside the Brown headquarters has informed Channel 7 that Brown was kidnapped late last night after he returned from a sermon in San Jose," the anchor continued. "We do not know at the moment what the kidnappers are demanding, but we know that Reverend Brown is alive at the moment. We'll keep you updated on the progress as we get it."
Rembrandt woke up tied to a chair.
"Wake up, sleepyhead!" a masked man said.
Rembrandt was drugged, so he had trouble responding.
"Look, boys," the man said, turning to his partners. "The Rev can barely talk. He's finally at a loss of words!"
The man and his friends laughed, as the men in the back of the room loaded a high-powered rifle.
"You'd better stay that way," the man said. "We're bringing financial stability to this country, and I'll be damned if a colored is going to stop us."
Rembrandt focused, and he was able to correctly speak a few words.
"What do you want from me?" he said, barely understandable.
"We want you to shut up about resisting slavery," the man responded. "We want you to preach our message."
Rembrandt was drugged, but even that didn't make any sense. Why would the anti-slavery people believe that a black man was honestly promoting slavery. It would never work.
"That won't work," Rembrandt said, slurring his words.
"We believe that the people will believe what you tell them to believe," the man said, pausing for a second to make sure he said what he wanted to say.
"What if I say no?" Rembrandt said, dozing off a bit.
The man pointed back to the man in the corner with the rifle.
"My friend back there is a pretty good shot," the man said. "He might've missed the target once, but he never misses twice in a row."
Rembrandt was nervous. He would have to make a serious decision soon.
Arturo stayed up until the morning, waiting for an appropriate time to wake up Quinn and the others. As soon as they were awake, he informed them of the situation.
"Oh no," Wade said. "Is there anything we can do?"
"I've already tried going down to the headquarters," Arturo said. "They won't let anyone within a mile of the building."
"So what do we do?" Maggie asked.
"I think all we can do is wait for the kidnappers to release Rembrandt," Arturo said. "And then kidnap him ourselves when he gives his next public sermon."
"And what if they don't release him?" Wade asked, concerned.
"That is out of our hands," Arturo said.
As soon as the sun rose, the men dropped Rembrandt at the roadblock. Before the police knew what was going on, they sped off.
"Rembrandt!" Dennis said, as the police brought him back into the headquarters. "What happened?"
"They want me to preach their ideals," Rembrandt said.
"That's crazy!" Dennis said. "You're not going to do that!"
"They threatened to kill me if I didn't," Rembrandt said. "So, we have a week to get Carver ready."
Quinn and the sliders spent the rest of the week trying as hard as they could to reach Rembrandt, but it was nearly impossible. They knew that he had been released by the kidnappers, but the security around him wouldn't allow them to speak.
"I'm worried," Maggie said. "It's going to be a nightmare to try and get Remmy out of there."
"I'm confident that he knows what he is doing," Arturo said. "I just hope they allow him to do it."
Rembrandt spent most of the week preparing his speech and wrestling with his morals.
Of course he would never promote slavery, but what could he possibly do. If he didn't preach, war would break out. But if he tried to preach, he would be killed.
After ensuring tight security at the next sermon, Dennis began preparing Carver. He knew Carver would be a great replacement for Rembrandt, but he suffered from extreme stage fright.
The night before the speech, Dennis approached Rembrandt in his room.
"How's he doing?" Rembrandt asked.
"He should be ready," Dennis replied. "He's moving a lot faster that we ever thought he would. It's like he just needed to flip a switch or something."
"That's good to hear," Rembrandt said, obviously distracted.
"Are you all right, Rembrandt?" Dennis asked.
"I just have a lot on my mind," Rembrandt said.
"Try to get some rest," Dennis said. "You've got a big day tomorrow."
In the hotel room, the sliders were getting restless. It was the day of the slide and the day of the big speech, and the sliders had been able to speak to Rembrandt.
But suddenly, the phone rang in the room, and Quinn rushed to answer it.
"I can't talk for long," the voice said, and Quinn immediately recognized who it was.
"Remmy!" Quinn screamed, and the other sliders quickly surrounded him. "Thank God you called. We slide at 1:17."
"I know," Rembrandt said quietly. "Listen, I need you'll to show up a few minutes before the slide. I might need a fast escape."
Rembrandt walked into Dennis' office.
"I need you to let my friends in today," Rembrandt said forcefully.
Rembrandt gave Dennis a piece of paper with the names of his friends.
"I can't let anyone in!" Dennis said. "It's for your own safety, Rembrandt. And for the security of the country."
"You have to," Rembrandt said. "I can't explain why, but my life is in danger."
"Then, we'll boost security!" Dennis said.
"I don't think that will work," Rembrandt said.
"We've put the best security agency on this speech today," Dennis said. "You have nothing to worry about."
"But I think the kidnappers have someone on the inside," Rembrandt said.
"How do you know?" Dennis asked.
"I don't know," Rembrandt said. "I just have a hunch."
"How do we know its not your friends?" Dennis asked.
"I know it's not!" Rembrandt said. "Please make it happen, Dennis!"
"I'll make sure it does," Dennis said. "But I'll have to assign four men to them to make sure they don't do anything."
That afternoon, Rembrandt was backstage, looking over his speech.
"It's time," Dennis said. "Don't worry. I've been assured that this place is locked down tight."
That didn't help. For some reason, he believed that the gunman was already inside. And he thought that someone inside his headquarters was with them. But he couldn't worry about that.
He walked out onto the stage and approached the podium to overwhelming applause. He stepped up to the microphone and held his hands up to quiet the crowd.
"My friends," Rembrandt said, and the crowd went silent.
The sliders showed up and asked for Dennis. Dennis was obviously very nervous about letting Rembrandt's friends in, but he had promised to do so.
"I hope you understand that you'll be watched," Dennis said.
"We understand," Arturo said.
Quinn looked down at the timer. It was going to be close.
"I envision great things for this world," Rembrandt continued. "I envision a world where the mere idea of slavery sickens even the hardest of hearts. And no matter what happens, I believe that that world is not very far away. But it begins with you. You must make the difference."
Rembrandt slowly scanned the crowd, hoping to find the gunman. But he didn't see anything, and he tried to focus on his speech.
"I was going to come here and tell you the same thing that I've told you time and time again," Rembrandt said. "But I need to tell you something different today."
Rembrandt's tears began to materialize as he struggled to speak the words.
"I have to go away," Rembrandt said, and the crowd began to ask why. "I know you don't want me to go, but I know in my heart that it is going to be okay."
The crowd didn't agree, and they were obviously upset.
"But its going to be okay," Rembrandt said, holding his hands up. "There is a man that I have trained that will take my place. If you follow him like you have followed me, you will avoid war and promote peace."
Rembrandt motioned to Carver, and he smiled and waved his hand. The crowd exploded in applause.
"There's one last thing I have to say," Rembrandt said. "The men that kidnapped me earlier this week tried to convince me to compromise my morals to save my life. The last message I can give you is to hold your ground, no matter what. There will be people who will threaten you because of your beliefs, but you must hold your ground. Hold your ground, and I promise that you will succeed."
Rembrandt was expecting the shot to come, but it never happened. He smiled, and he motioned for Carver to come onto the stage.
"Here he is," Rembrandt said, clapping himself. "Mr. James Carver. If you follow him, he will lead you into the Promised Land."
Carver approached the podium and began his speech. Rembrandt and Dennis were surprised at how well he was able to speak, especially considering how nervous he appeared two weeks earlier.
"It looks like everything is going to work out," Dennis said. "Thank God for you, Rembrandt."
"Thank you, Dennis," Rembrandt said.
"So, you're going home?" Dennis asked.
Rembrandt looked over at his friends, waiting for him.
"I hope so," Rembrandt said, and he and Dennis embraced.
"Good luck," Dennis said, smiling and turning back to watch Carver's speech.
Rembrandt walked over to his friends.
"Are you ready, 'Reverend?'" Quinn asked with a smile.
Rembrandt smiled and nodded. He felt good about what he had done, and he felt like he had made a difference on this world.
As he moved to hug the rest of the sliders, Quinn opened the vortex. The four sliders jumped inside, leaving Rembrandt as the last to leave. He took one last look around, before jumping inside.
James Carver's speech had been a tremendous success. The people treated him the same as they had treated Rembrandt, and he was looking stronger and stronger.
"In conclusion," Carver proclaimed, "I, James Carver, promise to work with you to accomplish all of our goals. And in the end, the country and the world will be better off."
The crowd exploded in applause, and Carver stepped away from the podium and took a bow.
He searched the crowd, and he found the man he was looking for. It was the same man that had kidnapped Rembrandt, and he had a big smile on his face.
And Carver winked at him. Their plan had worked.