Note: Original Quinn will be Quinn, and PTSS Quinn will be Quinn-1 from now on.
The group was emotionally wrecked as they prepared to leave. Quinn-1 was still upset at his hasty decision to separate the Quinns that led to Mallory's death. Diana, Maggie, and Rembrandt were grieving the loss of their friend, and Arturo and Wade were depressed at the aura of the room.
And, of course, Quinn was struggling with his newfound freedom. Things like eating, sleeping, and walking came back to him naturally, but it all felt very awkward after being trapped inside Mallory for over a year.
So, the atmosphere was very somber when it was time to make the slide. It was decided that the group would slide with the group's timer, to avoid any potential problems with Diana's timer.
It sounded like a good idea to everyone, but Quinn-1 was nervous when he saw how many people were actually sliding. He didn't say anything, but he assumed that either Quinn or Arturo would've said something if they had similar feelings.
However, Quinn wasn't even paying attention to that. He was focusing on too many trivial things to even notice how many people were in the room. Arturo had similar thoughts, but he assumed that Quinn-1 would've said something.
Quinn-1 opened the vortex, and he jumped inside. Quinn and Arturo followed quickly behind him. Maggie smiled at Diana, trying to cheer her up before jumping in herself.
"You'll feel better when you get back home," Rembrandt said.
"I know," Diana said, softly.
Wade had to smile, as the two friends dove into the vortex, hand in hand. But as she ran towards the gateway, it started to shift and destabilize.
Fearing that time was about to expire, Wade dove into the vortex. Quickly after she did, the vortex shifted colors before violently imploding.
On the next world, the vortex opened, and Quinn, Arturo, and Quinn-1 flew from it. As Maggie exited the gateway, a ripple came towards the void, and the vortex closed.
The four sliders were in shock as they looked into the empty space where the vortex was.
"What happened?" Maggie asked, looking at the three scientists.
"I have no idea," Quinn-1 said. "It wasn't open nearly a minute.
But Quinn-1 knew what had probably happened. The vortex was having trouble supporting seven sliders. Arturo and Quinn knew that was the case as well, and Quinn feared the worst.
Seconds later, the vortex reopened five feet away from the spot where it originally opened. Diana flew out, still clinging to Rembrandt. They landed extremely hard, and as soon as they hit the ground, the vortex imploded again.
"Wade!" Quinn-1 screamed.
A second later, the vortex opened several feet from the sliders. It struggled to grow to its original size, and it violently threw a lifeless Wade from the gateway. Luckily, she landed in a patch of grass, but she still wasn't moving seconds later.
Quinn-1, Rembrandt, and Arturo ran to aid her, but a policeman stepped in front of them before they reached her.
"What do you think you're doing?" the policeman said, holding his night stick.
"We're going to help our friend," Rembrandt said, looking beyond the officer to Wade's body.
"The laws haven't changed, buddy," the policeman said. "The ambulance is coming, so let's leave the healing to the doctors."
"What?" Quinn-1 asked.
"Step back," the officer said, pushing them several feet back.
The ambulance arrived, and a couple medics picked Wade up and placed her inside. Quinn-1 moved towards the ambulance to get in the back with her.
"Where you going?" one of the medics asked, almost afraid of Quinn-1's presence.
"I'm going with my friend," Quinn-1 said innocently.
The policeman saw Quinn-1's proximity to the ambulance, and he immediately drew his weapon out.
"Step away from the ambulance or I will fire!" the policeman screamed, cocking his weapon.
Quinn-1 looked at the officer, sighed, and he held his arms up. The officer motioned for the ambulance to move away, and it sped away from the scene. He approached Quinn-1, still holding his weapon.
"You're lucky my shift is ending soon," the policeman said. "Because I should take your sorry ass off to the department. Consider this your last warning."
The officer returned to his squad car, and he left the scene.
"What's wrong with this world?" Rembrandt asked.
"I don't know," Quinn-1 said. "But I'm going to follow that ambulance."
"Do you want us to come with you?" Rembrandt asked, but Quinn-1 was shaking his head before he finished his sentence.
"No," Quinn-1 said, handing Rembrandt the timer. "I'll meet you at the hotel."
Quinn-1 quickly flagged down a taxi, and he entered the back seat of the car.
"Take me to the nearest hospital!" Quinn-1 said, but the driver didn't move.
"Are you a doctor?" the driver asked.
Quinn-1 assumed that the driver was joking, so he smiled and shook his head.
"Then you ain't going to the hospital," the driver said. "In fact, you should just get out before both of us get in trouble."
Quinn-1 had to think quickly. Obviously, only doctors were allowed to touch patients or even go into hospitals by penalty of law. He had to get inside somehow, but he had to get to the hospital first.
"I'm not going to the hospital," he said, smiling. "I'm not crazy. I'm just supposed to meet a friend of mine near the hospital."
"Okay," the driver said. "But I'm not driving any closer to that hospital than I'm supposed to. I'm getting my official review in a week, and I ain't risking that for you."
"I sincerely apologize for what has transpired over the last couple of days, Dr. Davis," Arturo said as the group walked towards the Chandler Hotel. "I really do."
Diana smiled at the Professor, but she couldn't say any words. She didn't blame him or Quinn-1 for Mallory's death, but things had gone horribly wrong since they arrived.
Sure, it was great to free Quinn, and fixing that mistake helped her conscience. But at the cost of Mallory's life?
"What about Diana's timer?" Rembrandt asked. "If taking too many people along has done this, couldn't she slide straight from here?"
"Well," Arturo said. "We originally chose to bring her along with our own timer because we didn't want to risk using Dr. Davis' unused timer. But I suppose I could take a look at it to make sure it is working properly."
Diana seemed thankful, but Rembrandt knew something was wrong. He knew she needed a friend now, and he would try to be that for her for the next few weeks. But she needed to get home and figure things out. And he would've chosen to stay with her, but he needed to get home as well.
Things were getting far too complicated, and everyone needed some time off.
The cab pulled up to a small strip mall and stopped in front of a restaurant.
"That'll be seven bucks," the driver said.
"Okay," Quinn-1 said, pulling out some money. "Where's the hospital?"
"What does it matter to you?" the driver said. "You ain't even allowed there anyway."
"Just for reference," Quinn-1 said.
"Sorry, bud," the driver said. "That ain't gonna work. I can tell you it's three blocks from here, but I ain't telling where."
"Three blocks?" Quinn-1 asked.
"That's right," the driver said. "Now, here's where you go, and now's when I leave."
The cab sped off, and Quinn-1 was left to fend for himself.
The mood at the hotel was very tense. Diana and Quinn still weren't talking much, and Rembrandt and Arturo were worried about their friend.
Maggie was still mourning Mallory's death, but she couldn't sit in silence anymore. Sure, she lost a friend, but one had been returned to her. She took the opportunity to talk to Quinn, whose silence was more mysterious than anyone else's.
She wanted to talk about their relationship, but she didn't want to scare him so soon after the separation. So, she stuck with lighter topics.
"Hey Maggie," Quinn said, smiling. "It's good to talk to you in person again."
"I know," Maggie said. "It was so strange to talk to Mallory when I knew you were still in there."
"Yeah," Quinn said. "It was strange for me too. So many times I wanted to speak up, but it got harder and harder to gain control. And eventually, I just gave up when I saw what it was doing to him."
"What was it like?" Maggie asked.
"For a while, it was like watching a movie," Quinn said. I watched life as Mallory lived it after I stopped trying to take an active role. His subconscious had won, and I had to sit back and wait for you'll to save me."
"But after a while, I had trouble even paying attention," Quinn said. "It was like I would black out for hours or even days. And then, when I was watching, I had more and more trouble understanding what was happening. I was just about to give up when I suddenly flew out of a vortex with full control over my body."
Maggie didn't have anything from her life to compare something like that to, but she didn't like the sound of it at all.
"That must have been tough," Maggie said.
"It was real hard for a while," Quinn said. "But it gave me time to think about everything. And I know this might not sound right, but I'd really just like to try and forget about the last few years of my life. Because the last two years before the merge, it was like I was a completely different person."
Maggie didn't respond. He wanted to forget about everything from the last couple years? Did that include the progress they had made as a couple? Or that amazing experience in the Bubble World.
Maggie had approached Quinn with the hopes that she could restart their relationship like it was when they left off. But now it seemed like she wasn't even on the radar anymore.
After only a few minutes of asking around, Quinn-1 was already frustrated with this world. No one would even point him in the right direction of the hospital, and they all left alarmed and nervous that he would even ask.
Upset and tired, Quinn-1 sat on a curb with his face in his hands.
"Buddy," a homeless man said. "What do you want at the hospital?"
Quinn-1 looked at the man, and although he was dirty, he seemed to have a nice face.
"A friend of mine was taken there," Quinn-1 said. "I need to get her out."
"Why's that?" the man asked, coughing. "You don't trust doctors either?"
"No, it's not that," Quinn-1 said. "I'm leaving town, and I need her to come with me."
"Ah," the man said. "I guess that makes sense. But you know they won't let you in, right?"
"I figured that out," Quinn-1 said.
Where was this man going? Quinn-1 had always felt bad for the homeless, but he was about to just leave. The man seemed to be crazy.
"I know how to get you in," the man said.
Quinn-1's interest was piqued. What did the man have in mind.
"Okay," Quinn-1 said. "What's the catch?"
"You're going to have to trust me," the man said, pulling out a large knife.
Back at the hotel, Rembrandt looked in the phone book to try and find a number for the hospital. But there was nothing in the yellow pages, and the operator hung up on him when he asked about it.
"I'm telling you, guys," Rembrandt said. "They don't want us anywhere near that hospital."
"I know," Maggie said. "Professor, have you found out why?"
Arturo was on the Internet, hoping to find what caused this world to be like it was.
"I believe so," Arturo said. "It appears that this world experienced a massive viral epidemic in the years following the Civil War. The disease was apparently much like a deadlier form of the flu, passed on from person to person."
"At the time," Arturo continued. "It viruses weren't completely understood, and the medical community hypothesized that the virus spread so quickly because civilians visited the sick in the hospitals. They would, in turn get infected and pass it on further. So, by the turn of the century, diseased patients were kept completely isolated and quarantined until they were given a clean bill of health."
"Wade wasn't sick," Rembrandt said. "What's with that?"
"Well," Arturo said. "It appears that sometime in the 1930's, the doctors convinced Congress that having a hospital for diseased patients and a different hospital for injured patients made very little economic sense. So, they integrated the hospitals, and all patients were basically under a quarantine. It wasn't until a few years later that laws were passed to keep civilians out of the hospitals and away from the scenes of accidents."
"Strange," Rembrandt said.
"But strangely efficient," Arturo said.
"What?" Rembrandt asked. "It's like Wade is in a prison."
"We are only complaining because of our unique situation," Arturo said. "But few people on this world are complaining about the system. Because as soon as a patient is healthy, they are released from the hospital. There hasn't been a case of a person being held for any longer than necessary."
"So how is that better?" Rembrandt asked. "We could've helped Wade."
"Yes," Arturo said. "But is everyone qualified to help sick or injured patients? How often are injuries increased because the bystanders didn't know what they were doing?"
"I don't know, Professor," Quinn said, breaking into the conversation. "I usually agree with you on these ethical debates, but I can't seem to do so here. I think Remmy's right; the Good Samaritan laws exist on our world for a reason. People helping other people."
"I hate to interrupt this beautiful debate," Maggie said. "But has anyone figured out how to get Wade out of there?"
"I don't think there is a way, Ms. Beckett," Arturo said. "Since the laws were established, hospitals have become like fortresses. There are armed guards posted on the perimeter, and it is against the law to be within a block of the premises."
"So," Rembrandt said. "What are we going to do?"
No one had the answer, but before anyone could do or say anything, Diana entered the room.
"I think I better be leaving," she said coldly.
"What?" Rembrandt said, shocked.
"You all have your own problems to take care of," she said. "I think I should just go home and get out of your hair. It will be better for both of us."
"That's not true, Diana," Rembrandt said. "We love you, and we're not ready to see you go yet."
"Yeah," Maggie said. "You need to stay at least until the end of the slide."
"No," Diana said, cracking a smile. "I'm going to go."
Rembrandt and Maggie knew there would be no changing her mind. They quickly hugged her.
"Take care, Diana," Rembrandt said.
"I will," Diana responded.
She then hugged Maggie again.
"Good luck," Maggie told her.
"You too," Diana said.
She turned around and faced the rest of the room.
"You'll have my home coordinates," she said. "You can always visit. My Earth is your Earth."
Diana tried to smile and be strong. She was still upset about Mallory, but she knew that only being back on her own world would solve things. There was nothing else left for her in sliding.
With a tear in her eye, Diana activated her timer. Looking back at Rembrandt and Maggie, she gave one last smile before jumping inside.
The hotel phone rang, interrupting the bittersweet moment.
"Hello?" Rembrandt said into the receiver.
"Hello," a woman on the other end said. "I was given this number by a Quinn Mallory. Do you know him?"
Remmy was confused.
"Yeah," Rembrandt said.
"Quinn Mallory is dead," the woman said in a cold voice.
"I think you've made a mistake," Rembrandt said.
"I'm afraid not," the woman replied. "He was pronounced dead at the scene."
"How?" Rembrandt asked.
"Let's see," the woman said, obviously rustling through some papers. "It appears that he was killed by a homeless person."
"Oh my God," Rembrandt said.
"Good-bye," the woman said, hanging up before Rembrandt could ask anything else.
Rembrandt put the phone down.
"Q-Ball's dead," Rembrandt said softly.
"What?" Arturo asked. "How?"
"The woman said that he was murdered," Rembrandt said, still in shock.
He couldn't believe it. What else could go wrong. First Mallory died, then Diana left, and now Quinn-1?
"I don't believe it," Maggie said.
"But how can we prove that?" Arturo said. "If Quinn's really alive, he should come back."
"Unless they arrested him or something," Quinn said. "You guys saw how he reacted to that policeman. Maybe he went a step too far and they arrested him. Or maybe they killed him."
"What do we do?" Maggie asked.
But no one knew.
Quinn-1 awoke in a hospital. He was still feeling some side effects, but he was sure that he was in the morgue.
"It worked," he thought, amazed.
He heard coughing, and he looked to the left. He was now positive that he was inside a morgue, and he saw the homeless man beside him.
"Oh," the man said, turning on his side. "You're up. I'm glad to see I really didn't kill you."
"What was that stuff?" Quinn-1 asked.
"A very strong tranquilizer," the homeless man said, still coughing. "It knocks you out, and it slows down your pulse enough so that it won't be picked up. You should still be feeling some side effects for a day or two, but you'll be fine."
"How did that work?" Quinn-1 asked.
"I knew it would work," the man said. "I just needed the way in. You see, the medics don't ever do an extensive check of the body until they get to the hospital. But if they don't pick up a pulse immediately, they consider you dead."
"What's in it for you?" Quinn-1 asked.
"I get to stay here," the man said. "At least, until I get better."
"Why'd you need me?" Quinn-1 asked. "You couldn't just take your pill yourself and sneak in here?"
"If a homeless man dies on the street of 'natural causes,'" the man said. "They sure as Hell won't take you to the hospital. They might even just leave you there. But if a homeless man kills a civilian and dies in the process, they'll want to autopsy both."
Quinn-1 felt his shirt, and there was blood on it.
"What happened here?" he said.
"It had to be convincing from the outside," the man responded.
"Where'd you get the blood?" Quinn-1 asked.
The man lifted his shirt, revealing a knife wound on his chest.
"It looks like you got me," the man said, laying back on the cot.
It now appeared that Arturo was the leader of the group. Quinn-1 had been the leader the whole trip, but now that job appeared to fall to him.
"Okay," Arturo said after rallying the troops. "We're going to wait and see if Ms. Welles is released from the hospital. If she is in time, she will undoubtedly come back to the hotel."
"What if she's been released, but she can't pay her bill?" Maggie asked, hoping they weren't holding her there.
"That's not possible," Arturo said. "One of the benefits of living on this world is free universal health care."
"Free?" Maggie asked. "How can they pull that off?"
"How does the government pull anything off?" Quinn said. "Taxes."
"There's obviously nothing else we can do tonight," Arturo said, noticing the time. "But I think it will be good to say a few words about Mr. Mallory first."
"What are you going to do now that you're in?" Quinn-1 asked.
"Wait to see that I'm alive," the man said. "Once you get in, they don't have any problem treating you. The problem is getting in."
"Well," Quinn-1 said. "Good luck."
"You too," the man said, turning on his side. He coughed a couple more times before falling to sleep.
Quinn-1 looked out the room, and he noticed that everyone walking the halls was in a white lab coat.
"If I go out there in these clothes," Quinn-1 thought. "They'll catch me in a second."
He looked around the room, and he saw a coat hanging on the back of the door. He quickly changed clothes and walked out the door.
As soon as he left the morgue, he grabbed a passing doctor.
"What in the Hell is going on in here?" Quinn-1 said, trying to act assertive. "One of the patients in there is alive."
"Are you sure?" the young doctor asked.
"Are you questioning my ability to be a doctor?" Quinn-1 asked, trying to act angry.
"Of course not, Doctor," the doctor said. "I'll get someone in there as fast as possible."
Quinn-1 smiled and walked over to the receptionist's desk.
"Excuse me," Quinn-1 said. "I'm supposed to cover for another doctor, but I'm lost. I'm looking for a Wade Welles."
The group, apparently down to four, sat down in the middle of the living room to conduct a small memorial service for Quinn-1. They decided to wait for more proof before giving Wade a memorial as well.
Rembrandt opened with a song, but he passed the opening comments to the Professor.
"You were a good man," Arturo said, speaking to Quinn-1's spirit. "I didn't always agree with you, but I always respected your decisions. I only knew you for a couple years, but it felt like we had been friends for decades. I will truly miss you."
Quinn shed a tear. He and the Professor used to be that close, and he hoped that one day they could recreate the relationship they once had.
As soon as Arturo was finished, the torch was passed to Rembrandt.
"Q-Ball," Rembrandt said. "What can I say? I love you, man. You reunited me with my friends, and you've given me a way home. I hope you find peace, and I know you will.
There was a period of silence for the lost slider.
Quinn-1 found Wade's room, and he quickly entered. Wade was sitting up in her hospital bed, rubbing her eyes.
"Wade?" Quinn-1 said softly.
Wade squinted at the figure in front of her, and she smiled when she saw who it was.
"Quinn!" she screamed.
Quinn-1 rushed to Wade's side, and the two hugged. After a second, they were staring at each other, and Quinn moved in for a short kiss. But seconds afterwards, he acted like nothing had changed.
"Let's go," Quinn-1 said. "Are you all right?"
Wade was still a little dazed from the injury and the kiss, but she nodded.
Quinn-1 helped her up, and they slowly moved towards the door. He ran and grabbed a wheelchair, and he put Wade inside.
Using the guise that Wade was being released, the two escaped to the outside. But when a security guard asked to check his ID, Quinn began to run away.
He quickly escaped to a wooded area, knew he wasn't going to get far with Wade in a wheelchair, even at night.
"Wade," he said. "Can you run?"
"Yes," Wade said, and Quinn-1 dragged her from the chair.
The two ran through the woods towards the bright lights. But the ever-present sirens told them to be careful. Quinn-1 abandoned his lab coat, and they moved towards a side street.
"If we can just make it to the hotel," Quinn-1 said. "We'll be okay."
Luckily enough, he saw a cab passing, and he quickly hailed it.
"The Chandler Hotel," Quinn-1 said.
The group was awoken by the ringing of the phone.
"What now?" Rembrandt thought as he walked to the phone. But he was pleasantly surprised to hear who was on the other side.
"Thank you," Quinn-1 said, handing the cell phone back to the cab driver.
"Hey," the driver said. "If you're going to pay me to drive you all the way to San Francisco, then my phone is your phone."
When they arrived at the hotel, the four sliders were waiting for them.
"We thought you were dead," Rembrandt said, as the six sliders managed to fill the back seat of the cab. "We had a memorial and everything!"
"I'm sure it was nice," Quinn-1 said. "But I'm glad to be alive. Lucky, but glad. The 'medical police are after us.'"
"The 'Doc Cops' are after you?" the driver said, sounding hesitant.
"We'll pay you extra if you don't say anything," Quinn-1 said.
"You're right," the driver said. "Because if we're going to evade them, we're going to have to take the really really long way."
The sliders arrived in San Francisco the next morning. The group collected all of their money, and they paid the driver handsomely.
"Thanks folks," the driver said. "It's always fun to have a chance to evade the mighty medical community."
"Thank you, young man," Arturo said.
"Are you guys going to be able to survive any better here?" the driver said. "You know how powerful they are, don't you."
"We have our ways of getting away," Quinn-1 said, and the cab drove off.
Rembrandt pulled out the timer, and he prepared to open the vortex.
"Are you ready to go home?" Quinn-1 asked, looking at Wade.
"I can't wait," Wade said, smiling back at him.
"We're all going home," Arturo said.