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He fingered the photograph gently, letting his hand trace the shape of her face. He had memories. Memories which wouldn't go away, memories which wouldn't fade. They were strong and powerful. They lingered somewhere deep within him, stirring feelings he shouldn't have, feelings which weren't really his anymore.
The photograph and its frame reflected his face. He saw the distorted image and turned away.
Quinn put the picture down and stared at it for a minute. He turned slowly to the window of his room and gazed out at the landscape. A concrete jungle, a mass of buildings. The park in the distance was the only green flash. A colorful smear across a dull, gray horizon.
His thoughts wandered to that place and the memories surfaced again, flashing through his mind as pictures on a television monitor. He closed his eyes. He saw them both, Wade and he, walking hand in hand through that place. He could almost feel the grass spring beneath his feet and smell the wind as it carried the scent of the trees. As he turned his face upwards towards the sun, he could swear he almost caught the breeze on his face.
His eyes snapped open suddenly and he turned from the window.
He had things to do that day, places to go. He would go to the park on his way home. He would try and taste the feelings again. Even though she wasn't there. She never would be again. He knew that. His memories told him that she lived within him somewhere but not now, not in this world.
As he shut the door on the apartment his mind closed down the memories, and the pain.
"Mr Mallory, would you please make sure that Mr Brown does not follow me every time we slide!" Arturo thundered as he nursed the cut on his forehead and winced as Wade dabbed at it gingerly with her handkerchief.
"Quit moving about Professor. I can't stop the bleeding if you fidget so much!" Wade ordered strongly as she grabbed at his arm with her other hand to hold him still.
"Ouch! I thought the fairer sex had a gentler touch, Miss Welles," Arturo mumbled as he winced from the pain.
"Do you want me to get Quinn or Rembrandt to do it then?" she asked, a smile creeping across her lips at his moaning.
"Of course not!" he answered indignantly, eyeing the two men. Rembrandt and Quinn exchanged looks and grinned.
"Well I'm glad that my incapacity amuses you!" Arturo remarked and took the handkerchief which Wade offered him finally.
"You'll do. Just don't keep touching it. It'll settle down in a minute," she ordered as she rose to her feet and brushed down her jeans, which were covered in the dust from the path.
"The Park looks okay. At least so far," Quinn remarked looking around him at the trees and greenness of the grass.
"I don't remember so many high-rises back on our world though," Rembrandt observed thoughtfully, as he stared into the distance and saw the mass of gray towers.
"Nope. You're right. Sure isn't our San Francisco. Not much taste in architecture is it?" Quinn replied and grinned.
"Kind of minimalisitic really," Wade added, as she too looked towards the tower blocks. Long oblong monoliths studded with windows but little else. Certainly someone had no taste.
"I think the park's surrounded by them in fact," Arturo muttered as he got to his feet and winced. His head thundered from the kick he'd received from Rembrandt's boot.
Quinn reached across and took his arm to support him.
"I think we'd better try to find the Dominion, guys. Let the Professor get some rest while we figure on what we're going to do for..." Quinn turned to look at the timer, "....two days, more or less."
"I sure hope the natives are friendly," Rembrandt muttered to Wade as they walked together ahead of the others.
"Me too. Wouldn't it be nice to just relax for a change. Seems like about five slides since we've been to a really nice world. You know, where there's no trouble or anything!" Wade declared and slipped her arm into Rembrandt's.
The memories kept surfacing. He'd been walking around aimlessly for about a half an hour now. He couldn't shake the thoughts. He'd have to go to the Center and have a check up soon if this went on. He wasn't feeling too good. They'd said the memories would go. Time would heal everything. They'd given him something to suppress them so it wouldn't hurt any more. Something was wrong. She shouldn't keep being in his mind. She wasn't there anymore. She shouldn't even be a memory which could keep coming back.
Quinn shook his head. Maybe a walk through the park would help. The memories were tied up there. If he could retrace the steps again perhaps he could push the thoughts away. He didn't really want to go to the Center again. He shuddered at the thought.
The trees were there, just as he'd seen in his memories. He could feel a touch on his face. It was the breeze which gently caressed him. His feet were walking on the grass, he could feel the springiness of it. He concentrated hard and let the memories flood through in a cascade of images. Their intensity hurt. He slumped down hard under a huge tree, its branches reaching outwards towards the sky in supplication to the sun.
The hardness in the bark of the trunk felt good. It was real and substantial. He could relate to that. His eyelids closed and he allowed the memories to play out their scenes in his mind.
He saw her face now, her dark eyes smiling up to him. He saw her hand reach up to touch his face and he felt the gentleness of its touch.
Quinn shivered. He needed help. This was no good. The memories wouldn't go away, not just because he let them come down now. Releasing them like this didn't make them vanish from his memory forever, it was making it worse. Each image stronger, each touch in his mind making him shudder with the intensity.
He thought he could hear her voice. He heard the lilting softness of it as it reached his ears. He concentrated on his memories. No, she wasn't speaking from his mind, from his thoughts. He could actually hear her. Things were worse than he thought.
Quinn snapped open his eyes and stared at the park in front of him. The sound was coming from behind him now. The tree he sat underneath was large. He was hidden from view. The path ran alongside the tree, so close to him. The voice grew louder. The memories were reaching a crescendo now. The loss of her. He felt the pain of the loss, though the loss had been erased. The Center had promised him that this couldn't be. This couldn't happen. He pulled himself slowly around so that he could just see the source of the voice.
The face was clear, it pushed his own inadequate memories into the recess of his mind. Nothing could prepare him for the vision which his eyes drank in. He stared straight into the eyes of his own beloved Wade. He glimpsed the person next to her but felt nothing. He didn't know this person, and yet she seemed to be laughing with him, talking animatedly. He must be her friend.
Quinn felt a pang of something he hadn't expected to feel - jealousy. He had been told by the Center that he wouldn't feel that emotion about her again. The treatment would make sure he couldn't feel jealousy about someone who no longer existed. They said it couldn't happen.
They were wrong.
He knew it wasn't right to feel anything other than gratitude for what the Center had done for him, but things were becoming different. Things they'd assured him could never happen, were.
The sight of her was sending him crazy. His whole system was feeling weird. He wanted to jump up and grab her. Hold her tightly. Tell her he never wanted her to go away again. He sat and let them pass by and then he made his move.
"What if the Dominion isn't here? We'll have to find another hotel," Wade commented as she trotted happily alongside Rembrandt.
The sun was shining down on them and this world felt real good. Everything was so quiet, so peaceful. She noticed a squirrel race up a nearby tree and she smiled secretly.
Good. Nature seemed to be in place here. If it wasn't for the awful architecture she'd assume this was a good close replica of home. Just what they needed for a rest.
"I guess any hotel will do for a day or two, sweetheart. I sure ain't gonna complain so long as I get a nice soft bed and a good hot bath!" Rembrandt replied laughing.
"And don't forget a beer!" Wade reminded him, laughing.
"*That* goes without saying, girl!" Rembrandt punched her playfully on the arm.
The tall figure raced from behind the tree. He'd been about to grab her. Take her in his arms first. Then he saw the punch from the other man. He couldn't bear the thought of someone hurting her, of taking her from him. As he took Rembrandt's collar and threw him backwards across the grass, he heard her scream.
"Will you leave him alone!" Wade screamed as she punched at the man who had grabbed Remmy and pushed him to the ground.
The man turned in surprise and seemed to be drinking in her appearance.
Wade backed against a tree. She'd seen a lot of Quinns now in their sliding. She wasn't shocked any more. This one though. This one seemed different. His eyes were intense. They wouldn't move from her face.
She tried to outstare him but she couldn't. His eyes were locked onto her. She blinked and tried to turn her face. As she backed up, she found herself against the treetrunk which he'd been hiding behind. She couldn't go anywhere. He edged towards her slowly.
Where were Arturo and Quinn? She glanced at Remmy. He was out of it. She just hoped he was stunned and that was all.
"What did you do that for?" she asked pulling her head as far back into the tree as she could.
"He hurt you!" the reply was straight forward enough and simplistic.
Quinn's eyes bored into hers.
"He didn't hurt me, we're friends!" she replied defensively.
"You've come back!"
"No, I don't belong here. Whatever you're thinking, I'm not your Wade. Understand? I'm not your Wade." She felt claustrophobic now.
The memory which had been longest to surface, now rose like a bubble to the surface of a pond, and exploded. His mind saw her face, and his memory of her now included the taste of her lips. He moved forwards to kiss her, to realize the memory.
The movement behind him took him off guard and he felt himself hauled off the girl and pushed to the ground.
As he stared up, he blinked. His mind couldn't cope with this one. No matter what the Center told him. No matter what they said would be all right. He couldn't handle the face which towered over him.
He couldn't face looking at himself.
"You okay Remmy?" Wade asked worriedly as she helped her rather dazed looking friend to his feet.
"Sure. Wow what a punch!" Rembrandt shook his head and fingered his jaw gingerly. He pulled himself upright.
The sliders stood around the two Quinns. The one towering above the other. Both identical in their physical appearance, but the expression on the floored one's face was beginning to worry Wade.
He looked so startled, so out of it, that her heart started to go out to him. Maybe his explanation that he was protecting her was true. Maybe on this world his Wade wasn't able to take care of herself. Maybe he'd looked after her. It made sense. They'd obviously been close, of that she was sure. He'd been about to kiss her, she knew that. The expression on his face had been so full of adoration that Wade was frightened by the intensity. Wade looked at him and felt his gaze turn to her. For that instant their eyes locked again. Wade looked into them and felt something stir within her. She looked away again hurriedly. She'd promised herself a long time ago never to get involved with another Quinn. She had enough trouble coping with the one she knew so well. Involvement in a world where they only stayed for days or weeks, just wasn't practical. She risked breaking her own or both their hearts.
She moved to her own Quinn's side and kept her eyes averted from the other Quinn's gaze. Something about him haunted her and she was disturbed by the feeling it gave her.
As he rose to his feet, he continued to stare at her.
Arturo stepped forward.
"My good fellow. There's obviously been some mistake here. A coincidence. We'll just be on our way and won't trouble you again."
Arturo indicated for the others to move forwards and they moved down the path.
The alternate Quinn just stood and stared. He couldn't cope with the sight of another one of him and he certainly couldn't cope with the sight of Wade. He was sick - that was it - sick. He had to get to the Center and seek treatment. He took one last look at her and turned in the opposite direction, fighting to keep the feelings under control. Fighting with every ounce of his spirit, but failing.
"That was too easy," Arturo mumbled as he eyed the retreating figure with suspicion.
"I agree. Something's not right here," Quinn replied and trotted to catch up with Wade who was walking on her own ahead of them.
"I hope you *wanted* me to pull him off you," Quinn commented slightly sarcastically, as he reached her and they walked together towards the gates.
"Of course, I did. And what are you getting at Quinn Mallory?" Wade answered angrily. She was angry at him for even hinting that she would feel something and she was getting even more angry at herself for knowing that she did feel something. She didn't want to, she just did.
"Nothing. I just assumed you wanted rescuing. Maybe I was wrong."
"What makes you say that?" Wade turned, her eyes searching his face. He wasn't a mind reader. He couldn't have guessed her thoughts.
"You didn't look relieved when I pushed him off, that's all!" Quinn answered.
"Oh so you want gratitude, do you? Well, pardon me!" Wade retorted testily and stomped off ahead of him.
"Wade!" Quinn called and then bit his lip hard. He knew he was wrong in saying what he had said. He knew that jealousy often made him open his mouth before he thought - the words just tumbled out before he could stop them.
"Why do I always say the wrong thing?" he muttered to Rembrandt, who caught up with him. He shoved his hands into his pockets and strolled alongside his friend.
"Put your foot in it again, eh Q-Ball?" Remmy observed, with slight amusement, as he watched the stiffly held shoulders of Wade ahead of them.
"Don't I always?" Quinn replied shrugging dejectedly. He could never understand why he did the things he did where Wade was concerned.
"She'll come round. She always does!" Rembrandt suggested hopefully.
"Yeah, maybe," Quinn muttered, not convinced.
"You told me I wouldn't feel like this." Quinn looked into the eyes of the man who was examining him.
"We had hoped we'd rectified all this, but seemingly you still have problems Quinn," came the reply.
"Can't you do something about it?" he asked hopefully.
"We'll try something today. You say you actually saw her today? You talked to her?"
"Yes. She was as clear as you are standing there. And him. He was standing there as well."
"You saw yourself with her?" the man's eyes narrowed as he stared into Quinn's, shining a light onto the pupils and sensing the reaction. He fixed a small probe to Quinn's chest and monitored the line which appeared across a small monitor.
"Yes. He *was* me. You didn't say there was another me? You didn't say there was another her."
"Why did I see them?"
"But they were so real. How can that be possible. I had a conversation with her." Quinn was confused. He'd trusted these people. They'd helped him before. He was hopeful they could help again.
"They're memories we're having a bit of trouble suppressing. If we can't do something soon about them, we'll have to consider some more - shall we say- drastic measures."
The man's words sent a spike of fear through Quinn's mind. He knew what drastic meant. He knew the result. He didn't want that. He decided to keep quiet about the urge he'd had to kiss her. That would mean things were going terribly wrong.
"Anything else you want to tell me about this morning, Quinn?" the man asked as he removed the probe.
"Nothing," Quinn lied, and then realized that he'd done it - he'd purposely lied to them.
"Fine. Report back here in two days. Exactly the same time please. If these tests prove to be negative then I think you're on the mend. If they show anything up we'll have a re-think!"
Quinn swung his legs from the medical bench and left.
"Oh great, no hotel!" Quinn exclaimed as they reached the usual corner where the Dominion hotel sat.
"What do you expect in this high rise world?" mumbled Rembrandt unhappily. His feet were aching and he wanted a rest. Not much to ask really.
"There must be a hotel somewhere around. Let's ask in one of the high rise foyers." Arturo suggested as they stood around looking blankly at the buildings. They were all identical. No outward signs of the kind of buildings they were. Clinical and bereft of character.
"Good idea, Professor," Quinn agreed and he ran across the road and went into the front door of the building opposite.
The girl sat behind the desk was pretty. Quinn noticed her smile as she looked up.
"Can I help you, sir?" she said as he approached.
"We need to find a hotel. Can you direct us to the nearest one please!" he answered, returning her smile.
"There's only one of course - it's the San Francisco Towers. Down the street, two blocks on your left."
"Of course, thanks!" Quinn answered and smiled to himself. Of course it would be called Towers. Everything in this world was a tower. But only one hotel - weird!
"Only one hotel - jeez. Well let's hope it's not full. Doesn't say much for the tourist industry here!" Wade exclaimed, still glowering at Quinn occasionally, as they made their way through the now crowded streets towards the hotel.
"Hey, I've noticed another thing about this place, guys," Quinn declared as they walked. "No cars."
"Hey, you're right. There's nothing on the roads at all," Wade agreed puzzled, then shrugged her shoulders.
The Towers was a tall uninspiring building, built to the same standard design as the rest of the tower blocks around it. There was only one outward sign that it was an hotel at all. A small sign above the door.
"Not very conscious of promoting themselves are they?" Rembrandt observed as he noticed the sign.
"Guess they don't have to advertise themselves if they're it for the entire city!" Wade replied smiling. "Imagine what one hotel would do to the tourist industry back home," she added.
"Yes, strange world isn't it?" Arturo remarked. "I must get my hands on some literature to see what's going on."
"Plenty of time for that once we're in the room and settled. Let's sort our room out first shall we?" Quinn offered as he pushed open the door and they went in.
"Hey this is great! Look, even a computer terminal for our use!" Wade bounced on the bed and settled back to rest, her head resting on her arms behind her. Her annoyance with Quinn and his earlier attitude were forgotten temporarily.
"Someone get me a soda please!" she asked as she saw Remmy throw his coat over a chair.
"Anyone else?" Rembrandt asked as he moved to the door and headed for the drinks dispenser outside.
"Sure. Soda for me." Quinn answered as he sunk into a chair with a sigh of relief.
"Mineral water, if you please, Mr Brown," Arturo added, as he too sat down, but next to the computer terminal. "Ah ha. Their library system is accessible via this monitor, according to the instructions printed here," he observed and rolled his sleeves up. He had some reading to do. The world was strange and fascinating and he hated not knowing why.
Rembrandt came back to the room.
"Machine's empty guys" he declared and sank down onto a bed.
"Oh, wonderful," Wade commented in disgust. "Some hotel. I'll go down and get some from the bar. Two sodas and a mineral water. Remmy - what do you want?" she looked across at Rembrandt.
"Oh, same as you sweetheart. Soda," he replied sleepily, and yawned.
"Thanks Wade," Quinn shouted as she closed the door behind her. He settled back to rest and felt his eyes close briefly.
He was startled to hear the sudden voice of Arturo and sat up suddenly. He glanced at the clock - he'd been asleep for an hour!
Arturo swung round in the chair he was seated on.
"Good Lord!" The words came out accompanied by a low whistle, which caused both Quinn and Rembrandt to look abruptly to their friend with interest.
"This world is a little more than we bargained for," he commented slowly, peering over his glasses at them both.
"Where's Miss Welles?" he asked suddenly, looking round.
"Gone for the sodas - why Professor?" Rembrandt asked, his heart sinking at the look of alarm spreading across his features.
"Hey that was an hour ago. She's not back yet?" Quinn commented, alarm starting to encroach on his sense of well-being.
Rembrandt shook his head. His face too, registered dismay.
"I was so intent on reading the wretched library material I didn't notice the time. Damn! Having read all this, let's just hope she doesn't run into our friend Quinn again," he replied pursing his lips and looking from one to the other.
Quinn still felt odd. His head hurt from the tests. They said the tests wouldn't hurt but they did anyway. The memories were getting stronger. The feelings beginning to overwhelm him. He couldn't believe that he'd imagined her. She'd felt real to him. She looked real. What had he heard them talking about? He reached back in his memory and remembered.
A hotel - they were talking about an hotel. There was only one hotel in the city. He knew where it was. Everyone did. It was used for visiting dignitaries. He remembered seeing it on one of the TV broadcasts a long time ago. He'd find out if she was real now. He'd go and look there.
Wade trotted down the stairs and into the foyer. The lifts had dumped her three floors above the foyer and she couldn't be bothered to wait for another one.
"Could you tell me where the hotel bar is, please?" she asked the pretty receptionist who smiled sweetly at her as she stood in front of the desk.
"Oh, we don't have a bar, Miss Welles. I'm sorry. There's not enough call for us to keep one here. May I arrange to get you something?" The girl put her head on one side and waited for Wade to answer.
"How did you know my name?" Wade asked interestedly.
"Your friend signed you all in," she replied and smiled again.
"Gosh, you've got a good memory. It's a big hotel," Wade observed, impressed.
"But you're our only guests, Miss Welles."
Wade stared open mouthed at her. The only hotel in Frisco and they were the only guests. There was something more than odd about the whole city. Wade couldn't finger it. She just had a gut feeling.
"May I get you something?" the girl persisted, smiling.
"Oh. Three sodas and a mineral water please," she replied quietly.
"Certainly. Please return to your room and they will be sent up."
"Thanks," Wade replied and turned to go back up the stairs. As she swung round she glimpsed a shape through the swing doors of the hotel.
The figure was hesitating. He didn't seem able to decide whether to come in or not. She was about to retrace her steps back, when the figure came closer to the doors and started to come through them.
Wade's stomach churned. It was him. A feeling verging on fear mingled with anticipation crept through her system. She froze on the spot.
Quinn stood on her side of the swing doors and stared. She *was* real. He had seen *her*. They'd lied to him at the Center. There *was* another one of her.
He moved towards her. She didn't seem to be moving away this time. He fixed on her eyes. They were so alive, so dark. They were like deep pools of understanding. He wanted to look into them, drown in the life which shone within them.
Wade stared up at him. The intensity of his gaze no longer seemed to frighten her. She looked into his face and saw the look of adoration. She'd never come across a Quinn who had looked at her with such intensity. She swallowed hard.
"I..I'd like to talk to you," he stated simply and held out his hand.
Wade reached out and slipped her own hand into his. He didn't take his eyes off her face. He couldn't. He pushed the swing door open and they moved through it into the street beyond.
The receptionist eyed the couple with interest. She picked up the telephone receiver and proceeded to tap the buttons on the phone.
"This is the Towers Hotel. I'd like to report Unification. Yes, one of the guests. No, I'm sure. Towards the park. Thank you, you are welcome. Have a nice day."
The receptionist put the receiver down and smiled, then spoke into a microphone.
"Please take three soda drinks and a mineral water to room 602 at once."
"May we go to the park?" he asked as they walked hand in hand together.
Wade simply nodded. She didn't feel afraid of him. His touch was gentle. His eyes betrayed no hint of malice. She wanted to get to know this Quinn. She wanted to find out about the Wade he obviously loved so very much. She almost wanted to feel a part of his world for the small time they were here. She knew the others would be mad. She knew she was being headstrong and foolhardy. Yet, strangely, she had no regrets.
He took her into the park and they sat on a bench together.
Wade looked at his face. He hadn't spoken to her since they'd left the hotel. He'd just stared. His grip on her hand was gentle but firm. It felt good. She didn't want to take her hand away. At least not at the moment.
"You wanted to talk to me?" she broached at last, her voice soft, quiet.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to stare at you. I...you can't imagine what's it's been like. Memories of you. I mean of her. I really don't know what I mean." He rubbed his head vigorously.
Wade felt a wave of sympathy for him. He looked vulnerable somehow.
She reached across and pushed a lock of hair from his forehead.
He looked at her, his eyes softening. He gripped the hand which touched the hair and ran it down his cheek gently. He let the feel of it sink in.
"Your Wade isn't here anymore?" she asked gently, not wanting to stir painful memories, if those were what they were.
"She....she ceased to exist two years ago," he replied slowly.
She didn't like the term "ceased to exist" but decided to let it go. He looked confused. Perhaps he couldn't bring himself to say the word "died".
"I'm sorry," she replied flatly.
"Yes. Her loss was very painful for me, I mean it feels painful now," he explained.
"Two years isn't long enough to forget her. Time will heal," Wade suggested helpfully.
"That's what *they* said. That time would heal. They lied. Are you lying too?" He put his head on one side and studied her expression.
"No. Time wipes out the pain of a memory. The memory doesn't go. Just the pain of it."
"You explain it better than they do. I still have the memories. But I also have the pain." Quinn lowered his eyes.
He felt her tighten the fingers in his hand and squeeze reassuringly.
The human touch of sympathy was more than his system could bear. He looked at her again and the floodgates to his memories opened wide. The love he'd once known for his Wade cascaded down. He instinctively reached across and put his hand behind her neck. As he pulled her near and kissed her gently the memories fell finally into place.
Wade gazed on his face as he pulled suddenly away from her. He let go of her hand. His eyes were less intense now.
"I have to go," he told her simply, and rose from the bench.
"Why?" she asked, confused. The kiss had been so full of tenderness, so full of compassion she was surprised at his sudden change of mind. His abruptness. She felt abandoned suddenly. Cast aside. More - she felt hurt.
"I must go to the Center and report for treatment," he told her flatly and smiled.
"Right now? You have to go right now? I don't understand."
"Thank you Wade. Thank you for allowing me to understand why I felt like this. I finally understand what he felt."
"What who felt?" Wade studied his face for signs of something tangible. Something which would explain his words. The hurt was tangible all right. It smarted, this sudden uncaring of his.
"Quinn Mallory," he answered, then smiled.
"But..you're Quinn Mallory," she stuttered, locking his eyes to hers.
"In essence I may be. Yes. I have his thoughts, his memories, his 'spirit'. But I am no more him than you are his Wade Welles."
"I don't think I understand any of this," Wade said weakly and sat backwards against the seat. Her head was starting to hurt.
He sat down beside her again for a minute.
"I'll show you something which will make you understand. We are not supposed to do this but you have helped me so much, I owe you this much at least." He grinned and Wade saw her own Quinn's grin mirrored there.
She watched in mute fascination as he unfastened the shirt buttons around his neck and displayed the area just above his chest. As he proceeded to pull a large patch of skin back, she felt a wave of nausea hit her stomach. The small metal plate beneath the skin lifted back and Wade saw beneath it a series of small circuits.
She turned her head towards him and gulped. She was speechless.
"Are you shocked, Wade?" he asked gently.
She shook her head and looked at his face. He looked so real. His lips had sure tasted real. She felt as though her head would burst.
"What are you then? Some sort of a robot?" she asked, angry at herself for being duped like this. For having feelings for a ... a man made of metal. Worst of all she felt deceived.
"No, Wade, I'm an android. I'm the android which was made in the likeness of Quinn Mallory. There was an android made in your likeness but she died in the great Technowars about two years ago, along with the real Wade Welles." His eyes reflected the pain he still felt but it was less intense now. It was dulled somehow. He could understand his memories now. Thanks to the woman who sat, confused, in front of him.
"How many androids are there?" She asked, amazed at the technology to create such perfect copies.
"Oh, there are millions of us. You see Wade, in the Technowars we eliminated the human population. There are no human beings on this planet. We androids took over everything."
He smiled at her and took her hand.
"The Earth belongs to *us* now."
"What do you mean this world is run by androids?" Quinn stared aghast at Arturo as he finished his explanation.
"Just what I say, Mr Mallory. This world underwent what they quaintly call `Technowar'. In reality it was the mass destruction of the human population of the entire planet. Androids initiated, carried through and won the war. From the brief accounts I've managed to read here, it was thorough and meticulously planned."
"Mass genocide!" Quinn shook his head in disbelief. "You mean that receptionist, all those "people" outside, androids?"
"Yes, and quite perfect they are too, from what I've seen," Arturo nodded and returned his gaze to the screen. "I haven't read everything but it would appear that the population of Earth had perfected androids about ten years ago. Androids did all the work. In fact the human population used them as a slave race."
"Rebellion of the slaves," murmured Quinn, shaking his head. "We don't learn from our mistakes do we?"
"I don't expect anyone expected the androids to develop beyond their programming. The problem was the sophistication which was developed in the past five years. People became greedy. Pure vanity drove them to develop androids which were duplicates of themselves. They might look and even feel human, but the one thing these duplicates lacked were the personalities and memories that the people had. Dissatisfied with their limitations, the androids rebelled."
Arturo paused and looked across at Rembrandt. He was standing looking out of the window, silently digesting the Professor's words.
"Are you all right, Mr. Brown?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Just thinking that no matter what we got, we always want better. Guess the androids were the same. I mean, why should they be created by people then not given everything they got too. Makes kinda sense to me." Rembrandt grimaced. "Doesn't explain how these people are so realistic though. I mean they got real personalities - look at that Quinn. He seemed to know Wade. How did he know her?"
Quinn shrugged. "Maybe there's an android Wade somewhere and he just mistook her. Otherwise it doesn't make sense."
Arturo got up from behind the computer and looked at the two men.
"Actually, it makes a lot of sense. I haven't told you the rest of the story. When the androids took control. And from the looks of things that was easy enough. Most people had duplicate androids working for them. There were enough for a mass take over. Sorry I'm digressing."
Arturo paused and caught Quinn's look.
"That's okay Professor, just go on."
"Well as I said, after the war was won, the androids didn't destroy the population at first, so much as drain it."
"Put that one by me again, Professor", Rembrandt said, his face screwed up.
"In order to become perfect copies of their former owners, the androids perfected a technique for pulling the memories and personalities from them. Essentially the patterns of the victim's neurons and synapses were reconstructed in electronic form, cell by cell. And every cell that was copied was incinerated by laser. So bit by bit, the original owner's brain would be destroyed as the android's brain gained life." Arturo cleared his throat.
"That's horrible!" Quinn declared, leaping to his feet.
"Yeah, technology sure turned the tables on mankind, huh?" Rembrandt added. He felt frankly sick. The thought of each person being systematically drained of personality before being put to death was horrible.
"Man, what kind of machines *are* these androids?" he added, his eyes holding a haunted look.
"Very efficient ones, Mr Brown," Arturo murmured and then rose to his feet.
"I suggest we retrieve Miss Welles before she comes across the duplicate Quinn again. I doubt she'll be able to tell that he's an android," Arturo suggested, pulling his coat off the chair.
"I'm with you Professor. Remmy stay here. If Wade comes back, make sure she stays put!" Quinn pulled his jacket around his shoulders and opened the door.
"Sure thing Q-Ball. Hey, you guys be careful!" Rembrandt called to them as they closed the door behind them.
Wade listened silently to the android who was trying to give an explanation to her.
"But how come you *feel* so much? I mean I can understand that you've got memories but not feelings. I mean that's impossible, isn't it?" she asked finally.
"It should be, yes. But I'm afraid something's gone wrong. Quinn must have felt strongly for his Wade. The feelings are too strong for the Center to stop any more." the android looked sad for a moment and then brightened.
"What are you going to do about it?" Wade asked curiously.
"I'm going to have all the memories erased," he explained honestly.
"But then you won't be Quinn Mallory any more. Everything that he is, or was, will die." Wade said. She felt a sense of loss that the strong feelings would be taken away.
"When the duplicate Wade was destroyed in the war they could not duplicate another. The original Wade had died too. Any feelings I have for her will be for nothing, forever. I cannot survive like this any longer, Wade Welles. I must terminate my memories of her now."
At that moment Wade thought the android looked sad, and her heart went out to him.
The sound of footsteps behind them grew closer.
"Quinn Mallory! You are required to report with us to the Center." The androids who approached from behind were dressed in gray security outfits. Following closely behind was a tall man in a white coat.
"You are Wade Welles?" he looked pointedly at Wade. His face betrayed no emotion and yet Wade felt a cold shudder rush up her spine.
"Yes!" she replied and stood defiantly in front of him.
"You will come with us also!"
"I'm going back to the hotel. My friends are waiting for me." Wade was trying to sound brave, but her voice was quavering slightly.
"You will not need to return to your friends. We have a more important task for you."
"I'm not sure...."
"Do you wish to help this Quinn Mallory?" the man in the white coat pointed at the android, who stared at Wade.
"Yes, of course but..."
"Then you will donate your memories and thought processes to an android model which is currently under construction. Essentially this Quinn Mallory will have his own Wade Welles returned to him."
"That's not true. I'm not *his* Wade Welles. Her memories aren't the same as mine. Her personality might be different," Wade declared, her skin beginning to crawl at the thought of what was about to happen.
"It makes little difference. This model Quinn Mallory is essential to the work we are doing in our laboratories. He has knowledge which is important. He is losing control because of his affection for Wade Welles. Your memories will suffice. You are enough alike that our model will be realistic to him. You will help him!"
Wade looked from the man to the Quinn android. Her heart was pounding loudly. Her mouth was dry. She couldn't stop them if she wanted to.
She could try running though. But how far would she get? She could risk it.
She turned to run. She made it as far as the small group of trees which were not far from the entrance. She heard the shouts and didn't stop to look, her heart in her mouth, she kept going. She heard the sound of what appeared to be laser fire and she dove behind a tree. The bark flew sideways at the impact of the beam.
She caught her breath and watched the scene unfold in front of her.
The man in the white coat pointed the gun in her direction once more.
The beam arc swung towards the side of the tree and kicked the grass up next to her feet. She felt the intensity of its heat. Then she saw the android Quinn hesitate, shout at the man in the coat and throw himself into the path of the beam as it?
She felt a cry pass her lips and hover in the air as she watched him fall to the ground. She could see the gaping hole where the blast had ripped open his chest. Circuits cackling and humming. Blue sparks forking upwards.
Wade felt a lump form in her throat as she watched his eyes turn and stare in her direction. His eyes seemed softer now.
"We can save him Wade Welles. If you come forward we can and will save him. If you don't, we will leave him to die! Your choice!" The voice drifted across and reached her ears. She gulped. She couldn't let him die. He might be an android but he contained the thoughts and personality of a Quinn Mallory. What was essentially a person, lived in that body. Wade couldn't be the cause of the death. If she hadn't slid into the world he'd still be intact, not lying dying on the grass.
She pulled herself to her feet and advanced slowly towards the group.
She heard the sound of running footsteps behind her. She knew her friends were coming. She knew they wouldn't understand. This need to save the life of an android. This need was something she could fight but wouldn't win. In her heart she knew that. She put her arms in the air in surrender. The men lowered their weapons.
She knelt down quietly next to the android.
"You mustn't do this," he whispered softly as she bent her head nearer.
"I can't let you die," she replied gently.
"You must. I....I know that whatever Quinn Mallory was, he believed that eventually he and Wade would be together. I..I've prevented that togetherness for too long. By being what I am. By taking his thoughts, his personality from him. I need to let him go now. I need to let him be with his Wade again. Wherever she is. I know that he will now go with her." The voice was fading now. Wade could scarcely hear it.
"And you?" she whispered. Her eyes were filling with tears now. She watched his own eyes glaze as he tried to focus once more.
"I'll be with him and so with her. Help me, Wade."
Wade nodded and put her ear nearer so that she could hear the whisper.
She pulled back slightly and smiled. She bent down and gave him the last, lingering tender kiss which he'd asked from her.
As the circuits finally darkened in his chest she watched his eyes close. Perhaps she saw a peace cross his face. She couldn't be sure.
The one thing she was sure of, was that this Quinn Mallory and his Wade were now together. She wiped a hand across her face and tried to erase the tears which fell so readily.
An arm pulled her gently to her feet and she gazed up into the face of her own Quinn.
"You okay?" he asked her simply and reached his hand to her cheek to wipe the tears away.
"Sure," she replied simply and gave him a watery smile. He put an arm round her shoulders and hugged her to him.
"You are not welcome in this world." The man in the white coat glowered at them.
"We don't really want to be here, my good sir," Arturo replied firmly but with a forced smile on his face.
"I'm aware that you are Sliders. We have permitted Sliders to stay here before, until they decide to leave. None have interfered before. This is the first Unification we have witnessed. It will not be tolerated again. You will not be welcome to return. Please return to your hotel and leave as soon as your slide window opens." The man turned on his heel and motioned with his fingers for the two guards to lift the lifeless body of Quinn Mallory.
"My good sir, what is Unification?" Arturo called after him.
The man turned and hesitated.
"Unification is the uniting of two past personalities. In this case our Quinn Mallory and your Wade Welles. I had thought to use you, Mr Mallory. You would have the same expertise as our own Mallory. But the feelings for Miss Welles were so strong in our android I doubt we could erase them in you either. We will be looking at ways to prevent this from happening again. Please leave this world as soon as you are able to."
Quinn turned to Arturo.
"Phew, that was close."
"Yes, I really believe that they are not murderers for the sake of murder. They simply go about the tasks they feel assigned to and which are necessary for the maintenance of a successful culture. Unfortunately for the human population of this world it meant eliminating them to perpetuate their own species. In our case, killing us achieves nothing. Something we should be grateful for."
Quinn kept his arm around Wade as they walked in silence from the park and back to the hotel.
"Regrets?" he asked gently.
"No. I really believe that what he told me was the truth," she replied and smiled.
"What was that?"
"That the Quinn Mallory and Wade Welles of this world are now together - somewhere."
Quinn squeezed her shoulders and smiled.
"I'm just grateful I've still got mine here," he commented softly, as they headed towards the hotel.