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Quinn took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. As he did so, he pushed the two timing devices, which resembled TV remote controls, away from him. He glanced at the clock. Wade had been gone a long time. He leaned back in his chair to peer out one of the windows. It was odd, having to do his work at the dining room table. But the Quinn of this world wasn't a slider. He was, in fact, a high school math teacher. This Quinn had never even experimented with sliding. Instead of a lab, the basement in this home was a rec room.

He watched a young man a few houses down struggle with his attempts to start a lawnmower. Quinn thought briefly about going out to help him, and perhaps try to find Wade, but he thought better of it. It wouldn't do to be seen out running around any more than necessary. The Quinn Mallory of this world was on vacation with his family. Quinn has found several letters from his mother addressed to his double. Apparently, his mother had purchased a condo down in Carmel to be closer to his grandparents, and had given Quinn this house. From reading the letters, Quinn had determined the occupants of this house were spending their vacation in Carmel, and wouldn't be back for three weeks.

As Quinn turned from the window, his eyes fell on a small stand next to the entrance to the kitchen. There were a few framed pictures adorning the top of the stand. Quinn walked over to them, picked one up, and returned to his seat at the table.

He studied the picture in his hand, as he'd done a thousand times since he'd been here. It was a picture from his double's wedding. Quinn passed his fingers briefly over the images of his parents faces. It was always hard for him to encounter an earth where his father had not been killed. Hit by a car. An image of Rickman's body lying in the road flashed through his mind, and he heard the thud and Rickman's cry as the truck struck him.

"No," he thought to himself. There was no comparison. His father had been a good man--the polar opposite of Rickman.

He shook his head as if to clear his mind. His eyes rested on the smiling newlyweds in the picture, and he had to smile himself. It was always so odd, seeing him and Wade together in that way. It seemed to happen quite a bit on the worlds they'd visited. He thought to that day back home, so long ago, when Wade had thought he'd kissed her at the Doppler Computer Superstore, where they both had worked. It was, in fact, his double that had slid into that world and had caused him all sorts of problems in a very brief time frame. Quinn remembered his reaction when Wade had confronted him about the kiss: "Why would I kiss you? We're buds, right. I mean, that'd be like incest or something!" Quinn chuckled to himself as he got up to put the picture back. He'd never thought what he had considered "incest" would be so popular on so many other worlds.

Quinn heard Maggie stirring on the couch in the living room, and he glanced though the foyer to where she lay, still sleeping, on the couch. He sighed, and ran his hands through his thick brown hair, leaving it disheveled. Maggie. She was a whole other situation entirely.

Quinn had never met a woman like Maggie Beckett before. She was so strong, and sure of herself. Wade was strong too--she'd kept her cool in situations where most people would've lost their heads. But Wade's strength was different from Maggie's. Wade's strength was based on emotions, whereas Maggie's strength was based on a cool, calculating mind and the utter belief that she could do anything. Maggie was the first woman he'd ever met that he could truly say thought like a man. Quinn had encountered all sorts of feminists at college...hell, even Wade classified herself as one. But those women didn't think the same way Maggie did. They felt that they should be given equal rights because they were women and should be allowed to try and do the same work as men. Maggie felt she deserved equal rights, because she could do the job better than any man or woman. She was so confident, and she feared no one or anything. For some reason, Quinn found all that strength fascinating. Maybe it was because it made him feel like he didn't always have to be the one in charge or be the responsible one. Maggie had always made it clear that she was no one's responsibility but her own.

And of course, it helped that all these fascinating qualities came in a fabulous wrapping. Quinn wasn't blind. Maggie was an extremely attractive woman. Quinn had never had much luck with women in Maggie's league. Then again, most men didn't.

Quinn also wasn't dumb. He knew Maggie had some feelings for him, and that she knew he felt something in return. They'd almost acted on those feelings a few times, but they'd both pulled back at the last minute. She out of a feeling of loyalty to her husband, even though he was dead. He, out of a feeling of some sort of loyalty to Wade, and maybe a little fear thrown in as well. He still remembered the stinging smart of Wade's rejection. It wasn't a feeling he was anxious to replicate. Perhaps that was why he'd started taking up with every pretty face they'd encountered since then--to show Wade what she was throwing away. He knew it upset her; that's why he'd continued to do it. It seemed petty and childish, but a small part of him had wanted to hurt her as badly as she had hurt him.

Quinn stared at the two timers on the table. As long as Rickman remained out of his grasp, this was a decision he didn't have to think about. But now, he had them both, and the decision was unavoidable now. Quinn picked up each timer, and turned them over and over in his hands.

One contained the coordinates to his home earth, a place he'd dreamed about for so long. The other contained the coordinates to Maggie's new home, a place she barely knew, since her own world had been destroyed by radioactive pulsars. Both contained the power to remove one of the two women he cared about most from his life forever.

Go to part 4