W.A. stared at Arturo, stunned. It never ceased to amaze him how often the same group of people (or their doubles) wound up connecting with each other and getting involved in the same series of events. For some, the multiverse theory was proof of the utter randomness of life, but when “coincidences” like these piled up, they just convinced W.A. all the more that there was order and meaning to life.

The professor reached out his hand to shake W.A.’s. “Greetings,” he said. “I’m Professor Maximillian Arturo.”

“Same,” W.A. replied. “Except without the ‘Professor’ part.”

Now it was Prof. Arturo’s turn to look stunned. “You mean...But how…”

W.A. shrugged and smiled. For years, he believed himself to be a double of Maximillian Arturo since they shared the same name. Eventually, he realized that there were too many physical discrepancies: They weren’t the same age, height, weight or anything else. W.A. had also eventually run into doubles that looked like him, of which the odds were too astronomical if he was somehow just a random double of the Professor. He just kept the nickname “Wrong Arturo,” or “W.A.” for short.

“To be honest, I don’t understand it all myself,” W.A. simply said. “Maybe we can run tests and figure it out, if we ever have the time.”

Prof. Arturo nodded, then extended his hand to the next person in the room, who hesitantly introduced herself: “Logan. Logan St. Clair.”

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. St. Clair,” Arturo said warmly. Inwardly, both Logan and W.A. breathed a sigh of relief that the professor hadn’t met Logan or one of her doubles before. That would take a lot of explaining.

Mia was the next to shake hands and introduce herself. She wondered at the cryptic interaction between W.A. and the Professor, but Logan didn’t ask about it, and she figured for now it wasn’t important.

“Very well,” Arturo said. “Now that we’ve exchanged pleasantries, let’s get down to business. I have taken the liberty of equipping several backpacks full of useful items: food and water for refugees; flashlights in case you land in a dark room or cave; extra timers; and so forth. Please take a few moments to familiarize yourselves with the contents.”

They each sorted through their bags before Arturo continued, holding up a phone. “I have altered this phone to ITF specifications so we can remain in contact across dimensions.”

“You’re not coming with us?” W.A. asked.

“My boy, I’ve gotten too old for that sort of thing,” the professor replied with a smile.

“That’s funny, I would have said the same thing about myself! Maybe you should consider it for the future.”

Arturo chuckled and placed a hand on W.A.’s shoulder. “Perhaps I will, young man.” Turning his attention to the group, he added, “One final note. The timers cannot slide more than four people at a time. The wormholes would become unstable. I understand there is more to your group, so please make sure that you split up accordingly.”

“Only four people?” Logan objected. “Even with three timers, that means we can only slide twelve people back and forth, including ourselves. How are we supposed to get everyone off of a world that way?”

“My dear woman,” Arturo responded gravely, “if Shiva has already arrived, you are probably too late to save very many people at that point anyway. Remember, if all else fails, you can contact Agent 47 and he will deploy an ITF team to gather up as many people as possible.”

“So, there’s going to be a time limit on each world, right?” Mia asked. “What if Shiva arrives before the timer is set to go off?”

“Agent 47 assures me that this has never happened,” replied Arturo. “Perhaps the timing mechanism is somehow tuned to the tracking of Shiva, and can activate early if necessary. I still need to do further research on this, though.”

“How much time do we have left on this world?” Logan asked.

W.A. checked the timer. “Fifteen minutes,” he replied.

After discussing a few other odds and ends, the group shook the professor’s hand and thanked him. Then they activated the timer to head back to W.A.’s and Sarah’s base world, and figure out how they would split up the sliding duties.

Several hours later, the Gomez Calhoun had a passing thought about how strange it was that people went up to certain rooms but never came back down again. Then he went back to playing Minecraftsweeper on his phone.

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