Commonly, it’s every day you take a good look at yourself. Most times however, it’s usually through a mirror. Not this time.
This time the experience was very three-dimensional, physical, and real.
“My god” resistance commander Wade Wells uttered in disbelief at the sight of the person amongst the party that had arrived at the holding facility to spring her from her militant Russian captors.
Her double. Her exact double.
“I know this is difficult to process, but this is as wild for me as it for you” the double revealed.
Wade scratched her head, baffled as to what this meant. Had the resistance somehow smuggled her in to take her place? Had they perhaps recruited the finest plastic surgeons to meticulously replicate her appearance and graft it on to a willing volunteer?
When did they ever find the time to do that?
“Look, we can’t hang around here, my friends are doing their best to distract the guards but this isn’t a fantasy world, they’ll come around eventually, they’ll hopefully be
“Oh no, you’re giving me answers on the go, and you’re giving me them right now. If you know who I am and you’re part of all this, then you’ll consider that an order” the commander instructed.
Wade threw her hands up and shrugged.
“Why not?” she said.
As the resistance soldiers and the two Wades darted down the corridors as quickly as they could, the commander was floored by the amount of info dumping she was being subjected to.
“Parallel dimensions? Sliding? Sounds a lot like the kind of thing you find on forbidden planet”
“Maybe that’s why parallel worlds are cordoned off the way they are…worlds like this ought to be illegal”
“You don’t suppose your group of ‘sliders’ could fit some of us into your travel plans?”
“I don’t think we’ve thought that far, we only just got here, largely by accident, and we’re set to leave as soon as my friends spring the crying man from his own cage”
“Sorry, did you say the crying man?”
“Yeah, Rembrandt, Rembrandt Brown, you know him?” said Wade.
“Rembrandt Brown? Yeah, I’ve heard of him. Killed in the Detroit uprisings over twelve years ago, he was an up and comer on the soul circuit just before with the spinning tops. Pilot and I had our first dance to one of his songs”
“He’s got good taste” Wade said.
“I like a little soul in my man, Pilot’s just my type, his whole race is my type, he’s just lucky to have been first in line”
Wade laughed, her double shared her wit.
They managed to reach the outdoor area. They saw Pilot just a couple of meters away playing lookout.
“Let’s see how you good you are at proving you’re the real Wade” Wade said, telling her double of the kiss Pilot had planted on her.
He had found the experience somewhat lacking, this time she was sure he’d be supremely satisfied.
“Only one other person has kissed me the way he did, and he turned out to be a stranger from another world too” she said.
“Different Pilot?” she asked.
“No, Quinn, one of my friends”
“Quinn? As in Mallory?” the Commander replied, almost in disbelief, she felt like laughing.
“What’s the joke?” Wade said.
“He’s probably nothing like this where you come from, but he’s such a square”
“No way, who’d have figured?” Wade replied sarcastically.
“You’re kidding me, I mean, I used to really dig him but it’s like he never saw anything past our friendship, he’s still like that on your world?” the commander asked.
“He has his moments here and there, but yeah, totally oblivious”
The pair were soon joined together in a fit of merriment which was all too swiftly undercut by the sound of gunfire ringing out all around them.
“Scatter” Commander Wade instructed.
“No, I’m not leaving you out of my sight” Wade said.
Commander Wade took her cap off of her head and planted it on her double and pointed to the retreating soldiers
“They came all this way with you to make sure I wasn’t out of their sights, they’ll lay it all on the line to keep both of us safe. Head back with Pilot, I’ll co-ordinate a tactical retreat with the rest. Go!”
Wade nodded and headed off, slightly terrified but placing her trust in what the commander was doing.
Elsewhere, another party of resistance troopers were laying down cover fire as Quinn Mallory, Maximilian Arturo, and Rembrandt Brown all darted under a hail of bullets and made it to a nearby truck. Quinn was deeply distressed, searching for signs of Wade in all of this chaos.
To his relief, he caught sight of her fleeing the grounds with Pilot, the commando trucks were already starting to pull away. Three of the commandos threw grenades, taking precision aim at the ceiling, and the resulting inferno tore the roof off of the complex.
Quinn took Wade by the hand and sprinted towards the cab where Arturo and Rembrandt were entrenched, the truck was on the move and under heavy fire, but Quinn was able to leap onto the edge of the cab, he tightened his hold on Wade as Rembrandt helped support Quinn’s own weight. Quinn held Wade close as the sides of the cab were rattled with soviet gunfire.
“Almost at the home stretch Wade” Quinn assured her.
He noticed Pilot firing from the back of the jeep as another explosion rocked the former university building. It was soon entirely ablaze, a large tunnel of smoke pouring out from what had remained of the roof and blackening the still evening sky further.
Quinn held Wade tightly so she wouldn’t fall; he whispered calmly to her that all was well.
She failed to respond.
Quinn pulled her back and looked at her face, there was a quiet and terrifying stillness to it, her skin pale, cold to the touch, slurred breathing. Quinn’s fingers graced her back and found them smeared with blood when he withdrew his touch.
Quinn was shaken, he held her face in his hands and looked for any trace of life, even the faintest would suffice, but there was nobody staring back at him, her eyes were closing.
“God Wade, no, I-I never should have brought you here. It’s my fault. My god, this-this is all my fault, everything…”
He held the back of her head to his chest; he closed his eyes in anguish as the full consequential weight of his meddling with god’s grand design came calling on his conscience.
The truck pulled up to the curb of a residential area. Arturo was frantically applying resuscitation techniques on Wade. He did not achieve much success.
Rembrandt and Quinn were on their knees alongside Pilot, they felt desperate, helpless.
Rembrandt looked up to see that one of the other trucks had stopped and a medical squad raced back towards them, the men assessed the situation and took over from Arturo hoping they would have more luck than he.
“Move back, give me some room” the doctor said.
Rembrandt rose to his feet and pulled Quinn back with him. They watched with bated breath as the team explored the bullet wound.
Observing from a short distance away was someone who was both new and familiar.
Only a few minutes earlier, she had been talking to herself, sharing a laugh, discussing boys, losing herself in a playful world that distracted her from her duty to the resistance, and she had enjoyed much of that conversation.
She had been hoping to have it continue a bit longer, but now it had all fallen silent.
And now she was left staring at that reflection, so still and motionless, the very life blood pouring out of her, the spark in her eyes gone, and all that was left was the grief of a man she had been learning about minutes before.
Someone also new, yet familiar.
“Quinn?”Commander Wade Wells said.
Quinn believed he was hallucinating as his ears picked up on the voice. He turned, immensely relieve to find Wade approaching him on foot, having stepped out of the back of the truck the medical team had been riding in.
Quinn surprised Wade by moving over to her and clutching her tightly.
Wade’s attention remained drawn to the body ten yards away, now being surrounded by a throng of sad and obeisant rebels.
Quinn pulled her head back into his shoulders.
“Don’t look back, never look back you hear? Always forward, always with me, you got it?” he said.
“Quinn, there’s something you need to know…” Wade said, trying to get a word in, but Quinn was too taken in by her safety.
“Trust me, I’m going to get you home, we’re going home, say it with me. Say it”
“We-we’re going home” said Wade. Quinn held her firm, Wade held him back, her own troubled mind racing.
She watched Pilot rush over to where the other Wade had fallen, he was distraught, his body shaking, and he scooped up Wade in his arms and held her close to his chest, whispering to her, kissing her tenderly on the forehead, trying to bring out some kind of reaction.
Wade had every right to break away from Quinn, to walk over to Pilot, to assure him everything was well, that she had lived, that the resistance would go on.
And something prevented all of that.
Something that proved as formidable as the resistance, something that could not be easily dismissed or destroyed.
Back at the resistance’s underground headquarters, the rebels were in the process of hurriedly packing up and relocating. In a far corner of the room, underground radio was announcing the success of the raid on the political prison.
The Sliders were being congratulated by Pilot and the others#
“Thanks to what you’ve told us of your world, we know they can be defeated. You’ve giving us hope again. In Wade’s memory, we’ll carry on”
Pilot leaned forward and gently kissed the group’s version of Wade on the cheek.
“Good luck, I hope you make it home” he said.
Wade gently touched the spot where he had kissed her, she looked into his eyes briefly then quickly glanced away, knowing that kind of lingering contact would arouse his suspicions.
Pilot nodded at Quinn, then he and his lieutenants strolled away, throwing themselves back into command, barking orders and rallying the troops.
As Arturo and Quinn began to work out how to best use the sliders’ timer mechanism to depart this world and achieve the best possible destination, that of their home Earth, Wade took a stroll around her base to process the surreal experiences of the last few hours, what she had done, who she had met, and what she was giving up.
She looked all around her, the resistance hadn’t fallen apart, and in fact they had been strengthened by the raid they had just conducted. News of her fate hadn’t even been addressed on the radio, which she felt was appropriate, not one person is above the mission.
She could always confess she was alive, reveal that it was the Wade of another world that had fallen, but only a handful of people high up in command believed such a sensational story, imagine if that were to be applied to the general public or the puppets behind the media, they would deem the resistance mad, trust in them would greatly diminish.
And for those in the resistance who had remained uninformed of the doubles situation, they would assume she had risen from the dead, or was being impersonated, and that would invite radicalisation within the ranks or dissension from within.
She could hear so many voices, some uncertain, some distraught, some encouraging, but she was drawn to one voice in particular, at first it was barely audible, but the closer she got, the louder it became.
She recognised the deep, soulful voice coming from a large tent erected at the edge of the compound; it was a voice that had accompanied her first dance with Pilot. She moved closer in proximity to that location.
She quietly entered the tent, and saw six bodies, rebels killed in the raid, including her own, being draped with American flags. A few mourners stood in silent tribute as Rembrandt sung the timeless hymn Amazing Grace. The song moved Wade so much a tear strolled down her cheek.
When she took on the role of resistance commander, she had been responsible for a few losses, people who had died in her name, people who had fought for her beliefs and paid the price. Now, she herself had paid with her life, only she was alive to witness the profound effect martyrdom was having on her group.
If her life had proven so significant in life to these people, the resistance would be strengthened even further by its loss.
All that was left was for her to play a cosmic game of Russian roulette with her life, she was free to decide what path she desired most, and somehow the idea of journeying to worlds where Russia did not have a lip lock on the states or where there was no disease or crime proved tantalising.
And if there were worlds where tyranny still existed, she could her experiences and skills in leadership to help turn the tide.
She would never tell the others, at least not yet, it could destroy Quinn, who was so clearly a leader in his own right, and keeping the group sane and together during a turbulent journey, she would not deter him from his own path by reminding him daily of tremendous guilt.
As the four Sliders departed the resistance base and moved across the city streets, the wind kicked up the deserted sidewalks, giving the cityscape an eerie forbidding quality and causing all four travellers a sense of unease.
A frustrated Quinn was making adjustments to the timer, the wind made him squint.
“I have no way of verifying whether or not the timer is charged. If the Professor’s computations are precise, with a minimal standard of deviation…”
“Oh give that brain a rest q-ball, simplify it for the rest of us” said Rembrandt.
“I can’t tell if we’ll get home or not, I really don’t. Best to keep your fingers crossed I guess”
The Sliders hurried along when a man in a large cream trench-coat stepped out of the shadows and abruptly blocked their path, shining a powerful flashlight in their faces.
“You’re violating curfew, I’ll see your papers. Now.”
As Quinn and Arturo hesitated, Wade was not as patient.
Knowing this was likely the last act she would commit on her world, she approached the man firmly
“We don’t have time for this” she said, and clocked the man square in the face with a mean right hook.
“Gee Wade, I didn’t know you had it in you” Quinn said.
“Guess my double’s shown me my untapped potential” said Wade, charging down the streets ahead of the rest of them.
Little did Quinn know just how true this was.
Meeting her double, even briefly, had changed her outlook, through her friends it was very possible to have different lenses with which to see the world.
The Sliders hurried for the scene and headed for the park, wherever they ran to, be it to wherever home was for them, or to a thousand different worlds to come, they were putting their faith in risk, chance, and choice. A game of cosmic roulette, with their lives at stake.
Commander Wade Wells would be there to make sure their odds were good.
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