Ted Knight sat looking through scrapbooks of his doppelgänger’s life. So very much the same, yet so very different. He saw his wife Doris and their sons David and Jack. David Knight had grown up very much in the Nazi tradition, much to his father’s dismay. Jack Knight, on the other hand, showed much more of his mother’s influence. His interests were in the past, and he seemed to shun much of the Third Reich’s ways. Ted laughed slightly at that. On any world, Jack was always a rebel. God, how he missed his boys.
He looked through the pictures of Doris Lee Knight. She was so beautiful. It brought back a lot of memories for Ted. He was glad at least that this Ted had known the love of this wonderful woman. The only question remaining in his mind was…
“Why?” Herr Knight spoke the question as he entered the room. “You’re wondering how could I have embraced the Nazi cause? How could I be worthy of a woman like Doris and embrace Hitler’s dream?”
Ted closed the scrapbook. “Something like that. But before you answer, where did Max go?”
Herr Knight took a seat opposite Ted. “Professor Arturo summoned him to the lab. Your Max is different from mine. With you and me, it’s like looking in a mirror. With him and my Arturo, it’s like the mirror cracked. They resemble each other sure enough, but they aren’t identical, like us.”
“Identical? I’d hardly say that. I fought Nazis. You embraced them.”
“Where do I begin, Ted? It seems that, prior to 1945, my life was very similar to yours. Where you were a costumed hero, I was part of an elite military group whose purpose was to assist the U.S. government against Germany and Japan. We might have even known some of the same people. We started in the Winter of 1940 and helped to stop Hitler’s invasion of England — me, Al Pratt, Bruce Wayne, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Carter and Shiera Hall, Rex Tyler, and Jim Corrigan.
“The group changed over the years. Jim was the first to die in the line of duty; he was replaced by a fellow named Ted Grant. Quite a scrapper, that one. We had other folks, too, that helped out from time to time: Terry Sloane, Charles McNider, Jon Law, Libby Lawrence, Steve Rogers, John Chambers, and so many others. Maybe you knew them on your world? In any event, I left the group full time to work with Oppenheimer and Einstein and others on the Manhattan Project, just as you did, but with a difference: I sabotaged the project.”
“That’s right. I couldn’t handle the thought of something I helped create being used to kill people, so I sabotaged it. I thought I was doing the right thing. But Hitler then had the chance to develop the bomb first. And he did. That’s how he won the war. So you see, Ted, my actions caused the Nazis to win World War II. Could you have lived with that? On your world, you helped the Allies to win and saved countless millions. You were truly the better man.”
Ted just sat and stared at his counterpart as the impact of his words sunk in. “I had made peace with what I did years ago, but I’ve still had those doubts nagging at the back of my mind. Now…”
Herr Knight smiled. “Now you know what could have happened. Your actions saved lives, Ted.”
Ted looked at Max. “Superman was more correct than he could have ever known.”
Herr Knight frowned. “How I wish there had been a Superman on this world.”
Ted stood up and looked around the room. “How do you explain your being Hitler’s right-hand man? I can’t imagine any reason that I would ever willingly work for a megalomaniac like him.”
“I had good reason. When Hitler tapped me for a leadership position, I jumped at the chance. This was my opportunity for atonement. Conquest is easy, Ted. Ruling — that’s hard. You’ve seen the technological advancements. That was my doing. Once Hitler’s mind began to go, he relied on me more and more. It was I who ended the slaughters in Afrika, I who helped a group of computer nerds to establish the Internet.
“We were growing up, Ted. A lot of the old leadership had died: Himmler, Göering… and then five years ago, old Adolf kicked the bucket. I thought this would be my chance to restore freedom to the globe. Keeping Hitler’s death a secret was easy. It gave me the authority I needed to make real opportunities. Then he came along and changed everything. His charisma, his connections, his power base. He’s running the show, Ted, not me. I’ve been reduced to a figurehead. I’m as much a prisoner here as you are. Granted, my accommodations are better, but…”
“Who are you talking about?” Ted said impatiently.
“Arturo, of course. He’s the real leader of the Third Reich.”
Back in Professor Maximillian Arturo’s lab, Quinn Mallory and the other professor were working on equations and superstring theory, while Wade Welles was running computer simulations. Remmy Brown and Jack Knight were discussing music from the ’40s when two guards came walking in with the Sliders’ Professor Arturo.
The professor looked around the lab in astonishment. “My word! This lab is phenomenal.”
“Why thank you, Professor,” the other professor said as he walked toward Arturo, hand outstretched.
“I… hmmm. I must say, I expected us to look more alike,” Arturo said as he shook his counterpart’s hand.
The other Professor smiled. “Yes, well, so did I. Perhaps you would be so kind as to join young Mr. Mallory and me in solving a riddle, here.”
As they went over to the chalkboard, Major David Knight and two guards entered the room. The guards set down two large trays, while David approached the other professor. “Your lunch, Herr Professor. I need to speak to you privately.”
“Of course; you two carry on. I won’t be a moment,” the other professor said as he and David went to the far corner of the room.
Putting the trays down, one of the guards slid a piece of paper next to the tray and nodded at Remmy. Making sure that neither the professor nor David was looking, Remmy lifted the lid off the tray and grabbed the note. With Wade and Jack in front of him, Remmy opened it and read, You are in grave danger. 2:30.
Remmy looked at the clock on the wall. It was twenty minutes after two o’clock.
Ted Knight looked around the room. It was very Teutonic-looking, as befitted a German castle. On the far wall was a picture of a woman, the most beautiful woman either Ted had ever seen.
“She’s remarkable, isn’t she?”
Ted looked back at his Nazi counterpart and smiled. “Glad to see that some things don’t change between worlds.”
Just then, Herr Knight’s son David burst through the doors. “Father! Professor Arturo requires your presence at once.”
“What’s going on?”
His son just looked at him emotionlessly. “He did not say. He just wishes for you and your doppelgänger to join him posthaste.”
Pointing his hand toward the door, Herr Knight nodded at Ted. “Let’s not keep the good professor waiting, shall we?”
Back in the lab, the Nazi Professor Arturo was fuming. “Damn it all to Hell!” He began breaking things while the four Sliders looked on.
“What’s going on, Jack?” Remmy whispered.
“Damned if I know, dude, but my idiot brother must have given him some bad news,” Jack replied.
Just then, David Knight entered the room with his father and Ted. “Herr Professor…”
Just as quickly as he started violently, this world’s Arturo suddenly became docile and turned to the two men. “So good to meet you, Mr. Knight, my name is…”
The color drained from Ted’s face as he recognized this man who resembled Max Arturo.
“Dear God in Heaven — Vandal Savage!”
“What the devil is a Vandal Savage?” Professor Arturo said, looking at the man he had thought was his counterpart on this Earth.
“Major Knight, keep your guns trained on our visitors. I fear my cover has finally been blown,” Savage said, pointing to the Sliders.
Vandal Savage walked up to Ted and leered at him. “So, you are familiar with me, are you?”
Ted met Savage’s stare, unafraid. “Yes. Vandal Savage, or should I say Vandar Adg, has been an acquaintance of mine. You’re an immortal. An encounter with a meteor in prehistoric times bathed you with a strange radiation, giving you tremendous intelligence, as well as immortality. You’ve lived for thousands of years. On my world, Savage was many important historical figures — pharaohs, kings, even a Pope. I imagine your story is much the same here.”
“Yes, it is. I had gone underground at the start of World War II, hoping to side with the victor when it was all over. Imagine my surprise when the little madman with the moustache actually won. I tried several times unsuccessfully over the decades to infiltrate his organization, only to be detected each time. But no matter. Time is something that is always on my side.”
Quinn spoke up. “So you became Professor Arturo then?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. I met the real Arturo in San Francisco when he was just beginning his research. He commented at the time how we resembled each other, and I came to agree. I killed him shortly thereafter and assumed his place. I finally had the unimpeachable credentials I needed to infiltrate the Third Reich and take command. Herr Knight thought he was in control, but I wield the power. Even his own son, dear David, has cast his lot with me.”
“So what happens now?” Remmy asked.
“Well, Professor Arturo and Mr. Mallory will stay here. Herr Knight will continue to act as figurehead. The rest of you are expendable.”
At that moment, the grandfather clock in the room struck a single tone, indicating that it was 2:30. The lights in the room suddenly went off.
The room exploded into chaos. With the lights out, Quinn took advantage of the confusion and began to type furiously at the computer. It apparently had its own power source, as it remained unaffected by the power outage. The room started to fill with gas. Savage yelled to his troops to retreat and find the source of the attack. Remmy and Wade fell to the ground, gasping for air. Herr Knight grabbed the professor and Ted and tried to lead them out of the room, when a figure wearing a gas mask blocked their exit. Ted tried to stay conscious, but he and the other two succumbed to the effects of the gas.
Savage saw what Quinn was doing. “Get away from that!”
Before he could touch Quinn, who was desperately trying to hold his breath, a figure materialized between Quinn and Savage and punched Savage in the face. The ancient one laughed and had balled his fist to return the favor, when another masked person appeared and stopped Savage’s fist cold. He then head-butted Savage, who promptly fell to the ground. Five others, all clad in black and gas masks, were making short work of the soldiers. The sirens started to blare.
“We can’t hold back the entire Nazi army. We’ve got who we came for. Let’s get out of here.”
The other six nodded in agreement. Without a word, as though they knew each other’s very thoughts, the seven people scooped up the Sliders, as well as Herr Knight and Vandal Savage. Jack Knight appeared at the doorway outside the room.