Herr Ted Knight awoke with a start. What in the world was going on? He looked around at the small room, which appeared to belong to someone. Looking at the wall, he saw a picture. It was the Stars and Stripes, something he hadn’t seen in decades. The door to the room opened, and the Theodore Knight of this timeline thought he was seeing a ghost.
Sometime later, Rembrandt Brown awoke, but this time, instead of bars and a cold floor, he was in a room that resembled a U.S. Army barracks — well, once you discounted the fact that they were in some kind of cave. Remmy got off the bunk he was lying on and went to wake up Quinn Mallory.
“Q-Ball, get up. We’re out of the frying pan, but I think we may have ended up in the fire.”
Slowly, all five Sliders stirred, but there was no sign of Herr Knight, Vandal Savage or the seven figures in black.
“Where the devil have we gotten hijacked to this time?” Professor Maximillian Arturo wondered.
Wade Welles sat to next to Quinn on his bunk. “Looks like some sort of military operation. How much time do we have before we slide, Quinn?”
With a shocked look on his face, Quinn patted himself down quickly. “I don’t have it! Professor?”
“Neither do I!”
“Aw, no. Of all the worlds to get stuck on, why does it have to be Nazi world?” Remmy said, leaning his head against the cave wall. “We couldn’t get stuck on beach world, or the world of hot babes or even a world like ours. We had to get stuck here. Figures.”
“You’re not stuck anywhere.”
The Sliders saw Jack Knight enter the room. “It’s cool. This timer thing says you got thirty-seven minutes.” Jack handed the timer over to Quinn. “C’mon. My dad’s got some people he wants you to meet.”
The Sliders, led by Jack, entered a bigger room that had a large oval table in the middle. Along the walls were banks and banks of computer equipment. Herr Knight was sitting at the table, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“Glad to see you’re all awake. Welcome to Rhode Island.”
“What the devil?” Max asked, looking confused. “How in the world did we get to Rhode Island so quickly?”
“All will be answered in due time, Professor… or at least before you slide. I’ve got someone I’d like you all to meet.”
One of the black-clad figures emerged from a doorway, but he wasn’t wearing a mask. He was an older man, dark hair with gray at the temples. His face showed the wear of the years, but he was still in top form. Ted Knight recognized him immediately.
“Bruce? Bruce Wayne?”
Wayne looked at the man and then at Herr Knight. “He really is your counterpart.”
“Yes, he is. Ted, you remember that group I told you I belonged to in the ’40s? Bruce was part of that. After the war, most of the group ended up being captured by the Nazis and killed. This was before I had any clout at all. Bruce was the only one unaccounted for. I’d wondered what happened to him.”
Wayne gestured to the table for the Sliders to sit. “You were right. The others did die as patriots. I was the only one who managed to escape capture. John and Libby Chambers were the last two caught. The three of us were on a mission together in 1950 to sabotage a Nazi power plant near Atlanta. We succeeded, but they were killed in the explosion. I spent the next five years in retirement. The whole thing seemed pointless. I then received a phone call that changed my life from Dr. Salvatore Erdel. He was actually Jewish, with the name of Saul, but he changed his name to Salvatore to keep out of the Nazi prison camps. That night, Erdel introduced me to a man with some remarkable powers, a man from another world. He had some remarkable powers, too. Together, we began a successful campaign against the Nazis. Over the years, others joined us, and now we had a group of seven that had some limited success against the Nazis.”
Five others came into the room. Bruce stood up and put a hand on each one’s shoulder in succession. “This fellow is the man Erdel introduced me to: John Jones, code-named Manhunter. The fellow with the blond buzz-cut is our resident scientist and a pretty swift guy in his own right — Barry Allen, code-named Flash. This guy is our resident pilot, and with his mystical ring, he’s pretty fearless. His code-name is Daredevil. We’re not quite sure where this guy came from, but he can breathe underwater and command sea life. His name is Arthur, but his code-name is Amphibian. The beautiful lady you see here comes to us from a secluded island, where her people have lived away from our world for centuries. Her name is Diana, code-name Amazon.”
“The Justice League!” Ted said with a smile.
Wade spoke up, “I don’t mean to quibble, but you said there were seven of you. I only see six.”
Bruce looked back to the doorway. “You can join us, you know.”
The final member came into the room. He had dark hair with a spit-curl coming down his forehead. He walked slightly hunched over and wore some very thick glasses. He pushed them up with his forefinger and smiled nervously at the group.
Bruce put his arm around the man’s shoulder. “This is Clark. He has some remarkable powers as well, even greater than John’s. We found him on a mission to Kansas two months ago. We had gotten wind that the Nazis had found some sort of Übermensch and were experimenting on him in a facility in Kansas City. We managed to rescue him, but he’s very reluctant to use his powers.”
“Well, Ma and Pa were afraid that if the Nazis ever found out what I could do, they’d turn me into a monster. It was hard enough hiding me after my rocket landed that night, but with the snow as thick as it was and a blizzard raging, they didn’t have any trouble getting people to believe I really was theirs. They died last year, and I accidentally let my powers show. That’s how I got caught.”
Ted looked over at Herr Knight. “Looks like you got your wish, Ted.”
“What do you mean?”
“This man, Clark — he’s Superman.”
A light bulb went off in Clark’s head. “Hey! I like that. Can that be my code-name, Bruce?”
Ever the party-pooper, Professor Arturo cleared his throat. “This is all nice and well, but if you have such great power, why haven’t you used it? Do you not see all the suffering around you? Ronald Reagan, Norman Schwarzkopf, and Martin Luther King were just executed, for God’s sake. Are you all a bunch of blistering idiots?”
Bruce put his arms on the table. “We’ve tried, Professor. I’m glad you think it’s so easy, but with Clark here, we think we can finally turn the tables. In fact, we had planned to take out the Nazi leadership, Herr Knight, and Professor Arturo and Hitler when you come sliding in and ruin everything.”
“But Herr Knight was your friend,” Remmy said.
“Friends are expendable. We thought Ted had betrayed us, but thanks to John’s scan of Ted’s mind, we found out that Savage was the true culprit. That’s why we came in to rescue you and why we plan to go back,” Bruce said, with no small amount of irritation.
“Go back?” Quinn asked.
“Yes. We’ll go back, and Ted will resume his role as Führer. We’ll announce that Hitler passed away in his sleep and that Ted and Arturo are in charge. We’ll slowly but surely dismantle the Nazi machine — in a way that will be less bloody than a coup.”
John’s shape became fluid, and he morphed into an exact duplicate of Savage.
Arturo fell back in his chair. “Incredible!”
“And just so you know,” Diana said to Arturo, “Reagan, Schwarzkopf, and King are all still alive. John posed as King, and using his ring, Hal and Barry subbed for the other two. They teleported out just before they would have been killed.”
Herr Knight looked troubled. ‘The only bad thing is that the information on sliding could still fall into the wrong hands.”
“No,” Quinn said. “I deleted it all during the confusion when they rescued us. There won’t be anyone sliding out of here except for us.”
“Guys, we’ve got thirty seconds,” Wade said as she looked at the timer.
Ted walked over to Herr Knight. “I… I want to thank you. You’ve allowed me to see what could have happened in my life, and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Herr Knight grasped Ted’s shoulder and pulled him into a hug. “Thanks for letting me see that I am a decent person. I’d lost sight of what I was trying to accomplish.”
The two men separated, and Ted joined the others. Wade pointed the timer toward the wall. “Do you think we’ll end up back in California somewhere?”
The vortex opened up.
“Girl, I’ll just be happy as long as there aren’t any Nazis in this next world. Professor?”
Arturo sighed. “Very well, Mr. Brown. I guess I must resign myself to always being your landing pad.” With that, Arturo jumped into the vortex and vanished. Remmy went next, followed by Wade and Quinn.
Ted looked back for a moment at the heroes standing there, and then he, too, jumped into the vortex. It closed moments later.
Ted Knight emerged with the others on the grounds of what appeared to be a military base. There were sentries all around. It was not their typical landing place. Within moments, a group of soldiers arrived and drew their weapons.
The woman leading them pointed her gun and yelled, “Put your hands up where I can see them.”
The Sliders did just that as two other soldiers came forward and frisked them. Satisfied that they were clean, they nodded at their commanding officer.
She lowered her weapon. “You picked a bad time to slide in here. What’s your name?” she said, looking at Quinn.
“Uh, Quinn Mallory. You know how we got here?”
“Yes, we’re working on sliding technology ourselves, but for a different reason. A cluster of pulsars is on a trajectory that will take them near enough to the Earth to irradiate every part of it. Our scientists had discovered sliding, but could not keep our wormhole stable. We’re hoping you can help us do just that.
Maximillian Arturo stepped forward. “Dear God in Heaven! How long before the pulsars hit?”
“A little over three days.”
Wade looked at the timer. “Umm, guys, we’ve got another problem, too.”
“What is it, Wade?” Ted asked as Wade showed him the timer.
“Max, we’ve got five weeks here.”
The woman became impatient. “Look — we can help each other, but we’ve got to get busy now. I’ll take you to meet the Colonel.”
“Wait,” Quinn said, “What’s your name?”
“Beckett. Captain Maggie Beckett.”
To be Continued in Stars and Sliders: Exodus Redux