|Disclaimer: The Sliders television series' characters and storylines are property of Universal and St. Clare Entertainment, series creator Tracy Tormé and Fox Broadcasting Network and The Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary profit is being made off of this work. All other characters who are not found on the Sliders television series were created by me, and should only be used with my prior permission. Posting to archives is encouraged as long as my name and title stay with the story.|
Author's Note: Beware of spoilers. This story is part of my Season 6 Sliders series, picking up where the episode "The Seer" leaves off. You should be familiar with most, if not all, of the original Sliders series, as well as the preceding episodes of my fanfiction, before reading this story.* * *
Wade breathed in the zesty, fragrant aroma of her fettucine alfredo. The seasoned noodles, slathered in tangy lemon sauce, splashed against Wade's tongue as she savored its delectable Italian goodness. Closing her eyes, Wade paused to enjoy the scent and taste of her satisfying meal.
"I'm in heaven!" Wade exclaimed, taking a sip of wine from her glass goblet to wash down the pasta.
Diana and Mallory were also seated around the umbrella-shaded table with Wade, relaxing in the easygoing atmosphere of a quaint outdoor Italian bistro.
"This is honestly the best food I've ever tasted," Diana agreed with Wade. The physicist took a bite out of her cheese-filled garlic bread which was additionally marinated with spicy marinara sauce. Alongside Diana's plate was their timer, casually counting down.
Mallory happily chewed his pepperoni pizza, stringy mozzarella cheese hanging out of his mouth. "I think we should call this place New Italy World."
"Seems appropriate," Diana nodded. "Since Italy colonized North America on this Earth before Spain, France, or Britain had the chance to."
"Too bad we're only here for a few more minutes," lamented Wade, catching a glimpse of the timer's decreasing digits. She gazed fondly at Mallory. "I still can't believe Quinn is actually inside of you! Can you feel him?"
Swallowing his pizza, Mallory nodded. "Sometimes I can. For awhile I thought he was gone . . . but not long ago he resurfaced, causing me nasty seizures. It's like he's screaming to be let out of my body. And trust me, I'd gladly release him if I could."
"And Quinn isn't really from Earth Prime?!" Wade was having a difficult time digesting all of this. "Although it kind of makes sense - - that his real parents would be sliders too. And he has a brother?! I still can't believe it!"
"I never met Colin," said Diana, sipping her sparkling cider from a straw, "but I've promised Remmy and Maggie I'm going to do everything I can to try to bring back both of the Mallory brothers." Diana leaned in toward Wade. "I wonder if you were ‘unstuck' - - like Colin is - - while you involuntarily traveled through the multiverse before we found you?"
Wade seemed confused. "I don't really understand what this ‘unstuck' state you keep talking about is, but I do know that I could feel myself floating from dimension to dimension, seeing all kinds of different universes almost all at once. It's like I had no body, but my soul was released into the cosmos, and I was getting a tour of every other reality in existence. There was so much to take in, I can't even remember it all." She chuckled.
"So Diana," Mallory addressed his close friend, "now that there are seven of us sliding together, do you think the vortex will be able to support everyone?"
"It hasn't been a problem so far," replied Diana. "If the wormhole was going to collapse, it probably would have already done so the first time we all slid with Wade. But I think from now on we should try to keep our number of passengers limited."
At that moment, two wooden gondolas neared the edge of the canal alongside which Diana, Wade, and Mallory dined. Rembrandt and Malcolm rode together in one gondola, while Janine and Maggie sat in the other one. Both gondolas were being steered across the canal by two gorgeous male gondoliers.
Stepping out of the narrow, wooden, flat-bottomed boat, Maggie waved to the others. "How are you enjoying the local cuisine?"
"It's fantastic!" Diana raved.
One of the gondoliers helped Malcolm out of his boat. "This was awesome!" Malcolm called to the other sliders. "It's like we actually got to visit Italy!"
"Yeah, and we didn't even have to go through customs," added Janine. She'd approached their table, and standing behind Mallory, snatched up a hunk of his cheesy pepperoni off of Mallory's plate.
"Hey!" complained Mallory.
"Too bad we have to leave so soon," Rembrandt reminded them. "I could have used a couple more days just taking it easy."
Wade smiled up at Rembrandt. "I had exactly the same thought a minute ago."
Rembrandt smiled back at Wade.
"Well, it's almost time for the slide," Maggie noticed, picking up the timer and watching the seconds diminish. "Shall we?"
Diana took the timer from Maggie. "I think we should let Wade do the honors today, Maggie." Dr. Davis handed the timer over to Wade.
Wade beamed. "Thanks, Diana."
Maggie pouted. She was glad that Rembrandt had been reunited with Wade again, yet couldn't help but feel a bit resentful at how Wade had been getting the bulk of attention from everyone lately. Sighing, Maggie recalled the days when it was just her, Remmy, Quinn, and Colin sliding together. She'd been the only female among three males, and had sort of enjoyed being the sole "girl of the group." Now she was forced to share that spotlight with not only Wade again, but also with Diana and Janine.
"I hope the next world is this cool," Malcolm anticipated, stepping over beside Wade who had positioned the timer.
Wade flashed a friendly smile at Malcolm. "We'll see, won't we?" She aimed and clicked, releasing a vibrant beam of energy from the apparatus. Together, Wade and Malcolm leaped forward as the shimmering pink vortex revolved in its vibrant, circular pattern.
As the rest of them jumped into the wormhole after Malcolm and Wade, and diabolical figure crept in the shadows, watching them. Logan St. Clair looked down at her own timer. She saw that only five minutes remained until her next window opened. Looking up, Logan noticed that the sliders' vortex had vanished. She began inputting the data into her device to track them.
"Hello again, Wade," Logan spitefully muttered, under her breath.* * *
"Everyone okay?!" Rembrandt called out to his friends.
The interdimensional septet had dropped from their portal between worlds, arriving at a riverside where they looked out across an expansive, crystal colored body of water. Flowing gently with the mid-afternoon breeze, the river shined peacefully. Small ducks waded in a shallow portion of the river near the sliders' feet.
"Aw, how cute!!" gushed Wade, melting at the sight of some baby ducks swimming behind their mother.
Maggie tilted her head deridingly, belittling Wade's sentimentality. "Come on, Wade! They're just birds."
"Jealous, Maggie?" patronized Janine, flashing the captain a sly smirk.
Glaring at Janine, Maggie tossed back her golden hair. "I think we all know who the real ugly duckling is around here," she specified while looking at Janine pointedly. "And I mean ‘ugly' as in attitude."
"Ooooh, catfight," Mallory induced, grinning flagrantly.
Diana shook her head. "There's no need to get into a fight, children."
"Yeah, act like adults," Malcolm instructed to them with irony.
Rembrandt rested his hand on Wade's shoulder. "How long do we have?"
"Almost a day," Wade confirmed, eyeing the timer's digits. "22 hours, to be exact."
"Well, let's see if we can find a place to stay," suggested Maggie, as they moved away from the river's edge and found themselves nearing what appeared to be a civilized city. "I wonder if the Chandler will have our regular suite available?"
"What makes you so sure we're in Los Angeles, Maggie?" contradicted Diana. "We could be in San Francisco. Or in Santa Monica. Or anywhere else within our sliding radius."
"Besides, I don't know if one little hotel room would hold all seven of us," Malcolm pointed out.
About half an hour passed as the sliders made their way through a crowded city street. They'd seemed to have wandered amid the chaos of a busy flea market. Hoards of tables were set up displaying all sorts of scientific odds and ends.
"Wow, we must have stumbled upon Einstein's garage sale!" Rembrandt remarked, visually scanning the tons of useful merchandise.
"I'll say!" agreed Diana, recognizing most of the equipment. "Bunsen burners, vials, beakers, flasks . . . reminds me of the outdoor science fairs we used to have back at my high school."
"My parents wouldn't let me take Chemistry," Mallory recalled, pouting. "They thought I'd burn the school down. Or blow it up."
"Gee, I wonder why," quipped Maggie, sardonically.
Wade picked up an abacus off one of the card tables and began fiddling with its movable beads to amuse herself. "Too bad this flea market isn't more interesting. I usually love to shop at these kinds of places - - especially for Wiccan jewelry and charms, or other items of magic and mysticism."
Maggie rolled her eyes at Wade.
"You actually believe in that stupid witch voodoo nonsense?" Janine asked Wade.
"It isn't ‘nonsense', Janine," answered Wade, a bit indignantly. "The supernatural exists on every world . . . it just has to!"
Several people were shooting scornful, disgusted glances at Wade, whispering among each other in condemnation. Rembrandt noticed this.
"Girl, you'd better keep it to yourself," Rembrandt informed Wade. "These folks don't seem too keen on the occult."
Wade put her hands on her hips. "Why should I?! Remmy, you've always told me to stand up for what I believe in. Why should I hide who I am from anyone just because they might disagree with me?!" Wade's voice was becoming louder and louder, attracting more attention from various onlookers.
Malcolm gave Wade an empathetic look. "But there's no telling what these people will do," he reminded her, in a low voice.
"Yeah, they might fry you over a Bunsen burner," Janine added, dryly.
"What gives them the right to judge me?" scoffed Wade with righteous ire. "I believe the universe is omniscient. And I don't really care if anyone agrees with me or not! You know what else? I checked the calendar before we left the last world. Today is February 1st. Do you know what that means?"
"13 more days and Maggie owes me a box of chocolates?" joked Mallory.
Maggie sportively jabbed Mallory in his side.
"No, February 1st is Imbolc," Wade told them. "Imbolc is one of four Wiccan sabbats during the year. So maybe I'll dance with a coven of witches tonight!"
"Heretic!" blurted out an elderly woman from the crowd, in rage. The pruny old lady accusatively pointed her stubby, wiggling finger straight at Wade.
"Get your finger out of my face!" Wade shot back, slapping the old woman's hand away. "Don't call me names just because we don't share the same faith!"
"You're a bloody liar!" snarled the woman. "Heresy, bloody heresy! You shame the sacred teachings of the Great Doctrine!"
"Heretic! Heretic! Heretic!" the fired up crowd began chanting, surrounding the sliders in fury.
"This is like an insane asylum!" Diana complained, the riled crowd of people moving in closer around her and the others. "Only worse!"
A group of police officers had pummeled their way through the mob of mortified chanters. Two of them roughly grabbed ahold of Wade.
"Hey!" Wade struggled against their strength. "Let go of me!"
"You're under arrest for public declaration of treason," stated one of the officers.
"Get your hands off her!" Rembrandt shouted. He and the others tried to reach Wade, but they were being blocked and physically harassed by the irate crowd.
"You can't just take her away!" Malcolm yelled at the police, who were dragging Wade kicking and screaming toward their squad car.
"Yeah, she's got our timer!" Janine realized, echoing Malcolm's sentiments. Janine blatantly pointed at Maggie. "Take her instead!"
Maggie bristled in annoyance.
The cops had apprehended Wade, shoving her into their squad car. Watching helplessly, the sliders could do nothing as the thick crowd maintained a barrier separating them from the police car, which was promptly driving away.
Viewing this spectacle from a busy city sidewalk was Logan St. Clair, a demonic gleam of indulgent satisfaction pasted upon her petite face.* * *
"Don't I get one phone call?!" ranted Wade, as two burly uniformed guards pushed the young woman into a dimly lit holding cell. Wade backpedaled uncontrollably, colliding against one of the cold, stone cell walls. Slumping down against the side of the wall, Wade buried her head in her knees and began to weep.
"It's okay, my child," a frail but harmonious voice assured Wade, touching Wade's shoulder gently. "God will provide our vindication once we reach his kingdom of salvation."
Wade raised her head from her lap, making eye contact with an elderly nun. The timid woman had scruffy wrinkles etched into her aging face. A beauteous rosary hung around the collar of the nun's stark black habit.
Wade sniffed, brushing tears away from her eyes. "How did you end up here?" she asked the nun.
Sighing, the nun replied, "I was imprisoned for practicing my faith. It is most lamentable, how this society will not tolerate our right to privately celebrate our Christian religions as citizens." The nun smiled sadly at Wade.
"What's your name?"
"I am Sister Mary Elizabeth of the underground St. Bartholomew's Cathedral in Glendale. Our convent was raided three nights ago by the Logicalists." Sister Mary Elizabeth studied Wade intensely. "Which church and denomination were you taken away from, my dear?"
"Well . . . ," Wade looked back at the amiable nun with immense sympathy, ". . . I'm not a Christian."
"Oh?" Sister Mary Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "Then which faith do you belong to?"
"Hmmm." Wade thought about that for a moment. She'd always considered herself pretty much a freethinker, with pantheistic and polytheistic leanings. "I guess I'd call myself a Pagan."
"Then I am not surprised. As I'm certain you know, the Logicalists despise your beliefs equally as much as they revile ours."
Wade surveyed the small, cramped cell. Seated upon wooden benches were several clergypeople adorned in sacred vestments of their respective religions. There were also prisoners dressed in plain street clothes, as well as those who wore various charms, jewelry, or Paganistic symbols.
"So what religion are these . . . Logicalists?" questioned Wade.
"Where have you been, my child?" Sister Mary Elizabeth blinked. "The Logicalists demand that all Americans conform to their own interpretation of atheistic principles found in the Great Doctrine. I have nothing against one's freedom to practice atheism, but these leaders of society are convinced that the framers of the Constitution were devout atheists. Thus they expect the rest of us to believe in atheism, as well."
Wade frowned, outraged. "That's religious persecution!"
Sister Mary Elizabeth nodded silently.
"I'll say it is!" huffed a familiar voice.
Wade glanced around, and then her eyes widened once she spotted the person who'd just spoken up.
She was staring back at the alternate version of herself!* * *
"Man, we haven't stayed at this joint for a looong time," remarked Rembrandt. He'd unlocked the door of the sliders' adjoining suite at the Royal Chancellor Hotel.
"Okay, first thing's first," Diana declared, taking charge. She'd removed her jacket and tossed it on top of one of the beds. "We need to find Wade, and we probably have less than 20 hours to track her down."
"Not to mention that she has the timer," added Janine. "We'll be stuck here for 29 years - - or longer - - if we miss the window."
"Why did those goons arrest Wade in the first place?" inquired Malcolm, plopping down next to Rembrandt on one of the beds. "She was just stating her opinion."
"That could be a taboo on this world," Remmy pointed out to Malcolm. "Maybe they're afraid of the supernatural on this Earth? Or maybe they discourage free thought from citizens?"
"Or maybe they're just lunatics?" murmured Janine.
Maggie folded her arms. "Well I don't feel one bit sorry for her. Wade should have known better than to make a scene like that."
"As if you haven't made plenty of scenes yourself in public," Rembrandt reminded her, aggravated with Maggie's disregard for Wade's situation.
"Yeah, that's kind of cold, Maggie," agreed Mallory, accusatorily.
"Maggie, what's with all this hostility toward Wade?" probed Diana.
"She feels threatened by Wade," surmised Janine, looking deeply into Maggie's eyes. In response, Maggie whipped her head away from Janine, pursing her lips together grumpily. Maggie knew Janine was right - - but the tough former marine couldn't bring herself to admit it.
"Hey, that's kinda odd." Malcolm pointed to the wall next to their hotel room door. Displayed in a glass frame hanging on the wall was a copy of the modern periodic table.
Diana approached the framed chart to examine it. "Well, it appears to contain all the same elements as the periodic table on my homeworld."
"Why would they hang it on the wall of a hotel suite?" Janine flinched, baffled.
"I don't know," Mallory said, stretching out on another of the beds, "but this world seems to have some strange obsession with science." He pulled a one dollar bill out of his jeans pocket. "Check this out. I got it from my double's ATM account . . . and all I had to do was let the machine scan my fingerprints!"
Rembrandt took the dollar bill from Mallory and studied it. In the center was an old-fashioned picture showing the headshot of a distinguished woman. "Isn't she . . .?"
Diana peered over Remmy's shoulder to have a look at the money. "Susan B. Anthony," she confirmed, knowingly.
"Read the bottom," Mallory told them.
Remmy's and Diana's eyes sloped to the bottom of the bill where the words "In science we trust" were printed across the base below Susan B. Anthony's respectable portrait.
"In science we trust," read Rembrandt, aloud. "Isn't this supposed to say ‘in God we trust'?"
Maggie was piecing together the evidence. "Those people at the flea market were calling Wade a ‘heretic'. They said something about a ‘Great Doctrine' and how Wade was dishonoring it."
"You mean this?" Malcolm had removed a large, thick book from the bottom of a nightstand. He held up the book, which had a stately covering made of leather. The book was embossed with the title ‘The Great Doctrine' in glossy silver lettering. "This is where there's usually a Bible in hotel rooms on other Earths."
"That could be their version of the Bible," concluded Diana.
"So, what? . . . we've landed on a world full of atheists?" Maggie exclaimed, scratching her head.
"Or a world where they expect you to believe in atheism," Rembrandt proposed.
Diana heaved a disillusioned sigh. "Okay, we've got to find out everything we can about this world in a short amount of time if we're ever going to rescue Wade. I suggest we check out the library."
"I'd rather see what's on the boob tube," Mallory said, flipping on the TV with its remote control. "What better way to learn about a society's culture than to absorb their entertainment?"
"I'll hang around the hotel here too," Rembrandt spoke. "Get the skinny on how the law works in this dimension from people who actually know what's up."
"I just wanna take a nap," remarked Janine, sprawling out atop another of the beds.
"Well I'm with you, Diana," insisted Maggie. "We should research what we're up against."
"I'll help too," Malcolm offered.
"Be back in a couple of hours," Rembrandt told Maggie, Diana, and Malcolm, "so we can exchange information."* * *
"Wow," Maggie exclaimed, using her computer mouse to scroll down the screen of one of the library's laptops, "these people are insane!"
"Maggie!" hissed Diana, who sat at the library cubicle next to Maggie's. "Keep your voice down! You remember what happened to Wade . . . do you want us to be next?"
"I'm sorry," scoffed Maggie, her eyes glued to the computer monitor, "but this is a bunch of bull. According to this collection of mythology on CD-ROM, they claim that Jesus Christ is a ‘mythological character of fiction'. Whatever!" Captain Beckett was steaming in disbelief.
"This society bases its accepted conclusions on scientific fact," Diana reminded Maggie. "To them, the Christian Bible - - or any other non-atheistic compilation - - must seem like a giant fairy tale." Diana was browsing through an archive of computer-documented newspaper articles. "According to what I've read, this alternate version of America has taken such political prisoners as Louis Farrakhan, Pat Robertson, Edith Hamilton, and Shirley MacLaine . . . accusing them all of treason."
"I can't believe this." Maggie had a bleak, pale expression of disgust on her face. "If the atheists on this world are correct about our universe, then everything I was taught while growing up has been a lie!"
Diana touched Maggie's arm reassuringly. "I doubt that any one religion has ‘all the answers', Maggie. Not Christianity, not Paganism, not Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam, and not atheism. We really have no way of knowing for certain how much of each religion is true."
Maggie shook her head. "I just can't understand how people could act this absurd and reject the concept of God." She pointed to her computer screen. "This is called ‘the hall of mythology'. The Logicalists make their case to discredit everyone from God and Jesus' disciples to the Greek Olympians and African gods."
"They sure have their recorded history down pat," Diana noticed. "I've been able to trace this dimension's historical timeline ranging from prior to the Logicalists' landing at Providence Rock in 1696 up through the Anderson administration of the present."
"Guys, look what I found," piped up Malcolm. He was logged onto the World Wide Web while sitting at a desktop computer. "They list the public execution dates online of ‘heretics' who ‘violate' the teachings of the Great Doctrine - - and they broadcast these executions live on the Internet in real-time."
Diana winced. "That's sick."
"If you think that's bad, check out the poor health care system for those who DO get to live," Maggie informed them. She had clicked her mouse, pulling up an informational file on America's latest Health News. "Did you know that many of the doctors on this world don't believe in removing wisdom teeth as a preventive measure, because they claim that the surgery is ‘unnatural'?"
"Ew!" grimaced Diana, crinkling up her nose. "I pity all the people who will end up experiencing oral dental pain as adults."
"I don't like this idiot Dr. Dean Edell either," Maggie continued, viewing some more online medical reports via her computer screen. "He doesn't believe in circumcising males because he says it's ‘unnecessary'. Sorry Dr. Dean, but I've done it enough times to know that foreskin is useless . . ."
"Maggie!" interrupted Diana, blushing furiously. "Do you really have to talk about this? It IS specifically a men's issue, you know."
"Trust me," Malcolm put forth, giving a male perspective, "as a guy, I'm glad my parents had me circumcised at birth. I wouldn't want it any other way. I don't care how much pain I went through back then; I don't even remember any of it or how it felt. This Dr. Dean shouldn't try to speak on behalf of his entire gender."
"See, that's what I think," Maggie agreed with Malcolm. "To me, the ‘uncut' look is very disgusting . . ."
"All right! That's enough," Diana interjected. She was obviously uncomfortable with this conversation. "Do we absolutely need to discuss male anatomy?"
Maggie giggled at the bright blush upon Diana's face. "What's wrong, Diana? Inexperienced?" she teased. Seeing Diana's flabbergasted look, Maggie broke into guffaws. "Your facial expression is priceless!" she told Diana, between snorts.
Diana playfully swatted Maggie, who was immersed with uncontrollable laughter.
"Look at this!" Malcolm suddenly piped up. He stared in horror at his Internet browser. "The Logicalists have updated their online list of ‘heretics' who'll be executed tomorrow morning. And look who's on their list!"
Maggie and Diana joined Malcolm at the desktop, becoming breathless as they saw one of the newly added names of slated executionees.
Wade Wells.* * *
Alternate Wade gazed in fascination at her dimensional counterpart. "So it is true . . . there really ARE parallel realities!"
"Yes," nodded Wade. She'd been taking some time to become acquainted with her duplicate self and fellow inmates. "This is what we use to slide from one dimension to another." She exhibited the timer for all of them to see.
"Good heavens!" gasped Sister Mary Elizabeth.
"And you're me on another world?" Alternate Wade stared excitedly at Wade. "Tell me about the Earth you come from."
Wade paused deeply. "It's very different from your Earth. On my world, there is - - or I should say, was - - religious oppression in places. But in the America I come from, the Constitution granted everyone freedom of religion. Our society includes people of numerous faiths who were able to worship freely. And the majority of people are Christians." Staring back at her double, Wade asked, "So what did you get arrested for?"
"I got caught reading one of my friend's tarot cards," grumbled Alternate Wade, resentfully. "Anyone who doesn't comply with the Great Doctrine gets persecuted. Goddess only knows what they'll do to us now. We'll probably be ‘disposed of', the way everyone else before us has been."
"What exactly is this ‘Great Doctrine'?" Wade queried.
Alternate Wade frowned. "It's some bogus compilation containing a bunch of scientific drivel. The laws of physics, mathematical theorems, molecular biology . . . the Logicalists expect us to just blindly accept everything found in the Great Doctrine as fact."
Wade blinked. "But that makes no sense. Humans conceived all those theories, so someone - - or something - - must be responsible for creating humanity in the first place."
"That's how I feel," Alternate Wade agreed with Wade. "But the Logicalists insist that humans were formed through chemical combustion. And if anyone disagrees with that, we're branded as heretics and silenced!"
"All we wish for is to be allowed to practice our own personal faith privately," Sister Mary Elizabeth voiced, bleakness eroding her face. "There are pockets of tolerance scattered throughout our planet, but they are few and far between. Most of the world is dominated by Logicalism."
"Wade Wells!" called out the grouchy, authoritarian vocals of a prison guard. "You have a visitor!"
After a few more moments, the body of Logan St. Clair appeared from on the other side of the steel prison bars. She wore a snide smirk.
"Logan?!" gasped Wade.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't Quinn Mallory's little princess," Logan patronized Wade with a sneer. "From what I hear, you're being executed tomorrow."
"That's me." Alternate Wade stepped forward. "I am Wiccan, and the practice of witchcraft is outlawed in our country. The penalty is death."
Logan glanced back and forth from one Wade to the other. "Well, isn't this interesting? Your double is a witch, Wade. Why does that not surprise me?"
Wade glared. "How did you find us, Logan?"
"I can track wormholes, remember?" Logan proudly stated. "I'll tell you what I've told Rembrandt - - I'm going to get revenge on all of you for what you did to me!"
"For what WE did to YOU?!" Wade was infuriated, her face turning beet red. "What about what YOU did to US?! You tried to use us to exploit natural resources, and then you tried to kill ME!!"
"Only because you wouldn't cooperate!" Logan shot back. "But now that your Professor Arturo is dead, I only have you, Rembrandt, and Mallory left to deal with. And it looks like I get to watch you die tomorrow morning. And even if by some fluke you manage to escape, I will hunt you down and kill you and your pitiful friends!" Logan seethed at Wade. "I'm sure they'll execute you both, since you're virtually the same person. It will be like killing two birds with one stone!"
"Oh yeah? Well how will they explain there being two of us?" Alternate Wade challenged.
"Yeah, they haven't even fingerprinted me yet," stated Wade.
Logan attained a devious glint in her eyes. "Then we'll just have to fix that, won't we?" Cupping her hands around her mouth to form a "bullhorn", Logan hollered over to the prison guards, "Officers! There are two of the same woman here!"
Two police officers came over to the cell door. Unlocking it, they each grabbed ahold of either Wade or Alternate Wade. The two Wades were led to a section of the precinct where they both were forcibly fingerprinted by the officers.
"This is puzzling," said one of the officers, after their fingerprints were scanned. "You both have the exact same match on the patterns of your fingerprints. But no two people on the planet can have identical fingerprint matches. It's scientifically implausible."
"So therefore," concluded the other officer, "we can only assume that one of you is a spy planted by creationist rebels to infiltrate the American government. Since we cannot and will not tolerate espionage, you will both be executed tomorrow morning before the general public."
Wade and her double exchanged distraught glances. "What is the execution . . . procedure like?" stuttered Wade, not particularly wanting to hear the answer.
Alternate Wade gulped, knowing full well what the execution process entailed. "Instant death - - by vaporization."* * *
"You are not gonna believe what these people on this Earth watch for ‘entertainment'!" exclaimed Rembrandt, greeting Maggie, Diana, and Malcolm as the trio popped back into their hotel room at the Royal Chancellor.
"Nothing could surprise us after our excursion to the library, Remmy," replied Diana. "You will not believe the alternate history of this world."
Mallory sat up on the bed. "Wait, us first . . . we've got a whole buttload of stuff to show you." With that, Mallory pointed his remote control at the TV and clicked, changing the channel.
"We now return to ‘The Gloria Steinem Show'!" a television announcer could be heard.
There in a cozy studio sat Gloria Steinem, nestled upon a comfortable-looking sofa. The popular feminist was speaking to her audience with authoritative vigor, cracking some light-hearted anti-Pagan jokes. Her audience roared with laughter in response.
"Oh God, they gave HER a talk show?!" Maggie groaned. "I never liked that woman."
"Wait until you hear her open her obnoxious mouth to her callers," cautioned Janine. "She's meaner than that bitch Dr. Laura."
Gloria Steinem was now verbally attacking one of her studio callers, who had just criticized Ms. Steinem for being too "mean-spirited" and "nasty" toward Christians.
"Christianity is plaguing the moral fabric of our society and tearing it to shreds!" ranted Gloria Steinem. "Especially Catholicism. That's why we must not allow or excuse the spread of the Christian lifestyle within our global society!"
"Ugh! Change the channel, Mallory!" pleaded Malcolm, slapping his hand against his forehead. "She's giving me a bad headache!"
Mallory switched the television station to C-SPAN, where the president was about to address the nation.
"President Gillian Anderson," Diana recognized the red-headed female commander-in-chief, who was stepping up to a podium in front of the cameras, from her previous library research.
The audience applauded for President Anderson, who began speaking. "Today, I am proud to say that Congress has passed a pertinent education bill which will ensure that evolution as a universal origin will be taught and instilled within our children, not only in the public school systems, but also in PRIVATE educational institutions."
Loud cheers resonated from the crowd.
"Furthermore," continued President Gillian Anderson, "the conveyance of ANY preposterous theories of monotheism or polytheism will be unconditionally prohibited from ALL American schools. We must not let our children fall victim to the lunacy of creationism. This legislation will go a long way to teach students how to separate scientific fact from blasphemous fiction. The truth is out there - - we just have to know where to find it."
"This is awful!" mourned Mallory. "They've brainwashed Scully too!"
"Vice-President Carlin and myself have vowed," President Anderson rambled on, "to preserve the clarity and wholesomeness of our atheistic, secular society by upholding the core principles of the Great Doctrine in relation to the daily lives of all Americans."
"Oh, give me a break!" blurted out Maggie. "If anything, she should be encouraging people to read the Bible, not some silly science textbook! And does she mean Vice-President Carlin as in GEORGE Carlin?! Puh-lease!"
"What's the big deal with this ‘Great Doctrine' anyway?" sniffed Janine, twitching in bewilderment. "It's just a bunch of formulas and equations. For all they know, the stuff in the Great Doctrine could be totally bogus in reality! After all, it's just theory."
"But these people treat the Great Doctrine like a religion," Diana pointed out. "I've read up on how the Great Doctrine has been compiled over the years. On this world, the Logicalists landed in New England rather than the Puritans - - and in 1696, rather than in 1620. They arrived at Providence Rock in what would later be known as Rhode Island, instead of at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. The Logicalists brought their own documents of scientific theory with them, and converted many of the early North American tribal nations to atheism. Over time, the Logicalists' writings would spread throughout the world as America rose to power. Roughly 90% of the planet now obediently follows the teachings of the Great Doctrine."
"Many famous people from our homeworlds have added to the Great Doctrine," Malcolm put in.
"Isaac Asimov contributed his theories of biochemistry," Diana expanded. "Carl Sagan included astrology and environmentalism within the Doctrine's content. Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, and Oscar Wilde helped to popularize the accepted legitimacy of the Great Doctrine by incorporating its secular themes in their literary works. Even Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of secularist centers, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to aid Logicalist missionaries in dispersing their beliefs worldwide. Naturally, the Great Doctrine has been revised several times over the years."
"But people on this Earth swallow its teachings without question, like trained soldiers," analyzed Maggie. "Christianity, Paganism, Wicca, Judaism, Islam, and any other non-atheistic religions are outlawed in most places, to discourage free thought."
"There are a few pluralistic ‘safe havens' around the globe," Diana explained. "Israel, South Africa, Finland, Turkmenistan, Greece, Brazil . . . but those are the exception more often than the rule."
"Sounds pretty much like a world dictatorship," Rembrandt commented, leaning forward while sitting at the edge of his bed. "You know, all this talk about the Great Doctrine is reminding me of when we stayed with the Keepers on Volsang World." He met Mallory's, Diana's, and Maggie's knowing gazes. "The Keepers were doing whatever it took to preserve ‘The Great Work', because they knew that the Volsangs would destroy their human records."
Janine squinted, puzzled. "What are Volsangs?"
"They were barbarians who raided all the civilizations of a dimension we visited last year," Mallory recounted.
"Kind of like the Kromaggs?" asked Malcolm.
"No, the Volsangs did all of their pillaging and plundering by sea in ships," Maggie clarified. "They were more like the Vikings than anything."
"So how do we use this information to find Wade?" demanded Rembrandt. He'd all of a sudden developed a strenuous headache thinking of his friend's dire predicament. "We just can't lose Wade again!"
"That's what we were getting to," Malcolm said. "When I was surfing the ‘Net, I read a list of prisoners who are being executed tomorrow . . . Wade's name is on that list!"
"So they're KILLING her because she disagrees with their religion?!" stammered Janine. "Wow, these imbeciles are nuts!"
Rembrandt eagerly grabbed Malcolm's shoulders. "Where is Wade being held?"
"It said they hold open public executions at the Isaac Asimov Memorial Penitentiary," Malcolm recalled. "The general public is invited - - but there's no way we'll get in there before tomorrow morning. They're in complete lock-down all night long."
"Okay, here's what we'll do," proposed Diana. "We're obviously not going to get inside the prison tonight. So let's get plenty of rest, and first thing tomorrow we'll attend Wade's . . . execution, and find a way to get her out of there."
"How do we do that?" Janine countered.
"Improvise," shrugged Mallory. "One of the key rules to sliding."
Rembrandt decided to ask something he wasn't sure he really wanted to hear the answer to. "Did it say what the means of execution is?"
Maggie made direct eye contact with Rembrandt, their eyes connecting empathetically. "They vaporize people."
A searing ache began to boil in the pit of Remmy's stomach. He knew that he wouldn't be getting much sleep that night.* * *
Wade heaved a tremendous sigh. She hadn't slept one wink the previous night. Removing the timer from her pocket, Wade saw there were under 15 minutes remaining until the sliding window reopened.
"Not much time left," observed Alternate Wade, learning over to check her double's timer.
"Yeah," Wade replied, wearily. She stuffed the timer back into her pocket. "But I have faith that my friends will be here for me. They always are."
Alternate Wade nodded empathetically. "Faith is what keeps us going. Without it, we wouldn't believe in anything. That even applies to the beliefs of the Logicalists . . . even though they would never admit it."
"I just know the good lord will bless us all," Sister Mary Elizabeth proclaimed, using her hand to make the sign of the holy cross. "He's watching over us."
"Then why is he letting this happen?" grumbled Alternate Wade.
Sister Mary Elizabeth bowed her head. "It's all part of God's plan. Our deaths will undoubtedly serve a greater purpose."
"All right, heretics!" blared a brusque male voice. One of the prison guards was unlocking their cell. "Time for your last hurrah."
Wade, Alternate Wade, Sister Mary Elizabeth, and the other non-atheistic inmates were escorted outside to a courtyard at gunpoint. The group was led in front of a jeering, cursing convocation of loyal Logicalist spectators. As the prisoners were guided onto a large platform facing the gallery of onlookers, Wade caught the eye of a recognizable face.
Rembrandt had made visual contact with Wade. Gathered around the Cryin' Man were the rest of the sliders.
"Fellow Logicalists," announced the execution overseer, "we are gathered here today to punish those who choose disloyalty over the wisdom of the Great Doctrine." He gestured at Wade and the other executionees, who were standing on the stage with weapons aimed at them. "These perfidious cretins are the lowest of the low, perfect examples of what we must prevent our society from becoming!"
Wild shouts and cheers of agreement arose from the spectators, ignited with vexed passion.
"By sacrificing these heretics and making examples of them for our law-abiding citizens," the overseer continued, "we will rid the Earth of the creationist threat! Our country was founded upon basic concepts of logic and reason. We must uphold these principles for our children and for their children!"
Again, the assembly of yesmen and yeswomen roared in consent. From at the front of the audience's gathering, a technician was readying a large cannon-like machine, positioning it toward the platform upon which the "heretics" were forced to stand.
"What's that?" Wade whispered to her double, indicating the machine.
"Oh, that! It's the machine they use to vaporize us with," replied Alternate Wade, non-chalantly.
Shifting her gaze downward to inspect the timer, Wade could see she had a few minutes yet to kill. "You can't do this!" Wade shouted out at the guards. "We haven't done anything wrong!"
"Silence, heretic!" snapped the overseer. He glared at Wade. "We mustn't let traitors like you compromise our national security!"
"We're not!" insisted Wade. "All we want is the right to practice our religions privately and peacefully. Who are you to deny us that?"
The overseer bristled, biting his lip. He couldn't think of a decent rebuttal to Wade's argument.
"Yeah, I believe in witchcraft," spoke up Alternate Wade. "But I don't use it to hurt anyone. In fact, we Wiccans believe in the Threefold Law of Karma - - magic will return to its sender magnified three times. Therefore, using magic for wicked purposes only hurts the sender. So we tend to AVOID releasing evil."
A stir of surprise rippled across the crowd. Most of them hadn't known that about Wicca - - they'd for so many years bought into the superstition that witchcraft was solely based on creating evil.
Rembrandt took that opportunity to tackle the technician who'd been prepping the vaporization machine. Diana quickly yanked at some rubber-coated wires which protruded from the outside of the cannon-like machine, snapping them and consequently dismantling the device.
"What are you doing?!" the execution overseer yelled at Diana and Rembrandt. "That equipment is property of the state!"
Mallory, Maggie, Janine, and Malcolm had climbed onto the platform stage and supportively gathered around Wade.
"Don't you people believe in anything?!" Maggie questioned the crowd. "Not even SOME form of a higher power?"
"I believe in science!" responded one of the spectators. "I don't need any fictitious gods to understand the universe!"
"So if there are no Gods, then who gives you the right to kill?" Malcolm challenged the Logicalists.
"Free will!" hollered a lady from the audience. "We as humans possess free will to make rational choices!"
"Yeah, but who gave you that free will?" debated Mallory. "Where did it come from?"
"We were born with it!" answered the overseer, getting upset with the sliders' intrusion.
"Human intellect is what makes us the way we are!" screamed out a young woman. "Not some fictional deity!"
"But you still shouldn't force the rest of us to give up our own beliefs," emphasized Wade, passionately, "if we're not hurting anyone. Free thought is what makes us the way we are as individuals . . . as human beings. I am proud to say it - - I believe in the supernatural!"
"You cannot base fact on a superfluous figment of your imagination!" the overseer growled at Wade. "If you can't prove that something exists, then it isn't fact. Can you prove that the supernatural exists?
"No, none of us can," responded Wade. "But can you prove that it DOESN'T exist?"
The overseer flinched. "It is simply an apparition of your mind."
"But how can you PROVE that?" Wade smirked, using the overseer's own reasoning against him.
"If there were benign supernatural deities, then there would be no human suffering!" piped up a male Logicalist from the crowd.
"Since when is suffering evil?" Diana shot back at him.
"Pain and heartache is what helps us grow, learn from each other, become closer as people," argued Rembrandt.
"No God will save us!" The overseer was perspiring in frustration. Beads of sweat trickled down his neck. "There are no gods in the universe!"
"But how do you KNOW that?" Janine contradicted. "Maybe the world was created by Gods and Goddesses?"
"So WHO created THEM?!" retorted the overseer.
"Who knows?" Janine shrugged. "We have no way of going back in time to witness what really happened. So how can we know for certain?"
"There is a lack of evidence to support the existence of deities!" insisted the overseer. "They are not real!"
"If they're not real, then how are you able to talk about them?" grinned Wade.
The overseer was momentarily speechless.
"Okay, so if Gods and Goddesses don't exist then who created the universe?" Janine folded her arms.
"Creation was achieved through the spontaneous combustion and bonding of chemical gases and other molecular substances," recited the overseer.
"So who created those chemical gases and other molecular substances?" Janine stared the overseer down. "And who caused them to combust or bond?"
"You're one of those treasonous agnostics, aren't you?" quipped the overseer, chuckling nervously, while dodging Janine's question.
"You never gave us an answer," Maggie reminded him. "Who created your precious gases and chemicals? How do you know it wasn't God who was responsible for that?"
"Because," he snapped back at her, "gods and goddesses cannot exist if there was nothing to create them from?"
"So then maybe there is no actual universe around us?" proposed Mallory. "Maybe the concept of a universe is also a figment of our imaginations? How can we know that something's there if we haven't gotten the chance to fully explore it? We're just assuming there's endless space beyond the stars. But what if there isn't?"
"There is no evidence to support your hypothesis," argued the overseer, crossing his eyes. "All the scientific evidence points to chemical combustion as the initial origin of our universe."
"As a physicist and lifelong student of science, I have to give you all a reality check," Diana told them. "Humans are inherently flawed, and since science is conceived by humans, it follows that science will be flawed. Therefore, you're basing your conclusions on conceivably flawed evidence. Evidence contains a margin of error - - and the margin of error may be very small, or very large. Just because something is commonly accepted does NOT make it true."
"So how do you KNOW for sure that Gods don't exist?" Malcolm called the Logicalists on it.
Rembrandt gave an amused chortle, as he and Diana leaped up onto the stage. "I think we've twisted their brains enough for today."
Wade pulled out the timer. "It's time."
The wormhole opened, dispersing massive gusts of wind in every imaginable direction. One by one, the sliders advanced toward the vortex, each one allowing the dimensional abyss to suck him or her up. Only Wade still remained outside the swirling portal. She turned to face Alternate Wade and Sister Mary Elizabeth.
"You can come with us," Wade offered, extending her hand. "Start over on a new world."
Alternate Wade shook her head. "Thanks for the offer, but we've got a lot of work yet to complete on our own world." She smiled at Sister Mary Elizabeth, who purposefully returned the gaze.
After giving her double a sisterly farewell hug, the spirited slider exuberantly followed her six friends into the vortex.* * *
With an awkward crash, the septet was flung from the vortex smack into a bookshelf filled with encyclopedias. They ended up clumped together in a messy pile of bodies and books.
"Uh, oh," spoke Malcolm, looking up from within the dogpile.
They'd been thrust into a previously-quiet library room. People stared at them from tables where they'd been sitting, reading or studying. A skinny, pointy-nosed, spectacle-wearing old maid of a librarian towered over the sliders, her gray hair pinned up in an archaic bun and her hands staunchly on her hips. The librarian shot them a homicidal glare.
"What the matter, beanpole?!" Janine sneered at the angry librarian. "You've never seen seven interdimensional travelers crash into a bookshelf before?"
As the rest of them got up off the floor, Wade gave an exhausted sigh of relief. "That was a close on. There's an experience that's definitely going in my diary."
"How much time here?" Rembrandt asked Wade.
"Four days," Wade confirmed for him. Suddenly, Wade's eyes popped open as she remembered something. "Logan! She ‘visited' me while I was in the holding cell at the penitentiary. She's been tracking our photon trail this entire time!"
Maggie nodded. "We met up with her before you rejoined us. What did Logan say to you, Wade?"
Wade flinched, recalling Logan's acid-drenched words. "She said she's going to kill me! All of us!"
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