When Churchill had died cowering in his bunker, his last remarks, whatever they were, had come after several delicious glasses of port mixed with brandy. At least, that’s what they assumed he had drunk after the breach time spell had pried open the doors and found him there, the large man dead yet still warm to the touch.
From all the reports Marshall Bernard had read, the last Prime Minister had died long before the Reich was able to send gas into the bunker. As deaths went, he supposed it must not have been terrible. Drunk was a better way to die than poison. Poison was a nasty business. He should know, he’d been treated at his own medical centre four times in the past decade.
He admired the guile and the ambition it took to poison him, the Grand Marshall. To covet his position was only natural. After all, he controlled the entirety of what remained of the once great nation that was Britannia. Yes, his own generals had made attempts on his life for their own gain and glory. And for that he was glad.
Pity, mercy, docility – these were not the traits of the true Nazi. These were not the foundations of an empire that controlled more than half the landmass of the Earth (and if the ambitions of the new Führer were accomplished, soon a small part of a colonised Mars would be theirs as well).
Still, admiration was not something that was considered taboo. Not by their enemies, not by their rivals, not even by their friends. And so Bernard admired Churchill. Not for being the enemy, not for being a secretive and manipulative politician. He admired him for his choice of drinks.
He understood the man would often find himself drunk on one fine glass or another, if we can believe historians’ writing. Johnny Walker Red was his drink of choice, and it was also Marshall Bernard’s. In these uncertain times, to feel the smooth burning followed by the loss of thought of all burdens was quite a spectacular thing.
As the second glass touched his lips he glanced around at his office feeling something was amiss. Something that wasn’t his loyal defender. Could it be someone had entered the office while he himself had not been present? Of course it was possible, but highly unlikely.
Ever since poisoning attempt number three, he’d implemented a number of security measures and employed the finest contractors in the nation. Once they had made his office impossible to enter without sounding an alert, he’d had them killed so that none could learn their secrets.
Not a single soul could enter unless they were him. Unless… they were him.
“I didn’t expect you back so soon,” The Marshall said to the room.
“I didn’t expect your supposedly most competent and efficient fascist to be foiled and fail so quickly,” the room answered back. Or, more accurately, Bernard answered back.
The Marshall looked towards the mirror and, with a sigh, pulled it to the side, revealing the hidden compartment and, once, where his own eyes had been, now there were Bernard’s eyes. These were eyes that were more frightening than his own, even though his own eyes often blazed with rage and anger at those who dared meet them. Bernard’s simply showed… disappointment.
“Hello Zwergin,” the Marshall greeted him.
Bernard frowned. “This joke of yours gets old, Bernard.”
“Oh no!” the Marshall mockingly gasped. “I haven’t sparked your famously short temper have I.”
“We’re the same height, you insolent small-minded bigot,” Bernard growled.
The Marshall sat, snorted and sipped at his Johnny Walker Red. The two men, although physically in every way the same, could not have been more different. One carried himself with a tension in his shoulders, his spine was uncomfortably rigid and his clothes, whilst thin and made of the finest materials, seemed as uncomfortable to him as a bath was to a cat.
The Marshall, on the other hand, was relaxed and calm – but with an eye carefully placed out of sight. There was stress there yes, but charisma. He also had the stiff manner of an officer and a soldier in the Reich. In his eyes was this look, as though every action was being judged through the lens of his Ayran perfection. As if eugenics and mass genocide were anything close to any natural concept of beauty!
“The boy, what happened?”
The Marshall shrugged. “My agent is not here. Therefore, she is dead and the boy lost to The Stream.”
“You’re certain she’s dead?”
“She wouldn’t be taken alive willingly.” The Marshall insisted on meeting Bernard’s inquisition with both eyes. The stare held until the more accepting of the two grew tired of the petty challenge of the little wanna-be Hitler.
“I’ll send my agents to investigate. Recover her body, or otherwise return her to you to do with as you wish.” Bernard glanced at the door then back at the Marshall. “If she is alive… how much did you tell her?”
“No more than you told me,” He answered.
This was good news to Bernard, the Marshall could tell. How secretive he was, even to himself. Or, he supposed, another version of himself. It was still staggering just how different the two of them were. They surely could not be so different, could they? They shared the same mother, father, ancestors. Their worlds may be different but who they were… there was a genetic element. Of this he was sure.
The pure blood of the Ayran people was certainly what gave them both the strength to do what others failed to do. It was not the cowardice of the Jewish blood, the hot anger of the Negro nor the weak body form of the yellow-skin that Hitler so foolishly gave ‘honorary Ayrian’ status to.
“You’re lucky, that you’re not my soul supplier of agents. Nor even my best.”
“But I am your most loyal,” the Marshall pointed out. Bernard scowled at being reminded of this.
“You’re not that loyal,” Bernard snorted.
“Well, that says more about us than you might think!”
“It tells me that your lack of success is being excused by the fact that out of the infinite number of Bernards in all the universes in all realms of reality you appear to be second best,” Bernard spat.
The Marshall refilled his empty glass, noting the look of distaste he received in doing so. “You rage and rage, and for what? We all know that the boy will be yours eventually. We always get what we want, YOU showed ME that.”
Again Bernard snorted, walking over to a table filled with various fine glasses of different liquor and picked up a bottle to inspect. “I showed you more than that. Perhaps this liquid you call fine has dulled anything close to intelligence out of your handsome head.”
This time it was the Marshall who vocalised his amusement. “I pity the world you come from where there’s something wrong with a man having a stiff drink.”
Bernard placed the bottle back in its place and shrugged. “Nothing wrong with alcohol. It’s good to let loose, free the soul, forget your troubles. But that’s for people who don’t share our stakes. I don’t drink and that keeps my mind sharp. It allows me to plan and succeed with greater efficiency.”
“You mistake abstinence for willpower.”
“And you mistake ABSINTH for courage!” Bernard bellowed, causing the Marshal to flinch. As hot eyes of rage fell upon him, he glanced up only to hear the words like venom. “Your protégé was supposed to bring me the boy. Instead, I have a half drunk Nazi giving me excuses for his own incompetence.” He crouched down towards him, his hands cracking into the fine varnished wood as splinters creaked out and pierced his own doppelgänger’s flesh. “If you were not needed… if you were no longer necessary to the achievement of peace-“
“We both desire peace-“
“MY PEACE!” He screamed into his face, hot breath hitting fresh into his eyes. “Your idea of peace is perverse. No, my peace will be pure. And it will come the day you are no longer needed. Be GLAD I know that won’t be very long from now.”
With that word Bernard straightened out his jacket and let loose a deep breath, looking ten pounds lighter with that bundled anger unleashed. “I will have someone search for your little blonde failure. Other than that, you’ll be hearing from me again in a month from now as scheduled.” As he turned to leave, he paused, turned back, and said, “The other day, there was a man in front of me who carried himself with pride – whose officers showed respect and fear at the mention of his name. I don’t care if its an act or not, that’s a leader who could succeed where every other Nazi version of ourselves failed.”
Before he had a chance to respond, Bernard was gone and the Marshall was left there with a stiff drink in hand, though a gallon of the stuff could not bring him anything other than hate. It was so ironic, he hated himself and yet he needed himself to win. To win his war he had to win his war.
He couldn’t wait until their day came, the only time he’d stare back into his own living eyes was in a mirror or a camera. Seeing himself, and the disappointment he brought, was unnerving to say the least. For now though, he would drink, and he would not worry and not engage in overthinking. He wouldn’t so much as guess if his agent was alive or dead… nor where her targets may be…
The arid desert plain seemed to stretch out infinitely below them. It was a sight to behold from the sky above, and, although harsh and unforgiving, the desert held its own kind of beauty. Its sands shone brightly under the early morning sun, giving it a sense of grandeur when in reality it was really just miles and miles of sand.
But Joseph knew there was beauty here, for here was peace and a moment’s rest. In all worlds, there was a place to have peace for a time. He only hoped that peace would prove fruitful, for the next movement was coming and he sensed it would take them both into danger!
Fraser was ever uncomfortable, though who could blame the poor lad: his whole world torn asunder and flipped upside down – for the second time no less! He felt guilty for breaking his promise, but what choice did he have? The book must have a reader for its secrets to be known.
At least here, over a thousand miles away from British shores, they were safe from Bernard’s grasp. Fewer and fewer worlds were becoming untouched by his evil, and Joseph, as a man of science, loathed to use the word evil. Evil was a word that came from religion, the antithesis of his own beliefs.
Evil implied something greater than oneself, guided by a force that dominated your very being and was, to the mortal man, unknowable. But Bernard was not truly evil, though he came as close to what Joseph might believe true evil might look like.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Those were Fraser’s first words in over three hours since he’d stopped, as the kids put it, freaking the flip out (exchanging the flip for another word of course).
Fraser nodded his head at the glass walls and shook his head. “These are like the flying elevators – in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Joseph had never thought of it that way. “Yes, I suppose they are?”
Fraser shook his head again and snorted. “This is ridiculous…”
“Well, we’re in a flying glass… dare I say elevator looking thing! Hundreds of miles above ground level…doesn’t that seem kind of ridiculous to you?”
Joseph gave the matter some serious thought. “I quite honestly believe most of the things humans do are quite ridiculous. A fair amount of those things are also nonsensical. That doesn’t mean that most of them aren’t absolutely fascinating. Humans, we look at the world and ask ‘why can’t we do that’ and then we answer ‘well we can’, even if it’s ridiculous. Like flying elevators.”
Fraser nodded. “Or guns,” he retorted.
“Guns yes,” Joseph agreed. “And boats, and cars, and planes, and mills-“
“Bombs, viruses, eugenics-“
“Toast, butter, tea.”
Fraser laughed bitterly. “I’m not going to go backwards and forwards with you on this.” Looking around him he scowled and glared at his grandfather. “Why are we here Joseph? Where even is here?”
“You’re here to help me.”
“Help you do what? Save the world?” he spat out mockingly expecting sarcasm in retort. Instead, he got a serious look and an answer as blunt as a fist to the face as Joseph hit him with the truth – some of it at least.
“Not the world. Every world.” Before he could respond, Joseph glanced down and smiled. “Ah, looks like we’re finally here.”
A different universe this might have been, a different Earth entirely, but it seems some things were nigh on universal. And though it was not exactly a familiar sight, it brought Fraser a small amount of comfort in all this curiosity to see a vaguely recognisable location growing larger below them.
As they began to land he couldn’t help but wonder what exactly Joseph was taking them to in the Grand Canyon? Another thought was, “Holy shit, I’m at the Grand Canyon?! We’re in America!”