She wore a back military outfit without insignia, but she was recognisable all the same. The way she moved, that wild unkempt hair and that same look of determination.
She gestured at one of the soldiers and barked an order. He or she nodded and produced some bolt cutters. My handcuffs were cut and I was free. What was a picture of chaos one moment quickly became calm again. the security shutter was closed and the noise from beyond abated. Mercifully, the alarm had also shut off.
‘Thanks,’ I said to the woman, ‘but I wonder if I might regret thanking you.’
She smiled solemnly. ‘Despite what you might have been told, I don’t want you dead. I don’t want you tortured either.’
‘So what do you want?’ I stood up and brushed myself down.
‘To send you back home, to your family, to the world you came from.’
‘What’s the catch?’ I asked suspiciously.
‘There isn’t one. We are not the enemy.’ She snapped a few orders at the soldiers and they lined up along the gate.
‘I was starting to wonder.’ Looking over her shoulder, I could see an armed soldier open the side gate and step through.
‘He’s sending the mob away. If they think we have you, they will disperse. No, we are not the enemy. We don’t have much time though. There is a train downstairs. We want to get you home and I will tell you what it really going on during the journey.’
It was a simple, every-day tube train. She explained that they had commandeered it when they seized the transport network. It turns out that my opposite number in this world was indeed a politician. My first reaction about the flag wavers being white supremacists was (to my embarrassment) wrong.
It turns out, in this world, I am a mass murderer. Some 2 million people, maybe more, were sent to work in labour camps. Their crimes? Being political opponents of a totalitarian government – nothing more. The people “taking their country back” were doing so from tyranny and oppression and genocide, not because they didn’t want a black PM.
‘What is he going to do?’ I asked apprehensively.
‘My guess is that he will take over your life in your world.’
‘WHAT?! We have to get back and stop him.’
She waved me into calm then looked at an electronic device attached to her utility belt. ‘Yes, we do. They haven’t jumped yet and they can’t while underground. That’s why we need to chase and keep chasing until we catch up.’
‘Can we stop them?’
She looked at me painfully. ‘We have to. We can’t let your other self get away. We have to do it for us and for you.’
We exited the Tube at Paddington Station. Checking the electronic device again, she confirmed that the group were still here and had not jumped to my world. She signed off by saying to the guards “you know what to do”. They fanned out across the stairwells and slowly disappeared up them.
‘How do you know they are still here?’
‘I have a plant in their guards. He’s reporting back. I also have not read the radiation waves he uses to travel through dimensions. We’re ok and he won’t risk jumping while underground.’
‘To materialise in a wall? This may all look identical to your world, but all it would take was for the tunnel to differ by a few feet and it’s all over for them. Besides, they will want to take us all out here if they can and not risk us following them.’
I nodded thoughtfully.
‘Come on,’ she said, ‘let’s find somewhere safe for you.’
I followed her upstairs. So much of this version of Paddington Station looked familiar that I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t mine. The only differences were the political posters on the walls declaring BEWARE THE MARXIST, HE IS THE ENEMY OF THE STATE and other joyous public information such as 2 MILLION AND COUNTING! as though killing political opponents was just as much something to be proud of as the country winning all the gold medals at the Olympics.
Her radio blasted into life and somewhere above us, machine gun fire pierced the air.