Back | Next

Chapter 1


Fredericksburg, VA, 11 November 2004

Snow flecked the cheeks and eyebrows, falling softly to cover a scene of horror with a clean white blanket. White snow fell upon, melded into, the hair of a man gone white himself. He was stooped, that man. Bent over with the care of ages and the weight of his people resting on his old, worn back.

The Bundeskanzler2 turned his eyes away from the gruesome spectacle even now being covered by snow. Bad enough to have seen a once vibrant and historical city scoured from the face of the earth as if it had never been. Worse to see the roll of casualties . . . such crippling casualties . . . from the army of a state in every way more powerful than his own. The Kanzler trembled with fear for his country, his culture and his people.

Yet, as badly and as plainly as he trembled, the nausea of his disgust was in every way worse.

Fearing to look at his aide, the Kanzler whispered, "It's the bones, Günter. It's the little piles of gnawed bones."

Günter, the aide—though he was really rather more than that, heard the whisper and grimaced. "I know, mein Herr. It's disgusting. We . . . we have done terrible things in the past. Horrible, awful, damnable things. But this? This goes beyond anything . . ."

"Do not fool yourself," corrected the Kanzler. "We have been worse, Günter, far worse. We were worse because what we did, we did to our own. Cities burned away. Lampshades. Soap. Dental gold. Einsatzgruppen. Gas chambers and ovens. A whole gamut of horror visited upon the innocent by our ancestors . . . and ourselves."

"And Dresden?" answered Günter, with a raised eyebrow and a sardonic air. "Hamburg? Darmstadt?"

"I didn't say, my young friend, that we were alone in our guilt."

The Kanzler blinked away several snowflakes that had lodged themselves in his gray eyelashes. "And . . . after all, what is guilt of the past?" he sighed. "Do our own young people now need to be destroyed because of what their grandfathers did? Is it right for our children to be eaten, to be turned into little piles of bare, gnawed bones? How far does the sin of Adam and Eve go, Günter?"

Straightening that old and worn and overburdened back, the Kanzler announced, "In any case, it doesn't matter. Whatever we have done, nothing deserves this . . . this abattoir. And whatever we can do to prevent it . . . that shall I do."

Günter, the aide, scratched his chin, absently. "But what we can do, we have done. Production of everything we need for defense or evacuation is proceeding apace. The old soldiers of the Wehrmacht3 have been remobilized, what there were of them, and are being rejuvenated. The conscription is in legal force, and exempts only those whose conscience cannot abide military service. We are doing all we can."

"No, my young friend," answered the Kanzler, slowly and deliberately. "There is one resource yet we have not touched. One that I would never have touched, myself, before seeing this nightmare with my own eyes."

One resource? One resource. What could the Kanzler mean? Suddenly Günter's eyes widened with understanding. "Mein Herr, you can't mean them."

Tightening his overcoat about him in the cold, reaching up a hand to brush away yet more of the steadily falling snow, the Kanzler looked skyward as if asking for guidance. Not receiving any, still with eyes turned heavenward, he answered, definitively, "Them."

The chancellor thought, but did not say, And anything else I must bring back to prevent this from happening to our cities, our people.

Paris, France, 13 November 2004

The crowd was immense; its intensity, palpable. One among half a million protest marchers, Isabelle De Gaullejac felt as she had not since her happy and carefree days as a Socialist Youth.

Though past forty, Isabelle was yet a fine looking specimen of womanhood. Typically French, she had retained her slender shape. Her shoulder-length brown hair was untouched by gray. And if her face had a few more wrinkles than it had had as a young college student, the sidelong glances of men old and young told her she had not lost her appeal.

Then it had been the Americans she had protested; them, and the war they had inherited from France. Now it was France she protested against, France and the war it had seemingly inherited from the Americans.

She was sure, certain, that it was all the Americans' fault. Had the aliens, these Posleen, attacked Earth first? No. Foolishly, at American behest, the French Army had gone to the stars, looking for trouble and becoming involved in a fruitless war, against a previously unknown alien civilization.

And for what? To save a crumbling federation of galactics?

France's business was here, on Earth, looking after French people.

And now they were talking about increased taxes? To help the common people here? Again, no. It was to grease the wheels of the war machine that the money was needed. Isabelle shuddered with revulsion.

More revolting than higher taxes for lesser purposes, the talk was that universal conscription was about to be expanded. She looked at her two young sons, one held with each hand, and vowed she would never permit them to be dragged from her home to be turned into cannon fodder in a stupid and needless war.

Isabelle's voice joined that of the thronging masses. "Peace, now . . . peace, now . . . PEACE, NOW!"

* * *

Berlin, Germany, 14 November 2004

Word had spread; Günter had ensured it would spread.

As the chancellor entered the Bundestag, Germany's upper legislative body, he saw a sea of mostly neutral faces, sprinkled with those more hostile or, in a very few cases, even eager. He wasn't sure which group he feared more—the left that was going to raise a cry for his ouster, or the new right that might raise a cry for him to assume a title he loathed, "Führer."

No matter. He could only persevere in his course and hope that the great mass of legislators would see things as he did. To help them see he knew he must show them.

As he took his seat the chancellor made a hand motion. Immediately the lights dimmed. Almost immediately thereafter a movie screen unrolled from the high ceiling.

For the past four days a specially selected team of newsmen and women had been assembling a documentary using mostly American but also some few other sources. It had been America, however, that sensed a need for Germany to continue as an ally, that had been most willing and able to provide the team of German journalists with everything needed to complete their mission.

Nothing had been censored, no holds had been barred. The German legislature was about to be kicked full in their collective teeth with the horror about to descend upon their country.

* * *

Annemarie Mai, Green and Socialist representative from Wiesbaden, had been among those unutterably hostile to the Kanzler's idea. As the film began to roll she was by no means displeased to see Washington, DC, in ruins. American policies, from their cowboyish adventures in imperialism to their wasteful and destructive energy and environmental policies to—most damning—their insistence on an outdated economic system that had the infuriating habit of making her own preferred statist system seem inefficient; all these made Washington a loathsome symbol of all she despised about America.

Like many in the world, however, Annemarie liked Americans, as people, just as much as she hated their country.

And so her reaction to much of the rest of the film was quite different. Little children gone catatonic with fright at having seen their parents butchered and eaten before their eyes made Annemarie weep. More horrid still were the children not gone into oblivion, the ones shown who screamed and cried continuously. These made the legislator quiver with terror.

And then there were the soldiers, with their sick, dirty and weary faces. They were white enough to seem no different from the boys and girls of Germany. The shrieks of the wounded, especially, tore at Annemarie's heart.

And then came the piles of meat-stripped bones, human bones, along with separate piles of neatly split skulls, some of them very small indeed. These sent Annemarie running for the ladies' room, unable even for a moment longer to keep down her gorge.

* * *

"You must think very little of the strength of the democratic spirit in German hearts to be so concerned about the dangers of rejuvenating twenty or twenty-five thousand old men," the chancellor told a group of hecklers, shouting slogans from the gallery.

If his words had any effect on the hecklers it was something less than obvious. Their chants of "No more Nazis. No more Nazis," even seemed to grow a bit in volume and ferocity.

"They were not always old men," answered one of the legislators. "When young, as you propose to make them again, and when armed and organized, as you propose to make them again, they were a menace, fiends, thugs, criminals . . . murderers."

"Not all of them," the chancellor insisted. "Perhaps not even most. Some were drafted into the war. Others found no place in the Reichswehr and went, as soldiers will, to whichever military organization they could find that would accept them. And I intend that no one, not even one, who has been convicted, or even reliably accused, of a war crime or a crime against humanity shall be permitted to join."

"They were all guilty of crimes against humanity," the legislator returned. "Every one of them who fought in the unjust war this country waged against an innocent world was guilty."

"Were this true," said the chancellor, mildly, "then equally guilty would be Heinz Guderian, Erich Manstein, Erwin Rommel, or Gerd von Rundstedt. They actually did the higher level planning for that war. The people I propose to bring back were low-level players indeed compared to those famous and admired German soldiers."

"They murdered prisoners!" shrieked another legislator.

"In that war everyone murdered prisoners."

And so it went, seemingly endlessly. Opponents spoke up; the chancellor answered mildly. Proponents spoke up, usually mildly, and opponents shrieked with fury. In the end it came to a vote . . . and that vote was very close.

* * *

All eyes turned to the ashen-faced Annemarie Mai as she mounted the speaker's rostrum. The tie was hers to break, one way or the other. With the images of split children's skulls echoing in her brain she announced, "I have conditions."

"Conditions?" asked the chancellor.

"Several," she nodded. "First, these people are the bearers of a disease, a political disease. They must be quarantined to ensure they do not spread their disease."

"To get any use out of them, I have to use them as a cadre for others."

"I understand that," Annemarie answered. "But that group, once filled up to the military body you desire, must be kept as isolated as possible lest the disease spread beyond our ability to control."

"Then we are agreed," the chancellor said.

"Second, they must be watched."

"They will be," the chancellor agreed.

"Third, they must not be allowed to preach their political creed, even in secret."

"The laws against the spread of Nazi propaganda remain in effect and have served us well for decades."

"Fourth, you must use them, burn them up, including, I am sorry to say, the young ones we condemn to their 'care.'"

"That much I can guarantee."

"Then, I vote yes. Raise your formation, Chancellor."

The peace of the assembly immediately erupted into bitter shouts and curses.

* * *

Babenhausen, Germany, 15 November 2004

There is peace in senility, for some. For others, the weakening of the mind with old age brings back harsher memories.

Few or none in the nursing home knew just how old the old man was, though, had anyone cared to check, the information was there in his file. Among some of the staff it was rumored he was past one hundred, yet few or none of them cared enough to check that either. Though he was almost utterly bald, shriveled and shrunken and sometimes demented, none of the staff cared about that. The old man spoke but rarely and even more rarely did he seem to speak with understanding. Sometimes, at night, the watch nurse would hear him cry from his room with words like, "Vorwärts, Manfred . . . Hold them, meine Brüder . . ." or "Steisse, die Panzer."

Sometimes, too, the old man would cry a name softly, whisper with regret, hum a few bars of some long-forgotten, perhaps even forbidden, tune.

It was whispered, by those who washed him and those who spoke with the washers, that he had a tattooed number on his torso. They whispered too of the scars, the burns, the puckermarks.

Everyday, rain or shine, bundled up or not as the weather dictated, the staff wheeled the old man out onto the nursing home's porch for a bit of fresh air. This day, the fresh air was cold and heavy, laden with the moisture of falling snow. What dreams or nightmares the cold snow brought, none ever knew—the old man never said.

At the front door to the home, a matron pointed towards the old man. "There he is."

Another man, one of a pair, clad in the leather trench coat that marked him as a member of the Bundesnachrichtendiest—the Federal Information Service, Germany's CIA—answered, "We shall take care of him from here on out. You and your home need trouble yourselves no further."

Unseen, the matron nodded. Alles war in Ordnung. All was in order. Already the two men had turned their backs on her and focused their attention fully on the old man. They walked up to him, one crouching before the wheelchair, the other standing at the side.

The croucher, he in the trenchcoat, spoke softly. "Herr Gruppenführer? Gruppenführer Mühlenkampf? I do not know if you can understand me. But if you can, you are coming with us."

Some faint trace of recognition seemed to dawn in the old man's watery, faded blue eyes.

"Aha," said trench coat. "You can understand me, can't you? Understand your name and your old rank anyway. Very good. Can you understand this, old man? Your country is calling for you again. We have need of you, urgent need."

* * *

Berlin, Germany, 17 November 2004

And my, my don't those two seem urgent, mused the patron of the Gasthaus nestled in an alley not far from where that patron lived. As was his normal practice, the patron sat in a dim corner, nursing a beer. And when will the Gestapo, under whatever name they chose to go by, realize that those coats mark them for what they are as clearly as my Sigrunen—the twin lightning bolts—used to mark me. 

The objects of the patron's attention walked from table to table, from customer to customer. The Wirt, the owner and manager of the establishment, looked discreetly at the elderly man, dimly lit in a corner. Shall I tell them? 

The patron shrugged. Macht nichts. "Matters not." You know what they are as well as I do. If they want me they will find me. 

Nodding his understanding the Wirt called to the two. "If you are looking for Herr Brasche, that's him over there in the corner."

The patron, Brasche, watched with interest as the two men approached. When they had reached his table, he raised his beer in salute. "And what can I do for the BND today, gentlemen?"

"Hans Brasche?" one of them asked, flashing an identification.

"That would be me," Hans answered.

"You must come with us."

Brasche smiled. If he was afraid, neither of the men who had accosted him, nor any of the other patrons, would have known it. He had never been a man, or a boy, to show much fear.

* * *

Times were hard and getting worse. The calendar on the wall said 1930. As the boy entered the bare cupboarded kitchen, the expression on the mother's face fairly shrieked "fear."  

"Your father wants you, Hansi." 

The boy, he could not have been more than ten, suppressed a shudder. This was always bad news. He steeled his soul, raised his ten-year-old head, and walked bravely to where his one-armed father—more importantly, the father's belt—awaited him. He knew he could not cry out, could not show fear; else the beating would be worse, much worse. 

Afterwards, when the long beating was over, the boy, Hans, walked dry-eyed past his mother, his walk stiff from the bruises, the welts, and the cuts. 

The woman reached out to her son, seeking desperately to comfort him in his pain. All she felt was his shudder as her hands stroked his bruises and wounds. "Why, Hansi? What did you do wrong?" 

The boy, he was tall for ten but not so tall as his mother, hung his head, buried his face in a maternal bosom and whispered, "I do not know, Mutti. He didn't say. He never says." 

"He was never like this before the Great War, Hansi, before he lost the arm." 

The boy could not cry, that had long since been beaten out of him. He shrugged. The mother could cry . . . and did. 

* * *

Later, in a Mercedes, one of the pair said, "I must say, you are a cool one, Herr Brasche."

"I am old. I have seen much. I have never seen where being afraid, or showing I was if I was, ever did me or anyone else any good. Would it now?"

The other, the driver, answered, "In this case you have no cause to fear, Herr Brasche. We are here to do you a favor."

Hans shrugged. "I have been done favors before. Little good I had of them."

* * *

The times had changed. Plenty and hope had replaced hunger and despair. From the windows, from the street lamps, on the arms of men and women all over Germany fluttered a new symbol. On the radios crackled the harsh, gas-damaged voice of a new hero. 

Hans felt his thirteen-year-old heart leap at the sound of his Führer's voice speaking via the radio, to the nation.  

"Meine alten Kameraden," began the distant Hitler, and Hans felt his one-armed father, standing beside, stiffen with filial love. "Die grosse Zeit ist jetzt angebrochen . . . Deutschland ist nun erwacht . . ." (My old comrades . . . the great time is now brought to pass . . . Germany is now awake.") 

"You see, little Hansi? You see what a favor I have done bringing you here?" 

To that Hans had no honest answer; nothing from his father came without price. 

It was a public radio, one with loudspeakers, intended for the address of a crowd. Uniformed HitlerJugend patrolled, keeping order mainly by disciplined example. Not that much example was needed for Germans of the year of our Lord, 1933; they remained the people who had fought half a world to a standstill from 1914 to 1918. Discipline they had, in plenty. 

The father observed Hans' eyes glancing over the uniformly short-trousered, dagger-wielding, hard-faced and brightly beribboned youths.  

"Ah, you are interested in the Youth Movement, I see, my son. Never fear. I have arranged for you to be accepted a bit early. They'll make a man of you." 

Why, how so, father? thought the boy. Do they have stiffer belts? What new favors will you show me, I wonder.

* * *

Bad Tolz, Germany, 20 November 2004

"Don't do me any fucking favors," snarled Mühlenkampf.

The Kanzler—the Chancellor of the German Federal Republic—ceased perusing the picture of the worn and shriveled shell of a wheelchair-bound man in the file on his desk. He looked up sharply at the brand-new, tall, dark-haired, ramrod-backed and broad-shouldered man before him. To the observer, Mühlenkampf, wearing the insignia of a Bundeswehr major general, appeared no more than twenty. Despite this, there was a harshness about the man's eyes that spoke of stresses and strains no mere stripling of twenty could ever have undergone.

The chancellor observed, "Amazing, isn't it, Günter, what taking eighty-four years off of someone's life will do for his disposition?"

Mühlenkampf snorted in derision. Quickly and determinedly he lashed out. "Fuck you, Herr Kanzler. Fuck all of you civilian bastards. Fuck anybody who had anything to do with dragging me out of that nursing home. Fuck you for giving me a mind back to remember and miss my wife and children with; a mind with which to remember the friends I have lost. Fuck you for sending me back to a war. I've had better than thirteen years of war in my life, Herr Kanzler. And never a moment's peace since 1916. I had thought I was finally past that. So fuck you, again."

Halfway through Mühlenkampf's tirade Günter arose from his chair as if to shut this new-old man up. Mühlenkampf's glare, and the chancellor's restraining hand, sent the bureaucrat reeling back to his seat.

The chancellor smiled with indulgence. "You are so full of shit it's coming out of your ears, Mühlenkampf. What is more, you know you are. A 'moment's peace'? Nonsense. The only peace you've ever known was from 1916, when you were first called to the colors, to 1918, when the Great War ended. Then you had some more 'peace' from 1918 to 1923 in the Freikorps . . . Oh, yes, I know all about you, Mühlenkampf. And then you found the greatest peace from 1939 to 1945, didn't you? Get off your high horse, SS man. War is your peace. And peace is your hell."

Mühlenkampf cocked his head to one side. He tried and failed to keep a small, darting smile from his lips. "You missed one, Herr Kanzler. Spain, 1936 to 1939. Unofficially, of course. That was a fun time."

The smile broadened. Mühlenkampf laughed aloud. "Very well, Herr Kanzler. Whatever you have done to make me young you must have had a reason. What do you want of me? What mission have you for me?"

The chancellor returned the beam. "We have some problems," he admitted. "How far gone were you in that nursing home?"

Mühlenkampf thought briefly, then answered, "I think I was gone back to about 1921. Speaking of which, what year is it? How am I here? How am I young? How is it I have my mind back?"

"Ach, where to begin? The year is 2004." Seeing the former officer's surprise, the chancellor continued, "Yes, General Mühlenkampf, you are a sprightly one hundred and four years old. As to how you have the body and mind of a twenty-year-old? That is an interesting tale."

The Kanzler had long since decided to be direct; Mühlenkampf was known to have been a direct man. "We are about to be invaded, General."

"Germany?" bristled the new-old man. "The Fatherland is in danger?"

"Everyone is in danger," answered the chancellor. "The planet Earth is about to be attacked . . . actually has already been . . . by alien beings, creatures from space. As I said they have already begun to land, in the United States and—"

"Bah! Ami trash. And aliens? From space? Herr Kanzler, please? I was born at night, but it was not last night."

"Not so trashlike, Mühlenkampf. Restrain your prejudices; the last war is long over. And the Ami's, at least, utterly defeated the first invasion to hit them. Not everyone can say that. Though it cost the Americans frightfully. As for when you were born . . . well, you were reborn about thirty minutes ago. Contemplate, why don't you, the implications of that?"

"Ah," agreed Mühlenkampf, contemplatively.

"But, in any case," continued the chancellor, "those first landings were small-scale affairs, comparatively speaking. What we are facing, commencing in as little as eight months, are five more invasions, each of them ten to fifteen times more massive. You will be briefed in much greater detail on the nature and numbers of the enemy after we are finished here."

Mühlenkampf shrugged. He could wait for the details.

The chancellor interlaced his hands in front of his face. "We have a problem though. It is not too much detail for now to tell you that these five coming invasions will come with weapons superior to ours or that they are mostly . . . infantry of a sort. They will have complete command of the air and space. Each will muster from ninety million to as many as two hundred million combatants."

"That does sound dire, Herr Kanzler. Five or ten thousand infantry divisions."

The chancellor had done his time. He knew Mühlenkampf was miscalculating based on human norms for combat forces. The chancellor sighed. "No. They have no support forces to consider. One million of these beings—they are called 'Posleen,' by the way—means one million combatants. So no, not thirty or forty or even fifty infantry divisions per million. We are talking about the equivalent of about one hundred thousand infantry divisions, but infantry divisions from a warped scientist's nightmares, dropping on our heads, all of our heads of course, over the next five years. And we have reason to believe, based on the way these beings act, that Europe's share will be greater than that of any similarly sized area of the globe—say twenty percent, with the possible exception of what may hit the United States'"

Mühlenkampf considered, then objected, "But that is impossible, Herr Kanzler. No military force can organize like that. How would they feed themselves?"

The chancellor shuddered, remembering piles of small and gnawed bones in the snow. He shuddered and then found the impulse to enjoy giving the shock. "Why Mühlenkampf, they eat us, of course."

Even the hardened SS general was taken aback by that grim news. "You are joking. You cannot possibly be serious. One hundred thousand infantry divisions, advanced over anything we have? Maybe twenty thousand of them against us? With complete dominance of air and space? And they will eat us, eat everyone, if we lose?"

"Not 'if we lose,' Mühlenkampf. When."

Günter, so far quietly sitting at the chancellor's side, began to raise an objection, before being hushed by the chancellor. "'When,' I said, Günter, and 'when' is what I meant. Nothing but that kind of desperation would make me put General Mühlenkampf back in uniform. Though I concede there are degrees of losing, some better than others."

Turning back to the veteran, the chancellor continued, "We let ourselves go, Mühlenkampf. You knew the Communists had fallen?"

"I remember thinking, Kanzler, back when I still had some faculties for it, that although the Communists may have gone under I could no longer tell the difference between a Red Russian and a Green German."

Günter, a committed Green and a Social Democrat bridled at that.

The chancellor's party drew much of its support from the Greens. Even so, he had to admit, and would admit it only to himself, that there had once been little difference between the two, at least at the extremes of both movements. And yet . . .

"General, we Germans are packed into this country like rats. Do you want someone pissing in your drinking water? Well, every piss every German takes ends up there, you know. Do you want our children born deformed and retarded by the things industry dumps in our rivers, or would if we let them? Do you not think we need trees to make oxygen for us to breathe? And if you like to hunt, General, or to hike to enjoy the natural beauty of our country, do you not think those very animals and woodland scenes need a little protection?"

Mühlenkampf shrugged his indifference. "A political fanatic is dangerous no matter if he wants to hang capitalists or to gas Jews or to make economic life impossible, Herr Kanzler."

"I am no fanatic, SS man," bridled Günter.

"Neither am I, bureaucrat," answered Mühlenkampf, coolly. "I am a soldier and I rather doubt the chancellor brought me here to discuss politics. But to my mind a Red fanatic and a Green fanatic are indistinguishable. And Germany has had more than enough of both."

Ah, well, I didn't resurrect this man for his modern sensibilities, thought the chancellor. He continued, "Yes . . . well, be that as it may, after the Cold War ended we, all of us really, chopped our military forces to the bone. Let most of the rest be politicized, demoralized and castrated, too. Why, did you know, Mühlenkampf, that there is a law here now forbidding our soldiers from wearing their dress uniforms in public lest it upset certain types of Gastarbeiter.4" The chancellor sighed with personal regret. Currying favor with the left at the time he, himself, had voted for that law.

"All of Germany, before this came up, could field, at most, seven mediocre divisions. Of these, one was almost entirely destroyed on another planet. Filling up that division's losses, and expanding the remaining six upwards to about six hundred divisions, has proven impossible. We have the weapons; that or we soon will. We have the manpower . . . available at least. We do not have the trained cadre. We have called up and rejuvenated every combat veteran of the last war we could find except for you and people like you. And now . . ."

"And now," Mühlenkampf continued, sensing the truth, "now you need us."

"Yes. Your country needs you. Your people need you. Your species needs you."

"What will I have to work with?" asked the former SS man.

"We will fill you up with bodies, good ones, from among the young men we have. For your cadre there are enough, just enough, rejuvenated SS men to make a decent group for a large Korps, about five divisions plus support."

Mühlenkampf thought immediately of a problem. "You wish to give us regular division numbers? The 413th 'Volksgrenadiers' or something on that order? Regular Bundeswehr uniforms?" The general shook his head, "Herr Kanzler, that won't work."

"Why not?"

Mühlenkampf shrugged. "It is hard to explain, perhaps. But take me, for example. I was like Paul Hauser . . . or Felix Steiner,5 for that matter. I was a regular first and joined the SS not out of any political convictions, but simply to be in an elite combat organization. And to fight, of course. I think few of the other ranks had very strong National Socialist political convictions, though some did. But one thing we all shared was a pride in the symbols for what they said about us as battle soldiers."

Mühlenkampf sighed. "And then, of course, we lost the war. Rather badly, as a matter of fact. We went from the top of the heap to the despised of Germany, of the world. Our symbols became shit. People turned their faces away. Our wounded veterans were denied the pensions and care given to other branches of the Wehrmacht not one whit less guilty—whatever guilt means in such contexts as the Russian Front—than we were.

"We lost our pride." The veteran finished, "And soldiers cannot fight without pride."

This time Günter was not to be silenced. "Your Hakenkreutzer?6 Your Sigrunen?"7 he shouted. "Your Death's Heads? Those symbols you will never be allowed to show."

Mühlenkampf buffed fingernails nonchalantly against his left breast for some long moments. All the time he fixed the aide with a deadly stare. "Little man, do not try me. The SS told Himmler and Hitler—and they had the power to have us shot out of hand—to go fuck themselves so often, so many times, I have lost count. We fought the Russian hordes to a standstill across half a continent. We charged into American and British airpower and naval gunfire without demur . . . even without hope. When all was lost we were still fighting, because that is what we did. Never think, little man, not for an instant, that we can be intimidated by such as you," he ended, sneering.

"Peace, gentlemen," calmed the chancellor. "Mühlenkampf, Günter is right to a degree. While, I assure you, there are some people, especially down in Bavaria,"—the chancellor rolled his eyes heavenward—"who would welcome the return of the SS with cheers, most of our people would turn away. Moreover, my own political support might well melt away. I cannot let you have all your symbols. Is there something else?"

Mühlenkampf considered. "Our medals? Reissue them, perhaps in a slightly different design?"

The chancellor wriggled his fingers dismissively and said, "We already are, after a fashion." Then he thought of the casualty lists from the planet Diess, transferred his wriggling fingers to tap his lips and added, "Mostly posthumously, I'm afraid. Yes, we can do this."

"And division names," bargained Mühlenkampf. "Give us any numbers you want. But let us go by our old division names."

"What?" snorted Günter. "LSSAH? Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler?"

"We had other divisions," answered the general, coolly. "Wiking? No crimes to speak of to their name. Götz von Berlichingen? A clean record there, too. You said five divisions, Herr Kanzler? Okay . . . Wiking, G von B . . . Not Hitler Jugend but just Jugend? Hohenstauffen? Frundsberg? Yes, those five. No crimes there except one attributed to Jugend but as likely to have been committed by 21st, be it noted, Wehrmacht, Panzer Division. And maybe use some of the others as independent brigades within the Korps.

"Yes, Herr Kanzler. The medals, the names . . . uniforms a bit different than the norm. Maybe even the Sigrunen after we have shown what we can do? It is not much to ask for and I can build, rebuild rather, some pride with them."

Mühlenkampf's face lit with a sudden smile. "There is one other thing, Herr Kanzler. The SS was perhaps the most cosmopolitan armed force in history, certainly the most cosmopolitan force of its size. We had battalions, regiments, brigades and divisions of Dutch, Belgians, French, Danes, Swedes, Latvians, Estonians . . . damned near every nationality in Europe. We even had control for a while, though they were not part of us, of one Spanish Division, the Spanish Azul, or Blue, Division. Moslems? Lots. I have no doubt but that, had we won the war and some of the Reichsheini's8 wilder schemes for a Jewish Homeland come to pass that there would eventually have been a brigade of the Waffen SS that would have sported armbands reading, 'Judas Maccabeus.' Yes, I am serious," the former SS general concluded.

"Your point?" queried the chancellor.

"Just this. Put out the word. Rather, let me put out the word, and we might have a few more former SS men for cadre than you think. And perhaps some new volunteers as well."

"What do you get out of this, Herr General?" asked Günter querulously.

"Something you would never understand, bureaucrat."

* * *

Berlin, Germany, 22 November 2004

Not even the view of the stunning, busty and leggy blonde gracing the Tir's9 reception room could lift Günter's spirits. Appalled beyond measure and beyond endurance by the chancellor's decision to resurrect—even in muted form—the hated Waffen SS, the bureaucrat had decided to do the unthinkable, to give his support to the nominally allied but, he was sure, secretly hostile, Darhel.

Still, the SS? It was intolerable. And that the chancellor had ignored him? Insulting.

Worse, Günter was certain, the chancellor would not stop with the SS. With the SS in hand, owing their allegiance to the Chancellor, the bureaucrat could foresee another dark age for Germany. To date, the Kanzler had depended upon a loose coalition of moderate and left political streams. With the reborn SS in hand, might he not cast aside that dependence? Günter desperately feared it might prove so.

Remilitarization was not the least of it. How Günter had fought to keep the conscription laws somewhat ineffective. Surely no threat could justify dragging unwilling and enlightened young boys from their homes and subjecting them to the brainwashing that, he had no doubt, was the military's stock in trade. How else but through brainwashing could the military convince sensible young men to do something so plainly not in their personal interest?

Günter, himself, had done his "social year"10 in something useful to society, assisting in a drug rehabilitation program. He had not wasted that year in some atavistic pandering to a spirit long obsolete.

The future seemed dark, dark.

Günter's reveries were interrupted by the blond receptionist. "The Tir will see you now, mein Herr."

Upon entering the Tir's office Günter was surprised to see several political allies also present, along with one soldier. Their chairs were gathered in a semicircle in front of the Darhel's massive desk.

The Tir's German was grammatically excellent, though tinged with a lisp caused by air passing between his sharklike teeth. Even with the lisp, Günter had no difficulty understanding the alien when he said, "Please, Herr Stössel, do sit. I am somewhat surprised to see you after you refused our last offer."

Taking the chair indicated by the alien's pointing finger, Günter sat silently for a long moment. When, finally, he spoke he said, "When I refused your offer it was before the chancellor decided to turn Germany into a Fascist state again. Better we should be destroyed than release that horror again upon the world."

In a voice so tinged with vehemence and hate that he was nearly spitting, one of the other humans interjected, "Germany has always been a Fascist state."

Günter ignored the speaker. He was himself a Green and while, yes, there was a strong leftist trend within the Green movement, the speaker, Andreas Dunkel was an outright Red. Every time Günter thought upon the ten trillion marks so far spent on trying to undo the ecological damage the Communists had done to the east of the country, he bristled. Even that enormous sum was inadequate; only time could heal the wounds inflicted on Mother Earth by the Communists.

He bristled now too but, suppressing it, turned his full attention back to the Tir.

"Your species is dangerous," the Tir said, "and among your species your people are perhaps the most dangerous of all. While the Federation needs you now, in the long run you are as much a danger to civilization as are the Posleen."

The Tir judged his audience well. Indeed, he had a very complete file on Günter Stössel downloaded into his AID, the Artificial Intelligence Devices only the Darhel produced. Much of Günter's wait in the reception area had been the result of the time the Tir had needed to study the file.

"The Galactic Federation is a peaceful place, or was before this invasion," said the Tir, honestly. "Moreover, it is a place where resources are carefully guarded. We produce few goods but of high quality; this is how we keep our ecologies pure." This last was true enough, but the truth concealed a greater falsehood. Galactic civilization kept resource expenditure low by more or less literally starving the Indowy who made up the bulk of its population, produced the bulk of its admittedly excellent products, and had the least share of its power.

At this point, truth fled for . . . greener pastures. "We care for our planets," the Tir lied. "Our projections show that, were humans to be let loose onto the galactic scene, ecological disaster would follow quickly. We cannot allow this. And yet we need your people to defend our civilization. It is a difficult problem."

"What can I do to help?" Günter asked.

* * *

Had the Tir had the slightest clue he was being overheard, no doubt his lies would have been even more carefully couched. So thought Deputy Assistant Clan Coordinator, and Bane Sidhe11 operative, Rinteel.

Listening to the conversation between the Tir, Günter, and the others in the Tir's office, Rinteel's mind kept revolving around one word. Agendas. The Darhel have one. The humans have another. We have still a third. But ours at least leaves the humans free and frees us. Surely they will be difficult to deal with, so violent, so aggressive, so selfish as they are. And yet, so long as the Posleen exist and are a threat, they will need us . . . to produce their machines of war, to maintain them. They will dominate us, no doubt. Yet my people can have a future in every way brighter under human dominance than ever we have under the overlordship of the Elves. The humans, at least, have some sense of fairness. The Elves have none. 

The conversation in the Tir's office was very difficult for Rinteel to follow. The office was bug proof, the Indowy knew. He had tried to bug it but, alas, without success. The Darhel's AID, unlike those given to the humans so lavishly, was untappable, at least by any means available to the Bane Sidhe.

But every gate has its fence, every rat hole its exit. In this case it was simple sound. Coming from the speakers' voice boxes, the sound vibrated the walls of the Tir's office. These walls in turn caused the air of the surrounding rooms to move. This air, it its own turn, vibrated other walls. In time—and space—the very exterior of the building moved, oh slightly, slightly.

And nearby, and in direct line of sight, a Bane Sidhe listening post picked up those vibrations. A Bane Sidhe computer, constructed by the Indowy but designed and programmed by Tchpth, the deep-thinking "Crabs," painfully translated these vibrations into speech. The translation required intimate knowledge of each speaker's voice. The slightest thing could upset it; a cold, a sore throat. And with new speakers the machine was hopeless until examples of their speech could be obtained.

Thus, while one of the speakers, a new voice, was beyond the computer, the words of the Tir came through clearly.

Listening carefully to the sometimes garbled translation, Rinteel thought, I must speak with the ruler of these people. Alone. 


"What is it about this place, these thresh, that puts them so far forward on the Path of Fury?" asked Athenalras of Ro'moloristen.

"That remains unclear, my lord. The records we have gleaned indicate only great, fearsome ability on the path. Well . . ." The junior hesitated.

"Yes," demanded Athenalras, crest extending unconsciously.

"Well, my lord . . . the thresh records indicate great, perhaps unparalleled ability in war . . . but almost always followed by ultimate defeat."

"Bah. Great ability. Great defeats. Make up your mind, puppy."

Carefully keeping his crest in a flaccid and submissive posture, Ro'moloristen hesitated before answering. "My lord . . . in this case I think the two may just go together. A defeat seems not to stop or deter these gray thresh. They always come back, always, from however stinging a loss, and they are always willing to try again."

The senior snorted. "Let them come back after they have passed through our digestive systems."


Back | Next