Bremerhaven was under siege. For the past three nights, the Luftwaffe base at the outskirts of the city, located only miles from the North Sea, had
been pummeled not by the American bombers which had so mercilessly devastated the major cities, nor by the mighty guns of the allied artillery, which
would breach the Rhine in a matter of weeks, but by rain - torrents of it, which was flooding the landing strips, covering them with mud, and making
any useful operations from the airfield a near impossibility. Richter watched from inside the car as it approached the base medical building; watched
as sheets of water pounded the airfield. He suspected the base would soon turn into a naval facility if things kept up.
It didn’t matter. The operational status of the base was not his concern tonight. Dr. Fulke had overstepped his own authority time - put it
lightly - and had better come up with some very good answers very quickly, or Richter would personally watch him dig his own wet grave next to the
refuse disposal ditch in the nearby forest.
The car pulled to a stop before the hospital entrance. Richter opened the door, stepped out while opening his umbrella, and found himself
standing in two inches of mud. Out of nowhere a terrific flash of lightning froze everything around him in white still life, like a gigantic
snapshot, followed instantly by a tremendous canon-like roar of thunder that shook his bones, as if it were God’s rage at a world that had so
recently gone wretched and full of sin.
A transport truck full of soldiers came to a stop behind the car. Richter gave them a signal and they stayed put - except for two armed guards
who followed him through the thick glass double doors of the reception area, then through a door marked “authorized personnel only” which led to a
brightly lit hallway. A few nurses stopped what they were doing and turned to face the men, not to ask for identification but to salute, for Richter
wore the double lightning bolt insignia and rank bars of a Waffen-SS Colonel. Not only was he used to going where he wanted, but having been in
charge of Dr. Fulke’s project for three years had made him a familiar visitor to this facility.
The door at the end of the hallway flew open. Dr. Fulke came rushing forth, dressed in white surgical clothing which was stained with an oily
black fluid, and pulled down his mask. Richter motioned to the guards, who immediately stopped and stood at attention while he met the doctor at the
end of the hall. The two raised their arms in salute and simultaneously snapped “Hiel Hitler!”
Dr. Fulke announced “Colonel Richter! This is quite a surprise! I assume that you’ve come to check on the progress of stage four, and
although things are proceeding marvelously, I’m afraid that I haven’t had time to prepare a complete report. But I can show you a perfected stage
three specimen if you like, if you’ll just give me a moment…”
Richter could tell he was being evasive. The outgoing manner, the uncharacteristic openness, the counterfeit sincerity, all were hallmarks of
the rat-in-sheep’s-clothing routine he had seen before, whenever the doctor had some filthy little secret he thought he could hide.
“There is another matter,” he said while holding his folded umbrella tightly in front of his waist. “Last night I received word of a very
strange report from the airmen in bunker number four. Explain this.”
Fulke looked at the floor, wiped his brow, and returned his eyes to Richter’s stern expression.
“Yes, of course, it has to do with our stage four experiments. Please Colonel, if I may be allowed to show you one of my specimens, I’m
quite sure that you’ll understand the necessity of our procedures…”
Richter's mood was deathly serious, but patient all the same.
“Very well - show me, but I expect a very complete accounting of this situation, Doctor. My report to the oversight committee in Berlin is
due tomorrow no later than ten-o’clock. If anything - anything at all - should be left out.” He felt no need to illustrate the consequence.
“Of course not!” Fulke replied, seemingly taken aback by the mere suggestion. “I will return in a few minutes. Nurse! Bring the Colonel
some tea!” With that he hustled back to the end of the hall and through the door.
A moment later a heavy-set nurse brought forth a silver teapot: with this she filled a ceramic teacup on a saucer, and handed it to him. Richter
took a sip, then motioned for the guards to stay put while he opened the door to Fulke’s private office and went inside. He had been in this room
before and, even though he knew where the light switch was, he felt no need to turn it on. He knew what the office contained, and he didn’t want to
see them again.
Instead, he strolled slowly over to the window, turning his attention to the driving rain outside. He realized how ironic it was - a few years
ago the weather might have been an advantage. Even though the deluge would hinder their ability to get the fighters off the ground, it would, at the
same time, provide substantial protection from the allied B-17’s. Those days were over, unfortunately, since the allies had developed sophisticated
H2S radar which could cut through the cloud cover like an invisible sword. Now it seemed as if they actually preferred to bomb in bad weather.
Richter couldn’t help but grimace - if the German army had spent more time developing such technology instead of devoting it’s precious resources
to # projects like this, maybe they would have won.
Two quick bursts of lightning made him look at the shelves next to the window, as the sudden electric blue cast an eerie reflection off the
numerous specimen jars which contained souvenirs of the doctor’s work. Inside each container, he could momentarily see the strange creations - the
halfway developed embryos and hybrid brain samples which were a testament to the project’s success. Underneath one of the shelves, next to a table
covered with slides, test tubes, a microscope, and other items of the doctor’s personal research equipment, there was a sink with a mirror.
Richter went over to the sink, turned on the cold water, and placed his hands under it. He slowly washed his palms, his fingers, the backs of
his hands, and even his face. Looking into the mirror, he realized just how old he looked now, especially in the dim light which made his features
appear gaunt and worn.
But the darkness of the office fit his mood perfectly. He had disliked this assignment from the beginning - it was, in his mind, the least
desirable of all the secret projects he had overseen since his return from Italy three years ago. It had been a sniper - an eleven year old boy - who
had left him with a bullet frag in his back and, consequently, an unfit-for-combat status. Of course there were even more unpleasant domestic chores
he could have been given, such as regulating the death camps, which he found to be profoundly distasteful. There were other high-ranking SS officials
which were better suited for that kind of work, to be sure - the kind of men that once served in his logistical command, the same men who brought him
by car from the hospital shortly after his recovery to the heavy cotton tent which stood next to the motor garage on that hot, dusty day in Turin. It
was intended to be a surprise for their Colonel - a special delicacy - to see his would-be assassin chained to the wooden table conveniently close to
the most rudimentary set of mechanic’s tools. They still haunted him even tonight - the screams and cries for mercy and God and his mother - these
and all the other horrors of war he had experienced were treasonous ghost that still danced elusive and silent behind his back, scarring his soul more
deeply than any wound or wrinkle of age.
Richter noticed that the water was still running. He turned it off, and stepped back into the hall. The guards were still at attention, and
straightened even more as the doorway at the end of the hall suddenly opened and Dr. Fulke emerged, holding the hand of a small humanoid creature.
Richter watched as the doctor slowly lead the creature toward him. It was about four feet tall, with pasty grey skin, a large head, thin limbs, and
enormous black eyes. It was looking at Dr. Fulke at first, then turned it’s attention to Richter’s tall figure.
“Colonel Richter,” Fulke said in a tone which gushed with shameless pride. “I present to you our finest specimen. His name is Solzack,
and I’m sure you’ll be impressed with his physique, as well as his abilities.”
As he scrutinized the creature which stood before him, Richter realized that in four years of research the project had not achieved the creation
of a new, subservient race so much as an abomination, unnatural freak which should be forever kept hidden in the darkest shadows of Reich secrecy. The
German people would never accept this monster.
No, that wasn't quite true. Richter remembered the way that the populace had so easily turned their eyes away from the disappearances of their
neighbors, the cattle cars which came and went every day, the horrors which were going on in the concentration camps, all these things about which
everyone knew and, at the same time, knew nothing. Why should this be any different? Even now he could see their reactions…first the shock, then
the questions, then the slow but inevitable acceptance of what should not be. It would be forgotten.
“Doctor, I see no improvement since the last time I was here. In fact, this appears to be the same specimen. Do you think I am a fool?”
Again, Fulke nervously wiped his brow, then cleared his throat.
“Of course not, Colonel. Let me show you. One of our latest breakthroughs has been to artificially simulate the function of the larynx. As
you know, many of the hybrid’s physical characteristics remain underdeveloped throughout it’s life cycle. This is, of course, due to the fact that
we must begin surgeries and hormonal treatments during the embryonic stage. We have, however, managed to make some improvements. Solzack, say hello
to the Colonel!”
Richter was surprised to hear a sound - a high-pitched squeak lasting only a second - which emerged from the creature’s tiny mouth.
“That’s not exactly what I would call speech, Doctor.”
“Well, no, I understand. But just to get a sound, any sound, has been one of our most difficult challenges.”
Richter slowly walked around the creature to observe its posterior, then walked back while Fulke continued.
“You see, the larynx is very complicated…”
“How many specimens are there now?” Richter interrupted.
Suddenly, he knew the answer.
Somehow, it had come not from Fulke, but from the creature itself. Not from its mouth, but more in the form of a thought, an expression, which
seemed to originate from the probing, penetrating blackness of its eyes.
“How does it do that?” Richter asked with an expression of disbelief.
“We simply don’t know. Their method of communication is quite unique, something we’ve never seen before. We have many theories, however.
They could be using some physical form of expression, such as undetectable vocal frequencies or subtle gestures. Maybe even telepathy. It’s all
quite fascinating, don’t you agree?”
Looking rather unimpressed, Richter deliberately changed the subject.
“About the men in the bunker…”
“Oh yes, I was just getting to that! It is my proud duty to inform you that we have succeeded in teaching the hybrids to operate, repair, and
maintain the new classified stealth aircraft.”
“I assume you’re talking about the disk-shaped ones? The ones which use the magnetic propulsion system we’ve been developing here at this
“Precisely!” the doctor replied with a sharp grin. “To our delight, not only have the hybrids learned to fly them and maintain them, but
they have actually improved on their design!”
This caused Richter to raise his eyebrows in concern. “I do not think I need to tell you that all of this must be approved before you can
proceed with further research. The original goals of the project had nothing to do with using these freaks as aircraft engineers.”
Fulke winced slightly at the term “freaks”, but remained silent all the same.
“And, to be quite honest, Doctor, the idea sound ludicrous.”
The creature blinked it’s huge eyes. Richter was disgusted.
“I understand, Colonel, and this is still only in the theoretical stage. But plans are already underway to equip our secret naval facilities
inside the caves underneath the North Sea with living quarters and production facilities. Given the enormous size of these caverns, they should
provide an adequate habitat for a growing population, and double as factories to produce newer versions of the aircraft as well. The caverns were
abandoned last year because of our terrible submarine losses in the Atlantic. They are so secret that only our own Navy and handful of the Reich’s
officers are aware of their existence, and the allies will never find them. Can you believe it, Colonel? Not only will our creations continue to
grow and sustain themselves, but they may even help us win the war!
It really was a grand scheme, a gargantuan ambition, and highly improbable as well. Richter sensed that the doctor was using it to cover up
something very rotten, the way a child would make up an elaborate fantasy involving dragons and elves to explain why the cookie jar lay broken on the
“I was under the impression that these creatures could not reproduce. How exactly do you propose to have them, as you put it, grow and
To this he received no immediate response, and at that moment Richter knew he had asked the right question; the one that Fulke couldn’t talk
his way around.
“That is correct. That is why we decided to use the soldiers in bunker four as test subjects.”
Richter held his hands behind his back, walked to the doctor’s side, then turned sharply, staring him directly in the face, his eyes
telegraphing a combination of expectation and angry frustration.
“For what kind of test?”
“Well…I thought, that is, my professional judgment led me to believe that the Hyperion Initiative would be better accomplished if we train
the hybrids to do it themselves...”
Richter’s eyes became wide with shock.
“…and by letting them use the secret aircraft.” Fulke looked at the floor, not wanting to see the fury in the eyes of the man who controlled his
But he wasn’t chastised immediately. Richter looked at the creature once again, then slowly turned and took a few steps down the hall, then
stood there as rigid as a stone sculpture. His jaw clenched.
It was to be the pinnacle of scientific monstrosities. Early on it had been realized that the generation of new, and more advanced, generations
of hybrids would require the procurement of embryonic samples and genetic material; these would have to be obtained from a wide variety of subjects
within the population. Prisoners would not suffice, as the genetic qualities required were difficult to find. The necessary medical collection
procedures would be quite painful and invasive. Unless there was complete and total cooperation from the populace, it would be necessary to routinely
“abduct” certain individuals from the general public in order to identify and obtain the appropriate samples - from German citizens!
The idea was so horrific that, upon learning about it, the German high command forbade even the most preliminary research into the idea. It
would never happen.
Now it was happening.
And now it would end. Instead of unloading his fury on the doctor, Richter regained his composure and approached them like a tightly
disciplined new recruit. Fulke was sweating in apprehension.
“Colonel, be assured that all of this can be done quietly and covertly, because the stealth aircraft have proved to be excellent tools for
“Is that so?”
“Yes. You may be aware of recent experiments using electromagnetic pulse technology for interrogation and mind control. It just so happens
that the aircraft themselves can be modified to produce this sort of electromagnetic pulse, a pulse which can not only be used to control the
abductees, but to effectively “erase” their memories as well, although this was not yet possible with the test subjects, I’m afraid. The
technology will require further refinement.”
“That’s quite enough, Doctor. I haven’t returned to check on your progress, but to execute the explicit orders of the Fuhrer’s high
command. The project is now terminated. All evidence of your work is to be destroyed; this includes the living specimens, of course, as well as the
two operational disk aircraft. You will do this now.”
The look on Fulke’s face registered shock, then despair.
“But sir, they are my…”
What they are, Doctor, is a failure. The objective of your research was to create a semi-intelligent, subservient race. But a superior,
self-determining race? One capable of improving on technology which has strained the limits of our most highly skilled German scientists? This is not
an achievement, but an insult. The project has consumed far too many resources already, and you have created something that the Fuhrer, and therefore
the Reich, do not want.
Fulke spoke, but in a tone of voice that was noticeably hollow and weak. “My life’s work. If the Fuhrer wishes it obliterated, I will do
so. I do not know how I can be of further use to the Fatherland after this.”
“You will be reassigned in the morning. The Reich is grateful for your dedicated service, and for that you will be officially recognized in
Fulke began to turn, paused, then took Solzack’s hand in the gentle way a grandfather would greet a young child.
“Come now, let’s go work together on a new project.” He slowly led his creature down the hallway to the door.”
All it took was a quick nod to the guards in the hallway, then one of them stepped toward the lobby and blew a whistle. Armed soldiers poured
in, replacing the calm and quiet with orderly chaos as rooms were searched, file cabinets were torn open, as any documents relating to the project
were to be confiscated or burned. Richter stepped once again into Fulke’s office. This room would be searched last, for it contained the majority
of the evidence, and Richter would oversee the confiscation personally. Besides, once again he found himself needing to think.
The reason for his assignment to oversee these experiments was becoming clear. At a cost of over one million Deut marks, the hybrid cultivation
was unquestionably a major undertaking, and it was conceivable that a Colonel would have been able, if he so wished, to relocate the project and
continue with the research after the fall of the Reich; selling the fruits of the program's research to the highest bidder afterwards. Any Colonel
who would be that ambitious, of course. Richter, on the other hand, had forcefully argued against the project’s implementation since the beginning.
The surest way to kill the patient, if need be, was to put the undertaker in charge.
And then there was the line he threw Fulke about the committee’s decision to end the project, which was only partly true. The real reason, of
course, was that every German scientific project was about to be axed. The whole country would soon be under the control of the allies…this was
something that Richter had foreseen since the loss of France.
Maybe Fulke was aware of that. He had to be. He didn’t have to be a scientist to figure it out. Richter scratched his chin, wondering if
that might have been the motivation behind the doctor’s actions in the past month; the reason for teaching the little monsters to survive on their
In his mind, clear as a photograph, he could still see the creature’s face.
But he didn’t want to think about that. Going once again to the sink, he looked into the mirror, and forced his mind to think about Gretchen,
the only woman he had ever felt any true love for; the woman who had borne his only child. Richter had never known his name, only that it had been a
boy, for Gretchen had decided to join the ranks of the Lebensborn mothers; the women who were provided an easy life at the Lebensborn homes where all
they dad to do was bear racially pure Aryan children and be content. He hadn’t even married her - marriage was not considered necessary by the
Reich, and in some ways it was even discouraged. In the eyes of the Reich, these children had only one true father…the Fuehrer himself.
A thunderhead of hard, cold reality struck him as he began to understand the full scope of his country’s ambition insofar as controlling
heredity and genetics. Even he was part of it - there was no escaping it.
He stood there, staring at the mirror, and found that he could not see an image of himself. He couldn’t remember what Gretchen looked like
either. The only thing that seemed to exist was that face; the face of the creature with it’s pale gray skin and black eyes which seemed to contain
nothing that could be called personality. It was very peculiar.
Richter shook his head, trying to clear his mind. Dammit!, he should have ordered his men to drag Fulke out into the rain and shoot him like a
stray dog, then supervised the destruction of those little gray bastards himself. It was strange that he had not. He remembered the sensation he felt
when the creature had projected it’s thoughts; remembered how it sent a creepy cold tingle down his spine.
It was the same sensation he felt right now. He should probably go shoot the hybrid creatures right now. But, for some reason, he was having
trouble thinking about it.
How far did their telepathy reach? All he knew was that the face kept staring at him, not saying or doing anything, and there stood Richter,
nor saying or doing anything either. He noticed that he couldn’t even move.
A gunshot reported from somewhere in the building.
Richter managed to smile. It was a comfort to know that the little monsters were being put down.
But the face was still there, like a porcelain statue, drawing all of his attention and making his limbs feel dead and lifeless like those of a
week-old corpse. Richter could not sense the passing of time, and wondered how long he had been standing in front of the mirror. Five minutes? Ten?
An hour? He concentrated vigorously on that, and began to regain some control over his thoughts. As he did so, the image of the creature slowly
faded the way a corpse slowly disappears from view when dropped into a lake.
Falling to his knees at the base of the sink, he suddenly felt violently ill, but managed to stand up again. He noticed that the rain was no
longer falling on the windowsill outside. The bluish light of the moon had broken through the clouds; reflecting the puddles of water on the tarmac
only a few hundred yards away. Hopefully, he would be back on his way to Berlin within the hour, as the improved weather would hasten low-level
strafing attacks from allied fighters.
Something had gone wrong. Shouts could be heard heard from the hallway: soldiers running, a nurse calling frantically for a medic. Richter
went back into the hallway to investigate.
“What is going on?” he asked a nurse who was running toward the operating room.
“Colonel, it is the doctor! He has shot himself!”
This sent Richter bolting through the double doors. When he reached the room at the back of the facility, the one they referred to as the
hybrid living quarters, the entrance was blocked by doctors, nurses, and two soldiers who had responded to the sound of the gunshot. Richter shoved
his way inside.
There on the floor, clutching a ruger in a now limp hand, lay Dr. Fulke in a widening pool of blood and gore. One of the Luftwaffe doctors,
shocked to see his respected colleague come to such a useless demise, was shocked once again when he viewed Richter’s complexion. The colonel’s
face had gone an ashen white color. Turning to his men, Richter’s words slowly but loudly addressed everyone in the hallway.
“Where are the living specimens?”
Because no one answered, and because his mind was already surmising what had taken place, Richter grabbed the two guards by the collar and
yelled “The hangar! Go! There may still be time to catch them!”
It took more than two minutes to reach the unmarked aircraft hangar at the end of the runway, but no more than thirty seconds for the two guards
to force back the sliding doors which for two years had concealed the most highly classified experimental aircraft of the German Air-force. The hangar
was completely empty. The other end of the structure was open, providing a clear view of the night sky, and Colonel Richter could barely make out the
silver disk shape which was quickly accelerating to a speed that no German interceptor had a hope of reaching.
Breaking away from his men, he tore after it on foot, past the runway and into the muddy field, screaming and cursing as it disappeared from
view. Out of breath, he turned to see his men running toward him. Then he noticed the full moon in the sky; how it now appeared quite different, for
it held the shape of the creature’s face, and it seemed to be telling him something. Richter understood. He could not go back to Berlin; not after
this. He screamed something unintelligible to the face in the moon, then slowly pulled his pistol from his holster and pointed the barrel toward his
own head. The face grinned.
Twenty miles away, a German farmer had just filled a wooden bucket with water from the pump outside. He was bringing it to the house; to his
wife who lay ill with fever and could not sleep because of the never-ending sound of bombers on their way to punish the factories and refineries that
were the makers of war machines and death. Had he looked upwards he would have seen something quite different, but the silver disk high in the sky
made no sound as it passed overhead, on its way to the North Sea.
[edit on 23-3-2006 by Flatwoods]