tagNonHumanThe War to End all Worlds Pt. 06

The War to End all Worlds Pt. 06

byDragonCobolt©

Tjen held Adolph Hitler's hand while I explained why we had come. The group of us all were clustered into the living room that made up the center of the apartment that was set above the coffee shop that Hitler and his wife ran. Yalen leaned against the wall, while Darren and Drusilla took up the side of the table. I and Tjen sat next to one another, while Hitler and Saanvi took up the last third. Saanvi held her husband's other hand in both of hers and looked concerned.

Tjen was showing Adolph why we had come. His future, as seen by her.

Once she had finished and released his hand, the young man slowly wobbled where he sat.

"I think I'm going to be sick," he whispered.

Then was.

All things considered, I think he was taking it well.

Saanvi wiped up the mess as Adolph wiped his mouth and all of us exclaimed in surprise. But he held up his hand, silencing us. "I won't," he said, his voice a harsh rasp. "I won't! I mean, I won't even go to the painting academy, I'll rip my novel up, I don't care what it is, I won't do it."

Saanvi cried out. "Not your opus!"

"I doubt you writing a book is going to impact you-" Darren started, but Drusilla shushed her and shook her head.

"Listen, Mr. Hitler- Adolph. May I call you Adolph?" I asked. He nodded, mutely. "We've already changed the future. I mean, you, already changed the future. Right, Tjen?" I looked at her, then at him. "I mean, from her description, I expected you to be in the army. Not, not, not..." I gestured around myself at the shop, at the quiet evidence of a life well lived. There were photos, a mixture of grainy black and whites with the stern stance and calm faces that human style photography required, and the shining three dimensional holographic pictures that had become more and more common as time went on. Adolph and his wife had been making enough money to not only keep their shop running. They had also taken a few vacations. There were images of him standing in a city I swore was Istanbul, with Saanvi and several other people who looked very similar to her. Extended family, I was sure.

"Well, of course I'm not in the army," Adolph said, smiling. "You need to be a citizen for that, yes?"

"You are not a citizen of this nation state?" Tjen asked. "Oh, forgive me, I mean, you are not a citizen of this autocratic empire?"

Saanvi shook her head. "Dolphy and I are both residents. His family fled Vienna when the Great War was early. He came to the same refugee camp in Greece I did." She smiled, shyly. "That is how we met."

"I had never met anyone like Saanvi before," Adolph said, quietly. He squeezed his wife's hands. "In fact, I had never imagined there were so many kinds of people before I came to that camp. It was miserable, and there were so many villains and wicked men, but there were many great and good people. Jews, Arabs, even Indians." He nodded to his wife. "it seemed like everything that could float was being put to the Mediterranean in those days. But by the time Vienna was reconquered and resettled, my citizenship papers were lost, the records were lost -- my parents were dead..." He shrugged. "I returned with Saanvi, and we made our lives here, best as we could. I know if I hadn't married her, I'd likely be a citizen again by now, but..."

We all nodded. Similar stories came from every continent of the world. Why, I had faint memories of being bundled aboard a steamer and sailing away from London as black fog roiled over it. Faint, confused memories. I shook my head slightly and instead focused on the question that was bothering me. If...if Adolph had been changed from his youth, pushed into the company of the very kinds of people he would have massacred in the future...then...

What kind of foreseeing was that?

"Tjen, how-" I turned to look at her, but she was thinking along with me.

"I fear I do not know how my foretelling was so disastrously wrong," she said, pursing her lips.

"Well," Saanvi said, cheerful and clearly eager to put this behind her. "This does mean you can go home, yes?"

"No, but, we can leave you alone," I said, starting to stand. "We've brought some danger just by being here. There are some..." I paused. "Do you hear that?"

Adolph frowned. He stood and walked to the window, then opened the curtains. He looked out at the street, then exclaimed. "Scheisse!" He snarled, then stepped backwards. "House Guard!"

I hurried over and saw the House Guard were men in exoskeleton armor. But unlike the blue painted, mostly open uniforms of the police back in the United States, these fellows were clearly kitted for war. Their armor was painted dark gray, with red highlights on their heavy shoulder pads. They carried heavy machine guns, save for the one who toted what appeared to be a man-portable heat-ray. Behind them was a short, squad, walking tank. Not quite as mobile and fast as a tripod, it was more like a beetle with armor slats and a cannon set atop it. Cheaper. Slower. But just as seriously dangerous.

Before I could respond, the first of the House Guard kicked in the front door of the coffee shop. Enhanced by exoskeletal strength, the impact sent the door flipping inwards in a spray of splinters. I sprang backwards and looked back at the rest of the group. Yalen had leaped to the door and was grabbing onto the refrigerator in the kitchen. She hefted it up with her great strength and pressed it to the door leading to the stairs.

"We should flee-" she started.

"Back door!" Darren sprang up. "Fire exit!"

"Yes, right, don't worry, Mr. Hitler, Mrs. Hitler," I said, turning to face the two of them. "Just tell them we holding you up and-"

The refrigerator rocked forward as another exoskeleton powered kick was dealt out. The sounds of shouting voices were coming from the hallway and outside as well -- expected shouts: Throw down your weapons! Hands up! Hands on your heads! Now! Tjen was rushing for the door leading to the back of the second story, and I scrambled after her. The refrigerator was knocked down with a rattling crash, and behind me, a House Guard soldier was shouldering his way through the splintered ruins of the door. I spared one glance, and saw -- to my horror -- that Adolph and Saanvi were being manhandled to the floor.

Then I was at the back window. At the fire escape.

I skidded down and turned to find Yalen, Tjen, Drusilla and Darren standing with their hands lifted above their heads.

At the end of the alleyway stood two House Guard with machine guns, flanking Mr. Sinclair. He was dressed in a fine suit and held a pistol in one hand. Next to him was a man whose fierce mustache and flat topped cap screamed 'officer,' if the sleek field gray uniform didn't manage that. The man had a small saber strapped to his hip, but he didn't have it drawn.

"Did notting I tolds us?" Mr. Sinclair said, his Austrian nearly unintelligibly bad. "They being never of education."

***

The armored vehicle that we were bundled into was flat and boxy and used anti-gravity nacelles to suspend themselves above the ground. The insides were dark and had room for a single House Guard seated at the front to watch the prisoners put into them. I, Tjen and Ollie were shoved into one truck, while the Hitlers and Yalen were put into a second. I couldn't see it, but I was sure that Drusilla and Darren were put into their own. The interior of the trucks were spartan, with nothing but seats and thin slit windows let only a bit of light and air in. We were sat down with our hands and our feet chained up.

The trucks started moving shortly later, and I was sure that we were puttering out of Vienna. I had no idea how high we flew, nor how fast, but the gentle pressure of momentum made me think we were going fairly swiftly, though it took us some time to get to max speed. There was no bobbing or shaking, no rattling, no jouncing. An advantage of anti-gravity rather than spider-legs.

"Tjen, I-"

"Quiet," the guard snapped.

And so, we were quiet.

But that didn't mean we weren't talking. I pressed my leg against Tjen and thought as hard as I could: Can you hear this?

I can, she sent back, then smiled at me grimly. This is not the most optimistic predicaments we have found ourselves in, is it Gipp?

I shook my head. Not quite. Can you sense the others?

She shook her head. No. They are too far -- and we do not share the same connection. In fact, I cannot even send messages to Ollie -- at least, he does not seem to be indicating he is getting them, and I cannot get any return messages. Ollie, if you can hear this, cough.

Ollie -- who was seated with his head ducked forward over his hands, looking like the picture of abject misery -- coughed.

Oh! Tjen sounded surprised. Okay. What is the plan?

I paused.

We wait.

That is not a very good plan, Tjen said.

Then I grinned and explained to her the rest of my plan.

Ollie and Tjen both kept their heads forward then.

They didn't want to show the guard they were smiling.

***

Mr. Sinclair adjusted the collar of his suit as he and Torg walked into the meeting room. Seated at the table was a malevolent black shadow, radiating with dark purpose.

"We have brought them. As promised," Mr. Sinclair said. "The Soomie. A green one, too. And the Wells kid, and some nigger and-"

"You brought nothing," the dark force hissed. "My allies in the Austrian Empire did the hard work. Mr. Sinclair, you are a very poor tool, one that has been blunted to uselessness by your own incompetence. Fortunately, I know of how you can be made useful again..."

Mr. Sinclair yelped as men in dark uniforms emerged from the shadows in the meeting room. Torg wailed like a child as he was grabbed -- then those wails became muffled as a cloth was pressed to his mouth. Mr. Sinclair kicked and shouted.

"Wait, wait, wait!"

The shadowy form chuckled. "Wait? You should be happy...you did wish to become part of the master race, did you not?"

The dark clad minions began to drag the two men out, Sinclair clearly not physically capable of escaping. He kicked and flailed and shouted, his voice echoing as he was dragged down a corridor.

"This wasn't part of the deal, Von Sebttendorf! This wasn't part!"

***

I jerked awake as the truck doors opened. A cold, biting wind blew in and the harsh white glare of artificial light stabbed into my eyes. The House Guard who had been watching over us shoved me hard before I had even finished blinking grit from my eyes. Tjen, Ollie and I stumbled out and down, out of the truck and into what appeared to be an armed compound. Walls surrounded it, while watch-towers marked each corner. Men manned heat-rays at those watch towers, half facing in, half facing out. Barbed wire strung along the top of the wall, as if to add a final underlining to how suicidal escape or attack might be.

The men who marched up to collect us -- and I saw that us included the Hitlers, Yalen, Darren and Drusilla -- were dressed in the same black uniforms as the dream. I knew we didn't have much time. And so, I staggered against Tjen, as if tripping on the ankle restraints. She stumbled herself and fell against Darren, who flailed as best as she could. Darren ended up sprawling against Yalen, then started shouting at Tjen.

"You fucking Soomie bitch, watch where you're going!"

"Be silent!" the leader of the black clad men said, gesturing. "The Martians, take them to solitary. The women, take them to Cell Block A-1. This one..." he looked at me and I felt my bones turn to ice. "And this one..." he looked at Adolph. "The Master wishes to speak to them."

The Master. Von Sebttendorf. Chill washed through me, an emotional chill that warred with the fierce ice wind that rushed across the walls. The guards sorted us off. Tjen cried out as I was taken from her, but a guard slapped her and she sprawled on the ground. Rage burst through me and I strained on my cuffs -- but the guard yanked me on, no matter how much I shouted.

"Let her go! Don't you dare touch her! Don't you dare, you kraut sons of bitches!"

But then I was dragged into the base itself. The interior was made out of Martian metal, with Martian style efficiency. Smooth walls, bare electric light, the whole place reeked of anti-septic and a deeper, more vicious smell. Something between decay and ozone. We were marched past doors that led into chambers were men in laboratory outfits -- some simple tweed, other in thick rubberized suits and gas masks -- worked on everything from chalk boards to whirring, humming thinking-machines. Then we were brought to a corridor of interrogation rooms. We were matched past doors that had blood stained chairs, and implements whose use made me queasy.

Rather than stop there, the guards marched us further, up a flight of stairs that led underneath a large crest: A circle that appeared like a black sun radiating from a pair of Norse runes. Then we were marched up the stairs and to a pair of wooden doors. There we were ushered into a rather nice study. There were books along the walls, a fine landscape painting I didn't recognize, and a strange, black box, roughly the size and shape of a lunch-box, placed on a desk with a felt top. Behind the desk, though...was...

A perfectly ordinary man. He was balding, with a finely tended circle beard around his lips, narrow eyes, and ears that stuck out of his head. Not prominently, but enough to be accented by his baldness. He was dressed in a commandant's uniform, with an arm-band wrapped around his left arm. Bright red, with the same crest we had walked past. Perched on his nose were a pair of reading glasses. But the oddest part of his dress was a rig that was attached to his right arm. It was like a solitary exoskeleton arm, without attaching artificial machines, leading to a large gauntlet that looked as if it was bolted to his hand. The knuckles were each capped with a glowing green crystal, each crackling with power. My brow furrowed as I looked at that, then at his face.

"Welcome to the Auschwitz Facility," he said, his voice familiar, but far less evil sounding than I was used to hearing. "I am Doctor Rudolph Von Sebttendorf. It is an honor to meet you, my Fuhrer."

Adolph glared at him. "I am not your Fuhrer," he said, his voice soft.

"More's the pity," Von Sebttendorf said, quietly. "And you..." he looked at me. "You have been quite a thorn in our side, Mr. Wells."

I inclined my head. "Glad to-"

Von Sebttendorf slapped the air with his gauntlet clad hand. A force crashed into the side of my head, hard enough to sent me and my chair clattering to the ground. I coughed and groaned, my head spinning as an invisible force grabbed onto the chair, then lifted me upright and slammed me back into place. My head swung limply as I tried to get myself to think straight again. But the first thing to come from my mouth was: "Fucking Christ."

Von Sebttendorf smirked. "Now, my Fuhrer-"

"If you will beat someone, at least beat me!" Adolph snarled. "I have seen my fair share of bullies and tyrants. Don't strike the lad-"

"I'm not that yo-"

Von Sebttendorf twitched a finger. This time, the invisible force slammed into my gut. Air rushed from my lungs. I coughed, wheezed, hung forward. What little I had eaten recently wanted to crawl up and out of my throat. I clenched my jaw, forcing it back. My eyes closed.

"Please! Stop!" Adolph shouted.

Von Sebttendorf's face twisted and he thrust himself to his feet. "Damn them. Damn them!" He started to step around the desk, walking to the far wall of the office. There, he touched a button and the painting there slid down, revealing a window that looked into a large work area. His men were toiling there on something strange. I was barely able to focus on it, my eyes were watering so. I blinked tears away and forced the pain down, listening to the madman as he spoke. "That is the greatest crime, is it not? The crime of the Great War was what it stole from us, as a people, as a race."

"The lives lost?" Adolph asked.

"Yes!" Von Sebttendorf said, swinging around to face us. "The Martians came, and they stole our futures. You were destined to lead our people into greatness, my Fuhrer."

I coughed. "Yeah. Millions dead. Greatness." I coughed again.

Von Sebttendorf shook his head. He walked to me -- and despite my best efforts to be brave, to not show fear, I tensed and flinched as he lifted his gauntlet clad hand. But instead of slapping me again, he caressed my head. My hair caught in the joints and I winced. "Yes," he said.

"You're mad," Adolph whispered.

"No," Von Sebttendorf said. He sighed. "Let me start from the beginning."

He stepped past me and resumed his seat from the desk, his boots clicking melodramatically, despite the thick carpeting of the floor. Once there, he clasped his hands. "After the Great War ended, we on Earth were left with a problem. A Martian problem. The Tripod Builders left behind millions of their slaves when they died. And every nation in the world began to deal with them in their own way...and ignored the fact they had brought into truth what the Thule Society was founded to harness. Magic. Or, as we now know it...the power of the mind." He caressed his gauntlet. "Psionic abilities. Telekinesis, telepathy, prescience..."

I pursed my lips. Adolph was looking like he was hanging on every word.

"But then the question came...if the Red Martians could see the future...was there a way to impact said future. Clearly, if information can travel, and all men are merely sufficiently complex information...and thus...we began the great project."

My eyes widened.

I looked back out the window.

Sitting there, in the center of the workshop, was a fuselage of smooth brownish metal. It looked somewhat like a fish, though the rear fins were a large, octagonal sail made of glittering crystal. The center of the device had a sleek cockpit, built to contain one, maybe two people. The whole thing sat on a pair of wheels, but those looked more like a way to easily push it about than a mode of transport. My eyes widened further and I looked back at Von Sebttendorf.

"You built a bloody time machine," I whispered.

Von Sebttendorf inclined his head. "This may shock you, Mr. Wells...but I was a fan of your fathers as well."

Adolph and I both sat in stunned silence.

"The machine has several faults," Von Sebttendorf said. "The first zeitreisender was one of our finest. He never returned, though the machine did. The second left with additional safety equipment. He did not return either." He made a face. "The third? The third returned."

"How did you get a second person into that?" I whispered. "And a third?"

"I am most persuasive," Von Sebttendorf said, his voice flat. "The third returned with several artifacts. But he also returned several centuries older than when he set out. But with his return, we have discovered the missing component. The machine needs a navigator to evade the various dangers that exist within the time-stream, dangers that impact organic tissue far more than the machine's internal workings. And what better navigator than a Red Martian with precognitive capacity."

My eyes widened.

"And, after the experiments to realize the human potential for psionic abilities, Austria lacked any subjects..." Von Sebttendorf said, shrugging. "Thus, we sought out the last known Red Martian with the ability."

"Tjen," I breathed.

"Tjen, yes," Von Sebttendorf said. "And you."

My eyes widened.

"Did you not think I had noticed a psychic presence, wafting about during my negotiations? I had it tracked!" Von Sebttendorf snarled. "Each time, the conclusions were clear and concise. You were perceiving visions from the near future -- five, ten minutes at most. If you can do so, then I can learn to do so. And then..." he looked at Adolph. "And then I can rectify a mistake."

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