He reaches up and rubs his face. His foot is hurting again, a low, dry, insistent pain. He swallows and his throat is dry. He licks his lips, and then sits upright, pushing his hair back out of his face. The French girl is sitting across from him, back to one corner, staring out at the slice of the U-boat visible to them with an unreadable expression, hands on her knees. She ignores him. The dog rolls over in his sleep.
The traveler looks around for the scholar, but can't find him among the men still sleeping and the men visible within his line of sight. He wishes they'd left his canteen. And morphine. Yes. It is vitally important that he have morphine. The French girl closes her eyes and leans back into the hull of the ship, loooking exhausted. The traveler carefully avoids eye contact, and scoops the dog up. He holds it for a while, muttering meaningless endearments and supplications to the drousy animal. The dog rolls over in his lap and worries irritably at a flee in his coat.
The traveler is thinking. It had occurred to him that something very strange and possibly extremely bad is going on, and that he is in the thick of it. For the first time in a long time, he is no longer confident that he'll get out of it. The drugs, the Bell, the French girl. Everything is different now. At least he knew what was what before. He knew how to survive. It wasn't much of a life, but it did. He always knew what to do, was always sure, because his goals were never complicated. Now everything was different and he didn't know anything anymore.
There's a spatter of consonants and umlauts over the hubbub. The traveler turns in the direction of the speaker, a small man with grease streaked down his arms. He says something else in German to another man just out of sight, then picks something up, walks to the bunk, and pushes a tray full of food towards them.
The traveler picks up a slice of bread and some dried meat. Well, they weren't starving them. Yet. The traveler took the precaution of slipping a fold of dry meat into the crack between the hard mattress and the wall of the ship. The French girl didn't move. The traveler bit into a slice of bread. Dry, but edible. He took a drink of water, then ate half of an over-ripe orange on the side of the tray. No knife was provided, so he peeled it with his hands.
He was pretty sure that his stomach had shrunk, and he already felt full. He took another drink of water, poured some water into his palm for the dog, gave it a piece of dry meat, and then pushed the remainder of the food towards the French girl. She glanced at it, and then back towards the wall.
"Eat it, French girl."
She ignores him. He sighs, and tries to push a piece of dried meat into her hand. She shoves him away.
"You've got to eat something."
She glares at him, then lowers he voice.
"It could be poisoned."
"If they wanted to kill us, they'd have done it by now. Besides, would you rather be dead and hungry, or dead and full?"
She looks back out through the bars at the wall opposite. The traveler sighs. The ceiling is oppressively low, and it's getting to him.
"French girl, I'm not going to argue with you. If you starve to death, my life gets a whole lot easier. If you're relying on me to talk you into sensible behavior, you can forget about it. Capiche?"
She doesn't look at him.
He turns around and stares at the wall. He studies the rust patterns in the metal. He counts to twenty. He sings one hundred bottle of beer on the wall silently under his breath. He gets to eighty three bottles, and then suddenly whirls around.
"For Christ's sake - eat the damn food!"
She jumps, then turns to look at him. He talks under his breath, quietly and fast.
"I'm getting us out of here, one way or another, and I can't do that if you're half dead of starvation or thirst. If you want to avoid spending the rest of your short and painful life in a Gestapo secret prison, you'll stay healthy, and the fastest way to do that is to eat the food, and if you argue with me, I will beat your stupid head in with a rock, you get me?"
She gives him a look that could burn ants, but she picks up a piece of bread and eats it. She talks while she's eating, and keeps her voice low.
"Pardonnez-moi si je ne suis pas très confiant dans votre capacité à nous sortir d'ici. Quel est votre plan génial?"
"I'm... working on it."
"We are so fucked."
He doesn't respond to this. He's running through possibilities. He has to admit that she has a point. Their options are very, very limited. Two unarmed people do not defeat a boatload of armed Nazi's with their bare hands. It simply doesn't happen. What does happen, fairly frequently, is that two people incautiously attack a boatload of Nazi's with their bare hands, and are summarily dispatched to the ring of hell reserved for idiots. The one thing that makes their situation difference is his condition, which appears to be non-functional. He sighs. Their fate now hinges, more or less, upon whether the effects of the injection are permanent or temporary.
He leans over to the wall, and runs his fingers along the metal experimentally. It feels warm. He finds a smooth spot, and pushes his finger against it, hard. The metal begins to hum under his finger, and suddenly gets warmer. He presses harder, and it becomes quite hot. He counts to eight before he can't stand it, and pulls his hand away, and a faint electric shock, like the spark off a cat's fur, jumps between his finger and the wall. He lays back against the bed, and counts his heartbeats. One, two, three, four...
A man walks by beneath them.
..twelve, thirteen, fourteen...
A rough stutter of laughter erupts at the back end of the submarine.
...twenty one, twenty two, twenty three...
He's almost in a trance by now, hypnotized by the constant thudding of the numbers into place and the dim and the noises outside. Time has no meaning, only the rhythm of the numbers.
...sixty seven, sixty eight, sixty nine...
"What are you doing?" asks the French girl.
He hushes her absently, not losing count.
Two hundred. That ought to be enough. He rolls over and presses hard against the wall again, in a new spot, and begins to count. This time he only gets to six, and when he withdraws his fingers, the spark snaps audibly, and his muscles convulse involuntarily down his arm. He nods. A hundred and sixty heartbeats, two seconds. It's wearing off, fast. He's maybe got five or ten minutes. He pulls the dog against his chest, and nods at the French girl. All he has to do is hold on for a few more minutes, and then he'll be out of the woods.
The French girl has been watching him with interest. She seems too grasp the point of the experiment. She leans closer to him. He gathers up the dog in his arms. A distant alarm rings. His foot aches. A wrench hits the floor in the distance, and someone swears in German. He can feel the air starting to thicken around him. Just a few more minutes. There's a banging on the wall. He glances out. The Gestapo officer is staring up at him. He has something in his hand. Oh shit, maybe they are going to kill him.
The Gestapo officer speaks pleasantly enough.
"Das ist Morphium und ein wenig Antibiotika. Für Deinen Fuß. Nimm sie jetzt."
He turns to the French girl for a translation.
"He says it is morphine."
The traveler smiles. Well, this is a nice change. He picks up the syringe, squirts a little out the end, and finds the vein. It goes in, and a little cloud of blood erupts into the fluid. He pushes down on the plunger, and feels the pain in his foot diminish almost immediately. A pleasant high ensues. Then, he suddenly feels very strange. Heat burns down his arms. He feels his skin shuddering, like it's trying to jump off his bones. Flashes of transparency flicker across his body. Lightning crawls off his body into the hull of the ship, searching for ground. He turns to the Gestapo officer.
An electric spark two inches thick discharges off his chest into the hull of the ship. It feels like being hit in the gut with a sledgehammer. His vision blacks out for a second, and he can hear ringing in his ears. He feels himself crumple back onto the mattress. His vision comes back slowly, in one eye first. He can feel a fresh burn down his chest. He can see shreds of bubble rippling around him. He grabs the bars, and they burn his hands. He hears a crackling noise, and jumps up in time to see the mattress catch fire underneath him. The Gestapo officer, who by now is panicking, grabs a bucket of seatwater from the floor, and throws it up, extinguishing the fire and soaking them all. The water immediately begins to spit and crackle off the traveler's skin. A second jolt of current hits him, and he doubles up, feeling the charge burning its way through his guts. His skin begins to glow with fire. It builds to an intolerable crescendo, and then discharges into the bunk, burning a hole through the mattress. He crumples onto the mattress, coughing up blood and soot. He can see the ozone coming in waves off his skin, and his hair is scorched.
Beneath him, an unfortunate U-boat crew member is shuddering on the floor from the voltage that had just gone through him. Everything has stopped. Men are frozen where they stood. The captain is staring, slack jawed. The only sound is the distant grinding of machinery, and the furious barking of the dog, who is buried in the French girl's lap on the other side of the bunk. Her face is pale, and drawn, but she hasn't made a sound. The Gestapo officer turns to the crew. His voice sounds strained.
"Ihr wart alle auf den unteren Decks. Da lief eine Ratte herum. Ihr habt nichts gesehen. Ihr seid keine Gefahr für die Reichssicherheit. Ihr habt nichts gesehen. Habt Ihr verstanden?"
The Captain turns to the others and nods. They respond in a chorus of stunned, half-hearted affirmation. The Gestapo's officer turns red.
"Ich habe gesagt, Ihr habt nichts gesehen! Was habt Ihr gesehen?"
The crewmembers respond, loudly.
They're scared now, and they begin to file away, two of them dragging the electrocuted sailor.
The Gestapo officer nods. He pulls out a cigarette and lighter. The Captain starts to protest, but thinks the better of it. He speaks to himself as the crew vanishes from the area.
The Captain turns to talk to him.
"Was zur Hölle war das?"
"Ich wünschte, ich wüsste es, Kapitän. Wie lange, denken Sie wird das dauern? Ich bin nicht sicher ob er noch mehr davon überstehen kann. Ich kann zwar die Dosis erhöhen, aber irgendwann ist dann Schluss."
"Ich kann ihm Medizin besorgen für die Verbrennungen. Davon abgesehen ist er auf sich selbst gestellt. Was machen wir, wenn sein Herz aufhört zu schlagen?"
"Beten Sie dass es nicht soweit kommt, Kapitän. Unsere Führung hat kein Verständnis für Versagen. Wie weit können wir unsere Reisedauer verkürzen?"
"Wir fahren schon so schnell wie unser Antrieb in sicheren Gewässern erlaubt."
"Was wäre, wenn wir eine Abkürzung durch britische Gewässer nehmen?"
"Mmm. Wir könnten vielleicht ein paar Tage aufholen. Kann aber nicht garantieren, dass wir das überleben."
"Kapitän, lieber stelle ich mich gegen ein britisches Kriegsschiff als gegen den verärgerten SS-Standartenführer mit dem wir zu tun haben werden. Eine Wasserbombe würde uns zumindest schnell töten."
"Ich gebe die Befehle. Was werden Sie wegen der Männer tun?"
The Gestapo officer shrugs.
"Warum sollte ich irgendwas tun? Sie waren alle am Unterdeck um eine Ratte zu töten."
The Captain relaxes. He nods.
The Captain waves down a passing man, the scholar. He mutters something in his ear. The man vanishes, and returns a short time later, carrying a red leather box that the traveler is familiar with. The captain nods up at the traveler and the French girl, and then walks away, talking to the Gestapo officer in a low voice.
The scholar climbs the ladder, and hands the package to the traveler, who fumbles and drops it. The French girl sets the still barking dog onto the smoking bed, and leans forward to pick it up. She opens the box and takes some things out. She soaks some cotton in alcohol and swabs the large burn on his shoulder and some smaller ones on his chest and back. She packs the larger one, which is split open like scorched meat, with sulfa, then wraps it tightly with a bandage. She checks for broken ribs, and finds none, though he does have another burn on his left thigh, which she disinfects and wraps. The traveler leans back. He isn't in much pain, due to the morphine. He picks up the dog, and hugs it. That son of a bitch Gestapo officer dosed him with whatever they gave him before. Some derivative of liquid aether, certainly. He puts his shirt back on slowly. The scholar is still watching him, somewhere between awe and fear.
"So that's what they want you for."
The traveler is still having a hard time thinking straight. You can't ground fifty thousand volts through your skull without some side effects. He shakes his head absently.
"I sure hope not."
The scholar inspects him slowly, eyes hard and curious.
"What happened to you?"
The traveler shrugs.
"I fell in with the wrong crowd."
The scholar raises an eyebrow,
"Yeah, I think they call themselves the Navy."
He chuckles, and coughs. Flecks of blood land on his hand. He spits blood between the bars onto the floor below. Every muscle in his body aches over the morphine, which means that he's going to be in his own personal hell when the drugs wear off.
The scholar jerks his head at the French girl, who's still calming the dog down.
"What happened to her?"
"She fell in with me."
The scholar considers this for a while.
"We're all going to die, aren't we?"
The traveler thinks.
"It's definitely a possibility. I wouldn't be seen talking to us, if I were you. It does nothing good for your chances."
The scholar nods.
"Ah. I should probably go, then."
He gets up, collects the remaining medical supplies, and leaves. The traveler rolls back onto the bed and passes out.
“Hello, Mr. Grey.”
“Ah, hello my young brownish friend. Aber was denn! Have a seat.”
“Thanks. Say, what is that? I’ve seen you working on it for a while now.”
“It’s a sort of camera. It’s two sheets of charged silk soaked in kerosene, with aether blown between them.”
“A sort of camera?”
“Mmm. Perhaps not the best word. Are you familiar with the concept of the Geiger counter? Of course you are. I apologize. I spend too much time dealing with morons. In any case, this is a similar principal, except it tracks T-particles. You see, some of my equipment has been malfunctioning in some interestingly consistent ways, and I’m hoping I can find out why.”
“What does Dr. White think of this?”
“Mmm. Doctor White. I really couldn’t tell you what he thinks. It was really difficult to make out much of anything over the shouting. I don’t think he’s very pleased with me?”
“Did he get shocked by one of your coils again?”
“Yes, and he really ought to be more careful, but that's not why he's mad at me. Well, mostly not. He's mad at me because… because I’m afraid that I may have left something terrible in my home back in Austria.”
“No, not a machine, not quite. A few parts, quite crude, and some schematics. Austria has its minds, though, and the Nazi’s will work it out eventually, if they ever find it. If we’re lucky, I was on the wrong track, and it won’t work at all. I was only a boy then, you understand. Most likely it's unrelated.”
“Mr. Grey, sometimes I think you’re being vague on purpose.”
“Hah! I’m sorry. Force of habit I suppose. This machine that I left schematics for – it’s a terrible machine, or perhaps a great machine, it all depends on who has it. It certainly is a dangerous machine, if the Nazi party learns of it. There’s a limit to what I’m allowed to tell you, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I understand."
"Boy, I know that look. What do you want to tell me?"
"It's nothing. I'm sorry."
"Mmm. I see. Well, in any case, this should be done in a few days. Hopefully it doesn't matter. Die Glocke tolls at midnight, I suppose."
"Never mind. Come, sit, I'll show you a clever idea I had."
"I'm sorry,, I should go, Black wants me for something."
"What Black wants and what Black ought to be allowed to have are two entirely different matterns, my friend."
"Yes - well, but..."
"I understand. Go. Forget about this, it's probably nothing."
The traveler rolls over. He can't tell what time it is, it doesn't seem to matter on the submarine. It's all one day, one months-long, hellish, hot, cold, filthy, hungry day, cut up into shifts, never really asleep, never really awake. He honestly feels sorry for these men, and he's the prisoner. Then his nerve endings report in and he forgets all thoughts of sympathy. Every muscle in his body hurts, hurts, hurts. His burns hurt, his head hurt, his lungs and throat ache like he's been smoking hydrochloric acid, every muscle in his body is a living bruise. He tries to say something, and all that comes out is a strangled scream. The French girl starts and leans over him. He decides to pass out again, which is surprisingly easy.
This time he doesn't dream, or, not much. An image does keep floating to the surface, though, one that he entirely forgets when he wakes up. A mechanical sketch, done with worrying precision on a sheet of graph paper, hastily covered with one hand, of a series of interlocking bell-shapes, rotating in opposite directions, surrounded by a henge of cement, and a picture, added in cynically in darker lines, of rotting vegetation and trees. The last thing on the page is a sketch of a human head, exploded, with meat and skull and skin and eyes separated out. It might have been a clinical drawing if not for the frozen mask of a scream. When he wakes up, the pain is somewhat better.
He gets up on his hands and knees and crawls over to the French girl.
"I'm sorry for this," he rasps, and then curls up next to her against the wall. Food comes in. He doesn't really wake up, but eats some of it anyway. After what feels like not very long, they come and drag him out of the cell. He doesn't much protest. He hears the French girl fighting on his behalf, and doing some considerable damage by the sound of it, but can't quite recall why he ought to care.
They take him to the lower deck, which are full of the roar of the engines. One of them lays out a rubber mat, god knows from where, and the other one gives him the shot. It works better this time. He throws some big sparks, and there are the shakes, but it's not as bad. Then they give him morphine, which is better. He's dragged back to the cage, since he can't really walk, and they push him in. He sleeps some more. The days fall into a pattern. He recovers a little, enough to be able to talk some and eat and generally not sleep all the time. He makes a mental note: it is possible for the body to become accustomed to electrocution. As for the other things this is doing to him, better not to think about it.
He and the French girl don't really talk much over the next few days. Food keeps coming in. He recovers almost completely, and then starts getting worse again. The human body can take a lot of abuse, but there are limits. He begins to consider escape possibilities again. It's a question of necessity. If he doesn't think about it now, he'll soon be too badly fried to do it.
Then, some time later, he's lost track, he's woken up by what seems to be quite odd: an explosion, without the sound. There's no bang, but there's the shock, the lurch, the panicked shouting, and a dull thump that hits him in his bones. He tests the wall. He's getting close. This could be his way out. He can see the people underneath running around. The French girl is on her hands and knees, looking around.
"Que se passe-t-il?"
The traveler grins.
"Depth charges. Close. Looks like the navy's got them."
He begins to pace back and forth on his hands and knees. This could be his way out. Although, if the ship gets sunk before they can get out, well, so much for that idea. If he can get them to delay enough with the injection, they'll be free. He starts to look around for a weapon. Then, something occurs to him. He raises his injured right hand. It's nearly healed by now, though it is marked. Patchworks of pale and red are crossed all over the skin, and it shakes when he tries to write with it, but aside from that, it could be worse.
Someone shouts something in German, and everyone gets quiet. The machinery is shut off. He can see a man with headphones on, listening intently. There is no sound at all, but the breathing, and the sound of the water, faintly, through, the walls. He can feel the charge building in the air around him. He touches the wall, there's a spark, but then there's just the familiar slickness of the metal, and the vague sense of mutability. He grins. This is going to be fun. Outside, the silence is ringing.
Another bomb goes off, but it's a little farther away. The crew begins to relax, by degrees. The Gestapo officer pulls out a syringe, and begins to walk, softly, towards the traveler, in his bunk. The traveler nods. Well, it had to happen sooner or later. He braces himself against the rear wall of the bunk, staring out through the bars. The Gestapo officer reaches up to open the latch, and the traveler lunges. The bars pass through his body with some considerable pain, but they pass. He feels an ugly ripping sensation in his chest as the metal passes through the meat. He hits he Gestapo officer at about chest level, knocking him off the ladder. They hit the ground with an ominous clang.
The Gestapo officer rolls to his feet first, and goes for his gun. The traveler pulls back and drives his hand forward into his face. There's an electric sensation on his hand, then a horribly compressed and wet sensation. He looks up. His wrist terminates in the Gestapo officer's face, just ending. The officer's body is twitching frenetically on the end of his arm, knees shaking, hands clenching and unclenching. The officer shits himself. The traveler is in a state of mild shock. He'd planned to do it, but that's not quite the same thing as actually doing it. He comes out of it long enough to drag his hand out of the man's skull. The Gestapo officer falls to the ground, foaming at the mouth, in the middle of a gran mal seizure. There are some fresh bruises blooming on the face, but he looks otherwise okay. The traveler's hand is aching and rather cold and damp, but there's no blood. That's good.
He glances up. The U-boat crew are standing there in silent shock. He figures he's got about two seconds before they snap out of it and try to kill him. Well, he can work with that, especially since they don't have guns. He bolts down the hall away from them, bubble forming around him, drawing hissing lines of sparks on the metal as he runs. He hears them start to try to run after him without making any noise. They don't do a very good job, and his feet are making clanging noises with every step. He careens into the engine room, and shuts the door. He grabs a wrench to try to jam the door. He gets it about halfway to his face before it passes through his fingers onto the floor. He grabs an oily rag, and picks it up again, with more success.
He turns towards the door, just in time to see a sight few get to see: a Nazi sea man attempting to kick in a door - silently. Unfortunately, the door is unlocked, and it comes open easily. He swings a wrench at the first man through, braining him, and sending the wrench flying out of his hand. The second man through turns to look at him, and makes menacing movements. Before the traveler has a chance to take a swing at him, there's an explosion. It's very close. The whole ship moves as a unit, and the German is thrown against the ceiling headfirst, braining himself. The traveler is hurled against the ceiling with considerable force. There's a horrible scratching sensation as he moves through his clothes, and then the rush of cold metal passing through his body. He erupts out into the sea, naked. There's a feeling of lethal pressure and cold. He catches a glimpse of dark ocean, with no light, breathes saline in shock. He feels his fingers lose contract with the vanishing surface of the submarine, scrabbles, tries to find a purchase but can't.
There's another explosion that hurts his eyes and ears and shakes his guts, and the U-boat slams towards him. He's thrown through the wall, back into the submarine. It's been a second, maybe less. He vanishes up to his waist in the floor before he manages to drag himself back out again, gagging up seawater. He can feel his feet fading through the floor if he doesn't walk fast. That last blast was close. There are wounded crew members lying everywhere. He's suddenly aware that he's still naked. He feels oddly exposed. He limps down the central hall back towards the bunks. The bandages are gone from his foot, and the missing toes are bleeding. The bubble is nearly fully formed around him. He can hear the ship creaking ominously. Two crew members are loading a torpedo into the bay. Another one has started the engine. They ignore him completely. He scrabbles to open the Captain's suitcase, and removes the key. He throws it in the general direction of the French girl, who catches it and starts trying to open the cage.
There's a scraping noise as the torpedo rushes out into the water. Another depth charge goes off, and the traveler feels his foot vanish into seawater before he can drag himself out of the floor. The French girl is out, and she's got the dog. He grabs a box of his gear from a shelf, and turns to meet the French girl. He's about to go, he can feel it.
She jerks weirdly, and her eyes roll up into her head. She falls to the ground in a pile. Behind her, the Gestapo officer stands, holding his gun by the barrel. Her blood is on the handle. He's limping and twitching, and one of his eyes isn't pointed in the right direction. The left side of his face sags strangely. He spits out a tooth, and lifts a small black lantern, wired with strange coils and circuitry. Through the cracks, the traveler can see a glow the color of light thrown through flesh. Far off in the distance, there is the unmistakable sound of a torpedo striking a ship.
"Oh fuck me..."
He dives for cover as the Gestapo officer opens the shutters on the Tesium lamp, throwing the events inside the cabin in unearthly, shadowless relief. The two men loading another torpedo. The Captain, with a bleeding temple, dragging himself back upright. The man in headphones tearing them from his head. A man in the bunks cradling a broken arm. The traveler, raising his arms over his head and body to shield himself. As soon as the light touches him, all of his exposed skin erupts with bruises and lesions. There's a feeling of white hot agony, and then - nothing. Just dark and quiet and wet, and the feeling of a syringe being stabbed into his arm. Soon, there's not even that.
He drifts in and out of a coma for nearly a week. During one of his rare moments of lucidity, he realizes that he has all four limbs, which means that the Gestapo officer must have a lamp of very poor quality, or else they'd have had to amputate his arms, at least, to fight the gangrene. He doesn't get much further than this, though, before losing himself to the pain and the morphine. During another such episode, he overhears a conversation something like this:
"Sind die Anfälle besser geworden?"
"Etwas. Viele Erinnerungen sind dahin, manche kommen zwar wieder, aber längst nicht alles. Ich hatte einen Cousin, dessen Freund schoss ihm aus Versehen mit einem Kaliber zweiundzwanzig Gewehr in den Kopf. Er hat's überlebt, aber er konnte danach nie wieder sprechen. Er konnte sich nicht mehr an die Worte erinnern."
"Was haben Sie mit ihm angestellt?"
"Ich kann mich nicht erinnern. Das ist das Problem. Das Ding wurde mir irgendwann gegeben, aber ich weis nicht was es ist oder was es tut, und ich weis auch nicht ob das so ist weil ich es nie wusste, oder ob ich es wusste aber vergessen habe. Aber nach dem, was es mit ihm angestellt hat, lass ich es nicht mehr aus den Augen."
"Ich bin nur froh dass es der Mannschaft gut geht. Wie erholt er sich?"
"Die Verletzungen sind soweit verheilt. Hab noch nie eine Wunde so bluten sehen. Ich denke, es wäre das Beste ihn unter Betäubung zu halten, beim letzten Mal konnte er fast fliehen.""Und das Mädchen?"
"Sie will noch immer nichts essen. Wenn sie so weiter tut, werden wir sie zwangsernähren müssen."
"Ich hoffe, das wird nicht notwendig sein.""Das hoffe ich auch, Kapitän."
He can't understand a word of this, and doesn't try. As time passes, he begins to recover, agonizingly slowly. He begins to have lucid periods, despite the drugs. He's still discharging once a day, and he's pretty weak by now. His arms are healing, slowly, but he's going to have a lot of new scars, quite aside from the electrical burns. Then, one day, the hatch opens, and he smells fresh, cold air. He's been chained to a chair by the door on top of a rubber mat for a few weeks now Somewhere, slightly muffled, he hears the voice of the captain, then another voice that sounds familiar but which he can't place.
"Großer Gott, was ist mit ihm passiert?"
"Wir hatten einige Schwierigkeiten beim Transport. Er lebt. Wir haben für ihn getan was wir konnten, unter den Umständen."
"Welche Art von Schwierigkeit kann so etwas verursachen?"
"Ich habe keine Ahnung, Herr Standartenführer. Mein Begleiter hat jedermann von Deck verbannt immer wenn es passiert ist, aber er sah jedes Mal schlimmer aus wenn er zurück kam. Ich bin ziemlich sicher dass es nicht mein Problem ist, dass Ihr Gestapo-Offizier-Schoßhündchen den Gefangenen halb zu Tode foltert, wenn sie nicht dabei waren. Meine Mannschaft hat getan für ihn was sie konnte, unter diesen Umständen."
"Verstehe. Ich werde mich später mit Ihnen beschäftigen, Kapitän. Wo ist Ihr Begleiter? Ich möchte mit ihm sprechen."
"Bewusstlos. Er hat sich während einer ihrer Sitzungen eine Verletzung zugezogen. Wegen der Details müssen Sie ihn fragen, wenn er sich überhaupt erinnern kann."
"Kapitän, dieses Boot hat Bombenschaden erlitten."
"Ja, Herr Standartenführer. Sie finden meinen Bericht in den Unterlagen, Standard Verschlüsselung."
"Verstehe. Sie können Ihre Männer von Bord gehen lassen. Wir haben Wein und ein warmes Plätzchen für sie. Ich möchte mit dem Gefangenen sprechen, falls er das noch kann."
There's silence, and then he sees a shadow appear in the shaft of pale light coming through the hatch. A few snowflakes have been blowing in. Two boots appear, then a torso, clad in a military uniform, then two - no, just one arm. The right arm ends abruptly at the elbow.
He feels a sick little lurch at theback of his throat. The one-armed Nazi turns and smiles pleasantly at him.
"Ah, my friend, we meet again. A British soldier looking to defect, as I recall? Though I believe your identification says rather different. Ah well, no matter."
The traveler can't stop himself from looking at the stump.
"And you've picked up a girl, too! Or, so my friend the Captain informs me. I must say, we are both a long way from Russia. What a surprise it is to meet you here."
The traveler can't take much more of this.
"What do you want?"
"What do I want? Hmmm. Interesting question. I'm sure you think that I wish to torture you for taking my arm, and in all honesty, I can't say that that wouldn't be nice. But, no, I actually owe you a great deal. The proof of your existence has done wonders for my career. No, I'm not going to torture you because you took my arm. I'm going to torture you because of the manner in which you took it. I am going to take you apart, you see, and I am going to find out exactly how it is that you work."
The one armed Nazi smiles.
BACK *** NEXT
Yes, I am aware that it is Saturday. Stop emailing me! I am very behind schedule. Mass Effect 2 came out this week. I make no excuses.
[Also - hey, look, shiny new character art! Also, check back at Chapter Two for another surprise]
Buy me a cup of tea!