Eastern Rub Al Khali
Kingdom of the Saudi
Tuesday, May 14th, 1940
housand-pillared Irem did not live up to his expectations, Günther Duhrn thought, as he watched it from the shade of the entrance flap to his spacious military tent. It was set up close to what was basically an enormous hole in the ground, at the edge of which the foundations of some ruined limestone walls still clung precariously. At one end, the walls of the hole dropped to put it’s bottom level with the ground, and there the waters of a small oasis nourished a few date palms; apparently Irem had been built on a hillside, presumably over a natural water reservoir. At some point, the roof of the reservoir had collapsed. Irem had literally been swallowed by the earth and vanished from history overnight, and what little was left of the underground well had now turned into an oasis.
Durhn pushed back the sand-coloured cap of his Wehrmacht tropical uniform (the Waffen-SS hadn’t gotten around to designing a tropical uniform of their own yet) and walked back into the tent where he poured himself a glass of water from a decanter and drank greedily. Work was progressing well, but it did not require his intervention and he was bored. To pass time, he switched on the radio. It was preset for radio Berlin, and it should be about time for the news.
”... American counter-offensive seems to has enjoyed great success, with the recapture by United States Army forces of the locality of Redding in northern California. The offensive continues on it’s fourth day, with Pan-Asian forces caught in a kessel between Portland, Oregon and Redding, California! Our glorious expeditionary forces under the daring general Rommel continue to defy the invader in the Mojawe desert, where furious air battles rage daily and the invader suffers terrible losses!
Now over to the war in Finland; the heroic troops of the Finnish army have won great victories today, putting a halt to the Bolshevik advance of the last week. Hardly had the over-confident Russians finished celebrating the recapture of Murmansk, which followed upon a strategic Finnish withdrawal in order to straighten the front, the hardy Finns struck back, turning back the Red Army spearheads advancing towards Viipuri and annihilating a division moving on Sortavala, after capturing it in a “motti”, which is the Finnish term for a “kessel”. Generalmajor Warlimont of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht comments that while these news are cheering, Finland’s situation remains extremely difficult in the long prospect.
And now for the sports results. The Bayern Münich…”
Durhn turned off the receiver, smiling cynically. It was a bad day indeed if he was cheered up by Germany's own propaganda. According to the cold estimates of the Waffen-SS experts, Americans and Finns were largely being mauled, and these local successes were being blown out of all proportion by Goebbels propaganda ministry. Barbarossa would have to be launched very soon, if the Finns were to profit any from it. But of course, their woes were of only secondary importance to the Reich. An invasion while the Rasputitsa
still smothered Russia under a blanket of mud was a bad idea.
One of the Sonderkommando Hexen
officers that had accompanied him here came marching up to the open tent and saluted.
, we have completed the tarmac runway!’
‘You are overdue, Obersturmführer
!. I was expecting it to be completed by yesterday.’
‘It’s these lazy oafs we have to work with, Sturmbannführer
! No matter how much we try to motivate them, they keep dragging their stinking feet! They don’t put their backs to it even when we use the whip – I suppose they’re too used to it to bother.’
Durhn nodded. ‘Yes, the Arab will never understand the value of our Aryan discipline or of hard labour. And since we can’t spare any of the procrastinating bastards, we can’t make the usual sort of object lesson, ”pour encourager les autres”
and all that.’ Durhn shook his head as in regret. ‘A pity, it could have proven interesting.’
The junior officer grinned evilly. ‘Indeed, a pity. What did you have in mind?’
‘I was thinking impalement. It originated close to here, in Persia, so I was going to go with the local flavour. Why travel at all if you want everything to be the same as at home, eh?’
‘Maybe we can spare one now that the job is done, Sturmbannführer
?’ the junior officer said half in jest.
The two officers shared a laugh and Duhrn offered his henchman a cigarette from his silver etui. ‘Well, late or not, the runway is done,’ he said while lighting his cigarette. ‘Call Wevelsburg, it’s time they send down the aircraft. Once we have search flights going out from here in a radial pattern, I don’t expect it to be long before we can behold what no living man has seen save in dreams; the Nameless City!’
. No change to the cover story?’
‘No. We have discovered legendary Irem of The Thousand Pillars – what could be more natural after such an archaeological triumph than to bring a full team of doctors and professors to brush away the sand? I almost pity Professor Falken for missing this, but no traitor should feel safe in the Reich. He was wise to choose exile.’
nodded. ‘As you say. If I may be so bold as to make a question?’
Duhrn frowned. ‘In the SS, we speak freely and accept the consequences, Obersturmführer
Backe. I’m listening.’
The young officer swallowed, but apparently decided he had said to much to retract his question now. ‘You have still not told us what it is that you’re hoping to find in this… Nameless City.’
Duhrn smiled ferociously and a mad light appeared in his large, dark eyes. ‘A piece of the puzzle, that’s all. Just a piece of the puzzle.’
‘And… when the puzzle is complete, Sturmbannführer
‘Ah… you’ll know when it happens, and then you can bask in the glory of having been part of bringing on ultimate victory for the Thousand Year Reich! You just wait!’
On a train in western Poland
Greater German Reich
Tuesday, May 14th, 1940
korzeny had not expected the Führer to receive him in person, and he hadn’t. There had just a prosaic handing over of the damaged thermobaric bomb (the receiving boffin assured him the damage was of little consequence for the task of reverse-engineering the bomb) at the airport, and he was handed an envelope with the Führer’s thanks which included a check with a substantial monetary reward. He also received his new orders; he was to join the SS-Leibstandarte, now a full motorised brigade with attached StuG and FlaK battalions, at their jump-off point near the Soviet fortress of Lvov, where they would form part of the LIV. Armeekorps in the Southern Army Group sector.
And so Otto Skorzeny found himself sitting with his sword in his lap on a troop transport train, rolling slowly through Poland, ever further east. He quickly made friends with a group of Panzer troops and by the evening of the first night had deprived them of their first batch of cigarettes in a friendly game of cards. Just to stay on their good sides, he let them buy back all their cigarettes with whatever liquor they happened to have, which was not much but of a nice variety, of which he then generously passed some around.
Thus Skorzeny sat in the gloom of the slowly rocking wagon, sipping on a small flask of French calvados and discussing the upcoming campaign with the Panzer troops.
‘As soon as the mud dries up a bit, I bet you, we’re going!’ said a young Panzer officer – they were all young, it seemed. ‘Ah, I can’t wait; this time it wont be like France, when the Franzosen
were ready and waiting for us. I’ve heard that the border will be only lightly defended – Ivan has most of his troops up against the Finns, so it might be weeks before we meet any stronger resistance!’
‘You think this is good news?’ Skorzeny wondered. ‘I would have preferred to have the Russians massed on our border, where they could be surrounded and destroyed forthwith. Now we’ll have to fight on their turf, deep inside Russia.’
The others exchanged glances, not certain whether this strange SS-officer who gamed and drank with the Wehrmacht was testing their loyalty and combative spirit or if he was just shooting his mouth.
‘Look, Herr Sturmbannführer
, I realise that we Panzer troops, who ride into battle behind three centimetres of steel rather than on the back of a truck like you Waffen-SS, might be more sanguine about facing the enemy anywhere, anytime. But I’m not worried – we’ll teach Ivan not to spread his Bolshevik infestation, fifty millimetres at a time!’
Skorzeny laughed theatrically. ‘Hahahaha – you panzer troops, always bragging about the length of your peckers! Well, for your information, we’re not worried either, just impatient. And I so prefer to have my battles in summer – frankly, winter is such a lousy season for campaigning, don’t you agree?’
The Panzer troops frowned, still not certain what the SS-man was trying to say. Otto shrugged and settled back in his seat to concentrate on his bottle. He would be back with his men the next morning, or at least those of them that still lived. III Abteilung had lost many men in the Dreamland but they had now been replenished with fresh recruits, all brimming over with patriotic and national socialist fervour. They would have to be taken down to earth pretty damn quick and hard if they were to live long enough to kick Ivan's butt. Otto Skorzeny looked forward to it.