Russia, south-west of Leningrad, November 1942
Svend Olsen sat in the train with the other soldiers, listening to the chugging of the steam engine. Most of the other men were sleeping, but a few others sat like him, looking out the window at the snow-filled landscape passing by.
Svend wondered what had made him sign up with the Germans in Frikorps Danmark1, which was a group of young Danish men who had volunteered for military service with Nazi Germany. Was it the uniform? Or the eloquent recruitment officer who promised them that they would be part of the future, of something greater than themselves?
Svend wasnt sure, but for the most part, it had been good. Hed learned more in the last ten months than he ever had in school, especially with his newly attained rank of Unterschafführer (sergeant). Among the things hed learned was math, navigation and above all German, which he had now become fluent in. Of course, there was the minor fact, that he also had to fight on the East Front, but Svend supposed that you had to take the rough with the smooth.
He snorted and took out his notebook and started writing some more on what had become his diary.
We are still on our way. We only stop rarely when the engine needs to refuel, and the men are mostly lazing in the train. That is good I suppose, as many of them have become restless. Better let them sleep - they need the energy. This evening we will arrive to the rendezvous point near Velikije Luki, and then...
Today started out without any major incident. But that was just a calm before the storm, in a way. Because today we had the most strange experience...
Svend sat in his trench, sharing a mug of what passed for coffee out here with Theodor Poulsen, one of his privates. The Russians had thankfully been quiet, and there had been no recent deaths.
A scream from the mangled forest in front of their trenches heralded the end of their break.
The scream got closer, and Svend and his soldiers readied their rifles.
A single Russian soldier came running towards them, apparently oblivious to the fact that he was running singlehandedly towards an enemy position, and doing so unarmed to boot.
Svend told his men to hold their fire, but the order proved to be unnecessary. The man was clad in bloody rags of what used to be a corporals uniform, and it was obvious that he was terrified...and not of the SS soldiers in front of him.
He collapsed shortly before he reached the rampart in front of their trenches. Svend took a few men to cover him and then went out to check on the Russian.
When Svend knelt beside him, the other man hugged him, cried and babbled, Oboroten....oboroten...
Whats he saying? Svend asked Detlev Hansen, whom he knew spoke a bit of russian.
Oboroten - it means werewolf or wolf-man. I think hes... Detlev said but paused as the Russian collapsed again.
Hes dead, Daniel Mogensen, their field medic said.
They took the dead Russian, who had been called I. Djetovitch according to what Detlev read from his bloodsoaked nametag, and brought him into the trench for further examination.
While they didnt exactly have the equipment (or knowledge) to perform an autopsy, Daniel tried anyway.
Sir, this is strange, he said.
How, strange? Svend asked.
Look at these wounds...bite marks I think...
So, what...he was attacked by a wolf or dog?
No...look at the distance between the holes where the teeth pierced the skin. I mean, a wolf is about the size and shape of Obersturmführer Rottingers Schaefer, right? Daniel said. At Svends nod he continued, in that case, this wolf jaw is about double the size of Rottingers dog. I dont know about you, but I dont know of any wolf or dog that size.
I see your point, Svend conceded.
You think we should investigate? Rottenführer Bentsen asked. Bentsen was Olsens XO, and had also become a friend in the time theyd spent in boot camp together.
Yes. Whatever it is, I dont want it anywhere near us when the night comes. Too stupid to lose a man out to take a piss to a pack of wolves. Better get the Obersturmführer.
...and thats the whole story. How do you want us to proceed, Sir? Olsen said.
Obersturmführer Johannesen scratched his chin. Hm, this all sounds very strange. If not for the Ivan there, Id have said you were pulling my leg. But I agree, we should know what the hell this is. Alright; take a platoon out to investigate. Officially - which means, thats what Ill write in my report to the Hauptsturmführer, youre looking for Russian activity. And I want you to do that too, of course.
Yes, Sir, Olsen said and saluted.
Olsen heard the snow crunch under his boots, and far away they could hear the sound of artillery booming. Whether it was German or Russian he didnt know. He and his men tried to move as stealthily as they could; of course it was always a compromise between stealthy and still getting there, but he was confident that they were as silent as possible.
After about two hours walk, Olsen suddenly stopped his men. He could hear voices!
He used sign language to instruct his men how to proceed up the small hill in front of them, lest the owners of the voices hear them.
Olsen and his men then slowly proceeded uphill on their bellies. They reached the top and Olsen peered down in a small clearing below...and his jaw dropped to the snow.
Möchten Sie mehr Kaffee, Herr Sturmbannführer?2 a female voice said.
, a male voice answered, and the owner of the cup held out his cup to be filled...
But neither of those voices belonged to a human.
At the foot of the small hill, two creatures stood. Both of them looked like something out of a nightmare or - had Svend Olsen ever been a student of history (which he wasnt) - something out of Greek myth. Both of them looked like giant wolves, except where the head should have been, another, werewolf-like torso started. The head was that of a wolf - a very large wolf, and it was obvious that they were not just mere animals. Both of them wore the top part of an SS uniform, complete with the traditional cap with the elevated front and the skull-and-crossbones of the Totenkopf.
Jesus Christ, Sturmmann Poulsen whispered, and immediately regretted it.
The ears of the two monsters pricked up, and the male dropped his cup and drew his gun while the female threw the coffee pot on the ground and cocked her machinegun. Both of them threw themselves behind some shrubbery with astonishing speed.
The female lifted her machine gun, but was stopped by the male. Abwarten!4 he commanded, and she stopped.
Both of their noses sniffed the air, and then the male spoke.
Männer! Kameraden; bitte nicht schiessen5, the male wolf...thing said, and Svend ordered his men to hold their fire.
The male wolf stepped halfway out of his cover, and continued in his slightly guttural German, please come down here. Fear not. Were friends. Like you, were here to fight the Bolshevik enemy of the world.
Svend looked at his men. They were all frightened, but also curious.
He and his men descended the hill and now stood in front of the two wolves.
I am sorry for scaring you. I am Siegfried Stoltz, Hauptsturmführer in Wolfsrudel6 23. This is Scharführer Renate Schmidt, my chief of staff, the male wolf explained.
Svend introduced himself and his men, and then asked, forgive me...urh...Herr Hauptsturmführer, I mean no offense...but what exactly are you two?
No offense taken, Unterscharführer. A reasonable question. We are what have been called wolftaurs, and we were made and educated in Tiersprechshule ASRA7, Leutenburg, Stoltz continued. We were given surnames from our creators. Scharführer Schmitt here, for instance were named for our headmistress, Magarethe Schmidt.
But what brings you out here? the female wolftaur asked.
Well...you Im afraid, he said, and he and his men took an involuntary step back, some of them with white-knuckled grips on their rifles as they remembered the dead Russian.
At the wolves questioning look, he continued, we found a Russian corporal whod been, well...bitten... Svend said and bit his lip, feeling sweat beading his brow despite the freezing weather.
I see. Yes, well, in combat some of my privates...some of the first generation people, Im afraid, seem to...to revert to primal instincts. I wouldnt go as far as say that they turn feral, but its close. But fear not. Your uniforms will keep you safe, Stoltz said and lifted his hands, palms towards the Frikorps Danmark men.
But...why...how... Sturmmann Mogensen tried.
Lets just say that were all part of the war effort, Sturmmann. Now, I think it is time for you to get back to your company. And one more thing: you must swear that you will never tell anyone about this, Stoltz said.
Urh...of course, Sir, Svend got out for all of them.
They took their leave of the strange creatures, and headed back.
Renate, I want to talk to Obergruppenführer Lehmann, immediately! Stoltz said when the humans were out of earshot.
Jawohl, Herr Hauptsturmführer, she said and headed out to find their radio man.
....so what should we do, Herr Oberstgruppenführer? Stoltz asked after explaining the situation.
After a brief moment of silence, Lehmanns voice answered him from the radio, we have no choice. I know where theyre camped. We must ensure your existence remains secret.
But Sir, you dont mean to...I mean, theyre our own men! Stoltz objected.
Schmitt stood beside him, and she moved her hand in front of her muzzle. She knew what Lehmann meant, and she was just as horrified about the idea as Stoltz.
It cant be helped. In their own way, they too will give their lives for the Vaterland and our glorious Führer. It would be best if you didnt think more of it. I hope I made myself clear, Hauptsturmführer! the Oberstgruppenführer said harshly.
Of course, Sir. Crystal clear, Sir, Stoltz said angrily. Wolfsrudel 23 Papa out!
Sir... Schmitt began, but a raised hand from her superior stopped her.
Renate, I want you to find them. Stop them. This time Lehmanns gone too far! Stoltz said.
Agreed, she said.
Dont worry, Ill cover for you. And Renate...this stays between you and me, he said and took her hand. She squeezed it and nodded. Nothing more needed to be said. Disobeying a direct order would mean death, especially for one of their kind. But there was also such a thing as honor.
Renate ran through the forest, stopping every now and then to track or scent the humans. It was hard, especially now, as the wind had gathered strength, and having the wind in her back rather than against her didnt help either.
She cursed, and found the trail again: an almost covered footprint of an SS soldiers boot.
After some time she found the scent of human SS soldiers growing stronger, and she knew she were getting closer to Olsens camp. She could see the ramparts and barbed wire, and she noticed one of Olsens men...Mogensen she thought it was....and then Hell broke loose...
Renate threw herself instinctively to the ground, hearing the whine of the falling shells long before the humans ever could. She tried to yell a warning, but it was already too late.
The artillery grenades rained their shower of Death upon the unfortunate companys position, their only crime being their knowledge of Renate and her kind.
She felt the tears running free as she heard the screams of the dying and terrified men, even above the ear-shattering roar of explosions as the shells, the German shells, ripped soldiers, trees and equipment apart with equal ease.
The explosions continued for several minutes, but to Renate, it seemed like years.
Gott im Himmel!8 she thought as she finally entered the murdered camp after the shelling had ceased.
Normally there would be survivors after an artillery attack; at least some wounded. But there were none this time. Renate felt like throwing up as she walked through the camp. Some of the poor soldiers were so mangled, that she couldnt even see that theyd once been human beings.
The smell of death, blood, ruptured organs, earth and spent explosives tore at her sensitive morph nose, and she turned to leave.
A grunt from the forest behind her made her stop, though. She proceeded into the forest, machine gun locked in her shoulder, and she went in the direction of the moaning man.
Olsen! she said as she found the man. He was trapped beneath a tree, but didnt seem to be hurt.
You! he snapped and then groaned. Those shells came from behind us! You murdering...
No! No, it wasnt like that. Oh, God...please, let me get you out of there... she said and shouldered her machine gun.
What? So you can finish me off like the rest? he spat, and tried to reach for the riffle hed lost when the tree fell on him.
Wait...please...it wasnt our doing. You must listen to me! she said.
The humans fingers had reached the muzzle of his rifle, but he paused.
Then whose was it, then?
I...I see, but...
Look, theres no time. I can hear engines. German car engines. I need to get you out of there! she said.
With their combined strength, they got the tree off of Svend.
Hide - Ill talk to them, she said, and dragged Svend further into the forest. He tried not to complain about his damaged leg, but gave a yelp as he stumbled into a small hollow. Renate quickly covered him with broken-off pine branches.
The small convoy stopped, and Renate recognized Lehmann as well as Wolfgang Ullmann, who was the liaison officer between Lehmann and her Wolfsrudel.
Herr Oberstgruppenführer, she said and gave him a textbook nazi salute.
What are you doing out here? Lehmann asked.
Stoltz sent me out here, Sir. To ensure that none of the Freikorps men got away. Ive checked the camp and the perimeter, and Ive neither seen, heard nor scented any survivors.
Very well. You may return to your camp then, Lehmann said. Count the bodies - I want to be double sure! he said to his men.
Renate bit her lip. She wasnt sure if they could count the bodies, as some of them had been blown to bits. But if they could and...
Renate walked briskly back to the camp, hoping the others wouldnt notice her going past the shelter where Svend had told her and Stoltz theyd left the Russian.
She found him with the others, and to her relief the Russian soldier had been stripped of his uniform for the examination. Only his fur hat remained, and Renate quickly snatched it, and left the camp before anyone noticed. She then hid herself and waited for Lehmann and his men to finish.
She later found Svend again.
So...why did they do this to us... he asked.
Stoltz tried to talk the Oberstgruppenführer out of it, but when he was ordered to let it go, he sent me out here to warn you. Im sorry I came too late. I almost got lost in the blizzard. You see, my kind are top secret...and apparently the Oberstgruppenführer thought that you were expendable...Stoltz and I didnt.
Okay...so what now? Svend said. It all sounded so crazy. He felt both confused and betrayed. Why did they do this to his company?
Renate interrupted his train of thought. You should head South-West for a while. Join up with 302nd Division, I heard they are about to get reinforcements soon. Your German is almost without accent, so you should be able to pass for one of them. When the reinforcements arrive, there will be a lot of new faces, and you should be able to hide, she said.
Svend nodded. He was still numbed by the meaningless slaughter of his company...his friends. But he also realized that she was right.
When will the reinforcements arrive? he asked.
Four days. It will take you about one to get there, she answered.
Okay...it sounds doable...as long as I dont freeze to death out here, he said with another nod.
Sorry...its the best I can do. Take this, itll at least keep your head warm, she said and handed him the fur hat. Scavenge what you can from your camp.
Svend nodded again.
I guess I better go before Im missed, she said. Sorry...
He nodded again. Will I ever meet you again? he asked.
I...dont know. Probably not. So...um...good luck...Svend, she said and gave him a kiss. A very human-like kiss, Svend was surprised to find.
Thank you. You too.... he got out. It was strange. Even though they were so different, she still seemed quite human.
She gave Svend a nod, and then they parted ways.
Blumenwiese retirement home, Frankfurt am Main, April 3rd 2002
Svend sat on the veranda in his wheelchair. He was enjoying his coffee as well as the company of his wife, Katrin. Though the war hadnt been kind to him, the time when the war ended had started off even worse. Shunned by his own countrymen (or worse - some of them were even imprisoned or shot for treason), he had quickly returned to Germany. But that had been his good fortune. Hed gotten a job as a construction worker, helping the Germans rebuild after the war. And then hed met Katrin Frensen. The young woman had taken a liking to the ex-Frikorps man, and they were soon married. Katrin had given him sixtyone wonderful years, and also provided him with three wonderful daughters.
One of them, Freida their oldest, was visiting them that day, and Svend brought out a small box.
Theres something Id like you to do for me... he started.
Of course, Dad. What is it? Feida said.
I have this box you see...it contains my diary from the war...among other things, he said.
Freida had always been interested in history, and had always wondered why her father always declined answering her questions. Svend saw the excitement in her face, but he had made his decision. He didnt want her to think her father had lost his marbles, so he continued, it is my wish that these documents become a time capsule.
Okay...but can I read them first...please? she said.
Sorry, but no...some of the things in them... he said and paused. There are some things in there that are better kept for the future...some things this world isnt ready for yet.
Freida looked at him puzzled, but Katrin understood. Katrin was the only person hed ever told about his time at the East Front.
Freida looked ready to protest, but Katrin put a hand on hers. Please dearie...your father is old and sick. I know how you feel, but please respect your fathers wishes.
Freida looked at her mother, and then finally nodded. Very well then. I shall do as you say.
Good dearie. Now perhaps we could all do with some more coffee...
Federation Museum of European History, Munic, 2329
Shir! Shir! Ive got something you need to see! the husky morph said eagerly as she barged into Chakat Pastseekers office.
Pastseeker looked up from hir terminal. Shi liked Nadja. Shi really did. But sometimes hir young intern could be a little too eager about some things.
Shi sighed mentally and tried to give the husky a friendly smile. Alright, before your wagging tail breaks one of my Greek vases, please have a seat and tell me what it is, shi said and gestured towards one of the chairs shi kept in hir office, partly for hir biped guests, and partly as makeshift extra shelves for hir enormous amounts of hardcopy files, notebooks etc.
Nadja did as requested, and put a box in front of hir. The box was made of thick plastic that was encased in what was probably once stainless steel, and had been made to be airtight.
Alright, what am I looking at? shi asked.
Something that...well...it seems that people started making morphs somewhere between sixty and a hundred years before we initially thought, Nadja blurted out, as if afraid Pastseeker would cut her off.
Pastseekers ears rose in interest. Oh? Well, I suppose I better look...
Pastseeker almost never brought hir work home. It was an agreement shi and hir mate had, but this evening Browntail was out with one of hir friends, so Pastseeker had made an exception.
If what this man was telling hir in his diaries was true, history would have to be rewritten. Shi flipped another page, and an envelope fell out...
5th of May, 1952.
Today I had a most unusual visitor, though a welcome one, especially because of what she brought with her...
Svend sat in a lawn chair, enjoying a beer. Katrin was still at work, and the girls were in school.
He looked up as he heard someone open the gate, and noticed a middle aged woman.
He rose from his chair, and approached the woman. Can I help you? he said.
I hope so. Is this the home of Svend Olsen? she said hesitantly.
Thats me. What can I do for you? he said.
My name is Magarethe Schmidt, she said. I take it, that you know of me?
Yes...yes of course...come on in... he said baffled.
Please...I am just here to say hello, and bring you this, she said and held out an envelope.
Svend was still stunned as he followed Mrs Schmidt out. He returned to the house, opened the letter and started reading.
I hope that you are well. Its been some time since we met, but for some reason I cant keep you out of my head. Even though we only met briefly, you still treated me more human than most of our superiors ever did, except perhaps for Magarethe, who in many ways have been our mother. She was the only one who comforted us when the training got too hard or when the drugs they used to make us grow up faster made our bodies hurt.
When the war ended, many of us had been killed, mostly by our own, who betrayed us because they didnt want their übersoldaten to fall into enemy hands, though some still did. So in a way, I suppose we have something in common. But I didnt write you to complain. Instead, I wrote you to tell you that we are fine. Siegfried, myself and most of our group escaped when Siegfried learned what our fate were to be. I guess our creators never knew how good our hearing is. We are now living in Siberia, and Siegfried and I are mated and have four kids. We trade a little with some trusted locals Magarethe has helped us find, but mostly we keep to ourselves for obvious reasons.
Magarethe is on her way to Italy, and has promised to stop by you on her way back. I hope youll write me back. Id love to hear about you and your family!
All the best,
Pastseeker put down the letter. For once Nadja had been right in her eagerness...this was indeed a tremendous find! But in a way also a discomforting one. It felt strange that shi - and hir forefathers, shi supposed - all owed their existence to Nazi Germany, a regime which had been responsible for so much death and suffering...
1 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Corps_Denmark
2 Would you like more coffee, Mr Sturmbannführer?
3 Yes, thank you
5 Men! Friends; please dont shoot
7 Animal (dog) school where the Nazis tried to teach dogs to speak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundesprechschule_Asra
8 God in Heaven!
Chakats and the Chakat universe are copyright © Bernard Doove, and are used with permission.
All other characters are copyright © 2012 Lars V.Jensen
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