Saturday, June 18, 2016

Second Stage of Something Started: Loaners (Part X)

After Mateo Matic was pulled into the timestream in the replica of the Colosseum, he was escorted down to a staging area. Makarion returned shortly thereafter with bad news. “Okay, so I told you that everything would be over once you built the Colosseum, but I can’t necessarily deliver on that one hundred percent.”
“What does that mean?” Vearden asked with a scowl.
“The Cleanser is going to keep using you,” Makarion began, “as long as the powers that be have you loaned out to us.”
“We’re on loan?”
“Yes, that’s what makes you The Freelancers. If the powers want you to go somewhere else, they will, which is why you, Saga worked with The Doctor for six perspective years. If you walk through the stargate now, and you end up anywhere other than Stonehenge, that means you’re still on retainer for us.”
Vearden breathed in deeply out of exasperation, but it ended up making him yawn. When was the last time he slept? “Why are the powers that be helping the Cleanser? They seem to be...” He couldn’t find the words.
Saga finished his sentence, “at odds.”
“I am not privy to that information,” Makarion said.
Dropping it, Saga said, “so we just keep walking through portals, waiting to find out who we work for next, assuming the current job is done.”
“That is how I understand it.”
She looked to Vearden. “Well, I guess that explains our nickname.”
“Yeah,” he responded. “Makes a level of sense now.”
“But you don’t know what’s on the other side of our portal?” she asked of Makarion.
“No,” he said honestly.
“Very well.”

Saga and Vearden once more walked through the stargate to find themselves in some kind of encampment. “When and where the hell are we?” Vearden asked.
“I recognize these kinds of tents,” Saga said. “I think I’m back in World War II.”
“Why would they bring you back here?”
“I don’t know, but I worry about crossing my own timestream.”
A man Saga knew from before approached them stealthily from the side and pointed a gun at them. “Who are you?”
While Vearden held up his hands, Saga tried to diffuse the situation. “Sargent, it’s me.”
“Me who?” Sargent shook his gun threateningly. “I don’t know you.”
“We must have not met yet from your perspective,” Saga tried to explain. “We’re both salmon. This is my partner, Vearden.”
“Nice to meet you,” Vearden said, arms still up.
Sargent put down his gun. “Are you here for the battalion, or for Operation Earworm?”
“We don’t...” Saga started to say.
“Operation Earworm,” Vearden answered with confidence. It was a rational guess, because he really didn’t think an entire war battalion was in need of two more soldiers. If the powers that be dropped them off right here right now, it was for a reason.
“Good, because you would otherwise be dreadfully late,” Sargent pointed out “What year are you from?”
“Then you have implanted translators,” he said, nodding.
“No, we’re originally from the 2020s,” Saga clarified. “We have no transhumanistic enhancements.”
“Lucky for you, I have two extra, but we’re still going to need to find you Nazi uniforms.”
“We’re Nazis!” Vearden exclaimed.
“We’re pretending to be,” Sargent said.

But they were doing more than just pretending. The implanted interfaces allowed them to perceive the German language as English. The translator voice that played right inside their ears even sounded like the person who was talking. They only knew they weren’t actually listening to English because people’s mouths didn’t sync up with the words they heard. Visible text even transformed to the English language instantly. This kind of technology existed in Saga and Vearden’s original time, but usually had to be seen through some kind of device, rather than being sent directly to their visual cortex.
Using further incredibly advanced technology, they were provided with forged documents that allowed them to go just about anywhere in Germany. They headed to a place called Berchtesgaden. There they met a man named Hermann Göring who agreed to listen to them after learning of their powerful positions within the Nazi party. Sargent spoke to him in German, “Mr. Göring, tomorrow Karl Koller will arrive to inform you of Hitler’s intentions to appoint you negotiator for peace. The Führer believes the war to be over, and that it is time for us to move on.”
“I am to become leader of the Third Reich.”
“Yes, that is true, which is why you must act now.”
“What do you mean?”
Sargent sighed and paced around, careful to keep the composure and posture fitting for a Nazi officer. “The name Adolf Hitler has, for a long time, been synonymous with Germany. People treat him as a God, and will follow him everywhere. But you and we all know that he is but a man, and the Third Reich was always destined to outlive its creator.”
Göring did not respond, but appeared to be intrigued by what Sargent was saying.
“And you are destined to lead us into our next stage, to protect the sanctity of Germany, and maintain its dominance over Europe.”
“But if the war is over...” Göring started to say, never expecting to end the sentence.
“There are many different kinds of war,” Sargent explained. “Europe has turned its back on the Führer. Even if we were to win the war, the continent would be in great distress. We would be spending vast resources merely on appeasing  and containing the population. The time for trenches and helmets has passed. We need someone new for the party, Germany, and Europe to follow. We need a new voice, one with the strength of a commander, and the eye of a true strategist.”
“But the Battle of Stalingrad...” Göring trailed off again, referring to his failure at that point in history.
“Will be forgotten in a year,” Sargent stated dismissively. “You and the Führer are not on good terms right now, but you must cement your place in the party. Send him a message. Remind him of his plan to appoint you as successor. Germans, we are a proud race, and we do not dance around the issue. We get to the point, and we get things done. No one knows that better than you. So get this done. Show the world what a true Führer looks like.”
Hermann Göring needed little further convincing. He agreed that this course of action was best for the Reich. He really just needed someone to stand up and tell him that was okay. After they left, Saga asked what was really going on.
“We need to encourage discord amongst the top levels of the party. Hitler is under a great deal of pressure now. Germany really has lost the war, and a telegram from his top officer, reminding him of his promise to allow him to take over? Well...whew, that’s not going to go over well.”
“Forgive me, Sargent, but if we’re time travelers, why don’t we just go back further in time and kill Hitler? Wouldn’t that be easier than just rocking the boat with one little telegram?”
“There’s something you should understand about this, Mr. Haywood,” Sargent began. “This is the upteenth time salmon have returned to this time period. They have tried countless permutations. They tried killing Hitler several years ago, they’ve tried killing him as a youth. They’ve tried bombing Berlin like the Americans did against Japan. They even tried meticulously extracting all prisoners from the concentration camps. But none of these worked. Stopping the war, using advanced technology to win the war; it all just ends up turning to shit. The only way history will allow us to move past this time period is if we let most of it happen the way it did. The main thing we’re changing is killing Hitler a couple years before he died of syphilis anyway, but we first need to prevent anyone who took over the party in alternate timelines from having enough respect to accomplish that in this timeline.
“I’ve been traveling Germany, and abroad, for months now. I’ve planted seeds of distrust amongst dozens of bigwigs. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to convince Felix Steiner that his army detachment could no longer fight. I’ve had more rewarding jobs, though, like passing along certain bits of intelligence to the allied forces that they would otherwise be ignorant of. This, however, was my last mission before I’m sent back in time to join the salmon battalion for some good ol’ fashion guerrilla warfare, so the rest is up to Mateo.”
“Mateo is coming?”
“Well, I don’t think he’ll actually be coming to 1945. I believe Glaston has been assigned to run a merge point for him. Either way, he will have the worst-slash-best job of all of us.”
“What might that be?”
Sargent looked at them like they should have already figured it out. “He’s going to kill Hitler.”

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