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Everything posted by z-Silvestru

  1. “In the forests of the night.” Silvestru wasn’t sure why those words had been chosen; she wasn’t educated enough to realize it was a well-known poem. He was huge, so large it made her nervous, but she still wound her arm around his. Bumping lightly against him as they walked, she murmured, “We have a house nearby for the night, then we can go on to Berlin in the morning. Can you drive?” ,, “Of course.” His answer was exactly the one she’d hoped for. ,, “Good, my driving is…” She paused to find the right word in German. Unlike Ryan, her Deutsch was marked with the softer language of Romania. “Not good,” she finally finished. There was no shame in her words. She dropped her voice lower still and whispered, “There are papers at the house, giving us identities. Married, just until we get to Berlin.” Her green eyes, washed out to silver by the moon, gave him a slight warning glare. ,, “Once there, I will show you to my friends.” She snorted, an unladylike noise. “I hope you can talk some sense into them. They do not listen to a ‘slip of a girl playing at soldier’.” She mimicked Herr Bauer perfectly, though Ryan wouldn’t realize that until he met the man. “You do not have a pizdă, so clearly you are smarter than me.” ,,
  2. The big man who came strolling into the valley via the path certainly looked like the ‘most Aryan American’ Silvestru had ever seen. His whistling was disconcerting; he was projecting casual native a little too well. It made her nervous, because he was either a native German out for a walk, or he was taking this too lightly. ,, Or he was a good actor. Silvestru mulled over that belated thought as she watched him stroll up the road. It must be her American contact, she finally decided, rolling off her tree branch in near-silence. Catching herself before hitting the ground, she lowered herself down and cut through the darkness to intercept him. ,, Just before she reached the path, she took off her pants, letting the skirt of her dress hang loose. It was only a little wrinkled, not that she cared. When she put her overshirt in her shoulder satchel, she looked like any German lass out for a walk. Slipping out of the woods, she fell into step with the man as if she’d been walking next to him the whole time. “Good evening,” she said pleasantly in German. “Where are you heading, mister?” ,, He is bigger than I thought he’d be…
  3. “Just find the most Aryan American you’ve ever seen in the middle of the forest. He’ll be friendly. And he should be able to speak German.” ,, The instructions from Wilheim had been unhelpful, to Silvestru’s point of view. The archer ghosted through the woods without a final destination or end point, without concrete instructions, without a defined timeline, and with a description that matched half the strapping farm lads of the area. ,, Worse, this entire affair annoyed her. She hated being sent out to babysit an Allied soldier who was probably coming. Probably. The radio communication had stated that he was, but this was a war. Silvestru held out zero expectation of things happening as they should. ,, She came over a hill and paused, pulling out her map. Tilting it so that the dim moonlight fell on the paper, she glanced at it and checked the position of the stars and the terrain. The valley below was the meeting place for the G.I. Joe. Silvestru thought about going down there but instead she clambered up into a tree, settled against the trunk and waited for the Allies’s miracle. ,, Maybe I’ll have someone else rail against the useless resistance with me.
  4. Silvestru put down the knife uneasily. Her own grandparents had died before she old enough to remember them, or in her father’s case, before her birth. She’d heard stories about the wondrous things that were grandparents, though, and a tiny part of her envied Bael his before she shut the emotion down brutally. “I am not his enemy,” she said softly. “I released him, and he helped me to escape.” ,, “You let him out of his cell?” Petra rose, gazing at her with tear-filled eyes. “Thank you, child. What is your name?” ,, Such was the magic of grandparents that she almost said ‘Silvestru’. “Gretel.” ,, “Ah, Gretel!” Petra hugged her, making Silvestru squirm with discomfort at a stranger’s touch. “God bless you, sweet Gretel! You have returned our little Valentin!” ,, Ernst merely offered her a hand, clasping it in both of his rough, wrinkled ones. His gray eyes thanked her with German stoicism before patting the back of her hand and releasing it. It was moderately embarrassing, how much they thanked her for being fairly selfish. She’d released Bael… Valentin for her own reasons, not to return a lost grandson. Nervously, she got out of the way of the fussing grandmother and let her coddle the flame-manipulator for a time. ,, “Where are we?” she asked Ernst suddenly. ,, “Our farm, a few miles from Frankfurt.” ,, Silvestru’s eyes widened in alarm. “We are still in Germany?” ,, “Of course, where else would we be?” Ernst asked with a hint of concern. ,, “They know that… Valentin escaped. Are you his immediate family? What of his parents? We need to get him into hiding, before they send more dynamics after us. After him.” ,, “We are his only family working speaking of. What of you, child?” Ernst asked. ,, Silvestru laughed mirthlessly. “They think I am a laundry woman. And that is what I want them to think.” She shook her head. “We must hide him or move him, or both is better.”
  5. Silvestru had a second to choose. She didn’t ponder long; tossing away her stolen gun, she scurried to Bael’s side. She couldn’t think fast enough to come up with a story and she needed to get away from this place. I can always say I was kidnapped by him. The young woman threw the boy’s arm over her shoulder and dragged him to his feet. “Hurry,” she told him as she began to haul him across the floor. “The other guard will be coming.” ,, “Yes,” he agreed, leaning on her so heavily that she thought she might fall. Instead, Silvestru gritted her teeth and pulled harder on him, feeling her knees shake with the effort. The archer did most of the work to get them across the room to the doorway of the next; as Silvestru shoved him against the doorjamb, panting, she gasped, “Just… a moment…” ,, “No time, frualein.” Silvestru looked up to see the cloud of condensation in front of Bael’s face. It was the same for hers, she realized; when she looked back at the entrance Ironhelm had torn through, Silvestru saw the rime that was coating the edges. The Killing Frost was coming. The image of ice crawling toward her propelled the dynamic to new levels of urgency. She all but thrust Bael toward the fire, expecting him to catch himself at the edge of the dancing embers. ,, Instead, he fell into the flames—and grabbed her as he dropped. His fingers caught her around her upper arms and Silvestru tumbled into the fire. There was a dizzying sensation of movement and then Silvestru landed on top of Bael. The fire danced around their legs, but above the knees they were lying on an old hardwood floor. Actually, Bael was lying on the floor—Silvestru was still sprawled on top of him. ,, Quickly, she bounced to her feet, her eyes darting around the room warily. They were in a kitchen, a modern one and probably German given the lettering she could see on the food around the room. The entire room was tidy, and under the smell of warm, fresh bread, Silvestru could smell the distinctive tang vinegar, the universal cleaning agent. Warily, she looked around; spotting a knife, she snatched it off the counter just as an old woman came into the room. Silvestru lifted the knife—she wasn’t trying to be threatening, but she was holding the kitchen tool like she knew how to use it, and she was wearing a bloody dress. The look of fear on the old woman's face was justified.
  6. Silvestru stared at the carnage around her. She didn’t really have the urge to be sick over the bodies; she had long since learned that Germans were as bad as the Romanians who had taken over her government. The smell was something terrible though, and Silvestru paused to tie her handkerchief over her mouth and nose. ,, The girl rose to her feet and hesitantly stepped onto the smoldering stones. The skirt of her dress shifted and moved in the updraft from the stones, and her feet were unpleasantly warm in seconds. The young archer quickly left the room, heading into the cooler hallway. That was relatively cooler, but at least her shoes weren’t in danger of melting off her feet. ,, The youth was walking up the hallway, casually setting fire to everything. Silvestru erred on the side of caution and made herself invisible again. It seemed like a wise idea; though the boy—the Bǣl?—had named her ‘not an enemy’, he seemed to be missing a few eggs out of his nest. Ghosting invisibly behind him, she stepped over the gruesome bodies he left in his wake. ,, When they reached the more populated areas of the prison she started to worry. There were people here—staff and prisoners—who had done nothing wrong, but the boy wasn’t slowing down in his assault. He’d burned through all of the guards who’d responded to his presence. It was a hell of a diversion, and no doubt that her would-be rapist was a cinder by now. It was all working out in her favor, except for the fact that she wasn’t sure the boy was going to stop with the guards. Guilt rose in her; Silvestru knew better than most that there were innocents in war. Her mother had been one. ,, As she was trying to figure out how to try to talk to him, the sound of something metal smashing on stone rang through the air, and the building rattled. “That’s Ironhelm,” Silvestru said when the boy paused. “He’s one of the prison’s dynamic guards.” ,, “Enemy.” The burning youth knew one word, that was sure. ,, “Probably.” Silvestru checked her magazine, scowling when she realized she was almost out. She’d been watching for another gun or more ammo, but her flaming companion didn’t leave much useable behind him. “I’m sure he’ll see you as one. I won’t be much help against him, but if the other guard shows up, I’ll be able to hurt him.” She glanced up at him, assessing his frame of mind. “Do you understand, boy-of-fire? You’ll be alone against a man who’s nigh-invulnerable.”
  7. The guards outside the secure area were clearly bored; they had mastered the art of leaning against a wall without actually appearing to slouch. Both of them had the slack-muscled expression that suggested that they were moments from falling asleep on their feet from sheer boredom. There was nothing down there; the hallway ended at a corner. There was nothing interesting to see. ,, Until the laundry girl appeared from thin air and lodged throwing knifes in their throats from twenty feet. Both men went down with only the clatter of their twitching bodies. Silvestru retrieved her blades and cleaned them on the men’s uniforms before digging through pockets for the keys. Then she opened the door to the secure area. ,, She’d never been allowed this far before. The guards brought the linens to the door and left them outside for her and the other laundresses to retrieve. When cleaned, they were left in the same spot. Silvestru had always wondered why they didn’t allow anyone other than the guards back here and her first glimpse of the area didn’t explain matters. It was just a long hallway, lined by doors on either side. The doors were dozens of feet apart, implying massive rooms or suites of rooms behind each. ,, Silvestru didn’t have time to ponder. The sound of approaching feet required her to cloak herself again and press herself against the wall. Four men in the Gestapo uniforms exited a room and paused when they saw the door was open. One of them stepped past Silvestru, his expression confused until he saw the bodies. “Intruder!” he cried in German even as Silvestru winced. “Sound the alarms!” ,, Klaxons rang in the air, which was to her advantage. Under the aural cover of the sirens, Silvestru turned and dashed deeper into the complex, seeking the prisoner’s cells. The rooms in this area were interrogation cells and so reminiscent of her time in her cell that she shivered and fought nausea. The Nazis were no better than the Romanian Fascists. ,, A door right in front of her opened and Silvestru slammed into it. Another second either way and she’d have been fine, but the timing didn’t allow her to compensate and dodge. She tumbled to the floor, visible, and the guards who’d been emerging from the other side blinked at the sight of the blood-splattered laundress lying on the floor. ,, Silvestru kicked up while the first of the three was still gaping, slicing his throat and turning the splatters into a spray of gore across her and her clothing. With the other hand, she grabbed his submachine gun and turned it on his companions. Blood clouded the air in a mist as the bullets minced their flesh and bone and Silvestru turned as the Gestapo she’d been fleeing heard. They were leveling their guns at her as she sprayed the hallway again. When they returned fire, she ducked behind the heavy metal door, glad that it stopped bullets. ,, They were alternating shots, trying to keep her pinned down while they advanced on her. Silvestru scowled a moment before moving to the gap in the door formed by the hinges. She nudged the barrel of her gun into that opening and rapidly picked them off, each burst of fire taking out a man. ,, Silence followed her last shot and the young dynamic peeked out carefully. There was no sound or motion from the men but Silvestru sprayed the bodies again, just to be sure none of them were playing possum. She quickly exchanged her used gun for a fresh submachine gun. ,, Satisfied she’d protected her cover thus far, Silvestru jogged down the hall. Where did they actually keep the dynamic prisoners? That thought made her cloak herself again; where were the dynamic guards? ,, The last door in this hallway had a name on it: ‘Bæl’ Silvestru frowned slightly. What was a Bæl? With a shrug, she found the right key and opened the door. ,, The two guards in the control room were surprised to see her when the door swung wide, as surprised as Silvestru was. But she recovered first, the submachine gun rattling loud in the small room. The men were good; one of them returned fire as he went down, and Silvestru’s chest sported three holes. At least one of the bullets was in her lung; when she pressed her hand to her chest, it was easier to breath. The girl felt her stomach twist with fear. She wouldn’t die, not here. Not so far from home. She needed to heal, but she was low on energy after the cloaking, and she had a long walk out yet. Hesitantly, she forced the bullets out and stopped the bleeding, but that was all. ,, A thump bought her attention from the hole in her chest. A waist-high window peered into a water-filled room. A man was floating in a diving suit, but he was no ordinary man. His eyes burned like fire behind the faceplate. His hands were pressing on the glass, the source of the noise. He didn’t need to gesture to make his desires known; they were writ large in his face. ,, Struggling against shock and dizziness, Silvestru went to the control panel. Most of it was monitors and dials; there was only one button, leeren. Draining seemed logical when you had a man trapped in a room of water, and she pressed the red switch.
  8. The plan was easy, though his wife didn’t like it. Huber didn’t care for it either, but he wanted to capture the Hood more than he wanted to please Letta. He was to go to the prison, rough up one of the laundry women, strongly imply that he’d rape her, then retire to his rented room next to the prison and wait. He had a transceiver; Ironhelm would be there in seconds once he called the dynamic. It was a terrible plan, with many possible holes. But Huber wanted the Hood; he wanted to be the man who caught him and he was unwilling to risk anyone else on this scheme. It was likely to land him in serious pain, but Ironhelm was sure he could save Huber’s life. “Well, ninety-nine perfect sure,” the big dynamic had said with a grin that Huber didn’t find reassuring. The three laundry women were busy today; it took Huber a while to find them. He managed to miss them while they were on their rounds, locating them only after they had stopped moving through the building. They all looked up as he entered the washing room, not even pausing in their energetic cleansing of the linens, uniforms, towels and other clothing required to make a prison function. Huber looked over them, frowning at his options for this distasteful task. The eldest of them was plump with a narrow face and graying blonde hair. She looked too much like Letta; it would upset his wife if she found out. Also, Huber didn’t want to hurt a woman who reminded him of his dearest. The middle in age was mousey but he didn’t like the way she kept sneaking appraising peeks at him. A golden band was hanging from a chain around her neck and Huber promptly decided that she was married. He would not defile another man’s wife, even if it was only a suggestion instead of a fact. Huber knew that he’d be enraged if another man threatened Letta. That left the youngest. That was better; young women wouldn’t fight as much as older women. They were more easily cowed. The oberleutnant moved around the room, aware that the women were covertly watching him. He stopped next to the young one, watching as she pulled linens out of the steaming water and pushed them into the mangler. The rolling pins squeezed the excess water out of the cloth and dropped it into another tub of water to rinse. “You,” Huber said, drawing her attention to him for the first time. She must be simple, the man decided after a moment. Those green eyes met his without fear or flinching, with a confidence that went beyond stupidity to excessive naivety. Something about her sullen gaze angered him. “Come with me.” He seized her arm, and the girl lashed out with her free hand, grabbing a wicker basket. “You won’t need that.” The girl stared at him silently but didn’t comply, leaving Huber with the option of ripping it from her hand or letting her bring it. He saw no reason to force the issue; the basket was no shield. Impatiently, he marched from the room, dragging her behind him like a child. She was little more than a child but Huber tried not to think about that. I’m not really going to hurt her. Rough her up a bit, scare her. That’s all. Still she was silent as he pulled her into the lower levels of the prison. It was logical to go here; there were few people about to catch him. It was closer to the special prisoners but Huber stopped before reaching that restricted area. Scowling, he opened a cleaning closet and thrust the girl into the room. She stumbled in and turned to face him. There was no fear on her fact, and Huber felt disgust at himself and her as he backhanded her. This time he saw the surprise just before his fist cracked across her cheek. The girl staggered and went to one knee, clutching at her basket. “Just relax, girl,” he ordered brusquely. “This won’t be so bad unless you fight me.” Huber grabbed her by her hair and jerked her upright, spinning her around to face him. His fingers closed around her chin when he felt a searing pain in his chest. Confused, he looked down to see her small hand pulling loose a knife. Huber opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out of his mouth beyond a bloody froth. His legs collapsed and the oberleutnantrealized he was dying. Who will care for Letta? Helplessly, Huber stared up at his killer, trying to understand. With the lighting behind her, and the angle, and the cap she wore--he finally saw the Hood. A woman... the Hood was a woman? Darkness claimed his vision, even as he fought to live. Letta needed him to come home. He couldn’t leave her alone in the world. He’d promised her he’d be all right... Letta... * * * * * Silvestru cursed softly as she stared at the German’s body. This was not part of the plan--not that she’d had a plan, really. It had been practice to kill the soldiers who molested her friends in the laundry service. Then that blond dynamic had started to stalk her, and Silvestru had begun to fight for her life. Some prideful part of her believed that she could have taken that hunter if the other dynamic hadn’t interrupted. Regardless, her days of hunting in the city had been over. It was dangerous without a goal or the support of the resistance. From what she’d heard of the German resistance, they were spineless, preferring to discuss legal means of achieving their goals instead of violence. But now she needed to find a way out of this. Silvestru paused, considering where she was--and a plan to beautifully obvious came to her. Quickly, she pulled out the other knife she’d hidden under the base of the basket. With conscious effort, she twisted the light around herself and became invisible to sight. Carefully opening the door, she slipped into the hall and began to work her way deeper into the underground of the prison, moving unseen and unheard. To be continued in Focul Iadului
  9. Mencken slumped into his chair and removed his hat with a sharp tug. Walpurga noted his familiarity in her presence; she’d gone to great lengths to assure the Oberstleutnant that he could relax around her. Walpurga had found that relaxed men were more likely to be giving men. “A week and nothing from the Hood.” His voice was tired. ,, “No, there’s been nothing. No sign of him but no attacks.” Walpurga allowed herself a tight smile. “I think I injured him.” ,, “Do you think the attacks are done? That we can claim that the Hood was so badly injured that he has died?” Mencken had such hope in his voice. ,, Walpurga sighed and the officer knew what she was going to say before she spoke: “Swain, you can say as you like, but there’s no body. If you say he’s dead, and he pops up again…” She let her words trail off, because Mencken knew better than she did the penalty for failure. ,, “I’ll end up like Jäger.” Mencken sighed, shook his head and amended, “Worse. They’re trying to rehabilitate him. I’d just rot in a gaol for the rest of my life, or until my superiors decide I’ve rotted enough. And then they’ll haul my broken carcass out of the cell and prop me up at a desk where I can’t do any harm.” ,, Walpurga was quiet for a moment. “I doubt they’d put you back to work.” She was trying to lighten the mood, but it wasn’t really successful; Mencken just sighed at her. ,, He shook his head. “I don’t know what to do, Gretchen.” ,, She let the use of her first name pass without comment. “Tell the truth.” ,, “They’re going to reassign you soon. Particularly if the Hood doesn’t surface again.” Mencken looked sad, and Walpurga realized he was going to miss her. ,, “I’ll miss you too,” she told him, leaning over and patting his arm. “You and our late-night talks.” ,, He gave her a wan smile and she saw him ask himself if he should pressure her to stay. She’d see that before; part of the problem of getting friendly with the men in power was that they would sometimes want to be more than friendly. But Swain didn’t ask which was good. She wouldn’t have to turn him down or risk that her paramour would come after him. Theda was a wonderful lover, but she had some extreme jealousy issues. ,, * * * * * ,, “Frauline Walpurga!” The shout was masculine, and Walpurga turned to scan the courtyard, wondering who was yelling at her. There were a number of men watching her, but men always watched her and fancied her red hair, or green eyes, or breasts, or any other of her übermensch traits. However, only one of them was all-but jogging toward her. He did not make a physical impression; he was average height and weight, with brown hair going gray. The only remarkable thing about him was that his arm was in a sling. ,, “Yes?” she inquired as she faced him. She noted that his eyes didn’t drop to her cleavage; either he’d already checked her out to his hormones’ satisfaction or he was one of those men who didn’t stare at beautiful women. ,, “I am Oberleutnant Otis Huber.” The man touched his hat politely but didn’t offer to shake. She wondered if that was because his right arm was the injured one or if it was because she was a woman. But she was more curious about his name. She’d heard it somewhere recently. “May I talk to you?” ,, “Of course, Oberleutnant.” Walpurga had made it a rule to never assume she knew what someone wanted of her. It was fine to guess, but she only had to be wrong once to rule her chance to make a good impression. “Is this a matter to be discussed in private?” ,, He paused, considering her question. “It is a matter of the Hood.” ,, “You’re too late. I’ve been reassigned from that mission.” Walpurga gave him a wry smile. “In fact, I’m about to leave Berlin for Warsaw.” It was actually to Ostrow, but her orders had been clear that no one was to know her true final destination. ,, “Yes, I know, but you…” Huber thought better of what he was going to say and took another angle. “I have a thought on the Hood, and why his activities have ceased, that might give us insight into catching him. I wanted to speak to someone about that, and you are a dynamic.” ,, Walpurga hesitated. The Hood was literally no longer her problem but she was curious about him. “Very well. But I warn you – dynamic or not, I may not have the answer.” ,, “I’m aware, and I do thank you for your time.” Huber gestured to a nearby bench and they sat down together. “Many people have been looking for a pattern to the Hood’s attacks.” ,, “And none were found. He was targeting small groups of our soldiers as the opportunity allowed.” Walpurga kept her voice even instead of letting annoyance leak into it. “There was no pattern beyond that.” ,, “I disagree.” Huber clearly wasn’t comfortable contradicting her; he was a good soldier. “There is a pattern. One of the men in each group had assaulted the headquarter laundry maids at one time or another.” ,, The pieces clicked for her immediately. “The Hood knows the women.” ,, “Or one of them.” Huber smiled grimly. “So you think the idea has merit?” ,, “I do. You should give that information to the man in charge of finding the Hood after me,” Walpurga urged. ,, “Ah yes. Well, that would be me.” Huber gave her a taut smile. “Lucky for me, eh?”
  10. “Filthy animal!” The Hood’s voice was taut with strain as she struggled beneath him; her German was accented with a softer language. ,, Jäger laughed and ground against her, enjoying the thrill of her body against his. “Be still, my mate,” he whispered in her ear. “I have been looking so long—” ,, It was hard for Jäger to say what happened for a moment; something snatched him into the air by an ankle. The response to twist, pull himself up and slash through the vine holding him was done instinctively and without hestation. With another twist of his body, he landed on his feet, looking for the attacker. The Hood fired at him, forcing Jäger to roll backwards out of the way. Just as he thought he’d cleared the arrow, a tree limb swung around and slammed into him, knocking him over the rock he’d climbed. He didn’t even see who was yielding it! ,, The hunter twisted and came to his feet as an arrow slammed into his arm. Grunting with pain, he went to remove it, as another limb swung at him. This time, Jäger saw that there was no one moving the limb; it was the tree itself that was moving. He leapt over the next branch that tried to snag him and an arrow lodged into his chest. That threw him to the ground as he struggled to breathe around the projectile in his lung. He’d be fine, if he could just get it out. ,, A tree bent over and pinned him to the ground; as Jäger rallied and tried to free himself, he heard the Hood come closer. The tree held him in place even as the branches parted for her. He stared up at her as she notched and pulled an arrow, the head zeroing in on his eye. She had him, dead-center. ,, He was more aroused than he had ever been in his life. ,, A flume of incandescent green flame slammed into his lady’s side. She tumbled out of his sight, crashing into the trees, which weren’t holding him down anymore. Grunting, Jäger pulled himself out of the mass of branches, already snarling. He knew who used that green fire. “Walpurga!” he roared as he threw himself into the air. ,, Jumping was a fine means of travel, but flight had the advantage of changing direction. The bitch swerved away from him as gracefully as a bird. A mocking smiled twisted her full lips, and Jäger wanted to fuck her like an animal, brutal and mindless. His second hunger was rising and he hated her anyway. Bringing her down a few pegs with his cock sounded like a valid lesson to him. ,, She twisted away, sending a gout of flame for him, and Jäger knew he was going to have to ground her to get the advantage. Walpurga knew this too; they had never fought before, but Jäger had known that he might need to, someday. So when she refused to come within range, he knew what to do. ,, Seizing a nearby bench, he hurled it at her, forcing her to duck. Without waiting to see the result of his first throw, he grabbed the next item and threw it at her, and the next and the next. He knew she’d be too busy dodging them to worry about him— ,, The tree pounded him a second after an arrow pierced his back. Jäger staggered, feeling a flash of rage that she was interferring. But the Hood was fighting too well for him to be too angry at her. She was doing exactly as he would: taking advantage of a new fighter on the field. ,, There was a reason only she was good enough to be his mate. ,, That thought proved the fatal distraction. Jäger, the hunter, the dynamic who never lost his prey or allowed himself to lose sight of the goal, was seconds late in moving to the side. Green fire roared over him and left him in darkness.
  11. The night was alive with sounds and smells, but tonight they brought no comfort to Jäger. There were too many people around in him, hiding his prey from him. It was no longer a game for Jäger but a necessity to finish the hunt. The Hood would have to die before the boot-licking dynamic they tried to replace him with showed up and found him first. ,, The gnawing in his gut that signaled the rise of his hungers was growing. Jäger knew what that meant; if he didn’t feed his hungers, he’d slowly become more and more animalistic, until his urge to hunt overcame his rationality. He’d always been careful to keep his two hungers sated, so that the Germans wouldn’t find out what a liability he could be. ,, Food was easy; he ducked into a kitchen and snatched a loaf off the counter. As the house frau screamed, he ran, fleeing the complications of being caught thieving. He didn’t care if they knew he was there; they knew he was in the city. By the time word had gotten out that he’d been there, he would be long gone. ,, The bread filled his belly, and helped his first hunger. But it did nothing for his second hunger. That was harder to feed and harder to sate; it required more than a quick snatch from a kitchen. Though, he ruminated as he filled his belly with warm bread, if he risked slipping into madness, he could snatch what he needed from a young woman’s bedroom. Just the thought made him hard with need but Jäger wasn’t there, not yet. He had some time: a night, perhaps. Enough time to truly hunt the Hood. ,, Jäger scented the wind, attuned to the city completely. The smell of the people agitated him and he used that, driving himself into higher states of awareness. He didn’t let anything distract him as he leapt from shadow to shadow. Every sound, smell and sight was assess and examined for signs of his prey. ,, The rational part of his brain still operated; it was mostly occupied with testing the information his eyes, ears and nose were collecting. But one part was toying at something else – the mystery of why, beyond that first night, he’d never seen the Hood again. Jäger was sure he’d been close, more than once. His nose couldn’t be lied to, and it had plainly told him several times that his target was near, somewhere. Only he’d ever laid eyes on him. ,, The hours rolled on as he scented and pondered. There was a trap out here; the Hood made one every night. They were getting quite good at their little dance but Jäger didn’t have time to play any longer. He had to kill the Hood and decide where to sell his services next. Perhaps the Russians—He shook off the distraction of worries for the future. He had a bigger puzzle to solve— ,, It hit him so hard he actually missed a step and nearly fell off of the roof he was crouching on. He’d lied to Jäger’s eyes; the Hood could be invisible. It didn’t matter how as much as how to circumvent it. “I will be as a blind man, so it’s time to stop looking for him,” Jäger murmured to himself. ,, When he caught that elusive scent, it was near the edge of Volkspark Friedrichshain. The massive park was the oldest park in Berlin and Jäger could hardly believe his good luck. This was going to be an easy hunt, and he wondered why his prey had chosen an environment that favored Jäger so much. Of course, the hunter realized a moment later, his prey likely believed he had some advantage in the park. This was Jäger’s place, the green spaces where men were thinned in numbers everything was a bit wilder. ,, The path of his target led deeper into the park, but Jäger didn’t allow his excitement to cloud his mind. Instead, he picked his way cautiously, using his eyes only to find his way. He didn’t trust them to find the prey. ,, The scent grew stronger and stronger as he worked his way into the greenery of Volkspark. Jäger didn’t approach directly, but slipped up into a tree and crawled silently over a rock outcropping to find an indirect route to his target. His eyes didn’t see him, but his nose told him exactly where he was. Pickng up a small rock, Jäger tossed it into the dark. In the copse below him, he heard the softest of movements. In a movement that was just as soft, the hunter dropped off his rock and onto his prey. ,, The target let out a startled yelp when Jäger landed on him. The prey didn’t stun for long; he twisted and slammed an elbow into Jäger’s face. The blond dynamic was laughing as he wrapped his arms and legs around the struggling target and pinned him face down on the forest floor. “You were a good hunt, but now you die,” Jäger whispered. ,, Then he realized that his hand wasn’t resting on a hard chest, but something softer. He squeezed it slightly and heard the unmistakably feminine noise the prey made in response. The ass pressing against his hip was too soft and lush to be a man’s. ,, The Hood was a woman. ,, The Hood was his perfect mate. Jäger pulled on the knot of her hair, spilling the dark strands out into the night. Her scent filled his nose – filled his world. He was so hard that it hurt, and he knew then why no other woman had satisfied him. None were good enough to bear his children, but this woman was. ,, Coiling an arm around her neck, he used his other hand to pull at her pants. His one thought was to consummate this match, to claim this woman once and for all.
  12. Walpurga sighed as the last of her little children skittered away into the night, feeling the loss of the energy she’d used in their creation. The small spider-creatures were nearly invisible due to their dark mottled gray-brown carapaces and their small size. They were weak and easily killed but their value lay in their spycraft. They would find both culprits and report back to her. ,, Oberstleutnant Swain Mencken watched her closely, the light from the overhead lights making him look sallow. “How long before we know?” he asked. ,, “When we know.” Walpurga shifted slightly, feeling her corset press against her skin. “The spiders will return to me when they have intelligence. What about the rest?” ,, “Yes, we’ve got men watching the rooftops, his preferred method of travel, and we reassigned all the laundry women he showed interest in to the prison outside of town. He won’t know where they are.” Mencken glanced around at the darkness, looking uneasy. Walpurga knew Jäger wasn’t here, else her spiders would have told her. “We’ve cleared out his room, too. He has nowhere to go and no one to help him. He’ll be caught soon.” ,, Walpurga nodded, but she wasn’t so sure it would be that easy. “Jäger is good at hunting. He knows our tricks. He knows me-” If not as well as he would like. “-and my tactics. He will not be easily caught.” Perhaps it’s not him I need to catch. Tossing her red hair over her shoulder, the woman turned to the Oberstleutnant. “Also, he is a good enough tracker that he could find those women, if he really wanted.” ,, Menchen shifted uneasily, taking off his hat and tucking it under his arm nervously. He was a handsome enough man, if one liked them tall and portly. Walpurga knew that his darker complexion and black hair was a sore spot with him; he didn’t match the Aryan ideal. His tendency to pudginess couldn’t help his self-esteem. But Walpurga had heard enough about him to respect the mind behind those less-than-perfect features. “Hmm. Well, at least at the prison, there will be more guards. Ironhelm is the prison’s long-term guard, and he should physically be more than a match for Jäger. Assuming he can catch him.” ,, “That’s always the problem with Jäger.” Walpurga sighed again. She prayed that he remained so focused on the Hood that he forgot about any other potential prey. ,, “No, the problem is that he’s always been a loose cannon. Now he’s just finally exploded.” The Nazi officer put his hat back on his head and glanced down at her. “Do you wish to wait at the barracks? We can feed and house you, while we wait word.” ,, Walpurga nodded. “That sounds good,” she replied, her green eyes sparkling as she took Menchen’s arm. He flushed slightly but didn’t free himself from his grip. “I can’t do anything until my spiders return.”
  13. We don't need a roll call. This game exists for people to post when they can or when they want, and there is no expectation for them to post. Just let people do their own thing, including those left in Greeks - since you are no longer in that story. Let them finish or not, as they want.
  14. Major Sigfrid Willaperht stared at the monster across the desk from him, and hated him. Willaperht admired the majority of the ubermencsh; they were the backbone of the Third Reich. They were going to build the future of Germany and the world. But the monster sitting across his desk was not part of that future. He was barely a man. ,, Jäger was smirking, with no good reason for him to be smiling. For over a week, the man-shaped monster had gone out each night hunting the Hood, and for over a week, he’d come back empty-handed. Every afternoon, he’d reported to Willaperht, producing an ever-growing litany of excuses and failure. ,, Today, the hunter dynamic had come in and sat down, saying, “No, I still don’t have him. Last night, he slipped onto a passing train. I wasn’t able to keep up on foot.” ,, “Another excuse.” Willaperht saw Jäger stiffen. This was the first time that Willaperht had really unloaded on him. “Another failure.” Now those dangerous blue eyes were focused on him, narrowing in anger. “The Fuhrer is displeased.” ,, “Then the Fuhrer should come and try to hunt the Kapuze.” Jäger was scowling now, his smirk washed away by the conversation. ,, Willaperht stiffened at the blasphemous words, his nostrils flaring. “The Fuhrer gave you the task to find and kill the Hood, this murderer of our soldiers. It is your responsibility to stop him!” ,, “And I will. It has proven harder than I thought, but I will capture him.” The blond man curled his fingers as if his claws were forming, but he was not so foolish to threaten the Major. ,, “No, you had your chance.” Willaperht had been given complete control over this situation. He’d been disappointed with Jäger but was willing to let him try another night or two. But the comment about the Fuhrer had tipped the scale the other way. “You are being reassigned, Jäger. I will find another dynamic to succeed where you have failed.” ,, The smirk was gone. “No.” Jäger sat forward, his hands gripping the arm of his chair. “No, this is my hunt!” ,, “It was,” Willaperht sneered, gratified at the monster’s reaction, “until you failed utterly at it. Now, it will become Rhinelander’s job, or perhaps the Fuhrer will give it to Walpurga. I understand that she’s had great success hunting members of the Hungarian Resistance. I’m sure she will appreciate the opportunity for an assignment in Berlin.” ,, “You will not allow another to have my prey.” Jäger was scowling, his teeth bared in anger. ,, “You should have caught the Hood, then.” The major started to rise, feeling vindication like a warm heat throughout his body. “I do not tolerate fai—” ,, The blond hunter was blindingly fast, and Willaperht was still speaking as the claws slid into his gut. “This is my hunt.” Jäger sliced up with the claws. “And no one, not you, not that cunt-licking bitch Walpurga, will keep me from my prey.” The human struggled to speak, but only blood rose on his tongue. The claws of Jäger’s other hand rose above Willaperht’s head. The man tried to scream as the claws descended, filling his vision and ending his life in one stroke.
  15. The moon was smaller than last night, a mere line of silver in a star-crusted sky. Jäger inhaled the night air with sensual pleasure; the smells of the somnolent Berlin were not the source of his delight. It was the knowledge that his prey, the most delightful prey ever, was out there. ,, With a grunt of exertion, he started to run across the rooftops of the city, his height allowing him to filter the scents of the city with ease. Jäger wasn’t sure where the Hood would be tonight. His prey would be frightened and cautious after the ambush last night; tonight would be hide and seek. Jäger grinned cruelly, feeling his heart pick up its pace. This is what he lived for – the hunt and he’d never had a hunt like this. ,, The hours trickled away as he searched the dark corners of the city, focusing on the places where the soldiers went. The bells had just chimed three when he caught a familiar scent, one that brought his head around in a quick snap. His prey – the scent borne on the wind was the one he’d sought all night. He could smell fish, too and laughed to himself as he understood where his quarry was hiding. The fish market would mask his smell until his trap was set. And of course there was a trap set – it’s what Jäger would do, and his prey was worthy of his interest, and so would think of it. ,, Jäger swung around upwind and approached the market carefully. The place was deserted, save for a single man carefully painting one of the booths. One of the vendors, no doubt, touching up appearances before the market opened. Jäger ghosted through the aisles and walkways, his nose and ears seeking in the shadows where his eyes couldn’t see. ,, The smell of his prey was thick in the area. It smelled as though the man had crossed the area several times. “You were finding a hiding place,” Jäger remarked to himself, touching a wall that smelled strongly of the Kapuze. After a moment, he leaned over and touched his tongue to the stonework. The sweet taste of his prey combined with the scent, exploding over his tongue. Yes, he could taste the stone and mortar, too, but the dominant taste was his prey. ,, He was here. Jäger lifted his head as he crept from one shadow to another, a cat after a mouse— ,, The arrow’s hiss was the only warning he had. It was barely enough, and Jäger choked back a cry of pain as the projectile seared his arm. He was angry, but only for a second. Elation chased away the outrage as he realized that he’d been successfully injured! His prey wasn’t a chase with a depressing end; it was a true challenge! ,, Even as his mind processed that, he was rolling into another shadow, tracking the arrow’s flight back to a shadow. Jäger could hear him move, a near-silent slither of sound to the north, and close. Grinning, Jäger hurried after, swinging wide enough to move between the prey and the river. The Hood would find no solace in the water, though Jäger was sure he’d find it elsewhere. It wasn’t that Jäger doubted his ability to bring him down; it was his desire to bring him down. Command wouldn’t like it, but it might take Jäger a few more days than he’d planned to kill the Hood. ,, Of course, he conceded an hour later when he lost the trail of his prey in the cattle lots by the rail road tracks, it wasn’t all about his willingness to let the prey go. “Clever boy,” he murmured as he crouched on the fence rail and tried, in vain, to smell anything other than cow shit. He might be able to find the trail again but it would take investigating every trail past the point where he could smell the feces. By the time that was done, the villain would long be gone. ,, “Oh well.” His voice caused the cows closest to him blink in surprise. With a shrug, he hopped backwards off the rail and turned toward the barracks. Besides, he was hungry, and there was a green-eyed girl to find.
  16. Jäger reported the night's events and got back to bed. His washwoman was gone but her scent remained. Smiling, Jäger rolled himself into the covers and soaked in the scent of sex and company. Jäger loved women, loved them deeply and completely. He could not love one of them, which was considered a failing by many. But Jäger knew that was just his nature. He’d tried; a marriage certificate and a broken heart in Dresden proved that. He should be sleeping, but it wouldn’t come. He was wound too tight to sleep and he tossed and turned for a time before his eyes fell on the bow. He’d leaned it against the wall next to the door; now he rose and picked it up, bringing it to his nose again. The smell of his prey filled his nose and Jäger shivered with pleasure. He’d never hunted a dynamic before this one. Jäger returned to the bed, taking the bow with him. He settled back in among the sheets, the smell of his past conquest and future conquest mingling with his own scent. Finally his mind relaxed, and the hunter was able to sleep. * * * Jäger woke after noon, going from deep sleep right into deep stretching. He was acutely aware of the area: the birds singing, the smell of recently-cooked sausages and potatoes, the sounds of men moving around the officer’s building, the press of the bow against his thigh and a hundred other signals. For a moment, he lay in opulent splendor, naked and stretched across his bed. The growl of his stomach prompted him to move. His muscles limber, he rolled over until he was lying on the bow, aware that he was hard and ready for a woman. He laughed to himself as he acknowledged that the bow wouldn’t accommodate that need. Rolling the other way, he hopped out of bed and pulled on his pants. Clad in nothing else, he went searching for ways to sate his various appetites. Food he found in the kitchen: a meat pie that he ate with one hand while washing down a bottle of milk held in the other hand. A woman was harder to find, or rather the woman he wanted was elusive. For a while he ranged around the complex before stopping and asking one of the other washerwomen about the green-eyed girl. “She’s sick, Herr.” There was a pause and then the girl said, “But Traude is here.” “Traude?” he asked, genuinely puzzled why the name was both familiar and unknown. The girl’s muddy eyes zagged back and forth uncertainly; she smelled uncomfortable. “You… and she… Herr, she kept you company yesterday.” Jäger sighed as he realized that the human tendency to be monogamous was working against him. He’d had sex with this Traude girl once; now she was paired with him in the other humans’ minds. Not that it mattered to him, but he’d dealt with the awkwardness this had caused before. Still, she would be amenable, and he was tired of hunting for prey that wasn’t accessible. “Where is she?” Traude was exactly where her peer had said she would be and Jäger approached her with a smile. She smiled back and that was all it took to have her again. He led her back to his room, put her basket on the floor and stripped her naked. She giggled and squirmed happily, until he unstrung the bow and bound her wrists to the headboard with the string. “Jäger, what are you doing?” she squeaked, pulling against her bonds. The stiff sinew cut into her skin almost immediately, adding the spice of her blood to the olfactory bouquet in the air. “Ow, that hurts!” “Then don’t struggle,” he told her, sliding the curving bow under her arms and over her throat. “What are—Oh!” Her question was cut short when he lifted her legs in the air and thrust into her. His world became the tight feel of her body around his, the scent of her sex and her blood and Hood, her cries of protest or pain or pleasure or all of them, and his own rising ecstasy. He spilled his seed into her, then immediately took her again. This time, he opened her legs and lay across her breasts and belly, rubbing his face against her shoulders, her cheeks, and the bow. This time, the pleasure built to an impossible crescendo: the pleasure of his climax actually left him weak and sated – for a moment. He flipped the girl onto her belly and thrust into her body once more, pulling her back against him with a double grip on the bow. She choked and cried with each pull on the bow, her helpless, wordless noises enhancing his pleasure. The fourth time he took the girl, he knew: he wasn’t going to catch the Hood tonight, either. To end this now would be no fun. For the first time, the Jäger was going to play with his catch.
  17. Jäger rose from the bed, his cock still hard. He wasn’t sated, but the girl was exhausted and through the windows, he could see that the sun was falling. His prey was largely nocturnal, operating at night or during overcast times. Today had been sunny, so the hunter had gotten some ‘rest’. One of the washing girls picking up laundry at the base had possessed some beautiful strawberry blonde hair. He’d pulled her aside and whispered her into his bed. She’d been reluctant, but she opened her legs for dynamics; they all did. Perhaps tomorrow he’d claim the youngest one, the one with green eyes and somber face. ,, He dressed and paused to look at his day’s conquest. She was deeply asleep, her young, unblemished face slack and innocent. Jäger smiled as he remembered her innocence; the startled look on her face when she found pleasure in the act of sex was gratifying. It had been almost as gratifying as learning she was a virgin. He had a knack for finding untouched girls and then for touching them deeply. ,, He could have left through the door; instead the hunter went out the window. His long blond hair swung around his face as he twisted around and scaled the wall, his fingers finding holds where there were none. His toes joined his fingers and he found his way up to the roof just as night claimed the city. For a moment, Jäger held himself at the edge of the roof and soaked up sounds and scents of the city. This was his jungle, and no one else would be allowed to master it. ,, Hauling himself up onto the roof, the blond hunter twisted his hair up and slipped it under a black knit cap. Feeling more alive than he had even in the wash-woman’s arms, he began to track across the city. He leapt from roof to roof with ease, his black and gray uniform blending into the night. The moon was a sliver of light; the stars were bright pinpricks of light. The wind was filled with secrets and promise, and somewhere out there, his quarry waited. As his blood began to race, Jäger swung into motion. ,, Many would have found the hours that followed tedious, but the hunter was on the prowl. To him, each moment was filled with information. He cataloged it all away: movements of people going about their lives, the smells they created and what those smells signified, and the sounds of life and what secrets they gave away. He learned who beat their spouses, who was eating strong foods and where there were too many smells and sounds for one family. Once he paused long enough to confirm that those sounds were a family of six hidden in the attic of a house. Jäger moved on without concern or plans to report them. Jewish women tasted like non-Jewish women, and all religions were asinine to a man who heard the priests committing sins in the darkness. Yes, he wore the Nazi uniform, but he wore it for the perks of service, not the ideology behind the symbols. ,, Like a wolf keeps close to the watering holes, so he kept close to the places the soldiers go. The bodies found in the sewer were all German soldiers; the Kapuze, the Hood, had specific prey. Jäger stayed around the bars, theatres, whorehouses, and restaurants, watching and listening, noting everything that passed through the night. So when he heard the cry, quickly silenced, his casual manner changed to a focused bearing and he raced through the darkness. ,, His first sight of the Hood was a dark form crouched on the edge of a roof. Jäger saw the curve of the bow, then the line of the archer’s arm as he drew back for a shot. Jäger closed the distance in a flash, summoning his claws as the distance melted. The form turned as he struck; Jäger wasn’t sure if the archer heard him or if it was dumb luck. Whatever caused the Kapuze to move, it fouled his strike and his talons scored the archer’s arm instead of his body. He heard his prey’s cry and marveled at the youthful sound of the pain. ,, Jäger was too close for arrows, so he was rather surprised when the archer spun and stabbed him in the shoulder with an arrow. Arrows weren’t made for stabbing, but that taught Jäger that when one held them near the head, they worked rather well in a pinch. Growling, he simply shoved the archer backwards. The man hadn’t been able to move from the edge and one sharp push tumbled him over the side. Jäger grinned at the thump that sounded from below. Leaning over, he peered into the alley-- ,, Arrows snapped like vengeful lightning bolts and Jäger jerked back just in time to avoid getting one in the eye. The sound of running steps told him what the archer was doing now, and he followed, letting his ears be his guide. The Hood made it to a street and turned sharply; Jäger leapt silently to a nearby building and followed. He raced faster, striving to get ahead of him. When the footsteps were behind him, he timed his leap and dropped from above. ,, His booted feet hit the archer and knocked him to the ground. As the villain flopped onto his back, Jäger caught a brief glimpse of wide eyes over a lower-face mask; then the Hood kicked into a roll and came up. Jäger studied his prey, the way he favored his right side, presenting his left the hunter. Jäger flexed his hands, knowing that his claws were white scythes in the dim light. He waited to see if the prey would speak, but the only communication was a sudden movement. Jäger dodged to the side, avoiding one arrow then two more as he circled around, trying to get close. The prey wasn’t standing still, backpedaling as he fired arrows. He’ll run out soon, the hunter, thought, feeling victory- ,, The victory was thwarted when the archer dropped his bow and jumped over a rail. Jäger hadn’t realized they were so close to the River Spree, and that error cost him the prey. The archer jumped into the black waters and was gone. ,, For a moment, Jäger stared at the spot where they archer had gone, rage in his eyes. Then that anger eased and he bent to pick up the discarded bow. He’d known his prey would be tough, and he counted it a victory that his prey had run rather than face him. “Very nice,” he said, running the bow under his nose, pausing to sniff the leather grip. The smell of his opponent filled his senses, a strangely pleasing scent. “Delicious,” he murmured, wondering at the way the archer’s scent made him want sex. He’d smelled men whom he desired before, men who had genetic conditions who made them part-woman. ,, So the archer had a secret. Jäger ran his hands over the polished wood, rubbing his oils and scent into the bow, claiming it with his smell. It was his prize, his trophy now, just as the archer’s body would soon be his prize and trophy.
  18. The surgery to remove the arrow had taken hours and by the time Huber woke up from the drugs, Hauptmann Schneider was in his room. For a moment, Huber stared blankly at his superior, trying to remember why Schneider was in his room. Movement drew his eyes away from Schneider; Letta rose with a smile. His wife wasn’t pretty, but she was a good mother and a loyal woman. The look of glad relief in her eyes as she stepped to his side was worth a thousand more beautiful women. “Otis,” she murmured, leaning over him to hug him. Huber stiffened at the show of affection in front of his boss but Letta was not being overly emotional. With her lips so close to his ear, she whispered, “He wants to know about the hooded figure. He’s looking to blame, Otis.” The words cleared his mind quickly, the fear scouring them away. Huber gently squeezed her arm and said, “Thank you, Letta. Raise my bed and leave us.” “Yes, Otis,” she murmured demurely and moved to the foot of the bed. As she cranked the head of his bed up, Huber felt the pain in his shoulder worsen. He kept his face composed as the change in gravity pulled at his wound. The time gave him a chance to marshal his thoughts and decide how to proceed. When Letta was done and had slipped from the room, he looked to Schneider. “Has the hooded man been caught yet?” “No, he has not,” Schneider said, “and he’s not been seen since your men let him escape.” “My men are not dynamics.” Huber didn’t quite say he wasn’t up to the task, but he refused to be chided for not having the power of a dynamic. Schneider sighed heavily. “The Hood is a dynamic?” “Without question. Had it just been the leap from one building to another, there are men athletic enough for that. But Koch was shot four times in twice as many seconds.” Huber shook his head, then regretted it when the room spun around him. “To fire that fast with that accuracy... no, we are dealing with a dynamic who likes to shoot people with arrows.” “A bloody lunatic.” Schneider slapped his knees with his beefy hands, making a fleshy pop of sound. “In Berlin.” “We can capture him. We are the masters of the Fifth Reich.” The throbbing in his shoulder only increased Huber’s rage. “I can lead the men to catch him--if you give me the right men.” “A dynamic?” Schneider asked, peering at Huber closely. “Two. One who can track and another to capture. Between the two I can capture this bowman.” Huber clenched his good fist, ready to leave his bed now and chase down the villain. “I will ask Command to send us a dynamic. If they send Jäger, that is the tracker and the capturer in one.” Schneider paused before he added, “It is natural to want to do this yourself. But the doctors say you must rest, and we cannot let this villain attempt to cause more chaos. Oberleutnant, your orders are to rest and recover.” “Sir, please!” Huber felt helpless and unmanned by these orders; the image of Koch pinned to the wall blazed in his mind for a moment. “This is one case where you must do the unpleasant in order to serve.” Schneider’s expression conveyed his sympathy, but his voice was hard. “I will ask Command to send us the hunter and we’ll stop this monster.” All Huber could do was agree.
  19. It was raining when Huber’s force returned with the dogs. The three bloodhounds were enthusiastic despite the damp, nosing into every crevice and cubby and wagging their tails. Huber pulled his rubber rain coat more tightly around his body, cursing Schneider in his heart. Rain ran down his brim and into his collar, leaking down his neck. “Fahnenjunker, please begin.” ,, Koch waved for the men and dogs to join him under the eave of the whorehouse. The dogs’ handlers snapped to get their attention before joining him. When the young red-head leaned down and held open the sack with Kappel and Fleischer’s clothing, even the dogs sobered. Their long brown noses wiggled into the bag and snuffled loudly; then the same noses were lowered to the ground. ,, Huber thought that humans were the pinnacle of God’s creation, yet even he was awed by the dogs’ ability to sniff the busy walk in Berlin’s red light district and find a path that was hours old. It took the dogs time; it was a well-traveled walkway and no doubt there were some strong smells to distract them. But the animals found a trail and took off down the sidewalk, the humans following after them. ,, At first, the dogs headed for the barracks; exactly where they should go. But halfway back home, the dogs stopped and milled about for a moment. Then all three of them crossed the street and pulled their handlers down an alley. Huber felt his gut tighten with excitement. Just as he felt they were close and that the dogs had closed in, they began to circle and seemed lost. “What is it?” he snapped, pushing forward to see what they had found. ,, A grate in the ground marked the end of the path. Huber felt his face flush with anger. “Sewers?” he snarled, watching as the swirling water pushed debris through the grate and into the hidden catacombs under their feet. Irritation burned through him as he glanced up at the gray clouds, cursing the rain—and caught sight of the hooded figure on the roof, watching them. “Up there!” The second he pointed he berated himself for not being subtle. “Get him!” ,, The figure drew back from the edge, but his men were already swarming the building. He was trapped. Huber turned to go into the building behind them— ,, “Sir!” Koch’s strangled cry brought his attention back just in time to see the hooded figure tumble through the air to land on the next building over. ,, “Keep watch outside!” Huber screamed as he drew his gun and kicked in the door on the building the hooded form had just landed on. There was no logical reason to assume that this figure had anything to do with the missing men, but Huber refused to believe that a figure skulking on top of the building was up to any good. ,, A curious hissing-puff of noise followed by a thud drew his attention back out of the building. An arrow jutted from Koch’s left eye, piercing his glass, eyeball and skull alike. The arrow thrust him against the wall behind him; Huber only had time to stare as two more arrows finished pinning him, with the final arrow sinking into his heart. The man’s feet kicked in desperate spasms as his hands clawed at the arrow. ,, Hot rage filled the Overleutnant and he surged back out into the alley, gun pointed to the sky. He saw the form perched on the edge of the building; saw the drawn arrow against the rain-blurred clouds. Huber threw himself to the side and rolled against the building, uncaring that he splashed into a puddle or that he must look a muddy fool now. The searing pain in his shoulder was welcomed, because it meant that he wasn’t shot somewhere more vital. ,, Distantly, he heard his men open fire; peering out carefully he saw his men on the first building, firing at something he couldn’t see. He could hear their cries as they saw Koch and him in the alley below. His pride forced him to sit up and wipe at his face before they found him. “Sir, sir! Are you all right?” ,, “I’m not all right! I’m fucking shot with an arrow—would you be all right? Call the motherfucking medics!” Huber hissed in pain as he pulled his arm against his side, then batted at one of the hands reaching for the wound. “Are you a medic? I want a medic!” ,, “Yes, sir!” His men jumped to obey, leaving him mercifully be. Huber tried to focus on breathing and not hurting, which was rather hard with an arrow grating against his collar bone. That hooded bastard was going to pay for this, and pay hard.
  20. Oberleutnant Huber sat stiffly in the chair, his hat in his hands. The parlor of the bordello was filled with scantily-clad women and uniformed men. His soldiers attempted to ignore or discreetly ogle the women lounging in the other chairs in the room. Huber quietly noted which of his men were staring and which were not; it would be good to know which men had control over their masculine needs. ,, A woman swept into the room; she was older than Huber’s wife but still quite lovely. Her dark hair had no gray strands and her skin was unblemished. Unlike the girls who were wearing their underwear and perhaps an open robe, she was wearing a gown, as if in the middle of a club. It was cut lower and higher than a woman should wear; Huber would have beaten his wife for going out in public showing so much of her breasts or legs. Still, he rose to his feet and smiled. “Fräulein,” he greeted her politely. ,, Her smile was as pretty as her face, but this close, he could see that some of her teeth were false. It was her eyes which held his attention: they glittered with cunning. It was a woman’s cunning and inferior to a man’s intellect, yet not without danger. “Oberleutnant. Will I and my girls be entertaining you and your men tonight?” ,, “No. If that girl told you that, she needs to keep her lying tongue silent.” Huber had wondered what the girl was telling the mistress of this house. ,, The madame smiled coyly. “She told me that I had a parlor full of Germany’s finest soldiers.” ,, “We are here seeking answers, not whores.” Huber cursed his slip of the tongue; the woman was less likely to be cooperative now. ,, He saw her eyes narrow and her lips tighten. “Then come with me.” Turning, she stalked toward the door, only to pause in the entrance. “There’s not room in my office for all your men. They can wait here.” ,, Huber stifled a sigh of annoyance. Meeting with the woman alone was a sure way to have his honor besmirched and leaving his men here without supervision was sure to cause trouble. “Koch, come with me. The rest of you wait outside.” ,, The office was barely a closet but despite his worries, there was no bed in the room. Instead, a small desk with two chairs filled the small space to the point of claustrophobia. The madame was already seated when Huber and Koch eased into the room and took seats. She smiled and lit a cigarette, adding to the stale smell in the air. “What can I do for the German army?” she all but purred. ,, “Last night, two soldiers came to your brothel. I need to know if they arrived, and if so, when they got here and when they left.” Huber didn’t like her smile. He was sure she was not going to cooperate. ,, “There were many soldiers last night.” The smile became crooked. “Tell me which two you’re looking for.” ,, Koch spoke up, his quiet voice grabbing attention. “Ralf Kappel and Niklas Fleischer.” ,, “Ah, Niki. Sweet boy. He comes here often.” The madame smiled fondly. “His friend was new. They got here about midnight, were entertained the French twins and gone by two.” ,, Huber leaned forward slightly. “Do you know where they were going after?” ,, “Back to their units.” The madame frowned slightly. “Did they not make it home?” ,, “No, they did not.” Huber debated whether she was telling the truth and decided that she was being honest. She’d sounded fond of Fleischer; a good madame would be fond of her regulars and prefer that they stayed healthy. “Was there anyone suspicious around here last night? Did either of them have enemies?” ,, The madame took a puff off her cigarette, thinking. “Niki is a nice boy, treats the girls nicely. The other boy is not. So perhaps he angered someone and Niki just happened to be with him.”
  21. Schneider was a thick man with heavy jowls and graying brown hair. He’d worked hard to make his way to the rank of Hauptmann in the Fifth Reich, mostly through diligence and knowing who was rising and who was falling. He’d always had moments which he knew were make or break, when his career would either advance or diminish based on his choices. Those instincts were tingling now, telling him that this was one of those moments. Oberleutnant Huber sat stiffly in his chair, his expression impassive as Schneider pretended to read his report. The hauptmann had read it three times already; he was thinking. Huber had done his research and quickly; less than four hours after their phone call, the report was on his desk. It was a full report, supported with facts and research. It was only missing one thing. “Oberleutnant, what is your assessment?” Schneider stifled a chuckle when he saw the flicker of dismay on Huber’s face. His subordinate had been very careful to not bias his report with opinions. It was a sign of a prudent man; he wouldn’t put his own thoughts on record. Schneider would have preferred that Huber show some more balls and go on the record. Clearly, he thought something was wrong, but he’d failed to take responsibility for drawing it into the light. Still, the man rose to the occasion well when it was forced upon him. “Hauptmann, I believe that something is happening to these men. They are not bad men, and in every case, their commanding officer did not expect them to go AWOL. Between that and the numbers that have disappeared, someone or something is targeting our men.” Schneider had drawn the same conclusion; still, he made a scene of pursing his lips in thought and drumming his fingers on the desk. “The terrorists in the Widerstand could be mounting an offensive.” The members of the “German Resistance” were largely toothless dogs, unwilling to do what they thought was right. Huber nodded. “That was my first thought. But first, we should verify that this isn’t a personal matter. Ten men is a lot of men to be connected, but it’s not impossible to be a conspiracy against a group of soldiers who have done some perceived wrong.” Another good mark for Huber: he thought about more than the obvious possibilities. Schneider nodded and leaned forward to hand the report back to Huber. The man took it with a hint of a frown. “On your way out, give that to my secretary. She’ll create copies for distribution. And…” He scrawled out orders on a paper quickly. “Give that to her as well. She’ll draft it up officially and with all the right notations for me to sign.” Huber hesitated until Schneider nodded for him to read the orders. As the younger Oberleutnant read it, his dark eyes widened and his ruddy complexion paled. “Sir… me? You want me to lead the investigation?” “You brought this to my attention, and I want to find out why my man disappeared. You’ll find out where the other men went as well, and we’ll have that information when the brass starts to ask what happened.” Schneider smiled coldly. “I’ll have that reason by tomorrow, so that when the hunt begins for the cause, I’ll have my men in that, too. Dismissed.”
  22. This fiction contains scene of violence, sex and sexual violence. You have been warned. Oberleutnant Otis Huber had a problem. Soldat Ralf Kappel was the third man to go AWOL this month. It wasn’t like these men were on the front lines. This was training post, in the heart of Berlin, and these men weren’t lazy or prone to delinquent behavior. Yet they had disappeared and he had the bad feeling that they weren’t the last. Fahnenjunker Koch entered the room, carrying a clipboard. “I asked the men about Kappel.” The little officious man adjusted his glasses and peered at his notes. “He did not draw duty last night—” “I am aware of the duty roster, Fahnenjunker.” It was a sign of his agitation that he cut Koch off. Normally, Huber was far more indulgent of his men; treating them without respect was a sure way to sow dissent. He softened his voice as he added, “I’m sure you have discovered something else.” Koch was many things, the foremost of which was efficient. “Of course, sir. Kappel and six other men had permission to leave the barracks and go into Berlin proper. The seven of them went to dinner and then a theatre show. Our men ran into a group from Training Division Kurland at the bar after the movie. Kappel and another soldat named Niklas Fleischer decided to leave for…” Koch paused and twitched his lips in distaste. “A house of ill repute.” “Soldiers will be soldiers,” Huber replied, taking a sip of his tea. In truth, the thought disgusted him, but he had been a young man once. It would be better for the troops to frequent brothels than for their manly pressures to build until they were tempted into viler activities. “Yes, sir.” The repugnance hadn’t left Koch’s face. “I took the liberty of visiting Kurland.” This is why Koch was his assistant; he would not only take initiative, but he knew when to do so and when to refrain. Huber allowed Koch to see his pleasure as he asked, “Anything of note?” “Yes, Oberleutnant. I learned that Soldat Fleischer is missing as well.” Koch’s smugness seemed out of proportion until he added, “I have a friend in the Personnel department and learned that there are many disappearances within the ranks.” Huber’s eyes narrowed. When he spoke again, his words were enunciated precisely enough to cut. “How many disappearances?” “Ten men in twelve nights.” Huber inhaled slightly, dread easing into his bones. Ten was not so many… but ten was the start of an avalanche, in his opinion. Ten men abandoning their posts on the front lines during a losing battle was expected. That many in the heart of the Reich while on training was too many. Personnel should have seen these losses—only Fleischer and Kappel hadn’t been reported. Eight was better than ten; perhaps the head of Personnel had told himself one more and I report. Perhaps he had already reported. Huber snatched up his phone. Regardless of what the head of personnel had done, Huber was about to report this trend. His superior, Hauptmann Schneider, valued men who were reactionary rather than passive. And while Schneider hated to be bothered with needless details, Huber’s instincts were telling him that this was important.
  23. Luka’s hurts were tended to first, but that didn’t stop the argument. Silvestru stood uneasily to the side, wishing she had her bow, as two women patched up her former captor. It wasn’t the women making her nervous; it was the three men who were standing in a rough semi-circle, talking loudly and stridently. Luka was clearly hurting, yet he didn’t back down, returning their statements in the same language and vitriol they were speaking. Someone touched her elbow; Silvesru spun to see a girl about her age. The girl smiled hesitantly and waved for Silvestru to go with her. The dynamic glanced at Luka. “Go on,” he told her in Romanian. “Svetlana wants to take you to get a bath and a disguise.” “Why am I being disguised?” Silvestru asked, her eyes narrowing. “So that you can hide here, with my friends. A young woman in a russiykiy dress will draw no attention when with other women in dresses.” Luka tilted his head a little. “Don’t frown, Silvestru. You can’t be that attached to your pants.” “Dresses aren’t practical.” Silvestru crossed her arms. His expression was charming, his tone persuasive; it made her feel like a recalcitrant child. “Neither is getting caught.” Luka smiled a little. “Silva, please – it’s only for a couple of days. Then we’ll know the state of the Resistance and we can work on how to approach them.” Before Silvestru could reply, one of the men spoke in sharp Russian. At least, that’s Silvestru thought they were speaking. Luka replied just as sharply and the men fell silent, looking unhappy. “Silva, please go wash up and let me finish here, and I’ll come and explain.” “You better, Luka.” Silvestru let the girl draw her out of the room. <hr> The two days passed slowly. Silvestru wore the dress—except when she snuck out the first night to find wood for a new bow. That went poorly: she found the wood she needed but when she got back, Luka and four other men were in her room, arguing. One of them had checked up on her and found her missing, and had roused everyone else. Luka calmed everyone down and asked her to come let him know before she left again. When they put her to work doing laundry on the second day, Silvestru had the sudden impression she was being held captive, but this time her cell was Luka’s sweet words. Tomorrow, I’m leaving. She hardened her resolve, prepared to fight with Luka and all the men. But that night, Luka knocked on her door and asked to come in. Once he was inside, he smiled and said, “Silva, thank you for your patience.” “Mmm hmm.” Silvestru glanced up briefly from her stave before returning her attention to the construction of her bow. “I’m sorry you’re angry.” “Are you?” she asked, stopping and looking up at him, her green eyes annoyed. “I am. I know this is hard for you, but we needed this time.” Luka sat down on the bed next to her; Silvestru noted that he was mostly healed from his last beating. His blue eyes sparked in the lamplight as he said, “Your new bow is off to a good start.” “What did you find out?” Silvestru wasn’t ready to be nice to him, not yet. Luka smiled slightly. “I contacted friends in Bucharest. They have made contact with a man named Sorin—” “Sorin Peteran?” Silvestru asked sharply. Sorin was one of her biggest fans. She suspected that he had deeper feelings for her. “Yes. He’s agreed to hide you and vouch for you, and help you reestablish yourself with the Resistance.” Luka was all-but beaming with joy and pride at managing this achievement. Relief surged through Silvestru; until he’d said that, she hadn’t realized how scared she’d been that she’d never establish her innocence. “Good. When do we leave?” “As soon as you’re ready,” Luka told her, rising. “I have bought us a one-way warp directly to Sorin’s house.” Silvestru blinked, even as she stood up and began to collect her few things—mostly her knife, the wood, her guns, and the pants and shirt she’d refused to give up. “Isn’t that expensive?” “Yes, but much safer. Getting you into Bucharest will be hard; avoiding both the Resistance and the Army will be that much harder.” He grinned. “I’m not one with the shadows like you are. This is far safer than trying to sneak me in there.” Together they went out into the house’s main room. A thin-faced man smiled at her just before he waved his hand. A hole opened in space, showing her a sparsely furnished room. “Ladies first.” Luka gestured for her to go and Silvestru stepped through with a smile. She was alone in the room; it was furnished with a bed, a dresser and a small woodstove. The room was cold, though the stove was filled with kindling and ready to be lit. The warp closed behind her. Silvestru turned, frowning when she realized she was alone. Where was Luka? A paper fluttered to the floor, having fallen from the warp. Silvestru bent and picked it up. It was a letter; she’d seen them before, but the young dynamic couldn’t read. The door to the room opened and an older man entered. “Silvestru?” he asked hesitantly. “What is going on?” Her voice was terse and she was gripping her Luger, ready to use it. “I am Gregor Bauer, owner of this boarding house. Prokina asked that I explain what happened, once you’ve read the letter.” His Romanian was functional, but there was a hard accent to her, perhaps German. “I can’t read.” She handed it to him. “Can you?” “Yes.” He took it, his gray eyebrows rising as he peered at it a moment. Clearing his throat, he read, “ ‘Dear Constanta, I must beg your forgiveness for what I have done. I have lied to you. The Resistance is utterly convinced of your guilt. I know you would have demanded to go to them and prove they were wrong, just as I knew they would kill you. I couldn’t bear to see that happen.’” Bauer paused. “This is rather personal, Fraulein.” “Read it.” Silvestru’s ire was rising with each word, and she’d know exactly what Luka had said. Bauer cleared his throat again and proceeded, looking extremely uncomfortable. “ ‘I have come to care for you greatly, and I won’t allow your death. That’s why I have sent you to Berlin, to the care of my friend Gregory Bauer. Gregory will watch after you; he’s a good man who has cared for orphans in the past. His wife is kind and they will make you welcome. “ ‘I sent you to Berlin because it is safe. Constanta, please, darling—wait for me. I’ll come for you, when you can safely return to Bucharest. Please do not be wroth with me; I do this because I care for you so much. Yours, Luka.’” Bauer handed her back the paper, looking worried. He’d betrayed her. Luka had sent her to Berlin, of all places. She had to find her way back home, to Bucharest and her war.
  24. Driving through the night wasn’t taxing to Silvestru. She’d pulled all-nighters before, and this wasn’t that much different. The novelty and stress of teaching herself to navigate the road kept her amused through the long drive back to civilization. Luka fell asleep—or passed out—after telling her about necessary traffic laws. Dawn found them still in the rural countryside. She had able to avoid the various checkpoints along the road by shutting off her lights and slowly driving around them, but that option would soon not be available. Pulling into a field, she parked behind a hay stack and shut off the engine. In the silence, Luka woke up. Silvestru watched him with concern as he stiffly sat up, his expression etched with pain. “How do you feel?” she asked as she studied his bruised face. Luka rubbed his face and stopped with a wince. “Terrible. Where are we?” “Outside Buzau.” Silvestru opened the glove box, looking for a first aid kit. They’d lost the basket back on the bridge in the mad scramble to abandon the truck. Luka frowned. “We should head to Constanta not Bucharest.” The mention of the coastal city that she shared a given name with drew a frown from Silvestru. “Why would you say that?” she asked him, turning to look behind the seats for any supplies. “I have friends in Constanta who can help us.” Luka grimaced and muttered, “I think it’s in the back.” Silvestru scrambled around the jeep and dug under the bunk seat, grinning when she found the box marked for medical supplies. She still had that victorious grin as she passed the box to him. “I have friends in Bucharest.” “No, Silvestru, you don’t.” Luka’s words stopped her mid-motion. It wasn’t the words themselves that halted her but the tone in which he’s spoken them. The words weren’t doubtful or questioning; they were full of a hard certainty. “What do you mean?” The young woman felt her throat catch as she faced this older man who meant so much to her now. “Silvestru…” Luka set aside the medical kit to take her hands in his. It must have hurt to move his injured hands, but there was no pain visible as he wrapped his fingers around hers. “The Romanian Resistance thinks you were the one feeding information to the government.” Silvestru’s heart dropped. “What?” “They have another source of information inside the Resistance, but all the information he’s given them has been attributed to you breaking. Your friends are going to kill you if you go right to them.” Luka’s fingers tightened around her hand a bit more, as if he was afraid she was about to run. He was right to be concerned; all Silvestru could think was that her allies in the Resistance were in trouble. They were being deceived. But his last sentence was a dash of cold water; she knew how ruthlessly the Resistance treated traitors. Even the great Silvestru could fall in their esteem. “I have… I need to convince them otherwise,” she said, feeling tears sting. She blinked them back ruthlessly and ignored the pain that ate at her heart. Porc and Magar couldn’t break her; this wouldn’t break her. “I have to stop the traitor and save the Resistance,” she insisted. “Agreed. But let’s go to Constanta, meet up with my friends and approach the Resistance carefully.” He released a hand to tenderly brush her hair back from her eyes. “We might even be able to find some evidence of who the traitor is.” Silvestru shook her head, indecision battling within her. “This… it feels wrong.” “It goes against your instincts, I know.” Luka touched her face and brought her eyes back to his. “It will not serve the Resistance if they kill you before you can convince them to accept your innocence.” Silvestru locked her eyes with him, thinking. If the Resistance believed her to be a traitor, they wouldn’t give her a chance to prove her innocence. They’d kill her. Luka was right—they had to prove she was innocent before approaching the Resistance. “All right. We go to Constanta.” But even as Luka smiled and grabbed her in a relieved hug, Silvestru wondered if this was the right course of action.
  25. It was a small tank, a holdover from the Great War that was smaller than the truck. That didn’t change its lethality. The barrel of the gun exploded with fire as the tank shot at them. Silvestru was vaguely aware that she was screaming; she hit the brakes and spun the wheel without thinking. The passenger side of the vehicle slammed into the restraining wall of the bridge. The masonry cracked and buckled but held, forcing the truck to stay partially in the path of the tank’s gun. The shell whizzed past them, cutting the air with a scream that drowned out her and Luka’s cries. ,, As the shell exploded in a field behind them, Silvestru got the truck stopped. Luka was stumbling out of the truck, trying to get away from what was shortly going to be a flaming ball of death. Silvestru yanked her rifle into her arms as she hopped out of the truck. Steadying the muzzle in the V created by the open door, she took careful aim at the tank. She blocked out the sputtering growl of her vehicle, Luka’s cries and the shouts of the men behind them and the whirring as the turret spun to fire the second shell. The young woman ignored the ominous sight of the big barrel lining up with her vehicle; her sharp eyes were locked on the narrow slit on the front of the tank. She took a deep breath, emptied her lungs and fired. ,, A spark and the sound of a ricochet announced her failure. Silvestru muttered words her father would have been shamed that she knew as she cocked and aimed again. As she centered herself again, the young dynamic fought to find that heart of stillness where she could do her magic again. Had she had her bow, this wouldn’t have been a hard shot. The turret finished its turn and Silvestru pulled the trigger. ,, There was no spark and no ting of failure. The tank lurched into motion, canting hard to the right and into the wall of the bridge. The entire structure shook as the tank hit the barrier and began to claw its way up and through the stone side. The treads tore the stones of the bridge to gravel as Silvestru climbed through the shuddering truck and grabbed Luka. She half-carried, half-helped him past the tank right as the front door opened. A man staggered out of the turret, stopping when he saw Silvestru’s rifle pointing at him. “I surrender!” he yelped. ,, Silvestru shot him, knocking him backwards into the river. “He surrendered!” Luka protested as she dragged them into motion again. ,, “I don’t take prisoners. Where would I put them?” Beyond the tank were more men, and Silvestru shoved Luka behind the stone pillar to shield them. The troops fired at them and there were too many to take on herself. As Silvestru glanced up at the lights overhead, she mentally amended that to Take on without an advantage. Six quick shots obliterated the lights on their end of the bridge, giving her the cover of darkness. “Wait here,” she whispered to Luka. “Don’t move.” ,, By the time they’d moved the three jeeps around so their headlights illuminated the bridge again, it was too late. Silvestru had slipped through the darkness and was now behind them. Silently, she reloaded her rifle before picking off the first three. Then as they panicked and hunted the darkness for her, she moved to another spot and killed another three. At that, the rest ran. ,, “Come on,” she urged as she fetched Luka and pulled him back to his feet. “We need to move before someone comes back.” Together, they staggered to a jeep and claimed it.
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