www
jamesphogan
com
Minds Machines & Evolution
Order by Mail
or Online

Sample Pages

He had no way of telling how long the dreamy state of changelessness persisted--if, indeed, "how long" still meant anything at all. But then the panorama of all his mental processes laid out side by side began collapsing in on itself like the pieces of a clock being reassembled . . . and as the clock came back together, it began running again. The ghostly outlines around him took on solid forms, the glow dimmed, and the various sounds around the cockpit ran down and died. Then all was silent. The moment that Kunz had steeled and trained himself for had arrived. There was no time to be lost. He pressed a button to open the hatch and stood up from the cockpit.

He was outdoors, and it was nighttime as intended, with the air chilly and the moon hidden by clouds. Sounds of drums and brass marching bands were coming from the distance, accompanied by singing and cheering. The machine was lying in an open area of ground shadowed by trees. All was still in its immediate vicinity, but a line of large buildings bounded the open area a short distance away, silhouetted against flickering orange light. The music and singing were coming from the far side. It was all uncannily close to what Kunz had been led to expect from his briefings. He was in the Tiergarten in the center of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It was the night of Monday January 30, 1933.

At noon that day, after driving one hundred yards from the Kaiserhof Hotel to meet the aging President Hindenburg in the government offices on Wilhelmstrasse, Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as the new German chancellor. So had come to power the man who would reject the world's attempts to achieve lasting peace through understanding, compromise, appeasement, and reason, and who in the eyes of the world would make them the very cause of war. Just when reason had finally come of age and could have pacified the world, one man's betrayal had caused pacifism to be dismissed as ineffective and ridiculed for a century afterward, thus setting the course for calamity.

Kunz transferred his equipment from the stowage rack to fastenings on his belt and inside his cloak, then climbed up out of the cockpit, over the outer torus, and down the sort metal ladder on the outside. As he reached the ground, a blue light shimmered briefly in the darkness some distance away out in the park. He froze for a few seconds, but nothing more happened. Then, taking a tight grip on the assault laser beneath his cloak, he began making his way stealthily toward the buildings lining the Wilhelmstrasse.

The singing of the crowd became clearer as he approached the buildings. In the evening of that day, as news of Hitler's appointment spread through the city, tens of thousands of delirious supporters and Brownshirts had gathered and marched in a massive torchlight parade to celebrate their victory. Hitler himself, after watching for a while from the balcony of the Chancellery, had retired inside for a quiet dinner with Göring, Goebbels, Hess, Röhm, Frank, and a few others of his inner clique. With the jubilant atmosphere putting everyone off their guard and all the noise and distraction in the streets, this had been judged the ideal moment for not only eliminating Hitler, but decapitating the Nazi apparatus of its entire leadership cadre to ensure it demise. A spot of diffuse, greenish glow flare somewhere across the park. Kunz stopped. The glow died away, and after a moment he moved on.

And then he almost walked into something in the shadows between two trees, where he had expected there to be open grass. At first he thought it was it was an automobile or a small building of some kind, but as he passed by, the moon shone briefly through a chink in the clouds and revealed the object to be circular in shape. It was a machine in the general form of a torus, lying horizontal, ten feet or so in diameter. It had a metal ladder leading up over the outer ring to an enclosure of some kind in the middle. Kunz turned to stare back uncertainly at it, until he was walking fully backward. That caused him to bump into something else.

It was another machine. This one was in the form of two vertical disks about eight feet high and close together like a pair of large wheels on a short axle, with a boxlike structure between them. In the moonlight Kunz could make out a black swastika on the outside of the disk facing him, and underneath in German, the words GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. FORBIDDEN TO TOUCH. The only problem was, it didn't look to him like something that any government of the 1930s should have owned.

Bemused and bewildered, Kunz resumed heading toward the Wilhelmstrasse. But his boldness and determination were ebbing. Something was obviously very wrong. At the back of a building which he recognized as part of the German Foreign Office, he passed another torroidal machine, this time tipped at a crazy angle against the wall enclosing the grounds. He didn't even bother stopping to look at it, but now in a complete daze, followed the wall around to an alley which brought him out onto the Wilhelmstrasse itself.

A column of storm troopers was marching down the middle of the road to a thunderous beating of drums, with trumpets blaring, banners flying, and a river of torches flowing away as far as the eye could see. Shouting people lined the sidewalks, and every window was packed with waving, cheering figures. As the mission planners had anticipated, it would have provided the perfect cover for getting inside the Chancellery building . . . if it weren't for his dress, he realized as he looked around. He was the only person in sight wearing a cloak. And not only that--all the men were wearing subdued combinations of heavy overcoats, flat caps or conventional felt hats--not one with a feather--and without exception, long pants. Kunz's cloak was only knee length, and his bright red socks seemed like beacons.

Then he saw the two German policemen in flat-topped helmets and greatcoats heading toward him along the rear of the crowd. He turned, but a knot of onlookers had blocked the alley he had emerged from. Desperately, he turned the other way, but a crowd coming out of a doorway cut off any escape in that direction. Before he could recover from his confusion, the policemen had drawn up in front of him.

The larger of the two looked Kunz up and down. He had heavy cheeks and thick black mustache, and a fleshy sausage-neck overflowing from his collar. "Don't tell me," he said amiably in German. "You've come back from a future age to assassinate the Führer."

Kunz gulped disbelievingly. "How . . . how do you know?" he stammered.

"Oh, they've been showing up in dozens all night. You'd better come with us. The line starts a block farther along the street."

 
Content © The Estate of James P. Hogan, 1998-2014. All rights reserved.
Site Maintained by GMAG, E. Hartford, CT, USA

Page URL: http://jamesphogan.com/books/info.php?cmd=sample&titleID=16