by Mathew D. Rhys
That cold, late August morning, he rose and walked over to the window, peering out over the mountains. One month earlier, Colonel Otto Hamer had been transferred from Paris to the Gulliani Castello along the Gothic line in north Italy. The Fuhrer had requested he be assigned to protect a great secret that guaranteed to both stop the damned Americans and keep the Italians in line. He could not have been sent at a better time, as word reached the castle of the Allied victory in Rome on the very day of his arrival.
"Yes," he thought, "it will be a bad day for the Fuhrer." This thought caused him to smile, for he was not truly Otto Hamer. The man scratched his neck and prepared for his day.
In the dark hours before the sun awoke, a C- 46 Commando flew north from Sicily. The plane's lone passenger sat in contemplative silence. Thirty-six hours ago he had received orders from CBI Director J. Newkirk Sharp. He was to parachute into occupied Italy just south of the Gothic line and rendezvous with an informant. The communique had been above top secret-- direct from Sharp to him.
"General Glory, two minutes to jump-time," the co-pilot called back. Owing to the secrecy of the mission, the plane was manned by the pilots alone.
The two minutes passed quickly before the General greeted the sky with a free fall and a wide smile. He fell from 12,000 feet, feeling the air force its way into his skin. After forty seconds, he pulled the ripcord and the black chute caught the rushing sky. When he reached two hundred feet, General Glory released the chute and dropped to the ground, his boots leaving a deep imprint in the soft hillside.
With the sky devoid of stars, he paused for a brief moment to get his bearings, and then began the trek to the Northwest. As dawn broke over the mountains, Glory stopped, taken aback by their beauty. The pristine grandeur cried out for protection, for deliverance. It was as though Hitler and Mussolini had tormented and cursed the very ground. Many more miles of terrain, both green and gray, lay before him as he walked-- steep and jagged cliffs, rolling hills, and deadly chasms-- and General Glory kept far from the eyes of humanity.
It was after 0600 when the General entered the abandoned farmhouse that was to be the rendezvous site. The floorboards groaned as he walked in. Across the living room, a narrow shaft of light illuminated the empty house.
The General spun around at the sound of the voice. A tallish, blonde man in the gray uniform of the Third Reich stepped easily from the shadows. "What's going on here?!" the General exclaimed.
"Twenty-three ska-doo," the gray man said calmly in reply.
"And Tyler, too." Holding out his hand, "Otto Hamer" smiled.
Glory shook his hand. "So you're the informant."
"It's truly a pleasure, sir, but time is short." The man withdrew his hand and reached into his jacket. He then presented the General with a thickly filled envelope. As General Glory studied the contents-- blueprints of the Gulliani Castello and diagrams and microfiche of some large machine-- the informant began, "The whole world knows that Hitler started this damned war to increase the size of his rule, but that is only a part of the whole deal. He wants to be a god." At this, Glory glanced up to the other man with a doubtful look. The man continued, "Hitler is very involved in the occult. You probably know this, but he used the Spear of Destiny to erect a Sphere of Influence over his 'Fortress Europe', keeping all the mystery men beside you out of his territory. Anyway, he's been obtaining mystical artifacts from around the world. About six months ago, Hitler finally found the item he invaded France to find. It's a Druidic gazing bowl, made of the same stone as Stonehenge. From what info I could get from the German files, it was brought to Brittany by a group of Druids fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion.
"Regardless, the bowl retained it's magic properties. Along with the mystics of the Black Order, Hitler designed to use the bowl as the power source for a deadly weapon. It was filled with holy water blessed by the Pope himself. The clash in spiritual energies opened a fissure of power.
"Research of the applications of the energy were greatly slowed by the death of the project head, one Professor Thule, in June last year. Work was finally completed last week. The machine lowers an oak shaft into the water. It channels the energy into a chamber lined with jade and amethyst."
General Glory looked up from the papers. "What does the thing do?"
"It produces a powerful energy beam," the nameless man answered. "I saw a test run last week. An entire herd of forty sheep was vaporized in less than three seconds.
"Hitler plans to use the beam to secure his slipping grasp on Europe. You need to destroy it."
General Glory smiled, "I can do that."
"General," the spy said, scratching his neck, "take the bowl out first, if you can. It supplies the power, and if destroyed would preclude any attempt at reconstruction."
General Glory placed the envelope and it's contents on a nearby table. "Good luck, sir," the other man said.
"Same to you-- I didn't get your name."
"I'm just a soldier, sir." And with that, the man left the farmhouse and vanished into the morning mist.
General Glory made very quick time to the castle, reaching it by 0735. He found an old, bricked-over servant's entrance on the north-east side, just as the anonymous soldier had said. The mortar was weak and the General had little difficulty breaking through it.
He entered the dank hallway. The smell of rotting moss and wet earth assaulted his nose. Light danced through the thick air. Recalling the blueprints, he made his way through the long-forgotten passage.
He walked for fifteen minutes down the hidden corridors between rooms and beneath floors. Spiders and rats scurried away as he passed by. Slowly, light began to filter in through the darkness. Glory reached an ancient wood door hung on rusted iron hinges at the end of the hallway. The General swore to himself, but seeing no other options he broke open the door, readied for a fight.
The door creaked painfully as it opened, but, much to his surprise, there was no one to hear it. "Another testimony to Nazi arrogance," Glory said as walked through the doorway. He found himself in an old stable, stacks of rotting hay still lining the walls. The stable opened into the courtyard, and a good deal of light shone in. From his vantage point, the General could see that only one sentry had been placed to patrol the entire courtyard. "This is going to be easier than I thought," he said beneath his breath. He quickly walked across the stable and entered a second doorway opposite his entrance.
A short hallway followed and six short steps led down to the kitchen. But just as General Glory lighted the final step, three armed Germans entered by the opposite door. The General dodged the bullets as they started flying. He lunged at the guard nearest him, grabbing his gun away and swiping it across his face. He then grabbed the Nazi and used him as a shield as he approached the other two. The soldier took three shots to the torso before being thrown at the guard on the General's right. The soldier fell back and surrendered consciousness to the stone floor. The third Nazi succumbed to the might of Glory's fists.
General Glory turned to exit the way he had come only to be met by a hail of Nazi gunfire. Out of his eye's corner, he could see German soldiers were now coming in both doors. He spun around and looked for a weapon. From the stove top, Glory grabbed the lid of a large pot and, using it as a shield, dove into the mass of soldiers. The General plowed through the German troops, and with fist and foot he greeted them on behalf of the American people.
A short one leapt from the crowd and brandished his combat knife. On his first strike, General Glory grabbed the little man's wrist and struck him in the face with the lid. The man stumbled back and dropped his knife on the floor. The General swung his "shield" around behind him as he spun around, knocking away a gun pointed at his back. A firm right cross reeled the gun's soldier over. The soldier clenched his fist reflexively as he fell, and six of his comrades perished from the stray bullets.
Once he was in reach of the door, General Glory grabbed a grenade from one of the Nazis. He then threw the lid in a wide arch, sending it crashing through the sole light fixture. With the room in darkness, he pulled the pin and gently lobbed the grenade into the crowd. He then leapt out the door, closed it behind himself, and ran like hell.
The explosion stampeded across the stone walls and floors, sounding much larger that it was. Every able soldier in the castle ran toward the sound, hoping to give help or battle. In the chaos, General Glory slipped into a dark, narrow hallway. He quickly followed it as it led him in a great arc and opened into a great, round room. The room was lit by a strange and ever-shifting light. In the center of the room, a mighty cylindrical machine sat. It was set upon four large legs, thick and tall. This was the weapon.
The eerie light poured from beneath the machine in waves both garish and sad. Above the weapon, a large, circular portion of the domed ceiling had been removed, and Glory noticed a mirror-like device had been set up there.
As the General approached the weapon, he saw the stone bowl suspended beneath it. The bowl was the center of the light. The bowl itself emitted light of a deep blue, and seemed both illuminated and shadowed. A strange green glow spilled from the water. He looked into the bowl and its putrid luminance, and the core of his being was gripped by a sudden terror. Perhaps it was the strength of those obscene magics, he thought, or the his own mystic beginnings, but he was locked and commandeered by the fear. The tainted souls and black hearts of the magus who built this machine had poisoned the place. Hatred and scorn flooded over his soul and toppled General Glory from his feet.
Behind his eyelids, the General fought the ghosts of his fellows--those who fought alongside him that day in France where only he was chosen and only he survived. He saw with sight un-blocked the horror of their deaths, and how they each claimed the right to do the work of Glory. It grieved him, and in this grief, he was again assaulted.
By hate. By cowardice. By despondence and squalor. He lay on the floor, his body quivering. He grew weary. He wished a respite and begged for death.
Through the pain, a soft sweet voice spoke out-- a voice like the spring rain falling across the wheat fields of his childhood. "Joseph." A soft hand reached down and touched his cheek. He opened his eyes to see Lady Liberty kneeling over him. "Joseph, what is it?"
With his tears wetting the floor, he cried, "Liberty, oh, Lady Liberty. I'm sorry. I've failed you."
"Joseph," she said, "you have not failed me. You cannot not fail me, but you must fight."
"B-but I'm so wea--"
"You are not weak, Joseph. In you is the courage of all America, its indomitable will. In you is the vision from its mountains and the joy from its waves." Lady Liberty stood to her feet and pulled the General to his. "As long as America is strong so shall you be," she said. Then with arm unwavering and graceful, she pointed to the bowl.
General Glory ran to the bowl as Lady Liberty disappeared. He ripped the bowl from its place. It seared through his gloves and his palms. At that moment, a horde of Nazi troops stormed into the hall. The General held the bowl over his head and threw it into their midst. Time seemed slowed as Glory watched the bowl fall to the stone floor and shatter. The water spilled over the broken shards and released one final blast of energy. The Germans were reduced to white ash, and the shock-wave blasted the General through the aged castle wall.
Donovan Wallace wakes with a start. His impulse to sit up is halted by his deaf body and dead limbs. Somehow he knows this dream is not his own, but memories of the life of Joe Jones, his predecessor and the first General Glory. Donovan ponders his dream, but finding no answers, he closes his eyes and prepares to sleep again. A soft sweet voice like the spring rain falling on the Central Park speaks. "Donovan, think well upon what you have seen."
"I don't understand," he says to the darkness.
"From the past you can learn all there is in the future. You are not the first on this path." The sweet, sweet voice fades as Donovan drifts asleep to again see and to dream.
The highly odd Mathew D Rhys is an obsessive storyteller and family man whose wife graciously allows him to prattle aimlessly, and gives him no end of joy in life. He hopes to one day write comics his son can read. You can read his original character fiction at dreamerpress.cjb.net.
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This piece is © 2002 by Mathew D. Rhys
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