"Wir werden erst von Frieden sprechen, wenn wir den Krieg gewonnen haben!"
General Georgy Zukhov offered the man deference for his outburst only due to his status. "We will talk of peace right now, Herr Hitler—here and at my leisure. This war will not be won by you. Not today, not now, nor ever."
"Führer Hitler!" the man demanded, almost screaming. "Führer und Reichskanzlerund!"
General Zukhov kindness towards the man had reached its end. As commander of the Belorussian Front, his army would soon be set upon the German Reichstag, consuming it in fire. With no country and no government, and soon, no army to command, Adolf Hitler had lost all claim to any title. Even so, despite the position of superiority the General now held, Zukhov heaved a sigh. There were bigger monsters in this war than mere mortal men.
"As General of the Chief of Staff, and Minister of Defense for the Union of Soviet Republics, I know about the Spitfires."
Hitler blinked before responding. "The British fighter-bomber? Ach, my Luftwaffe would have taken London if given more time."
Zukhov slowly shook his head, keeping fallen leader in his steadfast gaze. "No. Not the British Aircraft. The alien sea dragons."
Hitler now blinked rapidly. "I don't know what you mean!"
His words came clearly as a lie. The tension of the moment made it hard to sound convincing. General Zukhov barely bothered with paying the man heed.
"Herr Hitler," he began, trying to not condescend. "Führer Hitler for now, if you wish. These monsters came to us first in Odessa, offering their hideous wares."
"Nein!" Hitler blurted. "That's not possible!" He then clamped his mouth shut.
Zukhov continued. "The Motherland denied them everything, so they left for Venice, to seek you through Mussolini."
"Nein," Hitler repeated, sounding less than convincing.
"They set out across land and made it to Liechtenstein. A hard feat for what we know are water dwelling creatures. They convinced you to annex Austria, to consort with them in the Adriatic. From there, they fed you lies, as you now try feeding me."
Hitler hung his head. There was no use in denial. General Zukhov, as a member of the Soviet Politburo, knew as much—if not more—about the alien sea creatures as did the German Abwehr. Zukhov no doubt also knew that the Spitfires had abandoned the Reich, fording the English Channel to take sides with Great Britain.
"How…" Hitler stammered, sounding miserable. "How did you deny them, when they offer so much?"
Zukhov stood at attention. "I am only a soldier, and not a politician. But I can tell you this—their promise of technology for no cost other than their benefice is nothing but a ruse."
"They have ulterior motives. They want more than to just live at peace in our oceans."
Hitler disagreed. "They seek out the deep rifts. At seven kilometers or more down."
Now Zukhov disagreed. "Out intelligentsiya tell us that depth is not what they need. They only go so low to find warmth at volcanic vents." Hitler looked confused, so Zukhov kindly continued. "Our world is too cold. They need heat from the Earth's core to keep themselves alive."
"But it gets cold in Venice. And in Austria, there's the Alps."
"Yes. For a length of time, these monsters can survive in colder climes. You've seen them in their armor, da? Made of titanium and magnesium? They wear thick rubber underneath, wet suits to keep them warm." Zukhov paused to scowl. "You do know they're cold-blooded? Like lizards, or like snakes."
Hitler barely nodded. It was clear this so-called mere soldier of the Russian army knew more about the aliens from outer space than did the leader of the Third Reich.
Zukhov carried on. "They keep their armor heated using a hidden power, a thing not run by gas, nor using any fire."
This was something Hitler knew. "They call it atomic power. A source that's like the sun."
The sound of the war raging outside invaded the German bunker. The concussion from a bomb shook the walls.
"Those bombs will soon fall here," General Zukhov warned. "I'll be gone, but you'll remain, to suffer defeat."
"Wir werden diesen Kampf gewinnen!" Herr Hitler cried.
"Nyet," Zukhov countered. "You will not win. You have already lost."
"The American King Roosevelt has died! An angel visits with me in this very room! Like the Miracle at the House of Brandenburg, Fate holds me in her hand."
The thud of more bombs falling coated both Hilter and his angel with dust.
"Her wings will not embrace you," Zukhov said of the angel. "She uses them to fly to safety, as soon so shall I."
The two men stood in silence, as the dull noise of a war being fought from afar filled the room. In a moment of respite, Hitler smiled at his conqueror.
"Will you have a seat?" he offered, gesturing towards a table. "And perhaps, a brandy with me?"
With their aides and bodyguards shifting uncomfortably on their feet, the two foes sat and drank. "Tell me more about this power," Zukhov asked his host. "What the dragons use to heat their armor."
"It comes from the sun," Hitler said brightly, the warmth of brandy and false hope in him. "The crushing of an atom, thus breaking it in two."
Zukhov knit his brow, drinking before responding. "How does this heat their armor? Is it an engine of some sort?"
"Nein! There is only pressure, yet it comes with great power." Zukhov looked doubtful, so Hitler continued, proud to have at least one thing left him in this miserable war. "Certain elements, like uranium and plutonium, they fall apart under pressure, and make heat like a furnace."
"It sounds dangerous," Zukhov mused. "How does it not explode?"
"It does! Ferociously, if unchecked. But it can be controlled by shielding."
"And if you don't have this shielding?"
Hitler splayed his hands with his fingers wide. "Foom," he said while smiling, puffing out his cheeks.
"It sounds like a weapon. Could it make a bomb?"
Hitler pondered the notion. "I suppose it can."
Zukhov was less amused. "Our intelligentsiya say the Americans do just that—they seek to harness atoms, to make bombs that burn like the sun."
Hitler struck the table with a fist, a noise more startling than the war. "They got it from the aliens! Those bastards play all sides!"
"They do not play our side. We sent them away with nothing."
Hitler leaned in close. "They will not let you win. They'll come for when they need you."
Zukhov poured himself another drink. "We'll see," he said as he sipped.
Hitler leaned back in his chair, twirling the brandy still in his glass. "We sent them packing, too, you know, these blasted Spitfire aliens. After we refused them favor, they sided with England."
Zukhov raised his eyebrows, saying nothing as Hitler continued. The Führer sounded wistful, as if talking about lost love.
"At first they gave us so much—armor to make strong tanks, and rockets and missiles and engines. Nothing is beyond them! All they asked was that we hide them, to not let others know they exist. They told about this incredible source of power, crushed atoms that blow up cities, to burn and kill our enemies.
"So it is like the sun, we said back to them. Does it burn as hot? Oh ja, they said right back. Like the sun, and even hotter. It will heat the Earth so much, those left beneath it die."
The joy of this knowledge soon left Hitler's face. He looked sallow and withered. "They're lizards, as you say. Cold-blooded, like a snake. They say our world's too cold, that they need heat to stay alive. Where will that heat come from, our scientists then wonder. Will you give us the bombs we need to defeat our enemies? Jawohl! All that and much more! Many hundreds, even thousands, bombs of atoms blowing up in the sky, to turn our enemies below to ash. To burn their cities and their factories, their navies and their men."
"That sounds like a horror," Zukhov fairly conceded, his face sallow as well. "Hell loose upon the land."
Hitler nodded gravely. "And as this hellfire burns, we asked, what becomes of the Earth? Does it not get hot?"
The realization hit Zukhov like a hammer. "So the monsters will then be no longer cold! The Earth burns like a furnace!"
Hitler nodded again, more gravely than before. "And what becomes of us, do you think, soon after? Do we suffer? Do we perish?"
"It's hard to think we wouldn't."
"And at their benefit. They grow strong and we grow weak."
"And then they conquer us."
Silence again fell, save for the thuds of war.
"How do we stop them?" Zukhov asked after a while. "The Americans, or the monsters?"
"Do you think if the Spitfires give the Americans bombs made out of atoms, that they then will use them?"
"The existence of such a weapon implies the possibility of its use."
Hitler twirled his brandy a final time before downing it all. "I wish I would have stopped them," he said to his empty glass. "I wish I would have never let the Spitfires start this war."
Zukhov stood up to leave. His aids and bodyguards snapped to attention. "Well, it is your fault, Herr Hitler. We sent the aliens away from Odessa by giving them nothing, and when they approached you next, you gave them everything."
"Not everything, Generalfeldmarschall. When we said nein to their bombs, they left to side with Churchill."
"I am just a soldier. I'm not a field marshal."
Hitler ignored his faux pas, the brandy warming him inside. "And when Churchill also denied them favor, the heathens set sail for America. There, they found every terrible thing they ever needed." He looked up at his victor. "Tell me—what do you think it will be like, as the Earth grows hotter and hotter? As the years go by, for decades and maybe longer, with each year growing warmer, becoming worse than the last?"
"Each year growing worse?" Zukhov pondered. "Year after year after year?"
"For decades," Hitler repeated. "Maybe centuries. Never colder. Always hot."
Zukhov thought for a moment. "I don't think I want to live in a world like that. I don't think I could. I don't think any of us could."
"Ja. I don't think so either. I think we'll die like it's a wasteland, our bones bleached on the sand."
Hitler slumped ever further, acknowledging defeat. General Zukhov made a gesture, and an aide was at his side. With another gesture, the man gave Zukhov his sidearm—a Tokarev TT-33. Removing the magazine, Zukhov left the pistol with one round in the chamber.
He placed it on the table. "Führer Hitler. Führer und Reichskanzlerund," he said, "if you find the future distasteful, you might use this to relieve your pain."
Hitler looked up and smiled. "Perhaps, too, if I may ask? Could I also relieve the suffering of my family?"
Zukhov thumbed three bullets from the magazine for the pistol. He also dug in a pocket and placed a silver snuff box on the table, along with the bullets.
"These cyanide capsules might work better, just in case you miss."
"Danke, Generalfeldmarschall. You're a good soldier indeed."
The general snapped to attention before turning and marching away. He was long gone into the war before the gunshots sounded.
- Upright. In the Den.
- Sci-Fi Action Adventure, propelled by a little Romance.
Hello! Who's there? A maiden pure?
Tis me! To be, for you.
Please let me in, O doleful Sir,
To do the things I'll do.