In 1946 the United States Navy conducted Operation Highjump, an expedition to evaluate the effect of extreme Antarctic cold on US equipment. However, their true purpose remains shrouded in mystery. Were the reports of Nazi activity on the Southern Continent accurate?
After engaging unknown forces in aerial combat, weather forced the Navy to abandon operations. Undeterred, the US returned every Antarctic summer until escalating tensions in Southeast Asia forced the government to secretly detonate three nuclear warheads over the continent in 1958. With the threat eliminated, the files were sealed and forgotten by all but the men who fought there.
Now the enemy has returned with a genetically superior army, indoctrinated from birth to hate Americans for their savagery, and they’re intent on exacting revenge for the loss of their homeland and banishment to the icy wastes.
30 April 1945
Gunfire echoed across the night as the two soldiers dug frantically with the small folding shovels they’d taken from dead men. The Ivans were so close that they could hear the reports of individual weapons. It wouldn’t be long before they arrived at the Chancellery itself and they’d give their lives to defend the Führer.
The soil was harder to dig through than either of them had anticipated, but they’d finally managed to excavate the shallow pit in the garden. Then, the whistling sound of incoming Soviet projectiles drowned out the shooting, forcing the men to dive for cover. The ground shook beneath the prostrate soldiers’ bodies as artillery shells slammed into the city around them
When the shelling ended, the sergeant ordered the other man to bring the body while he prepared wood for the fire. They moved quickly about their tasks, the private unceremoniously dumping the body of a woman from a wheelbarrow onto a shallow layer of split wood in the pit.
The men built a small pyre on top of her body before pouring ten liters of the Wehrmacht’s precious petrol on her broken, nude body. The heavy bruising across her body told Oberjäger Mueller that she’d likely been pulled from a collapsed building for this purpose. Everything would be examined, so she needed to seem as whole as possible, he mused, eying the private deviously.
Neither of them knew who the woman was, or whether her family even knew that her body had been removed from the wreckage. They knew they were to burn the woman beyond recognition and that there were to be no witnesses, which was easy enough since most of the soldiers were forward, in defensive positions around the Chancellery.
Mueller bent down and crammed two cyanide capsules into the woman’s throat and then used the spout from the petrol can to force them as far down her throat as possible. If they performed an in-depth investigation they may find that she died of other causes, but he’d seen firsthand how barbaric the Slavs were. They likely didn’t understand forensic toxicology, so he felt it was an unnecessary step.
However, Oberjäger Mueller was loyal to the Party. He would do as directed. “Hurry!” he ordered.
“I’m trying. The damned matches won’t light,” the soldier replied, his fingers shaking in fear from the knowledge of his impending death.
“Imbecile. Give them to me. We must get this going before Bormann has us skinned alive.”
“What do you want me to do? I can’t make them dry out.”
“Watch your tone, Soldat, or I will file a report on your insubordination if you continue.”
That caused the man to laugh heartily. Easily twenty years older than the oberjäger, Soldat Ulrich was conscripted from his small farm only four months prior. He’d been given rudimentary classes on the Gewehr rifle slung crosswise across his back and sent to guard the Chancellery and protect the heart of the Fatherland. It has all been a pile of horse manure, a poisoned dream, Ulrich thought. I will die here and never see my beloved Gertie again.
“Yes, Oberjäger Mueller. I wouldn’t want to end up in one of your reports.”
“Shut up and give me the matches.”
Mueller snatched the box away from the private in anticipation. He’d been given a second directive, directly from Bormann himself. “We need more petrol, Ulrich. Pour the last can on her body.”
“Another can, Oberjäger? We will run out of fuel for the generators soon enough. Is it wise to use so much?”
“Yes. Just do as I say.”
Mueller watched the grumbling private as he knelt beside the pit and began to pour more fuel into the grave. In a smooth motion, he drew the Walther P38 from its holster on his belt and fired into the side of Ulrich’s head, just behind the eyes, level with his ears.
The body slumped forward, splashing into the puddle of petrol. The wool of his field grey uniform quickly soaked up fuel and Mueller had to use his knife to cut the private’s rifle strap and pull the weapon from the pit. If the ruse is to work, the rifle would be a dead giveaway.
He pushed the bodies around with the end of the Gewehr until he was satisfied and tossed the useless matches on top of the bodies. He chuckled quietly to himself when the box broke open and matches stuck to the Jew’s hair. Extra flame for the fire, Mueller thought.
A new box of matches emerged from his pocket and he pulled one out. With a practiced strike, the match erupted into flame and he dropped it on the private’s coat. The fire spread quickly, causing him to step back away from the pit.
He tossed the remaining few logs onto the fire and retreated toward the entrance of the Führerbunker, where the most important man in Germany sat, ready to depart for the port at Kristiansand, Norway.
First, they had to get him safely to the airfield and pray that the Luftwaffe’s new Nightshade technology would keep the plane hidden from the Allies long enough to make it to the waiting U-boat.
19 March 2020
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The sky erupted in a flurry of explosions, bright red, green and blue sparks streaking out over the ocean.
Everyone cheered and then the music began as the concert headliner came out onto the stage. The crush of bodies jumping up and down in the sand made Gabe feel claustriphobic. Guys in board shorts spilled beer on each other and laughed while women in skimpy bikinis screamed their adulation of the artist. He was miserable.
Gabriel Murdock wondered for the hundredth time how he’d let his friends talk him into coming to the concert. They’d promised him free beer and loose women. So far, he’d seen neither. It was a bunch of dudes looking for the same thing. They charged fifteen bucks for a beer and every girl that he did see was with her boyfriend.
Talk about a waste of time. He could have been at the bar, paying only six dollars for a beer, or even better, back at their hotel room where they had three cases of beer that they’d already paid for.
He was a senior at Missouri State University, majoring in Military History, so money was tight. Gabe was in the ROTC program there and would commission as a second lieutenant in the US Army in two months. He’d assessed into the Infantry, so he’d report to Fort Benning, Georgia immediately after graduation. As an infantryman, he had about eight months of training between the Infantry Officer Basic Course and Ranger School before he made it to his first unit and got the opportunity to lead soldiers. It seemed like a lifetime away from where he stood, digging his toes into the sand.
“Hey, Kilgore!” Gabe shouted to be heard over the music.
“I know, man! Isn’t this great?” his best friend, Todd Kilgore, yelled.
“What?” he replied. “No! This sucks. Let’s go back.”
“Huh? No way. This is awesome. Look at these women! And the music… What’s wrong? Are you drunk already?”
Gabe thought about the question. If he said yes, would they leave? Probably not. “No, I’m just not feeling it.”
“Are you kidding me? This is our last spring break before we have to become adults, man. I’m not leaving this concert—unless some chick wants me to take her back to the hotel.”
“Come on, Kilgore. We’ve got beer back at our room.”
“Nah. I’m gonna stay here. You can go.”
“That’s it? You’re not gonna watch out for your battle buddy?”
“I can’t believe you’re gonna pull this crap, Gabe,” Kilgore said in disgust. “I’ll meet up with you later.”
He turned back to the stage and Gabe threw up his hands—or at least he tried to. There were too many people around to accomplish the gesture, so he began the arduous task of pushing his way through the press of bodies toward the back of the crowd.
After several minutes of slipping between people, stepping awkwardly around groups, and generally feeling like a jerk, he made it out to the back where people stood in their own little groups, not part of the larger crowd. This was more his style, not being in the thick of that undulating, drunken mob.
With the closeness of the crowd behind him, Gabe was able to breathe a sigh of relief. He wasn’t claustrophobic in the classic sense, but large crowds of people had made him nervous ever since the marathon bombing in Boston. He’d been there as a spectator, missing the qualifying time by a full twenty minutes. The smoke and explosion was horrendous. People screaming. Blood everywhere. Disorientation. Sirens…
He stopped next to a concrete barrier and bent over, placing his hands on it to take a deep breath. His heart was racing, like it did every time he thought about that day. He was fortunate that he hadn’t been injured, but his proximity to the attack had left him scarred nonetheless.
“Hey, are you okay?” a girl with a southern accent asked as a pair of boots came into his line of sight.
“Huh? Yeah, I, uh…” he looked up. She was pretty, not drop-dead gorgeous like a lot of the coeds down here in Fort Lauderdale seemed to be, but in a girl next door sort of way instead. The blonde wore a pair of cutoff jeans with cowboy boots, and a modest tan tank top that reminded him of a hundred girls he’d met over the course of the week.
“Sorry, yeah. I just didn’t like the crowd,” Gabe finished.
“That’s why we’re back here,” she indicated a few people, both men and women, a few feet from where he’d chosen to have a panic attack. Gabe tried to do a quick count of the male-to-female ratio, but didn’t succeed before the girl continued, “I’m Olivia.”
“Gabe,” he replied, shaking her hand lightly.
“Do you like the band?”
“They’re okay. Not my usual type of music, but it seems to be what everyone listens to down here.”
“You don’t like rap?” she asked.
“No, it’s not that. I just—”
“Me either. I just want some old school country music now and then.”
Gabe smiled. “That’s my favorite too.”
She pursed her lips and squinted her eyes. “Are you just telling me what you think I want to hear?”
“No, really. I like country music. Promise.” He made a stupid crossing of his heart gesture that he regretted immediately. “So, where do you go to school?”
“Mississippi State. You?”
They spent the next several minutes in conversation, ignoring the concert, Olivia’s friends, and everything but themselves. It turned out that they had much more in common than Gabe would have ever thought imaginable. He really liked her, cursing his luck that she lived in Mississippi and he was in Missouri.
“Hey, do you want to go to a bar I know over on Seabreeze?” He pointed to her empty plastic cup. “It’s just about a block off the beach.”
Olivia glanced at her friends and then back at Gabe. “No funny business, right?”
“Are you a Boy Scout?” she asked.
“No… It just seemed like something appropriate to say.”
She laughed and leaned into him. “I’m not going to sleep with you, if that’s what you’re after.”
“What?” he squeaked. “No, of course not. I—”
Strange lights out over the ocean above the girl’s shoulder caught his eye.
“You can’t even think of a good lie to tell me?” Oliva teased.
The first few larger lights he’d noticed separated into hundreds of individual lights. They looked like they were streaking toward the beach.
“I… I think we need to get to cover, Olivia.”
He pointed and grabbed her wrist with his other hand. The lights were much closer than they’d been just seconds earlier.
“Hey, let me go!”
“We need to get out of here!”
She let herself be pulled along, feigning reluctance. “It’s probably another light show. Quit freaking out.”
“No, those are… I don’t know what those are, but I know we—”
Multiple explosions nearby threw him sideways and he lost his grip on Olivia. Gabe flew through the air, hitting his head on one of the concrete barriers he’d rested against earlier and darkness took him.