Chapter 1: BERLIN, August 1, 1936
The opening day of the Olympic Games was exceptional in the capital of the Third Reich. There was a tremendous atmosphere of solemnity and pride on every street and square, in parks and gardens. It was caused not only by the festive attire of the Berliners, but even more by the festive décor of the streets, with their reds, whites and aggressive looking black swastikas. The beer gardens and cafes of this incredibly vivid city were filled with people holding lively discussions about who would win medals and why they would be Germans, as well as speculating what the Fuehrer would say during the opening ceremony. Crowds of residents of Berlin, tourists from around the world and military in gala uniforms were going towards the Olympic stadium, wishing to see the struggles of athletes, Hindenburg's flight over the stadium, the first ever flame of the Olympic torch brought straight from Greece and, above all of that, the Fuehrer himself, whose show of praise this ceremony supposed to be.
Not everyone was heading in the same direction. The glances of people going to the stadium were caught by a speeding motorcycle with a sidecar with... a parrot sitting on. Many people turned their heads towards the direction it flashed, trying to look at both the driver and a bird but they disappeared too quickly to make it possible, delving into dense network of city streets. Slaloming dangerously in traffic, among buses and trams, they passed the Tiergarten, the Victory Column with the gilded statue of Victoria on its top, passed the Reichstag and driving through the colonnade of the Brandenburg Gate, they got on the Unter den Linden Boulevard and finally stopped in front of the main gate of Friedrich Wilhelm's university.
When the bike was at a standstill, passers-by could look at the man who drove it. Or more precisely - the woman. She was really beautiful, although being a 70-year-old lady with long, thick, light gray hair. Her face did not show her real age, it could even be said that it looked very young. Her smooth cheeks and slightly upturned nose were covered with slightly faded freckles and delicate wrinkles, but they were still giving a girlish impression, like they did 50 years before. Her clothes were probably from the same period - a burgundy coat with white inserts and sleeves that became unfashionable at least 20 years earlier, a white shirt with burgundy stripes and a maroon ankle long skirt that was somehow clean, despite many kilometers driven on a motorcycle. She wore a big, white ring with a sizeable ruby on her neck. Of course, she also had necessary motorcycle accessories, like goggles that covered her glasses with round lenses in a thick, round, white frame. Taking off her burgundy helmet, she unveiled a bun, which was just as thick as the rest of her gray hair. Looking like this, she stood out from an average Berliner of her age, stealing everyone's glances. The machine was also impressive - it was the 1935 BMW R12 - the world's first heavy motorcycle with telescopic shock absorbers on the front fork, the strongest and the fastest bike in Germany.
The woman dismounted from the motorcycle and looked at her companion, who after a moment took off from the perch at the sidecar and sat on her shoulder. It was a male parrot with powder gray feathers and green eyes. It had an exceptionally large head compared to other specimens of its species and its neck was wrapped with a scarf of dark purple material.
"You will certainly lose me, driving so fast...!" it said in pure German.
"But you're always holding tight, my dear Pericles!" laughed the woman with a melodic voice and added: "Let's go, we have a business to do here."
The woman went to the university door with the parrot still sitting on her shoulder. She was escorted by the glances of speechless bystanders. Berliners, usually blasé and indifferent, are difficult to impress. She managed to do it.
In a one of university's offices, an unpretentious, thin, old man sat by a large mahogany desk loaded with old books. He was dressed in old-fashioned, not to say quite wretched way. His faded jacket has seen much better days. His head was covered with gray slicked-back hair and he wore a pair of glasses with thick, round lenses on his nose. It was Gustav Hoff, the professor of archeology and a world-renowned specialist in Latin American civilizations, in particular the Maya and Aztecs. He conducted many expeditions in Central America, bringing to Germany lots of artifacts from the local extinct cultures and gaining respect among his colleagues and students at his university. He was, however, a very humble man. He even resigned from presiding over the archeology department, claiming that it is necessary to give the younger generation of scientists a chance. He didn't care about the prestige, he put pragmatism first, conducting in-depth research in historical sources, in search of another good opportunities. He did it with almost heavenly peace, making most of overworked university staff jealous. However, on that day, the Professor felt a certain nervousness, which was unusual for him. He couldn't sit calm on his chair, looking at the clock hanging near the door from time to time. He was bending over the desk and shifting sheets of paper lying in front of him, always leaving one of them on top. There was a name on it: Nicolas de Acuñia.
The professor was not alone in the office. He was accompanied by his closest associate - Doctor. Hermann Weisskopf. He was an elegant man, more fitting to the modern realities than his supervisor. His face was very masculine - rectangular, with a hooked nose and a marked mandible. His green eyes, though small, were sharp and penetrating. He was Hoff's favorite and he undoubtedly contributed to several of their recent successes. An efficient organizer, with unique intuition, where to look, to find as much as possible. Ambitious, wanting to break through his mentor who knew about it and only supported him in this intention. However, unlike the Professor, he was a quick-tempered, angry man who has been given a nationalist paranoia by the Nazis. He backed them with the honest disapproval of Hoff, who claimed it as unworthy of a professional scientist. That was especially because the Nazis expelled many specialists highly valued by the professor from the university, just because they were Jews.
Now, however, the gentlemen didn't think about the Nazis, nor Hitler and the Olympics. They were clearly waiting for something in silence, more and more nervously looking at the clock that began to strike noon.
Then, someone opened the door. An elderly woman walked into the office, followed by a parrot, to the surprise of gentlemen.
"Heil Hitler!" said the woman loudly, raising her hand in Nazi salute.
"Heil!" Weisskopf saluted, unable to take his eyes off the parrot, which finally landed on the woman's shoulder.
"Hello, Abigail." Hoff said calmly, waiting for the clock to stop ringing and looking his guest up and down.
"Incredible..." he thought. "She is in the same age as me and looks the same as when I saw her for the last time. Unlike me, unfortunately..."
He felt a slight embarrassment over his old, wrinkled person.
"It's been a while, Gustav!" Abigail said with an ironic smirk.
"About 15 years, if not more ..." the professor replied and turned to Weisskopf. "Doctor, may I present Miss Abigail Gluck, my former business partner from America. We met in 1889 at an archeological conference in New York and..."
"Mistress, not Miss, Hoff!" Abigail interrupted him, making the old professor blush.
"Hermann Weisskopf." the doctor introduced himself, kissing her hand.
"I'd like to introduce you my companion, Pericles - the wisest parrot in the world. We've been working together for six years." Abigail said pointing at the parrot sitting on her shoulder. Pericles bowed politely to the scientists.
Mrs. Gluck sat in a chair on the other side of the professor's desk, while Weisskopf took a seat on the side.
"What reminded you of me, Abigail?" the professor asked dryly.
"You know what, Hoff." said the woman. "What are you looking for all your life...?"
"I want you to understand that this case is closed." the professor interrupted her. "It will be three years, as our documentation has been lost. That cat stole everything. I've written it in my letters."
"I got it back, Gustav." the woman replied. "Those who have usurped it are no longer alive."
The professor turned pale.
"Good heavens, Abigail! This is..." he gasped, but Abigail interrupted him with a laugh:
"No, Gustav, I had nothing to do with it!" and she got serious: "The whole Darrows family died at the end of October last year. Their mansion was swallowed up by an earthquake and no one has seen them since then..."
Abigail opened a leather briefcase and pulled out a file of yellowed papers and old maps.
"Here's what's left of them." the woman said, throwing them at the professor's desk. "I have more at my place in Munich."
Professor Hoff took them in his wrinkled hands and began to browse.
"Yes... These are indeed them." he said and after a moment of thought he added quietly: "I don't know if there is any sense in this... I'm too old, Abigail..."
The woman laughed again and said firmly:
"The fact that you are old doesn't mean that you should let it go. I think it means the opposite. Finding it would be the culmination of your career. It will bring glory to you and the Reich for all time!"
"Excuse me for interfering, but what are you talking about?" Dr. Weisskopf interrupted and asked the professor: "What is that thing you are looking for all your life, professor?"
Hoff looked at Abigail, but she shrugged:
"Explain it to him, Gustav. He's your assistant, don't keep such secrets from him."
The professor sighed. He hesitated for a moment, cleaning his glasses with a handkerchief. Finally, he cleared his throat and said:
"It's the Planispheric Disk and the treasure of Crystal Cove, my dear Hermann."
It didn't mean anything to Weisskopf. The professor noticed that and continued:
"The treasure of Crystal Cove is a legendary stockpile of valuables - gold, silver, Maya jewels, and above all, a crystal sarcophagus full of black pearls, hidden by conquistadores four hundred years ago somewhere near the town of Crystal Cove in California. Its location can only be indicated by the Planispheric Disk - an old nautical navigation device, which was divided into six pieces shortly after the treasure's concealment and scattered around the world to make sure that no one will find it. This is what these old writings say... You know Spanish, don't you?"
Weisskopf took the yellowed scrolls and began to read them. There were treasure's descriptions and drawings. The largest of them was an elaborately decorated, pizza-like circle, divided into six equal parts. After a minute of further reading, he paused and said with hesitation:
"El tesoro maldito... That means "the cursed treasure"."
"Yes, there are legends about a curse over the treasure." the professor said calmly. "But admit, Weisskopf, how many times have we discovered supposedly "cursed" artifacts and we can still walk and breathe?"
"It's a nonsense and it doesn't make sense to discuss it, gentlemen." Abigail said. "Let's take a look at the facts. And the facts are that I discovered the exact or approximate locations of the individual pieces of the Planispheric Disk.
The woman looked enthusiastically at the professor, who was staring at an unspecified point far ahead.
"Go on, Abigail." Hoff said slowly.
"The first piece is kept in an abbey in Mexico. The second is certainly somewhere in the sinkhole, where the Darrows' mansion stood. The third and the fourth are hidden under the Crystal Cove. The fifth is hidden somewhere in a cabinet of curiosities in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the sixth..."
She paused for a moment.
"That's the piece I want to focus on today." the woman said mysteriously.
"I'm all ears, Abigail." the professor whispered.
"Nicolas de Acuñia was connected with it, as I wrote you in the letter." Abigail said and once again took out some old documents from her briefcase.
"He was a Dominican friar-missionary who sailed with Fernando El Aguirre and his men in order to colonize and convert Central America. After several years of travelling along the Pacific coast and finding and concealing the treasure, he's got one of the pieces of the Planispheric Disk. He took it back to Spain, where he died and was buried. The new archives collected by Darrows state that Nicolas de Acuñia never got rid of his part of the Disk. What's more - he was buried with it in an unknown place..."
The professor finally came out of a lethargy, looked into her eyes and said:
"You probably want to tell us that you already know where he rests?"
"Exactly." Abigail replied. "He lies in the crypt of the Catedral del Salvador in Zaragoza, where he was a canon during the last two years of his life."
"How did you know about this?" the professor asked.
"The Darrows' documents brought me to the archive in Brussels, from which, with an invaluable help of Professor Pericles, I was able to "borrow" the key clues."
Gentlemen looked at the parrot who bowed to them again and said:
"Our cooperation in this area was extremely fruitful."
"It... Talks..." Hoff gasped.
"Actually, it's quite common for parrots to speak." Pericles said indifferently.
"Ah, Gustav! Don't you know that I've never been in the company of ordinary animals? Do you remember Mr. Peaches, our orangutan?"
"It was hard not to remember, Abigail."
"He has been dead for almost 20 years, but only he and I have been the only ones in our pathetic Benevolent Lodge of Mystery who have not stopped searching for the treasure of Crystal Cove. These fools tried to stop us, but they never could. It's time to finally make the final steps to stop it being just a legend!"
"It's time to go to Zaragoza, gentlemen!" Pericles said.
The Professor thought again, then said doubtfully:
"But it won't be easy. There's a civil war in Spain... It will be difficult to get there safely and carry out archaeological work."
"That's why I came to you today. Neither I, nor you can get there alone." Abigail said. "Therefore, we have a plan on how to organize this expedition together."
"I'm curious about your plans for excavations in the midst of a battlefield." Weisskopf said skeptically.
"Spare us your annotations, Mr. Weisskopf!" Professor scolded him.
"It won't be very complicated." Abigail continued. "Zaragoza is now a strong bastion of General Franco's fascists and there are no fights going on. As you know, Franco is a friend of the Reich and the Reich supports him militarily. Fortunately, I work for the BayernMetall armaments company, which produces weapons for Spaniards who are financially ruined. We can make them pay with treasures found in the tomb, because according to my sources, Nicolas de Acuñia took many more valuables beside the piece of the Planispheric Disk to the grave.
"What will be our part in this?" the professor asked her.
"I'm not officially an archaeologist, but you are. You will be able to get to this crypt. You or Doctor can lead this expedition on behalf of the university."
"Excuse me." Weisskopf interjected. "I may be mistaken, but I don't believe that BayernMetall is going to let the Spaniards pay for weapons in valuables from the crypt, instead of money. It's ridiculous!"
"The Party will support us. My Party." Abigail responded quickly, showing them the membership card of the Nazi Party. "The Reich will sell these treasures for more than it bought them and I'll make sure that we can keep a part of the Planispheric Disk, officially for scientific purposes. There is only one condition: you also have to sign up for the party."
Professor Hoff sighed and rolled his eyes.
"Do not make me do this, Abigail..." he protested.
"It will only be a formality that will drag the great Fuehrer to our side." the woman replied.
"I did not expect such a wise and tolerant person like you to support someone like Hitler and his men..." sighed the professor.
"I have changed, just as times have changed over the last 15 years, as we were apart, Hoff." Abigail said firmly. "Germany's problems needed radical solutions. And the Fuehrer knows them."
"But you're American, Gluck! Why do you even care about our problems?" the professor asked.
"No, Hoff! I'm still a German and I owe much to my old country." Abigail said. "Especially after all the Benevolent Lodge of Mystery did. If not for neglect and evil done by some of us, especially Oswald Burlington, who's knew about the plot against Archduke Ferdinand, but didn't tell the Austrians about it, the Great War would not have started in 1914 and Germany would not be betrayed and oppressed. That's why I'll devote myself to lift my homeland from its knees by finding the greatest treasure of humanity and giving it to the Thousand Year Reich... The time of the revenge on our oppressors is coming! Tomorrow belongs to us!" Abigail ended with Nazi salute. Then she took a deep breath and looked at Hoff. He stared at her with anxiety, like she was a maniac.
"I fully support Frau Gluck." Weisskopf said then. "I would do it anyway. I will be happy to join the Fuhrer's party."
The professor shook his head. He stepped away from the desk, turned his back to them and went to the window, staring at a distant point.
"Keep in mind that this opportunity will not happen again in your life. You don't have too much time . Think about it, Hoff." Frau Gluck said and also got up from her chair, getting ready to leave. When she was leaving, she said to Weisskopf: "When he finally decides what to do, you can find me at the Adlon Hotel."
Abigail Gluck left Professor Hoff's office and quickly walked along the university corridors toward the exit. Pericles flew beyond her, fluttering its wings.
"From my observations of professor's body language, I came to the conclusion that his resistance will subside. The vision of finding the treasure will never let him rest..." the parrot said.
"That's sure, Pericles." Abigail said. "People change, but the obsession of finding the treasure of Crystal Cove is impossible to forget, even for Hoff." And then she added quietly: "To his doom..."
To be continued...
Soundtrack: The Badenweiler Marsch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAyzGCnSyY0
Berlin 1936: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilQmhAUEPbk
Chapter 2: MUNICH, August 23, 1936
It was a cloudy, rainy Sunday in Munich. In the attic of the one of the Old Town houses, Abigail Gluck was reading books at the place she used to call her home and workshop. It was a rather tight, modest but cozy place. It was lined with shelves bending under the weight of numerous technical, historical and archaeological books, as well as boxes filled with old documents and designs of her numerous inventions.
An important element of the room's decor was a perch standing in a shaded corner. That's where Pericles used to sit. Abigail had met him six years earlier, investigating cases of strange thefts said to be done by a parrot. She caught him one day into one of her fancy traps and... made friends with him. They turned out to share similar souls. She discovered his extraordinary intelligence, which allowed her to conduct intellectual discussions with him. Finally, they began to cooperate with each other - Pericles had ceased to be a street thief and got introduced into the things Frau Gluck did in Germany - constructing new inventions, solving mysteries for money and searching for the Planispheric Disk. In the meantime he was studying Abigail's books and expanding his knowledge in many areas - from mathematics through chemistry, medicine, astronomy, history, linguistics to occultism. Frau Gluck was very impressed with his learning abilities and great wisdom, worthy of the greatest minds of the world. That's why she more and more often called her feathered friend "Professor Pericles".
As expected, Professor Hoff agreed to plan a trip to Zaragoza, so Frau Gluck could therefore proceed with the preparations. Working for BayernMetall and having creating new technologies for them, she could use her influence to convince them to support the expedition and to accept her idea of the Spaniards paying for the arms in gold and valuables found in the tomb. She was so busy planning the future, she didn't expect that she would have to confront the past once again.
Knocking at the door interrupted her reading. When she opened, she saw the familiar silhouettes of people she toured all of America and Europe with - Oswald Burlington and Marianne Blanchard, with whom she created the Benevolent Lodge of Mystery decades ago. Burlington - the founder and leader of the Lodge and railway magnate, was a powerfully built man with broad shoulders, a rectangular, wrinkled face and gray, fashionably combed hair. He wore an elegant, tight jacket, while at the neck he wore a large, bright orange ascot. The woman who stood next to him was his opposite - slender and graceful Mrs. Blanchard, of French descent. A famous writer and the woman of exceptional beauty, despite her age.
"Oswald? Marianne? What are you doing here?" Abigail asked with astonishment.
"A reunion after years." Marianne smiled.
"How did you find me here?" Abigail asked with a growing surprise.
"I'm a railroad tycoon, don't you remember?" Oswald replied calmly. "You're not the only one, who have contacts in BayernMetall. We have also heard of a mystery-solving woman in Bavaria, so we easily figured it was you. Your desire for mysteries is unstoppable, as well as for inventing machines for money... Simple."
"Oh, now I can see that old good Burlington came back." Frau Gluck said sarcastically. "So you got me."
The woman let the guests in.
"How did you get here?" she asked.
"By train, just like old times!" Marianne said with a smile. "But now we travel in a luxury motorcar on rails."
"Steam is obsolete." Burlington added. "The future belongs to diesel and electricity. And planes. I can't trust those German airships..."
"But I don't know how to host you here..." Abigail said with embarrassment, still being surprised by their arrival. "I live modest life here."
"It's not actually a problem. We only want to discuss a few things..." Burlington replied, looking around the apartment. Abigail frowned and was about to ask him what he meant, but Marianne interrupted her:
"You have a beautiful parrot, Gail!" she said, approaching Pericles sitting on the perch.
"My name is Pericles, madam." the parrot said politely.
Blanchard and Burlington were speechless for a moment.
"It's an anunnaki..." Burlington said to Marianne.
"Nice to meet you too, Mr. Burlington." Pericles said sarcastically.
Oswald turned to Abigail and asked firmly:
"Where did you get it from?"
"What the hell is this, Oswald? A hearing?! In my own house?!" Abigail was indignant. "Years have passed, but your nerve is still the same!" Then she added angrily: "What do you want from me? Speak up! Didn't you want to lock yourself in your library for the rest of your life?!"
Burlington was slightly confused. Indeed, after the betrayal of all his friends and the subsequent loss of his good companion - Mr. Peaches, he fell into a grief and resolved the Benevolent Lodge of Mystery. After that, he announced that he will manage his railway company without leaving his mansion filled with books in the mountains in Washington.
"We wanted to do it more friendly, but it's not possible with you." Burlington said with irritation and added sternly: "It's all about your search for the treasure of Crystal Cove. Stop it!"
"How do you know about it?!"
"I'm not stupid. You've never stopped looking for it, along with my Mr. Peaches. And moreover, you were recently seen in Crystal Cove, as you rummaged in Darrows' archives. Also, my Belgian friend, historian Cédric Segers called me and reported the disappearance of documents relating to the one of El Aguirre's men from Brussels archive. And finally, this parrot..."
"Mr. Peaches was, despite appearances, the most sensible member of the Lodge after me, until his search was interrupted by death!" Abigail shouted. "And besides, it's not your business anymore! The days when you had despotic control over me are long gone."
"This is not about our scores and grievances." Burlington said. "This is about the fate of the world and the universe. Your quest for the treasure of Crystal Cove brings us closer to our doom!"
"Nonsense! Thanks to that treasure, the world will fall at the feet of our Fuehrer - Adolf Hitler and the Thousand-Year Reich!"
Burlington looked at Abigail like she was insane.
"Are you serious? You bring the psychopath who rules this country into this?!" he shouted.
"He's a visionary, I would say. Much more open-minded than defeatists like you" Professor Pericles said mockingly, but Burlington ignored him.
"Abigail..." Marianne said anxiously. "Give up this madness. Break with the Nazis. Nothing good will come out of the actions of these haters."
"Why do you even care, you're just a damned French frog!" Abigail yelled furiously.
Marianne was shocked that her once best friend could call her like that. She was silent for a moment, then said quietly:
"Think about Scotty. He's dying, unable to bear the thought that you are a Nazi."
"He's dying of drunkenness and gluttony." Abigail snarled. "What did he do after the Lodge dissolved? He's ran a dive bar in New York City, didn't he? He deserved his fate."
"How can you talk about him like that?!" Burlington shouted. "Scotty O'Rourke still loves you and still considers you his fiancée! Since we fell apart, he never stopped talking about you every time I met him. He's still wearing the telescopic monocle you built for him 40 years ago!"
"He's a zero, an intellectual zero," Abigail said bitterly. "He was not worthy of me. I've never found anyone worthy of me. Nobody's worthy of me!"
A terrifying amok was drawing on her face.
"I'm created for a greater purpose. Together with Pericles, we will gain power over the world and avenge Germany."
"You don't understand where the power of the treasure comes from!" Burlington shouted. "You don't know what's behind it! The being who wants you to set it free, wants primarily to ruin our dimension, just as it ruined our lives and lives of people who sought it before us! The Evil Entity controls you! Face it, Abigail! It controlled you while you were spying us for Germans and it does so now!"
"Here we go again with the "Evil Entity" bullshit you have been repeating like a mantra for years..." Abigail taunted. "You're nothing more than a paranoid lunatic, Burlington."
Marianne looked at her in shock, unable to utter a word. Burlington just shook his head sadly.
"It's just like I said, Marianne..." he said quietly. "Abigail is lost to the world. There's only one thing we can do..."
Having said that, he pulled rapidly a Colt 1911 pistol from his inner left jacket pocket and pointed it at Abigail. However, he didn't manage to shoot, because at the same moment he heard Marianne's scream and felt a strong blow to his face.
It was Pericles, who slapped him with an extraordinary force and then began to hurt him with his beak and claws. Burlington defended himself frantically. He waved his hands violently, including the one with the pistol that at some point fired. The bullet flew near Marianne's ear and broke the window. In result, Burlington dropped the gun and Pericles left him with bleeding scratches on his face. Abigail kicked the pistol, which disappeared under the sideboard.
"You're just a miserable old man, Oswald." she said contemptuously, pulling her Luger out of the inside pocket of her jacket and aiming at Burlington. "You have nothing to do here. You too, Marianne. I'm destined to do great things along with Pericles and you won't stop us."
Burlington scowled at her, stopping the bleeding with his handkerchief and thinking about what had just happened. Apparently he underestimated Abigail, let alone her inconspicuous companion. Meanwhile Marianne suddenly rushed to the exit door, unable to withstand the tension.
"Marianne, wait!" Burlington called.
"I also advise you to do the same." Abigail said dryly. "I'll spare your life this time, but I doubt that the Gestapo would be as kind to an enemy of the German people like you, so because of all the years we've lived together, I advice you again - get out of here. Right now."
The man turned to the door, took half a step, then stopped and said over his shoulder:
"It's not too late yet, Gail..."
And then he ran out, trying to catch up with Marianne.
"It was an exaggerated concern for a person who wanted to kill you, Frau Gluck..." commented Pericles.
"Protectionism mixed with a sense of absolute power - that's so typical of him." Abigail replied.
The woman moved to the window overlooking the street. She saw a luxury car of her "guests" and Marianne herself, who, however, didn't get into the vehicle. She stood in the rain near the edge of the street instead, trying to catch a taxi. After a while, Oswald ran out onto the street and was surprised by what Marianne was doing. Abigail could hear their conversation:
"Marianne, what the hell are you doing?!" Burlington shouted with surprise.
"I don't want to go with you, I don't want to know you! You've just tried to kill my friend and you almost killed me, what's wrong with you?! You haven't changed at all all these years!" sobbed Marianne. "That's why I didn't marry you years ago! You are impulsive and thoughtless, even as an old man and I'm an old fool, because I let you to drag me here! I'm going back to Paris right now. I don't want to see you again and please, don't stay in touch..."
At that moment a taxi pulled up. The elderly woman got on as fast as she could and then drove off toward the station. Burlington stood in the rain for a few moments, beaten down and exhausted. Then he got in the limo and ordered the chauffeur to leave.
Abigail walked away from the window and came up to her desk. She reached in the drawer and pulled out the materials about the treasure of Crystal Cove. Her destiny. Her future.
Then, she started to sing quietly:
The sun on the meadow is summery warm
The stag in the forest runs free
But gather together to greet the storm
Tomorrow belongs to me
The branch of the linden is leafy and green
The Rhine gives its gold to the sea
But somehow a glory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me
Pericles joined Abigail and they sang together louder and louder:
The babe in his cradle is soundly asleep
The blossom embraces the bee
But soon, says a whisper
Arise, arise, tomorrow belongs to me
Oh, Fatherland, Fatherland show us the sign
Your children have waited to see
The morning will come when the world is mine
Tomorrow belongs, tomorrow belongs
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs, tomorrow belongs
Tomorrow belongs to me…
Soundtrack: Tommorow belongs to me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN7r0Rr1Qyc
Chapter 3: ZARAGOZA, August 30, 1936
The sun was slowly setting over the red-hot hills around Zaragoza. In the late afternoon sunshine, a formation of three cargo Ju-52 and four He-51 fighters approached the airstrip outside of town - the air base of General Franco's fascists. After they landed safely and the engines stopped, Frau Gluck got out of one of the Ju-52s, along with Pericles, professor Hoff, doctor Weisskopf and three German officers. Near the tents, under which the biplanes were prepared for next missions, a delegation of five fascist officers was waiting for them, headed by a short man with a mustache like a toothbrush.
Abigail raised her hand in salute, and the host did the same.
"Do I have the pleasure of speaking to Colonel Mateo Hidalgo?" she asked in Spanish.
"That's me..." the colonel said. Despite being distant, he couldn't take his eyes off Pericles. There was a mixture of surprise and indignation visible on his face, because he couldn't stand the fact he had to do business with a woman, with a strange parrot sitting on her shoulder. But Abigail didn't feel uncomfortable at all.
"I'm Abigail Gluck from BayernMetall. I and Lieutenant Retter are in charge of this mission." she pointed at the tall blond-haired man who shook colonel's hand.
"I'm in charge of the military operation, the financial and archaeological matters are in Frau Gluck's hands." Lieutenant Retter said.
"Before we get into that, show the goods" said the colonel.
Germans and Spaniards moved towards the cargo planes. Soldiers pulled out dozens of crates filled with pistols, rifles and ammunition for machine guns. After watching them, the whole group moved toward the biplanes glittering in the last rays of the sun, which were thoroughly inspected by the hosts.
"Everything is as agreed." the colonel said. "Here, this is the first part of the payment." he said, gesturing to the officer holding the suitcase and handing it to Frau Gluck. It was full of bars of gold.
"Now it's time for the second part." Abigail said after counting them, and pointed at the archaeologists.
"Colonel, may I present Professor Gustav Hoff and Doctor Hermann Weisskopf. They will conduct archaeological work on behalf of the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin."
The Colonel shook their hands and led the entire delegation towards the column of cars and trucks waiting to take them to the town.
After dark, while driving through the streets of Zaragoza, they noticed that there wasn't a living soul on them, despite the fact that Spanish cities are usually very lively at this time of day. It was quite disturbing.
But they forgot about it, when they finally arrived to the front door of the Catedral de Salvador, which were opened by a local deacon. He looked distrustful, even hostile, because they dared to disturb the peace of this holy place. He was staring angrily at Professor Pericles, as if he was the devil himself.
Frau Gluck turned on the flashlight, took her notes from the bag and went with Pericles, Hoff and Weisskopf straight to the side nave. Colonel Hidalgo, Lieutenant Retter and their soldiers had no choice but to follow them.
The woman and her parrot stopped at one of the side altars. There was a painting depicting a scene from the Book of Revelation. At its base, there was a large, marble slab that acted as a hatch to the crypt. Among the inscriptions that it is the resting place of the cathedral canons, there was an engraved image of a galleon at sea.
"It's here, Frau Gluck..." Pericles whispered.
"Yes, we are so close..." Abigail replied and turned to the squad leader: "You know what to do, Lieutenant."
Lieutenant Retter nodded and went to the slab along with soldiers equipped with crowbars. After a minute of struggle, they managed to lift and move it aside.
They saw a staircase leading into the dark tunnel that led to the room under the altar. Abigail walked down the stairs without hesitation, followed closely by Pericles. Hoff and Weisskopf tried to keep up with them while trying not to stumble in the dark.
At the end of the corridor, there was a dusty crypt with coffins lined up against the walls and three solid, stone urn-shaped sarcophaguses in the middle. There were figures of men in long robes with hands clasped in prayer lying on top of them. They looked like they were sleeping. Apart from the likenesses of their owners, the sarcophaguses were extremely modest, which was logical, since few people had the opportunity to see them.
Abigail went to the left sarcophagus. After a short inspection, she said:
"This is it... Here lies Nicolas de Acuñia."
"Exactly..." Hoff muttered, watching the sides of the sarcophagus. "Look at the reliefs of galleons and canon attributes, they remove all doubts."
Abigail ordered the soldiers to open it. The top plate was too heavy to be moved, which is why, with Hoff's expert suggestion, Lieutenant Retter's men took care of one of the sides. When the side plate came off, the only thing they could see was a dark niche. Abigail came closer. Her hands were shaking and her heart was beating like crazy. Finally, she looked inside. She was stunned by what she saw there.
There were coins, goblets, crosses, and caskets filled with jewels. They surrounded the partially mummified body of a man in church robes. There was a rosary in his hands clasped in prayer and under them there was a large, golden triangle shaped like a piece of Italian pizza. It was covered with complicated engravings and it had a triangular window filled with a matte crystal in the middle. From the shape of the edge, it was possible to deduce that it was a part of a larger puzzle...
"Forget about photos, Weisskopf. We have to make a sketch." Hoff said. He was really moved.
"Save it, Hoff"! Abigail interrupted him firmly.
"What does that mean, Abigail?" the professor asked her with a surprise.
"I've waited too long to wait a minute longer. Do you realize that we're dealing with one of the greatest finds in the history of mankind?!" the woman exclaimed and reached for the golden triangle. When she grabbed it, she raised it with trembling hands over the heads of everyone around her and stared at it with a tremendous excitement, as if she was dealing with the Holy Grail itself.
"For God's sake, calm down! We're scientists, Abigail!" the professor interrupted. "This is unprofessional! We have to be diligent in our research..."
"Why do you think that Frau Gluck is a scientist, professor? Because she used to appear at German universities from time to time?" Pericles asked him mockingly.
The professor looked at the woman skeptically.
"Who do you really work for?" he asked bitterly.
"I'm doing this for the sake of our Fatherland, the thousand-year Reich!" Abigail shouted and added in ecstasy: "Thanks to this artifact - the Planispheric Disk, I'll gain access to the treasure that will give us ultimate power over the world!"
"What are you talking about, Abigail?" Hoff asked with confusion.
He had absolutely no idea what to do in this situation. Frau Gluck acted insanely. Hoff looked at confused German and Spanish soldiers, and then at Doctor Weisskopf and Lieutenant Retter, both staring at the Disk.
"Dr. Weisskopf, lieutenant, Frau Gluck has lost her mind." Hoff said to them. "Please help me take our find away from her."
"I am the commander here, Professor." Lieutenant Retter said sternly. "I would like to remind you that we are here to complete the transaction with our hosts, not to play explorers. If you want to prevent us from doing so, I warn you that we will use force against you." and then he told the soldiers: "Pack the valuables!"
German and Spanish soldiers immediately rushed to loot the grave of its gold and jewels, not caring for anything. They didn't even spare the mummified Nicolas de Acuñia's corpse, removing a golden cross from his neck. Professor Hoff stared at it with a resignation and then he turned to Abigail and Pericles, who were walking towards the exit. The bird was following his Mistress with a piece of the Planispheric Disk in his claws. After a minute, the soldiers packed the treasures to bags and also moved towards the exit. Hoff and Weisskopf had no choice but to follow them.
"We must stop this madness, Hermann." Hoff said quietly to Weisskopf. "This is not archeology, this is a barbaric plunder!"
"I'm with her, professor." Weisskopf replied, as if he was drugged. "That's fascinating. That priceless artifact will provide us greatness for all time! I'll find the rest of the Planispheric Disk together with Frau Gluck and we'll serve the final victory of Germany!"
"You don't hear yourself..." the professor said, shocked by the words of his own assistant."This is nonsense, you're not serious!"
"Yeah, whatever..." said the doctor with contempt."You don't understand it, because you are a narrow-minded reactionary."
It was a massive insult to the professor. Weisskopf got out of the crypt into the nave and gave a contemptuous glance at the professor standing down the stairs.
"Your time is over." Weisskopf said. "Now is the time of great deeds for the people and the Fuehrer! Sieg Heil!"
And then he followed the rest of the group to the exit, leaving Hoff alone in the middle of the dark nave of the cathedral.
Professor Hoff was shocked. His mind went racing with thoughts about what had just happened. He felt helplessness and humiliation, which rarely happens to a person of such rank. The only thing he could do was to listen to the sounds of the convoy trucks departing from the front of the cathedral.
Then he heard a voice coming from the side:
"You're not the first person betrayed by Abigail Gluck, Professor Hoff..."
Professor turned to the direction where the voice came from. He saw a hooded figure with a cross hanging on its neck. The first thought was that it was a cleric, a monk or a deacon. However, after checking if no one else was watching them, the character took the hood off and Hoff could see a face, which he recognized perfectly despite the passage of years.
"It's been a while, Hoff." Burlington said in English.
"What are you doing here...?" asked the professor with surprise and then he added: "Are you spying Abigail Gluck?"
"Well, yes, actually... I've got into a country in a chaos of war, I'm wearing these rags, I'm watching her every move... Yes, I'm a spy."
"Because of her, the world is in danger, which only a few can understand..." Burlington said dead serious. "It's something much worse than a repetition of the Great War."
The professor didn't know how to answer, which made him, as an intellectual, very embarrassed.
"Excuse me, but I don't quite understand what you're talking about, Oswald..." he said uncertainly.
Burlington thought for a moment and then he asked:
"What is the treasure of Crystal Cove, Gustav?"
It was a suspiciously easy question for Hoff.
"It's the gold of Spanish conquistadors and the sarcophagus filled with black pearls, hidden somewhere near Crystal Cove, California..." the professor answered after a short reflection.
"No, Hoff." Burlington said. "What it really is?"
"I don't understand anything..." the professor said, being completely disoriented.
"Why? After all that research on it, you still don't know? Haven't you wondered where the legends of its powers have come from?" man in habit replied with disappointment. "Don't tell me you never heard of the curse of Crystal Cove?"
"It's a legend, Oswald." the professor said firmly. "It's just a tale created by bored sailors who have been away from their homes for years..."
"You're wrong, Gustav," Burlington interrupted. "It's a fact Nicolas de Acuñia has described."
He pulled out a piece of yellowed parchment. Hoff studied it quickly. There was a lot about the crystal sarcophagus, but also about some Anunnaki creatures, Nibiru and a being the author called "The Evil Entity." The old professor had the impression that he was reading an old tale.
"That's unbelievable..." he muttered skeptically
"As you know, the conquistadors split the Planispheric Disk into six pieces." Burlington said. "But it wasn't because of their avarice or malice. There was a reason Nicolas de Acuñia kept his part of the Disk with him and took it with him to his grave. It reminded him about everything he was responsible for. It also obliged him to save the world from the being that once possessed him and is a huge threat to the existence of the universe..." he went quiet for a moment.
"The Evil Entity, a being out of this world." Burlington whispered. "It's behind that godforsaken treasure, in the sarcophagus hidden somewhere under Crystal Cove to be more precise."
"Enough of that, Burlington..." Hoff said. He was tired of it all and the whole situation in which he found himself was becoming more and more absurd. He wanted to go to the exit of the cathedral, but Burlington blocked his way.
"You and your rationality..." Burlington mocked. "You have to listen to me, to understand what just happened in the crypt and will happen in the near future..."
"What's there to understand?" Professor said ironically. "Frau Gluck and Dr. Weisskopf went crazy. Simple."
"I'd rather say they were possessed." Burlington said. "And they are completely unaware of it. Abigail doesn't know why the treasure gives the world domination. She doesn't know what the real source of that power is. I tried to warn her, but she is in denial about all of that. She thinks that she's led by her rationality, but in reality she's manipulated by something stronger than her, something that Nicolas de Acuñia mentioned in these writings you've just read..."
Hoff stood silently and after a moment's reflection he said:
"Where did you get these de Acuñia's notes from?"
"From the library of the Escorial, to which Alfonso XIII of Spain gave us access in 1910 in gratitude for solving the case of a werewolf who stalked the farmers near Madrid." Burlington replied. "This is the only known written source that confirms the existence of the Evil Entity. Nicolas de Acuñia wrote it down with the only member of the Mystery Hunters group, who weren't killed by the conquistadors before..."
"Who? What group?" the professor interrupted him.
"You see, Hoff... I discovered some time ago that there were more groups in the past... Groups like our unfortunate Benevolent Lodge of Mystery, or the Darrows' Mystery Fellowship. This was all because of the interference of the being from the sarcophagus. It brought us together so we could find the Planispheric Disk and free it. This has been going on for hundreds of years..."
"Since that being is so powerful, why any of these groups managed to find it all this time?" Professor asked him.
"Because pieces of the Planispheric Disk spoil everyone who comes across them. Most of those who are under its influence too long, get obsessed with the treasure. Their desire for it changes them, poisons their hearts, especially when those hearts are extremely vulnerable...This is the real reason why we fell apart several years ago."
Burlington went silent for a moment.
"In 1913, we finally found a piece of the Planispheric Disk in Mexico. It was our joint success, but not everyone thought so..." he paused for a moment and cleared his throat. "My Mr. Peaches, with the help of Abigail, hijacked the piece and hid it from the rest of us. I wouldn't have expected that from my most faithful friend... Now I know that the Disk changed him and started to manipulate him... Actually, it was not the Disk itself, but that being behind it."
"I'm also looking for that treasure, Oswald." said the professor skeptically. "I don't feel very different."
"You've only been doing it theoretically for all these years, Hoff. You haven't even seen the Planispheric Disk until today. But now, everything will change. It will take away best parts of your personality and replace them with filth. You have seen that in Abigail's behavior in the crypt, and you'll soon see in Weisskopf's, since he stood by her side."
"So you heard what happened in the crypt?"
"It was hard not to hear..." Burlington said with a sneer and continued: "The disk will spoil you, like everyone else who have stumbled upon it. I'm telling you that you should be aware of it, because only the awareness of this fact gives hope for saving from complete corruption."
"I suppose that Abigail is not aware of this." said Hoff.
"No, it's too late for her. She and her Professor Pericles are already steeped in not only the desire of that treasure, but also the subconscious compulsion to let that creature who has mastered their minds out. At this moment they are the biggest threat."
"So what are you going to do about it?" the professor asked dispassionately.
"I'll be watching them. My men too, since I become persona non grata in Germany. I advise you to do the same..."
"If it weren't for all these years of our acquaintance and cooperation, I would consider you a madman, Oswald."
"There are things in this world that philosophers have not dreamed of." Burlington said. "And good for them..."
"Excuse me, but even in reality it's hard for me to believe it..."
"All in good time, Gustav. You'll see..." Burlington said and looked around the cathedral. "We have to end our conversation. It might seem suspicious and I'm not welcome here."
The gentlemen shaked their hands in embarrassing silence.
"I'm sorry that our reunion took place in such circumstances..." said Burlington."But I hope you can now open your eyes and find out what you're really dealing with, like I did years ago."
"Maybe... But I think I'm too old for that." the professor said bitterly.
"It's not too late yet." Burlington sighed, putting his hood back on his head and going into the darkness of the cathedral. "It's not too late yet..."
Hoff lost sight of him. He stood for a moment alone in the center of the moonlit nave, reflecting on what had happened in the last hour. But all his thoughts led him astray.
Eventually, the professor decided to take care of more mundane things and went out to look for a hotel and a way to escape that hell on earth...
Soundtrack: Civilization VI OST: Spain Ambient - Guitar Improv 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djOg4G2NiVM
Chapter 4: BERLIN, February 26, 1945
By decision of Nazi Party dignitaries, the piece of the Planispheric Disk found in Zaragoza was placed in a special military archive in Berlin, in which many mystical artifacts that could be useful to the party were kept. It wasn't a mystery that many Nazis were fascinated with occultism and paranormal phenomena. So when Weisskopf and Gluck announced their revelations to the party leadership after their return from Spain, the Fuehrer himself decided to secure their valuable find for future use and ordered to look for further pieces of the Disk. That task was entrusted to the person who was most familiar with the subject, namely Abigail Gluck, who due to her above-average technical skills was also given a position in the weapons research center near Berlin. She was also granted with the citizenship of the Reich, which she accepted, renouncing her old American citizenship.
Not only Frau Gluck was rewarded. Doctor Weisskopf's career sped up thanks to the party's intercession and he became a Professor six months later. He took over the management of the institute of archeology, replacing Professor Hoff, who was accused of sabotaging the institute's scientific work and forced to resign. The old professor, however, could stay at the university because of his previous merits.
Although Abigail Gluck was given the task of bringing the remaining pieces of the Planispheric Disk to the Reich, Weisskopf also fell into a similar obsession that she and Professor Pericles had about the Disk and treasure of Crystal Cove. He became extremely persistent, interfering in their work. Once Abigail even had to take him on an expedition to Mexico once, because of his fascination with the chance to find another piece. However, they found nothing. Nothing was found also during the other expeditions to Crystal Cove nor to the Cabinet of Curiosities in Atlantic City, which she managed to do before the outbreak of the war. Parts of the Planispheric Disk remained elusive, so Abigail blamed on inaccurate research results and the need to search for further sources, or on some intentional actions of third parties, trying to prevent them from finding the pieces. She even could guess who was behind this, but she was powerless against these actions. Returning empty-handed from distant journeys caused increasing impatience in Weisskopf, who began to accuse Abigail of being a swindler. However, the real complications were yet to come.
In September 1939, Germany attacked Poland, starting a new war in Europe, which eventually spilled over the half of the globe. Abigail had to work in the armaments laboratory in order not to lose the party's trust necessary for her further search. At that time, she sent Professor Pericles into the world to collect new historical information. Pericles wasn't very happy about this idea, but as a loyal sidekick, he didn't dare to protest. After all, they both had the same goal.
In the meantime, Abigail was developing military technologies for the Reich. Thanks to her uncommon ideas, she became the favorite of the minister of armaments and supply, Albert Speer. Thanks to that, she had great hopes that she would be able to continue her search for the Disk soon.
But then, things went worse. In December 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. Abigail's way to America was closed, as she was a German citizen. Despite the fact that Pericles could still slip into America unnoticed, Abigail became aimless. She felt imprisoned in Germany. However, after a few months something changed in her. She began to shut herself in the laboratory to work there for whole days and nights. She worked constantly on some complicated machinery that remained a mystery even for her closest collaborators. Pericles saw an exceptional relentlessness in her. He's guessed that the game was not finished yet...
Hoff went down in the meantime. He was cut off from any research and expeditions, so he had nothing to do at the institute. Except for drinking. He began to descent into addiction, becoming a shadow of himself. He was expelled from the party, former collaborators began to avoid him. Everyone except Weisskopf, who despite what happened between them, kept visiting him, and even at some point began giving him some work to do. Hoff knew that if it wasn't for Weisskopf, he would drink himself to death.
While working for Weisskopf, Hoff could observe his former apprentice who has changed dramatically over the years. He joined the SS, which uniform he proudly wore even at the university. If that wasn't bad enough, he started getting obsessed with the Treasure of Crystal Cove and the Planispheric Disk. There wasn't a day or even an hour without mentioning them at least once. Weisskopf would talk about them and curse Frau Gluck along with "that bird of hers" for hours. He kept ranting about the alleged conspiracy they were plotting to take the artifacts away from him, as if they were his own from the beginning. At these moments, Hoff recalled the words spoken by Burlington years ago and was more and more able to believe in them. He didn't know, however, if it wasn't caused by the amount of alcohol he had consumed...
In February 1945, the situation of Germany was very difficult. In the west, the Allies approached the Rhine River. From the other side, the terrifying Soviet war machine was approaching from the east, causing millions of people to flee their homes. Far from the fronts the situation wasn't good either. There was scarcity of basic products, because industry and agriculture were destroyed by numerous air raids or subordinated to the needs of German army. The cities were ruined, Dresden, Cologne and Kassel were swept away, and Berlin itself was seriously damaged. The Fuehrer hid somewhere from the embittered people. There was nationwide anxiety and depression. The only glimmers of hope were fueled by propaganda. Many people believed that Germany would soon be in possession of Wunderwaffe, which was meant to reverse the fate of the war. However, it wasn't known what that Wunderwaffe was meant to be...
Nevertheless, Germans began to prepare for a possible defeat. Works of art, archives and valuable industrial machines began to disappear from Berlin. They were transported by trucks from the city in an unknown direction. The same was ordered for a set of Party's occult artifacts. This task was supervised by Weisskopf, who took his trusted Major Retter from the army to help.
On February 26 after dark, a column of trucks with Retter's men arrived on a snowy driveway in front of the artifacts archive located in a magnificent mansion near the Berlin Zoo. It used to belong to the institute of archeology, before the party decided to use its extensive basement as a good hideout for some of its valuable finds, as its location in the city center made artifacts easily available to the Nazi leadership. Despite numerous air raids on Berlin, the building was only slightly damaged.
After arrival, Retter's soldiers began to load the trucks with mysterious boxes taken from the building. Some of these boxes were really big, requiring several people to move them. In order to make that struggle more bearable, soldiers brought a radio from the building and set it to play nostalgic songs of German singers.
Suddenly, the radio program was interrupted, petrifying everyone. They knew too well what it meant. After a while, the air raid sirens went off. Everyone ran to the radio, from which came a slow, disturbing voice:
Attention! Attention! This is Command of the 1st Division of anti-aircraft artillery in Berlin.
Enemy bombers were reported in the Hannover-Braunschweig area.
"Move!" Weisskopf shouted to soldiers gathered around the radio receiver, who immediately scattered to continue carrying out the contents of the magazine, but twice as fast this time.
"This is just what I needed..." Weisskopf muttered to Major Retter.
"Don't worry, Herr Professor," Retter said. "If we won't encounter any additional obstacles, my people will be able to do this in less than five minutes."
"You better be right, Retter." Weisskopf said grimly.
The situation didn't make him optimistic. The sirens sounded as if the city had been agonizing like a wounded animal, preparing for the final, murderous blow. Indeed, Berlin was definitely such an animal, tormented by five years long fear of death from the sky.
Weisskopf's attention was caught by two little girls running along the sidewalk on the other side of the fence separating the mansion's driveway from the street. One was older, the other a little younger, they were holding their hands. The younger one could barely keep up with the older girl who was calling:
"Come on, Inge, come on! Schnell!"
Weisskopf followed them until they disappeared behind the neighboring building. He didn't even have time to look away when a column of Opel Blitz trucks with antennae on their roofs came out at high speed from behind the same building. To his surprise they suddenly turned toward the mansion. The vehicle at the head rammed the entrance gate, surprising the soldiers guarding it and stopped just before Weisskopf and Retter, as well as two more trucks, from which armed men jumped.
"Alert! To arms!" Retter yelled, pulling out the pistol and aiming at one of the intruders. However, he quickly lost confidence when he saw who or what he was dealing with.
He stood face-to-face with a two meters tall, human-shaped machine. It had powerful, metal legs, mechatronic hands and a thickly armored torso. It wore a stahlhelm and something that resembled a gas mask, from which red-hot lamps that looked like eyes were staring at him. The machine had also MG-42 machine gun mounted on one of its hands, aimed straight at Retter's face, causing him to stop and drop his gun. The rest of the soldiers did the same.
Weisskopf was surrounded by several other robots. He could see that a parrot flying out of the cab of one of the trucks and a woman in a purple coat getting off from the same vehicle.
"Abigail!" he shouted. "I knew you were plotting against me and the Reich!"
"Against you? Indeed." Frau Gluck answered with a smile. "And the Reich? What Reich? The Reich lost, so I took matters into my own hands to achieve with Professor Pericles what humanity didn't even dream about... For the sake of Germany!"
"Do you see now how pathetic you and your Fuehrer are? A lady and a parrot have to fight for the honor of this great nation. And you all thought that you are supermen?" Professor Pericles said mockingly.
"What are these contraptions?!" Major Retter shouted, pointing at robots.
"Did you hear about Wunderwaffe?" Abigail said triumphantly. "It's under your nose now! Not only V1 and V2 rockets, not only the atomic bomb and jets, but also my Kriegstaffebots - soldiers of the future, were to be Hitler's wonderful ace in the hole. They were... Because they serve me now.
"It's treason! Selfish betrayal!" Weisskopf yelled with rage. "You're a false patriot, traitor to the Fuehrer!"
"The Fuehrer and his Reich have shown that they aren't worthy of the real power. I say this with a heavy heart as a German." Abigail said bitterly. "Right, Gustav?"
Everyone's eyes fell on an old man coming out of the cab of one of the trucks. It was indeed Professor Gustav Hoff.
"That's very true, Abigail!" Hoff said.
"You..." Weisskopf was speechless. "I regret that I didn't let you drink yourself to death..."
The radio interrupted him:
The strike is expected in the area from Friedrich Heinrich 1 to Friedrich Heinrich 8.
"Give us the disk!" Abigail ordered firmly.
"Because if Kriegstaffebots won't get you, Tommy bombs will." Professor Pericles said.
"Over my dead body!' Weisskopf yelled.
"As you wish... Neuer! Attack!" Abigail shouted to the assistant in one of trucks.
After a while, the battle machines came alive and opened fire on Major Retter's soldiers, causing them to flee in a panic. In the meanwhile, Weisskopf did a few quick dodges and took refuge in the building. Once inside, he looked through one of the windows and saw a total chaos. Most of men scattered in all directions. There were also several bodies of unfortunates who hadn't managed to escape or tried to defend themselves. Near one of the trucks, he could see several soldiers trying to repel Abigail's robots, but after a few seconds they were all dead. After a while, only the metallic sounds from Kriegstaffebots, the air-raid sirens and Professor Hoff shouting over them could be heard:
"Come out, Weisskopf! Give it back or fight like a man! Hiding is pointless! Germany will win with us!"
Weisskopf, however, didn't listen to him and was quietly sneaking in direction of the room in which the piece of disk was hidden. He could still hear Hoff's voice:
"I've been looking for disk and treasure all my life, but I spent too much time being oblivious to their real nature. Now I'll do everything to make up for all those years of neglect!"
"This is taking too long, Frau Gluck!" Pericles shouted impatiently. "We have to do something. Now!"
"Neuer!" Abigail called. "Send group number 1 to the building, we must act quickly before..."
She was interrupted by a piercing whistle and then a powerful explosion shook the area. And the second. And the third. Everyone could hear the sounds of aircraft flying high above them and another detonations, some closer, some further. Suddenly, a building near the mansion exploded and the shock wave overturned Abigail, Pericles and Hoff, covering them with dirt and debris. Abigail barely managed to get up and another explosion pinned her back to the ground.
"Neuer! Save the disk!" she screamed, but she didn't get an answer. She dusted herself off and glanced behind her. The truck with the radio station was in flames and her assistant gave no sign of life. She looked around. All the robots, including the group that was supposed to intercept Weisskopf and the disk, stood still after losing connection with the control module. The shocked woman looked at her immobilized fighting machines for a while, but then she felt a jerk and heard Professor Pericles' voice:
"Hurry, Frau Gluck! Run, if you want to live!"
The bird lifted her with his claws, which allowed her to get up and run. There was an inferno around them. Seismic bombs crashed solid buildings into dust, while incendiary bombs ignited more and more fires that doubled their strength in seconds. Abigail ran as fast as she could, bending down so as not to get hit by shrapnels and debris. She turned to the garden behind the mansion, looking for a shelter. Being there, she saw an entrance to a dugout. She began to run in its direction. Suddenly, a bomb exploded just behind her, throwing her into the air, which caused her to fall inside the dugout and lose consciousness...
Inside the mansion, Weisskopf was frantically searching for the room where the piece of the Planispheric Disk was hidden. It was very difficult because he had to constantly avoid flying debris and broken glass from the windows. At last he reached the corridor, at the end of which he saw the door to the exact room. He started to run in that direction, when a huge explosion shook the building. After a second of horror, he saw that a huge ball of fire was moving down the corridor. At the last moment he threw himself through the window next to him, avoiding being burned alive. He survived the fall from the first floor, but like Abigail, he lost consciousness.
When he woke up, he looked toward the mansion. It was completely enveloped by flames that radiated unbearable heat on him. Nevertheless, he looked at it in apathy for a long time and then he came to realize: the Planispheric Disk was destroyed.
At dawn the next day, the full scale of destruction could be seen. The mansion burnt down completely. Many priceless, mystical artifacts were lost. In fact, for Weisskopf, the fate of most of them was really indifferent. Except for one. The firemen didn't even fully extinguished the flames when he, to their amazement, began to dig through the ruins. With one hand, because he broke the other one after jumping out of the window.
After a few minutes of fruitless drudgery, he heard a dry voice behind his back:
"Honestly, I'm not optimistic about your actions, Weisskopf..."
He looked back. It was officer Bruno Voss from Gestapo - a tall brunet with a hooked nose and bags under his eyes.
"You don't know how priceless that disk was, Voss..." muttered the scientist.
"Whatever you say, Hermann." answered Voss. "That's not why I'm here. We found Abigail Gluck."
Weisskopf immediately stopped digging.
"Bring her to me."
Voss gestured to follow him. Both men went to the driveway in front of the already ruined mansion. The ground around them was covered with parts of Abigail's bombed robots. Near the wreck of one of the trucks, Frau Gluck was kneeling surrounded by a group of soldiers. She was cold and wounded after the events of the last night. Weisskopf approached her with rage on his face.
"Where did you find her?" he asked Voss.
"In a dugout in the garden." answered Voss. "If wounded Major Retter wouldn't tell us what she did, we would let her go."
"Her? It's not just her! Where's Hoff? I'm sure Retter's told you about his crimes! His and that parrot of hers!" Weisskopf said.
"Indeed." Voss said briefly and then added: "But we haven't found him. There's no sign of his presence in the surrounding area, so he probably escaped. But not for long - Gestapo is already searching for him. But not for parrot. We are not animal control."
Voss looked at Weisskopf with disapproval, suggesting that tracking a parrot is a pretty stupid thing for a secret police. Weisskopf knew that he won't be able to convince him to believe in the unusual nature of Professor Pericles, so he decided to give up:
"Never mind, forget about bloody parrot, that old commie is much more dangerous. You better catch him quickly and bring him to me, I'll put that search for the treasure out of his head once and for all!" Hoff's former apprentice said angrily and then he turned to Abigail.
Weisskopf looked in her eyes. She glared at him in silence, emotionless. That mutual silence took a long while, so he interrupted it:
"This is the end... You betrayed the Fuehrer, you destroyed Wunderwaffe, which could bring the Reich victory, and you prevented us from saving the key to the greatest treasure known to the mankind... Death is too good for you."
"Only I am able to find the treasure of Crystal Cove, as it wants me to find it... Killing me, you'll ruin Germany's last chances for eternal greatness!" Abigail said calmly.
"Rubbish!" yelled Weisskopf. "You're nothing more but a charlatan telling a fairytales! Saying that you're pathetic is an understatement!"
Then he pulled his gun and aimed it at her.
"However, the vengeance will be sweet... For Germany and the Fuehrer!" the man smiled ominously.
"You can't do this Weisskopf." Voss said sternly.
"By what right?" Weisskopf asked confused.
"She's going to jail to wait for a trial. Reich's government decision - for her past services." Voss replied formally.
"Are you insane?" Weisskopf exclaimed. "She and Hoff betrayed the Fuehrer and killed a dozen people yesterday!
"But you should know that Abigail Gluck is the favorite of Minister Speer. She is under arrest, will face a trial and then the death penalty."
Abigail was indifferent to these words, unlike Weisskopf, who got mad:
"What trial?! Look around, Voss!" he said furiously. "The evidence of their crimes is everywhere. It's enough for her to take a bullet right now... - saying that, he drew a gun, but he didn't even point at her when one of his SS fellows interrupted him:
"I'm sorry to bother you, Sturmbannführer, but there's something you need to see..."
Weisskopf went silent, then dropped his gun and went after the SS-man.
When he reached the place, he saw a group of firemen and stormtroopers bending over something in the ruins. He went between them and immediately got stunned. A piece of the Planispheric Disk shone among the charred remains of the mansion. It was in perfect condition, despite the fact that high temperatures during the fire melted all the metal elements in the room in which it was located. Its gold and jewels glittered in rays of rising winter sun, causing admiration among everyone who saw it.
Only Weisskopf was quiet and thoughtful.
"Maybe it's true...?" he asked himself quietly. "Maybe the treasure itself wants to be discovered...?"
Soundtrack: Rammstein - Mein Herz Brennt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxkMQSBZdNg
Chapter 5: HANOVER, April 10, 1945
The piece of the Planispheric Disk regained from the ruins of Berlin mansion by Weisskopf was placed in the complex of underground bunkers located in SS barracks in Oranienburg near Berlin. From that time on, Weisskopf stayed as close to it as possible. He began to get more and more frustrated because he knew he was in a dead end. There was no idea how to continue the search for the rest of the disk. He couldn't leave the country because the Allies were everywhere, but sitting in the bunker was a waste of time. And the time was running out, so he had to think how to hide the valuable artifact from the Soviets who were approaching inexorably. He didn't know what had happened to Hoff and the damned parrot, but at least he knew about the fate of Frau Gluck. According to Voss's statement, she was jailed in Hanover, where she was supposed to wait for her punishment.
Abigail didn't delude herself, she knew it would be death. Her only luck was that due to her merits, she was spared hanging or a firing squad just after that unsuccessful action. Also, unlike other prisoners, she was getting a bit better food rations - it was thanks to Abigail's patron, Minister Speer.
Abigail thought about the past, present and future for a long time. The fact was that after failed attempt to receive the disk, she found herself in a trap - in a cold and dirty cell, waiting for death sentence. That sentence would foil her great plans to acquire the treasure of Crystal Cove and the power behind it. It actually would make out all of her life's achievements undone...
She didn't know what happened to Professor Hoff and Professor Pericles. She hadn't seen them from that fateful night when the bombs had fallen on their heads. She wondered if they had survived that hell or were caught. In fact that's all she could do in prison - to wonder.
Spring has arrived, days were getting longer and the food rations were getting smaller. There was a waiting atmosphere in the prison. There were rumors that the front was getting closer and closer, meaning imminent liberation. At the beginning of April it was possible to hear the front itself - the explosions booming from afar, and finally - shooting. Frau Gluck was lying on the bunk, listening to the sounds of war. They meant that she might avoid death at the hands of the Nazis. However, she didn't know if the Allies would be more merciful for her...
Her thoughts were interrupted by a rhythmic knock on metal. She froze. The knocking repeated, coming from the window. Abigail jumped to her feet and looked in that direction. She saw Professor Pericles knocking with his beak in the grate in the window. The woman opened a small window:
It's good to see you alive, Pericles!" she said cheerfully.
"Same with you, Frau Gluck!" Pericles answered.
"What about the disk?" she asked immediately.
"Weisskopf has it since he dug it from the ruins of the mansion. It was intact"
"The disk in the hands of such mediocrity as Weisskopf..." It was depressing for Abigail. But after a moment she recovered and began to question him further:
"How did you manage to escape?"
"We birds are faster and more agile than humans, and my innate smarts have allowed me to find a perfect hideout for the bombing." Pericles said modestly.
"Do you know what happened to Hoff?" Abigail asked.
"Strangely enough, he survived," Pericles said dryly. "But I wouldn't count on his help. Since he learned that part of the disk is in the hands of Weisskopf, he ran away quickly to the east, to the Russians..."
That was enough for Abigail. The Soviet troglodytes with the informations about the disk and the treasure were the last thing she wanted.
Pericles interrupted her reverie by adding: "Enough of that. I'm here to tell you that the Americans will be here tonight. They know that you are here and want to intercept you."
Frau Gluck had mixed feelings. All of this would make sense if she was an American citizen, but she resigned from being one long before the war. Unless it was something else, and she could guess, what.
Their conversation was interrupted by the screams of Germans coming from the jail yard:
They looked down the window. In the light of the moon, German Waffen SS soldiers were emerging, carrying weapons and getting in battle positions. Suddenly, the prison gate exploded and Sherman tanks came into the yard, firing from their machine guns to the Germans. A few of them tried to hit him with Panzerschreck anti-tank missiles, but they were hit by bullets fired by the infantry that ran after the tanks. After a while, the entire yard was filled up by American soldiers, which forced the remaining Germans to surrender.
"Okay, guys!" shouted the voice from below. "The alpha group will deal with prisoners, the beta group will search the building. Watch out for marauders! Sawyer, take your platoon to the rendezvous point and bring Mr. Burlington here."
Burlington. Everything was clear.
"We already know who has brought all those people here..." said Pericles.
"Bloody Burlington..." Frau Gluck said. "I will owe him my life again."
"As I remember, he wanted to kill you nine years ago. I saved you from being shot by him." Pericles said skeptically.
"But when we were young and we were solving mysteries together, he often drew me out of trouble. Too often... And he does it today. It's humiliating..."
After half an hour they could hear slow but loud steps approaching the cell's door. Finally a voice said:
"It's here, sir!"
The steps stopped, a bunch of keys clinked, the lock ground and the door opened with a screech. An elegantly dressed, old man entered the cell. Unsurprisingly, it was Oswald Burlington. Abigail would recognize that ascot on his neck anywhere. However, if it was not for the ascot, it would not be that easy to identify him. Burlington was very old. Once a strong and determined leader of the Benevolent Lodge of Mystery was a dry, barely standing, hunched old man, leaning on a cane. His once vivid and firm face was covered by numerous wrinkles. He walked slowly into the cell, observing her. His gaze focused on her armband with the swastika, which she still wore on her arm. Burlington's wrinkled face showed disgust.
"After all this you are still carrying this rag... Disappointing..." he said quietly.
"Maybe the Reich is falling because of its irresponsible leaders, but its ideas are still close to my heart." Gluck replied, trying not to look at Burlington, who was gazing at her intensively.
"Whatever you say." Burlington shook his head. "We will make sure that you'll never follow them again..." Then he saw Pericles: "And you're still hanging out with this devil's spawn!"
"It will indeed be a pleasure to prove your point by clawing your face again." Pericles said slowly.
Burlington tried to say something, but Abigail interrupted him:
"Why all this? Why did you come here with these people for me?"
"I think you have already guessed. We're going to take you to America." the man said. "It was perfectly organized. A few US intelligence agents, but also working for me, convinced the right people that you can still be useful to Germans... Also, you aren't here by an accident, thanks to our contacts in Germany. In that situation, all I needed was a little help from my friend from Crystal Cove - Lieutenant Terrence Layton and his men to get you back. Because to my knowledge, Hoff is lost to us now...
"But I still don't understand why there was so much hassle about me." Frau Gluck said slightly annoyed.
"You know, you are my old friend, Abigail..." Burlington said quietly.
"For goodness sake..." Pericles sighed irritably. Abigail stood in silence.
"I'm dying, Abigail." Burlington continued. "I want to leave this world in peace. In peace with people who once meant a lot to me and in peace with my conscience, that the existence of the world will not be threatened.
"What do you mean?" the woman asked warily.
"I want to live with you in peace, Abigail. Just because of how much good we've done together those years ago." replied the old man. "I want to bring you to Crystal Cove and make sure that you won't pose a threat to the world anymore."
Frau Gluck shook her head, smiling sarcastically.
"You are as proud and as arrogant as you were when you were young, Oswald. Everything under your control, everything according to your will... That's in the past. You've already got one foot in the grave. You've lost the control over me and you can't stop me from finding the treasure."
"I know I won't stop you." Burlington said bitterly and added: "But death will do it for me..."
Abigail looked directly at Oswald, who continued:
"I'm not the only one who has changed a lot in recent years. Life goes out of you and you know it, you feel it. You're tired. You want to get out of this hell before the end of your days. So you'll accept my offer, despite all your hatred of me and join Marianne in California."
"Is she there?" Abigail asked and after a moment of silence, she asked another question: "And Scotty?"
Burlington was silent for a moment and then replied:
"Scotty O'Rourke died last Christmas..."
Abigail walked with Professor Pericles, Oswald Burlington, and Lieutenant Layton through the prison yard. She was shocked. She just realized that the only man who had meant anything to her is gone. Forever. To her surprise, her rational mind going crazy. A dark shroud of despair covered her. She lost the chance to reconcile with him. During his lifetime, her pride, intellect and ideological jam didn't allow her to do so. All of a sudden all these things stepped into the shade, exacerbating the wound in her heart and making her realize that everything was gone...
That dark lethargy was interrupted by screams. She looked towards them and saw a group of American soldiers tormenting enslaved SS men.
"Is this the way how American soldiers treat prisoners of war, Burlington?" Abigail asked loudly.
"They deserved it. If the roles were reversed, these bandits would be much worse."Burlington said and added with a reproach: "Because of that sick ideology you shared with them, millions of innocent souls perished on this tormented continent. I'm not sorry for them... not for a bit. And as long as I'm alive, I'll make sure that you won't do anything as nasty as you've been doing so far. I promised it to Scotty."
The sound of Scotty's name deprived Abigail of any willingness to retort. She fell silent and went on, being watched closely by Professor Pericles, who was visibly disgusted by her moment of weakness. He clearly didn't understand that human thing, which was an unfulfilled love...
Soundtrack: The Man in the High Castle OST - Fate Is Fluid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLr4IrvLLxE
Chapter 6: MOSCOW, May 20, 1945
It was the warmest and most beautiful spring in Moscow for years. Not only because of the weather, but mainly because of the victory over Nazi Germany, which ended the four-year bloody war. The streets of the city were filled with jolly people, families whose fathers and sons had returned or were about to return from the front.
However, there were also dreary places in the Soviet capital. Places of communist regime's post-war reprisals. The most famous of those places was Lubyanka - the Headquarters of the NKVD - Soviet secret police, a huge building near the Kremlin. The most frightening was its infamous underground where the enemies of the people and important German Nazi prisoners were being held and interrogated. One of them was Herman Weisskopf.
Just before the final battle for Berlin, he fled to the complex of SS bunkers in Oranienburg. He took off his uniform and pretended to be an ordinary civilian, hoping that in this way the Russians would not recognize him and they wouldn't get the piece of the Planispheric Disk he held. After that, he would be able to continue the search for the rest of pieces after the war. Nevertheless, the Soviets found him and captured him. They knew exactly where to look for him, as if someone had told them about it.
Anyway, Weisskopf was in captivity with extremely miserable prospects. The Soviets treated German Nazis badly, tortured them, and then sent far to Siberia. Those who were members of the Nazi party and the SS were treated even worse, for obvious reasons. They were usually disappearing without a trace. Weisskopf knew that the same fate awaited him. He sat chained to a chair in an interrogation room somewhere in the underground of Lubyanka. The room was dim, the only source of light was a lamp hanging above the interrogator's desk. That interrogator was Captain Nikolai Fyodorovich Degtiarev - a devoted secret police officer, who gave his heart to the great Stalin. A handsome, dark-haired man with a rugged face.
"Do you know why we keep you here, Weisskopf?" Degtiariev asked quietly. He spoke German, with a distinct Russian accent.
"Probably because I was in SS and I let you catch me..." Weisskopf answered indifferently.
"Not exactly." Degtiariev said and began to circle the room. "We usually kill people like you on the spot or send them to a labor camp to die there. You are very lucky you didn't end up that way... And maybe your situation will improve if you'll work with me now..."
"What is it?" Weisskopf asked with discouragement.
"You know what is it." the captain said. He opened the desk drawer and pulled out a gilded triangle from it - a piece of the Planispheric Disk. "Does this look familiar, Weisskopf?"
"It's an ordinary work of art, one of many that you robbed from Germany." Weisskopf answered dispassionately.
"I wonder why you had it in your pocket." Degtiariev said. "Did you think that nobody would notice it?"
"Who sent you to me?"
Degtiariev was silent.
"It must have been Hoff..." the German whispered. But Degtiariev didn't react and kept silent waiting for an answer to the earlier question. So Weisskopf mumbled:
"I have to disappoint you. It's an ordinary piece of metal."
Degtiariev smiled and shook his head, speaking softly:
"I don't know how it works in Germany, but it's better not to lie in Russia..."
And he pulled a switch on the wall. Electricity ran through the metal hoops that held Weisskopf on the chair. The man bent his body and howled in pain.
"It surely made you more honest, didn't it?" Degtiariev taunted.
"I won't tell you anything!" Weisskopf shouted.
The officer turned the electricity on again, causing a painful grimace on Weisskopf's face.
"Tell me about this piece or I'll fry your balls!" Degtiariev shouted and once again let the electricity through the body of Weisskopf, who after a while coughed up a few words:
"The Treasure... I shall not... let you get it...
"Well well well, you are beginning to loosen your tongue!" the interrogator said with a satisfaction and bent over his victim. "Keep going and it will only get nicer."
"Treasure... Crystal Cove. In California... This is part of the map... The key ... To the greatest treasure of the humanity... Gold... Sarcophagus full of black pearls..." Weisskopf grunted, but after a while he gathered his full strength and yelled: "You will never get it, you commie bastards!"
Degtiariev ignored the insult and asked:
"Where are the other parts?"
Weisskopf was silent, so the officer reached out again for the power switch, but he didn't manage to turn it on, because Weisskopf decided to answer:
"In America, in several locations... Two in Crystal Cove... I don't know where the other three are..." mumbled Weisskopf.
"How do you know that?"
"Whose research? Your own? We didn't find any notes..." the officer was dubious. "It's not very impressive."
"It's Abigail Gluck's research. She was an engineer at BayernMetall. But she's a charlatan... She didn't find anything."
"Where she is?"
"She was arrested and detained in Hanover... But she's already in the hands of the Americans. She probably took all her notes with her..."
Degtiariev noted something.
"Captain, I want to participate in the search for this treasure." Weisskopf said looking directly into his interrogator's eyes. Degtiariev raised his eyebrows, then shook his head and smiled mockingly.
"'You will never get it, you commie bastards!' Remember saying that, Weisskopf?"
"But, I can really help you to find it. It's calling me, it's meant to me, it's my destiny!" he swore.
Captain looked at him like he was insane.
"Whatever you say... The only thing I know is that your destiny is a gulag in Kolyma."
"I swear!" Weisskopf cried desperately. "I know enough, I will lead you!"
"It's too late, smart-ass." Degtiariev said coldly. "Do you think that you'll buy my grace now? You have already convinced me that you don't know too much, I expected to learn more about this artifact from you. Anyway... Even if you knew anything, it wouldn't change your fate... Vanya!" he shouted at the door. It creaked and a powerful man in NKVD uniform walked into the room.
"Yes, comrade captain?" Vanya answered.
"Get this punk out of here. And make sure that he'll be in the train transporting the prisoners to the east tonight." Degtiariev ordered.
"No! No!" Weisskopf started to yell and thrash around as Vanya began to unchain him from the chair.
"It's meant to me. It calls me, it calls me!"
Weisskopf's cry stopped when Vanya squeezed him with his muscular hand. After that, Degtiariev leaned over him and whispered ironically:
"You see, you're just a dumb low-life who allowed himself to be captured with one of the greatest artifacts known to the mankind. You'll pay a lot for that mistake."
Weisskopf stopped squirming and looked at him with big eyes. The captain added:
"Maybe it used to call you... But now it calls... me."
Weisskopf gazed at him in horror. Degtiariev frowned and ordered his subordinate:
"Get him out!"
"Yes, comrade captain!" replied Vanya and pushed Weisskopf towards the exit, shouting: "Move, you fascist dog!"
When they disappeared, Degtiariev remained alone in the room, with a piece of the Planispheric Disk on the desk. He sat down and began to watch it, probably for a thousandth time. Then he looked at the note he wrote during the interrogation and muttered to himself:
"Weisskopf was a small-fish, it's time to find a big one." he said to himself, then he looked at the note he wrote during the interrogation and read it:
"Abigail Gluck… We're coming for you…"
Finally, after a final glance on the gilded piece, he pulled a music-box out of the cabinet, opened it, and inserted the piece of the disk inside.
"You'll be safe here, my precious. For Stalin and the proletariat!"
He closed the box and locked it in a safe in the wall, then returned to his desk, pulled out a file from one of the drawers and began to browse its contents. It was filled with handwritten notes, drawings and maps. One of them showed the signature:
To the glory of Stalin and the Soviet Union!
Professor Gustav Hoff
Soundtrack: Call of Duty: World at War - Russian Theme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfW1bkPI8Kc
Chapter 7: CRYSTAL COVE, January 20, 1951
January 1951 was very cold and wet for California standards. The ocean was stormy and it rained constantly so it wasn't a typical mild Californian winter. But it was typical for Crystal Cove for some reason.
Sheriff Terrence Layton got used to this type of anomaly after more than two years of his service. Born and raised in Crystal Cove, he was immune to the quirks this place was famous for, simply trying to serve as best he could. One evening he sat in his office, reviewing reports on damage caused by recent storms and on road accidents on the road to Gatorsburg, a tourist town southeast of Crystal Cove. The room was half-dark, brightened only by a desk lamp and in almost complete silence which was disrupted only by a ticking clock and the wind whistling in the window.
It was about ten o'clock in the evening, when the silence was broken by a telephone ring. Sheriff promptly took the call:
"Sheriff Terrence Layton, I'm listening."
On the other end of the line, he heard a familiar voice. It was Vivian Blake, wife of Nedley Blake, a local industrialist.
"Sheriff! A terrible tragedy!" the woman cried with anxiety. "Miss Gluck's house is on fire! You must come here immediately."
"Did you call the firefighters?"sheriff asked soberly.
"Yes, just a moment ago." Mrs. Blake said. "But I wanted also to tell you about this, because I know that you... well, you look after her."
"I'll be there soon." sheriff said and added: "Please call Mrs. Blanchard-Mayer."
"Doing it now, sheriff." the woman replied.
The man hung up, put on his hat and stood up from the desk. At that moment, his deputy, Adam Fleach, came to his office:
"Fire on Heathercliff Drive, Sheriff!"
"I know, Adam. Mrs. Blake just called me."
"It's not a perfect end of the shift for you today..." the deputy said sympathetically.
"It's my duty as a sheriff." Layton said with a straight face. "Besides, I once promised Mr. Burlington something..."
Having said this, Layton left the police station, got into the police cruiser - a 1949 Hudson Commodore and drove with the siren on to the hills in the northwest part of the city. While driving, he started to recall memories of the past...
He remembered the day when he picked up Abigail Gluck from German prison as an US Army officer. That's when he saw her for the first time. Mr. Burlington was with him then and it wasn't a coincidence. His father was a long-time trusted business partner of Oswald Burlington, so his family gained the trust of the railroad mogul. Therefore, when Burlington learned where Abigail was being held, he used his influence in the army's command to let him and his men storm the prison.
When the war ended, Mr. Burlington brought Abigail Gluck back to Crystal Cove. She wasn't very enthusiastic about it, but it was the only place she could be safe, because returning to Germany would mean returning back to prison. Burlington used his influence once again, so that the American authorities would stop being interested in her. She settled in the former family estate her father had built after his immigration from Germany and becoming rich in America. It was located in an elegant neighborhood, where the other members of the Benevolent Lodge of Mystery, including Burlington, once lived. They've also met there as children. Although the main family house of the Burlington family was located in the mountains in the state of Washington, the Lodge used to return from time to time to Crystal Cove until their collapse, when they finally scattered around the globe. Their families did the same and their former residences were left empty, falling into disrepair. The Glucks Mansion was no exception. Located on the top of a cliff, a large Victorian mansion with a porch and a tower above the entrance portico was almost a ruin in 1945 and it was getting worse every year. Layton knew it, because, as a policeman, he used to bring sick Oswald Burlington to visit Frau Gluck. Anyway, "visit" is a bit too much said. Abigail never let Oswald inside, she usually welcomed him with a brush stick and unpleasant words. She often called him a persecutor or a maniac. Speaking of manias, since she returned from Germany, she began to behave strangely, disturbing the neighbors and disappearing for long periods, probably deep inside of her ruined house. But even so, Burlington didn't stop trying to make contact with her, without success. He still hoped that he would manage, as he used to say, to convince her to offer him the last sign of peace before his death. He didn't. Oswald Burlington died on March 16, 1948, without reconciliation with Abigail, his former friend.
When Layton passed the Darrow University building, built just eight years earlier, he could see a glow illuminating the night sky. It was very bad. When he got there, he realized that the flames had enveloped the entire house which looked more like a giant torch. Sheriff got out of the car and walked through the crowd of onlookers to get closer. An unbearable heat killed the chances for saving anything. He asked the commander of the fire brigade if they had get Mrs. Gluck out of the house, but he shook his head helplessly. Then, there was a loud crack - the burning mansion was beginning to collapse. The nearest standing firefighters began to escape. In a few seconds the entire building collapsed like a house of cards, turning into a pile of burning rubble.
Sheriff looked away and saw Vivian Blake helplessly leaning against his son, Alfred. He went to her to make sure she was fine. Abigail Gluck was her neighbor and Mrs. Blake was the only person in town Abigail would talk to. She also trusted her personal doctor, who used to come to her from Los Angeles and Marianne Blanchard-Mayer, who lived in San Francisco. She was the longtime friend of Abigail, they knew each other from the childhood.
"She was inside, sheriff!" Mrs. Blake wept, after he approached her.
"How do you know that, madam?"
"A few hours ago, I saw her picking up a delivery in front of her house and then she sealed herself there again. Besides, as you can see, her car is still in front of the house... Or what's left of it..."
Layton looked around. Indeed, Mrs. Gluck's old 1920's jalopy was still standing near what had once been the Glucks mansion.
"What delivery?" he asked her insightfully.
"I don't know, to be honest." the elderly woman replied, shaking her head. "Recently, there were various vans and trucks parking in front of the house. I don't know who those people were. The only ones I recognized were from grocery and hardware stores in Crystal Cove.
Sheriff wrote that in his notebook.
"Did you see anything else what made you suspicious?"
"Anything else...?" Mrs. Blake repeated, thinking. "Yes. I think so... I think so..."
"I saw a car drive up to her house and stand for a long time. Today either. Four men got out of it and then they surrounded the house."
"Why didn't you call the police? Or me directly?"
"I don't know, I was shocked by what I saw. They left very soon and..."
The old woman cried again.
"They... They probably killed her and burned her house, sheriff..." she mumbled through tears.
"I'll take care of this, madam." Layton said. "Please go home. Until we find anything confirming the worst, Abigail Gluck is considered missing."
He turned to the car, but then he stopped, remembering something."
"Did you call Mrs. Blanchard?"
"Yes, she should come in the morning..." Mrs. Blake said.
"Nevertheless, good night, Mrs. Blake." he said. He got in the car and drove towards the town. The situation was beginning to bother him. Did he fail to secure Abigail Gluck against the world... or herself?
When Sheriff Layton came back to the fire site the next morning, the firemen were still pouring water on the steaming ruins. The daylight showed that the Glucks mansion was burned down completely, and Layton's task was to explain - why? He instructed the police and the firemen to sweep the ruins to find anything that could be evidence in the case and to determine if Abigail Gluck was at home at the time of the fire... When they began to search the rubbles, a big, black Cadillac arrived. The chauffeur got out of the car and opened the door of a thin elderly woman seated in black. She looked extraordinarily beautiful for her age, but also extremely sad. The view of the burnt house shocked her. She stood completely still with tears in her eyes. Layton approached her.
"I'm sorry that we meet in such circumstances, Mrs. Blanchard..." he said sadly.
"You can't even imagine how painful this view is for me, Sheriff..." Marianne Blanchard answered. "I spent the best years of my life in this house... With my best friends... Doing a lot of good for the world... And now all is gone..."
Sheriff didn't know what to say. After a while Marianne continued:
"And also my best friend... Is she...? The old woman looked him straight in the eyes.
"We haven't found her yet. She's unofficially declared as missing." sheriff replied quietly.
Tears started to trickle down Marianne's cheeks.
"Ah, Abigail ... What have you done?"
There was a moment of silence, but Layton decided to break it:
"What has she done?"
"Cutting herself from the rest of the world, holding old grudges, not allowing me or anybody else to help, asking for trouble - so typical of her, that's what. And that obsession with the treasure..."
"The treasure?" sheriff asked.
"The Treasure of Crystal Cove." Mrs. Blanchard said. "I don't believe that the Sheriff of Crystal Cove has never heard of it.
"I've heard. But it's just a legend, madam."
"Non... It's not a legend." the old lady said quietly, making herself even more sullen. "It's been fifty years since we've found out that it really exists, there's written evidence for it. And the same evidence says it's more than a treasure. It's so terrible that it should never be found..."
The sheriff didn't know what to say. But before he could say anything, he heard his deputy, who was searching the ruins:
"We've got a body here, sheriff!"
Layton ran toward the ruins. After a while, he saw a charred corpse crushed by elements of the house's construction. He ordered to remove them to take a closer look at the body. Actually, it wasn't much more than a burnt skeleton. After a second he turned back and realized that Madame Blanchard had gone after him to the ruins.
"Please leave, this is the investigation area...!" Deputy Fleach called to her, but Layton interrupted him:
"Let her stay, she'll help us identifying the body." and he said to Marianne: "Don't worry, I will be with you all the time, madam."
The shaky elderly woman came closer and bent over the body together with the others. Sheriff felt that something was wrong with these bones...
"It's not her..." Mrs. Blanchard said after a moment. "There are no glasses."
"Glasses could be destroyed by flames..." Deputy Fleach said.
"But it's not her. Abigail never worn jewelry!" the woman said, pointing to a charred ring on the victim's finger.
"In my opinion, this is a male skeleton" sheriff muttered. "But we'll have to wait for the coroner's report."
"It seems to be men's footwear." one of the policemen said, pointing at remains on skeleton's feet.
"What a stranger was doing at Abigail's house?" Marianne asked in horror.
"Mrs. Gluck never let anybody in." deputy said to sheriff.
"Perhaps it wasn't an ordinary fire, Adam." sheriff replied. "We may have something darker in our hands..." and ordered the others: "Keep searching!'
Everyone returned to work, even Mrs. Blanchard began to look around the ruins. Layton tried to stop her:
"Leave it to us, madam!"
"Non!" Marianne replied firmly. "Abigail was my best friend. I will not rest until I find her. This will be my last case, as a detective I have been for so many years..."
One of the policemen interrupted the conversation:
"I found some casings, sheriff." he said and pointed to the place near the body. Layton walked with the rest to the find.
"Pistol casings, to be exact..." Layton muttered and went back to the skeleton. He looked closer at the skull, there was a hole in it. Earlier, he suspected that the crumbling structure had broken it out, but he wasn't so sure. He lifted it a little. There was a second hole in the back.
"Exit wound..." he said."This man didn't die in a fire."
"Mon Dieu, Abigail..." Madame Blanchard whispered.
"Sheriff, you should come here!" Deputy Fleach called. He leaned over something, together with several policemen and firefighters. When Layton came closer, it turned out to be a large rectangular hatch leading to the basement. When he turned, he saw surprise on Mrs. Blanchard's wrinkled face.
"Did this house have a basement?" he asked her.
"No!" the surprised woman replied. "The foundations are laid in solid rock, the Glucks haven't hollowed any basement."
Sheriff ordered to remove the remains of burned wooden structure and open the hatch. After pulling a lever, it opened automatically. Then everybody could see stairs leading to a room under the house, which seemed like a hidden bunker. Layton turned the flashlight on. He could see a variety of mysterious machinery and numerous cables and pipes along the walls. All this seemed to be untouched by the fire. After the moment of hesitation, sheriff went carefully down the stairs to examine the place more closely. He looked at the machinery. These were hydraulic pumps, moving the hatch opening mechanism, as well as power generators. They all worked at full power.
"It's safe. Go down here, I'll try to turn on the light." he said up the stairs. The deputy and other officers went down to the room, as did Mrs. Blanchard. Layton found the light switch and lit up the darkness in the room. A gruesome sight appeared before his eyes. Further into the room, in front of a grating, there was a body lying in a pool of blood.
"What the hell?!" deputy Fleach exclaimed.
Layton walked to the body. It was a man in a suit and a hat on his head. There were three bullet wounds on his chest. There were also pistol casings lying on the floor close to the grating.
"This one is shot too." sheriff said. "It seems that he lies here from yesterday evening."
"It's none of Crystal Cove citizens..." said the deputy."I see this man for the first time."
Sheriff crouched and tilted the flaps of deadman's jacket. He found two pieces of paper in one of his pockets. One of them was a surreptitious photo of Abigail Gluck. The second one was a shot and blood-stained note on yellowed paper. It was written in Cyrillic. Under the text was a stamp with the emblem of the Soviet Union - the hammer and sickle.
"It's a red... A commie..." deputy said quietly.
"Mon Dieu..." Mrs. Blanchard muttered in shock, covering her mouth with her hands.
Sheriff was silent for a long time looking at both dead man and his note. Finally he ordered one of the policemen:
"Captain, call the coroner! And the FBI. Federal authorities have to know about it...
"Yes, sheriff!" Captain saluted and ran upstairs.
"We started with a fire and now apparently we have also a spy mess. There's no choice but to look further..." Layton said quietly to Fleach.
"I don't like it..." Fleach muttered.
Sheriff focused on the barred door. On the wall next to them, there were two buttons signed: "airlock" and "elevator". The sheriff pressed the first one. After a while, to the surprise of everyone, the hatch upstairs closed with a whistle. After re-pressing, it opened back.
"That's how it's been closed from the inside." sheriff said.
The time has come for the second button. After pressing it, a machinery started to work above them. After a minute, an elevator cabin appeared behind the grating.
"I feel we're getting close to figuring out what's going on here." Layton said. "Come on, Fleach!
"Let's take Sergeant Tailor with us." Deputy Fleach suggested.
"No." sheriff said. "Sergeant Tailor will keep eye on the corpse until the coroner's arrival." And he turned to Mrs. Blanchard: "Come with us, Madame."
Everyone was surprised by sheriff's idea, including Marianne herself, but after a while she nodded and got in the elevator with sheriff and his deputy. Layton closed the grating and pressed the "down" button. The cabin started to move down the elevator shaft.
With every second of the ride they were getting more and more surprised that something so big was hidden from the world under the house of a sick elderly woman. The shaft inside the solid cliff rock seemed endless. They didn't know it was just the beginning.
The elevator finally stopped and after they left it, they saw an extraordinary view - they were in a giant cave. It was concreted to half of its height and illuminated by electricity. There was a large pool with water and a dock stretching to the wall opposite the elevator. It was like a hidden base for submarines, but without access to the ocean. Workshops, tool cabinets, welding stations and large tanks with distributors were set up along the walls. It looked like a factory for dozens of workers, not a basement in the old lady's house. Their attention was caught by strange human-like machines. They were over two meters high and had Stahlhelms on their heads. They just looked like mechanized German soldiers. They also seemed broken, each one lacking different parts, nevertheless they were making them feel bit anxious.
"That's unbelievable ..." sheriff said to Mrs. Blanchard.
"To be honest, I'm not very surprised, Sheriff." replied the elderly woman. "Abigail is an extremely talented constructor." She pointed to robots and the rest of the cave: "But I never thought that she would be able to build all this alone in such an elderly age... Unless..."
Deputy Fleach interrupted her:
"I found some documents, sheriff!" he called from the other end of the cave.
He was standing at a desk full of disorganized papers.
"Maybe they'll reveal where Abigail is?" the woman said.
Sheriff took one of them. It was a receipt for a ton of canned meat and cereals. On another one, there was an order confirmation for 20 tons of steel. There were more orders - for huge amounts of copper wires, relays, bulbs, grease, more steel, also a blueprint mentioning a submarine called "Mr. Peaches"...
"How did she manage to hide something like this from the world?" Fleach asked in shock. Nobody had any idea how to answer.
There was another document - a handwritten note with quantities of steel from a freighter called "Townsville".
"Townsville..." Layton said, recalling something. "It was an Australian cargo ship which went missing three years ago, shortly after leaving San Francisco..."
"But what's it to do with Abigail?" Marianne asked.
"I can only guess..." Layton answered uncertainly and added after a moment: "All of these documents have one thing in common: they mention something called "The Midnight Zone". It's probably a place, but there's no information what that place exactly is and where it is, there are no coordinates whatsoever...
Deputy Fleach interrupted him:
"I think I found something again, Sheriff."
Layton put down the papers and approached him. His deputy was bending over a console near the desk. There was a lever switch on it. They looked at each other with no idea what to do next. After a while, sheriff shrugged his shoulders and decided to pull the lever. Then, a siren went off and everything began to shake. One of the cave walls began to open like a gigantic gate and daylight came in, blinding them for a moment. When the huge doors opened, they could hear the sound of waves. There was the Pacific Ocean as far as they could see. However, there was no sign of Abigail.
All three remained silent for a long time, stunned by everything they just saw. However, after a few minutes, sheriff Layton cleared his throat and said to his deputy:
"There's no time to wait, Fleach. Go up and call the rest of the officers. Then order the Coast Guard to search the area within the radius of 30 nautical miles of Crystal Cove. When the FBI arrives, take Tailor and go to the town to interview store employees who have issued these receipts we found. These measures should allow us to track Abigail Gluck and to find out what really happened yesterday evening...There's a lot of work ahead of us. Communists won't play havoc in Crystal Cove on my watch. We're going to solve this case quickly...
"Yes, sir!" Deputy Fleach nodded and walked toward the elevator.
Layton sighed and looked back toward the sea. Despite what he just said, he doubted that it would be possible to close this case quickly, if at all. He felt it in his bones...
"I think I know where Abigail is..." Marianne said out of sudden after a moment of silence.
"Really? Where?" Layton asked with surprise.
"Oui... Far away from here, in a place whose location is known only to her. In a place we never believed it exists..."
Soundtrack: The Man in the High Castle OST - Juliana's Letter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z4-ViVtk7E
Chapter 8: THE MIDNIGHT ZONE, July 1, 1951
In fact, Abigail Gluck wasn't far from Crystal Cove. Moreover, she was closer to the original Crystal Cove than any of the living people. That original Crystal Cove was Ensenada Cristal - an old Spanish settlement founded by conquistadors on a cliff towering over the bay of the same name and which slipped into the ocean with all its inhabitants in 1771. The remains of a church on one of the highest cliffs above the modern town remained the only known relic of Ensenada Cristal. That disaster was so sudden and exceptional that it was considered as a myth for centuries. But Abigail knew it wasn't a myth. While she was a member of The Benevolent Lodge of Mystery, she found documents that helped her to determine the exact location of the legendary remains of the first town. She didn't share this knowledge with anyone except their mascot orangutan, Mr. Peaches, who was her ally in finding pieces of the Planispheric Disk, when the rest of the group abandoned the search after realizing what they were really dealing with. After the breakup of the Lodge and the death of Mr. Peaches, shortly before leaving for Germany, Abigail went underwater in a diving suit several times, to find out that she was absolutely right about the location of the sunken settlement, which she used to call "The American Atlantis". Everyone before and after her searched for these ruins much closer to the modern town, on the underwater slope below the cliff on which the church stood. However, in fact, the rocks along with the doomed town had moved further down the shelf, ending its decline in an underwater trench, which the oceanographers called "The Midnight Zone" due to complete darkness inside of it.
Abigail was sure that a piece of the Disk was hidden somewhere in the underwater ruins, but she didn't know how to find and retrieve it. She wouldn't have been able to search the whole heap on her own, her life would not be long enough. She would need a lot of helpers for this venture, but then it wouldn't be confidential. To keep her plans secret, she had to use machines able to search and dig on the ocean floor. However, such machines have never existed and the technology she had was insufficient to build them on her own. That's why she decided to go to one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and her former fatherland - Germany. There she had ideal conditions to create robots she called "Kriegstaffebots" or "Wartime Robots". Under the guise of Nazi soldiers of the future, they were not only promising war machines, but also controllable digging units capable of working underwater. When the war was over and Nazi Germany was defeated, Abigail secretly took the technology with her in order to recreate it in American conditions.
Burlington had no idea that she threw herself into work right after he brought her to Crystal Cove. It couldn't be otherwise, she knew that there was less and less time to find all the parts of the Planispheric Disk. She was still shocked by her former fiancé's death, but she quickly remembered what her real life goal was. Abigail couldn't also stand the fact that the part of the Disk she found in Spain almost ten years earlier was in Soviet hands. Her robots would be useful to recapture it. However, Ensenada Cristal was her top priority. She and Pericles began building the improved electric Kriegstaffebots, first in unused rooms of her large family residence and then, after using them to build the elevator, in a cave she knew that was right under the house. She decided to arrange a robot production line designed by Professor Pericles and a base for a submarine, in order to being able to sneak into the Midnight Zone unnoticed. After bribing a high rank naval officer, she come into possession of a captured Japanese vessel she adapted to her own needs. During the preparations, she spent the whole fortune inherited from her parents and the money Burlington was persistently giving her. The old man didn't even suspect that she was spending them mainly on what he tried to protect her from, instead on living. Each time she completed another stage of construction, she couldn't help laughing at the naivety of her "friend". Sure, he tried to make contact with her, but she didn't want to deal with him nor with his sheriff who had to look after her.
Finally, after two and a half years of work, having enough robots and a submarine from which she could supervise their work, she could dive towards the Midnight Zone for the first time. That and subsequent trips were successful. However, there was one serious problem. All this took far too long. With "Mr. Peaches" she could control only eight robots at once and the continuous trips back and forth were very time-consuming. According to her calculations, finding a disk would take from 100 to 150 years due to the large search area. Despite having not enough money, she decided to build a base on site. After raiding and sinking a few steel ships just as Professor Pericles advised her, she had enough materials to attach a huge underwater construction to the cliff wall above the ruins of the town, which was to serve as an operations center, a robot factory... and as her own home. To provide a source of reliable energy, in addition to geothermal generator, she decided to take a very bold step - she robbed a nuclear energy research centre near San Francisco with her armed robots and stole an entire nuclear reactor from it. The reactor was very small and weak, but Abigail used her superb technical skills to enhance its power to the satisfying levels. Despite the fact that the robbery was a nation-wide news and both the FBI and the army were intensively looking for her, she managed to take advantage of the chaos and escape back to the sea. She learned from newspapers that the suspicions fell on the Soviets and the Italian Mafia. That gave her confidence that she was not recognized and allowed her to work in peace.
After the next two years, the base in the Midnight Zone was ready and the excavation works could start in full swing. Abigail was disappearing for long periods to look after their progress, but in order not to raise too much suspicion among her neighbors and the police led by Sheriff Layton, she decided to return to the mansion from time to time. At that time Professor Pericles was taking command in the base.
However, at some point something suspicious began to happen.
For several weeks, she felt that someone was watching her. Mysterious shadows behind the windows at night, suspicious cars stopping nearby, a man watching her shopping in a grocery with binoculars... She finally realized that someone had unmasked her and because of that, she was forced to leave the mansion, moving permanently to the Midnight Zone. She began to gather huge supplies of food for herself and Professor Pericles and send them to the underwater base.
However, she didn't manage to finish this process because people who spied her figured out what was going on and decided to reveal themselves. That fateful January night, a car drove by the house and four men got off. They surrounded the house, looking for her. Without success, because Abigail found out what was going on and was sneaking quietly inside the house, trying to evacuate to the cave. Eventually, they decided to enter the house. One stepped through the front door, the other entered the garden door, and the other two went inside through the living room and dining room windows. Abigail saw the first one. She didn't know that man, it couldn't be one of the locals or the police. He looked like undercover. She didn't know if they were former Nazis, federal agents or someone completely different. The only thing she knew was that they were armed and determined to discover what she had hidden from the world. She didn't want to let them do it so easily. She pulled a pistol with which she never parted and she ran to the observed man. Before he could react in any way, she shot him in the chest and in the head, killing him on the spot. She knew she revealed her position, so she hurried to the basement door immediately after that. There she had the last line of defense: a gas valve. After she turned it on, the gas filled the pipes connected with flamethrowers in each room of the house, turning it into a fire-breathing inferno. She and the intruders were instantly hit by a huge heat wave, which forced two of them to retreat through the windows. Abigail opened the hatch and ran into the basement. Unfortunately, she barely reached the switch closing the entrance to the bunker, she heard click of a gun behind her. She wasn't there alone.
"Stop, Gluck!" a man shouted.
Abigail was filled with mad anger. No one could stop her from her search.
"Over my dead body!" she yelled and fired at the man.
"Blyat!" the man screamed in Russian and dropped his gun, covering the wound with his hands. After a moment, Abigail fired more bullets that pierced his body, killing him.
"Russians..." Abigail whispered. And then she realized: "Hoff..."
However, it wasn't time to wonder. She rode the elevator down to the cave, got into the submarine and after opening the gate outside, she sailed out into the turbulent Pacific. Abigail looked back toward the house, which was already engulfed with flames, for the last time. All the memories of her previous life - the childhood, the activity of the Lodge were burning along with it... It was painful. She could even feel that pain physically.
"It's nothing..." she muttered under her breath, pulling herself together. She went below the deck, closed the hatch and submerged, disappearing under the waves of the ocean.
When she was already deep under the water, she felt terribly fatigued. The adrenaline stopped working and she remembered her old age along with that headache, which has been more frequent for some time... Burlington was right - her life was draining away and she couldn't help it. However, Abigail couldn't give up on this. There was nothing else to do but take the course towards the Midnight Zone.
She knew she would either find the Disk or never come back from there.
It's been months since the excavation works started and despite the intensive work, there was no sign of the Disk. There were too few robots for such a large search area and many of them were damaged by the harsh conditions at the bottom of the ocean. The production of Kriegstaffebots was in full swing, to the dissatisfaction of Professor Pericles, who claimed that it was an inefficient use of resources and it is better to repair existing robots. However, it required extra time and Abigail didn't have that time. Her condition was getting worse and worse. She was pale, weakened, even anemic, obviously sick. In addition, the nausea and headache became unbearable. She's been coughing up blood. Professor Pericles began to look for the causes of such state of affairs in scientific books and periodicals. He had a suspicion that it might have a lot to do with the reactor and the fact that Abigail personally transported it, mounted it, modified it and handled it. After analyzing the symptoms, he had no doubts - it was radiation sickness. Abigail was shocked, because she took all known measures to protect herself from radiation from the reactor. It was, apparently, too modern technology, even for her and she had to pay for that mistake with her life. Burlington was right – her age was going to stop her for good. Maybe that radiation poisoning would be treatable, but she was just too old for a successful treatment. Her body was already too weak. There came her end.
After she realized it, something broke in her. Instead of intensifying efforts, knowing that time is short, she began to become more and more indifferent and apathetic. She rarely supervised the works from the main control room, disappearing in the robot factory for long hours instead. Abigail created a place that would make no sense for her even a month before - a nursery for robots, filled with little beds, toys and tiny metal robots that reminded her children she had never had. Despite the terrible headache and nausea, she began to spend long hours playing with them, changing them and holding them close to her chest. When Professor Pericles first saw that, he was shocked. He thought it was extremely pathetic, but at the same time he knew that Abigail was getting really bad.
At the end of June 1951, Abigail had no strength even for this. She could barely stand on her feet, leaning against the walls. She looked terrible - she was all pale, only her lips were blue. She had a fever, she was sick and dizzy. Finally, one night she made the discovery that devastated her. She found the diary of her bird companion, while he was sleeping. She learned from it that Professor Pericles considered her as an unnecessary burden in search and a threat to the existence of the base. He claimed that the base was threaten by the imminent end of all resources, leading to the failure of the key systems, the reactor core meltdown and the self-destruction of the base. In addition, he's written the repair program in points, new search strategies and a work schedule for the next decade. Without her.
She came to understand all this in that moment. Apparently, during these long periods when she was working or jailed in Hannover prison, he learned about the treasure even more than she did and decided to use her as a tool as much as possible, until she was worn out. She came to realize that, despite the illusions, it wasn't her game anymore. It was Professor Pericles's game.
Suddenly, she flew into a rage:
"It's just a bird... It won't get a treasure...! she grunted, wheezing with fury. She didn't have any chance to find the entire Planispheric Disk so she decided that Pericles would not get it either. Abigail struggled hard to get to the control room and once there, she began to randomly push buttons and switches, destabilizing the entire machinery. She also turned off all the robots working in the ruins one by one, immobilizing them for good.
When she broke everything that could be broken, she collapsed. She was sitting on an armchair in the control room and was no longer able to get up. She was shivering in fever and her muscles were completely powerless. She realized that she was dying.
She thought about her ending life - her beautiful childhood, years in charity, changing the world for better with Burlington and the rest of her friends, her brilliant inventions, revolutionary discoveries, relationship with Scotty, discovery of the importance of the Planispheric Disk, conflicts in the Lodge, research work with Mr. Peaches, betrayal, broken engagement, war, Nazis, ingratitude, obsession, enslavement, that strange emptiness in her heart that made her feel not like herself, as if the better part of her personality was somewhere else and only the inferior part was present... The terrible sorrow after death of the only man she had ever loved... Overwhelming regret and helplessness... Wasted life...
Then she heard a familiar voice:
"You wasted it, didn't you?" Professor Pericles asked her in a calm voice.
"What?" Abigail muttered.
"You keep mumble these words: 'I wasted, I wasted'".
"I wasted... my life..." Abigail answered with difficulties. "I destroyed... The Lodge... Me and Scotty... Germany... Myself..."
"You probably guess, why?" Pericles asked with a malicious smile. Abigail looked at him in horror.
"Because you are weak." Pericles said coldly. "But it's not entirely your fault, you humans are weak, all of you. Your Lodge, Professor Hoff, that moron Weisskopf with the rest of the Nazis, those Russians you filled full of lead... You all were destroyed by your emotions, which were manipulated by the Disk like a bunch of marionettes. These are man's greatest weakness. I don't have this weakness because I'm a descendant of a more intelligent, extraterrestrial anunnaki race. Indeed, Hitler's vision of supermen was true. Partially. Because there are no supermen. I would say that we, the anunnaki, are the real master race and you, humans, are subcreatures dependent on us. Because of your intellectual misery, we always had to help you, because without us you would be still in the stone age... I thought you were stronger than all this mediocrity, but kept proving me wrong..."
Abigail was too scared and exhausted to answer to those words, so Pericles continued:
"I came to the conclusion that it is finally time for me - the silent servant, to fight for the treasure and power over the world. Well, I deserved it after so many years of disregarding by the people, including you."
"Me? Disregarded... you?" Abigail gasped.
"It was obvious that you were convinced about your superiority. I'm not surprised - it's natural. You are a human, I am just an animal and I am also a former Munich thief. You've been subconsciously thinking that you are the most important here. Meanwhile, I've learned a lot about the world. I was curious why I am, what I am. Now I know that I am better than all of you."
"Wh... What...? Abigail asked subconsciously.
"As I said, leading anunnaki, I'll take over the world and become invincible. The weakest of the wisest will become the most powerful creature in the universe!" Pericles said with a strange, deep, growling voice out of another dimension.
"This will be the end of serving you, humans!" he yelled. "The whole universe will fall in front of anunnaki, with me in the lead. We will bring our own order, wiping your pathetic race into dust ...!"
Hallucinations began to appear before Abigail's eyes. Nightmarish, apocalyptic hallucinations. The hellfire burning Crystal Cove, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, the whole world... Wild beasts abducting the people to be devoured by a horrifying creature with glowing green eyes. Those eyes stared at her, piercing and burning her with a live fire. Pericles continued in the meantime:
"...and you've really helped us to destroy the mankind... We will remember this, in admiration for your naivety..." he laughed with that growling voice and leaned over her.
"Do you see it now?" Pericles asked her and looked into her eyes. His eyes glowed green...
"Nibiru... Nibiru is coming..." she whispered in the last breath.
From that moment on, she could see only these eyes...
Professor Pericles didn't know what happened. He only remembered that he was talking about something with Frau Gluck and then he lost consciousness. When he woke up, she was already dead. There were various warning lights on the control desk: there was not enough energy to allow the base to last longer, the reactor was at risk of overheating and even initiating the self-destruction procedure for the entire system. Pericles was thinking frantically, what to do and finally made a difficult decision: he had to extinguish the reactor, turn off all systems and evacuate from the base. There was no other way.
He felt anger and frustration rising in him during the process of deactivating the whole machinery. Another and another control lights were going out and disappearing in the dark. Finally, when he pulled the main switch, everything fell silent. Then he just sat on the control panel for a long time, glancing at Abigail's dead body from time to time.
He was angry. Not only with Frau Gluck, with her stupidity and recklessness. He was also angry with himself for not being able to prevent it. He would need a human body for that, but he was just a big, clumsy, snooty parrot. His genius mind and strong will didn't matter when he was imprisoned in bird's body and didn't have the strength and agility necessary to gain the coveted absolute control over everything.
He could only achieve this through his determination and years of titanic work, because he had a goal - to find the Treasure of Crystal Cove, unify with its great anunnaki and take over the world. That would be a sufficient reward for all his efforts. All he needed was to start working. Right now.
So he cast a last glance at his lifeless old friend and flew into one of the life-saving capsules, which was launched after a while to the surface of the ocean. When he emerged and left the capsule, he saw a glow on the horizon - the lights of Crystal Cove, the first stop on the journey he had just begun. He knew it will be long and exhausting...
And it was. He spent almost three decades wandering around Crystal Cove, secret research centers, libraries of the world, including the Burlington Library... But he knew that he will be rewarded at the end of that journey. Rewarded with a prize he desired so much. The prize that kept him going.
The endless power.
Soundtrack: The Man in the High Castle OST - Verrater https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDSakdzuN14
Chapter 9: EPILOGUE. CRYSTAL COVE, June 6, 1980
The end of school bells rang at Crystal Cove Elementary School. Tons of students ran out of the building, enjoying the beginning of the long-awaited time off. Everyone scattered in various directions - to school buses and to the streets around the school. Among them was a group of seemingly ordinary eight-year-olds - a blond boy with freckles on his cheeks, also a pale, blond-haired girl with beautiful brown eyes, a black girl with glasses and a very skinny, dark-haired boy in a white and yellow striped T-shirt - the highest of the whole group. They walked along one of the beautifully green streets of the northeastern part of the town - the neighborhood where they lived. They talked lively about many things: school, football, television..., as well as about mystery solving:
"Mystery Incorporated" the blonde boy said. "Or just Mystery Inc. This will be the name of our detective squad!"
"It sounds like a name of a company..." the black girl said skeptically.
"Because it's supposed to sound like that." the blonde boy said. "It's very professional, as they say."
"And you'll be our boss, Brad?" the blonde girl asked ironically.
"No... We'll all be partners, Judy." Brad said. "But if you want, I can be a leader."
"Daddy-O! I don't know, if I like this detectiving stuff, guys..." the tall brunet said nervously.
"What do you dislike? Aren't you interested in the secrets of our town, Ricky?" Brad asked cheerfully.
"Yeah, but..." Ricky answered reluctantly. "But it can be dangerous..."
"No risk, no fun!" Judy said cheerfully and turned to the girl in glasses. "Right, Cass?"
"Yeah. I have questions and I need answers. Risking is the only way to get them." Cassidy said.
"Come on, Ricky! We'll be with you." Brad patted Ricky on the shoulder.
"Okay... Let it be." Ricky said after a moment.
"Cool!" Brad replied cheerfully. At that moment, they stopped at an intersection.
"See ya, guys! We'll talk about it tomorrow!" Brad said, turning left with Judy.
"See you later!" Cassidy answered and went with Ricky to the right.
Both walked in silence for a long time, then the boy sighed and said:
"I have bad feeling about this..."
"You're exaggerating, Ricky." Cassidy said calmly. "I still remember that you were curious about the mysteries of our town too."
"Yes, but I'm scared of them! I'm too young for this stuff, we all are..."
Cassidy thought about it.
"I would advise you to take your older brother with you, but you don't have an older brother... Hmmm..." the girl wondered for a moment. "I know! We need a mascot!" she said enthusiastically.
"A plushie?" the boy asked skeptically.
"No, you silly!" the girl laughed. "An animal. A dog or a cat or something very unique, distinguishable... It would be a mascot of Mystery Inc, by the way! Its presence will calm you down."
"Maybe you're right..." the boy wondered.
"I'm telling you, it will help!" Cassidy said, stopping in front of her house. "But we'll talk about it later. You'd better learn for tommorow math test. You don't want old Parsons to fail you again?"
"You're right, we'll talk later." Ricky said with a ruffled smile.
They said good-bye and Ricky went alone to his house, which was a block away.
When he walked down the street, he didn't realize that he was being watched. Moreover, he didn't know that they all were being watched since they left the school. From high above...
"It's a very promising group..." Professor Pericles said to himself. "Just like the previous ones..."
He followed the boy to his home. He seemed to be a nice, gentle and honest young man, someone he could easily control after many years of loneliness.
Pericles sat on nearby tree and started to observe boy's home life. Homework, silly daddy jokes, mom cooking in the kitchen... Waiting for dinner, Ricky went outside to play with toy cars. It was a perfect moment for Pericles to execute the plan he had been working on for decades. Now or never. He jumped off the branch and glided towards the boy, hitting the tree next to him and falling to the ground in front of the house. That was fully controlled and he was absolutely fine, but he still pretended to be hurt. Taken by surprise, Ricky approached him slowly, watching him closely. Then, Pericles screeched at him, acting unapproachable. The boy, however, didn't get offended, he became even more interested in the unusual guest, just as the genius parrot predicted. He leaned over him and said with a concern:
"Don't be afraid of me, birdie... I want to help you."
Saying this, he looked at parrot's "wounded" wing and took the bird in his arms.
"I see that you are very sore." the boy said.
"I've had worse." Pericles replied with notable German accent, making the boy dumbfounded:
"You... You talk?!"
"Actually, it's quite common for parrots to speak."
"But not that well... Do you have a name"?
"Yes. Everyone calls me Professor Pericles - the wisest parrot in the world."
"Daddy-O, cool!" the boy said with admiration. "I'm Ricky. Ricky Owens. But I'm not the smartest kid in the world..."
"It doesn't matter, we will complement each other..." Pericles answered nonchalantly and added: "But before I say more about myself, could you kindly bring me something to eat? I haven't eaten anything in a few days..."
"Sure!" Ricky answered enthusiastically. "We have loads of sunflower seeds you can eat, Pericles. By the way, I'll bandage your wing..."
Saying this, he carried his new bird friend into the house.
Professor Pericles was very pleased with the success of his plan. The game has started again. And once again, an extraordinary animal was supposed to be a beloved mascot and an obedient servant. Respected, but overshadowed by a group of detectives until taking the initiative in the fight for the Planispheric Disk and the treasure of Crystal Cove at the right time. Yes... He was sure about that. He knew that it couldn't be otherwise. After all, this has all happened before...
To be continued.
Soundtrack: Man in the High Castle OST - Tommorow Belongs to Me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlPv13rG6sE