Friday, March 12, 2010

DBTL 72D: The Six Million Złoty Man, Act IV

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where the Holocaust and World War II never took place. In the absence of our timeline's Manhattan Project, nuclear weapons have been developed independently in Italy, France, Great Britain, and the Polish Commonwealth. To avoid a European nuclear arms race, the four nations join together in September 1946 to create the Atomic Control Commission, tasked with maintaining a global monopoly on nuclear weapons. Twenty years later, that mission continues . . .

"Lublin, I can't hold her, she's breaking up, she's breaking --"


Enoch Powell.


A man barely alive.

"We can rebuild him," Dr. Mengele assured Director-General Clarke. "We can make him better than he was. Better . . . stronger . . . faster . . . "

Up Up and Away

Somewhere in Transvaal, South Africa
17 September 1966

After a lifetime spent being annoyed at the incompetence of those around him, Enoch Powell was experiencing something new: annoyance at someone else's competence. Powell had been waiting, quite patiently he thought, for the South African soldier guarding him to allow himself to be distracted, or approach within striking distance, or make some other error that would allow Powell to overpower him. Unfortunately, the soldier knew his job all too well, and Powell remained his captive while being led down four flights of stairs and escorted to a cell with good, thick walls and a solid steel door that would take far too long for even him to batter down.

Powell didn't have long to ponder his unfortunate circumstances, for he had been in the cell less than half an hour when the guard spoke up. "You've got company, soutspiel, so stand back from the door. Any monkey business and I'll fill you full of lead." Powell stepped back, and the door swung soundlessly open (they'd taken good care of the hinges, no question of that) to reveal that the soldier had been joined by an officer, by his uniform a major-general in the South African Air Force. His name tag read VERSTER, which would make him Jacobus Verster, the number three man in the SAAF. Both Verster and the soldier were armed with automatic rifles (Kalashnikovs, he noted idly) pointed directly at his chest.

Verster gave him an appraising look. "Ah, Group Captain Enoch Powell, so it is you. Now, what on Earth would a retired rocket pilot being doing out in the middle of nowhere, breaking into the most highly secret military establishment in South Africa?"

"I got lost in the dark," said Powell. "I came inside to ask directions back to Pretoria, but everyone was gone."

"And you were hoping to find your back to Pretoria by looking through top secret files?"

"I was searching for a map," said Powell.

Verster fired his rifle, and Powell felt the slug impact the wall an inch to his left, spraying his shoulder with plaster shrapnel. "Lie to me again," he remarked conversationally, "and the next shot will blow your arm off. Now, why are you here?"

"I've been sent here by the Atomic Control Commission to search for evidence of illegal atomic weapons research," said Powell.

"That's better," said Verster. "Now that you've admitted to being a spy, I can have you executed out of hand." He swung the rifle to point at Powell's head.

"Except that you don't know just how much I've found out," said Powell calmly.

"That hardly matters," said Verster, "since I'm about to kill you."

"And you also don't know whether I'm working alone, or how much information I've been able to pass along to Geneva."

Verster fired again, and the slug brushed against Powell's hair before hitting the wall.

"It doesn't matter how much you know," the general said, "or even how much Geneva knows. Our plans are too advanced for anyone to stop them."

"Meaning that you're ready to send those MiGs of yours off to their targets," said Powell. "Specifically, the weapons facilities at Lublin, Alice Springs, Tripoli and Nantes. Though it's a pity that you can't reach the ones at Nizhnevartovsk and Los Alamos, since those are the ones that are going to strike back at you."

Now at last an emotional expression crossed Verster's face, an emotion of contempt. "How little you hypocrites understand us. When those jets take off, they won't be going to Alice Springs or Tripoli, they'll be going to Rome, Paris, Warsaw, London! We'll show you keffir-loving land thieves that we will not be pushed around!"

He fired a third time, but Powell's head wasn't there to stop the bullet. Shoving against the back wall with his legs, Powell had already launched himself across the cell. Before either of his captors could aim their rifles, Powell had left the cell and slammed both against the corridor. Two quick blows from his bionic fist crushed their skulls.

Seizing their rifles, Powell raced along the corridor and up the flight of stairs at the end. A kick sent the stairwell door flying across the room, followed by Powell himself. A stream of bullets from each Kalashnikov sent the room's occupants diving for cover, while Powell charged across to the building's entrance, and then out into the African dawn.

Zigzagging back and forth, firing at whatever human targets presented themselves, Enoch Powell ran full tilt among the scattered buildings of the compound until he came at last to a separate, fenced-off area whose long, hangerlike buildings could only be hangers. Leaping the fence, Powell dodged weapons fire from the growing number of soldiers running about the field. A flying kick took him through the side of the nearest hanger, rewarding him with the sight of a MiG-12 being readied for flight. Running past the aircraft, he sent a burst of gunfire into its half-filled fuel tanks, which ignited even as he left the hanger with another flying kick through the wall.

Despite his speed, Powell could feel the heat of the explosion behind him as the billowing flames briefly kept pace with him. Still zigzagging at sixty miles per hour, Powell reached a second hanger, and another flying kick took him inside. This time the MiG was already finished fueling, and was being towed out of the hanger towards the runway. Another burst of gunfire, and Powell was outracing another explosion.

Powell didn't have to bother with the third hanger, for its occupant had already left, and was taxiing towards the takeoff position. Powell felt his right-hand Kalashnikov run out of ammunition, and as he ran past the MiG he sent the rifle speeding towards the aircraft's number three jet intake. A glance back showed him that that damaged engine was tearing itself apart, and twisting the wing into a useless length of scrap metal.

The fourth MiG had already reached its takeoff point, and was beginning its final accelleration before takeoff. Angling across the runway, Powell fired the last rounds of the remaining Kalashnikov, then threw the rifle itself, to no avail. As the jet began to outpace him, he leapt up and grabbed the tail by his bionic hand.

In flight now, the MiG-12 quickly gained altitude despite the drag provided by Powell's body. Closing his left eye, Powell dug in with his right hand and began kicking away at whatever sections of the jet he could reach. Working methodically, he sent piece after piece of the jet's tail assembly spinning away towards the distant ground below. Engrossed in the task, it wasn't until he noticed a change in the light that he realized that the jet had gone into a tailspin.

A hatch in the fuselage blew away, and a man jumped from the plane, passing less than thirty feet to Powell's right. Powell jumped from the jet just as a second man emerged from the hatch, and the two collided. Disabling the man, Powell wrenched his parachute loose, then kicked away. Holding an undamaged strap clenched in his right hand, Powell pulled the ripcord with his left. Both strap and hand proved equal to the task of remaining whole through the shock of the parachute's opening.

Hanging beneath the unfolded parachute, Powell watched the MiG-12 spin down into the rolling grassland below. There was a small town visible perhaps 15 miles to the northeast. Letting go of the parachute as he touched down, Powell started running for the town at a leisurely thirty miles per hour, feeling that after his recent exertions he deserved a rest.

Half an hour later, Powell had reached the town, which he learned was Francistown, Botswana. His ACC identification got him into the local telephone exchange, and he was able to use the town's satellite link to reach Geneva. Within minutes, he was speaking with his superior, Dr. Feynman. He quickly brought the scientist up to speed.

"Hell's bells!" Feynman exclaimed. "They were going to nuke all those cities?"

"So I was told," Powell replied.

"But why? What could they hope to gain?"

"Revenge," Powell said simply. "For the last twenty years, the South Africans have been growing more and more isolated. They've watched as the European colonial powers granted independence to their colonies, surrounding South Africa with black-ruled states. They've watched President Warren dismantling segregation in the United States, and Prime Minister Menzies opening Australia to Asian immigration. Worst of all, they've had to endure the humiliation of seeing their mandate over South West Africa revoked by the League of Nations, and being forcibly driven out. The South Africans have come to see the whole world as their enemy, and they meant to strike back."

"Enoch," said Feynman, "if I didn't know better I'd swear you were expressing sympathy for the South Africans."

"Not at all, Dick," Powell assured the other man. "Don't mistake my meaning. I can understand why the South Africans act as they do, but I could never sympathize with them."

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