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[Time Warp] Dominoes (Cannonade)

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April 15, 2011

Would you see my price?

The familiar voice ran through Joe Macayle’s ears as he washed up. He was just about to go on patrol when that thing, sounding like rotting fruit and dead leaves, crept into his head. He looked up immediately, his fists clenched as he moved into the living room. “All right,” he said. “Come on out where I can see ya. We’ll make this quick -- ”

He turned, and there in the middle of the room stood a familiar face. Or rather, a complete lack of one. The pale, gaunt figure floated half a foot off the floor, clad in a tattered yellow robe that stretched to all corners of the wind. A pale, white mask made of what looked like stained porcelain covered his face.

“Aw, crap, not you,” he said. “Thought Warlock and I sent you back to whatever cosmic trashbin you came from."

Just a reflection, said Hastur, gliding towards Joe with inhuman grace. An aspect that wished to join with the greater whole, and dance in my --

“Yeah, can the poetry. What are you doing here?”

I have remembered you.

“And it’s nice you stopped by, but unless you want a repeat of the last time, I suggest you go.”

Before the Piedmont.

Joe tilted his head. “What?”

At the day of the accounting. When desperation won out over prudence. When the walls began to crumble and buried the millennium under rubble. Hastur stared at Joe, as much as that eyeless face could be said to be “staring.” You must be there, of course.

“But you said you remember me from there. Doesn’t that mean I was there already?”

You may have. Or you may be. I see things… differently. The shadows that time casts. And now those shadows thin, and we can cross through into light. You must step through.

“Look. I’ve gone this long without punching you in the face, and I consider that something to be applauded. But I’d like it if you got your magical ass out of my apartment now, and left me outta your time travel gig.”

You do not understand. This was merely a formality. The decision has been made.


And then the apartment fell away into shadow.

April 5, 1945

The cracking of tree branches and the whooshing of wind gave way to the soft peat of the forest floor – at least, as soft as it could be considered, under the circumstances. Joe put his hand to his forehead, and realized that his helmet was on.

At least the freak had the dignity to put me in costume. He pushed himself up from the floor, and was greeted with the sound of fifteen clicking rifles.

“Hands in the air,” came the nearest voice. “Now.” He turned, and was greeting with fifteen GIs, clad in olive green fatigues. The stern determination on their faces gave way to awe and fear. “It can’t be…”

One of them stepped forward, and Cannonade recognized his face. He didn’t have a name to go along with it, but he’d been standing next to his grandfather in a photo. “It’s not,” he said, somewhat dejected. “Which leaves an important question – who the hell are you?”

He went back to the excuse he’d offered last time this happened. “Cannonade,” he said. “Second-generation super-soldier treatment. Professor Mullins sends his regards.”

The mention of the man who’d worked on the Legionnaire’s treatment made some of the men relax, but one stepped forward. “Legionnaire talked about you,” he said. “You were at Rouen. What’ve you been doing all this time?”

“Behind the line work,” he said. “They sent me to the Pacific Theater a few times. They heard word about what was going on back in Germany and decided to send me back in.” Please tell me that was vague enough that they bought it…

The man nodded. “Sergeant Hollister,” he said, extending his hand. Cannonade took it, and as he did, the sergeant looked over his costume. “You could have chosen better colors, y’know.”

“The brass did it,” Cannonade said. “Thought it’d be interesting to see the Nazi colors subverted. I would’ve chosen blue over black, but that’s Uncle Sam for ya.”

“Yeah,’ said Hollister. “Now stay close to the ground. 5D is just up over the hill.”

“Gotcha.” As Cannonade got into formation, he wondered what he was getting into. 5D? Sounds familiar… wait a minute, that’s how they broke up the stalags. Now if only I knew where the hell we are…

The battalion reached the top of the hill. Cannonade crept over the edge, getting a view of the POW camp set below. Even from a distance, he could tell it was a buzz of activity; lights were shining over the camp, and he could hear barking in German echoing through the night.

“Yeah, Fritz isn’t happy,” said Hollister. “Just like the Red Cross said. They got kicked out a few days ago at gunpoint.”

“What the hell are they planning?” Cannonade said, looking down at the chaos. “I mean, for all the atrocities they’re pulling off, they at least act like they respect the Geneva Convention. Why take this step?”

“OSS says Berlin’s starting to panic. They think -- ”

From the distance, Cannonade could see figures being dragged out of the barracks. “Movement,” he said to Hollister. “Binoculars. Now.” Hollister handed over his binoculars, and Cannonade looked down at the scene unfolding below. Stormtroopers – since when would they be on prison camp detail? — were forcing POWs, still in pajamas, to the ground. They were brandishing their rifles…

“They’re gonna slaughter the camp!” Cannonade said. “On my mark!” Before Hollister could question, Cannonade leapt from the hillock. As he soared through the air, he could hear the shouting below. He even heard the soldiers opening fire, but he certainly didn’t feel it. He touched down in the middle of the camp, surrounded by Stormtroopers, all of whom had their guns trained on him.

“If any of you speak English, I’m giving you one chance,” he said. “Leave.”

He was answered with gunfire.

“Can’t say I didn’t try.” The next few minutes were a mess as he charged into the soldiers, taking them down with solid blows and ripping their guns out of their hands. The mess was loud enough to draw the attention of every Stormtrooper in the camp, but behind him, he heard the sound of returning fire. Echo Company had followed his mark. When he took account of his surrounding, he realized he was standing in a pile of bruised and groaning Stormtroopers. His own costume was riddled with bullet holes, but he didn’t have a scratch on him.

“Freakin’ peashooters,” he said. As Echo Company moved out to help the POWs, he moved to the nearest conscious Stormtrooper. Picking him up by the lapels, he said, “Sprechen sie English?”

“You will not get anything out of me, swine,” said the Stormtrooper.

“I’ll take that as a yes. So what kinda horsecrap were you and your buddies planning on pulling off tonight?”

“You’ve done nothing, beast. The blood and bones of the lesser shall form the mortar that keeps the Reich standing -- ”

“I’m done talking with you.” Cannonade threw the Stormtrooper over his shoulder, feeling a brief bit of satisfaction when he hit the ground with a thud. He turned to Hollister. “Where’s the officers’ quarters?”

“Over there. Didn’t they give you the schematic?”

“Must’ve gotten lost in the mail.” Cannonade was already taking off, charging towards the wooden building. He paused outside the door, and wasn’t surprised when he heard chanting coming from the other side. “Kinda thought so,” he muttered as he punched through the door.

Inside was a mess of occult graffiti and ritual atrocity. Blood spattered the walls, painted in shapes both familiar and unrecognizable, none of which looked like they belonged in the same language. At the center of the room stood an officer stripped to the waist, his eyes flashing with madness. He clutched a dagger in one hand and a chalice in the other, and his neck was laded down with the symbols of a dozen faiths and mysteries. At his feet lay a radio, squawking orders in German.

“Fangen sie -- ” The commander never got to finish the order, as Cannonade crossed the room and sent him flying with a punch. As it connected, he could feel the room getting darker, and a strange energy building up around him.

“Goddamnit, I hate magic Nazis.”

He took cover as the sorcerer unleashed a torrent of flame that burned right through the wall behind him. “Gekommen!” shouted the sorcerer, his voice fraught with desperation. “Hastur! Fenris! Apep! Gekommen!”

Cannonade scanned the room, then took a look at the sorcerer, whose face seemed equal measures madness and fear. “Ah,” he said. “So. Mind telling me how screwed you guys think you are? I mean, if you’ve got all this going on, you must be desperate for some help…”

“Gekommen!” shouted the sorcerer as shadows crept over the room, choking off Cannonade’s sight. “Speak to me, for Christ’s -- !”

Cannonade cut off his plea by punching him in the jaw. But even then, over the roaring tide of magic, Cannonade could realize something was happening. He could understand the sorcerer’s words loud and clear, as if something wanted him to witness this. The darkness cleared, but just enough that Cannonade could see the sorcerer.

And the man in the pallid robe and white mask, standing behind him. At his side stood half a dozen other figures, their features clouded by the unnatural darkness.

You have commanded, said Hastur, looking down to the prone sorcerer. What is it you wish to offer?

“Blood,” spat the sorcerer. “Blood and souls. The unclean, purified in fire and death. Offered to you, my lords, for power, for stability, for the strength of the Reich.”

Can you secure such a thing? I hear no call of entropy here, no rush of death.

“It goes,” he rambled. “It goes throughout. Every camp, every oven, readied for the sacrifice. I can provide such goods -- ”

No. You cannot.

Even though he couldn’t see the sorcerer, Cannonade could pretty much guess his expression right now. Gingerly, with trepidation, he reached down to the squawking radio. Gunfire erupted over it, and the occasional word spilled out – “Allies,” “disruption,” “capture,” among others.

“No… no, I can secure it! I can give you what you seek!”

We shall take what we seek. You have called us to the table with an offer of sacrifice. We shall merely take it elsewhere. If we cannot claim it in mortality, we shall claim it in empire.

“No! No, no, no, no, no! I will not have this! Begone!”

The time for bargains is over. Now comes the payment.

Cannonade tried to close his eyes as Hastur and his brethren descended on the sorcerer. He tried to plug his ears, or keep his thoughts elsewhere. But he couldn’t. He knew that he was supposed to see this, and there was no way he could avoid it.

Once the business was done and all the mess had been lapped up, the figures vanished one by one, until only Hastur remained. He gave Cannonade that same, eyeless stare. Let no one say I do not repay in turn. Then he was gone, and the darkness faded at last.

Hollister barged in through the wrecked door. He took one look at the sigils painted on the walls and made the Sign of the Cross. “Sweet Jesus,” he said. “What the hell happened in here?”

“Death,” Cannonade said, when he was finally able to speak again. “It wasn’t just here, was it? They were working on the concentration camps, weren’t they…”

“Word came down from the OSS. Lady Celtic said she felt something big being set up. Blood sacrifice the likes of which no one had ever seen. Possibly building up a big price to bribe something. Wouldn’t be the first time Nazis dealt with the weird.”

”Yeah, but not like this,” said Cannonade. “It’s probably not gonna be long now…”

“Yeah. Guess we will be home by Christmas.”

The rest of the night was a blur. The POWs were airlifted out, the camp was dismantled, and the occult paraphernalia was collected by a bunch of men from a unit whose name Cannonade could barely remember. When he found the time to lay his head down on a cot, he woke almost instantaneously back in his own apartment. His costume was back together, and there was a note at the foot of his bed with a familiar sigil. On it was just one word:


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