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Authors: Richard D. Handy

The Reich Device

BOOK: The Reich Device
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The Reich Device

Richard D. Handy

 

Copyright © 2015 Richard D. Handy

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the author, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers. This is a work of fiction. Some names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Some of the characters are historical figures whose words and actions are fictitious.

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ISBN 9781 784629 878

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Matador
®
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

For FGH and the bravest of the brave

CHAPTER 1
Leipzig, Germany, 7
th
May 1933

P
rofessor Gustav Mayer trembled as equations flowed from his pen. Ignoring his aching fingers and the hunger knotting his stomach, he rubbed his eyes and pressed on, desperately scribbling to transfer his new theory to paper. His heart missed a beat. ‘My God,’ he whispered. ‘That’s it… ’ He clung to the logic steps in his head as mathematical hieroglyphs cascaded from his pen.

A rush of sweat soaked his skin: the delicate construct forming in his mind could unravel in an instant, and would be lost forever. ‘No, no… that’s not right… ’ Mayer mumbled to himself out of habit. ‘Think… think… think… yes… yes… the speed of light is constant… we know that… Einstein’s equation says
E = mc
2
… energy and the speed of light… energy and the speed of light… ’

More frantic note-taking pushed the boundaries of science to the next level.

‘Arghh!’ Mayer smacked his forehead and momentarily stared at the ceiling. ‘No! How could I be so stupid!’ He crossed out the last two lines of equations like a frustrated child, then continued. ‘Come on… come on… go over it again… the energy is right… the mass does not add up… so… ’

A sudden flood of new equations went onto the paper as Mayer worked the pen. His eyes scanned back and forth, checking each equation for mathematical accuracy. ‘Yes, yes! That’s it!’ he whispered.

His mind’s eye saw atoms, elegantly dancing with each other, not the chaos everyone else predicted – but order where order should not exist. If physics was music, then this was Mozart – thousands of atoms coming together to play the Requiem – but only if you knew the rules. Newton gave us rules for dealing with gravity. Einstein created rules for dealing with light. This was something different – a new set of rules that would change the world, and the course of humanity forever.

A knock at the office door startled Mayer from his thoughts. He instinctively covered his notes with a blank sheet of paper.

‘Who is it?’

A head appeared around the door.

‘Professor… sorry for the intrusion… I know it’s late, but… ’

‘Nico, I must work. Please, can this wait until the morning?’

‘Sorry… of course, Professor, I’ve just finished the experiment you asked me to do… it worked… but the data doesn’t make any sense.’ His assistant wore a grubby laboratory coat. Bloodshot eyes and several days of stubble completed the look.

Mayer was intrigued, but fought back the urge to see the new data. ‘Sorry, Nico, it sounds great, but I have something to finish.’

Nico’s face brightened. ‘Oh, what is it? A new set of calculations?’

‘It’s nothing to concern you!’ Mayer snapped.

The assistant took a step back. ‘Forgive me. I’ll come back in the morning.’ He edged sheepishly for the door.

‘Nico, no, I am sorry, leave it with me. I will read it later.’ Mayer gave a consolatory smile.

Nico walked slowly up to the desk with the laboratory notebook in hand. Involuntarily, Mayer hunched over his papers, using his elbows for good measure to cover his work.

‘Here, the second page is especially interesting.’ The assistant thrust out an arm, glancing Mayer up and down. Crumpled pages stuck out from his well-worn laboratory book.

‘Thank you. Now I should get on… ’ Mayer forced another smile as he took the volume.

‘Alright… tomorrow then… I’ll lock up on my way out… ’ The assistant turned back towards the door, then hesitated. ‘Professor, are you alright?… Well, I mean, it’s very late… can I get you something to drink before I go?’

‘No… ’ Mayer remained perched over his notes like a vulture, protecting them from prying eyes. ‘Nico, I am fine, go home.’ He gave a brief grin. Nico was a good assistant. It was hard not to like him.

Mayer stared absently at an old photograph on his desk while he waited for Nico to leave. The grainy picture showed a beautiful, athletic young woman sitting on horseback. A lump formed in his throat as his fingers gently caressed the edge of the picture frame and then ran over the date embossed in gold at the bottom: 1912. Those had been happier times.

The door clanked shut, snapping Mayer back to reality. He grabbed the pen from his desk and after snaking it through the last few lines of calculations, he picked up the thread. Numbers whirled around in his mind again.

‘Focus… focus… if
alpha
is the sum of
theta
… then… ’ Gradually a steady rhythmic flow in the maths emerged; almost taking a life of its own, one logic step leading to another. Mayer’s mathematical symphony flowed onto the paper.

The old building on the street corner provided a shadowy refuge. No one saw the agile figure, chameleon-like against the sooty, pock-marked brickwork. The grey of his worn overcoat concealed a lean, but muscular physique, with the flesh honed by long experience of combat. The grey man stooped and picked up a small handful of damp soil. He rubbed it methodically on the backs of his hands and, for good measure, streaked some dirt across his face.

He pulled up the collar of his overcoat; it was going to be a long night. Keeping out the chill was easy, but breaking into Leipzig University was a different matter. The place was swarming with troops. Another two-man patrol appeared around the corner, only five minutes since the last one. It wasn’t much of a time interval, but it would have to do.

He moved off, stooping low, and in silence he half ran across the cobbled street. He pressed himself into the perimeter wall on the other side. Crouching, he listened. Good – no boots approaching. He strained his eyes in the darkness, but still nothing. A mist was starting to form. Any help Mother Nature could give tonight was welcome.

The wall looked high; at least fifteen feet, and there was no telling what was on the other side. He swung the grappling hook and prayed the rope was long enough. It whistled through the air, and a sudden clank announced contact with the top of the wall. Instinctively, he hunkered down, but there was no alarm. A tug on the rope confirmed it was secure. His arms took the strain, and with his breathing steady, he heaved upwards.

Clip, clap, clip, scrape
.

There was no avoiding the sound of his boots against the stone wall, but there was nothing to be done about that now. Climbing was all that mattered.

He pulled himself onto the top of the wall, breathing deeply, and surveyed the scene below. At last some luck: bushes. At least some decent cover – and with the main gate to the University campus only fifty yards away he needed all the luck he could get. He pulled up the free end of the rope and dropped it down the inside edge of the wall. He tried to turn the grappling hook around, but it was stuck. He gripped the wall with his thighs and strained silently; with his teeth gritted, he sucked in air, working to release the hook. Suddenly, the hook gave way. The grey man braced against the sudden loss of balance, but slipped. A jolt of pain ripped through his shoulder as he dangled by one arm on the inside of the wall, but snorting through his nostrils, he managed to hold on. Miraculously, the grappling hook was still in his free hand. With a well-timed throw, the hook was reset on top of the wall, with the rope dangling into the bushes. He grabbed the rope, relieving the pressure on his shoulder. The hassle was worth the effort: it was always good to have a planned exit route. A job could go to pieces quickly, and getting out alive was the name of the game.

He dropped to the ground, squatting for a moment, and listening to the night. After several lungfuls of the cold night air, he gathered his breath, and then peered through the prickles of the nearest holly bush. The lawn out front was fairly wide; maybe fifty feet. Suddenly voices came from the left.

The sentry post!

He glanced in their direction, and exhaled, his shoulders relaxed. It seemed as if the guards were giving in to idle chatter. He clicked a round into the chamber, then ran across the lawn in an awkward monkey run. Keeping one hand curled around the pistol, he bounded silently into the cover of the rhododendrons on the far side. He rolled up onto one knee, pistol at the ready, and searched the darkness for a target.

Mayer finished the last equation and stretched in the chair to relieve the pain in the small of his back. He gave a few involuntary yawns. The annoying ache persisted. He stood up and massaged the muscles with his fingers, whilst surveying the pages that were now covering the desk. The equations seemed to be right, but that was just a question of algebra and maths. It was the
idea
that made all the difference. The threads of knowledge had somehow come together at the right moment. Perplexed by his own ingenuity, Mayer started to pace around the office. He mumbled while rubbing his chin, ‘What to do with it?… What to do with it?’

The sudden click of jackboots on the concrete outside penetrated his thoughts. He peered cautiously through the window. Two troopers patrolled the gardens below. ‘Who can I trust?…
Who
can I trust?’ The question rammed home like a freight train. These were deviant political times. There were rumours of people disappearing. It was impossible to tell friend from foe. The Brown Shirts were everywhere. Even members of the University Senate were paid up members of the Nazi Party.

A wave of nausea made him lightheaded. Sweating, he leaned on the window sill to steady himself. ‘Safe… I need to keep this safe… no, I need help, but from whom? Damn it! Why me?… Why now?’

The grey man adjusted his position in the undergrowth. He rubbed the mud off his newly acquired German Navy
Kreigsmarine
wrist watch. The previous owner wouldn’t be missing it. The glow on the radium dial said four a.m. The Professor was evidently still working. The light was on in his study and he hadn’t left the building. This was a lot of surveillance for some obscure academic. Still, it didn’t matter; orders were orders. The job description was simple – protect one Professor Gustav Mayer and find out what he knows.

The file on Mayer was impressive. A theoretical physicist, connected with the great and the good in the scientific community, and by all accounts, close friends with Albert Einstein. Mayer had done some work on the new theory of relativity, whatever that was; probably cobblers. Much more interesting was his work on propulsion systems and high-octane fuels. So, Professor Mayer was making rockets; no wonder military intelligence was interested. These were not the overgrown fireworks of the Great War, but an altogether new beast: metallic monsters designed for an impressive payload of high explosives.

Crack!

The sound of a breaking twig ripped the grey man back to reality. Footfalls through the undergrowth approached steadily. He froze. A pair of shinning boots stopped inches from his face.

BOOK: The Reich Device
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