Saturday, 18 February 2012

Gretel's Puppy

Berlin, 3 September 1938. It was the twins' 8th birthday. Doctor Hugo van Xanstein had brought the girls into the town so that they could pick something for their birthday present. Ilsa hadn't wasted anytime and had selected a set of wooden soldiers, complete with horses, cannons and flags. "I always thought she should have been a boy" thought Hugo as the small girl's eyes lit up when presented with the box of figures.

Gretel, however, was proving more difficult. She didn't want any dolls, certainly didn't want any toy soldiers and claimed she had enough jigsaw puzzles to keep her busy until she was 9. So the trio continued their search until they came upon a pet shop. In the window, sitting quietly in a cage was a small, light grey ball of fluff, with a dark grey patch on the left side of it's rather sharp muzzle.

"How much is that doggy in the window?" Gretel asked her father.

"The cost doesn't matter my child, if this is what you want, you shall have it!" replied her father. To be honest, Hugo had started to get quite vexed as he had wanted to be back in the laboratory over an hour ago and this unexpected delay was irritating beyond belief so it was with some relief that a few minutes later the transaction was done and Gretel, was happily walking along the Rosenthaler Strasse with the ball of fluff scampering excitedly alongside her on it's lead, back to the waiting staff car.

Munich, 14 August 1941. Hugo had moved his laboratory to Bavaria to get away from those irksome British air raids. The Fuhrer had given his blessing to the move as Hugo's work was of the "utmost importance to the Reich" and was to be carried out without the risk of further disruption by the bombing raids.

The invasion of Russia was going well and had brought Hugo a totally unexpected boon when the rapid German advance had uncovered a secret Soviet Laboratory which Hugo knew, from recovered papers, belonged to the secretive Cosmist sect of the Soviet hierarchy. The laboratory contained several batches of serum which, using the secrets disclosed by the recovered documents, led Hugo to believe that with some modifications as a result of his own studies would lead to the breakthrough that he had been looking for, the creation of a genetically enhanced "superhuman", who would have strength, speed and intellect beyond the capability of any normal being. Once proven, the serum could lead to the creation of an army of invincible soldiers for the Reich and the war would be over by Christmas.

His work almost complete, Hugo was now ready for the final testing procedures. He looked through the window to where his two girls were playing in the garden. They were so close, the twins, almost telepathic in the way they interacted with each other, although that damned dog of Gretel's had caused a slight rift between the girls as Gretel would spend more and more of her time with "Puppy" as she called the animal. The dog had grown quickly over the last few years. Hugo, thought the dog was some sort of cross between an Alsatian and a wolfhound. It certainly had the sharp muzzle like an Alsatian but the build of a wolfhound. Whatever it was, it would follow Gretel faithfully wherever she would go. However, soon both girls would be needed for the great experiment, for Hugo had decided to use the girls for his final testing. What greater glory could they give the Reich than undergoing this honour?

Munich, 19 October 1941. The final testing, much to Hugo's dismay had brought mixed results. Both girls had received their dose of "Daddy's medicine" and although both girls had quickly shown signs of increased intellect, speed and strength, Ilsa had suffered a terrible reaction resulting in her face  melting almost completely away to the bone. Now horribly disfigured, the child was reduced to wearing a mask. However, she would not be the butt of anyone's jokes as the first child at the school had found out when trying to poke fun at Ilsa. 3 broken ribs and a smashed jaw later and the child would not be so quick to ridicule Ilsa next time.

Despite her ordeal Ilsa, and for that matter, Gretel too, though she had been spared a similar reaction, were now unswerving in their professed loyalty to the Reich, the Fuhrer and in particular to Hugo. As the days and weeks went past, the girls' abilities continued to increase so that they were soon far ahead of their peers in all aspects of their studies and sporting achievements. Even "Puppy" found it difficult to keep pace with Gretel when they went for a run. The girls would soon have to move onto the Military Academy, for it was to be there that they would undergo a rigorous training, even though they were still only 11, in all aspects of making war, for they were to be the commanders of the invincible army that Hugo would create for the Reich.

Berlin 11 June 1944. Hugo stood outside the Reich Chancellery, his ears still ringing from the rapturous comments of Herr Goebbels on the success of the Vergeltungswaffe 4 attacks on the Allied beachhead in Normandy. Soon the V-4 gas would be unleashed on the advancing Soviet forces and the tide of the war would swing back once more in favour of the Reich. Still, the V-4 was not the goal that Hugo had been looking for. The deadly gas would create a zombie horde but they were not the superhuman soldiers that Hugo had hoped to create. The Special Weapons Development team's experiments with the Lycanthropy virus had so far proved unsuccessful but there had been tantalising hints of a possible breakthrough. Hugo would not rest on his laurels following the V-4 success, however, there was still much to do.

Munich, 19 April 1947. Hugo stood in his laboratory reading the reports of the SWD's breakthrough the day before with the Lycanthropy virus. Much had been achieved since the first V-4 attacks and this latest development promised to bring the Reich a supply of supremely swift and powerful fighting soldiers. Hugo hesitated to use the words "fighting men" as the volunteers for the tests were now more wolf like than men. "Jagerhunds" they would become known as. But still Hugo was restless and saw the possibility of taking the testing in a new direction and he had just the subject in mind.

Munich, 28 November 1947. Gretel entered her father's study. "Father, have you seen Puppy?" she asked. "I've searched all over the building and grounds and he is nowhere to be seen".

"Sorry, my child" replied Hugo. "You should keep looking, he must be around somewhere, I'm sure he will turn up soon." Gretel turned and left the study.

Despite the "gifts" that had been bestowed on her as a result of "Daddy's Medicine" Gretel had remained devoted to the dog. The next few days proved a fruitless search for Gretel as the dog was nowhere to be found. For a brief moment of time Hugo feared that his daughter would regress and start to lose her powers but the fear was short-lived. Gretel soon was back to normal and proving herself exceptional (and ruthless) at all the tasks that were presented to her.

Gibraltar, 18 February 1949. Gretel wiped a tiny bead of perspiration from her brow. She stood in a dark, damp corridor of roughly hewn stone located many hundreds of metres under the mastiff of the Rock of Gibraltar. A few feet away from her lay the bodies of 5 British Commandos. The firefight had been short and vicious, but Gretel's enhanced fighting abilities had seen her triumph, although only just, as the magazine of her MP40 was now empty and it was her last magazine. She had left her Zombie platoon somewhere back in the distance during the chase. The shambling mounds of flesh had no chance of keeping up with Gretel when she was in full flight.

Despite her heightened senses, Gretel found the labyrinth of corridors beneath the Rock disorientating. Ilsa would often mock her by saying Gretel should leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind her when she went on patrol so that she could find her way back to base. They had been close once, Gretel and Ilsa, even Ilsa's reaction to "Daddy's medicine" had not affected that bond. But when Puppy had gone missing, Gretel blamed Ilsa for his disappearance and the girls had grown quickly apart, although they continued to be loyal servants of the Reich and to their father and they both enjoyed the exhilaration of annihilating the enemies of the Reich. Now Ilsa was commander of the garrison at Gibraltar and the sisters were responsible for protecting their father's test facilities located under the Rock.

Recently, Gretel was aware that her father had spoken of his success in producing a new breed of soldier for the Reich but so far she had not seen the results of these tests and only Ilsa seemed to have any knowledge of the matter and what she knew, she would not disclose to her sister.

As Gretel made her way cautiously down the corridor towards a crossroads, she thought once more of the dog. Puppy's disappearance had continued to mystify Gretel, although it was many months since she had last seen him. The memory of the dog caused Gretel to pause briefly at the junction. The sound of movement behind her brought her quickly back to the present and she spun round but it was too late, the Commando was pulling the trigger of his Corrigan Gut Gun - how could she have been so foolish? She knew the Commandos worked in 6 man teams and there were only 5 dead bodies back down the corridor. The distance between Gretel and the Commando was too great, even for Gretel, too leap onto her attacker and her gun was useless. Suddenly the corridor was filled with a blood curdling howl and before the Commando could react a grey blur rushed past Gretel onto the hapless warrior, whose scream was cut short when his throat was ripped out.

Gretel, could only stand and watch as what had been the grey blur stood erect and took shape. This was not one of their Jagerhunds, Gretel knew them all by sight and this was not one of them but what stood before her was clearly some form of wolf but which was now standing on it's hind legs like a man.

The beast stood watching Gretel, it's muzzle still dripping with the blood of it's victim. There was something familiar about the beast, thought Gretel, although she was sure she had never seen it before. Then she saw it, despite the blood, the dark grey patch on the left side of the beast's muzzle.

"Puppy?" she whispered.

The beast's eyes flickered as if there was a hint of recognition at the name. Then raising his head towards the ceiling the beast let loose a deafening howl and then turned and sprinted down the corridor at a speed that even Gretel had no hope of matching, leaving her shocked and bewildered. Then Gretel
too, let out her own long despairing wail -

"You Bastard Daddy! What have you done?"