Black order, p.1
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       Black Order, p.1
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         Part #3 of Sigma Force series by James Rollins
Black Order





  for all the adventures


































  XERUM 525

















  In the last months of World War II, as Germany fell, a new war began among the Allies: to plunder the technology of Nazi scientists. A race between the Brits, Americans, French, and Russians was every country for itself. Patents were stolen: for new vacuum tubes, for exotic chemicals and plastics, even for pasteurizing milk with UV light. But many of the most sensitive patents disappeared into the well of deep black projects, like Operation Paper Clip, where hundreds of Nazi V-2 rocket scientists were recruited in secret and brought into the United States.

  But the Germans did not give up their technology easily. They also fought to secure their secrets in the hopes of a rebirth of the Reich. Scientists were murdered, research labs destroyed, and blueprints hidden in caves, sunk to the bottom of lakes, and buried in crypts. All to keep them from the Allies.

  The search became daunting. Nazi research and weapons labs numbered in the hundreds, many underground, spread across Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. One of the most mysterious was a converted mine outside the small mountain town of Breslau. The research at this facility was code-named die Glocke or “the Bell.” People in the surrounding countryside reported strange lights and mysterious illnesses and deaths.

  The Russian forces were the first to reach the mine. It was deserted. All sixty-two scientists involved in the project had been shot. As for the device itself…it had vanished to God knows where.

  All that is known for sure: the Bell was real.



  Life is stranger than any fiction. All the discussions raised in this novel about quantum mechanics, intelligent design, and evolution are based on facts.

  The fact that evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an improved theory—is it then a science or faith?


  Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.


  Who says I am not under the special protection of God?



  MAY 4

  6:22 A.M.


  The body floated in the sludge that sluiced through the dank sewers. The corpse of a boy, bloated and rat gnawed, had been stripped of boots, pants, and shirt. Nothing went to waste in the besieged city.

  SS Obergruppenführer Jakob Sporrenberg nudged past the corpse, stirring the filth. Offal and excrement. Blood and bile. The wet scarf tied around his nose and mouth did little to ward off the stench. This was what the great war had come to. The mighty reduced to crawling through sewers to escape. But he had his orders.

  Overhead the double crump-wump of Russian artillery pummeled the city. Each explosion bruised his gut with its concussive shock. The Russians had broken down the gates, bombed the airport, and even now, tanks ground down the cobbled streets while transport carriers landed on Kaiserstrasse. The main thoroughfare had been converted into a landing strip by parallel rows of flaming oil barrels, adding their smoke to the already choked early morning skies, keeping dawn at bay. Fighting waged in every street, in every home, from attic to basement.

  Every house a fortress.

  That had been Gauleiter Hanke’s final command to the populace. The city had to hold out as long as possible. The future of the Third Reich depended on it.

  And on Jakob Sporrenberg.

  “Mach schnell,” he urged the others behind him.

  His unit of the Sicherheitsdienst—designation Special Evacuation Kommando—trailed him, knee-deep in filthy water. Fourteen men. All armed. All dressed in black. All burdened with heavy packs. In the middle, four of the largest men, former Nordsee dockmen, bore poles on their shoulders, bearing aloft massive crates.

  There was a reason the Russians were striking this lone city deep in the Sudeten Mountains between Germany and Poland. The fortifications of Breslau guarded the gateway to the highlands beyond. For the past two years, forced labor from the concentration camp of Gross-Rosen had hollowed out a neighboring mountain peak. A hundred kilometers of tunnels clawed and blasted, all to service one secret project, one kept buried away from prying Allied eyes.

  Die Riese…the Giant.

  But word had still spread. Perhaps one of the villagers outside the Wenceslas Mine had whispered of the illness, the sudden malaise that had afflicted even those well outside the complex.

  If only they’d had more time to complete the research…

  Still, a part of Jakob Sporrenberg balked. He didn’t know all that was involved with the secret project, mostly just the code name: Chronos. Still, he knew enough. He had seen the bodies used in the experiments. He had heard the screams.


  That was the one word that had come to mind and iced his blood.

  He’d had no trouble executing the scientists. The sixty-two men and women had been taken outside and shot twice in the head. No one must know what had transpired in the depths of the Wenceslas Mine…or what was found. Only one researcher was allowed to live.

  Doktor Tola Hirszfeld.

  Jakob heard her sloshing behind him, half dragged by one of his men, wrists secured behind her back. She was tall for a woman, late twenties, small breasted but of ample waist and shapely legs. Her hair flowed smooth and black, her skin as pale as milk from the months spent underground. She was to have been killed with the others, but her father, Oberarbeitsleiter Hugo Hirszfeld, overseer of the project, had finally shown his corrupted blood, his half-Jewish heritage. He had attempted to destroy his research files, but he had been shot by one of the guards and killed before he could firebomb his subterranean office. Fortunately for his daughter, someone with full knowledge of die Glocke had to survive, to carry on the work. She, a genius like her father, knew his research better than any of the other scientists.

  But she would need coaxing from here.

  Fire burned in her eyes whenever Jakob glanced her way. He could feel her hatred like the heat of an open furnace. But she would cooperate…like her father had before her. Jakob knew how to deal with Juden, especially those of mixed blood. Mischlinge. They were the worst. Partial Jews. There were some hundred thousand Mischlinge in military service to the Reich. Jewish soldiers. Rare exemp
tions to Nazi law had allowed such mixed blood to still serve, sparing their lives. It required special dispensation. Such Mischlinge usually proved to be the fiercest soldiers, needing to show their loyalty to Reich over race.

  Still, Jakob had never trusted them. Tola’s father proved the validity of his suspicions. The doctor’s attempted sabotage had not surprised Jakob. Juden were never to be trusted, only exterminated.

  But Hugo Hirszfeld’s exemption papers had been signed by the führer himself, sparing not only the father and daughter, but also a pair of elderly parents somewhere in the middle of Germany. So while Jakob had no trust of the Mischlinge, he placed his full faith in his führer. His orders had been letter specific: evacuate the mine of the necessary resources to continue the work and destroy the rest.

  That meant sparing the daughter.

  And the baby.

  The newborn boy was swaddled and bundled into a pack, a Jewish infant, no more than a month old. The child had been given a light sedative to keep him silent as they made their escape.

  Within the child burned the heart of the abomination, the true source of Jakob’s revulsion. All of the hopes for the Third Reich lay in his tiny hands—the hands of a Jewish infant. Bile rose at such a thought. Better to impale the child on a bayonet. But he had his orders.

  He also saw how Tola watched the boy. Her eyes glowed with a mix of fire and grief. Besides aiding in her father’s research, Tola had served as the boy’s foster mother, rocking him asleep, feeding him. The child was the only reason the woman was cooperating at all. It had been a threat on the boy’s life that had finally made Tola acquiesce to Jakob’s demands.

  A mortar blast exploded overhead, dropping all to their knees and deafening the world to a sonorous ring. Cement cracked, and dust trickled into the foul water.

  Jakob gained his feet, swearing under his breath.

  His second in command, Oskar Henricks, drew abreast of him and pointed forward to a side branch of the sewer.

  “We take that tunnel, Obergruppenführer. An old storm drain. According to the municipal map, the main trunk empties into the river, not far from Cathedral Island.”

  Jakob nodded. Hidden near the island, a pair of camouflaged gunboats should be waiting, manned by another Kommando unit. It was not much farther.

  He led the way at a more hurried pace as the Russian bombardment intensified overhead. The renewed assault plainly heralded their final push into the city. The surrender of its citizenry was inevitable.

  As Jakob reached the side tunnel, he climbed out of the sluicing filth and onto the cement apron of the branching passageway. His boots squelched with each step. The gangrenous reek of bowel and slime swelled momentarily worse, as if the sewer sought to chase him from its depths.

  The rest of his unit followed.

  Jakob shone his hand-torch down the cement drain. Did the air smell a touch fresher? He followed the beam with renewed vigor. With escape so near, the mission was almost over. His unit would be halfway across Silesia before the Russians ever reached the subterranean warren of rat runs that constituted Wenceslas Mine. As a warm welcome, Jakob had planted booby traps throughout the laboratory passages. The Russians and their allies would find nothing but death among the highlands.

  With this satisfying thought, Jakob fled toward the promise of fresh air. The cement tunnel descended in a gradual slope. The team’s pace increased, hastened by the sudden silence between artillery bursts. The Russians were coming in full force.

  It would be close. The river would only remain open for so long.

  As if sensing the urgency, the infant began a soft cry, a thready whine as the sedative wore off. Jakob had warned the team’s medic to keep the drugs light. They dared not risk the child’s life. Perhaps that had been a mistake…

  The timbre of the cries grew more strident.

  A single mortar shell blasted somewhere to the north.

  Cries became wails. The noise echoed down the tunnel’s stone throat.

  “Quiet the child!” he ordered the soldier who bore the baby.

  The man, reed thin and ashen, bobbled the pack from his shoulder, losing his black cap in the process. He struggled to free the boy but only earned more distressed screeches.

  “L-let me,” Tola pleaded. She fought the man holding her elbow. “He needs me.”

  The child bearer glanced to Jakob. Silence had fallen over the world above. The screaming continued below.

  Grimacing, Jakob nodded his head.

  Tola’s bonds were cut from her wrists. Rubbing circulation into her fingers, she reached for the child. The soldier gladly relinquished his burden. She cradled the baby in the crook of her arm, supporting his head and rocking him gently. She leaned over him, drawing him close. Soothing sounds, wordless and full of comfort, whispered through his wails. Her whole being melted around the child.

  Slowly the screeching ebbed to quieter cries.

  Satisfied, Jakob nodded to her guard. The man raised his Luger and kept it pressed to Tola’s back. In silence now, they continued their trek through the subterranean warren beneath Breslau.

  In short order, the smell of smoke overtook the reek of the sewers. His hand-torch illuminated a smoky pall that marked the exit of the storm drain. The artillery guns remained quiet, but an almost continuous pop and rattle of gunfire continued—mostly to the east. Closer at hand, the distinct lap of water could be heard.

  Jakob gestured to his men to hold their position back in the tunnel and waved his radioman to the exit. “Signal the boats.”

  The soldier nodded crisply and hurried forward, disappearing into the smoky gloom. In moments, a few flashes of light passed a coded message to the neighboring island. It would only take a minute for the boats to cross the channel to their location.

  Jakob turned to Tola. She still carried the child. The boy had quieted again, his eyes closed.

  Tola met Jakob’s gaze, unflinching. “You know my father was right,” she said with quiet certainty. Her gaze flicked to the sealed crates, then back to him. “I can see it in your face. What we did…we went too far.”

  “Such decisions are not for either of us to decide,” Jakob answered.

  “Then who?”

  Jakob shook his head and began to turn away. Heinrich Himmler had personally given him his orders. It was not his place to question. Still, he felt the woman’s attention on him.

  “It defies God and nature,” she whispered.

  A call saved him from responding. “The boats come,” the radioman announced, returning from the mouth of the storm drain.

  Jakob barked final orders and got his men into position. He led them to the end of the tunnel, which opened onto the steep bank of the River Oder. They were losing the cover of darkness. Sunrise glowed to the east, but here a continuous cloud of black smoke hung low over the water, drawn thick by the river draft. The pall would help shelter them.

  But for how long?

  Gunfire continued its oddly merry chatter, firecrackers to celebrate the destruction of Breslau.

  Free of the sewer’s stink, Jakob pulled away his wet mask and took a deep clean breath. He searched the lead gray waters. A pair of twenty-foot low boats knifed across the river, engines burbling a steady drone. At each bow, barely concealed under green tarps, a pair of MG-42 machine guns had been mounted.

  Beyond the boats, a dark mass of island was just visible. Cathedral Island was not truly an island, as it had accumulated enough silt back in the nineteenth century to fuse to the far bank. A cast-iron emerald green bridge dating back to the same century crossed to this side. Beneath the bridge, the two gunboats skirted its stone piers and approached.

  Jakob’s eyes were drawn upward as a piercing ray of sunlight struck the tips of the two towering spires of the cathedral that gave the former island its name. It was one of a half-dozen churches crowded on the island.

  Jakob’s ears still rang with Tola Hirszfeld’s words.

  It defies God and nature.

morning chill penetrated his sodden clothes, leaving his skin prickling and cold. He would be glad when he was well away from here, able to shut out all memory of these past days.

  The first of the boats reached the shoreline. Glad for the distraction, even happier to be moving, he hurried his men to load the two boats.

  Tola stood off to the side, babe in her arms, flanked by the one guard. Her eyes had also discovered the glowing spires in the smoky skies. Gunfire continued, moving closer now. Tanks could be heard grinding in low gears. Cries and screams punctuated it all.

  Where was this God she feared defying?

  Certainly not here.

  With the boats loaded, Jakob moved to Tola’s side. “Get on the boat.” He had meant to be stern, but something in her face softened his words.

  She obeyed, her attention still on the cathedral, her thoughts even further skyward.

  In that moment, Jakob saw the beauty she could be…even though she was a Mischlinge. But then the toe of her boot stubbed, she stumbled and caught herself, careful of the babe. Her eyes returned to the gray waters and smoky pall. Her face hardened again, gone stony. Even her eyes turned flinty as she cast about for a seat for her and the baby.

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