A quiet day of surfing the internet at the local library was interrupted when Nazis kicked in the front door.
Terra Mason frowned, glancing up from her seat at a computer next to the geology section she saw several armed men wearing Nazi uniforms storm into the library. She froze as her mind tried to comprehend what she was seeing.
The librarian marched up to the soldiers. She faced one of the taller Nazis and pointed a finger at his face. “Not funny, young man. Go somewhere else for your little reenactment. This is a public library, not a theater.”
The soldier gestured to behind the counter and said something Terra did not understand. She assumed he spoke German, but was not really sure. While she could not understand his words, Terra did study the man. He didn’t seem like a reenactor to her. The only World War II reenactors she had seen were at the neighboring town’s history festival and most were Middle aged, pot-bellied Americans with bad postures and fake accents. These lean and fit young men moved with a soldier’s precise discipline.
“Oh very funny,” the librarian said. She pulled out her cell phone. “I’m calling the police.”
A nearby soldier regarded the librarian’s phone with wide eyes as she dialed. He pointed at the phone and barked an order in German.
The tall soldier in front of the librarian snatched the phone from the librarian’s hands, dropped it on the floor and crushed it under his boot. He pointed, again, behind the counter and spoke. His words were harsher this time.
The librarian scowled. “My cell phone!”
The soldier shot her a dark glare. Unable to get his point across, the Nazi chose the universal language of violence. He aimed his rifle in the air and fired, shattering a section of the glass skylight.
The library patrons fell silent as the clink of the bullet casing echoed on the hard floor. Again, he pointed to behind the library counter then put a finger to his lips.
A new order of implied violence settled over the library. Confronted with a real gun, the pale faced librarian made no further protests and the library patrons offered no further resistance as the Nazis herded them behind the checkout counter.
Terra slid from her seat and hid behind a nearby marble pillar, taking care not to draw attention to herself while trying to keep her panic in check. This wasn’t how her day was supposed to go. At the urging of her favorite teacher, Mr. Alden Smith, Terra had volunteered to help shelve books at the library after school. In truth, she hoped to avoid her parents’ endless pestering about finding a good college in the face of her looming graduation. Now she was trapped with a bunch of armed lunatics.
She peeked from behind the pillar to count at least a dozen soldiers, with two more entering from the front and moving into the open reading area at the library’s heart.
More soldiers moved around a large sunlit statue of the Greek goddess Nike that stood under a wide glass skylight. They searched between the labyrinth of bookshelves for stray patrons. A pair moved between the large marble pillars near the perimeter of the library while others deployed a machine gun nest in one corner.
Terra felt her heart race. They had guns, real guns! She forced herself to keep calm in spite of a rising panic. Then she remembered her cell phone. She hadn’t even started dialing when she head a soft click behind her; the noise a rifle made when chambering a round. Her sudden turn caused the soldier to aim his rifle right at her face. She stood as motionless as stone.
While keeping his gaze on Terra he called to the other soldiers in German.
The Nazi looked Terra over, his posture tense and his weapon still pointed at her. Worn jeans and a stained jacket marked her as much a civilian as her nonathletic pear shaped body and slightly hunched posture. Terra’s youthful sunburned face had a dusting of freckles across her nose while her hair was deep brown, messy and cut short just above her shoulders.
Terra’s frightened expression put the solider at ease. He lowered his rifle after taking her cell phone away.
The Nazi motioned with his rifle, pointing to the crowd of patrons gathered behind the checkout desk. Terra put her hands up and began walking.
She eyed the Nazi intruders as the soldier escorted her to the checkout counter. Their gear appeared used, well maintained, and functional. She noted the R shaped runic insignia on the collar of their steel-gray uniforms. Most carried rifles. One was armed with a flame thrower while another wore a sword at his belt. Each soldier wore a strange device on his belt; a flat and round metal plate shaped device with a convex glass light. Its glass face glowed a bright green. The device reminded Terra of an oversized pocket watch.
The soldier escorted Terra to the other patrons. Those gathered were the usual library goers. Terra looked around to observe what the intruders were doing.
A soldier set up a tall antenna like device on a tripod base. A green glowing light on the top hummed in unison with a luminous, rhythmic pulse that grew faster as the soldier backed away. It glowed bright green before a flash of light filled the library.
From where the antenna had stood a sphere of green light burst, its edges crackling with electrical bolts. The sphere grew to fifteen paces in diameter before a pair of German soldiers wearing pitch black goggles emerged from the glowing portal. They dragged a wheeled anti-tank cannon behind them. As they left the light, the soldiers discarded their goggles before loading the cannon. They wheeled it to one side before turning over book shelves to set up a makeshift fortification.
The patrons gasped while Terra stared with awe, the afterimage still flashing in her eyes. What is that? she wondered. Fireworks? Projectors? CGI? She couldn’t deny the strange sight. These Nazis had appeared from nowhere.
Another half dozen soldiers swarmed from the glowing sphere. As the last group emerged, one stood out. Terra recognized him by the twin lightning bolt symbol on the collar of his black uniform. A soldier of the SS. He carried some kind of long, heavy weapon with a grenade at the tip. Terra guessed it was a launcher of some kind?
The soldiers then made way and stood at attention. One more Nazi emerged before the sphere dissipated with a loud, screeching crack. The carpet edges were singed where it had met the sphere and a faint smell of smoke now hung the air.
The Nazis saluted the newcomer. Terra felt surprised to see a traditional military salute, rather than the Nazi salute she often saw on documentaries.
This newcomer appeared to be in his thirties with a rectangular, clean shaven face. He removed his officer’s peaked cap to reveal his neatly parted, dark brown hair. He wore a blue-gray officer’s long coat with a rank insignia Terra didn’t recognize. An even pattern of polished medals and insignias hung on his well pressed uniform with an “R” runic insignia on the collar. His belt holstered a pistol and in his left hand he carried a large pocket watch with a green glowing face. He hung the watch at his belt and surveyed the area. The sincere smile would have made him charming, even handsome in spite of his precise military bearing, if not for the red Nazi armband he wore.
There was a brief exchange between the soldiers and the officer. The officer spoke in a calm, inquisitive tone while the soldiers explained.
A young child among the patrons started sobbing and unfortunately drew the officer’s attention. He smile and pointed to the child before uttering something in German.
The soldier nearest to the child put his hand on a holstered pistol. Terra and the other patrons gasped. She didn’t even have time to react as the soldier thumbed his weapon. Then to her surprise the soldier reached past his gun to pull out a small package. He unwrapped it to reveal a candy bar.
“Chocolate?” the soldier asked with a heavy accent. He smiled as he offered it to the child.
The patrons stared silently at the soldiers, their expressions a mixture of shock and horror.
The soldier with the chocolate leaned back, his brow furrowed. He looked to the officer, expectant. The officer issued orders in a soft, confident tone before the soldiers guarding the patrons dispersed. He said something to the SS soldier. The SS soldier glared for a moment then stalked away.
The officer turned to the patrons and approached with hands clasped behind his back. His smile appeared genuine. “I apologize,” he said. His English had only a faint German accent. “I do not intend to keep you here long, but we must ask you to remain here to avoid further complications. Rest assured, we have no intention of harming you and we will be out of your way soon.”
The patrons exchanged nervous glances while the child trembled. Terra wondered when the nice guy act would disappear.
Another silent moment passed. The officer’s smile lessened. After a moment he cleared his throat. “My apologies again. I should introduce myself. I am Hanns Joachim Speer, commander of the German Zeitmacht and I am from your past. I have come from the year 1940 by way of time travel.”
Hanns smiled again as if waiting for questions. None came.
Terra raised an eyebrow. Time travel? she thought. What kind of trick is this?
Hanns cleared his throat again and muttered something under his breath. His gaze searched the crowd. “If I may ask a favor, could someone tell me the current year and location? Given the language, I believe this to be the United States.”
The patrons answered Hanns’s question with blank stares as room’s oppressive silence filled the pauses between his questions. Footsteps made by patrolling soldiers and the occasional soft click of weapons stood out all the more in the awkward quiet.
“Anyone?” Hanns asked as his gaze searched the gathered patrons. “Anyone at all?”
Terra wondered if, perhaps, Hanns felt accustomed to people being more friendly with him. His charm did little to set them at ease when he dressed like a villain from an old war movie.
Hanns frowned again after another moment of silence. “Why do you stare at me like I’m a monster?”
“How can you not know?” Terra whispered, thinking out loud.
Hanns heard and his gaze snapped straight to her. “Excuse me?” he said, forcing a smile. Hanns looked relieved to find someone who would talk.
Terra tensed before forcing herself still. “I guess you couldn’t know,” she said, having to force out the words.
A soldier approached Hanns and stood at attention and reported.
Hanns listened to the report. He then nodded, dismissing the soldier and looking at his watch again. “So it would seem our enemy has not shown yet,” He said before looking back up to Terra and smiling. “Young lady, would you mind accompanying me?” Hanns asked, gesturing to the library shelves.
Hanns gave Terra a reassuring smile and stood with hand outstretched, like a gentleman offering a dance to a lady. She frowned before following Hanns.
They walked to a stack of bookshelves while Terra observed the soldiers’ activities. They had set up a machine gun in one corner and a wheeled cannon near the bathrooms. The rest of the soldiers patrolled the outer perimeter of the library.
The soldiers ignored the patrons. Their wary sight darted around the room and they often looked up as if scanning for an unseen aerial foe. They exchanged dark looks with the SS soldier, but kept their distance.
“Are you a student of history?” Hanns asked in a conversational tone as he inspected the first book shelf.
Terra’s eyes snapped back to Hanns. “History? I haven’t even graduated high school yet.”
Hanns shook his head. “Just like the young, ignorant of the past. Admittedly, my university focus was more on science and engineering. I love ancient poems though. The Odyssey and The Iliad are my personal favorites.”
Terra, again, forced herself calm. She had to focus, to figure out why Nazis were here in a library and if they really were time travelers. Hanns didn’t seem like the Nazis portrayed in movies and video games. He didn’t even wear a monocle and, so far, hadn’t let out a mad cackle. Terra wondered if she should encourage him to talk more since he didn’t seem hostile yet. “Um. I actually prefer geology,” Terra said in a shaky voice.
He smiled. “Geology? Wonderful. The study of the intersection of earth and time.” He turned to the shelf and ran an index finger across the row of books, stopping on one called Understanding Spacetime. He thumbed through a few pages before putting the book back. They made their way to the next section.
Terra looked up at the shelves, wondering what Hanns was after, assuming he was a time traveler. They stood in the science section one row down from literature. The row after that was history. Her eyes went wide as she stopped. “History,” she whispered.
Hanns grinned while he continued to trace his finger across the books. “A single history book could change everything. The Waffen SS wants to confirm their glorious future,” Hanns said, rolling his eyes. “But I need it to save lives.”
“If we know our enemies movements and strategies, we can end this war with minimum loss of life. After Poland and France fell so quickly, I doubt the rest will last. Victory is assured, but why prolong the conflict? With a simple book, we can soundly defeat our enemies and end this war with minimal bloodshed.”
Terra stared at Hanns with wide eyes.
Hanns looked over his shoulder at Terra. “However, I am curious why you Americans appear fearful of us? It’s not like we will declare war against your country. The United States is neutral. I suppose we will have gained a fearsome reputation by the end of the war, but I assure you, we are not your enemies.”
Terra grimaced. “You talk like you are the good guys?”
Hanns faced Terra and regarded her with a piercing stare. “We took a failing nation and turned it into a superpower. We avenged our soiled honor after that venomous treaty in Versailles. You can’t tell me that treaty was fair, laying the blame for the sins of the Great War solely upon us! We stood up for ourselves against the entire world. How are we not the heroes?”
Terra raised her hands before stepping back. “Sorry! Please calm down.”
Hanns’s expression softened. “I apologize. I didn’t intend to frighten you. I went through difficult times after the Great War. We all struggled during the Depression.” He grimaced as though recalling a bad memory before he shook his head and smiled. “Now exciting things are happening. The new Nazi Party looks only to the future, unlike the old Republic. They even supported my time travel project despite the strange premise. For the first time in years, we have hope for the future.”
“I don’t understand. Why all the soldiers if you’re after a history book? Why not disguise yourself as a normal person or just grab a book and run?”
Hanns frowned, tapping a book with his finger. “You think I didn’t try that?” Hanns said under his breath. He took a book titled Escalation of the Vietnam War. Hanns thumbed through a few pages before putting it back. “Why would the Americans attack a French colony?” he said, more to himself than Terra. “In answer to your question, we ran into… complications.”
“Complications?” Terra asked before glancing at the books ahead of Hanns. They stood only a few steps away from the World War II books. She felt her heart begin to pound as she pondered the implications of Nazis finding a history book. Just before Hanns’s finger brushed over a book titled D-Day: A Narrow Victory, a blue light illuminated the area.
Above the skylight a small glowing blue ring formed over the library. It moved down at a steady pace growing bigger. Soon the glowing ring encircled the building. Between the ring, a translucent grid of light beams passed through the walls. The grid passed right through her before it continued downward until disappearing into the floor.
Hanns glared at the passing ring while his hand tightened around his pistol. “The gods are hard to handle when they come blazing forth in their true power.” He stood, silent for a moment. “She’s here!” he said through gritted teeth. He drew his pistol before pointing to a nearby marble pillar. “Young lady! Hide behind that pillar and stay down.”
Before she hid behind the pillar, she saw a sudden flurry of activity from the invaders. Their rifles clicked, the machine gun’s ammunition belt clinked, the cannon gave a mechanical growl as the crew adjusted its firing angle. Even the SS soldier took cover.
A stillness settled over the library broken only by the sound of a rising wind outside the building. Terra knelt on the ground behind the pillar, covering her ears with her hands.
Terra lifted her hands to hear light footsteps on the roof. The soldiers noticed too and raised the aim of their weapons.
A soundless moment passed. Terra let down her guard just before the glass skylight shattered, raining shards over the library. A figure descended through the broken skylight. A woman dressed in white armor landed gracefully on top of the statue of Nike, her long silver hair streaming behind her in the wind.