Under the Hooked Cross – 3: Dancing Penguin

Previous instalments: 1 2

Under the Hooked CrossSilversmith’s glass stopped half way to his lips. “Argus doesn’t stop with the British government, then.”


“Nothing wrong with ambition. Why Argus? Wasn’t he some Greek fella?”

“Servant of Zeus, with a hundred eyes that he never closed all at once.”

“I remember. Then he fell asleep and got his silly head chopped off.”

Four years later, Adler II landed on the moon. British tanks rolled into the Republic of Ireland. Rudolf Hess retired as Führer and his successor, Reinhard Heydrich, announced his intention to place Germans on Mars by the end of the century. Meanwhile, the ink was drying on the British citizenship of Dr James Silversmith, who was already on his way to a post at the Peenemünde spaceflight centre. Six months later, George Carlton was posted to the next building as an administrator. It was as clear a demonstration of the Argus organization’s influence as Silversmith could have asked for.

The vibration eased enough to allow Silversmith’s first full breath since the main engines had started.

“Booster separation is good.”

Silversmith looked at Henkel, whose mouth was set in a rigid line. Silversmith couldn’t miss the battle between the iron discipline of an SS officer and the human frailty of a mind and body hurled from their native planet at eight times the speed of sound.

“Main tank separation.”

A jolt made Henkel jump. Silversmith gave him an encouraging smile. Henkel’s answering smile was slow and reluctant, as though his face muscles were rebelling against his oath of allegiance.

The main engines shut down, leaving Silversmith’s ears ringing and his body feeling as though he had just done twelve rounds with Max Schmeling.

The Luftwaffe pilot floated out of his seat and turned to face them. “Well my gentlemen, you’ll be glad to know we’re exactly on schedule and we’ll be docking with the Dancing Penguin in about four and a half hours. Meanwhile, I suggest you take the time to get used to microgravity.”

Silversmith had often wondered how long the designers had stared at the Adolf Hitler Space Station’s tangle of solar panels and antennae before they started to see a dancing penguin, but the nickname had stuck.

Henkel tore off his straps as though he was escaping from an instrument of torture. He hurled himself out of his seat. He flung up his hands to protect his face from the bulkhead he bounced off and turned a full somersault. His arms flailed. Silversmith grabbed his ankle, but it was too late. The pilot ducked behind his seat to avoid a stream of vomit. He reappeared with a handful of paper bags and the expression of a man who had seen it coming.

Next week: Orientation

Full story available from Amazon in Kindle format.

Author notes


Cover by Manda Benson

These other stories by DJ Cockburn available online: Steel in the Morning, Newgate Jig, The Endocrine Tyranny, Peppermint Tea in Electronic Limbo, Foreclosure, Cassandra’s Cargo and Mars One.

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Posted in Under the Hooked Cross

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