Henkel lingered for a moment, but Silversmith said no more. Henkel pulled himself out of the octagon and Silversmith allowed tension to ebb away. Could he remember a time when it hadn’t been such a relief to be left alone? It was much easier to remember the day everything went wrong.
It had been a year ago when he’d got through a litre of schnapps in a week of musing on how all he’d achieved in Peenemünde was to make it a little more feasible for Nazi astronauts to eat hydroponically grown food on the way to Mars. He’d found nothing of value to pass on to Argus, he’d been rejected for flight training three times, and it was only a matter of time before his nerves gave him away. He strode into the town, determined to tell Carlton that if Argus didn’t help him defect to America, he was going to try on his own.
His thoughts had bounced around in his head but old habit kept his eyes sharp, something about the man in the Volkswagen outside the beerkellar had stopped him from breaking his stride. He bought a newspaper and walked back to his quarters, fighting the panic rising in his chest.
He collapsed on his bed and waited for the Gestapo to break down the door. Nothing happened for five minutes. Ten minutes. An hour. A swig of schnapps and he cursed himself for a paranoid fool. Half a bottle and he laughed aloud at himself.
The next day, Carlton’s name had vanished from his office door. Silversmith heard his name whispered once or twice in the following weeks but otherwise, George Carlton might never have existed.
A silver glow from the Arctic ice cap drove the memory away. He was up here now, and perhaps he’d found a thread by which he might unravel Max Henkel. He pivoted to watch the stars as the sun slid from behind the Earth.
Next week: Chemistry
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Cover by Manda Benson