Under the Hooked Cross – 9: Chemistry

Previous instalments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Under the Hooked Cross“Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Silversmith kicked off a centrifuge to retrieve a bung that had floated out of a Buchner flask.

Henkel floated in the doorway, looking bemused. He spoke reasonable English, but Silversmith’s occasional outbursts of Irish brogue usually defeated him.

Silversmith shoved the bung in the flask before any of the fluid inside escaped. “Cyanide,” he said, reverting to German

He grinned at Henkel’s widened eyes. “Don’t worry, it’s inert as long as it doesn’t mix with an acid, but I’d rather keep it in the flask.”

Henkel nodded, not sure whether Silversmith was joking. Silversmith wished he was. In Peenemünde, he’d have done this assay in a cabinet that vented any fumes at a safe distance, but it was impossible to vent fumes into space without losing air the Dancing Penguin could not afford. Henkel wasn’t helping by hanging around, but Silversmith didn’t want to discourage the man when he was beginning to relax his guard.

The flasks began turned blue at different rates and Silversmith turned to Henkel. “I can’t understand why none of this is exciting enough for your broadcasts.”

Henkel smiled. “Unfortunately, our Führer’s interest is in astronomy rather than biochemistry.”

“His loss. Perhaps you should try a broadcast from that secret pod.”

Henkel moistened his lips. The subject of the secret pod was not officially forbidden, but then the really dangerous subjects never were. No one lasted long in an SS facility like Peenemünde without learning how to recognise them.

The two scientists who worked in Secret wore the black jumpsuits of the SS, and Silversmith hadn’t seen them at Peenemünde. The SS tended to keep to themselves, and especially away from the blue jumpsuited scientists. Silversmith suspected they were under orders to minimise their contamination with the unruly intellectuals, which was probably why Henkel looked so uncomfortable.

Silversmith let the silence hang for a moment. “What does go on in there, Max?”

He was fairly sure that Henkel should now order him to drop the subject, but also fairly sure Henkel wouldn’t risk losing the nearest thing he had to a friend. Henkel teetered between duty and loneliness.

Next week: Seduction


Full story available from Amazon in Kindle format.

Author notes

Goodreads

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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