The image on the screen was in colour and good quality, but it still took Silversmith a moment to recognise the naked figure as a human being. The man’s skin was the grey of the mudflats near Peenemünde, and was drawn so tightly over his bones that he looked like a skeleton wrapped in an old curtain. He was strapped to a bulkhead with his arms and legs spread wide. Silversmith thought he must be dead, but the man’s eyes followed the camera as it panned from left to right.
A hand moved in from the left of the picture and pulled the man’s lips apart. Several teeth were missing, and the hand worried at another. The man jerked his head so that the hand was left holding the bloody tooth. The man turned his head toward the hand and spat in the direction of at where his tormentor’s face would be.
For all of the man’s broken appearance, he was fully aware of what was being done to him. Silversmith felt as though his tongue was swelling to block his throat. “What…?”
“Part of the pod is not shielded against radiation. The man had been kept in that part for a month.” Henkel sounded calm, utterly unaffected by what he was seeing. “Are you feeling well, James? You look pale.”
A vision of his clenched fist slamming into Henkel’s face flashed into Silversmith’s mind. He saw Henkel tumbling through the pod, blood spraying from a smashed nose. It took all of his self-control to restrain himself.
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. But this is…do you realise how valuable this is? The idiots who wouldn’t let the scientists see this should be…should be shot as traitors!”
Henkel looked like a dog being patted for fetching a ball. Silversmith buried his revulsion. “If it wasn’t for men like you, the Reich would have died decades ago.”
Silversmith took a deep breath and forced himself to think. “Now, that man. He’s African isn’t he?”
“Yes, they’re harvested from near the Congo base.”
“And he was part of an experiment to look at the effect of cosmic radiation on an astronaut?”
“What else can you show me?”
Next week: Enlightenment
Full story available from Amazon in Kindle format.
Cover by Manda Benson