When Jurgen awoke there was change. A difference had been made. Tom was fresh and real; the father of the special baby and a fighter against wrong and what was he doing? Jurgen asked. He was no Tom; he fought for nothing. Sitting up, he spotted a mirror near a closet and walked over and looked at his reflection. A coward, was the fast conclusion. Tom left to fight. He stayed and worked, hoping not to cause waves. He didn’t blame Hilda for not loving him, how could she?
“Do you think that we are going to be able to see our babies more?” Helga asked from the bed.
Jurgen’s tender heart sunk and he watched his face droop. Turning around and letting out a deep breath, “I’ll talk to Dr. Murdock today when I see him,” he promised.
She thought for a moment. “I’m hoping that we can get out,” Helga stated. There was optimism in her voice. “Maybe after the baby is born.”
Jurgen looked at her cursorily. “Helga, I’m not sure that I understand.” Walking to the bed an adjustment was made before she sat up and lowered to her side. “Helga, you know where you are.”
“Yes, but I’m thinking that after I give birth, can I leave, with my boys and my baby?” Her eyes sparkled. “Do you think they’ll let me? Maybe you keep the baby and let me go with my boys?”
Arrows shot into him and will spilled throughout body, causing fingers and toes to tingle with defeat. Eyes closed, he struggled to keep his head from dropping against chest. His wife’s image came to mind. Smiling at his pain, “I told you,” she said. “Even when you only follow along this can happen – you can still fail.” No! This can be done, he declared and straightened. “I’m not sure what the plan is,” he answered confidently. “But I’ll do my best and let you know.” He moved closer and touched her.
“I really want to leave.”
“I know,” Jurgen said softly and nodded and caressed her arm. “But please and do me a favor and be good for these people, okay. I’ll come around and check on you to make sure that you have all that you need, but please be good. As the war goes on they get more desperate and things get a little more dangerous.”
She nodded. “I think Tom is coming for me,” Helga told him bashfully.
Enough of Tom! Jurgen thought and his brow furrowed. He’s not needed here. “Why do you think that?”
“I dreamt about it last night,” she said, the hope remaining strong in her eyes. “He’s wounded, but told me that he is coming for us.”
Yes, Tom is wounded, badly, but he is coming, Jurgen agreed.
By the Commander’s next visit Helga was seven months into carrying Jurgen’s baby. He was very pleased and called Jurgen out for a walk. “You could make ten more! Imagine how good that would be for the Program – 10 more people as bright and strong as you – the Party would be superior. Please Jurgen,” the Commander pled, pulling his black gloves off. “Our blood is in this soil and that soil is in you.”
Jurgen shook his head. “Evolution?” he asked. “Wouldn’t we be messing with that?”
“Evolution?” the Commander snapped and laughed. “Ha! Yes, we are. Evolution! That’s what’s wrong – natural selection. It has taken away the purity of our people. We are not wild animals; we can control our breeding like we control theirs, the farmed ones. We harness their urges and we should be able to harness ours. Think about it, if you do this ten times, and times that by ten and then by ten!” he proclaimed loudly. “It would be the most glorious sight you’d ever seen. The most glorious breed on the planet.”
“The German Sheppard’s of human beings.”
“Yes! Exactly. Perfect.”
“White chickens?” Jurgen said and smiled.
The Commander nodded and looked at Jurgen. “You are in a fine mood today,” he noted.
“Well,” Jurgen admitted, “it’s true, being a father is intoxicating and I’m surprised; being a father to a master race, though I have my doubts, is an honor, I cannot lie.”
“But please don’t get me wrong, as a scientist and a doctor I’m interested to see where this goes – that’s my interest. And I mean that with no disrespect sir, but I think that this could be a dangerous path.”
His eyes narrowed. Unconditional following a desire and that had become an expectation. “Really?”
“Yes, sir, but please don’t worry about me, this has become a path that I’m interested to see where it leads.” There was a pause and Jurgen wasn’t sure if the Commander understood him – “traitor!” he anticipated and watched the man’s hands fidget. “Traitor!”
“You know where this is going,” the Commander began, his voice even. “It’s going into the history books, Jurgen. That’s where it will go. The beginning of the story of the greatest civilization ever, that’s where this is leading. The future and history! And if only you would have started sooner!” he declared and slapped his friend on the shoulder. “Imagine that!”
“No, I would really like you to think about that!” The Commander suddenly sounded upset. “What you have denied us, Dr. Roth, is not right. It goes against the Party’s wishes and I hope that you think about that.”
Women carrying babies asked if they would be able to spend time with their babies when born and the staff answered, “of course”. However, after the infants came they were placed on a strict schedule that didn’t take into account their mothers. When time was afforded them it was short, and under heavy supervision.
From the beginning Jurgen argued on their behalf. “A mother’s love could go along ways in forming these children,” he would say.
“Logical, I suppose,” Doctor Murdock agreed. “But it isn’t worth the risk.”
After impregnating Helga, Jurgen argued harder. “I think we are going into some dangerous areas. These women were made promises, and now they are getting desperate – I don’t know if that is what we want here – I don’t know if that is the best thing for the Castle, desperation is already here, sir.”
“Yes, I know,” Dr. Murdock said and looked at him and shook his head. “And I don’t want to take any chances.”
“Chances? What would be the chances we are taking?”
“It is as you say, they are desperate and could be capable of harming or stealing the babies,” the doctor said. “That would not be good, remember desperation leads to dangerous acts.”
Jurgen nodded. Yes, desperation, he knew it well. “But, Dr. Murdock,” he explained, “that’s what I am trying to prevent. I’m about to be a father to a child…”
“Jurgen,” the doctor snapped. “The rules here will apply to your child as they have to the other children here.”
“Yes, of course,” Jurgen said.
“All of them.”
“You do understand what I am saying?”
He sighed. “Yes, and that’s why I want to change these rules,” Jurgen confirmed. “The war will be over someday and who knows where I will be and where my child will be, but either way I want a child that is healthy and I don’t think that living without a mother’s love in the first years is the right path to that.”
“Well then, what about the Special Boy?”
Jurgen smiled. “Okay, what about him?”
“Don’t you think that he is happy?” asked Dr. Murdock. “Have you seen a healthier, happier baby?”
“That boy is a true anomaly. He’d be happy in a closet,” Jurgen joked. “But you know, he’s happier when Helga is around, and I’m pretty sure of that. He would be an even better specimen with her around I am sure.”
After Helga became pregnant with Jurgen’s child Hilda signed up to work more hours on the fourth floor. “Sven needs me,” she informed him.
“Oh, well, you do know that I need you too,” he countered. “And I have let him split your time. How much more does he need?”
She gave him reassuring look. “Two hours, and it’s not for much longer,” Hilda said. “The incoming has decreased and I will be back fulltime shortly; Sven is eager to leave and is pushing for a stoppage and asking us to make quick decisions on the existing.”
The weight of her duties were revealed and Hilda nodded. “Yes, we are.”
“Well, with the way the war is going I don’t see that being too difficult,” Jurgen agreed. “But you will still be with me in the mornings?”
“Yes, of course; I’ll come in and do the mornings but leave a bit earlier than I have been,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss the mornings. The mornings are the best part of my day.”
Jurgen looked at her and stepped closer. “Really? They are?” he asked.
Hilda smiled and backed away. “Yes,” she said, turning and walking to the door. “I love the children on this floor.”
There was not a minute to rest. The second floor children were growing and had more needs; the evaluations on the fourth floor were hard and Sven, though fair, was particular and demanding. His hope remained to leave via a promotion. “Evaluate quicker – be accurate, but quick.” The work left her exhausted and being tired she was not ready for the Commander’s surprise visit.
It was a quiet evening after a long day and she was straightening up at the end of her shift when the door opened. She did not immediately look to see who had entered the room, however the clacking of new boots moving across wooden floor alerted her and Hilda turned and watched the slight man approach. He didn’t say anything and stopped close. His face was serious and his dark eyes looked her up and down.
“The work you are doing,” he began, touching her arm, “it’s quite important to the Program, you know. And, to the future of Germany – do you think about that?” the Commander asked. “How important you are?”
Was this a promotion, she wondered. “Thank you, sir,” Hilda replied. “I’m doing it for the Party. I’m just doing what Dr. Murdock and Officer Sven instruct me to do.” Flash cards were picked up off a table and walked across the room and put into a desk drawer. “And of course Dr. Roth, sir,” Hilda added, looking at the wall. “We work together on the second floor.”
“Of course I remember that,” said the Commander as he stepped closer. “I remember you well.”
“Oh, I wasn’t sure, sir,” Hilda said, her voice timid and when she turned around they were close again, his uniform brushing hers.
“From what I understand, you do your job extraordinarily well.” The Commander took hold of her hand. “I am very proud to know you.” He stroked her with his fingers. “You are very important to what we are trying to accomplish.”
“It’s my honor to do such important work, sir,” Hilda said, her eyes searching the room for something to fold or put away but there was nothing. She was done! A chart – grab a chart. His grip tightened. The Commander’s hand was odd; clammy and too soft to be a man’s, she thought. It was like her grandpa’s after he spent a month in bed. The fingers were boney and when he raised them and pressed against her face she felt repulsed. No, Hilda thought, disappointed in her reaction; he’s the Commander! And this is okay.
Moving back and forth several times, rubbing it over Hilda’s skin, he released the hand and grabbed her behind the ear. She tensed, readied and eventually fought as his wiry thumb pulled. He leaned in and there was nothing to be done; the kiss came quick and was a mashing of lips and teeth. She could feel his thin mustache against her skin. Everything on this man was thin she thought as he pulled away and looked at her. Hilda remained against the wall and watched him gaze before pressing his body into hers, putting one hand on her breast and kissing her again.
Fight the Commander? she thought as the smell of leather and sweat washed over her. Was she to resist the Commander? Or not? He had found a nipple and ran his fingers over it. Camps? Could she work in a camp? No, that wouldn’t be good. But, she reconsidered, maybe. As long as she had something to do… anything for the Party… she would miss Konrad. He was the favorite part of her day. What a boy. She didn’t want to leave him, but the Party – what happened to anything for the Party? Was there doubt? Was she one of those that will not do their part? Jurgen – oh no, Jurgen. Suddenly his face came to mind. What would Jurgen do if he knew about this? Would he be outraged and confront his friend? Maybe he would grab the Commander by his uniform and shake him. It would be little contest; Jurgen could probably pick him up and throw his small body through a window. It was a pleasing thought as she was being groped, backed against a wall against her will, but what of Jurgen? He would be sent to a camp, or shot on the spot. No, he couldn’t know. Pleasing thought? No! Relax, and try not to panic, she told herself as the Commander smashed himself further into her. Relax and grow up! And quickly! This is war and this is what war brings. She remembered the afternoon in the grass, eating lunch, when Jurgen told her, “War is nasty and nasty is war.” She could hear his voice: “If you are at war, no matter who you are, nasty things will be done by you or to you, or both.”
The Commander pulled away. “You look shocked,” he commented, stepping back and wiping his mouth. “This isn’t what you want?”
Hilda looked at the floor and had a sense of relief. Lips wet, she could taste him but resisted wiping. Okay, Hilda thought, proud of not fighting him off, she passed! The test was over; she was loyal to the Party. She didn’t want to kiss him but managed to put up little resistance. It happened and that was okay.
The Commander, however, wasn’t done. He re-pressed his body against hers and with a quick strike pulled her head into him. This kiss was harder and his free hand ripped open her blouse.
When it was over she sat on a chair and attempted to collect herself. What if someone comes through that door, she worried. What would they do if they saw her with underwear around her ankles? She quickly pulled them up. Who could he trust? What would happen to anyone walking through those doors?
The Commander adjusted his cap and their eyes met. Unable to hide the pain, her hurt was reflected in his face and Hilda attempted to look sorry but he turned away. She watched him walk to the door. Stride unbroken, he pulled the handle and exited into the hallway. He must practice that, Hilda thought as the clicking of his boots grew faint. The door to the stairs opened, and shut seconds later.
Jurgen visited Helga regularly and paid careful attention to her needs. She was growing and her skin was glowing and he loved being around her.
An internal sorrow swelled when the Viking woman was near, but Hilda was resolute and focused the agony – she had babies! There were babies all around needing and loving her. She had a lot of babies! Babies that needed her more than their mothers; she was the one nurturing them, helping them grow healthy and strong and setting them on a path to being part of something great.
She took a deep breath and, like every day, thought about what she was going to accomplish. Pulling on uniform, adjusting hair and stepping into white shoes, she was ready and left the room and walked down a hallway on the first floor. At the end she went through a set of double doors, up a flight of stairs and through another set of doors.
The hallway on the second floor was brighter and floors glistened. “Good morning Hilda,” some greeted her fondly. Others nodded and a few did nothing. They were the ones that thought Hilda took her position too seriously and didn’t like the special attention she received from Dr. Murdock, Sven and Jurgen.
Konrad’s room was often her first visit. A big, beautiful boy full of energy, when she entered the room he began talking. Hilda didn’t fully understand what he was saying but his voice warmed her heart and she kept the conversation going. As it went Hilda let her mind drift and think of him as hers. She imagined their life together after the war: running outside and reading before bed; watching him grow to be big and strong. There would be school, marriage and babies. His babies will be beautiful, Hilda enjoyed thinking. Maybe he’ll mate with a Viking woman.
Coming earlier since their relationship cooled, he interrupted Hilda and Konrad’s time by picking up the boy and swinging him in his arms. “Try to not get me fired today, little man,” Jurgen greeted him. “And keep getting bigger, okay?”
Konrad always smiled at Jurgen. “Good morning, Dr. Roth,” he returned.
“Yes, very good, that’s me,” said Jurgen and Konrad laughed. “Yeah? You think that’s funny? Is that funny to you?” He tickled Konrad and the boy giggled. “Well good morning to you too. Have you been good for Nurse Hilda?”
“Yes,” Konrad answered and laughed.
“Everything is so funny to you, isn’t it?” Jurgen asked and rubbed the boy’s head.
“Dr. Roth, how are you,” Hilda said, walking across the room and grabbing a clipboard and stopping and facing him.
“Good, thank you,” Jurgen replied. “Who is next?”
Hilda looked at the clipboard and read a name of another child. They went to the next room and measurements were taken. The statistics were written and they moved to the next. And the next. And next. Tomorrow they would do it again. And the next day. And next.
“Hilda,” Jurgen asked. “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask before, but how are you? There seems to be something different about you today.” He looked at her closely. “What is it?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” she said while making a note. Hilda unclipped the paper and placed it into a box near the crib.
“Good.” His stare was probing but he released it after a moment. “What’s on the menu for today?”
Hilda walked to another clipboard hanging on the wall and looked at a sheet of paper and read off what the kitchen was preparing.
“Very good, okay,” Jurgen said. “That diet should please the Commander, don’t you think?” He waited but Hilda did not respond. “These babies are eating better than us!” Jurgen added and filled in a few more boxes on the chart and transferred the paper to the clipboard hanging on the wall. “I really can’t wait for him to leave, you know. His presence weighs on me. Are these kids going outside today?”
“I believe so,” Hilda replied. “I think the weather is good enough.”
Jurgen nodded. “Okay. Yes, please, fresh air is important – for them and for us. Almost as important as a mother’s love, I suppose. But getting them outside is a battle that I can win,” he said. “Tell me, did your mom spend a lot of time with you?”
“Jurgen,” Hilda said, dismissing him. “You know that she did. How many more times are you going to ask that?”
“You know, I’ve thought about that and I’m not sure. But probably until I get tired of battling for these mothers to get more time with their babies.”
“Yes,” she said, not looking at him. “Now you are all about the moms and babies.”
Jurgen smiled. “Have you seen the Commander?”
“Interesting. Okay. What other activities are there?”
Hilda ran through the educational and psychical events planned.
“Do you know that the Commander’s father was an instructor of physical education at a gymnasium?” Jurgen asked as he walked to Hilda and took the clipboard from her hands. He quickly reviewed the paper. “Okay,” Jurgen confirmed. “Good.” He handed the clipboard back. “Really, how are you today? Is something wrong?” He looked at her. “What is it? Did I do something?”
“No,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong but maybe you’ve forgotten, I’ve read the Commander’s books and I know a lot about him.”
“Ha – yes, I guess I did forget that,” Jurgen laughed. “I forgot what a fan you are. But you know, Hilda, a man will not tell you all there is about him in a book. Most things are more accurate when you know the man. You truly have to discover for yourself what they are about.”