Copyright © 2020 Walt Alexander
All rights reserved.
Cold, black mud punched between his toes along the riverbed. Six slender wolves panted in pursuit over tongues through sharp teeth, mixing gray bursts of CO2 with morning air. Vaulting the stream earned him two yards of distance as four-legged chasers splashed in pursuit. A smile came to his face as he slipped below a tree branch and darted into full stride.
Through the wind in his ears came an echo. The boy dug bare heels into the forest and ceased breathing. The fastest wolf, surprised to catch him, slammed into his knees and yelped. The other canines froze. Cupping hands behind his ears, the boy extended his hearing as the wolves alerted keen triangular sensors in the direction of the cry. The valley clearing was not far. Still holding his breath he tuned out his thumping heart, the sound of creaking conifers wrestling the wind, water babbling over blurry rocks, and a crow. What he heard through it all was his mother. He heard danger.
Now alone, he crept along the ridgeline surveying a foreign unit of airborne forces through cover of spruce trees. Sap-covered needles filled the air with perfume. In the clearing below his position his mother responded to soldiers in her native tongue. Tall, she held a baby girl beneath her breast. Framing her pale figure from behind was the contrasting dark mouth of an abandoned mineshaft.
From his vantage point, the unseen boy counted five soldiers. He watched as two more emerged from the staked tent at the edge of the clearing. They shouted in English, though it didn’t seem too important based on their inflection. One of the two kicked over a pot that had been carefully propped above a pit of burning embers. The boy’s fear turned to anger as he saw his family’s sauerkraut stew spill over the soil.
The black cavernous entrance lit up, emitting a surge of green light ahead of a billowing yellow cloud. Members of 101st Airborne spun to face the sound, taking aim. A soldier extended the side-folding stock of his lightweight M1 Carbine, bringing it to his shoulder. A curly-haired man of forty hard years stumbled into view, unaware of the parachute warriors.
“Uma!” he coughed, swinging his arms, clearing particles from the air before making more words in German. “The reactor regulator works! The bell is operational!” Excitement fled the man when he saw Allied rifles trained on his wife.
A thin soldier stepped forward wearing P3 frame spectacles, the receiver strapped to his backpack designating him the communication specialist. He held a red file folder at arm’s length where a photograph of the man standing before them was secured by a paperclip. A black box stamped in ink across the top read:
He confirmed the target’s identity with a nod to his superior. His captain struck a matchstick across the rough American flag etched into the side of his helmet, pausing to light his final Lucky Strike. The commanding figure took a pull of his cigarette.
“Aldrik, we are here to take you to America.”
THE HYPERION DISASTER