Escape From Stalag VIIIB

Catania to London
13/14 August 1943

Captain Matthews escorts the able-bodied members of the party into the back of a ‘deuce and a half’ truck while Piotr and Bob are led into the back of the ambulance. The bodies of Richard and Lorelei are immediately put into bodybags and are also put into the hospital.

Both of the truck and the ambulance drive to the hastily constructed buildings around the apron. Piotr and Bob are immediately put into hospital beds and a doctor quickly comes over to tend to their wounds, replacing their bandages.

The others, meanwhile are taken to the canteen.

“Let’s get a hot meal inside you,” the Captain says. “Looks like you chaps could do with one.”

Indeed they could, it having been several days now since they enjoyed the hospitality of the guesthouse.

The Captain and the Military Police stay with the party members as they eat, escorting them to sit on the other side of the room from the others inside the canteen. As they eat, the Captain exchanges small talk and pleasantries, but he expertly sidetracks any conversation that starts heading towards the subject of where they have been, what they have done or where they are going.

After seconds (or fourths in Lodd’s case) they head off again.

“Time to get you out of those civvy rags you’re wearing and into something a little more presentable,” Captain Matthews says.

He then escorts you round to the Quartermaster’s store where the QM asks everyone for their sizes, ranks and units and everyone is issued with a standard British issue battledress. Somehow he is able to rustle up a Padre’s dog collar. He gives the Padre his Captain’s pips and Taffy is given sargeant’s stripes plus a needle and thread so that he can sew them on himself. The Padre gets uniforms for Piotr and Bob too, together with Corporal stripes for Bob.

“What about me?” asks Terry.

“Don’t ’ave nuffink for Yanks, mate,” the QM apologizes. “That’s the best I can do until you meet up with yer own unit.”

Captain Matthews leads everyone onwards once more.

“And finally we need to get you cleaned up a little. Don’t take this the wrong way, chaps, but quite frankly, you stink!”

Everyone gets rid of their ‘funny Jew clothes’ and takes a long, well-needed shower and a shave before putting on their new uniforms in an empty barracks area.

The Padre spends a long time attending to his uniform.

“Better smarten up, me ockers,” Bruce says. “Looks like we’re back in the army now. Remember that? Discipline and doing what you’re told to do? That’s the downside of having decent clothes to wear, decent tucker and not having to worry about the SS running through the door any minute.”

“I’m going to leave you chaps to get a little R&R,” Captain Matthews says. “I will be back in a few hours to escort you to your connecting flight.”

The Captain salutes them all and then leaves them. They notice that the two MPs stand outside the door, however.

Meanwhile, Bob lies in his uncomfortable hospital bed trying to ignore the poor bastard next door with no legs. A remarkably cheerful Kiwi who laughed every time he told the story of losing the legs in an auto accident while on a date with the First Lord’s grand-daughter. Bob wasn’t sure why the story was supposed to be funny.

Maybe it was the overwhelming feeling of doom hanging over the whole affair. He hadn’t seen Piotr since they arrived at the hospital, and now he had a private room with his own MP guarding it.

“I should’ve laughed with that bloody kiwi,” he thought.

The able-bodied party members spend a few welcome hours relaxing or dozing while they wait for Captain Matthews to return. It’s around 8.30pm by the time he reappears.

“Right-o, chaps, your ride home now awaits.”

They head into the awaiting truck and this time they are led to a USAF B-24 Liberator and told to board. Ten minutes later and an ambulance arrives bringing Piotr and Bob with them on stretchers plus the two corpses still in their body bags.

Despite the Liberator being a substantially larger plane than the Catalina, once more it was still not designed with passenger comfort in mind and so is even more cramped if anything.

Once onboard and everyone is sitting as comfortably as possible, the B-24 starts to taxi down the runway. Being totally unscathed, the take off is a lot easier than the previous one and the large silver bird is soon airborne, quickly passing over Sicily and out over the Mediterranean.

The B-24 is a lot faster than the badly damaged Catalina, but the journey is a lot further. After a couple of hours in flight, one of the gunner brings everyone a K-ration supper. The crew of the plane mostly keep out of the way of the passengers. The crew don’t seem to be unfriendly – it seems as if they are under strict instructions not to speak with any of party members. From their position in the plane, they are able to listen in on the chatter between the two side gunners located just behind them and so are able to get a fairly good idea as to their progress.

The drone of the motors is hypnotizing and, shortly after midnight. shortly after hearing that the plan is passing Algiers, all of the passengers are asleep.

Everyone is awake again once light starts to appear through the windows. The gunner comes around with more K-rations so that everyone can have breakfast.

As the plane flies on through the morning, the party members each have different reactions to the upcoming return to England ranging from fear in the case of Dr. Holdst through to relief and excitement from many of the others. Lodd thinks only of escaping by getting as far away from the war as possible.

It’s late in the morning when you receive words that everyone should get up and prepare for landing. At this point Bob decides that he’s had enough of being a stretcher case. His encounter with the one-legged Kiwi was enough to convince him that being among the maimed and mad in a military hospital in no cushy holiday. He gets dressed into his battledress and sits with the other, leaving only Piotr on the stretchers.

A few minutes later and the B-24 touches down. From here it is a repeat of the landing at Catania. A jeep, truck and ambulance soon come up alongside the plane.

“Welcome to RAF Northolt, chaps,” a RAF officer says with a stiff salute. “I’m Captain Franks.”

This time there are four MPs with him. Piotr and the corpses are put into the ambulance which heads of first. The other party members are shepherded into the back of the truck. Two of the MPs get in along with them and secure the canvas.

As the truck takes off, all of the party members have a strange feeling of deja vu at being in a similar position to the one where they were in at the start of their adventure.

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All Aboard the Black Cat
13 August 1943

“I’ll head back to the shore to see if I can get the Cat to come back,” the Navy crewman says. “You see what you can do with the injured and then drive down after me.”

Fighting back the tears, Dr. Holdst, starts to patch up The Padre, doing a fine job.

“Fair dinkum, cobber,” Bruce says as the Austrian sees to his wounds. “You sure seem to know what you’re doing.”

“Danke,” Dr. Holdst says. “I am a Professor of Medicine, so I am glad I can still remember ze basics.”

Together they work on Lodd and Piotr. Lodd is pretty easy for them to patch up, but Piotr is still in a bad way by the time the two medics have done all they can. The Padre utters a prayer as he attends to his own injuries with more attention and, after he has finished, he seems to be in pretty good shape for someone who was injured to badly.

Once the injured are taken care of as best they can, Terry drives Betty back down to the shore. They stop to pick up the shattered body of Richard. Taffy searches through the agent’s pockets. but unfortunately finds nothing useful there. They bring the body back with them rather than leaving him here.

By the time they get back to the shoreline, the Black Cat is located where it was originally. The plane looks a complete mess. They can see that only one of the twin Pratt & Witneys are still turning and a large chunk of the wing is also missing. The cockpit is also exposed and they can see that several crewmen are frantically bailing water out of the exposed side of the plane.

The crewman shuttles the group over in two journeys – Dr. Holdst, the Padre plus the dead and injured first, with Lodd, Terry, Taffy and Haim waiting for the second trip.

Upon arriving aboard the Black Cat, they can see that The Padre and the Captain of the Black Cat seem to be having something of an altercation.

“I sure hope you fuckin’ Limeys, fuckin’ Polacks, fuckin’ Krauts – or whoever the fuck you are – are pretty fuckin’ important for the fuckin’ mess you made of my plane. My co-pilot’s dead and the engineer is hangin’ on for dear life.”

“Awwwww, c’mon Cap’n, that ain’t fair,” the crewman who was in the inflatable says in the party’s defence. “These Limeys, Polacks, Krauts or whoever the fuck they are took out damn near an entire platoon of Fall-schtum-jaggers or whatever the fuck those Kraut parachute bastards call themselves.”

The normally mild-mannered Padre is also pretty pissed off:

“Strewth mate. I’ve been putting up with Whinging Poms for the last three years. Don’t tell me I’ve got to put up with Whinging Yanks now as well?”

“This crate is banged up so bad, we’ll probably all be spending more time with the Krauts until the end of the war.” the Captain continues to bark, chewing on a stogie. “If we take on any more water then I’ll have to change my uniform to a submarine captain.”

“You are familiar with the expression ‘on a wing and a prayer?’” the Padre asks.

“Of course,” the Captain replies.

“Well, cobber – you’ve got a wing and I’ve got a prayer,” Bruce replies. “So I reckon we’re going to be OK.”

“Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Zechariah 5:9.”

With that, the Padre turns his back on the Captain and goes to help Dr. Holdst attend to the wounded.

The Captain just rolls his eyes and sighs.

“Alright, men, everyone get into position. Let’s see if we can get this bag o’ bolts back into the air.”

The crewman from the dinghy helps everyone find some space in the Catalina, which is not so easy as the boat was not designed for this many passengers. Piotr and Bob lie in two of the Cat’s rest bunks while the others sit on the others. The corpses of Richard and Lorelei are laid out in the rear along with the dead co-pilot.

The Captain turns the Black Cat around and applies full thrust to the sole remaining engine.

“If you’re gonna pray for us, Padre, then now is the time to do it,” the Captain growls as he fights with the controls.

The Padre doesn’t acknowledge him. He is deep in prayer already.

The Black Cat is definitely picking up speed, but there are few signs of it taking to the air as it covers the first few klicks.

“Fuckin’ good job the spooks chose a fuckin’ big lake,” the Captain growls as he pulls back on the controls.

The end of the lake seems to be coming up at a very fast rate of knots but, with just a couple of hundred metres to go, the damaged black bird finally manages to lift itself into the air.

He continues to pull back on the controls to give him as much lift as possible.

“You better find us a route that avoids any peaks,” he calls down to the Navigator. “I’m not going to be able to get much more altitude out of her.”

“Roger that, Chief,” calls back the Navigator.

“You Limeys, Polacks, Krauts or whoever the fuck you are better settle in for a long and slow flight thanks to the fuckin’ engine you cost me,” growls the Captain. “Just sit back and keep out of our fuckin’ way. This ain’t fuckin’ Pan-Am you’re flyin’ with today.”

Compared with their ogre of a Captain, the other crew members are pleasant and apologetic for his behavior.

“Don’t worry about the Cap’n,” the dinghy pilot says. “His bark is worse than his bite. It’s just that the Black Cat is like his kid so he ain’t very happy.”

“Just sit back and relax and we’ll have you in Sicily for breakfast.”

The Black Cat seems to be moving so slowly that it seems as if it would be quicker to just get out and drive to Sicily in Betty instead.

The long trip gives the party members plenty of time to discuss what they are going to do when they get to their destination.

Remembering what Richard said before his demise, Taffy suggests that as well as the normal debrief, they say that they were asked to debrief personally to his Controller?

“We can claim that these were Richard’s firm instructions, and they were specifically ordered not to do so to anyone else,” he suggests.

“That’s all I can think of in terms of speaking to ‘the right people’” he finishes.

Bruce nods:

“Totally agree, cobber,” The Padre agrees keeping his voice down. “Whoever they are taking us to only knows about the Peenemünde Plans – they know nothing about what else we’ve seen or got.”

He pats the location of the spellbook.

“I don’t know much about Intelligence. I just know that there’s a byzantine mess of organizations all protecting their own patch of turf – then there’s the problems with overlaps between the Pom and Yank organizations.”

“Taffy’s right. I reckon we should just tell who we’re heading to see about the Peenemünde Plans and ask them to track down Richard’s CO – we must be able to find out who it is – and then he’s the only one we tell about the lab and the spellbook.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” agrees Bob. “We have to ensure Holdst comes with us and isn’t taken away as a prisoner. Maybe we could initially claim he was a POW with us? Can he pretend to be Polish or some nationality other than Bosch?”

“Leave him to me,” chimes in Haim. “We can say that we he’s another escaped Polish Jew, the same as me. I’ll tell him what to say and what not to say.”

“Should work,” says Bruce. “If Intelligence think that he was involved in our getting the Plans in any way, then they will want to keep us all together so they can debrief us.”

The Black Cat flies south throughout the night.

“Are we gonna make the Adriatic before dawn?” the Captain asks the Navigator.

“Touch and go, Captain,” the Navigator replies.

“You better find us a quicker route then. We’ve got to be out of Kraut airspace by dawn or else we’re fucked.”

By the time dawn starts to break, the Black Cat is still passing over Croatia although they aren’t far away from the Adriatic now. Fortunately there are no major cities or areas of strategic importance around here and Croatia is a Nazi ally and so the area is lightly defended. As the Cat finally leaves land and heads over the sea, there is a little flak thrown up, but the guns are fortunately too far away to have any chance of hitting.

The Captain seems to relax a little as the Cat starts to skim over the crystal blue water of the Adriatic.

“We’re gonna have to take the long way round to avoid Italy,” the Captain says. “So you can forget about breakfast in Sicily. Should get you Limeys back in time for your ‘high tea’ though.”

The long and uneventful trip lasts most of the morning as the Cat flies down the Adriatic following the coastline of Italy. Late in the morning, the Captain banks to the right as the Cat rounds the heel of Italy and sets course for Sicily. Eventually, a little before 3.00pm – after some 13 hours in the air – the coastline of Sicily comes into view.

The Captain sets up his final approach for landing at Catania airport. Everyone crowds around the windows to watch the landing. Catania looks like a complete mess – the city really has been bombed to such a state that it looks little more than rubble. The airport looks just as bad – with USAF Engineers still patching up parts of the runway.

The Black Cat makes a pretty heavy landing, but the Captain manages to get it down in one piece (although takes almost all of the runway to do so).

By the time they have the doors to the plane opened, they can see that there is a jeep, a truck and an ambulance heading in their direction.

The jeep stops just in front of the plane. An officer in British Naval Uniform gets out of the jeep escorted by two Military Police.

“Captain James Matthews,” he announces himself with a stiff salute. “Now if you chaps could come with us, then we’ll get a hot meal inside you and cleaned up a bit.”

“Please don’t speak with anyone on the base. Also don’t make yourself too comfortable here as you’re not going to be staying here too long.”

Terry starts humming, then quietly breaks into a short snippet of song, _

“People are queer, they’re always crowing, scrambling and rushing about;
Why don’t they stop someday, address themselves this way?
Why are we here? Where are we going? It’s time that we found out.
We’re not here to stay; we’re on a short holiday.”

Bob just looks up at him from his bunk as if the whole experience has finally sent him mad.

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Ambush at Lake Arva
11/13 August 1943

The drive towards the Slovak border is an easy one and it takes them a little under two hours to cautiously make their way down the side of the hill and through some sleepy hamlets before they are close to their objective.

The final couple of kilometres prove to be more of a challenge, however as they all know that there will definitely be a checkpoint working on the main road at the border, and so Terry needs to take Betty cross-country. Borders are designed to be as difficult as possible to cross and this one is no exception, especially when none of them have a detailed map of the area. The terrain on the Slovak side of the border is heavily forested – far from ideal terrain for a lumbering great half-track.

Eventually they decide just to head for the lakeshore and Terry splashes through the shallow water at the lake’s edge for a klick until he finds a patch of ground that is unforested and leads to a clearing on some raised ground. The spot seems reassuringly remote – several km away from any habitation.

“Here’s as good a place as any to hole up for the night,” Piotr suggest. “We can keep watch from the hill top and keep Betty hidden among the trees. We’ve got over 24 hours before the pick up is due and we aren’t going to be able to see much in the pitch black anyway.”

The other agree – especially Bob. It’s been a tough day and everyone can do with some rest.

While eating some of the rations that the party still has plenty of, Richard calls everyone together.

“It is very important that no one starts blabbing about what you all saw at the laboratory,” he says seriously. “Whoever picks us up are going to be naturally cautious as to what is so important that it required a collection in the middle of nowhere. In fact I don’t know how you got a collection arranged when you only found out about the laboratory a few hours ago.”

“And I don’t want to know, either.”

“Start talking to the wrong people about seeing zombies and regenerating ‘monsters’ and, at best you’ll be locked in an asylum for the rest of your life or, at worst, you’ll end up with a bullet in the back of the head when you least expect it.”

“I will make sure that we get this information to the right person.”

“All understood?”

The others nods; The Padre absentmindedly patting the plans and witch’s spellbook that he has strapped to his back under his clothes.

Everyone then gets an early night, knowing that they probably won’t get a lot of sleep the following day.

As dawn breaks, all are able to get a better idea as to the lie of the land.

“They could have been a bit more specific about where exactly they mean on the ‘North East side of the lake’,” Bruce grumbles.

The lake occupies a valley pointing to the North East and so the reference could mean anywhere along a 7km stretch of lakeside.

“I think that we’ve picked as good a spot as any to wait,” says Terry. “It’s the end of the road here and so no one should be passing by during the day and, if the pick up point is to the south, it will be quick and easy to get Betty there as we’re on the road.”

The others nod in agreement.

“I think we should take a scouting party to check the shoreline,” Richard says just in case Jerry has laid on a welcoming committee. He looks east to where thick forest stretches for well over two kilometres. “Mind you, if there’s anyone hiding further back in the forest, we’ve no chance of finding them. They could be hiding an entire battalion in there and we probably wouldn’t stumble across it.”

Bob stays back together Bruce, Haim, Lorelei and her father while the others cautiously follow the lakeside south for 5km at which point they are getting close to a small hamlet on the water’s edge.

“They aren’t going to pick us up right next to a hamlet, so I think that this is far enough,” Richard says.

The scouting party returns a little after noon, having seen nothing out of the ordinary during their trip.

There is nothing left to do but to wait for the rest of the day. Everyone changes into civvies, not wanting to freak out their rescuers into thinking that they are SS.

Time seems to stand still while they wait through the afternoon. They entertain themselves with telling each other, ‘The first thing I’m going to do when I get back is …’ stories – the same as most of them have been telling each other for several years.

Eventually darkness falls, but there is still a long wait ahead of them. Richard gets asked what time it is every five minutes.

By midnight, everyone is starting to get really fidgety and the questions change to ‘Do you think they are really coming?’

It is a little before 1am when they can hear a distant sound in the distance.

“Aero engines!” Piotr says excitedly.

Everyone is on their feet, looking to the south to see what they can see. A few minutes later and they can just about make out the dark form of a plane coming up the lake from the south, illuminated by the full moon.

“It’s a PBY!” exclaims Terry.

“It’s a Canso!” exclaims Bob.

“It’s a Catalina!” exclaims everyone else.

The flying boat lands on the surface of the lake sending up shoots of water. They watch it as it comes to a halt some 1500m to the south.

“Looks like Betty’s gonna get one last drive,” Terry says as he leads everyone to the trusty half-track.

Terry finds a road that looks as if it goes down to the lakeside where the Catalina is moored. They have to get out at the edge of the treeline though.

Excitedly they all scramble for the shoreline. They see that an inflatable dinghy is already heading towards them. Everyone waves and shouts at the crewman excitedly.

All of a sudden, there is a piercing screech followed by a “BOOM” as a flare goes off, bathing the entire area in twilight.

“What the …?” exclaims Piotr.

It came from the ridge due south of here, Bob says, pointing to the treeline.

Immediately there is another screech, followed by an explosion as the Catalina takes a direct hit from an 81mm mortar round.

This does not look good.

“Holy fuck!” screams the crewman in the boat. “You need to snuff that fuckin’ mortar out or we’re all going to be walkin’ home.”

Everyone starts to scatter in panic. They see that they are in a horribly exposed position at the bottom of a shallow valley with treelined slopes on either side.

Richard is the first to act, starting to rush up the slope with MP40 in hand. Unfortunately he pays the ultimate price for his bravery as he is cut to pieces from a massive amount of fire coming from the treeline.

Haim, Dr. Holdst and Lorelei all start running towards Betty on the opposite treeline. The remainder of the party fire back at their ambushers. The Nazis are all in excellent cover, however, so their shots are mostly useless.

They see that a fast-flowing stream has cut a trench into the valley floor. Bob, Terry and Lodd all take refuge inside it to try and get away from the withering fire. Taffy tries a different approach, breaking off from the others in order to try and outflank the German positions by wading through the lake.

The clearing is pandemonium. Bruce gets cut down before he gets to the trench and so Bob has to run out and drag him in. Piotr and Lorelei are also both knocked to the ground before they can reach the safety of the treeline. Dr. Holdst drags his daughter forwards, but poor Piotr is on his own.

With Bob, Terry and Lodd all now in the trench, the odds are a lot more even and they start to make their rounds count as MG42 fire throws up clods of dirt all around them. Haim, Dr. Holdst and Lorelei have all managed to get into Betty now. Haim starts up the motor and starts to move towards the others.

Taffy has now managed to make his way around the northern flank of the enemy position. As he is doing so, he just hears the sound of German being shouted a short distance away. He realizes that he has stumbled across the location of the forward observer post which is calling down the mortar fire – mortar fire which the Nazis are starting to bring down upon the three in the trench.

Taffy cautiously creeps up on the three officers in the trees and takes his last remaining grenade. He realizes that he has just one chance to take the Brandenburgers out or else it is certainly going to be the end for both him and his comrades in the trench. He pulls the cord and tosses it perfectly into the centre of the group. The grenade goes off with a satisfying “WOOF!” and Taffy sees limbs flying through the air as he manages to take the three out in one go.

As Bob, Lodd and Terry manage to whittle down the number of paratroopers on the hill, Haim brings the half-track down to the trench, stopping off on the way so that Dr. Holdst can drag Piotr into the back. The Navy crewman also manages to hop onboard as well.

The badly injured Lorelei bravely tries to man the MG34 on Betty’s pintel mount. Unfortunately she gets hit by one of the few remaining paratroopers and falls.

“Neeeeeeiiiiin, meine Tochter!” Dr. Holdst cries as he runs and cradles Lorelei in his arms.

The navy crewman takes over the MG.

Terry takes a wound from the last remaining Germans, but fortunately the Padre is right next to him and able to patch him up. Lodd too narrowly avoids getting hit. Bob, very sensibly, keeps his head down for most of the time.

Meanwhile, Taffy has been continuing to work his way around the flank and steals up on the lone remaining member of the first team. He manages to catch him from behind, dropping the Feldwebel. Taffy’s eyes light up when he sees that the Feldwebel is carrying a Panzershrek plus a reload which he quickly scoops up.

Back in the valley, Lodd finally finishes off the last of the Germans on the ridge and everyone bundles into the back of Betty. Haim moves over to let Terry drive.

Slowly Betty starts to advance up the slope towards the top of the ridge.

Taffy is continuing to work his way through the woods until he reaches the edge. Right in front of him, he sees an Sd. Kfz. 251/1. He aims the Panzershrek at the front of the vehicle and presses the trigger. His shot is right on target, taking out the engine together with the driver and co-driver. There is just one Brandenburger in the back manning the MG remaining. The Navy gunner manages to take him out pretty quickly though using Betty’s MG, while Bob takes care of the driver of the Oberleutnant’s Kubelwagen with a nicely aimed shot out of the passenger side of the cab.

Oblivious to the events elsewhere, the mortar crew are still placing 81mm mortar rounds in the centre of the valley.

Taffy gestures to the others in Betty to wait, reloads the Panzershrek with the last remaining round and continues to move through the trees until he is right next to the Sd. Kfz. 251/2 the mortar crew are occupying. He scores a direct hit again, disabling the vehicle, although only manages to take out one of the crew. They do, decide, quite wisely, however, to abandon the vehicle which is now on fire.

Terry brings Betty around as they try and finish off the remaining two crew members. Two of them quite wisely decide to run for the safety of the trees. Two of the other Brandenburgers decide that they are going to fight to the death, which is exactly what happens as the pair of them are quickly mown down.

All falls silent on the battlefield.

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The Number of The Beast
11 August 1943

The party members start to make their way out of the underground section of the lab. All are quite keen to see if they can get into the vault to take the vials of P-111 which are stored there and samples of the other serums that created the horrors.

Upon checking the vault once more, however, they see that getting into the vault is not going to be an easy exercise without the combination or a vast amount of explosives (which would almost certainly take the fragile contents out together with the door or thick walls).

Somewhat reluctantly in some cases, they decide that their work at the lab is done and that it is time to head off to scout out the pickup point.

They exit the monastery, seeing that the scene of carnage they left outside it is unchanged. But then Bob’s eagle eyes spot some rapid movement coming from next to where Betty remains parked at the entrance to the compound. To their horror, everyone sees The Beast heading towards them – a creature that looks like a boar, but is the size of a horse. The creature’s eyes glow red and he doesn’t look too friendly as he starts to charge towards the party.

Dr. Faber takes one look at the creature and starts to bolt in the opposite direction. The others are made of sterner stuff though.

Those with grenades hurl them towards the charging Beast, but none have any experience with the German ‘potato-mashers’ and so they explode just about everywhere other than next to the Beast. Lodd and Piotr try shooting at it, despite having been told that bullets are useless against its thick hide. It is certainly achieving the desired results of getting it really pissed off though.

Taffy take a circuitous route around the compound in order to get to Betty, well aware of the effects of hitting objects with the bulky vehicle.

The Beast charges in and connects with Lodd – Beast vs. Beast. Lodd somehow manages to avoid getting crushed in the process. Now that The Beast is close enough, the party’s counterattack starts to have some effect as Terry manages to catch it with the Flammenwerfer and a couple of party members manage to get their grenades on target. The Beast is tough though and still has a fair bit of fight left in him.

As Lodd moves out of the way so that the others can continue to target the creature with their remaining grenades, the Beast chooses a new target and heads for Piotr who is only saved from terrible damage by pure luck. Just as it looks as if the Pole’s luck is going to run out, the party members finally manage to bring the creature down with another blast from Terry’s flamethrower and a couple more well-aimed grenades.

While all this has been going on, Bob realizes that Dr. Faber has been taking advantage of the distraction by running like crazy and is not almost at the treeline. Bob gets the Nazi Doktor in his sights and hits him in the shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. A quick follow-up shot gets him right in the back of his head, splattering his brains nicely.

“Good work, Bob,” says Richard. “He and Dr. Holdst were the only ones still knowing how to make the serum and so now it’s just Dr. Holdst left. And he’s definitely coming back with us to England.”

Dr. Holdst, who hid from The Beast in the entrance to the monastery tells the others that they need to ensure that the Beast is burned – and burned to a crisp, otherwise it will start to regenerate once again.

“Vait!” says Lodd. “First I want souvenir.”

With that, he starts to hack at the creature’s face with his trusty entrenching tool. It takes him a while to get through the creature’s thick hide but, after a lot of hacking and a lot of pulling, he manages to tear off one of the beast’s tusks which he holds aloft in victory. He then places it inside one of his boots.

Once Lodd has his souvenir, Terry pours the contents one of Betty’s spare jerry cans over the body and then ignites the corpse with another blast from the flamethrower.

The party members all watch the Beast burning for a while and then, as the sun starts to set, head back to the half-track in order to leave this godforsaken place and head to the pick up point.

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Saving Dr. Holdst
11 August 1943

Cautiously they enter the converted monastery that the Nazis are now using as a laboratory, firstly moving through a foyer containing the debris of broken furniture and the obvious remains of a fight. The walls are made of stone and have a number of very impressive murals and christian bas relief.

Lodd decides to investigate more closely. As he does so, he is jumped by three of the four bloodlets that are lurking behind the broken furniture waiting for fresh victims to pass. Another burst from Terry’s flamethrower along with some well-targeted bashes from the other party members’ entrenching tools quickly manage to finish off the critters.

They advance into the Atrium, which used to feature a large glass skylight that was shattered. The remains of it have fallen into the large pool that dominates the room. Slightly off centre in the pool is a fountain that no longer seems to work. The lights are not working and all of the halls that lead from it are in shadow.

As the party members come to the pool, shots ring out as they are set upon by three P-113’s armed with MP-40’s who lay down a hail of fire upon the party. Knowing that their guns are useless against the beasts themselves, Piotr (I think!) aims at the MP40 of the closest of the zombies to him and almost surprises himself when he manages to knock it from his hands. The P-113 leaps towards him to get some revenge.

The party members rush around the outside of the pool to close with the zombies – apart from Lodd who decides to wade straight through the middle of it. The third P-113 leaves the security of the sandbagged emplacement to try and get a shot on Lodd, but misses. The party members manage to take out the two P-113’s coming around the outside of the pool with little problem, but Lodd goes one on one with the last of them at the edge of the pool. Lodd gets bitten quite badly in the process before killing the beast. Fortunately Bruce is on hand to patch him up before they continue.

They decide to head north where they enter a Guard Room that was also been used as a storage room
which is very evident by the crates containing blankets, bedding, bandages, food, chemicals and all sorts of materials for running the base. There is a table, some cards and a small stove in one corner where the guards were in the middle of a game when called away. There are RM 17 on the table which Lodd quickly grabs. More interesting though is a fully charged flame thrower tucked into the corner of the room, which Terry gladly takes to replace the one he has which is now nearly depleted.

The party enters the door to the East, which leads to a small antechamber which contains a large steel door to a vault. Dr. Faber tries to crack it, but makes a complete mess of it. None of the others are able to figure out how to open it either, and so they decide just to continue onwards.

The opposite door opens into a lab area which is a complete shambles. On the table are half a dozen Molotov cocktails which it looks like some of the scientists were in the process of rigging up when they were attacked. Taffy goes to pick up the Molotovs but, while he is in the process of doing so, four more bloodlets emerge going after him. With a brand new flamethrower, Terry hasn’t got to worry too much about conserving fuel any more and so is able to quickly fry two of them. The remaining party members manage to beat the rest of the bloodlets to death with their weapons.

Having explored the northern arm of the lab, they head next for the southern end. They find that the door to the area is barricaded from the other side. Lodd and three of his companions use a pew as a battering ram to get through the door and, with the Serb’s almost super-human strength, easily manages to burst through into the room beyond.

This area turns out to be the chapel. The remains of three more Wehrmacht are found dead on the floor. This proves to be the most useful find that they have made to date as each of the dead Germans has four frag grenades on them, which the party members quickly distribute among themselves.

They try the Eastern door next. Peeking in, they see that the room is a hospital ward. Taffy sees that there are two zombie nurses mindlessly shambling around injecting medicine into the dead bodies and pouring water on them. Taffy puts an end to the monstrous site as he lights and tosses a couple of Molotovs into the room. The force of the explosion knocks him off his feet as the fire ignites some frag grenades which were still with the corpses.

Next they try the door to the south east. Inside they see that it is a surgery. Strapped firmly to an examination table is a still-squirming P-112. The creature is rambling on about something in German. Taffy doesn’t stop to listen though, just finishing off the creature with another couple of Molotovs.

The final door leads into a narrow corridor off which are two more doors. The first turns out to be a lounge which contains the dead body of a local villager from Rabka. He looks to have died from someone strangling him and then disembowelling his corpse. It is a gruesome scene of carnage. In his hand is a list of medicines that he needed from the Germans. He obviously showed up at the wrong time.

The second of the doors has been barricaded as was the door to the chapel. An almighty kick to the door from the Lodd easily enables him entry though.

As soon as he enters, a figure rises from behind a doctor’s desk pointing a Luger at him. The man is in his early thirties and appears to be human and unharmed.

“Halt!” the voice cries.

Lodd is just considering his options when Lorelei stands next to him. Her eyes go wide in relief as she sees who it is.

“Doktor DuBois! Du bist am Leben!” she cries.

“Lorelei! Meine Liebling!” the Doktor cries.

The pair of them rush towards each other embracing one another.

Taffy is next on the scene.

“Probably best not to shoot him in this case,” he says to Lodd sardonically. “Lorelei won’t be very happy and she’s already proven that she’s pretty handy with that rapier.”

Upon hearing Taffy’s voice, Dr. DuBois immediately lets go of Lorelei and stares at Taffy slack-jawed.

“You’re a boyyo from the valley too?” Dr. DuBois says incredulously in a broad Welsh accent.

Taffy stares at ‘Dr. DuBois’ equally slack-jawed. Lorelei also stares at her ‘Swiss’ boyfriend with a look of total surprise.

Ignoring Lorelei, Dr. DuBois rushes over to shake Taffy by the hand.

“Richard Gwynead from Caerphilly, boyyo! Keeping an eye on the project for British Intelligence.”

The coincidence just seems to be too much for Taffy:

“Follow rugby much do you, Richard?” he asks suspiciously.

“Wouldn’t be much of a Welshman if I didn’t,” Richard chuckles.

“So how did we do in the last European Nations Cup?” Taffy asks.

“The 1938/9 season?” Richard replies. “Ach – not as well as we did the previous three years when we won it. The bloody frogs beat us 16-10. I was there at the finals in Bordeaux brushing up my French at the time.”

Taffy gives the thumbs up to the rest of the party.

“We’re here to help Lorelei to find her father,” Taffy says.

“Thank the Lord you showed up,” Richard replies. “I have only stayed here trying to do the same, but one man is no match for the creatures. I know where to find him though. Follow me.”

As he leads the others onwards, he sees Dr. Faber and the pair of them exchange scowls.

Richard leads them back to the pool. He reaches down an pulls up a well-hidden level. Part of the pool moves back revealing a steep and narrow staircase.

“Careful when you get to the end of the stairs,” Richard warns them. “There’s a killing zone behind which is a guard room.”

Terry leads the way, stopping at the end of the stairs. He judges the distance carefully, then runs a few paces before letting loose with the Flammenwerfer. He gets both of the firing slits together. Much to Terry’s surprise, in additional to the satisfying roar of the flames, there is a series of explosions in rapid succession, each bigger than the last, the final one of which blows the steel door clean off its hinges to reveal a wide corridor full of dense black smoke.

They wait a while for the smoke to clear and see a scene of utter devastation behind it. Eight P-113’s seem to have been caught in a massive explosion which gutted the room setting off a vast amount of explosives that were being stored there, leaving the whole area as a blackened ruin.

Cautiously they advance to the end of the wide corridor where they see that the other door has also been blown off its hinges.

This room was converted from the main wine cellar. It still has much of the original wood work sticking through the concrete that has replaced the earthen walls. The room is filled with boxes of chemicals, scientific equipment, glassware, food and paper. All of these supplies are used for the research in the lab. A section of the store room is partitioned off as a latrine. The room is lit by several lights suspended from the ceiling.

Yells of ‘Hilfe!’ can be heard coming from behind the south door which has ‘Labor’ written on it.

Lorelei recognizes the voice:

“Vati!” she cries as she rushes towards the door, the rest of the party following hot on her heels.

Upon opening the door, they see a middle-aged man in white lab coat trying to keep three P-113’s at bay.

“Gruentz!” Richard cries as he sees that one of the P-113 is the former Sturmbannführer who was overseeing the project for the Gestapo.

The party members try and pile into the small room as best they can, entrenching tools in hand. One by one the P-113’s fall, although Gruentz turns out to be a tough cookie, but a lucky shot from Taffy’s entrenching tool rips open its abdomen, bringing him down.

All is silent for a while as everyone gets their breath back, then Lorelei runs to her father. The pair of them embrace one another warmly, tears running down their cheeks as they are finally reunited.

While father and daughter are being happily reunited, the party members concern themselves with practical matters:

“I really think we should take the list of needed meds from the unlucky dead guy, gather them from the unused stores then go to Rabka to dispense them amongst the sickly,” says Lodd showing his solidarity with the downtrodden proletariat of the world. “If we ride real fast and avoid German patrols, we should be able to get there, be heroes and leave to meet our rendezvous to England.”

“In this huge ball of bloody crap, if we could so one decent thing, that might be enough to earn us the privilege to go home.”

Piotr seems to approve of the idea, nodding in sympathy as he listens to Lodd’s heroic speech.

Terry is not so easily convinced.

“Well I dunno,” he says. “Maybe. Just as long as we get the hell outta this loopy place, I’ll go just about anywhere.”

“Remember that those Pollacks aren’t the only one who need some meds. I do too. And fast,” says Bob, pointing at the bloodsoaked bandage around his neck.

“I’m with Bob,” agrees Taffy, cold-heartedly. “The villsgers can get their meds someplace else. We can’t.”

The Padre also agrees:

“Sooner or later our luck is going to run out. We only have one chance to get out of here. Miss it and we’re all going to be doomed.”

After a good talking to by the rest of the team, Lodd hangs his head crestfallen. His plans of being a hero dashed.

As the others gather supplies and prep to leave, he sulks about the blood-stained place – thinking to himself (not for the first time) that, if he weren’t so damn loya, he would absolutely slaughter these imperial capitalistic swine.

Yeeees, he can see it now, Lodd flying into battle against his team mates, weaponless except for Righteousness in one steel-hard fist and Socialism in the other, with the blazing red flag of Mother Russia waving behind him while a hymn of furious battle is sung by an acapella group consisting of virgin women with only red star pasties on their nipples. These scum would beg for mercy, maybe even convert to the ways of Marxism by his demonstration of Serbian might, but it would avail them not. Nothing would stop his fiery wrath!

“Lodd, you’re on fire, me boy-yo.” Taffy says.

“Whaa ?”

“You let your flame-thrower tip get too close to your boot again. You are on fire.” Taffy says pointing at the big mans left foot, now covered in licking flame.

“Uh…Oh, yeah.” Lodd picks his foot up and plunges it in the stagnant water of the ground floor reflection pool. “Thank you, Taffy.”

“No problem Mate. Gotta look out for each other.”

Piotr suddenly thinks of something:

“What about the P-111? The mad scientist said it had healing properties although short-lived.”

He taps Dr. Holdst on the shoulder:

“Entschuldigen Sie mich, Herr Doktor,” he says. "Es wäre gut, wenn wir etwas von dem P-111 Serum nehmen könnten, um mit unseren Wunden helfen. Wissen Sie, wo es hier ist?

“Alle aus dem Serum – die P-111 und diejenigen, die die anderen Experimente im Obergeschoss befinden sich im Hauptgebäude Gewölbe gesperrt erstellt,” Dr. Holdst replies. “Leider nur Gruentz kennt – oder besser gesagt – wusste, die Kombination für den Tresor obwohl.”

“Kurwa,” Piotr says to the others. “Dr, Holdst says that the serum – the P-111 and the others that created the monsters – are all locked in the vault that we tried to get into. Apparently only Gruentz knew the combination.”

View
Clearing Out the Grounds
11 August 1943

The party members quickly decide that they will try the Munitions Factory first. Although it is unlikely that Dr. Holdst will be there, there’s a good chance that they will find some more useful weapons with which to fight whatever monstrosities await them in the laboratory.

Arriving in the central courtyard some 15km away, they see that the Munitions Factory seems to have suffered a similar fate to that of the gatehouse and the crossroads. The two smaller buildings comprising the compound have been destroyed and there are three dead bodies littering the centre of the compound. There is also another Kubelwagen. They approach the dead bodies cautiously, but they are really dead – not undead.

They decide to investigate the factory first of all. The factory is filled with machinery, crates and work places. It is essentially one large room which looks like it was converted to munitions after being a lumber mill for many years. The room is eerily quiet and a mist hangs over the machinery as though waiting to create its deadly products.

As the party investigates, they find several hundred rounds of standard ammo, but this is of little interest as they have plenty of such ammo already.

They see that there are stairs going up to a balcony which reaches around the entire building. Going up the stairs, they see that there are more stairs going up to an attic area. Entering the upstairs area, the find an abandoned guard room in front of a laboratory.

Heading inside they see that there are a couple of long desks, one of which has a flamethrower on it. Taffy leads the way and investigates it. He finds that it seems to be in working order, but does not contain any fuel. There are four study looking metal boxes around the benches. Dr. Faber advances and tries to pick the locks. He manages to get into two of them – one of which contains fuel for the flamethrower.

Leaving the others to fill the Flammenwerfer, Dr. Faber continues to check the other boxes. As he does so, he is rushed by a hulk of a creature – presumably the P-112 that he mentioned. The doctor avoids taking any damage and, because this monstrosity is not bulletproof, it quickly falls to the combined fire of the party.

Shaken by his narrow escape from the creature, Dr. Faber is unable to open the other two boxes. Lodd soon solves that problem though as he neatly manages to cleave the two boxes in half with blows from his entrenching tool. The contents are not of much use though – some shipping documents, keys to a vehicle and around RM 160. They pocket their finds anyway and then finish checking the building. It has little else of interest to offer them, however.

So they leave the Munitions Factory and check out the barracks on the other side of the compound. In the barracks there are another three dead soldiers. Much of what was here has been stripped out. The building itself has three basic rooms. The first from the front door is a mess hall and recreation room. It looks like it could have contained 20 people at one time. Stairs leading from this room go to the second floor where approximately ten soldiers were housed. There is capacity for up to 50 but the foot lockers of the soldiers indicate no more than ten. There does appear to be evidence that at least 30 workers for the munitions factory were also housed here but their area looks to have been separated by a makeshift curtain. The workers were mostly women. The entire second floor is left untouched.

The mess hall on the first floor has access to the kitchen. In here the party finds the civilian cook and his assistant, dead from gunshots. There is a root cellar with a butcher’s block wedged in front of it. The sounds of someone scratching on the other side are obvious.

Taffy calls down to the cellar in German, asking for a response. None comes, however – just more scratching. All are pretty sure that there is just some monstrosity down there. Lodd is all for opening it up and blasting the unholy creature with a shot from the flamethrower. The others talk him out of it though, telling him that they could need all of the firepower at their disposal in order to deal with the laboratory. Reluctantly the Serb agrees and so they head back to Betty and head for the laboratory.

The scene in the square in front of the laboratory is even more horrific than at the Munitions Factory. The Barracks and the Motor Pool seem to gave been completely destroyed and there are around a dozen corpses close to an abandoned Kubelwagen and an Opel Blitz truck. In front of the laboratory is a large fountain. Ominously it is blood red and there are several bodies half in and out of it.

Terry stops Betty at the entrance to the courtyard. Bob and the others each decide to pump a clip into the bodies to ensure that they really are dead, but they appear to offer no threat.

Cautiously, the party members dismount from Betty and advance towards the entrance to the laboratory building, which is located immediately behind the fountain. As most of the party members approach the fountain, they look on in horror as writhing tentacles raise up from the fountain and start to clutch at the group. Lorelei, the Padre, Piotr and Dr. Faber are all hit and try to fight off the tentacles. All apart from Lorelei are able to break through while Lodd and Terry blast the unholy creature with their flamethrowers. Heroically, the Padre manages to get free of the tentacles, hacks at those which are about to pull Lorelei into the pool and he drags her free.

All of the party members run back away from the fountain. Fortunately it seems as if the tentacles are only able to stretch a maximum of 20 feet. Lodd and Terry try and finish off the Bloodpool, but the creature is incredibly tough and they realize that they are burning through the flamethrower fuel faster than the creature is taking damage.

They try another strategy, which is to bypass the Bloodpool completely and try an find another entrance into the laboratory and head off to the north. Unfortunately, nine bloodlets are waiting for them, hiding in the long grass and spring out once the lead half of the party are within their grasp. Once again it is Lorelei that gets the worst of the attention and has to fight off several of the creatures with the hilt of her rapier. Terry is able to take down three of them with a well-aimed shot from his flamethrower, but the others they have to take care of the hard way as the others come to the assistance of Lorelei and Taffy who are in the thick of things. Eventually they manage to fight off the creatures and resume with checking to see if there is another way of entering the building.

Unfortunately the fight with the bloodlets was in vain as all of the windows are heavily barred, and so they are forced to return to the fountain, keeping a safe distance from it this time around.

Terry decides to give the pool a gift in the form of the Opel Blitz truck. Narrowly avoiding being hit by the tentacles, he manages to get into the truck and drives it away from the pool. He neatly turns it around, sets it in first gear, wedges the throttle open, points it towards the fountain and then bales out just before he gets into range of the tentacles once more. All goes to plan as the truck crashes into the fountain, toppling over onto its side in the fountain. They wait a couple of minutes for the ruptured fuel tank to empty its load and then Terry gives it a blast with the flamethrower.

Much to everyone’s delight, the Bloodpool goes up with an almighty WOOF!! Once the black clouds have subsided they see that the blood is no more, having retreated.

With that obstacle now taken care of, they approach the heavy wooden door to the laboratory. They discover that it is locked and alarmed, but their attempts at disabling the alarm and picking the lock are unsuccessful.

Terry decides to use the vehicular approach to problem solving once again as he gets into the Kubelwagen. He reverses it before setting it on a course straight for the door. Once again he is on target and the mighty doors splinter as they are crushed, destroying the front of the Kubelwagen in the process. The entry to the laboratory is now open to them.

View
Encounter at the Gatehouse
11 August 1943

Piotr waits until they are outside the town limits before he starts addressing Terry in English. Lorelei looks a little surprised but, as Piotr guessed, she doesn’t really care. Piotr explains who the group are and Lorelei replies in clear English. She explains that she thinks that Hitler is a madman and an embarrassment to all good Austrians. She knows that the war is now starting to go against Germany and the idea of getting to England is a lot more attractive than waiting for the Russians to arrive in Vienna.

She guides them towards the research station, Betty’s engine complaining as she struggles with the gradient.

After a little under an hour, they arrive at the gatehouse. Piotr is ready to go back into SS officer mode but as the half-track pulls up at the gate, they see that it appears to be abandoned. The barrier is down with a Kubelwagen and an Opel Blitz truck waiting to come through, both of which are empty. They then notice a number of corpses littering the ground next to the vehicles.

Piotr gets out of the cab and opens the barrier. Terry parks the half-track next to the main building. Taffy and Lorelei get out to accompany Piotr while the others stay in the half-track ready for a quick getaway if needs be.

Piotr knocks on the closed door of the gatehouse.

“Hallo, ist da jemand drin?” Piotr barks out.

“Ja, ja. Sind Sie ein Mensch? Bist du gekommen, um uns zu retten?” a scared voice replies.

“Natürlich sind wir Menschen. Was würden wir sein? Reden Affen, oder was?” Piotr replies with irritation. “Ja, wir sind gekommen, um dich zu retten.”

The bolted doors open to reveal three scared looking Germans. One appears to be a doctor from his white coat. The others are Wehrmacht privates.

“Wir brauchen Essen und Trinken. Wir haben dort seit einer Woche geschlossen,” the doctor says.

Piotr click his fingers. “Essen und Trinken.”

Haim’s bony fingers emerge as he hands down some rations to Piotr to give to them.

The three Germans eat greedily. As they do so, Piotr asks them to explain what has happened here.

The doctor introduces himself as Dr. Dietrich Faber, a doctor of chemistry and pharmaceuticals who is Dr. Holdst’s right-hand man. He explains that something went horribly wrong with the experiments. The first batch of serum, P-111, had limited effectiveness – it healed injuries for a while, but the effects wore off too quickly for it to be of any use. The next batch, P-112, was a disaster, creating tough ape-like creatures, too stupid to be controlled. The most recent batch, P-113, was worse if anything. It created horrendous monsters, intelligent and uncontrollable. They went on a rampage through the base, destroying everything in the process.

Once they have finished eating and drinking, Piotr asks if they will accompany the party. Dr. Faber agrees, but the two Wehrmacht don’t look too keen.

They head back to the half-track but, as they emerge from the guardhouse, they are attacked by four unnatural ‘things’ – writhing masses of bloody tentacles a little under a metre tall.

The party members immediately let loose at the creatures, but the bullets just pass straight through them. Lorelei skewers one of them with her rapier, but again is doesn’t seem to do anything. One of the creatures grabs Dr. Faber and starts to drag him towards its hungry maw.

Terry backs up Betty while the others carry on shooting. He slams the half-track into first gear and launches the vehicle at the closest bloodlet. The 2.5 tons of half-track does the trick as he squashes the one which is about to strike Lorelei.

Piotr shouts at the two Wehrmacht to get into the Opel Blitz and run over the two bloodlets in front of it. One of them gets smacked unconscious in the process, but the other manages to run down a second one. Unfortunately, he runs into the Kubelwagen in the process.

Dr. Faber manages to get free of the clasp of the bloodlet. Between him, Lorelei and Taffy, they manage to club the thing to death. Lodd manages to take out the last of them with his entrenching tool.

Just when it appears as if the horrors are gone, one of the dead bodies – the one in the driving seat of the Kubelwagen comes to life, terrifying the hell out of everyone once more. It makes a clumsy attempt to gouge Piotr before Lodd manages to cut it in two with his entrenching tool.

The sole remaining Wehrmacht solder makes a run for it. Bob tries to bring him down with his Gewehr 43, but the soldier is too far into the forest now and he misses.

“So, you are English?” Dr. Faber exclaims, having heard the shouts from the others.

“We speak English – this is all you need to know,” Piotr replies, his look telling Dr. Faber not to ask too many more questions.

“We should burn the bodies in case they are capable of regenerating,” Taffy says.

The others agree. Fortunately the two vehicles have full jerry cans inside them and so they are able to pour petrol on the deceased and set them alight.

“So what were those things?” Taffy asks Dr. Faber.

“The tentacle things we have no idea what they are,” Dr. Faber replies. “We didn’t create them in any of our experiments. We call them bloodlets.”

“The creature that came out of the Kubelwagen was a P-113 – one of the clever ones. So this only leaves the P-112’s that you have not seen. They are huge ugly hulks.”

“They look a bit like him,” he says, nodding towards Lodd.

They stay watching the burning remains of the creatures until they are sure that there’s no chance of their regenerating. Everyone then climbs into Betty and Terry sets off once more.

A couple of klicks later and they come to the crossroads. Terry approaches cautiously with Lodd manning the pintel-mounted MG34 looking for any signs of trouble. Here, they find only death, however.

It looks like this was the site of the last battle between the Wehrmacht and the experiments. It looks like the best part of two dozen Wehrmacht died here, although it’s hard to tell exact numbers because the bodies are so mutilated. Even the two Panzer III’s have been ripped to pieces, engine parts strewn around them.

Cautiously everyone emerges from the half-track to investigate more closely, half expecting the bodies to come to life. But fortunately they don’t.

Lorelei and Dr. Faber both pick up discarded MP40’s – not that bullets seem to make too much difference against the foes that they have faced so far. There are also 10 Kar. 98’s, but no one is terribly interested in them any more such is the size of their arsenal.

Bob makes one interesting find though – one of the dead Wehrmacht has a Flammenwerfer. Lodd picks it up and sloshes the fuel about:

“Seems like is half full,” he says.

There is a debate as to who will have the weapon. It’s bulky, but all can see that it is going to be the perfect weapon against regenerating creatures. They agree that Lodd will carry it while Betty is on the move and that Terry will carry it while they move on foot.

“So which way should we go now?” asks Lorelei. “My father is unlikely to be at the munitions factory but we might pick up some useful weaponry there. Or else we can just head straight for the lab.”

View
Damsel in Distress
11 August 1943

Piotr and Magic planned the route well as Betty makes her way down deserted country roads which see hardly any traffic. The foothills of the Tatras – beautiful in the summer sunshine – are ahead of them.

As they continue onwards through the morning, they reach the hills and the steep gradients test Betty’s clutch to the limits as as they head over the first range of hills, reminding Taffy of the valleys back at home.

Their route then takes them south west, following the contours as they pass by hilltops and pass through quiet farming villages where there are few signs of Poles, let alone Nazis.

After several hours of slow and steady driving, they enter the town of Rabka – the last small town that they will pass through before getting to the pick up point, which is only 20 miles away now. They enter the town cautiously, nervous in case there may be some checkpoints, but pass into the town without hindrance.

The town is beautiful, an elegant spa town in better times, with elegant larch wood buildings untouched by the war.

As they continue onwards, Piotr’s eyes go misty as they pass by a bar in the main town square.

“We’ve still got a few RM left,” he says hopefully. “And we’re ahead of schedule. Maybe we can have one last drink before we carry on?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” says Taffy. “We’ve been lucky so far. Why risk getting into trouble now we’re so close?”

“I agree with Taffy,” The Padre chimes in.

“But this will be the last time Haim and I see Poland for a long time – maybe ever,” Piotr whines.

Lodd just hears one word – ‘drink’ and instantly agrees with Piotr’s idea – wanting to drown his sorrows over the loss of Agneta.

The others reluctantly agree – as long as it’s a quick one.

Taffy parks the half-track and they get out, taking a seat in front of the bar. The staff seems very nervous at entertaining the SS, but there’s nothing like the fear of getting shot to ensure that waiting staff give you their full attention, and soon they are relaxing with drinks, admiring the pleasant surroundings.

The party members notice a pretty young girl in her early twenties walking past. She spots the group of SS and immediately comes over. She starts addressing Piotr in German. Most of the party have no clue what the girl is rabbiting on about, but she is certainly agitated about something. She often bursts into tears and seems to be begging Piotr for some assistance. Piotr seems to be very interested in what the girl has to say as he listens intently to her babbling, nodding his head often. Eventually she finishes.

“Bitte geben Sie mir einen Moment, um zu meinem Männern in der Privatwirtschaft, Fräulein sprechen,” Piotr says.

“Ich danke Ihnen sehr, Herr,” the girl says and heads into the bar.

Piotr looks around to make sure that there is no one within earshot.

“What was all that about, cobber?” Bruce asks.

“Very, very interesting,” Piotr replies. “The girl’s name is Lorelei Holdst from Vienna. Her father, Dr. Holdst seems to be the lead scientist on some top secret Nazi project to look into possibilities for regeneration in a base around 20km from here and she is worried because she has received no communication from him for the past week.”

“I told her to tell me all she knows about the project. This is what she told me:”

“In the summer of 1937. a team of hunters journeyed up the Rio Xingu into the Mato Grosso, the south western part of the Amazon rain forest. This was an untamed land that few white men had seen and no one had conquered. The leader of these men, Sturmbannführer Heller Jäger, lead a team of SS and local hunters into the jungle in search of a beast so terrifying that the locals did not name it. It was called simply the Beast, and the Germans had heard of it from the local government. It was purported to be an immortal boar of giant proportions. Jäger roamed for six months on the hunt, setting his team and pursuing the trail. The months took their toll on the team as one after another fell prey to what seemed to be supernatural causes. In the end there was only Jäger and his personal aide, Mallory.”

“In those final weeks, deep in the bush, Mallory proved himself faithful and skilled as a tracker. They discovered the Beast’s lair and tracked it to a ravine overgrown by the jungle. The air was thick with humidity and the scent of death. As they entered the ravine, out of the darkness came the Beast. It hit Mallory in the chest and drove his broken body into the wall. Jäger fired into the creature emptying his gun. The Beast was not slowed one bit even though Mallory gripped it with all his fading strength. Jäger pulled his machete and began hacking at the beast, trying desperately to save his friend. Jäger finally made it through the impossibly tough hide and severed the Beast’s spine. Sadly, it was too late for Mallory.”

“As Jäger buried his friend and aide he realized that the massive Beast was healing. Jäger drove his machete deep into the heart of the Beast. His long journey back to civilization was fraught with danger at every turn. When he made it to Bélem the SS were waiting to take the Beast away. He let them but instead of returning to his life he faded into the jungle and has not been heard of since. The SS transported the Beast to a research station in the Austrian Tirol for study.”

“The SS spent five years studying the Beast and trying to replicate its healing capabilities. Herman Goering himself was head of the project and the scientists involved reported directly to him. In 1940 the Gestapo took command of the operations and drove the research harder, moving the laboratory to here so that they could start using prisoners from the local POW camp as test subjects.”

“Lorelei knows where the secret base is and its rough layout as her father took her there a couple of times. There’s a garrison of 20-25 guards there plus a Panzer. There is also a munitions factory attached.”

“Sounds a bit risky, cobber,” says Bruce, cautious as always. “If she is coming with us, then she’ll soon realize that we’re not really SS. We’ll need to speak English.”

Piotr shrugs:

“The location of the lab is pretty much en route to the pick up point so we have no need to come back to town. So what difference does it make if she knows who we are or not? All she wants is us to get her father back. She wouldn’t care if we were from Mars as long as we get him back safely.”

“We’re not going to let her father go back to the Nazis if we find him alive,” says Bob. “His knowledge will be vital to the war effort. We should take him with us.”

The others agree, knowing how important the information could be.

Piotr waves for Lorelei to come back to join them:

“Sehr gut, Fräulein. Wir stimmen Ihnen zu helfen, um Ihren Vater zu finden,” Piotr says.

Lorelei looks so relieved she starts to cry again. She babbles something in German and then runs off.

“She’s going to get her rapier,” Piotr says with a sigh. “Apparently she is a champion fencer.”

Piotr clicks his fingers and pays the bill. By the time they have finished their drinks, Lorelei is back.

They all head back to Betty. Lorelei squeezes into the cab between Piotr and Terry and the half-track heads off.

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The Safehouse
3/11 August 1943

Whether the Polish Resistance has several safehouses in the area for Witold to choose from or that the party just got lucky will never be known, but the route out avoids the necessity of either crossing over the River Vistula or going back into the Old Town. Instead it takes them East-South-East through an area which is industrial with some lower class housing.

Knowing that they are nearly at the city limits where there will inevitably be a checkpoint, Piotr tells Terry to slow down and look for somewhere to dump the prisoners. There proves to be plenty of options as there is no one around at this time in middle of the night. While Piotr and Terry remain in the cab, Lodd and Taffy together drag each of the three prisoners out of the back of the half-track and leave them around the back of a factory. They will get found here sooner or later, but hopefully not any time soon.

Everyone returns to the truck and they carry on. As expected, just a couple of hundred metres later and they see the checkpoint ahead of them. Everyone grips their guns nervously and tries to act like SS. They know that if is all goes wrong, they are in no condition to fight their way through.

Piotr repeats his “SS-Hauptsturmführer in a hurry” routine and the barrier opens as he exchanges a salute and a “Heil Hitler” with the guards.

“Witold said that the place is only 10km from the city centre and so it can’t be more than five or ten minutes away now,” Piotr says.

Five minutes later and they are well outside Krakow now, driving through an area of summer houses – simple wooden houses that were retreats for wealthier citizens in better times. They pass a sign saying Hotelik U Niny Noclegi with an arrow pointing north.

“That’s it,” Piotr says with relief.

“However, we can’t go barging in their with guns dressed like Nazis or we will probably give the owner a heart attack and/or blow his cover. Drive on and let’s try and find somewhere where we can hide Betty and most of the weapons.”

Terry nods and continues. Half a mile later and the gardens of the summer house areas gives way to a scruffy copse of woods just off the road to the north. Terry pulls in and takes Betty as far inside the copse as it will go, which fortunately is more than far enough to ensure that it can’t be seen from the road.

Everyone changes out of their SS uniforms into their civvies. Everyone takes a pistol and a knife with them, but leave the heavy artillery behind.

“It’s going to be safer to stay here a few hours,” says Piotr. “We don’t want to risk being caught out after curfew and don’t want to drag the owner out of bed either.”

They spend half an hour camouflaging the half-track and then take a nap for a couple of hours until they are awoken by the rising sun.

They give it another hour and then cautiously emerge from the trees, watching carefully to make sure that no one sees them. They then walk towards the guesthouse.

The Hotelik U Niny Noclegi proves to be a large wooden villa set among the smaller houses surrounding it. Piotr knocks on the door and it is answered by an elderly man.

“Dzień dobry, jak mogę pomóc?” the man asks.

“We have a reservation in the name of Stanislaw Burzynski,” Piotr replies.

The man shows no reaction. He looks around to make sure that no one is watching and then nods for the seven of them to come in.

Once the door is closed, he breaks into a smile and welcomes everyone warmly.

“Good morning to you all,” he says in heavily accented English. “My name is Maciej Cegłowski, but most of my English-speaking friends call me ‘Magic’ – I know it’s a lot easier to pronounce.”

“Please, make yourself at home. You are free to stay as long as you need to.”

“Now let me show you to your rooms.”

The rooms of the guesthouse are simple and spartan but, compared to the bunks of the Stalag, forest, barn and warehouse floors that are all they group has seen for months or years, it could just as well be the Waldorf Astoria.

“Witold said that it could be a while before we hear from the Resistance so we might as well get some rest and try and heal up for a while. None of us are in a good shape at the moment.”

The others don’t need to be asked twice and all are soon soundly asleep. They sleep right through until dinner time when they get up to find that Magic and his wife have prepared an almighty meal for them. It’s the best food they’ve tasted for as long as they can remember.

After dinner, Magic leads everyone up to the attic. Hidden in the rafters is a crystal radio set. Magic tunes into the BBC and allows everyone to have a listen – the first news that they have heard in a long time. Magic sadly informs Piotr that their leader in exile, General Władysław Sikorski, died in an accident just a few weeks ago when the B-24 Liberator he was returning to England on from a trip to visit Polish troops in the Middle East crashed into the sea immediately after taking off from Gibraltar. The two Poles exchange commiserations with each other. Fortunately the latest news that they listen to is much happier. An almighty battle is going on around Kursk on the Eastern Front which seems to be going in the Russians’ favour. The invasion of Sicily by Allied forces seems to be going well and they are confident of having taken the island in just a few more days’ time. The recent firebombing of Hamburg left the city completely devastated.

Once they have caught up on the news, they head downstairs for drinks. Piotr asks Magic if it is OK that they bring some of their heavier weapons into the guesthouse. Magic agrees but tells them to be really, really careful.

Piotr promises him that this will be the case and so the party members steal out of the guesthouse in the middle of the night and head back to Betty. All are relieved to see that she is still there where they left her. Everyone takes their longarms and plenty of ammo and then return back to the guesthouse, fortunately remaining unseen in the process.

There is then nothing else to do apart from to hang around and to wait until they receive word from Witold.

Another 24 hours pass with no word. Then, the following morning, Magic comes to them with a small parcel addressed to Stanislaw Burzynski.

“This must be for you,” Magic says, handing the parcel to Piotr.

Everyone crowds around as Piotr opens the parcel. Upon opening it, his finds a packet of cigarettes and a handwritten note:

Dear Stanislaw,

I managed to find a packet of your favourite brand, as promised.

Kind regards,

Witold

Piotr carefully opens the packet. It just looks like a normal packet of cigarettes though. Piotr carefully takes the packet apart – still nothing out of the ordinary. It is only upon investigating each cigarette in turn that he discovers that one of the cigarettes feels less compact than the others. Breaking it open, he finds a tiny scrap of paper rolled up among the tobacco.

He reads it out:

Lake Arva. NE shore. Night of 12/13 August.

“That’s all that it says.”

Piotr asks Magic if he knows the lake and if he has a map.

“Yes, I know it,” Magic says. “Just on the other side of the Slovak border. It’s only around 80km from here as the crow flies. It will be a beautiful journey through the Tatras at this time of year. It’s a good place for a meeting too – not many folks around in that area – it’s in the middle of nowhere really.”

“So we have another six days to kill,” Piotr says. “We might as well stay here until a couple of days before the meet. It’s safe and comfortable here and we still need time to recover.”

The others agree, enjoying the comfort of the guesthouse. And so the group spends a little quality downtime together while The Padre sees to their wounds.

Lodd enjoys the time to heal, the bed and the food, but laments the loss of Agneta. Maybe after the war, he will find her and really apologize for giving her the smack-down. Right now he is kind of moping around and looking for some hard vodka to ease the sharp pain in his heart. Maybe at a nearby bar…

By the early morning of 1lth August, they are all feeling a lot better. Piotr goes over the route with Magic over an early breakfast, choosing the least traveled roads they can find which will take them to the pick up place.

They finish by thanking Magic for his hospitality. Piotr gives him nearly all of the Reichsmarks they have in payment for their lodging and then they shake hands and depart the guesthouse an hour before dawn breaks so that they can take their weapons back under the cover of darkness.

Once again, they are relieved to find Betty where they left her and, as dawn starts to break, they change back into their SS outfits as Terry reverses the half-track out of its hiding place. Piotr then directs Terry to follow the route that he and Magic plotted between them.

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Abwehr, Brandenburgers & Swedes
3 August 1943

Piotr is lost in thought and not doing a terribly good job of keeping watch and so the first thing he knows about the fact that the group has visitors is a banging on the corrugated metal that they pushed against the main entrance to hide Betty.

Piotr strides over to see who is at the door as the others raise themselves from slumber and grab their weapons nervously.

Upon sliding the crude door open, Piotr is presented with the sight of two Germans dressed in brown leather coats who are accompanied by four Brandenburger commandos.

This does not look good.

The elder of the two men doffs his hat to Piotr.

“Guten Abend,” he says. “Ich bin Major Schmidt von der Abwehr.”

Piotr replies with a salute:

“Guten Abend, Hauptsturmführer Klein von der SS.”

The Major smiles an evil smile.

“Ach so, it is sehr kind of die SS to do ze verk von die SS in uncovering members of the Polischer Resistance, but now it is time for us to take over die job from hier.”

“So if Sie vill just give us die captured Polischer Schewinehunden, zen ve vill be on our way.”

Piotr plays it cool:

“Ve are on ein spezial mission authorized by Herr Himmler himself,” Piotr says. “Meinen Papieren.”

With this he hands over the documents taken from the SS-Witch.

The Major takes the papers and looks over them carefully. As he does so, a large grin comes over his face.

“Mein Gott! Ich haff seen some bad passport photos in meinen life before, but zis ist der worst that ich haff ever seen! It looks nicht like Sie at all!”

Piotr stays cool.

“In that case, maybe this will convince you.”

With this he pulls out his Luger and pumps two bullets into the Major at point blank range. The Major crumples over and dies with a look of shock on his face. Before the others have figured out what just happened, Piotr is off further into the building, turning as soon as he gets into cover and pumping another couple of shots into the other Abwehr officer, killing him instantly as well.

Now all hell lets lose as another eight Brandenburgers storm the building from left and right. Bob takes a shot at one of the Brandenburgers, but misses. The Brandenburger hides behind a burnt out car and returns fire with his G43 sniper rifle, catching Bob in the shoulder knocking him back.

In the centre of the warehouse, Witold rushes to try and arm himself. Piotr tosses Witold his nearly spent Luger but before Witold has a chance to use it, he is caught by a Nazi bullet. Piotr gets revenge with his Radom ViS 35 by bringing down a couple more Nazis.

Meanwhile, the centre of the warehouse is sprayed with automatic fire exchanged between Terry and Lodd with their MG34’s and the Nazis with their MP40’s. Fortunately Terry is in a good position as the bullets spray around him and Lodd manages to escape any serious injury as well.

On the eastern flank, Taffy, The Padre and Piotr try and keep the four Brandenburgers at bay. Taffy gets hit badly by one of them, but The Padre manages to take one of them out with his Luger.

At the front of the building, Bob is continuing his sniper versus sniper battle against the Brandenburger outside as he fights off his wounds. The wounds are affecting his aim badly though and he gets hit for a second time, which sends him crumpling to the ground. As he does so, a Nazi machinegunner comes up the stairs. Bob plays dead until the machinegunner is right up next to him before quickly bringing up his Mauser and shooting the Brandenburger in the gut.

Outside, the sniper who inflicted Bob’s injuries also gets his comeuppance. From the shadows, two figures emerge – the singer from the nightclub and her piano player. The singer produces a Husqvarna m/40 Pistol and shoots the sniper in the back while the piano player runs around the flank with his Suomi KP/-31 machine pistol.

By the time he gets into the building, however, the tide has started to turn against the Nazis. Although Terry takes a serious wound, together he and Lodd manage to gun down the remaining Nazis with the assistance of Taffy and Piotr shooting down the corridor. Lodd finally manages to take out the last of them.

Once the last of the Germans are down, the Padre rushes out to start patching up the wounded. He has plenty of work to do, starting with Witold. By the time he has finished, all of the injured are in a stable condition. While Padre is patching up the good guys, Terry and Taffy go around making sure all of the Nazis are well and truly dead.

The singer and the piano player introduce themselves while the Padre is patching everyone up. They reveal themselves to be Agneta and Bjorn – Swedish spies. They offer the group a deal – if they can take a copy of the Peenemünde plans, they will arrange transfer across the Baltic to Sweden and passage from there back to England. Not surprisingly, Witold is very much against this plan, explaining that he is in direct contact with England and can get them extracted immediately – without them having to cross the entire territory of Poland to get there. Equally unsurprisingly, Piotr agrees with Witold. One by one, the others agree, preferring that the plans are sent straight to the Allies and not shared with any neutral nations.

All apart from Lodd, this is, as he continues to stand drooling over the Scandinavian blonde as he did at their meeting outside the club earlier. He is standing closest to her and thinking about how nice it would be to sing a duet with her when Agneta realizes that they she is not going to get the party members to agree to show them the plans.

And so the Swedes try force, as Agneta raises her pistol and Bjorn his machine pistol.

Lodd sighs, thinking, “Sure, she was hot and all. But nobody pulls a gun on his comrades!”

Lodd doesn’t hesitate – and smacks Agneta with the back of his hand, neatly bitch-slapping her and sending her sprawling to the ground, completely out cold. Taffy has his MP40 pointed at Bjorn, who sensibly drops his machine pistol and puts his hands up in the air.

“We all need to get out of here as quickly as possible now,” Witold says. “We have a safehouse around 10 miles from here, outside the city. You will be safe there, but we need to get out of here now in case the gun battle was heard and someone will be coming to investigate.”

Non one can argue with Witold’s logic. They tie up the two Swedes and bundle them into the back of the Sd. Kfz. 251/1 then those in civvies put their SS uniforms back on. Piotr gets the location and code words from Witold and then the two Poles shake hands and Witold slips into the darkness of the night.

Piotr gets into the cab alongside Terry:

“OK, let’s move out. I have all of the information that we need.”

Terry lets out the clutch, reverses the half-track and they set off away from the warehouse.

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