New Fiction Friday!

Posted: March 4, 2016 in Fiction, Flash Fiction Friday
Tags: ,

The prompt for this month’s story was “in the headquarters of the Moon NAZIs…” which…yeah. I went ahead with it as a challenge to myself to see what I could do with it. Being that I wasn’t exactly a fan of Iron Sky (it started off as campy and tongue-in-cheek, but quickly became painfully unwatchable within its first thirty minutes) I wasn’t too confident in what I could with said prompt. But, I decided to focus on the fact that we still don’t know a lot about what living for extended periods of time in microgravity will do to the human body and went from there. So, I give you “The Last Contingent”.

    Hunfried pushed his mop bucket down the stark, spartan hall, keeping his gaze lowered. The concrete floors, walls, and ceiling were bathed in clinical, fluorescent lighting and the squeaking of the wheels echoed up and down the corridor as he walked. When units of Soldaten marched by in their perfect lock-step, he moved as close to the wall as he could, giving them the right of way. Even though he was technically a part of the Militärisch, as a custodial worker he didn’t even merit the title of “Soldat” and thus was always expected to give way to his betters. He would slow his gait and wait for them to get further down the lengthy hall before he would return to his normal speed.

    He mopped the main mess hall first, moving slowly up and down the rows between long tables – which were also cast from concrete, along with the benches situated at them – occasionally pausing to stretch out his already aching lower back and gaze at the large posters that were hung on the concrete walls. The small, blue-green orb of the Earth hung high on a black background, the grey of the lunar surface along the bottom punctuated by the red, white, and black flag that was planted there.

    WIR WERDEN ZURÜCK KOMMEN! the poster proclaimed and Hunfried felt an ache in his chest every time his gaze fell upon it. Hope, pride, wonder all warred within him for dominance. Sighing wistfully and pausing to blow his nose and adjust his glasses, he continued on with his work lest some soldat come along and think him lazy.

    Changing out the mop water when he was done, Hunfried moved on to the officer’s dining quarters, dusting and sweeping the smaller room first before he began his mopping. Whereas the main mess hall evoked the spare, rugged necessity of the military life that was the heart’s blood of the base, the officer’s quarters were a little more finely attired. The tables were still fashioned from pre-cast concrete, but they were covered with tablecloths. Gone were the benches that the common Soldaten sat upon, the officers had their own, individual chairs of wrought-iron with padded seats and backs. And on the walls hung actual paintings on canvas instead of posters.The Arbeiter had once heard from one of his colleagues, a woman named Kamilla who cleaned the quarters of the Generäle, that the most senior officers had furniture fashioned from wood brought in during the early years of the base along with decorative flowers grown in the base’s hydroponic bays, and statues carved from actual stone.

    He had been dusting the back of the room, inadvertently hidden behind some privacy panels that blocked off the kitchenette from the rest of the quarters, when he heard the pressure door to the room groan open and voices break the sepulchral silence that had held the empty room ever since Hunfried had entered it.

    “…another failure,” he heard a man’s voice say. “Even before the capsule touched down in the Atlantischer, they were complaining of the difficulty in breathing. Their inability to reach the controls, they were so weak.”

    The door groaned shut as Hunfried paused in his dusting, uncertain of how to proceed. Should he announce himself? Should he stay silent and hope that the newcomers would leave quickly?

    “And the metal braces that were made?” A second voice asked, also male. “They did nothing?”

    There was a derisive snort. “Little more than the last attempt.”

    Finally, Hunfried moved and peered around the edge of the privacy panel to see two Hauptsmänner sitting at one of the tables. One of the men was rubbing exhaustedly at his face, his eyeglasses held in his free hand. Hunfried pulled back, nervous for some ineffable reason and certain that he didn’t want to be caught in here while the two officers talked. He pressed himself against the wall, willing himself to breathe slowly and relaxedly so as to not give away his presence.

    “Then that’s it?” The second man asked.

    “It seems to be. Until the Generäle can come up with something to counteract the effects of seventy-six years of living here, of this place’s inexorable changes on us and our children. It seems that even pure, robust Aryan genetics can’t fight the immutable fact that we live and grow and reproduce in a gravity a sixth of that for which we evolved.”

    The second officer made an unhappy sound in the back of his throat. “Well, I am certain that the Generäle will think of something. Physics might overcome Aryan genetics, but not Aryan minds.”

    The first man grunted and Hunfried heard the sound of metal scraping across concrete as the chair moved. “I hope you are right, mein Kamerad. Let me grab some Kaffee and we’ll get back.”

    Hunfried stifled a surprised inhalation and turned quietly, immediately dusting the nearest surface to appear engrossed in the activity. He heard footsteps approach and immediately stop as they crossed the threshold of the barrier created by the privacy panels.

    “Arbeiter,” he heard the first officer say. The word laden with iron as it was spoken.

    “Hmmm…?” Hunfried grunted, affecting a countenance of distraction. He snapped up straight and gave a salute to the Hauptsmann. “Mein Herr!

    The officer regarded him coolly for a long moment. “Why did you not make your presence known, Arbeiter?”

    Hunfried’s face blanched. “I…you have my apologies, mein Herr. I did not know you were here. I must’ve…must’ve been quite absorbed in my cleaning. I heard no one enter.”

    The captain’s eyes narrowed for a brief, thudding beat of Hunfried’s heart before the man grunted and waved dismissively at him. “Fine, fine. Go about your duties, Arbeiter. But try to be more aware of your surroundings next time. Myopic focus can be just as deadly as distraction some times.”

    Hunfried nodded and snapped another salute at the officer, but the man was already turning away and walking over to the coffee maker. The Arbeiter turned and continued dusting the various surfaces that he could find until the two officers left the room, the pressure door clanging shut behind them, before he let out a relieved sigh. He didn’t know immediately why he’d been so tense, so nervous, during the whole episode. Even as he pondered it while mopping the officer’s dining quarters, while returning to the custodial quarters and finishing up his shift’s duties, Hunfried couldn’t put his finger on what had unnerved him so and continued to do so.

    It wasn’t until he passed one of the long posters of the Reich’s flag planted on the lunar surface, the imperative promise of their people’s victorious return, in one of the bare concrete hallways on his way back to the Arbeiterviertel, that Hunfried finally realized what had been gnawing at his gut.

    “Wir werden nie zurückkehren…,” he muttered softly, almost inaudibly to himself as he paused in the corridor. His eyes locked upon the image of the distant Earth. A future of nothing but concrete and grey, of marching feet echoing into the distance and cleaning the same spaces. Over and over and over.

    “Wir werden nie zurückkehren. Nimmer.

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