"But the Nazis were good at spiriting away much of their technology, employing a scorched-earth policy. Executing scientists, bombing facilities. Our forces came upon one such site in Bavaria minutes late. We discovered a scientist, shot in the head in a ditch, yet still alive. Before he died, he revealed some clues as to what had been going on. Research into a new energy source, one discovered through quantum experimentation. They'd had some breakthrough. A fuel source of extraordinary power."
Painter shared a glance with Lisa, remembering Anna's discussion about zero point energy.
"Whatever was discovered, the secret was smuggled out, escaped through rat runs set up by the Nazis. Little is known except the name of the substance and where the trail ended."
"At the Waalenberg estate?" Lisa guessed.
"And the name of the substance?" Painter asked, though he already knew the answer, putting it together in his head. "Was it called Xerum 525?"
Paula glanced to him sharply, straightening with a frown. "How did you know?"
"The Bell's fuel source," Lisa mumbled to him.
But to Painter, it only made sense. It was time to come clean with Dr. Paula Kane. Painter stood.
"There's someone you need to meet."
Anna's reaction was no less intense. "So the secret to manufacturing Xerum 525 wasn't destroyed? UnglaublichT
They were all gathered back at the Richards Bay airport, huddled in a hangar while a pair of dusty Isuzu Trooper trucks were being loaded with weapons and equipment.
Lisa ran an inventory check through a medical kit while overseeing the discussion between Painter, Anna, and Paula. Gunther stood at Lisa's side. His brow was deeply furrowed with worry as he watched his sister. Anna seemed steadier after the medicine Lisa had given her.
But for how long?
"While the Bell had been evacuated to the north with your grandfather," Painter explained to Anna, "the secrets of Xerum 525 must have been shipped south. Dividing two parts of one experiment. At some point, word must have reached the Waalenbergs of the Bell's survival. Baldric Waalenberg—as a financial backer for the Ancestral Heritage Society—must have known about GranitschloR"
Paula agreed. "The society was the group that backed Himmler's expeditions into the Himalayas."
"And once discovered, it would have been easy for Baldric to infiltrate spies into GranitschloR."
Anna's face had grown paler—and not from illness. "The bastard has been using us! All along!"
Painter nodded. He had already explained the gist of it to Lisa and Paula on the ride back to the hangar. Baldric Waalenberg had been orchestrating everything, pulling strings from afar. Not one to waste talent or reinvent the wheel, he had allowed the GranitschloR scientists, experts in the Bell, to continue their research, while all the time, his spies siphoned the information back out to Africa.
"Afterward, Baldric must have built his own Bell," Painter said, "experimenting in secret, producing his own Sonnekonige, refining them through the advanced techniques discovered by your scientists. It was the perfect setup. Without another source of Xerum 525, Granitschloft was vulnerable, unwittingly under the thumb of Baldric Waalenberg. At any moment, he could pull the rug out from under them."
"Which he did," Anna spat out.
"But why?" Paula asked. "If this secret orchestration was working so well?"
Painter shrugged. "Maybe it was because Anna's group was drifting further and further away from the Nazi ideal of Aryan supremacy."
Anna pressed a palm against her forehead, as if that would ward against what she was learning. "And there were rumblings…among some of the scientists…of going mainstream, of joining the scientific community and sharing our research."
"But I don't think it was just that," Painter said. "Something more is afoot. Something larger. Something that suddenly made Granitschlofi obsolete."
"I believe you might be correct," Paula said. "For the past four months, there has been a sudden increase in activity at the estate. Something stirred them up."
"They must have come to some breakthrough on their own," Anna said with a worried expression.
Gunther finally spoke up, gruff, a grinding of boulders. "Genug!" He'd had enough and struggled with English in his frustration. "The bastard has Bell…has Xerum…we find it. We use it." He waved an arm to his sister. "Enough talk!"
Lisa found herself heartily agreeing, siding with the giant. "We must find a way inside." And soon, she added to herself.
"It would take an army to storm the place." Painter turned to Paula. "Can we expect any help from the South African government?"
She shook her head. "Not a chance. The Waalenbergs have greased too many palms. We're going to have to find a more covert infiltration."
"The satellite photos didn't help much," Painter said.
"So we go low tech," Paula said and led them toward the waiting Isuzu Troopers. "I have a man already on the ground out there."
Khamisi lay flat on his belly. Though dawn had come, the first rays of the sun only cast deeper shadows along the floor of the jungle. He wore camouflage fatigues and had his large double-bore rifle, his .465 Nitro Holland & Holland Royal, strapped to his back. In his hand, he carried a traditional Zulu short spear, an assegai.
Behind him lay two other Zulu scouts: Tau, the grandson of the elder who had rescued Khamisi from the attack, and his best friend, Njongo. They also carried firearms, along with short and long spears. They were more traditionally attired in pelts, skin daubed with paint, and otter-skin headbands.
The trio had spent the night mapping the forest around the mansion, discerning an approach that avoided the elevated walkways and the guards that patrolled them. They had used game trails that burrowed through the underbrush and skirted along with a small herd of impala, keeping hidden in the shadows. Khamisi had stopped at several points to rig ropes, linking walkway to ground, camouflaged as vines, along with a few other surprises.
With his duty done, he and the scouts had been heading out to where a stream flowed under the wildlife fencing that circled the estate.
Then a moment ago, he had heard the feral scream.
Hoo eeee OOOO.
It ended with a screeched yowl.
Khamisi froze. His very bones remembered the call.
Paula Kane had been right. She had believed the creatures came from the
Waalenberg estate. Whether escaped or purposefully planted to ambush Khamisi and Marcia, she didn't know. Either way, they were loose now, hunting.