The Germans, alive and dead, wore a hodge-podge of uniforms. All were SS, a variety of units and ranks. As long as the jacket had lightning runes they put it on. The rest of their gear was POW or US Army issue. The party interrogated the two they had taken alive.
“We were in the Aliceville laager. Most of the SS there had been captured in July or August 1944 in Normandy, all badly wounded or stunned by artillery or fighter-bomber attacks. I don’t even recall being captured, I woke up three weeks later in an aid center. Most of us are Das Reich, some were Hitler Jugend sent to the US because the British didn’t have room for them and the Canadians would have shot them on sight”, claimed the prisoners.
“The young ones were always the worst, hard-core National Socialists to the end. But nobody knows where the Sturmbannfuhrer came from. He wasn’t with us in Aliceville and we didn’t get the impression he had been in another camp. Most of the POWs were very tanned from working outside but he was quite pale.”
“We joined him in ’46, he was trying to gather up party members, mostly. None of the lads liked the arrogant prick but what else were we to do? He promised us we would start our own German community under party ideals, he always got us plenty of food, cigarettes, even weapons; nobody asked questions. I think he had high connections back in the Fatherland. At some point he suddenly became obsessed with seeking out cults who prayed to snakes. That’s how we came to be here. Who cares anymore? I’m through with this shit now.”
After they were done talking, Sam politely invited the Germans to get the hell out of their sight. And no, you can’t have weapons for self defense, you’ll just have to take your chances. Maybe head north, where the Huntsville Arsenal boys will take you into custody, if you’re lucky.
Papers had been taken from the Sturmbannfuhrers body. They ordered him to take responsibility for the southeastern US region but did not say in what capacity. The orders were merely initialed “O.S.”
Meanwhile, the ole pickup needed a realignment and some serious front fender work after Noah rammed it through the wall of the First Pentecostal Church of Cullman, Alabama. It was night now and he worked by flashlight with the help of Yaroslav.
Work was interrupted when numerous locals, at least three dozen, showed up muttering that something must have happened to their snake idol and its magical elixir. Their apparent leader was a young man dressed in vintage Confederate officer garb, complete with floppy grey field hat and feather. The party entered into a parley with the group and learned that they had possessed the snake idol for many generations and drinking its waters had protected them from disease, accidents and other manner of untimely death – in fact, any manner of death at all. Most were simply poor sharecroppers, farmers and laborers and all showed the signs of premature aging: wrinkled, yellow skin superimposed on the features of youth.
Yaroslav patiently explained that Nazis were responsible for the locals’ pitiable state and that nothing could be done for them now. Hopeless but pacified, they began to disperse.
But no one had reckoned on Sam Hill.
Sam drew Law and Order, aimed and put a bullet in the hindquarters of the erstwhile Confederate. Unfortunately, the bullet ricocheted off a bone, cut an important artery and the man fell dead. He had survived Shiloh only to fall to Sam Hill. Desperate with the realization that these ne’er-do-wells meant to shoot them in the back, the locals felt they had nothing to lose by taking the party down with them.
All hell then broke loose as three dozen irate locals swarmed toward the church wielding pitchforks, farm implements, cooking pots and wooden sticks. The party emptied their clips but barely slowed them down. The situation was becoming critical when two strange fellers on a motorcycle with sidecar screeched to a halt outside the ring of angry locals, drawn by the sounds of gunfire.
Thinking that Ulrich, who had sneaked out of the church to what he thought was safety, was an enemy, the newcomers attempted to brain him with a rifle butt. Only Ulrich’s pathetic pleas of friendship saved his bacon. The two then drove off to run down some locals while Ulrich hid and waited for a tempting target to present itself.
Half the locals had been cut down when more strangers were drawn to the scene – Cullman Rangers (led by Capt. Allen Hanneman, AL National Guard) in two Willys Jeeps. The lead jeep mounted a .50-cal M2 and the other a search light, which they shined on the battle scene. Capt. Hanneman yelled through a bull horn for the fighting to cease and desist and that along with a few bursts of .50-cal tracer finally convinced the locals to give up the fight.
A brief standoff followed while all sides established their bona fides. The Rangers explained that their mission was to guard the roads into the Huntsville/Redstone Arsenal area, which was still firmly controlled by the US Army. The party described current events surrounding the snake idol and the two men on motorcycle identified themselves as a British medic, Rupert Elington, and a former Marine Raider, known only as Smokey. Torture has cost Smokey his vocal chords, leaving him unable to speak, and Rupert’s medical studies had been cut short when a German bomb destroyed his school.
The Rangers took kindly to the group for wiping out some Nazis and warned them away from the road to Birmingham. It was controlled by the KKK and there was no guarantee what reception they would receive there. Huntsville, on the other hand, was an island of US government control in a sea of chaos, and they were always on the lookout for capable people.
A trade is arranged with the Rangers: all the party’s Thompsons and clips, plus valuable mutant serpent parts, in exchange for the .50-cal and its 1000-round belt. The Rangers agree (they could use more SMGs, as they actually have plenty of heavy weapons and rifles from National Guard armories) and Noah and Yaroslav successfully improvise a pintel mount on the Ford.
We end as the party considers their route and Noah contemplates the engineering trade-offs involved in attaching ophiline-fueled jet pack engines to a 1940 Ford pickup.