The Past is Prologue
(an OSS series story)

Author's Note: This story originally appeared in the fanzine Field Studies #2 @1985 by Cheree Cargill

The Fuhrer was angry. Reports were coming in on both the North African campaign and the current situation in Stalingrad. In neither situation was the news encouraging. Heavy losses and overwhelming defeats had been suffered both in Russia, where Stalingrad stubbornly refused to fall, and at a remote desert outpost know as El Alamein. For the first time the invincible Wehrmacht was being resoundingly defeated on all fronts.

Hitler marched across his office in the headquarters known as the Wolf's Lair and threw open the door, barking an order at an aide. The man hurried off in search of the person his leader wanted to see.

"Interfering Americans!" he fumed. If it hasn't been for American interference, the Third Reich would be invulnerable. An army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.

That had been his original plan after coming to power. Find the legendary Ark of the Covenant and use it to establish the superiority of the Master Race throughout the world. He found it amusing that the Ark of the Jews would be the cause of their destruction, and of their plots to control the world. The searches for other religious artifacts had been a mere blind, so that Germany's enemies could not prevent her from fulfilling her destiny.

All had gone according to plan. The French archaeologist, Belloq, an expert in such matters, had been hired. The man has assured him that the present-day site of the Ark could be found, and, after all he had studied with the top archaeologists in Germany, at a time when it was the world center or archaeological studies. Belloq was furnished with unlimited funds and a company of Wehrmacht, along with their leader, a top Party man from the Munich days, Dietrich.

In early 1936, they found the city and, encouraged by this, he had his troops invade the Rhineland. The generals who were afraid to violate the farcical Versailles Treaty could not even imagine what power would soon be at their disposal. Although the Ark was not yet in German hands, it had worked. England and France were too afraid of the prospect of another war to do more than protest.

Then there were the Munich Olympics, a glorious example of Aryan supremacy, except for the fluke of the American Negro, Owens. Meanwhile, Belloq was getting close. He needed a certain relic, known to be in the possession of a professor named Ravenwood, to locate the secret chamber where the Ark was hidden. An SD agent named Toht was sent to America to find and obtain the headpiece. He discovered that Ravenwood and his daughter had been somewhere in Asia for many years, then narrowed his search to the isolated Kingdom of Nepal. He reported that an American archaeologist named Jones was also after the item.

Finally the report came that the Ark was found. Arrangements were made for transporting it to Berlin. Then, the daily and weekly reports mentioned sabotage and other problems. The Ark disappeared. Their sources at the Cairo embassy reported that Jones and Ravenwood's daughter had chartered a tramp steamer on which a large crate was the only cargo.

A submarine was dispatched from a secret base in the Mediterranean to intercept the cargo. But instead of dropping it in Italy, where it could be safely sent on to Germany, the sub returned to its base. Messages to the base went unanswered. A ship sent to investigate found the base undamaged, but abandoned, with only a small boat missing.

An extensive search was immediately launched. No trace was ever found of Belloq, Dietrich, Toht or the staff of the submarine base. However, intelligence sources at the German embassy in the American capital reported in mid-fall that Jones and the woman had turned a crate over to US Army intelligence.

Since then, all efforts to locate the Ark had failed. Despite the fact that it was known to be somewhere in America, the best of their most highly placed agents failed to discover even a clue to its whereabouts. Hitler was infuriated by the Americans thwarting his plans once again. He ordered both the Abwehr and the Sichcherheitdientst to establish confidential files available only to him on this American intellectual with the odd name. This not only insured that he would get the most complete information possible, but would also use the rivalry between Canaris and Himmler to insure that neither had enough information to increase their power.

The loss of the Ark had enraged him, but it didn't have much effect on his plans. Confident that it would soon be recovered, he continued with his original plan to obtain Lebenstraum for Germany. With the continued successes of his bloodless conquests, then the blitzkrieg which gave him control of Continental Europe, the Ark no longer seemed necessary for him to obtain his goal. But Britain stubbornly refused to surrender. The attack on Russia, his former ally, had gone well at first, but was developing into a disaster. These things would not have happened if he possessed the Ark. When his Japanese allies asked that he join them in their war against America, frustrated by the way the Americans' meddling had robbed the German people of their birthright, he agreed. Efforts to locate the Ark were redoubled by the few agents remaining in America after the declaration of war, still with no success. Meanwhile, with the invasion of North Africa, the Nazis' position grew steadily worse. It was time to show these useless fools how they should have handled the matter long ago.

"Mein Fuhrer!" There was a sharp click of heels as the bespectacled former chicken farmer, now SS Chief Heinrich Himmler, entered the room.

Hitler nodded abruptly, acknowledging the salute. "You have the information?"

The mild mannered, scholarly appearing Himmler answered in the affirmative. "Everything we have collected since 1936 on this man Jones. At present he is working with Donovan's intelligence organization in Washington."

"That I have known for some time. What I require from you, Herr Reichsfuehrer, is information I do NOT already have. The so-called sources in the SS and the Abwehr have had six years to locate the Ark of the Covenant and they have been unable to do so. I am surrounded by fools and incompetents, so I will have to handle this myself. What you are to do is take this information on Jones and with your archeology experts devise a trap which will have Donovan send him into an area from which he can be captured. After that," his eyes burned with the intense glitter of a prophet as his fists beat against the side of his desk," you can get any information we want from him.

"The information on this Operation.Covenant is to be handled by hand courier only, and in our personal code. Do not even trust it to the scrambler telephone or the Enigma Machine. There have been enough mistakes made already. I will tolerate no more!" He gestured strongly with his fist to emphasize his point, then dismissed Himmler abruptly.

"Soon.it will be soon." He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. Herr Doktor Jones would lead them, finally, to the Ark of the Covenant and the Nazis would once again be invincible, able to take their true place as the masters of the world!