April, 1945

He pushed down on the raised symbols, the metal moderately warm under the palm of his hands, the edges of the alien designs firm on his skin. Each of the panels arranged in a circle on top of the pedestal illuminated in sequence, the selection transferred to a corresponding signal on the large dark grey ring standing a dozen feet away bathed in the white glow of spot lights. It was stood up against a concrete wall a hundred feet beneath Berlin, yet by improbable fortune it represented the ultimate escape.

It had been unthinkable that escape was needed, just a few short years ago the Third Reich was master of all it surveyed from one side of Europe to another. The British were sidelined and consider no great threat while the Soviets were bleeding on the armoured steel of the Panzer divisions. To speak of defeat then would have been met with peels of laughter, but not any more. Now it was inevitable, the Reich would fall but would not die.

The Fuhrer in his wisdom had a contingency. While he publicly extolled the German people to fight on and immolate themselves in glorious resistance he and his elite would flee through this alien ring and carry the ideals of the Reich to the stars where they would thrive. He took only his most pure and ideal followers, the embodiment of Aryan supremacy and cast aside his other sycophants and cronies. They had all failed the German Reich so they could stay here and burn with it.

When the last symbol illuminated on the ring and its movement ceased the familiar explosion of energy heralded the formation of a stable wormhole to another world, a new and more suitable world. As soon as it stabilised the long lines of refugees began to file through interspersed with trucks and other smaller vehicles making good their escape.

Colonel Voss watched them pass by, the vehicles loaded with essential supplies and materials for the new Reich. Most carried fuel and vehicle parts for the Panther II tanks already moved through in pieces while others held machinery parts to add to the factories springing up on the new world, codenamed Thule by Hitler himself. Scattered among the machinery were also treasures of art and culture, so that the new Reich would not loose it's heritage, along with the wealth plundered from all across Europe that would be used to bribe their way to early prosperity.

The world was one of the first to be discovered after the secret of the gate was discovered. At first exploration was slow and focused on tapping oil and mineral resources to bolster the war effort. In the last six months however it had been transformed into a self sustaining community of farms, factories, refineries and schools. Tenths of thousands of people lived there selected from across the nation, the purest and most forthright products of Hitler's Reich, true blooded Aryans and National Socialist to the core. These people were the heart and soul of the Reich, the embodiment of the Master Race and they would survive in paradise. They would survive, and then they would conquer.

The women and children were already through along with vital workers and their staff. The greatest scientists, most gifted engineers and most capable soldiers. The German Nuclear programme had been moved in its entirety along with prototypes of the latest jet engines and assault weapons. The visionary Professor Werner Von Braun had been on Thule for months continuing to perfect his newest rocket designs while the newly promoted General Skorzenny set up plans for small scale commando teams to expand Nazi influence through the network of gates across the galaxy. Everything was in place, there was only one final piece of the puzzle left.

Among the soldiers and trucks was a single black Mercedes, its thunderous engine ticking over as it came to a stop beside the Colonel. It had driven through the long underground tunnels to this place, safe from attack by the vengeful Russians currently turning the heart of the old Reich into brick dust and bloodstains. In the concrete catacombs Voss offered a salute to the passenger, the diminutive man who had been the architect of Armageddon.

"The evacuation is almost complete my Fuhrer." Voss reported. "All essential supplies and personnel are already through and we have contact with the Eurondans."

The Fuhrer nodded, his new wife sat beside him adjusting her makeup in a compact mirror while his Dog licked its lips on the floor of the car.

"Does General Skorzenny have plans for Euronda?"

"Yes my Fuhrer, he is ready to discuss the first stage of our takeover when you arrive." Voss confirmed. "From their Ambassador we have learned they are so desperate for skilled soldiers they will embrace us without question."

"And will never know their fate until it is too late." The Fuhrer cracked a cold smile. "World by world, one after the other the Reich will rise again. That is our destiny. To rule."

"Of course my Fuhrer."

"This world was too small for us, our enemies too invasive, there was a rot within us from the start, destroying what I created." The small man fumed. "Not this time, this time we are pure, our goal clear, our blood strong. We will be what we are meant to be, and then one day we will return and reclaim our homes."

There were several deep rumbles that shook dust from the roof of the underground chamber, causing more than a few soldiers to glance up in trepidation.

"Russian artillery." Voss observed. "They are very close."

"They are fighting in the Reichstag." Hitler stated flatly. "By now my bunker will have fallen. I have arranged for it to appear I have committed suicide, it should throw them off our trail."

"Yes Fuhrer."

"Are the demolition charges set?"

Voss nodded curtly. "Once we leave this whole chamber will be destroyed and the gate will be buried forever. No records of it exist and all who know of it are either here or dead."

"You are certain?"

"I followed up all leads in person my Fuhrer." Voss confirmed. "It is done."

Beside Voss another soldier stepped up, saluted both the Fuhrer and his Colonel, then handed over a note.

"Excuse me." Voss asked, then checked the message, his frown deepening. "Communist forces have broken through the checkpoint. They have entered the tunnels."

"Assign forces to resist them for as long as possible." Hitler ordered. "Do not let them take the gate."

"I will destroy it myself my Fuhrer."

"Keep it open if possible, the Reich needs true soldiers like you." The Fuhrer shifted in his chair. "Driver, on."

The Mercedes began to roll up to the gate, its black shining chassis catching the light of the rippling entrance.

"Don't wait too long Colonel!" Hitler called from the back of the car. "I will wait for you on Thule, or in Valhalla."

The car vanished into the puddle of light, streams of heavily armed soldiers following.

Voss took a few breaths, rapidly sorting out a few plans in his mind before coming to a conclusion.

"Captain!" He called. "I need a company of men and an anti tank gun."

A nearby officer nodded. "yes sir!"

"Make sure they are heavily armed and know what they are doing!" He demanded, taking an assault rifle from a rack of weapons beside one wall. "We're going to buy some time."

The Captain flagged down a halftrack towing a 75mm gun towards the gate and turned it around, the large vehicle only just managing it in the confines of the concrete tunnel. It set off back the way it came, a smaller weapon than the feared 88 but no less effective. Alongside it ranks of men also headed back, lavishly equipped with assault rifles, machine guns and anti tank weapons.

These soldiers, along with the others that had been sent to Thule were the best in the Reich. Young, fearless and utterly devoted to the Fuhrer they had been indoctrinated since childhood to be warriors, they obeyed every order, fought with a vigour unrivalled in Europe and would never give up. They gave no mercy and in turn received none, even the normally more relaxed western Allies had a policy of shooting such fanatics on sight.

Naturally enough they were part of the SS, Hitler's favourite body of troops and armed with the best weapons the industrialists of the Reich could produce. They jogged past with MP 44s, Panzer Shrecks, G43 rifles and infra red scopes well suited for the murky tunnels. It was unlikely any of them would survive the next few minutes but they didn't care. They would die for the Fatherland, and that was perfectly acceptable to them all, for their deaths would be a temporary inconveniance only, soon they would rejoin their brothers in arms in Valhalla. Such was the perversion of humanity bred by fanatics.

And despite being older and wiser, and despite being no fanatic Voss would die with them because those were his orders, and as an officer he would do his duty.

Major Necheyev squinted in the dull light at his watch, the long grey tunnel lit only sparsely by hanging lights that flickered with each near hit on the ground above. The pounding of guns was reassuring, informing him his fellow soldiers were giving the Fascists the hot lead and cold steel they richly deserved, but the idea that their indiscriminate barrage could drop a million tons of rock and soil on his head was not comforting.

His utility car moved along at a respectable pace keeping up to the trio of tanks leading the way in front of him and leading the three hundred men in trucks behind. They had found this tunnel by accident as they cleared their way through the streets of Berlin, and judging by the determined battle the men on the entrance fought there must be something important down here. That made it worth his attention.

The car bounced a little hefting him in his uncomfortable but pragmatic seat. The vehicle was open topped and small offering him no protection whatsoever from gunfire which wasn't really what the designers at GAZ wanted. The vehicle was merely the Russian version of the American Jeep, a version which was naturally superior in every conceivable way according to the regimental Commissar, but not so superior that it would stop a bullet. For that Necheyev had his wits alone, and a simple plan that involved simply killing any Fascist before they could fire on him. It had worked very well over the past four years.

Viktor Necheyev was something of a cultured man, an educated Muscovite who had wished to become a teacher before the war interfered with his plans. Instead he became a soldier battling around his home city knee deep in snow armed with whatever weapons he could pick up from the dead. The experience changed him and he had instead devoted his intelligence to the task of defeating the invaders as a professional soldier, something he had come to excel at. Stalingrad made him an officer and Kursk gave him a company of mechanised troops to command. After the Red army crossed the Vistula he was promoted to Major and with the relief of his superior for incompetence ended up commanding his regiment as it fought through Eastern Germany under Marshal Zhukov.

Berlin was the prize, the enemy capital and the last great battle of the war. That battle was now drawing to its conclusion, the monster was almost slain and most men were now looking to the future.

No warning was given, the high velocity round passing clean through the frontal armour and crew compartment of the leading T-34 before the sound of the gun firing was even heard. All three tanks had a dozen infantry clung to the sides riding into action, and as the lead vehicle erupted in a blinding orange flash of heat those riders wore reduced to shreds not even recognisable as people. With the low ceiling of the tunnel the explosion was painfully loud but at least served to warn the entire regiment simultaneously that they were under attack.

The second tank slowed enough for its passengers to half jump, half fall off before trying to go around its blazing comrade, moving less than ten yards before a round passed clean through it too. This time the tank did not explode but was effectively put out of action.

Necheyev was out of his car before it even stopped, clutching his iconic PPSh 41 submachine gun in hand, snarling at the wrecked tanks in his path. The tunnel was wide enough for three tanks to drive down abreast, with the two wrecks blocking most of that now he had to take out the anti tank gun before he could advance with his last tank.

"Forward!" He bellowed at the rapidly dismounting men. "Use your grenades! Storm them!"

Necheyev's men were some of the best in the army, shock troopers trained to lead the advance and seize heavily defended enemy strongholds. In terms of their skills and motivation they were the equal of any other elite unit in the world and were in constant competition with the Waffen SS, eager to tear down the pride of the Nazi regime.

The thump of a pintle mounted Dushka machine gun opened up in support, firing through the black smoke of the burning tanks in an attempt to keep the Germans down but with little success. They were firing blind and the Germans knew it, conserving their own fire until clear targets presented themselves. With a cheer the Russians gathered and charged, rushing around the side of the burning tanks and into the teeth of the German defence. With no room to outflank and no cover beyond the smoke the leading soldiers were incredibly vulnerable, something the defenders exploited mercilessly.

A pair of MG42's scythed through the Russian assault, bullets hammering flesh and clinking off the burning vehicles and the walls. A few Russian rounds fired back in response, a handful of Mosin-Nagant or DPM shots that were too wild to do much damage.

Necheyev halted the next wave, he didn't have enough men to charge a pair of machine guns especially as he had no idea what else was ahead. He had no smoke grenades, but his eyes were drawn to the burning wreck of the leading T-34 which was still pouring out black smoke and gradually filling the tunnel with noxious fumes.

"Ganya!" He barked at his last tank. "Hey, here! Can you push this wreck forward?"

"Yes Comrade Major!" The tank commander answered. "But it won't offer much protection from that gun!"

"It doesn't have to, the smoke will!" Necheyev answered. "Mobile smokescreen! Start pushing!"

The T-34 revved up and slowly advanced, bumping into the wreck and rocking both vehicles on their suspension. The lead tank had lost its tracks and several wheels but with a little applied force was still mobile, Ganya's tank nudging it along in front of it.

"Get beside it!" Necheyev hollered. "Use it as cover, grenades ready!"

The AT gun fired again, noticing what the Russians were doing. The shot penetrated the wreck in a small fountain of debris but narrowly missed Ganya's tank, smashing into the concrete wall. Spurred on by the near miss he ordered his driver to speed up, pushing the wreck like a ram towards the German gun and positions. Machine gun fire filled the air, blind but of such volume that several men dropped anyway before they made it into position.

The burning wreck crashed into the gun, lifting it up and pushing it back as the crew dived for cover. At the same time a rain of a dozen grenades sailed over dropping among the SS troops who rushed to flee or throw them back. Both actions were too late. There was a series of loud cracks, the Russian grenades exploding among the machine gun nests and hurling burning hot shrapnel in all directions, pinging off the AT gun and the sizzling hull of the makeshift battering ram. There were several cries of pain telling Necheyev the assault had found its target and the Fascists were reeling. Now to exploit it before they recovered.

"Come on! Kill them!"

He led from the front, not out of some desire for glory but out of necessity. He was at the front already, he had a serviceable weapon and every son of Russia had a duty to kill the enemy, rank not withstanding. His blood was up, adrenalin fuelling his decisions which in hindsight would have appeared almost suicidal. He leapt through the black smoke pouring from the lead tank, scrambled over a wall of sand bags and touched down on the far side of the defences, a pair of bullets instantly ripping into the sandbag by his waist.

The Major returned fire, the sub machinegun clattering pistol bullets out at an alarming rate. He didn't see who fired at him, he just sprayed gunfire in the vague direction of the enemy and hoped it would work. His eyes stung from the smoke and forced him to advance to get away from it, half blinded and coughing he was extremely vulnerable but luckily didn't have to worry, his burst of close range fire had cut down the one man who stood before him and the rest were too busy taking on his followers.

Khaki uniforms poured over the sandbags through the black smoke, shooting and clubbing the dazed defenders. The Germans fought back viciously, snapping off a few controlled bursts from their assault rifles into the Soviets, spinning men on their heels as high powered bullets ripped through them.

The Russians barely noticed, rushing the defenders and jabbing them with bayonets or pummelling them with the stocks of their rifles or machine guns. Some were laughing, perhaps because they enjoyed it or perhaps because they were too terrified to do anything else. Within ten seconds the defence was cleared, though it felt much longer.

"Ganya! Move up!" Necheyev began, croaking as he exhaled the polluting smoke from his lungs. "First Company, lead the way, support the tank!"

The T34 lurched forward, the driver wrestling with the stiff controls to get the iron beast moving again. They were not renowned for their comfort or ease of operation, but the T34 was an almost perfect weapon and exceptionally well suited for its role in the war. Like the men surrounding the tank it was a pure and simple instrument of the Motherland focused on its task and nothing else. Its engine pumped out blue smoke as it ground on, Necheyev keeping a brisk walking pace with it.

"We've lost contact with the defence team."

Voss nodded. "The Marxists will be here in minutes. Man the bunkers, find cover and get ready."

"Yes sir."

The junior officer saluted and bolted to arrange his unit, the camouflaged SS soldiers fanning out and assuming position a few hundred yards from the open gate. The tunnel took a sharp ninety degree turn four hundred yards before reaching the gate, a defensive measure to stop enemies massing for a coordinated attack. The corner was covered by two steel and concrete bunkers armed with machine guns while walls and hastily piled sandbags provided additional hiding places for the German troops.

"Sergeant!" The Colonel bellowed. "Demolitions?"

"All set Herr Colonel." A stout engineer answered. "The detonator is behind the last wall next to the gate, twist it and everything goes away."

"Very good, now get through the gate with your team."

"Sir, we would rather stay and fight."

"Good man." Voss grabbed his shoulder. "But the Reich needs demolition experts, you are a valuable asset Sergeant and you are needed on Thule. Now, go."

The Sergeant saluted, then roused his men. Voss nodded, then waved on the last few trucks.

"Come on! This is not a Sunday Parade! Get through the damn gateway!"

The noise of the vehicles subsided as the last truck bounced through the gate, its cargo deck filled with women and children; chosen from the best families they would eventually provide an appropriate Aryan breeding stock for the new Reich. Several of the worlds the military had surveyed included suitably pure populations who would be introduced into the Reich as long lost brothers and sisters, one or two even had Viking blood which was an excellent starting point. Of course there were other worlds with inferior populations that could pollute the purity of Aryan blood if allowed to spread, something the Reich would deal with in time. But the Untermenschen would serve the Reich well as unskilled labour, working the mines, the mills and the fields. There were many worlds populated by descendants of African origin, and the Negros were well suited for hard labour. So said the Fuhrer, and his word was the only law on Thule.

But even as the truck left for its billion mile journey the low rumble of an engine did not depart with it, the growl of internal combustion reverberating between the walls and ceiling with increasing loudness.

"Here they come!" Voss shouted. "Be ready to meet them!"

There were still a few hundred people crowded in the tunnels waiting to leave, a mix of worthy soldiers and their close families for whom there was no space on trucks. They had to walk, or from this point on, run.

"Get through the gate!" Voss barked. "Don't wait, just go, quickly! We'll keep the Reds back as long as we can!"

He moved forward as the crowd dissolved, rushing in a mass for the safety of the planet beyond the glowing portal. The last men of his command left them, manning their weapons and waiting for the noise to reveal itself. They were all either single or already had teenage children, their families safe beyond the gate. They would not allow the Russians to find them, whatever the cost they would never desecrate Thule.

Voss checked his weapon, drawing back the bolt on the assault rifle and waiting. All around his men stood ready, aiming down the barrels of their machine guns or waiting with grenades and rockets in hand. A handful of men had Luftfausts, shoulder launched anti aircraft rockets fired in clusters of six or eight designed to defeat low flying fighter bombers. Another marvel of German engineering, and sadly, another case of "too little, too late" to change the course of war. But still. against the close packed infantry funnelled through the confines they would be horrifically effective.

The noise of the approaching tank grew louder, the smell of exhaust fumes preceding it. The thunk of tracks and squeal of un-oiled axles joined the monotonous chant of its approach, punctuated by orders and voices yelling something foreign.

"We hold here, let as many evacuees get out as possible." Voss said simply. "And when we can fight no more, we destroy the tunnel. Whatever happens, they will lose and our nation lives on."

The first two men peered around the corner, their eyes wide by the surreal sight of the open gate filling the scene with flickering blue light, momentarily distracting them from the matter at hand.

"For the Reich my brothers." Voss stated with finality. "Shoot."

The guns roared, bursts of lead tearing into the walls and exposed Russians beginning the new phase of the fight. The Soviet response was to bring up their tank, its driver using the wall for cover and exposing only enough of the tank to enable the turret to fire on the Germans opposite. There was a dull explosion as a panzerfaust exploded against the wall beside the tank dropping lumps of concrete to the wall harmlessly. An instant later the T34 replied, blasting a chunk out of the further most bunker and showering metal and concrete shards through the firing slits.

One of the gunners staggered away, hands over his eyes with blood streaming from between his fingers. Voss felt a pang of sympathy, but had no time to act on it.

"You two, in the bunker! Get that gun firing again!"

Necheyev jogged forward as the tank fired a second round, blasting apart a sandbag wall in a shower of yellow and red.

"Comrade Major!" A Sergeant called out. "The Fascists have something! I've never seen anything like it before!"

"Is it a weapon? Has it fired on us?"

"No sir, I do not think so."

"Then ignore it! Focus on the job at hand! We assault, where areā€¦"

He was cut off by a massive earsplitting bang as Ganya's tank was struck by a Panzer Shreck, the extremely effective projectile bursting the turret like ripe fruit and dropping hundreds of pounds of metal in a rain nearby. Necheyev was lucky to escape with a few cuts and a ringing in his ears, too angry and too busy cursing to feel pain.

The tank was an important part of the assault plan, without it his men would have to rush the German lines without cover or direct support, never a good thing. He did have two aces up his sleeve though, a pair of flame throwers, but without cover they'd be dead before they could act.

He looked back, hundreds of expectant eyes watching him, and as he nodded in assurance tot hem he found inspiration.

"Be ready Comrades, I will provide us with some cover. Captain, bring up the flame throwers and follow behind me. We must time this well, because I am only doing something this stupid once."

He darted back along the lines and climbed up into the cab of one of the transport trucks, the passengers already unloaded and ready for battle. It was a big vehicle but totally unprotected, with the volume of fire he could expect from the Germans this was not looking like a good plan. It was however the only thing he could think of.

"Flame team ready!" The Captain reported.

"Alright, bunkers first." He turned the key, shifting the heavy gears into place. "Don't stop for anything."

He pushed the accelerated, the three ton truck picking up speed. Behind him the assault troops made ready, picking up their pace as he drove past the waiting lines and came up to the tank. He chose to accelerate, open the distance between himself and the rest of the unit to more effectively draw fire and attention. With a long breath he shifted up the gears and floored the pedal, jumping past the tank and turning hard.

Gunfire immediately peppered the truck, smashing the windows and hammering loudly on the doors. Necheyev ducked his head, wrestling with the steering wheel as he tried to keep control of the fast moving vehicle. It bumped on the far wall, steel scraping on concrete and bucked to the left as a front tyre was shot out and burst, strips of rubber flapping about on the wheel rims.

Necheyev held steady, peering as high as he dared with bullets punching their way through the truck. The engine was dying, tyres were failing and white steam poured from the shattered radiator, but it was too late, the truck was moving too fast. He opened the door and rolled out, dropping down from the cabin and falling quite a distance to the floor, momentarily forgetting how far up he was. Despite the heavy impact he still looked up in time to see the driverless truck careen into the German lines, riding over one wall before crunching into the side of a bunker.

Necheyev was about to pick himself up when a stern voice told him otherwise.

"Stay down!"

He did not question and instead threw himself flat, hugging the floor as a jet of bright yellow light flared overhead with a whoosh of hot air. The two flame thrower teams had used the distraction well and were now dousing the Fascists in liquid flame, filling the two bunkers in pillars of fire. Necheyev crawled aside, only rising when clear of the deadly streams of light. Figures moved among the flames, alight themselves attempting to put out the inferno or lost in a world they couldn't escape. It was not a pretty end, but it was ultimately an efficient one.

The flames stopped, leaving both bunkers blazing and the defenders in between choking on black fumes. It had been a surprise but already the Germans were recovering and several of them opened fire.

"Forwards!" Necheyev bellowed. "Quickly! Seize the wall!"

The Russians broke into a run, cheering and jeering as they flung themselves through the smoke and between the flames, guns blazing. The Germans were no less determined and met them with a hail of bullets, bringing down dozens of Soviets. A surviving Luftfaust was discharged in jets of white smoke, the rockets gouging a passage through the Russian ranks and severing bodies in their path. It was a strong counter but not strong enough, and within moments the Russians were among them.

Voss brought down the first man fool enough to attack him, the assault rifle effortlessly tearing to shreds the man's chest through his uniform and equipment. The second was a bit closer, too close to shoot so Voss steeped aside, avoided the swing of the Russian's rifle stock, then caught him at the side of the head with his own heavy rifle. Dead or stunned didn't matter, he was out of the fight and in a few seconds that would be enough.

The SS men didn't give an inch, fighting and often clawing at their Soviet foes. He could see one man pinned against a wall literally trying to bite his enemy, so fanatical and desperate was the soldier. Noble as it was they were hugely outnumbered and outgunned, the Soviets were seconds from breaking through. Voss knew what had to be done.

He turned and ran for the detonator, seeing the gate close as he ran to it, the final hope of the Reich escaping beyond Soviet reach. He grinned, even knowing that he now had no route of escape, smiling because Thule was safe. He crouched behind the sandbags, grabbing the detonator and arming it, attaching the twist handle in the top.

He peered over the parapet, saw his men crumbling, and with a final exultation twisted the handle.

"Heil Hitler."

Nothing happened. With a frown he tried again, and then again. The gunfire grew louder, the German voices less than Russian ones. With a curse he stood back up and followed the wires back along the wall seeing, to his horror, a break six feet away from him. He had to act

With a snarl he leapt from his refuge, rifle held firmly while the detonator dangled at his waist. Bullets whizzed and buzzed past his ears, Russian voices shouted at him but he kept moving, running faster than he had before. A handful of SS Soldiers supported him, dropping one or two at a time as they offered what cover they could, even so far as using their bodies to shield him from bullets.

He threw himself down at the broken wire, one of his men thumping down beside him with a neat hole through his steel helmet, the camouflage cover smoking slightly from the heat of the passing bullet. Voss grunted, dragging up the detonator and working feverishly to attach the wires. He felt a sharp blow and numbness to his back, then another and another. He didn't stop, even as he began to lose feeling he didn't stop.

The last German fell beside him and finally, at last he wired the detonator and grabbed the handle.

A boot came down heavily, stamping on his hand and pinning it to the detonator, preventing it from moving. He exerted his last strength to try and finish the job, but he could not, he had failed. But, with a final smile he knew the Russians would never find Thule, even if they activated the gate it as a needle in a field of haystacks. The Reich had won, and the Fuhrer would take his revenge on his enemies.

Necheyev lifted up his boot, picking up the detonator and pulling free the wires.

"Captain, remove the explosives, carefully."

"Yes Major."

"Third Company, secure the entrance to the tunnel. Try to get Army command on the radio, inform them we have discovered a Fascist secret facility."

"Yes Comrade Major. What sort of facility?"

Necheyev shook his head. "I don't know."

He walked away from the body of the German officer and looked at the dark ring at the end of the tunnel, a pedestal before it made of the same material adorned in symbols he did not recognise. Despite his education and a reasonable grasp of the sciences this device was completely new to him, and the blue pond it had seemed to contain when active only deepened the mystery.

"What is this thing Major?" His Captain asked. "Did we really see people go through it?"

"We did." Necheyev nodded. "Go where I wonder?"

He walked up and touched it, feeling a slight warmth from the unknown material. There was something about it that caught his imagination, even after all he had been through in this horrible war it still brought out an almost childlike curiosity.

The war in Europe was wheezing to a final end, but there was another front now, an unexpected series of battle fields ahead before the blood spilled on Russian soil could be paid for.

Whatever this device was, whatever it had been, it was now the property of the Soviet Union.