Author's Note: THIS IS A STORY ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST. It is, by nature,
disturbing. I have attempted to treat the Holocaust in a sensitive and
respectful way; however, some persons may prefer not to read this story. Due to violence, strong language, and sensitive subject matter, reader discretion is advised.

I have also heard it theorized that non-Jewish people should not write about the Holocaust because they are appropriating someone else's story. I feel that writing is an act of learning to think from, and see from, others' points of view, and if we are not permitted to write about characters who are different from us – who are other genders, races, religions, ages, etc – we face obstacles to empathy and understanding. If this explanation does not satisfy you, perhaps my bloodline will. I was not raised Jewish, but I had Jewish ancestors on one side of my family.

I consider this story to be the "origin tale" of the Wagner character.

This story is set five years before Wagner encountered the Manhattan Clan.

"A German Requiem" was written by James Fenton. All characters, with the exception of Russian ace Lily Litvak, are fictional. Unfortunately, a skinhead gang calling itself the NLR, Nazi Low Riders, is not. Thanks to Mer for information on Mercedes staff cars, and to Dylan Blacquiere for taking me to the art gallery in Charlottetown, going through the Holocaust exhibit and asking, albeit innocently, what Wagner would think of it.

BLACK WINGS PASSED OVER

Chapter the First

How comforting it is, once or twice a year,
To get together and forget the old times.

--James Fenton, "A German Requiem"

AUGUST 1992 ARIZONA WAR MUSEUM

Richard S. Wagner swung the museum door wide and began his nightly
shift. The building was quiet as usual, the previous guard having been in
the process of getting into his car just as Wagner turned in the driveway.
The humanlike gargoyle had raised a hand in greeting as the man drove past,
leaving Wagner's black 1942 Mercedes staff car as the only vehicle in the
War Museum's parking lot.

He didn't often drive that automobile around on regular business.
He had a modern vehicle which was also a black Mercedes, but considerably
less conspicuous than the WWII staff car. However, tonight was a night for
remembrance, and besides, he worked at a war museum. Those who knew he had
it thought that the car was a restoration piece he worked on as a hobby.
They had no idea he'd owned it for fifty-six years. In the deserted parking
lot, there was no one to ask questions.

Tonight the place was his, which was just the way he liked it.
Wagner took off his black leather jacket and left it in the car. He
unfolded his wings, shutting his eyes and enjoying the sensation of
stretching them wide. It was a luxury he could not afford in the company of
humans, and it felt so good! Finally, when they started to ache, he relaxed
them and let his five-fingered wing hands grip the epaulettes of the black
uniform tunic he wore. His wings hung in loose folds behind, and the golden
gauntlets on his wing hands looked like clips pinning a cape to his
epaulettes.

First things first. He signed in and began a once-over check of the
museum. Medieval Conflict, The Battles of Napoleon, The Civil War, and the
Great War Gallery were secure and in order. Wagner took a quick sweep past
The Gulf War, America's Modern Fighting Forces and the Vietnam Memorial
Hall, shrugging off the discomfort he always felt at being reminded of
Vietnam, before heading for the place where he intended to spend most of the
night...the Second World War Wing, which was the first door on the right
from the entrance hall.

There it was. The uniforms, maps and equipment were like old
friends to him, and it was because of them that he had applied for the job
of night watchman here at the War Museum. He could have been a researcher
or writer if he had wanted to, but this was the job that appealed to him.
Wagner admitted that the natural gargoyle drive to protect was still strong
in him, but the true reason for his choice of profession was that here,
surrounded by memorabilia of the greatest conflict known to mankind, he felt
at home.

He needed that feeling tonight. For over a year now he'd been lying
low, leading an almost normal life except for the fact that he couldn't go
out and about by daylight. Most people would have described his current
situation as boringly ordinary, but to Wagner, it was a blessed release from
the life of a special operative for the Illuminati. In the last months, he
had rarely even thought about the Society, except to wonder when they'd
contact him with a job and ruin his comfortable new lifestyle.

That question had been answered yesterday night. The Illuminati
wanted to send him to some place whose name he couldn't even remember, to do
a job he'd yet to be told about, aside from the fact that it would be a
long-term undercover assignment rather than an in-and-out assassination.
Something about a civil war there. He'd assumed it was one of the breakaway
Russian republics, whose names he'd never bothered to memorize. In fact,
he'd rather hoped it was, since the reason he'd been off duty in Arizona was
to allow the furor in Russia to die down. He'd spent 1991 making hits on
certain Russian politicians the Illuminati had wanted eliminated. If it was
a breakaway republic, he'd have a brilliant excuse not to go there.

Later tonight, he'd work on his defence. Now, though, he wanted to
put the entire issue out of his mind. The past was a wonderful place to
escape from the present, or the future.

He walked down the gallery with a bit of his old fighter-pilot
swagger, his wings swinging behind him. His eyes scanned every exhibit,
allowing the familiarity to comfort him. Then, at the end of the hall, he
noticed that in the the week he'd had off, something new had been set up.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL.

Wagner frowned. That was something he didn't want to look at.
Reminiscing was much more enjoyable when one employed selective memory. He
prepared to turn and head back to the other side of the gallery when a line
on a plaque caught his eye.

It is not your memories which haunt you.

~But of course it is,~ he thought, with an internal glance backward
to his days as a captain in the Luftwaffe...or as a gunman with the IRA...or
as a commando and secret traitor in Vietnam, all under the directives of the
Illuminati. Curious, and against his better judgement, he read on.

It is not what you have written down.
It is what you have forgotten, what you must forget.
What you must go on forgetting all your life.
And with any luck oblivion should discover a ritual.

Wagner noted that the lines belonged to a poem by James Fenton,
called "A German Requiem." It was an elegy for the German Jews killed in
the Holocaust, and it was mounted on the wall beside a message introducing
the visitor to the Holocaust exhibit and a warning of the graphic nature of
some of the contents.

What you have forgotten...

Wagner looked down at the medal around his neck, the black Teutonic
cross which in English was called the Knight's Cross, and the devices of oak
leaves and swords which covered the loop that held it to its ribbon,
indicating subsequent awardings. He had worn it on every mission he could,
and it had been a comfort before. Now it felt like a weight around his
neck. The swastika in the center of the medal gave off a dull shine. He
smirked--it was his cross to carry.

What you must forget...

There was something nagging in the back of his brain, something he
struggled to repress because, while he wasn't quite sure what it was, he was
certain that it was something he did not want to think about. He spun on
his heel and came face-to-face with a life-size image of the gateway to
Auschwitz.

What you must go on forgetting all your life.

POLAND DECEMBER 1943

He was an assassin, not a mailman.

Wagner grumbled as he swung the steering wheel of his black Mercedes
staff car to the left to navigate a turn in the rough Polish road. What a
job to wake up to. He'd rather be back with the squadron, flying missions
on the Eastern Front. He half-smiled to himself as he realized he was
likely the only person who would ever say that. Of course, he didn't feel
the biting cold nearly as much as his human comrades, and there was still
food to be found in the woods and fields of Russia--as long as one didn't
mind eating the local wildlife raw or half-frozen. Humans and their odd
conventions.

He also had better odds of survival than did the human members of
the Luftwaffe. His night vision was far superior, enabling him to spot
Russian fighters long before their pilots knew he was there. It was only
one of the many benefits of belonging to a nocturnal species. Another
benefit, this one uniquely gargoyle, was the automatic healing granted by a
day of stone sleep. He blessed his nature the night he lay battered and
bleeding, pinned in the cockpit of his downed Messerschmitt, knowing that
despite the pain, his injuries were not severe enough to prevent him from
living until dawn. Knowing that the evening after, the Russian fighter
pilot would be a marked man...or woman. Lieutenant Lily Litvak of an
all-female fighter unit had been the first to leave him in such a condition.

Then there was the...no, not exactly companionship. He had never
been close to anyone in the unit. Friendship was a luxury he could not
afford. Surely a person who associated with the enigmatic Hauptmann Ritter
von Stein, as he called himself, would notice that his hair never needed
trimming, that any wounds he might sustain were completely healed by the
evening after, that his incisor teeth were unusually long and might even be
described as fangs. He bathed as often as did the humans, but on missions
into the wilderness he always went alone. How else would he explain his
clean appearance each evening, uniform pressed as if it had been freshly
ironed? He snorted with ironic laughter. ~Let alone explaining my stone
sleep.~

It was hard enough convincing the others to accept his cover story:
that he suffered from a skin cancer which required him to rest, undisturbed,
all day. He often heard the word "vampire" whispered behind his back. He
was certain, however, that only the most superstitious humans actually
considered vampirism to be a plausible explanation. The gargoyle wondered
what his fellow supporters of the "ubermensch," the Aryan superman, would
think if they knew that the six foot, blond-haired, blue-eyed, athletically
built Ritter von Stein (as he called himself in Russia) was not even a man
at all.

No, it was not companionship he found at the squadron. It was a
means of indulging his gargoyle nature, his innate urge to protect. Russia
was many miles from his home, a castle tucked into the Bavarian mountains.
While he could travel the distance to Schloss Adler, he knew in his heart
that he could never rejoin his clan. They would not accept him, not now
that his appearance had been altered to that of a human man. All he
retained were his long sharp teeth and the mighty black wings that were
currently folded up beneath his uniform, and even his wings had been carved
into a new shape. The sleek batlike pinions were now crossed by an ugly row
of skeletal joints to enable them to fold up and be concealed beneath human
clothing. He supposed it was a small price to pay to retain not only the
ability to fly, but also the last obvious sign of his true gargoyle nature.

In Russia he was far from home and permanently cut off from the Iron
Clan, but he had succeeded in transferring his loyalty and protectiveness to
his squadron. He was not popular there, but even those who disliked him
were guarded by him to the best of his ability. No matter what his face
looked like, he was still a gargoyle.

And like any other gargoyle, he was uncomfortable being this far
away from his protectorate and those he had come to view as his charges.
The Illuminati had promised him that this job would be a short one--go to
Poland, assassinate a resistance leader in Warsaw, and return to his unit.
Now the job had come and gone and he was still in Poland, delivering the
package on the seat beside him to a doctor by the name of Johann Sevarius.

Assassination. His job did not sit comfortably with him. The vivid
details of a night in England came into his mind, the time when he had shot
the human friend of a group of English gargoyles.

~That was self-defence,~ Wagner told himself. ~The man knew I was a
German and had pointed his gun at me. Even being taken prisoner would have
meant my certain death at dawn.~

Then there was the endless string of hits he'd performed in the name
of the Illuminati.

~Von Sturm is ruthless. If I'd refused he'd have had me shot. It's
as simple as that. A fair exchange, one life for another. The target dies
so I might live...~

Could that be an excuse when there had been so many targets? A life
for a life was one thing, but in the process of keeping his own he'd killed
many times. Surely his soul--or what was left of it--could not begin to
balance those he'd sent to early graves.

~Don't be a fool. If you'd objected they'd have simply killed you
and sent another assassin. This is how your life must be.~

He shook his head, brushing back the long blond bangs that fell
forward over his forehead and concealed the slight ridge the stonemason had
left when he had removed the long crest that had once curved back over the
head of Wagner the gargoyle, and split into two spirals which had sat
overtop of his hair just above the points of his ears. He still found it
odd to be able to comb his hair from brow to neck and not hit that crest.

Wagner began to hum under his breath, the tune of Beethoven's Fur
Elise filling the car. He loved music and was a magician at the piano.
From the first time he'd heard the haunting melodies, all he'd wanted was to
be a musician. Instead he was driving through the Polish evening with a
package on the passenger seat of his car and an oft-used handgun in his
pocket.

~They say Lucifer was once the angel of music.~ His mouth twisted
into a wry smile as he continued into the night towards the little town of
Auschwitz.

*

The doors of the bar swung wide, and into the smoky room walked a
man who could have been the model for one of Goebbel's propaganda posters.
He was tall, well built, and held his head high with pride. His eyes were
as blue as the Rhine; his hair the colour of wheat. He radiated strength
and energy, and Ilonka, the barmaid, could see the heads of the serving
girls turn as the Teutonic stranger walked into the room. Ilonka noticed
the Knight's Cross around the newcomer's neck, the ribbon of the Iron Cross
through the buttonhole of his black uniform, and a gleaming Luftwaffe medal.
No wonder this soldier was proud.

Yet there was an unease there too, a discomfort which Ilonka picked
up as those blue eyes swept the room, noting every customer and every worker
in the bar. The newcomer rested his arm on the bar, almost casually, but
she was certain that should anyone in the room make a wrong move, this man
would react in an instant. The blue eyes fixed on her, their centers even
blacker than the uniform of their owner. "I'm looking for Sevarius. Herr
Doktor Johann Sevarius." The head turned and Ilonka received a handsome
profile of the stranger's chiselled jaw as his eyes took in all who were
looking his way, extending his question to them.

A young sergeant got to his feet and saluted. "Sir, you won't find
him here in town. He almost never leaves the camp."

"Camp?"

"Just outside town," the sergeant said, and gave directions as the
stranger's fist clenched and unclenched rhythmically on the bar.

*

Half an hour later, the humanlike gargoyle walked through the camp,
his every footfall stirring up a small cloud of the fine white ash that
seemed to cover everything here. In his right hand he carried a bag which
contained Sevarius' package. His eyes were fixed forward, staring at
nothing, and his jaw was firmly clenched. The brutal guards who cradled
hungry black weapons, the emaciated prisoners with their baggy tattered
clothing and haunted eyes, the stinking barracks, the clipboards holding
papers of death warrants writ large, loomed at the edges of his vision but
did not register in his mind. There were Things Not To Be Thought About,
and this camp was first and foremost on that list.

Every time he engaged an enemy fighter, he had to force himself not
to think of his opponent's fear and pain. Every time he killed, he had to
bar the thought of his victim's grieving family from his mind. Every time
he put on the black uniform, he had to deny what it stood for; he had to
pretend he did not know the cause he had been ordered to uphold. Pretending
was considerably harder when one was walking through the very heart of
darkness.

On the right, a crowd of soldiers were clustered around a tiny hole
at the bottom of the barbed-wire fence. One of them, a corporal, bent over
to examine the fence over the hole. "Escape," he hissed through clenched
teeth.

"No, Heini. The hole is too small for a man."

"But for a Jew-rat? Never underestimate what they will do..."

"Send out search teams," barked their sergeant. "And take the dogs.
If anyone did get out that way, we will find them." His lips split into a
cold smile. "If possible, bring them back alive. We can make an example
out of them. Or perhaps the good doctor is in need of some new test
subjects..."

To Wagner, the words were unearthly, unreal, like something in a
dream. They had no meaning. They had no bearing on the world, not on his
world. He moved on.

He finally reached the hut he was looking for and rapped on the
door. The door was opened a crack and the head of middle-aged man with trim
brown hair thrust out of it. His eyes could only be described as reptilian.
He wore a lab coat which had once been white, but was now stained by all
manner of fluids, some of which were blood. The freshest stains were human
blood, by the smell of them. Wagner attempted to drive the scent from his
sensitive gargoyle nostrils. "How may I help you, Hauptmann?" the man
asked.

"I'm looking for Doctor Johann Sevarius."

"Speaking." The man smiled coldly. Wagner heard rustling within
the room, and rolled up on the balls of his human feet--a pose natural for
gargoyles--attempting to see into the hut. Sevarius deliberately maneuvered
to bar his way. "Are you part of the camp staff?"

"No. I've been sent to deliver a package."

"My experiments are highly classified," Sevarius informed him, and
Wagner detected no boasting in the statement.

~He's not saying that to build himself up. He's hiding something
from me.~ Wagner frowned down at the doctor, who was several inches shorter
than him. Nevertheless, the gargoyle drew himself up to his full height and
settled his most arrogant air around his body like a cloak. "Believe me, I
have clearance." He glared down at Sevarius, and reached for the signed
Fuhrer Order he carried in his left pocket.

Mephistopheles von Sturm, head of the Illuminati, had procured the
Fuhrer Order for him. The Nazi leaders believed that collaborating
with the Illuminati had more than paid off. Wagner knew that the
Illuminati had given Hitler much of the backing that had helped him gain
power. He could not yet advertise that fact; von Sturm was adamant that the
Illuminati remain the "silent partners" of the National Socialist Workers'
Party, and enforced the regulation by permanently silencing any opponents.
Or rather, by having individuals like Wagner do the silencing. That,
however, was another matter; what mattered now was that Wagner held an
order, signed by Hitler, authorizing him to action independent of any
superior officers save Hitler himself. No one needed to know that the
orders he followed came not from Adolf Hitler but from Mephistopheles von
Sturm.

It was a distasteful necessity, but it often had benefits as well as
drawbacks. It had enabled him to get around the customary military medicals
and hide his gargoyle nature; conversely, the Illuminati forced him to use
it to gain permission to go on missions away from the squadron, usually
assassinations. Now, though, he was about to put one more mark in the "benefit" category by using the Fuhrer Order for the simple pleasure of
putting the doctor in his place.

"It's rather foolish to believe anyone in a place like this," the
doctor said, eyeing Wagner up and down in a manner which made him most
uncomfortable. For a brief irrational moment, he wondered if Sevarius had
guessed that he was not human.

"Believe this." Wagner held out the Fuhrer Order. "This bag
contains a package for you." He glanced furtively around. There was not a
prisoner in sight; they seemed to avoid this area. There were, however, a
handful of guards watching the doctor and the strange officer for the simple
lack of anything better to observe. "It would not be wise to do so in plain
view." The Illuminati were sticklers for secrecy.

"Very well." The doctor leaned back into the room. "Ludwig! Olga!
Clean up in there immediately!" The sounds of scuffling came from the
chamber as Wagner impatiently tapped his hands on the outer wall of the hut.
Finally Sevarius stepped back and allowed Wagner to enter.

The first thing the gargoyle did was sniff the inside of the room,
and what met his nostrils was profoundly disturbing, even more so than the
stained gurney in the center of the room, the filthy scalpels, the odd
liquids that sat in bottles on the counters and occasionally in puddles on
the floor. Wagner could smell chemicals, and under their harshness were the
pungent aromas of blood and sweat, as well as other smells which were more
similar to those of beasts. Worst of all, worse even then the sickly sweet
odour of death, was the scent of fear. The room positively reeked of it.
In front of the closed door at the back of the room, Sevarius' two
assistants glared at him with their arms folded in front of them.

"Let's have it, then," the doctor demanded.

Wagner stepped a few paces forward, trying to disguise his
discomfort, and as he paused, his hearing picked up a low moan coming from
behind the closed door. The gargoyle ignored the doctor's insubordination
and handed over the bag.

As Sevarius slit the paper wrapping of the package with a scalpel,
Wagner asked him, "So, your job is to provide medical care for the guards
and prisoners?"

"The guards prefer to go to the doctor in town," Sevarius said with
a low chuckle, opening the box. A cruel smile slit his lips as he removed
several bottles of liquid from the package.

Wagner's eyes swept the piles of apparatus at the side of the room.
"You seem to be underequipped." His hand reached out to a pair of electric
cables sitting on a nearby table. "These could probably be put to better
use at the motor pool."

"Leave them." The doctor's eyes blazed into his. "You are meddling
with things you know nothing about." His eyes travelled along the
dark-clothed officer's frame once again.

Wagner's mind ran a quick feasibility study, soon coming to the
conclusion that drawing his Walther and shooting the doctor and his
assistants on the spot was a rash and unadvisable course of action. More
was the pity.

Johann was bowing his head over a letter enclosed in the package
with the vials, smiling and nodding. "Very good." He turned to Ludwig and
Olga. "We have instructions to proceed with our latest experiments. There
are people who are very interested in the results." The gargoyle shifted
his stance to get a little closer to Sevarius, and for a few moments he was
able to glance at the words typewritten on the paper. He caught a glimpse
of the words "mind control" and "maximum human endurance levels" before the
doctor folded the letter back up.

Olga and Ludwig both had cold smiles on their faces. "What about
the genetic mutation experiments?" Ludwig asked, directing the question to
Sevarius but staring at Wagner the whole time, grinning cruelly. ~You can't
stop us,~ he seemed to be saying.

"Test subject Gliedschirm, Breva is still experiencing cerebral
bleeding," Olga reported, giving him the same mocking smile. ~You see what
we're doing here, but what are you going to do about it? Officer. Young
arrogant Luftwaffe officer, what can you do?~

Sevarius looked back over his shoulder. "Is that all, Hauptmann?"

"Yes," Wagner found himself saying, and turning around stiffly.
"I'll be going now." His voice was mechanical.

Johann Sevarius chuckled. "I rather expected you might."