CHAPTER 05: VOYAGE | PROJECT CHRONOS

At that very instant I realised I’ve disappeared from 1970 and that my most ambitious project of all time has become a success.

I look around as I traverse through the time-space continuum. At first, it was pitch black, which was then replaced by something which looked like a vortex. It felt like the vortex was guiding the machine towards the destination. Then came the exciting part. I could see and hear various images surrounding the ship as I moved forward.

The US nuking Japan bringing an end to World War II

Some government officials arguing with me at my lab regarding Chronos

Someone calling me General Hoffman

The Axis Powers winning the World War II instead of the Allies

I realised that these may be various instances or possibilities based on the different vital decisions made throughout history, but before I could think more about this, I feel a strong gush of air entering through the wormhole. A blinding light shone at the end of the wormhole. The next second I was in 1938.

I land at the exact place which I had entered into the machine. I was mighty impressed by this.

I had chosen to land at Anzinger Forst because it was the only isolated and hilly region near Munich – which is where I have to go. A good thirty kilometres separated both these places. I definitely have to hire a cab to reach there. But I had a lot of time at hand – eight hours to be precise – before the event.

Reaching a final decision was stressful and emotionally overloading. But I finally took charge of the situation and decided to use this opportunity to do good for humanity as a whole, instead of just using it for a selfish reason.

Assassinating the greatest dictator of all time instead of just saving my parents.

And how will I do that?

Well, the books helped me a lot in the planning process. I took a look at the assassination attempts on Hitler as mentioned in ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’. Six of them stood out from the rest.

1921: The Munich Beer Hall Melee

1938: Maurice Bavaud’s Plot

1939: Georg Elser’s Beer Hall Bomb

1943: Henning von Tresckow’s Brandy Bomb

1943: Rudolf von Gertsdorff’s Suicide Mission

1944: The July Plot

The only common factor between all these attempts is that they failed in the end.

But I know why it failed.

What if I take advantage of this fact and change the outcome of one of them – by my own hands?

Bombs weren’t an option for me. I could’ve easily arranged one from my time and used it here. But Hannah and Raymond would eventually find it out and will understand my plans before takeoff, and might result in resistance. Another reason being I don’t want to tamper with the timeline by using a bomb from the 1970’s which is thirty years ahead of its time in 1938. I’m not sure if I can manage to get a bomb here since it’d take a lot of contacts and will draw suspicion. A risk I’d never even consider. And anyway, how would you bomb Hitler at his public event without hurting other people? Bypassing the security would be a near-impossible feat to achieve.

Out of all these attempts, I felt the 1938 Maurice Bavaud plot was the most interesting one due to two reasons. One – that this particular event was a public rally organised every year in Munich to commemorate the anniversary of the now infamous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 – a failed coup that won Hitler national attention and a multi-year jail sentence. So security won’t be an issue as such. The second reason why I felt this attempt was interesting because if wanted, the assassinator – Maurice Bavaud – could’ve actually murdered the dictator, but he chose not to the last moment, unlike the other attempts wherein lady luck helped Hitler miss his appointment with death every time.

Bavaud was a Swiss theology student who was convinced that the so-called ‘Führer’ was a threat to the Catholic Church and an “incarnation of Satan”. He considered it his spiritual duty to gun him down. He finally got his chance on November 9 1938, which is today, when Hitler and other Nazi leaders marched through Munich to celebrate the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch. Bavaud took a seat in a grandstand along the parade route and waited until Hitler approached. He had his Schmeisser 6.35 mm .25 ACP semi-automatic pistol tucked into his pocket, but before he could shoot, the swooning, swastika-waving crowd raised their arms in a Nazi salute and blocked his view. Also, Hitler turned out to be marching in the company of other Nazi leaders whom Bavaud did not want to injure. So he reluctantly gave up his hunt and was later arrested as he tried to stow away on a train out of Germany. When the Gestapo – the secret police – found his gun and maps, he confessed under interrogation to plotting to kill Hitler. In May 1941, he was executed by guillotine in Berlin’s Plötzensee Prison.

If he hadn’t cared and went ahead to shoot Hitler, he could’ve changed the course of history. But sadly, it was not destined to be. But this time I’ll ensure that Bavaud will rewrite history. Even if he hesitates to do so, I’ll make the work easier for him. I will make sure that this time thousands of people are saved from the atrocities of a tyrant.


I get out of the machine and change my clothes. A lot of time went in finding clothes which were worn in this particular time period. We had managed to get them on time when we did the first trial after adding the time controls – where I aimed to travel to 1940, which eventually failed. These clothes finally find its purpose today.

I take out the camouflage sheets which will hide the machine and will keep it away from prying eyes if any. Add to it some bushes and shrubs and Chronos is well hidden. I look at my watch which was still stuck in 1970 time. I calibrate it to 1938 time. 03:10 AM.

I had to control the urge of exploring the city during this time because doing so during a war-prone period would have its own risks and consequences. I decide to get back in and take a nap for three hours.


05 hours to go:

The alarm from my wristwatch wakes me up. I get out of Chronos and look around. Not a single person around as expected. After making sure that the machine is well hidden, I sneak out of Anzinger Forst. Since I parked it at the core of the forest, it took me a good half an hour of downhill trekking to reach the base.

As planned, I go to Cafe Schwaiger which was located a few metres away from the base. I was so well prepared that I even had decided on an alias in case someone asks me. Felix Blank.

I order a regular cappuccino as I sit there nonchalantly, trying to blend in with the few people who sat around. I had to mentally remind myself that I was in 1938 and I have to behave like them. But doing so only put more pressure on me to act fake. This increased my fear of being caught.

Taking sips from my cup and basking in the morning sun rays, I mentally review my plan again for any loopholes. I imagine myself doing the same, and the very thought of gunning down Hitler sends a chill down my spine. A single mistake and everything will be lost. I cannot let that happen. I have to be very sure of not leaving a stone unturned in my attempts. This is the final stage and this can benefit humanity for several years to come. The bloodshed will decrease, and the war will finish sooner. Yes, I have to do this. There is no other way.


04 hours to go:

I pay a visit to the Stadt Ebersberg Waldmuseum which is located about twenty minutes from Cafe Schwaiger. I expected it to be a regular museum, but it turned out to be much more than that. It resembled a mini sanctuary of sorts. The place had a strange sense of calmness and peaceful vibes. The location was silent, and I could hear the sound of birds and crickets around me. I took a quick tour of the place, stopping for a few seconds once in a while to appreciate the scenery. Lush green grasses and shrubs accompanied by a watch tower at the far end on the museum made it all worthwhile. The main highlight though was seeing a wooden log – which is said to be around 1200 years old – under the microscope.

Next on, I hop on to the adjacent Kirchseeon Zorneding library which is one of the oldest libraries in Germany. The architecture was mesmerising. Although the place is a bit small, it housed over 26,000 books ranging from fiction to nonfiction, from children books to even magazines. The staff was super courteous and kind in their approach. I didn’t realise that I spent an hour there, glued to books. It was time I bid adieu and head towards Munich.


02 hours to go:

With just two hours to go for the event, I take a cab to Munich. I was hooked to the window the entire journey, trying to grasp the culture and lifestyle of 1938, understanding the behaviour of people and lifestyle so that I avoid looking like an outcast. I reach there in an hour via the A94 and Einsteinstraße route. The fact that the driver was looking continuously at me made me a bit nervous. I paid him and started moving towards the venue.


01 hour to go:

Once I reach Munich, I put on my glasses and a hat to keep my identity concealed. Next, I make a move towards the event venue. The streets were crowded with people, all of them abuzz about the yearly parade. The SS Party volunteers made sure that the event was well promoted. The streets were decorated with party flags – the swastika. Hoardings of Hitler popped up at every turn. A ten-minute walk and I reach Höglwörther – Gottfried Street intersection – the exact place where Maurice failed in his attempt.

I had to be very sure I locate Maurice because then only I can assassinate Hitler in a way that it poses Maurice as guilty. I had an inkling of how he looked, thanks to the rough sketches in the book. After twenty minutes of scanning through the crowd, I finally find him right in the middle of a large group of people a few yards away from the road. His position made sure he can directly aim at Hitler from a close range. Also, chances of Hitler missing the bullet from that distance seemed negligible. Sad that he didn’t consider the factors that made him abort his mission in the final few seconds. I go near him and notice his behaviour. He was nervous but focussed looking at the way he stood still, his eyes transfixed on the road, unaffected by all the crowd and the din surrounding him. The efforts and the guts displayed by this 25-year-old guy was commendable. I can imagine all the hours he spent on planning and the stuff he sacrificed to reach here – to achieve his aim of eliminating the dictator for the prosperity of humankind. Sad that he failed and eventually got guillotined, confessing his motives.

I proceed with my plan. I stand a few metres away from Maurice and gauge the people around me. Most of them looked like SS party supporters, ready with flags and cutouts of Hitler, enthusiastic about the event.

Manipulating people with words is a tough task.

But it becomes easy if you choose your target wisely.

I lightly pat on the shoulder of a young man who had a Hitler mask in his hand, mostly in his late twenties. He looked confused.

“Listen to me carefully young man. Be very careful.”, I got closer to him and almost whisper in his ears.

“What?”, he was curious now.

“I’m from the Fuhrer’s security team, and there are many more of us in this crowd. We are recruited specially to look for any threats to his life from the crowd since this is a public rally.”

“So?”

“You see him? That man in a brown overcoat and glass rim spectacles?”, I point towards Bavaud.

“Yes, I do see him.”

“We have been tipped by our intelligence sources that he has some ulterior motives and can make an attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer.”

“Oh..”, I can already see the expression of anguish hitting him.

“Keep an eye on him. Okay?”

He nodded nervously.

“I’ll be roaming around, watching him closely. Pass on this info around.”

“Sure Sir.”

“Heil Hitler.”

“Heil Hitler.”

I repeat this a few times with different people, and they believed me because of the way I was dressed and how I conversed with them. In a matter of ten minutes, I manage to divert the attention of these people from the road to the man in the brown overcoat – Maurice Bavaud.


15 minutes to go:

Now that I have set a distraction, it was time for me to get into position. Higher ground is always an advantage in such scenarios. Also, there must be no one besides me or else I will get caught quickly. The Maurice distraction plan won’t make any sense then. Another thing to keep notice of was the range of my pistol. I can’t be that far away from my target.

Altitude. Crowd. Range.

The fact that I had just fifteen minutes in hand made me a tad nervous. I have to think of something, fast. I look around in search of an appropriate place to settle in, only in vain. That’s when I notice the building right behind me. It was a three-storeyed bungalow and residents of the apartment enjoyed the view from the comfort of their homes. But I noticed an opportunity when I realised that only the second and the third-floor windows were occupied by people.

What about the first floor?

Two possibilities:

1 – The first floor is empty.

2 – The person occupying the room doesn’t give a damn about the proceedings which seems highly unlikely.

I decided to try my luck out and go towards the bungalow.

Taking the stairs, I reach the door on the first floor.

Locked.

I mentally congratulate myself and take out my pistol. The next moment I knock out the lock with the base of the gun and barge open the door. Once inside, I check the insides of room for any signs of life. By the look of it, I was sure the place was abandoned for months at least. I peek through the window to have a look at the crowd below. I could easily spot Maurice among the group. I practised aiming towards the road.

Definitely within range.

The next thing that’d determine how things go on from here is patience. The next few minutes would be the most decisive ones of my life.


11:17 AM:

Thirty minutes on the window and my eyes were solely focussed on Maurice and how he slowly changed positions as he felt discomfort by the looks of the people surrounding him. He realised that the moment is near and the growing tension was visible on his face.

I could see a battalion of horses coming from a distance, the sound of trumpets filling the air, the soldiers slowly marching towards my direction. A horde of cars following the troop.

I put on the suppressor on my pistol and ready myself for the right moment. I knew there’d be just one chance. Missing it would be fatal. Taking deep breaths, I remind myself to be calm.


11:23 AM:

The parade reaches in front of the apartment. I notice Maurice stepping towards the road to get a more precise aim. Hitler and his generals stood on the open jeep, waving at the crowd. Seeing the dictator alive made me writhe in anger. But this isn’t the time to think or get agitated. It’s time to act.

It’s time to wipe him off from the face of the earth.

Maurice drew out his weapon and aimed at Hitler. But as expected, the waving hands and the flags from the crowd didn’t allow him to shoot.

The next second, I aim and fire.

Headshot.

Instant kill.

The suppressor made sure I didn’t give out my location. The crowd circled towards a helpless Maurice who was caught in action, with a gun pointed towards the now dead dictator. They beat him black and blue. But I didn’t feel anything for him. This might be because he sacrificed his life for the greater good. He saw his aim being completed, although it wasn’t with his own hands. The way he stood in the midst of the crowd said it all. It was a suicide mission. And anyway, I cut him a better deal. This is better than serving two years in prison and being guillotined in the end.

My plan worked fine. My next aim was to reach 1970 without any further delay. I walk out of the room as if nothing has happened. Next, I take a cab towards Anzinger Forst. The tension in the air was visible. I can already feel the onset of a substantial nationwide riot.

This fifty-minute journey would definitely be the tensest one in my life till date.

I pay off the driver and instantly start my trek towards the summit.

Half an hour later, I reach Chronos.

Sound. Safe.

The camouflage sheets and the shrubs had done their work of keeping the machine away from any onlookers. I enter inside and punch down the coordinates and time for Paris, 1970.

The next moment I see those visuals again. I was finally content with the successful completion of my mission. I have killed Hitler. My parents will be safe now. Very soon I’ll reunite with them. How will they react on seeing me? I am sure they’ll be happy to see their son as an established scientist. But before I could think more about them, I land in 1970 at the exact same spot from where I left.

But the place looked desolate. It resembled a warehouse rather than a lab. Confused, I go upstairs.

No one.

“Hannah! Where are you?”, I yell.

No response.

“Raymond? Are you there?”

Again greeted by a deafening silence.

I take the stairs to the first floor to see my library missing. Instead, I see a room at the far end of the corridor. The entire storey had no lighting whatsoever and the light emanating from the room was the only light.

Where am I?

I enter the room to get the shock of my life.

I see a crippled version of my Mom lying on the bed.

Seeing her after so many years made me tear up in joy. But the fact that she was crippled took away all the happiness in an instant.

“Mom?”

No response.

“Mom, can you hear me?”

She laid still with no sign of movement. My worst fears came true.

She’s in a coma.

I sit beside her, gently caressing her head, still confused by the ongoings.

That’s when I see a photo of my Dad on the adjacent table.

His name was engraved at the bottom.

Henry Thomas Bernard.

1901-1942

That rendered me speechless. I expected my parents to be alright after all this, and here I’m. A crippled Mom and a dead Dad.

Besides the photo was today’s newspaper titled Völkischer Beobachter, but I had never seen such a paper before.

The headlines said: TIME FOR ASIA

After conquering Europe, Sir Alfred Carstens has set his eyes on Asia; announced war on China.

A black and white photo of Raymond sitting on a throne below the headline was the final blow I needed.

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