“Okay. So here is the plan.” Adolf Hitler unrolled a large, yet delicate map of Europe and Asia. He waved it around so that the group he had assembled could see it, then placed it over the smooth, glossy sheen of the wooden meeting table. The map curled at the edges, but remained unspooled. Hitler slammed his finger down in the middle. “Russia- fuck.” The force of his gesture caused the map to roll up again. The guards posted near the entrance of the room bit their lips to stifle their laughter. Hitler shot them a quick glare before reopening the map. Leaning over it and affixing his palms to the edges, he started again. “Russia.”
“What about Russia?” Joachim von Ribbentrop leaned over the Führer’s shoulder.
“We’re going to invade it.”
A silence rung through the marble hall. Even the Guards in the back by the entrance did not so much as shift their weight. Goebbels was the one who broke the silence, but not before sharing concerned glances with Ribbentrop, Himmler and the others in the cabinet. “All of it?”
“The whole goddamned thing.” Hitler nodded, a twinkle formed. “This winter. I call it Operation: Barbarossa. I came up with that one myself!”
“Are… “ Wilhelm Keitel, the Minister of War, raised a finger. “Are you sure that’s… wise?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Hitler turned with such a force that he could have snapped his neck. Alas, he did not.
“Well, I mean… obviously… because…” Keitel trailed off, rubbing his arm and avoiding eye contact. “You know, right?”
Hitler crossed his arms and leaned his butt against the table, “Edify me.”
“Napoleon did the same thing and he suffered miserably.” Goebbel’s finished the Minister’s thought, since obviously he couldn’t.
“That was over a hundred years ago and Napoleon was a little bitch. Things are different now, Joseph. We have war machines he never even dreamed of!”
“Yeah, but the cold is still pretty bad. I don’t know if it’s a good decision. I mean, we have pacts with the Russians. They kind of trust us. Do you want to ruin that?”
“Listen, Goebbels.” Hitler placed a patronizing hand on Goebbel’s shoulder. “Trust me. I know this is a good plan. I know it for a fact.”
“How could you possibly know that?” Goebbel’s tilted his head.
“Because if nobody comes from the future to stop it, how bad of a decision could it really be?” Hitler smirked, raising his eyebrows repeatedly.
“What?” Bernhard Rust, the Minister of Science, spoke up for the first time. “You mean, like… time travel?”
“Exactly, Bernhard. Thanks for being on the ball. If it’s such a bad idea, someone would probably come back from the future, when the Reich is victorious, and stop me from committing such a terrible blunder. Y’know to make it easier on us.”
“But what if we lose because of this?” Goebbels threw his hands up. “What if there is no future Reich that has a time machine to send people back and help us? It doesn’t make any sense!”
Hitler’s face fell into an expressionless stare. He crossed his arms. “First you don’t believe in the Ark of the Covenant, now you’re slagging on Time Travel? This is what I don’t like about you, Goebbels. No sense of whimsy. And, as you know, the Nazi party is all about whimsy.”
“Whimsy? Are you kidding me? What if time travel isn’t really possible at all?” Goebbels screamed. “Why are we even talking about this? This is lunacy. Can’t any of you see it? Someone back me up on this!”
Goebbel’s left his hands up in the air, pleading the group for some sort of sanity. His eyes searched that of Von Ribbentrop, Göring, Rust, Keitel and the rest. He found no support, only tentative gestures and cowardice. Even Himmler avoided eye contact. The only one who was still staring at Goebbels was Hitler.
“You know what? Enough of this. Guards.” Hitler motioned to the Guards and then to Goebbels. “Take Herr Goebbels to his quarters so he can ruminate over an attitude adjustment.”
The Guards, who had been observing the proceedings from the door, clicked their heels together and advanced on Goebbels. Goebbels, resigned, allowed them to escort him out of the meeting hall. It was only a few steps down the hallway that he shrugged off the guards’ grip, insisting that he knew his way to his quarters, and stormed off, fuming.
After Goebbels turned a corner out of sight, one of the guards readjusted his helmet before looking to the other, “So what now, Jeff?”
“I’m not sure.” The second guard cast a cursory glance around the hallway to ensure no one else was present. Even though they were indeed alone, he shoved his partner into a small side alcove, pushing him up against a large swastika-emblazoned flag. “Should we just let Hitler go through with the Russia thing?”
“That didn’t happen in our timeline. Maybe we changed something by coming back here?”
“Maybe, Rob. Maybe. In any case, this ‘Barbarossa’ business sounds dangerous. Maybe if Hitler goes with them, he’ll be killed too. That way we won’t have to do it. No muss, no fuss.”
“Right, but can we really take that chance? Hitler probably won’t be part of the whole operation. He’s just going to sit tight right here. We’re going to have to kill him anyway. Shoot him in the head or something.”
“Hm. You’re right. But maybe if we let him launch the invasion first, it’ll fail and the Allies will have an easier time overall. Right?”
The uncertainty between the two guards resulted only in silence.
“We probably should have gone further back to before he started killing all the Jews. Would’ve been less complicated.” Jeff posited.
“Yeah, that was clearly a miscalculation. How about if we-“
Rob’s thought was cut short by a blinding flash of light that ripped through the fabric of the universe. As the sight returned to their eyes, Rob and Jeff found a Nazi officer standing before them, with the telltale smoke of time-friction lazily rising off of the coarse fabric of his suit.
“Where is the Führer?” He yelled in rapid German. “I come from a future where the Reich is victorious. I need to warn him of the disastrous Operation Barbarossa! Y’know, to make it easier on us.”
Rob looked to Jeff and shrugged before pulling out his pistol and putting a bullet in the officer’s head.
“Any idea what he said?” Jeff asked.
“Nope. He was talking too fast. I heard ‘Führer’ and ‘Barbarossa’. That was good enough for me.” Rob started to bend down. “I’ll grab his legs, you get his arms and head.”
“I always get his arms and head.” Jeff whined, but still complied.
The two shuffled their way out of the alcove and down the still empty hall, the corpse hanging limp and heavy between them.
“Which way to the closet where we keep the corpses?” Rob asked. “Left or right?”
“Right.” Jeff gestured with his chin.
Rob and Jeff continued their awkward shuffle.
“We probably should’ve learned a little more German before coming here.”