Author: Michael Panush PM
In the Great Depression, 12-year-old Hubert Huxley's family has moved to the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. But it soon becomes apparent that Arkham is a haven for flesh-hungry monsters, eldritch horrors, and the deranged cults intent of releasing them.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Horror - Chapters: 21 - Words: 166,871 - Reviews: 88 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 03-30-10 - Published: 09-09-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2718732
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Crystal Ball
Hubert Huxley stood in the overgrown garden before the Carters' house, stepping restlessly from one foot to another. His buster browns crunched in the melting snow and dead flowers of the unkempt garden. Hubert looked at the closed door, with its fading paint, rusting hinges, and cracked wood. His face was red and his hands itched, so he rubbed them and felt like his insides were going to explode.
"It won't be that bad," he whispered to himself. "I mean, you stared down Cthulhu, didn't you? And you know Eliza. You're good friends with Eliza. And she won't mind much either. It's not like it's going to end the world if she says no." But he knew otherwise. He felt something pressing against his trouser leg, and looked down to see his black cat, Cyprian, rubbing against him.
Cyprian looked up at Hubert and purred. The boy knelt down and picked up the cat, holding him close to his vest, collared shirt and tie. He scratched behind the cat's ears. "Something's up?" he asked Cyprian. "I know you know a lot more about this weird business than I do, and I bet you think something's up." The cat had been following him around ever since he returned from Cuba, and from the twitch of Cyprian's tail, to the glow of Cyprian's eyes, Hubert knew the cat feared that something bad was going to happen. Hubert set Cyprian down. "Well, waiting around isn't going to make it any easier," he said. He walked down the dusty lane to the door and knocked three times.
The door creaked open after the third knock, and the cadaverous face of Randolph Carter looked down at Hubert like the boy was some strange animal that had fallen from the sky. "Oh," Mr. Carter said. "You've come to speak with Eliza, I suspect?" Carter wore only his robe and rumpled pajamas.
"Y-yes, sir," Hubert said, clapsing his hands behind his back. "If she's not busy, that is."
"She was merely perusing the modern filth which you young people of today refer to as 'magazines,'" Carter said. "She'll be out presently." He disappeared into the darkness of the doorway. Hubert stood on the porch and waited. Cyprian crouched down at Hubert's feet and mewed plaintively, like he could sense Hubert's nervousness.
Then, Hubert heard light footfalls in the hallway. Eliza Carter stepped out, smoothing her worn earth-colored sweater, and brushing her dark hair out of her eyes. "Oh, hello, Hubert," she said. "What trouble is it this time? Deep Ones massing along the banks of the Miskatonic? Ancient corpses of long dead wizards stirring in their tombs?"
"N-no," Hubert said. "Not really."
"Oh." Eliza put her hands on her waist. She was obviously impatient. "Well, why did you come calling, then? Need help with some homework?"
"N-no," Hubert repeated. "It's about the school dance, actually."
"Oh?" Eliza asked. "The Crystal Ball? That odious Arkham Academy tradition? I'm looking forward to missing it, Hubert. Instead of spending my time cavorting about the dance floor like some vacuous wooden-headed society girl, I'll be back here, doing something that matters."
"Really?" Hubert asked. He lowered his eyes. "Well, that's too bad, I think. You see, I was, well, I was thinking about…" He trailed off, feeling his tongue turn into a useless bar of lead in his mouth.
"Thinking about what?" Eliza asked sharply.
"Well, thinking about asking you to the Crystal Ball," Hubert said.
Eliza looked at him and slowly smiled. "Really?" she asked. "You'd want to go to that?"
"Well, I think it might be fun," Hubert said. "I never really went to one in New York, and Zacharias and Bethany are going to be there, and I thought we could go too." He couldn't meet her gaze and felt like hot coals had been shoved into his cheeks. "But if you don't want to—"
"No," Eliza said. "No, we'll go together." She reached out and gently patted his shoulder. "Thank you, Hubert. I'll look forward to it."
"Really?" Hubert asked. "Because, if you don't want to, don't think you have to do it on my account, or anything, and I'll be only too happy to—"
"Hubert," Eliza said. "Shut up. We'll go to the dance together and share whatever misery may come of it."
"Oh," Hubert said, smiling. "Well, I'll see you tonight, then. Bethany will pick us up in her Brewster and we'll go together."
"I'll look forward to it," Eliza said. "Good afternoon, now."
"Yes," Hubert agreed. He waved goodbye and walked away from the Carter house, lighter than air. Cyprian still prowled about his feet, wary of some unseen danger, but Hubert couldn't care less. He was going to the dance with the most capable, intelligent, and beautiful girl he knew and he was happy. Then he realized something else – he was going to have to dance with her. He was going to have to dress up and spend an entire evening at his school, dancing with Eliza Carter. His nervousness returned, and he went home at a run.
Hubert spent the entire remainder of the day getting ready for the Crystal Ball. His mother fussed over him, combing his hair, scraping dirt from his face, and generally making him feel much worse. Then he pulled on a dark vest and evening jacket, and his father knelt down and fixed his bowtie just as the sun was going down over the round hills of witch-haunted Arkham. Cyprian did not leave Hubert's side, but stood resolute at the door, though Hubert didn't pay the cat much attention.
"How should I act?" Hubert asked his father. "I mean, should it be just like we are normally, or should I try and be more polite? Should I call her 'Miss Carter,' maybe?"
Isaac Huxley shook his head and stroked his moustache. "You'll figure it out, son," he said. "I trust you to do that."
Before Hubert could ask another question, the honk of an ornate car horn came from outside. Hubert and Cyprian both raised their heads and ran for the door. Cyprian got their first in his feline bounds, but Hubert opened the door and stepped outside. The golden body of Bethany Higgins' Brewster Automobile was on the curve outside, Bethany waving a dainty hand through the window.
"I'll be right there!" Hubert cried. He looked back at his parents and gave them a quick smile, then stepped outside. Cyprian followed him, loping along the grass. Hubert paused and looked at the cat. "I'm sorry, Cyprian," he said. "But you really can't come to the dance. That would be weird."
Cyprian was not dissuaded, but followed Hubert all the way to the polished door of the Brewster, and then sat on the curb as Hubert got inside. Bethany Higgins, resplendent in a white ruffled gown and silver tiara sat opposite Hubert. Next to her was Zacharias Gillman, who did not have the same kind of formal tuxedo that Hubert had. He wore a rumpled flannel suit over suspenders and a tie too big for him.
When he saw Hubert looking at his clothes, he puffed up his wide cheeks and looked embarrassed. "Only thing my old man had, Hubert," he said. "It's not all nice and fancy like yours. And Bethany looks so swell tonight. I feel awful…"
"Nonsense," Bethany said, patting Zacharias's round, slightly webbed hands. "Nobody even looks at the male half of the couple anyway." She smiled at Hubert. "And you do look very nice, Hubert. My compliments to your tailor."
"Uh, thanks," Hubert said.
"Take us to the Carter residence please, and then the academy," Bethany commanded.
Jermyn, her square-shouldered brick of a driver, started the auto. "Miss Bethany," came his characteristic reply. The automobile drove down the wide lanes, heading deeper into the evening fog. The snow was in patches on the ground, the white melting away to splotches of dark earth.
Bethany looked out the tinted windows. "Oh, is that your cat?" she asked. "He seems quite keen to follow us."
They all looked out the rear window and saw Cyprian bounding after the Brewster, rapidly being left behind by the fast-moving automobile. Cyprian was like a speeding black shadow, leaping lithely from yard to yard, but still slowly shrinking from view.
"Cyprian's been acting kind of weird all week," Hubert said. "He was always following me around, and guarding me, like he's worried something will happen." He shrugged. "But it can't be important, right? I mean, cats act weird all the time. And he'll probably give up and walk back to my house. My mother and father will let him in."
"Sounds fine," Zacharias said. "Actually, I'm a little worried about Waldo. You seen him around at all?"
Hubert and Bethany shook their heads. Waldo spent most of his free time wandering around the hills of Arkham, Dunnwich or Kingsport, getting himself into trouble or staying with Boru the Bold. He often visited them in their homes, but he hadn't arrived at all the past week.
"Do you think he's sad about not going to the dance?" Hubert asked. "Me and you, we both have someone to go with, but Waldo doesn't really have anybody."
"Nah, it ain't that," Zacharias said. "I figure he don't care one way or another for this dance. His family, the Whateleys, they're rarely even seen in town, let alone at a fancy shindig like this. I'm worried he got himself into some real trouble, and he can't get to us to ask for help." Zacharias shrugged. "But he has Boru looking out for him, so I guess he can't be in too much danger."
"That's right," Bethany agreed. "We can discuss it later. But I think we should focus on merriment for this evening." She looked out the window again. "Ah. We're here. Honk the horn, will you, Jermyn?"
"Miss Bethany," Jermyn rumbled and honked the horn. Hubert looked outside at the lightless porch of the decrepit house, drumming his hands on his knees and wondering if Eliza would arrive. Then the door opened and she stepped out. She walked carefully over the unkempt garden and to the car, and Hubert felt his heart beat all the faster when he saw her.
She wore a light blue dress and a matching silk shawl, and her hair was done up to reveal her shining eyes, and bright face, a white rose perched over left ear. She had silver earrings and carried a round purse under her arm. Hubert opened the door for her and she sat next to him. For a few seconds, Hubert couldn't say anything.
"Well?" Eliza asked, staring at Bethany. "It's my mother's, you know. Best I could do. I'm sure you wealthy, stuck-up types have a million gowns at your fingertips, but we normal people have to make do."
"You look wonderful," Bethany admitted. "I was trying to think of some criticism, but I have none."
Hubert was still flustered. "You're so beautiful," he managed to say. "Like, really, really beautiful. More beautiful than all the beautiful things I can think of."
Eliza smiled. "Why, thank you, Hubert. You look quite beautiful, er, handsome, yourself." She smiled nervously, and her pale face went flushed. Hubert had a little idea, a faint notion somewhere in the back of his mind, that may be Eliza Carter was a nervous as he was. He smiled back at her, and the automobile sped off towards Arkham Academy.
Jermyn made the journey down the darkened streets quickly, and slid into a parking place before the imposing, brick slab of Arkham's major school. The school was aglow with soft lights from the main auditorium, and signs and tinsel bedecked the entrance. Jermyn opened the door for the children and watched them leaving. He let out a little cough as Bethany passed and waved.
"Miss Bethany," he said, sounding like he was stifling a sob.
Bethany paused to give him a quick hug. "There, there, Jermyn," she said. "It's just a silly little dance. I'm not all grown up just yet." She pulled away and waved back to him as they walked down to the school entrance. It was strange to be in Arkham without the crowds, or the teacher, or even book bags. Hubert saw some of his classmates, all heading to the auditorium, and they waved and exchanged compliments on their outfits. It was even more odd to see his friends dressed so well, and without the usual dull disinterest that filled them during the school day.
The auditorium was full of light, with the seats and bleachers folded away to show a large flat floor. Crystal ornaments rested on tables laden with punch bowls and appetizers, and a negro band was playing a low tune in the corner. A few couples were already uneasily weaving around the dance floor. Hubert stood with his friends and scanned the room. He saw no sign of Waldo.
"So," he said, staring at Eliza. "What, um, what do we do now?"
"I guess we should dance," Eliza replied. Hubert was sure she sounded unsure of herself, something that he had rarely heard before. They stepped forward and he took her hand. It was very cold, and he tried his best to move his feet in time with the music. They did a waltz, like his mother had taught him, and he wasn't surprised to see that Eliza knew all the proper steps and was much better than him.
"Wow," he said, wincing as he stepped on Eliza's foot and quickly pulled back. "You're really good at this."
"I found a guide to ballroom dancing in my father's library," Eliza said, carefully guiding Hubert's arm. "It was published in 1841, so my father tolerates its presence." They waltzed across the length of the dance floor, moving past the other couples in long strides. They passed Zacharias and Bethany, who were jitterbugging as best they could to the music. Zacharias paused his dancing to give Hubert a wave.
When they had reached the other side of the auditorium, Hubert looked over to the refreshments table. "Would you like some punch?" he asked, waving to the cut glass bowl. "I could grab us some, and then we could take a little break and try again. This time, I'll try not to step on your foot or anything."
"That would be lovely," Eliza agreed, letting Hubert go and stepping out of the dance floor.
Hubert walked to the punch bowl and busied himself with the ladle and a pair of paper cups. He looked up and saw Mr. Armitage and Dr. East, two of his favorite teachers, standing behind the table, sipping punch and idly watching the dancing children and tapping their feet in time to the band. Dr. East was dressed in his usual ragged lab coat, and his pale blue eyes twinkled madly. Mr. Armitage wore his typical dark suit and vest, and his leg seemed mostly healed, with only a little telltale stiffness.
They looked down at Hubert and the boy nodded to them. "Hello," he said, picking up both cups of punch. "Are you guys here for the dance?"
"We're chaperones, actually," Dr. East said. "I don't really mind it. There is something so wonderful about watching the human body in motion. It is a perfect machine in so many ways, and though it is endlessly fascinating to seeing the collapse and decay of that machinery, seeing it engaged in joyous activity is equally stimulating. Don't you agree, young Master Huxley?"
"Um, I guess so," Hubert agreed. "How are you, Mr. Armitage?"
His history teacher grinned. "Pretty decent, Hubert. How'd you like your trip to Cuba?"
"Oh, it was great!" Hubert said with a smile. "We saw some of the nightclubs in Havana, and we went to the beach, and we actually found some cursed pirate treasure." He lowered his voice and drew a little closer to Mr. Armitage. "So, um, do you have the Fulcrum stuff safely stored?"
"It's in my office, actually," Mr. Armitage said. "The staff, the circle and the two pyramids are kept right in there."
"What?" Hubert asked. "In your office? But, sir, wouldn't they be safer in Miskatonic University, with your brother?"
"Well, we've already seen that's not the case," Mr. Armitage explained. "You remember, Colonel Junzt, that damnable Nazi stooge, found out where the first pyramid was and busted in to take it. If we put them back there, that's the first place the Third Reich's agents would look. But they won't expect them to be in the office of a lowly teacher at Arkham Academy."
Hubert considered this. It seemed to make a lot of sense, but there was something else that was nagging at him. He remembered Brown Jenkin, that horrible, rodent fiend that had accompanied the Nazis in the Dreamlands and served as their agent. The little rat-creature served some other power, and Hubert wondered if this other power could find the Fulcrum with ease.
He shook the notion from his mind. "Well, I'll see you around, Mr. Armitage," he said. "Thank you."
"Take care, Hubert," Mr. Armitage agreed.
Hubert walked back to Eliza and handed her a cup of punch. She thanked him and they both drank together. Hubert quickly told her what he had learned. "So, Mr. Armitage has all the pieces of the Fulcrum here, at the school. He thinks it's a good hiding place, at least until we can figure out how to deal with them, and how they work."
Eliza shrugged. "You don't think so?" She sipped her punch.
"I don't know." Hubert shook his head. "It just seems like Brown Jenkin is working for someone else, someone really familiar to me, but I don't who it is, and I think he has a lot of power, and maybe he can find out where we've hidden the Fulcrum."
"He or she," Eliza corrected him.
"Right. He or she." For some reason, those words stirred something in Hubert's mind. He felt his mind closing on the right name, and it was just on the tip of his tongue when the doors exploded inwards. Hubert grabbed Eliza and pulled her back, closing his eyes as smoke filled the room. He felt his heart madly inside of him, and panic run in cold streams down his back. "Eliza?" he asked, as they both came to their feet. "You're okay?"
"I'm fine, Hubert and—" Eliza looked into the smoke. She covered her mouth. "Oh god," she whispered. "Oh god, no."
Hubert turned and saw a dozen men in dark leather uniforms and round helmets framed in the door, swastikas emblazoned on their armbands and medals. They carried submachine guns, pistols and rifles, and parted to allow a single man past them. This was Colonel Heinrich Junzt, one of Hitler's top SS assassins. He folded his gloved hands as he looked over the Arkham Academy students, and his eyes settled on Hubert.
"Ah," he said. "We meet again." His permanent sneer seemed to deepen as he strolled forward, his boots clicking on the polished wooden floor. "Now, I suppose you know why I and my associates have arrived, yes?"
"The Fulcrum," Eliza whispered.
"Precisely, Miss Carter." Junzt put a gloved hand on her shoulder. "Let's have its location, and then we will discuss possibilities of your survival."
"You take your hands off of her!" Hubert shouted, running towards Junzt. The Nazi colonel grabbed his shoulder and struck him across the face, knocking Hubert to the ground. The boy felt his spectacles fall from his nose, as blood slid from his nostrils in sluggish streams. Junzt raised his boot to kick Hubert, when Mr. Armitage stepped forward.
"There's no need for this kind of—" Armitage started, but Junzt drew a luger and fired. Armitage groaned and toppled backwards. Hubert couldn't see where he was hurt. Some of the children screamed, and a few tried to run, but the German infantry had blocked the exits. Junzt looked back down at Hubert. "One of you must know the location of the Fulcrum," he said. "So I only need one alive. It's simple mathematics, is it not?"
Eliza knelt down and held Hubert. He felt her cool hands on his face, drawing a handkerchief and wiping away some of the blood. "Don't worry," she told him. "We'll get through this."
Colonel Junzt continued. "Now, Hubert Huxley, I see no reason why you should not be the first victim. I will torture you to death until someone tells me where the Fulcrum is. This is no empty threat, as I am sure you know." He kept his voice even, and looked up to scan the room, looking at Dr. East and then Zacharias, Bethany and the other students. "But then again, I do not think I will torture you myself. There is another who shall have that honor, and I believe he may have some frustration due to the recent loss of his hand."
Hubert looked at the crowd of Nazis and saw Bruno, known as Bruno the Brute, step forward. Bruno was a square piece of muscle shoved into an SS uniform, with a constant smile and dull, laughing eyes. He raised one hand, and Hubert saw that the flesh was gone, lost in a ghoul's belly, and replaced with a jointed, metal claw. He clanked the claw's two broad fingers together and quickly walked over to Hubert.
"Jawohl," Bruno said, grabbing Hubert's collar and lifting him up. He smiled at Hubert. "Little bug," he said. "Little Jewish bug. I will crush you." The jointed claw opened, letting Hubert fall back to the ground. Hubert looked up and saw the cup of punch, still with a little left.
"Go to Hell, stupid Nazi!" Hubert shouted. He grabbed the cup and splashed it in Bruno's face. Bruno howled in rage and swung his metal hand with full force towards Hubert. The boy tried to duck low, to let the claw pass harmlessly over his head, but he was too slow. It grazed him badly, and he toppled backwards onto the floor. Lights burned behind his eyes, and he passed out in seconds.
When his vision cleared, he saw that he was in a dark, empty field of dead grass, looking at an altar of ancient, rune-covered stone. The wind howled like a mad animal, and Hubert felt sick to his stomach, fear burning every inch of his brain. He turned around, but saw only darkness. There were not even stars in the sky.
"Hello?" he asked. "Is anyone there?"
"The Mistress is always there!" came the awful, tittering voice of Brown Jenkin. Hubert looked back to the stone altar and saw the strange rat creature sitting there, perched on a human skull. Those wretched, pink clawed hands tapped on the gray bone of the skull and that terribly human face looked at Hubert and grinned fiendishly.
"You stupid rat!" Hubert shouted. "Put me back in the academy!" He ran towards the altar, but no matter how much his feet ran over the dead grass of the fallow field, he could not draw any closer. Brown Jenkin stood at the altar and laughed madly. "What have you done to me? Have you trapped me here? What's going on?"
"Oh, I didn't do anything!" Brown Jenkin replied. "And neither did the mistress. We just waited until you took a nasty bump on the head, and hopped right into your mind. Maybe we'll leave. Maybe not."
Hubert lunged forward in a desperate attempt to get his hands on Brown Jenkin. He tripped and fell forward, landing in the tall, dead grass. He recoiled as something sharp jabbed into his leg. Hubert looked down and saw bones, some the tiny bones of rodents and other animals, and some the terribly small remains of human infants, lay scattered about the field like grotesque confetti.
"Who is the mistress?" Hubert asked, coming to his feet and looking at Brown Jenkin. "And where is she?"
"Where?" Jenkin asked. "Oh, you foolish little boy. She's here in Arkham. She never left."
A cold hand touched Hubert's neck and withered lips whispered in his ears. "They burned me," she whispered in a voice like a wind rustling through cobwebs. "And like Christ before me, though I was held on the stake, I did not die. And I will rise again, throughout Arkham's history, like a wound that can never heal."
Hubert spun around. He saw an old woman, bent double and staring up at him with sad, black eyes lost in a sea of wrinkles. Her steal hair spilled out from behind a torn bonnet, and her black dress reminded Hubert of pilgrims and the witch trials. Her gnarled hands were like claws, clasped around her chest like they were trying to squeeze themselves to pieces. Her nose was hooked.
Instantly, Hubert knew who she was, and where he had heard the name of Brown Jenkin before. It was in conjunction with Keziah Mason, a woman who was burned in Arkham during the height of the witch-hunting craze in the 1690s. Brown Jenkin was the creature known as her familiar, and together they had supposedly trafficked with the devil and dark spirits, participated in arcane rites in the strange ruins in the hills, and gained forbidden knowledge of unknown angles and infernal mathematics.
Hubert recoiled from Keziah Mason, and stepped backwards. Now he was near the altar, and nearly tumbled onto the skull and Brown Jenkin. "You've been helping the Nazis!" he cried. "You've been telling Colonel Junzt where to find the pieces of the Fulcrum! And you tried to have us killed in the Dreamlands!"
Keziah Mason shrugged her withered shoulders. "I did not walk with the Black Man and sign my name in his book," she said. "I was a healer, an old woman who lived alone and never caused harm, nor trouble. I learned from the passerby, and knew the true nature of the world, and even called up spirits to ease my loneliness, but I never caused any harm." She bowed her head sadly. "But the people of Arkham had a poor harvest, and they said it was my witchcraft what had caused it. And because of that they dragged me into town and burned me alive."
"Oh…" Hubert said. "I'm sorry. That's really bad. But there's no reason to work with Nazis! They're going to plunge the whole world in war!"
"They are tools, means to an end. They mean less to me than Brown Jenkin." Mason walked to the altar and drew out a long steel dagger, with a jeweled hilt and a serrated blade. She grabbed Hubert's neck and pulled him onto the altar. Brown Jenkin leapt about, tittering madly. "The world will pay, for what was done to me. I will bring the Fulcrum to the appointed place, at the bottom of the world, and I will shake the old gods in their tombs, and dead or alive, they will rise and bring fire and smoke onto the earth."
The old witch's hands were like coiled steel. Hubert writhed and struggled, trying to pull free of the altar. But he could not move, and felt his strength falling away. "We'll stop you!" he cried suddenly. "No matter if you get the Nazis to do your dirty work for you or whatever! We'll find a way to stop you!"
"You looked into the eyes of Dread Cthulhu," Keziah Mason said softly, waving her hands over Hubert's body and making him lie still. The strength just slipped away from him, like blood seeping from a wound. "But you will do no more. Because at the end of the day, you are nothing more than a scared little boy, and if that is my only opponent, than I have already won."
She held the dagger high above Hubert's head. The moon caught the silver blade and it burned into Hubert's eyes. He saw only white for a while, and tried to scream, but every inch of him was frozen. The blinding light rose and increased, and soon he saw absolutely nothing but all encompassing, burning white.
He sat up, gasping for air. Hubert looked around as he gingerly touched his head. There was a nasty bump and a little blood, mostly already dried, mixed in with his curly hair, but he didn't seem to be badly harmed. Hubert looked up and shivered. The band had fallen silent in the auditorium, and most of the students were crouched on the floor, huddled together under the guns of the Nazi soldiers. Eliza, Bethany, and Zacharias stood around Mr. Armitage, who was pressing a bloody handkerchief to his shoulder. They looked at Hubert, and Eliza hurried to sit next to him.
"Hubert! You're okay? How do you feel? I cleaned off some of the blood and tried to keep you comfortable…" Hubert realized that Eliza's purse had been slipped under his head as a makeshift pillow. "But you just were so quiet. Are you okay?"
"I think so…" Hubert said, scooting forward and looking around. The lights had been turned down, and everything was very quiet. The German soldiers stood like statues, aiming their rifles and sub-guns at the children. "I had a really weird dream, or I guess it was more like a vision. There's this old woman, a witch, or she was accused of being a witch, and she's the one behind…" Hubert trailed off as he saw the looks on the faces of his friends.
Zacharias's eyes were downcast and his wide cheeks were pale. Bethany was fiddling with her tiara. Eliza's eyes were wide and scared, like she was going to cry. Hubert looked from them and then noticed that Colonel Junzt and Bruno were not among the SS men guarding them. "What happened?" he asked. "What was going on while I was out?"
Eliza's voice broke as she answered. "I told him everything, Hubert. Colonel Junzt was going to let Bruno break open your skull, and I told him where the Fulcrum is. I'm sorry, Hubert." She sighed and couldn't meet his gaze. "I'm sorry."
The door to the auditorium opened. Hubert turned and saw Colonel Junzt and Bruno the Brute stepping back inside, Bruno holding the pieces of the Fulcrum On Which the Universe turns in his massive hands. Colonel Junzt walked over to Eliza and Hubert.
"Oh. You're awake. How perfect," Junzt said, folding his gloved hands. "I was hoping you would be conscious for your death."
"You said you wouldn't hurt him!" Eliza cried. "You promised that if I told you were the Fulcrum was, you wouldn't hurt him!"
Colonel Junzt smirked. "And if you were not a fool, blinded by your desire not to see your friend butchered, you would have had the good sense not to believe me." He turned to his men and shrugged his shoulders. "Normally, I would just machine gun you all, but you American children have done the nearly impossible – you have made me annoyed." He drew a long combat knife from his belt and rested the tip on Hubert's forehead. "So I will kill you slowly."He looked at Hubert. "Plead, Jewish boy. It will amuse me."
"I know about your ally, Keziah Mason," Hubert said. "She said that she knew we didn't have a chance, but she's wrong and so are you."
Junzt merely grinned. He pressed the tip of the blade against Hubert's skin, just gentle enough to break the skin. Hubert shivered as he felt the tip's pinch and blood dripping down his forehead. Eliza held her breath, and Zacharias looked like he was going to fight. "Really?" Colonel Junzt asked. "We've defeated you soundly, young Hubert. We have the Fulcrum, and soon we'll find out where exactly it goes and use it to control the course of the world."
"You haven't won yet," Hubert muttered.
Colonel Junzt brought up his knee and drove it into Hubert's chest. The boy doubled over, and Eliza screamed. Hubert sank down to his knees, feeling the air rush out of him. Junzt dragged him up and placed the dagger at his chest, about to drag it in and gut Hubert. "But we will. Because you little fools care so much for each other. That is your greatest weakness. I had only to threaten you and Miss Eliza Carter told me everything I wanted to know. Because of that, you will never succeed."
Hubert looked into the distance, seeing through a haze of pain. He saw two Nazis standing by the doors, their guns pointed inwards. They suddenly crumpled to the ground, dropping without making a noise. Hubert saw a long sword stabbed through one of them, an axe buried in the other. He looked back to Junzt.
"Our friends are our greatest strength," he said. "And because of that, you'll never win."
Junzt's calm exterior burned away as the enraged Nazi pulled back his dagger. But as he drove the blade towards Hubert's chest, a lithe black shadow came leaping through the air. It landed on Junzt's face in a whirlwind of snapping claws and biting teeth, driving Colonel Junzt back and forcing him to drop his dagger. The black shadow then leapt into Hubert's arms, and paused to lick his face.
"Cyprian!" Hubert cried, holding up his cat in delight. The cat bounded out of his arms and ran around the children, waving his tail furiously.
Colonel Junzt came back to his feet, snarling in German and reaching for his pistol. But before he could raise the gun to fire into the crowd of scared children, a burst of gunfire tore through the Nazi ranks. A bullet struck Junzt's side, knocking him to the ground. Hubert looked up and saw Angelo Alighieri, the infamous mafia assassin, standing with a smoking Thompson submachine gun in his hands. Alighieri wore a pinstriped vest and shirtsleeves.
"Throw down your heaters, you lousy krauts!" Alighieri shouted. "I'll fill you full of holes!"
Boru the Blood-Spiller stood next to him, a broad-shouldered barbarian clad only in ragged trousers and an open shirt, a bloody bladed battleaxe and broadsword in his muscled hands. "And I will send you to your ancestors, by Dagda!" Boru cried. "And you can tell them that Boru the Bold sent you!"
Waldo Whateley dashed out between them, waving to his classmates. "Come on, guys!" he cried. "They'll deal with the Nazis, and you can make your getaway!" He ran to Hubert's side, as Boru and Alighieri ran towards the Germans.
Hubert and Cyprian bounded away, but Junzt stood up and grabbed his shoulder. "You…will go nowhere!" he hissed. But then Waldo ran to the Nazi and delivered a spinning kick to his face. Junzt fell backwards, the peaked cap and a shower of blood and spit falling from his face.
Waldo grabbed Hubert's arm. "Let's get a move on!" he cried. Cyprian bounded along as they ran for the exit. Hubert paused to help Zacharias and Bethany carry Mr. Armitage towards the exit, with Dr. East running to assist them. Angelo stood by the door, laying down covering fire with his tommy gun.
Then Junzt belted out another command, and a grenade flew through the air. Hubert turned away as fire and smoke filled the room. His ears rang and his legs felt weak under him. Eliza grabbed his arm, holding him upright as they ran to the door. He turned to look around into the sprays of white smoke, just in time to see the SS agents smashing their way through the windows to make their escape – and taking the Fulcrum with them.
Then they were out into the cold night air, stepping through the melted snow as sirens wailed in the distance. Hubert took a few more steps forward before sinking down to his knee. Eliza, Zacharias, Waldo and Bethany stood around him, and Dr. East paused with Mr. Armitage.
"No one's…hurt?" Armitage asked.
"None," Waldo said, motioning for Boru and Angelo to join him. "Well, apart from a couple Nazis got themselves killed."
"Those stiffs could cause some trouble if the Feds or the press got a hold of them. Could cause one of them major diplomatic incidents, you know," Angelo said, reloading the Thompson. "What we gonna do with them?"
Dr. East grinned. "Leave them to me. I promise you it will be no trouble for me to dispose of corpses of so…fresh an aspect."
"Okay," Hubert said, picking up Cyprian and scratching behind the cat's ears. It was best not to dwell on what Dr. East had in mind. "But what about the Fulcrum? Colonel Junzt stole it and now he's trying to get away!"
"He's got a submarine, a U-boat, in the Miskatonic," Waldo explained. "I was rambling around, thinking of if I was gonna go to the Crystal Ball or not, when I saw it popping up and discharging a whole mess of Nazi goons. I figure that's where they'll slip back to, and sail it away to Berlin."
"So we stop them," Hubert said. He still felt light-headed and saw splotches of bright, burning light whenever he blinked his eyes, but the Nazis were going to win, and he couldn't allow that. "Mr. Armitage, can we drop you off somewhere?"
Armitage swayed on his feet, and his friendly face was deathly pale. "I'll go to the police, and they'll drop me off at the hospital. I can't ask you to try and get back the Fulcrum…but I think it might be the only way."
Jermyn came walking across the parking lot, his square shoulders and chauffeur's uniform standing out against the darkness of late evening. "Miss Bethany?" he asked, his deep, rumble of a voice expectant and nervous.
"I'm fine, Jermyn," Bethany said. "But I think we may need a lift somewhere." She looked back to Waldo. "You can direct us?"
Waldo nodded. "Got the whole city memorized, don't I?" he asked.
"Excellent." Bethany started walking towards the Brewster Automobile, motioning her friends to follow her. "It may be a bit of a tight squeeze, but it shouldn't be too long of a journey, and I'm sure we can manage."
Hubert and the others followed her, Boru swinging about his weapons expectantly. Cyrpian rubbed against Hubert's leg, and the boy looked down to see his cat had something in his mouth. He bent down, and saw that it was his slingshot, and a small pouch of round stones. "Thank you," Hubert said, petting his cat. "You really thought of everything." He looked back at Eliza as they reached the car. "Well, I guess we won't get to do another dance."
"I won't mind," Eliza said. She paused and her voice shook. "I-I'm sorry, Hubert. I gave up the Fulcrum to that…that monster of a man, and all because I was so scared I couldn't think straight. Because I was weak."
"Don't worry about it," Hubert answered, giving her a smile. Jermyn opened the Brewster's door and they all piled in. Hubert wedged himself between Eliza and Boru, and reached forward to close the door. "I mean, we'll go and get it right back, right?"
"Indeed, friend Hubert!" Boru cried, raising his sword and nearly stabbing it through the auto's roof. "I shall redden my blades in the guts of those who threaten my dear friends, and send those devils screaming into the afterlife!"
Hubert held tightly to his slingshot, and selected a good round stone. "Yeah," he said. "We'll show them."
Jermyn started the engine, and the Brewster shot out onto the winding roads of Arkham. Waldo leaned forward, over Jermyn's shoulder and pointed to a far road, a long sinuous coil that seemed to flicker in and out of the auto's headlights. Jermyn wordlessly followed the road, which led away from the main thoroughfares of Arkham and into the deep woods which surrounded the myth-haunted city.
They drove along this road in silence for a few more minutes. Hubert clutched his slingshot and furrowed his brow, thinking back to Colonel Junzt and Keziah Mason. They had made him seem so helpless, so useless, even more so than when he battled Cthulhu and the elder gods. The alien nature of the Old Ones was terrible, of course, but there was something equally as bad about the Nazi and his witch ally. They had all the callous coldness of Cthulhu, but they were human, or had been human once, and that made them all the more dreadful.
"There! There they are!" Waldo cried, pointing over Jermyn's shoulder. "There they are!"
Jermyn slammed on the break and the Brewster fishtailed forward, madly driving off the road and to the muddy banks by the side of the white, rushing Miskatonic. Hubert saw a dark silver shape poised near the shore of the river, with searchlights raking the beach from a high conning tower. A few German lightly armored automobiles and motorcycles were parked on the bank, and SS soldiers were scrambling about to load them away into the U-Boat.
The Brewster came to a stop, and for a few seconds, there was total silence. The Germans froze, like rats caught in the first seconds of light. Hubert spotted Colonel Junzt, still holding the pieces of the Fulcrum, and standing in the shallow water, and Bruno the Brute standing on the shore. Then Angelo Alighieri leaned out of the window and let out a long blazing rattle from his tommy gun.
"Go! Go!" Zacharias cried, slamming open the door and dashing forward. Hubert and his friends followed him, and they pounded down the river bank towards Colonel Junzt, while the Nazis ran for cover from Angelo's gunfire. Boru the Bold hurled himself at a group of stunned Nazis, lopping off three heads with a single blow of his broadsword.
One of the Nazi motorcycles roared to life, with the machine gunner in the sidecar already aiming his deadly weapon at the children. The motorcycle ran forward, but Boru leapt in front of it. "Dog!" he shouted. "Though you ride steeds of metal and rubber, there is nothing strong within you!" He grabbed the metal body of the motorcycle, and before the gunner in the sidecar could fire, Boru hurled motorcycle and sidecar both into a large group of Nazis.
Meanwhile, Hubert spotted Colonel Junzt. He pulled back the strap of his slingshot and sent out a single stone. He had been practicing constantly with the slingshot and his accuracy was much improved. It struck home, right on Junzt's forehead, knocking him backwards and eliciting a cry of pain.
"Yes!" Hubert whispered. The Fulcrum lay on the dirt, just waiting to be snatched up. Hubert started after them, when Cyprian mewed plaintively. Hubert looked over his shoulder. He saw Bruno facing down Eliza, grabbed her shoulder with his mechanical arm, and squeezing maliciously. She was crying and the noise broke Hubert's heart.
He looked back at the Fulcrum and saw Junzt already coming back to his feet. He couldn't save Eliza and grab the Fulcrum. Hubert made his decision in a second. He turned his back on the Fulcrum and ran to Eliza, grabbing another stone and loading it as he ran. "You leave her alone!" he shouted, and let the stone fly.
It struck a stinging blow against Bruno's lip, and made him let go of Eliza. She darted forward, but Bruno swung his metal arm into her shoulder and knocked her back, into Hubert's arms. Bruno towered over the children, glaring down at them and grinning. "Now I will crush you!" he proclaimed, and raised his metal hand to do just that.
"You will do nothing!" Boru emerged from behind Bruno, holding aloft his axe and sword. "Nothing but die!" He swung down his axe and Bruno blocked the falling blade with his metal hand. Steel rang on steel as the two clashed, and then the time travelling barbarian brought around his sword. The blade hacked through the wrist of Bruno's remaining flesh hand, sending it flying away in a spray of blood. Bruno grasped the bleeding stump and screamed throatily.
From the conning tower of the U-boat, Colonel Junzt shouted orders to his men and they started dashing for the river. They splashed through the white waters of the Miskatonic, clambering upon the slick metal sides of the submarine as engines began to hurl like pained beasts. They ran within the conning tower, stealing away as the submarine started slinking forward. Clutching his bleeding stump, Bruno the brute ran across the water and reached the submarine. He leapt onboard and sank down, Junzt grabbing his shoulder and pulling him away. The colonel looked back at Hubert and his friends, grinning cruelly before he disappeared inside the conning tower.
Hubert had time to run down to the bank, just as the submarine sank away. He shook his head slowly. "They got away," he whispered. "They got away and they stole the Fulcrum and now they have it and they got away."
Zacharias walked over to stand next to him. "I could swim after them, maybe," he suggested.
"No, they have all those torpedoes and guns and stuff. I don't think it would be safe." Then he smiled. "But Keziah Mason, she said that she had to go and put the Fulcrum somewhere for it to work. So they haven't won yet." He paused and looked back at Eliza. "You're okay?" he asked.
"You saved me," Eliza said. "Instead of going after the Fulcrum."
"Well, you're more important," Hubert replied, without a second thought.
Eliza gave Hubert a wide smile. She leaned forward, put her hands behind her back, and planted a quick kiss on Hubert's lips. She stepped back and grinned. "I'll go back to the library, research as much as I can. We'll figure out where they're going and stop them."
Bethany, Boru, Waldo and Angelo stood next to Hubert, Zacharias and Eliza. "So it's gonna be war, then?" Waldo asked.
"Yes," Hubert said. "And with the world at stake. But I think we'll win it. I think we're stronger than them." His face was turning red and his heart fluttered inside of him, but a stronger will was appearing within him, like cold steel emerging from the blacksmith's forge.
"We'll be with you until the end, friend Hubert," Boru said. "Whatever that may be!"
"Thank you, to all of you," Hubert said. "And that's why we'll win."