(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 19: Mission Is Go!


“Ok, so jumpin’ out of plane is a lot fuckin’ harder than it looks.”

Mirsky limps into the hangar behind Maccabbee. “But I gotta say, Rabbi, I’m not too happy with your plan.”

Maccabbee stops and turns to Mirsky. “Sergeant. Benny. It’s the only way that you get to come along on the mission. We’re parachuting out of a plane tomorrow. There’s no way you can get trained in time.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Malkuth will take care of you. It what he does, takes care of people. He’ll get you down to the ground safely.”

Mirsky does a great imitation of a kid who doesn’t want to take his medicine. “But him carrying me, me strapped to him like some baby…”

Maccabbee’s been trained to listen compassionately and understandingly when people come to him with the stupidest shit. So he doesn’t roll his eyes or cast aspersions onto Mirsky’s masculinity. He just claps the Russian hitman on the shoulder. “You’ve got to get on the ground somehow, we need you down there, and this is the best way that I could think of.”

Aware that he’s behaving like an idiot, Mirsky leaps on the chance to change the topic. “How are you doing, Rabbi? Don’t mind me sayin’ but you don’t look too good. Are you in good enough shape for a mission like that? You been getting enough sleep? You looked a lot better couple of days back, when you got this mission.”

The Kabbalist just frowns and shakes his head, walks into the hangar. Sunlight cut by racing clouds accompanies them. But Mirsky’s not wrong, anyone with eyes can see it. Maccabbee is sweating, even though it’s another cold November day in Tunisia, circles under his eyes, unshaven. All five of the golems are inside the hangar, clustered around tables, talking, checking parachutes, guns, and and other equipment. Malkuth looks up at the approach of the two men and a worried look appears on his broad clay face. He opens his mouth to say something, catches sight of the look on Maccabbee’s face, and visibly rethinks what he was going to say. “Looks like we got all the equipment we asked for, Rabbi. We’re ready for the briefing when you are.”

MIrsky looks at the five golems. They’ve all got new uniforms, no more slashes or bullet holes. They’re all moving competently, they know what they’re doing, checking weapons, stowing ammo into pouches and packs. It’s that mix that’s getting to him, Mirsky decides. They’re all moving like good, experienced soldiers, but they’re walking talking statues. Walking talking statues that aren’t even two years old. Weird war, what’re you gonna do? What matters is that they’ve proven themselves to be good at getting the job done. And then he sees what Geburah’s up to and his eyebrows go up into his hairline.

Geburah has four holsters, pistol in each, as well as four long blades hanging by the holsters. It’s doing speed drills, drawing pistols, spinning them around, re-holstering them, drawing the knives, then back to the pistols, all four arms operating simultaneously. Anyone else, anything else, Mirsky would have said that it was nervous. But the golem is just eager, restless, can’t wait to get started.

Binah finishes pushing shells into a clip and slots it into her rifle with a sharp smack. She looks around, sees everybody else is basically ready. “We’ve got leeches to kill. Geburah, what’s the plan?”

It puts away its weapons with one final flourish and moves to the table, spreads out a map, refers to papers from the folder that Maccabbee was given. It holds the map flat with two of its hands and gestures with the others. “Bathory bitch is holed up here, at Castle Zahir. Drop zone is here, one valley over. We’re going to be part of a bunch of planes heading up to bomb Bizerte tonight.” A hand points out the plane at the other end of the hangar. “We drop.” Hand moves to indicate the parachute packs on the other table. Mirsky notices that the packs are huge, much larger than regular size. He realizes that they’re the kind of parachutes used to drop heavy cargo. Like Jeeps. He feels a little better about jumping out of plane strapped to a golem. Geburah continues. “Infiltration practices will be reversed since we’re moving against leeches. We move during the day and hole up during the night. Tomorrow during the day, we infiltrate the castle and destroy it.” The four armed golem nods in satisfaction and looks around at the group.

Hesod isn’t completely convinced. “Just us? Long odds against all those leeches and whatever soldiers they might have with them.”

“No worries.” That is more of a command than a dismissal from Binah. The female golem stands tall and sure, pistol in one fist. Mirsky wonders if he should be worried that her eyes appear to maybe be glowing a little red. Her voice has no doubts in it and there echoes to it that make Mirsky want to obey, want to believe. The echoes break and shatter on the rocks of his cynicism and knowledge. “We are going to fall upon them and destroy them. They will not be able to stand against us!” But he has to admit, she’s pretty damn persuasive. Especially since not only does she have a way with words, she can crush a pistol into a shapeless mass just using her fist. Binah throws the lump that used to be her pistol on the table, making the papers jump.

Geburah smiles at her and then looks at Maccabbee. “What do you think, Rabbi?“

Maccabbee looks down at the maps on the table, the sparse Intelligence reports on Bathory and her Ahnerbe Section H connections, speculations on the Waffen SS units in the castle. He looks up at the golems and the man who are all looking back at him, all of them waiting to hear what he thinks. In the silence, a mechanic working on the plane at the back of the hangar drops a wrench and the clang echoes sharp and metallic through the space. Maccabbee smiles and opens his mouth to speak.

Then he collapses, hits the edge of the table on his way down, pulls maps and papers with him.

Mirsky doesn’t even see the big golem move, something that large shouldn’t be able to move that fast. In less than a blink, Malkuth is kneeling besides the Rabbi lifting him in his arms. The problem with golems, Mirsky discovers, is that they don’t fucking budge. You can’t twist in between them if they don’t want to move. And right now, they’re nailed to the spot. So he has to content himself with standing on tiptoes behind Hesod, peering over the golem’s shoulder.  Maccabbee doesn’t look good, looks like hammered shit, actually, but he’s alive and his eyes are open in a face of grey and sweat. Blood flows from each nostril over his upper lip, a shocking red against the grey face.

Malkuth cradles him. “Rabbi! What’s wrong?” A voice that afraid sounds strange coming from a shape that large.

Maccabbee just lays there for a minute, one hand paws weakly at Malkuth’s uniform, his eyes are vague and distant. Then he breathes in slowly, cautiously, testing for pain, and his eyes focus. “No, I’m OK. Probably just some bad food.” He tries for a smile that comes out as weak grimace. He tries to wipe the blood off his face, just smears it around a little. “Lucky me, I get to jump out of plane with the shits.”

The golems all solemnly take in the obvious lie. Tipareth moves forward with a canteen in an outstretched hand. “Here.” The golem crouches down to give the canteen to Maccabbee. “And this might help as well.” He places his left hand on Maccabbee’s chest and concentrates for a moment, chanting softly under his breath. The Rabbi looks up at him with questioning eyes. Slowly, Tipareth’s eyes glow gold as does his hand. The golden glow sinks into Maccabbee’s flesh and he visibly gets better. The grey leaves his face and his gaze strengthens.

Mirsky silently whistles to himself. That’s a damn neat trick.

Maccabbee sits up straighter in Malkuth’s arms. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“We all feel the energy descending from the All Highest through you to us, keeping us … alive.” Tipareth stumbles on that last word, lips twisting in irony. “I just reversed the flow for a little bit.”

Possibilities cascade through Mirsky’s brain and he examines all that he’s just learned and thinks of how it all can contribute to his plans. He notices something else and factors that into his plans as well: the two smallest fingers on Tipareth’s hand, the one he pressed to Maccabbee’s chest, those fingers have crumbled to dust, leaving outlines on the Rabbi’s uniform.

“Just reversed the flow?” Maccabbee clambers to his feet, incredulous. It’s not just Tipareth’s ministrations that have bought the energy back to him. The Kabalist’s a scholar, first and foremost, and this is something new for him to sink his intellectual teeth into. “How is that even possible? You don’t have the training, the knowledge! What prayers did you use?”

Tipareth smiles down at the excited man and, resting a hand on his shoulder, leans in close. “Don’t forget, Rabbi, none of us golems are human. We’re personifications of Sephiroth brought down into this clay. We don’t follow the rules as you. We have connections to God that you don’t have. The knowledge and training are built in, so to speak.”

Malkuth interrupts what is threatening to turn into an combination interrogation session and yeshiva class. He claps his hands together with a concrete crack. “All right, let’s go over the plan again. C’mon, everybody gather around.” Tipareth turns away with the other golems and looks down at the documents on the table that Malkuth’s gathered up off the floor. “Here’s some recon photos of the castle. Let’s see what looks like the best place to sneak in.”

Mirsky puts a hand on Maccabbee’s sleeve and keeps his voice low. “You sure you’re fine?”

He’s jittery, like he’s just taken a couple of those benzedrine tablets that the pilots swear by, and Mirsky doesn’t like his color, from grey to sweating red. Mirsky thinks that the grimace Maccabbee throws his way is supposed to be a reassuring smile. “I swear. What Tipareth did really helped. And it gives me some ideas on how to fight Bathory.”

Mirsky would feel a lot better if the Rabbi had taken any sort of breath between those words. He keeps his voice even and encouraging. “Yeah, like what?”

“Don’t want to go into it now. I still need to think about it more. And it’s a very last chance idea, I’d only want to do it if things get completely fucked.”

“Well, think fast, ’cause I’m pretty sure that this invasion of a castle with just the bunch of us will get completely fucked at some point. No air support, no artillery. Lay it out straight, Rabbi, is this a suicide mission?” Mirsky doesn’t take his gaze off Maccabbee’s face. The Russian doesn’t think that he’d lie to him, but the two of them have different priorities. Depending on what the Rabbi’s answer is, Mirsky might have to start looking for a boat across the Med a lot sooner than he’d planned.

Maccabbee shakes his head and then has to concentrate on stopping it from shaking back and forth. “No. Not at all. We’ve got a really good chance. The golems are unstoppable once they get going and all the leeches advantages are nothing against them. We’ve got the edge.”

“Yeah, but they’ve got the numbers, the leeches do. And they were Waffen SS before they were leeches. And those Waffen fuckers, they ain’t nothing to fuck with.”

“Unstoppable. That’s what the golems are. You’ve seen them in action. No bullets, claws, bites, nothing hurts them. And now I’ve got this idea, I think it’ll work against that Bathory bitch, squash her like the evil spider she is.”

“If you say so.” Mirsky steps back to avoid the spraying spit. “And, yeah, I’ve seen the golems in action. Ok, so it’s not a suicide mission.” He looks past Maccabbee and sees something that catches his attention in the doorway of the hangar. “Listen, if you’re OK, maybe you go sit with the golems, make sure that they’re not gonna drop us into Eisenhower’s headquarters instead of the leech castle. Me, I gotta go see a dog about a man.”

“You mean, a man about a dog.” Maccabbee grins at him.

Mirsky doesn’t respond. In his head, he’s already moving away, dealing with this new situation. “Yeah, one of them kinda things.”  

Maccabbee’s smile fades and he studies the hitman. “The golems will help me if I need anything. You go do what you gotta do.”

Mirsky turns and goes out the door of the hangar. Maccabbee watches him go. When he sees who’s standing there, outside the hangar, he nods to himself.  Then he goes to stand by the golems and listens to them planning.

Outside, the wind has picked up and it’s colder. Mirsky buttons up his jacket as he approaches Duval, who’s standing out of the wind, next to the hangar.

Just as Mirsky opens his mouth to voice the dissatisfaction clear on his face, Duvall goes first. His voice is clear and uncaring. “What have you got to report, Sergeant?”

“Real subtle there, Major. I’m sure Maccabbee doesn’t have any idea that I’m reporting to you.”

“Less of that lip, Mirsky. What’s Maccabbee up to?” A small dog yaps and craps on the carpet, Duvall’s voice would have the same weary annoyance.

Given how flamboyantly Mirsky straightens to attention, he wants Duvall to clearly know that he’s being insulted. “Sir, yes, sir! Captain Maccabbee, he’s up to followin’ orders, that’s what he’s up to. Orders that’re probably gonna get us all killed.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Duvall is clearly uninterested in the outcome of something so minor. He probably yawns at executions. “We need to know just how much damage those statues can take. So, you all come back, none of you come back, some of you come back, we get the information we need.” The Intelligence Major shrugs inside his jacket. “They have no worries about attacking that castle?”

There are people in both Odessa and New York City that could warn Duvall that when Mirsky’s tone gets this flat, he’s very close to killing. “None. They all think that it’s a doable plan. They’re all real confident. Way too fucking confident, you ask me.”

“I don’t believe that I did. Report back to me when you return. I want you to submit your after action report to me personally.”

“Yes, sir!”

Duvall carelessly returns Mirsky’s salute and walks away. Mirsky stares at his back for a few minutes until he’s out of sight. He could probably get away with shooting that piece of shit in the back of the head. The sound of a shot probably wouldn’t even get noticed. And Marcus and his zombies will probably help with the clean up. Just a pile of polished bones. Mirsky breathes out long and slow. But no. Too much hassle for such a little guy. Duvall gets to live another day. Maybe when he gets back from this mission, maybe just before he heads out with Marcus across the Med to Leah, maybe then, Duvall gets one final report. The thought makes the wind less cold and Mirsky grins, all teeth and intent.

And then he goes back inside the hangar, to check in on this cockamamie plan that’ll probably get all of them killed. He’s whistling.

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