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The Secret War in Oliphant Furnace

A story in three times.

©06 Levite
See Below

"My denial of the fact makes it the truth."

The Oliphant Furnace Cokeworks
Near Uniontown, Pennsylvania
June 1874

      Lloyd had always had a bit of a maverick streak in him.
      When hunting with his father as a youth he would often drift off into the woods along the ridge and sit silently watching the animals, then his gaze would fall on the distant mountains. Or he would watch the clouds stream by and wonder where they came from and where they were going. But watching the clouds and animals had also taught him to read both, and led to his becoming a successful woodsman and hunter often bringing home twice the game his elders had gleaned using their methods.
      Watching the mountains had also taught him something of how they worked.
      Now as a worker in the newly opened mine that fed the coke furnaces just outside the town Lloyd was still something of a maverick and had used his knowledge of slate and seams and fractures to help construct the mine for the Oliphant Furnace Company.
      But in the few off hours he had from the mine he was still drawn to the mountains. Then on the other side of Chestnut Ridge he found a previously unknown bituminous vein. And on his own, then with the help of a couple of friends, he mined the coal from a drift shaft back into the hill and sold it at a reduced rate to families in the community for cooking and heating. One thing led to another and in only a couple of years he had purchased the track along the creek and was working for himself as one of the several wildcat mines in the southwestern Pennsylvania mountains.
      Then he married the daughter of one of the German workers at the coke works in a semi-arranged marriage.
      For a few years, Lloyd and Gretchen lived the hard but full life of a mining family and community.

Teutonia, Pennsylvania
Spring 1934

      "I do not think it is in our best interests to openly declare affiliation with the National Socialists." Raynard Wahlden said emphatically with only a slight German accent. "Not at this time."
      His adversary on the other side... literally on the other side, of the room and of the issues under discussion... was not shy about voicing his opinion on the matter. "Mister Sponknobel is of the opinion that we should combine our voices under the banner of the Friends of New Germany." He nodded sharply. "Then we shall be the voice of the Fatherland's one true party in this country."
      Wahlden shook his head. "The Free Society should remain exactly that. Free."
      A few in the room murmured in agreement, but it was only a murmur, and only from a few of the members. Most appeared to be of the mind that they should join the other group and form an entirely new organization. One that the growing power in Germany could not help but recognize as its arm in America.
      But Wahlden could see problems as the new group was coming together. An internal fight was building between Sponknobel of the National Socialists Workers Party and the German Chemist Fritz Kuhn who was an unabashed Nazi.
      Finally Wahlden conceded and said that if the vote of the group was for the combining of the groups he would support it as far as he could.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Spring, current year

      "Yes, I am very interested in World War Two." David Smith said to a co-worker.
      Sandy had brought the subject up out of the blue, but it was generally known that David was a history buff and had a small collection of historical relics ranging from a Viking helmet to a Confederate officer's sword and a set of Canadian war medals. There was no rhyme or reason to the collection. It was just stuff that interested him.
      She invited him back to her desk and showed him a large scrapbook album. But instead of photographs the book contained letters. Most were hand written in small neat script, but some were typed. All dated from the nineteen thirties and forties. As they rode the elevator upstairs she explained that when her mother moved out of their old house she had sent her a large envelope of family keepsakes. Sandy had just spent two weekends sorting the letters and putting them in the protective sleeves.
      "My grandfather wrote most of them to his family in Germany before the war and sent a few through couriers during the war. Just family news and stuff, but he always kept a copy." She said. "But I don't understand some of them." She pointed to a phrase in a letter that was otherwise describing a hunting trip on a mountain.
      David peered at the line in the letter dated 1942. "I wonder if it is some sort of code?" He said then he read the line aloud. "Oliphant works electric fluid production start."
      "There's more of it in this one. Sent the week after." She scanned down the page with her eyes and found the line. "Why would a hunting camp need a field coil?"
      "They wouldn't." David said reading the line. "And if they did, why would somebody in Germany in the middle of a war care if it was delivered late?"
      "He always said the place in Oliphant was just a hunting cabin."
      David gently turned the page to a 1943 letter that was type-written and began silently reading.
      "Nana always said that he had written the letters in English because it was less suspicious than German, and the censors wouldn't pay as close attention." Sandy said.
      "Here's another odd line, 'K advised Nurn of charged ray stream test.' Right in the middle of a paragraph about cooking bear steaks." David said. "Sandy, you've got yourself a mystery."
      She looked at him and grinned. "Do you want to help me solve it?"
      David didn't think more than a split second. "Sure."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania

      The Fayette Furnace Company was now running most of the mining and coke production in the area under a couple of names.
      Lloyd 's single shaft operation was small enough not to draw the ire of the bosses of the bigger outfit, but he knew it was only a matter of time before the vein played out and he would either have to expand or close down and move on. Still, for now, things were good. He sold most of his coal to a consolidator who then combined his load with others and then moved it by train to buyers elsewhere thereby avoiding direct competition with the larger operations.
      Gretchen had given him a couple of healthy daughters and they lived in a comfortable 'salt box' house in town. Against all measures, Lloyd was happy and doing quite well.
      Union organizers had come to town, but their influence had been negligible. Nothing like the rumors of actual shooting wars in parts of West Virginia. The Fayette Company didn't take an active position against the union and Lloyd's operation was once again too small to be targeted. After a few somewhat noisy rallies and a lot of liquor being consumed the union 'agitators' moved north to more fertile grounds and things returned to normal.
      Since Lloyd's side of the family didn't have a lot of deeply held traditions, the ones Gretchen had grown up with became the norm for them. Lloyd, still the maverick at heart, enjoyed his brother's reaction to the traditional dishes with nearly unpronounceable names Gretchen made for every occasion.
      But Lloyd could see the writing on the walls of his mine. When the Frick Company sent men into the area sizing things up for their company to establish interest in the area it was Lloyd that called on them instead of the other way around.
      He had judged that if something didn't happen in a year or two, his mine would end up in receivership. He would rather work for another man and know he could feed his family than take his chances going through the legal process. He had one stipulation and the company met it without reservation. They owned the coal, he owned the mine.

Near Clermont, Pennsylvania
Summer 1934

      It had become all too clear that those that didn't agree with all points of the charter of the Friends of New Germany were welcome to disassociate themselves with the group at their earliest convenience. Either that or they could shut up, wear the new pin and learn to do the proper 'sieg heil' salute.
      "Well Herr Wahlden, you staying or you going?" One of the other members of the former Free Society of Teutonia asked.
      Wahlden looked around what remained of Main Street in the small town. The handful of buildings seemed to have been built deserted. For all practical purposes the Society of Industry's town had all but ceased to exist years before. It had only been used for camp meetings for some time. Now, it was fading into history.
      "My wife's family has some land down south of Pittsburgh."
      "Anybody besides Greta going with you?"
      "I don't know yet. Samuel said he might." Wahlden and the other man watched a car drive down the slowly eroding road out of town. The driver nodded their way then was lost to sight in a cloud of dust. "You going to the convention?"
      The other man nodded and said something about wanting to make sure the Society was represented. Then they stood silently for awhile. "Well. Good luck." The man said.
      "You too." They shook hands and parted company.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A few weeks later, current year

      "So it really is a town." David said staring at the information page about Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania.
      "And an old one at that." Sandy said. "My family has been out there since just after the Civil War."
      "The War Between the States."
      David ignored her indifference to history. "But I don't see your family name on any of the records."
      "You won't." She said. "There's never been a lot of boys in the family. Most of the time the land was passed down to the oldest daughter."
      "That's unusual. Especially in a German family."
      Sandy nodded. "Unusual, but it worked."
      "Good for you."
      They had sifted through all the letters and entered the odd phrases and terms in a database by date and topic. Slowly a picture emerged of something not quite as it appeared on the surface.
      The quiet 'hunting cabin' outside the small town of the old office and the mine property around it seemed to have developed a secret life during the war years.
      "So who was Samuel Goldfield Theide?" David asked her as they developed a list of people mentioned.
      "One of Grandfather Wahlden's friends I think."
      "Theide is a German name. But the rest of it isn't."
      "All I know is what's in here." She turned the scrapbook back to the earliest pages, letters from late in 1934. "He moved down there to get away from what was going on in Milwaukee."
      David looked at the letter. "There were several of them that were moving."
      Sandy nodded. "They'd all been part of the Free Society and didn't like the change." She pointed to a paragraph that was essentially a run-on sentence complaining about the political leanings of the Friends.
      Then David noticed something else. "It says here that Samuel was wanting to work on an idea to help Germany against Russia if war broke out, with Jorvinnn... something." He looked up and smiled. "That's what they were doing."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Winter 1934 - 35

      Samuel had indeed decided to leave all connections with the Friends of New Germany group behind, but secretly he wanted to maintain a link with its leader who was a personal friend. He collected associate member and rabid Prussian elitist Jotvingas and drove up into the hills to join Wahlden.

      "The mine shaft is still there. It is dry and solid for a good distance." Wahlden said across the table tracing the mine tunnel and its few side branches on the hand drawn map. "The entrance is boarded up and locked, but I have the key."
      "That would be perfect." Jotvingas said. "Is the electrical wiring intact?"
      "Most of it." Wahlden said. "My wife said they didn't get electricity in the mine itself until just a few years before the coal ran out."
      The man nodded and stared at the map, obviously thinking hard about his plan.
      "How bad is the road up there?" Samuel asked.
      "There is no road from here to there." Wahlden took out a small map of the area. "We have to follow the railroad tracks up, then we meet the old mine access way." He pointed to a pencil line that led up the hill from a rail spur. "That's how they got they coal out."
      "How did the workers get up there?"
      Wahlden looked up. "They walked."

      A couple of days later the weather was more agreeable and the three members of the newly formed society, Neu Vaterland, took the Ford and drove as far as they could along the railroad then they parked the Model A in a clearing then they walked the rest of the way.
      Most of the mine's buildings were run down but still standing. A testament to Ol' Lloyd's construction techniques and insistence on 'over-building' to withstand the worst that nature could throw at them up there.
      They rested on the porch of the mine office building and marveled at how little overgrowth there was around the mine. Then they realized that instead of dirt the area was covered with a layer of gob and coal dust several inches deep.
      After they drank some water from Wahlden's canteen they checked their two bulky dry cell lights and braced themselves for whatever the mine held for them.

      The shaft ran nearly horizontally back into the mountain then began a slight descent, following the coal seam. There were no side shafts for some distance into the mine. Most of the time they could walk upright, only ducking under the occasional support brace or rock outcropping.
      "Be careful. There's a pit around here someplace." Wahlden cautioned them as he passed a marker. "Ahh, there it is. It goes down to another seam just below this level." He indicated a wooden ladder and pulley array for buckets that went straight down twenty feet or so.
      "No water." Jotvingas said. He peered intently at the wall in the dim yellow light of his hand torch. "Not even damp."
      "I've never seen water up here. Down below yes, and there is a seep down in what they called 'England' off to the left up here, but other than that, it's pretty dry."
      "Good." Samuel said.
      Then as the seam shifted the tunnel widened and then suddenly they were in a gallery.
      "This is it." Wahldens said. "This is where there was a cave in and they carried out a lot of shale. There was more coal up there above the fracture so they used the collapse to their advantage and took the extra coal." He pointed the light at a wooden scaffold the miners never bothered to take apart, using it instead as a makeshift bunkhouse inside the mine.
      The room was larger than the Wahlden's house in town. It was quiet and dry and the floor could be made to be level with some work. They could even use the old mine cars to move their supplies in and out. But getting their things up to the mine would be another story.
      "What do you think Jotvin?" Samuel asked his associate.
      "This will do nicely. I will have Fritz send what we need."
      "Fritz?" Wahlden asked. "Fritz Kuhn?"
      Samuel and Jotvingas exchanged concerned looks, but then they nodded together.
      "Yes. But you didn't hear that from us." Jotvingas said.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Summer, current year

      David had put together a somewhat disturbing model of what had been going on under the mountain in western Pennsylvania during the war.
      Sandy didn't believe it at first. She had already read the letters, and seen the list of almost nonsense 'non-sequitur' phrases in the otherwise mundane content. But it took a leap of faith to see the obvious and realize that her grandfather was involved with the development of a secret laboratory that was working on some sort of electrical super-weapon for Adolph Hitler.
      "Do you have access to the mine?"
      "Yes. The property is still owned by aunt Beulah. My father goes hunting up there on the mine property every year. They usually camp in the office." She looked back at the map of Fayette County. "Do you want to go over there?"
      "We need to go over there."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania

      Lloyd walked slowly around the boarded up entrance to his mine. And it was still his mine, but the coal that had been produced from it had belonged to somebody else. Finally when it cost more to produce the coal than it was worth, they closed it for him. He had been joking for years that he owned the largest empty hole in the state.
      He had spent a good part of his life here, both working underground and in the office doing the thousands of little things that kept the operation going. Of late he had been working for Frick or the Oliver Company running their mines and transport operations in the area. But now he was too weak and sick to do much besides agree with whatever they said at the time. And for what it was worth, they still paid him to agree with them.
      Gretchen fretted and worried over him, but he had to get out of the house and go out and 'see' things. Besides, he coughed a lot and when he coughed at home she was all over him, giving him vapors and trying to calm him telling him that if he relaxed the 'miner's cough' wasn't as bad.
      He knew what it was, and that it wouldn't be long and he wouldn't be able to take air from the coal dust in his lungs. But it made him better for a time to feel the mine tailings crunching under his boots and to see a deer or rabbit bolt from a thicket. There had been a time when he would have brought the animal down with a quick shot from the old Navy pistol he used to carry just for such times. Then he'd spend an hour not thinking about coal while he dressed it out. Now he not only didn't wear a pistol, his hands weren't steady enough to even attempt a shot if he had.
      "Mister Lloyd. We need to get back down yonder." The engineer called up to him from the idling company steam engine.
      He nodded. They had run a string of cars down to a header and were on their way back for more when he asked the driver to stop for a moment. It was the only reason he would go out of his way to ask a favor so he could ride the train back and forth. Lloyd coughed and climbed the ladder onto the engine.

Summer, current year

      They spent the next week or so before their trip trying to piece together several letters from 1944 and early in 1945 that seemed to indicate that the Neu Vaterland Free Society was secreting the fruits of their labors to await word on what to do next. There was one tantalizing letter from somebody traveling with Eichmann in Italy from 1950 about plans to move their 'association' to Argentina the next year, but Wahldens didn't write it, he just received it.
      "There are no more letters. This was the last one." Sandy said pointing to a 1951 letter from Raynard Wahlden to his daughter Estelle, her mother, asking her to make sure the mine was secure. There was no mention of anything in the mine of special interest.
      According to the family records Raynard died in '53 while vacationing in California.
      "So we need to identify the 'Spanish Throne Room'." David said tapping the plastic sheet protecting one of the 1944 letters that indicated they were moving the project to storage.
      "But that's not on any of the maps."
      David nodded. "It may be a room they named. Or maybe even something they excavated just for that purpose. They did have a lot of mining equipment at their disposal."
      "It might take forever to find it. The mine isn't as big as some, but it's still big enough."
      David thought about it. "Your grandfather mentioned dampness in some sections. They wouldn't put it anywhere near those. Also he knew his coal mine, he wouldn't put it someplace where there was a risk of a cave in. So I don't think it'll be too hard to find. If it's still there at all."
      Sandy had to agree. "When do we go?"
      "I've got a couple of week's vacation coming. Let's see what we can do."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania

      Lloyd's death left a hole in the family, but it also left them with a played out mine, a 'new' house north of town that he had bought a few years ago, the original small run down house in town, and some paper shares of the company that had bought the company that had bought the mine.
      Gretchen became the Grand Old Dame of the mining community and the last word on nearly everything in their church.
      Eventually their daughters married well and moved out, but they planned to come back, as their ties to the hills and the shafts under them were strong. And one of them did come back with her family and moved into the old Saltbox house and began to remodel it while her husband worked for the mining company.
      The daughter concentrated on her own newborn daughter, Beulah, while the mining company went through yet another change of ownership and her husband, Ray, cultivated relationships with others in the community in case his job vanished as things were known to do in the industry.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Spring 1936

      Raynard Wahlden had started out being somewhat moderate on the political situation in his home country. But as the Rhineland came under the German flag he slowly drifted from the middle of the road and began to agree more and more with Jotvingas. But his private feelings were solely about who should control Central Europe. He liked America just as it was, but felt that Europe needed a firm hand to guide it into the future.
      They had moved tons of equipment up the mountain and into the gallery. Hauling some of it up on a trailer pulled behind tractor borrowed from a friend. Wahlden wasn't sure what some of it was for, but he knew that Jotvingas and his friend Herr Schrader were involved in some sort of experiment to help Germany defeat Russia. They were all convinced that Germany would soon be at war with Stalin over the Eastern Frontier and they were working to devise something to turn the tide against that vast country.
      Jotvingas's hatred of the Communists seemed to stem from somebody from the USSR had stolen an idea of his and gotten their Science Academy to fund research into it. He was convinced they would turn it into a weapon and use it against Germany and he wanted to beat them to the punch.
      That Germany might use whatever they came up with against America was never seriously discussed.
      Those that were working on the project lived in the mine for the most part. They seldom came to town for anything other than emergencies, like when Schrader needed to visit the dentist in Unionville for an agonizing toothache, and they worked. Samuel Theide and Wahlden and a small wireless were their contact with the outside world.
      Later a couple more associates arrived to fill out the team then came and went from time to time. One of the ones that moved in was a woman who spoke little English and became nervous whenever one of the trains that frequented the tracks at the bottom of the hill slowed down and seemed to be stopping. As Frau VonReimann was supposed to be a political attaché to the Embassy in Ottawa, not conducting secret research under a mountain in Pennsylvania, she had reasons to be nervous.
      As spring turned into summer and tensions between Germany and France increased the work moved on. They had taken the ideas they had begun with and moved them into the mathematical equation phase. Huge diagrams occupied whitewashed boards and complex equations filled notebooks and school pads that then collected in a hand made bookcase.
      Even though the Depression was dragging the entire country down, the coalfield area had never been overly well to do, so the difference was subtle. There were fewer trains going by, but when they did go by they were still full of coal.
      By agreement with the others, Wahlden wrote letters to his extended family members in Germany that were chatty and full of the details of normal life, with the occasional odd sentence suggested by Jotvingas or one of the others. These he mailed to an address in Ottawa, they were then forwarded to Germany through means he didn't pretend to understand. But as he did get letters back from those same family members, usually written in German, he knew they got through.
      Wahlden's wife Greta claimed she didn't know what was going on, and that she didn't care as long as they were paying cash for rent of the mine and the food she prepared for them so she could buy the things their daughters needed. The girl Beulah was a little more suspicious, but never said anything. The younger girl was too young to seriously know what was going on.

Late Summer, current year

      On a Saturday morning in late August small group of explorers and amateur historians left Philadelphia in two cars for a town on the other side of the state that most of them had never heard of.
      They had all manner of gear, reference material, laptop computers, two GPS devices, a generator, cameras and everything else they thought they'd need to both explore the old mine and find and investigate the secret weapon, if it existed.
      David and Sandy had recruited a co-worker and two friends to join them on what Sandy's supervisor had smirked and called a 'fool's errand to Oliphant', but she encouraged them to be safe and stay in touch, and bring her back some good pictures.

      The long miles of the Turnpike ran together until they got off on US 119 and headed south into the hills of Fayette County.
      Once they got into the area the first thing they had to do was stop in Uniontown and visit with Aunt Beulah.
      In spite of being on the high side of ninety years old she was curious and informative about their mission. And she confided in them that her middle sister, Sandy's mother, was always sure that they had been up to no good out there, but she let it go and once the war was over she had said it really didn't matter any more so they sealed up the mine and let it go. Then she made them promise they would not go to the authorities until they came back and talked to her no matter what they turned up.
      Sandy and the others promised to stop back by and let her know what they found.
      The Saltbox was currently empty so they were going to use it as their base camp.
      It was getting late when they unlocked the old house and moved the stuff in that they'd need there and made sure everything in the place was still functional.

      The house had last been used by Sandy's sister and her kids when she had been going through a bad divorce and needed someplace to stay. That had been a few years ago and the place looked and smelled every day of it.
      The crew was good and it wasn't long before they had food on the stove and clean linen on the beds and even a ball game on the old TV.
      Over supper they discussed the plan for the next day.
      "We're not exactly sure where the mine is." David said.
      "Oh, that's nice." Kyle said.
      Kyle worked with David and Sandy and was Sandy's occasional boyfriend. But he and David shared an interest in history, although Kyle's interest was strictly local stories. This was stretching his field since it was three hundred miles from home, but it was still Pennsylvania so Kyle made an exception for them as long as they stopped at the Fort Necessity site and maybe Braddock's grave on the way back.
      "We'll find it." David said.
      "Then what?" Shelia asked.
      Shelia was Sandy's best friend. They'd met when they were both in high school. They attended different schools, but since they were both played viola in their schools orchestra they just happened to attend music camp together. Since viola players were somewhat rare, they got to know each other and became friends. Some years later they ran into each other again and the friendship rekindled. All it took to convince Shelia to join them was to tell her it was a chance to get out of the city for a week or so and that Kyle would be with them. Shelia thought Kyle was adorable.
      "Then we'll start mapping and looking for a secret Nazi death ray." David said nonchalantly.
      "Do you really think they built one?" Debby asked.
      Debby didn't belong on the expedition. She was David's sister and hadn't even been part of the initial discussion. But she had overheard a lot of the later plans and thought it sounded exciting. Since she had a large four wheel drive sport utility vehicle and was willing to spring for the gas to get them there, she was invited. Debby liked to dress with a little more glamour and style than you'd expect for somebody willing to spend several days poking around in an abandoned coal mine, but she assured David that if nothing else, she'd wait on the surface with a phone to call for a rescue squad. David and Sandy agreed that that might not be a bad idea.
      David nodded, "One of the letters said they had built a prototype of what we'd call a maser. That's the original design for a laser." He looked through the binder of photocopies. "When you build a prototype it is supposed to actually work. A non-working prototype is a model. They got something to work along those lines."
      The other's agreed and the speculation about what it would look like and how big it would be began.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
September 1939

      "... You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more, or anything different, that I could have done, and that would have been more successful... We have a clear conscience, we have done all that any country could do to establish peace, but a..."
      "That Chamberlain. He's a British fool." Jotvingas said with a frown. "War is upon him and he cannot fathom it."
      They were sitting around the wireless listening to news over the shortwave in the old mine office building. Sometimes they would listen to the news from Berlin, but very soon they learned that the broadcasts were more propaganda than news.
      Wahldens had brought them freshly laundered linens and a change of clothes and some food for a couple of days. They went to the surface to eat and listen to the BBC when they heard the Prime Minister's speech. The others seemed to now feel that America would still be drawn into the war, but Wahlden felt that FDR would somehow avoid it.
      They continued their work, but with Britain and France now having declared war on Germany they weren't sure what their status would be.
      There was some worry about a slight decline in both their funding and official communications with various outside individuals. But then Jotvingas's connection with Fritz Kuhn in the German American Bund promised them that their support of the work would continue in spite of their leader's being investigated for financial misdoings.
      Later in the month the news that the German army was on the border of the USSR in Poland gave them a renewed fire to continue their work for its original purpose.
      Jotvingas had been saying for some time that the mutual non-aggression pact that Hitler and Stalin had both signed was a ruse to simply buy Germany time to take care of certain internal issues before they went after the ultimate target- Russia. To the Prussian idealist Russia represented unlimited supplies of raw materials and serf labor, and he would tell anybody that would listen that he was sure the Chancellor saw it the same way. Jotvingas never called Hitler 'Führer' or Germany 'Drittes Reich'. To him it was all aimed solely at the eventual conquering of the USSR by Germany and there was no other goal for the war.
      And so far it looked as though he was right. Other than the Rhineland, everything Germany had gone after had been to the East. Toward Russia.
      But as Europe slid further into chaos things began to look bad for his prediction that once Russia was an extension of East Prussia the war would be over. Then in the spring of 1940 Germany invaded the Low Countries to the west of Germany and Jotvingas surrendered his hope that the war wouldn't spread.
      They continued the work in hopes that the US could mediate the West's response and their device would be sent to fight the communists.
      Wahlden thought that was a longshot but kept his thoughts to himself.

      The first proof of concept model they built was a spectacular failure. The flame and smoke ran them out of the mine and threatened to collapse the mountain on their laboratory. But once the power was cut the violence died down and they were able to bring the situation under control.
      In the post mortem on the failed attempt they discovered some flaws they hadn't noticed before and began work on a second test model that would include control for those shortcomings.
      It took several more months of painstaking work, but they made progress and the bench test model took shape.
      Like the first model, it was scarcely as portable as a working weapon would have to be, but it looked like it might actually work.
      During the work they would take breaks for meals in the old office and listen to the news from Europe. Sometimes the BBC would be off the air and they'd have to tune the set to pick up what they could. Sitting in the mountains thousands of miles away their small camp on Chestnut Ridge seemed to be the last vestige of German sanity in the world.
      "Hitler has bitten off more than he can chew." Jotvingas said as German troops pushed further into France. "He should have stayed to the East."
      "He didn't listen to you." Wahldens said.
      "He didn't listen to anyone." Jotvingas said and walked into the mine with his head down.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Last Monday in August, current year

      The trip to the mine took longer than they planned for. By the time they located the battered office building and the long forgotten entrance it was too late to do more than clear some brush and peer in through the half rotten boards and rusty chicken wire that had been used to secure the entrance.
      The good news was that even though the lock was rusty and needed several shots of penetrating oil before it would even accept the key, it did turn and unlock. The chain was just as rusty but it was strong and would serve its purpose for now. They replaced the old lock with a fresh one and left it at that.
      The mine office showed signs of having been used as a rustic camp lately. There was firewood piled in a corner and some furniture that was in bad shape but still usable. The old water well would produce water with some hard pumping that smelled of sulfur, but it would serve well enough for some uses.
      As the sun was working toward the west they all climbed back into Debby's truck and headed back to town. Tomorrow night some of them would be camping at the office to permit more time exploring the mine.
      Back at the house they went through their equipment again so they'd waste as little time as possible getting going in the morning. David set the alarm for before dawn and the group all turned in early.

      Monday morning was bright and clear. Just as the sun cleared the hills to the east they were driving along the rail line toward the mine.
      Even knowing where they were going and having marked the spot to turn it was still tough to find the overgrown trail to the site.
      David didn't want to waste any more time getting into the mine itself. They unlocked the shaft and the 'explorers' peered in at sheets and streamers of spider webs running almost from wall to wall.
      Kyle was the boldest of the three, he picked up an old shovel to use to clear the way and after turning on both of his lights and making sure his hardhat was solidly on his head he strode boldly into the dark passage.
      "Hey!" He called back in a few seconds. "You guys coming?"
      David and Sandy exchanged looks then followed. Debby and Shelia were going to stay topside for the initial trip into the mine.

      The one thing David noticed right away was the way the shaft was laid out. It was only wide enough for the mine car tracks with little clearance on each side, but a man could walk upright without having to duck too often. The old wiring looked intact but he would want to check it more closely before they tried to use it.
      David and Sandy stayed behind Kyle, they let him knock down the veritable curtains of cobwebs as he walked.
      "Watch out for the barricade." Kyle called at one point.
      "OK." David and Sandy answered. Then in a minute they saw the barrier made up of mine supplies around a shaft that dropped out of sight. Evidently the former occupants didn't want anybody falling down it either.
      "Hey. They were here." Kyle said. "Really."
      Now David and Sandy walked faster.
      "I am impressed." Kyle said with some emphasis.
      They could see some sort of equipment gleaming as he moved his lights around.
      "Wow." David said when they stepped into the gallery and their combined lights illuminated most of the room. "Yes they were here."
      Sandy was shinning her light around the room, she stopped on a large wood frame table. It was the only sizable level surface in the room not covered with tools and parts. "That's probably where it was."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
September 1941

      They had been working on a more reliable and portable device that still functioned with the intensity their bench unit did. But the best they could do was a 'one shot wonder' prototype that basically destroyed itself on the first or sometimes the second use.
      The water cooled hydrogen filled focusing tube at the center of the device concentrated the output from their electric arcs and directed it out the lens toward the target with good efficiency. But in the process the hydrogen gas in the inner tube super-heated the water used to cool it then the steam would blow the tube apart. They tried lead crystal and industrial glass and more water moving faster and so on, but the pressure and temperature was too much for anything they could devise. Using less intense power sources resulted in a focused beam of light and energy that was hot, but not destructively so. They all knew they were missing some basic premise for what they were trying to do. But they lacked the specific expertise to find the answer easily. So they put their minds to it and with classic German tenacity they resolved to work through the problem since they seemed to plenty of time even if their resources were somewhat limited.
      They also found listening to the wireless somewhat depressing. They knew that America would be drawn into the war sooner or later and that their homeland wouldn't be able to withstand it. The German air war against England was bound to pull the country in if nothing else did.
      If Hitler did not stop his Western advance the group working on the weapon was sure that in the end he would not only lose the war, the war would destroy Germany.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
That Monday and Tuesday, current year

      They scoured the big room, taking pictures and examining the drawings and disturbing as little as possible. Along the far wall was a series of flat boards with lines and circles drawn on them. Several had burn and scorch marks in the general area of the bull's eye. Others had holes in them or long lines where the wood had been cut with something very hot and in places the rock behind the wood was burnt.
      The consensus was that this was the targeting area for tests of the prototype. Physical evidence that they had put together a working weapon of some description.
      David and Sandy both confirmed that some of the hand written notes on one of the tables was the same hand that had written the letters she had. They also found an old typewriter that had probably written some of the other ones.
      But there was no indication of where the prototype had been moved. But it did not seem likely that it had been shipped out of the country while a lot of the notes and diagrams of the internal parts of the instrument were left here. It looked as if they had started packing then were interrupted.
      "Let's go take a break." David said as he noticed it was well after noon.
      "OK." Kyle said. "But then I want to start looking for your prototype."
      They walked out slowly. Checking back into small side passages and looking through gaps in boards along the side. But they still weren't sure of what they were looking for.

      Outside the breathed the fresh air and marveled at the sunshine. They had gotten used to the world being small and dark and musty.
      "Well?" Shelia asked. "Where's the death ray?"
      "Dunno. But they were here." Kyle said. "I need a beer." He went to the ice chest and fished for a can.
      Sandy was the most exuberant of the three explorers. Just the confirmation that her ancestor had actually been involved with something like this was something of a relief. She was afraid he had been deluded and was living a fantasy. Now it was obvious that something had been going on and it hadn't been all him. There was evidence of several other people having actually lived there as well.
      They ate sandwiches and looked at the pictures they had taken. Then the decision was made to go back in. This time Shelia would go with them and videotape the exploration. Debby volunteered to set up camp for the ones that were staying there that night.
      Soon they were walking back into the mine with extra equipment and containers for samples and documents. They strung an extension cord outside and started the generator. Then they put up some work lights and a couple of fans in the gallery room. The extra light and moving air made the place almost livable.
      The priority was still locating the working prototype of the weapon, but they wanted to make it as civilized a work site as possible.
      They spent the rest of that day and all the next working toward that goal.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Spring 1943

      The news from overseas was good for the Allies, but not so for the group in the mine. Whereas they cared nothing about the war in the Pacific, they listened intently to the bulletins from Europe.
      "The Tide has Turned on the Eastern Front! Russian Authorities have announced that they have retaken Kharkov and it shall not fall again. Nazi forces have been seen in a general withdraw in the Belorussian territory."
      Jorvingas got up and ignored the rest of the commentary from the announcer on the wireless. He looked out at the spring blooms that lined the path down the hill toward the tracks. After a long minute he went back into the mine and concentrated on his work.
      Wahlden had been writing another letter to their contact. It was still a chatty letter, talking about how his niece's husband had brought them two fresh spring turkeys he had shot not far from the camp. Right in the middle of the discussion of roasting the birds over an open fire was a line about the second field prototype exploding in a ball of liquid fire and blinding light, but right before the catastrophic failure it had been working and producing an intense ray of brilliant blue light that cut through the target in a second or two. Then he returned to talking about how Jorvin had tended the fire under the spit and turned the birds ever so slowly to cook them evenly.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Wednesday night, current year

      Wednesday afternoon they marked their maps with a search grid and made plans to work tunnel by tunnel in the areas most likely to contain the prize.
      They all agreed that Raynard and Samuel and Jorvingas would not risk the prototype by putting it someplace where it might corrode from dampness or risk a cave in or damage from animals or people that might happen into the mine. That did narrow the possible locations in the mine, but that still left a lot of territory.
      One of the things they tried to work out was just how large a machine they were looking for. If the Neu Vaterland partners, as they had described themselves, had worked out a way for the device to be hand held or even man-portable, like a backpack, it could be almost anywhere. But the plans and notes seemed to indicate that it was something that while portable, it would need to be on a jeep sized vehicle or maybe a small trailer to move it and its power supply.
      "GOT IT!" Sandy shouted. "I've got it!"
      Kyle looked up from his laptop. Shelia had been loading the truck to head back to the house before dark. David had been trying to get the propane stove to light for dinner. Everybody stopped what they were doing and stared at Sandy like she had suddenly gone mad.
      "Right here. It's in Frau VonReimann's diary." She held up a delicate old book that she had been looking through. "My German isn't very good and her writing is tiny, but I'm sure this is a sketch of the Second Prototype."
      "Second..." David said. "There was more than one?"
      "I think she said the first one exploded." Sandy said. "Then she sketched the second one. With a scale for size." She pointed to a line below the drawing.
      "You just won the lottery." Kyle said looking over her shoulder.
      The drawing indicated that the machine was about a meter and a half long by about half a meter tall. The end view indicated it was about three quarters of a meter wide.
      "That belongs on 'Star Trek'." David said, "Or maybe 'Buck Rogers'."
      The sketch showed tubes and wires and what appeared to be water hoses running here and there around and into the intricate central frame. A row of gauges and knobs occupied a row across the top with a similar lineup along the bottom. Four power cords labeled with different voltages trailed out the back.
      "But it does look like it would work." Shelia said. "Wow."
      David was judging size for visualization. "OK, about...." He walked over to Kyle's ice chest, "a little bit bigger than this." He held his hands just away from the sides of the chest.
      "Lot of places to hide that in there." Kyle said.
      "Well. We know what we're looking for."
      "Maybe not." Sandy said.
      "Maybe not?" Kyle asked her.
      "It says here the second one exploded too...." She was trying to read the old script with marginal success. "Oh, but they started on a third one. They understand the problem now." She nodded to Frau VonReimann's book.
      "Would there be a sketch of it?" David asked.
      Sandy was turning pages. "Not that I see."
      "There's no reason to think it'd be substantially different then." David picked up a map of the mine. "Given that size, I'd bet they put it in a shipping crate or box."
      "So we look for an ice chest sized wooden box." Debby said.
      Kyle grinned. "With 'Secret Nazi Death Ray' written on it in German."
      "Yeah." David nodded. "Exactly."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Spring 1944

      The news from the wireless kept souring Jorvingas's mood until he would sit and listen while eating, but then he would stalk back into the mine and work without saying a word to anybody.
      During the heaviest of the winter they used the smoky old stove in the office building to warm up the supplies Wahlden brought them for times when he couldn't get up from town. At other times they'd build a fire just inside the opening to the mine and cook on it. Fortunately fuel for cooking and heating was not an issue as there were still small piles of coal all over the mine. However fuel for the generator was becoming a serious issue. It would run off gasoline or diesel, or as rumor had it, moonshine, but all were being rationed or just in otherwise short supply.
      They kept their use of it to a minimum and worked by the light of lamps and torches to do what they had to do in the gallery. Other work they did by sunlight outside or in the office. When they did run it they used every watt it produced as efficiently as possible, recharging the batteries for their lights and the wireless almost obsessively.
      Finally the news that Russian troops were pushing through Poland and the Germans were in general retreat in Italy sent Jorvingas into a raging fit.
      "Hitler should sign a peace with the English and concentrate on the East."
      The woman looked up at him and shook her head. "He will never admit defeat in the west."
      "Peace is not a defeat." Jorvingas said. "It can be victory. It is our destiny."
      They sat silently and looked at him.
      "The Allies would never accept a truce now. They are fighting to defeat the Nazis." Samuel said. "It was inevitable."
      "No. It was not. Germany cannot be defeated. Only Hitler can be defeated."
      "But the radio...."
      "My denial of the fact makes it the truth." Jorvingas said sharply. "Our weapon will show the way. The Communists will see the light and it will be the last thing they ever see." He turned on his heel and almost ran into the mine.
      The others sat silently for a long time. The wireless continued to talk about German retreats and surrenders in the Crimea.
      "We should make plans for after...." Wahlden said softly.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Thursday, current year

      They were up and at it early. There was a general excitement in the camp that they were on the verge of discovering the prototype.
      They ate a hasty breakfast and drank camp coffee that was still perking.
      Just as Debby and Shelia arrived from town they were picking up gear and getting ready to go. One of the things the two women had done last night was to go out and buy was a metal detector. Debby had stayed up late at the house playing with the detector and was now a fair master of it. Their plan was to run it over the board walkways in various places looking for large concentrations of metal that shouldn't be there.
      In short order the full strength party was heading into the mine with an enthusiasm not seen by the shaft since Lloyd had found an exposed vein of coal that nobody else had claimed.

      They split into two groups and began a methodical search of everything on the first level, concentrating on the areas most accessible to a small group hauling a large crate on a mine cart. If they didn't find it on this level they'd go down to the second level and begin there.
      The metal detector found several rusty shovels and a partial barrel of nails, but no death ray.
      Kyle discovered a cache of whisky bottles, all empty, evidently hidden during prohibition to be filled later.
      But they didn't find what they were looking for.
      Over lunch they discussed their tactics and decided they'd just keep going and finish the main floor then decide what to do from there.

      The afternoon's search uncovered more mine junk, and the German trash pit. But no secret weapons.
      They worked until it was nearly dark outside. Everybody was filthy and starving and bone tired as they walked out.
      "It's raining out there." David said as they got to where they could see out.
      "Terrific." Debby said. "That drive down is going to be a mess."
      They stood just inside the mine entrance and watched it rain for a few minutes.
      "Hey." Kyle said looking up. "There's a leak right here." Then he moved over.
      His light illuminated a series of water drops slowly flowing down a wooden beam that was holding up the old tin roof over the entrance. The old wood was well stained with ages of water. They all stood and watched the water drip for a minute.
      "We're looking in the wrong place." David said.
      "Up?" Sandy said. "I'd been thinking that too."
      "Yeah." One of the others added.
      "Let's go. I don't want to drive in the rain anyway." Debby said.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
November 1944

      Jorvingas ate breakfast with the others as they listened to the wireless. Once again the news from Europe was not good for his mood. He chewed silently and seemed a little more sullen than he had before.
      They were sitting in the office building and watched snow flurries through the plastic nailed over the windows as the set talked about French troops driving toward the Rhine and Soviet successes in the Baltic States.
      Without a word Jorvingas picked up his coffee cup and walked outside.

          They never saw him again.

      His tracks led down the hill toward the railroad. But where he went from there they couldn't begin to guess.
      Wahlden walked one way and Samuel the other. Searching for miles both ways and calling his name. But it was fruitless. They never even found his cup.
      When Wahlden returned to the office he said he had walked so far he thought he was in West Virginia, but there was no sign of Jorvingas. Samuel said he had even gone into Uniontown but nobody there had seen anybody matching the description he gave of 'his uncle Jore'.
      "Now what?" The lady asked.
      They sat and listened to weather reports for various places far away.
      "We put it away and ask what to do with it." Samuel said at last.
      "I'll write to Nuremburg and see what they say." Wahlden said. "If we ever hear back from them." He added with a glance at the wireless.
      "Let's finish the coffee and get to work." The lady said with some authority.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Thursday Evening, current year

      "There's a lot of room up here." Kyle said.
      They had found an old wooden ladder that seemed reasonably solid and began an exploration of the upper reaches of the mine.
      Most of what they found was antique electric fans used for ventilation and secret stashes of all sorts of personal items from both miners and moon shiners. But not what they were looking for.
      One by one Kyle investigated every ventilation duct they could find.
      "Hey. Here's something." Kyle said. "I think it's part of what we're after."
      He handed down an old leather bound suitcase that was falling apart as they watched. It contained traveling documents with the German crest on them, clothing that was sixty years out of style, an extensive collection of mouse nests and droppings and some other personal effects.
      "Anything else?" Sandy called up to him.
      "Not in this one. But I think we're on the right track." He peered through the shaft until his eyes watered. "I'm coming down. I think the next one is around the corner."
      "It's Jorvingas's." Debby said looking through the documents.
      "He's the one that vanished." Sandy said. "As far as I know he's still missing."
      Kyle was as enthused as he had been the first day of the search. He scampered down the ladder and picked it up in one motion. Then he took off down the shaft to the next ventilation grate.
      "But we know this was what they were thinking." David said. "Take care of it." He said to Debby indicating the suitcase. She nodded and closed it carefully.

      "There's something up here." Kyle said from inside another air shaft a little later. "And it's big."
      It took them some effort but they gently lowered the crate to the ground.
      It was too small to be the prototype, but it was obviously related to it. And when they pried the lid off they were treated to a spectacular collection of spare parts and gear related to its construction.
      "Well." David said. "We've got half the project right here."
      "I want the other half." Sandy said.
      "We'll find it." Kyle said as he climbed down.
      "Spanish throne room." David said as Kyle picked up the ladder.
      "I know where it is."

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Summer 1945

      Waldens trekked up the hill just to check on things at the old mine.
      They hadn't heard from anybody in Germany since they were told that some of the high command were working to secretly move a clandestine operation out of Europe.
      A brief and cryptic letter said to stand by for further instructions, but there had been nothing else.
      Samuel and the others had packed up and basically snuck out of town in the middle of the night. Of what had happened to Jorvingas, nobody even ventured a guess.
      Ray walked through the mine and looked around. They had left most of their things as they were in hopes that somebody would tell them to pick up where they had left off. But it never happened. Now he didn't have the heart to throw the stuff out.
      Once in awhile he glanced up at the roof of the tunnels. All their work and hopes were up there. And there they would remain. Maybe eventually somebody would want it. He shrugged. And then again, maybe not.
      The wireless was still in the office. He went out and put a fresh dry cell in it and listened to the broadcast while he smoked a cigarette. He had picked up the habit from Jorvingas, and it wasn't worth the effort to quit now.
      The war in Europe was over. Somehow he thought it for the best. From the news, the war with Japan would soon follow.
      A coal train rolled by down below. Things were returning to normal.
      He turned the set off and double checked the lock on the mine. In a week or so he'd come back and check it again.

Oliphant Furnace, Pennsylvania
Thursday Night, current year

      "Spain refused to join the war on Germany's side. You can bet Jorvingas and the others didn't like that." David said.
      The others were following him through the mine listening to him think out loud.
      He stopped near where they'd found the pit that they had used both as a restroom and garbage dump.
      "Up there." Kyle said recognizing a vent access.
      "Any bets?" David said as they moved some boards over the pit for Kyle to put the ladder on.
      "No." Sandy answered.
      The grate had been nailed into the beams on both sides with extra nails. It took some work to get it down. Almost as soon as it was out of the way they could see a large wooden crate just off to one side.
      "Bingo." Somebody said.

      The crate was almost exactly the same size as the hole and it took some maneuvering and straining to get it down in one piece.
      They put it on a hand cart and pushed it away from the garbage pit almost respectfully. Then sat it on the large table in the gallery room.
      "Well?" David handed Sandy a crowbar.
      "OK." She said with her voice trembling. She strained at the lid for a long minute, then the old nails and dry wood gave up the fight and the lid started to come loose. "I could use a hand."
      Together they opened the crate.

      "Well. Now what do we do with it?" Debby asked as they admired the old machine that still looked like it would work if they plugged it in.
      "We talk to Aunt Beulah." Sandy said.
      They took a bunch of pictures and video of the device then they carefully re-crated it. They didn't want to even try to get it back up in its hiding place so they moved it back down to the general area of the dump and sat it and the crate of parts on a rusty mine car and covered them with a tarp.
      "Idea." Kyle said. He wrote out a sign on a piece cardboard. 'Warning, cave in area.' then he nailed a board across the side shaft and put his sign on it. "It might make somebody think twice." They agreed.

Uniontown, PA
Friday, Current Year

      They all went to the Saltbox house and took showers and changed clothes. Then they went to see Aunt Beulah.
      The old lady sat stoically and listened to the story and looked at the pictures from her past as they confirmed what her mother had confided to her all those years ago.
      "They did it and it worked." She said several times.
      "Yes." David said. "They invented and had operating a version of a hydrogen atomic beam maser ten years before it was officially discovered."
      "By the Russians." Beulah said in almost a whisper.
      "Yes." Sandy said.
      The lady nodded and ran her tongue over her teeth. "Promise me one thing."
      "Yes ma'am." Sandy said.
      She looked up at the rest of them. "All of you."
      "Yes'm." David said and it was echoed by the others.
      "When the time comes. Go to... oh, I don't know, maybe the State Museum or somebody, and have it all put on display and tell the story so people will remember. But not until I'm gone. I don't want to see his things out in public like that." She looked at Sandy. "As for the mine... keep it in the family." She nodded gently to the younger woman.
      All they could do was say "Yes ma'am" again.

End Secret War

[Note: All rights reserved, including the right to further publication. Distributed copies to proofreaders and editors remain property of the author. No infringement of copyright is intended. All persons are fictitious, all historical events (i.e. World War Two, the WV mine union wars) actually happened. Oliphant Furnace, PA is a real town as well.
Email- dr_leftover{~at~}themediadesk{~dot~}com   Selah ]
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