"Shit, where is Ernst? He was supposed to be here already."
"I don't know, maybe they got lost, or spotted, or…"
"Shit! How are we supposed to manage this with only half of us here?"
"I don't know, but… We'll manage. The fate of the Fatherland requires it. Now, get into position. More so than before, everything has to go perfect."
"Yeah, I understand. If things go South, just make sure you make it out alive, meine Prinz."
The silence that followed those words seemed to last a lifetime. The tension so extreme, it felt like gravity had been amplified on the spot. Everything seemed like it was standing still, except for the sound of vehicles approaching.
"Meine Prinz! Did you hear me? I said we have confirmation! This is it! This is his convoy! It's time!"
Everything that occurred in the next moments was but a blur of chaos. Blood, fire, and metal. The vehicle at the front was obliterated by a mine, while the one at the rear was destroyed by a well placed shot from a prototype Feuerkraft, bringing a whole new level of destruction that made the mine look like a child's firecracker in comparison. Even the soldier who made the shot had a look of horror on his face seeing the destruction.
When the soldiers from the center two vehicles stumbled out, they were immediately met with gunfire from two men stationed o a hill above the road, and the ones who survived the first attack took cover behind the burning wrecks.
That was when he stepped out, being shielded by one of his generals, who was leading him away from the firefight, directly towards…
A shot rang out, and the general fell to the ground, clutching his abdomen. Looking like a deer in the headlights, von Mackensen drew his own pistol, and fired into the nearby bush, where his bullet met with the boy who had slain his general. Without hesitation, von Mackensen continued to flee the scene.
What happened next, another blur. As the firefight faded into the distance, the sound of panting and twigs snapping flooded the scene. von Mackensen twisted himself around in a panic, and fired a shot blindly.
Pain. Pain and blood.
As von Mackensen readied to fire a second shot, his gun was wrestled from his hand, and he was pushed to the ground. Looking like a scared dog, the great von Mackensen cowered before his assailant, muttering a cowards last words. "Your father could not even end this like a man. He had to send a boy to end it like a coward."
"The only coward I see is the worm trembling in front of me." Replied a voice, followed by successive gunshots.
Another blur, then the taste of mud, and then darkness.
May 5th, 1960
A Graveyard in Köln
"Wilhelm. My Kaiser, we are here, wake up."
As the sun flooded into his eyes with a bright intensity, the Kaiser lifted his head from the window, and took a look around, eyes blurred from sleep. After managing to rub vision back into them, he saw the tall, lanky shape of his secretary standing outside of the car, reaching a hand inside to help him out. Taking the boys hand, Wilhelm lifted himself from the vehicle, legs tired from being crammed in the back seat for far too long.
“If you don't mind, I'll be going in alone, Dietrich. You may come join me once I stand back up.”
“Of course, my Kaiser.” Dietrich said in that annoying, nasally voice of his. Wilhelm couldn't fault the boy, of course. It's not like he could choose his voice. It's just that he had to speak in that tone full of fake enthusiasm. If it weren't for him being a friend of Prince Kurt, the Kaiser would have never agreed to giving him the job.
Brushing the thoughts of Dietrich aside, as well as Dietrich himself, Wilhelm entered the graveyard, eyeing the arch that served as a doorway as he passed under it. The words “Köln Heldenruhe” were etched into the stone. Hero's Rest of Cologne. The Heldenruhe were created in the middle of the war to house the brave men who had given their lives to protect their homeland. The body count had been so high that the normal graveyards were filling up too fast, so the Heldenruhe were an attempted solution to that problem.
As Wilhelm zigzagged his way around an army of headstones, all in the shape of the Iron Cross, until he came to one that looked fairly worn, especially compared to it's neighbors. It wasn't exactly abnormal- Many who had died lost fathers and brothers in the war, as well. Many of the dead were the end of their familial lines for that reason, so their graves only got the routine cleanup every once in a while.
Brushing away some moss and foliage, Wilhelm knelt before the grave, and reached inside his coat pocket, drawing a small flask. Popping it open, he took a drink, and proceeded to pour the rest on the ground in front of him.
“Drink up, my friend. I doubt you get much up there.” Wilhelm said, putting the flask back in his pocket. “I'm sorry I haven't visited you in a while. Turns out running the nation is more work than my father and grandfather made it out to be. That, or I'm just bad at the job.”
Letting out a small chuckle, he continued to dust away at the grave, until it was legible.
“Kurt Kruger. 1914-1935. Son of war hero Johan Kruger, and a hero in his own right. Died during the ambush of August von Mackensen in July, 1935, that marked the end of the German Civil War.”
“Twenty four years. It feels like we were driving around Berlin just yesterday. Remember the look on Heinrich's face every time he caught us sneaking out? I swear, if his heart didn't kill him, the way that vein burst from his temple would've done the job.”
Letting himself just reminisce, Wilhelm sat in silence for the better part of ten minutes, only snapping out of it because a bird landed on Kurt's grave, and started to chirp at him. Looking at the bird, the Kaiser cracked a smile, and stood up.
“Well, I'm sure where you are now is a thousand times better than than this world. Russia still hasn't put itself together, so I had to step in to help the royal family. Then every day, it seems more and more countries are falling into the trap of socialism. Neutering their nations to please the common masses. You would have never fallen for that, I know. But I worry every day that the Fatherland may become infected with this madness, and that our victory in the civil war will mean nothing.”
“Is everything all right, my Kaiser?” came a nasally voice from beind Wilhelm. Holding back a sigh, he turned, and put on a smile.
“Of course, Dietrich. I was just talking to the ghost of my dead friend is all.” Dusting the dirt off his knees, the Kaiser started to walk back towards the car. “Tell me, Dietrich. What are your thoughts on the socialists?”
“Oh, well, um.” muttered the boy, looking flabberghasted. “I mean, they are a radical element that is sure to be eliminated as soon as-”
“No. I don't want to hear what the nobles and generals I'm surrounded with daily think. I want to know what you, a boy from the bottom of the barrel, thinks. I want to hear what you all think.”
Looking severely uncomfortable, Dietrich began to fumble with the buttons at the end of the sleeves of his shirt, while looking down at a broken headstone.
“Well, boy?” barked Wilhelm, growing impatient with Dietrich's sheepish attitude.
“I, uh... I don't really see anything wrong with it.” Eyes growing wide, he looked up at Wilhelm, and raised his hands, as if preparing to block a punch. “Of course, I don't see any reason for us here in Germany to adopt it! W-with you leading us, there's no reason for it here!”
The Kaiser glowered at the boy, and opened his mouth to speak, but stopped at the last minute, and just kept walking. Once they were back at the car, he turned around, giving Kurt's headstone one last glance before getting back into the car, Dietrich shuffling in beside him. One of the guards closed the door, before taking his seat in the front, and they were off.
Rather than sleeping this car ride, however, Wilhelm turned to Dietrich, staring at the boy, as he stared at his hands on his lap.
“When we get back to Berlin, I want you to turn in a letter of resignation. You will quit your position as my assistant, so I can find somebody better suited to the job.”
The boys eyes widened, and he looked at the Kaiser, preparing to speak, but was cut off before he could.
“This is not because you said there was nothing wrong with socialism. In fact, that is the one thing you've said in these last three months that actually made me have the slightest amount of respect for you over. No, I want you to resign because you are no different than the rest of them. I need somebody who is not afraid to tell me the truth. The hard facts. Somebody who doesn't prepare to piss themselves like a toy dog the second they state what they believe is right. Do you understand me?”
Slumping into himself, Dietrich gave a resigned nod, and turned to look out the window.
'Too cowardly to even answer me properly.' thought Wilhelm, glancing out his own window, and watching as the terrain sped by him. Before he knew it, he was dozing off once more, memories filling his mind in place of the countryside.
May 12th, 1960
The sound of glass shattering and a cheering crowd filled the night air, as a man went flying through the front doors of a small bar on the outskirts of the town, followed by a larger man who had more hair on his upper lip than the top of his head.
“This is final warning, Feliks.” the man said in a thick Russian accent. “Bring Kacper money by Sunday or he will be providings no more of the goodies.” Tossing Feliks a crumpled had, the Russian added. “He will also be sending me to be breaking a bone, surely.”
Scampering to his feet, Feliks tried to fix his hat, while blinking wildly at the door.
“Damn Russians. They have no business interfering in my damn country.” he muttered, placing the mess of a hat on his head, and walking off towards the city center.
As he neared the center of Lublin, it became much busier, and much more lively. What had once been a humble town was now a hub for Russian refugees, as well as the capital of everything illegal, shady, and unpleasant in Poland- no, the German Empire.
Looking up at the mockery of a flag their nation had agreed to, Feliks spit on the ground next to him, only to feel a hand on his shoulder two seconds later.
“What's with the attitude, kid?” asked a middle-aged man in a ratty coat, fist full of Feliks' shirt.
“I, I'm sorry.” mumbled Feliks. “I wasn't paying attention. I'll be more careful next time. Sir.”
“Yeah, well you better be. I really ought to-” he trailed off, distracted by a woman in a needlessly tight dress. By the time he looked back, Feliks was gone, having slipped into an alleyway, and making his escape. He was used to it. After all, if he could slip away from the German military police regularly, what was some old man?
After wandering around town a bit more, avoiding trouble as best he could, he eventually came to a small casino. der Großherzog.
'The Germans even took our culture' thought Feliks as he looked back at the sign as he moved to a door at the side of the casino, giving it a couple knocks. A couple seconds later, it cracked open, and a mousey man was eying him up and down, before opening the door fully.
“Well? What did he say?” asked the man, still standing in the doorway.
“Nothing. He sent his Russian dog after me again. I keep telling you, if you want to actually speak to Kacper, you're going to have to go yourself. The dog just repeats the same shit, as usual. 'Bring Kacpar moneys or he no give you stuff!'”he shouted in the worst Russian accent he could manage.
The mousey man just nodded, and grabbed something from behind the door. “Well, Feliks.” he said with a sniff, rubbing his red nose with the back of his free hand. “I'll tell you what. If he wants his money so bad, then we'll get it for him. Of course, by we I mean you.” Sniffing again, he reached out a hand, holding a pistol. “You are going to take this, and pull together a couple friends from that little gang of yours, yea? Then you all will head to that big, gaudy bank on the West side of town, and ask the tellers there kindly for the money we need, okay? I don't need any questions, and I sure don't need to go meet with Kacper in person. Do this for me, and I promise, you'll have a nice cut from the next job we pull off, alright?”
“Got it.” Feliks said, turning around. He knew that even if he tried to argue, Szymon would just pull out the threats, and that he would end up even more screwed over, while still stuck doing the job.
Sighing, he walked back out to the main road, passing a group of Germans who smelled more like alcohol than a brewery.
'Stupid ass szkop's. They probably act all moderate and righteous at home, but you always see them here drinking their gut's away, and sleeping with the cheapest Russians they can find.' he thought, half tempted to say something to their faces, but deciding against it, and heading to the casino's parking lot, getting into a rusty old car that looked like it could barely even run. After spending nearly three minutes getting it to start, he drove off into the night, resisting the temptation to drive up onto the sidewalk as he saw another group of Germans, this time members of the military police.
“Damn szkop's will get what's coming to them in good time. Stupid kacap's, too.” he muttered, playing with the pistol on his lap as he drove. “Then there's Szymon. Who does he think he is, making me his errand boy. If it weren't for my gang, Kacper would have him hanging in front on that shitty old bar. Hell, I should just let him!”
Just then, Feliks' car made a loud popping sound, and slowed to a crawl before stopping in the middle of the road.
“God damn piece of junk!” Feliks shouted, unbuckling his seat belt and kicking open his door, as the car behind him honked. Turning around in a fury, he pointed the gun that he was still holding at the car, only to see two angry Germans staring back at him, their military uniforms blatantly obvious. Eyes widening, Feliks dropped the gun, and took off sprinting in the other direction as the sirens began to blare behind him. First chance he got, he ducked into an alley that was too small for the car to continue down, and took a turn towards another one of Szymon's safehouses, only to crash into another burly Russian, who grabbed him by the shoulders, scowling down at him.
“Hey, I'm sorry okay. But you really, really need to let me go. I need to get out of here, I'm sure you get it, right?” he said, head flicking back and forth between the Russian and the alleyway, where he could hear footsteps approaching from.
“No.” said the Russian, in German.
“I don't need this right now! You have to let go!” shouted Feliks, a bit of desperation in his voice.
“No.” replied the Russian again, tightening his grip.
At this point, Feliks tried to struggle, kick, even bite, but the Russian wasn't budging. Just as he thought it was over for him, a door opened next to them, and the Russian turned, dragging Feliks inside with him.
“You are safe here.” the Russian said in perfect Polish, as the door closed behind them, leaving them in total darkness.