When Clio Dances (Version 1.1)
By Adam Santoso
Part 5: A Taste of Things to Come
USS George H.W. Bush, 19 30 Hours, 24 December 1941
Cruising ninety-five miles off the southern coasts of Indochina at a speed of twenty-five knots, the futuristic supercarrier launched a flight of four F-35Cs loaded with two Harpoons each. The Harpoons carried were old AGM-84Ds, each with the speed of eight hundred and fifty-five miles per hour and possessing an explosive payload of four hundred and eighty-eight pounds. Contrary to popular belief, just one of them would not be enough to sink a heavily-armored battleship.
For now, their targets were not massive lumbering battlewagons but rather lightly-armored destroyer escorts. The Lightning IIs streaked past the southern harbor so fast that they resembled the penetrators that shrieked in before them. Only this time they were also manually guided by human pilots, not just microchip processors and laser-targeting systems. Mil-grade combat cams installed on their noses fed everything in front of them back to the Bush’s combat information center.
Admiral Cleburne watched the attack run in progress from one of the LCD screens. The harbor was brightly lit by the flames from the damages inflicted fifteen minutes ago; the burning wreckages of the battleships Kongo and Haruna, the heavy cruisers Chokai, Takao and Haruna and the port facilities holding the six KD3A/B submarines. There was neither joy nor sadness in what was done; they were, after all, just doing their jobs.
The screen flashed brightly as two blossoms of explosions ripped through the burning night once more. It looked as if an ammunition dump was hit by an ungodly number of heavy ordnance, but Cleburne knew the Harpoons had probably – with luck – penetrated through the ships’ internal magazine stores.
"Captain, Sierra-Fox-One has just launched her first Harpoon," a technical officer chimed in. "Sierra-Fox-Two and Three’s first Harpoons have scored direct hits on the Akashi and Hagikaze. Sierra-Fox-Four has just armed his Harpoons."
Before a minute passed, the screen flashed with the explosion of the Akatsuki, the first of the Akatsuki family of destroyers. If Cleburne read that naval history book correctly, it would have been sunk in about a year’s time.
"Sierra-Fox-Four has just launched his first Harpoon," reported the same officer. Four second later, he frantically said, "Harpoon has splashed one point five meters from target, the Hatakaze. Looks like a malfunction. All strike aircraft are reformatting their attack runs."
Damn, Admiral Cleburne clenched his fists tightly.
"Commander Hunt," Captain Howery ordered from the dark. "I want you to get the second squadron ready for action. Also, get those technicians to check their weapons load properly. I don’t want another damn malfunction occurring!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Touché, Greg," Cleburne ribbed.
The screen flashed once more, this time with three violently bright explosions ripping through the night.
"Hatakaze, Nowaki and Maikaze are confirmed destroyed," reported the technical officer. "Sierra-Fox-Two, Three and Four are veering straight for home."
The only Lightning II left in the area was now Sierra-Fox-One, armed with just one Harpoon and now making her final attack pass. The admiral thought he could glimpse flak bursts raking the night sky, which was probably the case since the Japanese now probably knew it was an air attack. Shrapnel or two might get lucky…
"Sierra-Fox-One has launched her final missile. She is now headed for home."
Those few seconds till impact were tight. Everyone in the heart of the supercarrier were now wondering whether that Harpoon would hit or malfunction like Fox-Four’s first launch. Quickly counting the number of ships sunk, he cursed at that damn faulty ship-killer once more. Even seventy-six years in the past, everything could not be as perfect as he hoped for. If that Harpoon hadn’t broke down, all eight destroyers of Vice-Admiral Kondo’s Southern Force would have been at the bottom of the bay by now.
Then, without warning, the screen burst to life with the brilliant light of a massive explosion.
"Michishio has been struck clean," the technical officer pitched in.
Instead of breaking out in triumphant joy or cheers of success, the final blast was greeted with a grim and unflappable silence. The admiral was still brooding over the Japanese destroyer still yet to receive a subsonic ship-killing missile. Two minutes passed before another technical officer interrupted his dwellings.
"Captain, looks like the Hibiki is moving out fast," he detailed. "We are detecting radio signals from her… it seems that she’s alerted the airbases in Thudaumot and Soc Trang, though I doubt it’ll be a worrying matter."
"That’s right, Jim," Captain Howery complemented. "Keep the drone lock on that ship, and Commander Hunt?"
"Tell second wave to send just one bird up," the captain ordered. "I want it to be loaded with two Harpoons, however. Have the techs checked out the ship-killers yet, by the way?"
"Done and done, sir."
20 00 Hours
Flight Lieutenant Raymond ‘Shrike’ Tinley didn’t like to clean up other people’s messes, but if he got to do it alone and bag a target – even if it’s an old Japanese tin-can – with a bigass boom, he wouldn’t mind it a single bit. His aircraft was currently loaded with a pair of AGM-84Ds on the external hardpoints beneath the aircraft wings, each weighing one thousand, one hundred and forty-five pounds. The last of the first strike wing had came back ten minutes ago, all still in top condition.
Right now, the lieutenant was concentrating on taxing his aircraft into a shallow groove on the flight deck, which in turn would lead him to catapult slot number two. The bright lights coming from the island structure illuminated much of the darkened surrounding, a fact which made him wonder if any enemy planes or warships were lurking in the horizon, waiting for the right moment to pounce on the battlegroup…
Naw, he coolly dismissed the thought.
Outside his cockpit, a green-shirted ‘hook-up man’ rushed forward to fix up the aircraft’s nose wheel and engage the catapult shuttle. The green-shirted man gestures for the catapult to be tensioned, in which allowing the nose wheel to pull forward and be simultaneously restrained by the hold-back. The catapult operator signaled his acknowledgement with a single finger. The hook-up man immediately whirl his right hand and point forward for the yellow-shirted aircraft director to do his job.
Shrike adjusted his HMDS for better night vision and kept the brakes on. The aircraft director was now standing in front of his Lightning II, waving a clenched fist in the air and shouting at him to keep the brakes on. He gave the director a thumb up, indicating that he was following the usual procedure for catapult launch. Ten seconds later, the director unclenched his fists and shouted over the rising din of the P&W F-135 engine powering up.
"Brakes off!" he yelled. "Full power, now!"
The helmet display mounted system within his helmet hinted at what he should do next, and gave him an objective list which he already knew by heart. There was only one goal, and that was to sink a destroyer christened as the Hibiki. The threat boards didn’t mention any SAMs or lasers, only a smattering of good ol’ triple A for which he was glad for. The probability of him getting shot down was less than two percent.
Now the catapult officer took over the hook-up man’s job. He promptly thrust both hands into the air, two fingers extended and rotating in a circular, rapid motion. The hook-up man, standing far back, gave the ‘all-clear’ signal for flying. Immediately, the officer gestures for the shooter to play her part now.
Shrike snapped off a quick, slouchy salute to signify his readiness to yank this beast off the ‘Bushwagon’, as the supercarrier was known hereabouts among the lesser ranks working onboard, and nab a bad guy in between his ass.
"Make sure you come back alive," the officer yelled once more. "You still owe me a coupla drinks."
The flight lieutenant jerked a quick thumb up before the catapult officer pointed forward, hitting the deck with his signal. Behind Shrike’s aircraft, the shooter got the signal to launch the bird and put her into action. Without warning, the Lightning II was hurtled forward at nearly one hundred and fifty knots, with Shrike pushing the throttles up. His HDMS denoted that everything had gone off without a hitch, as it blinked in a direction marker pictured as a compass-like arrow.
Before long, his plane was two hundred feet up in the air. Shrike followed the directional arrow like just as a mule would with a carrot stick.
With a speed of more than three hundred and thirty meters per second, the F-35 was shrieking over the burning harbor of Cam Ranh Bay in less than ten minutes. Shrike could have gone faster, but the two Harpoons slung beneath his craft were adding obstructing weight. Still, he dandily took his time to link up with one of the orbiting surveillance drones above to verify and lock onto his target.
Flak bursts and tracer lines were popping here and zipping there, but they were – in his accurate judgment – too far apart and too little to cause serious concern. Just as a safety precaution, he leveled his craft from eleven thousand to twelve thousand feet. His plane lurched upwards, as the gravity pull of the Earth forced Gs upon the airframe and its pilot. Then, the flight stabilized once more and his HDMS visual was giving him a big green target box.
"This is Sierra-Shrike-Zero," he announced over the UHF secured lines. "I have target visual in sight, at approximately…"
He read one of the screen charts presenting the increasing distance between his aircraft and the Akatsuki-class destroyer. It was trying to get out of the burning harbor.
"Approximately forty kilometers to the northeast," he finished.
He selected the first Harpoon, flipped on the ‘arm-weapon’ switch and steadied his middle finger over the red button. The range was closing in now at one hundred and twenty, one hundred and fifteen, one hundred and ten…
Without hesitation, the flight lieutenant pressed down the switch hard. The AGM-84D detached from its hardpoint attachment, dropping to four feet above the water before it engaged its turbojet engine and homed in on the drone-painted ship. The subsonic ship-killer sped right above the water surface, heading straight for the oblivious one thousand, nine-hundred and eighty ton warship.
"An early Merry Christmas," he chimed as the missile reached ten meters from target, "to you, Mr. Hibiki."
The anti-ship missile slammed through the Hibiki’s mid-structure and exploded, shattering the fragile vessel in a fiery eruption of heat and shrapnel. It broke the warship in half, and what was left of it, the stern and the bow, sank to the bottom under three minutes. Circling the whole area, satisfied that he had a job done with a big bang, Shrike reported in his success.
"George Bush, this is Sierra-Shrike-Zero. The Hibiki has been obliterated, no survivors anticipated. Mission accomplished, I’m now headed for home."
"Roger that, Shrike-Zero," the UHF cackled.
The F-35C Lightning II rapidly spun in a hundred and eighty-degree Immelmann, leaving in its wake a trail of burning warships and port facilities once thought secured. Slumping back on his seat, Shrike took a minute to relax. The one and only concern on his mind right now was landing, even if he done it more than a hundred times already.
20 25 Hours
The CIC of the George H.W. Bush, despite being calm, was frantic with activity. The data techs were dissecting footages of the three-pronged modern assault on the Japanese-held bay, under orders from Admiral Philip Cleburne. When they got back to CONUS, the footages would then be converted for theatre viewing nationwide. In one of his deep thought moments, the admiral wondered what contemporary men would view of such a powerful assault, especially when it’s dubbed as ‘Japan’s Pearl Harbor’.
His PDA beeped, indicating that he had received a message. Surely, he clicked open the new message file to see what it carried. Much to his dismay, it had only one sentence of a question.
From: General Jefferson Hale, US COFORCE CMDR
To: Admiral Philip Cleburne, USN
Phil, how did the strike go?
Nonchalantly, he clicked on the reply button and began wording up a simple message of achievement.
RE: All targets serviced and obliterated, General. Op FAST DRAW is an astounding success. The battlegroup is on its way back to Singapore, and will leave for Australia in a fortnight.
As soon as he sent his message and locked the PDA, the electronic officer operating one of the sensor arrays got more than thirty blip signals coming from the bubble’s edge. Their AN/SPS-49 array was connected with an AN/WLR-2 ESM, a Hawkeye plane orbiting the battlegroup and the escorting Zumwalts’ AEGIS sensor systems, which granted the battlegroup a mastery of three hundred and forty-five miles. Anything flying within the bubble was bound to be detected, unless it had a stealth profile or was flying very low.
"Admiral," he reported. "I have a total of thirty-eight hostile aircraft are flying in from the southwest, bearing two-eight-nine, on my radarscopes. At their current rate, they would reach the battlegroup’s current locale in an estimated thirty minutes."
"How many CAP birds are up there now?" Cleburne asked.
"None Admiral," replied Commander Hunt. "Last CAP plane touched down for R&R six minutes ago. We can get every other bird up in the bird pretty quickly, though."
"Never mind then," Admiral Cleburne finally said. "Sending that bird up would be a waste of irreplaceable missiles and fuel. We’ll continue our course back to Singapore, and shoot down any plane that tries to bomb us."
20 41 Hours
Squadron Leader Yukio Yamada wondered if he and his squadron were being led on a nighttime wild goose chase. More than an hour ago, the naval base at Cam Ranh had been attacked. Some spotters along the coasts there had sighted a large group of unidentified warships, and thought they were responsible for the destruction of Vice-Admiral Kondo’s Main Body. The droning of twenty-four other fourteen-cylinder Sakae 12 engines accompanied his, and they were the undisputable kings of the air. In this part of Asia, their only opposition was the slow and unwieldy Buffaloes and Hurricanes of the British, and the Warhawks and Wildcats of the Americans.
His squadron of fighters was also accompanying thirteen twin-engine G3M2 bombers from the same force that was responsible for the sinking of two British battleships off the coast of Malaya. Surely then, any enemy ships sighted around here would all the more have reason to fear them and flee in terror, which he thought was the way of the white man. Inside, Yukio wished that the 22nd Air Flotilla had thrown more planes in. With a total of one hundred and thirty-four G3M bombers and thirty-six Mitsubishi fighters, not even the American fleet sunk at Pearl Harbor could have stopped them.
There used to be such a massive flotilla, but two days ago, the main airbase in Saigon was for all intents and purposes gone. Only a massive charred patch remained of the airfield that contained had contained eighty-six bombers and five transport aircraft. It was either the work of some unknown weapon or even perhaps the gods themselves. Yukio was not prone to superstition, but nothing could explain how the airbase was destroyed. Similar events had occurred in Soc Trang and Thudaumot yesterday, but they were light-hearted compared to what had happened at Saigon.
It must be the Americans, he swiftly concluded. A secret weapon of theirs, for they know they cannot match the warrior spirit of Nippon. Sooner or later, their weapons too will become redundant in the face of our relentless onslaught!
"Taisho," his radio cackled to life. "I think I see some lights in the distant waters ahead. They seem to be –"
The report abruptly went dead as an explosion shook the air around his fighter. Yukio quickly wrested control of the light aircraft, hoping to shoot down whoever was responsible once his plane stabilized.
"All units – break formation, now," he ordered through the radio, as another explosion shook the air.
His attention was diverted by a streaking ball of fire that faintly appeared right in front of his cockpit, growing bigger in size as the gap between him and it was closing. He briefly wondered what it was before the world disintegrated into a mess of fire and metal, and finally darkness. As he died, Yukio’s last thoughts were how glorious his service to the Emperor would be as he scythed all his enemies down with a divine blade in the form of his nimble Zero.
20 48 Hours
"That’s the last of them, Admiral," Commander Hunt announced. "No survivors detected."
"Alright then," Cleburne acknowledged. "We’ll maintain course for Singapore."
After the Zumwalt escorts had eliminated the threats, he figured that then and there, Japanese air power in this region had been comprehensively fucked to the bottom. There won’t be any more air raids on Singapore for however long it took for the Japanese to ship in new aircraft and repair the bases. Even then, Allied air defenses would have been strengthened by the full power of modern technology to the point that attacking Singapore or parts of British-held Malaya was the surest way for any man to die.
"Greg," he turned to the Bush’s captain. "You can have your ship’s C&C center back. I’m going up deck for a little fresh air."
"Many thanks, Admiral," Howery grinned.
"It’s your ship after all, Greg," the admiral’s voice trailed on as he exited the CIC.
Part 6: Australian Blues
Queensland, 16 31 Hours, 24 December 1941
The reports were completely unbelievable. To John Birmingham’s steady eyes, it looked like the transcript of some terrifying science-fiction novel. The mish-mash of black and white and colored photos helped to convince him that it was real. The Transition had turned out to be a rough deal, and it wasn’t just like in his novels. Some of its effects were even thought to be taken out of the Twilight Zone.
Seated inside his newly-given office at the Townsville Joint Military Centre, Birmo’s table was surprisingly cluttered with little paperwork and more books instead, and an IBM ThinkPad desktop in the middle. Hardcovers detailing topics on Quantum physics, the Dummies Guide to Modern Militaries and even the odd, cheap conspiracy theory novels that were taken for granted back in Twenty-One could be found on his Ikea work desk.
"Holy shit," he muttered to no one in particular.
The photo he was viewing showed an asphalt pavement on Cassowary Street in the central western town of Longreach. It resembled every other twenty-first century modern road, except for one glaring detail. The arms of a human being sticking out of the ground could clearly be seen, and from closer inspection, the arms’ bottoms were fused to the asphalt surface. The picture was taken over two days ago, and it was not a local event. Areas, in 21C Queensland, not in close proximity to the sea had suffered some variation of this Transition anomaly.
As it turned out, bits of contemporary Queensland had remained along its southwestern state border. The big catch was that most of them were devoid of contemporary human life, reminding Birmo a lot of those old ‘Ghost Towns’ scattered in arid areas of the American Mid-West. The survivors of Birdsville, in particular, were all dazed and confused, wondering what in the world had just happened to their friends and neighbors on that faithful evening of December 19.
Birmo shook his head as he carefully placed the report file on the left corner of his desk. He was thankful that Ipswich wasn’t located inland. The flat screen lying in front of him never wavered for a second though, and it pained him that he had to finish this piece of work given by General Beagle in lieu of writing his latest novel.
For some reason, he started to think of the Twilight Zone, which brought onto the case of Springvale. The report had mentioned that the town winks into existence by day and out by night. Strangest of all, her inhabitants were constantly running in some sort of fast reverse temporal loop during the day, but at night, nothing could be seen except this thick, green fog that envelopes the entire area.
The handphone within his left pocket suddenly rang, playing the tune from Blink 182. Without checking who the caller was, he placed an ear piece on his right ear and answered the call.
"John Birmingham speaking," he spoke in a businessman-like tone.
"Hey honey," a sweet voice chimed in. "I’m here at home thinking of what to cook for our Christmas dinner. It’ll either be cold salad spread with baked ham and chicken chop, or lasagna with seafood leftovers, prosciutto and loads of mozzarella cheese. What say you?"
"I’ll say both," he smiled. "Is Thomas giving you a helping hand in this?"
"Yes," a sigh came from the other side. "I’d prefer if Anna helped me instead, but she’s out getting all the Christmas goodies ready for tonight."
"Tommy will do just fine," Birmo assured her. "He’s a good and strong lad. If he can learn how to climb a nine-foot tall monkey bar when he was four, and come home after getting lost in Brisbane at seven, he’ll learn how to cook just fine."
"You give him too much credit, John," his wife teased.
"I won’t comment on that," he laughed back. "On a pleasing note, I’ll just take that lasagna option for dinner just ‘coz it’s Italian. The ham can wait for lunch tomorrow."
"Alright honey. Don’t be late for dinner."
The line went statically dead.
He locked the phone’s keypad and put it back in its original space, turning his attention onto the task at hand. It was an outline of how Queensland could help the Allied war effort, and what should the Allies do to leapfrog their own industrial bases to produce modern technologies. The latter would take at least two decades, but if it was done properly, things like helicopter gunships and ship-mounted missile launchers might make an early appearance.
As for the former… he had rang up his old buddy Mick in Brisbane and asked about Queensland’s heavy industries. The answer was slightly positive and mostly negative.
"The only things I can remember," Mick had said, "is that they have an aluminum smelter in Gladstone and a production line for the Tiger ARH here in Brisbane. Heard that they recently opened a new line in Rockhampton, but the main point is that Queensland does not posses any heavy industries to speak of."
Most of what he had said was true. 21C Australia’s defense industries were based mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, both of which were currently contemporary pre-transistor states. The large amount of physics and engineering students found throughout the country could be sent to the ‘States to boost the Manhattan Project, however. He typed that down and rapidly clicked the save box, just in case the computer blacked out like it did on his old Pentium 3.
As he entered the fortieth page of his report, a worrying thought clogged his working mind. What if the Axis had gotten their fair share of future technological wonders?
There were a bunch of naval warships missing in Cairns, and the Bush carrier battlegroup was a fine example of the randomness of temporal juxtapositions. Before the Transition, it was sailing two-hundred miles northeast of New Zealand, but had landed in the middle of the Indian Ocean after some Manning Pope Wannabe had decided to play God with time and space. Birmo wondered if a secret government experiment in the heart of North America was responsible.
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
"Mr. Birmingham," it was Captain Stevenson Stirling, the general’s aide. "General Beagle wants you to come along with him to Mount Helen immediately."
"Thank you, Captain," Birmo gave a shout. "I’ll be out in a minute."
He moved the mouse cursor over the save box once more, double-clicking it and repeat on the close window box. It took him less than forty seconds to switch the computer off, after which he turned off the room’s lights, drank half a bottle of Evian recycled water found on the guest sofa and walked out of the door, into the sight of the military officer. Locking the door, he gave himself a satisfactory grunt and accompanied the officer to wherever he was intended to go to.
17 10 Hours
"… at least eight cases of suicide in our armed forces, while the Americans have had to deal with twenty-four such cases," Captain Stirling reported. "Of the eight cases, six were successful and two were, well, failed attempts. Those two men are currently being held under rehabilitation programs. In other news, rationing has gone into full effect throughout Queensland. There’ve been a few food riots in Brisbane and Cairns, but nothing as serious as in Zimbabwe or Uganda in 2015."
They were seated inside the passenger cabin of a MRH-90 transport helicopter; a variant of the European NH-90 bought in 2005 and entirely replaced the Royal Australian Armed Forces’ collection of Blackhawks and Sea Kings by 2015. Birmo had been caught in between the state of liveliness and sleepiness for the past thirty minutes or so inside the spacious place of the passenger cabin.
"ETA two minutes," the pilot announced over the intercom.
General Beagle turned at Birmo. "Well John," he said. "It looks like you’ll soon be seeing where one of the USN’s ships went to. In fact, I think you can have a little glimpse outside now."
That certainly caught the Pulitzer award-winning-turned-advisor author’s attention. He slowly rubbed his eyes and took a look at the window beside him. Fifty feet below the rotary craft was the base of Mount Whelan, which was one hundred and twenty-two miles west of the anomalous town of Springvale. Aside the pack of Kangaroos bouncing up and down, the most shocking thing of all was that near the bottom of the mountain was the hull of a ship sticking out, unable to touch the skyline.
"That was supposed to be the USS Ingraham," the general explained. "It was an old Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate which was responsible for the ASW defense of the 4th MEU during its trip to Cairns. There’s the forward 76mm naval gun on deck, plus a MK13 missile launcher next to it."
"Wow," Birmo gasped. "It looks like something out of the Philadelphia Experiment."
"Or one of your novels, John," General Beagle offered. "Karate Schnitzel had a frigate appearing right on top of a mountain too, if I could correctly recalled, except that it was an Indonesian vessel and the materialization had taken place somewhere in New Guinea."
"True," Birmo muttered. He was too engrossed by the sight of that weird cut-out, which could be forgiven since it was not everyday that anomalies such as this occurred.
The helicopter touched down with its forward wheels rather smoothly. Before he could do anything, the door was slid open by a soldier – a Sergeant, from the looks – from outside. Unhurriedly, the men inside the passenger cabin came out into the sun-glaring outdoors of southwestern Queensland. The heat was unbearable, due to the fact that it was always summer in December. Birmo took out a military-issued bush cap slung along his pocket and wore it, giving his face some much-needed shade.
"Here we are, gentlemen," General Beagle announced. "We are at the base of one of the most remarkable findings of the Twentieth Century. A modern warship stuck into the slope of Mount Whelan."
Walking alongside the general and his aide, Birmo noticed that there were plenty of heavily-armed, goggle-wearing soldiers across the mountain foot. Overhead, a trio of insect-looking Tiger attack helicopters buzzed like hornets, guarding the area with the utmost vigilance. Birmo suspected that a few surveillance drones were up high in the sky as well; it made sense to secure this site with every modern war-fighting technology, due to the nature of this particularly unfortunate vessel.
They were approaching one of the makeshift tents, in which a group of contemporary men had made home. John Birmingham thought he seen them from a history book somewhere, but the man he immediately recognized was Robert Curtin. They had met before during his tour of the Townsville Joint Military Centre, and Birmo wondered if he had read his novel.
"Ah," the Australian prime minister awed. "It’s nice to have you here, Mr. Birmingham."
Both of them quickly shook hands without Birmo realizing it.
"I had read your book," Curtin commented. "And I love it. It’s simply fantastic and well-detailed, even if there were parts which I do not understand. I do especially like your portrayal of a tense, war-weary prime minister. That, of course, is long past us now."
The author just chuckled a bit and nodded. For once in his entire life, John Birmingham had felt a complete loss for words. He began to wonder who was the ‘temp here, but the depressing thought wore off as fast as it reared its ugly head. He just had to play along, be a good host and all that stuff, before home came to him. Home, and Christmas.
Betong Battlezone, 18 52 Hours, 24 December 1941
The Siamese town was full of rising black smoke by the time the sun was ready to set into the west. The incessant chatter of antique Japanese machine guns and rifles, and the deep jackhammering of thirty-millimeter autocannons shattered whatever hopes this small, quaint town might have for a quiet evening.
Overhead, a quartet of Apache gunships from the Bush make several strafing passes with their autocannons, once or twice lashing out with their rocket pods as well. The environment was pretty poor for targets, since those IJA vehicles caught out in the open had been vandalized beyond repair for over an hour. The first powerful shots of the joint attack between modern infantry and airpowers had decimated any Japanese hope for a coherent defense outside the town.
Inside, however, was a different matter. Scattered resistance was still widespread, but the most organized of them all was situated at the town center. It was bristling not only with machine guns of all sizes and fanatical Japanese, but anti-tank rifles used in the sniping role as well. The center would have been continuously hosted down with aerial cannon and rocket fire, but after two passes half an hour back, some suicidal Japanese decided that launching a mortar while a gunship passed in low and slow overhead was a sure way to kill them. He did just that, and with some luck, the AH-64 in question was blown into bits and pieces of metal wreckages tarred with human gore.
Lieutenant Clinton Wong squatted behind the corner of a street leading to the last Japanese stronghold, along with Private Abbey Paterson and a corporal who went by the name of Michael Cassafold. Gripping their AICWs tightly, they were prepared for any SNAFU or clusterfucks that would inevitably occur in a hot battlezone. The troop was ‘building-up’ for the last push into the Imperial Japanese Army’s last bastion in Betong, after having lost two men and that Apache.
"Okay El-Tee," his tac-net burst to life. "Gives us the word and we’ll blitz in before they even know what hit ‘em."
"How many FGM-15s are there again?"
"Two, El-Tee. And both are loaded up with thermo rounds. We could hit ‘em before their snipers pop us, and none is the wiser."
"Five more seconds then," Clint announced.
The deep-bass rumble of moving tracks filled the air as ‘A’ Troop’s three ASLAV-26s were getting into position. Their autocannons were whirring steadily as their missile suites were being pre-programmed for infantry suppression. As the lead ASLAV vehicle moved onto the street junction, a row of Type 97 anti-tank rifles boomed in anger. Their twenty-millimeter rounds merely panged off the lightly armored vehicle’s explosive reactive armor.
"Now!" the lieutenant ordered.
A pair of soldiers hiding within one of the abandoned houses overlooking the stronghold began leaping into action. From the interior of the second storey, a pair of FGM-15 Marauder SRAWs began poking out of the broken windows. Their black barrels soon spat two 83mm PBXIH-140 warheads that went as fast as ten meters per second, and they ducked back in once the deed was done.
In nine seconds, the warheads impacted against the concrete support of an ancient building, and exploded. The metallized explosion quickly consumed everything within a circular radius of twenty meters in a large, dense fireball. Everything within it was cooked and asphyxiated simultaneously, leaving a large vacuum that suffocated those who managed to survive somehow. The surviving Japanese who were not wedged in the explosions were caught off guard as the ASLAVs started depleting known or suspected positions with autocannon and missile fire.
The trio of AH-64 gunships re-entered the carnage with unrestricted vengeance, hosting down any Japanese in sight with its linear-linkless, thirty-millimeter M230 automatic guns and Hydra-70 aerial rocket pods. Under their covering fire, Lieutenant Wong advanced with the privates, picking off hostiles with single 5.56mm rounds. One foolish noncom had tried to ambush Clint with a bayonet charge from his flank, but he quickly ducked and gave the man a kick to the groins, finishing off with a quick butt-swipe on the forehead that rendered him unconscious.
"Abbey, Cassafold," he spoke over the tac-net. "I want you both to haul this man over to the Punjabi regiment camping at the southern side of this bloody town. Make sure he doesn’t get to pull off any naughty tricks, like hidden grenades and whatnot, or I’ll have your fucking hides for it. Assuming you survive, that is."
"Yessir!" Both replied in unison, though from their faces, one could tell that they were distressed with the prospect of being on end run of a suicide bomber.
‘A’ Troop’s lieutenant quickly left them to their task, heading over to the ASLAV marked as Lead Kangaroo Explorer. Amidst the chatter of the four-bladed twin-rotor attack helicopters above, the battle was more or less won. His tac-net suddenly beeped, with the gruffly voice of Staff Sergeant Mackay filling in not long thereafter.
"El-Tee, looks like that was the last of them. They don’t really like being taken prisoners, do they?"
"Nope Sergeant," he warily agreed. "It’s something to do with their twisted sense of honor, which makes them a hell lot worse than AQ."
"I can see that," she said.
"Anymore casualties taken in that last big one?" Clint finally asked.
"Nope, but if you count the wounded –"
Someone else interrupted the conversation with haste. "INCOMING ZEROES!"
Clint only had time to wonder who it was before an earth-shattering roar of a five-hundred and fifty pound bomb going off a good five feet away from the ASLAVs instinctively told him to slam his body flat on the ground. The all-too familiar ratatatata of machine guns - or was it cannons? - burst in the rapidly-darkening skies above town.
"This is Eagle Two, I am taking heavy enemy fire, requesting for immediate assis –"
The line went dead as the Apache lost its pilot, killed when a mixture of 7.7mm machinegun and 20mm cannon fire punctured through his cockpit. Abruptly, much to the horror of the men and women of ‘A’ Troop, it went on a speedy downward spiral that ended with an ear-piercing crash and a huge explosion. With haste, Clint ran for cover among the building corners and caught sight of the aerial attackers. Two of them, gleaming on them the red-painted meatballs of Imperial Japan, were turning in for another strafing pass.
The first prop-driven plane didn’t make it when a missile from one of the ASLAVs whooshed into the air, intent on tracking one of the buggers down. Without fail, it penetrated through the aircraft’s engines and burst in a fiery storm of heat and shrapnel that engulfed the enemy bird. The second Zero was lucky enough to complete its turn and had the responsible ASLAV in its gun sight, when another ASLAV popped another missile from one of its pods, with similar results.
"I think that was the last of them," Staff Sergeant Tung announced over the tac-net. "I wonder where they came from."
"Probably one of those survivors in Singora," Lieutenant Wong coldly replied. "The USN did such a piss-poor job on that one, for some reason."
Overhead, the remaining two Apaches were constantly circumventing, just in case more Japanese fighters came back. Without adieu, the lieutenant continued. "Alright people, let’s finish securing this town and bunk down for the night. We’ve got a lot of work to do once supplies start flowing in."
Part 7: Laying Down the Path
Hsinking (Changchun), 01 00 Hours, 25 December 1941
General Yoshijiro Umezu, the chief commander of the Kwantung Theater Army, simply stared in disbelief at the lighted sight a distance in front of him as he stepped out of his Nissan sedan. His mouth opened and closed twice without a word coming out, shocked by the newfound spectacle. Reports had filtered in yesterday morning of this, but he had nearly dismissed them. The reporting officer had persistently badgered him with the outlandish claim, along with twenty other witnesses.
Still, the army commander had refused to believe them. In fact, he had even planned to have them arrested and disciplined with the utmost severity for disrupting his time. Now, Umezu took back his words and swallowed the bitter fruit of truth. By the Emperor, it was an abominable sight to behold. A warship fused, for the lack of a better word, onto a blackened ground. The same officer had told him it was a mysterious vessel whose crew was either dead or unconscious when the strange ship was discovered.
The 1st Searchlight Battalion had done a good job by ringing their searchlights all around the strangely beached warship, illuminating the Manchurian night for the general and his men to see. In addition to the patrolling soldiers assigned from 7th Guard, as a farfetched precaution, anti-aircraft batteries from the 23rd and 56th anti-aircraft battalions were being hauled into prepared dugouts. Thanks to the same officer’s initiative, the triple-barreled twenty-five millimeters would be fully emplaced by tomorrow night along with the heavy seventy-five millimeters, but for now they had to rely on the 30th antiaircraft battalion’s 13.2mm machine guns to shoot down any enemy aircraft that dared to approach into this part of the Japanese Empire.
The weather was very chilly tonight, but that was frequent at this time of the year in Manchuria and the general felt insulated inside his rabbit fur coat. As General Umezu walked three meters down on the guarded path leading to the ship, the same officer from before approached him with unmistakable pride, stopping only to snap off a crisp salute. Glancing at his winter tunics, the general suddenly remembered the officer’s name and rank.
"Colonel Hiro Okagi," he firmly spoke. "You have done the Emperor a great service, and bring much honor to your family and ancestors in taking the initiative to inform me of this unusual thing."
"Hai, Umezu-sama," he snapped off a salute. "My men have also managed to grab hold a small group of dazed survivors, eight Americans sailors. Of current, they are being held under guard in one of the tents behind me."
"Americans?" The general stammered in disbelief.
"Shocking as it may be," the colonel braced himself for a reply, "they themselves do not know how their vessel ended in such a predicament. They were also bewildered when one of my interpreters told them that a war between our Empire and their nation exists of current. Apparently, in the future, we are their allies."
Depressed lines arched General Umezu’s eyebrows. The future?
He took a good view back at the amazing sight beholding the front. Lighted in all its glory by searchlights, it looked menacingly sleek and diminutive. There was only a single forward gun mount, with additional barrels of unknown purpose strewed throughout its deck, leading the general to believe that it was a destroyer.
But even a destroyer has more guns than this ship, he thought. He was no expert on naval matters, but giving the Navy the chance to determine the American ship’s nature was an option placed at the very bottom of his mind. Both services reserved a cold reserve for each other at best, if not outright hatred.
"Colonel Okagi," Umezu returned his attention to the situation at hand, "I must say that this outlandish claim is one too many."
The Japanese colonel looked surprisingly insulted. "Oh no, Umezu-sama, these are genuine claims. I even have transcripts taken from their interrogation, though it was unfortunate that one of them died when the interpreter shot him in a fit of rage. I had him punished for that, but I could also understand why he took such an action and no doubt you will as well."
"I am listening," General Umezu impatiently replied.
"In their future," Colonel Okagi’s tone turned to a whisper, "the future where they came from, Nippon had been pacified by America for more than half a century. They told me that in four years time, the Home Islands will be burned to the ground by their massive bombers. After which, two super bombs will wipe off the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the face of the Earth, ending the war and subjecting Japan to decades of American occupation."
"Enough!" General Umezu hollered. Several men were turning in their direction now, curious on what had angered the Kwantung Army’s chief commander. "Are you trying to tell the Emperor, your family and ancestors that we will ultimately lose this war to the decadent Americans and their British brothers?"
"No Umezu-sama," Okagi tried his best to calmly reply, "I was merely saying that that was what had happened in their future. With these forewarnings and knowledge of the technical devices onboard the ships, we can thwart the gaijin’s plans to subjugate Nippon."
The general thought about this for a moment, and nodded in approval. "But then the problem arises. While I am no naval expert, I do believe that this future warship cannot be replicated in our factories. Am I correct?"
The wintry winds howled like a wolf bathed in moonlight. "That is true, but the amount of historical materials these future Americans hold is equally vital. I have not assigned any of my men to the task yet, simply because it is hard-pressing to find someone who can understand their written language and be trusted with them at the same time."
"I will handle that matter myself, Colonel," the general assured him. "As for the American prisoners, make sure they are well taken cared of. For now, they are as important as the War Cabinet, understand? But make sure that they reveal to you the functions of their ship’s weapons as well, and how powerful it is to the Combined Fleet. A little pain to encourage them to talk would be sufficient."
"Now first," the general’s tone softened, "I want to inspect the defenses being readied to secure this area. In that field, I would have to congratulate you for taking the initiative. Men like you are hard to find in the Army these days."
They strolled down the path, inspecting the dugouts that will host the heavy antiaircraft artilleries and the soldiers patrolling them. As for the ground, rows of barbed wire and trenches filled the outer edges of the designated area, covered by multitude of machine guns. Soon, concrete bunkers would be built behind the wires to impregnate the ship’s surrounding vicinity. There were no armies that threatened Nippon here, but if the Russians caught wind of it…
No, Colonel Okagi played down the thought. They are desperately fighting for their lives against the Germans in the west.
The prospect of having to face off numerous hordes of large and lumbering Soviet armored vehicles pouring into Manchuria at an alarming rate was not something he wanted either. Two years ago, the colonel, then a major, had fought in the border skirmish at Nomanhan and had seen first hand to what happened when the Russians were really pissed off. Their tanks made the Army’s puny in comparison while they simply flooded the skies above the battlefields with their warplanes.
The heavy, rapid steps of a rushing messenger shook the colonel from the battlefield of Khalkin Gol. Right away, Colonel Okagi knew that he was a lowly corporal from the 3rd Field Radio Company. Saluting immediately, the corporal explained his coming and a certain new development that had just occurred near Harbin, which was less than a hundred miles nor-nor-east of Hsinking.
"This is a folder containing a transcript of the report from Major-General Morimoto," he handed it over to General Umezu. "My commanding officer specifically said that no one but you must see this."
Clicking his heels together and saluting crisply, the corporal messenger rushed off as soon as he came.
"Contrary to what the major-general thinks," the Kwantung Army’s chief commander chuckled, "I believe you should have a look as well, Colonel Okagi. This ‘development’ may be related to the ship in front of us, and you deserve the right to know for what you have done to secure this prize."
"Thank you, Umezu-sama," he bowed.
Untying the knot clipping the folder shut, General Umezu carefully slid his hands in. Much to his dismay, there was only a single sheet of paper. It must have been a short and quick report. Cautiously, he took it out and strode with the colonel to a lighted spot amongst a pair of snow-draped birch trees for a clearer view.
An airbase appearing in Harbin over an hour ago, belonging to some nation called the People’s Republic of… He squint his eyes for better vision, and quickly wished he hadn’t. China. From 2017. The world was indeed becoming crazier, but if such craziness could be harnessed to bring Nippon out of her hypothesized fate, then let it be all the more stranger. It was the will of the sun that Japan should triumph over all who opposed her.
Hermann Goering, 11 45 Hours, 25 December 1941
The German carrier had sailed out of Riga more than an hour ago at top speed, accompanied by only three missile destroyers and another three frigates. The rest were lying anchored at the harbor, waiting for them to return from the operation. In another hour or so, they would reach the port of Tallinn in Estonia, where the arrayed ships would remain until the 27th. Operation Thor’s Vengeance would begin later that day, followed by the thrust into Moscow in the next sunrise.
Admiral Konigsberg viewed the fog-shrouded sea the battlegroup was passing through now from the Goering’s bridge. He thought, for a split second, that they might be transiting into another world, perhaps back to theirs. The notion was absurd because the last time that happened, everyone onboard the ships had blacked out.
Bah, he thought. It’s just the weather.
"Cruddy weather eh, Herr Konigsberg?" Kapitan zur See Scholer remarked.
"Not as bad as the trip through the Southern Ocean though," he jibbed in reply. "That one had a killer weather just like in Siberia."
Even with the meager amount of warships assigned to protect the Graf Zeppelin-class carrier, their defensive weapon systems would decimate any contemporary hostile attempts to attack her by air or sea. The Hermann Goering himself could ward off any prop-driven air raids with her twelve radar-guided Vierlung guns and nine RTM-8 SAM launchers. If only the nuclear U-boats had made it through…
"Herr Admiral," one of the radio operators shattered his brooding, "we have just received word from Riga that something unusual had occurred in Poland. It looks like we were not the only ones to make it through the Event."
Admiral Konigsberg stepped forward to overshadow the man.
"Is it one of our U-boats?" he sporadically asked.
"Nein, Herr Admiral," the operator corrected him. "The IX SS-Panzer Korps, the 11th Fallschirmjager division and the 6th Fliegerkorps consisting of four ME 464 Jagdgeschwaders and one Arado Ar-269 Kampfgeschwader, in addition to their Unterstützung der nahen Kampfgruppe of Stuka-100s, had made it through at about nine hundred and thirty-eight hours today."
"Mein Gott," the Kapitan swore.
The operator continued. "He also states that the operation might be pushed back until after New Year’s Day, but neither the Fuhrer nor the Reichsfuhrer had confirmed that."
In all, this operation answered not to Grand Admiral Erich Raeder or the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, but the two most powerful men heading Germany. During their first and last meeting, the Fuhrer had decreed that only he and the SS chief were to know and be in charge of Operation Thor’s Vengeance. It would be the Aryan remedy to the recent blows dealt to the Reich’s forces by the suddenly numerous Bolshevik hordes. The Wehrmacht regiment’s staging point, Demyansk, was more than three hundred kilometers northwest of Moscow, with the Russian-held town of Kalinin in between. With the advent of a Waffen-SS Panzer Korps in Poland, they could simply smash their way through the Bolshevik counteroffensive while Oberst Strasse’s mechanized regiment moved in from Moscow’s rear without the risk of getting ambushed by swarms of Russian men and tanks.
Admiral Konigsberg wasted no time in replying. "Tell him that the battlegroup will wait in Kalinn until the assortment of recently arrived forces can be sorted into the operational parameters."
"Jawohl, Herr Admiral," the operator acknowledged.
Indeed, this plan might just work beyond expectations. Admiral Konigsberg shook the thought off, concentrating on leading the battlegroup to their intended destination. The fog was slowly clearing, though a visible sum was still blockading the sun’s glinting rays in this part of the Baltic. His ships were prowling through the blanketing mists like a penknife through a white sheet of soaked paper, waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting communists. Once they fell, so to would their Western Allies.
In all his years serving the Fatherland through its Lange Ruhepause with America, Admiral Konigsberg had never felt this elated before.
Central Java, 14 55 Hours, 25 December 1941
At approximately twelve hundred hours at the start of December 25th, the military-oriented industrial city of Semarang and a small assortment of Indonesian Jihadi-Militarist bases scattered throughout the Dutch East Indies were thrown across the gulf of time. The temporal side-effects of Dr. von Braun’s unfortunate experiment had far-reaching consequences for a world at war. It was unfeasible to guess at what might or would come through again, as the strange geometrics of the Multiverse were impossible to grasp in meticulous details.
Major General Bassim Yasser examined a column of burning Dutch Army trucks and armored cars lining up on one of the roads leading out of the modern Javanese city. He understood that to the Indonesians, the Dutch were malign oppressors driven out after the end of the Second World War. He could understand their hatred, being a former Palestinian himself. The Dutch were after all Western infidels, no different than the Americans and their Zionist lackeys of his time.
In addition to his incessant body odor, the major general’s thick beard added to the appearance that he was some sort of orang utan. The sweltering tropical heat didn’t help either, and it was nearly the middle of an afternoon. Ripples of sweat rolled down his cap-shaded forehead, which he wiped off with a heave of his right shoulder.
He approached a group of his men straying along the asphalt road. They were guarding a small batch – seven of them to be exact – of Dutchmen who had the misfortune to be part of this ill-fated convoy. Crude but efficient AK-47 rifles were slung over their shoulders, but Yasser knew they could shoot faster than a running cheetah. He had personally trained them after all, thanks to half a decade of blood and toil. The prisoners, he silently noticed, had a mix of shock and contempt registered onto their tanned faces.
"Which one of you here is the highest in rank?" he spoke in heavily-accented English.
None of them uttered a single word, but continued their incessant stare of contempt at the men guarding them. Whatever patience he had for the situation was quickly running out under the tropical sun.
"Not a single one of you?"
In a whiz, he unclasped his holster and aimed his trusty .50 Desert Eagle at the first man. As Yasser clicked the safety trigger off, the seven other prisoners relieved their mask of contempt and began looking very, very worried. Some were even trying to wriggle their way out of the bounds cuffing their hands. The major general gleefully knew that they were expecting to be treated under the rules of the Geneva Convention.
As if war requires rules, Yasser scoffed. They are the sins of western decadence, of which Allah has willed me to cleanse.
"I will ask one last time," he said, evidently growing impatient. "Which one of you has a rank higher than a private? If there are no answers by the count of three, I will shoot the second man next to him."
The first captive did not have time to react before a .50 magnum round tore through his cranium and blew a chunk of his head into a mess of splattered gore. Some of his men were edging away from the scene while pointing their assault rifles at the captives. Major General Yasser shifted the barrel of his handgun towards the head of the second captive.
"Niet schieten," the chosen man frantically begged. "Niet schieten! Schiet me niet neer."
The major general relaxed his posture, and the soldier’s begging stopped. His eyes widened, filled with hope that he would not be shot.
"Finally!" he heartily exclaimed. "Somebody will finally speak up. Alas, it is a sad thing that none of you can speak the universal tongue."
The Dutch soldier did not have time to shift his emotions before a .50 round tore through his forehead. The other captives looked in horror as the gas-operated semi-automatic handgun was pointed at them, its glistening barrel flashing with deadly, repeated fire. One by one, they were capped without mercy, without pity, without remorse. The last two men tried to run, only to be blocked by the rifle butts of the major general’s men and be shot in the torso twice. Yasser’s men were equally indifferent to the massacre their master wrought among the prisoners, for they too had participated in cold-blooded acts back in the 21st Century. The killings were all carried out in the name of Allah the Merciful.
"Captain Dulyani," Yasser let his men glimpsed the full weight of his blood-splattered appearance, "you will dump all the bodies anywhere as long as the place is peaceful and quiet. I do not want evidence of this little ‘war crime’ scene available once this mess is sorted out."
"But sir," the captain stammered in, "you are not planning to ally with the Dutch are you?"
The major general shook his head and laughed.
"Sometimes when one stares too long at the abyss," he said, switching back to Bahasa, "the darkness will stare back."
With that, he holstered his Desert Eagle and made his way back to his base of operations in the city of Semarang, leaving Captain Dulyani and his men to clean up his bloody work. The day was still long, and the years longer still. The radio broadcasts his men had picked up from Australia were damning. Most of the COFORCE in Queensland had made it through, arriving earlier than his forces in fact!
They will not be the only problem he will have to face; already, his aide had begun advising him to prepare for eventual war with the Dutch colonizers, and then the Japanese invaders. He did not know much of Indonesian history, but from what he had heard, the Asian infidels were even worse than the Dutch. So he must struggle for a way to balance between the two sides, and gain independence for Indonesia, with the ‘correct’ way of life installed nationwide.
The Islamic Caliphate-Republic of Indonesia, he thought. That sounds very tempting.
Part 8: The Big Hill
Washington DC, 13 10 Hours, 26 December 1941
It was snowing heavier than usual in the capital heart of the United States of America, though whether this was a side-effect of the Transition or just another daily occurrence in December remained indefinite. If not for the remaining flake-covered greenery permeating the presidential grounds and the building windows, the White House would blend in with the heavy snow with its white-painted Aquia sandstone-built Georgian-styled structure. The center of the scene was neither staged on its snow-draped lawns nor inside its East Wing part, but rather centered in the Oval Office located within the West Wing.
Seated in front of three large south-facing windows, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat his hands against the Resolute desk, rubbing them for warmth while patiently waiting for the ‘future’ technicians to finish adjusting the newly-installed flat-screen LCD’s network connection. He, along with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Admiral Ernest King, General George Marshall, Secretary of Navy (SECNAV) Frank Knox and Secretary of War (SECWAR) Henry Stimson, had learned that in their world, such adjustments were unnecessary due to something called the ‘internet’ and space contraptions dubbed as ‘satellites’. He had tried to wrap the notion of putting man-made objects in space but could only think of Buck Roger’s rocket.
"One more minute, Mr. President," announced one of the future technicians – Sergeant Matt Haugdasal, if he remembered correctly.
The sergeant and his team of technical operators were from the 1st Brigade Combat Team’s 115th Support Battalion, which was part of the 1st Cavalry Division in turn. The president had heard about their ‘Transition’ since last Sunday. He had nearly dismissed it as a hoax, until elements of the 1st Cavalry Division arrived at Hoover Field on a really huge jet-driven transport yesterday evening.
Christmas for him, Uncle Sam and the rest of the Allies could not have gotten any better than that. For weeks since the seventh of December, the United States and Britain had gotten their butts repeatedly whipped by Japanese forces in Asia. Even after the godsend Transition had occurred, the Japanese had overrun Hong Kong, Guam and Wake Island. The situation in the Philippines was nothing short of disastrous. If they had not intervened in Malaya, the Japanese would have run amok even further.
Most interesting of the ‘transited’ forces was Admiral Philip Cleburne and his carrier battlegroup. When news of the unexpected reversal of forces in Malaya had reached the White House on Monday morning, it had thrown the entire office into an uproar. Admiral King had demanded them to return immediately or face charges of treason. He had reasoned that since the US Navy had been effectively knocked out by the sneak attack, every available fighting ship they could lay their hands on should be returned home to prevent another Pearl Harbor.
The president and the Secretary of Navy had to agree with the admiral’s point, but Roosevelt was also beginning to see a mad scramble by the United States’ military services to own the future. The future men that had arrived here yesterday had explained to him and the Navy and Army joint chiefs that the George Bush naval battlegroup possessed more than enough firepower to reduce the Japanese Combined Fleet into ashes, literally.
"Now why don’t I believe that," Admiral King had scornfully remarked. "We couldn’t even catch them in a proper fight."
Roosevelt shook the thought away. The flat movie screen had a small round thing labeled as a ‘webcam’ on top and a countdown timer on the screen’s upper left hand corner, denoting that there was only ten seconds left until the connection was made. The monitor was another future marvel; in their world, everyone had one or two of these mini-movie screens at home. If they were advanced enough to launch space contraptions and give everyone their own movie screens, would their weapons be any less sophisticated?
That he had to disagree with Admiral King.
"Connecting in three…" Sergeant Haugdasal said, "… two… one…"
USS George H.W. Bush, 13 11 Hours, 26 December 1941
The communications suite of the American supercarrier beamed to life as a vidlink connection between Washington and the supercarrier was made. For a second, Admiral Cleburne wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do in front of the gathered contemporary leaders of the United States of America, with the exception of Winston Churchill. Up until now, the closest historical personality he had met was General Percival, and that was physically up close and personal. The screen showed the nearly-familiar Oval Office, with President Roosevelt seated behind the Resolute desk and the rest on sofas at the front.
"Good afternoon to all of you," Cleburne began, trying his best to be warm-sounding as possible. "My name is Admiral Philip Cleburne, commander of the George H.W. Bush carrier battlegroup. The battlegroup is currently fifteen miles south-southeast of Singapore, and will probably arrive in Hawaii by the end of next week."
His face and speech would be recorded by a webcam and then sent over to the other side as instantaneously as possible. The image fuzzed for a second, the consequence of not having a network-friendly environment, but the connection would last for another two hours. He was thinking about what else he needed to say before the 32nd President of the United States broke the ice completely.
"Well Admiral Cleburne," he spoke, "I’ve heard all about your exploits in Malaya, and Winston here would like to congratulate you on that part."
The deep, rousing voice of the British Prime Minister rumbled in from the front row. "Your remarkable display of technological prowess and strategy had helped to avert what would have become a disaster of the first order for the British Empire and the Allies in Malaya. Indeed, never in the field of human conflict was so much owed to so few."
"Thank you Mr. Prime Minister," Cleburne acknowledged. "But that complement should also go to the Queenslanders too."
"Now, about the business in raiding Indochina," the president quickly switched the mood. "I believed you were given a specific set of orders not to carry out any further offensives. We are all very interested in hearing what you have to say about that, Admiral."
Cleburne tightened his jaw muscles. He could smell a cornholing coming from ten thousand miles away, and with all his will mustered, the admiral explained as clearly and precisely as possible on why he had went against orders and ventured off to sink the entire Japanese Southern Force’s Main Body anchored at Cam Ranh Bay.
"We possessed weapons that could render the entire Japanese Combined Fleet impotent," he laid down. "I know that four of the Japanese aircraft carriers responsible for bushwhacking the US Navy in Pearl are laying anchor in Hashirajima Bay, and Yamamoto has two of his battleships located there right now. If you would just –"
"I’m afraid I can’t take anymore of this nonsense," Admiral King spat. "I can’t see how your ships would get within range of Japan, let alone their harbor, before they are blasted into smithereens."
"With all due respect, Admiral King," he countered, "our doctrine and weapons are light-years ahead of anything this world can field at the moment. The Japanese will have nothing to match our long-range ship-killer rockets, fast-flying rocket planes and our surveillance systems. They are more than capable of turning entire air wings of prop-driven planes and old-fashioned battlewagons into flaming scrap metal. The footages from our action in Malaya and Indochina should help you visualize what we are truly capable of."
The even-tempered CINCALT had backed down, though it looked like he still refused to acknowledge the fact smacked right at his face. Admiral Cleburne remembered that in four days time, he would be the overall commander of the US Navy. He wondered if something could be done to curb that. Perhaps he should tell the President and the SECNAV that King’s Anglophobia was letting a lot of Allied convoy ships to be sunk near the East Coast.
President Roosevelt calmly filled in the void.
"Admiral Cleburne," he amicably began. "I do not doubt for a second that you will be able to give the Japanese their Pearl Harbor, but Winston here has received some unsettling news this morning from one of England’s secret services."
He had to guess that it was the Special Operations Executive, a Special Forces organization that had been tasked by the British Prime Minister to ‘set Europe ablaze’. Along with the task of blowing up enemy property and personnel, they had also hidden intelligence operatives throughout occupied Europe. Cleburne had to wonder what that unsettling news was all about, which led him to wonder about the…
"Apparently, some of their agents in Germany and Poland had spotted several unusual aircraft and ships in the past few days. Now, I do not want to jump to any conclusions, but…"
The British Prime Minister finished it for him. "We have reason to believe that the Germans have gotten their dirty little paws on future equipment like yours, Admiral. Indeed, at any moment now, England’s defenses could be devastated by an entire squadron of German rocket planes screeching out of France, and we cannot do a damn thing because your weapons are on the other side of the globe."
The screen fuzzed for a moment again, before it blacked out entirely. The bold pale words ‘Connection lost – Reconnecting Again in 00:03:00’ dimmed over the blackness of the display as the sysops scrambled for a link once more. Captain Howery took the time to walk into the comm suite and have a little chit-chat with the admiral.
"So how did it go, sir?" he asked.
"Not good at all, Greg," Cleburne muttered. "Damn vidlink isn’t like what it used to be back home, and I’ve just gotten the word from the British Prime Minister that we may have ‘counterparts’ in Germany."
"Yeah, apparently the Transition didn’t only just pop us and Queensland back to ’41. Some thing must have gotten through in Germany, and I’m beginning to worry if there might be more Transitions in Japan and Russia."
"Well sir," the Bush’s captain unwillingly spoke, "your hypothesis is out of date. We’ve picked up radio signals from the Indonesian Archipelago, and it looks like the Jihadi-held city of Semarang had come along too."
"Goddamn it!" Admiral Cleburne swore loudly. "When did you pick this up?"
"Ten minutes ago," Captain Howery answered. "We would be passing into the Java Sea in a few more hours, sir. The Burkes could expend their Tomahawks and penetrators on that little city sometime then, if you wish."
Admiral Cleburne kept quiet for a minute, even as the connection timer reached down to 00:00:50. Back in 2017, they were the sole reason why COFORCE was formed in Australia in the first place; the United States and Australia were the only countries who took upon the task of bringing back peace into war-torn Indonesia. Circumstances and fate had changed the whole outlook of the mission goals. Now, they might even have to ally with the Jihadi-Militarists to crush the Axis and help rebuilt the country after the war was over. Not that it was something he relished, but the enemy of my enemy is a friend as the old saying went.
"We don’t do anything, Greg," he finally spoke up. "Simple as that. The battlegroup will continue on for Australia at full speed, and if the Jihadis try to challenge us, we’ll take action without hesitation. Excuse me now, but it looks like my conference is going to start again. We need to reserve all our ammunition for the Nazis."
"Aye, aye sir."
With that, the Bush’s captain walked out of the comm suite to commandeer his warship, just leaving Admiral Philip Cleburne ten seconds to spare before the vidlink reconnection was completed.
13 21 Hours
Admiral Philip Cleburne cleared his throat the second time. Three minutes after the connection was re-established, he had tried to explain to them that a rebellious city from the ‘successor’ state of the Netherlands East Indies had tagged along through time and space. Therefore, there existed a state of war between the United States and the Indonesian Jihadi-Militarists. The last minute had not gone on well.
"Admiral Cleburne," President Roosevelt said. "I suggest that you leave them alone and make haste for home instead. I believe your friends in Queensland can deal with them, am I right?"
"Yes, they can, Mr. President," the admiral answered. "And my original intention was to avoid wasting further ammo stocks until we are in the Atlantic."
"Good," the president murmured. "Now, let’s talk about the Germans and those sightings. The scuttlebutt is scaring the crap out of many people on both sides of the Atlantic. "
Part 9: The Right to Hammer Bears
Demyansk, 09 40 Hours, 2 January 1942
Located more than a hundred kilometers south-southeast of Novgorod, Demyansk was a typical Soviet urban-type settlement that had no more than fifty of its original inhabitants left. There were about five contemporary Wehrmacht infantry divisions dug in alongside the 3rd SS-Division Totenkopf, shivering through the brutal Russian winter that had stalled the Reich’s advances towards Moscow and victory altogether. If the terrible winter did not get them, then Russian shells and bullets would.
Trench lines manned by cold and weary Aryan men stringed round the entire settlement, giving one the impression that it was heavily fortified. Amongst the ruins of buildings littering the settlement’s edges laid snipers and machine gunners, patiently waiting for an imminent attack which may or may not come. Some of them had proper winter clothing; most were just wearing uniforms of summer. Inadequate for the terrible Russian winter, for one had to have skins like bears just to survive. At the settlement outskirts, examples were made in the form of frozen men and vehicles, draped in white snow and laying motionless for all time.
The focus of activity centered upon the railways that passed through the town. For a week and a day, the trains had been rushing to and fro despite enemy artillery fire and the occasional Russian strafing run. Most of the Soviet planes, propeller-driven Ilyushins and Yaks, that had attempted to attack the trains had met a new kind of anti-aircraft weapon, one too advanced to have been built by contemporary Germany. The RTM-12 handheld anti-aircraft weapon, a missile launcher designed to home in on its targets’ exhaust engines and blast it to kingdom come. That was not the only new weapon coming into play in the Eastern Front.
Guards, both Wehrmacht and SS, had simply stared in awe as the last E-50s from the latest batch of the 7th Regiment’s panzers was unloaded onto Russian soil. One more batch to deliver and everything would be set for the operation. Armored with composite armor, the Standardpanzer was more than a match for anything the Bolsheviks could throw at the moment. They simply dwarfed a Panzerkampfwagen IV, and the only thing that could probably stop it was a 120mm gun fired from a hundred yards.
Up ahead, a squadron of FW 1109 gunships hustled through the falling snow with abandon, gliding from one end of the settlement to another diligently. The pilots were more than confident that their gunships’ integrated radar, its thick armor and immense firepower would deter all who sought trouble. Each Hubschraubers were bristled with one 30mm rotary gun, two 20mm autocannons and an assortment of ATGM and unguided rocket pods.
Oberst Wilhelm Strasse gloomily watched a pair of his K-50 auto-mortar vehicles rumbled through the streets, trailing a trio of E-50 panzers heading for the staging ground at the settlement’s southeastern outskirts. Having just arrived here a week ago, he began wondering when the action would start. It might take an entire week, but Moscow would fall just like it did in his history. Stalin and Beria would be trapped within the city and killed. The Oberst wanted to see how they would attempt an escape as his troops and armored vehicles surrounded the Bolshevik capital building, with gunships raking every Russian in sight in a maelstrom of bullets and rockets.
His thoughts broke off when a pair of Überbrücker jump-jets blazed through the wintry morning sky at a speed less than Mach 1. Their flying altitudes were much higher than his Hubschraubers, thus there was no need to worry of collisions occurring at any time soon. The regiment’s organic air support was probably heading to the Russian-held town of Kalinin, which was two hundred kilometers south-southeast of Demyansk. With a pair of thermobaric bombs slung under their hardpoints, the oberst could not see why they cannot decimate Kalinin’s defenses.
"Herr Oberst," an SS-Oberscharfuhrer stepped in front and saluted, "Gruppenfuhrer Eicke requests to see you immediately in the planning room."
"Tell the Gruppenfuhrer that I will see him in a minute."
The SS-Oberscharfuhrer saluted again and left without hesitation. The 3rd SS-Division was one of the most highly respected Waffen-SS units in his world; even the Oberst had to give in to that, having participated on several anti-guerilla operations in Ostland and Afghanistan alongside them. Being a Wehrmacht man, however, meant that he would occasionally come into conflict with the SS. Comparisons between their utter fanaticism to the Nazi ideology and duty to the Volk was where blows were usually traded with.
The Oberst took a good hard look at his panzers once more and shrugged inwardly. The fact that an entire Waffen-SS Panzer Korps from his time had appeared in Poland brought the war to an entirely different level. Last he heard, two battle-hardened ‘75er Waffen-SS panzer divisions, covered by a squadron of ME 464s, were unloading in Vitebsk and Smolensk. It wouldn’t be long before the sledgehammer came upon the Bear’s head with the ferocity of a thousand poundings.
"A minute is too damn long, Oberst Strasse," Gruppenfuhrer Eicke remarked from behind. "If not for the fact that you and your forces are vital to winning this bloody front for the Reich, I would have had you shot for disobedience."
Oberst Wilhelm Strasse spun around and saluted as quickly as possible. Even though he was a Wehrmacht man from the future, a SS-Gruppenfuhrer still outranked him.
"But that is beside the point," he suddenly asked. "How soon can your regiment hit the Slavic mongrels in their rear?"
"Not too soon but not too long, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," Oberst Strasse responded. "We have to wait for our supplies to be unloaded here, and the Fuhrer had told me to pause while two ‘future’ SS Panzer Divisions finish moving into Minsk. A frontal assault by them would stall the Bolshevik winter offensive and allow my regiment to hit from the rear without too much trouble."
"Will it guarantee a victory in this front?" the SS-Gruppenfuhrer asked, not for the first time.
"That depends on how fast we can pummel Moscow, and whether we can chop off its rail transportation network before Stalin or one of his cronies escapes. Without the Party leadership, the ensuing confusion would crumble the Bolshevik defenses and without them, Moscow would fall. Without Moscow, any surviving Bolshevik government will find it very hard to move troops and supplies in and out. After that, who knows?"
SS-Gruppenfuhrer Eicke now realized why the Fuhrer was counting on the Wehrmacht man, other than the fact that he belonged to the future. The reasoning was sound and clear, and more than achievable with the ‘future’ weapons at his disposal. Still, it was inevitable that Aryans would plough the Slavs and Jews inhabiting the land. Even without the 7th Regiment and their SS counterparts, victory was already decided for the Reich, yes? The future merely reinforced the historical verdict that the Third Reich was to dominate the world, with or without their help.
"Herr Oberst," the Wehrmacht commander’s aide rushed in, quickly saluting, "We have just received word from Poland that several changes have been to the mission parameters."
"What would those new circumstances be, Hauptmann Sinister?"
The young Hauptmann took out a slip of paper from one of his breast pockets and passed it onto his commander. Without hesitation, his aide saluted again and left.
"What is it now, Oberst Strasse?" the Gruppenfuhrer asked, as if he had the right to do so, "Another delay in the offensive, or perhaps more units arriving from Poland?"
"No, I do not think so," the Oberst replied as he unfolded the slip. "Just let me see…"
For a while, Oberst Wilhelm Strasse simply stared at the paper. His face was a blank, showing nothing but his constant chilly breathing. The SS-Gruppenfuhrer took the time to move up from behind and see what the whole thing was about. It had to be some new development to have shocked the Wehrmacht regimental commander. Not every detail on the slip was understandable to Eicke, however.
"Arado Ar-269s?" he stammered in disbelief. "I take it that they are some sort of bomber from your time, ja?"
"Ja," Strasse agreed, as his mouth widened into a smile. "Not merely just bombers, Herr Gruppenfuhrer. They have the range to reach America and back with a full bomb load, which effectively surpasses the current Junkers and Heinkels in the Luftwaffe inventory."
SS-Gruppenfuhrer Eicke’s eyes widened as well.
"We will be invading America next, after we are finished with the Judeo-Bolshevik scum here?" he spoke like a five-year old child receiving his birthday present.
The regimental commander privately sighed. Only fools continued on to believe that invading the North American continent was a feasible prospect. With two wide oceans and a landmass as big and mountainous as Siberia, if not larger, the logistical nightmare would engulf the invading force like a ton of bricks falling on top of a man’s head. He did not want to antagonize the SS commander by pointing out at reality though; the man had more political power than Erich von Manstein and Erwin Rommel combined.
"Maybe," he lied.
"That is a distraction from matters at hand," the SS-Gruppenfuhrer grinned. "These Arado bombers, they are going to bomb a town southwest of here? I can’t see how they will make it through the weather."
"They are used to that," Oberst Strasse shrugged. "Since they were based in Poland before the ‘Event’ misplaced them here, I daresay that their crews and equipment were conditioned to operate in the hellish Russian winter. The Ar-269s were designed to fly and bomb targets from higher than forty thousand feet, thus I highly doubt that Russian anti-aircraft fire would hinder their flight."
Another pair of E-50s rolled by this time, drawing the SS-Gruppenfuhrer’s attention from his little conversation. To him, they were monstrous things exceeding the latest Russian tanks in terms of size, mobility and no doubt firepower. They still gave him an unforgettable impression, as much as the 7th Regiment’s other armored vehicles and organic air support. Once more, the SS commander was reminded why the Fuhrer’s ‘new’ offensive would succeed when the original one had fail- no, not succeeded yet. The Russian mongrels were using the weather to their advantage, because they had dared not stand against a proper Aryan army face-to-face.
"I suspect that this war may already be won," Eicke remarked, "just by looking at your panzers. How many does that SS-Panzer Korps possess?"
"Let us take a walk to the staging point, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," Oberst Strasse said. "A little movement would reduce the frosty chill. I must admit that winter is not my favorite weather at all, even though my better of part of six years had been spent serving in the chilliest regions of Ostland."
"Really?" SS-Gruppenfuhrer Eicke seemed genuinely surprised. "I only spent half a year in this God-forsaken mud land when the weather took a turn for the worse. My men not only have to worry for Bolshevik counterattacks, but frostbites and hypothermia as well."
It was then that the Oberst took his first step through the ruined, snow-draped streets of Demyansk, followed by the SS-Gruppenfuhrer. Strasse carefully crumpled the slip of paper and placed it inside his pocket, having the details remembered by one long stare. It would not do to leave such vital pieces of paper around as litter for scavengers to pick up, even if it was outdated information.
"Unlike the current rolled homogenous armored Panzerkampfwagens," he began explaining as the distance grew shorter, "the E-50 Standardpanzer’s armor utilizes a composite shield of boron carbide within a matrix, layered between its rolled homogenous armor. It might be complicated to understand, but this simply means that every anti-tank gun within the Bolshevik inventory does not possess the means to destroy one of my panzers. It is, to a certain extent, invincible."
"And the SS-Panzer Korps," Eicke persistently asked, "How many E-50s do they possess?"
The Oberst suddenly realized that he was being subtly interrogated, but the thought whisked back to the bottom of his mind at once. For one, he was a loyal son of the Fatherland. Second, he had an entire mechanized regiment, armed with advanced weapons, at his command. If the Gruppenfuhrer tried to place him under arrest for some ambiguous reason, he would be the one arrested instead. Still, the both of them continued on walking towards the southeastern side of town.
"That would depend, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," he spoke with an undertone blurring the lines between derision and fatigue. "But you might deign to ask their commander - Oberfuhrer Manfred Eugen I believe, for he surely knows more about his force dispositions than I do."
Eicke simply gave him a hard glare that said you finally figured it out, didn’t you. Inwardly, Oberst Strasse nearly laughed his head off. After all, the Schutzstaffel in his day were much more efficient in the methods of interrogating a man than this. Quickly, he changed the subject to prevent further provoking his SS host.
"I believe you were asking about the Arado 269s just now, Herr Gruppenfuhrer," he said. "The long-range strategic jet bombers you were so interested in minutes ago."
"What about them?" Eicke nonchalantly asked.
"The town of Kalinin is about to be flattened by a squadron of them very soon," the Oberst grimly put it. "Not only will the Bolsheviks not know what had struck them, they will be too dead to wonder what happened. With them out of the way, I could land my men in and take the town before nightfall. Moscow won’t be long in falling."
"Excellent!" the SS-Gruppenfuhrer exclaimed. "Would you not need additional forces to secure the mongrel town completely? I believe Totenkopf has not seen any offensive actions since the start of this damnable winter. Besides, the other Wehrmacht divisions can keep Demyansk and surrounding area secure."
"Perhaps," Oberst Wilhelm Strasse replied. "We shall see how my men fare when they land from their Hubschraubers. If there is heavier resistance than expected, we will ferry your men in. Nevertheless, it will become our new staging grounds from whence we will strike the biggest blow history have ever known."
Kalinin, 13 30 Hours, 2 January 1942
The dull thudding of several Hubschrauber rotors echoed through the blackened ruin of what was once a rural settlement. Leutnant Herman Becker, along with twenty-nine other men in his platoon, sat still in the cabin as the FW 466 hovered down for a landing. Gazing out of the slid door window gave him a slight vision of what hell might be like. Amidst the heavy snowing, there were still thin flickers of fire lighting up the charred landscape, where bodies laid mangled alongside crumbled structures and the burnt-out vehicle hulks.
"You all know the drill," he growled at the rest of his platoon. "This is not the first time we have done this. I do not want to see any of you dying just because procedures were not followed."
"Jawohl, Herr Leutnant," the crisp voice of thirty men echoed through the cabin.
About two hours ago, two squadrons of Arado 269s had flown all the way from Lublin to unload an ungodly amount of high explosives onto Kalinin, in addition to a previous attempt by the regiment’s Überbrückers air support. At least two armored divisions belonging to the Soviet 29th Army had been completely decimated, prepping the ground for an airborne assault by elements of the 7th Regiment. The trip over miles of snow-draped, forested terrain had been relatively uneventful; the only serious opposition the transports had encountered was a series of uncoordinated tracer fire that didn’t hit anything.
Checking one last time that his Sturmgewehr Model 72 was fully locked and loaded, Becker gripped the door handle and flung it open.
"Gehen Sie schnell, gehen Sie, gehen Sie," he hollered as his jackboots stamped out onto the open ground.
The twenty-nine men behind quickly followed suit, just as the FW 466 transports began unloading their human cargo. Without delay, a total of 120 men belonging to 3rd Company, 1st MechInf Battalion were forming perimeters around their respective landing zones. Most of them, prior to the Event, had served in the partisan-ridden regions of Reichskommissariat Moskau for years, sometimes decades. The latter applied to Becker, who had been in the Wehrmacht since 1957. It had been a grueling experience, but it had familiarized him in the ways of war.
Usually, the company would be carried inside the regiment’s E-10 armored personnel carriers to the frontlines, where they would be unloaded to fight. Due to the changed circumstances and the fact that the element of surprise was necessary, Hubschrauber transports from the Hermann Goering’s complement of rotary crafts were used to deliver the troops into battle instead. It was fast, simple and efficient. The Leutnant had heard that a Fallschirmjager regiment from his world had come through, and wondered why they were not used for this assault.
"Feldwebel Koenig!" the Leutnant yelled, jabbing his finger at a pile of rubble two yards from the landing zone. "I want you to get your squad and machine guns set up against those shattered bricks there."
"Jawohl!" Koenig answered, before he passed down the message to the rest of his squad.
The other platoons were setting up their own defensive perimeters, blistering not only with general purpose machineguns but a Panzerschrek or two as well. Becker’s platoon was the first to send in a single squad into the settlement’s scorched interior, keeping the other two in defensive reserve. Instead of encountering the expected heavy resistance, there was nothing but burning buildings, burnt-out vehicles and charred corpses. Grudgingly, the section leader accepted the fact that there would be no fighting for the rest of the day, so he sent a runner back to inform the Leutnant of this new discovery.
By the time the news reached Becker’s ears, the landing zones had been thoroughly secured. Three gunships buzzed like insects overhead, traversing the entire line of the settlement’s eastern entrance. From a theoretical tactical point of view, the entire area could now be considered as safe. Leutnant Becker’s personal experience begged to differ; there might be survivors from the aerial bombing, hidden beneath piles of corpses, rubbles and wrecks littering the entire blasted town while waiting to ambush a German or two. The Russians were experts in the field of camouflage after all.
"Oberfeldwebel Kaufmann," he turned to one of the squad leaders in charge of the platoon’s LZ perimeter. "Take your squad and follow Unteroffizier Hartmann to bolster first squad’s defensive position since it looks like there might be no Russians left for us to fight."
The section leader acknowledged Becker’s order by saluting and then hollering at his men to get their arses moving. A hand signal from the adjacent platoon’s commander told the Leutnant that the whole area was three-quarters secured; the only Russians observed were the charred corpses strewing Kalinin’s broken streets.
Perhaps there truly are no more fucking Russians left in this fucking mud town, he circumspectly thought.
Leutnant Becker began considering moving his position to where first squad was located. Even in his thick winter feldgrau, the cold was beginning to get to his skin. Not that he was unfamiliar with the hellish Russian weather, but the Leutnant had seen perfectly normal men freezing out of the blue and he was not about to let that happen to himself. Without adieu, he commanded the last platoon tasked with securing the landing zone to stand firm and headed off for the susceptibly warmer part of town.
Across the southern outskirts of town, its crew having finished their reconnaissance, a lone BA-20 gunned its engines and drove all the way south where the massive remnants of the 29th Army waited.
17 30 Hours
The first shots were sounded when a reconnaissance squad, tasked with the single job of patrolling the southern side of Kalinin, was fired upon by more than a dozen Mosin-Nagant rifles and Ppsh-41 sub-machineguns. Two men died as their unguarded faces were ripped to bloody shreds by a combination of 7.62mm and 9mm rounds; their surviving comrades were able to rush back to the settlement interior to report the latest situation just as two Soviet divisions poured out of the bush.
Hauptmann Wieland Strummer did not harbor any illusions of his enemy; even with their advanced weaponry, his MechInf Company was probably outnumbered in a ten to one margin. So he ordered two platoons to bolster the southern part of town, to be supported by the battalion’s mortar components.
"How many did you saw?" he turned to the survivors, after having issued his orders.
"They were probably hundreds of them," one chilly survivor answered. "We heard the rumbles of vehicle engines as well, and the ground was shaking violently. I guess that means Russian panzers and a lot of them too."
"Alright Unteroffizier," the Hauptmann said. "Go take your men back to rejoin your platoon. It seems that there’ll be plenty of fighting to do yet."
"Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann!"
He turned to the rest in the small room they occupied.
"Felix, Ernst, I want you to follow me to the front," he ordered. "Bring your field radio set along, Felix; I will undoubtedly need it."
Grabbing his assault rifle from a broken coffee table and strapping on his M1958 helmet, Hauptmann Strummer and his two followers rushed out into the wintry day. They were able to glimpse the company’s mortar crews, situated beside a broken farmhouse, working into frantic action. At the rate they went, the crews looked like they were lobbing three rounds of high explosives per minute. Strummer ignored them completely; there was a job to be accomplished, something which he wasn’t about to lag in. He wished that the FW 1109 gunships hadn’t returned to Demyansk two hours earlier; they could have provided some quick aerial support.
When the Hauptmann got onto the frontlines, the shock that befell him would live on forever. Swarms of men and panzers were rushing onwards, oblivious to the rattling machineguns and Panzerschreks picking them off one by one. The usual enemy he had fought against for so long was now trying to use crushing weight of numbers to overwhelm the front and re-capture Kalinin. Back in his day, they were guerillas they attacked in groups of threes or fours, not a ten thousand men army.
With all the bullets and shrapnel flying about, Hauptmann Strummer thought it best to lay prone to minimize the chance of getting killed. He had barely squatted before a bullet zipped right above him, striking Ernst on his feldgrau-covered torso instead. The well-muscled Wehrmacht soldier simply flew backwards due to the kinetic impact caused by the bullet as it penetrated through his body armor. Within seconds, he was yelling and cursing out in pain.
"Hey! The two of you there!" the Hauptmann hollered, pointing at a pair of Schutzes that were taking a breather. "Come over here and get this wounded man back to the medics, now! Schnell, Schnell!"
Leaving the two men to their newly-issued job, Strummer took out his 7x40 Hensoldt binoculars and carefully peered through them amidst the chorus of battle, relaying the charging enemy’s coordinates to Felix with the aid of a map. The chart was an inaccurate plot of Kalinin, something he had gotten from one of the contemporary quartermasters in Demyansk. It was still better than nothing.
"The coordinates are two-five-four-eight-one-two," he relayed it to Felix, clutching his helmet tightly as an explosion resounded and brushing away snow and dirt that had landed on the paper chart. "Get our mortars to fire some red smoke on that coordinate. Then, call Demyansk and ask them to send in the Überbrückers."
Acknowledging the Hauptmann, the Gefreiter put on his headphones and adjusted the feldfunksprecher’s channel switch to the correct transmission line. From there, he relayed the coordinates to the mortar teams in the middle of Kalinin even as an earth-shattering explosion smashed an already ruined building to further rubble several meters to their right. The radioman adjusted the channel switch to the secured lines to Demyansk, relaying the same order with an addition of ‘targets painted in red smoke’.
Just as he finished his task, the first batch of 81mm smoke rounds slammed upon the Russian ranks. Instead of tossing shrapnel in every direction, the canisters merely dispersed a thick screen of harmless red smoke that would remain in the field for an indefinite period of time. Hauptmann Strummer knew it won’t be long, and he hoped that the fighter-bombers could reach the battlefield in time.
"This is Bear Hunter Leader," the flight intercom roiled with a single human voice. "All Bear Hunters, prepare to arm your weapons and drop them."
"Acknowledged, Herr Oberleutnant," the voice of five other pilots chimed in.
The 7th Regiment’s complement of six Überbrückers ground attack jets were swooshing above the snow-draped Russian terrain at seven hundred and thirty kilometers per hour, with the prevailing intention of inflicting wanton destruction in their pilots’ hearts. Each was carrying a pair of 1500 kg thermobaric bombs, slung onto their hardpoints located beneath the aircrafts’ fuselage.
Staffelkapitan Karl Hipper made sure that his lumbering jump-jet was steady for the bombing run. As his squadron swished past large patches of pale-white forests, the viscous red smoke marking the mission targets became viewable from their windshields. He smiled. The Bolshevik horde will not know what had just hammered them so hard.
"All units," he announced, "prepare to drop your payloads in three… two… one…"
It must have felt like an eternity going by, but the moment turned to reality when Hipper pulled the trigger and dropped his pair of thermobaric payloads. The other five jump-jets followed their squadron leader by jettisoning their vacuum bombs, before they increased elevation for fear of getting caught in the ensuing blasts. The bombs detonated as they dropped onto a height of eight hundred meters, dispersing highly volatile propylene oxide fuel that mixes with the air within the target zone. Soon thereafter, a secondary detonation ignites the fuel and completes the work by creating an explosion within the chemical cloud.
Twelve such detonations occurred over the attacking Soviet forces, simultaneously cooking and asphyxiating anyone caught within their blast zones. The massive shockwaves created killed anyone who had managed to survive through that hellish ordeal. In a matter of three minutes, most of the Soviet 29th Army was decimated by incineration and the overpressures generated. The survivors, if any, were dazed and stunned by what had just hit them out of the rapidly darkening winter sky.
"Good frying, Bear Hunters," congratulated Staffelkapitan Hipper as he swerved his aircraft away from ground zero. "Let us all turn back for base."
18 12 Hours
"Looks like that was the last of them, Herr Hauptmann," Leutnant Herman Becker said.
"Are you sure, Leutnant?" quizzed 3rd Company’s commander as he surveyed the scene from his binoculars. "Survivors could be hiding in that shattered forest, just waiting for us to let our guards down."
"I have seen what a string of fuel-air explosives could reduce a village bigger than this place to," Becker dismally answered. "Afghanistan had plenty of villages the size of this, most of them packed with restless natives not too dissimilar from the Russians. Most of them were reduced to ash and cinders by fuel-air bombs too. No one could have survived such a strike, and even if they did, they’ll probably be fleeing from this place."
By now, another company was being airlifted to bolster the defenses of Kalinin, arriving probably in another hour or so. At nightfall, the regiment’s gunships would be moving in to their new ‘home’ here. Tomorrow afternoon, the armored elements of the 7th Regiment were scheduled to arrive at the western outskirts of town. In all, things were looking good for the Hauptmann. It felt even better when he took another glance at the remains of the Russian assault, to see the carnage wrought by the Überbrückers.
The forest was burning brightly for the last twenty minutes, an assortment of wrecked Russian tanks added to the bonfire. Tens of thousands of Russian Bolsheviks lay dead amongst the spaces separating the town’s southeastern edge and the burning woods. No doubt plenty more corpses filled the charred woodlands up ahead. It was a terribly testimony, a venomous warning to those who dared oppose the glorious march of the Third Reich.
Ostensibly, the price paid in blood and toil did not come in cheaply. At least thirty-seven Wehrmacht men had died in the settlement’s defense. Hauptmann Strummer suspected there might be more, but the tallying could wait until tomorrow. The town of Kalinin had been secured, and with it, the means to assail Moscow from the rear and achieve the greatest victory the Fatherland has ever accomplished. He had deserved the right to hammer the bears.
Part 10: Thor’s Vengeance
The Kremlin, 10 00 Hours, 6 January 1942
Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin stared at the sheet of paper, and felt the first visages of fear seeping back once more. It was the sort of feeling that he had been experiencing for the third and fourth quarters of last year, ever since the German fascists stabbed him in the back by launched a surprise offensive, catching most of the Rodina’s forces arrayed along the border with their pants down. The autumn mud and the Russian winter had stalled them since the last month, allowing the Red Army to recuperate and take the initiative in the inevitable counterattack.
The events of the last four days had changed all that. Last Friday, the 29th Army was decimated overnight by ‘advanced Nazi weapons’ at Kalinin. Worryingly, the town was only one hundred and eighty miles northwest of Moscow, and the few partisans operating in the area between here and Leningrad had sent in a report yesterday detailing that a massive German build-up was occurring in the north. Stalin had no illusions of where their intended target was, but that was not the only locale to be anxious about.
The Moscow Front had been ominously quiet for the past week. The Germans had been on the defensive since December, but recent Soviet attempts to slice through their front of late had been repulsed heavily. Entire squadrons of fighters and bombers sent in to blast holes in the enemy’s lines had simply disappeared without trace.
It was very worrying, indeed.
More concerning was the Japanese Army crowding back into Korea, Manchuria and China with seemingly renewed interest; from the hazy details procured by a certain agent in Japan, it looks like there were a lot of ‘advanced weapons’ and vital war materials to be found littering in the regions they controlled. The crushing defeat they had suffered in Malaya – by weapons from the far future – had forced them to consolidate their northern territories too, it seems.
Putting the sheet of paper away, he turned his steely gaze to the men seated in front of his desk. The dim, flickering lights emitted from the room’s fireplace cast large, frightful shadows over them.
"Vyacheslav Mikhailovich," he started. "What news do you bring us from the rest of the world?"
The Soviet Foreign Minister straightened his posture. "Comrade Stalin, my recent conversation with the British and American ambassadors has confirmed that ‘things’ from the future are indeed in the hands of the capitalists. They also suspect that the Nazis may have their own windfall, but the rumors coming out of Manchuria have escaped them so far."
"Good," Stalin murmured. "Very good."
After taking a short break to sip from a cup of black tea, the Steel Tsar questioned Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov further. "Mikhailovich, can you pressure the American and British governments to share their future ‘things’ with us? If not, can we form an alliance with the Japanese?"
The Foreign Minister paused to think it over. "I could, but it seems that the Allies will be extremely reluctant to do so."
"And why is that, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich?" Stalin thundered.
"Comrade Stalin," NKVD director Lavrenty Beria interrupted, "our sources in Australia indicate that the future… despises the ideals of World Communism. In fact, there has been calls in the Future Australian territory to reduce the amount of supplies reaching Murmansk and Archangelsk. The extreme ones had even called for the elimination of the alliance between us and the West."
The Steel Tsar’s facial features were wrapped into a scowl. Soviet Russia and the West were never friends in the first place, despite the support given throughout the second half of last year by the respective populations of Britain and America. They had allied only out of mutual convenience, one that Russia desperately needed of current. What did this new turn of events mean for the Soviet Union?
"But I do not think we would have to depend on the West or the Japanese for future technology," Beria now spoke with a tinge of fear, "Not when we possess our own."
Stalin’s eyes widened. Molotov kept his face straight, but deep inside, he was intrigued and wary as well. The secret police chief had the reputation of a cruel executioner who took great pleasure in torturing numerous opponents of the State and then executing them in Lubyanka. By all accounts, Beria had survived the Great Purge not only because he was its chief executor but also because he, like Stalin, was a Georgian who had supported him since 1926. The General Secretary was rumored to trust his fellow Georgians more than anybody else.
"Speak on, Lavrenty Pavlovich," the Steel Tsar cynically said. "Perhaps this would turn out to be some confession about your liking for little schoolgirls, yes?"
The NKVD chief stuttered in response as Stalin chuckled; Molotov was silent and still as always, but one could see that he was wryly amused. Beria’s mouth shut closed once he realized that there will be no perfect reply to Stalin’s retort; the only replies he had in mind would quickly land him in a gulag, and that was if the stars were shining above him. The thought of it caused painful spasms in his stomach. So instead, the NKVD chief opted to keep on track by saying what was needed to be said.
"No-no-no, Comrade Stalin," he said. "My men have found something unusual in Siberia two days ago. A military base, from seventy-five years into the future. It belongs to a nation called the Russian Federation."
The entire room suddenly became eerily quiet for everyone except Stalin. Beria tried to utter another word, but with one flick of his hand, Stalin wordlessly told him not to. Instead, the General Secretary took his time to reach for his corncob pipe, lit its bowl and then chews its mouthpiece. As the first puff of grey smoke flew out of the bowl chamber, Stalin gazed at the head of the NKVD with the voracious seriousness of a lion cornering its prey. The NKVD chief gulped, for he knew that the Steel Tsar had just been displeased. Bad things had happened to people who antagonized him, and Beria was already imagining himself being tortured in one of his own prison cells.
"Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria, I will take it that you are not serious of the war effort, yes?" the General Secretary snapped, "You will side with the German fascists to de-rail the Rodina’s defenses. Therefore, I cannot understand why a Georgian like you would do such a thing. I am patriotic, and so are every other Georgians I have known. But not you it would seem…"
"But Comrade Stalin," the NKVD chief argued, "I am speaking the truth. I can bring in their tanks for you to inspect by this Friday. They are even bigger and superior than our T-34s."
Stalin’s furious gaze signaled that he still refused to believe. "Enough of this fucking bullshit!" he yelled. "Did the war fuck your brains, you child-raping faggot? I want fucking victories, Beria. I want information on the Germans and what they are doing, not far-fetched claims of discovering the fucking future, because there will be no future if we let those bastards win!"
The Steel Tsar halted briefly to take a breather, breathing in and out slowly. His cheeks were as red as tomatoes, and one could fear that it would burst with an almighty pop. Of late, Zhukov and Vasilevsky’s forces had been unable to punch through the German lines. The fact that they were actually preparing for a major offensive instead of retreating unsettled him further; even General Winter was not stopping them cold, which had been the case for December. But if Beria was speaking the truth, then there might be a chance for a reversal of the historical dialectic towards the side of communism once more.
"Very well, Beria," he said, never removing his steely gaze from the NKVD chief’s eyes. "I will give you until the day after tomorrow to bring me an example of your fantastic claims. If it is genuine, I will make you a Hero of the Soviet Union. If not, you would already know what will happen. I believe Malenkov has been vying to take over your job, Pavlovich."
The NKVD chief smiled wanly.
"But before you go," the General Secretary continued, "Explain to me what the ‘Russian Federation’ is, since you have ‘discovered’ their military base in the Siberian wilderness."
The NKVD chief stalled dead on his tracks, giving the look that he had just seen a ghost or something. "It is still too early to discern what that might mean, Comrade Stalin. But rest assured that all be clear by this Thursday."
"Good," the Steel Tsar hummed approvingly. "It had better be. Now get out and do your job for a change."
Leaving the head of NKVD to his duties, Stalin turned back to Molotov. "You have not answered my question, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich," he growled. "Can we form an alliance with the Japanese and get them to share their future ‘things’ with us?"
"If what Comrade Beria had said was true," the Foreign Minister explained, "then we could use our own ‘future’ discoveries as leverage. We could even get them to share their findings with us, in return for production facilities and subtle support in their war against the West. So, in that case, I would say yes."
"Would they accept it?" Stalin skeptically asked. "I find it hard to believe that they have forgotten the defeat we handed them in Mongolia. They, like the West, are also an imperialistic power who also believes that their Emperor is a god on Earth."
"Yes, Comrade Stalin," Molotov agreed. "But one should also remember that they are walking on a tight rope. The Japanese cannot compete with the vast industries of Britain and America, especially once the latter is running at full speed. Even if they are Germany’s ally, the both of them have differing racial philosophies. Inevitably, a clash between both nations would occur at some point should they win this war."
"But a clash between both of our ideologies is similarly unavoidable, am I right?" the General Secretary countered. "We have not forgotten that they defeated us at Tsushima, and our issues regarding Mongolia and Manchuria have not been settled yet. Therefore, a war between us is inescapable."
"Just as a conflict between us and the West is inevitable," Molotov nodded in agreement. "But unlike the Nazis, we would not exterminate their populace just simply because they are Asians. Indeed, there are even elements within their imperialistic society sympathetic to the cause of World Communism. Their ideals of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, even if it is a fib, echo the dialectics of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union. If a war does occur, it would be us liberating our eastern brothers rather than just exterminating an Asian sub-race."
"Certainly it would," Stalin consented. "You will discuss this matter with the Japanese Ambassador then, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich. I have to attend to the defense of the Rodina now."
The Soviet Foreign Minister got out of his seat and left the room, leaving the General Secretary of the CPSU to his own fiddling. Once the door was shut closed, Stalin immediately grabbed the piece of report and took another good look at it. Strangely, he felt relieved as he read through the NKVD’s details of the German build-up occurring north and west. The faint, distant wail of half a dozen air raid sirens suddenly filled the atmosphere, followed by explosions. He dismissed them as nothing more than another nuisance raid.
Our anti-aircraft weapons should be sufficient to shoot them down, he calmed himself with the gleeful thought.
Just then, the telephone rang.
Slowly putting down the paper, Stalin picked up the phone and placed the handset against his right ear.
"Comrade Stalin," it was Zhukov, sounding very exhausted. "The Germans have just launched their counter-offensive from the front’s north and west. My spotters say that they are heading towards Moscow in some sort of rotary craft."
The Steel Tsar’s weary eyes were awakened in fear. "What do you mean, Zhukov? Where are they coming from?"
The sounds of several large explosions echoed through the Kremlin, shaking the very foundations of the General Secretary’s office. The dim lights were flickering all of a sudden. The telephone handset was flung out of his grasp, and when he picked it up once more, the line was long dead. Deep reverberations shook the building once more, and Stalin realized that this was more than a bombing raid. Calmly, he opened the desk’s bottom drawer, took out his semi-automatic Tokarev pistol and cocked its firing pin.
And then, the Steel Tsar lumbered out of the room as fast as possible.
11 20 Hours
The deep droning of the Arados’ pulse-jet engines resonating much further west instead of east told Leutnant Herman Becker that they were going home. The mission briefing had stated that thirty of them were going to be used to carpet bomb Moscow with torrents of napalm and fuel-air bombs before 3rd Company was inserted into the Kremlin along with a separate Waffen-SS detachment. For some damn reason, the Fallschirmjagers were being kept in reserve by Hermann Goering himself. There were rumors that they were being prepared for combat in the Mediterranean, due to ‘changed’ circumstances in the Pacific.
Becker washed the thought away, because he had other important things to attend to. Like fighting a war and making sure that no more Germans under his command will die under Russian guns. At the moment, the Leutnant was standing in front of a large door within the Kremlin’s interior with five of his men. The defense of Kalinin had killed half of his platoon, and the firefight at the LZ had chopped up another four. This brought him to his current predicament.
"Cover the entrance, Koenig," Becker ordered as he prepared to smash a wooden door with his rifle butt. "The rest of you – watch out for any popping Russki trapdoors."
With brutal force, he kicked the door open and brought his assault rifle to bear. There was nothing but the sight of an office room lavishly decorated with rich Russian ornaments and a portrait of some communist figurehead the Leutnant barely remembered of. He regretted then for not paying more attention in history classes during his Mittelschule years. The spaciousness of the room awed him and his men, however.
"Look at the size of this filthy rich room," Schutze Cowan Diamant remarked from behind. "It could fill a dozen apartments back in Wilhelmshaven."
"Bah," Feldwebel Koenig scoffed. "This is a small shrimp compared to the Fuhrer Dome in our Berlin. Herr Leutnant, what do you think?"
"Same as you," Becker muttered. "It seems there is nothing here, so let’s go check the other rooms."
One of his men, a Gefreiter who went by the name of Meyer Thandie, had moved over to a large bookshelf and pored over its contents. Whether it was by accident or sheer luck, the Gefreiter grabbed the book by its binder and a hidden door opposite the shelf was unlocked. It earned him a long hard stare from the Leutnant and his peers. The man just shrugged like nothing had happened.
"Looks like there is something here after all," Becker remarked, gesturing with hand signals for the squad to move in.
With their guns armed and ready, Schutze Diamant was the first inside, followed by another Schutze, and his Unteroffizier peer, then the Gefreiter who ‘discovered’ the door, and finally Feldwebel Koenig and Leutnant Becker. Since there was a distinct lack of lighting inside, they had to put on their Siemens night-vision goggles to see through the darkness. Thanks to the low-light amplification provided by his goggles, the Leutnant was able to immediately recognize that they were walking inside a corridor. Time slowed to a snail’s pace as they went further and further into the darkness, until the light from the entrance was invisible.
This has to end somewhere, he thought.
11 33 Hours
Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria was shuffling through a set of papers with the speed of a chasing foxhound, his unwholesome eyes frantically marking what was relevant and what was irrelevant under the wavering lamps above. The former was placed inside his briefcase while the latter was burned. Stalin might have panicked him time and again, but the Nazis frightened him beyond his wits. He knew what they were doing in the areas of Russia stamped beneath their jackboots, and their Commissar’s Decree forbade any party member to be spared a bullet, including him and the General Secretary. Beria might have escaped from this miserable place, but in the confusion of the bombings, he had hid in here instead. Half an hour later, reports filtered in that the Germans have landed troops in the Red Square using rotary craft. However hard it might be, he had to try and make it to Kuibyshev.
He was inside a bunker located beneath the Kremlin grounds, with intertwining tunnels that linked to his office in Lubyanka. The subterranean room was choked full of filing cabinets and communications equipment used by the NKVD. There were only a few entrances to this place from the Kremlin, and all of them were well-hidden. The invading fascists would never find him and his men down here, thus it would make his escape route all the safer. The NKVD chief wondered if the Steel Tsar was alright, concerned not out of loyalty but of cautiousness. If he were to take over the Soviet Union, Iosif Stalin must be dead first.
"Captain Buzzam confirms that the General Secretary’s train has made it out of Moscow," Colonel Sarkisov, his bodyguard and one of the three remaining radio operators, reported. "Thus, we can be assured that Comrade Stalin and family is well and alive, heading towards Kuibyshev."
Beria smiled wanly at the news, but his hidden left hand was tightly clenched. "That is all good to hear, Colonel," he said, half telling the truth. "We may be able to push back these fascist dogs yet."
Before he could pack another stack of papers into his briefcase, one of the entrance doors swung opened and all hell broke loose.
11 35 Hours
The Russian voices led Leutnant Becker and his men to the hidden NKVD bunker, thanks to the echoes produced in the long, wide corridors. He had paused for four minutes just outside the door, intent to let them finish their little ‘chit-chat’ before a kick on the door and a burst of 5.56mm bullets put them all six feet under the ground. Becker smiled whenever he thought of that American phrase. It was the epitome of gallows humor.
"Everyone," he whispered. "Switch off your goggles. Gefreiter Thandie, you will have the honor of kicking down this door for us."
Someone snickered from behind. ‘If everything goes wrong, blame Thandie."
Ignoring the jib directed at him, the Gefreiter solidly slammed down the door with a well-aimed kick. The door was rusty and worn by the ages, perhaps even dating back to the time of the deposed Tsars. The communists who took over hadn’t bothered with replacing it with a modern metal entrance. Evidently, it was a fine example of how crude and simple the Worker’s Republic was in everything they did.
As light poured onto their battle-worn faces once more, a single bullet struck Becker on his feldgrau-covered chest and bounced off. It caused him to stagger for half a second, before he brought his rifle to bear at the would-be killer. It was a short, bald man in a uniform that marked him as an officer of the Red Army. The Leutnant and his men immediately recognized who it was, and opened fired like tomorrow was a forgone conclusion.
Torrents of steel-jacketed bullets filled the room, tearing anything they ripped through with frightening velocity. Lavrenty Beria was the first to be shot, with half a dozen rounds piercing through his head and torso in milliseconds. The rest of the room wasn’t spared either – three radio operators, two guards armed with submachine-guns and the contents of the room were shot to pieces. Futile screams in Russians – whether it was for mercy or vengeance – were simply cut down with the incessant chatter of six StG 72s. The worn-down reinforced walls, tables and communications equipment were staining red with blood and gore.
"I think we killed them all, Herr Leutnant," Feldwebel Koenig commented on the bloodbath wrought. "Our squad would probably get another Iron Cross for killing that Bolshevik bastard over there."
Becker’s mouth was set on a grim line. "Too many damn Iron Crosses," he shook his head. "Too many unmarked graves too. Gefreiter Thandie, I want you and Schutze Diamant to go get the Hauptmann here to see this place. In the meantime, the rest of you will secure this godforsaken hiding hole."
As Thandie ran out of the Russian bunker, Becker’s men spread out across the rather-packed bunker, sifting through piles of gore-draped documents and machinery with disinterest. Russian was a Cyrillic language that was too dissimilar and alien to German. Whatever those documents were, they must have been very important before the room’s capture. The former NKVD chief had been tried to burn most of them while packing the rest into his now gore-stained briefcase.
"This war is as good as won, Herr Leutnant," Feldwebel Koenig said. "With Beria dead and probably Stalin too, the Bolsheviks is as good as dead goose."
"Don’t bet the farm on it," the Leutnant snapped, "as the Amis would say. The Bolsheviks were still resisting us for decades even after we dropped the bombs on Moscow and Kuibyshev, remember?"
The Feldwebel thought over this for a moment, and remembered that Leutnant Becker had been serving in Ostland far longer than he did. He wished he had not said that.
"I, um, apologize for that, Herr Leutnant," he expressed regret.
"Don’t worry," Becker’s battle-worn face was lightening. "For now, we have scored a great victory for the Volk and the Fatherland. Not ours, but nonetheless, the Volk."
11 34 Hours
Even as the NKVD bunker was being scoured clean by Leutnant Becker and his men, Stalin’s personal train was already churning its way out of the suburbs of Moscow; its destination was the Samara city of Kuibyshev five hundred miles to the east. The Germans had not yet captured Moscow – the first ‘75er armored spearheads being four days away –but merely attempted to decapitate the Soviet leadership in a single strike heavily based on the principles of Blitzkrieg. For now, the third and fourth companies of the Wehrmacht 1st Battalion, along with the 2nd SS-Luft Company, were digging into the Kremlin’s grounds to await their evacuation.
Though the strike had been considered as successful, people like Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov and Nikita Khrushchev had survived and escaped alongside the Steel Tsar. These were the people Iosif Stalin was taking east, and it was from the Rodina’s east that the Russian counter-offensive would begin.