Chapter 1: Preface
First a preface to the story about what I feel in necessary.
Name changes: since this story is mostly set in Germany I changed around some names, to make them fit into the setting.
Armitage Hux: remains Ermitage Hux, British RAF pilot working for Naval Intelligence.
Kylo Ren: Benjamin Solo (mostly shortened to Ben within the story)
Leia: Lea Solo (sounds the same, is just written differently)
Han: Hans Solo (I just added a letter to make it into a common German name)
Poe: Philip Oskar Eilers (short Poe)
Katherine Phasma: I just added a first name
Finn: remains Finn
I am in fact trying to make this story as historically accurate as I can since I am very interested in this period of history but by NO MEANS did all of what I write happen in a similar way. What Hux describes he saw over Germany in chapter one for example never happened. If I write based on actual events I will try to add references in the notes at the end of the chapter.
The following media help/ helped me to write this fan fiction and inspired me:
-"The White Rabbit: The secret agent the Gestapo could not crack" by Bruce Marshall (my main inspiration)
- "HHHH" by Laurent Binet
- "Fatherland" and "Munich" by Robert Harris
- "Pegasus Bridge" by Stephen E. Ambrose
-"All hell let loose" by Max Hastings
-"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William L. Shirer
- "The History of WW2 podcast"
-As well as the band Sabaton (in particular the songs "Bismarck", "Wolfpack" and "The Rise of Evil")
-My new workplace
And now that all of this is said, I hope you enjoy the first chapter!
Chapter 2: Wilhelmshaven
It was still dark outside as far as Hux was able to tell from the small, barred window of his cell. Damp, salty air making its way through the crevices where the glass pane didn´t quite connect with the wooden frame, deformed by the moisture of the sea. Or what Hux believed was the Sea. He could not imagine that the men had taken him far from the place where he was shot down.
There was no way to tell which day of the week it was, how long it had been since he left his London flat, smoke from a street not far from his disturbing the morning air after another German raid on the capital.
Just a constant rotation of questionings, beatings, the soup – more like water with a few leeks in it – and another round of questions.
At least his hands were not chained to the wall anymore, the guards had judged that by now he would not have the strength to properly move them anyways. They were right, almost. Now at least he could sit down. When he stretched his legs, his toes hit the opposite wall, a patch of black mould steadily getting bigger each day.
Hux was not the only prisoner, that much he knew, he just wasn´t able to establish communication with the others. He didn´t even know where they might be from. Once he thought he had heard a Russian insult. Maybe it was Czech. Even if his brain had been less clouded he would not be able to distinguish the Slavic languages, his knowledge of them too limited.
Steps on the corridor. Maybe they were coming for him again, bring him into the bathroom like room with the tub filled with ice water.
But the man seemingly had turned into another corridor, leaving Hux alone. At least for the moment.
Alone was a relative term. Somewhere close to his cell must be some sort of ante room housing the guards of this part of the building. Occasionally when the door opened he could hear their laugh, smell the cigarette smoke and the faint aroma of cheap coffee. A few seconds later the little viewing panel in the heavy door would be opened to check whether Hux was still alive.
They had taken away the little cyanide capsule he had, when they had searched him. But even if they hadn´t he wasn´t sure he would have taken it. Whitehall had to know about German Naval movements. If it wasn´t too late already, that is.
But if he ever managed to leave this country alive, they also had to know about all of this. The torture, the conditions, the whole machinery of the wretched Reich. His eyelids felt heavy.
Still he could not sleep. Not only did his body hurt during every tiny movement and he could feel his heartbeat in the bruises that marked his body but he also constantly turned one word over in his head.
German for tomorrow as far as he knew, that was what the SS officer with the pig-like nose said when he left Hux´s cell that day.
Clearly they were planning on doing something tomorrow but what it was Hux could not for the life of him tell.
Maybe they would finally execute him, finally realize that he was not going to give them information on Allied plans, not that he knew much in general.
Or maybe he did. He knew parts of plans but not the bigger picture that the Allied commanders were dreaming up. Maybe if he did piece together the parts that he knew he would see it. Right now he could not even attempt to do that.
He had not slept in days. At first it was out of defiance, to show his inner strength. Soon, he started to regret this decision. As soon as his blonde, blue-eyed guards realized what he wanted to do they decided to use it against him. When Hux finally was so tired, that he started to doze off standing in his tiny cell they started banging on the door and, when that did not work, came in to administer a beating.
Karl and Günther were their names, that much Hux had gathered when they made the mistake to talk privately a little too close to his door. Much more of the conversation he could not catch, his German was mediocre at best, abysmal at worst.
Karl was the taller, bulkier one of them, always the one to throw the first punch. He was the prime example of a Nazi: short, blonde hair cropped just a little too close to the scalp to look pleasing to the eye and icy-blue eyes, wearing his black SS uniform with more pride than was most likely called for in his position.
Günther seemed a little younger and more content with trying to extract information by talking rather than violence but Hux was not sure whether that made him more or less dangerous than his tall colleague. Of course it was nice to not be beaten within seconds to death each hour but there was something behind those blue eyes that made him shiver, something that reminded him of a predator stalking its prey, almost ready to strike but waiting for the perfect opportunity to do so.
Both of them had been laughing when their superior officer left the cell saying “Morgen”. That alone was enough to make Hux uneasy about what was going to happen.
But for now it was still dark and, if not for pained screams echoing down the corridor, only interrupted by German words, quiet.
When Hux came to, a sliver of orange light filtered in through the bars on the window. Sleep must have found him at last or maybe more of a trance, he did not care. Whatever he had experienced did not take away the pain in his body.
But why had the guards not woken him like they would have usually done? A last courtesy before his death? Were they even capable of such courtesies? Probably not, he judged. At least not the SS men he had encountered here.
The thud of heavy jackboots on the corridor, at least two pairs, stopping before his door. The clinking of keys on a chain, the grumbled command to stand back from the door.
Before Hux stood now two men. One of them he had seen before. It was Karl, shackles in his hand, smiling menacingly down at Hux.
The other, also wearing the black uniform of an SS trooper (maybe a Sturmbannführer, Hux wasn´t sure from this angle) was unknown to him. The man ( brown hair, not blonde, and brown eyes for a change) looked down and in heavily accented English told him:” Get up, English Pig and hold out your arms. Resist and you will pay in blood.”
Every instinct within Hux told him to lash out at the German, to show him his fury but rationally he knew that even if he tried, his body would not comply. He could barely stand and the pain that shot up his arms when he tried to lift them and Karl put on the shackles made his vision fade for a moment.
“And what is going to happen now? Finally shoot me?” The comment was supposed to come out as biting and cocksure but instead came out rather weakly between gritted teeth. Hux mentally scolded himself. He should have kept his mouth shut.
The supposed Sturmbannfürhrer grabbed his chin and twisted Hux´s head brutally to look at him. “You wish, pig. We are going to have a lot of fun with you in Berlin. We know you belong to British Intelligence and you are going to tell us everything we want to know.”
Hux could just stare.
Berlin was worse than a death sentence.
Hux was herded into a black car with tinted windows, the sun outside momentarily blinding him after only being accustomed to dim, artificial light for- well he didn´t know how long. Between all the “sessions” with Karl, Günther and a few others he must have lost track of time.
The insides of the car smelled like wet leather and stale smoke of German ersatz-cigarettes, a smell that made Hux´s empty stomach turn but he was determined not to throw up in front of his captors.
Maybe he already had. He could not remember.
Karl and another SS thug got into the car on both sides of him, the Sturmbannführer sitting in the front, next to the driver of the black car. The engine roared to life and Hux now was on the way to the one place every intelligence officer deep within himself feared: Gestapo Headquaters in the Prinz Albrecht Strasse, the headquarters of torture and pain.
He knew he had to somehow keep himself from thinking of his destination, from going insane. He did have training on what to do under pressure, under torture, but training was nothing compared to the real thing.
He tried to remember what he had been told. List the names of your childhood friends.
Hux did, alphabetically, by height, by hair color. It distracted him for what felt like seconds.
Recall the lyrics to the last song you heard.
Hux could not remember the last song he heard on the radio back in England, so he tried to remember the lyrics to “Lili Marlene” but could not get past the second verse.
Rationally recount on how you got into your current situation.
Hux came into Whitehall, London on May 5, he had greeted Phasma, his friend and secretary to Commander Snoke. She had told him to go into Snokes office. He had been briefed. The US Merchant Marine had started entering the Atlantic, upping the tonnage of the Atlantic convoys. The German “Wolfpacks”, teams of U-boats, were apparently not able to attack the larger convoys like they usually would, which, to Hux´s questioning look, of course was good. For now.
But the Germans would also see a decrease in the efficiency of their Atlantic attacks so it would only be logical to assume that the German Navy would send more ships out. Dönitz and Admiral Raeder were scheming on what to do most likely and it was for Hux to find out what it could be.
Hux remembered scoffing. “Logical to assume” when, in the last three years had the Germans acted based on logic and reason?
He was sent home to pack his things and entered a car waiting in front of his London apartment that took him straight to Tangmere airfield where a Hawker Hurricane was waiting for him. He loved Hawker Hurricanes. Even if they were not much of a match for the Germans anymore he always felt like a plane like this could never betray him.
But it did.
His reconnaissance flight was to lead him to Wilhelmshaven where he discovered that Snoke, for all that Hux knew, was indeed right. The Germans were deploying more power to sea.
He spotted the radar tower of a U-boat heading out into the open sea and below the waterline. Behind it trailed an array of gigantic battleships and light cruisers. The battleships would have looked like any other to him if it weren´t for their size.
From the intelligence they already had, they knew that Admiral Raeder had already deployed the battleship Scharnhorst to the waters of South America so this ship was out of question. The ones Hux saw could only be the Gneisenau, sister-ship to the Scharnhorst, and the Tirpitz, an even newer, bigger version of these two ships. Its sister-ship Bismarck had been sunk almost exactly a year prior, on its way to France for repairs after sinking the British HMS Hood. Hux remembered the celebration the destruction of the mighty German war vessel had caused in the office at Whitehall.
While he was trying to discern some of the smaller cruisers he noticed a Me-109, suddenly emerging from the clouds. Too late.
Before he had time to adequately get into firing position himself the pilot of the German fighter already let loose on this salvo of ammunition. It pierced the Hurricane´s fuselage, the tail fin and hit the canopy right next to Hux´s right arm.
He lost control and had to disembark using his ejector seat. Before he knew he had hit the ground, most likely concussed by the landing, he stared into the face of an armed German officer. Then his vision had gone black.
The next thing he remembered was waking up in his cell, at that point still shackled to the cold, damp wall, the air smelling faintly salty. He was still close to the coast.
As soon as the guards found out he was awake he realized a terrible mistake he had made before his flight from Tangmere.
A letter addressed to him, one that Phasma gave him that morning after it had arrived from a girl that he had half-heartedly met on leave in Cardiff, had still been in his pocket. When the SS men searched him, they had found the letter and, after gathering some information themselves, knew that he worked for the British Naval Intelligence Division.
Since they knew he had information, the torture had been even worse. He was beaten, drugged somewhat, interrogated again and again, people yelling commands at him from all sides, he had been thrown into an ice-cold bath, almost drowned in it, revived only to be drowned again.
“What do the Allies know about out Naval movements?” “Where are the next attacks to take place?” “Where are your arms factories?” “Which route are the next convoys going to take?” “Speak, English pig!” Over and over again they had screamed and over and over again Hux stayed silent.
And now he was in a car.
On his way to the Prinz Albrecht Strasse.
On his way to Berlin.
He knew that he had to get out. He just had to.
The German countryside offered no chance of escape. Farmland and small villages for a majority of the way, people in the streets hurriedly making way for the black Benz with the Swastika on the hood of the car.
Not only was Hux facing the problem of having two armed guards at his sides and a locked car door next to the thugs but the nature of the land was no less a case for concern.
Even if by some miracle he did manage to somehow get out of the car, where would he go?
The woods they passed were sparse, no place to hide in them and in his condition he would not manage a long run all whilst trying to criss-cross through the trees trying to get out of the bullet´s way.
The farmland they passed was obviously out of question too.
The ground was as flat as an airfield so, again, he would most likely be shot down immediately.
Hux had hoped for stupidity on the driver´s part but quickly realized that he had hoped in vain. The SS trooper obviously knew to avoid the larger villages and cities on the way that would allow for some sort of cover for an escapee. Oldenburg, Bremen, Hannover only shadows in the distance.
He tried to figure out how long it would take him to get to Berlin. Recalling some maps of Germany he decided that by the main roads it would take him about 6 hours to get from Wilhelmshaven to the German capital, but since they were taking mainly back-roads they would arrive much later. Determined not to show his fear he stared straight forward through the windshield, jaw set, watching the empty fields, waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
As they came closer to Berlin, Hux could almost feel the temperature drop.
The houses became bigger, more crowded, even though the driver was still careful to pick the back-alleys.
He had no idea which part of Berlin he was in, how far away from the dreaded headquarters of SS and Gestapo.
This was enemy territory but Hux could not shake the feeling of admiration for some of the architecture. In the distance loomed the Brandenburg Gate, a sight he so far had only seen in photographs. For now he would have preferred for it to stay that way.
“Were they here?” he wondered. The people that turned loose a storm all over the world, with no regard for any consequence?
Hitler? Himmler? Heydrich? Goebbels?
Not that Hux ever wanted to meet any of them personally.
Maybe to put a bullet in their head.
Then, just a minute later, finally.
Another black car, manned by officers in SS uniform rammed the car Hux was currently sitting in, in one of the gloomy back roads. The Sturmbannführer in the front ordered one of the thugs next to Hux to “talk” or rather yell some sense into his comrades, who were also screaming right back about whose fault it was.
A glance to the side told Hux that the crash had dented the back door, where just a few seconds before the yelling thug had left the car, and, when he closed it, the lock did not click in place, leaving the door open.
Whilst the others were still distracted by the Officers in the other car, Hux, trying his best to ignore his limbs screaming in pain, threw himself against the open door, into the street and onto his feet.
The screaming behind him ceased almost immediately and was picked up again, but this time directed at him. Bullets passed by his head but he ran on, from one alleyway to the next until he felt his legs starting to give in to the pain.
A small staircase leading into what looked like the dark wet hole where a cellar once was, was his salvation.
He stumbled to the side, into the hole, landing hard on the wet ground in the shadows.
Hux held his breath, the footsteps of his pursuers coming closer, the screaming getting louder until finally, they had passed him, running down another alley that lead them farther and farther away from his hiding place. He dared to breathe again.
The thugs were gone but it did not erase his next problem. He was still in Berlin, a city he only knew from maps and reconnaissance photographs, in the heart of enemy territory.
He could not move, could only lay in this dark hole that started to feel more and more like a grave each minute.
And maybe it would be his grave.
His exhaustion started catching up to him, the adrenaline of his flight fading away, the aches springing to life again.
He could feel his body get colder.
Until there was only darkness.
Ben Solo was making his way back to his apartment, as always trying to dodge the main roads as much as possible since the arrest of his parents for their work with the resistance in Berlin.
The uniform collar scratched at his throat but it was a necessary evil. He had gotten a used Wehrmacht uniform from an informant of his father, Philip Oskar Eilers. It was not easy to avoid conscription. Officially military service was mostly carried out by volunteers, eager to lay down their life for the glory of the Reich but to Ben that way of thinking seemed utter bullshit. But walking the streets as a young, able-bodied man who did not seem to fight for his country was hard, stares coming from every direction, especially from informants of the Gestapo who he should avoid anyways. So he managed to obtain a unused Wehrmacht uniform and a professionally forged signed leave (the signature obviously faked as well) to care for his lone mother after his brothers and father had fallen on the Eastern Front.
That was his cover story at least.
So far he had not needed to employ the story of Kai the Wehrmacht soldier. (Kai was the name that was stated on the leave paper. Kai Maischoen was a Unteroffizier (Corporal) supposedly stationed in the Rhineland and a 24-year-old volunteer fighter of pure German blood)
Still he always kept his eyes and ears open for supposed danger. After his parents had been arrested he had managed to disappear, living in the shadows of Berlin, cautious to not attract any attention which sometimes proved difficult.
He was too tall to not be noticed even in a crowd of people and his nose was bigger than that of the average German. Racial studies taught people that big noses were a sign to identify Jews by, and Jews had to be called in to Gestapo or SS-Headquarters for them to “take care of it”. An utter ridiculous idea to Ben but apparently not to a majority of the German population.
He was no Jew and had no Jewish relatives and could show the papers to prove it (for both himself and “Kai”). Not that it would do him much good if the authorities decided to dislike him, which they would, if they found out his identity.
They would simply forge false documents or convict him of some ridiculous crime and send him off to Buchenwald or Oranienburg to work himself to death.
He liked to switch up the roads he took every once in a while just in case some did start to follow him.
And today seemed to be the day.
A group of SS men came screaming from behind.
Ben contemplated running, but on the off chance that they were not after him it would only make him look suspicious and he knew it. So he tried to keep us his usual, leisurely walk, making way for the officers but not bothering to salute.
They did not seem to notice even when one of them, a man with short blonde hair and eyes too icy for comfort, turned around and looked at him.
“Du! Hast du einen Mann mit roten Haaren gesehen?”
Red hair? Ben had not seen anyone with red hair since the late days of ´38 and was about to answer when: “Antworte, verdammt! Er ist ein gefährlicher Verbrecher, der aus der Prinz Albrecht Straße geflohen ist! Antworte, Soldat!”
“Nein, Kommandant”, Ben said with as much vigour as he could and watched the blonde man turn around, pale face splotchy with angry red and catch up to the other officers.
So they were not after him*.
Taking a dark road behind a bakery that used to belong to a lovely woman named Sara whose only crime it was to have been born the daughter of Jewish parents, he stopped in his tracks.
Something, no, someone was breathing. But where?
After turning around in a circle, even checking the roofs he finally managed to identify the source of the sound.
A set of stairs to the cellar of the now empty bakery.
When he looked down, he saw a man, pale, breathing heavily, apparently not even fully conscious.
Ben knew he should stay away but something within him told him to go down. To see if he could help.
The closer he got the more of what he saw he could take in. The muddy and torn uniform of a British Soldier. A patch proclaiming the number 30 on his shoulder. One arm twisted at a slightly abnormal angle.
The locks of red hair in the dark.
So that was who the SS Officers were looking for.
A dangerous criminal, huh? Probably just as dangerous as Sara the baker´s daughter, Ben judged.
Or maybe not, maybe a terrorist, send by the Allies to assassinate one man or another in High Command. Even then he would not be much of a criminal. More like a saint, actually.
Now Ben needed to think.
If this was indeed the man the SS troopers were looking for, and seeing as he had red hair, Ben didn´t doubt it, he had to get the soldier off the streets. The SS would come back to look for their prisoner. They couldn´t risk having a foreign soldier loose in their capital. Or at least they couldn´t risk having their superiors find out about it.
But where should he go from here? It was still late afternoon, the streets of Berlin full of people, so getting the Brit back to his apartment was out of question even though it was not too far.
By himself he would attract enough attention as is.
Ben made his way down the steps, careful not to slip on the damp stone and assessed the situation.
He could not leave the soldier here without watching him. Either the SS would come back or some passer-by would walk the street and call in to the Gestapo to report the enemy.
The door that lead to the cellar of the bakery was barred by wooden planks but with a little effort Ben might be able to remove enough of them to get into the building, there at least he could think on how to proceed without the fear of being discovered.
He grabbed at the first plank, which came away easily, being not properly fastened to the wall on one side. The other planks were more of a challenge and he had to put a booted foot on the wall to give him the leverage he needed to remove them.
The planks on the top, the ones that would be visible from the street level could stay for the moment. He managed to slowly open the door, the hinges screeching quietly, and peer inside.
The cellar was dark and still lined with shelves that used to house bread and other baked goods. Flour – or was it dust? - still lining some surfaces of the room. The air was stale and smelled faintly of mould but it would do for the moment.
Crouching next to the British soldier he grabbed him under the armpits, careful not to shake the limp body too badly, grateful that the red-haired man was not conscious for this, and dragged him inside, almost hitting his head on the planks that were still lining the top part of the doorway.
At the far wall of the cellar stood a table, which Ben aimed for. It would be easier to check over the man on a table than crouching on the damp floor and fissures in the stones of the wall let at least some light in.
Once the soldier was on the table, Ben began seizing him up in the semi-darkness.
A man of about his height, maybe a little shorter. His body thin, almost brittle after presumably being in the “care” of the SS for some time but even before most likely not as broad as Ben himself.
The sleeve of the jacket was torn at the shoulder seams, only dangling by a thread. A black patch with a white number 30 on it, probably proclaiming his division.
The arm on that side must have been broken, if by the SS or the fall into the staircase Ben could not tell.
Blood was coming down from his temple in droplets, most likely an injury sustained in the fall but it would not need stitching.
The Brit was about Ben´s age, a little older maybe, a symbol on the torn uniform Ben could identify as that of the RAF.
The face was swollen and bruised on one side, the gruesome picture of varying shades of red, purple and greenish-blue continuing over the rest of the body, or at least the parts that he could see. The man´s cheeks were hollow from lack of food, the eyes sunken from lack of nutrients and sleep.
Shallow breaths were moving the red-head´s ribcage up and down. Ben judged that if he did not wake up within the next 30 minutes the chances of him ever opening his eyes again were slim.
Judging by the SS troopers still being close to where he found the man he had not been in the puddle of water for long but who knew how long he had already been with the vicious beasts in their black uniforms.
Ben decided that he should search the man for anything that would give him a clue to the man´s identity or purpose before he woke up. If he woke up, that is.
Going through the pockets of the grimy pants he found nothing of relevance besides a piece of paper with frayed edges that once had a message on it, now void of information since the moisture had made it unreadable.
Next he searched the jacket and undershirt, again nothing. Most of what was on him the SS would have taken. No dog tags, no identifying marks on the blouse other than the beginning of rank insignia that was partially ripped off, probably by the rough treatment.
The breaths became less ragged, more even and now Ben was hopeful that his “patient” would wake again.
He walked around the table to look at the other side and caught himself in the reflection of a mirrored glass in one of the shelves. He had almost forgotten that he was wearing his Wehrmacht uniform and could imagine that a British POW would not be too elated to stare into the face of a German soldier when he woke up.
Ben took off his cap and shrugged out of his jacket. The Iron Cross Second Class (not technically fake this time, it had belonged to his father) clinking against one of the buttons in the process.
This was madness. Maybe he should just leave.
He can´t just take in a British soldier. It was way too dangerous. Not only could the Gestapo find out - which would be his end – but the enemy soldier could try to kill him. Granted, not in his current state, but what if he really was a dangerous criminal?
What would his mother have done? She would have stayed, she would have gotten him a doctor and she would have made sure that he would not fall into the hands of the authorities again. But what she would have done was irrelevant, wasn´t it? She was not here, Ben was and he had to make a decision.
He would stay
He would make his mother proud.
Or at least that´s what he hoped.
Ben paced the room, checking the alley every couple of minutes, looking through some of the bigger fissures in the wall instead of using the door, when the rusty hinges might aid his discovery.
When he turned around, he looked into green eyes.
The soldier had apparently woken up.
The look on his face was one of confusion and barely contained fear? Fury? It was hard to tell. Something like a dog being backed into a corner, still debating whether to tuck his tail or lash out to bite.
Ben held up his hand in a manner that he hoped looked calming and slowly said: “I am not here to hurt you.” His English was a little rusty but it would have to do.
The man, one arm propped up on the table, seized him up, green eyes running over Ben´s body.
“How do I know you are not lying? This could all be some elaborate torture scheme…”. His voice was a little rough but still had that distinct British edge to it.
“I swear on my honor that it is not”, Ben tried to calm him but was interrupted. “What can a German have to say about honor in this day and age?” “I swear on my parent´s life. I want to help.”
This seemed to relax the soldier somewhat, sinking back onto the table, taking a deep breath in and covering his eyes with his arm for a moment. The movement must have hurt, a barely concealed wince running through the body.
“I am still in Berlin, aren´t I?”
Even though Ben only nodded and the soldier still shielded his eyes he seemed to get the message, removing the arm, staring at the dark ceiling instead.
“Listen, I have no idea who you are and how you got here. I found you on the street and got you where you are now. I think the least you can do is tell me who you are and convince me that I have not made a mistake here.”
Maybe that sounded a little harsh. Ben should have thought about his words. This would make the Brit no less suspicious. Carefully he spoke again: “At least tell me what to call you. I can´t walk around all day without being able to have a name to that face of yours.”
A mumbled reply.
Ben was almost ready to ask again when: “Hux. Just call me Hux. Not that it matters much anyways.”
Again the soldier, no Hux now, turned his body to look at him. Keeping an eye on Ben whilst mentally taking inventory of his injuries.
“I would have guessed you would tell me your name too?”
“Yes, I… of course, sorry. Ben. My name is Ben.” Slowly Hux nodded, as if turning the name over in his mind a couple of times before accepting it.
Again he propped himself up, but this time he didn´t stop there, instead swinging his legs over the edge of the table and pushing into a sitting position. His eyes wandered around the room, wary of his surroundings. His glance stopped on the Jacket and cap, still on the ground next to one of the shelves. He jerked up his head to look at Ben again.
“Not going to hurt me, sure! Fucking Jerry, am I already in Prinz Albrecht Strasse? Is this some kind of sick joke?”
Mentally scolding himself for leaving the Wehrmacht uniform out in the open, Ben put up his hands again. “I can explain, I swear. See, I am not actually in the Wehrmacht, it is more of an elaborate cover, I guess. And you are not with the Gestapo. You are in the cellar, where I found you. See for yourself, through the cracks you can still see the street.”
Keeping his eyes trained on Ben he slowly stood up, keeping a hand on the table to stabilize himself for as long as possible and crept to one of the bigger cracks.
On his way he almost knocked over one of the wicker baskets the bread used to be displayed in.
How long had that man been without food? From his body language and the hollowed cheeks you could assume that it was a while.
Whilst Hux was still making sure that he was indeed still as much of a free man as he was going to be in enemy territory, Ben tried to think of the next steps.
Food, food was a priority. But not too much at once. Something that his mother had told him after he nursed a stray cat back to health. If you were to feed it too much, its stomach would not be able to take it. He didn’t know how long animals had to be starved for that rule to apply but it was better not to take the risk.
Next: a doctor. Or medicine at least. The wounds of the soldier didn´t seem too bad, he was still able to move. Somewhat.
But the broken arm was in need of a splint and even though the wound on his head did not seem to need stitches he would still feel better to have someone check it. Check the entire body, too. Who knows what the officers did to him? Hux probably didn´t even know himself.
Hux, now appropriately satisfied with what he saw outside, turned his back to the wall, slowly sank down unto the floor and closed his eyes again.
Ben felt like it was time to say something.
“You are going to stay here. I am going to go, not far, just a couple of streets over. I am going to get some food and come back okay? ” he went on, grabbing something from his pocket,” I have only this with me right now. Go ahead, take it. It´s crackers. I know it won´t be enough but I will be gone for 30 minutes maximum.”
Hux looked up, somewhat reluctantly accepted the offered crackers, as if expecting them to be poisoned.
“How do I know you won´t just run off and tell the authorities about me?”
“Would I have gone and hid you here if I was planning on doing that?”
A grunt from Hux. Neither a positive nor a negative response.
Ben turned around to leave when Hux mumbled something behind him.
“…I said, cigarettes, if you can manage. Just cigarettes.” Ben offered a small smile and crept out of the squeaking door, closing it carefully behind him, leaving Hux in the cellar.
Crouched down he raised his head just the slightest amount, checking for any movement in the alley.
He headed for a small shop he knew.
Oh, the vices of a soldier.
When he returned, Hux was still at the wall, now standing again, looking out into the street, the door slightly ajar. Just enough to see the outside but still being able to close it quietly should danger be in sight.
He eyed Ben warily. “So you did come back. I wasn´t sure you would.” Ben just shrugged not exactly knowing what to say.
Instead he put on the table a bread roll, a small amount of butter and sausage, water in a jar and lastly, a pack of Rothman cigarettes.
He had a little more trouble with the latter. Ever since a connection between lung cancer and tobacco consumption had been established increased taxes had been put on all tobacco products by the party. At least one intelligent decision on the part of the regime, even though Ben thought that the soldiers were not particularly thankful for that. If you were to give your life for the fatherland you may as well be able to give in to some of your vices.
Hux immediately picked up the cigarettes, before even glancing at the food, struck a match and inhaled deeply.
A content sigh.
After careful examination of the bread he had a bite, chewed and wolfed down the rest, his body apparently finally catching up with how hungry he really was.
After another deep breath: “You speak English quite well, for a German that is. How did you learn it?”
“Before this whole mess started my family had friends, more like distant relatives, in the United States but as you can imagine we did not have much contact for the past years. We visited them a couple of times in New Jersey where my father´s friend had a private plane company.”
Hux nodded. “You really don´t seem like a Wehrmacht soldier.”
“That is because I am not. The uniform is fake and so is the name that goes with it. But… I probably should not tell you all about that since-“. Just as he was about to continue Hux, standing up from where he was sitting, grunted in pain.
“Shit, are you-? I mean obviously you are not fine. Where I got this bread I met a contact. He told me he would send a doctor to check you over but not yet. The doctor, well, a veterinarian but it will do, will have to wait for nightfall until he can make his way to my apartment.”
“A contact? Like a- wait, your apartment? Why would you take me to your apartment?” Ben took a deep breath. “Trust me I don´t know myself but, that is what my mother would have done and right now that is all I can go by. I have never been in a situation like this either, you know. And I can´t just leave you here. The bakery might be abandoned for now but it still faces a street from which at any time someone could come in. Also it smells like mould and I have no desire for your wounds to start festering.”
Hux looked at him somewhat offended, opened his mouth but closed it again as if he thought it was better not to argue. Again they fell into silence, the only sounds a steady dripping from some part of the cellar and parts of exited conversation that the air carried over from one of the busier streets of the Spandau district. It was approaching six in the evening, so they would have to stay a while longer before they could even attempt to make their way to Ben´s apartment.
Which is precisely where the next problem lay.
“We cannot take you outside looking like this”, Ben remarked.
“Well, I´m sorry, I haven´t got a change of clothes with me for the occasion”, Hux snapped but immediately softened his voice, saying: “I mean, what would I do? I… I had a rough couple of days.”
Ben looked him over, thinking.
“Today is Friday. Many people will go out for drinks in the city. If we were to remove your jacket – I doubt we will be able to salvage it anyways – and instead leave on your undershirt and pants… yeah, that could work. Can you play a drunk?”
“Can I play a – I guess I can. I haven´t tried yet but how hard can it be. My head´s still in shambles anyways.”
“Good, we are going to make our way out of here in about an hour, that should be a reasonable time for the first drunk people. You can wear my hat, that should shield your hair and some of the bruises on your face from view, the other ones we can assume came from a drunken brawl. That way you can also lean on me for support, too drunk to walk, you know? It´s not too far and no one should stop us for being drunk on a Friday.”
Hux stared at him, thinking for a moment. “That might actually work”, he mumbled. First he looked at Ben, then at the cap he was to wear. “Even though the thought of posing as a Jerry repulses me.” He offered a grin.
Ben laughed. “Trust me, sometimes it repulses me too.”
This was a bad idea.
This was possible the worst idea Ben has ever had.
He was going to walk through Berlin´s street on a Friday evening with a wounded British soldier who the Gestapo took special interest in.
He closed his eyes for a moment. Hux´s hair was pushed as best as possible under the Wehrmacht cap, his jacket discarded on the floor after much protest. He was leaning heavily against the table not looking any more convinced about the plan than Ben felt. Just an hour ago they were still somewhat sure that they had a chance, but now, as the hour of their departure drew close it seemed ridiculous to both of them. But they also knew that they could not stay in the bakery.
The SS and Gestapo troopers were a thorough lot. If they were not able to find the prisoner they would soon get to searching every possible hiding place within the area of the escape. They knew just as well as Ben did that after already being subjected to their torture the prisoner would not get far. At least not on his own.
Ben took a deep breath. “It´s time.”
Hux nodded, pushed himself off from the table as best as he could manage with his broken arm and came to stand next to him. His look was questioning as if saying “you sure you want to do this?”. Ben in turn just stared straight ahead at the door, jaw set.
Carefully checking the alley for a sign of movement he opened the door, guiding Hux through as well. After they were outside he gently tried to replace the planks at the door to give the effect that the door was still boarded up. Hux was standing with his back to the wall, eyes darting back and forth from one end of the alley to the next. No one came.
They made their way up the steps to road level, Ben urging Hux to place one arm around his shoulder, a move that with most other people would have looked strange but since they were of almost equal height is was possible.
Even without trying to play the drunk Hux stumbled, legs still weak from his time in the cell and the chase through the streets of Berlin.
In the alley it was already gloomy but luckily it was also very quiet. Not a lot of people took these roads, mostly afraid of thugs and people working for the black market lurking in the shadows, hidden from the prying eyes of the Sicherheitsdienst and the police.
As soon as they turned a corner, though, they were on a busier street, lined with shops closing down for the day and small cafés seeing their fair share of workers grabbing food before heading home, soldiers and their sweethearts and children playing. It was by far not one of the cities busier streets but it could be enough to be noticed.
But Ben´s calculations were right. Even at that time of day the first drunks were stumbling around, making Hux blend right in. As long as no one tried to start up a conversation it could all work out.
The pair made their way down the street, turning into another one, this one no less lively, and ultimately through a small park. From a little way over came the sounds of couples strolling around the river Havel, relishing the evening sun.
It was a warm day for the time of year.
Hux tried his best to keep looking forward as to not raise suspicion but Ben slowed and turned every once in a while, never being able to completely shake the feeling of being watched. But they were almost at his apartment. Only one more street and they would disappear into the building.
Just as they entered a road, he stopped dead in his tracks. In front of them stood a SS trooper in his black uniform, polished boots shining with the last traces of sunlight. Ben tried to even out his breathing, at the same time feeling Hux grow cold next to him.
“Guten Abend, Soldat”, said the trooper, then turning to look at Hux, wincing as he took in the body. “Zu viel Alkohol, huh? Das wird kein angenehmer morgen.” He laughed and winked at Ben. „Oh ja. Aber ich hatte ihn gewarnt**“, Ben replied, offering a forced laugh in return. The trooper, obviously seeing nothing wrong with a soldier helping his drunk friend home, turned, wished them a good evening and was gone from view.
Ben let out and audible sigh of relief. Hux who had only understood parts of the conversation and felt only mildly offended at apparently being the butt of a joke, also relaxed and leaned against the door frame of the nondescript building, whilst Ben fished the key out of his pocket to open the door. It had been a close call. Had the trooper cared to take a look at the bruised man at his side it would have been their end.
Inside was a dark corridor with a staircase leading up to the second level, but Ben´s apartment was on the ground floor, mainly for strategic purposes. Here he would, if worst came to worst, be able to escape through one of the windows and into one of the small alleys in the back. Also here he had no neighbors but an old widow whose husband had perished in Verdun in the last war and who had gone almost completely deaf after an artillery attack on her village near the French border.
He closed the door to his apartment behind him.
For the moment, they were safe.
(*Trooper: You! Have you seen a man with red hair? (...) Answer, damnit! He is a dangerous criminal, escaped from Prinz Albrecht Strasse! Answer, Soldier!"
Ben: "No, Commander!"
**trooper: “Good evening, soldier. Your friend had too much to drink, huh? He´s not going to have a pleasant morning.” Ben: “Oh yeah, but I did warn him.”)
This chapter was´t supposed to be done until Thursday but work did inspire me to continue today.
The German translation was as accurate as I could get them.
Also not too many historical facts yet, but this will be incorporated in the later chapters.
The only thing is that yes, the tobacco tax in Germany at this time is real. Since Hitler was not a smoker anyway and would usually not allow anyone to consume cigarettes in his presence he had no problem taxing them heavily to the point where they were hard to get even for his soldiers.
Chapter 4: Regroup
It took a while but work is pretty busy at the moment. This is more of a info-dump chapter to get some of their respective backstories out of the way.
Also I hope that the translation have been fine so far, I try my best.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The apartment itself was sparsely furnished. Between the two small rooms there was a bed, a small kitchen with a table and two chairs, a wardrobe and some shelves and, in the far corner, a not entirely comfortably looking sofa. Hux, having worked for Naval Intelligence for a while now, admittedly was quite surprised how strategic this home was chosen. Ben was apparently not as much of a naïve fool as he had first thought.
His legs still hurt so he took to awkwardly shuffling to the sofa and sinking down into the cushions. This was indeed better than the cellar he had woken up in and by far better than his cell in Wilhelmshaven. Still he did not trust Ben completely.
Given his current situation he would have worried more about his own sanity if he did trust Ben without any doubt. He was still German, he could still have been paid by the authorities to bring him here and hand him over and he could just as easily use Hux as bait to get to England and, with that, to relative safety.
Outside of the house the sound of air raid sirens started to pick up, other than that an eerie silence swept over the streets outside that were so busy just a minute ago.
Ben looked at him. “It´s nowhere near here. Usually they don´t bomb here.” Hux nodded. He was not worried, he knew that the bomber raids were not supposed to drop anything here. Then again, the last time he had heard about the RAF´s commands he was still safe and sound in his own country. Though it was true that in war decisions were made a lot quicker than at a time of peace but he could not imagine that the Air Marshall would change his plans on where to strategically drop bombs so drastically.
Still, the sound was unnerving, like a squeaking swing-set in a park at night. In the distance the low rumble of detonations.
Hux could not stop himself from looking up at the darkening sky. Up there, in the air, were his comrades, some of them already turning back towards the coast, returning home to their bases. If he could only get up there and go home with them. But of course that was impossible.
He managed a last wistful glance up above before Ben pulled the curtains closed. The rules here of course were the same as they were in London. Keep the curtains closed as to not make the bombers aware of any possible targets.
Hux watched as Ben busied himself around the room, not paying much attention to his – what? Guest? Prisoner? What exactly was Hux in this equation?
A few minutes later, more time in which not much attention was directed towards Hux, more time that he could have used to kill Ben if he wanted to if things turned sour, there was a knock at the door.
Hux was already looking around the room, searching for a place to hide when he realized that the knocks came in a pattern. Two hard, fast knocks, followed by three softer ones with about a second more between them. Apparently it was a person that Ben trusted because he looked at Hux with a small smile and went to open the door.
On the other side of said door stood a man of medium height, wrapped in a greyish-white coat. Judging by this and the black leather bag he was carrying around this must be the doctor, or rather veterinarian, that Ben had mentioned earlier.
Both men talked in German for a while of which Hux, his brain still not being fully up to speed, only understood broken pieces. “Brit”, “Broken Arm” “Security”.
Of course. Hux was still a security risk for everyone involved with him. Harboring a wanted man was punishable by death. He had not really thought about this aspect so far, but Ben surely must have, right? Or was all of this just an impulsive decision that would later on cost the young man his life?
Before he was able to dwell on it further for the moment, the doctor stepped forward, extending a hand for Hux to shake. He lifted the arm that was not broken and carefully took the offered hand, not entirely certain on the man´s agenda. After a somewhat awkward handshake the doctor kneeled, opened his bag and motioned for Hux to sit back, which he did.
He trusted this doctor more than he trust Ben when he woke up. Doctors swore an oath to help all people in need, so he was sure that he would survive this check-up without incident.
Firstly the obviously injured arm was examined. The doctor told Ben something, who looked at Hux, opened his mouth only to close it again, apparently searching for the right phrase.
“He has to… set your arm. It´s broken and will not heal properly like this”.
Taking a deep breath, Hux held his arm forward for the doctor to take. The pain was almost unbearable but still he managed to only let out a low grunt in response. As soon as the bone was back in place and a splint applied, the uncomfortable feeling that was always at the back of his mind was fading.
Next the doctor began to check up on his head and the rest of his body. After what felt like hours but was in reality most likely closer to about 30 minutes, the man rose from his place on the floor, dusted off the knees of his trousers and turned to Ben, who had taken up residence leaning against the kitchen counter. They exchanged a few words, probably on how to take care of the wounds from now on and then the door closed behind the doctor. They were alone again.
Now before Hux, Ben placed some food. A loaf of bread and what looked like potato soup. Even though it did not look like anything he knew from home it was a major step up from the luke-warm water he had been served in Wilhelmshaven. “I know it´s not much but it´s all I have right now”, Ben shrugged almost apologetically. “Don´t worry about it”, Hux, in return, assured, “no matter what, it will most likely feel like the most delicious meal I´ve ever tasted.”
With that he went on to grab the spoon and a piece of bread whilst the dark-haired German sat opposite him with a small bowl of soup as well.
They ate in silence but it was clear to both of them, that they were approaching a much-needed conversation that would determine their future path from here on.
The last bit of food was wiped out of the bowl when Hux looked up next.
“So, you helped me. I still don´t know why you did it. But I assume you have questions.” “Yes,” Ben replied, “I do. I just… what are you? I mean, I know you are English but, why are you even here?”
The German really did sound, well, not confused exactly. But curious with a hint of concern. It was true, Hux had not told him anything so far really, so he had no idea who he had taken in. Leaning back into the old cushions at his back the took a large breath and began to tell his curious tale.
“My name is Hux, Major Armitage Hux of the 30th Assault Unit of the British Naval Intelligence Service, RAF branch. That means I usually collect intelligence on German strategic movements and relay the gathered information to Allied Command.
During my last reconnaissance flight over Wilhelmshaven I did not realize an ME 109 sneaking up from above the cloud cover and before I could take evasive measures that bastard got me, just shot me straight out of the bloody sky. Next thing I knew I was guest of the SS and, well I guess you can imagine the rest.
One day they found out about my identity and who I work for. Then they decided to bring me to Berlin. I managed to escape and now here we are.
I am still sitting in this bloody excuse for a country, while I should be back in London telling my superiors about the information I gathered before it causes any harm. All because I was not careful enough. I am always careful! Now I am here and I don´t even know which bloody fucking day it is!”
At the end of his story he realized his frustration had gotten the better of him and he honest to god started screaming. He didn´t have the energy to keep himself calm anymore, the emotions of the past days finally catching up to him. He tried to take deep breaths, massaging his temples with one hand but it did not work, his head pounding.
Bens eyes had widened just a fraction, but enough for Hux to notice. Apparently he hadn´t been prepared for Hux to lose his temper.
It was quiet, almost inaudible and the red-head wasn´t sure if he heard correctly, still trying to get his breathing under control.
“It is May 20th”, Ben said, louder this time. “When did you start your flight in England?”
“I started at Tangmere on May 6. They had me for two goddamn weeks, the fucking ships must me in the Atlantic already.”
“What ships?” “When I was over Wilhelmshaven I saw those massive battleships of yours heading out to sea, by now they must have wreaked havoc.” Ben looked at him like he might look at a kicked puppy. “I am sure nothing has happened.” Ben didn´t believ it himself, this was war, after all, but it felt like the right thing to say.
Hux turned away, he was quiet for a while, the sound of his rapid breathing the only sound in the apartment.
“Why did you help me? You know how dangerous it is to house a criminal, or whatever I might be considered.”
Not it was Ben´s turn to take a deep breath.
“My parents.” Silence. “Come again?”, Hux questioned.
“My parents were with the resistance. My father was a pilot in the Luftwaffe flying a Junkers 52. But when he got his first assignment to drop bombs on the innocent he freaked. He never was a supporter of the party, not even when they first announced their stupid program that everyone believed in. He always said how ridiculous the speeches of the Fuehrer sounded. But he loved flying more than anything. I told you earlier that I could speak English because of friends from the USA. They had met because of their shared love of flying.
At first my father did not do any bombing runs but then the high command decided to take on the British in the skies as you probably well now,” Hux nodded at this point,” and he got his orders. A couple of others in his division were not fine with the orders either so they hatched a plan to kill Goering. Since they were flying 52s they also did some commercial flights and one guy got told that he was to fly the Commander of the Luftwaffe safely to his next meeting in Berlin.
The plan they had was that upon descending upon Tempelhof airfield they would crash the plane. Sacrificing yourself for the greater good, you know. The assumed that it would throw Hitler off balance.
But there was a mole in their mids. The Gestapo had taken his wife so he confessed to help her. On the morning that the plan was supposed kick into action Gestapo officers kicked in the door and took everyone involved in the coup into custody.
My mother obviously was in the eye of the authorities as well. Since ´33 she had worked with some old friends that she had in the press and printed some pamphlets uncovering the lies that the party was telling. She always believed in the importance of the truth to avoid suffering, she was raised like that.
After some minor investigation the Gestapo came back. We had a few hours warning before, a friend trying to repay his debt to my mother for helping him. She said that it would be best to split up and meet at a secure location, a safe house of the resistance.
I took the backstreets just as I did today. I waited for two days before an informant found me and told me that my mother was in custody as well. So I went into hiding. But now you know what beliefs I was raised with. That is why I helped.”
Hux´s breathing was back to normal by now. He eyed Ben, taking in the information he was presented with, analyzing it for the truth, as was his job. He tried to buy himself time to consider his next words carefully.
“I hope it is not imprudent to ask… you speak of your parents in the past-tense, does that mean…?” “Yes”, Ben said, sad tone in his voice, “ they shot my father and the others the same day there were taken in and broadcasted it to deter future insurgents. My mother was taken to Sachsenhausen, maybe she is already on her way to some other camp, if she is still alive that its.”
Hux felt bad, which was a weird feeling considering he was talking to a German, a person who he was, over the past years, conditioned to loathe. But it was true. Some of them were victims too. He knew from other members of the intelligence division that there were scattered resistance groups all over Germany but he never thought that he might get insight into the workings of them. After all, most Germans were just cogs in the machinery and happy with it.
Ignorance is bliss, isn´t it?
“I´m sorry, I really am. But if your parents suffered such fates because of what they did, why do you continue when you could be on your way to death tomorrow?”
“Because that is what I was taught. They would not have had a setback push them into compliance. Now my conviction that what is happening is wrong is even stronger than before. I know that they would have fought and that is what I am going to do. I still have a network of contacts, I am not completely on my own. I have information and I intend to use them to bring the high command to its knees even if it´s the last thing I am ever going to do!”
The last part was said with so much vigor that it shook Hux to the core.
Ben had information and contacts. But what kind of information? Could it really be that useful to the Allies? Of course it could, a German could give them more information than a hundred reconnaissance flights would be able to gather because he had lived it.
They had a German contact at Whitehall before, someone in Dresden. He was about to be extracted to London to keep him safe and the information flowing but the day of the pick-up the Gestapo had gotten to him before one of the agents could and the contact was lost forever. A grave day in London.
Could Ben be their hope for a source of information that the Allies could use?
“Ben how about you tell me about what kind of information you have?”
“I can tell you about movements of the Luftflotte, the Air fleets and their movement. Some of my father´s friends still are in the Luftwaffe and try to relay information to me when they feel it´s safe to do so. I can tell you of public opinion, of propaganda, of camps such as Sachsenhausen, I…”
But Hux shut him up with the wave of his uninjured hand.
“Ben, if you can help me get back to England so that I can make my reports since I now also know about the treatment of the SS, I will personally help you to get your voice heard by the Allied command and bring down the Reich. Can you do that?”
Ben looked at him intently, seemingly making up his mind.
Hux could not really believe it. Not yet.
After his time in captivity there was a chance that he could return home. But he didn´t know how or when.
What he did know now was that the SS had him for two weeks.
Two weeks in which he had no idea what was going on in the outside-world. Was he missed back home? Did they even know he was alive or was he presumed dead? Most likely it was the latter.
What had happened back home in England? What about London? Maybe his apartment was nothing more than a smoking pile of rubble, hit by the detonating force of a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. Maybe all he knew was gone. But surely he would have heard about that by now. The tide of the war could not have turned so dramatically without him hearing about it.
This thought relaxed him somewhat.
Relaxed him as far as a man in his position might be relaxed.
He started to gather his thoughts. What had he learned to do in a time of crisis? Get back to the basics, make a plan and try to stick to it as best as possible.
First he would have to find out about what had happened whilst he was effectively gone. Then he, no they, Ben was now part of the puzzle as well, would have to hatch a plan on how to get to England.
They would have to re-establish communications with Whitehall, the headquarters of Hux´s division, maybe they would be able to help. The connections to agents who could extract them were good and widely secure. But how would they establish communications?
The codes to radio in information were changed every few days so even if the Axis were to crack some of the codes they used it would be useless to them when the code was changed. Hux also had no connections to agents in Berlin or anywhere in the vicinity. The next contact he knew to be in Germany around this time was in Dortmund which lay pretty much on the other side of the country.
So he and Ben would have to make do on their own at first.
Hux was a trained officer after all, an intelligence officer at that.
Information was the most important to him right now.
He called out for Ben who had ducked into the bathroom to wash up a minute ago and the dark-haired man came out, looking questioningly at Hux.
“Ben, could you…tell me what happened in the last two weeks?” Understanding washed over his face. Of course.
Hux had been cut off from all that had happened.
“Nothing major, just the usual,” he winced at his own expression, the violence seeming to trivial this way”, I mean, just what has been happening for months. Air raids, fighting on both fronts but no major victories or losses on both sides that I would be aware of.”
The British soldier felt somehow relieved at that. London had not gone down in flames after all, not that he would even be able to imagine such things happening but this war was too unpredictable as it is.
“But of course I don´t know what is going on much more than the other citizens. We only get the washed-up propaganda that Goebbels wants us to get. I do have contacts, even within the armed forces but the intelligence I get from them these days is sporadic. The other informants are careful now as well, the more this damn war progresses, the more resistance fighters are lost to the Gestapo and will never be able to relay their information to someone who can work with it.”
Hux nodded, understanding what Ben meant. He had heard of more and more intelligence agents being dropped to extract informants and returning empty-handed or not at all. Most of them from Germany. In the surrounding countries the success rate was higher, in France still having de Gaulle in charge of parts of the country, extractions were possible even though more and more airfields and other landing areas were being compromised.
They would usually communicate with the French resistance beforehand by radio messages to make sure the plan was still in order but…wait.
“Ben, do you have a radio by any chance?” The German looked at him, squinted and then turned his head to the darkened window. From the window he glanced towards the door and back, then took another measuring look at Hux and walked into the small kitchen area. Hux was a little confused by this at first before he realized that Ben had just checked if anyone was close enough to hear. Radios, especially the ones that some resistance fighters had that could detect foreign channels and were forbidden by the German government, were precious and dangerous at the same time.
Ben hummed quietly, a song most likely but Hux didn´t recognize it, whilst tapping against the tiles of the kitchen wall. At the beginning everything sounded normal but when he tapped the tiles over the sink you could hear a hollowness behind them.
A secret compartment.
The tiles, even though they did not look like it, were quite easily removable and from behind them, hidden between the wooden beams that held up the wall, Ben produced a radio.
He turned around and quietly said: “You have to be careful with things like this these days. I have it on the lowest volume setting where you can still understand what is being said and I would like for it to stay this way. My neighbor might be deaf but the Gestapo has ears everywhere.”
Hux agreed silently and Ben set the radio on the table between them. Together they searched the channels for activity. The ones that were the easiest to find were playing propaganda, recorded speeches of the last time Hitler spoke at Nurnberg and German music. Then they found the first international signals.
“Ici Londres! Les Français parlent aux Français!”
Radio Londres, Hux recognized immediately. This station was used to communicate with the French resistance but he did not know enough about the resistance structure there to get too much information about what was going on. Other people in his division were responsible for France.
Then a BBC broadcast came through, at least parts of it, on a frequency he recognized as one he used for getting information concerning naval movements. “The Empire´s fishing competition a few days ago was interrupted by a vicious pike but the event continued after seven hours.”
The message sounded trivial but it was in the subtext.
And the subtext was not promising to his ears.
The Empire was the code used for a certain ship. Each convoy was made up of a number of ships, one of which would be chosen to be placed in the broadcast and the officers of the 30th Assault Unit would be told which words to look out for. The “Empire”, that was mentioned here, was the code for the British “Empire Dell”, an armed merchant vessel.
Hux knew now knew which convoy this message was about. The “interruption” meant that the convoy had been attacked on its trip over the Atlantic, according to the message by a wolfpack codenamed “pike”. The “seven hours delay” could only mean that seven of the convoys ships were lost.
He closed his eyes. Could they have been attacked by the ships that he had seen leaving Wilhelmshaven? And could they have been saved if he had not missed the ME 109 coming in?
He knew that he should not think of this but he could not help it. His own stupidity put lives in danger and he knew it. But it was in the past, nothing to be done now.
The least he could do is get back to London to give them the information he had about the Gestapo and SS and everything that Ben would be able to tell them.
The broadcast ended without any more information coming through.
At least Hux now could be sure that so far he had missed no major turning points.
Ben and Hux were both certain that they must go to London but the question was, how?
Still sitting on either side of the radio they started discussing.
“We could try and make our way over by sea”, Hux suggested, “use the Channel Islands and try to ´hop´ from one to the next.”
“Not a good idea, the Kriegsmarine has minefields all around them and the E-boats to secure the area even further. Even with the fog this time of year there is no chance in hell that we would get over to England without being discovered.”
Hux gritted his teeth. “You might be right.”
“How about a direct trip over from Sweden, we might be able to find a ship that is en route to England?”
This time it was for Hux to disagree. “No, I could see on my reconnaissance flights how well patrolled the area is. Also ships coming in from the North Sea have problems with the mines as well, new minefields are springing up every week before we can even send minesweepers to get rid of the old ones. All ports and the Thames Estuary are always under the watchful gaze of the Luftwaffe as well. We also don´t have many contacts in Sweden since they declared themselves neutral in the war.”
Ben thought for a moment, eyes staying on Hux as his mind wandered.
“By air then.”
“By air? How? We would need a plane, an airfield or something big enough to fulfill the purpose of one. Also fuel. Do you expect us to just go into Tempelhof, steal a plane and be on our way?”
“I know, I know”, Ben calmed, “but what I do know is that we cannot stay here. It would be better for us to be on the move to avoid being discovered. Maybe an opportunity will present itself along the way. That way we are also less predictable to the authorities. And we should start as soon as possible, when you are able to move again.”
Hux stared at him as if weighing out whether Ben was completely mad or still in possession of his wits.
Moving around Germany without a plan was ludicrous, almost like a suicide mission. Hux had always worked with set orders, plans, only deviating enough from them to make sure that the mission would be a success. Going into something without a plan was not something he had ever done.
But Ben was right.
Maybe that was exactly what they needed to do.
Historical notes for those who are interested:
The Junkers JU 52, also knows as “Tante Ju” (Aunt Ju) or “Iron Annie” was a German transport plane first introduced in 1931. Later it was used for transports as well as some bombing runs since Goehring was planning on rallying the entire Luftwaffe against the Allies.
Ben mentions the word “Luftflotte” in this chapter. A Luftflotte or Air Fleet was the equivalent to an army group in terms of organisation . They were in turn divided into Fliegerkorps (Air Corps) and Fliegerdivision. They had total control over aviation and most ground missions in their current area of operation.
I don´t want to go in too much detail here and will most likely get back to this topic in later chapters but here we go for now. Concerning Lea/ Leia:
I would like to imagine that the organisation that Leia was working with was like a version of the Weiße Rose (White Rose) with most of you will have heard of when thinking of Sophie and Hans Scholl. It was a “passive” resistance movement made up of mostly students that printed pamphlets denouncing the Reich. Most members were killed by the Reich.
I got the idea from his backstory from Stauffenbergs assassination attempt on Hitler. I have no idea whether there were any assassination attempts on Goehring.
I don´t know how the codes worked so Hux working out the code about the convoy is simply part of my imagination.
The call sign for Radio Londres (Ici Londres! Les français parlent aux français!) is real as far as I know and means: This is London calling! The French speaking to the French! and was followed by messages to the resistance groups.
The Convoy that Hux hears about on the radio is very real. It was a convoy from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia that set sail on May 6, 1942. On May 11 they were attacked by the German Wolfpack (group of U-boats) “Hecht” (German for Pike). During this attack 7 ships were sunk and one damaged. The seven ships that were sunk were the mentioned Empire Dell as well as the Batna, the Cocle, the Christales, the Llanover, the Mount Parnes and the Tolken whilst the Fort Binger was damaged by a torpedo.
(All information based on what I know/ could find out, no guarantees!)
Chapter 5: Black Market Business
Yes, you get another chapter this weekend. I really had nothing to do today and was inspired to write a little more.
I wished I actually knew how a black market worked, but oh well.
Also I kept the conversations in this chapter in English since I saw no point in changing it here. Conversations where Hux is present will most likely be written in German and at the end of the chapter in English.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Night fell over Berlin, small fires from the evening´s bombing slowly vanishing.
Hux stood in the small bathroom of the apartment, seeing himself in the mirror for the first time after his capture near Wilhelmshaven. He winced at his reflection.
His face was lined with bruises of varying shades, most of them thanks to Karl, the brutish guard. The bridge of his nose was slightly crooked as if it was broken and didn´t heal quite right. His bottom lip was swollen and split at the corner where fists had connected to his face.
The whites of the eyes were broken by angry red from burst blood vessels and his eyes were still a little foggy from the concussion he had. The bags under his eyes made him look like a dead man walking and maybe that was partly true.
The beard that had grown was scratchy and unfamiliar. When he was still at home he would shave every morning or as often as he would manage to keep up an orderly appearance as was demanded by his superiors.
He grabbed the straight razor that Ben had left for him on the wash basin and got to work, hands shaking but still he did not slip and cut his face.
After the face was rinsed and dried the person staring back from the mirror looked somewhat more familiar. The red hair was not as orderly as it usually would have been and was a little longer than Hux would have liked, but for now it was fine. He had other things to worry about.
He began methodically washing the rest of his body as well, the dirt and grime of the last days finally releasing their grip on his skin and disappearing down the drain.
It felt nice.
Hux had to be careful around the newly applied splint and some of the bigger wounds that the SS had left on him but at least he was back in control over his body.
He hoped that when he woke up the next day his mind would be less clouded, so that he might actually work out a plan and be able to assess the options he had.
All washed and dried the put some clean clothes on that Ben had given him. Even though it was painful to let the British uniform go, he did realize that he would not be able to salvage it. What he now wore was a simple dark shirt and a pair of military pants that he assumed belonged to part of a German uniform.
As much as he hated the thought of wearing the uniform of an enemy it was necessary to survive right now. But he would not be allowed to attack someone like this, the Hague Regulations of 1907 stated that one was not allowed to attack whilst wearing another nations uniform but, if he did not maliciously choose to wear it there might be a loophole that he could defend in court if it came to it and…
But there was no use thinking about it. Right now he didn´t even know if he would ever get the chance to attack anyone or, if he did, there was no guarantee that he would ever be placed in front of a court of justice.
Looking in the mirror one more time he turned and headed back into the main room of the apartment, where Ben had laid out a blanket for him. At first his host had insisted that Hux take the only bed in the apartment because of his injuries and what he had endured so far but the Brit was adamant about not being treated like a dying man.
He was quite alive still.
Resting his head on the old pillows of the sofa he felt his eyes get heavy with sleep. Before he was able to think any more his breathing evened out and he drifted off.
As soon as Ben heard the rhythmic breathing coming from the room, he dared to open the door again. He had gone into his own bedroom, as to give Hux some privacy and sense of security.
He padded towards the kitchen to get some water, filling the glass quietly and leaning against the counter. The tiles behind the sink had been replaced, the radio safely hidden behind them again.
This was the first time he could get a good look at the British soldier without him being hidden by grime and the semi-darkness of the bakery cellar.
His skin was now clean and even lighter than Ben had thought at first, the red hair standing out against the paleness, the green eyes that were now closed would make the contrast even more striking. The man had light freckles on his face and arms.
He was slight but by no means did he look weak. Two weeks of imprisonment had aided in some of his muscle fading but the lithe muscles of a soldier were still there.
In sleep Hux looked almost peaceful and if not for the bruising you would never have guessed what he had endured.
Ben could imagine what would have happened if Hux had not managed to escape, he had seen it before. He would have been brought into Gestapo headquarters in Prinz Albrecht Strasse and he would have left it, maybe a week, maybe a month later, pale and dead, wrapped half-heartedly in a blanket to be cremated with the rest of the ones who had perished. He had intelligence on these things, an informant, who was tasked with burning the bodies, had relayed that information to the group his mother had worked with for them to publish. Needless to say that this informant had also ended up in one of the crematoriums not long after.
Ben emptied his glass, set it gingerly down onto the kitchen counter and made his usual way around the apartment. Checking the locks on doors and windows, making sure no one was watching before creeping back into his room to catch some sleep.
He would need it.
When Hux woke in the morning he was confused.
At first he didn´t know where he was. This was not his cell.
He started to panic slightly before the memory of the previous day returned. He was in Ben´s apartment, somewhere in Berlin. His head had stopped pounding and he felt rested for the first time in a long while. His broken arm was still sore but manageable now that he was no longer held captive. Even though he was still in the enemy´s capital his spirits were unusually high. He was safe for the moment.
Well, safe until they would have to leave.
Which would most likely be soon.
As far as he was able to tell from the light snoring coming through the closed bedroom door Ben was still asleep, so Hux decided to take a closer look at the apartment, his rational soldier-brain now seemingly working again.
He swung his long legs over the edge of the couch and stood up in one swift motion. Other than the previous days he did not feel dizzy after standing up and jotted this down as a positive sign of his recovery.
His first stop was the kitchen, his throat feeling dry after sleeping. Ben´s glass from the previous night still sat on the counter and Hux contemplated using it for a minute before deciding against it, instead opening the cabinets to find an unused one.
Once he had found one he filled it up, savored the taste of fresh water, filled the glass up again and set it to the side to drink later.
He stared at the tiles behind the sink, where yesterday Ben had produced the radio. Were there more such hiding places throughout the apartment?
He realized that Ben was not an amateur, the building in which they were was not just non-descript enough not to attract any attention, neither too old and brittle nor to new and lay on a street that seemingly was quite normal as well. If you did not know about the hidden compartment in the kitchen the tiles would seem like they had been in the same place for years without being touched. The entire place had a homey feeling but Hux realized that it lacked any personal touches. Everything you needed was there, enough to make people believe that you had lived there for years but still something was missing.
He judged that it was most likely a safe house, no use having anything personal here just in case it had to be abandoned in a hurry. Anything personal would just be of help to the authorities if they searched the place.
He wondered where else there could be hidden mementos when the bedroom door opened and Ben emerged, dark hair tangled from sleep.
“You are awake.” His voice was still raspy, having only woken up a minute ago and was slightly entrancing to Hux for reasons he did not quite understand.
“Yes. I hope you don´t mind me looking around a bit, I just thought…”, but Ben broke him off with a nonchalant wave of his hand. “No of course. How are you feeling?” “Better, my brain seems to be in working order again, but my arm is still sore.”
Ben eyed him for a moment before nodding to himself. “Then I suggest we start making preparations for out departure. We won´t leave today, you still need to heal more but better to start early.”
Hux was about to protest but knew Ben was right. He was not fit for travel yet. He also loathed the idea of going out into the streets of Germany where he could be discovered and captured easily but when he thought that he would only be able to go home if he did go, he felt it necessary.
He did not know why he longed for home. Sure, he did not want to stay in Germany with enemies at every corner, but, why London? It was not like he had family there. He had his friend Phasma and his colleagues at Whitehall but he had no family or anything else that would hold him there. He always used to dream of adventure, of doing something meaningful and he had thought that with working for Naval Intelligence he had found his purpose but this had also almost cost him his life.
At times like this loneliness, almost forgotten during his years of service, came creeping back. It was true. He had found purpose in his work but what would happen if this war was over?
He would just return to his lonely life, searching for another job to throw himself into; no family, no sweetheart, not even a pet waiting for him.
He was snapped out of his spiraling thoughts by Ben looking at him, concerned expression painted on his face. “Is everything okay?” “Yes, I… I was just thinking of something.”
The German looked like he wanted to go on but his mouth stayed closed, eyes still searching for something in Hux´s face but then he shook his head slightly and turned.
From one of the wardrobes Ben produced a rucksack, German military issue, Hux presumed.
“Everything we take should fit into this”, Ben said. “We could make it look like we are traveling to the front or something to look less suspicious so we will only bring the necessities.”
They started discussing what to take.
The radio, that was sure, hidden wrapped in a change of clothes maybe. They would need a map, preferably of the entirety of Europe but Germany itself would do if they found nothing else. The would need food, best some German ration packs that could be obtained by Ben using his false identity at some military kitchen.
Hux would need false papers as well, maybe a uniform if one could be found. For that though, Ben would need to go to the black market.
The dark-haired man looked up. “I might know where I can get papers for you, I will have to see about a uniform. I have a contact who could be able to come up with a cover story for you. I will go out and try to establish contact. You stay here and wait for me. I will knock on the door when I return, one hard knock and then three light, fast ones. If you don´t hear the signal, leave through the window and turn left. At the end of the alley is a staircase leading to the roof of the neighboring house. Use the rooftops if possible, go to a butcher´s shop owned by Mueller and Son, ask for Philip and tell him about a raging thunderstorm last week, he will know what to do.”
Hux was impressed, Ben and his remaining contacts in the resistance seemed to have good contingency plans. Planning for all eventualities was crucial but he hoped it would not come to this. He nodded, Ben stood up, looked at the clock on the wall and put on his boots and Wehrmacht jacket.
A few minutes later he was out of the door and Hux alone in the apartment, careful not to make a sound and to avoid the windows. Finding a book and retiring to the wall of the bedroom instead.
Ben made his way through the streets of the Spandau district, crossing the river Havel and getting further into the center of Berlin.
After about twenty minutes of walking through the busy streets he entered a café, sat down on one of the chairs on the terrace, waved to one of the waitresses and ordered two cups of coffee and a piece of Strudel and waited.
His order arrived and so did the man he was waiting for. Philip Oskar Eilers, who his father had always called Poe because it was shorter, sat down on the chair opposite to the one Ben sat on.
“Nice Saturday for a coffee, isn´t it?”
“Yes, Philip but I hear that it is supposed to rain later.”
This was their sign for trouble. Poe´s eyes narrowed. “Yes. Where did you hear it?”
“Someone said that it comes down from the damned English. I might need to get a new umbrella.”
Poe was silent for a moment. He knew what Ben meant. He had trouble, something to do with the British and needed papers to cover him or, as Poe correctly assumed, to cover his “problem”. He took a sip of the coffee.
Disgusting. Too watery.
“A man in the Wiener Strasse has some nice umbrellas. He might give you a good price. I have to get going.”
He drained the rest of the coffee, stood up and left Ben alone. Their conversations were always short.
Ben watched the Luftwaffe pilot leave. He was thankful that he still had Poe as a reliable contact. He sat a while longer, stabbing his Strudel with his fork and drinking the light brown sludge that might pass as coffee if you thought about it hard enough. After some time he felt it was save to leave and ordered his check.
The waitress smiled shyly at him when he left the terrace and he felt almost bad for her.
The Wiener Strasse that Poe had mentioned was too crowded for Ben´s liking but it was a Saturday so he had expected nothing else.
The street was lined with small shops of all kinds. Groceries, medicine, fresh meats, coffee and tobacco, you could get everything here, especially behind the scenes.
Ben entered one of the shops - this one belonged to a man named Josef and sold specialty goods of many kinds – and started looking at the display. Dinner plates engraved with swastikas, artfully designed rapiers that would make any officer stand out at a formal event and beautifully crafted picture frames. Ben stopped in front of a display of umbrellas with intricate handles and examined them more carefully.
Then, behind him, stood Josef, a smile on his face.
“How may I help you on this beautiful day, soldier?” The cheerful tone was obviously faked but Ben did not care. “I heard there was rain coming from England and I thought I might need a new umbrella.” Josef´s eyes twinkled, he understood. “Oh yes, of course, I just got a new delivery yesterday. My daughter has been waiting for you to come to the shop again, maybe you can go up and see here whilst I pick out an umbrella for you.”
Ben nodded and smiled and Josef led him to a door at the back of the shop. The door closed behind him, drowning out the sound of the other shoppers and he made his way through a darkened corridor and a staircase leading up into a small room.
Josef, in fact, used to have a daughter but she had passed away about two years ago now from pneumonia; now it was just an empty phrase to get people, who needed the help of the “other employees” in the back rooms that Josef had reserved for the black market, to the things they were looking for.
In the room he entered stood a wooden desk with papers strewn all over it, the woman that sat behind it was of about 40 years of age and wore glasses that slipped down her nose.
“Ben. It has been a long time. What brings you here? Have you been compromised?” “Not yet, Maria, but I need your services.” The woman, Maria, listened intently as Ben spoke quietly:” I picked up a British Officer that escaped the SS. We will try to get him back to England but I need papers and a believable backstory for him to move about.”
Maria let her eyes rake over the young man´s body. “Oh Ben, what trouble have you gotten yourself into…” “Please Maria, will you help me?”
She took a deep breath. “And what will I get out of it?”. Ben felt her gaze stay on his body a little longer than he felt comfortable with. “Maria, you know that I…” “Yes, I do, even though I still think it´s wasted potential.” Another sigh. “I will be fine with the usual deposit. A British Officer you said?”
Ben nodded. She seemed lost in thought for a moment.
“I think I got something. Lord Haw-Haw from the radio broadcast. Let´s just assume that he has some people working for him in Germany, helping with his broadcasts and delivering information. Other English fascists like him. And you have to bring his assistant to some station or another to deliver a message. Yes… that might work as a cover story, I doubt any officer would bother to check if that freak really has helping hands. Now for a name…”
She grabbed some papers from her desk, started to carefully fill them out. Ben awkwardly placed himself into a chair in the corner of the room to not disturb the process and waited.
Not even a quarter of an hour later Maria looked up, obviously satisfied with her work and motioned for him to get up.
“Here. His cover´s name will be Arthur Johnson, naturalized as a German citizen earlier this year. Before you ask, yes, I will immediately make my contact at the immigration bureau slip in a few papers into some files so that any half-hearted check-up will prove him to be real. He will be listed as assistant to the Germany calling program of our dear Lord Haw-Haw.”
Ben looked up at her from the paper. As far as he was able to tell everything looked real enough to work. “Thank you, Maria, you really are a master of your trade.”
She smiled and he turned around to leave.
He looked over his shoulder.
“For your sake, I at least hope he is a pretty man.”
Before she could see the blush creeping up, he had left the room, hiding the paper in his coat and heading back out into the shop.
“My daughter must have been pleased to see you. I hope she behaved”, Josef said as he saw Ben come out of the door.
“Just as always, Josef.”
Ben paid for a plain, black umbrella – he really did need one after all- and headed back out into the street and in the direction of his apartment, stopping at one of the stores to buy some food for the two of them.
Over and over he heard Maria´s goodbye in his head. I at least hope he is a pretty man.
Sometimes that woman was really too nosey.
One hard knock at the door, followed by three faster ones.
Hux relaxed back against the couch cushions on which he had placed himself, the book he had picked up before now back on the shelf. It was not something he was interested in but was enough for entertainment for a while.
He watched Ben as he pushed open the door and set a bag down on the floor. Once the door was closed and the bag deposited in the kitchen Ben triumphantly walked up to Hux and held a piece of paper under his nose which the latter took hesitantly.
He scanned over the lines, trying to make sense of them. Assistant to “Lord Haw-Haw”.
Of course he had heard the broadcasts of that honest to god nut-job. Part of his job in Whitehall was to jot down what was being said in the “Germany calling”-broadcast, most of it propaganda which the division knew to be false.
The entire point of the broadcast was to discourage the Allies and make them think that the Nazis were having far more success than was the case.
But a ridiculous cover-story was better than none at all and he decided to keep his mouth shut for the moment. At least now his limited knowledge of the German language would be excusable.
“I might be able to pick up a uniform later today. After I spoke to the person who thought of your new identity I visited another shop, got some food and spoke to someone who told me he could find a uniform in my size, so that should fit you as well. It most likely won´t be a Wehrmacht uniform but something to make you look official enough to be believable.”
“Thank you, Ben”.
The German just nodded, turning away from Hux and back into the kitchen. “I will prepare some food, I hope you are hungry.”
As if on cue Hux´s stomach growled, not satisfied by the water and ersatz-coffee he had been drinking in the morning whilst Ben was gone.
Half an hour later the apartment smelled of potato, leeks and beef, that was cooking away on the stove. At the same time there were footsteps on the corridor, then two fast knocks and the footsteps turned away.
Hux was looking over to where Ben was standing at the stove. “Don´t worry. That was the signal that I was waiting for.” “The uniform you mean? That was faster than I expected.”
“Well, you don´t need a real Wehrmacht uniform, so it is not that hard to obtain. Come here and stir this while I am gone, so that is doesn´t burn, I will not be gone long. Same signal as before.”
Hux stood up from where he was sitting and walked over to Ben to take the spoon from him, looking into the pot. Ben was glad the soldier could not see him blush.
He turned and headed out of the door, trying to shake the thoughts from his head.
I at least hope he is a pretty man.
After they had eaten their meal, which was surprisingly good, Ben had urged Hux to try on the obtained “uniform” to see if it would fit.
The collar of the black leather trench-coat smelled unpleasant, a little like a wet dog, Hux thought, and looking in the mirror in front of him he sneered at the swastika on either side of the front flaps. But at least it was a good fit and would keep him warm for now. In the next months though, he would most likely sweat terribly in it.
Under the trench-coat he wore a white undershirt and a white dress shirt with the German eagle symbol on the breast, another thing he found revolting to wear. His pants were plain and dark, his feet clad in slightly scruffy looking jackboots.
His hair was crammed under a cap that looked similar to the one that Ben owned.
As much as he hated the uniform, it did make him look official.
It did make him look like a god-damn Nazi.
He walked out of the bathroom where he had changed at Ben´s request. He would have had no problem changing in front of the man, in the RAF you changed in front of your comrades all the time, but his host insisted.
Ben looked at him and nodded to himself. “It looks scarily real”, he murmured.
Hux scoffed. “A little too real for my liking. But that is the point, I guess.”
“The only thing missing is the rations, Ben, if we can get them tomorrow, we just have to pack everything and be on our way.”
Hux was right. They had been in one place long enough for now.
And it was time for Hux to return home.
He managed to get six ration packs, that should be enough for the start, relatively easy from a black marketer. The radio was wrapped up in a Wehrmacht issue winter-coat and placed on the bottom of the bag. They might need it later for getting information or even getting in contact with some associates. In the bag also went Ben´s old Luger and the last bits of ammunition he had for it, they would have to pick up more on the way.
A last wistful gaze at the apartment that had housed him for the past year, then Ben closed the door behind him.
And so the journey began.
“Lord Haw-Haw” was the nickname commonly used for William Joyce (though there were other broadcasters as well), a British man broadcasting Nazi propaganda to Great Britain and the Allies. The program “Germany calling” was broadcasted from Hamburg by medium wave to GB and by shortwave to the US and gave propaganda updates on German victories, meant to discourage the Allies and fill other fascists with hope. Was broadcasted until 1945 when the British took over Hamburg. The broadcast opened with “Germany calling, Germany calling!”.
Chapter 6: Journey through Berlin
This chapter is a little shorter. With work I don´t have a lot of time to write right now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was still gloomy outside.
The last traces of the nights fog were slowly disappearing, the spring air still crisp from its moisture.
The strange pair had decided to start out their journey as soon as possible, using the early hours of this Sunday morning to avoid big crowds. Most people would sleep in on this day, only a few shops were open. Hux´s arm was still at a slightly awkward angle in the sleeves of the trench-coat due to the splint but they would just have to improvise a story if somebody asked about it.
Some cars were on the streets already, SS mostly, so they tried to keep in the shadows of the buildings around them. No need to take any risks.
From somewhere came the smell of fresh bread being made for the coming day and somehow it reminded Ben of the bakery in which he had found Hux.
They had collectively decided that they had to leave Berlin, the city itself was too dangerous. Here they were too close to the center of power, where the SS guards would be the most thorough to keep the leaders safe. Taking a car was out of question. Both men could drive, yes, but it would attract too much attention.
They would have to obtain the car, that means either steal one, which would send the police on their trail even faster, or buy one but they lacked the money and the excuse to do so. Gas was rationed after all, the war effort being a priority. And both of their cover-personas were not of high enough rank to warrant a private car.
A plane was out of option too. A lot of commercial flying was shut down due to the war in the sky and even if there was a plane they could take, they would only have limited options for a destination.
On foot they would not attract too much attention but Hux was still not completely recovered – and wouldn´t be for a time. They could walk a good way into any direction, but that would be an option for when they were further away from the capital.
So a train it was.
A train could get them into any direction from Berlin´s central station and they had the option of leaving at any stop they chose to if things, for some reason, turned sour. They were a lot of trains leaving every hour and at all times the station was crowded enough so that two people, as peculiar as they may seem, would not be noticed by the busy travelers. All directions were covered as long as the railway-tracks were still intact and not damaged by any bombing runs of the RAF.
From where they started in the Spandau district they still had a long way to go and again Hux, despite his hatred for the Nazis, could only admire some of the architecture he saw. Charlottenburg Palace was a thing of beauty to him, a shame that such a castle was in a land ruled by a genocidal tyrant. He would have loved to spend some time exploring the building further.
From there they had to walk all the way through the area of the Tiergarten and even further into the heart of Berlin.
Ben felt Hux shiver next to him. “Everything okay?”, he asked. A low hum as a reply. “I can´t help it. I tried to get further away from the center of Berlin and now I am walking straight into it.”
Ben could understand Hux´s worries. Around the next corner they would have to turn north and then they would see the telltale signs of the great capital: chief of them the Brandenburg Gate.
If they were to walk south, they would reach the place where Hux was supposed to be by now, the Prinz Albrecht Strasse, home of the Gestapo and SS and the Reich Chancellery but they were not planning on doing that.
Instead they would turn north, past the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building, cross the river Spree and finally head west towards the Lehrter Bahnhof, the Central Station.
Hux wished he could have seen the city before all of this had started, me might have actually enjoyed his stay in this country, but now all he wanted to do was leave and never return. He had maps of Berlin in his head, he knew where he was and he didn´t like it.
His past weeks had already been bad enough, no need to add to it by accidently starring into the face of Himmler all of a sudden.
He breathed in the fresh morning air. It was the first time since his start in Tangmere that he was able to do so.
He knew that he was by no means free yet. He was still in immediate danger, especially right now, with the heart and brain of the Third Reich all around him. He looked at Ben from the corner of his eyes. The man seemed no more relaxed than him and Hux didn´t know if he felt particularly assured by that. But after all, Ben was a wanted man too.
Not as wanted as Hux was, that was true, but sometimes he forgot that Ben also risked everything.
It was still hard for Hux to accept that that not all Germans were cruel. He had been taught again and again that fraternization with the enemy would not be acceptable or even possible, since the Germans were such a vile race that…
But he had always stopped listening at this point. In his opinion it was true. The current generation of German people was wrong. But it hadn´t always been this way.
Hux considered himself a sophisticated man, he had been taught the works or Mozart, Beethoven and Kant over and over again. Those were not bad people. But something had apparently gone haywire along the way.
But he had no more time to dwell on that thought.
When they entered the Pariser Platz on whose western end the Brandenburg Gate towered they stopped in their tracks. Columns of soldiers were marching, parading almost, up and down the square.
“What the bloody fuck is going on?”, Hux hissed and looked at Ben, whose face was drained of color.
“I don´t know. Maybe the Fuehrer has planned another public appearance or something. I did not hear anything about it.” “Is there a way around?”
Hux hoped that they had not been noticed so far, the soldiers too caught up in their marching to look up and see two people who did not necessarily belong.
“Technically there is”, Ben replied, “but recently some of my contacts have been picked up by the Gestapo on that street and disappeared. That would have been a shorter route too, but I thought it might be too dangerous. Actually I still think so.”
“You are telling me that you think it is safer for us, two wanted criminals, to walk through an entire bloody battalion of soldiers instead of taking the shorter route just because… you… you might be right. Fuck.”
Hux frowned. Indeed, Ben was right. Here in a crowded space where everyone seemed to be busy, it was less likely for them to be noticed. On a street that was more quiet, especially on a Sunday morning, it would be easier for any type of police force or Sicherheitsdienst to single out two peculiar individuals and pick them up.
If worst came to worst they still had their cover stories and a stressed commander of a military force would not bother to check their identities half as much as a policeman would.
Why couldn´t they have marched any other day?
They started making their way along the sidelines of the Pariser Platz, careful not to get in the way of the soldiers. But that was hard.
“Links, zwo, drei, vier und rechts um!”
„Ganze Kompanie, halt.“
Every few seconds a new command was given, prompting the soldiers to turn, march, stop. It was hard to know where they would make their way next.
Keeping an eye on both, the soldiers and the sidewalk, was tricky. So it had to happen that they bumped into a resting officer. Ben immediately stepped into a soldier`s stance – he had to make his cover story believable after all.
Hux, too, felt the need to stand up a little straighter but managed to stop himself quite easily from there on. Never in a million years would he willingly salute to a German officer. Just the thought of it made his stomach turn.
The Officer, Hux recognized him as a Feldwebel, a staff sergeant, if he remembered correctly.
After both men had exchanged the obligatory Nazi salute - again revolting to Hux but he could see that Ben felt no better about it – the Feldwebel eyed first him and then Hux.
“Was machen sie hier so früh am Morgen, Kamerad?”
„Mir wurde auferlegt mich um meine Mutter zu kümmern. Mein Vater und Bruder sind in Kursk abgeschlachtet worden. Bevor ich zur Front zurückkehre muss ich diesen Mann nach Hamburg bringen.“*
Wait, Hamburg? They had not spoken about Hamburg before. Hux was a little confused as to why Ben had thought of that before he again realized that Ben was smarter than Hux gave him credit for. Hamburg was indeed the place from which Lord Haw-Haw usually broadcasted.
The officer seemed to consider them a moment. “Wer ist er? Er sieht nicht aus wie ein Deutscher?” “Er ist ein Assistent des Englischen Propaganda-Sprechers in Hamburg und hat Informationen für ihn.”
The Feldwebel was about to reply when he was interrupted by a burst of machine gun fire. “Verdammt, die sind zu früh**”, he mumbled as he turned around.
At first Hux was confused as to what he meant with “They are too early”. Who was too early? Then he heard it too.
A great rumbling sound that Hux only knew from the training centers he had attended. Tanks were rolling into the square, giant, loud and deadly. They must be part of the event that the soldiers, that were marching, trained for. The Tiger tanks looked new, their color still unmarred by dirt.
Ben was just as stunned as he was but his logical brain told him that now was their chance to move out. Whilst the Feldwebel was distracted about the (apparently too early) arrival of the tanks, he and Ben slipped past him, over the remaining part of the Pariser Platz and into the shadows of the buildings surrounding the square.
“What the hell?”, Hux hissed.
“I don´t know. There must be a major speech planned soon. No one gave me any intel.”
From behind, the rhythmic marching of the soldiers was still audible, now briefly interrupted by bursts of artillery fire and the loud boom of tank-shells. Apparently someone wanted to showcase Germany´s military might.
Though Hux was – as he had to admit – awfully on edge after seeing the tanks roll in, he also now had more intelligence to give to his superiors when he made it home.
If he made it home.
More encounters like that and their cover would be blown before they were even out of Berlin. At least now he had seen the German tanks up-close. The Allies already were aware that the German “Tigers” were most likely superior to theirs, since the Germans had the armor-piercing ammunitions that a lot of the Allied commandoes still lacked.
The Pariser Platz was only the first obstacle, as both of them well knew. By now most of the city was awake. If not by their own volition, they were awakened by the military that was training behind them. The streets started to fill, especially where they were standing, people trying to get a glimpse of the training units, the gleaming tanks or the high-ranking officers that might be encountered around here.
South of them also lay the Chancellery of the Reich, where Hitler would rule if he was not currently in the Eagle´s Nest in Berchtesgarden or at the Wolf´s Lair. The last time Hux had gotten information on the German Fuehrers location, it was that he was at the Wolf´s Lair, his headquarters at the Eastern Frontier, so he hoped that security would not be too tight around the here.
Ben did not look convinced at that. “I don´t think they ever let security down around there. But we will just have to see. But with the other people milling about that they have to keep an eye on, we might not get stopped again.”
He was to remain right. The people of Berlin were strolling around the streets with their families, trying to bask in the light of the high command. The security services had a lot to look out for and mostly ignored Ben in his Wehrmacht uniform, trying instead to keep an eye on the less distinguishable tourists. Hux usually tried to keep to the shadows of the buildings, straightening his cap every few minutes to make sure that his telltale hair was still not visible.
From here on they were able to spot the old Reichstag building, where since the early days of ´33 no parliament had met. Ben remembered the day.
It was a normal evening until then. Ben had come home from work and sat at the dinner table with his mother and father. Hans had returned from a flight from Duesseldorf and was joking about something he had seen in the city. Ben could not remember what it was.
Suddenly there had been a knock at the door. His father had opened and one of his friends stood in front of it, screaming at them to come outside and look at the sky.
In the East the sky was blood red, a flickering light coming from the ground. Someone in their street started crying and the message spread quickly: the Reichstag is on fire.
After that, everything went by in a blur. New laws were put in place and suddenly Hitler emerged like a phoenix from the ashes and enslaved the world.
Ben tried to shake the uneasy feeling he got when looking at the blackened remains of the stones. He hadn´t even realized that he stopped until he felt Hux´s hand on his shoulder.
“You okay?” He nodded.
“We have to keep moving, the people are starting to watch us.”
Ben shock his head vigorously, trying to expel the memories of his lost parents and started walking again. Hux stood for a second longer, eyes on the German, concerned almost, then stole a glance at the burned building and followed.
When they arrived at the waterfront of the River Spree they decided to walk along the promenade for a bit, take a bridge further west to get closer to the station.
By sticking to the promenade they would be able to duck into one of the cafés to avoid the watchful eyes of the police.
No one bothered them.
If they had not been two wanted men on the run, fake names and false papers in their pockets, the walk might have been enjoyable. Romantic, almost. Ben shuddered at the thought and tried to shake the warm feeling. Hux was simply here to get home and Ben was to help him. Nothing more about it.
Finally they reached a bridge which would get them to the station if they just kept walking north. The first people with suitcases, apparently going for a longer journey, passed them, some in a hurry to catch their train, some strolling leisurely and stopping every once in a while, to enjoy the sun´s refection on the water.
Then, the station loomed in front of them. Trains coming and going at regular intervals.
“So”, Ben began, “where to now?”
Hux thought for a moment. “You spoke to the Feldwebel about Hamburg before. Maybe we can still find a way over by ship. If not we can continue searching elsewhere. Do you have any contacts there?” Ben thought for a moment, then nodded. He did know some people through his father. How many of them were still alive was a concern he did not want to share with the British soldier just yet.
At a counter in the main building of the station, Ben bought a ticket for the next Reichsbahn train to Hamburg but they were warned that they would most likely have to change somewhere along the way because of damage to the railway tracks.
The British had dropped some strays on the countryside and had hit home. It did not matter to them. They did not really have a meeting there anyways.
The train left at precisely eleven in the morning from one of the busy platforms. The compartments were filled with businessmen returning to their place of employment, soldiers heading out to fight and families on weekend trips. The soldiers didn´t seem to bother the families and their kids too much, which, in turn, really did start to annoy Hux. How could they dare to just act like everything was fine, like there was no war going on? He could not understand. Maybe it was just a façade after all.
Maybe they were just heartless.
Or plain stupid and ignorant.
In the end, they did manage to find an unoccupied compartment.
The German countryside rushed past them and made Hux feel dizzy. The last time he saw this, was in the back of the Mercedes of the SS on his way to Berlin. Again memories of his days spent in the care of Karl and Günther surfaced.
He closed his eyes and turned his head. Ben was sitting next to him and when the Brit opened his eyes again he saw that the young man´s head had fallen forward. Apparently he was asleep, or had dozed off at least.
It was the first time Hux was able to get a good look on his comrade. Ben was not much taller than he was, an inch maybe, but broader by far. How he had achieved that build Hux did not know. The German also seemed a little younger than he was, twenty-one years of age maybe.
His dark hair fell into his face, partially covering the now closed eyes. His lips seemed to wear a perpetual pout and were strangely rosy. They also seemed… but Hux shook his head and tried to focus on something else.
The man´s nose was a little bigger that might have looked proportionate but it did not make him look bad necessarily. The ears fell into the same category.
He looked almost peaceful in his sleeping state, the body slightly swaying with the trains movement.
He averted his gaze. It was imprudent to stare, that was what his father had often told him. It made people uncomfortable. Hux had a habit of making people uncomfortable in general, his friend Phasma had always told him that his eyes could stare straight through someone and that his tongue was sharper than a knife´s edge.
He leaned back into the seat, trying not to look out of the window. He closed his eyes but sleep would not find him.
About half an hour later the train had stopped and the passengers were told to disembark.
From here on a different train would make the journey to Hamburg so that the damaged tracks could be avoided.
Twenty minutes they would have to wait.
After Ben had successfully managed to talk some cigarettes out of a Wehrmacht soldier headed to the front, the two of them stood a little outside of the crowd of waiting people that had formed on the platform. Hux was taking drag after drag of the bitter smelling smoke and offered Ben some, which he declined.
An announcement came through the old speakers, to stand back from the edge of the platform, since there would be a train passing.
Hux turned in the direction of the fast approaching train, a long row of cattle wagons. The wind from its passing almost made the cigarette go out.
“Why are they moving all this livestock? Are they worried that a bomb will fall on their heads?”
Ben turned and looked at Hux, an expression of sadness and anger on his face.
“That was not livestock, Hux. In those wagons were people.”
Feldwebel:” What are you doing here so early in the morning, comrade?”
Ben:”I was ordered to take care of my mother. My father and brother were both slaughtered in Kursk. Before I can return to the front I have orders to bring this man to Hamburg.”
**Feldwebel: “Who is he? He does not look like a German.
Ben: ”He´s an assistant to the English Propaganda presenter in Hamburg and has information for him.”
Feldwebel: “Damn, they are too early” )
The Reichstag Fire:
On the evening of the 27th of February 1933 the Reichstag was burning.
Shortly after the Reichstags Fire Decree (also known as the Decree for the Protection of the People and State) was put into action by Reich-president Paul von Hindenburg. This decree effectively nullified key liberties such as freedom of speech and press, the right of public assemblies and the security of the post and the telephone. The Reichstag (parliament) was also disbanded through an emergency protocol, making the president (Hindenburg) and the chancellor (Hitler) the ruling authorities. Hitler used this decree to undermine the state until he ultimately became dictator. It is not established on how the fire actually startet.
Chapter 7: Arrival in Hamburg
After some time I finally got around to writing some more. So here you go, comments are always appreciated
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hux was shocked.
It wasn´t necessarily that he did not suspect something like it. But they had never had any hard evidence in London.
Obviously there were rumors flying around at Whitehall about what was happening to the populations of the occupied territories, since they obviously were not where they belonged anymore; but just herded off like cattle?
“What do you mean, Ben?”, he asked, voice steady. The German did not look at him, staring into the distant farmland instead. At first Hux thought that he hadn´t been heard.
“They just take them. The Poles, the Slavs, the undesirables. Put them onto the trains and send them off to a camp to die.”
Hux wanted to ask how Ben knew about all of that, but realized that the topic seemed somewhat off-limits. He would open up to Whitehall about it, no doubt, but right now it would be better to let it drop.
His mother at least.
Hadn´t Ben said that she was send to some camp as well? Was it the same kind of camp? He did not want to ask, casting his gaze downward onto the remains of his cigarette again.
Ben was still not fully there.
But now Hux took a look at the other passengers. Maybe he would be able to get some intel for London by observing the enemy.
A group of three soldiers, one of which had given Ben some cigarette,s that Hux was now smoking. They had a heavy backpack each, clad in their uniforms already. They seemed to hold themselves high but with a careful eye you could see their hands twitch.
They were nervous.
The soldiers were seventeen, eighteen at most. Probably conditioned since childhood that the fatherland was above everything else. But they did not want to die.
No one did, right?
A businessman in a dark suit and a brown leather hat was sitting on one of the few benches of the station in the middle of nowhere. He had not even looked up when the train had passed, too invested in the newspaper. Hux tried to read what the articles on the front page were about, but he could not tell from this angle. Was he just an ordinary banker or salesperson, or was he one of the chief suppliers of the Reich? Did he produce weapons, gasoline or vehicles for the high command? Arms that had already cost so many casualties? He still seemed content just sitting there, even with the war going on.
Then again, Hux knew the type. It did not matter where the money came from, as long as it came in steadily and regularly.
Some families were milling about, mostly just mothers and grandmothers with small children. Some of the boys were clad in the tiny uniforms of the Hitler Youth. How could one submit their child to something like that? Most of the mothers had also not even spared a glance at the train that had passed just minutes ago.
Did they even know what was going on?
Of course the regime would not go around telling everyone how they were enslaving people. Then again, maybe they would. Nothing about what the high command did was really rational. If they knew, surely at least some of them would do something.
That was just wishful thinking on his part. If he had a family, children, would he really risk their safety to help strangers? No way of knowing that. He did wish that he would still resist though.
In the back of the station were some more soldiers, these ones a little older, already bearing the marks of officers. They did not seem much less nervous than their younger counterparts for all that he could see.
An announcement over the rusty speakers told him that the train to Hamburg would arrive in a few minutes.
Ben had apparently come-to again. He blinked a couple of times and looked at the clock. The train was remarkably on time. In the distance, the train could be heard.
Hux and Ben glanced in the direction of the noise, the great eagle with its spread wings becoming clearer on the horizon until the rustling of the other travelers was almost louder than the approaching Reichsbahn train itself.
Their further journey was rather uneventful.
This time they did not manage to catch a compartment for themselves since the first two wagons were reserved for SS only, but with them only sat an old woman and a younger man with a limp who turned out to be a journalist.
At first it had made Ben nervous to have someone from the press with them, since he would be familiar with Lord Haw-Haw, but after some initial questions about their destination and some inquiry about the time, he had stayed silent for a while.
But not entirely.
After Ben had wanted to tell Hux something regarding their destination, once they would reach Hamburg, the young man perked up.
Ben mentally cursed himself. At least now they would see if their cover-story would actually work or if Maria´s dreamt-up persona would be too ridiculous.
“Er arbeitet für den Britischen Propagandasprecher in Hamburg. Sammelt Informationen und gibt sie weiter. Ich soll ihn sicher dorthin begleiten. Man kann so einen Engländer ja nicht so einfach durch das Reich spazieren lassen.“
The journalist nodded, now shifting his gaze to Hux, who tried his best to keep his expression schooled. He thanked his branch for the behavioural training.
“Ich wusste gar nicht, dass er Gehilfen hat. Warum sollten wir denn so viele Engländer ins Land lassen, wenn…” But Ben interrupted him.
„Er ist offiziell als Volksdeutscher aufgenommen wurden. Die da oben waren von seinem nationalsozialistischen Denken sehr erfreut.“
Hux did his best not to sneer at that. He did not like that the journalist was still eying him.
“Eine interessante Haarfarbe hat er auch. Habe ich schon seit Jahren nicht mehr gesehen.“
Ben only hummed in reply, hoping for the conversation to stop. Hamburg was not far anymore.
“Wenn ich mal einen Artikel brauche, werde ich mich vielleicht mal wieder an ihn wenden müssen. Mir kann er bestimmt auch Informationen geben.*
Hey, you, will you give some information to me too?”
His English was abysmal, but understandable. Hux cringed internally but kept a neutral expression as he said: “We might get that arranged. For now I intend to make my folks at home realize who their true savior and leader should be.”
He could not believe he had actually said that. It felt like he had just betrayed his country. But the reaction of the journalist at least told him that the cover, ridiculous as it was, worked.
At least on the more shallow-minded.
Luckily that comment had shut him up and they were left in silence once again. But Hux now felt the eyes of the old lady on him too.
She looked sad, maybe? Confused? A mix of both?
But she, too, stayed silent until the train came to a halt within what remained of Hamburg´s main station.
Hamburg was different to Berlin.
Somewhat at least.
The air seemed more breathable here, there was no shadow of the high command of the Reich looming on the horizon, no Prinz Albrecht Strasse.
Of course they were by no means safe here, probably not any safer than in Berlin itself, but at least it was something new. The streets where bustling with people in the late afternoon. When the strange pair stepped out of the train station and onto the square in front of it, they could see the damage done. From the inside, the building had not looked that bad, the roof caved in in some spots, but the rubble had been cleared away.
But now, from the outside they wondered how the building was still intact and operated. Hux of course knew about the damage the Allied bombers had done here but he had never seen it up close. It looked like London, a little.
The rubble and the damage was there but for the people life went on. Not so different in this aspect after all.
“So, where to now?”
“It would be best to get out of the street. The less people see us, the better. If there are still contacts left, I know where to find them. Follow me.”
So Ben went on, Hux begrudgingly followed. He felt like everyone looked at him a little too closely, the meeting with the young journalist must have shaken him up a little more than he liked to admit to himself. In his mind, he had already seen himself being captured again.
That was the wrong way of thinking in a situation like this though, better to look forward, not back. The past can only be distracting.
So he padded behind the large German man, carefully tugging any loose strands back under the cap to avoid another person seeing his peculiar hair.
The streets they walked through were a little more airy than the back-alleys of Berlin, but that was partly the fault of Hux´s own countrymen. The city had been subject to a few bombings of the RAF, that he knew. He had even been over the city during a time like this, deployed to a squadron of bombers that were too short on escorts otherwise.
Seeing the destruction the bombs caused from the sky had been way different than seeing the result now. In some parts, no one had bothered to clear away the rubble, but here and there a small cross had been placed, or a flower, or a broken doll.
But did he really feel bad? No, the people had more or less willingly given themselves into the hands of a tyrant and now they were paying the price. That was only fair, wasn´t it?
Most people in the city acted like the ones in Berlin, the only difference was, that there were less of them. Eyes were following them everywhere, most not malicious, but curious, still it was unwanted attention.
They arrived in a scruffy looking part of the city. A lot of shops here were closed down for the weekend, in some, people were already busying themselves for the coming week. What Hux would call a pub was dimly lit and further back a sign proclaimed the services of a doctor, a dentist, more specifically.
Ben motioned for Hux to stop and stay back a couple of steps before he confidently opened the door to the “pub” and peered inside. Apparently not too worried by what he found he gave a sign to follow and went past the bar to one of the small tables along the back wall. From here the bar would shield them partially from view if someone were to open the door.
Again Hux was surprised.
By now he should anticipate that his German companion was not to be messed with.
Only a few people were in the room as well, among them the bartender who looked down at Ben in his uniform with a frown on his face. Hux was completely ignored.
He turned away, taking an extra minute to further dry an already dry glass before he set it down and slowly walked over to them.
Just as he was about to say something, Ben interfered. “Biggs, erkennst du mich nicht?”
Biggs, his real name was Karl Bigmann, seemed confused at first but was then apparently able to put a familiar face to the voice.
“Benjamin? Ich dachte sie hätten euch alle… aber lass uns nicht darüber reden. Was machst du hier und wer ist das?“**
Ben began to explain quietly about what had happened to them in the past days, whilst the bartender only nodded and hummed in acknowledgement.
“A Brit, huh? Now that I look at you, you really don´t look German at all.”
Hux was thrown off by suddenly being addressed in his native tongue and for once he could not manage to keep his expression in check. “Don´t look so worried, boy. I know my fair share of English as well.”
Ben chimed in too. “Hux, this is Biggs, an old friend of my father. His parents sent him to school in England for a while.”
The bartender laughed out loud at that. “I guess they hoped something would become of me, but instead I came back and opened a bar. I think they wanted me to become a successful banker or something but I crushed their dreams. Thinking about it, maybe I should have stayed, wouldn´t have to deal with that madman who calls himself Fuehrer.”
Hux glanced around the room, checking if any of the other customers were listening. “They are all fine. None of them will tell on you.”
“Are they resistance too?”
“Not really, but they are definitely not happy with the decisions being made right now. So speak freely.” The British soldier managed to relax a little at that. This was the first time in a while that he was in a room where the majority of people did not want to kill him. A strangely comforting thought.
“But now to business”, Ben said, growing serious again. “We need a place to stay, one night at least, and someone who can help us get him” – he pointed at Hux – “back to England.”
“Well, of course you can stay here for a while, I have some hiding spots that can fit you. As for someone with a plan, I guess I will be the one mostly. A lot of my old contacts are still around, maybe I can reestablish communication with some of them. As you can imagine I had to lay low for a little while as well.”
“Are you the only one left here in Hamburg?”
The barkeeper looked sad but managed to catch himself. “Yeah, I guess. Some of the others, as you know, were taken in with your father. Manfred was sent to the Norwegian campaign and they shot him out of the skies and Rosie´s house was hit by a bomb a month back. She did not make it out. That leaves me. Fred was here until half a year ago but it was no longer safe for him, so he settled over to Kiel.”
Despite the limited options they had here, Hux and Ben both felt safer than they had in Berlin. Here they had help, a place to lay low and someone who could potentially help them get over the Channel.
The hiding place that Biggs had talked about was quite comfortable looking actually, accessible through a hatch below the bar but still invisible through the floorboards. They had found an old teddy bear in a corner and to the questioning look they gave, the barkeeper told them, that about two weeks before, a Jewish family had lived down there before they managed to get on a ship headed for the USA.
Again Hux could not quite wrap his head around the concept of the “nice Nazi”. Then again, these were not Nazis, not really at least.
Blankets and pillows were still piled on the floor and food was given to them through the hatch. The pub had a cook and Biggs had promised them to have the cook prepare a nice, warm dish since they had travelled all day.
Biggs had told them goodnight, locked the door to the bar and all the windows and left for home, just a couple of houses down the street, close enough to come running should anything happen. They were alone again.
“You know, if he managed to hide an entire family down here we will no doubt get a good night´s sleep too without any disturbances.”
Hux scoffed at that. “Yeah, right, now that you said it, something is definitely going to happen.”
“Don´t be such a pessimist, Hux.”
“I am not a pessimist, I am a realist. I am still stranded in this godforsaken country, being searched for by the SS. I think you can cut me some slack.”
Ben raised his hands in surrender. “Alright, alright, you win. Still, try not to worry too much and sleep instead. That will help your body heal.”
Another scoff. Hux had almost forgotten about his still broken arm and the bruises. No wonder the people had stared. But now that he was beginning to wind down from the day of travel and being on guard, the dull pain slowly came creeping back from the far corners of his mind. He shivered.
In the spring, even in May, the nights were still cold.
He got rid of the leather coat, the material becoming to clammy for his liking, and grabbed himself one of the blankets and a pillow. Ben watched him. Once Hux had settled down, he also got up, grabbed both pieces of bedding and stood next to the pile, looking uncertainly around the room.
If he were to lay down next to Hux, it would most likely make the other man uncomfortable; if he were to make his bed in the opposite corner though, that would be weird to. Like he was trying to put a distance between them for some reason.
Which he was.
But not for the reason Hux would be thinking of.
The British soldier watched him through half-lidded eyes, the tiredness catching up to him.
“Come on now, lay down. I can´t sleep with you just standing there.” He beckoned Ben over with a movement of the head. So that had answered the question of where to lay down.
He put down the pillow about a meter from that of Hux, settled down and as soon as his head had touched the pillow, he was gone.
Did that man really fall asleep that quickly?
Hux had always prided himself with being able to sleep in almost any situation but this was remarkable. Just a second ago Ben had been wide awake. Oh well, there was no shame in that.
He maneuvered onto his mostly uninjured side, facing the sleeping form of the German. He really was bulky, but in a way that was pleasing to the eye. But he could not think of this right now lest he wanted to be in a rather awkward situation in the small room.
His eyes moved behind the closed lids, apparently a dream had already found him. What was it about? His parents? Their escape? Their future plans? Or just some ridiculous scenario that his brain made up?
Outside some dogs were barking. Conversations could be heard along the sidewalks of the street, but no air raid siren plagued the night. And slowly Hux, too, drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, they were woken by the sound of the wooden door to the building being unlocked. The muffled melody of a song being sung drifted to them through the floor boards: Lily Marlene.
It was Biggs then, a sign they had agreed on the previous night before the barkeeper had departed for his own home. As a sign of warning he stomped on the hatch twice before opening it and grinning down through the hole in the floor.
“Good morning, boys, I thought I´d bring you some breakfast.”
And what a breakfast it was. Hux had not felt so refreshed since the early days of May at home, despite sleeping on the floor here. Biggs had brought some coffee (it was still a little watery but managed to raise the spirits all the same), some bread and even some jam and butter to spread on it. It smelt delicious and he almost forgot where he was for a second there.
“So, now that you guys are all strong again, I think it is time to think about how we can get you over the Channel.”
Yes it was.
Journalist: “Why English?”
Ben: “He works for the British propaganda broadcaster in Hamburg. Gathers information and relays it to him. I am supposed to escort him there safely, you can´t just let an Englishman walk around the country like that.”
Journalist: “I didn´t know that he had an assistant. Why should we let so many Englishmen into the country when…”
Ben: “He was naturalized as a German citizen. The ones up there were delighted by his strong national-socialist way of thinking.”
Journalist: “He has an interesting hair-color too. I haven´t seen its like for years. The next time I write an article I might need to ask him too. Maybe he will give me some information. (…)”
Ben:” Biggs, don´t you recognize me?”
Biggs: “Benjamin? I thought they had gotten all of you…but let´s not talk about that. Why are you here and who is he?” )
Not really any historical notes this time I´m afraid ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Also, yes I made Biggs conveniently fluent in English for reasons so that the conversations would not disrupt the reading flow too much. Since he was supposed to do quite a bit of talking I thought it would be annoying for anyone involved to have to scroll up and down to translate what is being said.
Chapter 8: Plans and Problems
Sorry that it has taken a while. Work was busy and I had someone in my family pass away so obviously I did not have much time tp write in the last couple of days. I hope you still enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The pub was still closed and would remain so for the next few hours.
Still the three men took a seat in a small back-room instead of the actual sitting area, just to make sure that they could not be heard from the street. The chairs here were the ones deemed too old for service in the front by Biggs, but they would do for the moment.
Before them on the table was a map of Germany, they were not able to find one showing the entire continent.
“First of all, boys, I can tell you that if you came here trying to get on a ship you are out of luck.”
“Why, Biggs? I thought that the port was still active enough?”, Ben frowned. They had not come here with the goal of getting on a ship but still it had not been completely out of question.
“Well, the port is still open, alright, but the merchant vessels are staying for now. Only the Kriegsmarine is going in and out right now. Too many minefields and enemy aircraft as I have heard. They don´t want to lose any ships, especially not while they are still in the Elbe and their wrecks could block the way.”
Hux frowned too, now, but could not shake a little proud spark. His comrades had accomplished something at last.
“Good”, he said, “not by ship, then. At least not from here. What other options do we have?”
Biggs thought for a moment, eyes tracing the map in front of them for a moment.
“Well, I doubt that you will have any more luck in the other German ports, the situation will be much the same. And even if not, the chances are slim.”
“How about Denmark then? That is not Germany”, Ben chimed in now. The tone of his voice, though, let on that he had no hope of better chances there.
And Biggs was quick to diminish the remaining bit of hope for Denmark.
“No chance. You will not get past the border. SS and Gestapo is strong up there right now. You would have more luck getting into France…”
The last bit was said in a humorous tone, but suddenly the atmosphere in the room seemed to change.
“What did you just say?”, Ben questioned, a twinkle in his eyes.
Hux did not exactly like where this was going.
“Well, the Western Front is constantly changing. I mean, the Maginot Line is a joke by now. So two people passing through might not be noticed as much, if they were to just slip right through the fighting. It might be easier to get into Russia with this strategy but I doubt that is where you trying to go.
From what I can see France might be your best option. It gets you out of Germany and with luck you could even get in touch with the French Resistance.”
Hux had limited knowledge of the French resistance.
He knew that there were many groups, some big and well organized, others small and rather chaotic but, after all, there were still a lot of them holding out. The name Edward Yeo-Thomas came to mind, an officer had mentioned it at Whitehall. A British agent trying to tie together the different groups into a coherent resistance movement.
From the French coast the flight to Britain would also be a little shorter, even if not much less dangerous. The anti-aircraft guns were mounted along all of the coastal areas and would make for a heavy barrage.
Ben, too, seemed to consider the option quite seriously. He had leaned back in the chair, long, strong legs stretched out in front of him. He was studying the map as well.
“Say, Biggs, wasn´t there a guy in France who married Ditmar Leer´s daughter a while ago?”
“Now that you mention it, yeah. They married in ´32 didn´t they. The dark-skinned lad with the slight limp. God only knows what she saw in him.”
Hux had no idea who Ditmar Leer was, but assumed that it must have been a friend of Ben´s family.
Apparently, he had now become important again.
“You think you can remember where about he lived? He might still be a rebel for the cause.”
“Ranville, somewhere along the Caen Canal and the river Orne as far as I remember.” Now it dawned on Biggs what Ben´s plan was.
Hux was not exited either. The Caen Canal was on the other side of France, for fucks sake. They would have to pass half of Germany and then France, a country currently at war. The only positive about it was, that once they somehow got there, Southampton would be almost directly to the North.
He had flown there before, over France, some years back in a trusty, old Hawker Hurricane. He had engaged German Fighters above the clouds to lure them away from the ships and the soldiers down below, when the invasion of France had failed.
When Dunkirk was their only retreat.
He was ripped out of his memories of the days past by Ben´s baritone voice.
“… somehow to England.”
“Ben, I know you got the daredevil-spirit of your father but that is suicide. What if they are not there? Maybe they have been arrested, maybe they had to flee or they died. Who knows? From there you cannot get on a ship either, you know as well as I do how well protected and fought for the Channel Islands are. Mines and E-boats everywhere. Your only option would be to fly out of there but that French lad never was a pilot and neither were you.” Ben winced at that, somehow that must have struck a nerve.
Hux made a mental note to get behind it once the opportunity presented itself.
Ben pointed to him now. Seemingly Biggs had forgotten that he was there for a moment. His look was questioning, as if asking: You are?
“I am”, Hux nodded. “I am a major in the RAF. I can fly almost anything that has wings.”
That may have been a little overconfident.
He was very good at flying, that was what his instructor had told him, but to be able to fly anything would be impossible. A Hawker Hurricane, maybe a new Spitfire, were his planes of choice but he had only flown a limited number of bombers when they were short on staff after the Battle of Britain commenced.
Then again, a plane was a plane. The controls did not differ much. How hard could it be?
Biggs shock his head, defeated.
“And how in the seven hells are you planning to get to Ranville, hothead?”
“Well, my papers say that I am stationed in the Ruhr region, so it would be good to try and cross over to France somewhere along there. You know, a soldier returning to post.”
He shifted his body forward, over the map, tracing it with his finger, coming to a stop above a tight-knit area of cities and streets.
“To Cologne, first. After that we can try to cross over to Belgium. If that does not seem possible we go farther south, Frankfurt or Stuttgart and into France from there. Then we would have a little more of a way to go in France itself but at least we can avoid the authorities a little better. Until we arrive precisely here.”
The German´s finger came to a stop between two small blue lines in the North of France. That must be where Ranville was.
The name seemed to stir some recognition in Hux´s mind. Somewhere he had heard of that village before, seen its position on a map.
Maybe he was just imagining things.
He could not say that he was necessarily convinced by Ben´s plan, he had been by none of them so far.
But he was still alive, wasn´t he.
What was the worst that could happen if he trusted Ben´s judgement again?
Actually, he´d rather not think about it.
So it was decided, even though Biggs did not want to let them go.
Ben was keen to start as soon as possible, but after Hux had argued that it would to them better to stock up on what they could need first, he agreed.
On the same day that the plan was made, Biggs sent his cook over to the dentist office to fetch the man.
The old pub-owner had judged that Hux´s splint, and the rest of his body as well, could to with one more check-up before they departed. After all, he vouched that the dentist was trustworthy and though he was not a “regular doctor” he had enough skill to care for the injured soldier.
Reluctantly, Hux had agreed and so it came to pass that just after three in the afternoon there was yet another knock on the door.
The dentist looked somewhat similar to the doctor Hux had become familiar with in Berlin. This one also had a mousy coat and wore glasses that slipped down the narrow nose.
His handshake was firm but from this close the British soldier could clearly smell that distinct note of disinfectant on the man.
It made his skin crawl.
Just thinking about how this man was a dentist seemed to activate a sort of phantom pain in his jaw.
God, he really did hate dentists.
Ben, who stood leaning on the bar next to Biggs, chuckled. Apparently, some of Hux´s reluctance must have shown on his face. This dentist also made an effort to communicate with Hux personally through broken but understandable English.
He lifted the injured arm and examined the splint closer, before removing it with quick and able movements. The wrist below was a little swollen and had taken on an ugly shade of reddish-purple that would soon fade into an even more ghastly greenish-yellow.
The pain was still there, but more manageable from day to day.
A huff, a little twist to the arm and a sharp intake of breath from Hux later, the doctor produced a small rod from the pocket of his coat and applied another splint.
“Another week, or two.”
Hux nodded, thankful that this part of the ordeal was over.
Next up was an examination of the wound on his head, which had, by now, healed, and a quick check up of the ribcage. For the latter part, the doctor motioned for Hux to take of his shirt.
Whilst Biggs was still looking on rather interested in the practices of the man (for as a child he had dreamed of being a doctor himself), Hux saw from the corner of his eye, that Ben resolutely looked anywhere but at him. Did the array of bruises and scrapes really look that appalling to the young German?
The ribcage was still tender to the touch but the doctor insisted that there were no more broken ribs to be found.
The man stood from where he was perched in front of Hux and nodded to himself. “You will be good”, he said. “When you get back, make this end.”
The Brit nodded. A silent promise to the man.
Content with the answer, the doctor stuck out his hand for Hux to shake, which the latter took. In turn he also said his goodbyes to Ben, who was looking at the empty picture frames on the opposite wall instead of the still shirtless soldier, and Biggs, before making his way back to the door, peering out left and right and went about his day as if nothing had happened.
A remarkable man, Hux thought. A masterful actor.
Feeling the chill from the door that had been open a moment ago, Hux slipped the shirt back over his head, pointedly staring at Ben, to show that he could look again. The young German did, red in the face.
“Okay, boys”, Biggs boomed, “time to get you guys all set up.”
Three days had passed now.
During the course of the evening all kinds of people arrived at the pub.
Old, worn looking men, young girls, people from the docks of the Kriegsmarine, still dressed in their work clothes, mothers with their children. They all had two things in common.
One, they had all been alerted by Biggs´ cook.
Two, they never stayed for more than a few minutes.
The only exception to the rule were the dock-workers, who stayed for one or more rounds of beer from the barrels under the counter, boasting of their achievements of the day.
Hux and Ben had been strategically placed in the corner, where they had arrived a few days prior, hidden from view of anyone standing in the doorway. The curious glances of the people who came in further, which a good lot of the recruited people did, were hard to avoid.
Below the counter of the bar an array of resources started to pile up, brought in by the people of Hamburg that still had hope.
Hope for the regime to fall.
Hope to survive the war.
And for them, hope now sat in the corner of the pub, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, red hair hidden under the cap again.
Hux for his part thought that the people grossly overestimated his ability to stop the war, even though he himself hoped to play a part in the downfall of the Third Reich.
The key here was “part in”.
Once he had voiced these concern to Ben, though, the German had looked offended.
“Don´t you dare open your mouth about that!”
Hux was taken aback by the forceful statement.
“You cannot rob these people of their only hope, Hux!”, he whispered bitingly. “Hell, half of them will most likely never see the end of the damn war. But rest assured that right now they are surviving on a hope, a hope that one day it will be better. Remember what the doctor said. Make this end. That is all these people want. Not everyone is a brainless Nazi. Don´t rob them of the hope and faith they have in you. Rebellions are built upon hope after all.”
“I didn´t mean to offend you. I merely tried to say that I don´t think I am worthy of all of this trust. We don´t even have a solid plan on how to get back yet.”
Ben sat back in his chair. “Hope, Hux. Remember. And personally, I believe you are more than worthy of their trust.”
Hux could not see the slight blush on Ben´s cheek in the dim light.
You are worthy, so much more than that, he thought.
At the end of the night, the trio took inventory of what the people had brought in to help with their plan. Biggs´ cook had made his rounds to the houses of people he knew to be supporters of the resistance, despite being too scared to be active in it themselves.
A compass, a map of Germany and France from 1919 (a little dated but it would do), a pack of bandages, two cartons of smokes (for Hux´s love of cigarettes became known quite quickly), a large army knife, two loafs of homemade bread brought in by an old lady, two gas masks just in case ( the girl who had brought them in, said her brothers would not need them anymore, not ever) and most importantly: a piece of newspaper from the French resistance.
No one knew where it came from but the information on it seemed quite promising.
It stated that a Dornier Do 217 had been shot out of the sky in a dogfight with a British Spitfire and that if was still in an okay shape.
The location on where it happened, was even more important: just north of Bénouville, right across the two rivers from Ranville, where they were headed.
Maybe they could get a plane after all.
“The way I see it”, Hux concluded after looking over what they found, “the news is promising. Once we manage to actually get into France, we might be able to establish contact with the resistance there and get news on the plane and how we can get to it.”
Ben and Biggs nodded along.
“Alright, on to France it is then.”
“Yes, but first, boys, you are going to get one last good night´s rest here.”
The next morning, on May 30th, they parted from Biggs.
Even though the tough looking man did not want to show it, he felt sad. There was no guarantee that they would get to England safely. He had, in the past days, learned not to doubt their abilities, but war was unpredictable.
He would most likely never see them again, whether they perished or got to England, they were gone from his grip.
He wished them all the best, for he, too, was hoping for this war to come to an end.
Biggs was to remain right, he never did see them again. Two weeks later he and his cook both fell victim to a bombing raid, buried by the rubble. But this was to be a different story altogether.
The pair made their way back to the station, to catch a train there.
They had contemplated using other methods of transportation but in the end they always came out as too slow or too costly.
The Reichsbahn train they boarded was headed for the Ruhr region, and you could tell. This time only a few businessmen were to be found, no families at all, the majority of it filled with young soldiers, travelling to the front and, with that, for most, their doom.
Hux now had to keep his head down even more. There was a difference in being approached by relatively tame civilians that would most likely buy the cover story without much question and being approached by a young, patriotic Wehrmacht soldier already mentally preparing himself to face the enemy. Not five minutes after departure from Hamburg the first brawl among the young men broke out, only to be quickly subdued by a superior officer.
This train did not offer many of the compartments that they had grown accustomed to on their journey from Berlin, so they took to seating themselves where a lot of soldiers stored their bags and belongings. Most of them would only come for the storage area before disembarking, leaving the heavy pack alone.
“Do you think they would notice one of their rifles missing?”
“Ben, don´t get stupid now. Do you even know how to fire?”
“No, but you do, I assume.”
“Yes, and an Englishman walking around with a gun will most likely never look weird at all.”
“I could carry it and…”
“I said no, Ben!”
At the next station, Hannover, they had to wait.
First another train passed them, again the cattle wagons. Hux shivered and sneered.
Then, before the journey could begin again they were told that, due to a dogfight between the Luftwaffe and the RAF the train would stay at the station until the next morning so that it could be assured that they would not be hit.
Businessmen, now late for their meetings, and soldiers, waiting for the thrill of battle, groaned alike.
Ben and Hux, too, were not terribly exited about being stopped in their journey again but there was nothing to be done. Instead of going out into the city, like a lot of their fellow passengers did, they stayed in the darkest corner of the station, to avoid being seen by more people than necessary.
Biggs had been right when he said that their last night in Hamburg would be their last good night´s rest, for even in the dark, sleep would not find them.
The next morning, Ben paraded up to the train, Hux following behind him. Again they only found their place among the baggage but at least they would be out of the crowds of soldiers for the most part.
After Hamburg, station after station flashed by, without them stopping for another time.
Then smaller stations.
“Hux did you catch what the sign at the last station said?”
“Something with an “I” in the beginning. Isenloh or something? Why?”
Hux looked at him questioningly as the next station passed and Ben frowned.
“This is not right.”
Now it was Hux´s turn to knit his eyebrows together. “What do you mean?”
“I have taken the train to Cologne before, a couple of times, but all of these stations are unfamiliar to me.”
“Perhaps the track were damaged on the original route?”, Hux offered helpfully.
“Maybe, but we would have to turn back in the original direction by now. The railway infrastructure here is too good, not all of it can be damaged, surely.”
Right in this moment Ben glanced the back of a clerk of the Reichsbahn and motioned for him to come over.
“Dieser Zug geht nach Köln oder? Warum ist die Strecke geändert?“
„Haben sie es am Bahnhof nicht gehört? Wir fahren nicht mehr dorthin, sondern nach Bonn. Köln steht in Flammen.“*
Hux did not need a translator for this.
Cologne was burning.
Ben: “This train is on its way to Cologne right? Why was the route changed?”
Clerk: “Did you not hear at the station? We are not going there anymore but to Bonn, Cologne is in flames.”
Actually I have no idea whether the merchant vessels were still coming in and out but for the sake of the story they will just have to remain docked in the port ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In this chapter Hux thinks he has heard the name Ranville before.
It is a small town in Northern France, east of the Caen Canal and the River Orne. On the night of D-day, 1944 British Glider Forces will land in this town to hold the bridges over the rivers against the German forces to make sure that the Allies will be able to advance from the beaches.
I don´t know how long “Operation Deadstick” had been planned beforehand, but for the sake of this story I am just going to ASSUME that Hux had heard a plan like this being thrown around by his superiors at Whitehall.
Thousand Bomber Raid:
On the night of May 30/31 1942 Cologne was victim to Operation Millennium, the RAF´s first “Thousand Bomber Raid” on a German city. Originally Hamburg was to be the target but due to bad weather it had been changed to Cologne. About 469 people died, more than 5000 wounded and more than 45.000 were homeless.