Fragment Earth - 002 - Wars End Author:Robert Ethan Skyler Title: Fragment Earth - 002 - Wars End — Author: Robert Ethan Skyler — Keywords: Short Stories, Political, Science, Fiction, Truth, Hitler?s Death, Alpine-Bavarian Redoubt, Zhukov, Stalin, WWII, Revisionism — Description: Information alone holds no truth within itself unless part of its whole is overlooked, ignored or removed, where after even the ... more »obvious can be understood, acknowledged or denied. The United States and the Soviet Union divided by perspective but united in battle, found at the end of one war, the beginning of the next. The information age begins here, fostered by distance, the printed word marches toward ultimate power.
Length: 5,500 Words or 35 pages approximately.
"Lieutenant Banner," I yelled at the shadow beyond the doorway, "Lieutenant!" Walking further down the granite walled hall I said, "Lieutenant, we have to go. Our Division is moving out."
The dizzy American Liaison looked up at me, "Our Division?" he replied, "I think you are mistaken Comrade. Our Division lies under the mud of that field out there. Our Division is not going anywhere."
"Lieutenant," I said through my teeth measuring every word. "We have to go now," but seeing no response worthy of note I grabbed his arm and dragged him down the hall with me. He followed with great effort which faded with every step. "Hitler is dead," I said, "they found his body in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin. The war is over. Our Division is moving on to the Elbe, where our duties demand we coordinate the meet-up with your US 1st Army."
He stopped in his tracks ripping his arm from my grasp with his facts, "that pool of blood back there. That was~"
"~no, it was not," I replied increasing my stern tone, "we do not have time to go through this. If you want to live to the end of this day, we have to leave here now." His step resumed with these words, and with them we made our way out of the fortresses inner chamber to the grand cavern beyond, where thousands of soldier's bodies both German and Russian were being stacked like firewood.
Down and out the long tunnel our quickening step carried us past troops still clearing away the debris of battle. Daylight piercing my eyes as we emerged, we continued blindly up the road to Field Headquarters where I went inside briefly for travel documents and keys to a private car.
Returning to find my charge standing in the same spot but looking back at the Mountain Redoubt for what he knew too would be the last time. Seeing the tractors already on site towing out our tanks, knowing the bodies were almost gone, and realizing that by the end of this day none of this will have ever happened. I paused, engulfed by his vacuous stare while the inevitable passed us by.
After several minutes Banner, with disbelief fully suspended acknowledged my presence, looked up at me and said, "you guys are not as dumb as you look are you?"
I laughed at his predictable naivety shoving him in the right direction replying, "no, we are only as smart as you can imagine," to which he looked back as I, with our quick step, walked past him toward our waiting car.
Once on the road we sat in silence for sometime pacified by the predictable purr of the car's motor. I knew behind Banner's perplexing scowl, he was replaying the morning's events, but this was not going to do him any good. They were not coming back and his knowledge of them could be of no further use to him. I consoled his silence simply saying, "Welcome to life with the Red Army."
He grunted, "so?"
I replied, "you saw nothing."
"~you know nothing."
The remainder of our journey passed without comment. When we reached our division command vehicle, he said nothing as he left the car. I knew he understood. With that, my duties here were over. I was to report back to Breslau for transport to England to fill my position on the Red Army's staff there, coordinating the stand down of Allied Forces in Europe, and I was late.
This was a tense time for everyone. The end of the war left Europe with two armies, more than ten million heavily armed shell-shocked troops all heading toward the same narrow region where once, but no longer stood their enemy. With no clear purpose or target, the slightest misunderstanding between these allies could be catastrophic.
Trust was in short supply as the ranks tightened into what most hoped would be the end of the war. To insure this, people with first hand field experience and contacts advising them were relied upon to bring accurate information from the front-lines to Allied Headquarters.
It took considerable time driving against the Red Tide of men and machine still flowing westwards. Traffic moved along at a crawl as I hopped from one wait station to another in between the pulses of machine and men driving against me. The faces that passed by me, the masks the marching men wore over their tired interiors struck me like never before as I sat waiting, staring into their streams reflection marching past my window. Probably the light or the dirt, the angst or the burden of their hike, but for a long while these marching men made of mud appeared dead to me.
I caught myself off guard with this thought; I looked into my own reflection in the car's mirror, but only confirmed I was neither wrong nor right. I was clearly alive, but if death had a face that was it staring back at me. I closed my eyes and looked again; this is what I will look like dead I thought. They were all dead, like I was alive like them, and together we marched apart to our mutually exclusive destinations in hope a solution awaited us there. They forward to a war which no longer existed in my mind, and I back to an end that did not yet exist in theirs.
Had they not been told?
Should I tell them now?
Could the pendulums sway of their march be stopped with a single voice? Their tired feet, my borrowed car, they took us both away and I did nothing to stop either. No one could. Not one at a time, there were too few of me. This was their war, their march to their deaths, I could only stop them by performing my duty before these three catalysts set in to the next war, which like the last, lay in wait over the next hill, just like the last.
I was waived onward to my next hop as the road cleared. My rear view mirror captured what I hoped would be only living men. I could see them. They had reflections. They must be alive. I blinked them in to memory.
Reaching our air base in Poland that evening, I caught the next transport plane to England. We picked up an American escort fighter as we flew back over Germany. Watching it for several minutes from my seat at the back of the plane, floating up and down outside my window, I thought now there is the good life.
Pointing out the windshield of our transport plane "Fork-tailed Devil," said Vasilii with the exuberance of youth at the escort fighter pulling up in front of our wing.
"Devil is right," I said trying to calm him, "just look at that monster, what a machine."
"It is like they cut a plane in half, Sergei, then stuck twenty feet of wing in between the two halves, and said see if this will fly."
"Ha, ha, no, looks more like a box kite to me, a monoplane box kite."
"Yeah a really big one with fangs."
"That is the plane that won the war."
"No, you are thinking of the P-51 Mustang, now there is a fighter."
"Slow up a bit. Let him get in front of us. You nudge right as he glides past. Perfect, now look at that back view."
"There is nothing there."
"I mean what would you even shoot at first?"
"Hesitation, you just lost the fight, comrade."
"Well, I was not familiar with what I was seeing."
"Exactly what the designer was going for; pilots, artillery, anyone who gets behind a gun is trained to follow their instinct, fire at the center of mass. But in this case, when you come across something you are unfamiliar with, you can be certain of one thing."
"And that is?"
"That your preconceived response is wrong. That your natural instinct is exactly what will get you killed, and that the last thing you should do, is the first thing that comes to mind."
"But the center of mass, smaller than average, still holds the pilot. Shoot him and you win."
"Yes, if you are incredibly lucky."
"Not so with our modern bullets."
"Take another look at a very fast, very small target designed to be shot at."
"What? Who wants to be shot at?"
"What is your first reaction?"
"To shoot~ ~oh."
"What would be the best defense for being shot at?"
"Lots of armor."
"Lots of weight, not in a plane; the best defense is to plan to be shot at, think of every possible angle of attack, prepare for each possibility and have the lightest weight solution in place before it is needed."
"Now take another look at the center of mass of that airplane, what do you see?"
"The pilot in his cockpit."
"A single target, versus what should be there in a typical plane?"
"Well, pilot and from this view point, the tail, rudder, fuel tank and engine would all fall in our line of fire."
"Which is why you fire at the center of mass, it is where all the goodies are, but here, there is only one target to protect and he is so small and so easily protected you will never get a clean shot through."
"So this plane, they actually want you to shoot at the pilot?"
"Yes, because the first shot decides the outcome and any shot at that center is wasted."
"Now look again at a decentralized collective, with each piece functioning individually as a whole. Vital components out of range of any instinctual firing, collateral damage minimized, your attack rendered pointless, surprise is lost and you have just revealed yourself as hostile to a machine fast enough to make any escape it chooses."
"You get all that just from looking at it?"
"Imagine your enemy, broadcasting their intentions to you. That is exactly what this concept does for its pilot by design because your attack hit nothing of value and damaged nothing it hit."
"A whole different level of being then?"
"Do not feel bad, like everyone to go up against a novel concept you were rendered extinct by your failure to adapt."
"So, what is the solution?"
"But, what do I look for?"
"You do not look for anything. You just look. If there is anything worth seeing, it will make itself known."
"Ah. Know your enemy?"
"Yes, before you fire a shot, identify the potential targets, and consider first those that seem least important but still measure into the overall operation of the machine."
"Cunning little kite."
"That is how wars are won."
I awoke to darkness. The once crowded airplane stood silently around me. Was I dreaming, or worse? Still tired, I rolled back in to sleep. When I awoke again, it was the same scene, dark, quiet, alone, yet now familiar. Illuminating the interior of the airplane with my lighter, my initial observations were proven correct. There was no one in sight, and except for the tired soldier's reflection in my window, reminding me of my duty here. We were alone.
I could not halt them in person, my reflections glance downward said, but now that I am far enough away, will they hear me from here? Is this what power is? I thought, standing up trying to find my focus in the dimly lit planes interior. Does distance alone imply what I have so clearly never grasped in the close?
I made my way to the front of the airplane, an open door led to the ground, a smooth concrete floor, this was a nice start. The darkness revealed the outline of other airplanes, a good sign, and in the distance I saw faint light through foggy windows. A hangar is where I must be, but beyond this, I knew little more than to suspect I was in England.
Stepping out of the hangar, emerging onto a large flat tarmac, yes I decided. This must be England. Looking through the darkness for any area of general activity, I saw only a brightness coming from beyond the next building. Moving toward the light as so basic an instinct it seemed to be, held true, until the sharp yell of man behind me shouted, "Halt!" and I did.
The footsteps moved toward my front, asking, "name?"
"Lieutenant Commander Alexei Misostov of the Red Army," I replied.
He remained silent, then said in an apologetic tone, "could you repeat that please?" and I did to which he replied, "stand where you are," and blew two blasts on a whistle producing a second guard out of the darkness.
These two discussed the reality of Russians being on base, a wireless radio was consulted and a yellow card resulted. "This is good until dawn," the second guard said while handing me the card, "show it where needed." I had just a few more questions, but these two held no more answers than were apparent. Thanking them, they walked off leaving me looking out at the open airfield. Lost in both moment and direction, the complete lack of people trying to shoot at me became evident.
I smelled the air.
This was nice.
Looking back at the hangar then left to the building indicated as Headquarters. I concluded I was on friendly territory but battle rules still seemed to apply: If you do not know where you are, you should return to the last point you knew where you were and wait there for more information. Entering back into the hangar, I wandered amongst the larger aircraft not immediately recognizing which I had departed from.
"Ah yes. This looks familiar," I said under breath. Reentering, I found the seat next to mine held a brown satchel bag camouflaged under a newly pressed dress uniform. The bag revealed a map, some papers and what I guessed to be British money. With satchel and uniform tucked underarm I again departed the hangar and made my way toward the brightest spot on the darkened airport. Along my way I spotted another contingent of guards, quickly juggled my load, producing a yellow pass for their focusing flashlight. Nodded on, I smiled passing undisturbed.
The office beyond the light drew me in, a rather unsubstantial building with windows through which a squint revealed busily working people beyond. I lingered outside the front door, to collect my thoughts and consider on my own time what I was here to request.
Presenting myself to the front desk clerk, whom after accosting me with a short visual inspection, probably more out of curiosity than anything else, I said, "could you direct me to this location?" I pointed at my map, "It would seem~"
"~yes," he interrupted, "your Russian lot went on without you. They did say more would follow. I will arrange for a driver and car to be along shortly, have a seat please. It should not be more than a few minutes."
On that, he presumed I was informed and returned to his work without delay. They did appear terribly busy so I left him to it, and walked back toward the waiting area.
And there it was.
Sitting down, I picked up the newspaper bearing a photograph of the man I had just seen being carried out of the Redoubt back in Bohemia. ?Hitler Is Dead' the headline read, below it lay the very man I saw, bullet wound in forehead and a photograph of Hitler being held above his body as proof to anyone who did not recognize his funny mustache. "Found inside the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin. Died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," it said.
I continued reading despite the weight of my ever more apparent frown, looking as though I were reading anyway. My eyes followed the words and my mind read them but it did not matter what they said, none of this was true. What finally mussed my attention away from my disgust, was did the details really matter? Hitler was dead, was this not enough? Were the method and time, location and circumstance so important that knowing these exact details might limit history's understanding? Do not let the facts get in the way of the truth my education told me.
While my frown smiled at the consideration I might pick up a pen and revise this article to a more accurate account of how Hitler's body came to be found at such a politically beneficial location. My smiling frown turned back upside-down, with painful obviousness in the realization of who could such a correction serve? Who could possibly benefit from one man's account of events over the official truth as laid out in this newspaper and the millions like it now streaming around the world? One edit here in rural England, would accomplish nothing.
Accurate information is only powerful where it is widely actionable as on the battlefield. Power here, is any information disseminated in mass. There could be no correction. This was the truth and whom it served best did not matter. For the truth of the lie was that it did not serve anyone who mattered, with the exception of Stalin's incredibly bloated humble ego.
This man was right in all things in our land and anything he was not right about was put through vigorous exercise until its new form proved out how right he had been in the first place. This was life under Soviet Socialism. This was Soviet truth in Western News. This was everything every O.S.S. American intelligence agent lived in fear of my smile told me, someone else dictating the truth of world events.
I looked up from my crusade for the truth, which lived and died in this chair as a small man walked into the office and asked in a big voice, "you rang?" The busy clerk pointed at me mid-turn, only to resume his dance to which the little man moved toward me saying, "do you know where you are headed or should I presume for you?"
I stood, handing him my map.
"Thanks, I should have presumed. Follow me," he said as we walked through the door. A gray jeep awaited us; we passed with ease in to the English countryside. "Smoke ?em if you got ?em," the driver said as we rumbled along the narrow hedge lined road.
I did not and therefore would not.
"You do not mind if I do?" he continued.
Asking myself if that was a question or a suggestion, he proceeded at my lack of an objection.
"Can you believe it is really over?"
My smile nodded.
"What a war, were you in for the whole show?"
I nodded again.
"Not me," he replied, "I just got here, have not seen one ounce of combat. Was it rough?"
I delayed glancing right and nodded again.
"Yeah, that is what they tell me. I drive a lot of people around. I have lived this war through them mostly, and where were you in it the worst?"
I tried to quantify an answer to this question, but the silence I left as a flood of images ran through my mind, dictated my failure. A few moments passed before he repeated his question. Content though I was with my silence, it did not sit well with this one; against my very will I found myself remarking on the last acceptable image my mind settled on. "We had some trouble crossing the Oder River," I said, "heavily prepared defenses before Berlin."
Now he sat in silence, perhaps contemplating the nature of my acceptably vague reply before filling this new space with his inane babel. "You guys always seem to get through in the end though. I mean wow at your show and all. Great job from me personally."
"Those new tanks you guys have," he continued, "are all the talk around the table at my house. Well, we have a decent little tank killer, the M-4, but nothing compared to your JS-II. Would not take too many of those, to put those Nazi bastards in their place, I bet? Have you seen many of those?"
Inside I was smiling at this driver's expertly dialogued chitchat, yet wanted to break free from it without incident. Looking around at the empty fields, noting we were as isolated as we had been. I asked him in an ever more ominous tone, "not seen anyone around in a while. Are you sure this is where you want to be?"
I soon found myself standing on the curb outside a rather nice looking hotel. "This is it, enjoy your stay," he might have said, but upon my arrival I had one thing in mind: breakfast and a hot bath. Moving along in to the hotel, without a word being said the concierge out flanked me, directing me toward the room they were calling the barracks. Perhaps the bath first and then breakfast, I thought as he left me to my obvious duties.
Cleaned, shaved and eaten. I proceeded to my final destination, Allied Headquarters. While I waited there, I was briefed and debriefed before contacting my representative with my Red Army Division now in Germany, with their approach and contact details for meeting up with the US 1st Army.
This simple enough situation was perhaps the most highly charged moment of the war. Two allied armies fighting with each other against a common foe, but never before together on the same field of battle could quickly go wrong should they meet under unfavorable circumstances. There could be zero casualties in this maneuver's execution, as it was likely any remaining Nazi troops, pushed toward the very spot we were to meet up, could cause considerable interference should they get us shooting at our allies. This war has to end here I thought, filling my role at last as I radioed in to my Division contact, the American Liaison Banner.
"Hello Alexei!" he greeted me warmly.
"Hello Jonathan," I replied, "Can you hear me?"
Proceeding forward along our new approach vector toward the River Elbe, we moved cautiously but encountered no resistance, and on our arrival at the bridgehead found ourselves face to face with an equally stark looking band across the river. Looking for familiarity a single outline drew me closer, an almost forgotten friend. He smiled.
It was in this manner our two armies had come in contact all across Germany the previous week and with our arrival, the last tooth of this giant zipper closed on a united Europe. Under our flag of peace, after so many horrific years of war, tyranny had been defeated and my job here was done. Saying goodbye to my Russian Comrades and then to Europe, I was rushed home ahead of my Division for a debriefing in Washington, D.C. with the Office of Strategic Services.
I presumed they wanted greater detail of Hitler's death and the Redoubt's strengths, but like the rest they were not interested in one man's inconceivable experience.
I felt the truth become a lie in this place.
I knew my story sounded spectacular; there was no doubt of this, but here more than anywhere my words failed me. I did put it all on paper, though the more times I told this story the crazier it sounded. But this was the truth, inconceivable as it appeared; this was the only truth I knew.
Time after time to an ever-changing staff of interviewers I interjected a dose of my truth, only to see it fail in the face of theirs. This war was their truth, a war which had not yet ended. A war which still had life left in it if only we could all work together, maybe this war did not have to end here.
So much of this interview took place beyond my control. Repeating the facts to find the ones worth hearing, repeating those once isolated to burn them in to the truth, then repeating the new truth until it took shape before me. Once the old truth had been highlighted and repeated, it ceased to function as a whole anymore to what little part of me agreed with them in the first place, which now stood as the only part of me I could hear.
Most important to them it seemed was that the Soviets had nothing we did not already know about. I tried to impress upon my interviewers that these were good people, and I did not share their concern from what I had seen of the Red Armies intentions toward us. Despite their disdain for their own people, they showed us none, but in spite of my resistance to this new truth, it, over the old, took its place in the registry of my life as the only.
Our enemy had not just been the Nazis, as I had suspected. They did not believe my trust of the Russian people should be as willingly extended to their superiors, to which I did agree. But in confining myself to their facts it took considerable effort to ignore how easily I could illustrate through readily accepted new truths, that my interviewers simply did not like feeling good about anything. While considering feeling bad fills the begging bowl, I wondered whether my enemy might not just be all of the above.
And back to the basics they went. "How many and~"
"~when did you first see these?" I asked him one final time.
Completing my questioning of the Liaison I smiled and said, "well Lieutenant Banner can you believe it is really over?"