The Claw had totally seized the city. Of the sprawling Metropolis that had been Washington D.C., only a few thousand disheveled survivors wandered the streets. The tightly disciplined Claw cells herded the survivors together and put them to work on the city’s defenses.
Metzger had outlined a few square blocks of the city that would be fortified and held at all costs. The plan now was to hold the city, hoping that the military would be too bogged down dealing with civil unrest to retake the city. Then they would wait for allies to emerge in whatever new world order cropped up in America. And if nothing cropped up, well, Metzger would be in a position to establish a new government himself as long as he could hold on to his safe haven.
The survivors built a fence that was electrified and a huge, stalwart wall with guard towers and defenses inside the fence. Dozens of anti-aircraft guns were constructed. The Claw had been smuggling materiel into the city for weeks. That was the beauty of the neutron bomb: everything was left intact but the people.
When all the defenses were completed, the single gate to the city was opened and those survivors who wanted to were allowed to leave. Metzger had no means to feed them and no interest in keeping them captive. Rationing would be tight as it was for the Claw loyalists, at least until they got their hydroponics up and running. Surprisingly, many of the survivors wanted to stay and join The Claw. Metzger made them all provisional members, and they were placed under the close scrutiny of his most loyal followers to weed out any Trojan horses.
Krauss had not had any ambitions of joining The Claw, but he was still stopped and pulled out of the great mob making the exodus from Washington. The Claw man who had stopped him, whose name was Basilisk, brought him to Metzger.
With Washington solidly in Claw hands, Metzger had changed into a bizarre uniform, brazenly showing off his status as leader of the rebel group. It was clearly a uniform of the failed Nazi Third Reich, except for two differences. The first difference was that the uniform was free of swastikas or any other symbols or paraphernalia of Nazism. In lieu of the Nazi symbols were peculiar badges which seemed to portray three slashing claw marks. The other difference was the color of the uniform. It was neither Luftwaffe blue, nor SA brown, nor SS black. It was a pure blood red, a disturbing and terrifying crimson. Topping off his vampiric appearance, Metzger had a black cape attached to his uniform by two golden clasps.
Metzger looked overjoyed to see Krauss. He immediately waved off his entourage of men. He uncorked a bottle of fine champagne and spoke to Krauss in German.
"It is such a welcome surprise to see another German. The men at the gates told me about you, general, and at first I didn't believe them. But just seeing you, I knew immediately. You remind me of myself when I was younger."
The man slapped Krauss fraternally on the back. He proffered a glass of champagne, and led him into a large, plush chair.
"Try some. An excellent vintage, I must say, but not nearly as good as what's you'd get back in Saarland."
Metzger sat down across from Krauss and placed the tips of all his fingers together. He looked at Krauss briefly with a smile. Suddenly he leapt to his feet, looking embarrassed.
"I'm terribly sorry! How uncivil of me. Marshal Lars Metzger, acting Master of the Claw."
"Um," Krauss shuffled uncomfortably a little bit, "General Otto Krauss, Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte."
"Luftstreitkräfte? Welche Rank? Nur Brigadegeneral? Well, rank doesn't matter. All air force men have the same guts. I was an Armee man myself, general, never could keep my lunch down in an airplane. You're going to be grounded for a while, though, Krauss, so you'd better get used to footslogging. You know, it's interesting that you happen along at this time. An unexpected twist of fortune in my favor, I think.
"You see, I've been looking for a competent leader. None of these American racists I'm surrounded by will do. I need a real man, a German! You see, I'm starting to take up more dictatorial responsibilities, and it's difficult to juggle military command and governmental command. Which is why, my dear Krauss, I am making you my protégé."
"Uh, well," Krauss fidgeted nervously, "It's a very generous offer and all, but..."
"Yes, thank you, it is generous, but I'm a giving man. I want to promote you to commander-in-chief of Claw military operations some day, Krauss. I can see the spark of potential in you, Krauss, and I also see a great hunk of granite which I can carve and fashion in my own manner. Someday, Krauss, someday. To the future!"
Metzger raised his glass to clink with Krauss'. Krauss smiled naively, realizing he was stuck in a big pile of shit with no way to dig himself out.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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