Brigadier General Paul King had never been to Germany before. It was a very majestic country even after had been raped by war. He imagined it would be breathtaking in peace time.
Unfortunately he had little time to take in the scenery or speak to the people or see the sites. He was here on business, and his business was war.
The Alliance had an important policy of giving glory where it belonged to avoid friction between the Allies. In America the Allies had stepped aside to let the Americans beat the Canadians and the Mexicans just as the Americans had stood aside to let the Germans retake Washington. Similarly, none of the Allies had entered Germany before Olensheim had retaken it, so that it could be seen that Germany needed no help but the token assistance England gave.
Now that Germany was securely Deutsch again, the allies had entered to prepare an attack on the Eastern Bloc. Many Americans, Australians, Britons, and Frenchmen had been sent to Russia as well to aid the assault from the other direction. (Brazil was still trying to fight off the Colombian invaders with partisan tactics and so was unable to render much foreign assistance.) King, however, had ended up here on the German side of the Eastern border.
Most of his troops had been allowed their discharges after the taking of Mexico City. Some of the old ones were still there, but he had almost an entirely new command. Most of the junior officers didn't even know him.
One day a young lieutenant walked into King's tent. She saw a man with private's stripes sitting in a chair and relaxing. He was smoking a cigarette.
"Is the general in?" she asked
"Sorry, he's having a smoke. Care for one?"
The man held out a pack of cigarettes with one sticking out. The lieutenant suddenly realized it was King. She snapped to attention.
"I'm sorry, General King, I didn't realize..."
"Oh, forget it, forget it," King waved it off, "I'm trying to look unimposing. Why are you here, lieutenant?"
"I was sent to tell the general that the senior officers are assembled for your briefing."
"Oh, good," he said, standing up, then looked at her for a moment, "Is something troubling you, lieutenant?"
"General, your overcoat hasn't got any stars on it."
"Well, it would only have one star to begin with. I'm not wearing any, though. I can't risk Eastern snipers with telescopic lenses popping me in the head because they see I'm a commander. I've got to look like any other man."
"I've learned that troops don't take kindly to orders from men without insignia."
"I know," King said, "My helmet's got a light green star on a dark green background. Snipers won't see it but the troops will know. Do I look like a regular bastard?"
The younger officer looked at the brigadier. He had never believed in the spit and polish techniques of most officers, but he looked particularly filthy today. His red hair was unkempt, his face was unshaved, and he was covered with dirt.
"With all due respect, you look like a mess, general."
King left his tent for the officer's meeting and began speaking before he had even taken a seat.
"I've just received word," he said to his senior officers, "We're moving out today, at 0200."
"That's not enough time to mobilize," one captain pointed out.
"Well, that's what the Easterners think. We've got to prove them wrong. This whole operation has got to be done on a completely different time schedule then we're used to. We've got to synchronize everything with the Polish partisans. No one can sleep until we've reached Athens."
All the officers glared. If they had been of lesser rank they would have groaned, but one did not groan in front of a general.
"The Polish aren't our only concern, either. We've got to keep our Russian friends in mind, too. They can't divert their forces from Mongolia for long before the Imps catch wind of it and push forward, then the Russians will have to go defend from that.
"This has got to be a swift and instantaneous maneuver. We've got to slice through the Eastern Bloc before the Russians have to leave. Speed is of the essence, ladies and gentlemen. I've wasted enough of your time already. Remember, 2:00 on the dot. Dismissed."
King sighed after the others had left.
"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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