tagSci-Fi & FantasyLove of the Motherland

Love of the Motherland


*Both Men and Nations make ware, but only men make love*

(The Nazi Regime was evil; the German Army of the time, the Heer, did horrible things, but in the end armies are made up of ordinary men and this is a story of ordinary men in bad situations)

(Two hours before sunset Day1)

Sergeant Heinz Klausenbach pressed himself through the waist deep snow toward the outpost of the neighboring 3rd Battalion. They sat on the extreme north of his own company's position, if you could consider what was left of his command a company. Right now every one of his soldiers was praying to see New Year's Day of 1942, and a prayer was about all they had. The German Wehrmacht was reeling from the massive Soviet Winter offensive and its very existence was in danger.

Heinz looked around, trying to get his bearings in the heavy snowfall. He was sure he should have crossed a sentry by now. He checked the bolt on his Mauser rifle; it still worked even in this terrible cold. He snuck up on a figure slumped against as tree. He had on a German helmet so Heinz tapped him and whispered.

"Hey, don't let your officers find you asleep." The man didn't move. The Sergeant placed a gloved hand on the man's shoulder and was immediately impressed with the cold emanating from him. It bit harder than the lethal winds. Heinz turned the man around and gasped. Even in the cloud-covered failing light the man was an icy blue. He was frozen solid.

Heinz didn't want to think about how long the man had to have been out for this to happen. With a sense of dread he pressed on to the last known location of the battalion HQ. He soon came across more frozen corpses. Some looked like they'd died in their sleeps but a few had this look of horror on their faces, as if something had overtaken them.

The German came upon the edge of the encampment and slowed down. Nothing seemed to stir in the camp. Heinz endeavored to make it to the battalion radio and relate this disaster. His entire regiment's position was compromised and it was worth his life to save his comrades. As he rounded the main tent and headed for the entrance he found a woman in bare-feet standing over a small clump of frozen men.

She had on a loose white gown, cinched at the waist by a black rope. Her skin was alabaster, her hair was waist long, black and seemed to billow about the woman; her lips were a ruddy blue as were her eyes, and her breath came in deep, labored puffs.

"Comrade," he called out softly in German.

The woman turned to face him fully. She was clearly very close to freezing to death. With a moment's hesitation he leant his rifle against the closest tree and tore off his great coat. Steam wafted off his body and the cold intensified as the woman drew close. She was reaching for him when he stepped beside her and wrapped his coat around her chilly shoulders.

The woman looked at Heinz in confusion.

"I know you can't understand me," he continued in German, "but if I don't get you to a fire soon you will die. Let me get you some boots and a spare coat and I'll take you back to me fire."

The woman silently regarded him with her dark eyes framed in her classic Slavic features.

She seemed to be a very beautiful Russian woman who had experienced a rough time of late. Heinz didn't worry about any of that. If they both stayed out here too long, he would die alongside her. She was so cold it hurt his arm where she grabbed him to steady herself as he put some fur boots on her feet. He took an officer's trench coat and grabbed her chilly hands.

The hands felt too bitter to hold so Heinz brought them up to his face and blew hot breath on her. A glimmer of a smile crossed the woman's lips. She said something in Russian, but he hadn't a clue what it was. When the radio proved wrecked he began to drag her back to his own men's position. The woman was careful to follow in the path he stomped through the snow. Twice he stopped to blow again on her freezing hands. Each time she gave that ghost of a smile.

"Halt," hissed a voice in the twilight.

"Gunner, I'm back. Get ready to pull back as soon as I give the word," Heinz instructed the private on picket duty.

"What happened?" he called out carefully. Sound carried far over the snow. "Who is with you?"

"The 3rd Battalion is gone," Heinz whispered back. "She's the only one I could find."

"They left us? The bastards," Gunner growled.

"No, they are all dead. I didn't find anyone alive this side of the HQ. We need to get the hell out of here," the Sergeant said.

Heinz led the woman to his own little command post. His lieutenant had gone to his own battalion HQ two days ago right before the last big push by the Soviets and hadn't been seen since. Heinz had been husbanding the lives of his remaining forty-five men. A few quick orders and his men began to move out. He wouldn't bother radioing Battalion until he'd made his move because he knew what their demands would be.

He rolled in his pickets and began his retreat, Fuhrer Orders be damned. The Great Leader ordered that every German stand fast to the last bullet. That was Berlin; in Russia Sgt. Klausenbach had decided to make sure as many of his men as possible lived to see Germany once again. If he followed his conscience they might shoot him. If he stayed, the Russians would definitely kill all of them.

"Sir, what do we do with the girl?" one of his corporals asked. Heinz looked her over.

"We'll leave her at the next village we come to. If we abandon her we might as well shoot her. She'll never survive out here on her own," Heinz responded. He offered the woman his hand which she took. Together they led the little German troop in their retreat further west.

Two hours later the weary men trudged up to the 'next' village. It wasn't much; twelve houses and two communal buildings. A quick scouting mission revealed that the village hand no soldiers, German or Russian, in it. Heinz had his command move stealthily into the settlement, capturing and securing the various homes as the entered.

That done, the German's rounded up the male villagers. Heinz put them to work creating walk ways through the deep snows. His scroungers dug up food supplies which he had the majority of women cook into a hot meal. Using a trick he had picked up in France, Heinz fed the entire village from the prepared food. All the while he felt the eyes of the woman upon him, somehow weighing him in judgment. He was too tired to care.

Unfortunately none of the Russians spoke German and the best translator in his unit could only get rudimentary things across. After some finagling, the Sergeant was able communicate to the head of the commune that he was trying to find out who the strange woman belonged to. He talked to the woman who responded in a way that he didn't like. The head man shrugged to the German's.

When Heinz went out to check the men he'd placed around the outer buildings, the woman insisted in coming along, no matter how much he tried to dissuade her. When they got back he made a point to wrap her in a blanket and lay her down next to the fire. Even as he put himself up against a post in the building to grab the few hours of sleep allowed a non-com, she was still looking him over.

(Next sunrise Day 2)

"Sergeant Klausenbach, you do realize that you have compromised our entire position," snapped the colonel's adjutant. Sergeants didn't get to talk to the real 'powers that be'. "You need to move back and reestablish the line at once."

"Sir, the 3rd Battalion is all gone sir, or at least the two companies I ran across. Sir they were frozen to death. There is no way my forty-five men can plug a hole that wide."

"If you fail to follow your orders Sergeant, you will be arrested and returned to Regimental command to stand trial for cowardice in the face of the enemy," the officer threatened. Heinz looked over at the few men in the communal barn with him. The woman studied him intently as well. Heinz was beginning to suspect she understood more than she was letting on.

"I can't do it sir," Heinz sighed. "What you want me to do can't be done and I'm not going to have all my men die trying to fulfill this insane command just to save my own life. Do what you must." There was no response for the longest time; seconds became minutes.

"Sergeant Klausenbach, can you defend your current position?" the adjutant asked.

"I'm in a small village and I've got a good view of the terrain. I can hold it against anything short of a determined attack. Is there any hope of artillery support?" Heinz asked.

"We will do what we can," the officer answered.

"Unless they throw a battalion at me, I'll hold this position Sir."

"I'll get you some supplies as soon as we figure out where you are," was the man's final statement before the connection ended and Heinz was left looking at his men. One of his men stuck a hot cup of ersatz-coffee which tasted like crap but warmed the blood. He offered half of the cup to the girl who drank it and made a face that had to say 'are you trying to poison me?'

Heinz quickly formed some plan for the defense of the village. Once he figured out the best building to hold on to, he moved the families into the houses closer to the center. He fortified the strongpoints and set the other buildings up to be burned if he needed to get rid of them. Convinced he was doing the best he could, he took out a small patrol east to see if he could spot the Russians but there didn't seem to be any around for miles.

(4 hours later Day 2)

As he came back to the village from the east he heard supply trucks coming in from the west side of the village. Heinz took deep sigh and despite the icy daggers in his lungs, he felt happy. With the proper supplies in his current fortifications, he knew his men could hold out as needed. Only when the trucks came close to village did Heinz start to get a funny feeling about things.

There were not enough trucks and too much protection. There was a jeep, two half-tracks guarding only two trucks. It was lavish protection for the resupply for one under-strength company. When the leader stepped out one of the soldiers with him grumbled. For Heinz it was more a matter of raw anger that came with desperate disappointment. They were an SS security detail.

Everyone in the Army had heard rumors of these detachments. Their generous critics called their actions 'anti-partisan' operations; others whispered accusations of villages leveled and mass executions. Heinz had little hope he was here to help them hold off actual Russian soldiers. The leader was the SS equivalent of a Captain, though he had no rank in the Heer.

"Sergeant Klausenbach," the Captain said scanning the bundled up German soldiers. Heinz stepped forward.

"That would be me. Have you come to resupply us?" Heinz asked in even tone.

"No," the SS man began.

"Have you come to relieve us?" Heinz interrupted.

"No," the man continued.

"Then why in the hell are you in my village?" Heinz snapped. The closest armed SS guards bristled at the treatment of their officer, but the Captain merely smiled in an effete gesture.

"As I have been trying to tell you Sergeant, there has been a report of unusual activity and my unit is here to investigate," he smiled like a predatory cat. Heinz tried not to feel like its next meal.

"Like what ... sir?" Heinz inquired.

"A whole battalion froze to death; I need to know if you noticed anything unusual when you scouted the scene," the Captain questioned. Two the closest German soldiers shot Heinz a quick look. The woman who was right behind him stayed motionless.

"Nothing sir, except a number of men frozen solid with a few of those clearly terrified before they died," Heinz lied.

"Oh ... a pity; I will need you to lead me and some of my men to the site," the SS captain said with a white toothy grin.

"Sir, you have to realize that the whole area has to be crawling with Communists by now. I can't justify throwing the lives of my men away on such a foolish errand," Heinz protested.

"First Sergeant, this wasn't a request. I have orders from your regiment to accord me, my men, and my mission every available resource. Secondly, the only guide I need is you. Leave your men in safety. Finally, it shouldn't be the Russian soldiers you should be afraid of," he grinned.

"What does that mean?" Heinz asked.

"That is not important to you," the Captain pointed out, rubbing his clean shaven jawline. Heinz stepped forward and extended his hands. With a great show of forbearance the SS Captain (whose name turned out to be G. Sierech) gave Heinz his orders who read them. A cold wind threatened to steal the paper away. Heinz swore under his breath.

"I've only now come in from patrol Captain Sierech. Let me warm myself by the fire and get a bite to eat. You and your men can join us," Heinz suggested. The SS Captain acknowledged the wisdom of the gesture and soon thirty SS men were inside the communal barn with nearly half the villagers.

"You need to stay here with the others," Heinz pleaded with the woman when they had a moment alone. "Listen, I don't know if you can understand any of this, but I think they are after you and if they figure out who you are they will kill you. Please understand that." She looked into his eyes then past him.

"Who is the woman?" Captain Sierech inquired politely having snuck up close enough to hear voices but clearly not their intent.

"She is my woman," Heinz offered.

"You have good taste in woman. Too bad she's a Slav," Sierech noted contemptuously. "Woman, do you pleasure him?"

"I prefer to think that she has good taste in men," Heinz countered. The woman made no sign that she understood the SS officer.

"She doesn't speak much German, does she?" he smiled in that chilling way of his.

"She doesn't need to speak for what I want," Heinz highly exaggerated. He was far too exhausted for sex and even if he had, he couldn't stomach rape or rapists.

Three things happened in rapid succession. Sierech moved to snatch the woman by the hair, the woman stumbled away, and Heinz snapped up his arm and batted the officer's arm aside.

The officer reached for his pistol then froze. Heinz had a knife to his throat.

"Be careful with your next action, Sergeant," hissed Sierech. All over the room German soldiers and SS men were pointing weapons at one another. There were more SS in the room, but it wouldn't help Sierech; Heinz would kill him. The Captain's chest heaved in anticipation.

"Button up your pistol Captain," Heinz said angrily. "As you said, be careful with your next action." The officer shrugged and buttoned up his holder and moved his hand away. Heinz put his knife back in its sheath and told his men to stand down.

"Let me finish here and I'll be ready to be your guide in five minutes, Sir."

Sierech gave the Hitler salute which Heinz was obliged to follow and once he had a moment, he pulled the woman aside.

"Does this have anything to do with you?" Heinz asked. He got no reply. "If I got you some provisions could you make your way to the Russian lines?" Again, no reply.

"Damn it," Heinz pleaded, "I'm trying to save you and I know you know more about what is happening here than you are letting on." By this time the SS were gathering for the mission. "I can't be here to protect you," which brought a smile to her lips. He'd even dressed her down like one of his soldiers

When he got into the truck he found and odd assortment of gear. Some of it was weird electronic detection units. There were also a good many White Phosphorus grenades and flame throwers. The also had light mortars and plenty of ammunition. Heinz was stepping up when the woman came running up to him. She kissed him as if we were old lovers, deep and rich and something so strong it rattled his toes. Fear, fatigue and even the cold vanished in this surge of warmth. He couldn't have appreciated it more it if had been a three day pass.

Heinz convinced them that the best bet was to go around the north then trying due east along 3rd battalion designated retreat route. With the trucks left behind, the SS-team made good time until they got close to the battalion parameter. They seemed interested in the frozen bodies as a matter of research and Heinz with two years of university knew just enough that something worse than the wretched winter was at work here.

(4pm Day 2)

I quickly became clear that the soviets come this way, but decided to go around it and continued on to the north. At the camp thing were pretty much as he had left them. No sooner had they arrived the SS began searching the ground for tracks. They found what they were looking for too. Bare woman's footprints. Heinz did his best to appear skeptical without offering any explanation. After some work they determined that the woman had stalked Heinz back to his camp and then followed his troops in the direction of the village.

"What did you do here?" the SS Captain Sierech commanded. He had the polished wood case of a sniper rifle on his back. Somehow that choice of weapons suited him.

"I walked the perimeter, came in looking for survivors among that stack of bodies thinking that some survivors would have buried themselves for warmth. Finding no one I looted the officers for boots and coats to give to my men.

"Did you see anyone?" Sierech persisted.

"I don't understand the question; if it had been a Russian I would have shot them and you would see a dead Russian and if it had been a German solider I would have brought them back with me and you would be talking to him not me," Heinz answered sarcastically. "Perhaps you mean wildlife?"

"Was there any unusual wildlife," the SS Captain snapped, clearly at his end with Heinz's attitude.

"None that I noted. There was absolutely no noise on my approach – no mice or birds, which was unusual. That implies a large number of men normally – living men, but I found no such thing."

"Have you seen much combat Klausenbach?" He asked.

"I was in Poland then France then here. I've seen my share of dead bodies, virtually all of them being men capable of fighting back," Heinz grinned.

"Do you think you know more than the Supreme Authority of the Reich?" he said sweetly. Heinz began wondering if the man was gay. He looked at Heinz funny and not in a good way.

"No, that is a political problem. I do wish someone had waiting until we'd actually beaten the Russians before giving them the desperation to fight to the death instead of surrendering like sane human beings," Heinz sighed.

"You sound critical of the current government policy," Sierech grinned at his own cleverness.

"Critical? Well if you mean do I think this is the stupidest thing since walking into Russia without the proper clothing for a winter campaign then yes I'm critical of this blatant stupidity on your part, but them I'm only a lowly sergeant out to save the lives of my men. In essence, I am a good German soldier while you following an idiotic policy driven by unmilitary concerns... Sir!" Heinz saluted.

"I could have you shot right here, right now," Sierech threatened in a disturbingly pleasant tone.

"You could have had me shot back at the village," Heinz countered. "This way I've had the pleasure of your sterling personality as well as a chance to revisit some of this wonderful, snow-covered Russian countryside."

"Do you like courting fate?" Sierech said seriously.

"No, I want to live, but right now it is becoming less and less likely that I can save my men's lives. We will defend a village whose name I don't even know, probably killing most of the villagers as well for no purpose. Can I give you a lesson in military tactics Captain?" Sierech nodded.

"The rest of my battalion is a kilometer to the south. The rest of the regiment is three kilometers to the north. In the middle of this hole, on the only road through the region it's my command. There is nothing to stop them from surrounding me and I only have a reduced company to defend the entire village."

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