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Coup d'Etat

Coup d'Etat


Harry Turtledove Coup d'Etat

Chapter 1

    Manila harbor was a mess. Pete McGill hadn’t expected it to be anything else. And the fierce Philippine sun beat down on him even though it was January. The past few years, he’d served in Peking and Shanghai. He was used to winter blowing straight down from Siberia. This muggy tropical heat, by contrast, seemed like too much of a good thing.
    He still wasn’t as steady on his pins as he wished he were, either. The bomb in Shanghai that killed his ladylove came much too close to finishing him, too. The docs here did as good a job of patching him up as they could, and he’d had time to heal. All the same, an ankle ached and a shoulder twinged every time he took a step. His face was set in a permanent grimace, not least so nobody would notice him wincing and try to send him back to the hospital.
    Or maybe no one would bother any which way. It looked to Pete as if they’d take anybody with a pulse right now. A fireboat played streams of water on a burning barge. Whatever was going up didn’t seem to care. Black, greasy, stinking smoke rose high into the sky.
    That wasn’t the only fire burning around here, either-nowhere close. Pete coughed harder than he usually did after his first morning cigarette. Jap bombing raids had hit the airports and the harbor hard. Now the only question was when the slant-eyed little monkeys would try to land an invasion force. Pete was sure it wouldn’t be long.
    Maybe all the smoke here would keep them from bombing accurately. Maybe…
    “Out of the fucking way, Corporal, goddammit!” somebody bellowed behind Pete.
    “Sorry.” He sidestepped as fast as he could, which wasn’t very. A petty officer went back to yelling at the Filipino gun crew manhandling an antiaircraft gun into place. The swab jockey must have served here for a while, because he was as fluently profane in Tagalog as he was in English.
    Pete picked his way through the chaos toward the light cruiser Boise. The U.S. Asiatic Fleet wasn’t very big. This part of the world was too close to Japanese waters for the USA to risk much around here. Chances were that meant the Philippines would fall, something the Marine tried hard not to think about.
    Bomb fragments scarred and dented the Boise ’s metalwork, but she hadn’t taken any direct hits. If-no, when-Japanese planes came back… with luck, she wouldn’t be here. Exhaust from her funnels meant she could get going in a hurry. She could, and she probably would.
    But she hadn’t yet. Mooring lines and a gangplank still tethered her to the wharf. Ignoring the pain in his leg, Pete strode up the gangplank and saluted the fresh-faced ensign standing at the far end of it. “Permission to come aboard, sir?” he asked the officer of the deck.
    After returning the salute, the kid asked, “And you are…?”
    “Corporal Peter McGill, sir, reporting as ordered.”
    The ensign checked the papers in the clipboard he carried in his left hand. “McGill… Yes, here you are.” He made a checkmark with a mechanical pencil he pulled from his breast pocket. The United States might be at war, but that didn’t mean you didn’t have to dot every i and cross every t. Not yet it didn’t, anyhow. Once the sacred checkmark went into place, the youngster unbent enough to add, “Permission granted.”
    “Thank you, sir.” As soon as Pete set foot on the ship, he turned and saluted the Stars and Stripes at the stern. The flag fluttered in the warm, moist breeze.
    “Dalrymple!” the ensign called. As if by magic, a tall, redheaded able seaman appeared beside him. “Take Corporal, uh, McGill to the Marines’ quarters. We’ll let them decide how best to use him.” As if catching himself at that, he asked Pete, “You can serve a five-inch gun, can’t you?”
    “Oh, yes, sir,” Pete answered at once. Marines aboard battleships and cruisers often manned the big ships’ secondary armament. The Boise fought other ships with half a dozen long six-inch guns mounted in three turrets. The stubbier five-inchers and a variety of smaller, quick-firing weapons tried to keep planes off her.
    When they weren’t serving the secondary armament, shipboard Marines also did duty as constables. Pete didn’t look forward to that. He wanted to fight Japs, not his own countrymen. Along with everything Hirohito’s bastards had done to him, he had Vera to pay them back for, too. A million slanties might be enough for that. Two would definitely be better, though.
    “Come on with me, Corporal. I’ll show you where you can stow your duffel and all,” Dalrymple said.
    “I’m coming,” Pete said. The sailor took long, quick steps. Keeping up with him made Pete’s ankle whimper, but he took no notice of it.
    He knew about where he’d be going, but not exactly. He’d served aboard two destroyers and a battleship before going to Peking, but never a cruiser. Steps between decks might almost have been ladders: the treads were that narrow and steep. He managed to stay close to Dalrymple, anyhow.
    Two corporals and two sergeants were playing pinochle in the cramped bunkroom to which the able seaman led him. They glanced up with no particular interest or liking. But one of the two-stripers looked vaguely familiar. “You’re Joe Orsatti, aren’t you?” Pete said.
    “Yeah.” The other guy’s swarthy face scrunched up as he eyed Pete in a new way. “We were in the Brooks together, weren’t we? Sorry, Mac, but screw me if I remember your handle.” His New York City accent might have been even more clotted than Pete’s.
    “McGill,” Pete said, and stuck out his hand. Orsatti reached for it. Their trial of strength was a push, or near enough. Pete chucked his duffel onto a top bunk. He wasn’t surprised to run into somebody with whom he’d served before. The Marines were a small club, and noncoms in the Corps a smaller one.
    Orsatti introduced Pete to the other card players. They switched from pinochle to poker. Pete lost a little, won a little, lost a little more. He was down five bucks when the general-quarters klaxon hooted. He hadn’t heard that noise in years, but it still raised his hackles.
    “What do I do? Where do I go?” he asked as they all sprang to their feet. “You guys are the only ones I’ve seen.”
    “C’mon with me,” Orsatti said. “Our shell jerker’s got a bad back. I bet you can feed us ammo faster’n him.”
    Pete hadn’t said anything about his own injuries. He didn’t say anything now, either. Instead, he followed Orsatti to a portside five-inch gun.
    “Step aside, Jonesy,” Orsatti snapped to the private standing next to the ammunition hoist. “We got a new guy here who ain’t gonna keel over on us.”
    “I’m okay, goddammit,” Jonesy said.
    “Move,” Orsatti told him, and the other Marine moved. Such was the power of two stripes.
    Pete grabbed a shell and handed it to the loader. How much did it weigh? Fifty pounds? Seventy-five? He wasn’t in anything like good hard shape. He’d have to do the best he could-that was all. He could hear planes overhead. The more they could knock down or scare off, the better.
    The gun roared. The smaller antiaircraft guns were already stuttering out destruction. He seized the next shell and passed it on. Sweat was already springing out. Only dead men didn’t sweat like pigs in the Philippines.
    A plane with big red meatballs on the wings and fuselage plummeted into the harbor, trailing smoke and fire. The blast as its bombs exploded staggered Pete; water they kicked up drenched him. And a glistening metal fragment tore out Jonesy’s throat. His cheers turned to horrible gobbling noises. He clutched at his neck with both hands, but blood sprayed and gushed all the same. His hands relaxed. He slumped to the deck. He couldn’t hope to live, not with his head half cut off.
    More bombs whistled down. In spite of blast and whining, screeching fragments-in spite of almost literally being scared shitless-Pete went on feeding the five-inch gun. Maybe the intense antiaircraft fire from the Boise did scare off some Japs. Maybe the light cruiser was just lucky. Any which way, she picked up a few new dents and dings, but no more. Some of the other gun crews also had men down, wounded or as dead as Jonesy. All the same, she remained a going concern.
    Her skipper decided it was time for her to get going, too. As soon as the Japanese bombers droned off to the west-back toward Jap-owned Formosa, Pete supposed-he ordered the lines cast off and the gangplank raised. Then he took her out of the harbor as fast as she would go. Nobody aboard had a bad word or, Pete was sure, a bad thought about that. If she stayed where she was, odds were she wouldn’t stay lucky a third time. All the old boring jokes about sitting ducks applied.
    And Pete had more new buddies than Joe Orsatti. Go through a fight with a gun crew and you were all pals if you survived it. Jonesy-his first name was Elijah-went into the Pacific shrouded in cloth and weighed down by shell casings, along with half a dozen other dead men. The Boise raced south at upwards of thirty knots, looking for… Pete didn’t exactly know what. Whatever it proved to be, he hoped he’d come out the other side again.
    JANUARY 20, 1941, was a miserable, frigid day in Philadelphia. Sleet made the roads anywhere from dangerous to impossible. Ice clung to power lines, too, and its weight brought some of them down. Peggy Druce wouldn’t have wanted to be without electricity in this weather. If you didn’t use coal, if you had an oil-fired furnace that depended on a pump, losing power meant that before long you’d start chopping up your furniture and burning it so you didn’t freeze to death.
    Washington lay less than a hundred miles south, but it was conveniently on the other side of the cold front. Lowell Thomas assured his nationwide radio audience that it was in the forties, with clouds moving in front of the sun every now and then but no rain and certainly no sleet. Peggy, who hadn’t seen the sun since last Friday, was bright green with envy.
    “We are here on this historic occasion to observe the third inauguration of President Roosevelt,” Thomas said in his ringing, sonorous tones. “This is, of course, the first time in the history of the United States that a President will be inaugurated for a third term. And, with the nation plunged into war little more than a week ago through the Empire of Japan’s unprovoked attacks on Hawaii and the Philippines, the President surely has a lot on his mind.”
    Peggy wished Herb were sitting there beside her listening to the ceremony, too. Things weren’t so easy between them as they had been before she got back from Europe. She wished like hell some of what had happened there hadn’t happened. Those wishes did as much, or as little, good as ever. Still, she would have enjoyed what were sure to be his sarcastic comments about the ceremony farther south.
    But her husband had taken the Packard in to his law office regardless of the slick, icy roads. He hadn’t called with tales of accidents, and neither had the police or a hospital, so Peggy supposed he’d made it downtown in one piece.
    He was bound to have the radio on if he wasn’t with a client, and maybe if he was. Herb was always somebody who kept up with the news. Till Peggy got stuck in war-torn Europe, she’d wondered whether that had any point. She didn’t any more.
    Lowell Thomas dropped his voice a little: “Ladies and gentlemen, Chief Justice Hughes will administer the oath of office to President Roosevelt. With his robes and his white beard, the Chief Justice looks most distinguished, most distinguished indeed. He also gave the President the oath at his two previous inaugurations.”
    Only a few old men wore beards in these modern times. Well, Charles Evans Hughes was pushing eighty. He’d probably grown his before the turn of the century, decided he liked it, and kept it ever since. He’d come as close as a bad Republican turnout in California to unseating Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The world would be a different place if he had. Peggy wasn’t sure how, but she was sure it would be.
    “Are you ready to take the oath, Mr. President?” Hughes sounded younger than he was, even if rumor said he would step down from the Court before too long.
    “I am, Mr. Chief Justice.” No one who’d ever heard FDR’s jaunty voice could mistake it.
    “Repeat after me, then,” Hughes said.
    And the President-the third-term President-did: “I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
    “Congratulations, Mr. President,” the Chief Justice said.
    “They are shaking hands,” Lowell Thomas said quietly.
    In the background, applause rose like the sound of surging surf. “Thank you very much,” Roosevelt said, and then again, a moment later, “Thank you.”
    “He is holding up his hands to still the clapping,” Thomas noted. But the clapping didn’t want to still. Back in 1933, FDR’d said we had nothing to fear but fear itself. Well, we had other things to fear now, starting with Japanese planes and carriers and battleships and soldiers.
    “Thank you,” Roosevelt said once more. Slowly, the applause ebbed. Very slowly: it was as if people didn’t want the President to go on, because if he did they would have to look out across the sea at the big, dangerous world. Into something approaching quiet, FDR continued, “Believe me, I do thank you, from the bottom of my heart. What greater honor can any man claim than the continued confidence of the American people?”
    That drew more applause and cheers. Now, though, they quickly died away. “I am going to tell you the plain truth,” Roosevelt said, “and the plain truth is, things could be better. When I ran for reelection promising not to send American boys off to fight in a foreign war, I meant every word of it.”
    Peggy coughed as she inhaled cigarette smoke. Nobody in the United States played a deeper political game than FDR. When he started going on about what a plain, simple fellow he was, that was the time to hold on to your wallet.
    “But we have had war delivered to us no matter how little we want it.” The President let anger rise in his voice. “And our freedom is threatened not only in the Far East. Whoever wins the great European struggle, liberty will be the loser.”
    He was bound to be right about that. Whether Hitler beat Stalin or the other way around, the winner would be big trouble for the rest of the world. Right now, with France and England trailing along in his wake because he’d pulled German troops out of France, the Nazi seemed to have the edge on the Red. But there could be more big switches after the one Daladier and Chamberlain had pulled. Nobody would know under which shell the pea lurked till all the sliding around stopped.
    Some people suspected Roosevelt’s intentions, too. “No European war!” a man yelled, loud enough for Lowell Thomas’ microphone to pick it up.
    Hitler hadn’t declared war on the United States. If he did, it would hurt his palsy-walsy relationship with the last two surviving Western European democracies. It wouldn’t do the Third Reich any good, either. Peggy’d spent much more time in Nazi Germany than she ever wanted. The Germans didn’t understand how strong the USA could be. But even the Fuhrer seemed to want to take things one step at a time.
    “I do not intend to get us involved in a European war,” Roosevelt said firmly-so firmly, in fact, that Peggy got that wallet-clutching urge again. Did that yell come from a shill? Then the President proceeded to hedge: “I did not intend to get us involved in war against Japan, either. The only things I know for certain now are that the road ahead will be long and hard and dangerous, and that the United States of America will emerge triumphant at the end of that road.”
    He got another hand then. Peggy remembered that, back in the days of ancient Rome, people used to keep track of how many times the Senate applauded the Emperor when he addressed it. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she did. Maybe Herb told her once upon a time-they’d rammed a big dose of Latin down his throat in high school and college. Somebody needed to keep track of the ovations in Washington today.
    “We are going to become the arsenal of democracy, as I said in my Fireside Chat not long ago,” the President continued. “We must be strong enough to defeat the enemy in the Far East and to ensure that no enemy anywhere in the world can possibly defeat us.”
    Yet again, people clapped and cheered. How many of those people had the faintest idea what war was like? Oh, some of the men would have gone Over There a generation before. They’d seen the elephant, as their grandfathers would have said in Civil War days. Most of FDR’s audience, though, didn’t really have any idea of what he was talking about.
    Peggy did. She’d watched the Nazis storm into Czechoslovakia and promptly start tormenting Jews. She’d watched them march off freighters and into Copenhagen, ruining her chances to get back to the States for a while. She’d huddled against their bombs-and, while she was stuck in Germany, against English bombs, too, and maybe even against French and Russian bombs as well.
    So she knew as much about what war was like these days as anyone who hadn’t carried a rifle could. Some people cheering Roosevelt would find out just that way. And others would learn when young men they loved came back maimed or didn’t come back at all. Would they still be cheering then?
    The truly scary thing was, all the anguish and agony Roosevelt wouldn’t talk about in an inaugural address were going to be needed. The horror Peggy had seen and gone through in Europe made her much too sure of that.

    Sarah Goldman eyed the clerk behind the barred window in the Munster Rathaus with nothing but dismay. She’d never faced this fellow before. It wasn’t that he was gray-haired and had a hook where his left hand should have been. No one young and healthy would have sat behind that window. Young, healthy German men wore Feldgrau these days, not a baggy brown suit that reeked of mothballs.
    But a button gleamed on the clerk’s left lapel. It wasn’t the ordinary swastika button that proved somebody belonged to the Nazi party. No: The gold rim on this button showed that the clerk was one of the first 100,000 Party members. He’d been a Nazi long before Hitler came to power, in other words. He’d like Jews even less than most National Socialists.
    “You wish?” he said as Sarah came to the head of the queue. He sounded polite enough for the moment. Well, why not? She was a pretty girl-not beautiful, but pretty. And, with her light brown hair, hazel eyes, and fair skin, she didn’t look especially Jewish.
    “I need…” She had to nerve herself to speak louder than a whisper. “I need to arrange the paperwork for my wedding.” There. She’d said it, and loud enough for him to hear it, too.
    “You should be happy when you do that, dear.” The clerk might be graying and mutilated, but he noticed a pretty girl, all right. Behind the reading glasses that magnified them, his own pale eyes seemed enormous as he studied her. He held out his good hand. “Let me have your identity booklet, and we’ll begin.”
    “All right,” Sarah said as she took the indispensable document out of her purse. It wasn’t all right, and it wasn’t going to be.
    He held the document down with the hook and opened it with the fingers of his meat hand. He was no slower or clumsier than someone who hadn’t got hurt. How many years of practice and repetition lay behind him?
    “Oh,” he said in a voice suddenly colder than the nasty weather outside. Of course the booklet bore the big stamp that said Jude. The Nazis had made all German Jews take the first names Moses or Sarah. Since Sarah already owned the one required for women, she’d briefly confused the bureaucracy. She didn’t confuse the clerk now. She just irritated him, or more likely disgusted him. He shook his head. “ You wish to… marry?”
    “Yes, sir,” she said. Staying polite wouldn’t hurt, though it might not help, either. “It’s not against the law for two Jews to marry each other, sir.”
    That was true-after a fashion. Law for Jews in Germany these days was whatever the Nazis said it was. Jews weren’t even German citizens any more. They were only residents, forced to become strangers in what most of them still thought of as their Vaterland.
    “Well…” the clerk said ominously. He pushed back his chair and stood up. He was shorter than Sarah expected; the chair let him look down on the people he was supposed to serve. Shaking his head, he went on, “I must consult with my supervisor.”
    The stout middle-aged woman behind Sarah in line groaned. “What’s eating him?” she said.
    Sarah only shrugged. She knew, all right, but she didn’t think telling would do her any good. She waited as patiently as she could for the clerk to return. The woman and the people in the queue behind her grumbled louder and louder. Anything that made him leave his post obviously sprang from a plot to throw sand in the system’s gear train.
    He came back after three or four minutes that seemed like an hour. With him came another functionary, this one a little older, who also wore an alter Kampfer ’s gold-rimmed Party button on his lapel. The newcomer eyed Sarah as if he’d have to clean her off the bottom of his shoe.
    “ You want to get married?” he said, his voice full of even more revolted disbelief than his subordinate’s had held.
    “Yes, sir,” Sarah repeated. Whatever she thought of him, she carefully didn’t show.
    “And your intended is also of Hebraic blood?”
    “That’s right.” Sarah supposed her family had some Aryans in the woodpile. Isidor Bruck looked like what everybody’s idea of looking Jewish looked like. He came by it honestly-so did his father and mother and younger brother.
    “What is his name?” the senior bureaucrat asked. She gave it. The senior man sneered. “No, that is not correct. He is Moses Isidor Bruck, and will be so listed in our records.”
    “Sorry,” said Sarah, who was anything but. She was mad at herself. She’d just been thinking about the forced name change, but she’d forgotten to use it. Nobody remembered… except people like the ones on the other side of the window.
    “I see by your documents that you are twenty years old,” the senior man said. “And what is the age of the other Hebrew?” It was as if he couldn’t even bear to say the word Jew.
    “He’s, uh, twenty-two,” Sarah answered.
    “Why is he not here to speak for himself?” the bureaucrat demanded.
    “He’s working, sir. He’s a baker, like his father.” Bakers never starved. When rations for most German Jews were so miserable, that wasn’t the smallest consideration in the world.
    “Mrmp.” The functionary was anything but impressed. He scribbled a note on a form, then glared out through the bars that made him look like a caged animal. But he and his kind were the ones who kept Jews in the enormous cage they’d made of the Third Reich. “And what is your father’s occupation?”
    “He’s a laborer,” Sarah said, as steadily as she could. “He used to be a university professor when Jews could still do that.” Both Nazi bureaucrats scowled. To wipe those nasty expressions off their faces, Sarah added, “He’s a wounded war veteran, too. Wounded and decorated.”
    Benjamin Goldman’s Iron Cross Second Class and his limp did matter. Nazi laws mandated better treatment for Jews who’d fought at the front and their families. Not good treatment-nowhere near good treatment-but better.
    Sarah almost told the clerk and his boss that her father and brother tried to volunteer for the Wehrmacht this time around. But she didn’t want to remind them she was related to Saul Goldman, who was wanted for smashing in a labor gang boss’ head after the other fellow hit him and rode him for being a Jew once too often. On the lam, Saul had stolen papers or got his hands on a forged set, so he was in the army now even though the Nazis didn’t know it. The less they thought about him these days, the better Sarah liked it.
    Both men with gold-rimmed Party badges went right on looking unhappy. No matter what Nazi laws said about Jewish frontline veterans, a Jew with a medal and a wound was plainly just another kike to them. “Laborer,” the senior fellow said, and he wrote that down, too.
    “When will Isidor-uh, Moses Isidor-and I hear about getting official permission to marry, sir?” Sarah asked. This wasn’t her first trip to the Rathaus. Official policy made everything as difficult as possible for Jews. Marriage was definitely included. The Nazis wished there were no more Jews in Germany (or anywhere else, come to that). No wonder they weren’t enthusiastic about anything that threatened to produce more people they hated.
    “When?” the functionary echoed. “When we decide you will, that’s when.”
    “All right.” Sarah fought down a sigh. She didn’t want to give the Nazis the satisfaction of knowing they’d annoyed her. They might be pretty sure, but she didn’t aim to show them. She was her father’s daughter-no doubt about it. She even managed a smile of sorts as she said “Thank you very much” and left the window.
    “Well! About time!” said the stout gal who’d waited behind her. The woman started pouring out her tale of woe to the bureaucrats. Sarah didn’t hang around to find out how she fared. Any Jew in Germany had plenty of worries of her own.

    Theo Hossbach supposed he should have been happy that the Wehrmacht and its Polish, Slovakian, Hungarian, English, and French allies hadn’t lost more ground to the Red Army during this brutal winter. After all, a headlong retreat would have made it more likely for something bad to have happened to the Panzer II in which he served as radioman.
    But bad things could happen to the Panzer II all too easily any which way. The lightly armed, lightly armored three-man machines weren’t obsolescent any more. They were obsolete, and everybody who had anything to do with them knew as much. They soldiered on regardless. A veteran crew, which his panzer certainly had, could still get good use from one. And any panzer at all made infantry very unhappy.
    Besides, there were still nowhere near enough modern Panzer IIIs and IVs to go around. When the best weren’t available, the rest had to do what they could.
    What Theo’s company was doing now was protecting a stretch of front that ran from a village to a small town closer to Smolensk than to Minsk. Just exactly where the village and town lay, Theo wasn’t so sure. A good atlas might have shown him, but he didn’t have one. What difference did it make, anyhow?
    All he really knew was, the front had gone back and forth a good many times. Lately, it seemed to have gone back more often than it had gone forth. The Ivans were marvelous at slipping companies, sometimes even battalions or regiments, of infantry in white snowsuits behind the German lines and raising hell with them. They weren’t so good at taking advantage of the trouble they caused-which was a lucky thing for everybody who had to fight them.
    Theo still wore the black coveralls of a panzer crewman. They looked smart and didn’t show grease stains. No doubt that was why the powers that be had chosen them. But odds were a man in black coveralls running toward a hiding place through the snow wouldn’t live to get there.
    “Got a cigarette, Theo?” Adalbert Stoss asked.
    “Here.” Theo passed the driver a tobacco pouch. He doled out the fixings for a smoke more readily than he parted with words. Adi tore off a strip from a Russian newspaper none of the panzer men could read. He sprinkled tobacco from the pouch (taken off a dead Ivan) onto the cheap pulp paper, rolled the cigarette, and lit it-he did have matches.
    “Ahh,” he said after the first drag, exhaling a mixture of smoke and fog-it was well below freezing. “Much obliged.” He returned the pouch. Unlike a lot of soldiers Theo knew, Adi didn’t steal everything that wasn’t nailed down. His family must have raised him the right way… which didn’t necessarily make him the ideal man for life in the field.
    On the other hand, if anybody in a black coverall could make it to shelter running through the snow, Adi could. He was the best footballer Theo had ever seen except for a handful of professionals-and he was in their league. He was fast and strong and agile. And he was smart, which only added to his other gifts. With a sergeant’s pips, or even a corporal’s, he would have made a fine panzer commander.
    I should be jealous, Theo thought. He’d been in the war from the very beginning. Adi hadn’t. But Theo knew he would be a disaster trying to command a panzer. He was the kind of fellow other people didn’t notice, which suited him fine. Give orders? Talk all the time? No thanks!
    Sergeant Hermann Witt, who did command the panzer, had machine-made cigarettes of his own. Theo preferred the captured stuff. It might not be especially good, but by God it was strong. Everything that came out of Germany these days was adulterated-well, everything but the ammo, anyhow. The cigarettes that got issued along with rations tasted of hay and horseshit. The coffee was ersatz. People said the war bread had sawdust in it as a stretcher. Theo didn’t know if he believed that. People also said the war bread was better than it had been in the last fight. Theo didn’t know if he believed that, either. If the last generation had it worse than this, no wonder they threw the Kaiser out.
    The Nazis said Germany got stabbed in the back in 1918. Well, the Nazis said all kinds of things. Theo took them no more seriously than he had to. Since he said next to nothing himself, he wasn’t likely to get in trouble on account of that.
    He glanced over at Adi. Stoss smoked as intently as he did everything else. By all the signs, he didn’t take the Nazis very seriously, either. And chances were he had better reasons not to than even Theo’s.
    No sooner there than gone. Theo didn’t want to think about Stoss’ reasons. He didn’t want to, and so he didn’t. No matter how little use he had for the Nazis, he’d learned a thing or three since the Fuhrer came to power. He wasn’t even consciously aware that he had, which meant nothing at all. Ideas, thoughts, went into little armored compartments. When he wasn’t actively dealing with them, they might as well not have been there. No one else would ever notice them. More often than not, he didn’t notice them himself.
    Somebody who lived in a free country wouldn’t have to think that way. Theo understood as much. But, since he couldn’t do anything about it, he kept his mouth shut. Come to that, he kept it shut as much as he could.
    Even though he didn’t love the Nazis, he did love the Vaterland. And, regardless of what he thought of the current German regime, it had placed him-along with millions of other young German men-in a position where his country’s enemies would kill him if he didn’t fight hard.
    That was underscored when mortar bombs started dropping near the panzer crewmen. Russian rifles barked. “Urra!” the Ivans roared. “Urra! Urra!” They sounded like fierce wild animals. Their officers fed them vodka before sending them into action. It dulled their fear-and their common sense.
    Theo’s first instinct when the mortar rounds came in was to hit the dirt. His next instinct was to get inside the panzer. That was the better notion. He’d be at a little more risk while he was upright and running, but the machine’s armored sides would protect him against fragments and small-arms fire.
    Sergeant Witt and Adi Stoss also sprinted for the Panzer II. Other men in black coveralls dashed toward their machines, too. A couple of them didn’t make it. Those coveralls and their blood bright against the snow reproduced the German national colors. A bullet sparked off Theo’s panzer just a few centimeters from his head. He dove through the hatch behind the turret and slammed it shut. A Schmeisser hung on two brackets above his radio set. If somebody started climbing up onto the panzer, he’d open a hatch and start shooting. Otherwise, the submachine gun was there more to ease his mind than for any other reason.
    “Start it up!” Witt screamed at Adi. The order made sense-a panzer that was just sitting there was a panzer waiting for a Molotov cocktail. Theo didn’t want to think about burning gasoline dripping into the fighting compartment and setting things ablaze in here.
    But would the beast start? In a Russian winter, that was always an interesting question and often a terrifying one. The self-starter ground. Maybe Adi would have to get out and crank the engine to life-assuming he didn’t get shot to death before he could. Maybe even cranking wouldn’t get it going. German lubricants weren’t made for this hideous weather. Sometimes crews kept a fire burning through the night under the engine compartment to keep the engine warm enough to turn over in the morning.
    Adi tried it again. This time, to Theo’s amazed delight, the grinding noise turned into a full-throated roar as the engine fired up after all. “Forward!” Witt said, and the driver put the Panzer II into gear. Forward it went. Back against the fireproof-he hoped-bulkhead that separated the fighting compartment from the engine, Theo started to warm up. Heat came through slowly, but it came.
    Witt could traverse the turret by muscle power even if the gearing froze up. He could, and he did, spraying machine-gun fire and occasional rounds from the 20mm cannon at the oncoming Ivans. A few more bullets spanged off the panzer’s steel hide, but bullets didn’t bother it. Anything worse than a bullet would, but…
    “They’re running!” the panzer commander exclaimed. In the Russians’ fine felt boots, Theo would have run, too. If they had no armor of their own in the neighborhood, they were helpless against panzers. A little German victory. This time. For the moment. How to turn that into something more lasting, Theo had no idea. Did anyone else, from Hitler on down?

Chapter 2

    Alistair Walsh had spent his whole adult life in the British Army-which, unlike the Navy and the Air Force, wasn’t Royal. The former sergeant sometimes wondered why not. His best guess, based on long experience, was that no King of England in his right mind wanted to lend his regal title to such a buggered-up outfit.
    Almost as soon as Walsh got to France the first time, in the summer of 1918, he stopped a German bullet. The Kaiser’s men had pushed as far as they could then, and soon started getting pushed instead. Walsh was back at the front before the Armistice. He saw enough action to decide he liked soldiering. He certainly liked it better than going back to Wales and grubbing out coal for the rest of his life, which was his other choice when the war ended. He managed to stay in the Army while it hemorrhaged men after peace came.
    And he went to France again, this time as a staff sergeant rather than a raw private, when things heated up once more in 1938. Regardless of rank, he knew-he’d had it proved to him-he wasn’t bulletproof. He’d fought in Belgium, and then in France as the Allied armies fell back under the weight of the new German assault. Once they managed to keep the Nazis from sweeping around behind Paris and winning the campaign fast-Wilhelm’s old pipe dream, even if Hitler came equipped with a different mustache-he got shipped off to Norway as part of the Anglo-French expeditionary force that tried to stop the Wehrmacht there.
    “That’s when my trouble really started,” he muttered under his breath. A dumpy woman coming the other way on the London sidewalk gave him a funny look. He didn’t care. It wasn’t as if he were wrong.
    The Anglo-French force couldn’t stop the Germans. Air power outdid sea power, even if the Royal Navy was Royal. Walsh counted himself lucky for getting out of Namsos before it fell. Plenty of soldiers hadn’t. A Stuka attacked the destroyer that carried him home after sneaking into the harbor under cover of the long northern winter night, but the ship survived to make it back to Dundee.
    He’d been on leave, riding a hired bicycle through the Scottish countryside, when… That was when his troubles really started. He’d seen, and recognized, a Messerschmitt Bf-110, a long-range German fighter, buzzing along above Scotland. He’d watched somebody bail out and come down in a field not far from the narrow lane he was traveling.
    Why he had to be the one to meet Rudolf Hess and take the Nazi big shot back to the authorities, he’d never worked out. It wasn’t proof of God’s love for him. He was too bloody sure of that. If anything, it was proof the Almighty really and truly had it in for him.
    Because Hess was carrying a proposal from Hitler to Chamberlain and Daladier. The Germans were willing to withdraw from France (though not from the Low Countries or Scandinavia, and certainly not from Czechoslovakia, which was what the war was supposed to be about) in exchange for Anglo-French support of the war in the East, the war Germany and Poland were fighting against Stalin.
    And Chamberlain and Daladier made the deal. Neither of them had wanted to fight the Fuhrer. They’d even gone to Munich to hand him Czechoslovakia on a silver platter. But he wouldn’t take it peacefully, not after a Czech nationalist took a revolver into Germany and plugged Konrad Henlein, the leader of the Germans in the Sudetenland.
    It wasn’t as if Stalin were a nice guy himself. As soon as he saw that Hitler wasn’t sweeping all before him in the West, he demanded a chunk of northeastern Poland from Marshal Smigly-Ridz-a chunk that included the city of Wilno, which not only Poland and the Soviet Union but also Lithuania claimed.
    Proud as any Pole, Smigly-Ridz said no. So Stalin invaded. He did not too well for much too long, but finally outweighed the Poles in the area by enough to be on the point of grabbing Wilno. But before he could, Marshal Smigly-Ridz asked Hitler for help. No one ever had to ask Hitler twice about whether he wanted to fight Bolsheviks. That bought him the two-front war from which the existence of Poland had shielded him up till then, but he didn’t care.
    Chances were Chamberlain and Daladier preferred fighting Bolsheviks to going after the Nazis. Hitler gave them the bait, and they gulped it with greedy jaws. As Hess had bailed out of the Bf-110, the Fuhrer bailed out of his war in the West. With the Low Countries and Denmark and Norway firmly under his thumb, he had England and France on his side once their leaders pulled the big switch. He might be a vicious weasel, but he was a damned clever vicious weasel.
    Some Englishmen couldn’t stomach what their Prime Minister had done. Walsh was one of them, not that anybody cared tuppence about what a staff sergeant thought. But Winston Churchill was another. He hated Hitler and Hess and everything they stood for. He thundered about what an enormous betrayal the big switch was… till he walked in front of a Bentley allegedly driven by a drunk.
    No one but Chamberlain and his claque knew whether Churchill’s untimely demise was an accident or something else altogether. No one knew, but plenty of people suspected. Alistair Walsh, not surprisingly, was one of them. He couldn’t stand the idea of fighting alongside the bastards in Feldgrau and coal-scuttle helmets who’d come so close to killing him so often. And he couldn’t stand the idea of fighting for a government that might well have murdered its most vehement and most eloquent critic.
    They let him resign from the service. He was far from the only man who couldn’t abide the big switch. Plenty of veterans found themselves unable to make it. But, because he’d seen that parachute open up there in Scotland, he’d acquired better political connections than most of the rest. Churchill might be dead, but other, mostly younger, Conservatives still resisted the government’s move. (It wasn’t Chamberlain’s government any more. Chamberlain was dead, of bowel cancer. But Sir Horace Wilson, his successor, was more ruthless than he had been-and even more obsequious to the Nazis.)
    When Walsh casually glanced back over his shoulder, then, he really wasn’t so casual as all that. A nondescript little man was following him, and not disguising it as well as he should have. Someone from Scotland Yard, probably. The police were the government’s hounds. Military Intelligence was split. Some people followed orders no matter what. Others couldn’t stand the notion of being on the same side as the Gestapo.
    Walsh rounded a corner and quickly stepped into a chemist’s shop. As the aproned gentleman behind the counter asked “How may I help you, sir?”, the sergeant peered out through the window set into the shop’s front door.
    Sure enough, the shadow mooched around the corner. Sure enough, he stopped right in front of the chemist’s to try to work out where Walsh had gone. He came to the proper conclusion-just as Walsh threw the door open and almost hit him in the face with it. The shadow showed admirable reflexes in jumping back. The way his right hand darted under his jacket showed he probably had a pistol in a shoulder holster.
    At the moment, Walsh didn’t care. He knew he would later, but he didn’t now. That gave him a startling moral advantage. “Sod off,” he growled. “The more grief your lot gives me, the more trouble I’ll give you. Have you got that?”
    “I’m sure I haven’t the least idea what you mean, sir.” The shadow gave a good game try at innocence.
    Walsh laughed in his face. “My left one,” he jeered. “You tell Sir Horace to leave me alone. Tell him to leave all of my mob alone. We can make him just as sorry as Adolf can-he’d best believe it, too. Tell him plain, do you hear me?”
    He had the satisfaction of watching color drain from the other man’s face. “I don’t speak to the likes of the PM,” the shadow gasped.
    “I’ll wager that’s the truth, any road,” Walsh said brutally. “But you talk to somebody who does talk to him, right?” Without waiting for an answer, he went on, “Tell him it’s still a free country, and it’ll go right on being one, too. We aren’t bloody Fritzes. We don’t put up with his kind of nonsense. Think you can remember that?”
    “Oh, I’ll remember.” The shadow regained spirit. “And I’ll lay you’ll remember, too-only you won’t be so happy about it. The cheek!” He did walk off then, which surprised Walsh. Was someone else following the follower, and Walsh as well?
    If someone was, he wasn’t blatant enough to give himself away. As luck or irony would have it, Walsh hadn’t been going anywhere or intending to meet anyone who would have interested either the shadow or his superiors, up to and including Horace Wilson, in the slightest. He hadn’t tried to tell that to the man he’d confronted. He knew it would have done him no good. England remained nominally free. But its people were starting to learn totalitarian lessons, and one of the first of those was that nobody believed you when you said you were doing something altogether innocent. And the more you insisted on it, the worse off you ended up.

    Hans-Ulrich Rudel eyed his Ju-87 like a parent looking at a child just out of surgery. The groundcrew men who’d performed the operation seemed proud of themselves. “There you go, sir,” said the Luftwaffe corporal who’d bossed the crew. “Now you can take off and land your Stuka no matter how shitty the weather gets.”
    “Well… maybe,” Hans-Ulrich answered. As far as he was concerned, that maintenance sergeant had just showed why he stayed on the ground.
    Not that the fellow didn’t have a point. Putting skis on the Ju-87 in place of wheels let the dive bomber take off and land in conditions it couldn’t normally handle. The Ivans did that kind of thing all the time. If any flyers in the world were used to coping with vicious winters, the men of the Red Air Force were the ones. And Stukas’ fixed undercarriages made the conversion easier than it would have been on planes with retractable landing gear.
    Even so, anybody who tried to take off or land in the middle of one of these screaming blizzards would crash and burn. You did want to be able to see when you were getting airborne or coming down. Mistakes at the beginning or end of a flight wrote off almost as many planes as enemy fighters and flak.
    Sergeant Albert Dieselhorst ambled up. The radioman and rear gunner considered the skis with enthusiasm hidden amazingly well. His gaze traveled from them to the panzer-busting 37mm gun pods mounted under the wings. “Happy day,” he said. “We’ll be even less aerodynamic than we were already.”
    Rudel winced. Those heavy, bulky gun pods did up the drag and make the Ju-87 slower and less maneuverable than it was without them. All the same, the pilot answered, “Take an even strain, Albert. She couldn’t get out of her own way even before they bolted on the skis.”
    “Sir!” The groundcrew corporal sounded hurt. Hans-Ulrich half expected him to clap a hand to his heart like an affronted maiden in a bad melodrama.
    “Hell, he’s right,” Dieselhorst said. “We count more on our armor than on our guns and our speed-ha! there’s a laugh! — to get us through when we’re in a jam.”
    He wore the Iron Cross First Class on his left breast pocket. Rudel wore the Knight’s Cross on a ribbon around his neck. A lowly groundcrew corporal with only the ribbon for the Iron Cross Second Class-a decoration that, in this war, you had to work hard not to win-hooked to a tunic button couldn’t very well argue with either one of them.
    Two days later, the weather was good enough for flying. The Stuka’s big Junkers Jumo engine fired up right away when the groundcrew men cranked it and spun the prop. They had a mechanical starter mounted on a truck chassis, but nothing they did would make the truck motor turn over. Muscle power and bad language sufficed. A minister’s son, Hans-Ulrich rarely swore and almost never drank. If not for that Ritterkreuz and all it said about his nerve, he would have been even more a white crow to his comrades than he already was.
    Snow and the skis smoothed out the dirt airstrip’s bumps and potholes better than the wheels had. But Rudel quickly found Sergeant Dieselhorst had made a shrewd guess. The Ju-87 flew like a garbage truck with wings. If any Russian fighter found him, even one of the obsolete biplanes the Ivans kept flying, he and Albert were in a world of trouble.
    Snowy fields, bare-branched birches with bark almost white as snow, pines and firs and spruces all snow-dappled… The Russian landscape in winter. The sun never climbed far above the southern horizon, not in these latitudes. Because it stayed so low, it cast long shadows. The Reds were better at camouflage than even the thorough Germans dreamt of being, but not for all their ingenuity could they hide shadows. Neither whitewashing them nor draping them with netting did Stalin’s men the least bit of good.
    Hans-Ulrich might not have noticed the Russian panzers moving up to the front. They were well whitewashed, and Soviet soldiers trotted in their wake with whisks made from branches to smooth out their tracks so those didn’t show up from the air. They did a pretty good job of that, too. Rudel might not have seen the tracks. Shadows, though… Shadows he saw.
    He gave Dieselhorst the number of panzers he observed and their approximate position. The radioman with the rear-facing machine-gun mount relayed the news to the Germans on the ground. Hans-Ulrich added, “You can tell them I’m attacking, too.” He tipped the Stuka into a dive.
    Acceleration pressed him against the armored back of his seat. He wondered if the skis would act as small airfoils and change the plane’s performance, but they didn’t seem to. The groundcrew men hadn’t touched the Jericho trumpets mounted in the landing-gear struts. The screaming sirens terrorized the Russian foot soldiers, who ran every which way like ants from a disturbed nest.
    Panzers couldn’t scatter like that-and, inside those clattering hulls, even the wail from the Jericho trumpets took a while to register. The machines quickly swelled from specks to toys to the real thing. Rudel’s finger came down on the firing button. Each 37mm gun bellowed and spat flame.
    Recoil from those monsters slowed the Stuka even better than dive brakes. Hans-Ulrich yanked back hard on the stick. Things went red in front of his eyes as the Ju-87 pulled out of the dive. If you weren’t paying attention, you could fly a dive bomber straight into the ground. Several Germans in the Legion Kondor had done it in Spain. Stukas got autopilots after that, but the men who flew them unanimously hated the gadgets. Hans-Ulrich had had groundcrew men disable his, and he was far from the only pilot who had.
    “You got the bastard!” Sergeant Dieselhorst’s voice through the speaking tube was like sounding brass. “Engine’s on fire, crew’s bailing out.”
    “Good.” Rudel couldn’t see behind him, so he had to rely on the radioman’s reports. Experience in France and here had taught him to aim for the engine compartment. Almost any panzer’s armor was thinnest on the decking there. He manhandled the Stuka into a climbing turn. “Let’s see if we can kill another one, or maybe more than one.”
    The pillar of greasy black smoke rising from the rear of the panzer he’d struck told him it wouldn’t be going anywhere any more. He nodded to himself in somber satisfaction. He’d killed a lot of enemy armor with the big guns. He must have killed a lot of enemy panzer crewmen, too, but he tried not to dwell on that.
    After he’d gained enough altitude, he chose another whitewashed Russian panzer and tipped the Stuka into a new dive. Again, the Jericho trumpets howled. This time, though, they didn’t take the Ivans on the ground by surprise. Hans-Ulrich had a low opinion of Russian brains, but not of Russian balls. The Reds opened up on the Stuka with their small arms. The commander of Rudel’s new target vehicle fired a burst from the turret with a submachine gun.
    All that might have made the Ivans happier, but did them no good. You couldn’t shoot accurately at a dive bomber from the ground-it was going too fast. Even if you got lucky and hit it, the engine and the compartment that housed the two crewmen were armored against rifle-caliber bullets.
    Blam! Blam! The Stuka’s big guns thundered again, at almost the same instant. Hans-Ulrich pulled out of the dive. He brought his fist down on his thigh in triumph when Sergeant Dieselhorst reported that he’d nailed another one. “Aim to go after number three?” Dieselhorst asked.
    “Why not?” Rudel said. “Hardly any Russian panzers carry radios. They won’t call fighters after us.”
    “Some do, so you hope they won’t,” the veteran underofficer replied.
    That was nothing but the truth. Hans-Ulrich didn’t want to meet fighters, not in his ungainly machine. He got more ground fire in this dive than he had before. At least one lucky round clanged into the Stuka, but it did no harm. And when the 37mm guns belched fire once more, they wrecked another Soviet panzer.
    Part of Rudel wanted to go after a fourth Russian machine, but common sense told him that was a bad idea. Sooner or later, fighters blazoned with the red star would show up around here. The best thing he could do was to be somewhere else when they did. He hauled the Stuka’s nose around and flew off to the west.

    Ivan Kuchkov counted himself lucky to be alive. He was a short, squat, brawny Russian peasant. The authorities had yanked him off the collective farm where he grew up and put him in the bomb bay of an SB-2 medium bomber. Short, squat, and brawny were ideal qualifications for a bombardier. Smart wasn’t, and nobody, including Ivan himself, had ever claimed he was.
    He hadn’t tried to keep track of how many missions he’d flown, for instance. He just knew there’d been a lot of them. He also knew that, if you flew a lot of missions against the Nazis, you were waiting for the law of averages to catch up with you.
    And it did. The Tupolev bomber had got hit and caught fire on the way back from a run into German-held Byelorussia. Kuchkov bailed out. He didn’t think either the pilot or the copilot and bomb-aimer made it. He’d flown with Sergei Yaroslavsky ever since they “volunteered” to aid Czechoslovakia against Fascist invaders when the war was new. Unless his brain was totally fucked, he wouldn’t be flying with the lieutenant any more.
    He wasn’t sure he’d be flying at all. Red Army men rescued him and got him away from the Germans after he landed. The first lieutenant commanding the company didn’t want to give him back to the Red Air Force. Lieutenant Pavel Obolensky recognized a hard-nosed son of a bitch when he saw one. Obolensky wanted Kuchkov fighting for him.
    “The air force? Faggots fight in the air force,” the lieutenant declared. “You’re a real man, right? Real men belong in the Red Army!”
    That was nonsense, as Kuchkov had reason to know. “I bet my bombs killed more Fascists than all the fuckers in your cocksucking regiment, sir,” he said. He wasn’t being deliberately disrespectful. He just spoke mat, the obscenity-laced underworld and underground dialect of Russian, as naturally as he breathed. He almost didn’t know how not to swear.
    Luckily for him, Lieutenant Obolensky, like Yaroslavsky, recognized as much and didn’t come down on him on account of his foul mouth. “Maybe they did,” the infantry officer said. “But fuck your mother if we don’t get to watch the cunts die when we nail ’em.” Like most Russians, he could use mat, too, even if he didn’t make a habit of it the way Kuchkov did.
    “You’ve got something there,” Ivan admitted. He thought it over, then nodded. “Why the hell not?” Remembering such manners as he owned, he saluted. “Uh, sir.”
    For the moment, the Red Air Force probably thought he was as dead as the rest of the SB-2’s crew. That made turning into a foot soldier easier. One of these days, his proper service would figure out that he’d kept breathing after all. That was likely to complicate his life. But it wasn’t as if he’d deserted, and he’d never been one to borrow trouble. Plenty came along on its own, thank you very much.
    Such calculations had nothing to do with his choice. Along with being short and squat and strong, he was dark and ugly and uncommonly hairy. In the Red Air Force, they called him the Chimp. He hated it. Anyone who came right out and used the nickname to his face, he did his best to deck, and his best was goddamn good. But he knew people called him Chimp behind his back. Maybe joining up with a bunch of strangers would let him escape it.
    He might be rugged as a boulder, but he was curiously naive. He could get away from the nickname he despised for about twenty minutes-half an hour, tops. As soon as anybody with even a little imagination got a look at him, he was as sure to be tagged Chimp (or maybe King Kong) as a redhead was to get stuck with Red or Rusty.
    Lieutenant Obolensky was making calculations of his own. The main one was that Sergeant Kuchkov would be worth eight or ten ordinary guys in a fight. At least. And so the lieutenant grinned when Kuchkov didn’t make a fuss about staying in the air force.
    “Ochen khorosho!” Obolensky exclaimed. As far as he was concerned, it was very good indeed. “Let’s get you kitted out.”
    Ivan’s fur-lined flight suit gave him better cold-weather gear than most of his new comrades enjoyed. Thanks to Obolensky, though, he got a white snow smock to put over it. He also got a tunic with collar tabs in infantry crimson rather than air force blue. And he got a submachine gun to replace the Tokarev pistol he carried as a personal weapon. He didn’t ditch the pistol, though. You never could tell when an extra weapon would come in handy.
    He’d maintained the machine guns in the SB-2’s dorsal and belly turrets. Next to them, the PPD-34 might have been a kiddy toy. It was plainer and uglier than the Nazis’ Schmeisser, but it had a seventy-one-round drum magazine. That made it heavier than a Schmeisser, but so what? It kept firing a lot longer, too. He knew he’d have to clean the magazine even more often than the weapon itself, which boasted a chromed barrel and chamber. Dirt could foul the clockwork mechanism that fed cartridges into the PPD. A jam was more likely to prove fatal than just embarrassing. No jams, then.
    Ivan shifted the three metal triangles that marked his rank from old collar tabs to new. Lieutenant Obolensky gave him a squad right away-infantry units took more than their share of casualties, and Obolensky had had a corporal who barely needed to shave running it. The junior-very junior-noncom didn’t resent losing the position he hadn’t held long. Lucky for him, too; if he had, Kuchkov would have whaled the piss out of him.
    One advantage of air force life was sleeping out of artillery range of the enemy, sometimes even in a real cot in a heated barracks. Nothing like that here. There weren’t even tents. You wore as many clothes as you could, rolled yourself in a blanket (if you had a blanket) as if you were a cigar and it the wrapper, and either you slept or you didn’t.
    The soldiers in Ivan’s new squad eyed him warily, wondering how he’d cope with living rough. No one came out and said anything about it to him. Not all the infantrymen could read and write, but ignorance didn’t make them stupid. If they pissed him off, he’d make them sorry. He had the look of somebody who wouldn’t worry about regulations when he did it, either.
    Three days after parachuting down into the Red Army, he led his squad out on patrol. He picked a skinny little nervous Jew called Avram as point man. Somebody like that was liable to jump at shadows, but he wouldn’t happily amble into a Nazi trap.
    Even with his fur-and-leather flying togs on under the snow smock, Ivan was miserably cold. In wool greatcoats, the ordinary Red Army men would be even colder. But, from everything everybody said, the Germans would be colder yet. Russians made jokes about Winter Fritz. Ivan hoped all the jokes were true.
    A private trotted back to him. “There’s a field up ahead, and a village out past it,” the fellow reported. “Avram says the Germans are holed up in the houses.”
    “Oh, he does, does he?” Ivan still didn’t know how far he could rely on Avram-or anyone else in the squad, come to that. “I’ll fucking see for myself.”
    “Be careful going forward, he says,” the private told him. “A sniper in the village can hit you if he sees you.”
    “Right.” Kuchkov wasn’t sure if the Zhid was only warning him or trying to find out if he was yellow. He didn’t know all the ground-pounders’ tricks yet. He did know enough to keep his head down and to stay behind trees as much as he could. He made it out to Avram without getting shot at. The point man sprawled behind a stout pine. “So? Nazi cocksuckers in the village?” Ivan asked him.
    “ Da, Comrade Sergeant.” Avram nodded. “If you want to look-carefully-you’ll spot them.”
    Only his eyes showing under the snow smock, Ivan peered out from behind the pine. The Germans in the village weren’t being nearly so cautious. “They’re fucking there, all right,” he agreed. “Scoot back to the lieutenant. Tell him where the cunts are at. Tell him we can take ’em-bet your ass we can-if the machine gun and mortar help keep our dicks up.”
    After another nod, Avram silently disappeared. He made a good point man. Half an hour later, Lieutenant Obolensky crawled up to check things out for himself. The mortar crew and machine gunners set up not far away. Ivan smiled wolfishly. Obolensky didn’t think he had the vapors or was showing off, then. Outstanding.
    Other men from the company took places near the edge of the woods. They’d be ready to go forward as soon as they got the word. The lieutenant put a hand on Kuchkov’s shoulder. “You’re right,” he whispered. “We can take them. And we will.”
    Soldiers swigged from their hundred-gram vodka rations, borrowing bravery for the fight ahead. Kuchkov drank, too, because he liked to drink. The mortar dropped bombs on the village. The machine gun sprayed death toward it. Obolensky’s brass officer’s whistle squealed like a shoat losing its nuts to the knife. “Forward!” he yelled.
    “Urra!” the Russian soldiers roared as they swarmed out of the woods. A few rifle shots answered them, but no machine gun. Either the Germans didn’t have one there or the mortar’d knocked their crew out of action. Ivan pounded forward with the rest. Till he got a lot closer, the PPD was just a weight in his hands.
    He never did have to fire it. The Nazis put up only a token resistance. Then they got the hell out of there. A bullet broke one Red Army man’s arm. Another fellow lost the bottom half of his left ear and bled all over his snow smock. The Nazis left two dead men behind. How many casualties they took with them, Ivan couldn’t guess.
    The village came back into Soviet hands-not that any peasants remained in it. It had been a dreary little place even before the Germans overran it. Kuchkov didn’t care. He’d proved himself in front of his men. That, he cared about.

    Vaclav Jezek found himself even more isolated in Spain than he had been in France. The Czech hadn’t imagined such a thing possible, but there you were. The Spanish Republic might have been the most isolated country, or half a country, in the world. When England and France forgot about fighting Fascism and turned on the Bolsheviks instead, they made a point of forgetting about their erstwhile Iberian ally.
    Great Powers had the luxury of doing such things whenever they pleased. Jezek didn’t. He’d battled the Nazis ever since the day they jumped Czechoslovakia. Instead of surrendering after the Germans overran Bohemia and Moravia and Father Tiso led Slovakia into Fascist-backed “independence,” he crossed the border into Poland and let himself be interned.
    The Russians hadn’t jumped the Poles then, so Poland remained neutral. Czech soldiers were allowed-even unofficially encouraged-to go to Romania (likewise neutral in those days) and from there by sea to France to take service with the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. Vaclav did all that. His thinking, and the government-in-exile’s, was that keeping the Nazis from conquering France was his own country’s best and perhaps only hope for eventual resurrection.
    That best hope looked none too good. The Czech lands (and Tiso’s puppet Slovakia) remained under the Reich ’s muscular thumb. Which was not to say Corporal Vaclav Jezek hadn’t done the Germans as much harm as one man could. From a poilu who’d never need it any more, he’d acquired an antitank rifle: a godawful heavy weapon that kicked like a jackass but could drive a thumb-sized armor-piercing bullet right through the hardened steel plating on a German light tank or armored car.
    He also discovered that the antitank rifle made a great sniper’s piece. It shot far and fast and flat. After he mounted a telescopic sight on it, he could pick off a man more than two kilometers away: not always, but often enough to be useful. At half that range, he’d blow off a Nazi’s head with nearly every round.
    His countrymen and allies loved him-till the French suddenly turned into Hitler’s allies instead. Just as suddenly, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile and its little army became embarrassments. France somehow did find the courtesy not to intern the men who’d given their blood to help keep her free. She let those of them who so desired cross the Pyrenees to Republican Spain instead.
    In France, Sergeant Benjamin Halevy, a French Jew with parents from Prague, had interpreted for the refugee soldiers. Now he was a refugee himself, having no more stomach for fighting on the Fuhrer ’s side than did the stubborn Czechs.
    Someone fluent in French like Halevy could follow a word of Spanish here and there, the same way a Czech could understand bits of Russian. Vaclav had learned just enough French to swear with. The only foreign language he really spoke was German. That was of no more use to him here than it had been in France. It was the enemy’s tongue in the Spanish Republic as it had been on the northern side of the mountains, but fewer people in these parts understood it… and most of the ones who did backed Marshal Sanjurjo’s Fascists, not the Republic.
    Most, but not all. The fighters from the International Brigades had come to Spain to lay their lives on the line to halt the advance of Hitler and Mussolini’s malignant ideology. Some were from America, some from England, but more from Central and Eastern Europe. An awful lot of them could speak German or Yiddish, even if they were no more native speakers than Vaclav.
    By what amounted to a miracle in this bureaucratic age, the powers that be in the Republic realized as much. Instead of sending the Czechs to some threatened border region (and all the Republic’s borders except the one with France were threatened), the Spaniards grouped them with the Internationals defending Madrid.
    The Internationals were Red, Red, Red. Vaclav couldn’t have cared less. Just like him, they killed Fascists. They didn’t seem to worry about anything else but a soldier’s universals: ammo, food, tobacco, and pussy. Nobody tried to make him bow down toward Moscow five times a day.
    They appreciated the antitank rifle and what he could do with it. “We have a few of those ourselves, but we never thought of using them for sniping,” said a fellow who called himself Spartacus. It was a nom de guerre; he spoke German with a throaty Hungarian accent.
    Vaclav loved Magyars hardly more than Germans. He had to remind himself he and Spartacus were on the same side. “It works,” he said. He wasn’t about to let anybody take the man-tall monster away from him.
    But that wasn’t what Spartacus had in mind. “I bet it does. That’s the idea,” he said. “Why don’t you start thinning the herd of Fascist officers?” His thin, dark mustache made his smile even nastier than it would have been otherwise.
    “I can do that. As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing it, in France and here,” Vaclav said. No one here would have paid much attention to what he’d been up to. That was what you got for being a newcomer, especially if you had language troubles.
    “All right. Good. Very good.” The Hungarian International seemed on the stupid side to Vaclav, to say nothing of overbearing. Most Magyars seemed that way to most Czechs. Magyars weren’t as bad as Germans, but they were a devil of a long way from good… if you eyed them from a Czech’s perspective, anyhow.
    How Czechs seemed to Magyars was another question altogether-not one Vaclav had ever thought to ask himself, and not one he was likely to ask himself, either.
    His biggest complaint was one he hadn’t expected to have in sunny Spain: the trenches northwest of Madrid got as cold as a German tax collector’s heart. Sunny Spain was, even in wintertime. But the central plateau lay some distance above sea level, and the winds seemed to blow straight through him. He’d been warmer up near the Franco-Belgian border.
    As long as he didn’t shiver while he pulled the trigger, though, he could do his job. If anything, it was easier here than it had been in France. However much he despised the Germans, he couldn’t deny that they made sensible soldiers. Officers didn’t look much different from their men. Sometimes they’d even turn their shoulder straps upside down to make it harder for a sniper to spy their rank badges.
    Marshal Sanjurjo’s soldiers weren’t like that. A man in those ranks who was somebody wanted to show that he was somebody. He prominently displayed the gold stars that set him off from the common, vulgar mob. And he often wore a uniform of newer, finer cloth and better cut than the ragged, faded yellowish khaki the ordinary Fascist soldiers had to put up with.
    All of which made it much easier for Vaclav to spot enemy officers. An aristocrat in a neatly pressed uniform, his stars of rank glittering under the bright Spanish sun, sometimes had a moment to look absurdly amazed when he made the acquaintance of one of the antitank rifle’s fat slugs.
    More often, the Fascist bastard just fell over. Vaclav wasn’t fussy; nobody gave out style points.

Chapter 3

    Sergeant Luc Harcourt shivered as he led his squad into the Russian village. That wasn’t fear; the village lay several hundred kilometers behind the line, and was unlikely to have holdouts in it. No, Luc was just cold. French greatcoats and other winter gear weren’t made for weather like this.
    If not for the felt boots he wore over his own clodhoppers, he would have been colder yet. He’d stripped them off a dead Russian, and they were lifesavers. The Ivans had to deal with this crap every year, poor bastards, and they knew how.
    He’d noticed that German soldiers wore valenki whenever they could get hold of them, too. That left him obscurely amused. So the Master Race didn’t know everything there was to know about winter warfare, either? Well, good!
    Daladier might declare that France and Germany were allies against the Bolsheviks now. Luc might have taken a train trip through the Reich so he could get at the Red Army. But before that he’d spent two years shooting at the Nazis and trying like hell to hide when they shot back. Some Boche had shot his father during the last war. No matter what fucking Daladier declared, Luc didn’t love the Germans. No, sir, not even close.
    A lot of Russian villages the Germans and their allies had overrun were empty. The locals had cleared out instead of sticking around to see what occupation would be like. Luc sympathized. Plenty of Frenchmen and — women had fled when the Germans invaded, too. And there were lots of Jews in these parts. If he were a Jew, he wouldn’t have stayed under German rule for anything.
    Not everyone had run away from this place, though. A few men and women came out of their battered shacks to eye the soldiers trudging down the main street-an unpaved track with some of the dirty snow trampled into the frozen ground. All the Russians, regardless of sex, had valenki. Luc thought they were foolish to put the overboots on display. Some of his men were liable to steal them right off their feet.
    A fellow with a graying, stubbly beard wore a wool scarf, a sheepskin cap and jacket, and baggy wool pants stuffed into the tops of his valenki. He surprised Luc by asking, “You’re Frenchmen, aren’t you?” in fluent French.
    “That’s right,” the sergeant answered. “Where did you learn our language?”
    The Ivan smiled a sweet, sad smile. “Once upon a time, I studied medicine. I learned French then. I learned German, too.” The smile got sadder still. “I used to think I was a cultured fellow.”
    “Well, what the devil are you doing here?” Luc asked. This miserable village was as far from culture as anything could get.
    “Tending my garden,” the Russian said, as Candide might have done. He went on, “What I grow in my own plot, I get to keep and sell. The state takes what we grow on our collective lands, of course. And I still do what I can when someone gets hurt or comes down sick.”
    “Why aren’t you a doctor in some big city?” Luc inquired.
    “The council of workers and peasants was going to send me to a labor camp for being an intellectual,” the Russian answered, as calmly as if he were talking about someone else. “But they decided I could work out my antiproletarian prejudices here on the kolkhoz instead. I’ve been here since 1922.”
    “Well, now we’ve come to set you free.” Luc trotted out the propaganda line the Germans had fed their new allies to see what this cultured Russian would make of it.
    By the way the fellow looked at him, he might have pissed in the baptismal font-except the building that had been a church before the Revolution was currently a barn. “If you’d come here in 1923, I would have welcomed you with open arms,” the Russian said. “So would almost everyone else. But now? No. We’ve spent a generation building up and getting used to the new ways of doing things. You want to tear down everything we’ve managed to do and tell us to start over one more time. We would rather fight for General Secretary Stalin than go through that again.”
    He didn’t make fighting for Stalin sound like a good choice-only like a better choice than starting from scratch. Chuckling, Luc said, “Maybe I ought to shoot you now, then, to keep you from making trouble later on.”
    “It could be that you should.” The Russian wasn’t joking. “I see that, because you are French, some shreds of civilization still cling to you. The Nazis would not talk like that. They would just start shooting and burning. It has happened here in the Soviet Union many times already. No doubt it will happen many more.”
    Luc wanted to tell him that was all a pack of lies: nothing but garbage served up by the propaganda cooks in Moscow. He wanted to, yes, but the words stuck in his throat. After all, the Germans had invaded his country twice since 1914. They weren’t gentle occupiers either time. From all he’d heard, they were more brutal now than they had been a generation earlier. Why would he expect them to be gentle here in the East, then?
    Uneasily, he said, “International law gives them the right to be hard on francs-tireurs.” If you picked up a rifle without being a soldier, any army in the world that caught you would give you a blindfold and-if you were lucky-a cigarette and then fill you full of holes.
    Of course, the Germans took hostages if francs-tireurs troubled them. They murdered them by dozens or scores to remind the people they were fighting not to get frisky. Here in the East, they probably executed hostages by the hundreds. Would such frightfulness intimidate the Russians or only make them hate harder?
    Looking into the doctor-turned-peasant’s pale eyes, Luc didn’t like the answer he thought he saw. “Keep your nose clean, or you’ll be sorry,” he said, his voice rougher than he’d intended.
    “Oh, but of course, Monsieur,” the Russian said, his tone so transparently false that Luc wondered whether he should plug him right there.
    A Nazi would have. The Ivan understood as much. So did Luc. It was the biggest part of what stayed his hand. He didn’t have his men camp inside the village, as he’d intended when they approached it. Instead, he led them on for another kilometer. They were grumbling by the time he finally let them stop.
    He didn’t feel like listening to them. “Put a sock in it, you clowns,” he said. “We go to sleep in one of those houses, we’ll wake up with our throats cut.”
    “We’ll freeze here in the middle of nowhere,” one of the poilus retorted. “Is that so much better?”
    “We won’t freeze. We’ll just be cold. There’s a difference,” Luc said. He knew what the men would be saying about him-that he wouldn’t feel it because his heart was already cold. He’d said the same kind of thing about his sergeant back in the days before he wore any hash marks on his sleeve.
    Sergeant Demange was Second Lieutenant Demange now. A veteran noncom from the last war, Demange didn’t want to be an officer. But the know-it-alls above him kept getting shot, and he finally won a promotion whether he liked it or not. The way he chain-smoked Gitanes said he didn’t. Or maybe not-he’d smoked like a chimney as a sergeant, too.
    Luc told him about the French-speaking Russian back in the village. “You should have scragged the asshole,” said Demange, who had very little use for his fellow man. “It would’ve given the rest of the shitheads back there something to stew on.”
    “The Gestapo would be proud of you, sir.” More than two years of serving Demange had earned Luc the right to speak his mind.
    Up to a point. “Fuck you,” Demange answered evenly. “Fuck the Ivans, too. You want to make sure they don’t cause trouble, you’ve got to boot ’em in the balls. Oh, yeah-and fuck the Gestapo. Fuck ’em up the ass, except the ones who like it that way.”
    “Merde alors!” Admiration filled Luc’s voice. “You hate everybody, don’t you?”
    “Close enough,” Demange said. “With most of the bastards you run into, it just saves time.” He was looking at-looking through-Luc right then.
    If that wasn’t a hint, Luc had never run into one. “Don’t worry, sir. Everybody loves you, too,” he said. Sketching a salute, he went back to his squad. Behind him, the reluctant officer chuckled.
    In the middle of the night, the Russians dropped a swarm of mortar bombs on the village… and on the poilus who’d paused there for the night. Several soldiers got hurt. Luc’s squad was far enough from the buildings that nothing came down on them.
    He didn’t point that out to the men he led. If he had, they would have figured he was blowing his own horn. If they figured it out for themselves, though, they’d see what a clever fellow he really was. Back in his days as a sergeant, Demange would have played it the same way. Luc had learned more from him than he would ever admit, even-maybe especially-to himself.

    The hacked-up boards the Landsers fed into the fire came from a house a Russian shell had knocked flat. The gobbets of meat they toasted over the flames came from a horse that had hauled a 105mm howitzer till another shell broke its leg. Willi Dernen had shot it to put it out of its misery. He’d long since lost track of how many enemy soldiers he’d killed or wounded, but he couldn’t stand to see or listen to an animal suffer.
    He took a bite. The meat was half charred, half raw. It was also gluey and gamy. It was horsemeat, in other words. It wasn’t the first time he’d had it, and he was sure it wouldn’t be the last. He turned to his fellow Gefreiter — senior private-and said, “I’ve probably eaten enough horse to let them enter me in next year’s Berlin steeplechase.”
    Adam Pfaff shook his head. “Not fucking likely, Willi. I’ve eaten plenty of pussy, but nobody’s gonna put me in a goddamn cat show.” While Willi was still digesting that, so to speak, his buddy added, “Besides, have you taken a look at yourself lately? You’re no three-year-old, believe me, and no thoroughbred, either.”
    “Oh, yeah? And you are?” Willi said. They grinned at each other. Like the rest of the men in their section-like the rest of the German Frontschweine in Russia-they were scrawny and filthy and badly shaven. A crawly itch under Willi’s whitewashed Stahlhelm said he was lousy again, too. One of these days, he’d get deloused. And he’d stay clean till the next time he went through a Russian village. Say, half an hour after he left the delousing station. Then he’d have company once more.
    “Who’s got some tobacco he can spare?” Corporal Arno Baatz asked.
    Willi had a nice little sack of makhorka — Russian tobacco, cheap and nasty but strong-in a trouser pocket. He would have bet Adam Pfaff had a similar stash. Adam knew what was what about keeping himself supplied. Neither Gefreiter said a word. Willi had had to put up with Awful Arno since the war started. Adam was much newer to the regiment, but he’d rapidly learned the Unteroffizier made a piss-poor substitute for a human being.
    “Here you go, Corporal.” A private named Sigi Herzog gave Baatz a cigarette. Willi had already pegged him for a suckup. One more suspicion confirmed.
    “Good.” Awful Arno didn’t bother thanking Sigi. He took such tribute as no less than his due. Another reason to despise him, as far as Willi was concerned: one more to add to a long list. Were Baatz a gutless wonder, everything would have been perfect-and the company would have had a perfectly good excuse for shipping him back behind the lines where he could annoy people without risking lives. But he actually made a decent combat soldier. It was everything else about him that Willi-and anyone else who got stuck serving under him-couldn’t stand.
    He lit the cigarette and sucked in smoke. His plump cheeks hollowed. How any German on the Eastern Front stayed plump was beyond Willi, but Awful Arno managed. He shaved more often than most Landsers bothered to, but he was still plenty whiskery right this minute.
    After blowing out a stream of smoke and fog, he let loose with a blast of hot air, straight from the Propaganda Ministry: “As soon as the weather gets even a little better, we’ll roll up the Ivans like a pair of socks.”
    That he believed-and, worse, parroted-such bullshit was also on the list of reasons why he’d got his nickname. Willi rolled his eyes. Adam Pfaff rounded on Sigi. “What did you put in that smoke you gave him, man? Has to be better than tobacco, that’s for sure. If you’ve got more, give me some, too.”
    Baatz sent him an unfriendly look: about the only kind the corporal kept in stock. “So what are you saying, Pfaff? Are you saying we won’t roll up the Reds?” he asked. “That sounds like defeatism to me.”
    Defeatism could get you tangled up with the SS, the last thing anybody in his right mind wanted. Pfaff shook his head. “Don’t talk more like a jackass than you can help, Corporal. Anybody who’s seen me in action knows I’m no defeatist. Is that so or isn’t it?”
    “If you make other soldiers not want to fight their hardest, that’s defeatism, too,” Baatz said stubbornly. “And you’d better remember I’m not too big a jackass to know it.”
    Pfaff didn’t back down. “Nobody here’s gonna run home to Mutti on account of anything I come out with. And we all know we’d better fight hard, or else the Russians’ll cut off our cocks and shove ’em in our mouths.”
    “Do they really do that shit?” asked a kid who’d come up to the front only a few days earlier. His uniform wasn’t so patched and faded as the ones the other Landsers wore. But for that, there wasn’t much to choose between him and the rest.
    “They sure do,” Pfaff replied. Awful Arno nodded-they agreed on that much, anyhow.
    Willi nodded, too. He’d seen it for himself, however much he wished he hadn’t. “You don’t want to let the Ivans take you prisoner,” he said. “Save a last round for yourself. Maybe the guys they do that to are already dead, but you don’t want to find out for yourself, do you?”
    “So what do we do with the Russians we capture?” the new fish asked.
    The veterans squatting by the fire eyed one another. Nobody said anything for a little while. At last, Willi answered, “Well, sometimes we send ’em back to a camp like good little boys, the way we would have in the West.” We would have most of the time in the West, anyway, he thought. The French and English weren’t perfect about sticking to the Geneva Convention, either. Aloud, he went on, “Sometimes, though…” He shrugged. “It’s a rough old war. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
    “If we catch commissars or Jews, we do for them right away,” Awful Arno said. “Pigdogs like that don’t deserve to live.”
    Not every commissar or Jewish Red Army man died right away. The Wehrmacht kept some alive for questioning. The ones who did live for a while probably wound up envying their comrades who perished on the spot. German interrogators weren’t likely to be gentler than their Soviet opposite numbers.
    The kid chewed on that for a few seconds. Then he asked, “If we treat them rough, doesn’t that give them an excuse to do the same to us?”
    Arno Baatz laughed at him. “You want to spout the Golden Rule, sonny, you should put on a chaplain’s frock coat before you start.”
    He waited for the other men who’d been through the mill to laugh with him. Sigi Herzog did, but he was the only one. Awful Arno scowled at the others. Willi stonily stared back at him. The kid had a point of sorts.
    But only of sorts. “Look, when this fight is over, either we’ll be left standing or the damn Russians will,” Willi said. “You fight a war like that, and who has room to be a gentleman?”
    “Isn’t that what the Geneva Convention’s for?” the new fish asked. “To keep things clean on both sides, I mean?”
    Awful Arno laughed some more-a mean, nasty laugh. “Didn’t they tell you anything before they shipped your sorry ass up here? Yeah, that’s what the Geneva Convention’s all about. When we fought the Tommies and the frogs, we played by the rules, and so did they. But you know what? The fucking Bolsheviks never signed the fucking Convention! ”
    “Oh,” the kid said in a small voice. And that was about the size of it. There were no formal rules in the fight between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. They could go at it however they pleased. They could, and they did. The kid made one more try: “If we told Stalin we’d follow the Convention whether we have to or not, wouldn’t he almost have to do the same?”
    Baatz laughed one more time. However little Willi wanted to, he found himself laughing along. It was either laugh or weep, and laughing hurt-a little-less. “Stalin doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do,” Awful Arno said. “What he wants to do now is kill all the Germans he can.”
    He was right about that. Of course, Hitler didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to, either, and what he wanted to do was kill carload lots of Russians. Which left the soldiers in Feldgrau or khaki stuck in the middle between them in one hell of a rough spot.
    Like I didn’t know that already, Willi thought. His bayonet got most of its use as a belt knife. He hacked off another hunk of horsemeat with it. Then he skewered the meat and held it over the fire. At least his belly would be full, anyhow.

    Chaim Weinberg liked having the Czech holdouts around. They might not be Marxist-Leninists the way he and most of the Internationals were, but they were good, solid men. The American Jew had nothing against Spaniards. He wouldn’t have come to Spain to fight for the Republic if he had.
    Spaniards-Spaniards on both sides, dammit-were extravagantly brave. They put up with shortages and fuckups with good humor he could only admire, because he sure couldn’t imitate it. But they were flighty. They were temperamental. They could be cruel for the fun of it (he’d never got used to bullfighting). And they liked to talk. Jesus H. Christ, did they ever!
    It wasn’t as if he didn’t enjoy the sound of his own voice. He did. He argued and converted and preached the Red faith with as much zeal as any friar taking on the latest jungle tribe who knew not the word of God. But when it came to passion, Chaim had to admit the Spaniards had him beat.
    He’d fallen hard for La Martellita, a Party organizer in battered Madrid. He would have said (hell, he did say, to anyone who would listen) he’d fallen in love with her. The emotion involved, though, sprang from an organ south of his heart. She was tiny. She was stacked. She was gorgeous, in the blue-black-haired, high-cheekboned, flashing-eyed Spanish way. She had what he couldn’t help thinking of as a blowjob mouth. And the way she painted it said she knew as much, too.
    She wouldn’t look at him for the longest time. It wasn’t that he was no movie star himself, even if he was no movie star himself. He was not too tall, kind of dumpy, and looked as Jewish as he was. But what really bothered her was that he wasn’t ideologically pure enough. He had the American gift, or curse, of thinking for himself, not blindly swallowing the latest twist in the Party line out of Moscow.
    He got into her bed by the oldest, most time-tested method in the world: he waited till she got smashed, went back to her place with her, and had his fun while she was too loaded to care-almost too loaded to notice. She was anything but delighted to discover him next to her the next morning, and her lethal hangover had only a little to do with it. But he’d tended to the hangover and sweet-talked her till she let him back in bed fully conscious; he owned the memory forever.
    Then she found out she was pregnant.
    She could have got rid of it easily enough. The Republic had probably the most progressive social policies in the world. But she didn’t want to. Maybe a strict Catholic upbringing still lurked in the unexamined basement of her soul. No, she wanted her little surprise to carry a proper surname.
    And so Chaim found himself a married man. He felt like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. La Martellita-her revolutionary name meant The Little Hammer, and suited her all too well-promised she’d divorce him after the baby was born. Divorce was even easier here than abortion. And, unlike abortion, it didn’t trouble her tender conscience.
    In the meantime… It could have been a white marriage, like one between a fairy and a dyke wearing masks for the sake of the world’s good opinion. La Martellita, though, was as thorough in marriage as she was in everything else. And she had discovered that Chaim wasn’t half bad in the sack. It surprised her, as it had quite a few other women before her.
    “I may not be pretty, but by God I can screw,” he said, not without pride.
    “You may be able to screw, but by God you’re not pretty,” La Martellita answered, not without truth.
    Despite such devastating candor from his more-or-less beloved, he went back into Madrid from the front as often as he could. And he returned to the front less and less worried that she hoped he would stop something up there so she could give the baby a name as a respectable widow and not have to go on worrying about the messy details that went into marriage.
    Little by little, the Republicans were driving the Nationalists back from the northwestern edge of Madrid. There’d been months of bitter fighting over the corpse of the university. Now those battered buildings lay several kilometers behind the line. Pretty soon, most of Madrid would be out of artillery range for Marshal Sanjurjo’s thugs.
    Mike Carroll had served in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion for as long as Chaim had. Mike was tall and fair and lean and handsome. Chaim should have hated him on sight. Instead, they’d been buddies since the moment they met. Like so many buddies, they sassed each other all the time.
    “You’re the only Abe Lincoln who doesn’t want us to advance any more,” Mike said one chilly morning, a certain gleam in his eye.
    “My ass!” Chaim retorted. “The fuck that supposed to mean?”
    “Means the farther the front goes from the city, the tougher the time you have getting back there and getting your end wet,” Carroll answered.
    Chaim suggested that one way he could achieve such an objective was by having his comrade-in-arms perform an unnatural act on him. Said comrade-in-arms made reference to his mother, and also to the possibly relevant body parts of a ewe. Chaim surmised that the ewe might be diseased due to earlier intimate acquaintance with said comrade-in-arms. If they both hadn’t been laughing their heads off, they would have tried to murder each other.
    After the filthy jokes ran thin, Chaim said, “Seriously, man, we better push the Fascists back as far as we can. I’ve got the bad feeling this summer won’t be a hell of a lot of fun.”
    “Amazing, Sherlock!” Mike said. “What leads you to this deduction?”
    “Ah, cut the crap. You know as well as I do,” Chaim answered.
    “We aren’t licked yet,” Mike said, which wasn’t a ringing denial.
    Everybody on the Republican side knew what was wrong. As in a sickroom where the patient still seemed strong but was plainly sinking, no one wanted to talk about it. Now that England and France were backing Hitler’s push against Stalin, Republican Spain was definitely the girl they’d left behind. The Republic was lucky to have got those Czechs, and the handful of French Jews who’d come with them. Not many more soldiers would make it over the Pyrenees.
    Not many more supplies would, either. France and England didn’t want to sell to the Republic any more. Stalin did, but he had his own war to worry about and a swarm of enemies between him and Spain. Meanwhile, nobody was stopping the Fuhrer and the Duce from shipping Marshal Sanjurjo all kinds of goodies.
    “Maybe FDR will come through,” Mike said.
    “And rain makes applesauce,” Chaim returned. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
    America was at war with Japan, not with Germany. Roosevelt hadn’t even tried to get a declaration of war against Germany through Congress. Had he tried, he would have failed. The USA had been selling billions in weapons to the so-called Western democracies… till the big switch. After that, FDR pulled the plug. The munitions makers might have found a market in Spain to take up some of the slack-if the new war against Japan hadn’t got them going full speed ahead again.
    Chaim paused to scratch. Why wasn’t it too cold for bugs in the trenches? Because they lived on nice, warm people-that was why. “Even if we are fucked, we’ve lasted three years longer than anybody thought we could,” he said. “The government was going to take the Internationals out of the line, remember, ’cause we’d done all we could do. Or we thought so, anyway, till Hitler jumped on the Czechs and all of a sudden England and France liked the Republic again.”
    “And now they don’t any more, and we’re fucked again,” Carroll said. “Till the roulette wheel stops on a new square, we are. I wish Hitler would’ve declared war on America. That would have fried his fish for him.”
    “Boy, you got that straight,” Chaim said. “Can you imagine all the shit that’d pour into Spain then?” He imagined it with the dreamy, half-hopeless awe a starving prospector gave to striking the mother lode.
    “In the meantime…” Carroll poked him in the ribs. “In the meantime, you’ve got your little cutie back in town. If she doesn’t give you something to fight for, you’ve got to be dead.”
    Chaim would no more have called La Martellita a little cutie than he would have hung the same handle on a 155mm shell. It wasn’t obvious which was more dangerous, or more explosive. Still, some guys did talk about weapons that way, even if he didn’t. His features softened for a reason different, if related.
    “I’m gonna have a kid. A half-Spanish kid, a kid who’s gonna live here in the country we end up making,” he said softly, his eyes dreamy and far away. “That, now, that gives me somethin’ to fuckin’ fight for.”

    Some German propaganda sheets lay next to the bubbling samovar when Anastas Mouradian walked into the Red Air Force officers’ meeting room. He could tell what they were right away. For one thing, even by Soviet standards, the paper they were printed on was amazingly cheap and cruddy. For another, the font the Nazis had chosen looked like something from before the last war.
    The Armenian bomber pilot wondered why they’d picked something so outdated. Maybe they didn’t have any more modern type. Or maybe, since the alphabet wasn’t their own, they were just style-blind. It wasn’t the alphabet Stas had grown up with, either, but he saw it all the time. Couldn’t Hitler’s clowns have found a defector to fill them in on their own stupidity?
    Most likely, they hadn’t even gone looking. Germans were so convinced of their own superiority, they often didn’t bother asking advice from anyone else. Sometimes they paid for their arrogance, too.
    He picked up one of the sheets. A misspelled word and some bad grammar leaped out at him. The Nazis were trying to persuade non-Russians in the USSR to go over to them. You thought the tiranny of the Tsars was bad. Stalin’s is even worser! the flier said. No, no one would take you seriously if you stuck your foot in your mouth as soon as you opened it.
    A Russian pilot paused at the samovar to pour himself a glass of tea. He chuckled when he saw what Mouradian was looking at. “So, Stas, you going to fly your plane over to a Hitlerite airstrip?” he inquired.
    He was joking. Stas knew that perfectly well. All the same, the Armenian set down the propaganda sheet as if it burned his fingers. “Not me!” he declared, sincerity ringing in his voice. “Only thing I’ll give them is a thousand kilos of high explosive!”
    The trouble with jokes was, you never could tell who was listening to the answers. Stas had no reason to think Boris there belonged to the NKVD or informed on his fellow officers. He had no reason to think that about any of the other flyers sitting down with tea and hard rolls and fatty pork sausages and papirosi, either.
    But he couldn’t afford to joke back with the Russians, because there was always the chance… He didn’t care to see the Lubyanka, the NKVD headquarters in Moscow, from the inside. He didn’t want to go to a labor camp in Turkmenistan or Siberia just on account of a misunderstood joke. He didn’t want to go to a place like that at all, but especially not for such a stupid reason.
    And so, remarking, “This stinking thing wouldn’t even make a good asswipe,” he poured himself a glass of tea, too, and walked away from the table without a backward glance at the propaganda sheet.
    His copilot came in a few minutes later. Ivan Kulkaanen also picked up one of the sheets. After a quick glance, he put it down again. “Fascist bullshit!” he said loudly, and got himself some tea and a roll.
    It was Fascist bullshit-no possible doubt about that. With better propaganda, the Nazis might have had more chance of prying people away from the Soviet regime. Not everyone in the USSR loved it; not even close. If you had to choose between Stalin and his henchmen on the one hand and people who turned out crap like that on the other, though, you turned into a Soviet patriot almost by default.
    Lieutenant Colonel Tomashevsky came in. The squadron commander waved to his men, telling them not to bother to jump up and salute. Discipline in the Soviet armed forces had tightened up since the war started. Leaders had discovered that, while a revolutionary military sounded good, a hierarchical one performed better. They’d found the same thing in Spain. They’d rediscovered it after the French Revolution. No doubt Spartacus, that Soviet hero, had had to learn the lesson, too.
    After snagging tea and breakfast, Tomashevsky said, “Looks like we’ll fly today, Comrades.” He sat down. By the way he shoveled sausage into his chowlock, action didn’t leave him too nervous to eat. Anastas Mouradian felt the same way. He wanted some ballast in there when he went up. Some people worked differently. They’d puke or get the runs if they went into combat with a full stomach. They weren’t cowards. They just came equipped with anxious insides.
    “What’s our target, Comrade Colonel?” someone asked.
    “There’s an enemy concentration east of Vitebsk,” Tomashevsky said. “Mostly Englishmen and the French, Intelligence says.” His lip curled in fine contempt. “If they want to play these games, we have to show them the price. And if we smash them up before they get to the front, that’s one thing less for the Red Army to worry about.”
    Groundcrew men were bombing up the Pe-2s and making sure their machine guns had full belts when Mouradian and Kulkaanen went to their plane. Some of the bombs had slogans chalked on the casings: For Stalin! and Death to Fascists! and the like. The only way the enemy would find out about one of those was if the bomb proved a dud. But the groundcrews did that kind of thing all the time. It made them happy and didn’t hurt anything, so why not?
    Fyodor Mechnikov profanely directed bomb stowage. The blocky sergeant reminded Stas a lot of Ivan Kuchkov, with whom he’d served before getting promoted away. He wasn’t quite so hairy or quite so ugly, and he didn’t have quite such a foul mouth, but he came close on all three counts.
    “We’ll give ’em hell, right?” he said to Stas.
    The Armenian nodded gravely. “That isn’t borscht we’re dropping on them.”
    “Borscht.” The bombardier didn’t need long to decide what he thought of that. “You’re weird… sir.”
    “It could be,” Mouradian agreed. “It probably is, in fact. But as long as I get the plane there and back, as long as we deliver the load, what difference does it make?”
    “When you put it that way, not fucking much,” Mechnikov allowed.
    Flying the Pe-2 was a pleasure. It had so much speed and maneuverability, people called it the fighting bomber. Of course, they’d said the same thing about the SB-2, the plane Stas had learned on, only a few years earlier. The state of the art had passed the SB-2 by. One of these days, the Pe-2 would also grow obsolescent. But it hadn’t happened yet.
    “If we’re gong after the English and French, we won’t have to worry so much about 109s, will we?” Kulkaanen asked as they reached cruising altitude.
    “I hope not,” Stas said sincerely. Calling a Pe-2 a fighting bomber meant it had a chance against a Messerschmitt. A good chance? Well, no. From what he’d heard, English fighters were about as good as the 109, French machines not quite. Neither country had swarms of them in these parts, the way the Nazis did.
    The squadron droned on toward the west. A few antiaircraft guns fired at them as they crossed the front. Russian? German? Both? No one got hit, so it didn’t matter. Somewhere down there in the snow…
    “Approaching the target.” Tomashevsky’s voice echoed in Stas’ earphones. The pilot wondered how he could tell. Then he saw fairly well camouflaged tents below-and antiaircraft fire abruptly picked up.
    “Let ’em go, Fedya!” he called to the bombardier through the speaking tube.
    Away they went. All at once, the bomber grew nimbler. It needed to, for English Hurricanes-Mouradian thought they were Hurricanes-tore into the formation less than a minute after the Pe-2s turned for home. Tracers scored deadly, fiery lines across the sky. Two bombers spun earthward, one after the other. A Hurricane went down, too, flames licking back from the dead engine toward the cockpit.
    Stas didn’t see a parachute open there. He didn’t look very hard, either. He was too busy throwing his plane around the sky, trying to keep any Hurricanes from getting on his tail. Mechnikov fired a burst from the belly machine gun. No answering storm of lead tore into the Pe-2, so maybe he scared off the enemy. Or maybe he was shooting at nothing. Stas didn’t care. As long as he got away, he didn’t care about anything else.

Chapter 4

    Julius Lemp swept the horizon with his Zeiss binoculars. Ratings up on the U-30’s conning tower scanned all segments of the sky. The Baltic was a damned narrow sea. You had to stay alert every second you were on the surface. Trouble would land on top of you with both feet if you didn’t.
    Estonia lay to the south, Finland to the north. Under Marshal Mannerheim, Finland was neutral or even friendly to the Reich. Estonia would have liked to be. Stalin didn’t give the little country the choice. The Reds still resented losing the Baltic states when the Russian Empire fell apart. (They resented losing Finland, too, but they weren’t in such a good position to do anything about that.)
    When the Soviet Union sneezed, Estonia came down with the sniffles. When Stalin said Do something! his little neighbor did it. Otherwise, especially in troubled times like these, the Red Army would march in.
    As a matter of fact, the Red Army-and the Red Air Force and Red Navy — had marched in. That was why Lemp cast an especially wary eye toward the south. But things could have been worse. Estonia still remained independent in name. Stalin had promised that his forces would leave once the emergency was over. Even an idiot knew Stalin’s pledges were worth their weight in gold, but at least he’d bothered to make this one.
    Lithuania was as much a German sphere as Estonia was a Russian. Hitler had reannexed Memel, and the Lithuanians seemed pathetically eager to cede it to him. He might have grabbed the whole country if they hadn’t. Like Stalin, he swore up and down that the Wehrmacht would pull out after he’d won the war. Lemp chuckled nastily. Once a guy got it in, he always promised he’d pull out.
    “What’s funny, Skipper?” one of the ratings asked. The field glasses never left his eyes; his steady scan of the sky never faltered. Lemp told him. He laughed.
    So did the rest of the sailors up there. “You used that line, too, did you?” another one said.
    “Who, me?” Lemp answered in a voice brimming with innocence. More goatish laughter erupted. Aboard the Kriegsmarine’s surface ships, Prussian discipline was alive and thriving. Everything was bright metal and fresh paint and sharp trouser creases and smooth shaves and “Zu befehl, mein Herr!”
    U-boats weren’t like that. By the nature of things, they couldn’t be. No one wasted precious fresh water on shaving. Like his men, Lemp wore a scraggly growth of face fungus. His uniform was as grimy and smelly as theirs were. The only thing that distinguished his from theirs was the white cover on his service cap; theirs were all navy blue. He’d taken the stiffening wire out of the crown, as every U-boat skipper did: one more silent swipe at spit and polish.
    The sun glinted off the sea to the south and threw dazzling reflections into his face. It stood higher in the sky than it had in the depths of winter-not that anybody who had to sail the Baltic in that season saw it very often. But the wind still blew down from the north-straight off the North Pole, by the feel of it. Despite a heavy peacoat and quilted trousers, Lemp shivered.
    One of the ratings stiffened. He pointed southeast. “Smoke on the horizon!”
    Lemp’s binoculars swung that way. Yes, the dark smudge was there-low and hard to make out, but there, sure as hell. And smoke, in these waters, could come only from a Russian ship. “Good job, Anton. I’ll see it goes into your file,” the skipper said. Then he called down the hatch to the exec, who had the helm: “Change course to 135. All ahead full. Anton spied the smoke.”
    “Changing course to 135, Skipper.” Klaus Hammerstein’s voice floated up from below. He was a good officer. He’d get promoted away from the U-30 into a boat of his own before too long. When he was the Old Man himself, he could let more of his good nature show. He’d have an exec to do the dirty work for him then, instead of his doing it for someone else. Lemp heard him call the setting change back to the engine room. The U-boat’s diesels throbbed harder. The Type VIIA could make sixteen knots on the surface. That would be plenty to run down a freighter. If Anton had found an enemy warship…
    I’ll worry about that later, Lemp told himself. He did not hold the Red Navy in high regard. Yes, the Ivans were brave. But he’d spent most of the time since the war started facing off against the Royal Navy out in the North Sea and the Atlantic. Those were the best surface sailors in the world. Better than their opposite numbers in the Kriegsmarine? He nodded to himself. They were the men from whom the Germans-and everybody else-tried to learn their craft. Set against competition like that, the Russians didn’t come close to measuring up.
    He went to the big, pier-mounted binoculars on the conning tower. They had a narrow field of view, but more magnification and far more light grasp than the ones he and the ratings wore on straps around their necks. And now he wasn’t scanning for things that might be there. Something was, and he knew just where to look for it.
    Distant waves leaped toward him. So did that smoke smudge, not quite so low on the horizon now as the U-boat hurried toward it. Before long, he got what he was waiting for: both the U-30 and the enemy ship rose on swells at the same time. He didn’t get to study that lean shark shape for very long, but he didn’t need long, either.
    “Destroyer,” he said crisply.
    He glanced at his own boat’s exhaust. There wasn’t that much to see. Diesels ran cleaner than turbines, and his engines were smaller than the ones powering the Soviet ship. An outstanding lookout might spot his smoke or, now, the U-boat’s silhouette against the sky. But how many outstanding lookouts did the Red Navy boast? Not many. And not many German officers were better equipped to judge that than he was.
    So he waited, and waited, and waited some more as the gap closed. Only when he figured any halfway-awake fellow with binoculars was liable to see the U-30 did he order the ratings below. As usual, he was the last man off the conning tower. As he dogged the hatch behind him, he ordered, “Take her down to Schnorkel depth and raise the periscope.”
    “ Schnorkel depth. Aye aye,” Hammerstein said. The snort let the diesels breathe under water. It gave the boat better performance than she had on her electric motors… as long as she didn’t dive deep. The Dutch had invented the gadget, but more and more German U-boats used it these days.
    Also, of course, the Schnorkel ’s stovepipe tube and the skinnier one that housed the periscope were a lot harder to spot than the U-30’s hull would have been. Lemp peered through the ’scope and tried to work out the destroyer’s speed, course, and distance.
    “Have we got a shot?” the exec asked.
    “I… think so,” Lemp said slowly. “They have no idea we’re around. They’re strolling along at eight knots, tops.” That was about a quarter of the destroyer’s full speed. “We’re within four kilometers now. We can close some more, too.”
    He fed the course and speed information to Hammerstein, who had a kind of glorified slide rule that helped him calculate the torpedo settings. Regulations said the skipper’s Zentrale was to be closed off from the rest of the boat. Like most skippers, Lemp ignored that reg. Easier just to call orders forward than to shout through the voice tube.
    They closed to just over two kilometers. That was still a longish shot, but it was as good as they were likely to get. Any closer and somebody on the Russian destroyer was liable to wake up and spoil things. A ship like that could show them her heels easy as you please… or make an attack run instead, which wouldn’t be any fun.
    Lemp ordered a spread of three torpedoes. One by one, at his shout of “Los!”, the eels sprang away from the U-30. Seawater gurgled into the boat’s forward ballast tanks to make up for the several tonnes of weight now vanished and to keep the trim level.
    The stopwatch’s hand seemed to crawl around the dial with maddening slowness. Lemp looked from it to the periscope’s eyepiece again and again. The destroyer made sudden smoke and started to turn… too late. The first eel caught her up near the bow, one of the others not far from the stern. Both explosions rumbled through the U-30. As badly broken as a dog hit by a car, the destroyer went down fast.
    “They got a signal off, dammit,” the radio operator said, emerging from his tiny sanctum.
    “Change course to 270,” Lemp said. “We’ll stay at Schnorkel depth. Let’s see their planes spot us then.”
    “Right you are, Skipper. I am changing course to 270.” The exec swung the U-30 back toward the west, the direction from which the boat had come. A rare smile spread across his face. “The lords will be extra happy we’ve made a kill, eh?”
    “Think so, do you?” Lemp smiled, too. The most junior crewmen-the lords, in U-boat crews’ jargon-bedded down in the torpedo room. As long as it was full of eels, some of them slept on top of torpedoes. Once the reloads went into the tubes, they’d have more room to place their bedrolls and sling their hammocks. To them, that had to outweigh sinking a Soviet destroyer. It didn’t for Julius Lemp, but he knew how they felt all the same.

    Sergeant Hideki Fujita was busy counting logs. The count had to come out perfect for every unit at Pingfan under his command. If it didn’t, somebody would catch hell. Oh, the logs would, of course, but they counted for nothing in a Japanese soldier’s view of things. The person who would catch hell if the count screwed up was the man in charge-Fujita himself.
    He glowered at the logs as he counted them. The maruta stood at stiff attention, their faces as expressionless as they could make them. They, or most of them, wanted the count to come out right, too. Until the Japanese authorities were satisfied, the prisoners of war wouldn’t get fed.
    That simple truth should have nipped all escape attempts in the bud. If somebody got out of one of the barbed-wire enclosures, nobody who stayed behind would get anything to eat. The maruta didn’t get that much to eat as things were. They would have got even less if the bacteriologists of Unit 731 didn’t need reasonably healthy subjects for some experiments.
    In spite of themselves, the maruta shivered. Pingfan was a little south of Harbin, but only a little. Winters in Manchukuo were nothing to sneeze at-unless you got influenza or pneumonia or any of the other illnesses you could catch all by yourself in cold weather.
    Fujita felt the chill himself, and he wore a fur cap with earflaps, a double-breasted greatcoat with a fur collar and a thick lining, heavy mittens, and valenki he’d taken off a dead Russian in the forests on the far side of the Ussuri. The maruta — Red Army men in this enclosure-had only their ordinary service uniforms.
    They also had more than cold weather to worry about. To the Japanese bacteriologists, they were nothing but guinea pigs to be used up as needed. That the Japanese called them something like logs showed what they thought of them. Brave soldiers, proper soldiers, wouldn’t have let themselves get captured. Proper officers wouldn’t have surrendered, not when they were defending a place as vital to their country as Vladivostok.
    (The other useful thing about calling a POW a log, of course, was that you didn’t have to think of him as a human being once you started doing it. Japanese soldiers-and scientists, too-had trouble thinking of prisoners as human beings like themselves anyhow. By surrendering, you threw away your manhood, your self: your honor, in essence. Who could possibly care what happened to you afterwards? But tagging the POWs at Pingfan maruta made that dehumanizing process all but official.)
    One of the privates helping Fujita with the count-doing most of the actual work, in other words-came up to him and stood at attention, waiting to be noticed. After a delay designed to remind the soldier he was only a private, Fujita deigned to nod. “Yes?”
    “Please excuse me, Sergeant- san, but I make the count out to be a hundred and seventy-four.”
    “Does that include the two bodies?” Fujita pointed toward the corpses lying in front of the Russians’ neat ranks. You had to show your dead. How else could the guards be sure they hadn’t run off to join the Chinese bandits bedeviling Manchukuo and to spread wild, lying rumors about what went on at Pingfan?
    “ Hai, Sergeant- san.” The private nodded eagerly. The other new conscript with Fujita hustled up a moment later and reported the same figure. They’d gone down opposite sides of the prisoners’ ranks, so they couldn’t have put their heads together to come up with it.
    It also matched the number of men this compound should hold, taking the deaths yesterday into account. Fujita knew that-he kept track of such things-but he checked the figure on the paper stuck in his clipboard even so. He couldn’t afford to be wrong, not on something this important. Yes, 174. Nobody’d run off in the night, not here.
    He raked the Red Army men in the front row with his eyes. They were only prisoners, after all. They deserved no better. “Khorosho!” he shouted. His accent was terrible, but he didn’t care. It was up to the round-eyed barbarians to be grateful that he’d wasted any time to learn a few words of their stupid, ugly language.
    “ Arigato gozaimasu, Sergeant- san!” the Russians chorused. Naturally, they had to thank him for finding their numbers acceptable. They reached as one for the mess tins on their belts-if they had belts-and trooped off to the kitchen for their meager morning meal.
    Fujita pointed to the scrawny dead bodies. “Have these disposed of when the maruta come back,” he told the privates.
    “Yes, Sergeant- san!” one of them said, while the other went, “Of course, Sergeant — san! ” Fujita had taken his lumps while he was a private. Now he could hand them out. These fellows had to keep him sweet, as he’d had to suck up to his sergeant before. That was how the system worked.
    Later that day, a microbiologist came up to him. “Sir!” Fujita said, stiffening to rigor mortis-like attention. “What do you need, sir?” Whatever it was, Fujita would get it for him or die trying. His orders were that a scientist’s white lab coat was as good as an officer’s collar tabs. If somebody wearing one gave him orders, he had to follow them.
    An officer would knock you around at the slightest suspicion of reluctance. The scientists were friendlier than that, or maybe just more naive. Dr. Tsuruo Yamamura was a nice guy. Sometimes he even said please when he told people what to do, a courtesy no officer would ever show. He did it now: “We have a new shipment of maruta coming in by train this afternoon. Please take a squad of guards and meet them at half past three, then take them to the new compound-is it number twenty-seven?”
    “Yes, sir. Compound twenty-seven.” Fujita tore off a parade-ground salute.
    “Be gentle with them unless they try to escape,” Yamamura said. “They are important to the war effort.”
    “Yes, sir!” the sergeant repeated. But then he risked a questioning “Sir?” He wasn’t used to orders like the ones he’d just got.
    Dr. Yamamura was willing, even eager, to explain, where an officer would have either snarled or hauled off and belted Fujita for his gall. “These are American Marines captured in Peking and Shanghai,” the bacteriologist said. “Their reactions to our experiments will help show how Americans and Englishmen differ from Chinese and Japanese, and will let us make more effective weapons to use against them.”
    “I see,” Fujita said slowly. He’d talked to more than a few soldiers who’d served in one or another of the major Chinese cities. From what they said, American Marines were very bad news: big, tough, clever fighters who backed away from nobody. If they were as tough as all that, though, why did they let themselves be taken prisoner instead of killing themselves or making their foes finish them?
    That wasn’t a sergeant’s worry. Being at the railroad siding with a squad well before 3:30 was. Fujita made sure he and his men were in place. The train down from Harbin, naturally, ran late. That also wasn’t his worry-or anything close to a surprise.
    More than a hundred Americans stumbled off the train when it finally showed up. They’d been packed in like rice grains jammed into a sack. Close to half of them wore dirty bandages that showed they’d been wounded. They jabbered in incomprehensible English.
    Shouts and gestures with bayoneted rifles got them moving in the right direction. Most of the time, the Japanese soldiers would have clouted some of them with rifle butts to speed things along. But Fujita had spelled out Dr. Yamamura’s orders, so his men took it easy.
    Compound 27 had a barracks hall with a central stove inside the barbed wire. The prisoners wouldn’t be too crowded. They could recover from whatever they’d gone through on the train. Fujita thought they were almost living in a hotel. By the way his men rolled their eyes, they also figured the Americans had it soft. But they were only soldiers. The officers and scientists set over them didn’t care a sen’s worth what they thought.

    Somewhere or other, Adam Pfaff had got his hands on a pair of field glasses. They were such an obviously useful thing for an infantryman to have, not even Awful Arno complained about them. And Baatz complained about everything. He’d sure pissed and moaned about the gray paint Pfaff had slapped on his rifle’s woodwork. Somehow, though, the nonregulation Mauser hadn’t made the world come to an end or handed the war to the Ivans on a silver platter. Baatz was used to the piece by now. Willi Dernen wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d started ordering other people to paint theirs the same way.
    Had Willi owned binoculars, he would have used them for something practical, like ogling girls getting into or out of clothes from ranges where they couldn’t catch him at it. His buddy didn’t do that-or, if Pfaff did, he didn’t brag about it or share the field glasses when he spotted something juicy the way most guys would have. Instead, when he wasn’t using them to search out male Ivans with rifles, he pointed them up into the sky. He tended to mumble to himself when he did that.
    “What do you see up there? Bombers?” Willi asked one evening at sunset when he caught Pfaff doing it. He didn’t hear aircraft engines, but that might not signify. Sometimes the Ivans flew so high, you couldn’t hear them. And spotting planes against the darkening sky was a bitch. Again, binoculars would clearly come in handy.
    But the other Gefreiter shook his head without lowering the field glasses. “Heavenly bodies,” he answered.
    That made Willi think of naked women again. He wasn’t as big a cockhound as some of the guys, but he wasn’t a priest, either. Nowhere close. He looked up into the sky himself. He didn’t see any naked girls up there, only the first-quarter moon and a growing number of stars. He said so.
    This time, Pfaff did lower the binoculars. He shook his head again in some annoyance. “Not that kind of heavenly bodies,” he said. It wasn’t that he had anything against women, either.
    “Well, what, then?” Willi inquired. He was getting annoyed himself.
    “If you really want to know, I was looking at the moon.”
    Willi eyed it himself. There it was, up in the sky. It looked like half a coin. The straight line that ran from top to bottom wasn’t quite straight. It seemed ever so slightly chewed, which made it different from the rest of the moon’s outline. It still wasn’t very exciting, or even interesting. Again, Willi didn’t hesitate to say so.
    Pfaff handed him the field glasses. “Have a look through these. You know how to adjust them for your eyes?”
    “Oh, sure. I’ve used ’em before.” Willi aimed at the moon. It wasn’t very far out of focus even before he carefully twisted each eyepiece in turn to sharpen things up. His buddy’s vision couldn’t have been too different from his own. But once he got the image as clear as he could… “Wow,” he breathed, hardly even realizing he was making a noise.
    “It’s something, isn’t it?” Pfaff spoke with quiet pride, as if, instead of Galileo, he were the first one ever to see the heavens close up.
    That pride was wasted on Willi, who didn’t even hear him. The moon hung there, seeming close enough to reach out and touch if he took one hand away from the field glasses. It wasn’t just a light in the sky any more. It was a world, a world out there in space. The faint gray patches you could make out with the naked eye (and Willi didn’t so much as think of naked women, the truest proof of how fascinated he was) swelled into plains that had to be hundreds of kilometers across. Craters pocked them and filled the brighter, whiter areas of the moon.
    Shadows stretched across the craters closest to the straight line. The others, under higher sunlight, showed less contrast. “What made them?” Willi asked. “Volcanoes?”
    Adam Pfaff understood what he was talking about right away. “Nobody knows for sure. We’ve never been there, after all,” he answered. “But that’s one of the best guesses.”
    “Wow,” Willi said again, staring and staring.
    “You see the three craters, one above the next, near the sunrise line-the terminator, they call it?” Pfaff said.
    Willi peered again, then nodded. “I see ’em.”
    “They’re called Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, and Azrachel.”
    “All the shit on the moon has names?” That had never occurred to Willi before. You could make maps of what was up there, the same as you could down here. It really was another world.
    “You think they look impressive through these, you should see ’em through a telescope,” Pfaff said. “Back home, I’ve got an eight-centimeter refractor. It’s little and pretty cheap, but it’ll let you magnify a hundred times, not just seven. Then you can really start to get an idea of how much there is to see.”
    Willi tried to imagine the moon appearing that much bigger and closer than it did even through binoculars. He felt himself failing. After you’d started playing with yourself, you could try to imagine what a girl would be like, but you wouldn’t know what counted till one let you get lucky.
    “What else can you show me here?” he asked.
    “Well, you see those two bright stars close together, a little west of the moon?” Pfaff asked. Willi nodded once more. One of them was the brightest star in the sky; the other, the more easterly one, was fainter and more yellow. His friend went on, “You can take a look at them if you want. The bright one is Jupiter. Maybe you’ll see a couple of its moons if you hold the binoculars real steady. The other one’s Saturn.”
    “Rings!” Willi exclaimed, remembering from school.
    “Rings,” Adam agreed, “only the binoculars won’t show them. Through a telescope, they’ve got to be the most beautiful thing in the sky. You think they can’t possibly be real.”
    If they were more beautiful than the magnified moon, Willi wished he had a telescope. Through the field glasses… The stars stayed stars. They looked brighter and you could see more of them, but they didn’t get bigger. Jupiter and Saturn did. Jupiter especially showed a tiny disk. It probably wasn’t even a quarter as wide as the moon through the naked eye, but it was there.
    And, sure as hell, it had two little stars dancing attendance on it. That was interesting-not so glorious as the moon, but interesting all the same. “What else is there?” Willi’d ignored the heavens as long as he’d been alive. Now he wanted to look at everything at once.
    Adam Pfaff pointed to the left of the moon this time. “See those faint stars in what looks like mist? You can’t make ’em out real well because the moon’s so close, but they’re there.” Following his finger, Willi spied what he was talking about. Pfaff said, “That’s the Pleiades. They look different through the field glasses.”
    “Different how?” Willi asked. Pfaff didn’t enlighten him, so he turned the binoculars that way. He whistled softly. Had someone taken a bag of diamonds-along with the odd sapphire and ruby-and spilled them on velvet of the deepest blue imaginable, a blue only a whisper from black, he might have made an inferior copy of what Willi saw. Jewels don’t shine by their own light. The stars of the Pleiades did. Even more than with the moon, the naked eye gave no hint of what hid in plain sight.
    “Hey, what are you clowns up to?” Arno Baatz’s grating voice made Willi yank down the binoculars, as if the corporal had caught him with dirty pictures. Baatz brayed on: “Trying to freeze your stupid dicks off? You don’t have to try real hard, not here you don’t.”
    Willi had forgotten he was cold. Out in the open in the middle of a Russian winter, that would do for a miracle till a real one came along. “We’re just looking at the moon and stuff through my field glasses,” Pfaff said. “Want to see?”
    “Nahh.” Awful Arno laughed at the idea. That saddened Willi without surprising him. “I got better things to do with my time, I do,” the corporal added. Willi almost asked him what they were, but held his tongue instead. If Baatz didn’t want to know, Willi didn’t want to tell him.

    In the Red Air Force, political officers were like epaulets on a uniform: they were decorative, but you didn’t need them. Most of them had sense enough to know it, too. If a politruk tried to countermand a squadron commander’s orders, the arrogant fool would be ignored if he was lucky. If he wasn’t so lucky, he might leave a bomber without a parachute from several thousand meters up. Any half-clever officer could cook up paperwork explaining the unfortunate accident. It wasn’t as if the jerk it happened to would be there to give him the lie.
    Ivan Kuchkov soon found out things in the Red Army were different. Political officers here took the job of indoctrinating the men seriously. They preached Communism the way priests preached religion. And, like priests, they thought what they were doing was important.
    They also expected everybody else to think it was important. When a politruk started gabbing, he expected all the soldiers within range of his yappy voice to pay close attention. Ivan soon mastered the art of seeming to listen while his mind roamed free. He didn’t take long to realize he wasn’t the only one.
    Lieutenant Vasiliev went on and on about the benefits of Party membership. The most important one for most Red Army men was that their families were sure to get word if they fell on the field. Unlike the Nazis, Soviet soldiers wore no identity disks. The government kept only loose track of them; they were interchangeable, expendable parts. But Communist Party members were part of the elite. They mattered to the state, so it monitored them more closely than ordinary fighters.
    That might have been a selling point for most soldiers, but not for Ivan. His mother was dead. He couldn’t stand his brother or sister. And if he ever saw his old man again, he’d smack him in the snoot to pay him back for all the beatings he’d dished out when Ivan was a kid. Or he’d try, anyhow. His father was a sneaky weasel, and might get in the first lick himself.
    So all that recruiting crap went in one ear and out the other. But sometimes Vasiliev went on about other stuff, too. One morning after breakfast-black bread, sausage, and tea, plus whatever the soldiers could scrounge from the countryside-he gathered the company together in the woods and spoke in portentous tones: “Romania has declared war against the Rodina.”
    Back when the war was new, Kuchkov’s SB-2 had flown across Romanian airspace so Soviet “volunteers” could reach Czechoslovakia to fight the Fascists. That aid wasn’t enough. They’d had to get the hell out of there again a month later. But they’d tried, which was more than anybody else could say. Now…
    Now the politruk went on, “Marshal Antonescu shows he always was a Fascist at heart. He thinks the Nazis and their lackeys are a better bet than the USSR. But our heroic soldiers, our brave workers and peasants, will show him what a big mistake he has made. This widens the war. Now it stretches from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Have the Nazis got enough men for such an enormous fight? No! Can Romania hope to fight the Red Army by herself? No again! We will push forward through her and tear into the Hitlerites’ soft underbelly!”
    He waited for applause. He got some. The men had learned he shut up sooner if they cheered. “Fuck the Romanians!” Ivan called. “Bugger ’em with a pine cone!” He took the Germans seriously. They were too good at their trade for anything less. But the Romanians? They had to be worse humpties than the Poles. The Poles, at least, were brave. Nobody’d ever said that about the Romanians.
    Lieutenant Vasiliev beamed at him. “There’s the Soviet fighting spirit! Are you a Party member, Sergeant?”
    “No, Comrade Lieutenant.” Kuchkov wished he’d kept his big mouth shut. You didn’t want to draw their notice. They’d dump garbage on your head if you did.
    “Would you like me to begin your paperwork for you? It’s easy enough to arrange.”
    “However you please, Comrade Lieutenant.” Ivan wanted to become a Communist almost as much as he wanted to shit through his ears. But you couldn’t just tell the sons of bitches no. Then you’d go on a list. People who landed on those lists had bad things happen to them.
    “You’re Kuchkov, right? Yes, of course you are.” Vasiliev had the politician’s knack for matching names and faces. Well, most of the time; with a self-deprecating chuckle, he added, “Please remind me of your name and patronymic.”
    “Ivan Ivanovich, sir.”
    “Can’t get much plainer than that, can you?” The politruk smiled as he wrote it down. “Me, I’m Arsen Feofanovich, so I’m at the other end of things.” Kuchkov nodded. Both Vasiliev and his father had uncommon first names, all right. But the lieutenant made a mistake if he thought Kuchkov might care.
    The Germans started shelling the forest where the company sheltered. Digging proper foxholes in ground frozen stone hard was a bitch. And the Nazis had come up with an evil trick (one the Red Army also used, though Ivan didn’t worry about that): they set their fuses to maximum sensitivity, so most shells went off as soon as they touched branches overhead. Then the bursts sprayed sharp fragments of hot metal down on the men huddled below.
    It was Ivan’s first real time under shellfire. He couldn’t shoot back, any more than he could when his bomber drew the unwelcome attention of antiaircraft guns. All he could do was stay low and try to dig himself in, though his entrenching tool took only pathetic little bites of dirt.
    Something hissed in the snow a few centimeters from his hand: a shard of brass that could have skewered him as easily as not. “Fuck your mothers!” he yelled, though of course the Nazis serving those distant 105s couldn’t hear him. “I hope your dicks rot off!”
    He also hoped one of those nasty fragments would wound Lieutenant Vasiliev. He didn’t want Vasiliev dead, just hurt enough to forget about putting him up for Party membership. If the politruk spent a few weeks in the hospital and then got sent to a different unit, that would do fine.
    Other soldiers swore, too, to let out their fear. And wounded men shrieked and wailed. The unhurt soldiers closest to them did what they could to relieve their comrades’ agony. Too often, that wasn’t much. Slapping a wound dressing on a leg ripped from knee to crotch was sending a baby boy to do a man’s job.
    Ivan wondered whether the Germans would follow up the shelling with an infantry attack. Russians laughed at Winter Fritz, yeah. Propaganda posters showed scrawny, shivering Nazi soldiers with icicles dangling from the ends of their long, pointed noses. That didn’t match what Kuchkov had seen. Yes, wide-tracked Russian tanks had the edge on German machines in the snow. The German foot soldiers around here seemed to know what they were doing, though. Some of their gear was improvised or stolen from the locals, but it wasn’t bad.
    And yes, sentries shouted in alarm. Submachine guns stuttered out death. Far more Red Army soldiers carried them than any other nation’s troops. They didn’t have a rifle’s range, true, or a rifle’s stopping power. But they were cheap and easy to make, and they spat a lot of lead. Inside a couple of hundred meters, a company of men with submachine guns would massacre a company of riflemen.
    The Germans, by contrast, made sure almost every squad included a light machine gun. That was another way to get firepower in carload lots. German MG-34s were far more portable than their Soviet equivalents. Ivan hadn’t been a foot soldier long, but he already hated them.
    Snatching up his own PPD, he ran for the edge of the woods. Shells kept falling, but you did what you had to do. The artillery might get him. If the Nazis made it in among the trees, he was a dead man for sure.
    As soon as he saw figures in whitewashed coal-scuttle helmets running toward him, he threw himself down behind a tree and started shooting. The Nazis were pros. They flattened out. Most of them had snow smocks or bedsheets for camouflage, though a few wore only their field-gray greatcoats and stood out like lumps of coal.
    Two Germans served an MG-34. Ivan burned through most of his big drum magazine before he took them out, but he made damn sure he did. Without that monster supporting them, the Fritzes lost enthusiasm for the attack across open ground. Sullenly, in good order, they drew back. Ivan’s sigh of relief filled the air in front of him with fog. His number wasn’t up… this time.

Chapter 5

    Benjamin Halevy had all the answers. He was a Frenchman and a Jew, so he sure thought he did, anyhow. “Marshal Sanjurjo inspects the Madrid front every so often,” he said. “The Nationalists still don’t realize everything your elephant gun can do. Put a round through his giblets at a kilometer and a half and watch the assholes on the other side thrash like a chicken after it gets one in the neck from the farmer’s wife.”
    “You make it sound so easy.” Vaclav Jezek eyed his cigarette with distaste. Spanish tobacco was even harsher than French. Every drag sandpapered his throat. The only thing worse would be no tobacco at all. This was a misfortune. That would be a catastrophe.
    “You’ve done it before,” Halevy said. “You just have to be in the right place at the right time, that’s all.”
    “You make it sound so easy,” Jezek repeated, even more dryly than before. Like so many things, sniping had to look simple to people who didn’t do it. The positioning, the concealment, the waiting, the shot… Everything had to go perfectly, or you wasted a bullet. More likely, you never got your shot off. Or else some canny bastard on the other side, somebody who was better or luckier than you were at that particular moment, blew out the side of your head.
    “Well, think about it,” the Jew told him. “I’m starting to get connections, and sometimes they hear things from the other side. If you punch Sanjurjo’s ticket, the Republic will pin so many medals on you, you’ll look like a Fascist general.”
    “I think I’d rather get laid,” Vaclav said. Halevy laughed. Vaclav sent him a sour stare. “And how are you getting connections? You don’t speak Spanish.”
    “No, but if people here speak any foreign language, they speak French.” Halevy made it sound natural and easy.
    It probably was, for him. Vaclav grunted, pinched out the cigarette’s coal, and stowed the little butt in a tobacco pouch. Waste not, want not. A Jew would land on his feet anywhere-even in Spain, evidently.
    Somebody on the other side fired a rifle. The bullet whined high over the Republican line. It would come down somewhere, but long odds it would hurt anybody when it did. A lot of shots fired in war were like that. You wanted to get the other guys, but you didn’t want them to get you. So you fired without sticking your head up to see what you were doing. You made them keep their heads down, anyway.
    More often than not, the Czechs and Internationals holding this stretch of the line would have ignored such a wild round. But guys here must have been jumpy, because two rifles in quick succession answered the Fascist shot.
    That spooked Sanjurjo’s men. Vaclav couldn’t imagine what they were thinking. That the veterans on the other side would swarm out of the trenches and charge them? They had to be nuts to believe anything like that.
    Nuts or not, more of them fired back. Bullets started snapping past, much closer to the trenches. You didn’t want to stick your head up over the parapet, or you’d stop one with your nose. Halevy chambered a round in his rifle. “I didn’t much want a firefight, but…” He shrugged. War wasn’t about what you wanted. It was about what you got stuck with.
    Along with the antitank rifle, Vaclav carried a pistol to defend himself at close range. The big piece was no good for work like that. Neither weapon was much use in a fight like this. Machine guns on both sides started yammering. Vaclav realized what a long way from home he was. But he didn’t want to be back in Prague, not with the Nazis’ swastika flying over it.
    Mortar bombs whispered when they came down. The first couple burst a few bays over from the sniper and the Jewish sergeant. Vaclav had dug a bombproof into the forward edge of the trench, with some help from Halevy. They’d reinforced it with bits and pieces of wood scavenged here, there, and everywhere. Both men dove into it now.
    If a mortar round burst right behind them, even the bombproof wouldn’t help. Vaclav wished such thoughts wouldn’t cross his mind. They just made this business even more horrible than it would be otherwise.
    “What if they try to rush us?” Halevy yelled through the din.
    “What if they do?” Vaclav returned. “The machine guns will slaughter them, that’s what.” The machine guns had heavily protected nests. Even a direct hit from a mortar bomb might not take one out. An ordinary soldier who got up on the firing step, though, was asking to get murdered.
    Before the war started, Jezek had figured Jews for cowards. He’d got over that. The ones in the Czechoslovakian army hated Hitler even more than Czechs did, which was saying something. They made up a disproportionate number of the men who served under the government-in-exile. And Benjamin Halevy held up his end of the bargain as well as anyone could want.
    Vaclav still didn’t like Jews. He saw no reason why he should. But he wasn’t dumb enough to disbelieve what he saw with his own eyes. Jews weren’t yellow, or no more yellow than anybody else.
    Little by little, the firefight ebbed. There was no particular reason for that, any more than there had been for its start. Combat wasn’t always rational. Not even a goddamn German General Staff officer with a volume of Clausewitz under his arm could deny that.
    Wounded men moaned or shrieked, depending on how badly they were hurt. Off in the distance, the same sounds rose from the Nationalists’ positions. Suffering had a universal language.
    Stretcher-bearers hustled wounded Republican fighters to aid stations behind the lines. If the men got there alive, they had a pretty good chance to stay that way. To his surprise, Vaclav had discovered that they knew far more about giving blood transfusions in the field here than they had in either Czechoslovakia or France.
    He crawled out of the bombproof and dusted himself off. The stink of shit hung in the air. Maybe it came from men killed on the spot, maybe from men scared past endurance. He’d fouled himself a time or two. He wasn’t proud of it-who would be? But he wasn’t anywhere near so ashamed as he had been when it happened. He wasn’t the only one it had happened to-nowhere near, in fact. It was just one of those things.
    Sergeant Halevy came out, too. “Such fun,” he said.
    “Fun,” Vaclav echoed in a hollow voice. “Right.”
    “If Sanjurjo were watching the football game right now-” Halevy said.
    “Then what?” Vaclav broke in. “I’d have to spot him. I’d have to know he was there to spot in the first place. He’d have to be somewhere the rifle could reach. I’d have to be somewhere I could shoot from. And I’d have to hit him when I did. Snipers never talk about all the times they miss, you know. So why don’t you give it a rest, huh?”
    “All right,” Halevy said. “But Sanjurjo does come right up to the front line to see what’s going on. Whatever else you can say about the miserable fat turd, he’s no coward.”
    “Oh, joy,” Jezek answered. Men who hadn’t seen action always figured the miserable turds on the other side wouldn’t show courage. But he’d seen that the Nazis were as brave as Czechs or Frenchmen or Tommies. No one here in Spain had ever accused the Nationalists of lacking balls. Brains, yes, but brains weren’t the same thing. Not even close.
    “I’m just telling you it’s not impossible you’ll get a shot at him, that’s all.” Halevy wouldn’t leave it alone.
    “And I’m just telling you it’s not impossible monkeys’ll fly out my ass next time I fart, but I’m not gonna wait around till they do,” Jezek retorted irritably.
    He couldn’t faze the Jew. “With all the singe we’ve both eaten, it wouldn’t surprise me one damn bit,” Halevy said. Singe was what the French called the tinned beef they got from Argentina. It meant monkey meat. Vaclav had never eaten real monkey, so he couldn’t say how much singe tasted like it. He was sure nobody in his right mind would eat the stuff if he didn’t have to.
    He did say, “That Spam the Americans ship over is a hell of a lot better.”
    “You’re right.” Halevy grinned and made as if to lick his chops. “It sure is.”
    “It’s pork,” Vaclav reminded him, not without malice.
    “You’re right,” Halevy agreed once more. “It sure is.” Vaclav thought that over, then shrugged. He wasn’t a perfect Christian. Why should he expect the French sergeant to make a perfect Jew?

    Surabaya, on the north coast of Java, was even hotter and muggier than Manila. Pete McGill hadn’t dreamt any place could be, hell included, but there you were. And here he was, with the Boise, thanking the Lord the Japs hadn’t sunk the light cruiser before she got here.
    Joe Orsatti had an answer for the weather. Joe Orsatti, Pete was discovering, had an answer for everything. Sometimes he had a good one; sometimes he was full of crap. But the other Marine always liked to hear himself talk.
    “We’re on the other side of the Equator now,” he said. “So it’s summer here, not winter. No wonder it’s so fucking sticky.”
    “We aren’t more than a long piss on the other side of the Equator,” Pete pointed out. “Looks to me like it’d be this way all the fuckin’ time here.”
    “Maybe that’s what makes the local wogs so jumpy,” Orsatti said. “Shit, if I had to live in a steam bath the goddamn year around, you can bet your sorry ass I’d be mean, too.”
    “Who says you aren’t?” Pete thought that was one of Joe’s crappy answers.
    The Javanese didn’t look a whole lot different from Filipinos, at least to American eyes. They were small and slight and brown. When they talked among themselves, their jibber-jabber sounded pretty much the same as the Filipinos’, too.
    But a lot of Filipinos knew English, and some of the ones who didn’t knew Spanish instead. If a Javanese spoke any European language, he spoke Dutch. And, to Pete’s way of thinking, that was a big part of the problem right there.
    When the United States took the Philippines from Spain, it was with the notion that eventually the islands would turn into a country of their own. (That was how Pete had heard it, anyway. Americans tended to forget they’d fought a nasty little war against Filipinos who wanted a country of their own right away.)
    Holland, by contrast, didn’t want to turn the Dutch East Indies loose. As long as Dutch forces in the Indies were strong enough to squash revolts, the locals put up with being ruled by a little country halfway around the world. They might not like it, but they put up with it.
    Now, suddenly, all that was tottering. The Japs were on the way. They weren’t white men. They were little and kind of brown themselves. They’d made the Boise bail out of Manila Bay like a cat running from a big, mean dog. They had troops on the ground in the Philippines now. And they were heading this way, because they were desperately hungry for the oil and tin and rubber the Dutch East Indies and British Malaya had in such abundance.
    And it didn’t look as if the Dutch-or the Americans, or the British, or the Australians-would be able to stop them. Against what Japan could throw into the fight, the white powers didn’t have enough troops or ships or planes, and what they did have wasn’t good enough.
    Pete could see that. He wouldn’t have been in Surabaya if the Americans could have hung on in Manila. If he could see it, didn’t it stand to reason the Javanese could, too? If they figured the Japs were going to set them free or take them over, why did they have to kowtow to white men any more?
    How many of them listened to Japanese propaganda on the radio every chance they got? How many were quietly helping the invaders? Pete had no way to know stuff like that. He did know the Boise ’s skipper had put even the harborside dives off limits for the ship’s crew. They were officially judged unsafe, and not just because the local joy girls would give you the clap. The Dutch, who were supposed to run this town, wouldn’t go through the streets in groups smaller than squadsized. If they did, they were much too likely to get their heads smashed with a brick or their throats slit.
    A plane buzzed over the Boise: a Dutch fighter with fixed landing gear. Everybody said the Japs built junk. Everybody said that, yeah, but they’d sure done a number on the U.S. Army Air Force in the Philippines. The Dutch plane looked hotter than an Army Peashooter, but not by one whole hell of a lot.
    Joe Orsatti eyed the Dutch plane, too, and the orange triangles under the wings. “A Fokker,” he remarked.
    “A mother-Fokker,” Pete agreed.
    Orsatti sent him a pained look. “Har-de-har-har. Y’oughta take it on the road.”
    “I did,” McGill answered. “What do you think I’m doing here?”
    “Funny again-like a truss.”
    “I know,” Pete said. “But I’d sure rather see those triangles than the big old Jap meatballs.”
    “Better get used to it,” Orsatti said. “Five wins you ten we ain’t gonna stick around here real long. We’re useless here. We gotta get up farther north if we’re gonna keep the Japs from landing, y’know what I’m saying?”
    “Uh-huh,” Pete replied, not altogether happily. “Talk about sticking your head in the tiger’s mouth…”
    “Gonna be a shitass excuse for a fleet, all right,” the other Marine said. “Us, a coupla our destroyers, some Dutch tin cans, that limey light cruiser… Should be fun, getting all of us dancing to the same tune.”
    Pete hadn’t thought about that. He’d been away from ships too long before he found himself back aboard the Boise. Trying to get skippers from three countries to act in concert? “Fun. Right.” One thing for sure: the Japs wouldn’t have that problem.
    They might have others. Pete could hope so. If they didn’t, the allies here were in a lot of trouble. Pete had seen enough of the Japanese in China to have more respect for them than a lot of higher-ranking Americans did. They might not be white men, but they were sturdy and tough. And they were proud of not being white, the same way a lot of Americans and Englishmen-and, evidently, Dutchmen-were proud because they were.
    Perhaps because Orsatti had had a lot of shipboard duty, his feel for what the fleet at Surabaya would do next was pretty good. They headed north two days later. Pete wondered if word had come in that Japanese landing forces were on the way. No one said so-but then, nobody ever told the guys who would do the fighting and dying any more than they absolutely had to know. Sometimes not even that.
    Then the destroyers steamed away and left the light cruisers behind. “Something’s goin’ on,” Orsatti opined.
    “You oughta be a detective-a private dick, like,” Pete told him, which won another dirty look. They were practicing at the five-inch gun, uneasily aware that the practice could turn real any second. Lookouts constantly eyed the skies. Planes that appeared out in the middle of the ocean would be Japanese. Did the enemy fleet have carriers along? They’d struck at Hawaii, but that hadn’t gone so well as they would have liked. Manila, unfortunately, proved a different story.
    Night fell. The gun crews were on watch and watch, so Pete’s sleep got ruined. He gulped hot coffee to keep his eyes open. He wasn’t the only one. Drinking java near Java was… almost funny.
    The Boise sliced through the Java Sea, kicking up a phosphorescent bow wave and wake. If any Japanese subs were in the neighborhood… With any luck at all, we’re going too fast for ’em, Pete thought, yawning. He wasn’t used to sack time chopped into little bits. Yeah, it had been too long.
    “Our destroyers are in contact with enemy warships and transports off Borneo,” the intercom blared in harsh, metallic tones. “They are making torpedo runs at the transports.”
    Pete waited to hear reports of Jap freighters blown to smithereens, and he wasn’t the only one. But the intercom stayed quiet after that. Little by little, he realized the silence wasn’t a good sign. So did the other leathernecks on the gun crew. Their high spirits faded.
    The sun came up within a few minutes of 0600, as it always did in these waters. A plane buzzed down out of the north to look over the allied fleet. Orders came to fire at it. All the antiaircraft guns on the Boise roared together. The bursts didn’t come close to reaching the plane. It saw what it wanted to see and flew away. And nobody said another word about the destroyers and what they might be doing-or what might have been done to them. Pete kept his mouth shut along with everyone else. But he knew damn well that wasn’t a good sign.

    A horse slogged up a road pulling a panje wagon after it. The wagon had tall wheels and an almost boat-shaped bottom. Russian peasants had-and needed-plenty of experience building wagons that could plow through even the thickest mud.
    Thaw’s early this year, Ivan Kuchkov thought. More freezes would probably come, but little by little the winter snowfall would melt and soak into the ground. For the next four to six weeks, nobody would go anywhere very fast. No one in his right mind would order any major actions during the rasputitsa, because action just bogged down in the mud.
    The Poles knew as much about the rasputitsa, the mud time, as their Russian neighbors. The Germans had fought in the East last year and during the last war, so they knew something. Ivan had heard they knew enough to steal as many panje wagons as they could, anyhow. Their trucks got stuck in the muck just like everybody else’s.
    What the Germans’ French and English lackeys knew… Kuchkov’s lips skinned back from his teeth in a nasty grin. He suspected the Red Army would teach them a few lessons. He also suspected they wouldn’t enjoy the instruction. The few schoolmasters Kuchkov had known used a switch to make sure their teaching sank in. The Red Army had a bigger switch than even the meanest, most brutal village schoolmaster, and could swing it harder.
    Lieutenant Obolensky squelched up. Kuchkov pretended not to see him. It was at least possible that Obolensky needed to talk to somebody else in the squad. Avram, maybe; the nervous little Jew had his fingers in a million different pies. Ivan wouldn’t have been surprised if he was NKVD.
    But no. Obolensky looked around till he spotted Kuchkov. “Come here a moment, Sergeant,” he said.
    “I serve the Soviet Union, Comrade Lieutenant!” That was never the wrong answer. Kuchkov added a salute. The mud tried to suck off his boots as he made his way over to the junior officer. When he got there, he stood and waited. Let Obolensky show his cards.
    The lieutenant also waited, but he was the one who spoke first: “What shape is your squad in, Sergeant?” Ivan smiled to himself. Obolensky was an educated guy, a city guy-his attitude, his accent, his very way of standing all said as much. No way in hell he could outstubborn or outwait a man from a village where the creek was the only running water… when it wasn’t frozen, anyhow.
    “Well, sir, we’re kinda fucked. We lost three guys taking that last village from those Nazi dicks.” No, Ivan neither knew nor cared what was regular Russian and what was mat. “We got one back-cocksucking bullet only grazed the bitch, y’know? And we got a replacement, but the pussy’s so green we’d be better off without him. So yeah, we’re fucked.”
    To his surprise, Lieutenant Obolensky smiled. “You sound just like every other sergeant in charge of a squad. Maybe the Red Air Force isn’t so different from the Red Army after all.”
    Kuchkov was convinced the Red Air Force was a damn sight better than the Red Army. No one would ever have accused him of being bright, but he had enough animal cunning to know saying so would only get him in deeper. Deeper in what? He didn’t know that, either, and he wasn’t interested in finding out. He waited some more. Maybe Obolensky would go away and pick some other squad for whatever shitty job he had in mind.
    Maybe pigs had wings. Not around here, though. The lieutenant pointed west, toward-no past-the birch and pine woods over there. “You know the Fascists are set up in the fields beyond the trees.”
    “Uh-huh.” Kuchkov only nodded. The Germans had dug in as well as they could while the ground was frozen. Now they had to be shoring up their trenches with boards and sticks and twigs and straw and anything else they could grab. The mud would ooze through anyway. It sure did here.
    “Our battalion has orders to shift them,” Obolensky said.
    “Happy fucking day, sir!” Kuchkov said. “The whoremongers’ll have machine guns set up and waiting for us.” German machine guns scared the piss out of him, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it.
    “We have orders,” Obolensky repeated in a voice like doom. “This company is on the right wing. I am going to place your squad as the last feather on the wing. You will try to outflank the Nazi position and roll it up.”
    “What? With one little piss-dribble of a squad?” Ivan burst out. Obolensky just looked at him. He made himself nod and salute. Sometimes you got stuck with it. And things could have been worse. He’d feared the lieutenant would send his squad in ahead of everybody else. If that wasn’t suicide… then this might be.
    He gave his men the news. “Oh, boy,” Avram said, and then, “Gevalt.” Talking like a German was liable to get him killed, but sometimes he did it anyway. He took off his submachine gun’s drum magazine and started cleaning the works. Anything he could keep from going wrong, he would. The trouble was, you couldn’t keep everything from going wrong.
    They sneaked through the woods during the night. As black began to yield to gray, Ivan and everybody else gulped a hundred grams of vodka. It made him fierce. It also made him even more what-the-fuck than he had been before.
    There was supposed to be an artillery barrage before the attack went in. Red Army artillery was usually reliable. Not today. A few mortar rounds woke up the Fritzes without hurting them much. They started yelling. A machine gun and a few rifles fired at nothing.
    “Gevalt,” Avram said again. Kuchkov’s mouth was dry. The Nazis would be waiting now. No chance in hell to catch them by surprise. Kilometers back of the line, some fat Russian colonel was probably eating out his secretary’s twat instead of telling the 105s to get busy.
    No help for it. Yelling “Urra!”, the battalion burst out of the woods and rushed the German trenches. Some men wore snow smocks; some didn’t. Some smocks were clean and white; some weren’t. With slushy snow dappling the mud, the mixture camouflaged the Russians as well as any more rigid scheme would have.
    The Germans opened up on them, of course. Facing machine-gun fire, camouflage hardly mattered. Either a bullet got you or it didn’t. All luck, either way. Something tugged at Kuchkov’s left sleeve. When he looked down, he found the leather of his flying suit had a new rip. But he didn’t hurt and he wasn’t bleeding, so he ran on.
    A potato-masher grenade flew out of the forwardmost German trench, and then another one. Ivan dove for the mud. His tunic would never camouflage him against snow again, but all the fragments went over him and none into him. He yanked the pin from his own egg grenade and chucked it at the Germans from his knees. Then he scrambled up and dashed forward again.
    Despite the grenade, a German in a whitewashed helmet popped up and fired a Mauser at him from point-blank range. As often happened in the rage and terror of combat, the Fritz missed. Kuchkov gave him a burst from the PPD before he could work the bolt for his next shot. It was like spraying a hose-you didn’t have to be a sniper to get two or three hits. The German toppled with a groan, his tunic front all over blood.
    “Come on!” Ivan yelled to his men still on their feet. “Let’s clean out these motherfucking cunts!” He jumped down into the zigzagging Nazi trench. Grenades and submachine guns were the right tools for the job.
    A German dropped his rifle and threw up his hands. “Kamerad!” he squealed, terror on his face. Kuchkov gave him a burst, too. Considering what happened to prisoners, he might have done the fellow a favor. Chances were he would have shot him anyway, though.
    The Fritzes had been thinner on the ground than he expected. They pulled back in good order. What was left of the Red Army battalion began looting the corpses left behind in their trenches. The Russians had taken a devil of a lot of casualties themselves to win this hectare of blood and mud. Was it worth them? Kuchkov had no idea. He was busy spreading meat paste from a dead German’s tinfoil tube onto a chunk of black bread. If the bastards eat like this all the time, no wonder they’re so fucking tough, he thought, and squeezed the tube for more.

    When Samuel Goldman came home from his laborer’s job, unusual excitement lit his gray-stubbled face. (No one in Germany had enough soap, and Jews’ rations were smaller than Aryans’. He didn’t shave very often.) “What’s up, Father?” Sarah asked. “Something is-I can see it in your eyes.”
    “You’re right,” he said. “They’ve finally gone and arrested the Bishop of Munster. The Gestapo took him away in an armored car.”
    “Oh. Oh, my,” Sarah said. “He’s been asking for it, hasn’t he?”
    “Just a little bit,” Father answered. “I knew him-not well, but I knew him-back in the days when knowing a Jew didn’t destroy someone’s reputation. Clemens August von Galen is a proud, stiff-necked man.”
    “With a name like that, he’s an aristocrat, too,” Sarah said.
    “Right again,” her father agreed. “He’s not the kind to be happy when a jumped-up shoe salesman or whatever tells him what to do. You can hear that in every sermon he preaches-well, every sermon that doesn’t have to do with foreign policy, I mean.”
    Sarah nodded. Hardly a German had ever had a good word to say for the vengeful Treaty of Versailles. She hadn’t herself, back when she was a kid before the Nazis took over. Yes, she’d partly been parroting her parents, but even so…
    Maybe Bishop von Galen could forgive the war, which was designed not least to give Germany her proper place once more. But he couldn’t forgive the Nazis for confiscating church buildings, for expelling members of religious orders from the Reich, or for their program of what they called mercy killings. He said so, loudly, from the pulpit. After RAF planes bombed Munster, he delivered a sermon on loving one’s enemies.
    Not a word of that, of course, got into the local newspapers. Radio broadcasts kept quiet about it, too. The regime controlled every official news source. It got around all the same. People who heard Bishop von Galen speak spread word of what he said. People who heard them spread it wider. Everyone in town knew the bishop and the Nazis were on a collision course.
    “What will happen now?” Sarah asked.
    “They’ll keep him in jail, or else they’ll kill him,” Father said. “I don’t think they’ll kill him right away. They have other ways to put the screws to him. He has a brother-Franz, I think his name is. The Gestapo ’s already grabbed other priests from the diocese.”
    “Did they hope Bishop von Galen would take a hint?” Sarah inquired.
    Samuel Goldman beamed at her. He might be tired, but he was also proud. “How did you get so grown-up when I wasn’t looking?” he said. Sarah made a rude noise. Her father laughed but went on, “Yes, I’m sure they did hope he’d do that. But if he were the kind of man who took those hints, he wouldn’t be the kind of man who preached those sermons.”
    That made sense to Sarah. Father usually made sense to her, except for his hopeless, unrequited love affair with being a real German. She found the only question she could think of that really mattered: “What happens next? Do people let the Nazis get away with it?”
    “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone else does, either,” he said slowly. “But I’ll tell you this: we heard they’d arrested von Galen about an hour before quitting time, and the whole labor gang was furious. Not just Catholics. Everyone. The men were cussing out the Gestapo like you wouldn’t believe. When I was walking home”-Jews couldn’t use buses or trams-“I heard more people up in arms about it, too.”
    “What will they do? Rally in front of the Rathaus?” Sarah laughed at the idea. “That would just give the blackshirts the chance to arrest all of them at once.”
    “You might be surprised,” her father said. “The Catholic Church still has some clout, and it’s always been more leery of the Nazis than most Protestant churches were. No ‘German Christians’ among the Catholics, or not many, anyhow.” He screwed up his face.
    So did Sarah. So-called German Christians believed Nazi ideals were compatible with those of Jesus. As far as she could see, that was well on the way toward being like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, who made a habit of believing two impossible things every day before breakfast. But German Christians dominated most Protestant denominations these days. Didn’t you also believe in impossibilities if you thought you could tell the Nazis no and get away with it?
    “Where’s your mother?” Samuel Goldman asked. “Now I’ll have to tell the story twice.”
    “She’s out shopping.” Sarah’s voice was sour. Jews could only do it at the very end of the day, when everyone else had already had the chance to pick over the little in the stores. Sarah added, “I was peeling potatoes when I heard you come in.”
    Her father sighed. “Bad food, and not enough of it.” He flipped his hand up and down. “It’s not your fault. I know it’s not. You and mother do everything anyone could with what the Reich lets us have.”
    “That’s not enough, either.”
    “If it were, the Reich wouldn’t let us have it,” Father said.
    He paused then. Sarah could read his mind. He was looking for the best-or worst-way to make a pun about how the Reich really wanted to let them have it. He did things like that. But before he could this time, the front door opened behind him. He looked absurdly affronted as he half turned on his good leg, as if Mother had squashed his line on purpose.
    Hanna Goldman hadn’t, of course. Her little two-wheeled collapsible wire shopping cart was almost as empty as it had been when she set out. Some sorry turnips, some insect-nibbled greens… That kind of stuff might have done for fattening hogs. People just got thinner on it, as Sarah had sad reason to know.
    But Mother’s jade-green eyes snapped with excitement. “They’ve arrested Bishop von Galen!” she exclaimed.
    “We knew that.” By the deflationary way Father said it, he was miffed he hadn’t got to make his horrible pun.
    Mother refused to be deflated. “Did you know there’s a great big crowd out in front of the cathedral? Did you know they’re yelling at the police and the blackshirts, and throwing things at them, too?”
    “Der Herr Gott im Himmel!” Father burst out. Sarah felt the same way. Germans mostly didn’t do such things. She’d heard that, when machine guns opened up on demonstrators in the mad Berlin of 1919, the crowd fled across a park to escape the deadly fire-but people obeyed the KEEP OFF THE GRASS! signs while they ran for their lives.
    “It’s true. I saw the edges of it. I got away from there as fast as I could afterward,” Mother said. “I didn’t want to wait till the blackshirts started shooting-and I didn’t want to give them any reason to arrest a Jew, either.”
    “If each of us would have tried to take one of those pigdogs with him when they came for him…” For a moment, Father looked and sounded young and ferocious, the way he would have in the trenches in the last war. But then he sighed and shook his head and went back to his familiar self. “The Nazis wouldn’t care. They’d thank us for handing them an excuse to murder us all.”
    “They can’t murder everyone out by the cathedral,” Mother said.
    Distant gunfire seemed to give her the lie. Even more faintly, Sarah heard screams and shrieks and shouts. She supposed they’d been going on before, but she hadn’t been able to make them out. She could now. People made more noise when bullets snarled past-or when they struck home.
    “They’ll blame the Communists for this,” Father predicted.
    “There aren’t many Catholic Communists,” Sarah pointed out.
    “They won’t care,” Samuel Goldman said. “Outside agitators, they’ll call them, and they’ll say von Galen was working with them.” He spread his callused hands. “I mean, otherwise they’d have to blame themselves, and what are the odds of that?”

Chapter 6

    Coming back into port should have been a relief for Julius Lemp and the rest of the U-30’s crew. Most of the time, it was. Coming back meant they’d made it through another patrol. RAF bombs wouldn’t sink them. Russian shells wouldn’t tear through the U-boat’s thin steel hide and send it to the bottom. Slow-crawling crabs wouldn’t pick out Lemp’s bulging dead eyes with their claws… this time.
    The men could shave their beards. They could take proper showers. They could eat food that didn’t come out of tins. They could go into town and drink and pick up barmaids and brawl. They could walk off by themselves, without someone else always at their elbow. Or they could lie on real mattresses and sleep and sleep.
    It was wonderful. Most of the time.
    Every once in a while, politics got in the way. And politics, in the Reich, turned bloody in a hurry. They’d just come back in to Wilhelmshaven when the generals tried to topple the Fuhrer. You didn’t want to hear machine-gun fire at the edge of the base, especially when you weren’t sure who was shooting at whom or why.
    Now they were in Kiel-at the edge of the Baltic rather than the North Sea-and politics was rearing its ugly head again. Everyone should have been proud of them for sinking the destroyer and two Soviet freighters on their latest patrol. If Lemp’s superiors were, they had a gift for hiding their enthusiasm.
    “ Ja, ja. Well done, I am sure,” said the graying Kapitan zur See who heard Lemp’s first report. The bare bulb above the senior officer’s desk gleamed off the four gold stripes on his cuffs. He scribbled a note or two, but only a note or two. “No doubt your log gives the full details.”
    If he wasn’t a distracted man, Lemp had never seen one. “Yes, sir,” he said.
    The captain looked up and seemed surprised to find him still there. “Do you require something else, uh, Lemp?” He had to remind himself who the squirt in front of him was. Considering some of the things that had happened to Lemp, he didn’t know whether to be relieved or alarmed-for better and for worse, he hadn’t had the kind of career that lent itself to obscurity.
    “Require? No, sir. Of course not, sir.” Lemp lied with great sincerity, as a junior sometimes had to do with a superior. “But if it’s not too much trouble, sir, I would like to have some idea of what’s going on.”
    He might have stuck the Kapitan zur See with a pin. “What makes you think anything out of the ordinary is going on?” the older man demanded. Lemp didn’t answer; he didn’t think that needed an answer. The four-striper’s sigh said he really didn’t, either. He lit a cigarette. It was only stalling, and he and Lemp both knew it. His sigh sent a stream of smoke up toward the lightbulb. “Tell me, Lemp-what is your religion?”
    “My religion, sir?” The U-boat skipper would have been more surprised had the captain asked him which position he most fancied in bed, but not much more surprised. “I’m a Lutheran, sir, but I haven’t been to church in a while.”
    The senior officer blew out more smoke, this time in obvious relief. “Well, I could say the same thing. As a matter of fact, I did say the same thing to my own superiors the other day.”
    Lemp had to remind himself that even an exalted Kapitan zur See had men to whom he needed to answer. “Why on earth did they ask you, sir?” he said, in lieu of Why on earth are you asking me?
    A brief spark in the captain’s gray eyes said he also heard the question behind the question. “There are certain… advantages to being away at sea, tending to the Reich ’s business,” he replied. “You won’t have heard that the Catholics are, mm, well, some of them are, mm, unhappy about the way things are going.”
    “Sir?” Lemp said, this time in lieu of What the devil are you talking about?
    “It’s the Bishop of Munster’s fault,” the four-striper said. He sounded like a man trying to convince himself. Or that could have been Lemp’s imagination, but he didn’t think so. The answer also explained next to nothing. The Kapitan zur See must have realized as much. He stubbed out the cigarette with a quick, savage motion. “He spoke out against the Fuhrer ’s policy. From the pulpit. Repeatedly. And so the security services decided they had no choice but to take him into custody.”
    “I… see,” Lemp said slowly. You needed nerve to do something like that. You needed to have your head examined, was what you really needed.
    “There are… demonstrations of unhappiness about this here and there in the Vaterland,” the Kapitan zur See said. “This is why I asked you, you understand.”
    “Aber naturlich,” Lemp said, which seemed safe enough. Demonstrations of unhappiness? What was going on in Germany? Was the whole country bubbling like a pot of stew forgotten on the stove? He wouldn’t have been surprised. You couldn’t just go arresting bishops. These weren’t the Middle Ages, after all. But the blackshirts didn’t seem to care. They were Hitler’s hounds. Do something they didn’t like and they’d bite.
    “So that’s where we are. That’s why passes into town are limited,” the Kapitan zur See said. Schleswig-Holstein had been Danish till a lifetime before, and was solidly Lutheran. Even so… “The less trouble we stir up, the better for everyone.”
    “The men won’t like being restricted to base, sir,” Lemp said. As the other officer had to know, that was an understatement.
    “Yes? And so?” The Kapitan zur See sent him a hooded look. “They aren’t the only crew here, you know.”
    “Jawohl, mein Herr.” Lemp knew a losing fight when he saw one. “I’ll tell them what they need to understand.” He rose, saluted, and got out of the four-striper’s office as fast as he could.
    By the time he returned to the barracks, the U-30’s crew had already found that next to none of them would be able to go into town. They weren’t happy about it, which was putting things mildly. “What, the shitheads don’t think we deserve to blow off steam? They can blow it out their assholes, is what they can do.” That was Paul, the helmsman-a chief petty officer, and as steady a man as Lemp had ever known. If he was within shouting distance of mutiny, the rest of the submariners had to be even closer.
    Lemp spread his hands in what looked like apology, even though U-boat skippers weren’t in the habit of apologizing to their men. “There’s nothing I can do about it, friends,” he said. “It’s politics, is what it is.” He summarized what the Kapitan zur See had told him. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the senior officer didn’t want ratings to know such things. Well, too damn bad for him if he didn’t.
    Some of the sailors, naturally, were Catholics. Some were convinced Nazis. The largest number cared little for religion or politics. “So this bullshit is what’s keeping us confined to base?” one of them said. “That’s nothing but Quatsch. If we want to get into fights, we’ve got better things to brawl about than some stupid, loudmouthed bishop.”
    “Do we?” another sailor said. “The government shouldn’t tell us how to be religious. They fought wars about that back in the old days.”
    “A bishop’s got no business telling government what to do, either,” the first man retorted. “They fought wars about that in the old days, too.” By the way the two ratings glared at each other, they were both ready to square off on the spot. By the way their friends shifted toward one or the other, everybody knew which side of the fence he stood on.
    “That will be enough of that,” Lemp said sternly. “As you were, all of you.” For a bad couple of seconds, he didn’t think they’d listen to him. That was the worst feeling an officer could get. Obedience sprang from consent, no matter how much the military tried to conceal that. When men stopped listening to their leaders… You got the end of 1918 all over again. No German in his right mind wanted to repeat that long fall into chaos.
    But then one of the ratings said, “Ah, fuck it. It’s got nothing to do with crewmates.” After a moment, the other man nodded. Tension left the barracks hall like water leaving a dive chamber when a U-boat surfaced. The rating went on, “If we can’t go into town, the least they could do would be to bring some broads onto the base and set up a brothel here.” All the sailors nodded in unison to that.
    It seemed like a good idea to Julius Lemp, too. “I’ll see what I can do,” he promised, and headed back toward the Kapitan zur See ’s office. A few girls, even homely ones who smelled of onions, would go a long way toward making sure the men remembered what they were supposed to be doing and why. They’d also go a long way toward making sure the men remembered their superiors cared about them. And that would help them remember what they should be doing and why, too.

    Some of the streets in Bialystok had trees growing alongside them. The locals bragged about their tree-lined boulevards, and said they made Bialystok just like Paris. Only a bunch of provincial Poles and Jews could imagine that a Polish provincial town was anything like Paris, but try and tell them that.
    Hans-Ulrich Rudel didn’t. For one thing, life was too short. For another, he’d never been to Paris himself. He’d bombed the place when the Wehrmacht fought its way to the suburbs, but that wasn’t the same thing. He’d promised himself leave in the French capital after it fell, but it didn’t.
    So here he was two years later, on leave in Bialystok instead. At the moment, the trees were bare-branched, even skeletal. But the leaf buds were starting to swell. Spring was on the way. Before long, Bialystok would be green again, even if not Parisian.
    Signs on shops and eateries were in incomprehensible Polish and just as incomprehensible Yiddish. The one had the right alphabet but alien words, the other pretty much familiar words in an alien script. Both added up to gibberish for him.
    But he’d come here before, often enough to know where he was going from the train station. If he had got lost, spoken Yiddish made far more sense to him than the written kind, and Bialystok was full of Jews. He could have asked one of them. These days, the town also had its share of chain dogs-German Feldgendarmerie, their gorgets of office hung around their necks from chains. He was glad he didn’t need to talk to them. The less he had to do with them, the better.
    A drunk Pole reeled out of a tavern. That would have been a cliche, except the Pole, in a uniform of dark, greenish khaki, was arm in arm with an equally plastered German in Feldgrau. They were both murdering the same tune, each in his own language. Drunken Germans weren’t such a cliche, which didn’t mean Hans-Ulrich hadn’t seen his share of them and then some.
    As a matter of fact, he was heading for a tavern himself, though not this one. Another block up from the station, half a block over… He nodded to himself. He recognized the Polish sign out front, even if it made no sense to him. He walked in. The place smelled of tobacco and sweat and beer and fried food-and stale piss from the jakes out back.
    Poles and Germans drank together here, too. So did Jews and Germans, which would have been unimaginable back in the Reich. The Poles didn’t like their Jews, but they didn’t hit them with the same legal restrictions the Germans did. Maybe they couldn’t; one person in ten in Poland was a Jew, only one in a hundred in Germany. Wehrmacht personnel here had orders to conform to local customs and laws.
    A short, swarthy barmaid sidled up to Hans-Ulrich. She spoke in throaty Yiddish: “You may as well sit down, not that the boss’ll make a zloty off you if you keep on drinking tea.”
    “Hello, Sofia. Won’t you at least tell me you’re glad to see me?” Rudel didn’t grab her or kiss her in public. She didn’t like that. Did she go with other men while he was in the East fighting the war? If she did, he’d never heard about it. The way things were these days, that would do.
    “I’m at least glad to see you,” she answered, deadpan. She wasn’t exactly a Jew; she had a Polish father, which in the Reich ’s classification scheme made her a Mischling first class. But she thought of herself as Jewish, and she was snippy like a Jew. Back in Germany, Hans-Ulrich would have endangered his career by having anything to do with her. He could get away with it here-could, and did.
    She took him to a corner and brought him a glass of tea. She found his teetotaling as funny as most of his service comrades did. She was also as nervous about seeing a German-and a Nazi Party member at that-as he was about going with a Jewess. In bed, everything was fine. The rest of the time… Hans-Ulrich sometimes thought they came from different planets, not just different countries.
    Sofia was well informed about his planet, though. Along with the sweet, milkless tea, she gave him a mocking grin. “So even the Catholics in Germany say Hitler can’t get away with some of the stuff he’s trying to pull?” she said.
    As a Lutheran minister’s son, his opinion of Catholics had never been high. “A lot of that is just enemy propaganda,” he said. None of it had come over the German radio or appeared in any army or Luftwaffe newspaper. That didn’t mean he hadn’t heard a few things, or more than a few. It did mean he wasn’t obliged to believe them-not officially, and not when Sofia tried to rub his nose in them.
    She quirked a dark eyebrow. “Well, if you say so,” she answered, which meant she wasn’t obliged to believe him, either. She went on, “The big switch was good for something, anyhow. I got a card from my mother the other day, from Palestine.”
    While England and Germany were at war, mail from Palestine-a British League of Nations mandate-didn’t travel to Poland because it was friendly to Germany. Now that England had joined the crusade against Bolshevism, things moved more freely. “There’s rather more to it than that, you know,” he said stiffly. He often was more literal-minded than might have been good for him. Sofia enjoyed getting under his skin. As if having a mother who felt strongly enough about being Jewish to go to Palestine after the Pole she’d married (a drunkard, if you listened to Sofia) walked out weren’t enough!
    “If you say so,” Sofia repeated. Big things-like who would win the war-meant little to her. Or, if they did, she wouldn’t let on. A small thing-like getting a card from her mother after a long silence-counted for more.
    “I think you’re trying to drive me crazy,” Hans-Ulrich said.
    “It would be a short drive,” she retorted, which made him regret-not for the first time-getting into a battle of words with her. He was a good flyer, not such a great talker. But everybody knew Jews were born talking, and in that Sofia took after her mother. Rudel assumed as much, anyhow, without even thinking about it.
    He tried to change the subject: “What time do you get off today?”
    “Why? What have you got in mind?” She didn’t just answer a question with another question. She answered one with two.
    “Whatever you want, of course,” Hans-Ulrich said. Bialystok’s nightlife consisted of a few movie houses, a dance hall or two, and a Yiddish theater. Even with trees lining the streets, Paris it was not.
    Sofia laughed raucously. “Whatever you want, you mean. And what else does a man ever want?”
    Rudel’s ears heated. “Well, what if I do? If I didn’t, you’d think I was sleeping with somebody else, and you’d give me trouble on account of that.”
    “I wouldn’t give you trouble. I’d drop you like a grenade. No-I’d throw you like a grenade.” She cocked her head to one side. “You mean you don’t visit the officers’ whorehouse? I’m sure they’ve set one up somewhere not far from you. They always do things like that, don’t they?”
    As a matter of fact, they did. An officers’ brothel-and one for other ranks-operated in a village a couple of kilometers from the airstrip. Hans-Ulrich knew Sergeant Dieselhorst had visited the one for enlisted men. He hadn’t called at the officers’ establishment. That gave his fellow flyers one more reason to think he was strange, though they knew about Sofia and didn’t think he was a fairy.
    “The girls there would just be doing it because they were doing it,” he said slowly, trying to put what he thought into words. “They wouldn’t be doing it because they wanted to do it with me.”
    And I do? He waited for the barmaid’s jeers. Rather to his surprise, it didn’t come. She eyed him as if she were seeing him for the first time. “That matters to you?”
    “Yes, it matters to me.” He was in his midtwenties. He often risked his life several times a day. He gave Sofia a crooked grin. “Well, most of the time, anyhow.”
    He wondered if she’d get mad. Instead, he startled a laugh out of her. “You’d better watch yourself. If you aren’t careful, you’ll make me think you’re honest.”
    Hans-Ulrich prided himself on his honesty-he was a pastor’s son. He started to get angry, then realized she was teasing him. “You…” he said, more or less fondly.
    She grinned at him, altogether unrepentant. “Did you expect anything different?” Before he could answer, the soldiers at another table yelled for her to fetch them another round of drinks. She fluttered her fingers at him and hurried away. Hans-Ulrich realized she never had told him when she got off. How much tea would he soak up before she finally did? He wasn’t even that fond of tea. But he was fond of Sofia, and so he waited and ordered glass after glass.

    Alistair Walsh’s principal use to the Conservative conspirators against Sir Horace Wilson’s alliance with the Reich was that he knew soldiers. Some of them had put on the uniform after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, but he’d worn it for more than twenty years-for his whole adult life, till his political unreliability led him to resign from the service and led the army to accept his resignation.
    So he knew soldiers in ways the toffs didn’t. And he also knew soldiers-literally. At one time or another between the wars, he’d served under most of England’s prominent and high-ranking officers. Senior officers tended to remember senior noncoms. Those long-serving veterans were the army’s backbone. They counted for more in the scheme of things than lieutenants and captains and sometimes even majors because they knew all the things the junior officers were just learning-and more besides, especially if you listened to them.
    And Walsh could do things in an unofficial capacity that would have raised eyebrows-to say nothing of hackles-had an MP gone about them. If the conspirators talked to a general, for instance, Sir Horace and his none too merry men would naturally suspect them of skullduggery. The Prime Minister and his henchmen would be right, too.
    But if Alistair Walsh called on General Archibald Wavell-well, so what? He was only an out-to-pasture underofficer. For all Scotland Yard could prove, he was asking for a job, or maybe a loan.
    That was also true for all General Wavell knew. He might not have had any idea of the company Walsh was keeping these days. He did know who Walsh was, though, and did agree to meet him at General Staff headquarters. In baggy civilian tweeds, Walsh felt dreadfully out of place in that sanctum of creased khaki, gleaming brass tunic buttons, shoulder straps, and swarms of the red collar tabs that showed officers of colonel’s rank and above. In uniform himself, he would have had to salute till his shoulder ached. As things were, his arm kept twitching as he fought down the conditioned reflex again and again.
    Wavell was an erect, thin-faced man in his early fifties. “I can give you fifteen minutes, Walsh,” he said as he closed his office door to let them talk privately. Scotland Yard might be able to plant microphones in many different places, Walsh judged, but not here.
    “Thank you, sir,” the ex-serviceman said. “I appreciate it, and so do my friends.”
    One of Wavell’s bushy eyebrows rose an eighth of an inch. “Your… friends?” He let the word hang in the air. By the look on his face, he might have taken a bite of fish that was slightly off.
    “Yes, sir,” Walsh said stolidly. “You may or may not have heard I was the bloke who had the bad luck to bring in Rudolf Hess after he parachuted from his Messerschmitt 110.”
    “Were you, now?” The general’s gaze sharpened. “Yes, that’s right. You were. I remember seeing the report, now you remind me of it.
    And so?”
    “And so I wish I’d had a pistol with me and plugged him instead,” Walsh answered. “Then maybe we wouldn’t be in bed with Hitler now. My friends”-he deliberately reused the word-“still wish we weren’t.”
    Wavell snorted. “They aren’t the only ones, I’m sure.” But he checked himself. “It’s up to the politicians to set policy, of course. The military’s here to back their play when the usual peacetime methods fail.”
    “Invading Russia, sir?” Walsh said. “Isn’t that going a bit far?”
    “If your friends are of the pink persuasion, Walsh, I don’t think we have much more to say to each other.” Twenty degrees of frost crisped up Wavell’s voice.
    “They’re Tories almost to a man. Churchill was one of them, till he met that Bentley,” Walsh replied. Winston Churchill hated the idea of helping Hitler, not that Neville Chamberlain cared a farthing what Churchill thought. People still wondered whether the rich young man behind the wheel of the auto that ran Churchill down was truly as drunk as the bobbies claimed.
    “That was a bad business,” Wavell said quietly, so he might have been one of those wondering people. He studied Walsh. “So you’re in with that lot, are you? No, they’re not pinks, no doubt of that.”
    “I am, sir. It seems the best way to honor Churchill’s memory-and, to my mind, he was dead right about the Nazis.” Walsh hadn’t used the phrase with malice aforethought. But he quite fancied it once it was out of his mouth. “Dead right,” he repeated.
    “I can’t imagine what you or your friends expect me to do about it, though,” Wavell said. “This isn’t Argentina or Brazil or one of those places. The army doesn’t interfere in politics here. It would be unthinkable.”
    Walsh just sat there and waited. If General Wavell was talking about it, he was thinking about it. What he was thinking about it… Walsh would discover in due course.
    The general glanced at his wristwatch. “Well,” he said with forced briskness, “I’m afraid I’ve given you all the time I can spare at present. There is a war on, you know, and someone does have to run it, or at any rate to try.”
    “Certainly, sir.” Walsh got to his feet. “Is there anything you’d particularly like me to tell my friends?”
    “Tell them… Tell them they don’t know what they’re playing at, dammit.”
    “I think they do, sir. I think it’s the Prime Minister and his lot who’ve gone off the rails, not these other fellows.”
    “You can say that. You’ve taken off the uniform. No, I don’t hold it against you-no denying you had your reasons,” Wavell said. “But I still wear it. If I were to speak in the same fashion, or to act in addition to speaking, it would be treason, nothing less.”
    “General, I don’t know anything about that,” said Walsh, who knew far more about it than he’d dreamt he would before he watched that lone parachutist descend on the Scottish field. Taking a deep breath, he continued, “I do know we can’t go on the way we’re going. It would ruin the country forever. Anything would be better, anything at all. Or do you think I’m wrong?”
    “I think-” Wavell broke off, shaking his head like a horse pestered by gnats. “I think you’d best go, Walsh, is what I think. And deliver my message to your associates.”
    Walsh did, at a pub not far from Parliament. They kept no favorite table: that would have made it too easy for Scotland Yard, or perhaps the PM’s less savory associates, to arrange to listen in. Walsh didn’t think they could bug every table in the place. The noise from the rest of the crowd-more politicos, solicitors, newspapermen, and other such riffraff-drowned out the conspirators’ conversations. He hoped like blazes it did, anyhow.
    Ronald Cartland slammed his pint mug down on the tabletop in disgust when Walsh finished. It wasn’t empty; some best bitter slashed out. “Good Lord!” the MP exclaimed. “The man has no more spine than an eclair! One of you, Walsh, is worth a thousand of him.”
    Cartland had volunteered for service when the war broke out, and fought in France as a subaltern. That, to Walsh’s mind, gave his opinions weight and made his praise doubly warming. But Walsh thought his dismissal of General Wavell was premature. “I don’t know about that, sir,” he said. “He didn’t have the military police arrest me for treason, the way he might have done. He didn’t even chuck me out of his office. He listened to me. He may not be ready to move yet, but he doesn’t half fancy the way things are heading.”
    “Who in his right mind would?” said Bobbity Cranford, another leader of the anti-alliance crowd. “But if he listened to you, old man, he’d better watch out for Bentleys the next time he crosses the road.”
    That produced a considerable silence around the table. Walsh broke it by loudly calling to a barmaid to fill up his pint again. He needed the fresh mug. Cranford had reminded him they weren’t playing a game here, nor was the government. If it felt itself seriously threatened, it would lash out. Anyone who didn’t believe that had only to remember Winston Churchill.

    Luc Harcourt unslung his rifle and carried it instead of leaving it on his shoulder. His regiment was heading up to the front again, and he wanted to be ready if they ran into any Russians. Besides, fronts here were far more porous than they’d been in France. Some enemy soldiers were bound to have leaked through what was supposed to be the line.
    His boots squelched as he tramped up the road, but only a little. The mud didn’t try to pull off his footgear, as it would have a couple of weeks earlier. Pretty soon, both sides would be able to start moving again. There were prospects Luc relished more.
    Up ahead, Lieutenant Demange was singing obscene lyrics to the tune of a peasant song about spring. Luc had known Demange since before the shooting started. Not many others from the old company survived, and even fewer in one piece. Knowing Demange as he did, Luc also knew those foul verses were a way for the reluctantly promoted officer to hide his own nerves about what lay ahead.
    Anyone who didn’t know Demange so well would assume he owned no nerves. Luc had, for a long time. But underneath the chrome-steel salaud lay a human being. A nasty human being, but even so, Luc thought.
    One thing Demange didn’t believe in was taking needless chances; a soldier had to take too many that were necessary. He carried a rifle instead of the more usual and less useful officer’s pistol. And he carried it, like Luc. He was ready for anything. And things needed to be ready for him.
    “Halt! Who goes there?” a sentry called in nervous, German-accented French. “Give the countersign!”
    “Your mother on a pogo stick,” Demange snarled. He might be here, but he still despised the Boches.
    “Qu’est-ce-que vous dites?” the sentry said: a reasonable enough question. He added, “Give the countersign, or I fire!”
    Demange did, which confirmed Luc’s thought about not taking chances he didn’t have to. The German passed him and the men he led. Well, why not? They were doing some of Hitler’s work so the rest of the Fritzes wouldn’t have to.
    The trench system was well enough organized and shored up to show the lines hadn’t moved much for a while. What with the way Russia turned to mud soup as the snow melted, the lines couldn’t very well move.
    Which didn’t mean the Reds were asleep behind their rusting barbed wire. The regiment hadn’t been in place for half an hour before an Ivan with a megaphone shouted at them in much better French than the German sentry spoke: “Here they are again-Colonel Eluard’s little darlings.”
    How did the bastard know? Luc wouldn’t have thought any of the handful of Russian peasants he’d seen had paid the least attention to the Frenchmen tramping up to the front. He really wouldn’t have thought they could tell one regiment from another. And he really wouldn’t have thought that, even if they could, they’d be able to pass the word on to their countrymen so fast.
    That only went to show how much he knew. With noxious good cheer, the French-speaking Russian went on, “Now that you’re back, we should welcome you the way you deserve!”
    “Jump for the bombproofs, boys!” Demange shouted, a good twenty seconds before mortar bombs started raining down on the trenches.
    His instincts saved lives. Luc had already curled up in a place where fragments couldn’t get him when the shooting started. But not everybody was so lucky. Machine guns and German artillery kept the Russians at bay. Stretcher-bearers hauled off the wounded Frenchmen.
    “Those fucking stovepipes are bad news,” Demange said, lighting one more in his endless chain of Gitanes.
    “How did the Russians know who we were?” Luc asked.
    “How doesn’t matter. But they knew, all right. That jeering prick… He sounded just like a captain I served under in the last war. That asshole stopped a 77-or maybe it was a 105-with his face. Hardly enough left of him to bury. I hope the same thing happens to this son of a bitch, too.”
    “He was just the mouthpiece,” Luc said. “It’s the ones who told him what to say who need killing.”
    “They all need killing,” Demange said. “And they think we all need killing. And if everybody gets his way, nobody’ll be left when this stupid war’s done, and you know what? The world’ll be a better place after that. For a little while, till the cats or the rats learn how to lie.”
    “Heh,” Luc said uneasily, not at all sure the older man was kidding. He decided to change the subject: “What are we going to do now?”
    “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to shore up these works the best way I know how.” Demange stopped, an evil smile lighting up his face. He shook his head. “No. Fuck that. I’m an officer now, right? I’m going to have a bunch of sorry-ass privates shore this shit up for me.”
    “Sounds good, Lieutenant.” Luc grinned. With a sergeant’s hash marks on his sleeve, he wouldn’t have to thicken up the calluses on his palm with an entrenching tool so much, either.
    “And then,” Demange went on, “and then, what I’m going to do is sit right here on my ass and not move a centimeter forward till some cocksucker in a fancy kepi makes me do it.”
    “That sounds good, too,” Luc agreed. “But what about the crusade against Bolshevism?”
    “What afuckingbout it?” Demange retorted. “I’m here, aren’t I? You’re here, aren’t you? As much as you’re ever anywhere, I mean.”
    “I love you, too, sir,” Luc put in.
    Demange ignored him, not for the first time and no doubt not for the last. The veteran went on, “We’ve both shot Russians. If they come at us again-no, when they do-we’ll shoot some more of them so they don’t shoot us. I’ll do whatever I’ve got to do to stay alive. But if you think I’m enough of a jackass to give a fart about any of that political horseshit, you’re even dumber than I give you credit for.”
    “Mmp.” Luc left that right there. He looked up and down the trenches. No one was paying special attention to him and Demange, except perhaps to see what kind of nasty orders the lieutenant and sergeant doled out next and who’d get stuck with them. Lowering his voice, Luc continued, “Some of the guys in the ranks are still Reds, you know. They didn’t come close to weeding all of ’em out before they sent us east.”
    “Oh, sure.” Lieutenant Demange nodded. “But so what? Most of ’em’ll shoot Ivans to keep from getting killed themselves, and that’s all they’ve really got to do. A few of ’em’ll desert.”
    “A few of them have already deserted,” Luc pointed out.
    “Uh-huh.” Demange nodded again. “And you know what? I bet the fucking Russians ate ’em without salt. We’re only here because Daladier’s got his head up his ass. Those miserable Russkis, they’re here on account of the Nazis and Poles and us, we’re in their country. It makes all the fucking difference in the world. Even a sorry turd like you didn’t fight too bad when the Fritzes invaded France.”
    “That’s the nicest thing you ever said about me.” Luc tried to sound sarcastic. He did less well than he would have liked, mostly because he meant it. That was about the nicest thing Demange had ever said about him.
    “Yeah, well, you didn’t know your ass from your elbow when you started out. But you were luckier than most of the other poor stupid new fish: the Nazis didn’t nail you or blow you up right away, so you got the chance to learn,” Demange said. “By now, you know what you’re doing. One more time, you’d be even dumber than I figure you for if you didn’t.”
    “Thanks a bunch,” Luc said, deflated. He’d been cut and scratched and bruised, but he never did get badly hurt. Was that all it took to make a good soldier? Staying in one piece long enough to learn the ropes? The more he thought about it, the likelier it seemed.
    Even a good soldier, though, had to stay lucky all the time. Things had to keep missing him. Superiors had to steer clear of idiotic orders that put him in a place where things couldn’t help hitting. Otherwise, he’d go down and thrash and scream just as loud as any clodhopper fresh out of training. He knew that, too.

Chapter 7

    Colonel Otto Griehl commanded the panzer regiment of which Theo Hossbach was a small and none too vital part. Theo didn’t think the regimental commander was such a bad guy. Had the colonel known as much, that doubtless would have warmed the cockles of his heart, whatever the hell those were. But even if Griehl wasn’t such a bad guy, he did like to hear himself talk.
    “Men, we’ve been stuck in the mud too damn long,” he declared to the troopers in black coveralls with the silver panzer Totenkopf on their collar patches. “Now we can move around again, so we’re going to go out and give the Ivans what-for.”
    Some of the assembled panzer troopers clapped their hands. Adi Stoss leaned close to Theo and muttered, “Who’s this we he keeps going on about? Him and his tapeworm?”
    Theo snickered. He might not think Griehl was a bad guy, but that didn’t mean he took authority any more seriously than he had to. Contemplating the exalted colonel’s equally exalted tapeworm was as good a cure for that as he could imagine, and better than most.
    Hermann Witt clucked in reproof-mild reproof, but reproof even so. “Griehl comes forward with the rest of us,” he said.
    “Ja, ja,” Adi said. Theo nodded. It was true enough. In a panzer regiment, company commanders and the regimental CO did lead machines of their own, and did advance with-sometimes ahead of-everybody else. They didn’t inflict their wisdom on the troops from kilometers behind the line, the way high-ranking officers had in the last war.
    Well, Witt was a sergeant himself, and a panzer commander. Being a small-scale leader had to give him more sympathy for the worries of a large-scale one. Theo had no urge to tell anybody else what to do. He also had no desire whatsoever to have other people tell him what to do.
    He wasn’t an ideal fit for the Wehrmacht, then. Ideal fit or not, here he was. He glanced over at Adalbert Stoss. Adi wasn’t such a great fit, either. He might not mind giving other people orders, but he was even less thrilled about taking them than Theo. To Theo, other people were equals, and equals had no business telling other equals what to do. As far as Adi was concerned, other people were idiots until they proved otherwise.
    He wouldn’t have deferred to Sergeant Witt if Witt hadn’t shown he knew what he was doing. That was part of the trouble he’d had with the previous panzer commander. The rest of that trouble, though, had been more on the order of two rams banging heads in the springtime. Heinz Naumann wouldn’t do any more head-banging. He lay somewhere to the west, under a cross unless the Russians had desecrated his grave.
    Woolgathering meant Theo’d missed some of the colonel’s harangue. He wouldn’t lose any sleep over that. As he started paying attention again, Griehl was saying, “-will surround Smolensk in a ring of steel and fire. Along with our brave allies, we’ll smash the Russians inside that ring.”
    He got some more applause. Theo marveled that he could talk like that with a straight face. The English and French were here, but didn’t want to be. The Poles were more enthusiastic, but short of everything bigger than a machine gun. The less said about the Magyars and the Slovaks, the better. Anyway, they were farther south. Theo didn’t know what to think of the Romanians, but the way they’d gone belly-up in the last war didn’t make him figure Stalin’s teeth were chattering.
    “I know you’ll serve the Reich well. I know you’ll serve the Volk well. And I know you’ll serve the Fuhrer well.” Colonel Griehl’s arm shot up and out in the Party salute. “ Heil Hitler! ”
    “ Heil Hitler! ” The panzer men echoed the shout and the salute. Since the failed Putsch against the Fuhrer, it was supposed to have replaced the traditional military salute. And so it had-where anyone you didn’t trust could see you saluting. Theo muttered something wordless to himself. What was one more mask among the many he already wore?
    He scrambled up into his familiar place behind the Panzer II’s turret, away from the world and its cares-except, of course, when it started screaming at him through the radio earphones. The fighting compartment smelled of metal and leather and sweat and exhaust and smokeless powder. It smelled like home to Theo, even if home was thinly armored, too lightly armed, and rapidly becoming obsolete.
    From the turret, Witt said, “One of these days before too long, we’ll get ourselves a Panzer III instead.”
    “God, I hope so!” Adi Stoss exclaimed as he started the engine. Theo wasn’t so sure he did. Yes, a Panzer III had thicker armor, a better cannon, and a bow machine gun to go with the one in the turret. But it also had a loader and a gunner in the turret along with the commander (the radioman handled that bow gun). Was getting to know two new people scarier than attacking the Ivans in this old crate? To Theo, that seemed too close to call.
    They didn’t have the new panzer yet. No matter what Sergeant Witt said, reports that they’d get one soon were only scuttlebutt. With a good crew-which this machine did have-a Panzer II could still do the job. Stoss put the beast in gear. They not only could do the job, they damn well had to.
    Witt rode with his head and shoulders out of the turret. Any panzer commander would do that when he wasn’t in combat. You could see a lot more that way; unlike the III and some French and English machines, the Panzer II had only a hatch, not a cupola. There was talk that new IIs would come with them, but that didn’t do this one any good.
    A good panzer commander would stay head-and-shoulders out of the machine even in action. The vision ports in the turret just weren’t an adequate substitute. Witt did. Heinz Naumann had, too. That was how he’d stopped something. No one could fault Naumann’s guts: not even Adi, who’d hated them.
    “There are some Frenchmen,” Adi said over the Maybach engine’s rattling growl and the squeak and clank of the caterpillar treads. “They’re by the side of the road, trying to get their trucks going again.”
    “Surprise!” Sour amusement filled Hermann Witt’s voice. Russian roads went from bad to worse. Road maps showed as paved were either rutted dirt tracks or, more often, not there at all. Theo didn’t know who’d made the maps. Some fool who believed Soviet propaganda, probably. He did know that Western European soft-skinned vehicles made to run on asphalt or concrete fell to pieces trying to deal with Russian potholes and mud and engine-abrading dust. German trucks broke down as fast as their French and English counterparts.
    In spite of his earphones, Theo started hearing gunfire. The Ivans knew when things could get rolling. They did what they could to stop their foes from pushing deeper into Russia. Witt ducked into the turret, but only to grab his Schmeisser. Then he popped up again like a jack-in-the-box.
    “Infantry reporting enemy panzers in the woods ahead,” someone said on the radio. Theo relayed the message to Sergeant Witt.
    “Oh, they are, are they?” Now Witt sounded almost gay. “Well, that’s what we’re here for, right?” Theo didn’t answer. He had no idea why he was here. He only knew he was, and that he wanted to go on being here. Philosophy in the back of a panzer? Witt would never understand.
    Then half a dozen people started screeching in Theo’s earphones at the same time. “Oh, my God!” Hermann Witt exclaimed, while Adi Stoss yelled, “What a fucking monster!” One of the people on the radio said something about the biggest panzer he’d ever seen, so Theo decided it wasn’t King Kong coming out of the woods after all.
    Which didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. Witt fired several 20mm rounds at the Russian machine. He slapped in another ten-round clip and fired some more.
    “They just bounce off!” he said in horror. Beauty wouldn’t kill the Red beast, and maybe nothing else would, either. Witt came out with something even more horrified-and horrifying: “Dodge like hell, Adi! He’s aiming at us!”
    Adi did his best to comply. Russian panzer gunners were often lousy, especially against moving targets. Often, but not always. Wham! Clanng! The hit almost threw Theo out of his seat. The round didn’t get through into the fighting compartment, but the Panzer II slewed sideways and stopped.
    “Out! Out fast!” Adi shouted. “He knocked a track off! If he hits us again-”
    He didn’t go on, or need to. Theo grabbed his Schmeisser and bailed out. The other two panzer crewmen left through his hatch, which exposed them to less enemy fire than their own. They huddled in the lee of the disabled panzer.
    “I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like a deshelled snail,” Adi said.
    Theo nodded. He did, too. He peered around the damaged Panzer II. He wanted a glimpse of the machine that did the dirty work. It was a monster. It seemed twice the size of the light German panzer, and mounted a gun that looked like a piece of field artillery. The cannon belched flame. Wham! Clanng! Another Panzer II exploded into fire. That crew had no prayer of getting away. Theo shuddered. Roasting inside your shell was even worse than coming out of it.

    “Moscow speaking.” By the self-important way the words came out of the radio, the whole city might have been talking through the speaker, not just an announcer holed up in a studio somewhere. Or so it seemed to Anastas Mouradian, anyhow. He didn’t share the conceit with his fellow flyers. They already thought he was strange. He didn’t want to give them any more reasons.
    “Red Army forces have struck more and more heavy blows against the Fascist and reactionary invaders west and south of Smolensk,” the newsreader went on. “The enemy’s tanks continue to show themselves unable to face in the field the latest products of Soviet engineering.”
    Radio Moscow gave forth with great steaming piles of propaganda. Anyone with an ear to hear-which Mouradian certainly owned-knew that. Here, though, as best he could tell, the announcer meant every word. The new heavy tanks named for General Kliment Voroshilov were bigger and tougher than anything the Nazis or their friends built. Facing Panzer IIs-even Panzer IIIs-a KV-1 was like a bear against a pack of yapping dogs. But the KV-1s came in ever-growing packs, too.
    “Farther south,” the radio newsman went on, “the soldiers of the glorious Red Army are being welcomed as liberators in Bessarabia, which the Romanians stole while reactionary forces attempted to strangle the infant Soviet Union in its cradle.”
    That sounded impressive. Mouradian wasn’t old enough to remember much about the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. He remembered that Armenia had been independent for a little while, and then part of a bigger Trans-Caucasian Soviet Socialist Republic. Then, after the Whites and their foreign allies were beaten, Moscow reasserted its authority over the region. No, he didn’t remember all the political details. What he mostly remembered was going hungry all the time.
    Anyone who’d lived through the Revolution had memories like that. If you were a Ukrainian, you had several sets of them, and you were probably lucky to be alive. Rumors said lots of Ukrainians welcomed German and Polish soldiers the way the radio reported the Bessarabians were welcoming the Red Army. The louder and more stridently Radio Moscow denied those rumors, the more Stas believed them.
    “Unrest in England against the government’s unnatural alliance with the Hitlerite barbarians continues to grow,” the newsreader said. “Police have been uncommonly brutal in suppressing demonstrations against Prime Minister Wilson.”
    He went on to talk about ever-swelling Soviet war production. Plan after plan was overfulfilled, quota after quota exceeded. Stas wondered if he was the only flyer listening who thought about what would happen if people demonstrated against Stalin in Red Square. The NKVD, which was commonly brutal, would be uncommonly so for something like that. Would captured protesters be killed out of hand or sent to the gulags so they had more time to think about what reckless fools they’d been? An interesting question. Either way, the poor devils wouldn’t like the answer.
    There was war news in the Pacific, too. Mouradian couldn’t make much of it, not least because the announcer kept stumbling over unfamiliar place names. He gathered that Japan was advancing and everyone else falling back. Having served for a while in the Far East, Mouradian knew only too well that the Japanese were no bargain. Now the rest of the world was discovering the same thing.
    Germany and her friends were no bargain, either. Japan could annoy and gnaw at the Soviet Union, and had done exactly that. But thousands of kilometers separated her from the USSR’s vitals. If Hitler paraded through Moscow in a Mercedes, could Stalin keep up the fight from Sverdlovsk or Kuibishev or some other town on the far side of the Urals? Mouradian had his doubts. He suspected Stalin did, too.
    Which meant the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would move heaven and earth to keep the Nazis out of Moscow and as far from the USSR’s capital as he could. It also meant Mouradian moved through the heavens toward Mogilev, which had recently fallen to the invaders. Along with him in the Pe-2 moved a thousand kilos’ worth of bombs. Stalin wouldn’t care that a stubborn Armenian was flying. The explosives, though, the explosives would matter to the director of the Soviet state.
    The squadron’s target was the railroad yard. Maybe withdrawing Soviet troops hadn’t torn it up well enough. Maybe enemy railroad men had got it back in operation faster than the Russians figured they could. Keeping trains from going through Mogilev would help defend Smolensk, and Smolensk was Moscow’s most important shield.
    Fires and plumes of greasy black smoke from burning tanks marked the front between Mogilev and Smolensk. Not all the burning armor came out of enemy factories. Soviet light tanks were still depressingly easy to kill. And even the KV-1s could go up in flames. Maybe some German Panzer III got lucky, or maybe the foe had a field gun in a good place.
    In the Pe-2’s cockpit, Ivan Kulkaanen turned to Mouradian and said, “The stinking Fascists aren’t having it all their own way, anyhow.”
    “No, they aren’t,” Stas agreed. Yes, that was true. But he would have felt obliged to agree even if the Nazis were driving the Red Army back headlong. Disagreeing with something like that would have been defeatism. England might tolerate such disagreement in wartime-or, if the morning news held any truth, might not. The Soviet Union never had and never would.
    A few antiaircraft shells burst near the formation of Pe-2s. Stas didn’t see any planes catch fire or go down. That was good news. They flew on. Once they got past the front, things quieted down. It often worked out that way. If the Germans didn’t also have plenty of antiaircraft guns in and around Mogilev, though, Stas would be happily surprised.
    After a while, he didn’t just hear the engines’ drone. It became a part of him, so that his toenails, his muscles, his spine, and his spleen all vibrated to the same rhythm. The oxygen-enriched air tasted of rubber and leather.
    Kulkaanen pointed through the armor-glass windshield. A city lay ahead. Unless the squadron had really buggered up its navigation, that had to be Mogilev. They’d dive to make the attack more accurate. Pe-2s weren’t Stukas; they didn’t stand on their noses to deliver ordnance. (They could also fly rings around the clumsy German bombers.) But they did have dive brakes, and used them on attack runs.
    That also brought them down closer to the flak gunners on the ground. Stas tried not to dwell on such things as the slotted flaps lowered and grabbed air. “Be ready,” he called to Fyodor Mechnikov back in the narrow bomb bay.
    “What the hell else am I gonna be-sir?” the bombardier answered through the speaking tube. Behind goggles and oxygen mask, Mouradian grinned. Sure as the devil, it was almost like flying with Ivan Kuchkov again.
    The Germans did have guns waiting for the Soviet bombers. Stas wished he were more astonished. Yes, they’d protect the railroad yards. And yes, they’d probably got a few minutes’ warning. Unlike Russians, Germans knew what to do with a few minutes’ warning, too.
    Had he flown through heavier flak? He supposed he must have, but he couldn’t remember offhand just when. Something tore half the left wing off the Pe-2 diving next to his. The stricken bomber spun out of control. The crew had no chance to bail out.
    “Now!” Stas yelled through the speaking tube. As soon as the bombs fell free, he leveled out and scooted away at full throttle and low altitude. Any Messerschmitt pilot who wanted to run him down was welcome to try. He turned back toward Soviet-held territory. The railroad yard, or something in its neighborhood, had taken one mighty thorough pounding.
    Of course, the bombs also came down on the heads of the people who still lived in Mogilev. Stas’ superiors thought they’d do more harm to the enemy than to Soviet citizens. He had to hope they were right.

    Spring was in the air outside Madrid… spring and the stink of shit and garbage and unburied bodies, and the occasional bullet or shell fragment. But when things started turning green, when the birds came back from the south, Chaim Weinberg was less inclined to be critical.
    Mike Carroll gave him a peculiar look when he started going on about birdsong. “Chirp, chirp,” the other Abe Lincoln said. “Hot diggety dog.”
    “It’s pretty,” Chaim insisted. “And it doesn’t sound the same here as it does in the States.”
    “What? The fuckin’ birdth thpeak Thpanish?” Mike put on a sarcastic Castilian lisp.
    “No, but there’s different ones here,” Chaim said. He was going to get pissed off if his buddy couldn’t see what he saw, couldn’t hear what he heard. He could feel it coming like a rash.
    “Sparrows. Pigeons. Starlings. Crows. Stop the fucking presses. Call Walter fucking Winchell.” Mike was tall and slim and blond and handsome, none of which adjectives applied to Chaim. At the moment, the other American was also a royal pain in the ass.
    “Only reason there’s pigeons and sparrows-these kindsa sparrows-and cocksucking starlings in the USA is that they’re imports,” Chaim said. “And the crows here aren’t the same as crows on the other side of the ocean. They’ve got bigger beaks, and they make different noises.”
    “ You’d notice the stupid beaks,” Mike said.
    “Your mother,” Chaim said without heat. Had somebody who wasn’t his friend made even an indirect crack about his own very Jewish beak, he would have rearranged the guy’s face for him. From Mike, though, he’d take it.
    “How’s your wife?” the other Yank asked with a leer.
    Chaim shrugged. “She’s back in the city, doing what she’s doing. And I’m here, doing what I’m doing.” That he’d made it with La Martellita struck him as a marvel. That she’d been willing to tie the knot for the sake of giving their accidental kid a last name was whatever came one step up from a marvel.
    Mike tried to pinch off a hangnail with the other hand’s thumb and forefinger. “Doesn’t sound like the recipe for living happily ever after, y’know?”
    “Yeah, yeah.” Chaim would rather have talked about birds. He hadn’t even started in on the hoopoe’s aerial ballet.
    “What’ll you do when she dumps you after Junior comes out?” Mike found the sixty-four dollar question, all right.
    All Chaim could do was shrug again. “Get drunk, I guess. Shoot some Fascists. What else is there to do?” Like Mike, he assumed she’d dump him once the baby was born. He also assumed the war in Spain would still be going on this fall. The way things looked right now, the war in Spain was liable to go on forever.
    “Aren’t you tired of going hungry over there?” The enormous voice came from a microphone and speaker in Marshal Sanjurjo’s lines. “Come over to our side. We’ll give you a big bowl of mutton stew!”
    Before, the Fascists had tempted Republican soldiers with chicken stew. Maybe they’d hired a new chef. More likely, they’d just put a new liar on the payroll. Chaim had captured Nationalist troops. They were every bit as skinny and miserable as the guys on his own side.
    “Baa!” he bleated at the propaganda message. “Baa!”
    Mike Carroll joined in. “Baa!” he yelled, even louder than Chaim. “Baa! Baa!”
    “Mutton stew! Delicious mutton stew!” blared from the speaker.
    “Baa!” This time, half a dozen Abe Lincolns bleated back. Before long, the whole stretch of Republican line northwest of Madrid was going “Baa! Baa! Baa!” in ragged chorus.
    “Now look what you went and started,” Mike said. Chaim grinned. He was proud of himself.
    Marshal Sanjurjo’s men didn’t think it was funny. Fascists, in Chaim’s experience, had all had their sense of humor surgically removed when they were very small. They had nasty ways of making their unhappiness known, too. Machine guns rattled. Mortar bombs whispered down. Even a battery of old German 77s well behind the line started up.
    Naturally, the Internationals and the Czechs and the Spanish Republican soldiers in that stretch of the line fired back. “ Now look what you went and started,” Mike Carroll repeated, this time in an altogether different tone of voice.
    A bullet cracked not far enough above Chaim’s head. He ducked automatically. “The fucking Battle of the Mutton Stew,” he said.
    It was a joke, and then again it wasn’t. Bleating at the silly propaganda set off the shooting, sure. No matter what set it off, though, men on both sides were getting killed and maimed. He could hear wounded men screaming, all because he’d decided to make a noise like a sheep.
    He didn’t want anything like that on his conscience. He told himself they would have got hit anyway. Himself told him he was full of it. Himself had a point, too. He’d been in Spain a long time. He’d seen how random war was. This guy bought a plot the day after he came into the line. That guy went without a scratch for years. Why? If it was anything more than God’s crapshoot, Chaim couldn’t imagine what. And, when he remembered not to, he didn’t even believe in God.
    After both sides hauled their wounded away for whatever help the docs could give them, the Fascist announcer started going on about mutton stew again. He had a script, and he had his orders. This stretch of line was going to get so many repetitions. Then he’d go inflict himself somewhere else.
    “Fuck you!” Chaim screamed, almost as loud without the loudspeaker as the announcer was with it. If he heard about mutton stew one more time, he’d snap. Or maybe he already had. “Fuck you up the ass! Fuck your mother! And fuck the sheep your fucking mutton stew comes from, too!”
    That produced scattered cheers from the Internationals. He thought the only reason it just produced scattered cheers was that they didn’t want to risk starting up the firefight again. And, to his amazement and delight, it also produced a few scattered cheers from the Nationalist trenches. Those had to come from men sure they were off by themselves so nobody could rat on them.
    Mike heard the cheers from Sanjurjo’s side, too. “Wow, man,” he said. “You really struck a nerve there.”
    “Bet your ass I did,” Chaim replied. “When’s the last time you figure one of those poor sorry dingleberries even smelled mutton stew, let alone tasted any? That clown with the mike probably drives them even crazier than he drives me.”
    Carroll sent him a speculative stare. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that.”
    The next day, Brigadier Kossuth summoned Chaim to his headquarters behind the lines. Like La Martellita, the Internationals’ CO used a nom de guerre, though he was a Magyar like his namesake. “I hear you’ve been running your mouth again,” he said in German. He was old enough to have learned it in the dead Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    Thanks to Yiddish, Chaim could follow German. “Afraid so,” he admitted cheerfully.
    Yiddish didn’t faze the brigadier. “Why?” he asked with a glower that would have turned a basilisk to stone.
    But nobody’s glower was going to make Chaim quake in his drafty boots. He’d been through way too much for that. “Because I got sick and tired of all that crap about mutton stew,” he said.
    Kossuth eyed him the way a chameleon eyes a fly just before its tongue flicks out. “Are all Americans as deranged as you?” he asked with what sounded like clinical detachment and probably masked fury.
    “Some of us are even worse,” Chaim said: he wouldn’t let the country down.
    “Oh, I doubt that.” Kossuth knew what he was up against, all right. “And you managed to knock up that human hand grenade, too… Tell me, if you would: how does one man find so much trouble?”
    “I volunteered for it,” Chaim answered. “I could have stayed back in the States.”
    “Everyone might have been better off if you had. Including you,” Kossuth said.
    “Spain wouldn’t.” Pride rang in Chaim’s voice.
    That basilisk-petrifying glower again. When Chaim refused to wilt under it, the Magyar brigadier sighed. “Anything is possible-but nothing is likely.” He jerked a thumb toward the tent flap. “Now get out.” Whistling, Chaim got.

    Peggy Druce was getting the urge to travel again. After her adventures and misadventures in war-torn Europe, she would have bet she’d be content-hell, be overjoyed-to stay in Philadelphia the rest of her days. But things didn’t work out like that. After so long living by her wits and by what she could browbeat out of unhappy officials, ordinary life seemed Boring with a capital B.
    She didn’t put it that way to her husband. It would have hurt Herb’s feelings, which was the last thing she wanted to do. Then again, she didn’t need to say much to him. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know how she ticked. One morning at breakfast, he set down his coffee cup and said, “You ought to do something for the war effort, you know?”
    “Like what?” she said. It wasn’t as if the suggestion came out of the blue. She’d been thinking along those lines herself.
    Herb was a jump ahead of her, though. “Well, you’ve seen a lot of stuff other people haven’t,” he answered. “You ought to go around and tell them what a mess Europe is. Some of these chowderheads are still mad ’cause FDR won’t let ’em sell stuff over there any more.”
    “Too bad for them,” she said. She’d been all for sending England and France everything but the kitchen sink when they were fighting the Nazis. Now that they were fighting on the Nazis’ side, she was as ready to say to hell with them as FDR seemed to be. But swarms of people who’d made big stacks of cash by shipping them this, that, and the other thing were jumping up and down and bawling like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.
    Herb chuckled. “You know how to win friends and influence people, you do.”
    “I looked at that stupid book when it was new,” Peggy said. “I wouldn’t waste my money on it. It was a bunch of hooey, nothing else but.”
    “Maybe so, but the guy who wrote it’s laughing all the way to the bank,” her husband answered. “I’d like to have a quarter of what he raked in from the son of a gun.”
    That was bound to be true, no matter how unfortunate Peggy thought it was. She’d never been one to stay gloomy long, though. If she were, her time in Europe would have driven her nuts. She brightened as a new thought came. “A lot of the big shots who want to go on doing business with Europe will be making even more money pretty soon by selling the government what it needs to fight the Japs.”
    “There you go.” Herb made silent clapping motions. “Now you’ve got your text. You can go and preach it all over the place, like St. Paul.”
    “I don’t want to preach in St. Paul,” Peggy said with malice aforethought. “If there’s a duller town anywhere in the world, I don’t know where.”
    Herb eyed her through a veil of cigarette smoke. “When you start making cracks like that, you need to get out of the house, all right, and PDQ, too.”
    But getting out of the house wasn’t so simple. The government had clamped down on travel. Tires and gasoline were rationed. That made sense, since you couldn’t win a modern war without rubber and petroleum. It was still a pain. And, if she was going to head out on what amounted to the campaign trail, she was damned if she wanted to spend her own money-or even Herb’s-to do it. It wasn’t that she couldn’t afford to; it was the principle of the thing. So she told herself, anyhow.
    She rapidly discovered she didn’t have to. To most Philadelphia Main Line families, Roosevelt was and always would be That Man in the White House. Philadelphia Democrats fell all over themselves to get help from someone in that group who didn’t see him that way. Train fare? Yes, ma’am! Hotel bills? Expenses? Yes, ma’am!
    They asked her if she wanted a speech writer. She looked at them as if they’d asked if she wanted a positive Wassermann. “I can talk for myself, thanks,” she said coolly. “If you don’t believe me, ask my husband. Or ask Hitler. I got him to do what I wanted, and I was speaking German then. I’m better in English.”
    She’d never heard so many stammered apologies in her life. They were just suggesting… They didn’t mean to hurt her feelings… To show they didn’t, they upped her expenses.
    When she told Herb that, he guffawed. “Squeeze ’em for all they’re worth,” he said. “They’ve got more moolah than they know what to do with, and most of it doesn’t exactly belong to anybody, so they can throw it around.”
    No matter how much money the Philadelphia Democrats had, they didn’t send her very far on her first run-only to York, on the west side of the Susquehanna. She didn’t blame them for that. If she turned out to be a dud, they’d want to know at minimum expense.
    York sat in the valley formed by Codorus Creek. It was a medium-sized town: 50,000 people, or maybe a few more. It had been a brick-making center, and many of the older neighborhoods were one brick home or apartment house after another. The public buildings and the many Gothic churches were of red brick with white trim, as if they’d come from early nineteenth-century England.
    The local women’s club had arranged for her to speak at the First Presbyterian Church, a few blocks east of Continental Square. It was another Gothic brick building, built in 1789 and rebuilt in 1860. For variety’s sake, perhaps, its brickwork was painted gray; the renovation added brownstone and wood trim. Loretta Conway, the woman who picked her up at the station, told her the graveyard next to the church held the remains of James Smith, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
    “That’s nice,” Peggy said.
    Her nonchalance flustered the woman from York, but only for a moment. Then Mrs. Conway turned pink. “I forgot you’re from Philly,” she said. “You’ve got more Revolutionary War stuff there than you know what to do with, don’t you?”
    “Pretty much,” Peggy answered. She knew York had some, too, and she was ready to be a good sport if Loretta wanted to show it off, but the other woman didn’t. Instead, she talked-very sensibly (which meant her views matched Peggy’s)-about the need to knock the snot out of the Japs and to keep Hitler from getting too big for his britches. She had a twenty-year-old son who’d just volunteered for the Marines. That brought the war home for her in a way Peggy hadn’t felt since Herb got back from Over There in 1919.
    “Maybe you should give the speech,” Peggy said.
    “Forget it,” Loretta answered. “I go up in front of more than four or five people, I freeze up like a block of ice.”
    Peggy laughed. “Okay. You aren’t the only one, heaven knows. But whatever else they say about me, I’m not shy.”
    She got her chance to prove it a little later. The church wasn’t packed, but it came close. The minister, a white-haired man named Ruppelt, introduced her. “Here is a lady who can talk about the world situation because she’s seen more of it than most people, Mrs. Peggy Druce.”
    She got polite applause as she stepped up to the lectern. “Thank you, Reverend Ruppelt,” she said. “A lot of what I saw, I wish I never did. But that’s the point about war, isn’t it? That’s what’s happening to our boys in the Philippines right now. If the Japs had been a little luckier, it might be happening in Hawaii, too. So we’ve got some work we need to take care of. If Hirohito thinks Japan can do whatever it wants in the Pacific, FDR’s going to show him things don’t work that way.”
    More applause, and more enthusiastic. Peggy warmed to her task: “When I finally did get to England, a customs man there said, ‘Welcome to freedom.’ I was glad to hear it, too. But what’s freedom worth if you use yours to take away somebody else’s? Isn’t that what England’s doing in Russia right now? Didn’t she learn better right here in Pennsylvania in 1776? And how can you expect to stay friends with us if you’re friends with Hitler, too?”
    If she’d been talking with Herb, she would have said in bed with Hitler. She almost did here. She thought her husband would have been proud of her because she showed restraint. You didn’t talk about sex in church.
    And she didn’t need to. The raucous clapping that followed showed people got the message even when she kept it clean. The ones with minds that ran in the same gutter as hers could gloss in bed with Hitler for themselves. The others… were dull, but they were here, too.
    They cheered-some of them stood up-when Peggy got done. They bought bonds. They contributed to the Democrats. And they made sure she’d be on the road a lot from now on.

Chapter 8

    Before coming to Pingfan, Hideki Fujita had never had anything to do with Americans. The only white men he’d dealt with were the Russians who’d tried to kill him in Mongolia and Siberia, and the Russian prisoners on whom the Japanese microbiologists and biochemists experimented here.
    You had to watch yourself with Russians. They were tough, and they were sneaky. If they saw an opening, they would grab it in a heartbeat. But as long as you made sure they recognized they couldn’t get away with anything, they grew docile enough.
    Pingfan held tens of thousands of Russians. Most of the men who’d surrendered around Vladivostok were marched here afterwards. Not all of them made it here-nowhere close. Fujita had been one of the soldiers herding them along. He knew how many fell by the wayside. He also knew how fast the Japanese scientists were using them up. Still, the experimental station had plenty left.
    Americans… Americans were different. They were different all kinds of ways. There weren’t very many of them. The U.S. Marines had had only small garrisons in Peking and Shanghai. A lot of the Marines in both places had made the Japanese kill them after war broke out between the two countries. Despite being insanely outnumbered, they’d killed a lot of Japanese, too. You had to respect men like that.
    In the end, though, some of the Marines did surrender. Perhaps to pay them back for the fight their comrades put up, they got shipped straight to Pingfan. The Japanese scientists were excited to have them. American POWs let them try to tailor germ-warfare weapons against Anglo-Saxons in particular.
    Which was fine-for the scientists. Fujita and his soldiers had to ride herd on the Americans in the meantime. They had to keep them from making trouble, and they had to keep them from escaping. And Fujita didn’t need long to figure out that Americans were born troublemakers.
    Russians would escape if you gave them half a chance, too. And Chinese! No one in his right mind would trust Chinese to stay where they belonged unless you kept your eye on them every second-and they knew you were keeping your eye on them every second. Then they couldn’t behave better.
    But the Americans played games with the system that Fujita wouldn’t have believed if they hadn’t been messing around with him. The essential feature in controlling them was the count. They stood in ranks of ten, which made it easy for the guards to know exactly how many of them there were on any given morning or evening.
    Or it should have made things easy. Somehow the Marines managed to convince the Japanese that there were three more of them than there were supposed to be. How? Fujita didn’t know. Obviously, they were moving around in the ranks, but not where anybody could catch them at it.
    He’d already worked out that one of the chief nuisances was a big, burly fellow named Szulc. The American didn’t understand Japanese, of course. He didn’t understand Chinese, either-Senior Private Hayashi was a smart fellow, and knew quite a bit.
    “I am very sorry, Sergeant- san, but I think he really is ignorant and not faking,” Hayashi reported to Fujita.
    “How could he be?” Fujita asked irritably-everything about Szulc irritated him. “These Marines serve in China for years. They must learn some of the language while they’re there.”
    “It seems not, Sergeant- san. Please excuse me, but it does.” Hayashi didn’t want Fujita working off that irritation on him.
    Fujita growled like an angry tiger. A sergeant could do pretty much as he pleased with-and to-the men under him. But thumping Hayashi wouldn’t tell him how the Americans were pulling off their stupid stunt. Neither would thumping Szulc, if nobody could understand him when he yelled as he got thumped.
    Sudden inspiration struck. Fujita snapped his fingers in delight. “Some of our scientists went to the university in America, neh? They’ll know English, and they’ll be able to talk to this Szulc.” He couldn’t even pronounce the round-eyed devil’s name. In his mouth, it came out something like Shurutzu.
    “That’s right! They will!” Hayashi said. When a sergeant came up with a halfway decent idea, of course a senior private sounded enthusiastic.
    “Good. Glad you think so, too.” Fujita pointed to Hayashi. “So you get one of the scientists to find out how the Americans are doing whatever they’re doing. It’s gone on for four days now. That’s too stinking long.”
    “Me? Why me?” Shinjiro Hayashi yipped, but his heart wasn’t in it.
    “You’re the educated fellow,” Fujita answered remorselessly, as Hayashi must have known he would. “So go use some of your education for a change.” Fujita himself felt like an idiot whenever he had to talk to one of the microbiologists. That, no doubt, was a feeling they did nothing to discourage.
    Sighing as if to say he didn’t think life was fair, Hayashi went off to do as he was told-a definite good point in a subordinate. Fujita already knew life wasn’t fair. He’d had his nose rubbed in it again and again before he made sergeant. Life wasn’t fair now, either, but most of the time he found himself on the other end of the stick for a change.
    Hayashi eventually came back with a man who wore spectacles and a white lab coat as if they were extensions of his skin-the way, say, Fujita wore a uniform. “Here is Dr. Doi, Sergeant- san,” Hayashi said. “He will ask Szulc the questions you need.”
    “Good.” Fujita bowed deeply to Doi, inferior to superior. “Thank you very much for your help, sir.”
    “You are welcome. I am glad to assist. I am also glad for the chance to practice my English. When you do not speak a language for a while, it gets rusty.”
    Armed guards brought Szulc over to the compound. He towered over them. He’d be a rough customer in a fight. But who wanted to fight a man who’d thrown away his honor by surrendering? To Dr. Doi, Fujita said, “Please ask him how the Americans are making the count come out wrong.”
    Doi spoke English. Fujita could hear that he sounded slow and uncertain. Szulc’s reply was a quick bass rumble that couldn’t have sounded more different from the Japanese scientist’s reedy tenor if it had burst from the throat of a buffalo. Dr. Doi frowned. “He says he does not understand what I say.”
    Fujita frowned, too, ominously. “Is that likely?”
    “No one will ever think I am an American, but he should be able to follow me,” Doi answered.
    That was about what Fujita had expected. “All right, then,” he said, and nodded to one of Szulc’s guards. The man gave Szulc one in the side of the head with his rifle butt. Szulc yelled and staggered, but he didn’t fall over. He didn’t dab at the blood running down his cheek and chin, either. He did give Fujita a hate-filled glare. Fujita cared nothing for that. “Please ask your question again, Doi- san. Please also tell him he’ll get worse if he keeps playing the fool.”
    More English from the bacteriologist. Whatever Szulc said this time, it was different from before. It seemed less scornful. A rifle butt to the side of the head would do that, as Fujita had reason to know. “He says he understands now, but he knows nothing about how the count is disarranged,” Doi reported.
    “That’s funny, but not funny enough to laugh about,” Fujita said. “Tell him this, very plainly-the next time the count is out of order, we’ll kill enough Americans to set it right.”
    “That would waste an important resource,” Dr. Doi protested in Japanese.
    “Please tell him anyhow, sir. Let him and the others think we will do it. That will make them behave themselves. I can hope so, anyhow.”
    “Ah. All right. I understand.” Doi returned to English. Szulc studied Fujita, as if sniffing for a bluff. Fujita gave back his stoniest stare. On his own, he certainly would kill POWs who complicated his life. Why not? It wasn’t as if prisoners of war were human beings any more. They were just… maruta. Szulc muttered something. Doi said, “He will take word of this back to camp, even though-he claims-he knows nothing of the scheme.”
    “He claims, hai.” Fujita gestured to the guards. “Take him back.”
    As usual, Fujita had two different men run the count that evening before supper. One reported the proper number of Americans, the other one Marine too few. Fujita lost his temper. He had all the Americans lie down so they couldn’t move without being instantly noticed. He used gestures to explain to them that they’d get shot if they were noticed. This time, the count came out three men light.
    “Zakennayo!” Fujita shouted. “How long ago did they get away, and how big a start on us do they have?”
    Those were both good questions. He had an answer for neither. Big, strong white men should have been conspicuous around Pingfan. Were the locals sheltering them from the Japanese? Another good question. Fujita wasn’t sure he had an answer for that one, either, but he could make a pretty good guess.
    “We need to report this,” Senior Private Hayashi said regretfully.
    “I know,” Fujita answered, more regretfully still. They’d catch it for allowing an escape, and catch it again for not noticing right away. But they couldn’t cover it up. Somebody’d blab. Even the American Marines might, to get their guards in trouble. “Zakennayo!” he yelled again, even louder this time.

    Out of the frying pan, into the fire. That was how Peggy Druce thought of it, anyway. As soon as the people in Philadelphia discovered she really could stir folks up about the war, they sent her out to do it again and again.
    After York, Lancaster. Red Roses instead of White. When she made that crack in Lancaster, somebody told her the two towns’ bush-league baseball teams actually did refight the War of the Roses every time they took the field against each other. She laughed, but later she wondered why. That showed more of a sense of history than was common in the United States.
    Not in Europe. They had a sense of history there, all right. Everybody could give you all the reasons for the past 900-or sometimes 1,900-years that showed why he deserved to kick his neighbor in the teeth with a steel-toed jackboot. And his neighbor had reasons just as numerous and just as ancient for kicking him.
    And the Japanese were responding to something ancient, too. For hundreds of years, Europeans and Americans had lorded it over the proud, ancient, weak empires in Asia. They’d had the warships and the guns and the military doctrine that let them do it. They’d had the arrogance that let them do it, too. What was that sign in the Shanghai park supposed to say? NO DOGS OR CHINSESE, that was it. Maybe the sign really was, or had been, there. Maybe it was just a story. Either way, it showed an attitude that was definitely there.
    Now the Japs had licked the Russians twice. So they thought they were strong enough to swing the bat against the white men’s first team. The United States was going to have to throw a high hard one right at Hirohito’s head to convince them they weren’t ready for the big leagues yet.
    Or maybe they were. The war news coming out of the Pacific was uniformly lousy. The Philippines were falling. A bomb from a Japanese plane was said to have blown General MacArthur into dog food. The Japs claimed that at the tops of their lungs. The USA said nothing one way or the other. Peggy’s time in Europe had made her sensitive to the nuances of propaganda. You didn’t talk about what you didn’t like.
    By the same token, the American papers weren’t saying much about the way Japan was overrunning Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. You heard occasional stories about how heroic the handful of American ships in the area were. If you paid close attention and checked a map, you notice that fewer and fewer U.S. Navy vessels got mentioned by name. Even the survivors were reported as being heroic farther and farther south.
    But how many people checked that closely? How many Americans knew off the tops of their heads whether Borneo was south of Java or the other way around? Peggy hadn’t, not till she looked, and she’d traveled a lot more than most folks. Timor? Sumbawa? Cerami? They sounded like the noises your stomach made after you ate bratwurst and sauerkraut. (At least it wasn’t Liberty Cabbage in this war. Then again, Germany still remained officially neutral toward the USA.)
    Peggy didn’t blame the administration for minimizing failures and playing up whatever small successes it could find. If she had, she wouldn’t have gone to Reading, to Easton, to Scranton, to Altoona, to Williamsport… You did what you needed to do, and you tried not to tell too many lies while you were doing it. If you couldn’t help telling a lie, you tried not to make it a whopper.
    She stuck to the principles she hoped the administration was also using. It worked. She got big hands everywhere she went. War bond sales at her rallies were bigger yet. So were contributions to the Democratic Party. An election was coming next year, after all. It seemed as if an election was always coming next year. If it wasn’t, it was coming this year instead.
    The one place she didn’t go was Pittsburgh. The world had a North Pole and a South Pole. Pennsylvania, by contrast, had an East Pole and a West Pole. Philadelphia was bigger and older and richer and snootier than Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was tougher and grittier-and if you didn’t believe it, all you had to do was ask anybody who came from there. Pittsburgh prided itself on coal and steel the way Philadelphia bragged about the Main Line. If Chicago hadn’t called itself the City of the Big Shoulders, Pittsburgh would have.
    And so, even though Pittsburgh was a more reliably Democratic town than Philadelphia, Peggy wasn’t welcome there. She got an invitation from Wheeling, West Virginia, so she traveled through Pittsburgh going and coming back, but she didn’t get off the train there.
    She also went to Erie. Pennsylvania’s only Great Lakes port, Erie cared nothing for either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. It might have turned its back on both of them. It was a low, spacious city, with only one fourteen-story skyscraper projecting above the three- and four-story business buildings in the center of town.
    She made her speech. It went over as well in Erie as it had anywhere else. It might even have gone better there than most places. A plump, prosperous fellow who sold real estate came up to her after she was done and spoke in tones of wonder: “I don’t recollect the last time Philadelphia remembered we were alive, much less did anything about it.”
    “We’re all one state. We’re all one country. If a war doesn’t remind us of that, what will?” Peggy said.
    “Well, I don’t know. My guess was that nothing would,” the real-estate man answered.
    After he went away, a weather-beaten woman in her late sixties came up to Peggy and introduced herself as Matilda Jenkins. The name was as ordinary as she was. “You spoke very well,” she said, her voice almost painfully genteel. “No wonder you impressed my son so much.”
    “Your son?” Peggy didn’t remember meeting anybody named Jenkins at one of her earlier rallies. But that might not prove anything; she didn’t have a pol’s photographic memory for names and faces.
    “Yes, of course,” Mrs. Jenkins said-she wore a thin, plain gold band on the ring finger of her left hand. “My son Constantine, at the American embassy in Berlin. He thought you were the cat’s pajamas, he did.”
    “Oh!” Peggy blurted. She felt herself blushing. She had no idea when she’d last done that. Now that she looked, she saw the resemblance. But the suave embassy undersecretary-so suave, she’d guessed he was queer-seemed more than an ocean removed from this mousy woman clinging so hard to lower-middle-class respectability. Something more than Oh! seemed called for. Peggy tried again: “How about that? He helped me a lot.” The second part was true, the first usually safe.
    Matilda Jenkins beamed. “He said you knew what you wanted and how to go about getting it. Just listening to you, I can see that. He said you were mighty sweet, too. Constantine usually knows what he’s talking about, all right.”
    “How about that?” Peggy repeated, this time through clenched teeth. Exactly how much about her had Constantine Jenkins told his mother? He wouldn’t have bragged about… that, would he? Not to his mother!
    “He said you had such a good time at the opera and afterwards,” Mrs. Jenkins went on, oblivious-Peggy sure hoped she was oblivious, anyhow. After the opera in Berlin… What Herb didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him-she hoped. Matilda Jenkins kept burbling: “Such a pleasure to get the chance to meet you. I never dreamt I would.”
    “How about that?” Peggy said one more time, wondering how soon she could get the hell out of Erie.

    Colonel Steinbrenner looked at the Stuka pilots in his squadron. Hans-Ulrich Rudel looked around at them, too. Not many faces were left from the ones he’d seen when the balloon went up in Czechoslovakia. He’d been shot down once himself, and thanked heaven he’d been able to bail out. Too many of his former comrades hadn’t been so lucky.
    “Things are heating up again,” Steinbrenner said. “Our infantry and armor can move forward now that the roads are drying. They need air support.” He grinned wryly. “We have a chance to give it to them, too, because the runways are drying.”
    Rudel chuckled, though it wasn’t as if the squadron CO were kidding. Planes flying off forward airstrips had to deal with mud just like panzers and trucks and foot soldiers. There were times when nobody could deal with it. At times like those, the Ju-87s stayed on the ground.
    At times like those, he always wished he could hop on a train and go back to Sofia in Bialystok. If he couldn’t do the Reich any good at the moment, why shouldn’t he enjoy himself instead? Unfortunately, Luftwaffe higher-ups disapproved of such little jaunts. As far as they were concerned, it would always turn thirty Celsius tomorrow-day after at the latest-and the deep Russian mud would magically dry up so the flyers could get back to walloping the snot out of the Reds.
    Well, it had finally happened, or enough of it had. It wasn’t thirty Celsius-it probably wasn’t even twenty-and the mud hadn’t cleared up by magic. But it wasn’t twenty below any more, and neither was it pouring rain. The Stukas could get back to walloping the Ivans.
    After lighting a papiros — German quartermasters weren’t too proud to dole out captured stocks of smokes-Steinbrenner went on, “The Russians tried to knock us back from our bridgehead in the direction of Smolensk during the winter, but they couldn’t bring it off. So we-and our allies-are going to keep pushing that way. Once Smolensk falls, I suspect it will be time to start thinking about Moscow.”
    Moscow! Driving Stalin out of his lair, taking the lair away from him? No wonder an excited hum rose from the flyers. Napoleon had taken Moscow away from Tsar Alexander, but he hadn’t had much joy afterwards. He couldn’t fight a winter campaign, not in weather like what they got here he couldn’t. The Wehrmacht had already proved it could.
    “Questions?” Steinbrenner asked. He pointed toward a pilot who raised his hand. “What’s on your mind, Helmut?”
    Helmut Bauer was big and blond and broad-shouldered; he seemed almost too wide to fit inside a Stuka cockpit. But fit he did, and he flew with nearly as much reckless enthusiasm as Hans-Ulrich himself. Now he asked, “Colonel, with Romania in the war, what happens when things down south get screwed up?”
    “You’re assuming they will,” the squadron commander said, his voice dry.
    “Damn straight I am… sir,” Bauer agreed. “I know what the Romanians’ve got. It isn’t much, and they aren’t what you’d call eager to use it, either.”
    Heads bobbed up and down, Rudel’s among them. He didn’t care for having Polish allies. You couldn’t say the Poles lacked guts, but most of their equipment was junk. The Romanians mostly used junk, too, and precious few Germans had ever figured them for heroes. Hans-Ulrich sure didn’t.
    Even more dryly than before, Steinbrenner answered, “There may just be a few German soldiers along with the Romanians, to help remind them how to play the game and why they’re playing it.”
    The flyers chuckled. Hans-Ulrich knew why the Romanians were playing the game: the Fuhrer had promised them the Black Sea port of Odessa and the adjoining lands on the far bank of the Dniester. If nothing else could get somebody moving, good old greed would often turn the trick.
    “I do understand that, sir,” Bauer said. “But still… The Ukraine’s a hell of a big place, if you know what I mean. I hope we’ll have enough men and equipment in place to bite off the chunks we need-and to keep the Ivans from bunching up down there and biting our flank.”
    “Helmut, if they decide to move the squadron down to the Ukraine to support our men and the Romanians, you can’t do anything about it, and neither can I,” Colonel Steinbrenner said. “I’m sure you’ll be able to find yourself another lady friend, though.”
    More chuckles from the pilots, and a snicker or two to go with them. “Oh, so am I,” Bauer said, unmistakable complacency filling his voice. Hans-Ulrich wasn’t nearly so sure he could find another girl he liked as much as Sofia.
    You’ll be safer if you find one who isn’t half a Jew, he told himself. The SD didn’t like such liaisons. Neither did the National Socialist Leadership Officer standing at Steinbrenner’s elbow. Building a case against someone who wore the Knight’s Cross and who wasn’t shy about saying he backed the Fuhrer wouldn’t be easy, but it wouldn’t necessarily be impossible, either. Nothing was impossible if somebody important enough decided to build a case.
    “Can we get on with the war we are fighting, not the one we may be fighting some day?” Steinbrenner asked. Nobody told him no, so he did: “The Ivans have a concentration in front of Studenets, southwest of Smolensk. Our forces are in the neighborhood, and so are the French. If we bomb the enemy’s infantry and shoot up his panzers, word will get back to Paris that the froggies would be smart not to think about changing horses again. So we’ll do that, gentlemen, if it’s all right with you.” Again, nobody told him no. He nodded briskly. “We take off in forty-five minutes.”
    And they did, the first Ju-87 kicking up dust from the unpaved strip and climbing into the air right on time. Hans-Ulrich pushed back his leather flying glove and the sleeve to his fur-lined flight suit to check his watch and make sure. “Ready, Albert?” he called through the speaking tube.
    “Not me,” Sergeant Dieselhorst answered. “I’m still soaking in the bathtub, and after I get out I’ll go pick flowers so I keep on smelling nice and sweet.”
    Hans-Ulrich snorted. Dieselhorst did deadpan even better than Colonel Steinbrenner. When his Stuka’s turn came, he goosed the throttle. The Ju-87 rattled down the runway, then sedately got airborne. The weight and drag from the underwing gun pods made the ungainly plane even more so.
    “Studenets,” Rudel repeated to the rear gunner, as if they hadn’t gone over it before takeoff.
    “Gesundheit,” Dieselhorst said, so it was going to be one of those missions.
    Messerschmitt Bf-109s clustered around the Stukas. The 109s had plenty of other things to do; dive bombers got escorts only when the Luftwaffe feared the Red Air Force had fighters of its own in the neighborhood. And the Reds did: blunt-nosed, stumpy Polikarpov Po-16 monoplanes. They were a long step slower than the Messerschmitts, but they could have made mincemeat out of the lumbering Ju-87s had the bombers had no friends. As things were, one of them tumbled to the ground, trailing smoke. Two more made halfhearted runs at the Stukas and then peeled off. The rest decided to go somewhere else, to some place where misfortunes like 109s never happened.
    After that, the Stukas worked over the Ivans’ positions in front of Studenets with only ground fire to worry about. That wasn’t negligible, however much Hans-Ulrich wished it were. One Ju-87 took a direct hit from a flak shell and never pulled out of its dive, exploding in a fireball when it hit the ground. You had to ignore such things and do your job.
    Rudel did. He shot up four panzers. A couple of rounds of small-arms fire clanged into the plane, but none of the instruments showed any damage. The panzers were all ordinary Soviet models. He didn’t see any of the KV-1 mastodons that made German panzer men break out in a cold sweat. What you didn’t find, you couldn’t kill.
    Which, given Russian camouflage methods, might or might not mean something. But he’d done what he could. Having done it, he flew off to the west again. Studenets looked as if it would fall soon.

    Sullenly, the Red Army pulled out of Studenets. The Wehrmacht moved into the town from straight out of the west, the French expeditionary force from the southwest. Luc Harcourt saw a couple of men in khaki uniforms trotting away in the distance. He raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired at them. One of the men ran faster. The other, a smarter fellow, dove behind a battered wall and thus out of sight.
    He wished he still commanded a machine-gun team, as he had when he was still a corporal. But that was beneath a sergeant’s dignity. Dignity or no, a burst from the Hotchkiss and those Ivans wouldn’t have got away.
    If they were Ivans. The range had been long. He might have seen Feldgrau through the sights, not faded Soviet khaki. He wasn’t the only French soldier who thought of the same thing at the same time. With a sly chuckle, one of his men said, “Wouldn’t it have been a shame if those cochons were really Boches instead of Russians?”
    “Oh, but of course, Jacques. That would have been a real pity.” Luc could only have sounded more sardonic had he been Lieutenant Demange. Demange was somewhere not far away; Luc could hear him swearing at somebody in the company.
    Jacques laughed out loud. “A pity you didn’t hit ’em, you mean?”
    “I didn’t say that. You did.” Now Luc did his best to seem severe, though Jacques was right-scragging a couple of Fritzes “by accident” wouldn’t have broken his heart. But he also had his reasons for sounding the way he did: “And watch what falls out of your big, fat gob, all right? The Germans are in town, too, remember, and more of those cocksuckers know French than you’d figure.”
    “I’m not afraid of them.” Jacques was all nineteen-year-old bluster.
    “Then you’re an even bigger con than I give you credit for, and that’s saying something. I sure am,” Luc answered. Jacques’ eyes widened. Luc didn’t care. He’d been through enough to admit fear without fearing to seem a coward. And it wasn’t as if he were lying. Anybody who didn’t fear Germans with weapons in their hands hadn’t seen enough to know which end was up.
    The Boches were in town, too. Like the French, they were cleaning out the last few Red Army holdouts. Mausers banged off to the north. Their reports sounded harsher than those of French MAS-36s. Luc thought so, anyhow. There definitely was a difference, whether it lay in harshness or what.
    And then an MG-34 opened up. That fierce snarl still gave him the willies, even if his country and the Nazis had the same enemy nowadays. The German machine gun fired so much faster than a Hotchkiss-and faster than anything the English or the Russians made-that you couldn’t possibly mistake its malignant roar for anything else. The noise went hand in hand with agony and maiming and limb-sprawled death.
    Jacques was a new conscript. He’d never had to glue himself to the ground like a slug while MG-34 bullets kicked up dry leaves and slammed into tree trunks and spanged off stones, all the while trying to let the air out of his precious, irreplaceable self. He didn’t get how very deadly that German toy was. You dumb, lucky fuck, Luc thought scornfully.
    As the firing around here eased off, Russian civilians started coming up from their cellars and showing themselves. A plump, apple-cheeked babushka in a head scarf smiled, showing a mouthful of startling gold teeth. “Amis!” she said, which startled Luc again. He didn’t care about making friends with her. Her granddaughter, now, if she had one…
    Not all the people emerging from cellars and from under the bed and from wherever the hell else in Studenets were Russians. Some were Jews, the men dark and bearded and hook-nosed in long black coats, the women just as swarthy in scarves of their own and in even longer black dresses.
    The Russians looked relieved to be alive. The Jews looked relieved to be alive and even more relieved to be in a part of town the French had overrun. Like the babushka, they said, “Amis!” And they said “Kameraden!” and much else in Yiddish and in more standard German. Luc understood little of that, but some of the French soldiers here would follow more. As he’d told Luc, many Germans could parler francais- and probably just as many Frenchmen could Deutsch sprechen.
    An old Jew with a beard down to the second button of his shirtfront handed Luc a bottle that sloshed. “Here. You take. You like,” he said in broken French. “Me, I have nephew in Paris. He drive taxi.” He mimed steering motions.
    Luc did take the bottle. He did like it, too. He’d expected vodka, potent but next to flavorless. But no. He got plum brandy, fiery and sweet at the same time. He gave Jacques a quick nip, then went looking for Demange. The lieutenant would make him sorry if he didn’t share a prize like this.
    Lieutenant Demange had men going through a warren of little shops for holdouts. They seemed to be flushing out nothing but unarmed Jews. Demange cradled a Soviet PPD submachine gun. It was ugly, but good for killing lots of people in a hurry-quite a bit like the veteran himself. The inevitable Gitane in the corner of his mouth twitched when he saw Luc’s offering. “What have you got there?”
    “Jew with a white beard gave it to me.” Luc held out the bottle.
    Demange took it and drank. A slow smile spread across his skinny, ratlike face. “Heyyy! That’s the straight shit, all right. Let’s hear it for the kike.”
    “Yeah. Let’s hear it,” Luc said, not quite comfortably. He thought there were a couple of Jews among the men Demange commanded. But Demange wasn’t an anti-Semite, or not particularly. The race he despised was the human race.
    He passed the bottle back to Luc, who killed it and tossed it in the rubble. Two stiff knocks of brandy didn’t get him drunk. They did mean he eyed the wreckage that was Studenets with a slightly less jaundiced eye.
    Demange pointed toward where the center of town ought to be. “Bring a few guys with you. We’d better make contact with the Nazis. Long as everything stays nice and official, the chance for some dumb fucking accident goes down.”
    “Happy day,” Luc said, his enthusiasm distinctly tempered. It wasn’t that Demange was wrong, because he wasn’t. But Luc wanted to pretend France was at war with the Russians, and there weren’t any Germans around for hundreds of kilometers. They’d come closer to killing him than the Ivans ever had, and he’d sure done for his share of them… Muttering, he shambled off to obey.
    He muttered even more when he saw that the Germans in the town square didn’t belong to the Wehrmacht. They came from the Waffen-SS: they wore the SS runes on the right side of their helmets and on the right collar patch of each man’s tunic. They looked like tough assholes; the few times he’d faced Wafen- SS troops, they’d fought like tough assholes, too. He still would rather have shot at them than at the Ivans.
    A few more SS men herded some Jews into the square. One of the Jews might have been brother to the guy who’d given Luc plum brandy. Laughing, an SS sergeant drew his Luger and raised it to the back of the Jew’s head.
    Maybe he just meant to scare the graybeard. Maybe. Luc didn’t wait to find out. He had his rifle pointed at the SS noncom’s belly button in nothing flat. “Halt!” he yelled. He didn’t speak much German, but he had that one down solid.
    Slowly, his mouth dropping open in disbelief, the SS man lowered the pistol. An SS officer spoke in badly accented French: “But this foolishness is. We are allies, n’est-ce pas? And these are only Jews.”
    Other SS men looked as ready to fight their “allies” as Luc was to plug that sergeant. Lieutenant Demange dove behind some shattered masonry. He shouted in German probably as lousy as the SS officer’s French. Then he translated for Luc: “I told ’em I’d give ’em the whole fucking drum of ammo if they didn’t leave the damn Hebes alone.”
    The Waffen — SS officer quivered with outrage. “Tell me your name,” he snarled at Demange. “I shall to your superiors report you.”
    “Fuck off and die,” the lieutenant replied auf Deutsch, not breaking cover. Luc got that fine. Demange said something else in German, then repeated it in French: “You want to report us for stopping a murder, you’ll be at war with every Frenchman in Russia by this time tomorrow.”
    Luc nodded. So did the poilus he’d brought along. The SS man swore in his own language, but he let the Jews go. And nobody reported the confrontation to anybody’s superiors.

Chapter 9

    The major standing by Alistair Walsh murmured to himself: “ ‘If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.’ ”
    “What’s that, sir?” Walsh kept looking across the street toward what had to be England’s most famous address.
    “That”-the major’s handsome face set in disapproving lines at Walsh’s ignorance, and very likely at his accent, too — “ that is Shakespeare. Macbeth, to be precise.” He was the sort who’d set great stock in precision. Yes, the Army needed that kind of man… which didn’t mean the bloke would have a great pack of friends.
    “We ought to move a bit, not let ourselves be seen staring at the place,” Walsh said. He didn’t think he himself was important in the grand scheme of things: not in the other side’s calculations, at any rate. He didn’t know what kind of reports they had about the major. He didn’t even know the man’s name. What you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell, no matter how clever-or cruel-the questioner.
    Absently, the major nodded. “Quite,” he said, and started mooching down the street. Sighing, Walsh went along. The major was bound to be very good at… well, at whatever he was good at. Whatever that might be, it wasn’t acting. He might have drawn more notice with a battery-powered signboard featuring flashing electric lamps. On the other hand, he also might not have.
    Walsh didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about the guards in front of the famous address. Of course, if the other side was on the job, he wouldn’t. But if the other side were on the job, he wouldn’t have been strolling along with the officer.
    He did some murmuring of his own: “Gunpowder.”
    “Oh, we’ve got better toys than that these days,” the major said.
    “I meant the Gunpowder Plot, sir. Guy Fawkes’ Day.”
    “Well, don’t equivocate, then,” the major snapped. “Say what you mean.”
    “Yes, sir,” Walsh replied with dour precision. Since he was nominally a civilian, he couldn’t salute, even sarcastically, but he had to remind his twitchy arm of that. “What I mean, sir, is that if we bugger this up little tykes a hundred years from now will take lessons about the Second World War Traitors and get browned off because they’ve got to memorize our names.”
    “Little tykes a hundred years from now will take lessons about the Second World War Traitors regardless.” The major spoke with gloomy certainty. “The only question left is which list of names they’ll have to memorize.”
    Walsh grunted. That was much too likely to be true. A nice-looking blonde came up the street past him. Of itself, his head swiveled so he could check her hip action, too. The little things in life went on no matter how grandiose the big things were. A blackbird on a rooftop opened its yellow beak and poured out springtime song. It hopped into the air and flew off, right over Walsh and the major.
    The officer ducked away. Walsh eyed him sympathetically. He must have had a rugged war if a thrush could remind him of a grenade or a shell fragment. The ribbon for the Military Medal on his chest did nothing to argue against that. But then the major said, “Ought to be a bounty on those bloody things. Did you ever try to clean bird shit off your cap visor?”
    “Er-no.” Walsh’s sympathy evaporated.
    “Stinking nuisance,” the major said, before returning to the business at hand: “I’m told you know something of this business. What do you think of our chances for success?”
    Do I know something of this business? Walsh wondered. He’d planned and led attacks on strongpoints in urban settings-no doubt of that. It made him more of an expert than most people, even probably more of an expert than most soldiers. He pursed his lips, weighing what he’d seen. “So long as we do keep the advantage of surprise, chances look tolerably good to me. If they’re waiting for us when we make the attempt…”
    “We’re ruined for fair, then,” the major finished for him, which wasn’t how Walsh would have gone on. Again, though, that didn’t make him wrong.
    A boy on a street corner was waving the Times of London and bawling out the latest war headlines. The British Expeditionary Force and the rest of the Nazis’ allies were advancing deeper into Russia. In Malaya and Burma, the Japanese kept pushing imperial troops back. Even Singapore, said to be the strongest fortress in the world, might come under attack soon.
    “Strange business,” the major said, walking past without buying a paper.
    “How’s that, sir?”
    “Well, the bleeding Japs are supposed to be Hitler’s chums. But we’re supposed to be Hitler’s chums, too, and we’re at war with Japan. And the Russians are Hitler’s deadly enemies, but they’ve already had their war with Japan, so they’re neutral now. And the USA and Japan are fighting, but Russian ships can cross the Pacific free as so many fish, load up on guns in American ports, and haul all that stuff back to Russia to fire it off against the Nazis-and us.”
    When you thought of it like that, it was enough to make your head swim. Walsh found one problem: “How many ships in the Pacific have the Russians got left now that Vladivostok’s fallen?”
    “They have some yet. And there’s a road connection-not a good one, but it’s there-between Magadan and what the Russians still hold of the Trans-Siberian Railway. No, the real question is, how much can they bring in whilst the harbor at Magadan’s not iced up?”
    Walsh had never heard of Magadan. He had no idea where in Siberia it lay, or, for that matter, whether the major was simply inventing it to bolster his argument. The officer ducked into a pub. Walsh followed. A pint of bitter made him stop caring whether Magadan was real.
    Beer, steak-and-kidney pie, more beer… A French estaminet couldn’t hold a candle to a proper pub. Two wars’ worth of experience on the other side of the Channel and years of diligent experimenting in his own country left Walsh as sure of that as made no difference. The major wasn’t the best drinking companion he’d ever had, but also wasn’t the worst.
    It was dark by the time Walsh went back to his little furnished room. London’s lights were on again. With Germany friendly, the need for a blackout disappeared. Sometimes conveniences came at too high a price. Walsh thought so, anyhow. The Prime Minister would have disagreed. Walsh reckoned disagreeing with Sir Horace Wilson sure to put him in the right.
    Because of the beer he’d taken on board, the knock at the door took longer to rouse him than it might have. He lurched off the bed-which doubled as a sofa in daylight hours-ready to give whoever was out there a piece of his mind. But the two somber men in trenchcoats hadn’t the slightest interest in listening to him.
    “You’re Alistair Walsh-is that right?” one of them said.
    “What if I am?” Walsh answered indignantly. “Who wants to know?”
    Both men produced Scotland Yard identity cards. “You’re under arrest,” said the one who did the talking. “Come along with us-quietly, if you please.”
    Ice and fire chased each other along Walsh’s spine. “The devil I will,” he blustered. “Show me your warrant.”
    With startling speed, the copper or detective or whatever he was produced a pistol: a. 455 Webley and Scott Mark VI, a great man-killing brute of a revolver, the same weapon British officers carried into battle. “Here’s all the warrant we need, mate. Let out a peep and I’ll blow a hole in you they could throw a cat through.”
    The other Scotland Yard man spoke up for the first time: “Don’t tempt us, either. Shooting’s better than a damned traitor deserves.”
    “I’m no traitor!” Walsh said, wondering how many MPs and Army officers were being scooped up in the same net.
    Both men in the hallway laughed-two of the nastiest laughs he’d ever heard. “Now tell us another one,” said the fellow with the Webley and Scott. “No-tell your stories at headquarters. Get moving, right now. This is your first, last, and only chance.” He gestured toward the stairway with the pistol.
    Numbly, Walsh got moving. The Fritzes had almost captured him a couple of times. He’d counted himself lucky to escape that fate. Now his own countrymen had him by the ballocks. Better if the Nazis had got him. At least they were enemies, and honest enough about that at the time. These bastards imagined they were patriots. It only went to show how crazy and useless a thing an imagination could be.

    Pete McGill hadn’t thought of Australia as a tropical country. When he was on shipboard duty, before he got posted to China, he’d put in at Sydney and Melbourne and Perth. They weren’t half bad-they kind of reminded him of Southern California. He’d never been to Darwin before.
    Here he was in Darwin now. It wasn’t the Dutch East Indies-it wasn’t right on the Equator. No, it lay all of twelve degrees south. That made a difference. As far as Pete was concerned, it didn’t make nearly enough.
    He was just glad he’d got here in one piece, and that the Boise had got here under her own power. Most of the ships and sailors who’d fought the Japs with the American light cruiser farther north weren’t so lucky. The Dutch East Indies were falling, if they hadn’t already fallen. All that oil, all that rubber, all that tin… They lay in Japanese hands now.
    How long the Boise would be able to keep running under her own power-and how long she’d stay in one piece herself-he had no idea. Japanese bombers called on Darwin night after night. They were, not to put too fine a point on it, knocking the crap out of the place. Darwin was just a little town at the edge of nowhere. The Japs seemed intent on knocking it over the edge.
    And so Pete wasn’t astonished when the Boise steamed out of the harbor one evening just when the sun was going down. If one of those bombers with the meatballs on the wings got lucky, the light cruiser wouldn’t go anywhere again, except to the bottom. So she was getting out while the getting was good.
    It seemed that way to him, anyhow. Joe Orsatti was much less happy about it. “I’m sick of running from those shitass little yellow monkeys,” he groused as the Marines manned the five-inch guns in case an enemy plane or a sub or even an arrogantly aggressive destroyer spotted the Boise.
    “Who isn’t?” Pete agreed. They hurried east. Scuttlebutt said they were bound for New Zealand, and ultimately for Hawaii. Pete hoped the scuttlebutt was true. He wouldn’t be sure till they made it through the Torres Strait. If they kept heading east after that, New Zealand it would be. If they swung more to the south, paralleling Australia’s coast, they were liable to be bound for Melbourne or Sydney. He understood that the Aussies needed to keep up the fight. But so did America, and he wanted to help. He figured he owed the Japs more than Orsatti did.
    The other leatherneck warmed to his theme: “I’m a white man, God damn it to hell. Those lousy slant-eyed cocksuckers got no business pushing me around.”
    Plenty of Marines in Peking and Shanghai had felt the same way. Pete wondered how his buddies were doing these days. He wondered how many of them were still alive. Not for the first time, guilt stabbed at him because he wasn’t up there sharing their fate, whatever it turned out to be. He couldn’t do anything about that, of course, but his impotence made him feel worse, not better.
    He’d had some of that white man’s arrogance himself, but only some. “I saw a lot of the Japs in China,” he said slowly. “They’re just as sure they’re hot shit in a gold goblet as we are.”
    “Yeah, but they’re really nothin’ but cold diarrhea in a Dixie cup,” Orsatti replied, which got a laugh from everybody in the gun crew, including Pete. He went on, “You wait and see. We’ll make ’em wish they never took us on. We get the whole fleet together at Pearl, then we sail west and bash ’em.” His voice went all dreamy. “The Big Fuckin’ Pacific Battle. It’ll make Jutland look like a couple of kids playin’ with toy boats in the bathtub.”
    “There you go,” Pete said. There weren’t many sailors or Marines who didn’t daydream about the Big Fuckin’ Pacific Battle. Anybody with a brain in his head had seen that the USA would tangle with Japan one of these days. Why else had both sides built all those battlewagons and carriers and cruisers and destroyers and subs, if not to get ready for the day? So we’d put all of ours together, they’d put all of theirs together, and then both sides would bash heads. And the winner would go forward, while the loser… What about the loser?
    He’d get what losers always got. T.S., Eliot.
    Without warning, the Boise heeled to port, as hard as she could. A split second later, klaxons hooted. “Torpedo attack!” The shout burst from the loudspeakers’ iron throats. “We are under torpedo attack!”
    They’d gone to battle stations as soon as the ship left port. Pete stood by the open ammunition locker, ready to pass shells to the loader. He couldn’t do anything else except wait and worry and hope like hell he wouldn’t get his ankles broken when the Jap fish slammed into the cruiser.
    “There’s the wake!” Orsatti said hoarsely.
    Sure as hell, a phosphorescent line arrowed through the tropical sea, seeming to run straight for the Boise ’s vitals. Now-how many fish had the Japanese sub launched? Holy crap! Here came another one, much too soon after the first. It sped along on a track almost identical to the other.
    Could the Boise dodge them? She was sure as hell trying. Smoke spurted from her stacks as the engines roared up to emergency full. Machine gunners opened fire on the torpedoes, trying to detonate them before they could hit… if they were going to hit.
    “Hail, Mary, full of grace…” Orsatti rattled off the prayer. The hand in his pocket was probably working a rosary. Pete wished he could pray that way. He’d seen how it made people feel better. But he’d never got the habit when he was a kid, and talking to God now only made him feel like a phony.
    He tried the next best thing, saying, “I think the bastards are gonna slide on by us.” The Boise had turned into the torpedoes’ paths, and was running along them in the opposite direction-straight toward the sub that had turned them loose. If that sub was still surfaced, it would be mighty sorry mighty fast. Pete peered forward. He saw nothing that looked like a periscope or a conning tower, but how much did that say?
    Bow on, the Boise also offered torpedoes the smallest possible target. They did slide past, both to port. One seemed close enough for Pete to spit on. He refrained. No grinding, rending crash told of a cruiser-submarine collision. The Boise threw a few depth charges into the warm, dark water. The deck shook under Pete’s feet as they burst one by one. The ocean boiled above the bursts.
    “I wish I thought we were really after those assholes,” Joe Orsatti said. “Way it feels, though, is we’re just makin’ ’em keep their heads down.”
    “Fine by me.” Pete profanely embellished that. “All we’re doing now is getting out of town any which way. So we’ll go, and they can give somebody else a hard time next week.”
    The other Marine grunted. “Yeah, you got somethin’ there. I didn’t look at it from that angle. Maybe you’re smarter’n you act most of the time.”
    “Ahh, up yours,” Pete said without heat. “Besides, if I’m so goddamn smart, what am I doing here?”
    That drew another laugh from everybody at the gun. “Well, if I remember straight, your other choice was staying in Manila,” Orsatti answered. “Like I said a minute ago, maybe you ain’t so dumb after all.”
    Pete wondered what he would have done if he hadn’t come aboard the Boise. He didn’t need to wonder long. He would have picked up a Springfield, found a tin hat that came close to fitting, and joined the Americans and Filipinos trying to hold off the Japanese invaders. From the reports trickling out of the Philippines, the defenders were losing ground day by day.
    Well, the Boise and the handful of other American ships in the western Pacific hadn’t done much to slow down the Japanese attacks on Malaya or the Dutch East Indies, either. Here on the cruiser, though, he wasn’t shivering with malaria. He had plenty of chow. It might not be great, but it wasn’t terrible, either. He wouldn’t come down with amoebic dysentery if he ate it or drank water that wasn’t heavily chlorinated. If you wanted to fight a war in comfort, a ship was the place to do it-unless you got hit, of course. Getting hit was bad news no matter where or how it happened.
    It wouldn’t happen right this minute. That sub lurked somewhere deep in the sea, with luck damaged by the ash cans the Boise threw at it. Any which way, the cruiser would be long gone before the sub surfaced again. And then…? New Zealand and Hawaii? Sydney or Melbourne? In a way, which choice hardly mattered. They both meant that, sooner or later, the Japs would get another chance at the Boise and everybody she carried.

    To say that the Spanish Republic wasn’t rich only proved what a poor, inadequate thing language could be sometimes. Vaclav Jezek had heard that the Republic had sent all its gold to Russia for safekeeping (and, incidentally, to buy weapons). Giving Stalin your gold reserves struck him as the exact equivalent of handing a fox the keys to your chicken coop. He might be here fighting for the Republic, but he had scant use for Stalin.
    Because the Republic was chronically broke, soldiers’ pay chronically ran late. He didn’t much care about that; he had little to spend money on but cigarettes and booze, and he usually found enough in his pockets for those. Before long, the Spaniards doled out rank insignia so their people would know who was who and what was what among the Czechs. Vaclav got two gold cloth stripes with red borders.
    “Is the mark of a brigada,” the fellow who gave it to him said in German with a Spanish accent strong enough to make it almost incomprehensible to Jezek. “A sergeant, they say in this language.”
    “But I’m only a corporal,” Vaclav answered, also in German.
    “People from European armies, we promote one grade,” the Spaniard said. “You have combat experience soldiers from Spain do not.” His face clouded. “The Fascists, they also this do with the men of the Legion Kondor.”
    “Oh, terrific,” Vaclav said, fortunately in Czech. Gaining a privilege because a pack of Nazis also enjoyed it was the last thing he wanted. But he damn well did have combat experience the locals lacked. And, if his pay went up to match the Spanish rank, he’d get more money even if they stiffed him now and then. So he managed to compose himself when he returned to German: “Danke schon.”
    “Bitte,” the Spaniard answered, and showed himself a true student of Kultur by clicking his heels German-style. Vaclav didn’t tell him any Czech despised that nonsense as a reminder of the not-quite-dead-enough Austro-Hungarian past. The fellow doubtless meant well. Then again, when you thought about which road was paved with good intentions…
    Because Benjamin Halevy was already a sergeant, the Spaniards made him into a second lieutenant. He took it for a joke, which made Vaclav think better of him. “I sure as hell never would have turned into an officer if I’d stayed in France!” the Jew exclaimed.
    “Maybe if you’d gone to Russia and done something brave, the Germans would have given you a battlefield promotion,” Vaclav suggested with a sly grin.
    Halevy told him what he could do with any battlefield promotion won from the Nazis. It sounded uncomfortable, especially if Vaclav tried to do it sideways, as the other man urged. When the Czech said so, he found Halevy remarkably unsympathetic.
    By the time the Spaniards got through, none of the Czechs had a grade lower than PFC, and most of them were at least corporals. It might matter when they dealt with the locals. Their relative ranks remained unchanged, so for their own purposes the promotions gave some merriment but otherwise might as well not have happened.
    More serious business for Vaclav was picking off any of Marshal Sanjurjo’s officers who came within range of his elephant gun. The Nationalists made his murderous work easier by prominently displaying their rank badges and medals. “Stupid,” he said, after potting a fellow he thought was a colonel. “They’d be a lot safer if they showed off less.”
    “But they’d be less macho,” Halevy told him.
    “Less what?” Vaclav hadn’t run into the Spanish word before.
    “ Macho. It means being tough for the sake of being tough. It means, if you’ve got a big cock, you wear a codpiece so it looks even bigger. It’s like elk growing antlers every spring so they can bang heads with other elk.”
    “Elk can’t help growing antlers every spring,” Vaclav protested.
    “Spaniards, or a lot of Spaniards, can’t help showing how macho they are,” Halevy said with a shrug.
    “If they had any brains, they could,” Jezek said. “That colonel would still be breathing if he’d worn a private’s tunic and kept his medals in the boxes they came in. The way he was strutting around with all those gold stars and ribbons, he might as well have written SHOOT ME! across his chest in big red letters.”
    “If they had any brains, Vaclav, how many of them would be officers in a Fascist army?” Benjamin Halevy asked.
    Vaclav pondered that. “Well, you’ve got something there,” he admitted.
    The next day, the Spanish papers that came out from Madrid had big headlines. The only problem was, Vaclav had no idea what those headlines said. Spanish was even more a closed book to him than French had been.
    Halevy, who read French like the native he was, could make a stab at written Spanish, just as a native Czech speaker would recognize some written Polish words and might be able to extract sense from a Polish newspaper story. “Something’s going on in England,” the Jew reported. “Somebody-the army, I think-doesn’t like the way the government’s jumped into bed with the Nazis, and they’re trying to do something about it.”
    “And?” Vaclav said. “Don’t cocktease, goddammit! Are they winning? Are they losing? Will England tell Hitler where to head in? That’d be something, wouldn’t it?” He imagined the Royal Navy and the RAF pounding the hell out of German-held Europe again.
    “I don’t know ‘and,’ ” Halevy replied in an unwontedly small voice. “Either the paper doesn’t say or my Spanish is too crappy for me to figure it out. Maybe they’re hanging traitors from lampposts. Or maybe the traitors are still running things and they’re translating ‘Deutschland uber Alles’ into English right now.”
    “Give me that goddamn thing.” Jezek snatched the newspaper out of Halevy’s hand. As usual, the Czechs and the men from the International Brigade held adjoining stretches of the Republican line. The Republic naturally grouped its best fighters together. And the Czech didn’t take long to find somebody who could read Spanish and speak German.
    “It just says there’s unrest in England,” the International told him. By the way the man pronounced his r’s, Vaclav guessed he was a Magyar. Had they met anywhere but in Spain, they probably would have quarreled-Hungary had sat on Slovakia for centuries, and mistrusted Czechs for wanting to help Slovaks. Here, they both had bigger things to worry about.
    “Who’s winning?” Vaclav asked, as he had with Halevy.
    The Magyar spread his hands. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “The guy who wrote this doesn’t know. He’s trying to hide that so he won’t look dumb, but he doesn’t.”
    Vaclav made a disgusted noise down deep in his throat. “Sounds like a newspaperman, all right.”
    “It sure does.” The Magyar studied him. The fellow had green eyes, high cheekbones, and an arrogant blade of a nose. He looked the way Vaclav would have expected a Magyar to look, in other words. And he sounded faintly surprised when he added, “You’re not such a fool, are you?”
    For a Czech, he might have meant. To Magyars, Slovaks were nothing but bumpkins, and Czechs were a lot like Slovaks, so… Vaclav thought Slovaks were bumpkins, too, and Fascist-loving bumpkins at that, but he knew Magyars were dead wrong about Czechs. How did he know? By being a Czech himself, of course.
    “Well, I try,” he said dryly.
    “Heh,” the Magyar said. He tapped the paper with his left hand. The little finger was missing its last joint. “Thanks for bringing this. I hadn’t seen it yet. If England really is having second thoughts, that could be big.”
    “What do you think the odds are?”
    “Either she’ll change her mind or she won’t. Right now, you can toss a coin,” the Magyar answered. Grimacing, Vaclav nodded. If you tried to guess when you didn’t know enough, you were bound to end up looking like an idiot. The Magyar declined that dubious honor. Declining made sense. Vaclav still knew what he hoped.

    Theo Hossbach didn’t like any SS men, as a general working rule. He disliked the Waffen — SS less than the other branches, though. Men who joined the SS intending to fight foreign foes took more risks than the ones who joined to hit prisoners who couldn’t fight back.
    These bastards were still bastards. Unlike their comrades in the Black Corps, they were brave bastards. He’d seen that in France. Waffen- SS units there went straight at obstacles the Wehrmacht would have tried to outflank or would have ignored altogether. Sometimes taking a position was more expensive than it was worth.
    So it seemed to the Wehrmacht, anyhow. So it certainly seemed to Theo. The SS men looked at things differently. Sometimes they bulled through where the Wehrmacht would have hesitated, perhaps not least because the enemy often thought they wouldn’t be crazy enough to attack here. Sometimes they got slaughtered for their trouble.
    Not that Theo necessarily thought slaughtering SS men a bad idea… He did disapprove of waste, though. Even when the SS broke through, its butcher’s bill was higher than the Wehrmacht ’s would have been.
    Right now, Theo and Adi Stoss and Hermann Witt were messing with their Panzer III’s transmission, trying to figure out which gear in the train didn’t want to mesh and whether they had or could get their hands on a replacement. “The Ivans don’t worry about shit like this,” Adi said. “Their drivers have a mallet next to their seat. When a gear doesn’t want to engage, they give the stick a good whack. That makes the son of a bitch behave.”
    “You’re making that up,” Sergeant Witt said. “I know the Russians can be rude and crude with their equipment, but that’s over the line even for them.”
    Lothar Eckhardt, the panzer’s gunner, and Kurt Poske, the loader, watched without saying much. They were both new men, much less experienced than the three veterans. Theo wished it were a new Panzer III, but no. Somebody else got the new machines. This one was a hand-me-down, not so old and beat-up as the Panzer II that was now being cannibalized for spare parts if its carcass had been brought in and quietly rusting if it hadn’t.
    Adi raised his right hand with the first two fingers raised and crooked, as if he were swearing an oath in court. “Honest to God, Sergeant. I’ve seen the damn things with my own eyes.”
    “Me, too.” Theo rarely contributed to the conversation, but a fact was a fact-and this one cost him only a couple of words.
    “Well, fuck me,” Witt said mildly. Heinz Naumann wouldn’t have let his juniors get away with disagreeing with him, even when they were right-maybe especially when they were. Theo missed Naumann not a bit, and suspected Adi missed him even less than that. Seeing that a fact was a fact even when it wasn’t his fact was one of the many things that made Witt a better panzer commander than Naumann had ever dreamt of being.
    Adi pounced with a wrench. Three minutes later, he held the culprit in the palm of his hand. “Will you look at that?” he said. “One tooth gone, and another one going. No wonder things were getting sticky.”
    “No wonder at all,” Witt agreed. “Have we got a new one we can swap in?”
    “I’m pretty sure we don’t,” Adi said.
    Witt nodded unhappily. “I’m pretty sure you’re right.” He tossed the toothed steel disk to Eckhardt. “Go on back to the maintenance section and get a replacement. Check it out before you take it, too. Don’t let ’em give you one that’s had new teeth welded on. They’ll tell you it’s just as good, but that’s a bunch of crap.”
    The kid looked shocked. He was very fair, and couldn’t have been above nineteen-he hardly needed to shave. “They’d try to dump defective stuff on us?”
    “Listen to me.” Witt spoke with great conviction. “You know the Russians are the enemy, right? But your own side will screw you just as hard if you give ’em half a chance. Go on, now. Scoot.”
    Theo wondered if Witt would ask Adi or him to go along with Eckhardt. But the sergeant didn’t. The new guys had to learn the ropes. Whenever you had the chance, you broke them in a little at a time. Trouble was, a fast-moving campaign-which this one had become, now that the mud was dry-didn’t always give you chances like that.
    Witt pulled out a pack of Junos and offered everybody else a smoke. “We may as well take ten,” he said. “We sure aren’t going anywhere till he comes back with that gear.”
    New green grass was pushing up through the dirt and through the gray-yellow dead growth from the year before. Theo sat down and sucked in smoke. Not far away, a skylark sang sweetly. The clear trilled notes couldn’t drown out the distant rumble of artillery, though. Theo cocked his head to one side, listening to the guns. Ours, he decided, and relaxed fractionally.
    Another panzer crew was working on their machine at the far edge of the field. Resting infantrymen sprawled in clumps between the two panzers. They all wore SS runes on helmets and collar patches. They were eating or smoking or passing around water bottles that probably didn’t hold water. Some of them lay with their eyes closed, grabbing a little sleep while they could.
    They were doing all the things Wehrmacht foot soldiers would have done, in other words. Theo still looked at them differently. Anybody could end up in the Army. He had, for instance. So had Adi Stoss. You had to volunteer for the Waffen — SS, and you wouldn’t do that unless you were a convinced Nazi. They wouldn’t take you unless they were sure you were a convinced Nazi, either, so that worked both ways.
    One of the guys propped up on an elbow maybe ten meters away bummed a chunk of black bread from his buddy and squeezed butter onto it from a tinfoil tube. Theo’s stomach rumbled. He told it to shut up. It didn’t want to listen.
    “Can you believe those stupid goddamn Frenchmen?” the trooper asked after he swallowed a heroic bite of bread.
    “Jesus Christ, but that was chickenshit! For twenty pfennigs, I would’ve blown the fuckin’ froggies a new asshole with my Schmeisser,” answered the other man from the Waffen — SS. Theo’s stomach rumbled again. Once more, he told it to keep quiet. It might not want to listen, but all of a sudden he did.
    The first fellow who wore the runes couldn’t have looked more disgusted had he tried for a week. “Once we finish with the Ivans, we’re gonna have to do for the froggies, all right,” he said. “It’s a hell of a note when we can’t give the Hebes what they deserve on account of our so-called friends don’t like it.” He spat in the dirt.
    “Damn straight,” his friend agreed. “ Damn straight. This whole stupid, stinking war, it’s about Reds and kikes. If the Frenchmen can’t see that, tough shit for them, that’s all I’ve got to say.”
    “Amen!” the first trooper said, as if in church. “The Fuhrer ’s gonna bring things around to the way they’re supposed to be, even if he’s got to wipe out all the goddamn Jews to do it.” The other fellow with the SS collar tab nodded, then started cleaning his submachine gun.
    Ever so casually, Theo’s gaze swung toward Adi Stoss. He wouldn’t have been surprised to find Adi hopping mad, or else sizzling inside and trying to pretend he wasn’t. But the panzer driver lay on his back, his hands clasped behind his head, staring up at the clouds drifting across the watery blue sky. If he’d paid any attention to what the infantrymen were saying, he gave no sign.
    Lothar Eckhardt came back with the gear. He anxiously showed it to Sergeant Witt. “Is it all right?” he quavered. No doubt he was imagining bread and water, if not a blindfold and a last cigarette at dawn, if the answer was no.
    The panzer commander carefully inspected the part. If it wasn’t all right, he would go back to the maintenance section and give those clowns a piece of his mind. But he nodded. “Looks good. They knew they couldn’t pull a fast one on you, so they didn’t even try.”
    “Wow!” Eckhardt breathed.
    “Now you and Kurt are going to install the son of a bitch,” Witt said. “The more you know about keeping your panzer running on your own, the better off you’ll be. One of these days, you’ll run into trouble where you can’t go off to the mechanics.”
    Eckhardt and Poske both gulped. “I’m not sure we know how to do that, Sergeant,” the loader said, which could only mean We have no idea how to do that.
    Witt chuckled; he understood at least as well as Theo. “Adi and I will coach you,” he said. “It isn’t black magic. It isn’t even real hard, as long as you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. And you’d damn well better not. Now come on, both of you.” He led them back to the waiting Panzer III.

Chapter 10

    Going back to Madrid was nothing new for Chaim Weinberg. Going back to Madrid with money in his pocket was. He was carrying the proverbial elephant-choking roll. He’d played a lot of poker since coming to Spain. (He’d played a lot of poker before he came to Spain, too, which didn’t hurt.) When luck and skill came together… He shook his head in wonder. He’d never known a night when luck and skill came together like the night before.
    Fins, sawbucks, pound notes, fivers… It was just about all good money, not asswipes like pesetas and francs. Poker, after all, was serious business. It brought out the hard currency.
    On rattled the ancient, beat-up French truck. Chaim tried to listen for aircraft noises over the engine’s farting and the rattle of stones off the undercarriage. Of course a Nationalist bomber or a Legion Kondor Messerschmitt would pick this exact moment to target this ratty truck…
    But none did. Brakes squealing-hell, brakes shrieking-the truck shuddered to a stop. “Raus!” the driver yelled. He wasn’t a German. He was an Estonian, or something like that. But he knew Raus! was something everybody in the back of the truck would get. And everybody did. Out scrambled the soldiers. The Spanish kid who hopped down just in front of Chaim mimed rubbing at his abused kidneys. Chaim chuckled and nodded.
    He looked around. As always, Madrid saddened and awed him at the same time. You could kill tens of thousands of people if you bombed the crap out of a big city. Everyone between the wars had seen that clearly. The heavy-duty thinkers hadn’t understood just how big a big city was, though. With the worst will in the world, bombers couldn’t smash all of one.
    And bombing a city didn’t cow the people it failed to kill. Instead, it really pissed them off. The heavy-duty thinkers missed that one, too-missed it by a mile. They underestimated the proletariat’s resilience (and the bourgeoisie’s, though Chaim had no great use for the bourgeoisie, either).
    So Madrid looked like hell. Streets were cratered. Buildings had chunks bitten out of them. There were mounds of rubble that had been buildings in happier times. Window glass was a prodigy; whenever Chaim caught a glimpse of some, his head started to whip around, as if toward a pretty girl.
    Communist Party headquarters, where his own particular pretty girl worked, had taken a pounding. Naturally, the Nationalists wanted to knock it flat. But you couldn’t hit one building in particular with high-altitude bombing-one more place where the theorists had it wrong. And enough antiaircraft guns surrounded the place to make even the most fanatical Stuka pilot think twice before tipping his plane into a dive.
    Men from one of the gun crews waved to Chaim as he walked into the building. They recognized him by now. “You lucky so-and-so!” one of them called-they knew who La Martellita was, too. Chaim laughed and waved back.
    If his Spanish ladylove was glad to see him, she hid it very well. “What are you doing here?” she snapped when she looked up from the report she was working on. Chaim couldn’t read Spanish upside down. He wondered what the report was about, and how many people would wind up in trouble because of it. Party reports always landed people in trouble-that was what they were for. He counted himself lucky that none of La Martellita’s reports had had his name in them.
    “What am I here for? I’ll show you, babe.” Chaim reached into one of his front pockets and extracted the roll. (He wasn’t dumb enough to carry it in a hip pocket, where it practically begged to get stolen.) He started peeling off greenbacks and British banknotes and laying them on the desk one after another. “Here you go. These are for you-and for the kid, claro.”
    He startled her, enough so she couldn’t keep from showing it. “Where did you get all this?” she asked, as if sure he couldn’t have come by it honestly.
    I earned it by oppressing the working class. Communist or not, Chaim made that kind of joke without even thinking about it. But he did have to think about it to translate it into Spanish. And thinking about it, this time, made him decide not to translate it. La Martellita wouldn’t appreciate it.
    That should have warned that they weren’t destined for many long and happy years together. But she was stunning, she tasted good, and she felt even better. Infatuation had blinded plenty before him. It wasn’t likely to stop after he ran aground, either.
    Instead of joking, he said, “Cards,” and let it go at that.
    She was counting the money and, he supposed, turning the count into pesetas. “You don’t win like this all the time,” she said accurately.
    “ Querida, nobody wins like this all the time. Nobody who doesn’t cheat, anyhow,” Chaim answered, also accurately. “But at least I have the sense to use the money. I’m not going to waste it, and I didn’t lose it all again as fast as I won it.”
    “You didn’t gamble the sun away before morning,” La Martellita said.
    It sounded like a proverb, but it wasn’t one Chaim had heard before. “The sun?” he echoed.
    “One of the conquistadores in Peru got a big golden sun disk as his share of the loot from the Incas. He lost it at dice before the real sun came up,” La Martellita explained.
    “Gotcha.” Chaim knew plenty of guys like that. Spaniards weren’t the only ones who came down with gambling fever. Oh, no-not even close.
    She looked from the cash on the desk in front of her to him and back again. “You didn’t waste it or lose it again,” she agreed slowly. “You brought it to me. Why?”
    “Why do you think?” He knew he sounded irritable, but he couldn’t help it. “Because I want to take care of the baby the best way I can. And because I love you.” Speaking Spanish imperfectly meant he had to say what was on his mind: he couldn’t beat around the bush, as he might have in English.
    Saying what was on his mind didn’t necessarily help him, though. By the look on La Martellita’s face, she was on the point of laughing in his. She didn’t-quite-do that. She did say, “The more fool you. The people’s cause matters more than any personal attachments.”
    “Really?” he said. “What is the people’s cause, if it isn’t to make people happy with other people?”
    “It has nothing to do with love,” La Martellita insisted.
    “What a pity!” Chaim answered.?Que lastima! sounded much more pitiful to him than its English equivalent did.
    A slow flush heated her olive-skinned face. She tossed her head in annoyance, as if that could make the blush go away. She might have wanted to tell him where to head in, but she didn’t quite do that, either, not with all the money he’d given her still sitting on top of her desk. Her elegant nostrils flared. “You enjoy being as difficult as you can,” she accused.
    “I’m sure Marshal Sanjurjo’s soldiers agree with you,” he said. “They probably talk about it a lot down in hell.”
    “None of this would have happened if I hadn’t got drunk that one night.” Was she reminding him or herself?
    “You can’t pretend it didn’t happen, though.” With a certain sardonic relish, Chaim added, “It’s part of the historical dialectic now, after all.”
    Those gull-winged nostrils flared again, wider this time. “And I suppose you’ll tell me it’s part of the historical dialectic that I should sleep with you some more because you thought to bring me this money. Well, I’ll tell you right now that the historical dialectic hasn’t made me your puta.”
    Chaim had been thinking about saying something like that if he could find a way to do it that wasn’t quite so blunt. Since she’d forestalled him, all he said was, “The historical dialectic did turn you into my wife.”
    “Si,” La Martellita answered. That wasn’t delight filling her voice, no matter how much Chaim wished it would have been.
    “I am trying to take care of you, and take care of our child, the way a husband ought to,” he said. “I’m doing my best.”
    “Si,” she said again, a little more warmly this time. “Maybe- maybe — I’ll do the things a wife ought to do, as long as you don’t try to make me do them.”
    That kind of reply should have made him bang his head against the wall. Coming from La Martellita, who was mercury fulminate in a sweetly curved wrapper, it made a weird kind of sense. “Whatever you say,” Chaim told her, which only proved him a born optimist.

    Alistair Walsh had spent some time in the stockade, and in civilian jails as well. Boys will be boys, and soldier boys will be soldier boys. Sometimes the police, military or otherwise, showed up before the tavern brawl finished. He’d never hurt anybody badly in those little dustups, and he’d never spent long behind bars.
    Things were different this time. And he liked none of the differences. If they jugged you for rearranging a bloke’s face after he tried to smash a pint mug over your head, you knew what you’d done and you knew how long you’d stay jugged on account of it.
    If they jugged you for treason, though… In that case, they were making up the rules as they went along. He’d asked for a solicitor. They didn’t laugh in his face, but they didn’t give him one, either. They might as well not have heard him.
    But when they asked him questions, they expected answers. Oh, yes! No one asked you questions after a barroom brawl, except maybe Why were you such a bloody idiot? Here, they wanted to know everybody he’d ever met, what all those people had said in the past six months, and what he’d said to them. They weren’t just building a case against him. He was a minnow. They were trying to use him to hook the big fish.
    They weren’t fussy about how they went at it, either. Bright lights, lack of sleep… “No wonder you back the buggers who threw in with the Nazis,” he told one of them. “The SS must have taught you all its tricks.”
    That won him a slap in the face. They didn’t bring out the thumbscrews and the hot skewers. He wondered why not. Some lingering memory of the days when they were decent coppers? It seemed too much to hope for.
    They told him all the other traitors were in cells, too. They told him the others were singing like canaries. They told him half a dozen people had named him as one of the earliest and most deeply involved plotters. “Then you don’t need me to tell you anything more, do you?” he said.
    He got another wallop in the chops for that. When his ears stopped ringing, one of the detectives-if that was what they were-said, “You can make it easier on yourself if you give us what you know.”
    “If you think I’m a traitor, you won’t go easy on me any road,” Walsh said. He might be sore. He might be half drunk with sleepiness. No matter what he was, that seemed obvious to him.
    The interrogators muttered amongst themselves. Things didn’t seem to be going the way they wanted. One of them gave him another whack. “Talk, damn you!” the bastard bellowed. Blood salty on his tongue, Walsh rattled off his name, former rank, and pay number. The Scotland Yard man glowered. “You aren’t in the Army any more, and you aren’t a prisoner of war, either.”
    “Then give me a solicitor,” Walsh said yet again. He got another slap for his trouble. He also got frogmarched back to his cell. He counted that a victory of sorts. He’d made them change plans.
    Which was worth… what? Anything? They didn’t let him see newspapers, of course. They also didn’t let him listen to the BBC. That they still held him and went on knocking him around argued that Sir Horace Wilson remained Prime Minister, and that England remained allied to Hitler.
    If they decided he was too big a nuisance-or if they decided he didn’t know anything they had to learn-they might just knock him over the head and get rid of his body. They went on and on about traitors, but they were at least as far outside the law as any traitors could be.
    They fed him slop, and precious little of it. He’d eaten more and better in the trenches. He couldn’t think of anything worse to say about prison rations.
    Then one day they opened his cell at an unexpected time. Alarm ran through him even before one of them pointed a service revolver at his head. Any jailbird quickly learns that breaks in routine aren’t intended for his benefit. “Come on, you,” the pistol packer snarled.
    “Where? Why?” Walsh asked.
    “Shut up. Get moving. You waste my time, it’s the last dumb thing you’ll ever do.” The fellow from Scotland Yard seemed to be trying to sound like an American tough guy in the movies. Only his accent spoiled the effect.
    Something rattled outside. If that wasn’t a machine gun, Walsh had never heard one. And if that was a machine gun… Walsh held out his hand. “Here, you’d better give me that,” he said, as if to a little boy. “You don’t want the soldiers to catch you carrying it.”
    “Soldiers? What soldiers? I’m not afraid of no bleeding soldiers.” The copper kept talking tough. The wobble in his voice gave him away. Outside, the machine gun brayed again.
    “You’ll be doing the bleeding any minute now,” Walsh said. “Come on, hand over your toy. What do you think it can do against the kind of firepower the Army’s got, anyway?” Something blew up, a lot closer than the stuttering machine gun. Helpfully, Walsh explained: “That’s a Mills bomb-a hand grenade, if you like. They’re going to get in here. They won’t like it if they catch you with a weapon in your hand.”
    Glumly, the copper handed him the Webley and Scott. Two other Scotland Yard men, moving with slow caution, laid their pistols on the ground. Walsh was tempted to plug each of them in turn after he scooped up the weapons. Not without regret, he refrained.
    Pounding feet announced the arrival of soldiers. No one not in the military stomped with that percussive rhythm. “Over here!” Walsh called. “I’ve got ’em!”
    Some of the men carried rifles with fixed bayonets. One of the bayonets dripped blood. A police official must have made a fatal mistake. At the soldiers’ head was the major with whom Walsh had examined 10 Downing Street. He cradled a Tommy gun as gently as if it were a baby. “Hullo, old man,” he said. “We’re in the driving seat now. First job of this sort in upwards of two hundred and fifty years, but we’ve brought it off.”
    “That’s-” one of the Scotland Yard men began. The Tommy gun’s muzzle swung in his direction. He went pale as skimmed milk. Whatever his detailed opinion was, he kept it to himself. He wasn’t a complete fool, then. Walsh had had his doubts.
    “Elections soon,” the major went on. “We’ll let the people have their say about what we’ve done. If they’re daft enough to want to go along with the Nazis…” He rolled his eyes to show what he thought of that. “But in the meanwhile, our troops in Russia are ordered to hold in place against anyone-anyone at all-who attacks them. We’ll get them out of there quick as we can.”
    “But what if old Adolf goes after them hammer and tongs?” Walsh knew he sounded worried, and well he might-he had more than a few friends fighting in Russia. “They’re hostages to the Fritzes, you might say.”
    “It’s possible, but I don’t believe it’s likely. Hitler would have to be raving mad to do anything like that. He’d be handing Stalin four prime divisions on a silver platter, eh?” the major replied.
    That made perfect sense. Walsh wondered why hearing it didn’t reassure him more. Probably because, when dealing with Hitler, the most perfectly sensible things turned out to be nonsense after all as often as not. Changing the subject looked like a good idea: “Where are Sir Horace and the Cabinet?”
    “They’re safe. None of them tried anything foolish.” The major answered without giving details, which didn’t surprise Walsh.
    The Scotland Yard man who’d handed over his pistol worked up the nerve to ask, “What does the King think of all this?”
    “One of the reasons Edward’s off in Bermuda is, he was too pally by half with Adolf and Musso,” the major said. “As soon as General Wavell brought his Majesty word the government had, ah, changed, King George knighted him on the spot. And Queen Elizabeth, God bless her, kissed him.”
    All the captured coppers seemed to shrink in on themselves. They’d been following orders, and they’d been just as sure they were following the path of righteousness. Almost everyone was. Walsh supposed even Hitler didn’t face the mirror when he shaved each morning and think Today I’ll go out and do something really evil. But if enough others thought that was what he was doing… Well, in that case England got the most abrupt change of government since James II bailed out one jump ahead of the incoming William and Mary. And a good thing, too, he thought, or else they would have hanged me.

    Lieutenant Colonel Tomashevsky looked out at the assembled Soviet flyers in his squadron. “Today we bomb west of Chernigov,” he said. “Our targets are the German and Hungarian troops in the area, not-I repeat, not-the English expeditionary force. The English have seen reason. They are no longer hostile to the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union… which means Hitler’s Fascist hyenas and the jackals who follow them are now hostile to the English.”
    If a quarter of what the Soviet radio and newspapers were saying was true-always an interesting question, as Anastas Mouradian had reason to know-the Nazis were doing their level best to smash the English expeditionary force for presuming to change sides. And, as any Soviet citizen had reason to know, the Nazis’ level best was liable to be entirely too good.
    “Do not-I repeat, do not-bomb English positions,” Tomashevsky went on. “English soldiers are crossing the Soviet lines. They will be repatriated so they can rejoin the struggle against Fascism. English troops will mark their positions with Union Jacks spread out on the ground.”
    All sorts of interesting questions occurred to Stas on account of that. The Union Jacks might ward off Soviet bombers, but they’d surely attract the Luftwaffe. Which worried the English more? And how would those soldiers get back to their homeland? By sea from Murmansk or Arkhangelsk, running the U-boat gantlet? Or would they go down through Persia and take ship there… again, running the U-boat gantlet?
    “Questions?” Tomashevsky asked.
    Stas’ hand went up. Tomashevsky pointed to him. The Armenian didn’t ask any of those questions. He knew he wouldn’t get an answer for them. No, the one he did ask was purely practical: “Excuse me, comrade Colonel, but what do we do if we suspect the Germans are setting out Union Jacks to keep us from bombing them?”
    “Bomb those positions,” the squadron commander answered. “But you’d better be right if you do. Our superiors will not be happy if they hear reports from the English that the Red Air Force attacked them.”
    You’ll end up in the gulag if you bomb Englishmen. Mouradian had no trouble working out the underlying meaning there. By the looks on the faces of the men around him, neither did they.
    When he and his bomb-aimer went out to their Pe-2, the young Karelian said, “We’ll have to be careful about what we hit.” He wanted to make sure Stas got it.
    “Yes, I figured that out, thanks,” Mouradian answered dryly. Ivan Kulkaanen nodded back. His expression remained serious, and he seemed not the least bit embarrassed. Staying out of the gulag was important business, at least as important as fighting the foreign invaders.
    Sergeant Mechnikov greeted his superiors with, “So it’s back to bombing the Nazis, is it? Well, the bombs don’t care whose heads they fall on.” Plainly, he didn’t care whose heads he dropped them on. And why should he? His work stayed the same no matter who the enemy was.
    One of the crews had FOR STALIN! painted on its Pe-2’s fuselage in big red letters, right behind the Soviet star. Did that make them more likely to be reckoned politically reliable? Or did it just make them more likely to get shot down? If it made both more likely, did the one protect more than the other endangered?
    Soviet life was full of interesting questions.
    The Pe-2 jounced down the unpaved runway and climbed into the air. “A lot more power than the old SB-2,” Stas remarked as he leveled off.
    “Well, I should hope so!” Kulkaanen exclaimed.
    “It was a hot plane once upon a time,” Mouradian said. “One of these days, this beast will be just as obsolete.”
    “Oh, sure,” the bomb-aimer said. “That’s the way things work.” He took it for granted. If his narrow, New Soviet Man-style soul held any room for nostalgia, he wouldn’t be so weak as to show it.
    I’m supposed to be a New Soviet Man, too, Stas thought. For some reason, the indoctrination hadn’t taken with him, the way a smallpox vaccination sometimes didn’t. He wondered what had gone wrong in his case. Maybe it was just that he was an Armenian. He wasn’t so good at swallowing things whole as most Russians were… although plenty of his countrymen were, or at least seemed to be, ideal New Soviet Men and Women.
    A few badly aimed rounds of antiaircraft fire came up at them as they droned southwest. They were still over terrain the Red Army held. Some New Soviet Men down below feared they belonged to the Luftwaffe. That made those nervous gunners New Soviet Idiots, but it happened on almost every mission.
    Sergeant Mechnikov expressed his opinion of the antiaircraft crews through the speaking tube. The Chimp couldn’t have put it better. Mouradian wondered how-and whether-Kuchkov was doing these days.
    What should have been the front was mostly confusion. English troops were crossing the Soviet line. Red Army men were rushing in to take their places and tear a hole in the enemy position. The Germans were doing their damnedest not to let any of that happen.
    Bombs burst among the English positions. Stas looked around, wondering whether some of his squadronmates were dropping too soon. But those bombs didn’t come from Soviet planes. The Luftwaffe had bombers in the neighborhood, too: Mouradian spotted two stacked V’s of Do-17s.
    The Flying Pencils were unmistakable, and not just because of the yellow band the Nazis painted on the fuselages of their Ostfront aircraft. No one else built bombers with such skinny bodies. Even the Germans used that Flying Pencil nickname for their Dorniers.
    No matter how slim the Do-17s were, they didn’t perform much better than the USSR’s obsolescent SB-2s. Stas’ current mount could fly rings around them. The Pe-2 was pretty skinny, too, since it was originally intended as a heavy fighter. And so… Stas swung the Pe-2 into a sharp right turn.
    “What the-?” Kulkaanen exclaimed.
    “I’m going to get after those Germans,” Stas answered.
    A moment later, another startled question came from his radio earphones. He gave the squadron CO the same answer. Several silent seconds followed as Lieutenant Colonel Tomashevsky considered it. At last, he said, “Our mission is to keep the Fascists from harassing the English now that they’ve come to their senses. You’re doing that. Good luck.”
    “Spasibo,” Stas said dryly. He noticed that none of the other pilots was peeling off to attack the Dorniers. That made his own job harder. It also made his Russian comrades as imaginative as so many oysters. He chuckled sourly. Tell me something I didn’t already know, he thought.
    One of the things he did already know was which Flying Pencil he wanted: the last and highest in the second V. That was the fellow least able to protect himself, and also the one whose buddies could help him least.
    The Do-17’s pilot and crew didn’t notice him till he was almost close enough to open up. Only one machine gun at the back of the cockpit would bear on him. He had two forward-firing machine guns, and two 20mm cannon to go with them. As tracers whipped past the Pe-2, he watched chunks fly off the German bomber’s wing. Flame licked, caught, spread. The Dornier went into a spin the pilot hadn’t a prayer of controlling.
    Kulkaanen whooped. “Good shooting!” he yelled.
    “Thanks.” Stas wanted more German planes. But the Flying Pencil he’d attacked must have radioed a warning to its friends before it went down. The rest of the Do-17s dove for the deck as fast as they would go. He might have caught them had he chased them. Then again, 109s might be on the way to give them a hand. A Pe-2 could give a good account of itself against a Messerschmitt, but it wasn’t something you wanted to try unless you had no choice.
    He did have a choice, and made it-he flew back toward the rest of the Soviet bombers. He also had a mission to fulfill. Even though he’d shot down the German plane, he still needed to do that. Orders were, and always would be, orders.

    To say Hideki Fujita was not a happy man was to prove the power of understatement. He’d got demoted to corporal for letting the three Americans escape from Pingfan, and he’d got a hell of a beating besides. Then, when neither Japanese nor Manchukuan patrols managed to stumble across the white men on the loose, he got another beating, this one worse than the first.
    Adding insult to injury-literally-he remained on watch at the Americans’ compound. His superiors left him in no doubt about what would happen to him if any more Yankees got away. That would be the last mistake he was ever allowed to make.
    Self-preservation made him tighten things up even more than was usual at Pingfan. The Americans’ compound ran by the clock, as if it were a factory cranking out Fords. Any prisoner in there who was late for a roll call or a lineup or even slow in bowing to a Japanese guard got pounded on with fists and boots and rifle butts.
    Fujita would have done worse than that to them had the scientist-officers who ran Pingfan not made it plain they needed the Americans in relatively good shape. That disgusted him. He couldn’t even wallop the Yankees as hard as his own people had walloped him-some of his bruises were a long time fading. Where was the fairness in that?
    On the other hand, those scientist-officers didn’t take him inside the enormous walled-off facility that was Pingfan’s beating heart. He didn’t know what happened to the maruta who went in there, not in any detail. He wasn’t interested in finding out, either. And, unless you were a scientist yourself, once you went behind those high walls, you didn’t come out again: not alive, anyhow.
    For a little while, he’d feared he’d infuriated the authorities enough to make them decide to turn him into a maruta. Next to that fate, a couple of beatings didn’t seem so bad.
    The sergeant soon set over him, a bruiser named Toshiyaki Wakamatsu, made him remember all the reasons he’d despised sergeants before becoming one himself. Wakamatsu was loudmouthed and brutal. He fawned on officers but wouldn’t listen to anyone of rank lower than his own.
    Was I like that? Fujita wondered. He hoped not, but feared he might have been. He couldn’t ask the enlisted men from his squad. They’d never give him a straight answer, any more than he would give one to Wakamatsu. Giving straight answers was a most un-Japanese thing to do. You told your superiors what you thought they wanted to hear. If they had any sense, they knew how to interpret what you said. If they didn’t, their heads swelled up with all the praise you lavished on them.
    Sergeant Wakamatsu had his own way of dealing with the Americans. He couldn’t talk to them, any more than Fujita had been able to. Fujita had learned that some of the Americans knew scraps of Chinese. Senior Private Hayashi spoke Chinese fluently. Fujita said not a word of that to the man now holding down his place. Neither did Hayashi. His silence made the demoted noncom feel good. The clever senior private still felt loyal to him-or at least didn’t want to do the blowhard who’d taken his slot any favors.
    Instead of talking to the Americans, Wakamatsu gestured to show what he wanted. When the prisoners didn’t catch on fast enough to suit him, he clouted them. That helped him less than he’d seemed to think it would.
    “Bakatare! Bakayaro!” he roared at the Yanks. Had he really expected them to cooperate? If he had, he was an idiot himself, even if he called them by that name. Prisoners might have lost their honor simply by letting themselves be captured, but they didn’t go out of their way to help their captors. Anyone with a gram of sense should have been able to see that.
    Since Sergeant Wakamatsu couldn’t… Fujita did his best to stay out of the sergeant’s way. His new superior was setting himself up to crash and burn. Fujita didn’t want to catch fire when Wakamatsu did. He hardly cared if the authorities gave him back his old collar tabs.
    He kept an eye on the American named Herman Szulc. Wakamatsu still hadn’t figured out that Szulc was a leading troublemaker. And Szulc had a buddy, a smaller fellow called Max Weinstein. One look at that fellow and anyone with a suspicious mind would hear alarm bells.
    Weinstein knew some Chinese. Fujita had heard him jabbering with the laborers who did the work around Pingfan that the Japanese didn’t care to do for themselves. Sergeant Wakamatsu must have heard him, too. Did Wakamatsu take any special notice? Fujita was convinced Wakamatsu wouldn’t have noticed his own cock if he didn’t need to piss through it now and then.
    “What is the American saying?” Fujita asked Senior Private Hayashi.
    “When I’ve heard him, he’s been trying to get extra food from the Chinese,” the conscripted student answered.
    “What do you suppose he’s talking about with them when you’re not around to hear?” Fujita persisted.
    “Please excuse me, Sergeant- san — I mean, Corporal- san — but how am I supposed to know that?” Hayashi sounded and looked as exasperated as an inferior could afford to do when responding to a superior’s stupid question.
    But Fujita still didn’t think it was so very stupid. “Come on. Use your fancy brains,” he snapped. “Is the American a Red? Have the Chinese Reds infiltrated our labor force?”
    The Japanese often worried more about Communists in China than they did about the forces that followed Chiang Kai-shek’s government. The Communists were sneakier than the regular Chinese forces, and they made more trouble. They were committed to what they did in ways the regular Chinese forces couldn’t approach.
    All the same, Senior Private Hayashi replied, “How can an American be a Red? The Yankees hate Communists almost as much as we do.”
    “Maybe,” Fujita replied, in tones that declared he didn’t believe it for a minute. And he had his reasons, too: “In that case, how come they’re cheering when England stops helping Germany and starts helping the miserable, stinking Russians again?” He knew exactly how he felt about the Russians. How else could he feel, considering the too many times they’d come too close to killing him?
    To his surprise, Senior Private Hayashi had a comeback. “I think it’s because Hitler scares Roosevelt, Corporal- san,” he said. “Hitler scares just about everybody. He would scare us, too, if he weren’t on the far side of the world.”
    “Nothing scares Japan,” Fujita declared.
    “Of course, Corporal- san.” Hayashi might have been humoring a boy who was too little to know he’d come out with something silly.
    “Nothing does, dammit,” the nettled Fujita said. “If anything scared us, would we have beaten the Red Army? If anything scared us, would we go to war against America and England at the same time as we’re fighting in China?”
    Hayashi pursed his lips, as if wondering how much he might safely say. He and Fujita had served side by side in Mongolia and Siberia before coming to Pingfan. Even so, he chose his words with obvious care: “I hope it doesn’t happen that we bit off more than we can chew.”
    “Don’t be silly! The Navy is kicking the crap out of the American fleet,” Fujita said. “The Yanks are on the run. The Philippines are falling. If the Americans want a war with us, they’ll have to fight their way through islands that belong to us. Honto? ”
    “Honto,” Hayashi said, because it was true. Somehow, though, even his agreement sounded dubious.
    Fujita didn’t push it. He’d lost face as well as rank; he didn’t want to antagonize someone who still seemed to respect him. He went back to what they’d been talking about before: “Do pay attention to that Weinstein. If he starts talking to the Chinamen about anything but food-”
    “Shall I tell Sergeant Wakamatsu?” Hayashi broke in.
    “Oh, yes. Of course. That’s just what you should do.” No one could claim Fujita hadn’t given the proper response. If his tone didn’t match his words… well, how could you report something like that? He and Hayashi both smiled. Yes, they understood each other, all right.

Chapter 11

    Bam! Bam! Bam! A battery of German 88mm antiaircraft guns thundered away at the Russian bombers high overhead. Willi Dernen watched puffs of black smoke appear among the planes. None of them caught fire and fell out of the sky, though. How many thousands of meters up there were they? However many it was, they didn’t make easy targets.
    Even though the gunners kept missing, Willi waved to them as he trudged past their position. He liked having 88s around. They might have been designed as flak guns, but the high mucky-mucks had made sure they could do other tricks, too. They had armor-piercing rounds in their inventory, for instance. And a high-velocity AP round from an 88 could make even a KV-1 say uncle, when the huge Soviet panzers laughed at almost every other weapon in the German inventory.
    “Come on, Dernen! Get it in gear!” Arno Baatz barked.
    “Jawohl, Herr Unteroffizier!” Willi answered, as abjectly as if Awful Arno were a field marshal, not a lousy corporal. He did get it in gear, too-for half a dozen paces. As soon as Baatz started yapping at someone else, Willi slowed down again. He hadn’t figured it would take long, and it didn’t.
    “Naughty, naughty,” Adam Pfaff said in a prison-yard whisper Awful Arno would never hear.
    “Ahh, your mother.” Willi’s reply was no louder. They both chuckled as they marched on. Hating the noncoms set over you was as old and as universal as soldiering. Willi was sure the Ivans’ privates couldn’t stand their corporals and sergeants, either. He would have bet the Japanese and the Amis felt the same way. Caesar’s legionaries must have felt the same way, too. So did King David’s warriors, chances were.
    When Willi told that to Pfaff, his buddy snorted. “Who cares what David’s guys thought?” said the Landser with the gray Mauser. “They were nothing but a bunch of kikes.”
    Willi laughed, but nervously. He eyed Pfaff from under the beetling brim of his Stahlhelm. Was Pfaff joking, or did he mean that? Willi had no enormous use for Jews, but he didn’t get all hot and bothered about them. He figured the Nazis’ hot air was just that and no more. Most of the soldiers in his outfit seemed to feel the same way.
    Most, but not all. Some Landsers took all the hot air as seriously as SS men would. And some of these Russian villages and towns were chock full of Jews. He’d watched some bad things happen. He hadn’t joined in, but he also hadn’t tried to stop anything or report anybody. Reporting, he knew instinctively, was a waste of time at best, and might land him in trouble. Better to look the other way.
    So far as he knew, Pfaff hadn’t killed kikes for the fun of it or soaked a Jew’s beard in oil and set it on fire or done anything else along those lines. So far as he knew, his buddy hadn’t gang-raped any Jewish-or Russian-women, either. But that was only so far as he knew. One of the things he knew for sure was that he didn’t know very far.
    Artillery shells howled past overhead. Those weren’t from the 88s: they were 105s, searching for the Russians on the ground. And it didn’t sound as if any of them would fall dangerously short. You were just as maimed if your own side’s shell blew off your leg as you were when the enemy did it to you.
    MG-34s rattled, off to the northeast. Slower-firing Russian machine guns answered. Willi’s stomach knotted, the way it always did when he got close to places where he could get hurt. He unslung his rifle and made sure he had a cartridge in the chamber. “Ready to have some fun?” he asked.
    “Aber naturlich!” Adam Pfaff said, as gaily as if he were a girl Willi had invited to dance. But this was the Totentanz, and not everyone would get up after the drumbeat of death stopped.
    “Let’s go! Forward! We’ll give the Untermenschen the hiding they’ve got coming to them!” Awful Arno shouted. He was a true believer in all the stuff Dr. Goebbels cranked out, sure as hell. But then he said the magic words: “Follow me!”
    He might be-as far as Willi was concerned, he had to be-the biggest unwiped asshole in the history of the world. If only he were yellow, that would have made the perfect finish for his personality, such as it was: a maraschino cherry on a bowl of ice cream, so to speak. But, whatever else you could say about Arno Baatz, you couldn’t call him a coward. He was as brave as anyone could want a soldier to be, and then a little more besides.
    And anyone who yelled “Follow me!” commonly found men who would follow. A noncom or officer laying his own life on the line got Landsers to do the same. Even colonels and generals led from the front in this war. People who’d gone through the mill the last time talked about how their superiors stayed kilometers behind the line and ordered them to their doom. No more.
    Those MG-34s were firing from hastily dug foxholes, not from a regular trench line. With the front so fluid, there was no regular trench line. Soldiers in Feldgrau crouched in other foxholes and sprawled behind scrapes that might or might not stop a bullet. Some of them got up and advanced with the newly arrived units. Others stayed right where they were. They did lay down supporting fire for the troops moving forward. Willi gave them… some… credit for that.
    A bullet cracked past his head. He threw himself flat and wriggled forward on his belly through grass tall enough to hide him from the Russians-as long as he didn’t do anything stupid like sticking his butt in the air, anyhow. Every so often, he’d go up on one knee, fire, and then flatten out again. Nobody was tracking his movements, anyhow: the proof of which was, he didn’t get killed when he popped up.
    He wondered how the Russians used this stretch of ground when no one was fighting over it. Did they graze sheep or cattle or horses on it? Or did it just lie here not doing anything? Germany didn’t have much land like that, but Russia seemed full of it. The country was so goddamn big that, even though it had a lot of people, it didn’t have nearly enough to use all these vast sweeps of ground. This one might have been forgotten-or, for all Willi knew, maybe no one had ever paid enough heed to it to begin with for anybody to forget it now.
    The direction from which enemy fire came told him which way to crawl. The grass smelled all green and growing. A rich scent rose from the black earth, too. Willi might be a city boy, but his nose said the Ivans were missing a bet by not raising wheat or beets or something right here.
    Then that nose of his almost ran into the snub nose of a Red Army soldier crawling through the grass toward the German positions. Both men yelped in horror. Neither had had the slightest idea the other was there till the sea of grass parted and they nearly banged heads.
    Willi tried to aim his Mauser at the Russian. The Ivan had a rifle, too, but jerked his hand away from it as if it were red-hot. “Kamerad!” he bleated, and “Freund!” After that, he gabbled out a stream of Russian, of which Willi understood not a word.
    He could have murdered the Red Army man in cold blood. He had no doubt Awful Arno would have plugged the Ivan without a second thought, or even a first one. But the guy was trying to surrender. Willi supposed he was, anyhow. The Russian didn’t say boo when Willi grabbed his rifle. Then Willi frisked him-he didn’t want to send the guy on his way and end up catching a grenade. Like the English, the Russians used round bombs. They held less explosive than a German potato-masher, but you could throw them farther. Willi confiscated the three on the Ivan’s belt, and his sheathed bayonet, too.
    He found the soldier’s identity book. It had a photograph of the guy and a bunch of writing in an alphabet that was just squiggles to Willi. He handed it back to the Ivan. Why not? It wasn’t any use to him. He jerked his thumb toward the southwest, the direction from which the German advance was coming.
    The Russian gave forth with what Willi guessed were thanks. He was pretty sure spasibo meant danke, anyhow. “Go on,” Willi said roughly, hoping he hadn’t missed any lethal hardware-or that, if he had, the dirty, scared-looking, sorry son of a bitch in khaki wasn’t inclined to use it.
    Off Ivan went. What happened to him afterwards, Willi never knew. He cared very little. The guy didn’t double back on him or have a spare grenade Willi’d missed. That, Willi cared about. He crawled on. The Landsers behind the line could send the Russian to a POW camp. Or they could shoot him, if they decided they’d sooner do that. It wasn’t Willi’s worry. The Red Army men still ahead were.

    Out through the Kiel Canal. The abrupt change in the U-30’s motion would have told Julius Lemp when they got out into open water even if he’d been below. But he was up on the U-boat’s conning tower. As soon as the North Sea waves started slapping the boat, she began rolling in the way he’d found so familiar for so long.
    One of the ratings up there with him didn’t take the new motion for granted like the skipper. “Fuck me,” the sailor said, gulping. “I’d forgotten how rough it gets out on the open sea.”
    “If you’ve got to puke, Hans, don’t puke into the wind,” Lemp advised. “The idea is to get rid of what ails you, not to wear it.”
    “Right.” Hans gulped again.
    “If you can’t keep scanning, I’ll send you below with a bucket and call up somebody who can,” Lemp said. “Now that England’s turned her coat, we’ve got to worry about the Royal Navy and the RAF again. They aren’t half-assed like the Russians. Give them even a piece of a chance and they’ll sink us.”
    “I’ll stay, Skipper,” Hans said quickly. Lemp would have said the same thing in his unhappy place. Up here, the fresh air fought seasickness. Down inside the reeking pressure hull, the boat’s rolling would have a potent, pungent ally.
    All the same, Lemp knew he would have to watch Hans as well as the horizon. He hadn’t been joking. Anyone inefficient up here would have to go. You might get away with taking chances against the sloppy Slavs. Against the English? A good thing everyone had a will on file.
    Diesels thrumming through the soles of Lemp’s shoes, the U-30 made fifteen knots on a course a little west of due north. The boat would round Norway’s southwestern bulge and then follow the country’s coastline farther north and east. Too many Tommies on the Ostfront had made their way through Soviet lines. The easiest, fastest way to bring them back to England would be to ship them out of Arkhangelsk or Murmansk.
    The Fuhrer didn’t want them to come home-and who could blame him? Sooner or later, probably sooner, they’d get back into the war against the Reich. Better to send the freighters or liners carrying them to the bottom. Then Germany wouldn’t need to worry about them any more.
    “Perfidious Albion,” Lemp muttered. His breath smoked. Spring might be here, but the North Sea was damned if it wanted to admit it.
    “What’s that, Skipper?” Hans asked.
    “Nothing. Just swearing at the damned limeys.”
    “They’re a pain, all right,” the rating agreed.
    “How’s your insides?”
    “Not too bad, as long as I don’t think about ’em. Maybe I’ll cuss England out, too.”
    Somebody-whether it was Hans or not, Lemp didn’t know-gave back a meal inside the hull before they put in at Namsos on their way north. That made the stink in there worse, but not by so much as an outsider might have expected. It wasn’t the first time somebody’d heaved in the boat, and an overturned bucket meant the nasty stuff had got into the bilgewater. Once that happened, a stench would stay with the U-30 as long as the boat lasted.
    The Kriegsmarine had started to fit Namsos out as a U-boat base after the town fell. Then, with the war against England and France suddenly forgotten, the work was forgotten, too. Now the war-or part of it, anyway-was on again, and so was the work.
    Namsos probably hadn’t been an exciting place before the Wehrmacht took it away from its defenders. It was a real mess now. German crews with torches went about carving up the English warships and freighters that had gone down in shallow water trying to resupply and evacuate the town. The steel would be useful; whatever could be salvaged intact, even more so.
    Namsos itself could have used cutting up and salvaging, too. Bombing and artillery meant hardly a building didn’t have a chunk or two bitten out of it. Lemp saw only a few Norwegians. Most of them looked sullen. If they were delighted to have come under German occupation, they hid it very well.
    Two or three men wore the uniform of the Nasjonal Samling, the Norwegian equivalent of the German NSDAP. The head of the NS, a former officer named Vidkun Quisling, helped the Germans govern Norway. The only problem was that his party, unlike the Nazis, enjoyed next to no popular support. German bodyguards accompanied the NS men walking through the harbor.
    The head of the base, a Kapitan zur See named Waldemar Bohme, was blunt when he discussed the issue with Lemp as fresh food went into the U-30. “Anybody who doesn’t belong to the
    NS figures anybody who does is a traitor,” Bohme said gloomily. “And nobody belongs to the NS.”
    Lemp glanced toward one of the uniformed Norwegians. It wasn’t quite a German uniform, but it was in the same general style. “He does,” the U-boat skipper remarked.
    “There are a handful of them,” Bohme agreed. “It would almost be easier if there weren’t any. Then we wouldn’t have to waste our own men keeping the rest of the Norwegians from murdering these… people.” Had he known Lemp better, he might have called the NS officials worse. But you never could tell who might report you. Staying innocuous was safer.
    “Quisling must have some support,” Lemp said.
    “Some, ja.” Bohme still sounded glum. “The Nasjonal Samling got less than two percent of the vote in 1936, down from a hair over two percent in 1933. And as soon as the fighting started here, half their members-more than half-bailed out and picked up rifles and tried to shoot us.”
    Shrewdly, Lemp said, “But now that the fighting’s over and we won, going along with us will look like a good idea to some people.”
    “That has happened-a little,” Bohme admitted. “Most of the squareheads would still sooner spit on us, though.”
    “As long as we can get on with the war, what difference does it make?” Lemp said.
    “With England back in it, who knows?” Captain Bohme seemed determined to look at the cloud, not the silver lining. “Now the Norwegians won’t have to be Reds to have somebody who’ll help give us trouble.”
    “I’m sure you’ll manage, sir,” Lemp said, by which he meant I’m damn glad it’s your worry and none of mine. The wry quirk of one of Bohme’s bushy gray eyebrows meant he understood that all too well.
    Narvik, north of the Arctic Circle, was a smaller, even more battered base than Namsos. Because it was so inaccessible except by sea, it had stayed in Allied hands longer than the country farther south. Without the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the place would have been uninhabitable. And without the last gasps of the current from the far southwest, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk would have stayed frozen up the year around, and Lemp’s mission would have had no point.
    But up toward the Barents Sea the U-30 went. It wasn’t summer yet, but daylight stretched and stretched in these latitudes. Lemp had heard about the white nights of St. Petersburg-Leningrad, these days. He was ten degrees of latitude north of St. Petersburg now. The sun set in the far, far northwest and soon rose again in the far, far northeast. While it ducked below the horizon, twilight never got dark enough to show any but the brightest stars.
    That meant the U-30’s crew had to stay alert around the clock. A rating might spot a troopship at any hour of the day or suppositious night. On the other hand, an English plane, or a Russian one, might come across the U-boat at any time.
    Or nothing might happen. No matter how long it stayed light, the ocean was vast. Troopships full of Tommies might slip past unseen. For all Lemp knew, there were no troopships full of Tommies. The Kriegsmarine brass had plenty of bright ideas that didn’t pan out.
    A whale spouted a couple of hundred meters to port. The great beast wasn’t that much smaller than the U-boat. Lemp watched it with awe from the conning tower. It paid the U-30 no heed. That suited Lemp fine. A collision with a whale would be like a truck hitting an elephant on the Autobahn — except the truck wouldn’t sink afterwards.
    He cruised his assigned area, awaiting new orders from Berlin-or even from Namsos. In due course, new orders came. Once decoded, they read, Continue current assignment. Lemp was anything but thrilled-as if his superiors cared. Continue he did.

    Luc Harcourt had just got a fire going on the floor of a half-wrecked peasant hut when a private stuck his head through a hole in the wall and said, “Excuse me, Sergeant, but could I please talk to you for a little while?”
    Sighing, Luc asked, “What d’you want, Charles?” Whatever it was, it would be trouble. Whenever a private asked that question in that tone of voice, it had to be trouble. Maybe Charles’ father was desperately ill, and he wanted compassionate leave. Right now, of course. Maybe his girlfriend was two-timing him, and he needed a shoulder to cry on or permission to go back to France and whale the stuffing out of the loose, stupid bitch. Or maybe…
    “What are we doing here, Sergeant?” Charles couldn’t have been more than nineteen. His voice still cracked sometimes. He was trying to grow a mustache, but only looked as if he had dirt on his upper lip.
    After hacking the top off a ration tin with his bayonet, Luc heated monkey meat over the flames. “What do you mean, what are we doing here? Do I look like a priest, to answer a question like that?”
    He sounded even more like Sergeant-now Lieutenant-Demange than he realized. Almost everything he knew about soldiering, and about dealing with inferiors in the army, he’d learned from the veteran. Demange’s sarcasm had rubbed off on him, too.
    Charles flushed. “I don’t mean it like that, Sergeant. I mean, what are we doing here in Russia? The Englishmen packed it in. Why can’t we?”
    As far as Luc was concerned, that was a damn good question. He gave the only reply he could: “When Daladier wants us to quit, we will. Till then, you’d better fight. You think the Ivans won’t cut your dick off, you’d better think again.”
    “It isn’t fair,” Charles whined.
    “Since when is life fair?” Yes, Luc sounded like Demange.
    “You can joke all you want,” Charles said, which, since Luc was a sergeant, was true enough. “But we’re liable to get killed for no reason at all, and that isn’t funny.” His nostrils twitched as if he were an angry rabbit.
    As a matter of fact, he was wrong. Luc had seen both enemies and friends die in ways idiotically ridiculous enough to make him laugh like a jackass. Anyone who’d been up at the front for a while could say the same thing. Most of the laughter sprang from relief that you were still alive to giggle.
    But that wasn’t the point. The savory aroma-if you got hungry enough-of sizzling bully beef distracted Luc, but he answered, “I don’t know what you want me to do about it. If you think I’m going to cross over to the Russians’ lines, you’re even crazier than I give you credit for.”
    “They put out all those safe-conducts.” Charles displayed one. Sure as hell, it promised that the bearer would be treated well if he deserted.
    “It’s written in good French-better than the ones the Boches used to throw around,” Luc said. “But so what?”
    “See? You call them Boches, too! And now they’re on our side-I mean, we’re on theirs-even though we still hate them and even though we almost started shooting at them on account of what they did to those Jews.” Charles’ nostrils quivered some more. “Wouldn’t you rather fight against them than for them? Five gets you ten they’re still doing that horrible shit to Jews, only in places where we can’t catch ’em at it.”
    He was no Jew himself; Luc was sure of that. And Luc hadn’t thought he was a Red, either. As a matter of fact, Luc still didn’t think so. But the question was a lot harder to deal with when Charles put it that way. Slowly, Luc said, “The Russians aren’t nice people, either. Don’t forget that for a minute. So many Russians and Ukrainians and whatnot wouldn’t fall all over themselves to help the fucking Nazis if they liked Stalin. Right?”
    Most reluctantly, Charles nodded. “I guess so.”
    “Other thing to remember is, the Russians never signed the Geneva Convention. Even the Germans did that,” Luc went on. “So who gives a rat’s ass what that safe-conduct says? Once the Reds have you, they can do whatever they damn well please. Nobody’s gonna stop ’em. The Red Cross never gets a look inside their POW camps-if they bother keeping POWs alive long enough to put ’em in camps. You understand what I’m saying?”
    “You’re saying you like Hitler better than Stalin.” Charles might have been accusing him of picking his nose and eating the boogers.
    “No! No, God damn it to hell! I’m saying I can’t stand either one of those shitheads, and you can’t trust either one of them.” Luc paused to take the tin off the fire. The monkey meat was as ready as it ever would be. His stomach growled gratefully when he stuffed a mouthful into his chowlock. After a gulp an anaconda might have used to engulf a half-grown tapir, he resumed: “It’s like I told you before. I don’t set our foreign policy, and neither do you. We go where they tell us and we do what they tell us to do there. And if we don’t, our own side’ll make it rougher on us than the Nazis and Reds put together.”
    Artillery rumbled, not far enough away. Charles gestured in that direction, asking, “How?”
    “They can jail you. They can shoot you, too. And they can make life hell on earth for your kinfolk. If your brother keeps getting fired; if your son, when you have a son, ends up in a crappy school and blames you for it… They remember. It’s how they stay on top-remembering. And paying back.”
    His words made the youngster-three or four years younger than he was now-recoil in horror. “They wouldn’t do anything like that! They couldn’t get away with it!”
    “My ass they couldn’t.” Luc scooped more hot bully beef out of the tin.
    “You’re no help at all, dammit.” Charles stomped away from the hut in dudgeon as high as a corpse four days gone.
    Luc finished the tin of monkey meat. Then he hunted up Lieutenant Demange. He recounted the conversation with Charles, adding, “You’d better tighten up the sentries, sir. He’s liable not to be the only one who’ll try and go over to the other side.”
    “Yeah, chances are you’re right.” Demange shifted his Gitane to one side of his mouth and spat in disgust out of the other. “That stupid fucking Russian asswipe of a safe-conduct! Jesus God, the clowns like Charles are smart enough to see that their own government lies to them every chance it gets, so how come they aren’t smart enough to see all the other governments’re full of bullshit, too?”
    “Beats me.” It seemed as obvious as an axiom of geometry to Luc. Had he thought that way before the war broke out? He had trouble remembering. He didn’t believe he had-he hadn’t worried much about politics at all then. So what, though? Lies and incompetence hadn’t come close to sinking France then. Things looked different these days.
    Charles didn’t try to desert. Luc dared hope he’d put the fear of God into him. A couple of nights later, though, two other poilus did slip away. Lieutenant Demange swore in furious disgust.
    Supplies came up in horse-drawn wagons. Both French and German trucks literally fell to bits when they had to deal with what were alleged to be Soviet roads. Horses didn’t break down, and wagons were easier to repair than motor vehicles. As long as Luc kept getting ammo and food, he didn’t care how.
    With the Germans on their left flank and Hungarians to their right, the French pushed forward. Fighting well was the best way to improve your chances of staying alive. Luc didn’t have anything in particular against the Russians, the way he’d had against the Wehrmacht men when they tried to overrun his country. He shot at them anyhow, to keep them from shooting at him.
    And, before long, the advancing French troops came upon a fresh grave in the woods with an Adrian helmet for a tombstone. They dug it up. In it lay one of the deserters. He hadn’t stopped a mistaken bullet. The Ivans had sported with him for a long time before they let him die. The French soldiers quickly buried him again.
    “Where’s your safe-conduct?” Luc asked Charles. “Feel like using it now?”
    “No, Sergeant,” the kid answered in a very small voice. As if on the training ground, Luc snapped, “What was that? I can’t hear you!”
    “No, Sergeant,” Charles said again, rather louder this time.
    “All right, then.” Luc let it go. He didn’t need to worry that Charles would skedaddle, not after the youngster saw what was left of that other damn fool. The Russians would have drawn more deserters had they treated people who went over to them well. But if they wanted to play the game the other way, they’d soon discover the French could, too.

    Ivan Kuchkov patted the round drum that held his PPD’s ammunition with almost the same delight he would have used to pat a barmaid’s round backside. He never wanted to have anything to do with an infantry rifle again. You didn’t need to aim a PPD. You just pointed it and fired. If one bullet didn’t do for a Fascist, the next would, or the one after that.
    A Nazi with a Mauser could hit him from much farther away than he could hit the Fritz with his submachine gun. In the kind of fighting they were doing, in woods and villages and towns, that seldom mattered. You mostly didn’t see your enemy till he was right on top of you. Then you needed to kill him in a hurry. The PPD was made with just that in mind.
    His outfit kept falling back toward Smolensk. It infuriated him. He wanted to drive the Germans west, not to dance to their tune. The Red Army counterattacked whenever officers thought they saw a chance-or whenever orders came down from above. Sometimes the Russians gained a little ground. Even when they did, they rarely held it long.
    He wasn’t sure about the name of the village where they were fighting now. It might have been called Old Pigshit, a handle it would have kept for centuries. Or it might have been rechristened something like Leninsk after the glorious Soviet Revolution. Either way, it was a stench in the nostrils-and a lot like the miserable hole in the ground where Ivan had grown up.
    One way in which it differed from that particular hole in the ground was the broad expanse of grainfields and meadows to the north, south, and west. “Couldn’t be better country for panzers,” said Lieutenant Vasiliev. Ivan was convinced the political officer fucked pigs, but even a pigfucker got it right every once in a while.
    About half the villagers had been rash enough to stick around instead of hightailing it to the east. Maybe they thought the Red Army would push the Nazis back, in which case they were optimists. Or maybe they thought things would get better once the Nazis took over, in which case they were really optimists.
    Any which way, the politruk took charge of them. He set them digging deep, wide ditches across their fields and meadows, not so much to stop tanks as to channel their movements toward antitank guns.
    A peasant with a gray mustache had the nerve to complain: “How the devil can we farm after we tear up the land like this?”
    Lieutenant Vasiliev drew his Tokarev automatic from the leather holster on his belt. He held it up to the peasant’s head and pulled the trigger. The report was harsh, flat, undramatic. The peasant fell over. He kicked a few times and lay still. Blood puddled under him. A wrinkled woman in a headscarf shrieked.
    “Any other questions?” the politruk asked pleasantly, reholstering the pistol. Vast silence, but for the woman’s sobs. The politruk nodded. “All right, then. Get back to work.”
    And they did-all of them, including the babushka who’d just lost her husband. Sometimes life could be very simple.
    Some of the soldiers dug alongside them. Others turned the village into a strongpoint. Field fortification was a Russian art. Maskirovka- camouflage-was another. Making buildings into places that were much stronger than they looked combined the two.
    They got less done than Ivan wished they would have. German artillery started probing early in the afternoon. Not even the politruk ’s pistol could keep the muzhiks working after that. They ran for the trees, more afraid of the big shells bursting-and with reason. Artillery was the great butcher. Everything else was an