Chapter Two Thousand One Hundred Fifty-Three
15th July 1972
As the Oberfeldwebel, Christian had a very important role to play in the guarding of the New Watchhouse. Namely, enforcing discipline among the men while the Officers led the ritual Changing of the Guard at the start and end of every shift. The men in his Squad were all Veteran Soldiers, so that meant that trouble was always brewing. At the same time, Christian seldom had to say anything more than once to get them to cut it out.
Most of the trouble came from the very City that they were symbolically guarding though. Every day there was a briefing that was given to the Noncommissioned Officers about the various groups they needed to keep an eye out for. There were long standing groups like the self-styled Jacobin Movement who had caused so much trouble years earlier or the Far-Right Ultranationalists who seemed to be angry at the existence of the Modern State that the First Foot had oddly become a symbol of. Occasionally, there were members of the White Rose Society who maintained silent vigils near the Watchhouse as they had done for years believing that the First Foot was symbolic of a violent militaristic past that was best left behind but continued in the form of adventurism in places like Mexico or Argentina. Lately, a group of Student Activists calling themselves Finis belli after an episode of an American television show that had aired a decade earlier had shown up and unlike their older counterparts tended to engage in direct action, mostly in the form of graffiti and vandalism but had involved buckets of red paint. Curiously, the incidents in the past had ended with the members of the First Foot having to protect the individuals from Finis belli from the wrath of the crowd who had come to watch the Changing of the Guard. Finally, there were the groups who ostensibly there to support their mission were the cause of headaches. Christian had heard stories about fights breaking out among the widows and mothers of fallen servicemen.
Much of the time though, the trouble came from tourists idiotically trying to get the men of Guard Duty to break their composure. As the Oberfeld, it was a part of Christian’s job to get them to move along. If they continued to cause trouble, he was supposed to call the Police and let them handle it, but the men of the First Foot were allowed to defend themselves if they needed to. Frequently the tourists didn’t fully understand that the weapons they had were not for show. They seemed to think they were actors or something, not professional Soldiers who knew how to use them and had been specially trained to deal with the crowds. Years earlier, there had been an incident where one such tourist had gotten his head split open with the butt of a rifle and a few others one where people had narrowly avoided getting shot. Christian had been required to read the incident reports and had been given training in how to deescalate situations before it got to that point.
Today being a Saturday, the circus was in full swing as Christian marched with the rest of the Column as the Hauptmann led them out of the temporary accommodation after they had been transported from the Potsdam Barracks an hour earlier. Word had come down that there was an Imperial Inspection that was going to happen on Sunday morning, so leaving for a shift on Guard Duty wasn’t exactly a hardship this afternoon. Still, as the Changing of the guard took place, Christian cast a warry look at the crowd gathered near the Watchhouse. If there was going to be trouble, it would occur on a day like today.
As the men assumed their places, Christian watched as those they had just relieved filed back to the accommodation. The Hauptmann and his Lieutenants vanished into the hidden Command Post where the monitors for the closed-circuit television cameras that looked at every centimeter of space around the Watchhouse were set up. Every once in a while, one of the Leutnants would walk a patrol to see if there was anything going on that the cameras couldn’t pick up or just to let the men know that they were being watched. They also had the option of talking directly to Christian who was carrying a small two-way radio and had a plug headphone in his right ear.
Walking as a measured pace, rifle over his left shoulder, Christian looked at each man as he passed. Receiving no more than a nod in return. There was a fine that could be levied against them if they broke discipline. So, there it was something that they seldom did. Of course, there were times when they broke discipline to render first aid, helping a lost child most notably. At that point, the fine was waved because their actions were seen as being a credit to the Regiment.
Feeling the sweat trickling down his back, Christian fought the urge to look at his watch. The wool tunic they wore, even when it was summer weight, did not lend itself to being worn on a July afternoon. To his left was the expected weekend crowd who he did his best to ignore. A rope line had been put up to establish a boundary, but Christian had swiftly learned that it was more of a suggestion.
That was when a boy who must have been five or six ducked under the rope and gave Christian a sloppy salute with a gap-toothed grin. He saw a man who must have been the father looking totally mortified by his son’s actions. He could remember plenty of similar incidents from his own childhood. There wasn’t any ill intent, this was just a silly game but some good could come of it. Christian clicked his heels and crisply returned the salute like if he were saluting the Emperor himself. The look on the boy’s face became one of awe as Christian moved on. Later, he found out that a camera crew had caught the entire incident and Christian was the subject of a Human-interest story that was rebroadcast across the country.