Part 8 Chapter 62
Chapter Sixty-Two

2nd June, 1922

Paris, France

All things fall apart, it’s in their very nature. That’s particularly true for a nation that had most of their industry destroyed and large swaths of the countryside. Word was that food prices were going up again because striking workers had taken to blockading freight yards. Jean Paul Montrose walked his usual beat even though his police uniform no longer held much meaning. Mostly for lack of anything else to do. From the grumbling that he’d been hearing it was no longer an open question as to who the biggest thieves were.

The Boche might have invaded their country and stolen anything they could grab on the way out but the Americans were worse. They’d waited until they’d run out of excuses to get involved. Then after a whole lot of foot dragging they got into endless debates over when their soldier entered the fray and under whose command. Finally, after all of that, they had imposed a humiliating peace on France they were still there and with their hand out demanding repayment on loans from their own former allies. And increasingly the Americans were demanding that those repayments be in the form of hard currency.

Anytime France’s ambassador in Washington tried to bring up restructuring the debt the Americans bluntly hammered him over the head with the American dead from the war. Once even going so far as threatening to exhume all of the thousands of them who had died in the Great War and shipping them home and billing France for it afterward.

The good thing going on there was that the American President was a serial adulterer with a cabinet that was beset by allegations of corruption. A hypocrite’s hypocrite serving a nation of hypocrites, Jean Paul thought to himself as he flicked his cigarette butt into the river.

Not the Government here in France was much better. There had been 12 Administrations in the last 5 years. Many people lamented the death of the great Georges Clemenceau, if he’d lived things would be different. Jean Paul had no such illusions, they’d probably still be at war if he hadn’t died. Then there were the monarchists, as if the people of France hadn’t seen that movie a time or three. An inbred king who eventually ended up short a head or a mad Emperor who conquered most of Europe only to end up poisoned by his enemies on an island in the South Atlantic.

That was when Jean Paul noticed a pick pocket working the crowd river front. The current administration might have made a big show of booting Gypsies and African trash out of the country. That had done nothing about the local thieves who were currently enjoying the lack of competition. Jean Paul brought his truncheon down on the young man’s arm, shattering his wrist while the hand was somewhere it didn’t belong. He then knocked the thief flat with a sharp blow that left him on the ground moaning. Passersby smiled when they saw Jean Paul putting the thief in handcuffs, the rule of Law meant something when he was around. That was when he helped himself to the large stack of Francs he found in the thief’s wallet.

As Jean Paul led the semiconscious thief through the streets of Paris he noticed that there were a large number of men in the blue uniforms of the French army on the streets. What new madness was this?

Near Lukow, Poland

Peter was crawling under the barbed wire as he tried to reach the wounded soldier. Green tracers were zipping by just centimeters over his back which felt dangerously close to his exposed back. He dropped into a shell hole where the wounded man had taken shelter. He could see that the man had a belly wound.

“I got you” He yelled “But I need you to help me here.”

The man’s teeth were clinched in pain but he nodded, affirmative.

That was when the Russian machine gun, it sounded like an old Maxim, stopped firing. He could hear the Russians talking to each other just a few meters away. If the Russians discovered them they’d have a grenade or two in here in seconds.

“Be quiet” Peter whispered to the man who looked at him in fear and pain.

The machine gun started firing again. With every shot the man was flinching and clawing at the Earth.

“Damnit, hold still” Peter snarled at him. It was obviously a bullet wound, in one side out the other. He’d have to pack it here and let the surgeons in the field hospital determine how bad this was. He couldn’t judge the extent of the damage but that wasn’t his job. Once he was done with that he gave the man a shot of morphine. What they were about to do was going to hurt, a lot.

Peter crawled out of the shell hole. When he turned around he hissed “Keep quiet” to the man again and grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him out of the shell hole. The man’s breathing was rapid and he’d passed out from the pain, that didn’t matter. Peter scooted them backwards as the fusillade continued just overhead.

After what had seemed like an eternity he made it back to the relative safety of friendly lines. He’d made it. The Platoon’s other medic checked the man, he smiled.

“You did good kid” He said.

Peter smiled wearily at that. The other medic went elsewhere and a pair of stretcher bearers came for the man. Peter watched them carry the man off. The surgeons could take from here, Peter thought…

Peter never heard it. He’d been watching, then he’d been thrown into the side of the trench by a large blast. He didn’t lose consciousness but dark spots were swimming around in vision and his ears were ringing. Where the stretcher bearers and the man been, was a new shell hole. One of the others in the platoon looked at him. “Are you okay!” he yelled.

That’s when Peter noticed that something warm covering his face. Blood, none of it his own. “What the fuck” He mumbled.
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Coup or a mobilization to support their old russian allies?
The Poles and Russians are having a bit of a tif, with Germany forces fighting alongside the Poles.

Nice update, and very much awaiting more. Thanks for a continuing ATL, and continues to intrigue and entertain!
Poor Peter, getting bathed in the soiled bloody refuse of battle. This will be sure to add to his nightmares.
Or maybe a coup to either force or prevent mobilization in support of the Russians?

I lean towards a coup. They are in the capital, and mobilization to the point of noticing couldn't be kept secret.

Those American losses are quite the butcher's bill, about twice OTL. Nothing compared to everyone else, of course, though still decently high for no longer than they were in it. Interesting that the US is pressing for loan repayment so hard. Though I suppose it could be unreliable narrator
I lean towards a coup. They are in the capital, and mobilization to the point of noticing couldn't be kept secret.

Those American losses are quite the butcher's bill, about twice OTL. Nothing compared to everyone else, of course, though still decently high for no longer than they were in it. Interesting that the US is pressing for loan repayment so hard. Though I suppose it could be unreliable narrator
I am curious as to the French developments as well.
Regarding loans, its probably Likely the US would push. France made those loans "voluntarily" and it Will be below OTL levels. Difference being they are paying themselves.
For the US I have a feeling what the US sentiments might be. My bet is that they lay the blame on someone else (read French), and would feel the war was a pointless mess they should not have let themselves be dragged into. Particular as the peace they brokered was something the French could have made long before.
If you read between the lines, the US soldiers died for French pride. It Will be hard to drag the US back into a European war.
If you read between the lines, the US soldiers died for French pride. It Will be hard to drag the US back into a European war.

Especially since that's 2x the OTL deaths, it's going to be a very isolationist nut to crack. Ironically, the French might be the only ones they're willing to go to war against, as payback.
I am curious as to the French developments as well.
Regarding loans, its probably Likely the US would push. France made those loans "voluntarily" and it Will be below OTL levels. Difference being they are paying themselves.
For the US I have a feeling what the US sentiments might be. My bet is that they lay the blame on someone else (read French), and would feel the war was a pointless mess they should not have let themselves be dragged into. Particular as the peace they brokered was something the French could have made long before.
If you read between the lines, the US soldiers died for French pride. It Will be hard to drag the US back into a European war.

A good point. OTL, the average American felt they had been duped into the Great War, and got nothing out of it. Here, there's been all the bloodshed and the lines didn't even change
Part 8 Chapter 63
Chapter Sixty-Three

15th June, 1922

Paris, France

This had already been an awful month and it was barely half over. Someone had started a series of malicious rumors regarding current relations with the Americans. The Americans were not demanding immediate repayment on all debt in hard currency. Or most damaging of all was the rumor that the Americans were considering repatriating their dead from the great war. The rumor monger had done their work well with that one. They had included a vastly inflated number of the dead in question. It had seemingly taken the Americans seconds to pick up on that. The number was actually the estimated number of American Service Men who’d been treated for venereal disease while posted in France during the Great War. That had created a new diplomatic row. One more nail in the coffin for the French State.

Now there was this. It was the reason why the French President Alexandre Millerand had ordered General Petain to quietly bring several Divisions of the Army into Paris and its environs to buttress the City Police. The General stood, face ashen as he observed. As he saw it, the final victory that the Germans began long ago at Verdun was now complete. The French Government lacked the authority or credibility to effectively govern the nation. That was why rumor mongers were able to spread lies and gossip so effectively, they were a symptom of a greater disease. After long debate, they had realized that there was only one course of action remaining. President Millerand signed the legislation formally dissolving the republic and empowering the National Assembly to draft a new constitution for the people of France. The Third Republic of France had just died a quiet death on a peaceful early Summer afternoon.

Pruszków Airfield, Poland

Erwin Thorwald squeezed the trigger, the sear broke cleanly like a glass rod. His shoulder absorbed the force of the recoil. He waited for the sight picture through his scope stabilize, in the distance there was a loud “Clank!”. Thorwald could see the steel target rocking back and forth as he worked the bolt.

“10 for 10, eight hundred meters, service ammunition” Thorwald heard Oberst von Richthofen say “Now, do I need to remind you of the terms of our bets Gentlemen.”

Naturally, the Oberst had neglected to mention that they had gone through every lot of 8mm JS in the armory to figure out exactly which one had shot the best through Thorwald’s rifle. But the Oberst had just won a very nice case of wine and Thorwald had just beat the best snipers in the entire 2nd Army earning a Prussian Merit Cross as the winner. The Generals and other observers drifted away in discussion of what had just concluded.

After he’d gotten ditched, Thorwald had gotten thrown into the stockade for a few days, ironically for missing movement. The Airfield's Commander must have gotten a laugh over that one. That was when Oberst von Richthofen had come through. He’d explained that there was actually nothing holding Thorwald there, it was just feared that he’d pursue his Regiment through the countryside. Instead he’d been offered an appointment onto the staff of the great Oberst von Richthofen.

It wasn’t until he got there that he discovered that the appointment was care for Fredrick and Wilhelm, the Oberst’s dogs. He started to wonder if the stockade would take him back. Then he discovered that his unofficial duties included going on the Oberst’s frequent hunting trips. On the first trip, he’d taken a boar with a perfect quartering shot at 250 meters. After that he’d been at the Oberst’s right hand for every trip since and the two diminutive dogs had grown on him.

Then had come the bet. Two Generals had gotten into an argument as to whose outfit had the best shot. Eventually this had expanded to all the Divisions of the 2nd Army, the Luftwaffe and even some of the Polish Divisions. With the war winding down everyone needed a diversion and this was it. The Poles had done extremely well considering that their rifles had the open sights typical of Mauser rifles. One had placed fourth overall, part of his prize had included a scoped rifle and instructions to practice with it. Thorwald had a feeling that when they did this competition again, the Pole, an Unteroffizer, Kapral as the Poles counted these things, named Bolig was going to give him a good run.

As Thorwald was breaking down his equipment Oberst von Richthofen approached him.

“Good news, Soldat” Oberst von Richthofen said “You’re going home.”

“With all due respect, Sir” Thorwald said “That’s not necessarily good news.”

“You mean your situation?” The Oberst asked.

“That’s exactly what I mean”

“I was able to smooth things over with the commandant of your academy” The Oberst said “You get to come back with your parachute badge and the merit cross you won today. You’ll be the toast of your school.”

“No thanks to my so-called friends” Thorwald said bitterly.

“I wouldn’t be too hard on Oberfeld Schultz” The Oberst said “Or Hauptmann Holz for that matter, you put them in a difficult position.”

“Anything else I should be aware of, Sir?”

“No” The Oberst “Just be sure to say good bye to Fredrick and Wilhelm before you go, I think they’ll miss you.”

“Then I guess it’s goodbye to you too, Sir” Thorwald said.

“Yes” The Oberst said “But not for long, you’ll be back as a Lieutenant in a couple of years.”

“You think the Luftwaffe would take me back?” Thorwald asked.

“Of course, it will” The Oberst said “You have our foul stench on you now, neither the Heer or the Fleet take you with that. Besides that, the Heer thinks I brought you in as a ringer in the competition. I’m content to let them keep thinking that.”

“Thank you, Sir”

“You're welcome, Soldat” The Oberst said “Now get a move on, you don’t want to miss your flight.”
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Part 8 Chapter 64
Chapter Sixty-Four

17th June, 1922

Biala Podlasta, Poland

They were holding the city that stood astride the main highway between Warsaw and Minsk. With the Luftwaffe controlling the air and sweeping the roads for moving Russian columns this had effectively ended the war. Now it was up to the politicians to negotiate the peace. Hopefully one that would hold this time. Emil was walking through the city streets. The fighting here had been short but intense, lasting only a few days. The Bergmann machine pistol that Emil had been issued for this campaign had been pretty much useless right up until the urban fight had started. He found that it was absolutely murderous once the fight was down to just a few meters. His report on the equipment would reflect that.

It had been the Paras who’d led the fight in the city itself while the Heer had encircled it linking up with the Poles coming from the North in the process. Between here and Warsaw was an unknown number of Soviet forces who trapped in Poland. Pawns in the negotiations. It had been the records that they had seized within the city that had provided them with the most amusement. The Soviet leadership, before they had fled hadn’t found the presence of the Paras to their liking. A phrase kept coming up in the documents. Emil couldn’t read the Cyrillic but he was told the phrase was Zelenyye D’yavola, Green Devil. In a State that had no religion the Soviets had found a Devil all right, the Regiment had loved it.

Now he was walking out of the City to the bivouac of the 4th looking for Horst and Peter to check on them. The 4th had distinguished itself, blasting across several hundred kilometers in just a few weeks. General von Wolvogle was setting pretty again with the High Command, there was even talk of adding the ivy wreath to his Blue Max. Word was Oberst Manfred von Richthofen was up for that as well. The Ace of Aces now had a world leading 115 enemy aircraft of all types to his credit, far surpassing the British Ace Mick Mannock, his nearest rival. His air offensive had been what the world had taken really notice of.

Finally, Emil found Horst coming out of the Mess tent.

“Your brother did okay in the fighting” Horst said “Perhaps you can convince him to stop being such a pain in the ass now.”

“What’s he doing?” Emil asked.

“He pulled a wounded man out of machine gun fire a couple of weeks back” Horst said “The Brass heard about it and they gave him an EK2 for it.”

“How’s that a problem?”

“Peter watched that man and two others get killed by artillery a few minutes later and is trying to decline the medal because of that.”

“I see” Emil said.

I tried to tell him that it’s about more than just him” Horst said “That those medals are a reflection on the entire Company and that he got this one without ever firing a shot…”

Horst didn’t need to finish that thought. That was in some respects the ultimate example courage under fire.

They found Peter with the rest of the Platoon. There was the expected grumbling over the sudden appearance of the Company Spear, there was a reason why the job was also called Company Mother. Horst was the main enforcer of discipline and was in many respects the ultimate authority within the Company. Emil turning up had however put a chill on matters. Brass, even a Hauptmann from a different service branch had that effect.

“I’m just here to check on my kid brother” Emil said with a smile “The rest of you can carry on.”

With that Peter got up and the rest of them went back to what they were doing. Probably just hanging around and bullshitting, Emil thought. There were times when he really missed being a part of that world, the easy comradery among the enlisted.

Peter followed him out away from the fire.

“How you holding up?” Emil asked.

“I’m dealing with things” Peter said.

“Really?” Emil said, leaving that hanging in the air, waiting for Peter to say what was going on.

“You talked to the Spear, didn’t you?”

“Yes” Emil said “Horst said that you are declining an Iron Cross.”

“Are you also going to try talk me into taking it?” Peter said.

“No, that’s your business” Emil said “You’re a man now and that means that you get to make your own decisions.”

“Thank you for that” Peter said, it was the first time he’d had someone put it that way.

“You know I almost declined the Knight’s Cross that I won in Verdun” Emil said.

“That’s the one you were given by the Emperor” Peter said, shocked.

“Yeah” Emil said “I won it because I got lucky and I felt I didn’t deserve it.”

“Why did you take it then?”

“It was pointed out to me that it would open doors for me and it has.”

“That doesn’t apply to me does it” Peter said.

“No, it does not” Emil said “But of all the things you’ve done here in Poland what are you most proud of?”

“There were some villages where we were giving medical care to the locals, really helping people.”

Emil smiled at that “After this is over” He said “You want to keep helping these people?”

“Yes” Peter said “I could go back to school, become a real Doctor.”

“I’d love to see that” Emil said “But Universities and Medical Schools get hundreds, thousands of qualified candidates. Why should they take the likes of you, a Book Binder’s son from Jena?”

“They took you and…” Peter stopped as it sunk in what Emil was saying “I really hate you, you know that?”

“I just want you to understand the big picture” Emil said.

Horst would later tell Emil that Peter had decided to take the EK2 after all. Whatever Emil had said had made his brother come around even if Peter wouldn’t talk about it.
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Nicev updates. Thorwald got a nice medal, notice of the Red Baron, and the promise of an officer position when he graduates.

Peter lives, though mentally scarred, and with his award can follow through with his wish to be a doctor. Will he go back in the service once he graduates?
Part 8 Chapter 65
Chapter Sixty-Five

3rd July, 1922

Rendburg, Germany

Jacob had promised Esther that they would take a proper family vacation this Summer holiday. When he’d asked his Commanding Officer for a few weeks leave he’d discovered that there had been several ongoing bets about when he’d finally take a day off. He hadn’t taken a sick day or leave in four years. He’d gotten five weeks, all of July and a good chunk of August off, no questions asked. They were on their way to a rental cottage on Sylt Island but first they had a small diversion that Jacob had planned. They were sitting on the bank of the Wilhelm Canal enjoying a picnic lunch. Esther had another reason for this trip. She felt it was the last chance to do a trip like this with Sarah, who was due to start grade one in the fall. She would pass from early childhood and something precious would be lost forever.

Jacob had agreed with her on that score, the kids were growing up. Even the baby, Nessa was about to turn four. Not that there would be any others. After Esther had a particularly difficult pregnancy with Nessa she’d talked to the surgeon about something Jacob could do to see to it that there’d be no more. The way she’d put it, if Jacob wasn’t willing to do it in the hospital, she’d be perfectly happy to do it at home with a rusty pickaxe. To preserve his domestic tranquility, he’d consented.

They heard a commotion further up the Canal, this was the moment that Jacob had been waiting for. The SMS Bayern came around the bend followed by the SMS Baden.

“That was the ship that I served on when you were born Sarah” He said as the Bayern passed by, it was an illusion but the Bayern seemed to be only a few meters away. Sarah and Nessa waved to the sailors who waved back but it was when Esther blew them a kiss that got more than a few cheers back. He was married to truly great gal.

He looked over and saw the SMS Sachsen and SMS Württemberg had rounded the bend, he’d never seen the two sister ships of the Bayern and Baden before now, both had been commissioned after the war had ended. With the war in the Poland and the Baltic over then they were getting sent home to Wilhelmshaven. Jacob had heard the British reaction to that, they were not pleased but no one in the High Seas Fleet cared about what they thought. The process repeated when the Baden and the other ships passed. Esther didn’t bother blowing a kiss to the other ships. She knew that the Bayern was special to Jacob and the big girl had brought him home safe to her. This had turned out to be a truly great afternoon.

Bramstedtland, Germany

Django had discovered that the Sjostedt family were different from any other people then he’d ever met before. They had told him that so long as he stole nothing else them or their neighbors and helped out around the farm then he could stay for as long as he liked. Unfortunately, that included at least an hour each day except Sundays with Lars, the Sjostedt Patriarch. It had taken the old man less than five minutes to discover that Django was illiterate. Lars had decided to do something about that, whether Django liked it or not.

It was the piano that kept Django on the farm, Ma had said he was a rare talent had even gone so far as to show him how to read notation, another language he was learning to read. It helped that Ma looked a bit like some of the women he’d grown up with in his extended family. But the Sjostedts were no Gypsies. When he’d asked about it they told him that Lar’s son Karl had married into a Diné family. It had seemed simple enough, the Diné were a people in America with their own language and culture. Django had heard them talking in it enough times. Then it’d all snapped together, the Diné were Red Indians. The Sjostedts had just laughed about that.

The other revelation was that Lars was an ordained Lutheran Pastor and that Piers was his assistant. He was unlike any Priest or Minister that Django had ever encountered. For starters, there was no church. When asked, Lars had told him that his congregation was entirely composed of poor farmers. He refused to impose upon them by asking them to build one and if preaching under the blue sky was good enough for Jesus himself it was more than good enough for Lars. Then Lars had taught him two new words, humility and humble.

Tsingtao (Qingdao), German enclave, China

The Germans had traded technology to get this place back. Particularly airplanes, Albatros AG had worked with a Japanese machinery and shipping company called Mitsubishi to build Albatros/Fokker D.VII and later Albatros D.XV Scouts under license. Sauvageot found it particularly ironic that this was the nearest European enclave that he could get to and hopefully start to find his way home. No cash, passport or weapons. Jacob Schmidt had seen to it that he’d landed here with no more than the shirt on his back.

He’d managed to scratch out a bare existence as a translator/bodyguard for a German businessman who was exploring importing textiles to Germany but was unsure of the demand. At this rate, it would take him years to get back to France and he was discovering that local Summers in this part of China were not exactly what recommended the region, hot and sticky. The good thing though is that the Germans being Germans seemed to always build a brewery wherever they went. That meant that there was a lot of cheap pilsner to help beat the heat.

There was a commotion outside and his client asked Sauvageot to go see what the deal was. As it turned out it was the weekly airmail run where mail was shipped at great expense from Berlin to Tsingtao in no more than two or three weeks. He suspected that it was one of those flights that he had been dumped out of.

When he got outside he discovered that the Imperial Mail Service was giving newspapers away. He grabbed a couple of them. Sauvageot had learned quickly things were seldom given away for free in China or cheaply for that matter. He fought his way back into the tavern and handed his client one of the copies.

“Thank you, César” The man said.

“Yeah, you're welcome, Sir” Sauvageot mumbled as he read the headline.

No wonder the Germans were so excited. They and their Polish allies had defeated the Soviets. Not that he had any love for the Russians. He found them crude at best. It looked like the Germans were consolidating their Empire in Eastern Europe, no real surprises there. He opened the newspaper and was reading below the fold when another story caught his eye. French Republic dissolved, new constitution, rioting in the streets. He went numb when he read what had happened to France. He needed to sit down. He might not even have a home to return to.

“Are you okay” The Client asked.

“France” Was all Sauvageot could say.

“That’s where you’re from isn’t it?” The Client asked as he read the article “It can’t be all bad, can it?”

“I hope you are right, Sir” Sauvageot said.
Not quite a coup, but sort of. I'm interested to see where it pans out.

Interesting that Britain is bothered by the presence of the Bayerns. Yes, they are powerful ships, but there's only four of them. The Brits have 10 15" ships. Most of the rest of the German fleet is ludicrously obsolete.