Chapter One Hundred Six 13th April, 1936 Jena, Germany Peter was in his office reading the latest files, in conjunction with the interviews he had conducted. He had read up on the patients in the Secure Ward in the hospital in Munich. Those were admittedly extreme cases but he’d seen patterns emerge, injury and stress resulted in addiction and aberrant behavior. Once separated from the military the problems grew worse. Peter saw it again and again, hundreds of times. There were examples like that Unteroffizer who was probably already damaged mentally and a pathological liar before his experiences on the Western Front but that was very much the exception, not the rule. The OKW was less than thrilled with the fact that he was conducting this study. It had been the intervention of Augustus Lang that had forced them to let him conduct it with minimal interference. Eventually they had agreed but had demanded that the OKW be given first access to any results that Peter got. When Peter had heard news reports of a firefight between a Squad of relatively green recruits and smugglers he’d rushed to Ingolstadt, he now had a chance to see if it was possible to break the pattern he’d seen. He intended that these men be tracked for the duration of their careers. All five were Soldats on a career track. That was where their common traits ended. Four of them were sons of railroad workers, an Engineer, two Conductors and a Porter, which was the actual reason they had been in the railyard on the day of the firefight. The fifth was the son of a career Non-Commissioned Officer. The oldest, Jost Schultz was 19 years of age. At the moment, the only problem was that no one seemed to have any idea where they had ended up. Wunsdorf Zossen, Germany It was in the early morning hours when they had been dragged off the train. One of the quirks of rail travel was that it was when the train stopped that you woke up. The sudden absence of noise and movement came as a surprise. They had assumed that it was just one more stop and they would be on their way again, it turned out that they were wrong this time. Barking dogs, flashlights in their faces and yelling were what marked their arrival even if they had no idea where “here” was. It was when they saw the location painted on the station wall that Jost said that he knew where they were but refused to say more. It was when Hans heard someone complaining about how they smelled that he realized that they had a problem but before he could duck they were sprayed with icy water. “I suppose you worthless trash are wondering why you are here?” A voice said to them from the darkness “I got news for you lot, you broke one of the key rules of being a soldier. Any of you know what that is?” They stood there for a long moment shivering in the cold, this was the sort of things that were pulled on recruits when they arrived in basic. They were months past that. Why was this being done to them now? “The Hell if I know” Jost said. “You’re lucky your old man is in South America right now, Soldat Schultz, or else he’d be kicking your ass all over the parade ground because you’re such a worthless piece of shit” The voice said. For once Jost didn’t have a snide comeback for that sort of thing. This man, whoever he was knew Jost’s father? That can’t be good could it. “What?” The voice said “None of you are bold enough to venture to take a guess.” The truth was that they all knew better. Any answer, even a correct one, would be used to kick the snot out of them. “The rule you broke was that you were seen” The voice said “People love the idea of us, it fills them with their warm and fuzzy sense of patriotism and that gets reflected in the bloodless movies that they flock to in theaters. The reality, with all the blood, piss and shit is something that they simply cannot handle. You managed to ruin several hundred people’s vacations with that reality.” That was too much for Hans, it was not as if they had chosen to have those Albanians to start shooting at them. “It’s not as if we wanted things to happen the way they did” He said furiously “At least we aren’t hiding in the shadows throwing insults.” “Wow” The voice said “It looks like at least one of you has a pair of balls after all.” The man stepped forward into the light. Hans saw that he was a Stabsfeldwebel who was old enough to have served in the Great War. Just by looking at the way this man walked it was clear that he had absolutely nothing to prove to anyone, least of all a Soldat like Hans. “I am Stabber Horst” The Man, Horst said “And I’m treating you this way because you obviously didn’t learn a Goddamn thing the first time around and your Feldwebel was killed as a result.” “That’s not fair” Rudy said. Hans had to stop himself from groaning at that. There was one word that was supposed to be gone from your vocabulary the instant you joined the Heer, fair. Want to get your ass kicked, use that word. “Ain’t that nice” Horst said “Here I was thinking that I was dealing with some men who were not too chicken shit to pull the trigger if need be and the first words out of one of your mouths in that I’m not being fair.” Horst then smiled “I’m going to show you what an egalitarian I am in the coming days” He said “Now I can see that you are cold, a bit of work will warm you right up.” “Good one, Rudy” Henrik whispered at him.