Notes: This is my entry for the Short Story Speedwriting Challenge. It's... noticeably more somber than my usual pieces for this fandom, given that it acknowledges one of the events of the Holocaust, the massacres at Babi Yar in Kiev. Danzig's desperation in trying to make the Allied Command aware of the atrocities is, in fact, something that happened with the Polish Underground in 1942; this story is set in November, a month before this would come to light.
A very young Illya Kuryakin makes a guest appearance in this fic, which will be the basis for the Hogan's Heroes/Man from UNCLE crossover I will eventually write.
Despite Carter being the newest member of their team, the young sergeant had quickly proven his skills in not only assisting his compatriots in their escape processing, but also having skills in demolitions. Hogan had been musing over the thought of participating in sabotage ever since Carter's skills had come to light, though he hadn't come up with any concrete plans as of yet; for now, they were assisting downed fliers and aiding the Underground by supplying them things as they requested them.
And the last request they had received from Oskar Danzig, a prominent Underground leader, had been an odd one; he had requested a set of clothes of a very specific size, and as much food as they could spare. Though baffled by the request, they, nevertheless, got to work, with LeBeau preparing the food while Newkirk got to work with the tailoring. But Newkirk soon saw exactly what had been so odd with the request.
"Blimey, look at these measurements!" he said, marking the length of the sleeves on the fabric he was using. "This is too small to even fit Louis! Old Danzig's asked us to make travel clothes for a child!"
"…Kind of odd for the Underground to request travel clothes and food for a child, isn't it?" Kinch asked.
"Yeah, why would the Underground be babysitting some kid, anyway?" Carter wondered aloud. "Kinch, did you ask Danzig if those measurements were correct?"
"I sure did; that was what he wanted," the radioman said with a shrug. "And since we've got nothing else lined up, we may as well give it to him."
Hogan didn't seem too quick to shrug off the request; something was clearly on his mind, but he was refusing to let slip as to what it was. Instead, he merely asked that Carter be the one to deliver the requested items to Danzig.
Carter, naturally, went along with the idea without complaint. Danzig eagerly admitted him to his secret hideaway upon his arrival, and instructed him to stay while his men ensured that the way back would be safe.
Carter waited patiently, watching as Danzig opened the parcel and looked at the clothes in approval, and then nodded at the food. Picking up the serving of simmered meat, he slipped to a small room with it and came back empty handed.
"For Pete's sake, do you really have a kid hiding back there?" Carter asked, jokingly.
But Danzig looked serious—so serious, that the grin was wiped from Carter's face in an instant. This was no joking matter, and the tech sergeant suddenly had an unpleasant feeling in his gut that told him he probably did not want to know why the Underground was going through so much trouble to conceal a child.
"Danzig… What's going on?"
Danzig beckoned him to the door, and as Carter approached, he opened it slightly, revealing a young boy, sitting in a lightly but comfortably furnished room, tearing ravenously at the simmered meat as though he hadn't eaten well in days.
Carter looked at Danzig, a dozen questions in his eyes.
"His name is Illya; he's an orphan living on the streets since the Battle of Kiev last year. One of our members abroad found him a few weeks ago just outside of Kiev."
"And they brought him all the way from Ukraine to Germany?"
"Now that we have travel clothes for him, one of our female agents can get him to Switzerland, disguised as a mother and child," Danzig said. "From there, he'll get passage to England."
"I mean, it's great that you're doing all this for him, but you're going through an awful lot of trouble to get one kid to England."
"Can hear," the boy said, looking up from his meal to look at Carter. He then said something in fluent Ukrainian that Carter didn't understand.
"He doesn't speak much English, but he can understand it," Danzig said.
"Oh," Carter said, looking embarrassed. "Well, it's not that you don't deserve a better life, Illya. But it's not really standard practice for the Underground to be doing all this, so I'm just a little confused—"
"Talk lots," the boy observed, and Carter trailed off.
"The Underground does try to help out those orphaned by the war," Danzig agreed. "But you are right, Carter; we do not usually coordinate international travel for them."
"…He is a witness to something that the Allied Command needs to become aware of; his testimony is vital," Danzig admitted.
Carter felt a chill down his spine; it couldn't be that the boy had stumbled upon military secrets—he wouldn't need to go all the way to England to testify for that.
"People disappear," the boy said, his voice much quieter now. "After they come."
"That's alright, Illya; you continue eating," Danzig said, kindly. "Try to get some rest; hopefully, you can go to Switzerland, and then England soon, and taste all of the foods you wish!"
The boy seemed to perk up slightly and resumed tearing into the meat; LeBeau's cooking had won over another one, it seemed.
But that was far from Carter's mind as Danzig guided him away from the door.
"Either he is still too young to fully understand the implications of what he has seen, or he is in denial," Danzig said, in a hushed tone. "But, in the weeks after the battle had ended, several residents of the city were rounded up—the Jewish people... the Romani... Those who did not live up to the ideals of the Nazis. Illya unfortunately witnessed several families being taken away—people who had given him food and shelter in the immediate destruction of his home in the battle." Danzig shut his eyes. "Illya says he heard shots over two days. I don't know how much of a connection he made between the disappearances and the shots, or whether his mind refuses to make the connection, but he is a witness to a fraction of over thirty thousand murders that occurred over the course of two days."
"Civilians…?" Carter asked, his eyes wide in horror. "They murdered civilians!?"
"It gets worse."
"How!?" Carter knew he would regret asking that, but, at this point, he could no longer not ask it.
"This is not an isolated incident," Danzig said. "According to Illya, even after those immediate weeks, people still 'disappeared,' as he says it. And it is not just Kiev; any place where the Nazis have taken over, civilians who do not match their ideals 'disappear,' or are rounded up in full view. At present, their focus seems to be the Jewish civilians in the occupied regions. You see why the Allied Command must be told about this. And I pray that seeing it from the eyes of a child will move them into action."
Carter nodded, unable to speak anymore.
"You must tell Colonel Hogan—tell him that the rumors are, as we feared, true," Danzig continued. "And tell him that I ask for his assistance in aiding refugees trying to leave Germany; his assistance in this matter could save lives."
"I'll help, too," Carter finally managed to say. "Any way I can—I'm sure the others will agree…" He trailed off, shaking slightly. Still, he managed to keep his voice calm as he continued. "…What's going to happen to Illya?"
"After he gives his testimony? It will be his choice entirely; should he choose to stay in England, we will let him. Should he wish to return to the Ukraine or Russia, we will allow him to return, once we are sure it is safe for him."
Carter didn't really know what to say, but he was spared by the return of Danzig's men, announcing that the road back to Stalag 13 was clear. He practically bolted back, his mind swimming with thoughts. Ever since he was old enough, he had been told the unpleasant truths about the atrocities that had befallen his Lakota forbearers within the last hundred years. And here, all around him, more atrocities were befalling innocent people—something he had never thought would happen in his lifetime.
He found the entrance to the tunnel on autopilot, only stopping to catch his breath once he had made it into the tunnel. He had stumbled into the radio room to find Hogan and Kinch at the radio, with Newkirk touching up some disguises while LeBeau served coffee to everyone—and all of them took note of his harried expression as he arrived.
"Andrew?" Kinch asked, concerned.
"Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas?"
"Blimey… You look like you've just seen a ghost."
"I wish I had," Carter said. "I really wish I had. Danzig was looking after a kid, alright—but if you knew what this kid had seen…"
He trailed off as Hogan shut his eyes, exhaling as a new, invisible weight came down upon his shoulders.
"The rumors are true…?" he asked.
"According to Danzig—and what this kid saw," Carter said.
Kinch, Newkirk, and LeBeau exchanged baffled glances with each other.
"What's this all about?" Newkirk asked. "What rumors!?"
It was almost impossible to repeat what Danzig and Illya had told him, and yet he knew that he had to, and he forced himself to. His fellow NCOs soon had expressions identical to his—shock and horror, and a certain amount of desperation that, somehow, this was all just a horrible nightmare. Hogan's expression of pained resignation had not changed.
"…Did Danzig say anything else?" Hogan asked, his voice sounding completely emptied of his usual confidence.
"Just that he was hoping that you would be willing to aid in sending refugees out of here in addition to the downed fliers," Carter said. "…Sir, I just want to say that even if you don't think that our operation should get involved, I still want to help Danzig, even if it's on my own time or something like that. You keep hearing about these things happening, but always in the past, and you never think you're going to have to see it. I know we're limited with what we can do as prisoners of war, but… I can't just do nothing!"
"If what Danzig says is true, this is going to be something that's going on everywhere that's been occupied," Kinch said.
LeBeau said something in French, sounding utterly despondent—no doubt wondering and worrying over who among the friends and neighbors he knew would be in the greatest danger—and what could possibly be done for them.
Newkirk drew an arm of support around LeBeau.
"So what do we do?" he asked, quietly.
"We tell Danzig that we'll help in any way we can," Hogan said. "And then we'll do one better than that." He paused as the men all looked at him, silent questions in their eyes. "Carter's right. After all those atrocities that occurred in the past, you wonder how it could happen again. We could sit around all day trying to come up with answers, but it won't change what's happening now. Instead, we have to accept that, this time, we're in the position to do something about it. We've been sitting on the idea of expanding our activities from just assisting escapees to active sabotage, haven't we? Fine. Let's expand. We'll sabotage anything within reach if it means putting sand in the gears of their machines! We'll save every single life we can possibly save, directly or indirectly. …Obviously, I can't force any of you to—"
"I'm in, Sir," Kinch said.
"Me, as well, Guv."
And Carter, a bit at a loss for words at that moment, merely nodded in agreement with his comrades.
"I expected no less from you," Hogan admitted. "We'll have to get some supplies in from England to talking some of the bigger targets, but we can start off small with access to gunpowder and fuses. Carter, what can you do with that?"
"Plenty, Sir," he said, finding his voice again. "You can't really make a sophisticated timer, but there can still be enough of a delay to make sure we're nowhere in sight…"
They listened intently as he spoke, the mix of emotions still stirring in all of them; the shock and horror at this new knowledge would likely never fade, but now it was accompanied by something else—determined defiance.