No ownership of the Hogan's Heroes characters is implied or inferred. Copyright belongs to others and no infringement is intended. Copyright text, storyline and original characters belongs to L. J. Groundwater.
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Robert Hogan looked down at his wrists as the handcuffs were snapped roughly, and tightly, in place. "General, I protest!" he complained loudly. "I said I'd come with you; you don't have to chain me up like an animal!"
General Albert Burkhalter raised his eyebrows at the Prisoner of War. "Ah, but I do, Colonel Hogan!" he answered. "You see, I cannot help but think that once you believe we have relaxed that you will do something rather… unfortunate… for the Third Reich." The large Luftwaffe officer stood a little straighter before Hogan, as the US Army Air Corps officer rattled his cuffs angrily.
"Oh, really?" Hogan retorted. "And how am I supposed to do that?"
"You aren't," Burkhalter said firmly. "And you won't. You are going to have a nice sleep now, Hogan. Enjoy the rest while you can."
With a nod of his head, Burkhalter set the guard next to Hogan in motion, and suddenly a cloth was being drawn down to press against the Colonel's face. Hogan struggled against the hand gripping his arm tightly and doubled over to avoid whatever it was the guard was trying to do to him. But he was suddenly and violently jerked upright, and a strong blow to the side of his head left him reeling and disoriented. Then the cloth was placed over his nose and mouth, and a few seconds later, all was black.
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The men of Barracks Two watched with despair as their commanding officer was dragged into the waiting staff car and blindfolded before being driven out of camp with the Germans. Then they turned, despondent, away from the guards who had stopped them from going to Hogan's aid, and headed back into their hut to gather around the common room table.
"I don't like it, mates," RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk said, breaking the silence that had descended upon them. "Handcuffed. Knocked around. Blindfolded. What have they got planned for him?"
Louis Le Beau came to the table with the pot of coffee he had made earlier and poured some into the cup in front of Newkirk. "Burkhalter could have at least held his discussion in Klink's office," the French Corporal said, thinking how the listening device the POWs had planted in the office of Stalag 13's Kommandant might have given them some guidance. "The way it is now, we know nothing."
"Maybe we can get word to the Underground," suggested Sergeant Andrew Carter. The young American was always looking for a positive outcome. Seeing Colonel Hogan treated so shamefully in front of the rest of the prisoners was more than disturbing to him, but he wasn't going to give up if he could help Hogan. No way! "What about that, Kinch?"
Sergeant James Kinchloe pursed his lips as he leaned against his bunk. "We can get word, Carter," he answered. "But all they'll be able to do is keep a lookout for the Colonel. We don't have any real idea where they've taken him." Kinch sighed. "And we have to consider one other possibility, too: that we've been found out, and they've dragged Colonel Hogan away for interrogation before descending on all of us."
"Le Colonel will not say anything," Le Beau declared vehemently. Then he let himself consider the implications of what Kinch had said, and sank onto a bench. "Poor Colonel. He will not say anything. They will torture him."
Newkirk thought about the secret organization that he'd been part of for the past two years, run from this POW camp deep within Nazi Germany. All the tunnels, the radio, the maps and plans and ammunition sitting beneath their feet. The Allied flyers and German defectors whom they had helped get back to London. The bridges, tunnels, factories, ammo dumps that they had destroyed while traipsing in and out of Stalag 13 like it was a hotel. And then he considered the man in charge of the operation—Hogan, an American flying ace who had arrived one cold day looking lost and beaten, who had been abused in the worst ways by his captors, and whose story even now the prisoners did not know for certain. And he thought of that man today, struggling before being struck and dragged unconscious into a car, and driven out of camp before their eyes, perhaps forever. Newkirk slammed his first on the table. "We've gotta get 'im back!" he exclaimed desperately.
The others looked at him, their own thoughts one with his, and they nodded agreement, though they were unsure there was anything they could do.
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Hogan awoke with a dull headache and a feeling of nausea deep in the pit of his stomach. Not yet daring to open his eyes, he tried to take stock of his situation. The low hum of a motor met his ears, telling him that he was still in a car, going God Knew Where. The slight jostling as the vehicle moved over uneven roads was helping contribute to his queasiness, and he felt a throbbing on the side of his face where he had been struck into obedience. He wanted to let the sensations lull him back into unconsciousness, but he could sense the warmth of someone sitting close by and knew that he had to force himself to be aware of what was happening around him.
Hogan decided to open his eyes, but when he did he was met with darkness. He let out an involuntarily cry of alarm before he realized that part of the pressure he felt against his sore head was a blindfold. But the noise was enough to draw the attention of someone around him. Hogan felt the person next to him shift position.
"Ah, finally, Hogan!" Burkhalter. "This trip was becoming rather dull without your usual sarcasm to liven things up!"
Hogan didn't feel up to the banter. "What did you do to me?" he asked wearily, letting his head fall back against the seat.
"Just a bit of chloroform to ensure your cooperation and our secrecy."
Hogan hated how chirpy and self-assured the General was sounding. "'Pretty please' would have sufficed." Hogan groaned as the car hit a pothole and sent his stomach rolling. Burkhalter laughed. "Look, if you didn't want me to see anything, why did you bring me along?"
"Just a bit of propaganda, Hogan," Burkhalter answered. "Surely you know how it works. We show you, an esteemed enemy flyer, something that you cannot possibly do anything about. Your morale takes a nosedive, and you carry that depression back to your men. This then spreads to the rest of the prisoners in the camp… and suddenly, we have obedient men who stop resisting the illustrious Third Reich. You will also record a broadcast for the Allies, telling them how useless fighting such power would be; after today, the conviction in your voice should be most convincing. "
Hogan waited before speaking, trying to will away the pounding in his head. "You really expect that to happen?" he said finally. "You're more delusional than I thought."
"Not really, Hogan," Burkhalter answered. "If nothing else, it will serve, perhaps, to put you in your place. And I must admit, I am looking forward to seeing that side of you, even for a little while. I have not seen you in a submissive state for two years. You are long overdue for a dose of humility. Put him back to sleep."
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"Repoooooort!" The Kommandant of Prisoner of War camp Stalag 13 bellowed as he approached his Sergeant of the Guard and the men assembled outside the barracks.
"Herr Kommandant! All present… well… all accounted for." Hans Schultz wiggled his small moustache as he faced his commanding officer. The rotund guard found it difficult to take a tough stance with the prisoners in this camp; indeed, he found it difficult to do most stern things in this terrible world war. But this afternoon, with the senior prisoner of war officer—one of his own main protectors from places further east and quite chilly—missing, Schultz was finding it almost impossible to be strict. The men of Barracks Two were surly and unruly, and he was in no physical shape to bark them back into line. And, truth be told, he was in no mood to do so, either.
Wilhelm Klink nodded and gripped his riding crop rhythmically. "Very good, Schultz. Now men," he announced, facing the lineup, "I want you to know that even though your spokesman, Colonel Hogan, is not here at the moment, I will continue to run this camp with my usual efficiency. I will expect you conduct yourselves as gentlemen until he returns."
Le Beau immediately ignored Klink's request. "Where have les Boches taken him?" he shouted crossly from his place in line.
"Yeah, what's going on? How come nobody told us where he was going?" Carter piped up from behind him.
"No one ever tells us anything," Kinch complained.
"Silence!" Klink shouted. The prisoners slowly settled down. "Colonel Hogan left with General Burkhalter. You are prisoners; it is not necessary to give you any details. That is all," he said abruptly, hoping to quell any further discussion.
Newkirk couldn't resist getting a dig in—and trying to get Klink to say more than he intended. "So when will the big fat tub o' lard bring him back?"
"Whenever the big fat tub of lar—I mean whenever General Burkhalter is done with him!" Klink raised a balled fist in frustration. "Don't put words in my mouth, Newkirk!"
"Wouldn't dream of it, sir!" Newkirk replied cheerfully. Then, "I don't know where it's been!"
The prisoners laughed heartily. Klink was upset. "Silence!" The titters slowly came under control. "You will see Colonel Hogan again when and if the General sees fit to bring him here." The Kommandant's wording disturbed Hogan's men, who suddenly became quite somber. "In the meantime, I suggest you conduct yourselves in a manner very unlike what you are doing now. Otherwise it's the cooler for you." He nodded curtly at Schultz, then turned back when his remark was met with snorts of derision. "For all of you," he said through his teeth. "Diiiiiiis-miiiiiiiiiiiiissed." And he turned on his heel and strode back to his office.
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"Hogan, wake up. We are here. Are you planning to sleep through the war?"
Hogan heard the voice from somewhere around him and tried to rouse himself. This time he realized immediately that he was still blindfolded and in the car. He pulled himself away from the back of the seat and found that a sickening dizziness had taken up residence with his throbbing head, and he lurched forward as the darkness spun around him. Hands on his shoulders kept him from landing on his face. "Ohh," he moaned softly.
Someone pushed him back in the seat, and Hogan let his head rest on the cool leather. "Feeling a bit woozy from the chloroform still, are we, Hogan?"
Oh, God. Burkhalter again.
"I don't know about us," Hogan replied between shallow breaths, hating the General's saccharine, condescending tone, "but I'm not feeling so hot at the moment."
"The fresh air will help," Burkhalter said, not sounding remotely like he cared if it would or not. "And this."
Suddenly Hogan found his blindfold gone. He blinked in the brightness and gasped as the light lanced his skull, sharpening his headache. He brought his hands up to his face, softly cursing the handcuffs that were making his wrists ache. "Why don't you warn a guy?" he grumbled.
Burkhalter laughed. "Come, Hogan. We have much to see before you are returned to your safe little prison camp."
The driver of the car opened the door for Burkhalter, and the General got out and straightened his coat. Then the guard that had accompanied them pushed Hogan from behind, forcing the Colonel to use his shackled hands to brace himself on the seat or fall out of the vehicle. "I'm coming, I'm coming," Hogan mumbled, annoyed. He slid over so he could get out on his own and stood up. He was suddenly quite dizzy and swayed backwards toward the car. The guard merely put a hand on Hogan's back to stop from being trod on, but offered no support. Hogan felt himself break out in a cold sweat, and he pulled away from the touch of the guard and braced his hands on his knees with his eyes closed, panting.
Burkhalter's sharp voice cut through the fog still enveloping Hogan's brain, and the Colonel found himself being yanked up by the arm and practically dragged toward a large building. Hogan's other senses quickly kicked in and he decided he needed to find out exactly what was going on. He tried to take in the environment around him but his head was still spinning and he was finding it hard to focus. As he was shoved past another guard through a doorway, he staggered unsteadily and slammed his left wrist hard against the doorframe. Hogan groaned in pain. But no one found it necessary to stop and help him regain his equilibrium, and he was pulled down a hallway, still handcuffed, and still completely ignorant of his location.
Eventually, they were met by a middle-aged man in a white lab coat, wearing spectacles and carrying a clipboard. Hogan's mind rushed back to another time he had been confronted with what appeared to be a German scientist… and though the images weren't clear, they were enough to send him into a blind panic. Hogan involuntarily took a step back from the man who was looking at him curiously, coming in contact with the guard, who pushed him away.
The man greeted Burkhalter cordially. "Herr General, wir haben Sie erwartet. Ich bin Otto Rupp." He stared coldly at Hogan. "Was ist los? Warum ist dieser Mann hier?"
Struggling to stay calm, Hogan listened to the man's welcome, and his annoyed question about Hogan's presence. Then came Burkhalter's explanation. "Oberst Hogan ist ein Kriegsgefangener in einem Stalag Luft nahe Hammelburg. Wir zeigen ihm die Helligkeit des Dritten Reichs, da er nicht versteht, wie hoffnungslos seine Situation ist, und er Schwierigkeiten an seinem Lager verursacht."
Hogan tried not to snort as he translated: Colonel Hogan is a prisoner of war in a Stalag Luft near Hammelburg. We are showing him the brilliance of the Third Reich, since he does not understand how hopeless his situation is, and he causes trouble in his camp.
The tiniest of smiles curled the edges of Hogan's lips as his humility at being treated like a piece of property grew. Trouble? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
The unknown man shook his head and frowned. "Ich mag das amerikanische Innere unser Laboratorium nicht."
Burkhalter turned to Hogan, who at these last words had started to relax just slightly; clearly, the American was not welcome. "He does not like having you here, Hogan."
"The feeling's mutual," Hogan said sullenly.
Burkhalter laughed again. "Good! Then perhaps you will learn something today." He turned back to the man in white. "Der Minister der Propaganda mag die Idee. Nehmen Sie uns zu Ihren Laboratorien bitte."
"Jawohl, Herr General."
Hogan tried to study the doors he passed and read the plates on them, but he was still feeling very unwell after the chloroform, and he found he had to concentrate simply on remaining vertical. Eventually, they stopped at a large door on which a plate read: AUTORISIERTER ZUGANG NUR. Burkhalter nodded approvingly, and Rupp opened the locked door and ushered his visitors inside.
"Das ist, wo der grösste Teil der Forschung getan wird," Rupp began.
Burkhalter held up a hand. "Please, Professor, speak in English so our guest will feel at home," he said, nodding with a genteel smile in Hogan's direction.
Hogan suddenly felt sick again, but it had nothing to do with the chloroform. He said nothing and tried to garner his strength.
"Very well, General. This is where most of our research is conducted," Rupp amended, his accent heavy but his English impeccable. "Our scientists and researchers live and work in this building to make their devotion to their work complete. They are treated very well."
Burkhalter nodded, pleased. "And why don't you tell Colonel Hogan what type of work you are currently doing?"
Rupp smiled, obviously pleased enough with his project to overcome his dismay at Hogan being present. "Atomic research, of course, General. We are quite close to the completion of phase one of our studies. We have made some marvelous strides and are quite close, we believe, to constructing at least a preliminary weapon that can be used against the Allies. Further testing is required, but we have managed to create a nuclear chain reaction—and are more than likely only a few months away from having something that will be acceptable for use."
Hogan's head shot up. "An atomic bomb?" he practically yelped.
Burkhalter laughed. "Ah, so you do listen, Hogan!" he observed, satisfied.
"Herr Heisenberg came through here, General. He said the Fatherland is years away from producing an atom bomb… but we are going to prove differently."
Burkhalter turned to Hogan. "Werner Heisenberg is among our most influential and brilliant physicists, Hogan. But even geniuses can be out of step. As you can see, Herr Rupp is quite certain of our nuclear capabilities. Tell me, Herr Rupp, what plans are being made for use of this capability once we have perfected it?"
Rupp smiled, pleased at the General's interest. "Well, it is not for me to say, General Burkhalter. However I am told that the Fuhrer would like to see it directed at both England and…" Rupp turned with a slight nod toward Hogan, "at the United States."
Hogan turned cold inside. A physicist who was certain that nuclear capability was still in its infancy. A scientist who was saying that it was not. A belief that Hitler was hoping to unleash this power on the Allies. It was too much for a man to bear without feeling some kind of dread, and Hogan was no exception. He inhaled deeply to combat his light-headedness. "That would be devastating," he breathed.
"Indeed, I think that would be the idea," Burkhalter replied, seemingly oblivious to Hogan's reaction. "Very good, Herr Rupp. What else can you show us today? I would love for Hogan to have a very deep understanding of the German superiority."
Hogan lowered his eyes. "You've done enough. I don't want to see any more," he mumbled. "Take me back to camp."
Burkhalter laughed again and slapped Hogan jovially on the back. The American barely reacted. "Nonsense, Hogan! I can see this visit is having its desired effect on you. Come. There is much to see before I even think about taking you back to Stalag 13."
Hogan nodded dejectedly, and when the guard's rifle prodded him, he followed in silence.