Author's Note: I don't own any of the characters, or the show...I believe that honor belongs to the good folks of CBS and Bing Crosby Productions. This story is rated K+ for very minor language, and was written for a challenge on LiveJournal (it is posted there, also). This is the first fic I have ever written for anything, so I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to respond with constructive criticism, and thanks in advance for doing so!
Chapter 1: How it All Began
Colonel Robert Hogan of the US Army Air Corps arrived in the middle of Stalag 13's compound, jumping down from the covered bed of a German transport truck. He immediately began taking stock of his surroundings, blinking his eyes against the harsh sunlight and trying to get his bearings in this new camp. It was laid out similarly to Stalag 4, the prison camp from which he had just been transferred. This camp was slightly smaller, though, causing Hogan to exhale softly through his nose.
A smaller camp meant less men. And this might pose a problem to the mission he had been assigned. Finding the surrounding conditions in Stalag 4 to be extremely non-conducive to sabotage efforts, London had arranged for Hogan to be transferred to this new camp, in the hopes that he could establish a successful underground unit there…right under the very noses of the Germans.
The decreased size of this camp meant, though, that Hogan would have fewer men to choose from when selecting his command team. As he gazed around the stalag, familiarizing himself with his new location, he also began sizing up the men.
A tall, black American sergeant caught his attention. The man was gazing steadily at him and leaning against the side of Barracke 2. His eyes seemed to see everything at once; Hogan was actually slightly disconcerted by the immediate understanding he saw in the sergeant's gaze. The colonel only hoped he would be less transparent to the Germans. All the same, he filed the man's face away into his memory; this was exactly the sort of man he would need on the team, maybe even as his second-in-command. One who was calm, observant, and capable.
Somewhat heartened to have spotted a potential team member already, Hogan allowed himself to be prodded into the Kommandantur. His meeting with the camp Kommandant was even more encouraging than the presence of the American sergeant. With such an inefficient and gullible man as Colonel Wilhelm Klink running the camp, Hogan had to wonder how any underground operation he managed to scrape together could fail to be a success. The Sergeant of the Guard who escorted Hogan out of Klink's office, Hans Schultz, seemed to be much of the same mould as the Kommandant. Judging from the size of the German guard's belly, Hogan noted, a little well-placed bribery – particularly in the form of chocolate – would not go amiss.
As this Sergeant Schultz led him across the compound, Hogan noted that he was being taken to Barracke 2. The tall sergeant was no longer standing outside, but Hogan hoped that he might be found within. He had already decided to approach the man about the mission.
Hogan stepped into the barracks, squinting a bit as his eyes readjusted to the light. He immediately noticed the very man he was looking for seated at a long table in the center of the room, drinking a cup of coffee with a diminutive man in a red sweater bearing a French flag on the shoulder. Before Hogan could say anything to either of the men, though, Sergeant Schultz stepped into the barracks behind Hogan.
He shouted unnecessarily loudly, "Achtung! Achtung, bitte!" When he saw he had everyone's attention, he introduced Hogan formally. "This is Colonel Hogan, new senior prisoner of war officer. He will be your new barracks-mate from now on."
The Frenchman piped up, surprising Hogan, "You're putting an officer in here with us, Schultzie? You must be joking!"
"In the officer's quarters, Cockroach. Not out here with the rest of you, jolly joker!" Schultz favored the shorter man with an affectionate smile that belied his words.
"Who you calling 'cockroach,' Schultzie? Keep going on like that and I may just forget how to make apple strudel!" the Frenchman responded, clearly teasing.
Schultz's eyes widened in an expression of horror that was only slightly exaggerated. "Colonel Hogan, I hope you will be able to make them behave. They do not listen to me! Humph – jolly jokers…" He gave the short chef one last glance, then left the barracks to resume his duties.
Hogan shook his head in wonder. He was astounded at the level of familiarity already existing between the other POWs and their guard, and could only bring himself to ask, "Apple strudel?"
The Frenchman smiled broadly, got up from the table, and went to shake Hogan's hand. "Oui, mon Colonel. I am Corporal Louis LeBeau, Free French…and gourmet chef. Once in a while, I make strudel or crêpes suzettes to get Schultz to look the other way. He supplies the ingredients and gets a nice meal…and we get to keep our radio and listen to the BBC broadcasts."
Hogan raised his eyebrows in approval and smiled in return. "Pleased to meet you, LeBeau. Sounds like a pretty good set-up you've got with Schultz. Strudel for the BBC. You a radioman?" he asked hopefully.
LeBeau shook his head. "Not me, Colonel. Kinch."
Upon hearing his name, the tall sergeant rose from his seat at the table and moved to stand beside LeBeau. He offered a salute to Hogan, who in turn put out his hand to shake the black man's. The sergeant gave a small smile, grasped Hogan's hand, and introduced himself at last. "Sergeant James Kinchloe, sir. Friends call me 'Kinch.'"
Hogan smiled back at Kinch, again seeing in him a potential leader. "Radioman, huh?"
Kinch replied modestly, "Yes, sir. I try."
"He does more than try, mon Colonel. He is magnifique!" LeBeau interjected.
Kinch smiled, looking down at his European friend in amusement, before turning back to his new superior officer. "Well, sir, if you'd like to see our set sometime, I can give you the full run-down. Built it myself."
Hogan smiled even wider, and placed a hand on Kinch's shoulder. "Kinch, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Both LeBeau and Kinch grinned in return. Hogan turned slightly more serious, inquiring, "Any tunnels?"
"Mais oui, Colonel. We have been working on the new one for a couple of weeks since the Krauts found that last one."
"Yeah," Kinch explained. "We didn't dig deep enough, and ol' Schultz was walking over it…well, you can imagine the rest, sir."
Hogan nodded, unable to keep the amusement from creeping across his face. "And who's in charge of the, er, underground operations?"
"No one in particular, sir. I guess the one who's spent the most time down there is Carter…what would you say, LeBeau?"
The Frenchman thought for a moment, then shrugged. "Yes, I suppose he is."
"Could you tell me where to find him? I'd like a full report on the status of those tunnels as soon as I can." Hogan requested, eagerly.
"Oui, Colonel. I will find him for you." LeBeau moved toward the door of the barracks.
Hogan called after him, "Bring him to my quarters when you do. I wanna talk to all of you."
"D'accord, Colonel." And he was out the door.
Hogan gestured Kinch to follow him, and they entered the officer's quarters. The colonel's personal effects had been brought into the office, and he quickly began unpacking them. As he set up shop, Hogan spent some time getting to know his new comrade. He had barely gotten as far as learning that Kinch was from Detroit and had worked for the telephone company there, when LeBeau appeared at the door.
He had with him a thin, blond American. This man, presumably Carter, was – like Kinch – a sergeant. He had an open, boyish face, and looked vaguely nervous. He saluted Hogan uncertainly and announced, "Sergeant Andrew Carter reporting, sir!"
Hogan smiled and moved to shake the younger man's hand. "It's nice to meet you, Carter."
Carter's face relaxed immediately at the informality. He shook Hogan's hand and replied enthusiastically, "Nice to meet you, too, boy! Oh, I mean, Colonel! Sorry, sir, I—"
"All right, Sergeant, don't worry about it…but don't let it happen again, huh?" Hogan winked at the young man, despite being momentarily taken aback.
Taking a deep breath, Hogan looked around at the three men in his office, steeling himself to present the mission and ask for their help. The rule for this assignment, London had been very clear, was volunteers only. It would be dangerous running an espionage and sabotage unit from a prison camp, even a camp run by Colonel Klink. The Abwehr and Gestapo would not be fooled as easily as the Kommandant, and the punishment for such underground activities was death. Any man who volunteered for this team would be taking his life in his hands. Yet Hogan had high hopes for these three.
He shut the door to his quarters, and gestured for the non-coms to take a seat on his un-made bunk. Looking at them all for just one moment more, he collected his final thoughts, then laid it all out for them. He told it to them exactly as London had told it to him, praying they would be receptive to this seemingly insane mission.
"…So, basically, we'll be a traveler's aid society, sabotage unit, and general nuisance to the Germans, in any way we can." As Hogan finished describing the assignment, Carter's mouth was open and his eyes wide. LeBeau was staring at the colonel incredulously, but his eyes were full of fire and excitement. And Kinch was merely gazing back at him with those steady eyes and a quiet smile that signified his calm acceptance of Hogan's words.
With such a mixed reaction, the colonel was unsure whether he had won these men over, or if they simply thought he was insane. The resounding silence was broken by LeBeau.
"I am in, mon Colonel."
"Louie, are you crazy?" Carter blurted out. "This kind of thing could get you killed!"
"I know, André. But I have been here for two years. Two years since I have been able to fight the Bosche, and help my beautiful France. I cannot sit by any longer. Even if it may mean my death, I am in, mon Colonel." LeBeau reiterated.
Hogan smiled at the passionate Frenchman, and wordlessly nodded his thanks. Carter looked as if he was deep in thought, absorbing what the European corporal had said. Finally, he looked up with a reluctant smile.
"Heck, it hasn't been that long since I got shot down…but I miss doing my part in the war, too. I guess I'm in, Colonel, for what it's worth."
"It's worth a lot, Carter. We may be able to do some real good here." Carter smiled happily, blushing.
Hogan turned to Kinch at last, awaiting verbal confirmation of the "yes" he had read in the sergeant's face earlier. Kinch nodded and smiled. "You know I'm in, Colonel."
Relief washed over the American colonel and he grinned crookedly at the three men before him. "I can't tell you all how glad I am to hear it. I know you'll do everything you can for your country and the Allies."
The men all nodded, glancing among themselves excitedly.
"So, where do we go from here, Colonel?" LeBeau asked.
"Well, the next order of business will be to determine what resources we have to work with. What skills each of you has, what skill sets we still need, what shape the radio is in, how the tunnels are…all that good stuff. First things first. Kinch, you said you're a radioman. Anything else in particular you can help with?"
Kinch frowned thoughtfully, thinking for several moments. "Well, sir, I can do some good vocal impressions, and I speak a bit of German."
Hogan nodded, appreciating Kinch's instant comprehension of the sort of tasks their assignments would require. "That might come in handy for radio and telephone operations. Don't think you'll probably pass for a German in person, though, Kinch."
Kinch chuckled softly at the joke. "No, I doubt it, sir."
Hogan smiled, too. "LeBeau? I know you have a certain, er, understanding with Sgt. Schultz. That'll definitely come in handy if we ever need a dinnertime distraction."
LeBeau smiled with pride, "Oui, Colonel. Also, I am a reasonable tailor and familiar with the guard dogs. My German is only so-so. Ugly language."
Hogan shook his head in amusement. "Good, LeBeau. And Carter?" he turned his head to look at the blond American once more. "Kinch and LeBeau said you know the tunnels better than anyone else in camp?"
Carter looked momentarily surprised. "Yeah, I guess so, Colonel…but there's not much else I can help with, I don't think. My German's pretty bad, but I guess I look enough like one to pass…" the young man looked down at the ground, embarrassed.
Hogan frowned. "Don't worry, Carter. We'll all start taking German lessons…yes, all of us." He shot a quick glance at LeBeau when the Frenchman made a soft noise in the back of his throat. Turning back to Carter, Hogan reassured the young sergeant, "I'm sure you'll find lots of other things to help with. Any special talents or skills?"
"No, Colonel. At least…well, no." Carter hesitated.
"You sure, Carter? What did you do in civilian life?" Hogan prodded.
"I worked in a drug store, sir, I—Well, sir, I'm pretty good with chemicals…and explosives. One time I blew up my high school…I—Anyway, it doesn't matter, since we don't have any here." he quickly backpedaled when he saw Hogan's eyebrows rising into his hairline.
"Carter—" the colonel was momentarily speechless at his dumb luck. "Carter, that's fantastic! If I have to raid Berlin itself, I'll make sure I find some materials to put your skills to good use. Wouldn't want you getting rusty, right?" he grinned.
Carter's eyes lit up, and he smiled hugely. "Really, sir? Thanks! You won't regret it, boy! I make the best fire-crackers and smoke bombs you've ever seen! I—"
"I can't wait to see them, Carter." Hogan cut in, as Kinch and LeBeau shook their heads in wonder at their friend, and laughed softly.
Hogan rubbed his hands together. "Right, so what are we missing?" He began pacing up and down the office in what would come to be his trademark in the months and years to come. He snapped his fingers as a thought struck him. "A traveler's aid society is going to need fake documents and passports. We'll need a forger…come to that, we'll need a lock-pick, too. Someone who can get at whatever the Krauts think they've got locked up in Klink's office…"
He trailed off, looking at the other three men. "A forger, a lock-pick…a couple of scoundrel types, I guess. You guys know of any in camp?"
Kinch and LeBeau exchanged a significant look with one another, their faces darkening slightly. Kinch sighed and spoke up.
"If it's a scoundrel you want, Colonel," Kinch shrugged. "You want Peter Newkirk."