Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing. It is making its debut as 'netfic, and has not been previously published in any fanzine.
by Susan M. M.
Chapter 1: Christmas is Coming
"Papa Bear, please repeat that." The voice was that of an Englishwoman, probably from Yorkshire by her accent.
Col. Robert Hogan reached down and took the microphone from his radio operator, Sgt. James Kinchloe. "The local underground will not be able to assist us for the next two or three weeks."
"Why not?" demanded a male voice. In London, a major in His Majesty's Army grabbed the headset away from the WAAF sergeant manning the radio.
"Christmas is coming, Goldilocks," Hogan reminded his contact. "People need to do their Christmas shopping, start on their baking. Some of these German cookie recipes, like Pfeffernüsse, they need to sit for days after they're baked, sometimes a week, before they're ready to serve."
"Do you mean to say you're putting biscuits ahead of the war effort?"
"Goldilocks, please remember that these people are not soldiers. They're ordinary German citizens who love their country and hate the Nazis. In the eyes of their own government, they're committing treason, and they're risking their lives and their family's lives, and they're not getting paid a Pfennig for their efforts. And right now, they've got shopping and decorating to do, baking, church choir practice, kids' Christmas pageants to attend," Hogan listed. "There are only so many hours in the day, and their hands are full right now."
"Really," the major commented, in the dry tone that only the British can properly manage.
"There's one other thing, Goldilocks," Hogan added.
"The local underground has asked that we cut back on our sabotage, at least until after the new year."
"It's not enough that they're not willing to do their share, they don't want you working, either?"
"They're concerned about reprisals. The locals are worried that sabotage and dirty tricks this close to the holidays will bring stronger reprisals than usual." Hogan paused a second, then continued, "I can't say that they're wrong. So for the next three weeks, it's rescuing downed pilots and aiding escaped prisoners only. No sabotage until 1945. Papa Bear out." Hogan nodded to Kinch. The Negro sergeant turned the radio off.
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Hogan knocked on the Kommandant's door.
"Come in," OberstWilhelm Klink called out.
Instead of tossing a casual salute to the middle-aged, balding colonel, Hogan came to attention and saluted properly.
Klink looked up at him suspiciously. "What is it, Hogan?"
"The men sent me to say thank you, sir."
"Thank you? For what?"
"For the apple chunks in this morning's oatmeal, sir. Been a long time since we've had anything but lumps in the oatmeal - the apple bits were a very welcome surprise," Hogan explained.
"Ah, those. The Zimmermanns and the Möllers sent over two bushels of apples: a combination Christmas present and thank you for the help with the harvest."
Hogan nodded. A few months ago, several of the prisoners had helped the local farmers with their harvest. Most POWs considered the break in the monotony of their routine worth the labor, and they'd been rewarded with a (small) share of the harvest. Enlisted prisoners could be require to serve on work details, as long as nothing they did aided the enemy war effort. Hogan had encouraged it, instead of protesting to Klink. He knew it was hard for the prisoners at Stalag 13, who unlike other prisoners, could not even dream of escape. Going to the local farms had allowed them some fresh air, a break in the routine, and some better food, at least for a few days. And it had allowed him a chance to make contact with some members of the local underground.
"If your men were pleased with that, they will be doubly pleased with my other news," Klink predicted.
"What news is that, sir?"
"An extra slice brown bread for all this week," Klink announced magnanimously.
"The Kommandant means an extra slice of white bread, doesn't he?" Hogan countered.
"Brown bread, Hogan. There's a war on, or hadn't you noticed?"
"Brown bread," Hogan agreed. He had to let Klink win sometimes, on the little things, so he could save his energy for fighting for more important matters.
"Also, I have sent Corporal Langenscheidt to get a Christmas tree."
"Thank you, Colonel," Hogan said more sincerely. "The men will appreciate that."
"And I have arranged for two clergymen from Hammelburg to come to the camp, since the chaplains are busy with the soldiers at the front. Pastor Adler from der St. Matthaeus-Lutherische-Kirche on Christmas Eve, and Father Schmidt from der St. Johanns- Katholischer- Kirche on Christmas day. They are coming for the guards, but if your men can behave themselves, they may also attend the services."
"They'll behave," Hogan promised.
"I expect all your men to be on their best behavior for the holiday. I am having a very important guest coming for Christmas dinner, and I don't want any monkey business while she's here."
"She?" Hogan repeated. "You going to try to get Frau Linkmeyer under the mistletoe?"
Klink shuddered at the thought of kissing General Burkhalter's sister. "My mother is coming for Christmas, and I want to enjoy my visit with her. I don't want to have to put anyone in the cooler on Christmas day."
Hogan tried not to think about how long it had been since he'd seen his mother. "Trust me, none of the men want to spend the holiday down there."
"Any trouble from any of the men at Christmas, and the punishment will be double the usual. I am -"
"- tough but fair," Klink and Hogan said in unison.
"I'll talk to the men, Herr Kommandant, make sure there's no mischief. Matter of fact, I'll go talk to them now," Hogan said.
Klink nodded. "Dismissed."
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Corporal Langenscheidt jumped out of the truck. "All right, boys, let's get it out carefully."
Two other guards exited the truck. They went round to the back of the vehicle and removed a large fir tree.
"Now that's a proper Tannenbaum," one of them said. "It's taller than I am, and rounder than Sgt. Schultz."
The other guards laughed.
"The Kommandant said to set it up in the mess hall." Langenscheidt saw a young private passing by, and called out to him. "Schlausen, come here a minute."
Langenscheidt took a two-foot tall fir from the truck. "Take this to the prisoners' mess hall."
" Jawohl, Unteroffizier Langenscheidt. "
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Author's Note: WAAF was the British equivalent of a US Army Air Corps WAC. Pvt. Schlausen was created by Peggy Hartsook in "Something Unpredictable," published in Of Dreams and Schemes #25. Gracias, muchas gracias, und danke to Lizzi0307for correcting my German. All errors that remain are my own.