A/N: This fic deals with some dark subject matter and attempts are made to portray the people and situations realistically ( well, as realistic as one can be when writing fiction and personifying nations ). Nazis act like Nazis and the atrocities they commit are not swept under the rug or downplayed. The story will push the "T" rating, but not quite venture into "M" territory.
I am aware that WWII and the holocaust are very sensitive topics for some people. I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone with this and am not trying to make any kind of statement; I'm just writing for fun. : )
ALSO I have given Lithuania a sex-change in this story. He is the only character to be genderbent like this, for plot purposes ( well, subplot purposes anyway xD ) and because I really think he makes a better woman. ; )
Disclaimer: I don't own Hetalia, nor am I affiliated with any of the people who hold any of the rights to it. If you've seen it before, it isn't mine.
November 28th, 1941
The entire city was covered in a soft, thin layer of fine snow. It frosted the boughs of trees and decorated the ground, cars, and rooftops with its crystalline whiteness, shimmering beautifully like millions of tiny diamonds wherever the sun managed to break through the mass of gray-white clouds overhead. Lazy wisps of smoke curled up from chimneys. Birds congregated around feeders or squabbled over treats from the trash and what other sources of food they could find. Cold but not freezing, it was the perfect day for adults to stay indoors and relax with a hot beverage and a good radio program, and for children to get out and make snowmen or have an early winter wonderland adventure.
Yet in Ponary, the children weren't outside playing and the adults were anything but relaxed.
Well. For the most part. Here and there a few warmly-dressed children could be seen running around outside ruining clean sheets of snow in the acts of horseplay, building snow sculptures, tossing their toys around, climbing trees… doing all the things normal children did. But they were unusually careful not to be too loud, and there were certain adults that they never voluntarily approached.
As for Ponary's adults…most of them could be found hard at work, or hustling back and forth between buildings with overly serious, gloomy, or nervous countenances. Smiles were rare. Apologies were common. Several people walked the streets with firearms in plain view.
It was the typical scene of a German occupation, and one which Ludwig had seen many times before. His usual pattern was to sweep in to an area with the Wehrmacht and/or Waffen-SS ( technically he belonged to the Wehrmacht, but like some of his compatriots he also held a rank in the Waffen-SS , which was often used alongside or interchangeably with the Wehrmacht), assist them in destroying any enemy forces present, help secure the area, and start off for the next enemy front immediately. As the living personification of Germany he was endowed with inhuman strength, speed, endurance, healing, and the capacity to survive even the complete annihilation of his human form, so this kept him where he was needed most. Not to mention that few things in life pleased him as much as battles against foes who could actually present him with a challenge: there was such an intoxicating, wild rush of satisfaction, accomplishment, and sheer, undiluted power that came from every victory, especially personal victories won directly against the personified spirits of other nations.
Yes, Germany was used to invading and forcibly occupying. Kalisz, Krakow, Warsaw, Paris…the places he had personally been to were too numerous to count. Sad faces, perpetual fear, dejected spirits…it was to be expected of the civilians. They were in awe of his power. They feared for their lives as well as their livelihoods. As for the German occupiers, they acted mostly with smug superiority, keeping everything under tight control and ruthlessly running affairs as they saw fit. Members of the Heer and SS prowled the streets like vigilant wolves, always on the lookout for rule-breakers and "enemies of the State".
This was the first time that Ludwig had specifically been to the Ponary/Vilnius region, but already something seemed…amiss. He couldn't quite place his finger on it…it was more like a feeling in the atmosphere, an unshakable, uncanny, creeping sensation that something was not right. He had arrived only an hour ago, and already he had been informed of an explosion that had happened early this morning underground in what was presumably the storm drainage system. Presumably because a brief investigation had revealed a network of tunnels that seemed suspiciously larger than necessary for purely drainage purposes. The single known man-sized entrance, turned up only an hour and a half ago, had taken hours to find.
Everyone was certain that the tunnels were being used to smuggle people and goods out of the city, or perhaps even to supply secret enemy groups within the city with weapons, ammunition, and explosives. That made exploring and securing them Number One priority. The Oberführer had already selected a unit for that task and had just been in the process of sending them out the door when Ludwig had shown up and immediately taken command of the outfit.
Ludwig could tell from the seemingly frustrated scowls that had appeared on a few of the men's faces right then that they were none too thrilled with this arrangement. He honestly had no idea why, as with the exception of Schmitz — whom he had spoken with a few times and who presently seemed happy enough to have him around — he didn't recall meeting any of them. Maybe they simply didn't like working directly alongside such high-ranking officers. Maybe they were afraid of what would happen if they made a mistake.
Or maybe, just maybe, they were jealous of the fact that someone who appeared to be no older than twenty-five years old at most had already acquired not only a high rank, but an impressive reputation to go with it.
He was in charge, and they just had to deal with it.
All thirteen of them were briskly walking down the sidewalk of a main street now, Ludwig at the head of the pack. Dressed exclusively in gray SS uniforms complete with hats bearing the fearsome Totenkopf and heavily armed with pistols and submachine guns, he knew they made an intimidating sight. And sure enough every civilian that caught sight of them was shying away and giving them a very wide berth.
Beyond quickly scanning them with his eyes for weapons, explosives, or anything else of a questionable nature, Ludwig paid them little heed. It was good that these people knew their place. That made life easier for everyone, especially them.
"How much further?" he asked once they rounded a corner, breaking the stony silence which had gripped the group since they had started out on the mission.
Hordes of civilians parted before them and tried their best not to stare. One young woman was in such a hurry that she slipped on a patch of ice and went down hard on her arms and knees on the pavement with a muffled cry. No one rushed to help her up.
"Not far," one of the men directly behind him replied, "just two blocks straight ahead and out into the field a few meters. It's near a big bluish rock."
Ludwig's eyebrow rose. "Bluish?"
"Yes. Sort of." The man sounded distracted. Ludwig shot a glance over his shoulder and saw him staring at the woman who had slipped with a look of utter disgust. "These people," he sneered, "they're all the same."
The woman was up now, her face wrought with pain, halfway bent over with one arm clutching her side. Somehow, she almost managed to set a record for hobbling into a building.
Ludwig turned his attention back to the path ahead. Squinting at little, he could just make out the off-blue rock his compatriot had been talking about. "I don't blame them for being frightened," he admitted, "look at all the weapons we're carrying. For all they know we could open fire on them at any moment."
No one had anything to say about that. For some reason, Ludwig found their silence slightly unnerving.
Odd, considering that he was not exactly the talkative type himself.
The remaining five minutes or so to the bluish rock were characterized by more of the same: frightened civilians that scrambled to get out of the Nazis' way to hide or show that they were harmless rule-abiders, and silent compatriots. Now that they were in the right spot, Ludwig noticed the entrance immediately: a small, crude, rather old-looking manhole cover plugged into the ground. The snow surrounding it had been trampled almost out of existence, and only the most stubborn bits of white powder still clung to the depressions of the cover itself. Temporarily shifting his Maschinenpistole 35 submachine gun to his non-dominant hand, Ludwig grasped the cold, dark metal circle with his right and pulled it up, giving silent thanks to the warm black gloves he was wearing. Once he had the lid removed, he tossed it aside to reveal a hole that was just barely big enough for one man at a time to fit down. The rungs of an old iron ladder faded into pitch blackness almost immediately.
"I'll go first." Ludwig said starkly, making it perfectly clear that protocol was to be followed in this instance. Not that he expected any of his men to challenge him, really. Leaders traditionally went first, and even if Hitler was willing to deviate from that ( he had to have thrust Ludwig in front of him at least 50 times now whenever he suspected he may be entering a potentially dangerous situation ), Germany wasn't. Nation or not, powers or not, he would be no less fearless. Prussia hadn't raised a coward.
It was a good thing he had thought to grab a rifle strap from the supplies room before starting out on this mission, otherwise climbing down a ladder that went down God knew how many meters while holding on to a weapon as large and unwieldy as his submachine gun would have been impossible. He clicked the safety into place, then, thinking twice, commanded his men to do the same. Germans were well-trained, but one could never be too careful. There was a barrage of clicks as the order was carried out.
They were ready.
Carefully, Ludwig descended into the unknown.