It was a mix of emotions that welled up in Barracks Two after Schultz brought the team home—jubilation that everyone had made it out and that Williams had been caught, but nervousness at the mention of the Spider Web network.
Baker hadn't heard back from London yet regarding Hogan's request, and the team—both the core and the reserves, were crowding around the radio, discussing how much damage control they had to do. Mercifully, it didn't seem like there was much to do, though it was still disconcerting.
"Williams had better have been telling the truth that he hadn't given any information to that network," Hogan said. "But I'm willing to believe he did; I think Carter put quite a scare into him."
"I didn't want to be in 'is shoes when Andrew started tearing into 'im," Newkirk agreed. "That was no Little Deer—that was Angry Wolf, that was—Angry Wolf Who Proved 'e Earned 'is Stripes."
Carter just shrugged, back to his old self again.
"Williams was burning me up faster than one of my fuses; I wasn't going to just stand there and listen to him," he said.
"We're all grateful for that, Carter," Hogan said. "You got him to talk when he was clammed up tighter than…"
He trailed off as the telegraph started pulsing again.
"It's London with that reply!" Baker exclaimed. Quickly, he jotted it down as it came in, and handed the coded message to Hogan.
"'Regarding Papa Bear's request for information on Jack Williams: Debriefing attempts after transfer to London declared to be lost cause; Williams eventually declared mentally unfit to stand trial. Traitor had disappeared en route to being committed; cell known as Spider Web suspected.'"
"How do you like that?" Kinch muttered.
"I do not like it at all…" LeBeau said. "But why would this Spider Web organization want someone on his way to an institution?"
"I don't mean to be flippant, but he came pretty close to delivering Nimrod and me to them," the colonel said. He sighed, using a lighter to burn the sensitive message. "Baker, ask them for all of the information they have on the Spider Web; emergency wavelength again, just in case."
"Right," Baker said.
He was about to transmit the reply message, but stopped as another one started coming in. It was coming on the secret wavelength, but it was a distinctly different hand sending the message.
"Nimrod to Papa Bear. Nimrod to Papa Bear; do you read me?"
"I… think you'd better take this one, Sir," Baker said, stepping back to allow Hogan to use the transmitter.
The colonel nodded and sent a confirmation.
"This is Papa Bear. I read you, Nimrod. The birds are flying low over the seas tonight."
"And the whales are traveling directly beneath them," Nimrod answered.
Hogan was satisfied; the countersign was correct.
"What news do you have?" he asked.
"Traitor is in the hands of the Seven Dwarves; all evidence leading back to you and your subs has been taken care of."
There was a sigh of relief all around; the Hammelburg Underground had custody of Williams, and they were in the clear.
"We can't thank you enough, Nimrod," Hogan wired back. "You got us out of a lot of trouble."
"No, my dear Colonel; it is I who must thank you for saving my life. When I suggested we meet face to face, it was not what I'd had in mind."
"Understood," Hogan answered. "I hate to ask anything more of you after this harrowing experience, but do you happen to know anything about the Spider Web network?"
At first, there was a gap of silence, and Hogan had wondered if they had been cut off before Nimrod finally replied.
"He had mentioned them?"
"Affirmative. Claimed not to have given any names. How serious would you gauge situation?"
"The Spider Web network has been trying to undo what you have accomplished here; traitor is just one of our prisoners who the network attempted to snatch from us. It seems that he was the first to actually make it back to Germany, but we must stop them before they go any farther."
"What do you suggest?" Hogan asked. "We're here, and they're in London. We can't exactly get round-trip tickets!"
"Still as sharp-tongued and quick-witted as ever, Papa Bear? Nice to see that you haven't been dulled by this ordeal… But all jokes aside, the Spider Web network is difficult for our men in London to infiltrate; they have been spying on our men for so long, they are aware of the faces of our agents in England."
Hogan's eyes narrowed.
"Just what are you getting at?"
"I suspect it must be obvious, is it not? We must send in a man they are unfamiliar with, but one we can trust. It must be a man who has had experience with this sort of infiltration work, and can work well with a contact—one who is just as trusted and can keep in contact with our side."
"What?" Hogan shouted, just before sending it.
"I had just wired General Butler," Nimrod went on. "And he agrees with me; two of your cubs would go to England for this infiltration mission."
The men immediately voiced their opinion upon decoding this message.
"Cor, 'e's just as crackers as Williams is! Blimey, Guv' you ought to ask 'im for another password!"
"Oui; how can we just leave—especially with everyone on edge after this! We have not had a chance to recover!"
"And even then, we can go around breaking up the team, Boy!"
"It's far too risky," Kinch agreed. "How would explain two people escaping without getting Klink sent to the Russian Front?"
Hogan was almost amused; here were two tickets out of this freezing prisoner of war camp, and no one wanted to leave. Then again, it wasn't as though they were going home; they would be embarking on a dangerous mission.
"Nimrod to Papa Bear… I am assuming you are still there, only distracted by the reaction of your cubs to this announcement?"
"Affirmative, Nimrod. This isn't exactly a routine communication."
"The decision is ultimately yours to make," Nimrod said. "Relay your decision to myself or General Butler. Should you agree, we will arrange for the two prisoners to be transferred to the custody of Major Hans Teppel; it is getting to be too dangerous for Morrison to remain in Germany, and this will be a way for your men to escape without upsetting things too much, and allowing him to reach England and safety as well."
"Well, that answers my question," Kinch sighed. "What do you think, Colonel?"
"It seems to me that Nimrod is arranging for Morrison's escape regardless of what we do," Hogan said. "And if we do decide to go with this infiltration plan, this may be our only chance to arrange for an escape like this."
"You're considering it?" Newkirk asked. "Just who are you going to send?"
"I'm still working on that," the colonel said. He shook his head and sent another transmission.
"I will send the message to General Butler that I am willing to send two of my men for this mission, but it will take me at least a week to decide which two men I'll be sending out there."
"Fair enough," Nimrod said. "General Butler will arrange everything with Morrison once you contact him; I will look the other way when everything happens. I wish your men good luck, though based on what I know and have seen of them, I have confidence that they will succeed."
"We appreciate that," Hogan responded.
"And I appreciate all that you have done and continue to do for the Allies and…" There was a slight gap in the transmission, and then a hurried two words. "Nimrod out."
Hogan blinked, but sighed.
"What happened?" Carter asked, as Hogan pushed the transmitter away.
"He must have had to return to his other identity," Hogan said. "But it still leaves us with a very difficult decision to make; we need to figure out who's going to London." His eyes scanned his team, both the core members and the reserves. "This is no pleasure trip; you'll be on an active, dangerous mission for an unknown amount of time. If this Spider Web primed Williams for his sadistic quest for vengeance, then it's not too difficult to imagine what they'd do if they uncover our spy's identity.
"However," he continued, before the men could jump in and volunteer, as he knew they would. "We are not going to discuss that today—or tomorrow, for that matter. After everything we've been through, I am ordering that we'll be on a much-needed rest for the next two days. And that means that we will not be discussing volunteers for that amount of time. Baker, you'll be in charge of the radio; only reply to messages that are top priority. LeBeau, you're only going to be cooking either extremely basic meals, or nothing at all."
LeBeau opened his mouth to protest, but quickly decided against it; he was too weary to argue, and expected he would be too weary to cook anything elaborate, anyway—though he would never admit it.
Newkirk said nothing, but drew an arm around the Frenchman's shoulders.
"Now, I want everyone out of these tunnels and resting back up in the barracks. Baker, I'd like to see you up there with us for as long as possible."
"Yes, Sir," the sergeant said, and he got up to join the others as they got to their feet and headed up the ladder and into the barracks.
Hogan was lagging behind. Even though he had said that he needed a week to decide who was going to London and that they would discuss volunteers after two days, deep down, he knew exactly who he was going to send; Olsen was the only one familiar with infiltration tactics that the colonel could possibly spare—he still needed Newkirk's thieving skills, LeBeau's cooking distractions, and Carter's impersonations and munitions knowledge. As for Olsen's contact, it would have to be either Kinch or Baker; they would know how to keep in contact best. And knowing Kinch, he would not let the younger, less experienced Baker go on such a dangerous endeavor, even if it meant giving up his place as second in command of the Unsung Heroes. And there was nothing else that could be done; as Nimrod said, they did have to deal with this Spider Web network now.
But, for now, the colonel would keep it out of his mind for the next two days, following his own orders and taking a well-deserved rest. They had survived this ordeal; there ought to be a gap between this and the next ordeal—one that they would, hopefully, get through, no matter where they were.
Meanwhile, in his private quarters, Klink was patiently waiting for Schultz to leave him alone; the sergeant had come to give him a glass of warm milk to help him sleep, and had ended up trying to get his own troubles off of his chest, somehow slipping in a request for a furlough every couple minutes. Eventually, Klink granted him a three-day pass, which Schultz gratefully accepted; he was soon out the door, getting ready to leave.
Now alone, Klink headed to a far corner of his quarters, turning a panel in the wall to reveal a radio transmitter, beside which rested the information he had taken from the wax museum. He considered using the radio again for a moment, and then turned the panel around to conceal it and the papers. Hogan would have likely left his radio by now; Schultz had distracted him for quite a while, after all.
Besides, Klink knew he had given the American colonel a lot to think about; it wasn't going to be easy for him, letting two of his men go, and to a dangerous mission, yet. But if anyone could pull off unraveling the Spider Web, it would be Hogan's men.
Klink now crossed to his liquor cabinet, blinking as he took note that a bottle of schnapps was missing—again. Well, Newkirk deserved it; it had seemed that he had been the most exhausted from the fight.
Shaking his head, Klink poured himself a small drink and raised his glass slightly.
To you and your men, Papa Bear. And to success in your next mission, and all those after it.
Author's note: Yes, Nimrod is Klink, at least in my timeline. I was undecided for the longest time, but a couple clues made me decide that it was him—namely a few times he blatantly ignored clues in front of his face, a time he told Schultz to warn the Heroes that Burkhalter was doing a radio check, and the fact that he has, on more than one occasion, addressed Hogan as "My dear Colonel," which is how Nimrod started his note in "The Missing Klink." Coincidence?
Also, regarding Hogan selecting Kinch and Olsen for the Spider Web mission… that was my way of explaining Kinch's absence in the sixth season. And as far as Olsen goes, the fact that "Lt. Mills" from the "Easy Come, Easy Go" sixth season episode was played by Olsen's actor, I've always wanted to consider that "Mills" was really Olsen in my headcanon. It's a stretch, I know, but it does set the stage for a possible spin-off fic about Olsen and Kinch on the Spider Web mission in London, which I just might write if there is enough interest for it. Thanks again to everyone who encouraged me through this endeavor!