Girls und Panzerlied
C V Ford
Lecture/Q&A over, the not so old looking old man took his seat behind the table next to the Oarai hangers' stage for the inevitable autograph session. His policy was not to sell any of his books on tour. He felt if any were sincere in their interest & not just autograph hounds, they would already have gotten & READ his works.
And READ they did. His numerous articles were quite popular in papers, magazines and the net. His several books on military history as well as autobiography were not only best sellers but consistant chart toppers.
Not only were his writings fascinating but so was he.
Martin Hessler was an anomaly. Anyone born early in the last century had no business running around well into the 21st. Square jawed, lean and muscular, though wearing a three piece suit, he looked every bit the Wehrmacht officer he once was. A veteran of the Second World War as a panzer commander & of countless skirmishes after in service to the French Foreign Legion, his auto-biography read like a fantastic action/adventure story with seemingly no end.
His exploits, both east & west fronts were the stuff of legend. So much so, the Fuhrer himself hand picked him as the tip of the spearhead of one of the main drives in the Ardennes Offensive. As many of those who opposed him on the battlefield would say, "He didn't get that Iron Cross out of a cereal box."
One would have thought his career as well as life over at one point. Badly burned, crawling out of his flaming tank in a failed attempt seize an American fuel depot, he was captured and eventually incarcerated under the squalid conditions of a French PW camp. His career was saved by the French re-yearning for empire as he & many others readily volunteered for the Legion when its recruiters toured the camps.
He & his comrades, German & otherwise, did well against the Viet Minh as they were looked on as more of the ideological enemy they had fought in the Soviet Union. As they did well, so did France. Until pressure from the opposition press at home made the government withdraw the "Nazis" out. Like most, being apolitical, he could only look on such military suicide with contempt.
He soldiered on through the Algerian affair, the Suez debacle & a succession of conflagrations across the length & breadth of central Africa for the Legion. He then retired in the '70s, an officer in the Legion & a citizen of France, retaining his German citizenship.
Through business partnerships & the help of connections made over his years of military service, he became a successful investor. With first hand knowledge of the ups & downs of central African geopolitics, he was able to make one killing after another in the oil & mineral industries. Knowing how to "read" Africa, he knew when to get "in" & when to get "out".
He was well into his '90s when he thought his life at an end, but fate pulled a trick on him. Little did he know, when he willed his body over for research, he had signed it over to science ... fiction.
Some scientists working on the Human Genome Project, on examining his records, found him to be a more than perfect genetic subject for various forms of radical/unorthodox cell regeneration & age reversal research/experimentation. Only a handful had been "lucky" enough to be suitable for such measures to work. Through a several years long process he was "reborn". Reborn into ...
The world changed radically in the decades after. Knowledge increased at rates faster than before. Advancements in science more so. Famine, hunger, disease decreased with population numbers shrinking then remaining stable. Poverty much less, prosperity much more.
War decreased to a marked degree. So much so, an entertainment hungry world population had taken to it as a spectator sport. This, of course initially appalled Hessler.
Taking advantage of his new found youth or rather middle age, he threw himself into a new career as a writer. In one article after another, he condemned/reviled warfare as a form of entertainment. It WASN'T a game ... In his day, it was "played" for serious reasons & for keeps ... With NONE of those special conditions & risk reducing measures making the possibility of death almost nil.
He wasn't "blind" to the technologies making it "safe". He & comrades past would have been ecstatic to have used such back in the day.
From the professional level on down through university & even high school, warfare as a sport permeated. Not only young men & boys but girls. Little girls! Most not much younger than the boys sent to fight under him at the behest of a desperate Fuhrer so long ago.
Through business & political contacts, he eventually found there was more to "warfare as entertainment" than first thought. With mans' now more than enthusiastic ventures into space, there was some worry as to what would be encountered "out there". Drake Equation or no, circles higher up expressed reason for concern.
Because of that, Hessler, with initial reluctance, came to writing articles favorable of the various competitions. His private belief in they were useful for the "conditioning" of the young in any genuine future struggles.
Hessler paid particular attention to Panzerfahren. Armor was in his blood after all.
He initially had problems getting over the seeming unrealism as well as the perceived frivolity. Everyone surviving mostly unhurt. The autobahn speeds the vehicles put on. The total absence of enemy air power, artillery, & infantry to contend with. Having been on the receiving end, the colonel knew full well what rocket laden aircraft could do to an armored unit ... And how inventive enemy infantry could be when a vehicle wasn't moving fast enough. Visions of flaming fuel drums rolling toward his Tiger still haunted his dreams so many years after ...
Instead, it was either a mobile version of "Capture the Flag" or what the Americans called "Demolition Derby". The Derby part he could understand. There were many times back in the day when it was only tank vs tank.
His reflections on these and other things were brought up short as the first of the autograph seekers approached. After a few signings with accompanying small talk, a singular figure appeared before him. He suppressed an initial reflex action to roll his eyes. He had met such "Rommel groupies" before, usually dismissing them as the cosplayers they were ... But ...
He noted her from before, during the vehicle inspection & lecture. Quiet, spoke only when spoken to. Even posed a more than reasonably intelligent question during Q&A. The fact she was a member of the Oarai Academy Panzerfahren team showed she wasn't only a "buff". Watching films of past bouts revealed to Hessler she and her crew mates were quite good with that Sturmgeschutze.
The colonels' eyes widened slightly as she presented her book for him to sign: A VERY well worn first volume copy of his auto-biography ... In the original German. Taking it, he flipped through the pages, noting the many highlightings, underlines, brackets and ... notes ... Also in German.
Picking up his pen, he asked ... In his own language, "to whom would you like me to make this out?"
Her reply only gave him slight surprise.
A short conversation ensued, somewhat to the consternation of onlookers. Though many there were at least bilingual, none of them understood what was being said.
"Your German is excellent," Hessler complimented. "Where did you learn it?"
"My grandmother Asuka encouraged mother and I. We speak it whenever we can. When grandpa and da complain, we switch to English just to tic them off."
"Your grandmother ... ?"
"Born in America but grew up in Berlin."
"Explains the Berliner accent." All the while the colonel wrote on the inside cover.
After a few more pleasantries, he handed the book over. With a heartfelt "thank you" and small bow, the girl trotted off to her crew mates not too distant.
"Geez Eruwin!" Exclaimed Saemonza. "What were you talking about?"
"Oh ... nothing ... nothing," she replied with faux imperiousness as she scanned over her friends. "Just about the goings on in Europe. Must keep up with such things you know."
"Ooooo! ... Must be nice to be trilingual," said Oryo wryly.
"Yes ... Quite ... It's a continental thing," Erwin continued the act, "you wouldn't understand."
"Yeah, right," Oryo replied. "So ... What did he write in your book?"
"Oh!" She hadn't looked at it.
On turning the cover, she let out a stifled gasp.
"What's it say?" Caesar asked.
Erwin read aloud slowly, translating to Japanese:
To my good friend Riko 'Erwin' Matsumoto. As you've read, I personally knew your 'namesake' and served under him for a short time. Never a better man or soldier I've ever known.
May your life be MUCH longer, richer and happier than his.
Oberst des Heeres, Deutschland
Commandant, Legion Etrangere
Looking up from finishing a signature, Hessler saw the girl turn from her friends and do a deep bow in his direction. He returned with a salute of his own.
Walking to the car, Hessler was flanked by team leader Nishizumi and Captain Chono. As the two women spoke English, he addressed them in such.
"It is of my opinion," started Hessler, "that your team has a bright future in Panzerfahren."
Turning to Miho, he continued.
"It is also of my opinion you are also going to have a MUCH tougher time of it next year."
Mihos' ears perked up.
"All these other schools have been making it a serious point to study your methods and tactics. Especially in regard to your match with Black Forest Peak. They're saying it took a Nishizumi to beat a Nishizumi.
"They'd all be better off trying to emulate your flexibility and spur of the moment inventiveness. No doubt your sister and Itsumi are giving that more than careful consideration.
"Yes ... Next year ... won't be ... as 'easy'."
The chorus of song came suddenly, taking but an instant for the tune to register before Hessler turned towards the sound. Lined up in front of the hanger, the rest of the Oarai Academys' panzerfahren team were ranked smartly, singing.
Though in Japanese and no doubt some of the syntax changed, it was a song sung in many variations and tongues. Even Hesslers' later home, The Legion, had its' version. To him, it would always be Das Panzerlied.
Martin Hessler turned smartly, entering the limo. It wouldn't do for anyone seeing even that one tear.
Storyline (only) copyright © 8-16-13 C V Ford
Disclaimer: The preceding is a NON-PROFIT work of fan fiction for entertainment purposes only. I make no claim to ownership of the COPYRIGHTED names/characters, places, & events mentioned in this work. They are the sole properties of their respective owners. Please, by all means support the owners of such properties in the purchase & enjoyment of the original works.