Отправлено: 25.10.10 23:32. Заголовок: Фрагмент для заценки..
Фрагмент для заценки.
A crew of German stevedores in overalls loaded crates into the C-47. First Lieutenant Wes Adams eyed his cargo manifest. Equipment, it said, which told him exactly nothing. “You know what we’re taking to Berlin?” he asked his copilot.
“Buncha boxes and two krauts,” answered Second Lieutenant Sandor Nagy—he inevitably went by Sandy.
The krauts were on the manifest, too, at the bottom. “Wonder who they paid off to get a lift,” Wes said.
Sandy shrugged. “Beats me. They finagled it, though, one way or another. So we’ll haul ‘em and kick ‘em off the plane and say bye-bye.”
The Germans came aboard right on time. They were krauts, all right—probably figured somebody’d execute ‘em for showing up five minutes late. The guy was pale and skinny, in a suit that had been new about when the Depression started. The woman would have been pretty if not for a scar on one cheek. The way she scowled at Wes and Sandy made the pilot bet she’d got the scar in a wartime air raid.
Tough shit, lady, Wes thought. He pointed to a couple of folding seats right behind the cockpit. “Sit here. Buckle yourselves in. Stay here till we get to Berlin.”
“Kein Englisch.” The guy spread his hands regretfully. Wes repeated himself, this time in rudimentary German. “Ach, ja. Zu befehl,” the man said, and the gal nodded.
Wes eyed him. Zu befehl was what a Jerry soldier said when he got an order, the way an American would go Yes, sir. Well, there weren’t a hell of a lot of German men who hadn’t gone through the mill. And he and his lady friend were settling into the uncomfortable seats peaceably enough. “Let’s go through the checklist, Sandy,” Wes said with a mental shrug.
“Sure thing, boss,” the copilot replied.
Everything came out green. Wes set an affectionate hand on the Gooney Bird’s steering yoke. A C-47 would fly through things that tore a fighter to pieces, and take off with all kinds of shit showing up red. He’d done that kind of thing during the war more often than he cared to remember. You didn’t have to in peacetime flying, which was nice.
Twin 1,200-horsepower Pratt and Whitney radial engines fired up as reliably as Zippos. Wes and Sandy taxied out to the end of the runway. Taxiing was the only thing that could get tricky in a C-47. In tight spaces, you really needed pilot and copilot both paying close attention. But they had plenty of room here.
When the tower gave clearance, Wes gunned the engines. He pulled back on the yoke as the C-47 got to takeoff speed. Up in the air it went—sedately, because it was a transport, and a heavily laden transport at that—but without the least hesitation. If you wanted to fly something from here to there, this was the plane to do it.
They headed up toward 9,000 feet, where they’d cruise to Berlin. No need to worry about oxygen, not lazing along down here like this. Wes leaned back in his seat. “This is the life,” he said over the Pratt and Whitneys’ roar.
“Beats working,” Sandy agreed. The C-47 bounced a little as it ran into some turbulence. It was enough to notice, not enough to get excited about. Wes had flown straight through thunderstorms. A Gooney Bird was built to take it.
Because of the engine noise, he didn’t hear the cockpit door open. Motion caught from the corner of his eye made his head whip around. There stood the German couple. They both held pistols—no, cut-down Schmeissers. “What the fuck?” Wes said.
“Sorry, friend,” the man said. He spoke English after all.
That was Wes’ last startled thought. Then the submachine guns barked.
* * * *
Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Ernst Neulen and the former Flakhilferin he knew only as Mitzi—what you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell—pulled the Amis’ bodies out of their seats. “Good job,” he told her as he settled into the pilot’s seat himself. It was bloody, but that wouldn’t matter for long.
“Vielen Dank,” she said primly, as if he’d complimented her on her dancing.
“Go get your umbrella,” Neulen told her.
She gave him a smile—a twisted one, because of that scar. Then she went back into the cargo compartment. The forwardmost crate had a trick side that opened easily if you knew what to do. Mitzi did. She shrugged on the parachute she found inside.
That done, she stepped into the cockpit again for a moment. “Good luck,” she told him.
“You, too,” he answered, his voice far away. He was cautiously fiddling with the throttle. Did it work German-style or like the ones in French and Italian planes, where you had to push instead of pulling and vice versa? Some young German pilots had bought a plot by forgetting the difference after training on foreign aircraft. Oberleutnant Neulen found out what he needed to know and relaxed.
“I’m going to bail out now,” Mitzi said.
“Right,” Neulen agreed, still getting a feel for the plane. It was a hell of a lot more modern than the trimotored Ju52/3s that had hauled cargo and soldiers for the Reich. He wouldn’t have wanted to try to land it, though he’d heard even coming in wheels-up was a piece of cake for a C-47. But he didn’t have to worry about that.
Mitzi disappeared again, no doubt heading for the cargo door. Neulen hoped she would make it down in one piece. She’d practiced on the ground, but she’d never jumped out of an airplane before. She’d never really landed, either. Well, all you could do was try and hope for the best.
He also hoped the Americans—or was the C-47 over the Russian zone by now?—wouldn’t grab her as soon as she touched ground. How much did she know? Too much: Neulen was sure of that. He hoped for the best again. German patriots on the ground would do their best for her when she landed, anyhow. He was sure of that.
He felt the door open, and heard the howl of the wind inside the cargo bay. Out Mitzi went. He felt that, too. “Luck,” Neulen said softly.
He flew on toward Berlin. He was about fifteen minutes outside the city when the radio crackled to life: “You’re a little north of the flight path. Change course five degrees right.”
“Five degrees right. Roger,” Neulen said in English, and made about half the change.
“Still a little north,” the American flight controller said. “You okay, Wes? You sound like you got a cold in the head.”
“I am okay,” Neulen answered, and said no more—less was better.
Pretty soon, the flight controller came back: “You’re still off course, and you’re up too high, too. Make your corrections, dammit. Is the aircraft all right?”
“All fine,” Neulen said. He did come down—why not? How fast could they scramble fighters? Nobody flew top cover over Berlin: someone was liable to go where he shouldn’t, and then the Russians and Anglo-Americans might start shooting at one another. Keep them happy as long as he could. Neulen didn’t want them phoning their flak batteries either.
He was below 2,000 feet—600 meters, he translated mentally— when he overflew the airport. “What are you doing, man? Are you nuts?” the flight controller howled. “They’re gonna ground your stupid ass forever!”
“Not that long,” Neulen answered. He gunned the C-47, almost straight into the early-morning sun.
* * * *
“This time, we try the bastards. This time, we hang the bastards,” Lou Weissberg said savagely. “I want to watch ‘em swing. I want to hear their necks crack. All of ‘em—and especially Streicher’s, the antisemitic motherfucker.”
“That’s not a Christian thought,” Howard Frank observed.
“Damn straight. . . sir,” Lou said. “I’m not a Christian, any more than you are. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth sounds great to me. Let the Nazis turn the other cheek . . . under a hood, in the wind.”
“Okay,” Frank said. “Ribbentrop and Keitel and Jodl are the ones I want most. The one plotted the war, and the other two fought it. And Göring for the Luftwaffe, even if he was pretty useless once the fighting started.”
“Worse than useless. Didn’t he tell Hitler he could keep the Germans in Stalingrad supplied by air?” Lou said.
“That’s what I’ve heard,” Major Frank agreed. “Even so, he was one of Hitler’s right-hand men when the Nazis were coming up. If that’s not reason enough to put a noose around his neck—”
“Reason enough for all of them. Reason enough and then some. And this time they will get it. Oh, boy, will they ever.” Lou eyed the fortified ring the Russians had built around their courthouse. He eyed it from a distance of several hundred yards, because the Russians were liable to start shooting if anybody—anybody at all—got too close. One American officer had already got plugged for not reacting fast enough to “Heraus!” Luckily, he’d live. Nobody except maybe the NKVD knew how many Germans were wounded or dead.
Major Frank was looking the other way. “Pretty soon they go through the maze and in.”
“Yeah.” Lou nodded. Soviet Stalin tanks, U.S. Pershings, and British Centurions would surround the halftracks carrying the accused to justice. The road had been widened—the Russians had blown up the buildings to either side—so the heavy armor could do just that. Demolitions people swept for mines every half hour. Even the sewers were blocked off, as they were around the court. No rescue for the Nazi big shots.
“Won’t be long,” Frank said, glancing down at his watch. “In they’ll go. The judges are already waiting for them.”
“Uh-huh. Just like they were back in Nuremberg.” Lou ground his teeth together, a split second too late to keep the words from escaping. That goddamn fanatic with his truck full of explosives . . . Lou counted himself lucky not to have been there when the blast went off. Too many of the men who would have tried the Nazis had died in it.
“Kineahora!” Howard Frank exclaimed.
Lou nodded vigorously. He hadn’t wanted to put the whammy on what was about to happen—just the opposite.
“Here they come,” Frank said.
Hearing the heavy rumble of approaching motors, Lou started to nod one more time. But he didn’t, because that heavy rumble was approaching much too fast. And it wasn’t coming up the widened road, either. It was ... in the air? In the air!
The C-47 thundered over them at treetop height, maybe lower. The wind of its passage almost knocked Lou off his feet. “What the fuck?” he choked out—his mouth and eyes and nose were all full of dust and grit that wind had kicked up.
Ahead, a few of the Red Army men guarding the courthouse started shooting at the mad Gooney Bird—but only a few, and too late. Much too late. “It’s gonna—” Horror as well as dust clogged Major Frank’s voice. He tried again: “It’s gonna—”
And then it did.
It wasn’t just a hurtling C-47 crashing into the courthouse. Somehow, the fanatics had loaded the plane with explosives. It could carry more than a deuce-and-a-half could. And when the shit went off . . .
Lou Weissberg and Howard Frank stood more than a mile from the blast. It hammered their ears and rocked them all the same. Lou staggered again, as he had only seconds before when the transport roared by overhead. The fireball that went up dwarfed the courthouse. By then, Lou had seen newsreel footage of what happened when an atom bomb blew up. This wasn’t just like that. A baby version. An ordinary blockbuster, Lou thought dazedly. Plenty bad enough.
“Gottenyu!” Frank burst out. “The bastards just took out the judges again, and the lawyers, and—”
“Vey iz mir!” Lou clapped a hand to his forehead. He heard Major Frank as if from very far away. He wondered if his ears would ever be the same. He’d wondered the same thing plenty of times before the sadly misnamed V-E Day. It had always come back then. Maybe it would now. He also wondered why he hadn’t thought of what Frank had. Because you’re punchy, dummy: the answer supplied itself.
More slowly than he might have, he noticed a rumble and clatter from behind him. He turned. Sure as hell, here came the tanks protecting the Nazi Bonzen on their way to trial. On their way to . . . nothing, now. Judges and attorneys had gone up in the fireball, but the foulest criminals in the history of the world were fine. The way things were going, they’d probably die of old age.
Helplessly, Lou started to laugh and cry at the same time. He waited for Major Frank to slap him silly and tell him to snap out of it. That was what happened when you got hysterical, right? But when he looked over at the other officer, he saw Frank doing the same goddamn thing.