Ernst Thälmann vs. Cthulhu
It was a far cry from the finishing school, Franz thought to himself. Stepping out of a clinic he’d hoped would hire him (they hadn’t) into a wharf district he’d been promised was easily navigable (it wasn’t), the first thing he noticed was that there were more people in the street than he had probably seen in his life. Self-consciously, he checked his binder, and finding his chest still adequately flat, he stepped out. Whatever was afoot, at least he was facing it in trousers.
All things considered, I’d rather be on the farm, Günther thought to himself. He’d hoped he would find work, or something to eat at the docks, but had found himself sitting with men he presumed to be sailors, waiting on them to show interest in his companionship, or for something to change. Apparently it had, and not for the better. Curious,he followed them out.
The mood seemed rather agitated, even bereaved. The strangest thing was the silence as masses upon masses poured out of the Kneipen and offices. Others returned from the harbor waters aboard overloaded lighters, while windows opened, seemingly in a single wave as whispers murmured through the throng of workers.
Karl and Rosa are murdered!
Not much must here, Lotte thought to herself. I could get into trouble here. Her experience had taught her not to be around this many people at once. Any one of the men could clock her and escape would be difficult. It had been weeks since she had felt safe enough to venture outside unarmed. Hopefully an old-fashion hat would keep them from realizing an Urningin walked among them.
All things considered, it’s much quieter than the Westfront, thought Marie. She raised her hand to the brim of her Stahlhelm and squinted in the afternoon sun, scoping out the area as was her wont. Her blonde braid fell out of the helmet and dropped down her back. Walking along with the flow of the increasingly grief-stricken assemblage, Marie’s eyes alighted momentarily upon a young girl running up a gantry carrying a red flag with a black ribbon attached to the top. Breaking her gaze, she adjusted the strap holding her “borrowed” rifle to her back.
I’m out of the lab for a few weeks, Ilse thought, and the world goes to this? She dimly recalled the snippets of forbidden news she’d managed to glean on the factory floor. “Karl’s out of prison, he’s circulating the truth about the war, you’ve gotta read this”. “Rosa’s been arrested again for speaking against the war, here’s her last article about the National Question”. “Karl’s speaking in Berlin”. “Rosa is free!” A lot of history had happened while she was cloistered in the weapons labs at Krupp. Now she was living it on the outside. And those who she had always thought of as making the history were dead, if the rumor was to be believed. At least she was living it as herself.
The crowd seemed to stop as if the destination of the docks had been prearranged. Workers doffed their hats as one under the cold grey sky. A stout, balding man with a thickset face and the broad shoulders of a veteran stevedore climbed atop a crate. He removed his fraying newsboy cap, and bowed his head. His face expressed the pain of the thousands gathered around him. When he raised his face, anguish had been replaced by cold fury, yet he spoke in measured tones, with no trembling of his voice.
"Karl und Rosa are dead. Murdered by the same Ebert government that turns a blind eye to the Freikorps mercenaries attacks on all of us. WHY WAS THIS POSSIBLE? How did we lose the leaders of our revolution? Because we were not organized. The absence of a revolutionary party like the one that led the workers and peasants to victories in Russia killed Rosa and Karl. We need a revolutionary party to see the struggle through!”
“We’re with you, Teddy!” shouted a gaunt young man with brilliant blue eyes. All around, fists were clenching into the salute of revolution. The speaker paused, then continued.
“Genossen und Genossinnen, Karl und Rosa were murdered to knock the workers' movement to the floor. That must not happen. Karl and Rosa fell where they did their best work: At the press, forming the ideas which will deliver us from barbarism. It took death to finally stop them. Today we must swear it to Karl and Rosa that we will carry the struggle onwards! The way that Karl taught us- some of you may remember his motto?” At this, hundreds of voices, some quavering, some punctuated with tears, but all speaking as one bellowed out
“Yes!” Teddy cried. “Despite it all- like Karl taught us, Despite it all! Trotz alledem! We will build a Bolshevik Party, a revolutionary organization, uniting our comrades from the SPD, USPD, and Spartakusbund into a single front beneath the glorious red banner of the future! Long live Soviet Germany! She will yet live out of our struggles!”
A roar went up. Someone shouted “Three cheers for Genosse Thälmann! Long live Karl and Rosa! Long live Soviet Germany!” Günther found himself cheering along with the wharf workers. Approaching a woman in an old army greatcoat, he gave her a smile as if to say “what did YOU think?”
In an unusually deep voice, she asked “you’re from the country, aren’t you?”
“Not since the Freikorps came through”. Günther cursed bitterly. “They took my goats, and when I tried to stop them they burned my barn. Guess that makes me what they call a real prole now, huh?”
“Indeed it does. I have some copies of relevant literature, discussing your new status, if you’re interested. For myself, well, I get by with this from yesterday and that from last week. A dealer in history, if you will.” Günther looked nonplussed, so Lotte clarified.
“I sell antiques.” She smiled as Günther’s eyes widened in understanding. This seemed to be a rather simple soul.
Franz saw a young, strapping woman holding what looked to be a violin case as she crouched in a doorway. She had stood up, craning her neck to get a view of the speaker, letting her red hair catch the sunlight. There was little mistaking her after this. He approached the woman.
“Ilse! You’re alive!” They embraced tightly, relieved at meeting once more.
“Yes. War’s over, so Krupp didn’t feel the need to keep me around anymore. Thought I’d find a job here.”
“Same. You’d think with all the wounded somebody would think to send proper funding to the hospitals, but no. Glad to see you’re looking a bit more yourself.”
Ilse smiled- free from the workplace, she could express herself the way she had always wanted, whenever she wanted. And she felt pretty.
“It’s really wonderful. I miss the lab, but… I see you’re here. Shouldn’t you still be in that ghastly school?”
“You might think so, but they didn’t” Franz replied. “It seems that duelling to prove your manhood isn’t ladylike, so out I went. About time I did some good in the world, anyway. Besides poking holes in young Junkers.” Ilse laughed.
“I always did value your contributions in that respect. I’m sure Rosa would have too, if she had ever had the chance to meet us.”
“You cared about the woman who died, didn’t you?” Franz asked. Ilse swallowed, then nodded.
“I never met her,but her writings were special. You might say she brought down the Kaiser from her prison cell. Anyone who opposed the war felt a little bit better when she walked free. And then with the Spartakusbund… I really thought we were making progress, you know?”
“We are!” Franz smiled. “This Dr. Hirschfeld is opening a clinic to help Urnings and Urningins in Berlin! Now that I’ve found you, shall we trek east? I hear that plenty of folks need some testicles to get fixed, and you’ll need to find some ovaries. Wanna come do a tradein?”
Taken aback as usual with Franz’s medical frankness, Ilse blinked and swallowed.
“He-Help us, Franz?”
“You know- get our fluids and humors right, and you can develop where you want! Oh, and it’ll keep you from ever going bald. You in?”
Ilse gasped and smiled “It sounds wonderful! Why have you waited?”
Franz smiled and began swaggering along. “I may have needed a place to stay in Berlin. Come on, let’s go and then get back here. I get the sense that that bald chap is going to make your Rosa proud”.
Günther was not having a good day. He had been helping Lotharianne “browse” through a mansion while its owners were elsewhere, looking for anything old. Today it was clocks. Unfortunately, it turned out that some Freikorps goons were sleeping in the living room. With Lotharianne nowhere to be seen, Günther had managed to snap his whip, knocking away the gun of the first one to reach his feet, and had then fled the room and the building, bullets thudding into the wall,door and then pavement behind him. Shouts of “Country Tunte!” rang behind him, and he wondered fleetingly what part of his wardrobe betrayed him as a rube, or as an Urning for that matter. Then more shots rang out and he ducked, rounding a corner with his whip ready. Crouching behind the wall, he lashed out. His whip struck true: coiling around the feet of the lead soldier. He hit the ground hard, blood spattering the pavement.
The following two soldiers tripped over him, the next bumped into them, and shots went wild, some striking other Freikorps in the legs and feet. As pandemonium reigned, Günther lashed the face of another Freikorps soldier, as others knelt to help their cohorts regain their feet. At this, a vase struck down like a meteor, shattering twixt the shoulder blades of a goon. He went down on top of the man he was trying to help, not moving. The remaining Freikorps whirled their guns aloft and loosed a disconcerted patter of fire at the second story of the building as they began edging backward, then beating an all out retreat as pistol fire erupted from the windows above.
Günther turned towards the sound of footsteps from within,and saw the door open.
“You made a very fine distraction, thank you for your services.” Lotharianne emerged, dusting her hands off. Günther stood agape.
“You made it here? So quickly? How?”
“I poke around these old estates for my living, my dear fellow!” purred Lotharianne. “I know how to look for a secret passage. Fortunately, on the way, I noticed that these two vases were fakes. The proprietor will thank me, if he ever comes back. I did him a favor in getting rid of them.”
Günther was looking down at the senseless Freikorps men, and noticed one of the shards was bigger than the others. In fact, it seemed a complete symbol had survived the shattering. His eyes were strangely drawn to it, and he felt shivers along his spine somehow. It was a cross, but with sloping curves spiraling clockwise off of each arm.
Suddenly he wasn’t on the street any longer. He felt himself enmeshed in a roiling sea, far greater than the Bodensee he’d visited as a child. It was almost as if the water were wrapping itself around his legs to drag him down, as a mighty storm raged as far as the eye could see. Light came only from a dim, red glow in the sky. A star was flickering through the crowds,and Günther glimpsed a square rigged sailing ship, tossed about on the waves, disintegrating in places, yet still bearing on. A swarm of smaller boats forged ahead in its wake, many of them splintering beneath the waves.
A sucking force drew Günther forward, towards the ship. The sea was dropping as a wave approached, looming larger than any of the others. As it reached above the ship and blocked the red star fromview, Günther felt the water harden around him, hooking onto his feet. He felt a strange sucking pressure as he was dragged beneath the waves.
“Günther! Günther! Get your brain back in your head!” Lotharianne looked worried as she gripped his shoulders. Günther was still staring at the shard, he had knelt, and his hands were straining to throw off the suckers of the tentacles that he felt were gripping him. He stopped, realizing that he was back on the street.
“W-what is that?”
“This? It’s a Hakenkreuz. A Swastika. Been seeing lots of them around since the war. There’s this weird collection of wannabe magicians. I guess you’d call them Völkisch. They call themselves the Thule Society. They like this symbol a lot.”
Günther considered this a moment.
“Were they the ones talking about the purity of the German people? Some of my boyfriends from the Wandervogeln seemed to be talking about this a bit…”
“Your scout troop was talking völkisch crap like that? Günther, Günther Günther…” Lotharianne play-chided the lad. “We’re keeping you away from those nutters before they talk you into joining the Reichswehr or whatever they’re calling it now. If you listen to them, you’ll have to turn on everyone like us.” Günther allowed himself to be led along, back towards Lotharianne’s flat.
“I saw, I felt something. I was drowning in a sea, there was a storm…” Günther looked timidly at Lotharianne, wondering what she would think. Lotharianne smiled.
“Looks like I was too late. They’ve already filled your head with their mumbo jumbo. Let’s get you a cup of tea, and we’ll just help it on its way out, hmm? You were also very stressed today, just daily activity and you’re all a mess!”
“You used me as bait and got me into a gunfight.”
“It’s not like I was aiming at them. Didn’t need to. Just a few shots into the pavement and they scattered. I’ve actually never shot anyone. Had to use a rolling pin once. Don’t recommend it.”
The pair walked towards Lotte’s flat as the sun began to set.
A shot echoed through the near-deserted street, followed by screaming. Two figures raced towards the alley from whence it emanated. Lotte sprinted after them, her pistol drawn, and Günther tagged along in her wake, unsure of what else to do. They rounded the corner to see four people in front of them. A small man had a sword out and was advancing cautiously while a larger, redhaired woman covered him with a small, wicked-looking machine gun. Their gazes were fixed on a man in a brown suit, with a dark stain spreading from his cradled kneecap, staining the sheaf of posters scattered beneath him. A soldier stood over him, with a Mauser rifle aimed at the prone man’s other kneecap. The dusky light glinted off his dull Stalhhelm.
“What’s all this, then?!” Lotte bellowed, her voice hard and rough. All 5 others looked quizzically at her.
“What? I’ve been to London, it’s what the bobbies say when they come across a grisly torture scene.”
The soldier bristled, and spoke, her voice and long blonde braid revealing her to be a woman, not the man that Günther had expected, spoke.
“This filth was putting these posters up. Have you seen what’s on them? Proclamation of a new government under Kapp. Outlawry of the SPD, KPD, USPD and Spartacusbund! Repeal of the 8 hour workday law, and the death penalty for anyone participating in strike action! He’s lucky I didn’t start with his toes, and just went right for the kneecaps”
The small man standing near her with the sword spoke slowly
“That’s… A lot of blood. And screaming. I’m not really used to just letting people bleed.” Lotte leaned in.
“We’ll treat him after he talks. I say, you there, you with the screaming. I’m guessing you’re not doing your little redecoration alone. Are you Freikorps?”
“He’s not Freikorps, they wouldn’t take a Tunte like him” the soldier grunted. Günther felt anger mingling with his fear, but stood patiently, taking his cue from Lotte. The man, steadily losing color, unclenched his teeth to swear”
“Gesindeln! We’ll come through here, and our power will smash your pitiful little mobs. When Germania rises we shall swallow you up!” He resumed panting in pain.
The soldier raised her rifle to his face.
“Done talking to him? I’m Marie by the way, and I’m going to be killing him now.”
“Go ahead” Franz and Lotte said in unison.
The rightist slumped on the pavement. Ilse bent down to begin checking his pockets. She tensed when she found three grenades inside his coat. Marie smiled as she picked them up. Franz looked at his three new acquaintances, and stuck out his hand.
“I’m Franz. The prettiest graverobber on this street is Ilse.”
“Lotharianne, a dealer in antiques, and this is my associate Günther, a simple mountain man from Bavaria. You’ll forgive him for not yodelling at present but I recommend we beat a hasty withdrawal before anyone else sees the body.”
At this, Ilse rose.
“Has anyone seen this symbol before?” The map the corpse had had stuffed in his jacket pocket bore the Hakenkreuz Günther and Lotte had seen on the vase. They exchanged knowing, troubled looks.
Ilse broke the silence.
“I hear that there’s a mass meeting tonight, don’t know what it’s about. That Thälmann fellow from the dockyard march is going to be there. Maybe he’ll know what to do?”
The warehouse was packed. People shouted with fury, wailed in terror, and fists pounded upon crates, tables, the wall, and whatever other surfaces presented themselves. It took a stentorian roar from the familiar figure of Thälmann to restore order. The gaunt, almost skeletal young man with the electric blue eyes finished whispering his message to the stout Thälmann, whose bald head shone in the lamplight as he bent over a table.
“Genossen und Genossinnen. Here is the situation. The military has proclaimed a new government under their favorite newscaster, Kapp. Many of you have already become acquainted with their demands of the citizenry, as brought to our attention by this young man and his Genossinnen here.”
“Genosse, actually” Franz muttered. Thälmann blinked in interest, and went on.
“The Freikorps has mobilized to complete the generals’ coup. Half the south is already in their hands, but the people in München are refusing to work for the army! The major railyards have been blocked and our comrade engineers are stealing the engines. Meanwhile, peasants all over the countryside are hiding their stores of food from the troops. This Putsch is being blocked at every step by the German workers and farmers. But they are coming. A column of troops is going to enter the city tomorrow. They have trucks, at least 200 Freikorps Lumpen, all armed to the teeth. And we are going to stop them, kill some of them, and take their leaders prisoner.
The Spartakusbund’s central committee for the city has outlined a plan, which I will now present with your permission. We know they will be coming up Church street to reach the city center.” Thälmann pulled out a map, and gestured expressively.
“Here is where we will make our attack. Where the slope of the side road towards the column is steepest. Now, ordinarily we like to remember that all workers in all jobs have their parts to play in the revolution. But today, revolution particularly depends on the transit workers.” Laughter greeted this from many assembled workers. Günther scratched his head in puzzlement, but saw that Lotte, Franz and Ilse were laughing, so he did too. When he saw the sharklike grin on Marie’s silent face, he suddenly found himself unable to laugh anymore.
“”Now, we just need a team of volunteers to go find a transit worker who will help us borrow a trolley or a bus.”
Franz’s hand went up immediately. Günther found himself looking intently at the small man’s face, and bright, eager eyes, and raised his hand as well. Looking from one to the other, Lotte grinned and volunteered herself to accompany them. Ilse and Marie rose as well.
“Good luck, Genossen und Genossinnen. Let us know once you’ve found one” Thälmann bade them.
“We’re going to need you to leave that unlocked” Marie stated flatly. The confused look on the faces of the watchman and driver who had just backed the trolley into a roundhouse seemed oddly calm to Franz, after what he had seen Marie do hours before, but hopefully he could keep things from escalating.
“We need this trolley. Soldiers are coming, and many are going to die.”
“Genosse Thälmann has a plan to save the city” Ilse chimed in, “but it will only work if you stand with your class brothers.”
“We don’t need much from you.” Lotte explained. “Just notice that this padlock is obviously defective, and don’t try to latch it, for fear of damaging your employer’s property yet further!”
The two men glaced at each other, shrugged, and walked away. The driver muttered “Good luck, Spartakus” under his breath.
“Good enough for me!” Franz proclaimed. “Marie, stay here and make sure no one else gets into the shed. We need to go get Thälmann and the others.”
Günther finally voiced his confusion.
“Why are we trying to get a trolley?” Marie answered with her familiar grin
“You see, they’re going to be coming along the base of a hill. Probably in a column- that street isn’t very wide. Imagine that trolley smashing into the side of a truck. Lots of dead Freikorps will be happening.” Günther and Ilse exchanged worried looks, then looked to Lotte and Franz, respectively, who both bore their resolve plainly.
“Let’s go get the others.” Said Lotte. The four comrades disappeared into the night.
Morning broke on a scene of Hamburg’s masses heaving the “borrowed” trolley up a hill overlooking the street below.. Thälmann and his thin companion Jansen pulled and struggled with the rest, until the chocks were in place and the trolley rested. Hundreds of Proleten stood, tense, yet visibly proud of their makeshift tank. Thälmann addressed the crowd.
“All right. I’ll wait here with a sledgehammer team. Genosse Jansen will give the signal to begin. Once they’ve crossed our path, we’ll cut it loose, and smash them in the middle of their column. We’ll run down to reinforce you all then. The fight will be hard, but it will be swift. We win quickly, or we don’t win at all. We know what is at stake here.
Now I need the women and children to return to your dwellings. Every able bodied man is needed here to repel the Freikorps, but we mustn’t endanger our families.”
At this point, Marie, Ilse and Lotte stepped forward in unison. Ilse gritted her teeth and said
“Whose revolution is it if not the women? Genosse Engels said we were the first working class. Rosa fought for us, and paid the price. Now I fight for Rosa.”
“Really, Genosse,” Lotte chuckled- “you don’t expect me to let that little mountain boy go into this alone, do you?”
Finally Marie spoke up.
“If I can shoot well enough for the Kaiser, I can shoot well enough for you. I’ll take these kids to that rooftop and give you some sharpshooters. The men can use their sword and whip to cover the stairs.”
Thälmann grinned, and looked quite surprised. “Jawohl! But… You’re all Urnings! Urnings, here!”
“Urninginen here” - Ilse pointed to herself, Lotte and Marie. “Those other two are Urnings.” And Franz joined in “We’re everywhere, not just here, and we’re ready to fight for our freedom!”
Thälmann shrugged, and nodded. “I’ll never keep anyone from playing their part in our revolution. For Soviet Germany!” The crowd echoed him loudly.
“FOR SOVIET GERMANY!”
Franz, Lotte, Ilse and Günther followed Marie to a tall shop building. They entered, seeing a drab, unused first floor with a stairwell leading up. Marie scanned the room, and barked out instructions.
“Right then. Lots of old wooden furniture we can use to barricade that door. Ginger, here, you cover the door, but only once the enemy gets past these two. Günther and Franz- kill whatever gets inside that door. Lotte come cover my back.”
Lotte and Günther climbed to the rooftop, Franz and Günther shifted the old chairs and Kaffee tables to obstruct the door, then drew their weapons. Ilse knelt on the stairwell, inserting a stick magazine into her machine pistol. Already the rumbling of motors could be heard in the distance. Günther shivered with worry, but stopped as his eyes met those of the tiny, handsome man holding a sword ready opposite him. Franz radiated determination, and Günther felt that determination welling within him as well as he stared at Franz’s hair, so smooth, so brown, brown as the finest Münchener Bier... Other things were welling within Günther too, but he thought he should focus on surviving at the moment.
The windows were boarded up, but not so thoroughly that one couldn’t see movement in the daylit street outside. Ilse saw the first truck draw past, full of grinning, well armed soldiers with swastikas painted on their helmets, and chalked on the side of the truck. Another followed it. Then another. And another. As the 8th truck rolled past, they could all hear a shot ring out to their right- the direction the convoy had taken. Almost immediately after, there came a new rumbling. Shouts of “Stop! Halt!” came from the lead trucks, and they quickly slammed on their brakes, trapping one truck in the path of the descending juggernaut.
The sound of smashing wood, metal and bone as the trolley impacted on the Freikorps’ fourth truck was the signal for the Spartakists to rush in force. From her rooftop vantage point, Marie could see hundreds of workers pouring forth from the boarded up buildings, and knew that Thälmann’s trolley team wouldn’t be far behind. But the Freikorps, though divided by the trolley, were springing into action. Marie lashed her grenades together, pulled the pins, and hurled them towards the ninth truck just as its troops were about to disembark. The explosion decimated the truck, and with twenty Freikorp goons’ worth of meat getting tossed about, it was clear that that squad was out of commission. Stifling a twinge as the screams rent her ears and reminded her of the front, Marie shouldered her rifle, and began firing at the troops in the tenth truck.
Spotting her, they rushed for the building. Two of their number fell to Marie’s fire before the first of them reached the door.
This was it. As the freikorps kicked the door open, they found their way barred at the waist by the piled tables. The door couldn’t swing all the way in, so they had to leap over the barricade one at a time. Rifles at the ready, they started swarming over. One raised his arms to steady himself on the jump. Franz’s blade struck out, hacking through the outstretched appendage. Silently gazing at his blood spurting stump, the soldier fainted. Others pushed past.
Günther was ready with his whip, coiling it around the legs of the second soldier, bringing him to the ground with a crunching sound from what had been a handsome face. Franz finished the man with a quick stab to the neck, but this lapse allowed three more to force their way in.
“Duck!” Ilse called. As Günther and Franz scrambled to comply, she began loosing bursts from her gun. Two Freikorps men had fallen, cut down by her fusillade before the survivors got a bead on her. Two remained standing, the final two entered behind them, guns at the ready. Four rifles blazed at the stairwell, smacking into the splintering wood. Ilse felt what seemed to be a punch to her gut and she crumpled backwards, falling off the opposite side of the stairs.
Screaming in rage, Franz sprang into the midst of the remaining soldiers, swinging his blade wildly. They knocked it back with their rifle butts, and tried to swing at him, but his small size worked to his advantage here. Günther followed Franz into the melee, lashing out with his whip, pulling another rightist to the floor, and stomping his face in. The two remaining soldiers began shooting, hoping to hit the enraged Urnings in the melee. Günther felt the blast of the rifle swoosh past his face, and sprang to grapple his assailant, only to meet a rifle butt to his belly.
Atop the roof, Marie continued firing into the masses of Freikorps. Their advance squads had felled dozens of workers, but were fully engaged in fist and knife fights by now. Her fire sent the trailing squads ducking beneath the trucks for cover, leaving their comrades to be swallowed up by the roiling, resolute mass of humanity that was the workers of Hamburg. Lotte peered over the roof’s edge long enough to see Thälmann seize a rifle and fell its erstwhile wielder with a single punch. Jansen rushed nimbly through the melee towards a soldier who bore a Swastika flag, and plowed into him. Scores of workers surged forward, some shouting war cries, some visibly shaking, some spitting on their hands and looking quietly resolute as they looked for the next target. The remaining Freikorps were still firing, and what looked like a hundred figures were slumped, twitching on the pavement.
Lotte turned down towards the sounds of struggle emanating from beneath. With her pistol at the ready she slid down the banister, seeing Günther and Ilse lying on the floor next to seven Freikorps, and Franz engaged in a fierce struggle with the remaining soldier. Lotte aimed, waiting for Franz to see her. He soon did, and disengaged, taking a rifle butt to the leg, forcing him into an awkward hopskip and a curse from his lips. Lotte found her hand trembling, but she fired thrice, and the soldier shrieked as his arm was pierced. Franz quickly turned and plunged his sabre through the man’s throat. He then turned and ran to Ilse’s side.
“Grazed in the abdomen, hit in the leg. I’ve got this.” Pulling out a box full of forceps, whiskey and bandages, the budding medic went to work. A dazed Günther came nervously over, and was rapidly pressed into bandage detail. Ilse was moaning, but conscious. Günther held the whiskey for her to drink after Franz had poured some on the wound. Lotte moved to the door, Luger at the ready.
On the rooftop. Marie reloaded, and notched her tenth kill as Thälmann’s voice boomed out
“Hold fast, boys! Get their weapons!” Surviving workers scurried to pry rifles and pistols from the fingers of dead Freikorps goons. As the first three cars of soldiers rounded the tail end of the trolley, they were met with enthusiastic if erratic fire, thick enough to fell several of them. Between this and the sight of workers seizing the middle trucks, and their nearest help hunkering beneath the rear ones, they hesitated. Some began stepping back towards the aperture from whence they’d just issued. An officer produced a sabre.
“Return fire and advance!” As he pointed his blade forward and advanced in demonstration of his order to his troops, Marie felled him on his second step. At this, the rightists broke and fell back past the trolley, a third of their number lost for no gain. Workers followed Jansen, clutching the liberated guns as they swept towards the pinned down enemy in the rear. The Freikorps broke and ran back the way they had come, only to be met with a force of workers with cudgels and rifles that had disengaged and run through a back alley to encircle them. Marie broke off her fire as she saw the Freikorps below lay down their weapons and raise their hands. She moved downstairs, and strode into the street to replenish her cartridge box, without pausing a moment by the wounded Ilse. Lotte joined her after one more look at Günther and Franz tending to the injured woman.
Franz had been probing methodically, his green eyes focused grimly on Ilse’s wound and his forceps. Accordingly, Günther was a little surprised to see the medic quickly pull his forceps out and toss a badly misshapen bullet into the palm of his hand.
“Got it. Now to stitch her up. You’ll be just fine, Ilse, you’re very good at getting shot.” His fingers flew over the wound, stitching and suturing, holding Günther transfixed the whole time.
Thälmann stepped into the ruined storefront. He had a black eye but looked thrilled at the victory.
“If you can fight like that, we should have made an effort to get Urnings and Urningins on our side long ago! How is she?”
“She’ll live.” Franz said, and stood up after affixing a bandage over the wound.
“Could you stitch some others up? We have over a hundred dead and injured, not counting the enemy” Thälmann sighed at the devastation the Freikorps had wrought. Franz hurried into the street without a further word.
Marie stalked back, grinning broadly, with grenades crammed into her rucksack.
“That was fun. Where to next?” By this point, Günther was not the only one finding Marie somewhat frightening.
The dockyard was awash in celebration that night. But the proceedings were marred by the high death toll, and by the relative scarcity of food. Leaders from the SPD and USPD spoke, congratulating the workers on their victory. Once they had finished, Thälmann rose to speak.
“We kept them from seizing the city itself. That is a great blow against reaction. We routed the troops with which they meant to bring a swift end to our revolutionary strike. However, a significant portion of their forces were able to withdraw and regroup, and while we have the jail under guard, the prisoners we took today may be set loose upon us once more if the police have their way. We must remain vigilant.
Meanwhile, there is the matter of food. The army’s march through the countryside has disrupted distribution, and we’ve been informed that the police have redirected lorries bearing provisions away from our city. Despite this, help is on the way. While our own government allows the bosses and their lackeys to slaughter us in the streets, the people's democracy of the Soviet Union is sending grain for us. The first steamer is due to arrive tomorrow, and the steamer is named Karl Liebknecht!” applause broke out.
“Tomorrow” Thälmann said. “We must own the docks. There will be police, and we know that they will block the unloading of the grain. We need to persuade them otherwise. You all must spread the word. After our victory today, we should have ten times the forces at our disposal. Fifty times! And the enemy won’t have nearly so many rifles as he had today. We’ll win tomorrow as we won today, and let it be know that Kapp is not welcome in Hamburg!”
At this, the assembled masses began singing “Brothers of Freedom”, and its glorious refrains wafted out over the docks. The workers were ready for the morrow.
Morning broke red over the docks. A chill wind had blown in during the night along with the Soviet Steamer Karl Liebknecht. Its crew stood on deck, staring fixedly at the cordon of policemen on the wharf, interposed between their precious cargo and the cranes and stevedores. . The policemen who had been guarding the wharf clawed at their eyes in exhaustion, waiting to be relieved. Some of them exchanged glares with the crew of the Karl Liebknecht, which was moored, ready to unload tons of grain for the hungry people of Hamburg, but was blocked by the police cordon. Others merely wiped the night’s drool off their green uniforms. Tired or otherwise, the police had no intention of allowing the food to be dispensed to the people of Hamburg.
A young Feldwebel greedily eyed the Soviet sailors’ thick coats. He had been on duty all night, staring down the hungry workers who haunted the wharf at night. He had run after some of the children and cracked their tiny skulls and broken their malnourished arms, just to get his blood moving, but he needed sleep.
Secretly he was a little worried. Headquarters had promised that no less a person than General von Lettow-Vorbeck was leading the troops into Hamburg. The Feldwebel had recalled reading of the General’s exploits as a boy, cheering with his father as the news of Von Lettow-Vorbeck’s extermination of a hundred thousand Negroes had reached the papers. And he had conscripted an army from the survivors of the tribes he’d ravaged, and force-marched them all over Southern Africa, smiting superior forces of freedom fighters and British troops alike until the end of the war. Von Lettow-Vorbeck was just the man to rescue Hamburg from this disgusting rabble of degenerates. And yet, after yesterday’s defeat of his troops by the commoners, the general was nowhere to be seen.
A truck rumbled up with more police on it. The Hauptmann dropped to the ground with a wicked spring in his wicked step. The Feldwebel and his men saluted, and rubbed their hands as they made to move off. The Hauptmann spoke.
“Good morning, meine Herren. No relief, I’m afraid. The soldiers should have been handling it but after yesterday they’ve scattered. We can’t count on any reinforcements after yesterday. You must all remain here, or else those vermin will be able to break through and feed. We’re going to hold here. Any effort by the mob to reach the ship must be met with the utmost force. We have some civilian supporters coming in private craft to patrol the harbor. The menace of the reds must be squelched. I know you’ve been working hard all night with no relief, but give it a few more hours. There is a bit of good news- our informants tell us that the women will be in the vanguard, with their flour pails. I hear those pails are quite empty these days” The cops grumbled at the extra work, but began chuckling at the thought of the starving workers.
“Permission to target the women?” one officer asked. The Hauptmann grinned.
“You are encouraged to correct the behavior of the women, as a reward for your service to the Kais… To the government. Long live Kapp. Long live Germany.”
The Feldwebel grinned. As he hefted his nightstick in anticipation of splintering more bone, something else also rose with the thought of free reign over the women.
Workers assembled en masse, with the women of Hamburg carrying their empty flour pails, on which they rhythmically banged. They were flanked by the brawlers from the day before, with Thälmann and Jansen at the head of the column. Marie, Lotte, Ilse, Franz and Günther trailed in the rear of the formation. Marie eyeballed a broken crane on the outer edge of the dock.
“This is the spot for me- don’t wait up.” And she scampered up the girding without another word. Ilse had her eyes on another one, closer to the ship.
“If we need to bypass the cordon… I think I can work it. Günther, can you help get me there?” The youth nodded, and began pushing forward with Ilse behind him. Franz stopped Günther with a tap on the shoulder.
“Watch your back” and pecked him on the cheek. Günther blushed, grinned, and resumed escorting Ilse. Franz turned to Lotte.
“That leaves us. Urning and Urningin. Let’s get up front and see if we can help Teddy.” Lotte grinned and jogged forward, toward the pallet attached to Ilse’s crane. Franz sprang up alongside her, and they clutched to the chains holding the pallet in place.
Whatever Thälmann and Jansen had said to the cops seemed to have worked. The thin green line had buckled and dispersed, and Thälmann charged up the gangplank, backed by the women of Hamburg. The crane lowered Lotte and Franz to the deck as German women and Soviet sailors began heaving the sacks of flour aloft. Franz saw Thälmann grinning like a schoolboy, tightly embracing the bemused captain.
“Comrade Captain! Thank you for your aid to the people of Hamburg. This is my first step on socialist soil!” The captain beamed. A sailor stepped forward and spoke in broken German.
“Captain will something get you. Moment please.” The captain strode towards the wheelhouse Thälmann walked for the nearest pile of flour sacks and hefted one aloft easily, resting it on his shoulders. He worked alongside the other stevedores and their wives to load the sacks onto the crane. Someone in the crowd broke into “Sailors of Kronstadt”, and was soon joined by virtually the entire assembly, german dna Russian singing together.
Franz and Lotte’s pallet descended towards the deck. Lotte kept scanning the joyfully singing crowd, then did a double take- a small boat was slipping alongside the Karl Liebnecht! Four men stood inside it- two Freikorps troopers, and two bespectacled men in civilian clothes. They flung grappling lines aloft and one soldier began climbing.
Lotte nudged Franz. “See that? They’re coming from behind. Move!” They dropped to the deck. Lotte pulled her Luger as Franz drew his sword. Seeing the flash of steel, Ilse dismounted from the crane and started sprinting for the gangplank. Günther joined her, feeling a twinge of fear, as if he would see something terrible on the windward side of the steamer.
The first soldier didn’t have time to fire a shot before Franz ran his throat through. He fell backwards into the harbor with a muffled splash. This strangely didn’t seem to faze the remaining three men in the boat. Lotte looked curiously at them. The remaining soldier had knelt in the boat, while the men over him hadn’t reacted at all to the fight atop the Karl Liebknecht. They were holding a book together and seemed to be murmuring something. Lotte called out
“That’s far enough! Stay where you are, don’t move!” Franz whirled towards the flour sacks
“Teddy! We have Freikorps!”. Thälmann deposited his bag at the foot of the gangplank, and began rushing, kampfentschlossen towards the cry for help, his stout fists at the ready and his eyes flashing with determination. Günther fell in beside him.
At this point, Franz and Lotte stared, agape. The soldier had vanished! Lotte brandished her pistol, shrieking “where is he?!” to the two remaining men, who merely flashed wicked grins. Suddenly, there came a tearing sound, and shreds of what had clearly been Reichswehr charcoal fluttered to the bilge of the boat. The boat heaved, and Franz felt a mighty weight slam into the side of the Liebknecht! It seemed impossible, but something invisible was crawling up the hull. What sounded like claws were clearly raking the hull! Franz stepped back, holding his sabre at the ready, while Lotte scowled, and began firing into the boat.
High in the crane tower, Marie squinted through her sights. She couldn’t see what Lotte was shooting at, nor what Franz was backing away from, but pulled the bolt all the same, ready to take her chance. She continued watching as the fight unfolded bizarrely.
Hearing the shots, Günther and Thälmann, now joined by a panting Ilse, darted towards the windward side of the Liebknecht. They skidded to a stop, watching Franz fencing with the air, looking increasingly scared as his blade found no mark. He tried a wide slash up and to the right, where he was reasonably sure a human’s neck would have been, and felt his blade strike something! He saw a trickle of violet fluid blur as the thing, whatever it was moved on him. Franz screamed as his chest was pierced by massive teeth! He felt them meet in the middle, and knew his breasts were gone. As the blood spouted from his chest, the tiny duelist collapsed to the deck.
Ilse reacted first. “Look! The blood- we can see some of… That’s a chest, of it, it’s a…”
Thälmann, Günther and Ilse could see the red-stained outline of a creature’s front, it looked human shaped but if the chest was human proportioned it must have been 9 feet tall. Franz’s blood was draining off of it though, the image was growing fainter.
Ilse sprang for the nearest flour sack.
“Help me with this!” she called to Thälmann, who rushed to her aid. Together they hefted it easily, and Ilse drew a pocket knife across the sack, splitting it open. Thälmann grasped her plan
“Throw it on my mark! Now!” and they heaved it at the dripping shape menacing their comrades. The flour filled the air, covering the creature, and the revolutionaries gasped at what they saw.
Barrel chested, with long arms over 4 feet, tipped with hideous claws, it towered over them all. The most horrible thing was the face. Its claws had reached for its eyes, which were squinted and apparently blinking the flour out. For some reason, as it approached, the eyes began glowing, revealing that they were bright red and ran the full circumference of the head! Flour had coated a row of three-inch fangs populating a lipless maw, and it began to emit a roar, standing over Franz’s senseless body.
Marie saw the flour clear, and saw the creature. She shuddered, aimed, and fired. Her bullet struck it cleanly in one of its many eyes, and a purple, viscous blood was splashed as the creature fell lifeless to the deck!
Günther peeled off from Thälmann’s advance and darted to Franz’s side, kneeling and pressing, wordlessly on the wounds. Ilse ran towards the wheelhouse, just as the captain was emerging with a large portrait of Comrade Lenin.
“We need a doctor! Arzt? Medico?” The captain dropped the portrait and rushed below decks, hollering something in Russian. A young woman, barely 20 came scampering up with a bag of instruments and she sped with Ilse towards Franz’s side. She started upon seeing the grisly character of the wounds, but immediately went to her work.
The two boatmen remaining- the ones who had read from the book- swore, and began rowing away, but this was too slow to evade Thälmann’s leap. He sprang over the railing and landed, swaying on the edge of the boat. With two quick haymakers he knocked one cold, and one into the harbor. Lotte had reloaded, and finished the one in the water. Thälmann, seized the remaining mystic like a sack of flour, and climbed up the deck.
“Search him. How in blazes did they do that? I think it was the soldier that vanished!” Lotte rifled through the unconscious Putschist’s pockets. She pulled out the book, a musty old tome of the sort she had spent so much time with, and a swastika ring. There was also a gun and a wallet containing money and calling cards. Lotte looked them over.
“It’s the Thule Society, Comrades. This is the book they read from. Looks like it’s called “Unaussprechlichen Kulten. Unspeakable Cults. I’d say the Thule boys qualify as unspeakable.”
The ship’s doctor stood, having bandaged Franz and stitched some of the wound shut.
“Him need Krankenhaus now.”
“I’ll take him”. Günther clutched Franz’s hand and pulled him onto an empty sack. He and Ilse carried Franz down the gangplank.
Thälmann gestured to Lotte to deal with the body, while he turned towards the returning captain and officers of the Karl Liebknecht.
“Thank you for your aid. It will break the back of the Putsch, now that they can’t starve the workers of Hamburg. Our last numbers have 12 million out on strike. That’s 12 million German workers who are looking to you, the Bolsheviks as our liberators and leaders in the struggle for freedom. I salute you, Comrades!”
Grinning, the captain presented the portrait of Lenin, and Thälmann held it aloft before the singing, cheering crowd of workers.
Ilse and Günther sat next to Franz’s hospital bed. He was pale and wan from loss of blood, but in good spirits.
“Nice to have that off my chest, eh? I’ll be ready to go again soon!”
Ilse was still shaking, days after seeing the creature.
“They… They turned that man into that thing. How did they do that?”
“With this.” Lotte strode into the room, holding the book.
“Turns out that that Völkisch crap might actually be based on something other than sausage-measuring. And we have their playbook now. We’re going to learn so much more than we ever wanted to about what they believe, but hey, I’m looking forward to having some mumbo-jumbo of our own.”
“That’s exactly why I’m here.” Thälmann stood in the door. He approached Franz’ bedside.
“My boy, you’ve fought so bravely, you all did so much for our movement. I fear we’ve only uncovered the tip of the iceberg of this cult. If more of their kind are working with the Freikorps, we need to be ready.
I spoke with some agents of the CHEKA. They agree that the threat to the revolution is too great to leave this unanswered, uninvestigated. To that end, they’ve encouraged the KPD to form our weird-objective team, our Merkwürdigkeitsbeauftragte Kommando, to discreetly investigate this Rightist magic. You’ll be working directly with local leadership, namely myself and Fiete Jansen. Do you accept?”
Four clenched fists in the air answered his question. Thälmann smiled.
“I’m proud of each and every one of you. Oh, and keep an eye out for that soldier friend of yours, won’t you?”