what_we_dream: (Carter AWOL)
[personal profile] what_we_dream
Title: The Edge of the Night (4/5?)
Series: Hogan's Heroes
Pairings: None
Rating: PG
Notes: Supernatural AU not the show

Summary: The Great War brought the kin out of the shadows when, launched into bloody warfare, they cut through entire regiments like scythes. Two decades later, they are expressely banned from all military organizations. But there's always an advantage to men who make their own luck, and the Allies can't afford to lose this war.

Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3



Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
Rudyard Kipling

The tunnelling went quickly, to the surprise of the men. The dirt seemed almost to fall away under their makeshift shovels, while the walls remained surprisingly firm and packed. As their confidence rose, the plans expanded from a simple network of 2x2x2 tunnels to a system of corridors, interspaced with cavernous rooms. They buttressed the tunnels with bed slats and Red Cross boxes, but the walls were almost stone-firm even without the added support.

No one noticed that somehow Sergeant Kinchloe was always present whenever the digging was easiest and the walls firmest.

---------------------------------------------------

“How’re you doing, Kinch?” asked Hogan, shuffling a pack of cards to create a simple noise barrier. He didn’t dare to use true silencing scrollwork, not even under the window panes or door frames. Not yet, at least.

“It’s easy work sir,” replied the sergeant with a shrug, from his seat in front of the desk. “Just softening and propping, hardly any real moving at all. If we had a regular diet, it would be no problem at all.”

“But?” Hogan looked up at his XO with sharp eyes, searching for the more evident signs of dangerous thirst. For twitching fingers or diluted pupils, for chewed lips or tense muscles. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, and relaxed slightly.

“But on boiled meat twice a week, it’s a lot harder. I’ll manage, sir, but it’s tiring.”

“I guess you won’t be playing in the monthly football game, then,” said Hogan dryly. Kinch smiled thinly in response.

“I don’t think so, sir.”

“Don’t strain yourself. We have time. Improving the rations is my second priority.”

“And the first, sir?”

“Organizing some new barracks assignments.” He rested his elbows on his desk and leaned forward, speaking quietly. “We need Olson and Kelly moved here. They might be useful, and they’re certainly a danger as long as they’re isolated. Leave Williams for now, three’s too many and we’re not sure about him anyway. If the Krauts ask, Olson and Kelly are heading a second Escape Committee. Got it?”

Kinch nodded, heading for the door. “Yes, sir.”

At his desk, Hogan straightened with a glint in his eye, smiling with sudden sharp humour. “And spread the word around. We don’t want to make things too hard for them, now do we?”

-------------------------------------------------------

Colonel Klink was studying some maps when a knock came at the door. He didn’t bother to look up; probably just the idiot boy with some more misplaced filing. “Yes?”

“Herr Kommandant, Colonel Hogan wishes to see you,” announced Schultz, as though he were a doorman. Klink sighed and looked up.

“Sergeant Schultz, I have told you, when I want to see Colonel Hogan I will – Colonel Hogan!” Klink broke off in irritation as the American burst in from behind Schultz’s bulk, all smiles.

“Hi Kommandant, thanks for seeing me! I know you must be up to your eyes in it.”

“In …” Klink blinked, then shook his head. “Never mind. Colonel Hogan, now is not –”

“See, it’s just that I heard something.” Hogan glanced around conspiratorially, and then lowered his voice, “About escapes.”

Escapes?!” Klink rose from his desk, buoyed equally by anger and panic.

“Shh, not so loud, sir! They might hear you!” Hogan hurried over to the chair opposite Klink’s desk and sat down uninvited. He leaned forward over the dark surface to whisper, all secrecy and urgency. Klink, trying to make sense of it all, sank back into his chair and leaned cautiously closer, eyeing the American with suspicion.

“You see, sir,” began Hogan in a low, eager tone, “I thought things’d been going great. All the guys seemed to really understand about our deal. Most’ve them have been here a long time, sir, and they’d rather have a guarantee of an easier time than a slim possibility of escape. And your graciously releasing LeBeau really sealed the deal.”

Klink nodded thoughtfully, “Uh huh, uh huh.”

“So you can imagine my surprise, sir, when I found out this morning that Olson and Kelly have gone behind my – our – backs, and set up an escape committee! My own men!” Hogan’s eyes were wide and betrayed, his tone suffused with shock.

Behind Hogan, Schultz clicked his tongue and shook his head like a house frau. “Terrible. Such naughty boys.”

Klink glared at him. “No one asked your opinion, Sergeant! Hogan – what are you going to do about this? I cannot give uneven treatment to the prisoners. Go easy on those who colla – see reason, and come down harshly on those who don’t? Impossible.”

Hogan nodded seriously. “I completely agree, Colonel. See, the problem is that they’re in barracks 12 and 17, and there are no real firm hands there. No one to teach ‘em right from wrong, as it were. More importantly, no one to teach them just how beneficial a ‘no escape’ record could be to this camp.”

“Yes, I can see that.” Klink rested his chin in his hand, and pondered. “Perhaps, Colonel, if you were to have a talk with them?”

“Oh, I don’t think that would be a good idea, sir. They’d probably just resist all the more if they thought I was trying to bring them around. No, it’s got to be something more subtle. We’ve got to be able to influence them more gradually, while at the same time keeping an eye on them in case they try anything.”

“Perhaps,” suggested Schultz brightly, “you could move them into barracks 2?”

“Don’t be a dummkopf, Schultz, how – no, wait. Wait.” Klink narrowed his eyes, thinking hard. “Perhaps we could move them. Yes. But what would be the reason?”

“Maybe you could find out about the new Escape Committee, sir!” Hogan sat up suddenly, excited. “You could ask some of the men – they trust you now, you know. That gesture of good faith really went a long way.”

“Yes, yes!” Klink leaned forward, savouring his brilliant planning. His excellent decisions were already bearing fruit. “I could tell Olson and Kelly why they were being moved, but say I am giving them a chance at a fresh start, and won’t tell you about it.”

Hogan looked appropriately impressed. “Brilliant, sir! You know, I’m really beginning to admire your intellect.”

“Thank you, Colonel Hogan.” Klink removed his monocle, gave it a polish, and then returned it. “You know, I really feel that since I came to Stalag 13, I have grown as a man.”

The American nodded with obvious sincerity. “Oh, undoubtedly, sir.”

----------------------------------------------------

Although slow to get rolling, like a rolling stone the operation built up speed as it went. When the foundational tunnel network was complete, Hogan began laying the groundwork for centres of activity in the growing caverns below the camp. They would eventually need the equivalent of a fully-functioning base – a tailor shop making civilian suits from blankets, a paper office making both identification papers and maps, a language centre teaching German and ready to translate any documents that might be borrowed from the Kommandantur.

The tricky business of establishing the heart of their operation – the radio – Hogan left to Kinch. A central space in the tunnels was allotted to it, and the equipment grew slowly over the weeks as men working in the office, mess and motor pool brought in scraps of metal and wire to build it.

----------------------------------------------------

Le Beau, somewhat to his surprise, had found himself included more and more in the colonel’s planning sessions. That the man was trying to build up a strong lead team he understood, but the fact that he had chosen to form it entirely from kin was a choice LeBeau couldn’t fathom. They each brought unique skills, but the risk was one only an inveterate gambler would take. But then, he was beginning to understand that the colonel was a man riding a stronger wave of luck than any he had ever known.

Apart from Hogan and Kinchloe, the lead team was slowly solidifying into himself, Newkirk and Olson. Newkirk, although not yet committed to the operation, was an essential component as the only forger in camp as well as a budding linguist. Olson, who spoke with trees like they were men, would be a perfect field operative – LeBeau had walked past bare barracks walls and scented Olson standing against them invisible to the eye. LeBeau was just less sure what possible use he himself could play, unless they needed to bribe Schultz with gourmet meals.

This evening Hogan was sitting on a box in the still-forming radio room, with a map spread over his knees. The flickering candles mounted in the hard dirt walls gave off barely enough light to make it legible.

“Kinch, how far past the wire is tunnel 1?” Hogan traced the long line representing the longest tunnel in the system, and the most vital.

“30 yards, sir.”

“And how long until we can tunnel up to the surface?”

The sergeant put down a roll of wire he was busy coiling. “Well, sir, technically we have already; we’ve had to put in several small vents to keep the air circulating. But until we have a better idea of what sort of cover we’re looking at in the woods, I don’t want to start on an exit. If it’s going to be seeing heavy use, it’s got to be in the right place from the beginning. Ideally someone in the woods would choose it.”

Next to LeBeau, Newkirk snorted. “And how’re we gonna get out of the tunnel with no exit to build an exit?”

“We go out another way,” replied Hogan, slowly, clearly only listening to Newkirk with half an ear. The men turned to watch him. He rolled up the map thoughtfully and handed it to Kinch.

“My briefing from London gave me the names of several members of the local Underground. One was Oskar Schnitzer.”

LeBeau straightened; so did Olson and Newkirk.

“The ruddy vet? He brings those killers into camp every fortnight!”

“They are just doing their jobs,” protested LeBeau. “Just like any of us was trained to do.”

Newkirk gave him a dirty look, but didn’t respond. Hogan, however, was watching him with a considering eye.

“LeBeau, how tame are the dogs, exactly?”

“They are extremely tame, sir,” he said, and when both Olson and Newkirk began to protest, elaborated. “Perhaps tame is the wrong word. They are extremely well trained – it just happens that they have been trained to attack those who they do not recognize as friends.”

“So how dangerous would it be to take a ride with them, in the vet’s truck?” asked Hogan, tone one of abstract curiosity. His scent was pure vivid excitement, though, and LeBeau straightened in response.

“For me, sir? Not at all.”

“For you and me, corporal.” Hogan’s tone was suddenly firm, no longer considering but decided. The other three men looked at him in surprise. LeBeau just grinned.

“If you can get us in, sir, I will take care of the rest.”

----------------------------------------------------

Kinch stood at the corner of the barracks, ostensibly reading a very battered Ellery Queen novel but actually watching Schultz float, balloon-like, from POW to POW in the open compound. Some ignored him, some shook their heads, but several stopped to answer his questions. Between the colonel’s natural charisma and Newkirk and LeBeau’s knowledge of the men, their information web was spreading quickly.

Schultz was shooed away by a Canadian prisoner, and Kinch turned a page. A Brit answered his question, and he nodded with an expression of extreme concentration before seeing Kinch and heading over. Kinch looked casually back to the book.

“Sergeant Kinchloe. Sergeant!”

Kinch glanced up, blinking. “Oh, Schultz. What is it?”

“May I ask you a question?” the sergeant was whispering conspiratorially, standing beside him and leaning in while pretending to stare out at the compound. Kinch shrugged.

“Sure. Shoot.”

“I am wondering if you have heard anything… unusual about any of the prisoners.”

Kinch adopted a blank expression. “Could you be a bit more specific, Schultz?”

Schultz leant in closer, bending like an oak in a storm. “About Olson and Kelly,” he whispered. Kinch, playing along, narrowed his eyes.

“Olson and Kelly, huh? What’ve you heard?”

Schultz looked around. “That maybe they are thinking of escaping.”

“Well, I wouldn’t like anyone to think you heard it from me.”

“Of course, of course. Your secret, I guard it with my life.”

Kinch closed his book and turned to the big man. “Alright, Schultz, I’ll trust you. I heard they’re not too happy with the colonel’s decision. They’re setting up another Escape Committee.”

I knew it,” declared Schultz, expression ferociously thoughtful. “Thank you, Kinchloe. That is very helpful.”

“Remember, you didn’t hear it from me.”

“Ja, ja.”

The sergeant nodded, and floated onwards. Kinch shook his head, and went back to his book.

-------------------------------------------------

“Schultz!” exclaimed Hogan, walking out of his office, as the sergeant slipped into the barracks with a furtive step that called out for more attention than his regular entrance. “Just the man I was looking for!” The barracks were empty, most of the men performing their allotted duties. Schultz, undeterred was heading straight for LeBeau’s footlocker – any good chef always received the best bartered goods in exchange for his services.

Schultz startled, losing his balance and falling back against the bunk beside the door.

“Colonel Hogan! You startled me!”

“Sorry sergeant. How’s your information collecting going?”

The guilty look disappeared from Schultz’ face, to be replaced by deep satisfaction. “Colonel Hogan, you were right! They have created their own escape committee. Such inconsiderate men. I will report them to the Kommandant.”

“Great, Schultz, great. We all want to pull together, right?”

“That is right. You have a very nice idea, Colonel Hogan. Maybe with you here, this place will not be so bad.”

Hogan smiled, crossing over to the sergeant. “Gee, thanks Schultz. Listen, I’ve got a favour to ask you.”

Schultz’ smile disappeared, replaced by wariness. “Ja, Colonel?”

“I think I know why you were in here.” He ignored the sergeant’s sudden blanching. “American chocolate really gets its hooks into you.”

“Absolutely not, Colonel, I was looking for – for LeBeau, he –”

“Hey, it’s no problem, Schultz. I understand. We’re pals, right?” He slipped his hand into his pocket, and pulled out two chocolate bars. “It’s no problem. We’ve got plenty.”

Schultz eyes dropped from his to the paper-wrapped candy, following them as Hogan waved them back and forth. “I’ve got nothing against sharing, sergeant. I’m a pretty generous guy, after all. And it’s a pretty small favour.”

Schultz looked up sharply. “What what what?” he barked, sharp and staccato.

“You’re in charge of signing off for the delivery of canteen supplies, right?”

“That’s right,” admitted Schultz, cautiously.

“And I bet, what with the Colonel being new and all, you haven’t gotten around to showing him the backdated forms, right?”

“He has been very busy – all the security protocols, and with the wage forms, and his new secretary.”

“Right, right. So when you do bring the forms in, it wouldn’t be any trouble to make a little alteration, would it? Maybe drop the meat ration a few pounds? You won’t get in any trouble – not your fault if the delivery was wrong. You don’t even have to mention it at all.”

“Oh, I don’t know Colonel. That’s a pretty big favour, altering records…” Schultz squirmed, eyes back on the prize.

Hogan produced another two chocolate bars from his pocket. “I don’t need to say, sergeant, if you pull it off you can count on plenty more … little trades. I’ve got hundreds of men to pull on, you know. I’ll always have supplies. Maybe even something a bit fancier – cologne, cigarettes, magazines. I’ll leave it to your imagination.”

Schultz reached for the chocolate hurriedly. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Hogan smiled widely. “Good man.”

----------------------------------------------

Klink sat back, turning thoughtfully through the pages of applicants for the position of camp secretary. Several very promising-looking young ladies, all with superior typing ability at the least. Interviews would surely be necessary, perhaps even several rounds depending on their other assets.

“Hey Schultz, is the Kommandant in? I’ve got something to talk to him about.”

Klink looked up from the papers, frowning at the voices in the outer office. The American colonel again. Really, the man was incorrigible. At least without having invited him in –

“Thanks, I’ll see myself in. Hi, Colonel.” Hogan slammed right in, Schultz floundering behind him. “Sorry to barge in, but I just heard that Olson and Kelly are being transferred to my barracks. Boy, you work fast, sir!”

“Colonel, in future you will please refrain from entering my office without an invitation.” Klink, glowering sternly, nevertheless allowed himself a smidgeon of humanity, “But thank you for your expression of confidence.”

Hogan brightened right up appreciatively. “No problem! I think you really put an end to that plot. Very neatly done, sir.”

“I trust you will be able to keep a closer eye on their activities from now on.”

“You bet’cha, Kommandant. Actually, while I’m here, there’s something else I wanted to mention. I didn’t like to bother you with it when you arrived seeing as you were so busy and all, but we’ve been a bit behind on our rations here lately. The butcher’s been low in his stocks, or something – Schultz has the forms. We’ve been several pounds under-ration on meat, and the guys are just a bit unhappy about it. They do a lot of hard work around the camp, plus daily exercise. A couple of weeks of extra to make up for it would really go a long way. They’re really trying to go along with you, you know. Plenty of them told Schultz everything they knew about Olson and Kelly, didn’t they sergeant?”

Schultz nodded. “That is right, Kommandant. They were very honest and respectful.”

“You see, they’re already trying to turn over new leaves. But it’s hard, turning in your comrades. I think a little appreciation would really mean a lot to them. And they are owed it, anyway.” Hogan held his hat to his chest, full of apparent sincerity.

“Is this true about the rationing, sergeant?”

“Yes, Kommandant. I have the forms in my office. We have been short 10 pounds on the orders for the past several weeks.”

“Well, if that is true it is certainly poor management. If it is feasible to increase our order, I will see that it is done, Colonel.”

“Thank you, Kommandant. The guys’ll really appreciate it. I’ll make sure they all know about it.” Hogan looked at him with a thoughtful, assessing eye. “You know, you’ve got a really strategic mind.”

“That, Hogan, is why I am the Kommandant, and you are the POW.”

“Too true, sir. Too true.”

Klink waved a generous hand. “Dismissed.”

Hogan saluted, and left looking humble.
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