The Dream is Dead Part 0: Über Alles

Published: 2018-01-07, edited: 2018-01-07
The Second Weltkrieg had been a complete failure for the Third Internationale. Everything that could have wrong inevitably did. Now, the Union of Britain wages a war against the world in a desperate attempt to keep the idea of Syndicalism alive.
Eric Blair stood along the ruined pier of the Dover Harbour, gazing out onto the English Channel. A distant glow lit up on the horizon of a blackened sky. Obvious to any onlookers, the thunderous roar was of the Republican Navy’s remaining ships fighting it out against the dwindling Kaiserliche Marine. The former General-Secretary grimaced at the thought of what the battle at sea would look like if the Communard fleets didn’t sit at the bottom of the Channel and the Mediterranean. How could it have come to this?

Accusations and hypotheticals danced through his head at a breakneck speed. He pondered the one answer he and Britain’s military minds sought to figure out what went wrong. No, there wasn’t a single answer; there were many at fault, far too numerous to point fingers. Luck, strategy, and cunning had all turned away from the Third Internationale.

It had been a slow, gradual decline over the course of the past few years of the war. The Germans had the upper hand to begin with; outnumbering Britain and the Commune on land, in the air, and at sea. Yet the two allies had been beating the Germans back early on, the British in the air and at sea while the French grinded them down on land. The first year of the Second Weltkrieg ended with initiative in favor of the Syndicalist nations. Germany, while also at war with the Japanese, was pushed back on its heels.

Looking back, Blair could see clearly that they had underestimated the Germans in three matters: resilience, industry, and realpolitik. Despite millions of dead across Europe, Germany and its allies continued onward, fighting the Communard armies to a halt, much of the combat barely moving from the initial border. Trench fighting had clearly supported the German doctrines better, infantry supported by armor. Whereas the French and British used a style of mobile warfare utilizing fast armored divisions to pierce through enemy lines.

Unfortunately, Blair thought, the Germans used a cunning counter of deep battle that largely negated the effects of mobile warfare. Looking back, he knew it would only be a matter of time until the French would lose. The Germans had simply played a better hand.

But, that wasn’t the only way the Germans had beaten them. In fact, Germany’s colonial empire and its minions in Mitteleuropa had provided the necessary resources to out-produce the Internationale tenfold. Every tank, rifle, plane, and ship lost was replaced far sooner than they could even hope.

But the nail in the coffin was Germany’s ability to make allies of enemies, something the Syndicalists had clearly failed miserably in. Diplomats and backdoor dealings had won the Second Weltkrieg for the Germans, rallying the Entente to their side and a resurgent Russia under the tsar’s control once more. Germany’s efforts had lead to the Combined Syndicates of America being pushed back to Philadelphia, once on the cusp of victory in Denver. They supplied the Swedes to fight in a socialist Norway, further isolating the Internationale. Bharatiya had fallen to the Dominion of India, armed with Mausers and Messerschmitts. Japan’s navy lay scattered on the Pacific’s ocean floor, the last deterrent that could have favored the British.

Realistically, Britain stood alone. Her army had barely survived an invasion by the Entente, while the rest fought on bitterly in the Netherlands, attempting to evacuate back home. The orders from Central Command were simple: Retreat, Return, Regroup.

Blair took a drag from his cigarette, a desperately needed relief from the pessimism of his mind. He retreated away from his thoughts of the war and Mosley’s scheming back in London. The silhouettes on the horizon brightened once again, most likely a ship’s munitions going up in flames. Today, like many before it, had gone to the Kaiser.
Lieutenant Bruce Sanders trudged through the building’s rubble; his Sten Mk. II aimed forward in case of the threat of another German patrol. His boots, soaked all the way through from sweat and rain, stepped into another large puddle. Bruce’s reflection was disturbed by his footsteps, distorting the image of him in his combat dress. Tattered, stained, and covered in blood, these were a far cry from his service dress or his blues. Those hadn’t been needed in months, not worn or seen since his initial landing at Den Helder. He figured it rather ironic, seeing as though that’s where he and the remainder of British troops were slowly making their way back.

Evacuation was imminent; they all knew it. The French were on the ropes as Paris was soon to fall. Central Command, while normally oblivious to the plight of its men on the ground, weren’t stupid enough to abandon the entire First Army and the People’s Marine Corps on a fruitless endeavor into the Benelux. General Gott and the First Army had already made it back to East Anglia in relatively one piece.

Unfortunately, Lieutenant Sanders, his men, and the rest of the People’s Marine Corps were tasked with holding the line against the Germans; in ordinary times of war, this would already be considered an incredible feat, but now seemed to be a pipedream. Yet here they were, fighting off the Germans and bleeding them dry.

He continued on in tandem with one of his marines, Private Daniels, as they passed a bombed out home. Glancing inside, Bruce was shocked to see an equally surprised group of Germans eating next to their machine gun.

“Down!” Bruce shouted, shoving Daniels to the ground with him. The machine gun fired out the window just over their heads as Bruce looked back to the rest of the platoon behind him. How didn’t anyone hear the machine gun team? He kicked himself mentally, as the blame ultimately went to him.

As the machine stopped to reload, a small group of friendly troops arrived. A squad, wearing British uniforms, flagged him down. One of the soldiers in front quickly took the initiative, lobbing a grenade into the open window. Shouts in German were briefly heard before an explosion. Silence.

Getting to his feet, Bruce dusted himself off before moving to thank his allies for the save. As he got closer to thank the soldier, a smile shown back at him, goofy-looking and brimming from ear to ear. Recognition took a bit longer than it should have, a clear sign he had been away from home for too long. He should have recognized the green eyes.

“Bloody good timing,” was all Bruce could muster, hugging his little brother in a tight embrace. They laughed at the sheer absurdity of somehow finding each other like this, in the middle of a warzone in another country.

“Someone had to come save your ass,” Jonathan replied. Another soldier came out to greet Bruce.

“Forget about the middle child, did you?” Dylan said, “Not a surprise honestly.” The three brothers embraced, brought together by sheer chance. Bruce kicked himself once again for not recognizing them quicker; perhaps it was the uniforms that disguised them. They looked older, more mature, than he had last seen them. Maybe it was his mind still believing them to be the kids he used to tolerate back in school.
The trio recounted stories of their adventures, describing how they had come to this point. Dylan and Jon had met up after the siege in Amsterdam. Both had lost touch with their superior officers after the fighting, but had found each other in the retreats north of the city. They had stuck together ever since in hopes to get out in Den Helder. Bruce had explained that his platoon had been closer to the sea, north of Den Haag. He led his men north as the retreat had been ordered. They remained thankful their siblings had made it this far.

“We were on our way to that bridge up there,” Bruce said, lighting a cigarette for another marine, “Maps say it’s the fastest route north.” The younger brothers shook their heads.

“No good. Place is crawling with Jerry’s.” Dylan pulled out his own map, pointing to a narrow section of the nearby river. “We figured we wade across tonight, flank ‘em, catch ‘em by surprise.”

“But that won’t help with their trucks and fuel. Whole fuel depot there,” Jon said. Bruce was impressed by his brother’s ability to work together and strategize. As kids, the only thing they did together was fight. It seemed they finally put their minds to good use. He pulled a makeshift explosive out of his satchel.

“I believe this might help.” Bruce tossed them the device. Diesel oil and plastic explosive, meant to obliterate anything that stood in the way of his men. The marines sat together through the evening, plotting their next move.

The truck depot went up in a ball of fire, the German troops nearby also engulfed in flames. Lieutenant Sanders’ platoon had flanked the Germans on both sides, pushing together to encircle the survivors. Meanwhile, Dylan and Jon sat in positions with their men across the bridge.

“We’ve got them on the run, sir!” Daniels shouted to Bruce. The fighting was so quick that the Lieutenant barely had time to process what was happening.

“Get the Vickers up!” Bruce’s men obliged by firing the machine gun into the Germans, quickly forcing the remaining troops to surrender, a small handful barely enough to consider a platoon.

“I thought you were an entire company,” a German waving a white flag said. The accent was thick but Bruce could understand it nevertheless.

The rifles remained focused on the Germans as they were taken into custody. Herded like cattle into a nearby trench, they were ordered to sit while Bruce and his men discussed what to do with them. Bruce nodded at his men, who saw the signal. Most looked away but they all remained silent, the Stens quickly firing into the trench. Seconds later, there was absolute silence as Bruce and the marines marched forward. They didn’t have the time or resources to hold prisoners. Bruce wondered if it bothered his men as much as it bothered him. If it did, they certainly remained quiet on the matter. He did, too, but he knew it should only be his burden to bear.
Den Helder had become a hub of activity as the R.E.D. continued to funnel men and equipment into transport ships. General David Stirling watched patiently as the latest transport sailed off. By day’s end, he hoped to have the first eight divisions on their way back to Britain.

Air raid sirens quickly howled, deafening anything else around him. Anti-aircraft batteries quickly sprung to life, blotting the sky with black smoke. General Stirling could see Do 217s as they made their way over the city, attacking ships at sea. The first bomber over the heads of his men crashed in the water as two more released torpedoes meant for the escaping transport.

The first appeared to miss as the slow ship veered in desperation to its starboard side. But the second connected not soon after, flames emanating from the hull. Sailors and marines jumped from the deck as flames soared skyward, their shouts audible to the men in the port. The transport listed to the side, its metal groaning as it began to capsize. Specks of white, blue, and green uniforms were visible in the water as the General made his way to the docks. Right now, every hand was needed if they had any chance of getting out of this hellhole.
When Bruce and his men reached Den Helder, they were hoping for some rest and food before hopping on the next available ship out of port. Unfortunately, the war made Bruce cynical, so he knew it wouldn’t be so easy. Instead, he found himself standing in front of a commissar.

“You’re late, Lieutenant. First Marines was expecting all units back three days ago.” Bruce bit his tongue. He eyed the boy chastising him, pimple-faced with an impeccably clean uniform. Bruce’s platoon gazed at him with derision, a profiteer from the disbandment of the militias apparently. The commissar’s own men ignored him, their own uniforms ragged and scuffed.

“Apologies, sir. Roads have been a bit tedious to navigate.” Bruce tightened a fist. He wasn’t in the mood to be talked down to by a kid even younger than Private Daniels. The commissar eyed him up with skepticism, before jotting down nothing in particular. Bruce reckoned it was scribbles an officer above them both would file away in some back room cabinet, never to be seen again.

Without another word, the commissar pointed the men in the direction of a group of tents. Bruce waved along his men, eager to make it out of this city without some form of court-martial.
Bruce tried to talk them out of it. They were his brothers, he pleaded with the officers. But they were desperate for volunteers and they had been one of the last groups into the city. Bruce had accepted the request followed by his platoon right behind him. But when Dylan and Jon grabbed their rifles to follow, Bruce was seeing red. Were they stupid? What would their mother say? He expected to get a swift beating back home if she found out they all tried to stay behind, provided he'd make it back of course.

He argued with his younger siblings, urging them desperately to get on the last ship. While the officers promised there would be more ships to come back for the final elements of the rearguard, most of the men knew this wasn’t true or even possible. German planes and ships had hounded the Republican Navy and the People’s Marine Corps for weeks.

Chances of escape narrowed by the hour, with the window of opportunity almost closed already. As Daniels carried over sandbags for a machine gun nest, Bruce caught a glimpse of the transport leaving. As it sailed off into the Channel, he thought he spotted a particularly clean uniform desperately hopping aboard.
“The last ship has made it out, sir,” the young officer said, “She’ll link up with the rest of fleet in a few moments.”

General Stirling frowned. He watched Den Helder as the intial artillery shells began firing from the German lines. From the deck of the RNS Fawkes, he could catch most of the action. The general prayed for the remainder of his men left behind. Most had made it out but a few companies were still in there.

The RNS Resolution, not far off the Fawkes’ starboard, began prepping a squadron for takeoff. Stirling looked back to see the Fawkes’ crew readying themselves to do the same. As he made his way off the deck, the general glanced back at Den Helder.

“Fuck this. Get me Admiral Roope, have him send word to the fleet.”

“Yes, sir.” The young man sprinted off, eager to oblige the general.
“Medic!” Private Rowley hollered, grasping his small intestine in his hand. Lieutenant Sanders, close enough to make it to his wounded man, tried to help keep pressure on the wound. “They got me good, sir.”

“Just keep pressure on it for now. Medic!” A soldier with a red cross on his arm ran from a collapsed building across the street, bullets whizzing past his feet as he went. He tended to Rowley, examining his wound. “Bullet in the gut!”

“I got this, Lieutenant, get out of here.” The medic nodded at Bruce, seeing to Rowley’s wounds. Bruce grabbed the Enfield next to the injured marine, a better weapon for the distance that the German infantrymen were at. He fired at two German helmets he saw over an overturned cart, connecting with one. The helmet flew off as the body crumpled to the ground while the other soldier began to panic.

Artillery shells flew overhead, obliterating the area in front of him and his men. Bruce whistled towards Daniels, Dylan, and Jon, who were upstairs manning an improvised machine gun nest. Ammunition was running low and they were frighteningly close to the artillery barrage covering their retreat.

“Falling back!” Dylan yelled. The marines in the building, heaving whatever equipment they could, stumbled down the stairs. Sprinting as fast as their legs allowed, Bruce and his men retreated to their next positions, closer to the dockyards to the northeast. It was the final stronghold they had. Bruce attempted to chuckle under his winded breath; it’d be one hell of a last stand.

Sniper fire crackled behind them just before the hissing of bullets went over their heads. Daniels caught a bullet to the leg, forcing Bruce to stop. He ran back and propped the man up, attempting to walk out of there together.
“We radioed Den Helder, so they know we’re coming.”

“Excellent,” General Stirling replied, “Lets get our boys home, Admiral.” Roope nodded.

“The transport is ready, my fleet will clear the way.”

“I'm sure they will. See you soon.” He made his way towards the group of men disembarking onto the transport, all volunteers, as per his request.

“Are you sure you want to join them, General?” Roope asked. Stirling turned back towards the Channel Fleet’s admiral. “I heard you have Mosley ripping his hair out. Might not be wise.”

“They’re my men.” General Stirling boarded the transport.
“All right boys, to the ship!” Bruce waved his men onward, as well as the multitude of men now fallen under his command. Anti-aircraft, artillery, and machine guns dealt out as much damage against the pursuing Germans as they could, delaying them until the last moment.

Private Rowley, now placed on a stretcher, was carried away by two medics; Bruce grabbed Private Daniels, allowing himself to be the man’s crutch. Bruce looked to his side, catching a glance of Jon feeding bullets into a Vickers.

“Jon, fuck the gun! It’s time to go!” The youngest brother ran out of ammunition before he and the machine gun team abandoned it. Dylan could be seen up ahead, helping carry stretchers onboard the transport. The final anti-air battery roared atop a nearby factory. A tank shell effectively silenced it for good, leaving a vacancy for the dive-bombers to begin making attack runs on the fleeing Brits.

Ju 87s fired into the fleeing marines, cutting them down just before reaching safety. Crewmen on the transport used their own weapons to try to scare the pilots off. Two planes began trailing smoke, but another two began to turn around for a second run.

“Get them onboard! Get them onboard!” Bruce ordered. Pointing to the injured men now lying in front of the ship. Able bodies pulled the ones within reach onto the ship while others tried to crawl their way to safety.

Bruce heaved as he and Daniels made it to the ship, a medic taking care of Daniels’ injured leg. Bruce turned back to see how many of the bodies on the ground were left behind. A few cried out for help, their injuries and distance inevitably dooming them. And then he saw him.

Jon was on all fours, crawling his way forward with the other two men from the machine gun team lying silent behind him. Bruce’s instincts kicked in, ready to run after and save his brother. But the planes had come back around and were diving back in.

Bruce tried to sprint forward only to be stopped by his men. Dylan and the medics held him back, with several more piling on. He thrashed and screamed, howling in desperation. But he couldn’t break free; against ten men, he nearly broke their grasp but wasn’t quite strong enough. No one would be.

The last sight Bruce saw as he was dragged off was of Jon holding the bleeding wound in his chest as the Ju 87s opened fire on the trail of bodies still squirming. Bruce’s screams became muffled and his sight was blocked; yet he continued to thrash and scream. He did it as they raced out of the docks, he did it as they fled the coast, and he did it as they crossed the Channel. He did it until his muscles went numb and his voice went hoarse.
The People’s Marine Corps had survived the Evacuation of Den Helder. All twenty-four divisions made it back in one piece, relatively speaking. All along southern England, transports came back with exhausted troops, all eager to return home. For many, their spirits had been broken by the loss of the Benelux and the Commune. But the return to Britain was jovial for their friends and families, their loved ones having escaped certain destruction. Members of the Internationale, those that were left, touted it as a miracle like no other.

But for the Union of Britain, times had become uncertain. Her navies lay in port, mothballed by the onslaught of the Entente and Mitteleuropa, her planes flew in skies swarming with Bf 109s, and her armies were exhausted from the fiercest fighting of the war, barely able to escape annihilation.

Britain stood alone in the world once more, her territory threatened by invasion. The world found itself united against the Internationale, forcing Britain strictly into a defensive role. Her seas grew crowded by the enemy in the absence of her allies, making even Ireland seem a world away. The final test for the Syndicalists was upon the British as the world began to shrink around them.
Chairman Oswald Mosley paced his London office, contemplating his next move. He had just met with refugees from France, the remnants of the Commune’s hardcore believers. During the meeting, he remained cordial enough, but internally, he seethed with rage.

Those Sorelian fools! They had cost them all the Revolution! Their arrogance and stubbornness had bled Britain’s main ally dry, another generation of Frenchmen doomed to the trenches. Official numbers put it near two million casualties, a disgusting rate already; but the true number was over six million French dead. Mosley pitied how weak the French appeared to be, their ability to genocide themselves into extinction.

He imagined the French charging into bayonets like cattle. Even then, it shouldn’t have been so easy for the Germans. But alas, here they were. Mosley had a mind to execute the Sorelians as traitors. How could the nation of Napoleon be so unfit and ill-mannered for war?

He looked out onto the London skyline, realizing that the people behind him needed leadership, strong and absolute. The Sorelians had their time in the spotlight, but it was his Maximists that had to truly do the heavy lifting. And with enemies at home and abroad, Mosley knew that he needed to send a message to the world, reminding them why he was in charge. Britain was strong, but only as strong as the one at the helm. He began to jot on a piece of paper, knowing that his talent as an orator would be needed once more.
Radios tuned in across Britain and across the world. From Ottawa to Berlin, enemies of the Internationale listened eagerly, hoping for a desperate plea from a doomed man. Recordings were aired across Philadelphia and Napoli, desperate for some semblance of good news. Underground meetings in the countries of the oppressed tuned in despite threats of retaliation.

Mosley began his address to the TUC in a play-by-play of events about the efforts in Den Helder. Remaining as stoic as he could about the battle, Mosley looked out onto members of the TUC, now eyeing him with hunger. The wolves had clearly begun to circle.

Chairman Mosley crumpled much of what he had already written, instead relying on emotion to stir up the crowd and the listeners abroad. He leaned into the microphone.
“It’s on, it’s on!” Berkman yelled, now freed from fiddling with the radio antennas. Members of Charlie Company gathered around, eager to get taken away from the fighting in Philadelphia for at least a few moments. Mosley’s recording began to churn out over the radio with a slight crackle. Unfortunately, they had missed much of the speech, but they had heard stories from others. It had been played on the air ritually since the Chairman of Britain had made it days before.
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, and we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air! We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.”
“We shall fight on the beaches!”
“We shall fight on the landing grounds!”
“We shall fight in the fields and in the streets!”
“We shall fight in the hills!”
“We shall never surrender!”
The recording continued to play for Charlie Company, sounds of booming cheers from the TUC echoing in the background. Mosley attempted to calm the crowd to no avail, a clear victory for his oratory.

“And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then the Revolutionaries beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the Republican Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, and in good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
The train slowed down while rolling into the station, finally stopping after a few moments. Smoke billowed from the rails while the whistle signaled to all around that the train had arrived. The doors opened and passengers filed out onto the platform.

Among the last ones off, Lieutenant Bruce Sanders and Corporal Dylan Sanders stepped about and peered around. They carried rucksacks of clothes and other materials in their hands. Civilians stared at them from the corners of their eyes. It was weird to be back in service dress. Bruce found it to be too scratchy and tight in the collar.

“There,” Dylan said, pointing into the crowd, “Over there.” Sure enough, his younger brother had a good eye, noticing their parents off in the corner. Shuffling through the crowd proved tedious but they made their way over following a few elbows and shoulders being shoved into people blocking the path.

Their father fiercely grabbed Dylan, bringing him into a tight embrace that appeared to snap the young man’s spine. Next to them, Bruce saw his mother, adorned in what was typically her church attire.

He had replayed and rewound what he’d say in his mind over and over for weeks. But he was met with only her watery, green eyes. In that moment, he lost whatever stoicism he had managed to hide behind. Bruce clung to his mother like a desperate toddler waking from a nightmare. His father pulled them both into a hug, Bruce burying himself in his parents’ shoulders. The train whistled yet again, deafening out the family’s sobs. Bruce whispered to his parents, but his muffled, cracked voice was easily drowned out by the commotion in the station.

“I lost one. I lost one. I lost one.”

Next chapter:

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The Dream is Dead Part 1: Peace Without Honour

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