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Hogan's Heroes: The Edge of the Night 5/6

Title: The Edge of the Night 5/6 + plotting
Series: Hogan's Heroes
Pairing: 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
Chapter 4


Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.
RL Stevenson

The fire was almost to him now, roaring up so hot he could feel it scorching his skin. He was trapped, wrapped in a nest of wire that tightened as he struggled and screamed. The bright orange flames crackled like machine gun fire, like the most desperate dog fight he had ever seen. He tried to reach out to Hogan, standing nonchalantly on the other side of no man’s land with his hands in his pockets, but the barbs cut his arms and hands. The colonel was saying something, but he couldn’t hear it and the flames were coming, coming, coming –

Newkirk woke with a gasp, sitting up so fast he would have banged his head if he’d been in the lower bunk. He let his breath out in a slow, hissing breath and lay back down, already-cooling sweat prickling uncomfortably against his skin.

The rest of the men in the barracks were still asleep, to all appearances peaceful and calm. But they had been sleeping for hours and were now in the middle of their strongest dreams, seesawing from joy to despair, from happiness to terror in seconds in a chaotic, uncontrolled mess. Calm but fully awake, Newkirk pinched the bridge of his nose. He would never be able to get back to sleep with so many dreamers around. Before Hogan, he would have lain in his bunk for the rest of the night, waiting for dawn. But now there was another option.

Levering himself out of the bunk, he dropped soundlessly to the floor and, picking up his boots and coat from their place on the footlocker, crossed to the trunk by the table on stocking feet. He picked the lid up, tossed his things into the hole beneath, and climbed down into the tunnel.

One solitary candle burned at the entranceway, casting a weak buttery glow in the darkness. By its faint light Newkirk pulled on his coat and boots, and then lit another from the meagre supply sitting by the ladder. They were ugly, guttered things, the dredges of old candles melted and remelted many times over to save every drop of precious wax.

Finally alone, buffered from the rest of the men by a good three feet of solid earth, Newkirk felt the muscle tension he hardly even noticed any more fading. The emotional silence in the tunnels was luxurious; thick and velvety, it enfolded and pillowed his strained nerves like a feather eiderdown. Even the smell was restful, the damp earthy scent a change for the better after cramped quarters shared by men showering once a week.

Sheltering the candle from the faint breeze with one hand, Newkirk moved slowly through the tunnels. They were still under construction, but their shape was solidifying quickly. Already in the main tunnel men could walk with only a gentle stoop, and even in most offshoots they could walk upright rather than crawling, albeit with extremely hunched backs.

It was clear, though, that the biggest achievement of the system would eventually be the many cavernous rooms the men were now working to hollow out. Hogan had already shown them what had seemed at the time incredibly ambitious plans for printing rooms, a tailoring outfit, radio and translating space, and accommodation areas. Now that they were actually taking shape, Newkirk could sense a sort of bafflement moving through the men. No one was sure whose grasp of reality was accurate anymore: theirs, or the colonel who promised the obviously impossible and then delivered on it.

Although the tunnel system itself was well underway, it was as of yet populated only by Hogan’s imagination and a very few spare odds and ends smuggled down by the men. A bunk would have been perfect, but currently the only furniture was a couple of small crates in the main cavern. Newkirk headed for the central cavern, and slowed as he approached it. The light shining from the entranceway told him what his heart already knew: he wasn’t alone after all. And that whoever was already down here knew it as well – the sudden bright spike in apprehension was clear enough.

“Uh,” he began, stepping into the doorway. And found himself with a knife at his throat, held by a hard-eyed Hogan. He raised his hands slowly. “Didn’t mean to barge in on you, sir.”

Hogan blinked, but lowered the knife immediately. “As you were, Corporal.” The blade disappeared into a sheath tucked inside the colonel’s belt in an action Newkirk’s experienced eyes classified as clumsy self-taught sleight of hand. “What’re you doing down here?”

“Couldn’t sleep, sir. Thought I’d stretch my legs,” answered Newkirk promptly. One glance behind the colonel showed his night’s work clearly enough – a low footlocker covered with maps and plans, some half-drawn. The barracks, built from thin slats of timber, leaked light like a sieve. There was absolutely no chance of working after lights-out unless under a blanket tent.

Hogan sat back on one of the two small crates acting as chairs, the cheap wood bending under his weight, and gave Newkirk an appraising look. “We’re probably overdue for a talk, Newkirk. I gather you still don’t approve of my methods.” He added a grin to make a half-joke of the statement; Newkirk ignored it.

“Don’t know how to answer that, sir.” Candle beginning to dribble hot wax on his fingers, Newkirk placed it in a temporary holder hammered into the cavern wall.

“Honestly would be a good start, Corporal. LeBeau does a lot of talking for you. I want to hear from you.”

“Then, with all due respect sir, I’m not sure which methods you’re referring to,” said Newkirk flatly, pulling up the collar of his coat. There was a cool breeze coming in through the doorway behind him ruffling the back of his hair – he didn’t mind, it meant they weren’t in danger of suffocating.

Hogan opened his arms, gesturing to the empty space. “We’re alone down here.”

“I know that, sir,” said Newkirk, with emphasis. Hogan nodded.

“I thought you might. Kinch tells me you’ve got your own unique talents. A man who read hearts would be helpful, Corporal. A man who controls them would be indispensable. So tell me: what is it you object to? You know I’m being genuine.”

And he was. Of course, given he was sure Newkirk could read his heart, he would have been a fool to try to lie. “You’re giving me too much credit, sir. I may nudge, but control’s out of my league. Me old mum could’ve done it, but I’m what LeBeau would call a mutt.” He felt the soft slice of disappointment, and stiffened. “If you want my opinion anyway: I think your tactics are bloody dangerous, but I think your choice of men is bloody suicidal. Taking risks is one thing. Walking into the fire with your eyes wide open’s another.” He could still hear the flames crackling in his mind; whether they were from his dream, or a far more distant fire, he wasn’t sure.

“There won’t be any more Erwins on my watch, Newkirk,” Hogan said, like a mind-reader. Newkirk scowled.

“Really, sir? You know the Krauts try any man they catch. I’ve no idea how LeBeau and your lot made it through the net the first time. You go through again, and you’ll be caught out right away. LeBeau’ll fail the first test, and you, Olson and Kinchloe’ll be right behind. And then it’ll be no good claiming you’re a downed airman or an escaped prisoner; even if they believe you they’ll still kill you right then and there. You’re using the only men in camp with absolutely no immunity as your first line.” Realised he was coming close to shouting at an officer, Newkirk took himself in hand. But Hogan projected none of the dry, cracked heat of offense. Just ice-smooth confidence.

“Do you know how Kinch and I made it through the trials?” he asked, eyes alight with curiosity.

“I can guess, sir,” admitted Newkirk, reluctantly. “You’re a man who made a deal.” Even down here where they were irrefutably alone, he wouldn’t say it aloud, just as he wouldn’t name himself. It wasn’t solely a matter of trust – they both knew he knew exactly what Hogan was. But more than two decades of murders, lynchings and mass purges of anyone who was even suspected of being kin brought its own kind of caution. A bone-deep need for secrecy that caused even the thought of speaking openly about himself to knot Newkirk’s guts and dry his mouth.

Hogan nodded, although his appreciation of Newkirk’s silence felt closer to accommodation than true understanding. But the Yanks had been late to the last war. They hadn’t had four years of Witch Squads burning their own troops to greasy bones, unleashing plagues that left busy hamlets stinking of rotten flesh, and turning loyal men’s hearts against them until they cut down their platoons in the night and slit their own throats when they saw what the dawn showed. And consequently, they hadn’t experienced the same insatiable witch-hunting hysteria that followed.

“That’s right, Corporal. If you get caught, you can count on me to see that you get through the trials just like we did.”

“It’s not banes that worry me, sir. It’s what happens when your luck runs out.”

Hogan bent forward to shuffle through the papers on the footlocker in front of him. He pulled from under them a pencil and very battered pack of cards, and drew the top one. Turning it, he showed it to Newkirk. Four of clubs. He flipped it over and scrawled something on its back. Then, drawing the knife from his belt he made a small cut on the back of his arm and pressed the face of the card down against the drop of blood welling up. He muttered something to it; there was a brief dim glow like a red match being struck and a smell like burning metal. Hogan flipped the card around again for Newkirk to see.

It was no longer the four of clubs. It now showed a wheel with odd signs around it, surrounded by several animals, in faded pastel colours. At the bottom was written, in an old cursive hand, The Wheel of Fortune.

“You know what this is?”

“Tarot card. I’ve heard of ‘em, sir. Never seen one. They disappeared pretty quick when the mob started showing up at the doors of the poor stupid biddies who played with ‘em trying to talk to spirits.”

Hogan shrugged, spinning the card between his fingers. “Like most occult material, they’re only toys if you don’t know what you’re doing. But they are a handy way of revealing pacts. Only morons or madmen try to pact outside the Arcana, and the rare few who succeed only succeed briefly.”

Hogan muttered something else and the card burst into bright white flame. He held it even as the fire licked down past his fingers, until the card disappeared entirely, and then showed his hand to Newkirk. There was no sign of burns. “You can take it from me: my luck isn’t going to run out, Corporal.”

“Yes, sir,” said Newkirk, slowly, watching the last of the ash drift to the floor, accompanied now by a weak prickle of irritation from Hogan.

“Still don’t trust me?”

Newkirk looked back up at him. “I’m starting to think I’d like to, sir. But trust isn’t my long suit.” He saluted, turned on his heel, and left.

***

The vet arrived early in the afternoon, guards waving his van into the compound after only a cursory glance at the front seats.

“Schnitzer has been bringing in the dogs every two weeks since I’ve been here. Maybe since the Stalag was set up. They don’t bother to search him anymore.” LeBeau, standing at Hogan’s side in the crowd of POWs outside barracks 2, watched the van drive in with his arms crossed.

Hogan pushed off the wall, tipping his cap down. “Alright, it’s up to you guys. You know what to do.”

The men nodded.

Oui, mon colonel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You got it, Colonel.”

Hogan walked off between the buildings, hands in his pockets and shoulders rounded, for all appearances just out for a stroll. He cut behind the first row of huts, out of sight of the main quad, and came up behind the last barrack. The dogs’ enclosure stretched along the fence here for several yards, the farthest point in camp from the heavily-guarded front gates.

The white truck rolled up and stopped with a brief squeal of worn brakes, and the old veterinarian got out. At the other end of the compound, the group of men Hogan just left were getting rowdy, forming a circle and beginning to shout. Several guards were already hurrying over. Hogan stepped out from the shelter of the barracks and leant up against the truck’s side.

“Oskar Schnitzer?”

Schnitzer startled and looked around.

“You are not to be speaking to me,” he said in heavily accented English, stepping around Hogan and heading for the back of the truck.

“I have a sister in Paris.” Hogan leant in as Schnitzer stopped and turned. “Her name is Claudette.”

“The only Claudette I know keeps an alehouse,” Schnitzer replied slowly, almost unwillingly.

“The White Hart.” Hogan held up his hand as Schnitzer began to hurry closer. “There’s no time for chatting. I need you to come back tonight and pick up two of us. You’ll get a call – one of the dogs’ll be sick. Bring out a replacement. We’ll be waiting here.”

Schnitzer shook his head. “Nein, it is too dangerous. The dogs are trained to attack all but certain men –”

“Don’t worry about that – it’s taken care of. Just make sure you come when you get the call. You’ve got a telephone?”

The old vet nodded warily; Hogan grinned.

“Good. My name’s Hogan. Colonel Robert Hogan.”

“But Colonel –”

“See you tonight. Oh, and one more thing. Bring a shovel.” Hogan turned and stepped hurriedly around the truck without waiting for Schnitzer to voice his concerns, walking hurriedly in the opposite direction. Across the yard, the scuffle had broken up, men heading off in different directions. Hogan returned to his barracks, where Kinch and LeBeau were waiting playing catch.

“Well, sir?” asked Kinch, tossing him the ball.

“We’re on. LeBeau?”

“Leave it to me, sir.” LeBeau smiled, glancing towards the dogs. “Hans is on patrol tonight. He has always been a scaredy-cat.”

***

“I still think it’s completely balmy,” said Newkirk, as he and LeBeau swept out the barracks. “Running around camp after lights out, escapin’, and then coming back in? If you could manage one without being caught it’d be a bloody miracle.” He swept out a corner with resentful force, dust flying everywhere.

LeBeau didn’t stop, sweeping a pile into his dust bin. “It is risky, but I think it is sound. And once we have established the exit, we will not have to do it again.”

“Nah, we’ll go on finding new ways to risk out skins instead.”

“You say that, but you want it to work as much as me, Pierre.” LeBeau tapped his nose, and Newkirk scowled at him.

“Even if I did, believing it could is another matter entirely.”

LeBeau emptied out his pan in the bin and dusted off his hands. “You will see. It will work. From now on, we make our own successes. I only wish you could trust in that, as well.”

“Yeah, well.” Newkirk shrugged awkwardly under LeBeau’s gaze – his sympathy was thick and cool as mist, but it couldn’t disguise the vibrant tint of disappointment. “Just you be careful, alright? Look after yourself.”

“That, always.”

***

Hogan and LeBeau slipped down into the tunnel immediately after evening roll call. Hogan intended the system to eventually connect every building in camp, but so far it only accessed 6 barracks. They came up in Barracks 16, one down from the dog pens, and waited for the men there already watching the patrols to give the okay before sneaking out into the cold night. Hogan let LeBeau lead – his senses were far keener, and he knew the camp better.

They skirted 17, the last in the row, and stopped in the deep shadow of its far side.

“You wait here, sir.” Without waiting for Hogan’s reply, LeBeau hurried forward to the corner of the building closest to the dog pen. The dogs perked up and trotted over, yipping excitedly. “Shh,” ordered the Frenchman severely, and they drooped.

Hogan watched as, using whispers and gestures, LeBeau separated one dog from the pack and had him lie down dejectedly in the dirt. He continued speaking to him for several minutes, although his voice was so quiet and harsh Hogan couldn’t make out whether he was using words or just barks and growls. Finally, he crept back. The dog remained where it was, not moving.

“He will stay there until I let him up,” whispered LeBeau. Hogan nodded, and they retreated to the cover of a water barrel.

The night air was cold and crisp against Hogan’s skin, but he hardly felt it. He was warm with adrenaline, ready to act at the drop of a hat. Beside him LeBeau was breathing heavily, as if spoiling for a race.

The patrol arrived to switch its dogs a few minutes later. One was returned, and one of the two men called Hans to come. The dog whined, but didn’t move, and the guard called him again before going in to pull at him. Hans whined but refused to stand, shying away and growling when the guard tried to force him.

Beside Hogan, LeBeau gave an almost inaudible growl. Hans yelped and rolled away, and Hogan could hear him breathing heavily in fear and confusion even from ten yards away.

The guard patted him gently, called to another dog, and left to meet his partner.

“What is wrong with the damn dog?” asked the other man, locking up.

“He must be ill. He’s sweating hard, and panting like a bellows. His mouth is covered in foam. I will ask the Kommandant to call Schnitzer. He was fine yesterday – it may be something serious.”

“Probably just bitten too many prisoners.” They walked away laughing. Hogan went along to the end of the building, and watched them stop in at the Kommandantur. Then he returned to the water barrel, and settled down to wait.

***

Schnitzer arrived half an hour later, the van’s weak headlights illuminating only a few yards of dark earth in front of it. The vet climbed out and, pulling out a torch, went to open the back. Hogan slipped through the shadows and met him there.

“I will bring Gretchen out, then you get in.” He opened the door, and Hogan backed away as he grabbed the dog and led her out. Beside the fence, LeBeau was whispering to Hans. The dog stood now, and came over warily to the gate. LeBeau returned to Hogan, and they climbed into the back of the now-empty van. A minute later Schnitzer was pulling Hans over, the big dog straining at his leash. He held him outside the van with a command.

“Colonel, this is too dangerous. Even if I tell him not to attack, he may still –”

“Trust me, Oskar. Just put the dog in and let’s go.”

The vet shook his head, but led the dog into the van, still holding the leash. Hans jumped up easily, and lay down quietly on the floor beside them. Schnitzer stared for a moment, but then tossed the leash in and shut the door. LeBeau patted himself, and the dog came over to lick at his face.

“No problem, mon colonel. He will not touch you as long as you are with me.” He stroked the big dog while it panted in his ear, utterly at ease despite the inch-long canines by his throat.

Schnitzer got in at the front with a metallic clatter and started the engine. “You should lie down. They never check the back, but they could see you through the windshield.”

They did as he said, and the van trundled slowly for a moment before coming to a stop. The window creaked as Schnitzer rolled it down, a cold breeze sweeping into the van.

“How does he look, Herr Doktor?”

“Too early to tell. Could be nothing. I will bring him back with the next rotation, if he’s recovered.”

“Thank you. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

The window creaked again, and the engine revved as the van carried on forwards – out of the camp, and onto the open road beyond.

Hogan waited a good minute before sitting up cautiously and looking out the front of the van. There were no lights visible, just a dirt road and trees.

“Stop as soon as we’re out of sight of the camp, and we’ll get out.”

The vet looked over his shoulder, eyes wide. “Get out? Are you not escaping?”

“Unfortunately, no. We’re going back in again. What can I say, the place has its charms.” Glancing around, Hogan dropped the joking tone. “Did you bring the shovel?”

Ja, it is wired beneath the truck. They do not check carefully anymore. But Colonel, you cannot seriously intend to tunnel into the camp.” The van rolled to a stop, and the engine cut out. Schnitzer turned in his seat, just a shadow in the darkness. Close beside him Hans whined quietly, and was shushed by LeBeau.

“You’ve been waiting for someone to be sent out to take charge of the local Underground network for months. Well, I’m it, and I’m setting up in the most convenient place in town. No one would ever suspect the most secure camp in Germany of being an Underground base. We’ll be up and running within the month, ready to start ferrying men and supplies. You have a radio?”

“Well, I…” The vet trailed off, caught in a sudden attack of caution. Hogan interrupted in his best court-martial voice, before it could set in in full.

“Look Schnitzer, you’ve already broken two men out of camp; it’s too late to bail now. Do you?”

There was a whisper of fabric, the vet bowing his head. “Yes. Low power, limited transmitting frequency.”

“Good. My radioman is working on getting ours hooked up. We’ll need to transmit long-distance eventually, but he should be able to jerry-rig something for the time being. How do we reach you?”

“I monitor the Underground frequency during designated times. I will remain on for fifteen minutes after the broadcast. My call sign is Peter Wolf.”

Hogan didn’t have to see it to know LeBeau was grinning in the darkness beside him, arms around the supposedly vicious German Shepherd.

“Great. We’ll be in touch. Thanks for the ride.” Hogan found the door handle and threw the heavy metal door outwards, jumping down.

“Wait,” hissed Schnitzer. “What have you done to Hans?”

“Oh, that. Sorry, it’s classified. But don’t worry, he’s fine. Coming, Corporal?” Hogan bent and, running his hand underneath the van, found the head of the shovel. It came free with a good hard pull, just as LeBeau jumped down to stand beside him.

“Classified? What? I don’t understand, Colonel –”

“Better that you don’t. Trust me.” Hogan tipped his hat, and closed the door. “Come on, Corporal. We’ve got a tunnel to dig.”

***

No one was sleeping. A third of barracks 2 were on shift below tonight, digging or constructing the underground workshops. The rest were lying in the dark of lights-out, waiting. Waiting, Newkirk knew, to find out whether their CO had just ditched them or was really the hero they all already believed him to be.

That Hogan had arranged for his own escape from the camp and carried it out easy as rolling out of a bunk had been simultaneously the most impressive thing he could have done, and the most dangerous. The doubt was thickening in the air with each hour that passed, congealing into an ugly festering mess.

Newkirk rolled over, searching for a more comfortable hollow in his lumpy mattress, when the footlocker hiding the tunnel entrance gave a rattling lurch. Anxiety suffused doubt in a roaring wave as the men from Barracks 2 scrambled up the ladder.

“Surprise bed-check,” reported Olson to the room, panting. “Don’t know why – maybe the Krauts are suspicious about the dog. They’re starting at the other end of camp – I think the guys from 12 made it back up okay.”

The first thing the Krauts would do on discovering two missing prisoners would be to loose the dogs in camp. The second would be to start searching outside the wire. Where they would find Hogan and LeBeau, and a partially complete tunnel connecting with rabbit warren under the camp.

Newkirk lit a match, and checked his watch in the flickering light. Four hours since lights out, three since Hogan and LeBeau escaped. He shook the flame dead, blinking in his sudden blindness.

“Where’s Kinchloe?” He demanded of the room at large.

“Still in the tunnel,” answered Henderson. “He’s making sure everyone gets up – they might have to come up through the other barracks, fake an illegal meeting.”

Halfway through Henderson’s report, Newkirk had grabbed his clothes and started pulling them on. Now, in his shirt and trousers, he looked up.

“Great.” Newkirk slammed his feet into his boots and tied them so fast the laces rope-burned his fingers. He grabbed his coat in one hand, and then latched onto Olson. “When he comes up, tell him I’m buying LeBeau and Hogan as much time as possible – and that ain’t gonna be much. If the Krauts get here first, tell ‘em I’ve done a runner. Get them out of here before they do a head count. Got it?”

“Newkirk –”

Ignoring him, Newkirk grabbed the door and stepped out into the cold night. Pulling his coat on as he ran, he slipped around the barracks and headed for the dog kennels. They could always be counted on to draw plenty of attention. He shook his head as he went, hands fisted tight in his pockets.

“’We make our own successes’ my arse.”

END CHAPTER



Sadly it looks like this fic will probably never be finished; I ran out of steam and inspiration on it. Here is the plotting for the final chapter though, for those who are interested:

Edge of the Night – Chapter 6

Newkirk’s “escape attempt” buys just enough time for Hogan and LeBeau to tunnel back into camp Hogan and LeBeau tunnel back into the camp successfully – they attend roll call to find that Newkirk has been captured, and sentenced to a month in the cooler. Hogan protests and is ignored; Newkirk is led off.

In his office, Hogan is busy planning the development of a permanent entrance to the tunnel system. LeBeau enters and demands that he get Newkirk out of the cooler; Hogan refuses – sometimes, there will be men who have to take punishment for the success of the mission. LeBeau, furious and frustrated, finally reveals that Newkirk is half Banshee. Keeping him in the cooler for more than a few days will undoubtedly kill him, very probably as spectacularly as it did Erwin.

Faced with this unacceptable fact, Hogan resolves to use sorcery to get him out. He orders Kinch and LeBeau to bring him his materials, stored for safety in the tunnels, but before he can start the ceremony the camp alarm goes off – the cooler is on fire.

LeBeau and Olson go into the cooler after Newkirk, while the prisoners are ordered to set up a bucket chain. They are able to get Newkirk out from the smoldering building; eventually, the fire is put out.

The next morning the cooler is deemed temporarily uninhabitable, and Newkirk is sentenced to latrine duty instead of solitary. LeBeau tells him that it was Hogan who got him out, but Hogan disagrees – he wasn’t the one who set the fire. Kinch says that he was watching Kelley as the fire was being put out, and that the suspected fire-starter seemed perfectly normal then.

Newkirk, convinced by LeBeau that Hogan was in fact going to have him released against his better judgement, agrees to join the underground movement. Hogan, misgivings about Newkirk’s cowardice erased, gladly accepts him.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
what_we_dream
Jun. 23rd, 2015 02:28 am (UTC)
Sorry to be so late replying to this! I'm sorry to say that I doubt I will be finishing this. I don't have a lot of time to write these days, and I'm spending all the time I do have over in the Endeavour fandom. :(
cimmerdeux
May. 19th, 2016 03:05 pm (UTC)
This AU is quite wonderful. I love that Hogan made a pact with Luck herself. What is Kinch though that he moves dirt and tunnels so well? I understand the story won't be finished but thanks for the plot synopsis.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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