• Published 16th Nov 2012
  • 4,941 Views, 297 Comments

A Great Endeavor - Rune Soldier Dan

On July 3, 1943, Equestria declared war on the Axis Powers. These are the stories of those times.

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Chapter 3: The Shattering

Following the breakout at St. Lo, the Germans had two sensible options: Retreat south to defend Paris, or east to shorten the line. Under Hitler’s orders, neither was done. Instead, an entirely insensible attack was made right into the teeth of the advancing Americans. It was an utter disaster. Exhausted, outnumbered, and ground down by Allied air supremacy, the German forces lodged themselves in the enemy lines and were swiftly cut off. While COBRA-GOODWOOD had taken territory, the “Falaise Pocket” achieved something even more crucial: The destruction of a German army and the total route of the Axis from France.

August 21, 1944
South of Falaise, France

Three of them approached Applejack from the woodline– two grenadiers and a Hiter Youth soldier. She ducked out of reflex, but there were no weapons in their hands.

“Wir ergebe,” one of the soldiers called out. Even the shout caused him to pause and gasp for breath. The three were exhausted, arms hanging limply at their sides.

Applejack didn’t speak German, but she had heard the phrase enough times in the last few days to infer its meaning. It didn’t hurt to be safe – she crouched low in the tall grass and called out. “Leslie! Another three over here!”

An American soldier raised his head above a well he had crouched behind. The tall southerner seemed to unfold himself as he stood up. He approached with easy strides, though still held his rifle warily.

“Dag nabbit, Applejack, for the last time, call me ‘Tex!’” He gave a curt gesture with his rifle and the three soldiers began stumbling forward. “Holy Moley, Manny’s gonna blow a gasket. That’s 150 of ‘em today alone. We gotta find someone to pass these guys off too.”

They let the prisoners pass them, then turned to follow at a slow walk. The plod was as fast as the German soldiers could manage. Applejack still had trouble distinguishing humans, but these men and thousands like them had obvious features to them. What surprised her was that there wasn’t a scrap of defiance, anger, or even sadness to be seen. The prisoners just looked tired. Dull, empty eyes stared out above slack jaws. They stumbled and swayed as if sleepwalking. Physically and emotionally, they had been pushed to their limits and shoved rudely over the edge.

At the edge of their camp, they met Corporal “Jackie,” as he came out to meet them. When Tex finally swapped his Stetson for a helmet, Applejack had the darndest of times telling the two humans apart. They were both lanky, dark haired, and lacked any sort of facial fur. And of course, they both wore the drab green of the American soldier.

Tex, she learned to see, had a higher nose and a habit of thrusting his shoulders forward. Jackie was quiet and tended to shrink into his uniform when spoken to. The humans didn’t think much of him, but Applejack liked him just fine. He was the kind of person who’d reach down into a snake pit to pull you out. Maybe not the best officer, but a good pony. Man. Whatever.

“Three for ya, Corporal, Sir.” Tex pointed to the prisoners, then to the camp. They staggered towards it without a backwards glance.

“About 250 today,” Jackie responded, nodding to the two of them.

“Two-fifty?” Tex asked.

The corporal shrugged. “Yep. Miller and Dandy Lion went on a bread run near Argentan. They walked out of the bakery to see a hundred Krauts mobbed up, asking to be taken prisoner. Scared the willies out of the two.”

Tex was less amused. “Scares the willies out of me! We’re guarding, what, 800 of these assholes total? All thirty of us? Plus the ponies, but still!”

“We’ve contacted Division, they’ll help us move ‘em out in a few days. Of all the problems to have, too many prisoners isn’t so bad.” Jackie was calm, but was sending a few telltale glances to Applejack for support.

“’Isn’t so bad,’ my foot! Jackie, how are we gonna sleep? We don’t got enough bullets if these guys riot!”

Jackie opened his mouth to respond, but stopped and stared past them. “Well then. I don’t reckon a few more’s gonna make much difference.”

The other two tuned, and saw the wood line painted with an ungainly blotch of grey. What had to be at least five hundred German soldiers were shambling towards them. No weapons were seen – the only thing they held were bandages to wounds or injured companions. As they came closer, a peaked hat became visible. An officer with a polished iron cross strode before his men. It was taking effort, but he still walked upright.

“Ergebe!” He called out periodically through cracked lips, raising his hands high. “Kapitulate.”

The few Americans raised their rifles, and the swarm came to a halt. The officer stepped forward to the small knot of Allies. “We surrender.”

“Right,” Jackie said a bit too hastily, nervous and wondering just when Division would send the backup. “Uh, we’ve got no more room in the campgrounds, so bed down here for now. Cut wood for shelter, or something. We’ll get you food when we can, but there might be a bit of a hangup. I’ll call this in.”

“We’ve gone hungry for three days,” the officer said with a wry smile. “We can go a little longer. Thank you.”

He started to turn back to his men, but Applejack shouted. “Hey! I wanna ask you somethin’!”

The officer obediently turned back. He was old, Applejack realized. His face was cracked and sagging. Tired eyes looked at her through thick glasses, and he smiled politely. “Ja, Fraulein?”

Beaten though he might be, Applejack still glared at him warily. “What do you know about them camps? The ones where they send ponies and other folks the Nazis decide they don’t like?”

The smile vanished from his face, and he looked down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Applejack’s eyes narrowed and she crouched, trying to match his gaze again. “Why don’t you look at me and say that?”

“Drop it, ‘Jack,” Tex warned, glancing fearfully at the mass of men and clutching his rifle.

The officer raised his arms placatingly, just as desperate to end the conversation. “I never saw any of that.”

“That’s enough, Applejack.” Jackie didn’t give her orders very often, but was dead serious when he did.

”You don’t know anything, or you just didn’t SEE anything? Which is it, you lying bastard?”

Applejack wanted to say it, but ground her teeth together instead. Jackie patted her back cautiously. “I’ll go call Division HQ. Applejack, come with me. Tex, watch this lot.”

“Oh, sure, no problem.” Tex gave a nervous laugh and pointedly backed off several long steps from the throng of prisoners.

Applejack smoldered silently as they entered the platoon’s campsite. Jackie opened his mouth a few times, but closed it.

Finally, he came out with the right words. “Soon, he’s not gonna be able to deny it. None of them are.”

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