In the end it came down to a few hundred square miles of radioactive German mud. Fitting, in a way, that the empire that began in Germany should also end there.
January 20th, 1950
Estimate 1000 tanks, 2000 personnel carriers, support elements proportional…
Enemy bomber sorties constant; request release of fuel reserves for fighters…
Retreat of Polish units on our left flank makes the position untenable; am withdrawing direction Linz…
Mushroom cloud seen rising over Norwegian positions in Nuremberg…
Vidkun snarled at that one, wishing for the hundredth time that he had not ordered the destruction of Brussels; if he’d known the Chinese were going to land ten thousand tanks in Italy, he’d have saved a bomb specially for them. There was nothing to be done, though. The engineers and scientists had all been evacuated from Gallevare before the Spaniards got there, and they would not work any faster for his looking over their shoulders. What he could do was plug the gap that a bomb would leave in the German defense line, or at least he could if he had any troops. Ska me nett skau; if he moved the III Leidang from Køben, and added the XIV Yngling Panser as stiffening, they might hold for a while and give time for the counterattack along the Heligoland Bight to take effect; or he could weaken that attack by a couple of motor-rifle divisions, they were not that useful in swamps anyway and the Burgundians were sure to open the dikes; or – the door opening broke into his thoughts. It was well past midnight, and there was just nothing to be done about any crisis at this point; why the devil would anyone burst in on what by rights ought to be his sleep?
Sharp words died unspoken on his tongue; there was only one reason for his Chief of Staff and two Radical Tingsmenn to burst in on the First Speaker at this time of night, with armed men in tow – men armed not merely with a pistol and long knife, as was the custom for Ynglings, but bearing Krag-Jørgensen automatics and full combat dress. For a moment they stood, surprised at finding him still awake. That gave him a chance; a slender one, perhaps, but he seized it.
“And are you now false to your oath, Sverre?”
There was no chance that a single old man could kill five young soldiers of the Hird; these were no strils. Five to one would have been heavy odds even for strils, at that. But it was just possible that he might cause enough doubt in Sverre’s mind, or enough delay, for something to happen; men do not start coups in the middle of the night when they are confident of the outcome. Every minute they talked was another minute for loyal troops to arrive.
“No, Vidkun. I’m loyal enough. The question is, are you? The Chinese have offered us terms.”
“Terms that make us their vassals in all but name.”
“No country is a vassal that has Mjollnir missiles and atomic bombs to arm them.”
“And will it stop there? In twenty years your new friends” – Vidkun gestured contemptuously at the Tingsmenn – “will burn this world to a cinder. Let it end here, Sverre. We’ve had a good run; let it end. Life without dominion is life still, and better than rule over poisoned slag.”
Sverre shook his head slowly. “No, Vidkun. It’s over. I have sons out there in the mud. And I’ll send them to die for your dreams, for the dream of Yngling dominion over the world entire. But not for your nightmares.”
He gestured, and the rifles sounded, just once.