Yikes, now that was a scary flight, Lou! Glad to see your pilot made it safely across.
Fortunately the Huns don't suffer from ferrying problems!
Julius's first proper story chapter is ready. It became longer than I had expected, but I promise to write shorter ones in the future, once he gets to his squadron. I imagine Raine the Dungeon Master will soon inform me which unit that will be.
1. THE BEGINNING.
"Undoubtedly this is the most stupid, senseless and unnecessary war of modern times. It is a war not wanted by Germany, I can assure you, but it was forced on us, and the fact that we were so effectually prepared to defend ourselves is now being used as an argument to convince the world that we desired conflict."
- Crown Prince Wilhelm (1914)
Wednesday, December 29th, 1915. Leipziger Strasse, Berlin.
Julius Schreck stood on the sidewalk and watched the massive building of the Prussian Ministry of War across the street. It was the middle of the week and the streets were full of people going about their business. Nobody paid any attention to a lonely, short man wearing an army uniform. Julius was on his way to meet his father Georg, who was an Oberstleutnant in the Prussian army and currently the Chief of the Technical Office of Artillery in the War Ministry.
“No reason to delay the matter”, Julius thought and quickly crossed the street. He arrived at the gate of the ministry building, where he was stopped by a bored-looking guard. “Papers, please!” Julius showed the guard his documents. “I have a meeting with Oberstleutnant Schreck in the Artillery Department.” The guard took a quick look both at the papers and Julius and then nodded, apparently satisfied by what he had seen. “Very well, Herr Offizierstellvertreter. Do you know the way?”
“Yes, I’ve been here before.” The men saluted each other and Julius entered the building.
The corridors of the War Ministry were no less busy than the streets of Berlin. Officials of all ranks and stations wandered about, many of them carrying files and briefcases undoubtedly full of important documents. Sounds of telephones ringing and typewriters clicking filled the background. Julius didn’t want to be late from the meeting (his father was a very punctual man), so he hurried to the next floor where the artillery offices were located.
A long hallway opened from top of the stairs in two directions. A few chairs and benches were placed next to office doors. Some people were sitting on them. Julius paid no attention to them and checked his pocket watch: it was 8.50 AM. He still had ten minutes left, but nevertheless he hurried along the hallway towards the office of his father. The corridor opened into a large open space that was crowded with several writing desks and their assorted paraphernalia. A few clerks were at work there, but Julius had no interest in them. He turned left to his father’s office. The Chief was important enough to have his own secretary, and it was this person Julius now wished to see before meeting his father.
A pretty brown-haired woman with a heart-shaped face was sitting behind a desk that was placed opposite the door leading to the office of Oberstleutnant Schreck. It was the only desk there at the end of the hallway. A few chairs lined the walls, but they were empty. The woman was looking at an open file with a slight frown on her face when Julius approached her.
“Good morning, Leni!”
The woman looked up from her papers and smiled when she saw Julius.
“Good morning, Julius! You made it in time!”
“Of course! The Schreck family is the very model of punctuality”, Julius said with a smile.
“Indeed! And you are also known for your hard work”, Leni continued and nodded at the door with a knowing look on her face.
Julius lowered his voice a bit and glanced at his father’s office. “Does he even leave the room anymore? I’ve heard he’s been working harder than usual, if that’s even possible, because of the Turkish situation.”
“You’ve heard right. I don’t know where he gets all his energy! He’s exhausting the younger staff officers. One of them told me he’d have an easier time at the front - and he wasn’t joking!”
“Good old father! Has he been hard on you too?” Julius asked with a concerned voice.
“No, not at all like on his officers. Actually he’s quite nice towards all the ladies here. But of course we all have to work long days, with this little war being fought and everything.”
Their conversation came to an abrupt end when the door opened. Two men with bushy mustaches stepped out of the room. They were both wearing uniforms of the Ottoman army. Julius saluted the officers who departed without speaking a word. They had left the door open, probably on his father’s request.
“It’s nine o’clock”, Leni said with a quiet voice. Julius nodded without looking at her. Then a big man appeared in the doorway - Oberstleutnant Schreck.
“Julius, good, please come in!” Julius did as his father requested and stepped into the office. Georg closed the door, turned around, looked Julius in the eye for a while (it was a piercing gaze) and then gave his hand for his son to shake. Julius felt intimidated by his father’s presence. He had always been a small and thin boy, quite unlike his father who resembled a heavy-weight wrestler with his thick neck and hands like the paws of a grizzly bear. The elder Schreck was clean-shaven with a bald head. A row of ribbon bars decorated the left breast of his uniform, along with the Iron Cross, 1st class.
“It is good to see you, father. Sadly my time in Berlin is short. I’m to report at the Butzweilerhof field in Cologne on the last day of the year. It’s funny - I don’t even know where they are sending me! But my training is now complete, so I imagine any regular two-seater unit will do. I’ll just have to follow orders and everything will be fine, just like you told me!” Julius realized he had started talking more and faster than he had intended, so abruptly he stopped.
“Good, good. I knew you would make a fine pilot, so I never hesitated writing that recommendation for you”, Georg spoke and then moved over to his desk. “Your brother has been doing great deeds. He was recently awarded the Hohenzollern Order, and he’s now leading a company of his own.” The Oberstleutnant clearly sounded proud of Hermann's achievements.
“Yes, I know. He wrote to me about it. We correspond regularly, or at least as often as the war allows. They’ve been having some tough fights against the French this year.” Julius stood looking at his father, almost at attention.
“Now you will have your own chance at glory! But don’t take any unnecessary risks. A wise soldier knows when to fight and when to stay out of trouble.” Georg turned around and directed his piercing gaze again at Julius.
“I will do my best, father. We have been well trained by our instructors. So I’m not worried about the future.” Julius felt the whole discussion was very awkward. But that was always the case with his father.
“Quite, quite. Well, I don’t wish to delay you unnecessarily long here. And I do have a lot of work at hand! You may know that a British force is under siege at a town called Kut in Mesopotamia! The Turks have a chance at striking a heavy blow against our common enemy there. But they require lots of support from us, especially in matters of heavy equipment. Those two gentlemen you saw a minute ago are actually working with me on improving their artillery."
“Yes, father. I pray for our success.” Julius couldn’t think of anything more intelligent to say.
“Well, then. Before you go, I have a little something for you here!” Georg opened a drawer on his desk and took out a book bound in black leather, which he then proceeded to give to his son. Julius accepted the gift and looked at it. Written on big golden letters was the name of the book and its author:
HIMMELSGEDANKEN Gedichte von Karl May
It was a book containing poems by Karl May. Julius opened the cover and looked at the first page. On it was written a dedication: “With Best Regards to Hauptmann Georg Wilhelm Schreck. Karl May, June 15, 1905.” Julius was stunned. His father had given him a book by his favourite author, and it was even signed by May himself!
“I do hope you like it! I bought it back in 1905 and had May sign it for me at the bookstore.”
Julius collected himself and politely thanked his father. The older man seemed pleased by his reaction, allowed himself an uncharacteristic smile, and then escorted his son to the doorway - surprisingly gently, as confused Julius thought.
“Good luck! Remember to write regularly about your adventures!”
“Thank you, father. I will, father.”
Leni gave a puzzled look at Julius. “What happened? You seem like you just saw a ghost!”
Julius shook his head. “No, it’s really nothing. I was just surprised by my father”, he said and showed the book to Leni.
“Well, you’ll have to tell me all about it tonight then!” Leni said and flashed a conquering smile at Julius.
“I will, dear Leni. I will!”
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps