The War That Came Early: Coup d'Etat

The War That Came Early: Coup d'Etat by Harry Turtledove Read Free Book Online

Book: The War That Came Early: Coup d'Etat by Harry Turtledove Read Free Book Online
Authors: Harry Turtledove
a thumb-sized armor-piercing bullet right through the hardened steel plating on a German light tank or armored car.
    He also discovered that the antitank rifle made a great sniper’s piece. It shot far and fast and flat. After he mounted a telescopic sight on it, he could pick off a man more than two kilometers away: not always, but often enough to beuseful. At half that range, he’d blow off a Nazi’s head with nearly every round.
    His countrymen and allies loved him—till the French suddenly turned into Hitler’s allies instead. Just as suddenly, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile and its little army became embarrassments. France somehow did find the courtesy not to intern the men who’d given their blood to help keep her free. She let thoseof them who so desired cross the Pyrenees to Republican Spain instead.
    In France, Sergeant Benjamin Halévy, a French Jew with parents from Prague, had interpreted for the refugee soldiers. Now he was a refugee himself, having no more stomach for fighting on the
Führer
’s side than did the stubborn Czechs.
    Someone fluent in French like Halévy could follow a word of Spanish here and there, thesame way a Czech could understand bits of Russian. Vaclav had learned just enough French to swear with. The only foreign language he really spoke was German. That was of no more use to him here than it had been in France. It was the enemy’s tongue in theSpanish Republic as it had been on the northern side of the mountains, but fewer people in these parts understood it … and most of the ones whodid backed Marshal Sanjurjo’s Fascists, not the Republic.
    Most, but not all. The fighters from the International Brigades had come to Spain to lay their lives on the line to halt the advance of Hitler and Mussolini’s malignant ideology. Some were from America, some from England, but more from Central and Eastern Europe. An awful lot of them could speak German or Yiddish, even if they were nomore native speakers than Vaclav.
    By what amounted to a miracle in this bureaucratic age, the powers that be in the Republic realized as much. Instead of sending the Czechs to some threatened border region (and all the Republic’s borders except the one with France were threatened), the Spaniards grouped them with the Internationals defending Madrid.
    The Internationals were Red, Red, Red. Vaclavcouldn’t have cared less. Just like him, they killed Fascists. They didn’t seem to worry about anything else but a soldier’s universals: ammo, food, tobacco, and pussy. Nobody tried to make him bow down toward Moscow five times a day.
    They appreciated the antitank rifle and what he could do with it. “We have a few of those ourselves, but we never thought of using them for sniping,” said a fellowwho called himself Spartacus. It was a
nom de guerre;
he spoke German with a throaty Hungarian accent.
    Vaclav loved Magyars hardly more than Germans. He had to remind himself he and Spartacus were on the same side. “It works,” he said. He wasn’t about to let anybody take the man-tall monster away from him.
    But that wasn’t what Spartacus had in mind. “I bet it does. That’s the idea,” he said.“Why don’t you start thinning the herd of Fascist officers?” His thin, dark mustache made his smile even nastier than it would have been otherwise.
    “I can do that. As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing it, in France and here,” Vaclav said. No one here would have paid much attention to what he’d been up to. That was what you got for being a newcomer, especially if you had language troubles.
    “Allright. Good. Very good.” The Hungarian International seemed on the stupid side to Vaclav, to say nothing of overbearing. Most Magyarsseemed that way to most Czechs. Magyars weren’t as bad as Germans, but they were a devil of a long way from good … if you eyed them from a Czech’s perspective, anyhow.
    How Czechs seemed to Magyars was another question altogether—not one Vaclav had ever

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