Warin believed he could fix anything.
He'd repair any gadget he could get his hands on. Watches, radios, toys. His neighbours brought him their broken trinkets—he would take them apart and put them back together, good as new. When his mother found him an electronics magazine, he thought he could be the next great inventor.
He couldn’t fix the dead body of his brother, returned home in a coffin.
- - -
Emeline adored her bakery. It had belonged to her grandfather, passed down to her father, and finally to her. She awoke every morning at first light to heat the ovens. She’d wash trays, prepare muffins, and bake a dozen kinds of bread. The locals lined up as she opened.
She would be the one to take the store a step forward in the world.
Renovations and expansions.
Her family would be proud.
Yet, as Germany’s war efforts faltered, soldiers showed up and demanded her wheat. She had no choice but to comply. Then, they asked for her pots and pans—they’d be melted down to make bullets. She argued, unwilling to let them in.
They broke her nose with the stock of a rifle.
- - -
Velten’s life led up to defending his home. The winds howled in mid-February. He shivered, sitting behind the twin barrels of an anti-aircraft cannon. His allies set up their searchlights. Another prepared to feed the weaponry ammunition—although the army provided little for defence.
The light of the city ahead dimmed. Street lamps and traffic stops shut off. Windows were boarded over with dark panels. Air raid sirens sounded their distorted, haunting wail, and Velten waited, breathing slow.
Dresden, as black as pitch, faced hundreds of British warplanes.
- - -
Warin kept close to his mother, his hand intertwined with hers—he would not lose her too. He pulled her arm as they ran for the shelter. Planes droned overhead. Bombs hissed, shrieking as they fell, reducing buildings to rubble on impact. Warin coughed against the dust, raising an arm to cover his eyes.
He needed to find the subway station.
A barrage of explosions rocked the earth. His teeth chattered. A nearby cinema groaned, caved, and collapsed, an avalanche of rock and metal. A wedge of loose debris struck his mother’s head. She dropped to the ground.
Warin couldn’t pick her up.
The surrounding fires brought light to the hulking beasts in the sky. He found a rock, threw it as high as he could, then fell to his knees. Tears welled in his eyes.
“What have I done to you?” he cried.
- - -
Emeline stumbled through the wreckage of her city. The bombers had retreated—far from routed—and left infernos in their wake. Her eyes grew dry in the rising heat. The fire brigade worked around her, spraying hoses of ivory-white water, calling to one another. Inaudible amidst the chaos. Buildings collapsed by the second.
Ahead stood her bakery.
Reduced to ash and rubble.
A century of memories erased.
She fell to the ground before it, breathing in smoke, digging through cinder and stone. Cuts nicked her hands. If she could salvage the photos on the wall, the ones of her parents and grandparents, it would be okay. She would recover.
Yet, the smoke made it hard to think.
She coughed, hacking from her lungs. A fireman rushed to drag her off.
- - -
Velten walked with his head hung low. The sun dawned on a ruined city. A woman sobbed, laying down by the remains of a house, a broken stroller resting beside her. A man played a sombre tune on a violin. Others worked to drag out what remained of their possessions.
Children cried within triage tents, surgeons fixing what they could.
He couldn’t face any of them.
The British had overwhelmed the night. He’d shot down one plane before ammo ran low, his cannon making clunking noises as it fired blanks, his boots held down on the pedals. Not a dent to the enemy forces—a loss in all terms of the word.
They’d left his people distraught.
- - -
Warin held a rifle at his side—the weapon over half his height. He stood in a palace garden, far away in Berlin, alongside boys his age, all dressed like soldiers. Orphans. Beige uniforms with red armbands. They would all be taught, trained, and sent off to defend the front lines of the city against an invasion.
A chance for vengeance.
Adolf Hitler walked down the line of soldiers. They broke into salutes. The Fuhrer consoled each of the youth, patting their shoulders, assuring them of victory. Bags reposed beneath Warin's eyes. His arms shook in jolts. He longed for the battlefield.
The Fuhrer reached out a hand.
Their goals of retaliation aligned. As the last of his family, he would do his part in setting everything straight. Warin shook hands with Hitler, his grip firm, and shouted,
- - -
Emeline worked shoulder to shoulder with another woman. A silent one. Not that it mattered—neither could hear the other over the factory’s hammering. Emeline lowered her mask, sparked her welder, and brought the adhering flame to the tank’s hull. She followed the guidelines as taught.
A plate welded.
Down the assembly line.
Onto the next.
Her hands grew thick with calluses. Dozens of light tanks left the factory by the day. She’d attach cables, wave to a foreman, and they’d send the tank to the next station. Soon enough, she took the position and commanded the work orders herself.
The factory did little in taking her bakery's place.
- - -
Velten would not fail again. He marched in unison with a hundred others, each step the sound of thunder. The insignia of a dual lightning bolt painted the right side of his helmet—another on his collar. High power and high rank. The elite force of his country.
Men and women waved Nazi Germany’s flag as he passed through the town square, and Velten kept a straight face of confidence. He raised an arm alongside his comrades in a salute. Soon, he’d fight the enemy head-on. There’d be blood to spill on his homeland’s soil.
He would protect his people.
By all means necessary.
- - -
Henry would get revenge for London at any cost.
For fifty-seven days straight, the Germans terrorized his home. Their fire-bombings destroyed landmarks, museums, and libraries. History razed without remorse. Houses damaged beyond repair—thousands upon thousands of innocents torched within the fires.
His people, throughout the air raids, kept their spirits high.
Like thorns in the paw of a lion, their fortitude could not be deterred.
As Churchill said, they would fight until the end without surrender.
Henry flew alongside hundreds of Royal Air Force bombers. The raid on Dresden would decimate German morale. Destroy their confidence. Give them a sharper dose of the miseries they’ve showered upon mankind.
Thousands of feet above, he pulled the lever.
Bombs whistled below.