Monday, February 9, 2009

DBTL 13: Octopus's Garden

Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
17 July 1944

"If a single bomb falls on Poland," Hermann Göring assured Marshal Stanisław Skwarczyński, "you can call me 'Meyer'."

Skwarczyński seemed puzzled. "Why on Earth would I want to call you Meyer?"

"Perhaps he means Oscar Mayer," suggested President Jósef Beck. "You know, the American cold cut magnate."

"But that makes no sense at all," Skwarczyński pointed out reasonably enough.

"No, no," said Göring in annoyance, "Meyer, the fellow from . . . ." His friend Lothar von Richthofen gave him a sardonic grin. Wrong culture, Fatty, his look said.

"Oh, never mind," Göring finished. "My point is, once we have a few hundred of these babies in the air, there won't be a single aircraft in the whole world that can stand against them."

"Except for the anti-aircraft rockets von Braun's building in Lublin," Skwarczyński mentioned. "I dare say one of them could take out one of your jet aircraft."

"And don't forget the British have jets of their own," Beck added. "In the unlikely event of a war between us, I'd wager theirs could give ours a run for their money."

Göring had an awful urge to grab the heads of the two Poles and bang them together. Since they were the two most powerful men in the Polish Commonwealth, and his bosses to boot, it was an urge he had no trouble suppressing. Still...

"Still," Skwarczyński concluded, "your point is well made. Your jets have acquitted themselves well here today, and they would indeed prove a formidable addition to the Commonwealth's arsenal. I will recommend to the Cabinet that your research project be converted into a full-scale production facility, and that plans be made for the creation of a jet fighter squadron within the Polish Air Force." Shaking Göring's hand, he added, "You've done well, Director. You've earned the gratitude of the whole Polish Commonwealth today."

A welter of unfamiliar emotions flooded through Göring's heart. After all the disappointments and failures of the last five years, he had finally managed to win through to success, to carry an important task through to completion. His thoughts went back four years, to his office in Los Angeles and the fateful conversation with Lothar. "So what's it going to be, Hermann? Are you going to screw this opportunity up, just like you've screwed up every other opportunity your life's been blessed with? Skwarczyński wants someone to build him aircraft, and God help us, he thinks you're the man to do it. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that he's out of his mind, but that doesn't matter. The offer still stands. Do you want to come back with me and try to make something of your life, or would you rather stay here and drink yourself to death?"

His life had been changed, and it was due, he knew, to the man standing in front of him. Skwarczyński had believed in him when no one else had, even Göring himself. It was with perfect sincerity that Göring answered, "I couldn't have done it without you, sir."

That earned him another grin from Lothar. "Modesty,Hermann? All right, you imposter, who are you, and what have you done with the Director?"

With a smile of his own, Skwarczyński asked, "Have you given any thought to what you're going to name your new jet plane factory? The Hermann Göring Works, perhaps?"

Göring thought of the ornamental rose garden he had had planted outside his office, in honor of his beloved first wife.

He said, "I think I'll just call it the Garden."

Just then, four jets in a diamond formation roared by overhead. Hermann Göring looked up at them and smiled.

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