Tuesday, October 13, 2009

DBTL 35: Money Changes Everything

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The largest state in Central Europe is the Polish Commonwealth, which includes the historical Second Polish Republic, eastern Germany, and the former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Ukraine. Passage of the Law of Devolution in 1939 led to the creation of half a dozen autonomous areas, or devos, among the regions of the country with non-Polish majorities. In an unexpected devolopment, in 1946 the Polish heartland of the Polish Commonwealth becomes a devo as well . . .

Warsaw, Polish Devo, Polish Commonwealth
10 July 1946

Władysław Sikorski no longer feared being seen with Bolesław Piasecki. That fear had evaporated half an hour earlier in the heat of Sikorski's anger. Now he made his way through the corridors of the nondescript Warsaw office building that, for the time being, housed the Polish Devo's Sejm.

Functionally, Piasecki's office was identical to that of the Sejm's eighty or so other back-benchers. However, no other office had the lightning bolt of the National Socialist Polish Workers Party affixed to its outer door, and no other office had a uniformed Naso thug standing guard outside.

Sikorski marched up to the thug and said, "Tell your boss I want to see him."

The thug sneered, "The Duce ain't seeing no one."

Piasecki had clearly chosen the guard for sheer massiveness. The top of his closely-cropped head was level with the door's lintel, and his bulk nearly obscured the door itself. However, he proved to be just as susceptible as any lesser man to a sharp groin-kick followed by a blow to the nose and a kick to the knee.

As the thug lay curled up and bleeding on the floor, Sikorski debated kicking in the office door. He decided against it, since the office belonged to the government rather than the Nasos. Instead, he turned the knob and quietly swung open the unlocked door.

Sikorski was not surprised to find that Piasecki's office was decorated from floor to ceiling with Naso banners, various lightning-bolt embossed artifacts, and the obligatory life-size color portrait of Piasecki himself. The outer office had two desks manned with bespectacled clerks whose uniforms did nothing to make up for their obvious lack of physical prowess. The guardian thug outside had managed to make his black uniform short pants look intimidating. The clerks achieved the opposite feat of being rendered ridiculous by their own shorts.

The two clerks made nearly identical ineffectual objections as Sikorski strode past them and through another door into Piasecki's private office. The "Duce" was sitting at his desk, staring at the same newspaper Sikorski himself had been reading not long before. He looked up as Sikorski entered, and began to open his mouth with what his expression made clear would be a peeved outburst at being disturbed.

"Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph!" Sikorski exclaimed before Piasecki was able to make a sound. "How could you possibly be so unutterably stupid?"

"I, I, I didn't know," Piasecki stuttered out.

"Didn't know?" Sikorski bellowed. "Didn't know that you were getting your money from the NKVD? Didn't know that you were a God damned traitor?" It was all there in the paper. The shadowy power struggle convulsing the Soviet Union had disgorged something called the "Gromyko Report" detailing a systematic plot to undermine the Polish Commonwealth. It had all been there: the names, the dates, and the precise amounts of untracable US currency.

"It's all a pack of lies being spread by Jews and--" Piasecki began.

"Dolt! Oaf! Ignorant bloody fool! Do you have any idea what you've done?" Sikorski screamed. He wanted to strike Piasecki, but his hand was starting to ache from dealing with the guard. "You've wrecked me! You've wrecked Poland! Bloody hell, I knew I should have dealt with Mikołajczyk, I knew it!"

"We can deal with this," Piasecki insisted. "All we have to do is shut down the paper and arrest the staff--"

"And we'll be staring up the gun-barrels of Beck's Federal troops before night falls," Sikorski interrupted again.

"We can fight them!" said Piasecki desperately. "I've got fifty thousand men ready to rise up--"

Aching hand or no, Sikorski had to slap the fool. As Piasecki stared at him in stunned silence, the white handprint on his face slowly turning red, Sikorski spoke in a deceptively calm voice. "Get this through your pointed head, Piasecki. You and your gang of cut-throats are not worth a civil war. I'm going to walk out that door and begin the hopeless task of trying to form a new government. If that means letting the Sejm vote to expel you all, and letting the chips fall where they may, then that's what I'll do. You're on your own now."

Sikorski left the stricken Naso chieftain, and walked past the two dumbfounded clerks. He paused at the outer office door, and with one savage motion tore off the red disk with its jagged white sigil. He sent the wooden token spinning through the air like the discus it resembled, and it rebounded off of Piasecki's head before sailing out through his open office window.

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