Estimated reading time: 82 minute(s)
Pairing: Ivan Konev/Olivier Poplin
Summary: The last month of 1944. Pacific, Peleliu Island US Base. A young Marine pilot Julian Mintz had a mini mission to investigate a petty theft in the base with his canine expert. Or, as he later discovered, F4U Corsair Fighter-Bomber, was the most expensive ice-cream maker in the world. And the secret to perfect chocolate ice-cream? Remember, stirred, not shaken.
So. Finally. This. It sets in the same universe with my another work Hurricane Drunk 醉生战死 but you can read it as a stand-alone story. Some altered and made-up background for Julian.
This is an English translation of In Cocoa, Milk and Altitudes We Trust
“This is the third time in this month! I demand a thorough investigation -” Julian Mintz heard Dawson, the provision officer yelling even before he set his feet on the base director’s office. Julian hesitated for a moment, wondering that maybe he should come back later. After all, Dawson was notoriously known to hold a grudge against all pilots, cutting their corners here and there out of no bloody reasons whatsoever. It was recommended, by the veterans, to avoid him at all cost. Yet, the base director caught him before he could chicken out.
“Come in, First Lieutenant Mintz.”
Here he passed, the point of no return. “Sir.”
Alex Caselnes was sitting behind his desk. He seemed to be in a calm, even cheerful mood despite the provision officer’s outburst.
“I am asking for military police. Not some brat who can’t tell people apart.” Dawson said stiffly, not even bothering a glance at the confused pilot.
That was pretty unkind thing to say. Julian thought. But his meat ration was in the hand of this guy. (Any less simply would not do!). Also, Dawson was mean and vicious like a dragon sitting on a pile of gold so Julian better kept his opinion to himself. Anyway, he was curious about what made Dawson so furious and even decided to have a go at the base director.
Caselnes waved his hand. “Then you can go ahead and argue with those guys on the ships!” He said, “Ask them if they are happy to come all the way down here just for a few cans of milk and cocoa.” Julian remembered. So far, the new base had not got a military police branch yet given the mixed personnel. That was bureaucracy for you. But, what the hell is going on?
Dawson opened and shut his mouth. Caselnes added, “Lieutenant Mintz. Just like what you heard. We have a burglary case in the storage unit. According to our provision officer, the offender seemed to have quite a like for canned milk and cocoa.”
“Definitely an inside job,” Dawson said. “I insist having MP to intervene. This is an intolerable disgrace to discipline. And it will potentially causing tremendous harm in the future.” That is a quite uptight way to put it. Provision officers, Julian thought, are bound to make profits if they are willing to, if they are intelligent enough to find out how. Dawson just haven’t got his chance yet. After months of gruesome fighting, it was believed that the Japanese soldiers on Peleliu Island had been either killed or captured, but –
“If it were really our men, they would have stolen something more valuable, alcohol, cigarettes.” Julian said, “It wouldn’t just be about food, it could probably be the remnants of the enemy hiding on the island, or,” he swallowed, remembering what he saw when he first arrived –
His plane hovered near to the cliff. The roar of the engines drowned out all sound. He could not hear the soldiers shouting, but he could see it clearly: a young mother, terrified and determined, throwing her child off the cliff with her own hands, still thinking she was protecting him from a worse fate. The tiny shadow falling, then disappearing in the waves, but herself was being pulled back by the soldiers – -Stop, stop. Better not to think about it.
“-or local civilians terrified by the Japanese. “With dense forest and some natural caves on Peleliu, it was not surprising that it took them so long to officially take over the island. Also, it would not be surprising if there were still some civilians or enemy soldiers hiding even till now.
Caselnes nodded. “That’s exactly what I was worried about. And that’s why we need to bring in an expert to investigate.”
“But I’m a pilot.” Julian was puzzled. “Not an Indian who can track their target from miles away.”
“I’m not talking about you.” Caselnes said. “I’m talking about that mascot of your squadron.”
“Vanilla?” Vanilla was a collie with dirty fur. Marines had rescued it from a shipwrecked fishing boat on the way. With its surprisingly good mousing (and entertaining) skill, Vanilla got to stay with the soldiers. When Julian’s squadron moved to the island, they brought it along.
Caselnes raised his eyebrows. It was none of his business what other people called their dogs. But really, that dog looked more like a mud cake instead of vanilla. (It did not occur to him that vanilla the herb was also black.) Then, he shook his head, calling it a mud cake was also quite an insult to his wife Hortense’s cooking. The thought of Hortense reminded him of incoming Christmas: she will bring with their two daughters along – The two girls have never had a Christmas without snow!
Meanwhile, Julian also had something going on in his mind. “Then I would like to ask for a ration for Vanilla, Sir.” Ship rats and whatever wild animals on the island were hard to keep up with the growing appetite of the pup. His squadron had also saved their own rations for the mascot, but it was barely enough. This simply would not do. Julian decided. There is a mouth to be fed.
Dawson frowned disapprovingly. Caselnes let out a laugh: “You can ask for ration once you catch the thief.” He turned to Dawson. “You’d better hurry up and take Detective Vanilla and its assistance lieutenant to the crime scene!”
It was only after the mud cake turned back to vanilla cake that Dawson finally let them into the storage room. The scene looked tidy. The shelves were still neatly arranged. Everything looked normal, saving a few missing cans. Julian could not help to secretly notice where the canned meat was – although he probably would never end up doing it, but, just in case.
Julian did not really expect anything to come out from this so-called “investigation”, but on the other hand, other than occasional patrols, he did not have much thing to do either. Vanilla took some time to inspect, to sniff around. Dawson kept his eyes on them on the whole time, as if Detective Vanilla and assistant Julian were the suspects. To Julian’s surprise, Vanilla seemed to find something. The dog wagged its tail, pulling Julian to hurry out.
“Easy. Easy there. ” Thankfully, Dawson did not follow them. “What did you find out?”
Vanilla ignored him. Instead, it continued to sniff around the dirt road, slowly making its way to the airfield. Julian squinted his eyes. The heat and humid air made everything looked surreal. Then someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
“Second lieutenant Mintz.” Julian turned and saw a pair of blue eyes surveying him. The owner of these eyes somehow still kept his posture straight and his uniform immaculate even in this weather.
“Major Konev.” Julian straighten up and saluted. Although the man was not from Julian’s squadron, being an exchange RAF pilot was conspicuous enough here. Not to mention the fact that everyone knew there is a spooky, elusive Poles in the fleet who shot down more planes than the number of letters you would ever received from dear old mum. Moreover, unlike your usual cut of energetic, showy young pilots, Major Konev stayed away from the crowd as much as possible. In fact, he was so quiet that everyone had thought he could not speak English in the beginning.
But Konev just waved his hand and did not much care what Julian was thinking. “What are do you doing out in this heat?”
For a moment, Julian was not quite sure whether to tell Konev about his “investigation” – after all, at this early stage, everyone could be suspects. But then Vanilla saw Konev, it rushed up to him and greeted him with its wagging tail. So Julian explained his mini mission while Konev gave the dog a good scratch under the chin.
“I don’t know why Caselnes even thought Vanilla and me could catch the thief -” Julian shrugged.
“I think he just wanted Dawson to fuck off.” Konev somehow finished that sentence with calm and grace. “Managing a new base is busy enough, having to deal with Dawson is pathetic.”
Julian was not sure how to react to this blunt comment. But Konev paused for a moment, apparently thinking of something, then he continued. “Lieutenant Mintz, if you don’t mind, I’d like to help out.” Noticing Julian’s puzzled face, he added, “Ah. Because at this point, even after careful rationing, to my great dismay, I finished all my crossword puzzles. And Poplin was nowhere to be found. I can use some other distraction.” Now Vanilla was sitting by Konev’s feet, clearly expecting a game of stick-fetching.
You probably just want to play with Vanilla. Julian thought, but kept his mouth shut. So, Major Olivier Poplin, another exchange pilot from RAF, was his leader for the past few months. Unlike laconic Konev, Poplin soon drew everyone’s attention with his active nature and his handsome face, always had endless fun wherever he went. Two opposite personalities, bickering and bantering whenever the chance presented itself, yet they were the inseparable Konev and Poplin. Weird Europeans. Julian realized that he did not see the ginger haired major much in the canteen or anywhere recently. No wonder Konev was bored enough even to start to talk to him.
So the investigation team had a new member. Vanilla was still sniffing around, although more like to look for a dinner than a suspect. Julian had expected some awkwardness with Konev around. You see, survive the fittest. Nature and military operate in very similar way. When faced with a predator, you either fight or flight. Only Julian was not sure how to deal with Konev.
“Tell me, Lieutenant Mintz. Why did you join the Marine?”
Julian cleared his throat. “Pops was in the Navy, sir. Lost his leg in Pearl Harbor, but he made it.”
“And you can’t think of anything else you’d like to do?”
“It is not true, sir. I kinda like to fly.” Julian replied. “Sir, I heard that you are from Poland?”
“Then we had very similar experience, Lieutenant Mintz.”Konev did not answer his question. His expression was hard to read. He was about to say something else, but then was interrupted by Vanilla’s barking.
The two pilots hurried over. Julian squinted, then spotted a chunk of wrecked metal in the high grass. The collie barked few more times, then scurried to them. Julian approached and examined it carefully. A bomb? He had never seen anything like this before, and there were no trace of burning nearby.
Julian kicked the wreckage with the tip of his toe cautiously. Underneath the scrap was some lumpy white liquid, most of which had sept into the ground soil. Julian noticed there was also some brown residue floating around the lump. Julian pressed down the urge to throw up and turned his face away. He did not need a dog’s nose to tell the stench of rotting protein.
“No. Don’t you ever think of eating it.” With a sharp foresight, Julian pulled the dog’s leash. Vanilla whined and whimpered, casting a sultry glance at the young pilot. Julian gratefully took the handkerchief Konev handed him, used it to cover his mouth and nose, then took another look.
Fortunately, the stench did not come from a corpse, which was better than he had expected. And at least now they know where the missing cocoa and powered milk had gone. But instead of the sense of satisfaction that he was getting close to the truth, Julian felt more puzzled: An unidentified bomb did not necessarily means it was an inside job. What is more puzzling is that why someone would left cocoa and milk out in the open in such weather. He turned and wanted to ask Konev what he made of these, but the major just shrugged with his unreadable stony face.
Equatorial sunlight was scorching and merciless even after midday. Ivan Konev sat for a while in the shade by the airfield, until he heard the distant roar of F4U Corsair Fighter-Bomber’s engine. He got up unhurriedly, dusted off his uniform, searched the approaching dot with narrowed eyes. Confirming something in his mind, he slowly walked to the hangar.
Ten minutes later, Major Olivier Poplin jumped out from the cockpit of that Corsair. Several ground crews came over, but not all of them went to help him get rid of riggings and such. Two men went around under the wings. After some fumbling and cursing and rustling, they each came back with an ammo box. Someone lifted the lids.
“Well?”Poplin approached. “I flew for a bit longer this time. Also slowed down in descent.”
“Then I have a good news and a bad news.” One of the ground crews said. Most of his face was hidden under a straw hat and a large neckerchief. “Which one you want to know first?”
“Good news.”Newbies? I never saw this guy before. Poplin thought.
“The good news is that it finally froze this time.”That ground crew said, “The bad news is that it froze too hard.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”Poplin was confused. “You all complained last time it did not freeze properly – ”
That ground crew kicked the ammo box to Poplin’s direction, and pointed to a solid block of hard, brown ice. “You see.” He coughed dryly, “I am afraid that we’ll need a bloody ice axe to finish it off.”
“Looks good to me.” “Better than nothing.” A round of low murmuring agreement. “Go get the hammer.” “I’ll get some drinks from the canteen.”
The two giant hard blocks of milky cocoa were quickly smashed and split. The two boxes were scraped clean inside out, no crumbs left. You see, this is a tropical island in the times before refrigerator. Ice, especially flavored ice, was rarer than a snowball in hell. The two ammo boxes together had nearly ten gallons. Everyone nearby got a share. Even the eccentric new ground crew sat down with his bowl.
However, the icy hero Poplin seemed to be not quite eager to enjoy his yet, instead, he sneaked behind the new ground crew, took off the latter’s straw hat in a single smooth movement. Poplin whistled when he saw the neatly combed blond hair beneath.
“I knew it. You hideous spy,”Poplin said. “You know, I can be generous too. If you really want ice cream that badly, you can just come and beg me.”
“And you dared to write ‘oxygen system test.’” Konev turned around, nonchalantly as ever. “I knew you were up to no good.”
“Ah so you read the logbook.”Poplin said, “It’s ever so flattering to have your sole attention on me.” He scooped up a piece of ice cream and dropped it into his mouth.
“I had thought it was an excuse to cure your hangover.” Konev gestured to his bowl. “So, you flew up to 30,000 feet and risked being shot by the Japanese, just for this?”
“The Japanese dare not to even dream to reach me. Besides, don’t pretend as if you don’t like it.” Poplin mumbled with his mouth full, poking Konev’s chest with his spoon smugly. “Told you I am a bloody genius. If there’s any good with Americans. It is their equipment and supplies. The New World is indeed the promised land flowing with endless ice-cream and sugar. Too bad we had to stay on this island in the middle of the Pacific.” It was true, even Konev had to agree. As far as he knew, the food in RAF was already much better compared to the army, yet the closet thing he could remember to sugar in the last few years was marmalade.
“You exaggerated too much.” Konev finally said. “And your ice-cream has too much ice flakes.”
“I do have a certain technique in mind to help with your cottage industry,” Konev added. “Remember how the real ice-cream was properly made?”
Poplin thought for a moment. Nothing other than it came out from a bucket of ice.
Konev sighed. “I thought you at least had some common sense after all – ”
“Cut the chase and just tell me, will ya?”
“You lot just hang it under the wing. So when you gained enough altitudes for enough time, it will freeze to flaky chunks. But if you want that smooth texture, you have to keep stirring,” Konev said. “At lease you have seen ice cream buckets, right?”
Someone finally remembered. “You mean the one with a handle – ” Poplin grinned.
Konev rolled his eyes. Someone’s vocabulary seemed to stuck at their adolescent age. “Yeah, the handle.” He said with his stony face.
“But shaking during the flight should suffice. How are you gonna stir that stuff at 30,000 feet?”
“Well. Plan A, since you are, a bloody genius, use your spectacular flying skills – if you want to roll, flip or do whatever intense aerobatics over forty minutes. The downside is that you may accidentally fling the ammo boxes out, turning them into an aerial diary bomb. Not that is any of my business, but Lieutenant Mintz and his mascot have already found one of your ‘accidents’.”
“You mean Vanilla and Julian?”Poplin brightened up. “Now I see why he’s been keen on walking the dog lately.” Suddenly, the ginger haired pilot narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What do you get out from it, you double agent?”
“Because I can use some distraction.”Konev stretched his legs. “You should worry more about yourself. Caselnes may not care, but Dawson remembers every can of milk and cocoa you stole.”
“Hey. Innocent until proven guilty. Where is your proof?”Poplin said. “I can swear with my hand on the Bible that I did not steal any of them.”
“Don’t make me laugh. I know you got away from the God’s watch since you were a brat. Sure, I guess you have your gang did the dirty part. Again, it is none of my business.”Konev scooped up a piece of ice cream and examined it critically. “But since you gonna use all these precious supply, might as well do it right. My grandma would roll in her grave angrily if you lot continue to call this ice-cream.”
“So what exactly are you going to do?”
“Then here is Plan B: let me talk to your mechanics. And, after all the time we’ve known each other, Olivier Poplin, how come you never asked me what my second university degree was in?”
Second Lieutenant Julian Mintz, a young Marine pilot, was recently caught in a dilemma over a maybe-not-so-trival-afterall matter. It was a long story.
Julian later went back to examine the wreckage, which, judging from its material and color, turned out to be a .50 calibre ammunition box. No trace of exploding gunpowder or scorching marks nearby. So it was unlikely caused by a bomb explosion. Later, he reported his findings to Caselnes. The base director was half-buried in paperworks, merely listened to the lieutenant absent-mindedly. But by the end of report, he suddenly asked. “How is your father doing these days?”
Julian Mintz’s father, Lieutenant Commander Aureli Mintz, was an old acquaintance of Alex Caselnes in the Navy. Only Caselnes later moved to logistic work. At the time of Pearl Harbor attack, Lieutenant Commander Aureli Mintz happened to serve on the USS Oklahoma. When the bad news came, Julian’s mother Nyah traveled all the way to Honolulu despite her chronic asthma, and left Julian in the care of his grandmother who lived in countryside. The next few months was a nightmare to the young Julian, at least until he received a letter from Nyah saying both of them were safe and would soon return home. (“Your Dad will probably have to walk with a stick, but thank God he is well otherwise.”) Julian had nearly believed that he was stuck with his mean grandmother forever. (“How fortunate it is you have your father’s face and skin color, or what would other people say!”) After he reunited with his parents, despite his parents’ opposition, Julian decided to enlist. “If you must,”Julian could still heard Aureli sighing in the kitchen, the screech of the boiling kettle almost drowning out his voice, “At least go to the Navy or Marine, I have a few acquaintance over there- ”
Julian took a moment to come back to himself, then replied, “He is doing well. Mom said he’s been spending more time on the farm lately.”
“Good.”Caselnes nodded. “Hortense and I would like to pay a visit to Aureli and Nyah some time in the future.”
“They would be delighted.”Julian said cautiously. To be honest, he still did not sure about how to talk to someone who was both his superior and his father’s friend. And the mysterious theft case which was going nowhere does not help at all.
“No need to be so formal. Lieutenant Mintz. I am sure your parents are very proud of you. And he also said having a hard-working son like you, he felt the pressure too!”Caselnes said amicably, “My suggestions is, since we have no active combat mission in foreseeable future, it is time to take a break.”He frowned, as if remembering something/someone nagging behind his mind.”Of course, that’s only for you.”
Since Julian had not yet mastered the skill to read people’s mind, he did not know that the nagging something/someone was a cheerful Olivier Poplin, who was now greeting him in the canteen. One of the good sides of being on land, Julian decided, was that they could enjoy real food (as much as real food can go in these days) and did not need to worry about spilling them all over the floor.
“Haven’t seen you for a while, Mintz.” The ace pilot with green eyes smiled and sat down across Julian with his plate, ignoring Vanilla’s pleading eyes. “How do you find the new squadron?”He fished out a small tin can wrapped in a handkerchief from his pocket and placed it on the table. Julian recognized it was the B-unit ration can (bread and dessert potion).
“I must say, it was almost too quiet without you.” Julian said. Although Poplin and Konev were both Major, it was easier for him to get along with Poplin – perhaps because he had known Poplin as his direct leader in the past few months. Meanwhile, Major Poplin was busying with playing with Vanilla.
“Don’t blame me. The turkey-shooting season for pilots is over.” Finally satisfied with a handful of dog hair, Poplin picked up his fork again and begin picking his lunch. “And yet, we’re still stuck on this island.”
Julian nodded insincerely. “They don’t care how many ladies’ hearts you are going to break.”
“Isn’t that right? Even I can’t manage with only letters.”Poplin started his lunch as the collie dog watched intently. Seeing the puppy stare was not working, Vanilla turned to sniff at the tin can on the table.
“No. You can’t have it – cocoa is poisonous for dogs.”Poplin blocked the dog’s eager snout.
Cocoa? Julian remembered his mysterious case, but then the B-unit always contained sweetened cocoa powder. His face remained carefully blank as he drank his coffee.
Poplin finished his lunch. “Aren’t you just curious about what’s in there?”
Julian noticed that the handkerchief became a little soaked. “Water? Drinks?”
“I’d rather it is booze! Then wouldn’t be anything left for you. ”Poplin laughed, took away the handkerchief and pushed the tin can in Julian’s direction. “I heard that you have a mini investigation going on. So, as your former leader, I shall do you a little favor. Better to open it as soon as possible, Dr Watson.” Without waiting for Julian’s reply, he went up and left.
Julian looked at Poplin’s back, then looked down at Vanilla, who still tried to sniff the tin can, and finally picked up the B-unit ration can. It was cold to touch. He unscrewed the lid without much effort, then looked around – No one was watching him.
After a moment, Julian said to Vanilla. “No. You can’t have it – cocoa is poisonous for dogs. But you can have my cookies today.”
“So did you deliver the new sample to him?”Konev watched Poplin walking into the hangar.
“Uh-huh,”Poplin said. “He’s a smart kid, won’t take long to figure it out.”
“Well, that’s none of my business. But you seems to have a lot faith in him – aren’t you afraid that he will report you to Dawson?”
“Us.” Poplin corrected him. “Remember now you are an accomplice now.” He pointed to the ammunition boxes hanging under each wings. “Hard evidence. Hard as ice.” The two ammunition boxes did not look much different from earlier at first glance, but a closer look revealed that they each had an propellers on the outside connecting to some intricate churning device within – speaking the appropriate use of a degree in engineering after these years.
“Innocent until proven guilty.”Konev mimicked the other’s tone.
“Who else but the second best pilot in the world could have come up with such a genius device?”Poplin said as if he was singing, “So, do you also want to put your hand on the Bible and solemnly swear? Be careful what you about to utter from that mouth, because unlike me, you do have a God watching …”
“After what happened in North Africa? No, not anymore.”Konev said calmly, “If there was truly a God, I should have already di-” Before he could finish, Poplin reached out and covered his mouth. “I said, be careful what you wish for.” Laugh all you want, pilots are superstitious lot. God, devils, or something else, hard to tell maybe one of them was listening.
Konev shrugged and picked out Poplin’s paw. “Enough that. What did Mintz think of it?”
“He’ll have to find it out himself first.”Poplin said. “What fun do I get if I tell him everything? Do I look like his nanny?”
“You were quite patient with him.”Konev pointed out.
“Because he’s one of my favourite pupils.”Poplin said. “I head his old man broke a leg too, but survived.”
“One of your favourite?”
“Don’t play dumb. You know well who I’m talking about.”Poplin said. “I don’t want to see another reckless brat got killed because he got carried away – the first thing in life is always to enjoy it.”
Konev stared at him for a while and shook his head sadly. “He got carried away … so that’s what you believe? That’s not true. Not true at all.”
A vague yet constant pain was throbbing in Julian’s temple, which was partly due to the amount of ice cream he consumed in the last five minutes, and partly because he was fretting about what to do next. The angel, or the model cadet, the good boy, had already condemned him for taking the bribe so fast that he did not even have a chance to stop him. The devil, or you average level of seasoned Marine pilot, curtly pointed out that, in this weather, ice-cream did not wait for anyone. Besides, what bribe? Poplin did not ask for anything in return, he just said he would do us a little favor in the investigation.
But what Poplin wanted had been inexplicably suggested. You usually do not bribe people while saying your request aloud. The model cadet sharply observed, you must understand at this point that he was asking you not to turn him in.
He did not say that. The seasoned Marine pilot snorted. Think about it. We were clueless before, and now we finally know where did those canned milk and cocoa go.
So you are suggesting we might turn him in eventually?The model cadet was speechless. But you ate the ice-cream. He added weakly. Although I had to admit that it was too flaky to my like.
No one saw it, did they? The seasoned Marine pilot wiped his mouth. Besides, no evidence no case. Major Poplin had kindly gave us a clue, so what kind of detective would I be if I did not pursuit it properly?
The model cadet was stunned into silence for a long while, then he stammered. I guess … we still ought to know the whole truth.
Right. The seasoned Marine pilot nodded. So here come the mystery: You have canned milk and cocoa. You have at least one baked and bored pilot. You also have F4U Corsair Fight-Bomber. Now, how can you make ice-cream on a tropical island?
Julian had an idea, but he needed more proof. “Gotta go, Vanilla,”He pulled the leash, “Now let’s see who is the true Sherlock Holmes.”
The next day at noon. The airfield. The Corsair Fighter-Bomber’s engine gradually quieted down. Julian saw the pilot in the full gear opened the canopy. This is the moment, the confrontation, the reveal of the truth. Julian thought, I am sorry, Major Poplin, but at least I come to talk to you first. He cleared his throat and said, “According to the log book, Operation Jack Frost is to test the oxygen system performance at high altitudes. It was conducted daily from 13:30 to 14:30 by a Vought F4U Corsair. However, the truth is- ”
The pilot turned to him and lifted his helmet. Julian froze.
“Major Konev? How come?”Am I mistaken? Julian panicked for a moment. All previous signatures on the logbook showed that – Yet the two condemning ammo boxes were hanging under the wings.
“Ah, it is me.” Konev, however, had not even showed a slightest guilt, “Because that idiot Poplin couldn’t figure out how to make the propellers turn properly -”
“Hey. Who’s badmouthing behind me?”A bright voice came from the other side of the plane. “Obviously you are the one who lack the art of engineering -“
“Bullshit.” Konev turned and said. “But since you are here, Lieutenant Mintz, you shall be the judge: how does it taste compared to what you had yesterday?”
Before Julian could say anything, a spoon and a can were put in front of him. A outrageous bribe! Under the broad daylight! The model cadet jumped and tried to stop –
Cold, smooth, the bittersweet of cocoa. Just like what his mom and dad would made in all these past summers. They sat on the porch and took turns to churn the ice-cream bucket. Mom would also throw some blueberries and other fruit for toppings.
I told you. The seasoned Marine pilot said smugly.
No more ice flakes this time. The model cadet was mesmerized.
Satisfied, Konev turned to Poplin, almost gloating. “Told you it was your poor flying skills.” The latter shook his head at Julian and uttered a soundless “traitor”.
Julian wiped out sweat on his face and neck. “Thank you for all that, but, I … But it is not right to steal.” The seasoned Marine pilot did get to shut the mouth of the model cadet in time.
“Steal? So no one told you?”Konev raised his eyebrows. “Director Caselnes authorized the Operation Jack Frost himself, with special supplies.”
“As long as we can deliver the chocolate ice-cream to his two girls on Christmas Day.”Poplin said. “Ah ha, now you know too much now, Mintz.”
“But why are you telling me all these? And what about yesterday?”
“Because you reminded him of one of his unlucky pupils.”Konev said, “Terrific little terror.”
“Don’t you deny it. He was our unlucky pupil.” Poplin corrected him. “That ungrateful, arrogant, hot-headed kid. So here is a war story for you: He took out his metal prosthetic leg off during his forced landing, then ambushed the soldiers who dared to approach the plane. In the end, he beat those huns half dead with his left leg. You see, Julian, war is a savage business, as far as savage can be. You’ve got a lot to learn. But until then, it is okay to be a kid for some time.”
1. The story was loosely based on what Marine pilot J Hunter Reinburg did in 1944. He was on Peleliu island and flew F4U Corsair. Of course, there are some other cases where pilots turned their planes into ice-cream makers in US militaries.
2. Yang was somewhere else in this alternate Universe, so Julian had both his biological parents alive and well. In Canon, Julian’s mother is a commoner from the Empire, who was looked down upon by Julian’s paternal grandmother since Mintz family was a pioneer and prestigious family way back to Heinessen time. Although this story did not mention much, Julian’s mum in this universe is black-white mixed race.
3. I was too lazy to come up another WW2 AU where Konev and Poplin served for United States instead of UK. However, Royal Air Force did not provide much opportunities to make ice cream due to various reasons (rations, operating ceilings, planes themselves etc) so off to exchange they go. There are cases of exchange pilots between RAF and USAAF, but I am not sure about whether RAF ever exchanged with Marines or Navy …
4. If you are curious about who the other pupil is … you may find it out in Hurricane Drunk 醉生战死 .