Chapter One Thousand Seven Hundred Forty-Six
28th August 1966
Meeting Anna was awkward. It wasn’t helped by her feeling of being unwell revealing itself to be cramps arriving slightly earlier than anticipated, something made her even less interested in being sociable than normal. That meant that Kiki was feeling peevish before Anna even entered the picture.
Kiki had always known that Vicky would meet someone eventually, but that was only in the abstract. Having a Sunday lunch with her was completely different. Sure, Kiki had known several women in the Medical Service whose tastes mirrored Vicky’s, the difference was that she was Kiki’s little sister and as far as Kiki knew she had relatively little experience of being in a relationship. That meant that Vicky was vulnerable to being taken advantage of and the risk of exposure meant that she could be painted into a corner with absurd ease.
Was Anna the sort who might do that to Vicky? And if she were, what would Kiki do about it? The problems that Anna represented were astonishingly complex. If things didn’t work out things could get ugly, as in Tante Kat getting called in or having to find shovels and quicklime quickly in the early morning hours in the worst-case scenario. Vicky seemed blissfully unaware of any of that as she introduced Anna, a Research Assistant at the University, mid-twenties with sandy hair and brown eyes, she had the whole waifish academic thing down. Vicky had told Kiki that they were dear friends, but it was clear as day to Kiki that Anna was after far more than that. Was what she wanted a relationship, or just a fling? It made a huge difference and Kiki wasn’t sure how to figure out what Anna’s intentions were with giving offence. Kiki also found it strange to be on the other side of that equation. By the end of the meal, Kiki was inclined to strangle her unless she learned the full truth.
“Victoria said that you were a Doctorial Student” Anna said.
“Actually, I am Interning in Emergency Medicine” Kiki replied, “As a SA in the FSR.”
“FSR?” Anna asked, a bit bewildered.
“Parachute, Search and Rescue” Kiki said flatly, “You know Special Forces, Military, the Medical Service’s Jager Corps.”
“Be nice Kiki” Vicky said, “She isn’t a part of that world.”
“You are in the Medical Service then?” Anna asked.
“Yes” Kiki replied, “And I came up though it, I’ll not have anyone assuming I got where I am through family connections or wealth…”
Then Kiki noticed that Vicky was making a slashing gesture across her throat. The meaning was obvious, cut it out.
“Do you understand who we are?” Kiki asked, “I don’t care about your friendship with Vicky, if you become a threat to us it will end badly for you.”
“KIKI!” Vicky yelled appalled that it had escalated so quickly. Anna didn’t seem too concerned that Kiki had just threatened her.
“I’m not stupid” Anna said, “Speculation about your love life with that fighter pilot is all over the trashy tabloids which can’t be avoided in the market. I know you are trying to protect your sister, but do you even know who she is? Does she even need your protection?”
At least Anna was asking the right questions in response to Kiki. She also didn’t seem too surprised by Kiki’s apparent hostility. It all made Kiki just feel exhausted, what she would give to live in a world where she didn’t have to think about these things. Vicky was free to just be open about these matters and Kiki wouldn’t have to sus out if a woman she was involved with might go running to the same trashy tabloids that Anna herself had mentioned.
It all came to a head when the flotilla returned to port and found the USS Victor Blue tied up to the pier near the SS O’Brian. The Blue was a common sight in the North Sea as she was one of the US Navy’s premiere Sub Hunters, tracking the KM’s Submarine Fleet as they made their way in and out of the Atlantic. The mere presence of the Blue was an escalation and the existence of the Q-Ship suggested that there was a State Actor involved. Louis needed to figure out where the Americans stood before he started a war with a nuclear power by accident.
Taking a launch, Louis gunned the outboard motor as he sped away from the pier where the flotilla was busily resupplying after their last patrol. The Marines were not thrilled with him going alone, but he didn’t have time to get the authorizations from the MND to read any of them in. They could get a call about an armed raider any minute, then the hunt would be on again.
“It’s been a minute Kapitänleutnant” Smith said as Louis entered the same wardroom where they had last spoken years earlier, just after Korea. “Is it von Spree or von Preussen?” There were four men around the table already. Smith himself, a man who was unmistakably a Naval Officer and three men who looked like they came from central casting as Intelligence ghouls. To readily identify them, Louis assigned them the appropriate names for their vocation, Larry, Moe, and Curly.
“That was business” Louis replied, “Admiral Hase needed someone to run his errands who the Shore Patrol wouldn’t molest. I had to pick a name though, for obvious reasons.”
“Odd choice of words” Smith said as he gestured to the empty chair.
“It sounds like the Shore Patrol are the same everywhere” The Naval Officer said amusedly, before getting up to shake Louis’ hand. “Commander Carter by the way, Herr Kaleu.”
It was an informal address, slang really, used for Louis’ Rank throughout the KM. Commander Carter, the Captain of the Blue, taking the time to learn that suggested there was more to him than met the eye. Someone who Louis needed to be careful not to underestimate.