Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred One
24th January 1969
There was a great deal of mirth among the Staff of the Grand Admiral as they reviewed the various attempts by Skoda, Rheinmetall, and Krupp to successfully develop an autoloader for the Panzer Corps. As far as they were concerned the Army was trying to reinvent the wheel, essentially doing work that the Navy had done decades earlier. Louis Junior wasn’t so sure though. Admiral Teichert had wanted to know more so he’d had Louis call around to those companies that were doing the work and Louis had gotten an understanding of the difficulties involved and why it was different. If anything, he was reminded of why a gunboat like the SMS Windhund had a plywood hull and mounted nothing larger than 37mm dual purpose guns. Like ship construction, building armored vehicles was a series of compromises. There were also two contradictory missions that Panzers had to engage in, providing fire support for Infantry and battling other armored vehicles.
According to Rheinmetall, switching between armor-piercing and high-explosive shells was difficult to do on the fly. They had a great deal of experience from the construction of the open-topped Skorpion Tank Destroyer, which had used a shell and cased propellent system that had required a fifth crewman and a hydraulic ram. They figured that they could build a more heavily automated system and as they described it, Louis was reminded of the system aboard the Preussen Class Battleship. Except those fired a 42-Centimeter shell and were prone to breakdown if they tried to maintain too high a rate of fire for more than a few minutes. What Louis didn’t mention was that those who had seen that system in action had referred to it as the Hand of God. The silence on the other end of the phoneline suggested that the Engineers at Rheinmetall had run into the same problem again. Still, the Project Supervisor said a few minutes later that the Heer wanted a high velocity version of the 12.8-Centimeter gun and left it at that. Louis knew that what the Heer wanted from Rheinmetall, they got and there was the always present fear that Krupp or Skoda would steal a march on them.
Then the question had come up; What was the High Seas Fleet’s interest in the project? Louis had lamely said that the Marine Infantry had an interest and the Project Supervisor had said that it was about time. That had prompted Louis to make some more phone calls. What he learned was that the Marine Infantry was almost totally lacking in armored, depending on the Fleet, Luftwaffe or whatever Heer Division happened to be around for fire support. Except for a handful of antiquated Luftpanzer I’s leftover from the Second World War the Marine’s had no armor of their own. Louis knew that in Vietnam, Mexico, and Korea the Marines had gotten themselves into hairy situations where they could have easily come to grief due to that very thing. Picking up the phone, Louis told the Operator to connect him to General Dietrich “Tilo” Schultz. Everyone knew that the Marine General was completely batshit insane, but he also had a reputation for being open minded. Perhaps openminded enough for what Louis figured needed to be done.
Rural Brandenburg, Near Luckenwalde
Snow swirled against the windscreen of the helicopter as it progressed through the storm. Just minutes earlier word had come through the University Hospital that all Field Personnel on duty needed to grab their winter gear and report to the rooftop helipad immediately. For once, Kiki’s security detail didn’t second guess her once she was headed in that direction. They just fell in line once it was clear that they had two choices, follow, or get out of the way. She put them to use carrying the bags of medical supplies that would be needed in the field when they got to the site, wherever it was.
As the helicopter descended Kiki saw through the window soot covered snow and scorched trees that had been snapped off. The wreckage was still burning in places and the local Fire Brigade was spraying foam on the smoldering fuselage that was in two pieces where the whole thing had skidded to a stop. Kiki tried to remember the properties of the kerosene used as jet fuel. Did it have a higher or lower flashpoint that normal avgas?
The door opened as the skids of the helicopter touched down and the sudden cold air rushing into the cabin was shocking. Through long practice, Kiki jumped out the door and kept low knowing that the rotor was spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute just over her head. As in the past, whenever she arrived at a scene like this all people saw was Notarzt spelled in high visibility letters across the red coat she was wearing. No one cared about who she was and that told them all they needed to know. The Chief of the Fire Brigade saw the FSR patch on her coat and Major’s epaulettes on her shoulders and unconsciously started to come to attention. Former military and probably enlisted, Kiki thought to herself as she filed that away for further use if she needed it.
“What’s the situation?” Kiki asked.
“Frightful mess” The Fire Chief said, “The Flight Crew must have known they were in trouble and tried to bring it in easy, but then it broke up and caught fire.”
Kiki tried not to react to that as she followed him towards the canvas tents that had already been set up as a makeshift field hospital. Surviving a crash just to get incinerated on the ground before rescue could arrive was the stuff of nightmares.
“We have found a number of survivors so far and we’ve been doing our best for them until you got here Doctor” The Chief said as Kiki tried not to look at the dozens of figures laid out under tarps who had not been so lucky.
“Thank you” Kiki said as she entered the first tent. The scene inside was exactly as she feared it would be. A number of scared, injured people and she would need to impose order on it before she could even start. Pulling a stack of “Federal” tags out of her pocket, Kiki looked at the first man she came to. A well to do Japanese businessman in his forties if what was left of his Savile tailored suit was anything to judge by. His left side had been shredded during the crash and Kiki could see that he had suffered a major brain injury and his left arm was missing from just above the elbow, it was a wonder he was still alive. Kiki attached the tag to the front of his shirt and tore it off, black. These people might not be military, but they all knew what that meant, and that Kiki meant business by being here. Of course, those who might be scared of her were those who needed help the least.
“Get his passport and inform the Japanese Embassy as soon as you get the radio up” Kiki said over her shoulder to one of her team as she moved on to the next patient.