Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Twenty-Five
11th August 1969
In Transit, Central Pacific Ocean
The SMS Antonia Marie was proceeding on a north-westerly course at a leisurely pace with the Marshal Islands as the next destination. It was a welcome change after what had turned into weeks of frenetic activity when they had been moored in Western Samoa. Kiki had lost count of the surgeries she had assisted in and it had all been a reminder that as an Emergency Surgeon she needed to be able to handle whatever was thrown at her. The experience of working with Specialists was invaluable for that exact reason, it was the very reason she had been assigned to the Antonia in the first place. Kiki had a lot weighing on her though she knew that this should have been one of the easiest portions of her time aboard the Antonia. Remembering to eat meals with the other Doctors was something that she needed to remind herself to do because if she didn’t, it was likely that the Ship’s Medical Director would ask her why. To avoid that she was eating lunch quietly as the others watched television, shows and news programs from a few days earlier. Kiki’s mind kept going back to what she had been told earlier that day, things that seemed more important.
There had been briefings about the situation in China. There was an ongoing civil war along with a famine and a viral outbreak that might a lingering echo of Japanese experimentation during the Pacific War. This had resulted in opportunists coming out of the woodwork. Pirates and smugglers mostly, taking advantage of the Western Pacific region becoming unsettled. The Navies of the world couldn’t be everywhere, so all manner of illegal conduct was flourishing. Like always, the Chinese Government was deeply suspicious of outsiders which added an extra layer of complication. It was assumed that such groups would have little regard for International Law and might see the SMS Antonia Marie as a tempting target.
As the Commanding Officer of the FSR Company aboard the Antonia, Kiki played a key role in the security of the ship and had been present at every one of those briefings along with her counterpart who commanded the Marine Infantry who were aboard. That had been weighing on her because they were headed straight for the very region that was so unsettled and the hospital ship carried scores of items of incredible value, not to mention the people themselves who were aboard who had skills not easily found elsewhere. Basically, they had to be prepared for anything. Kiki knew there were enough weapons on board to outfit both the FSR and Marine Infantry Companies. When they had left Kiel that had seemed sort of excessive because supposedly, they were not in that sort of business. Now in retrospect she wondered if it would be enough if they really got into trouble. Doctor Berg had told Kiki many times that she was an idealist who was often disappointed when she collided with a less than ideal world. Was this another one of those times?
“You know her, right Kristina?” One of her colleagues asked and Kiki looked at the television screen that was playing news from home just in time to see Zella looking rather uncomfortable and trying hard to hide her irritation as she interviewed a somewhat oblivious University Professor about the replica of a Medieval farming village that he had constructed using historical accounts. Judging by the ridiculous looking clothes that Zella was wearing, her employers must have had another flash of the sort of brilliance that Kiki knew Zella hated. For all the efforts that Zella had made towards being taken seriously as a Journalist, the people she worked for just couldn’t seem to get past her being an attractive woman. Kiki felt bad for her whenever this sort of thing happened. This wasn’t the first time, not by a longshot.
“Yes” Kiki replied, leaving it at that.
“Is she anything like her public image?”
“What image is that?” Kiki asked in reply and the man looked away.
Living with Velma took a lot of getting used to and that grew ever more apparent as she made a huge deal of preparations for the party she was throwing for her birthday next week when the term ahead should have been her primary focus. When Hillary brought that up with her, she had laughed and told her that she needed to live a little. Then there were the two boyfriends that Velma had somehow acquired, Bill and Brad. Bill lived a couple hours away in New Haven, Connecticut where he attended Yale, while Brad was a Graduate Student at WPI Upstate. The two of them were odd in that they were so alike that even Velma mixed them up at times. What Hillary seemed to find most odd about the two men was that they were perfectly aware of the other seeing Velma and seemed to be perfectly fine with the arrangement.
That left Hillary quietly making plans to spend the night at a friend’s house and anticipating the massive cleanup that would probably await her on Tuesday morning in the likely event of the apartment being trashed. She figured that she would also being kissing her deposit on the apartment goodbye at the same time. Perhaps some good would come of this if that were enough of an excuse to send Velma packing.