Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread III

Part 118, Chapter 1960
Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty

31st January 1970

Argelander Observatory, Balderschwang, Bavaria

While Ben agreed that the telescope seeing first light was a huge deal, the huge production that was being made of it was hardly necessary. It had become something that was seen along the same lines as the moon landings, a point of national pride. Ben personally felt that the Sciences were something that transcended the petty squabbles of men and nations, that they worked best when it was for the betterment of all. When Ben had voiced his opinions to Louis Ferdinand, the Emperor had said that while he admired his idealism and optimism, he thought that Ben needed to talk to his father about the other role that the Sciences had played in history.

Ben had understood that immediately. Every scientific discovery held the potential for both progress and destruction, it was something that always needed to be considered. Ben’s father was a Professor of Organic Chemistry, a field that had made the modern world possible, including many of the ever more lethal weapons used by its militaries. That was the reason why Louis Ferdinand felt that the opening of the Argelander Observatory should be celebrated in the manner that it was. It was a constructive development, and they needed it to be seen as having the full backing of the State as well as industry. If Kings and Industrialists getting their pictures in the newspapers at the opening made them more inclined to support similar projects in the future, then it was a small price to pay. The alternative was that the same resources would be squandered on things that would not benefit society other than to feed the insatiable greed of wealthy men.

That was also the reason for establishment of the Friedrich Order for Science and Industry. Named for Louis Ferdinand’s great grandfather, Friedrich III, it had been created as an award for those deemed to have had worked for the betterment of mankind. Kiki had also pointed out to Ben that it was a not-so-subtle message being sent to her older brother, who was expected to ascend the throne as Friedrich IV in only a matter of months, about the direction that the Emperor thought that society was moving in. The 40’s and 50’s had been an era of rapid advancement. However, things had stagnated during the 60’s. Sure, there had been the Space Program and substantial advancement in most fields, such as computing, but most of those had been evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary. It was Louis’ hope that the Friedrich Order would help foster the change he was after. Ben had noticed that among those inducted into the Order were typically young and were considered innovators of one sort or another. When Ben himself had been told that he would be among them for his participation in the Taxidiotis Program and his work on Argelander Observatory, the thought had occurred to him that he might have gotten in because of his relationships. It was something that Kiki had complained about often, then he realized that like the others he was getting the induction for what it was figured that he would do in the years ahead and it was giving him a powerful tool to go about doing it.

That was at the forefront of Ben’s mind as he conducted a tour for a number of the very men who Louis Ferdinand had mentioned. In the back of the crowd, Kiki quietly chatted with her sister, Marie Cecilie of Galicia, and Anna, the Queen of Saxony. The three women seemed to be enjoying themselves far more than the men who Ben was trying to explain the workings of the telescope to.

Hong Kong

It had come as a sudden shock when the Captain of the HMS Darner had been relieved of command. It was something that everyone had been expecting for ages, but no one had been eager to see it happen because there was a chance that whoever replaced him would be worse. Once it happened though, things took a turn that could have been anticipated by anyone with half a brain. Who had dropped the dime on the Captain? The problem for Smythe was that he was the one who was widely seen as having the most to gain. While everyone knew that the Captain had posed a serious risk to the ship, there was a great deal of personal loyalty that it was felt that was owed him because he had commanded the Darner since she had left the yards a few years earlier. That was why it came as something of a relief when word came that a new Captain had been assigned to the Darner. In many respects, they should have paid heed to the amble warnings that their own experience provided, it could always get worse.

Lieutenant Commander Courtenay walked down the gangplank looking at the seventy men of the Ship’s Company with thinly disguised disdain during the welcoming ceremony. Admittedly the crew was a mixed bag. Like all ships of the Eastern Fleet, they were from all over the Commonwealth, English or Scottish of some sort or their descendants. As if Smythe needed more proof that British Navy’s Sailors had never been picky about their bedpartners over the last few centuries. Before Courtenay even opened his mouth, Smythe knew that he would have the posh accent that came from a lifetime of wealth, sculpted by years spent in exclusive schools. Smythe’s family had been serving in the Navy for generations. Growing up in Portsmouth, any other life would have been unthinkable for him. That had meant that he had gone to sea as soon as he had been able to legally and he had earned his Commission through years of hard work and clawing his way up from the bottom.

As soon as Courtenay started to read aloud his orders to assume the role of Master and Commander of Her Majesty’s Ship Darner, Smythe decided to just start hating him then. As opposed to waiting for Courtenay to screw up. The problem of a self-correcting problem like this was that they tended to get anyone unlucky enough to be next to them hurt or killed in the process.
The 40’s and 50’s had been an era of rapid advancement. However, things had stagnated during the 60’s. Sure, there had been the Space Program and substantial advancement in most fields, such as computing, but most of those had been evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary. It was Louis’ hope that the Friedrich Order would help foster the change he was after.
Hmm, about that. How different is technological advancement here compared to OTL.
King Albrecht of Bavaria should be really pleased with himself as the Observatory and the participation of the University of Munich as one of the principal sponsors is going to shift some of the scientific and technology focus from Berlin to Munich which will help the economy of Bavaria in the long run.
For the nearby residents of the Observatory the new laws and regulations concerning light pollution should help in preserving the rural character of the area while at the same time new economic opportunities emerge to keep the younger people home and not move off to bigger cities for themselves.
With the 1972 Olympics in Munich the Observatory will also be a prominent symbol of the games.


German proverb: Vitamin B only damages people with a lack of it.
With B standing for „Beziehungen“ meaning connections.
The problem with China station right now is they are are going to have to get some more competent people with the events happening there. One interesting fact is you still have the Falklands, South Georgia, and the British Antarctic station to send RN personnel to help with the penguin counts and such. Liaison with the German Antarctic units or even the Canadian stations are a possibility.
Part 118, Chapter 1961
Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty-One

2nd February 1970

Hong Kong

The most noticeable feature on the HMS Darner was the two four-inch guns fore and aft. The rest of the ship’s weapons were the 4 Bofors anti-aircraft guns in dual mounts amidships, a number of BESA machine guns, and most recently the three Krupp M65 LRG “Thumper” guns that had been added on pintle mounts up on the gun deck. Smythe was having to explain why the instruction books for the Krupp guns were missing as he was going through the ship’s armory with her new Captain. Instead, they had typewritten pages in plastic binders, something that Courtenay was not pleased to find.

“You see, Sir” Smythe said, trying desperately to not sound as if he were talking to a particularly dim child. “The Thumpers were shipped directly here by Krupp and the instruction books were entirely in German. It took some doing but we got them translated.”

“And exactly where are they now, Mister Smythe?” Courtenay asked.

“I haven’t the foggiest notion” Smythe replied, “Space is at a premium, so useless things either find a use or they go away.”

If Smythe had to guess, the pages of the original instruction books had been used as toilet paper some time ago. It was not as if the guns were particularly complicated to use or maintain. The crew liked them because they could throw a lot of the high-explosive “grenades” downrange quickly and could be figured out quickly without a great deal of reading involved. Just keep the internals properly greased and the 40mm grenades were fed into the hopper on top, gravity did the rest. Easy as pie.

“Why would the instructions be in German?” Courtenay asked and Smythe wondered how it was possible that the new Captain had managed not to accidently lobotomize himself while brushing his teeth.

“They were made by Krupp, Sir” Smythe replied, “Which is a German company.”

“I swear, what is this Navy coming to” Courtenay said, “There was a time when we could produce all of our own things without having to pay off the Jerry.”

Smythe almost asked him exactly when that had been. Because he knew that there were a lot of historical examples of foreign made equipment finding its way only British ships. When in port, the crews frequently had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on. The Enfield-Thorp rifles in the racks in front of them had been designed by Stanley Thorp and Stefan Januszewski, meaning that half the design team was Polish. Up on the deck, the Bofors guns had been manufactured in Sweden and the BESA machineguns were license built from a Bohemian design. Even the four-inch guns had been derived from a Krupp design late in the last century.

“They do the job, Sir” Smythe said, hoping that the practical reality of that would win out over Courtenay’s opinions.

“What does LRG stand for anyway?” Courtenay asked.

Smythe did know the answer to that. “Long recoil grenade launcher is the translation” He said, figuring that using the term Granatwerfer would probably just annoy the Captain. “That is how it works and what it does.”

“I see” Courtenay said before starting to climb up the ladder to the main deck of the ship. They still had the crew quarters to go through and Smythe suspected that Courtenay would find plenty at fault there.

Plänterwald, Berlin

For the first time in days, Kiki was able to hole up in her cottage and just enjoy a little bit of quiet. Rauchbier and Weisse had decided that spending time with Kiki on the couch near the fireplace on a cold winter afternoon was the best use of their day. That is until Nella and Nan came home from school. The quiet time with company who would never judge her was welcome for Kiki who just needed to decompress.

Kiki had taken on the latest twist that her career had taken as best she could. As the Executive Officer of a Regiment that was spread out across wide geographical area, she had spent her days on various trains and cars as she visited hospitals and clinics, getting to know the Doctors, Nurses, and Orderlies who she would be working with in the event of a large-scale emergency. Then she had traveled to Bavaria for the ceremony where the telescope, whose construction Ben had overseen the construction of, had seen first light.

Once back in Berlin, she had lunch with Doctor Berg and had noticed that the dynamic of their relationship had changed. While Kiki wasn’t quite the same rank as Berg yet, of was obvious that she would be within a few years. Suddenly, Kiki’s former mentor had to treat her as an equal. Or was it that a young woman who had become a surrogate daughter was going to exceed her. Kiki had no idea because Berg had not said so.

There was also the ever-present minefield of Kiki’s own life. The whole wretched Princess thing that Kiki had been forced to come to terms with. Recently, she had watched as any plans for a quiet, simple wedding had slipped from her grasp. She was now facing the prospect of getting married on Easter Sunday with the Metropolitan of Berlin presiding and a reception with far more guests than she had imagined would ever be interested. It was enough to make her run away screaming. Then there was the latest round of interest in her by newspapers and magazines. Despite her protestations that she really wasn’t that interesting, they had disagreed and had come back with numerous articles. A photograph of Kiki when she had been doing FSR training had been unearthed, one she’d had no idea had even been taken and they were running with it. All Kiki could think upon seeing it was how tired she had looked, as well as how terrible her hair had looked when it had been cut that short. It was a reminder of how she had felt back then, always covered in grime and exhausted. She wondered what those who played up her being the Princess Royal would make of her looking like that.
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I'm still loving this timeline--enough that I have started back at teh beginning to eread and enjoy.
One thing I'm wondering: Does anyone in the USA have a clue where Martin Luther King Jr. went? Or that he didn't do some of the things he's blamed for? (I haven't get to that stuff in the reread yet; I just finished the first Polish war, and haven't reached Argranda (sp?) Bridge.
Kiki should have known by this time that any wedding ceremony of hers was going to fraught with religious and political considerations.
She is the most prominent lay person of the Orthodox Church in Germany ITTL and the Church is not going to pass up a chance to promote itself and Kiki is also a very popular royal not just in Germany but around the world and there are people who want a piece of the prestige that Kiki has for themselves.
The fact that the groom is literally "The Boy Next Door" and comes from a middle class academic background who has achieved on his own merits by being a war hero in Korea, being a part of the first manned flight to the moon, and now the lead force in constructing the world's largest telescope is fascinating in of itself.

Nella and Nan it seems are beginning to spend of much time with Kiki as possible and with the abdication of Louis Ferdinand coming soon that time is going to increase as Louis Ferdinand and Charlotte will find themselves traveling more on various international projects.
By the way Crown Prince Frederic should be "unofficially" campaigning for the Emperor job by making some high profile visits to other countries and across other Empire itself.
Poor Kiki. An inveterate introvert whose desire to not be categorized as 'just a princess/imperial brood mare' has led her to becoming the most recognizable & fascinating member of the Imperial Family.

I think Louis Ferdinand is going to be King of Prussia.
Kiki is going to snap talk to some people in the special forces "kidnap" ben get in the metropolitan on short notice get it done then imediatly get a chopper exfil to the honeymoon.
Part 118, Chapter 1962
Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty-Two

13th February 1970

Off Wenzhou, China

The HMS Darner had been built for riverine operations. Yes, she could go on the Ocean for brief journeys, but seldom outside of coastal waters and preferably during good weather. The East China Sea in the wintertime was the exact opposite of that. With her shallow draft, flat-bottom and low freeboard, it made for a wet, miserable time for the crew as a storm had blown in off the Pacific as they had come out from the protection of Taiwan. Smythe knew from experience that they were in no danger of sinking, but the way they were getting tossed around was more than enough to make some of the men find religion.

None of this was helped by Courtenay insisting that they needed to depart as soon as they got orders. When Smythe had told him what day it was, he had bristled and had asked what sort of coward would believe that sort of superstitious drivel. Smythe had to bite back the answer before he said it aloud, Sailors, that’s who. So, the Darner had slipped her mooring early in the morning on Friday, the 13th of February to conduct a patrol up the Yangtze River. As the ship’s First Officer, it fell on Smythe to keep the crew in line and not even the prospect of twenty-four hours liberty in Shanghai was enough to get them to come around this time. They were convinced that this entire patrol was unlucky from the jump. Smythe knew that all Courtenay would have needed to have done was wait a day and all of this could have been avoided. Instead, the Captain seemed to have put aside good sense in his headlong rush to get into the fight.

For lack of anything better to do, Smythe had gone up to the bridge and watched the waves crash over the foredeck as the Helmsman steered them on a north-easterly course with the bulk of the Chinese Mainland off to their left. Eventually, he was relieved by Sublieutenant Hastings. Finding Courtenay in the Officer’s wardroom was an unpleasant surprise. He had been hoping to have a swift meal then be back up on the bridge in order to avoid the very conversation that Courtenay was determined to start a moment after he sat down.

“I am sure that you have guessed already that there is a reason for my urgency” Courtenay said.

The only thing that he had guessed was that Courtenay was a prig who had added being pigheaded to the growing list of character flaws that Smythe was aware of.

“It has to do with these Mister Smythe” Courtenay said, gesturing to the stack of intelligence reports on the table in front of him. “Everyone has an interest in what happens in China over the coming months and there are no exceptions.”

Smythe typically didn’t care about politics. That was usually an added complication and what it looked like from where he was standing was a lot of ordinary people getting killed or dispossessed because their “betters” were stupid or arrogant enough not to take the consequences seriously. He owed his place in the Navy for his ability to carry out those dictates, he just didn’t care to understand the real reasons. Smythe had learned long ago that enlightenment seldom made him happy.

“Have you ever seen a map of the western border of China?” Courtenay asked, “Or much of the northern border?”

Smythe just shrugged, he’d seen the maps and had little reason to question them.

“Just lines on a map in the middle of what is actually howling wilderness” Courtenay answered, “Approximations, frequently with the cartographers having to take the word of whoever happens to be around about where the borders are.”

“What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” Smythe asked. And Courtenay laughed as if that was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

“It’s the latest round of the Great Game” Courtenay said, “With the Yanks leaving Chiang Kai-shek swinging in the wind, it gives us an opportunity to make names for ourselves. There is not a minute lose.”

That was when an unbidden thought crossed Smythe’s mind, this was far more likely to get them all killed.

Tempelhof, Berlin

“We’ve confirmed that there is nothing wrong with you” Berg said, “Mind telling me what prompted you to call me for help late in the evening?”

Kiki felt a bit of guilt for having doubtlessly interrupted Berg’s evening. She had hoped that there had been a physical problem, because the alternative posed a far bigger problem for her.

“I went out with Ben this evening, diner and a movie” Kiki replied, before hesitating. “The movie was a mistake.”

“Tell me more” Berg said.

“It was a drama set during the Soviet War, it was intense” Kiki said, knowing full well what Berg would have to say about that as she said it.

“Heart racing, chest pain, cold sweat, feeling weak, dizzy, and out of control, overcome by a feeling of terror” Berg said as she checked off the symptoms. “It has been a while since your last panic attack hasn’t it.”

“I don’t need this” Kiki said, exasperated that Berg had reached that conclusion so quickly. “Can we keep this confidential?”

“Only if I see you getting treatment on your own” Berg said, “And with as much pressure as you are under you need to learn to delegate. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. You are fortunate that the only consequence was you telling Romeo to go home early so that you could come here.”

“Please don’t use that example” Kiki said, “Romeo and Juliet only work because of the ending. What would have happened if they had lived on after they were no longer infatuated with each other?”

Berg gave Kiki a look that suggested that she had just said more than she had intended.

“My situation is not like that” Kiki said.

“Fear often isn’t rational Kristina” Berg replied, “You know that as well as anyone.”
“It’s the latest round of the Great Game” Courtenay said, “With the Yanks leaving Chiang Kai-shek swinging in the wind, it gives us an opportunity to make names for ourselves. There is not a minute lose.”

That was when an unbidden thought crossed Smythe’s mind, this was far more likely to get them all killed.

Sounds like an officer with a poor fitness report, dumped in an out of the way station, looking for a way to reverse his fortunes. And yes "Death or Glory" usually means a fair bit of collateral death to any poor sod in the general vicinity.
Sounds like an officer with a poor fitness report, dumped in an out of the way station, looking for a way to reverse his fortunes. And yes "Death or Glory" usually means a fair bit of collateral death to any poor sod in the general vicinity.
And possibly an officer who has read far too much of the old Jingoistic biographies & histories and is half convinced that he was born in the wrong century. I'm getting more than a few 'gentleman adventurer' vibes from Courtney; the type where they get their entire crew/expedition so far up Shit Creek that they get wedged in the u-bend.