Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty-Nine
16th March 1970
Battalion had been sent a new lot of grenades and as was long standing practice, they needed to be set up before they could be distributed. It was tedious work that not everyone could be trusted to do. Then again, when Christian considered the matter, there were many people who he knew including a few men in his Platoon who he wouldn’t trust with a screwdriver. What that meant was that the fuse wire would need to be cut to length, then set in the blasting cap in the base. It was only after that when the ignitor would be screwed into the top with care to make sure that the seals were properly in place. The reason for this was that grenades were often set up for different purposes and the required fuse lengths reflected that. Christian knew that the fuse wire burned at a set rate per centimeter and the exact length needed to have them burn for four seconds once they were armed. Lieutenant von Mischner had ordered him to do this because it was well known that Christian had a talent for demolitions.
The Granate Modell 44 was simple enough, though by no means was it ever to be considered idiot proof. They were egg shaped with a plastic shell that covered 84 ball bearings that were suspended in a wax-like substance. At the core was a charge of plastique. When the pin was pulled, the spring loaded “spoon” flew off and the ignitor lit the fuse. Four seconds later they ruined the day whoever happened to be too close.
Christian hummed to himself as he worked, not only was this simple, but no one dared to interrupt him if they knew what he was doing. Peace and quiet had become difficult come by with the preparation for the Spring Field Maneuvers reaching their height as much of the Second Army Corps prepared to move to Swabia. The Brass wanted a big show this year and had invited several allied nations to take part. Like always, the 4th Panzer Division was expected to lead, and 7th Recon Battalion would be right there playing the role of cavalry. As an Unteroffizer, Christian had a small but vital role to play, namely keeping those in his Squad in line so that either the Hauptmann or the Lieutenant wouldn’t have an excuse to stomp on them. Not that Lieutenant von Mischner was looking for an excuse, he had just made sure that Christian knew that he would appreciate it if whatever minor squabbles were taking place within the Platoon never reach the level that would require his attention.
Christian didn’t need to be told what that meant. Because he and Manfred went way back, he knew exactly what that attention would look like and none of the offending parties would get off lightly. So, he was doing his level best to keep things below the Lieutenant’s attention.
Finding himself a father again wasn’t something that Albrecht really expected. Then Ingrid had landed into their lives and he had found himself contending with having a newborn in the house for the first time in more than a decade. It had hardly changed things for him because he was responsible for the SMS Lilienthal. The Aircraft Carrier was currently in Winter Quarters in Danzig and due to the severe conditions, the Baltic Sea had largely frozen over this season. Even so, Albrecht had needed to spend most of the week overseeing the maintenance of the ship. Mercifully, the Air Group was still training in Spain where the weather was far better, so that was one less headache for him to contend with.
Coming home to Ilse and Ingrid was actually a bit of a relief. It was only as peaceful as Ingrid allowed it to be but compared to the five thousand Sailors and Officers who made up the Ship’s Company of the Lilienthal her needs were relatively simple. It wasn’t as if Albrecht had a whole lot to do at home either. This was because Ilse seemed to have learned several key lessons from her experience with Nikolaus and had availed herself of every resource that was available to her. It was also a bit amusing to see how Albrecht’s prediction about his father’s reaction to Ingrid played out. Ilse had worried that he might be angered by the situation, being as set in his ways as he was. Contrary to his public image as the stern Patriarch, the Kurfürst was perfectly happy to play the role of the doting Grandfather. While he had certainly been an authoritarian as a father when Albrecht had been a child, this was clearly different. Albrecht had also seen that with Nikolaus, Manfred the Younger, Ina, Kat Mischner’s daughter Marie Alexandra, as well as the Dietrich Schultz’s children, Sabastian, Anna, and Gretchen. He had even warmed somewhat to Sonje and Caecilia’s children, though his aloofness there had more to do with the strained relationship that he had with their mothers. Albrecht’s two youngest sisters had led very conventional lives for women in their social class and were completely overshadowed by Helene, who was decidedly not conventional. It was something that caused considerable resentment as Helene had continued to advance her career.
This time when Albrecht returned home his father had wanted to talk strategy. The Imperial Election was coming, and Manfred von Richthofen saw it as an opportunity to expand their family’s interests. Albrecht would have expected nothing less from his father, who had never allowed anything to get in the way of achieving an ambition. Getting reacquainted with his infant daughter seemed like a far better use of his time.