Chapter Two Thousand Three
10th July 1970
Operations Command of the Armed Forces, Near Potsdam, Germany
Long before Micha Oberst had ended up here, some wise guy had written Join the Luftwaffe and see the World in large black letters on the concrete wall of the bunker in which he worked in. For some odd reason that had never been painted over. Perhaps it was because the Oberlieutenant got the joke and approved. More likely he simply didn’t care. The Reconnaissance and Analysis Company that Micha was a small part of spent all of its days staring at monitors as the surveillance feed from several orbiting satellites was beamed down so that it could be recorded and analyzed. Every day they issued a report on the observed state of world affairs that was to the respective staffs of the Emperor, Chancellor, and the other relevant members of the Government. Micha’s section was also involved with monitoring soldiers in the field and providing intelligence to them if possible, but the technology to that either had not been invented yet or was a secret that was above his paygrade. Of course, Micha being a lowly Funker meant that almost always seemed like everyone else in the room outranked him.
How the graffiti figured in was that they were observing the world while never, ever actually traveling anywhere. The bunker was in fact located just a few kilometers from his parent’s house. Not that he made it there often, he always needed to be on call in case there was a crisis which kept him close to the barracks. There was also the small matter of Micha’s name, which had all sorts of things wrong with it. Something that he had not realized until he had dropped out of University and joined the Luftwaffe because the only job that he had found in Berlin had not been enough to pay his bills. His parents had made a point of turning his bedroom into a home office for his father as soon as he had moved out, so moving back in with them wasn’t an option. As for his name, Micha Oberst, the Drill Instructor had had a field day with that. Was he a boy or girl? The Instructor had said that he couldn’t tell by looking at him, but it didn’t matter because that had just been an excuse to kick him up and down the Parade Ground. As for Oberst, was he putting on airs? The Instructor had just the cure for that. Eventually, Micha had made it through that, but he had discovered quickly that he was not really going much further than that. He had found himself staring at monitors, watching the satellite feed, and flagging anything that he thought was of interest. The trouble was that while the job had been exciting at first, months later he was still looking at the same images because things seldom happened quickly.
“I had better not catch any of you sleeping this time” The Feldwebel said before he stomped out. A month earlier that had happened on different shift, and the entire Company had been bawled out. It seemed that the message had been, don’t get caught as opposed to don’t do it. Micha found himself battling boredom with sludge coffee and fought the temptation to shove a pencil into his eye with everyone else.
At that moment, the satellite feed that Micha was watching was passing over the Western United States. It looked like a hot day there, zooming in on the beach, he saw that it was crowded with people. Zooming out, he saw that traffic was backing up on the freeways like it did every afternoon. That meant that those frolicking in the sun were in for an exhausting trip home at the end of the day. Over the following minutes the Los Angeles Basin rolled past, and Micha zoomed out. Except for March Air Force Base there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Zooming in on that, Micha made note of the number and types of aircraft on the flight line. Next was Muroc Air Force Base, which was a hive of activity. The surrounding countryside was the Mojave Desert, a thousand shades of brown. How did people live there?
Then came the nameless airfield that sat north of Las Vegas. Salt flats and an absurdly long runway. It was dead as always. Word was that while they had sprung a few surprises on the U.S. Air Force over the years, the USAF knew exactly when the Luftwaffe satellites would be overhead and timed their operations accordingly. Micha noted that there was no visible activity to report at that site, the same as the last thousand times he had seen it. Finally, there was Davis–Monthan Air Force Base just outside of Tucson, Arizona. Micha could see the rows of airplanes baking in the early evening sun. Many had been cut up with the pieces laid out in full view. Those were nuclear capable bombers whose existence had been cut short by strategic arms limitations treaties. It had been in that manner so that both sides could see that the other was honoring what had been painstakingly negotiated. Micha’s understanding was that there was a similar site in South-West Germany. After a set period of time the aircraft would be shipped off to the foundry.
About the time the view crossed into the Texas Panhandle from New Mexico, the land below went dark. Micha could have switched cameras and continued watching what the Americans were doing in infrared, but he knew that others at the monitors that surrounded him were already doing exactly that. Instead, he took his mandated break after turning in his notes to the Head of his Section. Word was that a few years earlier one of the Analysts had flipped out and had started smashing monitors after spending too long staring at one of them. Taking a break after a few hours had been required after that.
Running up the flights of stairs to ground level, Micha stood outside the steel blast doors, happy to be out from under tons of concrete breathing stale air. It was a cool humid night, and the ground was wet from when it had been raining earlier. In the east, the sky was pale in the predawn.