Chapter Two Thousand Eighteen
28th August 1970
Over Rural Brandenburg
This was just the first familiarization flight on the dual control trainer version of an Orkan. It took a lot of getting used to, especially the system looking out the front. Rather than just a reflector gunsight that changed modes and colors depending on which weapons were being used and if radar lock had been achieved. It now displayed a great deal of additional information. Altitude, attitude, speed, and the display of information from the terrain following radar were all displayed on it. The idea was that the pilot could see all of that without having to look down at the gauges. The Instructor had said that it was so that they would always have their heads up and would be more aware of what was happening around them. It was just a lot of information to process at once and Ben was still getting used to it. That was the reason for several flights to get familiar and then when the Instructor deemed that he was ready, he would switch to the regular production model of the Orkan and practice dropping concrete bombs much as he had with the Pfeil countless times. At the moment, Ben was thinking how different this was with the nearly silent Instructor seated behind him as opposed to Wim who seemed to start every flight chatting nervously until it came time for them to get down to business.
The throttle quadrant also revealed why the Pfeil pilots had been selected for the new airplane. They were used to managing two engines.
“We’re just practicing today Major von Hirsch” The Instructor said, “Regular landing procedures, touch and go.”
The Instructor hardly needed to say it. The idea was that the procedures would become automatic. The other big change was mentioned as well. After eight years as a reserve Hauptmann, Ben had been promoted to Major and it had been suggested that he might want to reconsider the role he played in SKG 18.
Concentrating on his flying, he went through the checklist he had memorized. The wings and flaps were extended, the landing gear was down and locked. He flared right as the plane neared the ground. As the wheels touched, he felt for the button on the control stick that would have fired the drogue chute out of habit; before he remembered that unlike the Pfeil the Orkan didn’t need one. Besides that, this was a touch and go, so Ben applied full throttle and the plane lifted off the runway.
Rio Gallegos, Argentina
“You have been a complete asshole Manny” Jo said as she sat across the table from him. It was the sort of establishment that sprung up near the gates of every military post in the world. A few rungs below a dive bar, that only sold beer because hard alcohol would just get out hand. Manny could see that Jo had already had a few tonight and he would need to task someone he could trust to keep their hands to themselves to walk her back to the dormitory that the civilian women were using. He and Jo had been an item way back when, but now that seemed rather immature with neither of them knowing how to be in a relationship. The star athlete and the prettiest girl, in their overlapping social circles everyone thought that they should be together. The trouble was that their respective personalities had grated on each other and they had broken up after a few months. It hadn’t been until he had gotten together with Suse Rosa that Manny figured out what the problem had been. Jo was smooth and cool, Suse was all jagged edges and fiery. Suse constantly challenged Manny directly where Jo would have just accepted matters. It was an odd thing to learn exactly where your preferences happen to fall, but there he was.
“I think you are going to lose her if you keep this up” Jo said, “Susie, that that is.”
“I think you’ve had too much to drink tonight” Manny replied, “I’m not trying to be an asshole, I’m worried about you, Suse, and Ina. You are not supposed to be here in Argentina. No one knows if someone is going to do something stupid and if they do, who else is going to get involved.”
“You are afraid that we will see a repeat of something like the Paraguayan War on the scale of the First World War with modern weapons” Jo said, “It will start down here with the Argentinians fighting the Chileans and then depending on what the Brazilians do, you might end up with a brutal free-for-all with the larger countries on this continent slugging it out as their smaller neighbors are caught in the crossfire.”
“Who told you that?” Manny asked, knowing that was a bit too close to the worst-case scenario that the BND had mapped out. The only thing that Jo had missed was that with Argentina moving swiftly away from a resource-based economy towards manufacturing and heavy industry, it was becoming a dominant player in South America. That was upsetting the applecart.
“I can read a newspaper” Jo said, “There is something more going on here too.”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“Louis Ferdinand’s social engineering” Jo said before she took a drink from the beer bottle, which she had forgot she was holding. “You notice how he sent all you big strapping lads from the Panzer Corps, and most of the professionals you asked for happen to be women under thirty? Including your sister and girlfriend?”
“What are you suggesting?” Manny asked. Not liking the direction this seemed to be going in.
“That a generation from now this will be a defacto German colony regardless of what they're told in Buenos Aires” Jo said, “The risk you are running is that Suse might get a better offer as you are being a dick because she came down here without getting your approval first.”
Manny stared at the beer bottle he had finished with an hour earlier but had not bothered to get a new one.
“Also, if you had been paying the least bit of attention, you would have noticed that Suse and Ina have had no trouble finding dance partners here tonight” Jo said, and Manny was on his feet in an instant. He could hear Jo laughing drunkenly behind him as he went to put the fear of God into whoever Jo had just mentioned.
Only to realize before he had taken a few steps, that if he did that it would only make things worse.
“Fuck” Manny muttered under his breath as he realized he had painted himself into a corner.