Chapter Two Thousand Eighty-Two
10th August 1971
In the grey drizzle of the afternoon, Cologne didn’t seem too appealing as the Meta passed through. Kiki supposed that the museums, marketplace, and culture of the medieval city ought to appeal to her, but she wasn’t inclined to stop here. She was sitting under the canopy aft of the wheelhouse as she had been doing most afternoons. It was nice to watch the countryside roll past and not be in any hurry to get anywhere.
Whatever the plan had been, Kiki had looked at a map and suddenly exploring a city, she had never been to before had struck her fancy and Amsterdam was sort of hard to miss. Austria had been sort of a fizzle. Vienna had been almost as drab as Cologne seemed to be today. It seemed that her family wasn’t particularly popular in Austria, and they had gotten a rather frosty reception. It had something to do with history and how Vienna was no longer the seat of Empire while Berlin had ascended.
The sad reality was that as much as the Austrians wanted to lay the blame on Germany, Kiki remembered from History classes that what happened to them was almost inevitable past a certain point. By the time the Dual Monarchy had started to break apart, the best that anyone could have done was a controlled demolition. Not that she thought for an instant that her grandfather and great grandfather had not exploited the situation for all it was worth. It was like what the Americans said. How the difference between a rich man and a poor man was dependent upon whose grandfather had been the better horse thief. Kiki had no doubt that her ancestors were among the absolute best of horse thieves…
“What are you thinking about?” Ben asked, “You seem like you are a thousand kilometers away when you do that.”
“Austria and how things happen” Kiki replied.
“Still thinking about that” Ben said, “You just need to accept that not everyone loves you.”
“I am not allowed to ever forget that. It is why I need to have bodyguards” Kiki replied, realizing as she said it that two members of her security detail were within earshot. “That was different though. Those people disliked me because of my family.”
“Exactly what was your great grandfather supposed to have done?” Ben asked, “Have the Heer invade Hungary to keep their empire together at gunpoint? I’m not sure that having our soldiers in Vienna would have played well, especially after they had to take over on the Italian Front months earlier. There is a good reason why no one can see that ever happening.”
“You know that, and I would guess that they do too” Kiki said, “But you know how people are.”
They sat watching the bank roll by for several minutes.
“Fianna said that she is heating something up for supper” Ben said, “Next time we do this, we might have a dedicated Cook. That will be a major change.”
But for the better? Kiki thought to herself.
Next year the Epione would be ready and unlike the Meta, she would have dedicated crew berths according to the blueprints that Kiki had seen before she had approved construction to begin. Gregor was interested in staying on, but to manage a vessel the size of the Epione an additional crewman would need to be hired, possibly two. Typical of a Belgian Péniche, the crew quarters were just aft and below the wheelhouse similar to how the master’s cabin was situated on the Meta. Just on a larger scale.
A dedicated Cook would be the third or fourth person. Ben mentioning it was a reminder of how it seemed like Kiki’s life seemed to be growing ever more complicated. Hiring people to help seldom made things less complicated.
Comandante Luis Piedrabuena, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
When Tilo’s helicopter landed, he saw that there were a large number of vehicles parked in every bit of open space near the center of town and knew that this was the 7th Recon Battalion. He had been briefed about what had occurred here the day before. How the Chileans had blown the bridge to buy time so that they could retreat west. The 7th had been driving towards the bridge with the 2nd Recon Battalion right behind them. All of them had been forced to stop suddenly and there had been a few collisions. Then they had been forced to wait for the Pioneers to arrive so that a temporary bridge could be built across the Santa Cruz River. They had made it across just as elements from the 3rd MID had been entering the town from the north.
Tilo had been forced to remind them that this wasn’t a competition and there was still a lot of territory to cover before they pushed the Chileans back across the Andes. At the same time, he also understood that the 7th was a part of the 4th Panzer Division. They had spent months bottled up in Rio Gallegos and were clearly interested in making up for lost time. Tilo had also heard that it had been men from the 7th who had frequently launched aggressive patrols across no-man’s-land over the last several months. He knew of many uses for a hard charging Battalion like that.
Walking across a car park towards the building that had been commandeered for Battalion Headquarters. Tilo ran across a familiar face as he walked through the doors.
“I thought you were supposed to have retired by now?” Tilo asked his brother who gave him a look that could have frozen water.
“Tell that to Salvador Allende” Jost growled before stalking off.
Tilo chuckled as he walked towards the office of the Oberstleutnant who commanded the 7th. For as long as Jost had a breath in him there was no way that he would sit out a fight. The President of Chile had just provided him a handy excuse to stay in for as long as he could.