Chapter One Thousand Seven Hundred Eighty
27th January 1967
Cam Ranh, Vietnam
It was astonishing how many people from around the world were making their way to Cam Ranh Bay because this wasn’t going to be a typical launch according to Zella who had been out to tape their presence for the last couple hours. Sigi couldn’t see it from the area where she was waiting until she would put on the suit and take the elevator up the tower to enter Hansa I, as the Command Module for Taxidiotis IV had been dubbed. Supposedly the beaches, fields, and roads outside the perimeter were already crowded with tens of thousands of spectators though the launch wasn’t scheduled for another couple hours and it was still early in the morning. Even without the Launch Center located here the area was becoming known as a resort hotspot. The Government of Vietnam had originally seen this as a means of bringing jobs to the area that were not seasonal. Instead, it was swiftly becoming one of the most famous locations on the planet.
It while she was waiting that Sigi was handed a phone and discovered that she was talking to an American Anchorman from the Columbia Broadcasting Service. Apparently, she was supposed to be mindful that what she said would be going out on the air.
“Do you have time to talk Miss Grimmelshausen?” Walter Cronkite asked, “Just a few questions.”
“I have time” Sigi replied, looking at the countdown clock that was ticking down. In New York it would be early evening.
It took a moment for Cronkite to introduce her. Lieutenant Colonel Sieglinde Grimmelshausen, a decorated Pilot from the German Army Air Service. The first woman in orbit and now she was about to command the first manned expedition to the Moon.
“Today is the big day for you Colonel” Cronkite said, “All the preparation and planning have come down to this. Your thoughts?”
“This mission has been years in the planning, we have assembled the best crew, the engineering in the Taxidiotis Program is second to none and I anticipate success if all goes to plan” Sigi replied. Glancing over she saw Gagarin and Hartmann throwing small wads of paper at Pierre’s back trying to get one down the back of his collar, Leonov had somehow fallen asleep.
“You have broken through the glass ceiling like few other women have” Cronkite said, “Do you have anything to say to any young woman following your example?”
It took Sigi a second to consider the meaning of the American term that he had just used. She had heard it used before, that women could only rise so far before they hit an invisible ceiling. Having an Emperor for a half-brother and the patronage of a Fürstin had prevented that from happening to her. She couldn’t exactly spread that around, now could she.
“With perseverance you can achieve anything” Sigi replied. It was the sort of answers that she had been coached to give.
“Do you have anything to say to Commander Shepard?” Cronkite asked.
It was a reminder that if today’s launch was scrubbed, NASA was planning on launching Apollo IV next week. There was a good chance that Alan Shepard would take Sigi’s place in the history books if Taxidiotis IV got delayed for a substantial period of time.
“I wish him luck and my hope is that our flights can advance the understanding of our place in the Universe” Sigi replied, “I look forward to working with him and his colleagues in the spirt of international cooperation.”
Sigi mostly meant what she said, she just didn’t like the idea of coming in second place behind a bunch of cowboys.
28th January 1967
Halle (Saale), Anhalt
Her first days in Halle had been difficult. This was not because Kiki had too much to do, but because after years of frenetic activity she suddenly found herself with periods of time with nothing to do but wait for the next patent. The most exciting case so far had been of a patent who had suffered a heart attack while shoveling snow. She had assisted in that one, expected to learn from the Doctor who was actually treating the patent. Mostly, Kiki had watched quietly and did what she was told, which was what she had been informed was her primary task as a first-year Intern. She occasionally talked to patents who were more comfortable talking to her than the male Doctors, that led directly to hearing a lot about women’s issues that she would need to translate into terms that would help with treatment. There was also the exhausting commute to and from Jena. Kiki found herself looking forward to her time out in the field because it would be an escape from the Emergency Department.
Today, Kiki had been watching Sigi being interviewed from Orbit on the television in the Staff Room when one of the Doctors had asked if she wanted handle a case herself, with supervision of course. The patient was a man in his forties who had a badly swollen foot with a substantial abscess growing out the side of it.
“Why didn’t you come in sooner?” Kiki asked to the patient who just shrugged.
“I’ve been busy” The patient replied.
He had been too busy not to notice this, Kiki thought to herself. How was that possible? She couldn’t figure out how he had managed to get a shoe onto that foot for the prior weeks.
“What are our options with Herr Glücks’ foot?” The Doctor supervising Kiki asked.
“Administer a local anastatic and drain the abscess” Kiki said to the Doctor who nodded. “Does he have any allergies?”
“Not according to his file” The Doctor said, and Kiki wondered why Glücks didn’t seem to be having an issue with being a teaching aid.
Kiki found a syringe and a vial of Lidocaine. After numbing the area around the abscess with a series of injections, Kiki picked up a scalpel and looked at the Doctor who nodded. Something about the look on the Doctor’s face suggested that she needed to consider every angle. She had seen abscesses like this before and they often had one thing in common, Kiki reached for a tray and couple rolls of gauze. She would need it because the contents of an abscess tended to be under pressure, and she would need to pack the wound after the abscess had been cleaned out. The Doctor had been prepared to let her make a horrible mess if she had gotten that part wrong.