Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Ninety-Four
13th May 1974
South-East of Jamaica, Caribbean Sea
The USS Gridley was one of the most powerful warships ever constructed. While she was a dedicated anti-aircraft platform, in the event of war she was designed with a stand off capability in mind, to launch cruise missiles that would find their targets without aid once the information had been loaded by the crew of the Gridley. What was kept in mind was that there were other ships whose mission included hunting the Gridley and destroying her before she got the chance to launch. Captain James “Jimmy” Carter had that in mind as he saw the three ships cruising abreast on the horizon, and getting closer with disturbing speed, two Destroyers and a slightly smaller Corvette.
Carter understood what Naval Intelligence had to say about their respective Classes and capabilities. What Intelligence didn’t know were intangible things, especially their Captains. These were honest to God Princes who could have lived lives of luxury but chose a rigorous life at sea. He knew Louis Ferdinand Junior quite well having gotten to know the German Prince quite well in Trieste a few years earlier and knew that he was the sort who wouldn’t let little things like odds get in the way of the mission. It was hardly a surprise that he had been the one who had launched the drone that had given Carter’s CO such a headache on the first day. He didn’t know the other two, but when his XO had heard that they were being trailed by German, an Italian, and a Japanese ships he had asked if someone could tell him the rest of the joke. Everyone around the table in the wardroom had laughed except Carter who knew that they were not to be trifled with. Now, it wasn’t funny, not in the least.
“A message from Commander von Preussen” One of the Radio Operators said, “He is asking for your permission to approach.”
“Tell him that it is granted” Carter replied.
It was just like Louis, Carter thought to himself. All courtesies observed, right until it came time for him to color outside the lines. Carter had seen plenty of that in the Mediterranean when he had been commanding the old USS Blue, an outdated Destroyer that had excelled in her second life as a surveillance ship. Carter had spent a lot of time on the Blue shadowing the German Navy. Which was part of the reason he had been asked to do this, the other being that he had told the Admiral that he knew Louis when he had been asked if he could do something about “Those damned foreign ships.” Getting Louis on the horn had not been difficult, when Carter suggested that they meet to hash this thing out Louis had said that it was a parley, not a meet much to Carter’s annoyance when word had gotten around the crew of the Gridley about that. Yes, they were in the Caribbean Sea, but this was not a ride at Disneyland. Having a young Captain of a rival Navy being seen as a dashing Corsair by his crew presented its own difficulties, especially considering that Carter preferred a more calm and resolute style of leadership.
As the SMS K024 Grindwal drew closer, Carter could see the jagged lines of her paint scheme, different shades of grey designed to make determining her range and bearing difficult. The IJN Yoizuki was painted in broad irregular grey and blue stripes which was likely meant to serve the same function. Finally, the RN Audace was painted a vivid white in a tradition similar to that of the British Navy during peacetime. It didn’t take too much imagination for Carter to realize that he was looking at different doctrines at play. It the age of radar it hardly mattered how the ship was painted, however it related to how the ship’s crew saw themselves.
After a few minutes, a small boat was spotted coming from the Grindwal, with corresponding boats leaving from the other ships leaving from the small flotilla. As it drew closer, Carter spotted Louis wearing the white tropical uniform of German Naval Officers, a second man wore a similar uniform, a third who was piloting the boat, wore the dark blue uniform of a German Sailor, while four other men wore the field uniform of the German Military. The Marines aboard the Gridley bristled at the mere sight of them, and a voice whispered in the back of his head that Louis’ bodyguards were Sealions from the German Marine Infantry. Carter also noticed that the pilot of the German boat was wearing what looked like an American ballcap with gold lettering on it, an idea that the Kaiserliche Marine could only have copied from the US Navy. It was an amusing thought.
As Louis boarded the Gridley, he was followed by another Officer, who looked to be an older man with a weather-beaten face and grey beard.
“This is… Senior Deck Officer Borchardt” Louis said in English for introduction. Carter was aware that the Germans had their own versions of Warrant Officers to fill specialty roles, this was the first time he had ever met one of them. “Akihito and Amedeo will be here shortly, as the most junior among us it was felt that I was best suited to make introductions.”
“I saw that you are a Commander, or the equivalent” Carter said, “Not a Captain yet.”
“Probably not for a while” Louis said, and Carter knew that was a load of crap. If half of what Carter had heard about what Louis had been up to was true, then news of Louis’ promotion was due at any second.
“That is all well and good” Carter said, “But do you have any idea what this meeting is all about?”
“I am not supposed to say until everyone else gets here” Louis said, “But I think that my High Command and your Joint Chiefs of Staff have gone mad.”
“So, it’s a day that ends in Y” Carter said jokingly and he realized that Louis hadn’t been.