Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Four
13th March 1976
Technically, Kiki was breaking the rules by being here, at this point she really didn’t care anymore. She still supposed to be on Maternity Leave for a couple more weeks. That was why she was here in a civilian capacity. She had been sent because it was considered part of a larger project that she had been working on for years. Those blood samples that she had taken in Los Angeles were a part of that. It was something that she wanted to see through.
Over the last year, Kiki had had a lot of time to think about her priorities and how she had spent the last two decades. She was coming up on having spent twenty years in the Medical Service in only eighteen months, and while she wouldn’t trade that for anything, it wasn’t like she could just leave at a moment’s notice for Korea, Argentina, or who knows where anymore. Nina and Louis needed her clearly. There was also the aspect of her holding the rank of Oberstarzt meant that she would almost entirely work in Administration with absolutely no hope of further advancement because it seemed like the entire Government was afraid of the threat her grandfather had represented, that he might order the Heer to dispose of the Reichstag and had commanded the Army Group that would have been tasked with carrying it out during the First World War. That had been a major concern of the Government in the 20’s and 30’s. That was before Wilhelm III had died in a brothel, solving any problems he might have posed for everyone.
Kiki had reached the conclusion that Ben was right about how her time with the Medical Service was inevitably coming to an end. When she had told her superiors about her plans they had seemed completely befuddled as she had told them that she had reached the conclusion that they had become a dead end. Twenty years of her life was enough. They had been unsure as what to do with her when she came back which was why they had called the meeting in the first place. In the meantime, Kiki had a job to do, and she would do it as she saw fit. If that meant her working in a small hospital in Southern Bavaria to stay close to her husband’s work then they were going to have to be happy with that.
Those were Kiki’s thoughts as she watched SMS K024 Grindwal pull up to the pier in Constantinople. According to her brother, Louis Ferdinand Junior, there was a man aboard who was exhibiting symptoms of the disease that the Medical Service had been tracking for years. She had read up on the everything known or suspected about the disease, that it was likely blood bourn, that often it was confused with other types of diseases, types of pneumonia and cancers, that were the result of opportunistic infections. It was also suspected of being sexually transmitted like Hepatitis. Of course, that was all just conjecture. They needed more information to get a clearer picture. The Americans had continued to be uncooperative, mostly because of the nature of some of the suspected cases. That struck Kiki as being particularly foolish because even a first year Medical Student could tell you that an epidemic occurring among marginalized of society seldom remained there for long.
As the gangplank was wrestled into place, Kiki was greeted by Greg Borchardt. The crusty Warrant Officer had always been present she had visited her brother in the past. Louis had warned her when they had talked yesterday that it would make things a lot easier with the crew if she won over Borchardt quickly. That included removing one of their own from the ship, something which wouldn’t sit well with them.
“Oberdeckoffizier” Kiki said in greeting calling Borchardt by his proper rank. “Permission to board?”
“You hardly need my permission Princess” Borchardt replied as Kiki climbed the gangplank followed by four men from the FSR. Her Security Detail understood that the Grindwal was one of the safest places for her in the Hellenic Empire, so they remained with the car, keeping a close eye one everyone on the pier. Louis was watching from the ship’s bridge and nodded as stepped through the doorway into the ship.
“Constantinople isn’t the Liberty Port that it used to be” Borchardt said as Kiki followed him into the forward section of the Grindwal. If the crew didn’t know Kiki, they recognized the red coat she was wearing that announced that she was a Field Surgeon across the back in reflective white letters. “It used to be that you would have gotten trampled when the plank was put down. These days, there’s a war on.”
Borchardt looked apologetic as they entered the Enlisted Crew’s Quarters. Borchardt started bellowing that there was a woman on the deck and there was a bit of a mad scramble. Kiki tried not to think about what must be going on here, it was always tamer than those involved were prepared to admit. Of course, no one would like their mother to see them looking through dirty magazines and some such. Kiki was the Captain’s sister, so in some ways it was worse. The crew didn’t react as well to the presence of the men from the FSR. This part of the ship was normally out of bounds for them as far as the crew was concerned, sullen acceptance was the best they would get. From the Mess came the smell of cooking food along with sludge coffee and that odd tea mixed with blueberry syrup that had become popular since the Patagonian War. The rest of the Enlisted quarters was among the machinery that fed the big gun up on the foredeck.
They reached a bunk with a figure wrapped in blankets. Kiki was very aware that she had an audience, and that discretion was very much in order. Still, she was shocked by the state that Oberbootsmann Martin was in, just skin and bones, his breathing labored.
“Good morning, David” Kiki said as she opened her medical bag. “Your Captain said that you’ve been having a bad time.”
Martin smiled at that. “Your brother you mean” He said weakly.
Even he knew who she was.
“Yes” Kiki replied, “And I am sure he told you about how we need you to play a larger role in this.”
“That means going home?” Martin asked.
“Yes” Kiki said, she saw no reason for lying to him.
“I think I’ll like that” Martin said, and Kiki let out a breath that she hadn’t been aware she was holding. Louis had warned her that the crew would make things difficult if Martin was unwilling to leave.