Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Sixteen
11th September 1967
Waltz Research Center, Peenemünde
Sigi watched the man in a spacesuit step off the ladder from a Lunar Module on the screen that dominated the Control Center. All the members of the Raumfahrer Program presently in Germany were in this room as they watched the latest landing as the Astronaut’s feet touched the Lunar surface. Everyone heard the static filled radio transmission of “Uhm… Houston, we made it” As Commander Jim Lovell of the U.S. Navy became the first American to stand on the Moon. This was met with a round of applause by those in the room. The Americans might be rivals, but they understood the Science, how every expedition to the Moon advanced human understanding and was of staggering importance. Far more than the petty squabbles that people engaged in on Earth.
There were also jokes flying around about how Naval Aviators taken a leading role in Space Exploration. Albrecht “Uhlan” von Richthofen, Eric “Winkle” Brown, and now James “Shaky” Lovell, Jr. all fit that description. The theory was that the requirement of landing on an Aircraft Carrier caused them to have a different mindset from their Air Force counterparts. As an Army Aviator Sigi didn’t think that she had much to add to that debate until it was pointed out that her mission was dominated by conducting close air support. Army pilots were trained with the understanding that they would constantly be under enemy fire and one of their own had been the first step by mankind on the Moon. Presently, Sigi had been promoted to Oberst and appointed as Operations Officer of Waltz Research Center. Every attempt to be assigned to a Helicopter Wing had been rebuffed at a time when Sigi just wanted to get back into the cockpit of an Attack Helicopter.
Ben Hirsch had come with Kiki, who had come as his guest. While the Administration of Waltz Center normally objected to girlfriends at events like this, Kiki’s military and social rank muted any objectives that they might have had. Sigi had enjoyed a pleasant evening at her apartment in Peenemünde with them before coming here. Kiki seemed to have something weighing on her. Ben said that she was currently mired in something at work that she had been required by law to report to authorities. Sigi had overheard her mention a name to Ben, Elke Sommer, mentioned having someone watched and how things were getting worse. All Kiki would say to Sigi on the matter was that something in her past had come back to haunt her without elaborating.
That sounded like what had become familiar to Sigi. As she had gotten to know her father’s family better she had come to recognize a typical Hohenzollern clusterfuck in the making, and knew that she needed to keep out of the way. The speculation that had started in the tabloids that she was Louis Ferdinand’s secret daughter was bad enough, it was also a bit too close to the truth for comfort. If the full truth of Sigi’s paternity ever became widespread knowledge… She shuttered at the thought. Kiki wasn’t the only one with things in the past that made a reappearance. Sigi had the most recent exchange of letters with Jay Parker, the first had been just him asking how she was and if she had any plans for her upcoming birthday. She had fired back a letter to the American stating that joke wasn’t funny. He had written back that he had intended no malice, but he did have some leave coming up and wondered if Sigi would be interested in meeting him for dinner in a neutral country. If someone from intelligence services of their respective countries was intercepting those letters, then they were probably laughing their heads off at the strange long-distance quasi-relationship that they had been carrying on over the prior year.
Parker had joked that perhaps Hollywood would be interested. Unless the plot of a Long-lost Princess who happens to be an Astronaut having an affair with an Army Officer would be considered too preposterous, that is. Sigi had read that with a bit of amusement, it was becoming obvious to her what Jay was and was not including in his letters.
In transit, near Waltersdorf, Brandenburg
The new International Airport that was being constructed was off to Zella’s right as she sped down A113 towards the junction with A10, known as the Berliner Ring, which circled the city. It was that new airport that had caused a great deal of controversy and had forced the Government of State of Brandenburg to take a far greater role in land use decisions then they had prior. As the City-State of Berlin had pushed outward to its limits, the towns and villages of the largely rural State that surrounded it were increasingly becoming suburbs of the Capital, especially to the south where there were fewer natural preserves of one sort or another. The problems of traffic, pollution, and crime, long seen as urban matters had become growing issues in Brandenburg with many people questioning just how independent the Government was from the nearby Capital City. The new airport was the last straw and response had been to pass a series of laws to sharply limit growth and urbanization, though Zella personally felt that they were pissing into the wind.
After slowing to take the turns in the interchange, Zella shifted into higher gears of her new BMW motorcycle. It was a version of the Café Racer K3 prototype that she had seen in her father’s garage and it was everything that she had imagined it would be. State regulators had been reluctant to approve the design because it had gone too fast in testing. When word of that had gotten out, BMW Motorrad had not been able to keep with demand and Zella had been one of those put on the waiting list. When she finally got it, she had discovered that the engineers who worked for her father had completely reworked it and it showed as she accelerated onto the orbital highway with the throttle wide open. It was the sort of thing that John Lennon had joked with her about the last time the Moondogs had swung through Berlin. Instant Zen.
Zella needed this after what she had gone through over the previous week. Kiki had asked Zella to help document an instance of child abuse that she suspected. After spending a few days with Yuri watching that woman berate and knock the shit out of her kid, she’d finally had enough. She had given the tapes to Kiki and washed her hands of the entire thing.