Part 28, Chapter 315
Chapter Three Hundred Fifteen


5th May 1943

After weeks of watching the roads dry, the offensive was getting ready to start. Hans could feel the electricity in the air, they were about to kick the door in, finally ending this once and for all. At any time, the artillery would start. Then it would take Hans’ mind off the idiocy of Doug Blackwood. The Canadian journalist had made himself scarce for the last couple of days, today he was thick with Jost, an ominous sign. To put it mildly, it was a good thing that Jost was a soldier because he was nearly worthless at damn near everything else. Who knew what sort of potential fatal madness Jost was talking Doug into?

“Oberst wants you, Spear” A Feldwebel said walking the opposite direction. Hans wondered what Horst could possibly want.

He walked across the camp towards the Oberst’s tent he saw a staff car, another ominous sign.

“You asked for me, Sir” Hans said entering the tent. There was an Oberstlieutenant that Hans had never seen before present.

“Oberstlieutenant Staller and I were just discussing a few things, Spear Mischner” Horst said, “He was the one wanted a word with you.”

“Yes” Staller said, something about his voice grated on Hans “Pleased to meet you Hauptfeldwebel Mischner.” Something about the way he said that… felt off. He made no other effort to greet Hans, something that Hans was grateful for.

“You’ve an impressive record” Staller continued “Order of the Crown, Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, Military Merit Cross, Military Honor Medal 1st Class, Federal Merit Cross in Silver with five oak leaves and a Spanish Victory Medal. That is nearly every award that a person in your position can receive.”

Hans wondered what the point of all this was. It’s not like he didn’t know any of that. “Yes” Hans said, waiting for Staller to get to the point already.

“I’m sure that you are also aware that you are the currently presumptive heir to Freiherrin von Mischner” Staller said, “I think that you understand that you should be in a position more appropriate for your social standing.”

“I’ve had this conversation before” Hans said.

“There is more to it than that” Staller said, “If the situation were to change and certain individuals were required to assume a more traditional role then they’ve been playing then it might be to your advantage.”

Hans heard that clear enough. “Thank you for time” He said, “I’ll think about it.”

“That is all anyone asks” Staller said and then left.

Kat had warned him that there were factions within the Wehrmacht and the Government who would be overjoyed to see her go away. She had suggested that her being sent to Judenbach and the little trip she’d taken to Belorussia had been courtesy of them. Now they were feeling out Hans.

As the car drove off Horst turned to Hans “That wasn’t the usual pitch, was it?” He asked.

“No” Hans said, “He was implying to me that the people he represents think that I might be willing to shaft someone in my family for a chance to take what’s theirs.”

“I take it, that’s never going to happen” Horst replied.

“Not in a thousand years” Hans said.

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“It’s simple” Jost said “You ask, she says no. No one thinks you chickened out and Hans doesn’t kill you.”

Doug looked at him skeptically.

“I know that sounds strange” Jost said, “But it’s how everyone gets what they want.”

Word about what Doug had said spread throughout the camp in minutes. He had men he didn’t know either praising his courage or asking what color flowers he wanted planted over his unmarked grave.

“There’s one small with that problem with your plan” Doug said, “What if she says yes?”

“You met her” Jost said “What do you think the odds are that she’ll say that.”

“If I had to guess, almost nil” Doug replied.

“There you have it” Jost said “What could go wrong?”

“Plenty” Doug said.

“In spite of what you’ve heard” Jost said “I don’t think Kat has ever used force on anyone who didn’t deserve it.”

“Wait” Doug said, “You don’t know?”

Jost just shrugged “You always have the option to be craven.”

Better you than me, Jost thought to himself. it was going to be so much fun to watch what was left of Doug come staggering back after Hans’ crazy sister got through ripping him a new asshole. He hadn’t forgotten how the Canuck journalist had humiliated him, payback was a bitch.


Philippine Sea, 1,000 Kilometers East of Formosa


U-541 was on her fourth day submerged. The air was getting foul and the batteries were almost tapped out. Those sons of bitches had done everything but drop depth charges. This cruise had started well enough, they had sunk a pair of Japanese freighters bound for the Marianas. Then the trouble had started.

A half dozen American Destroyers out of the Philippines had headed out to where they figured U-541 was operating close to waters that the Americans considered theirs. The orders were clear, they were not to engage American flagged vessels, under any circumstances, a fact that the Americans in question were taking advantage of. While U-541 could easily elude a single one of those Destroyers, a half dozen of them actively pinging for her was a different story. Otto knew why they were doing this and it was the stupidest reason he could think of. They were trying to drive his ship to the surface so they could photograph her. While that would doubtless have intelligence value, an Admiral somewhere would have a framed picture to hang on his office wall and a few months of bragging rights.

What a thing to start a war over.

U-541 had been drifting north on the Japan current for the last several hours to conserve power and they had not heard high speed screws in that time. Otto checked his watch, it was after nautical twilight on the surface.

“Prepare to surface” Otto said. If they were going to surface, now was as good a time as any. He listened as the crew went about doing that. They began the slow process of climbing to the surface.

“Stop” The SO said, “High speed screws, lots of them.”

“A bearing?” Otto asked.

“Hear for yourself” The SO said.

Otto could hear it, quiet at first but getting louder. The sound of surface ships, getting closer and they were nearly at periscope depth.

“Periscope depth” Otto said, they might as well see what they were dealing with.

A few minutes later Otto saw that it looked like an entire Japanese Carrier task force was passing by on its way north. He cursed those American Destroyers under his breath. He didn’t have the remaining power to attack these ships, much less escape afterwards. He’d have a dozen Destroyers ramming depth charges up his ass in an instant if they even suspected he was here.

The Japanese had gotten lucky, this time.
 
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Ok that was not an angle I thought anyone would try on Hans. Nice little twist.

Other than that I am waiting in anticipation on the whole Kat/Doug event, which ever way it ends up, it is going to be fireworks.

And poor Otto, not getting a chance for glory thanks to those pesky Americans.
 
Ok that was not an angle I thought anyone would try on Hans. Nice little twist.

Other than that I am waiting in anticipation on the whole Kat/Doug event, which ever way it ends up, it is going to be fireworks.

And poor Otto, not getting a chance for glory thanks to those pesky Americans.

Not personal glory, but he is an professional. The tactical situation was poor, more important is the information that the Japanese carriers are on the Move.

With a decent starting point/heading and speed they should be found quickly by the search planes. After that, a proper battleplan can be made.

Tactically: Bad Luck / Stratically: Jack Pot
 
I wonder how long it'll take Hans to get a message to Kat saying that certain people are still playing silly buggers. He could get Jost to tell his father, just to make sure that Abwehr know what's going on.
 
Unpleasant game by the Americans, but all too common on all sides, playing chicken

Dangerous game, also! In an active war zone, this sort of thing can lead to fatal errors.

Absolutely. I would imagine it's more the result of a bored backwater commander, than an actual command from the Admiralty.

Actually, this is some valuable ASW training and intel-gathering for both sides, albeit in an active war zone where errors can lead to fatal and far-reaching effects. The Allies through Otto are gainng insight into the Americans' tactics and abilities; the US is gaining insight into the capability of the new U-boats. The USN calls this a hold-down exercise.

The US is betting that Otto's professionalism will restrain him from sinking a couple of destroyers to get them off his back. Otto's gambling that the US hasn't declared war without him knowing about it.
 
I may be crazy, but...

As I was looking at Google Earth, I noticed that the Northern Marianas, Caroline and the Marshall Islands are roughly in a straight line in the Central Pacific.
They used to be in OTL German New Guinea and ITTL Germany gave them up to japan.
Does anyone think that Germany may want them back? if you think yes, please raise your hands.

It seems to me that Germany and the Allies do not have the forces or bases to effectively blockade Japan but with control of those islands they can cut off Japan from the Dutch East Indies
Admiral von Schimdt will soon have 4 main aircraft carriers. a battle tested surface fleet, and 3 Seebatillion Infantry divisions and what other forces he can get from the British, French and Dutch forces.

Could this be a strategy that Fleet Admiral von Schimdt might want to take a look at?
 
Part 28, Chapter 316
Author's note, I was thinking about how the system of military decorations would have developed in an existing German Empire in the 1940s. An idea that occurred to me was that the Prussian Merit Cross, a civic award rather than a military award, that would have evolved into the Federal Merit Cross with two classes. In gold for individual recognition and silver for unit or group recognition. The oak leaves are for repeated awards. ITTL it plays a role much like the French Croix de Guerre.

Chapter Three Hundred Sixteen


9th May 1943

Potsdam

The elderly artist was known as an ardent Slavic Nationalist, something that didn’t stop him from accepting the patronage of the German Empress. Kat was sure that Kira’s Russian origins helped on that score but it might have had just as much to do with Bohemia, Slovakia and Poland having a large degree of independence within the German Empire.

Alphonse Mucha was known for his theater posters decades earlier, of course Gerta was a fan. She had talked Kat into coming here this week instead of the usual coffee. Helene had tagged along out of curiosity. Kat just knew that his work had influenced the art work of the Sunday editions of the Berliner Tageblatt. In recent years poor health had limited the Mucha’s public appearances but as the season grew warmer he had decided to travel to Berlin and help himself to the largess he would receive here.

The day before when Kat had escorted Mucha from the train station to the car. The Bohemian had seen her dark blue uniform and the Pour Le Mérite that she was required to wear whenever in uniform, he had commented that she was quite possibly to most Germanic looking person he’d ever seen. It didn’t sound like a compliment. Personally, she wondered what he’d make of Johann Schultz.

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Kira had pulled Mucha aside that morning. She had promised the artist a large commission to get him here to Potsdam but it was the political angle to this that had caused her to invite him. A single painting that might prove to be the most important of his career. She handed him a series of sketches and photographs of the subject. “If these aren’t enough, she’ll be around here later at the reception” She said.

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It was a modest event for the palace, only a few hundred people including delegations from several states. Naturally security was tight, Gerta had told Kat that unless she could leave work behind this afternoon that her friends would happily leave her behind.

Kat’s understanding was that it a casual event or at least as casual as things ever got in the Imperial Court. It was not like she could wear her old faded clothes to this event. She put on an emerald colored dress that Gerta and Helena had insisted looked good on her a couple of months earlier, she had bought it at their urging but had not worn it since. Then she looked at her hair as she brushed it out. Helene had told her that when she wore her hair loose she looked her age as opposed to the tight braid that made her look years older. She decided to just leave it that way.

Kat then looked in on Gianna, she had been working with Gianna to help her get over the fear that had overtaken her. Today she was bringing Gianna to the reception because it was a controlled environment. The Empress had been fine with her being in attendance so long as she didn’t create a scene.

“Now what did I tell you?” Kat asked Gianna as they walked down the stairs.

“That it doesn’t matter what anyone says or does” Gianna answered, “Don’t react but to come get you instead.”

“Good” Kat said, “And can I count on you not panicking?”

“Yes, Kat” Gianna said, but not with a whole lot of confidence.

“Look” Kat said, “I’ve been shot at and I can tell you that I’d rather have that then deal with my own anxieties but I’m not letting that stop me.”

Gianna gave Kat a slight smile.

Helene and Gerta greeted them as soon as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

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As soon as they walked into the Palace they were greeted by Matthias. “You do clean up nicely, Hauptmann” He said, “You ought to consider doing it more than once or twice a year.”

“Real funny, Mitya” Kat said in Russian.

“I try, Katya” Matthias said back.

It was an old joke between them. Kat had noticed that her and Matthias had the bond of shared experience. She wondered if she would have found that with Renaud had he stuck around.

As they entered the Marble Hall Kat noticed that flash bulbs were going off. Yeah, the three Furies are still about, Kat thought to herself. Who had made that up anyway?

One of photographers lowered his camera and Kat saw that it was Douglas Blackwood again. As they walked into the Hall Kat noticed that Doug had followed them.

“Just a moment, Katherine if you don’t mind” Doug said.

Kat stared at him, he had to know that she was one of the people in charge of the security of this building. He was unlikely to get stopped by the guards who were around so long as he was talking to her and kept it brief.

“Yes” Kat said, she looked at him expectantly while he shuffled his feet nervously.

“I was wondering if you would be interested in dinner or something sometime?” Doug asked.

“Excuse me” Kat said “I…”

Gerta grabbed Kat by the arm and pulled her away. Kat was considering pulling away but she didn’t want to risk hurting Gerta.

“If you be please be patient with us, Herr…?” Helene said with a leading question.

“Er, Blackwood” Doug said.

“Herr Blackwood” Helene said, “This will require a bit of deliberation so if you could wait a minute.”

“Sure” Doug said for lack of anything better to do.

He noticed that the three of them were huddled together talking rapidly, a fourth girl, five or six years younger joined them. Hans had mentioned that he had a younger cousin who Kat treated like a little sister. Every few seconds one of them would look over at him. He felt like he was under a microscope.

Finally, the four of them came back over.

“We know that Kat already did a security check on you” Helene said, “Otherwise you never would have been allowed to set foot in here.”

“And we know that you are friends with Hans” Gerta said, as if that wasn’t exactly a point in his favor. She must have met Jost, Doug thought to himself.

“If you agree to have dinner in a time and place of Kat’s choosing and that is the only expectation you have for the evening then she might be agreeable” Helene said, “And Kat can leave at any time.”

Doug still felt like he was under a microscope. “Uhm, sure” He said.

“Did you hear that, Kat” Gerta said.

“Yes” Kat said.

“Do we have an agreement?” Helene asked.

Kat just looked annoyed when she said “Yes” again.

“Good” Gerta said with bubbly cheerfulness “I was starting to wonder if Hell would freeze over before we ever saw anything like this.”

Jost’s plan had clearly not worked, Kat’s friends must have talked her around. Hans was going to kill him by inches when he learned about this.
 
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Everyone, everyone. I should alert you all to the best security measure Otto and Hans have against Doug hurting Kat. Kat herself. If Doug hurts her, she'll castrate him, make sac into a coinpurse, mail one testicle to Canada and the other to Jost as a warning against those who would do so again.
 
Author's note, I was thinking about how the system of military decorations would have developed in an existing German Empire in the 1940s. An idea that occurred to me was that the Prussian Merit Cross, a civic award rather than a military award, that would have evolved into the Federal Merit Cross with two classes. In gold for individual recognition and silver for unit or group recognition. The oak leaves are for repeated awards. ITTL it plays a role much like the French Croix de Guerre.

Chapter Three Hundred Sixteen


9th May 1943

Potsdam

The elderly artist was known as an ardent Slavic Nationalist, something that didn’t stop him from accepting the patronage of the German Empress. Kat was sure that Kira’s Russian origins helped on that score but it might have had just as much to do with Bohemia, Slovakia and Poland having a large degree of independence within the German Empire.

Alphonse Mucha was known for his theater posters decades earlier, of course Gerta was a fan. She had talked Kat into coming here this week instead of the usual coffee. Helene had tagged along out of curiosity. Kat just knew that his work had influenced the art work of the Sunday editions of the Berliner Tageblatt. In recent years poor health had limited the Mucha’s public appearances but as the season grew warmer he had decided to travel to Berlin and help himself to the largess he would receive here.

The day before when Kat had escorted Mucha from the train station to the car. The Bohemian had seen her dark blue uniform and the Pour Le Mérite that she was required to wear whenever in uniform, he had commented that she was quite possibly to most Germanic looking person he’d ever seen. It didn’t sound like a compliment. Personally, she wondered what he’d make of Johann Schultz.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Kira had pulled Mucha aside that morning. She had promised the artist a large commission to get him here to Potsdam but it was the political angle to this that had caused her to invite him. A single painting that might prove to be the most important of his career. She handed him a series of sketches and photographs of the subject. “If these aren’t enough, she’ll be around here later at the reception” She said.

The complete works of Alfons Mucha
 
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