Episode 576: We Will Advance Two Rooks
The luftjäger marched up the ramp as soldiers had done for
centuries, weapons at port, grumbling about the weight of their packs.
Above them, the Drachen's engines rumbled at idle. When the men
had taken their places, a buzzer sounded, gears whined, and the hoist
platform rose up to the ship. Lothar watched until the doors to the hold
had closed behind it, then glanced at the airspeed indicator to check the
"Buoyancy?" he asked the gewichtsmeister.
The ballast officer consulted his board. "200 kilograms light,
"Good," said Lothar. "Engines One and Two to one quarter power."
"One and Two to one quarter power," acknowledged the helmsman. Bells rang
and the drone of the engines increased ever so slightly.
"Drop the mooring."
On a vessel this size, the sound of the nose fitting being released was
imperceptible, but on the ground below, their shadow began to drift aft as a
light breeze from the south overcame the thrust of the engines.
"30 meters, climbing at 0.2 meters per second," reported the elevatorman.
Lothar nodded. "Bring the nose up one degree, all engines to one quarter
"Nose up one degree."
"All engines to one quarter."
The bow lifted ever so slightly and the sound of the engines deepened. "80
meters, climbing at 0.4 meters per second," said the elevatorman as the
field dropped away beneath them
"That will be sufficient," said Lothar. "Bring her up to 1000 meters, then
maintain altitude. Helmsman, give me a turn right to 170 degrees, then ring
for half power on all engines. We will remain at that speed until our
freunde in the cruiser have joined us."
"Climb to 1000 meters and maintain."
"Turn right to 170 degrees, then half power on all engines."
Lothar watched the evolution, giving no sign of his approval -- such gestures
were only for the softer races -- then strode aft, accompanied by his aide,
to gaze at the field where the Japanese nationalists' cruiser was rising to
"Do you believe we we trust them, mein Herr?" his aide asked quietly.
Lothar shrugged. "They are our natural allies, Deckoffizier Rudel.
The Deutsch and Japanisch Reiche have no reason to fight
each other. We will take the West and they will take the East, to divide the
world between us."
"What about the British?" asked the other man.
"Their day is over. We will crush their defenses and land our
truppen in overwhelming force. Their weak garrison will not stand a
The aide nodded. A commercial vessel such as the Drachen might be
slower than a warship of similar enclosed volume, but it had a greater
payload fraction. This gave them greater range, a higher operational
ceiling, and the ability to carry a sizable landing force. It also meant
they were more lightly armed than an equivalent naval vessel.
"What if Cairns sends ships to their defense?" he asked.
"They only have two vessels of available. These are half our size," said
Lothar. "If they are there when we arrive, we will brush them aside. If
they appear after we have landed our forces, we will turn on them and
The aide frowned. This was one of their privileges. "This may be true,
but it also seems suspiciously convenient. I wonder if we are being
Lothar smiled and clapped the man on the back "You worry too much,
Herr Rudel. Who could possibly do such a thing, and why?"
The Captain watched the station disappear astern, then turned to gaze at
the hills to port. These were cloaked in a thick tangle of vegetation
entirely unlike the streets of Hiroshima where he'd attended the Naval
Academy. He didn't look forward to an operation in such a setting -- as
members of the world's most heavily urbanized culture, this countrymen were
hardly natural jungle fighters. Still, this was unlikely to affect the
outcome. He carried a company of infantry -- veterans from the occupation
of Korea -- armed with Type 38 rifles, Type 11 machine guns, and one of
the powerful Type 3 mortars that had served Imperial forces so well during
the conquest of Singapore in the opening months of the War. He frowned,
recalling how the treasonous civilian government had surrendered this and
other territories as part of Peace. They would learn the error of their
ways. And when that time came, he would be numbered among the teachers.
The watch officer approached him and bowed. "Kaigun-daisa, we are
at 1000 meters, 170 at 110 kilometers per hour. We will assume formation
with the Germans in ten minutes."
The Captain didn't bother to nod -- praise was for weaker races. "When will
we reach the resupply station?"
"At 0800 hours the dawn of the 14th."
"That will be adequate," said the Captain. "We will have
Rikugun-Chui Kaito prepare his men to attack on the morning of
Beside him, the Lieutenant ventured a question. "Can we trust the Germans
to support the assault?"
"It is in their interest to do so," the Captain observed. "We are natural
allies against the British. When the time is right, our two great nations
will divide the world between them."
"Can we anticipate any trouble from the defenders?"
The Captain made a gesture of contempt. "They will not be skilled fighters.
These are the Governor's prison guards, accompanied by whatever soldiers of
fortune the British Union was able to recruit. We will crush them. Are
the crew ready for action if Cairns sends ships to their defense?'
"Hai! They look forward to victory!"
The Captain dismissed his attendant, then turned back to the window to
regard the curve of the mighty hull above him. The sight filled him with
pride, accompanied by a very slight twinge of uncertainty. For all of her
power, the cruiser had never been in action against a capable foe, so it was
impossible to be certain her crew would perform as flawlessly as the should
in the confusion of their first battle. There was also the matter of the
reports their spies had been unable to obtain from the acceptance trials the
Americans had conducted on the ship from which her design had been
copied, the Sunnyvale. Did these contain any information of which
he should be aware?
He shrugged. He knew the measure of their most likely foe. His ship was
more than twice the size and infinitely more powerful. The outcome of a
battle might be in the hands of the kami, but they were known for
being on the side of the biggest battalions.
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