Prologue

Living Room

Captain and Frau McIntosh's quarters

Formerly 1SGT and Mrs. Hudson's residence

Grantville, SoTF, USE

Spring 1635, 0955 hours local

Britt Strausswirt was bored. A day after being released from the Leahy Medical Center, she rested her badly sprained left ankle on the ottoman that her host's wife, Gertrude McIntosh, had thoughtfully provided before departing for the market. Her husband, Captain Peter McIntosh, had gone to work and Britt was glad. The executive officer for the Horse Marines was needed at his job on the headquarters of the second battalion at the old Hudson farm and not babysitting a lame gyrene. Their three children were at their schools, leaving her alone, bored and lonely for the first time since her release from the hospital.

Of course, Britt had tried to keep busy. So far this day she had written to her parents, sisters, brothers, and each of her friends in the nunnery, but without any mention of her mishap. Partly that was because Britt knew that they were already worried enough about her choice of careers, but mostly it was because she was still trying to come to terms with the accident herself. Anything worse and it would have put a serious bind on my plans to die quietly in bed from old age, she thought, darkly amused.

There was nothing to see on television, although she still found the uptime technology almost magical. However, being city-born and bred, she could not get interested in the farming news and tips programs that comprised the morning fare of the school TV station, although the one about hunting boars had been disgustingly fascinating. It was still too early in the day for movies. Those were shown later at night when families gathered after the day's work. She thought about doing some reading, but by this time, she had practically memorized her manuals, could quote Marine history as well as Corporal Wilson, and had perused the local paper cover to cover. Her eyes roamed the living room, looking for new material, and fixed onto a small magazine hiding under today's paper. The garish cover caught her attention, so she picked it up. The title, Astounding Time Travel Tales, made her smile. Robert, the McIntosh's oldest son, had, like many down-timers, fallen in love with the up-time genre of science fiction.

A quick examination showed that the stories were not the usual reprints of up-timer stories. Apparently, some of her contemporaries had decided to start writing their own. Britt smiled and shook her head at the notion, and started reading the first one. Its title, "Flight 19 to Magdeburg," and its aviation theme looked promising.

"Ouch!" Britt flinched. One look at the story and she had put her left foot down as she sat up in surprise. The pain that shot up from her ankle managed to take her mind from the homicidal thoughts running through it for a second. It didn't stop her from cussing, though. “Who the hell is this Jose J. Clavell and where I can find him to wring his neck?"

It was a rather rhetorical question in an empty house, but she felt somewhat mollified. After taking some pain medication, she leaned back and continued to read the story while trying not to grind her teeth, at least not much. At its conclusion, Britt couldn't deny that it was well written and that she had actually enjoyed it. She looked at the magazine again. "Oh, what the heck. But if I get my hands on this Clavell fellow, whoever he is . . . . Who's he trying to fool? Admiral 'Smith' and Lieutenant 'Strauss.' Sure."

Flight 19 to Magdeburg

by

Jose J. Clavell

Lawrence Wild Naval Air Facility, US Navy Yard

Magdeburg, Thuringia, USE

Early summer, 1634

1035 hours

John Chandler Smith was not a happy camper this morning. He and his chief of naval operations had been waiting by the side of the hard surfaced runway for the better part of half an hour. Colonel Jesse Wind, the chief of staff of the USE's fledging Air Force, was flying from Grantville to attend the first meeting of the combined chiefs of the armed forces. The meeting, long in the planning, was finally scheduled for early this afternoon.

Smith, as a courtesy to a fellow service chief, had decided to meet him at the airstrip. In truth, he also wanted an opportunity to talk to him in private before the meeting. That was a decision that he started to regret as he looked down at his very expensive and now one-of-a-kind wristwatch, confirming that Wind was already ten minutes late. At least the flash and thunder that had greeted his arrival to the strip was not the prelude to the summer thunderstorm that he had feared—though he still wondered about it since he couldn't see anything that could have caused it.

His aide-de-camp, Marine Second Lieutenant Brigitte Strauss, stood calmly by his side, a good counterpoint for his impatience. After a two-month association, he now knew that her outward calm was one of the intrinsic trademarks of her personality. That, and her bearing, which occasionally made him forget that she was not a product of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis like him, but one of the Marine's ninety-day wonders—albeit one of the better ones. Her calm and assurance also reminded him of his former aides, Eddie Cantrell and Larry Wild, and their endearing awkwardness.

As usual, a brief moment of grief tightened his throat as he thought about the two young men. He wished again that they could stand by his side once more. But, that was impossible. Larry had died at Wismar together with his one-seaman crew and Air Force Captain Hans Richter in what everyone now considered the first engagement in the new navy and air force history. It was an old-fashioned, great pyrrhic victory for both services that still smarted. Eddie barely survived but was now a POW in the Danish capitol. There, he was demonstrating a remarkable ingenuity by turning his situation around and becoming a valuable source of information, even under his captor's noses. A noteworthy feat, considering that he had lost his lower left leg during the battle.

As part of her duties as one of the Marine battalion's most junior officers, Brigitte served as the Airfield Officer of the Day, in addition to being his aide. Of course, for Brigitte in particular, that was not a problem. She was one of the most organized and capable officers that Smith had ever seen. And truthfully, being the AOD was not as imposing a task as the title might imply. The strip saw an average of one plane a week.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff