Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread III

Part 140, Chapter 2426
Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Twenty-Six

18th December 1975

London, England

This might have been a cheerful time of the year. Just in the dismal streets of London, Christmas, Peace on Earth, and good will to all men seemed rather far away. The streetlights were a bit spotty in this neighborhood and in the early morning hours it seemed like the city center was spots of light between vast pools of darkness. That was an annoyance because the headlights and flat, split windscreens on the old Johnston Sweeper left a lot to be desired. As Steve had discovered since he had started this job months earlier, people threw away the damnedest things and he preferred to see that sort of thing before he hit it. This wasn’t helped by the drizzling fog further restricting visibility, and it was too bad that it wasn’t quite cold enough to snow. If it were snowing, Steve could use that as an excuse to take the Johnston back to the garage and call it a day early. For reasons of safety, he thought to himself.

This is how it was, Steve thought to himself, getting up around midnight so that he could be driving the Johnston along the planned route of the day. It was fortunate that the weather was bad, otherwise there would probably be people yelling at him for making so much noise. Though if he skipped their block, they would be pissed about all the crud that would pile up. Steve’s supervisor told him that there was no pleasing some people, so not to worry about it.

This job, which he was lucky to have, wasn’t what Steve had in mind when he had left school. He had studied Architecture and had had a job as a Draughtsman, until someone in management had suddenly realized that no one was building anything in London these days. So, it was a mad scramble to get a new job before he found himself sleeping rough. Driving the Johnston Sweeper didn’t seem so bad compared to the alternative.

Taking another attempt to adjust the heater as the Johnston was on a long straight street with no cars parked on it, Steve cursed at the thing. It seemed that it was all or nothing with the heater. If he cracked the window it would let some air in, but he knew from bitter experience that the inside of the cab would be dripping wet in seconds. Then the whole thing smelled of mildew for the rest of the shift. Perhaps it might have been tolerable if he had tunes, but the company forbid having a radio in the Johnston as a matter of policy. There was a hole in the dashboard where the radio had once been, which served to mock him.

Turning onto another deserted street, Steve peered through the darkness. Soggy newspapers, random bits of paper, and presumably food wrappers tended to accumulate in the street. The Johnston vacuumed them up into the hopper in the back, the spinning brushes got anything more stubborn than that up off the pavement. He had learned not to think too much about what he saw in the gutters. Looking up, he caught a glimpse of the soot darkened bricks that made up the buildings on this block in the headlights of the Johnston. Day or night, brick or concrete, the view was largely the same.

Frequently, Steve wondered if this was what it must have felt like in Rome in the final days of the Empire. There were no Visigoths or Vandals waiting to sack the city though. Who needed them when they had that pack of thieves in Westminster who were already performing the same role. Steve remembered the General Election a couple years earlier. The Tories had been elected on the promise of a new dawn for Britain. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it had been one of those dawns where you wake up with a nasty hangover, a black eye, and only the foggiest memory of what you were up to the night before.

As if summoned by Steve’s thoughts, a familiar figure appeared in the headlights of the Johnston. Taking his foot off the accelerator pedal, the slow-moving Sweeper rolled to a halt. Rolling down the window, Steve yelled out, “You trying to catch your death out here?”

Dave just looked up and had that grin of his when he was still a bit more than half drunk. “I was trying to get home” He said, which was simply stating the obvious.

“I’ll give you a ride then” Steve replied.

“I want to get home before New Year’s” Dave said, it being long standing joke about how slow the Johnston was as it worked its way around the city.

Even though Steve knew his boss would have kittens if he knew that Steve had let a friend ride with him, but Dave’s flat was along the route and what he didn’t wouldn’t hurt him. Besides, it would give Steve someone to talk to for a bit.

“I thought you were headed for the job center yesterday?” Steve asked as Dave settled into the passenger seat.

“Fat lot of good that was” Dave replied, “The usual fun there.

Then Dave switched to the snooty voice, presumably the tone used by the councilor at the Job Center. “We got three choices for a young man like you” Dave said, “Army, Navy, and Air Force.”

“For real?” Steve asked.

“He might as well have” Dave replied, “It was as bad as that bloke who was trying to sell us on Australia or New Zealand a few weeks back.”

Steve remembered that conversation at the pub. The man in question was obviously trying to recruit warm bodies for distant parts of the Commonwealth doing work that was probably not much better than what they were already doing. Dave had shut him down by asking if he had any suggestions that didn’t involve places where the pastime was fucking sheep.
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Could be Steve Harris and Dave Murray. Probably, even. Could also be Stevie Young and Dave Evans, if the butterflies are particularly aggressive on this one.
On the topic of the British Empire, I wonder how’s (or if) decolonization is coming along ITTL. WW2 was radically different and a decisive victory for all of Western Europe. France and Britain, the ones with most colonies, were pretty much untouched by the war in their territory.

France did lose Indochina, but probably holds on to most of its African Empire still. I can’t really recall if the Dutch East Indies and Malaya and Singapore fell to the Japanese, but if they didn’t, it could change a lot for decolonization in that region. There’s also India, which I’m also not sure if the British hold and probably would’ve lost by now if they hadn’t made some radical concessions.

Germany’s way of dealing with the loss of its own colonies after WW1 should also have an impact in how the old empires operate. Despite having no overseas colonies, they managed to create a web of allies and markets to suit their needs, be them politic, economic or military (in the case of the most underdeveloped countries this could probably be called neocolonialism). I could totally see the British and the French trying to pick some things up of this model when holding onto their colonies becomes untenable.
From memory Singapore & Malaya held, with the Japanese fighting the Franco-German-Vietnamese forces in Indo-China. The Brits were trying to get their ships fixed for use in the region.
Part 140, Chapter 2427
Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Twenty-Seven

20th December 1975

Mitte, Berlin

The Alexander Marketplace was in full splendor for the season. The air was filled with the strong smells of cinnamon and roasting chestnuts. At first Kiki had been a bit concerned that Nina would gorge herself on sweets until she was sick in same manner that Nella had years earlier. Fortunately, Nina had a bit more control than her aunt had had. Still, it was the fun going from stall to stall in the marketplace. There were plenty of wonders to look at. Nina was pulling at Kiki’s arm as she wanted to rush from place to place because there was so much to see.

Earlier that day, Kat had told Kiki about how she had commissioned a formal jewelry at one of the workshops in the upper floors here before showing her the matching necklace, earrings, and bracelets. They were beautiful pieces and had been a gift for Sophie for when she had been introduced to the Imperial Court. Kat had then told her that she had told Sophie that she was only lending them to her, and that they had needed to be returned by the end of the evening. The truth was that they belonged Sophie, but Kat understood that she would never accept such a gift.

If Kiki didn’t have Nina with her, she might have gone upstairs to where the workshops were located. It would have been interesting to see the process as well as seeing the finished products in the stalls where they were being sold. Instead, Kiki was having to content herself with walking around making her purchases. It was a bit disappointing that the kind Russian woman who sold various kinds of pickled vegetables and fruit preserves was not here this year. The people who ran the stall on either side said that she had moved on to bigger and better things. Kiki was happy for her if that were true.

As they reached one end of the central concourse, they came upon the Christmas tree that towered over them and Nina stood awe struck by the sight of it. The lights were not electric, but jets of flame. The ornaments went along with the industrial theme, like an ancient pagan god’s vision of the future. Up close, it was clear that this tree wasn’t actually a tree. It was made of concrete and steel.

There was a small crowd of people talking to a man who was standing next to a sign that said that he was Heinrich Vogt, the one who had designed the tree and had overseen its construction. Kiki stepped forward to tell him how incredible it was, but when she saw him she stopped and was frozen in place. The shape of his face, but especially his eyes, were unmistakable. Kiki knew instantly who he had to be.

“Does Kat know you are in Berlin?” Kiki asked.

“In this town Kattie knows if a squirrel farts in the park” Heinrich replied. For years, Kiki had heard that Kat had a number of brothers and sisters. She knew Ilse, but Heinrich was completely different. He lacked Kat’s hard edge and didn’t seem in the least bit fragile like Ilse. That name he had used, only those in Kat’s direct family called her that and he had created something as incredible as this. His warmth reminded Kiki more of Hans, though Hans didn’t favor their father nearly as much as Kat and Heinrich did.

“I’m Kiki by the way” Kiki said, “I don’t know if Kat told you about me, or what she did if she did.”

“She mentioned you” Heinrich said, “You’re the Surgeon, right?”

“Among other things” Kiki replied.

“She was rather proud that one of her girls made it through Medical School.”

“This is incredible” Kiki said looking up at the tree, changing the subject to something other than her.

“My girls said that I ought to do an art installation like this one for ages” Heinrich replied, “Getting it in sections from Essen turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I had thought it would, but they’re saying that the Emperor himself might come take a look.”

“I’ll tell Freddy that he should” Kiki said.

“Freddy?” Heinrich asked.

“Emperor Friedrich” Kiki replied.

“You make it sound like you know him” Heinrich said, “Of course, it seems like so does half of Berlin.”

“At least half” Kiki replied, “I have a connection or two that are real.”

She figured that telling Heinrich that Freddy was her older brother would be a bit pointless, he was one of those people who saw her as just Kiki as opposed to THAT Kristina. She was however going to tell Freddy that he did need to see this.

“We’ll see” Heinrich said before seeing Nina peeking at him around Kiki. “Who’s this?”

“Nina” Kiki replied, “My daughter.”

“I see” Heinrich said, “They are fun when they are that age, they don’t stay that way for long so enjoy it while it lasts.”

With that, Heinrich moved on. Kiki got the impression that he was a busy man. Or at least he was busy when he was answering questions about an art installation he had done despite being a Metal Worker rather than an artist. Of course, Freddy had once told her that there was a fine line between engineering and art.
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Here's another flap of the butterfly's wings:
OTL, in 1967-8 Lemmy was a roadie for the Jimmy Hendrix Experience.
ITTL, Jimmy is a Congressman and Ian is a teacher.
It will affect The Sex Pistols as well, John Lydon started out selling mushrooms at a Hawkwind gig.
Always love the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market updates, it seems the Christmas Tree is going to e as iconic as the one in Rockefeller Center.
Hopefully one day it will be Nella and Nan who are taking their nibblings to the Christmas Market.
The Alexanderplatz Christmas Market is the best place to get specialty international seasonal holiday dishes and many people take advantage of buying fresh items or the increasing popular “Heat and Eat” main and side dishes, a particular favorite of many is the tamales that were introduced by the brides of Marine Infantry who served in Mexico.
Part 140, Chapter 2428
Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Twenty-Eight

24th December 1975

Los Angeles, California

Ritchie got a number of curious looks at the Airport as he walked from the gate out to where Bobby was waiting to pick him up. He had encountered this before when he had flown across the country to visit home when he had been in New York. The difference was that at least most people had known what Sergeants stripes meant. Those who Ritchie encountered on the flight between Seattle and Los Angeles were unfamiliar with what a Warrant Officer even was. The green beret with the 19th Special Forces Group blaze was what drew the most comment. He had been asked what it was.

Ritchie was reminded of his conversation with Parker years earlier after they had made one of their unexpected vacations to a part of the world that most people couldn’t find on a map. There was a massive disconnect between the military and the public. As if that was something that he was unaware of already. This stood in stark contrast to his time in the Los Angeles Police. There he had had been involved directly with the public and the politics that came with it. The us and them attitude that existed in the Department, as well as the hate and fear that many had for it was shocking to most outsiders. The opposite was true with the military, most of the public was unaware of what they actually did outside of movies and that created its own problems. It was exactly as Parker had told him. Most people sleep in their beds at night blissfully unaware of what was being done in their name. A key part of their job was ensuring that the public never found out, because that would mean that they had screwed up spectacularly.

During the lectures in Fort Lewis, Ritchie had been given an overview of exactly what someone in his position was going to be and the line about not screwing up came to mind. The expectation was that he would be a Combat Leader, Mission Specialist, and an Advisor to whatever Commanding Officer of whatever unit he was attached to. In the 19th SFG’s detachment in the 40th Division that meant more that he would be doing far more than just leading a single LRRP Team in the Mojave Desert as he had before. He would be directly responsible for preventing that very sort of screwing up.

“You’re being quiet” Bobby said, as he drove his car through the afternoon traffic which was heavy even on Christmas Eve. Lucia and gone to the family home in Pacoima for Christmas Diner this year and was helping out with the preparations. Ritchie was going to get there just in time.

“Just hoping that Lucia won’t be too sore with me taking off and leaving her with the kids” Ritchie said looking out the window. That was partially true. He didn’t know if Bobby would understand the rest of his thoughts.

“That is the least of your worries, Mom might kill you when we get home” Bobby said, “Did you hear about what Mario did?”

That had an ominous note to it. Their younger brother had been working at the Lockheed assembly plant with Bobby in Burbank, not much of a way to get in trouble there. Mostly because no one wanted anyone messing around when that could result in lawsuits with liability in the hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly an equal amount of lost revenue for the company.

“No, I haven’t heard” Ritchie replied.

“Mario got bored and blew off the job at Lockheed to go surfing up the coast” Bobby said, “Mom read him the riot act for that when she found out.”

“When the Hell did Mario get into surfing” Ritchie asked, though he could have asked “Why” as well.

“Don’t worry about it” Bobby said, “But then she tells him that he needed to either get a job or get out, he decided to follow the example of his big brother.”

Bobby didn’t need to sound so amused.

“Do you know where he is?” Ritchie asked, he had a sinking feeling about why their mother would be angry about this.

“The fucking Army sent him to Wisconsin” Bobby replied, “You didn’t mention the freezing cold in your stories, did you.”

Winter in Upstate New York and Massachusetts had been bad enough, Wisconsin was supposedly taking that to a whole different level. Ritchie had heard horror stories about pissing off the Brass and getting sent to either Fort McCoy or Fort Irwin. He had experience with Fort Irwin during the summertime which had been as close to Hell on Earth as he could imagine. Fort McCoy during the winter was supposedly just as bad, as in it got too cold to snow there. There was also the business of sending recruits as far from home as could be arranged. He had heard rumors over the years that it was deliberate policy. There were also rumors that it was the same policy that had resulted in National Guard Units in certain States having obsolescent weapons and equipment. For some reason, the 40th Division wasn’t a part of that.

The Recruiter must have found Mario to be an answer to his prayers. A newly unemployed Highschool graduate with an older brother already in the Army. Now he was missing Christmas diner and was far from home. Small wonder Mom was pissed.

“Is there anything else I should know?” Ritchie asked.

“Just the usual family stuff” Bobby said, “Everyone is happy you made it back in time.”

“Except for Mom” Ritchie said, and Bobby laughed.
Mario should mention that his big brother is a Warrant Officer in the Special Forces as much as possible to his Drill Sargents in order to get some extra special treatment…
Mario should mention that his big brother is a Warrant Officer in the Special Forces as much as possible to his Drill Sargents in order to get some extra special treatment…

Remember to add in that his brother is a war hero and is a personal friend of President Nixon. It will make him so popular!