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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas - Part IV

---- Noon, Moltke, stopped

Captain Stang watched as Captain Liapis (Salamis) approached, but his eyes went to the two men with him. Captain von Stampt (Kronprinz Wilhelm) stood a bit apart, conversing with one of Hanzik's senior staffers and Molke's XO on fuel and pallets. Their ship had been the closest - just a few tens of meters distance - and so they had been the first to board the flagship.

"Those two?" Stang asked, his tone betraying his doubt. "Those are their best?"

The pair were frowning, mouths moving as though muttering to each other, as they looked around. Liapis, in front of them, made no effort to quell them.

"So those at Vulcan swore," answered Rear-Admiral Hanzik, his tone more carefully neutral. "The Baron demanded it of them. He was most emphatic. They would not have dared refuse him."

The two newcomers paused - as did Liapis with every indication of benevolent tolerance - apparently fascinated by a rivulet coming from a topside hose connection as it coursed to a scupper. One scuffed the water, and they looked briefly at the largest of the tiny puddles they had created. Then, presumably satisfied, they resumed walking, as did Liapis, but continued to exchange comments at every step.

"Better men they once had, I suspect," Hanzik added, after that display. "Doubtless they serve the Kaiser with rifles now."

In truth, the men were failing to impress Moltke's CO in the slightest. The shorter one limped, and the taller one had longish hair and a pasty complexion, hinting perhaps at some dietary disorder. The "best," Stang now understood, of those that had escaped conscription, hardly a ringing endorsement.

"Admiral, Captain," greeted Liapis, and he continued with an expressive flourish, "It is my pleasure to present to you Jakob Glocke and Laban Coblentz. Without them, SHE would not be here."

Stang's eyes widened a bit at that. It had a hopeful sound.

The civilians nodded pleasantly at the two senior German officers, but without any sign of the deference others accorded them. Their gray coveralls, bright unblinking gaze, and lazy demeanor made Stang think of a pair of Siamese toms.

"We might not have made even Griceland," Liapis added. "In fact, I am sure of it. Sorry will I be to lose them."

"Lose them you shall, my friend," answered the admiral, "for we have urgent need of them. Here, aboard my flagship.

"Herren," said Hanzik, and added praise for a job apparently well done. "I know that you were to dock, "he continued, "spend time ashore, and then sail back on Vaterland. But we have need of your services. The Britishers hit Moltke with a torpedo, and ... it is beyond simple damage control. I would like you to examine the damage. And help us repair it. The commander here will show you, now."

The pair from Vulcan did not nod obediently and go with the LCDR, as Stang had fully expected. They did not even look at the offered officer-guide. Indeed, they did not so much as shift their positions. Stang saw the pair of Vulcan engineers or shipfitters, or whatever they were, exchange only the briefest of glances.

"If it is a matter of money ... " Hanzik said, narrowing his eyes.

"No, sir," answered, the shorter one, Jakob Glocke. Stang saw the man's heavily-bushy eyebrows lift in obvious astonishment at the question. They were much darker than his hair, which was well flecked with gray, making that mundane act an unusually expressive gesture.

"Money - it is meaningless," Jakob continued. "Without your ship, we'll not see Wilhelmshaven again."

""We can look, Jah," agreed the other, Laban Coblentz. He flicked his head, tossing his hair back, "but our tools, our men - they are on Salamis. Without them ...." Coblentz shrugged, eyes limpid.

The men still gave no sign of movement. The LCDR shifted feet in discomfiture. Vehement orders surged in his throat in response to the insolence. But he dared not give them voice, not with his XO, his Captain, and even the admiral himself abiding it.

"Captain?" Hanzik asked.

Stang nodded. "XO," he called.


"Get our boats back in the water. Prepare to transfer .... How many men?"

"All of them, I would think," Glocke replied, wryly. The taller man smiled in agreement.

Liapis developed a pained expression that was not lost on the men from Vulcan.

"How far," inserted Coblentz, "or how long, before Salamis docks?" He looked at the shorter man. "So far have we come, not to make sure of the rest. And the Baron ...."

"Jah, jah, that is so," agreed Glocke, a bit hastily, perhaps remembering suddenly another conversation. "And that feedpump, it vibrates still."

"But it should last a day," Coblentz said, then turned to Hanzik. "How fast must she go? Must she keep 15 knots? Better that she stay at 12. The shaft bearings worry me."

"10 would be better still," muttered Glocke. "The casing would still self-seal, but the ..."

"10 knots will be sufficient," interrupted the German admiral. The men looked like they could keep it up until nightfall. "She should make port by dusk."

"One team?" Glocke asked of Coblentz, and getting a nod, turned to Liapis.

"Captain, we would leave you one team. Jager's?"

The taller Vulcanite nodded in agreement.

"Jah, they are the oldest, and Jager, he is steady enough."

"Admiral, ten score we brought, leaves us nine for what must be done here."


The German officer nodded, trying not to betray his dismay. He still didn't know how many hundreds of prisoners they would end up with. Where was he going to put ...?

"Ah, Admiral, Captain ..."

The XO stopped in his tracks at the slightly nasal twang in Coblentz' voice.

"Yes?" Hanzik replied, with an odd, and perhaps ominous, tone of his own.

"Our tools?"

"How many boxes?" Stang asked, resigned, but determined to hasten this. Were they NEVER going to go look at the damned ...?!

"Some number, but ...," began Coblentz tentatively, in a surprised tone.

"Lathes and presses - they do not fit in tool boxes," Glocke finished, with a small frown. Did these uniforms think they'd gotten Salamis across the Atlantic with just wrenches?! "Cranes, will we need."

Cranes? Stang felt his jaw sag. They didn't have...

"Jah, his will do," Coblentz explained patiently, pointing at the suddenly-stunned Captain of Kronprinz Wilhelm.

"And best we be at it," Glocke threw in, casting a glance outboard, "and quickly. Our men will have the skids nearly unbolted by now."

"Jah," nodded Coblentz. "They will wedge and splint them, of course, and that will suffice for now, but they will not hold if Jahweh sends us greater waves."

"So, Admiral, Captain," said Glocke, "you must move these vessels," his hands moving to help Hanzik scoot the hulls about, "such that ...."

Hanzik would have been burst out laughing, under most conditions, but not these. The XO remained frozen, not sure if they were ready for him to begin lowering the small boats again. The LCDR guide, who had yet to be followed by anyone to anywhere, was shifting tensely from one foot to the other. Moltke's desperate CO had no sooner become resigned to the turning of his ship into some sort of Vulcan hostel, than he learned that it was to become their machine shop, as well. Now the men were even instructing him, a rear-admiral, to move his ships, and how and where. And he was going to have to do it, precisely as they ordained!

The duo were verbally slapping all the officers right across their faces, the admiral realized - back and forth, Glocke the left, and Coblentz the right. And there was not a damn thing that any of them could do about it, the admiral concluded, sourly. Nor did it help that the Greek captain was looking on with a broad, beatific smile plastered across his face.

But, what the hell else could he do? He could think of nothing. His mind, that had been as crisp and clear as crystal when the shells were flying, seemed to have been turned into cheese by these men. Almost numbly, he nodded to Stang and the Signals Officer, the latter with his mouth open in a very unmilitary expression. It closed with an audible click.

"And, Captain," said Coblentz, "best we be making ready here, on this ship. I need to speak ..."

"I'll pass the word for the First Lieutenant," agreed Stang, a hunted expression on his face.

But of course, agreed Hanzik, nodding to himself. Let us bring up another officer for them to confound.

"Whack," he thought, envisioning Coblentz' last as still another blow. He looked almost expectantly at Glocke. He was not disappointed.

"Um," began Glocke, "your officer, or course, but it be your chief we'd best be speaking with."

"My Engineering Officer?"

"Officers' Call, Officers' Call," announced Hanzik silently, "all ship's officers report to ...."

"Um," Glocke repeated, "no, though we will be needing him, too, of course."

"Whack-whack," Hanzik thought, feeling almost giddy.

"Jah," Coblentz agreed, "but it is your most senior chief petty officer that I meant. The skids must be on level deck ..."

"Almost level may suffice," Glocke inserted.

"... and near as can be managed," continued Coblentz, with a nod to the other, "above the site. We will not be able to move them again. I would prefer them bolted, but ..."

"Whack-whack-whack," the admiral thought, as the men continued. He looked again at Liapis. Yes, his smile was still in place; though, at this point, it was looking to Hanzik more and more like a leer.

"Sir, Kronprinz Wilhelm has acknowledged."

"Very well," acknowledged Stang, relieved to be addressing his attention to something he had some control over. "Admiral?"

Hanzik could only nod.

"Execute," ordered Stang, "Ahead slow."

He turned to find the tableaux unchanged. The men still showed no interest in seeing Moltke's wound. He could stand it no longer.

"Are you not going to inspect the location?" Stang asked bluntly, almost plaintively.

"There is no point. Not yet," Coblentz started.

The persistently ignored LCDR coughed, with a strangled sound.

"Know we do what we would find," added Glocke, mildly.

"Whack-whack," thought Hanzik.

The men obviously saw something in the German captain's face - perhaps something threatening, thought Hanzik - and went on.

"Captain," began Glocke, "you have your pumps running hard. Have been since we came in sight. Probably before that. Two hours, more, perhaps. Yet your ship still lists three degrees ...."

How did he know that, wondered Stang, and so precisely.

"Three and a half," put in Coblentz.

"... three and a half," amended Glocke. "So, you are open to the sea along several frames ..."

"The bridge indicator indicates three degrees," corrected the XO, stung.

"And I thought three, as well, as you heard," agreed Glocke, with a small smile. "But if Laban says three and half, it is so. Your gauge ....," Glocke just shook his head, at Moltke's gauge and (Hanzik realized) at anyone who would believe it over Coblentz. "You are down in the bow; my guess is four, four and a half." He glanced at the other, but drew only a tiny but expressive shrug. "But that is harder to judge. Your pumps, still they run, though your hatches, you must have dogged them."

"They run so hard," Coblentz joined in, in a rush, "that your fire main vibrates and weeps at several fittings. Obvious it is; you are unable to dewater the surrounding compartments." He shrugged again. "Bulkheads are buckled, hatches sprung."

"Whack," thought Hanzik. Moltke's officers seemed to flinch at the impacts, and almost hang their heads.

"Where cables and pipes run," Glocke explained, almost gently, "the water runs as well, when you are open to the sea.

"What more could our eyes tell us, Herren? Please, allow us to be about our business. Jah, Amerika would have been nice to see, but we wish to see Germany again more."

"Far, far more," Coblentz chorused, with great feeling.

by Jim

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