Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread III

Part 141, Chapter 2436
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Six

    13th February 1976

    Mitte, Berlin

    “For once they cast someone who sort of looks like your father to play him” Maria said to Zella’s almost total disbelief.

    “The American couldn’t get the accent right” Zella replied as they walked from the theater to the restaurant where they were going to have tea. “And I don’t see how you think that he looks like Poppa.”

    Not for the first time Zella was aggravated by how it had become difficult for her to walk even the hundred odd meters between the two buildings without feeling waddling duck. Then there was the grating deference that people had for her in this state. She got more of that as the waiter seated them and repeatedly asked Zella if she had everything she needed. She had once read that many pregnant women said that they wanted their body back after having this thing growing in it for most of a year. Zella understood exactly where they were coming from.

    “You don’t always have to be so contrary Marcella” Maria said, “If you saw what your looked like when I first met him just before the Spanish War, you would understand.”

    The movie had been the first part of a two-part biopic about Augustus Lang, and it had been the Babelsburg-Hollywood collaboration needed to produce such an epic. Unlike previous films, this one had not overlooked the involvement of Zella’s father. To give the film a wider appeal to an international audience, the studio had cast Robert Redford as Emil Holz opposite Horst Buchholz as Augustus Lang. Zella thought that it was a stupid move by Casting.

    Horst Buchholz fit the role of Lang perfectly, had the mannerisms and Lang’s style of speaking down perfectly. Only to interact with a man who sounded like a cowboy. Zella would be hard pressed to name anything more annoying.

    Zella sat watching as her mother ordered food and drink, feeling completely useless. Since she had left her job after the interview with Friedrich that feeling had been growing. That should have been a career defining moment, instead of building upon that Zella was stuck facing months of inactivity. This wasn’t helped by what she saw as her colleagues in the ARD News Division slobbering all over Heinz Kissinger and his selected toadies in her absence. There had been noises from above about how threats to the funding of the network meant that caution was needed. What Zella had been seeing was not caution, it was obsequiousness and that should have been embarrassing. Of course, Kay Essert was going to be the worst offender. Zella knew that he wasn’t happy unless he had his nose crammed up the backside of anyone he thought was in a position of authority.

    “You only have one concern right now” Maria said, “The little boy or girl who is coming in a couple months. Have you found out what it is yet?”

    “I didn’t ask, and they didn’t tell me beyond that it looks healthy” Zella replied, “What makes you think that I was concerned with anything different?”

    “I know you” Maria said, “You get that determined look on your face and then nothing stops you from doing something crazy, criminal, stupid, or usually a mixture of all those things. You might find it more or less physically impossible to carry out whatever you are thinking about this time.”

    “I was thinking about how ARD is busy making fools of themselves without me” Zella said.

    Maria seemed amused by her saying that. “And they just happen to be those who were gleeful to see you leave?” She asked, which Zella found embarrassing. She didn’t like how easily she was being read here. Too late, it occurred to Zella that her silence in reply to that question was an answer.

    “I know far more about your situation than you realize” Maria said, “When you were a baby your father was called away to fight in the Soviet War and I was on my own in Australia for three years. Then I thought that it would be a good idea to travel with your father to the Russian Far East where Allied Forces were massing for the invasion of Manchuria and Korea. That was how your younger brother was conceived in a shitty hotel in Vladivostok, and I found myself all alone again except with two small children.”

    Zella might have said that it wasn’t the same but knew that it would just start a pointless argument. Her mother had basically been forced to fend for herself during those years. There were no circumstances forcing Zella to do anything.

    “I remember” Zella said, which was neutral enough.

    “Not that it was all bad” Maria said, “You’ve said you remember living on the beach in Sydney, it was the two of us against the world.”

    “And it doesn’t have to be that way for me?” Zella replied, with far more sarcasm than she intended.

    “I don’t understand your constant need to make things so difficult” Maria said, “And the one time I actually hoped that you would stick to your guns, you didn’t.”

    That was a shocking admission by her mother and Zella wasn’t sure how to respond. She had always thought that her mother had wanted her to conform to a more conventional lifestyle since she was a teenager. Fortunately, they were saved from further conversation by the timely arrival of the food that had been ordered.
    Part 141, Chapter 2437
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Seven

    25th February 1976

    Tempelhof, Berlin

    The letter from Richard Nixon was an annoyance. It was a formal request to visit her when he would be in Germany in a few months. The members of her Staff who took care of public relations had told her that this was an excellent opportunity to advance the interests of Berlin on the world stage. Kat had seen this movie before though. The next thing that would happen would be that the Governing Mayor of Berlin would want to meet to coordinate their message. Before she knew it, she would have the entire Landtag and half of the Red Hall outside her door. It was all she could do not to return Nixon’s letter to the sender with the words GET FUCKED! Written on it.

    For Kat it was just another day spent entirely in her house, something she had been doing a lot lately. She had originally intended for her house to be a shelter from the world. Increasingly it felt like more like a prison. Between the threat of getting recognized everywhere she went Kat was discovering that her health problems were further limiting her mobility. She remembered running everywhere she went when she had been young and wondered what had happened. With the pain in one of her knees whenever it rained or her back seizing up at the worst possible moments, even walking any distance posed a problem. Her mind kept going back to the conversation she’d had with Peter Holz a few years earlier about how there was nothing particularly wrong with her, she was just showing her age after what had been a rough life. That was something which Kat found totally unacceptable. The alternative was worse though because Kat had to at least be alive to experience the problems that came with age.

    Pushing her personal problems aside, Kat looked at the file which Sven Werth had dropped off earlier that day. It included a transcript of the interview of a former member of the Jacobin Club named Leon Pohl who had stated on the record that the perpetrator of the 11 Messidor Attack had been Andreas Baader.

    Kat was well aware how that attack had changed the City of Berlin, how people felt about it. Like if there were a sharp dividing line between before and after. Having a suspect and hopefully justice at the end of the process would be good for everyone. Sven mentioned that they were trying to find evidence tying this Baader to the attack itself, but that was slow going. Ten years was an eternity with an investigation that had gone cold.

    Sven didn’t seem too perturbed by that. He said the bigger problem was finding the suspect who had vanished right after the attack. He had mentioned that the BII and BND were devoting a considerable effort towards that end, so they would find him eventually. There were problems though. The BND North America Division had found that the FBI in the US and the RCMP Special Branch in Canada, the agencies tasked with hunting them, had improved a great deal over the last few decades. The days of them being able to run circles around the authorities in North America were long gone.

    Kat had asked why Sven was so certain that the suspect was somewhere in North America. The reply was that anywhere in Europe would be too close. It would be difficult for him to blend in in most of Asia or Africa. With the exception of Chile, most of South America was open to the BND after the Patagonian War a few years ago. Everyone loved a winner it seemed. That left Australia and North America.

    Sven felt that the latter was the most likely choice.

    If he says so, Kat thought to herself as she closed the file and placed it back on her desk. Nancy Jensen had advised her that she would need to make a public statement on the matter eventually. She was perfectly prepared to throw a man like that into the deepest, darkest hole she could find, so it was just as well that Kat was not a Judge who had to remain neutral ideally. There was a process that would need to be observed and she understood that people would not want to hear about that. Instead, they would want the sort of blood-drenched story that was in keeping with her reputation. That also happened to be the absolute worst thing Kat could do. It would play into the strange dichotomy that existed between those who were terrified that Kat was a brutal Feudal Autocrat and the others angry because she wasn’t. Both sides of that equation would be screaming for blood when word of this matter leaked out. That was something about the human condition that never failed to disappoint Kat, just how many people didn’t mind despotic governance but only if it was someone they didn’t like who got the hammer.

    There was a welcome distraction as Kat heard Sprocket throwing a fit downstairs as Sophie and Angelica came home from school. Petia would probably be along in a few minutes asking Kat to join them for lunch. It had been nice when her children were well, children. She could sit there listening to what they had done during the day and that would be a nice escape. These days, even Angelica was a teenager and that came with a whole host of complications.
    Part 141, Chapter 2438
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Eight

    29th February 1976

    Richthofen Estate, Silesia

    Having been born in a leap year it was rare for the date Suse Rosa’s birthday to actually appear on the calendar. That made this year special and Manfred the Younger had pulled out all the stops with the help of his mother to celebrate it this year. The rather wide circle of close friends and family in attendance was certainly a surprise for Suse who had not been expecting it. Suse Rosa was most certainly not the social butterfly that her mother Lagertha von Wolvogle was, and she didn’t like being the center of attention. Manfred the Elder watched with detached amusement. He knew that his oldest grandson was going to have a whole lot of explaining to do once Suse had to stop pretending to be gracious.

    Nikolaus, Sabastian, Anna, Gretchen, and Mathilda had all been liberated from their respective schools for the weekend. As Manfred the Elder watched, his teenaged grandchildren had made the most of the opportunity in various ways. Nikolaus and Sabastian had raided the pantry on Friday night, to the consternation of the Housekeeper and the Cook who had needed to send someone into Breslau for more supplies. Nikolaus had been putting in considerable effort to qualify. As Fencing had gotten further out of reach it had been suggested that there was an opening in the team for Modern Pentathlon. Nikolaus was a skilled horseman, knew pistols, and had competed in Fencing. Swimming and Running were something that he had not necessarily been training in. Sabastian was more than happy to help, which in this context was not so thinly veiled sadism.

    Manfred had just shrugged when they had complained to him about what the boys had done. They knew full well that he had retired from the day-to-day running of the estate, they were supposed to be talking to Albrecht or Ilse, but old habits died hard. He had told them that the two boys were training hard to compete in Montreal, and he didn’t begrudge them a bit of better food than the bland institutional swill that they were being fed at Wahlstatt. Manfred had then spent a pleasant afternoon in the woods with Mathilda and Ingrid teaching them how to read the weather and look for the tracks left by various animals. Anna and Gretchen were creatures of the city at heart, so they had spent all of Saturday near the house.

    As a gift, Manfred had bought Nikolaus’ mount from the Cavalry when the Regiment had returned from Argentina. Despite what the boy had said about the mercurial nature of the horse he had unimaginatively named Zwei after the last numeral of his serial number, it had been his constant companion for the months he had been in South America. Nikolaus had been too surprised to see Zwei to say anything else. As far as Manfred the elder was concerned, Zwei was a worthy addition to the small herd of horses he kept for use around the estate.

    There had also been the discovery of Wilhelm “Willi” Schnell, who Manfred the Elder had recognized as being the great-grandson of Werner Voss, who had been in Jasta 2 with him during the First Great World War. He had made a phone call to the General who commanded the Cavalry Regiments of the Heer and had asked about him. Willi was a solid Trooper apparently, much like Werner himself had been.

    He had told Georges and Mick about that when the three of them had last met at a bar in Naples a few weeks earlier. The consensus had been that time had gotten away from them. They had been saved from melancholy when the bartender had asked them, “A German, Englishman, and Frenchman walk into a bar, can you tell me the rest of the joke?” While Mick might be blind as a bat these days, there was nothing wrong with his hearing and when he got his blood up he threw a number of threats at the bartender as Manfred had to keep him from hitting the man with his cane. He was Irish Goddammit and he was to be addressed as such. The Bartender had no clue who they were. That the three old men he was poking fun at were retired Air Marshals who had once commanded their respective Service Branches.

    Georges had never even left his chair as he had watched with wry amusement. It was a bit bewildering for Manfred, that it seemed like many of his friends these days were former enemies. The three of them had agreed to start meeting at the bar in Naples that catered to the retirees from across Northern Europe who came to Italy during the wintertime as opposed to the funerals that had become a regular occurrence. James McCudden, Oswald Boelcke, and Charles Nungesser had all died within a few weeks of each other. Georges had said that it was staggering that Nungesser had lived long enough to grow old considering how banged up he had had been during the First World War after having crashed on multiple occasions. Manfred knew that Boelcke had had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel for ages, congestive heart failure that was complicated by having asthma his entire life. Still, he had been the one who had recruited Manfred into Jasta 2 a million years earlier.

    Manfred was snapped back into the present as he was watching Manfred the Younger and Suse Rosa talking intently in the hallway, trying to keep the argument quiet. Something about the way she was talking to him suggested that the boy really had overstepped this time.
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    Part 141, Chapter 2439
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Nine

    2nd March 1976

    Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony

    The City of Dresden was known as the Jewel Box because of the Baroque and Rococo buildings and palaces that dominated the City Center. In recent years it had become a battlefield for those who wanted to preserve the character of the old city and others who wanted to modernize. That was the reason why ARD was covering the City Council races this year. It was considered a microcosm of the larger debates being held across the German Empire. The entire time this was going on, Yuri was reminded of what Zella had said to him when he had last seen her in Berlin a few days earlier, that they were supposed to present the facts, not present the debate. Of course, she had used much coarser language and had even suggested that Kay Essert should be arrested for engaging in the World’s oldest profession to gain access to Heinz Kissinger. She clearly had no idea what the new assignment that Yuri had been stuck with was when she had said that.

    “Which spot on the river do you think will have the best backdrop for the story?” Kay asked.

    “Inside the New Rathaus so we can be there when the results of the elections are announced” Yuri replied, “That isn’t on the river though.”

    Kay pretended that Yuri had not said anything. Instead, he continued looking at the map with pencil marks on it, his brilliant idea was to use the city as seen from the river as a dramatic backdrop. Never mind that it was freezing cold and anywhere along the river it would be icy as well. All that Kay cared about was making himself look good. If they got frostbite or slipped and broke something in the process then that was a small price to pay.

    As it was, Yuri was wearing insolated coveralls under a heavy ski parka and a fur hat, all of which had been gifts from his mother who knew a thing or two about the cold. Totally at odds with Kay who had insisted on wearing just a wool suit, the only concession he was making for the weather was the pair of knit gloves and a scarf. What should have been the first hint that Kay was making a series of bad calls was when the people who did hair and makeup had refused to leave the trailer parked outside the Rathaus. The crunch of ice under their feet as they walked to the embankment with a palace brightly lit up across the river. Yuri’s assistant whispered, “Think that anyone will notice Kay’s lips turning blue at the studio?”

    “Don’t give me that” Yuri replied, “We have a job to do, and a key part of that is to keep the talent happy.”

    It was in moments like these where Yuri missed working with Zella. Not only did she not like cold weather, but Zella also listened to Yuri’s suggestions occasionally. Not that it mattered now. They had pretty thoroughly messed up their working relationship when she had gotten pregnant. Zella had not named him as the other half of that equation and had taken a lot of heat because of that, that had preserved his career though. No one knew what was going to happen when, or if, she tried to come back next year.

    Where did that leave Yuri though?

    Yuri’s mother was euphoric over the prospect of having her first grandchild, apparently Zella had no problem telling her. Later, when his mother had brought up the subject with him, he had pointed out the circumstances and that Zella had no interest in marriage, his mother had just given him one of those deep sighs that she did when she thought that he was being particularly thick. She had pointed out that at least his son or daughter would know who their father was. It was something that his mother had almost never mentioned, what had happened to her during the Soviet War and the assumptions that were made afterwards. It was hardly a wonder why she had never gone home, and that Yuri had been shunned by his relatives the one time he had visited the village where they lived. There were just too many question marks hanging over him. Was he German or Russian? Either way, it seemed like he was too much of one or the other depending on where he was. And the poison that had been widely spread by Stalin’s goons still lingered though most of them had been dead for decades.

    Setting up the video camera on the tripod, Yuri pointed it at Kay, aware that they were nowhere near the real story which was several blocks away. He just hoped that the cold wouldn’t affect the recording so that they could get it done and back to the trailer to send the feed back to the Berlin affiliate in time for the evening news. At that moment, the runner they had been waiting for brought the preliminary vote count and handed it to Kay who read through it with a look of growing disbelief on his face before handing it off to Yuri who read it and nearly laughed. It was a bit of ironic justice that Kay would be caught flatfooted after apparently spending months sucking up to the wrong people. The Greens, who had not been considered a factor in the days leading up to the elections had captured an outright majority, not just in Dresden, but the whole of Saxony.
    Part 141, Chapter 2440
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty

    5th March 1976

    Breslau, Silesia

    It had been a surprisingly good week, professionally anyway which somewhat compensated for what was going on elsewhere. Things at home had certainly taken an odd turn or two in recent days. Manny had come clean to her about what exactly had been going on at Suse Rosa’s birthday party the prior Sunday. For Helene it was all a bit of a surprise, but she understood that Gerta would not take it well at, not at all. Hans had just shrugged and said that it was the order of things, a point that was hard to argue with. Hans had also said that they couldn’t break confidence with Manny this time. It was far too soon for Manny and Suse to say anything on their own. That was just how it was.

    While Helene’s personal lot had not been helped by recent events in Saxony, it boded well for her Political Party in the months ahead. Originally, Democratic Ecology had been criticized for having too narrow of a focus. Now, everyone was seeing that the environment was not just a single issue as City Planning had emerged as a major point of contention. It seemed that neither the Social Democrats nor the National Liberals had ever seen a road project or industrial expansion that they had disagreed with. If a town, village, or even some cities disagreed with such projects, they frequently found that their words fell on deaf ears. That was what had led to the recent election outcome in Saxony.

    Helene had discovered the language in the original platform of the DOP had included mention of that exact sort of situation. Much to her annoyance, she discovered that her father had insisted they include it in return for his early support. That had been a minor detail two decades ago, they had included it to get his backing and had thought little about it at the time. Helene already knew that the old buzzard was going to say when he learned of this and was already dreading that conversation. Sophie Scholl didn’t really care. The deal had always been that Helene would handle her father and she cared far more about how they had finally gotten a breakthrough win in Saxony. Sophie was trying to learn the lessons from there to hopefully replicate it in her native Bavaria. They had a chance to move beyond their strongholds in Silesia or, strangely, the neighborhoods of several urban centers. Sophie intended to make the most of it. The trouble was that the party leadership in Saxony had their own ideas and many of them would prefer that Sophie Scholl or even Helene herself stayed out of what they saw as local matters. She wasn’t sure if Sophie was aware of the turbulent waters ahead. The Party in Saxony would need to prove to their constituents that they would mind their interests. Keeping everyone pulling in the same direction was the job of the National Party. The balance between those two things was the challenge.

    Red Sea, off Jeddah, Arabia

    The SMS Grindwal and the Squadron it led were escorting a convoy of Merchantmen through the Red Sea between Arabia and the Sudan, two vast lands that remained basically lawless. The Red Sea also included some of the busiest sea lanes in the world, meaning that piracy was an evergreen issue. The speedboats preferred by pirates wouldn’t come anywhere near the convoy with the three Corvettes about. The 12.8-centimeter cannon they sported was famous in this region for reducing the fiberglass hulls of such craft to splinters in seconds.

    Surface contact radar had its limits though, that was why lookouts using the Mark One Eyeball augmented with binoculars probably wouldn’t ever be obsolete. To actually see something, you needed to have someone out looking for it and Louis had posted a double watch. This was because it seemed that the Achilles Heel of modern warships was becoming totally dependent on the advanced systems which made them so very lethal in the first place. A small wooden vessel, such as the lowly Dhow common in the waters of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa was a surprising threat. That was particularly true if the crew didn’t care if they made it out alive and the damned thing was stuffed full of explosives.

    Louis Ferdinand Junior had first encountered that off the coast of Western Sahara a couple years earlier. Tragically, that was not the last time such an incident had occurred. When Louis had been invited to dine at the Table of the Greek Emperor, Constantine II had told him all about it and his opinion of the Turks. That Constantine thought that the Turks were bunch of savages fit only for extermination was hardly a surprise. What was a surprise was the attitude that the Greeks so openly displayed. He had heaped praise upon Louis for his quick thinking and for taking what Constantine regarded as the only correct action.

    The Greek Emperor had then said a turn of phrase that roughly translated to “There would be peace when Turkish was only spoken in Hell.” Later Louis had found out that this was a popular refrain among the Greeks, complete with T-shirts and coffee mugs. It was one of the most disgusting displays he had seen in his life. He had mentioned this to Freddy when they had talked briefly via the Grindwal’s radio-satellite suite. Freddy had told Louis to tread carefully. It seemed that his older brother was worried that if he said that it was what he regarded as out of control Nationalism that could only end in further rounds of destruction, it would be a diplomatic blunder that would drive the Greeks fully into the Russian camp. Louis was still cursing his own cowardice days later because he had held his tongue as his brother had asked.
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    Part 141, Chapter 2441
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-One

    8th March 1976

    Gulf of Suez, off Adabya, Red Sea

    After days of escorting the wallowing merchant tubs through the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, the Squadron led by the SMS Grindwal was headed back to friendlier waters. While that was a welcome development, the crew had other considerations. Oberbootsmann Martin, who had been a member of the Grindwal’s crew since the ship had first put to sea, which even before Oberdeckoffizier Greg Borchardt had joined her company, was not doing well. It was the sort of situation which crews dreaded, one of their own extremely sick with an unknown illness. Throughout his own career, Borchardt had seen disease race through a ship that was stuck in port, leaving those aboard too sick and weak to do anything about it. At the same time, everyone saw the yellow flag flying on the mast, marking the ship as being under quarantine and all the other ships of the fleet were keeping their distance for obvious reasons. It was something which they had apparently been spared this time, which was a mercy.

    It was why the Medical Service Officers, especially Ship’s Doctors were inadvertent experts on infectious disease by necessity. Keeping disease contained was one of their key reasons for existence. The trouble started when there were cases like Martin’s, where they hadn’t the first clue as to what they were dealing with. As much as they hated to admit it. Everyone aboard knew Martin was sick and getting sicker by the hour. The Doctor was just left scratching his head and saying that some of the symptoms he had were not the sort of thing that one expected to find in a man in his thirties who had been in robust health just months earlier now looked like he was wasting away to a skeleton before their eyes. Borchardt knew that it took a lot to get a man like the Doctor to admit that he was stumped, which was the very definition of a worrying issue.

    The fortunate thing was that whatever Martin had did not seem contagious. The Doctor had suggested that they put Martin ashore in Aden and arrange transport to Kiel. Borchardt had protested to Louis over the matter. He knew that Martin had no family other than the ship’s crew and his only home was the Sea. Putting a man like that ashore was cruel and cold-blooded murder if only because the medical facilities in Aden were crap. At least aboard the Grindwal he was surrounded by friends who would keep a close eye on him. Borchardt had rarely stuck his neck out so far, but this seemed like the sort of thing that a man had to take a stand over if he wanted to be able to live with himself afterwards. Borchardt understood that as Captain Louis had to make the best decisions for everyone. This time though he had relented somewhat, saying that they would take Martin back to Constantinople where he would get the best of care before being sent home.

    Martin was sitting on a chair at the rail in the shade of the forward superstructure, the part of the ship that was known to be where the Noncoms took their smoke breaks. It was a surprise that he was alone. With the crew having stood down from General Quarters, there was always someone there. Not just Martin who was considered invalid.

    The reason the crew could somewhat let down their guard in the narrow waters of the Gulf of Suez was visible on the shore. One would have thought that Suez Port would be a tempting target with its warehouses and shipyards, the Canal Authority saw to it that looks would be extremely deceiving. Along the shore on either side of the gulf was a series of forts made of packed earth and sandbags that made it so that any pirates would have to run a gauntlet of fire. The artillery might be composed of old Armstrong-Elswick 6-Inch guns that had been considered obsolescent even before the First World War, but Borchardt knew that having your ship eat several 45-Kilogram high explosive shells had a way of seriously ruining your day. The men employed by the Canal Service were mostly retired Artillerymen and Officers from the British and French Armies, so they knew exactly what they were doing. It was rumored that any raiders that got past the shore batteries would find out what happened in the form of French anti-ship missiles if the cheap solution hadn’t worked. The result was a tiny area of relative peace in a region that had known little of that for centuries.

    “You got to eat something, and the Cook said that there is plenty more” Borchardt said handing Martin a mess tin of the stew that the Cook made from whatever was available, while the goat used in today’s offerings wasn’t great it was head and shoulders better than the usual potted mystery meat that almost everyone in the crew hated with the sort of passion normally reserved for the Luftwaffe or Football Referees.

    “You could make a whole lot of far more persuasive arguments than that” Martin replied setting the tin aside, “Besides, I’m not hungry.”

    “You’ve not been hungry in weeks” Borchardt said.

    Martin just shrugged as he looked at the distant shore.

    “You remember that night we boarded that Scottish ship that was on fire?” Martin said, “We couldn’t save her, and the Captain refused to leave. Captain von Preussen had to go over to tell him that he needed to let her go.”

    “Prick” Borchardt muttered, and Martin gave him a mirthless laugh. At that moment, he had to fight the urge to throw Martin over the side.
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    Part 141, Chapter 2442
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Two

    10th March 1976

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    A train to Berlin, then an overnight flight to New York, then after a long layover they had flown on to Chicago, then Denver, and finally they arrived in Albuquerque late at night. That made for a very long two days of travel. Like if someone was playing a twisted joke on her, Monique found that she couldn’t sleep while her grandfather and aunts had been out like a light within minutes. The only sleep she’d had since leaving Flensburg had been on the airplanes and there was a promise of a long trip to Window Rock by car when a distant cousin who lived in Red Valley came for them in the morning. Monique wasn’t looking forward to that journey because she tended to get carsick, much to her embarrassment it was something she had not grown out of.

    For Monique, this entire trip was a leap into the total unknown. She had never even been on an airplane before she had boarded one at Berlin-Brandenburg International. She had no idea what would greet her when she arrived at Window Rock.

    Growing bored with the book she was reading and feeling agitated, Monique stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air. The motel was of a type that was apparently common in America. L-shaped with two floors around a car park and a swimming pool that a sign said was closed for winter, with them on the ground floor. There was a restaurant on the other end of the car park called “Ed’s Diner” according to the neon sign that was on though the place was obviously closed for the night. There was the reflection of lights, presumably from Albuquerque itself off in the distance. The high-pitched scream of an airliner landing at the nearby airport passed overhead.

    In the crook of the “L” that made up the hotel, there was a stairwell in addition to a common area that included a coin operated washing machine and clothes drier. Monique had also seen a pair of vending machines in there. Looking at the American coins that her grandfather had given her, she puzzled out their respective value as she fed coins into the slot. With a loud “Thud!” a can of Coca-Cola landed in the slot on the bottom of the machine. Stepping back to the front of the motel, Monique looked up at the sky and sipped her drink as a man stepped out of one of the rooms and gave her a venomous look before he stomped past her, talking aloud. She didn’t understand most of the words he used, but they didn’t sound complimentary.

    Just wanting to avoid trouble, Monique stepped back into the room and found that her grandfather was awake.

    “I’m sorry that would be your first encounter with this country” He said as Monique sat down on room’s the armchair and picked up her book. While she might not have understood what that man had said, her grandfather had overheard it.

    Fort Wainwright, Alaska

    How the Hell had he ended up somewhere colder than Wisconsin? That was a question that Mario had frequently asked himself as he had gone first to Fort Richardson then on to Fort Wainwright in the Alaskan interior, named for a Captain Wainwright in the First World War who had apparently won a Medal of Honor fighting the Germans, technically after the war had ended as absurd as that seemed. Of course, Mario had learned a lot about the absurd since joining the Army. Being told to take precautions against having anyone on sentry duty getting frostbite or freezing to death seemed like exactly that.

    Beyond the cold, there was his introduction to First Sergeant Jules Mullens. Much to Mario’s terror, Mullens was an old friend of his brother. It was the sort of thing that he had learned did him absolutely no favors. At best it meant that he would find himself with unrealistically high expectations. More often though, Mario had found that his brother was not universally well liked and that those with a grudge were perfectly happy with the second-best thing as it were. It was impossible to know where he stood with Mullens because he was impossible to read. All Mario knew was that he had found himself shoveling a lot of snow and freezing while standing sentry out at the gates. Things had finally gotten better as Mario had done his level best simply not to be noticed. He was rewarded with two weeks of KP, which was somewhat desirable in the winter because it was entirely indoors.

    Presently Mario was laying in his bunk staring at the plywood ceiling of the old Quonset hut he was living in with the rest of his Platoon after a long day running a dishwasher.

    “Join the Army and see the world” He muttered to himself.

    That was, if the world was composed of being crammed into a confined space with forty other guys while living under the constant threat of being smothered by carbon monoxide and bed farts. Or was that the Navy? Mario couldn’t remember. He found that he had little time anymore for unimportant things. Words on recruiting posters were exactly that, beyond him apparently having been stupid enough to fall for them at some point.

    Earlier that day there had been the announcement that with the coming of spring, there was going to be an increase in the tempo of operations. They would be training to become proper Paratroopers, not just learning to survive in the Arctic. Mario had almost groaned when he had heard that. Was that what he had been doing for the last three months? Seriously?
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    Part 141, Chapter 2443
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Three

    11th March 1976

    In transit, near Grants, New Mexico

    The windows of the van were rolled down and the was radio playing on a pleasant spring morning with John, a man who Sjostedt had last seen as a little boy some thirty years earlier. Compared to Flensburg it was dry and warm, which was a nice change. Sjostedt was under no illusions though about what this place would be like in a few months, this region was famous for the extremes of weather. Sweltering heat in the summer and bitter cold in the winter.

    Looking at the back of Monique’s head, Sjostedt wondered if he ought to wake her up so that she could see the uplands of the Colorado Plateau. He didn’t though because she had endured traveling with him and his sisters without complaining as people her age tended to do. He had also seen how she had quietly read her book the night before. It was a small mercy that she spoke little English after what had been said to her the night before. Why did she need to have encountered the sort of small-minded bigotry that seemed to thrive in the United States within hours of arriving here? Despite Monique’s largely Gallic background, that man had only seen the bit of her that was Diné, probably based on who she was with.

    “Let the girl sleep Piers” Nina said, she had taken time away from her own grandchildren to take this trip. So, she was probably an expert on that matter and could tell the direction of his thinking the way she had done since they were children. Still though…

    “Moni should be seeing this” Sjostedt said gesturing towards what they were passing.

    “She also gets terrible motion sickness” Nina replied, “As much as she tries to hide it from us, we don’t want to have to pull over out here.”

    “She will have plenty of time to grow bored and just want to go home in a couple of weeks” Tilde said. Tilde had always been the most cynical of them, with Nina as the optimist and Elisabeth as the peacemaker. Besides all that, Sjostedt considered this home with everywhere else had just been places that he had lived. To Tilde, Flensburg was where her children and their families lived as well as where both of her late husbands were buried, so that was home. He realized that he had never spoken to Monique about where she considered her home was. He had the impression that she had never been particularly welcome in Fossoy and sincerely hoped that Flensburg had been better for her.

    “I can think of a lot of reasons why Moni might want to return to Flensburg” Elisabeth said, “She has a few friends and is doing well in school. Not just because she is getting bored out here, I figure that will take longer than just a couple weeks for that.”

    “She has also caught the eye of a few boys” Nina said, “I remember last year she certainly made an impression on Ilse’s boy, Niko. He looked so dashing in that Cavalry uniform.”

    Sjostedt snorted at that, trying not to laugh aloud. He knew that his sister was referring to Prinz Nikolaus von Richthofen, the grandson of König Manfred von Richthofen of Silesia. Which was incredibly optimistic and considering that her late husband had been Walter Horst it was hardly a surprise. However, her oldest daughter Nizhoni was married to Stefan von Mischner, Ilse Tritten’s younger half-brother. Which made Nikolaus her nephew by marriage, so there was a good possibility that she might contrive reasons for Niko and Monique to be in the same vicinity in the months ahead. There was also the inevitable reaction of Manfred von Richthofen himself to his grandson consorting with a girl who was inarguably French with Monique’s background in petty thievery. That alone was almost enough to convince Sjostedt to stand clear. His sisters seemed amused by the prospect though, probably for different reasons. He also knew in his bones that Monique would probably resist her great aunts’ machinations without a whole lot of encouragement.

    Montreal, Canada

    It was deeply aggravating for Marie Alexandra that in order to make her grandmother happy, she needed to pretend to be Catholic. That included giving up coffee for lent, something that Margot Blackwood had been extremely fast to suggest, putting her on the spot. With great reluctance Marie had agreed, knowing full well that as a student she needed the caffeine to keep moving as she rushed from class to class, studied late into the night and was up early the next morning.

    Henriette had told her that she just ought to limit her intake of coffee to when she was away from her grandparents’ house. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. Her mother had told her many times that when in hostile territory you needed to play the role or else you would start to slip up in more ways than you could keep track of. Her dealings with her grandmother were the very definition of hostile and that was one of the few times that her mother had told her about what she did in the portion of her life that she had always shielded Marie from. Forty days wasn’t that long, so it wouldn’t cause her too many problems.

    As it turned out, Marie could not have been more wrong. First there had been the headaches and feeling like she was sleepwalking between classes. Now, with Easter still weeks away she wondered if the whole stupid thing had been a mistake and not just the coffee.
    Part 141, Chapter 2444
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Four

    13th March 1976


    Technically, Kiki was breaking the rules by being here, at this point she really didn’t care anymore. She still supposed to be on Maternity Leave for a couple more weeks. That was why she was here in a civilian capacity. She had been sent because it was considered part of a larger project that she had been working on for years. Those blood samples that she had taken in Los Angeles were a part of that. It was something that she wanted to see through.

    Over the last year, Kiki had had a lot of time to think about her priorities and how she had spent the last two decades. She was coming up on having spent twenty years in the Medical Service in only eighteen months, and while she wouldn’t trade that for anything, it wasn’t like she could just leave at a moment’s notice for Korea, Argentina, or who knows where anymore. Nina and Louis needed her clearly. There was also the aspect of her holding the rank of Oberstarzt meant that she would almost entirely work in Administration with absolutely no hope of further advancement because it seemed like the entire Government was afraid of the threat her grandfather had represented, that he might order the Heer to dispose of the Reichstag and had commanded the Army Group that would have been tasked with carrying it out during the First World War. That had been a major concern of the Government in the 20’s and 30’s. That was before Wilhelm III had died in a brothel, solving any problems he might have posed for everyone.

    Kiki had reached the conclusion that Ben was right about how her time with the Medical Service was inevitably coming to an end. When she had told her superiors about her plans they had seemed completely befuddled as she had told them that she had reached the conclusion that they had become a dead end. Twenty years of her life was enough. They had been unsure as what to do with her when she came back which was why they had called the meeting in the first place. In the meantime, Kiki had a job to do, and she would do it as she saw fit. If that meant her working in a small hospital in Southern Bavaria to stay close to her husband’s work then they were going to have to be happy with that.

    Those were Kiki’s thoughts as she watched SMS K024 Grindwal pull up to the pier in Constantinople. According to her brother, Louis Ferdinand Junior, there was a man aboard who was exhibiting symptoms of the disease that the Medical Service had been tracking for years. She had read up on the everything known or suspected about the disease, that it was likely blood bourn, that often it was confused with other types of diseases, types of pneumonia and cancers, that were the result of opportunistic infections. It was also suspected of being sexually transmitted like Hepatitis. Of course, that was all just conjecture. They needed more information to get a clearer picture. The Americans had continued to be uncooperative, mostly because of the nature of some of the suspected cases. That struck Kiki as being particularly foolish because even a first year Medical Student could tell you that an epidemic occurring among marginalized of society seldom remained there for long.

    As the gangplank was wrestled into place, Kiki was greeted by Greg Borchardt. The crusty Warrant Officer had always been present she had visited her brother in the past. Louis had warned her when they had talked yesterday that it would make things a lot easier with the crew if she won over Borchardt quickly. That included removing one of their own from the ship, something which wouldn’t sit well with them.

    “Oberdeckoffizier” Kiki said in greeting calling Borchardt by his proper rank. “Permission to board?”

    “You hardly need my permission Princess” Borchardt replied as Kiki climbed the gangplank followed by four men from the FSR. Her Security Detail understood that the Grindwal was one of the safest places for her in the Hellenic Empire, so they remained with the car, keeping a close eye one everyone on the pier. Louis was watching from the ship’s bridge and nodded as stepped through the doorway into the ship.

    “Constantinople isn’t the Liberty Port that it used to be” Borchardt said as Kiki followed him into the forward section of the Grindwal. If the crew didn’t know Kiki, they recognized the red coat she was wearing that announced that she was a Field Surgeon across the back in reflective white letters. “It used to be that you would have gotten trampled when the plank was put down. These days, there’s a war on.”

    Borchardt looked apologetic as they entered the Enlisted Crew’s Quarters. Borchardt started bellowing that there was a woman on the deck and there was a bit of a mad scramble. Kiki tried not to think about what must be going on here, it was always tamer than those involved were prepared to admit. Of course, no one would like their mother to see them looking through dirty magazines and some such. Kiki was the Captain’s sister, so in some ways it was worse. The crew didn’t react as well to the presence of the men from the FSR. This part of the ship was normally out of bounds for them as far as the crew was concerned, sullen acceptance was the best they would get. From the Mess came the smell of cooking food along with sludge coffee and that odd tea mixed with blueberry syrup that had become popular since the Patagonian War. The rest of the Enlisted quarters was among the machinery that fed the big gun up on the foredeck.

    They reached a bunk with a figure wrapped in blankets. Kiki was very aware that she had an audience, and that discretion was very much in order. Still, she was shocked by the state that Oberbootsmann Martin was in, just skin and bones, his breathing labored.

    “Good morning, David” Kiki said as she opened her medical bag. “Your Captain said that you’ve been having a bad time.”

    Martin smiled at that. “Your brother you mean” He said weakly.

    Even he knew who she was.

    “Yes” Kiki replied, “And I am sure he told you about how we need you to play a larger role in this.”

    “That means going home?” Martin asked.

    “Yes” Kiki said, she saw no reason for lying to him.

    “I think I’ll like that” Martin said, and Kiki let out a breath that she hadn’t been aware she was holding. Louis had warned her that the crew would make things difficult if Martin was unwilling to leave.
    Part 141, Chapter 2445
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Five

    13th March 1976

    Window Rock, Arizona

    The house was traditional construction, meaning logs and rammed earth. That was common enough around here as was the woodburning stove that had been purchased from Sears-Roebuck decades earlier which worked much like the one in her grandmother’s kitchen back in Fossoy. Maintaining the correct temperatures was a complicated process that she learned at her grandmother’s side, doing that was among her earliest memories.

    Beans which had been left soaking overnight, rice, salt, onions, and finally a pair of rabbits that a cousin had supplied were the only ingredients on hand. There were some dried peppers, but Monique had swiftly learned that they were best kept in their jar where they were nice to look at. She could work with the rest though.

    They had spent the first week at Window Rock with the promise that they were going to travel further north next week. As spectacular as the stone arch that overlooked what would have been a small village if it were not the seat of the Tribal Government was, Monique had been told that there were even more sights elsewhere. The others joked about how Monument Valley was worth seeing, but anyone who had ever seen one of dozens of Westerns or Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons knew about the place. Monique had never been interested in Westerns, but the Warner Brothers cartoons had been a staple of television everywhere she had lived.

    The other observation was that nearly everyone Monique encountered was a distant relative of some sort. Throughout her childhood it had just been her and her grandmother. Now she was discovering that she had dozens of cousins and the shocking detail that her great grandmother, her grandfather’s mother, was still alive at nearly a century in age. When she had met Monique, she had given her a toothless grin and said that it was a tragedy that she had been born with Piers’ nose. That was whose house they were staying in.

    Another odd detail was that everyone she encountered thought that it was funny that she knew far more Diné than English. “Our little niece from Europe hasn’t been colonized, what a kick to the head” was what she had been told. She had mentioned that she spoke French and German, but somehow that was different. Not many “Settlers” from those places, or at least not directly. It was a reminder of just how little she knew about these people who were strangely hers.

    “Who taught you to cook Moni?” Monique was asked as Nina was looking in the pan.

    “My grandmother” Monique replied. No one here called her by her proper name. It was either Moni, if she was lucky, or Doli if she wasn’t. Her grandfather’s pet name had stuck. According to her aunts, people who saw those grey-blue eyes of hers understood perfectly why she was called that. She had pointed out that should have marked her out as a true outsider and was told that hardly made her unique.

    “You never showed much interest in cooking at home” Nina said.

    “Tilde doesn’t want me to touch her gas range” Monique replied, “She seems to think that I will blow up the house.”

    “That sounds like Tilde” Nina said amusedly.

    Montreal, Canada

    The smell of chlorine and damp towels filled Marie Alexandra’s nose as she stared at the Art Deco tiled ceiling high above. As she floated in the indoor pool, it occurred to her just how beautiful the building was. The water was warm, not bathtub warm, but warm enough so that you weren’t shocked when you jumped in. Bright sunlight streamed in through the bay windows providing extra warmth to the room, even if it was freezing cold outside regardless of what the calendar said.

    Marie had no idea why, but her anxiety was back worse than ever. Before it had been how meeting new people had left her tongue tied and unable to get a word out. Now it was different, just unfocused dread. She knew that it was completely irrational but found herself focused constantly on the world around her looking for threats that were lurking just out of view. The Lady’s Athletic Club and her grandparents’ house happened to be the only places she felt completely safe. Marie could understand the latter. Her grandfather had been an important man and in his retirement the Canadian Government took his personal security extremely seriously.

    The Lady’s Athletic Club was different though and it had taken Marie some time to figure out why. Finally it occurred to her that it felt safe because the members, mostly older women, wanted it to be a safe place without judgement. That was the same reason why they had so readily accepted Henriette, her being a single mother was just one more area where they refused to pass judgement. It had been rather plainly spelled out in the club’s charter which Marie had agreed to follow when she had joined.

    Having to face reality again, Marie reluctantly climbed out of the pool. As she was toweling off and preparing to go to the showers, she was approached by a woman who she knew was one of the founders of the club. A former Olympic Track and Field star back in the 30’s, her medals occupied a place of honor in a glass case in the lobby.

    “Hello Marie” The woman said in serious tone that suggested that she was about to ask for something. “I am sure that you already know about this city hosting the Olympics this summer. We are curious about the role that any of our members might play in them.”

    “I am planning on going home for the summer” Marie replied.

    “Really?” The woman asked, “What does your grandmother think?”

    Something about how the woman asked the question suggested that it was about the same as finding live rattlesnakes somewhere unexpected. It was hardly a surprise that Marie’s grandmother probably wouldn’t be particularly welcome in this club.

    “I don’t know, I haven’t told her” Marie replied.

    That resulted in a surprised look on the woman’s face.

    “She expects that I will make introductions to certain prestigious individuals who I know personally and is being nice for now to get what she wants” Marie explained, “I don’t want any part of that.”

    “Like how prestigious?”

    “Queen Elizabeth and Kaiserin Suga” Marie replied, “Who I know because of the whole Prinzessin von Berlin thing, which is absurd.”

    For Marie it was like she was standing a few meters away listening to someone else talk as she spoke nothing but the whole truth. All the frustrations and anxieties of the previous months had propelled it out. It seemed like hardly a day passed without an encounter with someone who her grandmother had wronged at some point. Reality came crashing down on her head when the woman’s expression was one of horror.

    “Please don’t tell anyone I said that” Marie blurted out, all too aware of how her grandmother might react if any of that got to her.

    Instead, the woman suddenly burst out laughing. “My lips are sealed” She said when she regained her composure, “I just wish I could be there and see the look on her face when Margot figures that out.”

    “Well… uhm, thank you” Marie said awkwardly before retreating into the showers.
    Part 141, Chapter 2446
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Six

    19th March 1976

    Near Tusayan, Arizona

    The sun had not come up yet, the eastern sky was growing lighter. It was cold and the sky was filled with stars showing just how far from anything they were. Monique was starting to get annoyed with all of this. They had a long ride ahead of them back to Albuquerque and that was merely the start of the long trip home. Now this?

    Monique had been woken up with it still pitch black outside and told that they needed to leave. Then she had learned that they had been going in the wrong direction just had John had parked the van in the middle of nowhere.

    “We got a bit of a walk ahead of us” John said with a smile. “It is not far though, only half a mile or so.”

    Monique was too incensed to speak as she looked at the rocky trail visible in the light of John’s flashlight. They were expecting her to risk that sort of hike?

    “It is not a hard walk” Monique’s grandfather said to her, “Otherwise we would stay with the van.”

    “Is this some sort of joke?” Monique asked.

    “Hardly” Tilde said as she followed John up the trail followed by the others. Monique reluctantly followed not wanting to be left alone out here.

    At least she wasn’t stumbling through the dark for long. The grey of predawn grew brighter as she caught up with the others who were standing next to a steel lattice tower of some kind. They were talking among themselves and just standing there talking about people they had known in the distant past when they had been children in this same region. Nina and Elisabeth were sitting on a blanket that they had brought. Monique noticed that the ground sloped steeply downward into darkness ahead of them. There was other Mesas off in the distance that she could see in the dim predawn light. In the short time Monique had been on the Navajo Reservation she had learned that the vertical always needed to be a consideration. John said that they didn’t want to walk any further in that direction and she wasn’t inclined to argue.

    It was more of the same of what they had been doing since they had left Window Rock. Sure, there had been a lot of places that were beautiful and the people she had met were wonderful. Monique had seen where her grandfather and aunts had been born, where her great grandmother had met her great grandfather, and so many other places. Still, she couldn’t help but notice that even in what was springtime everywhere she looked was a thousand shades of brown. She had the feeling that it would probably drive her nuts if she had to live here. Then there was what she had heard about what it was like the rest of the year… Monique couldn’t get back to a place with a more civilized climate fast enough.

    “Why are we out here?” Monique asked.

    “We could tell you” Tilde said, “But that would ruin the surprise.”


    Standing in the cold, on the edge of what Monique assumed was the edge of a cliff, was a surprise? All sorts of words in various languages came to mind describing this sort of situation. None of them were the sort that should be repeated in mixed company and none of the Aunt’s, particularly Tilde, would approve of her using words like that. Her grandfather would just chuckle leaving Monique feeling foolish, in some ways that was worse. It was moments like that which reminded her that over the course of his life he had seen or heard quite literally everything. Shocking him, or even merely surprising him was nearly impossible.

    Sitting down on a rock, Monique thought about the weird twists and turns that her life had taken. She also thought about the constant contrivances of her aunts. They were convinced that she was one of them in the process of becoming, it was inevitable. It was entirely because of who was and even if she rejected that idea it just meant that she would be doing that in a way that worked for her. Arguing with them was like trying to grab ahold of smoke.

    “If you are sulking you are going to miss the show” Monique’s grandfather said.

    “What show?” Monique asked.

    “I like to call it creation” Sjostedt replied, “It doesn’t matter what you believe personally, in a place like this you can see what the first moment must have been like. Bringing you to the Four Corners without coming here before you left.”

    “There’s talk of the Park Service extending the road to here” John said, “Make it easier for the tourists. I think that sort of ruins a bit of the experience, not having to get out your car.”

    Where was here? Monique thought to herself.

    With that, the sun broke over the horizon and Monique saw the bands of different colored rock lit up by the rising sun and the darkness vanishing before the advancing sunlight. It was as if the whole world was rising up into the new day, it was exactly as her grandfather had described. Monique knew this place having seen it in hundreds of photographs, none of them had anything on the reality of it though.
    Part 141, Chapter 2447
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Seven

    27th March 1976

    Tempelhof, Berlin

    It was a good day for the first major event of the year for Sophie’s Cycling Club. The sky was filled with fluffy white clouds, it wasn’t raining, and it was cool enough for them to press themselves without needing to worry much about getting overheated. Sophie had other considerations though.

    Was it poor sportsmanship to give someone the thumping that they so richly deserved off the course? Or did she make sure that they left a good deal of their skin on it along with a bit of blood? Those were the questions that Sophie had as she found herself in the final portion of a friendly sponsored by her club that had become decidedly less than that.

    One of the other competitors, an American girl named Connie, who was touring European events gauging the competition ahead of the Olympics, had dared to insult Sophie’s red no-name bicycle. Sure, there were a few spots of rust, the leather seat was heavily worn though perfectly broken in, and the cotton tape on the drop handlebars needed a fresh coat of shellac. However, there was nothing wrong with it mechanically. The 4130-steel frame was the perfect balance between strength, stiffness, and weight. Sophie had competed in dozens of races while riding it and had won far more often than she had lost. As far as she was concerned it was perfect. Just because the red no-name didn’t have a fancy name painted on the down tube had caused Connie to turn her nose up at it after asking the question; “You aren’t seriously planning on taking that to Montreal, are you?” And Sophie had been understandably insulted.

    In the end, Sophie decided that she didn’t want the headaches that would come if she thumped Connie but settled for beating her in the final sprint for the finish line on the very bicycle that she had so casually dismissed. It seemed that Connie wasn’t used to losing, even in the face of stiff competition at what was supposed to be a friendly race. Alida was delighted, telling Sophie that she had beaten her best time by a several seconds and that she needed to keep that up. Connie had shot Sophie a dirty look when she had overheard that.

    In a few months I will do far worse to you in Montreal, Sophie thought to herself as she watched the American girl stomp off as she was putting on the coveralls that had become a team feature. The Luftwaffe had found out that the cycling team was using surplus grey insulated coveralls of the type that flight crews aboard airplanes used and had offered the team new coveralls as well as official sponsorship, something that Alida Baruch would never turn down. When they came, they had a different set of patches, the Imperial Eagle was still there in it’s expected place, but the unit patch on the left shoulder had been replaced with a tricolor roundel inside a sprocket. Sophie had no idea where they had come up with that design, but she liked it.

    When Sophie had mentioned this to Doug, he had amusedly asked if she understood why the Luftwaffe High Command might be interested in sponsoring an Olympic team mostly comprised of young women in their teens and twenties? She understood what he was implying and wished that she didn’t. That was something that Alida had warned her about from when she had competed in Track & Field. People seemed to focus on whether or not they were pretty with athletics falling by the wayside thanks to television and print media. Alida had said that it was just a sad reality that they needed to learn to live with.

    Wahlstatt, Silesia

    There were few things more disturbing for Niko than seeing Bas with a stopwatch. The whole idea was that he needed to improve his times in running and in swimming. It was especially ironic because Bas wasn’t the fastest runner and while Bas knew how to swim, he had learned alongside Niko, he wasn’t about to do it competitively.

    That was why Niko was out running the four-kilometer cross country in practice knowing that Bas was waiting at the finish line with that cursed watch. Still, he knew that he would run the rest of the course. Why? Because Niko had never been able to make himself only do anything halfway. Was that a personality flaw? He didn’t know. The only one who seemed to understand was Opa, but his inability to ever compromise was legendary. Of course, first as an Ace Pilot, then as a General, and finally on ever higher rungs of Silesian Nobility, he had never needed to compromise. Now, Opa was at the very top of the heap and there was nowhere else to go. Niko himself had seen what his grandfather did for entertainment. Gambling, sport, and political gamesmanship. Opa wasn’t able to go hunting like he had throughout his life, but the social aspect of it, mostly in the form of telling stories about a lifetime’s worth of adventures. Hunting in Africa and the Canadian Arctic, travels to the Far East and South America. Niko had seen how respected his grandfather was in Patagonia where he had become a major landowner. As his grandson, Niko had frequently found himself at the table when important decisions had been made when he had been in Argentina acting as his father and grandfather’s proxy.

    Was all of that a taste of what the rest of his life would be like? When Niko had told Opa that he had made the National Team and would competing in the Modern Pentathlon in Montreal it had been the happiest he had ever been with him. It had been in that moment that Niko had realized that Opa would be right there with him and Bas if he were their age.

    Rounding a corner, Niko caught sight of Bas sitting on the bench at what they had agreed was the finish line today. The louse had fallen asleep and had forgotten to start the watch at the start.
    Part 141, Chapter 2448
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Eight

    1st April 1976

    Charlottenburg, Berlin

    Nora Berg, the retired Obstetrician who had taken Zella’s case because she wanted to, had told her that the baby could come at any minute. That was telling her something which she already knew. The real question that Zella had was what exactly the hold up was? Berg had just smiled and said that babies come at their own time and not a moment sooner if they were lucky.

    Angelica had been sent to help Zella today and clearly to learn a thing or three in the process. Yes, this too could be you in 8 or 9 months if you fail to take certain things seriously, Zella thought to herself cynically. Dear Tante Kat had sent all of the girls to help out in the same manner. Nice to know that when all else failed, Zella could still serve as an object lesson.

    At least Angelica was a quiet girl, which made her far easier to deal with than the others. Sophie and Gabbi didn’t seem to know the meaning of quiet. Mercifully, Marie was away at University in Canada. Zella wasn’t so lucky with Tatiana though. Something about a restaurant she had been planning on working at over the summer being closed because of health code violations, meaning that she had been unable to get a work permit in whatever country it was. Zella had known that Tatiana could a complete bitch at times, but at the moment she was completely insufferable even by Zella’s standards.

    Zella suspected that the real reason she was never alone was that everyone assumed that she would try to go about doing things normally. They didn’t want her to exert herself. As if she didn’t know that she could hardly make the walk from the couch to the bathroom at the moment. All she wanted was to have this whole thing to be over with already.

    Perhaps she should have remembered the date. Not just because of April Fool’s Day, but what was happening the next day. The Moondogs were playing the Olympic Stadium in front of a sellout crowd, an event that was going to be Internationally broadcast. Normally Zella would have been backstage as a guest of the band and enjoying the show from the mixing booth, but because of her present state that was simply not going to happen. She had written a letter thanking the them for the invitation and expressed her regret about how she was indisposed without elaborating. That was extremely disappointing, and Zella had done her best to forget about the show. Unfortunately for her, that didn’t mean that she had been forgotten…

    There was a knock on the door and Angelica went to answer it as Zella was still trying to get off the couch. As soon as Angelica opened the door, Zella heard a voice that was one of the ones she least wanted to hear at the moment.

    “A word with the Marchioness” John Lennon said is his usual drawl, which Angelica could barely understand.

    “Excuse me?” Angelica asked, “Marchioness?”

    “That means Markgräfin” Zella said, “As in looking for me.”

    “Oh” Angelica replied. Whatever else they were teaching her in school, English seemed not to have taken, or at least not the kind which John spoke. To Zella’s mounting horror, it wasn’t just John here to visit as people piled into her apartment. It was all four of the Moondogs and their entourage. Ringo was already looking at the unfinished canvases that lined one of the walls. Zella knew that he was going to have an opinion because Ringo always did.

    “This is what you mean by indisposed?” Paul asked awkwardly, his voice full of concern. It was painfully obvious what was going on despite the bulky bathrobe that Zella was wearing in the middle of the day. “We were worried that you were sick.”

    This drew Zella a lot of curious looks. Everyone with the band had probably heard a great deal about who she was. Now it was clear that there wasn’t going to be a party, not at her place anyway.

    “Paul did, I figured that you were off takin’ the piss somewhere” John said, “I wasn’t entirely wrong.”

    That earned John a dirty look from Paul and George. They had led somewhat settled lives these days as the band had finally enjoyed commercial success. Which meant that they had families back home. John had remained untethered, hardly a surprise really. As a result of his attitude alone, few women stuck around for long once the glamor of being a Rockstar’s girlfriend wore thin and they discovered how difficult he could be most of the time.

    “You have seen how I am doing, now you can all leave” Zella said flatly as she saw people discussing her artwork. This wasn’t a gallery. To his credit, George was shooing them towards the door. This was as Zella noticed that John was watching Angelica closely as she talked to some of their uninvited guests.

    “She’s half your age John” Zella said, “And even if Tante Kat doesn’t scare you, the sort of men who owe her father favors should.”

    “It isn’t like that” John replied, “I could swear I’ve seen that girl somewhere before today.”

    “How could you tell?” Zella asked, “You must thousands of girls at your shows.”

    “I don’t know” John said, clearly disliking that detail.
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    Part 141, Chapter 2449
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Nine

    2nd April 1976

    Westend, Berlin

    Paul knew that they were in trouble when he saw the look on John’s face as he was tuning his acoustic guitar. Paul had wanted to do a Rock & Roll show, give the kids a good time and ride off into the sunset. Seeing John with that guitar at the start of the show meant only one thing and he seemed like he wasn’t in the mood to compromise. That meant that the rest of the band had better be prepared to follow John’s lead.

    This had started with making the mistake of going to Zella’s apartment in Charlottenburg. She had said in her letter that she was indisposed and that was one thing. Actually seeing that she was heavily pregnant was something else entirely. Then there had been that Italian girl. John had seen her before when she was a little girl and her mother had been his paramour at the time. Just one of John’s many failed relationships. Something about that whole thing had angered John.

    This was coming atop the events of the last few months. It had started with that article that had appeared in that American magazine that had implied that the Moondogs had been lapped by popular culture, they were the “safe” band that your parents might have listened to. Paul had listened to John’s reaction to that characterization. They were the band that had made albums that the record companies had been afraid to release, how the Hell were they now getting saddled with that bullshit? As they were preparing to play what was possibly going to be the biggest show of their careers, Paul was looking at the playlist with mounting horror. Yes, they had rehearsed this set, mostly to keep John on side, but if they did this, no one would ever consider them safe again.

    As John led them onto the stage, it was starting to feel like witnessing a car accident to Paul. There was no way to stop it, you wanted to look away but couldn’t. As one of the Sound Techs positioned a microphone in front of John’s acoustic guitar, he looked over his shoulder at Paul as if to say, “Try to stop me, I dare you.” John’s Epiphone Casino Semi-hollow electric was already plugged in and on a stand so that he could switch guitars as soon as he finished with the first song.

    With that, John began playing the opening cord to a song off his solo album, Working Class Hero…

    London, England

    His girlfriend wanted to watch the telecast from Germany. The Moondogs live in Berlin. Johnny thought that it was a real joke. Everyone knew that those guys had done nothing worthwhile since the “Spiraling” album years earlier. His low estimation of the band was seemingly confirmed when he saw John Lennon alone in the spotlight playing an acoustic guitar, a few cords and complaining as expected. Then he caught the words “Till you are so fucking crazy you cannot follow their rules” and thought that he had misheard it. Had he just sung that before the whole world? Johnny watched with disbelief as Lennon was singing about being doped with religion, sex, and TV. Then finally, “You think you are so clever, so classless and free, but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.”

    Johnny watched at what he knew was going to cause a complete uproar, as in a riot when the morality screechers started complaining about this. Then the song faded out and the whole band launched into the raveup version of a song by a songwriter that few had heard of outside of Scotland until that day, Johnny could see that John Lennon was shouting out each verse with the rest of the band only joining in during the choruses. “We are the first ones to starve, the first ones to die, the first ones in line for that pie in the sky…” This then transitioned into the song “On it or under it” which was from the Moondogs Spiraling album.

    Barcelona, Spain

    Normally, Moses Newton was too busy to watch television. Today though, a band whose music he had played in the past was being broadcast by satellite around the world. He had been expecting the sort of staid performance that bands tended to do when there was a lot on the line. Clearly, they had decided to do something else. Moses had heard the first few songs and knew that the hate filled hypocrites in America were going to go crazy and help the Moondogs sell millions of records in the process. Then the band launched into their version of “The Recruiting Sergeant” which would inevitably set off people in their own country. Moses could only watch with wry amusement to the rest of the concert. The Moondogs had probably made few friends by doing this, the executives at their label were probably pulling their hair out by the fistful. There were also probably many politicians and pearl clutching types who would try to make hay over this. Moses knew that it would be more of the sort of performative outrage that had grown so thin over the last couple decades. They would harp on how John Lennon had used a few choice words that people heard every single day, well, so what.

    It was the content that they would be absolutely terrified to address directly. Moses knew exactly what he was hearing. It was a call to arms and the world was about to be shaken on its axis. Something which was long overdue.
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    Part 141, Chapter 2450
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty

    3rd April 1976


    They had put Zella in a private room, which she suspected that her parents had something to do with, to recover they said. Unfortunately, she had never felt more alone in her entire life. At least in an open ward there would be other people around. Nora Berg had been here earlier, but she had left, saying that she would be back in a little bit when Zella was in a more agreeable mood. Then they would have a great deal to discus, which sounded incredibly ominous.

    Zella for herself, she just hurt, there was no other way to describe it. Much of the day before had been a harrowing nightmare. Burg had told her that it had all been as routine as these things went, and it was all Zella could do not to scream at that woman. How could what she had gone through possibly be routine? Then Berg had mentioned to Zella that her daughter was healthy and that she needed to think of a name before the Registrar came around. At that moment, Zella felt like she was being a selfish twit and for the life of her could not think of a single reason why anyone thought she knew what was doing. That had been when Berg had left.

    Her daughter, who still lacked a name, had been completely forgotten by Zella in her anger at Berg. She was in her basinet beside Zella’s bed and so far she had been quiet, the thing that Zella noticed was the confused look on her face.

    “I know exactly how you feel” Zella said, completely unsure about what to do next in this situation.

    “Don’t just let her sit there” Yuliya said as she rushed into the room and scooped the little girl up. Zella was shocked at how easily Yuri’s mother had done that. She had been terrified when she had the baby put into her arms while still in the Delivery Room, Zella was afraid that she might hurt her by accident. Yuliya had no trouble with this though as she spoke to her in Russian. Something about how she was a beautiful little girl and that she was welcome to the world even if her mother was a bit clueless. There was a bit too much truth in that. Zella had spent most of the last nine months thinking that she had this handled, only now figuring out that she was absolutely hopeless in the face of such a task.

    “What’s her name?” Yuliya asked.

    “I don’t know” Zella replied, “That is just one more thing…”

    What was she supposed to say? That she couldn’t handle something so simple.

    “My sister’s name is Irina” Yuliya said, “I’ve not seen her since I was conscripted during the Soviet War.”

    Zella couldn’t imagine what that must be like, having family who would have preferred that you had died rather than having you come home. The way she looked at Zella when she made that suggestion implied that it meant everything to her to snatch a little piece of her life from before.

    “Where’s Yuri?” Zella asked, delaying giving an answer.

    “He dropped me off at the front of the hospital and went to find somewhere to park the car” Yuliya answered, “He wanted to be here, but you know how it can be when someone is on assignment.”

    “Oh” Zella replied. To ARD Yuri would have had no reason to rush out when he had a major assignment. This whole thing was the most incredible mess. Yuri wasn’t alone in that regard. It seemed like all Zella’s closest friends had obligations of some sort to attend to. They said that they would visit when they could though. Zella’s parents were coming from Jena, it was in the early morning hours though and they were not here yet.

    “Yes” Yuliya said, “They had him recording that band that played yesterday afternoon live on television. Did you know about that?”

    “Yes” Zella replied. She had totally forgotten about the Moondogs and their concert with all that had happened. Had it gone well? It seemed like having the members of the band in her apartment had occurred a thousand years ago. Had that really only been two days ago? Remembering that reminded Zella of who had been kind to her and who had not. The thought of what her daughter’s name should be, or at least part of it occurred to her. At the same time, it had been Yuri’s family who had made it here tonight. Like it or not, Zella was forever connected to Yuliya.

    “What about Irina Pauline?” Zella asked.

    Yuliya seemed delighted by that.

    Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport

    The uproar that had resulted from the concert was already apparent before they had even made it off the stage. While Paul had his misgivings, the rest of the band didn’t seem too concerned. George and Ringo thought that it was one of their better shows with the band firing on all cylinders. That it was being broadcast live first to millions and then rebroadcast to an even larger audience made that so much better. All John seemed to care about was that he had made his point, this time anyway.

    As they walked past a newspaper stand in the airport, Paul noticed that Ed Pickford’s face was on the front page of one of the papers. Paul had been the one who had introduced John to the obscure singer-songwriter and Worker’s Song had been the second song in the set yesterday. “Ed deserves the recognition” John said as they walked past.
    Part 141, Chapter 2451
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-One

    5th April 1976

    Montreal, Canada

    “Would this look good?” Henriette asked holding up a blouse that was comprised a of garish combination of mustard yellow, brown, and red stripes.

    “No” Marie Alexandra replied, wondering if Henriette was pulling her leg.

    It was the proximity of the United States if Marie had to guess, particularly New York. She saw it on television. How that country had become a font of bad taste and questionable fashion trends, particularly ugly colors or a million shades of beige. This was not her echoing her mother’s dislike of Americans in general.

    “Says the girl who could wear a potato sack, and have it look good” Henriette said.

    “It is because I don’t ever wear what makes me look bad” Marie replied, “I would need to find the right potato sack before I wore it.”

    Henriette gave Marie a look that basically said “Bullshit.” It had taken her a long time to lose the weight that she had gained when she was pregnant with Alice. Even then she had discovered that her body wasn’t the same. The other detail that Henriette didn’t know was that Marie had spent years learning to alter clothes at the side of Aunt Marcella. Frequently, a little time with a needle and thread made a huge difference if you knew what you were doing. Marie had learned that few people were interested in hearing about that, seeming to prefer wearing clothes that fit them terribly.

    Leaving the clothiers after making their purchases, Marie looked at the coffee shop they walked past longingly. She was counting down the days until the 18th of April. Why did Easter have to be later than usual this year? It was torture and Marie frequently found herself getting anxious and jittery in the way that she frequently had in the years before she had discovered that coffee of all things helped. The feelings of paranoia were getting worse, something that wasn’t helped by the knowledge that she was in fact often being followed by people from the RCMP’s Special Branch, or worse, the American CIA.

    “I won’t tell anyone if you want to cheat” Henriette said with a sly grin.

    “It isn’t that simple” Marie said without elaboration. She doubted Henriette would understand the need for Marie to keep to her role while she was in Montreal. While there was no way that Henriette would hardly see it that way, she was lucky to be liberated from the influence of Marie’s grandmother. She needed to see it through because Margot Blackwood would like nothing better than to catch her out of bounds and the last thing Marie needed at this time was her grandmother to gain any leverage on her.

    They were saved from that topic of conversation by who Marie spotted walking the other way up the street. Mister Louis, a retired boxer who Marie had seen occasionally passing out leaflets on street corners in this neighborhood. Mostly they were on topics of Civil Rights and Social Justice. Sure, there were always those around who took exception to that, but even now Louis remained a physically imposing man. The man he was walking with hardly needed an introduction either, Max Schmeling. Marie remembered him as a spokesman for Coca-Cola and the Pioneer Corps back in Germany.

    “If it isn’t the little girl who tried to speak to me in Swahili” Louis said with a smile.

    “You are never going to let me live that down are you?” Marie asked in reply.

    “Nope” Louis said, he was always going to find that amusing.

    When they had met again years later, Louis had mentioned that incident. That was right before Marie had mentioned in conversation that while Africans were not discriminated against in Berlin like they were in the Americas, Poles and Jews were instead. Marie had realized just how naïve her comment had been later when she had replayed it in her mind.

    “Prinzessin” Schmeling said nervously, “I am surprised to see you here.”

    “Do you two know each other?” Louis asked.

    “Only by reputation” Schmeling replied, “Your involvement with the Jacobins when you were little girl. Everyone saw how you bit a chunk off that man’s hand. Only a real fighter could do something like that.”

    Marie knew that was high praise from someone like Schmeling. Too bad she had failed to live up to that in the years since.

    “Did his just call you Princess?” Henriette asked.

    “My mother is the Prefect of Berlin” Marie said, “It’s only a technicality.”

    “Technicality?” Henriette asked, “What is that supposed to mean?”

    “Why are you in Montreal?” Marie asked Schmeling, not wanting to discuss things like Courtly ranks with Henriette. She figured that her friend would bring that up later though.

    “Meetings ahead of this summer” Schmeling replied, “I am coaching the National Boxing team and there is always a pissing mat… Er… Argument over events like this, the selection of the venues and such.”

    “Sounds familiar” Marie replied, “Talk to Suga about that sort of thing when she gets here. I can guarantee you that any pissing match, to use your term, you care to mention has got nothing on the Court of the Empress.”

    Louis and Henriette were a bit perplexed by what Marie was talking about. The Imperial Court of Germany had no equivalent on this side of the Atlantic. Schmeling would probably only be on the edge of it and had probably been a guest of Michael of Bohemia on a few occasions. He was the sort who the Emperor’s younger brother liked to surround himself with.
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    Part 142, Chapter 2452
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Two

    8th April 1976

    Mitte, Berlin

    Zella didn’t go back to her apartment for long. Again this was due to her parent’s intervention. They had basically moved Jena when her mother had retired and the townhouse they owned had basically sat empty for the last few years. There was something poetic about Irina having Zella’s old bedroom in the house that she had grown up in. Zella could do whatever she pleased with the rest of the house. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Zella that her brother Walter took exception to this.

    For a long time, Walter had made no secret of how he thought that Zella was the black sheep of the family. Now what was happening was something that he regarded had her being rewarded for failure. It came as something of a surprise for Zella when her parents came to her defense this time. Since when had Walter shown any interest in Berlin? He had hardly been back after he had begun University in Jena. Even now, Walter was working his way up through the Legal system in Thuringia with aspirations of becoming a Judge. He had absolutely no use for the house in Berlin. Besides, ownership wasn’t going to change, Zella was just going to live there until she figured out something else.

    “It is like when you were children” Zella’s mother had said to Zella, “Whenever you got anything, your brother had to have it even if it was something he hated.”

    That was as close to criticism as Zella had ever heard her mother level at her brother. While Maria Acker frequently spoke to her children about what they were doing and wasn’t shy about giving her opinions, she almost never mentioned those opinions to anyone else.

    While Zella had known that her one and a half room apartment in Charlottenburg was completely impractical, the house in Mitte was huge in comparison. It had been the city residence of Zella’s father, a Generalfeldmarschall and Markgraf even if how he had gone about that was comparatively modest. The workshop in the basement was still there even if the priceless collection of motorcycles had been moved elsewhere. The rooms of the ground floor felt empty to Zella without her parent’s keepsakes from around the World. The furniture was covered, and the rugs were full of dust. She had no idea where to begin with making it livable or what to do with so much space. Of course, she already knew which room would be her new studio, Walter’s bedroom.

    “So, this is the place?” Yuliya asked as she followed Yuri in through the front door carrying a box that was from Zella’s apartment. She, along with Yuri’s two younger half-sisters, Svetlana, and Veronika, were helping Zella move. If her idea of helping was exploring the house. Not that she could be too sore with the two girls. They loved the idea of being Aunties of Irina and hearing them laughing upstairs made the house feel far less like a mausoleum.

    Off the Island of Rhodes, Eastern Mediterranean

    The Medical Service had taken blood samples from every member of the crew while they had been anchored in Constantinople under orders by the High Command in Wunsdorf-Zossen. The fact that the OKW had decided to get involved had done nothing to quell the rumors that were flying around among the crews of the ships under Louis Ferdinand Junior’s command. They had all seen what had happened to Oberbootsmann Martin so those rumors were grounded in hard reality. According to newly arrived personnel from Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, and Danzig it wasn’t just the Navy, the Heer and Luftwaffe were also doing the same things. The consensus was that there was an insidious new type of clap out there that killed you slowly.

    When Louis had spoken with his sister, Kiki had said that there were others in the Medical Service whose specialty was basically Detective Work, and they were in the process of trying to figure out exactly what they were dealing with. There had been guidance from Koblenz that had gone to the Ships’ Doctors and Corpsmen on the best practices regarding bloodborne pathogens. For Louis that was not good news because of the implication that this thing might still be lurking among the crew. Borchardt had said that this was like any other crisis, the Captain, meaning Louis, needed to lead them through it regardless.

    Despite all of this, they still had a job to do. Just a few kilometers away, the war that they were monitoring was raging merrily along with accusations of war crimes being committed by both sides. As far as Louis was concerned the world might be a better place if the respective Governments of Greece and Turkey just happened to fall off the edge of it.

    The Intelligence Section aboard the Ozelot specialized in Signal Intelligence, which was key in monitoring the conflict. The other ships of the small flotilla were in in close escort in case someone decided to do something extremely stupid. Louis had also been warned that there would likely be individuals ashore who would take exception to their mere presence as well as those who might try to do something clever to try to bring them into the war against the other side. As if this whole situation wasn’t already complicated enough.
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    Part 142, Chapter 2453
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Three

    18th April 1976

    Montreal, Canada

    It was finally Easter Sunday and as Marie Alexandra was brewing up a pot of what had been sold as the “Black Death Blend” of coffee she had an unfortunate visitor who was ruining the experience. When she had seen the beans advertised in the store there had been a humorous disclaimer that had convinced her that they were perfect for today. That was why she was in the kitchen waiting impatiently for the water to boil after putting the electric coffee grinder to use.

    “You gave up coffee for lent?” Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy asked.

    “My grandmother didn’t give me a choice” Marie replied.

    “I met your grandmother” Jackie said, “I fear that she doesn’t like me very much.”

    The sixteen-year-old daughter of Jack Kennedy was traveling with her father on a business trip. For her it was unimaginable that anyone would ever dislike her. Marie didn’t dislike Jackie, she wished that the girl would stop talking occasionally. She had talked the entire time that Marie had been in the process of making the coffee. It seemed that Jackie had never seen a French press used before. It seemed that Jack felt that having his daughter spend the afternoon with Marie while he was meeting with clients would be good for her. Henriette was just watching the whole conversation with considerable bemusement.

    “You will find that puts you in good company in this city” Marie replied, “My grandmother’s approval is probably not something I would take too seriously.”

    Marie might have told Jackie that Margot only seemed to approve of those who either fit her narrow definitions of what she considered proper, or else that had something that she wanted. Marie knew that the way things stood presently was only because of the later reason. There was a part of Marie that thought that she ought to give her grandmother exactly what she thought she wanted. Queen Elizabeth already knew who Margot Blackwood was through gossip that she had would have heard through Marie’s mother, Empress Suga, Marie’s godmother former Empress Charlotte for certain, and who knew who else. Suga and Elizabeth’s tea parties in Berlin and London respectively should terrify those who were the day’s entertainment. Margot had no idea that she was asking Marie to lead her into a lion’s den wearing a suit made of steak and the lionesses were extremely hungry.

    When the coffee was ready, Marie poured herself a cup and took a drink. It was bliss, like rediscovering an old book that she had read years earlier…

    “My God, how can you drink that black?” Henriette asked.

    Jackie was making a face.

    Marie hadn’t told them to help themselves while she had been having a moment. “There is cream in the refrigerator and the sugar bowl is on the counter by cutting board” She said before saying the word “Heathens” under her breath as she watched as Henriette and Jackie scrambled to turn what was wonderful into little more than confectionery.

    Washington D.C.

    The file that had been sent to the White House by the German Embassy was unexpected. This copy of a report might have been written largely in English, but as Nixon swiftly discovered it might as well have been written in Greek it was so full of medical jargon. Still, as previous Administrations had discovered, whenever the name Kaiserlicher Zentralsanitätsdienst, the official name of the German Military Medical Service Branch, appeared on the letterhead along with a stamp for immediate public distribution they were in for a bad day. This was proving to be no exception. While the other Service Branches of the German preferred to keep their secrets, the KZ obnoxiously seemed to feel that secrecy didn’t serve their interests.

    Nixon had asked some of the foremost experts to go over the file to see if they could make any sense of it in the Roosevelt Room. As with other incidents Nixon had found that they were serious people who didn’t care about politics, they had a mission to perform. They were a lot like their German counterparts in that regard. Today, he saw looks of concern crossing their faces as they looked through the documents, it took them a considerable amount of time to reach a consensus. Finally one of them, a man who had been identified to Nixon as being a rising star at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke. He wasn’t a big man, but he seemed to fill the room with his presence.

    “We might have a serious problem, Sir” He said.

    “On a scale from one to ten, Doctor…?” Nixon asked.

    “I think this goes past all of that, ten times a thousand” The man said, “And it’s Fauci, Sir.”

    “Yes… Doctor Fauci” Nixon said, “Exactly what is that supposed to mean?”

    “The Germans are notoriously close-lipped about the readiness of their military” Fauci replied, “They are telling us about an Oberbootsmann, a Petty Officer in their Navy if I am reading this right, named David Martin who went from robust health to such a state that they couldn’t figure out just which condition killed him at the age of twenty-nine after he died a couple weeks ago. That shows exactly how seriously they are taking this.”

    Doctor Fauci flipped through the papers before he held up a photograph taken by an electron microscope that was part of the file that purported to show the still unnamed virus. “As far as I can tell, this is real” He said.

    “I get that” Nixon said, “But why are they telling us?”

    That resulted in some more talking among themselves by the Doctors, then they went through the file again before they handed Fauci a couple different sheets of paper. Nixon knew that he would get the same questions from Congress, except they would not be nearly as nice.

    “A virus has absolutely no respect for National borders” Fauci said, “They feel they have a duty to warn us.”

    “Do they have any suggestions as to how they intend to contain this?” Nixon asked.

    “Actually, they are saying that it is already too late for that” Fauci replied, “Using the same protocols they used with David Martin they have detected this virus in blood samples taken in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.”

    It was already here? Nixon thought to himself with a sinking feeling.

    “Just how did they get those blood samples?” Nixon asked tapping his finger on table for emphasis.

    Fauci looked a bit embarrassed for a few seconds.

    “Well, Sir” Fauci said awkwardly, “There was already a crisis before this. How many free clinics anywhere in America would turn away a Doctor volunteering their services for a few days while they just happen to be on vacation?”

    Congress was going to have kittens when they learned about this.
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    Part 142, Chapter 2454
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Four

    2nd May 1974

    Munich, Bavaria

    Ben never expected to receive any reward upon achieving a Professorship in Astronomy from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. His parents, Kiki, and Nina had all been happy when they’d had a celebratory meal the day before and that they had all shared had seemed like enough.

    Then the summons to the Court of the King of Bavaria arrived.

    Kiki had told Ben that they needed to humor King Albrecht. His career would take him elsewhere eventually, back to Berlin most likely. Then Albrecht would no longer be their problem. Still, there were moments when Ben wished that eventually would hurry up and get here. As much as he enjoyed being the Director of the Argelander Observatory, it had been obvious for a long time that Albrecht was an occupational hazard.

    “This is something which I figured was the perfect gift Professor” Albrecht said as he presented Ben with a shotgun of all things.

    “Er… Thank you” Ben said unsure what to make of it. Ben knew that Albrecht was an avid hunter, forester, and deer researcher, he had even authored several books on the subject. Ben just hoped that this wasn’t the Bavarian King trying to rope him into that part of his circle.

    “Take a closer look Benjamin” Albrecht said as he removed the two halves of the gun from its case and assembled it before handing it to Ben open. “It’s a product of a more civilized era.”

    That was when Ben noticed that it had Luftwaffe inspection stamps as well as proof marks from Sauer & Sohn. There were two shotgun barrels, which Ben had seen first, but underneath them was a third barrel for what looked like a large-bore rifle. Ben had been taught to shoot a rifle in training which felt like it had been an eternity ago. This was entirely different than the G44 rifles that the military used, and this could not have been more different. With the walnut stock, blued barrels, and case-hardened receiver along with the engravings it was incredibly elegant, more of a piece of artwork than a weapon.

    “Back in the 20’s and 30’s Luftwaffe Aircrews were venturing into very remote parts of Africa and Asia” Albrecht said, “There were also the well-known trouble spots like the Arabian Desert or China. They needed to be able to defend themselves from whatever they might encounter. This was one of the solutions for a time. It is rather rare, only a couple hundred were ever made.”

    “I cannot accept this” Ben said as he closed the breech and saw a leaf sight for the rifle pop up when he pushed the safety in the wrong direction by mistake.

    “Nonsense” Albrecht said, “It is a piece of the history of your Service Branch and besides, in the old days a King would give a Knight of the Realm a sword in these circumstances. You don’t seem like the type who would be too interested in that.”

    “That sounds like something that Kiki’s brother Michael would say” Ben said, and Albrecht just laughed.

    “Who do you think gave me the idea?” Albrecht asked as he took the gun from Ben and with practiced ease broke it down and put it back in its case.

    Finike, Turkey

    The helicopter was flying low over the ocean and Karl was looking out the open door at the rapidly approaching coastline. The pilot was giving him updates about what he could see and the situation in the other helicopters that were carrying the rest of the Company. Despite everything that had happened, Karl still thought that someone else was being addressed when they spoke to Hauptmann Dunkel.

    Often in the past, Karl had found that in moments like this it was better not to think too much about things. The trouble was that his job these days to think. After he had gotten himself into a whole heap of trouble in Argentina, Uncle Tilo had told him that he could either go to the brig or else accept a meritorious promotion and everything that went with it. It seemed that leading two Squads of Marines in the assault of a likely enemy strongpoint during a contested landing was the sort of thing which got the attention of High Command. The Marine Infantry desperately needed leaders and Karl had proven that he was one with his actions.

    With the Marine Infantry left chasing after the Panzer Divisions in the rapid advance across Argentina, Karl had been left with a lot of time to think about that. The 3rd MID had only played a tangential role in the Battle of Paso de San Francisco and had been waiting for further orders when the Patagonian War had ended. It had been Karl’s hope that he had been forgotten but there was no such luck. He had been shoved on a plane bound for Mürwik so that he could try to make up for his appalling lack of formal education and learn a thing or two in the process. What he found was basically a theme park, the Naval version of Disneyland. This wasn’t helped by him being at least a few years older than almost everyone else present. There were also the awards he had won in combat as well as the victory medals from Korea, Poland, and Argentina.

    Karl had finally made it through all of that, barely. Now a couple years later, Karl was leading a Company that had been tasked with evacuating Medical personnel, volunteers from the International Red Cross/Red Crescent. With the Turkish Army falling back, the medics were caught in no-mans-land and there was a lot of concern over what the Greeks were going to do when they overran the hospital. It remained to be seen what would happen with Leutnant Raeder, the alleged great-grandson of the Grand Admiral from the Second World War who was only a few months out of the Academy.
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    Part 142, Chapter 2455
  • Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Five

    3rd May 1976

    Finike, Turkey

    His name was actually Erich Johann Albert Freiherr von Raeder IV, but he was not about to tell those around him that. Instead, he had just told them that his name was Erich Raeder the same as his great-grandfather, and they had accepted that at face value. He already had enough trouble as it was without jokes about an aristocratic name being thrown around. The men only did what he asked because he was the Leutnant in charge of the 1st Platoon. The two Stabsfeldwebels who commanded the 2nd and 3rd Platoons had made it clear that the smartest move he could make was to keep out of their way which showed exactly how much authority he actually had within the Company.

    As the helicopters landed in the early morning hours at what the briefing had was a resort town on the Mediterranean Erich had a bit of time to think how he had ended up here. His name had been enough to get him into the Naval Academy, but he had swiftly learned as his father and grandfather had, his great-grandfather was an impossible act to follow. Erich remembered that his grandfather had been a dull man, content with his bureaucratic job at the High Seas Fleet Headquarters in Kiel for decades until he finally retired, only to die of a heart attack a few months later. His father had been more ambitious but had been stymied by the politics of the Navy and his own pigheaded stubbornness. Erich’s father resigned when he learned that his next posting would likely be counting penguins at Wilhelm Station, the infamous research station in Antarctica.

    With that knowledge, Erich had tried to sidestep what had become the family curse of mediocracy by opting for the Marine Infantry. It had only been a few minutes after arriving in Cuxhaven that he learned that he had hardly beaten the curse but had taken it right in the teeth. The training for aspiring Officers was supposed to supplement what they had already learned at Mürwik. The Feldwebels that were in charge of the program made sure that it was all that, with a massive amount of merciless abuse, brutality, and heaps of sadism thrown in. It had come as a relief when that had finally come to an end, only to get assigned to the 3rd Marine Infantry Division under the command of Hauptmann Karl Dunkel.

    Erich remembered the brief period of time that the Mustang Officer had spent at Mürwik. Threatening to shoot anyone who dared to wake him too early, paying someone to take care of his kit, even make his bed, and how the Academy Faculty seemed to have completely ignored all of that. Erich just knew that he found Hauptmann Dunkel absolutely terrifying and the Company Mother, Hauptfeldwebel Nguyen, who was never far from Dunkel’s side wasn’t much better. Erich found himself in the constant presence of Oberfeld Muller, who he was certain had been tasked by Dunkel to keep him from messing things up as well as being one of the Squad Leaders of his Platoon.

    The task was to evacuate the personnel of the Hospital, which was run by the International Red Cross. The trouble was the anyone capable of walking out had headed east down the Coastal Highway hours earlier. The remaining patents were those who couldn’t, and the Hospital’s Staff were refusing to leave them even knowing that noncombatant status didn’t exactly mean a whole lot in this particular war. That was why Hauptmann Dunkel was arguing with the Hospital’s Director as Erich approached.

    Any second, half the Greek Army was going to arrive, and they were not going to want to be there when that happened.


    The reason for the addition of the SMS Jupiter, a Landing Craft Tender that had been anchored off Cyprus swiftly became apparent as the Marine Infantry got themselves into a bind ashore. The evacuation of a few dozen Medical Personnel had gotten snarled by the presence of dozens of patents. The Doctors were refusing to leave without them and the Hauptmann in charge of the Marines had been unable to convince them otherwise. So, they had a lot of unpalatable choices to make.

    Louis Ferdinand Junior ordered his ships to General Quarters. There was a single Company of Marines ashore and Intelligence said that several Greek Divisions were moving into Finike from the West. The three Corvettes and Fleet Torpedo Boat were a serious force multiplier, but not that much of one. If the Greek Army made a fight of it, it was Louis’ hope that he could buy the Marines enough time to retreat. It would also give the diplomats in Constantinople, Athens, and Berlin a major headache. Not that Louis minded too much though, the Greeks had gotten away with wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing for entirely too long because the Turks were just as bad. It was long past time for them to have that come around and bite them on the ass.

    Louis ordered the launch of one of the ship’s Cuckoo drones. If it came down to it, they would need the drone for artillery spotting if it came to it. A few minutes later, Louis heard as the ship’s sections reported in one by one. Out in front of the bridge the 12.8 Centimeter gun swung towards the shore. Louis knew that the 40mm Bofors guns would be making similar moves, while they would not be able to pack the punch of the main gun they more than made up for it in volume. He held his breath for a moment, waiting to see what was going to happen next.
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