Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread II

Part 69, Chapter 995
  • Chapter Nine Hundred Ninety-Five

    15th January 1953

    Washington D.C.

    When Finley had been told that Nancy Jensen had been spotted boarding the train to Chicago the day before he had been happy. That was the first leg on the journey that would take her back to whatever rain-soaked Podunk logging town she came from. Today, the Office of the Inspector General had made sure that he wasn’t so happy. He had been forced to explain why Miss Jensen was unavailable for questioning. Then he had to explain why he had suspended her and how he had disregarded Miss Jensen’s dutiful reporting of her contacts with foreign persons. The investigator had been far less than impressed with Finley’s explanations. “Who gives a shit about where her grandmother came from and you wanting to settle an old score is not a good enough reason for your actions” He had said. Then the Investigator had the nerve to say that Finley had jeopardized the entire process.

    It had gotten steadily worse after that. If Miss Jensen had taken the National Limited to Chicago, then boarded a connecting train to the West Coast it might be several days before she turned up and not necessarily in Spokane or Seattle. She had a brother in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Investigators now had to wait until Miss Jensen turned up before they could subpoena her as a witness and they were blaming Finley for that wait.

    Montreal, Canada

    It had taken a few minutes for Nancy to find her contact in when she had stepped off the train at the station in Buffalo, New York. It was a bit of a haze after that as she had been shoved into the back of a waiting truck and driven across a bridge. Then she had been shoved onto an airplane and flown into Montreal.

    “Welcome to the Special Branch of the RCMP Miss Jensen” Was what Sir Malcolm had said as soon she stepped into his office. She recognized his voice as the man she had been talking to when she had called MacGregor Farms.

    “Thank you, Sir” Nancy replied.

    “You’re safe now” Sir Malcolm said, “Our southern neighbors go through periods where they sort of go collectively insane about once a generation.”

    Nancy held her tongue, she was one of those “southern neighbors” but she could hardly disagree with him after what had happened.

    “My Daughter-in-Law speaks highly of you” Sir Malcolm said.

    Nancy almost asked who that was when she made the connection and realized what Sir Malcolm would look like if he didn’t have the beard and was thirty years younger. This was Douglas Blackwood’s father.

    “I’m terribly sorry” Nancy said, “I haven’t slept in days and…”

    She trailed off, unsure of what to say.

    “That was the other thing that Katherine said” Sir Malcolm said, “That you were one of the few innocents who had found your way into our world and that she felt that we owed it to you to help you get out of it if the chance presented itself.”

    Again, it took a few seconds to understand what that meant.

    “I’m not a spy” Nancy said, “I am… er, was an analyst in Y&R”

    “I understand you were a good one too” Sir Malcolm said, “Now you need to figure out what to do with the rest of your life, hopefully with better coworkers in the future.”

    When Sir Malcolm said that, it was a reminder that the instant Nancy had crossed into Canada she had burnt every bridge back to her old life. But what choice did she have? If she had been questioned it would have taken an interrogator seconds to zero in on the information that she had withheld because revealing it would have hurt the people that she cared about. Then she realized what was going to be said about her to her family. Her mother might understand, she had practically ordered Nancy to do this. Alan would never forgive her. She would probably never see either of them again.

    “You’ll be my guest tonight” Sir Malcolm said, “Asia Lawniczak is supposed to be coming for you tomorrow.”

    That was a bit of a surprise, but Nancy supposed that it was inevitable that the Mistress of Keys would need to delegate eventually.

    London Airport

    “You really should consider this an honor for you” Manfred said as he walked with Ilse towards the waiting car. To Manfred, who was letting her hold his arm, she felt about as tense as a steel spring. Ilse had been invited to give a presentation about the effects of environmental pollution before the British Parliament and Manfred had come along for moral support. The problem was that every part of the trip involved walking some distance in open air and Ilse would be running the risk of being paralyzed by fear.

    Recently, Manfred had looked into the place where Ilse had spent her childhood and swiftly regretted it. His thoughts about how there were some things that grown men had difficulty enduring were confirmed. The fact that it had been children the same ages as his grandchildren had endured things that might even be considered worse was something that he considered an atrocity.

    With a touch of distaste Manfred saw that the Press was out in force. He knew how to deal with them, not having been camera shy in his youth. Ilse was a different matter.

    “Count von Richthofen, what is your interest in this matter?” One of the reporters asked as Manfred helped Ilse into the car, he then turned and faced the gathered reporters. He repeated something that he had said to Ilse when they had discussed this matter on the airplane.

    “I think that the events of the last month should be a wakeup call for all of humanity” Manfred said, “The Great Smog killed Kings and Commoners alike with no regard. We need to think about the way we do things and change what we can.”

    “What is your relationship with Doctor Elisabeth von Mischner?”

    Manfred had to work to hide his annoyance at that question. Leave it to the British Press to try to find something salacious.

    “She is the youngest sister of my Son-in-Law” Manfred replied, “I personally think of her like I would any of my other three daughters.”

    With that Manfred got into the car ignoring the other shouted questions.

    “Thank you” Ilse said as soon as he closed the door.

    “What for?” Manfred asked.
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    Part 69, Chapter 996
  • Chapter Nine Hundred Ninety-Six

    19th January 1953

    Washington D.C.

    One day before the Inauguration and for Truman it was one headache after another. When he had started to suspect that a sabotage program had occurred, he had requested an investigation. The problem was that while the initial investigation had come up empty, things had still swiftly gotten out of hand. The Justice Department had failed to understand that they were to root out the individuals who were responsible, if they could find them, instead they had seemed intent to piss off upwards a quarter to a third of the population. Then there had been the opportunists who had rushed in and started using the situation to settle old scores. Truman had been hearing stories about various Government workers who had fled the capital because they knew that they wouldn’t get a fair shake. Wherever they had gone, most of them were being very quiet, lest they confirm in the public's mind what they were being accused of. There were rumblings in the Upper Midwest where upwards half the population was unhappy with what was going on. To the point where their Representatives in the House and Senatate were starting to speak up. The respective State Governments of Wisconsin and Minnesota had passed resolutions condemning what was being termed the “Kraut Scare” which annoyed Truman because starting it had never been his intention.

    Then there were the problems that had existed prior to this mess. Those not only had not gone away but had been compounded by recent events. While Klan was best known for hating blacks, they really hated anyone who didn’t look like the hayseed under the hood. They suddenly remembered that they disliked Jews, Catholics and anyone whose name sounded funny to them.

    The League of Nations was holding a hard line on Mexico. Constitution, elections, and economic reform in exactly that order. They were holding up Ukraine as an example of what was possible and to Truman’s disgust the business community continued to be unhappy with that development. Increasingly he was reminded of the sorts of things that the Labor Union activists said about why prevailing wage laws and solidarity were needed. When business could mistreat workers somewhere it tended to undermine workers everywhere. Mexico and the border states had been exactly that sort of place for decades. At the same time Truman knew that his being seen as supporting the LN too much would be unpalatable for much of the American public, so he was having to walk a tightrope.

    For Truman, it was funny how being elected to the highest office had shown him exactly what the limits of power really were.

    Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany

    Nancy was sitting in the Headquarters of Volkswagen, even here she thought she could smell grease and and hot metal. Though it could just as easily be her mind playing tricks on her. She’d had no idea where she was going to end up, but this had never once crossed her mind.

    “You are already badly compromised and to a large degree that is my fault” Kat had said, “I will not be responsible for you digging yourself any deeper into the hole you’re in.”

    So, Nancy had been given no choice in the matter. Kat had called in several favors and a job had been found for Nancy where she could use her skillset without crossing any more lines she couldn’t uncross. She just had to meet with her prospective employer first and Kat had made it very clear that if she was going to stay as a guest in her house then Nancy drowning her sorrows was not going to be acceptable.

    Kat had also made it clear that for her talking to the BND, BII or anyone from the OKW was forbidden. They knew it and now she knew it too. If Nancy was approached she was to tell them nothing and to go straight to Kat. She was also to wait to reestablish her life before she dared to contact Tilo. According to Kat and her own sources. The US Government was looking for her, not as criminal defendant but as a potential witness regarding the infiltration of the US Government by foreign interests. As far as they knew she was sitting on a beach in California.

    Instead, Kat had coached Nancy on the story she was going to tell the world. When Nancy was suspended from her job at State she had still needed to make a living, so it was perfectly plausible that she would take a job with private industry. Volkswagen was good fit for her because they were looking to expand into the North American market.

    “Pleased to meet you Fraulein Jensen” Ernst Preis said as Nancy entered his office. “The Gräfin said a lot of good things about you.” Nancy had been told that this man was the head of the Promotions Department.

    “Thank you” Nancy replied.

    “She also mentioned your recent difficulties and you have my complete sympathy” Preis said.

    “About that” Nancy said, “Kat, er, the Gräfin said that you were looking to expand sales in America. How is that possible?”

    Preis gave her a sly look, “Eventually, people will remember that commerce is king” He said, “Politics seldom stands for long when there is money to be made. Besides, North America isn’t just the United States. Canada and Mexico are both potential markets.”

    “That’s good, I guess” Nancy said, “But what would you need me for?”

    “It’s quite simple, we need someone who can understand a market and spot trends” Preis replied, “Much like what you were doing before, but instead of speculating about who is screwing who, you’ll be trying to figure out who wants to buy a car and what features will get them to close the deal.”

    That was a bit of crude spin to put on it, but Nancy realized that was exactly what she had been doing in the State Department. On several different levels.
    Part 68, Chapter 997
  • Chapter Nine Hundred Ninety-Seven

    1st February 1953

    Off Zeeland, Netherlands

    The SMS Prinzessin Kristina had no sooner come out of refit then she had been pressed into service. That wasn’t the only thing that had come as a surprise for Peter. It was learning that the ship’s namesake had tried to talk her way aboard when she had put to sea from Wilhelmshaven early that morning. No one expected that an eleven-year-old Princess would have been able to do a whole lot. Mostly what they were doing was treating hypothermia and trying to figure out what to do with people who had been rescued from the storm surge that occurred the night before, inundating a large part of the Netherlands.

    Still, Peter in his capacity as a General in the Medical Corps had issued a press release commending Kristina for her civic mindedness and making in known that if she was still interested in a few years when she got older the JMC would be more than happy to have her. He also mentioned that this reflected well upon the mentor of the Princess who had been working to instill such values without mentioning her name. Everyone knew that cats didn’t like it when they were the center of attention, Peter thought to himself with a touch of amusement. He had heard that beyond the Joint Medical Corps thousands of men in the Heer, Luftwaffe, the Pioneer Corps and the KM had been sent into the Netherlands for the relief effort in one of the largest emergency mobilizations since the end of the Second World War.

    Peter heard the sound of the helicopter before he saw it. It might have been painted in KM colors, but the red crosses left no doubts as to mission involved. As he watched the Marine Infantry started to unload several stretchers and there was a Major who seemed to be in command. He recognized the pallid skin of those too cold to even be shivering and a few with splinted arms and legs. Wherever the Marines had found these people it was clear to Peter that it had been in the nick of time. With that the helicopter took off as Peter started the task of assessing the new arrivals. Mostly it was a matter of getting them out of the cold and damp and into dry clothes. Severe cases were a bit tricky, if someone had stopped breathing then heroic methods needed to be applied quickly. To Peter it seemed like something greater than just medicine. With techniques pioneered just a few years earlier it looked like they were bringing the dead back to life. He knew the truth though, they were doing no such thing. As Peter finished sorting through the injured he heard the sound of another helicopter and ran to the fantail. As soon as he arrived he saw that this one was painted in the colors of the Belgian Army. These were strange times Peter was living in, he had to give it that.

    Schouwen-Duiveland, Netherlands

    “What a damned waste” Stefan heard Jost say as they as they found yet another field full of drowned livestock. Cattle this time. In the search and rescue effort, this had been the bulk of what they were finding as the waters receded. They had seen in the distance the frantic efforts of the Pioneer Corps to repair the dykes.

    “Just be glad that happened now and not August” Stefan replied, “Could you imagine the smell?”

    “It couldn’t be worse than the battlefields during the Soviet War” Jost said as they plodded through the soggy fields. “Your brother ever tell you about that?”

    “No” Stefan answered.

    “Diesel fuel, rotting bodies, sewage and dust” Jost said, “That is what it smelled like. It’s hard to get a smell like that out of your head.”

    Since Stefan had made it back from Mexico, Staber Schultz had behaved differently towards him. It wasn’t just because of his elevation in rank. It was a question of respect. When Stefan had led a Platoon into Mexico City he had proven himself to the Staber. It was fortunate because when he had returned to Wunsdorf-Zossen he had found his personal life had grown complicated. When he had been in Mexico, word had gotten around that he and Nizhoni were an item. To the Officer’s wives who made up the Social Set of the Garrison town it was to sort of thing that fueled gossip and speculation. To them he was a member of one up and coming family courting the daughter of another, a romantic match between Stefan and Nizhoni was a sort of fairy tale in real life. General von Horst had said nothing, but Nina had been not so subtle in her prodding Stefan to get around to asking the question.

    “Hey, Spanish rules you idiots!” Jost yelled as they approached a farmhouse.

    Spanish rules were a slang term for the regulations that had been adopted by the Heer at the start of the Spanish War governing the conduct of units in the field towards civilian populations. In the decade and a half since, those rules had been adopted by the other nations in the European Defense Pact as well. Here in the Netherlands, what it looked like in practice was knocking on the front door as a warning, before they kicked it in.

    Looking at the front of the farmhouse, Stefan could see a line on the wall which had been the high-water mark here up around the eaves. As it was the water looked like it was still ankle deep around the back of the house. He heard the crash of the front door being kicked in.

    “Lieutenant, you need to see this” Came the call from inside the house.

    As much as Stefan steeled himself for what was inside, he still wasn’t prepared to see what looked like three generations of a family having drowned in their beds.

    “Get on the radio and call this in” Stefan said, “Someone has to know who these people are.”
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    Part 68, Chapter 998
  • Chapter Nine Hundred Ninety-Eight

    1st February 1953

    London, England

    The two weeks of lectures that Ilse had given in London about her findings on the effects of coal smoke and environmental pollution had been successful. After the events of December, it was hardly a surprise that she would find a receptive audience. If that was going to result in legislative action had yet to be seen. What wasn’t so great was that word had leaked out that Doctor Elisabeth von Mischner, visiting scholar, suffered from agoraphobia and anxiety. It bothered Ilse because she feared that it enabled the people who were skeptical of her findings to completely disregard them. Like if Ilse feeling like her heart was going to explode if she walked into an open space changed anything about her observations and her papers that had been peer reviewed.

    Graf von Richthofen had been a big help to her. Especially when he had said he thought of Ilse as being like one of his own daughters. Still though, she recalled over Christmas the reaction that she had received when she had been talking to Albrecht. Ilse hardly needed a reminder that there were sharp limits as to how welcome she was in any given situation. It was something that Ilse was reminded of frequently, the fact that she was an orphan and illegitimate daughter was always there in the back of her mind. She liked Albrecht though, he was smart, funny and had some of the most incredible stories about flying off aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Mexico. Albrecht also had enough of a grounding in science that Ilse could talk freely about her work without having his eyes glaze over the longer she talked.

    Tomorrow she was going to fly back to Berlin, something that she was not looking forward to. It was because it seemed like airports were filled with the sorts of things that caused her the most anxiety, crowds and open spaces. Today, she had an audience with the Queen of England on a stormy morning. While she waited for Elizabeth, apparently something big was going on and it was being debated if the Queen herself needed to address it herself. Ilse found that she had been left in the company of Alberta Georgia. The current Heir Presumptive was like Kat had described her, a shy and reclusive girl. Ilse could see that as she grew heredity had not done Alberta any favors. Blond hair and ears that poked out through it. She seemed to be long-boned, but her face had remained round. Essentially, Alberta was cursed to have the quintessential British appearance.

    “What have you there?” Ilse asked when she saw that Alberta was carrying a book that she was hugging close to her. With a bit of reluctance Alberta showed her that it was a dogeared and worn copy of the House on Pooh Corner.

    “I’ve read it” Ilse said with a smile, “It’s a very lovely book.”

    Alberta looked at her, a touch confused, “But you're grownup?” she asked, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

    “Yeah, so” Ilse said, “I wasn’t always, and I love good stories.”

    With that Alberta climbed into the chair next to Ilse and handed her the book.

    “You know this by heart, don’t you?” Ilse said as she opened it at random. In Which It Is Shown That Tiggers Don’t Climb Trees was the chapter title. Alberta nodded vigorously in answer to Ilse’s question.

    “And the other book” Alberta said softly. Clearly referring to Winnie-the-Pooh.

    There was a flash of light and Ilse heard the sound of film being advanced in the camera. As Alberta withdrew back into herself it was all Ilse could do not to curse out the photographer. Didn’t these people have any idea how lonely the lives of children forced to grow up in a fishbowl were?

    “Her Highness will see you now” One of the footmen said. It was Ilse’s understanding that George the VI was regarded as one of the casualties of the Great Smog high daughter was extremely interested in what Ilse had to say. It was Ilse’s hope that perhaps she would have a powerful patron if the Queen was interested. Alberta just went back to her book as Ilse handed it back to her.

    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Perhaps in Jeb hadn’t gotten sick things would have been different. Instead, while Bush had been pursuing a fortune in Mexico one of his sons had been stricken with an unknown illness and passed away. Needless to say, Barbara had been unhappy with the last several turns of events. For her that was the last straw. He returned to Argentina with Barb and the kids gone. The lawyer she had hired had made it clear that if he contested the divorce then they were prepared to tell several Governments in the world exactly what his activities over the prior years had been and where to find him. It was brutal and to the point.

    Hours later, Bush was seated in the sitting room of the house that he still owned, drinking rum and watching the sunset. He could only presume that Barbara had returned to her parents and was busy teaching their children to say how much they despised him. Hardly a surprise there.

    What exactly had he been hoping to accomplish? Was the question that was rolling through his mind. In South Africa he had clearly been playing a bunch of mouth-breathers who wanted to live in the last century. In Mexico, he had made a mistake by getting personally involved with what had been going on there. Live and learn, he thought to himself bitterly.
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    Part 69, Chapter 999
  • Chapter Nine Hundred Ninety-Nine

    5th February 1953


    “This Gentlemen, is Gertraud. She happens to be the first living specimen to have been successfully retrieved from Earth Orbit” Wernher von Braun said, referring to the guinea pig in the cage as they continued the tour of the research facility.

    No one dared to mention that there had been a couple other guinea pigs before Gertraud who had not been nearly as fortunate. Wernher von Braun hated to be reminded of that and the multitude of jokes about roasted pork that had followed. For Albrecht, his involvement in combat missions being done for now, he had been ordered back to Peenemünde so that he could resume his role in the Atgeir Project. He was also reminded that he was von Schmidt’s spy inside the program. Regardless of the outward appearances, the Kaiserliche Marine and the Luftwaffe were rivals for funding and prestige. Atgeir had the potential to be an opportunity for both, provided that a large heap of monkey meat didn’t get served up next to the roast pork that is.

    When Albrecht had gotten here he had discovered that he was now one of dozen men left in the program, out of a thousand who had started. His reputation had been burnished by the carrier missions that he had flown over Mexico.

    Over Christmas Albrecht had dealt with the usual parental disapproval. His father didn’t like that he was in the Navy and his mother felt that at the age of twenty-nine and the only surviving son of his father he had certain obligations. Then he had started talking to Ilse von Mischner and that had turned everything on its head. The youngest sister of his Brother-in-Law was interesting, she had recently completed her Doctorate in Biology and Chemistry. Unlike the girls that his mother had generally tried to fix him up with Ilse could carry on a conversation for more than five minutes about serious topics. As it turned out his mother did want him to settle down but only with the right sort of girl. Something that Ilse was not. Just the fact that she was struggling to overcome a past that Albrecht’s father said was pretty dark was proof of that from his parent’s perspective. What they didn’t seem aware of was that darkness was a part of what made Ilse interesting.


    “The newspaper said that I could volunteer for the Medical Corps in a few years” Kiki said excitedly.

    “I think that Doctor Holz was trying to be diplomatic” Gia said.

    When Gia had arrived in Hohenzollern Palace it had felt like coming home which had surprised her. Having Kiki with her friends, Zella and Aurora in her suite of rooms was different. When Gia had left for New York Kiki had her brothers had been children. Now, they had radically changed. Freddy was going to be fourteen in a few days, and Mikey was about to turn thirteen, awkward teenagers. Kiki was still rail thin, but it was clear that she was rapidly developing. Today, the girls had decided that they would sit in the solarium, drink tea and act grown up. To Gia, they still came across like children pretending. Gia’s hope was that they wouldn’t lose that innocence for a long time and not be in such a hurry to grow up.

    “You are really a Russian Princess” Aurora asked.

    Gia smiled at that, “My Grandfather was the Czar and now my Cousin is” She said, “My fondest hope is that Georgy lives to a hundred and has a dozen sons so that no one ever suggests that I be Czarina ever again.”

    “Momma said that all you’ve ever wanted to be was a journalist” Zella said.

    For Gia it had been Zella who had been the biggest surprise. She had the hazel eyes and the russet colored hair of her father but except for that she looked almost exactly like a much younger Maria Acker.

    “That’s true enough” Gia replied, “But when that went away I had to make other plans.”

    “Like what?” Zella asked.

    “I don’t know” Gia said, “I’m still trying to work that out.”

    The girls all laughed at that.

    “What is so funny?” Gia asked.

    “That is why adults are always asking children what they want to do when they grow up” Aurora said, “They’re looking for ideas.”

    “Who told you that?” Gia asked.

    “Poppa” Aurora said.

    That sounded like the sort of thing that Robert Capa would say. Right up there with his stated desire to remain an unemployed war photographer.


    Kat watched as the men of the 1st Imperial Foot completed the changing of the Guard outside the Hohenzollern Palace. The new Guards took their positions and the old Guards marched in the direction of the Barracks. There had not been a wasted move through the entire ceremony. It was with a bit of annoyance that there was a crowd of tourists there watching the proceedings. Gawking and taking photographs.

    “They’ve done well, von Mischner” The Oberst said, “I know you’ve put in a lot of work to make them more than just ceremonial troops.”

    “Thank you, Sir” Kat replied.

    “I’m sure that you’ve heard by now that Oberstlieutenant Ctirad is retiring” The Oberst said.

    “I’d heard” Kat said.

    “Any thought about you becoming the new Executive Officer” The Oberst said.

    “I never thought that I would get asked” Kat replied.

    “Any reason why?”

    “I can think of a couple.”

    “Most Officers have children von Mischner” The Oberst said.

    “That wasn’t what I was referring to, Sir.”

    “Perhaps” The Oberst said, “But it is what I would prefer to think.”
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    Part 69, Chapter 1000
  • Chapter One Thousand

    9th February 1953


    “Birthdays are important milestones” Louis Ferdinand said to Freddy as they walked through the Kronprinzenpalais which sat across the river from the Hohenzollern Palace. Later, they would return for Freddy’s birthday party, but this needed to be done first.

    The Crown Prince’s Palace had sat empty for a number of years and there had even been talk of converting it into a museum. Today, plans were being made for it to be refurbished and modernized for when Freddy came of age. From the look of things, they would probably have just enough time for that. However, walking through this immense pile of stone with his father reminded Freddy if the things that he had wanted for as long as he could remember. For years Freddy had dreamed of being a paratrooper, perhaps a sailor or a professional Footballer. These days he realized that he was expected to follow his father and that would make being out seeking adventures difficult. Not that he wasn’t planning on going on plenty of adventures when he had the chance. Instead, Freddy had realized that for him the future would involve going to University. Gräfin Katherine had been to only one who he had told his plans to and she had seemed incredibly relieved when she had heard that. She had then said that everyone had figured that he would run off to join the Fallschirmjäger the first chance he got.

    Katherine had discussed with him the various options he had, then Kat had told Freddy about what his father had done in his youth. Spending time with business leaders and industrialists. Dating movie stars in Hollywood. Learning how the world worked. The rub was that Louis Ferdinand had done all of that before he had been heir to the throne and the death of Freddy’s Uncle Wilhelm had changed everything. Freddy had realized that he would need his Abitur at the earliest possible date. Then University for Law, Economics and International Relations plus anything else he could think of. Katherine had said that he should take his time and study what he wanted because no one knew what the future held. Freddy knew that Katherine was referring to Gia, who had wanted to be a Journalist but now just seemed lost these days. Katherine had then pointed out that Freddy wasn’t exactly the greatest of students. For him that was a bit embarrassing, everyone who knew him was aware of that.

    “I lived here with your Aunts and Uncles here while your Grandfather was still Crown Prince” Louis said.

    “Uncle Wilhelm didn’t use this much?” Freddy asked.

    “He wasn’t Crown Prince for long” Louis answered, “He preferred to be an Officer in the Heer and lived in Posen.”

    That was an odd bit of family history. Freddy’s Great Grandfather had decided that his name was cursed after the untimely death of Wilhelm the III and the death by misadventure of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Spain. He had made the entire family swear that there would never be another Wilhelm in the family. In the years since, that had been compounded by the publishing of the memoirs of Duchess Cecilie. She had made sure that the whole world knew that Wilhelm the III was a womanizing libertine. Crown Prince Wilhelm on the other hand had put aside privilege and volunteered to fight in Spain. He had died after getting shot on the road to Madrid. An investigation had concluded that it had it had probably not even been aimed at him, Uncle Wilhelm had just been unlucky that day.

    “What am I supposed to do with this place?” Freddy asked, knowing that it wasn’t what he wanted.

    “Whatever you want” Louis said, “Consider this a larger version of that room you have in the attic.”

    Freddy had to laugh at the absurdity of that comparison. “I didn’t think you knew about that” He said.

    Gia and Katherine were the only two people he had shown it to.

    “There’s not a whole lot you do that I am unaware of” Louis said, “A couple weeks after you set it up Matthias Schmied went to see where you were going and found it.”

    “And no one said anything?” Freddy asked.

    “There was no point, and everyone thought it was good for you to have.”

    Nevada Test Range, North-West of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

    Despite the continuous delays the project had ground forward slowly. This time it had been done in the upmost security with the personnel carefully screened. The issue they had run into that they had not foreseen was that they had been getting increasing amounts of pushback from the scientific community. Even when presented with the idea that original tests had been sabotaged, Doctor Robert Oppenheimer had said that perhaps they had been saved from themselves. He had steadfastly refused to work on the project, sighting the dangerous presence of Edward Teller in the prior incarnation. While Oppenheimer himself was considered politically suspect, the hundreds who had followed his lead were not. Then when the British had conducted their test radioactive particles had been found for thousands of kilometers downwind. That had seemed to validate many of their concerns.

    However, the realities of the global balance of power had held sway. The German and British Empires were old world monarchies, where hereditary Kings were still a way of life had acquired nuclear weapons first and that was unacceptable. The United States needed to shore up its position as a world power and there was only one way to do that.

    On the early morning hours of the 9th of February, the device which fired a uranium slug into the core in the static test mount. As the resulting explosion lit up the night sky and the shockwaves raced through the globe, the world became an ever more dangerous place.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1001
  • Chapter One Thousand One

    15th February 1953


    “The former Prime Minister of Romania has died” Kat read aloud.

    “Normally we send condolences to the families” Kira replied. The Romanians had been allies of Germany for decades and King Michael of Romania was a cousin of Louis Ferdinand, as well as the head of a Cadet Branch of the House of Hohenzollern. That didn’t mean that Kira liked them. Their constant squabbling with Hungary, also allied with Germany, had caused no end of headaches over the previous four decades. The former Prime Minster in question had been at the center of all of that for two of those decades. The death of Iuliu Maniu at the age of eighty was another geopolitical minefield to be negotiated.

    “I will make the proper arrangements” Kat said.

    “Thank you” Kira said, the less she had to think about that the happier she would be.

    Kat looked down to the next story. “Congressman Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin declares Kraut Scare bogus.”

    Kira found that incredibly amusing. “He is not stupid” She said, “Half of Wisconsin is proudly German, you remember when we were there during the war.”

    Kat had said in the past that it was an aspect of that region of the United States that had left her cold. It seemed like the people there had an off-kilter view of Germany like it had been during the nineteenth century. Fortunately, she had her hands full with the Kira’s security and the discovery that Kira was pregnant partway through that trip to say anything untoward. This announcement by the Congressman, no matter how self-serving was in keeping with a document that Kat said she had been handed in preparation for today’s briefing by the BND. Of the people of theirs who were embedded in the US Government, few had been discovered. Instead, it seemed like relative innocents were getting swept up and the Agencies of the US Government were stupidly purging themselves of people knowledgeable of European affairs. According to Kat, a friend of hers had been one of those innocents.

    “I remember” Kat replied, “The BND suggests that you make no public announcements and strongly recommends that you keep your Hands out of the United States.”

    “That makes sense” Kira said, “Have Asia and Kris been informed?”

    “Yes” Kat said, “I think that Kris was disappointed, she had a lot of fun in San Francisco last spring.”

    “An unattached young woman in a city full of University students” Kira said, “I’m amazed she had time to complete the mission.”

    Kat just shrugged. Kira knew that Kris seldom had trouble keeping focused, still Kris had said that she had found Stanford University and UC Berkeley daunting because of the social aspect of American Universities. The alternative was Asia, whose silent nature would have drawn the worst sort of attention to her in that environment.

    It was noticeable that they were not talking about the recent detonation of an atomic bomb in the Nevada Desert. Kat had already made her feelings clear on the subject. A couple weeks earlier Kat had slipped and told Kira that wars killed people like her. If there was another war, Kira would be removed from the City, the people in the neighborhood where Kat had grown up would go to work and life would go on. Right up until the instant they were incinerated. Nuclear bombs seemed to exist with the express purpose of killing civilians by the hundreds of thousands. Kira could understand that, Louis had been suggesting that the League of Nations needed to get involved before the situation got out of hand.

    “I know that there are certain issues that bother you Katherine” Kira said, “I can always get someone else to discuss these matters.”

    Kat looked at her and shrugged. She seemed to be saying “Have it your way” without saying so.

    “France declares intention to develop nuclear arms” Kat read aloud. Kira almost groaned aloud with that news. That was possibly the worst of all worlds.


    “They always do that?” Aurora asked as they looked over at the Empress and the Gräfin as they sat at a table to one side of the Imperial Court deep in discussion. It was noticeable that the space was cordoned off and two armed men from the 1st Imperial Foot were standing there to keep anyone from getting too close.

    “If Katy is in town” Kiki said, “She is my mother’s Aide-de-Camp, she advises her on International events, Intelligence and Military matters.”

    “State secrets” Aurora said.

    “Some of it, yes” Kiki said, “Then she meets with Antonia, the Obersthofmeisterin who does the same thing except with politics. It’s like a mini meeting of the Order of Louise every week.”

    “Order of Louise?” Aurora asked. It was a reminder to Kiki that Aurora wasn’t really a part of the Imperial Court. Zella had declined to come this afternoon because she said she wasn’t feeling well. It was a reminder that what was happening to Zella was inevitably going to happen to them, at any time.

    “It’s a chivalrous order for women that my Mother is the Grand Mistress of” Kiki said, “Charity, politics and other things. Katy is in charge of the part of it that does those other things. They are constantly trying to expand their role in the State.”

    “That sounds exciting” Aurora said.

    When Kiki thought about what she had said, she realized that it did sound exciting.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1002
  • Chapter One Thousand Two

    4th March 1953

    North Sea

    The last few months in Scotland and on the North Sea had been fun, Carter though to himself with a bit of sarcasm, but it was becoming increasingly clear that wherever the SMS Bremen had gone it was doing it very quietly. A few days earlier the ONI had sent a memo suggesting that the Bremen must have headed back to port after it had broken contact with the USS Kendrick and Kaiserliche Marine had been laughing their heads off at the US British Navy ships that were attempting to locate the Bremen by slowly crisscrossing the North Sea during the wintertime and were getting tossed around. After the storm that had flooded the Netherlands the Brits had enough, they were tired of playing games with the Germans.

    Captain Evans had been a more stubborn, besides that, having the Kendrick off the Frisian Islands in international waters gathering signal intelligence was considered valuable. Mostly that had come as watching German sitcoms and news reports broadcasting out of Hamburg, Bremen and Wilhelmshaven. Jimmy Carter had watched those news reports as the German Kaiser and his wife as they looked over storm damage in the Netherlands or doing something like dedicating a library or a hospital. They looked like prosperous middle-aged couple rather than what Carter figured royalty would look like. Frequently, they were pictured with their oldest children, Crown Prince Friedrich in particular. They seemed like they were hardly the sort of spoiled brats one might think royalty would be. Michael was involved with equestrianism, the press liked to picture him on his horse, Onnosel. They were also playing up that Princess Kristina had attempted to volunteer to help in the Netherlands.

    When the German Kaiserin had conducted press conference that week there were two women flanking her, a Mistress of the Robes and a Mistress of the Keys. The later of the two was wearing a military uniform and she looked to be in her late twenties. That had caused some ribald comments until the Kendrick’s Intelligence Officer had pointed out that she had left two men bleeding on the sidewalk the one time the ONI had encountered her.

    The Germans had made their annoyance at presence of the Kendrick known by sending out S-Boats. Fast and designed for these waters they had circled the Kendrick, never getting close enough to cause an incident but close enough to be annoying. The idea that they could go thirty knots or more in rough seas seemed unnatural to Carter. Finally, Captain Evans had enough and had turned the Kendrick for home. They were headed back to Scotland to take on fuel before heading back to Boston.

    Carter was sitting in the control room listening to the hydrophone when he heard the SMS Bremen. He had been listening to the recordings of the Bremen for weeks, so he recognized her instantly. If she was here, then that meant that she was headed for either the entrance to the Wilhelm Canal or the Jade Bight. He picked up the phone and called up to the bridge. If they could get close enough to be there when the Bremen surfaced…

    Then radar said that they had a surface contact out of the Jade, something extremely big. And it was right where Carter had been about to suggest the Kendrick to go. Leaving the Control Room and going to the rail Carter saw a grey ship growing larger by the second. Looking through his binoculars Carter saw the unmistakable triple tiers of antiaircraft guns and four turrets. As she drew closer Carter saw that she was the SMS Preussen. She could eat the Kendrick for breakfast without breaking a sweat. Then in the distance Carter saw a wake and the Bremen broke the surface. He couldn’t get a good look because the Preussen had interposed herself between the Kendrick and the Bremen. Looking up at the bridge Carter saw Captain Evans standing there coolly looking are the Preussen. They were still in International Waters and had every right to be here.

    When Carter looked again he saw that the Bremen had extended her periscope and saw that a broom was being lashed to it. The traditional way that submariners displayed that they were coming back to port after a victorious patrol, a US Navy tradition that the Germans sometimes made fun of when they knew they were being watched. Carter had a feeling that he was not going to be happy when he learned what that was all about.


    As the SMS Bremen came into Jade Bight, Otto Kretschmer felt quite a bit of triumph. The Helmsman had gotten a bit impatient towards the end and they had gotten lucky that they had been able to relay a message from the listening post on Saint Helena giving Fleet Headquarters an idea of when they would be coming in. The American Destroyer had been waiting out in the North Sea for the last three months and the SMS Preussen had come out and placed her bulk between them and the Destroyer.

    In Kretschmer’s opinion that shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. He just hoped that the Helmsman would learn from this experience. As they pulled into the Jade, all nonessential crew were topside. There was a huge crowd and there was a band playing. He saw a globe banner and flashbulbs going off. Apparently, the secrecy surrounding the travels of the SMS Bremen was being slightly put aside for now. They had sailed into the record books and it was good that the crew was going to get their day in the sun.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1003
  • Chapter One Thousand Three

    10th March 1953

    Moscow, Russia

    Georgy might have been the Czar of all the Russians but having Gennady Shvets in the room was a reminder of the limits on the power that he had. Shvets was who Georgy had appointed to advise him in certain matters. Having been the Warden of several prison camps in Siberia Shvets had emerged as an important figure as that region had become one of the economic drivers of Russia. In the years that he had worked directly for Georgy he had proven the adage about how in prisons the only difference between the guards and the prisoners was that they wore different colored uniforms. He was venal and corrupt, but Shvets was also completely loyal to Georgy. It was the only reason the Georgy had never considered getting rid of him. Loyalty was the rarest commodity in the Russian capital these days.

    “The issue isn’t the materials” Shvets said, “We’ve been selling uranium ore to the Germans for years, it happens to be worth more than gold and it’s been a big part of what’s keeping our treasury afloat, so some of the proposals would reverse that dynamic and we would lose out.”

    It was somewhat galling, until the court case in America had been settled recently it had been mostly in service to the debts racked by Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union. Now those were forgiven, it was probably because someone had realized that sucking any more blood would cause a new revolution. That happened to be the only thing in Russia that everyone agreed about and aside from a handful of Stalinists no one wanted it.

    “Jehane pointed out that recent events mean a new start for Russia the last time she talked to Lidiya” Georgy said, “Fiscally anyway.”

    “Smart girl” Shvets said, “Still think she should be married off?”

    “If it’s not her choice, then whoever I inflict her on will have a short, painful existence” Georgy replied. It was something that his people in New York had noticed, Jehane taught martial arts and was fond of shooting pistols. Everyone knew whose house Jehane had come of age in, so they had made sure to keep their distance. Shvets just laughed at that.

    “Regardless, we cannot afford to pursue a nuclear project on our own and as you know our friends play their cards very close to the vest” Shvets said.

    It was the maddening part about the Germans, everything they did seemed to be under the greatest of secrecy. They also remembered that they had fought two wars against Russia and were preparing for what Russia might be like in a few decades when Georgy was no longer the public face of Russia. On the other side was the State Duma and the Federal Council. They had constituents demanding that Russia be a rising power again, which was in direct contradiction with their financial situation. The recent international publicity surrounding the SMS Bremen had exasperated the situation and politicians liked to be able to tell people what they wanted to hear because that got them votes. Georgy was frequently finding himself in the position of being the father who had to say no a lot.

    Montreal, Canada

    As she walked down the stairs down to the tarmac Nancy thought that it felt strange to be back on the ground here, so close to America. She was supposed to meet Sir Malcolm’s driver on the other side of customs and was planning on staying in the Blackwood house tonight before going on to Toronto.

    The jet powered Condor III was a marvel, it had gotten her from Berlin to Montreal in less time than the older airliners she had flown in, because of increasing business in Canada there were now direct flights. In the month and half since she had started working for VW she had been buried in reports, mostly relating the demographics and potential market reach. Then she had discovered a memo stating something so obvious that it had gone right over everyone’s head. The Type 1 was affectionately known as the Beetle or Bug and had done well internationally. The Type 2 models that were built on the same chassis, including the Microbus and the new Karmann Ghia were doing well. The vehicle that was intended to be the replacement for the Type 1 Beetle though, the Föhn 1200, was having soft sales outside the German and Italian markets. The Bergwind, the strange four-wheel drive pickup truck based on the Föhn was enjoying robust sales in South Africa and Australia.

    The memo that Nancy had seen had suggested that there was a bit of confusion in markets where primarily English was spoken. In opinion surveys that had been conducted recently something had kept coming up again and again. “Föhn? As in telephone? Why would you name a car that?” It was Nancy’s job to figure out how to sell Föhn 1200s in North America and because she was the lowest person on the totem pole she was the one with the privilege of going all the way to the VW North America Headquarters in Toronto so that she could direct a new round of public opinion surveys that would find out what changes were necessary, there had been suggestions that the Föhn be renamed Rabbit for the North American Market but Nancy wasn’t sure that went far enough. If Nancy had to guess, the changes needed would involve putting an extremely inefficient, oversized engine under the hood and enough chrome to turn the cars into giant mirrors, perhaps fins…

    Then Nancy spotted them. men dark suits and bad haircuts waiting by entrance to customs. In theory they had no jurisdiction here, but just their presence suggested exactly what they thought of that.

    “A lot of people have been looking for you Miss Jensen” One of the men said as he handed her a document. Nancy saw the letterhead and knew instantly what it was, and her good mood vanished in a heartbeat. A subpoena to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Finley wasn’t satisfied with just firing her, he was intending to burn her life to the ground and stomp on the ashes.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1004
  • Chapter One Thousand Four

    17th March 1953


    “I think that it is a good first step, but I would urge caution” Doctor Glas said, “You can get hurt badly if you open yourself up.”

    Ilse had finally told Doctor Glas about meeting Albrecht, she wasn’t ready to tell her about meeting Alex and the other girls from the Orphanage outside these offices. Alex had told her the whole story, it was disturbing because Ilse had been there when it had happened. The incident that had shattered every bone on that side of Alex’s face, costing her an eye and many of her teeth. It had been over a spun glass figurine, Ilse remembered it but not what had happened to it. A seahorse, a trinket that Ilse had won at a fun fair. Delicate and beautiful, one of the older children had wanted it and Ilse had refused to give it up. A few hours later Alex was in the hospital and the seahorse was nothing but fragments.

    It was a very brutal environment to grow up in, Ilse had been forced to give a statement that it was a horrible accident. Alex had been extremely sympathetic about Ilse’s problems with anxiety and fear. Apparently, it was something that many of them were having problems with. Then there was that other issue…

    “I was told that you seek out adults who grew up in State care as a part of your research” Ilse stated.

    “Yes, that’s true” Doctor Glas said, “As a scientist yourself you have to understand the need for the right sort of subject.”

    “What is your control group?” Ilse said, “I don’t see how that is possible.”

    “The group that goes without treatment tends to develop anxiety problems” Doctor Glas said, “An otherwise healthy Doctoral Student suddenly stricken with severe agoraphobia, for example.”

    Ilse sat there with her jaw clinched. That was all too plausible, the control group was those too stubborn to seek help when they were falling apart. But that meant that…

    “You knew?” Ilse asked.

    “Your Doctoral Advisor told me that you were struggling” Doctor Glas said, “Finding out that you were a former Ward of the State and housed in Saint Anne’s School let me know what I was dealing with. Later, you came to me.”

    “My life isn’t an experiment” Ilse stated flatly.

    “I never said it was” Doctor Glas said, “But you have to be aware of what was taken from you there, I’m aware that you talk to each other.”

    Ilse had assumed that Doctor Glas didn’t know.

    Washington D.C.

    “What was I supposed to have done?” Nancy demanded, “Sit in my apartment and starve until my landlord had me evicted?”

    “No, Miss Jensen” The Congressman said, “Just your choice of employers raises a lot of questions.”

    “If I had gone home and started bagging groceries I wouldn’t have had the means to be here today” Nancy said, “And that is if I could even get a job like that, being overqualified. You think that General Motors would have hired me with all of this hanging over my head?”

    It was clear that the well-fed Congressman didn’t have the first clue as to what would have happened if she hadn’t left the Capital. After she had been stopped outside International Arrivals in Montreal, Sir Malcolm had been outraged. It was a massive violation of Canadian sovereignty. She had spent most of the next week doing the job she had been sent to Toronto to do, but she had been pulled away from it by outside events. Sir Blackwood had been expelling known American Agents from Canada in retaliation for having two of them bother a guest of his. After a few days the US Government had grown tired of the impasse and had just asked what it would take to get Nancy’s testimony. Closed door, no cameras and legal council present. She had a wonderful choice. Ignore the subpoena, never be able to return home and have that interfere with the rest of her life or she could answer questions from a bunch of pasty old men.

    The first questions had been simple enough. Name and now former position within the State Department. Then the questions had been asked about her taking a position in the Canadian Division of Volkswagen.

    The Congressman paused, “Be that as it may, Miss Jensen” He said, “Were you able to get that job through your connections in Germany.”

    “Some dear friends of mine have been a part of an ad campaign for Volkswagen” Nancy replied, “They called in a favor.”

    “Yes, that would be the Countess von Mischner and her consort Douglas Blackwood” The Congressman said.

    “Doug is Kat’s husband” Nancy said, correcting him. It basically meant the same thing, but Nancy knew that few in America would get that. He was implying something that simply wasn’t true.

    “Very well, Miss Jensen” The Congressman said, “The Countess isn’t the only German agent you have come into contact with regularly, there is also Dietrich Schultz of the German Special Warfare Division, who you had in your apartment for three days in November.”

    That caused Nancy’s lawyer to erupt, “Congressman Stark, Miss Jensen has a reputation that is above reproach” He said, “She let a friend who was returning from Mexico, where he had been involved with the Allied effort there, to sleep on her couch over a holiday weekend.”

    “And have you seen this man since then, when you were back in Germany last month?” The Congressman asked.

    “No” Nancy replied, “I was too busy in Wolfsburg for anything social.”

    “I see” The Congressman said. Fortunately, the time he had been allotted ran out.

    Then she saw one of the other Congressmen. It was the annoying Congressman who laid it on thick in the opening statements, smarmy and fake. As she waited for McCarthy to get around to asking a question.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1005
  • Chapter One Thousand Five

    19th March 1953

    Flensburg, Germany

    As Johann Schultz walked through the Naval Academy he felt out of place. The Luftwaffe Academies that had been established at Rechlin–Lärz Airfield and Ramstein Airfield outside Kaiserslautern were more his speed. The cadets were always eager to hear the stories of Jasta 2 and Jasta 11 as they had fought as knights of the sky. As a mechanic and gunner, Johann had been a witness to many of the key events that they were reading about. Today, he was here looking for Tilo who was teaching here now. It made perfect sense, Tilo teaching Philosophy, just he had picked quite a roundabout why of getting there.

    Looking down the hill towards the Fjord, Schultz saw masts of two ships that had been painted brilliant white. He didn’t know enough about naval matters to have an opinion, but they looked like something from another century.

    “The Gorch Fock and the Gunther Klimczak” A Cadet said.

    “Excuse me” Schultz replied.

    “The School Ships” The Cadet said, “The Niobe II is out to sea presently.”

    The way the boy said that suggested that he would rather be out with the Niobe II than here today.

    “If you could tell me the reason for your visit, Sir?” The Cadet asked.

    “I’m looking for Major Dietrich Schultz” Schultz said, “I’m his father, Feldwebel-Lieutenant Johann Sebastian Schultz, retired.”

    He watched as the Cadet reacted by snapping to attention.

    “Sorry, Sir” The Cadet said, “I didn’t know.”

    “You don’t know me from Adam” Schultz said, “I’m just looking for Tilo.”

    Something about that the Cadet found amusing as he led Schultz into one of the wings of the Academy.

    “Major Schultz insists that the Cadets call him that during informal discussions in class” The Cadet said.

    “You’ll be pleased to know that even his own mother calls him that” Schultz said, “Since he was three.”

    “That sounds about right, Sir.”

    “What do you think of his class?” Schultz asked.

    “It’s fun” The Cadet said, “He has been around the world a few times and knows a bit about everything.”

    “Sounds about right” Schultz said. More like he has an opinion about everything, Schultz thought to himself without saying it aloud.

    Entering the room, Schultz saw that it looked like a typical lecture hall. At the front of the room was Tilo wearing the blue and white uniform of the Marine Infantry. He could tell from the instant that he entered what the reason for posting Tilo here was. He was a walking billboard for what Grand Admiral von Schmidt wanted Officers in the Marine Infantry to become, the Scholar-Warrior. Tilo was gathering copies of books by the likes of Voltaire and Thomas Paine.

    “Thank you, Cadet Martin” Tilo said and the cadet was standing rigidly at attention. “Dismissed.”

    With that the Cadet left the room.

    “A bit high-strung” Schultz said.

    “I sometimes think that bringing in Wenzeslaus Reier would be a good thing” Tilo said, “These Cadets could use the right sort of bad influence before whatever crew they stick them in with eats them alive.”

    “You are supposed to sell some of them on the Marine Infantry” Schultz said.

    “It’s figured that those will likely come from the bottom third of the class” Tilo said, “The sort who are more likely to be found on the Football Pitch than the classroom.”

    “You ought to give yourself a bit more credit” Schultz said, then he noticed that one of the medals that Tilo was wearing looked brand new. “What’s with that?” He asked gesturing to it.

    “Life saving medal” Tilo said, “I volunteered to lead part of the search and rescue effort in the Netherlands when the flood happened there.”

    Schultz just laughed at that. “I think that you might be surprised at what happens when these Cadets finish their time here” He said.

    Tilo shook his head at that, “Wait and see” He replied, “What are you doing here Poppa?”

    “I can’t come and visit my son” Schultz asked.

    Tilo gave Schultz a look that said bullshit. Of his three sons, Tilo was probably the smartest. Over the years he had proven himself almost as tough as Jost, something that Schultz would have once thought impossible.

    “Alright, I figured that you would want to see this” Schultz said as he pulled a day-old copy of the New York Times out of his briefcase.

    State Department Analyst Questioned by HUAC in Probe of German Influence within the United States Government.

    Tilo saw the photograph of Nancy Jensen and read the article, wincing several times when he did so. “This is my fault” He said, “If I had not stopped at her place on the way back from Mexico she wouldn’t have gotten caught up in this mess.”

    “You can’t know that” Schultz said, “She has maintained correspondence Gräfin von Mischner for more than a decade. If you hadn’t involved yourself then it would have something else.”

    “I asked her to return to Germany with me” Tilo replied, then he turned to Schultz. “Tell me she is not one of your people.”

    That was a surprise for Schultz. “What are you talking about?” He asked.

    “That you are the damned Oberst that Ian Fleming put in his book” Tilo said, “The same one depicted in the movie as the mastermind who has been demolishing American ambitions.”

    If Schultz was surprised before, that was gone. He slammed into crisis mode. Tilo had just become the most dangerous person in the world to him. In all the years that he had been working for Abwehr and later the BND, he had never been confronted by someone who had figured that out. Of course, it would have to be his own blood who did that. Lenz might be smart enough to figure that out, but unlike Tilo he was never in a position to put the pieces together.

    “Nancy Jensen is not now or has ever been an asset of the BND” Schultz said, “Our people are scared that the Mistress of the Keys would go to war with the BND if they attempted to turn her friend. Before Fraulein Jensen left Austria, she met with Gräfin von Mischner and discussed the possibility of that when she had difficulty with a coworker, the Gräfin talked her out of it.”

    It was Tilo’s turn to be surprised.

    “It says here that Nancy was in Wolfsburg” Tilo said looking at the article.

    “And what would have you done if you had known?” Schultz asked, “Compromised her further?”

    “No, that is not my intention” Tilo said.

    “Your intentions don’t matter” Schultz replied, “To protect those she cares about, the Gräfin will not hesitate to kill. If you really care about this woman, stay away from her.”
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    Part 69, Chapter 1006
  • Chapter One Thousand Six

    27th March 1953

    Toronto, Canada

    Going to Washington D.C. had changed nothing for Nancy. She was right back in Toronto trying to figure out how to get people to buy cars that were completely different from anything they were used to. The politicians had been able to grandstand and opine that Nancy was either a complete disgrace, a patriot or a naive girl from Washington State who had been taken advantage by unscrupulous players on the International stage. It was noticeable that she had not heard a word about Paul Finley facing any consequences for what had happened. According to everyone Nancy had talked to Finley had basically made her pay for what Kat had done to him in Australia. That was hardly valid, in Finley’s version of events he didn’t attempt to abduct Kat outside a hotel in Sydney at gunpoint and she had defended herself in a way she had every right to. When Nancy had talked to her mother about it, her mother had said that men like him never seem to get their comeuppance and even if they do, it’s never their fault.

    “I don’t understand this engine” A man, one of the members of the study group said as he looked under hood, snapping Nancy’s thoughts back into the present. She was leading the various groups in walk around tours of a factory new Föhn and getting their impressions. She couldn’t help but notice that the chrome letters spelling out the word Rabbit had replaced Föhn 1200, that still struck her as sort of stupid. Currently, she was answering questions of a married couple who were looking at the car.

    “It is air-cooled and has four cylinders” Nancy said, “It is surprisingly simple.”

    “How would it handle the winter weather?”

    “The engine was built with European winters in mind” Nancy replied, “No radiator to freeze and one less fluid to consider. A friend of mine has an older brother who spent a few winters in Russia and he said that the battery might need to be swapped out but unless the oil freezes it should start fairly easily.”

    “Goodness” The man said, “How cold does it get it in Russia?”

    “I’ve never been there” Nancy replied, “But well below freezing for months at a time.”

    “Miss?” Nancy heard a voice ask from the back of the car.

    Nancy hurried over and saw the man’s wife looking at the hatch which was open. A spare tire and toolkit were strapped to the sides of the small cargo space behind the back seat.

    “Where is the hump?” The woman asked.

    It took a second for Nancy to realize what she was talking about. The hump was the bulge that ran down the middle of most car’s cabin for the transmission and powertrain. “It’s front-wheel drive” She said, “It frees up a great deal of interior space.”

    “Why would it be done like that?” The woman asked.

    “The Föhn… I mean the Rabbit was designed with the possibility of being a commercial vehicle in mind” Nancy said, “The backseat can be removed without tools for the same reason. Space is at a premium in a car of this type.”

    “Do you think that my daughter, she’s a few years younger than you Miss, would like a car like this?”

    Nancy glanced over at the husband who was sitting in the driver’s seat looking skeptically at the dashboard before whispering “She would love it.”

    This fit a pattern that Nancy had seen again and again. The men in the study took a dim view of Föhn/Rabbit as too small and underpowered, while the women seemed far more interested in the car’s practicalities and economy. Many considered the car to be sporty, an aspect that certainly wasn’t played up in the literature from Wolfsburg.

    5th April 1953

    Kleinburg, Germany

    The gullwing door opened, and Kat climbed out of the car with a big grin on her face. Helene who had been in the passenger seat looked like she had seen a ghost. She should have known what she was getting into when she got into the car with Kat driving. The two of them had taken the latest car belonging to the von Richthofen family for a test drive. It was a brand-new Mercedes-Benz 300SL that was the latest gift to the Graf from the Board of Directors at Mercedes-Benz. Doug thought that the car and Kat were a bad combination, the speeding tickets would bankrupt them. Fortunately, the car belonged to the Graf.

    “Bad news Doug” Kat said, “I think we’ve found your replacement.”

    “Is that a fact” Doug said with a bit of amusement, “It seems to me you wouldn’t have a whole lot to talk about.”

    “If you could do what this car can then conversation wouldn’t be necessary” Kat said with a laugh.

    It was nice to see her happy. Tomorrow she would be neck deep in responsibility when she took twenty Girl Scouts to the seaside, so it was good that she got a chance to enjoy herself this weekend. They had all decided to come to Kleinburg for Easter this year. All three furies, the rest of the sisterhood, husbands and children in tow. It was Helene’s mother Käte who had surprised Doug. She had said that they liked having everyone here for holidays, especially because after a few days they would all go home.

    Doug noticed that Ilse was watching from the window of the room she was staying in this weekend. She had slowly gotten better over the last few months, but everyone was still worried about her. She was still burying herself in either her work or hiding herself in her bedroom. Taking on too much, a family trait it seemed.
    Part 69, Chapter 1007
  • One Thousand Seven

    13th April 1953


    “We are actually impressed with what you brought back” Ernst Preis had said, “When we heard that you got inconvenienced by your Government we were a bit concerned.”

    He had been referring to the report that Nancy had compiled in Canada with data she had received from Canada and the United States. He hardly blinked when she had reported that in North America the Föhn/Rabbit series seemed to appeal to women. That was at odds with the image of the Föhn in Europe where a souped-up version was the car of choice for the police and becoming popular with racing clubs as the poor man’s touring car.

    “Having a car that will appeal to half the population is not a hardship” Preis had said about that. Then he had sent her on what he said was a “reward” that didn’t seem like one.

    A Producer, Director and a writer from the division of UFA that did B-Reel films were here to try to shoe-horn VW products into the films as spot ads. When Nancy had sat down for lunch, she had wondered what the punchline of the joke was. It had taken Nancy five seconds to realize that she was the entertainment. While these men probably would have preferred to talk business with Preis, talking about cars and movies with a reasonably attractive woman was something they were more than happy to do. Nancy would deal with Preis later, she had a lunch meeting to survive first. Naturally, she took advantage of the situation to talk about what she wanted to talk about.

    “Helene was into auto racing when she was a teenager” Nancy said, “When Kat gets behind the wheel it scares even her.”

    “So, your friend is a reckless driver?” The Producer asked.

    “Hardly, it’s just that she’s been through evasive driving school a few different times” Nancy replied, “Once she knows what a car can do, she tends to push the limits. If you are not prepared for it as a passenger, then she will scare you to death.”

    “And this sportscar that she was driving” The Producer said, “The one you said that she described as an orgasm on wheels.”

    “That isn’t what she said” Nancy replied, the Producer had obviously read between the lines, Kat had only implied that. “The car belongs to Helene’s father, the Graf.”

    “I see” the Producer said, “What sort of car does your friend Kat normally drive?”

    “A Föhn 1200 with the engine rebuilt by Porsche” Nancy answered.

    The Writer had gone quiet some time ago as Nancy had noticed that he was frantically writing.

    “Douglas, Kat’s husband said that it’s just as well that the car doesn’t belong to her” Nancy said, “He said they would have to fly Jack Kennedy in from Ireland to spring Kat after her speeding got her arrested.”

    “Who is that?” The Producer asked.

    “Her Lawyer” Nancy answered before trying to get back to her story, “When Kat got back to Berlin she said that…”

    “Her Lawyer is Irish?”

    “Yes” Nancy said, “Kat said that he is better at that then he was as a soldier or spy. It’s just as well, his change in profession got him away from Ian Fleming who is nothing but trouble…”

    The writer abruptly stopped writing.

    “Ian Fleming, as in James Bond?” The Director asked, “That Ian Fleming?”

    The writer resumed his scribbling.

    “Yes” Nancy said getting annoyed, she had met Ian Fleming once and hadn’t been particularly impressed. “Now, when she got back to Berlin she said that…”

    Jade Bight

    “This is the powder hoist girls” Oberdeckoffizer Arend Nuemann said a few minutes earlier he had finished telling them the shell hoist worked and explained how the system worked, with the gunner up in the turret able to set the shell and powder charge down here. “From here the bagged charges go up to Anton Turret.”

    The girl with long russet colored hair raised her hand excitedly. “Yes, Fraulein” Arend said.

    “Will we get to fire the battery?” The girl asked with a lot of enthusiasm.

    “I take it that your Pops in the military” Arend said.

    “Luftwaffe” The Girl said happily.

    Probably a General too, Arend thought to himself. He had been asked to give a tour of the Rhineland to some VIPs, it was the sort of thing that he did all the time. Then the VIPs in question turned up and they were a bunch of eleven and twelve-year-old Girl Scouts in green and white uniforms. Arend knew that he was never going to hear the end of this. Christoph was gone today, now that the Rhineland was in port he had been taking classes that had been opened for Enlisted men on Nuclear propulsion. Apparently, that was the future of the Navy. It was Arend’s intention to stay on Rhineland until she was stricken, or he dropped, whichever came first. The Bremen had taken the fabled Northwest Passage and then went around the globe without refueling or surfacing. That was the stuff of science fiction. At least on Rhineland he knew how everything worked.

    “We are not doing a live fire exercise today” Arend said, “They get bent out of sorts when we rattle the windows in Wilhelmshaven.”

    That caused a bit of giggling. The woman leading these girls just shook her head. When Arend first saw her earlier, he could tell that she had a military bearing despite the civilian clothes she was wearing. Gräfin von Mischner, Arend had been told, he recognized the girl in glasses with the brown curls contained in a beret as the Princess. Arend had also noticed that the Girl with russet hair and another girl with black hair were with the Princess at all times.

    “Now if you are up for a climb we’re going up into Anton from here” Anton said.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1008
  • Chapter One Thousand Eight

    17th April 1953


    “If I wasn’t already married I would ask for your hand this instant” Ernst Preis said when Nancy walked into the Offices of the Promotions Department.

    “Excuse me?” Nancy asked bewildered.

    “You don’t know?” Preis asked I reply, “Unbelievable.”

    “What am I missing here?” Nancy asked.

    “You were just supposed to get a product placement in a film” Preis replied, “Instead you convinced the producer to push an entirely new script that practically has a Föhn 1200 staring in it.”

    That didn’t sound right, Nancy thought to herself as she walked back to her desk. Picking up the phone, she called UFL and to her complete shock was put straight through to the Producer that she had talked to earlier that week.

    “Fraulein Jensen, good to hear from you” The Producer said.

    “Herr Preis just told me that you are going with a different film” Nancy said.

    “Yes” The Producer said, “You gave us the core of what became the new script. Auto racing, cars, womanizing British spies, international intrigue and stupidity, star-crossed lovers, complicated family situations. There’s something for everybody.”

    Nancy tried to remember everything that she had said over that lunch. She had been venting about, well, everything. Somehow, Nancy had said far more than she had intended to and when Kat found out about this she was going to kill her.

    “And get this Nancy” The Producer said, “Edda van Heemstra read the script and wants the staring role. She particularly liked the who bit about the love interest’s father who pretends to be a likable oaf when he’s secretly a conniving ass.”

    Nancy had heard of the Belgian actress from Gerta. Supposedly she had done well in some bit parts and Gerta had said that she would probably be the next big name in the Berlin Cinema. Kat was still going to want to kill her but if the script had everything that Nancy feared it did, then Kat was going to have to wait in line.

    Langeoog Island

    They were collecting shells on the beach which was fun. Kiki found a hermit crab in one of the shells and before anyone else saw it she threw it out into the water so that it could be free in the place where it belonged. The last week had been fun. They were staying in a hotel on the island, it not being the summer months the hotel staff had been happy to have them. There had been highlights, like the tour of the battleship. The tour had been given by this salty old sailor who seemed to have story about things that had happened aboard every part of the Rhineland. He also told stories about other ships, his life in the Navy and on the sea.

    Then had come the arrival of Klaus Voll onto the island. That had seemed to confirm Zella’s worst fears that all they were expected to do was girly things. It hadn’t worked out that way. Sure, Voll had come to Langeoog to show them how to do things like hair and makeup, but it had turned out to be a lot of fun. He had said Kiki’s curls were the sort of thing that grown women would pay good money for. He had compliments like that for all of them and Kiki suspected that it was a part of his job to do that. She had to admit that it was fun to watch once she was aware of what Voll was doing. That night she had talked to Gia who had found it amusing that Kiki had picked up on it so fast.

    “There are women who go their entire lives without noticing things like that” Gia said, “But it shouldn’t matter because it’s about feeling good about yourself. How you look beyond what you are wearing at any given moment.”

    The rest of the days had involved spending time on the beach when they weren’t out doing something planned. Kat and Gia had mixed it up a bit that morning, saying that it was important that they needed to be able to protect themselves. Sitting on the beach, the girls had watched as they had demonstrated how to break a grip if someone grabbed their arm. It was a simple thing, but it was exactly what they had wanted the Gräfin to be teaching them all along.

    “You finally got what you wanted” Kiki said to Zella who was walking with her down the beach.

    “Not really” Zella replied.

    “Gia was showing us how to break a grip” Kiki said, “You have to start somewhere, right?”

    “If a man grabbed you by the arm you wouldn’t be strong enough to pull away like that” Zella said, “None of us would.”

    Kiki was surprised by that statement.

    “Think about what Gia really told us” Zella said, “Try to break the grip, but at the same time kick them in the shins and make a lot of noise. It’s so that someone else can save you and I already knew how to do that.”

    Then Zella walked away.

    At loss, Kiki just watched her friend. Zella had been easier to get along with a year earlier. There were times when she acted like her old self, at other times she just acted like this.

    “Find anything good yet” Aurora asked.

    “I found a hermit crab a little while ago” Kiki replied.

    “Where is it?”

    “I threw it back into the sea” Kiki said, “It’s home.”

    Aurora smiled at that answer.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1009
  • Chapter One Thousand Nine

    19th April 1953


    It was the opinion of Oberst of the 1st Foot that after spending two weeks with the girls in the East Frisian Islands that Kat should have received hazard pay as opposed to using up two weeks of leave. This year the academic schedule was that the longer holiday would fall in the July and August. The girls were decidedly disappointed about having to return to their lives after what had been a lot of fun. After spending all day Saturday sleeping Kat was back in the Palace giving Kira her briefing on the week’s events.

    “Continued reports of violence even after arrests in Kenya” Kat read aloud.

    “To think, the negotiations for the Treaty of Paris almost broke down over the disposition of African Colonies” Kira said.

    “I know the history” Kat replied.

    “But did you or anyone else learn from it?” Kira asked.

    It seemed like every week there were new reports about uprisings in various African colonies. Kat remembered that during the police action in South Africa she had gone through the relevant files in the Imperial Archives and what she found had surprised her and not in a good way. The German Empire might have lost all of its African Colonies during and just after the First World War but the time before that had not been bloodless. The response to the rebellion that had occurred in South-West Africa in 1904 had disturbed Kat greatly. Did they have any standing to criticize other nations, France and the UK in particular, after what they had done fifty years earlier? Kat feared that the answer to Kira’s question about what had been learned was a rather emphatic “No.”

    Looking to the next story, “Graf von Richthofen to host International conference on the effects of industrial pollution here in Berlin” Kat read aloud and then looked up, “Do you have a response prepared?”

    Kira’s face was unreadable. “Your sister is right in the middle of that?” She asked.

    “Yes” Kat saw no reason to deny that. Kat should have seen it but hadn’t. Ilse had spent her childhood with no family, then when she had finally found her family she had been immediately rejected by their father. Meeting the Graf had filled some sort of need that she had. Still, this crusade of theirs was starting to ruffle a lot of feathers. Personally, Kat felt that perhaps those feathers needed to be ruffled.

    “Elizabeth the II of England has all but endorsed this conference” Kira said.

    “After how she lost her father is that a surprise?” Kat asked.

    “I understand why” Kira replied, “But I also understand the high likelihood that Graf von Richthofen has his own personal agenda. Does your sister understand that?”


    It looked too elegant, like something an artist might come up with. If Ilse were religious, she might look at it as an example of how the hand of God could touch the world in subtle ways. However, as a Biologist she was aware of how delicate that structure could be, so that evolution was possible if the current theories held up.

    “What is that?” Anne asked as she looked over Ilse’s shoulder at the magazine she was reading.

    “A discovery out of England” Ilse answered, “The structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, double helix.”

    “It looks pretty” Anne said with a smile.

    Ilse was willing to give Anne a bit of latitude this week, her novel had been rejected by another publisher and she had been feeling like a complete failure. She seemed to be better now, and Ilse had to concede that Anne was right about it looking pretty.

    “This is considered the building blocks of life itself” Ilse said.

    “That’s wonderful” Anne said and then she changed the subject, “I’m meeting Kris for lunch, want to come along?”

    Anne and Kris had formed a bond over the last couple years, sharing a similar religious background. That was however where their commonalities ended.

    “Kris feels that if you don’t start getting out then we can just shovel a bit of dirt over you and call it good.”

    That sounded like the sort of thing that Kris might say.

    “Let me guess” Ilse said, “Kris wants to go somewhere she can get a BLT.”

    “With extra bacon” Anne said, “She’s terrible that way.”

    “Perhaps you should ask Nancy too” Ilse said, “She could use the distraction.”

    Since Nancy had gotten back from Canada she had been staying with them. Over the last couple days, she had been anxious about something. Then on Friday there was a phone message that Petia had left for her, some woman named Edda wanted to meet with Nancy. After that, Nancy had not gotten out of bed all day Saturday, now on Sunday midday she was still there.

    “That might be a bit of work” Anne said.

    “Perhaps” Ilse replied, “But she’ll thank us for it.”

    Ilse had her own reasons too. Strength in numbers, she thought to herself.

    Ilse had been working hard on overcoming her fear of open spaces. Something that had proven impossibly difficult, anytime she stepped outside she felt like her lungs were freezing and her heart was going to leap out of her chest. Still, she would walk with Anne and Nancy to meet Kris for lunch. Even if it killed her.

    “What do you want us to do if you have another panic attack?” Anne asked.

    That was reminder to Ilse, there substantial disadvantages to living with people who knew her so well.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1010
  • Chapter One Thousand Ten

    5th May 1953


    Nancy could see Ernst Preis and his circle of friends in the doorway of his office from her desk. They had gotten a couple copies of the script from UFA and the rally modified blue and white two-tone Föhn 1200 dubbed “Alpina” was in nearly every scene along with a number of other VW cars. They were practically hopping with joy.

    It seemed that with the production of B-Reel films the studio moved extremely fast, once they had a script they moved forward with production, shooting was supposed to start in less than a month in Greece. This was due to a sweetheart deal they had cut with the Greek Government, but Nancy suspected that the idea of shooting scenes on Greek beaches there causing men stampede into theaters was the real motivation. Then in July the remainder of the filming was to be completed in Upper Saxony and Berlin. If they could stick to the timetable they had the film would be released to theaters in English and German just ahead of the Christmas season, and by happy coincidence right when the new Volkswagen Models reached showroom floors. The fact of whose car the one in the film looked exactly like wasn’t lost on Nancy.

    The script itself was mortifying, and not just because of the title Catch a Tiger by the Tail. It revolved around a fictional Constantinople to Berlin Rally Race with the unoriginal name of Orient Express. Entering the race was an all-women team led by Viola “Tiger” Martz, a tough as nails driver played by Nicol Scheer. Nancy had no idea where they had found Nicol Scheer, but she was a coarse, working class bad girl who was uncomfortably close to the very woman she was playing was based on. Her friend and navigator, Felicitas von Schultheiss, played by Hildegard Knef, is along for the ride and is the daughter of the team sponsor, Graf von Schultheiss. Into all of this is Anna Berg played by Edda van Heemstra, as the representative from an unnamed automotive corporation, like if the audience couldn’t guess which one. She is trying to be impartial to the different teams but happens to be living in Viola’s house until she can figure out her complex personal situation.

    Anna’s boyfriend has been forbidden from marrying her by his father, a Luftwaffe Oberst, for murky reasons. But the boyfriend, Derik follows Anna to Greece to apologize but ends up a prisoner of Percival Abbot an amoral English rake and his Irish sidekick John Berne. It turns out that Derik’s father is hunting Percival Abbot and that Percival is using the race as cover to advance a nefarious scheme of his own.

    It was a screwball comedy that made most of what Nancy had gone through over the last few years seem like an absurd series of accidents and errors. Nancy was forced to conclude that Kat was not going to be satisfied with merely killing her. There was also the aspect of Anna getting a happy ending after both Derik’s father and Percival Abbot get their just deserts involving a thermobaric bomb and a particularly randy mountain goat. Nancy’s ending was yet to be written and there was no guarantee that anything remotely like that would ever happen for her.


    “She’s afraid that she’ll be like her friend Zella” Kira said, “We did our best to make this easier for her. Didn’t we?”

    Kat had been abruptly summoned to the Palace that was in the midst of preparations for the move to the Summer Residence in Potsdam. Kat had talked to Maria about that subject a few days earlier, Zella had gone from a precocious, confident girl to an unpredictable moody little shrew seemingly overnight. Oddly, Zella didn’t cause nearly as much trouble as she had before at school or at home, but it was hard to argue that apathy was much of an improvement.

    For Kiki, Kat had last seen her only a few days earlier excitedly planning her upcoming birthday party in July. She had been happy then and she was about as far from that now as she could be. She was currently curled into the smallest ball she could manage to make of herself against her mother’s side.

    “It’s a mixture of hormones and a society with terrible messages” Kat said, “My Aunt Marcella says that we should celebrate their coming of age and welcome them. Instead we fill their heads with contradictory, and frequently impossible things.”

    “How did your Aunt handle it with you?” Kira asked only to watch Kat set her jaw and realized the implications of what she had said too late.

    “Just be glad that Kiki has a great deal of personal protection at all times” Kat replied with a tone that was strangely flat. Kira had realized that if she angered Kat then there would be no outward displays of anger. However, Kat’s phone would be left off the hook a lot in the following days. “And that no one would dare to think of her as a mere plaything.”

    “She has you as a protector” Kira said.

    “Yes” Kat said as she pushed Kiki’s hair out of her face, Kiki was refusing to open her eyes, but Kat knew she was awake and listening to every word. “But I cannot protect her from the painful experiences that happen to everyone growing up.”
    Part 69, Chapter 1011
  • Chapter One Thousand Eleven

    10th May 1953


    There were times to be angry and there were times like these that reminded Kat that she didn’t control anyone other than herself. The day before Kat had listened to Nancy explain what had happened as Doug had tried not to laugh. Catch a Tiger by the Tail sounded like in was one of dozens of movies UFA put out every year, stupid comedies that people watched as a couple hours of escapism. That this movie was effectively a long commercial for Volkswagen would probably go over most of the audience’s heads, but it basically insured that Nancy would have a job for that company for as long as she wanted one. What that meant was that Kat found it difficult to be too angry with Nancy. Still, Nancy had been frightened of Kat’s reaction for days until she had found the courage to tell her. That part was a bit more difficult. Finding out that her friends feared her reactions wasn’t easy. It wasn’t not like this was the first time a character based on her had made it into production. Gerta had played that character on a TV television show. Then there was Andrea Herzog from the James Bond film and a sequel was being made. In the meantime, life continued to grind forward.

    “The Greek Government has reported that Leon Trotsky has died at the age of seventy-three at his home in Pyrgos on the Island of Santorini” Kat read aloud.

    “They are going to be popping Champaign corks in Moscow when the news reaches there” Kira replied.

    “You might want to issue a statement yourself” Kat said, “Your family was sent into exile by the Bolsheviks and he was one of the leaders.”

    “There is nothing for me in Russia and I have little to say to the people there” Kira said, “I’ve done my best to build a life for myself here and see no reason to dwell on a past I can barely remember.”

    “Very well” Kat said, “But you know that the press will probably see things differently.”

    Kira had been child at the time the Russian Revolution, her family spending years in exile. First in Finland and later France. After some difficulty finding a suitable match she had found herself betrothed to the younger brother of the German Crown Prince. That was when Kira’s life had taken a turn. Wilhelm died in Spain, and Louis Ferdinand became next in line for the throne. She had been presiding as the Empress of Germany when the Soviets had been removed from power and had never said a word about it. She had donated a considerable amount of money to the Orthodox Church but had only set foot in Russia once to go to the funeral for the members of the Romanov family who had died in British Columbia. Kat figured that if she went to Russia in the company of either Gia or Kiki it would probably do wonders for the relations between Germany and Russia.

    “Just think about it” Kat said, “This might be an opportunity to mend fences.”

    “Thank you, Katherine” Kira replied, “I’ll consider it.”

    Kat had heard Kira say things like that before, usually when she had no intention of doing anything.

    “By the way” Kira said, “Elizabeth of England has decided that there is no reason for there not to be Lady Companions of the Garter. She thinks that you would make a wonderful addition to the Order, it will give you another medal to wear on your uniform.”

    “I’ll consider it” Kat replied.


    “You don’t have help, but you can at least come down and talk to me” Emil said when he had ordered Zella out of her room.

    He was at loss in how to relate to his daughter, she had always liked to help him in the garage when he worked on his motorcycles. Maria had told him to just let her brood and there wasn’t anything that he could do. Eventually, she would find a new equilibrium, or she would start University and they would see a lot less of her. Emil could except that he couldn’t repair Zella like he did with one of his motorcycles. He could at least be in her company as he worked. The brand-new R68 wasn’t in need of anything but the older surplus R75 with the sidecar needed a bit of work. The Harley-Davidson he had bought on a whim a few years earlier needed the engine rebuilt. It was something he’d not had the time to work on.

    As Emil worked he was getting Zella to hand him the tools he needed until he noticed that she wasn’t paying attention to him. Looking up he saw that instead she was working in one of her sketch pads. He didn’t say anything as he got a 12mm wrench from the tool box and resumed working, turning on the radio he listened to classical music.

    After a while, Zella got up and changed the radio station. This station played Berliner Gutter Blues. Heavily influenced by American Blues music, this song featured a guitarist and saxophonist playing off each other in the breaks between verses. The crooner was singing about how his girlfriend had thrown him out, as the song went on it became clear that he had deserved exactly what he had gotten. It was a lot more self-aware then anything he had heard before in this sort of music.

    “What have you got?” Emil asked with a smile.

    “Nothing” Zella said as she paused in her work.

    He could see that she drawn a pencil sketch of him working on the motorcycle that was already better than most people could do. She really did have a gift.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1012
  • Chapter One Thousand Twelve

    12th May 1953


    Recruiting goals of the Kaiserliche Marine for the first quarter of the year had been surpassed, which meant that Jacob was pleasantly surprised. The voyage of the SMS Bremen, the publicity of the combat mission in the Mexican Campaign and the film depicting the Battle of Vladivostok, that had been released the prior summer, had all helped. It was noticeable that many of the recruits were clamoring for the Fleet Air Command which was a desirable outcome. There was even talk of doing a film based on the Battle of the South China Sea which would be interesting.

    Another thing that he had done which was bearing fruit was offering assessment and classes for Sailors wanting to learn about nuclear power, both to serve the weapons and the reactors. The Luftwaffe had swiftly followed suit, but because they already dominated the field they didn’t need to put in a lot of effort. Still, the Navy was carving out a valuable space for its future and Albrecht von Richthofen as a candidate in Atgeir program was another part of that future. Jacob had worked for years to get a number of Naval Pilots into that program. With how strenuous the selection process had been it was a miracle that one of Jacob’s people was in the final dozen. As Jacob saw it, it was all about profile and achievements.

    That was something that the current makeup of the High Command didn’t understand, not yet anyway. Just how fickle the public could be. South Africa and now Mexico had basically been colonial wars. Sure, the bulk of their forces had pulled out once the shooting stopped but there were hard limits of what was possible. How long until they found themselves in a situation like the British in Africa? Unwilling to leave a place they never should have been in the first place? Those were the questions that haunted Jacob. He was also aware of how he remained an outsider despite his lofty position. He had told Fritz Halder and Emil von Holz that he was only as good as his latest gamble. The two of them had made a point of telling him that he should not be antagonizing the Americans without giving him any orders. They didn’t want to paint themselves into a corner that would involve squashing Jacob like a bug, so they had settled for giving him what was clearly a warning instead. Did they think that the actions of the Luftwaffe over the last decade were any less provocative?

    Jacob turned and looked down into the drydock where the latest ship was in for refit, the SMS Prinzessin Victoria. Hopefully in the future she would provide a counter to the hubris that Jacob was forced admit that even he was guilty of. The three Princesses operated by the Kaiserliche Marine and Joint Medical Corps were considered to be the most successful public relations effort of the Fleet, steaming to be on the scene of natural disasters or epidemics all over the world. They were certainly greeted in ports of call with the sort of celebration that Jacob couldn’t recall any battleship receiving. How many Battleships received Papal visits with the ship and crew being blessed? Still the hospital ships were expensive. The field of medical science was advancing so fast that when the SMS Prinzessin Kristina had been in for refit her engineering spaces and systems might have needed refurbishment but her medical facilities had needed to be completely redone. The Kristina was only a decade old.


    It wasn’t fair, Kiki thought to herself as she tried to sort her thoughts by sawing away at the strings of her viola. She had been perfectly content with her life and then she had to get older which had ruined everything. It means that you’re a woman, was how her mother had put it and Kiki was given no choice in the matter. Now, days later life was back to normal, or at least as normal as it ever got, sort of.

    Her mother had called in Gräfin Katherine, who Kiki had been learning was very human and extremely fallible, and Kiki had been forced to conclude that she was the absolute worst person to talk personal matters with. She knew that Kat meant well but to have to listen to the realities of her existence made Kiki wish she could close her ears. Learning that Kat had tried to ignore that whole aspect of her life unless she had no other choice for years. The reasons why had been horrific, Kat had told her the things that had not been in her biography and told her about how she had eventually met someone gentle and persistent enough to help her get past that.

    Then Kat had said the worst thing that Kiki could imagine. That someday she would meet someone and not have nearly the obstacles that Kat had. The whole thing was horrendous, Kiki thought as she continued playing. She had abandoned the sheet music several minutes earlier and was just playing whatever came to mind. She remembered the class where she had been lectured about how everything worked. She had laughed with Zella and Aurora afterwards about how ridiculous it all seemed. Now, with the inescapable implications of why she had three brothers and two sisters staring her in the face, it didn’t seem so funny.
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    Part 69, Chapter 1013
  • Chapter One Thousand Thirteen

    24th May 1953


    In all the years that Kat had known Kira she had never known the Empress to swear but as she discovered today, there really was an exception to everything.

    “I’m sorry Katherine” Kira said when she finished, “But men are the stupidest creatures in all of creation sometimes.”

    While Kat wasn’t inclined to disagree, she was still surprised by that outburst. “I take it you do not approve of the actions of the Greek Government?” She asked, at a loss for what else to say.

    “That is an understatement” Kira replied.

    The Government of Greece had opened a week-long event in Constantinople observing the 500th Anniversary of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans complete with street festivals and fireworks. Adding to the insanity was that hundreds of thousands of people had gone to the city in a pilgrimage from across Eastern Europe and Russia that was sanctioned by the Orthodox Church. It was only because the Turks were at war with Kurdistan that was preventing them from starting a new war with the Greeks. At the same time, there were also the ongoing messes in Palestine and Arabia. Kat had realized a long time ago that these were problems that would still be problems a century from now.

    “Do you intend to do anything about it?” Kat asked.

    “I’ll have a word with the Patriarch, but it’s not like I’ve a great deal of authority with that stubborn old goat” Kira replied, “Next story, please.”

    “The last surviving Imperial Eunuch was poisoned in Beijing” Kat read aloud, “Field Marshal Chiang Kai-shek promises a full investigation.”

    “Lead poisoning no doubt” Kira said, “With the Field Marshal holding the gun.”

    “It doesn’t say what sort of poison it was” Kat replied, only to have Kira give her a look.

    Kat was saved when a message was passed to her by one of the footmen. She didn’t say anything aloud, but there would be a minor annoyance to deal with when she got home. Some pests needed to be reminded about her boundaries.

    “Is there something going on Katherine?” Kira asked.

    “No, everything is fine” Kat replied as she made a mental list of a few items she was going to need to pick up from the armory on her way home.

    “That’s good” Kira said, “Do you want to be around today for the rest of this conversation?”

    Kat saw Antonia was here waiting to discuss the day’s politics and society. Kat knew that Kira was angling to one day have her be Antonia’s replacement. That was all she needed, to be the Chief Lady in Waiting in the Imperial Court. Her hope was that Antonia would outlive them all.


    Nancy was opening her mail when she found the birthday card from her mother. Her twenty-seventh birthday had come and gone, Nancy had hardly noticed. She had spent an hour and a half on a train going to Wolfsburg and then after working all day taking the train back. She had considered finding a place in the Wolfsburg, but she had realized that if she did that, it would be an admission of something. She just wasn’t sure about what yet. She continued to compile reports for VW, identifying those who could be persuaded and sending those on to the creative team to tailor advertisements for them.

    On Sundays, Nancy was at loose ends, so she tried to catch up with all the things and that involved catching up with her mail. Then she found the birthday card. Bright, cheerful and completely damning. If Nancy hadn’t started drinking to inure herself to the difficulty of her life in Washington D.C. she wouldn’t have given Finley an excuse to shaft her. When she had opened her mail a week earlier she had received a letter from the U.S. State Department letting her know that while she had been cleared of the allegations against her, Nancy’s services were no longer needed by her country. It was all she could do not to start screaming. Now this, the birthday card.

    “Why didn’t you tell us it was your birthday?” Petia asked when she saw it. “The girls would have loved to throw you a party.”

    “That’s not what I needed” Nancy said as Petia sat down across the table from her.

    “What did you need? To be alone and miserable?” Petia asked, “That has never worked for any of the women in this house. Did you think that you would be the exception?”

    “What should I do instead?” Nancy asked.

    Petia just shrugged. “You need to find what works for you before you get an ulcer like Katya, get panic attacks like Liza, or be trying to kill yourself like Lena” She said.

    “Why do you do that?” Nancy asked.

    “Do what?”

    “Change everyone’s name when you talk about them?”

    Petia smiled, “If you are going to be in my family then you should have proper names” She replied.

    “Meaning Russian?” Nancy asked.

    “It seemed like the least I could do” Petia said, “And your welcome, Anna.”

    Petia was chuckling about that as she got back up and started working on something. Eha walked in with the twins and said something. Petia said something in rapid fire Russian to her in reply. Eha replied and Petia frowned. Nancy waited, wondering what was going on.

    Then once Eha was gone Petia turned to her, “It seems that the foolish men who’ve been watching you have been getting careless if a girl like Eha can spot them” She said, “Deal with it before Katya does, she already has enough blood on her hands.”

    Again, Nancy felt like screaming. It wasn’t just enough to force her out. The cowboys were bothering her here too? Just what was she supposed to do about that.
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    Part 70, Chapter 1014
  • I always find it fascinating when the readers guess what's next in the TL and it was something that I thought anyone was unlikely to guess when I wrote it.

    Chapter One Thousand Fourteen

    24th May 1953


    “Once again, I’m sorry Nancy” Kat said, “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

    Nancy was sitting on the back porch wrapped in a blanket, her bloodshot eyes and nose were still runny despite her getting sprayed from head to toe with cold water. Her clothes were deemed too contaminated to wear into the house.

    “Just what was that?” Nancy asked.

    “CS gas, military grade” Kat replied, “I thought I was dealing with the usual sort of pests from the US Government.”

    “They weren’t” Nancy replied, “And I had the problem well in hand before you showed up with the gas grenades and the rubber bullets.”

    “If they had been from the CIA you would have been happy to see me” Kat said, only to get a dirty look from Nancy. “I can’t apologize enough.”

    “They were from General Motors” Nancy said, “And you overreacted.”

    “That’s not fair” Kat said, “Compared to what I did to Russian Agents during the war, that was showing a lot of restraint.”

    As Kat had found out after the fact, the three men were hired by GM. While Nancy’s efforts hadn’t had an impact yet. GM had caught wind of the ambitious business plan of VW and had understood that if Nancy’s efforts helped VW establish a foothold in North America then it would cut into GM and Ford’s market share at the entry level. It didn’t take much imagination to realize that eventually VW was going to develop a car for the midrange market, the Föhn 1200 as it was sold in Germany was well on its way there. GM had responded by sending private detectives to see what Nancy was up to. They were retired policemen from New York operating under the assumption that Berlin was a big city like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles. They had the BII all over them from the moment that they had stepped off the plane.

    “You shot me” Nancy said, with increasing anger.

    “You said it yourself that they were rubber bullets” Kat replied, “And I didn’t know you were in there.”

    Nancy shot Kat another dirty look as the blanket fell open a bit, revealing an ugly purple bruise on the center of her crest. Nancy quickly pulled the blanket back about herself. She was furious about getting gassed, shot and then roughly decontaminated in the back garden by the Squad from the 1st Imperial Foot who Kat had brought along as backup. For Kat it had been a good op, four targets taken down before they could react. Unfortunately, one of the targets had been Nancy who had been trying to warn the three men to leave before Kat happened to them.

    “What did you do with them?” Nancy asked.

    “Those three idiots are currently in the cargo hold of a Lufthansa flight to New York” Kat replied, “The crew has instructions to dump them out as soon as they park the plane at Idlewild Airport.”

    “Good” Nancy said as she noticed a familiar face peaking out the back door. To her absolute horror, Tilo stepped out onto the back porch.

    “Did something happen?” Tilo asked.

    Nancy turned to Kat and yelled “I HATE YOU!” Sharply and she ran past Tilo into the house, they heard a door slam a minute later.

    “What was that about?” Tilo asked bewildered.

    “Nancy has had a rough day” Kat replied, “Are you staying for dinner Dietrich?”

    Tilo looked at Kat with narrowed eyes. He knew that there was a half dozen men from the 1st Foot about who would back her version of events, no matter what she did. He also knew that she outranked him and that this was the sort of thing that Kat Mischner had done to him since he was fourteen. She disliked him, and he never knew if he was about to step into a trap with her. He had a feeling that staying for dinner would be extremely bad for his health.

    “I came to see how Nancy was doing” Tilo said.

    “You saw” Kat replied, “Try not to have a bad day Dietrich.”

    He had a vision of the tigress that people compared her to, sitting in the sun unsheathing claws and debating action. He realized that she was practically daring him to cause her trouble, so she would have an excuse to use them.

    Petaluma, California

    It was the first day that the afternoon felt noticeably warm. Jonny was drying his car after washing it, a 1939 Ford Coupe which he had bought for a song with a bit of his back pay when he had first come back from Mexico. He had spent the winter fixing it up car. With the new 239 flathead V-8 engine the car just flew. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the other car pull up. They didn’t even try to hide its official nature. The man who got out of the backseat even walked like he had a broomstick up his ass.

    “Whatever you are selling, I ain’t buying” Jonny said without ever looking up.

    “You could at least hear what I have to say” The man said.

    “I’ve done my bit” Jonny said looking at speck that he hoped wasn’t a chip in the paint, “Now I just want to get back to my life.”

    “You’re a Technical Sergeant, John Casey, a rank that would take most men at least a decade to get” The man replied, “Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation. Even a German Iron Cross and Federal Merit Cross in Gold won in action with allied forces.”

    “Is there a point to this?” Jonny asked.

    “With a record like that, you think that Uncle Sam is just going to let you walk away?”

    “I’d say that you can watch me” Jonny said.

    “Have it your way” The man said, “But when you get bored loading barges or get popped by the local Highway Patrol speeding in this car. Give me a call.”

    He handed Jonny a business card. Jonny shoved it into the pocket of his shirt and thought no more of it.
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