Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread II

Part 100, Chapter 1606
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Six



    21st December 1963

    Breslau, Silesia

    Helene had been hoping for a peaceful Christmas Season spent in her constituency. Unfortunately, events far out of her control conspired to prevent that from happening.

    At issue was Southern Poland, or whatever that particular patch of ground happened to be calling itself these days was. The Government in Warsaw had referred to it as Lesser Poland for years and the people who lived there had taken to calling it Galicia. It was the same region that had been hit hardest by fighting during the Second World War and it had been depopulated as a result. In the twenty years since the war had ended the Federal Government had done its best to put that land back into productive use by encouraging farmers and craftsmen from other parts of the Empire to relocate there, with veterans from the Military getting preferential treatment. Having the main rail line between Berlin and Kiev pass through the region had driven large scale industrial development as well. Unfortunately, that policy had unforeseen consequences that were only now starting to become noticeable and had the potential to become serious problems in the future.

    For decades, the Government in Warsaw had played both sides in the politics of that country. Tacitly supporting the independence movement in Poland, while at the same time pointing at it to prompt official Berlin to send money their way. It was well known that much of that Federal largess had gone to Warsaw and the other fiefdoms of the Government Ministers. Now they were waking up to reality that demographics in southern Poland had changed with Ruthenians and ethnic Germans becoming the majority. Those two groups had little love for the Government in Warsaw for various reasons, and there was a growing independence movement in the region. Surprisingly, they were joined by a substantial number of ethnic Poles in that regard. Neighboring Silesia and Slovakia both had Polish and Ruthenian minorities which was why Helene had reporters asking her about the situation.

    In Helene’s opinion it served the Government in Warsaw right to find themselves with the shoe on the other foot for a change. Not that she would say it out loud. She also had her parents to contend with, both of them were in their seventies and in declining health. While seeing to their care wasn’t something that she needed to worry about, the simple fact that Helene’s father had been the head of the family for decades, increasing their social stature over his lifetime made things complicated. The day was coming when he would no longer be around and the tricky business of keeping the family estate intact would need to be undertaken carefully. No one doubted that Albrecht would be the next Graf, but it would be extremely easy for them to find themselves with that title, some land and little else in a generation. That was what had happened with the families that Helene’s sisters, Sonje Louise and Caecilia, had married into.



    Mitte, Berlin

    The delight that Nella had the Holiday Season was infectious. Currently, she was pulling Kiki along as they went from stall to stall in the Alexander Marketplace. They had spent the afternoon going to several different Christmas Markets and this one was possibly the largest of the entire lot.

    Freddy and Suga had been with them but Suga had needed to find a place to sit and rest. A week earlier they had gone in for a scan and discovered that Suga had a healthy pregnancy that was progressing nicely. They had also discovered that she was further along than they had thought, and the due date had been moved up from May to April. The announcement of it was scheduled to happen during the television address that Kiki’s father was going to make on Christmas Day from the Winter Residence. Freddy and Suga were going to be on the air with him as part of the increasingly prominent Freddy was to take on over the coming years as their father was still planning on retiring when he turned sixty-four. The announcement of the impending birth of his first grandchild would be seen as an important milestone by the public and it would be laying the groundwork for his eventual retirement as being seen as another. Not that Kiki blamed him, somehow keeping on working until you dropped over dead when you didn’t need too seemed perverse to her.

    “You got to see Kiki…” Nella blurted out as she pulled on Kiki’s arm. She had been sucking on candy canes and had been wolfing down other sweets since they had gotten here a couple hours earlier. It being the holidays, Charlotte had said that it was alright to indulge her. Just Kiki understood that as amped up on sugar as Nella was at the moment there would come an inevitable crash, that was if she didn’t get a stomachache or worse.

    This being the Alexander Marketplace, they came to a wide-open space beyond the stalls and in a roped off section was a crowd of people watching as men made hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments under exhaust hoods that were there for exactly that purpose. Watching a bubble of molten glass get placed in a heated mold and with how fast they were getting churned out was something. Nella seemed to lose interest and was tugging on Kiki’s arm again.

    A few minutes later, they were walking among a different section of stalls when Nella seemed to wilt. Kiki noticed that she was pale, and her skin was clammy. Coupled with the amount of sweets that she had eaten, Kiki understood what was happening and pulled her towards the nearest rubbish bin. Seconds later, Nella threw-up into it.

    “Is your little girl alright?” A blond woman running a stall that looked to be selling jars of all manner of pickled things asked in Russian as Kiki used her handkerchief to wipe off Nella’s mouth.

    “Nella just has had too much holiday cheer” Kiki replied in the same language.

    The woman smiled warmly at that, then turned and grabbed a small jar of ginger root that she handed to Kiki. “This might help your daughter feel better” She said.

    It seemed that she had made the same assumptions that people always did when they saw Kiki and Nella together. Kiki didn’t bother to correct her as she paid the woman, glad that Zella and Aurora weren’t around to see this. They had joked for years there was some aspect of Kiki that made people assume that she was a young mother.

    Glancing up Kiki saw that her security detail was watching her closely, though was standing off somewhat and letting her handle the situation. It was the disadvantage of her own instructions to them and because they knew she was a Medic, they figured that she was well suited to take care of Nella. Twisting open the lid and prying out the wax seal, Kiki pulled out a piece of the ginger root and gave it to her little sister.
     
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    Part 100, Chapter 1607
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Seven



    25th December 1963

    Mitte, Berlin

    Celebrating what was the first part of Christmas as well as her birthday with her family was always enjoyable. Nella had bounced back from the consequences of stuffing herself with sweets a few days earlier. Charlotte had said that she hoped that Nella had learned a lesson from the experience but judging by what she had done over Christmas Eve it was obvious that she had not. Kiki still had Epiphany and Orthodox Christmas ahead of her. Apparently, representatives from the Russian Sisters linked to the Kat wanted to see her during that time period. Kiki had no idea what they wanted but she suspected that the woman she had encountered in the Alexander Marketplace had something to do with it.

    The book that had been given to Kiki by her father was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. De humani corporis fabrica, On the fabric of the human body, by Andreas Vesalius. The woodcuts and vivid descriptions of human anatomy from the Sixteenth Century were breathtaking. The binding of the book bothered Kiki though, it looked like it was made of human skin. She knew that it was a common practice with books of this type in prior centuries, actually holding one in her hands was different experience entirely. It made her skin crawl. It was just as well that the book was going to the Old National Gallery where it would join rest of the family’s collection of rare books on public display.

    The book was also a very clear endorsement of Kiki’s career choice. It was much like when her father had given her the stethoscope a few years earlier that was still a part of her kit. Zella managed to complete the painting that Kiki had convinced her to do just in time. On Christmas Eve Kiki had been terribly afraid that her giving it to her father and stepmother would come across as terribly narcissistic. They had loved it though, saying that it captured who she was, and it was wonderful that she had included Hera and Rauchbier.

    Now on Christmas Day, Kiki watched as her father read a prepared statement to the German Empire in the room of the Hohenzollern Palace that had been converted into a small studio. At that moment, there were potentially over a hundred million people watching on television or listening in on the radio from throughout the Continental Empire as well as locations such as the distant Pacific Islands as Louis Ferdinand addressed them as Emperor. It was noticeable that he was attempting to address each region and subject Kingdom by name. Then in a twist, he mentioned that because of the advances in technology that the people in New Swabia which was at the most distant corner of the Earth were within the sound of his voice. They were no longer alone and that in the coming days, his son Louis Junior would soon be joining them.

    Then he started talking about what the Royal family was up to. How he was looking forward to Freddy and Suga having their first child in the spring. How proud he was of what Michael, Kristina, Louis Junior, Victoria and even Marie Cecilie were making of themselves and briefly mentioned what they up to. He mentioned that four-year-old Antonia had loved sweets a bit too much over Christmas and that her Kindergarten Teacher would probably need to be aware of that next year in conclusion. It was a reminder that Charlotte wanted Nella attending a regular Kindergarten, not wanting her to be as insulated from the world as her older brothers and sisters during their formative years.


    Near Jassel, Southern Poland

    Upon retiring from the Panzer Corps, Olli Bauer had received two thousand hectares of good land in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. He had also gotten a handful of medals from the Prussian and Thuringian States to go with his all the ones he had won over a lifetime of service. The result was that he got a substantial stipend from the State in addition to the income that he got from his property. Not that he had made much from his farm yet. He had only lived here for a single year, since he had retired shortly after he had returned from Korea. Nele had been delighted when she had learned that Olli had pulled the pin and the farm was everything that she had dreamed of since they had been children.

    Earlier that night, Olli had watched with his family as the Emperor had given his address to the Empire. He had briefly been able to forget the things that had been troubling him lately. Months earlier, during the harvest when Olli had joyfully watched as the wheat had been brought in and he had been able to arrange for its sale to an agent in Krakow. He had been planning what he would do when spring came Olli had an unexpected encounter. A man who introduced himself as Generallieutenant Erwin Bachmann had visited Olli’s farm. Bachmann had known about Olli’s military record and had listened to him as he had told him all about his plans for the coming years. Finally, Bachmann had asked how Olli intended to keep his land if the Government in distant Warsaw ever declared itself independent from the German Empire and saw people like him as noncitizens of the country they lived in? Olli didn’t have an answer for that. Then Bachmann had tried to sell Olli on the Division that he was raising from the retired Soldiers who had farms throughout the Upper Vistula Basin. They really could use a man with Olli’s skills.

    Olli had thanked Bachmann, declining his offer and had thanked him before sending him on his way. Now though, he kept thinking about what Bachmann had said about the Government in Warsaw. Would they really throw Olli off his farm if they didn’t have the Federal Government standing over them?
     
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    Part 100, Chapter 1608
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Eight

    1st January 1964

    Jena, Thuringia

    Looking at the clock on the counter next to the sink, Kiki saw that it was nearly two o’clock in the morning and the test card was displayed on the screen of the television that she had left on. She had been watching it while waiting for midnight to roll around and had fallen asleep on the couch that divided her apartment between where she lived and where she slept. Ben had said that he would call. If he had, Kiki had slept through it. That was something that she would have to explain the next time they talked, which would be a bit embarrassing. Tomorrow… Or by now it would be later today, she would need to get a message to him. Kiki had lived up to Nadine’s demand that she not call or turn up at her house for the rest of the year in order to get her to keep quiet about the whole mess that had played out in October. 1963 might finally be over, but Kiki figured that calling Ben at home on New Year’s Day would be asking for trouble if Nadine was the one who answered. So, she would need to once again go through the cumbersome process of relaying messages through mutual friends.

    As she unwrapped herself from the wool blanket, both Hera and Rauchbier who had been sleeping on her protested having to let her up. Turning off the television and closing the drapes. She saw that the New Years festivities had ended and the view out her window was of the rooftops of the sleeping town. There was a dusting of snow that would probably turn to drizzle in the morning. The ticking sound from the radiator was a reminder of how it was still mid-winter.

    Kiki had been invited by Doctor Holz to a lunch that he was having with some colleagues of his as well as some other selected students. Zella was otherwise occupied in Berlin, which meant that Kiki would be there alone if she went. She would spend the whole afternoon with the others trying to draw her into the conversation in a well-meaning way, not realizing how exhausting she found it. Perhaps it would be better to just stay in and lose herself in a book instead, she thought to herself.

    Leaving the comfort of her apartment, Kiki walked down the hallway to the bathroom that she shared with the other four tenants who lived on this floor. Because of the late hour, it was mercifully empty. Looking at her face in the mirror, Kiki could see how tired she looked as she brushed her teeth. She could also see the red of the blemish that was she felt rising on the side of her nose. She had left washing her face for too long and that was the result as she tried to make up for it now. In the documentary that Zella had made over the summer, that was one uncomfortable detail that had found its way into the final cut that was going to play on Public Television throughout Germany sometime in the coming weeks, that Kristina of Prussia, the Princess Royal of the German Empire, didn’t have particularly great skin. When Kiki had brought that up with Ben the last time they had talked, he had said that he thought that she looked perfect. As Kiki dried her face off, she wondered what to make of that.

    Leaving the bathroom, Kiki encountered Dita, the Doctorial Student who lived down the hall from her. She was around thirty or so and her hair was a shade of red that could have only come from a bottle. Kiki had lived in close proximity to her for months and the only they seemed to share was a wall.

    “About time you got done” Dita said with her voice slurred as she barged past Kiki into the bathroom. Judging by the smell, Dita had enjoyed a great deal of champagne over the course of the evening and now it was coming out. One way or the other. Kiki didn’t bother to stick around in order to find out which.

    Once back in her apartment, Kiki swiftly changed into one of her Hertha jerseys and crawled into her bed, the weight of the covers comforting on a cold night. Her mind kept going back the events of the previous days.

    After Christmas, Suga had asked for Kiki’s help in untangling the terms that Doctor Berg had thrown around while the ultrasound scan had been conducted. The Technician that Berg worked with had determined that Suga was at five months gestation with normal development, which meant that the due date would be around mid-April. Previously, it had been estimated to be in May. Freddy had pointed out that meant that it had been conceived while they were on there honeymoon in August. Regardless of what the Junkers thought of Suga, that normally was regarded as a good sign. Once they had gotten past that, Suga had asked Kiki what she thought. The fact that Kiki would have a niece or nephew in a few months had not even entered her thinking until then. That had been when Suga had confided in her some of the names that she had been batting around with Freddy, Louise would most certainly play a role if it was a girl, obvious. Some of Suga’s other ideas would definitely raise a few eyebrows though. Kiki told her that those sounded wonderful.

    There were also the courses that Kiki had taken over the previous term and would be continuing over the next. Zella had been surprised to learn that Kiki was taking Theology and she had told her that it was for getting the Humanities prerequisite out of the way. That was a half-truth. While it did get the prerequisite out of the way, Kiki had wanted more than that out of it. When she had been a child, Kiki had gone to church with her mother as expected. It wasn’t until later that she had learned about it being Russian Orthodox. Lately though, she had started to have a bit of difficulty reconciling the simple beliefs of her childhood with the realities that she had been presented with as an adult. Her hope was that learning more about the ideology would help her with that.

    Looking over, Kiki noticed that Rauchbier was looking at her over the edge of the bed. He liked to be with her but had been scared of Hera since he had been a puppy and had gotten badly scratched across the nose as the price for getting too close. At the moment Hera was off doing whatever it was she did in the night.

    “You can join me” Kiki said, patting the covers beside her.

    Rauchbier jumped up on the bed and affectionately licked Kiki’s chin as she scratched behind his ears. Regardless of whatever turmoil she was feeling, having a dog certainly helped.
     
    Part 101, Chapter 1609
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Nine



    4th January 1964

    Moscow, Russia

    Gia was still recovering and trying to come to grips with the baby that she had carried for the previous nine months. Fyodor had been happier than she had ever seen him. Being extremely reserved normally, the only time that Gia had ever seen him particularly animated was when he had a thorny problem to solve or was thinking a dozen moves ahead in chess. The only time that his intelligence had failed him was in his efforts to win over Gia. It hadn’t been until he gave up and showed her who he really was that he had finally succeeded in that effort. Just minutes earlier Georgy and Lidiya had been through. All they had done was remind her of just how exhausted she was.

    Everyone in the hospital was buzzing about how the Czar’s cousin, the closest thing to a living saint that anyone knew of, had given birth to a baby boy. Just how healthy he was happened to be the open question that was weighing on everyone knowledgeable with the situation. Gia had been filled with nothing but apprehension since she had learned that she had a son. She feared what might happen. Would it be a bruise that would turn into a hemorrhage, or a scratch that wouldn’t stop bleeding that would let them know the truth? As much as she wanted to protect him, it kept running through Gia’s mind that the potentially lethal genetic legacy that that might have been passed to him could only have come from her if it manifested itself. All they could do was wait and see what happened which made it worse. There was testing that could be done, but the Doctors didn’t want to take the risk involved just yet. If he was a hemophiliac taking a blood sample could be extremely dangerous.

    That was when Kat entered the room. She had travelled all the way from Berlin and had apparently gotten here only a couple hours after Fyodor had sent the message that Gia had gone into labor. Gia had no idea how many favors Kat had called in or how much jet fuel was burnt getting her here so fast.

    “Do you mind?” Kat asked as she looked at the baby that Gia was holding.

    Gia felt her gently lift the baby from her arms and she watched as Kat smiled with delight as she held him.

    “Do you have a name yet?” Kat asked.

    “No” Gia answered, “I haven’t even thought about that.” Kat must have seen something in her face when Gia said that.

    “You’re frightened?” Kat asked.

    “Hemophilia” Gia answered. The elephant in the room.

    Kat frowned and looked at the baby, “They don’t know yet?”

    “They can find out but there are risks” Gia said, “What if he is…” Gia trailed off, her earliest memories included the slow agonizing death of her mother’s younger brother.

    “It can be controlled now” Kat replied, “This isn’t like with your uncle fifty years ago when your grandparents turned to a faith healer out of desperation because it wasn’t understood. Medicine has come a long way.”

    “But what am I supposed to do?”

    “There is only one thing you can do for Alexei” Kat said with a smile.

    And Gia hoped that Kat was joking because otherwise she must have completely lost her mind to even suggest that.



    Jena, Thuringia

    When Vicky came to Jena, she came in a manner “Befitting a woman of her station” as well as certain Royal grants having been made to the University on her behalf, and Kiki was disturbed by how fast everyone fell into line. These were the same people who had been treating her as if she didn’t belong for months. Of course, Vicky was full of questions. Why was Kiki taking General Education courses this year as opposed to being in the Medical Program? Being the first one out of her mouth as she found Kiki in a field on the edge of Jena where she brought Rauchbier so that he could really run. Kiki tried to answer that as best she could, clearly Vicky didn’t get her reasoning. She said that it sounded to her like Kiki was keeping herself busy while she waited for a slot in the Medical Academy to open. Calling what were elective courses prerequisites when they weren’t related to what she would be doing next year sounded silly to Vicky. Kiki knew that her sister would never understand that she took those courses in an effort to grow as a person. It was the next question that got to Kiki though.

    “Why are you living like this?” Vicky asked, “No one is impressed by it, they call you a tourist and say that you are just a rich girl slumming it.”

    That couldn’t be more wrong, and Kiki had to take a breath in order not to rip Vicky’s head off.

    “It is not about that” Kiki said as she watched Rauchbier tear across the field, “It’s about power, and who has it over me.”

    Vicky gave Kiki a bewildered look.

    “It is like this Vicky” Kiki said, “Last summer when I bought the stock in Sony, I had those petty little shits in the Hohenzollern Trust all over me. They said that if I wanted to spend my money on pretty dresses or jewelry that would be fine, but business was something that wasn’t my concern. Then they asked me what I had done with the stock certificates and I told them to fuck off.”

    “What does that have to do with anything?” Vicky asked.

    “They threatened me” Kiki said, “Told me that I could play by their rules or I could live by my own means. This is what living by my own means looks like.”

    “They followed through on that?” Vicky asked, “Does Poppa know?”

    “I have no idea if they did or not” Kiki replied, “I don’t care.”
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1610
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Ten



    5th January 1964

    Moscow, Russia

    “We’re going to let your mother sleep” Fyodor said to Alexei as he fed him from a bottle. The boy had already proven that he had an appetite which the nurses said was a good thing. He tired out sweet Sasha though. When Fyodor had heard the idea of naming him for Sasha’s dead uncle, he had instantly saw the importance of it. The people would think that she had broken the curse that had bedeviled her family for decades with that single action. He might have said that it was tempting fate, but when the Doctors had finally risked taking a blood sample, they had discovered that Alexei had a normal level of clotting factors in his blood. The curse had either never been passed to Gia from her mother, or else they had beaten the odds. That had been a great ease to Sasha because while she had said very little about it, she had been worried about what would happen if she had children for her entire life.

    “Welcome to the world Alexei Fyodorov” Fyodor said “It’s great big wonderful and terrible place. Perhaps one day we will have your grandfather and uncle in the room at the same time without them trying to kill each other.”

    Having to juggle the schedule so that Arkadiy and their father were never in close proximity had been a real bother. Added to the mix was Georgy, who seemed to have taken a personal interest in Alexei. When Alexei came of age, he would become the Grand Duke of Transbaikal, an action that signaled just how important the Siberians had become to the Czar’s hold on power. Most of them were like Fyodor in that while they held no formal title, they had grown wealthy with the opportunities that had opened up in Siberia. Mostly, that would change with time. Sasha was the Imperial Grand Duchess of Russia like her mother, Tatiana Nikolaevna, before her.

    Fyodor just knew that he would eventually have the pleasure of teaching Alexei how to play chess. The rest of it would work itself out in time.



    Rural Silesia

    The wisent seemed to be happy to not have to dig through the snow to get to the fodder that was being laid out for them. They were part of the Graf’s long-term project of restoring the lands that he owned to as pristine a condition as possible. He had convinced the Reichstag of Silesia to incorporate the forest bison into the State flag and giving the animals protected status. Ilse thought that they were fun to watch. Like the various types of deer that Graf kept careful track of, one could learn a lot about the seasons by watching them. Ilse had to remind herself that these were wild animals because of how the small herd gathered here during the winter. They seemed tame until angered, then they were capable of dismantling whatever bothered them; predator, person or even vehicle.

    The Graf watched from the cab of one of the lorries as the foresters worked to shovel the fodder out of the bed. Rust was sitting beside him. As always, it was difficult to tell what he was thinking in situations like this. Was he lamenting the protected status that he had gotten for these animals considering how much he had enjoyed hunting though out his life? Or was he like Ilse in that he would run with them if he could?

    “Enjoying the show?” The Graf asked when he rolled down the window to the cab.

    “Big animals eating?” Ilse asked in reply.

    “Biology at its most basic” The Graf said, “That only leaves intercourse and defecation. Then you would have all your bases covered. Wouldn’t you?”

    If Ilse didn’t know any better, she might suspect that the Graf had just made a joke knowing that she had Doctorate in Biology.



    Kreuzberg, Berlin

    Agreeing to meet them in church felt like some sort of cosmic joke that Kiki didn’t quite get. While she was standing there during the service, the Metropolitan was delighted to see her. The Russian Sisters thought that this was the best place to meet her, far from untrustworthy eyes in their perspective. Afterwards, she was led to an apartment building on a back street somewhere in Kreuzberg that felt eerily like if she had stepped a couple thousand kilometers east as opposed to being only a few kilometers from home.

    Entering a kitchen, Kiki had a cup of tea thrust into her hands. “It is wonderful to have the daughter of Kira Kirillovna in my house” The woman who was hosting her said, “Though you do favor your father in appearance.”

    “That is not what is important” One of the other sisters said, “She is one of us.”

    Looking around, Kiki saw that they varied in age. Some of them were elderly while others were teenagers, probably daughters of the original sisters who had found themselves in Germany during the war. They trusted her enough to allow her access to this place, but not enough to give her their names. Not yet anyway.

    “You all heard the story about what she told von Papen when he threatened to cut her off and what she has done since” One of the sisters said, “She might have grown up very distant from her roots, but against all odds the Germans somehow ended up with a Russian Princess in their Royal family.”

    “I am glad you reached that conclusion” Kiki said, contrary to what Vicky believed, someone had been impressed by how she had been living. “But what is this about?”

    “We figured that you deserved to see this” One of the sisters said, “And know what to do with it.”

    A sculpture had been wrapped in a blanket and they obviously didn’t like it. It depicted a scene that Kiki had become very familiar with over the last year, Mithras engaged in the ritual slaughter of a bull. She could only think of a few reasons why someone might want something as grotesque as that in their house. Unless it was someone with a deep interest in antiquities, they would have a lot of explaining to do.

    “You need to tell me just who this belongs to” Kiki said.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1611
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Eleven



    11th January 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    “You commandeered an airplane and my daughter’s boyfriend for what could be considered personal reasons?” Louis asked, he had finally gotten around to calling Kat in. It was just one more minor headache atop all the others that had been consuming his life over the previous months.

    “Your standing orders state that I can use all assets of the State to further the ongoing mission of keeping Jehane Thomas from harm” Kat said, “I was just checking up on her.”

    “That was twenty years ago, and the world has moved on since then” Louis said, annoyed by her cheek. “How is Gia doing? And the baby?”

    “Gia is doing well” Kat replied, “So is Alexei.”

    “That is what she named her son?”

    “Yes, and at my suggestion.”

    “Are you mad?” Louis asked, “Do you understand the history of that name.”

    “I understand that it is a history that Gia has to reclaim if she wants to have control of her life” Kat said, “This Saint Sasha nonsense that her cousin has foisted upon her is pure poison. Sooner or later people are going to be reminded of just who she is and why they overthrew her grandfather in the first place.”

    Louis winced as Kat referenced the Russian Revolution. He was starting to believe that the efforts to head off a recurrence of that event had had unforeseen complications in his own country. The problem he had was that he didn’t even know where to start looking after his daughter had voiced her suspicions to him.

    “That is a matter of opinion, and please don’t do that again in the future” Louis said and as soon as he said it, he saw the look on Kat’s face. She thought that she had won or something. “And that is not the only reason why I wanted to talk to you today.”

    “I presume that it has something to do with money” Kat replied. There were times when Louis was reminded of how the press had depicted Kat for years, as a tigress laying lazily behind the throne extending her claws as a reminder that she was every bit as fearsome as her reputation suggested. This was one of those times.

    “I take it that you have already talked to Kristina and Victoria?” Louis asked.

    “Yes” Kat replied, “I don’t think I need to urge you to be cautious though.”

    “Anything else?”

    “That it might be mere misogyny as opposed to corruption.”

    “Best case scenario?”

    “What do you think?” Kat asked in reply.

    “You understand how the board was set up, how it was designed to keep me from appointing cronies to it?”

    “You have the option of appointing an outside auditor” Kat said, “And if there are any irregularities those responsible had better find religion.”

    So, Kat had been thinking about this.

    “You understand how Kristina has been living because of these people?” Louise asked.

    “I don’t think that Kiki minds living on the pay of an FSR Hauptman on student leave as much as knowing that she is bothers you” Kat replied.

    The truth about Louis’ rebellious daughters had been jarring over the last few months. Kristina’s life had been radically changed by her experiences in the Medical Service in ways that would have been unimaginable before. They had finally found a way to keep Marie Cecilie out of trouble, ironically by appointing her to a position of responsibility. And finally, there was Victoria. Charlotte had asked what he would do if she found someone who she fell in love with, just that question alone had left him with heartburn for the rest of the day.

    “Do you have someone in mind to act as auditor?” Louis asked and Kat gave him that terrifying smile of hers when she was about to get exactly what she wanted.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    “You are going to do nothing of the sort” Kiki said to Zella, who had just concluded a rather colorful extended rant about what she would like to do to “Mithras” the terrorist leader who had been stalking Kiki for months. Unlike before, he now had a name and a face; Lothar de Maizière. He was known to them because all of them had attended classes with him. When Kiki had considered trying out for the University Orchestra in Berlin, he had been one of her potential rivals. One of the Russian Sisters worked in his mother’s household, she had seen his taste in artwork as well as his growing obsession with Kiki over the last year and had been understandably alarmed.

    Zella gave Kiki a sour look. For all her bluster Kiki knew that Zella simply wasn’t capable of carrying out most of her threats. She didn’t have it in her to actually harm another person like that and even if she did the potential consequences would make such an action pointless.

    “We know who he is” Kiki said, “We just can’t prove it.”

    “You have a gun” Zella replied, “Use it.”

    “This isn’t a movie Zella” Aurora said, “He isn’t going to blab about what he has been doing because we threaten him.”

    Thank you, Kiki thought to herself.

    “We need a plan” Kiki said, “One we can stick to that ends with him in a jail cell, and no more wild talk of cutting off his favorite bits. That’s just gross.”

    Kiki was looking at Zella when she said that last part. She just smirked in response.
     
    Part 101, Chapter 1612
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twelve



    29th January 1964

    Innsbruck, Austria

    The opening of the Winter Games had come at just the right time for Michael. He had been ducking the family drama that had consumed his family for the last several months. If Kiki wanted to live like a starving student, Rea was a pain in the ass, as she always had been, and Vicky didn’t like men, then more power to them. Michael had found that he had more pressing concerns in Bohemia anyway. For all members of the Reichstag in Prague insisting that he not play a role in the governance of Bohemia, they certainly didn’t hesitate to demand that he play referee in their endless squabbles. No matter what he decided, someone always came away miffed. Michael’s father had told him that it came with the job and that he could look forward to dealing with it until he reached retirement age, in forty years.

    Luckily the Olympics provided the perfect escape for Michael. Having medaled in Rome two years earlier, he was expected to be here and because Bohemia always did well in winter sports there was going to be a lot of celebrating to do. The torch lighting went as planned and as always people made jokes about whether or not a cowboy was going to be a part of the ceremony. This year someone had taken the time to interview Martzel Ibarra at his home in Argentina, the story of the role that he had played in the 1936 Olympic Summer Games had grown legendary with retelling. It had included film clips of him jumping out his car and running up the track waving a box of kitchen matches in his hand after driving all over Berlin that morning trying to find a store that was open on a Sunday. This had aired on International Television and there even talk of giving Martzel a medal for representing the spirit of the Games.

    As the opening ceremony concluded Michael joined the Bohemian team. It was going to be a fun week.



    Wilhelm Station, Flatvaer Islands, New Swabia Antarctica

    Clutching the rifle in his gloved hands, Louis realized that as cold as it was here, this was the summertime. The rifle was an old Mauser G98 left over from the First world War, the select fire G44 that he had trained with didn’t work at the temperatures often encountered here. When he had left Kiel, the sealskin coat and felt lined boots that Louis had been issued had seemed excessive, now he was starting to wonder if they would be warm enough for a place like this.

    The Captain had told them to be keeping an eye out for unauthorized persons attempting to board the ship while they were unloading the supplies and equipment. Afterwards, the ship would be searched from top to bottom. Louis wouldn’t need to take part in that last part because he would be ashore. They had also been told that anyone who might hesitate in taking the shot had no business in standing sentry. Louis had been put in charge of one of the Platoons.

    Looking from the deck of the Albatros II, Louis looked at the collection of prefab buildings huddled against the hillside where it was said that a few hundred people lived year-round and served as the main depot for research stations inland. Not for the first time he had misgivings about what he was doing. He had volunteered to come here unlike the dozens of personnel who had come aboard in Argentina. They had been ordered to come here after somehow angering officialdom back home, word was that Antarctica always had a need for warm bodies because they tended to become cold bodies in short order. While the Government of Germany had ended Capital Punishment in the Criminal Courts, the Military was a different matter. It reserved the right to execution by firing squad until told otherwise. It was something that no one back home wanted to put to the text by carrying out such an execution, so malefactors were frequently sent to Wilhelm Station instead. While slower, it seemed that the eventual outcome was no less certain.

    Because Louis was a Lieutenant and part of the Scientific Expedition, he was regarded as being part of the upper crust of Antarctica’s society. Baring misadventure, he would be leaving in two years on the ship that brought supplies from the World. Looking at Wilhelm Station, Louis realized that it was a prison that had no walls because there was nowhere to go.

    The Albatros had been closely following the SMS Sirius since they had left Rio Gallegos where the Icebreaker was based. The sound of the breaking ice that had been audible since they had reached the ice ceased. As Louis watched, the ramps were dropped onto the ice and a crowd of men had stood there waiting as the work to unload the ships started.

    The men who were laboring, didn’t bother to look up what they were doing as Louis walked down the ramp. A number of VW Iltis cars that had been modified for the cold had pulled sledges out from the station that were being loaded with crates. Other tracked vehicles were being loaded directly.

    “You won’t be nearly as pretty once you’ve spent a winter or two here” A man said to Louis before giving him a gap-toothed grin. Louis couldn’t help but notice that both the man’s ears were missing, and his nose was a blackened stub.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1613
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Thirteen



    7th February 1964

    Moscow, Russia

    There were times when Anya was reminded of exactly who she was as she tried to put her thoughts about the last month’s two key events in the letter that she was writing to Kiki.

    The first thing that had happened was Gia and Fyodor had come home from the hospital with Alexei, Anya had been dreading what would happen when they did. She had been unable to identify it for years, but recently Anya had learned that it was common for orphans of live with the fear that they could lose everything again throughout their lives because it had already happened to them once. Because she was nineteen and going to University, what did Gia still owe her?

    The worry had consumed Anya that because Gia had a baby of her own that there would be no place for her. Despite the assurances that nothing would change that she had received, Anya knew that things would have to change. That was why when she had been watching Gia and Fyodor carrying a bundle wrapped in a white blanket, she had been certain that the axe was about to fall. Over the next several minutes, Anya had watched absolutely consumed with anxiety.

    Finally, Gia walked in talking to the baby. “This is your big sister Anya, Alexei” She said, “She’s being silly and thinks that we are going to kick her out now that you are here.”

    “I don’t think that” Anya said, even though she feared that they would do exactly that. She knew it was irrational. But whoever said that fear was rational?

    “Here Anya” Gia said handing her Alexei, “You should get acquainted with your little brother.”

    Over the next minutes, Gia had stood there and delightedly showed Anya how to hold Alexei. She was terrified at how small and delicate he was in her arms, her fear of getting thrown out was replaced with the fear that she might drop him. The idea that she would ever have a little brother like how Gia was telling her that Alexei was seemed like an impossible fantasy. Then Fyodor walked in and took a photograph of them together, probably catching the surprised look on Anya’s face in the process.

    “You will always be a part of this family” Gia had said to her right as Fyodor had snapped the photograph.

    The second thing that had happened was that the birth of Alexei had resulted in a visit by the Patriarch of Moscow who had been understandably interested in the spiritual growth of Alexei in the coming years. While he was there, he had known who Anya was when he had spoken with her. He had told her that the Abbess of the Yelizarov Convent had asked how she was doing after she had heard about Anya getting injured.

    It seemed strange that the Abbess who Anya remembered as a stern authority figure in her childhood would show that much concern years after she had left the orphanage at the convent. Supposedly, Anya had an open invitation if she wanted to visit Pskov next summer. Would it be the same as it had been when she had been a child until she had left with Gia to start a new life in Berlin? Or would it be different? Anya wasn’t sure which possibility frightened her more.

    Writing a letter to Kiki was an effort to put all of that into perspective. Though as Anya was discovering, messy emotions made perspective elusive at times. Looking up, she noticed that Ivan the Fool was sitting on the edge of her desk, watching the movement of her pen intently. She wondered if she ought to ask in her letter about how Ivan’s mother Hera had adjusted to moving with Kiki to Jena. Kiki always liked writing about her animals, so it would be a fun thing to include.



    Idlewild International Airport, New York

    Having the name of their band mentioned by Kiki on the Tonight Show months earlier had resulted in increased interest in the Moondogs in America. At least that was what their Manager said. It was sort of difficult to tell as they trudged from the airliner to the terminal after such a long flight. John was being particularly cynical as he tended to be when they were decidedly on the back foot. No matter what anyone said, no one in America had the foggiest notion of who they were yet.

    “They had planned on having a few thousand screaming girls here to greet us” John said, “But they couldn’t make it on account of the weather.”

    It was a cold afternoon, Paul conceded that much. Still though.

    “A few thousand screaming girls?” Paul asked, “That’s laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?”

    “Can’t blame a fellow for having a dream” John said.

    Everyone snickered at that. They all knew the sort of greeting that they normally might have gotten couldn’t be further from that.

    Brian, their Manager, had promised that they would play a few shows in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles after a television appearance or two. It was all about building up buzz according to him. To Paul however, this trip was starting to have the same feel as the shows they had done early on in Liverpool where the only audience they had were the other bands playing in the club that night and their girlfriends. Paul was inclined to be pragmatic here. If America wasn’t ready for them yet, then that was America’s loss.
     
    Part 101, Chapter 1614
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Fourteen



    9th February 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    “This is the same way that the Royal Physician discovered that Vicky was in there with Rea” Kiki said, as she was listening to Suga’s belly with her stethoscope. “I don’t pretend to be a Doctor though.”

    “The scans have said that there is only one” Suga said, “And I am finding that is plenty.”

    Kiki listened for the heartbeat, with Suga being nearly seven months along it wasn’t too hard to find.

    “She sounds good” Kiki said, “Just as I said, I am not a Doctor yet.”

    “I am certain that you will be a wonderful Doctor in time” Suga said, and Kiki wished she shared her sister-in-law’s confidence in this matter, she remembered how she had reacted to Vicky last year.

    Freddy and Suga had asked her to continue her role as a go-between when it came to Doctors and Midwives, all of whom had opinions regarding the best treatment. It seemed like the role that Kiki played when she was in Berlin on weekends was telling most of them “Thank you, but no thank you” before sending them packing.

    An offhand comment that one of the Doctors had made had driven it home to Kiki the week before. This baby when it arrived would be second in line for the throne after Freddy as soon as it was born and because of changes in the laws, gender was no longer considered material in matters of inheritance. One other detail that Kiki knew, but like everyone else had been sworn to secrecy, the baby was a girl. The Order of Louise was about to know when they would have the Empress who would rule the German Empire outright, sometime in 90’s if Freddy retired on schedule. Kiki knew that they would be absolutely euphoric when word reached them. Suga had said that after weeks of debate with Freddy, they had decided that Mirai Louise would be her name. In Japanese that translated to Future, an idea that Suga seemed totally taken with. Kiki knew that the instant they informed the Registrar of that name the news it would ripple outward and how people interpreted it would speak volumes.



    Wilhelm Station

    As Louis settled in, he got to know his surroundings and the men he shared the laughably small hut that were his quarters with. There was Hugo Wieck who he was once again sharing a room with, though Louis would hardly call it a room. More of a cubby hole with two bunks and a curtain at one end. The others included Stabskapitänleutnant Till, who had once been the helmsman aboard the Flagship of the Atlantic Fleet until he had run the SMS Kiel aground, twice. Louis had heard that story before, just no one knew how on earth Till had been entrusted with that position a second time, and Till refused to talk about it. Knef was a mustang Hauptmann in the Marine Infantry whose life was disrupted by peace breaking out and he had gotten into one too many altercations with his superiors. Doctor Hofmann was scientist from the Wilhelm Institute and Berlin Technical University. He was there as part of the scientific mission. Oberlieutenant zur See Borchardt considered himself to be quite the ladies man. Louis had not been here five minutes when he had heard it whispered that Borchardt was here because he had given an Admiral’s wife crabs and she had passed them on to the Admiral.

    The windowless hut was as self-contained as possible. The door to the outside was like an airlock in a science fiction novel. A feature necessitated by the weather once winter set in. The outer room was also connected to what had been dubbed “the trench.” It was a dug out covered walkway that connected most of the buildings. Louis had been warned that visibility could be no more than a few paces during a storm, walking outside was extremely dangerous, so for much of the year no one went outside unless they had to. Louis had looks at the trench and had wondered if explosives had been used to dig it because the wherever the ground wasn’t bare stone, it was permafrost.

    Unable to sleep, Louis stared at the plywood ceiling that tilted downward towards his feet. He had been one of those tasked with spending the remainder of the local summer and the winter setting up the logistics for the extensive mapping and collection of geological samples in the Wohlthat Mountains next year. He was also babysitting dozens of scientists who had more brains than sense when it came from conducting their experiments.

    If all of that wasn’t enough, Louis had to listen to the whispers every time he walked past from the others posted here. Until he had arrived, Louis had no idea that his father had broadcast a global Christmas message that had mentioned New Swabia and Wilhelm Station by name as well as announcing that Louis was coming. Months later he was there, and the others were still trying to figure out why he had volunteered for it. In many of their minds he was the ultimate rich kid who had taken on the toughest assignment because he thought he had something to prove. It had taken a bit of time, but Louis had realized that most of the enlisted men were worried that he would get them killed in the process.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1615
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Fifteen



    25th February 1964

    Wedding, Berlin

    It was a Tuesday afternoon and Mithras was starting to feel paranoid, or at least more paranoid than usual. For the last several days he had felt like if he was being watched. Looking in the rearview mirror of his car he saw a figure on a green motorcycle that he was certain had been following him since he had left Mitte. Stopping at an intersection, he went straight and watched the rider turned right.

    Shaking his head, Mithras realized that he was obviously overthinking matters. Parking on the street, he got out and walked several blocks until he reached the building where the Financier was supposed to meet him.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Zella had parked her motorcycle and ran to the car that Aurora had borrowed from her mother, a 1961 Opel Rekord P2 Caravan. The station wagon was sluggish and didn’t like going around corners too quickly, but it did have the advantage of being almost invisible on city streets. Even the brown paint lent itself to that. Aurora had thought her mother’s car was incredibly ugly right up until a few weeks earlier when the features that made it useful for what they were doing revealed how useful it could be.

    It took them a few minutes to find Mithras again. Aurora had seen him park his car and walk up the street before she had gone to get Zella. She knew the neighborhood fairly well, working class, a lot of Poles and Slovaks lived around here. A blue blood like Mithras wouldn’t come here unless he had reason to. They had been following him for some time, painstakingly mapping out the structure of his organization. Kiki’s plan was that they would treat this like a news story, the self-styled Jacobins would be in a world of hurt if their leadership was exposed. Reading about it on the front page of the BT would be just that.

    The reality that they had found themselves dealing with was that the working on this story wasn’t nearly as much fun as it had sounded when they had started. All of them had classes at University to attend and Kiki was only able to be around on the weekends because she was living in Jena. There was also Zella grousing about how she would need to submit the story to her mother for the editorial process. The documentary that she had shot over the summer was about to air on public television and while Zella hadn’t said it, she clearly thought that this wasn’t the best use of her time.

    Watching the tavern that Mithras stepped into through the telephoto lens of her camera, Aurora watched as he sat down next to an older gentleman who looked like a swell.

    “They hate each other” Zella observed as she watched through her binoculars as Aurora snapped several photographs.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    “I need you and your friends to be useful to me for once” The Financier said as he handed Mithras a fat envelope. “The Emperor has seen fit to appoint someone to audit the Hohenzollern Trust. I don’t think that I need to tell you what will happen if certain funds get traced.”

    His message to Mithras was clear, if he went down then Mithras would certainly follow.

    “What are you asking?” Mithras asked.

    “I need this matter dealt with in a timely manner” The Financier replied, “So that I can find a way to bring the Emperor around again or at least delay the audit.”

    Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest? Came to mind as Mithras shoved the envelope into the pocket of his coat. The Financier’s meaning was obvious.

    “I’ll see what I can do” Mithras said, and the Financier just scowled at him. The two of them were bound by circumstance, and it was grating for them both.

    As he stepped out into the cold afternoon, Mithras looked both ways up and down the street which was largely empty on a winter day. He didn’t know why the Financier insisted that they meet in this neighborhood. As he walked back to his car, Mithras could hear two men shouting at each other in one of the buildings in Polish. One of the few things that he actually agreed with the Financier was the absurdity of Berlin being the capital of the German Empire and the city itself seeming to grow less German by the hour.

    As he turned a corner the feeling that he was being watched came back. Constantly glancing over his shoulder, Mithras saw nothing but empty sidewalk. He wasn’t paying attention when he stepped out into the street against the light and the only warning that he had was the squeal of tires on pavement as a car tried to stop before it hit him. He caught a glimpse of the word Opel on the hood of a brown car and then came the dull thud…

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    “I had a green light and he just stepped out in front of me” Aurora said to the Policeman who was taking her statement, which was mostly true. The car was mostly undamaged save for a new dent in the bonnet. The same couldn’t be said for Mithras though, he had eaten the pavement hard, as they watched he was being loaded onto an ambulance. “This is my mother’s car. She is going kill me.”

    “I think you’ll be fine Fraulein Friedmann” The Policeman said.

    An eternity later, the Police cleared Aurora to leave. As they drove towards where Zella had left her motorcycle, Zella pulled an envelope from the inner pocket of her leather jacket.

    “You picked his pocket?” Aurora asked, aghast that her friend would have done such a thing.

    “No, I decided that we had an opportunity to speed this article up a bit” Zella replied as she opened the envelope.

    Aurora nearly drove off the road when she saw the contents.

    Inside was a stack of hundred Reichsmark notes, more than Aurora might see in a year, wrapped in a paper band stamped with the Imperial seal and a photograph.

    “I know him” Zella remarked as she looked at the photograph.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1616
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Sixteen



    29th February 1964

    Werder

    It being a leap year it was the rare occasion where it was possible for Suse Rosa’s birthday to actually be celebrated on the date of her birth. Naturally everyone made a lot of jokes about it being her fourth birthday, though she was turning sixteen. Suse had never liked large parties and insisted, much to her mother’s disappointment, that it should only be herself, Jo and Ina this year. They would go out to dinner and go to the cinema, then they would have cake afterwards like they had every year since Suse had turned twelve. Gerta felt that her daughter should want far more than that this year, her sixteenth birthday was supposed to be special. Suse had remained steadfast in what she wanted, right up until Princess Marie Cecilie called to enquire about the party that Suse was throwing and asked if she should expect an invitation.

    Suddenly, Gerta had the perfect excuse to overrule her daughter and had pulled out all the stops. The result was something that Suse found completely terrifying. The house had been decorated on a massive scale and a large number of friends and family had been invited. Suse considered it fortunate that it was late February, otherwise who knew what spectacle her mother would have done with the entire property if this had been in August.

    Alois, Suse’s eleven-year-old brother had not been happy when he had been told that he was going to spend the weekend at a friend’s house. While Suse knew better than to say it aloud, but Suse was happy that he wasn’t going to be around. Even though he was four and a half years younger than she was, Alois was already more outgoing and popular than Suse ever was. Now, as she sat in her bedroom with the guests gathering downstairs Suse was reminded that she didn’t like crowds. Looking over, she saw a bit of movement under her bed, two amber eyes peered out and a bit of the shadow detached itself, resolving into the shape of Finster.

    When some of her classmates had found out that Suse had a black cat, they had asked if he was her demon familiar. Just one example cruelty that she had endured for years as the idea that she was something other than human. Her mother had always told her that the things that made people different needed to be celebrated. As Suse had discovered that she was smaller than everyone else and her eyes lent her an unearthly appearance, she had come to hate those differences. Eventually she had accepted who she was. Things happened though, like the humiliating incident with the flour that drove home how she would never be like other people.

    There came knocking on the door and Suse heard her mother’s voice. “Suse, your guests are starting to wonder where you are” She said through the door. “Locking yourself in your room will not make them go away.”

    Realizing that she would need to make an appearance, Suse steeled herself and walked through the door. As soon as she walked down the stairs. She saw that indeed, almost all the people she knew were in the house.

    Jo spotted her, “I knew that you wouldn’t stay up there forever” She said. And she guided Suse into the room, the effect was like a kaleidoscope as she walked through. She had cynically joked that Jo looked like a goddess from a Viking epic. Tonight, as Jo pulled her along, seemingly inevitable, that didn’t seem as funny.

    “Look who I found” Jo exclaimed as Suse found herself standing in front of Ria and a woman who looked about a decade older than her.

    “This is my Aunt Sigi, the first woman in outer space” Ria said.

    Looking at Sigi, Suse realized that she looked a lot like Ria’s father. “Another Princess?” She asked.

    Ria and Sigi just laughed.

    “I’m no Princess” Sigi said, “My father just happens to be Ria’s grandfather is all.”

    That wasn’t what Suse had been expecting.



    Tempelhof, Berlin

    When Kiki found out about what had happened in Wedding, she was horrified by what they had done. Then she saw the evidence that they had gathered, and then things really went sideways. The stack of hundred Reichsmarks notes and the photographs didn’t get the reaction that Aurora might have hoped for. Instead, she took one look at the photograph of Mithras with the swell who had given him the envelope and she went entirely still, then she saw the money. Minutes later, Kiki was pacing around the room. Aurora realized that this was the angriest that she had ever seen Kiki.

    “You know who that man with Mithras is?” Aurora asked.

    “Yes” Kiki snapped, “And that money, it belongs to my family.”

    “What does Jack Kennedy have to do with any of this?” Zella asked and immediately got the stink eye from Kiki.

    “Who the Hell is Jack Kennedy?” Kiki demanded.

    “He’s a friend of Tante Kat” Aurora said.

    “I have no idea how he fits in with all of this” Kiki said then she paused for a minute, “Don’t you two get the danger you have put yourselves in? You could go to jail if anyone ever finds out how you got that envelope and Mithras himself is going to be looking for it.”

    “That man has tried to kill you twice” Zella said, “My only regret is that Aurora didn’t back over him.”

    “Zella!” Aurora yelled, she felt bad enough about putting him in the hospital with a bad concussion and broken ribs. Having to live with killing him… That would be awful.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1617
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Seventeen



    8th March 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    Sitting in the hospital waiting to have the police walk in at any second while the Doctors kept him under observation had been nerve wracking. They kept going on about how they thought that while the concussion and rib fractures were not life threatening, they were left concerned because of their observations of his heart and blood pressure. He couldn’t tell them the truth, that he was stressed out because he was waiting for the axe to fall. And as he figured out over the following days, he had no idea as to which direction it was going to come from.

    Mithras kept thinking that while he had been unconscious, someone may have found the envelope in his coat pocket and reported it. The BII Division of the Federal Police would have all sorts of questions about how a student still living with his parents could have that sort of money in his pocket. The inevitable questions about the auditor would see him thrown into a prison cell.

    That never happened.

    Instead, when Mithras finally got his coat back, he discovered that the envelope was gone. All sorts of possibilities ran through his mind, the most likely being that one of the dozens of people who had tried to help him while he was unconscious had discovered the contents and helped themselves to the money. Then it hit him, he had no idea who the Auditor who had the Financier’s nickers in a twist even was, he had never gotten the chance to look. How was he supposed to deal with that man? If Mithras had gotten busted, he would have had an excuse for his inaction with the Financier.

    Mithras was starting to realize that unless he figured out what had happened to that envelope he was screwed unless he thought of something fast.



    Wilmington, Delaware

    The first week of March was overcast and unseasonably warm, a reminder that Spring was in the process of happening. There was simply too much to do around the yard and Frank Lawson understood it was too much to take on by himself. Midge had the bright idea that hiring the son of one of his employees to help out was a great idea. That was why he had Joe Junior cleaning up a winter’s worth of dog crap, deadfall and who knew what else that had revealed itself as the snow had melted had to cleared from the lawn. Joe Senior was one of the Salesmen on the car lot that Frank owned, Junior was a student at the University of Delaware and was saving up to spend the upcoming Spring Break in the Bahamas.

    When Joe had driven his old Chevy up the driveway that morning, Frank wondered if he had made a mistake. His initial judgement was that Joe was a bit of a lunkhead and the fact that he spoke with a slight stammer didn’t help matters. The saving grace was that the boy seemed to be a hard worker.

    “So, Midge is talking about going on another international trip this year” Frank said, “I’ve put her off for the last few years, but now she found out that when went to Europe our tour guide in the German Imperial War Museum was a renegade Princess.”

    “Th… That happen often, Sir?” Joe asked.

    “No” Frank replied, “It was just a coincidence, but Midge thinks that she could just walk up to Princess Kristina and ask if she remembers us.”

    Joe just shrugged.

    Frank knew that he was just venting, he remembered how the Germans had depicted the US Army in that museum. In Frank’s thinking whoever had set that up was typical of what he had encountered over there. Arrogant and presumptuous, the Germans seemed to think that the entire world revolved around them. Still, they were not as bad as the French. Frank had found Paris to be particularly disagreeable. He had not been there five minutes before he had heard the term “La grande trahison Américaine” and had made the mistake of asking what that meant. He had gotten an earful and all of it had been offensive. It seemed that the French had not forgotten the role that the United States had played in the First World War.

    Now Midge wanted to go back because she had actually enjoyed herself on that vacation. “There is so much culture and history there” was how she had termed it and this year she wanted to go to Rome and Constantinople as well. All Frank could see was that it would probably cost a mint.



    Wilhelm Station

    One of the features of the Panzer VII Lynx was that the tracks actually had lower ground pressure than human feet. The Raupenschlepper Arktis, or simply RSA, was based on the hull of the Lynx for exactly that reason. That was where the similarities ended. Without the need for guns or tons of armor, a cab and cargo bay had been built atop the hull and the entire thing had been painted high visibility orange. Louis found himself learning to drive one of the RSAs and he was learning that it was very different from steering a car. The steering wheel, clutch and gas pedals were supposedly identical to those found in the Lynx.

    “I’ll be fit to join the Panzer Corps as a driver when I get back home” Louis said and the Noncommissioned Officer who had been teaching him just looked annoyed.

    It was in keeping with something that Louis had noticed since he had arrived in Antarctica. Everyone here seemed to exist solely in the present moment. Tomorrow might as well not exist and next year was a whimsical fantasy.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1618
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Eighteen



    12th March 1964

    Tempelhof, Berlin

    Fleur was sniffing at the fence post in the alley, the little dog found it very interesting. Marie Alexandra wanted her to hurry up and finish because she wanted to go back inside. She had rediscovered her love of Alice in Wonderland in recent weeks and was reminded that the blue dress that she wore was completely impractical for the wintertime. Though the Weather Reporters were saying that it was spring, it certainly didn’t feel that way. She was reminded of that as she felt the cold wind on her bare calves.

    Momma had said that Marie needed to walk Fleur after she had one of her usual spats with Tatiana, probably just to get her out of the house. Her older sister had been in a pensive mood since they had gotten home from school a couple hours earlier and had been quick to anger when Marie had bothered her. When she had asked Momma what was going on, Momma said was that Tatiana needed her space today. Then Momma had rebuffed further questions, just telling Marie that she would understand soon enough. Exactly what was that supposed to mean?

    Marie heard a door slam and Nadine Hirsch walked out to her car. Momma had said that their neighbor didn’t approve of them because of events over the last several years and that Marie was to leave her alone.

    “Good afternoon” Marie said with a smile only to have Nadine stare at her.

    “Aren’t you cold?” Nadine asked, “Where is your coat?”

    “Upstairs, on its hook” Marie answered.

    “Didn’t your mother tell you to put it on?”

    “She did” Marie replied, “But I didn’t feel like getting it.”

    Nadine just shook her head and muttered something about Katherine’s children being just like Katherine before she got into her car and drove off. With that, Fleur lost interest in the fence post and sniffing around the side of the garage that Marie’s parents used.

    It was probably just as well that it was taking them back towards the house. Nadine was right about Marie being cold. With any luck Babulya Petia wouldn’t see her come in, she had funny ideas about the weather and liked to bundle Tatiana and Marie up in enough clothes to kit out an arctic expedition if it was so much as overcast.



    Jena, Thuringia

    Life had returned somewhat to normal. Kiki had gotten Zella and Aurora to back off Mithras for now. They had enough to put him away forever, just there were those other photographs that complicated matters. Kiki had never been one of those people prone to wild speculation about Governments being run by shadowy cabals or international banking nonsense. To actually see evidence of a conspiracy was something that Kiki was still trying to process, and she understood just how dangerous the situation was. It was one thing to want to be independent of someone, it was something else entirely to become a potential threat to that person’s reputation, fortune or even their freedom. Kiki realized that even though she was a Princess, they would have only the slightest hesitation in taking whatever means to silence her. They would have even less regard for her friends. Getting Zella to understand that had been difficult.

    Then today, news arrived that changed everything.

    The announcement that Sony was conducting a joint venture in partnership with Telefunken to manufacture video equipment for the European market. This also included mention that they were planning on building an assembly plant in Hechingen. When Kiki learned of that she was happy. It was something that she had spent a lot of time working on months earlier. Unfortunately for her, the Mayor of Hechingen called her apartment less than thrilled about this development. It was because while Kiki didn’t have a whole lot of political power in the Hohenzollern State, she had been able lean on him and the rest town council to approve the building permits. This was happening faster than he had realized it would.

    Kiki had pointed that as an incumbent politician, bringing dozens of well-paying jobs to his town would serve him extremely well when he had to run for reelection. The Mayor made a comment about having the Princess in the Castle who was a hardnosed cynical Berliner was something that would take time to get used to. Kiki understood, his real concern was that the new plant would change the character of his town. She didn’t tell him that change was inevitable.

    The next call was one that Kiki had not even thought about until the phone rang. The Sony stock was surging in value because of the announcement. The financial advisor that had managing her business affairs now that she had largely broken with the family trust told her that the cash dividend was going to be far larger than anticipated and asked how she wanted to handle it. Kiki said that she would think about it and call him back tomorrow.

    Hanging up the phone, Kiki realized that money was the last thing she wanted to think about right now. Looking at the table where she had the books and papers from her studies laid out, she realized that she would be too antsy to go back to that now. Looking at the couch she saw Rauchbier sprawled across it, enjoying his afternoon nap.

    “Does someone want to go for a run?” Kiki asked.

    Rauchbier head instantly snapped up. He might enjoy having a snooze but a chance to run wasn’t something he would ever pass up.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1619
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Nineteen



    27th March 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    It came as a surprise on Friday afternoon.

    The offices of the Hohenzollern Trust were locked down. All staff were directed to leave all documents in place and to proceed to the employee lounge or the conference room. The fact that it was armed members the BII’s Border Protection Group or Special Deployment Commandos as they were also called, asking made it so that there were few arguments.

    The members of the board who were present were put out by having to join their employees and as Jack listened to their complaints, he was reminded of the Shakespeare about the Lady protesting too much. When Reinhard Goerdeler had been assigned to assist Jack with the task of auditing the Hohenzollern Trust, he had made clear to Jack that he was motivated by the possibility that he might get the chance to see some of the members of the board being led out in handcuffs at the process. The Kaiser had told him about the suspicions that his daughter Victoria had, and Jack knew that if they panned out Reinhard would very likely get what he wanted.

    When Kat had arrived in Dublin aboard a private aircraft, she had approached the Partners of Jack’s Law firm and told them that he had landed a very exclusive client. All eyes had been on Kat, so until he had introduced himself no one had realized that the pilot who had flown her into Dublin was none other than Louis Ferdinand himself having come incognito for reasons that later became clear. While the Partners had always looked with amusement at what they had dubbed “Young Jack Kennedy’s foreign adventures” it had been over the last year or so that a large amount of the firm’s business had happened because of Jack’s travels. To have the Kaiser standing in their offices had driven that home in ways that few other things could have.

    Over the next day, Jack had gotten an education in how the German Kaiser was regarded in Ireland. It was matter of historical record that the Irish War of Independence and the civil war that had followed had been bloody chaotic affairs. None of that would have been possible without the large amounts of arms captured after the Battle of the Somme had turned into a headlong retreat for the British that had been repurposed and passed to the IRA by the German Army in 1917. Jack had read accounts about how the Black and Tans had been shocked that they were on the receiving end of artillery fire during the final months of British Rule in Ireland. Decades later, many were suggesting with the benefit of hindsight that it was the moment that marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire. The Partners had been perfectly happy to have Jack go to Berlin.

    This operation had been planned meticulously over the previous weeks. Jack had looked at how he would react if anyone ever found out he was cooking the books. He found himself supervising a large team of accountants and that was when Reinhard Goerdeler and Sven Werth entered the picture. The bad blood between Reinhard and some of the members of the Hohenzollern Trust’s board was well known.

    Jack couldn’t read Werth though. The man seemed completely bloodless, but his reputation preceded him. Jack had heard from Kat that Werth had hunted some of the worst criminals that Germany had produced over the previous three decades. The Border Protection Group detachment showing up had cemented where he stood, they looked more like soldiers than police and the way they had stormed into the offices of the Trust reflected that.

    Later as the hours ticked by, the team of accountants pored through the papers and everything quieted down. Still, Jack felt like he was missing something. Looking around the office of one of the Trustees, Jack realized what it was. Turning to Werth he said, “I want these rooms searched and leave no stone unturned.”

    Minutes later, just as Franz von Papen was entering the offices to see what was going on, he was greeted by the sound of splintering wood and the sound of books being pulled off shelves. It was right at that moment that the first of several sets of books were found. It seemed that most of the Trustees were keeping a second set of books and that complicated the process of the audit. As the hours passed and the scale of the missing funds became clear the situation grew terser within the office. Word had leaked out to the newspapers about what was going on and reporters were turning up in the lobby.

    Meeting with von Papen in the ruins of his office, Jack found the old man staring banefully at him.

    “You have a lot of explaining to do Sir” Jack said mildly.

    “Of all the times for that moron to fail at what he was paid to do” von Papen replied.

    “What are you talking about?” Jack asked.

    Instead of answering, von Papen just looked at him with a sneer and refused to answer any more questions.

    It hardly mattered. Once they realized that they were screwed if they didn’t start talking, the other Trustees started trying to pin the blame on each other. Jack’s experience in Criminal Defense had taught him that there was truly no honor among thieves, it turned into an exercise in cynicism that even he found surprising.

    In the following hours, the audit discovered many surprising details. Like just how long some of the Trustees had had their hands in the till and what they had blown the money on. Most surprising of all was that while the Trust’s principle was largely intact, the coffers of Hohenzollern family itself were nearly empty.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1620
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twenty



    29th March 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    Maria had been hoping for a restful weekend, then the phone started ringing. An earthquake in Alaska and the death of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck had apparently happened within minutes of each other on Friday. Then word had started trickling out about a raid that had been conducted on the Hohenzollern Trust, most of the Trustees and their Senior Staff had been arrested. The laundry list of charges was just staggering. Maria spent all day Saturday back at the BT as the Sunday Edition was put together.

    By prior agreement, the artwork that was a signature of the Sunday Edition of the Berliner Tageblatt was focused on General von Lettow-Vorbeck. The Alaska story and Hohenzollern Trust were both developing stories. Large amounts of money and several corporations as well as the Imperial Bank of Germany were all involved.

    Then on Sunday morning, something happened that changed the way that Maria saw her daughter by accident. Walter, while he wasn’t nearly the troublemaker that his older sister was, loved to wind Zella even though at eighteen he should have been long past that. He had stolen an envelope that he had found in one of Zella’s notebooks and had caused a big argument with her yelling at him to give it back before she had tried to take it by force. While Zella couldn’t overpower her much larger brother, she had years of experience as a gutter fighter and wasn’t interested in playing nice over whatever was in that envelope.

    Emil had broken up the fight, the look of disappointment on his face that he was having to do it the entire time he was yelling at them to get their attention. Zella was adamant that the envelope was a part of something that she was working on and she needed it back. Frustrated by the interruption, Maria had opened the envelope, immediately seeing a large amount of money and the picture of Jack Kennedy, the Lawyer from Ireland who had been appointed by the Emperor to conduct an independent audit of the Hohenzollern Trust. Every instinct Maria had as a Reporter and Editor told her that Zella had somehow stumbled into an aspect of one of the stories that she had been wrestling with over the weekend.

    “Where did you get this?” Maria demanded, and Zella had the same look on her face that she’d had frequently as a little girl whenever she had been caught doing something she had been told not to do. “Out with it, Marcella Marie and don’t you dare try to tell me any half-truths or lies.”

    Zella hesitated. The risk as always was that she would just clam up, she had certainly done that enough times in the past. Maria knew that if she did then nothing could drag that information out of her, Zella was as stubborn as Emil in that regard. She realized that she needed to change her tact, by not treating Zella like her daughter, but as a reporter.

    “You say that this is from something that you are working” Maria said, “Can you explain it to me?”

    Zella went back to her notebook and pulled out a series of photographs. Maria’s mouth went dry as she saw Franz von Papen meeting with an unknown young man Zella’s age. In one of the photos, an envelope, the same one in Zella’s possession was passed across.

    “Who is that?” Maria asked.

    “Kiki was told by the Russian Sisters just who that creep Mithras was” Zella said, “We were following him before he went to that meeting.”

    Maria had heard rumors of the Russian women who felt they owed Katherine von Mischner and Jehane Thomas-Romanova a personal debt for how they were treated during the Second World War. Supposedly, they had people everywhere. It was hardly a surprise that they would attempt to cultivate a similar arrangement with the Emperor’s eldest daughter. Still, Mithras. Maria had also heard who and what he supposedly was. That Zella had been shadowing someone so dangerous…

    “Just how did you get this envelope?” Maria asked.

    Zella hesitated again.

    “Marcella…” Maria said, knowing how she thought.

    “I said that we were following Mithras and he walked into the street against the light” Zella said, “Aurora was driving, and she sort of hit him with her mother’s car. It was an accident and we didn’t see him until he stepped out in front of us. I might have taken the opportunity to get the envelope away from him.”

    “How many times have I told you not to make yourself a part of the story?” Maria asked sharply, “You picked his pocket after your friend ran over him with her car?”

    “Aurora didn’t run over him. It was more like he bounced off the bonnet and grill” Zella said in a rush “I was trying to figure out how to write this but…”

    Maria held up her hand silencing her daughter. This was beyond belief. Zella had the sort of story that made a journalist’s entire career just fall into her lap and she may have screwed it up with her impulsive actions. The worst part was that Zella’s instincts were exactly the sort of thing that Maria tried to foster among her cub reporters. Thirty years earlier, Maria wouldn’t have put it past herself not to do what her daughter had done. Already, the headline was forming in her mind to go with this story, Mithras Unmasked in massive print. It would be a blockbuster of a story and in order to protect her, Zella had to be a source and her name couldn’t appear anywhere in the byline. As Maria thought about it, she realized that it would be the perfect punishment for her daughter.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1621
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twenty-One



    1st April 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    “That old goat seems to have had this all planned out” Kiki said, “Right down to the date of his funeral.”

    Oberstaber Musongole just gave her a slight smile.

    “The Lion of Africa was a wise man” Musongole replied.

    If Kiki didn’t know any better, she might think that Musongole was making fun of her. Looking at the rooster that Musongole had acquired from somewhere that he was carrying, she was certain that General von Lettow-Vorbeck had been laughing his head off when he had all of this written into his will. The day after he had died, Kiki had received a call from the General’s Executor saying that the General had requested that Hauptmann Prinzessin Kristina Alexandra Yekaterina Tatiana von Preussen-Hohenzollern march with her father in his funeral procession with his family. It was rare that Kiki had ever heard anyone call her by her full name and title. The whole thing reminded her of Zella joking about how if you leave your dirty laundry to someone in your will, are they obligated to wash it? As it turned out, it was a welcome distraction from everything else that was going on.

    The pallbearers, including the General’s surviving son Oberst Rüdiger von Lettow-Vorbeck, was waiting for the procession to start. The Marine Infantry and Heer were both represented among the pallbearers. During the Boxer Rebellion in China von Lettow-Vorbeck had commanded the unit that would one day become the 3nd Marine Infantry Division. They considered him one of their own and had drawn lots to determine who would be given the honor of carrying the General to his grave.

    The plan was that they would proceed through the streets from the Reichstag where the General’s body had been laying in state, with the parade behind them was composed of the Fourth Foot Guard Regiment, portions of the 3nd MID, dozens of surviving Askari who had traveled from Africa at the invitation of the German Government and finally the Drum Corps. The streets were expected to be lined with the friends and former enemies that the General had made over the previous ninety-four years. Kiki realized that she should be so lucky.

    The destination was a bit surprising. It had turned out that the General had a burial vault quietly built inside the Imperial War Museum under the floor of the Medical Service’s Hall. Kiki had thought that the feel of that hall was an accident, that of a secular chapel. It turned out that the General had known exactly what he was doing. It was a place of peace and healing, the perfect place to be at rest. He had already had the remains of the wife and son who had predeceased him intered there. Kiki hadn’t known that Hauptmann Arnd von Lettow-Vorbeck had existed until she had seen the marker installed in the Medical Service Hall a couple days earlier. He had been twenty-two years old when he had died fighting the Soviets. It made Kiki wonder what the real reason was for the General requesting her presence.

    Her thoughts were interrupted when Musongole, acting as a representative of the General’s family handed Kiki’s father the rooster. It was a tradition among some African tribes for the family to give the Chief a rooster or hen to mark the start of the funeral. Kiki just didn’t know which ones. With that the whole production started.



    Anchorage, Alaska

    Climbing over a pile of wreckage and looking down the street, Bobby Thornton saw the buildings that were leaning in odd directions because the soil underneath them had seemed to have turned to liquid. The entire scene was surreal, and Bobby had lived here for his entire eighteen years and had never seen anything like it.

    For years there had been talk of building a highway to connect the Territory of Alaska to the lower forty-eight but there had little motivation to do that and the tensions with the Canadian Government in recent years had resulted in delays. According to Bobby’s Great-Uncle John, it was a territorial pissing match. The boneheads in Washington DC and Ottawa needed to put their egos aside and get shit done.

    What that meant was that the only reliable link to the outside world was the railroad or the seaport. One only needed to see what the earthquake had done to the railyard to see why that was a serious problem at that moment. Bobby had wondered why help was slow in coming from the sea, then he had heard about the tsunami that had messed up Valdez. Not many with a ship were willing to risk being close into shore if there was an aftershock that kicked up more waves like that. That was why aid was only trickling in after four days.

    Walking through downtown, Bobby could see soldiers in green uniforms with rifles slung over their shoulders standing on the street corners supposedly to prevent looting. While actual help had been slow to arrive, the 82nd Airborne had gotten here rather quickly. When Bobby had told Uncle John about it, he had just laughed. The US Army has always been good at getting to places where they could shoot people, he said, everything else they found challenging.

    Keeping his head down, Bobby walked through downtown to Bootlegger’s Cove. A couple days before, he had managed to get a salmon that had paid an exorbitant price for from a fishing boat that had docked at the pier. He had considered it fortunate that he along with Uncle John and his mother had eaten well. Today, Bobby was hoping that something would present itself. The trouble was that he didn’t have a whole lot of money left and after what had happened to the movie theater where he had worked, he doubted that he would see another paycheck for a good while.

    Looking down the hill, Bobby saw a large white ship anchored out in Cook Inlet with a red cross painted on the side of it. Bobby was gleeful that it looked like help had arrived until he noticed the flag flying on the ship’s mast…
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1622
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twenty-Two



    2nd April 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    Watching television after midnight, Mithras saw her again. She was walking next to her father in the funeral procession that had occurred the previous afternoon. She was beautiful and he hated her for it. The people’s Princess he thought to himself sarcastically, as if such a thing were even possible.

    When Mithras had heard that the offices of the Hohenzollern Trust had been raided, he had been worried that the Financier would sell him out. So far, that hadn’t happened. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that would last for much longer, so he needed a plan to get out of the reach of the German Empire. Go someplace where he could just disappear. The problem was that he lacked the resources to do that.

    What Mithras needed was a flight out of this wretched King infested country and a large amount of cash. He had a few ideas of how to go about doing that, but he also knew the players involved. If he acted, they would as well. The State may be a clumsy and slow, but once it got moving… That was why he needed a way to get them freeze in place long enough to for him to be able to maneuver. That was the hard part.



    Anchorage, Alaska

    All Bobby had known about the Germans was how they were depicted in movies or on television. A distant, militaristic nation that still had a King. Sure, it was clear that it was their Navy who had responded, but the people who had come to the pier had been from something called the ZSW. He was unclear about what exactly that meant, but apparently the ZS part of it stood for Central or Joint Medical Service and they were all volunteers who had explained that to him as they had given him a bag that contained a loaf of brown bread and several cans of food on the first day. What had seemed strange to Bobby was that an extremely large percentage of personnel from the German Medical Service were women.

    He had eventually told them what he thought he knew about Germany and they had just laughed. How many Americans were Cowboys? Bobby had been asked in return. Hardly any was the answer for that. Then he had been told that Germany had ended conscription after the Second World War, so it was hardly militaristic. Later that afternoon Bobby had been told that if he wanted to help, he could come back the next day. It was only afterwards that it occurred to him just how obvious it was that he had nothing better to do.

    When word arrived about the earthquake in Alaska, the SMS Prinzessin Marie Cecilie had completed a medical outreach mission to the Russian Far East and had been crossing the North Pacific to refuel in Bremerton before heading south for Panama. The brand-new SMS Prinzessin Antonia had arrived on station in Pusan, so it was time for the Marie Cecilie to return to Kiel so that the Victoria could make her annual journey to the South Pacific. When they had gotten word of the earthquake, they had proceeded north for Anchorage at flank speed. While there was no official doctrine, it was standard practice for the hospital ships of the High Seas Fleet to turn towards any natural disaster, politics be damned. It was said that the reason why the Captains of the ships had never gotten court martialed was because that very practice made the Hospital Ships extremely popular and they were generally welcomed everywhere they went. The rest of the Fleet certainly couldn’t say that.

    There had been some grumbling from local officials when they had learned that the Marie Cecilie had been the first ship to reach them. The ships from the US Navy that were coming from Bremerton had arrived only hours later and they all understood that turning away a state-of-the-art Princess Class Hospital Ship like the Marie Cecilie would probably get them attacked by an angry mob during the present crisis. Still, they had been happy when the two destroyers, USS Berkeley and USS Maddox, entered Cook Inlet. By then food was being distributed and an FSR Team, something that few in America had ever heard of, had been in contact with the Chief of Anchorage Police.

    That was when the trouble started…

    The elements of the 82nd Airborne Division already present in Anchorage had taken exception to the presence of the FSR. While the FSR Teams may have had a dedicated Search and Rescue mission and were considered a part of the German Medical Service, they were an offshoot of the Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger. That had resulted in a shoving match and the Police Department in the ticklish position of having to keep the two heavily armed groups separated.

    For Bobby, that just seemed to confirm what his Great-Uncle had said about territorial pissing-matches. Here they were having those sorts of arguments in face of what Geologists were starting to say might be one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded. It seemed like the sort of thing that a twisted comedy writer might come up with. As Bobby passed out the bags of food to the people who were coming to the pier he could see the truth for himself, international borders and rivalries were complete bullshit.
     
    Part 101, Chapter 1623
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twenty-Three



    4th April 1964

    Kiel

    It was an overcast day, threatening rain. Perfect for the mood that Kiki was in. It was the last weekend of Easter Break and she had been at completely loose ends. The night before, her father had called the family together and had told them that they were going to have to make some cutbacks while he put the family back on a firm financial footing. The income generating properties that they had would continue to pay out, just given time.

    As if none of them had seen a newspaper or seen a news program over the previous week. The people entrusted to mind the family estate had been siphoning off money for their own ends for years. The emerging list of things that they had been spending money on was bewildering and Kiki was acutely aware that a portion of it spent trying to whip up a revolutionary movement aimed to topple them. Kiki personally wondered if that act had been because the conspirators had feared that their embezzlement would come to light and had been in the hope that if they could cause enough chaos, they could avoid the present reckoning. The most galling part was they seemed to have been trying to set Kiki and her sisters up to be the scapegoats for this whole mess. She was all too aware of how willing the public was to believe that a young woman was a spendthrift. It might just have worked and the bumbling efforts of those trying the be Jacobins would have been propelled with the force of a vast angry mob behind them.

    Leaving Berlin, Kiki had bought a train ticket for Kiel as opposed to going straight back to Jena. When she had arrived at the gates of the Navy Yard, the Marine sentries had snapped to attention when they recognized her before she even had a chance to show them her papers. She had told them that it was unnecessary because she wasn’t here in that capacity. They had told her that it wasn’t because of her rank, it was because of what she had done for them in Korea. Looking at the patches on their uniforms. She saw that they were from the 3rd MID, which explained the respect they had in her and Kiki found the entire thing a bit embarrassing. They provided an escort that maintained a respectful distance, probably because they had a good idea of where she was going.

    The hulk that had been the SMS Prinzessin des Reiches, formerly the SMS Prinzessin Kristina, sat forlornly tied up to the pier after her name had been stricken. Tomorrow she was to be towed to breaker’s yard and that would be the conclusion of a proud life.

    Commissioned in 1942 just a few months after Kiki had been born, the Prinzessin Kristina had served in every war from the Second World War until Korea. A floating hospital, she had several innovative features that had since become standard features including the advanced surgical theaters, laboratory suite and the quarantine bays. The helipad that had been added to the fantail just before the Battle of Saipan had been just as groundbreaking, probably resulting in hundreds of additional lives saved. When Kiki had joined the Medical Service, the ship’s name had been changed because it wasn’t considered proper for a ship to be named for someone active in an Armed Service. In recent years she had come to be too small and too slow to effectively do her mission. Time had done her in.

    Kiki was aware of the influence that the knowledge that this ship was out in the ocean had on her imagination when she had been a child. It had probably played a large role in the decisions that she had made regarding her career. Today, she was here in this sad place with everything that could still be usable by the Fleet had been removed, the faded red cross and yellowed white paint were all that remained to mark the important role that she had played. Kiki had wanted to see her one last time.



    Mitte, Berlin

    When Maria had told the owners of the BT of the exclusive story that was developing. They had been extremely enthusiastic about it, if it panned out that was. If not, then they would be perfectly happy to leave her twisting in the wind. As it was then that Maria had assigned the information that Zella had gathered and told them to find a way to make it all airtight before it went to the press. Zella was understandably put out because she was being denied credit for her role in the story. Maria had calmly told Zella that she could have the byline, but only if she didn’t mind getting arrested along with her friend Aurora. That had silenced Zella rather quickly.

    Now, on Saturday afternoon Maria was watching the first edition of the Sunday BT as the artwork of the front page depicted Mithras being pulled from the shadows. Mithras, also known as Lothar de Maizière, had his face and every detail that the Berliner could find were spelled out in the article. While Maria might normally have felt a few qualms about exposing someone like this, she knew people who had been hurt and killed in the bombing of the East Station.

    While Maria was tempted to send Zella to work the purgatory that was the Metro Desk, instead she knew that something else would need to be done this time. Maria remembered how she had worked with Friedrich Grossman and how while that had been difficult, it had made her a better Journalist. It was just a question of finding a senior reporter who would be willing to have a girl as stubborn as Zella was as an assistant and what would Zella’s reaction be towards being told to go get coffee for example.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1624
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twenty-Four



    13th April 1964

    Wedding, Berlin

    Hiding in the same condemned building where his former Financier had ordered him beaten months earlier was not Mithras’ idea of fun. When that newspaper had run its story revealing his name to the world, he’d had just minutes to grab his things and make a run for it. The entire time his mother had stood there demanding to know what was going on as if he had been caught by the neighbors throwing rocks or something like when he had been a child. He had learned later his parent’s house had been raided by the police and they had torn the place apart. It was one more thing that he owed the State for.

    The worst aspect of all of this was that had the movement that Mithras had founded had largely abandoned him when the photographs of him meeting with the Financier had been splashed everywhere. He had heard through the grapevine that word was out that some of the people he had trained would shoot him if they saw him again. So, he was reduced to a handful of true-believers and even they were expecting him to have a way to turn their flagging fortunes around. The plan he had come up with was simple enough, just every aspect had to be accounted for. One of those was from a photograph that he was looking at that confirmed the patterns with which certain people lived their lives.

    All he needed was for the right pieces to fall into place and he could make his move.



    Mitte, Berlin

    “I heard about what you did, and I think that took guts” Bartolomej Kovac, or simply Bart, said, “But I will have you know that if you pick someone’s pocket to advance a story I’ll call the police myself.”

    Zella hid her annoyance about what Bart had just said. Her Mother had told her that she would be working with him over the coming months and that she had better be learning from him. It was enough to make her redouble her efforts at University. If Zella didn’t find something else to do with her life, then she would be under her mother’s thumb until her mother retired. Something that didn’t look like it would happen anytime soon. The BT was one of the largest newspapers in the world and it was expanding into the realm of publishing, visual media and efforts such as the Mirror were giving them an ever wider editorial reach.

    The issue was that Zella had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. She enjoyed painting and drawing, but her efforts in those fields would hardly pay her bills if she struck out on her own. She had been told that she would probably be a good illustrator, but that circled back to the newspaper industry. The initial printing run of the book she had written about her trip around the world had sold, however the publisher had not seemed particularly enthusiastic about her doing a follow up. Overall though, if Zella was being honest with herself, she knew that she simply didn’t have the passion that her mother had for the printed word. For Maria Acker words danced around in her imagination and she looked like she was blissful when typing up a column that consisted of a couple thousand words. For Zella that was torture.

    In the meantime, Zella spent her mornings at University and her afternoons in the reporter’s pool at the BT. Something had to break her way, just she was at a complete loss at to what that might even look like. Zella was starting to envy Kiki in that she had known exactly what she had wanted to be from the time that they were children. Zella’s father had said that he had been just as lost as she was when he had been attending University, spending time speeding on his old Helios motorcycle when he grew restless. It had taken a chance encounter with Manfred von Richthofen to show him a way forward. Hoping for something like that seemed like a rather foolhardy way to get through life, just Zella felt completely clueless when it came to figure out what she should be doing.



    Washington D.C.

    The draft letter thanked the German Navy and the crew of His Majesty’s Ship Princess Marie Cecilie for their rapid response to the Alaskan earthquake. That papered over the entire mess that had fallen on his desk the prior week. The German Navy Hospital Ship had responded to the earthquake the way that had responded to similar incidents around the world. The Department of the Territory of Alaska and the City of Anchorage had been thankful to have those resources just show up. The State Department and Congress had a very different perspective though. They saw this as yet one more example of the German Government’s heavy-handed actions.

    The German Medical Service had been very different from any other German agency that Averell Harriman had dealt in the past. Their representatives from the German Embassy had apologized if the Marie Cecilie had intruded without permission, but they had seen a need for her presence and felt duty bound to respond in the way that they had. Then to Herriman’s complete shock, they had provided complete documentation. The role that the ship played under the Hague Convention, a complete breakdown of the ship’s capabilities and the crew manifest. The State Department, CIA and ONI were still trying to glean if there was anything in that beyond the obvious.
     
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    Part 101, Chapter 1625
  • Chapter One Thousand Six Hundred Twenty-Five



    22nd April 1964

    Mitte, Berlin

    The time between sunrise and sunset is something that few people think about. In Berlin on the 22nd day of April, it was just fourteen hours and twenty-five minutes. What few realized that as that clear spring day dawned, nothing would ever be the same again.

    It started in a small way, with a phone call…

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    Kiki had gotten the call that Suga had gone into labor, had dropped everything and had gotten in her car to drive to Berlin. Recent weeks had brought a lot of changes. She had been forced to move into the house that Vicky had leased and take over the payment the rent. It was not because her family was completely destitute, but as her father had said to her when he had asked her to do it, every little bit helped right now. The truth was that Kiki missed the one room apartment that she had lived in. It had been perfect for her. It was because of every little bit helping that there had been a lot of small changes like that. Freddy had been accepted for a two-year Legal Apprenticeship that was to start that summer. Rea had made a few offers, but the truth was that she had been volunteering for various causes as well as her role in the Imperial Court. The cutbacks to next winter’s social season had made it so that she would basically cost the family very little for the foreseeable future.

    That was why Kiki had not been able to get to the phone before it had rung several times in the early morning hours. She was still getting used to the phone being in the kitchen which happened to be downstairs from her bedroom. Freddy was on the line telling Kiki what was going on and she could tell that he was in a mild panic, she told him to calm down because it was his and Suga’s first so having him panicking over the next several hours, possibly a day or more, would do absolutely no one any good. That had obviously not been what he had been expecting to hear from Kiki and she remembered that she was trying to get away from blunt comments like that because like Freddy panicking, she knew that it didn’t do anyone any good. A quick call to Doctor Berg had given Kiki a complete picture of how Suga was doing and she had told Berg to be expecting her as soon as she got there.

    The dive to Berlin had gone well enough, it was a weekday morning and except for hitting traffic getting into the city itself Kiki made good time. According to Doctor Berg, Freddy and Suga had been taken to Old University Hospital in Central Berlin. As Kiki pulled into Visitor Parking, she had a Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus pull in next to her. It was the commercial “Panel Van” version that was absolutely ubiquitous throughout Germany. As she started to get out of the car the cargo doors of the Microbus swung open and what Kiki saw was absolutely horrifying…

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    Finding out that Kiki’s red VW convertible was in the hospital’s carpark wasn’t a surprise. That she had not responded to repeated pages over the intercom certainly was. Berg was starting to wonder where she might have wandered off to when Katherine von Mischner invaded the hospital with a handful of her selected goons from the KSK. As a military doctor, if Berg wasn’t familiar with the men who surrounded Kat today, she was certainly well acquainted with the results of their work.

    Berg had always found Kat abrasive, had never liked her very much and she was aware that the feeling was mutual. Both of them were powerful women in their respective fields and Berg had watched with mild interest as Kat continued her career rising into the highest ranks of the military and society. Still, as far as Kat got away from the working class neighborhood that she had grown up in, it was clear to everyone who knew what they were looking at that she was very much the teenaged girl who had hopped trains for the thrill of it in Berlin’s undercity. An unlikely path for a woman who many said was likely to be the next Elector of Berlin.

    “Have you seen Kiki?” Kat asked.

    “No” Berg replied, “I was just looking for her, her car is here and Suga wants to know where…”

    “Where?” Kat demanded. And before Berg could voice any objections, was leading Kat’s people through the hospital to the carpark. It was shocking how fast they had the car unlocked and were searching it.

    If the keys hanging in the ignition wasn’t a sign there was a was a serious problem, Kiki’s purse being found under the passenger seat drove that point home like few other things could have. That led Berg to have a number of questions regarding just how Kat might have known that Kiki was missing. Kat refused to answer those questions however, she had gone to the nearest phone and she was talking to someone named Werth, telling him what was happening here.

    “Are you going to answer my questions at all?” Berg asked sharply. She was expecting the usual annoyance that she got from Kat, instead she caught a flash of something unexpected cross Kat’s face. Fear. It turned out that Kiki wasn’t the only one missing.
     
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