Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Ninety-One
8th November 1968
It was as if Poland had never happened. The 7th Recon had been back into their regular training and today that included laying in icy mud as an armored car that was shooting 20mm shells over their heads at an “enemy position” advanced past him. It was the latest incarnation of the eight wheeled “cars” that shared the same turret, engine, and armament as the SpZ-4 APCs. They were the heaviest vehicles used by the Battalion after a handful of APCs used by the Command Staff. Christian could see the face of the Radio Operator through a small hatch that was open just behind the turret. He didn’t know if it was true, but it was said that the Radio Operator had an identical set of controls so that he could steer the vehicle as it backed up in keeping with the doctrine of keeping the heaviest armor pointed at the enemy. It was also said that it was so that the armored cars could get out of trouble as fast as they got into it, which seemed far more likely to Christian.
The only really difference between this and the Spring Exercise, which was about a million or so years earlier, was that because he had been promoted Christian found that his responsibilities had not only doubled, but he found himself having to be the one who got the others moving. He was starting to see why the noncoms he had dealt with in the past had always seemed abusive. Yelling and kicking everyone in the same direction now that he was the one having to do the yelling and kicking. Oberstaber Schultz had listened to his grumbling and had replied. “Welcome to the club” Schultz said after Christian had been invited to lunch table used by the Company’s Noncoms. “That is why they pay us the big bucks.”
The Oberstabsfeldwebel had been a Noncom in the Panzer Dragoons for longer than Christian had been alive. Having come from the 140th “Souville Hill” Regiment to the 7th Recon when it had been reconstituted a couple years earlier, Schultz had been given a free hand in ruthlessly molding the Infantry of the Recon Battalion to his liking. That had included Christian Weise when he had arrived from the training depot. Schultz saw Christian’s performance during the Polish action as a validation of his methods. The only thing that seemed to bug Schultz was how Hans’ boy had been stuck babysitting the Emperor while the Lieutenant in his place had turned out to be a total non-entity. Christian had been shocked to hear that and had realized that Schultz viewed the Junior Officers in a similar way to how he saw the Soldaten.
It felt strange to be back in Berlin after such a long absence. Anya Maksimova had been little more than a child when she had left. She had returned because the Berlin Consortium for the Performing Arts had several positions needing to be filled including Choreographers and one of Anya’s former Instructors in the Moscow Ballet had recommended her. Because she was the adopted daughter of a German Citizen and had lived in the City for several years, Anya was able to travel to Berlin and take the job without as much fuss as others might have found themselves having to contend with.
As it was, Anya found out that the Consortium managed dozens of theaters, music venues, and other centers of the Arts with the express mission of making culture accessible for people at all levels of society. It was more than enough to keep her busy for several lifetimes. It was an odd sort of public/private enterprise, which meant that Anya technically worked for the City of Berlin and received most of the benefits that a regular City Worker received. At the same time, her paycheck came from the Royal Endowment started by Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen decades earlier, which was said to have been kept flush by donations from wealthy patrons who shared her vision of Berlin being one of the world’s great cultural centers.
Sasha had known the woman who had been dubbed the “Mad Duchess” by her detractors personally and said that Feodora had seen the world with clearer eyes than most did. She thought that it was wonderful that Anya’s life work would help further her legacy. Later, Fyodor had mentioned something that had surprised Anya by telling her that Feodora had seen right through the subterfuge of the German Empress and Katherine von Mischner. Recognizing Sasha for exactly who she was because a feature of Sasha’s face had been inherited from Queen Victoria of England, a mutual ancestor of theirs. For a long time, Feodora was the only blood relative that could acknowledge Sasha without putting her life in danger.
For Anya personally, she had found herself surprisingly homesick once she got settled into her new apartment. While she didn’t miss Moscow’s harsh winter, her family was there. Sasha, Fyodor, and even little Alexei when he wasn’t being a little shit. For lack of anything better to do, Anya went to the Natural History Museum in the evenings. She had loved this place when she was a child. The slab of rock that contained the skeleton of the Archaeopteryx that had loomed so large in her imagination was still in the same display. There were things about all of that Anya understood now which she had not at the time. Sasha had adopted her though she had not exactly been prepared to do so at the time, just Sasha had understood just how much at-risk Anya had been and it had been the only way to save her. The Nuns at the Convent orphanage had not been able to prepare the children under their care for the Hobbesian world that was Post-War Russia, it was an impossible task. There was also the role that the fossil in advancing the theory of Darwinian Evolution. The little girl who Anya had been would have not been able to understand that at all. What were tens of millions of years to a child?