Chapter Two Thousand One Hundred Thirty
12th March 1972
Manfred the Elder had not felt up to traveling to Berlin this weekend. He hated the city. In his thinking he had already exhausted his quarterly quota of trips there on business. Too many people and too much noise to suit him. He had strongly considered going there for the ceremony that he was watching on television but didn’t want to cause a distraction, this was Manfred the Younger’s moment to shine.
Albrecht and Ilse had gone to Berlin, this was entirely due to the key role that Albrecht had played with the Fleet Air Command. Any successful campaign resulted in the Emperor was passing out rewards and this was no exception. It was the exact same show that Manfred had seem many times before going all the way back to when he had first been a Fighter Ace in the First World War. With the brass band and flags everywhere, it seemed archaic and dated even to him, which really was saying something. The colors of the uniformed had changed, the dark blue for the Heer was different from how he remembered it. When he had still been a part of that, field grey had been the color of choice. The fact that Friedrich IV was wearing the blue and red uniform of the Pioneers alone would have given Wilhelm II a fit of apoplexy though.
Manfred could still remember the tone of the old Emperor’s voice and it didn’t take too much imagination to figure his reaction. Demanding to know why his great grandson had been allowed to become a Common Laborer, as if that were all the Pioneer Corps did. Sure, the Pioneer Corps had started because having thousands of Russian Prisoners of War sitting idle had been in no one’s interest, but what had been done with them had been a stroke of genius. At the height of its existence, the Pioneers had been a million strong and the problems of logistics had evaporated in the face of that. In the decades since the Soviet War, they had taken on massive engineering and construction projects. What made them unique among the Service Branches was that they had become self-financing. Manfred knew that logistics as well as personnel and project management were valuable skills if one wished to run a country. That was the reason why Friedrich had made the choices that he had.
As Manfred watched, his grandson was called forward and he had the Pour-le-Mérite placed around his neck. Helene worried about what the future might bring. That Manfred the Younger’s skill as a marksman would land him in one of the BND’s Hunter/Killer teams. The truth was that she could stop worrying after this. The BND had a strong preference for people not known to the enemy and receiving the highest awards for bravery tended to make someone instantly recognizable around the world.
“You look happy” A voice said, and Manfred shifted his attention to the Maid, little more than a girl really, who was dusting the shelves. It took a moment for Manfred to remember her name.
“There is a lot to be happy about today Izabela” Manfred replied, “Manfred, my oldest grandson, has made his entire family proud.”
“That’s good” Izabela said as she resumed her work.
Manfred turned his attention back to the television. A man in a blue and white uniform was called forward, a Hauptmann from the Marine Infantry. While he didn’t doubt the bravery and dedication of the Navy’s Soldiers, it bothered him that they were taking a more prominent role over the last few decades. It had long been said that their ranks were composed of men who had been sent to sea because it was cheaper than prison.
A slice of bread with jam on it remained Sophie’s choice of evening meals unless Petia caught her. Then she would find herself eating full meal. Today, that had happened, and she found herself eating a bowl of potato-leek soup.
“If a foolish girl refuses to take care of herself, someone else will happily do it for her” Petia had said before heating up the soup on the stove for her. It was hard to take offense to this, Petia regularly referred to Kat as a foolish girl as well. The rules were simple enough with the Russian woman. If you acted the part, don’t be surprised when she called you out on it.
Upstairs, Kat was busy explaining to the Governing Mayor of Berlin why she wasn’t interested in establishing a Chivalrous Order as was all the rage in the other States. As the Royal Sovern of any such Order, Kat’s cooperation was critical. He had shown up with a whole presentation centered around Berolina, the female personification of Berlin, whose statue stood in Alexanderplatz and the Bear which had adorned the city’s flag and seals for centuries. Sophie had eavesdropped on the conversation until the Mayor had also brought up incorporating the tiger brooch that Kat regularly wore, the one that had been a gift from George VI of England. Sophie didn’t know the whole story behind that, but from the stairwell outside Kat’s office she could feel the temperature of the room drop by several degrees. She figured that then would be a good time to get something to eat and hopefully the kitchen was outside the blast radius. As she was eating her soup, she saw Anne, one of Kat’s odd extended family, which Sophie had come to realize she happened to be currently the youngest member of, come walking in through the laundry room. Something about the way she was walking suggested that Kat must have summoned her and that the Governing Mayor must have said something that had forced Kat’s hand.