Stupid Luck and Happenstance, Thread III

Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Three



1st October 1973

Mitte, Berlin

Franz Josef Strauss was worried. The fullness of his mistakes was growing more evident by the hour and that had led him to present situation in a hotel room near the center of Berlin. The building was as secure as could be arranged and the room itself was heavily guarded. For all the good that ultimately did him when the door swung open.

Strauss remembered a Science Fiction film he had watched a few months earlier that depicted a man living within a black steel suit whose function was essentially a mobile iron lung. His voice was a low rasp between gasping breaths. The entire presentation had been disconcerting. That had nothing on Birsha Bleier, if that was his real name, who entered Strauss’ hotel room in dead silence. It felt as if his presence was a hole in the fabric of reality.

“My guards had orders not to let you in here” Strauss said, projecting far more confidence than he actually felt.

“Your guards?” Bleier asked, his words seemed hang in the air like an oily pall. “I am afraid you will need to find new ones. A small price for you to pay after thirty of my best people vanished in August.”

Strauss didn’t like the implications of that. This time there would be questions asked, it couldn’t be helped, and he knew there wasn’t a chance in Hell that Bleier would lift a finger to help him. This was entirely a show of strength, for Bleier to show that he was above any Law that Strauss might try to impose on him. Bleier had murdered his way to the top of Berlin’s underground and had proven far smarter than Strauss had thought.

“There is no way that you can blame me for that” Strauss said, “How was I supposed to know that it was bad information?”

Bleier gave him a cold smile. “Because that is your job, Franz” He replied, and Strauss wondered how on Earth he had thought that Birsha Bleier was the lesser evil when compared to Katherine von Mischner. Bleier had never elaborated as to why it had been in his interest to eliminate the Tigress, now it was an open question as to if that had really been the goal. Strauss had had a suspicion that many of the people killed in the attempted raid on Katherine’s house had been those he had deemed potential rivals, slated for elimination one way or another. Pawns to be sacrificed before they became a danger to him?

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Their efforts had grown increasingly frantic as the hours ticked down ahead of tomorrow’s broadcast. Normally Zella’s approach of using a small team, often just herself and Yuri, enabled her to quickly, and cheaply, put a story together. This time was different though. They had a massive story of international importance with hundreds of hours of video that needed to be reviewed and edited into something useable. The Board of Directors at ARD had sensed that it would be a story that would define the Network for years to come and had promoted it, giving Zella a hard deadline. Come Hell or high water, the story was going to be broadcast on Sunday, the 2nd of October in a two-hour special and not just on the ARD affiliates.

Central Radio Television Radio, ZFF, and the Bavarian Broadcasting Service, BR, ARD’s two major rivals in public broadcasting had decided to air the special on their networks simultaneously. While it was no surprise that ZFF, the network that specialized in Financial and Business coverage, out of Frankfurt had expressed interest. That network was mostly interested in the eyeballs that the special would bring on a night when their normal viewership’s interests were elsewhere. BR out of Munich was different though. Zella had been persona non grata on that network since she had parodied their habit of signing out of every night’s programing with a video of King Albrecht on a horse imitating Napoleon Bonaparte. Even before that, the BR had not been shy about how the existence of Zella herself wasn’t in keeping with the values of their network.

So, Zella found herself heading a team that was trying to put together the documentary as the pressure increased. It would feature Kiki’s trip to Russia. How Kiki had facilitated Vasily Jughashvili and Svetlana Alliluyeva’s travel west and then their reunion with Yakov Svanidze, the older half-brother who had lived in exile in Germany for the last thirty years. Things were finally starting to come together when Zella received a call from the bigwigs at ARD. They had secured a deal with the two big private television networks out of Berlin, Universelles, the television division of UFA and their chief rival, Metropolis-Rundfunk. That meant that Zella’s special could easily become the most watched program since the Moon Landing several years earlier. That put things beyond merely being under the pressure of a hard deadline, they were coal being ground between tectonic plates and Zella had better be able to produce diamonds.

Typing frantically, Zella was incorporating the final revisions of script of the voiceover that she would be recording in the coming hours. Yuri walked past with a smile on his face. Like everyone else, he had faith that Zella would stick the landing on this one when the truth was that she felt that she was about to land flat on her face.
 
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Do Bleier and Strauss really think that their meeting is not going unnoticed? There are plenty of agencies that go by just initials that would be keeping track, let alone Kat herself having eyes on Strauss at a minimum.
 
First off the bidding war for this interview on the international market is going to be through the roof.
Second while there will be grumbling from the more "Established" television journalists that Zella is trading on her "unearned" access the fact is that Zella has the chops for this and has proven herself over and over again.
Those who would point out whom Zella has helped from because her mother Maria von Holz-Acker was Editor in Chief of a major newspaper in Berlin misses that fact that Maria turned the newspaper in to one of the greatest newspapers in the world having the same reputation as the New York Times, The Times of London, and Le Monde in Paris.
Those who are complaining that Zella is best friend is a German Princess doesn't understand that the Princess in Question is The People's Princess and in worldwide polls is always in the top ten of the list of the World's Most Admired Women.
Zella being fluent in English is going to do her own voiceover translation and there will be translation by other voices clearly stating that it is being translated.
This may lead to another bidding war for Zella's services from the American television networks as Zella is very beautiful and more importantly knows how to get the stories that others can't get.
The interviews will reveal that Vasily and Svetlana were personal "Guests" of Czar Grigory to show that the people of the New Russian Empire doesn't punish individuals because of who their parents were and Yakov will also tell how his Father put a secret Death Sentence on him for becoming a POW in German hands and how the previous King of Bavaria put him on the King's personal protection and how he is now considered to be the leader of the expat Russian community in Germany.
 
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Kat when learning about how she was not the real target but instead was supposed to do the dirty work for the leader of the organization will get very angry and that will snap her out of her depression.
Kat if she knew about that beforehand would have never just given up but would have turned the tables on Birsha Bleier and FJS and set a trap for them that would have kept everything far away from her home and family.
Now Kat is going to unleash the whirlwind of fire that only she can do on not only on Bleier and FJS but the last remnants of her father's organization.
The fallout on this is going to be spectacular.
 
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Part 132, Chapter 2254
Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Four



5th October 1973

Wilhelmshaven

The Grindwal was putting to sea again, not for a patrol. It seemed that the Foreign Service had talked the Naval High Command into lending the ship to their diplomatic efforts. This was all because of the successful effort to save the passengers and crew of the Rose of Inverness. Louis Ferdinand Junior had even gone so far as to write a letter to the Board of Inquiry that was investigating the matter regarding his own observations and lauding the conduct of Captain Samuel McPherson, how he had been the last man off the Rose before she sank. The truth was that Louis had given the Scottish Captain little choice, he would have either left of his own accord or be dragged off his sinking ship. Letting McPherson keep his dignity, even look heroic, was the least that Louis could do.

There had been people from a dozen different countries aboard the Rose of Inverness and the Governments of their respective countries had made a big show of rewarding the crew of SMS K24 “Grindwal” mostly in the form of letters of Commendation which Louis had made a point of having matted and framed, then hung on the bulkheads in the Enlisted Mess. In their own country, the Naval High Command in Kiel had sent a dispatch to the Reichstag in which detailed the heroic actions of His Majesty’s Ship, 1970 Class Corvette, Pennant Number K024, henceforth known as SMS K24 Grindwal. While every member of the crew had received the Federal Merit Cross in Silver for that, it was the Fleet’s official acknowledgement of the Grindwal’s name that had meant more. It had happened in an extraordinarily short period of time, and they had done it in peacetime. The ship’s Officers had all received Life Saving Medals. Kiki had enjoyed a good laugh over that last part. It was a medal that she had been awarded years earlier and she said that it was a good thing that he was finally catching up.

The British though, they were not content to just let it go with that. They suddenly remembered that Louis was the great, great grandson of Queen Victoria of England, his younger sister having that same name as a part of family tradition. There was apparently, some debate as to what exactly was going to happen next. Just that the Grindwal had been commandeered by the Foreign Service and it was looking like she was going to be bound for London, much to Louis’ personal discomfort.



Lány Castle, Bohemia

“I think that they are interesting, Mister Elam” Birdie said, “They have a whole lot of character unlike the dairy cows I have seen.”

By now Birdie was used to her husband’s eccentricities. That included a large number of guests; athletes, Hollywood actors, and a wide range of others who Michael had befriended in his travels. There were also things that were a part of his varied interests. That included a small herd of half-wild Heck Cattle that Michael had acquired. This was as a direct result of his support of the efforts of the Heck brothers to back breed domestic Cattle to the extinct Aurochs. Elam was just looking at the cow through the fence that was giving him an evil glare right back.

“If you say so Ma’am” Elam replied, “It seems to me that these fellas are a whole lot of trouble just waiting to happen.”

Jack Elam, an actor known for playing in Cowboy movies. In that genre he had discovered that his less than handsome face and lazy left eye were actually advantages when he was cast as either the villain or the town drunk. While he was in Europe on vacation, he and his wife had come to Bohemia on Michael’s invitation. The night before the conversation had turned to the Heck Cattle mostly because that was what had been for lunch the day before, how they were larger and more aggressive than regular cattle. Elam had wanted to see them himself.

“Waiting?” Michael asked, “We have found that keeping them contained is the most difficult part of having them. So, waiting is not exactly a factor.”

Elam gave them a disbelieving look. It was the sort of thing happened often when people were asking about Michael’s projects. This was usually followed by questions abut why the Bohemian Landtag was willing to humor his ideas. As Birdie had discovered, there was a method to Michael’s madness. He had gone to great lengths to protect Bohemian Industry and make Prague a center for the Arts. When it came to film and television production in the German Empire, Bohemia was second only to Berlin-Brandenburg. That wasn’t even including the Czech language program, which had shocked everyone with its growth. Who knew that historical dramas set in Medieval Bohemia would interest people throughout Eastern Europe? That was where the Heck Cattle had come into the picture. They had needed them for a production set in the Twelfth-Century and after it had wrapped, Michael had agreed to take them from a very grateful Film Director who had been ecstatic to see them gone. His interest in the cattle was due to a conversation he’d had with Heinz Heck to restore the forests of Europe to their original fauna. Where it became surreal was how critics complained that the Heck Cattle were small and mild compared to the Aurochs. That was what Birdie, who had actual experience with them, found hard to believe.
 
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Jack Elam had one of the most instantly recognizable faces in the Golden Age of Hollywood Westerns. He seemed to be exactly the sort who Michael would acquire as a friend.

650full-jack-elam.jpg
 
On seeing that picture reminded me of another roll he played...

Dr Nikolas Van Helsing in Cannonball Run 1 & 2.
 

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On the subject of Louis being a descendent of Victoria, are there any Royal Dukes or other titles not currently held by someone in the Family? He might be invested in one of these, hands across the water so to speak and keeping it in the family.
 
On the subject of Louis being a descendent of Victoria, are there any Royal Dukes or other titles not currently held by someone in the Family? He might be invested in one of these, hands across the water so to speak and keeping it in the family.
While there may be no titles on offer, LF could be inducted as a Stranger Knight Companion into the Order of the Garter - an honour that is the gift of the Sovereign. Alternatively, the British Government may consider either individual awards of the George Cross (if it exists ITTL) to LF and members of the Grindwal's crew or a collective award to the ship for "... actions for which purely military Honours are not normally granted". The GC is second only to the VC in the British system. Alternative awards could include the ITTL equivalents of the George Medal or the Queen's Gallantry Medal for individuals.
 
While Michael has been considered by his family and others to be the less than smart one, he has shown that his methods are working.
First off the Bohemia Army performed excellently in the Polish War showing great professionalism under the command of Bohemia's greatest hero Kurt Knipsel.
I am also sure he has butted heads with the city leaders of Prague who want to "Modernize" the city and tear down anything older than twenty years and build theses monstrous generic looking skyscrapers and he has pushed against it and promoting Heritage preservation laws that has also helped to keep smaller cities, towns, and villages from losing their historic buildings with money being made available to modernize the electrical and plumbing without destroying the exteriors.

The main reason that other countries are making a big deal to honor the crew and Captain of the "Grindwal" is because the Captain is an Imperial Prince of Germany which adds an enormous bit of prestige for them to honor the ship and crew.
The visit to Great Britain could be a canary in the coal mine to see if the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917 can be modified or even be revoked because ITTL there was never a second war between Germany and Great Britain and they fought as allies ITTL against the Soviet Union and in South Africa in The Third Boer War.
 
Part 132, Chapter 2255
Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Five



6th October 1973

Silesia

There were times when Ilse felt that her father-in-law had far too high of an opinion of himself. This time it was because he had finally figured out the truth about Izabella Lis that Ilse had known for ages and of course, was going about dealing with the situation entirely the wrong way in the most pigheaded manner. This was coming at a time when he should have been content to rest on his laurels, having secured the future of his family as the ruling House of Silesia.

Ilse well understood that his anger actually had far more to do with the decline from what he had been decades earlier than anything else. All that needed to happen was for the great Manfred von Richthofen to walk past a mirror to be reminded anew that he was no longer the Hunter or Cavalry Officer that he had been in his youth. The fact that by some miracle he had lived into his eighth decade was a small consolation. He had never feared death, instead it was the infirmities of age that scared him. Having to walk with a cane because of an injury to his knee fifty years earlier that he had thought had completely healed or increasingly finding that his eyesight and hearing were deteriorating. Those things made him angry. Ilse had also come to understand why the grandchildren were so special to him and how the matter that he had brought up with her related to one of them.

“This is something that I knew about before she was hired to work in this household” Ilse said, “And no, she is not going to be dismissed by you, most certainly not by me.”

Manfred’s jaw dropped. He had clearly not expected her to say that.

People standing up to him, telling him no, was something that rarely happened anymore. This time was different, and it was something that he was going to have to get used to. He had been delegating responsibilities in running the estate to Ilse for years. She enjoyed Albrecht’s full backing recently when it had been determined that certain conditions regarding Manfred’s mental and physical health had been met. These days any decisions about staffing or long-term plans had to go through Ilse regardless of Manfred the Elder still technically being the head of the family. When Ilse had made sure that it was all legally binding, it seemed that the problems presented by an aged family member with a stagging amount of power was not new to the legal circles. What had been surprising to Ilse had been that mechanisms had been put in place by Manfred himself decades earlier. Apparently, he had thought that this day would never come.

“But why?” Manfred asked, “She lied to us.”

“Izabela withheld information that no one asked her for” Ilse replied, “And do you know why I had no objections to her?”

Manfred just stared at her, he had to know the answer to that question.

“From both you and my sister I learned the value of having people around who are grateful for what I can give them each day” Ilse said.

“You know about her connection to Ingrid” Manfred said, “How she abandoned her.”

“And if I had been forced to give up Nikolaus because my family was a bunch of pious fuckwits, I would crawl over broken glass on bended knee to stay close to him” Ilse replied. She was daring him to continue this conversation, fortunately it sunk in that she had the upper hand.



Lenk im Simmental, Switzerland

“We could have disposed of both of them in one action” Petia said, reminding Kat that Petia was every bit the soldier she had been during the Soviet war.

“Perhaps” Kat replied as she looked at the photographs of the meeting between Strauss and Bleier. “The fact that we can now prove that these two are collaborating is far more valuable. Helene can get them to the right Agencies.”

“If you say so Katya” Peta replied.

They were getting a lot of strange looks from around the recreation room they were meeting in. It seemed that carrying on a conversation in Russian was out of the ordinary here.

“Anything else going on at home?” Kat asked.

“Sofiya has met a boy” Petia replied, “I am certain of it.”

Kat didn’t know if she should be amused or cross about this development with her foster daughter. Despite everything else that was going on, at the end of the day Sophie was a teenager with raging hormones and Kat was unable to be present at this time.

“Too bad locking her in a chastity belt went out of fashion” Kat said.

Petia just chuckled at that. “That would have just resulted in the man who would become my husband finding a hacksaw” She said.

“I know” Kat said, “When you get back to Berlin be sure to tell Sofiya that I have full faith in her that she will make the right decisions with her life.”

“Manipulative” Petia said approvingly, “I figure that it will probably work for a time. When are you coming back to deal with her yourself?”

“Soon” Kat replied, “I am trying to get myself back into proper order, but that is proving a bit difficult.”

“You will be pleased to know that the entire city wants you back” Petia said.

“Of course, they do” Kat replied, “Right now they have no one to complain to.”
 
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“You will be pleased to know that the entire city wants you back” Petia said.

“Of course, they do” Kat replied, “Right now they have no one to complain to.

Or to complain about...

With great power comes great numbers of people who think they should have their demands met before anyone else. x'D
 
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