Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Seventeen
21st November 1975
Climbing stairs wasn’t exactly Louis Ferdinand Junior’s idea of fun. With him being in Odessa and Margareta having come to meet him, it seemed like a good time to play the role of tourist. The respective protection details for the two of them were far enough away to let them speak freely, which was good. Even so, Odessa was a port city which meant that Louis barely got a second glance, Sailors and Ship’s Officers were a dime a dozen it seemed.
The Primorsky Steps, or Potemkin Stairs as they were famously known, were one of the most instantly recognizable landmarks in Odessa. This was because of the film Battleship Potemkin and the scene which Sergei Eisenstein had filmed on those stairs in the 1920’s, though it was rather obvious that Eisenstein had taken a whole lot of liberties with when and where the events had taken place. It was a scene that had been recreated dozens of times in various films since. Most recently by George Lucas in his latest Star Wars film in response to critics who had complained that the Galactic Empire was seemingly too stupid and cartoonish to be believable though it was clearly based on the French Empire under Napoleon. Soldiers marching in lockstep over the dead and wounded as they fired volleys into a crowd of mostly women and children. Then there was the Cavalry waiting at the base of the stairs for anyone attempting to flee. That certainly made an impression. Evil didn’t need to be smart to crush a rebellion, it only needed to be ruthless.
“You’re being quiet today Louis” Margareta said as they walked up the stairs. The funicular which ran parallel to the stairway rattled by.
“I was just thinking about how when I was at the Mürwik Naval Academy they made us watch Battleship Potemkin and Alexander Nevsky” Louis replied, “These stairs played a starring role in Battleship Potemkin.”
“A bunch of German children at a military school watching Soviet era Russian films?” Margareta asked. The tone of her voice suggesting that she found that a bit hard to believe. “In Paris there are a lot of the starving artists and self-styled student revolutionaries around who watched those films. Perfectly happy to talk at length about class struggle so long as they receive regular checks from their parents.”
“It could not have been more different” Louis said, “We also watched a lot of other movies, British, French, and American, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, or Howard Hawks for example. There was always a discussion afterwards. The point was to be able to analyze what we were seeing and what was being said, recognize propaganda.”
“Sounds like an interesting class” Margareta said as they topped the stairs. There was a carousel to their right and a bronze statue which curiously was of a man in Classical Roman garb directly in front of them.
The weather on the shores of the Black Sea had been relatively mild, with the daily temperature above freezing. In her last letter, Kiki had said that where she was living in Bavaria was already getting snow and Louis had seen the weather reports spelling out what it was like at the moment in the Ukrainian interior. Which meant a sunny day in Odessa wasn’t that bad, still there was a cold wind blowing off the sea, so Louis was glad that he had remembered to wear his wool coat. The way that Margareta was dressed, one would think that she was on an expedition to the Arctic.
“Can you tell which ship is yours?” Margareta asked looking back down the stairs at the harbor which they had an amazing view of. There were a large number of ships anchored out there under the midday sun. Among them the 2nd Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, which Louis presently commanded.
“That is the Grindwal right there” Louis said stepping beside to Margareta so she could see what he was pointing at.
“A big grey ship?” Margareta asked, “Aren’t they are hard to tell apart.”
“She is a Corvette, which is quite small as warships go. Put the Grindwal next to Fischadler II and you’d see” Louis said, mentioning the newest Aircraft Carrier in the High Seas Fleet which was named for the original Fischadler of the Pacific War. “I would know her at a glance.”
“Really?” Margareta asked with a smile.
It was almost true. The Grindwal was anchored next to Estoc, which was a big help. The Säbel, the Grindwal’s true sistership was anchored a few hundred meters further out and almost identical in appearance. While also being a 1970 Class Corvette, Ozelot was of later production, so she had the enlarged radar needed for the installation of the Sperling missile system. That bolstered the already formidable air defenses of the Squadron and the bulged radome atop the Ozelot’s superstructure made her easy to spot. The Jagdterrier and Natter, the two Fast Gunboats that rounded out the Squadron were hidden from view as they were moored on the far side of the Ozelot.
“Yes” Louis replied, “Now, about this lunch you promised. Now I’ve nothing against the Grindwal’s Cook, but something different would be very welcome. Then we can see the sights.”
“Sounds good” Margareta said as they crossed the street and into the City Center. She had told Louis about the food at the hotel she was staying at, and it really did sound good. What he had not told Margareta was that if he had one more helping of potted meat-kimchee stew he wouldn’t be as likely to stop the wild talk by the crew about keelhauling the Cook.
When they passed what smelled like a tobacconist’s shop, Louis saw that there were several newspapers for sale out front. While he couldn’t read Cyrillic, he saw the photographs.
“Tante Kat is in the news again” Louis observed.
“You call her that?” Margareta asked.
“I was nearly twelve when I found out that Katherine wasn’t actually my aunt” Louis replied, “That is how close she is to my family.”
“You know about her reputation? Former Royal Assassin, supposedly.”
“Most of what people say about Kat isn’t true” Louis replied.
“I don’t know, you should never, ever underestimate a redhead” Margareta said with an impish smile.
“Of course, you would think that” Louis said.
Margareta blew a raspberry at him as they walked up the street.