Part 52, Chapter 712
Chapter Seven Hundred Twelve


13th February 1949

Berlin

She’d been requested by the Empress far earlier in the day than she normally did. Kat finding herself in a Russian Orthodox Church was also a change, normally she met Kira in the Palace in the afternoon. Kira was standing there with her daughter Kristina holding her hand, Kat figured that asking Friedrich and Michael to stand here for the service would be too big of an ask. Kira had said that because her and Louis had different religious backgrounds they would allow their children to decide when they got old enough. Many thought that was an enlightened position to take, Kat personally suspected that they were encouraging their children to go with was the most politically expedient when they were adults.

“They’re asking about Jehane” Kira said nodding towards the clergy gathered towards the front of the church.

Kat gave an exasperated sigh. “They might not find what they are expecting” She said, “With Jehane, or the things she knows about her mother.”

“How bad is it?” Kira asked.

“According to her, Tatiana Nikolaevna had a spiritual crisis in her final years and apparently no longer was interested in going through the motions” Kat replied, “Jehane herself is not much better.”

“Then there’s influence that you and your Aunt Marcella have had” Kira said, “What a mess.”

“Would you have preferred that she was dragged the nearest Lutheran Church every Sunday?” Kat said, “That’s what my Maternal Grandmother would have done.”

“The woman you were named for?” Kira asked, and Kat just nodded. “The Russians would have loved that” Kira remarked with a touch of uncharacteristic sarcasm. It did explain a few things about Marcella’s attitudes regarding organized religion.

“I didn’t think about any of this…” Kat started to say.

“No one expected you to” Kira replied, “In fact, you might have endangered her if you had.”

“I guess” Kat said. There were so many unforeseen things that she had run into with Gianna. This was merely the latest.

“There are times that I wish there was somewhere to sit down” Kira said. The Russian Orthodox Church preferred the congregants to stand during services.

“No, you don’t, Church pews are made deliberately hard and uncomfortable. Just having them encourages the Minister to preach at length about whatever.”

Kira didn’t seem too surprised by that, “Another case of the grass being greener on the other side of fence I guess” She said.

“Can Auntie Kat come with us?” Kristina asked, not liking being ignored in the manner of children.

“Come with you where?” Kat asked.

“We’re going to the Cinema” Kristina said excitedly, “There will be popcorn and Coca-Cola. We were told that there’s something new you might like, a candy called milk duds.”

This was a recent development. Kristina had recently discovered film, particularly animated features. It did fit with the image as patrons of the arts that Louis Ferdinand and Kira had been cultivating. It was nice to Kristina acting her age for once.

“I’m sorry Kiki, but I’m going to be meeting with your mother and then I’ve other obligations” Kat said, “Perhaps another time.”

Kat was one of the few people who got away with calling the Princess the diminutive of her name. “Another time?” Kristina asked, “You promise.”

“Yes” Kat said, the truth was that joining the royal children for an afternoon of junk food and the latest cartoons from Babelsberg would be a welcome escape from her troubles for a few hours. Instead she was going to brief the Empress on the week’s events and give a progress report on the ongoing investigation in America. Then she was going to track down Gianna and plan a course of action on what Gia was and wasn’t going to say to the Russian Orthodox Eparch of Berlin. She’d hoped that if Gia was out of the public eye then the world would forget about her. Instead it had been uneven. Some people forgot, others didn’t. It was the sort of thing that made for long, stressful days.


14th February 1949

Washington D.C.

He might be a cold bastard, but he was marksman. Ed Ross had to give him that. Sven ejected the spent cartridges into his hand and put them into the cloth bag that was there for that purpose. They had found themselves taking an early lunch, waiting for the lab to send back results on a Monday morning, Ed had made a joke about how he’d heard that in Europe the cops didn’t even carry guns. Sven and Gunther had said that was just England and didn’t extend to Germany. That had touched off a debate over marksmanship and led to a series of bets. To be fair they had found themselves using the other country’s service weapons, the German’s using the FBI’s S&W .38 Special revolvers and the FBI using the Walther automatics.

Ed watched as Sven Werth delivered what would have qualifying performance with the American revolver. Something that would have been scary enough except Ed had just shot a better group than he ever had in his career with the damned German automatic pistol. John Aleshire stepped up for his turn after getting some pointers from Gunther regarding the finicky automatic. A few minutes later Ed watched as Gunther himself fired the revolver at the paper target of John Dillinger, the Bureau had never forgotten the one that got away, and Gunther said something to Sven who smiled coldly.

“Son of a bitch” John muttered.

“What?” Ed asked him.

“We’re getting hustled” John answered, Ed was aware that John wasn’t supposed to let on that he’d taken German in School and could understand much of what they said.

“What did he say?”

“He compared the American made 1905 to the French made version that they must see all the time.”

“Looks like we’re paying for beer tonight” Ed said morosely.

“Not we, you” John said, “I’m taking my wife to dinner tonight. It’s Valentine’s Day, remember. Have fun with the Krauts.”

“Son of a bitch” Ed muttered.
 
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Congratulations on the two awards. In my opinion they are well deserved. This a tremendous well-written story that I am enjoying.
 
Part 52, Chapter 713
Chapter Seven Hundred Thirteen


17th February 1949

Berlin

For Gianna it was either this or sit with Helene. Those were choices that she’d been given. After Manfred had been born premature the Doctors were worried that it might happen again, so they’d ordered Helene to be under constant observation and bedrest. Helene was understandably not happy with this latest turn of events. Fortunately, the University had been willing to let here do her coursework from home, she could just turn it in at the end of the term. Gia suspected that they didn’t want a repeat of what had happened before which made that group of befuddled old men deeply uncomfortable. Gia could imagine the sort of lecture that Doctor Tangeman would give them. “Gentlemen, you might have noticed something about the people who make up much of your student body…” Despite her surroundings Gia smiled at the thought.

They had moved Helene to her parent’s townhouse in the city to make things easier, talking Helene into it had been the hardest part. Kat had made sure that someone was with Helene as much as possible, mostly to keep her from exerting herself. Manfred was at Aunt Marcella’s house, that wasn’t a hardship for anyone involved though hearing about Manfred joining Uncle Klaus for the daily sport report made Helene miss Hans. A couple hours earlier, Gerta and Ilse had sent Gia home so that she could prepare for this, whatever this was.

Gia was wearing clothes that were nice but hardly anything flashy. She’d been advised that any signs of overt wealth would be frowned upon. Gia was still trying to figure if she owned anything that she could wear that would be a display of wealth. Kat had also warned Gia that people had this image of her and her mother, they might not take it well if she said anything that contradicted that. Gia felt a stab of guilt whenever she heard that mentioned. The Russians thought of her mother and her aunt’s as these saintly figures, complete with an effort towards canonization. The public image of Gia herself was not much better and she knew that it was false.

Gia heard the heels of shoes and creak of aged hardwood floors. It was a reminder that this was yet one more step in the direction of losing the life she loved forever. “The Archbishop is ready for you” The Secretary, a middle-aged woman who gave Gia the impression that she would tolerate absolutely no nonsense from Gia.

The Russian Orthodox Church in Berlin had grown substantially in recent years. Thousands of Russians, first as prisoners of war and later as soldiers in the Pioneer Corps had passed through the city during the war. After the war many had stayed, followed by those looking for economic opportunity. Archbishop Alexander Nemolovsky had been exiled from Russia during the Soviet period. He’d come to Berlin after an unsuccessful tenure in Canada and the United States where the Orthodox Church had been faced with fiscal and factional difficulties. Entering the office, the first thing that Gia noticed was that he had a file folder on his desk that he was tapping on.

“It’s an honor to finally meet you Alexandra Lukichna” He said.

It took a second for Gia to process that was her name according to the Russian Church. Jehane was the name of her father’s mother and Gianna was the name that Kat had given her when she’d wanted to keep her safe. The alternative might have been Yana, but Gia had never liked that name. Her middle name was fine for now.

“I can’t imagine why” Gia replied without thinking. As soon as she said it she realized that was the very sort of thing that she’d been warned against saying. Seeing the frown form on the Archbishop’s face in reaction was the sort of thing that they feared would happen and Gia realized at that second that she didn’t have the first clue of how to properly address this man.

“Excuse me?” The Archbishop asked.

“I’m sorry” Gia said, “I meant to say that I’m nobody. All I’ve managed to do with my life is get sacked from my job and I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before I’m drummed out of University because of the disruptions I’ve been the cause of lately. I don’t know why you would be honored to meet someone like me. I’m a total mess in the best of times.”

As the Archbishop listened to Gia ramble on nervously the frown faded and turned to amusement. “You don’t need to apologize for being human” He said, “And you are hardly nobody.”

“Excuse me?” Gia asked.

“I know that you’ve been in hiding and didn’t know who to trust for most of your life” The Archbishop replied, “I also know that you’ve continued your mother’s work despite not having the resources at her disposal.”

That surprised Gia, she couldn’t recall having done anything of the sort. “I’m sorry, but what are you referring to… uhm.”

“This is an informal meeting” The Archbishop replied, “Your Eminence would be appropriate in a formal setting. Father Alex is fine for this setting. I would suggest speaking at length with Kira Kirillovna if you wish to return after today.”

“Thank you” Gia said, grateful that he seemed to understand that she didn’t mean any offense.

“You didn’t realize that you were continuing your mother’s work with this” The Archbishop said handing her the folder. It was filled with dozens of accounts of Gianna Strobel working as a volunteer in the Prisoner-of-War camps around Berlin. Gia flipped through the pages, account after account from those she’d helped. Then she saw the account of Nika Utkin. Everything that Gia had done for her from helping her while hands healed, to taking Nika into Berlin for new glasses and then being in the wedding party when Nika married Dmitry Petrov.

“I didn’t do any of this to continue my mother’s work” Gia said, “My adopted sister Katherine was made responsible for many of these women and she was killing herself for them. Someone had to help.”

“I’m familiar with Katherine of Pankow and if what you say is true then what you did is more significant, no one asked you to do any of this.”

Gia was aghast. Didn’t these people understand that she had done this for entirely selfish reasons? She wasn’t her mother. Kat was trying to destroy herself and Gia couldn’t have imagined life without the woman who was her protector and adopted sister.
 
"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em."[0]

At this point various groups are looking for heroic figures and stories of something other than the unmitigated horror of the Soviet years. Like a lily in a midden Gianna/Jehane's story of The Saintly Last Romanov is something upon which they have fixated. To a certain extent Kat has the same image.


[0] Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.
 
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Ever since Gia had started working with the female Soviet POWs, she has put herself in the situation of being reveled that she is the only granddaughter of Czar Nicholas II.
It is now basically an open secret and Gia is clinging to the last facets of her cover identity.
She can never go back to being "Gianna Strobel" an orphan from Alsac-Lorrainne living with her Aunt and cousin in Pankow but she has to find a way to keep that part of het when she finally has to become Grand Duchess Jehane Alexandra Thomas-Romanova.
Empress Kira can't help but her cousin Kira can point her in the right direction.
Ironically the Grand Duchess may be viewed as a potential rival to the legitimacy of Czar Grigory and he may be scouring the Royal Families of Balkan nations for unmarried Kings and Crown Princes of marriageable age, he can't have second sons or brothers of kings because he wants Jehane as a Queen Consort of another nation than having a potential Czarina with a Prince Consort.
 
Part 52, Chapter 714
Chapter Seven Hundred Fourteen


20th February 1949

Berlin

“Royal Governor in negotiations with Indian Independence Movement” Kat read aloud.

“Our own people should take note regarding South Africa” Kira said, “The British could have fought them tooth and nail. Then where would they be?”

“I don’t know” Kat replied, “I’ve read analysis that India is too big and diverse to work as a nation in the long run. Once the British are gone they’ll lack a common enemy and turn on each other.”

“The same thing could be said about the role that Germany plays here in Europe” Kira said. Kat felt that Kira’s perspective was a bit skewed by seeing things only from inside the palace grounds located in Berlin or Potsdam. They needed to find a way for her to get out more. Because there were considerable numbers of people in the Subject Kingdoms, particularly Slovakia and Poland who would love nothing more than to see themselves no longer be a part of the German Empire. Right now, they were in the minority but in a generation, things might have changed.

“That’s a bit of an oversimplification” Kat said, “And the system we have in place took a long time to get to. Do we need to review the history prior to 1871?”

“Please don’t tell me that you’re becoming one of those people who will talk at length about events five hundred years ago like if it were yesterday.”

“No” Kat said, “But the context is important.”

“I understand” Kira replied, “But sometimes it feels like when some people become senile and grudges are the last thing they forget. Except these aren’t people, they’re entire nations.”

“I understand” Kat said. To many, including the Empress, the actions of various States did seem like the elderly neighbors squabbling over something that had happened decades earlier or small children fighting over a toy.

“What else is going on?” Kira asked.

“The Pope has assembled a committee to reexamine the doctrine of the Catholic Church in hopes of finding resolution of scandals that have engulfed it in recent years” Kat read aloud.

Kira gave an exasperated sigh. “More like they are trying to find a way out of their current mess before the next round of lawsuits starts and the congregants have more reason to keep their money in their pockets” She said.

The scandals that had erupted in the Catholic Church had started in Ireland and spread across Europe, then in the Americas. Then that had prompted a hard look at other denominations, it was swiftly discovered that no one’s hands were particularly clean. Few people knew that Kat had inadvertently played a hand in getting the ball rolling when she’d involved herself in a legal case. So far, it had shown no sign of going away. She didn’t feel guilty about the matter, she’d gotten justice for a young woman who was clearly getting railroaded, but still if she’d had to do it again she might have gone about it in a slightly different way.

“Speaking of religious conflicts” Kira said, “Is Gia still locked in her room?”

It was Kat’s turn to give an exasperated sigh. Gianna had come back from her meeting with the Archbishop, gone into her room and locked the door. Three days later, she’d only opened the door to get food and water that Petia had left for her. When Kat had read the public statement that the Archbishop had made regarding his meeting with Jehane Alexandra Lukichna, she’d known why Gia was so upset. He’d gotten everything wrong and reinforced the public perception of her as the saintly figure that Gia wasn’t comfortable with. Gia had told Kat years earlier that she’d started helping during the war mostly out her concern for Kat, not out of any desire to be a humanitarian. The Archbishop had seen that in a completely different light.

“She was still there when I left this morning” Kat said, “I don’t know what to tell her, the cover wasn’t meant to last forever, and she knew that. I can however understand how she feels about the public perception of her. For years Freiherrin and later Gräfin Katherine von Mischner has felt like this other person who I’ve had to live with as an unwelcome roommate.”

“I understand” Kira said, “Just do me a favor and continue to be there for her.”


Moscow, Russia

Georgy read the latest news about events around the world. He’d had several newspapers delivered to him from around the world, but it was the ones here in Moscow that were giving him the most trouble. While public opinion held that he was an effective leader, he had the matter of his cousin. When he’d first become Czar, he’d used the girl to help unite the country, as proof that his own family had suffered greatly under the Soviets beyond what had happened to his own father. He had discovered though that he’d laid it on a little too thick. People saw his Uncle’s only grand daughter as this saintly figure, a single virtuous soul who had emerged from the war and suffering of the Soviet period to show that the world could be a better place.

Then this week the Eparch of Berlin had interviewed her and read first hand accounts of her conduct during the war. The Archbishop had concluded that Jehane really was what people thought. Unknown to Georgy, Jehane Thomas-Romanova had worked tirelessly on behalf of Russian Prisoners of War at the risk of exposing herself during the time when the Soviets would have enjoyed nothing more than the propaganda coup that would have resulted in her turning up alive. That was when Georgy realized he’d created a monster of sorts. There was no way he could control this sort of sentiment. He’d attempted to throw some eligible young men of good standing in her direction but Jehane had not seemed too interested in them beyond going on dates, usually with her friends in tow. He’d considered marrying her off to a Balkan King or Prince but when he’d suggested it to Kira, the German Empress had said that it wasn’t going to happen. When Georgy had asked why Kira had said that Jehane was a modern woman who would reject the idea, if he pressed it then he would risk angering her pet Gräfin and no one wanted that.
 
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“Oskar Dirlewanger is believed to have killed more than twenty women over a period of years” Gunther said, “He nearly killed Sven as well except Gräfin Katherine shot him twice and he fled.”

“Grey fin Katrina” Ed said, “Who or what is that?”

“She’s Schlüsselfrau to the Kaiserin” Gunther replied, “A very formidable woman who volunteered to work with us.” Ed still didn’t understand what that meant but let it slide. guilty, sent to Spandau Prison” Gunther replied, matter of fact.

Ed might mention this to John, who might recognize Kat's name and connect her with the person-of-interest drawing. What would come of it I won't speculate.
 
This is just speculation on my part, all decisions belong to the person who just won three Turtledoves.

Russia is beginning to emerge from probably one of the greatest defeats in the history of modern warfare and is still in a tenuous position in the world's eye.
The Soviet military was embarrassed and only with the participation of the new Russian army in the Summer Offensive in Manchuria against Japan in 1945 did they gain back some of their honor and reputation.
They lost a lot of territory with the independence of Belarus and the Ukraine and I think that Finland is refusing to pull back to pre Russo-Finnish War boundaries.
I don't know what the status of the Central Asian Republics and the Trans-Caucasian Republics are but either they are independent or Russia has a tenuous hold on them.
Russia is undergoing a massive land reform program, developing small businesses and encouraging foreign investments in industries and natural resources.
Ironically Stalin helped by moving a lot of factories to the Urals but there is still the reputation of Soviet era manufacturing being nothing but junk and only by introducing the concept of quality control can this reputation be overcome.
The bureaucracy is by necessity largely staffed by holdovers from the Soviet era and even through there has been a massive de-Stalinization, de-Bolshivick purge the remaining personals are suspect in their loyalty to the New Russian Empire and only by time will that change.
The democratic process is frought with danger as there is no tradition of free elections and independent political parties and demagogues who are very nationalistic and anti-Semitic could be winning elections.

With all of that in mind Czar Gregory is trying to cement his own place by awarding titles of nobility to newly rich oligarchs, by gaining the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, and rebuilding the military.

The emergence of Grand Duchess Jehane Alexandra Thomas-Romanova as this saintly figure is throwing a pipe wrench into the works and somehow Jehane must be sidelined, hopefully married off to some crowned head of state or their direct heir or something that if it fails someone's pet Grafin will get involved.
 
Part 53, Chapter 715
Chapter Seven Hundred Fifteen


23rd February 1949

Klotzsche Airfield, Near Dresden, Germany

Lenz was listening to his XO, Oberstlieutenant Erich Rudorffer give the latest report on the readiness of JG-7 as they walked down the flight line with the dozens of FW-270 fighters parked. The fighter wing might not have had the cache of JG-1 “von Richthofen” but as a newly promoted Oberst, it was all his. JG-7 had as its motto, “The Defense of the Reich” and during the war they had lived that motto while fighting the Russian bombers and their escorts throughout the war. It was a proud record that he intended to build on. What Rudorffer was not aware of yet was they Lenz had gotten word that JG-7 was to prepare for movement and the transition of having JG-18 take over the defense of South Eastern Germany.

If Lenz had to guess he’d say that they were probably headed for South Africa which meant… “How is the wing regarding ground attack missions?” Lenz asked.

Rudorffer frowned, that was not the sort of thing that he wanted to hear from a new commander and JG-7 had mostly taken on interceptor missions in the past. “We know how to do it Sir but…”

“No buts” Lenz said, cutting him off, “The writing on the wall suggests that we’re doing close air support missions soon and the pencil pushers in Wunsdorf know that our planes are multi-role.”

The XO was clearly not happy with that. Even practicing missions like that was dangerous, so Lenz couldn’t blame him. “Yes, Sir” He said.


Berlin

Asia thought that Gia was currently drawing more attention to herself with her clumsy efforts to be invisible. What might have worked for Katherine, the shapeless clothes and slouching demeanor, clearly didn’t for Gia. Asia personally didn’t understand how Kat did it, her mentor could quite literally become a completely different person right before your eyes. It was a trick that Asia would love to master. Instead, Asia, along with the others had been told that they were to stay with Gia at all times. It was something that they were used to, with seven of them, eight if Anne was included, there was always some sort of drama going on. Before this, they had an issue when shy, bookish Leni of all of them had her heart broken when her boyfriend abruptly dumped her. Apparently, he’d wanted far less from the relationship than Leni did and from his perspective he’d not even got what he’d wanted. Kris, Tilde and Judita had made sure that he would other things on his mind for the following eight to ten weeks, however long it took for his bones to knit. Leni really could do better as far as men were concerned.

Now, there was this. It had come as a shock to the others to learn that Gia was the Russian Grand Duchess this entire time. They’d had their theories, sure, but Gia had come to live with them for months at the State School for Girls. What sort of Princess did that? Well, Gia. She’d felt compelled to share everything with those who were risking their lives for her and going home to the comfort of Aunt Marcella’s house every night when they went back to the dormitory would have been wrong in her mind. That was the key difference between Gia and Asia. Asia was perfectly willing to admit that she was a selfish bitch, if she’d had the opportunity to sleep in her own room back then she would have leaped for it. From the time that Asia had been too big for the cradle until her family had fled ahead of the Russian advance Asia had shared a bed with her sisters. It wasn’t until she’d reached Berlin and been placed in the School that she’d learned that there was any other way of doing things.

Watching Gia trying to hide under a coat and hat was one of the most pathetic displays that Asia had ever seen.

“You know that you are not fooling anyone with that?” Asia asked.

“I don’t care” Gia hissed.

Asia just shrugged and tried to concentrate on the lecture that was starting.


Kimberly, South Africa

Hans could tell that Nelson was unhappy with the arrangement that they had come to. The African National Congress and their militant wing were amateurs at best. Having to come to Hans was not an easy thing for Nelson to have done but after the Boers had attacked their hangout and killed several of their people the ANC leader didn’t feel he had much of a choice. For Nelson it was a question of who he distrusted the least. Hans had read the report about the attack and had pointed out to Nelson that he’d been lucky that the Boers seemed to be just as amateurish as his outfit. If that bar had been attacked by elements of the Heer then no one would have gotten out alive. Nelson had asked what that had meant, and Hans told him. They would have had snipers covering the rear and rather than petrol bombs they would have used white phosphorous shells ahead of APCs crashing through the front wall. Nelson was a bit shocked by Hans' cold appraisal but that was the difference between fighting an army as opposed to guerrilla force like the Boers.

Now there was word that the Boers had German mercenaries advising them. That explained a few things that had happened…

“The Oberst wants to see you, Sir” A Soldat said interrupting Hans train of thought. Hans sighed, got up from his chair and left the hut that was used as the base of operations for Regimental Intelligence. Walking across the compound he saw that the numbers and equipment were still on the increase. The hope was that they could settle this without resorting to the tactics used by the British during the Boer War decades earlier. There was also what had happened during the Herero revolt that the Brass was hoping to avoid.

“Is there a problem, Sir?” Hans asked when he entered the Oberst’s office.

“With the work you’ve been doing, no” The Oberst said, “I guess your Father-in-Law pulled some strings or something, Major. You’ve been granted leave, so I’m going to have to find someone else to do your job while you’re gone.”

Hans felt a huge sense of relief at that.
 
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This is an ongoing series of interesting events, with nary a bad post in an utterly incredible tale. I see cooperation between Germany and the US in investigating Truman's shooting, combined with American rifles and rocket launchers being fired at German troops, has potential to lead to more bad things happening.

Is Truman able to calm things down, or are racists still exploding?
 
Hans should be weary of the strings his father-in-law just pulled, it looks like his CO was not pleased about it and his fellow officers will try to take advantage of it.
Hans should put his time home to good use by putting together a report on the various options that the OKW can use in South Africa, he could talk to Tilo on what the special warfare units can do and more importantly what they can't do.
Also he should talk to Kurt about using cavalry troops and see if that is a good idea or if this is just someone IOTL remembering reading about and seeing pictures of the SADF patrolling on horseback in the 70;s and 80's.

I think that for the ground support mission that the Luftwaffe is planning is a bit of overkill using jets, but the Luftwaffe does have justify expenditure of having jets.

Asia has the right perspective on things and Jehane has to learn that Gianna does not exist anymore, also what the Sisterhood did was just very wrong and their mentor should have a little talk to them.

I can see editorial cartoons of Empress Kira with her pet Griffin with the head of Kat instead of an eagle at her side or at her feet.
 
As I said earlier:
At this point I think that Kat needs some help in accepting her honors, and a little time in a 'charm school' to tone down her appearance of dangerous intensity.To mix a metaphor, she needs to cultivate the image of the Empress' hunting leopard sitting at her feet looking on calmly instead of barely being held in check watching everyone around her as potential prey. Learning how to deflect or defuse idiot comments wouldn't hurt, either.
 
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