1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 22

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 22:

USE naval base

Colonel Jesse Wood hung his flight jacket on a peg near the door and then took a seat in a chair against the wall in Admiral Simpson’s office.

“So what’s up, John? Why did you insist I fly out here at the crack of dawn?”

With the passage of time and some shared heartaches, relations between Jesse Wood and John Chandler Simpson had gotten a lot more relaxed than they’d been in earlier days. The two men still weren’t what you’d call friends, but there was a lot of mutual respect between them.

A lot of trust, too, which is what the admiral thought was most critical at the moment. He half-rose, leaned over his desk and handed Jesse a radio message. “This came in yesterday evening.”

The air force commander cocked an eyebrow and started reading the message. It wasn’t very long. By the time he got to the end, his relaxed half-slouch had vanished and he was sitting up straight on the edge of his chair.

“Jesus. H. Christ.” He looked up at Simpson. “I assume there’s no chance this is a fake?”

The admiral shook his head. “The prince had his own codes, which he used. I can’t see how anyone else could have gotten them, since I happen to know — he told me — that he was committing them to memory so there’d be no written copy anywhere except in our records. And who would want to fake such a message anyway? The only people I can think of who’d want to meddle in this would hardly be sending that message.”

Jesse looked back down at the little sheet and then handed it back to the admiral. “True enough. But… What the hell is she playing at?”

“I think you’re using the wrong pronoun, for starters. I’d be very surprised if the guiding mind behind this isn’t Prince Ulrik’s.” Before Jesse could say anything, Simpson made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he’s not coercing the girl in any way. He wouldn’t need to. He’s very persuasive and by now she’s probably got a lot of faith in him.”

The colonel grunted. “Not to mention that she’s what they call ‘spirited’ herself.” He ran fingers through his short hair, which was starting to thin quite a bit in front. It was getting gray, too — and would probably be a lot grayer before this was all finished, Simpson thought. His own hair was turning white.

“What do you think he’s up to, then?”

Simpson looked out the window. His office was on the third floor of the navy’s headquarters building, so he had a good view of the city’s port. It was not what anyone would call a scenic vista, but the harbor was always busy and there was usually something of interest to watch. For the few seconds it usually took him to get his thoughts in order, anyway.

“I spent a fair amount of time in discussions with that young man during the Congress of Copenhagen, Jesse. He plays it very close to the chest, but I’m pretty sure he’s following the general line of reasoning that Scaglia’s been developing in the Netherlands.”


“Scalia. Alessandro Scaglia. He’s a former Savoyard diplomat who’s now in Brussels working for Archduchess Isabella. He advocates a political policy he calls ‘the soft landing.’ His argument is that the Ring of Fire proves that some sort of democratic political system is inevitable in Europe’s nations, and so fighting to preserve monarchical rule and aristocratic privilege is pointless as well as wrong-headed. At the same time, given the existing realities and what he sees as the excesses that democracy led to in our universe — he’s not very fond of the Committees of Correspondence in this one, either — he thinks a transition period is necessary, during which time ruling monarchs gradually cede their power to democratic institutions of one kind or another. To put it another way, he advocates constitutional monarchy, with the emphasis shifting over time from ‘monarchy’ to ‘constitutional.'”

“Is he really that important? I’ve never heard of the guy.”

Simpson tried to figure out how to respond. It would be rude to point out that Colonel Wood rarely read any political treatises, and none at all written by contemporary down-timers. The admiral, on the other hand, had compiled quite an extensive library of such writings. His wife Mary was an even more assiduous student of the subject.

“Well, he keeps a low public profile. But he has the ear of the king in the Netherlands, I’m sure of that, as well as the queen. And since Maria Anna is the sister of Emperor Ferdinand III of Austria and Hungary — they’re reported to be quite close, too — I’d be surprised if Scaglia isn’t getting a hearing from that branch of the Habsburgs as well.”

He picked up the radio message and gave it a little shake. “The point being that this request — proposal, whatever you want to call it — has all the earmarks of a maneuver in that direction. A very bold maneuver, and if Ulrik pulls it off probably a brilliant one.”

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31 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 22

  1. Cindy Curry says:

    Interesting. I hope we get to read the message.

  2. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Well, this certainly sounds intriguing! I just wish the snippet was longer. I’m wondering if the plan is for Kristina and Ulrik, as the rulers-to-be, to cede some of their monarchial powers to the USE or to the Union of Kalmar in exchange for a parliamentary repudiation of Axel Oxenstierna? Or perhaps, the plan is to have formal, written, constitutional limits placed on the monarchy in exchange for dumping Oxenstierna, which achieves the same end, but it fits better with Scaglia’s argument for a soft landing.

    I’m still waiting to see if G2A is going to come to his right mind again.

  3. robert says:

    Boy was I wrong!

  4. dave o says:

    I don’t recall an airfield in Stockholm. If not, is Wood to fly Kristina and Ulric from a German Baltic seaport to Magdeburg? Ulric’s dispatch probably discusses Oxenstierna’s plans, which must be pretty obvious by now. History seems to show that the worst possible form of government is by the Aristocracy. With other forms of oligarchy a close second.

  5. “fly” is surely less safe than “steam”, even if the ironclads are the way they are.

    And since whoever at the far end has worked out that they do not yet know Simpson’s loyalties, telling him ‘we’re off to overthrow the government’ or whatever would be an invitation for his to prepare a hostile reception committee.

  6. Sounour says:

    Why would Wood think it’s an idea of Kristina if they used Ulriks private codes? The only reason for that is if Kristina signed it.
    And I’m pretty certain, that Kristina is sure of Simpson’s loyalties, at least in the current situation. My read on Simpson is that he will not disobey any orders, but do his best to creativly interpret them, to help the princess. He is ordered to bring them to Berlin? Why, the vessel transporting them is the Union of Kalmar and not under his orders etc.
    That leaves the question of WHAT they have planned. I still think they are going to throw a royal wedding and then proclaim themselfs regents for the duration of G2As incapacity.

  7. Sounour says:

    @4 / dave o:
    I don’t know about a airport. But there is a seaport and there is a plane captable of water landing according to GG stories.

    And I think there are worse forms of government… It all depends on WHO holds the seats of power and what checks are in place.
    A dictator can be much worse, or much better … a republic can be much better, but can also have real problems which make it much worse …

  8. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @1 — I’d like to know the text of the message also.

  9. alejo says:

    A dictatorship is only good as long as the good dictator is alive. Good dictators, if they exist, dont’ stay alive long or get their strings pulled by the real power behind the proverbial throne. Most dictators are not nice people and stay alive seemingly forever. At least, with a republic, you get more stability and less rests on the shoulders of one person. I am from Latin America. Our history plainly shows the ills of dictatorships. I can’t think of a single one on this hemisphere that has done anything but brutalize, marginalize, militarize, and trample on human rights. Really, this is ridiculous. Eastern hemisphere is just as bad but on a larger scale. Hitler was a dictator, was he any good for his people? He got thousands of them killed in a needless war and slaughtered millions of innocents. Stalin? He killed millions of his own people in the 1930’s in labor camps and launched a Cold War that would cause much misery worldwide. Recently, there was Sadam Husein who reputedly gased many of his people and tortured countless others. On this side, Castro, Pinochet, … military government of Argentina in the 1970’s, all of them guilty of enormous attrocities and nothing whatsoever to show for it by way of doing anything good for their countries. The far east? North Korea is a dictatorship and it’s record is not good when it comes to taking care of its people. Honestly, how anyone can seriously entertain the idea that a dictatorship can ever bee a good thing is indulging in purely theoretical speculation. Truth is: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” History’s record is clear on that score.

  10. KimS says:

    The fact that there was a ‘radio’ message that Ox/Wettin could also receive is an important part. The actual message is meaningless other than Ulric knew he would need a secret code at some point in the future. Ulrik’s has also come to trust Simpson because of both of their actions/discussions during the Baltic War. My reading indicates that the Princess wants to go to Magdeburg where she will not be an ‘absolute’ monarch but a ‘constitutional’ monarch. Simpson understands this and seems very willing to support her. Now he’s trying to get Jesse’s assistance.

    Also, with radio messages in the clear, there is no mention of Navy or AF interest in Saxony in this snippet.

  11. robert says:

    @5 Re Simpson’s loyalties:
    “The admiral shook his head. “The prince had his own codes, which he used. I can’t see how anyone else could have gotten them, since I happen to know — he told me — that he was committing them to memory so there’d be no written copy anywhere except in our records. And who would want to fake such a message anyway? The only people I can think of who’d want to meddle in this would hardly be sending that message.””

    Sorta implies that they each knew where the other stood.

    Kristina is airplane crazy-she loves them, if you remember her reaction to her flight to Copenhagen in The Baltic War. Tell her that she’s going to fly to Magdeburg or Leubeck and she will be ready to go right now, no arguments.

    @9 I am with you, alejo. I was in Chile about 10 years ago and the social wreckage caused by the Pinochet regime was still quite evident-even then the profits from the copper mining all went only to the military, by law. We only have to read the newspaper to wonder what the maniacs in Pyongyang think they are doing now.

  12. summertime says:

    Scaglia is a new name in the narrative. His description puts me in mind of Nasi. Another intelligent and well-connected downtimer. We will likely hear more of him further on.

  13. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Summertime, Scaglia and his “Soft Landing” were introduced in “The Baltic War”.

  14. alejo says:

    @Robert: Yes, that is about right. The military always seems to do quite well during a dictatorship. It does not surprise me that they reaped the profits from the copper mines. It is also your military types who get lured by the pipedream of the “benevolent dictator.” It is good to live in a country where no regime has fallen prey to that in its 234 years of existence. Better to break the power in to little shards each held by one potentially greedy and dishonest individual working for his own advantage than to have the whole thing in the hands of one person who might turn out to be as mad or despotic as those I mentioned before. This way there’s a good chance lots of those shards of power are in the hands of decent people trying to do what’s best for everyone. YOu won’t get anything done quickly and everyone won’t be entirely satisfied but, no one person will have his way either.

  15. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Re: air vs. sea, remember it is difficult to sail overland to Magdeburg. Union of Kalmar would need to sail around Denmark and then up the Elbe to reach Magdeburg, which simply takes to long as well as putting Ulrik and Kristina into the power of Christian IV (previously identified as something Ulrik thinks is a Bad Idea).

    Most likely they will sail to Wismar or Luebeck and fly to Magdeburg. While flying can be risky, it might be a lot *more* risky to travel on the ground, where Ox’s guys can ambush them. There could be some interesting action if ‘Lieutenant Prince’ and ‘Midshipman Cav (Christina Augusta Vasa)’ need to make a sneaky debarkation from the ship to get to the plane.

  16. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @6 I don’t think they will need to marry to mess up Ox’s plans in the USE. Just having the *heir* show up in Magdeburg, publicly ask why H+GA2 isn’t getting the absolute *best* possible care, and appear to endorse the power of the Commons (or FoJ party ‘rump’ Senate) will be enough to put some major spikes in Oxenstierna’s political cannon.

  17. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Please excuse the typo H+ in front of GA2 above.

  18. robert says:

    @14 alejo–majority rule, minority rights. That’s the formula and it can only be maintained if it is a nation of laws and rulers are voted into office regularly. Hard job.

  19. Bret Hooper says:

    @9 alejo: Good comment! But with one small flaw. There was a story–I think it was in Astounding (back when it was Astounding, under JW Campbell, Jr.) that demonstrated that it is not power that corrupts, but immunity from the consequences of one’s actions. In the story, there was a nation that had an absolute dictator, but before one could be empowered as dictator, s/he had to have an implant inside the skull that caused pain anytime the dictator thought of doing anything against the best interests of the public or about getting the implant disabled or removed, and the pain kept getting worse until the dictator gave up such thoughts. (Maybe one of you can supply the name of the author and/or the title of the story.

  20. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Problem with that implant is who decides what the poeoples’ best interests are? Those are the individualswho will get corrupted in that system.

    I’m with Alejo and Robert — just vote the scoundrels out, on a semi-regular basis. At they very least the new scoundrels will invent amusing new ways to mess things up.

  21. Todd Bloss says:

    The problem with Dictators (and Politicians, for that matter) is that anyone that really wants the job -shouldn’t have it.

  22. robert says:

    Hmm. About 600 miles as the ‘plane flies from Stockholm to Magdeburg. Can it be done carrying 3 passengers, 4 with Carolyn? In a pinch, one very important passenger.

  23. G Bayrit says:

    I don’t believe there’s an airport in Stockholm — but didn’t the Danish king (who happens to be Ulric’s father) have one built relatively near his palace? The problem there might be getting Kristina from the ship to the plane though, because I imagine the Danish King (I forget his name) would love to reestablish the Union of Kalamar under the Danish flag. He might think that maintaining a hold on (kidnapping) Kristina might give him a bit more influence in that direction.

  24. Pul Ess says:

    Naturally, they’ll take the tub to Lübeck, and Air Force One from there to Magdeburg.

  25. kwinn says:

    “The tub”, what a way to talk about one of the three most powerful and technically advanced warships in the world.

  26. robert says:

    What kind of an airstrip would they need? I imagine a flat, boulder-free field could be arranged on the periphery of what was Stockholm in the 17th century (even now Arlanda is 25 miles from the city center).

  27. Ed says:

    @26 Sure they could arrange for an airfield in Stockholm. Could they do that secretly, without alerting the Swedish authorities (who answer to Ox)? How do they get fuel there to re-tank the aircraft so they can take off again? How *long* does that take them to do?

    Even if they could somehow build an airfield, land, refuel, and take off again in perfect secrecy, I don’t think there is an aircraft in existence that has 600 miles range while carrying several passengers. (Wood flew to paris and back, I suppose to around Hamburg or Luebeck, but all he carried was a couple of bags of propaganda leaflets). We are talking flying 4 people here, 2 of them (Ulrik and his viking buddy) pretty big people at that.

  28. Jeff Ehlers says:

    @9: I agree completely. The problem with a government run by one “perfect” man is, what happens if that man gets a bellyache? Or ends up being decidedly less than perfect?

    @19: Not exactly. It’s not power so much as privilege that corrupts. The Twelve Kingdoms series by Fuyumi Ono gives a good illustration of this; kings are divinely mandated in that world, and chosen by beings called ki-rin, who are incapable of becoming king (the ki-rin picks and advises the king and must pick them through a method which can’t be counterfeited). The short version is that the king (called so regardless of sex) has the potential to live forever, but only by doing what’s good for their subjects; if they don’t, or start breaking the rules, the ki-rin will eventually sicken and die, in which case the king will also die.

    The system was set up that way from the beginning of that world, and it works pretty well – even if a king starts breaking the rules, they only have a few years before they’ll be forcibly removed.

  29. robert says:

    Perfect governance is just as impossible as waste-free government. As long as money spent must be accounted for, there will never be any streamlining. Wanna be politicians who talk about getting rid of waste in government are truly ignorant amateurs. And the same goes for businesses larger than one person (who will also goof off at times). Show me a perfect government and I will search for the graves of its opponents. We (in the USA) have a governmental system that is about as good as it can get and nobody in the USA thinks it is perfect.

    Enjoy your turkeys, all you excellent commenters.

  30. summertime says:

    @#13, Drak: Oops, my bad! I kind of remember the concept but not the name Scaglia connected with it. Guess I will have to scan THE BALTIC WAR and pick up the specific reference. I don’t need to post. I make too many mistakes.

  31. Terranovan says:

    When Adm. Simpson’s introducing Scaglia, the name gets misspelled for a brief instance. Quote:
    “’Scalia. Alessandro Scaglia. He’s a former Savoyard diplomat who’s now in Brussels working for Archduchess Isabella.'”

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