The book should be available now so this is the last snippet.
1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 76
Gunther shrugged. “So everyone tells me. I can’t see it myself. What difference does it make how they get here? Just another damn prince and princess. The world’s full of them.”
He really couldn’t see what was involved, Rebecca knew. That was a blind spot on Achterhof’s part, although it was certainly one shared by many other people, especially in Magdeburg.
The underlying issue was central, actually. What sort of government — no, what sort of state — would the USE have? Achterhof, like almost everyone in the CoCs and the great majority of activists for the Fourth of July Party, was a committed republican. From his point of view, the existing situation was annoying at best. Prior to his injury, Gustav Adolf had occupied a position in the USE somewhere between that of a ruling monarch and a purely constitutional one. Analogous, roughly, to the status of the British monarchy in the up-timers’ old universe during the eighteenth and part of the nineteenth centuries.
Michael Stearns was a republican, too — and Rebecca herself, for that matter. But what Michael understood was that his opinion and that of the CoCs and his own party’s cadre couldn’t be confused with the opinions of the millions of people who inhabited the Germanies.
“I doubt if even the majority of people who vote for us are really committed to a republic,” he’d told Rebecca. “Never, ever underestimate the strength of tradition. It’s not immovable, certainly. But don’t think it’s a feather in the wind, either. That’s because ‘tradition’ isn’t simply a state of mind, it’s a reality rooted in people’s everyday lives. That’s especially true for people living close to the edge, economically, and people who’ve given up hostages to fortune, so to speak. Footloose young radicals with nothing much to lose except their own lives can be bold as all hell and willing — no, eager — to turn everything upside down. But a man in his thirties or forties who makes just enough to take care of his family — and he’s got a wife and kids to take care of, not just himself — is going to be a lot more cautious. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ His wife’s likely to be even more skeptical of abstract theories. Having a king around makes things seem at least a little more stable. As long as the royal bugger’s not doing something screwy, at least. But nobody thinks Gustav II Adolf is a screwball. Not me, not you, not anybody. The truth it, the Vasa dynasty is pretty popular with a lot of people and it’s accepted by most of the others.”
He hadn’t changed his mind, either, because of recent events. She got letters from him fairly regularly. Actual letters — long ones — not short radio messages. However they did it, Thurn and Taxis couriers got through or around Banér’s army just as easily as they crossed bridges.
And that was ultimately what was at stake here. Rebecca wasn’t sure herself how critical it was for Kristina and Ulrik’s arrival in Magdeburg to be done publicly and with great fanfare. Maybe she was over-estimating its importance. But she didn’t think so — and she thought that at least some of Gunther’s resistance was because he felt, even if not entirely consciously, that if Kristina and Ulrik played a decisive role in ending the crisis, that alone would effectively seal the fate of republicanism in the USE, for at least several generations.
Which…it probably would.
She wished that Michael was here to make this decision. But he wasn’t — and there was no point asking him by radio. He’d refuse. You’re there, I’m not. It’s your call. Make it. That would be his answer.
But, in a way, she already had his answer. Much of the content of those letters had been ruminations on the dynamic of revolutions. Michael was concerned to keep the damage as limited as possible, because a revolution that emerged from a society in ruins was likely to become distorted very quickly.
Constantin Ableidinger spoke up. As a member of Parliament from Franconia, he was present in Magdeburg at least half of the time, and regularly attended the executive committee’s meetings.
“Do they know we know?” he asked. “Their highnesses, I mean. Can you use that word in the plural?”
“Who cares whether you can or not?” grunted Achterhof. “But I’d like to know the answer to the first question, myself.”
“I’m not sure, actually,” said Rebecca. “I was sworn to secrecy by Admiral Simpson until just three days ago, when he told me I should broach the matter — these were his words — ‘to those people you think are critical and no one else.’ So far, that’s been the people in this room. I didn’t even tell Francisco Nasi why I was asking him about the availability of his aircraft.”
“As if he won’t figure it out!” said Helene.
“I’m sure he has,” Rebecca agreed. “Still, I didn’t tell him, so I didn’t break my promise to the admiral. And Francisco will keep it to himself, we can be sure of that. As for the question itself…”
She thought about it, for a moment. “I simply don’t know. I’d been assuming they knew Simpson had told us, but now that I consider the matter, I realize that’s just an assumption on my part. Maybe they don’t.”
Ableidinger nodded. “That’s what I figured. I think before we go any further, we need to find out the answer. And while we’re at it why don’t we ask them which way they’d rather come?” He glanced at Gunther. “I suppose we should make clear that the pilot of the aircraft will not be Jesse Wood.”
“Oh, pfui!” snapped Gundelfinger. The glance she gave Achterhof was acerbic. “Anybody who knows Eddie Junker knows that he’s as steady as a rock. You think Nasi would have hired him as his personal pilot if he didn’t trust his competence? We don’t have to get into that.”
“I agree with Helene,” said Rebecca. “We should keep the question as simple as possible.”
She looked around the room, and then glanced at the window to gauge the time of day. The time of evening, now. “If there’s no further discussion, I will go make the radio call right now. We can take advantage of the window if we move immediately.”
She was back in less than fifteen minutes. “The answer to your question, Constantin, is: yes, they knew. In fact, it was they who asked the admiral to get in touch with me. The reason I’m back so soon is because they must have been waiting right there in the radio room at the navy base.
“And the answer is…”
She held up the note with the radio message. “I will read the entire thing. Essential that our arrival in Magdeburg be done publicly, preferably with fanfare. Personal risk of travel much less important than political risk of appearing furtive. Kristina, Princess of Sweden, the United States of Europe, and the Union of Kalmar. Ulrik, Prince of Denmark.”
Smiling, she set the message down on the table. “It’s worth noting, I think, that the signature alone constitutes almost half the message.”
Ableidinger chuckled. “Yes, that’s a lot of what’s involved, isn’t it?”
It was easy to forget, sometimes, because of the booming voice and the flamboyant personality, that the brain inside the Franconian’s head was one of the most politically astute in the nation. “Let’s all understand right now what we’re committing ourselves to,” said Constantin. “If we bring Kristina here, under these circumstances, we have as good as placed our seal of approval on the Vasa dynasty. And not just our personal seal as individuals, either. Insofar as anyone speaks officially for the democratic movement today, we do. There will be no going back from it. Not so long as she lives, anyway. And she’s only nine — and I looked it up. In that other universe, even without modern medical care, Kristina lived until the year 1689. For those of you who can’t count readily, that’s more than a half a century from now.”
Gundelfinger grinned. “And she was tough as nails throughout. You’re not the only one who looked her up, Constantin. I was particularly charmed — and appalled — by the story of her celebration of the pope’s birthday, after she abdicated, converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome. She threw a huge party in her villa. The party got too wild for too long, the guests ignored her orders to leave, so she had her household troops open fire on the celebrants. Eight corpses later, they did as she’d bade them. That’s the girl we’re inviting here, comrades — and, as Constantin says, giving our seal of approval. And if you’re not familiar with Prince Ulrik, he’s the young prince who personally almost sank an ironclad.”
By now, Achterhof was looking alarmed. “Wait a minute! I think we need to consider this a bit more.”
Rebecca nodded. “By all means. You have the floor, Gunther.”
There was silence, for perhaps a minute, as Gunther tried to marshal his thoughts. Eventually, though, he threw up his hands.
“Ah! I suppose if we don’t, we’re just dragging out the misery. I’m not happy at the idea of being under the Vasas the rest of my life, but I really want Oxenstierna brought down. Um. Broken on the rack, actually, and then disemboweled and hanged. But I’ll settle for brought down.”
“Move to a vote,” said Ableidinger immediately.
The vote was unanimous. Achterhof was probably tempted to abstain, but he didn’t.
Rebecca hadn’t thought he would. Gunther could be aggravating sometimes, but the one thing the man never did was dodge issues and evade responsibility.
“I’ll send the message,” she said.
She sent two, actually. The second one went to the radio station at the Third Division’s headquarters near České Budějovice in Bohemia.
Less than an hour later, a radio message arrived from Third Division headquarters to the radio station of the Hangman Regiment in Tetschen. It was addressed to the commanding officer, Colonel Jeff Higgins, and consisted of one word: