1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 23:

Jesse frowned. “John, I’m a thick-headed flyboy. You’re leaving me behind in the dust.”

Simpson chuckled. “Jesse, you know and I know that the USE is on the brink of a constitutional crisis.”

“That’s putting it mildly. The term ‘civil war’ comes to mind also.”

The admiral grimaced. “Let’s hope we can avoid that. But whether we can or not, there’s no question the domestic situation is going to erupt. What then happens if Princess Kristina — who is the heir to the USE throne, even if she is only eight years old — decides to side with the… what to call them? Plebeians, let’s say.”

The air force colonel shook his head. “I’m still in a cloud of dust. How does coming here to Luebeck put her on the side of the lower classes? I presume that’s what you mean by ‘plebeians.'”

“Oh, I doubt very much if she — or Ulrik, more to the point — plans to stay in Luebeck. The city is just a way station, where they can get themselves out of reach of Chancellor Oxenstierna while they figure out their next move. Which, if I’m guessing right, would be as dramatic as you could ask for. If things blow wide open, they’ll go to Magdeburg.”

“Magdeburg? John, if things blow wide open — your phrase, I remind you — then I’d think Magdeburg would be the last place they’d go. For Christ’s sake, the city is a CoC stronghold.”

Simpson just gave him a level stare. After a few seconds, Jesse’s face got a little pale. “Jesus,” he whispered. “Do you really think Ulrik is that much of a daredevil?”

The admiral shrugged. “It’s not actually as risky as it seems. First of all, because the girl is quite popular in Magdeburg. She’s sided with the Magdeburg masses twice already — that’s how it looked to everyone, anyway. Once during the crisis right after the battle of Wismar, and again during Operation Kristallnacht. And while she was living in the city she not only visited the Freedom Arches regularly but on at least one occasion I know about she went into the kitchen and helped with the cooking.” He smiled. “Of course, I doubt the cooks themselves found her that helpful, but you couldn’t ask for better symbolism.”

Again, Jesse ran fingers through his fingers. “Okay, I can see that. You said ‘first of all.’ That implies a second reason. What is it?”

“Rebecca Abrabanel. That young woman has a spine of steel, don’t ever think otherwise. If Kristina and Ulrik show up in Magdeburg, Rebecca will make damn good and sure no harm comes to them. Not to mention milking the situation for all it’s worth, politically.”

Jesse cocked his head a little. “That sounds almost admiring, John. None of my business, but I’d have thought you’d be more inclined toward this guy Scaglia’s viewpoint than Becky and Mike’s.”

“In some ways, I am. Back home, I was a rock-ribbed Republican, although I didn’t have much use for the so-called ‘values’ crowd. I certainly didn’t have much use for the fundamentalists.”

Jesse grinned. “Being, as you are, the closest thing Americans have to a High Church Anglican.”

Simpson nodded. “Episcopalian, through and through. And Mary’s a Unitarian, so you can just imagine her opinion of the Bible-thumpers. Still, I’m a conservative, by temperament as well as conviction. I admit I screwed up badly when we first came here, and since then I’ve generally sided with Mike Stearns. But he still often makes me uncomfortable and there’s a lot I agree with in Scaglia’s approach. On the other hand…”

He trailed off into silence.

Jesse cocked his head still further. “Yes?”

The admiral sighed. “I don’t always trust Mike to do the right thing, but I do trust him to do something. And in the situation we’re coming into, I think that willingness on his part to act may be the most critical factor. Whereas I don’t see how Scaglia’s gradualism is going to be much of guide in the days ahead.”

“To put it my crude terms, you’ll side with Mike.”

“Not… exactly. I think what’s going to happen is that Prime Minister Wettin is going to start breaking the law — the spirit of it, for damn sure — and then Mike will toss the rules overboard himself. Depending on the circumstances, I don’t know that I’d take Mike’s side. What I’m sure and certain of, though” — his face got stiff — “is that I damned if I’ll do Oxenstierna’s dirty work for him. And Oxenstierna’s the one who driving all this, it’s not Wettin.”

Jesse looked at the radio message lying on the table. “So you’ll tell her to come here.”

“Yes. And I’ll guarantee her safe passage — she’ll be taking the Union of Kalmar across, so there’s no way the Swedish navy could intercept her — and I’ll guarantee her the protection of the USE Navy while she’s in Luebeck.” His face got stiffer yet. “I’ve had my legal staff look into the matter, and while there are a lot of gray areas involved, the one thing that’s clear enough is that Wettin has no authority over the heir apparent and Oxenstierna’s regency — I’m assuming that’s just a matter of time — only has authority over her on Swedish soil.”

Jesse smiled. “It occurs to me that Luebeck is not Swedish soil.”

“No, it is not.”

“It also occurs to me that if the navy wants to, it can pretty much hold Luebeck against all comers. For a few months, anyway.”

“My own estimate is that we could hold it for at least a year, actually. It’s hard to take a well-defended port city when you don’t control the sea it fronts on. Not impossible, of course, but very difficult. It would help, though…”

Again, he trailed off into silence. Jesse’s smile widened.

“It would help if you had air support. If you needed it. God forbid.”

The admiral nodded solemnly. “God forbid.”

“Well, God doesn’t actually run the air force. I do. And I agree with you that our eight-year-old princess has the right to visit her own domains-to-be whenever she wants to, without interference from busybodies.”

There was silence in the room. After a while, Simpson said: “The Ring of Fire seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?”