Friday, May 4, 2012

Secrets of the New World

Taking place two years after The Game Called Revolution, this new story brings us to Austria. Leopold II, seeing the technological advancements of the Americans, decides to form an alliance with the United States in the hopes of securing new technology. To that end, he plans to undertake a voyage to America to negotiate with them personally.
The only problem? His little sister Farahilde. Not wanting to leave the unpredictable young woman unsupervised, he orders her to come along, and together they set out for the new world. What dangers await along the way, and what dangers await when they finally arrive in Washington?

Chapter I: Pack Your Bags

 Vienna, Austria, November 1, 1792 (Infini Calendar), 10:00 a.m.

           One leg was under the covers, while another leg and arm dangled off the bed. This was how she usually slept, face-down and in a manner most others would find awkward or just plain uncomfortable.

            The rattling of her wind-up alarm clock on the table next to her bed was just enough to rouse her from sleep. She turned over onto her back and took in the warm sunlight beaming down from the window above her. She then sat up in bed, her eyes still closed. She sluggishly felt for the alarm clock, and after a few futile moments managed to find it. She shut it off and rubbed her eyes. For a few more moments she just sat there staring forward and sending mental commands to her brain to wake up, damn it.

            Like the rest of her family, her room in the Hofburg imperial palace was lavish with priceless paintings on the walls, a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, massive curtains hanging from the windows, an armoire big enough to be its own room, and a solid oak table in the center.

            Once she was sufficiently aware of her surroundings, she got up out of bed. Naked, she picked up the clothes she had thoughtlessly tossed onto the fine red carpet upon going to bed last night (even though there was a leather receptacle just a few feet away). Again, this was just how she was, and she thought little of it.

            Her name: Farahilde Johanna.

            At the age of twenty-six, she was the youngest (and most unruly) member of the Austrian royal family. No one would ever describe her as elegant or high-class, but neither could they deny what she had done for her country. She was an accomplished general in the Austrian army, but even more than that, she had fought to save Vienna during the French Revolution.

            OK, some could argue she went too far with the latter because, even after it was over, she—technically—had ended up killing that murderous bastard Maximilien Robespierre, an incident which had not gone over well with her older brother and emperor of Austria, Leopold II. Despite the fact that Robespierre had arranged the execution of their sister Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna (or as the French worms called her, their queen Marie Antoinette), Leopold had forbidden her from going to France in the first place for fear she would jeopardize Austria’s fragile peace with France. Farahilde argued that Antonia should be avenged, but Leopold was in a purely political mindset, and didn’t want to risk going to war again so soon, particularly since their airship fleet had been destroyed by those French knights of the Ordre de la Tradition.

            But, of course, she went anyway; saved two different countries and avenged Antonia. And what was her reward? A month of house arrest and being demoted to captain. Leopold said he would have done even more to her if her actions had not been sanctioned by France’s new self-proclaimed emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Robespierre had been sentenced to death anyway for his Reign of Terror, and when the guillotine just happened to fail to drop, she stepped in and offered her “assistance.” Napoleon simply wanted to get it over with, so he allowed her to kill Robespierre herself. She would never forget the look on Robespierre’s face when he realized just how much she was going to enjoy ending his miserable existence. One couldn’t put a price on that.

            She walked into her exquisitely furnished bathroom and spent a few moments turning a crank to the wall a few inches to the right of the doorway, causing the globes on either side of the large mirror to light up. This gave her enough illumination to see herself in the mirror. She frowned as she examined her unkempt black hair which fell to her shoulders, although she was honestly sometimes tempted to wear it like that. It made her twin cowlicks (once referred to as “cat ears”) not stand out as much.

            She applied tooth cleaning paste to her wooden brush and proceeded to rub her teeth with it. The paste was an invention she felt she could do without, but it kept her form having to go to the local tooth doctor so often.

            When she was done in the bathroom, she went to her armoire to pick out her clothes for the day. The top shelf was filled with bladed gauntlets of various colors. Below that was her selection of everyday clothing. She chose a brown corset, blue jacket and black leggings. She got dressed and made for the door of her room.

            She paused momentarily to look at a pair of black-and-white photographs sitting on a table next to the door. One was of her beloved sister, Antonia, smiling. Farahilde examined the photo with a mixture of nostalgia and melancholy. She would never see Antonia again, and that pained her.

            The other photograph was that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a Vienna citizen who had made a name for himself as a brilliant composer. During a concert for the Austrian royal family, he had signed the photo for Farahilde. She held a great deal of respect for the man; he had achieved much in his short life. It was too bad he had died the previous year of illness. Who knew what else he could have accomplished.

            As she made her way through the lavish central hallway of the palace, she looked upon the giant portraits of her ancestors which hung from both walls. One of them was of her mother, Maria Theresa, the first (and only) female head of the Hapsburg family. The queen may have died twelve years earlier, but Farahilde still remembered her as a woman who was both strong and kind. When Farahilde thought of herself and Antonia, it was obvious which of them had taken after their mother.

            She eventually arrived at the emperor’s audience chamber, where she vaguely recalled she was scheduled to have a meeting with her brother. At least, she thought she was; the brandy from last night made it somewhat hard to remember.

            Leopold was wrapping up a meeting with his advisors. He wore one of his usual outfits, a black coat embroidered in red over a yellow shirt, with beige leggings. In between the shirt and the coat was a sash with a white bar amid two red bars (in other words, the colors of the Vienna flag). He also wore the traditional white wig of their kind. Farahilde hated those things; they were so damn ugly.

            When the advisors left, he said with slight annoyance, “You are late, my sister.”

            She scoffed. “A minute at most. Cut me some slack, Leo.”

            “I am nineteen years older than you. You will show me the proper respect. And anyway, I’ve been ‘cutting you slack’ for far too long.”

            She sighed. If she continued to try his patience, she knew he would lecture her all day. “Point taken, I’ll try to keep that in mind,” she said. “What did you want to talk about?”

            He seemed to forget about his minor grievances with her as he recalled more important matters. “It’s about the relatively new country of America. You are familiar with it, are you not?”

            She shrugged. “A little. It’s pretty much a babe at this point. Why should we be concerned with it?”

            “Because,” he said as he raised a finger (an action which occurred whenever he wanted to both enlighten her and emphasize a point), “in the past few years they have made great technological progress. They were the ones who originally developed the electricity we used in our airship fleet.”

            She had to fight to stifle a laugh. “And didn’t we steal that from them?”

            “Technically, it was the Prussians who stole it. Although they did share it with us when we organized a coalition against France.”

            She shrugged and said, “So we’re going to steal more of their technology? I thought we were better than thieves prowling the shadows.”

            “Watch your tone,” he warned her. “We are better than that. We represent the House of Hapsburg, and we are not going to disgrace it.”

            “So what, then?”

            “Next week I am embarking on a journey to America to forge an alliance with them in person.”

            This wasn’t what she had been expecting. “An alliance? With an unknown country halfway across the world?”

            “It’s not quite that far. With our newest steam technology we will be there in a week or so.”

            She prayed she hadn’t heard that right. “We?”

            “Yes, we. You’re coming with me. I don’t trust you here by yourself. Who knows what trouble you’d get into.”

            Like hell. “Absolutely not! I’m not going on a boat ride to some place I know nothing about. Besides, you need me here to run things.”

            He responded with a sharp laugh. “You? Running things? You may be an effective asset in war, but you only cause trouble during peace time. You give no thought to your own actions.”

            “What could possibly go wrong with me here?” she protested.

            He ignored her. “My wife is more than capable of managing affairs here while we’re gone.” He was referring to Maria Luisa, daughter of Charles III of Spain, and Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

            “Forget it! I’m not going.”

            He brought his face mere inches from hers and gave her a penetrating stare which would have terrified the devil himself. “You are going, and that’s that. Do—I—make— myself—clear?”

            Gulp. “Perfectly clear, my brother.”

            She turned to leave, thinking the meeting was over. However, he suddenly said, “Oh, there’s one other thing.”

            She turned back around. “What’s that?”

            “Do you remember Prince Frederick William III of Prussia?”

            She didn’t know where this was going, but after the previous topic she really didn’t want to know. “Uh…yes? He’s set to become king in a few years, isn’t he?”

            “Correct. He is of the House of Hohenzollern.” Leopold then rather quickly added, “And you’re going to marry him to keep our ties with Prussia secure.”

            She suddenly felt very sick.

Chapter II: Nice to Meet You (I Guess)

Vienna, Austria, March 2, 1792 (Infini Calendar), 1:05 p.m.

            Vienna was Austria’s capital and largest city. Located in northeast part of the country, the city was near the Slovakian border. Vienna also had the great river Danube flowing through the eastern part of the city.

            In the center of the city was the Hofburg, a former modest-sized fortress which was continually built upon until it became the imperial court, the core of Austrian supremacy. The oldest area of the Hofburg is the Schweizerhof, a four-tower structure and the historical beginning of the fortress.

            Farahilde put on her goggles and left the Hofburg via her motorized bicycle and proceeded north through the city to the area where she was to meet their ‘guest.’ As she drove through the city and saw all the people going about their business (including Hanz Freud, who always wanted to talk about his theories on the workings of the human brain which he planned to compile and pass on to his descendents), she was again struck by the greatness of Austria. The country had a staggering amount of beauty; whether one looked upon the snow-capped Austrian Alps, the lush green valleys, or the medieval castles which dotted the country, there could be no lack of admiration for the country’s splendor.

            The average person might have been content with Austria’s aesthetics, but as a student of history, Farahilde Johanna’s adoration for her country went even deeper. The biggest reason she was proud to be an Austrian was the country’s history. In the ninth century, Charlemagne acquired the land that would eventually become Austria and gave his new citizens (the native inhabitants) the job of defending his Holy Roman Empire against attacks from the east. In other words, the Austrians were the first line of defense. Farahilde took pride in the fact that her ancestors were defenders and warriors. It naturally followed, then, that when the French invaded a few years ago, she sprang into action to defend her country. So what if that involved torturing some French worms and playing sick games with them; they deserved it.

            The puttering rumble of her motor bike, with its constant blowing of exhaust, announced her presence to everyone around as she drove through the farmland that made up the outer edge of Vienna. She was still one of the few people in Austria to own such a contraption. As royalty, she had been able to easily acquire one of the first of these vehicles. She thoroughly enjoyed riding it; it was, after all, a very convenient way to get around. It wasn’t slow and bulky like a steam carriage.

            Eventually she arrived at the northernmost edge of the city. It was largely forest beyond this point. She killed the engine and pulled out her pocket watch. According to it, she was early. A rare occasion.

            What the hell was Leo thinking, sending her out to meet their ‘guest’ with so little notice? Knowing how he felt about her, he probably did such things just to anger her. Lord knew she was this close to gutting him when he suddenly dumped the marriage news on her.

            Although, she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t been expecting this day for quite some time. She had fought it as long as she could, but she was, after all, a member of a royal family, and as such she had a responsibility to one day marry for political reasons. At least, that was what her whole family had been telling her throughout her entire life.

            Please, God, don’t let him be anything like Louis XVI. Antonia’s husband had ended up being a spineless coward who let his subjects push him around. He wasn’t even strong enough to protect his own wife when they both got hauled off to the guillotine. Farahilde felt her eyes welling up as she recalled the fate of her favorite sister. She would never forgive the French people for what they had done to her and her family.

            Her melancholy was broken by the sound of horses coming up the road from the north. It looked like just a regular carriage (no steam involved), but she knew better. It was, she thought, a good way to travel without attracting attention; just one nondescript horse-driven carriage, and no escort to speak of.

            It stopped a few yards in front of her. From either side two men in brown civilian suits and matching derby hats disembarked. They surveyed the area for several moments before turning their attention to her.

            The one on the right—a fiftyish man with salt-and-pepper hair—said to her in German, “Only the strong survive.”

            “Weakness breeds cruelty,” she replied.

            Although seemingly satisfied that she had delivered the correct half of the password, they nonetheless kept their guard up. The one on the left—perhaps in his late thirties with dark hair—said, “We still need to see your eyes.”

            “Watch how you speak to me,” she warned him.

            “We mean no offense, ma’am,” Salt-and-Pepper said. “While you match the description given to us for the most part, we need to verify your eye color.”

            She pulled up her goggles and let them rest on the tip of her forehead. “Satisfied?”

            Salt-and-Pepper examined her closely for a moment. “Brown,” he confirmed to his partner who then nodded and knocked softly on the door of the carriage.

            A young man with dark brown hair and a thin mustache on his upper lip stepped out cautiously. He looked, at least to Farahilde, like a small child brought into the big city for the first time. At least he doesn’t wear a powdered wig, she thought somewhat optimistically. Nor did he wear extravagant robes or any of that sort of thing; like his guardians, he was dressed in dull civilian clothing. He was already distinguishing himself from Louis XVI.

            He approached the motor bike (which she had not gotten off of) and stared at her. He looked terrified, as if he had not idea what it was he was supposed to do next. “M-M-M-M-M…” He tried to speak, but couldn’t get any words out.

            She, likewise, was at a loss for words. “Um…”

            However, he suddenly bowed and blurted out in German, “My name is Frederick William III! It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance!”

            Lord, if you get me out of this now, I will atone for every bad thing I’ve ever done.

            Unfortunately for her, no salvation arrived. Instead, he remained bowed, evidently expecting some sort of response. She gave the only one she could: A sigh. “All right, all right; you can stand up now.” He did so. “I am Farahilde Johanna, as you probably know. We are to be wedded at some point in the coming months.”

            He nodded nervously. “It…will be a pleasure getting to know you.”

            She said to his aides, “I can take it from here. I’ll get him to the Hofburg in one piece.”

            They exchanged dubious glances. “We were expecting the prince to ride in something…a little larger,” Salt-and-Pepper said.

            “It’ll be fine.” She then addressed Frederick. “Hop in.”

            He looked at the side car attached to the motor bike. “I-In that?”

            She furrowed her brow. “Don’t get any funny ideas. You’re not riding behind me on this thing. The side car.”

            He haphazardly maneuvered himself into the metal attachment. His aides both gave defeated shrugs, and then handed Frederick two suitcases she assumed were his. There wasn’t quite enough room in the side car for both, so Frederick simply stacked them on his lap and held the top one with both hands.

            When she was satisfied that he was as ready as he was going to be, she said to the aides, “Farewell, then.” Without another word, she brought down her goggles and started up the motor bike. It rumbled and chugged to life, and Farahilde swiftly turned the whole thing around one hundred and eighty degrees. The motor bike took off in the direction she had come from, back to the Hofburg.

            On the return trip, she decided she needed to know something about Frederick William III if she was going to marry him. “So,” she yelled over the wind and the rumbling of the bike, trying to come up with something. “You are younger than me, yes?”

            “Twenty-two years old,” he replied.

            Well, the age difference wasn’t so bad, she supposed. “And your father has sent you down here so we can get acquainted?”

            “Yes. As he explained it, this is to be a sort of grace period for us. If there are obstacles to our compatibility, hopefully we can address them before the wedding.”

            She could think of a few issues off the top of her head. “What have you heard about me?”

            He seemed reluctant to answer. “Well…”

            “Out with it.”

            She couldn’t hear him sigh with the noise around them, but she was pretty sure he did. “They say…that you are…” He seemed to choke back a lump of fear in his throat. “Undisciplined, rebellious, lacking in social graces. One rumor even has it you nearly started a war with France by murdering its last king.”

            There was really only one thing she could say to that. “That’s mostly true. But let’s get one thing straight: I didn’t murder him. I killed him with the OK of the provincial government that had just taken power. And, I might add, that so-called king had just been convicted of treason.”

            “You have nothing to worry about,” he assured her. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. This marriage must happen for the good of both our countries.”

            Did he seriously just say that? For that matter, did he really believe his own statement? “Aren’t you worried I’ll end up killing you horribly? I’ve been known to do that.”

            “Well, there is some…trepidation,” he conceded. “But I have served in the Prussian army. That experience provided both the discipline to obey orders without question, and the fighting skills needed for defense.”

            Farahilde was beginning to understand the situation. This boy would eventually ascend the throne of his country, and so he chooses to prepare for that with military service. He does this for several years, and then one day his father, the current king, tells him it’s time to take a break and get married. It was a fairly common occurrence for royalty.

            Still, if he thought that was enough to prepare him for a life with Farahilde Johanna, he was sorely mistaken. She could lunge at him right now and his naïveté would make a poor shield. He definitely had a lot of growing up to do if he ever hoped to become worthy of her.

            Something suddenly occurred to her. Something encouraging. “You know, I just remembered that I’m going with my brother on a trip next week. It’s a shame, but we won’t have a lot of time to spend together.” She hadn’t expected being dragged along to America to actually benefit her, yet it was now doing just that. The less time she was forced to spend with this boy, the better.

            His response, though, wasn’t what she was expecting. “Yes, Father said as much. He has commanded me to accompany you.”

            “What?” she bellowed.

            The scared look returned to his face. “He said visiting unfamiliar countries broadens horizons and is important for one’s growth,” he hastily explained.

            This was not happening. This could not be happening. “So…we’re going to be spending all that time together?” While I’m forced against my will to travel to some backwoods country that hasn’t even had time to develop?

            “We probably won’t share a bedroom or do anything sordid.”

            “Thanks. That helps a lot.” I wonder if we can stop by my old fort in the Austrian Netherlands before we go. Either this boy or my brother—it doesn’t matter which, but I’m dying to leave one of them down in those torture chambers.


They returned to the Hofburg where Frederick was introduced to Leopold. The boy bowed respectfully to the Austrian emperor just as he had done with Farahilde, although he didn’t seem to have nearly as much trouble introducing himself. Probably he was just intimidated by her, and rightfully so. “My name is Frederick William III. It is an honor to meet you, your Excellency.”

            “Hold your head up high, young prince,” Leopold said. “You are heir to the Prussian throne, and in a few years we will be on even footing.” There was none of the annoyance he usually displayed when addressing Farahilde. “I would like to establish an amicable relationship with you while we have the time.”

            “So you just want to lick his boots,” Farahilde said casually, without meeting her brother’s gaze.

            “Hold your tongue, sister, or instead of going to America with us, you will spend the trip in a dark cell somewhere.”

            “All right, all right,” she conceded. She still had no desire to go on the voyage, but it was much better than the alternative he had just proposed. She had little doubt it he would carry out his threat if she continued to provoke him.

            Leopold returned his attention to Frederick. “I apologize for my younger sister. She is greatly in need of manners. Perhaps you will be the one to tame her.”

            Like hell.

            “Not at all,” Frederick said, surprising her somewhat. “Farahilde’s free spirit is, in fact, refreshing. She is certainly more interesting than myself.”

            She wasn’t sure if she had just received a compliment or an insult. She supposed it all depended on Frederick’s definition of interesting. Leopold, for his part, had already formed an opinion on the matter, and said, “Being interesting is not necessary for a ruler. To lead a country, you need and discipline and flexibility, both of which my sister completely lacks. But having just met you, Frederick, I can already see that you are well on your way to become a fine ruler.”

            “Thank you.”

            “Farahilde, show the young prince to his room.”

            Frederick bowed again to Leopold, and he left the room with Farahilde. As they walked through the grand hallway, he said, “Your brother has great air about him.”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.

            “Well, it’s just…he projects authority and years of experience leading his country. I hope to one day be like him.”

            “If you ever become like him, I will kill you.”

            “Do you dislike him that much?” The level of fear and surprise he was showing at her remarks was becoming increasingly low. Was he already getting used to her personality?

            “He treats me like a child. He refuses to acknowledge all I’ve done for this country.”

            He looked at the paintings along the wall. “My father has often said there are right things to do, and right ways to do them. This is just speculation on my part, but perhaps your brother disapproves of the methods you employed to serve Austria.”

            She suddenly stopped and stared him down. “Look, boy,” she said angrily. “Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of knocking at a despot’s front door and politely asking him to not to invade your country or fire lightning bolts at it. You have a decision to make, and you make it quickly. Regardless of what my brother says, that is the most important quality a leader must have.”

            The fear was back in full force, and it showed prominently on his face. “I-I understand.”

            “Do you?” she asked skeptically.

            He nodded slowly. “I wasn’t trying to judge you. As I said, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. I was simply speculating on how your brother might view your actions. A ruler thinks very differently than his subordinates.”

            “Hmph. Just as long as we’re clear.” She continued walking, with Frederick lagging a few feet behind.”

            She thought about all the time she was going to have to spend with him, and her spirits sank to the bottom of the sea. Welcome to Hell, she told herself.

Chapter III: Leaving Home

The port of Vienna, November 6, 1792 (Infini Calendar), 8:00 a.m.

            Farahilde, Leopold, Frederick, and a full contingent of guards gathered at the port in preparation to leave for America.

            They were to take the royal ship, the Hapsburg Pride. Since they no longer had any airships, they had to sail a conventional ship to America. However, that didn’t mean the Hapsburg Pride was just any old vessel. Although the ship was built of wood, its hull was lined with irodium, a lightweight metal able to shrug off most attacks. Furthermore, while the vessel still possessed traditional masts and sails, it was also equipped with an electric engine based off those that were used in the Austrian airship fleet. A few years ago it wouldn’t have worked on a water-bound ship, but after Farahilde’s airship Blitzkrieg Rache went down as a result of contact with water, the importance of proper insulation became obvious, and so the Hapsburg Pride was now outfitted to carry an electric engine.

            Most of the guards boarded the ship ahead of everyone else. A few remained behind to flank the members of royalty who were present. Not that Farahilde needed protection from anyone.

            Although she was supposed to be getting to know Frederick, she had spent the last several days generally avoiding him. She didn’t want anything to do with him. There were times, though, such as at dinner, when Leopold compelled her into sitting down with him and making small talk. Nevertheless, she failed to learn anything meaningful about her intended husband from those conversations. She revealed even less about herself.

            On a purely intellectual level, she knew she needed to find out all she could about him. But she just couldn’t bring herself to commit to anything at this point. She found absolutely nothing appealing about Frederick William III, so found very little motivation to get to know him.

            While she was reflecting on this, Maria Luisa, Leopold’s wife, came up to her husband and embraced him. “Do take care on your voyage, my love.” The forty-seven-year-old Grand Duchess had aged gracefully; she still possessed beautiful, smooth alabaster skin. On this day she was wearing a lime-green dress which complemented her eyes.

            “Rest assured, I will return without fail. And when I do, we will have entered into an alliance with America that shall sow the seeds of Austria’s future prosperity,” Leopold said.

            Apparently content with her husband’s assurances, Maria Luisa then turned her attention to Farahilde. “My Dear Fara, please look after Leopold for me.”

            Farahilde never liked that pet name Maria Luisa had given her, but she generally got along with her brother’s wife (at least, more so than Leopold himself). “He’ll be all right,” she said apathetically. She had no intention of letting any harm come to him, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of hearing her say so.

            Maria Luisa hugged her tight. Farahilde remembered hearing a proverb somewhere that basically said love was strength. With her sister-in-law, she didn’t doubt it. Maria Luisa put everything she had into her embraces. “You’re such a good sister.”

            Farahilde thought she heard her brother scoff, but she chose to ignore it. “Thank you, Maria,” she replied. “Would you mind letting go now, while I can still breathe?”

            Maria Luisa laughed and ended the embrace. She turned to bow to her husband. “Very well then; I will manage the affairs of the state until you return. Rest assured you will be fondly thought of every day.”

            Leopold nodded. “As I will equally think of you.”

            Farahilde noted the warmth in his voice. She couldn’t remember the last time he had spoken to her with such affection. He must really have loved Maria Luisa. Yet with his youngest sister there was always anger in his disposition. Couldn’t he be nice to her at least once?

            Deep down inside, she knew the answer to that question. They didn’t get along because Farahilde made no attempt towards that end. She secretly resented her brother because she believed he had failed Antonia. When he learned she had been taken prisoner in France by her own subjects, he was furious and made no secret his determination to save her. Both he and Farahilde believed their burgeoning airship fleet would enable them to achieve that in no time.

            However, one of those airships ended up being shot down by its French counterpart over the Austrian Netherlands, and the rest were destroyed by those same Frenchmen in a later battle. The Austrian air fleet was annihilated, and with it Leopold’s resolve to save Antonia. This was due in large part to the fact that it had taken a coalition with Prussia to pool the resources necessary to build the fleet in the first place. The coalition fell apart shortly after the battle of Mt. Erfunden, and so Austria could no longer manufacture air ships. Leopold argued that without the massive advantage they would have given their country, a prolonged war with France would be too costly.

            “Just like that—you’re giving up on our sister?” Farahilde had asked, incredulous.

            He replied, “The coalition is no more. We can’t produce airships. If we continue this war, many of our people will die. We can’t risk so many lives for one person.”

            “One person!” she roared. “This is Antonia we’re talking about! I would give the world to save her, and it would be a fair bargain!”

            But he would not be swayed, and as a result of his cowardice Antonia was killed in the violence of the French Revolution. Farahilde could not forget that. She tried to bury her anger for the good of Austria, but it continued to smolder in her heart.

           While she was looking back on this, she suddenly noticed two guards coming forward, carrying an iron chest. They proceeded to carry it onto the ship. “That chest looks familiar,” she said to Leopold. “What’s in it?”

            Without even looking at her, he said off-handedly, “Something which will secure our alliance with the Americans. That’s all you need to know for now.”

            She muttered under her breath, “Condescending bastard.”

            “What was that?” he said sharply.


            “I thought so.” He finished saying goodbye to his wife and boarded the ship.

            Frederick, who had been standing next to her, leaned in to offer advice. “It’s probably not a good idea to risk upsetting him. Don’t forget what he threatened to do last time you, ah, criticized him.”

            She whirled around and grabbed him by the collar. “If you want that tongue to remain in your mouth, you’ll keep it in check. Do you understand?”

            “Yes, of course,” he replied just as fast as he could get the words out.

            Satisfied, she turned around to look up the boarding ramp of the ship and momentarily forgot about Frederick. “I know I’ve seen that chest before. But where?”

            “I didn’t see it in my time at the Hofburg,” Frederick offered. Lost in thought, she didn’t hear him.

            “I get the feeling it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it,” she said.

            She was unable to come up with the answer, so she shrugged and boarded the ship with Frederick right behind her. She soon found her cabin and was thankful she wouldn’t have to share it with Frederick since he had his own.


When everyone was aboard, the Hapsburg Pride set sail and was on its way. They would sail southeast down the Danube, travelling across Europe. They would eventually have to head northeast until they exited into the Black Sea. From there they would travel south through the strait of the Bosphorus into the Sea of Marmara. They would travel southwest through the Sea of Marmara until they reached the strait of the Dardanelles, which would lead them into the Aegean Sea. At this point they would be between Turkey and Greece. All they would have to do then would head south into the Mediterranean, navigating around the various islands of the Aegean Sea, and travel west out of Europe.


The White House, Washington, D.C., November 6, 1792 (Infini Calendar), 9:08 a.m.

            She knocked at the door. A voice called out, “Come in.”

            She entered the Oval Office. “You called for me, Mr. President?”

            The president of the United States stood up to greet his assistant and confidant. “Yes, Mary. Thank you for coming. The reason I’ve called you in here concerns an upcoming visit from the emperor of Austria.”

            Austria? I thought it was a French delegation that was coming.”

            “There is. However, an Austrian delegation will also be arriving here around the same time.”

            She could guess as to why. “For the same reason, sir?”

            He nodded. “Yes. They’ve seen our technological advances and they wish to partake. I’ve agreed to negotiate a treaty with them.”

            The blonde woman fumbled with her glasses to keep them from slipping off her face. She thought she might never get used to the things. “Have you given the Austrians the same condition as the French?”

            “That’s right,” he said. “And Leopold II has agreed to the terms. It seems both Austria and France have pieces they are willing to give us.”

            Mary, however, had her doubts. “We still don’t know if the pieces will even do anything when assembled.”

            He sighed and said, “You’re right; we don’t. But Ben believed it. And that is good enough for me.”

            “A pity Mr. Franklin is no longer with us. He was a true visionary.”

            “You are correct in that regard. However, I fear we have gotten off topic. I would like you to make the proper preparations for the arrival of our guests. Perhaps you can give them a tour of the city.”

            “I would be happy to.”

            “And the Austrians in particular would likely enjoy one of your violin sonatas.”

            “Rest assured, I will endeavor to make their visit a pleasurable one,” she agreed.

            “Thank you, Mary. I can always count on your hospitality.” Despite the fact that his wooden dentures made it difficult for him to smile, she could hear the warmth in his voice. “That will be all, for now.”

            She bowed and left the Oval Office. As soon as she closed the door behind her, though, she was struck with a thought she hadn’t been able to entertain while engaged in conversation with the President. This thought filled her with both excitement and unease. If Leopold II is coming to Washington, does that mean she is coming as well?

            This could be trouble. The President may have conquered Great Britain, but he had never seen the likes of that unpredictable Austrian. Mary decided she would have to take steps to prepare for the possibility of her arrival.

            Her glasses suddenly fell to the floor, and she sighed and bent down to pick them up.

Coming in 2013