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Chapter 60

"You are insane," growled Gustav Adolf. He waved his heavy hand in a circle. "Your mind is as jumbled as this room."

The library was still a scene of semiwreckage. The students had not finished rearranging the books when Mike had arrived at the school and immediately insisted on a private meeting with "Captain Gars." There were now only three people in the room: Mike, Gustav and Rebecca. All of them were seated on armchairs arranged in a half circle.

The king glared at the tall man sitting across from him. Blue eyes locked against blue eyes. "A madman!"

Mike's German was more than good enough to understand. He didn't wait for Rebecca's translation before matching the royal glare with one of his own.

"Am I?" Snorting, almost sneering: "Or is the true madman a Swedish king who thinks he can establish a Corpus Evangelicorum in central Europe? A Protestant confederation—when most of his Protestant allies are unwilling and his own conquered territory consists mainly of Catholics?"

After Rebecca translated, Mike stretched out his hand and swept it south by west. The fact that his finger was actually pointing at bookcases in a library did not prevent the monarch from understanding the gesture.

"What do you propose to do with Franconia?" he demanded. "Or the 'Priests' Alley'?"

The king was silent. Mike pressed on. "Or with the Palatinate—both the Upper and the Lower? Or with Swabia and Württemburg?"

Gustav's heavy jaws tightened. "There must be an established church."

Again, Mike didn't need to wait for the translation. He shrugged his shoulders. "For a Corpus Evangelicorum, well and good. As long as it's restricted to Lutheran north Germany. Pomerania and Mecklenburg you control directly. Brandenburg–Prussia and Saxony are technically your allies. If you can convince them to join, Lutheranism is not an issue."

Mike waited for Rebecca to translate. The king glowered at the use of the word "technically," but issued no verbal protest. What was there to say?

Mike continued. "But how do you propose to establish Lutheranism as the official church of central Germany? Most of which, except for Hesse-Kassel and Thuringia, is Catholic."

The king was now glaring fiercely. Mike matched the glare. "And we control Thuringia. And we will not accept an established church. The separation of church and state is one of our fundamental principles!"




Rebecca managed not to laugh. Just barely. Melissa had once explained to her the "modern" notion of the so-called alpha male. At the time, Rebecca had found the logic of the argument highly suspect. But now, watching her husband and the king of Sweden, she admitted that the concept had a certain validity. Other than the fact that they were matching wills over power rather than females, the two men in the library reminded her of nothing so much as a pair of bull walruses during mating season.

She decided to intervene with the voice of feminine reason. Rebecca wasn't quite certain where Michael was going with his argument—they had barely had time to exchange an embrace and a few words before he insisted on this private meeting with "Captain Gars"—but she thought she could guess. Many times—many times—Michael had spoken to her of his greatest fear. That the new United States he was trying to forge would become another of Europe's tyrants instead of a school for humanity's future.

"Perhaps—" She cleared her throat. "Perhaps a compromise might be possible."

Two pairs of glaring blue eyes were now transferred to the female in the room. Rebecca managed to bear up under the burden. Quite easily.

"Yes, I think so." To the king, in quick, velvety German: "You must remember, Your Majesty, that my husband is accustomed to the clarity and simplicity of his traditional political arrangements." To Michael, in quick, hissing English: "Get off your high horse!"

Neither man quite understood what she had said to the other. They were suspicious, but . . . 

Rebecca struck while the iron was confused.

"Yes, a compromise! In those principalities of the future realm—let us, for the moment, simply call it the Confederation of Europe—which are directly ruled by the Vasa dynasty as such, Lutheranism will of course be the established religion. But in those principalities—"

Mike and Gustav both erupted. Mike with a loud snort, the king with words.

"Nonsense!" bellowed the king. "The principle of monarchy cannot be compromised! Intolerable!"

Rebecca glided through his outrage unscathed. "Well—of course not. But, Your Majesty, remember that the principle of monarchy resides in your personage as Gustav II Adolf Vasa, King of Sweden. Not—"

She slid in the knife: "—in your persona as Captain Gars."

The king's jaws snapped shut. Michael goggled at her.

"Captain General Gars, I should say," Rebecca continued. "The title will naturally be hereditary, running through the Vasa line of Sweden. But since the captain general, as such, is not a king . . ."

She let the words, and the implication behind them, trail off into silence. Michael, unaccustomed to the arcane logic of feudalism, was confused. But the king, after a moment, began to smile. The blue glare in his eyes faded, replaced by thoughtfulness. He did understand the logic.

"Hm," he mused. "Interesting. As a purely military figure, the captain general would have no personal prestige bound up with any particular church. A monarch derives his authority from the hand of God, and must naturally support God's lawful church. But a captain general could—speaking abstractly, for the moment—leave strictly religious matters to the parsons." A bit sourly: "And priests, of course."

Mike had been able to follow the German exchange well enough. "And the rabbis," he insisted.

Gustav cast him another glare, but it was brief. He waved a thick hand. "Yes, yes—surely. Once the principle is established, the rest follows."

Rebecca twisted the blade. "And I do think it is time—long overdue, in fact—for Captain Gars to receive a promotion."

Gustav burst into laughter. "Scheming woman!" For a moment, he stared at her admiringly. His eyes drifted down to her swollen midsection. "If the child is a girl," he chuckled, "I assume you plan to name her Circe."

Rebecca laughed. After a moment, so did Michael.

The king began stroking his big nose. "Hm. Hm." The stroking stopped. The glare returned.

"But what about this other nonsense!" he snapped. "This preposterous idea that only the lower house—the estate of the commons, if you will!—has exclusive control over taxation and the state treasury?" His voice rose to a bellow: "Absurd! Utterly unreasonable!"

Michael snapped back: "Bad enough I'm willing to give you a stinking House of Lords, just to keep your lousy noble allies! You want the worthless parasites to decide how much they get taxed, too?" His own bellow was as impressive as the king's: "Not a chance! Power must remain in the lower House! Let the damned nobility be satisfied with their frills!"



The king of Sweden roared like a lion, defending the divine right of kings and the principle of aristocratic precedence. The president of the United States snarled like a tiger, insisting on the primacy of the popular will. Royalty must rule, not simply reign! was matched with Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!

It went on for quite some time. On and on. Several hours, in fact.

Now and again, Rebecca's voice slid through the verbal maelstrom, like a blade between ribs. The roars and bellows would fade, replaced by hms and wellIgottathinkaboutthats, until they resumed their former fury. But, always, the ground would shift a bit.


Outside the library, the vestibule quickly became packed with the other members of the U.S. government. Within an hour, every elected official living in Grantville had arrived at the school. The crowd became so large that it was necessary for most of them to gather in the cafeteria. At periodic intervals, Representatives eavesdropping on the raging quarrel in the library would give hurried reports.

At first, Melissa and her supporters gathered around one table, while Quentin and his faction collected at another. But eventually, as if by unspoken agreement, the two of them met privately in the vestibule.

"I'm worried, Quentin," admitted Melissa. "I think I understand what Mike's trying to do. If the United States is part of some great Confederation of Europe, we'll have breathing room. It'd buy us time to grow and—" She groped for words. "And teach. Instead of turning us into a garrison state."

Quentin nodded. "Yeah. And if I'm following the latest twist and turn in the debate, Mike just got half of Franconia added along with the rest of Thuringia. I think he's shooting for all of it, too." For a moment, his eyes grew a bit dreamy. "Be one hell of an expansion in the market, that's for sure. Every business in the U.S. will start growing by leaps and bounds. The railroads alone—" He broke off, scratching his chin worriedly. "Still—"

"Still—" echoed Melissa. She sighed heavily. "But it sounds like he's trading political principles for military security and economic expansion."

She sighed again. "Well, that's not fair. He hasn't budged an inch on the Bill of Rights. Mike wouldn't. Not on that. But I'm worried he'll give so much else away in return that—"

Quentin snorted. "Mike?" He laughed drily. "Melissa, I used to negotiate contract provisions with that pigheaded SOB. Not to mention about a million grievances."

The mine manager scowled. "I'm not worried about that. Mike negotiates like a pit bull. He'll give you your leg back, sure—after he's swallowed the meat. It's just—" He heaved his own heavy sigh. "Oh, hell. It's just that I'm a conservative, and I don't approve of radical changes. And what Mike's proposing—" He threw up his hands. "I mean—Jesus! I don't care what you call it—a friggin' king?"

For a moment—a rare moment—he and Melissa shared a common outrage and a common opinion. Then, simultaneously, they burst into laughter.

"Well," chuckled Melissa. "Look at it this way, Quentin. If you and I can manage—somehow—to get along, then maybe those two can do the same." She peered through the glass doors of the library. Gustav and Mike were now on their feet, standing nose to nose, roaring and raging and gesticulating wildly.

"Testosterone!" sneered Melissa. Her eyes fell on Rebecca. "Thank God for feminine reason."

Quentin snorted. He began to make some sarcastic remark. Then, as his own eyes fell on Rebecca, the remark went unsaid. The snort became a chuckle. "Believe it or not, I agree with you." Glowering: "Just this once."


It was done. The initial round, at least.

Gustav Adolf was now sprawled on his chair, relaxed and at ease. "Axel will be furious with me," he said, smiling ruefully. "He will accuse me of being a half-witted peasant, swindled by a Gypsy."

Mike glanced at the doors of the library. Every inch of the glass seemed to be filled with faces.

"I'll probably catch hell myself," he admitted. "They'll be calling me the new Benedict Arnold. Selling out my country to a foreign crown."

His eyes came back to meet those of the king. They did not seem noticeably chagrined, either of them.

"Don't care!" snapped Mike. "If I have to, I'll call for new elections and run against all of them." Half-savagely: "And I'll win, too!"

The king grunted. The sound was full of satisfaction. "Spoken like a Vasa!"

The future hereditary Captain General of the United States matched stares with his future President. There was a richness to that silent exchange. Acceptance of future quarrel—bitter quarrel, often enough. Recognition of mutual necessity. Understanding that the road would be full of pitfalls and controversy. Respect—even admiration. And, underlying everything, a shared desire to end a continent's torment and shape a better world out of its ruins.

"Thank you for saving our children, Captain Gars," said Mike softly.

The king nodded heavily. His eyes seemed to twinkle. He turned to Rebecca. "Your husband is such a scoundrel, you know. He thinks I don't understand his scheme. He thinks I will continue to safeguard his offspring, simply by giving them a world large enough for them to grow. Grow straight and strong, as big as giants."

Rebecca smiled, but said nothing. The king chuckled. "And you as well!" He clapped his hand to his forehead in a histrionic gesture. "The poor Vasas of the future! They will toil away, sweat pouring off their brows, shielding this monster growing in their midst."

Rebecca smiled, said nothing. The king grimaced like a thespian. "Oxenstierna will denounce me for a fool! He will accuse me of attaching a parasite to the body of Sweden and its Confederation. Corpus Evangelicorum, feeding the worm within! I'll never hear the end of it!"

Rebecca smiled, said nothing. The king returned her smile with one of his own. And, this time, there was nothing histrionic in the expression at all. It was a gentle smile; calm, and confident.

"So be it," pronounced Gustav II Adolf. "An unborn child is also a parasite, if a man wishes to see things in that manner. But I do not."

He planted huge hands on his knees and rose slowly to his feet. Now standing erect, the king of Sweden seemed to fill a library for schoolchildren like a giant in his own right. And, like a giant, he roared his simple challenge—to himself as much as to his world.

"Vasa! Always Vasa!"


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