by David McLeod
On the second of January, 2018 the Global Explorer set sail from Norfolk. On that same day, from the Montana airfield, Francisco Anconia, Jonathan Romanov, Davey Jones, and a security team took the Becker B757 direct to Zurich. Uncle Luce accompanied them. I had not been invited; I understood why. Jonathan would have to sever all personal ties to the Anconia family. I was a personal tie.
I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I understood it, but I didn't like it very much. In any case, I had to watch with the rest of the world on television.
The American Secretary of State and the British, Canadian, and Australian Foreign Ministers, as well as the UN SecGen met Dad and Jonathan at the airport, and joined the motorcade to the bank.
The television people were happy to join Francisco Anconia at the opening of the vault. One reason they were happy was that my father normally eschewed publicity. In the second place, although the extent of Dad's wealth was unknown, it was widely rumored that he was, in the vernacular, loaded. Certainly, there were few people who had not heard of or who were not in some way touched by, Anconia Industries. Further, the presence of five very high-power diplomats at anything other than an international summit conference was unprecedented.
The first person to speak was the Director General of the bank, who stated simply that the vault had not been opened since 1916, and that it had been sealed then upon the orders of Tsar Nicholas II, the Russian leader who, with his family, had been murdered by the communists in 1918.
The Director General introduced Dad, who joined him at the microphones. "The vault can be opened only upon the orders of someone who knows the exact codes and passwords. Is this correct?"
The Governor General nodded. "That is correct, sir."
"And how many people at the bank know those codes and passwords?" Dad asked.
"There are seven codes and seven passwords," the Director General replied. "Each is known by one and only one employee. These seven employees are lineal descendants of the men to whom the codes and passwords were first entrusted a hundred years ago."
"Are you confident that no one person, other than an heir of the Romanov family, could know all seven?"
"I am, sir."
Dad turned to face the cameras. "Then please allow me to introduce to you, Director General, and to the world, His Imperial Highness, Jonathan Romanov, great-great-grandson of Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich Romanov, the only living patrilineal descendant of the Romanov family of Russia, and sole holder of all seven of those codes and passwords."
The buzz from the cameramen, sound technicians, and the staff of the bank overwhelmed the microphones for a moment.
One by one, bank employees approached Jonathan, who sat at a table. The first employee simply said, "Un." He spoke in French, the archaic court language of Jonathan's ancestors. Jonathan wrote a code and password. The employee looked at what Jonathan had written and without hesitation said to the Governor General. "Il est vrai. It is correct."
The next employee approached. "Deux." Jonathan wrote another code and password.
When all seven codes and passwords had been verified, the employees, one at a time, screened from view, turned one of the seven dials on the vault door. When all seven dials had been turned, the Governor General tugged on a lever, long unused. The door opened, slowly. The Governor General gestured for Jonathan to join him. The door had scarcely opened a foot when one of the news people called out, "What do you see?"
"Wonderful things," Jonathan replied.
"Choses merveilleuses," the director general echoed."
Wonderful things, indeed. The vault held an incredible collection of jewels, gems, and artifacts, including the lost imperial crown of Russia, scepters and chains of office, and more. Jonathan, having discussed this with Dad, turned to the cameras and said, "I claim this in the name of the people of Russia and pledge that the wealth of the Romanovs will be used to benefit Mother Russia from this day, forward."
Wonder what the IRS will think about that, I wondered, when I realized that Jonathan, in addition to being Tsar of Russia, was also a citizen of the USA.
After the vault had been re-closed, Jonathan held a news conference.
"What is your connection with the Anconia family?" was the first question.
"For the past two years, until I reached my majority, Mr. Anconia has been my legal guardian. I have been working with his son, Alexander, on a number of projects, including on the Global Explorer. These projects and my friendship with the Anconia family will directly benefit my people."
"You say my people as if you were already ruling Russia," one of the more clever of the reporters said.
"I know that there are others who have a claim to various ancient orders of Russian nobility. They have suffered long in exile to keep that order alive."
This was a sop to the pretender and his supporters, but one that we thought would be effective.
"I regret that we have not met before this. On the other hand, when you learn what the former—rather, the late premier—did, perhaps you and they will understand why I have not contacted them before today.
"My representatives are at this moment delivering letters to them, and an invitation to join me in a family convocation."
"What the late premier did?" someone said.
Jonathan was well prepared for that. "Yes," he said. "The KGB thug who ruled Russia for some years was raping the country with the support of people _and nations _who should have known better. His execution opened the door to a more just future for my people."
"You said his execution?" another sharp reporter asked.
"You heard only that he died of natural causes at his desk. That is not true. He and his chief of staff were executed for their crimes against the people of Russia. That execution was carried out by those who have subsequently become allied to me.
"Before you ask, and lest anyone wonder, I approve of those executions."
There was a stunned silence. Then someone asked, "How have you hidden all these years?"
"That," Jonathan said, "is something for a much longer conversation. But I would refer you to Edgar Allen Poe's story, The Purloined Letter for a clue."
The press conference wound down when Dad decided the questions had become repetitious, and signaled Jonathan.
"That's all for today, ladies and gentlemen," Jonathan said. "There will be more—when we open other vaults."
That got their attention!
"There is only one thing, in my opinion, that is more important than family." Dad opened the convocation of the Romanov organization. "And that is what family means."
"A family works together toward an important and worthwhile goal. A family is bound not only by blood, but also by love. More important, however, a family is bound by trust.
"I applaud your commitment to family for a hundred years. And that's all I have. The rest is Jonathan's to say."
In those few words, Dad had not only affirmed the dedication of generations of the Romanov organization to an unrealized ideal, but also by his presence reminded them that the Anconia family was significantly more powerful than their own. He had also thrown down his glove in challenge. It was a glove that Jonathan took up, gladly.
Jonathan stepped to the lectern. "My brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and others whose relationship I am only beginning to understand," Jonathan began.
"I salute what you have done, what you have suffered, what you have kept alive for so long.
"I was made a member of the Anconia family two years ago. I did not know then that I was already by blood a member of a great family—one that is represented here today."
Jonathan pressed the remote control. "Please allow me to use modern technology to help tell what is an ancient story," he said.
What followed was an exposition of the situation in Russia—the deaths and starvation, the crippled children caused by environmental pollutants and radiation from primitive nuclear plants—tragically not limited to Chernobyl.
"We—you and I—have the mandate, the responsibility, to change this.
"I acknowledge the position and contribution of my cousin, Grand Duke Leopold of the House of Hohenwald and Romanov who has led this family since his majority some seven years ago. He has acknowledged my position and title. I have asked, and he has agreed to become Head of my Privy Council."
Jonathan's addition of the House of Romanov to the pretender's title was deliberate, nor did the rest of his people overlook it. What they did not know, but Jonathan did, was that the pretender was sterile, and would not sire any potential rivals.
"Those of you who will offer your loyalty and agree to accept a position of responsibility will also be granted a position of authority. Please consider carefully those words, and what they mean, before you accept.
"There is no authority without responsibility; there is no reward without the effort needed to create that reward."
Neither Jonathan nor I were sure of what all that would mean. All I could think of was, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
Russia was in such a state of anarchy that neither Anconia security nor USA Special Forces and SEALS and the British, Canadian, and Australian equivalents had any problem operating in that country. Dryads worked with these forces to identify bad guys. For weeks, they had been taking out the rump KGB that was still trying to cause problems.
The most dramatic move by those forces was the capture and fortification of Moscow. Our people had hijacked Russian television networks and satellites. On February 20, the raising over the Kremlin of a flag with the Romanov crest was broadcast live to the entire world. The church bells tolling in the background were a little disconcerting, but I understood that would be another battle, one for the future.
The taking of the Kremlin was only a decoy, and while that was happening, other forces, heavily reinforced by Russian dryads, had another objective.
I had ordered a B757-300ER emblazoned with the arms of the Romanov Dynasty. Some would-be plutocrat in Omaha objected to my taking his place in the production line, but his complaint fell on deaf ears.
There were only a few seats for passengers: most of the plane was equipped as an air ambulance, and most of the passengers were nurses and doctors—pediatricians. The plane's initial missions would be evacuating sick children to hospitals in England, Germany, Spain, Canada, Australia, and the USA, but only until we could build more hospitals in Russia. The plane was my gift to Jonathan. Hospitals throughout Russia, to be built by Becker at cost, would be another. I knew I would not have any difficulty spending my trust fund. I was sure it would be spent for worthwhile purposes.
On February 20, Jonathan's plane took off from Montana and took a trans-polar, great circle route to Moscow. It was a route flown more than half a century ago by Lend Lease planes from Great Falls, carrying war supplies to the USA's Soviet allies in the war against Germany.
AWACS, fighters, and aerial tankers from three nations provided escort as Jonathan's plane crossed the Arctic Ocean—and then with no warning to anyone except our people—diverted to the Polkovo Airport, just outside St. Petersburg.
Jonathan's people at the airport had received an all clear from his security forces while the plane was still 30 minutes away. When the plane landed, Jonathan walked down the air stairs to the motorcade. He was confident and unafraid. It was February—the depth of winter in Russia—so Jonathan's gray suit, white shirt, and blue tie were hidden under a greatcoat and furry cap in a traditional Russian style.
The motorcade from the airport consisted of Russian manufactured vehicles, although several had been subject to some serious modifications, like heavy-duty armor, by Anconia Industries.
The Winter Palace, the traditional home of the Tsars, and its grounds had been evacuated of all save our security forces. While the motorcade made its way through the city, citizens and tourists who had lined up to visit the palace and museum were guided to Dvortsovaya Plaza. Each person was examined by a dryad—Russian for the most part, although I knew that Colin, Hans, and Alberto were there.
The dryads of Russia had been happy to reconnect with their brothers from elsewhere in the world, especially Hans, Colin, and Alberto, who were delighted to teach them not only the principles they had been teaching the Anconia family for many decades, but also the things Jonathan and I, then Nicky and I, had shown them in bed.
The dryads identified bad guys among the crowd; armed soldiers removed them. Occasionally, a dryad, unwilling to wait for backup, would disappear with one of the bad guys. No one seemed to notice. I was beginning to understand the dryads' powers, so I wasn't surprised. Nor was I ready to challenge their judgment or their methods. On the other hand, I still wanted to know exactly how they did it—and remembered that my family was counting on me to explain that.
A lectern with microphones had been set up on the square in front of what was now the State Hermitage Museum. Our technicians had again seized the Russian television networks and satellites. The signal was also being sent through a British satellite to the USA and Canada, where one of the cable news networks and CBN had agreed to rebroadcast, and to the east through an Australian satellite to that country.
Jonathan stepped to the microphones and began to speak. His Russian had become quite polished, I thought.
He spoke of the need for hospitals, tractor factories, and cleanup of polluted industrial sites. He said that while foreign companies would be coming to help, Russian companies, owned by the Russian people and not their masters, would quickly be formed. He reminded them of the wealth that would be dedicated to these tasks, and he told them that hard work still would be required.
"We are going to rebuild Mother Russia," he said. "And we will not tolerate anyone stepping in our way.
"Our first priority is our children. There are thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, who are in need of help. Those who are the most sick will be flown to hospitals elsewhere. The plane on which I arrived is already being filled with the most medically critical from St. Petersburg. We have been promised other planes from countries that are our allies. Some of these will be military planes flown by military pilots from allied nations. They are not to be harmed.
"When they are healed, all of these children will be returned to Mother Russia" Jonathan's voice was firm; there was no question of his seriousness.
"It is our desire and our command that our children remain in their mother country. We will not sell children under the guise of adoption, as has been done in the past. This means that we must find means to support them and to nurture them."
I knew the rest of what he knew, but left unsaid. We would not tolerate children being sold for sexual purposes, including to the plethora of pornographic web sites that had sprung up in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. These studios and their products were their corrupt version of capitalism. Already, dryads were identifying locations to Jonathan's forces. Already, people were being executed, and children were being rescued. I also knew that this effort would move into Eastern Europe on one hand and the Far East on the other. But that's another story.
"Our second priority," Jonathan said, "is the land, itself. During the past hundred years, much of Russia has become a wasteland of toxic slag. In that regard, we are better off than other countries where such waste is concealed. Here, at least, it is in the open. In this effort, we will be assisted by members of the Anconia family.
"They are my family; you are my family; therefore, they are your family.
"Our third priority is returning the land to those to whom it belongs.
"After the fall of the Soviet Union, this nation—property and industry—was sold to individuals. These sales were shams. The buyers all were members of the former regime, principally KGB thugs.
"Money has been taken out of this country, deposited in accounts in other countries, and used to buy properties in other countries. That money belongs to the people of Russia. We have already reclaimed much of it. And we will reclaim it all."
Jonathan didn't say how that had been done, but I knew. The same way the dryads knew how to access the Swiss vault, they knew how to access accounts all over the world. It had been a "night of the long knives," except that the knives had been internet account numbers, user id's, and passwords. Several trillion dollars had been recovered and was safely in accounts that only Jonathan—or the dryads—could access.
Jonathan continued. "There will be other changes. We need more people to tend the land, and to grow food. We need more people to be stewards of the forests, to hew wood—and to replant trees that are harvested. We will need, for some time, people to work the mines for both minerals and coal. We will need, for some time, people to scavenge oil and gas.
"We will also see that the younger generation will be schooled in the technologies that will free us and the world from the carbon-poisoning of Earth, and from the rape of the world for minerals and metals."
He concluded his speech with a line that had taken a lot of time to write. "My name is Jonathan Romanov. I am the patrilineal descendant of Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich Romanov, patrilineal descendant of Tsars Nicholas I and Paul I. I claim the Imperial Throne of Russia from the communists, from the KGB, and from anyone who would serve their own interests before they would protect and serve Mother Russia. I claim that throne in the name of the people of Mother Russia and in the name of my ancestors.
"Пусть никто не стоять на моем пути" he said, and translated for the English speaking audience: "Let no one stand in my way."
The crowd's applause was muted, but seemed sincere. Most of the people in Dvortsovaya Plaza were at least willing to give Jonathan a chance, if only in the hope that anything would be better than the past eight months of virtual anarchy.
Jonathan hadn't said anything about fusion, but I knew he would, soon, but only privately. The Navajo were about to start up their first generator. When that happened, the shit would hit the fan.
The instant Jonathan—I should say Tsar Jonathan I—signed off from St. Pete, the President of the USA stepped to the lectern in the White House East Room where the American media waited. The press corps had been asked to be present for an important foreign policy announcement. Some were glassy-eyed after watching Jonathan's speech. They'd been expecting a routine, pabulum-speech like the previous president usually delivered.
"You have heard," the president said, "and I can see in your faces that you do not believe. Let me change that, right now. Believe. A new day has dawned in Russia. The United States of America is fortunate that Tsar Jonathan is our ally."
The gist of the president's speech was that he had ordered the American Secretary of State to immediately recognize the new government of Russia, to send diplomatic personnel to St. Petersburg, to expel all current Russian diplomatic personnel from this country, and to offer whatever assistance this country could provide.
As soon as the President walked away from the lectern, the large-screen TVs played what was essentially the same speech as it had been made at the same instant by the British, Canadian, and Australian foreign ministers, and by the SecGen of the UN, all of whom quickly announced that they had broken relations with the former governments of Russia. None of the press corps had remained to watch; they were busy on the phones and email to their companies.
Members of the Romanov Society who had agreed to accept responsibility, who had pledged to support Jonathan, and who had the right qualifications were waiting to occupy Russian embassies in Washington, New York, Ottawa, London, and Canberra. They were accompanied in each country by Anconia Security and federal law enforcement. Meanwhile, SWAT teams from the Washington, DC police force, armed with warrants from various courts, were breaking down the doors of several offices on K Street.
Dad told me later that governments throughout the world had stumbled all over themselves to recognize the new Russian Tsar and his government, and to distance themselves from the old regime. There were exceptions: China, much of the Middle East, for example. That would have to be dealt with.
Davey had found something incredibly useful in the documents Aunt E had given him. It was customary for the princes of the Romanov family to be named honorary commanders of various Russian military units. The murdered prince, Alexei, had been not only a corporal in the Russian Army, but also had been named commander of several key Cossack and Hussar regiments.
Our people had once again hijacked Russian television satellites and networks, and were prepared when Jonathan made his second speech from the Winter Palace. I was able to watch, live, because it was carried on American TV, too.
"My people," Jonathan began. "One hundred years ago, my cousin Alexei Romanov was named commander or colonel-in-chief of several units of the Russian Army. In that spirit, I take on the mantle of those honors, and assume command of all loyal units, whether Cossack regiments or regiments, ships, and squadrons of the Russian Army, Navy, and Air Forces.
"I declare a cease-fire to exist between all those loyal to Mother Russia. I declare a cease-fire to exist between Russia and those on our borders who are in armed conflict with us."
The announcement not only reminded people of what the communists had done, but also appealed to the tradition and the loyalty of these units. Within hours, messages came from throughout Russia, accepting Jonathan's position and his orders for a cease-fire. Messages came from not only the units which had been commanded by Alexei, but from other units, asking that Jonathan accept their loyalty and asking him to become their commander.
Not all of the surrounding states and "stans" agreed to the cease-fire, at first. Dad must have decided it was time to throw some weight, around. When the USA, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia offered to supervise the cease fires along the Russian border, and air-strikes by drones and planes of our allies provided a few live fire examples of what they meant by supervision, the fighting sputtered nearly to a stop. Dad didn't even have to embargo anyone.
Jonathan's last challenge was the Russian Orthodox Church.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of a video Jonathan had seen of the late premier's meeting with the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church: the huge meeting room with the long tables; the prelates in their robes of samite and cloth of gold. This time, however, there were no television cameras, and the men's cell phones and other electronics had been taken from them before they were allowed into the room. A guard closed the door behind Jonathan.
In contrast to the artificial grandeur of the men, Jonathan wore a plain gray suit, white shirt, and blue tie. He sat at the center of a table facing the others. His seat, while not a throne, was elevated. He addressed them in Russian.
"When my great uncle, Tsar Nicholas II, ruled Russia, thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of peasants starved every year. Under communist rule, millions died, and the country was turned into a cesspit of industrial waste and mining slag. Every year since the fall of Communism, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and under the kleptocracy—the rule of thieves—that has been in power since then, tens of thousands have died for lack of food, lack of medical care, or an excess of bullets in their brains.
"You knew this, yet you were willing to ally yourself to the late premier in order to protect your own perquisites, your own wealth, your own power.
"You knew this, yet you sit here wearing enough wealth to build a dozen hospitals, or buy a thousand tractors.
"You disgust me.
"Silence!" Jonathan called over the babble that followed. "Sit down! You may leave only after our business is concluded."
"How do you propose to keep us here," the senior prelate, the Patriarch of Moscow and de facto leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, asked.
"I will not; they will," Jonathan replied, and then smiled.
Doors opened. Children surged into the room until they filled the space between Jonathan and the clerics, and crowded around the clerics. More than a hundred children stood quietly, looking at the men in golden robes and crowns. None of the men could move from his place without pushing against the children. Only Jonathan knew that among the children were a dozen dryads. Their role was both to protect the children and to learn where the churchmen had hidden the money and treasures they had stolen.
The children were gaunt. Their eyes were sunken in their faces. Jonathan remembered a scene in a movie, when a ghost had lifted his robe to reveal two such children. "The boy is Ignorance; the girl is Want," the ghost had spoken. "Beware them both, but beware most of all the boy, for on his forehead is written, doom."
"Each of these children has seen a mother or father, sister or brother, aunt or uncle, sometimes more than one, die of starvation or from lack of medical care. They have sworn an oath to me, their Tsar. If your conscience will not keep you here, the children will."
The move was risky. Jonathan held his breath, but his face was impassive.
The men looked from the children to Jonathan. Several of the men were ashen; more than one looked as if he were going to vomit. The Patriarch spoke. "We will remain." His voice shook.
"Before leaving here," Jonathan said, "You will all take a vow of poverty, and obedience to your Tsar. You will enforce that same vow upon all your priests. You will exchange your rich robes for a monk's habit of rough wool, your headdresses for a cowl, your Italian leather boots for sandals.
"You know that I have pledged the wealth from the Swiss vaults to the Russian people. A few items of sentimental, historical, or ceremonial value will be added to the Hermitage Museum, which will be open to all the people of Russia. The rest is already being sold to fund hospitals and orphanages, and to buy tractors.
"You will pledge the wealth of the church to that same purpose. My agents have already begun to conduct an inventory and arrange for sales. Do not try to hide anything from them. I would be most displeased if you did.
"You will announce these changes. You may take credit for making them, but you will make it clear that you were inspired by my example.
"You would destroy the church?" It was the Prelate.
"If I wished to destroy the church, I would allow you and your ilk to continue with your excesses," Jonathan said. "Although I do not share your superstitions, many of my people do. I would not deprive them of that." At least, not initially, Jonathan thought privately.
"How do you expect to accomplish this, to force us to do as you demand?" another asked.
"You will take an oath. These children will witness it. There are, by the way, thousands more like them throughout the country. We have been quite successful in recruiting them. Your palaces will become their homes."
One of the children spoke softly to the Prelate. The child was a dryad, but only the dryads and Jonathan knew that and heard what he said. "We have already removed the gold from below the crypt where our Tsar's family was buried nearly ten years ago—the crypt you thought was so safe and secret."
It was then, I think, that the Prelate and his followers realized that they were beaten. There were still isolated pockets of rebellion. There was still a great deal of work to do but it was at that moment I felt that we had won.—Jonathan Romanov, Journal, 15 March 2018
Chapter End Notes: In your reality, Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich Romanov was never married although, according to a niece, he sired several illegitimate children. In the reality of the Global Explorer, he did marry and had a legitimate son who continued the line of which Jonathan Romanov was a patrilineal descendant.
When Jonathan said he saw "wonderful things" in the first vault, he was, of course, echoing the words of archaeologist and infamous grave robber, Harold Carter, upon breaking into the tomb of King Tutankhamen of Egypt.
You might find the following link (which was current when copied) to be of interest:
Samite, worn by some of the prelates of the Russian Orthodox Church, is a heavy silk fabric, sometimes with every 6th weft thread being gold. (The name comes through a tortuous route from ancient Greek meaning "six threads.") Alfred Lord Tennyson says that the arm of the Lady of the Lake was clothed in samite when she received the sword Excalibur from King Arthur. Samite appears in stories of World at the http://www.gayauthors.org/ web site in David McLeod's stories.
The quotation naming two children Ignorance and Want is, of course, from Dickens's A Christmas Carol, which is in the public domain.
Book End Notes: Please remember that the events related here take place in another reality from the one in which you read them, and that while certain places, people, institutions, and events may have analogues in your reality, they are not the same. There is intended to be no similarity between the people and institutions in the "Anconia reality" and your reality.
A reminder: for an easy fifteen minutes on ocean seafood "farming" and overfishing, Google "Savitz Ted talk."
For a more recent few minutes on problems with sanitation, worldwide, check out a new Ted Talk at http://www.ted.com/talks/francis_de_los_reyes_sanitation_is_a_basic_human_right?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=button__2014-09-29 or Google, "TED Talk Sanitation" (UN estimates that 1.5 million children die, every year, because of unsanitary conditions.)
In this and all realities, "boy" means a young male of the age of consent.
The book jacket with the photograph of Alexei Romanov to which Nicky refers is from "The Kitchen Boy," a fictional (and somewhat fanciful) treatment of some of the events surrounding the murder of the Tsar and his family. The Russian letters on Alexei's cap transliterate to Standart, the name of the royal yacht. Alexei and one of his sisters' bodies were not part of the initial discovery; however, their remains were found and DNA testing confirmed their identity in 2008. It is likely that before they were executed, both Alexei and his sister were raped by their communist killers. That information has deliberately been kept from not only Jonathan but also the people of your reality.