Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 4

Published: 2 Jul 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

UFC & KGB & a Leak

Global Explorer Off East Coast USA, January 3, 2018. @ 0930 Eastern Time

We watched as Dad and Jonathan met some very heavy-duty diplomats including my third cousin twice removed, the woman who was the American Secretary of State, and then walk with them into one of the oldest Swiss banks.

"That’s the UN Secretary General," one of the press crew whispered.

"And the American Secretary of State. And the British Foreign Minister. And the Canadian. And the Australian," another added.

The picture switched to a foyer, where a lectern had been set up in front of a huge vault door. The camera panned to an elevator door. I recognized a few of the people who came out: Dad, Jonathan, Davey–who moved off camera quickly–Cousin Barbara, and the UN SecGen.

I knew what to expect, but not what they might find in the vault. I guess I was as impressed as anyone when the TV showed an incredible collection of jewels and crowns and stuff.

"Commander Anconia?" Captain Izzard made the introductions after the feed from Switzerland went black. "This is Ms. Susan Munford, video reporter and print journalist; Mr. John Watts, print journalist and still photographer; and Mr. Kay Gertain, videographer and sound technician. They were selected by their peers to represent the world press on this voyage."

Actually, I had selected them after they had been positively vetted from among a few members of the press corps we thought we could trust. After listening to Nicky and Davey talking about the tabloids displayed in supermarkets, I was a little surprised that we found as many as three.

"Ms. Munford and gentlemen. The next few minutes are on the record. You may record and transmit.

"Do you have any questions for me?"

They were excited, but able to control themselves.

"Mr. Anconia, did you know about this?"

"Yes, ma’am. I knew that Jonathan Romanov was the only surviving patrilineal descendant of the Romanov family, and I knew that he would be opening this vault, today. I did not know what he might find."

"Is he claiming the throne?"

"It was hard to tell from what he said," I replied. I tried to look puzzled. I think they bought that. "I think we’re all going to have to wait to learn more about that."

"He said that there were other vaults. Can you tell us anything about them?"

"I don’t have the details, but I know that there are other vaults sealed by Tsar Nicholas II–or on his orders–as well as at least one filled and sealed by the communist regime that murdered Jonathan’s family. No one seems to know what might be in them. I’m sorry, but that’s all I know."

"What is your family’s relationship with Jonathan Romanov?"

I was glad the reporter asked the question that way. "Jonathan came to us as the winner of an international science fair. It’s something the Anconia family has been doing for years. His specialty was something in which I had been working, and we worked together in a laboratory and later on the Global Explorer. We worked together on several projects, including some that will financially benefit him–and his people."

I didn’t say that we were friends, or that Dad had invited him into the Anconia family. Those were things not to be spoken of. At least, that’s what I thought, then. Jonathan had just hinted at a closer relationship when he said "friendship" with the Anconias. I’d have to think about that … and talk to Dad.

"When and where is the convocation of the Romanov family to take place?"

"That will have to be off the record until the event takes place," I said. "I will do what I can to get you information; however, that is their family’s business, and not mine. Will that be acceptable?"

They nodded.

"In a few days, I will be flying to Nassau to meet my father. You are welcome to join us, however, I must warn you we will be taking off and landing on the carrier deck. It’s quite a bit different from, actually, from anything in the world. I have no way of knowing if the Romanov Organization will honor your press credentials."

Anconia Compound, Virginia USA, January 3, 2018 @ 10:30 AM

Mrs. Anconia reached for the remote control and turned off the television. Her hostess sat quietly, hands folded atop her knitting.

"Victoria," Mrs. Anconia said. "I know that Jonathan told you what he knew and what he would do. Please believe me that you and he have the complete support of our family."

Mrs. Anconia had dropped in to visit Jonathan’s mother, Mrs. Victoria Romanov, just moments before the party had arrived in Zurich. When Mrs. Anconia had been ushered in, the television in Mrs. Romanov’s living room was already tuned to one of the leading cable news stations.

"Of course you knew, Lydia," Mrs. Romanov said. "Thank you. I’m glad you’re here."

"Yes, Victoria," Mrs. A said. "I knew. It seems our sons can keep few secrets from us."

Mrs. Romanov knew that there was more to what Mrs. Anconia had said than just those words, and knew that they would have much more to talk about than what had just transpired in Zurich.

"You realize, of course, that you’re probably the Dowager Duchess or the Dowager Grand Duchess," Mrs. Anconia said.

"My dear, I’m not sure I want to be the dowager anything!" Mrs. Romanov said. She laughed.

Mrs. Anconia smiled. "Our children do seem to have conspired to make us old before our time," she said. "On the other hand, there are many people–our friends and yours–who will be especially happy to offer their support.

"What would you think of a small party–an afternoon affair–at my home?"

Victoria smiled her agreement. She had learned that Lydia’s definition of a small party meant no fewer than 300 people. She also knew that many of those 300 people would become important allies for her son. If he were to be Tsar, and regardless of what she would become, she had a role to play.

Steak Knife Restaurant, Rosslyn Gateway Building, Virginia

January 3, 2018, 12:00 Noon

Congress had not yet returned from their holiday recess. With no one to buy meals for, the K-Street crowd hunkered in their offices, roughing it on Chinese takeout while they plotted and wrote legislation. The Steak Knife was less than a third full.

"What is Anconia up to, now? And why didn’t we know about this? Who is that boy?"

"We have found out only that he won the Anconia high school science competition nearly two years ago, was apparently a student at their university in Montana for nine months or so, and then was a member of the science team on the Global Explorer for a year."

A cell phone chimed, and interrupted what else he might have said. The three men fumbled. "It’s mine," one said.

He listened for a few minutes and then ended the call without saying good-bye.

"His father died a few months ago; his mother is now living in the Anconia compound in Virginia."

"Is he really what Anconia claimed? The grandchild of Anastasia, or whoever?"

"The claim was that he was a patrilineal descendant of male Tsars. Not of Anastasia."

The Bishop, who had asked the question, glared at the man who had answered. "Very well, is he really a patrilineal descendant of some Tsar?"

"I will find out, sir."

"And if he is?"

"We are about to make an arrangement with the Russians that will allow Bibles and missionaries into that country for the first time in … in decades, at least. We’ll be able to start churches. We’ll split the take 60-40.

"Until we get big enough to challenge the Orthodox Church," he concluded.

"If it progresses anything like it did in Brazil, where it took less than ten years for our evangelical shock troops to crush the Catholics, we’ll be in the catbird’s seat by 2025."

"The Anconia family doesn’t have a reputation for being People of the Book. If they’re behind this, it could put a wrinkle in our plans. We’ll have to deal with it, somehow."

A waiter arrived with steaks, sizzling in butter from the restaurant’s signature 800-degree ovens, putting a stop to the conversation.

Global Explorer, January 3, 2018 @ 1630

Nicky had taken the press pool on a tour of the ship, and had been careful to point out places where they were welcome and places they would not be welcome. Afterwards, we met in the conference room so they could ask questions of the Captain, Dr. Brewster, and me. There weren’t many, so I addressed Captain Izzard’s concerns. I didn’t say anything about walking the plank, though.

"There are a couple of things I need to cover.

"You’ve met Captain Izzard, who has operational command of the ship and Dr. Brewster, who leads the science team. You probably know that I’m the Mission Commander. That means I get to sit on the bridge and look like I know what I’m doing. In addition to being a bolshoi tour guide, Ensign Nicholas O’Brien is my science and information technology advisor.

"I trust you have all read the contract you signed."

They nodded, but I felt a little uncertainty. Probably skimmed it, like people skim the "terms of service" for the computer software they download, and the contracts that accompany their credit and debit cards, I thought.

"Then I only need to mention a couple of key points.

"First, anything that is given to you off the record is not to be released until it is put on the record. I do not expect there to be much, if any, of that. Science depends on honest and open communication among scientists. This is, above all, a science cruise. If something remains off the record for too long, prompt me or the captain or Dr. Brewster. We may simply have overlooked it. On the other hand, please don’t ever assume.

"Second, there are a number of minor children on board. You may interview them only when that can be fit into their class or duty schedule. You will be eating in the Supercargo Dining Hall. The name is a naval tradition, and in no way should be thought demeaning. That’s where most of the kids will eat, along with their teachers, so you should have plenty of opportunities to interact. Because these high school kids and the Sea Cadets are minors, you may not use their images or their last names. I believe those rules are not unlike the ones you operate under normally, so that should not be a problem.

"Finally, if you have any questions for me, the captain, the science chief, or any adult, please ask them. If you are not satisfied with the answers, come to me. I will work with you.

"I was happy when the UN agreed to bring Sea Cadets from so many member countries aboard. During our first year, these boys served as a conduit for our discoveries to their nations’ press. I hope that you will serve as a similar conduit.

"As Captain Izzard recently reminded me, reciprocity and fairness build confidence, trust, and bonds. I look forward to that kind of relationship with you.

"Thank you for undertaking this mission with us, and thank you for your understanding of the rules."

Kanavinskiy Building, Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, January 3, 2018 @ 5:30 PM

"Is that real?" Seven men sat in the boardroom of one of the companies they still controlled and watched the TV image slowly pan across the contents of the Swiss vault.

"That worries me less than the presence of five senior diplomats–and Francisco Anconia. Whether the boy is real and whether the jewels are real are much less important than that. What has our man in the Romanov Organization said?"

"He has not had time to contact us."

"Do we have anyone on the news crews?"

"We had inserted a sound technician in the German crew, but we’ve not heard from him since yesterday."

"Of course, we have no one in the bank."

"No, sir. We tried to recruit several employees, but were unsuccessful."


In Switzerland, a young man, an electronics technician in the employ of the KGB, awakened, groaning and blinking. Those two boys … he could not resist their blandishments–or the vodka they offered. Bozhe moi! he thought and feared for his life. I’ve missed the event.

Global Explorer, Off the USA East Coast, January 3, 2018 @ 1100

A soft ding from one of the computers caught my attention. Our software had captured a post from a social network site that had included one of the key words in the search engine.

&sciencetruthnolies: new tsar will clean up russia stay tuned

I immediately sent a secure email to Francesca: "Did Dad say to say that?" I forwarded a copy of the message.

Her reply came in instantly. "I didn’t send that. Don’t know who did. Have sent cc to Daddy."

Oh, crap, I thought. There’s a leak, somewhere. I was sure it wasn’t on the ship. Nicky and I had spent a lot of our time screening people. I was sure there were no moles on the crew. But, where was the leak?

AM Talk Radio, USA, January 4, 2018

"Is it real?"

‘Them Ruskies prolly stole all that from the US of A."

"Ben Gazi. They’re trying to cover up Ben Gazi. If we knew …"

"We give ’em half the country during World War II and they owe us."

"What did the president know, and when did he know it?"

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