Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 30

Published: 20 Aug 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

Things Fall Apart

Jonathan Romanov's Journal
Winter Palace
April 30, 2018

Jaf was so excited, he was bouncing. Bobby and Artie had finally created an N-circuit with enough bandwidth for a video channel, and Jaf was the first to test it. And he had news worthy of the call.

"Alexander! We found something!"

"It must be something important for you to be so excited," I said.

"There's a spy in your Bundes . . . I mean, your congress! The Protectors found messages from him when they raided their headquarters. The KGB headquarters I mean in Novgorod!"

"What is his name?"

"They don't know that, but Davey is working . . . Oh, here's Davey."

After exchanging greetings, I repeated my question.

"So far, nothing with his name. We have records of money paid to him, we have messages that describe initiatives in congress. More damning, we have information on US military technology, including details of drone software."

"Do any of the KGB people know who he is?"

"None of the survivors knew his name. Even that he is a male."

Jonathan joined the conversation. "Alexander? This is not something for Russia. We will not examine these documents further. The materials will be boxed for shipment. What should we do with them?"

"Give it to Francesca?" Davey suggested.

"No way!" Nicky said. The rivalry between him and Francesca wasn't bitter, but it wasn't overly friendly, either. I didn't want to anger Nicky.

"Can we tell Mommy?" Nicky and I knew that his Mommy, my Aunt Elizabeth, was if not an agent, at least a CIA resource, and still had some close connections.

"More a job for the FBI, I think," I said. "How about we give the information to Dad. He will certainly get Tom involved," I said.

Jonathan agreed, and the next orphan flight in a US Air Force plane carried a special package for Dad.

_Global Explorer_
Azisa N'kosi's Laboratory Journal
April 30, 2018

"You were principal co-researcher on a paper in Environmental Consequences," Azisa said to Bert.

"She said I did enough slave labor to—" Bert blushed. "I'm sorry, bad choice of words. I'm sorry! I'm really sorry!"

Azisa understood instantly. "Bert, I am from South Africa. My heritage includes apartheid, but not slavery. My ancestors may have been involved in the slave trade several hundred years ago, but I do not bear any guilt nor do I feel any stigma. Every society in the world has held slaves and been enslaved.

"I read your paper," Azisa continued. "It is remarkably like, yet unlike something I'm working on. Would you like to see?"

"Uh, sure. If you don't mind, I mean. Most people are pretty secretive . . . "

Azisa laughed. "I understand. There are many things that Alexander and his father keep secret to make money to fund this ship, to fund universities and research, and to invest in new ventures. But things that are truly important are given out freely.

"Did you not sign a contract that explained that?"

"Um, actually, I did, but I wasn't sure what it meant . . . "

"Then after I show you through our lab, we will discuss that so that you do understand."

Burt understood before Azisa had finished his first three sentences.

"Fungi are among the oldest forms of life on Earth. They are both the simplest and the most complex. It requires incredible pressure before they evolve, since their preferred method of adapting to a new environment is to encyst and wait until the environment becomes more favorable. These fungi—"

"OMG! You've solved the problem!" Bert said.

"Maybe, maybe not," Azisa said. "This hasn't been peer reviewed. It hasn't been demonstrated in anything larger than one of these flasks. And even in the flasks where temperature is higher than normal sea temperature, the reaction is slow."

"But may I tell my mentor? Maybe she can help? Can we do a video conference?"

Anichkov Palace, St. Petersburg
May 1, 2018
Jonathan Romanov's Journal

The Anichkov Palace, built for Empress Elizabeth of Russia in the 1700s, had been a museum. Later, it became the local headquarters for a Soviet youth organization, and still later was named The Palace of Youth Creativity. It was now home to the Anichkov Lycee, a middle school, and one of mother's orphanages. It faced a huge park, filled with ancient trees. It was a fitting place for what we were about to do.

Mother and I stood together at the lectern. Davey's team didn't have to seize the Russian television system—the media had learned that although I had given them autonomy and freedom of expression, I expected something in return. First, that they would adhere to both isvestia and pravda (both the truth and the news); second, that they would carry live my speeches. There weren't many of those, and I was careful to spend this particular coin judiciously.

I didn't have to ask Anconia networks to carry me, either. By this time, all seven of their satellites in synchronous orbit over the equator, like a string of pearls around the world, had a channel that was dedicated to the Global Explorer, Francesca's videos, and my speeches. I was happy to be in such good company.

[The following was transcribed from recordings in the Romanov Archives in the National Library of Russia. The library is on the opposite side of the park from the Anichkov Palace. The first speech was made by Tsar Jonathan I Romanov.]

"Many countries erect memorials to those who died in defense of the country in time of war. Many erect memorials to the unknown soldiers, the nameless who gave of themselves in that cause. This is altogether fitting and proper, for the first duty of a government is to keep its people alive and free.

"Sometimes, regrettably, war is the only way to do that.

"Today, we create a memorial to some of our people who we could not keep either alive or free. We have discovered, in prisons established by the late premier and operated by his KGB thugs, the bodies of more than two thousand children, buried in common graves or stacked, frozen, like firewood, in barns and sheds. It seems likely that there are others whom we shall never see."

[The next speech was made by Her Grace, Viktoria Romanov.]

"That these children died is a blot, a stain that can be removed only by ensuring that such a thing will never happen again. By creating a proper burial site, and by establishing it as a memorial, we create a reminder that will stand the test of time, a reminder that will ensure that we will remember forever what is most precious to us: life and freedom for our children and for ourselves."

Jonathan Romanov's Journal

The bodies of the children had been cremated. The ashes were buried beneath a marble monument that also served as a cenotaph for those unknown children whose bodies we would never be able to recover.

Elsewhere in the world, the May First celebration of communism was conducted in different ways. I hoped that our reminder of the excesses and evils of communism would help counter those celebrations.

_Global Explorer_
Azisa N'Kosi's Laboratory
May 1, 2018

It was a freak accident that killed Bert.

A flask shattered. Perhaps it had been heated too quickly or had been heated and cooled too many times. Perhaps it was defective. Whatever the cause, a saline solution spilled onto an electric hotplate and then the lab bench where Bert's head rested on his folded arms. His bare knee was in contact with the metal wall that was part of the ship's structure. Two hundred and twenty volts blew through Bert's body and knocked him from his perch.

Azisa said that was what had saved Bert: that he'd not been in contact with the current for more than a second. Still, his heart had stopped, and the ship's doctor said it was Azisa's CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation that had saved the boy.

As soon as the ship's doctor would allow, Bert asked Azisa to visit him in the infirmary.

"I dreamed you were kissing me," he told Azisa.

"I'm sorry, but you weren't breathing. It was the only way I knew," Azisa said.

"You don't understand," Bert whispered. "I really liked it."

"If I weren't so afraid you would die, I would have liked it, too," Azisa said.

"Can we . . . will you do it again?" Bert asked.

UFC Leadership
May 1, 2018

"What is this?" Elder #1 demanded. He held up a letter with the Romanov Arms imprinted in the upper right corner."

"It was delivered by bicycle messenger, sir. It appears to have come from the Russian Embassy," his secretary said.

"They're telling us that deeds to seven properties in Russia have been declared invalid and that the properties have been seized. There's a list of the properties, but it means nothing to me."

"Perhaps the Bishop . . . "

"The Bishop will be out of surgery this afternoon but will not be allowed visitors until tomorrow. I will ask him, then."

Western Company Headquarters
Tucson, Arizona
May 2, 2018

"The Navajo have us over a barrel, and I don't mean a barrel of oil, either," the CEO of the Western Company grumbled. "They've said they won't renew our coal or uranium contracts at any price."

"The non-Navajo Arizona coal companies are already talking about upping the cost of coal from $15 per ton to more than $25 per ton, and even more in the future."

"Won't make a damn bit of difference. If the Navajo and Anconia keep building those hydrogen plants, we won't have anyone to sell electricity to."

"We still own the grid."

"Which—as you know—is about to fall apart. And, there are rumors that Anconia is working on Tesla's insane dream of broadcast power."

"What about our senator? We certainly paid off enough senators to make him Chair of the Energy Subcommittee."

"He says he's got something in the works."

Christ is Lord Hospital
Suite 1
Washington, DC
May 2, 2018

If you've got to be hospitalized, this is the way to do it, the Bishop thought. He looked around the room. Except for the hospital bed, it was little different from a luxury hotel room. He saw a shadow on the wall, realized what it was, and frowned. The shadow was a discoloration in the paint where a crucifix had hung before the UFC bought the hospital for pennies-on-the-dollar at a bankruptcy sale. Now, although it operated as a "not-for-profit," the church managed to rake in several million dollars a year from Medicare and Medicaid, and kickbacks from the drug companies.

"Your Excellency, please forgive me for disturbing you. Elder Thurmond is here to see you." The intercom interrupted the Bishop's thoughts.

"Send him in. And coffee."

"Sir, your doctor said—"

"I don't give a damn what he said. He and you work for me. Send in coffee."

"Yes, sir."

"Okay, let's have it. They did a quadruple bypass, so you can't give me a heart attack. What's so important . . . ?"

"Perhaps you should see for yourself," Elder #1, now Thurmond, said, and handed the Bishop the front page of the leading DC newspaper.

Washington Standard May 2, 2018: Russia Deports 45 Missionaries. Aeroflot Flight 7 from Moscow landed at 1:00 AM today at Dulles International Airport. The passenger list included 45 missionaries from the Universal Fundamentalist Church who had entered Russia with forged visas and with documents identifying them as schoolteachers. According to the Russian Embassy, their teaching credentials were also forged. An embassy spokesperson said that the people were deported, and barred from ever entering Russia again, not because of their religious beliefs but, quoting, "because they are common criminals." The UFC leadership had not responded to calls by press time.

"God damn! Were we called?"

Elder #1 shrugged. "All this came down at 1:00 o'clock this morning. If we were called, there would have been no one to answer."

"We have to answer this," the Bishop insisted.

"Before you decide how, perhaps you should read this," Elder Thurmond said, and handed the letter from the Russian Embassy to the Bishop.

"Jesus Christ! What have they done!"

"I have no idea, sir. The letter doesn't make sense. Why would they think we had properties in Russia?"

"Because we did! They were bought by our contact in the KGB. The son of a bitch only paid one ruble for them! He stole our money! They were to be bases of operations for our missionaries. Christ. Five million dollars down the drain. And they're on to us, now."

Elder #1 wisely refrained from asking who "they" were.

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