Karl Johannes Fritz von Dalwyg zu Lichtenfels strutted smartly down the hall towards the richly carved double doors. His jackboots clattered on the marble floor to echo indefinitely to and fro. By the time he reached the end the clacking had become a cacophony, rattling around the frescoed walls.
Halting, he peered anxiously at the wall clock, before staring at the doors, firmly shut. Karl sighed - the General would be arriving for his weekly briefing in a few minutes and there was no way of telling when the Kaiser would be finished.
Dead on time - the essence of Prussian efficiency - General von Stulpnagel marched purposefully around the corner at the other end of the hall.
"Ah, General!" Karl greeted von Stulpnagel, up beat.
"General Lichtenfels?" the other replied, stiffly.
The Chief of the Army General Staff always used Karl's military rank when addressing him in a public place. The man was a stickler for protocol.
"The Kaiser is delayed," Karl told the man, apologetically.
"I see," he replied, resigned and briefly checking his watch. "Who is in there?" he asked, nodding at the double doors.
"Ach! The Prince?" Karl nodded. "Then he will be hours. I must tell my secretary."
"There's a phone in the drawing room, General," Karl told him, indicating the way.
"A cigar, perhaps, General Lichtenfels?"
"I'm sure a fine havana could be found." He smiled.
Some time later the two Generals were seated comfortably in the private drawing room peacefully puffing on two fat cigars.
"What do you think of this Helmut Schmitt as Chancellor?" Stulpnagel asked. "It seems inevitable."
"From a mining family, I believe, in Saarland. I understand he wants to work for the interests of the poor."
"Exactly!" Stulpnagel scoffed, "and he will bankrupt the country doing so."
"General," Karl smiled. "I'm the Private Secretary of the Kaiser. We cannot be seen to have a political opinion."
"The Constitution was not meant to limit debate between men in private."
"Of course, but we're not private men, General. We ceased to be the moment we joined the army and, in my case, the moment I was appointed Private Secretary."
"You will not be drawn?"
"I'm sorry, General. I will say, however, that Adolf Hitler was born of the lower classes."
"Yes, and look where he led the country."
"Are you saying Schmitt is an ultra nationalist?"
"I'm suggesting he is a socialist - and that is one step away, General, from State control and dictatorship."
"General, this is no longer the thirties. We have constitutional safeguards - a free democracy - and, I'm proud to say, a constitutional monarch. Perhaps with such a system the Hitler war would never have happened?"
"Then there is the army," Stulpnagel said proudly. "The army will always stand with the Kaiser as Commander in Chief."
"Naturally," Karl agreed.
Just then there was a knock on the door and an aide entered, smartly. "I'm sorry, Generals," he said, "the Admiral of the Fleet desires a quick word with the Private Secretary on a matter of urgency."
"He does?" Karl looked at Stulpnagel in surprise.
"Doenitz lost another of his ships, has he?" Stulpnagel chuckled. "Tell him he must be more careful!"
"I'm sorry, General, this shouldn't take long."
Karl hurried from the room to find the Grand Admiral hovering just outside. He clutched a velisse tightly under his arm. He was disheveled and red eyed from lack of sleep. Karl knew there was an emergency.
"General," the Admiral talked rapidly, "I must speak with you in private."
"My office?" Karl replied. "This way."
Once the door closed the two men looked at each other in silent communication. 'Yes' Karl acknowledged with his eyes. 'The room was secure.'
"This is a Bund matter." Doenitz began.
"Ah! We have visitors?"
"General, I have some photos to show you taken from one of our surveillance planes. It was taken yesterday evening at the mouth of the Jade. What do you think?"
Doenitz placed a photo on the desk and spread it flat.
"It is a submarine," Karl said, "who does it belong to?"
"First, take a look at the size of it? See that ship nearby, look? That is one of our destroyers. Compare the difference?"
"My God, Admiral, it's enormous!" Karl looked aghast.
"The size of an aircraft carrier."
"What would be the use of such a vessel?"
"See those doors along the top of the hull. We believe they're for launching large missiles underwater."
"Very large rockets!"
"Ballistic missiles! Like we had before the treaties - before the Soviet Union collapsed."
"But they're banned!" Karl said, outraged, "who would build such a thing today?"
"Karl?" Doenitz voice dropped, "I'm afraid it's Russian."
"But not from this time."
"Not from ... Karl, you saying the portal is activated again? This Russian monster has arrived from an alternative continuum?"
"How many more..."
"Just the one - for now."
"Have you been in contact with them? Do you know what they want?"
"There is a mixed crew of Russians and Americans, General," Doenitz began. "The vessel is called the Retvizan and is commanded by a Captain Gorshin. They say they are explorers."
"In a vessel designed to blow countries apart? They arrive unannounced outside the home base of the German fleet with enough weaponry to render the German Royal Federation a smoking ruin? This is 'exploration?'"
"They say they're unarmed - except for strictly defensive purposes."
"I see!" Karl sucked in his breath.
"They say it's an old vessel - one built in the middle of their 1980s."
"And that would make it how old, in their terms?"
"20 plus years."
"So their year approximately corresponds to ours?" The Admiral nodded. "What, then, is their political situation? Are the Russians at peace? Is their Soviet Union still going? What would they need of such a ship?"
"I have asked all those questions, General. Their Soviet Union didn't disappear until 1990. That vessel was built when there were tensions between their so called 'Warsaw Pact' and something called NATO. The collapse of the Soviets changed all that as well as the need to have such vast arsenals of nuclear weapons."
"Nuclear? So these missiles..."
"Seven warheads per missile. The Retvizan can carry twenty."
"My God! So they have a treaty like ours?"
"They have limited them, however, Gorshin says they have not yet got rid of them completely."
"Well, let us hope they keep them to their side."
"General, in their world things happened quite differently."
"Germany was destroyed after the Hitler war and the Soviets left in control over half of Europe. In fact, Germany was partitioned by the victors and the Soviets set up a puppet state in the East. Their Germany is now unified, a Federal Republic, headed by a President. They have a 'European Union' which is still growing..."
"A Defense Alliance? Aimed at who?"
"More an economic bloc, but with a kind of loose federalism - looking towards a political union, perhaps, in the future."
"The Kaiser would be interested in such a concept," Karl thought aloud. "He always advocated more closer ties with our neighbours. But the French..."
"Ah, yes, France. Apparently, after the Hitler war, France and Germany were the prime movers for this economic union."
"Fascinating!" Karl scratched his jaw. "So Germany was defeated? There was no armistice, no coup d'etat? Hitler?"
"Committed suicide as the Russians closed in on Berlin."
"Which would have happened here but for Weissenritter?"
"No Weissenritter, no help from the Otherworld, no portal."
"And half our lands occupied by Russian troops - for how long, Admiral?"
"Some 45 years, General."
"Is this what these Russians came to tell us? What their version of History was?"
"They want to know about Weissenritter, General."
"I think they mean to stop him."
"What?" Karl gasped. "Are they serious? Why would we wish events on us that happened in their continuum? Why on earth would we want Russians strutting our streets for 45 years? Why would we want monsters like this Retvizan pointing nuclear missiles at us? Give me a good reason why we should even bother talking to these men?"
"Well, General, that is a fair question. I, too, asked that same question of the Russian Captain. His answer was, his answer was..."
"His answer was that this is all wrong."
Captain Gorshin, Starshy Leytenant Radetsky, Captain 'Boomer' Zeigler and the German U Boatman, Schoemann filed into the Retvizan's conference room. Schoemann was worn out translating all night for the Russians and Gorshin, himself, slumped heavily into the chair at the top of the table.
"So?" sighed the Russian captain. "Let's recap? We have the rump of the Russian Federation, yes?"
"A Polish Ukrainian Union and a Germany that has a constitutional monarchy, still owns half of Denmark and a chunk of the Czech Republic," volunteered, 'Boomer.'
"At odds with France for 40 years, which, by the way, endures as a kind of liberal marxist state - the last in Europe," said Radetsky.
"All because of Weissenritter," Gorshin added.
"Weissenritter!" sighed the American, "the White Knight!'"
"Are we any closer to knowing just who this 'Weissenritter' actually was? Do we have a name?" asked Radetsky.
"I think he was likely Luftwaffe," suggested the German U Boat commander. "After all, if what we suspect is true, he sent the Nazis jet fighters in the middle of 1944..."
"Not just 'jet fighters' but MiG 19s. Why send the Nazis Russian jet fighters?" asked 'Boomer.'
"I guess because they were descended from German technology acquired by our scientists after the war. They would most likely reflect contemporary German research - advanced, to be sure, but not impossibly so. A F 16 or a MiG 29 - they would be like space ships in 1944."
"Yes, of course!" agreed the American. "Just enough technology to turn the balance without scaring the Hell out of everyone!"
"So what good would even a few thousand MiGs have had on the German war effort in 1944?" asked Radetsky. "Germany was in an ultimately hopeless position with most of the world lined up against her?"
"Germany didn't need to beat the allies," Schoemann suggested. "She would have given them all such a fright that she could have extended the war another five years. Weissenritter could then have updated the arms he was sending through the portal to make sure the Third Reich had a complete technological advantage until the allies accepted an armistice."
"Why didn't the atom bomb settle the matter, in that case?" 'Boomer' asked. "One on Berlin and it would be all over?"
"Unless," thought Gorshin, "mutually assured destruction? The Germans had the means to deliver one right on London in retaliation?"
"You saying Weissenritter gave them the bomb?" Boomer stared at the Russian.
"The bomb and a nuclear bomber to deliver it."
"That would've been all Hitler needed," Boomer said. "Y'think he woulda baulked at using it first?"
"Maybe not, but, did he know about it? Did Weissenritter tell him Germany had the bomb? Was he even alive when they acquired it? Maybe Admiral Doenitz, the new Chancellor, was more reluctant to use the ultimate weapon and more willing to offer compromise?"
"The 'coup'? Makes sense," agreed Boomer. "The Generals take out Hitler and appoint Doenitz. By then, Weissenritter has bought them enough time to negotiate. They let the allies know they have an atom bomb - or maybe a whole lot of them - and a fleet of, what?"
"Yeah? Then with that plane - why, they could fly too high for anti aircraft guns and too fast for even a Mustang? All they needed to do then was to show the allied delegation what was sitting on their airfields."
"And they agree to an armistice?" agreed Gorshin. 'No one has lost and no one has won. The Soviet Union does not get half of Europe and, because of the burden of war, it's isolation, falls into poverty, breaks up - Stalin is assassinated..."
"Not a bad outcome," suggested Boomer.
"Maybe, but one that shouldn't have happened," Gorshin replied. "It was an outcome made possible by intervention from another time continuum. If we allow such things to happen, then, anyone can interfere with the natural order of events."
"But, would we know about it? If History changes, who's going to tell?" asked Boomer.
"I, I," thought Gorshin, "anyone got an answer for that?"
"What happened to my people, the Jews in all of this?" the American continued.
"By 1944?" Gorshin said, "how many remained by that year?"
"Did someone pay? Were there any war crimes trials, for God's sake? Any Nuremburgs?"
"As far as I'm able to judge. Things were left as they were in 1944. A few, like Goebels, Himmler, Goering, died in the coup. But the camp commandants? The functionaries responsible for carrying out the holocaust? I believe they just packed and went home. Weissenritter always said those men were just following orders."
"Following orders?" Boomer looked up. "Well, dammit, Captain, I can see a few things I wanna change."
"That man Doenitz. The Admiral that came on board? Would he be descended from Admiral Karl Doenitz who was Commander of the U Boat service during the war?"
"Most probably," Gorshin shrugged.
"Then the same people were left in charge? The very same people who supported Hitler - made it possible for him to make war, remained, and, through their descendants, still control the destiny of the German people?"
"Quite likely!" agreed the Russian captain.
"Now, that I know is not right. You cannot have 5 years of a terrible war and just go on like before. Where is the change? How long until Germany decides to threaten her neighbours? Why are these people still running things?"
"Then," the U boat captain agreed, "we must find this 'Weissenritter' and stop him. It is not the natural order."