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Orly, France
22 July 1974

It was standard practice for the comings and goings of General Eric von
Gellmann, Ambassador from the German Empire, to remain unreported in the French
press.  In line with the fiction that France was an independent ally of the
Empire, most press attention was focused on the Premier, some on the President,
and none at all on the Ambassador.   Consequently, the arrival of the
Ambassador's private airmobile at Orly Field [1] was drowned in silence.  There
were no crowds to greet (or protest) Gellmann as he was rolled down a ramp from
the rear door of the Fleer jet. [2]

There was, however, a single woman waiting on the MacAdamed ground, a black
umbrella raised above her head against the steady downpour.  She was wearing a
long navy jacket and matching short skirt, together with an unfashionable pair
of doheny boots. [3]

"Good evening, Herr General," she greeted him as his wheelchair reached the
bottom of the ramp.

"Fraulein Fanchon!" Gellmann exclaimed from beneath his own umbrella. 
"Whatever could bring you out on a soggy night like this?"

Yvette Fanchon was by nature quite lacking in a sense of humor, [4] but over
the years she had learned to tell when other people were making jokes.  So she
let Gellmann's question go unanswered, and instead said, "I hope you are
recovering from your unfortunate episode."  The nurse pushing the chair
silently carried on wheeling Gellmann towards the terminal building.  Fanchon
fell in beside them.

"Rather better than Adolph has," Gellmann said, his voice now sounding tired. 
"I never quite liked him, you know.  I always got the feeling that he was on
the verge of going for my throat.  But he was the best Chancellor the Empire
has ever had.  Admittedly, that isn't saying much, because the Empire has only
had six Chancellors in its relatively brief existence, [5] and one of them was
Karl von Bruning.  Still, Adolph was a master of statecraft; I doubt whether
anybody else could have held the Empire together as well as he did.  And I
doubt whether anybody else /can/ hold the Empire together as well as he did."

"You're referring to recent events in Russia, are you not?" said Fanchon.

"There and elsewhere," said Gellmann.  "It's not just Russia, you know.  There
are the New Granadans in South America (and make no mistake, Quito [6] is just
the beginning), the radical Islamists in Arabia and North Africa, [7] the
Australians in India.  My generation saw the Empire conquer half the world; now
your generation is going to see it all fall apart."

Fanchon began to feel pity for Gellmann in spite of herself.  She certainly had
no objection to the disintegration of the Empire; quite the reverse in fact. 
Nevertheless, it was sad to see a man she respected face the ruination of all
he held dear.  It came to her then with sudden, unbearable clarity that this
was how her own great-grandfather must have felt after the disasters of the
Hundred Day War: a lifetime's effort brought to nothing, a great nation humbled
and left broken, a dream of glory replaced by a bleak reality.

They passed under the eaves of the terminal building, and furled their
umbrellas.  Gellmann shook off his melancholy and said, "But you haven't come
here to listen to me babble about the fate of the Empire.  You want to know
what's been decided about your proposal regarding the Schupos."

Fanchon didn't trust herself to speak, so she only nodded.

Gellmann managed a slight smile.  "You'll be happy to hear that the cabinet has
agreed to the proposal.  Believe it or not, Herr Steiner himself argued on its
behalf."

This much Fanchon knew from her sources in Berlin.  "Has the cabinet decided on
a timetable for its implementation?"

They were passing through a part of the terminal that was off limits to the
public.  The walls were painted an appealing shade of lavender, and the floor
was tiled in red and white.  Outspeakers murmured about arrivals and
departures.  Gellmann's gray uniform seemed oddly harmonious with the
surroundings.  "You understand," he said, "that it would create the wrong
impression if we were to announce the withdrawal so soon after our unfortunate
reversal in Free Russia, especially with the elections [8] so close."

"I understand," she said tonelessly.  The trouble with being a politician was
that Fanchon /did/ understand.  The Germany Party would be having a hard enough
time keeping its coalition in power after the Treaty of Stockholm.  Let them
announce that they were also withdrawing five thousand uniformed men from
France and they risked losing too many votes to the National Party.

"But the wheels are in motion," Gellmann assured her.  "By the first week in
September, the Schupos will start being reassigned to other areas of the
Empire.  By the end of the month, they'll all be gone."

"Assuming," she added, "that the Germany Party actually /wins/ the upcoming
elections."

"That's up to the citizens of the Inner Empire, of course," Gellmann conceded. 
"Even if the Democrats win, though, they're unlikely to oppose this policy. 
They've been complaining about the high tax rate for years, and it costs a lot
of money to keep those policemen stationed in France."

The end of September, then.  Not as bad as she had feared.   And of course, the
removal of the Schupos from France would be the ideal time for her to announce
the next round of elections to the National Assembly.  If they played their
cards right, the Fanchonists might gain enough seats to allow them to dispense
with another coalition partner.

"I am happy to hear it, Herr General," she said.  They turned a corner,
bringing them within view of the gateway to the Germans-only section of the
terminal.  "I fear I must leave you now, but allow me to offer you my best
wishes for a speedy recovery."

"Thank you, Fraulein Fanchon," Gellmann replied.  "And please allow me in turn
to offer you the best of luck in the elections I've no doubt you'll soon be
calling."

With a cheery wave, he left her standing there while the nurse wheeled him
away.

Notes:

[1] As in OTL, the site of one of Paris's main air parks.

[2] One of half a dozen manufacturers of small aircraft for the Empire's
private and corporate markets, Fleer was founded in 1957 by George Fleer, a
former airmobile designer at Klemperer Flugwerke AG.

[3] Rubberized waterproof boots made popular by General Michael Doheny during
the Rocky Mountain War.

[4] Though like all humorless people she denies it.

[5] Seven if you count the current Acting Chancellor, which no one does.

[6] A reference to New Granada's occupation of the neighboring Republic of
Quito two days before.

[7] Covertly funded by the United Empire, and advised on an unofficial basis by
a British officer named L. E. Thomas.

[8] The German Empire is holding special elections to the Imperial Diet to
choose a permanent successor to the late Chancellor Markstein.  For reasons
that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, the elections have been
scheduled for 19 August 1974, the 30th anniversary of the Empire's founding.

-- 
Johnny Pez
Newport, Rhode Island
August 2002