For All Nails #7: Uneasy Lies the Head
Warsaw, Kingdom of Poland, Outer German Empire
22 August 1971
His Royal Majesty Frederick William Augustus Hohenzollern, King of the Poles,
was not a happy man. For eight years now, since succeeding his late father,
Frederick had tried to do what was best for his adoptive people, but to no
avail. Why couldn't the Poles be content with what they had? After all,
they had their own legislature, their Sejm, to represent their interests.
There were elections held every three years, and Frederick himself pored over
the preselected lists of candidates to insure that only good men were chosen.
The Poles had the security of an alliance with the great German Empire, ruled
over by his wise cousin William. The Poles were safeguarded from all harm by
the atomic bombs carried by the Empire's fleet of long-range airmobiles, by
the fleet of warships that sailed the world's oceans, and by the brave German
soldiers who patrolled Poland's cities.
Although he himself had been born in Poland six years after his grandfather
became King, and although he even spoke Polish himself, still the ungrateful
Poles plotted against Frederick's rule, secretly publishing pamphlets that
condemned him as a foreign tyrant, forming secret societies to foment
revolution, agitating for an endless list of nonsensical demands.
Sometimes Frederick found himself becoming angry at his obstreperous
subjects. Their actions were hindering the German Empire in its noble task
of preserving order in Eurasia and countering the evil designs of the
perfidious British and their allies in Japan and Taiwan. There were times
when it seemed to Frederick that the German race was enmeshed in a web of
enemies, and that there was nothing they could do to save themselves from
eventual defeat and oblivion.
Frederick shook his head. He knew that if he let himself dwell upon these
morbid thoughts the result would be days of lethargy and hopelessness. He
needed to clear his mind. Picking up the telephone in his bedchamber, he
dialed his majordomo. "Klaus? Have the Daimler readied for use. I wish to
take a drive."
"Yes, Majesty, it will be done," said Klaus.
Frederick found his mood lightening already in anticipation. Leaving his
bedchamber, he strode through the corridors of the Belvedere Palace to the
rear courtyard where the locomobile would be waiting. Wolfgang, the driver,
saluted as Frederick seated himself in the back, then closed the door and
took up his post behind the wheel.
"Where to, Majesty?" asked Wolfgang.
"Bielsk Park, please."
"Yes, Majesty, it will be done," said Wolfgang. With a soft purr the topless
Daimler pulled away from the courtyard and passed through the gate into the
street beyond. There was, Frederick knew in the back of his mind, another
locomobile following his containing members of the Palace Guard, but he had
long since ceased to give them any conscious thought. As far as he was
concerned, he was alone, and all the cares of his position had been left
behind at the Palace.
It was a lovely summer day in Warsaw, and the morning sun shone down out of a
cloudless blue sky. Frederick removed his sunshades from their case and put
them on. As the locomobile made its way through the familiar city streets,
Frederick found himself, not for the first time, pondering his destination's
name. The park was named after a city to the east of Warsaw where the Poles
had defeated a Russian army in 1881, during their short-lived Second
Republic. Naturally the Germanic Confederation, as it then was, could not
countenance such an inherently unstable polity on its eastern border, and the
following year a combined Russo-German army had defeated the Poles and
restored Russian rule to the region.
Mind you, he well understood why the Poles had acted as they had. The
Russians had been going through one of their periodic "Russification" drives
at the time, requiring that all official government business and all school
instruction be conducted in Russian. The Poles were much better off today
under his rule, though you would never get them to admit it.
There was a loud popping sound not too far away, for all the world like
gunfire, and Frederick was rather surprised to see the top of his driver's
head open up and begin disgorging its contents. He ducked down to avoid
getting any of it on him, then was thrown forward as the locomobile came to
an abrupt halt. He remained lying in a daze by the back seat while more
gunfire sounded, and he must have lost his sunshades because the sun was
shining directly in his eyes.
Two armed soldiers in the uniform of his Palace Guard leaped up onto the
sides of the locomobile, and both kept their weapons trained outward while
one looked down at him and said, "Your Majesty, are you all right?"
The bright sunlight was making his eyes tear up. "I'm fine," Frederick
assured the soldier, "but I fear Wolfgang has lost his head." He began
giggling, and found to his horror that he was unable to stop.