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For All Nails #84B: A State of Shock

by Johnny Pez

Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, Inner German Empire
28 June 1974

King Frederick of Poland nodded politely to Hans Steiner and Joshua Merkel as he passed them in the corridor. The two men gave functional, though undeferential, bows in response. Entering the cabinet room, Frederick turned to speak to President Vieira of Angola, who was following close behind. However, he never had a chance to speak, because just then General Eric von Gellmann collapsed in the doorway of the washroom, and a faint sound like a rifle shot came from the open door.

For Frederick, it was just as if three years had dropped out of his life. Once again, he was back in his locomobile in Warsaw, watching his driver's head come apart. Gellmann lay on the ground, blood pumping from his right leg, and Frederick was unable to do anything to stop it.

It was with a sense of relief that Frederick saw President Vieira stride past him and kneel down next to Gellmann. A jerk of the Angolan's hands tore open the leg of Gellmann's uniform, exposing the terrible wound and the blood that spurted out, presumably (it dimly occurred to Frederick) in time with the beating of Gellmann's heart.

Vieira turned to look at him and said, "Frederick! Your sash!"

It took a moment for Frederick to work out what Vieira meant, then he had his red-and-white sash over his head and in Vieira's hands. In seconds the sash had become a tourniquet, and the flow of blood from Gellmann's leg was reduced to a trickle.

Frederick noticed Chancellor Markstein's aide, Michael Schroder, talking into the cabinet room's telephone. He must have been calling for a doctor, because one quickly arrived, though Frederick forgot his words just as soon as he spoke them.

Time seemed to be passing in slow motion, and yet events were moving so quickly that Frederick couldn't keep track of them. The cabinet room was full of people, Gellmann had been pulled out of the doorway and the doctor was seeing to him. Then Steiner and Horst Voth were carrying something out of the washroom, and it was Chancellor Markstein. His clothes were covered in blood, but his face was horribly pale, and his open eyes weren't moving. The doctor took one look at him, then reached up to close the Chancellor's eyes. More men came and carried Gellmann and Markstein away on gurneys, the latter covered by a sheet.

Frederick found himself standing next to Cousin William. "Willi, who could have done this?"

"The police say it was a Serb terrorist," his cousin answered.

"Have they caught him?"

"They didn't," said William. "I did."

Frederick had thought himself incapable of further shock, but his cousin's assertion proved him wrong. "You did, Willi? How?"

"With my loke."

Frederick shook his head and said, "I wonder what happens now."

President Vieira, who stood on Frederick's other side, said, "Now I suppose the cabinet has to choose an Acting Chancellor. Unfortunately, the Imperial Consitution doesn't say who should succeed a dead Chancellor." FN1 He motioned towards a knot of cabinet officers seated at the head of the table. The Chancellor's seat, Frederick noticed, was empty. "That's probably what they're deciding right now."

As if in response to Vieira's words, Herr Merkel got up from the table and approached the three men. Bowing to William, he said, "Your Imperial Majesty, could you join us, please? We need you for the investiture ceremony."

"Of course, Herr Merkel," said William with suitable solemnity. He followed the Exterior Minister over to the group, and the room fell silent as William began to recite the words that would name a new Chancellor for the German Empire.

Forward to FAN #84C (28 June 1974): Succession.

Return to For All Nails.