The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

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The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:57 am

By Nicola Christine and Sy23 (Rated M, Advanced)

This is the last argument of kings
(inscription around the mouths of cannons in the French army, under Louis IX)

The history of Europe 1942 - 1944.

In 1942, the German Empire was at its height. Stretching from Finland to the Italian Alps, from the conquered provinces of The Netherlands and Belgium to the Russian border, it was the largest, most technologically advanced hegemony the world had ever seen. Ruled over by the Kaiser Freidrich V, it was unassailable and invincible. Swelled by manpower from conquered provinces like Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland amongst others, the Imperial army and navy (known as the Wermacht) was regarded as the most feared fighting force that had ever existed.

It was not just a matter of manpower. From childhood onward, German youths were trained in the art of warfare and duty. And since their expansion had begun at the turn of the century, their scientists had turned out ever more sophisticated weaponry. The army was now equipped with steam-powered, tracked vehicles called "tanks", massive zeppelins armed with machine guns and bombs, the very latest in horse-drawn artillery. Their armored uhlans on specially trained warhorses, their tanks and guns and airships, made the conquered provinces in capable of rebellion. Aided by the massive, though under-equipped, forces of their Italian allies, the empire took security for granted.

Yes, they had enemies. King Louis XXV's French, with an army that had spent the best part of the century subduing parts of Africa and Asia. The Russians, with their vast, snowbound nation, led by the mad Tsar Nicholas III. The British, under the benevolent but inefficient rule of King George VII, their world-wide empire carved out by their small but well-equipped army, invincible navy and a fleet of airships even more advanced than the Germans'. But none of these enemies were anything like a match for the German Empire. It was reliably assumed that even together, they could never stand against the Wermacht!

And then, in the early months of 1942, this theory was put to the test. A rebellion in the province of Poland was put down by the German forces, using their revolutionary new tactic called blitzkrieg, or "lightning war"... instead of airships and tanks being allocated piecemeal throughout the army, they were grouped in powerful armored spearheads, backed up by elite cavalry, Zeppelins, horse-drawn armor and troops in steam-powered trucks. This new, revolutionary form of warfare paralyzed the tiny Polish resistance in a matter of a few weeks.

However, the three rivals had watched the power and might of Germany with alarm. Behind-the-scenes negotiations resulted in an alliance between the three. And this new alliance gave a guarantee to Poland that they would support the revolution. In fact, this support resulted only in the supply of a few obsolete airships and out of date tanks - but the Kaiser, knowing that ignoring the support of the triple-alliance could only seem like weakness, launched a revenge attack on France in March 1942. His famous "blood and Iron" speech in the Chancellory in February warned Russia and Britain that they were next on his list!

The campaign in France was over in a matter of weeks. The French army, used to fighting natives with spears, could not stand against the revolutionary new blitzkreig. Whole French corps or even armies were surrounded in the first week, their outmoded tactics too slow to respond to this new way of waging war. At the time of the surrender, only one French army was left in the field, and the tattered remnants of the small British Expeditionary Force, together with a few French units, were surrounded at the Belgian port of Dunkirque.

However, this was not the end. A week of torrential storms meant that the Wehrmacht's airships and tanks were rendered useless, for just long enough for the British Navy to extricate these pitiful few men.

Meanwhile, the Italian Allies gleefully joined in the fray, invading France from the South and striking at British possessions in Africa. The latter proved a bridge too far, and the British spent most of 1943 massacring the hapless Italians. Meanwhile, the invincible British Navy prevented Germany invading Britain, their airships blowing Zeppelins out of the sky as fast as they could be built.

At this point, despite still having a (barely) surviving Britain to his West, and having to detach a percentage of his crack divisions to support the Italians, The Kaiser decided on an audacious stroke. To make an unexpected invasion of the final part of the Alliance - Russia. He presumed that one single kick would destroy the whole ramshackle nation. For a time it looked as if he might be right. But a horrendous winter halted his army at the very gates of Moscow.

And then the Russians counter-attacked, while simultaneously the Anglo-French armies launched landings at Italy and France. Forced to fight a three-front war, with ever-diminishing resources, the Kaiser watched his once great empire contract. By 1944, he knew it could only be a matter of time, with British spearheads threatening at various points along the Rhine and in Italy, and French armies moving on Bavaria, while in the East the Wermacht were driven further and further back, until the Imperial Russian army occupied Czechoslovakia and much of Poland.

Superhuman effort, and the throwing into the fray of every man between 12 and 60 who could hold a rifle, meant that the Wermacht were able to hold the Anglo-French forces at the Alps, and on the borders of the Rhine, while in the East, the massive Russian armies were - for the moment - halted in central Poland.

And then, sick of the constant war, both sides simultaneously began to put out feelers of peace. Secret negotiations, hidden from the general populace of all the nations involved, resulted in a sudden cease-fire during August of 1944. And a meeting was arranged within Berlin, between diplomatic representatives from Germany, Italy, France, Britain and Russia. Perhaps a face-saving end could be found, perhaps not.

It is at this point that the story of Ilse and Swithin begins.





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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:30 am

Ilse walked one last time through Palais Donner to ensure that everything was ready for the first meeting tomorrow morning. She checked the reception room downstairs and yellow and blue parlours. These would be the public rooms, the rooms of informal interaction, social niceties and general lies and prevarications. She had already checked on the council chamber and the garden room in the back where the serious negotiations would take place. Nodding to the security personnel that was placed in regular intervals and would remain there over night to ensure no surprises, she headed up the stairs. On the first floor were suites set aside for the private use of the delegations as well as the security centre. The individual securities had taken over earlier that day and aside from the German suite she had no access to these anymore. She still could not help walking along the hallways. Her eyes travelled over the rich furnishings, the gold on white decorated walls, the old masters hanging on the walls and the nervous twitches of the French, Russian and British security personnel she passed. Back at the stairs she hesitated for a moment looking down towards the large cobalt blue entrance door. Slowly she sank onto the stairs and rested her arms on her knees. Unladylike. Wasn't that just like her.

She flashed back to an evening three weeks ago. She had been in her rooms struggling with the laces of her corset as she heard the raised voices from her father's dressing room down the hall. She grabbed for a robe and opened her door. She knew she should have stayed back and finished dressing for dinner but Ella, her maid, had gone to help her sisters and would not return soon, if experience was any guide, and without a maid she would wear one of her simpler dresses anyway. So there was no hurry and it was better for everyone concerned if whatever had angered her father was taken care of before dinner. Otherwise the meal would be very uncomfortable.

Halfway down the hall she recognised that the shrieking voice came from the throat of her mother, her refined mother who never raised her voice. This stopped her in her tracks and, though she knew it to be wrong, she listened to her parents fight.
"How could you do this? How could you appoint her? She has no class, no talent, not enough intelligence for such an important duty. This is our chance, MY chance to be seen and you have wasted it on Ilse. She is well suited to support her siblings but she is NO diplomat. She will ruin this opportunity for us to rise in the world within the first day. She is a waste! I love her but in comparison I am not as blinded as you are to her qualities. Look at her at dinner, she is the epitome of the old aunt."
Ilse could not breathe for the pain in her chest and with her head spinning she almost missed her fathers reply.
"It is her turn." Simple. There was no inflection in his voice - no trust in her abilities, or even interest. It was just an irrevocable fact.
"Paul, you are selling her out to be eaten by lions. She needs protection, this is why we did not take her back to court after the first week, remember. She has neither beauty, nor charm, nor wit to defend herself in this world."
A moment of silence in which Ilse could picture her father attaching the pocket watch fob to his waistcoat.
"Then she will be home soon and all this nonsense will be over"

Ilse had no idea how she managed it through getting dressed and dinner that evening. Nor could she remember how she reacted when she was informed of the fact that she was to lead the diplomatic mission. The only thing she remembered was the confirmation of her suspicions that her mother saw her as stupid and her father as a convenient means to halt the social encroachment pressed on him by his wife. Her mind had entered a frozen haze in which not even the concern and pity of her siblings could reach her.

And now she sat on the stairs in preparation for tomorrow. She would have to return to Palais Podewils soon for the night. It was the town residence of her uncle, her mother's brother, the Duke, who could barely hide his disdain and disappointment when he looked at her. He had not helped his sister to secure the appointment for one of her children as a favour to her but to further his own financial ambitions. Now he saw his plans destroyed by the appointment of the wrong niece.

Ilse pushed of the stairs and called for her coat and the car. She had spent the last week on the things she was good at - organising the framework of the meetings. She had earned the respect of the other members of the delegation, the civil servants and even the Palais employers. Tomorrow she would have to deal with others in a social context. Tomorrow she would disappoint them all. It was what hurt her most - if she would allow herself to use the cold frozen place her mind had found deep in herself.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:08 pm

"OK, let's go over it one more time," sighed Nigel Ponsonby-Mainwaring (pr" "Mannerin'"), drawing the clipboard towards him. "At eight is your working breakfast with the Italian Russian delegate. Probably caviar, served on the same plate with ham and eggs! And go easy on the vodka! Now, is your dress uniform pressed?"

"Unfortunately, yes," replied Swithin Sage-Phillington, in a dejected voice. He was a soldier, used to wearing khaki... not some ballroom lizard. He hated the tight red coat and black trousers with a passion. "Honestly, Manners, this is a ridiculous idea. I've hated it from the start! I should be with my unit. Not stuffing my face with food, and drinking cocktails, and making small talk with diplomats in stuffed shirts! This is a job for a politician... "

"We've been over this a million times" growled Pomsoncy-Mainwaring. "The PM felt that it would be advantageous to have a real soldier representing Britain at the conference table. All the other nations will send aristocrats, whereas we - we will have a proper soldier, and, what's more, one who's won medals from bravery. It's called a psychological advantage, you fool. Do you really think Kirkdale doesn't know what he's doing? Now, don't forget to wear full decorations - not just the ribbons."

"Isn't there any way I can get out of this. Sprain my ankle or something?"

"No, Swithin. This is an order, just as much as if you were ordered to advance by your divisional commander. You wouldn't try and get out of a battle by feigning a sprained ankle, would you? And this is an order direct from the PM, no less. You are serving your country just as effectively here as if you were shooting Krauts or Eyeties."

"What, by eating caviar?" Swithin dropped his head, resignedly. "All right, So there's that stupid breakfast, then the tour of the art gallery - I don't mind that really. Then what's next - honestly, if I have to do these stupid talks, couldn't it just be the conference? It's all these little tete-a-tete's beforehand that I hate. And the "cultural exchange" stuff. Having to go to that school, and hear those brats sing our national anthem. What if the talks fail - which they probably will, if I'm any guide to the standard of delegates that are attending."

"Don't - ever - say - that!" spat out Ponsonby-Mainwaring, between clenched teeth. "This was has to be brought to an end. The waste involved - of human life, or horseflesh, of material. I'm a soldier too, Swithin, but the future of Europe is more important than personal glory. Not that I'm accusing you of that - I know you only want to serve your nation."

"So - what's after the tour, then?" Asked Swithin, resigned to the part he was to play.

"Well, before lunch you're scheduled to an informal meeting with the enemy. The Head German ambassador, no less."

"Probably some fat, sausage-eating ex-cavalryman with a pot belly, and terrible taste in aftershave, then?"

Ponsonby-Mainwaring smiled. "I doubt that all of that's true. The ambassador's name is Ilse Ursula Marie Luise de Gruyter. probably some fat German hausefrau - you;re probably right about the sausage-eating, and the mustache - but I doubt she wars aftershave."

"All right, then," groaned Swithin. "Call me at six, yes? And have that pretty maid bring in the coffee.. . the one with the big - "

"Eyes? yes, certainly," answered Ponsonby-Mainwaring.




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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:49 pm

Ilse fastened the suspender belt and attached the clips to the lace of her stockings. She ran her hands down her leg smoothing her stocking before reaching for the soft fabric of the wide black trousers which were hanging over the modesty screen. On the other side of the screen she heard paper rustling and heard Meyering, her chief civil servant pick up his reiteration of the intelligence information again. She knew that he, and the other three members of the delegation sitting on the comfortable chairs in her room, thought her provincial for dressing behind the screen but she just could not be à la mode and dress in front of them. She knew that Queen Antoinette of France was known to do so claiming that it was the most efficient use of time, and ever aware of fashion the Prussion Queen Luise and most of her courtiers were emulating the practice. Even her mother did dress whilst her majordomo attended her. But Ilse could not get used to the idea. It was hard enough to concentrate on what they were saying knowing that only a thin layer of painted fabric protected her from their eyes.

"... Regarding the English delegate the informants placed in the embassy support our previous assessment. He is a man of little breeding or refinement with most of his concentration being taken up by thoughts of the next meal and the next" here Meyerling paused significantly "female company, preferably well-endowed, he can find"

Her hand, which had reached for a blue shirt with a deep decolletage moved to the right and came to rest on a black, severe shirt that, whilst leaving her shoulders almost bare, covered her breasts all the way. She shrugged on the silky fabric whilst she kept on listening.

"His main danger lies in the respect he will garner through his military service. He has met with the Russian and Italian delegates this morning already. According to Marchese Doria, the Italian delegate, little of importance occurred at the breakfast. Mr Sage Phillington" Meyering left little doubt in his voice that a mere MR did not deserve anything but contempt. "however, seemed to leave a good impression with the Countess Rosenowski, the Russian delegate. You might want to keep this in mind when meeting the English."

Ilse had finished dressing and had moved to attach the blood-red garnet drops to her ears and draped the necklace around the her neck. The cold metal and stones slid over her skin as she fastened it, leaving her with goosebumps down her back. She adjusted the choker necklace and the garnet drops stroked her skin. One look in the mirror showed her a severe looking woman, too pale and by far too innocent looking for this. No matter what, she now was ready and she had to go meet the English delegate. She straightened her shoulders and turned to her staff.

"Are we ready?" She raised her eyebrow haughtily and, without checking that they were following her, left the room.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:12 am

"I don't think you can relax just yet," Ponsonby-Mainwaring whispered to Swithin. The panel was drawn, isolating the British pair from the chauffeur in the front of the vehicle, a massive, impressive Duesenberg, but you could never be too careful. "The Russkies are, after all, on our side. And Countess Rosenowski's known to be a sucker for a decorated war hero."

"I got on fine with the Marchese, too," replied Swithin, deliberately pronouncing it "Marr-cheese" just to annoy his minder. It was a sign of Ponsonby-Mainwaring's distracted state that he made no move to correct him.

"You spoke of soccer, and your favorite types of ice cream," he reminded Swithin. "Very little was said that could be of use in finding a settlement to this situation. Was the surrender of the remaining Italian forces in the field discussed? The handing over of their airship fleet to our side? The possibility of King Emmanuel changing sides entirely? Or his willingness to sacrifice Sicily as reparation in order to show good faith? Because if so, I failed to hear it."

"You're correct," replied Swithin, and then forestalled Ponsonby- Mainwaring's exclamation of triumph with a grin. "You failed to hear it. A lot was decided... whether an outsider picked it or not. You'll note we spoke of the comparative merits of Chelsea Football Club and Inter Milan - and that soon, the supporters of both sides would be able to make the decision for themselves. We spoke of our preferences as to ice cream... and of flavors that have not been manufactured during hostilities, that will soon be readily available again. We discussed Bugatti and Ferrari cars, and if they could beat the best that Bentley and Rolls Royce could produce... and concluded that British machinery runs on a different coal/fuel mix than the Italian equivalents - a difficulty that will have to be overcome if we take charge of their steamtanks and airships."

He reached for the speaking-tube. "Driver - turn left here, please..."

"This isn't the shortest way to the -" goggled Ponsonby-Mainwaring.

"No, it isn't" Swithing replied. "However, it does take us past the main railway station, where a detachment from the 16th Steam-Armored division is due to arrive from the front for recreation. I'd like to see the condition of those men - are their heads drooping, in anticipation of defeat, or do they look as if it's just a matter of time before they drive the Anglo-French invaders back into the sea? Are their tanks and steamcars patched, shabby, looking as if they can barely keep them running? How big a crowd will turn out to welcome them - and will they cheer them and throw flowers, or boo them and beg them to surrender? What I'm interested in, Manners, is not what official German propaganda tells us - I am more concerned with the morale of this nation. It's what they're not telling us that I find most useful..."

* * * * * * * * * *

It was two hours later. Swithin and Ponsonby-Mainwaring had been waiting in the ante-chamber over an hour.

"No doubt the Grafette, or whatever she's called, is putting the final curl on her mustache," whispered Swithin.

"Hush! Those guards - they'll hear you. And for heaven's sake, get her title right! Any signs we're not taking them seriously... and don't you dare mention sausages or..."

"I'll behave," laughed Swithin.

"You'd better. You'll be in private with the Ambassador. I won't be there to baby-sit you. Everything you say will - officially - be strictly confidential. But I'm sure I don't have to tell you, there will be observers behind every panel of the wainscoting, taking down every word the two of you say. And it'll be in the hands of the Abwehr before you even leave the room. Any hint of levity, and what little we've achieved will go for naught. Remember what I said, Swithin. Your nation is relying on you."

And at that moment, the General commanding the Ambassador's personal Guard, resplendent in his full-dress uniform entered, clicked his heels and bade Swithin enter the chamber where the meeting was to be held."

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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:46 pm

Ilse took a deep breath and pressed her sweaty palms onto the cold marble of the window sill. She had told Major von Stachow to show in the English delegate in five minutes and these five minutes would be the only chance for her to collect her mind - most likely the only five mniutes Ilse would have alone today. Her eyes stared unseeingly into the colourful garden outside the window. Out there the red and white of poppys and carnations were about to swallow the blue hyathincs the lady of the house had planted before the war. She hoped this was not an omen forshadowing the results of these meetings.

A fly was crawling along the glasspanes of the window before taking flight again. The dull thuds of the insect trying to leave the room penetrated the silence of the room. Ilse empathised - she felt as if the world was out to cage her and watch her die as well. She siged and opened the window, ushering the little fly out. She just wished someone would do the same for her. She wished the little insect a good life but had the suspicion that a robin was about to snatch her out of the air and put an end to her life and career as a successful little fly.

The thick walls had preserved the coolness inside and the rays of the sun did little to aleviate either cold or dimness. It was not even noon yet and not only did she consider the need to call for alternative light sources but she also was thinking about adding a shawl. The coolness of the room was creeping over her raising goosebumps. She siged again and straightened her spine pushing away from the windowsill.With one look down she checked the fit of her clothes. With a quick stroke she straightened her trousers and pushed her corset strap back. If she were a real Lady she would have chosen a different corset for this shirt instead of spending all day in terror that she would flash her underwear at the foreign dignitaries.

She postitioned herself strategically so that the window, and its light source, was behind her. This would allow her to have the first look of the delegate whilst leaaving him blinded by having to focus on the sunny window behind her. This might be the only time in this whole farce in which she would be at an advantage.

But then she was no real lady
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:51 am

It is a basic axiom of military life that no plan survives contact with reality. There is but one thing that can be relied upon - that at some point, something will go wrong. Vital supplies will fail to arrive just when needed. The enemy will have an extra reserve battalion of steam-tanks that your careful reconnaissance failed to pick. A lucky shot will take out the divisional commander. It will pour with rain when you need sun, or drought will prevail when you need rain. You'll discover the one mistake in the map just when it has to be right. Whoever "Sod" was, the universal application of the law that bears his name proves that he must have been a soldier!

And, in like manner, all of Swithin's carefully prepared tactics were swept away. He entered confidently enough, adopting an upright march that seemed to impress even the ramrod militaristic guards. He could see them looking with respect at his medals - after all, few soldiers bore both the Elizabeth Cross and the King's Star. And he already had one eye shut, in anticipation they'd have seated the German ambassador with her back to the light. There was no way he was going to be dazzled and lose the psychological advantage - and the fact that they'd employed it showed they must be as nervous as he was! Oh yes, all was going so well...

But at that point his advantage was lost.

He carefully looked away from the window, allowing his eyes to adapt to the light. But at last, he had to look up. Look up and greet the expected fat, blowzy, hirsute hausefrau , no doubt with a multitude quivering chins and sagging breasts that threatened to obscure her kneecaps.

Except - she wasn't!

It was like opening up an envelope, expecting to find a final demand - and find it contained a gold-trimmed invite to the palace. Like kicking a piece of stone, and realizing that it's a massive jewel. Like...

This was no frumpy hausefrau! This was a veritable goddess!

His shock must have been visible, and he fought to get back on an even keel, desperately trying to hide his surprise. He blinked twice, coughed, and belatedly brought his heels together in the German manner, standing to attention and bowing respectfully.

The vision before him, in her white sleeveless blouse and simple, elegant black pants, with her cascading hair and gorgeous eyes seemed to accept his salutation almost nervously. Stand to attention? he'd have fallen down and worshiped her, if his mission hadn't been so important.

Was it a deliberate ploy, he wondered. Countering the British tactic of sending a handsome (for so he judged himself, being unencumbered by false modesty) war hero by the deploying of a vision of total loveliness? A plan to put him off his stroke. Well, he'd have expected that of the Italians, maybe, but he'd never credited the Germans with quite that much subtlety.

He stood to attention, and smiled. His adrenalin hadn't flowed like this since the time his tank had been surrounded by an entire Italian Regiment in the desert. It was a feeling he'd missed...

So now what? Would she extend her hand to be kissed? Give him a military salute? Ask him to stand at ease, or take a seat?

Or would he suddenly wake up in his hotel in the Panzerstrasse, with the sheets distorted into a massive tent-pole, the pretty maid bringing in coffee, and Manners chivvying him to get a move on or they'd be late for the breakfast with the Russian Ambassador?



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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Thu Mar 01, 2012 11:21 am

Ilse felt her whole body tense when the English delegate entered the room. This was the worst case scenario. This man would be her most dangerous opponent in these talks and he was everything that unsettled her. EVERYTHING! The way he moved into the room was reminiscence of the sleek and elegant movements of a cat. She HATED cats. His age was closer to hers than to the advanced years of all the other delegates. She did not do well with people her own age. He was more than good-looking with is tall and slender frame and hair that invited touch. Her hands almost convulsed from the near physical need to run her hands through the thick strands. A wave of heat travelled up her throat and she knew her cheeks were tinted red. She hated that she constantly revealed how unsophisticated she was by the blushing without a reason. And she blamed him. She was one step from hating him.

She had to retake control of this situation, of herself. She stiffened her spine and allowed all the cold that surrounded her mind since the day she had overheard her parents infuse her eyes. She crossed her hands behind her back and gave him a slight bow. Distance, she needed to keep the distance and she would be fine.

"Sir, I am very glad to be able to welcome you to Berlin. I have heard you have already made a survey of our stations and the amusements provided by our, shall we say, more gentile citizens. Shall we now consider the realities of our life and talk about why we all came here. I have heard that your talk with the Italian and Russian delegates have been successful" She considered him with a slight, superior smile that barely broke the line of her mouth. With her right hand she indicated a chair across from her before letting her sink into a high-backed one herself.

When she had originally surveyed the room she had wondered if she should not remove these heavy, ridiculously pompous chairs but she was now glad that she had not found the time to do so. With their red velvet upholstery and gilded wood they were over the top, more like thrones than chairs in a room that had originally been a small living room. But as she sat in the chair she felt like a queen, distant, cold and removed from anything. She felt a thousand miles away from him. She was safe. She could do this work.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:16 pm

As he allowed himself to be seated, Swithin’s mind was whirring. He was an expert on instantly noting and correlating details which other minds might miss – his very survival had often depended upon this ability – and as he’d entered, he’d registered two details that, taken individually, would have been easy to assimilate – but which were so contradictory as to cause him extreme confusion.

The first was that as he’d entered, he’d seen on the ambassador’s pretty face a look that could almost have been described as revulsion. As if she’d been confronted with a squashed insect or a particularly mangy dog. Of course, he was her enemy, and as a German aristocrat she’d presumably suffered the death or injury of loved relatives – but her own side had done plenty of killing and maiming too. It was to be expected in war. No, this was a particularly aesthetic revulsion, as if it were something in his appearance rather than his nature that so revolted her.

This, alone, he could have dealt with. But as she seated herself -

– and for once in his life, he was glad to see a woman wearing trousers. Had she been wearing a skirt, it would have ridden up to high heaven in these chairs, and his carefully cultivated air of indifference would have been shot to pieces like a tank facing a twelve-pounder gun –

-as she seated herself, another fact registered. A phenomenon with which he was readily familiar. When she’d greeted him and their eyes had briefly met, there had been a certain physical reaction in her, as if her earlier disquiet had been replaced by... well, either the German scientists had suddenly discovered the secret of youth, and were able to make a middle-aged woman look twenty – in which case she’d been suddenly taken by a menopausal flush... or...

Or that was a blush he’d noticed?

“Yes, Ma’am, And most enjoyable it was,” he said, airily. “It may be that I am considered unpatriotic for saying this, but I have always admired German culture. It was a pleasure to see the art gallery, and the museum.

“But as you say, there are certain realities that bring us here. And it’s of these we need to talk. Just a few hours before the ceasefire, the 7th German Army was surrounded at Koln, and at other points along the Rhine your security is threatened by British spearheads. French armor is already on the outskirts of Munich, and the German garrison in Copenhagen can only be days from surrender. In the Italian peninsula, the Gothic Line has been pierced in several places by British forces. British and French airships lay waste to your major cities nightly. And only last week, the Siegfried, Germany’s largest battleship, was sunk by the Britomart.

“And I’m sure we need not talk of the Russian juggernaut in the East. How much longer can a motley force of under-equipped divisions of old men and boys hold out against the Tsar’s hundreds of divisions? Courage is a large thing, Ma’am, but it can’t stand against overwhelming superiority in numbers and materiel.

“All in all, Ilse,” he finished, deliberately using her name for the first time, “It’s obvious that the ceasefire came at just the right time for your country, would you not say? In fact, it’s no exaggeration to point out that the very survival of your nation depends on what happens in the next few days or weeks. So – what message would you like me to take back to my superiors?”

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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:37 am

"Well, Swithin," She ensued his name with all the coldness she could "how is that plankton tasting? I hear that since the US is firmly fixed in not entering the war and we could shift the U boats south your supply lines from the empire are suffering a bit. I am very impressed with the siphoning of plankton contingency plan, by the way."

Ilse let her back rest against the armchair, lounging nonchalantly even though her stomach was in cramps of trepidation. She could feel the tension in each muscle of her body. She needed to establish a position of strength or these peace talks would stall right here and now. And these talks were important. No matter how self involved she was, no matter how much she was stuck in her own misery - she knew something more important was at stake here. These might only preliminary talks in preparation to the conference and they would set a tone. If she messed it up completely then Beck and Fromm, the senior delegates representing Germany at the conference, would, in the best case scenario, have a worst position. In the worst case scenario they would not even enter that council chamber and the conference would fail before it even started. The last 6 years of war had cost already 38 Million deaths. They all needed to sit at this table and come to an agreement. ANd they needed an agreement that would not lead to another war in twenty years.

" Oh, and how are the lease talks with the United States going? I hear they are increasing the interest payments again? Let us not beat around the bush, such a quaint English saying, we all need to come to an agreement. So why do we not stop posturing and try to do the work we were sent to do: prepare a peace conference."

Here, that sounded grown-up and collected. She leisurely crossed her legs, in defiance of all what Knigge would have to say about ladylike behaviour, and faced the man across from her squarely. Looking into his eyes was almost her undoing. To hell with her social inabilities and inhibitions. She could feel another blush rising in her face and desperately tried to think of something to forestall it.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:59 am

"Ah, yes," laughed Swithin, genuinely amused. "The plankton. Since you ask, it's revolting. It's a damn good thing that the Imperial German Navy doesn't have enough ships to also block our supply lines from Australia, New Zealand and India - or we'd be eating such things every day, instead of just trying it once as an experiment. But, given the figures, and the huge amount of tonnage your navy's lost - well, I suppose you can be proud of cutting out just one of our trading routes.

"Though," he added, almost as if he were discussing if the weather might break "One wonders how much longer they can keep it up, considering that after the Anglo/French airships have wreaked havoc with your mines, you can barely produce enough coal to keep your land armies in the field, never mind the much more coal-hungry steam-submersibles! That was a wooden door I saw burning in the street, I suppose? The civilian population haven't seen coal for a few months now, I'm told."

Her sally about the cost of lend-lease from The United States rocked him for a moment. He was glad that Manners had briefed him specifically on this point only that morning.

"Yes, close to doubling it, I hear. Nothing would surprise me about the Yanks, of course. And I have to admire the President's courage in sticking to the policy... despite the fact it's likely to lose him office in the Spring. I presume you've seen the rioting in the streets over there? Since that newsreel of Prime Minister Kirkdale has been shown in Kinemas there - you know, the one that points out that if Britain and France fall, America will be next - they've been burning him in effigy. Did you see some of those signs - "Stop jogging Britain's elbow, Trewmann," was about the least forceful of them. I wouldn;t be surprised if he suspends all interest and payments before the next election."

He smiled grimly. He watched as she crossed her legs, and the pants rode up slightly,revealing a slim ankle. He forced himself back to the task at hand. he had a duty to perform!

"However, don't think I don't accept your point. This war needs to come to an end - for the good of all parties concerned, the Allied forces and the German/Italian axis! 38 million people have died already - enough of a sacrifice to darkness, yes? So, Ilse - have you any ideas how we might bring that about?"

And then she met his eyes... and this time he knew she wasn't mistaken. She was blushing again.

He racked his brains as to how he could turn this to his advantage!


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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:54 am

Ilse rested her head against the crimson backrest of her chair. What was this man up to. He could not be stupid - no one would have appointed a complete idiot to this position. To much was at stake here. So why did he engage in such a confrontational strategy that any normal diplomat would simply walk out? They both had made their point, had established their positions of strength - now they would have to start actually talking, actually compromising. It was pointless to remain on this completely confrontational course.

She racked her brain for a hint of his strategy and motivation whist the room slowly warmed to the rays of the midday sun. The open window allowed a breeze to dance through the room and stroke over her exposed neck. For a moment she allowed herself to enjoy the sensual pleasure of the cool air on her skin, like fingertips stroking from her neck to her shoulder. She allowed her eyes to travel over the man across from her in the attempt to understand him and his country. Was there simply no interest in peace? She did not believe that. Could not believe that. Did not want to believe that?

He was a soldier and possibly just so enamoured of war. As enamoured as her brothers had been four years ago. Now, even they had tired of the endless slaughter, but others had not. Possibly this man, and his whole country, were like those. Then there would be no end. This was the strategy that had been employed at the end of the great war - and it had led straight here. Germany had been so desperate for peace that they had given in to all demands leading to a situations that caused another war. She would not stand for it. She would not make the same mistake. Most importantly, Ribbentrop would not. If this is the tack England was taking then it was the end.

But she could not believe it. Especially, as his information was so blatantly wrong that it had to be a ruse. The Rhur was the most abundant source of coal in Europe. This resource would run out eventually, but not within the next sixty or seventy years. The only country involved in this war with larger coal resources was the US and most of their resources were still untapped and therefore lacking in infrastructure. Yes, there had been rationing - but this was due to lack of workforce, not resources. And before the winter would easily be addressed through reshuffling. So what was his tack? He knew this. Every child knew this. It was such a transparent scheme to pretend ignorance that something must lie behind it.

She steepled her fingers and for a moment rested her forehead on them. Then she looked into Swithin's eyes and rose. "Good day, Major. When you are willing to talk and not posture, let me know. This will not be Versailles." To leave the room she would have to walk past his chair. She squared her shoulders and set her eyes for the door.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:55 am

Swithin responded to her exit a little later than he should have. To be honest, he found the sight of her tight rear, with the fabric of the trousers stretched across them, a little affecting! The fact, however, that he was only able to collect himself just in time was possibly to his advantage. The delay must surely have caused some doubt in her mind, he reflected.

"If you are going to play those games," his voice barked out - suddenly, loudly and crisply, so that even the Prussian officers outside might have been shamed - "You might as well hear the rest of it."

He took a deep breath, deliberately marshaling his thoughts.

"If I were the supreme commander of the Wermacht," he said, softly, "and were instructed to keep the German armies in the field for as long as possible, I could easily think of a strategy that would satisfy my Kaiser. By feeding every available man into the field, having women and children mine the coal and tend the factories, by utilization of the 'scorched earth' tactic, by contesting every inch of ground, by starving the civilian population... Oh yes, I could keep this war going for decades. Britain and France would be brought to their knees... not to defeat, but to their knees. Russia would suffer such danger that they would not be able to rebuild for a generation, perhaps two. And Germany would go down in history as the most heroic nation that ever existed.

"Oh yes, it would be a gradual retreat. The nation's territory would shrink further with every passing day. By the end of it, at Germany's defeat - her inevitable defeat, Ilse, as you well know - there would be nothing left. Nothing at all. There would be a blackened shell that used to be known as Berlin. A few thousand people, at best, to act as slaves to their Russian and French overlords. A savage, sterile race without even the means to sustain life.

"Germany would take its place beside the American Confederacy, the Maori race in New Zealand, the indigenous Tasmanians, the Selucid and Persian Empires, the Huns and Tartars. A once great nation, its history lost in the midst of time.

"And let me tell you, Ilse. That is exactly what the Italians, French and Russians want!

"Yes, the Italians don't dare see an end to this war. And who could blame them? Their bargaining position at the table is far from strong. The French? Not exactly Germany's best friends through the ages, would you not agree? The renaming of your nation Territore Noveau Francais" would meet with no objection in Paris, I think. Russia? I won't insult you by spelling it out.

"My own nation, however, is not in such a position of strength, I frankly admit. The idea of the resources of your nation and its empire divided between our hereditary enemy, France, and the Russian bear - who has long regarded our own empire as so much honey to be gobbled up if we let him... frankly, Ilse, the mandarins in Whitehall would piss their pants at the very idea.

"So in short, Ilse, I don't expect you to put any trust in my nation's benevolence, its sense of fairness, or its love of peace. Such things are the stuff of myth - or how on earth would we have acquired an empire that covers half of the world?

"What makes us your ally - your only ally - is my country's self-interest. And where Britain is concerned, that's a thing you can trust - up to the hilt. So before you close that door behind you, Ilse, take a moment to think.

"Do you really want to be the woman that condemns your nation to oblivion and despair - or are you prepared to discuss details of just what our countries might do in concert?"





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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:33 am

Ilse's hand was resting on the lacquor of the wite door as Swithin's voice reached her. She so wanted to rest her head against the smooth, cool surface in front of her. But that would be unprofessional..... and weak. So she took a deep breath and turned back to this disquieting man and listened to him. She could hear, and knew the truth in his words. She knew that her own nation's future rested on these talks. They were at an end. Absolutely. And if these talks took the tack of those twenty years ago they would be here again soonn. And Germany woould not be able to survive another war - either physically or mentally. Another war would destroy what was left of this nation in culture and character. This was aside from the hundreds of lives that were lost each minute in which the war persisted. And the only possible ally to her country was sitting in a thronelike chair across from her.

She pretended nochalance and rested her shoulder blades against the door, crossing her arms under her breasts. She had seen this position a thousand times in her father, her uncle, even her superiors, whenever they wanted to intimidate, to comand, to dominate. She had felt teh effects and envied the easy elegance invovled in it. It was such a male position. Any woman above the age of 14 knew how uncomfortable it was to feel the weight of theirr own breasts on your arms. But she wanted him to forget that she was female. To be honest, she wanted to forget it herself. Here she was the German representative, in command, powerful, in control. She was not Ilse, the disappointing daughter, the invisible woman. No matter how much Swithin's gaze on her made her more aware of being female than anyone ever had. Here she was genderless, competent, visible.

She narrowed her eyes at him as he spoke of English benevolence and fairness. She had no problem with his assessment of the current political situation. She knew that the English were the only practical solution, the only ones with some interest in coming to a fair accord between the nations. She was not as blinded as her superiors which were hoping for a renewal of the age-old relationshipo with Russia. But she was also too practical, or possibly cynical, not to know that it was self-interest that guided each of their nations. Honour, fairness, loyalty - they were fairytales she had long since discarded. Her heart might yearn for them but she knew too well not to trust another human being, not even family. And what was a nation other than a collection of human beings and families.

Ilse pushed away from the door and sauntered back into the room. She stopped at the sidetable on which decanters of port, whiskey and madeira were arranged. She poured herself a drink and raised an eyebrow to Swithin:
"Now that we are coming down to business - would you like a drink?"
She took a sip and enjoyed the burn off the liquid on lips and down her throat. She licked the last droppes of the alcohol from her lips and looked Swithin squarly in the eyes.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:51 am

"Now that," laughed Swithin, "I like the sound of. If you have a Scotch Whisky there, I like the sound of it even better." He sat back and watched Ilse pour the drink. Manners had warned him not to overindulge in alcohol - but watching Ilse walk away had roused certain emotions in him, and he needed something to damp down his libido. "No - don't worry about ice and water, and such - I'll take it as it comes, thanks."

He waited until she was seated before continuing, noting the way her tongue slipped out and licked the last of the drink from her lips. I'd have done that for you, if you'd asked, he thought, and fought the feeling down. He had work to do, here.

"Now, Ilse, the thing is," he went on, "is that face needs to be saved. If Germany backs down too easily, the Kaiser will lose the support of much of the aristocracy, and probably the people too. And it will demoralize the German people, thus making them less effective as allies for the future. I speak from Britain's point of view, you understand. Surrendering with your main armies still in the field was a disaster last time - it gave the totally incorrect impression that the nation had no stomach for a fight.

"Against this, leaving it too long would have an equally negative result. As things stand, the German people still have the means to survive. Factories, mines, farms, roads. An army to keep the peace. If this goes on too long, all you'll have is a nation that no-one will bother making an alliance with. In short Ilse, your country is in the same position as an attractive but fast-aging spinster. You have to make what match you can, before your desirability fades altogether.

"Now, Ideally, I'd like to know just what resources you possess, and the likelihood of your chances of a military success in the East." He held up his hand, "Don't bother saying it - you aren't going to commit treason by telling me, and I commend you for it. Such knowledge would be handy for me, but I know I can't have it. So...

"Tell me this instead. Being the sensitive, attractive woman you are, you'll surely understand what will happen to you, and most of your female compatriots, if the Russians take Berlin and your other major cities. I understand the phrase beloved of old romantic melodramas is 'a fate worse than death.' At some point before this happens, you will wish the war to come to en end. My question is - how close need the Russians get to the city, before that point comes, and German womanhood wants peace at any price.

"Or would you sooner avoid it, by surrendering to Britain now, and having British forces occupy the main cities of Germany? Not French, just British. Trust me, neither Russia or France will push the point against Britain - especially with the still-strong remnants of a German army to back them up.

"And less you think this is s scare tactic, let me assure you of one thing. Whatever happens, you personally will be unmolested. Why?

"Because I've gained respect for you in the short time we've been together. And I'll make it my business to see you're safe!"

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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Nicola Christine on Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:37 am

Ilse crossed her legs and sat back in her chair. What drivel! Did he think that invoking the threatening image of rape would make her forget the well-being of herr people. She saw the logic of his argument regarding the economic state of Germany and she knew that the earliest this war would come to an end the better - but she would not be patronised.

"And you are claiming that rape and torture are unknown in the English army? You might use it less "systematically" as a form of warfare but let's not pretend that it is not a common occurence in war all over. I am neither that stupid nor that naive to trust you and your transparent attempt to cowe me says all there has to be said about your "respect" for me." She tried to freeze him in his seat with one of the looks she had seen her sister employ a thousand times when she wanted to repress pretensions.

"I also notice that in your plan it is England who would be profiteering over all others. Possibly I should take this proposition to the other representatives for considerations?" To her horror she felt the strap of her corset slide up her shoulder. Blast - did the stupid thing have embarass her just now when she was trying to make a point. She needed to appear strong here.
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Re: The Last Argument (Nicola Christine and Sy23)

Post by Sy23 on Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:30 am

"Absolutely not," admitted Swithin. "The British are the same as anyone else - and taking a city does strange things to a soldier. I've seen it often enough."

His eyes widened slightly as he saw a shoulder-strap of her underwear slide into view. The slight flush on her face seemed to have returned as well. Either she realized her underwear was rebelling, or this talk about rape was exciting her.

"The thing is, though, the spearheads heading for Berlin and the other major cities are the elite of the British army. Crack, well-disciplined troops, who tend to obey orders. Their officers will be able to restrain them - well, to a significant extent, anyway. The Russkies are advancing on a much wider front, and they tend to use their... well, let's say their less-disciplined troops - as cannon fodder. I've no doubt the Red Guards would behave as well as any British unit, but... well, it's a much greater risk, you see. And as for the French - well, they;re thirsting for revenge, and they wouldn't regard it as rape so much as waste disposal. Sorry to be blunt, but..."

He spread his hands in a "you-know-what-I-mean" gesture. As he looked at her, he confirmed that it hadn't been his imagination. The shoulder strap of her underwear was now clearly visible. It was the wide kind of strap he associated with corsets... that might explain why she was looking a tiny bit distressed. As well as being embarrassed he'd know that her perfect figure was due to artificial aid, he'd had girlfriends tell him that once a corset ceased to sit properly, the discomfort could be annoying in the extreme. And the poor thing could hardly yank it back into position, not during a diplomatic exchange on which the future of her country rested.

Part of him began calculating as to how he could use her loss of concentration to his advantage. The other part felt sorry for her... what a time for her underwear to undermine her social poise! The second emotion puzzled him - why was he feeling so protective towards her?

"And naturally, my plan is for England to profit over all others," he continued, blandly. "That's my job, after all. I'm sure I needn't tell you the ambassadors from the other countries also have their respective nations' interests at heart. By all means, discuss it with the others. If you can get a better deal from Ivan or Pierre," (he gave the generic British slang for the two countries) " -then I wish you luck. But, frankly, Ilse, I doubt you will."

He smiled at her, and accidentally, his eyes shifted to the visible corset strap, and then back.

"Thing is, Ilse - this plan I put together with my superiors. I doubt I'll get more than one chance to get it acted on - there's elements in Whitehall favor stronger measures altogether. And I'm serious here!"

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