This scene briefly contains racism.
Nocht Federation — Rhinea
Cecilia Foss left her cab about an hour before noon, and sighed to herself with relief.
“I made it in time. I should get her something.” She said to herself.
She looked around the street and spotted the chocolateur’s shop she had visited once before. Due to its stiff prices, she had hoped to avoid it. However, there was a dearth of choices. Agatha wouldn’t have accepted flowers and Cecilia knew not the condition of her waistline, so she could not buy her clothes. Any of the other categories of appropriate gifts would’ve been too expensive for their sorts of rendezvous. She loved Aggie, but what modern sapphic had the money to buy a lover diamonds and pearls or caviar and wine?
Shaking her head with consternation, Cecilia stepped into the chocolateur’s.
Though that annoying old man was nowhere to be seen, his hand was everywhere.
There was a short line at the register; and an extra decimal place on many of the prices.
Cecilia sighed deeply. She went to pick up a box of truffles a size smaller (and a decimal place shorter) than the one she had bought before. As she reached to swipe the cheap box before anyone else saw the thrifty purchase or contested it, she struck a gloved hand.
“Excuse you–” She was about to hiss venom, but was surprised by the hand’s owner.
Drawing back from her was a man in a grey coat and cap, lanky and disproportionate, as if he had been extruded through something. He looked big and tough but it was all coat, Cecilia could tell from the neck, and the flash of wrist. Thin, an older man, with an angular appearance, grave in the face, with a sharp nose. He had a tired look about him.
“Einschel?” Cecilia asked.
“Cecilia.” Dreschner said.
She blinked, and knew not quite where to start. She never really did with Dreschner.
He had been something like a father to her, but not enough to make things easy.
Or perhaps they were as easy as they could be. She wasn’t sure how she would think of a “real” father, and maybe it had been for the best Dreschner wasn’t so hands-on.
“Those were for you. I can pay for them and you can take them for your purposes.”
“Interesting. You’re not going to visit Flavia?”
“I think she would rather I did not. This one was the last straw for her.”
Cecilia imagined in her head some kind of comical scene with Dreschner’s wife forcing him to choose between panzers and herself, and Dreschner driving away in an old M2. It was probably something more tragic than that; but at any rate that was none of her concern. She nodded her acknowledgement to Dreschner, and picked up the box.
Together they walked to the cash register and stood in line.
“Are you here for the Allied Forces Assessment?” Cecilia asked.
“I was called to report personally.” Dreschner said.
He sounded curiously unemotional toward such a notable achievement.
“I didn’t think you were important enough for that.” Cecilia teased.
“I’ve become more important.” Dreschner replied.
Of course; he had gone to Ayvarta, like he had gone to the islands before.
To make something of himself in the war, to advance his status.
“Are you satisfied with your progress then?”
He sounded blunt enough now she did not ask him to elaborate.
“Why visit me?” Cecilia asked.
“Flavia has our sons, and her sons. She has family. You’ve got less.”
Cecilia felt compelled to snap back at him. “I don’t need you.”
“I’m not here because I’m needed or wanted. I’m simply here.”
“Do you want to be here then?”
“I am here.”
Over their awkward exchange rose a third voice, in anger.
“God damn it, learn to count or go back home!”
Cecilia raised her eyes. Behind the cash register was a dark skinned woman, long-haired, dressed in a smart-looking uniform with a baker’s cap. She was struggling with change for a large denomination mark. A man in a thick fur coat and cap heckled her from the other side of the counter. Every time he shouted, she shook up, and probably had to start over counting. Cecilia sighed. Everyone else in line was becoming uncomfortable with it.
“Shorry sir, un momend.” Said the cashier, on the verge of tears.
“You’ve had enough time! You and your kind are nothing but an inconvenience! Dragging the world into war and dragging the fucking shops into the stone age now too! You can’t learn the language, you can’t learn to count, what’s wrong with you, lazy m–”
Dreschner stepped forward from his place in the line.
“Jeez, Einschel stop–”
Cecilia couldn’t grab his coat fast enough.
He charged up to the register, and delivered a sharp shove to the man’s shoulder.
“Hey what the fu–”
Upon seeing the uniform, the irate customer paused in his tracks.
His face turned white and his bravado seemed to leave him.
“You are holding up the line, you sniveling coward.” Dreschner said.
“General.” mumbled the man.
Dreschner stepped forward, once more invading the man’s space.
“You can tell my rank? I bet you’re a failed recruit. You wouldn’t last two seconds in Ayvarta. These people you so disdain would humiliate you, you worthless fool.”
Dreschner nodded to the lady behind the register and counted the money quickly.
“You don’t deserve to even breathe the air she and her people do. Take it and go.”
Dreschner threw the coins at the man’s face.
Stumbling backwards, he scrambled around the shelves and left the shop.
He turned to the rest of the people in line.
“Do the rest of you have some decency and patience?”
There were nodding heads.
Cecilia covered her face in her hands and wanted to die.
Once it was her turn at the register, she thought to apologize to the woman, who was surely embarrassed and shocked and distressed by the whole thing, but she figured, the woman would be even more embarrassed, shocked, and distressed, by receiving the pity of a stranger at the cash register. So she merely pushed Dreschner away like a rambling grandfather prior to exchanging her money; and she made sure to give exact change.
“Dank you so mush.” said the young lady at the register.
Cecilia blinked and looked up from the chocolates and the cash in her wallet. She took actual notice of the woman then. Her Nochtish was okay; her voice deep and lovely. Rich brown skin, smooth dark hair, a little yellow dab of something on her nose, rich red lips.
She had a radiant smile and gorgeous green eyes– and a good figure too.
There was something the cashier girl was trying unsuccessfully to hide at her station.
Cecilia was tall enough to see a familiar little green book lying behind the register.
It was the same sort Cecilia had read when studying for her own citizenship.
After that one war, that made it a little dirty to be a Frank, to speak with an accent.
“Here’s my number, call here at night if you need someone to practice with.”
Cecilia quickly scrawled it down and handed it to the cashier, whose face lit up.
“I sertainly vill! Dank you so mush–”
“Cecilia. Tell me yours when you call me, doll.”
With a flourish of her blond hair, Cecilia turned on her heel and departed the shop.
At her back, the Ayvartan cashier girl watched her leave, probably in awe.
Perhaps she felt a sense of the romantic mystery left in the air in Cecilia’s wake.
Cecilia, however, just felt so awkward that she had to leave immediately.
“What was all of that?” Dreschner asked, following several steps behind her in haste.
“Ugh. Don’t talk to me. I don’t know you. I don’t know anyone at all.” Cecilia said.
“Well. I don’t know what to do with you. I try to be generous, I try to help you–”
“You know what to do now, and it’s not talk to me.” Cecilia replied.
Dreschner paused for a moment, boiling over red.
Cecilia kept on walking with an inexpressive face and a careless swing to her gait.
Despite this, Dreschner continued to follow behind her as they went down the main street in Rhinea. Perhaps he was going the same way, or perhaps he had something still to say.
Whatever the case, she was ignoring him.
She hoped dearly to hear that girl calling. She was probably her type.
That would make this hellish day worthwhile, Cecilia thought.
Windsbach station repair personnel looked upon the radars with consternation.
Repairs on the ACS would not be speedy, and it was necessary to make absolutely sure before a piece of the defense network was taken offline, that it was necessary to do so. That it could not limp along, that it could not be troubleshooted, that what was on that screen was not supposed to be there, or caused by some external force. They knew not about the significance of the aluminum, not yet. When a radar was taken apart, the base went on lock-down. FREIJA was the most guarded secret of Nochtish information tech.
Windsbach, however, was not alone. All across the Federation’s northern and eastern coasts there were a series of oddities that had the radar engineers calling back and forth.
“Varburg, this is Windsbach, we got large bogeys headed north-northeast, do you copy?”
“Negative Windsbach, don’t know what to tell you, we got clear skies over here.”
“Tauta, this is Kielring, the lights here are screaming aircraft, what’s your status?”
“Got nothing weird up here Tauta. You must have your ACS going or something.”
It was exhausting for all parties involved. With their hearts clutched hard in their chests, their lungs screaming for breath through the stress, through the uncertainty, they called their counterparts, and they worked over the lines, never looking directly at the skies, only at the infallible FREIJA, the invaluable FREIJA. In this solipsistic shelter they worked out the procedure to the letter, with the utmost care, to insure secrecy, efficiency, safety.
“Just to be safe, fighter patrols are routing to the affected areas until the dishes are fixed.”
Everyone was thankful for the eyes, but their work had to continue regardless.
There were more exchanges. Every different place, calling every other different place.
A silent panic to the world at large, for all the stress was confined to the wires.
“Ciel, this is Morthufe, we’re having a spot of bother with these dishes. Your skies clear?”
“No, we’re having the same trouble, but we called the observatory at Cathgad. Nothing.”
“God damn it.”
“Schneeheim, this is Junzien, we got clear skies, but the coasts are going nuts. How’s–”
Soon as the operator in Junzien connected to Schneeheim there was a great rumbling over the telephone line, it sounded like they were in the middle of an earthquake over there. This gave the Junzien radar center a great fright, and that fright turned to terror with every scream of desperation that Schneeheim managed to send through the unfolding chaos.
“We’ve got fighters over the ice, how the hell did they get through, Junzien?”
Nobody wanted to acknowledge the significance, because if they did, it would become a matter of whose fault it was. It was already one — how the hell did they get through — but it would become someone’s responsibility to fix it the moment it was acknowledged. And so everyone was speechless, shellshocked into submission as Schneeheim screamed for help.
“We’ve got people on the ground, we’ve got guns firing, but it’s too much!”
Patrols were alerted, in mealy-mouthed tones, that something was happening up north.
Vaguely, Tauta, and Ciel, and Windsbach, and those other places, were briefly spoken to.
“Oh god they’re Helvetian! Those are Bearcat II and Cathawks! Helvetians!”
This was perhaps the last thing anyone wanted to hear about this situation.
And it would be the last thing they heard.
At that point the line to Schneeheim died, and it was no longer their problem.
It was Junzien’s; and it was also Rhinea’s.
Both lay within the immediate zone of attack of any force that hit Schneeheim.
Especially a Helvetian heavy bombardment force prepared enough to blind their radars.