Chapter 35 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

A nod to modern Russian aggression in the conspirators' debate. Comments are welcome.

Chapter 35

In the second decade of the 20th century Stolypin’s forebears considered constructing a generous veranda just off the dacha’s main conference room. They went so far as to have an architect draw up plans that included an arboretum, a vineyard trellis, a large circular fountain, and a slate patio bordered by a low-slung stone wall that gently curved around the outside of the patio before tying into a large stone fireplace and chimney. The Russian Revolution, and a discretion born of self-preservation, ended any thoughts of augmenting the dacha’s already considerable opulence. The Communist Party functionaries who first occupied the dacha at the end of the Civil War in 1922 happened across the plans as they searched for evidence of the Stolypins’ counterrevolutionary tendencies, a favorite sport of party apparatchiks then and for years to come. The patio, considered by those who gave it any thought, as merely another spoil of victory, was constructed precisely as the Stolypins had contemplated through the efforts and at the expense of the proletariat.

Nearly a century later, a small cadre of conspirators and revolutionaries review and critique the merits of a plan few of them actually believed would ever come to fruition on that same veranda. The key to the plan has always been The Holy Lance, and its theoretical existence made scheming easy and relatively harmless so long as the coconspirators could be counted on to maintain their deliberations in secrecy. Now, as the theory seems certain to become a reality, the men enjoying the evening air east of St. Petersburg, men who occupy some of the highest ranks in Russia’s vast military complex, debate, perhaps for the last time, the wisdom of violently altering history, of bending it to their own desires through the swift and massive application of overwhelming force. Five men–three colonel generals of the Russian Federation Army, an admiral from the Federation’s Baltic Fleet, and a vice admiral from the Black Sea Fleet–know their actions will determine the fate of the entire world for the next century or more. They sip brandy and smoke cigars as they talk. A map of Russia sitting on top of a low-slung, wrought iron table in the middle of their small circle, prevents their discussion from straying into banalities.

“Admiral, we’ve been over this again and again. The divisions at Kaliningrad will be ready. I’ve ordered them into their quarters, but another exercise is scheduled for the end of the week. They can deploy on a moment’s notice.”

His naval counterpart from the Baltic Fleet interjects, as much to convince himself as to convince the others.

“The key is the Black Sea fleet. We have to cut off support that may come from the Mediterranean.”

A second general takes a confident draw on his cigar, exhales, and dismisses the vice admiral’s concerns.

“Once Belarus and Ukraine fall, we will easily roll up the Baltic states.”

“And at that point, perhaps we should take a breath,” the vice admiral counsels.

“If the power of the Holy Lance is as Stolypin claims, why?” his colleague retorts.

The vice admiral does not share his comrade’s casual optimism.

“Do you really think NATO is going to sit on the sidelines while Russia invades the Baltic States?”

The third general comes to the aid of his fellow army officers.

“You’ll have your nuclear subs poised to strike if NATO responds. The Europeans understand this, and will not have the stomach for such a fight. What did they do about the Crimea? Nothing!” he thunders.

He leans forward, meeting the gaze of each of the other four men and, in nearly a whisper, continues.

“And the Holy Lance changes everything. Its power is unimaginable. Once we demonstrate to the world the unprecedented power in our grasp, far beyond the crude power of nuclear weapons, our forces will go anywhere we wish, unopposed, on their way to restoring the full glory of the Russian Empire.”

The vice admiral, still unconvinced, sets his snifter on the map and stands. Stolypin, who has been absent for the discussion, makes his way out to the patio unnoticed by the vice admiral whose tone changes from skepticism to admonishment.

“And what if we are wrong? What if this new Tsar hasn’t the inclination for conquest? What if NATO and the rest of the world aren’t inclined to simply submit? Excuse my saying so, but history is littered with the unanticipated dead.”

Stolypin, smiling, enters the small circle.

“Second thoughts, gentlemen?”

“A hint of realism. Never a bad thing,” the vice admiral responds gravely. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I have some correspondence to attend to.”

He bows slightly, and his gesture is returned. He turns and heads for the dacha. The others wait until he is out of earshot before continuing.

“Keep an eye on your fellow sailor. If he is not with us, then you must take appropriate action.”

“He is simply cautious. I will watch him just the same,” the admiral reassures the others.

“You’ll be too busy. We’ll have to trust him. I have news from Echmiadzin. The lance has been found. The Tsar and I are leaving within the hour,” Stolypin announces.

The others are momentarily silent. The admiral picks his brandy snifter up from the table, stands, and breaks the silence.   

“A final toast then. To the once and future Russia!”