Deulofeu


Shortly after the tragedy of the Stargazer Incident, a member of the late Chairman Richthofen's staff pays a visit to a Nebraskan family.

Warning: This story contains spoilers for Ticonderoga - Volume III.

Location: Omaha, Nebraska, Former United States, North America Province, Earth
Date: Sat 27 May 096
Time: UST 1425 (0925 Local Time)

In an ordinary house, two children sat in front the TV, a girl about ten and a six-year-old boy. Their entertainment was interrupted when the doorbell rang.
"It's your turn to get the door, Simon," the girl said.
Reluctantly the boy, Simon, went to the door, walking backwards so he would not miss any of the show, tripping on the step leading into the entryway. Simon checked the viewscreen and saw a woman in a suit and a little kid on the front step. It was probably safe to open the door.
When the door opened, the woman looked down at Simon and smiled.
"Hello there," she said. "Are your parents home?"
Simon turned and shouted, "Mom! Dad! There's someone at the door."
It did not take long for his parents to come to the entryway.
"Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Harold," the woman in the suit said, "my name is Käthe Jürgens. I am a member of the Chairman's staff. I have some important business to discuss with you. May I come in?"
"No," the father said gruffly. "We don't want you government types around here."
"Harman..." the mother replied, as if he were a child who had just embarrassed her in public.
Undeterred, the woman in the suit--Ms. Jürgens--said, "Mr. Harold, please, just hear me out."
"Harman, let's hear what she has to say," the mother said.
Ms. Jürgens smiled.
"Thank you, Mrs. Harold."
The father grudgingly stood aside to let Ms. Jürgens in. She beckoned for the child with her, a bespectacled boy not even four years old, to follow.
"Come along, Dieter."
Ms. Jürgens took off her shoes and knelt down to help little Dieter take off his. After lining up their shoes neatly by the door, she took Dieter's hand and followed the Harold's into the living room. Seeing the girl sitting in front of the TV, Ms. Jürgens walked over to her and said, "Hello, little girl, what's your name?"
"Esther," the girl replied.
"Esther, could you watch Dieter here while I talk to your parents?"
Esther looked to her mother, who nodded to her.
"Okay."
"Thank you, Esther."
Leaving Dieter with Esther, Ms. Jürgens walked up to the parents and asked them in a low voice, "Is there a place we can speak in private?"
Mrs. Harold gestured to the hallway and said, "This way."
Mrs. Harold led Ms. Jürgens to the kitchen. Though there was a counter with an open view of the living room, Mrs. Harold closed the shutter to give them additional privacy. She then motioned to the kitchen table.
"Have a seat, Ms. Jürgens," she said.
"Thank you, Mrs. Harold," Ms. Jürgens replied.
"Can I get you anything?" Mrs. Harold asked. "Coffee, tea?"
"Some coffee, please, but only if you already have some made up."
"Oh, I can't be giving a guest in our house old coffee," Mrs. Harold said. "It'll just take a minute."
Ms. Jürgens did not refuse this gesture of hospitality. Mr. Harold was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, scowling at Ms. Jürgens but saying nothing.
"Do you want any milk, sugar or cream with your coffee, Ms. Jürgens?" Mrs. Harold asked.
"Some milch, I mean, milk, if you would, please."
Although Ms. Jürgens spoke in generally flawless, unaccented Standard, the slip into her native German did prompt Mr. Harold to raise an eyebrow.
"Deutscher from der Vaterland, eh?"
"'Deutscherin' and 'das Vaterland', Mr. Harold," Ms. Jürgens corrected. She then cleared her throat and said, "Excuse me. That was rude of me."
"Oh, don't you apologize to him, Ms. Jürgens," Mrs. Harold said, bringing over a tray with three coffee cups on saucers, a little pitcher of milk, a container of hazelnut-flavored creamer and some sugar packets. "Harman was the one being rude."
Mrs. Harold served Ms. Jürgens first, then herself and lastly set a place for her husband, who did not move from his place on the wall. Ms. Jürgens said a quiet "thank you" as the cup, saucer and pitcher of milk were set down in front of her.
Mrs. Harold beckoned for Mr. Harold to sit down, but he did not move a muscle. After dropping her hand in exasperation and sighing, Mrs. Harold took hold of her coffee cup and turned to Ms. Jürgens.
"Will you please explain what this is about, Ms. Jürgens?"
Stirring the milk into her coffee, Ms. Jürgens replied, "Of course. Mr. and Mrs. Harold, surely you've heard the news about the Stargazer and Chairman Richthofen."
Mrs. Harold took a sip of her coffee and said, "That cruiseliner that was destroyed the other day, right? It's all over the news. They said the Chairman and his family were onboard."
"They were and their loss is a severe blow to the Union," Ms. Jürgens said.
She set down the spoon she was using to stir her coffee, folded her hands and looked to both of the Harolds.
"It is my sad duty to inform you that your daughter was accompanying the First Family and was unfortunately among the losses."
Mrs. Harold gasped, holding her free hand up to her mouth. Mr. Harold, however, continued to scowl as he had ever since he first laid eyes on Ms. Jürgens.
"That girl was lost to us the day they took her away for that so-called 'internship'," he grumbled. "What does this change? I want you out of my house and I don't want to see you or your people again."
"Mr. Harold, please hear me out to the end," Ms. Jürgens said. "The boy in your living room is Dieter Richthofen, the Chairman's son. As far as the public is concerned, he didn't survive the Stargazer's destruction."
"Why are you telling us this?" Mrs. Harold asked.
Looking to her left and her right, Ms. Jürgens replied, "We still don't know the reason why the Stargazer was attacked. We can't rule out the Chairman's assassination as the motive. If so, Dieter's life may be in danger."
Mr. Harold grunted.
"What difference does that make to us?"
"Harman!"
Ignoring Mr. Harold's indifference for Dieter's safety, Ms. Jürgens said, "Mr. and Mrs. Harold, we want you to take custody of Dieter."
Mrs. Harold looked at her in bewilderment.
"What? Why us?"
Leaning in toward Mrs. Harold, Ms. Jürgens said, "What I'm about to tell you doesn't leave this room. Dieter is the late Chairman's son, but not by Mrs. Richthofen. He's Tabitha's son."
Mr. Harold's cold facade melted then and there. His eyes widened and his jaw hung slack.
"But... but she... She was only fourteen... How...?"
Mrs. Harold bowed her head and sniffed, stifling her tears.
"So that was it after all..."
"Jemma?" a confused Mr. Harold asked.
"You people weren't fast enough," Mrs. Harold said. She looked Ms. Jürgens right in the eye and asked her, "Did you think her own mother wouldn't notice?"
Mr. Harold was still so stunned that he could barely ask his wife, "Jemma, why, why didn't you say anything?"
Mrs. Harold looked at her husband. Only through considerable self-control was she keeping herself from breaking down, but it could not stop the tears from streaming down her face.
"What could we do? If we kept her, Tabitha's life would've been ruined. Her reputation would've been ruined. Our reputation would've been ruined. Lord only knows how far Richthofen's people would've gone to bury the whole thing. I made a choice. I took the chance that she'd be treated well there."
"How could you make that decision without me?" Mr. Harold asked, sounding deeply wounded. "How could you keep it from me all these years?"
"Don't act like you didn't have your suspicions, Harman," his wife replied sharply. "You disowned her. You pretended like she was never born. You forbade the kids to even say her name."
Mr. Harold slumped back into the wall, stammering, "I... I thought she abandoned us. I thought... I thought..."
"Mr. and Mrs. Harold," Ms. Jürgens said, "I know this is a lot to take in, but Dieter needs you. Please."
Recovering his earlier bitterness, Mr. Harold asked, "Why should we have to take in that bastard's bastard?"
"Harman, that boy is innocent," Mrs. Harold said, wiping away her tears. "None of this is his fault. And now he's all that's left of our Tabitha."
She turned back to Ms. Jürgens and took hold of her hands.
"We'll do it."
"Jemma!"
Mrs. Harold did not even look at her husband as she said, "Harman, I've made up my mind."
It was now Ms. Jürgens' turn to get misty-eyed.
"Thank you, Mrs. Harold," she said, her normal professionalism unable to hide the emotion in her voice. "I'll personally see to it that your family is taken care of."
Mrs. Harold nodded. That settled it.
Ms. Jürgens withdrew her hands to wipe her eyes, then took a deep breath to regain her composure.
"Dieter needs a new identity," she said. "He's young enough that he'll accept whatever story you tell him in time. We'll adjust the official records to match."
"My sister died in a traffic accident two years ago," Mrs. Harold said. "We can say he was her son that we adopted. We'll move to a new district, away from the people who know us."
Surprised, all Ms. Jürgens could say was, "That was fast, Mrs. Harold. How about a name?"
"Matthias," Mrs. Harold said, as if that had been Dieter's name all along. "We'll call him Matthias."