Winning Without Victory
a political and romantic fiction novel by Rolf A. F. Witzsche
Volume 3 of the 12-volume series, The Lodging for the Rose

Page 109
Chapter 9 - Glass Sculptures

      "That shows how difficult it is to respond in asymmetric situations," said Tony. "We get ourselves all set up and trained for the games that we expect to be played, and then someone comes along and plays a totally different game."

      "Arlington is certainly too close for comfort," said Steve.

      Ross had to help the policeman again with the spelling.

      "That's why the President wants to give the Soviet Union this tremendous gift," said Ross to needle the policeman on. "The President obviously recognized that the US is proportionately safer to the degree that the Soviet Union feels more secure, itself."

      "Proportionately is spelled ATELY at the end," Ross corrected the policeman.

      "It will be a great honor for you as a journalist and for your country to be the first to publish this story," said Ross to Ushi.

      Of course, all of this was written down.

      Ushi smiled.

      "And what is this gift?" the policeman asked.

      "You wouldn't expect us to announce in advance what the President of the United States of America is going to give to the people of the Soviet Union as a gift?" I replied.

      He wrote this down too. He wrote everything down, swiftly and neatly, though he evidently had trouble with the English spelling. Still, I wished I could write as neatly and as fast as he could. I admired him for that.

      When Colombo's man returned from the telephone mission, he said that General Gerber was unavailable for the evening. That's when Colombo insisted that we had to be kept under arrest until everything could be verified. Consequently he dragged us all to the police station. Luckily for us, he let us go back and stay at the hotel where we had checked in. I told Colombo that we would rent the whole floor so that he would have to post only a single guard.

      He agreed.

      With this twist of events, the investigation seemed to have ended, at least for the moment. Also, Colombo didn't write things down anymore. At the hotel, life returned almost back to normal. We were able to order food, drinks, anything we liked that was available through room service. And since Steve and Ushi felt not the least apprehension, neither did I. Heather suggested that we turn the whole situation into a party. Even our police guard allowed himself the indiscretion of occasionally having a drink with us.

      As it happened, nothing came out of the charges. Nor did we actually meet Ushi's boss. A policeman appeared early the next morning and gave us our passports back. With them he also brought a large document which he said is a special permit for Ushi and Steve to accompany us.

      We left immediately, straight to the Autobahn, then south to Stuttgart and further south across the Alps. We had lunch in Stuttgart on top of the tower, the tallest structure in all of Germany as the waiter assured us, though it probably wasn't. Dinner was delayed that day until we got to Innsbruck, where we stayed for the night. We stayed in a hotel that seemed to date back to the imperial epoch of Austria. If it wasn't, it was meant to appear that way by its decor. Then, early the next morning, with the first sunlight, we were off again over the Brenner Pass to Venice. Whatever clothing we needed for the hot climate was purchased along the way, mostly in Italy, and most of that in Venice itself.

      Heather and Sylvia were more than impressed with Venice. Ross and Tony, too. They found it romantic. Everyone loved the narrow streets without cars, alleyways connected with picturesque bridges across canals lined with old houses, a city of quaint cafes, shops, ice cream parlors, frescos, statues, churches, and tiny squares. Sylvia loved the cozy open markets, the market squares of the size of courtyards into which the sun rarely penetrated. But when the sunshine did penetrate, it brought the colors alive, the colors of the wares of the street vendors that sold everything from clothing to perfume, to paintings and musical instruments. Among the vendors were tiny Espresso cafes, almost hidden, and ice cream 'palaces' that added to the color. Even I was impressed by the gentle atmosphere. But mostly it was the colors and the sunshine that made the place appear romantic. Most outdoor stands were draped over as a protection from the ever-present birds. I just couldn't decide whether the profusion of color that matched anything in the rainbow, was not intended to secretly induce the sale of bright clothing to tourists that subsequently carried the color that had been lavished profusely in the markets, into the narrow passageways that were the streets of Venice.

      Only the buildings themselves were not so brightly colored as if the builders had no interest in 'attracting' the sunshine as did the tourist industry. The facades of the buildings were of darker hues that brought out the tones of countless passing years. Although Venice had been greatly transformed since my last visit, years earlier, its 'timeless' look had remained with a few modern touches added. The wooden bridge over the Grand Canal had been replaced with a modern steel and stained glass structure that combined the old era with the artistry of the New World. Also, the city was no longer dirty and decaying as I had vaguely remembered. It appeared to me as though the whole city had been renovated in preparation for a great festival. I didn't think much more about it. I just took it all in and enjoyed it as everyone else seemed to do.

      I noticed a poster sometime later in a store-window that made it quite clear that my first impression had been correct. The face of the city had been uplifted for a type of festival. The official plan, as far as I could make out from the poster, was to create a New Venice, a modern-day Italian Babylon. The city had been groomed in a bid to become the capital of Europe from the Ural Mountains to Gibraltar. Famous art treasures had been loaned to the city's main gallery that I didn't know existed. Also, I noticed a bright-yellow poster on the tourist information board. It said something about an "Universal Expo." Central to that Expo, so it appeared, was the redevelopment of Venice's ancient arsenal. The arsenal was the first thing Ross commented on when he saw the poster. The poster said that the arsenal was being restored to become an exhibition center for folklore history, as well as for modern technology and a lot of "other" things.

      "Those other things," said Ross, "might be things that may never become apparent to the average tourist who is unfamiliar with the Venetian Empire's history. Ross called the armory 'the first scientific laboratory for the development of feudalism'."

      Ross told us that in historic times the Venetian armory had been a model for a new kind of production-intensive social structure. The workers of the armory had continued to receive their wages under this new 'social' system after they were old and were no longer able to work. By this imperial 'generosity,' catering to the workers minimal needs, the arsenal had been able to attract the best craftsmen from near and far and retain them, which the imperial state required for creating the fleets of ships that gave it its power. "Their small concession to humanist value, drawn from sheer necessity, illustrates the tremendous importance of the arsenal to the Empire," said Ross with a tone of disgust in his voice. "Without that, the Venetian Empire would not have existed. An empire needs the strength of society to do its dirty work."

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