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Chapter 61

The first thing Prince Ulrik was aware of as he recovered a rather groggy consciousness, was the steel bar clamped across his chest. He blinked as he set his oddly drifting mind the task of figuring out what was happening.

He was in the water—cold water. Water so cold his extremities were already beginning to feel numb. Was that one of the reasons his brain seemed to be working so slowly, as well?

He blinked again, then coughed harshly. The top of his skull seemed to separate from the rest of him, and his throat burned as the saltwater came up. It was thoroughly unpleasant, but it also seemed to joggle his mind back to awareness.

He rolled his head. The steel bar across his chest, he discovered, was Baldur Norddahl's left forearm. The Norwegian was towing him through the water with a powerful sidestroke.

For a moment, Ulrik wondered what had happened to the galley. Then he remembered. The explosion had seemed muffled, almost silent. He couldn't really remember it as a sound at all, he realized. But he did remember the sudden, incredible lifting sensation—a sensation much like a stone hurled out of a catapult might have felt—as the galley's bows reared upward.

That was all he remembered, but as he looked back, he saw the shattered galley lying on its side, sinking rapidly. There was no sign of most of the crew. A handful of swimmers struggled through the water in Norddahl's wake—that was all he could see . . . out of a crew of seventy-six.

Ulrik gave himself a mental shake, then reached up and patted Norddahl's forearm with his right hand. The Norwegian stopped swimming for a moment, looking back at the prince, and his craggy face blossomed into a huge grin.

"Good!" he said. He released his grip, although it was obvious he was prepared to take Ulrik in tow again if the prince proved less recovered than he thought he was. Ulrik appreciated that, but he shook his head again and began treading water beside Norddahl.

"Good!" the Norwegian repeated, then turned and pointed. "And now, we go there, I think," he said.

Ulrik followed the pointing finger's direction and felt a sudden, undeniable flare of satisfaction as he saw the sharply listing ironclad. The ship was still afloat, and from the looks of things, it might well stay that way. A part of Ulrik was disappointed by that, but only a part. Whether it sank or not, the ship clearly wasn't going to be participating in any bombardments of Copenhagen this afternoon. And, on a more selfish level, if it managed to stay afloat, Prince Ulrik of Denmark might just survive the day, after all.


"Captain Bollendorf is on the radio, Admiral."


Simpson dropped quickly down the internal ladder to the radio room. The radioman looked up at him, then handed him the microphone.


"Yes, Admiral." The voice coming back over the speaker was hoarse and rasping, but if there was any hint of despair in it, Simpson couldn't hear it.

"What's your situation?"

"Not good, sir, but a lot better than it could have been. We've been badly holed. The torpedo detonated underneath the left tunnel pod and the blast punched up through the bottom of the hull. The breach has to be at least ten feet across, and it's almost directly under the bulkhead between number two and number three trim tanks. They're both completely flooded, and so are three of the compartments inboard of the tanks. We've pumped out the other two trim tanks and all the ballast tanks, but we've still got a heavy list—Lieutenant Verlacht estimates it at around fifteen to twenty degrees. Some of the bulkheads around the flooded compartments have lost integrity, as well, but the pumps seem to be keeping up with any water we're taking on there. I don't think she's in any immediate danger of sinking, but we've definitely lost the port pump, and we're going to need major repairs."

"Casualties?" Simpson's flat, over-controlled tone shouted his own emotions.

"So far, we have three dead and eight wounded," Bollendorf replied. He paused for a moment, then added, almost gently, "It could have been worse, Admiral. A lot worse."

"Understood," Simpson replied. He stood thinking for a moment, rubbing one eyebrow with a forefinger, then nodded to himself.

"Head for Saltholm Island," he said. "Beach her in the shallowest water you can. We'll see about pulling her out of the mud after we finish dealing with Copenhagen."

"Aye, aye, sir," Bollendorf replied. Then he seemed to hesitate for a moment before he continued. "Admiral, we've recovered the survivors of the galley which damaged us. There aren't many; the blast from their own torpedo sank them. But one of them says that he's King Christian's son, Prince Ulrik."

"You've got Prince Ulrik over there?" Simpson said very carefully.

"Yes, sir. We do."

"I see. Hang on for a minute, Markus, while I find out what sort of shape Mülbers' bass boat is in now."


"Welcome aboard, Your Highness."

It wasn't the first time Ulrik had ever seen Admiral Simpson, but it was the first time they'd actually been introduced. The American officer's grip was firm, and his eyes examined Ulrik's face intensely.

"Thank you, Admiral," Ulrik replied. "I'm very grateful to Captain Bollendorf for rescuing my men."

Simpson's free hand made a small waving-off gesture, and Ulrik smiled wryly. The journey from Monitor aboard the "bass boat" from one of the timberclads had been . . . lively. The wind had freshened further, dispersing the remnants of his smokescreen as the combustibles on the rafts finally burned out. The flat-bottomed boat had bounced across the steeper swell like a skipping stone from a child's hand. The fact that only three of his galleys were still afloat—and that two of those were clearly foundering—had tightened his mouth with pain. He doubted that very many of those galley crews had been as fortunate as he had.

Still, Monitor was a worthwhile prize. True, he hadn't managed to sink her, which would have been worth the entire cost of his galley squadron twice over, but he'd certainly demonstrated that not even the ironclads were truly invincible.

"I wish I could have welcomed you aboard under better circumstances, Your Highness," Simpson continued. "Unfortunately, just as you, I have orders to carry out. Would you come this way please?"

"Of course," Ulrik replied, and followed the American up the ladder on Constitution's steep-sided casement to the open bridge wing. As he climbed, he was conscious of how much he missed Norddahl's solid, reassuring bulk at his back, but the Norwegian was still back on the Monitor.

They reached the bridge, and Simpson introduced Ulrik to Constitution's captain and executive officer. It was the first time Ulrik had actually been aboard one of the USE's American-designed ships, and he was deeply impressed by the interior of the conning tower with its up-timer lighting and carefully thought-out and arranged control stations.

"Very well, Captain," the admiral said to Captain Halberstat. "Let's get the squadron back underway."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Halberstat passed a quick sequence of orders, and the squadron resumed the steady advance Ulrik's attack had managed to at least delay.

The prince stood silently on the bridge, watching alertly. Everything he saw only impressed him more, and felt a deep temptation to chatter away to his captors about their marvelous equipment, but he suppressed it sternly. No doubt a lot of it was shock, and the result of sheer jubilation at finding himself still alive.

That wasn't the reason he made himself keep his mouth shut, however. He and Baldur had planned their defense of Copenhagen carefully, and they still had one last string to their bow, so to speak. So, Ulrik forced his expression to remain only interested and fascinated by his surroundings as the gunboats forged ahead once more.

* * *

Ajax led the reduced squadron toward Admiral Simpson's chosen firing point some hundred yards off Amager Island's defensive batteries. Captain Mülbers was back on his bridge wing, watching the white water foaming back from either side of Ajax's blunt bow. He didn't like to admit just how frightening he'd found the Danish galleys' attack. Not so much for his own personal safety, as for the safety of his vessel and the men serving in her. What that single spar torpedo had managed to do to Monitor was grim evidence of what could have happened if they'd been even a little less lucky in that smoke-strangled melee.

He grimaced at the memory, then worked his shoulders from side to side, trying to flex the tension out of them. It helped, and he reached for his binoculars again. He'd just started to lift them toward his eyes when the corner of his attention noticed something floating in the water directly ahead of Ajax.

It wasn't very big. Obviously, it was a piece of wreckage from one of the smashed galleys, or something of the sort. It couldn't be anything else, given the fact that they were heading back through the very area where the brief, madly confused engagement had taken place. Of course, it was remotely possible there were still survivors in the water, using some of that same wreckage for flotation, so—

Wolfgang Mülbers never completed the thought. The "wreckage" ahead of his ship was in fact one of the floating mines that had been towed along behind a dozen of Prince Ulrik's galleys. They'd been cut loose only after the smokescreen had hidden them from any observation, been left behind . . . which had put them squarely in the path of Admiral John Simpson's gunboats. Not only put them there, but left them in water that was obviously clear of mines because the galleys themselves had just passed through it.

Each mine was actually part of a cluster of three mines, roped together. The dot Mülbers had observed was part of one such cluster, but the dot that he didn't see was part of another cluster. One which SSIM Ajax had just run directly across.

The improvised detonators were less than reliable, just as Simpson had suggested might be the case in his earlier conversation with Captain Halberstat. Five of them completely failed to function. The sixth detonator, however, did exactly what it was supposed to. The mine to which it was attached exploded, and both of its companions went up in sympathetic detonation.

It was a thunderous burst of sound, but before it even truly registered, it was drowned by another, far more powerful blast as Ajax's magazine exploded.


John Simpson stared at the expanding ball of fire and smoke that had once been one of his timberclads. Bits and pieces of wreckage lofted outward from the heart of the blast, trailing thin ribbons of smoke across the blue northern sky. He saw one of the ship's carronades sail at least sixty or seventy feet straight up, and his jaw clenched so tightly he was astonished his teeth didn't shatter.

I put the magazines as low as possible to protect them . . . which put them exactly where a bottom-contact explosion could get to them, didn't it?

He wrenched his attention away from the explosion, looking over his shoulder. The expression on young Prince Ulrik's face was all the confirmation he needed. He realized exactly what Ulrik must have done—and how the Danish prince had succeeded in drawing Simpson into exactly the mistake he'd wanted.

For an instant, white-hot rage blasted up inside John Simpson. He'd known all of the officers and men aboard that ship. None of them could have survived that cataclysmic blast, and the man responsible for arranging it stood less than five feet away from him, within easy reach.

But as quickly as it had come, his fury shrank back to merely mortal proportions.

He was only doing his duty, the admiral told himself, the thought harsh in his own mind. Only doing his duty. And let's face it, he may have arranged it, but you're the one who walked straight into it. Which is exactly why you're so goddamned mad at him.

He inhaled deeply, then made his white-knuckled grip on his binoculars relax and turned to Captain Halberstat.

"I think we'll have a use for the bass boat after all, Franz," he said. "Please signal Ensign Halvorsen that we need him to take point. And pass the same word by radio to the other gunboats. Bring the squadron forty-five degrees to starboard until we're well clear of the engagement area."

"Aye, aye, sir," Halberstat acknowledged. He nodded to one of the signalmen, and Simpson looked at Prince Ulrik as the signal lamp mounted on the front of the bridge began to flicker at Halvorsen's powerboat.

"I see your father was telling the truth when he said Copenhagen wasn't defenseless, Your Highness," he said. The column of gunboats altered course while simultaneously slowing sharply to let Halvorsen take up his new station. "I wish I could congratulate you on your accomplishment. I trust you'll understand why I find that rather too difficult to do at this particular moment."

Ulrik nodded, just a bit gingerly. His own emotions were mixed. Although the mines had been his idea, and even though he and Norddahl were the ones who had worked out the plan to bring them into action, he'd never really expected one of these ships to simply blow up like that. Never imagined he would kill everyone aboard one of them. The sudden flush of triumph he'd felt was tempered by the knowledge that there could have been no survivors, and he was guiltily delighted when he realized the Americans' change of course would take them safely clear of any of his remaining mines.

Well, of course you're delighted, Ulrik! he told himself. After all, if they hadn't changed course, there's no reason this ship couldn't have been sunk, as well, and you've already been swimming once today.

The gunboats steadied on a heading that would bring them to his chosen firing position in about twenty more minutes. "I think, however," Simpson continued, as the shore batteries began to thump smokily, "that Copenhagen's defenses—effective defenses, that is—are just about expended now. Under the circumstances, I'd like to invite you to take another message from me to your father."


"Thank God you're alive, Ulrik!" King Christian blurted, crushing his son in a rib-popping, eye-bulging embrace. If Ulrik had ever doubted that his father loved him, that doubt would have been vanquished forever, and he felt his own eyes burn as he hugged Christian back.

"I'm alive, Father," he said, "but most of my men aren't. We did our best, but we didn't stop them. That's why Admiral Simpson sent me ashore to tell you that his original terms still stand."


Christian jerked back, his huge smile banished by an expression of ferocious determination.

"Father, they're ready to open fire. Trust me, the shore batteries aren't going to stop them, and my galleys are gone now."

"Maybe so," his father said half-sullenly. "But we've still got more of your floating mines, and wind and tide will carry them straight into those gunboats if we release them in the right spot."

"Father, there's no way to control the direction they'll drift if we turn them loose. They may get to the Americans, but they probably won't. And if they don't, then they'll be a menace to any other vessel that approaches Copenhagen. And even if we manage to sink another one of their ships, it's not going to change the fact that they're anchored right off the waterfront, ready to turn the shipyard—and the entire city, for that matter—into rubble."

"We won't sink one more of their ships; we'll sink all of them!"

"Father, I don't think we—"

"Yes, we can!" Christian thundered. "Can and will!"


It was a mark of his father's fury, thought Ulrik—almost mindless fury, now, even though the king was still completely sober—that he obviously hadn't given any thought at all to the most likely target of Admiral Simpson's guns. Being charitable about the matter, that could be explained by the fact that Rosenborg Castle, located in the center of the city, could not easily be fired upon by ship-mounted cannons. Not, at least, unless Simpson was prepared to have most of his shells missing the palace and landing in residential areas. But it was Ulrik's assessment that the American admiral was still doing his best to keep casualties down.

And why bother, anyway—when there was such a splendidly visible and obvious target right at the waterfront? Which, unfortunately, happened to be the very place that a prisoner was being kept—who, if he died, might very well send Simpson's temper soaring as high as that of the Danish king.

So, Ulrik left his father to his consultations with his gunnery captains and quietly slipped out of the Long Hall, then went first to his own chambers for the pouch of coins they'd be needing. For obvious reasons, he hadn't taken the pouch with him on the galleys.

He gave the trusted servant waiting there a little smile. "Since I'm still alive after all, I'll take care of the matter myself, Bent." The old man nodded stiffly, letting only a faint trace of his relief at the prince's survival show. He'd been Ulrik's manservant since the prince was four years old. They were very close.

"You're lucky you got here in time, Your Highness," Bent said gruffly, handing over the pouch. "I was about to leave."


Ulrik found Anne Cathrine where he'd told her to wait for him or Bent, if this plan proved necessary also. Not in her own chambers but in the king's so-called Golden Chamber, a small room Ulrik's father used for private meetings.

The moment he came into the room, Anne Cathrine seized him in a tight embrace. "Oh, Ulrik! I was so afraid you'd get killed!"

Despite the tension and anxiety of the moment, Ulrik felt himself awash with affection for his younger half-sister. The long winter months during which they'd slowly and carefully laid their plans—sometimes with their father's knowledge and agreement, sometimes behind his back—had brought the two siblings much closer than they'd ever been in times past.

But he didn't let the embrace last for long. There was very little time left.

"Here," he said, pressing the pouch of coins into his sister's hand. "There's plenty for whatever bribes you'll need to pay."

Anne Cathrine frowned. "They've already been paid," she protested.

Ulrik chuckled. "I'm trying to remember if I was that naïve when I was fifteen years old. I don't think so. Let me explain to you the secret of bribery, little sister. The one being bribed always wants a little extra at the very end, once he knows you really want him to do what you're paying him to do. Or not do, more often."

"That's rotten!" she snapped.

"Rotten or not, it's the way it is. Now go!"

She hurried toward the door, then stopped, just as she was about to leave, and turned around.

"I want two days!" She held up two fingers. "Two days, Ulrik, not an hour less. Before you tell Papà where we are."

He grinned at her. "This is all supposed to be very cold-blooded, little sister. High matters of state—your sole and only motive."

She sniffed as haughtily as a fifteen-year-old could manage. "Maybe for you. Not me. Not any more, anyway. Remember—I want two full days. Not an hour less!"

And she was gone.


"Damn the man!" John Simpson muttered as the white flag flying over the central battery slowly descended its pole. It was the agreed-upon sign to indicate the rejection of his terms, but the Danes waited punctiliously until it had been completely lowered before fresh jets of smoke and flame spurted from the defending artillery.

The Danish gunners were better shots than those of Hamburg had been. Round shot slammed into the three remaining ironclads' armor, skipping off in a deafening clangor like some berserk chorus of bells. More round shot made white circles in the water as they plunged deep, and others kicked up mud when they hit in particularly shallow water.

It was, Simpson was forced to admit, an impressive sight. In practical terms, however, it was accomplishing exactly nothing.

Unlike their frigging mines and torpedoes, he reminded himself.

That thought sent a flicker of uneasiness through him. Most of him was certain Copenhagen's defenders had shot their bolt. That this was simply Christian's typical bullheaded, bloody-minded obstinacy. But he wasn't about to ignore the possibility that Ulrik had contrived some additional deviltry that might yet cost Simpson more ships—and lives—if he allowed himself to be distracted.

I don't want to kill those poor damned gunners over there, either, though, he thought, glaring at the batteries and remembering the wreckage his guns had left behind at Hamburg. It's not their idea, after all.

His eyes narrowed suddenly, and his spine straightened.

Wait a minute. It isn't their idea, John; it's Christian's. So why don't you just find yourself a target that can demonstrate the depth of his . . . unwisdom even to him? Something prominent, something royal . . . 

His eyes lit on the tall finger of the Blue Tower rising above Copenhagen Castle on Slotsholmen Island, and he smiled thinly.

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