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[personal profile] amity33
 Hello everyone, and once again sorry to keep you waiting for so very long! Finally, the fourth part of the Celtic Spiral story is ready for you to read! It's a pretty big part this time, so I hope that'll help you forgive us for the long delay. Also, anyone who can help out with translating and/or typesetting is welcome to join us - keep in mind, more team members equals less waiting time! For now, click on the link below and enjoy the fourth part of this great Eroica story!

The Iron Rose Team!WUQkkaAa!QKBChVUWiNxrYMTzitfNwQV0UVPH42GaeYVclRJX6RQ
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[personal profile] telwoman
There's a new Eroica fic over on AO3, by SLq. Check it out.
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[personal profile] anneli

All works on Ao3 has been invited, but at least one owner need to approve the addition, why some are not in there. Please do, as it would be nice to have them all together. :)
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[personal profile] telwoman
I've just been on vacation in Alaska. I caught a distant glimpse of Tazlina Lake as we drove down the highway. I tried to take a picture but failed completely: too many spruce trees in the way. But, I can say I've seen it.
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[personal profile] amity33
Well, this is our new home I guess! Anybody knows how many members of the Imzy community have become members here and what activities we'll be doing from now on?
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[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... awaiting images**

Vacation Orders

The Chief and his fellow senior personnel are fed up with Klaus. He works too hard. He’s too ‘thorough’ – which is probably code for, “He’s a fanatic, and he’s over-critical of everyone who isn’t as fanatical as himself.”

They come up with a proposal to solve the problem, no doubt with a view to making their own lives easier. They need to get Klaus married off. They decide that first of all they will send him on vacation, where he’ll meet women. Then they’ll send him to his school reunion, where his old schoolfellows will talk about their families. They’ll also set him up with a pretty tour guide. Somewhere in all this, surely Klaus will meet the woman of his dreams?

Klaus, of course, can’t take his vacation orders at face value. He suspects it’s a top secret mission, so top-secret even he can’t be told what it’s about! The KGB, observing that he is leaving Bonn, also conclude that he is on a mission and start following him.

He dutifully goes to the school reunion, although he’s not enthusiastic. We learn that he was a hardworking student, but inclined to get into fights with the other boys. As he got older, he developed a reputation for defending weaker kids from bullies.

We also learn about his role in a big confrontation between their school’s football team and a rival team from across the river.

He visits Sister Theresa, whom he remembers as the kind young teacher who introduced him to fried potatoes. She remembers Klaus fondly, but their conversation doesn’t go well as he doesn’t like to admit that he still smokes and he isn’t married.

A phonecall from the Chief sets Klaus’s alarm bells ringing, so he calls Agent A who admits there was a conspiracy to get Klaus married off. Next minute, there’s a knock at the door: it’s a woman sent by the KGB to seduce him. Still angry from the phone call, and assuming she was sent by the Chief, Klaus sends her packing.

So instead, assuming the problem might be that Klaus has different preferences, the KGB sends a man – an Eroica lookalike – to make contact with him. Klaus knocks him out.

Vacation Orders gives us a good insight into Klaus’s formative years. His mother died when he was very young so he had no maternal influence. His father, a man with a military background, had strong ideas about hard work, honour and duty. Klaus went to boarding school at a young age, and we can see the early manifestations of “Iron Klaus” in his stern application to his studies, his fearlessness in a fight, his strength and endurance, and his strong ideas about what is right.

The absence of women during his childhood and teenage years – with the exception of nuns – probably explains some of his discomfort around women as an adult.

Midnight Collector

Dorian gets a tip-off that Sir Rex Price has died and his art collection is to be offered for sale at England Art. The painting that interests him most is The Young Shepherd, by Giorgione.

We learn that Sir Rex Price was a friend of Dorian’s father, and as a child, Dorian spent a lot of time in his house. It was there that he first saw The Young Shepherd, and fell in love with it.

Dorian’s mother disapproved of Sir Rex, and did not like Dorian to be around him. Sir Rex was part of the gay scene Dorian’s father embraced after Dorian was born.

When his parents divorced, Dorian’s mother took his three sisters with her and left him with his father, who had to sell their family home and move to a smaller place in Cornwall. Dorian was very sad that he would not be able to see the painting he loved so much any more.

So, Sir Rex made a deal with him. He promised to give Dorian The Young Shepherd for his next birthday, if Dorian would have sex with him. Dorian went through with his part of the bargain, but the painting that he was sent was not the original but a forgery.

He resolved to steal the painting, but he hadn’t yet developed sufficient skill, and was nearly caught.

Back to the present day, where we see Dorian preparing to acquire The Young Shepherd at last – but a new rival emerges: the young handsome oil-rich Salim al Sabaah. Dorian takes an instant dislike to him because he only appreciates paintings for their monetary value, not their intrinsic artistic value. (Sound like someone else we’ve met before?)

Klaus himself now turns up, bringing The Man in Purple to the art dealers to sell it. Dorian sees this as the opportunity of a lifetime: he can acquire both of the paintings he wants most. Unfortunately, Salim al Sabaah is also interested in both.

Learning by devious means that England Art plan to use the rivalry between himself and Sabaah to drive the price up, Dorian decides to enlist Sabaah as an ally – to use him now, and then defeat him later. At first Salim refuses, but he’s persuaded when he hears a recording of England Art’s scheme. (Picture below: Salim al Sabaah turns up to his meeting with Dorian without his Arab robes. He looks very sexy in black leathers, riding his powerful motorcycle.)

Dorian and Sabaah go to the auction, having agreed on a plan to split the Price Collection between them. Meanwhile, Bonham and the rest of the Eroica gang arrive in a specially modified London double decker bus, and steal the Price Collection paintings.

At this point, Klaus realises he doesn’t dare to sell The Man in Purple after all. His father is going to visit, and if the painting’s gone, there’ll be hell to pay. (Unafraid of just about anything else, it seems Klaus is just a little intimidated by his father.) So he calls England Art and gets them to return The Man in Purple to him – just in time to prevent it from being stolen by Dorian.

The story ends with Dorian missing out on The Man in Purple, but he now has the Giorgione he’s wanted since he was a boy. He’s also acquired a new enemy in Salim al Sabaah.

Our glimpse into his childhood shows us that his upbringing was very different from Klaus’s. Where Klaus’s father valued discipline and duty, Dorian’s father was self-indulgent, and encouraged Dorian’s early efforts at stealing. Dorian had a mother and three sisters, but his relationship with them looked uncomfortable, and all of them disappeared from his life when his parents divorced.

There are similarities, too. Both had a largely male-dominated upbringing – although of quite different kinds. Both were educated at boarding schools, so they both experienced communal living outside the family. Even as children, they were both strong personalities determined to live by their own rules.
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[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... awaiting images**

The Alaskan Front is one of the longest Eroica stories. Summarising it here is going to be a challenge!

We begin by finding that James has managed to collect all those lost banknotes that flew out of the case Klaus chucked out of the plane at the end of Veni Vedi Vici – except one. James being James, he is determined to collect the last one. So James and Dorian set out for Germany, in order for James to steal the last hundred marks from the Major himself.

This is the reason they are hiding at the Schloss when the Chief arrives to tell Klaus about his next mission: to go to Alaska, and recover cargo that was lost in a plane crash during World War II. The plane had been carrying a printing plate to produce counterfeit US currency, and a valuable art collection belonging to Field Marshal Hermann Göring. As the cargo had been sealed in a water-tight container, the printing plate could still be used to produce counterfeit currency if it fell into the wrong hands, and the art collection was very valuable.

Naturally, Dorian wants to get in ahead of the Major and recover the art collection, and James is overjoyed at the possibility of having a plate that will let him print his own money. Klaus and the Alphabets set out to Alaska. Because being sent to Alaska has always been seen as a big threat, they are miserable.

Dorian and his thieves, meanwhile, are travelling in the same direction. James, in an uncharacteristic fit of extravagance brought on by the prospect of being able to print his own money, has chartered a Concorde and they are travelling in luxury, with champagne laid on. Furthermore, as soon as they land, James sets about buying a cabin and some land on the shores of Tazlina Lake, where the cargo is thought to be submerged. The usually tight-fisted James feels he can spend some money since he is about to be as rich as he wants to be. This cabin plays an important role later on.

Unknown to both, a third group arrives in Alaska at about the same time: Mischa the Bear Cub and a group of fellow Soviet spies, out to thwart Iron Klaus.

The fourth group of players in the story is the FBI, who have been alerted that a notorious art thief has come to Alaska. They are also supposed to cooperate with the NATO party, but Klaus locks horns with the FBI men straight away. Our dear Klaus is very intolerant, critical and suspicious. I guess those are things that help make him a good spy but it doesn’t endear him to people he’s supposed to work with.

At this point of the story, Aoike-san is developing the humour with these four disparate groups acting independently of each other, each trying to get the upper hand and none of them (as yet) really aware of what the others are doing. In fact, Dorian and his thieves are the first to pinpoint Klaus and the Alphabets and to know what they are up to: at Tazlina Lake, the Major and his men are searching the waters for the sunken plane and the cargo it contained. Round one to Dorian.

Dorian is also first to spot, and recognise, Mischa the Bear Cub. Realising that he, too, is interested in the salvage operation, and wanting to keep him from interfering, Dorian and his men plot how to get the Russians out of the way. They do so by spiking the Russians’ food with laxatives, giving them all a severe case of upset innards, and the Russians are taken off to a medical centre for treatment. Readers spot what the Russians do not: the medical centre is staffed by Dorian’s men, and the aim is simply to keep them all out of the way.

[Aside: I love how the Russian spies are tucked up in their hospital beds with their fur hats and dark glasses on. A great example of Aoike-san's visual jokes.]

However, before they all end up in hospital, we do learn from the Russians that one of their compatriots has infiltrated the FBI, passing as an American. This man, going by the name of Ford, gives himself away inadvertently referring to something he overheard in a tapped phonecall and Klaus confronts him and learns about the Russians’ mission.

Klaus goes to a cabin on the shores of the lake, where he expects to find Mischa – but instead he finds that Dorian is occupying the cabin. Klaus is livid that the thief is interfering in his mission once again. If Dorian hadn’t detained the Russians in the fake Medical Centre, Klaus reasons, he would have found Mischa in the cabin and captured him.

The FBI are unaware that their ranks have been infiltrated and that there are other Russian plants around the area. Klaus basks in the small triumph of being the one to alert them, and then he sends them on a wild goose chase to a remote location to capture Eroica.

Klaus and the Alphabets re-commence the salvage operation at Tazlina Lake, covertly watched by Dorian and James, and Mischa (who has escaped from the Medical Centre) and one of his fellow Russians.
The precious cargo is raised, and loaded onto a jeep, with a helicopter as decoy.

A complicated chase scene follows, which ends with Klaus, the jeep, and the cargo being dropped back into a lake and Dorian on the shore watching anxiously for signs of life.

Klaus emerges from the icy waters. Needless to say, he is not very pleased with Dorian for dropping him into the lake and causing the precious cargo to be lost again.

The two of them take shelter in a nearby cabin. Klaus attends to a minor wound on his arm, and tries to dry out in front of the fire, while Dorian tries to get the Major back into a better mood, without much success.
In the meantime, Klaus’s Alphabets have struck up a collaboration with Dorian’s thieves, and James is causing trouble for the land agent back in town and for the FBI agents who arrest him on account of his suspicious behaviour, skulking around Tetlin Lake with a large amount of cash in his pockets.

Back at the cabin, as night falls, Klaus and Dorian find themselves under attack from a pack of wolves. They try to ward the wolves off with fire, but the only weapon to hand is Klaus’s hand-gun. Klaus manages to kill six of the wolves, but this depletes his small supply of ammunition.

Then, they hear other shots and the sound of people approaching, and the wolves flee – but their relief evaporates when they see who has arrived. It is Mischa the Bear Cub and his fellow Russians. Using threats and violence, Mischa and his men try to find out the whereabouts of the printing plate and the art collection, but neither Klaus nor Dorian will cooperate.

Dorian pretends not to care that the Russians are beating Klaus up; in fact, he tells them, he finds it to his taste to watch.

The beating comes to an end when another Russian arrives, announcing that the cargo has been found in the shallow waters at the edge of the lake. Mischa gets ready to leave, proposing to take Klaus with him.
Galvanised into action by the prospect of losing both the art collection AND the Major, Dorian grabs Klaus’s gun – which he believes to be empty – and threatens Mischa with it.

He puts up a convincing show, and while Mischa is trying to decide whether he is bluffing or not his men spot a US Air Force helicopter approaching, and the Russians make a hasty retreat. Klaus recovers, and demands to know why Dorian didn’t fire the gun instead of just talking about it, revealing that there was one shot left. Dorian is shocked to the core by this news.

The helicopter lands, revealing a mixed team comprising both Alphabets and thieves. They pick up Klaus and Dorian, and let them know that another mixed team of Alphabets and thieves is following Mischa and his men, who are heading west in a jeep.

KGB agents, NATO agents and thieves all arrive on the shore of the Bering Sea, where a Soviet submarine surfaces, ready to pick up Mischa and his men. Unfortunately, the Russians spot Klaus and Dorian, and they are taken on board too as prisoners.

On shore, the Americans organise a search for the submarine, and hand James over to Agent A. It seems he’s too troublesome to keep in custody and they are glad to be rid of him. When he hears that Dorian has been taken prisoner on a Soviet submarine, he finds a rubber raft and a megaphone, and sets out by himself to try to find the submarine himself. This backfires when the submarine spots him and he is taken on board as well.
Klaus is certain that if they were able to obtain a gun, they’d be able to escape their captors, so Dorian executes a daring and unexpected gambit. He asks Mischa to let him see the Göring Collection. At first Mischa is reluctant, but the Major’s protests that the collection is part of the cultural heritage of Germany convince him to let Dorian see it in order to annoy the Major.

He shows the paintings to Dorian, stating firmly that they now belong to the Soviet Union. Dorian slashes a painting to pieces with a shard of broken china. The Russian agents spring into action to restrain him, and in the melee that follows, both Klaus and Dorian manage to steal a gun. They are locked away again in their cabin, but they now have the means to defend themselves.

The submarine approaches Soviet territory, and Mischa and his three prisoners are transported by helicopter to a military base there. The printing plate and art collection have also been brought ashore and are loaded onto a jeep.

Klaus then signals it’s time to make a move, and a sequence of fast and furious action follows. Klaus knocks Mischa down, and they take the base commander hostage. Klaus seizes some more weaponry from the ammunition store on the base, then blows up the ammunition store and a number of planes. Dorian and James take the art collection and make off with it in a helicopter. Klaus steals a MiG fighter plane and takes off for Alaskan soil.

Needless to say, the Russians give chase, with a whole squadron of helicopters pursuing the escapees, but the US Airforce responds by sending planes to intercept the Russians, who call the pursuit off to avoid an international incident.

Back in Alaska, Dorian and James reunite with Bonham and Jones, who have produced a boat from somewhere. The art collection and printing plate are loaded on board, and Dorian and all his men set sail. As soon as he finds out what has happened, Klaus commandeers a naval training ship and gives chase. Dorian is delighted by this turn of events, rejoicing in the opportunity to celebrate his pirate ancestry in a battle at sea.
Klaus tries to ram Dorian’s boat, and in the collision that results, both vessels are severely damaged and both crews abandon ship. James, of course, makes for extra difficulties because he doesn’t want Klaus to get hold of the printing plate. Klaus destroys the printing plate with a single shot from his trusty handgun, just as a massive storm hits, washing all three of them into the sea.

Everyone is able to climb into the life rafts – Klaus, Dorian and James in one, and everybody else jammed into the others, no doubt pleased not to be near the three of them. The art collection has been saved, too.
And so, they float across the Pacific, to come ashore on a tropical island where the American FBI officers are on vacation with their families.
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[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... awaiting images**

Veni Vedi Vici follows straight on from Hallelujah Express, and is written with the same fast-changing action formula.

Klaus, Dorian, and their respective followers get to Rome at the end of the long and eventful train journey, ready to conduct the mission for which Dorian has been hired: the job at the Vatican.

Klaus is impatient to make a start but Dorian isn't cooperating: he's been off shopping and sight-seeing, and now he's wasting time in the Roman baths at the hotel. Determined to get his contractor moving, Klaus storms in, creating one of FEWL's classic scenes. Alas for Klaus, he slips on the soap and ends up – fully clothed – in the bath with Dorian, protesting that he doesn’t want to be touched by a naked man.

Klaus and Dorian set off toward the Vatican, crossing Rome in Dorian’s attention-grabbing sports car. This gives both Klaus and James something else to complain about: Klaus is annoyed by Dorian’s chatter and the conspicuous nature of the car, and James whines that the way Dorian drives uses too much fuel.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that they do attract someone’s attention: they are pulled over by a member of the Italian police, Inspector Giuliani, known as Inspector Casket because he drives around in a hearse with an empty coffin in the back (to put prisoners into after he arrests them). Giuliani is loud-mouthed and arrogant, and he and Klaus clash straight away. They get away without mishap, but it’s inevitable that their paths are going to cross again.

Klaus and Dorian plan to enter the Vatican through the Catacombs. The journey is long, and at last Dorian estimates that the Borgia Apartments in the Vatican Palace should be overhead.

They begin digging – and they emerge into a brightly-lit bathroom occupied by a naked woman. Both Klaus and Dorian panic, and it’s hard to tell which shocks them most: the threat of discovery or the proximity of a naked woman. During the ensuing scuffle, the woman’s brother appears, demanding to know what they’re doing with his sister.

Dorian and Klaus make a run for the door and escape - but the woman and her family report the incident at the Police Station, where Inspector Giuliani compares the descriptions given with pictures they have on file, and identifies one of the intruders as the art thief Eroica. An identification sketch is made of the other intruder – a prettified version of Klaus – and from this, Giuliani recognises him as the man he had a confrontation with earlier that day. Giuliani vows to catch them both.

Dorian and his men try a different approach to find the way into the Palace. They enter the Vatican Library disguised as nuns, and locate a secret passage which travels beneath the Piazza and ends up inside the Vatican. From there, an elaborate plan is put into action. The Eroica gang paint a large pink kiss-mark on the paving stones, the Pope’s people announce that the damaged stones will have to be removed, and through trickery and threat Dorian is able to take over the job and get into the tunnel. Together, Klaus and Dorian make their way to their target.

Dorian successfully completes the theft he was commissioned to do, and is given his ten minutes’ grace, at the end of which he reappears with a large bundle wrapped up in what looks like a carpet or a tapestry. The streets are in uproar as they travel back to their hotel, but Klaus is not overly curious. He is keen to get the job finished and go home to Germany. But – when they are back at home base, Dorian reveals what he has taken from the Vatican. He has kidnapped the Pope.

Another elaborate plan unfolds to return the Pope, which involves distracting Inspector Giuliani long enough to place the Pope inside the casket in the back of his hearse.

The kidnapping of the Pope has caused a great deal of consternation to the Catholic Church, and all the intelligence agencies are invited to a meeting. Klaus has to go to represent NATO. Giuliani pushes his way in, trying to arrest Eroica for the kidnapping, and Klaus as his accomplice. Klaus, exasperated, demands to know why Dorian hangs around him – and for the first time, Dorian openly declares “It’s because I love you.” Klaus knocks him down with a vicious punch.

Giuliani arrests Dorian and drags him off into custody – but he doesn’t spend long in jail because one of his underworld connections, Mafia boss Don Gian-Maria Volovolonte, turns up and gets him set free.

At this point, a lot of people are unhappy with Dorian and Klaus. Giuliani and the KGB both want them, and the streets are full of protesters who aren’t happy with them either. The story comes to a climax with a shoot-out in the streets involving the KGB, the Mafia, and the Italian police.

So, Iron Klaus has achieved his mission once again, and Dorian and James get the hundred million marks they have been promised as payment. (That sounds like an astronomical amount of money to me!! Particularly since the story took place nearly 40 years ago!) Klaus wants to have the last laugh, though: he pushes Dorian and James out of the plane as they are travelling – thankfully both are wearing parachutes – and chucks the case holding the money out after them. It flies open, scattering the money.

Then, Klaus discovers that the thief has stolen his favourite oxhide belt from around his waist. Dorian sends the horrified Klaus a ‘victory’ sign.

New Characters

Inspector Giuliani aka Inspector Casket is introduced as an antagonist. His arrogance, his bizarre methods, and his vengeful bad temper make Klaus look like a reasonable man.

We also meet Don Gian-Maria Volovolonte for the first time. He’s a great admirer of Dorian, and once again we are reminded that Dorian is a very well connected criminal and must be a hard and dangerous man himself.

Fan fic recs

Three stories that incorporate characters from Veni Vedi Vici:

Klaus’s Christmas Carol by dkwilliams. Written for Yuletide 2014, featuring some of the familiar characters from Aoike’s stories as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Inspector Giuliani represents the Ghost of Christmas Future. (I don’t mind saying that when I first read it, I had tears in my eyes in one section. You’ll have to guess which when you read it yourself.)

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Sounded Like This) by Liviapenn. Also written for Yuletide, in 2007. Dorian needs to prove to Klaus that he’s willing to lay his reputation, and his life, on the line for him. (Podfic version also available on AO3.)

An Olive Grove Facing the Sea by Terri Botta (Isilwath). In this story, Klaus delves into Dorian’s connections with the underworld and comes to understand that they are more alike than he might want to believe.
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[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... and awaiting images**

It’s nearly Christmas. Klaus doesn’t care: weekends and holidays don’t do much for him. But the Alphabets are worried, because it looks as if they may have to work through Christmas again. And, sure enough, the Chief has a mission for Klaus and his men.

Meanwhile in England, Dorian is dealing with James who wants to spend a thrifty Christmas at home. Rescue is at hand: the mail brings Dorian a registered express letter containing two first class train tickets from Amsterdam to Paris, leaving in two days’ time. There’s no explanation, just the tickets. Dorian’s men are suspicious that it may be a trap, but Dorian would rather take a risk than spend a miserable Christmas at home. A second envelope is then delivered, containing enough money to cover the expense of getting to Amsterdam, quelling James’s protests.

Dorian, accompanied by James, boards the train in Amsterdam. (Why he takes James with him, I can’t fathom; surely it would be better to take someone else who can focus on something other than nagging him about money – but Dorian must have his reasons.)

It’s not long before Dorian is advised by an attendant that there is a table reserved for him in the dining car. It is here that the identity of their ‘benefactor’ is revealed, when the Major joins him to announce that NATO wants Eroica’s cooperation in a mission.

The Major shows him a blueprint, which Dorian – being a well-informed thief – recognises as the vault of the Vatican Palace. An engineer at the US Department of Defence stole some secret information concerning military satellites, and in an attempt to stop the project, passed the papers on to the Vatican. NATO wants Dorian to break in to the vault and get the documents back.

Dorian, planning to get the most out of the deal, insists that in addition to the generous payment he’s been offered, he must be allowed an extra 10 minutes in the vault, but refuses to say why. He also insists that NATO pays for his men to accompany him to Rome on the train.
Booking such a large number of seats on the train draws the attention of Soviet agent Mischa the Bear Cub, whom we meet for the first time.

As the train travels on its way, we see a number of messages being passed between Mischa and his fellow Soviet spies Polar Bear and Red Fox. When the train reaches Paris, Mischa gets on board for the next leg of the journey.

On the train, the Russians try to capture Klaus and he thwarts their attempts. Dorian steals the blueprint and jumps off the train (leaving James and the rest of his men on board). He plans to re-join the train, and on his way back – travelling by helicopter – he sees a minibus full of Russian agents, armed with rifles, waiting to open fire on Klaus as the train passes on a slow curve. Dorian foils their attempt, then climbs back onto the moving train in a daredevil manoeuvre involving a long rope ladder suspended from the helicopter. Once back on board, he returns the blueprint to Klaus, telling him he’s made a copy of it for his men to study.

The train journey continues, and the Russians continue in their efforts to eliminate Klaus and also Eroica, who has now come onto their radar as an ally of Iron Klaus and an enemy of the KGB. A violent confrontation ensues, which Dorian joins – making a spectacular entrance with an automatic weapon. We have already learned, in the previous story Insha’allah, that Dorian is hopeless with firearms, but his lack of control over his weapon acts in their favour, leading the Soviet agents to surrender.

Mischa is still confident of ultimate victory, revealing that there is a bomb attached to a bridge, timed to go off as the train goes under the bridge. Dorian’s wild shooting has damaged the train’s controls, so it can’t be stopped. Klaus and Dorian climb onto the roof of the speeding train, so that Klaus can shoot out the timer. Klaus, as we know, is a master marksman, but he has some distractions to deal with as Dorian holds him from behind to steady him, and Klaus worries about being touched below the belt. The timer is destroyed, the train passes through unharmed, and seconds later the bomb goes off, destroying both the bridge and the train’s power lines, allowing the train to coast to a halt.

Memorable scenes

Agent Z’s first appearance in FEWL was in the previous story, Insha’allah. His role as the innocent rookie is expanded on in Hallelujah Express. Dorian sees him for the first time and rather likes what he sees; he also learns that flirting with Z is an excellent way to taunt Klaus. Z seems oblivious, but Klaus gives him some advice anyway, telling him to ‘watch his trousers’ (sometimes translated as 'don't get caught with your pants down') when Dorian is around.

We learned in Insha’allah that Dorian is no good with firearms, but in Hallelujah Express we see that although he’s inept, he’s not scared of them. He makes a spectacular entrance with an automatic rifle during the confrontation between NATO and KGB personnel on the train. He also initiates Klaus’s feat of marksmanship in shooting out the timer. When he hands Klaus the rifle, saying they don’t have much time, it’s as if the two are thinking the same thing – like a pair of comrades in arms who have been working together for a long time.

Dorian comes across as a man of action in this story. He jumps from a moving train, then later jumps back on again. He takes an active part in confrontations. After Mischa the Bear Cub slaps Klaus and taunts him, Dorian retaliates by backhanding Mischa across the jaw.

Style of writing, artwork

Hallelujah Express is another fast-paced story, with the action changing page by page. The artwork is very effective in conveying fast and furious action, danger, and tension.

Fan Fiction recs

Gloria in Excelsis by Kadorienne. A retelling of Hallelujah Express, in which Klaus only finds out that Dorian is a thief after they are already lovers.

Like Rust by Waftimah. References the scene on the roof of the train as it sets up an examination of Klaus’s contradictory reactions to Dorian.
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[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... and awaiting images**

The day starts: Dorian is asleep, a nice light breeze blowing in through the window. Next thing we know, Dorian is rudely awakened by James, who is still obsessed with underwear, and demands to know why Dorian is using an expensive pair of underpants to sleep in.

While he is having his breakfast, a phonecall from the Bakhchials in Beirut alerts Dorian to a potentially lucrative heist: the treasure left behind in Tehran by the Shah of Iran when he fled the city. James objects to the proposal on a number of petty penny-pinching grounds, but Dorian is convinced this job will be a rewarding one, and bribes James with the promise of five pairs of used underpants.

Meanwhile, in Germany, we see Klaus waking up: 6.30 on the dot, striped pyjamas and white undershirt in place.

Klaus, too, receives a phonecall over breakfast: the Chief, letting him know that he is required to travel to Iran to recover secret military information about Soviet missiles installed in the desert, without alerting the Russians or the revolutionary government.

This sets our two heroes on a collision course, and inevitably, they meet – at a border crossing, where they are both trying to enter Iran in disguise, along with their entourages. They recognise each other, and realising that each could blow the other’s cover, Dorian and Klaus put on a show of being old friends for the benefit of the border guards whilst at the same time warning each other to keep silent.

In Tehran, Dorian makes contact with the man who can tell him where the Pahlavi treasure is hidden. The man runs a brothel full of under-age boys. Dorian makes it clear he is not interested in boys, and he looks rather uncomfortable about the whole set-up. The man with the information stalls (“Tomorrow, tomorrow”) but one of the boys, whose name is Haalun, gives Dorian the information in exchange for a kiss.

That night, Dorian – disguised in a military uniform – sets out for the Palace to steal the treasure. As he makes his way through the dark building, he discovers that Klaus is also in the Palace, looking for his secret military information. It appears that their targets are both hidden in the same place. With some misgivings, they decide to collaborate.

They recover a locked box, which Dorian opens to reveal a fortune in jewels and ornaments. Klaus takes a jewelled dagger and sheath – one of two in the treasure trove – in which he believes the information is hidden.

Hearing the Palace guards approaching, Klaus makes Dorian exchange clothes with him on the grounds that he doesn’t look convincing as a soldier. He then drags Dorian out past the guards at gunpoint, berating them for not being around to help him catch the intruder.

They nearly get away with this ruse, but once outside, they’re intercepted by other guards. Klaus resorts to knocking one of the guards down; there is an exchange of gunfire, Klaus steals a jeep and drives away, and Dorian escapes on foot.

Klaus rejoins his contact, and they examine the dagger he has taken – which proves to be the wrong one, so Klaus sets out to find Dorian, who took the other one. But Dorian has gone to Beirut, where he borrows a jeep from the Bakhchials to take a trip into the desert for his own enjoyment. At the ancient ruins of Palmyra, Klaus arrives in a helicopter, demanding the dagger. Dorian hands it over; Klaus extracts the microfilm and then says he is going to turn Dorian over to ICPO (Interpol).

Dorian and James run for the helicopter; Klaus and his men seize the jeep. Neither vehicle has much fuel left, so both parties end up stranded in the desert. To rub salt into the wounds, Dorian sends out a message to any KGB agents who might be listening in, informing them that Iron Klaus is stranded in the desert near Palmyra; Klaus, meanwhile, radios ICPO with Eroica’s whereabouts. However, both expect that the other will get away clean.

Writing style

The story moves fast, making use of parallel lines of action both for dramatic and comic effect. Aoike-san mixes low comedy (eg James's ongoing interest in Dorian's underwear) with hard espionage themes. Dorian’s romantic streak is given free rein and he has several opportunities to express his romantic/sexual interest in Klaus, much to Klaus’s disgust and alarm. Klaus’s strait-laced attitudes and James’s fanatic stinginess are used as the basis for comic sequences. The story’s ending suggests that Klaus and Dorian have developed a good deal of respect for each other’s abilities, even though their rivalry remains strong.

Links with the events of the time

Insha’Allah appeared in the volume released in September 1979. In Iran, a campaign of civil resistance, including demonstrations against the Shah, began in late 1977 and intensified over the next twelve months. The Shah went into exile in January 1979, and Iran officially became an Islamic Republic later that year.

The Emerald Necklace

It’s worth spending a little time thinking about the emerald necklace that appears in this story. The necklace is part of the treasure found in the Palace, and Dorian’s first reaction is to think how good it would look on Klaus.

He later gives the necklace to Haalun as a keepsake – and it then plays a part in Klaus’s tracking Dorian down when he recognises it hanging around Haalun’s neck.

Fanfic to check out

Children by Musamihi
A retelling of the scene in the brothel. Dorian is uneasy; he finds the place distasteful and he’s repelled by the people in it. He reflects on his own experience as a 13 year old boy, seduced and deceived by a family friend, and how the experience has cast a shadow over his own life. Musamihi develops the story subtly and tastefully. A thoughtful piece.
telwoman: (Default)
[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... and awaiting images**

It’s spring, and it’s conference season.

At North Downs, Dorian is preparing to host the annual international conference for his fellow elite criminals. This brings him into conflict (again) with James, who would rather save money than spend it on the repairs and refurbishments needed to get ready for the event.

At the estate next door, another group of people is preparing for an international peace summit, and Klaus is going to be there as part of the security team. Diplomacy isn’t Klaus’s greatest strength, and before long he has upset both US and Soviet representatives, and annoyed the host’s wife.

It’s just as well the Peace Summit has good security in place because a terrorist threat is discovered, and Klaus springs into action to thwart the Neo-Nazis who are plotting mayhem.

Meanwhile, we discover that James has a personal scheme going to get Dorian to give him his used underwear. Why Dorian takes his ordering-around, I don’t know: but he obliges James by wearing the new underwear James gives him and leaves him to do what he will with the old ones.

It turns out that the very underpants James haggled for in the shop and gave to Dorian are the ones with a coded message attached, which Klaus and his men are trying to retrieve. Klaus immediately recognises who purchased the underwear from the sales assistant’s description, and heads off on a long and complicated pursuit of the garment. He finally corners Dorian in his bedroom, and demands that he take off his trousers. Dorian initially draws the wrong conclusion, and is disappointed when it turns out that Klaus wants his underpants but not what is inside them.

Decoding the information obtained in the underpants, Klaus learns that a bomb has been placed to go off in the Peace Summit. While the security teams squabble, Dorian takes action – he removes the bomb and Klaus hurls it away into the grounds where it explodes, injuring no-one.

The story ends with the two unlikely allies taking time out – Klaus sleeping ("Wake me in 30 minutes") while Dorian watches over him.

Dramatic Spring continues the fast-paced style of story-telling, with the action shifting quickly from country to country and location to location. We see Klaus's character unfolding further as uncompromising and mission-focused, but at the end of the story he seems to have granted a short truce between himself and Dorian. Perhaps he's been suitably impressed by Dorian's willingness to take action where others would only dither, or by Dorian's faith in his own abilities. These are qualities Klaus has himself, and no doubt he admires them in others. Even in foppish thieves.


Fan-fic to explore:

Anne-Li has used the "thieves' conference" idea in two stories: Iron Klaus and Lightning and Passing the Torch. Neither of these relates directly to Dramatic Spring but we get similar insights into Dorian's place in the wider world of international roguery. Both stories with a light, amusing touch. Iron Klaus and Lightning - crossover with Eastern Promises, and
Passing the Torch - crossover with Artemis Fowl, The Usual Suspects, Highlander

Musamihi's snippet Teammates is set right at the end of Dramatic Spring. Klaus goes to sleep for his thirty minutes, and dreams. A lovely, angsty insight into the things Klaus has been repressing with an iron will for years.
telwoman: (Default)
[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... and awaiting images**

Dorian is on his way to Greece, to steal a jade Buddha statue that is to be exhibited at an event in Athens. This doesn’t please James, who is annoyed by Dorian’s decision to abandon his pursuit of the Achilles statue, and disapproves of thefts that don’t bring in any cash income.

Meanwhile, Klaus is also making plans to go to Greece, in pursuit of a KGB spy called Maya Bulgakova. Bulgakova is romancing Yanis Phaerikis, a young Greek shipping magnate – who also happens to be the man presenting the exhibition at which the jade statue will be on show. In reality, she holds him in contempt, but the KGB is keen to gain control of the shipping empire.

Phaerikis’ Board of Directors don’t think much of Yanis, however, and they’re plotting to bring his late father’s illegitimate daughter Daphne in to take over the firm. NATO decides to assist, in order to block the KGB from gaining influence over the company, and Agent G is brought in to play the part of Daphne.

As with Achilles’ Last Stand, the action is fast moving and complicated. The KGB agent tries to recruit Dorian to her cause, but fails. Dorian intervenes to rescue G when the KGB plan to get rid of him, leading to a car chase that ends in a spectacular crash.

Maya Bulgakova escapes, and she steals the jade Buddha as well; Klaus and Dorian, with their respective teams, give chase – and for a while it looks as if each is going to get what he wants. Alas, a mix-up involving identical trucks means they don't.

A story that references Love in Greece:

Schatz, by Sue Castle A re-telling of several stories from canon, beginning with the car crash from Love in Greece. Klaus’s point of view. The story is on AO3. Until recently I’ve been able to find this writer’s own archive on the web but it seems, sadly, to have disappeared at last. It’s sad when collections disappear. This writer has, thankfully, shifted her fic over to AO3 – and hopefully that will be around for a while. (Sue Castle also writes under the names Glacis and Seeker. Her other works are worth checking out.)

Can anyone else recommend a story with a link to Love in Greece?
telwoman: (Default)
[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy - and awaiting images**

The rivalry between Eroica and the Major was established at their first meeting, back in the second story, Iron Klaus. The third story, Achilles' Last Stand, continues the pattern.

The story is a fast moving farce, with characters coming and going, and situations changing at a rapid pace. We see Dorian and Klaus collaborating for the first time when circumstances throw them together. We learn that Klaus doesn’t like being approached by women any more than by men; and once again we see that for all his railing against Eroica, Klaus seems to be ambivalent in his feelings toward him.

The story revolves around a 3 metre high statue of Achilles, which both Dorian and Klaus want, but for very different reasons.

One of Klaus’s men had hidden a microfilm on the statue (under the skirt of Achilles’ chiton) before fleeing from enemy agents on a mission in England. Klaus, irate at the man’s failure, sends him to Alaska as a punishment. Klaus is then assigned to personally retrieve the microfilm from the statue, so he heads for England.

The statue, meanwhile, has been moved to the British Museum for safekeeping, and just as Klaus and his men are poised to claim the statue and search it, Dorian and his gang appear (in their zeppelin) and whisk the statue away. Dorian next decides to go to Portugal and take the statue with him, but James objects at the expense involved and persuades Dorian to send it by ship instead.

En route to Portugal, the ship is taken over by hijackers, whose plan is to hold the wealthy passenger the Baronne de Brioche for ransom, and demand money from the Italian government in exchange for the ship.

The Eroica gang and the NATO intelligence unit arrive on board the ship at the same time, both determined to get the statue back – only to discover that it had been detained by the authorities in Calais.

The title of this story is, of course, an allusion to the Led Zeppelin song of the same name.

Fan fic links

I had a look for fics that reference this story. Quite a number mention the incidents in this story in passing, but these two adopt more detail to develop their own plots.

Very Secret Diaries 3: Achilles' Last Stand, by Kadorienne A retelling of the story in the form of parallel diaries written by Klaus and Dorian.

Guns and Roses by DarkShadowsFalling This fic is not specific to Achilles Last Stand; it's a retelling from Klaus's POV of early stories from canon, leading to his recounting of how he developed and finally gave in to his desire for Dorian.

Readers, please feel free to add other recs of stories with a link (however small) to Achilles Last Stand!
telwoman: (Default)
[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy ... and awaiting images**

The second stop on our leisurely stroll through canon: Iron Klaus.

We first met Dorian in A Thousand Kisses, where we were introduced to his highly-organised art theft enterprise, and his penchant for pretty boys. In this second story, we meet the man who becomes his adversary and his heart’s desire, Major Klaus von dem Eberbach.

Their rivalry is established early. They meet when Dorian goes to Schloss Eberbach to view the family art collection. Klaus is disgusted by his flashy car, his flamboyant clothing, and his arrogant demeanour. This is also where Dorian first lays eyes on The Man in Purple, the portrait of Klaus’s ancestor Tyrian Persimmon.

Iron Klaus also shows us that the Major isn’t all stern adherence to duty and uncompromising determination to defeat his enemies – although he certainly has those traits in spades! Isolated inside a chilly Leopard tank with Dorian and Caesar Gabriel, he reveals that he does have aesthetic sensibilities after all – idiosyncratic as they might be.

This is the story in which we see the last of Caesar, Sugar Plum, Leopard, and Inspector Bannai, and the focus shifts onto Dorian and Klaus, and their respective teams.

Was this a change for the better? Do you regret the disappearance of the telepathic teens? Should Aoike have kept Bannai on the scene? What do you make of Klaus’s somewhat ambiguous regard for Dorian at the end of the story? Is The Man in Purple worth more than a Leopard tank?

And recs! Which fanfics referencing Iron Klaus do you like? How have fic writers played with the ideas from this story?


Thinking about fanworks that reference this story:

Violets Exchanged for a Blue Steel Tank by BT, who also goes by the name Stranger. With a delicate touch, the author retells the 'tank incident', and shows us a Klaus full of conflict – a Klaus who has been hiding his sexual preferences since his teenage years. He thinks it is 'safer' if he and Eroica are enemies - because Eroica poses other very real dangers to the facade he's built up over many years. It's a short piece, but well worth reading. (As are all of BT's FEWL stories.)

telwoman: (Default)
[personal profile] telwoman
**Reposted from Imzy**

We thought we might take a stroll through FEWL canon and revisit the stories, in order. So let's start with A Thousand Kisses. That's where we first meet Dorian. He's not quite evil, but he's a bad boy. And he's not the protagonist. Yet.

And there's no Klaus. Yet.

But we do meet Sugar Plum, Leopard Solid, Caesar Gabriel, and Inspector Banai.

When you first read A Thousand Kisses, what did you make of the characters? What direction did you think Aoike-san would take the characters in for the next story?

And fanfic! Recs, please! What are the good fanfics, new and old, based on A Thousand Kisses or using characters from that story?

A Thousand Kisses was published nearly forty years ago! (December 1976.)
mprice: (Schloss Eberbach)
[personal profile] mprice
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