Chagny, Grand Duchy of Bourgogne Senior officers of the grand ducal armed forces were gathered around a table. Reports coming from the Pillau Republic elaborated on earlier estimates of the republic's military strengths. What it lacked in arms and numbers, it no doubt made up for in fervor. And the officers themselves knew that there were plenty of men from their own ranks who had immediately defected, men with skills. "Gentlemen, the republican forces arrayed against us may have been laughable last year, but with the Neustrian double-cross, we are vulnerable." The chief of staff looked around at his colleagues. __________ Grand Ducal Palace Mireille sat and fanned herself with some documents she had been reading. The doctors had told her no more work, but she had convinced Leopold to sneak in a few things for her to read. Her husband was out at meetings with the prime minister and some of the leadership of the Orange Vests. Leadership! Ha! With new factions rising and falling every week, it seemed like no one was in charge. Behind the princess at the door stood a man wearing a suit and an earpiece for his radio. No mere bodyguard, he and the rest of Team Alpha had arrived in Chagny the other day with specific orders not the let the royal couple out of their sight. At least one of the team was with them, except in the bathroom and bedroom. __________ Neustrian Foreign Ministry, Ouistreham Claude worked methodically, a pen light in his mouth aimed at the desk as his hands worked the micro-camera. Paper copies of the dispatches between Pillau and Ouistreham were quickly photographed and then replaced in their safe. Claude, a senior under-secretary, had readily offered his services to the new government of his ancestral homeland. Or so his boss thought. In reality, he had grown up in Chagny, the son of a train brakeman with a gift for accents. By morning, the camera would be hidden in a car on its way to the very porous border with the rump grand duchy.