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Stalin/Nicholas had travelled to the Mariinsky Palace to witness the plenary seating of Russia’s State Council, as he would have to deal with these people when he ascended the throne of Russia. With him was Nicholas’ father and the new Nicholas quickly took a disliking to the man. He was an idiot and he understood why the previous occupant of this body didn’t get along well with Alexander III.
“This meeting is in session.”, someone said. Stalin/Nicholas didn’t see who. Nikolai Bunge was the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and started to speak.
“Today we discuss the passing of the act on the abolition of inheritance tax.”
A clamour erupted as many of the more traditional people in the Council opposed it. Nicholas had not been obliged to sit in on these meetings, but Stalin/Nicholas decided to learn as much as possible as he knew that his ‘father’ would soon die; not that he cared. Stalin/Nicholas only cared about having power and ruling Russia once more. He was irritated and stood up. Russia would not become democratic under his tenure, that was sure already.
“Silence!”, he yelled, “You’re like squabbling children. Either do something or go home.”
They all stared at him, including his father.
“Calm down, Nicholas.”, his father said.
“No, I will not. While these idiots are fighting among themselves, Russia is falling behind on the west more and more. We’re at least half a century behind on them and nothing is being done. They are leading us to our doom.”, Stalin/Nicholas replied very much angered and he barged out of the room. He couldn’t stand being with those snobs. He vowed he would break their power which strangled Russia.
Princess Alix of Hesse sat on the side of her bed, crying. Empress-consort Maria Feodorovna entered the room and pitied the young princess, although she was older than a soon to be engaged princess normally. Even when she cried she looked young, although Maria had to admit that she looked miserable right now.
“What is it, my child?”, she asked, genuinely concerned. The wife to be of her son had become increasingly unhappy and she noticed.
“It’s Nicky, he keeps ignoring me, saying that he is too busy. He finds those dull books and plenary sessions more important than me. I do not understand why he’s doing this to me. Is it something I said?”, she replied sobbing.
“I know, my dear.”, Maria said as she wrapped her arms around her. She too had noticed the changes in her son. He had become an increasingly reclusive figure and she had rarely seen him out of his study where he spent his time reading books on the subjects, history, economics, European politics and big literary works. Things such as tactics and strategy came to interest him more as well, even though he was not a military man by nature. He read Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’, had read up on Russian history, focusing on Russia’s expansion and military history and had written a short essay on the Napoleonic Wars and how Napoleon’s campaign against Russia had been his downfall. He also studied the politics of the Russian Empire, specifically the period after 1815. Maria was happy that he took up studies to become an educated man but she was very worried about his estrangement from the family. He seemed a totally different person, this was not the soft, easy going son she had raised. As Tsarevich, he also started to interfere with politics more and more. Previously he had shown no interest in the matter and the abrupt changes in Nicholas worried Maria. She stood up and marched for his study and decided to do something. She banged on the door.
“Come in.”, Stalin/Nicholas said.
“Nicholas, put that book down and look at me when I’m talking to you.”, Maria snapped.
“Yes mother.”, he said, as he reluctantly put down the big book he was currently reading.
“What is wrong with you my son?”
“Nothing, mother, I feel fine.”, Stalin/Nicholas replied with as much kindness as he could muster.
“Then why are you ignoring your fiancée? She loves you and cares about you. Have you any idea how distraught she is feeling right now?”, she replied angered.
“Well, I have been busy with my studies and-”
“I have reserved for you to go to the opera house tonight and you are going, no discussion.”, Maria said and she slammed the door as she left.
Stalin/Nicholas understood that this woman was not to be argued with and decided to do it. He needed her to produce an heir anyway. He put on his hussars uniform and the most charming face he possibly could. ‘Alix will find out just how charming I can be.’, Stalin/Nicholas thought.
His ‘father’ had died and right now Stalin/Nicholas was on his way to the summer retreat in Livadiya on the southern tip of the Crimean peninsula, where the Tsar had died of kidney disease exactly as he had predicted, and he was under way to be present with his family. He was in his armoured train, which he had insisted upon as he did not want to undergo Alexander II’s fate, as he had been assassinated. Only the last five miles would be traversed by coach which would be escorted by Cossacks and hussars of the Imperial Guard. Stalin/Nicholas had to say that relations with Alix had improved after he had displayed some of his charm. He had taken her to the opera and the Imperial ballet, which she had liked very much. She was still asleep and he was reading a novel by a certain German general. A servant entered the room.
“Your highness, we’ll be arriving soon.”
Stalin/Nicholas looked out the window and saw the train slowing down. “Yes, I can see that.”, he replied curtly.
“Alix, time to go.”
“Yes my dear.”, she responded, still half asleep. “I’ll be joining you shortly.”, she said, as he put on suitable clothing to meet the mourning Romanov family which had gathered in Crimea. They left the train station in the coach and headed towards the Black Sea residence of Tsar Alexander III, the father of Nicholas, who was now the new Tsar of Russia. He stepped out of the carriage with an air of arrogance, but he also feigned sadness. His wife was dressed in the appropriate black clothing and he wore a plain uniform. They walked up the stairs and while his wife was sobbing, Stalin/Nicholas was contemplating what he would do first. He entered the room where he found his ‘mother’, Maria Feodorovna, sobbing over the dead body of her husband who was lying on his bed, seemingly asleep. Nicholas hummed to announce his presence and then kissed his father’s hand to show respect and started to speak as he was expected to say something:
“Goodbye, our beloved father, husband and Tsar. You shall be missed greatly and if you can hear us, know that we love you. God bless you, we love you.”, Nicholas said on a solemn and sad tone.
“Well spoken, my son.”, Maria said, “He would have been happy to know that you cared.”
In reality Stalin/Nicholas didn’t care one bit and he wanted to return to St Petersburg to start his rule. He already had several ideas of what to do.
“Well said.”, Alix said, “Let us retreat to our room and leave your mother in peace, one last moment with her husband.”
Stalin/Nicholas said nothing and clutched her hand and turned away, looking to the floor as he contemplated many things, not really listening to the trivialities Alix was talking about.
→ Forward to Chapter 3.