I don’t belabor the point, but the truth is 20th and 21st century of my alternate-history science-fiction space-opera universe is in large measure a family saga of the Reinhardts, heirs of the inventor of the microchip and his fortune. Recently I’ve been brainstorming a new chapter in that winding tale, by far the strangest yet. The first chapter I’ve written is my very first novel, “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”, chronicling Menteith Reinhardt von Gleichen’s solar-system-wide quest he sends competitors on, to stimulate spaceflight and to gauge who’s worthy of being his successor at the helm of the vastest philanthropic network in history. Think libertarian-anarchist George Soros times a hundred. The system is so big and well-resourced it could be not only a shadow political party (if Menteith wasn’t so loathe to have anything to do with electoral politics) but a parallel society unto itself.
The second chapter I’ve written has come well over a year later, my most recent short story “Ten Weeks at Onigaminsing”, detailing Menteith Reinhardt’s time in college, and the very beginnings of his empire. The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure takes place in 2020, and the Ten Weeks at Onigaminsing were in 1969. The third chapter will take place further in the future, with the bulk of it taking place in 2021 (a piece in 2022), bracketed by a framing story taking place in 2040.
A Family Saga
This particular story will center on Edelweiss “Rapunzel” Reinhardt, granddaughter of Menteith Reinhardt’s first cousin Wolfram Reinhardt (who served as President of the United States for two terms in the 1990s). Both Menteith and Wolfram are grandsons of the patriarch, Otto Reinhardt, inventor of the microprocessor, making Rapunzel his great-great-granddaughter. Wolfram Reinhardt married Christina Rommel; yes, fictitious granddaughter of none other than Erwin Rommel, who in this timeline founds a major airplane manufacturer and airliner (Rommel Aerospace) and becomes the American spacemaster after the death of Robert Goddard in 1946 and before his own death in 1975.
Interestingly, Erwin Rommel’s other grandchild (and Christina’s brother), Kurt Rommel, marries Emma Reinhardt (Wolfram’s sister). Both of them end up having families, but while Wolfram and Christina are rich vaguely artsy dilettantes who do a stint in politics, Kurt and Emma are a corporate power couple. Both of them inherit major corporations and their grandfathers’ technical prowess, Emma with the computer chips, Kurt with the aircraft and spacecraft.
Kurt and Emma have four children: Siegfried, Wolfgang, Freya Gardenia, and Adelaide “Adela” Amidala. Wolfram and Christina have three children: Gandalf Mani Njordr, Araminta Anemone “Windflower” Valkyrie, and Vigo Ullr. The latter three are young enough to be raised in the White House for most of their childhoods. The children of each union are not just first cousins but double first cousins; they’re cousins through both sets of parents, so are twice as related as normal cousins. For perspective, that makes them as close genetically as half-siblings.
Of this bunch Gandalf Mani Njordr Rommel Reinhardt (what a name!) has the most technical prowess, heavily taking after his aunt Emma. As such he’s trained up by her to take over the family business. Gandalf was born in 1982, Emma in 1959. By 2020, the time Count Gleichen has his treasure hunt, Emma is 61 and Gandalf is 38. Together they’ll be in their prime at the helm of Reinhardt Industries.
Gandalf will also have a wife and child, one daughter, Edelweiss Reinhardt, born 2006. She turns out to be a rather extraordinary girl, maturing into a very beautiful woman of deep passions and spirituality, prone to receiving visions. A fair-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed mystic, visionary, and prophet. One particularly strong vision comes in the form of my story idea about vampires of the Oort cloud and dragons of the Sun; yes, I think I’ll make it explicitly a vision, but one that will be reflected in important ways in real events that follow.
I’m thinking Rapunzel has a vision in bed, with her destroying some artifact to break the vision and destroy both the dragons and vampires a la what Harry Potter did in the Chamber of Secrets (maybe as she realizes that she in fact is the chosen one who has both vampiric and draconic powers, contrary to what both sides are telling her), and wakes up in a false awakening to her own room. There she beholds a message written in blood, runes that combine to form the shape of a swastika inscribed in a circle. The message reading some kind of prophecy about her future, some warning to not let any man unworthy of her become her consort.
She might then awaken with a start in her own room. One concept I have is for her to then behold a strange man peering over her, with him being apologetic about frightening her but saying she went to bed and didn’t close the door and he was starting to get concerned. He’s her new butler, but he looks exactly like the draconic boyfriend she had in her vision. She goes up to him and kisses him aggressively, making love to him (but without having sex!) for several minutes. When she pulls away and beholds him with apprehension, he puzzlingly remarks “Am I your beloved now?”, with her saying “Only if thou be worthy.”
The Challenge now challenges the Challenger
After this experience, she’s guided by a calling to make this challenge happen:
The third story, and one I’ve had on the back burner for months by now, is one where a Reinhardt heiress, Edelweiss Reinhardt, nicknamed Rapunzel Reinhardt because of her exceptionally long hair extensions, is inspired my her relative Menteith Reinhardt (he of “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure” fame) and sets up a challenge in outer space to find a husband worthy of her affections, where she poses as a damsel in distress, with enough obstacles to weed out all but the most devoted, determined, and crafty men.
The twist happens when her hero, a sexy billionaire tech mogul, is about to rescue her and win the game, with the spherical web of automated defenses around them is hacked and turned against her, letting in a pirate who holds both of them for ransom, and who claims victory in the challenge or perhaps changes it, saying that any rescuers will now be given a real challenge.
A much older woman relative of hers, Emma Reinhardt, long-time CEO of the semiconductor company their ancestor, Otto Reinhardt, founded all the way back in the 1920s, assembles the combined power of her own wealth base, her women’s tech collectives, and mercenaries to stage a rescue.
As the pirate makes romantic overtures to her (but, luckily for her, he’s too chivalrous to rape her; I’m not writing a dark or gritty story here!), she instead falls in love with her fellow captive, the man who would have won the quest were it not for the pirate’s intervention, and together they attempt to escape not long before Emma’s troops arrive, putting the pirate, and possibly his captives too, in a very uncomfortable position.
Rapunzel the Pagan; oh my!
She also feels a calling to always wear swastika jewelry, like necklaces and earrings; in this world the Nazis never existed, so the symbol retains its associations with auspicious spirituality and the ancient Indo-Europeans, indeed largely replacing the hippie peace symbol as the emblem of the New Age. Now there’s a twist! I was going to include this bit of worldbuilding in “Ten Weeks at Onigaminsing”, but inserting enough context for readers to understand it wasn’t some Nazi victory timeline would have bogged down the story too much. Here, with this concept? I can go all out!
In Edelweiss’s case it’s not much of a leap; she’s always been really into the ancient Germanics, hence her ability to read runes, often wearing those kind of accessories anyway (circles and Thor’s hammer might also show up a lot).
She’s nicknamed Rapunzel because before she issues her challenge she makes a big show of extending her blonde hair to such a length she can have a bun as big as her head on top and a cascading mane all the way down her back, directly following Imogen from “Dear Future Me”, who became a fashion sensation. This retrospectively establishes “Dear Future Me” as taking place in 2020 or 2021, since it’s explicitly stated by a character that they’re in the 2020s and it must take place before this new story.
The events associated with Edelweiss’s challenge all happen in 2021, not long after cousin Menteith’s treasure hunt. After these events, she weds her newfound beloved in early 2022, coinciding with her sixteenth birthday. Later in 2022 she has a daughter. An Aryan-princess teenage bride and mother dangling swastika earrings; if she were transported to our universe she’d be a walking taboo. And I’m just getting started!
A Rapunzel…with a Sniper Rifle and a Poison Ring
Inspired by her experience with the pirates, being held helpless by them, she resolves to take matters into her own hands and cleanse the black sky of criminal filth, secretly establishing what becomes a passion project: an academy for assassins, based on a space station so as to be free of any terrestrial state’s jurisdiction, inducting women (and it’s all women) of the right talent and disposition into a secret society dedicated to eliminating the enemies of liberty, especially in (but by no means limited to) lawless regions like outer space.
Rapunzel Reinhardt gets Political
As Edelweiss matures she’s as much of a mystic, prophet, and visionary as ever, if not more so, but she takes more and more of an interest in the political, from a libertarian-anarchist point of view. Menteith, by this time in his seventies, takes delight in finally having an heir for his shadow party from his own family, bequeathing Rapunzel a greater and greater role in his network, effectively taking her on as his (at least) third apprentice, sidelining winner of the 2020 treasure hunt Vidar Zhyvov.
This might create conflict, but I’m thinking they’ll work well together, as the rest of the operation will still be comfortably in Zhyvov’s hands, and the family were in line to get the bulk of the wealth anyway. It also helps that Rapunzel makes no secret of her dream to get into electoral politics someday, which makes Count Gleichen too cool on her to give her everything. Indeed, even to the extent he does induct her into the inner sanctum he’s bending one of his heretofore ironclad rules.
Menteith has a habit in his old age of faking his own death and coming back to see if his successors followed his instructions, which means when he finally disappears without a trace late in the 2020s it takes a while for the reality to sink in: Menteith is gone and he won’t be back. Yes, Count Gleichen disappears rather than outright dies; I’d like there to be an element of mystery surrounding his exit from this world, rumors that he was working on some new means of spacecraft propulsion. Nothing concrete, though, is ever found.
Edelweiss, being an American citizen and with America being the closest thing she’s got to a home country, dreams of being President, but the assassin school and raising her daughter take precedence. From an early age she’s eyed up by the Wolfram Reinhardt personality cult. As an accomplished libertarian-leftist President given to drama and theatrics, Wolfie engendered a personality cult, the Wolf Pack, also known as the Werewolves (another vaugely Nazi touch), who wanted him to run for additional terms after retiring in 2000.
But as the 2000s drug on it became clear Wolfram had had enough of being President, so for a time they fixate on drafting his sister Emma Reinhardt, despite her being much more moderate, even conservative. Think that’s weird? Maybe so, but is it really any weirder than the oh-so-conservative Trump cultists wanting Ivanka to run? Unfortunately (?) Emma has no interest in a political career, so their next champion ends up being longtime Chief Justice Dragović, a fire-breathing libertarian who the liberal movement convince to run for President after retiring from the court (under a one-term Democrat elected in 2008). He wins in 2012 and 2016, before retiring after two terms (as is tradition since Washington), with the 2018 and 2020 elections seeing the post-hippie Democratic coalition collapse under its own unwieldy weight, effecting a realignment where the GOP, for the first time in half a century, is the leading force, the opposition fragmented and at each other’s throats.
Ready for Rapunzel
Rapunzel Reinhardt enters her twenties in 2026, living her best life as a young woman (with a sniper rifle and flasks of poison…). As the 2020s turn into the 2030s her daughter grows into a bright and beautiful child, and becomes her mother’s apprentice. By the end of the decade she’s in her late teens and ready to take over the assassin school. Rapunzel, for her part, is ready to be President, and the country is Ready for Rapunzel (it’s more alliterative than Ready for Hillary…), the zeitgeist of a new wave of the New Age bubbling up to the surface, bottled up electorally under 20 years at a stretch of conservative hegemony.
Her campaign for the 2040 Presidential election takes off like wildfire, leading what by this point is a very multi-party coalition to victory, hell-bent on reshaping the American political system into something resembling the direct-democratic sortition-based decentralist state of my dreams, maybe even taking the leap into anarchy. Now that the progressive alliance finally has a supermajority in both the states (three-quarters of the legislatures) and Congress (two-thirds of both houses’ seats) courtesy of her Rasputin-level charisma, there’s nothing to stop the liberal movement.
She becomes the first woman President at age 34, which is under the constitutional age of 35. This might be ignored by the electoral college and the Congress (from 1797 to 1835 nine underage Congressmen were seated anyway…), but tying it up more neatly would be supposing a constitutional amendment eliminated the age requirement earlier, perhaps part of a youth rights package spearheaded by her grandfather when he was President. Not much of a stretch; youth rights is a big civil rights movement starting in the 1970s in this universe.
Grandfather’s legacy looms large, and together with the visions there’s a danger of her going full Kylo Ren and telling Wolfram’s ghost “I’m going to finish what you started!”. Hmm…there’s food for thought.
In the meantime, after the 2040 election she goes back to her assassin school in outer space and inducts a new year’s cohort of girls, telling them the same story of the school’s founding she tells every year, which is where the vision and the experience with the pirates come in; this frames it. After she gets through telling them all that, she farewells them, leaving them in the capable hands of her daughter.
Presidential Inaugurations…in Space!
The last part of the story I think will be Edelweiss’s Presidential inauguration, which she conducts at the launch of the first interstellar manned expedition (Russian-led, but with substantial American influence; it’s a truly global project), the very same one that carries Ilmatar and Ilmarinen to Thalassa to the events depicted in “Letters from the Airy Deep” twenty years later. Their trip took twenty years, they arrived in 2060, so they left in 2040. Perfect timing for Edelweiss to farewell them at her swearing-in.
Naturally her inauguration will take place in outer space, since the expedition consists of a fleet of space habitats constructed up there. That might seem weird, but there’s no requirement for the oath of office to be administered on US territory. There’s even precedent; William Rufus King was sworn in as Vice President in Cuba (yes, really). Besides, a US-flagged spacecraft, which is where she’d probably be viewing the launch from, would still count as US territory anyway.
After she’s sworn in, she watches the fleet slip out of sight on a plume of nuclear fire. Taking a moment to reflect on the odyssey ahead, she then turns to the odyssey ahead of her back on the homeworld, getting to work right there in the spaceship. And that’s the end.
Woo…that’s quite a story I’ve got in mind. Turns out this Rapunzel Reinhardt character is something of a focal point in time. She connects a lot of my worldbuilding and my stories, and has an interesting story all her own to tell. A perfect candidate for my next project as a writer.