The Aquitaine Progression

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Authors: Robert Ludlum
following three hundred years are the most pertinent.”
    “To what?”
    “The
legend
of Aquitaine, Mr. Converse. like many ambitious generals, Delavane sees himself as a student of history—in the tradition of Caesar, Napoleon, Clausewitz … even Patton. I was rightly or wrongly considered a scholar, but he remains a student, and that’s as it should be. Scholars can’t take liberties without substantive evidence—or they shouldn’t—but students can and usually do.”
    “What’s your point?”
    “The legend of Aquitaine becomes convoluted, the what-if syndrome riding over the facts until theoretical assumptions are made that distort the evidence. You see, the story of Aquitaine is filled with sudden, massive expansions and abrupt contractions. To simplify, an imaginative student of history might say that had there not been political, marital and military miscalculations on the part of Charlemagne and his son, the two Pepins, and later Louis the Seventh of France and Henry the Second of England,
both
of whom were married to the extraordinary Eleanor, the kingdom of Aquitaine might have encompassed most if not all of Europe.” Beale paused. “Do you begin to understand?” he asked.
    “Yes,” said Joel. “Christ,
yes
.”
    “That’s not all,” continued the scholar. “Since Aquitaine was once considered a legitimate possession of England, it might in time have enveloped all of her foreign colonies, including the original thirteen across the Atlantic—later the United States of America.… Of course, miscalculations or not, it could never have happened because of a fundamental law of Western civilization, valid since the deposition of Romulus Augustulus and the collapse of the Roman empire. You cannot crush, then unite by force and rule disparate peoples and their cultures—not for any length of time.”
    “Someone’s trying to now,” said Converse. “George Marcus Delavane.”
    “Yes. In his mind he’s constructed the Aquitaine that never was, never could be. And it’s profoundly terrifying.”
    “Why? You just said it couldn’t happen.”
    “Not according to the old rules, not in any period since the fall of Rome. But you must remember, there’s never
been
a time in recorded history like this one. Never such weapons, such anxiety. Delavane and his people know that, and theywill play upon those weapons, those anxieties. They
are
playing upon them.” The old man pointed to the sheet of paper in Joel’s hand. “You have matches. Strike one and look at the names.”
    Converse unfolded the sheet, reached into his pocket and took out his lighter. He snapped it, and as the flame illuminated the paper he studied the names. “
Jesus!
” he said, frowning. “They fit in with Delavane. It’s a gathering of warlords, if they’re the men I think they are.” Joel extinguished the flame.
    “They are,” replied Beale, “starting with General Jacques-Louis Bertholdier in Paris, a remarkable man, quite extraordinary. A Resistance fighter in the war, given the rank of major before he was twenty, but later an unreconstructed member of Salan’s OAS. He was behind an assassination attempt on De Gaulle in August of ’62, seeing himself as the true leader of the republic. He nearly made it. He believed then as he believes now that the Algerian generals were the salvation of an enfeebled France. He has survived not only because he’s a legend, but because his voice isn’t alone—only, he’s more persuasive than most. Especially with the elite crowd of promising commanders produced by Saint-Cyr. Quite simply, he’s a fascist, a fanatic hiding behind a screen of eminent respectability.”
    “And the one named Abrahms,” said Converse. “He’s the Israeli strong man who struts around in a safari jacket and boots, isn’t he? The screecher who holds rallies in front of the Knesset and in the stadiums, telling everyone there’ll be a bloodbath in Judea and Samaria if the children of Abraham are

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