Salisbury Army Base, southern England. The British soldiers called a newly appointed German Lieutenant Colonel for tea. The man, training in a Leopard tank, was called by his rank several times, but didn't realize it was him who was called until his German subordinate reminded him that he was now Lieutenant Colonel Eberbach. Why is Major Eberbach, Lt. Col. Eberbach? Why is he steering a Leopard tank in England? Whatever has happened in Germany??
Everything started when someone brought up Klaus von dem Eberbach as a topic at the NATO top brass meeting of the armies. Some raved that keeping a capable officer like Eberbach behind the actual field service was a big loss. The force of circumstances appointed him to a vacant position in the corps in England army base with the long-awaited rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The unit was testing the digital data communication system for tanks, a joint development by German and British armies.
Our Lt. Col. Eberbach was in an exceptionally good humor, humming and drinking tea with British soldiers who took/mistook him for a cheerful German. Klaus used to dislike Brits thanks to the oddballs like Lord Gloria and Charles Laurence, but now having nothing to do with them, he told himself to establish a good relationship with British soldiers in the base. No more "Iron Klaus" of NATO intelligence. Good-bye to the blockheaded boss and the incompetent soup of alphabets. He rejoiced to be back in the life filled with roaring sound of steel and engines. He laughed a laugh of joy for no apparent reason.
Bonn (going back to the scenes before Klaus was actually transferred to England): Three managers were discussing the news that the institution was to leave the Bonn office. The heads of personnel department and accounting office were simply happy. In the shadow of famous code name "Iron Klaus", everyone suffered: a rebel to his superiors, abuser to the alphabets, and he completely ignored the need to curtail expenses. But the Chief looked disconcerted about losing the Major, whose position would be taken over by Gottfried Rhode from the Federal Information Agency. The other two tried to convince the Chief that the older man would be a better choice with more experiences and consideration to his superiors and subordinates. But the Chief didn't buy that. He insisted the caliber of Iron Klaus was the one and only for the office.
The day of his departure, Klaus gave a short speech to the heartbroken alphabets and introduced his successor to them crossly, because, to his embarrassment, Agent G openly started sobbing into a hanky. The Chief caught him in front of the emptied locker. He was sorry that the joint force of the eternal Chief and the eternal Major had to be dissolved at last. Klaus had declined the alphabets' offer to have a farewell party for him, and suggested the Chief to have the backbiting party with the alphabets to their hearts' content. Klaus shook the offered hand of the Chief and left. "Without bickering, without even looking back, he's gone just like that." The Chief slouched his shoulders and sighed. "His mind is already filled with the next mission. Advance is the only vocabulary in his dictionary. He's that kind of a man." That was the beginning of the dark age of NATO intelligence office.
On the phone, Mr. L of the SIS reproached the Chief for letting go of the most precious talent of all of the intelligence agencies. Mr. L deplored the loss of "the modest, discreet, shy and such a pleasant young man who concealed a flaming passion deep inside." The Chief asked which major he was referring to. Mr. L mocked him that the Chief's sensitivity was short of understanding Klaus's virtues, then sent a welcoming message to the newly appointed Rhode, when the subject knocked on the Chief's door in a timely manner. Rhode gave a disapproving look to the friendly relationship between the Chief and Mr. L, and suggested his superior to be more wary of the head of other agencies. Rhode came to request high-wall cubicles to all of the alphabets so that they would be more concentrated on their job and rid themselves of the reliance to each other and the boss. "Secret agents can survive only when they overcome the solitude where there is no friendship nor help from their superior."
Rhode turned out to be a pest driven by the maniac passion to depress everyone around him with his dark past experiences and absolute distrust of human nature. The alphabets were confined in small cubicles (each one provided with a door) and perplexed by the change of working environment. Sulky G lost interest in being dressed up or wearing make-up with no Major Eberbach around (he wore jeans and sandals on barefoot in his disarrayed cubicle); back from Rhode's office, Z put his face on the desk and refused to tell the others what he was told by the new boss. To A who went to scout him, Rhode gave a warning with dreary look on his face: "There's no such thing as truth in this world. There are only two kinds of lies instead: enemy's lies and ally's lies." In the corridor back to their office, A first realized that the Major had never put his past hardships into words in front of them. He missed the Major, but made up his mind to accept Rhode as their new superior. An email from Bonham was waiting for A in his claustrophobic cubicle:
A tear ran down the agent A's cheek. "Mr. Bonham," he wrote back, "the Major won't yell at us any longer."
London. Hearing the news of Klaus's transfer from Bonham, Dorian was enraged. He declared he wouldn't approve of NATO's personnel change. If Iron Klaus left the intelligence office to go back to a "healthy" tank corps, he'd be deprived of the chance to be chased by his beloved Major, which was his reason for being. Bonham said his promotion to the Lt. Col. was something to celebrate, but Dorian said such a stale-sounding title like Lt. Col. didn't suit his taste. Dorian considered kidnapping a VIP of the German army to get Iron Klaus back to the old nest. Bonham stopped him. Then James told that Laurence was there to see Eroica.
Laurence showed off to Dorian a snapshot of Klaus smiling on the tank. The two bickered with each other:
Then both blurted they needed to have the Major back in the NATO intelligence office; he was an irreplaceable asset there. Laurence promised that he'd have Mr. L make up some kind of a plan to call the Major back to Bonn and left Dorian's mansion. Dorian offered his collaboration.
Bonn. The air of the intelligence office was becoming colder and darker each day. The alphabets started suffering from depression, and more than one third of them called in sick; even the Chief went home early on the pretext of a bad headache. Everyday turned into as much fun as a wake. Mr. L called the Chief at home and suggested to fire Rhode, but the Chief explained it wasn't possible to get rid of a staff member just because he had a depressive personality. He added that it would be a different story if Rhode failed in his mission. Mr. L jumped at that, revealing a nice conspiracy the SIS had contrived to save NATO intelligence. He reminded the Chief that this was a top secret between just two of them, that must never to be known to anyone, even to the alphabets.
London. Laurence met Dorian in the city to explain the booby trap -- a fake kidnap -- Mr. L had devised, which was to get rid of Rhode as the first step to call back Iron Klaus to his former position. IEA, the mid-sized Italian high-tech company, was among the participants in the NATO project to develop new weapons. The chairman of IEA was coming to see a company in southwest of London in a few days. Eroica's mission in the operation was to kidnap the chairman pretending as if it was a NATO project-related attempt, and have Rhode chase him. In the SIS's scheme, Rhode would make a fool of himself by failing to catch a kidnapper and eventually get fired. Dorian complied, claiming that only the Major could catch him. He promised he'd pull the gloomy man by the nose all over England. Laurence warned him to avoid Salisbury. If the Major came to know the plot, he'd turn into an ogre and there would be no guarantee for their safety. Dorian made sure if the SIS would provide a car and pay the gas expense; Laurence suggested him to save the receipts.
Bonn. Agent A was called to Rhode's room. The SIS sent them serious information about a certain group after the NATO secret and their plan to kidnap a high-tech company executive. Rhode and the alphabets were to fly to London to forestall their attempt. The agents were happy for the chance to get out of the small boxes; G started to curl his hair with a curling iron and wear make-up in the hope of seeing the Earl in London. (But D threw a damper on his happiness with the comment that the Earl would never appear where there was no Major around. Obviously D was under the influence of his new boss.) The Chief encouraged Rhode that NATO intelligence was anticipating his success, and went to call London (Mr. L) immediately after their departure.
The go was sent from Mr. L to Laurence, then to Eroica, who started his mission to kidnap the Italian executive with Bonham. (Thank heavens James didn't accompany them this time -- supposedly polishing the floor of Dorian's mansion; Ms. Aoike seems to be at least aware how much is too much for her patient readers... James on top of plenty of Laurence will make a story surreal.) To Bonham who showed concern on Klaus's behalf, Dorian said that unlike a replaceable member of the tank corps, Iron Klaus was the one and only in the world.
In a factory or warehouse of a company called W.T., southwest of London. Dorian and Bonham in employees' uniforms were watching the chairman of IEA and his group from a little distance. While they waited for a chance for the chairman to drift away from the group, three employers of the company approached the Italian and started to talk. Then suddenly, the three assaulted the chairman with a blanket, wrapped him and fled in front of the appalled Dorian. The first thought that came to Dorian's mind was that the SIS hadn't trusted Eroica's skill and dispatched another group for the plot. He immediately called Laurence in rage. Asked if he prepared backup kidnappers, Laurence answered he had not been up to such an elaborate plan. The two turned pale. It was not a playacting, but a real kidnap case. Laurence screamed at Eroica to retrieve the chairman, as Rhode and his subordinates had just arrived at London. Eroica and Bonham started chasing the kidnappers' car which was heading to the direction of Salisbury plain. (The three, in fact, were ordinary kidnappers after the ransom for the chairman of a lucrative high-tech company.)
That day also, the Lieutenant Colonel Eberbach was steering a tank cheerfully.
The news flew from Mr. L to the Chief at once. Now things had come to such a pass, the SIS's priority was to rescue the chairman than play with the internal affairs of NATO intelligence. The Chief agreed and said he'd call Rhode and the alphabets back to Bonn.
To Eroica's bewilderment, the kidnappers' car went further approaching the army base where there was the ogre playing with tanks. The car went into a wood, where they discarded the car and switched to a military truck. Apparently they were heading to the dreaded base. Eroica R/T'ed Laurence for an instruction. "Lucky us!" Laurence exclaimed on a helicopter. "Let's have the Major catch the kidnappers!" He explained that Mr. L had changed the objective of the mission from deportation of Rhode to rescue of the chairman. Eroica was taken aback by light footwork of the SIS and asked him if they were chameleons. Laurence tried to get a head start to go ask the Major (Lt. Col. Eberbach) for his collaboration, and Eroica threatened that he would spill the plot to the Major if they tried to exclude him from the operation. Laurence gave in, and came down to the ground to pick them up. As Dorian put it, unforeseeable developments of the story were daily events in the Eroica world.
At the W.T. building. Rhode watched the alphabets in sinister silence while agent A interrogated the employees of the company. A worker mentioned about an unfamiliar handsome young man with long, curly blond hair. Excited, G showed them his treasured picture of Eroica. Rhode ordered G to present the picture to him, too. He recognized the face as a wanted thief and demanded the alphabets to explain the relation between NATO intelligence and the thief. A, D and E were at a loss for an answer. "How can we explain the peculiar relationship between the Major and the Earl -- to the man like Rhode?" Rhode snapped that the subordinates hiding a common secret against their superior was a bad sign of betrayal. To the agent A's suggestion that they should proceed with the search of the chairman rather than discuss the issue now, Rhode said his predecessor must have been a spineless jellyfish who allowed his subordinates to give an order to their boss. A finally lost his temper. He shouted at Rhode how his predecessor had been serious about his mission, that he had never demoralized his subordinates with depressing personal stories, and that Rhode's reeducation attempt would only have an effect of hindering their missions. Then, the messenger from the SIS arrived to tell Rhode that their heads had agreed to leave the kidnappers' apprehension to the SIS, therefore NATO intelligence should return to Bonn. Rhode determined that was a conspiracy, in which he was betrayed by both his superior and subordinates. He declared that he would interrogate the alphabets back in Bonn and left. The four (A, D, E and G) gazed at him speechlessly. It was then that D discovered a round bald spot (alopecia areata, according to my dictionary) on agent A's head. D & E recommended him to leave matters to them and take some vacation. A sincerely wished the Major back.
Salisbury army base. Eroica, Laurence and Bonham found Klaus working by the tank. He had his hair tied back and wore the combat uniform and a beret. Eroica commented that his bare strong neck was fresh and sexy. Klaus felt a strange presence to his back and turned around. The three said "Hallo," in unison. He stared at them momentarily, asked the other soldiers to go on with what they were doing, and calmly told the three to follow him, which was an unexpected reaction for all of the three. When Laurence started complaining Klaus must have forgotten them, the Major (Lt. Col.) turned around and barked at them. Finding the unchanged Major, tears of joy came out of Dorian and Laurence's eyes. Laurence requested his favor to collaborate with the SIS to rescue the Italian chairman from the kidnappers disguised as army soldiers in the base. Klaus flatly refused on the ground that he was not an intelligence agent any longer. Dorian said the kidnappers' objective was NATO's secret on the newly developed weapons (a lie). Klaus told them to leave it to NATO intelligence. Laurence wiped his eyes with his fist. He and Dorian explained that thanks to his successor, an incompetent wet blanket, the intelligence office now turned into a useless department for NATO. Klaus refused to believe their story, and Laurence presented the R/T and pressed the button without a moment's delay. The voice of Mr. L (who was listening to their exchange) substantiated Laurence's story that NATO intelligence was not functioning. In a serious voice, he requested Klaus to rescue the hostage and arrest the kidnappers. "I ask your collaboration, my very best friend Eberbach, as the Chief's friend and your eternal supporter!" Klaus froze, and then he said to Mr. L that he was going to help them provided that they would keep his cooperation secret to Bonn lest it would offend Rhode's feelings. The revival of Iron Klaus elated Dorian and Laurence.
Dorian reported as a witness how the kidnap had happened and confessed he had been up to kidnap the chairman himself; the unexpected confession of Eroica terrified Laurence. To Klaus's question how come Eroica was after the chairman of a high-tech company, Dorian explained that he was a handsome homosexual who owned an art collection, which convinced Klaus with no problem. Klaus declared he was going to sweat them on the search.
The kidnappers and the hostage were hiding in the ruins of a medieval monastery in the army training field. The sound of the helicopter surprised them, but they were relieved to remember where they were now. As a matter of fact, however, on the army helicopter were Dorian and Bonham. Eroica spotted a familiar-looking track of tires and an expensive Italian shoe alongside the track. The report satisfied Klaus, who ordered them to come back. Jealous of Dorian's effective assistance, Laurence disappeared to fetch a truck for them. Klaus decided to make use of some British soldiers idling around; "Though I have no warrant for this, it's a job requested by the SIS." He borrowed five men from the British commander and told them that they were going to do a "search and rescue" training on the assumption that three kidnappers were supposed to be hiding somewhere in the practice field with their hostage. Some of them questioned why a tank corps members needed such practice, and Klaus bellowed at them to shut their mouth up and follow his order, all of a sudden revealing his real self. Klaus, Dorian, Bonham and five intimidated soldiers were getting ready to leave, when Laurence came back with a truck covered by flabbergasting camouflage (net, trees, leaves and some unrecognizable objects). They decided to go halfway by the truck and go another half on foot to the destination.
Off the truck, Klaus spread a map on the ground and gave the crew instructions to approach the destination in two groups. "Besiege the subjects from front and back." Dorian, not listening, enjoyed the sight of the soldiers' unprotected assets. Suddenly, a soldier gave out a fearful cry and clung to Klaus's back. To disgusted Klaus, he protested that his back was assaulted without warning. Dorian, toying his curls, told Klaus not to make a big fuss because it wasn't Klaus's back he had touched. Enraged Klaus and Dorian as cool as a cucumber started their usual interlocution in front of the five utterly appalled soldiers. Their bewilderment was intensified when Laurence appeared wearing the so-called camouflage all over himself. Klaus ordered four Brits to go with Laurence: "He's an oddball, but at least he won't harass you." Then he told the remaining one, a stocky soldier with a mustache and beard (Mr. homely), to watch Dorian so that he wouldn't dare try any disquieting act. Dorian whined that he wanted to be accompanied by a not-so-homely one, promising that he wouldn't do anything other than watch. Klaus ignored his plea and ordered everyone to go ahead. The party led by Laurence and another consisting of Klaus, Dorian, Bonham and Mr. homely departed separately in the wood. Dorian was jealous of Klaus and Bonham talking to each other in a friendly way several yards behind him while he was closely stalked by Mr. homely. The conversation between Klaus and Bonham reveals to us that the military rank of Laurence in the British army is Second Lieutenant (according to Klaus).
Klaus and his party arrived at the ruins of the monastery first. He radioed Laurence to hurry, not expecting much. Laurence answered they'd be there in five minutes, but in fact Laurence missed his assigned route, leading his soldiers deep into a swamp (he was too afraid to tell Klaus that he was lost); wet and smeared with mud all over, the upset soldiers were considering to complain to the captain back in the base about Lt. Col. Eberbach who involved them in this ridiculous training. At the ruin, Klaus immediately forgot about Laurence and sent Mr. homely to look for the kidnappers' truck and Dorian and Bonham to find their hiding place. Dorian was elated to work with the Major as in the old days. He spotted a suspicious structure covered by trees in an unnatural way, from which one of the kidnappers peeked out at the gunfire Klaus opened to the sky. Klaus gave Dorian a radio and told him to go to the back of the ruin to rescue the hostage while the exchange between Bonham (supposedly a Warrant Officer) and Klaus (supposedly a soldier of the lower rank) attracted the kidnappers' attention.
Eroica's attempt to lead the hostage safely out of the building failed, but before the three got to them, Klaus raided the ruin and apprehended the kidnappers barehanded and in an instant. Dorian adored the sight of him in action. The felons confessed they were from a professional kidnapper family after ransoms. Klaus scorned the SIS for giving him false information. Dorian praised Klaus as a sublime existence to save the world's peace and order.
Then Klaus silenced Dorian by asking him if he was still after the chairman's art collection.
Klaus told the confused-looking Mr. homely that taking the kidnappers and the hostage back to the base on the truck would conclude the training. Then, Dorian reminded him that Laurence hadn't arrived yet. They looked at each other.
Laurence and his party was in the where-and-who-are-we status. All the exhausted soldiers were squatting on the ground, cursing at the German and determined to report his abusive deed to their Captain. Klaus and his party had to go deep into the forest to look for them.
Klaus pushed Laurence, who fatuously celebrated the successful solution of the case, into the dirt by the helicopter which would send them to London with the kidnappers and the chairman.
On the helicopter, Laurence assumed that they triggered his anger by not calling him with the right title. Dorian flatly refused Laurence's invitation to make another plot at London to lure him back to the espionage world. He said he was going to visit him at the base daily and convince him to go back to the intelligence office.
On the ground after they left, Klaus realized that he had forgotten to ask them the current status of the NATO intelligence office and looked up at the sky. Were they really in such a pathetic shape as to not being able to catch the petit kidnappers? Where had it gone, what he had established in those past years? He continued to stand on the bare ground of the base, where the setting sun cast his long shadow behind him, when...
...his German superior called him. "Lieutenant Colonel Eberbach, you put us in an awkward situation."
The British army filed a stiff protest with the German army against Klaus's act of arrogance on their soldiers. Apart from the circumstances, his deed disturbed the order between the British and German armies. There was a rising hostility toward Lieutenant Colonel Eberbach among the British soldiers in the base. The incident was attributed to the fact that Lieutenant Colonel had been a remarkably capable intelligence officer, and it was possible that his former affiliates would approach the base again to cause similar incidents in the future. The German army had to avoid friction with the British army as best as possible. It was a pity to give up an ace officer like Eberbach, but...
Bonn. Agent B sat in the Rhode's office, facing to his new boss across his desk on which his resignation was placed. Rhode was telling him about his former colleague spy who had quit the job against his superior's advice and ended up an alcoholic homeless sleeping on the frozen ground of Berlin in the depth of winter. B looked almost about to burst into tears. Watching them in the same room, the head of the personnel office finally admitted to the Chief that Rhode was too grim and depressing to be a leader of the soup of alphabets. The Chief asked him to replace Rhode with another person -- if not the Major, a cheerful one at least -- when the personnel office manager was called for the call from the army HQ.
The last day of his vacation, Agent A was vacuum-cleaning the carpet of his house with a heavy heart. He was wondering if he could request a transfer to the Alaska base leaving his wife behind. The pretty wife of his (whom Klaus referred as "pretty" all the time to make agent A worry to death) called him from the kitchen that Major Eberbach was on the phone. Surprised, A rushed to the telephone, and stammered to fail to call him with his new rank, but Klaus told him "Major" would do. Major Eberbach said he was concerned to know that the workaholic agent was taking a vacation.
A's face lit up with delight, and a teardrop ran down on his cheek.
"Lieutenant Colonel Eberbach" was sent back to Bonn.