Brussels, Royal Palace
Early Spring, 1635
Maria Anna, Queen in the Low Countries, idly skimmed the latest catalogue from Trommler Records of the United States of Europe. As usual, the offerings of the up-time group ABBA were showcased. Understandable, what with the prominence of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden and his daughter Kristina in the affairs of the USE—
"Flattery will get you everywhere," mused Maria Anna.
"Pardon, Your Highness?" asked Doña Mencia de Mendoza, Maria Anna's chief attendant, counsellor, and confidante.
"Oh, nothing," explained Maria. "Amusement, how . . .