Grantville Gazette Volume 24
What is this? About the Grantville Gazette
Written by Grantville Gazette Staff
The Grantville Gazette originated as a by-product of the ongoing and very active discussions which take place concerning the 1632 universe Eric Flint created in the novels 1632, 1633 and 1634: The Galileo Affair (the latter two books co-authored by David Weber and Andrew Dennis, respectively). This discussion is centered in three of the conferences in Baen's Bar, the discussion area of Baen Books' web site. The conferences are entitled "1632 Slush," "1632 Slush Comments" and "1632 Tech Manual." They have been in operation for almost seven years now, during which time nearly two hundred thousand posts have been made by hundreds of participants.
Soon enough, the discussion began generating so-called "fanfic," stories written in the setting by fans of the series. A number of those were good enough to be published professionally. And, indeed, a number of them were-as part of the anthology Ring of Fire, which was published by Baen Books in January, 2004. (Ring of Fire also includes stories written by established authors such as Eric Flint himself, as well as David Weber, Mercedes Lackey, Dave Freer, K.D. Wentworth and S.L. Viehl.)
The decision to publish the Ring of Fire anthology triggered the writing of still more fanfic, even after submissions to the anthology were closed. Ring of Fire has been selling quite well since it came out, and a second anthology similar to it was published late in 2007. Another, Ring of Fire III, is forthcoming. It will also contain stories written by new writers, as well as professionals. But, in the meantime… the fanfic kept getting written, and people kept nudging Eric-well, pestering Eric-to give them feedback on their stories.
Hence… the Grantville Gazette. Once he realized how many stories were being written-a number of them of publishable quality-he raised with Jim Baen the idea of producing an online magazine which would pay for fiction and nonfiction articles set in the 1632 universe and would be sold through Baen Books' Webscriptions service. Jim was willing to try it, to see what happened.
As it turned out, the first issue of the electronic magazine sold well enough to make continuing the magazine a financially self-sustaining operation. Since then, even more volumes have been electronically published through the Baen Webscriptions site. As well, Grantville Gazette, Volume One was published in paperback in November of 2004. That has since been followed by hardcover editions of Grantville Gazette, Volumes Two, Three and Four.
Then, two big steps:
First: The magazine had been paying semi-pro rates for the electronic edition, increasing to pro rates upon transition to paper, but one of Eric's goals had long been to increase payments to the authors. Grantville Gazette, Volume Eleven is the first volume to pay the authors professional rates.
Second: This on-line version you're reading. The site here at http://www. grantvillegazette. com is the electronic version of an ARC, an advance readers copy where you can read the issues as we assemble them. There are stories posted here which won't be coming out in the magazine for more than a year.
How will it work out? Will we be able to continue at this rate? Well, we don't know. That's up to the readers. But we'll be here, continuing the saga, the soap opera, the drama and the comedy just as long as people are willing to read them.
– The Grantville Gazette Staff
Written by Douglas W. Jones
I'd gotten a decent night's sleep after the hard ride back from Eisenach. Much of Grantville had stayed up late celebrating their victory over the Croats, but I'd slept through most of it. After breaking my fast, I wandered over to the police station to see how the Grantville police were dealing with the aftermath of the raid two days before.
"Sergeant Leslie," Angela called, smiling. "Am I glad to see you!"
Before I could reply, the phone rang and she picked it up. "Grantville Police," she said, and then paused. I listened to half a conversation while she took notes. Angela Baker is a sweet young woman, but I'd seen her handle some tough situations in the months that I'd served as Mackay's man with the Grantville police.
She picked up her radio microphone as soon as she hung up the phone and transmitted a terse message full of the ten-codes that the American police seem to love. The message was acknowledged by what seemed more a squawk of static than words, but she seemed satisfied.
"Where is everyone," I asked, after she finished with the radio.
"Out," she said. "While everyone else celebrates, we work. That call was about a wounded Croat cavalryman who crawled out of the woods east of town. We've had some cases where they're still armed and dangerous, but some died before we got to them. Add to that the fact that the king is in town with his cavalry, and we're busy. What I was going to say is…"
The phone rang again, so again I waited while she took notes. When I first began working with the Grantville police, I thought girls like Angela were menials, but I'd been wrong. Her job wasn't just to answer the phone and relay messages, it was to decide what mattered and what could wait. If something did matter, she had to know who to tell.
"A horse wandered into someone's back yard," she said, shaking her head as she put down the phone. She looked up at me and went on in a more serious tone. "John, we're short handed, and I have a call here that needs attention now. I know you're not officially Grantville police, but could you go out and take a look at this for us?"
"What is it?" I asked.
"The power plant phoned just before you walked in the door. They say they think they might have been attacked."
"They think?" I asked.
"Weird, isn't it. The rest of Grantville is darned sure it was attacked, but out at the power plant, they just think. Could you ride out there and see what's going on? Take notes, collect evidence."
Ten minutes later, I was on my horse on the road up Buffalo Creek. I'd hoped to spend the day helping celebrate Colonel Mackay's wedding, but I knew how much Grantville depended on electric power. In the past few months, Grantville's electric powered machine shops had become the key to supplying the king's new artillery.
It's a three mile ride to the power plant, but even before I got to the fairground on the west side of town, the whole atmosphere changed. Where the center of town was bustling with work cleaning up after the Croats, the west side was calm. I saw no broken windows and no bullet scars on buildings. If any Croats had made it west of town, they'd left scant evidence.
Not long after I crossed the railroad tracks at Murphy's run, the valley turned, giving me a view of the great cliffs south of Schwarzburg that mark the border of Grantville's land. A bit over a year before, Grantville and a round chunk of America from almost 400 years in the future had been plunged through a ring of fire into the center of Germany. The ring of cliffs around Grantville mark the mismatch between the German mountains outside and the American mountains inside. I've been in and around Grantville for most of a year now, and it's still terrifying to think about what God or the Devil did in that instant.
As the valley straightened out, the castle at Schwarzburg and the power plant below it came into view. A year ago, there was just a small cluster of houses by the power plant. Some people called it Spring Branch, after the stream that used to flow into Buffalo Creek there. Now, the Schwarza River flows into Buffalo Creek at Spring Branch, and the village has more than tripled in size. The power plant workers put up some of the new houses, a cluster of what the Americans call mobile homes, but the biggest growth started as a prisoner of war camp just west of the plant. By fall, the camp had become a refugee camp, and now that was fast becoming a permanent village, housing for workers at the power plant and at the new businesses growing up around it.
"Someone here called the police?" I asked, at the power plant's guard house.
"You not police," the guard said, looking at me through the woven steel wires of the fence around the place.
" Nein," I said, switching to German. The old man didn't look like he could guard much of anything, but he controlled the gate in the eight-foot high fence around the plant. "I'm John Leslie, cavalier with the Green Regiment. The police are a bit short handed, so they asked me to come out."
"I'll phone," he said, suspiciously, walking back into the guard house.
While I waited, I looked. I'd seen the power plant from the road many times, but I'd never been inside the fence. The place is immense and strange. Tall stacks on the east end of the building give off faint brown trails of smoke. The walls of the plant are iron in some places and brick in other places, and they must be fifty or a hundred feet high. It's not a fortress, but if it weren't for the huge windows, it would be easy to mistake it for one.
"Come in," the guard said, walking out to the gate. He pulled it just wide enough for my horse. "Tie up your horse this side of the railroad track, the grass is good there. Someone will come for you."
A man came around the corner of the plant as I took care of my horse. "Mr. Leslie?" he said, in American style. "I'm Tom McAndrew. You're here instead of the police?"
"I've been the Green Regiment's man with the Grantville police for most of a year now," I said, taking out the pad of paper Angela had made me take and writing down Tom's name. "They're a bit short handed what with the raid and the king's visit and all, so I said I'd help. What happened here?"
"Someone's been shooting at the plant," he said, leading me around the corner.
"It looks like it'd take a cannon to hurt this place," I said, looking up at the thick brick walls. "Of course, those big windows are a weak point."
The west wall of the place wasn't as high as most of the walls facing the road. Perhaps only 30 or 60 feet high, and parts looked newer. The windows began halfway up and ran almost to the top. If they'd had colored glass, they'd have belonged in a cathedral.
"They're not aiming at the windows, they've been shooting at our switchyard."
Tom paused, and then pointed. "That's the switchyard," he said, pointing to the place where all the different electric wires converged on the plant. A line of tall towers carried six great wires off to the south while wooden poles carried three great wires off to the north. Smaller lines also came together at the place. There was a ring of high wire fence around the yard, and inside, a maze of strange stuff, all made of gray metal except for some parts that must have been green glass or brown glazed fine china. A faint hum seemed to fill the air as we came near.
"I'm afraid I don't get it," I said, dismayed. "I'm just a poor Scot, they should've sent an American."
Tom smiled wryly. "Don't worry, most of the folks in Grantville don't understand this stuff either, but I suppose they do their best to sound like they do around downtimers. The switchyard is where the power from the plant gets switched onto one line or the other. Those boxes with two connections each are circuit breakers to cut off power to the power line if there's a problem."
"Connections?" I asked, puzzled. "You mean those pillars of crockery coming out the top?"
"Right," he said, grinning. "Now, the big boxes with six connections each are the transformers, they change the voltage."
"Voltage?" I asked, feeling lost.
"That's a measure of how strong the electric power is," he said. "Forty volts is enough to kill a careless man, less if his skin is damp. When people turn on an electric light, that's just one hundred and fifteen volts. The bus bars are those three pipes that go across the top of everything. They run at thirty-five kilovolts, that's thirty-five thousand volts, three hundred times stronger than the power for an electric light. The three main circuits going out of the plant are one hundred and thirty five kilovolts. Of course, there's only one that still works, the one that goes over the hill to the mine."
I shook my head, lost in all this detail. "So how do you know someone was shooting at it."
Tom pointed. "Look at the insulators."
"You called them towers of crockery. They're glass or porcelain, crockery if you wish. Their job is to support the bus bars and the wires without letting the electricity leak out. Electricity only goes through metal, it can't go through insulators. The bigger insulators are for higher voltages. Anyway, take a look at the insulators holding up the bus bars."
I looked, and indeed, two of the insulators holding up one of the bus bars were shattered. Looking at the gravel below, I could see fragments of broken crockery.
"I see," I said. "Nobody seems to be in a panic, though. Why is this important."
"Because it could have shut down the plant. It should have. I wouldn't have expected the bar to hang in the air like that. The two insulators at the other end of the bus bar must be holding most of its weight, and the rest is being taken by the rigid feeders that drop down to the two newest transformers below. If the bar had sagged down just a bit more, we'd have had an electrical explosion and the power plant would probably have been dead for at least a week while we fixed the damage. As it is, we've got a problem because we only have one spare of that insulator. We've taken it to a potter so she can try to make a duplicate."
"You think it was done with a gun?" I asked, looking around. The closest the outer fence came to the switchyard was about ten rods, either from the south across the creek or from the edge of the refugee camp to the west. "It can't have been done with a common matchlock, it's too far. Whether it was German or American, it was a long rifle. If we could find a bullet, that would help."
"I have the key," Tom said, "but it's dangerous in there. Keep down, don't get tempted to climb up on anything."
"I heard you talking about thousands of volts, when what, forty are enough to kill a man."
"Right," he said, as he unlocked the gate in the switchyard fence.
I wasn't happy in that switchyard with the humming of the electricity all around me, but I did my best to ignore it. It was the broken insulator on the ground that I wanted, not anything up high. I didn't move anything, but just looked at the pieces where they'd fallen. "Do you see," I said, pointing to the shattered pieces of one insulator, and then pointing up at where they'd come from.
"What," he said.
"The pieces are scattered, but they're mostly east o' where they came from. I'd bet the shooter was over there somewhere," I said, waving at the refugee camp to the west.
The pieces of the other insulator were scattered in the same way. I wanted a bullet, so my eyes were on the gravel. Lead doesn't bounce very well. If a bullet hit an insulator head on, it would likely drop to the ground right under it.
"Look there," Tom said, pointing at the wall of the power plant.
"What?" I asked, straightening up to look where he pointed. There were fresh bullet scars on the brick wall of the power plant. It was obvious that a shooter trying to hit an insulator at 50 yards was bound to miss a few times.
"That's good," I said. "But help me find a bullet before we leave here."
We looked for another few minutes before I found a smashed bullet. "Take a look," I said, holding it in my hand.
"It was a round ball, wasn't it."
"Right," I said. Not with a flat bottom, like your rifles shoot, but it was shot from a rifle, you can see the grooves. We're looking for a downtime marksman, I think, perhaps a jager."
"Yayger?" he asked, while I pocketed the ball and a few pieces of shattered insulator.
"Professional hunter," I said. "They usually use good rifled guns."
The area under the scars on the side of the powerplant was weedy, there was no hope of finding a bullet there, but standing under the scars on the side of the building and sighting back through the switchyard toward the refugee camp, it was obvious where the shots had come from.
"Want me to go with you?" Tom asked, as we stared at the building the shooter must have used.
"That would be nice. Back through the main gate?"
"Faster through the west gate," he said. "The railroad used to go out that way, before they pulled the track last summer. I have the key here."
When I'd first seen it, the refugee camp had been nothing but a few parallel rows of light sheds. Just about every time I'd visited, there'd been changes. What had been sheds had been closed in by winter, and with the coming of spring, the pace of construction had increased. The shooter's building had a new second story, and as we came up to it, a roofing crew was at work adding a good slate roof on top.
"Hey, who you," a German carpenter asked, as we stepped inside.
"I'm from the power plant," Tom said. "John is with the Grantville police. Who are you?"
While I tried to figure out what question to ask, I wrote down his name. "What happened here during the Croat raid?" was the best I could do.
"Well," the carpenter said, answering in German, "the news of the Croats came before we got to work. We decided to lock the old prison camp gates and move the women and children into the inner houses. I think we could have held off a cavalry attack for a long time."
I nodded, looking around. "You're probably right. Horses are no match for a woven wire fence with barbed wire on top. You had guns?"
"A few," he said. "Mostly matchlocks, but enough to keep an attacker from trying to cut his way through the fence, and three of us had American pistols."
"No," Schneider said. "Everyone who had a gun had it out. I didn't see any rifles."
"So what happened afterwards. When did you get back to work here?"
"When news came of the victory, we had a bit of a celebration. It was time for the noon meal, so it was afternoon when we got to work."
"Did you see anything in this house when you got back to work?"
"Like what?" he asked, and I was stumped. I didn't want to ask for evidence of someone shooting at the power plant. I'd learned from the Grantville police that it was bad to ask leading questions. "Well, any sign that something odd had happened here."
"Now that you mention it, there was something," he said, frowning. "That window was broken out, and there was a sort of sulfur stink in the air."
The window he pointed to had only a few fragments of greased paper around the edges. It faced the power plant, and someone had torn out the paper. When I walked over to the window, I could see powder burns on the sill. Someone had fired a black-powder rifle out the window from close by. "Tom? Take a look."
Fortune didn't smile on us when we asked around, nobody remembered hearing the shots fired. People told us that the power plant makes odd noises on occasion, and it seemed likely that the shooter had managed to muffle the noise of his gun by shooting from inside the house.
Around noon, Tom suggested we break for lunch and recommended a tavern out by the main road. The place had decent food, and they'd set up tables in the shade of a big tree. Halfway through our meal, when the serving maid came to ask if we wanted more beer, I thought to ask the same questions I'd been asking in the camp.
"Around the time of the Croat raid, did you happen to see anyone around here with a long rifle?"
She frowned. "There was a man here the night before who had a big flintlock rifle. He said he was visiting a friend in the camp."
"Can you describe him?"
"Weatherbeaten, thin, he had a brown horse with a white cross on its nose. By his accent, he was Franconian."
"Have you seen him before then, or since?" I asked.
She hadn't. I paused, puzzled, and then looked across the table at Tom. "A jager, it would seem, and from Franconia. How in creation would such a man know to shoot at your, what do you call them, insulators."
"It's an obvious way to attack a power plant," he said.
"Obvious to you," I said, "But you had to spend half the morning explaining things to me enough that I could understand what he'd done. Someone here, someone working in your plant, must have taken the time to explain the same things to that man, or more likely, to whoever hired him."
"You think we have a spy in the power plant?"
When I got back to the Grantville police station, Angela Baker asked what I'd found. When I told her, she immediately dialed the telephone and asked for Chief Frost. "Yes," I heard her say "I know he's at the wedding banquet, but he should hear this himself." There was a pause. "Yes, I suppose it's poor form to walk out on the king, but if I can't get Chief Frost, then I need to speak with Mackay immediately."
She looked up at me with a grin. "I still can't believe we have a king here in…" Someone on the other end of the telephone must have spoken, because she stopped suddenly and then handed me the phone.
"John Leslie here," I said, using my best telephone manners. It was Chief Frost.
I went on to tell what I'd seen at the power plant, leading up to my guess that there was a spy in the plant to teach a German huntsman what exactly he needed to shoot at.
"Good Job," the Chief Frost said. "And thanks for helping cover for us when we're stretched thin. I'll mention your work to Colonel Mackay, and please, write up a proper report, or have Angela help you write it up. I'll forward a copy to Rebecca."
I didn't expect Chief Frost to say he'd forward a copy to Rebecca Abrabanel. To hear Grantville's policemen talk, you'd think nobody ever reads their reports. Now, my report was going to be read, not by some clerk, but by one of the most important people in Grantville.
Angela was a big help with the report, but we took frequent breaks when the telephone rang or a garbled burst of static on the radio needed action.
On one of the telephone calls, Angela put her hand over the telephone mouthpiece. "Power plant again," she said to me, and then uncovered the mouthpiece. "I think you should speak to Sergeant Leslie, he's the one who figured it out this morning."
When I took the receiver, the man on the other end introduced himself as Scott Hilton. "I'm the steam engine project shift supervisor for the power plant. Tell me why you think there's a spy in the plant," he said.
When I finished answering his question, he sighed. "I hate to say it, but I don't think this is our first attack. When I heard there might be a spy here, I didn't want to believe it, but at the same time
…" He stopped, and there was an uncomfortable pause. "Well, I wanted to hear it from you before I go off half cocked."
I had to grin at the American expression comparing a man to a half-cocked pistol. "So are you fully cocked now?" I asked.
"I suppose so," he said, with a chuckle. "As I said, I think there were other attacks on the plant."
"We've had accidents," he said. "We expected some accidents, but there've been some odd ones. We're trying to build machines none of us are really prepared to build, you know."
I didn't know, but I didn't interrupt him.
"When you've got enough plain ordinary accidents, it's easy to think that everything that goes wrong is an accident. Now that we know someone's trying to attack us, I'm pretty sure that some of those accidents weren't so accidental. I just talked it over with Landon, my boss, and he agrees. There are two that we're pretty sure of, a main bearing failure and a cylinder head that burst."
"I'm afraid I don't understand. What's a main bearing, and what's a cylinder head."
He paused for a few seconds. "Tell you what. My wife and I will feed you dinner tonight, and then I'll give you a quick lesson on steam engines. That way, when you do come out to the plant, things'll make a little sense."
He gave me directions to his house before he hung up. All the while, Angela was watching me. "It sounds like you're not done with the power plant," she said.
"It seems that there might have been other attacks."
"Let's finish today's report first, before you start on tomorrow's work," she said. "Tomorrow, take better notes so this job won't be so hard!"
Scott Hilton lived up the slope on the northeast side of town, far enough from the main roads that the Croats hadn't gotten into his immediate neighborhood. The Hilton house was what the Americans call a foursquare, two stories, with bedrooms above and living area below. As I started up the steps to the large front porch, the silence was shattered by a boy's bellow.
"Ma, he's here!"
Two boys disappeared into the front doorway as I stepped onto the porch. As it developed, there were five Hilton children. Lisa, the oldest, tried to help control the younger ones. Hans and Jacob were the two who'd announced me, and there was a toddler underfoot as well as a baby. There was also a middle-aged German woman, Maria.
Dinner was noisy. Sylvia, Scott's wife, seemed to thrive on the disorder. Between interruptions, she managed to give a short history of the family. "Hans and the two babies, they were the Zimmermann family, from a little village north of here. Maria took care of them after their place was burned out. We took them in after they showed up at church."
"Mister Hilton, how long have you worked at the power plant," I asked, as the children's full stomachs began to quiet them down.
"About a year, Sergeant. Before the Ring of Fire, I worked in Fairmont, that was a town off beyond where Rudolstadt is now. When they asked if anyone knew anything about steam engines, I said yes. I've been at the power plant ever since."
Sylvia interrupted. "The one thing Scott didn't tell me when we got married was his fixation on steam. Just about every weekend, it seems, we would go traipsing off to the darndest places to take photos of greasy old pieces of junk."
He chuckled. "Right, only now, that photo collection is a gold mine and I'm working full time, and then some, trying to recreate some of that junk."
"You're not going to show him your photo collection!" she said.
"No," he said, pushing himself away from the table. "Come down to the cellar, I want to show you a little steam engine."
There was a half-cellar under the downhill side of the house, and half of that was a small workshop. After Scott turned on the light, he pulled a tray of machinery off of a shelf.
"This here's a toy steam engine," he said. "My father brought it back from Germany when I was a kid. This half is the boiler," he said, pointing to a shining round barrel a bit bigger than my fist. "It was supposed to burn a special fuel, but I ran out of that years ago, so I stuffed the burner with rags and if you soak it with alcohol, you can make it work. Let me fire it up for you."
Five minutes later, with the boiler half full of water and the burner rag saturated with gin, blue flames engulfed the boiler and a puddle of blue crept out from the copper shell around the boiler.
"Don't worry about the fire," he said. "So long as it stays on the metal base, we won't burn down the house. While we wait for the water to come to a boil, take a look at the engine itself."
There was a wheel, he called it a flywheel, and when he spun the wheel with his fingers, it cranked a pair of plungers in and out of a metal post off to the side of the flywheel. The plungers were piston rods, and the metal post held the cylinders.
"Why is this piston rod bigger than that one," I asked, only to find out that there was more to learn. There was only one cylinder and one piston rod. The smaller rod was called the valve rod.
About then, the boiler began to whistle. "That's the safety valve," Scott said. "When the boiler is up to pressure, it lets off the extra steam into a whistle. That tells us it's time to run the engine, and letting off the extra steam keeps the boiler from exploding."
As he spoke, he turned a little wheel with his fingertips. "This is the throttle valve," he said, as steam began to hiss out from around the piston rod and the valve rod. "Give the flywheel a bit of a spin with your finger."
I did, and to my surprise, the flywheel began to turn faster and faster, until the machine was humming and the spokes and other moving parts were nothing but a blur.
"Too fast," he said, turning the throttle wheel slowly back. The engine slowed, until it was chugging along at the tempo of a fast march.
"What makes it go?"
"There's a piston in the cylinder, and the steam can push it from one side or from the other. The piston pushes the piston rod, and that turns the crank. Each time the piston reaches one end or the other of the cylinder, the crank slides the valve the other way. That reverses the direction the steam is pushing the piston."
"So what use is it?" I asked, fascinated but puzzled.
"This one is no use at all," Scott said, grinning, "except as a toy for overage boys like me. What we're trying to do out at the power plant is build fourteen machines like this, except a whole lot bigger. Those machines will be able to generate all the electric power Grantville needs."
"But you already have a power plant," I said.
"Yup, but the machines in that plant need supplies we can't get from anywhere in the world, not since the Ring of Fire. We might be able to run the old machines for another year, if we're really lucky. Machines like this toy, though, we can make all the parts ourselves and we don't even need special oil. Beef tallow should work just fine to oil it, and if we can get enough whale oil or even olive oil, that'll be even better."
"Should we add more fuel to the fire?" I asked, as I noticed that the blue flames around the boiler were almost completely out.
"No, this fuel was meant to be drunk, not burned," he said, picking up the toy steam engine and blowing out the last remaining flames. "Come upstairs and we'll share a drink while I tell you something about the problems we've been having."
He put the toy steam engine back on its shelf and picked up the bottle of gin before leading me back up the stairs. "Have you ever had a Martini?" he asked, on the way up.
"Here, sit, I'll make you one," he said, waving me into his parlor. "I've had a bit of trouble getting Vermouth, but I think I've finally got my hands on something that works."
He disappeared into the kitchen with the bottle of gin, and in a minute, came out and handed me a glass of cold clear liquid with ice cubes and a pickled olive floating in it.
"To the king," he said, raising his glass before he took a sip.
"And to Grantville," I said, returning the toast. I'd heard enough of the American attitude toward nobility in general to understand that his toast was unusual. I imitated him, taking just a sip of my drink after the toasts.
Scott launched into the history of the power plant over his drink. "Unit Five, that's the big turbogenerator out at the power plant. It isn't likely to outlast the year. Right now, it's generating almost all our electric power, and we've got to build replacements. We knew that much as soon as we came through the Ring of Fire. The oil filter system and oil are our big problem. We've even got two guys trying to re-refine the oil, but even if they're successful, something else will probably go wrong."
I was totally lost, but one thing puzzled me more than all the rest. "Unit Five? Does that mean there's also a Unit Four?"
"I asked that too, after I started at the plant. Each new generator at the plant gets a number, in order. When they built the plant back in the 1920's, over seventy years before the Ring of Fire, it was a much smaller place, with two units, numbers one and two. They were only a few megawatts each. Then they enlarged the place in the 1930's and 1940's and put in two new units, three and four. Those two might have added up to fifty or a hundred megawatts, and once they were working, they scrapped one and two. Now, the hall that used to hold one and two is the plant machine shop. After World War II, fifty years before the Ring of Fire, they replaced Units Three and Four with Unit Five. That's about two hundred megawatts. The space where Units Three and Four used to be is where we're building our new units."
"What's a megawatt?" I asked, befuddled. "Are they like the kilovolts I heard talk of this morning?"
"Yes and no," he said, launching into a confusing description of the difference between force and power. I must have looked baffled, because he gave up halfway through, took a sip of his drink, and started over. "Think about a mill," he finally said. "You can measure the power it takes to turn the millstone in watts, or you can measure it by how many horses it takes to turn the wheel. One horsepower is about 750 watts. Anyway, two mills might need the exact same amount of power, but one could get that power from a high wheel with just a trickle of water, while the other gets it from a low wheel in a broad stream. You can think of volts as the height of the fall."
He paused to pick the olive out of his glass and pop it into his mouth. "Ah, these Italian olives are pretty good."
All I had left in my glass were two cubes of ice and an olive, so I imitated him. I don't eat olives very often, but it did seem better after soaking in my gin martini.
"Earlier, you said you'd had lots of trouble with accidents," I said, after spitting the olive pit into my glass. "And then you said you expected lots of accidents. Why?"
He sighed. "We're in way over our heads, that's why. Nobody in Grantville has ever built a steam engine bigger than a few horsepower, and now we need to build an engine with a thousand horsepower. Andy Frystack has built little engines, and he's a good machinist. The people at the power plant know steam, but not piston engines.
"Then, think about the size we need. The engines I've tracked down that put out a thousand horsepower all run over a hundred tons of iron, and we want 14 of the things. That's a lot of iron. Even if we can get the iron, who around here can cast pieces that big?
"Accidents? We've had castings break. Bad foundry work is the obvious explanation. We've had steel bolts snap. We might have made a mistake guessing the force they could handle. We've had bearings fail for lack of oil. We're used to automatic oiling systems, we probably didn't oil them enough. We've been lucky, so far. Not too many pipes have burst, and nobody's been killed, but we've come very close to catastrophe.
"Before you go inside that plant, I want to make sure you understand that it's a dangerous place."
"I got a lecture on the danger of electricity when I visited this morning." I said.
"It's more than that," Scott said. "We're working with chunks of iron that weigh a ton or more. Chunks of stone, too, for the engine foundations. Be careful what you walk under. Steam pipes are hot. We work with superheated steam at four hundred pounds of pressure per square inch. That's a high enough pressure that it is like working with gunpowder. Steam pipes can explode like bombs, and the cylinder of a steam engine can shoot a piston just as well as a cannon can shoot a cannonball."
Scott Hilton met me at the power plant the next morning and led me into the building. "This is the hall they made for Units Three and Four," he said, as I gawked at the scene. "Now, we've built Unit Six at the far end, and we're building Units Seven, Eight and Nine."
The room was huge, filling perhaps a quarter of the whole power plant. Huge windows along the south and west walls spread a soft light through the room. The place reminded me of a cathedral, except for huge machinery and construction toward the east end and a work crew digging a pit toward the middle.
Scott led me to the construction area. A crew of masons were at work there, filling a newly dug pit with stonework. Scott's explanation mostly went over my head. "This is the foundation for Unit Eight," he said. "Parts of it stand up high to hold the cylinders, but we need access to the steam and condensate pipes, and of course, there's the pit for the generator and flywheel."
While we watched the masons, a huge door at the west end opened to admit a four-horse team hauling a heavy freight wagon.
"Ah," Scott said. "They're delivering a stone for Unit Eight. Watch."
At first I didn't notice, but there was great bridge spanning the width of the room and it was moving toward the freight wagon. As a huge hook lowered from the bridge, I realized that it was a crane. When it reached the wagon, the teamsters hung their load from it, a single large stone.
"How much does the stone weigh?" I asked.
"About two tons, solid quartzite," Scott said. "It's quarried from the ring wall north of Schwarzburg, less than a mile from here, all downhill for the heavy stones. The little stones go to that new warehouse they're building in town, we keep the big ones."
As he spoke, the crane silently carried the stone toward the awaiting masons and lowered it onto a bed of fresh mortar.
"What's all that stuff," I asked, pointing to piles of ironwork stacked along the wall beyond the masons.
"Parts. We're getting parts from foundries and forges scattered all over. Some workshops are better at little castings, other can do big ones. Some forges do wrought iron, some can give us the little steel parts we need. When the parts come in, we line them up over there until we're ready to use them. Let's look at Unit Seven. There, we're starting to put things together."
He led me to the narrow space between Units Six and Seven. Six was a huge version of the machine I'd seen in Scott's basement, churning away at double-time and making a quiet pop-pop noise as it worked. About half of the big iron pieces of Seven were in place, with a group of men hard at work on one of the big pieces.
"They're turning the low-pressure cylinder right now," Scott said.
"Turning?" I asked. "Looks like it's not moving at all."
"Boring, I should say," Scott said. "See, they've run a boring bar down the middle of the cylinder, between those cast iron centers attached across each ends. There's an electric motor turning the boring bar, and there's a tool on the bar that goes round and round scraping the inside of the cylinder to be exactly thirteen and a half inches radius, as close as we can make it. It's not that different from boring a cannon, but a whole lot bigger around."
Turning to look at Unit Six, I could see similarities to the engine I'd seen the night before, but there were differences. "On your little engine, the valve and the cylinder were right together on the same side of the big wheel, but here, they're on opposite sides."
Scott looked baffled, and then chuckled. "No, my little engine at home has just one cylinder. Here, we have two cylinders, and each has its own valve system. The thirteen inch one on the far side is the high pressure cylinder, the twenty-seven inch one on the near side is the low pressure cylinder."
He must have seen the baffled look on my face. "It's a compound engine. That means we use the steam twice. The high pressure steam is four hundred pounds per square inch. We get half the work out of the steam dropping the pressure to seventy-five PSI, that's pounds per square inch. The low pressure cylinder gets the other half of the work, dropping the pressure to near zero."
I surveyed the immense thing, wondering how I could possibly be of any use. "You said you thought there'd been attacks? What kind of attacks?"
He led me over to the great crank on the high pressure cylinder side. It was whirling around and around, almost too fast to follow with my eyes. "See that thing on top of the main crankshaft bearing?" he asked, pointing to the trunnion bearing behind the crank.
On top of the heavy ironwork was a polished copper fitting a bit bigger than my fist. "That's an oil cup," he said. "It's full of oil, and the oil in it slowly drips down into the bearing. Without oil, the bearing would burn up and wreck the engine."
Scott paused before he answered. "Ever see how hot a wagon axle gets if there's no grease on the hub? This wheel is turning so fast that the metal itself will melt if it runs dry."
"So what happened here?" I asked.
"Every half hour, the engine master comes through and tops up the oil in each of the oil cups. A month and a half ago, right after we got this engine working, the bearing caught fire. Afterward, we found that the oil cup was missing, broken off. The engine master swore that the cup was there not twenty minutes before."
I looked at the cup. "But the engine wasn't wrecked?"
"It came close. The engine master was nearby, and when he saw the smoke, he killed the engine. We had to re-turn the axle and replace the brasses before we put the engine back in service."
"So we're looking for someone who knows the engine needs oil," I said. "This engine master you mentioned, I should talk to him."
"Probably," Scott said, "but Franz was badly hurt in the next accident. Come here."
He led me into the space between the two cylinders. There was a confusion of moving parts there, with the great wheel spinning madly not far in front of us. A cast-iron case as big as the great wheel gave off a hum that sounded like the electric switchyard outside.
"What's all this," I asked, and got more than I wanted. The great wheel was the flywheel, the humming case beside it was the alternator , with another wheel inside it called the forty-eight pole rotor. I'd been right about the sound. The alternator was the part of the engine that actually made electricity. The spinning shaft along the side of each cylinder was a camshaft that worked the valves, and the whirligig on the end of each camshaft was the governor that controlled the engine speed.
"My little engine at home has piston valves, but that kind of valve doesn't work very well at high speed. When we started working on this engine design, some of us wanted to use Corliss valves, but the Masaniellos convinced us to do it with balanced poppet valves. They're faster and the parts are easier to machine. The camshaft here works the poppets."
I was totally baffled, except that I could clearly see his finger pointing at the spinning shaft he called the camshaft. "What was the next accident you were talking about?" I asked, trying to bring things back to something I might be able to understand.
"That's what I was getting at," Scott said. "Right after we got this engine restarted, the head of the low-pressure cylinder blew. Steam and hot water sprayed out and it scalded Franz, the engine master I was talking about earlier."
"Blew?" I asked.
"The end of the cylinder exploded," he said.
"Like a burst cannon?" I asked, remembering a gun crew I'd once seen shredded by the final shot they fired.
"The cylinder casting held," Scott said. "This is it, but the head cracked and some of the bolts that held it on pulled out. We had to put in new bolts and use the head intended for Unit Seven to repair it."
"While we were repairing it, we found that the cam for the exhaust valve at that end of the cylinder was loose. We'd just changed the valve timing when the bearing failed, so I can't believe that the key that held it to the shaft fell out on its own. With that cam loose, some of the steam that should have come out through the valve turned to water. The water had nowhere to go and the piston was pounding on it one hundred fifty times a minute. The water had to go somewhere, and with the valve stuck closed, the end of the cylinder exploded."
I scratched my head. "So we're looking for someone who really knows how these engines work. How many of you uptimers know enough to do this kind of damage?"
"Anyone who's ever worked on cars knows how much damage you can do by letting an engine run dry," he said. "The trick with the exhaust valve, though, you really need to understand steam engines to know the damage that can cause. This engine has eight valves total, and there are only two of them, the low pressure exhaust valves, that can wreck the engine if the cams are loosened."
"So it has to be a steam engine expert," I said, frowning.
"Right. And there aren't many of us."
"How will you prevent it from happening again?" I asked, as Scott and I looked out over the machinery hall. "Some o' those accidents might really have been accidents, and even if we catch whoever did it, there might be others."
Scott scratched his head. "We learn something from each problem we have. We're working on automatic oilers, so nobody has to climb around in dangerous places to get oil into the bearings. After that cylinder head blew, we redesigned the poppets. We needed to do that anyway, balanced valves are harder to make than we thought. Each valve is really two valves on one stem, and our first ones always leaked. The new ones have a spring in them to help get a better seal, but the spring also lets the valve leak if the cylinder goes over pressure, just enough to protect the engine."
About then, a whistle blew. "Lunchtime," Scott said. "There's a lunch room in the plant, or we could go out to eat."
"A lunch room?" I asked, uncertainly.
The place, it seemed, was a room where you could buy food. American style sandwiches, the little cakes Americans call cookies, and a choice of water, milk or weak beer to drink. I've eaten worse, but I'd have preferred better.
Scott looked quizzically at me as I sat down. "You're a soldier with MacKay's regiment, right? How'd you get involved with police work?"
"When the regiment moves into a town, someone has to smooth things over with the town watch," I said. "The watch and the local militia can be our best friends, but if we hit it off wrong, well, they're armed as well as we are. I was pushed into police work, as you call it, by stopping a fight.
"What happened?" he asked, after swallowing a bit of his food.
"MacKay was new to the regiment. This was when we were in the marshes up north. He didn't know the regiment, we didn't know the land, and we set up camp outside this village. The quartermaster went to buy cattle, and suddenly, it seemed we were about to do battle with the militia. I saw it happen, just a little thing, really. MacKay had assigned John Storm to help the quartermaster. John was a wild one, God rest his soul. He pushed a militiaman aside as they walked into the market. Instead of pushing back, the guard pulled his sword."
"You did something?" Scott asked, after I'd eaten a bit of my sandwich.
"Aye, I whacked John on the rump with the flat o' my blade. That stopped it from going bad, but John complained to MacKay. Ever since, MacKay's pulled me into dealings with town watch. By Badenburg, he had me in charge of working with the watch. When we came to Grantville, MacKay asked me to work with your police even before he understood how different they are from the kind o' town guard we expected."
I took a bite, and then pulled him back to the big question. "So who knows enough about the power plant to plan the attacks you've had?"
Scott looked thoughtful as he chewed. "Uptimers mostly. You can rule out most of the power plant staff because they know the old turbines, not the new engines. It's got to be someone who really knows steam. That means me, Andy Frystack, and Andy Prickett. We're the three shift supervisors. Then, there's Vince Masaniello and his sons Lou and Charlie. They're doing lots of consulting on the project, but mostly, they're not here. Dick Shaver and Monty Szymanski have also been involved, but damn it, I can't see how any of them could do something like this."
"If we could figure out who was here when that oil thing got knocked off the trunnion bearing," I mused.
Scott looked up sharply. "We can! We keep a log. Everyone signs in and out of the building. I signed you in today. The guard at the gate keeps a log too, so we know who comes in and out the main gate."
I shook my head. The whole idea of keeping such records was foreign, but it was just like the Americans to do it. The police reports Chief Frost was always demanding were the same kind of thing.
One of the upper chambers of the power plant was almost like a library, with cabinets and shelves full of papers. We went up there after our noon meal. With a bit of help from the woman clerk who worked there, we found the papers for the weeks of the two accidents.
"The first accident happened during the night shift, midnight to eight AM, I was shift supervisor," Scott said, comparing the two sheaves of paper. "That's the least popular shift, with most of the world home in bed. You see Franz Schneider here, the engine master. He signed in and out in his own hand the day the bearing failed.
"Now, the second accident happened first thing in the morning, right after the eight AM shift change, so it could be someone on the night shift who set things up. People take turns working the night shift, and Franz was on the day shift that week. See here, he signed in in his own hand, but he couldn't sign out because he was hurt. It looks like Andy Frystack signed him out after the accident."
Scott continued mumbling over the log sheets, and then leaned back. "The way I see it, Thomas Eisfelder, Charles Martel, and Manfred Kleinschmidt are the three who matter. Those are the downtimers working on our steam engines who were there on the right shift for each accident," Scott said. "I don't think we need to worry about the masons and the common laborers working on the foundations, and the uptime steam crew are out too, since they all think in terms of turbines."
"What if it's a spy," I said, after doing my best to write down the three names. "Someone outside paying off a laborer to fix the engine the same way someone paid off that jager to shoot at the, uh, crockery insulators in the electric yard outside."
Scott scratched his head. "How would you tell a common laborer or a mason to pull the key from the exhaust valve cam on the low-pressure cylinder of Unit Six? And if they did, wouldn't someone notice them working where they weren't supposed to be?"
"OK," I said. "So tell me why those three mechanics?"
"They're three downtimers who really seem to understand what they're doing. Some people just do what they're told and don't ask questions. Some people ask questions and never seem to learn. These three guys are curious. They're the kinds of guys who figure out how things work. They ask good questions."
I nodded. "It sounds like you want more people like that, but if they're not on your side, they can be dangerous."
"Right," Scott said. "So the next thing to do is track them down and question them, right?"
I shook my head, thinking of some of the American movies I'd seen. Dan Frost had just about forced me to see one particular movie about a policeman, Murder on the Orient Express. "We need to learn everything about them before we confront them."
"Then you need to read their personnel files," Scott said.
The plant had a folder of paperwork on each employee. I had little use for the pages showing the hours worked and dollars paid, but there was more. For each person working at the plant, there were notes written about their work. "Part of my job as shift supervisor is to keep notes on the people working for me," Scott explained. "That way, if we need someone for a special job, we can look through the papers to find who's best for that job."
I needed Scott's help understanding the notes, but the story they told was interesting. Two of the men were from the west side of the Thuringer Wald, not quite in Franconia, but close enough. I couldn't help but wonder if there was a connection with the Franconian jager who'd shot at the electric yard. Thomas Eisfelder had worked in a mill on the Werra river downstream from Eisfeld, and Manfred Kleinschmidt had been an apprentice gunsmith in Suhl. The third man, Charles Martel, was a French locksmith, a Huguenout refugee.
"So do you want me to set up interviews with them?" Scott asked. "Manfred Kleinschmidt is here now."
"No," I said. "What I want to do is talk to their friends. You gave me their home addresses, you told me when they're supposed to work in the next week. I don't want them to know I'm interested in them."
It was drizzling when I went back to the police station that afternoon. I dreaded the report writing that Angela Baker was bound to want, and she didn't disappoint me. Angela insisted that I write up the results of my day's work immediately, and Chief Frost was there to back her up.
Angela helped set my day down on paper, and when we got to the three names, she immediately turned from the report. "Vera! I have three names, can you look them up for me? Eisfelder, Thomas. Martel, Charles. Kleinschmidt, Manfred."
Vera was an older woman who worked in the back chamber. When people cursed the reports they had to write, they swore that Vera was the only person who ever saw them. Now, while we finished writing up my day's work, Vera searched through her files for anything the police might know about the three mechanics.
"I have one arrest record," Vera said, a few minutes later. "Thomas Eisfelder, drunk and disorderly at the Thuringer Gardens back in March. Got in a fight with another drunk. Pled guilty, paid his fine. No arrest records for the others."
Chief Frost had walked out of his chamber while Vera spoke. "That's a start," he said, "but you know who might have more? The Red Cross. To get that, you'll need a warrant."
"What?" I asked, and then remembered. "You mean like an arrest warrant?" I'd been with Ralph Oferino when he'd arrested a thief. In addition to a ritual involving reading a list of rights, Ralph had read the charges of theft and sale of stolen property from the arrest warrant.
"Almost. A search warrant is an order from the court that requires the Red Cross to show you their files. Vera will type it up while you finish your report, and then we'll have to get Judge Tito's signature before you take it over to the Red Cross."
Half an hour later, I set off through the rain to find the judge. Vera had telephoned and found that the Judge was teaching a late afternoon class out at the high school. I was a bit annoyed to have to do it myself, but Chief Frost had made it clear that the Judge wouldn't authorize a search warrant unless I was there to answer questions, and he couldn't spare anyone to go with me.
Grantville's high school is almost as far east of town as the power plant is west, down Buffalo Creek past the village of Deborah. I had to hurry because the judge's class was supposed to end precisely at five o'clock.
I'd heard that the Croats had wrecked the front of the school, but I hadn't been there since the raid. Temporary wood panels filled most of the huge window openings by the entrance. As I walked into the building after tying up my horse, two carpenters were at work hanging a new wood door. Despite the damage, the business of the school continued.
I had to ask for help finding Judge Tito's law class. It was classified as adult ed, and it was being held in one of the Tech Center classrooms at the back of the school. On the way there, I passed a sign board listing a number of shops. I would have ignored it except that, among the listings for electrical, carpentry, and automotive, it listed a steam engine shop.
When I found the Judge's room, I heard laughter. Peering through the pane by the door, I saw a middle-aged uptimer in front of the class. He looked vaguely Spanish. The students, mostly young men and a few women, laughed again as I watched them pack up their notes. It seemed that he'd ended his class with a bit of humor. He didn't look like my idea of a judge, but I knew I had to be careful about looks when I dealt with uptimers. Mike Stearns didn't look like the equal of a king, but it now seemed he was.
"Sir, are you Judge Tito?" I asked, after all the students had left.
"Yes, what can I do for you?" he asked.
"Sir, I'm told I need a search warrant," I said, making a small bow as I pulled out the papers. "Chief Frost said we need your approval."
The Chief's warning about Judge Tito proved to be right. For the next five minutes, he quizzed me. He had three basic questions. First, he wanted to be sure that my relationship with the Grantville police was legitimate. Then, he wanted me to explain the crime I was investigating. Finally, he wanted to know precisely why I was interested in any records the Red Cross might have on Eisfelder, Martel, and Kleinschmidt.
After I'd explained my case, he signed the typed copies of the warrant Vera had prepared. "I keep one," he said. "You return one to the police station and take the other to the Red Cross. They'll be closed by now, so you'll want to be there bright and early tomorrow. Good luck figuring out what's going on at the power plant."
On my way out, I decided to poke my nose into the steam engine shop. When I found it, I saw that it was in space that had once been one end of the auto shop. A group of men at one end of the room had an American car hoisted into the air so they could look at its undersides. At the other end, a small group of men was clustered around a pair of middle-sized steam engines.
An old man looked up as I walked over to the engines. "Can I help you?" he asked.
He introduced himself as Dick Shaver, the teacher for the evening steam class, and then invited me to join his students. I just watched and listened for ten minutes, saying nothing. The two steam engines were huge compared to the toy machine that Scott Hilton had shown me, yet tiny compared to the monsters at the power plant. One was turning lazily, making quiet put-put noises. The other was partially disassembled.
Only after the students had been set to work on their tasks did Dick turn back to me. "Any questions?"
I looked at the engine they'd opened up. "You've got the valves opened up, right?"
"You're a downtimer," Dick said, looking a bit surprised. "You know 'bout steam engines?"
"A little," I said. "Scott Hilton showed me round the power plant."
He brightened. "Lovely monsters they're buildin' out there!"
"So what are these machines for?"
"Teachin' and experimentin'. Gotta teach kids how they work, and gotta try new setups. The one we're workin' on was the second we made. Worked OK, but we know how to do better, so we're rebuildin' the valves. Good work for the kids."
I didn't see any kids in the room. His youngest students might have been eighteen, and two of them were near my age. "What kind of students do you get here?" I asked.
"All kinds," he said. "The worst, the best, an' everythin' between. Take Hans there," he gestured at a young man. "He's the son of a miller, grew up aroun' machines. He catches on right quick. The best we get are like that. Had a guy in here last spring, Manfred from Suhl, apprentice gunsmith 'for he come here."
"Manfred Kleinschmidt?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's right. He went to the power plant, didn't he. How's he doin'?"
"Mr. Hilton says he's one of the three best men he's got," I said, wondering how I could get more information out of him. "I didn't know he was from Suhl. Why'd he leave? I thought the gunsmiths there were doing really well."
Dick Shaver scratched his head. "Well, there's two answers to that. He said he was kicked out cause he was sweet on the boss's daughter. Might even be true, but the way I figure it, he probly come here as a spy. Pretty near every master gunsmith wants to learn the secret of our uptime guns y'know."
"You really think he might be a spy?"
Dick smiled. "There's people comin' here from all over to spy on how we do things. Seemed sorta funny at first, but what the heck, we got nothin' to hide. May as well show them the answers, even if they're a mite shy 'bout comin' out ans askin' straight questions." Suddenly, Dick Shaver turned to his students. "Stop! Halt!" he said, before turning back to me. "I gotta see to my students before they wreck that valve seat."
"My pardon," I said, turning to leave. "But before I go, I wonder. You're not teaching how to make guns, you're teaching how to make steam engines."
"How are steam engines like guns?" he asked, with a smile. "Well, for one, you bore a cylinder exactly the way you bore a cannon. Thanks for the visit."
I stopped at Tip's Tavern for supper on my way back into town. That's when it struck me. What Dick Shaver meant when he called Manfred Kleinschmidt a spy applied just as well to me. I was the Green Regiment's spy trying to understand Grantville's police department.
Claudette Green was in charge of the Red Cross office. She read my warrant closely before sending a young German girl into the back closet to find the papers I needed. While the girl was at work, Claudette looked me over. The look on her face wasn't approving.
"Good woman," I said, feeling awkward. "Is there a problem?"
"What do you know of the Red Cross?" she asked.
"'Tis a Christian charity," I said. "You help those wounded in battle, you help those seeking refuge," I drew breath to say more, but then realized that I'd said all I knew.
"Close enough," she said. "Do you understand that refugees might be less willing to seek our help if they know that our records might be turned over to the government?"
"No," I said, before I realized that admitting so might not have been wise.
"Think about it," she said. "If I could, I would demand an oath that you disclose nothing of what you learn here. Certainly nothing about any man who turns out to be innocent."
"On my honor," I said. "I will try to keep to your wish."
" Bitte? Die papieren," the girl said, from behind me.
" Danke. Let's see what we've got," Claudette said, sitting down to look at the papers. "Here," she said. "We have a folder for Thomas Eisfelder, nothing on the others."
In the next few minutes, I learned that Thomas Eisfelder had arrived in Grantville penniless a few weeks after the Imperial army and half of the king's army had swept south on the road to Coburg last fall. His home village somewhere not far from Eisfeld had been looted and burned by one army or the other.
Eisfeld has one foot in the Saxon Dutchies of Thurungia and the other in Franconia. A Franconian jager had shot at the power plant, so as far as I was concerned, anyone from the Werra valley was suspect. On the other hand, Thomas's story wasn't too different from those of half the Germans in Grantville.
"Ah," Claudette said, turning a page. "We helped him with job placement too. Look at the skills inventory."
I was mystified, but she translated the arcane paperwork for me. "It says he was the son of a millwright, apprenticed to his father. A good woodworker, some blacksmith skills, and good at machinery. We placed him as a carpenter with Ted Moritz first. When Mansaniello's steam engine company asked us to look for people who knew machinery, we told Eisfelder about the job."
"That's all you have?" I asked, after she started putting the papers back in order. "What about Kleinschmidt and Martel?"
She looked up at me with a serious look. "We're not the only refugee aid organization here in Grantville. Some of the churches help their own, and some people fend for themselves."
The mention of churches jogged my memory. Charles Martel was supposed to be a Huguenout. I knew that was some kind of French Protestant, but beyond that, I couldn't say much. I go to church when I can, but it's hard to keep track of all the different kinds of heretics on the fringe of the Protestant world. Some church in Grantville would probably accept the man, but which?
I set off across Grantville toward the Presbyterian Church. It's probably the poorest church in Grantville, but it's basically Calvinist, so that's where I've gone. Three men were standing outside, looking up at the building as I walked up.
"Wishing you a good morning," I said, as I recognized Pastor Wiley.
"Good morning indeed," he said. "I know your face from Sunday morning services, but I'm afraid I don't recall your name."
I introduced myself, and in turn, learned that the others were Deacon McIntire and Hans, a local stonemason. "The old building is a bit small and a bit run down," the pastor said. "We're talking about how to go about building a new church here, without closing the old one during construction."
He was modest. The old building was not merely a bit small and a bit run down. Since I'd first attended his church, the congregation had more than doubled. They talked about the new building for a few minutes, explaining that it would be made of brick and stone, and how they planned to build it around the old building. Finally, Pastor Wiley looked up at me, puzzled.
"So tell me, John, why is it you came?"
"I came to ask you a question. I've recently come across a man who is a Huguenout, and I wondered what you know about that church?"
He scratched his head. "I can't say I know much about Huguenouts, except that they're French Calvinists. I hardly knew that much when one of them showed up here back in June and asked for help. If I knew French, he could have explained more, but we had to make do with his bad English."
"So he comes to this church?"
"Yup, you've probably seen him yourself, dark hair, short, sort of a hooked nose, goes by the name of Charles. Usually sits in back. He looks like a man who could use a friend. I'll introduce you on Sunday."
"Were you able to help him?" I asked, wondering if he might be Charles Martel.
"I think so, at least, he thanked me. He said he was a locksmith, showed me a padlock, an uptime lock, mind you, and asked where he could learn how to make locks like that. I sent him to Reardon's Machine Shop, not that they make locks, but I bet they could if they wanted to."
"So Huguenouts are French Presbyterians," I said, trying to hide my recognition. A Huguenout locksmith named Charles could only be Charles Martel. I didn't want to leave the pastor thinking I was interested in him.
"Close enough," the Reverend said. "At least, more like us than Lutherans or Methodists. If your friend is ever in Grantville on a Sunday, tell him we're here and he's welcome."
"I will," I said, before I took my leave.
It was near noon, so I decided to stop at Cora's for something to eat before I went up to the police department to write up my report. All the Americans seemed to want their noon meals precisely at noon, and I'd learned that there was no point in trying to change their schedules to suit my habits.
Cora's coffee shop serves much more than just coffee. I've tried coffee made the Turkish way and made the American way, and I can't really stomach either. Cora has other drinks, though, and some really good pastries.
I was sitting at a corner table sipping mint tea and savoring a chunk of fruit cake when Cora walked over.
"Sergeant Leslie!" Cora said, smiling. Bernadette Adducci had introduced me to Cora just once, when I first started working with the Grantville police. It seems that she never forgets anyone.
"Good day, Cora," I said. "This fruit cake is excellent."
"It takes some inventing to make decent pastries when sugar is so hard to afford," she said. "I've got a German girl back in the kitchen who knows what she's doing, and between us, we've had fun."
A thought struck me. "Cora, you seem to know everything about everyone. I'm looking into three downtimers. I wonder if you've heard of any of 'em. Mind if I ask?"
"I can't guarantee results, but you're welcome to ask."
"Do you know anything of a man named Thomas Eisfelder?"
She shook her head. "Sorry, nothing."
"And how about Manfred Kleinschmidt?"
"I've had a Manfred in here," she said. "He stops in here sometimes on his way home from work. He sometimes works the night shift at the power plant, and he likes my breakfast menu."
"Sounds like the right man," I said. "What d'ye know about him?"
She grinned. "Not much, aside from the fact that he seems to be a nice guy and he's in love with a girl in Suhl. My German's not good enough yet to get the whole story. That's one hit and one miss. Who's your third man?"
"The Frenchman?" she asked. "He works with Manfred, they've come in together a few times for breakfast, but he's also been here for dinner sometimes. He says our pastries are good, but not as good as the ones they make in Paris."
"He's from Paris?"
"That's what he says. I think something awful happened to his family there and he blames it on that Cardinal, what's his name from The Three Musketeers."
"Cardinal Richelieu?" I asked. I named the only cardinal I knew of in Paris while I wondered what he had to do with three gunmen. "Something awful? D'ye have any idea what?"
"Richelieu, right," she said, and then paused. "One morning, a pretty girl smiled at Charles, and I saw him begin to cry. He said the girl reminded him of his petite Marie, his daughter, I think. Lots of people around here have lost family, so I said she should rest in peace. He got mad at me then, swearing at the Cardinal, I think, but it was mostly in French. What I got was the word prison, that's the same in French, you know, and that it happened last May."
"My thanks to you," I said trying to string together what I'd learned.
"I got two out of three of your men. Not bad, is it?"
"Not bad at all," I said. "And a good story for one of them. I suppose now that I need to go try the pastries in Paris to see how yours compare."
She smiled at that and then turned to greet another customer while I sat there thinking. Something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
The pieces began to fall in place after lunch when I stopped into the police station to report on my morning's work. Much as I dreaded writing the reports the Grantville police demanded, that was what forced me to put all the facts I'd learned into order.
There were more facts on hand as well. Deloris Francisco had been on the evening shift the night before, and she'd phoned the landlords of our three suspects and written up a report on them. She'd learned that Thomas Eisfelder had come to Grantville simmering with anger at all soldiers for what they'd done to his home. The time he'd been arrested, it was for attacking a soldier. She'd learned that Manfred Kleinschmidt liked to carve wooden toys in his spare time, and she'd learned that Charles Martel had a great big Bible, all in French, that he read in his spare time.
Jill had a date for Martel's arrival in Grantville, the fifth day of June. That was in good agreement with what Pastor Wiley had told me, and it was as I was thinking about the dates that I realized what was wrong.
"Angela," I asked, looking up from my hastily scrawled notes. "How far is Paris from Grantville?"
"I don't know," she said. "Does it matter? I can phone the library and ask?"
"Please do that," I said.
A few minutes later, she had the answer. "It's about 500 miles by road."
"Call the power plant," I said. "I want to speak to Scott Hilton."
"What's it about?" she asked, dialing the phone.
"I think we need to arrest Charles Martel," I said, as she handed me the phone.
"Chief!" she called, while the phone was still ringing.
As things worked out, we didn't get out to the power plant until late afternoon, but Scott had told me that Martel was working the evening shift. I had ample time to explain everything to the chief and it gave the chief time to arrange backup. The Grantville police rule is to bring backup, as they call it, when you set out to arrest someone.
So it was that I set out for the power plant with Jurgen Neubert and Rick McCabe. Rick would have been enough, but Chief Frost wanted Jurgen along for the experience. By the time the evening shift began to arrive, we were all hidden away. Scott and I were in an upper room he called the steam project office, a room cluttered with drawings and books, while I had Rick and Jurgen waiting behind a closed door across the hallway.
The guard at the gate phoned us when Martel checked in, and then Scott gave him ten minutes before phoning the machine shop and asking for Martel. Two minutes later, the Frenchman came into the office.
"Charles Martel?" I asked. He was a small man, dark haired and thin.
" Monsieur? " he asked, looking puzzled at the sight of me.
"You left Paris in May, and you arrived in Grantville on or before the fifth day in June. Why would a Paris locksmith be in such a hurry to come to Grantville?"
Charles gave a weak smile. "Ah, c'est comme sa. Un, a man in Paris give me un cadinas, a lock. Il a dit, he say it is from here. I am un maitre serrurier, quel est le mot, master locksmith? I never see such a lock before, so I come to here."
"How did a lock from Grantville come all the way to Paris and to you?"
" Je ne sais pas, " Charles said. "A man, he come and he give it for me. Il a dit, if you want learn this thing, go to Grantville."
"So you came five hundred miles in less than thirty days. I'll bet you didn't travel on the Lord's day, so you came at least twenty miles a day. You didn't carry that great big Bible of yours on your back, who paid for the horses? Surely a locksmith can't afford to abandon his family to run halfway across Europe."
The look on his face shifted from confidence to fear, but he said nothing. I glanced to the doorway, checking to see if Rick and Jurgen were in place.
"And your family, why did Cardinal Richelieu throw them in prison? Did he do it to force you into his service? Did he pay for the horses? What did he ask you to do when you got here?"
"Cardinal Richelieu," he said, and then spat. " Il est un diable. He did say that I only need make the petites choses to save my woman and my girl."
"Just little things," I repeated. "Like telling that Franconian jager where to shoot?"
" Je ne sai pas who did shoot on the insulators. I just send a letter expliquant les insulators."
Scott Hilton had kept his silence, but now he spoke. "You almost killed Franz Schneider!"
"I not want to make bad to anyone," he said, with a sigh, letting his head drop. " Tout est perdu, " he added, and then exploded out the door.
As I turned to follow, Rick was on the floor holding his gut where Charles had butted him. Jurgen disappeared down the steps at the end of the hall as I passed Rick. I joined in the chase, and the next minute was crazy. Charles Martel may have been a small man, but he was fast.
As I came out into the hall where the new steam engines were being built, Martel was halfway up a ladder to an overhead walkway. A siren sounded as Jurgen started up the ladder. "Attention, achtung, stop, halt." It was Scott's voice coming through a speaking machine so it was louder than life.
I started for the ladder, but Jurgen was already there, so I stopped. Martel would have to come down somewhere if he was to get out of the building. It seemed that the best thing to do was to follow him from below.
The catwalk along the top of the hall rang as Martel ran, and then he started across the bridge that spanned the hall to hold up the crane. There was a little cabin on the bridge right above the hook, and before Jurgen was halfway to the bridge, Martel was in the cabin and the bridge was moving. It did not move quickly, but it moved toward Jurgen fast enough that Jurgen retreated to the safety of the ladder as the bridge came at him. At the same time, the cabin and the great hook moved away from the catwalk and the hook began to drop.
A woman's voice rang out through the speaking machine. "Someone kill the six-hundred-volt power," she said. The moving crane drifted to a stop, with the hook swinging ponderously below it, coming close to the spinning flywheel of the new engine with each swing. Jurgen warily climbed back onto the catwalk and began edging toward the crane as Scott and Rick came out beside me.
"That was close," Scott said, as we stood watching the crane.
"What?" I asked.
"If he'd kept going, lowering the hook and coming this way, he could have hit Unit 6. If he'd hooked the flywheel while it was running, he could have wrecked the crane and the engine. Good thing Nissa noticed the threat and killed the motor generator set."
"How'd he know how to work the crane?" Rick asked, as Jurgen stepped onto the catwalk that led along the beam toward the crane cabin.
"We do a lot of cross training," Scott said. "We don't want to be stuck with just one person who can…"
He fell silent as Martel bolted from the little cabin above the hook, making for the opposite end of the bridge from Jurgen. There was no catwalk at that end, just a narrow ledge along the south wall of the building. As Martel walked along the ledge, he was sharply outlined against the windows behind him.
"He'll not get down from there easily," I said.
Scott scanned the wall. "See that loop of chain at the east end? It works the windows, he could shinny down." He ran for the bottom of the chain just as Martel began pulling up on it.
The chain rose up out of reach just before Scott got there. As Martel pulled the chain, it turned a wheel at the top. The wheel turned a shaft that pulled the tops of the windows inward while their bottoms opened out. I didn't understand what was happening at first, but Martel was letting the chain out the window behind him.
" Va au diable, vous tous! " Martel called, as he began backing out the window.
I turned to run for the outside door, but that was at the west end of the hall, and Martel was escaping to the east. Rick and I made it to the door together, and he beat me around the corner of the building to the south. A row of great wooden boxes separated the plant from the Buffalo Creek, with clouds of fog rising from three of them accompanied by a sound like a waterfall. I came around the corner of the building just in time to see Martel jump to the ground and flee toward the creek between two of the boxes.
Scott Hilton came around the east corner of the plant running toward us, and as we met, Jurgen's head appeared in the open window above. The three of us on the ground followed Martel between the great boxes, but when we arrived at the creek, it wasn't obvious which way to go. The creek was shallow, Martel could have crossed it, but he could just as easily have gone upstream or down.
We split up, but there were too many places to hide and it was already getting dark in the shade of the ring wall, although the sky was still bright. We never did find Martel, even after we went back inside and organized every man the plant could spare for a search. I learned that the giant boxes were cooling towers, even though they weren't towers. I learned that the coal pile had a faint sulfur smell when you walked around it, and I learned that the fence around the power plant was over a mile long. Officially, the fence had only three gates, the main gate, the railroad gate at the east end, and the old railroad gate at the west end, by the refugee camp, but there were also gaps in the fence where the creek flowed through.
My guess is that Martel got away after dark and fled the Ring of Fire. How he got out of the plant, we may never know. The gates were all locked or guarded, but he could have waded out along the creek, and the railroad gate was opened every time the railroad brought in another load of coal from the mine.
When I got back to the police station, Chief Frost was still there, and he was furious. He knew what had happened, Scott had telephoned from the plant. "Damn it, Sergeant Leslie, you should have just slapped the cuffs on him and brought him in. No need to try for a parlor scene like in an Agatha Christie story. And you should never have let Jurgen go climbing around on that gantry crane! He could have fallen. Leave that kind of monkey business to the folks at the plant."
He paused. "One more thing. Scott Hilton said Martel had been working on making poppet valves for those new steam engines. He said the threads on the inside of the nuts that hold the valve heads to the valve stems were almost drilled out, so the nuts would be likely to pop off inside the engine."
The next morning, I got to see Martel's Bible. The police got a warrant to search Martel's lodgings, and they found very little aside from an Olivetan Bible and a Master padlock. A French Calvinist would treasure that Bible, but it wasn't a Bible a man would want to carry on a long trip, nor was it a Bible a tradesman would be likely to own. The Bible showed signs of ample use, with many passages underlined. Chief Frost guessed that the underlined words and passages might be part of a code, but I've seen serious students of the Bible mark bits of the text like that. We may never know the truth about that book.
Colonel MacKay showed up while I was looking at the Bible. He started in on me as soon as he saw me, but Chief Frost stopped him. "Colonel, I already chewed him out. You're not saying anything I didn't already say, and I've had a good night's sleep since then. I think we did pretty well, considering. It sounds like this Martel fellow admitted what he did. I doubt he'll come back. The question is, are there other saboteurs in among us? There was that derailment last month, was it an accident? And what do we do if someone like Martel is working at the coal mine?"
Art Director Note: The steam engine pictured in the title bar is from a photograph by Douglas W. Jones. I took the liberty of adding a bit more alcohol flame to it, for dramatic effect. My thanks to Doug for all the time and effort he put into getting me the right shot. – Garrett
A Job Well Done
Written by Kerryn Offord
July 1634, Magdeburg
Katherine Franzius surveyed the contents of her wardrobe. What to wear to work today? It hadn't been a problem when she first started work at Magdeburg Concrete two years ago. Back then she'd made do with a single dark blue skirt and jacket, and choice of two linen blouses for work-the standard uniform of typewriter operators. However, it wouldn't do for the executive assistant to the head of operations to be mistaken for a lowly typewriter operator. She now wore clothes that properly portrayed her importance and standing within the company. She spared a glance for the several inches of empty wardrobe. Maybe it was time ask Ronald about granting her a dress allowance again. It must be all of two months since she last asked, and clothes that projected the required image were expensive.
She finally settled on a white cotton blouse with a narrow lace ruff and a slate-blue calf-length linen skirt topped with a fitted doublet-style linen jacket in the best black Lothlorien Farbenwerke could produce. She adjusted the lace ruff so that it showed above the jacket collar and twirled around a couple of times, looking in the mirror to admire how the skirt swirled around her silk-stocking clad legs. Happy with her choice, she hunted for a particularly nice silver-buckled belt and matching handbag she'd bought just the previous week and examined the finished product in the mirror. That brought a happy nod from the image.
Next she opened her shoe cupboard. The last few days had been particularly hot, so she wanted something open. But she also had to walk to work, that meant the light sandals wouldn't do. There really wasn't anything suitable, which meant she needed to go shopping for shoes again. That brought another smile. Katherine enjoyed shopping. It was one of the fruits of her climb to executive assistant that made it all worthwhile. When she first started work at Magdeburg Concrete she'd barely earned enough to pay the rent on a single room apartment, let alone a shopping spree. However, her position had grown with the company. Within weeks of starting she'd found herself assigned as secretary to Ronald Chapman, probably the single greatest piece of luck to ever fall her way. With Ronald heavily in demand outside the office for his knowledge of how the concrete machines worked, she'd often been left in sole charge of the office. She'd flourished on the responsibility, actively seeking more and more of it until now she was more than a secretary; she was Ronald's executive assistant, his trusted confidant and advisor, and one of the highest paid employees at Magdeburg Concrete. Ronald happily left her in charge whenever he could escape the office.
Katherine settled for a pair of low-heeled black pumps with a narrow strap. Her hair, in its businesslike chignon, needed something more than just hairpins to hold it, so she dug through her hats, scarves and gloves drawer for a crocheted white snood and pinned it on over her hair. She examined herself critically. The white lace netting contrasted attractively with her almost black hair. Now all she needed was a little jewelry and she'd be dressed. She unlocked her jewelry drawer and ran her fingers over the various compartments. Yes, the small silver wristwatch today, and a similar sized silver bracelet for the right wrist for balance. No rings for work, but a pair of simple pearl earrings would be okay. Katherine checked that she had money for breakfast and lunch before slipping her purse into her handbag and then picked through the contents of the bowl on her bedside table for a few office-day essentials. She added a couple of handkerchiefs from the top drawer, wound her watch and checked it against the more reliable bedside clock. She'd been awake less than an hour and she was already ready to leave for work.
Ronald Chapman rolled out of his bed and staggered over to the jug and bowl on a table by the window. Splashing cold water over his face helped him wake up. He shaved as best he could with his clockwork shaver. A blade shave would have been better, but he wasn't game to try it with cold water, especially in his present condition.
He was doing up his boot laces when his eyes fell on a scrunched up ball of paper, the letter from his landlord he'd found tacked to his door when he stumbled home at two in the morning. That had been the perfect end to the perfect day. The number two kiln had been working perfectly all year and then, right in the middle of a major order, and a week before it was scheduled to be taken offline for preventative maintenance, it decided to fail. It'd taken Ronald and his team less than an hour to locate the problem-uneven wear on a bearing because of a poor casting-and another ten to fix it. He smoothed the letter out and read it again. Yep, it still said that the owner wanted to turn the apartment building into condos, and unless he wanted to buy his apartment he wasn't going to have a home come September. He'd have to get Katherine to find him a new apartment.
Arendsee, Altmark, north of Magdeburg
Christine Niemand was the first of her family to waken. She slipped out from under the thin blanket that was their only covering and quickly washed and dressed before waking her brother and sister.
While they washed and dressed, she got breakfast ready. She lifted the heavy stone off the lid of the cooking pot and divided the cold remains of last night's eel stew into three bowls, putting the empty pot to one side to be washed later. Then she turned to another old pot and removed the heavy stone and lid from it. It held the remains of an almost stale loaf of bread. She cut off chunks for each of them and placed them on the table before putting the remaining bread back into the pot and covering it. She'd learned the hard way that the extra weight of a stone was necessary to stop the rats getting into the food.
She looked up after saying the prayer for their meal to find her brother Claus looking at her. "Is there something you want to talk about?"
"Pastor Heyl thinks I could earn a scholarship to the Latin school in Stendal if I could get extra tutoring before the tests."
Christine reached out and hugged her brother. If he could earn a scholarship that would be one less drain on her meager purse. Unfortunately they both knew there was no way she could afford to pay for the extra tutoring.
"Pastor Heyl is sweet on you, Chrissy. If you were to marry him. .." Claus fell silent.
Christine couldn't meet her brother's eyes. She tried to remember that he didn't mean to be selfish. She tried to remember that earning a scholarship to the Latin school was his best chance of helping them better their situation. The alternative was a life of poverty, and at seventeen that wasn't a pleasant future to look forward to. "I'll find the money somehow, Claus. Now eat your breakfast."
After breakfast Christine sent Ilsa and Claus off to school with an eel pie wrapped in a square of cloth for lunch before tidying the cottage and washing the dishes. Then she walked over to her friend Margarethe's cottage where she poured out her problems while they carded wool together.
"How are you going to afford the extra tutoring for Claus?" Margarethe asked.
Christine paused in her carding. "I don't know."
"Pastor Heyl is sweet on you," Margarethe suggested.
"Not you too, Margarethe. Claus has already suggested I marry the pastor, but he's so old. Why, he must be at least forty."
"That's not so very old."
"Maybe not to you, but if I have to marry, I'd rather it be to someone with a little life in him. Not some dried up old stick like the pastor."
Margarethe sighed heavily. "What about Fritz Winkler? He's been sniffing about since your father died."
Christine shuddered. There was something about Fritz and the way he looked at her that scared and revolted her. "No. Anybody would be better than him, even Pastor Heyl."
"Anybody?" Margarethe asked.
Christine looked at her friend suspiciously.
"I was tearing out a few pages to help start the fire this morning when one of the advertisements caught my eye." Margarethe reached for a much mutilated catalog and passed it over.
Christine looked at the advertisement. "Wives of Distinction?"
"Yes. You should get your name on their books. You never know, you might find yourself a rich husband."
Christine snorted. "That's not going to happen."
"Yes, well, maybe expecting a rich husband might be a bit much, but surely someone better than Fritz Winkler or the pastor. What do you have to lose?"
Christine sighed. She didn't really have anything to lose and she could gain a future for herself and her brother and sister. "Very well, I'll write a letter."
The first thing Katherine did after sitting down at her desk at Magdeburg Concrete was to reach for the contents of her out-basket. An executive assistant shouldn't have to check her out-basket at the start of every day, but her boss often worked long after she'd left for the day and when his in-basket ran empty he often started on hers, dumping anything he finished into her out-basket. From where, if she didn't intervene, it could be filed without her ever seeing the documents. At least this morning she didn't expect to find any surprises. The gate guard had told her that the cement kiln Ronald had been called away to work on early yesterday afternoon hadn't been fixed until nearly two in the morning. He should have been too tired to come into the office after that. She let her mind wander, imagining a world where Ronald left her in-basket alone.
She glanced down at her wristwatch. Was that the time? With Ronald having worked so late he'd need his morning caffeine fix more than ever today. She rushed into the small kitchenette off her office and started preparing the coffee.
Ronald waved to the guard as he walked through the gates of Magdeburg Concrete and walked to the company cafeteria where breakfast was being served.
It was a cheap and simple meal of hot mush and a thick slice of bread spread with dripping. All washed down with a mug of small beer. The company firmly believed that offering a good meal to start the day kept the accident and absenteeism rates down. Ronald paid for his meal and hunted for a seat.
Even though he was the sole up-timer in the cafeteria, and one of the bosses, everyone ignored him. He'd been using the cafeteria since it was first started and now the workers were used to him eating with them. They left him alone and got on with their meals and conversations, leaving Ronald to eat in peace.
When he finished eating he took his tray to the cleaning station like everyone else. He didn't make a fuss about the workers who were still eating. As long as they put in an honest day's work he didn't care how long they took. So far this studied disinterest was delivering the dividends in worker-employer harmony he'd promised when he proposed the policy to the company's directors.
Ronald pushed open the door to his office and settled himself behind his desk. After dropping into his chair, he glared at the empty desk in the outer office. "Kathy!"
Katherine poked her head out of the office kitchenette. "Two minutes."
He sighed. With barely four hours sleep he desperately needed that first hit of caffeine.
A couple of minutes later Katherine waved a mug of coffee under his nose. He grabbed it and inhaled the first couple of inches. Then, still sipping, he gently leaned back on his chair and looked up at his executive assistant. "You're a lifesaver, Kathy."
She smiled modestly back. "Herr Knaust wishes you to contact him as soon as possible."
"Any idea what he wants?" The question was a polite fiction. Katherine was a compulsive knower of everyone's business.
"There may be delays in the Magdeburg Towers project."
"What does that have to do with me? Aren't the Towers being built by Magdeburg Growth Holdings?" Ronald was pretty sure he was on firm ground here. He walked past the construction site nearly every day and you couldn't miss the billboards advertising the development. However, he didn't like the way Katherine was looking at him. It was sort of condescending, and she sure did condescending well. "What's my connection to Magdeburg Growth Holdings?"
"You are Magdeburg Growth Holdings, Ronald. It's your personal front company."
"I have a front company?" Ronald was surprised. "I thought it was only criminals and people with something to hide who had front companies?"
"We set it up last year when you invested in the new bridge. You didn't think it would look good if a principal of a concrete company was a major shareholder in the new bridge." Katherine paused to glare at Ronald. "You signed the authorization yourself, remember?"
Ronald tried his best to out-glare Katherine. He definitely remembered that conversation. He even remembered talking about building a skyscraper to profit from the booming demand for accommodation. What he didn't remember was asking her to do the paperwork to create a front company. Nor, for that matter, did he remember asking her to invest his hard earned money in the new bridge over the Elbe or an apartment block. He didn't doubt he had signed the authority, he just couldn't remember doing it. But then, last year he'd been so busy with the expansion of Magdeburg Concrete's production capacity that he hadn't had time to actually read every file that passed across his desk before signing off on them.
Things had improved over the last six months, though. With the mad rush over he'd actually had time after the rest of the office staff left for the day to read the documents Katherine left in his in-basket. Heck, sometimes when he finished the contents of his in-basket he even helped Katherine by clearing the contents of her in-basket.
His glare failed to make any impression on Katherine and she continued to stand in front of him, completely unaffected. "Okay, so I own an apartment block. What's gone wrong?"
"Nothing has gone wrong. Construction is ahead of schedule and the Towers should be habitable three months early, on the first of October."
Ronald had learned the hard way to be sensitive to words. He easily picked up on the important one. "Habitable?"
"Yes. If you don't insist on the elevators running Herr Knaust is proposing a deal that can have everything else up and running by the end of September. However, if you want the elevators, it will now be April of next year at the earliest before they can be completed."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the Towers supposed to be seven stories high?" Katherine nodded. "And aren't they supposed to be luxury apartments?" Again Katherine nodded. "Nobody willing to pay for luxury is going to pay to walk up stairs. Of course I want the elevators. What's the hold up?
"Furttenbach and Parigi won the design competition for the new opera house complex and our elevator contractor wants to supply the elevators the design calls for. However, they can't meet the opera house's tight deadline and deliver your elevators on schedule. They want you to accept a delay of three months."
"What the elevator contractor wants to do isn't our problem. Don't we have a contract?" Ronald asked.
"Yes, but Herr Knaust believes he can get the contractor to lower his price and as they need the elevators delivered on a very tight schedule, Kelly Construction has suggested that they could connect the Towers to the opera house power plant. That would give the Towers steam for heating and electricity at a much lower cost than if you had your own steam plant and generators. As it only adds three months to the existing schedule and you can still let the apartments-even if at reduced rates-two months early, Herr Knaust considers it a win-win situation."
"What about the boiler and generator that were supposed to go into the Towers?" Ronald asked.
"They aren't installed yet, and Herr Knaust is confident they can easily be sold to another developer."
Ronald chewed over the information. Here and now a steam plant, even for something as small as Magdeburg Towers, was a pretty significant capital investment. And, as for running costs, if the plant at Magdeburg Concrete was anything to go by, he was sure they'd be high. "Okay. Tell Herr Knaust to get the best deal he can."
"I'll just go and type up instructions for Herr Knaust for you to sign."
Ronald knew Katherine well enough to be sure she had already typed up instructions based on what she thought he should do. The time it took before she came back would tell him how well his decision matched what she thought should be done. He waited until she was at the door before calling. "Are you sure you don't already have instructions typed out ready for me to sign?"
Katherine hauled open the office door and, as if the thought had never crossed her mind, turned and glared at him. Then she stepped right into William Roberts, the other up-time senior executive of Magdeburg Concrete, who had just stepped through the door.
There was an exchange of stilted apologies full of "Fraulein Franzius" and "Herr Roberts" before Katherine escaped, shutting the door after her.
Bill Roberts looked from the closed door to Ronald. "You done something to upset your secretary?"
Ronald shook his head and leaned his chair back on its back legs. "Kathy'll get over it easily enough."
"I hope you're right, because Debbie's dumped another charity event on my lap. The Arts Council ball, and I don't see why I should be the only one to suffer. Unless you've got someone I haven't heard about tucked away, you'll have to ask your secretary to save you from the ravaging hordes again. Is she likely to be agreeable?"
Ronald grimaced. At any social event he attended he faced having the down-time partners of Magdeburg Concrete introducing him to their daughters and grand-daughters, all the time suggesting that it was time he thought about marrying. It had gotten so bad lately that he'd been driven to begging Katherine to accompany him in an attempt to deflect some of the attention. It was enough to put a guy off marriage completely.
Katherine poked her head into the room and nodded vigorously. "And I'm Ronald's executive assistant. Not his secretary."
The door shut as quickly as it had opened and Ronald and Bill were left alone in the office. Ronald glanced over to Bill. "We'll be there."
"She listens through the door?"
"Kathy assures me it's an essential part of being a successful executive assistant. It means she doesn't have to rely on me to tell her things she needs to know to make my life easier."
"Jeez. And you let her get away with that?"
"Bill, it works for us. As you're always telling me, if it's not broke…"
"Don't fix it. Okay, if you're happy, I'll stay out of it. But it wouldn't work for me."
"Yeah, well, you're not me. If you can get the invitations to Kathy, she'll make sure we turn up."
"You know, your secretary just about runs your life as it is. Why not marry her and let her run the rest of your life?"
Bill had only been gone a few minutes when Katherine came in with the authority for Herr Knaust. She sniffed delicately. "I wouldn't marry you even if you asked me."
Ronald signed the letter and handed it back. "I know. I'm not mature or sophisticated enough for you."
The pair exchanged smiles of mutual understanding.
"Partnering me to the Arts Council ball isn't going to interfere with your love life is it?" Ronald asked.
Katherine shook her head. "No. Joachim is busy that evening."
"He must be a real understanding guy if he doesn't mind you going out with your boss."
"Joachim understands that the duties of an executive assistant are many and varied, and that I get paid triple time after midnight."
"Yeah, I love you too." He shook his head. "Debbie's going to have to cut down on her charity events. They're costing me a fortune."
"Do you know what you need, Herr Chapman?"
Ronald lowered his chair onto all four legs. When Katherine called him Herr Chapman, he knew he wasn't going to like what she had to say. "No, Fraulein Franzius, I don't know what I need."
"You need a wife."
He was glad he wasn't still leaning back on his chair. That suggestion coming from Katherine would have had him rearing right back and tipping over. "Not you, too? I thought you were on my side."
"I am. You don't have to marry one of your partners' daughters or grand-daughters, though. Any suitable woman would do. Think of the money you'd save. Besides, you're lonely. You need a companion."
"If I want a companion, I'll get myself a dog."
"And where would you keep it? You live in a one-room apartment on the third floor of a residential hotel. At least a wife can clean up after herself, and exercising her would be much more fun."
Ronald glared at Katherine. It was so long since he last had a woman the idea of a wife was almost attractive. It wasn't that women, even prostitutes, weren't available. The big problem was that he was scared. Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases were endemic and the antibiotics to treat them were sadly lacking. Sure, they had condoms here and now, but he'd heard they had to be made to measure out of sheep intestine. Just trying to picture being fitted for one was enough to put him off.
Suddenly he remembered the letter from his landlord. He passed it over to Katherine. "Can you find me somewhere else to live?"
"I can investigate what's available, but what about Magdeburg Towers? You could move in to the penthouse with your new wife."
"I don't need a wife, Kathy. I'm not even looking for one," Ronald protested.
"That's because you've forgotten what you're missing and you work too hard to meet anybody but the simpering girls your partners push under your nose. But don't worry, a good executive assistant is always ready to provide her boss with everything he needs."
"I am not going to some tacky singles bar, and I don't do blind dates." Hopefully that would stymie Katherine. Without his cooperation there was no way she could find him a wife. Although the way she smiled just before she waltzed out of the office didn't look good. Ronald leaned his chair back on its rear legs again and mulled over his conversation with his executive assistant. Surely he'd covered all the bases?
"Stick out your tits, love. The customers like to see what you've got to offer."
Christine swallowed her temper and stuck out her chest as directed so the photographer from Wives of Distinction could take his photograph. She didn't approve of having her photograph taken, but Frau Saling, the agent from Wives of Distinction, had insisted that men responded more often to listings if they knew what a woman looked like.
"Right, love, you can relax now." The photographer removed the double-dark from the back of the camera and handed it over to Christine. "Take that over to my assistant and wait."
Christine took the flat wooden cassette gingerly in her hands and hurried over to the photographer's tent. Behind her she could hear the photographer calling out instructions to the next girl in line.
"Name?" The photographer's assistant asked.
"Christine Niemand." She watched the assistant write her name in chalk on a blackboard. He pointed to a bench. "Wait over there. In this light, it'll be half an hour before your prints are ready."
Christine walked over to the bench and sat down. She felt as if she was selling her body for a wedding ring and security for her family, but in the last couple of weeks her situation had deteriorated significantly. Frau Cratzmann had discovered that her precious son, Fritz Winkler, was pursuing Christine. Unfortunately, she held Christine responsible for his behavior, and as her husband was Christine's village-appointed legal guardian things weren't looking good for Christine keeping her family together.
Christine jerked up, saw Frau Saling and hurried over to her. She was examining a couple of pictures. It took a moment for Christine to realize they were her pictures.
"These are good enough. There's no need to take new ones, so you're free to go. I wish you success in your hunt for a husband."
It was a few seconds after Frau Saling walked away before Christine realized it was all over. She was going to be listed with Wives of Distinction. She looked around. Some of the other girls were milling around talking to each other, but for Christine time away from her spinning and carding was time she wasn't earning. She started running for Margarethe's.
Late August, Magdeburg
Ronald and Katherine's footsteps echoed throughout the penthouse. The space was enormous, especially when he compared it to the hotel room he'd been living in the last couple of years.
"Master with full en suite. You'll be needing a bed, linen, a dresser and a chest of drawers." Katherine stood in the middle of the room taking notes.
Ronald looked into the en suite. There was a sunken tub big enough for two, twin shower, and twin hand-basins. He could fit his current apartment in one corner and still have plenty of room. "I don't think I'll be moving in here. I'd get lost."
"Nonsense. A few weeks and you'll be wondering how you survived in your poky little room."
"This whole apartment is way too big for one person."
Katherine smiled at Ronald. "There's an easy solution for that."
He glared back at her. He'd hoped she'd forgotten her silly idea of finding him a wife. She'd certainly been quiet on the subject lately.
"Anyway, if you remember, your landlord is kicking you out shortly. You need somewhere to live before the end of the month. As you own the Towers, it'd be foolish for you not to live there."
"But the penthouse? Why not a nice little studio apartment on the second floor?"
"Because until the elevators are installed the closer to the ground an apartment is, the higher the rent it commands, and you need all the income you can get to service your mortgage," Katherine answered.
"Surely the rent for the penthouse would be more than the rent for a studio apartment lower down?"
Katherine shook her head. "You know better than that, Ronald. Nobody who could afford the rent for this much space is interested in climbing seven flights of stairs."
"So I get stuck with it," Ronald grumbled.
"You and your family."
Ronald suddenly had a horrifying thought. "Hell, with this much space they'll expect me to put them up whenever they visit."
"All the more reason to start your own family," Katherine answered.
"Will you stop that? I am not looking for a wife."
"How will you feel when you're a lonely old man with no family to comfort you?"
Ronald snorted his contempt for that idea. "A hell of a lot better than my big brother will feel with his mob of bloodsucking leeches hanging around."
Katherine glared and stamped off into the distant bowels of the penthouse apartment. Left, for once, triumphant, Ronald celebrated his victory over his executive assistant by investigating his new home.
Katherine had met Ronald's brother and his children. Calling them bloodsucking leeches was probably an exaggeration, but there was sufficient truth in the comment for her to feel Ronald had won that argument. Losing wasn't something Katherine condoned, especially not losing to Ronald. Recovery from such a serious blow to her self-esteem was going to take serious therapy, and when a woman needed serious therapy there was only one kind worth bothering with-retail therapy.
She tried a few of her regular shops, but nothing called out to her. So she drifted a little further afield. That's how she came across the tiny office of Wives of Distinction. A brief perusal of the exterior advertising perked up her spirits. A marriage agency! Why hadn't she thought of that?
The gentle tinkling of the door bell attracted the attention of the woman seated at a desk. She looked up from what she was reading. "May I help you?"
"I was just passing when I saw your sign. You find husbands for single women, don't you?"
"Yes, we do. Are you looking for a life partner?"
Katherine shook her head. "Not for me, for a friend." She saw the knowing look in the woman's eyes and hastened to correct her. "Truly, a friend of mine is looking for a wife."
"Ah, Then you've come to the right place. What kind of wife is your friend looking for?"
"Young, healthy, intelligent…" Katherine hunted in her mind for other qualities Ronald might like. "Not too plump. Actually, skinny would better describe his taste."
The woman opened an index card box and collected several lengths of wire from a drawer. "How young?" she asked, a wire ready to thread through one of the holes punched along the edge of the cards.
"How young do they get?" Katherine asked.
"I've recently added a seventeen-year-old, but most of my clients are in their mid-twenties or older."
Katherine was surprised. Most people waited until they were in their twenties before marrying. It tended to take that long before they could afford to do so. "Why would a seventeen-year-old be looking for marriage?"
Frau Saling pulled a card out from the back of the index box. "The poor thing was orphaned last year and left with the care of her younger brother and sister. She's currently supporting her family on what she earns as a spinster."
"In other words, she's slowly starving to death?"
"She's certainly not plump, and as for intelligent, her brother hopes to attend the local Latin school on scholarship."
"Could I have a look at that card?" Katherine asked.
Frau Saling passed it over. "Would you like me to sort out some other candidates?"
Katherine was busy reading the scant details on the card and waved Frau Saling's question off. "It says here that there are two photographs. Could I see them?"
"Viewing a girl's photographs costs ten dollars."
"What? Ten dollars just to look!"
"I run a business here. A lot of my clients can't afford the services of a photographer, so I send out my own man and charge the men for photographs to cover my costs."
A nice little racket if ever there was one, Katherine thought as she rummaged in her handbag for her purse. The woman probably did way better than just cover her costs.
Frau Saling pulled a folder out of her filing cabinet and placed the two photographs on her desk.
Katherine looked at the girl in the photographs. She was perfect. Her story would appeal to Ronald's noble instincts, of which she felt he had way too many, and her looks would strike at the man in him. "Could I have a copy of the listing and the photographs, please?"
"Just the one girl? You shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. After all, the girl might not be interested in your friend."
"Just the one." Katherine was adamant.
"You'll have to wait a couple of days for my photographer to print off your copies."
Katherine looked down at the photographs. She wanted to strike while the iron was hot. "Why can't I have these photographs?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't allow that. What if someone else wanted to see them?"
Katherine hadn't risen to the position of executive assistant to the operations manager of Magdeburg Concrete by being stupid. She reached for her purse again. "How much?"
Frau Saling smiled. "For one hundred dollars you can have the photographs and as a special favor, I'll remove Christine's listing until I get replacement prints."
Katherine thought about it for a full thirty seconds. Even on her salary it was a lot of money, but the opportunity was too good to miss. She peeled off a hundred dollars and passed the fistful of notes over. "I'll take it. What's the deal if my friend wants to get in touch with the girl?"
"On payment of a small fee he gets a letter delivered to the girl and a guaranteed reply, even if it's just a 'thank you, but no thank you.'"
Katherine accepted the schedule of fees from Frau Saling, and nearly choked when she read the magnitude of Frau Saling's "small fee" to deliver a letter outside of Magdeburg. She stared down at Frau Saling and pointed mutely to the offending number.
"I have to make a profit, and it does cost a lot to have a courier deliver the letters and collect replies. Of course, if your friend puts his address in his letter to the girl there is nothing stopping her writing to him without going through my agency, using the regular mail."
Katherine could understand her point. The fee for delivering the introductory letters might be the last she received from a client, so she would have to charge as much as the market could bear to remain in business. "Do you have any recommendations as to what my friend should say in his letter?"
Frau Saling pulled a single printed sheet from a box by her desk and passed it over. "Just get him to follow these simple rules, and tell him he should include at least a full face photograph. It's only fair that the girl gets to see what the men who wish to correspond with her look like."
If the men were writing letters and adding photographs, how, Katherine wondered, did Frau Saling know the photographs were actually of the men writing the letters? Immediately following that thought Katherine started worrying about Christine's photographs. "How do I know these photographs are really of the girl in the listing, or even that she really exists?"
"My agency's continued existence depends on its good name. Every girl I list has been personally vetted by me or one of my assistants. I can assure you, Christine exists, and she is the young woman in the photographs. I know. I was the person who vetted her."
Satisfied, Katherine took her leave.
Now, how was she going to draw Ronald's attention to Christine? Katherine spent the walk back to the office mulling over the problem. Finally she decided she'd hit Ronald when he came into work the next day. Around the time he had his first caffeine hit of the day, when he was at his most relaxed and susceptible. Katherine smiled smugly to herself. A girl didn't rise to executive assistant without learning how to manage her boss.
Next day, Magdeburg
Katherine spied Ronald walking past the gatehouse. She put down her binoculars and went to start the coffee. Ronald was a creature of habit and she knew to within a couple of minutes how long he'd take to finish his breakfast at the staff cafeteria.
Then she went into Ronald's office to check that everything was ready. The folder with Christine's data sheet and photographs was sitting on top of his in-basket, ready to be the first thing Ronald reached for after she served him his coffee. Perfect. Now she just had to wait.
Ronald was greeted by the smell of freshly brewed coffee as he entered his office. He could see the mug sitting on his desk waiting for him. Grabbing it, he slumped into his chair and reached for the first folder in his in-basket. He dropped it onto his desk and flipped it open.
He stared. Who the hell was this girl? He laid the contents of the file out on his desk. There were two photographs, a typed description, and an information sheet from "Wives of Distinction" giving instructions on how to write an introduction letter. "Katherine Franzius, get in here right now!"
Katherine appeared. "You called?"
Ronald pointed. "What's the meaning of this?"
"It's the woman I think you should marry."
"Woman? She's just a kid." Ronald grabbed the data sheet and read it again before waving it under Katherine's nose. "Hell, she's the same age as Gerald's daughter."
"A little younger, actually, but if you read her description of herself you'll see that she's virtually raised her sister as her own child since their mother died five years ago. And more recently, since the death of their father last year left her and her brother and sister orphaned, she's been the sole source of support for her family. That kind of thing matures a person very quickly."
Ronald read further down the data sheet. Yes, it did tell about Christine's situation. "Why the hell would a seventeen-year-old girl want to marry an old guy like me?"
"Security. Maybe even affection. And if she's lucky… love."
Ronald looked up at her in surprise. That wasn't the kind of thing he expected to hear from his ever-so-elegant assistant. He pushed the photos to one side and reached for the next folder. Katherine was still standing beside him. "Don't just stand there. Get back to work."
He pretended interest in the new file until Katherine was back in her office, hammering away on her typewriter. Then he lowered the file and glanced over at the photographs. The full length one was a bit tacky, until you looked at the eyes. They seemed to be calling out "this isn't the real me." And then there was the portrait. There was something about the girl in the photograph that just reached out and grabbed him. He turned back to the file he was supposed to be reading.
At three o'clock Bill Roberts dropped by for a mug of coffee. He couldn't help but notice Ronald hastily covering something on his desk. So he deliberately lifted the files to reveal two photographs. He got a hand on them just before Ronald could grab them, then stepped back to examine them. She was a good looking girl, but he didn't recognize her. "Who is she?"
"She's the seventeen-year-old girl currently at the top of Kathy's list to become Mrs. Ronald Chapman."
The statement was delivered so nonchalantly that at first Bill didn't take it all in. Then it struck. "Your secretary is trying to marry you off to this sweet young thing?"
"Yes, and I've told her the girl is way too young for me."
Bill reexamined the photographs. He had vague memories of some of Ronald's previous girlfriends. The memories were so vague that he started wondering just how long it'd been since Ronald had a girlfriend. His best guess was some time back up-time. This girl was attractive without being really beautiful. However, she had the kind of looks that promised to improve with maturity. And why, if she was way too young, did Ronald look as if he wanted to mug him to get the photographs back. "Be sure to invite me and Debbie to the wedding."
"I am not getting married, Bill, regardless of what Kathy thinks."
Bill waved the photographs, and Ronald snatched them from his hand. "Anything you say." Bill wanted to laugh. His friend was all tied up in knots over a seventeen-year-old girl he'd only seen in a pair of black and white photographs. He'd have to tell Debbie about this.
All through the afternoon Ronald found his eyes drifting to the photographs. There was something about the girl that got to him. It was more than just her story of sacrifice. There was also the way she looked. It wasn't any one feature-although her enormous eyes held Ronald every time he looked at her portrait-it was the whole package. Ronald felt more aroused than he'd been in years, and the photographs weren't even mildly pornographic.
He tried to decide why he was responding to the photographs. Maybe it was the promise he saw in those eyes. And maybe he was just fooling himself, seeing something that wasn't there. He pushed the photographs to one side and got back to reading files.
Finally, just after four-thirty, he gave in to the siren call. Maybe she wasn't what he imagined. Maybe she wouldn't want anything to do with a man more than twice her age. But it couldn't hurt to make contact. Ronald grabbed the folder and walked out to talk to Katherine. "Okay. What do I have to do?"
"Write to her telling her you would like to get to know her better, objective: marriage." She passed a couple of typed pages. "I've made a few suggestions. And you'd better put in some photographs so she knows what she's getting. I suggest you pick one or two of these." She handed him six photographs of himself. "I recommend these two."
Ronald scowled. He'd only just arrived at the idea of finding out if the girl he imagined really existed and here she was talking about marrying the girl already. Could he marry a girl half his age, one who was younger than his niece? Well, certainly not if she was anything like as immature as Elizabeth Ann. But maybe this girl was the girl he imagined her to be. He turned his attention to two photographs Katherine had recommended. One was a full face shot and the other a full length one. He could see why the full face had been included. It was a good honest photograph of his battered face, but… "Why that full length shot?"
"Because it shows you in the Magdeburg Concrete company coveralls. You want to provide evidence that you are gainfully employed."
"Surely the one in the suit would be better for that?"
Katherine shook her head. "It's obviously an up-time suit. You want to look as if you can afford to support Christine and her family without looking rich, and everyone knows all up-timers are rich."
Ronald collected Katherine's suggestions and the photographs and retreated back to his office. There he sat down over a blank piece of paper and wondered what the hell to write. "Kathy, any chance of coffee?"
"I'll put on a fresh pot."
"Thanks." While he waited for the essential thinking fluid, Ronald jotted down ideas of what he should say. He didn't like some of Katherine's suggestions, so he crossed those out. He had to think carefully about what to write if he wanted to discover if she was the girl he was imagining her to be.
A few minutes later. Katherine came in with a mug in each hand. Placing his in front of him she sat on the corner of his desk and sipped her own. "How's it going?"
Ronald grabbed his coffee and took a healthy swig. "How do I tell her where I live without giving away what I'm worth?"
"That's simple. Just tell her you live at the top of a seven-story apartment block. Her imagination will fill in the blanks."
"I doubt she's heard of elevators. She'll most likely associate living on the seventh floor with cheap accommodation."
"Okay, that solves that problem. What about the fact I don't have a down-time name?"
"You might not have a local name, Ronald, but it could be an English name. I wouldn't worry about it. Just don't tell any lies. Nothing gets a girl's back up like being lied to."
Ronald took Katherine's comments seriously. He also wondered who'd had the nerve to lie to her. "Right. Thanks for the coffee. You can go now. I've got a letter to write."
He waited until Katherine was back at her desk before he went back to his letter. He wanted to say something that would capture Christine's interest enough for her to want to respond without telling her too much, or making any commitment.
After dozens of screwed up attempts he finally put down his pen. While he stretched his fingers, he read the letter through. It wasn't perfect, but then, who could write a perfect letter to a stranger? However, it said what he wanted to say. He just hoped it was enough to get Christine to respond. Heck, could she afford to respond? Could she even afford paper and pen? He got to his feet and walked over to the stationery drawer in Katherine's office."
"May I help you?" an aggrieved voice asked.
With his hands buried in the drawer, pushing papers all over the place, Ronald realized Katherine didn't sound happy about something. "I'm after some reply-paid envelopes."
Katherine pushed Ronald aside, pulled out another drawer, and produced a reply-paid envelope.
"Could I have half a dozen, oh, and some writing paper and maybe a good pencil or two?"
Katherine dutifully produced the requested objects. "Are you thinking Christine might not be able to afford to correspond with you?"
"That's very good thinking, Ronald."
Ronald was back in his office and assembling the package for Christine when the similarity between Katherine's tone of voice and his mother's whenever he'd done what he was told as a child struck him. For a moment, he wondered what his mother would say about him marrying a seventeen-year-old. Then he laughed. She might call him a dirty old man because of the age difference, but she'd be happy to see the last of her six children finally married.
He was just about to take the letter to Katherine for delivery when he remembered just who'd be handling delivery of his letter. There were some things a man didn't want his executive assistant seeing, and he knew Katherine too well to expect her to deliver this letter without wanting to have a look at what he'd written. Pulling out his wallet, he found a stamp, which he stuck across the flap before signing his name across both it and the envelope. Now there was no way she could inspect the contents without leaving a clear sign the envelope had been interfered with. He walked out and dropped it on Katherine's desk. "What do I owe you?"
"Plenty." Katherine handed him the receipts from Wives of Distinction.
The total surprised Ronald but if Katherine was happy, who was he to complain. "Fill out a chit for me to sign and you can draw it from petty cash."
Katherine walked into Wives of Distinction just as Frau Saling was closing.
"Is it something quick, I'm just closing," Frau Saling said.
Katherine proffered the envelope and a bundle of notes. "My friend would like to have this sent to Christine as soon as possible."
Frau Saling carefully counted the money. "It'll take several days for delivery. Please tell your friend not to expect a reply for a couple of weeks."
"A couple of weeks? For the fee you're charging, I expect a little more urgency."
"Fraulein Franzius, Arendsee is four days away by horse."
"Oh! So Christine lives in Arendsee?"
Frau Saling shrugged. "You've paid for me to deliver a message. If she chooses to respond she will probably give you her full name and address anyway, so what have I lost? Just don't let your friend go looking for her without her permission."
"I'll tell him. Thank you, Frau Saling."
Sarah Saling shut and locked the door after Katherine left. Then, after pulling down the blinds, she sat down with the letter from Katherine's friend.
Rats! Someone had sealed it. Then she realized it had been sealed with a stamp. Who would waste a dollar stamp to seal a letter? She tried to decipher the signature. It looked like "R something man." She sat up. That messy connected writing was mostly only used by up-timers and she knew Fraulein Franzius was a secretary at Magdeburg Concrete. Maybe it was one of those up-timers. She reached for her copy of the Who's Who of Grantville Up-timers. William "Bill" Roberts was married, which left Ronald Chapman. That certainly fitted the signature across the stamp. She read further. Ronald Chapman was one of the few remaining single up-timers with real money and prospects. But what would a wealthy up-timer want with a young girl like Christine? Then she remembered what she knew of human nature. She frowned down at the letter in her hand. Should she, shouldn't she? The trouble was she'd accepted money to send the letter, and besides, what a feather in her cap it would be if one of her wives of distinction married Ronald Chapman of Magdeburg Concrete.
"Chrissy, there's another letter waiting for you at the town hall."
Christine jerked out of her working trance and looked up to see her brother. "Shouldn't you be in school?"
"Pastor Heyl sent me. Everyone wants to know if this one's any better than the last one."
Christine looked over at Margarethe, who was listening intently. "Off you go, girl. Maybe this one's the one."
"Go on, off you go, girl."
Christine put down her carding paddles and ran barefoot after her brother.
Christine opened the envelope as she walked away from the town hall. There was the usual cover letter from Wives of Distinction and a thick envelope. The cover letter was from Frau Saling and said that the enclosed letter was from "Ronald of Magdeburg." She stuffed Frau Saling's letter into the pocket in her work apron and concentrated on the letter from Ronald. It was addressed simply to "Christine," which was all the address he should have for her.
She found a bench to sit on, spread her apron across her knees, and emptied the contents onto her apron. She welcomed the photographs. The last couple of men hadn't included any. Ronald of Magdeburg wasn't a young man, and he wore spectacles, but he wasn't unpleasing to the eye, and he had a nice smile. He certainly looked as if he still had all his own teeth, unlike some people she could think of.
"Can I see?" Claus asked.
Christine passed over the photographs and continued to look through the contents. There was a pencil, one of the fancy new ones that Claus dreamed of having. She'd have to keep a firm hold on that. There was also good quality writing paper and reply-paid envelopes. It certainly looked as if Ronald of Magdeburg really wanted to hear back from her. That was a change after the last man. He'd seemed to think Christine should up stakes and move to his village just because he wrote to her. She knew her situation wasn't good, but it wasn't that dire.
She looked at the envelopes. They were addressed simply to "Ronald Chapman, Magdeburg Concrete Inc, Magdeburg." She stuffed those with the writing paper into her apron pocket. That left the letter.
"Well, is he better than the last one?"
Christine hastily shoved the letter protectively into her apron pocket. Margarethe had finally caught up with her, and she wasn't the only villager standing around looking interested. "Yes."
"What's his name? And what does he have to say for himself?" Margarethe asked.
"His name is Ronald Chapman. He's nearly forty, never married, and lives in Magdeburg where he has worked for Magdeburg Concrete for over two years."
"That's nice. It sounds like he can afford to support you and your brother and sister," Margarethe said.
Christine pulled out the letter and continued reading. "He says Claus could go to any of the Latin schools in Magdeburg, that Ilsa can attend the local St. Veronica's Academy, oh! And if I'm interested, I can enroll for classes at the Duchess Elisabeth Sofie Secondary School for Girls." She hugged the letter to her breast. "I could go to school, just like Claus."
"It sounds as if you've found yourself a rich man this time," Anna Cratzmann, mother to Fritz Winkler, interrupted. "You'd be wise to snap him up whilst you've got the chance and save the village the cost of your support."
"Oh shut up and leave the girl alone, Anna. Go on, Christine, tell us more. Where does he live?" Margarethe asked.
Christine searched through the letter. "He says he's recently moved into new accommodations on the seventh floor of a new apartment building, and that there is plenty of room for all of us."
"The seventh floor! Who'd want to live on the seventh floor? Think of all the stairs. Maybe he's not so rich after all," Anna said.
"I'm not looking for a rich man, Frau Cratzmann. Just a good man who will care for me and the children."
"Well, you haven't had much luck to date. Maybe you should catch hold of this one."
Ronald looked at the envelope Katherine had just dropped on his desk. It was one of the envelopes he'd sent Christine and surprisingly enough Katherine had failed to open it. He waved it gently. "You on strike?"
"I thought that you would prefer I didn't open it." Katherine came back with the sweetest of sweet smiles.
Ronald wanted to take that comment on face value. It was unusual for Katherine not to read any mail that came to him through the office, but then, she knew a letter from Christine was likely to be personal and confidential. He slit it open and was pulling out the enclosed letter when he realized Katherine had moved to stand just behind his shoulder. He glared over his shoulder at her. "Do you mind?"
"This letter is important to me," she protested.
"How do you work that out?"
"Because it might be from the future Mrs. Ronald Chapman."
"Kathy, if you behave yourself I might let you look at it after I've finished reading it, but you're not going to read it over my shoulder. Okay?"
It was obvious to Ronald that it wasn't okay, but it was equally obvious Katherine was ready to concede some ground. He waited until she was back at her desk before he pulled out the letter and opened it.
Christine sat staring at the latest letter from Ronald. "Margrethe, he wants to meet me."
"Progress at last. I thought he'd never ask. After all, there're only so many ways you can beg him to come and rescue you without actually saying so."
"I haven't been begging," Christine protested. Yet, she thought. It might have come to that if Ronald hadn't asked this time though, but now that he'd written saying he wanted to meet her, she was terrified. She didn't want her desperation to scare him off. "But I'm not ready. How do I convince him to marry me?"
Margarethe patted Christine gently on the shoulder. "I didn't outlast three husbands without learning a thing or two about men and what makes them tick. Are you still a virgin?"
"Yes." When had she ever had time to be anything else?
"That's a good start. Now, what you have to do is…"
Ronald leaned back in his chair and reread Christine's letter. She was happy for him to visit. That was a major step. He pulled his old Rand McNally atlas from the bookshelf and flipped it open to central Europe and looked at the small dot that was Arendsee. It was about fifty miles away as the crow flew, or about eighty miles following the modern roads. Unfortunately, he had no idea what roads actually existed that far north of Magdeburg here and now, and with work commitments and winter upon them this would probably be his only chance to see Christine in her home town before next spring.
He frowned at the thought. Reading between the lines Ronald was pretty sure Christine was living hand to mouth, which meant she might not be around next spring. He had to see her soon and persuade her to marry him.
He froze. Where the hell had that thought come from? Ronald stared unseeing at the atlas. Was he really thinking of marrying a seventeen-year-old girl? He fingered her latest letter and traced a finger over her signature. It sure looked like it, but why? He wasn't in love with her. He couldn't be. He'd never met her, and surely you couldn't fall in love with someone you've never met. Maybe her situation was dire, but rescuing her and her family from near certain death was hardly a good reason to marry her. He could always send her money. He had enough of it. He pulled open his top drawer and pulled out Christine's photographs. He sat and stared at them and found that they still had their power to arouse him. Sex? Was that why he was prepared to marry Christine? Was safe sex a good enough reason to marry anyone? Ronald placed the photographs back in their drawer and stood up. It might not be a great reason, but it was more realistic than imagining himself in love with her. Besides, maybe he'd find that they didn't suit each other and all this worry was just wasted effort. Anyway he needed to tell Katherine she'd be minding the office for the next week or so.
Katherine looked up as Ronald approached her desk. The fact that he was carrying the atlas suggested he might be going on a short trip sometime soon. About bloody time, she thought. He'd shared Christine's letters with her, so she understood the terror Christine must be feeling as Ronald dilly-dallied about.
"I need to be out of the office for a few days."
"You intend traveling to Arendsee?"
"Yes. It's past time I met Christine. Letters just aren't a good enough way to get to know someone."
Katherine reached into a drawer and removed a folder. She passed it over. "Travel documents, tickets and two thousand dollars in cash." She reached back into the drawer for a draw-string purse which she placed on top of the folder. "And five hundred dollars in coins, just in case the smaller villages in the old Brandenburg territories don't accept paper money." She traced along the River Elbe on the map. "The steam ferry can carry you as far as Werben. From there you'll need to hire a horse or walk about twenty-five miles to Arendsee. At this time of year that's nearly a full day's travel, so unless you want to arrive tired and exhausted as the sun sets, I'd advise you to stay overnight at Seehausen."
"You seem to know a lot about that area of the world."
"The travel arrangements are the same as those Joachim used last time he visited his parents. He had to pass through Arendsee on his way to Salzwedel. Now, the real question is, having decided to meet Christine, will you be asking her to marry you while you're in Arendsee?"
"I wouldn't be going if I wasn't seriously thinking of asking her to marry me."
"Good, and if you ask I'm sure she'll accept." My God, was Katherine sure Christine would accept. She passed Ronald an envelope. "Then you'll want this."
Ronald accepted the envelope gingerly. "What's in it?"
"Character references and a copy of your tax returns. You'll need them to convince Christine's legal guardian to give permission for her to marry."
Ronald fingered the envelope. "I'm more than twice Christine's age. Do you think there'll be any trouble getting her guardian's consent?"
Biting back a grin Katherine shook her head. "No. I doubt there will be any trouble." Was she ever sure there would be no trouble! Ronald was offering to rescue the village from the possibility of having to support Christine and her brother and sister. Whoever the council had appointed as the family's guardian wouldn't hesitate to consent to the marriage, as long as the documentation was all in order. "Finally, you'll need a betrothal gift. I can get something suitable…"
"No, I'd better do that."
Twelve months ago Ronald would have been only too willing to allow her to purchase a betrothal gift. Katherine hoped the future Mrs. Ronald Chapman would be properly appreciative of how well she'd trained her husband. "I'd recommend that you look for something small and pretty, like some decorated combs or even an enameled cosmetic box. Anything too big would be a nuisance to carry that far and fine gloves or shoes would only be a good idea if you had an idea about her size."
"Shoes? As a betrothal gift? I can understand the others, or even jewelry, but what woman would want shoes?"
"Ronald, strange as it may be to you, most people consider themselves lucky to have one pair of shoes. A new pair of shoes would be a magnificent betrothal gift."
She followed Ronald's stare down to her feet. Today she was wearing a pair of red low-heeled pumps. She smiled. "Obviously, I'm not most people."
"Obviously. Well, Christine can buy all the shoes she wants when she gets to Magdeburg. I guess I'd best look at some fancy combs."
"With her mass of hair, combs are a good choice. If you tell whoever serves you that they are to be a betrothal gift, you'll be shown something suitable."
Ronald hadn't realized just how unfit he'd become over the years. He'd certainly thought all the walking he did just going to and from work, as well as coping with seven flights of stairs twice a day, would have prepared him for the hike from Werben to Arendsee. How wrong he'd been. Of course, the fact that it started to rain just as he left the ferry at Werben and hadn't let up since hadn't helped. He could have hired a horse, which would at least have lifted him out of the sea of mud that was the road to Arendsee, however, never having ridden a horse in his life, Ronald hadn't thought that this trip was the best time to start.
Where did he start looking for Christine? The church was surely the center of everything in such a small community. At the very least there would be someone there who could point him in Christine's direction.
Someone dressed like a Lutheran pastor answered the door. "Excuse me, but could you tell me how I could find Fraulein Christine Niemand?" Ronald asked.
The pastor didn't look at all friendly while he studied Ronald. "I could."
Ronald waited patiently. It didn't look as if the pastor wanted to help him find Christine. In fact, he didn't look happy to see him at all, and it wasn't as if Ronald was standing in the church dripping all over the floor. "Yes?" Ronald prompted.
"Are you the man from Magdeburg that Christine is expecting?"
"Yes." Ronald certainly hoped he was.
For a moment he thought the pastor was going to slam the door in his face. Instead the man asked, "Please wait outside while I locate a guide."
The door was shut before Ronald could get a word out.
Several cold and wet minutes later, the pastor returned with a boy. Ronald realized who his guide must be just as the pastor introduced him.
"This is Claus. Christine's brother. He will guide you." The pastor turned to Claus. "Hurry right back."
They were a safe distance form the church before Claus broke the silence. "Are you really going to marry Chrissy and take us back to Magdeburg with you?"
He was happy to hear that Christine had openly talked about marrying him and moving her family to Magdeburg. It gave him hope. "If we find we like each other I was actually thinking that we'd marry in Magdeburg."
"Like each other? But you have to marry Chrissy."
"Why?" Ronald had his guesses, and even though he was sure Christine wouldn't be happy to know he'd questioned her brother, he felt he needed all the information he could get if he was going to persuade Christine that she really wanted to marry him.
"Chrissy isn't really earning enough to support us and she won't be able to catch any eels when the lake ices over. Not that I'll miss eating eel." Claus stepped in front of Ronald and stared up at him. "We won't have to eat eel, will we, in Magdeburg?"
"I don't think I've ever eaten eel."
"You wouldn't like it," Claus replied authoritatively.
"Then I can promise you eel won't be on the menu unless someone asks for it."
"You mean Chrissy? That's all right. I don't think she likes eel either."
"Then I'm sure you won't be expected to eat eel in Magdeburg."
They walked on in silence for a few minutes before Claus started talking again.
"You're awfully muddy."
Ronald smiled down at the boy. "And wet. Don't forget wet. It started to rain just as I landed in Werben."
"Werben? Did you come down from Magdeburg in the steam ferry? Are we going to travel to Magdeburg on the steam ferry?"
Right there Ronald knew how he could gain Claus' support for his marriage to Christine. "Are you interested in steam engines?"
"Oh, yes, especially the new steam turbines American Electric Works is developing. I've read everything the newspapers have reported about them."
"The new opera house just across from my apartment is supposed to be getting a steam turbine early next year. I know some of the people involved and I might be able to arrange a visit, if you're interested?"
"Interested? In seeing a steam turbine? Oh, yes, Herr Chapman."
"Then when we get to Magdeburg I'll arrange for you to be shown around the new power plant. Of course, your sister might not want to marry a man twice her age."
"Oh, Chrissy wants to marry you, Herr Chapman. You might be nearly forty, but at least you're not a dried up old stick like Pastor Heyl."
Ronald assumed Pastor Heyl was the man back at the church. No wonder he'd been so short, the poor guy must have wanted Christine for himself. Well, tough titty. It looked like the better man had won.
"Chrissy, Chrissy, he's here. Herr Chapman's here to take us back to Magdeburg," Claus called through the open window.
Christine put down her carding combs and hurried to the door. "Come on in out of the rain." She held the door open for Ronald and Claus. "Get those rain capes off. Claus, you hang them up."
"Pastor Heyl said I was to go straight back after guiding Herr Chapman here."
Christine cursed quietly to herself. Not only was her friend Margarethe out when she most needed her, but Claus was about to desert her as well. "Very well, off you go." She turned back to Ronald who had taken off his rain cape and was standing looking a little lost. "Here, give me that." She took the dripping cape and hung it from a peg.
She turned and had her first good look. He was looking back at her just as intensely. Christine hoped he liked what he could see. Not that he could see much. She'd bundled up as best she could in an attempt to stay warm while she carded wool. She was nervous and didn't know what to say or do.
"I don't suppose I could warm myself in front of the fire?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. You must be near frozen. I'll just add some wood." Christine hastened to add some wood to the fire and then moved to close the shutters. It was silly to build up the fire when the window was open. This darkened the room, making it feel much more intimate than she liked. "If you stay where you are, I'll light a candle."
"No, don't bother. I've got a lantern."
Christine watched a flame appear in Ronald's hand, and then there was the yellow glow of a lamp.
Ronald set the storm lantern on the mantelpiece and had another look around the room. It didn't look any better in the lamplight than it had when he first walked in. Three people actually live in this tiny little hole? It was smaller than the room he'd had in the hotel and that was saying something. The window Christine had been working by had been the only source of light, and he was only calling it a window as a courtesy. It was just a rectangular hole in the wall that could be shut off by closing a couple of heavy wooden shutters. Certainly there was no glass to keep out the elements. No wonder she was bundled up, she must be nearly freezing. "There's no way you can stay here. How soon can you be ready to leave for Magdeburg?"
As soon as the last word past his lips he mentally kicked himself. You silly, silly fool. He was assuming way too much. He reached out to hold Christine's hands. They were cold. He kept hold of them while he stared into her eyes. "Christine. Can I call you Christine?" She nodded. "Christine, will you do me the honor of being my wife?"
There was a startled cry from Christine, then a quiet, almost whispered, "yes."
Ronald swallowed. He knew he was close to screwing up. He released her hands and hurried over to his backpack where he extracted a small box before returning to place it in Christine's hands. "I was told that I should get a suitable betrothal gift. I hope you'll like this." He felt a bit guilty offering a girl a bunch of plastic combs instead of an engagement ring, but the woman in the store had insisted they were perfectly acceptable.
Christine accepted the gift wrapped box tentatively, as if she was shocked by what was happening. Ronald wasn't at all surprised. He was a bit shocked himself. Things certainly weren't going as he'd planned.
She carefully untied the ribbon, rolled it up and placed it in her apron pocket. Then she peeled away the colorful wrapping paper to reveal a fancy gold leaf embossed red cardboard box. "It's beautiful, thank you, Ronald."
"Open the box, Christine." Ronald was shocked that a simple cardboard box could inspire such a reaction, but then, maybe Christine's life had been a bit short in gifts of any kind.
Christine opened the box, and froze. She carefully touched each of the, in Ronald's opinion, gaudy plastic combs. "Oh, Ronald."
"You need a mirror. Just a minute, I've got one in my pack." Ronald hurried over to his pack and found his portable shaving mirror. When he handed it to Christine, he could see the tears in her eyes.
She turned to set the mirror on the mantle above the fire and started fiddling with her hair, leaving Ronald to stare at her back. It was a very nice back, and that neck… Ronald felt certain physical stirrings and clamped down hard on them.
"How do they look?"
Ronald realized Christine had finished doing her hair while his mind was wandering. "Nice." As soon as he said it he recognized it was a typical male cop-out phrase. "Really, they look pretty. You look pretty."
Christine smiled tentatively and Ronald relaxed. He was betrothed. He reached out for her hands again. "I have to get back to work soon and as I don't think we can marry before I have to get back, will you be happy to wait until we get to Magdeburg before we marry?"
"Right. Well, when can you be ready to leave?"
Christine pulled her hands free from Ronald and took a step back. "Leave?"
"Well, yes. I work in Magdeburg. Surely it was understood that you'd have to live in Magdeburg if we marry?"
"I'm sorry. Of course I knew we would have to move to Magdeburg. It's just…"
Ronald regathered Christine's hands. "You're scared of leaving the safe world you know. Don't be scared. I'll look after you."
Ronald was surprised by the sudden defenseless look on Christine's face and the tears that started falling. He drew her into his arms and Christine buried her face in his chest. He finally realized what it had been that had called out to him from those photographs back in Magdeburg. Need. Not just the need for someone to rescue her from poverty, or for someone to take some of the weight of responsibility for Claus and Ilsa from her shoulders. No, what Christine really needed was someone to care for and about her as a person in her own right. Ronald had never been needed before. The feeling of being needed by Christine was… just amazing. He felt so strongly that he was scared that he might be too demanding, too soon. He dropped a kiss on the top of her head and mentally promised to let her set the pace of their relationship from now on.
He didn't know how long they stood there, but eventually Christine pushed them apart so she could comfortably look up at him. "We'll need permission from my guardian, Herr Winkler, for me to marry, and I'll have to see my landlord, but there is nothing to keep us in Arendsee."
Ronald reached inside his jacket for the envelope Katherine had given him and passed it over. "That's a couple of character references and a copy of my last tax return. Will there be any trouble getting permission for you to marry?"
Christine passed the envelope back to Ronald. "Please keep it to show to Herr Winkler. I'm sure there will be no problem getting his permission to marry, but you'll have to talk to him yourself."
"Sure. How about you lead me to your Herr Winkler and then you can go off and see whoever you have to see before you leave." Ronald pulled a drawstring purse from inside his jacket and passed it over. "Here, take this. It's likely to be a three day trip back to Magdeburg. Buy anything you and your brother and sister might need."
The sun was breaking through for the first time in five days, just in time for their arrival in Magdeburg. Christine snuggled down with Ilsa in Ronald's sleeping bag and studied her betrothed as he stood at the railing with Claus. She was happy that Ronald and Claus got on so well. It was the one bright spot of the trip to Magdeburg. Ilsa had not traveled well. She'd tired quickly, walking mile after mile in the mud and Ronald had had to carry her most of the way. Then she had been sick on the ferry and Christine had spent the whole trip caring for her.
She wished she'd been able to get to know Ronald better on the journey instead of spending all her time caring for Ilsa, especially as she was still getting over the shock that he was one of the up-timers. She'd realized he must be quite well off when she examined the contents of the purse he'd so casually given her so she could do a little shopping, but not that well off. Not up-timer rich. It had been Claus who had asked. He'd picked up on Ronald's fancy rain cape, the mirror, the sleeping bag, and the little things that Ronald just seemed to accept, like the plastic water bottle, the plastic bags that had kept everything dry in his pack, and the magnetic chess set he used to play with Claus.
Christine could sort of understand why Ronald had kept it quiet. A rich man could never know if a woman would have married him if he wasn't rich. Sure she had only agreed to marry him because he could afford to provide for her family, but that was normal. No sensible couple married if there wasn't the money to support the household. Ronald was just better able to support a family than most men. What she didn't understand was why he wanted to marry her. Surely a rich up-timer could have his pick of women?
A couple of days later
Katherine waited for Ronald to have his first mouthful of the first mug of coffee for the day before popping her first question. "How are you enjoying the benefits of being betrothed?"
Katherine froze. Surely not. She studied Ronald closely. He wasn't blushing, which was a really bad sign. He nearly always blushed when she talked about sex. "You are aware that the three purposes of marriage are procreation of children, mutual support and companionship, and a remedy for lust?"
"I know you, Katherine. You're asking are we having sex. Of course we aren't. We're not married yet."
Katherine clamped down hard on her tongue. She really shouldn't give voice to her thoughts. Not to her boss. On the other hand, what could he do? He couldn't afford to fire her, he depended on her too much. "What kind of pea-brained inadequate jerk are you? You're in the seventeenth century now, not the twentieth. Being betrothed is almost as good as being married. That poor girl is probably curled up in her bed, crying her eyes out, wondering why you aren't interested in her. Any normal man would have already dragged her into his bed, but no, not you. You have to be noble and…"
"Kathy, she's only seventeen."
"Seventeen is old enough to marry and have children."
"Yeah, well, that's another reason. Christine's spent the last five years being a mother to her baby sister. She should have some time without responsibility for a baby."
"Ronald, there are ways of preventing conception."
"Yeah, and the doctors back in Grantville have a name for couples that use them. They're called parents."
Katherine could see Ronald wasn't interested in a discussion on the merits of the various tried and true contraceptive techniques available to down-timers. Well, there were always the modern tried and true methods. "Magdeburg Rubber Products is making Beaubriand-Levesque Rubber Preventatives under license in their new factory."
"Condoms? Why are they wasting precious rubber on condoms?"
"I believe the military is one of their largest customers." Put that in your pipe and smoke it. "You can get some from the company store, and on your way home stop off at the store on the corner and buy her some chocolates and flowers. And make sure you get at least the one pound box of Dulcinea Special Collection Dark Chocolate. Nothing says you're sorry like fine chocolate."
"You're saying Christine has been expecting to share my bed ever since we became betrothed?"
"Well, of course she has. Now, get off with you. I don't want to see hide nor hair of you before tomorrow, and I want a full report."
"What the hell? A full report? Not damned likely."
Katherine grinned at the horrified look on Ronald's face. The poor dear was so horrified by her suggestion that he hadn't even realized he'd used expressions more suited to the shop floor in front of his executive assistant. "Well, just make sure something happens that you could have reported if you felt so inclined."
Ronald pushed open the door of the penthouse and poked his head in. He couldn't see anybody. He left his boots by the door and leaving his gifts on the dining room table he headed for Christine's bedroom in case she was, as Katherine had suggested, curled up crying in her bed.
She wasn't in her own room, so Ronald widened his search.
He found her in Ilsa's room. She was curled up hugging a well-loved soft toy, a Brillo-the-ram that her father had bought for Ilsa just before his death. He walked over to the bed and gathered the sobbing girl in his arms and carried her into his bedroom. All the way there he could feel the tension in her body and her brilliant blue eyes staring at him.
He lowered her to the bed and pulled the quilt over her. Then he climbed in alongside her, spooning his body around hers and putting his arms around her. Gradually the tension left her body.
Katherine studied the smiling faces of Ronald and his betrothed. It appeared that everything was on track for a satisfactory conclusion. Ronald was being very attentive to Christine, and she was responding well to the attention.
She was everything Katherine could have hoped for. Young and healthy, the girl would occupy Ronald's time quite nicely. However, first things first. "Lutheran?" She directed the question at Christine.
"Right. Then we'll want to make an appointment to see Pastor Gerhardt about posting the banns. He's the current must-have Lutheran celebrant. "
"Must-have celebrant? This is a marriage we're talking about, not some social event," Ronald said.
"Ronald, remember who you are. Your wedding is a perfect time to repay your social debts and it'll be a marvelous business opportunity. Frau Roberts and I have already assembled a guest list for the wedding banquet." She turned to Christine. "Is there anybody you would like to invite?"
"Just my mother's friend. She was a great help to us when Mama and then Papa died, but Margarethe could never afford to travel all the way to Magdeburg."
"Nonsense. Ronald, tell your betrothed that if she wants her mother's friend at her wedding you'll happily pay for her to come."
"She's right, Chrissy. It's your wedding day. If you want Margarethe there, just say so."
Chrissy didn't say anything. She just reached out. Her arms snaked around his neck, pulling his head down to hers.
Katherine looked on with interest. Ronald's technique needed a little work, but he seemed to have the basics down pat. At least he wasn't fighting her off. "I'll see about the invitation after we've confirmed things with Pastor Gerhardt. Now, Christine, your first important appointment is for this afternoon."
Ronald drew his mouth away from Christine's. "Appointment? What appointment?"
"With the designer. You and your bride-to-be need new clothes to be married in," Katherine explained.
"I don't need any new clothes. Why don't you take Chrissy shopping, Kathy, and I'll stay and get some work done."
Katherine shook her head. "No, you need to be fitted for a new suit as well."
"I'm not getting fitted for a blasted penguin suit."
Katherine just smiled and led the happy couple out of the office.
The wedding banquet was being held in the Magdeburg Concrete Company cafeteria. It wasn't the biggest space available but it was properly heated. Something all the guests were happy to appreciate as sleet battered against the windows.
Ronald's eyes locked onto Christine. With her white skin, a white wedding dress would have been wasted on her. Instead she and Katherine had settled on a dress of the finest merino wool in the same shade of blue as her eyes. The low scooped neckline left a lot of skin exposed, which was a perfect setting for Ronald's wedding gift, a truly magnificent lapis lazuli necklace that closely matched the color of her eyes.
Right now she was talking to Otto Gericke and another Magdeburg socialite. A month ago she would have been terrified at the thought of talking to them. Fortunately, Lady Beth Haywood and the staff and senior students at Duchess Sofie's had taken her in hand over the last three weeks and now she was greeting guests as if she'd been born to it.
Christine Niemandin verh. Chapman tried desperately not to wipe her sweaty palms on her pretty new dress. She'd never had to deal with such people as Otto Gericke and, and-oh dear, she'd already forgotten the other man's name-before. The staff and senior students at Duchess Sofie's had done what they could to help prepare her for dealing with such important personages, but three weeks just wasn't enough time.
She rubbed her fingers over the wedding band Ronald had given her. Just touching it reassured her that she was really married, and that she and her brother and sister wouldn't go hungry again. She had promised herself that she would be a good wife, but she didn't know what Ronald wanted from her. Surely no single man would rent an apartment as big as the penthouse if he didn't intend to marry and have children. But he was still taking precautions against getting her with child. Maybe he hadn't expected to take on a ready-made family. Christine thought about that for a few seconds. That had to be it. Maybe he couldn't really afford more children yet. Of course she could suggest ways in which they could economize, such as moving to smaller, cheaper quarters. And she didn't really need lots of new clothes. But what about shoes? She glanced down at her feet. They were clad in a light pair of dancing pumps, but she'd also bought three pairs of real leather shoes and a pair of outdoors boots. It had been so good to have properly fitted footwear that she'd gone a little overboard. Maybe she'd overdone it. She'd have to ask Ronald's executive assistant what she thought.
She glanced around. She could see Katherine standing to one side with her partner, Joachim Schnobel. She raised her hand and gave Katherine a little wave. Then her eyes found Ronald. They stared at each other for a moment. Ronald's face lit up and he started to walk toward her. Christine knew her duty. She set off to meet her new husband halfway.
Katherine was quietly confident that her in-basket was safe from Ronald's depredations for the foreseeable future. He was enchanted with young Ilsa, basked happily in the hero worship of young Claus, and finally, he was quite clearly totally besotted with his child bride, and she with him. Yes, with his new responsibilities to occupy his time Ronald wasn't going to continue working in the office long after everyone else had gone home. Nor would he be coming in on Sundays to do a little work. Gone forever, she hoped, was the risk of Ronald initiating something when she wasn't around. Now, at last, nothing would happen in the office that she didn't know about.
Venus and Mercury
Written by Kirt Lee
Madame's earthly affairs had long been largely in order, but this latest bout, lasting weeks, came at a bad time. Events in England had erupted. Her incapacity had tragic consequence for Thomas' dear nephew, Adam, who she loved as dearly as if he had been her own. She was now recovered sufficiently enough to give him her full attention. Given her condition-not to mention his-she dared no further delay. Perhaps the matter could yet be repaired.
The sweet child now stood at the door. "Come closer, dear Adam, so Madame can see you." Adam did so. "But the years pass so quickly. You are no longer a boy. Such happy years they were."
"Madame fares better?" English accent, with just a touch of Parisian.
"For today, child. But Madame forgets her manners. There is wine. Will you pour for us both?"
"And if you would also, to mine please add a measure of the medicine that you will find in the drawer to the left."
Adam opened the drawer and examined the medicine closely, tasting a bit. It was mercuric, and of high quality, the medicine of a syphilitic. Beside it, a spoon. "One of this measure, Madame?"
"Yes, thank you." She watched him stir the medicine into her wine.
"Madame finds the medicine more agreeable with wine?"
"I am French, child. If I wished to take hemlock, I would mix it with wine."
As he started to put the medicine back, she added, "Do take as much as you like for yourself, child. I'm sure you are at tight ends lately."
He paused. "Madame?"
"Wicked tongues delighted in bringing Madame this news."
Adam knew word would get around soon enough. Still, he had hoped it would not happen quite so quickly. He would have spared his late Uncle's paramour this news. He gave her the cup, and sat without speaking.
"Tell Madame how this occurred."
"Does it matter now?"
"Madame knows of events in London?"
"On most days, Madame is uncertain of events in her own chambers."
"Charles Stuart ran amok, tossing accusations of treason with abandon. Father is dead, his estate confiscated. When the news got about, I was courted. I needed friends, so I consented. When a chancre appeared, I knew what it was." Adam had seen enough syphilis chancres. He had come to Paris to study medicine. "My 'friend' accused me of infecting him. It was quite a scene. He told the faculty at University, and they expelled me." His tone was a bit flat.
"You were had, child. The wicked man who sent word of your infection to Madame was one who sought revenge. He wishes to see that I suffer in my last days, but dared not attack one whose cousin is so close to Le Cardinal. Thus, he struck at you, while grief and need left you vulnerable. It would have been easy enough to find a desperate young man in need of medicine, willing to do such work. It was simple cruelty, well aimed."
"Name him. I will kill him." Adam's tone was still flat.
"You will not." As usual, Madame seemed quite certain of herself.
Adam stared sullenly.
"Obey me child. I have other purposes for you."
"Can I kill him and still fulfill these purposes?"
"He is Madame's privilege. Assassination has never been my way, but I have no time for more gracious means. He would soon have you killed, of course, since he will assume I have told you how you came by the syphilis. He will fear you will seek revenge. He will expect you. This is a matter for professionals, not revenge."
"Your privilege, Madame," Adam conceded.
Madame now studied him in a way he would have found ominous when younger, but now found pleasing. Whatever she planned for him, he would find it worthy.
"In the other drawer, you will find papers, some bound. Look first at the bound set."
Adam retrieved them. Next to them was another bottle of medicine, a year's supply at least, perhaps two, and a bag clearly filled with coin. He opened the bound volume.
"Sonnets: Bacon. Marlowe. de Vere. Others."
"Just so. You know them?"
"I do. The usual parlor amusements for those with the right training."
"And the rest?" Madame asked.
"More sonnets. Correspondence regarding business. I see little in them, Madame. More parlor amusements?"
"Another method is also present. Examine the last two pages."
He did. "An interesting variation… clever… it would be more compact. Certainly more laborious, but one could conceal more with it."
"Just so. Memorize the method, child, then toss those parts in the fire."
Adam needed but a moment, then the papers burned.
Madame continued. "It was a method Bacon shared with few. It will unlock all but the first three sonnets in that binding. Use the better known method for those, though you'll find little of interest in them. As you say, they are mere parlor amusements. I'm uncertain how many know the more difficult method. Some, I'm sure, but I would not know who. I am the last of my own acquaintance who I am certain can read those. "
"And what will I find in those, Madame?"
"Scandal, and more, some of which will still be of fresh fifty years from now. Some date as far back as the reign of Elizabeth and concern Raleigh, Walsingham and others. Madame has added some work of more recent vintage, detailing some events in France. All the sonnets contain something in the simpler method. Most conceal something in the more difficult method. This is a lesson that will serve you well in life, child. Always keep some lesser coin where a thief can find it, but not too easily. Keep the better coin better hidden."
"True wisdom, Madame. And you wish me to…?"
"To keep them safe. They are historical documents. One day, scholars will drool over them, smearing the ink. Madame would not have them lost, or the method forgotten. Who could I trust other than my dear late Thomas' nephew? Will you undertake this, and see that they are not misused?"
"I would be honored. But I must remind Madame, I share her malady."
"You must pass them down, as they were passed to me, as I pass them to you. Add to them if you wish."
"I would be honored, but… yes, I will undertake it."
"Good. Now examine the other papers."
He did, and as he did, grew perplexed. "Travel papers. Who is John Smith?"
"You are. Madame has done many favors over the years, and knows where many bodies are buried, if you take my meaning."
The old bird looked quite predatory. He wondered how many stories he would find in her papers. Too few, he was sure. Bacon's methods were flexible, but not thrifty."Why would Madame wish me to go to Basel?"
"Read on, child."
"This man in Basel is to provide bank drafts and papers for me to travel to Grantville." He paused. "You mean for me to go to Grantville?"
"They have begun a medical school you know."
"Yes, it was all the talk among faculty and students."
"And why would I wish you to travel to Grantville, Adam?"
"To study medicine?" Light dawned. "Oh. Chloramphenicol."
"Unobtainable elsewhere. It is said to cure syphilis, not merely alleviate it. A student might have better access."
Adam considered. It was true. And he had no other prospects.
"The money is yours, whatever you choose. I have no heirs of my own. Take it, before the lawyers get it."
"I will do as you say. And I will see if I can find enough of this chloramphenicol for two."
"I may be no longer in need of it by then. In truth, it has become a rare day when I am so lucid. My concern now is for you, and for those papers. Take care of yourself, and them, and Madame will be well rewarded."
"Good. It is best you start soon. Tonight. Do not return to your rooms. Take up the coin and the medicine, then one last thing, before you go. Take down the sword above from the wall, please."
He did, looking closely. "It was Uncle's. He wore it on special occasions."
"It is a near match to the dirk your uncle gave you when you were twelve. The dirk was made for you. The sword is older."
"Uncle left it with you, Madame?"
"Yes. It was my father's. I gave it to Thomas. I wish you to have it now."
"We take care of our own, child. Never forget this. It is possible that you will find a new circle of friends in this Grantville. I cannot imagine a town of that importance without such prospects. Choose carefully. You now carry a great historical treasure, so give some thought to the future, and be watchful for opportunities."
"Go with God, Adam. Your uncle loved you, and so do I."
Madame received a kiss on the cheek, and the lad was gone.
A servant entered shortly after.
"Adam's visit was noticed, Andre?"
"By no one now living, Madame," Andre answered.
"Very good, Andre. Please gather up half of mother's silver from the basement. Take it to the Savoyard. Tell him the rest is his if the brings me the head of the Burgundian Stork before morning. Be certain he understands: Madame will only give the rest if she can see the head, and know its face. He must not mutilate the face."
"Yes, Madame. The Savoyard will be pleased." Andre looked pleased also. But then, he had always been fond of Adam.
For the first time in her long life, Madame would now be a killer. She rested more easily now, satisfied.
Adam left the house, looked at the sky, then started walking. With each step, he retreated deeper into himself.
A robot named Adam walked to Basel. Inside, a young man named Adam noted every house, every window, every cobblestone. He expected never to see them again.
The robot named Adam had walked into Grantville. Inside, the young man named Adam resented every intrusion from the world outside.
He had read the words hidden in the archive of Madame, finding Bacon, Walsingham, Raleigh, Elizabeth, the Stuarts, the Valois, the Bourbon. It was beyond price. He wondered if it might be the only such archive outside the hands of monarchs.
Likely it was not, but being its custodian kept Adam alive. In that, as in all her efforts, Madame knew her business. He could not bear to think of such papers being lost or abused.
The robot now sat in a small examination room in Leahy Hospital awaiting a doctor. Safely inside, the young man watched with curiosity. How would the examination differ from those he knew? Would he be cured? Would he be tossed out? Fascinating questions.
The door opened and a man came in.
The man stared at Adam's sword hanging by the door, then at Adam. He looked at Adam's paperwork, and smiled oddly.
"Good morning, Adam Tyrrell. I am Doctor Balthazar Abrabanel." Mildly cheerful, English accent. There could only be one doctor by that name, with that accent. "I don't believe we've met, but would you be Thomas Tyrell's nephew?" Abrabanel pointed to Uncle Thomas' sword.
The robot was gone. The young man remained, naked. Abrabanel had served the court in England. He may have done intelligence work. Which factions, which sides had he been on over the years? What was he doing here? The voices of his elders flashed advice though his imagination.
From Father: Kick him in the stomach and run, boy!
From Uncle Thomas: Trip him up. Find the medicine. Then run.
From Madame: Offer him wine. Converse.
Then Adam got advice from himself: Father never would have known this man, so try Uncle's advice first. Then Madame's. Hold Father's in reserve.
"Madame Rossignol sent me," Adam said.
The smile left the doctor's face. Nothing took it's place. "Beg pardon?"
"I don't understand."
"You knew her." It wasn't a question, and Adam emphasized the pronoun.
"I knew Henri Rossignol well enough, but long ago. He was close to your uncle. Why would Henri send you?" The doctor emphasized the pronoun and the name.
"I'd heard he had syphilis. He was the last of that circle, since your uncle died."
"Not quite the last."
Abrabanel digested that, then passed over it. "I understand your uncle fell at Breitenfeld?"
"Yes. He preferred an honorable end to a demented one."
Abrabanel digested that, too. "More syphilis?"
"What can you tell me of Henri's condition?"
Adam rendered a description that would have gotten a fair mark from a professor.
"Have you been studying medicine?" Abrabanel asked.
"Two years in Paris."
"You know the prognosis?"
"She may already be dead."
"Perhaps. We might get the medicine to him while he still lives, but you must understand… At best, it would only stop the disease from causing further harm. The injuries already done would remain. From your description, he would not live much longer in any event."
"I suspected as much, sir."
"But you had to try anyway. I understand. In your place, I would do the same."
"There's more, Doctor."
"I have it, too."
"Syphilis? What symptoms have you had?"
While the doctor examined Adam, Adam examined the doctor's instruments. They were marvelous up-time devices. He was intrigued to find he understood most of them. He made a mental note to try to learn more about their construction.
When it was done, Abrabanel said, "No signs of it just now, but the university doctors are good. You can put your clothes back on." There was still no expression on his face.
"You can cure this?"
The doctor nodded.
"I have coin. A legacy from Madame."
The doctor ignored that. "You've been taking mercury?"
"Stop. It's nearly as bad as the malady. Give it to me. We'll use chloramphenicol, but it's short just now. Sieges breed epidemics, so we sent much to Amsterdam. Emergencies only at the moment. In three weeks, perhaps four, we'll have more."
Adam deflated. He would live.
Uncle had walked into a block of pikes, and died. Adam had walked into Grantville, and would live. He considered that a moment, and decided it might be good to live. It would make it easier to preserve Madame's papers.
"Thank you. Should I apply to medical school elsewhere if I mean to continue my education?" Adam surprised himself. He hadn't known he would say that.
"We can speak of that later."
"I'll be grateful if you can just rid me of the syphilis." Yes, It felt good to live.
"Chloram will fix that, well enough. Do we need to discuss anything else at the moment?"
The doctor took a piece of paper and wrote. "Very well. This is my prescription until then. Where are you staying? "
"I'm at the Y."
"Your uncle was a very talented man, Adam Tyrrell. Henri more so. I will send word to you at the Y when we have the drug." As he left, the doctor looked at Adam's sword hanging by the wall. "Do keep it sheathed, lad."
Perhaps he meant the sword. Perhaps. There was no trace of humor in his voice.
Adam looked at the prescription. The top was typeset:
"From the desk of Balthazar Abrabanel, MD. Prescription:"
"Essay a composition on the book And The Band Played On, by Randy Shilts, to be found in the Medical Reading Room, third floor, Leahy."
Curious title. Likely a morality lesson.
Adam returned to the front desk and asked where he might find the reading room.
Adam had an early lunch in the Leahy cafeteria before going to the reading room. where he presented his "prescription." The librarian seemed to find nothing odd about it. He received the book, and settled in a comfortable chair by a window. A laudably quiet up-time clock behind the librarian's desk showed the time just before noon.
He made many trips to the dictionary chained to the desk.
Much later, he stopped and closed his eyes. It was dark outside. He had not finished the book, and did not care to continue just now. He could see that this project was big. Four weeks might do. Maybe.
Early the next morning, he stopped at the stationer across from the downtown library. He bought a folder, filled it with paper and chose a partly used up-time pencil. He did not care to mix bottles of ink with priceless books.
He noted that the up-time lady ahead of him had brought in a handful of well used pencils with no erasers. She left with two fresh pencils with erasers, muttering angrily. He filed this away in his growing collection of anecdotes.
At Leahy, Adam started the book fresh, this time using the dictionary more carefully. He learned new words, and new uses for old words. He wrote down references to other publications. He marveled at the index in the back. He seldom spoke to anyone. Others politely left him to his work.
Inside the book's cover were notations and a pocket indicating that it had once been in the collection of the high school. Adam checked with the librarian, and learned that yes, that meant it had been freely available to any adolescent in town. The book did not look well used. He added this to his list of curiosities.
Had the University of Paris possessed this book, it would have been heavily restricted, solely for professional use. The entire faculty would have had apoplexy over the author's presentation of sodomites, but on no account would it have been discarded.
It was not a medical book, but a popular account of the AIDS epidemic, written by a journalist.
What was Abrabanel's purpose in assigning it to Adam? Surely the man knew what was in it. The parallels to syphilis were glaringly obvious. He wanted Adam to learn a practical lesson, to go with moral teachings. But the rest?
Whatever moral or professional lessons Abrabanel was offering, another thing was clear enough: the doctor needed help with this, whether he knew it or not. As a gay syphilitic, Adam had a certain perspective on this topic.
He learned that up-time attitudes toward sodomites had been evolving, amid great social contention. There was a Sodomite movement! Sodomites had attacked police outside an American tavern, and boasted of it!
Madame would never have approved. Uncle Thomas? A more interesting question, but he was no longer around to ask.
Adam added a problem to his notes: how to discretely research sexual topics.
He preferred handling leaches to that book.
Adam left a note for the doctor: How many cases were there in Grantville?
The answer: One known, now deceased. More were very unlikely. The note offered no further comment.
Adam did more reading at Leahy when he finished the Shilts book, then shifted to the other libraries. The Leahy reading room had been decorous. The SoTF State Library, though, was a mob scene. The wait for the encyclopedias, in particular, was lengthy.
Periodicals were easier to browse at leisure, and the collection included more than two decades of Time Magazine. Adam's notes from Shilts included some references from that publication.
Time was eclectic. Politics. War. Entertainment. Science. Medicine. Business. People. Even the very price on the cover suggested new lines of up-time research, as it increased over time. Amazingly, it was vastly cheaper if home delivered. Down-time, these magazines were treasure beyond even that carried by the Spanish Caribbean fleets. Up-time, they had been as disposable as an old man's apple core. He could write one hundred learned commentaries, and still only scratch the tip of this one collection of magazines.
Adam added to his growing list for future research. The Cold War. Republicans and Democrats. Punk rock. Disneyland. Oil sheiks. Gates, Wozniak and Jobs.
Most of the world, including Europe, seemed to have lost its aristocracy. The noble families were covered in the same pages as theater and music, rather than politics. It was a stunning world, but in the pages of the magazines, it seemed as ordinary as a woman beating a rug in Southwark.
His most shocking discovery? Grantville was a rural backwater. Certainly that was common knowledge, but after a few dozen issues of Time Magazine, Adam knew it in his bones. He did not see it merely in terms of technology or history. He saw it in terms of culture and society. These vaunted up-timers would have been judged backward by the twentieth-century sophisticates of New York City or Paris.
He started going through the Time collection issue by issue, starting in 1980, just before the AIDS epidemic was discovered. He made a fast note of each title and topic as he went, regardless of relevance to this assignment, building his own index. He slowed only to read the articles relevant to the AIDS epidemic thoroughly and abstract them. Time enough for the rest later.
More paper. Another pencil. Always another puzzle on the next page.
Shilts had died in 1994. Some important material dated after his book had been published in 1988. Adam saw that the story could not be understood from the book alone. Had any down-timer done this additional research yet? The up-timers must already know the story, but AIDS, far more than syphilis, was a disease of pariahs. Would this blind them to its lessons?
The library never closed and was always crowded. Even in that busy place-no, especially there-people began to notice that Adam was on a quest. Finally another researcher approached him.
"You seem to find the magazine collection useful. Perhaps you are compiling an index. If so, I would find ways to be grateful if you would share it."
Adam made a noncommittal answer, but began to surface from the magazines and books more often to take notice of his surroundings. After a day of that, he stopped and just looked at where he'd been working.
Some patrons, especially up-timers, just seemed to be reading. Others, both up-timers and down-timers, read and wrote more furtively. This was made easier by the rows of carrels, almost booths, for the researchers, Without that added privacy, the situation would have been intolerable. Some cast challenging glances at any who looked too closely. Many, very many, shielded their materials from others. A few of the researchers had men with them, humorless men, who seemed to be there only to keep prying eyes at a distance. Other researchers acted like spies from a poorly written comedy.
These men were not hiding their work from the authorities so much as from each other.
Adam had never seen a library with a bouncer before. This library had more than one.
Adam speculated that the cloak check at the entrance collected blades for reasons beyond preventing patrons from using them on books. The stakes were high indeed. Monarchs paid some of these researchers, seeking to gain some advantage of history or technology over their rivals. The outcome of wars might be decided in these rooms.
He was sure it was the largest collection of learned spies ever assembled. Certainly it was the most industrious-and most ironic. What they were "spying out" was free for the taking!
What did this say about the authorities who permitted it? It couldn't be stupidity. It must be a statement of strength, or perhaps of arrogance. Or was there some deeper game here? Adam was accustomed to deeper games.
From the door, a woman's voice called out, " Roach coach!" The midnight meal wagon had arrived. People began drifting outside. Some left a friend behind to guard their work.
Uncle Thomas would have loved this, had he only lived to see it. Madame would have set up court in a corner, reading romances while directing her mignons in their research. Adam wished for their advice.
Yes. It felt good to be alive, and more so each day.
"Pizza. Italian food!" A young man, Tuscan by his accent, smiled at Adam. "An excellent choice." He sat next to Adam uninvited, but not entirely unwelcome. They ate outside the library in darkness broken by gas lights.
"I grew weary of sausage and sauerkraut." Adam's conversation skills felt rusty. For weeks, he had avoided conversation.
"My card." The young man handed it to Adam.
Grantville Library Research
Specializing in History amp; Biography
Best Rates-Can you afford not to ask?
"I'm Adam. How's business, Stephano?" Adam was genuinely interested in the answer. If he were judged morally unfit for medical training, he would need other work.
"The usual for a freelance researcher with no great or wealthy patron. Castoff questions not wanted by researchers with better sponsors." Stephano assumed a bored voice: "How will my children fare? Should I invest in Virginia? Will the siege of Amsterdam destroy the tulip market, or create a shortage? Is there anything I should know about Lord Him or Lady Her which will help me gain favor? They seldom phrase that question so baldly, but it's clear what they want. All very predictable. I hope one or another of them will be so pleased with my answers as to refer me to a patron with real money and better questions. I'm seldom so lucky as to find an inquiry from someone who is in the encyclopedias. I seldom even bother to cover my work. I should have listened to my mother, finished my education, and become an attorney." Stephano rolled his eyes to indicate his opinion of that option.
"It all sounds terribly tedious."
Stephano shrugged. "It can be. The speculation is that you are compiling a magazine index. If you are generous with it, you might find many willing to share information or hire you in times of need, but be advised, few are willing to share patrons. Of course, you may already have one-not that I would pry."
"Actually, I'm at loose ends. I intend to petition to study medicine."
"You invest your idle days shrewdly, friend."
"So I'm learning."
Stephano finished his pizza. "And now, back to work. I have to find a way to tell an abbot in Campania that I can not find for him the current whereabouts of Prester John. I fear he will not pay well for that news, if he pays at all."
Adam decided he liked Stephano. Perhaps it was the charmingly downscale American Western garb. It might have been fun to prowl Southwark with him. He made a mental note to watch for Time Magazine references to Prester John.
Adam remembered Stephano's remark about "Italian food," and made another note in his future research list, adding "Hamburgers, "French Toast" and "French Fries." Americans and their culture, even their food, were the proverbial child of a thousand fathers.
His research list was getting long. He was not sure of a market for it.
Adam had enough material for his commentary on AIDS. The epidemiology aspect was obvious, but he would write a much longer paper. He began writing it the next afternoon. It would have been a much shorter paper without the magazines.
Several days later, he dropped the essay off at Leahy for Dr. Abrabanel. He was told it would still be a few days before the doctor had his medicine, so he went back to the library. Stephano had recommended music by The Village People, so he signed up for a CD player.
The Village People lyrics were suggestive, and the costumes more so. Adjust for period and Adam could imagine those Village People fishing the piers of London-with their hooks baited for sailors. But Adam found he could "stop the music" and did. The librarian suggested Steeleye Span, which turned out to be more agreeable, and quite fascinating to an Englishman.
Adam had several references to The Village People in his Magazine index. He gave the dates and page numbers to Stephano without comment. The Village People were gay icons.
Adam wondered when gay had replaced somodite in his mind. Recently, to be sure. The change had not happened easily, but he now found that he occasionally felt "uppity."
Adam lay in his bunk, listening to a dozen neighbors breathe, snore, and turn. They didn't keep him awake. Something else nagged him.
The lady with the pencils.
Erasers. Ballpoint pens. Light bulbs. A child bawling over a deflated bicycle tire. Amid this, monarchs moved spies through the libraries like chess pieces.
He got up, dressed, and stepped out into the night. Clear sky. Gas lights.
Gas lights. Not electric.
He went to the library, and sat at a picnic table near his usual gas light. Within the building, Prometheus.
Instead, Stephano emerged. He must have been sitting near a window, watching. This pleased Adam.
"Pondering the night, Adam?" he asked.
"One should, from time to time. Will you walk with me, Stephano?"
They meandered quietly from one gas light to the next, never very close to the lights, never very far.
After a time, Adam spoke, "Grantville."
"Yes," Stephano replied. "Grantville."
"They are Prometheus, Stephano."
"Bringers of light. Yes."
"And you know what happened to Prometheus? Look in the library, Stephano, and see the vultures."
"Grantville isn't bound yet. They still stand defiant. But look again, Adam. When I see Grantville, I sometimes see the city of Rome. You know what they say of Rome these days?"
Adam shook his head.
"I would render it poetically: Where barbarians failed, Barbarini prevailed. Today's Romans use the monuments of the Caesars as quarries."
"I'm afraid I've never been to Rome, Stephano."
"I would love to show it to you some day, Adam. But here, have you seen the streetcars? The airplanes? The APCs? They had none of it when they arrived. All of it, quarried from whatever they found in their pockets. How long can they do this?"
"I've been so buried in my own affairs. I hadn't noticed. But yes, I see it now. And it's of a part with all the frantic work. Steel. Chemicals. Guns."
"Have you heard of their Granges, Adam? One of their major works is preserving their stock. They have refined seed and livestock breeds, but some of it hangs by a thread. There are not enough of the cattle, for instance, so they must breed carefully."
"The large horses, also?"
"The vision of Prometheus came to me earlier. But there was more to it, Stephano. Look closely at the vultures feeding on the liver of this town, and what do you see? Indigestion."
Stephano considered a moment. "Yes, it is true. It is such a delicious irony, such a magnificent jest. The Grantvillers could not be more clear than if they had hung a sign over the door. 'Heads I win. Tails you lose. Take what you like.' It must be galling."
"Look deeper still, Stephano. Have you studied the nations of their world? There's not an important monarchy remaining except maybe in Arab lands."
"True. Galling indeed."
"And how did that happen, Stephano?"
"That's the big question, my friend. You'll hear it discussed among researchers, if you sit at the right tables for lunch."
"It almost doesn't matter. Whatever did it, it's right there in that library, being copied and spread round the world by the very spies who seek to stop it. An information plague, like one of their computer viruses. That's why they keep the library open to all."
Stephano went dumb. Then it sank in. "My God! Can this be true?"
"I'm sure of it. I think I may even have some grip on the details."
"Adam, you're a very rich young man if you do."
"Rich? Did Cassandra prosper? Stephano, to understand what they do, it helps to study epidemics. Look closely and see this one spreading. The CoCs. The Granges. The Ram and the Ewe. Religious toleration. Women in pulpits. Jews in Prague taking up arms and tearing down ghetto walls. They're spreading a cultural contagion that touches anything, everything."
"And the library is the center of all this? I don't buy that, Adam."
"The people take part also, just by the way they speak and carry themselves, Stephano. The library is how they persuade the great and mighty to steal it!"
"You may be right, friend. It would explain much. But forgive me if I keep some skepticism."
"Not at all."
They walked more.
"Did you expect all this when you set out for Grantville?" Adam waved around.
"No. I met an up-timer in Rome named Harry Lefferts, who spoke of the medicines. I came for chloramphenicol and stayed for the library."
"I'm on the chloramphenicol waiting list. Soon, I hope."
They stopped and looked at one another, each waiting for the other to speak first.
After a very tense moment, Stephano suddenly grinned rakishly and sang. "YYYYY-EMMM-CEEE-AAAAAA."
A dam burst inside Adam. He fell to the ground convulsed in laughter.
Stephano stood looking down at him. "Damned gas lights," he said mournfully. He then winked brightly. "But as Grandmother always said, chloramphenicol first."
When Adam's laughter had run its course, Stephano helped him up. "Adam, when I went in for treatment, I got Doctor Nichols. He's not an easy man to fool." He paused a painful moment, then said, "So they know about me. Hang around me too much and… I suppose I should go now."
"Wait." Adam considered a moment. "Adam and Stephano. I like the sound of that. Do you?"
Stephano smiled. "I do. You make fine company, Adam."
That was what Adam had needed to hear. "I think we need to find a more profitable line of work."
"How?" Stephano asked. "As researchers?"
"In a manner of speaking. I need to know if you've been working for anyone, Stephano. Will anyone object if you strike out on your own?"
"There's nothing I can't clean up in a few days, then I'm free. I'm tired of living on the castoffs of others. And you?"
"The same, and worse. I've no family, no home. I will adopt this place as my home if I can."
"Agreed. I would not leave the libraries willingly. Have you found a patron, Adam?"
"No. We can do better than that, I think. I have enough money to get us started."
Stephano shrugged. "May I hope for intrigue, danger, excitement?"
"I mean to reach high, Stephano." Adam stared at him appraisingly.
"Adam, talk to Stephano."
"Wait till you see some of the things I've found in the library."
"Adam, should your Stephano be worried now?"
Adam was pleased to see that his Stephano looked worried, a bit, but very interested as well.
"I've been working on some essays I'd like you to read, Stephano. Perhaps they'll attract the desired attention."
They were still plotting when the sun rose.
Days later, Adam and Stephano stepped out of the library.
"I'm tired of the roach coach," Stephano complained. "I hear they have excellent lunchtime entertainment at Cora's lately: improvisational comedy from a female impersonator who calls herself Veda Mae Culpa. Shall we research it?" Veda Mae Haggerty, Grantville's loudest gossip, had become a running joke with Stephano.
"That sounds fine, but she's a lady, not an impersonator."
"I mean to check her for an Adam's apple. Either way, she's no lady."
"She's had no apples from me," Adam said, virtuously. "I need to stop by the Y on the way."
At the Y, Adam found a message waiting for him. "It would seem I'm going to Leahy this afternoon. They have the curenstoff."
"We'll eat first. Trust me, it will be good for your nerves. Then we'll go to Leahy."
Adam didn't argue. He'd be glad of the company.
The Veda Mae Show helped his nerves. Stephano's rather loud donkey impressions helped more, since Veda Mae seemed oblivious of their intent. In the end, they agreed that it would require a medical examination to pass judgment on whether that was an Adam's Apple on her throat.
The walk to Leahy did not last long enough for Adam's taste.
The door to the examination room opened. Dr. Abrabanel entered.
"Good afternoon, Adam. I have your medicine." Abrabanel placed it on the table. "You swallow it. Again, you understand that there's a small risk? One person in several thousand dies of it. I have not yet seen this happen. I judge the risk favorable, compared to your illness, but the decision is yours."
Adam solemnly took the medicine.
"I'll want you to visit every third day for three weeks, to monitor your progress. Now, I'd like to discuss your commentary on Shilts."
"Let's allow the hospital to have their examination room back. We'll speak in my office."
Adam's essay was in Abrabanel's office. The doctor took it up, and glanced at the first pages.
"I keep an easy schedule these days. Some teaching. Some patients. You're not the first I've assigned this book. I see that you've noted AIDS as an epidemiological example. From there, most students go on to write about the disease itself. You've included some of this. Like most others, you've compared AIDS to syphilis. You've also compared that epidemic to the epidemics of our own time. At this point, some students append sermons. You haven't. Instead, you continue to study the course of the epidemic well beyond the period covered by the book, almost until the Ring of Fire." The doctor looked up.
"The magazines ran out at that point, with no cure found."
"Just so. You've noted that it first came to light in a pariah population, and that distaste for homosexuals hampered early understanding and efforts. You note that homosexual distrust of authority was also a complication in controlling the disease, even when it was better understood. You recount the development of organizations to help those with the disease, and the rise of protest movements. I find it interesting that you invested several paragraphs on a description of the American tradition of non-violent civil rights movements, and how the AIDS movements followed in that tradition." The doctor looked up again. The doctor pronounced homosexual like it was an unfamiliar diagnosis. At least he wasn't using sodomite.
"It's an integral part of the story, sir."
"Yes. I'd heard some of this from the up-time doctors and staff. If any students found that material, they didn't include it. Only you wrote of it as anything other than a sermon. You expressed no opinions."
"I found the subject awkward, sir."
"I can imagine. Would you care to express an opinion now, Adam?"
Adam had rehearsed several answers to that question, should it arise. But what came out was, "It made me angry, and frightened."
"A physician is required to control his emotions." Abrabanel gave Adam a professional look.
"Of course, doctor. But have you seen a food riot?"
"Not up close."
"Nor I, up close. But I ask myself what happens in an epidemic when the chloramphenicol runs out."
"Then we will do what we can. I'll expect you back in three days, Adam."
Adam rose to leave, then hesitated at the door. "You gave me chloramphenicol."
"Yes." The doctor looked up at Adam.
"It's scarce. Someone else didn't get it. That person may die in my place."
"If there were more urgent need, I'd have waited to treat you."
"I'm no longer sure I wish to study medicine, doctor. Perhaps later, if they'll have a former syphilitic."
"There is no record of your infection. And as for the cost of the medicine, it would seem I lost some chloramphenicol in an accident. Clumsy of me. That was good research, lad. You earned it. Return in three days. And while you wait, consider your life, Adam Tyrrell. Do not travel the road of your uncle and Henri Rossignol."
"Yes. Chloramphenicol may not always be available."
"I mean… consider marriage." The doctor returned his attention to some papers on his desk.
Adam found Stephano in the cafeteria. As they walked, Adam spoke. "It would seem the doctor disapproves of sodomy."
"Does he know about you?" Stephano asked.
"He counseled me regarding marriage. It may merely have been his idea of fatherly advice, being as I've no family now."
"Kind of him," Stephano said.
"He offended me," Adam replied. Which felt odd, considering that the doctor was also saving his life.
When Adam returned for his first follow up, he gave the doctor a short paper on the economic troubles of the United States in the last quarter of the twentieth century as reported in Time Magazine. On his next visit, he gave the doctor a paper comparing the development of the microcomputer industry to various enterprises in Grantville, including the role of four up-time teenagers in the development of a sewing machine industry. Adam had been careful to emphasize the role and nature of geeks in both developments.
Adam repeated this brand building process until his last follow up visit. On that day, he first visited the library to verify that a certain science fiction book was still on the shelves and in the catalog. He then went to Leahy and gave the doctor his commentary on the book. Afterward, he returned immediately to the library, where he found the book gone, along with its catalog entries.
He collected Stephano from a carrel and took him outside.
"I've dangled the bait. He-or apparently they-took it," Adam reported.
"I watched a librarian remove the book. So, we wait?" Stephano asked.
"If it goes bad, do you think they will let us share a jail cell?"
"Let's not wait to find out. The doctor pronounced me cured. Take me home," Adam said, adamantly.
"At least that part of the waiting is over," Stephano smiled.
Later, in Stephano's rooms, Adam felt himself retreating back inside the robot again. This frightened him, but Stephano was patient. Flesh is stronger than armor.
The next morning, they went to the Y to collect Adam's belongings. He was moving in with Stephano. As they walked, Adam said, "It would seem that no ruffians broke down our door last night."
"I had thought they wouldn't. Door breaking doesn't seem common here," Stephano said. "But I'm never certain with these Americans. Just when I think I know them, I find they still surprise me."
"Political weather changes, even in their world. Consider their Ku Klux Klan, their McCarthy hearings, which they even called 'witch hunts,'" Adam said. "And let's not forget their military was still witch hunting gays up until the Ring of Fire. The up-timers are under great stress here in Grantville. We need friends. Somewhere here, there are people of great subtlety. Finding and courting them may take some time, but I judge that the up-timers prefer spirit to servility. Let us start boldly, and see how it goes."
"It's worth a try," Stephano agreed.
At the Y, Adam found a message waiting for him, asking to him see Doctor Abrabanel at Leahy. Adam didn't have much to move, so they did that first. They both wanted that to be done, to be made official. Then they went to see Dr. Abrabanel. They entered the doctor's office together.
"Perhaps your friend could wait for you in the cafeteria," the doctor suggested pleasantly.
"If this is about my treatment, I'd prefer that Stephano stay. If it's about that last book report, I insist he stay."
Stephano closed the door from the inside, not making a move to leave.
"He's read the book?" The doctor asked.
"And my report," Adam answered. "I gather that the librarians don't take science fiction seriously. This was a large book. Huff-duff, and how to recognize a huff-duff antenna by its movements. Radio intercepts. Signal traffic analysis. Computer assisted cryptanalysis, with some hints regarding early computer design. The Pearl Harbor intercepts. The Yamamoto killing. The battle of the Atlantic. Pseudo-random number generation for one time pads by way of Riemann-Zeta functions, with suggestions how they might be computed without electronic assistance. Hints about proper generation of random numbers and other cipher keys. Large number factoring. Allusions to game theory, information and coding theory. Operational security. Portable radios that can reach from Naples to London. Names of cryptographers, some real. You might wish to remove the Alan Turing biography. I found it fascinating, also. Mostly it was just hints, but there was enough detail for years of research."
"I liked the part about allowing a ship to be captured with its code books so they could replace some codes so that the Germans would not guess that the English had learned by cryptanalysis that the codes were compromised. With a little more work, the author might try writing a history of the de Medici," Stephano said wistfully, in his thickest Tuscan accent.
The doctor looked pinched, but said nothing.
Adam looked at Abrabanel. "Who is the last survivor of Madame Rossignol's circle?"
"How much did they teach you, Adam?"
"Enough. Lord Bacon himself was among my teachers. I remember him fondly. Would you believe it? I used to puddle in his lap when I was small. Are you qualified to test me?"
"That could be arranged," the doctor said, sitting back.
"Cipher cracking is a rare skill, Doctor," Adam pointed out.
"I know it," the doctor acknowledged.
"And you have much need of it here, given the activity in that library," Adam added. "You'd need the largest Black Chamber in Europe to handle that much suspicious mail."
"Understand this, Adam Tyrrell. They have a constitution here that guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. Opening mail without a warrant is a serious crime. The up-timers won't want their fingerprints on that. It would be politically dangerous."
"So there are rules. It still needs…" Adam stopped. Fingerprints??? That would be another up-time expression, and one with some real meaning. He made yet another mental note, then continued, "It still needs the largest Black Chamber in Europe just to handle the ones known to be working for hostile powers."
"You wish to offer your services?" Abrabanel asked.
"Will that buy us protection from official harassment?" Adam spread his hands in an inquiring gesture. "In Paris and London, I'm a known homosexual. That information could easily arrive here. My boyfriend…" Adam pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "… is known here, in Florence and perhaps Rome as well."
"Maybe Rome," Stephano shrugged. "Definitely here. Dr. Nichols is an insightful man."
"We need the usual assurances regarding official harassment and blackmail," Adam finished. "Delivered in person by someone of convincing rank."
This protection was Adam's true goal. It would make it possible to stay in Grantville, near the precious libraries. He and the doctor stared at each other for a moment, appraisingly.
"I will make inquiries," the doctor finally said.
"Are we done, Adam?" Stephano asked, adding, "I'm hungry."
"Yes, I think so. Doctor? The usual assurances, given in person by someone of very convincing rank?"
"I'll get back to you, Adam."
As they left, Adam said, "Speaking plainly feels good."
"Yes," Stephano agreed. "But let's not do it often, shall we?"
"It's hardly necessary. The idea of gay liberation is in the same libraries along with all the rest of the stuff they're spreading. They can't erase it any more than they can expunge references to Elvis Presley."
"Do you think they'll go for our ideas?"
"Whoever 'they' are, I think they'll at least test me. Truly, I'll be satisfied if they merely leave us alone. Now, I need to do some research. I think I've overlooked something."
Stephano hadn't been allowed in this room.
The man behind the desk had the look and manners of a clerk. The man behind the man behind the desk looked more like some nightmare from Scandinavian mythology. Adam resolved to make no sudden moves.
"You are Adam Tyrrell, of London, son of William Tyrrell of London, until recently medical student in Paris," the man read, droning. Definitely a clerk, and either a very good sport, or very dangerous. The clerk's Swedish accent and the troll behind him argued for the latter. "You claim past association with Francis Bacon, Henri Rossignol, and Thomas Tyrrell, all late of the Black Chamber of Francis Bacon during the reign of James Stuart, King of England and Scotland."
"And before that during the reign of Elizabeth. Does the gentleman there speak English?" Adam pointed to the… uh… man.
"I'm not certain he even speaks Swedish. Definitely not English. Ignore him. You claim to be a cryptanalyst, trained by the above named persons."
"Describe those persons, Mr. Tyrrell." The clerk took up a quill, clearly not as bored as he pretended.
"In what manner? Their appearances?"
"In whatever manner you please, Mr. Tyrrell." No, he was not bored. He was displeased.
Adam described their appearances, also adding some description of their homes while the clerk made notes.
"Examine these papers, Mr. Tyrrell." He pushed them across the desk with a grim smile.
Adam took the papers. Most contained jumbled letters and numbers, apparent cipher texts. "May I ask who you are?" Adam asked.
"I am a clerk. Do what you can with those. Paper and ink there. I will return with lunch and to examine your progress." He might have offered a pencil, rather than ink. The clerk got up and walked to the door, then gestured to the troll.
"Come!" the clerk barked at the dangerous one.
Adam began to examine the papers more closely.
"Stand! Stay!" the clerk pointed the troll to a spot just outside the door before closing it. "Stay!"
Nice theater that. Adam resolved not to need a chamber pot until the clerk returned, then made a note to find his own troll someday, should he be lucky enough to live so long. He turned his attention back to the work, choosing the easiest looking ones.
The room had none of those wonderful up-time clocks. Some indefinable time later, the door opened and the clerk entered. "Your lunch. Show me your progress."
"Thank you." Adam took the food and pointed to his solutions so far, then decided this was a good time to ask after the pot. The troll accompanied him without obvious instruction, causing Adam to nearly dry up. When Adam returned, the clerk was glowering at his work. He left without comment. Adam went back to work.
It was late afternoon when the door opened again. An obviously higher ranking man led the clerk back in. The man sat behind the desk. The clerk stood to one side. The troll stayed outside. Adam pegged the new man as a Swedish officer.
This man, who had a badly crippled arm, looked Adam's work over. Then he looked at the clerk and said, "That will be all."
The man stiffly left, causing Adam to remember advertisements for something called Preparation H, the last of which was rumored to rival chloramphenicol in price. The clerk looked like he could use some.
The man with the crippled arm sat back and grew something that might pass for a smile. "I remember the statuette of Harmodius and Aristogeiton in Bacon's study. It was quite unique, an inspired piece, but also slightly embarrassing. They needn't have been portrayed quite so… affectionately. But I remember no black Japanese vase featuring women with umbrellas."
"The doomed but triumphant lovers. I loved that piece. You must have visited after May, 1620, when I broke the vase," Adam relaxed into his chair a bit. "I'm not likely to forget that date. My father had the vase glued back together and placed in our parlor as a chastisement." Adam grimaced at the thought, then wondered if Hand knew that Harmodius and Aristogeiton were tyrannicides. "I've never broken a bit of pottery since."
"A hard lesson. I visited in 1622, as I recall. I will also confess that I was at first quite fooled by 'Madame Rossignol.' I was trying to place 'her' in the Rossignol family tree and wondering if all their women had such large Adam's apples." The man indicated that item on his own throat.
"The up-time term is 'drag queen,' sir, and I've no idea where they got that term. More politely, they use 'transgendered.' Madame is a cousin of Antoine Rossignol, Cardinal Richelieu's cryptanalyst. Or perhaps was his cousin. She was dying when I last saw her. Please understand that Madame was not affiliated with any faction of King Louis' court. She was of the circle of Francis Bacon, as was her lover, my Uncle Thomas. They retired to Paris when Bacon fell from favor, where they lived private lives, not caring to choose among the various factions."
"That matches my information. Can you recommend replacements for two of my codes?" The man waved a couple of Adam's solutions in the air.
"Good. Now, what am I to do with Adam Tyrrell?" He stared fixedly at Adam.
"I have some suggestions, sir, but… ah… I don't believe we've met."
"Colonel Erik Haakenson Hand, at your service."
"What, you expected maybe His Majesty's cousin?"
"Oh, not at all. I am seeking someone who can… ah…"
"Who can protect a sodomite from the law?" Now that definitely was a smile, twisted, but nonetheless a smile.
Sometimes speaking plainly was more frightening than fun, but Adam managed to keep an even disposition. "Yes, Colonel. I seek protection for myself and any associates."
"Well then, how about His Majesty's cousin?"
"Probably such a man would do, if he's not out of favor. But can you make such an introduction?"
"I just did." Yes, a very twisted smile. The colonel had a refined sense of humor.
"Oh." Adam realized he was in the Swedish Consulate, sitting across a desk from His Majesty's Royal Cousin. He mentally filed this under "Be Careful What You Ask For."
"So I ask again, what is His Majesty's Trusted Kinsman to do with Adam Tyrrell?" Hand was a man who could insert Capital Letters into his words, without raising his voice.
"I… uh… have a list of… suggestions right… uh
…" Adam found it, "right here." He handed it to Hand. It was several pages. "Have you read my other essays, colonel?"
"I have." Hand began reading, nodding, hmm-ing, then chuckling. Then…
" Damn!" He had reached the fourth page. "Fingerprints?"
"And Black Chamber personnel may be leaving fingerprints on letters they read?"
"The books say they should. Fingerprint references are all over the library: encyclopedias, dictionaries, novels… especially detective stories. I begin to believe that to remove all sensitive references of that sort, not just regarding fingerprints but huff-duff for example, would gut the library. If the fingerprinting idea isn't known widely yet, it is only a matter of time. Gloves will soon be standard in all Black Chambers. Notice also that the books say the prints may linger for years. So those who have kept their correspondence might dust their collections. In that paper, I describe how the fingerprinting of incoming correspondence might be used as a sort of device-like the up-time passive sonar-to probe the existence, sizes and interests of mail opening operations around Europe. It seems a simple enough process, but then, one might think the same of the airplanes. I hear that the airplanes are not as simple as the books make them sound."
"What is passive sonar?" Hand glanced through the pages, looking for it.
"It's not in that paper. It's a device for listening for submarines, which can give the direction of any noise heard. I have taken some notes on it if you wish to see them, Colonel."
"Yes, please. Who else have you discussed this with?" Hand asked.
"Only my friend. He helped do the research. The library is rather large."
"They think it is small, Adam." Hand resumed reading Adam's proposal. When he reached the end, he put the papers down, looked across the desk and said, "Adam Tyrrell, if I truly am the first you've spoken to regarding this material, you have earned some protection already."
"And my friend as well?"
"Yes. The Lefferto is to be part of this project?"
"He is, and we may need to hire others. They may or may not know that the work has intelligence value."
"And you mean this to be an independent espionage research and development firm, rather than a governmental Black Chamber?"
"Yes sir. I suspect the up-timers had such firms. I believe we can make it pay by publishing surplus library research in a magazine format, which will also serve as a legitimate business cover."
"So you need no money from me until you have results?" Hand raised an eyebrow.
"Probably no money, Colonel, but we will need legal protection. Also, a computer, instruction in its use, access to any cryptography books that they may have taken off the shelves, and assistance learning the up-time math. If things progress well, we may need consultants in a variety of fields, such as radio or chemistry."
"I can't promise a computer, but could press for it. The books may not be difficult, at least for me. The math instruction is routine. And this magazine you propose to publish, it can also be used to disseminate propaganda?"
"Oh, yes, sir! That's part of the fun."
"This fingerprint game sounds intriguing, if it works. I see I have two choices, Adam Tyrrell. I can hire you to keep you from working for someone else, or I can lock you up to keep you from working for someone else."
Adam nodded-sagely, he hoped. "May I ask, Colonel, if anyone else had already reached that conclusion?"
"Doctor Abrabanel seemed to think you should be taken seriously, otherwise, no."
Adam felt mildly offended. Perhaps it showed.
"Understand this, Adam Tyrrell," Hand said in his best Stern Colonel voice. "His Majesty is a deeply Pious Man who will Not Approve of you and your friend. But His Majesty is also a Practical Man who understands that sometimes the Needs of the Realm have their own logic. Results Matter. You will not allow me to regret helping you. You and your friend or friends will Be Discreet. Practice discretion, and I may be willing to offer assistance if needed. You understand?"
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Colonel?"
"Let me be very, very clear. I do not ask. I insist. You Will Tell Me these things, so that any problems can be nipped in the bud. Do You Understand, Adam Tyrrell?"
"Of course, Colonel." Adam said, relieved to finally find someone who spoke his language.
"And since you must stay in Grantville to do this, we will have to bring the up-timers in on it. They control the computers in any event. Where I might settle for an oath, they may insist on more, perhaps citizenship. Also, they are very strict about mail privacy. Any mail you open will be your own, or given to you at my direction."
"Of course, Colonel."
"You will have a Swedish assistant."
"As you wish, Colonel." Adam imagined a troll.
"I hope you like blonds."
"Beg pardon, Colonel?" Adam shook his head to clear it.
"He's blond. Also, his loyalty is beyond question. He was to learn radio soon, so we'll just bring him here early. It will take a couple of weeks. He will find lodging in your quarters. Did I mention you are advertising for a lodger?" The colonel had a sweet smile when he wished. He was almost displaying it now.
"Our quarters are not large, Colonel." Adam hoped he didn't look as taken aback as he felt.
"Then perhaps you are also seeking larger quarters. But that would be none of my affair." Then the colonel sat up straight with a sudden inspiration. "On second thought, it is my affair. You will work where you live, and someone trustworthy will be there at all times. I will arrange rooms for you and the Lefferto-and for your new Swedish friend-in a very nice, modern building, with excellent plumbing. You and your friend will like it very much."
The colonel sat back with a look of pure pleasure. "It's about time someone lit a fire under some dithering asses in this town. Your project sounds like just the spark. After all, you managed to cut through the red tape this far."
"Uncle Thomas was better at it, Colonel. I wasn't sure I had succeeded at all." Adam was now wondering if he was pleased to have succeeded.
"You nearly didn't. May I ask why you bothered? With your Rossignol connection, you might have gotten a good offer in Paris."
"They didn't have chloramphenicol, and their library isn't as good." Adam paused for emphasis. "Besides, the factions there have a way of getting a bit rough, even inelegant. Here, I have some hope of staying aloof from any factional fighting, although Stephano and I were rather concerned about the up-timer tendency toward witch hunting. Finding some patron of high rank seemed prudent."
"Witch hunting? They're adamantly against the practice!"
"They no longer believe in witches, sir, so they substitute others. In the 1950s, it was Communists. Homosexuals are a traditional target for some, especially in their military. The victims even call it 'witch hunting,' though there are no witches. The analogy is exact. I suppose the practice is common to all peoples. I've been working on a essay on the subject if you would like to read it."
"Have you heard the way they use the word 'faggot,' especially around the 250 Club?" Adam shrank a bit.
"Oh. Them." Hand sneered.
"We hear it elsewhere, as well, but it's more frightening from that lot," Adam grimaced.
"So you are scared of them."
"Sometimes, Colonel. But more often, I just feel sorry for them," Adam said.
"Sorry? Why?" The colonel looked closely at Adam.
"They've lost everything, sir. It's quite pathetic. The stress must be intolerable at times."
"Bear in mind that I can get you out of jail far more easily that I can get you out of a lynching. Bring your friend tomorrow morning," Hand said, waving dismissal.
"How did it go?" Stephano asked.
"It would appear we have caught a big one. A Swede, not an up-timer," Adam said dryly.
"Adam, talk to Stephano…"
"He will find us larger quarters. We will live and work there, with a blond Swedish friend." Adam shifted on his feet nervously.
"Adam, you frighten Stephano…"
The Up-time Reader's Monthly
Volume 1, Issue 1
Editor-In-Chief: Huckleberry Finn
Chief Researcher: Tom Sawyer
An eclectic monthly compendium of snippets and observations gleaned from the up-time libraries of Grantville, Thuringia (formerly Grantville, West Virginia) with an emphasis on a larger understanding of the culture and times of the up-time world that was and will now never be, presented for the educated reader.
Limited copies of this, our debut edition, are distributed free at USE Embassies and other select locations. To purchase extra copies and subscriptions see back cover.
Free referrals to reputable researchers and copyists on request, but the Editors cannot assume responsibility for private transactions.
In this issue:
The Stark Depiction Of War In Up-time Literature
Reviews of three famous up-time novels of war: The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet On The Western Front, and The Cruel Sea, which depict the progressively greater horrors of up-time war through tales of the nineteenth century American Civil War and the two World Wars of the twentieth century.
Fields Of Study
We begin our taxonomy of up-time academia with brief descriptions of the subjects of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Economics. In future editions, these and others will be examined in closer detail, with discussion of sub-fields.
When You Come To A Fork In The Road…
In this first installment of our examination of colorful American expressions, we consider the wit and wisdom of up-time sportsman Yogi Berra.
The Reference Desk
Descriptions of the famous Grantville collection of Encyclopedias, with usage notes and sample passages. In future editions, we will present commentaries on other valuable reference books such as Roget's Thesaurus, and Robert's Rules of Order.
In this issue, we outline the unification of the Germanies during the 19th century. In the next issue, the Italian Unification.
Letters To The Editors
In future issues, we will print reader comments on our articles and essay answers to some of your research questions.
Adam and Stephano each had a couple of magnifying lenses and wore silk gloves to avoid adding their own fingerprints to any which might be found on their mail. They added each letter to indices by date, name and subject. They debated while opening the letters. It was the old argument.
"All of the research in the first issue is yours, so I must be The Editor," Stephano insisted, while examining an envelope.
"Remember that I paid for this issue, so that means I'm The Editor. Besides you're doing more of the research now," Adam reasoned.
"Very well, I'm Tom Sawyer. And I'm starting a new column called The Picket Fence. "
"You'll paint that column yourself. I've read that book," Adam said, peering through his strongest magnifier.
"We have a new order here," Stephano said, reading a letter he'd just extracted. "Fifteen additional copies of Issue 1 plus nine subscriptions, all from the same person. Someone named Reubens in Haarlem."
"Mail gets to Haarlem fine. Reubens works for the Cardinal-Infante. Put it in the boast stack. I mean to brag about it. And we'll definitely want to check that one for fingerprints."
Stephano opened the next one, and whistled. "One hundred first issues plus fifty subscriptions from Morris Roth in Prague."
"All for himself? He must be forwarding them somewhere. And we'll have to check that one thoroughly for fingerprints as well. Roth will want to know if anyone, like Wallenstein, is reading his mail." Adam examined another letter for signs that he was not the first to open it, then carefully opened it. "I have another research request for you in this letter, Stephano. Someone wants an explanation of baseball."
"Already written," Stephano waved dismissal. "We can put in The Editor's Reply in the next issue. I expected that one."
Adam held up the next letter. "And here, Stephano, I have another request for a copy of The Cruel Sea."
"Another anti-submarine warfare researcher." Stephano moaned. "They do take the long view. I'll send him a note saying that he can buy a printed copy next month. Better yet, we'll just put a notice in the next issue. Perhaps we could start a 'Recently Republished' column."
"We should demand kickbacks from the printers," Adam observed.
"It's called 'paid advertising.' And we should also charge them to review the books they are reprinting. Ah! I have a research request just for you, Adam!" Stephano looked cheerfully mischievous.
Adam looked across the table glumly. "Let's hear it."
"It would seem there's an abbot in Campania looking for Prester John."
"Him again? Perhaps we can refer that to someone. Do you suppose Veda Mae would be interested in moonlighting as a researcher?"
"Why not? She's the reason Prester John fled to Ethiopia in the first place." Stephano logged the letter and placed it in the finished stack, with an exaggerated gesture of finality.
Life for Adam was good again, but he did wish Madame and Uncle Thomas were around to share it. They would have so loved Stephano. Across the table, Stephano was frowning at the next letter.
Yes, it was very good to be alive.
In the back of his mind, Adam considered some nagging cipher problems from Colonel Hand's most recent bundle.
The Dewey System
Written by Iver P. Cooper
Kurt's expression was one of triumph, a triumph he carefully avoided giving voice to, however much he felt like shouting. It wouldn't do to give away his secret. He had only half-believed the stories about Grantville and its hoard of knowledge. But here it was-this book, this blessed book, told him where to find the riches he had always dreamed of finding.
And this treasure wasn't one of the common ilk, that could be found with the aid of the encyclopedias. Indeed, Kurt believed that the key information was available only in this single library book. Kurt had begrudged the time he had spent in the "library skills and etiquette" class, but no more. The skills had helped him find the book.
Soon, he would leave behind the noise of Grantville, and make his fortune.
But wait a moment. Everyone knew that Grantville was the Mecca of spies. That's why Kurt had done his own research, and not hired one of the "licensed researchers." They were all spies, of course. One of them was probably watching him right now. Kurt turned his head ever so slightly, and looked out of the corner of his eye, hoping to catch one in the act.
No one looking his way, huh? Well, that was suspicious. All those people sitting at that long table and not one of them was looking his way. Clearly, they were all spies, and had caught his movement just in time to evade detection.
Or were they? No matter. He already knew what he needed to know, and so it would do them no good to watch him further. It would take a few days to buy all the tools and maps he needed, and then he could forget the library.
Or could he? That book, that damn book. It could be a year before someone else read it. Or a month. Or even a day. Who knew what rivals he had for the treasure, or how many or few steps, they were behind him.
But if he took the book with him… No, he couldn't. The library staff searched everyone before they left the building, and you couldn't take any books, or packages, or even a coat into the bathroom. Apparently, the library had suffered some losses before.
So he couldn't remove the book from the game. But there were only a few critical pages. If he found an isolated place in the stacks, one hidden from general view, and waited for the right moment, surely he could rip those pages out, and either effectively hide them on his person, or conceal them in some obvious trash and toss them into the library garbage can. It wasn't as though anyone searched the garbage!
He moved through the stacks, looking back to the reading area from time to time, to check the sight lines. Finally, he chose a strategic location. With his body hiding his actions as best as possible, he opened the book, and ever so slowly, to minimize the noise, started to make the tear…
"May I help you?"
Kurt reacted as calmly as a cat whose tail has been stepped on. "Acch!" he cried. Once his pulse had slowed, he responded, still with his back turned to his tormentor. "No, I am fine."
But he sensed that he was still being watched. Finally, reluctantly, he turned. It was a middle-aged man; almost certainly, judging from his bad teeth, a down-timer.
"Do you need help? Perhaps in finding where to shelve that book? Its proper place is given by the Dewey decimal call-"
"No, no. See, I do it myself." Kurt shoved the book into a gap in the volumes. "Happy? Leave me alone." Kurt stalked off, thinking he would deal with the book another day.
Thomas Hobbes watched him go. Then he studied the bookcase, reached for the volume in question, paged through it carefully, and found the telltale rip. He closed the book abruptly, like a crocodile snapping its jaws on its prey.
Kurt was angry, with the damned interloper, and with himself. Finally, he calmed down. It wasn't as though the fool knew which book Kurt had shelved, Kurt was sure of that. Kurt would deal with the book tomorrow. And if he ever came upon the damn busybody alone, at night, well, he'd help him into a ditch somewhere.
For now, it seemed a good time to celebrate his find, with a little bit of drinking.
Kurt was a bit woozy when he reached his own street, and fumbled for the keys. It was a moment before he realized that he was in the center of a rough circle formed by six men.
Kurt was shocked. Grantville was a safe town, even at night, at least in this quiet neighborhood. He relaxed fractionally when he recognized the men, they were researchers from the library. Young scholars, not muggers.
"So, Kurt, did you have a good day at the library?" said a blond man with a small scar above his left eyebrow.
"Good enough. I will need to go back tomorrow."
"No need," said Scarface. "You're leaving town tomorrow. At the crack of dawn, I predict."
Kurt started to reach for his cudgel. The six produced theirs, faster, and Kurt thought better of initiating violence.
"That wasn't my plan."
The shortest of the six chuckled. "You know, Kurt, the SOTF Library is the greatest repository of knowledge in the history of the world. Greater even than the Library of Alexandria."
"And it is the making of our livelihood," added a third.
"It is more than that," said a fourth. "Its very presence is a miracle."
"So we take its desecration very seriously," said Scarface.
"The Library at Alexandria was lost in a day, to fire, but a library can be lost little by little," said Shortie.
Scarface hefted his cudgel. "Say, by ingrates who take the library research and etiquette course and then have the audacity to rip pages out of books, denying them to fellow researchers."
"Like us," the six said in chorus.
Kurt tried to back toward his door, but the two nearest it blocked him. "I am sure we can come to an understanding…" he said, rather nervously.
"Indeed we can," said Scarface. "Do you know the Dewey System?"
The question took Kurt completely by surprise. His fear evaporated for a moment, as he mechanically considered the question on its merits. "Yes, of course. 100 is philosophy and psychology, 200 is religion, 300 is-"
"Neh, not that system," said Shortie. "That's the American Dewey System. I mean the German Dewey System. Which is…
"Are you going to leave town tomorrow morning, without coming within a mile of the library, or… 'Doo-wey' beat you to a pulp?"
Kurt looked at Shortie, Scarface and the others, and gulped. "I'll leave."
Scarface snickered. "Oh, by the way, Kurt. Just to make sure that the crime of desecrating books doesn't pay, a certain passage from a certain book you started to rip is going to be published in the newspaper, day after tomorrow. One of the editors owes me a favor. So you better get out of town fast, before you have competition."
Kurt deflated further, if that were possible. "I will."
The six library vigilantes watched him slink into his lair.
"Well, that's that, I hope," said Shortie.
"I'm disappointed," said Scarface. "I was looking forward to smashing his face in."
"Shall we celebrate our defense of the Printed Word…"
"Thuringen Gardens is still open," one of the vigilantes volunteered.
Some minutes later, they were at a table. The waitress filled their mugs, and left behind the pitcher.
"Shall we have a toast?" asked Shortie. The others nodded. "To the Dewey System!" They clicked their mugs, and drank.
The Duchess is a Leatherneck
Written by Jose J. Clavell
Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference.
The Marines don't have that problem."
The Parade Ground, Marine Barracks
Magdeburg Navy Yard, MagdeburgCity
United States of Europe
Early summer 1635, 0900 hours local
"Pla-TOON! Atten-SHUN! Pre-SENT ARMS!" The senior drill instructor had timed it perfectly, waiting until the last second for the adjutant to reach the prescribed distance before giving the command, performing an about face, and snapping a salute in one graceful motion. The process reinforced, in the minds of his startled recruits, the belief fostered throughout the training cycle that he had eyes in the back of his head.
Without breaking her stride the adjutant in question, Captain Annette de Ventron, USMC-never USEMC, as there had never been a USAMC-returned the textbook salute with a small smile and a sharp salute of her own. Personally acquainted with that particular trick-after all, she and the DI had been trained by the same man-it was a struggle for her to keep a straight face and not laugh aloud.
But keep a straight face she did, because it was her duty to act as if it was the most natural thing in the world and an ability to be expected from all Marine Staff NCOs. It helped maintain the recruits' mindset that the instructor's words and judgment were above reproach, and-as far they were concerned-something to be taken as gospel. From all the wide-eyed stares, the senior drill instructor had once more succeeded handsomely in that endeavor. That was why no leatherneck, officer or enlisted, ever forgot their first DI.
Her job done, she continued on her way to her office at First Battalion, First Marines Headquarters. Normally, she would have stayed to observe for a while and gauge the progress of the Corps's newest batch of recruits. But today had a chill in the air that easily penetrated the insulated liner of her field jacket, and she was very much looking forward to the first hot cup of coffee of her official day.
Besides, with only two more weeks remaining until graduation, this particular batch was almost done; another small step towards bringing the regiment to its full authorized strength. After completing their individual advanced training, the new Marines would take their places in the line and be ready, willing and able to serve "in every clime and place" as the hymn said-a far cry from what a certain Swedish chancellor had once described less than charitably as "thirty-four men, two women and one puppy, not exactly an invasion force." The Corps performance since that time had belied his description and, although it would never achieve the numbers that the army boasted or the same speed to build up, that was fine, too. Marines saw themselves as the precision instruments of the USE national policy, able to function to advantage on both land and at sea, not mass-produced "items" like soldiers.
Smiling at the almost poetic insight, de Ventron continued on her way but something started to nag at her from the back of her mind, something from her past before the Corps and even before life in the convent and marriage. Suddenly, the buried memory came back full force, making her stop in mid-stride as a chilling sensation ran down her spine. De Ventron turned around slowly, staring in disbelief at the hard-drilling platoon, one of four in the drill area. The object of her attention was a young woman who, because of her height, was marching in the rear of the first squad. De Ventron continued to watch for several minutes while she tried to match the memories of a young child's face by her mother's side, which she remembered from her only visit to the French court while just barely a teen herself, to the sweaty girl mechanically following the commands of her leather-lunged drill instructor.
"No way, Jose," she muttered finally, falling into one of the many colloquialisms learned from her up-time friends and housemates. She couldn't believe her eyes, and no matter how many times she blinked her eyes, the face remained the same. Shaking her head with a resigned sigh, she resumed her trip to headquarters at a slightly faster pace. Not running, of course-Marine officers, by training and tradition, do not run unless they are doing physical exercise or the situation is truly dire. Doing otherwise tends to destroy troop morale, a fact relentlessly hammered into them during the basic school. Barely acknowledging the greeting of friends and fellow Marines, de Ventron entered the building and, without stopping to drop her jacket or knocking on the door, marched into the office of her regimental and battalion commander to announce gravely, " Mon ami, we may have a problem."
Colonel-Commandant Friedrich von Brockenholz looked up in surprise. Von Brockenholz not only commanded the Corps' lone regiment and thus the Corps itself, but also the Magdeburg-based first battalion. They had once been classmates. He was now her superior, and had been reviewing training plans with his regimental and battalion Sergeant Major, Charles "Duke" Hudson. Hudson, who was a former up-time American Leatherneck, was the force behind the creation of the down-time USE Marine Corps and had once been the bane of her existence as her DI. He was also a man for whom de Ventron held immense respect.
Von Brockenholz stared at her with a frown and then signaled her to sit in her favorite chair in front of his desk. Hudson pulled a notebook and pen out of his utilities pocket and got ready to take notes. "Ok, Annette, talk. I'm all ears," he said.
"It's one of our recruits, mon colonel," de Ventron told him, sitting down after removing her cover and placing it primly on her lap. "I think I met her at court before I went into the convent. If I'm not mistaken, her name is, or was, Anne de Gonzague de Nevers de Majorque de Mayenne de Mantoue. Her father is Charles, Duke of Mantua, a small independent state in Northern Italy, sir."
"I know where Mantua is located, Annette," von Brockenholz said and stared at her for a moment before shaking his head in disgust. Hudson muttered unhappily, looking at his notebook, "Rats, not another one, not another Italian noblewoman."
De Ventron did not have the heart to tell him that the girl and her family were, like her own, mostly of French extraction, and she certainly did not wanted to tell him of her imperial connections either. That could wait a moment or two.
However, she understood his attitude, and, despite her own background, shared it. Italian, French or otherwise, after last summer's successful summer naval campaigns, there had been a flood of new recruits flocking to the ranks of the navy and Corps. Together with them came a relatively large contingent of aristocrats, all wanting to make their mark and seek adventure in the newest and most modern of the USE armed services after the air force. The strict meritocracy came as a surprise to many of them, and some left just as fast as they arrived. Some, however, had stayed and a few, to the consternation of many, even opted to remain in the enlisted ranks, content with just the title of US Marine or fleet sailor. Regardless, given the political situation of the new nation, each case was a potential political minefield.
The very few noblewomen that had also rallied to the colors in spite of what culture, society and their families expected them to do in their narrowly-defined roles-which did not include haring off to foreign lands, in many cases without parents or family approval, and enlisting in the military, were a tough problem. The most notorious case to date was that of Lance Corporal Angelina Rainaldi, a former Italian noblewoman now assigned as a law clerk in the navy JAG office. Although to be fair to her, Rainaldi's situation was particularly ugly: she had escaped from Italy after being raped by her uncle and delivered a beautiful baby girl literally moments after being sworn into the Corps, and then married her dying husband. Who, luckily for her, didn't, after all, die. The resolution of her particular quandary had required the involvement of the Chief of Naval Operations and some decidedly illegal chicanery by naval law enforcement. No one wanted a repeat.
Von Brockenholz, also with a good idea of what lay behind the American's uncharacteristic outburst, looked at his Sergeant Major. "Right there with you, Duke, but before we get in a tizzy over potential consequences, let's look at her personnel file. With any luck, Annette may be wrong and the girl is someone else. Or perhaps she lied on her application and this can be dealt with without too much of a fuss." He then turned towards de Ventron and asked, "Annette, whose training platoon is she with?"
"Noah Wilson's third, mon colonel." Both von Brockenholz and Hudson nodded approvingly at her reply. The up-time-born Staff Sergeant Wilson was one of their best DIs and known for keeping meticulous records. If there was any opportunity for an administrative reprieve from the impending disaster, it would be thanks to his recordkeeping.
"I'll get the files, sir," Hudson announced on his way out of the office, leaving de Ventron and von Brockenholz alone in his wake. Von Brockenholz looked at her and his face broke into a huge grin.
"What now, Friedrich?" she asked testily, dropping their official formality.
"Oh, nothing, Annette. You do look like someone killed your puppy, but I'm just thinking about the heavy hand of irony here. The two of us being of noble birth ourselves, now trying like heck to keep others in the same fix out of the Corps."
She replied with an attempt at a frown, but couldn't keep it up and ended grinning, appreciating the absurdity and humor of the situation. There had always been an undercurrent of trust and affection in their relationship, since they'd met as officer candidates at the basic school, first class-a relationship that both knew could easily blossom into something else, if they weren't honor-bound to remain simply friends as long as both wore the uniform and remained under the same command.
"Of course, after seeing some of the fops that have tried to join, I'm confident that they're not really like us-certainly not like you," he explained, trying to soothe her. "Actually, we're lucky that you have the background to identify our newest potential headache before she becomes one." Somewhat mollified, de Ventron nodded, lost momentarily in her memories. The road that had brought her from a novice ready to take her final vows in the Abbey of Poussay to an officer of Marines had taken decidedly odd turns, including an unexpected arranged marriage, the discovery of a soul-mate in her new husband, and the joy of motherhood. It had also included the devastating loss of the two persons in the whole world that mattered most after the passing of her parents and sister: Her late husband Pierre, Vicomte de Cornimont, struck down by assassins in Cardinal Richelieu's pay, and Jeanne, their baby daughter, felled by a disease that probably would be easy to counter now with the new knowledge.
As usual, with the memories of her loss came the pain and her eyes briefly misted, forcing her to look away. The wound in her heart remained raw, and de Ventron suspected that it would remain so as long as she lived, despite the counseling that she had received at the government house. Without a word, von Brockenholz passed her his handkerchief, and then busied himself with the reports on his desk, ignoring her and allowing her time to compose herself. It had always been like that: he did not push but let her sort out her feelings on her own, respecting her boundaries but standing by in case he could be of help. Finally, with a sad smile and heartfelt " merci " for his kind action, silent understanding and quiet support, de Ventron returned the damp cloth.
"I've got the file here, Skipper." Hudson walked back into the office, preventing any further conversation. "But you're not going to like what I'm looking at, sir. I'm afraid that the captain was right." He passed the file to the colonel.
Von Brockenholz carefully examined the enlistment forms and scanned the DI progress reports, frowning and shaking his head. Sighing, he passed the file to de Ventron and tipped his chair back to stare heavenward.
De Ventron quickly scanned the file and immediately saw what left them so concerned. "She never lied. Everything is here if you know what you're looking at. Maybe a small omission, but her dad is certainly a landowner."
"You could say that he owns some land-a duchy worth of it, ma'am," Hudson replied. "Besides, she didn't mention anything about her lineage-to tell the truth, we haven't been asking such questions lately. So she's off the hook, at least in that respect. Perhaps we need to revise the enlistment papers to close that loophole, Skipper. But, frankly, if we start asking that particular question some might assume that we are moving from merit to the more traditional promotion system-or worse, that we are taking sides. That's another can of worms that we don't want to open, not now."
De Ventron shuddered at the mere thought of the USE political situation; von Brockenholz gravely nodded in agreement. The naval service, under Admiral Simpson's leadership, had striven to remain above all the infighting: it hadn't been easy, but the American, a man of strong convictions and moral character, continued to steer a course free of any entanglements.
Still, there were some humorous aspects in the current situation, de Ventron thought. "Besides, would it really be practical to ask all applicants whether the Empress Dowager of the Holy Roman Empire is their second cousin?" she mused aloud, and then giggled at her companions' stunned expressions. "Did I forget to mention that she is related to Empress Eleonora de Gonzague de Mantoue de Montferrat de Constantinople? Shucks, it must have slipped my mind."
Hudson stammered as von Brockenholz shook his head and covered his eyes. "You're kidding me, right, ma'am?" De Ventron only grinned in response as her colonel politely "coughed." Giving up, Hudson looked at von Brockenholz and after a moment both shrugged their shoulders, accepting a situation that was snowballing by the minute. The up-timer picked up the personnel file and examined it again. "On the other hand, Noah pegged her as a young woman with a lot of potential."
"I agree with his assessment, Sergeant Major. Like Rainaldi, on paper she is quite a catch, just like we want all our recruits to be. However, I doubt that her father, the duke, will look at it in the same way," von Brockenholz commented dryly, tipping his chair forward again. "That reminds me of something, Annette. Why didn't ONI give us a heads up on another runaway heir?"
De Ventron winced. Dual-hatted like all the Corps senior people, she was also the regimental intelligence officer in addition to liaison with the Office of Naval Intelligence. "I don't know, mon colonel. Perhaps because she is not a runaway, nor is she assigned to a ship-of-the-line. Mantua isn't close to any significant body of water, and, frankly, we lack the resources to look into non-naval matters. Perhaps the Nasi organization has something on her, I can check with them. In the meantime, what we are going to do with her?"
Von Brockenholz rubbed his forehead before replying. "She is two weeks from finishing boot camp. My first inclination is to cheerfully ignore your discovery and see what develops, but I ought it to take it to the admiral to keep him abreast of this situation. He may have some other ideas on the subject."
"Skipper, Admiral Simpson is inspecting the Hamburg naval base and the new shipyard, and won't return until next week," Hudson reminded him.
"Right, but we can radio him an initial report about the situation as a heads-up, and present our findings on his return. For now we need a place to stash Her Grace and post a guard who is not going to announce to the world that she is a person of interest," von Brockenholz said.
De Ventron nodded thoughtfully. " Mon colonel, I have an idea."
4 Navy Strassen
City of Magdeburg, USE
1730 hours local
Despite the brisk walk from the navy yard having warmed her up, de Ventron felt the crisp chill in the air, but that didn't distract her from her conversation with Gunther Schlosser. Schlosser was the director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or NCIS, the American fondness for nomenclature and abbreviations spreading widely through the country. As such, he was the naval top law enforcement officer. Like many in the service, he had not started on that job by design, but had fallen into it as the right man, for the right job and at the right time. When she went to pick up Mantoue from the barracks, she brought Schlosser along in his official capacity.
But first they had to go through the gauntlet. Noah Wilson had been fierce in the defense of one of his prize recruits. So much so that de Ventron had to pull him aside to explain the situation, literally leaving him speechless. Quickly recovering, he doggedly resumed Mantoue's defense; reminding de Ventron that despite the many years that Wilson had been stranded in her century, he was very much an up-timer, lacking the awareness of the social realities that she had to deal with growing up. He also left her wishful about a world were people were judged more by their character and abilities than by whom they had as parents.
At her insistence-she stayed away from issuing a direct order-the young DI finally relented and agreed to take them to Mantoue. They found her on the platoon common area surrounded by fellow boots as she seemed to be conducting an impromptu class, complete with diagram and pointer. Wilson was ready to call the room to attention when she stopped him and indicated a quiet corner. De Ventron wanted an opportunity to watch the young woman. Schlosser followed her lead, found a comfortable spot, leaned against the wall and set up to watch with her.
"So in review, my dear maggots, magguettes… and Schneider, the Springfield Armory 1903 bolt-action rifle uses a caliber. 30 round and can be either loaded one round at a time or use the built-in five round magazine. Maximum effective range for this particular firearm is a thousand yards and adding the issue telescopic sight, like our sharpshooters and snipers do, allows an already superb weapon to obtain mastery of the battlefield. Are there any questions?"
De Ventron was impressed. It was obvious that Mantoue understood her subject well but she waited, wanting to see how Mantoue handled the questions.
Mantoue recognized a tall blonde boy in the back row that de Ventron would bet had come straight from the farm. "Anne, why were we not issued those instead of the SRG flintlocks? Even the French Cardinals seems to be better." This was a "hot button" issue, one being thoroughly debated throughout the Corps since the discovery of the French rifle in '34.
"Fuck if I know, that's obviously above my pay grade," Mantoue said and waited for the round of laughter to subside. "However, remember what Staff Sergeant Wilson told us. We only had around fifty '03's in the whole inventory, so we had to go to the SRG for general issue even though in comparison to the Cardinale it's a piece of crap. I suppose that we could make a good copy of the '03 but then we will face the real bottleneck, ammunition. I suppose that someone out there is working on the mass production issues but no one had told this lowly maggot yet, Hans."
De Ventron shook her head suppressing a grin. The girl had nailed the whole thing, demonstrating that she was not just another empty-headed recruit. It was impressive that she was able to do so without sounding condescending. De Ventron suspected, though, that His Grace, Mantoue's father, would not approve of her new expertise in Marine lingo.
"Any other questions, my friends?" Mantoue asked. When there were no takers, she turned to the black-haired boy sitting in the front row. "What, Schneider, no funny cracks?"
"Who me? Heck no, Mantoue. I'm ready to admit that you know your stuff front and back. But that only makes the fact that, unlike yours truly, you can't hit the broad side of a barn standing in front of it, a lot… sadder."
Uh, oh, de Ventron thought and prepared to intervene but Mantoue just smiled as a slight girl with an English accent beside the farm boy spoke.
"Heinrich, I think that Anne just lacks proper motivation. Show of hands, guys. Who wants to see Schneider put against the barn and shot for target practice?"
De Ventron grinned when the whole unit raised their hands. Wilson studied his boots, holding his forehead and shaking his head slowly. Schlosser tried to cover, unsuccessfully, a "cough" that finally brought the groups attention to them.
"Attention on deck," the farm boy shouted.
After a momentary hesitation and with a few barked orders, Wilson cleared the room, holding Mantoue back and, bidding her to approach, made the introductions.
"Recruit Mantoue, these officers are here to see you. This is Director Gunther Schlosser of NCIS." The girl went white as a ghost, looking up at Schlosser with alarm. De Ventron could hardly blame her; NCIS and their notorious director was the stuff that DIs used to frighten boots into walking the path of the straight and narrow and Schlosser looked the part. He was as tall as any up-timer, with a burly build to boot, and a face that had been in one too many fistfights.
"Calm down, Private. I'm not here to put anyone under arrest," Schlosser said.
"No, he's not, Mantoue. This is the regimental adjutant, Captain Annette de Ventron," Wilson said.
Mantoue went even whiter.
De Ventron addressed the girl in French. "Private Mantoue. Or should I say: Your Grace, Anne de Gonzague de Nevers de Majorque de Mayenne de Mantoue."
Initially the young recruit was startled, but then, with a sigh, she seemed resigned. "I was not sure that you would recognize me, Madame de Ventron. I tried hard to steer away from your path. How much trouble am I in?"
"As far as the Corps is concerned, you seem to be in the clear. Our problem, if there is one, is more a political one. But I think that you are smart enough to understand that. We just have one question. Why are you doing this?"
Mantoue stared straight ahead before replying back in English. "Ma'am, this recruit respectfully declines to answer that, ma'am."
Regardless of the implied threat in Schlosser's presence, that was as much information as de Ventron could get out of her.
Mantoue's platoon was informed that because of her superior performance, she was being reassigned to de Ventron's office effective immediately. It spoke volumes about her when the lie was readily accepted by all. De Ventron had to keep her emotions under tight control as each and every one of Mantoue's fellow recruits, including a curiously crestfallen Schneider, stopped by with words of congratulations, good luck and, the occasionally tearful, quick hug. It was obvious that the girl had found friends here. It made de Ventron think fondly of her own friends who were now spread throughout the USE, and beyond, in the performance of their Corps duties.
Von Brockenholz had approved her suggestion that the safest place to stash the young duchess was at the house that she co-owned with her friend Master Gunnery Sergeant Margaret "Lulu" O'Keefe, another up-timer. Their neighbors were not only accustomed to the unusual female owners but also to the goings-on of its military inhabitants at all times of the day and night. One more uniformed woman could certainly be expected to get lost in the crowd.
Schlosser escorted them there from the barracks. On the way, they both explained the in and outs of her new protective custody status and other defensive measures. It was probably overkill on their part but, after the Rainaldi case, no one wanted to take any shortcuts. Mantoue listened politely, but kept her answers to mostly monosyllabic responses, and grew more morose with each step away from the navy yard. That made de Ventron feel like she had kidnapped the still relatively young girl from the bosom of her loving family. Which, in a way, it could be argued, was exactly what she had done. The thought did not exactly assuage her conscience.
"Ladies, hide the silver. Gunther is here!" de Ventron heard O'Keefe's booming voice proclaim as soon as she saw her and her two companions enter the room.
"Hah-hah, Lulu, you're so funny. But tell me, how's tricks?" Schlosser shot back with a mocking leer as he took off his coat.
"Slow. The fleet is out, you know," Lulu replied in kind.
O'Keefe was not alone. Sharing the common living room area with her were two officers, two dependents and one bulldog. As was her custom in the Nunnery at this time of the evening, O'Keefe lounged on a couch with an open book in her lap. At a table nearby, First Lieutenant Marja Braun and their newest housemate, Second Lieutenant Sara Colfax, were playing cards with Heidi and Minna Hudson. The girls were the adopted daughters of Duke Hudson and his wife Claire, and were frequent visitors to the residence. De Ventron also spied the wagging tail of the Corps' mascot, Puddles, under the table, happily beating the ground in greeting. By the size of the chip pile in front of them, the girls seemed ahead in the game-somewhat surprising, given that Heidi was only eight and her sister, Minna, ten.
"Anyway, Gunther, as always I'm glad to see you. Please pass my regards to Brunei and kiss that cute moppet of yours for me. So, Annette, who's your companion?" Lulu asked.
The girl snapped to attention and barked, "This recruit's name is Private Anne Mantoue, Master Gunnery Sergeant." She then returned to a sharp parade rest position, despite the sea bag strapped to her back, and continued to stare straight ahead. Minna and Heidi giggled and the two lieutenants grinned. De Ventron exchanged an amused look with Schlosser. During her short observation at the barracks, de Ventron had discovered that she was full of the gung-ho spirit and zeal of the new convert, was eager to please and cute as a puppy, despite her relatively large nose.
So, despite-or because of-her over-exuberant personality, de Ventron found herself liking Mantoue and was happy that she seemed to be adapting to her new circumstances. Still, she wondered what had made the girl leave a life of leisure in sunny Italy for the decidedly spartan military lifestyle of the USMC. So far, Mantoue had refused-politely, of course-to explain her motivations. Noah Wilson's discreet inquiries had shown that no one else in her platoon suspected her rather unusual upbringing either. Mantoue had taken her share of the shitty jobs thrown her way without complaint and with enthusiasm and diligence. Wilson confirmed that he had been planning to recommend her for consideration for an OCS slot and the basic school.
De Ventron added all this to the mental profile that she was making of the girl and liked what she saw. Still, there was the mystery of why such an obviously talented young woman had ended in Magdeburg and that intrigued her greatly. De Ventron hoped that living under the same roof would encourage Mantoue to loosen up, allowing her to get to the bottom of it.
Ursula Hoffman, one of their day maids, poked her head out of the kitchen to check on the commotion, which clarified de Ventron's next set of actions.
Ursula was the sixteen-year-old eldest child of the director of the Scout Sniping section of the new Marine Amphibious Reconnaissance School, created shortly after the Bornholm Island debacle. At her mother's bidding, she had entered domestic service, marking the time until she was old enough and had enough of a dowry to consider marriage. At least, that was what her parents planned. De Ventron suspected that Ursula was going to throw a big monkey wrench on said plans by marching straight into the recruiter's office and following her father's footsteps into the Corps. De Ventron was not looking forward to those particular fireworks.
"Ah… Ursula, good afternoon. Will you take Private Mantoue to our guest room and draw a hot bath for her? Thanks." Ursula smiled and threw a quick curtsy in her direction, then frowned curiously at their unexpected guest, who was still at parade rest. De Ventron realized that this girl and Mantoue had lots in common-Ursula dreamed of her first set of blues, too-and were close enough in age that maybe she could use her as a means to break through the young noblewoman's reserves.. Something to keep in mind, she decided.
"At ease, your-err, Private-Anne, go with her. After your bath, you can join us for dinner. Wear something comfortable, we are informal here at the Nunnery," De Ventron told her and was puzzled immediately by the double take and the frightened look that momentarily flashed across her face at the residence's nickname, although she quickly recovered and tried to hide it.
De Ventron then got to watch, with amusement, Mantoue's internal struggle to remain in her tough gung ho persona. But even if the girl was this century's version of Chesty Puller and Manila John Basilone rolled into one and given a female form, there was enough desire to feel pampered. Especially after three months of grueling boot camp.
Finally, giving in with a sigh, Mantoue took a more relaxed stance and turned to follow the maid. Suddenly she stopped and turned with a quizzical frown. She hesitated for a moment before shyly asking, "The Nunnery, ma'am?"
O'Keefe answered for her. "Our fearless captain here almost became a holy sister, so, when we bought this house together, we decided that except for the occasional visitor and guests, no men were allowed in the premises. A certain lieutenant who will remain nameless- Marja -was heard to comment at the time that it would be like living in a nunnery. The name stuck." She concluded amid the giggles of the Hudson girls and the wide grins of Schlosser and the other women present-except for Braun, who discovered a new interest in her cards and turned a deep red. Mantoue nodded, looking relieved and turned to follow Hoffman up the stairs.
"Sara, would you mind taking the girls to the kitchen and see if Frau Weir has a snack for them? I'll talk to you later," De Ventron asked the up-time-born officer.
"Sure thing, ma'am," Colfax said. "Come on, kids. I think Mrs. Weir has some pastries left."
Grinning, de Ventron watched the girls dash to the kitchen ahead of the lieutenant, pursued by Puddles, who momentarily stopped by her side to collect a pat on her head.
O'Keefe sat upright as Braun turned her seat toward her, and Schlosser took Colfax's empty chair. De Ventron addressed her attentive audience. "Like you Americans say, here's the deal. We have another Rainaldi on our hands."
"Is she related to another churchman, Annette?" O'Keefe asked quietly.
"No, thank God-at least, not in the way that you are thinking-but it's worse from our standpoint, Lu. Her father is His Grace, Charles, Duke of Mantua, a duchy in northern Italy. Her sister is… or was supposed to, marry two of the heirs of the King of Poland. No, not at the same time, Gunther," she said, forestalling the obvious joke in the lawman's twisty mind.
"Darn," he exclaimed, disappointed.
"Shit, Annette. Not another runaway bride-not with the CoC ready to start a civil war here. Marja, where's Britt? She's the Yard Provost Marshal, and ought to be hearing this first hand," O'Keefe said, shaking her head.
"She's at the airfield, Lu. I'll brief her later. Woody Woodsill brought some documents for the Prime Minister and she went there to arrange for security," Schlosser answered.
"You mean more 'bootleg' flight instruction. Luckily, I think that Woody is sweet on her," Braun said with a grin.
Schlosser snorted. "Yeah, that too, Marja, and the poor kid could use a break from all the bombing practice lately. Anyway, Lu, with that bet of yours, I think you created a monster."
"Hey, don't blame me, Gunther. When I made the damn bet with Britt, I was expecting her to puke her brains out after the first few minutes in the air. How I was going to know that beneath those red curls of hers lived Amelia-freaking-Earhart?" she replied, defensively. "Anyway, back to the matter at hand-Annette?"
"Well, thank you for that non sequitur, Lu. Bottom line, mes amis , she is going to stay with us until a decision is made about what to do with her. The admiral is in Hamburg at the moment, so it will be at least next week before we can present her case to him in person. Friedrich ordered me to gather as much information as possible. Tomorrow, I'm speaking with Don Francisco Nasi to see what his organization has on her and her father.
"And in the meantime?" O'Keefe asked, frowning.
"My agents will be maintaining an unobtrusive watch over her around the clock, at least off naval premises, until the matter is resolved. The good news is that as far as we know, no one is going to send an assassin looking for her, like in Rainaldi's case," Schlosser said.
"Well, thank God for small favors. And I presume that the extra guards could be explained by the classified material that we occasionally bring here?" Braun said.
" Oui… that's exactly what I thought; officially she is being assigned to my office as a reward for her outstanding performance," de Ventron added.
"Is that part true or is it the cover story?" O'Keefe asked, curiously.
"If I hadn't discovered her this morning, she would have likely ended up as her platoon's honor graduate with a slot in OCS for sure. She's the real deal, and we were lucky to discover her before it got any further. Like Marja said, thank God for small favors."
"She looks like a very motivated young Marine. I doubt that she is going to see it that way," O'Keefe said thoughtfully. De Ventron nodded in agreement.
Adjutant's Office, First Marines
Marine Barracks, Magdeburg Navy Yard
1600 Hours local
Four days later, de Ventron looked up from the last piece of paperwork requiring her signature and took the opportunity to stretch her back. She gazed out the window in an attempt to calculate the hour but, gave it up due to the overcast sky and pulled out her new pocket watch instead. Almost quittingtime.
From the outer office she could hear the relentless clickety-clack of typewriters producing the endless reams of orders and reports that kept a rapidly-expanding service on an even keel. During her studies at the basic school, she had read about a military man of the future who had commented that an army marched on his stomach. As the battalion and regimental adjutant, de Ventron felt qualified to debate that. From her standpoint, the Corps sailed happily on a sea of paper, most of which required her signature or initials. She had always thought that all bureaucrats were obsessed with record keeping and, God knows, during her marriage she had done enough administrative chores on her husband's behalf to have seen her fair share. However, that was nothing in comparison to what an expanding military machine generated.
De Ventron stood up to take a break and check on her people in the outer office. From her door she observed her busy clerks hard at work.
Seated at one of the desks, Mantoue worked laboriously at one of the typewriters under the patient supervision of her administrative NCOIC, Staff Sergeant Kimberly Chaffin. The girl seemed to be up to two-finger typing now, and to de Ventron's amusement looked like the poster picture of total concentration as she hunted for the keys, her tongue protruding slightly between her lips. She expected Chaffin to transition her to two-hand typing as soon as she mastered the basics. Overall, she seemed to be doing better with the machine than even de Ventron herself could and had integrated into the section operations seamlessly.
"She's a fast learner." Startled, de Ventron looked to her left to see Duke Hudson standing there offering her a fresh coffee mug. How does he dothat, she wondered, not for the first time envying his ability to pop up from nowhere. She hoped to be able to imitate him one of these days. She accepted the offered mug with muttered thanks and sipped it slowly, enjoying its aroma and warmth.
A hot brew on a chilly day was always much appreciated and she sighed contentedly. " Merci, Sergeant Major, as usual you are a lifesaver. But how did you know?" she asked, curiously.
"Trade secret, ma'am. A good NCO knows when his officer needs a break to help her keep her edge," he answered, smiling. In companionable silence, they continued to watch Mantoue's introduction to office equipment.
"Has she been more forthcoming, Captain?" he finally asked.
"I'm sorry to say no, Duke, despite all my attempts to entice her to talk. On the other hand, as you can see, she seems very keen on staying and pulling her weight. I couldn't get any additional information from the Nasi organization either, although I got to see their dossier on her father, including what future historians will say about him. Nothing rang a bell: he's a military man with a happy family, although his wife died in 1618 and most of his sons died young. Not too much there about Mantoue herself: it seems that she was destined for the convent life, always a handy place to stash spare daughters."
"You're too young to be such a cynic, ma'am."
"Like you guys say, having being there myself, 'I got the t-shirt,' so I know what I'm talking about-although Rainaldi explained to me that her situation was markedly different. I went into the convent with the idea that I had a real calling, but when my parents needed someone to take my late sister's place in the contracted betrothal, I was pulled out so fast that my head spun. On the other hand, when parents-well, fathers-in that part of the world sent their spare daughters away to a convent, it's a rather permanent solution and a way to avoid paying dowries. You've probably heard about Galileo's daughters? Both are cloistered nuns. And it explains why the poor girl almost fainted on me the first time she heard our house nickname."
Hudson looked down at her with a raised eyebrow and the obvious question in his eyes.
"Long story, Duke, but suffice it to say it makes me happy that I was born in Lorraine. However, Noah was right; she is good-very good-and, gosh, can she run! She led the office PT formation yesterday and had to slow down to let us catch up. I'll hate to lose her. She's exactly what we need in our officer candidates."
He snorted. "Yes, she kind of reminded me of a certain candidate that tended to forget her English and German when flustered and could only babble in French. Of course, the problem was that she seemed flustered all the time."
De Ventron felt her cheeks warm at the memories of her officer candidate days and tried to keep sipping her coffee nonchalantly, until she could no longer contain herself and blurted. " Mon Dieu, I hope I wasn't that bad, Sergeant Major."
"Nope; you actually were pretty good, especially after you learned to keep that temper of yours in check. But I think that Mantoue over there has you beat in that department," he told her, grinning.
"Granted, she remained as cool as a cucumber despite my best efforts to ruffle her feathers for information-but don't knock my temper. At times, it was the only thing that kept me sane after I lost everything I held dear. Heck, it even got me here to Magdeburg and the Corps," she replied, somewhat defensively.
"I thought that was your sister-in-law's doing?" he replied.
"Well, the witch certainly did encourage me. But I always thought that the real reason my brother-in-law asked me to come here as his emissary to seek the emperor's help was a way to get me out of Brussels. He was probably afraid that I might end up murdering the little bitch if she reminded me one more time of my dowager status in that whiny voice of hers. Umm… perhaps I ought to send them a thank-you note one of these days."
Hudson laughed. "I think hell will freeze over before I see that happen."
"Back to the business at hand, I think that if Mantoue doesn't make up her mind, come clean and tell us what made her flee to the USE, the admiral may end up making the decision for her, and I doubt that is going to go in her favor. You've probably heard about Anne Jefferson's 'special' student in Amsterdam. I doubt he'd like to have a similar headache here-not with everything else going on right now."
"Who could fail to hear about it, ma'am? It was all over the papers. But I agree with you, that particular brand of headache is one that nobody needs at this moment, especially when we are trying to steer clear of the whole political mess. But I also heard a different side of the coin from a letter that Lulu's friend, Beulah MacDonald, sent her. Do you know that since Anne's anatomy class, the applications from women to the medical school have skyrocketed? Some have even started to talk seriously about the possibility of building a medical school just for women. So having Mantoue joining us is not necessarily a bad thing."
"I'm surprised that you have such progressive ideas about us nobles, mon ami. I presume that this means that you have finally forgiven Rainaldi, Oui?"
"Of course. My main issue with her was that she didn't trust us enough to give us a heads-up about her situation, and we lost one of ours because of that. Of course, given her history with her uncle and the way that she joined us, I can understand her lack-of-trust issues. Since then, however, she's worked hard to become a true asset to the service; and I'm looking forward to the time when she will become our first JAG officer." Hudson stopped, seemingly to collect his thoughts
"I've been blessed with four daughters, one natural and three adopted. All are very smart with even the littlest ones having the potential of becoming remarkable individuals. I want Kathee, Minna and Heidi to have as many opportunities to develop their god-given talents as my oldest daughter Katherine, who was left behind, or my sons, regardless of their perspective of being the wrong sex in the wrong century. If Rainaldi, Mantoue and even that crazy princess in Amsterdam manages to succeed, they will pave the way for others to follow-the same way that you, Strausswirt, and even that nut Braun have done here for the women in the naval services."
De Ventron nodded in agreement and, for a moment, wondered what her daughter's fate would have been like if she had lived. So many possibilities… But one thing was sure, she would have made damn sure that Jeanne was free to follow her heart's desire, regardless of the obstacles. As usual, thoughts of what could have been darkened her spirit until his next words caught her attention.
"One more thing, ma'am-and don't let this go to your head. But Kathee told me last week that when she grows up, she wants to be like you. So you must be doing something right. Keep it up."
Despite herself, de Ventron grinned, her mood instantly lightened. She allowed herself to consider that perhaps there were other little girls- and not so little ones, she thought, catching Mantoue's furtive looks in her direction with something akin to awe before diving back into her typing lesson-who needed someone like her to blow their way open and deal with obstacles, just like Marines are supposed to do. Something to give more serious thought, de Ventron decided as she continued to slowly sip her coffee.
En route to the Nunnery
City of Magdeburg, USE
1830 hours local
Ignoring the potholes, de Ventron and her companions picked their way carefully through the obstacles in the road, thankful for their utility trousers and boots. Even with all the time since the burning and sacking of '31, the roads around the yard remained very much a work in progress. She hoped that the city management would extend the current paving campaign to them soon, but, unless the navy decided to foot the bill, was not planning to hold her breath. However, it did make her remember fondly her visits to Grantville.
She and Chaffin had closed the shop at 1730 hours and given the heads up to the incoming staff duty officer when they signed out. By coincidence this was Colfax, who cut a striking figure in her full dress blues and duty officer sash, complete with Mameluke sword. The young up-timer woman promised her in earnest-and with a straight face-that she would hold the fort-or at least the office coffee pot-safe until relieved in the morning with the last drop of her and the Staff Duty NCO's blood. A notion shared neither by the NCO in question, Staff Sergeant Haas, nor his runner, Private Schlitz, as shown by the severe glance he gave Colfax's back. So when de Ventron finally took her leave, Mantoue and Chaffin in tow, she did so thinking that American humor, like coffee, was an acquired taste.
Hudson had been walking home with them for the last few days to unobtrusively augment their escort. The house that he shared with Claire, an executive assistant to outgoing Prime Minister Michael Stearns, and their four children was close enough to the Nunnery for his actions not to attract undue attention. However, today his two oldest children were present: fifteen-year-old son Stoffel and thirteen-year-old Kathee. Both were trained musicians and junior members of the Marine Band, and were scheduled to play at evening colors, forcing him to stay behind to walk them home. She bid goodbye to the Hudson's and to Chaffin, who also stayed behind to go see her husband, Noah Wilson. Wilson was off that night. The young couple wanted to start a family but his busy schedule forced them to make use of any available opportunity for quality alone time. Instead, de Ventron picked up her NCIS provided escort, Special Agent Annelise Schuhmacher and, with Mantoue, started home.
De Ventron had also received a cryptic message from Schlosser via Schuhmacher, advising her to take her time on the walk on the way to the nunnery, no further explanation added. De Ventron was very familiar with his penchant for cloak-and-dagger operations, having been an unwilling participant in more than one, and was not exactly reassured. With Schlosser playing his cards so close to his chest, de Ventron felt as if she were carrying a target pinned to the middle of her back. But there was only so much she could do to slow their travel without being too conspicuous and, as they got closer to the Nunnery, her anxiety levels started to increase,
When the expected threat finally materialized in the form of eight large men barring their way, she was almost faint with relief. As instructed and drilled, Mantoue mirrored Schuhmacher's actions by taking a sidestep away from de Ventron to clear her line of fire and snapped open the flap of her holstered fake sidearm as she remained in her pretend guard role. Of course, she was also supposed to run away if the balloon truly did go up, with the two other women covering her escape.
As she snapped open her own holster after letting the satchel drop to the ground, de Ventron analyzed the situation. Their opponents' lack of modern firearms was compensated by their larger numbers, flintlock pistols and their long blades, which still rested in their scabbards, or so it seemed. They had also chosen their ground well, and their timing. The street was relatively quiet at this hour with most residents inside; military personnel and even the city guard were nowhere in sight, and most of the few street people around wisely melted away from the confrontation. It seemed that all the advantage was theirs.
Like most men of the times, when first confronted by armed women with unknown weaponry, they had hesitated, creating an impasse with neither group apparently having the upper hand. De Ventron noticed that their travel-worn clothing was of superior quality and Italian style, and the manner they had blocked her way, together with their discipline, indicated soldiers-probably mercenaries rather than brigands. This was good, as it decreased the chances of hostilities starting by mistake. Their leader, a distinguished older gentleman who simply yelled "professional fighter" stepped forward and with a courtly bow addressed her in serviceable but accented German.
"Good day, Signora, I am Capitano Giuseppe Falaguerra and I have the privilege of being in the employ of His Grace, Charles, Duke di Mantova. " Despite his apparent courtesy, de Ventron felt that Falaguerra did not think too much about her, her escorts and probably women in the USE in general. Offense being the best defense, she decided to turn his prejudice against him and take the initiative away by playing to his misconceptions. He expects an airhead, let's give him one, she thought before starting a rapid delivery.
" Monsieur Falaguerra, you seem like a new arrival to our fair city, and I suppose you are lost and looking for directions. Don't worry, tourists ask me for those all the time-it's the uniform you know. Well, I recommend that you visit downtown and watch the change of the guard at the imperial palace. I've been told that is quite impressive. You must also find the time to visit our new opera house. I think that they have a Brillo revival showing that's appropriate for children of all ages. If you are looking for a bite to eat instead, I suggest the Eagle, Globe and Anchor kneipe. Their mutton stew is to die for. The proprietors are the parents of a good friend of mine and if you give them my name, they will set you up with a good table-"
The startled Italian couldn't take it anymore and roared. " Basta, Signora. Stop this babbling at once. Don't waste my time or tax my patience. I have from good sources that you know the whereabouts of Her Grace, Donna Anne di Gonzague di Mantova, our ruler's daughter. I demand that you provide that information at once, so she can be released from her captivity. Do so now and you may be spared, unnatural woman."
De Ventron was momentarily relieved that the man has failed to recognize Mantoue, despite being mere steps away. Of course, with the stern expression in her face, military haircut, utilities and a cover placed low over her eyes, she doubted that even the girl's own mother would recognize her. She couldn't fail to notice and appreciate that Mantoue was keeping her mouth shut and sticking to the plan of not attracting undue interest. Still, de Ventron's first priority remained to keep their attention away from Mantoue.
She stood as tall as she could and looked at Falaguerra, straight into his cold eyes. "It's captain to you! Captaine Anne-Charlotte-Marguerite de Ventron de Faucogney, vicomtesse-douariere de Cornimont and an officer in the armed forces of the United States of Europe by the Grace of God and the Constitution. I serve his Imperial Majesty, Gustavus Adolphus and.. . I. Don't. Talk. To. Dogs." She growled in a mixture of her most aristocratic manner, best court French and parade ground voice. As she'd intended, the Italian mercenary and his men bristled at the deliberate slur, but their attention was now completely on her. She could also see some uneasiness on their part. She might not be a duchess like Mantoue, but neither was she a CoC commoner like they had first assumed. She hoped that the knowledge would create some hesitancy and buy her time.
But where is the goddam cavalry, she wondered, worried, but did not allow those concerns to be reflected on her face.
Falaguerra was the first one to react, moving forward with a scowl as he pulled his sword partly out of the scabbard in an aggressive gesture. De Ventron had her service side arm out in a two-handed grip and aimed at his forehead before she could even think about it. Schuhmacher, and to her immense distress, Mantoue instantly followed her cue with weapons drawn and aimed-a real one in Schuhmacher's case.
She wished that she had the time to order Mantoue to run, but one glance at her determined face and she recognized a kindred spirit. De Ventron knew that the girl-like any good Marine-would never abandon comrades in jeopardy. Besides, such an order would bring attention to the young woman, so she kept quiet.
Putting her fears for the younger woman aside, de Ventron concentrated. Considered a crack shot, she knew that as far as anyone was concerned, the mercenary officer and his henchmen were already dead. She calmly assigned the order in which she would dispatch her human targets, confident that Schuhmacher, who was as good with pistol as she was, had already made the same calculation. Her finger slowly started to tighten on the trigger as she waited for his sword to clear his scabbard before opening fire.
Suddenly, a small rotund man forced his way from behind the men, shouting in a mixture of Italian and French before interposing himself between de Ventron and Falaguerra. Astonished, she could only gape at him.
" Basta! Stop this, for the love of God. There is no need to shed any blood. Giuseppe, stop this nonsense at once. His Grace would not like this. Forgive our manners, Signora… scusi, Capitano."
Reluctantly, Falaguerra slid his sword back into its scabbard and took a step back. In response, de Ventron and Schuhmacher lowered their weapons, but continued to maintain extended grips while aiming at the ground. Seconds later, Mantoue holstered her weapon, and, without any warning whatsoever, stepped forward to embrace the short man. "Padre Benito, it's me, Anne."
A huge grin split his face. "My child, I'm so glad to finally found you. We thought that you were held captive against your will-or worse." He was almost at the point of tears, and moved his cloak aside to reveal the garments of a Capuchin priest.
De Ventron's mouth dropped open at this and she exchanged a worried glance with Schuhmacher. Oh, merde, now what. She asked, "Private Mantoue, would you care to explain what's going on, please?"
"Ma'am, this is my confessor, Father Benito Alberti. I've known him since I was a child."
De Ventron could only nod, but took perverse pleasure in seeing the same expression on Falaguerra's face.
"My child, you look, er, well," Alberti said diplomatically as he took a good look at his former charge for the first time, holding her at arms' length. De Ventron struggled to keep a straight face as the poor priest gaped at the slim, sun-tanned, and well-toned woman in strange clothing.
"Thank you, Father. Do you remember what I told you? I finally found my place and I'm at peace," Mantoue told him with a satisfied smile.
"This is good, child, but it's so far from home. His Grace misses you so terribly."
"My lady, I have orders from his Grace to escort you back to Italy as soon as possible," Falaguerra interrupted.
Mantoue looked at him with a jaundiced eye. "I'm sorry to have to disappoint you, Captain, but as you can see by my uniform, I have a prior commitment."
"Your Grace, I must insist," Falaguerra said, starting to advance toward her.
De Ventron stepped in front of him. "Private Mantoue has stated that she doesn't want to go with you, Monsieur. I suggest that you back up. It is time for our superiors to deal with this situation.".
"Madame, I can't see how you can stop me," he said, cavalierly discounting her threat and ignoring one of the "street people" who suddenly jumped to his feet.
At least until he spoke.
" Herr Falaguerra, I suggest that you do what she says. You really don't want her mad at you," Schlosser said loudly, letting his disguise fall away. The gold badge pinned to his lapel shined like a star, and he held a double-barreled shotgun.
"I'm Imperial Special Agent Schlosser, Naval Criminal Investigative Service. I urge you to follow the advice of the good captain. There are villages that stand empty on account of her wrath."
De Ventron tried not to wince or roll her eyes at his boast. It had only happened once, in a small hamlet full of ignorant fools that thought that she could curse them due to her family relation to the Maid of Orleans on her mother's side. Their real danger had been how close she came to putting all of them to the sword-she hated witch burners. Her so-called friends seemed to enjoy embellishing the tale with every retelling.
Falaguerra stared at her, then Schlosser. De Ventron knew that the mercenary saw a street fighter and one not to be trifled with. But by the same token neither was Falaguerra a man to be trifled with. And he was not alone.
" Signore Schlosser, how can one man stop us?" he mocked him. He made a gesture and several of his men aimed their flintlocks at the NCIS Director.
Schlosser smiled mildly. "But, Capitano, I never said that I was alone. Leiss!"
Schuhmacher's partner stepped away from his hiding place in a nearby doorway to let out two long blasts from his police issue whistle. The remaining "street people" let their disguises fall away and, badges and service weapons in hand, moved forward. From a street corner behind the Duke's men, a reinforced squad of the city guards double-timed into position before stopping, turning and grounding their halberds in their direction, closing the street behind them. From the opposite direction, a mixed horse troop of Marine MPs and masters-at-arms rode into position with weapons drawn and formed a line abreast, closing the street in front of them.
His point made, Schlosser turned towards Falaguerra. " Capitano, gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to my better half, Special Agent Spitzer," he said, indicating the pretty but unsmiling young blonde woman who now stood at his side, shotgun at the ready. "She and these other good folks are going to escort you to a place where you can rest, eat and wait until you can make your case to my admiral tomorrow." He stopped and grinned in a truly frightening manner. "Let me warn you, we were just blessed with the arrival of a beautiful baby girl, our first, and we are not getting enough sleep. So far you have not violated any laws that we can't ignore, but don't get on her bad side. It could be extremely hazardous to your health."
Falaguerra nearly argued, but took one look at Spitzer and threw his hands in the air, exasperated, and walked away, trailed by his men. A smug Spitzer and her NCIS detail followed, with the Marine troop in close attendance.
De Ventron closed her eyes momentarily and exhaled slowly, putting her fury back in its mental cage. Smiling, she turned to greet Schlosser.
"I'm sorry, Annette for cutting it so close, but we didn't know who the good father was, and waited to see what he was going to do," he apologized.
"No problem, Gunther, you and Britt's 'cavalry' got here in the nick of time, and you even brought along the city guard. Now, that's impressive." The less-than-harmonious relationship between NCIS and the guard was well-known throughout the city and sort of an inside joke in law enforcement. He acknowledged the compliment with a nod, grinning, and turned with her to watch Mantoue. She was having a very spirited discussion in fast Italian with her priest.
"They do tend to move their arms like windmills around a lot when they talk, ja?" he observed.
" Oui. Remember the time that Angelina had a difference of opinion with her husband about diaper changing?" she replied, grinning.
"How can I forget it? My sweet Brunei reminded me that if I ever wanted to be allowed back in our bed after our baby's arrival, I needed to understand that diaper duty is everyone's responsibility," he said smiling. "What do you think is going over there?"
"Meeting of the minds and hopefully some clarity-and here it comes."
Mantoue marched towards her, trailed by Father Benito. "Ma'am, I need your help. I want to stay," she blurted out.
De Ventron looked at her young, earnest face and remembered the girl that could have fled and did not, and the baby girl that would never grow up. How could a mother say no to such a request?
Headquarters, USE Navy
Magdeburg Navy Yard, City of Magdeburg
1400 hours, the next day
De Ventron looked around and tried to appear calm as she sat beside a very nervous Mantoue at the long table in the conference room. The powers that be, in the form of Senior Chief Petty Officer Dietrich Schwanhausser, the admiral's chief yeoman, having decreed that with the large amount of people involved or interested in her case, his office was just too small. She was already missing the cozy space, and with the bigger room she'd half-seriously considered the possibility of selling tickets for the event. It was not like the Corps couldn't use the funds.
Von Brockenholz sat on the girl's other side. Behind them in chairs against the wall, sat Hudson and Schlosser. De Ventron had planned it that way to show Simpson that the Marine and NCIS senior leaders stood as one in her support. That was one of the many decisions that had been taken during the impromptu conclave that had been summoned the night before after Mantoue came clean and finally told her whole story.
Mantoue, like many others around the continent with the means and resources to do so, had read the few scraps of what future historians had said about her life. Like many, she didn't like what she saw and, that was when the wings of the butterfly started to flap like mad. Her Grace, like half the women in Europe, had found the odyssey of the former Austro-Hungarian Archduchess Maria Anna toward love and a queen's crown in the Netherlands as romantic as a fairy tale. She also found her travails inspiring and the idea that perhaps a different path was possible for her was born.
The news in the local press, although couched in derogatory terms, couldn't hide the freedom and influence that women were gaining in the new USE. The final encouragement to implement the plan that had formed in her mind came indirectly from an unexpected source. Her father, Prince Charles, who also had access to her biography, decided that perhaps an early marriage was the way to prevent some of the future events. She found some of the proposed candidates unsuitable and others frankly disgusting and presented a counterproposal of her own.
Strangely, her father found her idea of entering convent life early wholly acceptable, so Mantoue, under the guise of checking convents and with the help of a pair of loyal servitors who had cared for her since her mother's passing, made a beeline for the USE instead. Ironically, that was successfully accomplished by stealing a page from her future history and donning the disguise of the young son of her pretended parents. Once in Magdeburg, Mantoue had laid low to sample the smorgasbord of opportunities now open to her.
But, once more the butterfly flapped her wings, and the deteriorating political situation helped her decide to try her luck in the apolitical Corps. Her servants, stashed in a local inn, now waited for her to finish boot camp.
No one had to tell de Ventron that they were in way over their heads. Happily, in her circle of friends, she found the necessary expertise to help her cope with this thorny challenge. Claire Hudson, technically only the Prime Minister's office assistant, had gained a practical knowledge of the USE political scene through her exposure to its operations. It was amazing what you could overhear and learn if people considered you no more important than the furniture around them. Her housemate Lulu O'Keefe had a strong common sense developed during her time in the up-time Marine Corps and her tenure as general manager of O'Keefe Plumbing and Heating. Angelina Rainaldi, although just a paralegal, had a deep understanding of both civilian law and the UCMJ.
After Mantoue retold her story to all, the group had brainstormed most of the night. De Ventron hoped that their preparations would serve them well today.
Across the table, Captain Falaguerra, together with one of his lieutenants and a very reluctant Father Benito, sat ready to make the duke's case. Falaguerra seemed uncomfortable, perhaps because behind him sat Brunei Spitzer and Annalise Schuhmacher staring daggers at his back. He was thus surrounded by adversaries. If someone asked, de Ventron was ready to swear that this particular seating arrangement was not of her or Schlosser's doing-and that was the story that she planned to stick with.
Since the duke's side had an ecclesiastical advisor-a canon lawyer-it was decided that help from a higher source would be handy. Said help was being provided by Lieutenant Commander Jose Manuel de Alvarado, S.J., the Corps Catholic Chaplain, sitting beside her. The good padre was widely regarded as the Cardinal Protector's eyes in the naval service. After being introduced, Father Benito had been unable to keep his eyes from him for a long time. De Ventron suspected that it was because in his combat boots and utilities, he looked just like any other Marine in the room, set apart only by the silver cross in his left collar and did not look at all like your typical Jesuit. Of course there was a reason for that; as the hidalgo had once served his king as an officer in El Tercio de Infanteria de Marina, the Spanish Marine Corps, before discovering his calling, and still looked very much like the warrior he once was. Falaguerra, knowing his type well, couldn't keep his eyes away from him either.
So, this unusual and very uncomfortable gathering had been waiting for Simpson's arrival for the best part of an hour past the announced time. Falaguerra didn't look too happy with the wait, and de Ventron tried to tell herself that she was not nervous as she glanced at the wall clock for the umpteenth time.
The door opened and everyone looked up to see an unusually hesitant Francisco Nasi enter the room and stop, looking back at everyone goggle-eyed before murmuring a greeting and quickly finding a seat in one of the chairs against the back wall. De Ventron found that very interesting, as his presence as an observer implied that the Prime Minister was showing enough interest in Mantoue's case to send his chief spook. She wondered if that was good or bad as they exchanged polite nods with each other. Then the door opened once again and Senior Chief Schwanhausser took stock of the occupants and counted heads before popping out again. De Ventron, like the rest of the naval people present, moved her chair back and waited until the door opened once again.
" Attention on deck."
At Hudson's roared command, she and the rest sprang to their feet, followed belatedly by Falaguerra, his lieutenant, Nasi and Father Benito as the admiral entered the room. He was followed in by Commander Kratman, the navy JAG, Lieutenant Chomse, his flag lieutenant, and was trailed by the senior chief, who closed the door behind them. Simpson sat at the head of the table, Kratman and Chomse behind him. Schwanhausser sat at a smaller table and made preparations to take notes.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please sit down," Simpson said with a stern expression. "I must apologize for the delay. I was waiting for the arrival of another party to this conference. He seems to be delayed, so I've decided that we can get the preliminaries out of the way while we wait. Colonel von Brockenholz, I read your report. Do you have anything else to add, sir?"
The Marine stood up, giving Mantoue a reassuring grin. "Admiral, I stand by the report prepared by my adjutant. Private Mantoue's performance so far had been outstanding and shows great promise. As far as the Corps is concerned, her enlistment is valid. We urge you to allow her to remain in our ranks, sir."
"Thank you, Colonel. I have been so advised by Commander Kratman, who concurs with the Corps assessment of the legality of Private Mantoue's enlistment." The admiral then turned towards the corner where Nasi was trying hard to remain inconspicuous. "Don Francisco, although your presence in these proceedings is somewhat of a surprise to me, as usual, you are welcome. Does His Majesty or the Prime Minister have anything to add to these deliberations?"
Following von Brockenholz's example, the spymaster also stood. "Admiral Simpson, I'm here as an impartial observer, and I have not received any instructions concerning the matter in discussion."
Simpson's stern expression softened to a small grin. "Straight and to the point. Thank you, Francisco. I just wish that you could set the example for some of my officers to emulate." Nasi grinned and gave him a graceful nod in return.
"Captain Falaguerra, your turn, sir."
The Italian mercenary reluctantly came to his feet. " Signore.. . s'cusi, Admiral, I understand that by your laws what Her Grace did was quite legal. The fact is, given what I've seen so far, I'm ready to admit that maybe Her Grace is where she is supposed to be. However, by our laws, she still a minor and more importantly, those laws don't supersede the obligations that Her Grace has to her family. I'm sure that by now you know her family history."
Simpson nodded once.
" Bene. I feel that any precipitous decision made here will be detrimental to the good relations between our two countries. This is a connection that could become critical, given the current state of affairs between His Holiness and the Spanish Crown in the Italian peninsula."
De Ventron felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. They had hoped, perhaps naively, that no one would drop the political argument bomb this early because, despite many hours of discussion, no one had been able to find a good counter argument for this particular issue.
During Falaguerra's statement, one of the Admiral's yeomen had come into the conference room and murmured something in the ear of the Senior Chief. Schwanhausser had sent her back out immediately and quickly penned a note that he passed to Chomse, who read it and passed it forward to Simpson.
The admiral glanced at it, nodded and with a look of satisfaction and relief stood up as Chomse stepped out of the room. "Ladies and gentlemen, the last party in this conference has arrived. Attention on deck."
Bewildered, de Ventron sprang to her feet like the rest. Through the corner of her eye she saw a short, corpulent man dressed in fine clothing and with a very familiar nose enter the room, followed by the flag lieutenant. Mantoue, who so far had remained as quiet as a mouse, blanched; and with a strangled voice murmured to her in French. " MonDieu… it's my father!"
Her comment, in the silence of the room, sounded as loud as a shot and immediately attracted the duke's attention. With bulging eyes he stared at her for a seemingly long time until, with a voice more accustomed to the battlefield than a conference room, he asked "Is that you, Daughter?"
Over Mantoue's head, de Ventron exchanged a pained look with von Brockenholz.
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, USE Navy
Magdeburg Navy Yard, City of Magdeburg
1500 hours local
After brief but very strained pleasantries, Mantoue had been sent to the admiral's office to wait for his decision. Von Brockenholz had ordered de Ventron to escort and wait with her there. Since their arrival, the girl had stood staring tearfully out of the window that faced the Marine side of the yard and refused the refreshments offered by his yeoman. De Ventron quietly kept her company, sipping her coffee and alternating between watching the clock and wishing that she knew what to say to soothe her fears. But, like Mantoue, she suspected that the girl's great adventure was at an end.
The door to the admiral's outer office opened once again and de Ventron waited for Yeoman Metzger's head to pop in and ask if they needed anything else. Again. It was getting on her nerves, this constant attention.
Instead of the yeoman, His Grace, Charles, Duke of Mantoue strolled in. De Ventron quickly put her coffee mug down and sprang to attention. Curious, the Duke looked at her, and she bowed her head, clicking her heels.
Returning her bow, he chuckled. "Funny. Since I arrived, I have not seen any woman curtsy to me. I don't know if I like that, but I think that if my Catherine was still alive, she would have found the whole thing terribly amusing. It's a damn shame that she is missing all this, although I suspect that she may be having that laugh at my expense up in heaven. And I was almost sure that I was about to see her again when I got into that monstrous thing that flew me here."
"Your Grace, I'm sure that you have a lot to discuss with your daughter. So, if you will excuse me, I will wait outside," de Ventron said.
The distressed look on the girl's face and the duke's raised hand brought her to an abrupt stop. " Madame de Cornimont… excuse me, Capitaine de Ventron. I'm sure that Anne would prefer for you to stay and so do I. The matters that we have to discuss will be part of the public record soon enough. But first allow me to present my very belated condolences for the loss of your husband. I knew his father and if he was half the man that he was, then I can only imagine how devastating his death was for you."
"Your Grace is too kind," she replied, bowing her head once again with suddenly moist eyes.
"Nonsense. Although I'm loyal to the French crown, I have to admit that I admire the way you found to get back at the king's chief minister, the good cardinal," he said, indicating her uniform.
Despite the sudden pain of her memories, de Ventron smiled and discovered that she liked him as much as his daughter.
"But where are my manners? Please sit down, Captain," he said, and sat in one of the chairs in front of the admiral's desk. "Anne, come here and let me look at you."
Shyly, Mantoue moved away from the window where she had been trying her best to blend in with the background and stood in front of him, at first timidly but then straightening her back. She returned his gaze with fearless eyes. The duke nodded approvingly at what he saw in them, and tilted his head to leisurely examine her from the severe haircut and neatly-ironed camouflaged utilities to her highly-shined boots. De Ventron wondered if he would ever believe that his daughter had prepared the uniform expertly all by herself, politely refusing the help offered by her new friend Ursula.
"Well, at least it's not a nun's habit, so maybe we still have the possibilities of more grandchildren in our future. Anne, sit down please." He waited until Mantoue found her seat, then continued with a sly grin. "Today has been an interesting day; and not only because-in the immortal words of my pilot-'once more we have cheated death.' Any day that you see a Jesuit and a Capuchin agreeing on anything is indeed a special one, and I'm sure that an angel gets his wings somewhere. On top of that, it's not every day that you see the spymaster of a great nation pulling for a lowly recruit."
"Excuse me, Your Grace, but Don Francisco Nasi actually said something?" de Ventron blurted out in surprise.
The duke grinned. "Indeed he did and, by the reaction in the room, not unlike yours by the way, the man doesn't seem to have the custom of saying too much. I now understand his reputation."
Intrigued, de Ventron wanted to ask him what Nasi said, but the Duke's attention was back on his daughter. "It's ironic that of all my children, you are the one that takes more after me-to your lady mother's dismay when she was still alive. I suppose that I ought not to be surprised that you did this; going willingly into a convent did not seem like you at all. So tell me, Daughter, how do you think that I ought to resolve this? Because technically, I'm not even supposed to be in a country currently fighting France."
Mantoue nervously moistened her lips before replying. "Father, I can't presume to tell you what to do. However, I need to follow my conscience and must definitely don't want to follow the path of that other future me."
"Anne, do you think that I like knowing that your sister Maria's children are not going to grow up, or that you are going to have a loveless marriage before ending up in a convent after all? Whatever you think about me, I hope that you never doubted my love for you."
Eyes shining, Mantoue stood up and quickly move to kneel before her father and grasp his hands. "Father, your love has never been in question, but I must seek my own path. After all, I'm my father's daughter."
The duke smiled at the pride in her statement and bent forward to kiss her on the forehead before raising her to her feet. "Yes, you are, and in this new world I suppose that I must make allowances for this strange path that you have chosen, but I confess that I'm afraid for you."
De Ventron felt her mouth drop open, but her hopes rose as she watched Mantoue smile tentatively. "Father, does this mean that you are going to let me stay? But how-what made you change your mind?"
"Anne, during my trip here, after I reassured myself that the blasted contraption was not going to fall from the sky and send me to meet your mother before my time, I had a long opportunity to think as I watched the world pass underneath me. It's so beautiful, Daughter, from the air. No frontiers, no death nor pestilence seen from above, just God's creation in all its wonderful glory. I admit that I started with all the intention in the world to drag you back to Mantua, by force if I had to: but I started to contemplate other possibilities for you, for your siblings and me, and then we landed." He stopped and shook his head, grinning.
"Your Admiral is not a subtle man. He made the arrangements for me to fly here despite my known support for the French crown. When I arrived at your airfield, I was met by a carriage and mounted escort under a very polite but very efficient young officer, I think that Strausswirt was the lieutenant's name, and every trooper in her gendarmerie escort down to the carriage driver and footman, every one
… was a young women. The remarkable fact was that on our way here, I saw nary a raised eyebrow; everyone acted like this was a normal occurrence.
"I don't expect that such a thing will become Mantua's custom anytime soon, or even in our lifetimes, but it seems that's the way that the world is moving. Perhaps it will be handy for someone in the family to be well-versed in such things. And let's not forget that with the current Spanish adventures in the Italies and against the Holy Father, the enemy of my enemy becomes my friend."
With a happy shout, Mantoue jumped in her father's lap. For a moment de Ventron did not see a Marine recruit and a startled ruler, but a father hugging his beloved daughter hard, not minding the tears that ran down her face.
"There, there, little one. I was assured that Classiarii-I mean Marines-were made of sterner stuff, so no blubbering, you hear?" he ordered through his own tears.
Mantoue, wiping her face with her hand, stood up proudly in front of her father.
"I was also told that your initial training is almost over, but some kind of final test called the crucible still lies ahead. Are you willing to finish without any of the resources that your birthright entitles you to?"
"Father, I have made my way so far on my own merits and the only title that I have sought or aspire to is United States Marine," she replied with grim determination.
"I see. I think that Capitano Falaguerra is correct, you Marines are as stubborn as the old religious fighting orders and probably as bad as Jesuits. You will make a fine addition to their ranks, my child," he said, smiling before turning serious. "Our ancestors led armies and ruled empires, and now I see that in your veins flows the martial blood of our family. So hear me well and obey: You will complete your training and any other that your superiors deem necessary for you to bring credit to the family name. Swear it on your honor."
"I swear that by God's grace and my sacred honor, I will bring credit to our family," she replied without any hesitation. But then she tilted her head, puzzled. "This means that your idea of the early marriage is out, Father?"
The duke chuckled. "Now, you are acting just like your late mother. Yes, Anne, is off for now. Besides, Don Francisco told me that a young officer with the proper social qualifications and posted to an imperial capital will have great opportunities to, in his words, 'network' with similarly qualified young people of the opposite sex. The rest is in the good Lord's hands. However, Anne, do me a favor and let your hair grow-for the sake of your mother's beloved memory?"
With another happy shout, Mantoue once again landed on the duke's lap and hugged him tightly.
De Ventron, smiling happily, took the opportunity to leave the office. Her departure went unnoticed.
ImperialPalace, City of Magdeburg
United States of Europe
Five months later, in the late afternoon.
The high collar of her dress blues, together with the tight fit of her Sam Browne belt were uncomfortable and, as usual, a reminder of the leather stocks that in the future that would never be, had given Marines their most enduring nickname. It also made de Ventron think fondly of her very comfortable utilities and how long would it be before she could get back into them.
Looking at the scene in front of her eyes, though, she decided that the temporary discomfort was acceptable and much welcome. Their numbers were greatly diminished from those that had started their studies four months earlier. It was the nature of the beast and the price to pay for high standards. Still, the newly commissioned officers of the basic school class 035-03 had lots to celebrate with their family and friends. Only two of the original six women made it to the finish line.
It gave her a special pride to know that the women had been number one and two in overall class standing. If they had been men, they would have been shoe-ins for the coveted troop command slots. Still, their success advanced the cause for all women in general, and perhaps one day, probably not in her lifetime but maybe in the Hudson girls' lifetimes, that too would come to pass.
Meanwhile, she enjoyed the look of total contentment on the face of Her Grace Second Lieutenant Anne de Gonzague de Mantoue, USMC. As she, the young prince Oginskis, and her father Duke Charles-surrounded by more relatives and noble retainers than she could shake a stick at-admired the Toledo steel blade of the Mameluke sword presented to her on behalf of her other siblings. After Mantoue's frail sister Benedicte and Father Benito pinned on her gold bars, de Ventron had given kudos to the duke and his family for risking more air travel to see Mantoue graduate. With his daughter a solid number two in her class standing, His Grace and her family could be justifiably proud of her. Looking on beside them stood Captain Falaguerra, the new head of the Duchess' bodyguard in Magdeburg. The jury was still out as to whether his new posting was a promotion or a punishment.
The number one graduate, class valedictorian, and a surprise for many, Lieutenant Angelina Rainaldi stood proudly with her naval officer husband, members of her "other family" in the JAG office, and Gunther and Brunei Schlosser and their child. Rainaldi's daughter, Charlie, was completely fascinated with her mother's butter bars as she rested in her arms. De Ventron smiled at the homey scene.
Mantoue's identity had remained sort of a secret until today, and it had been necessary to provide the young duchess with a battle buddy and a roommate that was already aware of her real persona and background. Like many, de Ventron had been surprised when the Sergeant Major pushed forward Rainaldi's name for consideration. But during the basic school, she had demonstrated an inner strength tougher than Toledo steel. Now, it seemed that too had been another of Hudson's leap of faith moments.
"Penny for your thoughts, Captain."
De Ventron almost jumped out of her skin at the unexpected comment and frowned at "the legend" himself, resplendent in his dress blues with full medals as he stood beside her. "Sergeant Major, one of these days you are going to give me a heart attack," she protested.
He grinned down at her. "Captain, you're too young to worry about that. Besides, I've got good news for you."
She raised her eyebrow in query and disbelief, making him chuckle.
"I just saw Noah Wilson back at the barracks leading his new recruit platoon in an impromptu serenade to his wife. They were singing-very off-key I might add-a lullaby, and Kimberly Ann was beaming with happiness. So I think that we can assume that the rabbit croaked. When did you and Gunther bet that it was going to be?"
"Summer, and a boy-I think that we have the first of the two conditions down pat," she said, ecstatic at the news.
"Darn, spring and a girl for me. Oh, well. So tell me, Annette, when are you going to do something about Friedrich?"
At first, de Ventron did not register his question, happy for the good fortune of her friend. But suddenly, it dawned on her and she turned to look at Hudson with mouth agape and a look of horror.
"How… how do you know?" she stammered.
"Easy. You two make calf eyes at one another every time one of you isn't looking-rather pathetic, if you ask me."
Startled at his insight, she could only stare at him as her cheeks burned and then blurted the first thing in her mind. "Duke, even if I was interested, there is that thing about fraternization."
He grinned. "Funny. Scuttlebutt says that both ONI and the former Nasi organization, impressed with the way you handled the duchess situation, are vying for your services, ma'am. Regardless which you choose, it would mean that you will transfer to the naval staff and a different chain of command. I see that the opportunity is there."
De Ventron looked around until she saw von Brockenholz making his rounds around the room, congratulating the new graduates and their families. She allowed herself a moment to admire the dashing figure he cut in his uniform and felt a glow that warmed her insides, but then her practical side tried to assert itself. "Even if it was allowed by the circumstances, Sergeant Major, I don't feel that it's in the cards at this time. We must accept God's will."
He snorted. "Oh, really? By my estimate there were over two hundred boots in that parade ground that day and you picked up the only one that could be your replacement in the regiment-and the one that needed your help the most. Me, I think that the Lord moves in mysterious ways but if he gives you a chance, you better take it, ma'am. You deserve it and so does the colonel. Think about it."
De Ventron nodded and weighed the idea, finding it not bad at all. Perhaps it's time to moveon, she thought. So perhaps tomorrow, I can start making the rounds around ONI and the new USE CIA organization-Lord, I'm going to miss Francisco – and explore what they have to offer. But she knew that regardless of the outcome of her research, Mantoue was in for a heck of a steep learning curve as her assistant. I hope that she hasn't set her heart on doing too much "networking" for the foreseeable future, and particularly not with too many young princelings, she thought smiling and then noticed Hudson's frown. "Penny for your thoughts, Duke."
He looked at her with a sly smile. "Just thinking, in all my years in the Corps, up-time and down-time, I never expected to see an honest-to-God duchess in our ranks.
De Ventron withheld the crack on the tip of her tongue about his own nickname and looked back at the proud Marine lieutenant and her family. "Better get accustomed to it, Sergeant Major. That Duchess is now a leatherneck."
To Marines, past, present and future.
Thanks to Mic Sjostrom for the suggestion of Anne as a character, and his genealogical expertise. Thanks also to Virginia DeMarce for general information, Janice James-Watson and Leonard Hollar for proofreading. All mistakes, of course, are mine.
Turn Your Radio On, Episode Six
Written by Wood Hughes
May 1634, Grantville, State of Thuringia-Franconia,
United States of Europe
Janet Rogers, the News Director of VOA was at her wits' end. "Jesus, Dee! Hilda can't get any work done for all the callers asking if the war is over yet. Isn't there any way to pull in the reins on that crazy preacher?"
"I don't see how," Deanna Dee replied, "But don't pull your hair out and strew it all over the VOA studios because of him. There's no requirement in the contract keeping him from practicing his faith. Unfortunately, we just didn't realize that prophecy played a big part in the Pentecostal faith when we made the deal with them. We certainly didn't think they'd go off the wall and start prophesying the end of the war.
"The thing about it is, Fischer has been like a rock star for us. He's brought us huge audiences that have carried over to all areas of our programming. We probably have at least ten times as many people listening now as we did when he started up that radio show."
"But it's… it's irresponsible!" Janet cried out in a desperate tone. "We've got crowds gathering out front waiting to hear us announce the war is over at any minute!"
"Yes, I know." Deanna Dee shook her head in agreement. "That's the problem with rock stars. Sooner or later, they start to break up the furniture."
Janet's shoulders slumped. "I think I miss the disco demonstrators."
Deanna Dee laughed. Then she asked, "Have you wired your stringer reporters in Magdeburg and following the front?"
"Yeah, I telegraphed all of them first thing this morning after realizing what was happening outside. We've heard back from Kurt and Shultz in Magdeburg. The crowds are even worse there. They've surrounded the War Department and had to be driven away from the gates of the Navy yard.
"Only a couple of the reporters in the field have checked in. They only acknowledged receipt of the telegram. My guess is that they are outside our coverage area by now, so it shouldn't affect the armies yet."
Deanna Dee rocked back and forth in her chair for a moment, then mused, "Well, I know John is must be blowing his top right now. I wish he wasn't on the road. We need him."
"And, exactly HOW do you know this self-proclaimed prophet, Der Fischer, Herr Garb?"
Marco could feel the attention everyone else in the room now focused on him. If they had been a bit younger, rather than the old, venerated financial lords of Augsburg who did not normally show their emotions on their faces, their collective jaws would have been resting on the floor.
"It's really quite serendipitous actually, Herr Geuder. My daughter in Grantville is seeing the good Reverend… socially that is."
From the head of the table, Wilhelm Fugger cleared his throat. As a remote relative of the long-dead Jacob "The Rich" Fugger, he was the first among the equals in this meeting. "Herr Garb, your daughter Constanzia seems to have a nose for getting to the heart of matters, doesn't she?
"First, she provides us with an amazingly accurate vision of where the American investment market is heading, and now, in her spare time I gather, she becomes socially acquainted with a prophet."
After the laughter subsided, Marco responded with a smile. "Yes, my daughter has always had the gift of discerning what was not obvious to the rest of the family. Seriously, that is why I dispatched her to Grantville in the first place. These Americans, they are so practical. They have refined this democracy of theirs to such a state that they don't know how to be devious with matters of business. They don't fear the dangers of passing around critical knowledge, even though they think they do. In a culture like theirs, I had a sense that Constanzia would find out which way the winds would be blowing out of Grantville."
"You certainly have convinced me, Herr Garb. Bravo!" Fugger looked out the window for a moment as he considered his next words. He had a strong family resemblance to his paternal ancestors. It was accentuated by the painting of his Jacob the Rich by Albrecht Durer hanging on the wall directly behind him.
Again, Fugger cleared his throat. "It's no secret that my family's investments have not fared well during this war. All of us are being squeezed by the Swedish occupation of Augsburg and our business is hampered by all these checkpoints the Swede has put into place throughout the Palatinate.
"We've agreed that we would rather join this United States of Europe with its new economy than continue with the Holy Roman Empire, but we've got to end the occupation as soon as possible. I don't give a damn about this Fischer's confessional beliefs. I do believe that he is in the process of becoming a very strong leader in the USE. If we can start to influence him, maybe he can force the Swede to give us our own state. Then, we should be able to guide this prophet to the 'right' side of our issues."
The other bankers and wealthy merchants in the room looked around at each other, and seeing general agreement, looked back at Marco Garb, still somewhat in wonder as how he had managed to get such an accurate read of the impact of American skills and culture so quickly.
"Then it's settled, Herr Fugger, gentlemen." Marco lifted his leather briefcase onto the table and inserted his notes back into it, "I will go back to Grantville and personally meet my daughter's good friend Fischer… and begin his education on the broader issue of financial self interest."
Magdeburg, Magdeburg Province, United States of Europe
Friday night was children's night at the Magdeburg revival. There were hundreds of children gathered around Fischer as he finished up his children's sermon and handed them over to Sister Jennifer for the closing song. As he picked his way through the children, all seated cross-legged on the ground surrounding him, he was surprised at how attentive they had been.
Looking around at their parents, largely mothers and the wives of soldiers and sailors who were off to the front, he saw the same sense of awe in their eyes that he'd noticed wherever he went in Magdeburg this past week. Fischer had become adjusted to the way his congregation looked at him. He was clearly viewed as a leader in their eyes, but this was somehow different. More like what he imagined how his contemporaries must have viewed Martin Luther himself.
Tonight would be the first night since they had decided to abandon the tent. The crowds he was attracting had long since outstripped its ability to provide cover. In it's place, Slater had come up with a quarter dome shaped structure, covered by canvas, that kept the altar itself protected from the weather, and also allowed the spotlights to reflect a soft light on the choir and the band and, of course, Fischer.
Before that Fischer had to complete his blessing of the house church leaders now gathered in the revival encampment from all over the USE. Most he'd met before, but the church elders had decided that the Magdeburg revival was the perfect opportunity to inject a greater sense of mission and a larger purpose into these local leaders of their rapidly growing faith. As Chalker had commented, this would be the cornerstone of the Magdeburg Pentecostal Church in more ways than one.
Hans Richter Square, Magdeburg
Terrell Nemeth scowled at Art Berry's back as he stormed out of the control room high up in the tower overlooking Hans Richter Square on Saturday. Terrell couldn't understand why Art was so bothered by the light reflecting cross at the back of the stage
Frankly, Terrell thought, If I could get hold of a couple of those VOA vacuum tubes, I could build my own transmitter for the church and not have to deal with Art and his tantrums.
"Nemeth, you read me?"
"Roger. I've got you five by five, Mr. Berry."
"Okay. If the hook up with Grantville will hold, we should get through this event without any difficulties. Nemeth, do you see that group toward the north end of the square? They don't look too much like the rest of the pilgrims that your preacher normally attracts."
Terrell stood and leaned over the rail to get a better view. Sure enough, the group that Art had spotted looked more like ruffians that had occasional run-ins with the Magdeburg police patrols than your typical revival attendee. He'd have to keep an eye on the group and warn Slater to keep an eye on them as well.
One thing hadn't changed since Slater's healing. He still didn't shy away from a good fight, although he and his roadies had become been quite disciplined in keeping it focused on crowd control rather than their old drunken brawling habits.
Fischer raised his right arm over his head and began his closing benediction. "God Bless all the souls gathered here tonight and gathered around their radios throughout this beautiful German land. God Bless, the soldiers and sailors from all the Germanies that fight to sweep our new republic clean from the blight of foreign invaders. .."
It was at that point the shouting began.
"What about the emperor?"
"Yah! How about the Swedish army that pulled your German bacon out of the fire?"
"Why don't you bless the emperor, Winkelprediger?" The insult caused the gathered congregation to gasp in shock at this unexpected interruption of their religious experience. Winkelprediger was a German slang term that roughly translated into the American term "incompetent, jackleg preacher."
Fischer's head snapped up and he glared through the lights in his eyes to see who had begun to heckle during his closing prayer. Spotting them, he moved to the northern edge of the altar closest to the hecklers and angrily responded, "God bless the King of Sweden. And God bless the United States of Europe."
The crowd immediately surrounding him marveled as Fischer's skin darkened and the thin white scar on his forehead began to glow. It was something that was rumored to happen when Der Fischer was under the guidance of his Holy Spirit, and now they saw it for themselves.
Almost spitting it out at the hecklers, Fischer then shouted with all his might, "And may God be praised that after this war ends he will find a way to guide the Swedish king in peace back to his throne in Stockholm, leaving the citizens of Germany free to elect our own emperor."
A burst of applause broke out from the congregation. In the meanwhile, Slater and his gang of roadies surrounded the group that Terrell had warned them to watch out for and forcefully began moving them away from the rest of the congregation. As they were being cleared from the square, a chant rang out, "Born Twice, Die Once! Born Twice, Die Once!"
The entire congregation raised their right hands straight up in the air and defiantly joined in with the proud statement of the belief of their church and it's leader, Der Fischer.
The crowd gathered for the revival on Sunday evening was very different from those before. The news of the disturbance at Hans Richter Square the previous night had spread like wildfire throughout the USE. All day long, riders had come into Magdeburg on horses and wagons and trains, all prepared to see this evangelist who dared to speak the truth of the Swedish king who occupied their land.
Most of them would admit that if it hadn't been for the Swedish army, Tilly and his armies would have continued to devastate the land and it's people. But now that the war was just about over, the wrongs that the Swedes had done in the Germanies needed to be settled as well. Gustavus Adolphus had made no bones about his theory of how to conduct his campaigns: "Let the war pay for the war."
Because of this, many of the Lutherans who had been relieved to see the Swedish Lutheran Army come would now be more than willing to see it go.
So the crowd gathered at this last night in Magdeburg looked less a gathering of older men, widows, and children, and more a gathering of bands of militia before a battle. Some even raised the standards of their organizations. Even the banner of the Franconian Ram flew.
Worried that the temper of his audience was on the edge of dangerous, Fischer toned down his remarks. No healings tonight. He didn't think that he could channel the emotional power it took for a service like that with this group.
Indeed, Fischer was keeping a close eye on this gathering to make sure no flare-ups occurred like the previous evening, so he immediately noticed when someone ran into the tent from the direction of the airfield and forced their way to the front of the congregation.
One of Slater's roadies intercepted the young man before he could get too close to the altar. As Fischer continued with his sermon, he kept an eye on the two of them excitedly whispering to each other. Then, all of a sudden, the roadie swept up the young man in a bear hug and began to shout, "Halleluiah! Praise God!"
Now, pulling the young man behind him, the roadie ran toward the altar where Fischer stood. "Preacher! Preacher! You did it!"
Fischer paused in his prepared sermon and looked at the two men running up to him with smiles beaming from their faces. When they reached him, the young man shouted out, "The war is over! I just hear over the airfield radio. Denmark has surrendered! The war is over!"
Bedlam broke out throughout the congregation. Men and women hugged, children started dancing, and they all shouted out thanksgivings for ending this war, which had killed so many. Then, slowly they turned toward the altar and began to shout, "God Bless Der Fischer! God Bless Der Fischer!"
Fischer had been wrapped in an embrace of the young man and his roadie who had brought the good news. Now, hearing the chant breaking out from the congregation, he released the men and ran over to Sister Jennifer. He whispered in her ear for a moment, and she ran over to each section of her choir shouting out instructions. Then, jumping up on her director's stand, she raised her arms and they sang out the old spiritual, "Down by the Riverside."
Through chorus after chorus of "… ain't going to study war no more…" mixed with the general euphoria of the news, Fischer marveled at the incredible timing that the Holy Spirit had. The Spirit had known that this would happen and brought him here at this precise minute to fulfill God's plan. Surely, there was nothing left to doubt. He was God's chosen instrument in this new timeline. From now on, he would remember that it was God who was personally leading him to his personal destiny, not other men.
Someone tapped his shoulder. Terrell stood there with tears streaming down his face. "Brother Fischer, it's Reverend Chalker. He collapsed at the last service today in Grantville. They don't know if he's going to make it."
June 1634, Grantville
The first person Fischer saw as he entered the room was Lana Soper. Ever since Reverend Chalker was released from the hospital and moved into the Manning Assisted Living Center, Lana had been his constant companion.
Chalker lay asleep. He had not been shaved today and you could see a stream of dribble working it's way down his gray whiskered cheek. He looked much older than the energetic old man who had led Fischer to the presence of his own Holy Spirit.
Sure enough, on the other side of Chalker's bed sat Georg Fleitner. During the two weeks that Chalker spent in the Grantville hospital, any time Fischer had seen Georg cleaning up around the church, he seemed like he was in agony at having left Reverend Chalker to others' care. Now that Lana was there to split the duties with him, Georg seemed much calmer when he tended to his other chores.
After Fischer greeted them both, they updated him on the condition of the senior minister. Doctor Nichols had dropped by this morning, satisfied that his obstinate heart patient was finally being kept off his feet. Pete Enriquez had also dropped by first thing this morning to check on Chalker before heading off to his job site. Several other members of the congregation had stuck their heads in the room to pay their respects, only to be chased away by Georg.
"Reverend need rest," Georg kept repeating.
"All right, Georg. Please tell Reverend Chalker I dropped by." Fischer said a prayer for Lana, Georg, and Chalker, then headed on to his next meeting. This meeting was one he was very nervous about. He was going to meet Constanzia's father for the first time.
Thankfully, Constanzia's brother was out of town. Fischer was always very aware of Martin's disapproval of him and his faith. Martin treated him as if he were that snake oil salesman, the self proclaimed "Doctor" Gribbleflotz, whose peddlers hung around the outskirts of the revival tour selling miracle blue pills and radio magnifier devices.
Herr Garb had arrived in town a few days ago. Constanzia called Fischer, inviting him to meet her father. Ever since then, Fischer had been a wreck. This morning as Phyllis freshened up his haircut; he hadn't been able to stop fidgeting for worrying that she was going to make a mistake and he wouldn't present the right appearance to Herr Garb.
When he boarded the trolley at the Assisted Living Center, he spread out the cloth he brought to sit on. He didn't want to chance getting dirt on his new, tailored black suit. Then to take his mind off his nervousness, he started to read a new book Reverend Wiley loaned him. It was by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor of the 1930s who stood up to the evil dictator of the other future Germany.
"Papa, Dieter, would you like some more hot chocolate?" Constanzia asked as she gathered up the empty china cups.
"No, thank you, Tesorina. I am well stuffed with your sweetbreads and chocolate already."
Fischer smiled and indicated his polite refusal as well. The meeting had been nothing like Fischer had feared. Marco Garb was a very personable man. It was obvious to how he had become so successful. While the conversation had begun with Herr Garb drawing Fischer out on his relationship with Constanzia, and Fischer's calling to the Pentecostal ministry, it quickly enough had shifted to matters of Fischer's prophecy and how that prophecy was affecting the political and financial future of the Germanies and the rest of Europe.
Herr Garb had a very firm, intuitive, grasp on the power that radio possessed to motivate the masses.
"The right person could go a long way toward making this new country an economic powerhouse if he knew how to motivate them and had the right influential people to back him," Marco said. "Who knows where that would lead in this new world? After all, I have it on good authority that Herr Stearns expects not to remain as Prime Minister after the next election."
Fischer had heard that rumor as well. But he'd dismissed it. He couldn't believe that the all-powerful Mike Stearns would allow the former duke of Saxe-Weimar to replace him in office.
"So, Dieter, when are you planning on returning to your revival tour?" Marco asked.
"That depends, Herr Garb. Frau Kurger tells us that she expects her husband, the Reverend Hans Kurger, to muster out of his army chaplaincy any day now. When he returns to take over the podium at the church, then we can plan what to do next."
"Constanzia tells me you will be taking the new rail line west from Halle to Erfurt."
Fischer nodded his agreement.
"I have a number of good contacts along that line. Perhaps I can arrange some introductions for you along the way. These are business people who would be valuable to you and your future."
Marco Garb was very impressed with this young minister friend of his daughter. It was obvious that she had found a man who could be very valuable to the ambitions of their family and their business associates. All in all, Marco could very easily see this young man as a member of his family.
Hamburg, United States of Europe
"A fine meal that was, uncle, for sure." Colonel David Leslie belched after draining his flagon of beer.
"Aye, nephew. It's been good to see you again. Your father says you don't write to him often enough." General Alexander Leslie smiled, knowing his brother Patrick believed that his fifth son should be writing him every day, even after this long European adventure.
"Ah, yes. The good Lord Lindores reminds me of the same matter in each of his letters to me." David laughed. "Perhaps now that I'm going back to a more permanent encampment, I'll have more time to keep in touch with my dear old da."
"Speaking of that, David. Are you sure you wouldn't like for me to intervene on your behalf so you can spend a few months back home in Fife?"
"Uncle, ye know as well as I that until we have a cavalry weapon that matches the Cardinal, the danger of war is not over. Having faced it in combat now, I can see why the Southern American army said that you could load it on a Sunday and shoot it the rest of the week."
"A very dangerous weapon to have in the hands of the good Cardinal and his forces for sure. You should see the American gnomes and how they look so apologetic for not having figured out how to make percussion caps when the French figured it out on their own."
"Aye, I've seen that very look. No, my orders are to move my cavalry command back to Erfurt to muster out. Then, I'm to proceed with my cadre to Fulda to help develop hopefully a better version of the up-time Sharps rifle or something called a Henry and work out the drill to incorporate it into our forces."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, nephew." General Alexander picked up his wine and swirled it. "In fact, I have a wee mission of my own that I'd like for you to handle."
Gulping a swallow down, he continued, "Have you ever heard of a 'Der Fischer'?"
"Aye, uncle. He's that fellow that sends out the song sheets with Bible verses printed on them. My men sing them all the time."
"He's a bit more than that. In fact I met with Axel Oxenstierna a few weeks ago, at the Congress of Copenhagen. Nothing official you understand, but he has his concerns about Fischer. Now that the League has been shattered and the French seem to be involved in internal problems of their own, it's likely that the Germans may start questioning why the Swedish forces are remaining behind. After all, there's an argument to be made that there is little reason for the Swedish nobles to continue to fund this adventure since the immediate danger to Protestantism has passed." Alexander took another drink, then continued. "Unless, of course, there's more to it than the House of Vasa's natural desire to increase his rule.
"That's the question we fear may be driving a number of groups to Der Fischer.
"What I'd like for you to do is to learn more about him and what his beliefs and motivations are. Should he continue this revival of his, try to attend and gauge the atmosphere of those in attendance.
"Hopefully, His Majesty's advisors worry too much, but it needs to be investigated."
June 1634, Grantville
"Good Morning, Mr. Grover!"
"Huh? Oh. Yeah, good morning, Helga." John Grover barely glanced at Helga as he continued through the VOA reception area to his own office.
"Mr. Grover?" Helga was concerned. Normally her boss was so positive and upbeat when he got in each morning. Of all the days for him to feel gloomy. She was wearing her brand new, royal blue summer dress. The one that showed off just a little cleavage and these beautiful up-time, oversized, white plastic beads that Frau Kurger found for her at the Emporium last Saturday.
"Yes, Helga? What do you need?"
At least that got him to stop. "I just wanted to let you know that Frau Kurger and Reverend Fischer are in the conference room with Marc going over the figures from last week's mail receipts. You know, in case you wanted to pop in and say hi."
Grover scowled, "Just what I need. I had to pay for the repair of a broken piece of critical equipment already this morning, and now that preacher shows up. Great."
He thought for a moment, then added, "Listen, if they're still here in fifteen minutes, ask me again. I've got a couple of things I need to handle in my office first."
Grover disappeared into his office and forcefully shut the door behind him.
Helga was perplexed. She'd heard about the equipment repair, but what spy? She reached down into her handbag and pulled out her compact. After carefully examining her makeup and hair, she put it back and decided that she must figure out some way to get her boss back in his usual good mood. Meanwhile, she'd just finish up her filing. Maybe that would give her some time to think of an idea of what she could do.
Marc Kronzburg was in a very uncomfortable position. How did he. .. how could he… what could he do or say to turn down business? Ever since the two live broadcasts from Magdeburg, the atmosphere around the station front office had been so tense you could cut it with a knife. He'd sat in on several meetings with Mr. Grover and Deanna Dee trying to find a loophole in the station contract with the Pentecostal Church. They had even called in Huddy Colburn, the GE's business broker consultant, to examine the contract to see if there were any errors that they could use to invalidate it.
But it was no use. Roy Copenhaver had tightened up every clause that John Grover originally proposed. They were stuck with the Saturday night show. So far, at least, no broadcast since had caused any surprises. They were the same mixture of good music, talent contestants, and upbeat moral values that continued to make the Old Timey Radio Hour the most popular show on the station.
Marc continued to increase the price on the spots inside the hour so many times that he'd lost count. When he said, "the only radio sets that aren't tuned into this show are the ones that are broken," advertisers just nodded and signed the price bump.
The live weeknight revival remotes, however, that was another story. Basically, they didn't have to sell any time to the church during the week at all. There was nothing in their contract that covered that one-way or the other. The problem was, they did have a contract with Art Berry to make available to him at least three hours a month for his RCE remotes as a condition to his providing remote broadcasts for the station's regular news reporting. At the time, they had all been thinking of it as five or ten minute opportunities for Art to generate a little more remote business. But it wasn't clearly specified in the contract. As Huddy pointed out, "Folks, you done opened up your barn door and pulled down your trousers on this one."
It seemed, in John and Janet Rogers hurry to lock up Art's capabilities so her newscasts and stock and agricultural market reports could continue uninterrupted by one of Art's inevitable tantrums, they had forgotten to assign a value to the three hour blocks. All it said was that if the station had a pre-existing scheduled live show on during that hour Art couldn't have it. But they hadn't specified morning or evening, or most importantly, they had forgotten to reserve the internal spot sales to the station!
Art hadn't noticed the flaw either; at least so far he hadn't mentioned it. But if they turned down Fischer and friends from buying direct, he could easily go to Art and get a much cheaper rate and they'd be out the ad revenue, and still have to broadcast a shortened Old Timey Radio Hour! Sure, the church would have to cut back to a half hour each Saturday night, but they would be wide open to sell their own spots to the same advertisers that were paying the station right now.
Luckily, several weeks had gone by with no mention of continuing the revival or the revival broadcasts. Now that Maria's husband had returned home to take over the church pulpit, that good fortune had come to an end.
"Marc? Are you still with us?" Fischer smiled, but also looked puzzled at his friend's non-response to his question.
"Oh! Yes, of course, Reverend Fischer." Marc improvised, "It's just we've got so much going on at The Voice of America this summer. I was just trying to work it out in my head if we can find an open slot before the Fourth of July.
"Let me tell you what. Let's finish up here with the collections, and I'll get with our program manager and see what we can do. Is that fair enough?"
Even Maria Kurger looked up from her tally sheet when she heard that. In all the years she'd been dealing with Marc, he had never once paused a second to come up with the exact number of spots in each hour of the broadcast year that he had available to sell. When she learned how to use the new church computer, her first thought was that it must have been modeled after Marc Kronzburg's brain.
"That's fine, Marc," Fischer answered after a moments thought. "But, we'll be happy just to wait here while you go get the station schedule. It would really mean a lot. Okay?"
"Uhh… of course, Reverend. Wait right here. I'll be right back." Marc stood, decided to flash his best closing smile and added, "Can I get either of you some fresh pastry or something to drink before I go?"
Maria looked Marc right in the eye and answered in her most forceful, no-nonsense tone of voice, "No thank you Marc. We'll be fine right here."
Marc couldn't help flinching. Then he hurried out of the room closing the door behind him.
Fischer turned to Maria. "What is going on with him?"
"I don't know, Reverend. That's not the Der Kronz I know."
At least five minutes passed until the door opened. John Grover walked in by himself.
"Reverend Fischer! Maria! How are you doing this morning?" John was smiling, but it was clearly not his "let's be friends" smile.
"Fine, fine, John." Fischer answered, "Now, would you like to tell us what's going on?"
"Yes, I would, Reverend." John slid into his normal chair at the head of the conference table and crossed his arms on the table. "I'm worried about you."
John paused a moment, then continued. "You know that even with all the ad sales from the radio station, we still get the bulk of our money from government contracts. It's government money that helped Gayle put the station on the air in the first place, and the government that pulled me in to help Gayle run all these projects that pay the freight around here.
"Now, they haven't told us one word about what we do over the airways. I'd tell them where to stick their suggestion if they did, but it's a matter of being responsible to our listening public and our major contract customer that I have to consider whenever I have a decision to make about what goes on the air."
John drummed his fingers on the tabletop, then said, "Reverend Fischer, I don't know a lot about your faith and I will not tell you what to say or believe. That's not my place.
"But when you feel the need to announce that you've had a dream and we end up with crowds hanging around the GE compound for days, or you decide to take a swipe at the legally elected sovereign of the government… I can't believe that I'd ever say something like that, by the way.
"When you feel that need, it causes me one hell of a lot of concern." John leaned back in his chair. "And I'll be damned if I'm going to put all the work we've done here to get General Electronics to the point we are now to let you say whatever you want to say, contract or no."
Fischer and Maria were speechless at John's outburst. You could see Fischer's face begin to darken as the implications to the church and his ministry sunk in.
Then, smiling, he started to respond to John's worries. "John, I want to thank you for being so honest and forthright in expressing your concerns. I take it that you instructed Marc not to sell us any more weeknight time either?"
"That clears that up. That's okay, I understand." Fischer smiled again and continued, "Listen, I understand what you're worried about, I really do. But you've got a federal election coming up sooner or later. As I recall, when the SoTF Congress was elected, you let all sides on the air to express their opinion. If I remember correctly, several of the candidates were practically running on an anarchy platform, right?"
Again, John nodded.
"John, I'm sorry if you think I went too far. But not making that prophecy was not in my power. You have to just believe me on that. And as far as insulting the emperor, maybe I could have phrased it better, but all I said was that he would live out his days on his throne in Sweden and we would have the opportunity to elect a new emperor. What's so wrong with that?"
John shook his head. "Fischer, you're dangerous. Technically, you're absolutely right in everything you said, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous. Every day, we're reporting on run-ins between anti-Swedish and pro-Swedish elements. Just because Denmark has surrendered and France seems to be having a shake up doesn't mean that the USE is not still in danger of failing. We are and we can't abide the kind of civil unrest you seem to be feeding.
"Hell, ask Roy Copenhaver if you don't believe me." John leaned forward. "Ask him what kind of a mess he's having to deal with over in Fulda. Then, multiply that by all the other states and the Swedish occupied territories."
Fischer adjusted his seat, then sympathetically replied, "I don't want that either, John. Really, I don't. But, there's got to be some way we can work out how to make this happen and let you sleep at night at the same time."
It was almost an hour later when John opened the door and called out, "Helga, could you get Marc in here?"
Marc had been sitting on the couch in the reception area just in case Mr. Grover needed him. He dashed right in.
Signaling him to take a seat, John began, "Marc, Reverend Fischer and I have worked out a gentleman's agreement. I'd like you to write him up for an hour block for his revival under the usual terms. Then, when he's ready to go on the air, I'd like for you to be there on the front row. It will be somewhere in our coverage area so you can go up ahead of time and tend to some of your sales calls in that area. Don't worry about expenses; the Reverend will be paying those."
Fischer laid his hand on Marc's shoulder and smiled, "Don't worry, Marc. I'm not going to try to convert you. John just wants you to be there as a reminder that I'm responsible for what is going out over the air. It'll be fun!"
"Dieter, I'm worried about you. The Devil is pushing us hard." Chalker was sitting up in his bed in the Manning Assisted Living Center. While still confined, he had been catching up on the progress his church had been making. In the last week, three of the homes in several cities where home churches were being held had been burned to the ground. No one knew if it was zealot Lutherans or groups angry over Fischer's perceived anti-emperor comments. "Sister Nemeth always said there'd be trouble if that rebel flag was allowed to fly."
"Now, Brother Chalker," Jennifer Copenhaver interrupted, "That doesn't have anything to do with us at all."
"I don't know." Chalker looked pensive. "There were a lot of evil groups that adopted that flag back up-time. There had to be some reason that it attracted so many skinheads and Hell's Angels and neo-Nazi's. It never made any sense to me why Mike Stearns, of all people, would be defending it either. He never seemed like that kind of a boy.
"Maybe the devil isn't behind it and isn't trying to drag us down. But it also makes no sense how good Americans like Mike and them would agree to an emperor for any reason."
The attacks on the home churches were unexpected. The plan to fill the offering plates of the local official churches had been working so far; there was no official notice of the activities of the gatherings and the ideas they were spreading. However, that this would start happening when the Bible study was just getting into the Book of Revelations had a lot of the Pentecostals uneasy.
Seeing the old man's mind wander, Fischer got back to the subject, "Reverend, you were saying something about some homework you wanted me to do."
Chalker perked up. "Oh, yes. Here. Dieter, I've been thinking. I'd like for you to read these speeches. Some of them are religious, some come from the old civil rights movement, and some of them are political speeches I especially liked. Not much to do with this world, I'll grant you. But the way every one of them is structured, there are some very fine lessons in swaying an audience in how they put them together."
He fumbled around the papers until he found the one he was looking for. "This one right here, for instance. The politician who gave it never got elected, but people talk about this speech to this day. He was what we called a Populist. If you can find a way to work these techniques into your sermons, it will stand you good."
Chalker thrust the papers into Fischer's hands, then laid back on his bed. "Now, you be safe on this revival tour, Dieter. You too, Sister Jennifer. I'll be praying for you."
Weimar, State of Thuringia-Franconia, United States of Europe
"Gentlemen, if there are no more questions of our host, we should be letting him get prepared for his service tonight." Marco Garb stood up. The private meeting in the RV parked near the revival site had gone as well as could be imagined. The gathered merchants and industrialists represented a lot of the private wealth in the State of Thuringia-Franconia. And they were satisfied that Fischer would support them in obtaining statehood for the occupied territories, and moving the Swedes aside so the USE could be run by Germans.
Garb and Fischer shook hands with the powerful men Garb had gathered to gain backing for Fischer. As the last important visitor stepped out of the RV, Fischer touched Marco's arm and asked him to remain behind for a moment.
"Herr Garb, I want to thank you for your support of our mission. There's another subject I've been praying over that I need to speak with you about." Fischer folded his hands together and then continued, "Herr Garb, may I have your permission to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage?"
Garb had been expecting this ever since he'd first met Fischer back in Grantville. "You have my enthusiastic support, my son. I can't think of anything that would make me happier than to have my beloved daughter under the protection of such a fine young man.
"Have you planned when you are going to ask her…" He grinned. "Or is this just a postscript to mollify her old man?"
"No, no, I haven't asked her yet. I don't know. Maybe the next time I get back to Grantville."
Marco stood, spreading his arms to welcome Fischer into a hug. "Son, I'll do you one better. I'll ask Constanzia to come and visit us in during the revival in Erfurt. With the military base there, I have a number of interests that I'll need to deal with. We may have you in the family sooner than you thought!"
Marco was still considering the implications of the betrothal of his daughter to this very powerful young leader, and wasn't paying attention as he walked away from the revival campsite, so he was somewhat startled to hear his name. "Oh, Herr von Lichstedt! I had forgotten you were going on this tour as well."
"I thought it would be a good opportunity to see the progress of the rail construction along this line. Then of course, I heard that you would be making some introductions to our friends." Georg Heinrich Vitzthum von Lichstedt, noble of the county of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, and elder of the Grantville Pentecostal Church, fell into step with Marco Garb. "And did the meeting go as planned?"
"Oh yes, you've judged the situation quite well, Herr von Lichstedt. I believe he will prove to be a very effective asset to our continuing interests."
Garb reached into his pouch and pulled out a small leather bag, heavy with coin, "In fact, here is a little gift I was asked to present to you for your wonderful services. We have many more rewards planned for you as well."
Erfurt, State of Thuringia-Franconia, United States of Europe
Constanzia seemed to be having a wonderful time as Fischer walked with her, seeing the sights of old Erfurt. Now, standing in the green little park filled with trees, swans, and grass next to the Kramerbrucke, between the River Gera's two main channels in the heart of the Innenstadt, he thought he'd found the perfect time and place.
Fischer took both of Constanzia's hands in his and turned her to face him, then dropped to one knee. The look in Constanzia's eyes changed from curiosity, to astonishment, to wonder, then finally to pure joy as she realized what was about to happen.
"Constanzia, my beloved," Fischer began, "You have become the salt in my life. Before you, I was a hollow man, unable to feel the joy around me. I can't imagine ever losing you again."
Tears swelled up in Constanzia's eyes, and began to flow down her cheeks and into the dimples formed by her broad smile as Fischer asked, "Constanzia, will you marry me?"
Constanzia dropped to her knees and embraced her fiancee in her arms as she kissed him. They both understood her reply, although they never quite found time for the words.
Marc Kronzburg took his seat to the side of the front row at the revival site. He had felt uneasy all day as he conducted his business for the Voice of America around Erfurt. It was nothing he could put a finger on. But, since the Jews had been banned here in 1458, he still felt that he was being watched, even though-technically-that ban had been lifted with the coming of the USE.
In fact, unless there were still some secret Jews undercover, he didn't know a single Jewish family that had tried to move here.
Maybe it's just the ammonia smell. The long, tentacle shaped plaza on the southeastern corner of Erfurt called the Anger may have been a village green at some time as its name implied, but was better known as a wholesale market for blue dye made from woad, a flowering plant that was fermented in men's urine, dried on rooftops, and ground into a powder. Erfurt's woad business continued to be very good.
Looking around at the crowd filing in to take their places before the revival began made Marc even more anxious. Maybe it was just instinct. Ever since that episode at his cousins' bank, Marc was always aware of how to get out of any strange location he found himself in. Here, with the hill behind him rapidly filling with pilgrims hoping to be healed by Der Fischer and the stage in front of him backed up to a medieval stone wall, Marc was feeling very vulnerable as he waited for the service to begin.
For sure, he thought, this is not fun.
Fischer sat in his RV going over the final corrections to his sermon. He wondered how John Chalker could always know the perfect thing to lead him to at the right time. This up-time speech was just the latest instance. Fischer had no personal opinion of the St. Andrews Cross flag that the USE had adopted. However, he continually heard comments opposing it. They seemed to be grouped around two points of view.
First, some up-timers just didn't like having to fly a flag that looked like the old American rebel battle flag. They just hated the resemblance to the red background color and the stars on the cross itself. Then, there were the down-timers who resented the Swedish crown that was superimposed over the cross. They thought that the Swedes had been in their country too long. Just like any other people who had supposed allies in their land helping them, they felt the Swedes had outstayed their welcome. They wanted them out.
The last point of view tended to go along with other groups in the Germanies who didn't mind having the Swede for their emperor, but didn't understand why he was trying to force Saxony and Brandenburg into the USE against their will. It seemed to them that if other German principalities didn't want to join, that was their business. It wasn't like they were threatening to throw armies against the USE.
While the up-timers seemed uneasy about an emperor heading up their government as a matter of principle, Captain Gars had been a good ally and was generally respected by almost all of them. After all, the real power lay in the hands of the elected parliament that their man Mike was running with an iron fist.
Tonight, Fischer would address the issue of peace. This was also to be his first step in supporting his soon to be father-in-law and his friends. They could use this speech-it was coming to seem more of a speech than a sermon-being broadcast over the radio to set up an issue they could campaign around for the upcoming federal elections.
What Fischer didn't want to do was upset John Grover any further. He had reworked any remark that might have appeared to be critical of the emperor himself, rather than the political disagreement over whether the federal election should include or be followed by a reelection for the office of emperor itself. Surely, John will see that difference
Checking one last time on the handiwork of the two locals he had hired for this job, Terrell went back to his equipment and put on his headset. He had set up a three mike array to cover this revival. One hanging over the lip of the canvas dome in front of the choir, one by the band, and the last one hanging off a boom he had built so his crew could swing it around the front of the altar to keep it close to Reverend Fischer. The wire for this one was wrapped around a spool so Fischer could pull it out when he needed to, and his crew could roll it back up to get it out of the way if necessary.
"Got you four by four, Art. Over." Terrell released the switch on the relay in his broadcast booth set up on top of the wall overlooking the stage below him. Hitting it again, he added, " Art, I want to apologize again for being way out of line back in Grantville. I had no business to say what I said. Over. "
" Don't worry about it, Terrell. I had my say with Roy Copenhaver and Fischer, and we've got that behind us. I guess I overreacted too. Your church is nothing like the ones I used to go to. Let's just get this job done and move on. Over? Out!"
Colonel David Leslie was uncomfortable without his armor. I've been on the front too long, he thought. Big crowds don't automatically mean danger.
He heard his name called out down below. Scanning the crowd, he spotted a man waving his student's cap over his head and calling to get his attention. As he worked his way forward, he recognized the group.
Grinning, he propped his fists on his waist and commented, "Well, gentlemen, don't you look fine in your long robes and caps?"
The group had been cavalrymen under his command during the war. Now, having mustered out, they were pursuing their civilian goals.
"Yes, sir! We've enrolled here at the university. We have space, would you like to join us, Colonel?"
"I'd be honored, gentlemen." Leslie sat and took stock of the situation surrounding him. His former cavalrymen had picked a spot on the edge of the crowd, stage right as theater people referred to it, not quite in the front, but closer to it than the middle. Before him was the old curtain wall and a canvas quarter dome covering the stage. I audience continue to stream in. There were a number of small groups of students, dressed like his former troopers, but mostly the rest were old people and young women and children. What one would expect at a supposed religious meeting.
Then he spotted the group gathering a little higher up the side of Petersburg Hill, just opposite where he sat. Pilgrims they didn't seem to be, unless you counted the Crusaders of old. There was something about how they kept space open in their midst, as if they were expecting to have more join their ranks after sunset. They would bear watching.
Looking at the stage once more, he thought, It's not the ground I would have picked for my position. But, we're not at war any more. So they say.
Fischer smiled as the choir clapped and jumped to their hymn's big ending. This had been a wonderful stop on the way of the revival. There were still a few standing in line to be healed, and many more were preparing to come to the altar to accept their own personal Holy Spirit. The torches posted along the center aisle to mark it so it could be kept open were working very well. The music was as good as he'd ever heard it, and this dome of Slater's seemed to focus and magnify the sound on the stage and push it out to a much larger area.
Now, before the radio hour ended, was the time to speak about peace as he'd promised Herr Garb. Just this one last pilgrim looking to be healed, and he could begin.
"Sister, I still feel a little of the Power of the Holy Spirit within me. Would you come up and shed your burdens?"
As the older woman took the stage, Fischer reached out with his right hand to help her negotiate the stairs. As she turned to stand by Fischer, switching his microphone to his other hand, he wrapped his left arm around her shoulders and said, "Sister, what burden do you want to lay down tonight?"
As the crowd quieted down, she answered, "Pastor, the American doctor says I have the crab. Cancer, he calls it. All my family is dead and there's no one to take care of my child when I'm gone. Surely, the Lord wouldn't want it that way!"
Fischer made his best sympathetic face and squeezed her shoulders. He then asked his usual follow up question, "No, Sister. I don't believe that He would. What happened to your family?"
"It was the Swede, God damn his minions to hell!" Tears started to stream down from her eyes as if a damn had burst, and she continued to blurt out her story. "We were a good Lutheran family. When men from the Swedish army came to our village after Breitenfeld, waving their flag, my husband was the mayor, in charge of the village stores. He offered to furnish them all the supplies the village could spare, but they wanted them all. They killed him, then raped and killed and took everything."
Fischer knew he had a problem. As his mind raced with how to deal with it so John Grover wouldn't think he'd broken his word, he heard the shouting begin in the back of the crowd. It was already too late.
"God save the emperor!"
"Kill this hate mongering devil!"
A large group of men started to rush the stage, some holding battle axes, some grabbing torches along the way. The rest of the congregation started to scream and most tried to get out of the way, but some decided to block the group's path to the altar and their leader. When they stood facing the advancing group of armed men, they raised their right arms over their heads to summon the power of the Holy Spirit to protect them.
The woman called out at the top of her lungs. "In Camburg, that was. In Camburg."
Leslie had expected something to happen from the time the woman had opened her mouth, but he hadn't expected this. He pulled his saber from it's sheath, and turned to his group of cavalrymen/students. "Are you ready for the fight, my laddies?"
Not so remarkably considering how recently they had been under arms, all the men reached under their gowns and pulled out knives or short swords or some kind of defensive armament. They jumped in behind him as he forced his way between the stage and the other group fighting their way through the mob to the preacher and the old woman standing there.
Marc Kronzburg couldn't figure out what to do. The crowd here at the front of the congregation had nowhere to flee. Neither did the choir or the rest of the people up on the stage. The stage was set up to enhance the sound reflection properties of the old curtain wall; Slater and his roadies hadn't considered giving them an escape route from a situation like this.
But with the crowd pushing, Marc had no other option than to go along with the force of the bodies around him and go up to the stage himself. Suddenly, he heard a particularly high-pitched scream and the panic of the crowd intensified. He looked back.
The armed gang reached the men trying to block their way. One of the attackers swung his battle axe and lopped off the head of one of the pilgrims. Marc could just spot it as it disappeared into the mob. The rest of the men who had tried to hold the aisle open turned and ran, joining the rest of the mob that had no place to go.
Constanzia backed up. When the melee first started, she had worried about how Dieter would make it out unharmed. Now, as she was pushed and shoved along with the mob surrounding her, she was worrying about her own safety. Especially since there was nowhere to go and she was now standing in the middle of the aisle directly between these armed madmen and their objective.
The mob on one side of her parted and she stood face to face with one of those insane men coming after her Dieter. She couldn't move, even though she saw him raise his sword and prepare to deal her a life-ending blow.
As he began his downswing, seemingly in slow motion, a saber appeared and intercepted it.
Someone-Mark Kronzburg, from Grantville-grabbed her arm and pulled her to the side.
"Pick on someone your own size, laddie!" Colonel David Leslie shouted as he blocked the fatal blow.
He ran his steel down along the sword of the other and flicked it out of his stunned opponent's hand. He then thrust its point right into the exposed belly of the assailant.
By this time, the rest of his men were engaging others of this fellow's compatriots. With their years of training working as a unit, they were making equally swift work of them as well. However, there weren't enough of his men to totally block his opposition's advance as they continued to press forward.
Terrell could not believe what he was seeing, all the blood and screaming and fighting all through the congregation below him. It was a testament to his military training that he remembered to order his crew to pull the microphones up and out of danger. He then grabbed several ropes they had used in setting up, and tied them to hard points along the top of the wall, before throwing them down for the band and choir members to scramble up to safety.
Seeing no other way to contribute to what was happening below, he switched his microphone on and began.
" This is an emergency! Send troops to the site of the Erfurt Revival encampment immediately! A group of armed men are attacking and killing people in the crowd.
"I repeat, emergency! They just chopped someone's head off down below."
He continued to call out his descriptions of the carnage below him, play by play, with tears streaming down his face. It was the first live combat reporting the down-timers had ever heard.
Fischer felt the arms tugging him away from the edge of the altar where he had stood transfixed at the violence forcing it's way toward him. The woman whose plea for help had started it all had long since abandoned her position at his side.
Funny. Usually, this would be a good time for the Other to show up to protect me. I wonder where he went?
Adding to the surrealism of the scene around him, it was Marc Kronzburg, the Jewish radio-advertising salesman, who was pulling his arm. Marc was also pulling on Constanzia.
"Herr Fischer," Marc screamed. "You must get to safety! There are ropes back here so you can climb."
"Marc! Thank you, my friend. You'd better take care of yourself. The Holy Spirit is watching over me on this day." Fischer looked back at the gang now making its way to the base of the altar.
He raised his right arm, bowed his head, and began to pray. He continued until he felt the blow to the side of his head.
It was the screams that woke him. Fischer regained consciousness, and saw the blood and the fire and fog around him, and steel grey skies above. Somewhere off in the distance, he heard the sounds of combat. A man stood before him, dressed in a white suit. It looked like the picture of that man in the book he had just read, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The man looked down at Fischer and began to speak. "Dieter Fischer, a God who let us prove his existence would be an idol."
He pointed toward the fog. "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy."
Fischer saw ten sailing ships appear out of the fog. As they reached the shore, soldiers stormed ashore followed by one man dressed like a king. This man grew larger and larger as the voice continued, "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast."
A spear hit the giant, but instead of blood, out of the wound poured six other heads all the same as his first. Fischer saw the giant grab a woman who appeared in front of him and stake her to a crucifix. As her blood poured out over her dress, the giant picked the cross out of the ground and the woman disappeared leaving her dress hanging from the four corners of the cross. All this time the apparition continued to quote from what Fischer now recognized as the Book of Revelations, Chapter 13, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
Fischer was amazed at what he saw. He finally recognized the beast that was holding the bloody red flag with a St. Andrews cross in its claws, just in time to see it take the crown off of one of its heads and mount it in the center of the flag.
The Beast of Revelations was Gustavus II Adophus, the king of Sweden and emperor of the United States of Europe! He had died in the original timeline, but with the Ring of Fire, he had been given life again. His deadly wound was healed and now he stood poised to command the entire world.
Fischer looked back to see the apparition of Bonhoeffer fading away. As he lost consciousness again, the last words he gasped, "God damn the Swedes!"
Industrial Alchemy, Part 1: The New Philosopher's Stone
Written by Iver P. Cooper
In alchemical thought, the Philosopher's Stone is a fantastical artifact which is capable of transmuting base metals into gold. The new Philosopher's Stone is not an artifact, but knowledge-the teachings of twentieth century chemistry as transmitted by the up-timers and their books-and while it can't change one element into another, it can and will change how the down-timers think about the world they live in.
About three thousand up-timers were thrown into the seventeenth century by the Ring of Fire. Of those, perhaps a score have significant college training in chemistry, and of course there are many more who have recently taken a high school chemistry course.
That said, there are thousands of chemicals which we would like to make. The knowledgeable up-timers can't do it all themselves. It is essential that they train new chemists from the vast population of down-timers.
Some of those trainees will be youngsters, and others will be experienced alchemists. The down-time alchemists have a lot of practical knowledge which is still of value. They are familiar with the gross chemical and physical properties of many substances, although the purity of the substances in question is debatable. They have carried out some of the basic manipulations of the chemical laboratory, such as melting, dissolving, crystallizing, filtering and distilling chemicals.
The down-time alchemists are going to be getting a crash course in modern chemistry. Some of the alchemists will become wholesale converts to modern chemistry. Others will treat it more as the Aristotelians did the Copernican cosmology; as a convenient fiction.
Modern science, including chemistry, will also be seeping into the general curriculum. Perhaps some of the students will aspire to become chemists. (The man who is sometimes called the Father of Chemistry-Robert Boyle-was four years old when Grantville was hurled into 1631 Thuringia.)
Chemical Resources in Grantville
In Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, Corporal Calvin Morrison becomes the eponymous Lord Kalvan because he happens to know the recipe for gunpowder, a combustible mixture of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur. This is proof that every time traveler should know some chemistry!
The time travelers of the 1632verse know quite a bit of chemistry, actually. There are six up-timers with a bachelor's degree in chemistry: Allan Dailey (b. 1964), Greg Ferrara (1970), Thomas "Tom Stoner" Stone (1950s)(also has M.A. Pharmacy and doctoral course work), Alexandra (Lilburn) Selluci (1943), Walter Miller (1927-1636), and Dominic Genucci (1977 graduate course work). It is a safe bet that they have kept their chemistry textbooks from college. Each probably also has an edition of the "CRC" and perhaps additional chemistry books.
Christie (Kemp) Penzey has a degree in geology. She teaches chemistry, and is the "technical adviser" for the Kubiak experiments on recreating baking powder (Offord, "The Doctor Gribbleflotz Chronicles, Part 1: Calling Dr. Phil", Grantville Gazette 10).
Nine more up-timers have degrees in pharmacy, and Jerry Trainer's degree is in chemical engineering.
Several more up-timers do not have a college degree, but are getting advanced training in chemistry: Amy Kubiak, Tonya Daoud, Tyler Beckworth, Sam Reed, Mark Dalton Higgins, Lewis Philip Bartolli, Mary Lou (Cantrell) Snell and Kerry Burdette Douglas are laboratory technicians.
The high school in Grantville is modeled on North Marion High School (Farmington, WV). It offers a surprisingly wide range of science courses. Grades 9 and 10 receive an integrated science course ("CATS") that is apparently a continuation of a program begun in Grade 7. Eleventh and twelfth graders can take Advanced Environmental Earth Science, Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Placement Chemistry, Advanced Placement Earth Science, Earth and Sky (a college level class), Microbiology and even Forensics ("topics include ballistics, fingerprinting, and the analysis of inorganic and organic compounds"). Lewis Bartolli's knowledge of forensic science (see my stories "Under the Tuscan Son," Grantville Gazette 9 and "Arsenic and Old Italians," Grantville Gazette 22) is based on more than just reading detective stories!
What we need most is information on descriptive inorganic chemistry, and this subject tends to get short shrift in modern general chemistry and inorganic chemistry courses. Fairmont State presently uses the fourth edition of Brady, Chemistry: The Study of Matter, and I think there is a good chance of finding the third edition (1988) in Grantville. As for more advanced texts, I am sure that there is at least a copy of Cotton and Wilkinson, Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (CW); I used the third edition at MIT. (A JCE review of the sixth edition called it "the most popular inorganic chemistry textbook ever published"). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the high school has the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science amp; Technology (4th ed., 1977; 15 vols.).
As for equipment, as I said in my aluminum article (Gazette 8), the power plant has a "Metallurgist XR," which is a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrophotometer specifically designed for alloy analysis. (Boyes) And, even more surprisingly, the high school has a $300,000 atomic absorption spectrophotometer given to them in October 1997 by LaFarge Corp.
I referred to "industrial alchemy" rather "industrial chemistry" as a gentle reminder that for every up-time chemist, there are hundreds of down-time alchemists.
We can expect visits (and perhaps citizenship applications) from the prominent alchemists of early seventeenth century Europe.
Michael Sendivogius (1566-1636) did pioneering research on the composition of air, discovering that it was a mixture of substances, including one (now called oxygen) that supports life. His patrons are the Polish Vasas. Of course, they are more interested in his claim to be able to transmute mercury into gold.
Cornelius Drebbel (1572-1633) (died in OTL shortly after the RoF, but this could be butterflied) is perhaps best known for his submarine, but he invented a thermostat and the dye known as "color Kufflerianus."
Arthur Dee (1579-1651)(the physician to Michael I of Russia) wrote Fasciculus chemicus (1630), a compendium of alchemical bon mots.
Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580-1644) was an early contributor to the development of the law of conservation of mass. He appears as a character in Mackey, "Ounces of Prevention" (Grantville Gazette 5).
Johann Rudolf Glauber (1604-1670) was the first to produce hydrochloric acid and sodium sulfate. In OTL 1648 he developed a major method of manufacturing sulfuric acid. In NTL, he developed the potassium chlorate-based percussion caps for the French "Cardinal" rifles (1634: The Baltic War, Chapter 27).
Several other notable alchemists were born before the Ring of Fire, but were young enough when it occurred that they may be "butterflied" into a different line of work: Elias Ashmole (1617-1684), Robert Boyle (1627-1691)(the "Father of Modern Chemistry"), George Starkey (1628-1665) and Hennig Brand (1630-1670).
Commodity and Specialty Chemicals
A commodity chemical is one that is produced in great quantity, whereas a specialty chemical has a more limited market.
Judging from Posthumus' studies of commodity exchange prices in the Netherlands, the inorganic chemical commodities in 1630s Europe included the elements iron, tin, lead, gold, silver, copper, mercury and sulfur; the alloys steel, brass, and spelter (a zinc); the compounds common salt (sodium chloride), copperas (ferrous sulfate), potash (potassium carbonate), white potash (potassium chloride), soda (sodium carbonate), saltpeter (potassium nitrate), alum (potassium aluminum sulfate), and borax (sodium borate); and gunpowder (a mixture of sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal).
Changes in Demand
The arrival of Grantville will change the chemical marketplace. Some chemicals will be demanded because of their value as end-products, others, for use as starting materials or reagents.
The principal chemicals in the first decade after the RoF will not necessarily be those that are prominent nowadays. In particular, those inorganic chemicals whose principal utility is in making organic chemicals may be disdained until the necessary organic raw materials are isolated in reasonable quantities.
That said, it is worth using late-twentieth century compilations as a starting point. The top inorganic chemicals in the late-twentieth century are listed in Table 1-1. Most, if not all, of those compounds are going to be important in the first decade after RoF, too. (I am a bit uncertain about titanium dioxide, since titanium ores have never been mined by the down-timers.)
Inorganic Chemicals in Canon
The following inorganic chemicals are known to be in canon. The years given are those of their "canon appearance"; they may in fact have been made earlier (unless canon actually says "this is a first"). The chemicals marked with* were actually known to down-timers before RoF. Further details appear in later parts of this article.
1631-32: sulfuric acid*, nitric acid*, sodium bicarbonate,
1633: zinc sulfide* (sphalerite), natural cryolite (sodium aluminum fluoride), mercury fulminate, ammonia*, calcium hypochlorite, ammonium nitrate, [and by implication, chlorine, chlorosulfonic acid, hydrochloric acid*, calcium hydroxide]
1634: sodium hydroxide*, chromium ore (chromite), potassium chlorate, boric acid, borax*, hydrogen, graphite*
1635: calcium carbide
1636: synthetic cryolite, hydrogen fluoride
A twentieth-century chemist can buy, off the shelf, pure chemicals, borosilicate laboratory glassware, and accurate measuring equipment (thermometers, pH meters, analytical balances, etc.) The life of the "industrial alchemist" is going to be more difficult.
Mackey, "Ounces of Prevention" (Grantville Gazette 5) illustrates this by reference to the ring nitration step in chloramphenicol synthesis, which must be performed at near-freezing temperatures. Von Helmont complains he needs very pure sulfuric and nitric acids, and that the Essen Instrument Company has a six month backlog of orders for precision mercury thermometers.
There are further requirements for industrial-scale production. You need stainless steel, rather than glass, to handle large quantities of reactants, especially if they are being handled under high temperatures and pressures. (Flint, 1633, Chapter 26). Chromium is a key ingredient in stainless steel, and that is why Josh Modi goes to Paris in August 1633… to persuade Richelieu to permit an expedition to Maryland to mine chromite. (Modi's patron, De Geer, had apparently learned of that part of the terms of the then-secret Treaty of Ostend). Mackey, "The Essen Chronicles, Part Three: A Trip to Paris," Grantville Gazette 9.
The reactions which I expect will be the most difficult to duplicate early in the new time line are those which require special conditions (high or low pressure, unusual catalysts, or even high or low temperatures) or which are very finicky in their requirements for pure solvents and reagents. Unfortunately, modern industrial chemistry, especially organic chemistry, places great reliance on exotic catalysts.
Qualitative analysis answers the question, "Is it present?" There is a reasonable chance that at least one up-time chemist took a qualitative analysis course and has the textbook for it. If so, then it will be possible to determine the presence or absence of many common ions (electrically charged chemicals). Even without it, there is quite a bit of useful information in the encyclopedias, general chemistry textbooks, and the CRC.
Dry Analysis. In the flame test, the sample solution is dried on a wooden splint, or a platinum or nichrome wire, and waved through an "invisible" flame. The heat excites electrons in metal ions. The electrons eventually release energy, and for some ions, this happens in steps which correspond to one of the colors of visible light. For example, sodium is blue; boron is green, and calcium is red. Note that different ions can produce the same flame color, so this test is far from definitive.
In the borax bead test, a bead of borax, held on a platinum wire, is dipped in the sample, and then heated in the lower, reduction zone of the flame, and allowed to cool. You then heat it in the upper, oxidation zone, and let it cool. You observe its colors, hot and cold, and oxidized and reduced. The combination is indicative of which metal is present.
The sample may also be placed on a piece of charcoal, and a blowpipe used to control the flame.
Wet Analysis. The principal qualitative analysis methods exploit differences in reactivity and solubility. The method described in EB11/Chemistry) divides the metals into six groups; further reactions are needed to identify a particular ion within a group.
See also the EB11 entries for the tests specific to individual elements. Maria Vorst alludes to the cobalt nitrate test for aluminum in Cooper, "Stretching Out, Part 3: Maria's Mission" (Grantville Gazette 14), and Lewis Bartolli to the turmeric test for boric acid in Cooper, "Under the Tuscan Son" (Grantville Gazette 9).
Quantitative analysis answers the question "how much?" As might be expected, these techniques are more exacting than those of qualitative analysis.
Gravimetric analysis involves converting all of the chemical of interest (and only that chemical) to a precipitate and then weighing it.
Volumetric analysis requires adding, drop by drop ("titration"), a known volume of a standard solution of an analytical reagent that reacts with (and only with), the chemical of interest, until a "signal" evidences that all of the target chemical has reacted. The "signal" can be a color change achieved by an "indicator" chemical, or a change in the electrical characteristics of the solution.
The concentration of a compound in pure solution can be determined by measuring the degree to which it rotates the plane of polarization of linearly polarized light of a particular wavelength passing through the solution. You need to know the specific rotation of the compound (how much it rotates the plane over a unit path length) and the path length through the solution.
Spectroscopic analysis involves causing the chemical to emit or absorb light of various wavelengths (visible, infrared or ultraviolet) and measuring the emission or absorption.
Polarography requires measuring the change in the current through an electrochemical cell (see Electrochemistry) containing the solution of interest, as the voltage is varied.
Natural Sources of Inorganic Chemicals
Why synthesize a compound if you can isolate it from nature? Many useful compounds occur as minerals in rocks. Minerals are mostly ionic compounds (made of positively and negatively charged ions), and are often classified on the basis of the component anion. The most common classes of minerals are, in descending order of abundance: silicates carbonates/nitrates/borates sulfates/chromates halides oxides/hydroxides sulfides phosphates/arsenates/vanadates/antimonates/molybdates/tungstates native elements organic minerals.
Oxides and hydroxides can be found pretty much anywhere, in rocks which would have been exposed to weathering. Silicates are also widely distributed. Sulfides are usually found in volcanic regions, in so-called hydrothermal deposits. Halides, carbonates, sulfates, nitrates and borates are more likely to be in desert regions, as they are formed in water and precipitated as the water evaporates. Phosphates are derived from the skeletons of marine life, and thus are found in former seabeds.
Other important sources of inorganic compounds are seawater, subterranean brines, natural gas (the main source of helium), air and plants.
Chemical Reactions 101
There are only so many chemicals which can be found in nature; the rest must be synthesized. The ideal process is the one-step reaction. However, it may be desirable to take a more circuitous path in order to use a more available, cheaper or less dangerous starting material, or to produce a byproduct which is easier to dispose of or even salable in its own right. Other considerations are minimizing the need for special equipment (e.g., high pressure reactors), reducing energy requirements, and increasing production rate.
A reaction may seem good on its face but be impractical because the reactants are too expensive to obtain. For example, aluminum will react with iron oxide to produce aluminum oxide and pure iron, but the cost of the aluminum is greater than the value of the iron. (Kotz
Planning a chemical synthesis requires thinking about the chemical formula of the product and choosing reactants which provide the necessary building blocks by one or more of the basic forms of reaction. Stoichiometry allows us to express the reaction in quantitative form. Le Chatelier's Principle is used to qualitatively predict the effect of a change in concentration, pressure or temperature on the equilibrium state (ultimate degree of completion) of a reaction. Equilibrium constants, electromotive potentials and Gibbs free energy data are used to make more quantitative predictions as to the completeness of a reaction.
Basic Forms of Reactions. Combination reactions (A+B-›AB)are most often used to unite elements to make binary compounds (those with just two elements), especially oxides, hydrides, sulfides, nitrides, phosphides and halides. This tends to be most practical when the elements can be cheaply obtained.
Combination reactions are also used to convert oxides to carbonates (by adding carbon dioxide), nitrates (by adding nitrogen oxide), and sulfates (by adding sulfur oxide), or to hydrate (add water) to a compound.
The simplest and most important decomposition reaction (AB-›A+B) is electrolysis, in which a compound made of several ions is dissociated into its component ions. The various combination reactions can also be reversed.
Double displacement reactions (AB+CD -› AD + CB) occur between ionic compounds, but are only useful if the reaction is driven forward by the "disappearance" of one of the products; see Le Chatelier's Principle, below.
A redox reaction is one in which one atom or group gains electrons (reduction) and another loses electrons (oxidation). There are many inorganic compounds which comprise a positively charged metal ion. If the metal ion is reduced to the point that it is electrically neutral, then you have obtained the elemental metal. This is the one of the goals in metallurgy.
If any of the reactants or products in a combination, decomposition, or single replacement (AB + C -› AC + B, or -› CB + A) reaction is an element then the reaction is a redox reaction. A double replacement reaction is a redox reaction if any of the atoms changes its oxidation state (e.g., iron from +2 to +1).
Tables of reduction potentials can be used to predict whether a particular redox reaction will occur spontaneously, or needs to be driven by an applied voltage (see "Electrochemistry").
The most important single replacement reactions are those in which one of the reactants is a free metal or a halogen molecule. The more reactive metal displaces the less reactive one (e.g., copper + silver nitrate -› copper nitrate + silver), the more reactive halogen displaces the less reactive one (e.g., bromine + potassium iodide -› potassium bromide + iodine). The goal may be to make the new salt, to reduce the less reactive metal to elemental form, or both.
We can determine which metal or halogen is more reactive by inspecting a table of reduction potentials; the list of metals, from most active to least, is called the electromotive series.
Stoichiometry. Knowing the chemical formulae of the reactants and products, we can "balance" the equation of a chemical reaction, e.g., know that "x" molecules of compound 1 (#1) react with "y" molecules of #2 to make "m" molecules of #3 and "n" molecules of #4. And that in turn means we don't have to guess how much of compound #1 to add in order to fully react it with #2. And likewise we can calculate the theoretical yield of #3 and #4, given the amounts of #1 and #2 provided.
Le Chatelier's Principle. If a chemical system is in equilibrium, and a variable (pressure, temperature, concentration of reactant or product) is changed, the equilibrium shifts to resist the change. This has a number of interesting implications:
1) if the chemical reaction is chosen so that one of the products is
– insoluble, and thus precipitated out of the solution,
– a gas, and so escapes the solution then the reaction will be driven forward as the system shifts to try to replace the "lost" products.
2) In a reaction of ionic compounds, if one of the products (ion combinations) is a compound which is itself a poor electrolyte (a compound which only minimally dissociates into ions, such as water), then its component ions are "depleted" which drives the reaction forward.
3) the chemist can shift the equilibrium of the reaction forward (toward the products)
– by adding one of the reactants in excess.
– if any of the reactants or products are gases (e.g., hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, ammonia), and there are more molecules of gas on one side of the reaction than the other, the equilibrium can be shifted in one direction or another by a suitable change in pressure (see Pressure Control, below).
– by a suitable change in temperature (see Temperature Control, below) by "coupling" it to a second reaction-a starting material of which is a product of the first reaction-so the second reaction helps pull the first one forward.
Chemical Equilibrium. Many chemical reactions are reversible, that is, they can proceed in either the forward or reverse directions. If the forward and reverse reaction rates are equal, an equilibrium can occur, in which the reaction is incomplete, but there is no further propensity toward change in the concentrations of the reactants and the products. The equilibrium relationship can be expressed quantitatively as a concentration-dependent ratio which equals an equilibrium constant. (The equilibrium constant is also dependent on temperature and sometimes also on pressure.) Once the equilibrium constant is determined for one set of concentrations of the particular reactants and products, the equilibrium formula can be used to calculate the changes in the concentration of the product if the concentrations of the reactants is changed.
Thermodynamics/Gibbs Free Energy. There are reference books in Grantville (e.g., the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics) which have tables of thermodynamic values for various elements, cations, anions and solids. You can use these tables to predict whether a reaction involving those entities can occur spontaneously.
Rate. Loosely speaking, the equilibrium is the endpoint of a chemical reaction, and rate is how quickly it gets there. For a reaction to be commercially feasible, it must not only have an equilibrium favoring the products, it must have a high enough reaction rate. Unfortunately, the prediction of reaction rate is difficult and at the very least requires a knowledge of the exact reaction mechanism. Reaction rates increase with concentration (more chance for the reactants to collide) and temperature. Reactions of ions in solution tend to be fast. Other reactions are slower, as some (but not all) of the bonds holding the reactants together will need to be broken.
Planning. In general, synthetic strategies depend on either displacing one metal with another which is higher in the electromotive series, or on causing two soluble salts to react to form an insoluble product, a gas, or water. (See appendix table 1-2.)
Electrochemistry studies the use of spontaneous chemical reactions to create an electric current (as in a battery) or the use of an applied electrical voltage to force a chemical reaction to occur (as in an electrolytic cell).
If the electromotive potential of a reaction is less than zero, then the reaction won't occur spontaneously. But you can still make it happen by applying electricity. The voltage has to be high enough to counteract the negative potential of the reaction, and the current will determine how much product is produced. The reaction will not be 100% efficient, so you will have to use more current than what is theoretically required.
An electrolytic cell has an electrolyte and two electrodes (cathode and anode). The electrolyte may be a solution or a molten salt; the key point is that it contains mobile ions. An ion is an atom or molecule which has lost one or more electrons giving it a positive charge (cation), or gained one or more electrons, yielding a negative charge (anion). The voltage drives the movement of cations toward the cathode, where they are reduced, and of anions toward the anode, where they are oxidized.
At the anode and cathode, the products may undergo further reaction to form secondary products. In a two compartment diaphragm or membrane cell, some kind of barrier prevents undesired reactions between anode and cathode species. For example, in the chloralkali process, hydroxide ions are allowed to react with sodium ions in the cathode compartment (making caustic soda), but not with chloride ions in the anode compartment. And recombination of sodium and chloride ions is also inhibited.
In 1633, Dr. Phil built a "wet cell" battery with a dilute sulfuric acid electrolyte and a zinc electrode. Offord, "Dr. Phil Zinkens a Bundle" (Grantville Gazette 7). That story doesn't reveal the identity of the second electrode, but it would probably be copper, see Boatright, "So You Want to Do Telecommunications in 1633?" ( Grantville Gazette 2).
Here, we are more concerned with electrolysis, which is the decomposition of a chemical by electricity. Dr. Gribbleflotz experimented with electrolysis of an unspecified salt in Offord and Boatright, "The Dr. Gribbleflotz Chronicles, Part 2: Dr. Phil's Amazing Essence Of Fire Tablets" (Grantville Gazette 7)
In the old time line, water was decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen in 1800; sodium and potassium were isolated by electrolysis of their salts in 1807.
The first electrochemical reaction of industrial importance was probably in the purification of platinum. In 1991, the principal electrochemical products were caustic soda, chlorine, aluminum, copper, zinc, chromium, sodium chlorate, caustic potash, magnesium, sodium, manganese dioxide, permanganates, manganese, perchlorates, and titanium. (KirkOthmer9:125). The most common electrolyte was probably sodium chloride.
Electricity is supplied by power plants as high voltage alternating current, but for electrochemical use, this needs to be rectified into direct current and stepped down by transformers to a lower voltage.
What appears to be a single reaction may occur through a series of steps (addition, elimination, substitution and rearrangement), each with its own molecularity (the number of reacting molecules) and own rate law (a mathematical relationship between the rate of the reaction step and the concentration of the reactants). The slowest step determines the rate of the overall reaction.
Catalysts increase (or decrease, so-called negative catalysts) the rate of a chemical reaction without participating in the net reaction. They have no effect on the equilibrium concentrations of the reactants and products.
Johann Dobereiner discovered that the rate of the conversion of alcohol to acetic acid (1816) or acetic aldehyde (1832) could be increased by conducting the reaction in the presence of platinum wire. He created (1823) a lighter in which the hydrogen flame was produced by the action of sulfuric acid on zinc, in the vicinity of a platinum sponge (EA "Dobereiner"; Jentoft). In 1817, Humphrey Davy studied the effect of wires of different metals on the rate of reaction of coal-gas with oxygen. The term "catalysis" was coined by Jons Jakob Berzelius, who used it to explain additional phenomena, including the rapid decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by metals.
EA "Catalyst" says that "many common catalysts are powders of metals or of metallic compounds," and by way of example mentions that platinum catalyzes the hydrogenation of double bonds. It also indicates that acids can be catalysts; "sulfuric acid catalyzes the isomerization of hydrocarbons."
EA "Platinum" says that for use as a catalyst, platinum is used in powdery ("platinum black", from reduction of platinum chloride) or spongy form, and there is reference to its use in production of nitric acid.
Further "data mining" EA will identify other catalysts, which I have tried to logically group below: metals: palladium, neodymium, samarium, rhenium, lutetium, ruthenium, molybdenum, silver, mercury, nickel, iron, rhodium, a platinum-rhodium alloy (for preparation of hydrocyanic acid from ammonia, methane and air, or preparation of nitric acid or ammonium nitrate), copper, unidentified transition metals, metal oxides: iron oxide (to catalyze the direct combination of nitrogen and hydrogen in the Haber Process, EA "Ammonia"), manganese dioxide (to speed the thermal decomposition of potassium chlorate to produce oxygen, EA "Chemical Reactions"), platinum dioxide (from fusion of chloroplatinic acid with sodium nitrate), copper oxides, chromium zinc oxide (used in methanol production), scandium oxide, cadmium oxide, lead oxide (litharge), acids: hydrobromic acid, chromic acid, hydrogen fluoride, hydrochloric acid (for nitrobenzene), miscellaneous: copper acetate, aluminum chloride, certain organotin compounds, nickel-aluminum sulfide, sodium nitrate (for manufacture of sulfuric acid), sodium ethylate, peroxides, hot alcoholic solution of potassium cyanide, lithium acetate, n-butyllithium, coordination compounds of zirconium, phosphorus pentaflouride, water (!).
EA apparently overlooks the organometallic catalysts, which were rather important in the late twentieth century.
It is important to note that many catalysts are reaction-specific. Hence, there is going to be a lot of educated trial-and-error going on; systematically testing the effect of each of a series of potential catalysts to see if any of them facilitate a reaction of interest.
A good example of this is the screening carried out by Bosch to make the Haber nitrogen fixation process feasible commercially. Haber initially identified osmium and uranium, both of which were quite expensive, as effective catalysts. Bosch set up test reactors, and tested 4,000 different catalysts over five years, finding that an impure iron oxide catalyst was cheap and operable. (McGrayne 66; KirkOthmer5:323).
Just to complicate matters further, modern catalysts aren't necessarily simple materials. Because the catalytic material is expensive, it is usually advantageous to use it in small amounts, and disperse it on a support material with a high surface area. Gamma-alumina is the most popular support. (KirkOthmer 5:347).
There are also catalytic promoters. These are substances which don't act as catalysts themselves, but which potentiate the activity of the "real" catalyst. There are both chemical promoters which change the surface chemistry, and textural promoters which alter the physical characteristics. Alkali metals have been used as chemical promoters.
Catalysts can be deactivated as a result of fouling (they are physically masked by deposited material), poisoning (feed impurities which reduce their catalytic activity), and physical change (e.g., sintering). Catalysts may in turn be regenerated.
The modern catalyst for ammonia synthesis is a combination of iron oxide as the catalyst, aluminum and calcium oxide as textural promoters, and potassium as a chemical promoter.
Some catalysts-common acids, finely divided metals (e.g. platinum), and some metal oxides-can be put to work in the 1632verse in fairly short order. Others are rare materials, or of a complex composition or structure, and it will take years, if not decades, of work to duplicate them.
Temperature affects both the rate and the completeness of a reaction. A typical rule of thumb is that for every 10њC increase in temperature, the reaction rate will double. The effect of the temperature on the completeness of a reaction depends on whether it is endothermic (needs heat) or exothermic (releases heat). Higher temperatures favor endothermic reactions and hinder exothermic ones.
There are other considerations. Too high a temperature can result in side reactions, including decomposition. So, depending on the reaction, you may want to heat things up, keep the temperature from increasing above a certain point, or bring it below room temperature.
If a reaction is temperature sensitive, then you need a good thermometer. For industrial work, you might prefer a thermostat which controls a heating or cooling device. In 1634, the Essen Instrument Company is manufacturing precision mercury thermometers. (Mackey, "Ounces of Prevention," Grantville Gazette 5). I would expect that simple spirit thermometers are being made, too.
Both heating and cooling processes are slower to start, and stop, when the reaction is on an industrial scale. As the volume increases, the ratio of the heating or cooling surface to the volume decreases.
In the laboratory, if an elevated temperature is needed for a reaction, the chemist will use a gas-burning Bunsen burner. This can reach a temperature close to 900њC. Up-time, natural gas is used, but Dr. Phil has an alcohol burner in 1633. Offord and Boatright, "Dr. Phil's Amazing Essence of Fire Tablets," Grantville Gazette 7).
On the industrial scale, you may be burning some kind of fuel, which heats air or water surrounding the vessel, or passing through tubes in the vessel. Steam distillation falls in this category. Or you may be converting electrical energy into heat energy. Or running two industrial processes alongside each other, one providing heat for the other.
Chemical reactions tend to be more efficient when the reactants are all in the liquid phase. Solids react only at their surfaces, and gases are low in density. If one of the reactants is solid at room temperature, then to put it in the liquid phase, it must be dissolved or melted. And melting requires heat.
In some cases, it is possible to drastically lower the melting point of the substance of interest by adding a second substance, known as a "flux". Sodium, potassium and lead oxides lower the melting point of glass from 1700њ C. to perhaps 900-1200. Aluminum oxide melts at 2054њ C., but it can be dissolved in cryolite, which is molten at a little less than 1000њ C.
You may also be trying to lower the melting point of the waste material. For example, in smelting copper, you may want to make sure that the silica forms a very liquid slag, that the copper can sink through. So iron oxide is added.
Smelting metals typically requires a reducing agent (e.g. carbon) and heat. For tin or lead oxide, a campfire (600-650њC) is good enough, but copper requires a temperature of 700-800 and forgeable iron, 1100њC.
Combustion processes cannot exceed the "adiabatic combustion temperature," which, for combustion in air, is about 2000њ C for natural gas, 2150 for oil and 2200 for coal. The fuel is the source of carbon and the air is the source of oxygen. The limiting temperature is a function of the heating value of the fuel, the specific heat capacity of the fuel and the air (and the combustion products), the ratio of fuel to air, and the air and fuel inlet temperatures (Wikipedia, "Combustion"). Even higher temperatures are achievable with rocket engine fuels/oxidizers.
The practical combustion temperatures for industrial chemistry are much lower than the theoretic limit. It is difficult to achieve complete combustion if there is insufficient air, heat is lost (radiated out; carried away by exhaust gases), and so forth. To ensure complete combustion, it is customary to use an excess of air, but air dilution then reduces the temperature of combustion.
In 1920, a coal furnace could achieve a temperature of 1600њC without a blast, and 1800њC with one. A gas-fired furnace, with hot air, both the gas and air under pressure, could reach about 2000њC. (Marsh, 46). For higher temperatures, you need to heat by means other than combustion.
An electric arc furnace uses an electric current to heat a conductive material. That could be an ionic compound, or a conductive metal. Perhaps the first industrial use of the electric arc furnace was in the production of calcium carbide by heating lime and coke to 2000њC (1888). Electric arc furnaces came to play an important role in small-scale steelmaking.
Another option for sidestepping the practical combustion temperature limit is to use a solar furnace. Temperatures of 3000њC have been achieved by focusing solar radiation.
The higher the temperature our technology will generate, the more options we have for chemical synthesis.
To chill things down, you can put the vessel in ice, an alcohol bath, dry ice (solid carbon dioxide), or in liquid nitrogen. (for availability of CO2 and nitrogen, see part 2, and Huston, "Refrigeration and the 1632 World" (Grantville Gazette 17)).
Some reactions cannot be conducted in the air, because it would react. If so, the air is replaced with an inert gas, like nitrogen or argon.
Or you may need an atmosphere whose pressure is higher or lower than normal. It is important to compare the number of gas molecules at the beginning and end of the reaction. If that number decreases (as in ammonia synthesis), increasing the pressure will cause the reaction to shift (per Le Chatelier's Principle) in favor of reducing the pressure, which means in favor of fewer gas molecules, and thus in the forward direction. On the other hand, if the number of gas molecules is increased by the forward reaction, then you want to conduct the reaction under lower-than-normal pressure.
To change the pressure, you need two things: a pump, and a vessel with walls strong enough to withstand the pressures generated.
Vacuums may be needed to pull out a gaseous product (to drive a chemical reaction), or to lower the boiling points of the compounds in an organic residue (as in vacuum distillation). Vacuum pumps have been scavenged from refrigerators. (Gorg Huff, "Other People's Money," Grantville Gazette 3)
Elevated pressure also may be used to keep the reactants in the liquid phase, or to facilitate a gas phase reaction. In the mid-nineteenth century, autoclaves were built which could achieve pressures of 725-1150 psi (14.7 psi is normal atmospheric pressure). A 1901 ammonia synthesis used a 1450 psi autoclave. In the early twentieth century, large-scale continuous feed reactors had been built which could handle 2000-5000 psi. By the 1990s, there were operations using 51,000 psi. (Kirk-Othmer/"High Pressure Technology").
High pressure vessels are typically thick -walled, and composed of gun steels. During the 50s, the preferred alloy was nickel-chromium-molybdenum, and later an alloy which additionally contained vanadium gained favor.
The down-timers' only experience with "pressure vessels" is of a rather specialized nature: cannon barrels. These have to resist the internal pressures generated by the explosion. For a given thickness, bronze is better than cast iron, and the down-timers are familiar with the concept of the "built-up" cannon, in which hot hoops or jackets are fit over the barrel and allowed to cool and shrink.
In 1773-91, Woolwich conducted experiments on muskets, reporting a maximum internal pressure of 2,000 atmospheres. (Ingalls). A Civil War era 15-inch Rodman gun, charged with 130 pounds of black powder, will experience 25,000 psi (1700 atmospheres) pressure. (NPS).
While explosives are not exactly a preferred source of pressure (they're dangerous, and don't lend themselves to continuous processing), Alfred Noble "packed steel tubes with gunopowder or cordite and heated them until they exploded with tremendous force, briefly attaining pressures of 8,000 atmospheres at more than 5,000њC." (Hazen 35).
The up-timers include some steam engine enthusiasts, and a locomotive boiler can be considered a high pressure vessel suitable for continuous processing. Canon is a little vague on the issue, but it appears that there is at least one true locomotive on the main line by September 1633 (Flint, 1633, Chapter 33). That locomotive, of course, is generating high pressure steam. I suspect, based on the nineteenth-century locomotive data which the designers will be studying, that it has a steam pressure in the 75-200 psi range. That's still short of even a nineteenth-century autoclave, but it's a start.
To some extent, it will be possible to compensate for having weaker alloys by increasing the thickness of the vessel wall. However, that increases the expense of the vessel and, if it's externally heated or cooled, it impairs heat transfer. In addition, increasing vessel thickness doesn't address the Achilles' heel(s) of the system: the openings needed in order to add raw materials, withdraw product and perhaps supply or remove heat.
Solvents are used as a medium in which the reactants can find each other, as catalysts (to help the reactants make or break bonds), and to control the temperature of the reaction. The traditional solvent for inorganic chemical reactions is water.
If cold water doesn't dissolve a particular salt, you can try hot water, and, if that fails, a dilute or concentrated solution of an acid (hydrochloric, sulfuric, nitric, hydrofluoric, acetic, etc.). If need be, the inorganic chemist may have recourse to pure acids, carbon disulfide, liquid ammonia, liquid sulfur dioxide, alcohol, benzene, chloroform, acetone, ether, and turpentine. CRC provides detailed information on the solubility of inorganic compounds in various solvents.
The choice of solvent can have interesting consequences. Barium chloride is soluble in water, while silver chloride is not. The reverse is true in liquid ammonia. Hence, in water, barium chloride reacts with silver nitrate to form silver chloride and barium nitrate. The reverse reaction is favored in liquid ammonia. (Purcell, 154).
Sometimes, not only do you not want to use water as a solvent, you need to make sure that there isn't even a trace of water present in the reactor. If so, you will use various dehydrating agents to prepare the reactor and the reactants for use.
While water was the most important solvent in inorganic chemistry, it has a lesser role in organic chemistry. Over twenty different organic compounds are used as solvents, including methanol, ethanol, acetone, acetic anhydride, pyridine, chloroform, diethyl ether, and benzene (Bordwell 201). In winter 1633-34, Henri Beaubriand-Levesque uses turpentine and ether as solvents for natural rubber. (Offord, "Letters from France," Grantville Gazette 12).
The "aprotic solvents" (e.g., dimethyl sulfoxide) are especially interesting because they seem to increase the reactivity of the reagents (M amp;B 492). DMSO can be obtained from the lignin of wood (EA/Dimethyl Sulfoxide).
The weight, and hence the mass, of a chemical is measured in chemistry labs by using an equal-arm balance. This has two pans, one holding the unknown, the other a known weight. EA/Balance says that the key to precision measurements is to use a knife edge as a fulcrum, whereas EB11/Weighting Machines warns that the knife-edges and their bearings must be extremely hard. All else being equal, a long arm balance will be more sensitive than a short arm one. Precautions must be taken vis-a-vis temperature, humidity, vibration (from air currents or through the ground), and other disturbances.
In industry, where the weights involved are much greater, the measurement will probably be with an unequal arm balance ("steelyard"), a spring scale, or a platform scale with multiplying levers. (EA/Weighing Machines).
The volume of a liquid is measured by introducing it into a graduated cylinder of suitable size. The flow rate of a gas can also be measured (suitable examples exist at homes which buy natural gas for heating purposes).
Temperature is measured, of course, by a thermometer. The first thermometers were of the liquid-in-glass type; first water, then alcohol, and finally mercury. The liquid expands as the temperature rises. Sealing the tube was essential to avoiding pressure effects. Mercury is liquid from -39 to 357њC. To measure higher temperatures, a gas-in-tube thermometer can be used. Hydrogen thermometers are used up to 1100њC, and nitrogen to 1550њC.
There are many other principles on which a thermometer can be constructed. The platinum resistance thermometer (1886) has been used to measure temperatures in the -259 to 630њC range.
Gas pressures are measured with a pressure gauge designed to handle a suitable range of pressures. There are hydrostatic gauges (manometers) which observe the movement of a column of mercury in a U-shaped tube, flexible pressure sensors like the 1849 Bourdon tube (coiled tube which expands and causes arm to rotate) or the diaphragm gauge (membrane deforms under differential pressure), and thermal gauges which detect the change in heat conductivity of a gas. A primitive manometer was invented by Torricelli in 1643. In Grantville, we probably have diaphragm barometers in several homes, and the steam buffs have pressure gauges which can work up to probably ten or twenty times atmospheric pressure. pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of a solution. You can measure it quantitatively with a pH meter; which is really a voltmeter with a glass electrode sensitive to hydrogen ions. There isn't any useful information about them in the encyclopedias, but it might be possible to reverse engineer them, and, if one of the chemists took a course in chemical analysis, they would be described there.
If a pH meter isn't available, then you can estimate pH by using one or more acid-base indicators. Those are chemicals which change color depending on the pH. The oldest indicator, litmus paper, was known to the down-timers. EA/Indicator mentions that a mixture of methyl orange, methyl red, bromothymol blue and phenolphthalein will change color continuously from red to violet as the pH varies from 3 to 10. Several of these indicators are discussed in slightly more detail in EB11/Indicator.
The hazards posed by chemicals are fire, explosion, and irritation, burning or poisoning through inhalation of vapor, or skin or eye contact.
Borosilicate glass or stainless steel vessels, goggles, wash stations, specialized fire extinguishers, and fume hoods are all taken for granted in the late twentieth century laboratory but will be quite new to the down-timers.
For further details on hazard control in industrial processes, see Cooper, "Industrial Safety" (part 1 in Grantville Gazette 17 and part 2 in 18).
Many naturally occurring inorganic chemicals are found together with other chemicals, from which they must be separated.
Chemical processes may also yield a mixture of products. When the reaction is performed, you have to separate the product from whatever else is present. At the very least, there will be solvent. If the reaction didn't go to completion, then there will be some starting materials still around. If your reactants and solvent weren't pure, then you have to worry either about the original contaminants or what they might have been converted into.
Some reactions, by their very nature, create more than one product. For example, there are decomposition reactions, which break a large molecule into two or more smaller ones. And there are many reactions in which there is a "change of partners" (compound AB reacts with CD to form AC and BD, where A, B, C and D represent pieces of the reactants).
Separation of the mixture usually depends on the physical properties that differentiate the desired chemical from the others with which it is associated. But suppose that you need to separate X (desired) from Y (undesired), and you can't do so directly. Well, there are tricks that depend on the different chemical reactivities of X and Y. You could chemically convert X to Z, separate Z from Y, then convert Z back to X. Or convert Y to Z, and separate X from Z or even convert X to Z and Y to W, separate Z and W, then convert Z back to X.
The more common separation processes, and the related physical properties, are:
Distillation/Boiling/Condensation: Boiling point (vapor pressure)
Recrystallization: Solubility of Pure versus Mixed Solutes
Decanting/Filtration: Solubility in a particular solvent, and particle size
Extraction: Difference in solubility between two immiscible liquids
Stripping: Difference in solubility in a liquid and in a gas
Magnetic Separation: Magnetism
The down-timers are familiar with simple boiling (distillation), but not with techniques such as fractional distillation and vacuum distillation. I will discuss the more advanced techniques in a forthcoming article on the organic chemical industry. Since the down-timers have only the vaguest concept of gases, they are unaware of the elements that can be collected by the liquefaction of air.
Recrystallization was used by Birringucio in the sixteenth century to purify leached saltpeter. (Bohm). In the simplest form of recrystallization, the crude material is dissolved in a minimum quantity of a single solvent, heated enough to bring it all into solution, and then allowed to cool. The principal component crystallizes out first, in a purer form. I am not sure that the down-timers know about multi-solvent crystallization. In any event, modern chemistry increases the number of solvents from which to choose. We are also now more aware of the importance of initiating the crystallization step by providing a seed crystal or creating a seeding surface.
The down-timers also know that some reactions form precipitates, which can then be separated from the remaining liquid by decanting the latter. And they filtered liquids through felt, paper, and porous stones. (Bolton). However, they only practiced gravity filtration, not vacuum filtration, and their filter materials can be improved upon.
The down-timers have prepared extracts, usually with water, of various plant tissues (and the aforementioned leaching is also a form of extraction). However, they haven't really exploited extraction with organic solvents.
Since the down-timers don't know of any gas other than air, and use air in chemical processes only as an oxidant, they aren't aware of the use of a gas to selectively remove a chemical from a liquid.
Density separation by gravity has been used since antiquity. However, centrifugal separation didn't begin until the nineteenth century (a centrifuge was first used separate cream from milk). A centrifuge artificially achieves a sedimenting force much greater than gravity, and hence can separate materials of different density much faster than gravity can.
The down-timers are barely aware of the existence of magnetism, and they lack powerful magnets. Hence, they haven't performed magnetic separations, e.g., of ferrous from non-ferrous metals in recycling operations.
In the seventeenth century, there were chemical processes, like dyeing and tanning, which could be called industrial processes. Nonetheless, there was no industrial production of chemicals, with the arguable exception of refining ores to metals.
The first chemical compounds produced in reasonably pure form on a large scale were sulfuric acid (late eighteenth century) and soda ash (early nineteenth century). Hence, the down-time alchemists are not accustomed to operations on an industrial scale.
Nowadays, the scaling up of a chemical process is the work of the chemical engineer. In the nineteenth century, chemists teamed up with mechanical engineers. The emphasis of chemical engineers is on "unit processes"-for example, different types of separation.
There are a variety of process changes that must be made when scaling up from laboratory scale (batch size under a kilogram) to industrial scales (tons of material)(White, 117-18). The most obvious one is that the reaction vessels change from glass to metal, but there are others.
Process development is the redesign of a laboratory process to work on the industrial scale. This development work is done on a "pilot plant" scale, intermediate between the laboratory and industrial scales.
The raw material samples that are run through the pilot plant process are only those that are available, if accepted for production use, in commercial quantities. The idea is to avoid using raw materials that will require synthesis, or extensive purification.
Solvents are chosen, whenever possible, so that they don't present severe fire, explosion or toxicity hazards, and so they are recoverable, in reasonable yield (e.g., at least 85%) for reuse.
Since recovery is incomplete, it is a good idea to find ways of minimizing the amount of solvent needed in the first place.
If expensive liquids are involved in the process, whether as solvents or reactants, mockup studies can be performed. That is, an inexpensive fluid with the right physical properties is used as a surrogate to test flow through the system. (Euzen 16).
Many physical processes are size sensitive because of surface/volume ratio considerations. Heating, cooling or filtering material may take minutes on the lab scale but hours on the industrial scale. Extraction of solute from one liquid to another is also on the slow side. The elongated time scale can cause a variety of problems.
There is a general preference for a short time cycle from beginning to end of the production process, but this can cause other problems. For example, a short time cycle may be achievable only if the temperature is allowed to rise rapidly. A temperature rise that is acceptable on the lab scale may result in a fire or explosion when large quantities are involved. The rate of addition of reactants may need to be reduced to compensate.
Significant byproducts of the reaction need to be identified. If you can obtain samples of these byproducts, you can add them to the product and see how the properties change. In this way, you can determine the tolerance limits to be enforced by quality control personnel on the industrial scale.
Many chemical reactions do not yield a single product, even in theory. Others would do so if the reactants were pure, but the required purity may not be obtainable in the early post-RoF period. Separation processes are chosen so that yield is high; crystallization, if necessary, is preferably the last step, because yields are 90% at best.
Ideally, the byproducts are useful in their own right, and recoverable for sale. For example, Spanish pyrites (iron disulfide) were not only used to make sulfuric acid, they usually contained 3-4% copper, which could be profitably extracted from the cinders. (EB11 "Sulphuric Acid").
The good news is that there are economies of scale. Euzen (9) says, "the capital investment normally required for the transformation of the raw material into a given product varies by the power of 0.7 with the capacity of the unit."
Batch versus continuous. In a batch process, the raw materials are loaded into the reactor, the reaction is carried out to completion, the products are removed, and the reactor is cleaned out, ready to repeat the cycle. In a continuous process, the reactor is (almost) never shut down. As product is pulled out, new raw material is added.
Continuous processes are typically very efficient; they are amenable to production of extremely large volumes at a very low operating cost. In part, that low operating cost is attributable to the relative ease with which a continuous process can be automated.
However, there are a few catches. First, continuous processes typically use equipment specially designed for the process in question. If the demand for the product drops, you have equipment which is going to waste. If there is an emergency demand for a different product, you need to set up a separate (batch) reactor to deal with it.
Second, continuous processes must be much more closely monitored. You need real time, or near real time, surveillance of the levels of all the raw materials and products so that, if you're running a little low on one reactant, you can toss more in. And if the product mix isn't correct, you can try to figure out why, and fix the problem.
Third, and this is related to the first two points, continuous process plants tend to have high start up costs.
Fourth, you are at the mercy of your suppliers (and the transportation infrastructure). If you run out of on one of the reactants because a delivery isn't made, or because the material delivered isn't up to spec, then you may have to shut down the process. Idle equipment "burns" money, it doesn't make money. And with some continuous processes, it is difficult and expensive to "restart." You can alleviate these problems by keeping a large reserve of the raw materials, but even when that is practical (some materials don't store well) it is expensive.
This means that we aren't going to see much in the way of continuous processing during the first decade after RoF.
In parts 2 and 3 we will analyze the prospects for the production of specific elements, molecules and compounds.
Table 1-1: Top Inorganic Chemicals
Sulfuric Acid and Derivatives
Sulfuric Acid* manufacture of sulfates, hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid; acid catalyst,
Phosphoric Acid rust removal, acidification of foods, phosphate (including fertilizer) manufacture, soft drinks
Aluminum Sulfate mordant, water purification, concrete additive
Calcium Oxide (Lime)* steel and cement manufacture
Sodium Carbonate (Soda)* glass flux; pH adjustment, electrolyte, water softener
Sodium Silicate (Water Glass) cement, egg preservative, timber preservative, porosity-reducer in concrete, fire protection
Nitrogen ammonia production, petroleum recovery, perishables protection
Oxygen desulfurization of steel; manufacture of etheylene oxide; welding, rocket fuel oxidizer, oxygen therapy
Carbon Dioxide pressurized gas, fire control, welding, solvent (as liquid), refrigerant (as solid), reagent
Sodium Chloride Derivatives
Sodium Chloride* production of chlorine, chloride, and sodium compounds
Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda)* strong base in soap, paper, detergent, synthetic fiber manufacture
Chlorine disinfecting water, bleaching paper, production of vinyl chloride plastics and chlorinated organics
Hydrochloric Acid* regeneration of ion exchangers, pickling steel, pH control, production of chlorides and chlorinated organics, including PVC
Ammonia* raw material for making nitric acid, ammonium sulfate, chloramine; refrigerant; fertilizer (as water solution); fuel
Nitric Acid* manufacture of nitrates; oxidizing agent
Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer, oxidizing agent (in explosives)
Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer, preparation of ammonium salts, protein precipitant
Titanium Dioxide white pigment, photocatalyst
Potassium Carbonate (Potash)* soap, glass production; drying agent; fire suppressant
Carbon Black* pigment, tire filler
(Source: Chenier, Survey of Industrial Chemistry, Table 2.1. Uses from Wikipedia.)
Finding Your Way in Another Plane
Written by Kevin H. Evans
More than anything else, air travel has become one of the great indicators of up-time connections. Aircraft and other flying devices show, more than anything else, the influence of up-time technology on the 17th century. Perhaps one of the Hallmark questions that gets asked of people who return from a visit to the USE will be, "did you see a flying machine?".
Indeed, aircraft will be among the first items sought after by governments in the seventeenth century once they know flight is possible. This will rapidly create a situation where many aircraft, perhaps as many as fifty, over the next five or ten years will be flying across Europe. Navigation will become a serious issue. Next time you get a chance, look out the window of an aircraft and look at the ground. Honestly, it all looks the same from the air. Getting from your start point to your destination can be fairly difficult. Especially because there are no maps that reflect the landmarks of the seventeenth century from the air.
There are a few of the up-timers who have been trained in aerial navigation. These experts will be able to pass on some of the knowledge needed to fly safely from point A to point B. Nevertheless the slightest mistake can end up with your aircraft many, many, many miles from your destination. A further concern is that there are very few designated landing sites. Of course, any open field will be suitable for most of our aircraft, but once you land there's no fuel or knowing exactly where you are, and there will be no supplies or ground crew to get you back into the air. It becomes absolutely necessary, therefore, to actually arrive at your desired destination. As a result of this, some form of aircraft navigation aids will become absolutely necessary.
Aircraft navigation aids come in two types. The first type are called landing aids, and have to do with helping the pilot to get his aircraft safely onto the ground without bending it. The second type are in-flight navigation aids. These have to do with helping the pilot find his way from origin to destination during a flight.
Landing aids are anything used by the pilot to guide himself to a safe landing. These devices can be both aircraft- and ground- mounted. Ground-mounted devices are usually lights, especially for nighttime operation. These lights are used to indicate the size of a runway, the end of a runway, and whether or not the aircraft is on the appropriate slope approaching the ground. This appropriate angle of fifty feet in a thousand, or about five percent, is called a glide slope.
Aircraft-mounted equipment involves an electronic mechanism that, by the use of needles in a dial, can indicate to the pilot whether or not the aircraft is approaching on the appropriate glide slope and whether or not the aircraft is approaching the air strip from the correct direction.
The first of the ground mounted systems is called a PAPI or Precision Approach Path Indicator. And there is the similar VASI, or Visual Approach Slope Indicator. The systems are composed of a series of lamps, white on top, and red on the bottom. These are inside a shrouded mounting that limits which lamp is visible to the pilot depending on the angle the device is viewed from.
The old saying is "if you're red you are dead." This is because when the aircraft is at the proper angle, one red light and one white light are visible to the pilot. If the pilot can see two red lights, he is coming in too low and is in danger of hitting the ground. If the pilot sees two white lights aircraft is too high and will not land at the end of the runway. This system is particularly desirable because it is fairly easy to implement..
The next ground mounted landing aid is called an approach lighting system, or ALS. It is more simply referred to as a light rail. These are a series of lamps are mounted on poles in such a manner that the pilot will only see one lamp when he is approaching at the proper angle. Light rails can also be what are called flashers, which means that the lamps themselves flash in sequence so as to appear to float towards the ground..
As long as we're talking about lamps, there are a few other lamps that need to be mentioned. The runway is normally marked by having a line of green lights that indicate the beginning of the safe landing zone of the airstrip. Additionally, many groomed airstrips have side markers to show the edges of the runway. During daylight hours they are usually short posts and painted a contrasting reflected color, at night they are usually red or blue lights.
The last light I want to mention is that of the rotating locator beacon. This is a very bright light, mounted on a tower, that indicates to the pilot where the landing area is. Later on we will be talking about other navigation aids, but these devices only get the aircraft to the general area of the landing zone. The rotating beacon is a visual indicator that will guide the pilot the last few miles to the air strip.
More complicated are the electronic landing aids. These landing aids are composed of three devices. The first device is called the localizer. This is a moderately complicated horizontal antenna mounted at the far end of the runway. Because of the physical placement of the antenna elements, a radio signal is emitted that is composed of a series of lobes radiating from the antenna. These lobes can be detected by the aircraft and can indicate the proper angle of approach to the aircraft.
The second device is called the glide slope. The glide slope is another set of antennas, designed and mounted vertically. These provide a radio signal which can be detected by the aircraft that gives a proper angle for descending to the landing strip.
The third device is called the ILS display. This is a device mounted in the airplane that can detect the radio signals from the glide slope and localizer and indicate to the pilot whether or not the aircraft is making proper approach.
For any of this to work, however, you have to be able to find the airport. Historically, airports were first indicated by a smudge pot. That is, they had a large barrel full of oily rags. This would be set on fire, creating a large smoke cloud to give a visible indication of where the airfield was. Also it is very common to have a wind sock. This device is usually a large cone of brightly colored fabric that is attached to a pole. It is open on both ends, with the more narrow end at the bottom, so as to indicate the wind direction and strength for the pilot looking for a landing site. Direction of course is indicated by the direction the sock is pointing, and the strength is indicated by how much of the stock is fully inflated and standing out.
Everything we've mentioned up until now works just fine as long as you're operating out of one airport. Navigating from one airport to different airports, especially one that is a great distance from your original point, is a very specialized skill.
As we mentioned earlier, if you view the ground from above, one part of it looks very much like another part. In fact the higher you go, the more difficult it is to determine exactly what you're looking at on the ground. Experience and training can help the aerial navigator find his way around, but what every navigator really needs is a map. Aerial navigation maps are not really like any other map used either now or during history. Much of the detail on an aerial navigation map is numbers and letters. The numbers and letters refer to different beacons that have been set up to help aircraft navigate from one point to another point.
Further, while some high points are listed, most land features lower than one thousand feet in altitude are not listed. Rivers, major roads, and large cities are marked on the maps because they are easily discerned from altitude. Nonetheless, much of the information found on a standard map is not included with an air chart. But the map is most important because of the information that is printed next to each of the marked beacons. Each beacon on the map is identified by its position, and by the radio frequency which it uses. Pilots, desiring to navigate, plot each beacon and locate themselves on the map using bearings from those beacons for themselves. This is done by finding the imaginary line to each beacon and extending it backwards towards where your aircraft is. Using two or more beacons, the lines will intersect and show where the aircraft is.
Navigation is further complicated by the air you are flying through. Crosswinds, headwinds and clouds can all interfere with navigation. Many pilots have been blown far off course by a crosswind that they could not even feel while flying. Headwinds can slow an aircraft down so that while the pilot has a instrument stating one speed, in reality the aircraft is going much slower. All of these factors require that the pilot of an aircraft be very careful with his navigation, especially in the seventeenth century, because airports are few and far between.
Creating aerial maps will require that we have the ability to identify on the map exactly where all the transmission towers and radio stations are. This allows us to build a radio direction finder that will assist us in finding our position on the map. The pilot can use a radio direction finder that gives the compass heading to each of the radio stations we can hear.
Navigation is also possible by referencing your position to large known landmarks seen on the ground. Much like the bush-flying techniques now used in Alaska These are marked on your map. While navigating, several other things need to be taken into consideration. Among them is the fact that the air that you are in is normally moving and will push you around in the sky even though you think you're flying in a straight line. Allowance must be made for this either by continuous position checks or by calculating known wind drift as you fly and correcting for it.
Now for the tech stuff:
PAPI and VASI
The lamps themselves can be constructed with large grooved glass lenses which are tinted for color and placed in a sheet metal or a wooden case. Illumination for the lamps can be provided by arc lights, or limelight, or even an intense flame. Certainly standard high wattage electrical lamps could be used, however the construction of these lamps may be difficult for some time.
Light rails or flashers are a little more difficult because the poles and the lights will more likely require high wattage electrical lamps. However it is possible that limelights could be mounted in the place of electrical lights. It should be noted that limelight requires a supply of gas and oxidizer, even if it is only producer gas and compressed air.
The lights along the side of the runway and those lights indicating the beginning and end of the runway will also need to be lit, at least at night. Again these lights can be created using grooved glass lenses and a lighting system. It should be noted that the lighting system can be done with arc lights if you have electricity or even gas heated limelights without electricity. Limelight's biggest problem may be the construction of the gas delivery system for each light.
In the new timeline the electronics needed to produce these devices will be necessarily crude. In technical terms, transmission frequency will be produced using mechanical resonators and the modulation will need to be mechanically induced onto the carrier frequency. In other words, while it will be difficult, it is well within the tech level we are working with. It should also be noted that any large radio broadcast station tower can be used as a beacon as long as the exact location of the tower is known. This means that radio broadcast stations in cities will be usable as beacon towers.
Radio Direction Finder
Direction finding radios are basically a radio with the antenna that is formed in a loop. The direction finder is operated by rotating the loop antenna until you have a maximum and minimum amount of signal. The minimum amount of signal is when your antenna is aligned so that it has the minimum amount of surface in line with the radio broadcast source. The maximum amount of signal is when the loop is at the maximum amount of surface, or at right angles to the source.
Careful positioning of the dial can give you a direction in comparison to your flight path. This indicates the radio tower transmitter's location. Again it should be noted that with the strong beacons provided by resonators on the ground means a crystal radio circuit can be used in the radio direction finder on the aircraft.
Localizers and Glide Slopes
It will be necessary to use a resonator as a frequency creation device for the broadcast wave. Once the broadcast wave has been created, it will need to be sent to the antenna by shielded transmission lines. This can be done by using twin-element open-air lines that are enclosed within a metal shield. Think of two copper wires inside a large stove pipe, with the pipe thoroughly grounded. This system will get the power to the antenna without interfering with the antenna's broadcast capability, thus allowing the creation of a transmission that can be detected by the aircraft. Fortunately, we are not trying to broadcast very far, so we can use lower power in the transmission. The lower power simplifies many of the problems encountered when trying to transmit over longer distances.
ILS Detector in the Aircraft
The detector in the aircraft can be constructed using crystal radio techniques. The glide slope and the localizer both use different frequencies allowing each to be separately detected. The output of the crystal detectors can be connected to the coils that operates the needle in a dial. Normally the dial contains both needles with the localizer needle (left to right approach control) being vertical and the Glide Slope (up to down approach control) being horizontal. The dial arrangement allows the pilot to guide his aircraft down the proper angle by keeping its two needles crossed at right angles. Modern equivalents in our timeline work the same way but are made using modern semi-conductors. Substitutes for the new timeline will be bulkier and moderately heavier, but will work just fine.
In our time line these developments came over a period of fifty years. First with a smudge pot at the airstrip and a man with hand flags guiding the aircraft to the ground. Then the development of early PAPI and VASI, and then with the development of more complicated glide slope and localizer installations. Point-to-point navigation went through many incarnations, including celestial navigation much like was used by ships on the ocean. Then radio locator would guide aircraft to cities that had radio stations. Eventually beacons were developed that contain their own direction finders and with broadcast to the aircraft where they were and how far away they were.
So what does all this mean in Grantville? First, as air traffic increases there'll be a large increase in the amount of navigation equipment maintained so as to guide the flyers. As we already have airplanes in the air, we can assume that they have at least a smudge pot and windsock at the airport, allowing the pilot of the aircraft to find the airport.
The next improvement will probably be some form of air chart or map that will have major landmarks and directions for getting to desired destinations. These charts or maps will probably be in a continuous state of change, as good information is obtained. The more flying in an area, the more information will be collected for new charts.
Another early improvement will probably be radio direction finders mounted on the aircraft. As earlier stated, these radio direction finders will allow us to locate ourselves on our chart by finding the directions to known radio stations and using those directions to define a location for our aircraft on the chart. Pilots can be trained in this system in just a couple of days, so this will not change much of the current pilot training. Electronic glide slopes, localizers, and light rails will come as open grass fields give way to defined runways.
As destinations become identified in the USE, it will be essential that radio tower beacons are established at each destination. Especially in the beginning, these will likely take the form of large radio broadcast towers for the local radio broadcast station. But as navigation becomes more and more complicated, dedicated beacons may be established simply to provide waypoints for the pilots of the aircraft finding their way from one location to another. Eventually the beacons will be used to transmit valuable information to the pilot. Items such as weather conditions, wind speed and visibility alerts can all be transmitted over the beacon signal, and can provide valuable enhancement and additional safety for those who are flying in 1632 universe.
So how will this work? The typical flight would begin with the pilot getting as much information on the weather as he could, then performing his ground checks on his aircraft, starting the aircraft and taking off. Once in the air, the pilot would set course for his destination, and en route make allowances for the drift caused by crosswinds or headwinds slowing them. During the flight, navigation would be checked by using his radio direction finder to get directions or bearings on various beacons and radio stations within the USE.
When a pilot is close to his destination, he would begin to scan the area for the various indicators of where the airstrip is. On a good clear day, the airstrip should put up enough smoke in a column to let them know where it is, or use the flashing lights of the beacon tower or even the run of lights of the VASI. Setting his instrument landing system for the proper frequencies and using the directions given by the ILS, the pilot would bring his airplane in for a successful landing. This all presumes a good weather day. Navigation instrument landing systems will provide really big benefits when the weather gets bad or if the pilot is caught in the air after dark. These instruments and landing navigation aids could make the difference between life and death
Finally, as traffic increases it may become necessary to have some form of air traffic control. In the beginning air traffic control may be limited to tower operators at the individual airports. These tower operators will determine which aircraft has priority in landing. An increase in traffic will eventually bring the need for enroute air traffic control, definition of traffic routes, and all of the modern systems that we have in place in our timeline. However, all this will not come until air-traffic levels are much higher.
While the above information is moderately simplified, it should serve to give you a feeling for the difficulties involved in aerial navigation. The navigational aids described here are those most familiar to small aircraft pilots. As the existing up-time pilots are primarily of small aircraft, that is where we would start.
Of course, one large concern is going to be: who is going to pay for all this? This is a question that will have to be addressed by the local governments and the organizations of pilots themselves. In the early days, a subscription service supported by the pilots themselves is most likely. But as the control becomes more and more complicated, the expense will need to be borne by a larger part of the flying public. But then we are in the area of taxes and that is up to the politicians.
2001 Federal Radionavigation Plan (FRP)-FRS publication has detailed description of ILS and other navigational systems
Thales ATM ILS page-Manufacturer of ILS equipment; includes pictures of antenna systems
Antenna Products-ILS antenna page-Manufacturer of ILS antennas (V-ring and traveling-wave antennas)
History of Aircraft Landing Aids-U. S. Centennial of Flight Commission