/ Language: English / Genre:sf_history / Series: Ring of Fire

Grantville Gazette.Volume XVII

Eric Flint


Eric Flint

Grantville Gazette.Volume XVII

The Anaconda Project, Episode Five

Eric Flint

As he watched the archer bringing his horse around again for another run at the target, Lukasz Opalinski leaned toward the man standing next to him. "So, tell me, Jozef. Is Grantville as exotic as its reputation?"

Jozef Wojtowicz didn't answer immediately. He was pre-occupied with watching the mounted archer.

"I think he's still the best horseman I've ever seen," he said quietly.

"He's probably the best in Poland, anyway," said Opalinski. "For sure and certain, he's the best archer." The words were spoken in a tone that had more of derision in it than admiration-albeit friendly derision. Then, in the sure tones of man who was still no older than twenty-two: "The archery's a complete waste of time and effort. The horsemanship… Well, not so much. But this is still-"

He waved at the man on horseback, now racing past the target and drawing the bow. With his size and splendid costume, he was a magnificent figure.

"Completely ridiculous. We are not Mongols, after all, nor will we be fighting such. Even the Tatars have outgrown this foolishness, for the most part."

The arrow pierced the target, almost right in the center.

Wojtowicz didn't argue the point. But it was still a mesmerizing sight to watch.

"Grantville," nudged his companion.

Jozef shook his head. "It's complicated, Lukasz. In some ways, it's incredibly exotic. Yes, they can talk with each other at long distance-miles, many miles-using little machines. Yes, they can make moving pictures on glass. Yes, they have flying machines. I watched them many times. Yes, yes, yes-just about every such tale you've heard is either true or is simply an exaggeration of something that is true."

The mounted archer came back around again, still at a full gallop. Jozef, who was an accomplished horseman himself, knew how much skill was required simply to manage that much. The rider's hands, of course, were completely pre-occupied with the bow. Add onto that the skill of the archery-again, the arrow hit the target's center-and add onto that the preposterous pull of the bow being used. Jozef had no idea what it was, precisely, but he was quite sure that he'd have to struggle to draw the bow even standing flat-footed. And while Jozef was not an especially large man, or a tall man, he was quite strong.

He'd broken off his account, watching. Lukasz nudged him again. "Grantville, Grantville. Let's keep our mind on the future, Jozef, not"-he waved again at the mounted archer, with a dismissive gesture-"this flamboyantly absurd display of prehistoric martial skills."

Jozef smiled. "In other respects, no. Leaving aside the machines and marvelous mechanism, Grantville seems much like any other town. People going about their business, that's all."

He was fudging here, but he didn't see any alternative. Not, at least, any alternative suitable for a conversation held under these circumstances. The months that Jozef had spent in Grantville had also made clear to him the more subtle-but in some easy, even more exotic-differences in social custom that lay beneath the surface of the fantastic machines. He'd also come to understand that those subtleties in social custom were inextricably tied to the mechanical skills that were so much more outwardly evident.

It was not complicated, really, if a man was willing to look at things with clear eyes. If you wanted your serfs to build and operate complex equipment for you, in order to enhance your wealth and power, then…

Sooner or later, you'd have to be willing to end their serfdom. The American technology presumed a level of intellect and education even in their so-called "unskilled" laborers that no Polish or Lithuanian or Ruthenian serf could possibly match. And simply instructing them wouldn't work. In the nature of things, education can only be narrowed so far or it becomes useless. And given the necessary breadth, how could a sane man expect an educated serf to keep from being discontented-and, now, far better equipped to struggle against the source of his discontent?

Nor was it simply a matter of education, as such. Another thing had also become clear to Jozef in the time he'd spent in Grantville-and perhaps clearer still, during the months that followed when he'd resided in Magdeburg. The sort of broad-ranging skills that were necessary in a population to create and sustain the technical marvels which the Americans took for granted also presupposed complete mobility of labor. There was no way around it. Not, certainly, in the long run. The needed skills for that sort of advanced technical society were simply too complex, too inter-connected-most of all, too unpredictable. The demand could only be met by a productive population which was free to move about at will, to learn whatever skills and apply themselves to whatever labor they chose. You could no more regulate it than you could regulate it a bonfire.

Put it all together, and the conclusion was obvious. Jozef had come to it long before he left Grantville. If the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania was to have any chance at all of surviving the historical doom so clear and explicit even in Grantville's sketchy historical records of the future of eastern Europe-the Commonwealth had been the one and only major European power which had simply vanished by the end of the eighteenth century-then serfdom had to be destroyed. And Jozef could see only two options. Either the Poles and Lithuanians destroyed serfdom themselves, or someone else would destroy it for them-and, in that second event, might very well destroy the Commonwealth in the process.

But how to explain that, even to the young man standing next to him-much less the mounted archer putting on this impressive display?

The archer was Stanislaw Koniecpolski, who was not only the Grand Hetman of the Commonwealth but also one of its greatest magnates. The Koniecpolski family was one of the mighty families of the realm-not to mention one of its richest. They owned vast estates in Poland and the Ruthenian lands. The hetman himself owned sixteen districts and had a yearly retinue somewhere in excess of half a million zlotys. He'd even founded a complete new town-Brody, which had manufactories as well as serving as a commercial center. Jozef had heard it said that more than one hundred thousand people lived on Stanislaw Koniecpolski's estates, most of them Ruthenians. And most of them serfs, of course.

He was immensely powerful, too, not just wealthy. King Wladislaw allowed Koniecpolski what amounted to the powers of a viceroy in the southwestern area of the Commonwealth. Some foreigners even referred to the hetman as the "vice-king of the Ukraine," although no such title actually existed in Polish law. But the king trusted him-and for good reason. So, the hetman negotiated directly with the Ottoman Empire, and the Tatars, and even signed treaties in his own name. He also had perhaps the most extensive spy network in the Commonwealth, which penetrated Muscovy as well as the Ottoman and Tatar realms.

And now, of course, penetrated the United States of Europe as well. Insofar, at least, as his young nephew Jozef had been able to create a spy network in that newest realm of the continent over the past year and a half.

It was a rather extensive network, actually, given the short time available-and, in Jozef's opinion, quite a good one. It turned out, somewhat to his surprise, that he had a genuine gift for such work.

The young man standing next to Jozef, Lukasz Opalinski, came from the same class of the high nobility. And if the Opalinski family was not as wealthy as the Koniecpolskis and many of the other great magnates, they made up for it by their vigorous involvement in the Commonwealth's political affairs.

They were not stupid men, either of them. Not in the least. Just men so ingrained with generations of unthinking attitudes that Jozef knew how hard it would be for them to even see the problem, much less the solution. He suspected the only reason he'd been able to shed his own szlachta blinders was because he wasn't exactly szlachta to begin with.

"You're smiling, Jozef," said Opalinski. "I don't think I care for that smile."

Jozef chuckled. "I was contemplating the advantages of bastardy."

"What's to contemplate? You get all the advantages of good blood with the added benefit of an excuse whenever you cross someone."

Jozef shook his head. "It seems like an elaborate way to go about the business. Samuel Laszcz manages to cross almost everyone without the benefit of bastardy. Granted, it helps that he has the hetman's favor and protection."

A scowl came to Opalinski. "Laszcz! That shithead." He used the German term, not the Polish equivalent. Like Jozef himself, Lukasz was fluent in several languages. He was particularly fond of German profanity.

So was Wojtowicz, for that matter-although, in recent months, he'd also grown very fond of American vulgarity. He didn't think any other language had a term quite so charming in its own way as motherfucker.

"Finally! He's finished," said Opalinski.

And, indeed, the mounted archer had sheathed his bow and was trotting toward them.

When he drew close, he smiled down at the two young men. "I see from his scowl that Lukasz had not budged from his certainty that I am indulging myself. And what's your opinion, nephew?"

Jozef squinted up at his uncle. And, as he'd known it would, felt his resolve to break with the man if he couldn't bring him to understand the truth crumbling away. Stanislaw Koniecpolski had that effect on people close to him. Say what you would about the narrow views and limitations of the Grand Hetman of the Commonwealth, but Jozef didn't know a single person who wouldn't agree that he was a fair-minded and honorable man.

The simple fact that he referred openly to Jozef himself as his nephew was but one of many illustrations of Koniecpolski's character. Jozef was a bastard, born of a dalliance by Stanislaw Koniecpolski's younger brother Przedbor. After Przedbor died at the siege of Smolensk during the Dymitriad wars with Muscovy, the hetman had taken in the boy and his mother and raised him in his own household at the great family estate in Koniecpol.

"I wouldn't presume to judge, uncle."

Koniecpolski laughed. "Always the diplomat! Well, nephew, I will explain to you the truth, in the hopes that you might see it where stubborn young Opalinski here sees only a pointless melancholy for things past."

He stumbled over the word "melancholy" a bit. The hetman suffered from a speech impediment, and had since he was a boy. He usually avoided long words, in fact, since he tended to stutter on them. That habit of speaking in plain and simple words led some people to assume Koniecpolski was dull-witted, an assumption which was very far from the truth.

Using his bare hands, the hetman mimicked an archer drawing his bow. He twisted sideways in the saddle as he did so, as if aiming at a target off to his left. "Notice, youngster, how the innate demands of using a bow properly while in a saddle almost force the archer to fire to his side, or even"-here he twisted still further in the saddle, imitating a man aiming behind him-"to his rear. In the nature of the thing, it is very difficult to fire a bow straight ahead while sitting in a saddle-and impossible to do it well, even for an excellent archer."

Jozef nodded. "Yes, I can see that."

The hetman beamed. "Well, then! You now understand-should, at least-what somehow still remains a puzzle to young Lukasz. The reason to practice mounted archery is to ingrain intelligent tactics in a soldier. The pike, the musket, the sword-pfah!" His pronounced mustachios wiggled with the sneer. "These teach a man to be stupid. Straight ahead, straight ahead, straight ahead."

Opalinski sniffed. "That may well be. But that will still be the way the Swede comes at us-and not even you think he can be defeated with bows and arrows."

"Well, of course not. But I also know that I have no chance of defeating the Swede-not so mighty as he has become-if I simply try to match him head to head, like two bulls in a field." Koniecpolski gazed down at the young nobleman, very serenely. "This is why I am the Grand Hetman of Poland and Lithuania, and you are not."

Opalinski chuckled. "Point taken." He shivered a little, and drew his cloak around him more closely. "And, now, it's cold. Your poor horse looks half-frozen himself. I propose we retire indoors."

In point of fact, the horse-like the hetman-had been exercising far too vigorously to be chilled. And it wasn't really even that cold, for the time of year. Still, the idea of retiring to a comfortable salon and warming one's innards with a stout beverage appealed to Jozef. So, he too drew his cloak around him more tightly, and faked a shiver.

"Weaklings," jeered Koniecpolski. "And at your age! Just another reason to practice mounted archery."

***

After Koniecpolski left for the stables, Jozef and Lukasz began walking toward the estate's great manor, some distance away. Fortunately, it had been a sunny and unseasonably warm day, so the ground was fairly dry. Otherwise, with the recent snowmelt, their boots would have been caked with mud by the time they raced their destination.

Still, it was slow going. That suited Jozef well enough, though. He needed the time to compose his thoughts. He wasn't looking forward to the coming discussion.

"So solemn," Opalinski murmured, after a while. "Is it really that bad, Jozef?"

Wojtowicz gave his friend a sideways glance. "Well. Yes, actually. I'm afraid the hetman's not going to like what I have to say. Or you, for that matter."

"Can't be any worse than what my brother tells me. To hear him, I'm the devil's minion, whose life is devoted to the sole and unswerving pursuit of making the lot of serfs as miserable as possible."

Jozef chuckled. "And where is Krzysztof, by the way? I half-expected him to be here along with you."

Opalinski shrugged. "I'm afraid my older brother keeps his own counsel, these days. I haven't seen much of him for the past year, and nothing at all for the past two months or so. At a guess, he's off somewhere with his new radical friends and their American mentor. A man by the name of Red Sybolt."

He spotted Jozef's slight grimace. "Ah. You know the fellow?"

"By reputation only. I've never met him."

"And his reputation is…"

"Depends on who you ask. That of a champion for the downtrodden or that of a detestable troublemaker. Or somewhere in between. But whatever the variations, the one thing all accounts have in common is that everyone agrees the man Sybolt is very good at what he does, whatever you choose to call it." He gave Lukasz another sideways glance. "And you say Krzysztof is associating with him, these days?"

"Oh, yes. Along with that young friend of his. You know, that poor szlachta from somewhere"-he gestured vaguely toward the south-"down there."

"Jakub Zaborowsky."

"Yes. Him."

They walked a little further in silence. Then, Lukasz sighed. "So, I imagine-you'll be much more polite, of course-you'll be telling me the same thing my brother does. We szlachta, especially we magnates, either mend our wicked ways or others will do it for us."

"And do it quite rudely, I'm thinking. Yes, that's the gist of it."

Opalinski sighed again. Then, spread his hands before his face and gazed upon their palms. "Do calluses hurt?"

Jozef laughed. "How should I know? I'm just a bastard, not an honest workingman. But at a guess, I'd say…"

He gave his friend yet another sideways glance, this one quite sly. "I'd say not. After all, you have lots of calluses on your soul and they don't hurt, do they?"

Lukasz called him a very unfavorable term in Lithuanian.

Jozef grinned. "I have the most marvelous American expression."

After he spoke it a few times, Lukasz began practicing the pronunciation. "Modderfooker… mudder-yes, it is nice."

The Anaconda Project, Episode Six

Written by Eric Flint

When Jozef finished with his presentation, the immediate reaction of his two listeners was about what he'd expected.

Silence. Total, complete silence.

After a few seconds, Lukasz Opalinski sighed faintly and leaned back a little further in his heavily-upholstered armchair. He gave the big hetman sitting to his left a glance that was just short of apprehensive.

For his part, Koniecpolski's expression might have been that of a statue. Josef could not detect a trace of whatever thoughts or emotions might be stirring within that large and imposing head. The hetman simply gazed at him, almost serenely.

And… said nothing. Nothing at all.

Eventually, Jozef realized that Koniecpolski didn't plan to say anything, either. The hetman wasn't going to agree, nor was he going to argue.

Instead…

"These are matters for the king and the Sejm to decide," the hetman said heavily. "So there is no point in discussing them further here."

Matters for the king and the Sejm to decide.

Given the current king and the Sejm as it existed, that amounted to saying that nothing would be done. The Vasa dynasty that had come to rule the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania after the Jagiellonian dynasty died out-insofar as any monarch could be said to "rule" that land dominated by noblemen-was a branch of the same dynasty that ruled Sweden. Wladislaw IV, like his father Zygmunt III, was obsessed with gaining the Swedish crown to which he felt he was entitled. He viewed the land he actually ruled as nothing much more than a footstool to reach the land he wished to rule. He'd even said in public that he disliked Poland.

In person, it was true-so Jozef had been told, anyway-the new king was a charming fellow. In that regard, quite unlike his sour and gloomy father. But what difference did that make? Where the Jagiellonian dynasty that had previously ruled the Commonwealth had taken care to ally with the middling classes against the great noblemen-much as the Swedish Vasas had done-the Polish branch of the Vasa family showered favors and largesse on those same magnates. The end result, after Zygmunt's long reign of forty-five years, was that the Commonwealth was now completely under the thumb of the great landowning families. In the real world, once you stripped away the pretensions of the szlachta, it was the magnates who dominated the Sejm.

How likely was it, then, that such a Sejm and such a king would agree to begin dismantling serfdom?

The Americans had a clever saying that applied. A snowball's chance in hell.

But, in truth, Jozef couldn't say he was disappointed. He hadn't really expected the Grand Hetman of the Commonwealth to react any differently. For all of Stanislaw Koniecpolski's undoubted virtues, the man was very much the product of his class. Nor was he a man whose temperament inclined him toward questioning his background and upbringing, or his own attitudes. He was a brilliant soldier, certainly; an upstanding and-by his lights-honest man, just as certainly. But a reflective man? Someone capable of analyzing his own biases objectively?

Not in the least. No more so than a lion. Or a brick wall, for that matter.

So be it. At some point, Jozef would probably have to start making difficult decisions of his own. For the moment, however, his personal loyalty to Koniecpolski remained. The world was an imperfect place, after all.

"Now, another matter," said Koniecpolski. He gave Jozef something in the way of a smile. "Hopefully, a more cheerful one. I keep hearing rumors that the Americans are well-disposed toward Poland, whatever the damn Swede thinks. Is that true, nephew?"

Jozef made a face, and started scratching his head. "Well… It's complicated. On the one hand, yes. They tend to have a favorable attitude toward Poles. Quite favorable, actually."

"Why?" asked Lukasz.

"Two reasons. The first and simplest is that the country they came from was a country created by immigrants. Many of those immigrants were Polish."

The hetman grunted. "So I've heard. But I would assume many of them were Swedes also."

"There were immigrants from Sweden, yes, and other Scandinavian countries. But not so many as there were Poles."

He had to restrain himself from adding: That's because the Scandinavian lands were by and large well-managed, so they did not produce a flood of unhappy emigrants. Which Poland most certainly did, because of the disastrous policies pursued by Poland's rulers in earlier centuries.

Instead, he simply said: "And most of the Scandinavian immigrants settled elsewhere in America. Places called Minnesota and Wisconsin. There were many more Poles in the area from which Grantville came."

He made a little wagging gesture with his hand. "But that's only one reason, and perhaps not the most important. Some Poles-even noblemen!-helped the Americans in their war of independence with England. And, in much more recent times-'recent,' at least, as Americans see it-their principal antagonist was Russia. And since Poland was under Russian control-"

Again, he has to restrain himself from adding: because of idiots like those who control the throne and Sjem-and you, my dear uncle, being honest about it.

"-and Poles were inclined to chafe at the situation, the Americans were favorably disposed toward us."

Koniecpolski nodded. "And on the other hand?"

Jozef shrugged. "Despite their reputation for fanciful notions-what they themselves call 'romanticism'-the Americans are every bit as inclined toward being practical and hard-headed as anyone else. The fact is, whether they are favorably disposed to us or not, they have formed an alliance with the king of Sweden. There are some aspects to that alliance which do not particularly please them, true. Still, by and large, most Americans think their bargain with Gustav Adolf has worked quite well for them. They are not about to jeopardize it because of some favorable sentiments toward us-which, when you come right down to it, are rather vague and nebulous sentiments in the first place."

Koniecpolski nodded again. His eyes never left Jozef's face, though. "And there's something else."

Jozef took a deep breath. "Yes, there is. Whatever favorable sentiments may exist among the Americans toward we Poles as a people, there are no favorable sentiments-not in their leadership, at any rate-toward the Commonwealth as it exists today. I have heard some of their speeches, uncle, and read a great many more of their writings. That includes, for instance, a speech given by Michael Stearns in which he specified that the two great evils which loom before the world today are chattel slavery in the New World and the second serfdom in eastern Europe. Both of which must be destroyed."

"His term?" asked Koniecpolski. "Destroyed?"

"One of his terms," Wojtowicz said harshly. "Others were 'eradicated,' 'crushed,' and 'scrubbed from existence.' He is quite serious about it, uncle. He believes the great evils which afflicted the world he came from were caused, in great part, by the ever-widening divergence between the western and eastern parts of Europe. This, he claims, is what underlay the two great world wars that were fought in the century from which he came, in the course of which tens of millions of people died. And he lays the blame for that divergence upon the fact that, where serfdom vanished in western Europe, it had a resurgence in the eastern lands."

But, again, the hetman's face had closed down.

It was odd, in a way. When it came to martial matters, Stanislaw Koniecpolski had a supple and flexible mind. For all the man's personal devotion to ancient methods of warfare-he probably was the greatest archer in Poland; certainly the greatest mounted archer-he'd proven quite capable all his life of adapting to new realities. He knew how to use modern infantry, artillery and fortifications; the so-called "Dutch style" of warfare. He had proven to be skilled at combining land and naval operations, too, although he was not a naval commander himself. Yet that same adaptability ended abruptly whenever Koniecpolski confronted a problem of a social rather than strictly military nature.

Still, you could not in fairness characterize him as a reactionary-what the Americans would call a "hidebound dinosaur." If Stanislaw Koniecpolski was comfortable with the existing Polish and Lithuanian conditions, he was also famous for being utterly scrupulous in respecting the Commonwealth's laws and legal procedures. As much mutual trust as there was between the hetman and the king, for instance-this had been true with the former monarch also-Koniecpolski would flatly refuse to carry out any royal command or instruction unless it had the Sjem's approval required by law.

So…

Koniecpolski would be no help, certainly, in making the profound changes in the Commonwealth that Jozef knew were necessary if the great realm were to survive. He would even, at times, be an active hindrance. But he wouldn't be a bitter enemy, as such-as would, for instance, such great magnates as Samuel Laszcz, the Sheriff of the Crown, or the Seneschal of Lithuania, Samuel Osinsky.

While Jozef had been ruminating, Koniecpolski's gaze had still never left his face. Eventually, with that same half-serene smile, the hetman said: "I know that you are unhappy with me, nephew. So I need to ask. Can you continue to serve me anyhow?"

Jozef nodded. "Yes, uncle. I can."

"Good. I am very pleased with what you have done so far. And now, I must leave to deal with some other business." He gave Wojtowicz and Opalinski a cheerful grin. "Unlike you youngsters, who have the luxury of obsessing over single matters, we men of maturity and substance must deal with many."

Jozef smiled. "Ah, yes. What the Americans call 'multi-tasking.' But they say only women are really good at it. So perhaps women should be put in charge of the Commonwealth's affairs."

For the first time that day, a trace of alarm came to the hetman's face. "What a dreadful idea!"

***

After Koniecpolski left, Lukasz rose from his chair and went over to the side table which was heavily laden with many bottles of wine.

"Shall we spend the rest of the day getting drunk?"

Jozef sighed. "May as well, I suppose."

Opalinski filled two large goblets and handed one to Wojtowicz before resuming his seat.

"Be realistic, Jozef. You can't really have expected the hetman to agree with your recommendations."

"No, of course not. I just…"

"Yes, I understand. You felt obligated to raise them with him directly. That way"-he paused to take a long quaff of wine-"you won't feel quite so guilty when you start maneuvering around him."

Jozef made a face. "Maneuvering around him. That sounds… ugly."

Opalinski shrugged. "I suppose it is, if you choose to look at it as a matter of aesthetics. But it's not, you know. It's simply a matter of our political survival."

Wojtowicz gave his friend a somewhat skeptical look. "You didn't exactly seem thrilled yourself, at what I had to say."

"Well, of course not!" Lukasz began to throw up his hands with exasperation. Fortunately, he remembered to stop the gesture before he slopped wine all over the floor. And a very fine floor it was, too. Of course, like the floors of all Polish noblemen, be they never so high and exalted, it would be no stranger to spilled liquor.

Still, it would have been a waste of good wine. What was possibly worse, they would have had to summon a servant to clean up the spill. These were difficult subjects to discuss openly under the best of circumstances. Doing so in the presence of a servant's ears would be impossible.

Jozef smiled slightly, then. He could remember a time when he wouldn't have thought twice about discussing anything in the presence of servants. Servants were like furniture. There for a useful purpose, that was all. The fact that the useful purpose might coincidentally happen to be a human being was not something that registered very clearly or very often.

But if there was one thing he'd learned thoroughly since he'd agreed to organize and lead the hetman's spy network in the United States of Europe, it was that servants did indeed have ears. And what was more, they had brains to process the information they heard and pass it on to others.

Others such as Jozef Wojtowicz himself. And the Lord only knew how many spymasters active in the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth on behalf of its enemies. They'd certainly have an easy time of it. What the Americans would call a "field day." Between their arrogance and their drunkenness, Polish and Lithuanian szlachta wouldn't even notice the servants moving about them while they babbled whatever they chose to in the "privacy" of their homes.

"And now you're looking very solemn," Lukasz said. "I'd even say, 'glum,' if I didn't know you for the insouciant sprite that you are."

Jozef smiled at him. "I was just thinking-not with any great pleasure, I assure you-that I'll probably find myself organizing my own spy network soon enough. Here at home, so to speak. And how easy it would be, compared to the relative difficulty of operating among the Germans and Americans. Especially the Americans. Who, as naive as they so often are, almost never forget that servants have ears."

"Servants?" Seeming a bit confused, Lukasz looked around him. Not with the focused eyes of someone trying to spot a well-known object or phenomenon, but with the slightly glazed eyes of someone trying to visualize them in the first place. "Oh, them."

After a moment, he and Jozef shared a chuckle. Then, a quaff of wine. And then, a long moment that was quite a bit more solemn.

Finally, Lukasz said: "No, Jozef, I am certainly not thrilled by your proposals and recommendations. Unlike my rambunctious brother Krzysztof, I am inclined toward a relaxed, pleasant-even sedate-existence. Left to my own devices, the life of a nobleman suits me quite nicely. Alas…"

Jozef nodded. "The Americans have an expression for it, which they say they stole from the Chinese, who viewed it as a curse. 'May you live in interesting times.'"

Opalinski grimaced. "Interesting times, indeed." He drained what was left in his goblet, rose to his feet, and headed back toward the side table with the wine bottles. "So, we're about to get to the real unpleasantness of the day. Let me fortify myself first."

He open another bottle and offered Jozef some more, which he accepted. Then, refilled his own goblet-right up to the very brim. It was a big goblet, too.

"What do you mean, the 'real unpleasantness'?" asked Wojtowicz.

Lukasz sat down, scowling at him. "Oh, stop playing the innocent. What do you want me to do?"

"Oh." In point of fact, Jozef had never really concentrated his thoughts on that subject, prior to this moment. But now that he did. ..

For all his frequent protestations of idleness and dissolution and his natural inclinations and talents thereto, Lukasz Opalinski was actually a very competent and capable man. Even energetic, when he chose to be. And, in Jozef's opinion, quite a bit more thoughtful than his older brother. There was undoubtedly something in the term "brilliant" which applied to Krzysztof Opalinski. But, like many such people, the brightness of the mind left little room for shades and subtleties of thought.

Not so, his younger brother Lukasz. You could even say he was a man made for the shades and subtleties.

"Well. Now that I think about it, Lukasz. We actually should start organizing our own spy network here in the Commonwealth. I can't attend to it myself, you understand. As often as not, I'll need to be somewhere to the west on the hetman's business. So why don't you take on the work?"

Lukasz sipped at his wine. "Well enough. I imagine being a spymaster is usually sedentary sort of work, which certainly suits me."

You might be surprised, thought Jozef, remembering two occasions-one in particular-in which he'd found his fleet footing and good lungs essential to his well-being.

Of course, he saw no reason to say it out loud.

"But first, the critical question," Lukasz continued.

"Yes?"

He gave Wojtowicz a look from beneath lowered brows. "Who-exactly-is this 'we' that needs to start a spy network in the Commonwealth?"

"Ah." Jozef sipped at his own wine. "Good question."

"Yes, I thought so. Somewhat critical, actually."

Jozef considered the problem. It really was a very good question.

"Well, for the moment… I'd say that 'we' is simply you and me, Lukasz. You might think of it as a cabal starting very, very small-but with ties in both the camps of revolution and… you can't say 'reaction,' exactly. That wouldn't be fair to the hetman."

Lukasz smiled. "As fond as you've become of them, surely you can dredge up some appropriate American term."

"I can, as it happens. The Americans would call it 'the establishment.' A rather nice term for the purpose, I think."

Opalinski nodded. "Very well, then. A tiny two-person cabal with ties to both the establishment of the Commonwealth and those-some of those, at any rate-who would undo that same establishment. Now, the second question. What is our goal and purpose?"

"Pretty much the same as those of your brother, I'd say. The truth is, there's not much in my recommendations and proposals that I think Krzysztof would object to. Where we differ is mostly in our chosen methods. I'd really just as soon avoid a revolution if we could, Lukasz-or, what's far more likely, the bloodbath that will accompany a failed revolution."

Opalinski thought about it, and then drained his goblet in one long and practiced swallow. What the Americans in Grantville at the now-famous Thuringian Gardens-Jozef had spent many hours there himself-would call a chug-a-lug.

"Sounds about right to me," he pronounced, wiping his lips. "And now, it's your turn to get up and open another bottle. You know how easily I get fatigued by strenuous labor."

***

Bunny B. Goode

Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett

"These Americans," Don Alfredo de Aguilera said with a sigh. "They have no idea of the effects they have." He cast a sardonic look out the window, then sighed and turned back to his letter. The best he could do was the best he could do, but that didn't mean that his uncle Ramon was going to be any happier with him. But perhaps the letter to his cousin might help.

Mi querido Carlos,

As you know, your father has required that I stay here in Grantville, researching and looking for ways for the family to increase its wealth and influence. So I stay. In many ways, I do enjoy it. In some others, I simply do not.

There is bad news which I have shared with your father in brief but I share with you in greater detail. The woman will not sell all her sheep. The up-time Merino sheep will be bred in Germany. And she is selling some, but not all, of her Angora rabbits. Which, as rabbits do, are reproducing in great numbers. Rapidly. Very rapidly. So much so, that the insane woman is now furnishing breeding pairs of them to others. At no cost. With contracts to purchase the product of said rabbits.

While the quantities will be small for years to come, especially of the Merino wool, the quality of the fabric is better than anything we have. This is partly because of the Angora rabbits, but I must tell you, Cousin, that the wool of the up-timer sheep is better than any in Spain. So Spain no longer has the best wool in the world. As well, these sheep produce more wool. They were bred to do so, after all.

Carlos, yesterday at the Exchange I saw a young woman, the daughter of a farmer, wearing an Angora-wool blend top. That girl was wearing finer woolens than Her Imperial Majesty, the queen of Spain possesses. A farmer's daughter! Can you imagine it, Cousin? "Here, Your Majesty, we have the best wool in Spain. Granted it's not quite so good as a farmer's daughter wears in barbaric Germany, but it's almost as good." What price will Spain's fine Merino wool bring when this becomes common knowledge throughout Europe? And it will. The farmer's daughter was quite proud of her "Angora sweater," marveling at its soft comfort, having her friends feel the softness while she spoke of its warmth. There is no keeping this secret, even if almost no one can get cloth made of the angora-wool blend. Simply the fact of its existence must bring down the price of our Spanish wool.

Yet there is good news, or at least a potential way to compensate for the lost profit that the family will face. Up-time they had machines to spin wool and other fabrics at tremendous speed and low cost. None of those machines made the transition. But, sooner or later, they will reinvent the machine. At that point, wool cloth made in Germany will cost not that much more than washed wool from Spain and the window of opportunity will close.

The opportunity I speak of is to become more than a supplier of washed wool. I believe that we should become a supplier of finished thread and cloth. I know my uncle will likely be opposed to this, but I believe it is essential. The cloth makers of England, France, Germany, and Italy will not pass on the savings from such a machine to the providers of the wool.

The National Library has very little available on the subject of the spinning jenny, spinning mule and other machines used in the "mass production" of cloth. I enclose what they have from the various encyclopedias and I will be continuing my research. Carlos, we have a window of opportunity here, but that window will not stay open forever. If the family's wealth is to be maintained, we must have those machines. We must be able to break into the cloth markets of Europe before they have the machines to compete with us or we will likely never gain the foothold we need. I know what Uncle Ramon thinks of the mercantile trades, and that his opinion of those who work with their hands is possibly worse. But for the sake of our family, Cousin, you must persuade him to invest in an experimental facility geared to the development of the machines used in the mass production of cloth.

***

Don Carlos de Aguilera sipped his wine as he read the letter from his cousin. After delivering the bad news, the letter shifted to asking after various family members, before switching back to matters of business. Business and trade weren't something his cousin seemed able to avoid. Don Alfredo suggested diversification into other crops. Which was a possibility. Cotton, peanuts, and corn.

In the next few weeks, as I acquire them, I will send you a pair of Angora rabbits and some seed corn. I have included what drawings I have managed to accumulate, as well as reprinted articles on many things of interest. I'm particularly interested in the peanut butter. Up-timers crave peanut butter, Carlos. Small children beg for it. We must discover what they're talking about and attempt to produce it. There's a market right here. As well, I'm told that it is "nutritious." It has "protein." And that everyone benefits from ingestion of such. Best of all, the plant itself nourishes the soil. Which should allow for the growing of cotton if you can acquire the seeds.

I strongly recommend that we attempt to breed sheep with better wool and size. Select the largest rams, the largest ewes and keep them isolated from the others. The shepherds have always attempted to breed the best to the best, of course, but they were as much concerned with the ability to traverse the meseta as they were with size and wool quality.

Do write me. I sometimes feel that I'm lost in time.

Alfredo

Don Carlos rang for a servant. He didn't look down on his older cousin to the extent that many in the family did. Granted, Don Alfredo wasn't very good with a sword and seemed unable to avoid involvement in trade. But that too had its uses. "I will be dining with father this evening. Have my horse readied," Don Carlos spoke past the servant.

In spite of Don Carlos's best efforts, his cousin's report was laughed off. Until the matched pair of gleaming white Angora rabbits arrived. With them came a sample of the Merino-Angora blend, in the form of a scarf. Even Papa couldn't laugh that off. As punishment for being right when Papa was wrong, Don Carlos got placed in charge of putting together a research and development facility to develop the spinning machines. He naturally delegated the actual organization to his steward, Ricardo. Then he went back to his hunting.

***

Ricardo Suarez shook his head and considered whether or not he should just run screaming into the night and fall off a cliff. Then he sighed, and went back to writing letters, muttering all the while.

"Build a research and development facility, he says. And what do we do if we succeed, I wonder. That's the problem with the entire family. They don't think ahead. Not at all." Ricardo was actually quite fond of the de Aguilera family.

The patriarch of the de Aguilera family, Don Ramon, was a hearty man, nearly seventy years old. Upright, upstanding, bound by traditions… a bit hidebound, in Ricardo's opinion. Most of the de Aguilera scions were following in that tradition, except for young Don Alfredo in Grantville. Ricardo had hopes for Don Alfredo, although he knew that Don Ramon didn't have much use for him. The young man simply didn't meet his expectations. Don Alfredo liked making money and was, well, obvious about it. Don Carlos, his cousin, was much more the type to suit Don Ramon's expectations. Proud, courageous to a fault, honorable… but useless for practical things. Basically, a proud wastrel, at least in Ricardo's opinion.

Very well, Ricardo thought. I shall write young Alfredo and get more information. Carlos… well, Carlos won't pay much attention to what I do, so long as his pleasures aren't interrupted.

By the time Ricardo gave it up for the night, he'd made arrangements to hire an assortment of craft masters, journeymen and apprentices. As well, he'd arranged for them to travel to the most isolated village the family owned. It had been nearly depopulated by a virulent sickness two years ago, so there would be room for experiments and the surrounding hills and valleys could be used for the sheep-breeding program Don Alfredo advocated. Not to mention, the rabbits had to go somewhere else. The stable master was very insistent about that.

***

Agustin Cortez alighted from the wagon, happy to be out of it. It had no springs and was not, he thought, well put together. What he saw however, was almost enough to make him want to get right back on it. Agustin was a journeyman cabinet maker, who was rather better with wood than he was with people. Which might have something to do with the reason that he was still a journeyman and not a master. He had a marked tendency to open mouth and insert foot. And always at the worst possible moment.

So when he was offered a job working on a special project, well, he needed the job. But he hadn't realized until he got here that the job was in the middle of nowhere. As he looked around, mostly what he saw were sheep. There was also what appeared to be a broken down grain mill and the remnants of a village. All these things were located in a valley in the Cantabrian hills. What sort of a project could they possibly have in mind for this place?

Agustin's musing was interrupted when a young woman walked by, carrying a load of wool in a basket. She sniffed as she passed. Apparently, whatever it was that they were doing here, the young woman did not approve.

Well, he was here. Best to get on with it. "Senorita? Oh, Senorita?"

She turned and cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Who is in charge here?" Agustin asked.

"Montoya." She shifted the basket, then pointed to the best of the buildings. "There." Then she sniffed again, and turned away.

Not a friendly woman, Agustin decided. And plain as well.

***

He found Luis Montoya bent over a number of drawings of a strange-looking contraption. A contraption Agustin simply couldn't make head or tail of, although he could clearly see where his skills with wood were needed. The drawing showed wooden parts that were hopelessly unadorned. And Luis, it turned out, was not "in charge," but merely another journeyman.

"Gears I can produce," Luis said. "This I have the knowledge for. But I know nothing about producing thread. Women spin. Not me."

"Ah," Agustin said. "So that's the big secret project we're to work on."

"And secret it indeed is," Luis warned. "The de Aguilera, Don Carlos, was very clear on that. Not one word of what we do here is to be spoken of. Not to anyone."

Agustin looked at the drawings again. Then he looked for more, something to show how this was supposed to work. There weren't any. "How long have you been here?"

"Five days. Don Carlos, well, his steward, made me an offer I couldn't refuse."

Well, Agustin certainly understood that. Eating is better than starving, any day. "Are more coming? Surely you and I are not the only men to work on this."

"A master carpenter-he'll be in charge. Two or three other masters and journeymen, for wood and metal. Some apprentices, mostly, from the de Aguilera estates. The people here, only a few, are mostly herders and that ilk. Unlettered, of course. No knowledge of anything but sheep."

Agustin sighed, then they got down to trying to figure out how this machine was supposed to work.

As Agustin read through the sheets of paper, he kept running into words in brackets, with numbers. And at the bottom of each page were annotations. "In 1828 Mr. Thorpe, also an American, invented the ring spinning frame, whose principal feature consisted in the substitution for the {flyer 25} of a flanged annular ring, and a light C-shaped {traveler 26}." Unfortunately the annotations were not always helpful. {Flyer 25} was recorded as: 1) An advertisement (usually printed on a page or in a leaflet) intended for wide distribution. 2) Someone who travels by air. 3) Someone who operates an aircraft, followed by a note in another hand: This can't be right. We are talking about a part of a spinning machine.

It was very clear that several people had worked on this and not all of them had known what they were working on. Some parts of the notes were printed and others handwritten. The right definition was in the packet, but Agustin would not find it for over a week. By the time he and Luis knocked off for the evening he was exhausted from trying to make sense of the half-translated documents.

***

The rather surly young woman delivered their evening meal. A thin soup, cheese, and bread. Luis did, at least, have a cask of reasonable wine. The de Aguilera's weren't exactly generous with supplies, but they weren't entirely misers, Luis explained.

"So," Luis said, "the problems of getting the machine to work are

…" He began a litany of complaints, possibilities, conjectures and outright fantasy. Even Agustin knew more about wool and how it was processed, having seen the lavadero Alfaro, near Segovia in operation.

"Have you no sisters?" Agustin asked. "Have you not observed a shearing, even?"

Luis looked dumbfounded that he would even ask. "And what does that have to do with building the machine, I ask? We take the wool, we make the machine make the thread."

The woman, who had returned to pick up the remains of the meal, laughed out loud. Agustin, who had four younger sisters, joined her.

Luis looked hurt for a moment, then explained. "My family… my mother died, years ago, when I was small. So, no, I have no sisters. Only an aunt, who sent me to apprentice to a smith in El Ferrol, on the coast, after my father died. Which is how I became interested in clocks, because of navigation."

Luis' story was a long one, which involved quite a bit of travel, a number of misadventures, and untold heroism. At least, according to Luis. Through it all, the woman listened, leaning against the doorpost, spinning with a hand spindle. Agustin watched as the thread grew longer, then, when the spindle had nearly reached the floor, the girl drew it up and wound on the thread. Again and again, the thread lengthened.

Finally, Agustin could stand it no longer. "Why this way? My sisters use a wheel." He gestured at the spindle. "And what is your name, please?"

She cocked her eyebrow at him again. "Lucia. And you can't use a wheel when you're walking the hills, following sheep. So-" She gave the thread another twist. "-I carry this, always."

Agustin nodded. The production of fabric was time consuming in all ways. First the sheep grew the wool, then were sheared. The wool was washed, sorted, sold, then carded, spun and woven. Flax was worse, as the hard stalks had to be rotted in water before the fiber could even begin to be prepared for use. Silk wasn't something he'd ever seen produced, although that was done in Lyons, he knew. His sisters, who made his clothing, were always moaning about wanting dresses made from Lyons silk. Not likely, even though Papa wasn't dreadfully poor.

***

The master of the project, one Pedro Munos, appeared three days later. And Agustin knew he was probably in trouble within moments. Munos was just the type of master he could barely tolerate. Worse, he was the type of master who could barely tolerate Agustin-and Agustin needed this job. It was clear that the man was more interested in sucking up to Don Carlos than he was in working the wood. More journeymen came over the next week, until there were eighteen men, along with the wives and children of the more senior of them.

Agustin thought that "wife" might have been an overstatement in some cases, but that was between them and God. Just when he began to think that he might as well leave now, before he got in trouble with Munos, Miguel Cortes showed up. And Miguel, thankfully, was senior to Agustin, so Agustin could probably avoid Munos' notice, with a bit of luck and care.

***

One of the exciting days that broke up the drudgery of making machine parts that no one understood was the day the rabbits arrived. They were, Agustin decided, very odd-looking rabbits. They were also, alas, not particularly friendly in spite of their incredibly long and soft white hair.

This was discovered when the man who was attempting to transfer the doe from the traveling cage to a larger cage screamed vituperations at her. Then dropped her on the ground, clutching his bitten, bleeding hand. Before anyone could reach her, she took off between the buildings.

"Catch that rabbit," Munos cried.

What followed was something of a circus, with men, women and children chasing a very frightened-and quite speedy-long-haired rabbit that didn't want to be caught. And wasn't.

Munos, huffing from his run, cursed everyone indiscriminately. The rabbit handler, with his wound bandaged, finally removed the half-grown kits to individual cages, along with the buck, these actions also accompanied by Munos' cursing.

"This will set Don Carlos' breeding project back by months," Munos whined.

"They're rabbits," Lucia pointed out. "It won't be that long before the young ones are ready to breed. Because they're rabbits, like any rabbit."

"Would you like to say that to Don Carlos?" Munos asked.

Lucia flinched.

"I thought not."

The rabbit handler carried a written explanation back to Don Carlos' steward. No one knew just how the temperamental de Aguilera scion would react, but they expected it to go badly for the handler.

Badly, it went indeed. A week later, Munos received a summons from Don Carlos.

***

"We are making good progress, Don Carlos, but it is a very complex device." Master Pedro Munos handed several sheets of paper to Don Carlos. They were the collected questions about the workings of the spinning machine so far. This was the first major status report since their discussions when Don Carlos had approved his hiring.

Don Carlos looked through the sheets of carefully numbered questions. "There are over a hundred questions here, Master Munos. Can't your craftsmen figure out anything for themselves?" He snorted. "See Ricardo with this list of questions. What have you accomplished so far?

"I have gotten most of the parts that were clearly shown in the diagrams made. There are a few diagrams that are less clear but they shouldn't prove much of a problem. Now all that is really needed is to assemble the machine, if the images are correct." Then, noting Don Carlos's look, Master Munos hastily added. "As I'm sure they are. There should be no great problems. I should have a working machine for you in a few months. As I said, it is a complex piece of machinery and these things take time."

***

Ricardo felt a good bit of sympathy for Munos, when the sweating man entered his office. Don Carlos wasn't the easiest man to get along with, and was even less easy to explain things to.

Munos plopped into a chair and wiped his face. "That… that. .." He stopped and shook his head. "It is most difficult to explain the mechanics, Senor. Most difficult."

"So explain it to me, please," Ricardo said. "Tell me what happened."

While Munos explained about the difficulties with the machines, and about the lost rabbit, Ricardo took notes and read over the list of questions. When Munos ran down, Ricardo settled back into his own chair and called for refreshments.

"I see. Well, I will arrange for a replacement rabbit, and, if possible, for more of them. And I will send your questions to Don Alfredo. I must say some of them don't make sense to me, so I well understand why they didn't make sense to Don Carlos. What could the color of the wool have to do with the machine and how it will work?" He tapped the list. "Wool is simply wool. It is all much the same, whether black or white. Do try to provide questions that at least make some kind of sense."

***

After three months, Agustin was nearly at the end of his rope. He, Miguel, and the other journeymen carpenters had built the parts they could see clearly on the drawings They'd also built parts they thought would work by extrapolating what they thought the machine should do. The smiths and Luis had done the same thing with the metal parts they thought the machine needed. But putting it together was not going well. Something was missing. Several somethings, probably.

In the midst of this, some of the shepherds came back, Lucia's father and older brother among them. They had been on the meseta for a year, herding sheep throughout the country. This year, though, would be different. Don Carlos had directed them to bring the best rams and ewes to the mountains after shearing, and keep them there. Now, according to Lucia, was when the real work started for her family. The men would shear their own small flocks, as well as care for the de Aguilera flock and supervise the breeding program.

It did mean that Lucia was in the village more, because she no longer looked after the flock with her younger brother and sister. It did not mean, however, that there was less work for her to do. In addition to the ever-present spinning, there was more food to cook, the garden to care for, sewing and darning of damaged clothing for her father and brother, as well as the wool to clean and card.

***

The villagers made something of a holiday of the shearing. And Agustin was surprised at how fast that went. Shearing, however, he learned, was not the biggest job. Even docking and culling the lambs was not as big a job as cleaning the wool turned out to be. There was, though, plenty of meat for several weeks after the shepherds decided which lambs to cull.

Washing the wool, at least in this village, took almost every hand that was available. And because he and Luis were somewhat extraneous to the machine project at the moment, they decided to help. Luis, it turned out, had his eye on Lucia's cousin, Beatriz, because of her cheerful, loving nature. Agustin had to admit that Beatriz was better looking than Lucia, but she was also a bit flighty for his taste.

So they both wound up putting the wool in cold water, which was then warmed until the grease and dirt loosened, then lifting out the heavy, wet, smelly stuff to drain and rinse. Throughout it all, the women chattered and made sure that no one poked and prodded the wool too much, as it would then stick together and become unusable. After rinsing, the wool was laid to dry in clean, grassy areas, where the breezes would dry it as quickly as possible.

Lucia explained that the wool would be turned several times a day, and that it would take about four days to dry completely. Surprisingly, they did not sell the finer grades of wool, not this year. This year, Don Alfonso had pre-purchased all of it, so that the machine team would have wool to experiment with. Rather a lot of wool to experiment with, Agustin thought. And too soon to be doing much experimentation, at that.

***

"If you want to make spinning faster," Lucia grumbled, "find a better way to loosen the wool and get all the hairs lined up in the same direction."

It seemed that if women weren't actively spinning wool, they were preparing it for spinning. Even after washing and removing most of the grease from a fleece, wool was just naturally clumpy. It grew in tangled locks, which had to be separated and made smooth before the wool could be spun into thread.

Carding and spinning were laborious, repetitive tasks, although not particularly difficult. Or so Agustin thought, until Lucia tried to teach him to use the carding combs she was wielding. In spite of Luis' laughter about it, Agustin felt that the machine would never work unless the men building it understood the process of making thread. Which, of course, none of them did.

So, Lucia not-so-patiently showed him how she loosened and carded the fibers with a set of carding combs, then removed the straightened fibers and rolled them into what looked like a sausage. After that, the wool was ready to be spun, either on her hand spindle or a wheel.

"Why do you roll it that way? Why not just leave it flat?"

Lucia shrugged. "It is the way I was taught. I've never tried it any other way. Besides it would take up too much room in my basket and might tangle again."

At Agustin's urging, Lucia sat at one of the treadle wheels he and the others had built from a drawing and began to spin the flat mass of fiber. After a false start or two, it only took a few minutes to spin. Of course, it only took her minutes to spin one of the sausage shapes, as she pointed out.

"But was this faster? At all?" he asked.

"Perhaps. But it would only make a real difference if the mass of wool was larger, I think. No. Not larger. Longer. And, maybe, thinner." Lucia used her hands to try and describe what she meant. "With these, I must stop the wheel, pick up another, attach it, then start the wheel again. With a longer, thinner, ah… I don't have the words. But if the wool was like a rope, long and thin, instead of a flat square…" She looked at him. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so. And I think I read something about that, in all the papers. Let me think for a while."

***

It was often easier to understand Lucia's gestures than the stuff they received from Don Carlos. Rumor had it that the papers and notes they got from Don Carlos were sent to the de Aguilera family from Germany. Judging from the shape the papers were sometimes in, Agustin thought they might have been sent from even farther away. By now they were sending questions back along the route, wherever it lead. Agustin wasn't involved in that part. The questions went from him to Miguel to Master Munos. Agustin was increasingly concerned that the important questions weren't making it all the way to wherever the source of the information was.

The words were often unfamiliar, which frustrated everyone, as they would then have to ask for explanations. Still, every packet from Don Carlos gave them more information. The big breakthrough, though, finally came. The man in Germany-if that was where he was-had started tracking down the various names of the inventors, and come across more detailed information and drawings. Still not enough, but it helped.

The spinning machine was stalled. It should work. It was supposed to work. As they looked at each part of the operation, it even seemed to work. But the thread it produced was clumpy and came apart with even gentle tugs. Miguel, nearly howling with anger, had stomped away this morning, cursing all the way. Munos, who was being pressured by Don Carlos, wasn't in any better a mood, and had left for Zamora to explain the delays. With those two gone, Agustin and Luis had time to experiment with a better way to card the wool.

***

They started, much to Lucia's dismay, by tearing apart a set of carding combs to see how they were made. "Any idiot can see how they're made!" she said. But, better to check, anyway.

Agustin and Luis were a bit embarrassed to have to admit that she was right. The carding combs were just bent pins, stuck through leather, which was then nailed to a flat piece of wood. After a handle was added to the flat piece, the carding comb was complete. But it, combined with some of the drawings they'd recently received, did give them an idea.

It took some time to find enough leather to cover a large and a smaller wooden drum. It took longer than that to make the tiny pins to insert through the leather, bend them at the correct angle, and secure them to the drum. And more time to construct a frame to hold them.

It wasn't an exact duplicate of the "drum carder" in the drawing. For one thing, in order to take advantage of one type of motive power they had available, Agustin and Luis positioned the drums differently. The drums were laid on their sides, supported in the air by a pole that ran through the center of each drum. The drums were held up with a spacer, so that they could harness one of the bellwethers to a shaft that would turn the drum. The shaft was about five feet long and the large drum about three feet across with a radius of half that. A small boy was initially used to walk the bellwether around in a circle, but that same small boy eventually attached a turnip to a stick and hung it in front of the sheep. The sheep kept chasing the turnip, although he never caught it. As bellwethers were used to walking all day, leading the vast flocks throughout Spain, the sheep took no harm.

The smaller drum turned at a faster pace, of course, and quite a large amount of wool could be gradually placed on it. The teeth from the larger drum picked up and straightened the wool as it came off the smaller drum. Taking the wool off of the larger drum proved to be somewhat problematical in the beginning, but they eventually contrived a tool for that.

***

"Can you spin this, Lucia?" Agustin asked. He presented her with a blanket of wool that was about two inches thick, nearly ten feet long, and about two feet wide.

She looked at it carefully. "I think so. But it's too wide. We need a way to draw it out."

"Into sliver, yes?"

"Pardon?"

"Sliver. Or top. That's what the papers call it. Long, thin ropes of wool are called 'sliver' or 'top.' They call this a 'batt.'"

"Why? If it looks like a rope, why not call it a rope? If it looks like a blanket, why call it a batt?"

At her curious look, Agustin laughed. "I have no idea. But you can read them for yourself." He stopped abruptly. Probably Lucia didn't know how to read. Why would she, living out here in the middle of nowhere?

She didn't get angry as he feared. She just shrugged. "Or you can read them to me, if you think it will do any good. Which I doubt. Meanwhile, let's try this." She took the batt of wool and began to tear it into strips. With care, she could tear a two-inch wide strip of it from the batt without the strip of wool falling apart. These she coiled in a basket, pinching a new strip to each end as she tore it. That took a while. The "rope" they ended up with was over ninety feet long. Finally she sat at the wheel. And began to spin. And spin. And spin. The only time she had to stop the wheel was to move the thread from one hook on the flyer to another, so that it filled the bobbin evenly. Then to change the bobbin, after each of them got full.

***

"Aunt Lucia! Aunt Lucia!"

Lucia went toward the garden, where her niece was supposed to be gathering vegetables for soup. "What, Elena? What is the problem?"

"Look," Elena said. She pointed to a row of beans. "I was pulling beans and a rabbit ran out. It was that rabbit, the one that got away."

Lucia looked at the row of beans, then kneeled down and fished around in the tangled plants. "Ah." She drew her hand out of the tangle. It was full of long, silky, white hairs. "Well, now we know where that dratted rabbit got off to. Perhaps we can trap it, now that we know where it is."

Elena tapped her on the shoulder and whispered, "Look."

Lucia did, then laughed out loud. The smaller rabbit, not quite as long-haired and not quite as white, ran away. "Well," Lucia gasped when she stopped laughing, "I see that Mrs. Bunny has been busy, hasn't she? We'll need several traps, I think."

In spite of the several traps that caught some of the half-wild, half-Angora bunnies, Mrs. Bunny managed to evade capture. That didn't, however, seem to lessen her fertility, as they continued catching an occasional half-breed rabbit well into the fall.

Which led to the question of who owned the half-breed rabbits. By long tradition, the wild rabbits of that portion of Spain belonged to the people that lived there. Mrs. Bunny would have been returned to the patron as a matter of course, but these weren't purebred Angora rabbits. These were the kits of Mrs. Bunny and the wild bucks of the valley, as could easily be shown by the fact that Mr. Bunny was still in his cage. And probably none too happy about Mrs. Bunny's errant ways. Those wild bucks had always been the people's rabbits.

If some of the villagers found occasion to slip a wild doe into Mr. Bunny's cage to give him a little consolation, what could be the harm in that? And later, how could anyone be sure that the newly-common long-haired rabbits weren't the offspring of Mrs. Bunny's wild shenanigans? Granted, Mrs. Bunny would put all other rabbits to shame in the productivity department if all the little kits that had been captured were hers. But in the case of any given rabbit, who was to say?

By the time anyone involved in the administration of the Angora project noticed anything odd, there was quite a little breeding program going on. Enough of the half-breed rabbits with longer hair had appeared that some Spanish Angora garments were appearing in the valley.

***

"Master Munos, what is the hold up?" Ricardo asked with a bite in his voice. "You promised us a spinning machine over a year ago. Where is it?"

Master Munos had been dreading that question. He considered claiming that the drawings and notes were incomplete but he suspected that it wouldn't work. It hadn't worked when the journeymen and other masters had tried it on him. "It's the journeymen. They talk back. They refuse to do as they are told." He honestly didn't remember that most of their talking back and refusing to do as they were told amounted to him telling them to make the thing work and them asking him how. They were, in Master Munos' memory, intentionally disobedient and disrespectful.

By this time, most of them were lacking in anything resembling respect for Master Munos. However, most of them were pretty good at faking it. Agustin Cortez was not so good at hiding his opinion. "That Cortez is the worst. He spends all his time with that village spinster. He claims that he is trying to come to know the process spinning. Ha! That is not the sort of knowing that he is after with Lucia. And he encourages dissension among the other journeymen."

"Do you think he should be fired?" Ricardo asked.

Master Munos froze for just an instant. He knew that firing Agustin Cortez would be a disaster for the project and for him. Though he would never admit it, even to himself, Cortez had been the spark that had led to several of the minor breakthroughs that had gotten them as far as they were. Master Munoz desperately needed a reason for keeping Cortez that wouldn't sound like praise. "I wish we could," he said, "but he knows too much about the project. He could take what he knows to someone else and let them catch up to us in a few months."

Ricardo nodded.

"I wonder," Master Munos mused, "could that be what he's hoping for? To delay the project until he's fired. Then go to someone else."

Ricardo looked doubtful.

Master Munos shrugged it off as a passing fancy. "In spite of the difficulties with the journeymen, I have managed to get built a simple but ingenious device to speed up the carding part of the process." He snorted a laugh. "Part of what makes it ingenious is that it is simple enough that even the journeymen couldn't mess it up.

"It has turned the warehouses full of washed wool into warehouses full of carded wool."

"I will see about sending you some spinners until you get the spinning machine operational," Ricardo said calmly. "Do you have more questions for our source in Germany?"

"Only a few." Master Munos wondered if perhaps he hadn't been overzealous in weeding out the questions from the journeymen and the other masters. But he certainly didn't want a repeat of that first meeting with Don Carlos.

***

In the little village in the Cantabrian hills, they did in fact have a spinning machine that worked. Unfortunately it was a spinning machine for cotton. They, of course, were in a wool-producing area. If they had had some cotton to try on it, it would have spun decent, but not spectacular, thread. But they didn't have cotton or even realize that they needed it. They didn't realize that to spin wool they would need to adjust the machine. Agustin had considered the possibility and even asked about it indirectly, in one of many questions that he had included in the latest information request to go up the line. But he didn't really think it was important because, after all, who would send designs for a cotton-spinning machine to wool country?

"That works quite well," Lucia admitted a bit grudgingly. Then she sniffed. Again.

Agustin hid his grin. "I'm pleased you think so."

It was shearing time again. And if they couldn't get the machine to work, Augustin, Luis and some other journeymen had decided that perhaps they could do other things to help speed up the process. They developed a wooden cage to hold the unwashed wool. Then they were able to lower it into the cold water bath, with ropes and pulleys to make the lowering and lifting easier and keep the wool from being manhandled. Some of the metal smiths managed to tinker together flat pots that would need less water, and therefore less wood, for heating.

Cleaning the wool did take time, but perhaps a bit less than it usually did. As well, they had rigged up drying platforms, raised about eighteen inches off the ground, to allow for greater air flow around the wet wool. Drying was certainly sped up.

***

"More women will be arriving," Master Munos said when he got back from Zaragoza. "Beds will need to be arranged for them. De Aguilera is sending them to spin the wool that's in the warehouse, as well as the new crop."

Miguel nodded. "They'll need more wheels, as well. We haven't any extra."

Munos waved off the statement. "Just do what you have to. And get the machine working!"

Miguel left, steaming with anger. Just do what you have to. And get the thing working. There was a long list of questions that they had sent and most of them remained unanswered. How were he and his men to accomplish anything if they couldn't find the answers? If whoever it was wanted this machine really wanted it, why didn't he try to find the answers they needed?

Miguel was afraid to experiment. It was an incredibly complicated device, the spinning machine. Able, the papers said, to spin fifty threads at once and have them all of consistent quality. No one had ever done anything like this before; it wasn't how innovations happened.

Honestly, Miguel wasn't sure how innovations did happen. It wasn't that he was either unskilled or that he lacked creativity. But his training had focused on quality and art, not whatever this was. Miguel could build a table that was a work of art. Show him a picture of something made out of wood and he could make it. He could inlay a family crest into the side of a chair using five different woods and make look like God had grown it that way. He could also look a piece of wood and know how strong it would be once it was cut and carved into shape. He could attach it to another piece of wood, never needing a nail. But never in his life had he been asked to do systematic experimentation. Just do what you have to. And get the thing working. Willingly. Except he had no idea what he had to do to get the thing working.

***

Agustin was frankly relieved that the women who arrived had done so unequipped with spinning wheels. It gave him something to do other than sit around staring at the uncooperative spinning machine. He and the other carpenters divided their time between the spinning wheels and housing for the new arrivals.

***

"Oh, yes. I heard him say that."

Lucia looked over at the scrawny young woman who spoke. How this one might have heard Don Carlos speak anything but an order was beyond her, unless she'd been eavesdropping. Unless, perhaps, Don Carlos was very indiscriminate about what he said in front of strangers. Well, he might just be. Nobles did tend to ignore servants. But had this girl even worked for the de Aguilera family? Lucia decided to find out. The rumors the new employees brought with them were somewhat distressing.

"We'll be provided with good beds and everyone will have their own room, when the factory is built," was one of them.

So was, "Ha! We'll never see another sunrise after we finish spinning all this wool."

One of the most reliable of the new women had indeed been a servant in Don Ramon's household. Lucia listened to her particularly well, as she might have greater insight into their employer.

What she heard was most distressing.

***

"I should say not!" Ricardo had decided to make a visit to the village and see if he could figure out what the holdup was. It was all well and good that the wool was being carded and spun, even if the spinning was still by hand. But this was outside of enough. "The mother of those rabbits belongs to the de Aguilera family. Therefore so do the offspring."

He was looking at rows of cages, each of which contained a half- or three-quarter bred Angora rabbit. The hair varied in length, and the colors tended to be much less spectacular than the colors of the purebreds. But for villagers to attempt this! Never would he allow it. Never! "These rabbits belong to the de Aguilera family," he repeated. "And they will be taken to the de Aguilera estate. Tomorrow!"

It was a bit cavalier of the steward, but not beyond the law. Agustin kept his mouth shut, although it was a struggle. It was obvious that the de Aguilera family intended to keep the Angora as their monopoly, at least in Spain.

"Foolish," Lucia muttered. "Pure foolishness." It was obvious to Lucia that the effort at monopoly would fail. Among the rumors the spinners brought was confirmation that the rabbits came from the up-timers in Germany, where they were sometimes even given away to poor women. If there were enough that up-timers would give them away, they must be very common and others would buy them.

Worse, many of the better of the half- and quarter-breed rabbits had belonged to her little brother, Juan. And Juan was very upset, since he loved those dratted bunnies.

The action with the rabbits did give credence to some of the other, less rational, rumors. Like the one that said every one in the valley would be held there for the rest of their lives to keep the secret safe. And the one that suggested those lives might not be all that long for most of them.

***

"Damn that woman!"

Agustin and Luis jumped. Lucia rarely cursed, and Beatriz never got angry. It was just the way these women were. Now Beatriz was cursing?

"What's wrong?" Luis asked. "Let me fix it."

Beatriz was apparently not in any kind of good mood. "You'll just mess it up, Luis. Stay where you are."

"But at least tell me the problem, mi corazon," Luis begged. Quite literally, Agustin noticed, trying to hide his grin. Lucia elbowed him in the ribs, but she was trying not to smile, he could tell.

"It's that dratted Isabel," Beatriz groused. "She never gets this right. Always, always, the strips she tears from the batts of wool are too fat. Always. She's in too much of a hurry."

"It's an easy fix, Beatriz," Lucia said. "Heaven knows, we've done it often enough."

Beatriz began stretching out the too-fat strip of wool. "I know that. The point is that I shouldn't have to. It was her job today, not mine."

Agustin found that his mouth was hanging open. He'd never seen Lucia do exactly what Beatriz was doing with the wool. The rope, when Beatriz was finished pulling, which she did very gently, was at least five feet longer than it had been, possibly more.

"I am an idiot!" Agustin shouted.

"Well, that's common knowledge." Luis grinned at his friend. "Lucia could have told you if you didn't know," he added winking at her.

"Ha! You're an idiot too!" Agustin answered back.

Agustin's shout had distracted Beatriz who had seen Luis wink and giggled at his surprised look. "That too is common knowledge. But what is the idiocy of the moment?"

"All this time we have been trying to figure out a machine to tear ropes from the batt. We could have been making a machine to stretch batts into ropes."

"That sounds like a lot more work," Lucia said. "Tearing them is easier. That's why we do it that way."

"Yes! Easier for a clever girl with clever fingers. A girl with the wit and skill to keep watch on how the wool batt is coming apart into ropes. But not easier for a machine that has no eyes, no fingers and no wit at all."

Luis was nodding. "Machines are stupid, even the most complex ones. They can't change what they are doing, can't adjust themselves."

***

Don Ramon de Aguilera was severely displeased. They had been pouring money into the spinning machine for two years now, and at the suggestion of his nephew. And now the boy had gone off to the Low Countries to save the guilder. What should a proper Spanish gentleman care about the Dutch guilder?

The idea had been that while there were restrictions on who could make cloth for sale, there were no such restrictions on who made thread. So if they could use the machines to make fine high-quality thread quickly and cheaply, they could have the savings of the improved production and slip through a loophole in the laws by exporting not washed wool, but thread. Carded wool was wool under the law. They could export no more of it than washed wool. They got a slightly better price for it, true.

He wasn't sure whether he was more displeased by Don Alfredo or the disloyalty displayed his shepherds. Don Ramon felt he was a generous, if not extravagant, lord. He didn't approve of extravagance, especially in regards to dealing with the lower classes. It only lead to trouble.

In Don Ramon's world, there was a place for everyone and everyone belonged in their place. He was born a hidalgo and a Spanish noble, a defender of the church and of Spain. His shepherds had been born shepherds. He, like his father before him, generously allowed the shepherds to trap rabbits. But that was a matter of generosity, not of law.

Now, taking that generosity as license, his shepherds were stealing from him… stealing the expensive angora rabbits imported not just from Germany, but from the future. Apparently egged on by the over-educated craftsmen he'd had to import to build the spinning machine. Proving that education, especially of the lower classes, was a threat to the faith and to the social order. Where was the loyalty?

***

Machines, it turned out, were even stupider than Agustin or Luis had thought. To stretch a batt into a rope, what the papers called a sliver, they were using a series of rollers, like those they had built for the spinning machine. Each roller turning a bit faster than the one before. "I don't understand it, Lucia." Agustin complained.

"Never mind about that!" Lucia said. "Don't you pay any attention to what is going on in the world?"

"What?"

"One of the other families in the Mesta has started selling limited quantities of Angora wool. From what I hear, the de Aguilera family is convinced that they got the rabbits from us." She looked down at the table. "It might even be true. A lot of people in the village were upset when they took our rabbits. And they didn't get all of them.

"They've placed guards at the mouth of the valley and no one is allowed to leave."

"It'll be all right," Agustin insisted. "Once we get the spinning machine working, everything will calm down." He tried to carry conviction in his voice, but it was hard going. The truth was that the improvements already made should have satisfied the de Aguilera family, at least for now. Cleaning and carding took at least as much of the time in going from wool to wool thread as spinning did. The project was already a success.

Not all the notes from the German source were directly on spinning. There had been some on more general mechanics and their impact and how that lead to the industrial revolution. Based on those books, they had done a couple of studies. The time saved by the cleaning cages, the drying racks, and the carding machines meant that more man hours, woman hours, could be spent on spinning. From the books, they had also made some improvements in the spinning wheels. They were producing a lot more thread for a lot less labor than before the project had started. Why didn't the de Aguilera family see that?

Things like this had happened before. The contractors would complain about a project, generally in preparation for extorting the costs back from the craftsmen or running the craftsmen out of town without the final payment. But that wouldn't work here because of the major concern with secrecy. It was starting to feel like a story from ancient times, about the workers buried with the Pharaoh to keep the secret traps secret.

To avoid thinking about the unreasonableness of the de Aguilera family, Agustin turned his mind back to the unreasonableness of the rope stretcher. It was at least something he had a hope of solving.

***

The rope stretcher consisted of five sets of rollers each turning a bit faster than the last, and each a little closer to the next than to the last. Agustin had figured that the wider the rope, the more distance you needed to give it to stretch. Luis figured that it didn't matter, so he didn't argue the point, though-as a matter of aesthetics-he would have preferred that all the rollers be the same distance apart.

The first set of rollers was a foot from the second, the second was a half a foot from the third, which was a quarter foot from the fourth, which was only an inch and a half from the last set. But in spite of that, it took them a while to realize what was happening. Because you couldn't always tell that the batt of wool had lost cohesion between the first and second set of rollers, sometimes it looked like they were coming apart between the second and third sets. Or it looked like the third, fourth or fifth set was causing the problem by pulling too hard.

It was Luis that saw it. He was watching the stretcher shred rather than stretch another batt of carded wool and picked up a single strand of wool. He stretched it out as long as it would go and then pulled on it some more. Naturally, it broke. It really didn't have anything like the stretchiness of a piece of thread.

He looked back at the stretcher and began to visualize what was happening to the hairs as they went through the rollers. It wasn't that they were stretching; they were sliding against each other. At least he thought they were. He picked a fragment of the wool batt and pulled it apart. Slowly, carefully, watching the individual strands. Yes. It was the strands slipping past each other that allowed the wool to stretch. They were tangled together, but after being carded they weren't that tangled. Sort of half tangled.

He looked back at the rollers. Then he remembered something from the spinning machines. He was pretty sure that the rollers were all the same distance apart on the spinning machine. He picked up another bit of wool and slowly fed it into the stretcher. He wasn't really trying for a rope now, he was just carefully watching to see what would happen. He used very little wool because he wanted to be able to see what was happening to the threads. And see he did. Suddenly, he saw it all. A bit vaguely to be sure, but he saw it.

He started adjusting the distance between the sets of rollers. No easy job, because they weren't designed to be adjustable. That was what Agustin found him doing. He tried to explain what he was doing to the carpenter but the words came out jumbled. He wasn't used to being the one who wanted to try something different.

Even after the second run through Agustin didn't get it, but he just shrugged and said, "Tell me what you want me to do."

***

BLAM! The sound of a shot woke Lucia. Then there was shouting. "Somebody catch that rabbit!"

Still only half awake, Lucia looked around and noticed that her little brother Juan was missing. Suddenly she had a bad feeling. She quickly put on a shawl over her shift and ran out of the cottage. And almost ran over a rabbit glowing white in the moonlight. The rabbit dashed around the corner and was gone.

Lucia could see lights waving in the distance, and went to investigate. The de Aguilera guards were milling around with torches, scattering in all directions. Except for one, who was bending over a slight form that lay in the dust. "Juan!" Lucia shouted, and ran toward the guard.

The guard sprang to his feet and pointed his gun at Lucia. "Get back!"

"He's bleeding. Let me bind his wounds."

"He's dead," the guard said harshly. "He tried to slip out of the valley carrying the white rabbit. Got shot for his trouble and now the damned rabbit has run off again." Then he shook his head and relented a bit. "Go ahead, girl. Talk to him while you can."

"It hurts, Lucia!" Juan cried. It looked like half his belly had been ripped away.

"Oh, Juan. What happened?"

"They stole my bunnies." Juan repeated a complaint that he had made ever since the rabbit crossbreeds had been collected. Then he added, "I caught Mrs. Bunny in one of my traps. I guess I shouldn't have tried to sneak her out but it seemed only fair. They took mine, I'd take theirs." He tried to grin.

"Oh, Juan," Lucia whispered. Then Juan died.

***

"It's all that Agustin's fault," Papa said. Papa had been drinking ever since the burial. Juan was the youngest, and had always been Papa's favorite, as much for his independence of thought as for his resemblance to their mother.

"Agustin didn't tell Juan to steal the rabbit, Papa."

The look he gave her was ugly. Very ugly and scary. "Shut your mouth, girl. My son is dead, dead for a damned rabbit. I don't want to hear what you think."

***

It didn't quite work the way Luis and Agustin thought it would. Granted the wool did spin into better thread than it had been, but the thread was still weaker than it should be. It was all Agustin could do to keep from beating the machine into splinters, but he drew a deep breath and kept trying.

He went back to the papers. Finally, he had it. "Weights, Luiz. Weight on the first roller, to slow it down, so the wool will draw. A lighter weight on the second."

"Are you sure?" Luiz asked.

"When have we been sure of anything?" Agustin responded.

***

Lucia walked into the old mill upstream of the village with a breaking heart. She had just realized that she was truly and deeply in love with Agustin. Two things had told her so. She looked at her future without him and it was a bleak gray place that didn't seem worth the trouble. And she was coming up here to send him away because she cared more about him than she did about that horrible life. She had to tell Agustin that he had to leave but the words wouldn't come. She cleared her throat to prepare the way for the words she didn't want to say.

The two men looked up from the spinning machine. "We figured it out!" Luis said.

Agustin grinned at her. "I was waiting until we got this to work to ask your father, Lucia. But we're close enough now we know we can get it to work." Then he knelt right there on the dirty stone floor of the mill. "Lucia, will you marry me?"

"Yes!" came out of Lucia's mouth without her will. For a moment she forgot the news that had brought her here. Then they were kissing and the news was pushed back even further.

When they came partway back to earth, Luis was sitting on the frame of the spinning machine grinning like a loon. "So when is the wedding? From what I saw you'd better hurry." He laughed. "Besides, you still have to convince her father."

Suddenly, it all came back. "Father is on his way to the guards, to tell them that you're responsible, that you know where Juan hid his rabbit cages. You have to run, and you have to run now."

"Not without you, I'm not!" Agustin insisted. Then he shook his head in confusion "What makes your father think I had anything to do with it?"

"Papa doesn't like you," was all Lucia could think of. "The way you talk about master Munos. And not getting the answers to your questions. Papa is very conservative. He can't blame Don Ramon, Juan or himself. It must be someone else and he decided on you. He's been warning me about immoral townsmen for months."

"You both need to run." Luis was nodding. Lucia knew that he was more politically astute than Agustin. "Look, when this comes out Don Ramon is going to be very angry. He is going to want someone to blame and the people here know that. Munos is going to be looking for a scapegoat.

"I think they are misreading Don Ramon. He isn't stupid; he is just set in his ways. And Ricardo is a smart cookie. But they aren't here. What we have here are some guardsmen that figure they are going to be in trouble for letting Mrs. Bunny get away again, some scared masters and some upset villagers.

Besides that, there is no way Munos is going to want anyone hearing your version of events. I'm fairly safe because I don't answer to Munos. Master Guiterez will protect me from overzealous guards. But no one is going to protect Agustin and if he runs they will know you warned him." He gave Lucia a serious look. "All the guard will see in you is a village girl whose brother was caught stealing from the don. No one who can is going to even try to protect you."

"Are you sure that Master Guiterez will be able to protect you?"

Luis pointed at the cots that had been set up in the mill house. "I was asleep on one of those. I never saw a thing." He grinned.

More time was wasted while Agustin hugged Luis and Lucia kissed him on the cheek.

Agustin started putting stuff in a sack. "We'll have to head into the hills. Then on to the coast and somehow get out of Spain."

"Hills I know very well," Lucia said.

"Ah."

They looked toward Luis. "Ah. I know someone at the coast. He owes me a favor." He quickly wrote down a name and village. "Go to him. He'll get you out, if you can only get there."

***

It was the middle of the night when they left the village. They could see torches beginning to move toward the village from the mouth of the valley, but they had a head start, unlike poor Juan.

They ran toward the hills and didn't stop.

Lucia glanced back only once. Mrs. Bunny hopped out from under a bush, her white coat gleaming in the moonlight.

"Go," Lucia hissed. "Go, bunny. Go, go."

Silver Age

Written by Virginia DeMarce

Grantville, March 1635

Pam Hardesty squatted down next to a set of encyclopedias in the National Research Center. Tuesday. Cross-training for would-be librarians. Someone, somewhere up the food chain, had decided that they would be better-prepared to help researchers in the future if they had some research experience in the present.

"Missy, can you come over here?"

"What's up?"

"Have you ever heard of this before? Some guy wants Grantville to provide him with the dates of the Age of Gold, Age of Silver, Age of Bronze, and Age of Iron."

Missy frowned, leaning down over Pam's shoulder. "There actually was a Bronze Age and and Iron Age. We studied those in middle school-seventh grade world history, I think." She reached out. "Try 'P' for 'prehistory.'"

"What about the other two?"

"Umm. I thought it was a Stone Age before the Bronze Age. Not a Silver Age. I don't remember a Silver Age." She turned around. "Mrs. Bolender, can you come over here?"

After she had read the letter from the scholar seeking knowledge, Elaine Bolender laughed. "You're not going to find dates for the Age of Gold and Age of Silver in the encyclopedia. Try…" She looked around at the shelves. "Over there. Bulfinch's Age of Fable."

***

A few days later, Pam stood outside her apartment, looking blankly at the envelope she had just pulled out of the mailbox. What on earth? Why would Mom be writing her a letter? Mom hadn't written her a letter since she got married-again-last fall and went off to the Netherlands. Her stomach tied itself in knots. Her hands shook as she opened it.

" Dear Pam,"

At least it wasn't "Pammie." That nickname had always been a bad sign.

" Since you were working at the library anyway, last time I heard, please see if you can find an article about making lava lamps and send me a copy. "

Lava lamps? Lava lamps?? Lava lamps?!?!?

" It can't be very complicated. There was one in the Science Fair the year you were in seventh grade."

Little did Mom have any idea how elaborate and complicated some of those science fair projects got. Especially those brought in by kids whose parents helped them. Parents who weren't like Velma.

" It is very flat here. "

What was she thinking? Almost anyplace was flat compared to West Virginia.

" Love, Mom.

"PS. Please mail the article to Jean-Louis LaChapelle in care of the University of Leiden. He is Laurent's nephew. I'm sure that I wouldn't understand it myself. "

Pam would have thrown the letter away, if it hadn't been for the postscript.

She should have known that if she didn't just freeze Jean-Louis to dry ice the first time he showed up in Grantville and started panting at her like an overenthusiastic Chihuahua, she'd end up having to deal with her mother again. And again. And again. Not that Jean-Louis could help being the nephew of the guy that Mom had married.

***

Pam stared at the fresh sheet of paper. God only knew what caused her to actually research lava lamps for her mother and even God probably didn't know why Velma would want to know about lava lamps now that she was living in Holland, but even with a mother like her it didn't pay to be impolite.

Especially not when Velma had gotten Jean-Louis involved. And Velma was now married to Jean-Louis' uncle. And Jean-Louis was really

… quite a bit better than okay, when you came right down to it.

Pam shook her head. Mom had been wandering around town talking about Spiritual Enlightenment before she left. Perhaps she was thinking of the lamps as a meditation aid. Oh well.

She dipped her pen in the inkwell.

" Dear Mom,

"I hope you like flat. It must be easier than climbing these hills. Especially with another baby coming. At your age.

"I am enclosing a copy of the report I'm sending to Mr. LaChapelle in Leiden, like you asked. There are a few things you need to know so you don't get upset with him.

"First the bad news. Mom, 'real' lava lamps are something that they just can't make down-time. The lava goo is made from some chemicals that the coal tar plant is just starting to think about making, and from some other chemicals which they say will be decades or longer to make.

"Now the good news: you can make a 'Motion Lamp.' It won't have the exact same sorts of globs and stuff, but it will have bubbles and blobs that move up and down. It can be pretty cool. You just take mineral oil (Baby Oil) and put it in a bottle with water and alcohol with a bit of spring on the bottom. The trick is that the amount of alcohol is very, very tricky to get just right. You end up adding a drop of water, then a drop of alcohol and so forth till it works.

"But these motion lamps can be powered by a candle just like the one you have.

"The 'lava' will be clear not white or colored, but you can color the water with any dye.

"I hope this finds you well. Is the family nice? Have you decided what to name the baby?

"Your daughter,

"Pamela"

The cost of postage for the letter with the copy of the report put a considerable dent in her weekly incidentals budget.

Not to mention that it took a while to work out exactly the right tone of letter to send to Jean-Louis.

The postage for that one took most of the rest of her weekly incidentals budget.

She really hoped that Velma had warned him that it was coming. Just in case, though, she had thought she ought to explain.

You couldn't really count on Velma to remember things like explaining to someone else why she thought he should be ready to do her a favor.

It just didn't occur to her.

***

"I don't believe it," Missy said. "Lava lamps?"

"That was it."

"What's the connection?"

"I do not have the vaguest idea." Pam slid off her stool behind the circulation desk, ready for her lunch break. "But I'm pretty sure of one thing."

"What's that?"

"It's not sabotage. There is no possible industrial or explosive application for mineral oil lamps."

"Sure?"

"Sure enough. But I reported it to Cory Joe anyhow and sent copies of all the letters to his office in Magdeburg. Thank goodness I could take that package down to Mr. Bellamy's office and have him pay the postage. It weighed just ounces and ounces. By the time I sent the information off to my mom and Jean-Louis, I was flat broke."

"Oh well. I was thinking that perhaps you had Saved Western Civilization Once Again."

Pam grinned. "I've thought of one possible explanation, though."

"What?"

"Remember that question about the Golden Age and Silver Age we handled a couple of weeks ago?"

"Yeah?"

"What do the encyclopedias call the seventeenth century in the Netherlands?"

"The Golden Age of Dutch Culture, isn't it? They've got Rembrandt now. They're going to have Vermeer pretty soon."

"Yep. And now they've got Mom. The one and only Velma Hardesty. Who's busy reducing it to a Silver Age all by herself. And adding a little tarnish."

Feng Shui for the Soul

Kerryn Offord

Grantville, 1633

Kurt Stoltz ignored the rumbling of his stomach and continued his careful scanning of the pages of the newspaper. He well knew that they censored everything. So one had to read everything to detect the tiny inconsistencies that hinted at what they had removed. He knew there were censors about, especially in Grantville. There was no way that they would allow easy access to all the information from the future, no matter what they claimed.

He turned the page and started reading the advertisements.

The ad in the "situations vacant" column practically leapt off the page. Kurt stared at it in disbelief. The Gribbleflotz Spirits of Hartshorn facility in Grantville was looking for multilingual people with fluent English (preferably up-timer English), Latin, and German to work in the research department. He could do that. He was fluent in Latin and German, and had spent several years in England. As for up-timer English, he was a regular user of the various libraries around Grantville. Not that he was well known of course. Anybody growing up in the Stiefel-Meth sect learned the value of keeping their head down and being inconspicuous.

He placed a hand inside his satchel where his notebooks resided. His personal notebooks, with all his notes about the research being undertaken by the great Herr Dr. Gribbleflotz. The doctor was publishing information that Kurt couldn't find in Grantville's libraries. Did he have a source of information the censors hadn't gotten to? This advertisement suggested a way to find out.

A position as a researcher with his company, even if it was in Grantville rather than in Jena, was an opportunity not to be missed. Kurt copied the address for applications, and for the first time since arriving in Grantville to see the truth of the Corona Conflagrens miracle nearly two years ago left a library early. He needed an early night if he was to get to the Gribbleflotz Spirits of Hartshorn facility before any other applicant tomorrow.

HDG Enterprizes, Jena, 1634

Dr. Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz glared at his special aluminum pyramid with the strategically placed faceted gems. He picked up his pen and dipped it into the ink. The pyramid wasn't working, but the world's greatest alchemist couldn't just write "it isn't working" in his note book. That kind of comment lacked any hint of scientific credibility.

Phillip paused in thought, idly chewing on the wooden shank of his pen. Then he remembered how the Americans would record the lack of results. He dipped his pen again and wrote "No invigorations of the Quinta Essentia of the Humors were observed." It was nice. It described the lack of observed results in suitable language, but then, why couldn't he see anything? Phillip started worrying his pen again.

The obvious answer was that there was nothing to see, but that couldn't be right. Maybe… Phillip sat up straight. Of course! The changes in the Quinta Essentia were invisible to the human eye. What he needed was some method of detecting the invisible forces.

***

He'd found it. Photography. More specifically, Kirlian Photography. With Kirlian Photography one could record the image of a person's aura. All one needed was some simple electrical equipment.. . and some photographic equipment. That last brought Phillip back to earth. What was the availability of up-timer photographic equipment?

He went to the door of his office and called out. "Hans. I need you."

The normally reliable Hans Saltzman didn't answer. Phillip went searching. The first person he found was Ursula Mittelhausen, the housekeeper for HDG Enterprizes.

"Frau Mittelhausen, have you seen Hans?"

"He is in Halle helping set up the Oil of Vitriol facility, Doctor."

Phillip stifled an unsuitable exclamation. Just when he needed his personal assistant, Hans had to make himself unavailable. Well, when everyone else failed you, there was only one person left to do the work. "I need to make a trip to Grantville. Please book a seat on the train."

"Of course, Doctor. The evening train? Do you wish for me to also book accommodation?

Phillip considered the work he had backing up, and the expense of accommodation in Grantville. "At the Higgins. I don't know how long I'll be. I need to ask about 'photography.'"

Ursula perked up. "Michael's sister, Maria Anna, sent a photograph of herself that one of the up-timers took. Are you going to be working on photography now, Doctor?"

"I wish to investigate the application of photography to the detection of the invisible forces of the invigoration of the Quinta Essentia of the Human Humors."

"So you'll be taking photographs, Doctor?"

"Purely for science, Frau Mittelhausen."

"Oh!" Ursula was crestfallen. "I was hoping that I could have my photograph taken so I could send it to my sister in Leipzig.

Grantville

Phillip had the choice of talking to the dreaded Frau Kubiak, or to Maria Anna. It wasn't that difficult a decision to make, so he caught the bus to Grays Run. He easily found the property where Frau Mittelhausen said Maria Anna worked. There was a sign declaring the house to be the head office of Brennerei und Chemiefabrik Schwarza. He looked around. It was vaguely similar to the property of Frau Kubiak-a large house on a few acres of land with a number of outbuildings. Obviously it was only a small company.

The door was answered by a little old lady, an up-timer.

"I am Dr. Phillip Gribbleflotz. I believe Maria Anna Siebenhorn works here?"

The little old lady shook her head. "Oh dear, I'm sorry, but Maria Anna's not in at the moment. She's in charge of the new explosives division at the Schwarza Gewerbegebiet and won't be home until late. .. Gribbleflotz did you say? The Aspirin King?"

Phillip grimaced. "The Aspirin King" was not something the world's greatest alchemist wished to be known as. They could at least get the name right. "Yes, I am the Gribbleflotz behind Gribbleflotz Sal Vin Betula."

"Do come in, Doctor. Your people were most helpful when Celeste and I wrote asking about photographic chemicals."

They were? Phillip hadn't seen a letter from this company. "You wrote asking about photographic chemicals?"

"Yes, and we got such a nice letter back from your Mr. Saltzman."

Phillip made a mental note to remind Hans just who was in charge in Jena. So, the next question was, had they done anything with the information? "Did you take Maria Anna's photograph?"

"Oh, yes." The woman fluttered a bit. "Would you like me to take yours?"

Well, it seemed he'd come to the right place. "Yes please, Frau. .."

"Sebastian, but everyone calls me Lettie. Come on in."

Several days later, the Spirits of Hartshorn Facility, Grantville

Dr. Gribbleflotz was doing what he did best, pontificating on his latest hobbyhorse. Michael Siebenhorn glanced over at his sister. She smiled back and shrugged. When one worked for the doctor, one learned to put up with his little foibles. He didn't force them on anybody, and the open disbelief of most of his senior laborants only made him work harder to prove his theories.

Michael shuddered. One of the consequences of the doctor's continued failure to invigorate the Quinta Essentia of the Humors in test subjects was Kurt Stoltz being authorized to work on artificial cryolite so he could make pure aluminum. Dr. Gribbleflotz had theorized that the impurity of the materials might be why his experiments weren't producing the results he expected. Well, Kurt was welcome to the task. Even the stink of ammonia that hung around the Spirits of Hartshorn facility was preferable to being around hydrofluoric acid.

"I have been unable to observe anything happening when I use my pyramid to invigorate the Quinta Essentia of the Humors in test subjects. I believe the reason I can't see anything is because the actions taking place are not detectable by the human eye. However, a special photographic technique I have read about should allow me to observe the otherwise invisible forces at work and help me progress my research. The diagram you are looking at is taken from a reputable up-time source, and both Frau Sebastian and Frau Frost believe that such a device should produce the Kirlian images I desire."

Michael dragged his attention back to what Dr. Gribbleflotz was saying. At least this wasn't going to be anything as dangerous as hydrofluoric acid. The diagram was a simple electronic circuit, easily understood by anyone with knowledge of the up-timer science. Of course, actually making the device needed a level of expertise he knew the doctor lacked. For that matter, so did he. What was needed was a specialist, someone who knew how to make a transformer. Fortunately, such people were relatively easy to find in Grantville. "Where are you intending to use this…" Michael paused to think up a suitable name the doctor would enjoy. "Kirlian Imager, Doctor?"

"Kirlian Imager… I like that, Michael. Yes. I will of course use the 'Kirlian Imager' in my laboratory for my research, but also, I am running short of the aluminum for my Candles of the Essence of Light demonstrations, and I hope that I might be able to add the Kirlian Imager to my seminars."

Michael grimaced. He suddenly had an idea where this meeting was heading, and an explanation for his sister's presence. It wasn't going to be a simple request to make a Kirlian Imager. No, nothing that easy. "That will require a lot of the new photographic materials. Can Brennerei und Chemiefabrik Schwarza supply your needs?"

Maria Anna, Michael's little sister, answered. "Lettie Sebastian knows a lot about photography, but not a lot about chemistry, and while Celeste Frost knows a lot about chemistry, she doesn't know a lot about photography. Together they make a competent photographic chemist, but neither of them understands production on the scale Dr. Gribbleflotz requires."

Michael sighed. He'd guessed right. "So you want me to develop the information your friends have into procedures to produce photographic chemicals?"

"Yes." Phillip smiled. "I've already talked to the Frau Kubiak, and she is happy to make the necessary funds available. I'm sure you'll have no trouble recruiting additional workers for a new production line."

Michael struggled not to swear. He shot his sister another look. She was smirking quietly in her corner. The little witch. He knew why she was smirking. She'd been trying to get him to produce the chemicals her friends needed for their photography project for weeks. Well, it looked like she'd succeeded this time. One didn't turn down Dr. Gribbleflotz. Not when he had taken you, starving and desperate, off the streets and then trained you in the new alchemy. It wasn't even as if the doctor was interested in the potential fortune Maria Anna insisted photography could bring in either. For someone who must be one of the richest men in Thuringia, the doctor displayed a sometimes distressing disinterest in making money.

Michael tried a last desperate rearguard action. "Doctor, I am currently running not only the Spirits of Hartshorn facility, I'm also running the production for the new fuel tablets. Couldn't you find someone else?"

Phillip shook his head. "There is no one else, Michael. Hans and Kurt are both occupied getting the Halle facility up and running. With Hans in Halle I've been forced to not only waste my valuable time supervising operations in Jena, but I've also been forced to endure the illiterate fool who is Hans' temporary replacement.

Well, that hadn't worked. Michael could well imagine how his boss might be suffering in Hans Saltzman's absence. Hans had developed from a scared teenager into one of the four best alchemists at HDG in the three years he'd been the doctor's personal laborant. That was why he was helping Kurt Stoltz, the last of the four, set up the new Oil of Vitriol facility in Halle. Remembering Kurt stopped Michael's train of thought in its tracks. He grinned. "Doctor, I think I might know of someone suitable as a temporary replacement for Hans. He's a hard worker here at the Spirits of Hartshorn facility. He has steady hands, and he lived in England for a few years and has been living and working in Grantville for nearly two years, so he has a good command of both written and spoken English."

Phillip looked interested. "English is good. Frau Mittelhausen has been unable to find anyone suitable who can comprehend the up-time material. But is your man literate?"

"Of course. I wouldn't suggest him if he wasn't fluent in Latin."

"So, who is this paragon?"

Michael grinned. "Kurt Stoltz."

"What? But Kurt is running the Halle operation. He can't be… oh! Another Kurt Stoltz?"

"Yes, Doctor."

Michael watched Dr. Gribbleflotz worry his goatee and then polish his spectacles. Both well known signs that he was deep in thought.

"Would he be willing to move to Jena?"

Michael nearly burst out laughing. His Kurt Stoltz had been bothering him for months about a transfer to head office. To actually work as the personal assistant to his hero, even just for a few months until Hans returned, would be more than he could ever have hoped for. "There should be no trouble persuading my Kurt to move to Jena as your temporary personal laborant, Doctor. He has read everything you've written about your exploration of the invigoration of the Quinta Essentia using your special pyramid."

"He is interested in the invigoration of the Quinta Essentia?"

Michael wasn't surprised by Dr. Gribbleflotz' reaction. The doctor was well aware that a number of his senior laborants were non-believers. Kurt Stoltz the Second though, he was as close to a true believer as Michael could believe existed. Apparently he had been a follower of Johann Valentin Andreae, and was into spiritual alchemy . "He is most interested in your work, Doctor."

***

Michael returned from seeing Dr. Gribbleflotz out of the office and glared at his sister. "Are you happy now?"

"It won't be too bad, Michael. Lettie and Celeste have done all the hard work. All you have to do is take their production methods and increase the volume. Your biggest problem will probably be making the Kirlian Imager. "

Michael glanced down at the drawings. "It doesn't look too hard. I'll get Kurt to help. If he knows something about the apparatus he'll be more useful to the doctor."

"And with an expert right there in Jena, Dr. Gribbleflotz won't need to ask you to travel to Jena to help every time something goes wrong," Maria Anna suggested.

Michael grinned at his sister. She knew him so well. "The thought never crossed my mind."

A few weeks later

Michael looked down at the finished prototype Kirlian Imager. Things had not gone smoothly in its construction. First, he'd been unable to procure a suitable transformer, so he'd been forced to improvise. That had resulted in a decision to build a big Wimshurst generator, which of course produced its own problems. The main one being that they didn't have any of the special discs large enough for the task. Fortunately, one of the laborants at the fuel tablet division had been experimenting with some of the surplus waters of formalin. Georg Heinz had been able to reproduce an up-time material with useful properties by using a cheat sheet and chemicals from the gas works. He'd been making "bakelite" insulators for several weeks now. Learning how to make suitable bakelite discs had taken over two weeks of expensive experimentation. However, the imager was finally ready for testing.

"Kurt, switch over to the safe light, please."

With just the red safe light to see by, Michael took a sheet of photosensitive paper out of its light proof envelope and placed it on the thin sheet of rubber that covered the small sheet of copper that was the main electrode. Then he attached an earth to the specimen to be examined and placed it on the photosensitive paper.

"All right, you can start the generator now."

While Kurt pumped away at the treadle of the Wimshurst generator Michael counted the sparks snapping across the air gap until he thought there had been enough discharge to make an image. "Stop! That's enough." If the theory was right and the Kirlian Imager was properly constructed, the photosensitive paper should now contain an image of the aura of the object on the paper. Michael removed the coin and took the paper next door where a simple photographic laboratory had been set up. He could feel Kurt breathing over his shoulder as they watched the images appear.

***

Michael didn't see the fascination the Kirlian image had for Kurt. It was just a simple photograph of a coin. The books had much better pictures. Maybe it was the fact that he'd helped make the image.

Kurt looked up. "Could we try making a Kirlian image of a human hand?"

Michael had a quick look at his pocket watch. There was time. "Sure. I assume you're willing to donate the use of your hand?"

Kurt smiled and rolled up his sleeves. "Which one would you like? Or, better, why not both?"

***

Michael looked at the images of Kurt's finger tips. They were, to put it mildly, disappointing.

Kurt sighed heavily. "It doesn't look as good as the images in the up-time books."

Michael nodded. They didn't look very good. That was probably due to a lot of things. "The paper probably isn't sensitive enough."

"The books say an earthed subject's image is stronger. Maybe if we were to earth me?"

"Kurt, the books also say that you shouldn't earth a live subject."

"But, Herr Siebenhorn, I am willing to take the risk. What harm can it do? You have said yourself that you have been stung by the lightning from the generator, with no ill effect."

Michael bit his lip. He didn't like going against safety warnings, but Kurt was right. Most of the laborants had been stung by sparks when playing with the doctor's Wimshurst generator, with no ill effect. However, the new machine was significantly larger. It generated more electricity with a higher voltage, and could make much longer sparks. Further it had a huge capacitor. It was entirely possible they could electrocute someone. Michael thought about the description of the up-timer Benjamin Franklin killing a turkey with a similar device. "Very well." He quietly adjusted the spark gap to make it smaller. The zaps, while more frequent, would be less dangerous.

***

Zap!

"Ouch!" Kurt jerked his hand off the imager.

Michael stopped spinning the generator and removed the wasted photosensitive paper. "Kurt, are you sure you want to do this?"

Kurt nodded. "It was just the surprise, Herr Siebenhorn. I'll be ready for it next time."

Michael sighed. He wasn't sure this was a good idea. He made a minor adjustment to the spark gap and drew another sheet of photosensitive paper from the light proof envelope. "Right, let's try again."

When Kurt put his hand on the paper Michael started the generator spinning. He could see Kurt twitching as the current hit him again and again. "For God's sake, Kurt! Hold still or we'll never get an auroral image. The coin didn't move. Neither should you."

***

Kurt was still rubbing his hand as he examined the damp photograph. "It looks much clearer."

"Yes, it does. Would you like to try the left hand now?"

Kurt nodded. "Yes, Herr Siebenhorn. Herr Siebenhorn, could I please keep the images of my hands?"

Michael suppressed a sigh, Kurt, for all his experience with English, didn't seem to understand the concept of the rhetorical question. "Of course, Kurt."

A few weeks later, HDG Laboratories, Jena

Kurt still couldn't quite believe he was actually working as his hero's personal laborant. Even if it was just until his regular laborant returned from an important job. When Herr Siebenhorn made the offer, Kurt had been overcome with emotion.

He gave the safety glass of the fume cupboard a final polish to remove the last speck of dust and stood back to admire his handiwork. The fume cupboard was sparkling clean. Now to collect the various items for Dr. Gribbleflotz' next experimental session. Kurt's eyes lit up as he read the requirements sheet. Another experiment with the Kirlian Imager.

***

Phillip walked into the small laboratory and nodded in Kurt's general direction "Are we all ready to proceed, Beta?"

With two Kurt Stoltz' being employed by in important positions there had been several instances of confusion. Phillip had solved the problem by telling Kurt that, as the late comer, he was to no longer respond to the name Kurt Stoltz. Instead, he should only respond to Kurt Stoltz Beta or Kurt Beta. Or, as it turned out, just "Beta."

Kurt had no problem with this. If learning not to respond to the name Stoltz, and answer to Beta was what it took to remain as Dr. Gribbleflotz' personal laborant, he was willing to adapt.

"Yes, Doctor. The envelope of the big sheets is in the top drawer on the table. The trays in the darkroom have been filled with chemicals and are at the correct temperature. All is ready for your experiments."

Several weeks later, the public seminar room, HDG Enterprizes, Jena

Phillip held the static-charged rod close to the stream of water. There was an "oh" of astonishment from the audience as the stream of water bent away from the rod. Phillip started recharging the rod on the handful of wool in his other hand and smiled at his audience. He really enjoyed it when he got that reaction of amazement. "That was a demonstration of the repelling force of an electrical field. It is interesting to note that the same charged rod can also attract." Phillip passed the recharged rod above some small pieces of paper on his demonstration table. The paper leapt up to the rod.

The audience applauded the demonstration. "You have seen me use inanimate materials to make my electric fields, but did you know your own body also generates electricity?" He looked around his audience sympathetically." I see a number of heads shaking. Yes, it is true. And now, using the wonders of the up-timer science of Kirlian Photography, I shall prove it."

Phillip nodded to Kurt that he was ready. While Kurt made preparations Phillip returned to his audience. "A gifted up-time philosopher, Semyon Kirlian, continuing the work of the great Nikola Tesla, discovered that he could photograph the life force, or aura, which surrounds all living beings, as I shall now demonstrate. Could I have a volunteer from the audience, please?"

***

Phillip stood back while Kurt hung the wet prints to dry. Each was carefully labeled with the volunteer's name so that they could take their own Kirlian image home with them, and they were crowding Kurt so they could see the images.

Once the images were hung up, Kurt opened the heavy blackout curtains and turned out the red safe light. Phillip waited for his audience to return to their seats.

"As you can see, the Kirlian Imager can detect forces invisible to the human eye. Proving the existence of a field around our bodies.. ."

"Yes, but what use does it have, or is it just another useless party trick?"

Phillip froze. Was someone suggesting his Candles of the Essence of Light demonstrations were nothing but a "party trick"? He stared at the speaker. Could he be an agent from the university sent to try and discredit him? There was a gentle cough from his assistant. Phillip looked over at Beta. It appeared he had something he wanted to say. Well, Beta had spent a lot of his own time experimenting with the Kirlian imager. Maybe he could silence the critic. "Would you like to explain, Beta?"

Kurt nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, and I have a number of Kirlian Images that I would like to show everyone."

Phillip turned to his audience. "My assistant has made a personal study of the uses of the Kirlian Imager. If you will wait patiently for a few moments while he gathers some materials from the laboratory, he will attempt to answer your question."

***

Kurt approached the rostrum with his folder of notes and Kirlian images. This was his opportunity to impress his hero with his level of scientific knowledge and comprehension. He coughed gently into his hand to clear his throat and looked around at the curious faces and took a last steadying breath before starting his very first public presentation.

He held up an image of a modern coin so everyone could see it before passing it around the audience. "In this image of a coin we can see how the Kirlian image of the corona is regular and symmetrical. The life force follows the curvature of the coin." He passed out a second image. "This is the image from the same coin a week later. Notice how the 'flames,' those fine short lines radiating out from the edge of the coin, are the same."

He held up a new image. "And this is a Kirlian image of an old, well-used and abused coin. Notice how the corona is not symmetrical, showing the damage inflicted on the coin. Again, although I don't have a second image available to show you, the corona from this coin doesn't change.

"However, when we examine a living being, things are different." Kurt passed around some images of his own hands. "Look at the coronas around each finger. Compare the same finger on different images. Notice the variation. That is evidence of the life force interacting with the world. We as human beings have the greatest variation in our Kirlian images, clearly demonstrating the greater complexity of the human spirit.

"It has been my privilege to investigate many Kirlian images. In the course of my investigations, I have determined that no two images, even of the same person, are ever the same. I have found that the variation is due to several things. First, just like the stream of water can be moved by the charged rod in Dr. Gribbleflotz' demonstration, other life forces can influence your aura. Second, what you eat, drink, or even wear, can influence your aura.

"My investigations suggest that the flames of the corona should be symmetrical around the surface being photographed. This would indicate a spirit in its ideal state. By carefully analyzing the placement and the ratios between various lengths of the flames of the aura, one can analyze what is required to transform an individual's aura to its ideal state. Not, of course, that it is possible to actually achieve a true ideal state, not as long as there are other life forces able to wield influence. But my investigations have shown that one can 'manipulate' the forces acting on one's aura to arrive as closely as possible to the ideal state, where one is truly in balance with the universe, even by such simple things as changing the color of the clothes one wears on a given day."

Kurt held up his left hand so the audience could see the chased copper bracelet he was wearing. "Of course, sometimes a little more effort is necessary to bring a person's aura into balance. But since I have been manipulating my aura towards the ideal state I have improved not only my health, but my prospects. Clearly, an unbalanced aura is an indicator of poor health and vitality."

Kurt could feel that he had his audience in the palm of his hand. So this was why Dr. Gribbleflotz continued to give his seminars. The feeling of euphoria as everyone listens attentively to one's every word. "Of course, just looking at the fingertips doesn't tell us a lot about how our life force interacts with the world. Fortunately, Herr Dr. Gribbleflotz has a special Kirlian Imager that can record much larger images." Kurt unrolled a large Kirlian image and stuck it to the seminar back board using magnets. With Dr. Gribbleflotz' pointer in hand he stepped aside so everyone could see.

"This is a Kirlian Image of my head." He ran the tip of the pointer around the corona surrounding his head. "We can clearly see the 'halo' which is present around all of us. Obviously the head is not round, so the flames are not symmetrical, however, by analyzing the ratios of the length and density of the flames we can draw some conclusions as to what the individual must do to move their aura to the ideal state."

Kurt wasn't sure where the words were coming from, but he let them continue to flow. Anything to maintain the interest of his audience and the feeling of euphoria.

***

Phillip wasn't sure what to think. Beta had made a most enthusiastically received presentation. Even that dissenting voice was currently begging Kurt to interpret his Kirlian Image and explain what he had to do to return his life force toward its ideal state. He shrugged. It seemed Beta had things well in hand. Meanwhile, he had papers to read and write. So Phillip left Beta to deal with the people crowding around him.

***

Kurt knocked diffidently on the door. He had a request that he hoped the doctor would approve.

"Enter."

Kurt pushed the door open and stepped into Dr. Gribblefltoz' personal office. He passed an envious gaze of the shelves of books that lined one wall.

"Ah, Beta, a most impressive presentation."

Kurt flushed with pride. Dr. Gribbleflotz had been impressed. "Thank you, sir."

The doctor gestured toward an easy chair. "Take a seat. What is it I can do for you?"

Kurt gingerly lowered himself into the soft easy chair. Previously he'd only been invited to sit on one of the hard wooden seats. He must have really done well. Maybe Dr. Gribbleflotz would be receptive to his request. "After the seminar today, sir, several of the attendees asked if I could take Kirlian Images of their halos, and then interpret them so they could move their auras towards the ideal state. I was wondering if you would permit me to use your large Kirlian Imager to take the required photographs, and also allow me the time to interpret the images."

"The photosensitive paper isn't exactly cheap, Beta."

Kurt nodded his head rapidly. "I realize that, Herr Doctor. I expect to charge people a small fee."

"For the image and the interpretation?"

"If it is permitted, Dr. Gribbleflotz."

"Well, the Kirlian Imager isn't giving me the results I hoped for, so I don't see a problem letting you use it. However, I still need a personal laborant until Hans returns, so I can't really spare you."

"I wasn't thinking of performing the imaging when I should be working for you, sir!"

"You weren't? Very well. Make arrangements with Frau Mittelhausen."

"Thank you, Herr Doctor."

Two months later, Grantville

It was Michael's first visit to the explosives factory and he was curious. He paused at the door of his sister's office to look around. It was crowded with filing cabinets and wall charts. There was a good up-time typewriter on the desk and-wonder of wonders-a computer. Maria Anna was currently engrossed with the computer screen. "How come you rate your own computer, Sis?"

"Michael.! Long time no see. I get the computer because I handle the books. What can I do for you?"

Michael had been so busy over the last couple of months he hadn't been able to spend much time with his sister. "I've got an order from Jena for some more Kirlian imagers and photographic chemicals, and I was wondering if Celeste's daughter and her friends can get me some more milkweed latex."

"You could have phoned."

"Sure. But then I couldn't have shown you this." Michael tossed a booklet and covering letter over to Maria Anna. He was interested in how she reacted. He'd nearly fallen over laughing himself. "Kurt's calling himself Beta these days. Dr. Gribbleflotz was having too much trouble with two Kurt Stoltzs on the payroll."

Maria Anna gingerly picked up the booklet and looked at it. Her head shot up. "'How To Manage Your Aura For Personal Health and Gain.' By Kurt Beta. What the hell is happening in Jena?"

"Read the letter. It explains everything."

Maria Anna dropped the booklet and opened Kurt's letter. "He's been teaching others to interpret the life forces made visible by the wonders of Kirlian photography. Is he for real?"

Michael shrugged. "I think so. That's why he needs the additional imagers. He needs them for his students. Frau Mittelhausen has authorized the order."

Maria Anna grimaced. "Kurt's students? What's he trying to do?"

"Franchise auroral interpretation, of course."

"Franchise what? He's selling snake oil."

Michael shook his head. "No, snake oil is a total fraud. What Kurt Beta is doing is merely pseudo-science, like the doctor and his pyramid. Frau Mittelhausen says people in Jena are lapping it up."

"You know what I think of the doctor's pyramid."

"Sure, but it's harmless. Think of what Kurt's doing as being Feng Shui for the soul."

"What the hell is Fung Shway?"

Michael paused to consider an answer. Feng Shui wasn't one of those things that were easy to explain. "I think I need to lend you the book I read."

Several weeks later, office of Boots Bank, Jena

Marguerite Lobstein called over to her partner. "Johann Diefenthaler wants a loan to take the new photographer course in Grantville and buy a camera obscura photographer equipage. What do you think?"

Catherine Mutschler looked at the photographs of her and Marguerite's family displayed around the room. "Where does Johann hope to operate?"

"He wants to operate in Bamberg. There hasn't been anybody else saying they want to work there. Most of them want to operate in Magdeburg."

Catherine chewed on a lock of hair while she read the detailed loan application. "He's got a reasonable business plan. I think we can make the loan to do the Certificate in Photography at Brennerei und Chemiefabrik Schwarza's school in Grantville easily enough. Tell him the rest is dependent on his passing the course."

"Right." Marguerite made a note on Johann's folder and tossed it into the yes basket. Then she pulled out another folder. "Oh, dear!"

Catherine took in the grimace of distaste on Marguerite's face. "What's the matter?"

"Another Kirlian Imager application."

"Just because you don't believe in the interpretation of the human spirit doesn't mean it isn't a sound business proposition."

"Are you suggesting that you believe in that mumbo-jumbo?"

Catherine shook her head. "No. Of course I don't believe it, but I know there are lots of people who do. If your applicant has completed Herr Beta's course and has a good business plan there is no more reason to deny the application than there was to deny Johann Diefenthaler's. Remember, the only criteria we use to determine whether or not to make a loan is whether or not they can pay it back."

Marguerite tossed the application across to Catherine. "Very well, you sign off on the loan. I don't want to touch the thing."

A couple of weeks later, HDG Enterprizes, Jena

Ursula Mittelhausen smiled at the photograph her sister had sent her. It wasn't as good as the one she had sent to Margarethe, but her portrait had been taken by Frau Sebastian using a proper up-time camera, not one of the new manual exposure Camera Obscura Photographer machines that the traveling photographers were using.

***

Phillip shook Kurt Beta's hand. "Are you sure you have to leave, Beta? There's plenty a man with your talents can achieve here at HDG Enterprizes."

Kurt shook his head. "Thank you for the offer, Doctor. But my time as your personal laborant has opened my eyes to a world of new opportunities. I intend spreading the science of interpreting Kirlian images. I already have a number of lectures scheduled in Magdeburg, and I have to see my publisher about my new book."

"Your new book?" Phillip asked.

"Yes. 'Feng Shui for the Soul.' Herr Siebenhorn gave me the idea for the title. I had previously missed the obvious connection between the ancient Chinese science of Feng Shui and the new art of interpreting Kirlian images, but as soon as Herr Siebenhorn made the comparison, the relationship was obvious."

Kurt paused to consider just why he'd missed such an obvious connection. The Censors had been hard at work indeed. They'd hidden the truth with careful use of misdirection, surrounding the truths of Feng Shui with claims only the gullible could believe. It had taken him considerable time and effort to sort through all the up-timer material to discover the truth, but now he knew and it was going to make him rich.

Ghosts on the Glass

Written by Tim Roesch

The first time Mary saw the ghosts she was transfixed.

In the beginning, they had frightened her, the ghosts. Now she found them before they found her. She knew where to look and how. With a clever smudge here or a bit of pigment there, she could enclose them or set them free or leave them completely alone.

She looked across the street in the early afternoon sun, and was again struck by the ghost on the glass. She looked at the ghost, watched it as the sun moved in the sky. Mary could tell this one needed help, needed her to touch it, embellish it, bring it to life. This ghost, of all the others, was special.

Mary sighed and felt in those wonderful things called pockets for the small piece of chalk she had borrowed from school and kept for moments like this. She would be late getting home again.

With a simple mark on the ground it began again.

Mary had learned not to fight beginnings. She would look at the glass and the ghost would tell her when she had done enough.

***

"Look at it! Just look at my windows. I've had enough, Julie."

Julie Drahuta tried really, really hard to see what it was that had made Audry Yost this upset. A dirty window shouldn't cause Audry to lose her cool like this. Sure, it looked someone had smeared her window with colored snot and dirt but a little Windex, or the 1633 equivalent, would clean it right up.

"What am I looking at, Audry?" It was best, in situations like this, to maintain a professional demeanor, regardless of the circumstances. After all, it was probably a child; a child who liked to eat sherbet with their bare hands then wipe them on Audry's window.

"Look!" Audry pointed angrily at the large, smeared plate glass window.

In Julie's experience very little made Audry this angry. She took two very considered steps forward, her eyes scanning the glass and trying not to look at the potted plants on display on the other side.

Audry might not have access to flower networks but what she had and what she could do with what was available was truly a sight to see, smeared windows or not.

"See? Smudges! Smudges all over. Look!"

"Glass gets smudged, Audry." Julie tried not to sound amused. "Hell, I press my nose against your windows from time to time. You have a green thumb and it shows."

"She does it on purpose! And not with her nose! Every day, I turn my back for one second. One! Next thing I know I have to chase her away and the glass is dirty. She stands there, right in front of my face, Julie, and messes up the window. She does it on purpose. She used her tongue once!"

"Her what?"

"Then she smeared it with her nose."

"With her nose?" Julie leaned in and scanned the glass more closely. Yes, indeed, it was… smudged. No, smudge wasn't a good enough word. There almost seemed to be a pattern…

"With her fingers too, Julie. Can't you see? Sometimes it's so thick you almost can't see through the glass. I think she sticks her hands in stuff just to dirty the glass. She has to and it isn't random. It's like she looks for clean places to mess up. Look at it. .. every day I have to clean the glass. Every day she smears a different part. If this keeps up, I'm going to wear the darn stuff out!"

"Just on the outside?"

"She'd never dare come inside and do that! I've never been this mad at a child, Julie. You know that… but, it's so… so… blatant. She's doing it on purpose!"

"Do you know who she is?"

"I'm guessing she's a German kid, a down-timer. She's blond and blue-eyed and she has that look. She understands me when I yell at her though, so she at least knows some English. She glares at me then she's off like a shot. Bam. Sometimes she runs that way or that way. .. if I see her I'd recognize her but… I just want it to stop, okay? Can you talk to her parents or something?"

"About what time does she do this?"

"Lately? Usually about midday. She should be in school, right? I mean she looks like she's about ten or so. Sometimes it's after school or before. Some parents need to be reminded to have their kids in school. Schools are for kids… not my window. If she wants to finger paint, she should do it in school."

"About how tall?"

"She's a bit tall… maybe close to five feet. Look at the glass. That should tell you something. She leaves enough fingerprints."

"We don't have an FBI fingerprint database, Audry."

"I know… just… make it stop, okay? It's really annoying and I'm… more annoyed that I'm annoyed. I like kids, Julie, you know I do. We adopted two, remember?"

"I'll see what I can do."

Audry went inside her store. The tinkling bell drew Julie's attention back to the window.

There was something odd about the smudges. No, smudge just wasn't the word for it. Finger painting didn't describe it either.

Julie stepped back and struggled. The light didn't seem right.

Nothing on that glass seemed right.

It was almost like there was something… ghostly on the glass, an image that was almost there.

The light just wasn't right.

Julie looked over her left shoulder to see where the sun was.

Nope, not quite right.

***

Mary scowled at the glass from the beginning place she had marked across the street from the flower shop. The words painted on the glass were like rocks in a stream or trees in a breeze. The ghost simply used sunlight to make itself part of the letters.

The ghost flowed around the letters on the glass; changing as the sun changed. Mary had learned that the sun was never in the same place in the sky at the same time. It changed its position slightly each day.

It was hard to understand, like Grantville and the events that had stolen her family, left them scattered about the burned rubble of her home and memory.

Mary would understand though. She would work hard and understand. Like Grantville and this ghost on this glass, it would all work itself out.

All she needed to do was be patient. This ghost would wait for her and she knew another one would appear and it would not be happy if she failed to help this one.

Her new parents loved her and cared for her. There was food on the table again and it was warm and safe. She might even find another dog to replace the one she had taken for granted until she had found it, like her family, dead.

She would make this ghost she saw on this glass warm and safe like Grantville made her feel warm and safe. It was the least she could do.

This particular image reminded her of some place, some event, some person in her past life, the life before Grantville, the life she had tried so hard to forget. Maybe this ghost was all of those things. Ghosts could be whatever they wanted to be.

This ghost was trying to tell her something. All she had to do was follow the sun behind her and find the right pattern to clothe the ghost, surround it, enhance it.

Enhance was a word she would have never known before Grantville. Just as she knew she would never have seen this much glass before Grantville.

But if she hadn't, would there have been ghosts? Mary calmed herself.

Remembering was not enough; just as forgetting had been too much.

The ghosts reminded her to live. The dead didn't make memories. They were memories. She was alive and she made memories.

It was all complicated but it would all work out.

She would need to come earlier now. She wouldn't be late for chores but she would have to leave school early again.

The ghost didn't care. It would appear about noon now and she would have to be here to enhance and embellish it.

***

Julie made it a point to be somewhere nearby around midday. For three days there was no sign of a tallish, blond, German female between ten and twelve years old lurking about a flower shop at midday.

For three days Audry said nothing about smudges though she did wave when Julie walked by. Walking by Audry's flower shop was always a treat even if Julie "had" to because she was on duty. The chief was always interested in potential child abuse or neglect cases. Protecting kids and families was always good PR.

"Get her blond ass back in school," Chief Richards had said. "But do it nicely. It's probably just some kid who's never seen that much glass before and she likes to touch it or something. Make Audry happy and me happy; get her back in school."

So, here she was, watching the flowers and plants through Audry's clean windows. Clean so far.

It was day four into the investigation that yielded results. Patience and perspective are everything in police work.

This particular day Officer Drahuta was late. There were other issues in Grantville of more import than a glass window smudged by some truant girl. It was slightly past midday when Julie appeared. She noted her reflection on a glass window she passed and smiled.

Julie was just turning the corner when she heard the yell.

" Get away! Get away from the glass!"

Julie ran the twenty or so yards to the florist shop and was confronted by a fuming Audry, a smudged window and the faintest glimpse of running feet turning a corner.

"She did it again!" Audry pointed. "I went in the back to see how Mrs. Hardegg's miniature roses are doing and when I came out there she was… smudging my window! Where were you?"

Julie turned and looked at the window. There was still something. .. odd about the smudges. A barely discernible pattern of some kind.

"Can you leave the window just like it is, Audry?" Julie asked, stepping back.

"Sure, why not? If kids can draw on the sidewalk, why not smudge my windows? I can have another installed! Plate glass is just all over the place, isn't it?"

"What?"

"Look!" Audry pointed at the ground near Julie's feet.

There were a series of marks; lines drawn with a thin piece of chalk or maybe dry wall. There were words written next to them. She pulled out her clipboard and began writing.

"Does she do this to anyone else's store? No! Just mine!"

"Audry, you're letting this work you into a frenzy. I'll catch her and we'll settle this. It's not like she's throwing rocks through your window."

"Yet," Audry grumbled and stormed back into her store.

Julie looked up at the glass then back on the ground. The occasional pedestrian politely moved around her as she scanned the sidewalk. There were faded remnants of other marks.

She turned and looked around at the other buildings up and down the street. "Why this store?" Julie muttered to herself. There were plenty of other stores along the street, plenty of other windows. What was special about this store and this window?

She spent a pleasant few hours window shopping, asking other store owners if they had a problem with smudges or tall German girls with dirty fingers.

Some didn't know what she was talking about. A few had heard Audry's complaints and smiled as they told her, more calmly, what Audry had already told her.

Julie Drahuta, crack child protection officer, learned one more piece of evidence that Audry either had forgotten to mention or hadn't noticed.

The girl would often appear just before sunset. She would stand on the edge of the sidewalk and stare at Audry's window. Most assumed that, as a young girl, she was attracted to the pretty displays of flowers and plants in the window. Who wouldn't be?

Julie wasn't so sure. The smudges didn't appear related to anything behind the glass.

Sunset was a few hours off. Julie would be here then.

***

The florist shop had large windows.

Mary knew such places, with or without windows, simply did not exist in the time when her first family had been alive, when glass had been so much smaller and the ghosts had no place to be seen, to feel safe.

Now, if she could only find some way to stop the owner of the shop from washing this window.

Mary knew the ghost on the glass wasn't bothered by the washing. It simply moved with the sun, from one place on the glass to another. It waited patiently for her.

Mary would follow it.

Ghosts were slow, steady and patient. All she need do was be patient and even if the ghost disappeared completely, it would reappear later.

After all, where could a ghost go that she could not follow now that she was here, in Grantville, with all this glass?

***

The girl didn't reappear that afternoon but Julie hit pay dirt the next afternoon. She chose to stand at the line with the word "five" scrawled almost illegibly beside it before beginning her surveillance. Five what, she wondered.

Perspective and patience. The five didn't mean anything to her but it did to someone else.

"You need be standing here," a voice told her.

Julie turned to see a ten year old, maybe a year or two older, blond female glaring at her. Her arms were crossed across her chest. She was dressed in a handmade dress with what appeared to be food stains smudged across the front where she had obviously wiped her hands. There was a mother somewhere who wouldn't be happy to see that well made dress smudged and stained.

Smudged and stained?

"There?" Julie smiled. Her smile often won over children when nothing else did.

The girl's expression did not change when she nodded.

Julie moved slightly. There was another line. This one had the word "six" beside it.

"Now look," the girl stated firmly.

Julie looked.

There were ghosts on the glass. There was no other way to describe them. The smudges transformed with the slanting, late afternoon light and the slight change in position, five to six, into what could only be seen as ghosts.

Reflections and smudges and light merged into something faint and beautiful, like forms in a mist that is slowly swirling in an unfelt breeze.

"Oh, my God." Julie moved her head slightly and the image was nothing more than smudges on glass. Then she moved her head back to its original position.

They were faint, startling images of faces and places and things. It was like laying down and looking up at the sky and how clouds changed from horses to sailing ships. She had done that with her father how long ago?

"That's her!" Audry stormed out of her store. The words seemed to strike Julie straight across her face to wake her up.

"Stand here, Audry." Julie grabbed Audry as she stamped toward girl with the blond hair, determined eyes and pale arms crossed across her chest.

"There she…"

"Look!" Julie aimed Audry's face at the glass.

"It's those smudges! I tol… my God…"

"You need to see in the light," the girl said. "Can you wait for the day to end to wash them away? Can you wait for the sunset? I can pay. I can't wash window. I do not have the time to do so. I do not like to lie to Momma."

Neither Julie nor Audry saw the youthful hand outstretched with a meager handful of random coins and slips of paper.

No, they weren't smudges at all, Julie thought.

"How…" Audry took a step closer and the image was gone, the light wrong, the smudges had become smudges again. The ghosts had vanished to wherever ghosts go when pursued.

Julie remained standing right where she was. Audry rejoined her.

The occasional pedestrian paused a moment to see what the two women were staring at and, if they were in just the right spot, stopped and started to stare.

"I have to go," the girl said.

"Don't. Move. Stay right there."

"Am I in trouble?"

"No… just… we need to talk. Stay there. Okay?"

"The sun will be setting soon. I will have to home. Maybe tomorrow

… and stop screaming at me. I can pay you for window."

"On the house." Audry moved her head slightly from side to side. "Any time you want… smudge away…"

"The sun will change and I will see another window. Now is the best time for your window. Later… maybe down the street… It doesn't hurt the window. It washes off."

"Uh huh," Audry muttered.

There was a long silence.

"I thought… what would people who used to live here… where Grantville is now… what would they make of this place? How would their spirits see what become of their home? They are ghosts of people who were here before Grantville. Some of the ghosts… are people I was knowing… before…"

"It's… beautiful…" Julie shook her head. "And they're just fingerprints."

"No." Audry sighed. "They are ghosts watching us. They're reflections of us…"

"Can you keep them on the glass until sun sets?"

"Sure… sure. Of course, yes!"

"Good." The girl sighed. "They are beautiful, no?"

"You've turned my window into a work of art." Audry nodded.

"Have you thought of canvas?" Julie asked.

"Canvas? You mean cloth? Cloth is for wearing. Glass is a window to soul. Cloth merely covers soul. I like glass."

"What's everyone looking at?" a voice demanded.

"Stand here!" a chorus of voices said. Hands pulled the speaker. Complaints ceased as the place was found.

The sun did set but not before at least ten people saw the ghostly images smudged carefully onto the plate glass of Audry Yost's flower shop.

The ghost smiled at Mary.

As Julie walked her home, Mary looked up, knowing where the setting sun might expose another ghost.

There it was, high up in a window above her head, three stories up.

Story could mean a floor or a story you read, like a mother would read to a child. English was the perfect language for ghosts. Like ghosts on the glass could change as the sun changed, English could change too and be what it needed to be.

Mary liked English and she liked school and her new parents.

And the ghosts didn't frighten her anymore.

Three stories up there was a ghost of a dog lying on its side in the setting sun and Mary smiled. She had known that dog, seen it alive in the yard in front of her first home. Now it was here.

The ghosts were coming here, to their new home.

So was she.

***

Julie couldn't quite figure out how to write her report.

There is no art in a well-done police report. It states the facts, clearly and without bias or emotion. A police report reports a vandalized masterpiece with the same dispassionate words that it reports a gang symbol spray painted on an alley wall.

Signs of abuse or neglect? No.

Julie met the girl's adopted parents. There was no sign of abuse or neglect. Her papa made it clear that little Mary would have to clean the windows she had smudged. Mary wasn't to leave school without permission again.

Damage to property?

Julie closed her eyes and remembered the ghostly images on the plain, cold glass.

No; she wrote firmly.

Firm, bold strokes were the only emotion allowed on police reports.

Chief Richards accepted the report without comment.

To him, the case was closed, the "blond ass" was back in school and Audry wasn't complaining anymore.

Grantville had lots of glass, a growing number of ghosts, and a young artist to smudge them.

To Julie, Grantville felt just a bit less cut off from the past and just a bit more attached to this new future.

Golden Corn-A Tale of Old Joe on the Mountain Top

Written by Terry Howard

"It's the first of May and there's snow on the ground." Old Joe had talked to himself all of his life. Now with his wife gone he was living alone in a house accustomed to keeping two or three and-on rare, brief occasions-four generations of Jenkins at the same time, so he talked to himself a lot.

He really should have taken in boarders but he didn't want strangers going through things. Besides, he only thought of it when he went to town which was mostly on Sundays and there was no call for talkin' business on Sunday. Come Monday there was always something that needed doing around the place, so he just never got around to finding boarders.

"And it ain't a late snow that fell in the night and will be gone by noon. It's still here from February. I oughta be plantin' the corn shortly. If I don't get it in the ground in the next two or three weeks it won't make, and if I don't get the tomato sets in the ground pretty soon, I might as well put them in pots and leave 'em." It was a repeat of a conversation he had with his wife the first spring after the Ring of Fire.

That first spring he ended up starting his corn in the greenhouse on the southern backside of the barn where the livestock and the sun helped keep it warm. "Mabel, I'm goin' to put some tomato plants and squash plants and some of everything else I started from seed back in January in five gallon buckets or whatever, to leave 'em as potted plants. It looks like it's the only way to guarantee something to can this year."

The big problem was the size of the greenhouse. It had been cobbled together out of castoff windows to get a jump on the garden, because a man like Old Joe wasn't wasn't about to buy sets in town. You couldn't fit a whole garden's worth of pails inside that greenhouse. He would set plants out when he could. But he knew if you wait too long, sets wouldn't transplant well. The corn plants were set out in June just as early as he was sure the freeze was over and the ground was warm enough. Some nights he still had to cover them because he was worried about frost.

"If it weren't for the wheat, I could just up and starve with this here 'Little Ice Age.'" He had heard that mentioned after church one Sunday and tried to look it up in the encyclopedia. He couldn't find it under 'little' or 'ice age.' As for starving, he could eat out of his cellar for well over a year. The habits of growing what you ate, minding your own business and getting by with what was on hand ran deep.

The Ring of Fire cut off his driveway. One of the highest limestone faces in the circle fell away not twenty feet out his front door. Almost all of his woods and nearly three of the six-, four- or five-acre patches his grandfather used to keep in row crops went missing too. The five-acre plot that he had kept in field corn or soy beans for years was now three and a half acres of wheat and rye and oats sown in a mix. It was mostly animal feed for the milk cows and chickens. He ground some of it by hand to make bread. The only corn he planted any more was for canning. What he planted for seed he grew in the green house for fear of losing it to a freeze. The other three pockets of semi-flat land were in pasture, hay and straw. They were too poor, too steep, or too rocky to be worth row cropping.

When the Grantville authorities came poking around right after the event he made it plain he did not want them on his place.

"Mister Jenkins, we are all going to have to pull together to get through the next winter. Everybody is going to have to pitch in and help," one of them had said.

"Well, I understand that. I promise you, anything I grow that the wife and I don't need I'll haul down and sell it in town. Never was much up here an' there's less now," Joe had answered.

"Well, sir, you might need some help, we've got-"

Before the man could make a pitch for him to take in some refugees, Joe cut him off. "Ain't needed no help in eighty years I know of and never heard of having any hired help afore that. We'll take care of ourselves, thank you."

On the way down the hill the younger of the census takers said to the older, "It's sure not easy to get up here. Truth to tell there isn't a whole lot here outside of two old people, two old barns and an even older house. With the old man being difficult, I don't think there's any need to mess with them unless we just make them move into the old folk's home. You know, I think he'd start shooting if we suggested it."

"You got that impression? Well, you're right. Just leave them alone. It's for the best."

"Yeah, but is it safe?"

"They'll take care of themselves."

"Well, I know there's not much up here but it might be needed."

"Kid, that old couple will get more out of this pile of rocks than anyone else. She's a regular down at the Baptist church, he's a member of the Legion, the Masons, and the Historical Society. Pays his dues and turns up once in a blue moon. You can be sure nothing up there will go to waste and he'd give you his second-best shirt if he thought you needed it-as long as you didn't ask for it. Just cross it off the list and move on. They'll do more than their share."

Joe had heard it all and snorted. Why did the young automatically think their elders were deaf?

***

When the garden came in that first summer, Mabel had him load three bushels of mixed veggies in the trunk of the car every Sunday. Joe grumbled about it. Mabel knew it was just for form's sake. "Joseph, we ain't gonna eat all that."

"I could haul it into the market."

"You could but you won't, 'cause it ain't worth the time. Besides, there's folks having a hard time of it in town." The last line settled it. Mabel didn't mention the full milk can in the trunk next to the veggies. On Saturday and Sunday the pigs didn't get the extra milk.

They'd leave it all in the church kitchen and every Sunday there would be four empties waiting for him to take home. The pastor and pensioners in the church ate well; what was left of the food went to the refugee center.

Come fall, Joe sold three pigs down to the slaughter house. He dressed and smoked the other two from that litter. One ended up in the cellar. The other one ended up in the church kitchen shortly before Christmas, along with eleven large, soft balls of cheese, a bushel of Mabel's herb tea mix, and paper grocery bags of dried chives, oregano and several other spice herbs. The three pigs paid his property taxes.

He could have sold the steer he got off of one of the milk cows but he didn't need to and he thought he should look ahead. The tractor would break down beyond repair eventually, so he figured he should start working up an ox. The other milk cow dropped a female calf, so she was a keeper too. With the litter of pigs gone, Pastor Green helped them find a family in town willing to look after one of the milk cows. That family had five kids. Milk doesn't have a long shelf life and it wasn't enough to make a daily trip into town worthwhile, but they couldn't abide it going to waste. So the cow went to town.

Two cars were pushed out of a garage and Joseph trucked enough straw, hay, and corn into town to see the milk cow through the winter. The family would keep enough milk for their table, the rest went to the grocery store and the cash went to Jenkins. When Joe arrived with several sacks of shelled corn, the man of the house helped unload them.

"It's too bad the corn's hybrid. We won't be seeing yields like this anymore."

"Joe shook his head. "It ain't hybrid. It's open-pollinated heirloom corn. Same stock of Hickory Cane corn we've been planting for years. I could of got a better yield out of hybrid, I guess, but I'd of had to buy it and this did fine. Besides, if the spring comes as late as the fall came early, this is the last corn crop we're going to make."

The fellow stopped and put the bag down half way between the pickup. "This is heirloom corn and you're feeding it to cows?"

"What else am I going to do with it? I could sell it and they could grind it, but then we'd have to buy grain. So why bother?"

"Sir, I don't think you've thought it through. What's your yield?"

Joe told him.

"Which is easily better than twice what they're getting these days. We ought to be shipping this down to Spain as seed."

"Well, Rapunzel-" Joe always named his cows, but after an unfortunate experience years ago, he never again wanted to use a name some little girl might have. "-needs about half a gallon of grain a day, on top of hay. If you can sell this for enough to buy oats, go ahead and do it."

Two weeks later, Joe's cow-sitter made the cold walk up to the farm. When Joe came in from the barn, the man was sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea made from herbs out of Mabel's flower garden.

"Mister Jenkins, I've got a buyer for your seed corn. It will cover the purchase of oats and then some. I told him what yield he could expect, but he didn't see it in the field so he doesn't quite believe me. He was impressed with the yield on a stand he saw in a field and wanted it for seed, but was told it was hybrid and wouldn't make if planted. He's afraid this won't make, either.

"Anyway, I cut a deal. He buys it at the agreed corn price. If the yield is half as high as I told him it would be, he'll match the price when he comes back next year after the harvest. If it hits the mark I told him it would, he'll double it. But he wants all he can get."

"Well, I don't mind feedin' oats I guess," Joe said.

***

The next spring when Joe started his sweet corn to transplant to the garden, he started a dozen stalks of field corn to raise in a twelve inch patch in the greenhouse next to his tobacco plant. He wasn't quite sure why, but the idea of not having any Hickory Cane corn seed for next year, after all of these years, just didn't sit right.

Perhaps the oddest part of the tale came about in the winter of '35.

Joe heard a noise and looked up from milking the cow. "Mr. Abrabanel, what brings you to a barn on a wind-blown mountain top?" The man couldn't be lost or passing through. This was the end of the road, if you could call the trace up his neighbor's back wood a road.

"You know who I am." It was not a question, just a surprise. The younger Abrabanel associate had the impression Joseph Jenkins was a hermit.

"I saw you when the synagogue had the open house."

"I'm sorry I missed you." The man was a bit taken aback. He considered himself a trained observer and gatherer of information.

"It was a busy night and you had other things on your mind. What brings you up my mountain?"

"Mr. Jenkins, I have a kinsman in the Ottoman Empire who has a client requesting corn seed from Grantville. I sent him some sweet corn and he has returned a request for the other kind of corn also. I wrote back and told him what I sent him was the only kind to be had. He insisted the kind he was looking for had kernels four or five times the size of what I supplied. The customer insists the corn is being grown in Spain. It is producing a miraculous yield and is spreading quickly. He also said Spain had a close guard on the crop and would not sell seed outside of the country.

"Some inquiry by my kinsman established that the seed came from Grantville. My inquiries here established that the only corn being grown is yellow sweet corn in kitchen gardens. But someone said you sold some seed corn three years ago."

"Well, I grew it. It was in the ground when the Ring of Fire hit. I haven't planted a field of it since. Ain't got enough warm weather for it to make."

"This is truly a shame. The client would pay a fortune for a good sample to get started with. But if you haven't grown any for three years, then the only source is Spain."

"I didn't say I didn't grow any. I said I hadn't planted a field of it. I guess I was hopin' the weather would turn warmer, so I've been growing about a quart a year in the greenhouse."

The young man grinned ear-to-ear. His reputation had just been saved. He didn't have to think of trying to steal a sample in Spain or of telling his kinsman it could not be had. This was something he really did not want to tell this particular kinsman. "Mr. Jenkins, I will pay you its weight in gold for as much as you are willing to sell."

"Well, I figure it's worth about three times that. But I'll settle for twice that much."

"We have a deal."

Lost In Translation

Written by Iver P. Cooper

Spring 1634

Grantville

"Hans, you fool, where are you!"

Hans hurriedly entered the room. The master's face was red, and his eyes were bulging, making him look rather like a choleric bullfrog.

Uh-oh, he thought. What is it this time? He lowered his eyes. "Yes, Master?"

"You took a book to the translators today?" asked Bullfrog Eyes.

"Yes, Master, I am sorry I didn't get around to it yesterday, but-"

"Which… book…" Each word was carefully enunciated.

"The one you had rebound recently. The octavo with red covers. In the locked bookcase."

"Moron. Imbecile. Idiot." Bullfrog Eyes hurled a book at Hans. " That's the book you were supposed to bring them. As you see, it has red covers. But I am missing a very valuable book, an octavo with green covers. Which was in the same bookcase."

"I am sure I took them a red book…"

"Enough. You must retrieve it at once."

"I humbly beg your pardon, Master. I will go to the translator's office first thing Monday morning."

"At once, I say!"

"I am sorry, Master, but they are certainly closed for the day. In fact, for the weekend."

"Closed." Bullfrog Eyes now looked as though he had swallowed something unpleasant. It did not enhance his appearance.

"On the weekend, one of the translators might come by, and start reading the book. That won't do. No, that won't do at all." He stared at Hans. "You will have to break inside and fetch it back. Tonight."

***

Federico Ballarino contemplated the pile on his bed. I hate packing, he thought.

But he had to do it. Tomorrow morning he would be off to Magdeburg, to give Princess Kristina her dance lessons. And the following week he would be back in Grantville, to teach down-time dances to the up-timers, and continue his research into up-timer dances.

Bitty, the petite director of the Grantville Ballet, had told Federico that thanks to the Ring of Fire, he was now the World's First Long-Distance Commuter. It was a distinction he would have gladly done without.

If that weren't enough, he had gotten roped into helping out "Words International," the translation company. It had started when a couple of the foreign language teachers at the high school were asked to translate a few documents. A few became many, and they decided to form a company to parcel out the translation work to whoever was willing and able to do the job. The foreign language teachers, trying to fit it in during the evening, on weekends, and over the summer, couldn't keep up with the demand.

It was all Nicole's fault. Nicole, the French teacher, knew that Federico had taught dance in France. Nicole pleaded that she was already teaching two adult sections of European History after the regular school day had ended. Could Federico please help with the translations into French? At least until the end of the regular school year? You said you like to read on the train, didn't you?

Sighing, Federico added the green-covered octavo to the pile.

***

Hans' employment with Bullfrog Eyes was not a matter of choice on Hans' part. It was the price for Bullfrog Eyes' silence about certain events in Hans' past. Hans wasn't entirely sure how Bullfrog Eyes knew about his background. But he was sure that Bullfrog Eyes had deliberately sought out a servant with a secret.

Of course, there were secrets and secrets. Bullfrog Eyes didn't know, at least not yet, about Hans' other problem. The vision thing. Hans was afraid to tell him. Perhaps he would no longer be useful. Perhaps Hans would then be… disposable.

Hans stood in front of the Words International store. It was in an old, somewhat run-down commercial building, which had been divided up among several tenants. He looked up and down the street. For the first time in an hour, there was no one else in view. He gave the front door of Words International a swift hard kick.

" Owww!" He grabbed his injured foot and massaged it. He had assumed the door was ordinary wood. He now knew, the hard way, that it was just a wood veneer, with a metal core.

A few minutes later, the pain had eased enough for him to make a second attempt. This time one not involving forcing the door. There was a window he could climb through, once he dealt with the glass. He looked around, and while there was no shortage of pebbles, he wanted something with more heft. Hans sighed and hobbled down the street. He had to go several blocks before he found a likely place to hunt that was away from curious eyes. He picked up a suitable stone, and walked back.

He hefted it and… every time he even thought about throwing it, someone came down the street, or out of the tavern next door to Words International, and he had to hide it. Once, he actually dropped it, narrowly missing his injured foot.

Worse, he was starting to attract attention. The bouncer for the tavern was giving him the eye. Hans decided to move along, and come back later.

After walking a few blocks, he saw another drinking place. Why not? he thought. I have to kill the time anyway.

Sometime later, he staggered out. He returned to Words International, but its neighborhood was still hopping.

Then he had an inspiration. Perhaps he could try the roof?

But he had better collect some tools. The house which his master was renting came with an ax and saw, for cutting firewood. The ax had a blade on one side, and a pick point on the other. Hans approved. He also grabbed the hooded lantern he carried when he escorted the master on evening errands, and his "lighting kit." Flint, steel, and a tinderbox, that is.

It was a pity he didn't have one of those American "backpacks," so he could carry them with his hands free. No matter. He loaded them, and a rope, into a sack and carried them outside. Hans realized that it looked a little suspicious to be carrying a sack like that at night, but Hans figured that an ax and a saw would look even worse.

He sidled into an alley, and worked his way behind Words International. Too bad. No windows on this side. He tied one end of the rope around the mouth of the sack, tight as he could, and the other end around his waist. He struggled his way up a drainpipe, pulling himself at last onto the roof. He collected himself, let his breathing settle down. Then he gingerly hauled up the sack, hoping that neither the rope nor the sack would give way.

He took out his tools and, moving in a half-crouch, examined the roof, looking for a likely spot to begin. He couldn't waste time, it would be dawn soon enough. But had to work cautiously to minimize the noise he made.

Hans was equally worried about being seen. But there was a peculiar metal structure on top of the roof. He figured that he could use it to block any view of him from the street. And that would let him use a bit of light, which would make the search go faster.

Hans took out his lighting kit, and huddled over it. He tapped out the tinder into an untidy pile, and struck the steel with his flint. Sparks flew, and flitted into the tinder. There were glows here and there, which he blew on carefully. At last, he had a decent flame. He quickly lit the lantern, and snuffed out the tinder with his foot.

What was that? he thought. There was some kind of panel on the structure. He studied it more closely, bringing the lantern close up. Yes, there was a bit of separation on one edge. He forced the pick end of his ax into the crack, and started prying. His muscles strained-damn American technology-and then all at once it popped free. He almost dropped the ax.

There was an empty space beyond the opened panel, and beneath it, some kind of shaft. He stuck his head into the dark opening, and listened for a moment. He didn't hear anything suspicious, but he did feel warm air coming up. That was interesting. Was this a way inside? What was it, anyway? An up-timer would have recognized it as a rooftop air conditioning unit, but it was completely beyond Han's experience.

Hans held the lantern inside the structure and tried to look down. Metal glinted but he couldn't really tell much. He carefully tied his rope around the handle of his saw, and gingerly lowered it down. After a few feet, he heard a chink, of metal against metal. He didn't know what to make of it.

Hans considered his options. It would be nice not to have to cut through the damn roof. But he didn't think he could take his lantern with him into the shaft, so any further exploration would be blind.

He shrugged. He tied one end of his rope around a pipe that came out of the roof just beside the RFU, and the other around his waist. It would keep him from falling, if there were something odd about the shaft, and also make it easier to back up if he had to.

Taking a deep breadth, he leaned in. He pressed his hands and thighs outward against the sides of the shaft, to control his descent, and he started to snake down. The blood rushed to his head. After a few moments, his hair grazed the bottom of the shaft. He explored, first with one hand, then the other. It seemed like there were horizontal passages. Narrower, unfortunately, than the shaft he was hanging in. It all seemed very familiar all of a sudden, like something he had seen in an American movie at the Gardens, on their

TV.

Hans wrinkled his nose. Mama didn't raise a boy stupid enough to try crawling through a passage that small in the dark, with no one to pull him back out if there was a problem, he decided. He would leave the vent-crawling to Bruce Willis.

Hans pushed himself off the bottom of the shaft, and laboriously worked his way back the way he had come. Outside, he untied himself with relief.

What was the American phrase? "On to 'Plan B.'" Hans spat on his palms, rubbed them together, and hefted the ax.

***

With a combination of axing and sawing, Hans had made a Hans-size hole in the roof. Well, a few feet across, at least. The lantern beam revealed a maze of cables and vents. Looking at the vents from this angle, Hans gave thanks that he hadn't gone any further with his John McClane imitation.

Below the tangle was a peculiar checkerboard structure. It appeared that there were square panels of one of the peculiar American materials, resting between, and perhaps on, metal strips. Ah, yes, he remembered now. The ceiling of the translator's shop had a square pattern. Hans had thought it was some kind of decoration, he hadn't realized that the squares were removable.

At least, Hans hoped they were removable. He looked for nails and screws, but didn't notice any. Then he started tapping the structure gingerly with the top of his ax. He wondered whether it would take his weight, let him crawl around and pick exactly where he dropped to the floor of the store.

***

Nicole Hawkins hadn't planned to stop by the Words International office that morning. But she hadn't been able to find her earring at home, or at her classroom, and she was getting desperate. The pair had been a gift from her second husband, Barry, who had been left up-time.

She opened the door, flicked on the lights, and locked the door behind her. Girl couldn't be too careful, even in Grantville. She headed over to the desk that she usually worked at. The earring wasn't on the desktop, or on the floor nearby. Sighing, she got down on hands and knees, and expanded her search area.

***

That's when she heard the noise. Rats, she wondered?

She heard a more pronounced thump. Definitely not rats, unless they were of the man-sized variety. It seemed to be coming from the ceiling. Somewhere above the ceiling, to be precise. It was a standard office-type suspended ceiling, with big two-by-two acoustic tiles.

She thought for a moment of running out the door. But if someone had somehow broken in above, he might have an accomplice waiting outside.

Nicole, moving as slowly as she could, unlocked the special drawer. A revolver had been kept there ever since the Croat Raid, just in case.

She readied the weapon, hid behind a desk, and waited.

She saw a side of a ceiling tile lift up, ever so slowly and the ceiling tile started to slide away.

Nicole fired at where she guessed the burglar would be perched.

There was an answering shriek.

***

Hans was lucky; Nicole wasn't a great shot.

But he didn't know that, and he wasn't eager to present the shooter more of a target.

Hans hadn't tried to crawl around on the suspended ceiling, he had just pulled up the tile directly under the hole he had made in the roof. So he was able to pull back quickly enough.

***

Nicole, still holding the revolver, and keeping her eye on the opening, picked up the phone. She took the receiver off the hook, and dialed the police station one handed. "Come quickly, someone is trying to break into Words International. From the ceiling. I shot at him. I don't know if I hit him."

"Help's on the way," said the dispatcher. "What the heck are you doing in the shop at this hour, Nicole?" The dispatcher was Jim Watteville, Nicole's brother.

***

Hans made it safely away, leaving the tools behind him. Still, he could predict, well enough, how Bullfrog Eyes would react to the news of the bungled burglary.

He left his employer a brief note explaining what had happened, packed his bags, and hurried out of town.

Blackmail, he figured, worked only if the blackmailer could find the blackmailee.

***

The fireman came down from the roof. "I put back on the inspection panel for the RTU return air plenum. And I covered the hole with a tarp, to keep the rain out. But you're going to want to get a roofer out here, quick as you can."

Nicole nodded.

"Nice to know you can shoot when there's need," he added.

"I didn't hit the guy."

"You sure scared him," said Jim approvingly. He had hurried over as soon as he found someone to cover the phone. "Left all his stuff there. If he's been arrested in Grantville before, we'll have his fingerprints on file.

"After something like this, we need to give you a fitting nickname."

"Nickname?" Nicole sounded suspicious.

"Yep. How 'bout 'Raptor' Hawkins?"

"Raptor?" asked the fireman.

"Right. Remember Jurassic Park?"

"Oh, yeah. When everyone was hiding up in the suspended ceiling, and the raptor was leaping up at them."

"That's enough," said Nicole with raptor-like ferocity. "Out, both of you. I better call some roofers right now."

The men chuckled as they went out the door.

" Grrr," said Jim to no one in particular, one hand held in imitation of a claw, as the door swung shut.

" Grrr yourself," said Nicole.

***

Bullfrog Eyes crumpled the note, and tossed it into the fire. Watching it burn, he wished the same fate upon Hans.

He felt his chest tighten, and forced himself to calm down. Well, he decided, he would have to visit Words International himself, this very day, and hope that someone was in. And that whoever was there had the book, and hadn't examined it too closely.

Just in case… he made sure his dirk was well concealed.

***

"What a day," Nicole muttered. Having gone to the trouble of going to the office, not to mention scaring off burglars and sweet-talking roofers, she had decided to stay there and get some work done. Not without an occasional nervous look at the ceiling. At least there were plenty of people on the street by now.

There was a knock at the door; she ignored it. The roofer had come and gone, the police had come and gone, she really, really didn't want to talk to anyone. Then came another knock.

Can't they read the sign? she thought. It says closed… in ten different languages.

The knocking became continuous.

She went to the window, saw that the intruder was a well-dressed, foreign looking gentleman. Presumably not the mysterious burglar.

She put the chain on the door and opened it cautiously. "The office is closed."

"I am so sorry, so sorry. My servant, he brought the wrong book to be translated. I have the correct one here. The book he brought, it was one I borrowed from an acquaintance, and I must return it before the owner leaves for Amsterdam later today."

"Did your servant give you a receipt?"

"Yes, yes, here it is." He stuck the paper into the gap, and Nicole took it from him.

"One moment, I'll check the ledger."

Nichole pulled the ledger out and ran her finger down the list. She walked back to the door. "It was one of the books we gave to Federico Ballarino to be translated."

"Where can I find this Federico?"

"At Cair Paravel."

Bullfrog Eyes raised his eyebrows. "Cair what?"

"I'm sorry. That's what Princess Kristina calls her official residence, the place she stays at when she visits Grantville."

"This Federico Ballarino, he is a member of the Swedish Court? But works for you as a translator?"

"He is the princess' dancing master, but he also teaches part-time at the high school. He speaks several languages.

"Anyway, I think he is on his way to Magdeburg today. He'll probably have the book with him. So he has reading matter for the train to Halle, and the barge ride afterward."

Bullfrog Eyes bowed slightly. "I will try to catch him at the train station, then. What does he look like? How does he usually dress for these trips?"

***

"Federico Ballarino? Yes, I know him," said the ticket clerk. "He's a regular. Got on the 9:30 to Halle."

Bullfrog Eyes cursed.

"Hey, don't work up a sweat. The 9:30 is a local. There's also a 1:10 express. If Federico is going to Magdeburg, he'll take the boat tomorrow morning."

"I have never met Signore Ballarino. Can you tell me what he was wearing?"

The clerk told him, then added. "Hey, I have a picture of him! He gave me a flyer for this dance exhibition he's doing in a few weeks. You want it?"

Bullfrog Eyes took it. There was just enough time, he figured, to go home and pack. Just the essentials. Like the Suhl-made rifle he was fond of.

***

The press at the dock was much greater than Bullfrog Eyes had expected. Every time he tried to move in the direction of Federico's distinctive hat, someone got in the way. He wished he had one of the Americans' machine guns. That would clear a path nicely.

The upshot was that Federico was on board, and Bullfrog Eyes was left watching the boat work its way into the main channel of the Saale.

Well, there were alternatives. The boat moved slowly, and there were several stops. Bullfrog Eyes would buy a horse, and get ahead of him.

***

Federico shrugged off the backpack Nicole had lent him, and rummaged inside. It was time to read some more. He chose, by feel, the thinnest of the books. He pulled it out; it was a green-covered octavo.

He zipped up the backpack and put it back on. He had mixed feelings about the backpack. Yes, yes, it made it easier to carry things. But he didn't like what it did to his balance.

***

Bullfrog Eyes was in a clump of woods, not far from the landing at Bernberg. He still hadn't decided whether it was better to talk to Federico, find out what he knew, and, if he were ignorant, retrieve the book without arousing suspicion… or to just shoot him. The latter would silence him, but if the book couldn't be recovered, there was always the possibility that the police would take interest in it.

***

Federico was a bit puzzled. This book, it was interesting enough, he supposed, but not really the sort which down-timers were likely to pay to get translated. He inspected the inside covers, wondering whether there was anything written there which revealed the identity of the owner, and thus, perhaps, why we wanted the translation.

That's when Federico noticed the slit in the binding. He probed with his fingers, there was a letter there; he pulled it out. It was sealed. He wondered what it was doing there.

***

The boat came around the river bend, moving slowly as it made the turn. There was Federico, all right. But what was that in his hand?

Bullfrog Eyes raised the rifle, and took aim.

***

Federico had one hand on the letter, and the other on the book. When the shot rang out, he had no hand to spare for the boat.

On the dance floor, Federico was extremely graceful. He also didn't normally wear a backpack. Bullfrog Eyes' shot grazed Federico's cheek. Surprised, he lost his balance, and toppled backward into the water.

***

"Got him!" thought Bullfrog Eyes. He watched anxiously to see whether Federico resurfaced.

The other passengers on the barge had taken cover, as best they could. Still, it was only a matter of time before they spotted Bullfrog Eyes. While he was in disguise, that wouldn't help if he were caught before he had a chance to change back to his normal appearance.

The barge continued its ponderous movement downstream. In the riverbend, there was no sign of Federico. Or even his hat.

Bullfrog Eyes nodded with satisfaction. It had been a perfect assassination, Federico dead, and the book and letter lost forever. He worked his way back through the brush to his horse, pulled off the cloak he had been wearing, and rode off in the direction of Halle.

***

Federico had, somewhat to his surprise, managed, despite his unexpected dip, to hold on to both the letter and the book. Somewhat the worse for wear, thanks to treading water briefly with them in hand. Once he had recovered from his shock, he had tucked them both inside his blouse and swum to the side of the boat.

Federico held on, using the hull to conceal himself from the shooter. "Could he really have been aiming at me? he wondered. "And if so, why? Because I am Catholic, but am the dance instructor for a Lutheran princess? Because I told the shooter at some dance class that he had two left feet?"

***

It had been a lousy weekend for Federico. He had to give a statement to the dim-witted constable in Bernberg. Then another at the police station in Magdeburg. Once he got to the palace, the palace guard had more questions for him. Could this possibly be part of some plot against the Princess Kristina? More than a bit snappish by that point, Federico suggested that they interrogate the Ice Queen. He learned by this to never, ever, make a joke when questioned by the police. Their uniform entitles them to make all the jokes.

***

"Welcome back, Federico." The speaker was Jim Watteville, Nicole's brother. He was still in uniform, having just come off duty.

"I could wish you weren't in uniform, Jim."

"Trouble with the police?"

"Trouble is too strong a word. 'Exasperation,' that will do." Federico explained.

"Weird," said Jim. "Care to join me for a drink? It is the least I can do, to make amends for the follies of policedom."

"That's fine. But I have an errand to run first, I want to drop off the last of the books I was supposed to translate on this trip. And explain to the owner what happened. He's about a five minute walk from here."

"I'll join you; we can go straight to the Gardens from there."

***

You go in, Federico, I'll wait out here," Jim said.

Federico knocked. A servant answered. Not Hans, of course.

"Who may I say is calling?"

"Tell your master that it is a representative from Words International."

***

"Ah, he must be here to apologize for the loss of my book. I will let him grovel a bit, then tell him that I will waive my claim for the loss. Bring him in."

A moment later, Federico strode into Bullfrog Eyes' study.

" Urkhh," said the dumbfounded would-be murderer.

"I am Federico Ballarino, a translator in the employ of Words International. I regret to inform you that the volume you entrusted to us is a bit damaged." He held up the infamous green-bound octavo.

"And then there is the matter of the letter that was inside." Federico held that up; Bullfrog Eyes could see that it was no longer sealed. He moved his hand, very slowly, toward a drawer that held a small pistol.

Just then, Jim walked in. "What's taking so long?" Out of habit, his hand rested near his service revolver. Back in West Virginia, police dispatchers didn't go around armed, but since the Ring of Fire, it had become normal.

Bullfrog Eyes whitened. There were two of them. Federico had his sword; the hilt was visible through a fold in his cloak. Jim had a handgun and was primed to use it. Clearly, they were ready to arrest him. There were probably Swedish armsmen, in Princess Kristina's service, waiting outside.

Fighting didn't seem wise. And he couldn't flee easily, either; they blocked the only readily accessible exit from his study. They would hardly stand by while he broke a window.

Fight. Flight. Fight. Flight. His mind raced back and forth between both unpromising alternatives, like an animal pacing inside a box trap.

Then his body selected a third choice. His chest tightened convulsively, his vision blurred, and the floor reached up to slug him.

***

The EMT shook his head. "Sorry. He's dead, Jim."

"I guess we'll have to notify his next of kin," the dispatcher said. "Federico, was that letter addressed to anybody that might qualify?"

"I couldn't say." Federico shrugged. "I was just about to apologize to the guy-the letter was probably a treasured love letter, or something of the sort-but after its swim in the Saale, all the writing was smeared beyond recognition."

"Lost in translation," Jim quipped.

Comedy of Error

Written by Mark H. Huston

"Oh. My. God. They have those damned things down-time too?"

"What things Flo?" Anna followed Flo's icy glare toward a temporary stage erected in the Grantville market. On it, a group of Italian traveling players were performing a broad, ribald and highly improvised show. She turned back to her friend. "Traveling comedy theater? They had them up-time too? I would have thought that with all of the television and movies you had, there wouldn't be room for live theater."

"No. Those-those things. With the face."

"Flo, you're sputtering. They are almost all wearing a kind of mask. I think they call it Commedia."

"No. That face. The white one. The-the-the mime!"

"Mime? Well, the players-"

"Of all the things I thought I left behind, that is one that I haven't missed. Mimes. Ugh. There was a time when they were all over back up-time. You couldn't go to a park in the summer without tripping over them. Pulling on ropes and walking against an invisible wind. They were like pigeon crap. Everywhere. And now they're here. In Grantville. Oh my God."

Anna looked at her up-time friend in amazement. "I always thought they were funny. The Italian players, I mean. Usually it is great fun. You see, they are stock sorts of characters…" Anna thought for a moment, and then smiled widely. "Oh, my. They might be able to do the Priest here. I have only seen him one time, and then they got run out of town. But here, they can do all of them as much as they want. This should be good." She clapped her hands together and moved closer to the stage.

"Hang on a second. You mean you like this stuff? Even with a stinking mime?"

Anna stopped and turned to her up-time friend. "I do not understand this 'mime' thing you are talking about. Why is someone pulling on a rope in the wind like pigeon crap?"

"They were always in boxes too. With invisible walls. I always wanted to carry a can of paint to toss it on the wall so they could see the damn thing. Actually to toss on the mime, to be honest about it." Flo smiled a slightly evil little smile.

Anna scratched her head, trying to figure out why her up-time friend was "on a rant." It had been such a nice morning so far, and then, out of the blue, Flo was going on about something… "Flo, what the hell is a mime?"

"That one. The one with the white face and the white costume. He doesn't have a mask." At that moment one of the other characters lifted up a stick about the size of a baseball bat, and began chasing one of the other characters around the stage, swinging wildly, and connecting with almost everything except his target. Each time the bat hit someone, it made a loud slapping noise.

Anna and the rest of the audience-with the exception of Flo-began to laugh. She turned to Flo again. "I love this part. They are using a slap stick. It makes a crack when it hits. He's not really hitting them that hard."

The actor with the slap stick managed to hit a cowering military-looking character square on the head. The actor began to stagger, and the audience roared with laughter. Anna giggled too. "The Capitan is always such a coward and a blowhard. Everyone likes to see him get hit. I haven't seen one of these in years. They are soooo funny!"

"So they all have a name?"

"Of course. Let's see, that one is Pulcinella with the hooked nose. He is chasing the Harlequin in the bright colors. Harlequin is a mischief maker, but very clever. The beautiful girl is Pulcinnella's wife. Or maybe his daughter. And the one in the white face is pining for her love. He is Pierrot or Pedrolino." At that point, there seemed to be a break in the action, and for no apparent reason at all, the players began to sing and dance to a bawdy tune. After a moment they stopped, and went back to the play as if nothing had happened.

Flo just shook her head sadly. "This is awful. And what language are they speaking? Some of it sounds like gibberish to me."

"You're right! Some of it is gibberish. Isn't it wonderful?!"

Anna looked at Flo, and the normally calm up-time lady had her face screwed up like she had just eaten something rancid. There were some veins throbbing on her forehead. Veins which Anna had never seen before. She took a step back from her friend. "I guess you really don't like it, do you?"

"I don't like anything that has one of those mime shitheads in it. At least this one isn't pulling on ropes and walking into the wind." Flo crossed her arms and turned to the stage. After watching a while, Anna saw that Flo's face relaxed a little, to somewhere around the level of sourness that registered as "sucking on a lemon." When the Captain got smacked again, Flo's face softened to merely frowning. The Captain took another shot to the head. Flo cracked a tiny smile. He looked like one of Gustav's men with the uniform.

At that point the "mime" started prancing around the stage, hand on his heart, and emoting in a manner that was sad and funny at the same time. "He speaks. Whadaya know? That, at least, is an improvement."

Anna grabbed Flo's hand and wove their way to the front of the crowd. "This is funny, Flo. I think you need to smile a little. Come with me." With that, she pushed Flo in front of her, until she had a good view of the stage. Within two minutes, Flo was laughing out loud.

After the show was over, several of the actors pulled their masks off and sat on the front of the stage, talking to their fans, including the white-faced actor who portrayed Pierrot. Anna dragged Flo to meet him. "Hey, Pierrot. This is a real up-timer. They have this sort of thing back up-time too. Her name is Flo."

The young actor stood on the stage and bowed low, nearly bending in half. At the bottom of his bow, he stopped and angled his head in Flo's direction. It looked like it might be painful, yet he just smiled. "I am very pleased to meet you, up-timer Flo. We are the Troupe of Signor Matterlini the Magnificent, the foremost assemblage of Commedia in the Germanies!" He winked. "Of course, we are likely the only commedia troupe here in the Germanies." The young man stood with a flourish. "But that in no way diminishes the collective brilliance of this talented ensemble!" He flopped to the stage like a rag doll, assumed a sitting position, then looked at Flo. "My, my. A real up-timer. We have just arrived in town, so we have met nobody, except for a policeman who told us that we had to pay to put up the stage in the market. Which we did. I think."

Anna jumped in gleefully. "Flo says that they have troupes like this back up-time, and they walk against the wind and are like pigeon crap because they are everywhere."

Flo blushed. "Not exactly like that. I don't think so anyway. But something similar. I suppose." She waved her hands at the wagon and stage.

The actor leapt up to his feet in one springing motion, seemingly levitating as if pulled by a string. Being this near to the physical trick, Anna could see the athleticism involved in the illusion. Flo noticed it too. The two women smiled at each other. "Fellow thespians, gather round. This is Flo. An odd name to be sure, but she is one of the famous up-timers of Grantville." He turned back to Flo with a flourish, and bowed again, this time impossibly low. "Madam Flo, may I present the Troupe of Signor Matterlini the Magnificent, the foremost assemblage of Commedia in the Germanies!" With that, the rest of the troupe bowed to her, then began an improvised song about Flo, she was so low when she came to the show, oh ho, no no. The song went on. Each one taking a verse and making up lyrics as they went, with the rest dancing around clapping and stomping. Flo couldn't help herself, she threw her head back and burst out laughing.

Pierrot swooped low again. "Wonderful! Our up-time lady has a sense of humor. We were afraid that we would find nothing but a serious bunch of people here, since everyone is supposed to be so rich and smart!"

"Then you don't know Grantville, Mr. Mime! That is not how we would have been described back up-time."

"I am not 'Mr. Mime.' I am Pierrot, the most special of the characters of the Commedia-" Boos from his fellow performers interrupted him, each of them claiming that their character was the most special and famous, which quickly degraded to another song. As the group carried on, Pierrot sat down on the edge of the stage and looked intensely at Flo. "Who is this 'Mr. Mime'?"

Flo was taken aback by his question. "You are serious, aren't you?"

"Very serious. This is my life. My trade. I am Pierrot. Each of us in this troupe are professionals. We accept the parts we play sometimes for our entire lives. I am Pierrot. That man there is Harlequin, also one of the zanni. Over there, he is Pantalone. He does not just play the role sometimes, he is the role. Commedia del'arte means 'the play of professional artists.' We are professionals. If someone called Mr. Mime is playing the part of Pierrot in the future, I must know about it at once."

"Well, it wasn't Mr. Mime. It was just called mime. I don't know why, it just was. And he did different sorts of things than you do. They didn't speak for one thing." She put her hands on her hips. "I don't know why I am telling you this." She shrugged. "I suppose you would have to look it up at the library. They probably have videos, right, Anna?"

"Yes. Look it up there." Anna smiled brightly at the young man, who under his makeup seemed rather handsome. He was certainly athletic enough.

Flo tugged at Anna's sleeve. "It is time to go, I think. We have wasted too much time here today as it is. They can find the library on their own." She turned to the troupe. "Thanks, y'all, for a very nice show. We need to go now. Thank you." The troupe all went into a sad mode, weeping and carrying on, then began singing a good-bye song as Flo and Anna backed away smiling.

The next week, Flo and Anna went to the market again, and the troupe was still there. Only this time, the Pierrot character was in the middle of the stage, silent, and appeared to be trying to get out of a large imaginary box, outlining it with the palm of his hands. He found the imaginary door, went through it, and walked in place. Flo took a sharp breath, and then coughed.

"Flo, are you all right?"

"Where in the hell did he learn that?" Flo seemed to be choking on her words.

"That is the up-time 'mime' he is performing, isn't it?"

"Yes." Flo did choke on the word.

"Just think, Flo. You helped to introduce a whole new art form to the down-timers. The way these troupes travel, it will be all over Europe in no time."

"But-but… how?"

"I suppose he took your advice. Like you said: Go to the Library and look it up. Isn't that wonderful?"

Homage to Etruria, Part One: The Patron's Plight

Jay Robison

I.

May 1635, Outside Rome

Giulio Gentileschi paused to re-tie the kerchief around his nose and mouth to keep out the dust. His companion, a hulking lefferto named Carlo Belzoni did the same. If only cloth could keep the smell of panic out of their noses as well as it kept out the dirt being stirred up by the thousands fleeing Rome ahead of the Spanish.

They could still hear the alarm bells ringing faintly behind them. Giulio had hoped that they would be farther down the road by now. On a normal day they'd already be at their intended destination, the cottage of a certain young widow of Giulio's acquaintance who lived a couple of hours outside Rome on the Latin Plain. But while Carlo's bulk and scowl could get them through the stalled knots of people here and there, they did nothing to hurry their already skittish oxen.

Carlo pulled out a wine skin and took a long swig, then handed the skin to Giulio. "We've been lucky so far," he said. "Borja's thugs have been leaving us alone. If we keep our heads down we'll probably not have any worries."

Giulio nodded. He'd been worried about that. The troops securing Rome and the countryside for Cardinal Borja had been harassing lefferti they found on the roads, as much for the fact that they were spoiling for a fight as for the fact that many lefferti absorbed their role model Harry Lefferts' radical political sympathies along with his dress and behavior. In this, Carlo Belzoni was not the typical lefferto. He was a barber-surgeon by trade, but he'd gained small fame as a circus strong man and leg-breaker in the rough Borgo quarter of Rome long before Harry Lefferts had arrived there in the company of the cleric-diplomat Mazzarini the previous year. Carlo understood Harry Lefferts better than most of the American's Roman imitators, in that it was as important to cultivate an intimidating reputation, for a fearsome reputation was frequently key in avoiding fights altogether. If one had to back that reputation up now and then, well, that was life. Carlo was generally good-natured enough to offer to patch up his opponents, if they showed enough humility after their defeat.

There was also the matter of the cloth badge sewn onto Carlo's tunic-a white circle quartered with a blue cross and a blue shield. When Sharon Nichols arrived in Rome as the USE's ambassador, she brought with her a number of doctors she'd begun training at her previous post in Venice. Her price for the training was that these doctors would in turn help train barber-surgeons, midwives and herbalists in up-time "first-aid"-basic, easy-to-learn techniques that would help treat people with minor injuries and help keep people with more serious problems alive until they could seek advanced treatment. This training cadre was told to begin training people in the poorer quarters of Rome, Venice and Florence, who would in turn train others while providing care themselves. Carlo's badge was proof that he'd received this training, and for now Spanish forces seemed to be leaving such people alone.

Carlo nodded to Giulio, and they goaded the oxen into motion once more, maintaining a comfortable walking pace.

"I'm just glad that I'm too obscure to be worried about, at least for now," Giulio said. "If my sister were here…"

"Yes, it's just as well Artemisia is living in Grantville, given the trash Borja and his lapdogs are putting out about her." Carlo spat on the ground. "She'd probably be going, what's the up-time word, ballistic, at the sight of those pamphlets."

"Don't think she's not. My niece's betrothed says my sister is very upset. He's quite upset himself, and I get the feeling Signore McDougal doesn't get so angry often. He's a friend of Frank Stone, and Signore Stone's unwillingness to respond to the attacks against Artemisia has not sat well."

"Young McDougal has a point. Caution is commendable, but there's a time when one must act. I don't believe Signore Stone, for all his good work, understood that lesson until it was too late. Thankfully, your niece's intended has given us the means to take more direct action." Carlo patted one of the crates on the oxcart. "Assuming, of course, we can stay out of trouble."

That turned out to be more easily said than done. As they rounded a bend in the road they found a wagon upended in a ditch. A few crates had been thrown some distance and pillaged by other refugees but otherwise it looked like the wreck had been avoided. No one wanted to court trouble. There were no signs of life, but Carlo insisted on investigating anyway. He took his calling as a healer very seriously.

Giulio stayed with the oxen while Carlo took a closer look. "Nothing we can do for this poor devil," he heard Carlo say from the far side of the wagon. "Broke his neck, from the look of it."

Just then, Giulio heard a groan. At first, he thought it was the shattered wagon's remaining axle squeaking, but he heard the groan a second time and the wheel clearly wasn't spinning. "There's someone under the cart, Carlo."

With a heave, Carlo yanked the wooden plank that had served as a bench for the wagon free. "If he's not too far gone, we'll need to put this under whoever's under there," Carlo said. "It will help not make his injuries worse, if he's hurt his neck. But you'll have to do it. I think I can lift the cart but it will take all my strength."

Giulio nodded. He was pretty sure he could do what Carlo was asking. With a mighty heave, the former strongman lifted one end of the cart far enough off the ground so that Giulio could get underneath. There was a man, cushioned by a pile of rags he'd been hiding in when the wagon flipped over. Quickly but carefully, Giulio slid him onto the plank and then slid the plank back out from beneath the cart. With a sigh, Carlo let the cart drop back to the ground.

Rubbing his hands, Carlo looked at the man they'd rescued, examining him for internal injuries. Giulio, seeing his face clearly, exclaimed. He knew this man; knew him well in fact.

"Cavaliere dal Pozzo!"

***

"As if you haven't brought me enough trouble already, Giulio Gentileschi!" Lucia di Lazio rubbed her pregnant belly to emphasize just what kind of trouble she was referring to. She was pretty sure the baby was his, though he certainly wasn't the only man to share her bed. Brain fever, or what some called the mal'aria, had taken away her husband and daughter two years ago. Lucia was attractive enough that men offered to pay to sleep with her, and she was desperate enough to sometimes accept. And sometimes, she just got lonely between Giulio's visits and if she could ease that loneliness and make life a little less difficult, why shouldn't she?

Giulio Gentileschi wasn't a paying customer. He was kind and generous; enough so to make up for his decidedly average looks. He wasn't wealthy, but his sister made a good living as an artist and sent him a generous allowance to see to her remaining affairs in Rome. Giulio had explained on one of his visits that he used to be responsible for his sister's finances but was glad enough to be relieved of the duty by his niece's up-time fiancee. For all the affection she had for him, Lucia knew Giulio's brains were as average as his looks and couldn't take the firm hand needed when patrons tried to cheat on their commissions.

Giulio looked at her like a whipped puppy. She softened. "You did the right thing. What else could you do? You've told me how generous dal Pozzo has been to your family, and I know he's an important man. You just have to promise me something."

"You know I'll marry you, Lucia."

"I do know that, Giu'. But you're going to leave, and you must take me with you. A baby in the belly is no guarantee the soldiers will leave me alone, and I do want this baby to live, if possible. I've been so lonely."

For a time, they just held each other. There was nothing else to do while Carlo attended dal Pozzo. Then Giulio stood up and helped Lucia stand. "Let's check our crates," he said. "Since it took so much work to get them here from Rome."

When Giulio and Carlo finally arrived at Lucia's cottage in the late afternoon, they'd put their cart behind the small house. It wasn't a great hiding place, but it was the best they could do. One by one, Giulio lifted the boxes off the cart. Taking a ring of keys off his waist, he unlocked the crates and opened them. More to pass the time than anything else, he told Lucia about the contents.

The first crate contained wedding presents for the Dotta Ambassadora Sharon Nichols and her intended, Ruy Sanchez: a beautiful portrait by Artemesia depicting Sharon with her father, the Moorish doctor, and her mother, who'd died long before the event known as "The Ring of Fire."

"How did your sister know what the Ambassadora 's mother looked like?"

"The up-timers have wonderful relics of a technology that they call 'photography.' It uses light and a strange kind of paper to preserve images forever." The painting was thankfully undamaged. The groom's gift was rather more durable, an edition of an up-time book called Homage to Catalonia. From the letter Signore McDougal sent with the materials, this book was an Englishman's account of fighting in a future civil war in Spain and might be of interest to Senor Sanchez. Giulio hoped to be able to deliver these gifts as soon as he could determine where the party from the USE embassy was headed. Carlo, he hoped, would have some ideas. Carlo was clever that way.

Lucia's mind started to wander while Giulio carefully examined documents intended for the pope. The true pope, that was, Urban VIII-if he still lived. The crates were more interesting. There were a number of what looked like folios of illustrated stories. They certainly seemed fantastical enough, with strange people in colorful costumes doing incomprehensible things. But Lucia had spent enough time as an artist's model to be familiar with mythology and mythological themes. Maybe these were the tales of the gods and demigods of up-timer mythology? She recognized the Norse god Thor in one of them, fighting alongside a strangely armored man in red and orange and a warrior in red, white and blue.

"These are comic books," Giulio explained. "My sister and niece have been using them to teach the basics of composition and storytelling techniques to their beginning students and she thought they might be useful to her friends here. She doesn't think much of the artists themselves, though."

Finally, Giulio opened up a crate that had been hidden beneath the others. First, another book, full of colorful posters with powerful images. Despite her illiteracy Lucia was able to understand that the images encouraged people to fight and work harder. Though she now lived in the country she grew up in the Borgo; she grasped immediately the impact such images would have posted by the dozens or hundreds there and in other poor quarters of Rome. And when Giulio unrolled a poster, she saw she wasn't alone in sensing that possibility.

The image was visceral. In a style that combined modern sensibilities with the style of the posters in the book-which Giulio said came from up-time Russia-Cardinal Borja leered out from infernal flames, pointing a finger at Pope Urban, who was trying to protect a group of scared people. There was a line of printing under the image which Giulio said read "Beware false prophets!"

"I hope we can manage to smuggle these back into Rome, but I hope they will have an effect in other cities." He held up a cloth-wrapped bundle. "These plates my sister had engraved will let us print out as many copies as we want."

Giulio then carefully repacked the crates, and Lucia helped him with the lighter items. By the time they were done, Carlo had emerged from the bedroom where Cassiano dal Pozzo lay.

"Cavaliere dal Pozzo has revived a little and would like to talk to us," he said.

***

At first, dal Pozzo didn't do much talking. Giulio looked on while Lucia helped him drink the broth she insisted on making for him. He and Carlo made a stew out of the leftover broth, enough to make a filling meal for the three of them.

Cassiano dal Pozzo's injuries looked worse than Carlo said they actually were. "A lot of cuts and bruises, and one shoulder out of joint." How he made it through the accident without breaking any bones, Giulio would never know. Dal Pozzo was hardly a young man. Maybe there was an explanation, maybe it was a miracle-at this point, given that they could not stay at Lucia's cottage for long, Giulio didn't care so long as his family's old patron would be fit to travel.

"The Castel de Sant'Angelo was in flames, and if the pope isn't dead or captured by now, he will be soon," Carlo reported. "It also seems certain that Signore and Signora Stone have been captured or killed, along with their compatriots in the Committee of Correspondence."

"And the rest of the up-timers?" Dal Pozzo asked.

"We saw smoke coming from their embassy," Giulio said. "But it is my feeling that they have escaped."

"You are so certain, Giulio? A good many cardinals with the resources to protect themselves or escape have been killed." Dal Pozzo sounded surprised that Giulio could be so confident.

"The Dotta Ambassadora and her intended, Senor Sanchez, are very smart and very brave. And I know that the Ambassadora 's father, the doctor, was a soldier in his youth up-time. Prudentia's fiancee wrote to me once that on the day of the Ring of Fire, Dotto Nichols rather calmly killed a number of marauding mercenaries before attending Dotto Abrabanel and his daughter. And Signore Thomas Simpson is in their company as well, a man even bigger than Carlo here. They will escape the Spanish."

Dal Pozzo nodded. After admonishing Lucia to eat something, he told of his escape from Rome.

"Poor Matteo, whom you buried, came from Casa Barberini to warn me to flee. His Holiness's elder brother, Francesco, was in residence and had sent Matteo to me. We are old friends, Francesco and I. I was his secretary until just a few years ago, you know, so it seemed certain the Spanish would arrest me, or worse." Giulio nodded. Dal Pozzo shifted in the bed and winced in pain.

"I will make some Lethe for you," Carlo said.

"Not until we're done talking. We'll need my wits. Then, I will rest."

Dal Pozzo continued with his tale. After receiving Cardinal Francesco Barberini's warning, he directed Matteo to prepare a horse cart for departure and directed his servants to gather rags and junk to load on the cart. He then dismissed his servants with as much money as he could afford to pay them, hid in the cart, and they left. If questioned, Matteo would claim to be a rag merchant. Matteo would say that no papermakers in Rome would buy his wares in the current chaos, so he was going to try elsewhere. It was the best story they could come up with in a short time.

It worked well enough, at first. They blended in with the other refugees on the road and no one bothered them. But the sight of approaching soldiers had been more than the overwrought Matteo could stand; he panicked and goaded their horse into a gallop, or the closest to a gallop a draft horse could manage. The last thing dal Pozzo remembered was the loud crack of a broken axle and the cart tumbling over. "I am grateful that you gave Matteo a decent burial," he said. "He deserved better."

"So do a lot of people, and they seldom receive it," Carlo said. "The question now is where we go. We could try to join up with the up-timers and their party but we have no idea where they are or where they might be headed."

"The logical destination for them would be Venice. They have an embassy there and after Cardinal Bedmar left the city one step ahead of a mob last year, the Venetians aren't likely to be well-disposed toward the Spanish. Even less so if King Philip consolidates his control over the Papal States." Cassiano dal Pozzo might be known mostly as a scholar and patron of the arts in Rome, but he had a formidable reputation as a diplomat as well.

Lucia, having finished off the remaining stew, spoke up. "Why not go to Venice then?"

"We could," dal Pozzo said. "But what ties do we have to call upon in Venice if the Americans aren't there? For that matter, what ties with the Americans do we have in order to request asylum with them? Granted, Artemisia and Prudentia are making a name for themselves in the Swede's realm, and Prudentia is betrothed to one of these up-timers. But his ties to authority are tenuous at best. I don't want to depend entirely on others' good will then."

"Yes, Cavaliere. But…" Carlo raised a finger, surprisingly slender for such a large man. "… it is also well-known that the Tuscan Grand Duke eyes the Duchy of Urbino and resents Pope Urban for annexing it. I can see no other reason for his betrothal to the last Urbino Duke's only child. Certainly there is little enthusiasm for the match on Ferdinand's part."

Dal Pozzo raised his eyebrows in surprise. Giulio couldn't help smiling. Whenever Carlo took a job as a bodyguard, he kept his mouth shut and ears open. Many employers didn't take notice of the hired help and didn't think twice about what they said in front of them. One underestimated Carlo Belzoni's brains at their own peril.

Giulio thought for a moment. He didn't have Carlo's brains, but even he could see there was only one place they could go. Somewhere both the Gentileschis and dal Pozzo had long-standing ties and where they might be reasonably out of the reach of the Spanish. But was Florence that sanctuary? Or were they merely delaying their capture?

Dal Pozzo grimaced and groaned. He was clearly in a great deal of pain.

"We will leave this until the morning," Carlo said. "Now, we'll all rest. Cavaliere dal Pozzo, you will drink this." This time, dal Pozzo did not resist. He drank what Carlo called "Lethe," a concoction Carlo's grandfather, also a barber-surgeon, had come up with: watered-down mulled wine with a few drops of opium. A strong but effective painkiller. Dal Pozzo was asleep within moments.

"Now, let us do the same. We'll be getting little enough sleep in the days ahead."

II

Florence, June 1635

The tiny chamber in the Tuscan Grand Duke's palace was checked regularly, to make sure that there were no spy holes and no unexpected places for unwanted ears to listen in. A rose carved in relief in the wood paneling opposite the secret door was a not so subtle reminder that everything said in this room was secret, not to be spoken of- sub rosa. Others used the chamber as well, for discreet discussions and meetings. Right now Grand Duke Ferdinand II's minister of state and Lord Bailiff, Andrea Cioli, and the Grand Duke's eighteen year-old brother, Leopoldo, sat across a chessboard from each other.

"It didn't take long for Borja's Folly to land on our doorstep," Cioli grumbled dourly. "Don de la Mer's voice is almost as irritating as his constant demands. I could happily drown him in the very wine he sells."

"My brother still dithers?" asked Leopoldo.

"He sees himself in the hollow of Philip's mailed fist on the one hand and as the champion of Tuscany on the other. Don de la Mer offers no hard proof that Cassiano dal Pozzo and his would-be rescuers are here. I believe Ferdinand believes dal Pozzo is in Florence, and he can neither betray dal Pozzo nor refuse the Spanish demands outright."

Leopoldo made his move. "I wish to remain in ignorance of this matter. If you're going to try to ensnare me in a plot against my own brother I'd as soon go back to my books."

"I am not seeking to replace your brother or even undermine his rule. Quite the opposite, as it happens. History will not remember His Grace Ferdinand II as a clever man, but he is a fairly good one. If anything, Leopoldo, I am hoping to get him out of a difficult position." Cioli made his move.

The scholar-prince sighed, surveying the board. "I cannot fault your logic, Lord Bailiff. Would that Ferdinand would be bold and choose the Cardinal-Infante's course. With our brother Matteo to lead our forces, I even believe he could pull it off."

"One step at a time, Leopoldo. Let us focus on the problem at hand, that of smuggling Cassiano dal Pozzo, the lefferto Belzoni, Giulio Gentileschi and Gentileschi's woman safely to the USE through very hostile territory. All without your brother officially knowing, so he may in good conscience plead ignorance in the face of the howling Ambassador de la Mer."

"If they are here, Andrea."

"As you say, Leopoldo. If they are here."

"You are forgetting an important detail," said Leopoldo as he mated Cioli's king. "My other brother. Giancarlo."

Cioli grunted sourly, and not because he'd lost the game. Giancarlo de' Medici was twenty-four, with the sex drive of a bull elephant in rut and less restraint. He was being groomed for a career in the church.

The cough from the room's third occupant seemed very loud. Leopoldo had forgotten the man's presence entirely. He was a priest approaching middle age, even if his youthful looks belied the fact. Officially the man was secretary to the Grand Duke's confessor. Unofficially, Father Giuseppe had a nose for secrets and gossip, and a willingness to pass on information to the Grand Duke or those working on his behalf. A very useful man to have around.

"If His Grace the prince and the Lord Bailiff will forgive my interruption, it pays to remember that Giancarlo is ruled by his genitals. Especially in this case."

"He seeks to tumble Esperanza de la Mer?" asked Cioli.

"Exactly so. Giancarlo believes he knows how to get His Grace the grand duke to give in, and hopes by advancing the Spanish cause to advance into Dona de la Mer's bed. However, I believe I can arrange for a suitable distraction. Meanwhile, I would draw both of your attentions to a piece of correspondence that crossed my desk by a regrettable accident. A letter from an artist His Grace's blessed father held in some esteem." It was plain even to Leopoldo that it was no accident Father Giuseppe had seen this particular letter. Naive Leopoldo might be, mostly by his own choice, but he was still a Medici. And he was curious.

"Which artist would this be, Father Giuseppe?" He asked.

"Artemisia Gentileschi, my lord. She writes of the betrothal of her elder daughter to a young up-time man. One proficient in the arts of what the up-timers call 'television.' I seem to recall that His Grace expressed a wish for a demonstration of this strange art to young Signore Bartolli during his trade mission last year. Perhaps it is time for that demonstration to take place."

Cioli's frown slowly gave way to a smile. He nodded slowly. "Yes, Father Giuseppe. An outstanding idea. I will propose it to Ferdinand right away."

"No need," said Leopoldo. "I will have the Accademia del Cimento sponsor a series of lectures by Signore McDougal." Leopoldo also had a burning desire to see this strange device and the art it displayed. When Ferdinand established the Accademia del Cimento last summer-some twenty years ahead of schedule by the up-timers' history-the Grand Duke had asked Leopoldo to assume a leading role, along with Leopoldo's mentor Galileo. In the other time line, Leopoldo had also been a leader of Accademia del Cimento. Even at the tender age of eighteen Cosimo II's youngest son-who was never without a book to read in a spare moment-was the obvious person to be the ruling family's choice to lead the new academy and help Tuscan scholars break free of the stifling preconceptions of the Aristotelian method.

"And while he's here, he can see to family business as well. We'll make a politician out of you yet, Leopoldo," said Cioli. "I'll send a courier to Venice to deliver a radio message."

"Perhaps the Accademia del Desegno would like to be involved," suggested Father Giuseppe. "Artemisia Gentileschi is the Academy of Design's only woman member and they are sure to be curious about her new son-in-law."

"Yes," said Cioli. "Very good. And Father Giuseppe… if you should hear of gossip involving unusual goings-on at Casa Buonarotti, feel free to apprise me of them. An important citizen such as Signore Michaelangelo should not be the subject of common rumor. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, Your Grace. It will be as you say. In fact, I have it on good authority that a rider left Casa Buonarotti in a great hurry. Heading for Venice. A popular place, it seems, from which to send messages, though I'm sure it's but the basest of whispers."

III

Rome, June 1635

Father Diego was a hard man unaccustomed to soft surroundings. And his rooms in the Lateran Palace of Rome were certainly soft surroundings. He accepted them, however, as the respect to which he was due after a lifetime of service to Mother Church and her greatest defender, His Most Catholic Majesty Philip IV. Cardinal Borja had made a dog's dinner of his attempted takeover, however pious his intentions may have been. It would be up to Father Diego and those like him to clean up the mess.

Of course, if those who had installed Father Diego in these luxurious surroundings had divined the true purpose to which he'd lately dedicated himself, he would not be in the Lateran Palace. He would be in a dungeon, or at the center of an auto da fe, ending up a charred lump tied to a stake. That thought didn't bother the old priest. Church and crown would ever be foremost in his heart.

Even so, he wasn't completely sure of the one he was about to meet. This young man was rumored to possess a prodigious intellect and a gift for discovering secrets and making sense of them. Father Diego's superiors-his true superiors in The Cause-believed this man was ripe for recruitment. That remained to be seen. Meanwhile, he had a man to find, a man that had nothing to do with The Cause, and whatever else happened, Father Diego would make use of this man's skills.

In due course a young Dominican friar was shown into the chamber. Just the man Father Diego wanted to see. Irrevocably committed to Holy Mother Church and Spain's role as her most ardent defender, Fra Andres believed that the Spanish Inquisition was crucial in maintaining Spain's purity. Purity of faith, purity of blood. And even though the young Dominican had moved on to other assignments-as was customary for inquisitors-Andres still held the ideals of the Spanish Inquisition dear in his heart. At least, according to everything Father Diego had been able to find out. This is what made him a prime candidate for The Cause.

The friar would be an asset. Andres had a top-notch legal mind and knew canon law and procedure by memory. He did not allow his passions to rule his intellect and approached investigations with rigorous logic. He had not been afraid to suspend proceedings if he could not prove charges, which proved he believed in laws over men. Most importantly, however, Fra Andres had a burning hatred for the United States of Europe and the up-timers in particular. That hatred had led him to study them, particularly their methods of law enforcement and investigation, to strengthen the Inquisition and to better oppose the radical heresies the Americans had brought with them from their infernal future. Just as those of The Cause hoped to ensure Spain's greatness by making up-timer philosophies and learning serve to glorify His Most Catholic Majesty and the Holy Church he defended.

Father Diego looked up at the young monk; Andres couldn't be much beyond his mid-twenties. The old priest smiled thinly.

"Tell me, Fra Andres-why have you been sent for?"

"I can only assume that there is an assignment which requires my services, Father Diego."

"And why would I require your services?"

"I do not know. I only seek to be used as God wills." Unlike many ambitious young men, Fra Andres looked as if he meant it.

"You are correct, Fra Andres. I have read much about your time as an inquisitor. Your unorthodox methods are perfectly suited for what I have in mind." Diego motioned to a chair. "Sit, please."

Andres sat. "If by 'unorthodox' you mean the investigative methods used by the up-timers, then I would say that they have proven singularly successful in my small efforts to advance the defense of the Church by His Most Catholic Majesty," the monk said, a little defensively.

Diego raised his eyebrow. Andres took that as a signal to continue. "To effectively fight the enemy, you must think like the enemy. How can one ever discover a secret Jew, for example, if one does not know all the ruses they employ? To combat the up-timers we must learn to think as they do. Anticipate their tricks and use them to our own ends. Such thinking might have saved us from the humiliation at the Wartburg and those heaped on us since." Diego didn't pursue the latter point. Aside from the slaughter of inquisitors at the Wartburg, the Americans had introduced a popular comic figure to the Germans: the bumbling Cardinal Ximinez, who always proclaimed that no one expected the Spanish Inquisition. And of the Jewish comedian Brooks' comical singing Torquemada, the less said the better.

The old priest nodded. Andres was right, of course. One of the officers who'd escaped the flames of the Wartburg and had been paroled by the Americans brought back a copy of the procedures used by their police force. Amazingly, he hadn't even had to pay any bribes. He'd asked for a copy and received it. The manual had been duly translated back in Madrid and a few copies made, most of which gathered dust. Only a few enterprising young men like Fra Andres bothered to look at them. But it paid off. Using these new procedures to gather evidence, Andres had built such convincing cases of heresy that sometimes torture wasn't even necessary to gain a confession.

Father Diego drew out a sheaf of paper and shuffled through them.

"As you know, Fra Andres, we're already starting to receive accusations from pious Romans eager to purify God's one true Church." He slid several sheets over to the young Dominican. "I and my superiors were hoping you and your talents could help us with one particular case."

Fra Andres quickly skimmed the papers in front of him. "Cavaliere Cassiano dal Pozzo. Noted scholar and patron of the arts, and well-known ally of Francesco Barberini. Accused of heresy, sodomy, solicitation… there's a space here to add charges." Fra Andres looked up at Diego and the old priest gave him another one of his thin, spidery smiles. "I'm assuming there is evidence to support these charges and add more?"

"Of course. I'm confident you will prove them beyond, ah, what's the up-timer phrase becoming popular in law schools? Beyond a reasonable doubt? That is why I've summoned you. Also because, regrettably, Signore dal Pozzo seems to have fled the city. With your reputation for gathering evidence and deducing conclusions, it is my hope you will be able to narrow down where dal Pozzo might seek sanctuary."

Fra Andres didn't appear to be listening. He seemed to be engrossed in a section of the file Father Diego had given him.

"You've found something already, Fra Andres?"

"Has anyone talked to Giulio Gentileschi, Father?"

"Not that I am aware of. He has little significance."

"Maybe not so little. Dal Pozzo is a known friend and patron of Artemisia Gentileschi, Signore Giulio's elder sister. She stayed at dal Pozzo's residence during Galileo's trial."

"Yes. That is, I believe, the basis of the sodomy charge. Artemisia has a reputation for unnatural lusts, as testified in open court by Agostino Tassi."

"We'll see. That testimony is tainted by the fact that Tassi was found guilty of the charges against him. Be that as it may, I will need whatever can be found on Giulio Gentileschi, his ties and habits. I am confident that if I can find him, I can find dal Pozzo."

***

The Vatican curia was nothing if not thorough in its record-keeping, and for now that apparatus was under Cardinal Borja's control. Fra Andres had begun his investigation by questioning neighbors and known associates of Giulio Gentileschi. The matter was more difficult than he would have liked; Francisco de Quevedo, with Cardinal Borja's approval, had instituted a smear campaign against the Barberini, which insinuated-among many other things-that Artemisia Gentileschi had traded sexual favors for Barberini patronage and that Antonio Barberini the Younger, in his depravity, had taken full advantage of the offer. Artemisia made a convenient target herself because in accepting commissions from the Barberini, shortly before her move to Grantville, she cut her ties with King Philip IV.

Like so many of Borja and Quevedo's machinations, this had backfired. A backlash, probably encouraged by the pope's pet sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, made it hard for anyone allied with the Spanish party in Rome to hire decent artists. Of more immediate concern to Andres, it made people reluctant to answer questions from someone helping the Spanish. Fortunately, he'd learned that he could gain a great deal of information by establishing a rapport with those he was questioning, make them feel safe, and as if they were not betraying anything by talking to him. And when that failed, most people could be bought.

Andres wasn't able to find out a great deal, but it was enough. Giulio Gentileschi was last seen on the day Spanish forces arrived in Rome, nearly a month ago, in the company of a notorious lefferto named Carlo Belzoni. He had not been seen since.

Reluctance to answer questions did not extend to gossip. Andres found out that Giulio had a lover, a woman named Lucia di Lazio. She was a former artist's model and sometime prostitute who'd married a farmer and left Rome about five years ago. Her association with the Gentileschis dated back nearly ten years, when she modeled for one of Artemisia's paintings. A search of the curia' s census rolls gave him a reasonably exact location for the farm of Lorenzo di Lazio, about a half-day's journey outside Rome.

Fra Andres had paced the small cottage any number of times and was confident he'd gleaned what clues he could from it. First, it was clear that the cottage had been abandoned for some time, weeks probably. What little food there was in the house was rotten and the hearth cold.

Further, if Signora di Lazio was gone, it was not in the company of the husband and daughter the census rolls claimed she had. Two weathered gravestones in back of the house said as much. It seemed logical to conclude she had left in the company of Giulio Gentileschi, but that did not have to mean that Cassiano dal Pozzo was with them. And there was nothing in the house to indicate in which direction they might have fled.

"Fra Andres!" Sergeant Perreira, hard-faced leader of the small squad Father Diego sent with him into the countryside, stepped into the doorway of the small house.

"Yes, sergeant?"

"One of my scouts found a wrecked cart with a grave next to it just a few miles down the road."

"Take me there."

It was clear that whatever the upset cart had held, most of it had been pillaged. The grave nearby was relatively fresh, certainly no more than a few weeks old.

"Sergeant, have your men dig up that grave."

"Yes, Fra Andres."

While the soldier set about exhuming the grave, Andres examined the wreck. Not much was left, but a scrap of cloth with a badge on it caught his eye. The badge was the coat of arms of Cassiano dal Pozzo. A shout from Sergeant Perreira told him the grave was open.

Andres stepped up to the body and opened the cloth wrapping. The body was badly decomposed and at least one of the soldiers spewed his breakfast on the ground. Looking at what was left of the face, Fra Andres could at least tell it was not Cassiano dal Pozzo.

***

As soon as he realized that dal Pozzo hadn't been killed in the wagon accident, or at least not killed outright, Andres knew where he had to go next. Ever meticulous, however, he spent the next two days carefully reviewing his notes and gathering new information on Giulio Gentileschi, Lucia di Lazio and their lefferto companion. What he learned only reinforced his conclusions. He presented himself at the Lateran Palace and was taken to Father Diego immediately.

The withered priest reviewed Andres' notes. Diego's sharp eyes showed that however old his body, his mind retained its youthful vigor. He turned those eyes on Fra Andres.

"You're sure?"

"I had a hunch all along, Father Diego. But the more I reviewed, the more I realized that the hunch was the only logical conclusion. Gentileschi and Cavaliere dal Pozzo are too desperate not to flee to where they feel certain of sanctuary. However, just to cover all possibilities, I'd recommend sending agents to Venice. And perhaps Livorno as well."

"I agree. I will pass this report along to my superiors. Be prepared to leave for Florence at a moment's notice."

Almost as an afterthought, the old priest handed Andres a sealed letter. "Please take this letter with you. Senora de la Mer, our ambassador's wife, is expecting it."

IV

Magdeburg, June 1635

Some people called this summer "The Golden Summer." Flush with victory, there was a feeling that anything was possible. Jabe McDougal wondered, as he sat chatting with his guests in the sitting room, if this is what his grandparents felt during the days of Camelot and the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Prosperity was all around and war felt farther away than it had in a very long time.

It wasn't as far away for some, though, especially in the McDougal-Gentileschi household. The war and chaos in Italy was always there, in the back of their minds, with the as yet unknown fate of Artemisia's brother Giulio, the last living member of Artemisia's family aside from her daughters. On afternoons such as this, though, in the company of friends and family after a large and successful block party and comfortably settled into their new home in the Artist's Block of Magdeburg, it was possible to put worries aside for a while.

A question from Martin Riddle- Father Martin Riddle, now-brought Jabe's mind out of its reverie.

"Have you had any reaction to your proposal yet, Jabe?"

"Same as always. That the government has more pressing concerns."

Jabe's cousin Brandy, sitting next to the Russian prince Vladimir Petrovich, looked interested.

"What proposal is this?"

"Ideas for a comprehensive policy for radio and television. It's the sort of thing the government needs to think about now and get settled. Otherwise it'll cause a huge fight down the road, I just know it."

Prince Vlad nodded knowingly. He knew what it was like to battle an entrenched bureaucracy.

"So what exactly are you proposing?" Martin asked.

"Standard stuff, really, rules for frequency allocation, licensing, protection of freedom of expression on the airwaves. The biggest thing is going to be deciding who owns the airwaves. I won't bore you with the details, but I've been working with a few of Father Smithson's people, some CoC folks and some others Count Ludwig Guenther suggested to iron out what I think is a reasonable compromise. Janice Ambler keeps telling me I should just turn us into a formal think tank."

"Maybe you should," Martin said. "If you have anything on paper, I'd love to read it." Jabe nodded. In addition to Martin's duties as a priest of the Celtic Christian Church (the first one ordained in centuries as far as Martin's bishop, Aidan of Oban, knew) he was a lawyer. With the offices of the law firm of Fricke, Fricke and Riddle located in the Artist's Block, Martin and his partners were interested in any developments in the area of intellectual property rights and had been lobbying for a USE copyright law for months now.

Jabe looked up as the door opened. Prudentia, his wife of two weeks, entered. She looked windblown and radiant. She was also very pregnant, about 6 months along. Jabe's mother had warned him that she would be getting more tired and uncomfortable as the summer wore on but for now she was enjoying herself.

Prudentia gave him a peck on the cheek. "Not overdoing it, I hope," he asked her.

"Of course not. You worry too much, husband."

"Well, that's Jabe for you," said Brandy, causing a round of chuckles. Jabe joined in. When he and Prudentia celebrated their betrothal in December, they hadn't intended for her to become pregnant. But the forms of birth control available to them now required a fair amount of self-control in order to be reasonably effective, and Jabe and Prudentia didn't have it. The reaction from Artemisia and from Jabe's parents had been pretty sanguine, much to his relief. Betrothals were as hard to break as marriages in the seventeenth century, so Mama Gentileschi had no concerns that Prudentia would be left with the burden and shame of an illegitimate child. And Jabe's parents were practical, and knew that pregnant brides hadn't exactly been uncommon up-time, either.

Prudentia chatted away happily. "The exhibition was wonderful. Mama tells me that it was a bit of a departure from the way things are usually done to attract patrons, but it worked!"

Prince Vlad smiled. "Buy low, sell high, isn't that what they say at OPM? I was glad to get a few paintings before theses students became sought-after masters in their own right. I would have liked to have bought Artemisia's new canvas too, but it was out of my range."

Brandy blew a raspberry. "That one would have gone over really well at court in Muscovy. Talk about shocking!"

Artemisia's new canvas had created a huge stir. Called The Birth of Wisdom, it depicted the myth of the birth of Athena from Zeus's forehead after Hephaestus splits it open with an axe. It wasn't so much the subject as the models; Rebecca Stearns as Athena was entirely appropriate, but Mike Stearns as Hephaestus splitting open the forehead of a Zeus with the face of Gustavus Adolphus made the painting more than a little shocking, just as Brandy said. From what Vladimir had described of Muscovite court culture, it almost certainly wouldn't have gone over well there. It was causing enough controversy in the USE.

"I would, however, like to discuss with you the possibility of painting several copies of Goodnight Moon with Russian text," Vladimir said. Prudentia smiled happily.

Jabe laughed out loud. "Artemisia was skeptical about that project."

Prudentia produced new artwork for the classic book primarily as a way to distract herself from the nausea of morning sickness early in her pregnancy. Jabe's old commanding officer in the press corps, Kurt von Kessel, had decided to start his own publishing company and Jabe had bought a 10% share in the new firm. Both of them thought Goodnight Moon would be an ideal first release for Herald Press, as the new company was called, and so it proved. Income from that, from numerous commissions, and from Jabe's oral history of the Ring of Fire more than made up for what they lost with the fall of the Barberini in Rome.

"Those royalties will make a nice nest egg, cuz, and not to mention the books you've got in the pipeline," said Brandy. "Now I want to know the important stuff. That baby… settled on any names yet? And you better not be stealing any of the ones I want."

Jabe grinned. Brandy had really turned her life around and her relationship with the Russian prince was helping her keep the new leaf turned over. They had been friends growing up and he'd missed her as she drifted away during high school.

"Well, we've pretty much settled on Peter Orazio if it's a boy and Artemisia Scholastica if it's a girl. It feels right to name it after our parents."

"Lucky for you your dad and father-in-law are both named Peter."

"And what will the future hold beyond the child's arrival?" asked Vladimir.

"We're very seriously considering taking Morris Roth up on his offer to move to Prague, at long last," said Prudentia. "If the birth goes well and the child is healthy enough to travel next year. And if it proves safe to travel. Mama encouraged me to take it, she said it was far too good an offer to refuse, to be artist-in-residence at Don Morris's new women's college." Grantville's former jeweler, now one of Europe's richest men and a leading patron of the arts and sciences, had made the offer over a year ago and had left it open-ended after Prudentia declined.

"Your mother is correct, of course," Vlad said. "Even if educating women is a mad enterprise." It was clear from the smile on the prince's bearded face he was joking, but the remark still earned him an affectionate (but quite hard) poke in the ribs from Brandy.

They talked long into the evening, on every possible subject. Vladimir entertained them with stories of growing up in Muscovy and of Bernie Zeppi's exploits there since leaving Grantville. Martin regaled them with the ongoing saga of his grandmother Veleda Riddle's efforts to undo his ordination as a Celtic Mission priest.

"She's petitioning William Laud to convince Aidan to join the Church of England and become the Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Communion of the USE. As if Laud could do it even if he wanted to. Besides, there are all sorts of sticky theological issues they could probably never work out. But she's my grandma and I love her."

They toasted family and fell into smaller knots of conversation. Martin soon left for home and Vlad and Brandy went to their rooms. Prudentia went to bed and Jabe to his desk. Party or no party he had letters to answer and investment proposals to review. Even with a personal secretary-well, a part-time one, anyway-who did a good job at weeding out the junk, Jabe still spent hours at his writing desk.

Part of him still couldn't get his head around having even a part-time personal secretary. Gerard Spencer was an Englishman who'd dropped out of several medical schools. His parents were at their wits' end and it was an old friend of Artemisia's, Nicolas Lanier, who'd contacted them on the Spencers' behalf. Gerard was very knowledgeable about anatomy and surgical techniques. Dissecting and examining cadavers didn't bother him, but the sight of live, flowing blood made him pass out. Spencer had a real talent for anatomical drawings, though, enough so that he helped teach Artemisia's beginning students the proper proportions and structure of parts of the human body. He also helped Jabe get by in Latin, which Jabe was still learning.

Jabe wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep, but a piercing scream from downstairs woke him up. He rushed out into the hall and opened the door to his and Prudentia's bedroom. He wasn't surprised to find the bed empty; the baby often decided to play soccer with her kidneys in the middle of the night. But he was hoping to find her. That would have meant she hadn't screamed. A million horrific pictures flashed through Jabe's mind as he flew down the stairs.

He found Prudentia huddled in Brandy's arms at the front door.

"Prudentia! What's wrong? Is it the baby? Should I get Mina?" Wilhemina Schultz was their midwife and lived just a few doors away.

Prudentia looked up at him, and she was crying. But it was with tears of joy, not pain.

"He's alive, Jabe. Uncle Giulio is alive!"

***

In all the excitement, the deliveryman from the Imperial Radio Messenger Service stood at the doorway, forgotten. Military and diplomatic traffic had top priority on the airwaves but the quasi-governmental IRMS accepted private messages for transmission as traffic and conditions permitted. The radiogram from Venice was C.O.D. Jabe dug up some money and paid the man, with a generous tip. Looking at the letter he could see that, except for the first sentence, it was in code.

He was on his way up to wake his sister-in-law Constantia, who had the decoder wheel, when she and most of the rest of the household greeted him at the top of the stairs. Only the cook and house matron Sherry Murray's three month-old daughter Phyllis slept through the commotion.

"Everything's all right," Jabe said. "We got a radiogram from Venice. Connie, could you get the decoder pin?"

Artemisia's younger daughter raced off to her room and everyone else crowded down the stairs and into the sitting room, where Prudentia told them the happy news. Vlad left and returned from the kitchen with a bottle of wine, and Sherry went to get glasses.

Jabe could have sworn he heard a sonic boom as Constantia returned with the decoder pin and codebook. The cipher Giulio used for the radiogram was Constantia's invention; she'd found an old decoder pin that had belonged to Jabe's Grandpa McDougal, a memento of one of his favorite childhood radio shows. Constantia used it as a model to make a decoder pin of her own, and added a second code based on her favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the one where Picard meets an alien who speaks in metaphor. The coded messages began as a game between niece and uncle but it sure had come in handy this time.

The sitting room buzzed with murmured conversation as Constantia decoded. She finished quickly and handed the decoded message to Jabe. He read it aloud.

"Fled to Florence with Belzoni, made it safely to B. the Y.'s house. He's a great host. The Dubious Diplomat's secretary is with us, as is my new wife Lucia. Love, Giulio."

Even to Jabe, the message was enigmatic. He knew "B. the Y." referred to Michaelangelo Buonarrotti the Younger, namesake and grandnephew of the Sistine Chapel artist and a leading arts patron in Florence. He'd given Artemisia her first important commissions. But who was the Dubious Diplomat, never mind his secretary?

"So… he has Cassiano dal Pozzo with him," Artemisia mused out loud.

"He was secretary to the Dubious Diplomat?" Jabe asked.

"That refers to His Eminence Francesco Cardinal Barberini, the Pope's brother. No one would call him that to his face, but Francesco was sent to treat with Richelieu, oh, about ten years ago, and the mission ended up being something of a disaster. Dal Pozzo was his personal secretary at the time. Apparently Richelieu played Francesco like a lute."

"That doesn't sound like Richelieu at all," said Jabe sarcastically. More out of a need to say something than anything else. "And who's Lucia?"

"If it's who I think it is, she's an old model of mine. Giulio's lucky our father's dead-he wouldn't have approved."

"What are we going to do, Mama?" Prudentia asked, wiping away tears. "We must bring them here."

"They may not be able to come," said Vlad. "Granted, I'm no expert on the Italies, but I know something of how difficult politics may tie a ruler's hands. The grand duke may not be able to let them leave their hiding place. Perhaps if someone were to parlay for their safe passage?"

All eyes turned to Jabe. As head of the household, at least technically, he was the logical choice for the mission.

"I'm not saying no, but how can I miss the baby being born? My first? Can it wait till September?"

Artemisia, wisely, tabled the discussion. "We don't have to decide anything tonight. Good decisions are best made on rested wits and full stomachs. Tomorrow night at dinner."

The discussion went on for a week. Irrationally, Jabe dug in his heels and refused to consider any other option. As they got ready for bed one night, Prudentia sat down and looked at Jabe with a very serious expression.

"Uh-oh. I know that look."

"I know being here when the baby is born is very important to you-even if wanting to be in the room with me during the birth is.. . unusual. But is it so important? I wouldn't hold it against you if you weren't here. Not for this."

Jabe fought down a momentary flare of anger. How many times had he been through this in the last week?

"Pru, it's not that I don't want to go. But travel isn't exactly safe, not to Italy anyway, with the war still alive and well to the south of us. And if I make it to Florence safely, what then? I may be stuck there with your uncle and dal Pozzo. Hell, the Inquisition could toss me in a dungeon next to Frank and Giovanna Stone. And I'd never get to meet my child."

"Jabe, beloved," Prudentia said, taking his hands in hers, "my mother's life has been defined by loss. Loss of her honor, thanks to Tassi; loss of her reputation in Florence, thanks to my father's drinking and gambling. Uncle Giulio is the last piece of her family left alive, and Cassiano dal Pozzo helped Mama get back on her feet and re-establish herself in Rome when she had to leave Florence a step ahead of Papa 's creditors. She would go herself if she could. If you went, it would mean more than the world to her."

Jabe considered this. It seemed incredible to him that he'd actually known Artemisia Gentileschi personally for less than a year. He'd grown to love and respect her a great deal, and it seemed almost impossible that there was ever a time when he didn't know her. In the world Jabe had grown up in, living into old age was something he took for granted. Tragedies happened, sure, but always to other people. Even after the Ring of Fire, he could maintain the illusion that that was still true.

The death of Daisy Matheny shattered that illusion for him. He hadn't known the Mathenys, or little Daisy, until after her death from tetanus. Prudentia had accepted a commission to paint a portrait of the little girl, and they'd gotten to know the family. Tetanus was one of those things Jabe never thought about, something cured by a shot and then you were fine. Seeing what happened when there were no more shots was a wrench.

Still, within the USE Jabe felt safe. Under different circumstances he would have gone to Florence without a second thought. But the prospect of leaving behind a child he would never meet… could he risk that?

***

Jabe was still debating the timing of his departure when a second radiogram came from Italy, this one from Leopoldo de' Medici, inviting him on behalf of both the Accademia del Cimento and the Accademia del Desegno to lecture on the art and science of television. There was now no question of waiting until September before leaving.

This time, the deliveryman was not an IRMS employee but a moon-faced, bearded man who bore a vague resemblance to Balthazar Abrabanel. Simon Abrabanel was a Florentine and represented the interests of the Tuscan branch of the far-ranging Sephardic family. He was also Grand Duke Ferdinand's residente in Magdeburg.

"I'm not an ambassador, not as you up-timers reckon such things," said Simon. "I mostly keep His Grace apprised of the latest news and intelligence, and deliver messages, such as this one. His Grace's grandfather was friends with my great-grandparents, Samuel and Bienvenida, so when I moved up here he asked me to be his residente. Your country's rather unusual policies toward Jews also played a role in the choice, I think." By "unusual," Jabe knew, Simon meant religious toleration and equal rights and treatment under the law, something not afforded Jews anywhere else.

Simon politely declined offers of food and drink when Artemisia and Prudentia joined them in the sitting room. Jabe explained about wanting to be present for his child's birth and his misgivings about traveling with the situation in Italy being what it was.

"A noble sentiment, Signore McDougal. Indeed, I believe the commitment to family you Americans hold so dear to be your best quality. However, His Grace is most eager for this demonstration of television, especially after Signore Bartolli told him of the contributions of Italians to this art form."

There was more. Jabe was still very inexperienced in diplomacy, but it was impossible to move in the circles he now moved in as Artemisia Gentileschi's representative and not learn something of court politics. He knew Simon was holding back. In such cases, Jabe knew, the best course was silence.

The silence stretched. No doubt Simon knew the same rule, and he was much more experienced. Jabe spoke first.

"But the invitation didn't come from Grand Duke Ferdinand. It came from Leopoldo de' Medici."

"Such a student you'd be, young Signore. I must teach you something of the art of diplomacy; you seem to have an instinct for it. You must understand that what I say is my own speculation, and that I am not betraying any confidences. Though the invitation came through his younger brother, I believe Ferdinand or a close adviser either directed it to be transmitted, or at the very least decided not to oppose it. His Grace finds himself in that most unenviable position for a man eager to please-he must make a difficult decision. With the coup in the Papal States Ferdinand finds himself caught between his cousin King Philip's forces in Rome and Milan like a mouse between a cat's paws. Even were that not so, his Habsburg blood pulls his loyalties in that direction. However, he also sees the promise and profit in relations with the USE and the benefits of up-timer learning, and what that might hold for the true independence of Tuscany-something most dear to the Grand Duke's heart.

"What's more, Signore Bartolli helped him out of a difficult situation with the Curzio Inghirami business last year, and I think he is hoping you will do the same with this problem. His Grace would protect Cassiano dal Pozzo as he has done with Galileo, but he fears he will not be able to. He hopes, perhaps, that you will be able to work your 'up-timer magic' and achieve the nigh impossible."

"Who does he think I am, Harry Lefferts?" Jabe said, more to himself than to Simon. In a more conversational tone, Jabe said "There's nothing for it, I guess. I don't see how I'd be able to return before next spring."

"As to that, Signore McDougal, I may be able to offer a more pleasant and speedy solution. You are familiar with the Jupiter I?"

"The aircraft known as 'The Monster'?" asked Prudentia.

"The very one, Signora McDougal. His Grace's aunt Claudia is a principle investor in Trans European Airways, and she is currently visiting Magdeburg with her eldest daughter, Vittoria. Who happens to be the Grand Duke's betrothed. They will be returning to Venice in two weeks and there is room for additional passengers and cargo."

"But the expense!" said Jabe.

Simon raised his hand. "As to that, I've taken the liberty of arranging for a modest line of credit to fund the trip, should you accept."

"We'll take it," said Artemisia.

"But Mama," Jabe objected. "I don't want to get us into debt. I know how you feel about that."

"We'll take the line of credit," Artemisia repeated. "I will do the calendar to raise additional funds."

Prudentia laughed, delighted. "But Mama, you said just last week it was common and beneath you."

"That was before I heard Rubens was doing one." Artemisia rose, and everyone else did as well. "Signore Abrabanel, I am personally indebted to you. If you would like a portrait or a canvas, please send word here, and it will be arranged."

Simon inclined his head to Artemisia and shook hands with Jabe, accepting his thanks with a dismissive gesture. Once Simon left, it began to sink in. Not only was he expected to give a series of lectures on television to the leading artists and intellectuals in Florence. And while he was at it, arrange a jailbreak.

And he had two weeks to prepare.

Epilogue-Florence, July 1635

Fra Andres would have preferred a simple cell in a quiet cloister. There was a Franciscan monastery in Florence that would have suited him nicely. His mission demanded he take rooms at the residence of King Philip's ambassador to the Tuscan court, Don Antonio de la Mer, a wine merchant. Andres was as meticulous in gathering information on allies and superiors as he was heretics and enemies, and everything he uncovered said that it was the ambassador's wife, Dona Esperanza, who was the smart one in the household.

He sighed, and sat down. It was then that he noticed the book. It was a new book, hidden in an old binding. He opened it. There was no frontispiece, only a plain title page which translated as "Homage to Catalonia." A note in a tidy hand read "Read. Then we'll talk."

Fra Andres turned the page. He was up most of the night reading.

***

Sonata, Part Three

David Carrico

Movement III – Adagio Sostenuto

Grantville – March, 1634

"… and after seeing and hearing Master Ingram's uncle's violin, the masters were eager to get the new 'merino' designs. They agreed to make us thirty master grade violins for 20 guilders apiece."

Johannes Fichtold was positively beaming, Franz thought. Then something in Johannes' report registered.

"Merino? Did you tell them these were merino designs?"

The other young man's face fell. "Aye. It was a slip of the tongue while I was making the initial proposal to them." His face brightened. "But, it's all right-they think the designs were made by an Italian named Merino. You should have seen the looks they gave each other."

Marla burst out laughing. Everyone, Franz included, looked at her wide-eyed as she positively howled, drumming her feet on the floor and pounding her fist on the table. No one spoke-they were all somewhat shocked-Marla just didn't act like this. Finally, she subsided into gasping, "Oh… oh… oh… oh, that is absolutely hilarious, totally priceless." She laughed a little more, giggled actually, brushing her hair back and wiping her eyes.

"Uh… Marla," Franz ventured, "I grant you that the masters of Fussen thinking the up-time designs were stolen from an Italian master is somewhat humorous, but…"

"Oh, come on, guys… can't you just see the passage in some future twentieth century music history textbook?" Marla's voice took on a dry, lecturing tone. "' In the middle of the seventeenth century arose the so-called 'Merino' refinements to the basic string orchestra instruments. It is commonly accepted that, as with so many other technological advances, this was due to the advent of Grantville in the Western European scene in the 1630's. The earliest documentation of the term is found in the guild records of Fussen in southern Germany, but by 1650 both the designs and the term were in common use throughout continental Europe, with England lagging somewhat behind. A number of very interesting rumors and theories exist as to the origin of the 'Merino' term, but it is generally accepted that it was the name of an Italian master who either initially produced the designs or from whom the designs were stolen. Periodically, an old theory is resurrected that the name has some connection to the merino breed of sheep, but no proof has ever been found, so it always retires back into the category of interesting fables.'"

Everyone in the room laughed, even Lady Beth Haygood, with Marla's voice skirling over them all. At length-a very long length-order was restored. "Yes, I think we can all take some pleasure on having played a joke on posterity," Franz said, his voice a little uneven as he tried to keep from laughing again. "But, for Johannes' sake and the sake of the joke, we must keep the secret to ourselves. No more slips of the tongue. Maestro Merino must be accorded his appropriate due." Chuckles sounded all around the conference table.

"So." Lady Beth looked up from where she was sitting beside Amber Higham, who was making notes. "Thirty master class violins at 20 guilders apiece, three guilders in advance, the balance on delivery in Magdeburg by 1 April. You did specify 1 April by the Gregorian calendar, I hope?"

"Yes, FrauHaygood. But that was really not such an issue since they use that calendar every day. It was just to make sure they did not try to claim we had expected delivery by the old calendar's date, ten days later." She nodded. Johannes continued, "All instruments produced from the merino designs by December 31, 1637, will be delivered to the Royal and Imperial Arts Council."

"You got over three years out of them!" Friedrich exclaimed. "I do not believe it! Master Hans knows some of those men, and he was skeptical that they would allow even one year."

"Yes." Johannes grinned. "Well, they quickly saw that having these designs would give them… what did Master Girolamo call it… ah, yes, a 'competitive advantage.' They might not know those words, but they know the concept. I could tell they were positively slavering to get their hands on the designs, so I held my ground. It took over a week. In the process they slandered me greatly and profanely more than once. If my brother was not one of them, I am sure they would have had things to say about my ancestry. In fact, Master Eichelberger as much as said that I was an altar boy when my parents were married." Johannes laughed. "But he took it back after the others remonstrated with him."

"A good job of negotiating," Lady Beth said. Johannes sat back, beaming. Lady Beth looked at Franz and raised her eyebrows.

"The initial part of our recruiting trip was very slow, but we had three musicians who traveled with us back from Mainz. Several more from Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Schweinfurt caught up with us on the way back. So, at the moment, we have twelve. If Josef and Rudolf have any luck, and if any numbers at all respond to the broadsides and letters sent out, we should have our minimum of forty-five players by the first week of April."

Lady Beth nodded. She waited for Amber to finish taking notes, then said, "Okay, folks. Like I told you at the beginning of the meeting, I'm leaving for Magdeburg tomorrow to stay. Amber here…" The pleasant woman with the gray-streaked hair smiled at them all. ". .. will be taking over the job of representing the Imperial Arts Council here in Grantville. I'll do the same in Magdeburg, in addition to my other work with the new school." She stood and signaled that the meeting was over. "I'll see most of you in Magdeburg in a few days."

They all stood as Lady Beth and Amber left. Friedrich looked at Franz. "The Gardens?"

"By all means."

***

They were all seated around a table in the Gardens: Franz and Marla, Friedrich and Anna, Isaac, Thomas and Leopold; all the initial group from Mainz that had gathered around Marla last year to learn about up-time music. Franz had just finished describing his final encounter with Rupert Heydrich. The revelation of Heydrich's death and the manner of it greatly shocked those who hadn't been there. Anna was absolutely ashen-faced. Friedrich, Thomas and Leopold were studies in various shades of incredulity and aghast-ness.

Marla had grasped his arm while he had haltingly related what had happened. Franz felt her shiver. On his other side, Isaac was withdrawn, with a very distant look on his face. Franz was reminded of something that had puzzled him off and on since that night.

"Isaac?" No response. "Isaac?" A little louder. That pierced Isaac's shell. He looked over at Franz. "You said something that night when the body was turned on its back and the knife was revealed, something that I did not understand. What was it?"

Isaac looked very disturbed. He took a long time to respond. Finally, he said in a low tone, " Baruch dayan emes. It means 'Blessed be the Righteous Judge.' It is… traditional… for Jews to say this when we hear of or see a death. It is a reminder of the sovereignty of God; that nothing happens outside of His awareness; that regardless of our grief, He is the King of the Universe and all things happen as He wills it. It is meant to be a comfort."

"For everything there is a season…" murmured Marla.

"Exactly." But Isaac still looked distressed.

After a moment, Franz said, "Was it his death that discomfits you?"

"Nay. I have seen death before."

"The manner of it?"

"Nay."

Franz leaned forward. "Isaac, you are as close to me as a brother. I would not see you suffering because of what was my problem. Tell me what oppresses you."

Isaac sat for a long moment, staring at his tightly clasped hands on the table top, obviously wrestling with himself. Finally, he gave a great sigh. "As you will." Another moment passed. "That night, when I realized what I had said, I well nigh choked. Of all people I knew, the passing of Heydrich was not one that would have occasioned me sadness. I understood the waste of his talent, the tragedy of his life. But after all he had done, particularly after he so forcefully rejected your attempt to reconcile, there was an element of justice to his ending.

"But then you said 'That could have been me,' and…" Isaac swallowed. "That statement crashed through to my heart. I saw everything that happened that night in a new light. In Heydrich's rejection of reconciliation, that could have been me. In very truth, it is me. I must reconcile with my father-all our wisdom, all our tradition calls for it-and… I… cannot." Franz waited. "It is a blight on the life of my family, on my own. And if God, in His wisdom, calls for my life as he did for poor Heydrich's…" Isaac swallowed again. "I have not the courage to risk rejection again. Yet if I do not, I risk blighting my family for the rest of their lives." He looked up, with a desolate expression. "I wish to go to him so strongly, but I hurt so badly… it tears at me like a wolf, Franz. It hurts! "

Franz laid his hand atop Isaac's trembling clenched hands. "If you truly believe that God is sovereign, that all things happen according to His will, then trust Him. He will make a way. And until He does.. ." Marla laid her hand atop his, followed by the hands of the others at the table. "… you have here those who will help you bear your burden, just as they helped me bear mine."

One lone tear began to slowly trickle down Isaac's cheek.

Magdeburg – Early April, 1634

Franz watched as the various groups of musicians trickled into the ball room at the large room. First came the group from Mainz, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Schweinfurt that had returned with him from the recruiting trip, led by his friend Georg Seiler. Franz had helped Georg and his daughter find a place in a rooming house that Klaus and Reuel had sworn was clean and fairly priced. Georg was still quiet and gaunt, but seemed to be a little less despondent. Franz truly hoped that the move from Mainz would be healing for both Georg and Odelia.

Following on the heels of the first group were the various musicians that had drifted in by ones and twos and threes from various towns in Thuringia, as well as a half-dozen from one of the Jesuit collegia. Franz felt a little guilty about how many small towns had just lost their premier musicians, perhaps even their only musicians, but not enough so to tell them to return to their homes. The vision of an orchestra that drove him and his friends was a stern taskmistress. He had to take the musicians regardless of where they came from.

The final group that entered was the direct result of Josef and Rudolf's recruiting trip to Copenhagen; nineteen musicians sent from the hand of Kappellmeister Heinrich Schutz. They had arrived the day before, looking somewhat worn from the rigors of traveling so far so quickly. Master Schutz himself was not with them. He had not been able to leave with them. In any event, his itinerary had been different. Matthaus Amsel, the leader of this group, had informed Franz that the master would first visit family in Kostritz, then would go directly to Grantville to meet with Maestro Carissimi. Only after that would he come to Magdeburg. Franz could forgive him the delay, when he saw how many musicians had come in his name.

If his count was correct, even after sending the wind players on to Grantville to study at the high school, there were sixty-two in the room right now. Franz had hoped for sixty and would have been willing to settle for forty to forty-five. He had feared that there would be fewer than thirty. They had enough! Providing, that is, that they stayed.

Franz stepped up on the platform that had been placed at one end of the room. "Your attention, please!" He pitched his voice to carry over the buzz of conversations that filled the room. The musicians turned and moved toward him. The noise began to dwindle. "Thank you, my friends, for coming to Magdeburg, for accepting the challenge to be a part of something that has never existed before-a symphony orchestra." As he spoke, Marla, Josef, Rudolf and Isaac gathered to each side of the platform.

Someone in the crowd started to speak. Franz raised his hand. "Please, all of you, let those of us in front of you speak. After that, we will have plenty of time to answer questions." He lowered his hand. "Now, I assume that you have all heard of Grantville." Heads nodded around the room. "How many of you have been in Grantville?" Perhaps a third of the men raised their hands. "How many of you have heard anything about the music of Grantville?" Over half of the hands went down.

"Well, it should not surprise you that just as Grantville contains knowledge and mechanical arts that seem amazing to us, it also contains music and instruments that are equally amazing. I and my friends…" Franz spread his arms to encompass them "… have been studying the music of the future for almost a year, now. My wife, Marla, is a Grantviller. You will find she is a surpassing musician in her own right."

There were a few frowns and some definite muttering from the crowd. "Yes, you are skeptical. I, too, had masters who taught me that women would never make superior musicians. I tell you that they were wrong. I tell you that Marla has won the approval of both Maestro Giacomo Carissimi-yes, you know that name-as well as Signor Andrea Abati, il gentilhuomo premiere of Rome." The citation of the famous castrato evoked more whispers. "Her knowledge of what music became in their time is invaluable, as it will help guide us to learn it, to digest it, to make it our own, then finally to move beyond it."

The rest of the morning was spent discussing some of the fundamental changes that the musicians would have to adapt to, including the changes in tuning and tempering that had been adopted as universal standards in the future. Marla figured prominently in those, naturally, as she had already had to shepherd Franz and friends through the same issues several months previously. The piano caused quite a sensation when Marla demonstrated its tuning. The planned discussion was diverted for quite some time as the other musicians almost mobbed around Marla to see the piano and its workings.

Finally, Franz announced a break for lunch, requesting that everyone return in two hours. While the others thundered out the door in search of taverns and inns, he turned to Marla and gestured to Isaac, Josef and Rudolf.

"Were we that loud and opinionated?" He was answered only by her silvery laugh, and winced. "I was afraid you would say that."

Grantville

April 1634

Heinrich Schutz, one-time Kappellmeister of the Elector of Saxony, watched with interest as his carriage rolled through the streets of Grantville. There were many strange things, including the poles with cables strung between them which served no purpose that he could see, but seemed to connect all the houses and buildings. However, it was as Josef Tuchman had said; there was no gold paving the streets of Grantville. A pity. He could have used an ingot or two. A man with a mother and two growing daughters to support could always find a use for an ingot or two of gold.

Thoughts of his family inevitably led to recollections of Magdalena, which in turn evoked the pain of her loss. Even after almost nine years, longer than they had been married, thoughts of his wife still hurt. It was an old hurt, one that perhaps no longer stabbed but was now a familiar ache.

The hurt was a little stronger, a little fresher right now, after stopping in Kostritz to see his mother and his daughters. Each of the girls, in their own way, took after their mother. Seeing them had scraped the scab off of a wound that Heinrich feared would never heal.

After Magdalena's passing, he had taken his daughters to live with their grandmother. The Elector's court at Dresden was no place for a widower to attempt the raising of two young daughters. It meant that Heinrich only got to see them a few times a year, whenever he could beg leave from Elector John George, which wasn't as often as he wanted. Regardless of whether he could come or not, Heinrich sent a purse for their support as often as he could scrape together a few coins. Lately, the Elector's pay had been as infrequent as his allowing leave, which was why Heinrich was in Grantville.

After a time, they left the houses behind, coming in view of the. .. what had Johannes called it… oh, yes, the high school. Lucas Amsel pulled the horse to a halt in front of the building. Schutz exited from the carriage, while Lucas jumped from the driver's seat to hold the horse's head.

They stood together looking at the building. "Master," Lucas said, "are you sure that is a school? It looks more like a warehouse to me."

Heinrich looked over at the young man fondly. His parents, as so many others did, had named their children after prominent New Testament figures. By good fortune and the grace of God, all four of their sons had survived to adulthood. As they had been named in order of birth, Lucas was the third. His oldest brother, Matthaus, the lead violinist amongst Heinrich's musicians, was quite capable. Next oldest, Marcus, also played violin and was also numbered in Heinrich's company. Youngest brother Johan was a viola player who had joined his brothers just a few months ago, but was by no means the worst player in the ensemble.

Lucas, however, was not a musician. He was a personable young man, hard working, reasonably intelligent and handsome. By rights and all expectations he should have been as fine a musician as his brothers. Alas, he was tone deaf and had an abysmal sense of rhythm. Heinrich recalled the day that Lucas had approached him, dressed in his finest clothing and holding his hat in hand, begging for any kind of position; anything, so long as he could work with the master like his older brothers and thus feel a part of their world.

Heinrich, pitying the boy, had given him a trial as a music copyist. To his great surprise, Lucas was both meticulous and rapid in his work. He soon became almost indispensable to the master copyist. As time passed, his responsibilities gradually broadened, first by taking over the responsibilities of Heinrich's secretary when that individual died suddenly of pneumonia, then by additional delegations from Heinrich. Lucas had accepted so many delegations, that he now served as factotum. All among the musicians-indeed, all at the Elector of Saxony's court-knew that when Lucas spoke in Heinrich's place, he was indeed the voice of the Kappellmeister.

Despite his rise, Lucas was still the same earnest soul that he was on that first day. Heinrich knew just how much work the young man did. He was indeed grateful for Lucas because of that. Above and beyond that, however, Heinrich was very fond of him. In his heart, Heinrich at times considered Lucas the son he had never had. If his daughters were older, he would have encouraged a match between one of them and Lucas.

"Aye," Heinrich said, clapping the Lucas on the shoulder, "it does look like a warehouse with windows, but I am assured that this is an institution of learning like no other in the world."

Just then the most appalling sound blared forth, loud, assaulting the hearing, most discordant. If there was a sound that was the very antithesis of music, this was it. All three of them-Heinrich, Lucas and the horse-jumped at the sudden onslaught to their hearing. Lucas immediately turned to calm the gelding, whose eyes were wide and white-rimmed and whose feet were dancing as if the drive were suddenly hot iron. Thankfully, the noise lasted only moments.

Just as Lucas was getting the horse to settle, the doors in front of them burst open and out poured what seemed to be a very horde of youths, most of whom ran over to a variety of yellow and black contraptions that stood in a drive to one side of the building. Heinrich was stunned to see that boys and girls alike were dressed in trousers, some of them even cut above the knee! A few of them ran to a metal rack nearby in which strange wheeled devices stood, pulled them out and jumped on them. Heinrich felt his mouth drop as they all began moving their feet and somehow the devices began moving down the drive, their riders calling out to each other and waving to him as they passed.

All of a sudden the yellow and black contraptions all began making loud rumblings, which were shortly accentuated by grinding noises. The poor horse became very insistent that he did not want to be in this vicinity any longer. Heinrich felt as if he was almost of like mind when the machines began slowly rolling by themselves down the drive and out onto the road toward Grantville.

It was quite some time before Lucas had the horse quieted again. At last, the eyes were calm and the big head turned and lipped Lucas's hair. There was no hitching post in sight, so Lucas led him over to the metal rack and tied the reins to it.

"Well, Master Heinrich, that was exciting. I shall have to make sure that poor Blume receives some extra grain tonight, to compensate him for the fright he has just received."

Both men laughed. "And perhaps we should receive an extra dose of grain ourselves, eh?" Heinrich said. "An extra flagon of beer, yes?" He clapped Lucas on the shoulder again, urging him up the walkway to the door. "Those yellow and black… things… do not match the description in the stories and rumors of the APC machines, so they must be the other machines, the 'busses.'"

"I care not what they are, Master. And I am not at all certain that I want to find out, either."

"Oh, come now, Lucas. Where is your spirit of adventure?"

"I think it is driving Blume's spirit of adventure back down the road as fast as it will gallop." Lucas opened the door.

Heinrich's laughter echoed down the empty halls. Rich and fruity, loud and resonant, it sounded as if a Titan had suddenly entered the building. An Englishman had once told him that his laugh reminded him of a character named Falstaff in some play or other that Heinrich could not call to mind at the moment.

There was a doorway ahead over which hung a sign that was lettered "Administration." A woman appeared in it, obviously searching for the source of the laughter. She, too, was wearing trousers. Heinrich tsk'd, but at least hers covered all of her legs. Her interested gaze appeared to assess them.

"Can I help you?"

Her German was oddly accented and inflected, but understandable. Heinrich and Lucas looked at each other. Help?

"Can I be of assistance?"

Ah, that they understood.

"Yes," Lucas said. "This is Master Heinrich Schutz and…"

He broke off as the woman raised her hands and laughed. "Slower, please. I am still new to this speech."

"We are looking," Heinrich said slowly, "for Master Giacomo Carissimi."

"Ah, il maestro. " She smiled. "I believe he has not left yet. Come this way, please." She led them down a hallway lined with metal lockers interspersed with doors. After turning a corner into another hallway, she stopped at the second door on the left. It was open.

"Maestro, you have visitors." She stepped aside and smiled at them as they entered. Her footsteps echoed down the hallway when she left.

Heinrich saw a youngish man in a black cassock look up from stuffing papers into a leather satchel. "Good day. I am Heinrich Schutz, and I am delighted to finally meet you." As one educated man speaking to another, he spoke in Latin.

"Master Schutz!" Carissimi stumbled in his haste to come out from behind the desk. "It is an honor to finally meet you, sir, in the flesh, as the Americans would say."

"The honor is mine, Master Carissimi."

"Please, please, call me Giacomo."

"And I am Heinrich."

The Italian was absolutely beaming. "Our letters give me some sense of you, Master Heinrich. Of course, Master Monteverdi has spoken quite highly of you, as well."

"As he did of you as well, Master Giacomo." Heinrich found himself returning Carissimi's smile; the man's enthusiasm was infectious.

"How did you know to look for me at the school?"

"We were directed first to your house, and met Master Zenti's apprentice, Johannes Fichtold. He advised us to come here." Heinrich frowned a little. "No sooner had we arrived than we were greeted by the most appalling clamor."

Carissimi had a quizzical expression for a moment, then he laughed. "Oh, you mean the 'buzzer.' They use it to mark the beginning and end of various study times. Yes, it is nasty sounding isn't it? Intentionally so, I'm afraid… it is designed to capture one's attention."

"It succeeds admirably in that." Heinrich shivered. "Even our horse took note of it." They all shared a laugh. "But tell me, Master Giacomo, what do you here in this school? Are you a choir master?"

Giacomo shook his head. "Oh, no. What do I do? Well, I teach a little Italian, I teach a little Latin. Sometimes, I teach what some of the other instructors call social studies or current affairs-I tell them about Italy-the cities, the rulers, the Holy Father-the tensions between all of them and between them and the other lands of Europe."

"What? You teach no music? No choirs?" Heinrich was thunderstruck. Here was one of the leading lights of music in Italy, doing the work of a mere pedant! Did no one know what they were wasting here? "I am outraged, sir. I am outraged that you are not given your due, not given the work for which God so admirably equipped you!"

"No, no, no, Master Heinrich" Carissimi said, holding his hands up in a placating gesture. "It is as I desire it. I teach what they need taught. In turn, I am a student."

"A student of what?"

"First of all, the English language. Already my English has improved dramatically since I first arrived. But more importantly, I study music, the course of music as it developed from our time to a future more than three hundred and fifty years from now."

"So, you believe their tale that they have come from the future?"

"Yes." Carissimi was quite firm. "What I have learned since I arrived leaves absolutely no doubt in my mind."

"But how? This has never happened in history. God has never done such a thing."

Carissimi smiled. "Master Heinrich, my friend, surely the God who can conceive of the universe that surrounds us-the turning of the seasons, the natural order that exists-surely that God could do such a work if he chose to. And the greatest works of God in his creation are only done once: the ark of Noah; the parting of the Red Sea; and the birth, death and resurrection of our beloved Savior. At one point in the history of man since Adam none of these things had happened. If someone before that point had said that because they had not yet occurred, they would never occur, would he have been right?"

"I understand your argument." Heinrich sighed. "But it is still hard to accept."

Carissimi laughed. "We are human. Of course, it is hard to fathom the power of God! Yet Grantville is here, a hard fact." He stamped his foot. "And unless you have fallen into the Manichaean heresy, what other explanation is there?"

"And is this what the pope and his college of cardinals believe?"

"I know not what decision the Holy Father will reach, but I am here. The music of Grantville is also here. I will learn it; I will master it if it takes the rest of my life." Carissimi was quite serious, Heinrich saw.

"If you judge it so, Master Giacomo, then make a place beside you, so that I may learn also."

"Then follow me, Master Heinrich, if you will."

The Italian master led them down the hallway to a large room. There was a sign on the door that said 'Choir Room.' When they entered, Heinrich saw that chairs stood on risers that formed arcs around the room.

"Please be seated."

Heinrich sat on the lowest level, motioning Lucas to sit beside him. They watched, somewhat mystified, as Carissimi walked over to some boxes on a table and touched them, to the accompanying sound of clicks. Then he dug into his satchel and brought out three small flat cases, which he set on the table.

"Once I heard that you were coming, Master Heinrich, knowing, believing that I knew what you came for, I did some small preparation. I am certain that you have heard that the Grantvillers possess some mechanical arts that are quite advanced." Heinrich nodded. "It is indeed the truth. Some of these arts, we of our time do not even have concepts of. This is one such, that by the small machines you see before you they can reproduce the performances of musicians from years ago, from many miles away, through what they call 'recordings.' This is an entirely different order of creation than the simple music boxes that we know of.

"The devices can be operated without knowing the arts to construct them. Witness that I will do so. I tell you all of this to prepare you, my friend. Do not be alarmed when you hear music seemingly from the air-it is only their arts."

With that, Carissimi turned and pressed on one of the cabinets. A small drawer slid open, into which he inserted a silver disk he removed from one of the small cases. He touched the cabinet again; the drawer retracted itself into its cabinet. Finally, he turned a knob on one of the other cabinets.

Despite Carissimi's warning, when the sound of massed trumpets and sackbuts split the air, Heinrich's eyes widened. He looked around for the brass, sure that somehow they had entered the room behind him. But there was no-one there. Then it dawned on him, this was the very thing that Master Giacomo had just told him about. Forcing himself to relax and listen, before very many moments passed, he realized that he knew this piece! The Sonata Pian e Forte, by his old master, Giovanni Gabrieli! He had heard it performed in the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice during the days of his youth, when he had studied with the master. He closed his eyes and relaxed, listening to the purity of the music. Almost, almost it sounded as if he were there in the basilica again.

All too soon it was over. He opened his eyes and raised his head. He spoke aloud the words he had written about his master several years before. "But Gabrieli, immortal Gods, what a man!"

"Indeed," Carissimi answered. "So, you know that piece. You will know this one as well, I believe." He retrieved the first disk from the drawer and inserted another one.

This time, the music was choral. Within an instant of hearing the opening " Cantate Domino, Cantate Domino canticum, " Heinrich knew this was his work, his setting of Psalm 96 as part of his Cantiones Sacrae. So, Rudolf Tuchman had been right! The future from which Grantville came did remember him. Again, he closed his eyes and drank in the sound, this time listening critically. When it ended, he opened his eyes

"They pitched it too high by almost a step."

Carissimi laughed.

"That is something for another discussion, Master Heinrich. At least they have much of your music." He sobered quickly. "Very little of mine survived. I have read nothing of what they know of my… past, as strange as it feels to say, but Elizabeth has told me that I am remembered more as a teacher than as a composer. I know it was all written to the glory of God, but unworthy man that I am, I cannot help but feel some anger at the future princes of the church who let the works of my mind, my spirit, disappear without a trace." Carissimi spoke with an almost bitter tone.

"Who is this Elizabeth?" Heinrich was treated to the sight of Carissimi uncomfortable. Was the man blushing? Surely not.

"She… is one of the uptime musicians who have taught me much. When you go to Magdeburg, you will meet another: Marla Linder. We Italians have known that women can be good musicians. Marla and Elizabeth, they are proof that women can be more. They can be virtuosi ."

Heinrich absorbed that without comment, but decided to let himself be the judge of that. "Enough of music that I already know. The young men who came to me in Copenhagen, the brothers Tuchman, brought to me a work from Grantville-from, as you say, the future. It was entitled The Art of Fugue, by one…"

"Johann Sebastian Bach." A dreamy smile crossed Carissimi's face. "Ah, yes, The Art of Fugue. Probably the greatest contrapuntal work by the greatest of the contrapuntalists." He focused again on Schutz. "There is a recording of it in Grantville, but I do not have it with me." Turning back to the table, he extracted a disk from the third case and placed it in the machine. "I do, however, have this by the man; the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor."

For the third time, Heinrich closed his eyes and listened. The piece began with an organ playing a slow stately theme in the bass register. After eight measures it repeated as a basso ostinato with a new theme added to it. With each repetition of the bass theme, new themes were added to the work; so it grew in complexity. Then the rhythms began variations, but still that bass theme was heard.

The work was much longer than the previous two. Heinrich simply listened, listened with the ears of a master musician, as it built, as additional ranks of pipes were added and the sonorities became richer. It quieted to flute voices only as the various themes were delicately sounded.

Again additional stops were opened and the sonorities began to build, and build, and build, only to once more soften to passages of quiet dexterity and virtuosity. The piece was as much a test of the organ as the organist, he decided, displaying the consummate skill of the composer. The themes passed from register to register, but almost always that recurring theme was in the lowest voice. At last came a passage where the tempo slowed, followed by an outburst of rapid loud voicing, terminating in a thunderous, resounding terminal chord.

Heinrich felt chills chasing up his spine. The hair on his neck prickled. "God in heaven. To hear such work in my lifetime."

"Oh, master. This is only the beginning."

Magdeburg

April, 1634

"Come with me, please." Franz led Isaac Fremdling and Matthaus Amsel to a small room off to the side. As they entered the door, Isaac whistled.

"Greetings, Johannes. I take it these are the violins from Fussen?"

"Hello, Isaac." Johannes Fichtold nodded at his friend. "Indeed, they are. Freshly delivered from the master craftsmen."

"Matthaus," Franz said, "this is Johannes Fichtold, assistant to Master Girolamo Zenti, piano craft master in Grantville and brother to one of the luthier craft masters of Fussen. Johannes, this is Matthaus Amsel, principal violinist and leader of Master Schutz's musicians." The two men bowed to each other and murmured pleasantries.

Franz rubbed his hands together. "Right. Let us begin. Johannes, how many do we have here?"

"Of the contracted thirty, thirty were delivered in Grantville. Three of them were rejected by Masters Zenti and Riebeck and Journeyman Braun as being of inadequate quality. So only twenty-seven were shipped here to Magdeburg for your review. Here they are." Johannes waved a hand at the table.

Franz looked at Isaac and Matthaus. "We will all three inspect each of them. Then you two will play each of them. If any one of us votes 'no' on an instrument, it is rejected. Ready?" He opened the first case, and they began their inspections.

At some point in the morning the door to the room opened again. Lady Beth Haygood and Marla entered.

"Sorry I'm late, Franz," Lady Beth said.

Franz nodded, held up a hand to indicate they should wait and dove back into the conversation about the virtues and faults of the instrument Isaac was holding.

"This one is not acceptable." Isaac sniffed. "The neck is crooked, the varnish is unequally applied on the sides, and the tone is just. .. off."

"Agreed." Matthaus nodded.

Johannes shrugged and made a mark on his list. "Another one to take back to Grantville." He looked up. "That was the last one."

"Excellent!" Franz said. "So, what is the verdict of the judges?"

Johannes consulted his list. "We've rejected two more, leaving twenty-five to be accepted."

Franz turned to Lady Beth. "So, how soon can Frau Mary authorize payment?"

"Mary's out of town, remember?" Lady Beth smiled as Franz smacked his forehead. "But, before she left she gave me certain authorizations, including control over the accounts for the orchestra. I can authorize payment of the balances due under the contract."

Johannes handed him the clipboard. Franz borrowed Johannes' pencil to initial the first and second copies, then passed one to Lady Beth and the other back to Johannes.

"I'll take care of it." Lady Beth tucked her copy into her bag.

***

The young men turned back to the instruments and began discussing who should get which one. Lady Beth shook her head in amusement and followed Marla out into the hallway. "I declare, the only time I ever see Jere that worked up about something is if he can ride it, drive it or shoot it."

Marla laughed and linked arms with the older woman. "Musicians. Go figure. I've seen these boys argue about the merits of one varnish over another, or the different qualities of hair from different breeds of horses for their bows, just like my dad and his friends used to argue about which bait to try on that big catfish that used to lurk in the bend of the river."

When their laughter had subsided, Marla asked, "So, did you get everything worked out in Grantville?"

"Yep. We rented the house, furniture and all, to some acquaintance of Don Francisco. I loved that, since I didn't have to mess with trying to sell or store anything other than the knick-knacks. I packed up the kids and their clothes and their lessons for the rest of the school year. We left town pretty quickly after that meeting we had with you all last month."

"So you settled in here, yet?"

"Pretty much. Jere had already found us a place to stay, so it was just a matter of unpacking and finding places to stow everything. Most of the furniture is okay. The kids are pretty excited-it's still an adventure for them-but I do miss the electricity and the flush toilets."

"Tell me about it!" Marla laughed again. "So how's the new job?"

"Crazy. The Duchess Elisabeth Sofie Secondary School for Girls has a great future, but at the moment it's all potential. Elisabeth's father, the duke, has assigned the rents from a nearby village and its lands to provide a base funding for operations, but we're still scrambling to get it organized. We've lined up a few up-timers to teach, but we really need some additional teachers."

"Hmm," Marla mused. "What are you doing for humanities?"

"I don't know yet. They're still trying to pull together a curriculum and get it approved by the Abbess of Quedlinburg. She's the closest thing to a certification agency we've got at the moment."

"Well, you've got a lot of musicians in Magdeburg now. I can do choir, and voice lessons. There are a lot of string players; surely some of them can teach. Hermann Katzberg could teach harpsichord now and piano later. By next year, we should have some wind players who can teach."

Lady Beth brightened. "That's something we hadn't talked about yet. Great idea! I'll pass it on to the rest. I'd bet we'll take you up on that."

"I have an ulterior motive, of course." Marla smiled as Lady Beth raised an eyebrow. "I want public performances, public recitals. I want women musicians, darn it!"

"Of course! And with you leading the way, who would dare object?"

Grantville

April, 1634

Heinrich Schutz walked beside Giacomo Carissimi toward the "Band Room." He wasn't sure what the afternoon boded for him, only Giacomo insisted that he must hear what he referred to as a "band." And so, he was on his way to do that very thing.

Smiling, Heinrich looked over at the shorter musician. Once he got past his shyness, Master Giacomo was as voluble as most Italians. Today was no exception.

He had been talking without pause for the last few minutes.

"And here we are." Master Giacomo opened the door and ushered Heinrich inside the room. "This is where… ah… Marcus, you are here already. Good! Allow me the introductions to make. Master Heinrich Schutz, this is Marcus Wendell, the band director for Calvert High School, a master of music from the future." Heinrich nodded. "And Marcus, before you is Master Heinrich Schutz, Kappellmeister to the Elector of Saxony, now come to Grantville to learn of the great music you have."

Marcus held out his hand. Heinrich reached out to grasp it. "I am pleased to meet you, Master Marcus." His careful English was reasonably fluent, but the dialect of the Grantvillers was sometimes baffling.

"And I am honored to meet you, Master Heinrich, very honored indeed." Marcus was very sober. "Giacomo, I am not a master of music. Don't paint me to be something I'm not. I only earned a bachelor's degree."

"Pah!" Giacomo waved a hand in the air as if he had been taking lessons from his friend Signor Abati, the famed castrato. "Marcus, my friend, one can be a master of the art without being a Master of Arts, eh, Master Heinrich?"

"Yes." Heinrich cleared his throat. "Talent and skill cannot be denied."

"So, if we two declare you a master, a master you are. And if you wish for a piece of parchment to hang on a wall, no doubt at some time we can produce for you that very thing."

Marcus laughed. "No, thank you. If I'd really wanted a sheepskin, I would have gone back to school. I had plenty of opportunities, just never wanted it very badly." He turned and surveyed the empty chairs of the band room. "This is all I ever wanted to do, teach children to make music." He was silent for a moment, then said with quiet satisfaction, "And that is what I have done."

Heinrich looked at Master Marcus and nodded in approval.

Just then the 'buzzer,' that sound that almost had to have been first heard in the infernal regions, sounded its clamor. Master Giacomo caught Heinrich by his sleeve, drawing him back against the wall. Within moments students began pouring through the doorway, chattering as they came. It still astounded Heinrich to see boys and girls together in classes. He was not one of those who would voice the opinion that education was wasted on girls, but it definitely felt wrong to him for them to be in the same classes… especially at this age.

However, when in Athens, do as the Athenians do, so he attempted to look beyond that feeling and truly observe what was occurring. The

… musicians, he decided he would call them… quickly took their places. And there were so many of them! He looked around. There must be almost one hundred young people in the room!

Despite what seemed to him to be an inordinate amount of conversation, loud and in places unruly, they were swiftly assembling and preparing instruments for performance. Within moments, musical sounds were issuing from all over the room.

Dazzled by the sheer size of the 'band,' it was some little time before something dawned on Heinrich. His eyes widened; he turned to Master Giacomo. "The viols… where are the violins, the violas, the…" Giacomo's grin stopped him.

"That is why we are here, Master Heinrich. There are none. This is a wind ensemble, the only one of its kind here and now. And most of the instruments are of the future, outgrowths of what we know today. What you hear today will make that clear." Just then, Master Marcus stepped up on the podium. "Shh. Watch and listen."

Heinrich was very impressed with how quickly the room became quiet. He watched attentively as Master Marcus carefully tuned the instruments and sections, taking his time until he was satisfied. Again, Heinrich nodded in approval-it mattered not how well-written the music might be, if the performers were not in tune it would fail in performance.

"All right. Today we're working on Finlandia." There was a rustle all around the room as music was removed from folders and opened on the various stands. Heinrich watched as Marcus looked around the room, catching the eye of every musician, then raised his hands. The musicians brought their instruments to the ready position. Marcus held a stick in one hand, Heinrich noted, wondering as to its purpose. The stick seemed to twitch suddenly, then it was raised on high. When it descended, the music began.

Heinrich couldn't say that he was surprised by the loud swelling chords from the low brass that began the piece, but it was an unusual sound to his ears. It was almost like listening to a grave chorale done by brass instead of organ.

The sudden transition to soft woodwinds did catch him off guard. He quit trying to anticipate what would happen and opened his ears and mind to whatever occurred. The chorale sound developed, until the low brass rejoined it with a loud five note theme. Immediately thereafter the tempo sped up. The trumpets and other brass began sounding calls that echoed back and forth above the woodwinds. It almost sounded like a battle in music.

All the while, Master Marcus stood on the podium, waving his arms. Heinrich's attention was periodically caught by that. He wondered what Marcus was doing, but always, always he was drawn back into the music.

After a great swelling chord, the higher woodwinds began a section that was almost a hymn in its simplicity and purity, the theme of which was absolutely gorgeous. Heinrich lost himself in the sound of it. When lower woodwinds joined in, it simply added to the richness of the sonority of the piece.

Suddenly the low brass came bounding back in, restoring the martial flavor of the work. It went crashing on, to shortly culminate in a series of loud brassy chords. Master Marcus lowered his hands; the musicians relaxed.

Giacomo gestured for Heinrich to follow him. As they slipped out of the room, Heinrich heard Master Marcus say, "Trumpets, you're still not clean on those attacks…"

Outside the room, Heinrich realized how wrung out he felt, as if he had been performing for hours. It had only been minutes he had been listening-hadn't it?

"Well. What did you think?" Giacomo started walking.

Heinrich gathered his wits. "It was… impressive. Nothing even in the Basilica of Saint Mark in Venice ever sounded like that. And the youths-all of them-seemed to perform well. The sounds, and the capabilities of the instruments-so strong, so rich, nothing like I'm used to. My mind is drunk with the sonorities." He pondered for a moment. "But the harmonies seemed… very dissonant at times."

"Exactly so, Master Heinrich! Their music can be very powerful, like a strong brandy, but it can taste rather harsh at times, so one must develop a liking for it. But one returns to it, again and again, because there is nothing like it-nowhere else in the world." Carissimi's Latin was starting to sound very Italian.

They came to the main door of the school, the one by which Heinrich had entered what seemed a lifetime ago. Heinrich blinked as they stepped into the sunlight. It was as if he was awaking after a dream. "Again, I must say it was impressive. I have much to think about."

"I understand. The up-timers have an expression that I believe fits: 'Been there, done that.'" The words in English jarred a little after all the Latin, but after a moment Heinrich absorbed the meaning. Carissimi's mouth quirked, then turned to a smile. "Master Marcus asked me earlier today to make sure that you also attend tomorrow. He said that he has a surprise he wishes to present you."

"Tomorrow, then." Heinrich exchanged a handshake with Giacomo and began to walk. He wanted to walk today. Walking had always aided his thinking. This afternoon he had much to think about, including what the 'band director' wanted from him… or rather, wanted to give him.

***

Carissimi was waiting at the doors. "Good afternoon, Master Heinrich. How was your evening?"

"My evening was quiet. My head was full of the thoughts that were sown yesterday. Even my sleep was crowded, or so it felt." Heinrich smiled a little. "I have decided that it is a good thing that your younger mind has led the way down this road, as it is comforting to know that the things I feel and think have probably already passed through your mind."

The Italian laughed. "Oh, be sure of it, Master Heinrich, be sure of it. I was so bewildered, so awe-struck, at times so horrified, that I am amazed sometimes that I arrived at a level of understanding and acceptance. If I seem blase about it all now, rest assured there were many nights where sleep fled as my mind wrestled with all of it-Grantville, the new music, the new instruments-until it seemed I would go mad. And yet here I am, no madder than before."

"Indeed." They walked a few steps, then Heinrich said, "One thing I would ask of you now."

"Ask."

"Why does Master Marcus stand before his musicians and wave his hands in the air?"

"Ah." Carissimi smiled. "That is an innovation that seems perhaps to be simple, but is indeed profound in its impact. You and I, if we wrote a piece of some complexity, we would rehearse the performers beforehand. But in the performance we would play the harpsichord or clavichord and would provide some manner of direction as we played the continuo part to ensure that the players remained in unity as they played.

"But, as you no doubt noted yesterday, there was no keyboard in that music. That is overwhelmingly true of much of the great music of the future. So, you would say, you would play the violin or viola and provide the direction from there. And that might serve if the ensemble is small. But remember the size of Master Marcus' wind ensemble. And the size of the orchestra they are attempting to shape in Magdeburg. Such would not be possible with them.

"No, in their history, those who came between now and the future of the up-timers found a need for one to be the musician for the entire ensemble, to play the orchestra as a virtuoso would play the violin. A conductor, in other words, or dirigent as it is rendered in German." Carissimi turned to face Heinrich, serious and intent. "Such is Master Marcus. It is one of the new arts of which he is the master. And such is my friend, Franz Sylwester, becoming as he works with many musicians to create the first true symphony orchestra of our times, to the everlasting glory of God."

Heinrich was somewhat taken back by his fervor and passion. "The glory of God?"

"Yes, Master Heinrich." Carissimi resumed walking. "The glory of God. The more I learn, the more I can use to raise praises to the God who let me live in these times, to see but the fragment of what was possible to these people in their future. Speaking of which, you must attend at St. Mary's church on Good Friday to hear the Passion of Saint Matthew I have crafted."

Carissimi opened the door to the band room and ushered Heinrich in. Today there were only five students in the room, with Master Marcus standing before them. Each of the musicians was holding a brass instrument, all of which had the new innovation of valves. Heinrich had been mightily impressed with their flexibility. From their shapes two were trumpets, one was a variety of horn, and two were larger instruments for which he had no names.

Marcus waved at two chairs that were set back from the arc of the quintet. "Please, masters, be seated." After they did so, he continued. "This is a piece I remembered after I heard you were coming, Master Heinrich. We have prepared it just for you." He nodded to the quintet, then took a chair to one side as they raised their instruments. The trumpet player at the end of the arc counted softly, "Two, three, four," and they began.

It was a lovely piece of work, Heinrich admitted to himself, one that was obviously of his time or nearly so. Contrapuntal in nature, the voices flowed nicely, themes passing from part to part. It almost reminded him of the music of Gabrieli, but it was different somehow.

All too soon the piece concluded. The players lowered their instruments to their laps. Everyone looked at Heinrich expectantly.

"Very nice," he said. "Who wrote it, please?"

The first indication that something was not right was when the players gaped at him. Master Marcus, obviously very nonplussed, said, "Why, you did, Master Heinrich."

Heinrich stared back.

"No, that is not one of mine. It was nicely done, but I have never heard it before."

Marcus picked up a folder and extracted a printed page.

"But the publisher says that it is an instrumental arrangement of your motet So fahr ich hin, published in your Symphoniae sacrae collection in…" His face went white, and he looked up with a stunned expression. "… in 1647."

Feeling as if he had been bludgeoned, Heinrich stood. "I never wrote that. It is not mine." He began walking jerkily back and forth. "I did not write it. Now that I have heard it, how can I write it? This… this is impossible! How can I hear something that I wrote before I write it? How can you play something I wrote before I write it?" His thoughts were whirling madly. "I… I… this cannot be!" Unable to think, unable to express his confusion, his pain, his anger, Heinrich turned and bolted from the room.

***

Marcus stared at the door, shocked. He turned to look at Giacomo, who was wearing an expression that he was sure mirrored his. "I wanted to surprise him, to honor him. I thought the piece was published in 1627, not 1647."

Giacomo nodded. "I think Grantville's future just grabbed Master Heinrich."

"But what… why…"

"Imagine you were a writer, a good one. Now, imagine someone hands you a book with your name on it and told you would write it twenty years from now. How would you feel?"

"Umf." Marcus frowned. "I think I see what you mean. Even if it's good, how can you take credit for it? It would be like being a woman awaking from a coma and being presented with a baby that you don't remember but everyone assures you is yours."

" Si, something perhaps like that." Giacomo pursed his lips. "I think Lucas I must talk to. Master Heinrich is not… ah… comfortable in his mind, I think. Lucas must watch for him."

"Over him."

" Si, whatever."

Magdeburg

April 1634

Marla's voice died away on the last note of The Parting Glass. There was a moment of quiet in the common room of The Green Horse. It was only a brief moment, then applause roared out from the crowd. Franz noted that the room seemed very full tonight. In addition to the regulars and the Committees of Correspondence crew who always seemed to find tables whenever Marla and her friends were singing, many of the musicians from the orchestra had come as well. They all needed a break from the intensity of the rehearsals. Tonight was indeed providing that.

As usual, the songs they did were from the Irish recordings that Marla's mother had collected. They'd led off with Finnegan's Wake, following it with The Juice of the Barley and Nell Flaherty's Drake.

The middle part of the evening was marked by performing the sobering The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Only Our Rivers Run Free, those favorites of the CoC. Grim-faced men nodded as they were sung; fists pounded the tables when they were done.

The light-hearted tone was restored by Mick McGuire, Courting in the Kitchen and The Maid of the Sweet Brown Knowe. The performance concluded with Isaac singing Reilly's Daughter, followed by Marla's sweet rendition of The Parting Glass.

Franz placed his violin in its case, then wiped sweaty hair out of his face. The rehabilitation of his crippled left hand and retraining of his right hand to finger the neck of his violin had progressed to the point where he was able to play with most of the songs. It had been a long time since he had played that much in public. He was both exhilarated and winded.

"Well done, Franz, me lad." A large meaty hand landed on his shoulder, staggering him. He turned to look into the beaming face of Simon Bracegirdle, the Englishman who had come to Magdeburg as one of the musicians sent by Master Schutz. Simon played violin, and while he wasn't the best of the players, he was by no means the worst.

It was a frequent source of amusement to Franz to remember his statement so many weeks ago, that he would accept even an English musician if he would play in the orchestra. Simon had laughed robustly when he was told the story.

"Yes, Franz." Matthaus Amsel's face appeared behind Simon. "'Twas fine, indeed."

"My thanks to you both." Franz smiled. He looked at the two of them. After a moment, his expression sobered. "Since we are here, I am minded to ask you a question."

They looked to each other, then back at Franz.

"Say on," Simon said.

"How does the work progress? Are we indeed creating an orchestra as the Grantvillers would define it, or are we simply a mob of musicians all trying to play the same song?"

Simon started to speak, but Matthaus held up a hand and Simon gave way. "In truth, Franz, I know not how to answer. I have never seen this done before now. However, for what it is worth, I think the work progresses. The men all seem to understand what you and the others have been teaching. The violinists at least all seem to have adjusted to the new violins and bows."

"Aye," Simon interjected. "And this week I would say that we have finally caught the knack of following your conducting. At least I did." Matthaus nodded.

"That is comforting to hear," Franz said. "As you say, this work has never been done before in our time, or at least not at this magnitude. It seems to be going well, but it is good to know that you feel the same." He nodded, then stood and looked beyond them for a moment. "What am I to do with Herwin Vogler? His constant complaining and questioning about 'Why can we not do it as we always have done' has worn his welcome very thin indeed."

Matthaus' expression turned sour. "Do what you will. Master Schutz has more than once nearly discharged him. When he wants to play, he plays well. The question of whether having his skill is balanced by the price you must pay to have it is one that only you can answer. Myself, I long since lost patience with the man."

"Let me talk to him." Simon smiled. "Mayhap I can bring him to see that if he will accept the change instead of resist it, he can grow and improve, thereby becoming more valuable to future employers."

"Have at him," Franz responded. "If nothing else, make him see that he cannot continue to disparage Marla or other women who may become involved in our work." Both the other men raised their eyebrows. "I mean it. You have not seen Grantville yet, you have only had a small taste of their society. Women there are free to pursue their hearts' desires, much as men are. Whether they marry or not is their choice. They can indeed become just as accomplished as any man. Marla is a leading example. Frau Simpson is another-no man of sense would dare take her lightly. And I have heard tell of a Frau Melissa Mailey whose force of character is positively Amazonian. She was sent to England to beard the English lion in his den."

Franz stared at each man. "Grantville brings many changes. Just the existence of the place will be like a spring flood. We can fight it and be overwhelmed, or we can ride it and see where we land. One of those changes will be that women such as Marla will have a regular place in our world of music, gentlemen. It will happen. With women such as Marla and Frau Mary leading the way, it will happen."

Matthaus looked over to where his wife Elise was talking with Marla and Isaac. He slowly nodded. "As you say. I see it happening even now. For myself, after hearing Frau Marla sing and play, especially with the piano, I am convinced. Herwin, however, is of a more fixed opinion of the correct order of things."

Simon snorted. "You mean he is opinionated, rude, crude, slovenly and generally quite boorish, not to mention usually mistaken about any subject on which he wishes to declaim. It is only the fact that he plays a viola so well that has kept him from being throttled in the past."

"Do your best." Franz laid a hand on Simon's shoulder. "I value his skills, but not at the price of his obstructions. He has one week." After a long moment of silence, Franz turned to Matthaus. "So, when do you think Master Schutz will arrive?"

"I know not. He was to visit his mother and his daughters in Kostritz, then go to Grantville to meet with Master Carissimi. I imagine that Master Heinrich is delighting in his time with Master Carissimi, which is good. He is truly a great man who so seldom has a chance to meet with anyone who would be a peer."

"Well," Franz said, "I truly hope he is enjoying himself."

Grantville

April 1634

Pastor Johann Rothmaler knocked on the door diffidently. No response. He knocked again, somewhat louder. That evoked a response.

"Go away." The tone was growled but listless.

The pastor looked to Lucas Amsel, who stood beside him. Lucas shook his head, and motioned energetically at the door.

Pastor Rothmaler cleared his throat. "Master Schutz, my name is Johann Rothmaler. I am the senior pastor in Rudolstadt. I…" He looked at Lucas, who motioned at the door again. "I must speak with you on a matter of some importance."

Silence from within the room, but after a moment footsteps dragged across the floor. Eventually the door was opened. The room was darkened.

"Come in, then, if you so desire." The voice retreated into the chamber. "You as well, Lucas. I know you're there."

"Might we have some light?"

More silence. Then a despondent, "As you will. Lucas?"

Lucas moved past Rothmaler. Within moments shutters were thrown back and the noonday sun poured into the room. Furniture and other obstacles seemed to be scattered around the room. Rothmaler picked his way carefully through scattered clothing, books, travel bags and empty wine bottles. Lucas bustled over and removed a cloak from the chair that sat across the table from where Master Schutz sat leaning and pressing his forehead against a dark green wine bottle. The pastor sat down. Long moments passed, moments during which Lucas quietly moved about the room bringing order to it.

Finally, Schutz spoke without opening his eyes. "Well, what is this so very important matter that requires you to intrude into my privacy?"

The despair and despondency in his voice was so thick it was almost tangible. Pastor Rothmaler looked at Lucas one more time; once more he was gestured to continue.

"Master Schutz…"

"Call me Heinrich."

"Master Heinrich, then. I… um… your assistant, Herr Amsel, came to me with an account that you appear to be suffering from some spiritual illness. He grew gravely concerned and attempted to find someone in Grantville to counsel with you, but to no avail. Finally, Herr Gary Lambert advised him to seek me out. And so I am here. I have heard what Herr Lucas has told me. I am here to help as I can, as God provides. Can you tell me what ails you?"

Schutz's eyes opened wide. Pastor Rothmaler almost recoiled. The whites were very red, which lent an almost demonic air to the disheveled appearance of the master musician.

"What ails me? What ails me?" Schutz straightened up, and for the first time emotion made an appearance on his face and in his voice. "Why, my good Pastor Rothmaler, Grantville ails me. The future ails me. God ails me." He lifted the bottle and finished the dregs it contained, then tossed it over his shoulder. Rothmaler winced, expecting it to shatter on the floor, but Lucas nimbly captured it in mid-air.

"Elucidate, please, Master Heinrich."

Schutz focused his baleful gaze on the clergyman. "Very well. At your insistence. Three days ago, I was suddenly confronted with evidence that music exists that I had written, yet I had not written-music that was supposedly written in the year of Our Lord 1647-supposedly written by myself. How can this be?" Schutz charged on, allowing no room for a response. Rothmaler schooled himself to patience.

"How can I already have written that which I have not written? How can I do the impossible?" Master Heinrich was almost raving. "But if I have, if all of my great music has already been written, then what is there for me to do in the future if it has already been done? Where is the worthy place for Schutz in that?"

Breathing heavily, Schutz paused for a moment. "I left the place of that revelation and wandered through Grantville. It was as if a gale blew through my mind. My thoughts were whirling, spinning, as a leaf caught in a storm. I know not how long I wandered, but eventually I found myself in front of a building named a library. For lack of some other profitable action to take, I entered. When an attendant approached, I asked if they had anything about the life of one Heinrich Schutz. He led me to a table where he opened what he called an 'encyclopedia.' Then he pointed to an account printed in it that purported to describe my life.

"My history was traced correctly, if somewhat briefly, until the present. My years in Venice studying with Gabrieli and Monteverdi; becoming the Kappellmeister for the Elector of Saxony; my marriage to Magdalena, the birth of my daughters, and her death. It even mentioned some few of the works I had written during those years.

"In truth, I was impressed that I was remembered by that much from a time supposedly over 350 years in the future. But then, it began to detail the further events of my life. It seems I am to die many years from now, serving the somewhat less than appreciative Elector until his death. My daughters will both die many years before I do. I will have no progeny. My only memorial will be music… music that has already been written by me, but not by me."

The master leaned over the table and asked in a dead tone, "Tell me, Pastor Rothmaler. You are a theologian. Are the Calvinists right? Is everything totally fore-ordained? Predestined? Are we all just actors treading the boards and reciting lines scripted for us by another? If so, of what worth are we? If my music has already been written, if my life has already been lived, then of what purpose am I?"

Rothmaler shivered. The master musician's monologue had distilled all the many issues that Grantville created for the theologians and philosophers of Europe, himself included. Many of them were affronted not only by the existence and claims of Grantville, but by the very tangible evidence that the town and its people did indeed come from a very different time and place.

But there was a fundamental difference between the objections of the philosophes and the raw pain of a man who was questioning whether his lifework, his art, his very existence, mattered in the face of Grantville's revelations. Rothmaler sat for long moments praying to God for wisdom to share with this obviously tortured man. "Master Heinrich," the pastor began, "it is pure hubris, the purest arrogance, to believe that we can fully know the mind of God. We can know as much of it as He has revealed in Holy Scripture, and perhaps a little more if He chooses to make a direct revelation to one of us. But the mind that can conceive of the world in its order; the mind that can contain the power to speak it into being; that mind is as far above ours as we are above the worm within the soil. So, we do not understand many things.

"Chiefest of these things is how and why Grantville is among us. We have no better explanation for their origin than the one they have offered since their first arrival, that they have somehow been ripped from the future and placed here. Why would God either direct or allow such disruption in the order of things? We have no answer. His word contains no prophecy about such coming to pass. Yet the very senses which God created in us, our taste and sight and touch and smell and hearing, they all testify to the reality of Grantville. The very ability to reason and deduce which the Almighty instilled in us takes the testimony of those senses and can arrive at no other conclusion than that Grantville is real, its people are real, its mechanics and sciences and, yes, its arts, are as real as our own. Real, but oh, so different in so many ways. And so, however objectionable the explanation, we are unable to propose one that is any more acceptable than what the Grantvillers say."

Pastor Rothmaler leaned forward and placed his own elbows on the table. He steeled himself to look directly into Master Schutz's eyes. "However, the Grantville men of science all say that the future from which they came is not the future that will be ours, that their very arrival will make so many fundamental changes in the courses of the church, of societies, and of history, that the future that will happen will be a very different future than the one recorded in their books."

Master Schutz's eyes widened, his eyebrows climbed. He puffed either in surprise or disbelief.

"Oh, yes," the pastor assured him. "And it has already started. With my own eyes I have seen in their books that in their history Gustavus Adolphus was killed six months ago in the battle of Lutzen, yet all know that he is alive and facing his enemies. So the changes have already begun."

Pastor Rothmaler leaned back. "And what this means to you is the future of which you read may or may not resemble that which will grow from the life you are living now. The Grantvillers have a very odd term for the concept. They call it the 'butterfly effect.' I do not pretend to understand their explanation-it seems foolish to me-but perhaps another image will serve.

"Herr Lambert told me once that Grantville suddenly appearing in our time was like a large rock being thrown into the center of a pond. Many ripples are sent out, which radiate to the banks of the pond and then bounce back, going back and forth and disturbing the water for a long time. Some of the ripples are quite large, such as Gustavus Adolphus surviving the battle. Some of them are very small, such as your reading the vita brevis about yourself from the future. But all of them, all of them mean change.

"Perhaps you will never serve the Elector of Saxony again. Perhaps, with some of the increased knowledge of healing the Grantvillers bring, your daughters will not die at such young ages. Of a certainty you will write different music. And none of it, none of it will surprise God. Live your life to His glory, and trust that at the end you will hear 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'"

Schutz sat-very still-for a long time, staring at the table. Finally, he looked up. "And the music?"

Rothmaler smiled. "Just consider it to have been written by a relative with the same name-an uncle, a nephew, perhaps a cousin. A different Heinrich Schutz wrote it, in a different time. Enjoy the beauty of it, admire the skill in it, learn from if you will, but do not consider it yours."

An expression of peace crossed the master musician's face. He visibly relaxed. "Thank you for your concern, Pastor Rothmaler, and for your wisdom. I will think on these things."