|Previous Page||Next Page|
|Home Page||Index Page|
1636: The Kremlin Games: Chapter Twenty Six
Last updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 20:10 EDT
“Why not an airplane, Pete?” Bernie asked.
“We’re not sure of the math, Bernie,” Petr Nickovich said, and then grinned when Father Kiril held up his cross as though fending off an evil. Father Kiril, Bernie had long since learned, was quite good at history, language and medicine. But math, especially algebra, gave him the heebie-jeebies.
“Don’t worry, Padre, airplanes work. I’ve even flown in one,” Bernie insisted.
“I don’t doubt you,” Petr Nickovich said, “but according to Newton’s second law the wings should be much larger than this Bernoulli seems to think and . . .”
“You trust Newton like he was holy writ,” Bernie finished for him. “Bernoulli, not so much. I get it.”
“And if we are calculating all this properly,” Fedor continued, ignoring Bernie’s interjection, “we can probably build a half-dirigible easier than we can build an airplane. The problem is with the engines. A dirigible gets its lift from its lightness, not its motors, so it needs a lot less motor to move a given weight.”
The discussion went on and Father Kiril was forced to bring out his cross several more times. Also the D book of two encyclopedias from Grantville were brought forth. Drawings were made and calculations calculated.
Anya brought sandwiches and Magda apple cider, only slightly hard. Gregorii Mikhailovich drew pictures. Bernie did calculations on a solar-powered calculator from Grantville, while Fedor checked him by doing the same calculations in his head and writing them down. By evening they had a plan. There would be a series of tests with hot air, then hydrogen. Each of increasing size.
Boris stared. A flying ship. Not a little airplane that they talked about in Grantville, but something the nerds — Boris liked that word — at the Dacha were calling a half-dirigible. There were drawings, still rough sketches, and rough estimates of carrying capacity, all of which seemed to agree that bigger was better, to the extent that they could build bigger. Everyone in the section would have seen it by now. The rumors would be flying faster than the half-dirigible could travel. And he had to come up with a recommendation. How was he supposed to know if it would work? Meanwhile, he had dozens of requests for things he knew they could make. And suddenly hundreds of requests for transfers to his section. “Pavel, get in here.”
Pavel came quickly enough. Boris smiled. Pavel looked nervous, as well he should. “You will be missing dinner at home again.” Boris handed him the report. “Go out to the Dacha and find out about this.”
“But, Papa,” Pavel started to complain.
Boris cut him off. “I know all about the party at the Samelov house. They want you to get their little Ivan a job in the section, but he doesn’t speak English and the only thing I’ve heard he’s good at is getting drunk. Make your apologies, but get out to the Dacha.”
Boris put the rest of the reports in his Grantville-style briefcase and headed for home, wondering how Princess Natasha’s meeting with Czarina Evdokia was going.
“So, now that you’ve had a chance to get to know him, what is this Bernie like?” Czarina Evdokia took a sip of strong Russian tea.
“Different from when he arrived,” Natasha said. “When he first arrived he was very sad and he didn’t, I think, care very much for anything or anyone. He was useful enough, helpful and willing, and the things he knows are so many and varied that he has no idea how much he does know. Yet it’s not as though he knows more than we do. He doesn’t.”
Natasha paused because this was something that she wasn’t sure she really grasped. “A carpenter knows wood and he knows his village. A blacksmith again knows iron and his village. I know my family’s lands, but the individual villages . . . not so well as the blacksmith or the carpenter each knows his own village. And I know more of the rest of the world than the carpenter or the blacksmith. Bernie might as well be from a village of magi in a nation of magi in a world of scholars. He knows auto mechanics as a carpenter knows wood, but he also knows his much wider, wealthier village. In his village there are aircraft and fruits delivered from around the world. There are cartoons, computers, television and a thousand other things we have never heard of. None of which he really understands, but all if which he knows enough about to make understanding possible with effort.
“Last winter, when he first arrived, he was willing enough to give the knowledge but the effort was to be all ours. He simply didn’t care if we succeeded or not. Still, even then he was worth the money my family pays him, because between him and the books my brother sends, we could work out what was meant most of the time. But then came spring in Moscow and the slow fever.”
“Yes, I know,” the czarina said. “It’s still the talk of Moscow. You should be aware that there are factions in the church that want to burn Bernard Zeppi as a witch. Mostly in response to those who want to saint him. Saints are much more convenient when they are safely dead.”
“The words ‘saint’ and ‘Bernie’ don’t really belong in the same sentence,” Natasha said. smiling. “But something happened in Moscow that changed him, or changed his attitude anyway. For a little while after Moscow, he was fierce in his focus on study. But that’s not the sort of pace that can be maintained. Now he’s mostly gone back to being Bernie, but there is a core of fire there that wasn’t there before. He’s pushing everyone in the Dacha to learn something. Servants, craftsmen, scholars, even our guards, and it’s catching.
“Honestly, it started before Moscow just from having all the scholars and craftsmen together but with Bernie’s fire it’s changed. There is an awareness that what we are doing is important. It helps that a cook from the dacha who has learned techniques from the future has better opportunity. But that’s not all of it, not even most of it. We are saving and improving lives and the people at the Dacha know it. There is a feeling around the place that this is the most important thing any of us have ever done or ever will. You can smell it in the wood chips and lacquer, see it in the new things being built and modeled, hear it in the conversations. You breathe it in with the air and all you want to do is get on with it.” Natasha ground to a halt, embarrassed by her outburst.
The czarina kindly changed the subject. “I find the possibilities of the future amazing,” she said. “Do you believe they sent someone to walk on the moon?”
Natasha considered. “Yes. I do believe it.”
“Partly because Vladimir confirms it in his letters, but mostly because Bernie talks about it the way we would speak of Ivan the Terrible or the Mongol rule. Not a fantastic tale, just something that happened in the past.”
“Can you imagine? And women went, too. Russian women.”
“Valentina Tereshkova. Vladimir wrote about her and Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin. Bernie didn’t remember her name but didn’t dispute that the first man and the first woman in space were Russian.” Natasha paused and looked at the czarina. There was a look in Evdokia’s eyes. A dreamy, hungry look. To Natasha the fact that the first man and woman in space were Russian was an interesting piece of information and made her feel good about being Russian. For the czarina, it seemed more somehow.
“I have always dreamed of flying,” Evdokia’s voice had a soft faraway tone. “Since I was a little girl. Floating up to the clouds and looking down to see the whole world spread before me.” She visibly pulled herself back from dreams of flight, but a bit of the smile lingered. “Child’s dreams, but it warms me somehow that it was done, and by Russians first.”
“Who knows?” Natasha offered. “What those people from the future could do, we can learn to do. Petr Nickovich says we can fly. He thinks he understands gravity and has built model hot air balloons that work. You may fly yet.”
Evdokia laughed a bit sadly. “Even if we learn to fly, it will not be allowed. It is a pleasant thought, though. Now tell me of the progress of the Dacha.”
Natasha grinned as she began her report. “As I said, Petr Nickovich thinks he understands gravity. Fedor is not convinced . . .” Not of the feel of the Dacha this time, of the particulars. She would give a very unofficial report on the doings at the Dacha. Then there were the letters from Grantville. Natasha almost always had a new one to share and now the czarina had her own.
“Thank God,” Bernie said when Natasha handed him the latest batch of letters. “There wasn’t anything about plumbing in those books. I hope I’ve got an answer to that problem.” Natasha had made a rare foray into the kitchen, searching for him. He was having his usual sandwich lunch.
Vic Dobbs says you left out the vent stack for your plumbing and that’s most likely the problem. I typed out the sections he suggested in some of his plumbing books. Without the vent stack you get a buildup of pressure or a vacuum in the septic system and it forces the dirty, yuck, water back up or clogs up the system. He made a drawing to show you what you did wrong. I’ve included that along with the notes I typed. He also said you’d probably never seen one, since they’re usually inside the walls, so don’t feel bad about it. This ought to fix the problem. Just in case, you might want to have that Vladimir guy contract to have some books on plumbing that Vic recommends copied or scanned and reprinted. A list is included.
I saw your father in town yesterday. He said to tell you hello and wants to know can he sell your car? It’s in the way, he said. But, Bernie, a car engine is worth a small fortune these days. He also said you should write him and your sisters. They want to hear from you, too.
Old Grantville is rocking along just fine right now. We’ve got, I swear, thousands and thousands of people around here now. It’s so different from before.
I hope you’re doing well and I hope the plumbing helps. The docs think your slow fever is typhoid, and that you’re right. It’s shit getting into the water supply that causes it. I bet it’s a lot different than working on cars was. But then, who’d have ever dreamed I’d wind up working in a research center, of all things? For both of us I think it’s more important work than we would have had up-time.
Well, gotta go. I need to have this done before I get to work so Mom can drop it off at your Russian spy’s place to be sent on. Tell Natasha I said hi!
“You have wood in your hair.” Natasha grinned. Bernie needed some management and she found she liked that. She peered at his hair. “Quite a bit of wood. What have you been doing out there in that shop of yours?”
Much to Natasha’s surprise, Bernie went outside to shake off the wood shavings. “Sorry about that,” he said when he came back to finish his lunch. “I didn’t realize. I brushed myself off, but didn’t know I had it in my hair. We were working on the pattern lathe. Finally got the setup for that connecting piece Ivan the Tolerable wanted.” Bernie had gotten into the habit of giving various people at the Dacha nicknames. “Now I need to talk to the guys about this vent stack thing. Maybe we can get the bathroom back in operation.” Bernie gulped down the last of his sandwich and beer and rose from the table again. “Excuse me. I really want to get the plumbing working. We can’t persuade anyone else to install it till we get it working and winter is coming on pretty quick. I really don’t want another spring typhoid outbreak.
“Oh, Brandy said to tell you hi. And I’m going to be up late studying, again.”
Natasha barely repressed the snort. Studying, he said. Studying that little blonde, more likely.
She shouldn’t mind it, Natasha knew. It was common with men. But this was Bernie, and for some reason it bothered her.
“Could you light a couple more candles?” Bernie smiled at Anya. “I can’t tell you how much I miss good lighting, I really can’t.”
Bernie liked Anya. She was smart, willing and practical. Bernie was perfectly aware that she was using him. He was using her, too, but it was friendly and fun. Anya went off to get more candles.
Bernie sat down with the book, a hand-typed and drawn copy of freshman algebra. Algebra had been one of his “did well” courses. One of the ones that he had found fun. But it had been a few years and the nerds were desperate to get through algebra so that they could get on with calculus. Not one of Bernie’s good courses.
“Bernie, could you teach me math?” Anya asked. Her English was still far from good but it was getting better every day.
“No. Math of accounts.”
“Accounting?” Bernie stopped and considered. Actually it made quite a lot of sense. Russia was trying desperately to move from a primarily barter economy to a moneyed economy. That would require bookkeeping and accounting. A growth industry, they would have said up-time. “Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure I have all the stuff we’ll need. In fact, I’m darn sure that I don’t. But we can make a start. I don’t know all that much about double-entry bookkeeping, but I’m pretty sure it involves something like this.”
Bernie pulled over a sheet of paper and drew a grid. “The item bought or sold. The amount it’s bought for here or sold for here that way you have a record as it comes in and goes out so . . .”
They got a start on it, then Bernie got back to refreshing his memory about algebra.
All the things he didn’t know meant Bernie had to study. It was a lot more intense than school had been and he had come to think of it as much more important. Importance didn’t make it easier or more fun. But, as with anything, practice did. All the stuff that he had been sure that he would never need once he graduated high school, he needed now. He had to interpret words he’d never heard and in contexts he’d never dreamed of. What the hell was calcareous grassland? Calcareous turned out to be to do with chalk or calcium; at least that’s what the dictionary said. But calcareous grassland? How could chalk grow grass? He had to go to the dictionary all the time to find the weird stuff that the Russian nerds wanted.
Then there was Bernoulli’s Law. Petr Nickovich had found a description of how wings worked in one of the books. The explanation described a wing’s dependence on Bernoulli’s Law. Then they had compared that with Newton’s three laws and the effects hadn’t matched up. The nerds had come to the conclusion that it couldn’t work that way. Newtonian physics, Bernie was assured, would require a small plane to be traveling at over three hundred miles an hour to fly. They believed Bernie that powered flight was possible. They even believed him and the books about the size of the wings and the speed of the aircraft. They knew and understood that they were missing something, but they didn’t know what. Bernie didn’t know what either. He built paper airplanes and wooden airplanes that flew, based on the rubber-band-powered airplanes he had played with as a kid, but he couldn’t explain how they worked.
What Bernie didn’t know, and for that matter most people in the Ring of Fire didn’t know, was that Bernoulli’s equations were a way of describing the actions of large groups of air molecules that were in turn following Newton’s laws of motion. And when they had tried to integrate the two different ways of describing the same event they had, in effect, added everything up twice. The mathematicians and natural philosophers who surrounded Bernie now might have understood the complex explanation. They were still somewhat trapped by Aristotle’s assumptions but they were some really bright guys. It didn’t matter. Bernie didn’t have the science to explain it. He had seen the drawings of air flow over a wing and assumed that they were accurate. They weren’t. This didn’t mean the shape of the wing was wrong. They weren’t really inaccurate, either. Just simplified. Using the drawing out of those books for the cross-section of the wing would produce a wing that would fly quite well. Assuming, of course, that you added the ailerons and the rest of the plane.
Every day Bernie had people asking him questions that he didn’t have the answers to. They weren’t meaningless questions that didn’t really matter, like how many planets there are in the solar system. Well, most of them weren’t. The astrologers were nuts to know the locations of Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. Mostly, though, the questions were about how things worked and how to treat injuries and diseases.
|Home Page||Index Page|
Comments from the Peanut Gallery:
|Previous Page||Next Page|